Archive for February 6, 2013

Here Comes the Boom

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Former collegiate wrestler Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a 42-year-old bored biology teacher at the failing Wilkinson High School. Budget cutbacks at the school jeopardize the continuation of its music program, which would result in its teacher, Marty (Henry Winkler), being laid off. Concerned for both his colleague and his students, Voss attempts to raise the $48,000 necessary to keep the music program alive. At first, he works as a night instructor for a citizenship class. One of his students, Niko (Bas Rutten), approaches him to get some outside tutoring and Voss reluctantly agrees. When he arrives at Niko’s apartment, he realizes that Niko was a former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. While watching UFC at Niko’s apartment, Voss learns that the loser of the fight receives $10,000, which gives him the idea of raising the money by fighting in MMA himself. Voss then begins fighting in small MMA fights and gradually gaining more and more money for the school.

Voss eventually gets a dinner date with Bella Flores (Salma Hayek), and they share many moments together showing much affection for each other. Voss then gets an offer to fight at the UFC, but Niko turns it down for Scott. When Scott angrily confronts Niko, Niko states that he was sorry and that the only reason he turned it down was because he was jealous because Niko himself was asked to fight at the UFC and eagerly accepted, but while he was training, he hurt his neck and that was it for him. They both go back and accept the offer. He then learns that he can get $ 50,000 if he wins the fight, so he takes the risk. Voss and his crew travel to the MGM Grand Las Vegas for the UFC event.

The event turns out to be a hypothetical UFC 176 rematch of Carwin vs. Dos Santos and he manages to win his UFC fight, gets $50,000 for his victory, and saves the music program at his school. Also, Niko and all the students of the citizenship class have now become American citizens.

REVIEW:

I’m not a fan of UFC, not because I have animosity towards it, but because I just couldn’t get into it. After watching Here Comes the Boom, I may give it another shot.

What is this about?

When budget cutbacks threaten his high school’s music program, physics teacher Scott Voss (Kevin James) decides to moonlight as a mixed martial arts fighter in order to raise the money that would save the program.

What did I like?

Dr. Feelgood. No, I’m not talking about Salma Hayek, who was playing a nurse (she can make me feel good anytime she wants, though j/k), but rather the tone of the film. The audience is treated to a story that will break and warm you heart, not to mention having you really think about the way our educational system is run…more on that later.

Music. As my chosen profession, I’m a little biased towards films that show music education in a positive light, such as Mr. Holland’s Opus and Music of the Heart. While this isn’t quite the same, it does attempt to show the impact music can have on a student, although you might miss it if you’re not paying attention. Also, on the subject of music, the soundtrack to this took me back to the turn of this century. It was good to hear these tunes again, and they were effective for what they were used for, rather than just being played for the sake of having some non-instrumental music going.

Support system. Kevin James may be the star of this film, but it is the supporting and secondary characters that really keep it going. James is the primary focus but, truth be told, he isn’t that funny. It is almost as if he was trying to play this as a serious role. His brother, Gary Valentine (apparently they are actually brothers), the aforementioned Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Charice, Bas Rutten, and this one guy in the citizenship class whose name I do not know at this time are all a major reason to enjoy this film. their roles and chemistry with James lend a great amount of heart, comedy, and inspiration.

What didn’t I like?

Predictable. I think you can guess what happens at the end of the film involving the music program and his relationship with the hot nurse, right? That is an issue I have with the film, it is quite predictable, despite an attempt to throw viewers off by having a school official arrested for embezzling. That might have actually worked, if not for the fact that it was forgotten almost as soon as it was brought up. In a film like this, where the basic idea has been done so many time, each one better than this version, there needs to be something memorable. With the exception of the UFC/MMA angle, this film is nothing special in terms of plot. Hell, even that last fight reeked was obvious. Come on, all of a sudden the band/orchestra kids are there playing his alternate theme song, “Holy, Holy” by Neil Diamond (“Here Comes the Boom” by P.O.D. worked better, if you ask me), Salma Hayek also shows up, they show his citizenship class and the school watching the fight on TV, and every chance the announcers get, they bring up that he’s a Biology teacher and his opponent is pissed that his original fight, which was supposed to be a championship fight, I believe, was canceled.

Message. First off, why is it that everytime schools need to make budget cuts, the first to go is typically the arts, specifically music? This is something that happens here in the real world, as well. Yet, nothing happens to athletics, even if all the sports have combined for a total of 5 wins over 50 years, they clearly are still more deserving of retention than the band. This is actually brought up for a quick second in the film, but as in real life, it is brushed aside because athletics makes money, whereas the music program…Let me stop before I turn this into a fill blown rant. The message in this film is that in this country our education system is flawed. Teachers don’t really care for what they are teaching anymore. Take a look at James’ character, for the majority of the film, he spends his time behind the computer, probably playing solitaire. Belive it or not, that isn’t much different from the way some teachers actually treat their jobs. Until the time when these teachers can teach without being forced to these unrealistic standards, our kids will never truly succeed. The standards of if one kid isn’t keeping up, then the class as has to slow down, but if one kid is bored, then you have to speed up. Basically, they can’t win. Is it no wonder they are burned out? Throw in these standardized tests and it is a miracle there aren’t more teacher suicides! I mention the heavy-handed message that was in Invisible Invaders earlier today. Well, this falls along the same lines.

Charice. First off, let me say that this is one talented girl. The fact that she hasn’t been successful here in the states while the likes of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj have topped the charts just goes to show you how we don’t appreciate good music. Think about this, nearly every one-hit wonder from the 80s went on to have huge success in Europe, while being shunned over here. Shame, isn’t it. All that aside, Charice has some acting chops to go with her voice. I wish she would have gotten the chance to flex them both a little more. Well, the acting, since she did get to sing before the last fight.

All my ranting and raving aside, Here Come the Boom is a film that has its issues. For a comedy, it doesn’t have enough moments that make you laugh, which is obviously a huge issue. I appreciate the save the music program angle, but I felt as if it might have worked better if James was the music director. Still, this film is far from the horrid affair critics would have you believe it is. I had a decent time watching and think you’ll enjoy it a bit, as well.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Bullitt

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ambitious politician Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) is holding a Senate subcommittee hearing in San Francisco on organized crime in America. To improve his political standing, Chalmers hopes to interrogate key witness Johnny Ross (Pat Renella), a man who has represented to him (and that he has accepted), as defector from the organization. Chalmers hopes to introduce his “surprise” witness a la “Joe Valachi”, who he will question in public sessions of the Committee’s hearings. It will be an individual who, as promised, will deliver unspecified inside information on the workings and operations of the “organization”. The plot of Bullitt takes place the weekend before the hearings, from the Friday night (during the opening credits), when, as per Chalmer’s request, Ross enters the protective custody of the San Francisco police, to Monday morning, when he is suppose to testify.

However, Ross is first and foremost not who he has represented himself to be to Chalmers; and, Chalmers does not know this. Johnny Ross is not the low level mob technician who has come to Chalmers; to both renounce, and flee, his life in the underworld of organized crime. He is in fact, a high level mob accountant who, for the mob, runs its off-track betting & interstate wire service. Ross has also embezzled and stolen $2 million of the mob’s money, while heading that operation. Chalmers does not know that the whole act of Ross defecting is false. Ross is escaping from Chicago to San Francisco.

Bullitt, Sergeant Delgetti (Don Gordon) and Detective Carl Stanton (Carl Reindel), give Ross around-the-clock protection at the Hotel Daniels, a cheap flophouse near the Embarcadero Freeway. Late Saturday night Ross inexplicably unchains the hotel room door; before Stanton can react, a pair of hitmen (Paul Genge and Bill Hickman) burst into the room and shoot Stanton and Ross, seriously wounding both.

Bullitt wants to investigate the shooting in the hotel, while an upset Chalmers attempts to place blame on to Bullitt and the department, trying to clear his name for the shooting. After Bullitt thwarts another assassination attempt by Genge, Ross dies of his wounds. Bullitt suppresses this news, sneaking the man’s body out of the hospital.

Chalmers arrives at the hospital on Sunday morning and is angered Ross has disappeared and Bullitt, admitting he has Ross, will not reveal his location and that he will protect himself, while he is worried how will he explain that Ross is dead.

Bullitt reconstructs Ross’s movements, finding the cab driver Weissberg (Robert Duvall) who brought him to the hotel. He is told by the cabbie that Ross had made both a local and long distance call from a pay phone before he came to the hotel. Records reveal the local was to a hotel south of San Francisco. Bullitt picks up his 1968 Ford Mustang GT and sees he is being tailed by the hitmen. He turns the tables and follows them, resulting in a protracted, highly dangerous car chase that ends with the hitmen dying in a fiery crash. Back at the police station Bullitt is given until Monday morning to follow his remaining lead.

With the help of his girlfriend Cathy (Jacqueline Bisset) Bullitt heads to the hotel Ross called, where he finds a woman registered under the name Dorothy Simmons (Brandy Carroll) murdered. Cathy wanders into the scene and is disturbed, shortly expressing her fear to Bullitt that he is becoming as cold and unfeeling as the criminals he chases to the law.

The dead woman’s luggage yields a pair of empty passport and airline ticket folders, brochures from a Chicago travel agency for a Rome vacation, and a pair of traveler’s check books denominated in thousands signed by a Dorothy and Albert Renick. Bullitt tells Delgetti to contact Immigration Service in Chicago and obtain the photos their passports were issued under.

Bullitt has reasoned the events of the weekend into a coherent whole. Johnny Ross is an embezzler had to set in motion a scheme to get away with his acts of embezzlement from the mob. From the beginning Ross knew that the mob, not the police, were his most important problem. He needed a way to have the mob stop looking for him, if he were to have any hope of actually getting away with his theft of their money.

So Ross recruited and paid the Rennicks to have Albert Rennick impersonate Johnny Ross, as a man on-the-run in San Francisco, seeking protective custody in a Senate hearing and turning state’s evidence, under police protection. Rennick (as Ross), took the chain off the door of the hotel room to help his “kidnappers” (as he thought the plan was) make him disappear from police custody. The airline tickets and the traveler’s checks in both Mr. and Mrs. Rennick’s names wrongly convinced them that their vacations in Rome; (not their murders), were the real plan that Johnny Ross had for them.

Chalmers arrives at the morgue, demanding from Bullitt a signed admission that Ross died while in his custody. Bullitt demurs, and when the faxed copy of the Renicks’ passport photos arrives, Chalmers is shown to have sent the police to protect the wrong man. Ross, and his older brother, set Albert Renick up in order to be killed as “Johnny Ross” so the real Ross could escape the mob. Johnny then killed Dorothy Renick to silence her.

At the airport a search of the Rome flight passenger list reveals no Ross or Renick. Bullitt guesses that Ross switched his ticket to an earlier international flight heading for London. He discovers the real Johnny Ross already boarded and the flight ready for take off. Chalmers makes one last attempt to use Ross for his own ends, which Bullitt angrily rejects before going after Ross. A chase across the busy runways of San Francisco Airport ensues, with Bullitt eventually shooting and killing Ross after chasing him back into the terminal. Bullitt then returns home to a sleeping Cathy. After taking off his gun and placing it on a table he looks at himself in the bathroom mirror and seems troubled by what he sees looking back at him.

REVIEW:

I’ve heard lots of talk about Bullitt, specifically the car chase scene, so I got curious and decided to give it a look-see. Was my curiosity rewarded or was I unmercifully punished?

What is this about?

Lt. Frank Bullitt must baby-sit a Chicago gangster for 48 hours before he testifies against his brother. But when hit men snuff the witness, Bullitt won’t be stopped in his quest for vengeance.

What did I like?

Characters. In today’s films, we rarely see any kind of character development or nuance. This film, obviously a product of a time when filmmakers were more interested in the product rather than the money, we are allowed some insight into most of these characters. What is it that makes them tick, that drives them, etc. I’ll be the first to say that sometimes you just want to get to the good stuff where things blow up and whatnot, but every now and then it is nice to pull the reins back and observe what films are supposed to be.

Get your engines revved up. There are two selling points to this film, technically three, but the third is barely in it. They are Steve McQueen, an epic car chase scene, and a young and hot Jacqueline Bisset. No disrespect to Bisset and McQueen, but the car chase scene really made the film for me. It comes along at the right time, as there isn’t much going on before it happen. I honestly believe that I dozed off a couple of times until I heard those engines revving up. Growing up in the 80s, I loved shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team, etc, which often showed car chases, which appear to have been highly influenced by this scene. Most impressive to me was how the filmmaker decided to edit it. Instead of just seeing the chase scene, we also get a look from the driver’s point of view. I wish some filmmakers would bring this technique back today, as it would make for more interesting and exciting chase scenes.

Get real. Unless I’m mistaken, there are no special effects to be found in this flick. That may be why I was so fascinated by it. Contrasting to the current crop of films of this ilk where they use CGI as a sad attempt to make everything look “real”, ironically, the fact that there are no effects used in this flick is part of the reason it works on so many levels. I don’t belive it would have been as effective otherwise.

2 of 7. This film offers a bit of a mini-reunion, as two actors from The Magnificent Seven (I will be revisiting that one before the year is out) are reunited. Steve McQueen and Robert Vaughn, the last living member of the 7 as of the time I’m writing this, seem to be familiar, yet distant from each other. A manner very similar to their limited, if any, interaction in the classic western.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. I may praise the way the film takes its time developing these characters and such, but the pacing of this film leaves a bit to be desired. You can make the case all you want about  how we, as a society, today have come to want instant gratification so quickly that a good story with a beginning, middle, and end is looked upon as slow and boring. I won’t argue that point, because it has its validity. However, the slow build-up to the big payoff scenes (car chase and climactic conclusion) just didn’t strike my fancy. As I said before, I dozed off in a couple of places, never a good sign for a so-called action flick, even if it more on the crime drama/thriller side of things.

Eye candy. I’m the last person to complain about a hot woman being used as nothing more than eye candy, but when said woman has real talent like Jacqueline Bisset, then I take umbrage with the way she is used. Bisset has one good scene late in the film where she gets all emotional and whatnot, but for the rest of the film, she is nothing more than the token hot chick. Granted, I’m not really sure what she could have done in a film like this so, if they wanted a random hot girl, why not just pick some hottie up out of obscurity to play this role?

If you’re in the mood for some good, classic crime thriller action, then Bullitt is the film for you. No, this isn’t something you should just randomly check out for the car chase scene. Trust me, if you do, you will be sadly disappointed, as that scene, in all its glory, lasts for 10 minutes, and then we never really see the car again. That point aside, this is really a solid film that could be more enjoyable than you think. From what I hear, it is even better the second time around.

4 out of 5 stars

Invisible Invaders

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by Mystery Man

Invisible Invaders

PLOT:

The Earth is attacked by mysterious invaders from outer space, who plan on destroying humankind. The invaders are invisible in our atmosphere, but are able to inhabit and reanimate the bodies of the dead. The armies of rotting corpses march on the cities, and it seems as though there is no defense. Major Bruce Jay (John Agar) is put in charge of a small, secret research center with a group of scientists, who must find a way of combating the invaders. Personality conflicts develop as Jay’s hard-nosed, by-the-book approach to his job — which requires him to kill anyone who might jeopardize the mission — put him in opposition to the scientists (played by Jean Byron, Philip Tonge, and Robert Hutton). They develop an ultra-sonic gun that has the combined effect of rendering the aliens visible and killing them, but first they must test it, by capturing an alien, an action that forces them to run the risk of being discovered

REVIEW:

I think it is about time I went back to some classic sci-fi faire around here, even though my project is complete. One of the films that I had planned to use in said project, but just didn’t get around to was Invisible Invaders. Doesn’t that title alone make you curious?

What is this about?

Maj. Bruce Jay (John Agar) and his dedicated team of research scientists have the rather distasteful job of defeating invasion by a horde of invisible creatures from outer space capable of reanimating human corpses. The alien army of rotting walking dead begins methodically overtaking cities throughout the country. Can the team’s secret ultrasonic weapon turn the aliens visible and return the corpse soldiers to their graves?

What did I like?

Walking dead. No, I’m not talking about that hit AMC show, but rather the way that the invisible aliens are seen, which is through the re-animation of dead bodies. I found that to be an interesting way to communicate when you can’t be seen, as well as a different use for zombies. Of course, at this point in history, zombies weren’t the brain eating monsters we know them as today.

Focus. Many times, I chide films like this for spending entirely too much time on the human protagonists rather than the alien antagonists. In this case, there really isn’t much of a choice, as the aliens aren’t exactly the most interesting of peoples. Still, the film manages to spend some time informing us of the intentions of these creatures, their weaknesses, etc., without treating them like nothing more than scenery.

Message. There is a message here involving the nations of the world and their inability to work together. The same kind of message can be found in The Day the Earth Stood Still. However, this film is more direct about it, as opposed to alluding to it. Don’t get me wrong, both films have the same agenda, but this one makes no qualms about what it is trying to do, although it does save it for the last scene.

What didn’t I like?

What can be seen. Our ragtag group of heroes finally figure out a way to defeat the aliens through the use of sound. My problem is that the aliens leave their bodies and resemble the aliens from Cocoon. Perhaps they were the inspiration for that flick, who knows. Personally, I didn’t care for the look, but this is obviously a low-budget B-movie, so I can live with it, but that doesn’t mean I’m jumping for joy.

Cheap ploy? The idea of invisible alien invaders coming down to take over Earth is a novel one and I’m sure that when this was released, it freaked more than a few people out. I can’t get it out of the back of my mind, though, that the whole invisible thing was nothing more than a cheap ploy. It is pretty easy to create the effect of an invisible person walking and we never see this grand ship that they have. So, they’re either cheap or this budget was more limited that we know of…or both.

Narration. Normally, I don’t have an issue with narration, especially when it is done so masterfully by Walter Cronkite. However, this narration didn’t seem necessary, but rather more of another way for them to save a few bucks by not filming some expository scenes. I can live with it, I mean this guy’s a master at narration, as can be heard in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, but there had to have been a better way to use the narration in this film.

As far as classic alien invasion films go, Invisible Invaders is pretty decent for what it is. Could it have been better? Yes, but there are very few films that a person seen and doesn’t say they are. I found this film to be rather satisfying for what I was in the mood for, but I have the feeling had this been a flick I just randomly watched it wouldn’t have worked so well. With that in mind, I say you should go ahead and check this out, but know that you are getting into a low-budget B-movie sci-fi flick from the 50s. Just because I liked doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.

3 2/3 out of 5 stars