Archive for September, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on September 29, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nick Carraway, a Yale University graduate and World War I veteran, is staying in a sanatorium to treat his alcoholism. He talks about a man named Gatsby, describing him as the most hopeful man he had ever met. When he struggles to articulate his thoughts, his doctor, Walter Perkins, suggests writing it down, since writing is Nick’s true passion.

In the summer of 1922, Nick moves from the U.S. Midwest to New York, where he takes a job as a bond salesman after giving up on writing. He rents a small house on Long Island in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious business magnate who holds extravagant parties. Nick drives across the bay to East Egg for dinner at the home of his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, a college acquaintance of Nick’s. They introduce Nick to Jordan Baker, a cynical young golfer with whom Daisy wishes to couple Nick.

Jordan reveals to Nick that Tom has a mistress who lives in the “valley of ashes,” an industrial dumping ground between West Egg and New York City. Not long after this revelation, Nick travels with Tom to the valley, where they stop by a garage owned by George Wilson and his wife, Myrtle, who is Tom’s lover that Jordan mentioned. Nick goes with Tom and Myrtle to an apartment that they keep for their affair, where Myrtle throws a vulgar and bizarre party with her sister Catherine, that ends with Tom breaking Myrtle’s nose as she taunts him about Daisy.

As the summer progresses, Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Upon arriving, he learns that none of the guests at the party, though there are hundreds, have ever met Gatsby himself, and they have developed multiple theories as to who he is: A German spy, a prince, even an assassin. Nick encounters Jordan, and they meet Gatsby, who is surprisingly young and rather aloof, in person. Towards the end of the party, Gatsby’s butler informs Jordan that Gatsby wishes to speak with her privately.

Gatsby seems to take a liking to Nick, inviting him out for numerous occasions. Their friendship furthers when Gatsby takes Nick out to lunch with his friend Meyer Wolfshiem, a gambler who fixed the 1919 World Series, where Nick learns that Gatsby was born to very wealthy people that have already passed away. During the lunch, they run into Tom, Gatsby appearing uncomfortable throughout the exchange. Through Jordan, Nick later learns that Gatsby had a relationship with Daisy in 1917, and is still madly in love with her, throwing his extravagant and wild parties in the hopes that she will one day appear at his doorstep. On most nights, he can be seen reaching out across the bay to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He now wants Nick to arrange a reunion between him and Daisy. Nick invites Daisy to have tea at his house, without telling her that Gatsby will be there as well.

After a rather awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy begin an affair. Gatsby is rather dismayed to learn that Daisy wants to run away from New York with him, his initial plan being for them to live in his mansion. Nick tries to explain to Gatsby that the past cannot be repeated, but he dismisses the remark, claiming that it most certainly can be. Trying to keep the affair a secret, he fires a majority of his servants and discontinues the parties. Eventually, he phones Nick and ask that he and Jordan accompany him to the Buchanans’, where they plan to tell Tom that Daisy is leaving him. Nick is hesitant at first, but Gatsby insists that they need him.

During the luncheon, Tom becomes increasingly suspicious of Gatsby when he sees him staring at Daisy with such passion. Gatsby begins to announce their love when Daisy stops him, and suggests they all go into town. Everyone leaves for the Plaza, Tom driving Gatsby’s car with Nick and Jordan while Gatsby and Daisy take Tom’s car. Out of gas, Tom stops at George and Myrtle’s garage, where George tells him he plans to move him and wife out west, much to Tom’s concern.

At the Plaza, Gatsby finally tells Tom that he and Daisy are together, claiming that she never loved him. Outraged, Tom begins to accuse Gatsby of bootlegging alcohol and conducting other illegal endeavors with Meyer Wolfshiem, explaining how Gatsby earned so much money. Pushed to his breaking point, Gatsby screams in rage at Tom, frightening Daisy. She asks to leave and goes with Gatsby, this time in his car. Nick realizes that it is his thirtieth birthday.

Later that night, Myrtle manages to flee from her husband, rushing out onto the street. She sees Gatsby’s yellow car approaching and runs toward it, believing the driver to be Tom after seeing him in the same car earlier. She is struck and killed. Afterwards, Tom, Nick, and Jordan stop by the garage when they see a large crowd has gathered. There, they learn of Myrtle’s death. Tom tells George, her widowed husband, that the yellow car belongs to Gatsby.

When they get back to East Egg, Nick finds Gatsby lingering outside the Buchanans’ mansion, where Gatsby reveals that Daisy had been the one who was driving, though he intends to take the blame. In spite of everything, Gatsby is convinced that Daisy will call him the next day. At Gatsby’s mansion, he also tells Nick that he was born penniless, and his real name is James Gatz. In the morning, Nick leaves for work while Gatsby decides to go for a swim before his pool is drained for the season. While swimming, he hears the phone ring, and believes it to be Daisy. He climbs out of the pool while his butler answers the call, looking out across the bay at Daisy’s house with anticipation. He is abruptly shot and killed by George, who then turns the gun on himself. It is revealed that it is Nick on the phone, who stays on the line long enough to hear the two gunshots.

When Nick calls the Buchanans to invite Daisy to Gatsby’s funeral, he learns that she, Tom, and their daughter are leaving New York. The funeral is attended only by reporters and photographers, who Nick angrily chases out. The media accuses Gatsby of being the lover and eventual murderer of Myrtle, leaving Nick as the only one who knows the truth. Disgusted with both the city and its people, he leaves New York. He takes a final walk through Gatsby’s deserted mansion, standing out on the dock for the last time. Back in the sanatorium, he finishes his memoir and titles it “Gatsby”, but not long before adding to it with pen, ultimately titling it “The Great Gatsby”.

REVIEW:

One of the best known works of American literature is The Great Gatsby. Baz Lurhman has taken the immortal story and giving it his own unique style. We’ve seen his genius at work before in Moulin Rouge, but will that work with more serious material?

What is this about?

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as literary icon Jay Gatsby in this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. Fascinated by the mysterious, affluent Gatsby, his neighbor Nick Carraway bears witness to the man’s obsessive love and spiral into tragedy

What did I like?

Casting. Back in the 20s, beauty wasn’t the same as it is today, or even in the 30s and 40s. Every now and then there are some in Hollywood that have that classic look. Carey Mulligan perfectly embodies that waif-like, beautiful flapper look that was the standard of beauty. Also, Leonard DiCaprio has that look that was popular among males, but he seems to be able to pull off that look no matter what he’s in, especially these period pieces.

When to say when. Director Lurhman was smart enough to make sure that his style is seen, but not overdone. I believe many thought this was going to end being a spiritual sequel to Moulin Rouge, which it isn’t. Sure, the beginning has that style and you kind of get the feeling that Tobey Macguire’s character is filling the role of Ewan McGregor, but eventually, that style is tossed by the wayside and we get into more of a serious drama. Fret not, though, we do get some visually stunning scenes as the film progresses.

Changes. I’m not too familiar with this novel, having not read it, but I can say with confidence that things were changed. Did those changes affect the story and/or stick out as added material? I can’t say for certain, but it doesn’t seem that way to me. People that actually have knowledge of the book may feel differently, however.

What didn’t I like?

Isla. We can all agree that Isla Fisher is a gorgeous creature, I think. For whatever reason, though, they decided to ugly her up to unrecognizable levels. If this was done so she can get attention as a serious actress, that’s fine, but she’s on-screen for maybe a total o 5 minutes, including her time as a dead body!

Shift. It is my understanding that this is a pretty serious novel, so why am I so shocked that the film goes that route once it gets its footing? I can’t really tell you. Perhaps it is because the trailers and advertisements made this film seem so fun and lighthearted, you would never expect it to be so heavy.

Music.  *SIGH* Where do I begin with this one? How about I ponder the rationale for putting rap music in a film set in the 20s. WTF?!? Let me make this point clear. I don’t hate rap, although it isn’t my cup of tea, but it really had no place here. In Django Unchained, they randomly insert rap songs and it didn’t work there, either. Granted, this could have been just about any genre and it wouldn’t have worked for this film, but they took a slightly newer song, Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love”, gave it the 20s sound, and it works! Why is it that whenever rappers are given the undeserving honor of producing film soundtracks they feel they have to make it modern? What is about this film makes you think anything is modern? As far as the non-rap music that actually was a part of tis time period, I applaud them for choosing, as I do with the Beyoncé chart, everything else was just so badly misplaced, that is seriously affects my rating!

When The Great Gatsby was released in theaters, I chose not to see it, but my good friend Sarah told me I should. Scheduling didn’t allow for that to happen, but I am actually glad I chose to add this to Netflix (originally I wasn’t going to). Contrary to what some may say, this is actually a really good film. I question the fact that it was released in the summer, as it plays like it could be a contender for award season, as opposed to a summer blockbuster. All that said, I surprisingly enjoyed this picture and, music rant notwithstanding, I highly recommend it, so check it out!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Guilt Trip

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on September 29, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Andy Brewster (Seth Rogen) is an inventor attempting to get his organic cleaning product, ScioClean, in a major retail store. However, each retail store he visits dismisses him before he can end his pitch. After a disappointing sales pitch to K-Mart, he visits his mother, Joyce Brewster (Barbra Streisand), in New Jersey before leaving on a cross-country trip to Las Vegas, lying to her that his pitch ended well so she won’t worry about him. While there she reveals to him that he was named after a boy she fell in love with in Florida named Andrew Margolis, whom she hoped would object to her marriage with Andy’s father. However, he never did and she felt that she never mattered to him afterwards. After a little research, he finds Andrew Margolis is still alive and unmarried living in San Francisco. He invites his unknowing mother on the trip, claiming he wants to spend some time with her.

The road trip quickly becomes hard for Andy as his mother continues to intervene in his life. After their car breaks down in Tennessee Joyce calls Andy’s ex-girlfriend Jessica (Yvonne Strahovski) (who Joyce insists Andy should get back together with) to pick them up. At a pregnant and married Jessica’s house she reveals that Andy proposed to her before college and she turned him down, shocking Joyce, who believed Andy had trouble proposing to women. Andy is glum afterward and Joyce apologizes for calling Jessica, which Andy half-heartedly accepts. In Texas Andy has a meeting with Costco executive Ryan McFeer (Brandon Keener) however Joyce stays at the meeting and criticizes the products bottling and name along with Ryan to the point that Andy snaps at him, saying “I’m not changing the goddamn label Ryan!” At the motel that night a depressed Andy begins drinking and Joyce attempts to make up with him however Andy snaps at her, only to have Joyce snap back and leave for a nearby bar. Later Andy attempts to retrieve his mother but gets in a fight with a bar patron who attempts to stop her from leaving, receiving a black eye in the process. At a steak restaurant the next day the two exchange apologies and Andy reveals that he is failing at selling ScioClean. Joyce enters a steak eating challenge where she is noticed by cowboy-styled businessman Ben Graw (Brett Cullen), who gives her tips on eating and helps her finish the challenge. Afterwards he reveals he does a lot of business in New Jersey and asks her to dinner. Joyce, who has never been in a relationship after Andy’s dad died when he was eight, balks at the offer so Ben merely leaves his number and asks her to call if she reconsiders. Andy and Joyce begin to genuinely enjoy each other’s company after, taking time out of their trip to visit the Grand Canyon (which Joyce has always wanted to visit) and having many other adventures.

At Las Vegas Joyce has such a good time that she asks Andy to leave her while he visits San Francisco, forcing him to reveal that there is no sales pitch in San Francisco and he only invited her to get her to meet Andrew Margolis. Joyce is very distraught as she believed Andy invited her because he actually wanted to spend time with her. He goes to make his pitch at the Home Shopping Network but finds that his science-fact based pitch bores the network’s executives and makes them uninterested. He then sees Joyce in the filming crew and takes her advice by appealing to the Network’s host family safety and drinking his own product, proving that it is organic and safe for children. Afterwards the Network CEO approaches him and shows genuine interest in selling ScioClean on the Network. After a jubilant Andy and Joyce decide to visit Andrew Margolis’s house. However when they arrive they are informed by Andrew’s son, Andrew Margolis Jr. (Adam Scott) (whom Andy mistakenly researched instead of the father) that his father died five years ago. After seeing Joyce’s grief he invites them inside, where he learns that his father and Joyce were close. She asks if Andrew’s father ever mentioned her, but he says he never did as he only confided personal information to their mother, who is away. However he then introduces his sister (Ari Graynor), who is named Joyce after Andy’s mom. Joyce is overjoyed by this as she had previously stated her belief that you name your children after someone you cherished and want to remember. This shatters her belief that she didn’t matter to Andrew and makes her overjoyed. Afterwards they part ways at the LAX Airport; Andy to make his next sales pitch and Joyce back to New Jersey, where she arranges a date with Ben Graw. The two leave content and much closer than they had been.

REVIEW:

I think it is the fear of every offspring to be trapped in a car with their parents, let alone on a road trip cross-country! That fear comes to fruition for one man in The Guilt Trip, a play on words of the popular term that many of our parents give to us everytime we call home, but then again, that could just be me.

What is this about?

After Andy Brewster invents a fabulous new organic cleaner, he goes on a cross-country road trip to promote it. His mother, Joyce, comes along for the ride but soon discovers that her son has an ulterior motive: fixing her up with a long-lost flame.

What did I like?

Reasoning. I’ll admit it, I’m a mama’s boy. No shame in that! I’ll do anything for my maternal unit. It warmed my heart to see the reason this guy was taking his mother on a cross-country road trip, to reunite her with the one that got away. Basically, he sacrificed his sanity to attempt at bringing his mother happiness, despite the ulterior motive of getting rid of her, which brings a smile to my face.

Barbara. How can anyone not like Streisand? This may be a bit of an annoying character, but for some strange reason, she’s lovable. Credit part of that to Barbara’s acting ability. She is able to take a character that we, the audience, should detest and despise and make her someone we care about. It takes a real talent to accomplish that feat, without diluting the character.

Woman vs. food. I love the Travel Channel show Man vs. Food. There is just something satisfying about the challenge of 1 man vs these giant food challenges. While they are passing through Texas, Streisand’s character take on the challenge of a 4 lb steak, with all the comes with is. Being a smaller,  older woman it was really quite insane to see her take that challenge, let alone win it! It didn’t really have anything to do with the plot, except she met a man.

What didn’t I like?

Seth. I tend to like Seth Rogen’s roles, but this didn’t resonate with me. Perhaps that has something to do with his constant not so silent protests. Rogen is allowed a little leeway, as is mother is quite the nag, but there comes a point where you remember to respect the woman who gave birth to you.

Nag. As the stereotypical Jewish mom, Barbara shines. However, making her this big of a nag may have been a bit overkill, at least as far as I’m concerned. Not much change is needed to this character, perhaps just pull her back a wee bit and it would be that much better. Instead, I was a little put off by the constant nagging. Was she a mother or a wife?

Tawk. Anyone out there remember “Coffee Tawk” from the Mike Myers generation of Saturday Night Live? Well, it was brought to my attention that this has a lot of SNL people working on it, which leads me to wonder if perhaps this was meant to perhaps be a film for her, complete with a more fabulous Barbara Streisand. Thinking about that, I’m not too sure which is worse, what we have or what could have been.

The Guilt Trip is one of those films meant to make you laugh at awkward situations. There isn’t a more awkward sitch than road tripping with your mother. Having said that, this film, like parents, had flaws and was a bit much in parts, but was still good, yeah good. Would I recommend it? Eh, not so much, but I won’t dissuade you from watching, either.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Lord of the Rings (1978)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Early in the Second Age of Middle-earth, elven smiths forged nine Rings of Power for mortal men, seven for the Dwarf-Lords, and three for the Elf-Kings. At the same time, the Dark Lord Sauron made the One Ring to rule them all after learning the secrets of how to forge them from the Elves of Hollin—a deviation from Tolkien’s work in which Sauron taught ring lore to the Elves and forged all the rings except the three Elvish rings. As the Last Alliance of Elves and Men fell, the Ring fell into the hands of Prince Isildur from across the sea, and after Isildur was killed by orcs, the Ring lay at the bottom of the river Anduin. Over time, Sauron captured the nine Rings made for men and turned their owners into the Ringwraiths, terrible beings who roamed the world searching for the One Ring. The Ring was found by a Stoor named Déagol, whose friend, Sméagol, murdered him and stole it for himself. The Ring warped Sméagol into a twisted, gurgling wretch known only as Gollum (Peter Woodthorpe), and he wandered with it to a cave in the Misty Mountains. Hundreds of years later, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Norman Bird) accidentally discovered his “precious” Ring and took it back with him to the Shire.

Years later, during Bilbo’s birthday celebrations in the Shire, the wizard Gandalf (William Squire) tells him to leave the Ring for Frodo Baggins (Christopher Guard). Bilbo agrees, and leaves the Shire. Seventeen years pass, during which Gandalf learns that the Shire is in danger: evil forces have discovered that the Ring is in the possession of a Baggins. Gandalf meets with Frodo to explain the Ring’s history and the danger it poses to all of Middle-earth. Frodo leaves his home, taking the Ring with him.

He is accompanied by three hobbit friends, Pippin (Dominic Guard), Merry (Simon Chandler), and Sam (Michael Scholes). After a narrow escape from the Ringwraiths pursuing them, the hobbits eventually come to Bree, where they meet Aragorn (John Hurt), who is first introduced to them as Strider, a friend of Gandalf’s, who leads them the rest of the way to Rivendell. Frodo is stabbed atop Weathertop mountain by the chief of the Ringwraiths with a knife imbued with evil magic. Part of the knife stays inside him, and he gets sicker as the journey progresses. The Ringwraiths catch up with them shortly after they meet the elf Legolas (Anthony Daniels), and at a standoff at the ford of Rivendell, the Ringwraiths are swept away by the enchanted river. At Rivendell, Frodo is healed by its lord, Elrond. He meets Gandalf again, held captive by his fellow wizard Saruman (Fraser Kerr), who plans to join with Sauron but also wants the Ring for himself. Bilbo, Gandalf, and the others argue about what should be done with the One Ring, and Frodo volunteers to go to Mordor, where the Ring can be destroyed. Frodo sets off from Rivendell with eight companions: Gandalf; Aragorn; Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor (Michael Graham Cox); Legolas; Gimli the dwarf (David Buck); and Frodo’s original three hobbit companions.

Their attempt to cross the Misty Mountains is foiled by heavy snow, and they are forced to take a path under the mountains via Moria. Moria was an ancient dwarf kingdom, but is now full of orcs and other evil creatures, and Gandalf falls into an abyss while battling a balrog. The remaining eight members of the Fellowship continue through the elf-haven Lothlórien, but Boromir tries to take the Ring from Frodo. Frodo decides to leave the others behind and continue his quest alone, although faithful Sam insists on accompanying him.

Boromir is killed by orcs while trying to defend Merry and Pippin. They are captured by the orcs, who intend to take them to Isengard through the land of Rohan. The hobbits escape and flee into Fangorn forest, where they meet Treebeard (John Westbrook), a huge tree-like creature. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas find Merry and Pippin; they find small footprints and follow them into Fangorn Forest. There, they find Gandalf, whom they believed had died in the mines of Moria. The four ride to Rohan’s capital, Edoras, where Gandalf persuades King Théoden (Philip Stone) that his people are in danger. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas then travel to the defensive fortification Helm’s Deep.

Frodo and Sam, meanwhile, discover Gollum stalking them, and capture him. Frodo pities him, and lets him live in return for guidance to Mount Doom. Gollum promises to lead them to a secret entrance to Mordor. At Helm’s Deep, Théoden’s forces struggle to resist an onslaught of orcs sent by Saruman. Gandalf arrives the next morning with the Riders of Rohan just in time, destroying the orc army.

REVIEW:

Before Peter Jackson created his cinematic version of Tolkien’s masterpiece, Ralph Bakshi brought us the animated version, with his own flare, of The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve ever been looking for a film version of this that is as close to the source material as possible, this is what you’re looking for.

What is this about?

The magical world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy comes to life in this animated tale. Frodo possesses the all-powerful ring sought by the evil Sauron of Mordor. Frodo must bear the awful burden of the ring to a place where it may be destroyed, thus ensuring the safety of Middle Earth. Helped by the mighty wizard Gandalf, his fellow hobbits, elves, dwarfs and other Middle Earth creatures, Frodo embarks on his dangerous adventure.

What did I like?

Faithful. I am one of those people who is all about being faithful to the source material, so the fact that this film didn’t stray very far from Tolkien’s books. I know many people swear by Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but truth be told they are almost something totally different. Bakshi did it right, why didn’t Jackson follow suit?

Animation. Ralph Bakshi has a certain style to his animation. Couple that with the trend of heavy lines and sci-fi elements such as The Black Cauldron, and you’ll be blown away. I was really interested to see how he merged his animation with live action for a distinctive and effective look. Seeing different styles of animation is a treat for me, especially considering how different this film is from other Bakshi films such as Fritz the Cat and the early 90s Saturday morning cartoon, The Adventures of Mighty Mouse.

Character design. Although the current Gollum is more recognizable, the version from this film is a cult favorite. I was watching Toy Hunter the other day and a figurine of him went for thousands of dollars, meaning that this guy is quite popular. Aside from him, though the other characters are quite interesting with exaggerated features such as the jovial look of Legolas, Native American skin tone of Aragorn, the stop motion look of Sam, and the huge eyes of Galadriel.

What didn’t I like?

Abrupt. The ending was very rushed. I’ve heard talk that they originally envisioned this as a true trilogy, but Bakshi got burned out. If that is the case, then fine, but it still didn’t have to be as abrupt as the finale of The Sopranos! Where was the thought and genius that made this film work so well up until then?

Balrog. Perhaps I’m a little spoiled by the Peter Jackson version, but I expected something more fantastic and impressive when it came time to see the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog. Instead we get something on par with Bugs Bunny vs Wil E. Coyote. This is such a pivotal moment in the film, and they just pissed all over it.

Fellowship. I didn’t feel as if the film gave us a true understanding of the growing fellowship between all our heroes. Realizing that isn’t fully realized until later in the trilogy, I still would have liked to have seen more seeds of respect and friendship planted, instead of just being the random characters they are portrayed here.

The Lord of the Rings is a cult classic, of that there is no question. However, I wonder if it really is worth that status. Granted, I am not really a fan of Tolkien’s books, but this just wasn’t worth the 2 hr run time. Perhaps, if they would have had a more complete trilogy, it would have worked better for me. Having said that, it isn’t totally horrible, but I felt it could be better. Yes, I’ll recommend it, but not highly.

3 out of 5 stars

A Date with Judy

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The big high school dance in Santa Barbara is coming up. Judy Foster (Jane Powell) expects boyfriend “Oogie” Pringle to be her escort, but he declines. Meanwhile, Oogie’s sister, sophisticated senior Carol Pringle (Elizabeth Taylor), has booked famous bandleader Xavier Cugat and his orchestra for the dance.

Cugat’s lady friend, Rosita Cochellas (Carmen Miranda), is a dance instructor. She is secretly giving rumba lessons to Judy’s dad, Melvin Foster (Wallace Beery), who wants to surprise his wife with a dance for their upcoming wedding anniversary.

Soda shop owner Pop Scully (Lloyd Corrigan) introduces a disappointed Judy to his handsome nephew Stephen I. Andrews (Robert Stack), who volunteers to take Judy to the dance, even though he’s considerably older. Judy finds him dreamy, and having Stephen as her date definitely makes Oogie jealous.

Stephen, however, falls for the beautiful Carol instead. This is annoying to Judy, as is her discovery that her dad is seeing Rosita behind her mother’s back, presumably carrying on a romantic affair. Misunderstandings abound, including Rosita trying to explain the situation to her boyfriend, Cugat.

REVIEW:

Contrary too popular belief, A Date with Judy is not about scoring a date with Judy Garland, though she was quite popular at this time, I believe. This forgotten treasure of classic cinema is sure to take you back to your high school years and the fears of asking out and/or being rejected by the guy/girl you liked.

What is this about?

Teenage best pals Judy (Jane Powell) and Carol (Elizabeth Taylor) find their friendship put to the test when they both fall for the same suave fellow (Robert Stack) in this breezy musical comedy. Meanwhile, Judy’s on a sleuthing mission to find out if her father (Wallace Beery) is having an affair with a gorgeous rumba dancer (Carmen Miranda).

What did I like?

Music, maestro, please. I swear I grew up in the wrong era! This film has a student conducted jazz band performing at the dance. You have no idea what I would have given to have done something like that back in my day…with or without a lovestruck vocalist. Of course, if memory serves, our dances were all done by a dj anyway, so live music, especially big band stuff, was out of the question. Still, the idea is in my head now and thoughts of what could have been are sure to run rampant.

Betty. My God! Elizabeth Taylor was gorgeous, wasn’t she? This is one of her earliest films, and she is quite young, but that beauty is well on display. Aside from her Venus-like beauty, Taylor doesn’t do too bad as the antagonist, if you will, of this film. The first time we see here, she’s decked out in the blue ball gown, and all I could think of is how much she looks like a porcelain version of Betty Rubble.

Seamless. The majority of the film focuses on the kids, no doubt, but the adults are not forgotten, either. As a matter of fact, there is even a subplot involving the parents’ anniversary which brings everything back around full circle, giving each character a story arc of their own, rather than just be some random character that happens to exist.

What didn’t I like?

Length. A common problem have with these classic musicals, especially the more comedic ones is that they tend to be a bit too long. I feel as if this film would have greatly benefited from a shorter runtime, as there were moments all over the place that could have easily been taken out and no one would know the difference.

Cugat. Xavier Cugat was quite the entertaining bandleader of the time. He is responsible for mentoring Desi Arnaz and became the joke of quite a few of episodes of I Love Lucy, I’m not really a fan of how he was used as a cameo at the end of the film to give Carmen Miranda’s character a love interest. Why couldn’t he just be Cugat and lead his band? It worked for Harry James in Bathing Beauty, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

Powell. Jane Powell may have been the cute girl next door, but I wasn’t impressed with her and wasn’t a fan of her character. To me, she came off quite fickle, and it is no wonder she ended the film the way she did. I can make a case for getting someone else, but there is some reason they chose her.

A Date with Judy is ok, but not great. It is worth watching for the music and the porcelain beauty of Elizabeth Taylor. I don’t have much to say about this other than that, so give it a shot if you get the chance, but don’t feel as if you need to.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Top Gun

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

United States Naval Aviator Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) flies a F-14A Tomcat off USS Enterprise (CVN-65), with Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards) as his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). At the start of the film, Maverick and his wingman “Cougar” (John Stockwell), intercept MiG-28s over the Indian Ocean. During the standoff, one of the MiGs manages to get a missile lock on Cougar. Maverick realizes that the MiG is only trying to intimidate Cougar and drives it off, but Cougar is too shaken afterward to land. Maverick defies orders and shepherds Cougar back to the carrier as both planes run critically low on fuel. After they land, Cougar retires (“turns in his wings”), stating that he has been holding on “too tight” and has lost “the edge”, almost orphaning his newborn child, whom he has never seen. Although disapproving of Maverick’s reckless flying and repeated violations of rules, the Enterprise’s CAG “Stinger” (James Tolkan) sends Maverick and Goose—now his top crew—to attend the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School, known as “Top Gun”, at NAS Miramar.

Maverick flies recklessly partly because of his father, Duke Mitchell, a Naval Aviator with the VF-51 squadron aboard the USS Oriskany (CV-34) during the Vietnam War. The elder Mitchell died on November 5, 1965, when his Phantom was shot down. The official story, which Maverick refuses to believe, is that Duke made a mistake. Goose is much more cautious and devoted to his wife, Carole (Meg Ryan), and child. The two officers are nonetheless close friends and effective partners, with Maverick considering Goose as his only family. At a bar the day before the Top Gun program starts, Maverick, assisted by Goose, unsuccessfully approaches a woman named Charlotte “Charlie” Blackwood (Kelly McGillis) by singing “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. He learns the next day that Charlie is a civilian contractor described as having a Ph.D. in Astrophysics and serving as a Top Gun instructor.

Maverick’s reckless flying both annoys and impresses Lieutenant Commander Rick “Jester” Heatherly (Michael Ironside) and other instructors. He defeats Jester in combat, but violates two rules of engagement in the process and is strongly reprimanded by the chief instructor, Commander Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerritt). Maverick continues to pursue Charlie and becomes a rival to top student Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kasansky (Val Kilmer)—who considers Maverick’s methods dangerous and unsafe. Although outwardly critical of Maverick’s tactics, Charlie eventually admits that she admires his flying but was critical because she was afraid for her credibility. They begin a romantic relationship.

During one flight, Maverick breaks off from his wingman “Hollywood” to go one-on-one with Viper, described as “the finest fighter pilot in the world”. Although Maverick matches the older pilot move for move, Viper lasts long enough for Jester—who has defeated Hollywood off-screen—to maneuver around and “shoot” Maverick down, demonstrating the value of teamwork over individual ability.

Near the end of the program, Maverick and Iceman both chase Jester, the latter attempting to gain a missile lock on the target. Under intense pressure from Maverick, Iceman breaks off. Maverick’s F-14 flies through the jet wash of Iceman’s aircraft and suffers a flameout of both engines, entering a flat spin from which he cannot recover, forcing both Maverick and Goose to eject. Goose ejects directly into the jettisoned aircraft canopy, which breaks his neck, killing him.

Although the board of inquiry clears Maverick of responsibility, he feels guilty for Goose’s death, losing his aggressiveness when flying. Charlie and others attempt to console him, but Maverick considers leaving the Navy. Unsure of his future, he seeks Viper’s advice. Viper reveals that he served with Maverick’s father and discloses classified details over his last mission, explaining how Duke stayed in the fight after his Phantom was hit and saved three planes before he died. Information about the dogfight was classified to avoid revealing that the American planes were not where they should have been.

During the graduation party, Iceman, Hollywood, and Maverick are ordered to immediately report to the Enterprise to deal with a “crisis situation”, providing air support for the rescue of a stricken communications ship, the SS Layton, that has drifted into hostile waters. Maverick and Merlin are assigned to one of two F-14s as back-up for those flown by Iceman and Hollywood, despite Iceman’s reservations over Maverick’s state of mind. In the subsequent hostile engagement with six MiGs, Hollywood is shot down but he and his RIO, Wolfman, manage to eject safely. Maverick is sortied alone due to catapult failure and nearly retreats after encountering circumstances similar to those that caused Goose’s death. Upon rejoining Iceman, they shoot down four MiGs and force the others to flee, and return to the Enterprise, where the two men, with newfound respect for each other, finally become friends. Offered any assignment he chooses, Maverick decides to return to Top Gun as an instructor, to which Stinger jokingly expresses horror. Later, he is seen tossing Goose’s dogtags into the ocean, suggesting that he is finally free of his guilt over Goose’s death.

Sitting alone in a restaurant in downtown San Diego, Maverick hears “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” playing on the jukebox and recalls meeting Charlie. She reveals that she is in the bar and the two reunite.

REVIEW:

Let’s take a trip back in time shall we. It’s the mid to late 80s and a father has just purchased a brand new VCR for is family. He then goes out to get a membership at a video rental place. Being a military man, of course he seeks out something somewhat military themed. What was that film, you may ask? Well, it was Top Gun. Yes, the first film my family watched in our VCR was Top Gun (followed by Do the Right Thing and something my sister was dying to see). Amazingly, after all these years, I found that I still have a grand fondness for this picture.

What is this about?

Tom Cruise stars as a hotshot flyboy who struggles to control himself, responsibility and a steamy love affair while competing at the U.S. Navy’s fighter-weapons school, better known as Top Gun. Anthony Edwards plays his loyal co-pilot.

What did I like?

Flight. Say what you will about Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, it is the planes and the flying scenes that are the real stars of this film. I remember watching this as a kid and wanting to be a pilot. Of course, a crippling fear of heights and flying kept that dream from coming true, but I still love watching airshows and dogfights in the air. Perhaps that is why I am one of the few that really enjoyed Red Tails.

Brothers. The camaraderie between Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards’ characters is very tight, but considering how they’re in a confined space and need to literally be able to trust each other with their lives, it makes sense. I really appreciated how we got to learn more and more about these guys and their relationship as the film progresses, culminating in one of those “calm before the storm” scenarios, as I like to call them, where everything is perfect and then something goes horribly wrong. That thing that went wrong was the death of “Goose”. Perhaps the singular most powerful scene in the whole film, his death left a void that the audience never recovers from, due to its tragic nature.

Keep going. The acting here isn’t that great to be honest, but that’s in comparison to what these actors have gone on to become big stars, especially Cruise. I wonder if they all watch this at some point and see how young, rough around the edges, and skinny they all were.

What didn’t I like?

Volleyball. Alright, I’ll admit the volleyball scene wasn’t meant for my sex. That was eye candy all for the ladies. Even the song that is playing, Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys”, seems to be aimed at the female species. I don’t fault the film for that, and I know that had those been girls out there, they would have had my undivided attention. Having said that, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, especially the slow motion that they put it through and the random flexing that “Slider” was doing.

Daddy issues. What is it with Tom Cruise and playing these roles where he has a well known military dad that has mysteriously disappeared. If I’m not mistaken, that was the case with A Few Good Men. At any rate, his dad is mentioned twice, but only once do we know that he has mysterious circumstances surrounding his disappearance. It is more than obvious that this drives “Maverick”, but it isn’t really touched on. I would have liked to see something more done with that, since they made a point to bring it up a few times.

Propaganda. As I mentioned earlier, this film made me want to fly a plane. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one, as military enrollment spiked after its release. I’m not a fan of using movies to camouflage recruiting, which is what I feel this was in a way, but I can respect it for coincidentally gaining some recruits. At least there was a real film and not some half-ass reality program like Act of Valor.

The 80s brought us some really good films, huh? Some are so good that the first few notes of a song from the soundtrack will get us going. Admit it, every time you hear “Danger Zone”, you think of Top Gun. This is a film that is really well made, but may not be as good as you remember. Some flaws that I found in this recent viewing, weren’t there when I was a little kid. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself and very highly recommend this as a film you must see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Wizard of Oz

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Kansas farmgirl Dorothy Gale lives with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and farmhands Hunk, Zeke and Hickory, but gets little attention and is told to stay out of the way because the farm incubator has malfunctioned and some of the chickens are dying. Land owner Miss Gulch arrives at the farm demanding that Dorothy’s pet dog Toto be destroyed after he bit her. Miss Gulch then presents with a sheriff’s order that allows her to take Toto, threatening to take away the Gale farm if they don’t comply. Despite the Gales being forced to give him away, Toto escapes and flees back to Dorothy, who, fearing for Toto’s life, decides to run away from home with him. On the road, she meets Professor Marvel, a travelling showman who pretends to foresee Aunt Em falling deathly ill. Dorothy rushes home as a tornado forms nearby. Dorothy’s family take shelter in the storm cellar, but, unable to get inside, Dorothy and Toto run into the house. Dorothy is knocked unconscious by debris, and wakes up to find that the house has been swept up in the tornado and carried into the sky.

After the house lands, Dorothy finds herself in the colorful Land of Oz, meeting Glinda the Good Witch and the Munchkins, who were terrorized by the Wicked Witch of the East until Dorothy’s house crushed her. Her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, appears looking for her sister’s Ruby Slippers, only for Glinda to enchant them onto Dorothy’s feet. After the Witch leaves vowing to get the shoes, Glinda suggests to Dorothy she go to the Emerald City and ask the Wizard of Oz to get back home. Dorothy and Toto follow the yellow brick road, meeting three companions on the way – the Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion who seek a brain, a heart, and courage respectively and accompany Dorothy. They reach the Emerald City but learn the Wizard sees no visitors, but are eventually let in. The Wizard appears as a giant head made from smoke and fire, demanding that they kill the Wicked Witch and bring her broomstick to him in return for granting their wishes.

The group venture out into the haunted forest to get to the witches’ castle and kill the witch, but she sends her flying monkeys to capture Dorothy and Toto. At her castle, the Wicked Witch decides to kill Dorothy to get the slippers, since they couldn’t be removed while Dorothy is still alive. Toto escapes and brings the Scarecrow, Tinman and the Lion to save Dorothy. They are surrounded by the Wicked Witch’s forces. She sets the Scarecrow on fire, but Dorothy puts him out with a bucket of water, splashing the witch and causing her to melt and die, leaving her broomstick, and the Winkies are happy to be free of her cruelty. Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City but the Wizard puts off his end of the bargain. Toto pulls aside a curtain, revealing the Wizard to be nothing but a harmless elderly illusionist. However, he gives the Scarecrow a diploma, the Tinman a clockwork heart and gives the Lion a medal, proving that they had what they wanted all along. When it comes to Dorothy, the Wizard reveals he is also from Kansas himself and offers to take Dorothy home in his hot air balloon.

The Wizard and Dorothy prepare to depart, but Toto chases a cat, causing Dorothy to follow him. However, the Wizard’s balloon takes off, leaving Dorothy and Toto in Oz. Glinda arrives and reveals to Dorothy the Ruby Slippers can grant her the power to return home. After having an emotional farewell with her friends, Dorothy follows Glinda’s instructions, clicking her heels three times and repeating “There’s no place like home.” Dorothy awakens back in Kansas after being knocked out, with her family and Professor Marvel and Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory at her bedside, learning Oz may have been only a dream, but it taught her to value her home and her family

REVIEW:

Next weekend, The Wizard of Oz is being re-released in IMAX 3D in honor of the 75th anniversary of its release. Since I will have my hands tied next weekend and won’t have the chance to check it out, I figured what better time to watch it than now, right?

What is this about?

There’s no place like home for young Dorothy (Judy Garland), who’s been swept away from her farm in Kansas to a wonderland of munchkins, flying monkeys and different-colored horses. She must follow the Yellow Brick Road to the all-knowing Wizard of Oz to find her way home. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley) and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), who help her fend off the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton).

What did I like?

Color. We start in sepia toned (not black & white) Kansas then are transported to the vibrant, beautiful, Technicolor Land of Oz. The contrast between the two worlds is as different as night and day and really emphasizes the differences between the two realms. This film was made in the year 1938, and 75 years later, the colors still stand out and don’t appear to be dated. That is a true testament to the legacy of this film.

Scope. We’ve all seen old films, right? Some of them look downright cheesy with their special effects, and yet, somehow the size and scope of tis film is almost epic. No wonder it stands as one of the greatest films of all time. Sure, there are places that look fake, but this is 1938, after all, what do you expect, seriously?

Multiple roles. Similar to the stage version of Peter Pan, this film allows for the character to portray more than one role (in the different worlds). The Wizard, Wicked Witch, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man all play dual roles, which I found to be quite intriguing, not to mention that they save on casting!

What didn’t I like?

Acting. I know I’m probably going to get crucified for saying this, but the acting in this is quite atrocious, excluding Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch. The main culprit is a toss-up between Glinda and Dorothy, with the edge going to Dorothy because she’s the main character. Judy Garland has proven to be a capable actress before and definitely after this, but she is stiff and wooden here. The only time she seems to exude any kind of emotion is when she sings “Over the Rainbow” and cries for Auntie Em in the later parts of the film. The rest of the time, she might as well be reading ingredients on a cereal box.

Witches. So, we have two witches, but neither really used their powers. Glinda does a little with the poppies, but that’s about it. Why is it that we can’t get possibly a showdown between the two? Even in Oz: The Great and Powerful they didn’t get it on. Can we please get a witch battle in Oz?!?

The Wizard of Oz is one of those films that flopped when it was released, but went on to become one of the greatest films of all time. Sometimes a film is ahead of its time, and this is one of them. Having said that, there is very little to criticize about here. While it isn’t quite the perfect film, it is pretty close. If you haven’t seen it yet, what’s wrong with you?!? I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend it! This is the very definition of a film you must see before you die!!!

5 out of 5 stars

Deep Blue Sea

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On Aquatica, a remote former submarine refueling facility converted into a laboratory, a team of scientists are searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Unknown to the other scientists, Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) violates a code of ethics and genetically engineers three Mako sharks to increase their brain capacity so their brain tissue can be harvested as a cure for Alzheimer’s, but this causes the side effects to make the sharks smarter, faster, and more dangerous.

After one of the sharks escapes and attacks a boat full of teenagers, Aquatica’s financial backers send corporate executive Russel Franklin (Samuel L Jackson) to investigate the facility. To prove that the research is working, the team manages to remove brain tissue from the largest shark. While examining it, Dr. Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgard), one of the researchers, is attacked by the shark and his arm is torn off. Brenda Kerns (Aida Turturro) calls a helicopter to evacuate Jim but the shark attacks the helicopter killing Brenda and the pilots. It then uses Jim’s body as a battering ram to smash a window, flooding the research facility and freeing the other sharks. Susan confesses to genetically altering the sharks, causing the others to get angry at her.

Susan, Russell, Carter Blake (Thomas Jane), Janice Higgins (Jacqueline McKenzie) and Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport) make their way to the top of the center. After delivering a dramatic speech emphasizing the need for group unity, Russel is attacked and killed by one of the sharks. While going another way, a ladder falls, leaving them dangling over the water. Janice falls in, and despite Carter’s attempts to save her, she is eaten. Meanwhile, the cook, Sherman “Preacher” Dudley (LL Cool J) kills the first shark by blowing it up with the oven gas in the flooding kitchen. He appears in time to save Carter, Tom and Susan.

Shocked by Janice’s and Russell’s deaths, Tom goes with Carter to the flooded lab because the controls to open a door are in the lab. The largest shark attacks and Tom is killed. Susan heads into a room to collect some research. Eventually, the second shark follows and almost eats her but she manages to electrocute it, killing it instantly, though at the cost of destroying her research in the process. Carter, Susan and Preacher head to the top of the research center. Preacher is caught by the third shark and is almost eaten, but swims to safety after stabbing the shark in the eye, forcing it to release him.

Susan, in an effort to distract the third and final shark, cuts herself and dives into the water. When she attempts to climb out, the ladder crumbles and breaks, and she is devoured by the enormous shark. But in attacking her, the shark has moved close enough for Preacher to shoot it with an explosive harpoon, which he detonates by connecting the trailing wires to a battery. With all three sharks now gone, Preacher and Carter wait atop the flooded facility as they see a boat containing other researchers arriving.

REVIEW:

Before “Shark Week” ruled the waters, Deep Blue Sea was the big fish in the pond. That is, if you don’t count Jaws. Now, sharks seem to get a bad rap for being cold-blooded killers, unless they’re going to meetings and reciting “Fish are friends, not food”, and this film takes that and makes it worse by giving them higher intellect.

What is this about?

Two scientists conduct research on sharks, hoping to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. When they decide to take a dangerous shortcut, they end up breeding larger sharks with larger brains — and near-human intelligence.

What did I like?

Idea. Remember the first time you saw Jurassic Park and thought that the idea of sucking DNA from mosquitos trapped in amber would result in the creation dinosaurs? Well, the same thought process is on display here, as the scientists make an attempt to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease by testing it on sharks who have remarkable powers of not aging.

Homage. One of the first sharks that we see has swallowed a Louisiana license plate. What is the significance of this, you ask? Well, it is the same license plate that was used in Jaws. So, we have a nice little reference to that has long been called the greatest shark film of all time in one that was primed to be its successor.

Ladies Love Cool James. Not to date myself, but I remember when LL Cool J was a skinny rapper from Brooklyn. Now, he’s quite the accomplished actor (not to mention he’s filled out a bit). While the cast is decent enough, it is LL Cool J that is the standout to me. A bit of comedic timing mixed with dramatic and action chops. How come this guy isn’t a bigger star like Will Smith?

What didn’t I like?

Set up. The last scenes of the film is an obvious set up for a sequel. My issue with that is this needed t be established before sequels can even be thought of. As it were, the sequel never materialized, but still one has to wonder why they felt the need to make an attempt to establish the possibility of future films. Did they really think this was going to spawn off others?

Shark. So, the thing you would mainly be watching this for, the sharks, aren’t really the impressive to see. As a matter of fact, these things were def the forerunners of those shark movies so popular on Syfy these days. Saying that these are bad effects doesn’t even start to describe how bad these sharks look. What ever happened to actually creating creatures?

Rationale. I got to think about something just before I started writing, this…why would you take nature’s assassin, as I like to call them, and make them smarter? Even worse…why do so when you in an underwater research station that, should something go wrong, would fill with water and you’d be in their element? Aside from it just being an obvious plot point, and the title of the film, I don’t really see why they couldn’t have moved the setting to a more land based lab, but maybe that’s just me trying to make sense out of this whole thing.

For me, Deep Blue Sea is actually an exciting sci-fi horror/thriller that requires you to turn your brain off and suspend disbelief in order to enjoy. It isn’t a masterpiece, but pretty enjoyable. I won’t highly recommend it, but if you get the chance, take a shot at it!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars