Archive for August 24, 2013

Splitting Heirs

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie centres on the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Bournemouth (England), upon which misfortune has befallen throughout history, leading it to believe itself cursed. The most recent heir, Thomas Henry Butterfly Rainbow Peace, was left in a restaurant as an infant in the 1960s, by the time his parents remembered him, he had disappeared. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, Tommy Patel (Eric Idle) has grown up in an Asian/Indian family in Southall, never doubting his ethnicity despite being taller than anyone else in the house, fair-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned – and not liking curry. From the family corner-shop he commutes to the City, where he works for the Bournemouth family’s stockbroking firm, handling multimillion-pound deals.

He is given the job of acting as host to the visiting American representative of the firm, Henry Bullock (Rick Moranis), who turns out to be the son of the head of the firm, the present Duke; they become friends, and the friendship survives Henry’s becoming the new Duke when his father dies. Circumstantial evidence shows that the true Bournemouth heir is actually Tommy, we see a series of family portraits each of which captures something of Tommy’s facial characteristics, and his Indian mother tells him the story of his adoption. He consults the lawyer who dealt with his adoption, Raoul P. Shadgrind (John Cleese), who says Tommy has no hope of proving his claim, but plants the idea of him obtaining his rightful place in the family by getting Henry out of the way; Shadgrind himself then engineers a variety of ‘accidents’ in the belief that he will share in the spoils as Tommy’s partner. The delightfully complicated love interest comes with Tommy’s and Henry’s (shared at the same time) lover, later the new Duchess (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and their (shared at different times) mother, the dowager Duchess (Barbara Hershey). As befits a classic comedy of errors, the final resolution of everyone’s doubts and misconceptions leaves everyone living “happily ever after – well, for a bit, at least…”

REVIEW:

As a lover of the Monty Python comedy troupe, I’m always looking for other works they’ve done, if for no other reason than to see how they have grown as entertainers since those days. With Splitting Heirs, there is a chance to see Eric Idle (and a little bit of John Cleese) do a little comedic film on their own.

What is this about?

Eric Idle and John Cleese team up in this farce about a lowly bank employee who tries to claim the noble title that is his birthright. Seems there was a switcheroo when Tommy was born, and Tommy was inadvertently substituted with an American baby by his drug-addled mom, the Duchess of Bournemouth. What’s worse, the would-be duke just happens to be Tommy’s best friend, and the Duchess (who’s clueless about Tommy’s real identity) is hot for him!

What did I like?

Brothers. I have to give props to the casting director. Eric Idle and Rick Moranis could pass for long-lost brothers that grew up in different environments. Sure, no one would mistake them for real-life brothers, but remember that this is just a film. The chemistry between the two of them is also something to behold. Sometimes we forget how much of a funnyman Rick Moranis is, I think, since he usually plays lovable losers and sometimes the straight man.

Funny ha ha. As you can imagine when you have a cast of comedians, there are quite a few funny moments. The first half of this film, as well as the scenes with John Cleese are sure to have you rolling on the floor laughing and asking for more. That is not to deny the women in this film, either. Barbara Hershey’s overly slutty character will have you chuckling and/or feeling uncomfortable as you watch her seduce her son.

What didn’t I like?

Forgettable. I hate to say this, but there just is nothing memorable about this film. By the time the credits finish rolling, then you’ll be wondering what happened 10 minutes ago in what you just watched, which is really a shame, but blame the fact that so many similar (and better executed) films have been released that make this seem just plain and humdrum.

Curse. In the opening, we get some info on the Bournemouth curse but, for the rest of the film, it is all but forgotten, save for a couple of mentions in passing. Now, personally, I feel that they could have done more with the curse, both in terms of plot and comedy. Why they didn’t explore it a bit more, is beyond me, other than maybe they didn’t want to turn this into some sort of horror/thriller, perhaps.

Splitting Heirs is a film I selected because I just wanted something funny. Certain people in this house prefer the heavy dramas, so it is nice to get an escape into hilarity. This could have been funnier, yes, but it accomplished what I got it for. Now, having said that, I won’t go so far as to say it is a good film, but there are so many things that it could have done worse and made itself into a bad film. So, do I recommend this? Not really, I found this to be average at best, but it does have some moments. Unfortunately, there are also plot pints that were merely touched on and never expanded upon and that is what hurts this more than anything. So, check this out if you want, but don’t expect greatness.

3 out of 5 stars

The Host

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on August 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the future, the human race has been assimilated by extraterrestrial psychic parasites called “Souls”. Melanie Stryder, a human, is captured by a Seeker (Diane Kruger) and infused with a soul called “Wanderer”, in order to discover the location of one of the last pockets of non-assimilated humans. However, Melanie survives the procedure and begins to struggle for control of her body.

Wanderer discovers that Melanie was captured while scavenging for food with her brother Jamie and her boyfriend Jared Howe, and that they were looking for Melanie’s uncle Jeb, who lives in a cabin in the desert. Wanderer loses control of Melanie and the Seeker decides to be inserted into Melanie to get the information herself. With the help of Melanie, Wanderer escapes and makes her way to the desert, eventually found by a group of humans, including Jeb. She is taken to a series of underground caves, discovering that Jared and Jamie are living there too.

Wanderer is kept isolated from the others, who are hostile towards her because she is seen as another alien, and a potential threat. Eventually, she begins interacting with the humans, who start to slowly trust her, and develops feelings for one of them, Ian O’Shea, all the while beginning to believe the Souls shouldn’t steal other people’s free will. Although Melanie had instructed Wanderer not to tell anyone she is still alive, the survivors learn the truth from Jamie (the only person she was allowed to tell). Meanwhile, The Seeker learns that the community is located somewhere in the desert and follows Wanderer there, but fails to locate them. After nearly being captured by the Seeker, Ian’s brother Kyle attempts to kill Wanderer, but is stopped by Ian and another human, Wes, after which Jared also learns that Melanie is still alive.

Wanderer is horrified to learn that Doc, the community’s medic, has been experimenting on people infused with Souls, removing the Souls from their bodies and killing them, and isolates herself from the group, but agrees to help Jared infiltrate a Soul medical facility to steal technology to cure the ill Jamie. In the process, they are attacked by the Seeker, who is then shot and captured by Jeb. The Seeker is taken to the caves, where she is removed from her host and contained in a pod stolen by Wanderer, who then sends the Seeker to a distant planet.

Wanderer teaches Doc how to remove the Souls from people’s bodies without harming them, and asks to be removed from Melanie’s so Melanie can have her life back. Melanie protests, having bonded with Wanderer, but Doc goes through with the procedure. However, rather than letting Wanderer die, Doc inserts her into Pet (Emily Browning), a human who was left brain-dead after the Soul inside her was removed, thereby ensuring that Wanderer can live without harming another soul. Wanderer, now in Pet’s body, begins a relationship with Ian, while Melanie reunites with Jared. A few months later, Wanderer and the others meet another group of humans who have been joined by Souls who have decided to live peacefully among them.

REVIEW:

Boy, oh boy, oh boy! Stephanie Meyers, author of the greatest literary work ever (note the sarcasm), tries her hand in the sci-fi genre with The Host. Comparisons to the abomination known as The Twilight Saga aside, curiosity does have me wondering what her next project would be and how  it would fare.

What is this abut?

When an alien race implants a parasite soul named Wanderer into Melanie Stryder’s body, she resists the takeover. Soon, Melanie and Wanderer become reluctant allies as they go on a quest to track down the men they love in this sci-fi thriller.

What did I like?

Idea. Say what you will abut how everything plays out, you cannot deny that this is a pretty nice idea. In the hands of a more competent author, I believe we could be looking at the next great sci-fi flick in the same vein as 2001: A Space Odyssey or the Alien franchise. Yes, I went there when talking about a Stephanie Meyer work.

Shiny. Just the other day, I was thinking about Flight of the Navigator, then I saw the vehicles these aliens were driving/flying around in. At first, I was going to criticize the overuse of chrome. Then I thought it is really no worse than the pristine white walls of their buildings and clothes. The use of the chrome seems to be just a way for them to differentiate and separate themselves from the humans.

What didn’t I like?

Love. For some reason, Stephanie Meyers cannot seem to get past the overly dramatic, slow moving (which I will touch on soon), too emotional character whom the audience has no connection to. I say this because the film was actually starting to move along at a decent pace and then we get hit with this love triangle that I guess fits in with what is going on, but also feels like it could have been left out.

Not the dude. William Hurt does a good job with his role. He and Diane Kruger seem to be the only ones with any discernible acting skills in the film. However, for some reason it appears as if he’s doing some weird Jeff Bridges impression and I don’t really know why. If the filmmakers wanted Bridges, they should’ve gotten him. Since they didn’t, then Hurt should’ve just played the character his own way.

Uninteresting. The pacing in the picture is horrific. It is over 2 hrs and feels like 20! I’m all for developing characters and really setting up the story and all, but there comes a time where you just need to get to what the audience came to see say the hell with all this other bs. Someone apparently didn’t give this filmmaker that memo as this could not have been dragged out any longer. I literally felt like I needed t slit my wrists and gouge my eyes out just to feel something other than boredom!

It would be easy to sit here and compare this to those Twilight films because it was written by the same author, but the truth is The Host is something that is different…until it falls back into the trappings of Meyers’ writing. For me, I’m not a fan of seeing my alien invasion films reduced to nothing. This is just a film that is best avoided at all costs. If you want a god alien invasion film, try Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Hell, even the remake will work better than this waste of 2 hrs and 5 minutes that I will never get back.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At Camp Half-Blood, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) meets his half-brother Tyson (Douglas Smith), who is a cyclops. The camp is later attacked by Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), who announces his plans to destroy Mount Olympus. Percy’s mentor Chiron (Anthony Head) discovers that Luke has poisoned the magic tree responsible for the barrier that protects Camp Half-Blood, which Percy learns was created out of Thalia Grace (Paloma Kwiatkowski), daughter of Zeus, who was killed by a cyclops. Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario) finds out that the Golden Fleece could restore the tree, and the camp’s director, Dionysus (Stanley Tucci), sends Clarisse La Rue (Leven Rambin), daughter of Ares and Percy’s rival, to find it. Percy then sets off with Annabeth, Tyson and Grover Underwood (Brandon T. Jackson) to locate the Golden Fleece on his own. Before they leave, the Oracle (Shohreh Aghdashloo) prophesies that a half-blood child of one of the three prime gods will fight Luke, and the half-blood will have the chance to either save Mount Olympus or destroy it. As Percy is the only known half-blood of the three prime gods (Tyson is not a half-blood because he is not half human), he assumes the prophecy must refer to him.

The Graeae (Missi Pyle, Yvette Nicole Brown and Mary Birdsong) give the group the coordinates to the island and leave them in Washington, D.C., where Grover is captured by Luke’s men, who need him to find the Fleece as satyrs are naturally drawn to it. Grover fears the cyclops Polyphemus (Robert Maillet), the creature that guards the Golden Fleece and uses it to lure in satyrs to eat. Percy, Annabeth and Tyson then meet Luke’s father Hermes (Nathan Fillion), who tells them that Luke is in an ocean liner in the Atlantic Ocean called the Andromeda; he asks Percy to apologize on his behalf for being a bad father to Luke. Equipped with gifts of tape that makes things disappear and a thermos of wind from Hermes, Percy, Annabeth and Tyson take a Hippocampus to the Andromeda and end up being captured by one of Luke’s soldiers, the Manticore (Daniel Cudmore), but escape using the magic artifacts. The trio eventually reaches the Sea of Monsters and is swallowed by Charybdis, meeting Clarisse in its stomach. She was given an old Civil War Confederate ironclad from her father to use on her quest, run by a crew of Confederate zombie soldiers, which has been somewhat modernized. They join forces to escape and reach Circeland, an abandoned amusement park above Polyphemus’ lair, where they rescue Grover and retrieve the Golden Fleece before being confronted by Luke, who reveals his plans to use the Golden Fleece to awaken the Titan Kronos (Robert Knepper).

Tyson sacrifices himself to protect Percy from a crossbow bolt fired from Luke, who subsequently steals the Golden Fleece and awakens Kronos. Tyson then returns, having been revived in contact with water, and rescues the others. In the ensuing fight, Luke and Grover are swallowed by Kronos before Percy realizes his magic sword, Riptide, is prophesied to be Kronos’ only weakness. Percy’s sword swing send Kronos’s body back, piece by piece, to the golden coffin which held his remains, and Luke becomes trapped in the hungry Polyphemus’ lair. The Manticore mortally wounds Annabeth before being killed by Grover and Clarisse, and Percy uses the Golden Fleece to revive her.

Returning to Camp Half-Blood, the group uses the Golden Fleece to restore the tree, and are surprised when it revives Thalia and restores her body. While the others celebrate, Percy realizes that perhaps Mount Olympus’ fate might rest on Thalia’s hands, not his.

REVIEW:

Percy Jackson returns to the big screen with Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. For some, like myself, the announcement of this flick has led to pure joy, while others have questioned why it was even made, especially three years following the original film when no one was really clamoring for it. Well, since I’m still working on a project regarding Greek mythology, this is right up my alley.

What is this about?

The epic adventures of Percy Jackson continue as the son of Poseidon and his friends venture into the perilous Sea of Monsters to find the Golden Fleece that has the power to save Camp Half-Blood, safe haven and training ground to the demigods.

What did I like?

Up the ante. As can be expected, the ante was upped in the sequel to 2010s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. With this film, we get bigger set pieces, no origin-itis, and lots more action. If Percy is going to succeed on the big screen, these films will have to continue to grow and give us more of what we ask for, because, if I recall, fans were begging for more action from the first film, and now we got it.

Old and new. All the characters we fell in love with in the first film are back. Well, most of them, anyway, as Pierce Brosnan is replaced, some may argue upgraded, by Anthony Head. Also returning to challenge Percy is Luke, son of Hermes, who now wants to resurrect the titan Kronos and is still suffering from daddy issues. We are also introduced to some new faces, particularly Tyson, Percy’s Cyclops half-brother with a heart of gold and Clarisse, daughter of Ares and an apparently rival to Percy.

Heart and comedy. Some films these days lack that emotional resonance with the audience, but when you have a character like Tyson who is whole heartedly devoted to his half-brother Percy. Sometimes, we just need to see that innocent love put on display. I, for one, was very appreciative that they played tins angle up, not to mention the fact that he was a nice little bit of comic relief. Also bringing in some of the funny was Nathan Fillion’s cameo as Hermes. You’ve seen his scene in the trailer, but he has a line that will have Firefly fans cracking up, plus who better to run UPS than Hermes, messenger of the gods?

Stain glass. Early on, there is a scene that is a bit of a flashback, but it is told using animated stain glass. The animation fan in me was loving this. I wish more films would use this technique. It wasn’t perfect, but it broke up the monotony of the film up to that point.

What didn’t I like?

Departure. I read this book when it first came out and was excited about it coming to the big screen. Unfortunately, it seems as if they strayed so far from the source material that it was nearly unrecognizable, not to mention leaving out and rearranging sections. It is too easy to bring up the age thing, or how the car scene is eerily reminiscent of the one from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but that is just the beginning. There are numerous things out of place from the source material, too many for me to look past.

Fantasy. I don’t know, I just felt like there should have been more of a fantastical element here. At times we got it, like with the chimera, the cyclops’, and the hippocampus, but I just think there could have been so much more. This is a film about the children of Olympian gods who have powers and abilities far beyond that of us mere mortals, let alone the fantastical creatures they can see that we don’t. I guess the filmmakers were thinking too many would have made this “childish” or “immature”. Don’t you hate it when they assume things like that?

Kronos. The great titan and father of the goods, Kronos, makes his first big screen appearance, but I have to question the choice of using him. First of all, he doesn’t appear for another couple of books, if I’m not mistaken. Going even further is the fact that he seems to resemble Hades from the God of War games, in terms of design The worst thing about the guy was his liquid form. I’m a little unclear if this was meant to be because he was still coming together, or if this is another power he had. Whatever the case may be, the CG wasn’t that great. As a matter of fact, he looked a bit pedestrian. For such an imposing figure, they could have done so much better with him.

Golden fleece. So, if something has golden in the name, such as the golden fleece, doesn’t it make sense that it should be gold? So, why is the golden fleece that they use to resurrect Kronos and heal Thalia a piece of fabric with a pattern on it. If this is to keep it in the modern world, fine, but, like I said, it’s called the golden fleece for a reason! Some may say it is cheesy, but at least in Jason and the Argonauts, the fleece is actually gold and…um…fleecy!

Please don’t get me wrong. I really did enjoy Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters for what it is, which is a decent fantasy flick. I even enjoyed the 3D *GASP*, because they actually did it right and threw things at the screen, which is more or less the reason for 3D, right? I don’t think it is any secret that they want this to be the next Harry Potter type franchise. If they want this to happen, then they need to tighten up the script and give us better visuals. That being said, this is still a highly enjoyable film, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

4 out of 5 stars