Archive for February, 2013

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In an attempt to bury his acorn, Scrat inadvertently causes the break up of Pangaea. Meanwhile Manny and Ellie must deal with the trials and tribulations of their daughter Peaches, now a teenager desiring to fit in with her peers. Ellie is fine about that, but Manny becomes extremely over-protective. Peaches’ only friend is Louis, a molehog, tries to protect her as she tries to approach a mammoth named Ethan whom she has a crush on. Sid’s family returns, only long enough to drop off the elderly Granny before abandoning them both again. When Manny catches Peaches sneaking off to meet Ethan, they argue and fallout. Shortly afterward, a continental break-up separates Manny from the herd. Trapped on a moving chunk of ice with Sid and Diego, Manny has no choice but to ride out the current. Meanwhile a giant land shift encroaches on Ellie, Peaches, and those remaining on land, causing them make their way toward the land bridge.

At sea, violent weather pushes Manny and the others further away from land while Scrat, in a side adventure, finds an acorn that has a treasure map on it that directs him towards an island. Soon, after Manny, Sid, and Diego find Granny (who was sleeping inside a hollow tree stump, on the ice raft), they are captured by a band of pirates sailing on a floating iceberg as a ship led by a Gigantopithecus, Captain Gutt, who attempts to press gang them into his crew; when they refuse Gutt tries to make them walk the plank. Manny, Sid, Diego, Granny and Scrat (who was also taken captive) escape, but cause the ship to sink and Gutt’s first mate, a female sabertooth named Shira joins them out of no choice of her own.

They then find Switchback Cove, which has a current that would direct them home, but after washing ashore a remote island, Shira escapes and tells Gutt and the pirate crew (who are also on the island) of their whereabouts. Gutt, wanting revenge on Manny for sinking his ship, plans an attack. Along with the hyrax inhabitants of the island, Manny coordinates a plan to steal Gutt’s new ship to return home. Shira decides to leave Gutt, when she and Diego begin to fall in love, but she stays behind to ensure Gutt doesn’t catch the herd. Gutt and his pirates quickly make a new iceberg ship to sail after the herd, determined to get revenge. Meanwhile, Scrat, using one of the hyrax’s leaf “planes”, flies off the island, only to be swallowed by a shark.

Peaches finally begins to fit in with the mammoths her age, but accidentally insults Louis, who is referred to as a freak by the others, by saying they are not friends. When she sees the other teens’ careless disregard to the danger, she turns her back on them, warning that their extinction will come sooner than they think.

As they are sailing back, Diego, Sid, and Granny encounter monstrous sirens taking the shapes of what the group finds most attractive. Fortunately, Manny realizes this after hearing a siren, disguised as Ellie tell him something she would never say and saves them at the last second. Later, Scrat encounters a siren, taking on the shapes of Scratte (that Scrat ignores) then an acorn. Scrat immediately runs up and attempts to bury the “acorn”, but is attacked by other sirens and escapes unharmed.

Manny, Sid, Diego, and Granny soon return home only to find the land bridge destroyed in the earthquakes and Gutt and his crew made it there first and have captured Ellie and Peaches. Louis stands up for Peaches and a battle ensues between the herd and the pirates. Shira frees Ellie and helps fend off her former comrades, while Granny’s previously unseen (and claimed imaginary) pet whale, Precious, appears and turns the tables on the rest of the lot. Gutt then attempts to kill Ellie but Peaches, using her possum-like skills, manages to save her. Manny defeats Gutt in a duel and reunites with his family and friends. Later, Gutt encounters a siren taking on the shape of a female of his species and is eaten.With their home destroyed, the entire party and inhabitants then sail to an island that they found to settle down. Manny allows Peaches to “have an adventure” having gained a new respect for her and toward Louis. Shira joins the herd and becomes Diego’s girlfriend, while Louis becomes a hero among the teenage mammoths.

At the end of his journey, Scrat discovers the island on the map, know as Scratlantis (a mock up of Atlantis), but his uncontrollable urge to hunt acorns in the acorn-rich city inadvertently causes the entire island to sink and Scrat is ejected into what is now known as Death Valley.

REVIEW:

I have issues with films that just release sequels for the sake of making money, as opposed to telling a good story. My feelings toward such films turns to rage and hatred when it seems as if each film gets worse. Ice Age: Continental Drift is said by many critics to be the best of a series that should have died along with the dinosaurs.

What is this about?

The animated Ice Age series tacks on a game-changing fourth act when unexpected events set the continent in motion, sending Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and Sid (John Leguizamo) away from Ellie (Queen Latifah) and the herd and into the vastness of the open sea. The world around them is forever changed, but at least one thing remains the same: their ability to make the most of extreme climate change.

What did I like?

Pirates. I hear everyone raving about Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones, but I’ve only seen one episode since we don’t have HBO. I best know him as Simon Barsinister in Underdog and the male nanny in a few episodes of Nip/Tuck. The guy has some real acting chops, as he puts on display here as the pirate captain Gutt. Truth be told, I don’t remember much of the other Ice Age films, but Gutt and the other pirates are something to remember about this film, a much needed shot in the arm. Someone should consider a spinoff!

Scrat. A lot of people would argue that Scrat is the best thing about this franchise. You’ll get no argument from me. The things this little squirrel does just to get that acorn are highlights of the film. I just wish there was more of them, and not just what equates to a bunch of shorts featuring him.

Animation. Going back to the first Ice Age and comparing the animation to this one, it is quite obvious that two things have happened. Technology has advanced quite a ways and the animators have gotten better at what they do, because this is some gorgeous computer animation, which is saying something coming from me, someone who isn’t a fan of CG.

What didn’t I like?

Too many. It seems like in each film, they keep adding on characters. At some point, they just need to stop because, as we can see here, it hard to give each of them decent screen time. Take for instance, Ellie, she was just left over on land with her daughter, who had her own little story going on. If not for some motherly advice moments, she probably wouldn’t have been seen until the very end, if at all, once we got past that point. All the little ancillary characters that we saw in previous films and had actual relevance are there in the beginning and show up at the end as if they were a major part of the production, but up to that moment, who really even thought about them?

Rappers do not equal actors. Rappers Nicki Minaj and Drake somehow managed to get cast in this. Nicki Minaj is quickly making her way up my most hated list, mainly because she has no talent and is on a show judging singers (when she’s supposedly a rapper). Her lines were painful to listen to, but I think has I seen this before this season of American Idol started, the images of her “judging” wouldn’t be so ingrained in m head that I can’t give her fair judgement. Drake on the other hand was actually an actor at one time. It came to attention this week that he had a fairly major role in the Canadian teen drama Degrassi: Next Generation. The guy has talent, I just don’t think this was the right role for him. Sure he’s not Lil’ Wayne or Wiz Khalifa, but he still doesn’t exactly scream clean-cut, family entertainer. On that point, go back to when Queen Latifah was a rapper, and you could’ve said that same thing about her.

Stagnant. For me, this film felt a lot like a franchise that is stuck in neutral. It wants to keep going, but doesn’t know how to kick it into the next gear. Personally, I think the way this ended would be a way to end the franchise (same can be said for the others, I’m sure). If they want this to keep going, then do it with new characters. It is high time Manny, Sid, Diego, & company are put to rest. Of course, it will be just our luck that these films keep going, forgetting what they were originally about, and the next thing we know there are about 50 sequels that no one cares about. Seriously, all those sequels to The Land Before Time did was tarnish the legacy of the original…and I believe they are still making those things!!!

Is Ice Age: Continental Drift the best of the franchise? Perhaps, but as I stated earlier, I can barely remember anything about those previous films. This one at least has some memorable moments, highlighted by some great action scenes. Is this enough to justify the need for this to have been made or that this franchise keep going? The answer to that is an emphatic no. Kids will love this, though, and adults will get a kick out of some points here and there, but as a whole, I wouldn’t really recommend this, unless you’re doing an Ice Age marathon.

3 out of 5 stars

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Little Caesar

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on February 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Small-time criminals Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) and his friend Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) move to Chicago to seek their fortunes. Rico joins the gang of Sam Vettori (Stanley Fields), while Joe wants to be a dancer. Olga (Glenda Farrell) becomes his dance partner and girlfriend.

Joe tries to drift away from the gang and its activities, but Rico makes him participate in the robbery of the nightclub where he works. Despite orders from underworld overlord “Big Boy” (Sidney Blackmer) to all his men to avoid bloodshed, Rico guns down crusading crime commissioner Alvin McClure during the robbery, with Joe as an aghast witness.

Rico accuses Sam of becoming soft and seizes control of his organization. Rival boss “Little Arnie” Storch (Maurice Black) tries to have Rico killed, but Rico is only grazed. He and his gunmen pay Little Arnie a visit, after which Arnie hastily departs for Detroit. The Big Boy eventually gives Rico control of all of Chicago’s Northside.

Rico becomes concerned that Joe knows too much about him. He warns Joe that he must forget about Olga and join him in a life of crime. Rico threatens to kill both Joe and Olga unless he accedes, but Joe refuses to give in. Olga calls Police Sergeant Flaherty and tells him Joe is ready to talk, just before Rico and his henchman Otero (George E. Stone) come calling. Rico finds, to his surprise, that he is unable to take his friend’s life. When Otero tries to do the job himself, Rico wrestles the gun away from him, though not before Joe is wounded. Hearing the shot, Flaherty and another cop give chase and kill Otero. With the information provided by Joe, Flaherty proceeds to crush Rico’s organization.

Desperate and alone, Rico retreats to the gutter from which he sprang. While hiding in a flophouse, he becomes enraged when he learns that Flaherty has called him a coward in the newspaper. He foolishly telephones the cop to announce he is coming for him. The call is traced, and he is gunned down behind a billboard by Flaherty. Ironically, the billboard shows an advertisement featuring dancers Joe and Olga.

REVIEW:

The first thing I thought when I saw the title Little Caesar was pizza. I kid you not! Fret not, though, there is nary a pizza in sight, or any food for that matter, except at the banquet. There is a diminutive ruler, well maybe not ruler, but he does rise up to be the boss.

What is this about?

Noted for Edward G. Robinson’s breakthrough performance, this gangster classic centers on Rico “Little Caesar” Bandelli (Robinson), who stages an all-out coup to become mob boss. After moving to the city, Rico and pal Joe (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) join Sam Vettori’s (Stanley Fields) gang. Rico rises quickly through the ranks, and his hit list expands — but just when Rico needs his friend the most, Joe wants out.

What did I like?

Gangster. I want you to think of every gangster you’ve seen, be they in movies, TV, or cartoons. Chances are they were influenced or based on Edward G. Robinson’s Rico. For instance, the Looney Tunes gangster, Rocky, is nothing short…pardon the pun…of being a caricature of the guy. In Dick Tracy, Lips Manlis seems to be based on his appearance, as well (though his comic strip counterpart was based on John Dillinger). In the cartoon C.O.P.S., Big Boss Man talks just like this guy, only a bit more exaggerated. Robinson fought hard to get this role expanded, as it was originally nothing more than a background part, and boy did it payoff, as his legacy still lives on today.

Before the code. Some of you may not know this, but in the earlier days of film, there was a code that said that films couldn’t be too violent, bad guys had to be inherently bad and not sympathetic characters, women could not be objectified, etc. In other words, everything had to be very much black and white (aside from the fact that this was before the advent of Technicolor). This film takes full advantage of not being hindered by that code. There are shootouts, deaths, Rico isn’t quite the despicable villain the code would’ve had him turn out to be, and I believe there would have been some burlesque dancing in here if they would have been given a chance.

Cops and robbers. One of the things that I find missing from today’s films is a good, old-fashioned chase between the cops and robbers. I can’t honestly think of the last time I saw one of these. Going back to a film from the early 30s, I knew I’d get one. I do wish there would have been a high-speed car chase, but a rundown on foot works just as well.

What didn’t I like?

Gay. There is a controversy surrounding Rico and whether he is or isn’t homosexual. I just learned about as I was reading some info. In the book this is based on that isn’t the case, so apparently this director decided to make some slight alterations to the source material in order to make him this way, though I think people are making it seem as if he is homosexual, because I honestly didn’t pick up on it until after I read about that being a possibility. Apparently, if a guy isn’t interested in women, that automatically makes him gay.

Useless dame. The one female in this entire film is useless, I tell ya, useless. all she does is take away Rico’s best friend so that he can dance in a show with her, rather than run the streets as a gangster. The next time we see her is when Joe comes back after his meeting with Rico where he rejects his offer and is now on the mob’s hit list. What does she do? Calls the cops first chance she gets, which leads to nothing but trouble and death. Useless, I tell ya!

EGR. As great as Edward G. Robinson is here in this breakout role for him, I have to be a little down on the guy because this is a role that he was typecast in for the majority of his career. Such a shame, really, as he kills it. Many wonder what else he could have done, had he not spent the majority of his career as a gangster.

Little Caesar is quite the historic picture. Responsible for single-handedly giving Edward G. Robinson a career and legacy, defying the coming film code, and being quite the interesting, fast paced gangster film, this is the kind of classic film that I love to see. Do I recommend it to others, though? Well, I’m not so sure. I say this because many people just aren’t into classic cinema, as they have been poisoned by the slop that pollutes our movie theaters today. If a film doesn’t explain every little detail, have huge explosions and special effects, etc., then it is highly unlikely that people today will go fo it. With that being said, if you are not one of those sheep, then I highly recommend this to you as a must-see before you die!

4 out of 5 stars

The Graduate

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Benjamin Braddock, who will soon turn 21, returns to his parents’ home in Southern California after graduating from a college on the East Coast. At his graduation party, all his parents’ friends want to know about Benjamin’s upcoming plans for graduate school or a career, something about which Benjamin is clearly uncomfortable and anxious. His parents ignore his anxiety and are only interested in talking about his academic and athletic successes and their plans for him to attend graduate school.

Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s law partner, asks Benjamin to drive her home from the party. She invites Benjamin inside and attempts to seduce him, removing her clothes. She tells Benjamin, who becomes increasingly nervous, that she finds him attractive and wants him to know that she is available to him anytime. Mr. Robinson arrives home but neither sees nor suspects anything. He advises Benjamin that he should relax and enjoy his youth while he still can. A few days later, Benjamin contacts Mrs. Robinson and organizes a tryst at a hotel, and the two begin an affair.

Benjamin spends the summer floating in a pool by day and meeting Mrs. Robinson at the hotel at night. Through their encounters, Benjamin discovers that they have nothing in common but also learns that Mrs. Robinson was forced to give up college and marry someone she did not love when she became pregnant with her daughter, Elaine.

However, under increasing pressure from his parents to begin a career or enroll in grad school, Benjamin is set up on a date with Elaine, whom Benjamin last saw in high school, by his father and Mr. Robinson. Although Mrs. Robinson has made it clear to Benjamin that he is to have nothing to do with Elaine, Benjamin eventually succumbs to the pressure and takes Elaine out on a date. During the course of their date, Benjamin goes out of his way to mistreat and be rude to Elaine, even going as far as taking her to a lewd strip joint, in order to sabotage the evening. As Elaine begins to sob, Benjamin explains his motives and that he only asked her out on a date as an obligation from each of their fathers. The two reconcile, and kiss, and each discover that they are able to discuss their current worries and their plans for future happiness.

Upon Benjamin’s arriving at the Robinsons’ home to take Elaine out again, Mrs. Robinson threatens to reveal to Elaine her earlier relationship with Benjamin. However, Benjamin preemptively blurts out the details of his affair to Elaine before Mrs. Robinson can make good on her threat. Upset and heartbroken, Elaine returns to Berkeley and severs all communication with Benjamin.

Benjamin resolves that he must marry Elaine, and follows her to Berkeley. There, he interrupts a date between Elaine and a classmate, Carl. Later that evening, Elaine confronts Benjamin, asking what he is doing there after having raped her mother while she was drunk. Benjamin reveals his side of the story to Elaine and that he was the one who was pursued by Mrs. Robinson, which further upsets Elaine. Benjamin tells Elaine he will leave her alone, but Elaine asks him to remain.

The following day, Elaine confronts Benjamin again and asks him to kiss her. Although Benjamin wants to marry Elaine and presses her to obtain a blood test so they can wed, Elaine laments that she has already told Carl that she might marry him. Mr. Robinson, who has learned about his wife’s affair with Benjamin, goes to Benjamin’s apartment in Berkeley and berates him, threatening to have him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, should Benjamin ever come near Elaine again. He forces Elaine to drop out of school and takes her away to marry Carl. Elaine leaves Benjamin a note saying that although she loves him, her father’s anger would never lead to Benjamin’s acceptance as Elaine’s husband.

Benjamin races back to Pasadena looking for Elaine but finds Mrs. Robinson, who tells him he cannot stop the wedding. Benjamin learns from Carl’s fraternity brothers that the wedding is taking place in Santa Barbara. En route to the church, his car runs out of gas, forcing him to run the final few blocks to the chapel, arriving just in time to see Elaine and Carl, already married, in the traditional kiss. Watching from the loft at the back of the church, Benjamin bangs on the glass window and screams, “Elaine!” several times, in a desperate attempt to win her over. With some hesitation, Elaine returns a cry of “Ben!” and rushes toward Benjamin. A brawl breaks out as everyone tries to stop her and Benjamin from leaving. Elaine manages to break free from her mother, who claims “It’s too late!”, to which Elaine replies, “Not for me!” Benjamin and Elaine escape the chapel by using a wooden cross on the double chapel doors, thereby trapping the people therein. Then they flag down a bus. After making their way to the back seat of the bus as it pulls away, Elaine in her wedding dress and Benjamin in tattered clothing, they both initially appear ecstatic about their dramatic escape. Gradually however, this exhilaration subsides, with Benjamin just looking forward and Elaine occasionally looking at Benjamin, into realisation of what they have done. In the closing shot, Elaine and Benjamin are shown through the rear window sitting at the back of the bus as it travels down the road.

REVIEW:

As I was watching The Graduate just now, I got to thinking about how relevant this film is now that it is 2013, as opposed to 1967, when it was released. Talk about staying relevant, right? All this because people in our society seem to have a thing for May-December romances. I think the correct term used nowadays is “cougar”, right?

What is this about?

Dustin Hoffman (in his first major film role) turns in a landmark performance as a naïve college graduate who is seduced by a middle-aged neighbor (Anne Bancroft) but ends up falling in love with her beautiful, young daughter (Katharine Ross).

What did I like?

Mumbles. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to our star, Dustin Hoffman! Yes, this is the major film debut of one of the greatest actors of our time. A friend of mine said that he and Pacino, resembled each other in their younger days. Looking at them now, you’d never guess, but look at Hoffman here and Pacino in The Godfather films and yes, you can see it a little bit. I was mostly impressed with how Hoffman handles his first role like a seasoned professional. You would never guess that this was his debut.

Cougar. Ann Bancroft’s role was apparently very highly coveted at the time this was being cast, with names like Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Angela Lansbury, etc. vying for it. Personally, I probably would have gone with Gardner or Turner, maybe even Hayworth, but this director went with Bancroft. In hindsight, I don’t think he made a bad choice. Bancroft has a look about her that gives off the attractive older lady that you grew up around, but not drop dead gorgeous that way some of these women would have no doubt brought to it. That is not to say Bancroft was ugly, but rather that she has a more realistic look to her.

College boy. When I graduated college, I didn’t have a big celebration or anything like that leading to being able to sit in my parents’ pool all summer (if we would’ve had one). I had to get a job pretty much before I graduated. Luckily, my chosen profession has lots of rollover and I was able to find one, but I am a little jealous of this guy who got to get a degree and then do nothing. I guess that is one of the perks of being alive in the 60s.

What didn’t I like?

Tonal shift. Not long after Hoffman dismisses Mrs. Robinson, for lack of a better term, the film takes a rather different tone. It goes from being more of a comedy to a somewhat dark drama. I half expected Bancroft to start screaming about wire hangers when she was ordering him to stay away from her daughter, but I guess that’s a different film. I wish this film would have kept the same tone throughout or, at the very least, not made such a dramatic shift.

Mother and daughter. What is it about these Robinson women that has Hoffman so vexed? He has the perfect setup with Mrs. Robinson, free sex with an older, married women..no strings attached, as far as we know. Then he gets her daughter, who apparently has a mutual affection for him. Through some manipulation by Mrs. Robinson, he has to break up with her, but he then goes up and down the California coast stalking her. He even moves into a boarding house in the town where she is taking classes, not to mention just sits in on classes, according to him. Someone does that these days and the first thing that would happen is they’d have the cops called. Don’t we all wish we could go back to these simpler times?

KITT. This is nothing against the actor, William Daniels, but everytime I heard him talk two characters came running through my mind, KITT from Knight Rider and Mr. Feeney from Boy Meets World. Through no fault of his own, his voice is more famous than he, maybe to a fault, as it can be a bit of a distraction.

The Graduate may have the distinction of putting the song “Mrs. Robinson” on the map for Simon & Garfunkel (or vice-versa), but unlike other films that seem to be based on a popular song (whether that is the case or not), this is one that appeals to everyone from your casual movie watcher all the way up to the most hard-nosed, snooty critic out there. Truthfully, the only people who won’t like this are those that hate classic cinema, or are looking for more of a sex romp, as opposed to a classy dramedy. I highly recommend you check this out, as it is most definitely a must-see before dying!

4 1/3 out of 5 stars

The Replacements

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Shane Falco, a former star quarterback at Ohio State University who choked in his final college game and failed to succeed in the pros, doing his job cleaning the bottoms of peoples’ boats. While underwater, he finds a metal trophy football labeled “Shane Falco: All American” and pretends he is playing football again. Meanwhile, the fictional Washington Sentinels are shown playing a game in which commentators John Madden and Pat Summerall mention a players’ strike taking place over salary disputes. As the game winds down, Sentinels quarterback Eddie Martel chooses to slide to the ground instead of scoring the game winning touchdown to avoid getting injured.

Later that day, the owner of the Sentinels decides to hire Jimmy McGinty, the Sentinels’ former coach who was fired after getting into a fight with the team’s star quarterback, to recruit replacement players during the strike and coach the team for the rest of the season. He tells McGinty that all they need is three wins out of their final four games to advance to the playoffs. McGinty tells the owner he’ll only do it if he promises not to interfere with his coaching style. McGinty recruits many different ragtag players, and eventually convinces Falco to come off his boat and play quarterback again. Falco soon becomes attracted to the team’s head cheerleader, Annabelle Farrell, who likes him as well, but doesn’t want to date him because of her stereotype that all pro athletes are prima donnas.

In the Sentinels’ first game using replacement players, they trail by four with only a few seconds left to play. McGinty calls a passing play, but Falco gets scared and changes the call to a running play. Cochran, the team’s running back, gets tackled just before he reaches the end zone and the Sentinels lose. That night, the actual Sentinels players taunt the replacement players at a bar, leading to fight between the two teams. The replacement players get arrested, but are beginning to build team chemistry, which is something they lacked in the first game. The newfound team chemistry leads to a last second field goal victory in the next game, and then another last second victory the next week, leaving the team needing only one more victory to make the playoffs.

The team’s owner tells McGinty that Eddie Martel has crossed the picket line and will be re-activated by the Sentinels for the final game of the season. McGinty protests at first, saying that he will use Falco as his quarterback, but the owner convinces him that the team can’t afford to have Falco choke with the game on the line, especially since they are playing the best team in the league who has had their entire team cross. A heartbroken McGinty tells Falco that he has been cut in favor of Martel, but Falco accepts the news, saying that it’s best for the team since Martel is better than him, to which McGinty says that Falco has heart and Martel doesn’t. Falco stands Annabelle up on a date because of his depression.

In the final game of the season, Martel has trouble connecting with the rest of the team and scolds the rest of them when he makes a mistake. At halftime, the Sentinels trail 17–0, and reporter asks McGinty what they’ll need to win the game, to which he replies “miles and miles of heart” meant as a message to Falco. Falco hears him say this and comes to the game during halftime, and the rest of the team kicks Martel out of the locker room. Falco runs onto the field at the start of the half and draws loud and thunderous applause from the fans. He apologizes to Annabelle and kisses her on national TV. Cochran is able to run for a touchdown at the beginning of the half before injuring his leg. The Sentinels then score again to cut the lead to 17–14. With only a few seconds left in the game, McGinty calls for a field goal to tie the score and then go into overtime. But when Nigel ‘The Leg’ Gruff, the kicker, gets set, he tells Falco that he can’t kick the field goal, because several men in the audience will “take his pub”. Falco then snaps the ball then runs it all the way for a touchdown, only to have it brought back for a holding call. Falco then goes to the sidelines and tells McGinty that he wants the ball, implying that he has gotten over his fear of choking with the game on the line. Falco throws a pass to tight end Brian Murphy for a touchdown, and the Sentinels win 20–17, advancing to the playoffs, and the Sentinels begin dancing in synchronized formation. The film ends with a voiceover from McGinty saying that when the players left the game that night, there were no endorsement deals or victory parades waiting for them, just a locker waiting to be cleaned out, but it didn’t matter, because they each got a second chance at glory, which lasts forever.

REVIEW:

Football season is over, but apparently Netflix thought it was time to watch another football flick, The Replacements. I’m not complaining, but I would have much rather prefered to have seen this a couple of week ago before the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what I saw.

What is this about?

Maverick old-guard coach Gene Hackman is hired in the wake of a players’ strike to help the Washington Sentinels advance to the playoffs. But that impossible dream hinges on whether his replacements can hunker down and do the job. So, Hackman dusts off his secret dossier of ex-players who never got a chance (or screwed up the one they were given) and knits together a bad-dream team of guys who just may give the Sentinels their title shot.

What did I like?

Strike. When I was in elementary school, there was an NFL strike. At the same time, I had just moved to a new town and my new friends introduced me to the sport of football. My love of football will always be tied to the strike, so that could be why I was so drawn to this picture, not to mention the fact that it tackles the subject of how little respect (and money) the replacement players received, while the real players just got more money…as always.

Neo. This is still a few years before The Matrix, if I’m not mistaken, but it is obvious that this is one of those films where Reeves is trying to shed that surfer boy image that we know him best for in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. True, he doesn’t exactly shake it off, but hey he gets props for attempting successfully to do so, not to mention he does play a convincing former quarterback.

Chemistry. If you’re a football fan, then you know that team chemistry is important. This is not something the filmmakers left out. It takes awhile for the team to gel, partly because it has been some time since each has played ball, partly because they haven’t gelled as a team, and partly because they just don’t know what the hell they;re doing out there. Eventually the ship is righted, but it isn’t until the final game that we really see how important chemistry is as the team cannot function with the starting quarterback who crossed the picket line, but fire on all cylinders once he returns.

What didn’t I like?

Love story. Maybe it was just me, but the relationship between Reeves and the head cheerleader seemed to be a but cliché and out-of-place. What I mean by that is we have the quarterback and the head cheerleader. To me, that  felt a bit too high school-ish. I didn’t fall for it, but I probably would have if they would have just left her as a football fanatic who owns a bar, or if maybe she was a cheerleader from his past, but as it is, this was just too convenient, for my taste.

Gambling. *SIGH* There is one thing that gets on my nerves about films, especially newer ones, it is when they introduce a plot device for the sole purpose of doing nothing but creating tension for the climax. This is what the whole gambling bit involving Rhys Ifans’ character was. In a different film, I believe it would have worked, perhaps if they would have even given it, and him, more time, it coud have worked here, but that isn’t the case and they shove it in at the last-minute with no build up or anything. I was half expecting them to show up in the locker room and threaten to break his leg, as well as other evil acts.

Similarities. I can’t help but notice how similar this is to another of my favorite football films, Necessary Roughness, especially when it comes to the characters, such as the receiver who can’t catch, washed up former quarterback,  the sumo wrestler offensive linemen, big, black defenders, tough as nails cop, etc. If this was a parody, sequel, or nod to that film, then I’d have no issue, but it comes off as more of a blatant ripoff.

The Replacements is a film that always seems to be on TV, which is never a good sign, as those are typically the type that aren’t very good. Despite that, I actually do like this film. It is one of the better sports comedies around, especially dealing with football. If you’re looking for some hardcore football action, you probably need to look elsewhere, but as far as a feel-good, comedy involving football, this should be your cup of tea. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Recently widowed housewife Evelyn (Dench) must sell her home to cover huge debts left by her late husband. Graham (Wilkinson), a high-court judge who had spent his first eighteen years in India, abruptly decides to retire and return there. Jean (Wilton) and Douglas (Nighy) seek a retirement they can afford, having lost most of their savings through investing in their daughter’s internet business. Muriel (Smith), a retired housekeeper prejudiced against Indians, needs a hip replacement operation which can be done far more quickly and inexpensively in India. Madge (Celia Imrie) is hunting for another husband, and Norman (Pickup), an aging lothario, is trying to re-capture his youth. They each decide on a retirement hotel in India, based on pictures on its website.

When the group finally arrives at the picturesque hotel, despite its energetic young manager Sonny (Patel), the hotel is very dilapidated. Jean remains ensconced in the hotel, while her husband Douglas explores the sights. Graham, finding that the area has greatly changed since his youth, disappears on long outings every day. Muriel, despite her racist attitudes, starts to appreciate her doctor for his skill and the hotel maid for her good service. Evelyn gets a job advising the staff of a call centre how to interact with older British customers. Sonny struggles to raise funds to renovate the hotel and sees girlfriend, Sunaina (Tena Desae), despite his mother’s disapproval. Madge joins the Viceroy Club seeking a spouse, and is surprised to find Norman there. She introduces him to Carol (Diana Hardcastle). He admits he is lonely and seeking a companion, and the two begin a relationship.

Graham confides in Evelyn that he is trying to find the Indian lover he was forced to abandon as a youth. Social-climber Jean is attracted to Graham, and makes a rare excursion to follow him, but is humiliated when he explains he is gay. Graham reunites with his former lover, who is in an arranged marriage of mutual trust and respect. Graham dies of a heart condition. Evelyn and Douglas grow increasingly close. Douglas finally admits he is tired of defending his wife’s negative attitude, revealing just how unhappy their marriage has become. Muriel reveals that she was once housekeeper to a family who tricked her into training her younger replacement and now she feels that she has lost purpose in her life.

Sonny’s more successful brothers each own a third of the hotel, and plan to demolish it. His mother (Lillete Dubey) agrees and wants him to return to Delhi for an arranged marriage. Jean and Douglas prepare to return to England. Douglas returns to the hotel to say goodbye to Evelyn, but Muriel tells Douglas that Evelyn is not there. Now that the hotel is closing, Madge prepares to return to England and Norman agrees to move in with Carol. Madge, after encouragement from Carol and Muriel, decides to keep searching for another husband.

On their way to the airport, a rickshaw driver tells Jean and Douglas that he can only take one of them. Jean decides to leave Douglas behind. He follows his wife to the airport, misses the plane and spends the rest of the night wandering the streets. Sonny finally tells Sunaina that he loves her and confronts his mother, who finally gives the couple her blessing. Before the guests can leave, Muriel reveals that the hotel can make a profit and that Sonny’s investor has agreed to fund his plans as long as Muriel stays on as assistant manager. All the guests agree to stay. Douglas arrives just as Evelyn is leaving for work, and says he’ll have tea waiting for her when she gets back.

A closing montage shows Muriel checking in customers as assistant manager, Madge dining with a handsome older Indian man, Norman and Carol living happily together, and Sonny and Sunaina riding a motorbike, passing Douglas and Evelyn on a scooter

REVIEW:

Like many of you, I have heard the horror stories about what happens in retirement homes and how residents are all but reduced to infants because of the way they are treated. This is where The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel comes in, as these elderly citizens don’t want to go to a place like that, but rather live out their lives in a place they can enjoy, such as scenic India, for instance.

What is this about?

To make the most of their meager retirement savings, a group of British seniors moves to India to live out their golden years at the Marigold Hotel. But upon arrival, they discover the once-lavish resort has wilted considerably.

What did I like?

You’re only as young as you feel. Many people worry about getting old and losing touch with their humanity, blah, blah, blah. This film actually takes people who are of an age we seem to forget and treats them as if they weren’t second class citizens, but rather real people with real problems, and that is what makes this film so endearing to the audience.

Cast. Everyone…well, most everyone, is recognizable to audiences as great actors from across the pond. Someone said these were all the leftovers from the Harry Potter films, just need Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman to make an appearance. Rumor has it that there will be a sequel, so maybe they’ll show up.

McGonnagall. Maggie Smith’s character was one of the best things about this film, what with her old-fashioned, but not really offensive, racism, and hard-nosed focus, not to mention the one-liners she pops out now and then. Recently, I’ve begun watching Downton Abbey and in the episode I’ve seen with her in it, the two characters are very similar. I may change my mind, though, after I watch a few more episodes.

What didn’t I like?

Big or small. It seems as if the film knows the star power of its cast and gives them relative screen time. For instance, it can be argued that Dame Judi Dench is the biggest star in the film, and she gets the biggest amount of screen time followed by Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith. I get the idea behind that, but some of the more interesting stories were only touched upon, such as the two who are looking for love and the guy who is coming back to where he spent his childhood. These are stories that we probably should have gotten more of, in my opinion.

Mummyjii. What is the deal with Indian guys and their mothers? This is like the 4th or 5th time I’ve seen something like this in the past few months. Is this something culture related? If not, than it is just not a good plot device, as it does nothing but make the men look weak-willed. No wonder these same guys can’t keep their women!

Hotel. I was going to mention how rundown the hotel is, but there are some hotels here in the US that aren’t in that great of shape. However, I have to wonder about the phones. Was this just a device they threw in for comic effect, or was this place in such disrepair that the phones really didn’t work? How can you run a successful hotel without working phones? Sure, these days everyone uses cell phones, as opposed to landlines, but you still need at least one landline, just in case, and with tenants of the previous generation, landlines are more common and comfortable to them than a cell.

When all the smoke clears, I found The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to be a heart-warming, charming, dramedy. I did find it to be a tad bit longer than it needed to be, but that isn’t something I couldn’t get over, what with the great performances that the cast turns in. I’m not going to highly recommend it, but it is worth watching, so give it a shot sometime.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Pan’s Labyrinth

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a fairy tale, Princess Moanna, whose father is the king of the underworld, becomes curious about the world above, the human world. When she goes to the surface, the sunlight blinds her and erases her memory. She becomes very ill and eventually dies. However, the king believes that her spirit will come back to the underworld someday.

In post–Civil War Spain in 1944 (after Francisco Franco has come into power) Ophelia, a young girl who loves fairy tales, travels with her pregnant mother Carmen to meet Captain Vidal, her new stepfather and father of Carmen’s unborn child. Vidal, the son of a famed commander who died in Morocco, believes strongly in falangism and was assigned to root out any anti-Franco rebels.

Ophelia discovers a large insect resembling a stick insect which she believes to be a fairy. It follows her to the mill where Vidal is stationed and leads Ophelia into an ancient labyrinth nearby. Before Ophelia can enter, she is stopped by Mercedes, one of Vidal’s maids who is spying for the rebels. That night, the insect appears in Ophelia’s bedroom, where it changes into a fairy and leads her through the labyrinth. There, she meets the faun, who believes her to be Princess Moanna and gives her three tasks to complete before the full moon to ensure that her “essence is intact”. Meanwhile, Vidal’s cruel and sociopathic nature is revealed when he brutally murders two individuals who had been detained on suspicion of being rebel allies and who may merely have been farmers.

Ophelia completes the first task of retrieving a key from the belly of a giant toad, but she becomes worried about her mother whose condition is worsening. The faun gives Ophelia a mandrake root, which instantly begins to cure her mother’s illness.

Accompanied by three fairy guides, Ophelia then completes the second task of retrieving an ornate dagger from the lair of the Pale Man, a child-eating monster who sits silently in front of a large feast. Although she was gravely warned not to consume anything, she eats two grapes, awakening him. He eats two of the fairies and chases her, but she manages to escape. Infuriated at her disobedience, the faun refuses to give her the third task.

Meanwhile, Vidal becomes increasingly vicious, torturing a captured rebel and then killing the doctor — also a rebel sympathizer — who euthanized the tortured prisoner to stop his pain. Vidal catches Ophelia tending to the mandrake root, and Carmen throws it into the fireplace, where it then begins to writhe and scream in agony. Instantly, Carmen develops painful contractions and dies giving birth to a son. Vidal discovers that Mercedes is a spy, and he captures her and Ophelia as they attempt to escape. Ophelia is locked in her bedroom, and Mercedes is taken to be tortured; however, she frees herself, badly injures Vidal and flees into the woods, where the rebels rescue her.

The faun returns to Ophelia and gives her one more chance to prove herself. He tells her to take her baby brother into the labyrinth. Ophelia steals the baby after sedating Vidal; although disoriented, Vidal continues to chase her through the labyrinth while the rebels attack the mill. The faun tells Ophelia that the portal to the underworld will open only with an innocent’s blood, so he needs a drop of her brother’s blood. Ophelia refuses to harm her brother, and eventually Vidal finds her, seemingly talking to herself as the faun is not visible through his eyes. The faun leaves Ophelia to her choice, and Vidal takes the baby away from her, shooting her immediately after.

When he leaves the labyrinth, the rebels and Mercedes are waiting for him. Knowing that he will die, he calmly hands Mercedes the baby. Vidal takes out his watch and tells Mercedes to tell his son the exact time of his father’s death. Mercedes interrupts, telling him that his son will never even know his name. Pedro, one of the rebels and Mercedes’ brother, draws his pistol and shoots Vidal in the face, killing him.

As Mercedes enters the labyrinth and comforts the dying girl, drops of Ophelia’s blood spill onto the altar that is supposed to lead her into the underworld. Ophelia is reunited with the king and queen of the underworld. The faun is present too, and the king reveals to her that, by shedding her own blood instead of the blood of an innocent, she has completed the final task and proven herself to be Princess Moanna. In the mortal world, Ophelia dies and Mercedes mourns her death. In an epilogue, a narration dictates that Princess Moanna ruled the underworld with a just and kind heart, but left behind “small traces of her time on earth, visible only to those who know where to look”.

REVIEW:

From the creative genius of Guillermo del Toro, we get Pan’s Labyrinth, a film that tells a great story which straddles the line between the innocence of the real world and the dark realism of the “adult world” during wartime.

What is this about?

Living with her tyrannical stepfather and pregnant mother, 10-year-old Ofelia retreats to a labyrinth where she meets a mythical faun. He claims she is destined to become princess of the Underworld, but first she must carry out three perilous tasks

What did I like?

Visuals. A film like this is nothing without strong visuals, and that is exactly what we get. From the giant frog, to the faun, to the mysterious pale man who sees with is hands, the beauty of these visuals is sure to impress even the most jaded of viewer. My only complaint is that there wasn’t more because I couldn’t get enough. de Toro knows how to use imagination much in a way that Rey Herryhausen did with stop-motion animation back in the day.

Contrast. This film has a dark tone throughout its entirety, but it is split into two separate factions, for lack of a better term. Part of the film is set in post Spanish Civil War Spain, with a sadistic captain running some kind of outpost, hell-bent on destroying the French influence from Spain. The other half is the fantasy side of things that is quite the break from the serious, violent side of things, even though it isn’t exactly happy-go-lucky.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. The young lead actress, Ivana Boquero, really impressed me with her talent and composure. Not many 10 yr olds can handle a tremendous role like this, but she does it with the grace of someone much older. Here’s hoping that this young Spanish actress goes on to bigger and better things, and maybe makes it big over here in the states.

What didn’t I like?

Language. First off, I understand that this is a foreign film, and I respect that, but I admit that I had a hard time keeping up with what was going on while I was reading the English. This is more of a personal issue, but it is still something that kept this film from being even better than what I thought it was.

Mon capitan. I was not a fan of the captain and the way he handled his daughter (or stepdaughter), but he goes through hell and highwater to save his son, even commiting unspeakable murder to do so. What is it about a male heir that was so important, especially when you have a duaghter already. I guess he is one of those guys that think he’s less of a man without producing a boy child.

Pan’s Labyrinth is a film that speaks for itself and has an ending that will leave you talking. One the one hand, it can be depressing, but on the other it can be very fairy tale-ish. It all is a matter of perspective. With that in mind, check this out and see which side of things you fall on. Once you get past the language barrier, I just about guarntee you’ll enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Solomon and Sheba

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2013 by Mystery Man

Solomon and Sheba

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Under the rule of King David, Israel is united and prosperous, although surrounded by enemies, including Egypt and its allies. The ageing King favours Solomon to succeed him, but his elder brother Adonijah (George Sanders), a warrior, declares himself King. When David learns of this, he publicly announces Solomon to be his successor. Adonijah and Joab, his general, withdraw in rage, but Solomon later offers his brother the command of the army, knowing that it may be used against him.

Israel continues to prosper under Solomon’s rule. The Queen of Sheba (Gina Lollobrigida) conspires with the Egyptian Pharaoh to undermine Solomon’s rule by seducing him and introducing Sheban pagan worship into Jerusalem. Solomon is indeed bewitched by her, and the two begin living together under the pretense of forming an alliance between their two kingdoms. The king’s reputation is damaged, but at the same time Sheba begins to truly fall in love with him and regret her plotting. Things come to a head when Solomon recklessly allows a Sheban ‘love festival’ (in fact an orgy in celebration of a pagan goddess) to be held within Israel. In an act of divine retribution, lightning from heaven destroys the Sheban altar and damages the newly-built Temple in Jerusalem, and the land is beset with a famine. Solomon is publicly rebuked by the people; the High Priest and Nathan the Prophet disown him.

Meanwhile Adonijah, banished by his brother after an assassination attempt, goes and strikes a bargain with Pharaoh; given an army, he will conquer Israel for Egypt, in exchange for being placed on the throne as a kind of viceroy. The tiny army mustered by Solomon (who has been abandoned by his allied states) is quickly routed, and Adonijah presses on to Jerusalem and makes himself king. Meanwhile Sheba, now a believer in the power of the god of Israel, prays for Solomon to be redeemed and restored to power.

Pursued by the Egyptians, who were sent to finish him off, Solomon thereafter devises a plan. He lines up the remnants of his army on a hill, prompting the enemy to charge. The Israelites, who have arranged themselves to face east, then use their highly polished shields to reflect the light of the rising sun into the Egyptians’ eyes. Blinded, the Egyptians are prevented from seeing the chasm in front of which the Israelites have positioned themselves, and the entire army rushes headlong over the edge and falls to its death.

Meanwhile Adonijah, met with a tepid reaction to his coup, tries to stir up Jerusalem’s population by ordering the stoning of Sheba. Midway through this hideous display, Solomon makes a triumphant return to the city. Adonijah attacks his brother, refusing to be deprived again of his throne, but is himself struck down. At Solomon’s prayer Sheba is miraculously healed of her wounds; as he resumes his power, she returns to her homeland, now pregnant by Solomon.

REVIEW:

A certain person in this house has a bit of a crush on Yul Brynner, one that may even rival my love Jayne Mansfield! In an effort to appease the need for more Yul (even though we could just as easily popped in The Magnificent Seven), Netflix had Solomon and Sheba to offer tonight.

What is this about?

This stunning biblical epic stars Yul Brynner as the wise King Solomon and Gina Lollobrigida as the beautiful queen of Sheba. After he inherits the kingdom of Israel from his father David, Solomon is targeted by the Egyptian pharaoh, who conspires with Sheba in an effort to bring down the benevolent king.

What did I like?

Love story. Ok, people, don’t jump down my throat on this. I’m no biblical scholar, nor have I ever claimed to be. That being said, I did enjoy the love story between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. For me, it was reminiscent, or I suppose the better word would be foreshadowing, of another Egyptian queen who develops a relationship with someone from a country they are at war with, Cleopatra. Brynner and Lollobridgida make the relationship seem as if it were the real deal, and not just a couple of people getting paid to make googly eyes at each other.

Leads. The film’s three leads, do a masterful job with what they are given. Admittedly, this is the best material to work with, but they prove that actors should be consummate professionals (take note actors of today), and aren’t just phoning it in. I can’t say I was mostly impressed by any of them, which isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. I was taken by a new leading lady in Lollobridgida and wondering why it is I haven’t seen or heard more of her, other than a line from a song in Hairspray.

Scandalous. At the time this was made, scenes like the pagan love festival weren’t exactly looked upon with favorable eyes. Today, a scene like this would be sweater and more graphic, but as it is filmed here is quite tame. While I felt it went a bit long, it did make sense being included. Sheba was having a festival/ritual worshiping her god, and also attempting to seduce Solomon, which leads to his downfall. Truly, this is a pivotal and poignant scene in the film that I would wager almost didn’t make it into the final cut.

What didn’t I like?

Battle. When I was a kid, my friends and I would use sticks, branches, plastic lightsabers, etc. to have sword fights. Watching the battle scenes took me back to those days, and not in a good way. If I had to describe these scenes in one word, it would be uninspired. It felt more like they were in some acting class where they learn how to fight, rather than actually doing it. Even for the era in which this was made, it looked fake.

Wooden. Someone called the acting wooden and that the stars were too talented to be here. I’ll admit that I’ve seen better from Brynner and Sanders, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say wooden. I will possibly give them the too talented pass, at least Brynner. At this time, I believe Sanders was nearing the decline of his career and Brynner was a last-minute replacement for Tyrone Power, who was playing Solomon, but died of a heart attack on set.

Music. This is supposed to be an epic, but the music doesn’t portray it. There are no orchestral swells during the romantic scenes, the opening score doesn’t blow you away, and the soundtrack as a whole is just a bit of a letdown. Perhaps I’m a bit spoiled with the epic scored of films like Lawrence of Arabia, Dances with Wolves, Gladiator, How the West was Won, etc, but this just left me feeling underwhelmed.

Solomon and Sheba was called by many critics one of the worse films of all time, a distinction it does not deserve. There isn’t anything inherently bad about this film, other than the fact it is quite forgettable. Seriously, the most memorable thing about it is that Yul Brynner has hair. I wish I could say that there is something worthwhile to see here, but there isn’t. Even the costumes, which may have been overshadowed by the fact that I saw that opulent indulgence that is Cleopatra last year, aren’t that great. Other than getting a glimpse of what curvaceous Italian beauty Gina Lollodgida could do on-screen, this is best not watching, unless you’re just into mediocre biblical flicks.

3 out of 5 stars