Archive for May, 2013

Popeye

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Popeye (Robin Williams), a sailor, arrives at the small coastal town of Sweethaven (“Sweethaven – An Anthem”) while searching for his long-lost father. He is immediately feared by the townsfolk simply because he is a stranger (“Blow Me Down”), and is accosted by a greedy taxman (Donald Moffat). He rents a room at the Oyl family’s boarding house, whose daughter, Olive (Shelley Duvall), is preparing for her engagement party. Her hand is promised to Captain Bluto (Paul L. Smith), a powerful, perpetually angry bully who runs the town in the name of the mysterious Commodore. In the morning, Popeye visits the local diner for breakfast (“Everything Is Food”) and demonstrates his strength as he brawls with a gang of provocative ruffians.

On the night of the engagement party, Bluto and the townsfolk arrive at the Oyls’ home. Olive, however, sneaks out of the house (“He’s Large”). She encounters Popeye, who failed to fit in with the townsfolk at the party. The two eventually come across an abandoned baby in a basket (Wesley Ivan Hurt). Popeye adopts the child, naming him Swee’Pea, and the two return to the Oyls’ home. Bluto, however, has grown increasingly furious with Olive’s absence, eventually flying into a rage and destroying the house (“I’m Mean”). When he sees Popeye and Olive with Swee’Pea, Bluto beats Popeye into submission and declares heavy taxation for the Oyls.

The taxman repossesses the remains of the Oyls’ home and all their possessions. The Oyls’ son, Castor, decides to compete against the local heavyweight boxer, Oxblood Oxheart (Peter Bray) in the hopes of winning a hefty prize for his family. However, Castor is no match for Oxheart and is savagely beaten and knocked out of the ring. Popeye takes the ring in Castor’s place and defeats Oxheart, putting on a show for the townsfolk and finally earning their respect. Back at home, Popeye and Olive sing Swee’Pea to sleep (“Swee’ Pea’s Lullaby”).

The next day, Olive tells Popeye that during his match with Oxheart, she discovered that Swee’Pea can predict the future by whistling when he hears the correct answer to a question. Wimpy (Paul Dooley) overhears and asks to take Swee’Pea out for a walk, though he actually takes him to the horse races and wins two games. Popeye, however, is outraged, and vents his frustrations to the racing parlor’s customers (“I Yam What I Yam”). Fearing further exploitation of his child, Popeye moves out of the Oyls’ home and onto the docks; when the taxman harasses him, Popeye pushes him into the water, prompting a celebration by the townspeople. In the chaos, Wimpy, who has been intimidated by Bluto, kidnaps Swee’Pea for him. That night, Olive remarks to herself about her budding relationship with Popeye (“He Needs Me”), while Popeye writes a message in a bottle for Swee’Pea (“Sailin'”).

Wimpy sees Bluto taking Swee’Pea into the Commodore’s ship; he and Olive inform Popeye. Inside, Bluto presents the boy to the curmudgeonly Commodore, promising that he is worth a fortune; however, the Commodore refuses to listen, reminding Bluto that his buried treasure is all the fortune he needs. His patience with the Commodore exhausted, Bluto ties him up and takes Swee’Pea himself (“It’s Not Easy Being Me”). Popeye storms the ship and meets the Commodore, realizing that he is his father, Poopdeck Pappy (Ray Walston). However, Pappy initially denies that Popeye is his son; to prove it, Pappy tries to feed Popeye spinach, which he claims is his family’s source of great strength. However, Popeye hates spinach and refuses to eat it. Bluto kidnaps Olive as well and sets sail to find Pappy’s treasure. Popeye, Pappy, and the Oyl family board Pappy’s ship to give pursuit. Bluto sails to Scab Island, a desolate island in the middle of the ocean, while Pappy argues with his son and rants about children (“Kids”).

Popeye catches Bluto and fights him, but despite his determination, Popeye is overpowered. During the duel, Pappy recovers his treasure and opens the chest to reveal a collection of personal sentimental items from Popeye’s infancy, including a few cans of spinach. A giant octopus awakens and attacks Swee’Pea and Olive from underwater. With Popeye in a choke hold, Pappy throws him a can of spinach; Bluto, recognizing Popeye’s dislike for spinach, force-feeds him the can before throwing him into the water. The spinach revitalizes Popeye and boosts his strength; he knocks Bluto down in one punch, then swiftly deals with the giant octupus, sending it flying hundreds of feet into the air. Bluto’s clothing turns yellow and he swims away as Popeye celebrates his victory (“Popeye The Sailor Man”).

REVIEW:

For most of us, Popeye was a Saturday morning cartoon character, or someone who our grandparents used to get us to eat spinach, or some other green vegetable (can you believe that today’s generation doesn’t have a clue as to who Popeye is?!?) .As it turns out, Popeye is based more on the comic strip, which was a bit more controversial (by today’s standards) than the cartoon.

What is this about?

Robert Altman’s deft hand at the helm made this 1980 film a classic. Based on E.C. Segar’s comic strip, Popeye stars Robin Williams as the super-strong, spinach-scarfing sailor man who’s searching for his father. During a storm that wrecks his ship, Popeye washes ashore and winds up rooming at the Oyl household, where he meets Olive (Shelley Duvall). Before he can win her heart, he must first contend with Olive’s fiancé, Bluto (Paul L. Smith).

What did I like?

Popeye. I’m not sure there is anyone else that could have pulled off playing our favorite spinach eating sailor than Robin Williams. He comedic abilities, nonsense ramblings, and facial movements are more than enough to bring Popeye to life. Other than the fact he had blonde hair, Williams was spot on with his portrayal.

Just enough. Pretty much everything we all know and love from Popeye is on display to see here. Popeye has two different sailor suits, Wimpy says his infamous line, Pappy and Swee’Pea make appearances, and of course the love triangle between Popeye, Bluto, and Olive is front and center. With all this, you would think it would be too much, but they didn’t overdo anything, but rather gave the audience just enough to satisfy the craving.

What didn’t I like?

Character design. I am not a an o the way they designed some of these characters, most notable Popeye and Olive Oyl. It should be noted that I have never liked that skinny beanpole, anyway, so there is a bit of a bias in terms of her. Popeye, on the other hand…I understand what they were going for with the exaggerated forearms, those are a signature of Popeye, but they just looked so fake, that even I have to mention them.

Music. Apparently, this is a musical. Um, last I checked, musicals have to have enjoyable songs and/or music in them. This has neither. Yes, it has songs, but they are just there, serving no real purpose. On top of that, these songs are about as wretched as possible. If they wanted to make this into a musical, they should have hired someone competent to write the music for it. As it stands, the music in Forbidden Zone seems like Mozart compared to this.

Bluto and spinach. As I said earlier, this is based more on the comic strip than the cartoon, so the lack of Bluto may have been attributed to that. However, I felt that the big bully could have used more of a chance to be developed as an antagonist, as opposed to just be some big guy doing some allegedly bad stuff. Also, spinach is a big part of Popeye lore, and yet we don’t get much of it in the film, at all. As a matter of fact, it is about an hour in before it is even mention, except for a passing moment at a vegetable stand.

This is a film that seems to have people torn as to what they think of it. For me, Popeye was ambitious, but joyless. I had no fun watching this. Throw in the music and it just made the experience that much worse. I won’t say that you need to avoid this like the plague, but please don’t go out of your to try and find it because it isn’t worth it, I assure you.

2 1/2 out off 5 stars

Thunderball

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

James Bond—MI6 agent 007 and sometimes simply “007”—attends the funeral of Colonel Jacques Bouvar, a SPECTRE operative (Number 6).Bouvar is alive and disguised as his own widow, but Bond identifies him. Following him to a château, Bond fights and kills him, escaping using a jetpack and his Aston Martin DB5.

Bond is sent by M to a clinic to improve his health. While massaged by physiotherapist Patricia Fearing, he notices Count Lippe, a suspicious man with a criminal tattoo (from a Tong). He searches Lippe’s room, but is seen leaving by Lippe’s clinic neighbour who is bandaged after plastic surgery. Lippe tries to murder Bond with a spinal traction machine, but is foiled by Fearing, whom Bond then seduces. Bond finds a dead bandaged man, François Derval. Derval was a French NATO pilot deployed to fly aboard an Avro Vulcan loaded with two atomic bombs for a training mission. He had been murdered by Angelo, a SPECTRE henchman surgically altered to match his appearance.

Angelo takes Derval’s place on the flight, sabotaging the plane and sinking it near the Bahamas. He is then killed by Emilio Largo (SPECTRE No. 2) for trying to extort more money than offered to him. Largo and his henchmen retrieve the stolen atomic bombs from the seabed. All double-0 agents are called to Whitehall and en route, Lippe chases Bond. Lippe is killed by SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe for failing to foresee Angelo’s greed. SPECTRE demands £100 million in white flawless uncut diamonds from NATO in exchange for returning the bombs. If their demands are not met, SPECTRE will destroy a major city in the United States or the United Kingdom. At the meeting, Bond recognises Derval from a photograph. Since Derval’s sister, Domino, is in Nassau, Bond asks M to send him there, where he discovers Domino is Largo’s mistress.

Bond takes a boat to where Domino is snorkelling. After Bond saves her life, the two have lunch together. Later, Bond goes to a party, where he sees Largo and Domino gambling. Bond enters the game against Largo, and wins. Bond and Domino leave the game and dance together. Bond returns to the hotel, uses a connecting door to enter his room and notices someone is also inside. Felix Leiter enters and is silenced by Bond, who finds and disarms a SPECTRE henchman in the bathroom. He releases the henchman, who returns to Largo and is thrown into a pool of sharks.

Bond meets Q, and is issued with a collection of gadgets, including an underwater infrared camera, a distress beacon, underwater breathing apparatus, a flare gun and a Geiger counter. Bond attempts to swim underwater beneath Largo’s boat, but is nearly killed. Bond’s assistant Paula is abducted by Largo for questioning and kills herself.

Bond is kidnapped by Fiona, but escapes. He is chased through a Junkanoo celebration and enters the Kiss Kiss club. Fiona finds and attempts to kill him, but is shot by her own bodyguard. Bond and Felix search for the Vulcan, finding it underwater. Bond meets Domino scuba-diving and tells her that Largo killed her brother, asking for help finding the bombs. She tells him where to go to replace a henchman on Largo’s mission to retrieve them from an underwater bunker. Bond gives her his Geiger counter, asking her to look for them on Largo’s ship. She is discovered and captured. Disguised as Largo’s henchman, Bond uncovers Largo’s plan to destroy Miami Beach.

Bond is discovered, and rescued by Leiter, who orders United States Coast Guard sailors to parachute to the area. After an underwater battle, the henchmen surrender. Largo escapes to his ship, the Disco Volante, which has one of the bombs on board. Largo attempts to escape by jettisoning the rear of the ship. The front section, a hydrofoil, escapes. Bond, also aboard, and Largo fight; Largo is about to shoot him when Domino, freed by Largo’s nuclear physicist Ladislav Kutze, kills Largo with a harpoon. Bond and Domino jump overboard, the boat runs aground and explodes. A sky hook-equipped U.S. Navy aeroplane rescues them.

REVIEW:

For once I am home on a Tuesday evening, only to find out that there is not a damn thing on television worth watching. As it happens, Thunderball was on Netflix instant, only to be removed on the 1st, so I would say this is as good a time as any to view the next Bond film, wouldn’t you?

What is this about?

With his sights set on a blackmail payday of global proportions, terrorist mastermind Emilio Largo hijacks two nuclear weapons — and only James Bond can stop him in this 007 classic featuring Oscar-winning special effects.

What did I like?

Exotica. This is a film that has many scenes on the beach. As you can imagine, there are some of the most beautiful bit of scenery to be found in these scenes. The location is breathtakingly beautiful and almost distracts you from the action that is going on with Bond. Throw in some really gorgeous pieces of eye candy (par for the course with Bond films, as I’m learning more and more with each film) and you will be floored with the beauty of this picture.

Under the sea. The climactic battle scene, though there is some argument about this, happens underwater. Complete with underwater het packs, scuba gear, harpoon guns, etc., you will not be able to turn your eyes away from what is going on. Not to mention the fact that you will be cheering 007 on as he takes on the henchmen and attempts to save the world.

Nefarious plot. Emilio Largo’s plot to take over the world through the use of nuclear weapons was actually quite the dastardly, ingenious one, especially during the 60s. This guy is only #2 over at SPECTRE, but it makes you wonder what #1 is capable of.

What didn’t I like?

Length. At over 2 hours long, I felt that this was a film that could have had about 10-15 minutes cut out of it, at least. There really was no reason for it to have been this long. What should have been cut out? If it were up to me, probably the constant stock footage of the Carnival, or whatever celebration that was, that they kept flashing to like it was some sort of subliminal message. I’m sure there are other parts that could have been cut, as well, but that stuck out to me.

Q. In order for 007 to get his gadgets, he has to have a meeting with Q. Here is my problem with that in this film. Apparently, they flew him down to the Bahamas, gadgets and all, to have this meeting. Wouldn’t it have been much easier to just have this meeting in London earlier in the film, rather than this pointless cameo?

Overall, I think Thunderball was a solid film. I won’t say it will go down as my favorite Bond flick, but in the end, it may end up on the list. Only time will tell. Do I recommend it? Yes, but if you’re looking to watch a random Bond flick out of the blue, this wouldn’t be the first choice. Still, give it a shot and see what you think.

4 out of 5 stars

A Haunted House

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A young couple, Malcolm and Kisha, move in together and start to realize there is paranormal activity roaming the house as they also try to keep their relationship on track.

REVIEW:

I have long wondered why it is the Wayans gave up the Scary Movie franchise. Judging by A Haunted House, it would seem that they missed it. Well, at least Marlon did. Can this stand up to other horror spoofs, or is just another forgettable parody flick overstuffed with pop culture references?

What is this about?

In this spoof of horror films like Paranormal Activity, Marlon Wayans stars as an immature guy who’s frightened when he learns the girlfriend who just moved in with him has been possessed by a demonic spirit.

What did I like?

Found footage. Never have I been a fan of found footage. To me, they seem to a lazy form of filmmaking similar in manner to the way that reality shows are a lazy form of “entertainment”. I’ve been wondering when we were going to get a full-on spoof on this genre, especially since more and more films are using this technique, much to my chagrin

What didn’t I like?

Unfunny. Maybe it is just me, but I was expecting this film to be at least somewhat funny, but it wasn’t. I felt as if it was trying too hard to recapture the magic of Scary Movie, but just can’t do it. If anything, it comes off as trying too hard. Truth be told, the only time I laughed was during the farting sequence. Never is it a good sign when the highlight of your film is a farting sequence!

Couple. The best characters were the ones that didn’t get used that much, such as the couple next door, the cousin, or the ghost hunter. This could have been a much better film had they have had more of the focus placed on them, as opposed to having a laser-like focus on Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins’ characters.

Gay. Two things about this film involved homosexuality, or at least it was implied. The first, I had no problem with, and that was a character played by Nick Swardson…although, he did become annoying very quickly. The issue I did have was in a scene where Wayans’ is raped by this unseen entity. Was that really necessary? I think not. There are a myriad of other things that could have been done to him, but someone thought that anal rape was worth a laugh, but it wasn’t.

I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised that A Haunted House was as bad as this. Spoof films have not had the best track record since the Wayans left the Scary Movie franchise, but I was willing to give this a shot. For all its ineptitude, I do see promise here, if the studio wants to take a chance and turn this into a franchise, but it has to be done right. Having said that, I cannot recommend this at this time, unless you just want to have something playing in the background for your Halloween party.

2 out of 5 stars

Anna Karenina

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins in 1874 at the height of Imperial Russia. It starts at the house of Prince Stepan “Stiva” Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) in Moscow. His wife, Princess Daria “Dolly” (Kelly Macdonald), catches Stiva and the governess of their five children having sex in a closet, having found the governess’ note to her husband. Dolly tearfully banishes Stiva out of the home, forbidding him from ever seeing her or their children again.

Stiva’s sister, Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley), journeys to Moscow. Anna is a wealthy, well-liked socialite who lives in St. Petersburg with her older husband Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), a Russian statesman, and their son Seryozha. She has arrived by her brother’s request to attempt to convince Dolly to forgive Stiva. Karenin allowed her to leave but warns her about fixing the problems of others. Anna ignores this and goes to Moscow anyway, leaving behind her son Seryozha who wants her to stay.

Meanwhile, Stiva meets his old friend Konstatin Dimitrivich Levin (Domhnall Gleeson), a wealthy land owner in the country. Levin is looked down on by most of Moscow’s elite society because of his disinterest in living in the city. Levin professes his love to Stiva’s sister-in-law, Katerina “Kitty” Alexandrovna Shcherbatsky (Alicia Vikander), and Stiva encourages him to propose to Kitty. However, Kitty declines his offer. It is later implied that she refused Levin’s offer because she would rather marry Count Alexei Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), which would make her a wealthy countess socialite, similar to Anna.

Anna, while on a train to Moscow, meets Vronsky’s mother, Countess Vronskaya (Olivia Williams), known throughout Russia as an adulteress. Levin meets up with his elder brother Nikolai (David Wilmot), who, like Levin, is an aristocrat, but has given up his inheritance to live a poor life on vices. Nikolai lives with a prostitute named Masha whom he has taken as his wife and suggests to Levin that he should marry one of his peasants working for him at his estate. Levin then returns to his country estate in Pokrovskoe.

Anna arrives in Moscow and meets Count Vronsky, and they have an immediate and mutual attraction. As they prepare to leave, a railroad worker is caught beneath train tracks and is violently killed. Vronsky, to impress Anna, decides to give money to the deceased man’s family.

Anna convinces Dolly to take Stiva back. At a ball that night, Kitty is radiant and dances with many aristocratic men. As Kitty must dance with the officers and gentlemen who have filled her dance card, she attempts to dance with Vronsky, who instead decides to dance with Anna. Their love and passion is noticed by everyone, including an upset Kitty; Anna notices this, and decides to leave the ball, feeling she has upstaged Kitty. Anna boards a train bound back to St. Petersburg, but at a rest stop notices Vronsky, who declares that he must be where she is at every moment. She tells him to go back to Moscow, but he refuses, saying he can not and will follow her anyway.

In St. Petersburg, Vronsky visits his friends along with his cousin Princess Betsy Tverskaya (Ruth Wilson) who is mutual friends with Anna and Karenin. Vronsky begins to show up at all the places Anna and Betsy visit; Anna is clearly amused, but also ashamed because now all of her high society friends are starting to notice their attraction. During a party held by Betsy, Vronsky believes Anna to have not attended due to him and leaves the party, only to have missed Anna, who arrives late. Betsy informs Anna that Vronsky has left, so she need not worry about a scandal. However, Vronsky returns and starts to flirt with Anna openly. The party guests gossip behind their backs, which soon catches Karenin’s attention; He suggests they go home at once, but Anna decides to stay. Vronsky threatens to take a promotion in another city but Anna requests that he stay. Anna arrives home and speaks with her husband about Vronsky. She denies there is any attraction and convinces him of her innocence. They go to bed, and the next day Anna and Vronsky meet at a hotel and make love.

Back at Levin’s country estate, Stiva visits, where he tells Levin that Kitty and Vronsky are no longer getting married. Still heartbroken, Levin decides to give up on love and instead focuses on living an authentic country life. He plows his fields with his workers and has thoughts of taking one of his workers’ daughters as his wife, like his brother had suggested.

Karenin hears word that both his wife and her lover are in the country and decides to surprise her there at his country estate. Anna reveals to Vronsky that she is pregnant and she wishes to be his and only his. While retreating back to her country house she encounters Karenin who suggests he join her for the horse races that evening. All of Russian society is at the races, and Anna sits with the elite. Countess Vronskaya, upon hearing the rumors of her son and Anna, gives Anna a disgusted look and instead gives her attention to the young Princess Sorokina (Cara Delevingne). The races begin and Karenin notices Anna acting oddly whenever Vronsky is racing. Anna unintentionally admits her feelings for Vronsky publicly when his horse collapses and injures Vronsky and she is the only one to scream and look worried. On their way home Anna confesses to Karenin that she is indeed Vronsky’s mistress and wishes to divorce him. Because divorce in Russia calls for public humiliation for either one of the spouses, he refuses and instead has her confined to their house to keep up appearances. Vronsky demands she gets a divorce from her husband but Anna, knowing the consequences of a divorce says they will find a way.

As Levin is plowing his field one morning he sees a carriage with Kitty, and returns to Moscow to demand with Stiva that he must marry Kitty. Anna, starting to show her pregnancy, receives Vronsky at her house in St. Petersburg, and berates him and curses him for not coming to her sooner. Vronsky, shocked at this new temper in Anna, replies only that he was doing his duties as an Officer. Soon Karenin comes back home to find out that Vronsky has been visiting Anna though he was forbidden to be in the house or near his wife.

He searches Anna’s desk and finds love letters. Now with evidence of Anna’s infidelity, he declares that he will divorce her, keep their son, and drive her out into the street. Anna begs for her son to be with her, but Karenin enraged with anger shouts out that he would never have his son be with an adulteress mother. Meanwhile, Levin and Kitty are reunited at the Oblonsky house for dinner. There, Karenin arrives to give news that he is divorcing Anna, much to the dismay of Stiva and Dolly. Anna begs Karenin to forgive her, but Karenin has made up his mind, even though it is obvious that he still loves Anna. After the dinner, Levin and Kitty confess their love to each other and eventually marry.

Karenin gets a note that Anna has gone into premature labor and is dying. Karenin tears the card and returns home. As Anna lies dying, Karenin sees that she has confessed her sins before God and that she was in the wrong. Vronsky is there at her side, and she again berates him and tells him that he could never be the man Karenin is. Karenin feeling ashamed at how he has treated Anna, begs for her forgiveness. Anna forgives him.

The next day Vronsky leaves at the request of Karenin. Karenin forms an attachment to Anna’s baby who is called “Anya”. He cradles her and watches over as if she was his child. Princess Betsy calls on Anna and discusses with her what will happen to Vronsky now that he has left St. Petersburg and has gone back to Moscow. Anna notices that Karenin is in the doorway and invites him in. She tells Betsy to tell Karenin everything she has told her.

Karenin comes back to see Anna in tears and in rage. Anna tells him that she wished she would have died instead now she has to live with Karenin and still hear about and see Vronsky wherever she goes, and even more so with her bastard daughter from him. Karenin assures her that they will indeed be happy together again, but Anna only wants Vronsky. Karenin still does not agree to a divorce but releases Anna from her confinement. Anna informs Vronsky through a telegraph and the two leave for Italy along with little Anya. Levin and Kitty return to Levin’s country estate where all his servants and attendees are enchanted with his new wife.

Levin’s maid informs him that Nikolai and his wife Masha are in the country and seek solitude because Nikolai is sick and will probably not live another day or so. Having told Kitty about his brother and the situation with his wife Masha, Levin feels Kitty will be alarmed and outraged. However he is mistaken and Kitty dutifully asks that his brother and wife and join them in their country estate and that she will nurse him. Levin is shocked but he starts to notice that she has indeed grown up and is living for others instead of herself.

Word has gotten to Countess Lydia that Anna and Vronsky have returned to St. Petersburg. Anna writes Countess Lydia to see if she can intervene so that she may see Serozha for his birthday. Anna wakes her son to profess her love for him and that she was wrong to leave him. However, she tells him that he must come to love his father, for he is good and kind, and is far better than she will ever be. Karenin sees Anna and motions for her to leave. Anna returns to Vronsky’s hotel room.

Vronsky arrives late, and Anna starts to believe that he is fooling around. Anna whips up her courage to attend the opera, proclaiming that she is not ashamed for what she has done, and neither should Vronsky. Anna attends the opera and the attendees look at her with disgust and amusement. She starts to understand that society is still not accepting of her or Vronsky. One of the other attendees then starts a ruckus and verbally insults Anna. All of the opera house sees the commotion, including Vronsky. Anna is humiliated, but retains her poise, but cries back at the hotel. Vronsky rushes to her, and she yells at him and asks him why he did not stop her from going. Vronsky tries to settle the situation by giving her laudanum with water. The next day Anna has lunch at a restaurant where the society women there ignore her and go out of their way to avoid her. Dolly grabs a seat next to her and tells Anna that Kitty is pregnant and is in Moscow to have the baby. Dolly explains that Stiva is the same, but that she has come to love him for who he is, and that she misses Anna. As Anna arrives at the Hotel, Vronsky is reading a letter, but then hides it. Anna informs Vronsky that she doesn’t want to think about a divorce or anything only that she loves him and that wherever he goes she shall go with him. Vronsky informs her that he must meet with his mother one last time to settle some accounts, but when Anna sees that Princess Sorokina has come by the hotel to pick him up to send him to his mother’s, Anna starts to lose her grip on reality. She drinks more laudanum, and asks her maid to dress her. Anna goes by train to see if Vronsky is truly with his mother.

As she stops from station to station she thinks of her son, her daughter, Karenin, and has a hallucination of Vronsky and Princess Sorokina making love, and laughing about her. At the last station, Anna yells out, “God forgive me!” as she jumps on the tracks and into the path of an oncoming train.

Levin, still shocked and amazed at Kitty’s kind heart and willingness to have helped his brother, realizes that love while immature in the beginning can grow into something more beautiful and more earnest. He also starts to believe that fate is indeed the working of God, and how God truly has blessed him with Kitty and now with a son.

He returns home in the rain to find Kitty giving their newborn son a bath. He tells her that he just realized something. Kitty asks him what is, and Levin cradling his baby boy in his arms looks at her, with tears in his eyes and says that someday he will tell her. Oblonsky and his family eat with Levin and Kitty, and Oblonsky looking weary and sad, goes outside lights a cigarette and seems to be crying. It can be implied that he is mourning his sister, or that he is indeed happy and will give up his old life as an adulterer. Karenin is seen to be happily retired from public duties. Serozha and Anya, now a toddler, are seen playing among the daisies growing in the field

REVIEW:

This morning, I was talking to one of my friends about Anna Karenina. Well, not specifically about the film/book, but about romance classics and such. If you’re a fan of this blog, then you are more than aware that these type of films aren’t normally what floats my boat, but I do appreciate the care that is put into producing quality film based on some heavy literature.

What is this about?

Oscar winner Tom Stoppard penned this adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, which stars Keira Knightley as the titular 19th-century Russian aristocrat who enters into a passionate and forbidden love affair with the well-heeled Count Vronsky.

What did I like?

Adaptation. I vaguely remember reading this in college. No. I didn’t really pay it much mind back then, but while I was watching, certain things did pop back into my head, such as the infidelity of Anna, the baby, etc. I will have to go back and read this novel again, but for now, I’m going to give these filmmakers a round of applause for pulling off this feat.

Hey Jude. Most of the roles that Jude Law has been seen in don’t allow him to flex his acting chops. Maybe about 5 yrs or so ago, it seemed like he was primed to be a leading man, but nowadays, outside of the Sherlock Holmes franchise, he’s just a supporting character. With that in mind, I was blown away with his performance. Not only did he have a quiet regalness that was required for this character, but when it came time to get into the more emotional aspects of the character, he really rose to the occasion.

Stage. In Chicago, they use a stage as a way to give the illusion that everything is happening on stage. The same idea is used here, in a different way, obviously, but the audience is still made to feel as if they are watching this as a play in the theater. The only thing missing was an intermission and to hear the audience’s applause at film’s end.

What didn’t I like?

Stage. On the other hand, the stage was a bit of a distraction. I half expected them to start singing at any moment. Also, it seemed to take the audience out of the seriousness of the what was going, especially with some of the more ancillary characters. I wasn’t really a fan of how that was handled.

Keira. I have never really been a fan of Keira Knightley’s acting. She always has come off as cold and aloof, even in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. It seems that all she does is these period films these days. For me, if you’re going to be in a film like this, you better have some damn good acting chops, which she doesn’t, so for me, it seems as if all she’s doing is getting paid to play dress-up and talk in an accent.

Accent. This is set in Russia, so would someone tell me why the cast is almost all British! Did I miss something in History class where Russia was taken over by the Brits during this time. I mean, they didn’t even try to do a Russian accent. For all the accuracies they at least attempted, one would think, they go for the right dialect, as well.

For those of you that are into this kind of thing, you may really find Anna Karenina an enjoyable film. Those of us that don’t really care for period dramas aren’t going to have a change of heart by watching this, though. There is a twinge of comedy at the beginning, but I think that is just to lighten the mood before the heavy stuff kicks in. Do I recommend this? It depends on what your tastes are towards films of this nature. For me, it was a good film, but not something I would willingly watch again.

4 out of 5 stars

The Distinguished Gentlemen

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A Florida con man named Thomas Jefferson Johnson uses the passing of the longtime Congressman from his district, Jeff Johnson (who died of a heart attack while having sex with his secretary), to get elected to Congress, where the money flows from lobbyists. Removing his first name and shortening his middle name he calls himself “Jeff” Johnson. He then manages to get on the ballot by pitching a seniors organization, the Silver Foxes, to nominate him as their candidate for office.

Once on the election ballot, he uses the dead Congressman’s old campaign material and runs a low budget campaign that appeals to name recognition, figuring most people do not pay much attention and simply vote for the “name you know.” He wins a slim victory and is off to Washington, a place where the “streets are lined with gold.”

Initially, the lucrative donations and campaign contributions roll in, but as he learns the nature of the con game in Washington D.C., he starts to see how the greed and corruption makes it difficult to address issues such as campaign finance reform, environmental protection, and the possibility that electric power companies may have a product that is giving kids in a small town cancer.

In trying to address these issues, Congressman Johnson finds himself double-crossed by Power and Industry chairman Dick Dodge. Johnson decides to fight back the only way he knows how: with a con. Johnson succeeds and exposes Dodge as corrupt. As the film ends, it appears likely that Johnson will be thrown out of Congress for the manner in which he was elected.

REVIEW:

On my Facebook page recently, a couple of my friends seem to be posting nothing but anti-Obama stuff. No worries, I won’t turn this into a political rant, but seeing all those negative postings made me question whether I should unfriend them or not and got me in the mood to watch a political comedy. First one that I thought of was The Distinguished Gentleman.

What is this about?

A small-time con man (Eddie Murphy) with a big name — Thomas Jefferson Johnson — decides to move from running a phone-sex scam to a more lucrative and legal operation. He sees his chance to weasel into politics when a congressman sharing his name dies unexpectedly in the midst of a reelection campaign. But while the junior lawmaker learns the political ropes, his interests move from money to romancing a beautiful lobbyist (Victoria Lowell).

What did I like?

Before the crash. Much has been made of how far Eddie Murphy’s career has fallen. This is far from best (or worst) work, but it is good to see him in his younger, funnier days. We even get that patented Murphy laugh a couple of times. Watching him makes you wonder what it was that caused his career to spiral downward, at least in terms of quality.

Hope. About halfway through the film, Murphy’s character makes a campaign promise that is eerily familiar to something Obama said when he was running for his first term. He was running on a platform of hope and change. I won’t say I liked or disliked this, but found it a bit of funny foreshadowing. Couple that with the other political slogans he was spurting out and I was laughing out loud.

Truth. If the last 10 yrs or so have taught us anything, it is that the people up in Washington are mostly corrupted individuals who think of nothing but money. Yes, there are a few good eggs, but the bad ones far outnumber them. This film brings to light how bad it was back in 1992. Some 20 yrs later, it has just gotten worse. I guess no one really paid attention.

What didn’t I like?

Quality. There is something about the quality of this film that didn’t quite sit right with me. It was like it was shot on sitcom style cameras, especially near the end, as opposed to movie quality cameras. I don’t know what the budget is on this thing, but if they couldn’t even afford decent cameras, then I really do question why they even bothered to make it.

Two times the not-so-fun. The first half of the film is a great, rambunctious, laugh riot, but when you get to the second half, it seem to get a bit too serious and changes tone. I guess that is what happens when you bring in a soap opera actress (Victoria Rowell). I’m not saying that she ruined everything, but it did seem that she came in and sapped all the fun out of the film.

Location. Is it me, or are all movie politicians from Florida or something Texas? This isn’t a flaw with the film, per se, but rather an observation that I had. Thinking back to something like Striptease, you will see what I mean. Maybe next politician in film will be from some random place like Idaho, perhaps?

If you’re looking for a film that will give you a couple of laughs on a Saturday afternoon, then The Distinguished Gentleman is right up you alley. I wouldn’t suggest it as your main event movie, though. There just isn’t enough to write home about. This isn’t a bad flick, just very, very average.

3 out of 5 stars

Goldfinger

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After destroying a drug laboratory in Latin America, James Bond—agent 007—goes to Miami Beach. There he receives instructions from his superior, M, via CIA agent Felix Leiter to observe bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger, who is staying at the same hotel as Bond. The agent sees Goldfinger cheating at gin rummy and stops him by distracting his employee, Jill Masterson, and blackmailing Goldfinger into losing. Bond and Jill consummate their new relationship; however, Bond is subsequently knocked out by Goldfinger’s Korean manservant Oddjob, who then covers Jill in gold paint, killing her by ‘epidermal suffocation’.

In London, Bond learns that his true mission is determining how Goldfinger smuggles gold internationally. Bond arranges to meet Goldfinger socially and wins a high-stakes golf game against him with a recovered Nazi gold bar at stake. Bond follows him to Switzerland, where Jill Masterson’s sister Tilly attempts to kill Goldfinger by sniper fire out of revenge.

Bond sneaks into Goldfinger’s plant and discovers that he smuggles the gold by melting it down and incorporating it into the bodywork of his car, which he takes with him whenever he travels. Bond also overhears him talking to a Red Chinese agent named Mr. Ling about “Operation Grand Slam”. Leaving, Bond encounters Tilly as she tries to kill Goldfinger again, but trips an alarm in the process; Oddjob kills Tilly with his hat. Bond is captured and Goldfinger ties Bond to a table underneath a laser, which begins to slice the table in half. Bond lies to Goldfinger that MI6 knows about Grand Slam, causing Goldfinger to spare Bond’s life to mislead MI6 into believing that Bond has things in hand.

Bond is transported by Goldfinger’s private jet, which is flown by his personal pilot, Pussy Galore, to his stud farm near Fort Knox, Kentucky. Bond escapes and witnesses Goldfinger’s meeting with U.S. mafiosi, who have brought the materials he needs for Operation Grand Slam. Whilst they are each promised $1 million, Goldfinger tempts them that they “could have the million today, or ten million tomorrow”. They listen to Goldfinger’s plan to rob Fort Knox before Goldfinger kills them all using some of the “Delta 9” nerve gas he plans to release over Fort Knox.

Bond is recaptured while eavesdropping and tells Goldfinger the reasons why such a plan won’t work. Goldfinger says he doesn’t intend to steal the gold but to insert an atomic device containing cobalt and iodine, which would supposedly render the gold useless for 58 years. This will increase the value of Goldfinger’s own gold and give the Chinese an advantage from the potential economic chaos.

Operation Grand Slam begins with Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus spraying the gas over Fort Knox. However, Bond had seduced Galore, convincing her to replace the nerve gas with a harmless substance and alert the U.S. government about Goldfinger’s plan. The military personnel of Fort Knox convincingly play dead until they are certain that they can prevent the criminals from escaping the base with the bomb.

Believing the military forces to be neutralised, Goldfinger’s private army break into Fort Knox and access the vault itself as he arrives in a helicopter with the atomic device. In the vault, Oddjob handcuffs Bond to the device. The U.S. troops attack; Goldfinger takes off his coat, revealing a colonel’s uniform, and kills Mr. Ling and the troops seeking to open the vault, before escaping himself.

Bond extricates himself from the handcuffs, but Oddjob attacks him before he can disarm the bomb. They fight and Bond manages to electrocute Oddjob. Bond forces the lock of the bomb, but is unable to disarm it. An atomic specialist who accompanied Leiter turns off the device with the clock stopped on “0:07”.

With Fort Knox safe, Bond is invited to the White House for a meeting with the President. However, Goldfinger has hijacked the plane carrying Bond. In a struggle for Goldfinger’s revolver, Bond shoots out a window, creating an explosive decompression. Goldfinger is blown out of the cabin through the window. With the plane out of control Bond rescues Galore and they parachute safely from the aircraft.

REVIEW:

One of the most popular theme songs of the James Bond franchise, with the exception of the Bond theme itself belongs to this film, Goldfinger. I was reading somewhere that, while many don’t consider this to be one of the best in the franchise, it definitely lays down some of the more memorable aspects of the franchise, such as the vocal theme song, reliance on gadgets, etc.

What is this about?

The third installment in the 007 series — which racked up an Oscar for Best Sound Effects — finds uberspy James Bond trying to thwart baddie Auric Goldfinger and his elaborate gambit to corner the gold market by contaminating Fort Knox.

What did I like?

Villain. Goldfinger, of the Bond villains I’ve seen so far, seems to be the most threat to Bond and the world. At the same time, he is still that typical Bond villain we have become familiar with, complete with over-the-top schemes and bevy of henchmen…or henchwomen in this case. The only thing missing was everything he touched turning to gold. His name is Goldfinger, after all.

Girls, girls, girls. James Bond is known for his collection of beautiful women, whether they are on his side or not. I could not take my eyes off the women in this film. If you’ve ever looked for a film to exemplify the term “eye candy”, then this it. The only thing missing was perhaps more bikini scenes, and even then there was plenty to be seen in the beginning.

Oddjob. The silent hitman is something that apparently becomes a trademark for Bond films, mostly in part to Oddjob, Goldfinger’s bodyguard. Surely you’ve seen parodies of this guy. The one that sticks out to me is Leonardo Leonardo’s bodyguard in Clerks: The Animated Series. Silent and strong, this guy should really be the prototypical henchman.

What didn’t I like?

Gold. Early on, as a punishment, Goldfinger paints a girl gold, which somehow kills her. At the time, it was believes that metallic paint could kill. Hell, that was true as late as 20 yrs ago. I seem to recall a controversy surrounding the metallic painted girl in the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s video for, I believe it was “Give It Away” involving metallic paint. What does this have to do with anything? Well, as I said before, with a name like Golfinger, one would think that he could pull a King Midas and anything he touches turn I gold. If not this, then maybe more people painted in gold.

When it comes to the Bond films, at least of the 3 that I’ve seen so far, Goldfinger is my favorite. With the mixture of action, a hint of comedy, and thrills, this is one that should not be missed. As a matter of fact, I think I would have much rathered start with this film, than the others. I highly recommend you give this classic entry into the Bond franchise a shot!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

 

Enter the Dragon

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on May 22, 2013 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Lee is a Shaolin martial artist from Hong Kong who possesses great philosophical insight into martial arts as well as physical prowess. He receives an invitation to a martial arts competition on an island organised by the mysterious Mr. Han. Lee learns from his Sifu (teacher) that Han was also once a Shaolin student, but had been expelled from their order for abusing their code of conduct.

A man named Braithwaite from British Intelligence approaches Lee and asks for his help in an undercover mission. Han is suspected to be involved in drug trafficking and prostitution. However, since Han’s island is only partly in their jurisdiction, they are unable to conduct any formal investigations – Han will not allow firearms on the island, both to impede assassination attempts and to prevent the international authorities from gaining a justification to launch a raid. Han runs a martial arts school to protect his drug operations, as well as holding his tournament every three years to recruit international talent to expand his criminal business. Before leaving, Lee learns from his teacher that Han’s bodyguard O’Hara had been involved in the death of his sister, Su Lin.

Lee arrives on Han’s island and receives a warm reception. Joining him are other competitors including Roper, a down-on-his-luck white American playboy-gambler on the run from the mob, and Williams, an African-American activist on the run after defending himself against two racist white policemen in Los Angeles. Roper and Williams are revealed to be old friends who also have a betting scam going: one will under-perform until the other can get a bet on the outcome at good odds. Both win their first fight easily.

That night, the competitors are all offered girls of their choice by Han’s assistant, Tania. Williams chooses several women, while Roper cunningly chooses Tania (as a mutual attraction is apparent between them). Lee asks for a girl he saw earlier in Han’s entourage. Lee knows she is Mei Ling, an agent whom Braithwaite has placed on the island to gather intelligence. However, she is unable to give Lee much information as she has been unable to escape Han’s strict observation. That night, leaving Mei Ling in the bedroom alone, Lee begins searching the island for evidence and finds a secret entrance to an underground base, where drugs are being manufactured and tested on unwitting prisoners. He runs into Han’s guards but manages to take them down before they can identify him. He is seen by Williams, who is outside for some fresh air and practice.

The next day, Han warns the competitors about wandering out of their rooms at night. He punishes his guards for failure in their duties by leaving them to the hands of the sadistic Bolo, Han’s chief bodyguard. Moments later, Lee is called to his first match and his opponent turns out to be O’Hara, who is clearly outclassed and eventually killed when he attacks Lee with broken bottles. Announcing that O’Hara’s dishonorable attack has caused him to lose face very badly, Han ends the day’s matches. Later, Han summons Williams and accuses him of attacking the guards the previous night. Williams denies this, claiming he wasn’t the only one out at night. As the argument heats up, Han summons his henchman; Williams takes them out but Han himself seems too much for him and he beats him to death with his cast iron prosthetic left hand.

Han takes Roper on a tour of his underground base and invites him to be his representative for his heroin smuggling operations in the United States. Roper seems reluctant, but Han shows him the mutilated corpse of Williams, hinting that Roper will face the same fate if he refuses to cooperate. The same night, Lee breaks into the underground base and gathers sufficient evidence to warrant Han’s arrest, but sets off an alarm while messaging Braithwaite. After a spectacular fight with dozens of Han’s guards he is eventually lured into a trap and captured.

The next morning, Han asks Roper to fight Lee as a test of his loyalty. Roper refuses, so Han has him fight Bolo instead, but to his shock, Roper defeats him. The infuriated Han then orders his men to kill both Lee and Roper. Despite being hopelessly outnumbered, Lee and Roper manage to hold off the enemy until Mei Ling releases the captives in Han’s underground prison, who join them in the fight and even the odds. Amidst the chaos, Han attempts to fight his way out, only to have Lee chase him to his museum, where Han retrieves a bladed replacement for his hand and commences battle. After realising he is outmatched in the museum, Han retreats into a room full of mirrors, which proves disorientating for Lee, until he smashes all the mirrors to foil Han’s illusions and allow him to defeat Han, impaling him on his own spear. When Lee returns to Roper, he finds that most of Han’s men have been defeated and rounded up, but in a bittersweet moment, Roper also finds Tania’s lifeless body lying amongst the wreckage. Lee and Roper exchange a weary thumbs-up just as military helicopters arrive in response to the distress call

REVIEW:

It has been argues that Bruce Lee’s best film was his last, Enter the Dragon. Other than a few scenes I caught while my dad was watching his movies on VHS when I was growing up, I haven’t really had an education on Lee, so what better way to start than with his opus, right?

What is this about?

Bruce Lee plays a monk who enters a brutal martial arts tournament to which only the best are invited. His athletic prowess lands him there, but he’s also serving as a spy who’s out to prove that the contest’s manager is a player in the drug trade.

What did I like?

Master in action. It is always a sight to see when you can see a true master at work. Watching Bruce Lee do his martial arts thing during this flick was an absolute treat. Say what you will about the likes of Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, and other current martial arts masters, they don’t compare to the precision of Lee. Words can’t even describe what it is like to see him in actions, let’s leave it at that.

English. Lee was a far better English speaker than Schwarzenegger was (and still is). Initially, I thought perhaps I was going to have to sit through bad dubbing or subtitles, but it turns out he was quite understandable. Yes, there was a little bit of broken English, but it isn’t like this is the guy’s native tongue.

Passing the torch. I you blink, you might miss him, but keep an eye out for a young Jackie Chan who gets killed by Lee in the penultimate confrontation scene. This is a bit of passing the torch, if you think about it, as Chan is now the go-to guy in terms of universally acclaimed martial artists, at least on film.

What didn’t I like?

Other guys. I couldn’t help but notice that supporting cast members John Saxon and Jim Kelly has a small storylines, but were mostly just there or show or because they were also big martial arts stars of the time. I know that this is Bruce Lee’s film, but it just felt like there could have been a little more emphasis placed on them as a way to justify their being there.

Girls. Maybe it is just me, but I got the idea that the girls were going to get involved with the fighting. As it is, they were nothing more than deceptive eye candy, which is never a bad thing, but as last seen in The Man with the Iron Fists, women can be beautiful and deadly.

Watching Enter the Dragon, I couldn’t help but think of the plot to Mortal Kombat with a hint of Dr. No. That it to say, a mysterious martial arts tournament on a remote island run by a nefarious villain. Keeping with the Kombat comparisons, you may notice that Lee is very much like Liu Kang, or vice versa. Tidbit of trivia for you, he was the basis for the character, specifically from this film. So, what did I ultimately think of this film? I found myself liking it very much and highly recommend it. There are few minor problems, but they are hardly worth mentioning. There is a reason this is considered by many to be Lee’s best. If you get the chance, give it a shot!

4 1/2 out of 5  stars