Archive for February 27, 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