Archive for October, 2013

The Croods

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eep (Emma Stone) is a girl in a family of cavemen living and hunting in pre-historic times. Her family is one of the few to survive, mainly due to the strict rules of her overprotective father, Grug (Nicolas Cage). In their cave home, Grug tells a story to the family, which includes his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), his daughter Sandy, his son Thunk (Clark Duke), and his mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman). He uses the story of a character who mirrors Eep’s curious nature to warn the family that exploration and ‘new things’ pose a threat to their survival, and says to never not be afraid. This irritates the bored and adventurous Eep, and after the family falls asleep, she leaves the cave when she sees a light moving outside, against her father’s advice.

Seeking the light’s source, she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a clever and inventive caveboy. She at first attacks him but then becomes fascinated with the fire he creates and is eager to learn more. He tells her about his theory that the world is reaching its ‘end’ and asks her to join him. She refuses and Guy leaves, but not before giving her a noise-making shell to call him if she needs help. Eep is then caught by Grug (who had been searching for her), and is later grounded for what she had done. Grug brings Eep home and is joined by the rest of the family. Eep tells them about Guy and shows them the shell given to her, only for them to destroy it in fear of ‘new things’. An earthquake then occurs, sending everyone running for the cave, only to be stopped by Grug moments before the cave is destroyed by falling rocks. They climb over the wreckage to discover a land with lush vegetation, much different from their usual surroundings of rocky terrain. Grug takes his family into the forest to find a new cave.

The family is chased by a “Macawnivore” (a large, macaw-colored machairodont later called ‘Chunky’) and attacked by a swarm of “Piranhakeets” (deadly red-furred, piranha-like birds). In panic, Eep finds and sounds a horn similar to that which Guy gave her. Guy hears this and rushes to her. Thinking quickly, he creates a torch of fire, which scares the birds away. The other Croods are captivated by the fire, having never seen it before. They steal Guy’s torch and accidentally set the land around them in flames. Some giant corn is also lit, which rockets up to the sky, prompting a display of fireworks. After feeling impressed by Guy’s intelligence and ‘ideas’, Grug bottles him in a hollow log to carry him in, then suggests that they take solitude in the cave of a nearby mountain mentioned by Guy. Guy is forcibly persuaded to lead the way and learns of the Croods’ way of living, which he thinks of as unusual.

After an unsuccessful hunting attempt, Guy, his “pet” sloth Belt (Chris Sanders), and Eep build a puppet to fool and lure nearby animals. After they make a capture, the family greedily devours everything they caught. Grug then tells another of his morale-lowering tales, this time mirroring the events of their day. Guy then tells a story of his own about a paradise he nicknames “Tomorrow”.

The next day, the family reaches a path coated in spiked rocks which Grug, Thunk, and Gran get pricked upon trying to cross them. A freed Guy presents one of his inventions called shoes. He makes some out of all the resources he can find for each family member. This gains him some respect from the others except for Grug, who feels jealous of Guy’s cleverness. After Guy’s ideas help the Croods on their journey, the family members gain something. Ugga, Gran, and Sandy have their first idea to get past carnivorous plants by hiding under flower heads as they pass, Thunk encounters and befriends a crocodile-like dog he calls Douglas, and Eep and Guy grow closer while Grug is stranded in a ravine forcing Ugga to go back for him. The next day, Grug shows the others some of his ideas (like a see-saw, shades made out of wood, and a snapshot that involves the family being slammed with a flat rock) which fail and humiliate him. They soon reach the mountain where Grug is unable to convince the family that settling in a nearby cave is a better option. Angry, he attacks Guy. The two become stuck in tar and Guy reveals his family died drowning in it and their last words inspired his traditions of “Tomorrow.” Grug has a change of heart towards Guy and he and Guy trick Chunky into freeing them by pretending to be a female “Macawnivore” in trouble.

As they are about to reach their destination, an earthquake opens a deep ravine in their path. Grug throws each of them across the gap and reconciles with Eep while creating the first hug with her. Grug then throws her across the ravine and is left behind. He takes shelter in a cave and makes a torch. After seeing a blank rock face, he paints a large cave-drawing of the Croods and Guy together. He then encounters Chunky, who attacks him until Grug’s torch is accidentally blown out, panicking them both. The frightened Chunky lies near Grug for comfort, who then has his first good idea. Using a large skeleton rib and a bigger torch, Grug manages to lure the Piranhakeets into transporting himself, Chunky, Douglas, and several other animals across the ravine, barely escaping the oncoming “end” destruction.

Grug, along with the rest of the family and the animals, settle down in a paradise-like environment. Grug becomes less protective, letting the family be more adventurous and risk-taking, thus bringing happiness to them all.

REVIEW:

I don’t believe there has been a prehistoric (human) family since The Flintstones, so we’re a bit overdue for one. Enter The Croods, a family that is the last survivors on Earth.

What is this about?

When an earthquake obliterates their cave, an unworldly prehistoric family is forced to journey through unfamiliar terrain in search of a new home. But things for pessimistic dad Grug go from bad to worse when his daughter meets a clever cave boy.

What did I like?

Design. You may notice these characters have a distinctive thick look to them, rather than the waif thin look that is so popular with animation today. If you remember Lilo & Stitch, then you should be used to it because this is the same director. I love the way this guy makes his characters look like someone you see walking down the street. It really works for cavemen, who are supposed to be a bit more thick and muscular, which serves his style perfectly.

Family. The typical tropes that we see in a family comedy. While they are a tad bit predictable, it works extremely well in that they don’t try to do anything that would “rock the boat”. The mother and father are a sweet couple, there’s an ancient mother-in-law that the father wants gone, a rebellious teen, slow but lovable brother, and a baby who has a totally different personality than the rest of the family.

Creatures. You would think that this is Earth, but the creatures that they come across are definitely not the kind we’ve heard of in our day. These fantastic, colorful creatures are a sight to behold. Making it better is the fact that the creatures actually are a part of what is going on. There is a very pivotal scene near the end that shows the creature and Grug Crood interact for a common goal.

What didn’t I like?

Comedy. There are some great comedic moments in the film, but I have issues with the way that the script doesn’t stack up to the physical comedy. Gags are one thing, but the jokes need to be there, too. The fact that they aren’t are a pretty big blemish on this film that really is damn near perfect, if you ask me.

Not for adults. One of the big things about children films is that the filmmakers try to put something in there for the adults. Well, I’m not so sure this one does that. Now, with that said, don’t think that this is an insult to adult intelligence, but if you’re one of those people who expect realism and such, there is nothing here for you, sorry.

Score. Maybe this is just the musician in me coming out, but the score for this film should be just as epic and impressive as the visuals, but it isn’t. Instead, we get some generic music, save for the opening. I was highly disappointed with this, but again, I’m a musician, so music stuffs sticks out more to me than someone without a musically trained ear. See if you can pick out Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” fairly early on.

The Croods is one of the most entertaining, endearing, and crowd-pleasing family films I’ve seen in some time. The critics weren’t exactly head over heels for it, but audiences went crazy for this. I’m regretting not seeing this in theaters. The big screen is sure to have made these scenes pop! That being said, this is a definitely a contender for best film of the year in my book! Check it out ASAP!

5 out of 5 stars

High Plains Drifter

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A stranger on horseback rides into the mining town of Lago. Three gun-toting men follow him into the saloon, taunting him. When they follow him to the barbershop and threaten him, the Stranger shoots and kills all three of them. Impressed with this performance, a dwarf named Mordecai, who works in the barbershop, befriends the Stranger. An attractive woman named Callie Travers bumps into the Stranger in the street on purpose and insults and badgers him. When she slaps his cigar from his mouth, he drags her into the livery stable and rapes her. Next, he rents a room at the hotel. That night, he dreams about a man being brutally whipped.

It is revealed later that Marshal Jim Duncan was whipped to death by gunfighters Stacey Bridges, Dan Carlin, and Cole Carlin while the people of Lago looked on. Only Sarah Belding, wife of hotelier Lewis Belding, made any attempt to rescue him. A corrupt faction in Lago wanted Duncan dead, as the Marshal discovered that the town’s mine is on government ground (the townsfolk feared that this news, if reported, would result in the mine being closed, which would threaten the town’s livelihood).

Sheriff Sam Shaw tells the Stranger he will not be charged for killing the three men. Meanwhile, the townsmen discuss Bridges and the Carlin brothers, who are due to be released from prison that day. The town double-crossed the three gunfighters after they killed Duncan, and the men are expected to seek vengeance. Since the men slain by the Stranger were the mining company’s new protectors, the townsmen decide to hire the Stranger as their replacement.

Presenting the offer to the Stranger, Shaw explains that the three gunfighters were caught stealing gold from the mining company, although he admits the gold was poorly protected. The Stranger declines the job until Shaw tells him he can have anything he wants. Accepting these terms, the Stranger indulges in the town’s goods and services, and makes Mordecai both sheriff and mayor. He also has Belding’s clients moved out of the hotel, dismantles Belding’s barn in order to make picnic benches, has the entire town painted red, and paints the word “HELL” on the “LAGO” sign just outside of town.

While the Stranger trains the townspeople to defend themselves, Bridges and the Carlin brothers are released from prison and make their way to Lago. They begin on foot but kill three men and take their horses.

A group of townsfolk try to ambush the Stranger in the hotel, but he kills all but one of them. After Belding inadvertently divulges his complicity in the attack (which left the hotel destroyed), the Stranger drags Sarah Belding into their room, and she sleeps with him willingly. The next morning, Sarah tells the Stranger about Duncan’s murder, and how Duncan was buried in an unmarked grave. She remarks, “They say the dead don’t rest without a marker of some kind.”

The Stranger rides out the next morning. Sarah intends to leave Lago and her husband. The Stranger finds the gunfighters, and has a brief shootout with them before returning to Lago. With the town painted red, townsmen with rifles stationed on rooftops, and a picnic and welcoming banner set up for the gunfighters, the Stranger mounts his horse and rides away. When the gunfighters arrive, they easily overcome the paltry resistance offered by the townspeople, killing several of the town’s corrupt civic leaders. By nightfall, they have the townspeople collected in the saloon while the barber shop and other buildings burn. The Stranger returns, and kills the gunfighters one by one, whipping Cole Carlin to death, hanging Dan Carlin with another whip, and shooting Stacey Bridges. Bridges’ last words to the Stranger are “Who are you?!” – but the Stranger doesn’t answer him. Belding attempts to shoot the Stranger in the back – but Mordecai shoots Belding first.

The next day, the Stranger departs, slowly riding through the ruined town in the same manner that he arrived at the film’s beginning. At the cemetery, he passes by Mordecai, who is carving a fresh headstone. Mordecai comments to the departing Stranger that he never did know his name, to which the Stranger replies cryptically, “Yes, you do.” As the Stranger rides out, it is revealed that the headstone engraved by Mordecai reads “MARSHAL JIM DUNCAN, REST IN PEACE.”

The Stranger rides off into the distance, his image absorbed by a mirage, seemingly vanishing into thin air.

REVIEW:

Someone was having a debate about western on some program I was listening to the other day and it came down to this, 9 times out of 10 John Wayne is the hero and 99.9% of the time, Cline Eastwood is playing an anti-hero. High Plains Drifter is no exception to that logic. As a matter of fact, this could be seen as the further adventures of “the man with no name.”

What is this about?

Amid shoot-outs and existentialism, a mysterious stranger (Clint Eastwood, who also directs) is hired to protect a small town from outlaws. But his recipe for defense could be a deal with the devil, and soon, even the enigmatic gunslinger’s supporters — including Mordecai (Billy Curtis) and Sarah (Verna Bloom) — are wondering just what they’ve signed up for. The rip-roaring conclusion could leave the town in tatters.

What did I like?

Storytelling. People ask me all the time why I like westerns so much. The fact is, if you look at any western, especially the upper echelon ones, there are some great stories to be told there involving good, evil, and the area in between. This film, is no exception to that rule, as it weaves a fantastic tale about a stranger who walks into a town to help defend it from outlaws. Yes, we’ve all heard that tale before a million times, especially in cartoons and such, but to see it in live action with the likes of Clint Eastwood, just makes it better.

Different. This is a little different western. For one thing, this isn’t some small town what seems to be the middle of the desert, but rather a small town by the ocean. When was the last time you saw water in a western that wasn’t a well or some sort of watering hole? Also, this isn’t a film that, like many of Eastwood’s films, has something to say about society. I’ll let you make your own judgment about what it says, so as to not sway your political bias one way or the other.

Brutal, but not bloody. Films of this era weren’t exactly known for being bloody action pieces the way we seem to envision every film that is released these days. Back then, the strength of pictures was in their subtlety. There are some downright brutal scenes in here, such as the repeated sight of a mystery man being whipped, but they never get graphic enough to turn you away. What happened to us, as a society, that allows us to revel in the pain and misery of a man getting beaten and bleeding to death, I wonder.

What didn’t I like?

Rape. In the very early scenes of the film, Eastwood’s Stranger is being bothered by a lady in town. The reason for this is unknown to me, as she just seems to be a nuisance. Apparently, Eastwood thought so too, as he threatens her if she doesn’t shut up. Well, she doesn’t shut her mouth, so he picks her up and carries her to a nearby barn, where he rapes her. Now, it isn’t bad enough that there is a random rape scene in here, but it is her reaction to it. Most women who have been raped make sure it is well known that they were raped so that revenge, usually vigilante style, can be taken on their attacker. As far as they showed, she didn’t even bring it up until her reappearance later in the film. Second, during the act, she seemed to be more enjoying it than anything else. Rape is never a good thing, but this just didn’t sit with me right at all.

Destruction. These small towns in westerns get it real bad. This town, Lago, was nearly wiped off the face of the earth because of some petty foolishness, including the destruction of some important buildings, such as the hotel, amongst others. When all the dust clears, the townspeople celebrate the hero, but really they are wondering if they would have been better off had they never come and played a part in the destruction of their town.

Every now and then film comes along that restores your faith in a genre. High Plains Drifter has become that film for me and westerns. With its dark, gritty tone overlayed with comedic moments and interspersed action moments, this is surely a film that everyone will find something to enjoy in. Some have said that this is Eastwood’s homage to Sergio Leone, while others maintain that it is a fourth film in “The Man with no Name” trilogy. At any rate, I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Oblivion

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on October 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the year 2077, Tech 49 Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last drone repairmen stationed on Earth. Jack tells us that the planet was nearly destroyed sixty years ago, during a war against a race of alien invaders known as Scavengers (“Scavs”). The Scavs destroyed the moon, causing massive earthquakes and tsunamis, and then launched their invasion. They were only defeated by the use of nuclear weapons, which left most of the planet irradiated and uninhabitable. The few surviving humans migrated to a large space station called the “Tet”, a massive tetrahedral space station that orbits the Earth, which is powered using energy harvested on Earth by giant ocean-borne power stations that generate fusion power from seawater before migration to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. From Tower 49, a base standing above the remains of the northeastern United States, Jack and his partner and lover Victoria “Vika” Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) work as a team to maintain the autonomous drones that defend the power stations from the few remaining Scav bandits. They receive their orders from Sally (Melissa Leo), their mission commander, who is stationed on the Tet. Jack flies recon and repair missions to the surface, while Vika supervises from Tower 49, a home at around 3000 feet (1000 meters) above sea level. The two expect to leave Earth and join the other survivors on the Tet in two weeks. Although Jack and Vika had their memories wiped five years earlier for security reasons, Jack has recurring dreams about meeting a mysterious woman at the Empire State Building before the war—which was before he was born. Jack keeps a secret retreat in a forested area he sometimes visits.

A Scav signal beacon transmitting coordinates off Earth is followed shortly by the crash of a pre-invasion spacecraft. Drones arrive at the crash site and kill most of the crew, but Jack manages to rescue a woman, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), recognizing her as the woman from his dreams. Julia says her ship—the Odyssey—was a NASA mission, the objective of which she refuses to reveal, and she and Jack retrieve the ship’s flight recorder. They are captured by Scavs, who are revealed to be humans living in what remains of the Raven Rock Mountain Complex. Their leader, Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), claims that the alien invasion was a lie and wants Jack to reprogram a captured drone in order to destroy the Tet by delivering a nuclear weapon powered by the Odyssey’s core reactor, the reason they deorbited the Odyssey. When Jack refuses, Malcolm releases the captives but urges them to seek the truth in the so-called “radiation zone” that Jack is forbidden to enter.

On their way back to the Tower, Jack takes Julia to the ruins of the Empire State Building and asks her who she is. She reveals that she was his wife before the war. His dreams were flashbacks to the day he proposed to her on the Empire State Building’s observation deck. As Jack and Julia share a loving embrace Vika watches via her video link to Jack’s ship, and when they return to the Tower she refuses them entry. When she informs Sally that she and Jack are no longer an “effective team”, Sally activates a drone that kills Vika. Before the drone can kill Jack, Julia uses the weapons on Jack’s ship to destroy the drone. Sally requests that Jack returns to the Tet with Julia, but they flee in his ship instead, pursued by more drones. They crash in the radiation zone, where Jack comes face to face with Tech 52, a clone of himself. He fights the clone, who, upon catching sight of Julia, also begins experiencing memory flashbacks, before Jack renders him unconscious. Jack sees that Julia has been seriously wounded by a stray bullet from his struggle with Tech 52. Jack impersonates Tech 52, activating his vehicle and going to Tower 52, where he encounters a clone of Vika, and steals a med kit to help Julia.

Shocked, Jack and Julia return to Beech, who tells them the truth: the Tet is in fact an alien artificial intelligence that seized Earth to exploit the planet’s resources, and Jack and Victoria are just two of many thousands of clones of their original selves (who were astronauts from 2017) created as soldiers to carry out the invasion of Earth. The Tet uses drones programmed to kill humans on sight. The survivors use old technology like stealth fighter shielding and vocal scrambling to confuse the drones (thus looking like “Scavs”). The Tet uses clones of Jack and Vika to maintain the drones, and thereby its dominance. Jack agrees to reprogram the stolen drone to destroy the Tet. When leaving the underground stronghold with the reprogrammed drone, they are attacked by three other drones. The drones enter the base and wreak havoc inside, severely damaging the reprogrammed drone and wounding Beech in the process. The humans finally manage to destroy the three drones, but are forced to find another way to deliver the nuclear bomb to the Tet. Jack proposes delivering the bomb himself. To throw off suspicion, Julia suggests that she accompany Jack, since Sally had requested him to bring her to the Tet.

During the flight, Jack listens to the Odyssey’s flight recorder, which reveals that he and Victoria were originally pilots on the Odyssey research mission to Titan, which was reassigned by NASA when the Tet was discovered near Saturn. Sally was originally their supervisor at NASA mission control, with other personnel, including Julia, on board in cryogenic sleep capsules. Upon approach, the Tet drew them in using a form of tractor beam. Recognizing that capture was imminent, Jack was able to jettison the sleeping crewmembers, who orbited for sixty years in suspended animation until Beech sent the signal to recall their craft.

Jack enters the Tet, where he is met by a sentient tetrahedral structure that had adopted the persona of Sally. Jack opens the sleep capsule to reveal Beech; Julia simultaneously emerges from another sleeping capsule at Jack’s secret forest retreat. The two men trigger the nuclear bomb and destroy the Tet at the cost of their own lives. The destruction of the Tet also deactivates the remaining drones around the world just as they were about to slaughter the survivors at the Scavs’ underground base.

Three years later, Julia is living with her young daughter in the forest retreat on the recovering Earth. A group of survivors arrive there, and Tech 52 emerges from the group. A voice-over by Tech 52 reveals that his previous encounter had re-awakened memories of Julia, and he had searched for her since the Tet’s destruction. Having the same latent memories as Tech 49, he then reunites with “his” family.

REVIEW:

Well, now that I’ve had time to rinse the taste of InAPPropriate Comedy out of my mouth, let’s hope that Oblivion doesn’t do anything to make me lose faith in the film industry. Well, more than I already have with all these damn remakes, reboots, etc.

What is this about?

High above a war-torn future Earth, Cmdr. Jack Harper is maintaining the planet’s defensive drones when a crippled starship enters his territory. Its sole occupant, a mysterious woman, leads Harper to shocking truths about humankind’s legacy.

What did I like?

Minimalistic. Sometimes these apocalyptic sci-fi films try to throw too much at the audience and it just ends up being a giant cluster of confusion. This film scales all that back and gives a couple of plot points with a minor third one thrown in beginning in the third act that is more of a way to tie up loose ends at the end of the film than anything else, but it works.

Cruise. I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise, but even I have to admit that the guy seems to have his career moving back in the right direction these days. Also, he isn’t a bad actor as we can see with many of his solo scenes. In order to pull off a scene where it is just you and the scenery, it takes some real acting chops, and Cruise has proven he has those.

Visual. The film is visually stunning. The immaculately clean and white space station is the start of it, then we see the remains of such landmarks and important places such as the Empire State building and Giants stadium, then we get some wildlife and greenery before finally seeing the space station that is in space. If none of these take your breath away when you first see them, especially if you are able to see this on the big screen, then you I just don’t know what to say, because these striking visuals can be argued as the best part of the film.

What didn’t I like?

Script. One critic brought up how this script could very well have been thrown out the window and this would have been just as effective. Truth is, the writing isn’t that good, but I don’t believe turning this into a dialogue-less picture would solve that problem. A few touch-ups here and there, maybe clear up some of the confusion with the scavengers and that should do the trick.

Women. The women in the film bothered me. First, there is newcomer Andrea Risenborough, who I swear they cast only because they couldn’t get Julianne Moore. The coldness of her was a turn off for me and I was hoping she would die a quick and painful death, when I should be wanting to see what happens with her character. Melissa Leo, who is playing some kind of supervisor, had the most horrible southern accent I’ve heard in all of my days. She has nothing to do, but sit there and spout out the same few lines, you’d think she could have gotten the accent right, if she must use it. Finally, there was Olga Kurylenko. First, I have to give kudos to how much she has grown as an actress since I first saw her in Hitman, however, I didn’t feel a connection to her character. I blame this on how they brought her in, rather than anything she did. As a matter of fact, I actually was a fan of how she was used in the ending.

At first, I thought Oblivion was going to be just another Earth apocalypse movie with hints of 2001: A Space Odyssey thrown in for good measure. At least, that’s how the trailer led us all to believe it was going to be. As it turns out, this was quite the surprisingly, entertaining sci-fi action film. Sure, it has its problems, but they aren’t glaring enough that they can’t be overlooked. I highly recommend this to anyone in the mood for a subdued bit of sci-fi. Give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

InAPPropriate Comedy

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , on October 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A tablet computer loaded with offensive applications creates cultural mayhem.

Psychology World

A psychologist (Rob Schneider) has a session with a sex-obsessed young woman (Noelle Kenney) who wants to change. She shows him the pills that make her wild. He takes them and passes out on the floor.

Flirty Harry

Flirty Harry (Adrien Brody) is a cop who, with a repertoire of double entendres, watches the streets of New York.

Blackass

Vondell (Da’Vone McDonald), Murphay (Calvin Sykes), Swade (Thai Edwards), Darnell (Chalant Phifer), and Acquon (Ashton Jordaan Ruiz) are five African American guys who go about their days causing trouble.

The Porno Review

J.D. (Rob Schneider), Harriet (Michelle Rodriguez), and Bob (Jonathan Spencer) (who spends most of the time masturbating) host an At the Movies-style film review series that showcases pornographic films, including a parody of Swan Lake known as Sperm Lake (which features several gay ballet dancers in place of the girls).

Things You’ll Never See

A one-off sketch showing a beautiful young woman (Kiersten Hal) dating an old poor man (Anthony Russell).

Above the Grate

Lindsay Lohan stands on an air vent much like Marilyn Monroe’s famous scene from The Seven Year Itch while a man watches from underneath (Under the Grate).

The Amazing Racist

Ari Shaffer and his cameraman go around the city showcasing extremely racist and offensive stereotypes against Asians, African Americans, and Jews. It is heavily implied that all of Shaffer’s doings were not rehearsed and done to random people on the street.

REVIEW:

I don’t think there is a more appropriate title for this waste of 83 minutes than InAPPropriate Comedy. Needless to say, I’m not going to waste too much of your time with this review, because it just doesn’t warrant that respect.

What is this about?

An all-star cast aims to leave no one unoffended with these gleefully outrageous comedy sketches directed by TV pitchman Vince Offer. The collection includes cop “Flirty Harry,” “The Amazing Racist” and other politically incorrect gags.

What did I like?

Lindsay. One of my favorite Marilyn Monroe films is The Seven Year Itch. Ever since Marilyn did that sewer grate scene, actresses have been trying to re-create it. Lohan throws her hat in the lot here. While it makes no damn sense (as if anything in this film does), it is actually the one thing that seems like it had some care put into it.

What didn’t I like?

Offensive. This is one of those films that is offensive just for the sake of being offensive. How do films like this keep getting made?!? Even worse, this made it into theaters, and I believe it was in the top 5 for a few weeks, which means there is actually an audience for this crap. I’m just not in that number, I suppose.

Cast. For the most part, this cast is largely unknown and Rob Schneider, who is no stranger to bad films. However, Michelle Rodriguez ad Adrien Brody show up in this and for what reason? I really can’t tell you, especially Rodriguez who just sits in a cheer to look pretty.

Racist. There is never an excise for racial jokes. Yes, they can be funny in small doses, but when you just beat the audience over the head with them, it goes from being racial to racist, and that is a huge problem this film has in my eyes. There was no reason to go as far as they did and they should have quit while they were ahead.

Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we? InAPPropriate Comedy is only meant for the handful of people who felt Movie 43 was a  tour de force. The rest of us should avoid this piece of @$~!@!~^ like it is the plague!

1/4 out of 5 stars

Behind the Candelabra

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1977, 17-year-old Scott Thorson, who works as an animal trainer for movies, meets Bob Black, a Hollywood producer, in a gay bar. At Black’s urging, he leaves his adopted home in search of better-paying work. Black introduces Thorson to Liberace, who takes an immediate liking to the handsome younger man. Liberace invites the two backstage and then to his luxurious home. Thorson observes that one of Liberace’s beloved dogs is suffering from a temporary form of blindness, and with his veterinary assistant background, informs the famous pianist that he knows how to cure the condition. After treating the dog, Thorson becomes Liberace’s “assistant” at the performer’s request.

Scott moves in with Liberace and becomes his lover. At this point Scott says that he is bisexual because he is also attracted to women. Liberace is sympathetic, informing him that he wanted and tried to love women, but was exclusively attracted to men. He relates a story of a “divine healing” in which a “messenger” informed him that God still loved him.

It gradually becomes clear that Liberace is trying to mold Scott into a younger version of himself; he requests his plastic surgeon Dr. Startz to transform Scott’s face to more closely resemble his own and makes an unsuccessful attempt to formally adopt him. When Liberace begins visiting pornographic theaters and suggests they see other people, Scott becomes upset. Meanwhile, Scott’s drug abuse and Liberace’s promiscuity create a rift that ultimately destroys their relationship: Scott retains an attorney to seek his financial share of the property, and Liberace ends their formal partnership and involves himself with his most recent “assistant”.

Not long thereafter, Scott receives a phone call from Liberace telling him that he is very sick with what is later revealed to be AIDS, and would like Scott to visit him again. Scott agrees, and he and Liberace have one last, emotional deathbed conversation before Liberace dies in February 1987. Scott attends Liberace’s funeral, in which he imagines seeing Liberace performing one last time with his traditional flamboyance, before being lifted to heaven with a stage harness.

REVIEW:

Before Elton John was the queen of all queens, there was Liberace. Most people are probably like me, you’ve heard the name, but don’t know much about the music or the man. Behind the Candelabra is a bit of a history lesson on the man and the way he treated his “assistants”. Here’s an interesting tidbit, this HBO film was released in theaters everywhere but here in the US. Man, we are such prudes!

What is this about?

Michael Douglas stars as flamboyant entertainer Liberace in this sequin-studded drama that chronicles the legendary pianist’s roller-coaster relationship with his young lover, Scott Thorson — from their passionate liaison to their stormy battles.

What did I like?

Flamboyant. I’ve always heard that Liberace was quite the opulent character. I seem to recall reading somewhere that he even had a toilet made of gold! Why would anyone want that to be solid gold, considering what goes down there? At any rate, I have to tip my hat to the costume and set designers for capturing and portraying the over the top style that Liberace had, both on stage and at home.

Tone. I know some people like their biopics as serious as possible because apparently they think everyone has a hard, depressing life. Yes, Liberace had some dark times in his life, but for the most part, this is a guy who loved life. When the film focuses on Liberace, it pushes his lust for life (as well as other things), and there is a somewhat lighter tone to this whole film that one would expect.

Performance. The entire cast needs to be commended, from the smaller characters such as Debbie Reynolds, David Koechner, and Scott Bakula all the way up to Matt Damon and Michael Douglas. There is not a weak link in this chain, with Douglas and Damon giving some of their best performances in quite some time. Someone said that the best writing these days is in television, and this just goes to show how true that statement is.

Music. Liberace was a musician, first and foremost, but the music in this film is important because it was the last film that Marvin Hamlisch scored. Hamlisch passed away in summer of 2012. The score he left is pretty nice and Hamlisch will be missed. He was a great talent.

What didn’t I like?

Plastic surgery. Take a minute and look up young pictures of Mickey Rourke and then look at him now. Big difference, right? Well, that same kind of thing goes on here with Rob Lowe. I don’t know what was going on with his face, but it looked like his face was stretched to the extreme measures. It was like watching a bad wreck. It was horrible to look at, but you can’t look away.

Scott. As I said earlier, Matt Damon gives a great performance, but his character falls a bit flat. Granted, almost all of his scenes are with Liberace, so he’s going to pale in comparison. You may not have realized it, but Damon is supposed to be the star of the film, but with the exception of a couple of points here and there, you can’t tell.

Music. Liberace was a musician, yet we only get one scene of him actually playing. When Douglas and Damon are sitting on the couch watching TV, we get a bit of history of Liberace, such as how he started using his trademark candelabra. I just wish that we could have gotten some more of Liberace at the piano, even if it was just him playing at home for Damon.

In this day and age, it is so hard to get a biopic that is interesting, entertaining, and faithful to real life. Behind the Candelabra constantly brings us moments of drama and some light comedic moments. The film’s ending, after Liberace’s death, is something to see. It sort of departs from the realism of the picture, but it is still worth seeing. I highly recommend it as a must-see! Check it out!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

A Letter to Three Wives

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Just as they are about to take a group of underprivileged children on a riverboat ride and picnic, Deborah Bishop (Jeanne Crain), Rita Phipps (Ann Sothern), and Lora Mae Hollingsway (Linda Darnell) receive a message from Addie Ross informing them that she has run off with one of their husbands. She, however, leaves them in suspense as to which one. All three marriages are shown in flashback to be strained.

Deborah grew up on a farm. Her first experience with the outside world came when she joined the Navy WAVES during World War II, where she met her future husband Brad (Jeffrey Lynn). When they return to civilian life, Deborah is ill at ease in Brad’s upper class social circle. Adding to her insecurity, she learns that everyone expected Brad to marry Addie, whom all three husbands consider practically a goddess.

However, she is comforted by Brad’s friend Rita, a career woman who writes stories for sappy radio soap operas. Her husband George (Kirk Douglas), a schoolteacher, feels somewhat emasculated since she earns much more money. He is also disappointed that his wife constantly gives in to the demands of her boss, Mrs. Manleigh (Florence Bates). Rita’s flashback is to a dinner party she gave for her boss. She forgot that her husband’s birthday was that night, and only remembered when a birthday present, a rare Brahms recording, arrived from Addie Ross.

Lora Mae grew up poor, not just on the “wrong side of the tracks,” but literally next to the railroad tracks. (Passing trains shake the family home periodically.) She sets her sights on her older, divorced employer, Porter (Paul Douglas), the wealthy owner of a statewide chain of department stores. Her mother, Ruby Finney (Connie Gilchrist), is unsure what to think of her daughter’s ambition, but Ruby’s friend (and the Bishops’ servant) Sadie (an uncredited Thelma Ritter) approves. Matters come to a head when she sees a picture of Addie Ross on the piano in his home. She tells him she wants her picture on a piano: her own piano in her own home. He tells her he isn’t interested in marriage, and she breaks off their romance. However, he loves her too much, and finally gives in and proposes, skipping a New Year’s party at Addie’s house to do so.

When the women return from the picnic, Rita is overjoyed to find her husband at home. They work out their issues; she promises to not let herself be pushed around by Mrs. Manleigh.

Deborah’s houseman gives her a message stating that Brad will not be coming home that night. A heartbroken Deborah goes alone to the dance with the other two couples.

When Porter complains about his wife dancing with another man, she tells him he has no idea how much Lora Mae really loves him, but Porter is certain his wife only sees him as a “cash register.” Unable to take it anymore, Deborah gets up to leave, announcing that Brad has run off with Addie. Porter stops her, confessing it was he who started to run away with Addie, but then explains, “A man can change his mind, can’t he?” Porter then tells his wife that, with his admission in front of witnesses, she can divorce him and get what she wants. To his shock, Lora Mae claims she did not hear a word he said. He asks her to dance.

The voice of Addie Ross bids all a good night. In the film, she is shown only once and from behind.

REVIEW:

I never watched that show Desperate Housewives, but I can see some influences in A Letter to Three Wives. As a huge fan of classic cinema, I am always looking for something great. This is one of those films that has a reputations, so I figured it’d be best to see what all the hoopla was about.

What is this about?

In this 1949 black-and-white classic, which won Joseph L. Mankiewicz an Academy Award for Best Director, three married women (Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell and Ann Sothern) vacationing on the Hudson suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of a disturbing missive: One of their husbands has broken his nuptial vows and cheated. But whose? The answer is revealed as each woman excavates the ruins of her marriage.

What did I like?

Letter. This Addie Ross person had to have some balls to write a letter to the three wives of these husbands, letting them know that she had an affair with one of them. For those of you that don’t know, a letter is an e-mail that was handwritten on paper before the days of computers, e-mail, and texting. Anyway, as you can tell by the title of the film, the letter is pretty important.

Cast. I would be hard-pressed to not praise this cast, which includes the likes of Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Celeste Holm, amongst others. Each etches their own indelible mark of history with this film, which could be another humdrum drama, but they give it that little bit of life it needs to keep audiences interested.

Addie. As important a role as she plays in the film, I appreciate how the focus is quickly taken from her after the opening narration, almost as if she is a red herring for the rest of the picture. An effective technique to be sure, and one that should be employed in some of today’s pictures.

What didn’t I like?

Flashbacks. A nice technique this film employs is the use of flashbacks. While I appreciate how these gave us some background and development of each of the characters, as well as providing something towards the mystery. My problem with the flashbacks though are how they seems to drag on. I would have preferred this to have been more concise, for the sake of the audience, though.

Subtraction. The novel this is based on is actually titled A Letter to Five Wives. For some unknown reason, they cut out the other 2 wives. Well, the fourth wife was actually supposed to be in this, but her scenes were cut to shorten the film. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have just left all 5 wives in and shorten the flashback scenes.

A Letter to Three Wives sounds like it could one of those supremely boring and depressing films. As it turns out, it isn’t that depressing, given that that alternate ending. This is one of those slow moving classic films that you need to pay attention to from beginning to end, soaking up everything from ambience to the great performances. That being said, I only recommend this to those of you with an attention span, otherwise, this will be a waste of your time.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Just Friends

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1995, Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is an obese, curly-haired high school student with a lisp, braces, and a “gentle giant” demeanor. He attends the graduation party of his best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart), on whom he secretly has a crush. He plans to confess his feelings by writing them in Jamie’s yearbook. When Chris tries to return Jamie’s yearbook, it is taken by her despicable ex-boyfriend, Tim (Ty Olsson). Tim reads Chris’s confession aloud at the party wherein Chris is publicly humiliated. He is further demoralized when Jamie doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Chris receives a kiss on the cheek from Jamie and is told that they are like brother and sister. When the mob of partygoers burst out of the house again, Jamie admonishes them for making fun of Chris. Chris leaves on his bicycle tearfully and vows to leave town and never return in order to achieve greater success than his classmates.

Ten years later, Chris has lost weight, is handsome and is a highly successful Los Angeles record producer. He is also a womanizer. Prior to Christmas, Chris’ boss, KC (Stephen Root), orders Chris to accompany an emerging, self-obsessed pop singer called Samantha James (Anna Faris) to Paris. KC wants Chris to ensure Samantha signs with him. Chris sees difficulties in this but follows orders. During the trip to Paris, Samantha sets her private jet on fire by using aluminum foil in the plane’s microwave oven. This necessitates an emergency landing in New Jersey, near Chris’s hometown. Chris takes the singer to his mother’s house for a place to spend the night and re-engages with his teenage past, including his unresolved feelings for Jamie. At the local bar, Chris encounters some old classmates, including Tim, who is now balding, fat and a heavy drinker. Jamie also appears, working as a bartender to support herself through graduate school. Chris plans to impress and seduce Jamie. However, a number of unexpected problems, including a growing realization that Jamie’s friendship is important to him, hamper Chris’ plan. Chris bonds with Jamie on several occasions and during a friendly ice skating “day date”, Chris is taken away in an ambulance after being injured in a game of hockey. Jamie is reunited with Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein), a paramedic and former high school nerd who was also in love with her.

Prior to his date, Chris had left his younger brother, Mike (Christopher Marquette), to spend time with Samantha. Samantha eventually pushes Mike against the bathroom wall to find out Chris’ location and, following initial resistance, Samantha, knowing Mike’s strong feelings towards her, passionately kisses him, resulting in the brother’s disclosure (thinking that Chris and Jamie have had sex already, Mike uses the term “lover”). Samantha consequently becomes jealous towards Jamie, believing that the old classmates are in a relationship, and in an angry rage, Samantha destroys Jamie’s family’s Christmas decorations. Embarrassed by Samantha’s actions, Chris returns home but is visited by Jamie there. Jamie reveals that she is not mad at Chris and plans to spend the night with him; but, due to Chris’ continuing lack of assertion, the two end up falling asleep and no romance ensues.

The day after Samantha’s vandalism, Jamie speaks with Darla (Amy Matysio), who is now married to Clark (Fred Ewanuick), about the night before and her fear that Chris lack of affection might mean that he doesn’t like her. Jamie admits that whilst the two are “just friends”, she tried to “put herself out there” to Chris, to show Chris that she is interested in a relationship. Meanwhile, Chris attends Clark’s workplace, a dental surgery, to talk to Clark, revealing to him that “the timing wasn’t right” and that their shared history hinders his willingness to have sex with her. Chris explains that he feels like he is in high school again.

Later, Chris and Clark catch Dusty singing to a sexy nurse and then kissing her. Dusty then reveals to Chris and Clark that he only plans to have sex with Jamie, as he wants to humiliate her in the same way that he felt she used to humiliate him. Chris tries to warn Jamie about Dusty during a children’s Christmas pageant, but instead ends up attacking Dusty and ruining the play. Jamie refuses to listen when Chris tries to tell her about the nurse, leaving Chris angry and disappointed with both Jamie and her family. Chris consequently gets drunk and enters the bar where Jamie works, proceeding to blame her for keeping him in the “friend zone”; he also exclaims that Jamie will never amount to anything meaningful. Jamie punches Chris and he is tossed out of the bar at her request.

Upon returning to LA, Chris realizes that Jamie is his one true love interest and returns to New Jersey hoping to finally be with her. Chris declares his true love for Jamie at her house and the two kiss outside in view of the neighborhood kids

REVIEW:

Look at Ryan Reynolds today. Does he look like someone who was ever overweight and/or nerdy? Let alone had any trouble picking up girls? I don’t know if he was anything like his character in Just Friends, but I am very appreciative that this film was made, as I can totally relate.

What is this about?

After being snubbed by his high school crush, an overweight nice guy moves to Los Angeles, where he slims down and blossoms into a womanizer. But when he’s stranded in his hometown, he bumps into the girl who once broke his heart.

What did I like?

The zone. Unless you were one of those guys that was a teen heartthrob and/or you were superjock, chances are that you had a few crushes, many of which didn’t even know you existed. Hell, some of them to this very day, don’t know I exist. If this film accomplishes anything, it is that it brings attention to the fact that girls push aside the sweet guy who would do anything for them and make them a pseudo-gal pal, in favor of the guy who will trample all over their heart and leave them a shell of their former selves. Not that I’ve had any experience with this subject, mind you. It is still good to know that this is a phenomena that occurs everywhere.

Brittany. So, Anna Faris was tapped to play this Brittany Spears-like character and she knocks it out of the park. First of all, it should be noted that this was made in 2005, which was around the time of Spears’ “meltdown”. Faris, who is comedic gold, steals the show with her diva like behavior and overactive sex drive. I was wishing for more!

Revenge. The sheer thought of getting revenge on the females who spurned my affections is quite thought-provoking. I can’t help but say that I would get immense pleasure out of seeing them reap what they sowed. I know that sounds vindictive, but  this is something that need. Chris Klein’s character, which is a departure from his normal schtick, has it right, if you ask me!

What didn’t I like?

Fat suit. I was telling my friend, Alyse, about this film and just happened to mention that it has Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit. As you can see in the poster up there, Reynold’s suit is not very  well crafted. On top of that, I just have a hard time believe that Reynolds was this fat guy who turns into a handsome guy. It all seems to Cinderella-ish to me. If they wanted to do that, then they should have gone all out with the Cinderella angle. There is even a moment where he is asked how he los the weight, but he never answers. I’m curious, too, it could be some weight loss surgery is the reason or it could be old-fashioned diet and exercise. Who knows?

Change. Being from a small town, myself, I know how rare it is for anyone to leave and make a name for themselves while everyone else stays home and works at the mom and pop store. My issue is this. 10 yrs pass from the beginning of the film to when Reynolds returns, and yet everyone looks exactly the same, except for him, another geek (Chris Klein), and the jock/bully. The object of his desire, played by Amy Smart (I still was expecting Jason Statham to crashing through the window and use her to get his heart pumping again). < Crank reference. seemed to have gotten hotter!!!

Incomplete. I wasn’t going to mention this, but I have to. My disc from Netflix decided to start acting all wonky and I wasn’t able to repair it to watch the final scenes. It was doing the same thing upon my initial starting of the disc. I really hate it when I get a disc that works, but doesn’t work. Irritations ratcheted up to a maximum level! UGH!!!!

As a pure romantic comedy, Just Friends is one of the lesser ones that I’ve seen, but nowhere near as ad as some of the ones that I have the “pleasure” of viewing. The fact is, this is not a good film, but it does have moment that will keep it in your memories for a day or two, but on the whole, this is sure to cause some conversations among you and your friends from high school about why your friendship was the way it was. I know there are a few that I need to ask about. I can’t recommend this, but I won’t dissuade you from seeking it out, either.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars