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

Waiting for Guffman

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , on May 19, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is a parody of community theater set in the fictional small town of Blaine, Missouri. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of a handful of utterly delusional residents as they prepare to put on a community theater production led by eccentric director Corky St. Clair, played by Christopher Guest. The show, a musical chronicling the town’s history, titled Red, White and Blaine, is to be performed as part of the town’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Along with Guest, the film stars Catherine O’Hara and Fred Willard as Ron and Sheila Albertson, a pair of married travel agents (yet have never traveled outside of Blaine) who are also regular amateur performers, and give their companions a little too much information at a restaurant dinner; Parker Posey as the perpetual Dairy Queen employee Libby Mae Brown; Bob Balaban as Lloyd Miller, the increasingly frustrated musical director who actually possesses some talent; Lewis Arquette as Clifford Wooley, a “long time Blaineian” and retired taxidermist who is Red, White and Blaine’s bean-loving narrator; Matt Keeslar as the handsome and oblivious mechanic Johnny Savage, who Corky goes out of his way to get into the play; and Eugene Levy as Dr. Alan Pearl, a tragically square dentist determined to discover his inner entertainer. Brian Doyle-Murray appears briefly as Savage’s dad and boss, who is immediately suspicious of Corky’s eccentric behavior.

Corky has presumably used connections gained from his “off-off-off-off” Broadway past to invite Mort Guffman, a Broadway producer, to critique Red, White and Blaine. Corky leads the cast to believe that a positive review from Guffman could mean that the group can take their show all the way to Broadway.

The program itself is designed to musically retell the history of Blaine, whose founding father was a buffoon incapable of distinguishing the geography of middle Missouri and the Pacific coastline. We also learn why the town obtusely refers to itself as “the stool capital of the United States”. The music contained within is a series of grating and poorly performed songs such as “Nothing Ever Happens on Mars” (a reference to the town’s supposed visit by a UFO), and “Stool Boom”.

Central to the film are Corky St. Clair’s stereotypically gay mannerisms. He supposedly has a wife called Bonnie, whom no one in Blaine has ever met or seen; he uses her to explain his habit of shopping for women’s clothing and shoes. When Johnny Savage is forced by his suspicious father to quit the show, Corky takes over his roles, which were clearly intended for a young, masculine actor: a lusty young frontiersman, a heartbroken soldier, and a little boy wearing a beanie and shorts. St. Clair never sheds his dainty demeanor, bowl haircut, lisp, or earring in spite of his historical roles, and his face is pasted with an overkill of stage rouge and eyeliner. Corky is also faced with creating his magic on a shoestring budget, and at one point quits the show after storming out of a meeting with the City Council, who turns down his request for $100,000 to finance the production. But the distraught cast and persuasive city fathers convince Corky to return to the show (to the disappointment of Lloyd Miller, who had taken over in Corky’s absence).

At the show’s performance, Guffman’s seat is seen to be empty, much to the dismay of the cast; Corky assures them that Broadway producers always arrive a bit late for the show, and sure enough a man (Paul Benedict) soon takes Guffman’s reserved seat. The show is well received by the audience, and St. Clair invites the assumed Guffman backstage to talk to the actors. Upon arriving, he declares that he is not Guffman and had actually come to Blaine to witness the birth of his niece’s baby — but that he enjoyed the show. Corky then reads a telegram stating that Guffman’s plane was grounded by snowstorms in New York (though it is in the summer).

An epilogue shows the fates of the cast: While Libby Mae has returned yet again to the Dairy Queen, Dr. Pearl and the Albertsons have both pursued their dreams of being entertainers: Ron and Sheila travel to Hollywood to work as extras, and Dr. Pearl now entertains elderly Jews in Florida retirement communities. Corky has returned to New York, where he has opened a Hollywood-themed novelty shop, which includes such items as Brat Pack bobblehead dolls, My Dinner with Andre action figures, and The Remains of the Day lunch boxes. When Corky is showing his collection, a Charlie Weaver doll can be seen. Charlie Weaver a.k.a. Cliff Arquette was Lewis Arquette’s father.

REVIEW:

I have learned that mockumentaries can be funny, but rarely do they make sense. Sometimes that is good and sometimes it is bad. Waiting for Guffman is one of those that I’m not quite sure about. Just when I think it was the most horrible thing ever, it would do something interesting.

What is this about?

Community theater gets spit-roasted in this blistering mockumentary penned by (and starring) Christopher Guest, who plays the ultra-fey Corky St. Clair, a local theater impresario who takes his directing duties a little too close to heart. With Blaine, Mo.’s 150th anniversary looming, St. Clair mounts a mediocre musical tribute to the town. But his hopes of taking the production to Broadway hinge on the attendance of a very important guest.

What did I like?

Mock. There is a sense of irony in how much I seem to like these mockumentaries, because I hate reality TV. If you compare the two, though, they are basically the same thing, with the only difference being these mock films don’t pretend to be real. I appreciate the comedic moments that the cast brings. The whole purpose of this thing is to mock community theater, after all.

MVP. Eugene Levy steals the show, as he does in everything he is in, but what makes it so special is that there really isn’t much focus on his character. For someone who isn’t on the screen for that long to have such an impact is a true testament to the talent of Levy. Fred Willard would be a close runner-up.

What didn’t I like?

Music. When we’re watching the production, there is music that goes along with it. However, they attempt to make the audience believe this is being played by real musicians, when in fact it is computer generated, also known as MIDI. I’m not really sure if this was done for comedic effect, or if they really thought they could pull one over on the audience. Well, it didn’t work!

DQ. Parker Posey was very underused here. As seen with Eugene Levy, screen time doesn’t necessarily equate good or bad, but it is the talent. I am of the belief that she can hold her own if given something to do, as can be seen in Blade: Trinity. As it is, all she really accomplished was give me a craving for a DQ Blizzard.

When the dust settles, Waiting for Guffman was alright, but nothing great. I hear some people rave about this, but I just don’t see the appeal. There are moments here and there that provide a couple of laughs, but nothing that will have you rolling on the floor laughing. I can recommend it, but not highly. Surely, there are some people who would get a kick out of this, but I just wasn’t one of them.

3 out of 5 stars

Lincoln

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Lincoln recounts President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts, during January 1865, to obtain passage for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in the United States House of Representatives, which would formally abolish slavery in the country.

Expecting the Civil War to end within a month but concerned that his 1863 Emancipation Proclamation may be discarded by the courts once the war has concluded and the 13th Amendment defeated by the returning slave states, Lincoln feels it is imperative to pass the amendment by the end of January, thus removing any possibility that slaves who have already been freed may be re-enslaved. The Radical Republicans fear the amendment will merely be defeated by some who wish to delay its passage; the support of the amendment by Republicans in the border states is not yet assured either, since they prioritize the issue of ending the war. Even if all of them are ultimately brought on board, the amendment will still require the support of several Democratic congressmen if it is to pass. With dozens of Democrats having just become lame ducks after losing their re-election campaigns in the fall of 1864, some of Lincoln’s advisors believe that he should wait until the new Republican-heavy Congress is seated, presumably giving the amendment an easier road to passage. Lincoln, however, remains adamant about having the amendment in place and the issue of slavery settled before the war is concluded and the southern states readmitted into the Union.

Lincoln’s hopes for passage of the amendment rely upon the support of the Republican Party founder Francis Preston Blair, the only one whose influence can ensure that all members of the western and border state conservative Republican faction will back the amendment. With Union victory in the Civil War seeming highly likely and greatly anticipated, but not yet a fully accomplished fact, Blair is keen to end the hostilities as soon as possible. Therefore, in return for his support, Blair insists that Lincoln allow him to immediately engage the Confederate government in peace negotiations. This is a complication to Lincoln’s amendment efforts since he knows that a significant portion of the support he has garnered for the amendment is from the Radical Republican faction for whom a negotiated peace that leaves slavery intact is anathema. If there seems to be a realistic possibility of ending the war even without guaranteeing the end of slavery, the needed support for the amendment from the more conservative wing (which does not favor abolition) will certainly fall away. Unable to proceed without Blair’s support, however, Lincoln reluctantly authorizes Blair’s mission.

In the meantime, Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward work on the issue of securing the necessary Democratic votes for the amendment. Lincoln suggests that they concentrate on the lame duck Democrats, as they have already lost re-election and thus will feel free to vote as they please, rather than having to worry about how their vote will affect a future re-election campaign. Since those members also will soon be in need of employment and Lincoln will have many federal jobs to fill as he begins his second term, he sees this as a tool he can use to his advantage. Though Lincoln and Seward are unwilling to offer direct monetary bribes to the Democrats, they authorize agents to quietly go about contacting Democratic congressmen with offers of federal jobs in exchange for their voting in favor of the amendment.

With Confederate envoys ready to meet with Lincoln, he instructs them to be kept out of Washington, as the amendment approaches a vote on the House floor. At the moment of truth, Thaddeus Stevens decides to moderate his statements about racial equality to help the amendment’s chances of passage. A rumor circulates that there are Confederate representatives in Washington ready to discuss peace, prompting both Democrats and conservative Republicans to advocate postponing the vote on the amendment. Lincoln explicitly denies that such envoys are in or will be in the city — technically a truthful statement, since he had ordered them to be kept away — and the vote proceeds, narrowly passing by a margin of two votes. When Lincoln subsequently meets with the Confederates, he tells them that slavery cannot be restored as the North is united for ratification of the amendment, and that several of the southern states’ reconstructed legislatures would also vote to ratify.

After the amendment’s passage, the film’s narrative shifts forward two months, portraying Lincoln’s visit to the battlefield at Petersburg, Virginia, where he exchanges a few words with General Grant. Shortly thereafter, Grant receives General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, Lincoln is in a meeting with members of his cabinet, discussing possible future measures to enfranchise blacks, when he is reminded that Mrs. Lincoln is waiting to take them to their evening at Ford’s Theatre.

That night, while Tad Lincoln is viewing Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp at Grover’s Theater, a man announces that the President has been shot. The next morning his physician pronounces him dead. The film concludes with a flashback to Lincoln delivering his second inaugural address

REVIEW:

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most popular presidents. We had fun seeing him as a vampire hunter, now it is time to have a bit of a history lesson with Lincoln. For such an iconic figure, did this film do him justice?

What is this about?

Director Steven Spielberg takes on the towering legacy of Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his stewardship of the Union during the Civil War years. The biographical saga also reveals the conflicts within Lincoln’s cabinet regarding the war and abolition.

What did I like?

Acting. Often time, you will hear me complaining about how films of yesteryear had actors who actually knew how to act, while today’s films are populated by so-called actors who get by on their looks, rather than talent. With this film, that is not the case. I cannot remember the last time I saw a film that had such complete performances from everyone in the cast. The great performances has restored my faith in today’s actors, let me tell you.

History to life. If you saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then you may have noticed that they took the legend that is Abraham Lincoln and made him a man…when he isn’t fighting vampires. This film does the same thing. It doesn’t try to put Lincoln on the high pedestal we hold him to today, but shows him as a flawed man dealing with the politics of Washington, same as any president from Washington to Obama.

Just as needed. Tommy Lee Jones’ character was just what this film needed. In typical Tommy Lee Jones fashion, he not only gave a great performance, but also threw in some comic relief. Not necessarily ha ha funny, but through his mannerisms and sayings. I guess the Academy took notice, because they nominated him for Best Supporting Actor.

What didn’t I like?

Talking. Going back to the old days of film, when everything wasn’t about explosions and CGI is something that I am a huge proponent of. However, this film literally is nothing but talking. Nearly 3 hours of talking, debating, talking while crying, and more talking. Having said that, I’m not sure what else could really happen. The film is focused on the passing of the 13th amendment and all the politicking behind it. Not exactly subject matter than lends itself to exciting action.

Mrs. Lincoln. I love Sally Field. Until recently, it seemed as if she would never age. I wasn’t a fan of her as Mrs. Lincoln, though. I”m not sure if it is because of her, or because it felt like they brought her in just to have a major female in the film. That isn’t to take anything away from Mary Todd Lincoln, just felt as if she didn’t really belong.

Lincoln is the kind of biopic that doesn’t skirt around the truth or make up stories just to make it a blockbuster. This is the kind of film that will encourage to go do some research on Lincoln, the 13th Amendment, the political parties, and everything else that you see in this film. Every bit of praise this film has received is well-earned. While it isn’t necessarily the most interesting of pictures, it is hands down one of the best that I’ve seen in quite some time. I highly recommend you see this before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Cry-Baby

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1954 Baltimore, Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker is the leader of a gang of “Drapes”, which includes his sister Pepper, a teenage mother, Mona “Hatchet Face” Malnorowski, who is facially disfigured, Wanda Woodward, a wild and free-spirit, and Milton Hackett, the nervous son of overzealous religious activists. His ability to shed a single tear drives all the girls wild. One day after school, he is approached by Allison Vernon-Williams, a pretty girl tired of being a “square”, and the two fall in love. That same day, Cry-Baby approaches the “square” part of town to a talent show (“Sh-Boom”, “A Teenage Prayer”) at the recreation center where Allison’s grandmother hosts events, and introduces himself to her, who is skeptical of his motives. Cry-Baby invites Allison to a party at Turkey Point, a local hangout spot for the drapes.

Despite her grandmother’s skepticism, Allison accompanies Cry-Baby to Turkey Point and sings with the drapes (“King Cry-Baby”). As Cry-Baby and Allison tell each other about their orphan lives (Cry-Baby’s father was sent to the electric chair after being the “Alphabet Bomber” – a killer who bombed places in alphabetical order airport, barber shop etc; Allison’s parents always took separate flights to avoid orphaning her if they crashed, but one day both their planes went down), Allison’s jealous square boyfriend, Baldwin, starts a riot. Cry-Baby is blamed for the fight and sent to a penitentiary, outraging all his friends and even Allison’s grandmother, who is impressed by Cry-Baby’s posture, manners, and musical talent.

As Lenora Frigid, a girl with a crush on Cry-Baby but constantly rejected by him, claims to be pregnant with his child, Allison feels betrayed and returns to Baldwin and the squares, though her grandmother advises her against rushing into a decision. Meanwhile, in the penitentiary, Cry-Baby gets a teardrop tattoo. He tells the tattoo artist, fellow drape Dupree (Robert Tyree): “I’ve been hurt all my life, but real tears wash away. This one’s for Allison, and I want it to last forever!”.

Eventually, Allison is persuaded by the newly-established alliance between the Drapes and her grandmother to stand by Cry-Baby and join the campaign for his release (“Please, Mr. Jailer”). Cry-Baby is released but immediately insulted by Baldwin who, after revealing that his grandfather is the one who electrocuted Cry-Baby’s father, challenges him to a chicken race. Cry-Baby wins, as Baldwin chickens out, and is reunited with Allison.

The film ends with all watching the chicken race crying a single tear, all except for Allison and Cry-Baby, who has finally let go of the past, enabling him to cry from both eyes.

REVIEW:

Earlier this year, someone asked me what I thought of Cry-Baby being turned into a Broadway show. Since I hadn’t seen either at the time, I couldn’t really comment. Now, I can at least comment on the film part.

What is this about?

Helmed by director John Waters, this kitschy comedy set in 1950s Baltimore stars Johnny Depp as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker, a street hood who falls for a goody-two-shoes girl. The unlikely romance sparks a battle between rival factions.

What did I like?

Humor. This is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. John Watters may be known as some kind of creepy weirdo nowadays, bu they guy known how to make an entertaining film. Johnny Depp is the only one who seems to be playing it straight, and that has more to do with the way his character was written. The jokes and humorous situations all poke fun at 50s teen movies. It seems that there is a heavy swing towards the Elvis films, just in terms of music and style, but having never seen any of his films, I can’t really tell you.

Bottom to the top. When it comes to acting, a gig you don’t really want to get into, at least if you have aspirations of having a real career is porn. The number of porn stars to have made it to the big time can be counted on one’s fingers. Hollywood just doesn’t seem to care for them. The roles they tend to earn don’t really give them much credibility. Traci Lords is one of those that looked to break the pattern. While this role isn’t necessarily huge, it was an actual acting gig and showed filmmakers that porn stars can do more than lay on their backs and do various sexual acts.

You gotta do it. Arguably the biggest 50s era film is Grease. Watching the film, you can see nods to it here and there, but the parts that stuck out were the change in the good girl to a “bad girl” near the end and the design og Cry-Baby’s car. It is an almost exact duplication of the Scorpions’ car, but I think they had a convertible.

What didn’t I like?

Confederate flag. This is set in Baltimore, MD, but for some reason at a party, or whatever it was, there is a big Confederate flag. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how divisive this flag is. For me, if it is used for historical purposed, that is fine ,but to just have one up as a random decoration can be a bit offensive, especially in a place that is considered the north. It made no sense to have it in display like that.

Overacting. I know that no one is really taking this film seriously, but there are times throughout this picture, it seems that they aren’t even trying to do anything but exaggerate their lines, Depp being the biggest offender. A John Watters film is not known for subtlety, but good grief! They really could have scaled it back a little bit.

Cry-Baby is a really entertaining musical parody of those teen rockin’ rebel films from the 50s. I think many will actually enjoy it from start to finish, just as I did. While this isn’t a film that everyone should see, it is something that is worth checking out on a weekend when you’re stumped as to what to watch. Give it a shot, sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Branded

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Spoofs & Satire, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , on May 15, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

As the movie begins, the names of famous visionaries including Joan of Arc, Albert Einstein and Alexander the Great flash on the screen. A caption reads, “All of them saw things others didn’t see. All of them changed the world.”

In the early 1980s, in Soviet Russia, young Misha Galkin is in a public park at night looking at the stars. Suddenly the stars shift into the outline of a cow’s head, which turns and looks at him. Moments later, Misha is struck by lightning. A woman examines him and, seeing that he is still alive, predicts that his life will not be ordinary.

In present-day Russia, Misha (Ed Stoppard) has grown up to become a high-powered marketing executive working with Bob Gibbons (Jeffrey Tambor). When Bob’s niece Abby (Leelee Sobieski) comes to visit from America, Bob warns Misha to keep his hands off the girl, but despite Bob’s warning, Abby and Misha drift into a relationship. Misha tells Abby various trivia about the history of marketing, such as that Vladimir Lenin invented modern marketing, and that Communism was the first true global brand.

Meanwhile, on a private Polynesian island, a marketing guru named Joseph Pascal (Max von Sydow) is meeting with the executives of fast food companies. The guru tells them that, to make fast food profitable again, they must change public perceptions of beauty and “make fat the new fabulous.” An unseen voice-over narrator says that the companies agreed to carry out the guru’s plan.

In a series of documentary-style flashbacks, narrated by the same unseen narrator, we see how Misha used his natural marketing savvy to rise from a poor clerk to a marketing exec. Misha’s big break came when he met Bob, an American hired to spread Western brands and businesses in post-Communist Russia. In the present, Bob discovers Abby’s relationship with Misha and is furious.

Misha is hired to do marketing for a new reality TV show, “Extreme Cosmetica,” in which an overweight girl will undergo extensive plastic surgery to become skinny and beautiful. Everything goes wrong when, after the first operation, the girl falls into a coma. The public turns against the show and the glorification of skinny bodytypes in general, and Misha, as the show’s marketer, becomes the scapegoat. He is swarmed by protesters, beaten by police and arrested. When he is released from jail, he angrily confronts his former partner Bob, saying that he’s realized the truth: the show and the coma was all orchestrated in order to induce Abby and Misha to split up. Bob denies it (“it would take millions of dollars to manipulate public opinion that way, and it would take the greatest assassin in the world to fake the operation to put that girl in a coma!”) Later, at a bar, they get in a fight, and then, Bob has a heart attack.

Full of guilt from the “Extreme Cosmetica” girl’s fate, Misha realizes that “his marketing powers are a curse” (as explained by the narrator) and he leaves Moscow and withdraws from modern society. Six years later, Abby tracks him down to a rural community where Misha is living the simple life as a cowherd. While Abby is visiting him, Misha has a strange dream. In a dreamlike state, he performs the Red Heifer ritual, sacrificing a red cow and bathing in its ashes. When he wakes up from the ritual cleansing, he discovers to his horror that he has developed the ability to see strange eel- or blob-like creatures which cling to people’s necks and appear to be the embodiment of marketing brand desires.

Abby takes Misha to her apartment in Moscow where she reveals that she is rich (due to an inheritance from Bob) and that they have a six-year-old son. In the intervening six years, the “fat is fabulous” campaign has changed society, everyone is overweight and images of fat people are used in advertising everywhere. Their son is also overweight and loves “The Burger” and other junk-food brands. Distressed by his grotesque visions no one else can see and disgusted by the rampant commercialism around him, Misha impulsively trashes Abby’s apartment. Frightened by his behavior, Abby leaves Misha and takes their son with her.

Misha develops a plan to fight back against the branding-creatures using their own methods. Going back to his old company, he accepts a job to do marketing for Dim Song, a vegetarian Chinese restaurant chain. At the meeting with the executives, he perceives tentacles growing out of their necks connecting them to the collective Dim Song corporate-branding entity. Using dialogue which parallels Pascal’s speech to the fast food executives earlier in the movie, he promises to fix Dim Song’s problems. Misha’s solution is to cause a fake anti-beef scare (using the public’s fear of a mysterious virus similar to Bovine spongiform encephalopathy a.k.a Mad cow disease) which will frighten people from eating meat, thus turning them towards vegetarian food.

The anti-beef scare works, and burger sales drop precipitously. From the rooftop of a building, Misha watches a dragon-like entity hatch from an egg on top of the Dim Song building and fly towards The Burger restaurant, ripping apart and killing The Burger’s corporate embodiment. Misha predicts that The Burger will go bankrupt within a week, and his prediction comes true. Back on the Polynesian island, the marketing guru tells the distressed fast food executives that they are in trouble, but there is still a way to save their brands. Before he can tell them his new plan, however, he is vaporized by a bolt of lightning.

Misha continues his plan to destroy the world’s major brands by using fear-based marketing to make customers afraid of them one by one. In a CG sequence, the brand creatures fly over the city attacking and killing one another: “Yepple” killing “GiantSoft”, etc. Public opinion turns against marketing in general, and the Russian parliament considers a bill banning all advertising. Depressed and alone in his corporate office, Misha leaves a message on Abby’s cellphone, asking her for forgiveness. At that very moment, Abby shows up. Suddenly, the building is raided by anti-advertising protesters, who smash through the doors and assault the employees. Misha is struck down while he and Abby try to escape. At that moment, an emergency broadcast plays on TV, saying that Russia and the other nations of the world have agreed to ban all advertising. The protesters stop their rampage, but Misha is already lying on the floor, bleeding from a head wound.

Some time later, all advertising has been banned, the Moscow skyline is free of billboards, and bulldozers are crushing old advertising materials in the dump. In the hospital, Misha has awakened with a bandage on his head, and is playing with Abby and his son. In another room in the same hospital, the “Extreme Cosmetica” girl awakens from her coma and wanders out into the advertising-free city streets. The voice-over narrator explains that thanks to Misha, the world was changed forever. The camera pans up into the night sky and reveals that the narrator is the cow constellation that young Misha saw at the beginning of the movie

REVIEW:

As you can tell by looking at the poster up there, Branded is one deeply disturbed film. For all of its twisted imagery, though, there is a bit of a political statement that is being made with this film. One that perhaps we should all listen to, for a change.

What is this about?

What if your favorite burger joint, clothing store and cell phone maker were more than just brands, but all part of a vast thought-control conspiracy? When Misha and Abby uncover the truth, it makes them targets of a mind-bending global monstrosity

What did I like?

Effects. The special effects in this film make Syfy channel stuff look like cutting edge, real life technology. However, I am a fan of the cheest looking stuff, so you cna about imagine that this was right up my alley. Most of this visions made no sense as to what they were, but I can appreciate the attempt to create new creatures.

What didn’t I like?

Irony. There is a bit of irony here, in that a film about the evils of advertising had one of the worst advertising campaigns known to man. No matter how bad your film is, you should at least make an effort to get people in the seats. The trailer for this did a good job of doing that, but it was so far away from what you actually get when watching this film, that I found it hard to swallow. Especially after getting my hopes up for one thing and getting another.

Villain. Max von Sydow is one of the guys in Hollywood that can play any kind of villanous character. As the apparently evil chairman of this board that basically tells people what they are going to like, such as a reality show about fat people. I’m not sure which is worse, the fact that people can be so easily manipulated or that he came up with this sinister, Bond-villain type plan.

Climax. Since it took forever and a day to finally get to the visions and whatnot, which is what we all really even bothered to watch this for, I felt a little slighted by the fact that none of them were really clear. That is to say, they just seemed like random doodles that some geek with a computer got paid to bring to life. For what it obviously the centerpiece of this entire film, whether the filmmakers want to admit it or not, this was huge letdown and I felt it could have been handled much better.

What did I ultimately think of Branded? Well, it has a decent plot, but it just isn’t executed very well. This is not something I would suggest you see. If you really want to know how bad this is, think of this…I hate remakes, but I would love for someone to come in and remake this. Do yourself a favor, forget this even exists. It is better for all that way.

2 out of 5 stars

The Sea Hawk

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with King Philip II of Spain (Montagu Love) declaring his intention to destroy England and after this “puny rockbound island as barren and treacherous as her Queen” is out of the way, he believes that world conquest will follow: he says his great wall map, one day, “will have ceased to be a map of the world; it will be Spain.” He sends one of his courtiers, Don Alvarez (Claude Rains), as his ambassador to allay the suspicions of Queen Elizabeth I (Flora Robson) about the great armada he is building to invade England. In England, some of the Queen’s ministers plead with her to build a fleet, which she hesitates to do in order to spare the purses of her subjects.

The ambassador’s ship is captured en route to England by the Albatross and her captain, Geoffery Thorpe (Errol Flynn). Don Alvarez and his niece, Dona Maria (Brenda Marshall), are taken aboard and transported to England. Thorpe is immediately enchanted by Dona Maria and gallantly returns her plundered jewels. Her detestation of him softens as she too begins to fall in love.

Don Alvarez is granted an audience with the Queen and complains about his treatment; Dona Maria is accepted as one of her maids of honour. The “Sea Hawks”, a group of English privateers who loot Spanish ships for “reparations” appear before the Queen, who scolds them (at least publicly) for their piratical attacks and for endangering the peace with Spain. Captain Thorpe finally appears and proposes a plan to seize a large caravan of Spanish gold in the New World and bring it back to England. The Queen is wary of Spain’s reaction, but allows Thorpe to proceed.

Suspicious of Thorpe’s expedition, Lord Wolfingham (Henry Daniell), one of the Queen’s ministers (and a secret Spanish collaborator), sends a spy to try to discover where the Albatross is really heading, but to no avail; the courtiers are told that Thorpe is going on a trading expedition up the Nile River in Egypt. Upon visiting the chartmaker responsible for the chart for Thorpe’s next voyage, Don Alvarez and Lord Wolfingham determine that he is really sailing to the Isthmus of Panama and order Don Alvarez’s Spanish captain to sail ahead to set up an ambush. When the Albatross reaches its destination, part of her crew seizes the caravan, but they fall into a well-laid trap and are driven into the swamps. Thorpe and a few others survive and return to their ship, only to find it in Spanish hands. Thorpe and his crew are returned to Spain, tried by the Inquisition, and sentenced to the galleys for the rest of their lives. In England, Don Alvarez informs the Queen of Thorpe’s fate, causing his niece to faint. The Queen and Don Alvarez exchange heated words, and she expels him from her court.

On the Spanish galley, Thorpe meets an Englishman named Abbott who was captured trying to uncover evidence of the Armada’s true purpose. Through cunning, the prisoners take over the ship during the night. They board another ship in the same harbor, where an emissary has stored secret incriminating plans. Thorpe and his men capture both and sail back to England with the plans in hand.

Upon reaching port, Thorpe tries to warn the Queen. A carriage bringing Don Alvarez to the ship which, unbeknownst to him, Thorpe had captured, also brings his niece. Don Alvarez boards the ship and is held prisoner, while Captain Thorpe, dressed in the uniform of a Spanish courtier, sneaks into the carriage carrying Dona Maria, who has decided to stay in England and wait for Thorpe’s return. The two finally declare their love for each other, and Maria helps Thorpe in sneaking into the palace. However, Lord Wolfingham’s spy, who had escorted the ambassador and his niece, spots Thorpe and alerts the castle guards to stop the carriage and take Thorpe prisoner. Thorpe escapes and enters the Queen’s residence, fending off guards all the while. Eventually, Thorpe runs into Lord Wolfingham and kills the traitor in a sword fight.

With Dona Maria’s assistance, Thorpe reaches the Queen and provides proof of King Phillip’s intentions. Elizabeth knights Captain Thorpe for his gallantry, with Dona Maria present, and declares her intention to build a great fleet to oppose the Spanish threat.

REVIEW:

I was asked earlier this year to maybe think about throwing in some classic swashbuckler films, preferably with Errol Flynn. So, to honor that request, I dug out one of Flynn’s not-so-well-known pictures, at least to modern audiences, The Sea Hawk. I have to say that this film left me underwhelmed compared to similar pictures of the time.

What is this about?

Hired on by Queen Elizabeth (Flora Robson), buccaneer Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) loots and pillages the Spanish fleet and the New World colonies while sailing the high seas, but is stopped in his tracks when he attacks a vessel and lays eyes on beautiful Doña Maria (Brenda Marshall). Thorpe is captured, but escapes to warn England of the advancing Spanish armada in director Michael Curtiz’s swashbuckling adventure.

What did I like?

Swashbuckling. In the heyday of cinema, an action flick like this didn’t require gigantic set pieces and huge explosions to be impressive. Instead, the focus was on the acting, story, and most importantly, the action. A simple, choreographed, sword fight went a long way towards making a film memorable, believe it or not. Flynn was one of the best, at least that I’ve seen, at making these fights exciting and not come off as a couple of guys dancing with toy swords.

Fake. Audiences back then may not have realized it, but today we look at the set of this film and pick apart every obvious fake prop, from the pool the boats are in to the painted backdrop, to the styrofoam rocks. Thing is, though, I actually like stuff like that. There is a certain charm, if you will, that is one of the reasons I like old films so much better than the new ones. The fake props show imagination. Something that typing in a couple of program sequences into a computer will never show.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. It seems with all classic action films, they are longer than they need to be with very slow pacing. With that in mind, they usually tell a great story, I just wish there was something to light a fire under them and get things going to the last 10-15 minutes when things pick up and we get some action.

Music. Please note that my issue with the music is not that it is bad, but that this is literally just recycled from another film starring Flynn, Captain Blood. You know, the one they watch in The Goonies, remember? If this was a sequel, I would have any issues. Look at the Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises, they recycle music all the time, but its all in the same universe, if you will. As far as I can tell, these are two totally different films that have the same music.

When I decided to watch The Sea Hawk this evening, I didn’t know what to expect, other than some kind of pirate/privateer film starring Errol Flynn. For what it is, one can’t really complain, but it doesn’t compare to previous Flynn films I’ve seen. There is a drop off in terms of quality and entertainment that hampers this, but it still is worth checking out sometime. For me, it wasn’t great, but it has some pretty good moments near the end.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Ghost Ship

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In May 1962, dozens of wealthy passengers are dancing both in the ballroom and the deck of the Italian ocean liner, Antonia Graza, while an Italian woman (Francesca Rettondini) sings “Senza Fine.” On the deck, a young girl named Katie (Emily Browning), is sitting alone, until the Captain of the ship himself offers to dance with her. Elsewhere, a hand presses a lever that unravels a thin wire cord from a spool. The spool snaps and the wire slices across the dance floor like a blade, bisecting the dancers. Only Katie is spared, due to her height. The Captain’s face splits open at mouth level as the top of his head falls off and Katie screams in horror.

40 years later, a boat salvage crew—Cpt. Sean Murphy (Gabriel Byrne), Maureen Epps (Julianna Margulies), Greer (Isaiah Washington), Dodge (Ron Eldard), Munder (Karl Urban), and Santos (Alex Dimitriades)—is celebrating a recent success at a bar, when Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington), a Canadian weather service pilot, approaches them and says he has spotted a mysterious vessel running adrift in the Bering Sea. Because the ship is in international waters, it can be claimed by whomever is able to bring it to port.

The crew sets out on their ship, the Arctic Warrior, an ocean salvage tugboat. They discover the ship is the Antonia Graza, which mysteriously disappeared in 1962 and was believed to be lost at sea, as both the crew and the passengers were never heard from again. When they board the ship and prepare to tow it, they discover that it contains a large quantity of gold. However strange things begin to happen. Epps claims to have seen a little girl on the stairwell. The crew find a digital watch on the bridge and Greer claims to have heard a woman singing throughout the ship. Epps and Ferriman discover the corpses of another salvage crew. They decide to leave the ship but take the gold, but an invisible force opens a gas valve in the engine room and the Arctic Warrior explodes as the engine is started, killing Santos and leaving them stranded.

They attempt to fix the Antonia Graza and sail it back to land, but the crew members are picked off one by one. Greer meets Francesca, the singer who he heard, who seduces him and then leads him off a precipice to his death. Captain Murphy, after entering the Captains Cabin, comes across the ghost of the Antonia Graza’s Captain, who explains that they recovered the gold from a sinking cruiseship Lorelei, along with a sole survivor. He shows Murphy a picture of the survivor, who he is shocked to recognise. He rushes to tell the rest of the crew, but a supernatural force causes him to see everyone he meets as the burned ghost of Santos, causing the crew to think he has gone mad and lock him in the drained fish tank.

Meanwhile, Epps meets Katie, who reveals that the crew of Graza turned on the passengers and each other. The sole survivor of the Lorelei convinced the crew of the Graza to turn on the passengers in order to claim the gold. The crew killed all of the passengers, including Katie, but then turned on each other. The last officer, after killing his crew mates was shot by the singer, Francesca. Another man then joined Francesca in an embrace and walked away as a large hook swung into her face, killing her. The man is revealed (via photos Murphy received from the Graza’s Captain) as Jack Ferriman, who is actually a demonic spirit who masterminded the massacre in 1962 and may have done something similar on the Lorelei.

Epps deduces that Ferriman lured the salvage team to the Graza to repair the sinking ship, and that the best way to fight him is to sink it. She sets explosives, but is confronted by Ferriman, who has killed the last of her crew. Ferriman describes himself as a salvager of souls; collecting souls is his job, which he says he earned by a lifetime of sin. He explains that since Katie was a child and never committed a true sin, he can’t control her as he does with the evil ghosts. So long as the Antonia Graza remains afloat, he can continue to use it as a trap and keep his masters (and Satan) satisfied. After a brief struggle, Epps detonates the explosives and sinks the Graza. Katie helps Epps escape the rapidly sinking ship. She is left in the debris as the souls trapped on the ship ascend to heaven; Katie stops to thank her.

After drifting on the open sea for some time, Epps is found by a cruise ship and taken back to land. As she’s loaded into an ambulance, she sees the battered crates of gold being loaded onto the cruise ship by Ferriman and members that look like but are not her fallen crew members. Ferriman glares at her and carries on; she screams as the ambulance doors close.

REVIEW:

The other day, I was talking to one of my friends in the Navy, and it got me thinking about the horrors one would experience on a ship. Looking through my queue, I noticed Ghost Ship, and figured this would be a good flick to help with those thoughts. The real question, though, is whether or not it is worth the time.

What is this about?

Dispatched to recover a long-lost passenger ship found floating lifeless on the Bering Sea, the crew of the Arctic Warrior salvage tug soon becomes trapped inside the mysterious vessel — which they quickly realize is far from abandoned. But just who — or what — is on board remains to be seen.

What did I like?

Opening scene. I love the glitz and glamour of the 30s-50s. That was just a time when going out was an event not a chore as it is today. Throw in the beautiful and talented singers that were around back then and wow! That is exactly what we have in this opening scene, a gorgeous singer entertaining the audience full of people dancing, then they meet their gory demise, in what is probably the best scene of the entire film.

Soundtrack. I was pretty impressed with the selection of music chosen for this film’s soundtrack. For me, there is something that really works for horror films when that heavy metal/hard rock sound is there. The perfect tone, if you will. I guess Blade is responsible for my feelings on that, though. The only exception being the big band ballad sung in the opening scene.

What didn’t I like?

Crash and burn. After that great gory opening, there was nothing else about the film that came anywhere near as good. Basically, it became more of a thriller than a horror flick. Sure, there were some ghosts and stuff, but I felt that they could have upped the gore a bit. To have the opening be so bloody, and then not have anymore bloody murders of the same calibre for the rest of the film doesn’t quite seem to gel with it or vice versa.

Ship. For a ship that is full of ghosts, we only see a few of them. It seems to me that they would be doing all kinds of things to make their presence known/felt. I don’t get why they rest of the passengers couldn’t have made more of an impact on the preceding, good or bad, until the very end when they are seen again.

A review of Ghost Ship that I was reading earlier said that this if a good film, just not as good as you would think I hav e to agree with that sentiment. While this is not a bad flick, it could be better. There is a decent story here, but it is just doesn’t quite bring the audience in. So, do I recommend this? Well, as I said before, it isn’t necessarily a bad film, just not as good as you would think. With that being said, you could do much worse that this, so go ahead and give it a shot.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars