Archive for July, 2013

Big Night

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film, presumably set in a small town on the New Jersey Shore in the 1950s, tells the story of two Italian immigrant brothers from Abruzzo who own and operate a restaurant called “Paradise.” One brother, Primo (Tony Shalhoub), is a brilliant, perfectionist chef who chafes under their few customers’ expectations of “Americanized” Italian food. Their uncle’s offer for them to return to Rome to help with his restaurant is becoming more and more appealing to Primo. The other brother, Secondo (Tucci), is the restaurant’s manager, who is enamored of the possibilities presented by their new endeavor and life in America. Despite Secondo’s efforts and Primo’s magnificent food, their restaurant is failing.

Secondo’s elusive success as a businessman makes him unable to commit to his girlfriend Phyllis (Minnie Driver), and he has recently been sleeping with Gabriella (Isabella Rossellini), the wife of a competitor. Her husband’s self-named restaurant, Pascal’s (Ian Holm), has enjoyed great success despite (or perhaps due to) the mediocre, uninspired food served there. Desperate to keep Paradise afloat, Secondo asks Pascal for a loan. Pascal demurs, repeating a past offer to have the brothers come work for him. This Secondo in turn refuses; he and his brother want their own restaurant. In an apparent display of generosity, Pascal instead insists that he will persuade Louis Prima to dine at Paradise when he comes to town, assuming the celebrity jazz singer’s patronage will revitalize the brothers’ business. Primo and Secondo plunge themselves into preparations for this “big night”, spending their last savings on the food and inviting dozens of people (including a newspaper reporter) to join them in a magnificent feast centered around a timpano (a form of timballo, a complicated baked pasta dish). Primo pours his heart into each dish, lavishing care and great expertise on the cooking.

As they wait for Prima and his entourage to arrive, the crowd indulges in the exquisite food and partakes in a fabulous celebration. Hours pass, however, and it becomes apparent that the famous singer is not coming. Phyllis catches Secondo and Gabriella kissing and runs away to the beach. At Gabriella’s insistence, Pascal admits that he never even called Louis Prima, thus ending the party.

Secondo follows Phyllis to the beach where they have a final quarrel. Primo and Secondo have a fiery, heartwrenching argument, chafing at their mutual differences. In the wee hours of the morning, Pascal admits to Secondo that he set the brothers up for failure; not as revenge for Secondo’s affair with Gabriella but because then the brothers would have no choice but to either return to Italy or work for Pascal. Secondo denies him, saying they will never work for him. The film closes with an uninterrupted, nearly wordless long take: as dawn breaks, Secondo silently cooks an omelette. When it is done, he divides it among three plates, giving one to Cristiano (Marc Anthony), their waiter, and eating one himself. Primo hesitantly enters: Secondo hands him the last plate. They eat without speaking, but lay their arms across one another’s shoulders as they do so.

REVIEW:

Other than films that portray marching band in a positive light, I have to say that cooking/restaurant themed films are right up there with topics that Hollywood seems to ignore, or use just a punch line, with a few exceptions, such as Julie & Julia, for instance. Big Night is one of these films. What is notable about this picture is that it was made before we were bombarded with cooking shows, celebrity chefs, etc.

What is this about?

Despite its superb cuisine, an Italian restaurant run by immigrant brothers verges on bankruptcy. But the siblings risk it all to save their bistro when they get the chance to cook up a feast for bandleader Louis Prima.

What did I like?

Food. The foodie in the house called this “food porn” because of the succulent cuisine that was being prepared. Now that I’ve had a few moments to digest it, that does make sense. If you’re the kind of person that is really into food, especially Italian, this is going to either make you really happy or act as a giant tease!

Work with what you have. Most low-budget independent films, especially older ones, look like they were made in someone’s basement and yet, somehow, this manages to pull off being the kind of flick that doesn’t look cheap. In fact, other than the fact that 99% of it takes place in the restaurant, nothing set-wise would have you thinking this is an low-budget film. The filmmakers really took advantage of what they had to work with.

What didn’t I like?

Kitchen Nightmare. Through no fault of its own, while watching this film, I felt as if I were watching an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. There is nothing nightmarish about the restaurant, mind you, but the way is looks put me in the mindset of those places he goes to on the show. Rustic, for lack of a better term, east coast Italian family restaurant. I half expected Ramsay to show up, I kid you not!

Louis. I realize that at the time this was made, Louis Prima had been passed on for some time, but they could have hired someone to play him, or use clips from his performances. I can guarantee that about 90% or more of the audience have no clue who Prima is, but they make him out to be as big a name as Frank Sinatra.

Big Night was aptly named because everything hinges on the big night of food for Louis Prima. This is one of those films you put on when you just have a desire to check out something different from explosions, over-emotional women and their dating woes, talking animals, etc. If I had to say whether this is worth a watch or not, I have to go with yes. This is a really well-made film that will have you wanting to go out for Italian, or at least make a omlette, by the time it is done. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

The MatchMaker

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Marcy Tizard (Janeane Garofalo) is assistant to Senator John McGlory (Jay O. Sanders) from Boston, Massachusetts. In an attempt to court the Irish-American vote in a tough reelection battle, the bumbling senator’s chief of staff, Nick (Denis Leary), sends Marcy to Ireland to find McGlory’s relatives or ancestors.

Marcy arrives at the fictional village of Ballinagra (Irish: Baile na Grá, literally the Town of Love) as it is preparing for the annual matchmaking festival. She attracts the attention of two rival professional matchmakers, Dermot (Milo O’Shea) and Millie (Rosaleen Linehan), as well as roguish bartender Sean (David O’Hara).

The locals tolerate her genealogical search while trying to match her with various bachelors. Sean tries to woo Marcy despite her resistance to his boorish manners. After they have begun their romance, they return home to Sean’s house one afternoon to find his estranged wife Moira (Saffron Burrows) waiting for them. Marcy leaves Sean, upset that he did not disclose his marriage to her.

McGlory and Nick arrive in Ballinagra, although Marcy’s been unable to locate any McGlory relatives. McGlory discovers Sean’s wife’s maiden name is Kennedy and brings her back to Boston as his fiancée just in time for the election, and wins by a small margin. While at the victory party, McGlory’s father (Robert Mandan) reveals privately to Marcy that the family is Hungarian, not Irish. The family name had been changed at Ellis Island when they immigrated, but as they settled in Boston with its large Irish population, he never told his son their true lineage.

Sean follows Marcy to Boston, and they reconcile.

REVIEW:

A good friend (yes, I’m talking about you, chica) actually recommended The Matchmaker to me awhile back. At first glance, I was a little skeptical, but figured I’d give it a shot, anyway. It has been a bit of a long week, so, this may be a but of a condensed review, and for that I apologize.

What is this about?

A Massachusetts senator sends an overworked aide (Janeane Garofalo) to Ireland to dig up relatives for his re-election campaign. Arriving in the fictional Ballinagra, the fiercely single Marcy finds herself in the center of the town’s annual matchmaking festival. She fends off potential suitors, but sparks fly with a reclusive writer (David O’Hara) who’s making a living at the local pub.

What did I like?

Fightin’ Irish. Usually, in media portrayals, we are brainwashed into seeing the Irish as fighting drunkards. That has become the stereotype and the fact these are real people has been overshadowed. Thankfully this film doesn’t have any fighting Irish, though there is drinking. Hey, a good portion of the film is in a pub, what do you expect?

Marcy. Jeneane Garofalo is someone who I had a huge crush on at one time. For some reason, though, she fell off my radar. I can’t remember why. Anyway, one thing that has not changed is that she is a talent. Her dry wit, sarcastic nature, and comedic timing are what have kept her in this business to this day. This isn’t her best film, but it is a pretty strong showing from her.

What didn’t I like?

Rescue me. I’ve never been a fan of Denis Leary. He’s one of those guys that has made a comedic career out of being an asshole just because he can be, and that is not something that I can get behind. I think you can surmise that I’m no fan of his character in this film, but then I’m never a fan of slimy assistants. It just seemed like they had to make him that kind of character, but for no real rhyme or reason.

Ireland. Call me crazy, but if you’re going to set and film a movie in breathtakingly beautiful Ireland, shouldn’t you find a way to show off some of its majestic beauty? If you don’t, that would be like setting and filming something in New Orleans, only to avoid anything to do with jazz, the French Quarter, riverboats, Bourbon Street, etc. You just don’t such things, it defeats the purpose!

The Matchmaker is a really cute movie. I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it as much as some other people do (sorry, chica). That being said, this is a film that is worth watching at least once. I won’t highly recommend it, but it does get a recommendation. Give it a shot sometime. You just might like it!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Shakiest Gun in the West

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , on July 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

the shakiest gun in the west

PLOT:

Jesse W. Haywood graduates from dental school in Philadelphia in 1870 and goes west to become a frontier dentist. As a “city slicker”, he finds himself bungling in a new environment.

On his way west, the stagecoach is held up and robbed by two masked bandits. A posse catches one of them, Penelope “Bad Penny” Cushing.

Facing prison, Penelope is offered a pardon if she will track down a ring of gun smugglers that also involves a local Indian tribe. She tricks Haywood into a sham marriage as a disguise.

Haywood inadvertently becomes the legendary “Doc the Heywood” after he guns down “Arnold the Kid” and performs other exploits (all with covert assistance from Penny).

REVIEW:

Someone asked me one day if Don Knotts was attached to the hip of Andy Griffith because it seems like he was never in anything without him. Well, that’s not true. There was his stint on Three’s Company, The Incredible Mr. Limpett, and a slew of films, including The Shakiest Gun in the West. Can Knotts carry a film on his own, though?

What is this about?

Don Knotts steps in to play bumbling dentist Jesse Heywood, a role made famous by Bob Hope in the original version of the movie. On his way West, Jesse encounters the alluring Penny, who helps him fight off attackers with her superior shooting skills. Only trouble is, Jesse thinks his own gun fired off the rounds that scared the bandits. But in no time, he discovers that although he’s a mite cowardly, he really is a gunslinger at heart.

What did I like?

Light and fun. Most of the films I’ve watched of late have been a bit on the dark side, if you will, so it was great to get back lighter faire. Unlike most of today’s society, I actually like to not want to feel like jumping off a building when I finish watching a movie. Thank goodness this film doesn’t go anywhere near the dark side and is just a fun romp.

Knotts landing. I’ve long been a fan of Don Knotts. Even in small cameo roles like he has in No Time for Sergeants the guy is hilarious. Give him a full-length film to star in and he really shines, which answers the question of whether he can do anything without Andy Griffith (may they both R.I.P.)

Family friendly. Think for a moment about how many westerns are really family friendly. There are some out there, but I can’t think of them, at least the ones that are worth watching. I’m not a family man, but I didn’t see anything in here that would be iffy for a family movie night, unless you have issues with Barbara Rhoades’ cleavage in a couple of scenes, which is really a stretch, if you ask me.

What didn’t I like?

Remake. *SIGH* Nowadays, it seems that Hollywood just remakes films just because they can. As it turns out, this is not a new practice, as this is actually a remake of the Bob Hope western comedy The Paleface. Why did they remake it and was it an improvement? I have no idea and no, but it does do something no remake that I have seen has been able to do and that is create its own identity.

Dentistry. For a film about a guy who just became a dentist, there sure is a lack of dentistry to be found. Yes, there is the opening segment where Knotts is taking his dentistry school final, but other than that, it is like he totally loses his dentist identity more and more and the film moves along. I can’t help but wonder why they took that away from him after working so hard to establish it in the beginning.

With a title like The Shakiest Gun in the West, one would expect to see typical nervous Don Knotts almost re-creating Deputy Barney Fife. At least that is what I was expecting. Does that mean this isn’t a good vehicle for him? By all means, no! I actually highly recommend this film. It turns out that it is one of those films that is sure to bring a smile to your face, so give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Buried

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , on July 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On October 23, 2006, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American civilian truck driver based in Iraq, awakens buried alive in a wooden coffin, bound and gagged, with only a Zippo and a BlackBerry. Although he initially has no idea how he got there, he soon starts to piece together what has happened to him. He remembers that his and several other trucks were ambushed by insurgents, who killed his colleagues before he himself was hit by a rock and passed out. He receives a call from his kidnapper, Jabir, demanding that he pay a ransom of $5 million or else they will leave him in the coffin to die. Conroy calls the State Department, which tells him that due to their government policy of not negotiating with terrorists, they will not pay the ransom but will try to rescue him regardless. They connect him with Dan Brenner, head of the Hostage Working Group, who tells Conroy they are doing their best to find him. His kidnapper calls Conroy back and demands he make a ransom video, threatening to execute one of his colleagues who survived the attack. Despite complying with their demands, the kidnappers execute his colleague and send him the video, which he watches in horror. Shortly afterwards, distant explosions shake the area, damaging his coffin which begins to slowly fill with sand. Conroy continues sporadic phone calls with Brenner, skeptical of the man’s promises of help. To reaffirm his wholehearted intentions, Brenner tells Conroy about a man named Mark White who was rescued from a similar situation two weeks prior, telling him that the man was home with his family and likely happy.

Later on, Conroy receives a phone call from his employers, who inform him that he was fired from his job due to his fraternizing with the colleague that was executed, and thus he and his family will not be entitled to any benefits or pension he earned during his time with the company. Brenner calls back and explains that the explosions that had damaged his coffin earlier were in fact several F-16 bombings, and that his kidnappers may have been killed. Conroy begins to lose all hope and does a last will and testament in video form, giving his son all of his clothes and his wife his personal savings. His kidnapper calls back demanding that Conroy video record him cutting his finger off, threatening Conroy’s family back home in Michigan if he refuses, saying himself that he lost all of his children. Conroy films himself cutting off one of his fingers and sends the video.

After some minutes, Brenner calls, notifying Conroy that they had found his location and are driving out to find him. After that, his wife Linda calls him, who heard it on the news and left her phone at home. She cries with him and begs him to promise her that he will come home. He promises, but hangs up due to needing to attend to the sand which is now filling the coffin to dangerous levels, giving him seconds to live. Brenner calls Conroy again, and reports that they found the site. The group starts to dig up a coffin, but Conroy cannot hear them jumping on the coffin. When they open it, the coffin turns out to be that of Mark White and not Conroy’s, indicating that Mark White was never saved. Paul starts to cry as the battery on the phone runs dead, and he slowly suffocates as the sand fills up the coffin. The last thing he hears is Brenner, repeating: “I’m sorry, Paul. I’m so sorry.”

REVIEW:

Imagine what would be going through your head if you woke up to find yourself in a coffin with no apparent way out and the only thing you have with you are a Zippo lighter and a cellphone. Well, that is what you get with Ryan Reynolds in Buried, but is seeing him in a coffin talking on a phone for 90 minutes too much for some people?

What is this about?

While on a job in Iraq, civilian contractor Paul Conroy is attacked and kidnapped, then awakens to find himself buried alive in the middle of the desert with nothing but a lighter, a candle, a cell phone and a knife.

What did I like?

Coffin. I’m a fan of the old west, especially the coffins. One of the first things I noticed about this flick was the coffin. It wasn’t the usual plush coffin that are used today, but a big pine box that was used in the west. When I found out that it was set in the Middle East, that was a bit weird, and then it wasn’t. I liked it the use of the pine box coffin, though. For some reason, I think the extra room made this bearable for people who have issues with tight spaces.

Talent. Last weekend, Ryan Reynolds had two films released, R.I.P.D. and Turbo, neither did that well, which had many people questioning his box office draw and his acting talent. Someone brought this film up as an example of what Reynolds can actually do. Here he is trapped in a box with nothing but a phone and a lighter. He is the only person we see in the whole film, except for a couple of videos, and we really get to see that he does have some pretty solid acting chops.

Disturbing. No ghosts. No serial killers. No monsters. Just a guy in a coffin. Yet, this is probably one of the most disturbing films I have seen in quite some time. Partially because of the buried alive part, but also because of all the other factors that are going on while Reynolds is trying to get saved. At one point, he makes a comment about had he been a diplomat, politician or general, no one would rest to find him, but because he is a normal guy, there is no rush. Let me say this, if I wasn’t already not planning on being kidnapped in the middle East, then that statement made my mind up.

What didn’t I like?

Call center. The way the call centers handle the call from a guy who is trapped underground with little oxygen and a dying cell phone is just a shame. I’m sorry, but there should be protocols for such things. I know that they are supposed to stay calm and keep the caller calm as well, but at some point you need to realize the urgency of the situation, or deal with that person’s death on your conscience, sort of like Halle Berry’s character did when she caused a girl to be murdered in The Call.

Depth perception. I’m not sure if this was some kind of camera trick, but there seemed to be some discrepancy regarding the depth/size of the coffin. Most scenes, it seems to be a pine box, but others it seems to be more of a giant, neverending pit, as you can see up there in poster.

Buried is not the kind of film you watch over and over again. That is not to say it isn’t good, not by a long shot, but the subject matter is quite heavy. Not to mention the fact that those that are claustrophobic will surely have issues watching Ryan Reynolds suffer in that coffin. Don’t even get me started about the company firing him conveniently near the end before the film’s resolution. Is this worth seeing? Yes, I do recommend it, but be warned, this is not a film for everyone.

4 out of 5 stars

The Jerk

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin), a befuddled homeless simpleton, directly addressing the camera and telling his story. He is the adopted white son of African American sharecroppers, who grows to adulthood naïvely unaware of his obvious adoption. He stands out in his family not just because of his skin color, but also because of his utter lack of rhythm when his adopted family plays spirited blues music. He is teased (although gently) by his brothers for liking stereotypical white food and he admits to not really liking the blues music his family dance to. One night, he hears the staid and starchy Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra song called “Crazy Rhythm” on the radio and his feet spontaneously begin to move with the urge to dance; he sees this as a calling and decides to hitchhike to St. Louis, from where the song was broadcast. On the way, he stops at a motel, where a dog wakes him up by barking at his door. Navin thinks the dog is trying to warn of a fire and decides to name the dog “Lifesaver.” He wakes up the other hotel guests to rescue them, but when everyone realizes it was a false alarm, one of the guests angrily suggests he call the dog “Shithead,” which Navin takes literally.

Navin gets a job (and a place to sleep) at a gas station owned by Mr. Harry Hartounian (Jackie Mason). He’s thrilled to find that he’s listed in the local phone book, as his name is “in print” for the first time. Not long after, a gun-wielding lunatic (M. Emmet Walsh) randomly flips through the phone book and picks “Johnson, Navin R.” as his next victim. As the madman watches through his rifle scope, waiting for a clear shot, Navin fixes the slippery glasses of a customer, Stan Fox (Bill Macy), by adding a handle and a nose brake. Fox offers to split the profits 50/50 with Navin if he can market the invention, then departs. Seizing his chance, the crazed sniper tries to kill Navin, but fails, hitting the oil cans in the station window and a soft-drink machine. The lunatic chases Navin to a traveling carnival, where Navin hides out, eventually getting a job with SJM Fiesta Shows as a weight guesser. While employed there, Navin meets an intimidating daredevil biker named Patty Bernstein (Catlin Adams) and has a sexual relationship with her, finally realizing what his “special purpose” (his mother’s euphemism for his penis) is for. He then meets a woman named Marie (Bernadette Peters) and arranges a date with her. Patty confronts them, but Marie knocks her out. While courting, Navin and Marie walk along the beach and sing “Tonight You Belong to Me”, with Navin playing the ukulele and Marie on the cornet. Navin and Marie fall in love, but Marie reluctantly decides to leave him because of his lack of financial security. She writes a note and slips out while Navin is in the bath.

At an emotional and financial low, Navin is soon contacted by Stan Fox with exciting news: His glasses invention, now called the Opti-Grab, is selling big and he’s entitled to half of the profits. Now extremely rich, he finds and marries Marie, and they buy an extravagant mansion. Their life becomes one of splendor and non-stop partying. However, motion-picture director Carl Reiner (playing himself) files a class action lawsuit against Navin. Reiner claims that the Opti-Grab caused his eyes to be crossed and his resulting poor vision caused the death of a stunt driver in the film he was directing. Nearly ten million other people have the same vision complaint (including the judge and jury foreman), and are awarded $10 million. Navin sends out each cheque individually and unkindly criticises Marie. She tells him she misses how they were originally, before he got rich. Furious, Navin storms out, picking up random objects from around the room as he goes, saying he doesn’t need anything except this, and this, and this. (The picture used for the film poster and DVD is of Navin holding the random things he picks up during his exit.) He leaves with the words “What do you think I am? Some kind of jerk?”

Navin is now alone and poor, living on the streets. His story now told, he resigns himself to a life of misery and memories of Marie, but to his joy and amazement, she suddenly appears, along with Navin’s family, to take him home. There’s more good news: Having carefully invested the small sums of money he sent home throughout the film, his family have become wealthy themselves. They pick him up off the street, and he and Marie move back home into the Johnsons’ new house — a much larger but identical version of their old, small shack.

The story ends with the entire family dancing on the porch and singing “Pick a Bale of Cotton”, with Navin dancing along, now having gained perfect rhythm

REVIEW:

A few weeks ago, I was watching Freaks and Geeks and they mentioned that The Jerk was the funniest movie of all time. Keep in mind, that show is set in 1979, if I recall correctly. Still, curiosity had me and I tend to like Steve Martin films, so let’s give it a go, shall we?

What is this about?

After discovering he’s not really black like the rest of his family, likable dimwit Navin Johnson (Steve Martin) runs off on a hilarious misadventure in this comedy classic that takes him from rags to riches and back to rags again. The slaphappy jerk strikes it rich, but life in the fast lane isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and, in the end, all that really matters to Johnson is his true love (Bernadette Peters).

What did I like?

Coupling. Usually, unless it is a romantic comedy, I don’t really comment about movie couples. However, Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters were so cute together, it warrants a mention. Both of these characters are a bit on the naïve and innocent side, with Peters being the lesser of the two, and it is that similarity that really causes the spark. Of course, I could be a little partial because she’s a cornet playing cutie.

Glasses. As someone who wears glasses, the opti-grab grabbed me. At first, I laughed at the notion, but then I got to thinking, as I pushed my glasses up, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Obviously, it needs to be a bit cosmetically sound, but I’d buy one. Isn’t it amazing the things you can find in a TV show or movie?

Funny. Unless I’m mistaken, comedies are supposed to make you laugh. With a master comedian like Steve Martin starring, you’re sure to be rolling on the floor laughing on more than one occasion, and that’s exactly what happens. Martin’s lovable Navin Johnson is so inept in these series of misadventures that you can’t help but laugh at the guy.

What didn’t I like?

Misnomer. In the trailers I’ve seen for this film, it appears that Steve Martin is working for a soda shop, which is why I, and most people, figure the title is referring to him being a soda jerk. That is not the case, though. I’m still not sure why it isn’t called something like The Dunce.

Shooter. Early on, there is a shooter, played by M. Emmet Walsh, who just wants to shoot Martin because his name sounds, shall we say, a bit ethnic. Later on in the film, he seems to have reformed. There was a reason given, and I apologize for forgetting it, but it did seems a bit too convenient. I would have preferred they just left him out of the rest of the picture.

So, does The Jerk deserve being called “the funniest film ever made”? I won’t go that far, but this is quite the hilarious film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Do I recommend it? Yes, who doesn’t need a good laugh? Check it out sometime. This is a real classic from the early career of Steve Martin.

4 out of 5 stars

Stoker

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

During her 18th birthday, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) – a girl with a strong acuteness of the senses – has her life turned upside down after her loving father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) dies in a horrific car accident. India is then left with her estranged unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). At Richard’s funeral, Evelyn and India are introduced to Richard’s charming and charismatic brother Charlie (Matthew Goode), who has spent his life traveling the world. He then announces that he is staying indefinitely to help support India and Evelyn, much to Evelyn’s delight and India’s chagrin.

Shortly after Charlie moves in, India witnesses him argue with Mrs. McGarrick (Phyllis Somerville), the head caretaker of the house. Mrs. McGarrick then disappears and is never seen again. Charlie and Evelyn grow closer and intimate while India continues to rebuff Charlie’s attempts to befriend her. Later, India’s great aunt Gwendolyn (Jacki Weaver) arrives to visit the family, much to Evelyn and Charlie’s dismay. At dinner, Gwendolyn grows suspicious of Charlie’s claims of traveling the world and tells Evelyn that she needs to talk to her about Charlie.

Later that night, Gwendolyn changes hotels due to an unexplained fear and suspicion of Charlie. However, she loses her cell phone and tries to call the Stoker home from her hotel payphone. While making her call, Charlie tracks her down and corners her in the phone booth, seeming to be upset. He hands Gwendolyn her phone and then strangles her to death with his belt after explaining that he found her through the cab company. Meanwhile, India goes into the basement to eat ice cream and discovers Mrs. McGarrick’s body in the freezer, realizing that Charlie murdered her, as well.

After India discovers that Charlie is a killer, she unleashes her inner aggression at school and stabs a bully, Chris Pitts (Lucas Till), in the hand with a pencil after he makes sexually derogatory remarks at her about Evelyn. This draws the attention of another classmate, Whip Taylor (Alden Ehrenreich). India goes home and later witnesses Evelyn and Charlie growing intimate and wanders off to a local diner where she runs into Whip. She and Whip go into the woods where they proceed to make out until India aggressively bites Whip. Whip then attempts to rape India until Charlie intervenes, and breaks Whip’s neck with his belt. India then aids Charlie in burying the body in her garden. She then attempts to call Gwendolyn, but hears her phone ring deep in the garden, realizing Charlie killed her, too. India takes a shower and experiences a sexual awakening, masturbating to the memory of the murder, climaxing as she remembers Charlie breaking Whip’s neck.

Later, India goes through Richard’s office to gather things of his she wants to keep. She discovers that a key she received as a birthday present belongs to a locked drawer to Richard’s desk. Inside, she finds several letters from Charlie, which detail his travels. However, India discovers that the letters are all lies after finding the sending address on the back of the envelopes are from a mental institution. India then confronts Charlie who explains the truth: Charlie murdered his and Richard’s younger brother Jonathan as a child because he was jealous that Richard paid more attention to him over Charlie. Charlie was then locked in a mental institution for several years. When released on India’s 18th birthday, Richard gave Charlie a car, a generous amount of money, and an apartment in New York to cut off ties with him and prevent him from meeting India. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Charlie beat Richard to death with a rock and staged the car accident.

At first, India is in shock and angered. However, she seemingly forgives Charlie and grows closer after he provides an alibi for India when Sheriff Howard (Ralph Brown) questions her about Whip’s disappearance. They grow close to intimate before Evelyn witnesses them. Later that evening, Evelyn coldly expresses her desires to watch India suffer before confronting Charlie about how she knows the truth about him. Charlie seduces Evelyn and then attempts to strangle her before India appears and fatally shoots Charlie in the neck with a rifle. She then buries Charlie’s body in the backyard and proceeds to leave for New York in his car.

She is shortly pulled over for speeding by Sheriff Howard, who then asks her why she’s in a hurry. India replies that she wanted to catch his attention, then plunges a pair of garden shears into his neck. India pursues the wounded sheriff into a field to dispatch him with her rifle.

REVIEW:

If you are not familiar with Stoker, you aren’t the only one. The only reason I know anything about it is because of a dvd/Blu-ray review site that I frequent. Please be aware that this has nothing to do with the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker, contrary to everyone’s belief. The name is the only thing that they have in common.

What is this about?

An impressionable teenager grieving for her late father lives with her unstable mother and is bewitched by her enigmatic uncle, who has mysterious motives for his sudden appearance in her life.

What did I like?

Goode. I was really impressed with Matthew Goode’s performance. Some of you may recall him as Ozymandius from The Watchmen. Judging by this performance, I think this is a guy we should keep an eye on. He has a way to pull off these characters that don’t seem to be evil, but are the creepy kind that you know aren’t exactly the good guy. He also was reserved enough, as a character, to fit into this film.

Length. Films like this tend to drag on forever and a day, so I was glad that this was a fairly short picture. Not only that, but it also didn’t seem like it was cut down just to fit into a certain allotted time frame. One can’t really complain about that, now, can they?

What didn’t I like?

Assumption. I know this is a small thing, but with a name like Stoker, you can’t help but think Bram Stoker and because of that, there is an idea that this would have been a kind of supernatural flick, but that is not the case. Is that a bad thing? I can’t really say yes or no, but it is a little disappointing. Maybe they should have thought of changing the name.

Nicole. I have to wonder what kind of favor Nicole Kidman owed these filmmakers, because she seems so out of place. I would imagine it has something to do with using her name to sell the film and all that jazz, but surely they could have done more with her. She has one scene that allows her to flex her acting chops, but the rest of the time, she’s just a typical movie mother who is trying to mend fences with her daughter after the death of her husband.

For me, Stoker just wasn’t a film that I could follow. Up until the shower masturbation scene, I found myself lost and confused. The fact that it took a shot of Mia Wasikowska masturbating to catch my attention is a damn shame and a almost want to say it was a classless move by this film to grab viewers’ attention while changing the persona of her character. Do I recommend it? Eh, I can’t say that, but as a whole, this isn’t a bad film, just not really one that you would rush to watch.

3 out of 5 stars

The Wolverine

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Logan retreats to the Canadian wilderness following the death of Jean Grey and the disbanding of the X-Men, where he is tormented by hallucinations of Jean, whom he was forced to kill, and of the Nagasaki bombing in 1945. One day, after getting into a fight with some hunters, he is located by Yukio, a woman with mutant powers enabling her to see people’s deaths, representing Yashida, the CEO of a technology corporation, who is dying of cancer. Logan saved Yashida’s life during the Nagasaki bombing, and Yashida wants Logan to accompany Yukio to Japan to return the favor.

In Tokyo, Logan meets Yashida’s son Shingen and Shingen’s daughter, Mariko. Yashida offers to conduct a transplant, removing Logan’s immortality and transferring it to himself. Logan refuses and prepares to leave the following day. That night, while Logan dreams of Jean, Yashida’s doctor, the mutant Viper, injects a robotic parasite in Logan’s system, which affects his healing factor. The next morning, Logan is informed that Yashida has died, and attends the funeral, where he saves Mariko from Yakuza assassins with help from Yashida’s associate Kenuichio Harada, a skilled archer and Mariko’s former lover, who still loves her. In the process, Logan is shot and finds out he is not healing as quickly as before.

After fighting more assassins on a bullet train, Logan and Mariko hide in a local hotel. While Mariko sleeps, Logan stands guard outside and experiences another hallucination of Jean before passing out from his injuries. When he awakens, he discovers that Mariko had the hotel owner’s grandson, a veterinarian, stitch him up. Meanwhile, Harada meets with Viper who, after demonstrating her mutant powers on him, demands he finds Logan and Mariko.

Logan and Mariko go to Yashida’s house in Nagasaki. As they slowly fall for each other, Logan slowly starts revealing his past to Mariko. Meanwhile, Yukio has a vision of Logan dying, and goes to warn him. However, she is too late and Mariko is captured. After interrogating one of her kidnappers, Logan goes to confront Mariko’s fiance, corrupt Chief of Justice Noburo Mori, who reveals that Shingen has ordered the kidnapping.

At Yashida Corporation’s headquarters, Shingen reveals Yashida has left Mariko his empire, and prepares to kill her when Harada arrives with his Black Ninja clan and Viper; Harada rescues Mariko, while Viper poisons Shingen. They then take Mariko to a research center based where Yashida was born.

Arriving at Yashida Corporation with Yukio, Logan uses Yashida’s medical technology to locate the parasite and extract it, but appears to die during the operation. Yukio is attacked by Shingen, who prepares to kill her when Logan awakens and intervenes, killing Shingen. Logan and Yukio then follow Harada and Viper to a research center, where Logan is attacked and captured by Harada and his men.

Logan is placed in a machine by Viper, who reveals her plans to extract his immortality and introduces Logan to her associate, the Silver Samurai, who has an adamantium sword and the ability to charge it with energy to increase its cutting power. After talking with Harada, who believes he is protecting her still, Mariko escapes and manages to direct the machine Logan is in into the Silver Samurai’s sword strike, breaking it and freeing him. Harada sees the error of his ways and is killed by the Silver Samurai while helping Logan escape. Meanwhile, Yukio arrives and defeats Viper by hanging her, while Logan fights the Silver Samurai, who cuts off his adamantium claws and begins to extract Logan’s healing abilities, revealing himself to be Yashida, who had faked his death and starts to regain his youth. Mariko intervenes and stabs Yashida with the discarded claws, giving Logan the opportunity to disable the armor with his bone claws and throw Yashida off a cliff before passing out. While unconscious, Logan once again hallucinates about Jean, and finally moves on from her death.

Mariko becomes CEO of Yashida Corporation and bids farewell to Logan as he prepares to leave Japan. Yukio vows to stay by Logan’s side as his bodyguard, and they depart to places unknown.

In a post-credits scene, Logan returns to the United States two years after the events in Japan, and watches an ad for Trask Industries and their advances in the field of robotics before being confronted by Magneto, with his powers restored. Magneto announces that Logan’s help is required to stop a new enemy that threatens to exterminate the mutant race. When Logan inquires why he should trust Magneto, Professor Charles Xavier arrives to reassure him. Logan is surprised to see Xavier alive since he saw Xavier being dissolved into particles, and Xavier reminds Logan that he is not the only one with gifts.

REVIEW:

As I was telling someone a few minutes ago, The Wolverine manages to do what all the other films he has appeared in have failed. The show Wolverine as the brute force of nature he really is. Only the original X-Men has come close to pulling this feat off, but the real question is, how is the film surrounding Logan?

What is this about?

Enigmatic superhero Wolverine travels to the Land of the Rising Sun in this kaleidoscopic battle epic based on the Marvel Comics character. There, Wolverine confronts his long-time adversary Logan in a spectacular battle that rattles the universe.

What did I like?

Story. One of the “holy grail” stories of Wolverine lore is his adventures in Japan. As a matter of fact, the first issue of Wolverine I ever read had him in Singapore (with the grey Hulk) reminiscing about his days in Japan. I bitch, moan, complain, and threaten murder about films that stray from the source material, but, with a few exception that I will touch on in a bit, this stays as close as possible to arguably one of the greatest comic stories ever written and just goes to show you that everything does not need to be changed to make a successful comic book movie.

#1 with a bullet. The bullet train scene is a true highlight of this picture. When I say that, I really mean it. Wolverine is crawling on top of this train going some 300mph while fighting the Yakuza and his healing factor is inhibited. Did I mention all the signs and what not he, and the other guys, have to avoid. It has an accidental comic effect, but the point is, this the best action scene of the film.

Post-credits. About halfway through the credits, there is arguably the best post credits scene that sets up a sequel/franchise that we’ve seen. I won’t spoil it, but I will say it sets up the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which Wolverine, at least in the comics, is a central character.

Ripped. Just like many other straight males that have reviewed this film, I have to comment on Hugh Jackman’s physique. He is in phenomenal shape this go ’round, probably the best he has looked on-screen. Those workout tips from The Rock really helped! I do have to wonder about the toll it took on him personally. I mean, he had to be a bit gaut for Les Miserables, and then super buff for this one. Some guys joked that in the early scenes, it looks as if he went right from being Jean Valjean to Logan, what with the whole grizzly look he had going.

What didn’t I like?

Fatigue. A review I listened to before I saw brought up the topic of how it seems as if every superhero film we see nowadays has the hero not wanting to be a hero anymore. Take a look at Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, he has all but given up being Batman and now we have Wolverine not wanting to do anything but live in a cave. Can’t we get a superhero film that just lets out hero be super and not have them try to give up the hero part of their persona. Hell, even Suoerman was going through this in Man of Steel, and he just got the job!

Differences. For all the faithfulness to the source material, there are a few things that stray. For instance, I don’t recall Viper being a part of this at all. My guess is they brought her in to have a hot blonde in spandex, because she really serves no other purpose. Silver Samurai is actually a mutant, not a suit of armor, and he is one of Wolverine’s greatest foes. Making matters worse, the character that actually is Silver Samurai is in the film as an assassin. Finally, Yukio has some kind of weird power where she sees when people die, they never really explain or show it fully, which she does not posses. Why did they do all this? Your guess is as good as mine, but the fanboy in me is not a fan.

Phoenix. In the timeline of the X-Men franchise, this takes place following X-Men: The Last Stand. I could go total fanboy and say that this is in the wrong part of the timeline, but I won’t. Instead, I want to focus on a couple of characters. First, during the bombing of Japan, unless I’m mistaken, Wolverine was still with Sabretooth at this time, so where was he? Did Live Schreiber not want to come back for a quick cameo? Second, the recurring appearance of Jean Grey was a bit much. Yes, Wolverine had an obsession over her, but that was it. Based on his movie relationships, it would have served better for Kayla Silverfox or, to a lesser extent, Rogue, to have appeared in his dreams. I’m sure there are those that will think otherwise, but that’s my two cents.

Bone claws. Again, not to spoil anything, but we get to see the bone claws again, instead of the adamantium. I’ve never been a fan of those, and never will, but I really am not a fan of how they brought them back. Wolverine is his adamantium claws, whether the studio wants to admit it or not, and by taking that away from him serves no purpose, not to mention deviates from the source material.

Boss battle. When I heard they were going to use Silver Samurai in this, I was uber excited, but that excitement quickly fell by the wayside when I saw that they were only using him as a sort of boss battle at the end, as opposed to an actual character in the story. Also, the battle between the two isn’t necessarily that great. There was too much emphasis on CG and apparent in-your-face 3D (post converted, I think), as opposed to a solid fight. Oh, and don’t get me started on Viper and her random skin shedding.

For some reason, people could not stand X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If you are one of those people, then The Wolverine is sure to remind you how great of a character Wolverine really is. This is a picture that has good and bad, but is much better than its hated predecessor. It starts off slow, but once it gets going, it is off like dirty shirts! I highly recommend you check this out! I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

4  1/4 out of 5 stars