Archive for November, 2013

The Heat

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn is a very skilled and effective investigator, but is despised by her fellow agents for her arrogance and condescending attitude. Hale, Ashburn’s boss at the New York FBI field office who is being promoted, sends her to Boston to investigate a drug kingpin named Larkin with the promise that she would be considered as his replacement if she can solve the case while showing the ability to work effectively with others. Once in Boston, she is partnered with Shannon Mullins, a skilled but foulmouthed and rebellious police officer with the Boston Police Department. Ashburn’s by-the-book philosophy clashes with Mullins’ rugged and violent style of police work. Mullins discovers the details of the Larkin case by stealing the case file from Ashburn and insists on helping her. Ashburn reluctantly agrees, realizing that she needs Mullins’ knowledge of the local area.

Ashburn and Mullins follow leads to a local night club owner and successfully place a bug on his cell phone. As they leave the club, Ashburn and Mullins are confronted by two DEA agents, Craig and Adam, who have been working the Larkin case for several months and are worried that their case will be compromised. After viewing him on a screen in the DEA agents’ surveillance van, Ashburn discovers that Mullins’ brother, Jason, was recently released from prison, having been put there by Mullins herself, and may be connected to Larkin’s organization. Ashburn convinces Mullins to go to her parents’ home to ask Jason for information on Larkin. On their arrival at the home, it becomes apparent that Mullins’ parents and two other brothers still harbor deep resentment for Mullins’ involvement in Jason’s incarceration. Jason, who does not have any ill feelings toward his sister, tips her off about the body of a murdered drug dealer hidden in an abandoned car. Upon examination of the body, chemicals on the victim’s shoes lead Ashburn and Mullins to an abandoned paint factory, where they witness a drug dealer being murdered by a member of Larkin’s organization named Julian. The two apprehend Julian and interrogate him regarding Larkin, but are unable to extract any substantial information regarding Larkin’s whereabouts.

The pair spends the evening in a bar bonding over several rounds of drinks. After a night of raucous drinking and partying, Ashburn wakes up the following morning to discover that, in her drunkenness, she has given her car keys to one of the bar patrons. After unsuccessfully pleading for the keys, Ashburn watches, along with Mullins, as the car explodes upon being started, having been fitted with a bomb. During the investigation of the explosion, the two discover that Julian has escaped from custody and may mean to harm Mullins’ family. Mullins moves the family into a motel, but learns that Jason has joined with the Larkin organization in an attempt to aid the case. Jason gives her a tip about a drug shipment coming in to Boston Harbor. The FBI sets up a sting at the harbor to take down the shipment, but discovers that the ship they have been waiting for is actually only a pleasure cruise ship and Jason has been set up by Larkin. Knowing that he informed the FBI about the supposed drug shipment, Larkin attempts to have Jason killed, but only puts him into a coma.

Mullins vows to bring her brother’s attacker to justice. Ashburn and Mullins learn of a warehouse where Larkin houses his operations. After equipping themselves with assault equipment from Mullins’ extensive personal arsenal, the two infiltrate the warehouse. Despite taking out several of Larkin’s men with a hand grenade, the two women are captured and bound by Julian, who threatens to torture them with knives. Julian is called away by Larkin, but before he leaves the room, he stabs Ashburn in the leg with one of the knives. Mullins removes the knife from Ashburn’s leg and uses it to cut the rope binding her hands. Before she can finish freeing herself and Ashburn, they are discovered by Craig and Adam. Craig begins to untie the two women, but is shot and killed by Adam. Ashburn and Mullins deduce that Adam is actually Larkin, having been working his own case from inside the DEA for several months. Julian reenters and is instructed by Larkin to kill Ashburn and Mullins while he goes to the hospital to kill Jason. After Larkin leaves, Mullins, whose hands have already been untied, manages to finish freeing herself and Ashburn incapacitates Julian with a head butt. Mullins then frees Ashburn and the two race to the hospital to save Jason.

Upon their arrival, Mullins rushes to find Jason. Ashburn, hindered by the stab wound in her leg, is unable to move quickly. Mullins finds Jason’s room, only to discover Larkin standing over his bed with a syringe, intending to kill Jason by injecting air into his vein, causing his death by an air embolism. Mullins drops her weapon in an attempt to save her brother’s life. Ashburn, having had to crawl to the room, then enters and subdues Larkin by shooting him in the genitals. With Larkin captured, Ashburn requests to stay in the FBI’s Boston field office, having developed a strong friendship with Mullins. Jason is shown having fully recovered from his coma. The film ends with Mullins receiving a commendation from the Boston Police Department, with her family present cheering for her, having reconciled with her.

Afterwards, following a misunderstanding earlier in the film, Mullins brings Ashburn her neighbor’s cat, after believing that it was hers from a picture in her house.

REVIEW:

In the same vein of 48 hrs and The Odd Couple, we get the odd pairing of Sandra Bullock and a ragged looking Melissa McCarthy in The Heat. The formula of total opposites has worked in the past, but how does it resonate with today’s audiences, especially with these actresses leading the way.

What is this about?

In this action-comedy, Sandra Bullock heads the cast as by-the-book FBI agent Katerina James, who forms an unlikely alliance with unconventional street cop Joyce Nelson to take down a Russian gangster.

What did I like?

Family. About halfway through the film, we get to meet the family of Melissa McCarthy’s character, who are very much the living embodiment of every stereotype of people from Boston. I’m surprised they weren’t talking about the (Red) Sox, eating beans, and drinking beer! Still, the family not only helped give us more of an idea of where McCarthy came from and they were quite funny.

Chemistry. I was amazed with how well Bullock and McCarthy worked together and played off each other. Part of it is because of the good writing and part of it is because of the comedic talent that these two women possess. Throw in the fact that their characters are opposites of each other and the great chemistry between them is a major selling point.

Marlon. Usually, we see Marlon Wayans in comedic roles, and this is the same kind of role, but it does seem to be more of a serious part. I could say that he was underused, but I actually think this was a nice use for him, though we could have gotten more of him trying to get with Sandra Bullock’s character. That seemed like it was going to go on and be hilarious, but the parts we got we pretty funny.

What didn’t I like?

Miss Congeniality. I was reading some reviews for this before I started writing this, and someone mention that Bullock’s character seems to be an extension of her character from Miss Congeniality. When I was watching, I didn’t realize it, but it has been quite some time since I’ve watched that film. Still, Bullock may have been a bit too uptight and I think she could have loosened up a bit, but that’s just me.

Faction. DEA, FBI, and the Boston police all butt heads and as an audience member, I have to wonder if this actually happens. The lack of communication between the three is part of the reason the  film’s villain, who is a bit of a surprise when he is revealed, was able to stay so hidden, but is quite obvious who he is.

Controversy and characterization. When they were marketing this film, there was some controversy regarding the posters, which feature an airbrushed and elongated Melissa McCarthy. That’s all I’m going to say about that. If I go too far into it, I’ll end up throwing this computer. Keeping on McCarthy, it seems as if all her film roles are some variation of the same character, the unlikable, annoying (sometimes fat) lady. She has shown she can be a total sweetheart, though. Just watch her on Mike & Molly. I would like to see her show that side on film. While the gruff character worked here, it is getting to be a bit old. I could switch this character out for her character in The Hangover III and both would probably still work.

For all the heat surrounding The Heat, I didn’t feel it as much as I probably should have. That being said, I did thoroughly enjoy this film and laughed harder than I have with most of today’s “comedies”. It should be noted that if you have sensitive ears, this is not the film for you! Otherwise, I highly recommend this action comedy. Give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Neal Page is trying to return to his family for Thanksgiving in Chicago after being on a business trip in New York. His journey is doomed from the outset, with Del Griffith, a traveling salesman, interfering first by leaving his trunk by the side of the road causing Neal to trip when racing a man for a cab, then moments later again by inadvertently snatching the taxi ride that Neal had bought from an attorney just before. The two inevitably pair up later and begin an error-prone adventure to help Neal get back to his home. Their flight from LaGuardia Airport to O’Hare is diverted to Wichita due to a blizzard in Chicago, which ends up dissipating only a few hours after touchdown in Kansas. When every mode of transport (including a train, a bus, and a rental car) fails them, what should have been an 1 hour and 45 minute New York-to-Chicago flight turns into a three-day adventure. To complicate matters even further, on the first night in Wichita, a thief breaks into the poorly-locked motel and steals almost $1,000 aggregate from the two men.

Neal frequently blows up at Del, blaming him for much of their misfortunes, including the robbery of the first night. These ravings are not all unjustified, as Del’s carelessly discarded cigarette sets fire to the rental car, melting all but the radio. Del in turn regards Neal as a pretentious and uptight cynic while Del is less afraid to be himself. After much heated argument between the two men, a bond between them forms, and Neal finally manages to overcome his arrogance. Both men pull together to make their way home to Chicago, while Del manages to raise money by selling off his entire inventory of shower curtain rings, to kids and adults alike, who think they make good earrings.

Under the assumption that Del has a family of his own (he frequently mentions his wife Marie and puts a framed picture of her on his various motel nightstands), the two men part ways. However, Neal later pieces together some of the things Del had said about Marie during the journey, and realizes that Del is alone for the holiday. He goes back to the train station where the two had earlier parted ways and sees him sitting alone. Del tells Neal that Marie actually died eight years prior and that he has been alone and without a permanent home ever since. Neal, feeling sorry for the man who went out of his way just to get him home for Thanksgiving and having himself become a nicer person during the journey, invites Del to enjoy Thanksgiving with his family. The film ends with Neal finally returning home to his wife, children, parents and in-laws, and introducing Del to the family.

REVIEW:

As I was telling my friend, Kasey, this evening, there are a ton of Christmas films, but Thanksgiving has a handful, most of which aren’t worth watching. I’m getting ahead of myself. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope that by the time you read this, you had a great one. Now, I was looking for something Thanksgiving-ish to watch this holiday weekend and the suggestions were Dutch, Son in Law, Miracle on 34th Street, and the best reviewed and respected of the bunch, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

What is this about?

While trying to get home to his family in Chicago for Thanksgiving, marketing executive Neal Page runs into one disaster after another — which includes being stuck with insufferable salesman Del Griffith as his unshakable traveling companion.

What did I like?

Connection. When I was little there was a Saturday morning cartoon featuring John Candy that I loved. I believe it was called Camp Candy, and he was hilarious in it.. Truthfully, though, other than a few parts here and there, I haven’t seen Candy in any of his major roles, so this was something of a treat for me. I was really taken in by how well he and Steve Martin played off each other. As great as Martin is, I wasn’t expecting the chemistry between the two to be so great. I wonder why they didn’t work together more often?

80s. As a child of the 80s, I often seek out films that take me back to that carefree time and this is no exception. While not as 80s chic as something like say, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it does manage to take you back with the use of certain things in pop culture that were big at the time.

Funny. I have to say that the amount of funny in this film is something sorely missed in today’s cinema. It was so great to watch a film that actually was funny without trying to be offensive or raunchy, but rather just natural situations that turned comedic because of a little slapstick that was added in. Hopefully one day, we’ll be able to get back to this point with our comedy.

What didn’t I like?

Bad day. I’ve heard of people having a string of bad luck, but this was a bit too much. From losing his cab in New York and getting diverted to Wichita, KS instead of Chicago because of a snowstorm to the rental car catching on fire and having no money for a hotel room, Steve Martin’s character couldn’t catch a break! For comedic purposes, this is comedy gold, but from a human standpoint, I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

Ending. At the expense of spoiling the ending, our stars end up with a nicely wrapped up conclusion to this story. In the last few minutes, we discover something about John Candy’s characters’ wife that explains some things about him and also brings the film down in the final scene. As the final credits start, we get a final shot of Candy looking happy and sad at the same time. I don’t think this was a bad thing to do, jut believe that the timing could be better. There were plenty of other places they could have brought this up, rather than the last scene.

I do believe I have found a new Thanksgiving tradition. Aside from watching the Cowboys win, the Macy’s parade, and eating, sometime during the week, from now on (or at least until some more decent Thanksgiving films appear), I will be watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. This is a funny film that features two of the greatest comedic actors that were working at the time. The only objectionable moment in this flick is one profanity laden rant at a rental agent, that was actually quite funny. I highly recommend this, so give it a shot!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Psycho

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , on November 29, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Marion Crane and her boyfriend Sam Loomis meet for a secret romantic rendezvous during lunch hour at a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. They then talk about how they can barely afford to get married. Upon Marion’s return to work at a realtor’s office, a client comes in with $40,000 in cash to purchase a house for his daughter. The money is entrusted to Marion, who decides to steal it and skip town.

On the road, she pulls over to sleep and is awoken by a policeman who can tell something is wrong. The policeman lets her go, but upon arriving in another town, Marion pulls into a used car dealership and hastily exchanges her car for another one. Driving during a rainy night, Marion pulls up to the Bates Motel, a remote lodging that has recently lost business due to a diversion of the main highway. The proprietor, youthful but nervous Norman Bates, invites her to a light dinner in the parlor. Norman discloses that his mother is mentally ill, but he becomes irate and bristles when Marion suggests that she should be institutionalized. The conversation induces Marion to decide to return to Phoenix and return the stolen money. Marion later takes a shower in her room, during which a shadowy figure comes and stabs her to death. Norman bursts into the bathroom and discovers Marion’s dead body. He wraps the body in the shower curtain and cleans up the bathroom. He puts Marion’s body in the trunk of her car and sinks it in a nearby swamp.

In Phoenix, Marion’s sister Lila and boyfriend Sam Loomis are concerned about her disappearance. A detective named Arbogast confirms Marion is suspected of having stolen $40,000 from her employer. Arbogast eventually finds the Bates Motel, where Norman’s evasiveness and stammering arouse his suspicions. Arbogast later enters the Bates’ residence, looking for Norman’s mother. A figure emerges from her room and murders Arbogast.

Fearing something has happened to Arbogast, Sam and Lila go to the town of Fairvale and talk with the local sheriff. He is puzzled by the detective’s claim that he was planning to talk to Norman’s mother, stating that Mrs. Bates died years ago, along with her lover, in a murder-suicide. Norman, seen from above, carries his mother down to the cellar of their house as she verbally protests the arrangement.

Sam and Lila rent a room at the Bates Motel and search the cabin that Marion stayed in. Lila finds a scrap of paper with “$40,000” written on it while Sam notes that the bathtub has no shower curtain. Sam distracts Norman while Lila sneaks into the house, looking for Mrs. Bates. Norman subdues Sam and chases Lila. Seeing Norman approaching, Lila hides in the cellar and discovers Mrs. Bates sitting in a rocking chair. The chair rotates to reveal a desiccated corpse, the preserved body of Mrs. Bates. A figure enters the basement, wearing a dress and wig while wielding a large knife, revealing Norman to be the murderer all along. Sam enters and saves Lila.

After Norman’s arrest, a psychiatrist who interviewed Norman reveals that Norman had murdered his mother and her lover years ago, and later developed a split personality to erase the crime from his memory. At times, he is able to function as Norman, but other times the mother personality completely dominates him. Norman is now locked into his mother’s identity permanently. Mrs. Bates, in a voice-over, talks about how harmless she is, and how it was really Norman, not she, who committed the murders. The final scene shows Marion’s car being recovered from the swamp.

REVIEW:

With every Hitchcock film, I become more and more enamored and impressed with his work. Psycho is widely regarded as his most popular film. Modern audiences may remember it as being the subject of the Hitchcock biopic, Hitchcock. This is one of the films that automatically brought to mind when you mention classic horror and suspense.

What is this about?

When larcenous real estate clerk Marion Crane goes on the lam with a wad of cash and hopes of starting a new life, she ends up at the notorious Bates Motel, where twitchy manager Norman Bates cares for his housebound mother. The place seems quirky but fine until Marion decides to take a shower. Director Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-nominated shocker has been terrifying viewers for decades — and for good reason.

What did I like?

Suspense. I’ve never been a fan of how quickly the murder of a main character happens, but the suspense that Hitchcock manages to create with misdirection and mystery is why the man is widely regarded as a true genius in the genre. The audience can’t help but be dumbfounded by the circumstances regarded Janet Leigh’s character’s death and the connection with Norman Bates.

Score. Bernard Herrmann’s immortal score to this film is widely known, wouldn’t you say. Everyone knows the screeching violins, but it is the rest of the score and how it is used throughout the film to set the mood that impresses me, along with the masterful job Herrmann did of scoring. They always say music sets the mood. Well, on a certain version of this film I watched at one time, they had the option to watch without the music and it is quite the different experience.

Shower scene. If there is anything this film is known for, it may very well be the shower scene. Aside from the screeching violins, it could be best known for a naked Janet Leigh. Hitchcock got nearly every inch of her on camera, except a few parts that weren’t allowed back then, no matter how hard he tried. What captivates me about this scene is how effective it is without actually showing the murder. All we see is Leigh screaming, the silhouette of Norman’s mother giving a stabbing motion, and blood going down the drain. Somehow, though, this is infinitely more effective than the “horror” we endure these days in film. Not to mention, Leigh is more believable than today’s scream queens.

What didn’t I like?

Post-mortem. For me, it felt like the film lost its way a bit after Leigh’s murder and was just spinning its wheels a bit. That is until the investigation and climax involving Norman and his mother and even that didn’t come off as intriguing as it should have been. I hesitate to say that the picture peaked too quickly, but given the way it is paced, one is led to believe that. I wonder if the book plays out the same way.

Nuisance. If I have one complaint about classic cinema, it is that whenever something is slightly wrong, there is always the boyfriend/love interest who sticks his nose in everyone’s business, often time with a family member of one of the main characters. Well, the same thing happens here. Leigh’s boyfriend from the beginning of the film and her sister, played by John Gavin and Vera Miles, respectively, stop at nothing, even breaking an entering to find out what happened to her, rather than letting the police do their job.

Alfred Hitchcock was a genius and Psycho just proved it. With the perfect amount of suspense, terror, and a final moment of horror, there is no real reason for you not to see watch this cinematic masterpiece. If you are a fan of this genre, then this would be the perfect film for you to watch to see what a true master of the genre can accomplish. This is more than a high recommendation, but a must-see before you die film!

5 out of 5 stars

Revisted: Batman (1966)

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When Batman (West) and Robin (Ward) get a tip that Commodore Schmidlapp (Reginald Denny) is in danger aboard his yacht, they launch a rescue mission using the Batcopter. As Batman descends on the Bat-ladder to land on the yacht it suddenly vanishes beneath him. He rises out of the sea with a shark attacking his leg. After Batman dislodges it with Bat-shark repellant, the shark explodes. Batman and Robin head back to Commissioner Gordon’s office, where they deduce that the tip was a set-up by the United Underworld, a gathering of four of the most powerful villains in Gotham City (Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman).

The United Underworld equip themselves with a dehydrator that can turn humans into dust (an invention of Commodore Schmidlapp, who is unaware he has been kidnapped), a Submarine made to resemble a penguin, and their three pirate henchmen (Bluebeard, Morgan and Quetch). It is revealed the yacht was really a projection. When The Dynamic Duo return to a buoy concealing a projector, they are trapped on the buoy by a magnet and targeted by torpedoes. They use a radio-detonator to destroy two of the missiles, and a porpoise sacrifices itself to intercept the last one. Catwoman, disguised as Soviet journalist “Miss Kitka”, helps the group kidnap Bruce Wayne and pretends to be kidnapped with him, as part of a plot to lure Batman and finish him off with another of Penguin’s explosive animals (not knowing that Wayne is Batman’s alter-ego). After Wayne escapes captivity, Penguin disguises himself as the Commodore and schemes his way into the Batcave along with five dehydrated henchmen. This plan fails when the henchmen unexpectedly disappear into Antimatter once struck: Penguin mistakenly rehydrated them with heavy water contaminated with radioactive waste, as it was regularly used to recharge the Batcave’s atomic pile.

Ultimately the Duo are unable to prevent the kidnapping of the dehydrated United World Organization’s Security Council. Giving chase in the Batboat to retrieve them (and Miss Kitka, presumed by the duo as still captive), Robin uses a sonic charge weapon to disable Penguin’s submarine and force it to surface, where a fist fight ensues. Although Batman and Robin win the fight, Batman is heartbroken to find out that his “true love” Miss Kitka is actually Catwoman when her mask falls off. Commodore Schmidlapp accidentally breaks the vials containing the powdered Council members, mixing them together.

Batman sets to work, constructing an elaborate filter to separate the mingled dust. Robin asks him whether it might be in the world’s best interests for them to alter the dust samples, so that humans can no longer harm one another. In response, Batman says that they cannot do so, reminding Robin of the fate of Penguin’s henchmen and their tainted rehydration, and can only hope for people in general to learn to live together peacefully on their own.

With the world watching, the Security Council is re-hydrated. All of the members are restored alive and well, continuing to squabble among themselves and totally oblivious of their surroundings, but each of them now speaks the language and displays the stereotypical mannerisms of a nation other than their own. Batman quietly expresses his sincere hope to Robin that this “mixing of minds” does more good than it does harm. The duo quietly leave United World Headquarters by climbing out of the window.

REVIEW:

I think I am in the minority of people who doesn’t bow down and lick the feet of Christopher Nolan for what he did for the Batman franchise. As a matter of fact, I’m not really a fan of his trilogy. My favorite Batman film is actually Batman (1989). That being kept in mind, it seems that everyone likes to forget the campy 60s Batman. Yes, Batman is a brooding bully now, but there was a time when he was actually a fun guy. The 60s show may not have gotten many cannon things right, but it sure is fun to watch, and Batman (1966) should follow suit.

What is this about?

In director Leslie H. Martinson’s campy action comedy based on the tongue-in-cheek 1960s TV series, Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) battle sharks, Catwoman (Lee Meriwether), The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) on the big screen. Can they keep the bad guys from taking over the world? With a “wham!” and a “pow!” the heroes just might pull it off — and maintain their secret identities.

What did I like?

Tone. In this day and age, everything is dark and moody, so it is nice to go back and experience a much lighter time. Seeing Batman fight crime using a lighter tone is a nice departure. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as I finish this review, I’m sure to go kick some ass with Batman in Arkham City, (don’t have Arkham Origins, yet), but it is just nice to switch things up once in a while, and the fact that everything is labeled is just priceless!

Nefarious plot. In any other version of Batman, this plot might have actually been a threat to the Dark Knight, especially when you consider it is being plotted by his 3 biggest enemies and a Catwoman who leans more toward the villainous side. Exploding shark aside, of course. You can’t tell me that nuclear missiles and dehydration aren’t a threat, especially in the hands of these madmen!

Showtime. I’ve noticed that many shows when turned into full-length motion pictures somehow manage to lose everything that makes them special. Why do they that? There is a reason that your show became a film and to change those reasons negates everything. Luckily, these producers were smart enough to not change a thing about the show that had quite a following, and still does, though I do think we could have done with more of the Biff! Pow! Zwap! fights.

What didn’t I like?

Catwoman. I won’t say that Lee Meriwether was a bad Catwoman, but she’s no Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar. Her Catwoman had no life, and I wonder if she was chosen just because she did such a good Russian accent. For those wondering, Newmar had an accident on another film she was filming before this was set to start. Not really sure why they didn’t just go back to Eartha Kitt, though. Hell, the makeup lady could have been a better Catwoman that Meriwether turned out to be.

Oblivious. The delegates at the World Security Organization (the equivalent to the UN) are constantly arguing. Big surprise there, right? Well, as they are getting dehydrated one by one, they continue arguing, even when it is down to just one man. Don’t ask me why he was arguing with, but he was still arguing. Now, I suspend disbelief many times, but this was a bit much for me, especially since they all turned into different brightly colored piles of dust.

Masks. This is a very small thing, but when you see it, you’ll also say WTF?!? In the final caper for our fearsome foursome, they enter the World Security Headquarters all wearing masks. Now, for Catwoman (who I’m not even 100% sure was there) and Riddler, this is a normal occurrence, but for the Penguin and Joker, one must wonder why? First of all they are highly recognizable and second, they just don’t look right in them. What went into the thought process of putting them in masks, I wonder?

Batman may not be the best films starring the Dark Knight, and it may not even be the best adaptation of the character, but it is good fun. As I said before, it is a nice change of pace from what we’re used to. Batman is an ever evolving character. He wasn’t always the dark, brooding presence we know today. For those that insist on forgetting this part of his history, you more than likely have already made up your mind about this film. For the rest of us with open minds, I think you’ll enjoy this film for what it is, a campy film that is a reward for Batman’s hard work on the small screen. Give it a shot some time. I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monsters University

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews, Pixar with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A young monster named Michael “Mike” Wazowski dreams of being a scarer (a monster who enters the human world at night to scare children so their screams can be harvested for energy) when he grows up, after visiting Monsters Inc.—Monstropolis’ most profitable and best-known scaring company—on a school field trip. Eleven years later, Mike is a first-year scare major at Monsters University, where he meets his new roommate, Randall “Randy” Boggs, and a large, blue, furry monster named James P. “Sulley” Sullivan.

Mike studies hard, while the privileged Sulley—who comes from a talented family of scarers—relies on his natural scaring ability and begins to falter. As the semester progresses, Mike and Sulley attempt to join a fraternity as pledges, but only Sulley gets into Roar Omega Roar. At the final exam for Scaring 101, Dean Abigail Hardscrabble fails them both and drop them from the program, stating that Sulley doesn’t study enough and Mike is not at all scary, prompting Roar Omega Roar to remove Sulley from their team. Mike decides to prove himself by entering the Scare Games, but Oozma Kappa—the only fraternity that was removed from the program—is denied entry as they are one team member short. Seeing the competition as his ticket back into the scare program, Sulley joins and Mike reluctantly accepts.

Oozma Kappa fails the first challenge, an obstacle course where the contestants dodge harmful, glowing “urchins,” but miraculously advances when another team is disqualified for using protection gel, which violates the Scare Games rules. Oozma Kappa places second in the second challenge, where the contestants have to avoid disturbing the librarian from her reading. The contestants attend Roar Omega Roar’s party where the other competitors humiliate and discourage Oozma Kappa. Mike arranges a secret visit to Monsters, Inc. to lift their spirits, but Sulley still doubts that Mike can be a true scarer. In the final round, they pull off a close victory cemented by a final decisive scare by Mike in the simulation bedroom. Afterwards, Mike discovers that Sulley cheated to improve Mike’s score. Determined to prove he is capable of becoming a scarer, Mike breaks into the school’s door lab and enters a door to the human world, but the door leads to a summer camp and he is unable to scare a cabin full of children.

Back at the university, Sulley confesses to Hardscrabble that he cheated, just as she is notified of the break-in. Realizing what happened, Sulley enters the door to look for Mike. After finding and reconciling with him, they try to return but they find they are trapped in the human world because Hardscrabble has deactivated the door while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Mike realizes that the only way to get back into the monster world is to generate enough scream energy to power the door from their side. Working together, Sulley and Mike terrify the adults, generating an overwhelming amount of scream energy and allowing them to return to the lab.

Their actions lead to their expulsion from the university, but the other members of Oozma Kappa are accepted into the scare program the next semester because Hardscrabble is impressed with their performance in the games. They share goodbyes and as Sulley and Mike leave, Hardscrabble tells them they are the first to have surprised her and wishes them good luck in the future. Mike and Sulley begin work at Monsters, Inc. in the company mailroom under the mailroom manager, the Abominable Snowman. Working their way up through the company, the two eventually become part of the Scarer Team, thus setting the events of Monsters, Inc. in motion.

REVIEW:

Pixar was once the gold standard for computer animation, but they’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral of late, so they decided to go back to the well and do a prequel to one of their most popular films, Monsters, Inc. This is where we get Monsters University, but there are two questions we all have. Could the prequel live up to the original and is this film going to continue the downward spiral of Pixar.

What is this about?

This prequel to Pixar’s popular animated tale Monsters Inc. once again features eccentric monster pals Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan. Set during their college days, the film tells the strange and amusing tale of how the pair became friends.

What did I like?

Evolution. There are two ways to look at how the animation has improved since we originally saw Mike and Sully. First, look at how much better their younger selves look compared to the older versions of years passed. As time has passed, Pixar has refined their animation style, which is why these characters look so much better and move smoother than they did originally. Second, take a gander at the backgrounds. The detail in the grass on the field, the books in the library, the stones on the buildings/floors are something to behold, much like the way Sully’s fur took our breath away in the original.

Voices carry. Aside from the returning voices, we get new characters. The two antagonists obviously stand out, especially to me as they are two of my favorite actors. First, there is the president of Roar Omega Roar, a scaring fraternity, who is voiced by Nathan Fillion. Fillion gives this character a smug demeanor, very similar to the his counterpart in Revenge of the Nerds. Second, there is the Dead of the Scarer program, who is voiced by Helen Mirren. Before I get into her voice, I have to mention the design of this character. Waternoose in the first film was a little scary, but it was obvious they just missed and matched some parts to create him. Dean Hardscrabble literally could appear in a horror film and give you nightmares. Helen Mirren gives her the headmistress voice she deserves, scary, firm, and in charge.

Getting it right. As you can imagine, there are plenty of references to characters we see in the original, but none of these are overdone. Everything seems to gel just right and nothing seems forced into the mythology, for lack of a better term. I have to commend these writers for that. There are many prequel films that have not been able to accomplish that feat.

What didn’t I like?

Original. I didn’t get the same sense of originality and wonder here as I did with the first film. As a matter of fact, it felt like a watered down version of Revenge of the Nerds in more places than I would have liked. Realizing that it is hard to do the underdog college fraternity story these days without the inevitable comparison to the nerds, I just felt that they didn’t need to stick so close to the “source material”.

Loose end. At the risk of spoiling anything, there is a scene where Mike and Sully get locked in the human world. Sound familiar? Well, the same thing happens in the original film, but under different circumstances. For me, I felt that this was a cop out and they couldn’t think of a better way to set up their close bond, not to mention make them pay for what they did in the games.

Joke. I don’t want to be that guy, but I really didn’t feel there was a need to have the older Oozma Kappa member hook up with one of the brothers’ mother. Making matters worse, in one of the final scenes, there is some rather odd wording that just seems out of place for a film like this. I won’t say what it is, and this is just a minor complaint, but it didn’t sit very well with me.

When I was at Disneyworld back in March, there were plenty of signs leading up to the release of Monsters University, such as the shrubbery cut in the shape of Mike, Sully, and even the entrance to Monsters U. At the time, I thought it was a bit much for a film that probably wasn’t going to be any good, but after seeing it tonight, I’m highly impressed and recommend this as a must-see. There haven’t been many films to blow me away this year, but this is one of them. Check it out as soon as you can!

5 out of 5 stars

Sharknado

Posted in Action/Adventure, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A freak hurricane hits Los Angeles causing man-eating sharks to be scooped up in water spouts and flooding the city with shark-infested seawater. Surfer and bar-owner Fin (Ziering) sets out with his friends Baz (Jaason Simmons) and Nova (Scerbo) to rescue his estranged wife April (Reid) and teenage daughter Claudia (Aubrey Peeples). He succeeds but April’s boyfriend is eaten by the sharks. The group meets up with Matt (Chuck Hittinger), the adult son of Fin and April, who is in flying school. They decide to try to stop the threat of the incoming “sharknadoes” by tossing bombs into them from helicopters.

As Nova prepares to throw one of the bombs, she falls out of the helicopter and directly into a shark’s mouth. Matt is heartbroken. Baz is also lost in the storm. After Matt lands on the ground, a flying shark plummets toward the remaining members of the group. Fin jumps into its mouth with a chainsaw and cuts his way out. He emerges carrying an unconscious but miraculously unharmed Nova. Matt is reunited with Nova and Fin gets back together with April

REVIEW:

I’m not used to being home on Tuesday night, and as it turns out, there is nothing on after Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., unless you count some crappy, worthless reality show. With this in mind, I decided to finally give Sharknado a shot, for better, or worse. What am I thinking?!?

What is this about?

When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, thousands of sharks are swept up in tornadoes and deposited all over the city, where they terrorize the shocked residents. Among them is bar owner Fin, who must rescue his estranged wife and daughter.

What did I like?

Action. Say what you will about this film, good or bad, the one thing you can’t say is that the action isn’t something to be seen. Yes, it is bloody, ludicrous, and all but expels disbelief (rather than suspending it). When push comes to shove, Ian Ziering and his friend, Jaason Simmons, and to a lesser extent the supporting cast, excluding Tara Reid, are swimming, jumping, shooting, and slicing their way through these sharks, making sure that they survive.

Idea. Who comes with this stuff? For the past 10 years or so, sharks have been very popular. Why else do we have Shark week, right? This film was released around that time. Syfy has plenty of films using sharks in a sci-fi manner, but mixing them with a tornado/hurricane? I won’t say that’s a stroke of brilliance, but in today’s climate of remakes, reboots, and whatnot, it is something original and should be noted as such.

Hero. I wasn’t really a fan of Beverly Hills, 90210 back in the 90s when it was on. The few episodes I watched were to impress some girl I was chasing after. From what I recall, though, Ian Ziering was a good guy jock. Fast forward 20 yrs and it seems as if this character shares some of the same characteristics. He even goes out of his to save a busload of kids trapped under a bridge, despite his wife’s pleading that he should put his family first.

What didn’t I like?

Effects. Whenever I see subpar effects in a theater released film, the first thing I usually do I compare it to Syfy flicks. Well, there is a reason for that and watching the sharks, funnel clouds, and even some of the water reminds me that this is a cheaply made movie with little to no effort put into the special effects. Sure, they could have been better, but it doesn’t seem as if the filmmakers, or Syfy, give a damn.

Tara. Remember when American Pie came out and Tara Reid was said to be the next big thing in Hollywood. I know I was drooling over her. Fast forward to this film and the years have not been kind to her. That isn’t what I don’t like, though. My issue is with her character. While her children and husband are trying to protect people and get to safety, she just stands there. When she’s not just standing around, all she does is be a bitch toward her ex-husband. It all makes you wonder, what is the point of even having her in this film? She must have really needed the paycheck!

Is this really the time? So, as our heroic crew and his family are stocking up on weapons and making a plan to stop the sharknado before it does anymore damage, Ziering’s daughter chimes in that he’s never there for her. Having no children of my own, I can’t say anything about this other than it seemed like a rather odd time to start that conversation, especially when they are in such great peril, but there she was insisting that they talk about why he was never there for her. WTF?!?

My guess is that if you have heard anything about Sharknado, it is how bad it is. Let’s not beat around the bush here, this is not a good film, but it doesn’t take itself serious to the point that it think it is on the level of more serious action horror flicks. If you go by that, then this isn’t half bad…not half good, but not half bad. Do I recommend it? Sure, it is so ridiculous and over the top, you’re sure to have a good time watching, just be sure to leave your brain and suspension of disbelief turned off, otherwise you’re likely to explode!

3 out of 5 stars

The Lady Eve

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , on November 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) is a beautiful con artist. Along with her equally larcenous father, “Colonel” Harrington (Charles Coburn) and his partner Gerald (Melville Cooper), she is out to fleece rich, naive Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), the heir to the Pike Ale fortune (“The Ale That Won for Yale”). Pike is a woman-shy snake expert just returning from a year-long expedition up the Amazon. Though surrounded by ladies desperate for his attention, Charles is putty in Jean’s hands.

But even the best laid plans can go astray. First, Jean falls hard for Pike and shields him from her card sharp father. Then, when Pike’s suspicious minder/valet Muggsy (William Demarest) discovers the truth about her and her father, Pike dumps her. Furious at being scorned, she re-enters his life masquerading as the posh “Lady Eve Sidwich”, niece of Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith (Eric Blore), another con man who’s been swindling the rich folk of Connecticut. Jean is determined to torment Pike mercilessly, as she explains, “I’ve got some unfinished business with him—I need him like the axe needs the turkey.”

When Pike meets “Eve”, he is so bewildered he constantly trips and falls over himself. Although Muggsy tries to convince him “she’s the same dame”, Pike reasons that Jean would never come close to his home without at least disguising herself, so he concludes the resemblance is only a coincidence. After a brief courtship, they marry, and on the train to their honeymoon, “Eve” begins to confess her past, dropping name after name after name of old boyfriends and lovers. Pike finally gets fed up and jumps off the train.

Now separated, Jean’s con team urges her to close the deal, saying she’s got him over a barrel and can make a killing in a settlement. While Charles’ father and lawyers are on the phone with her pleading to settle quickly, Jean says she doesn’t want any money at all, just for Pike to tell her it’s over to her face. Pike refuses, and through his father Jean learns that he’s departing on another ocean voyage. She arranges her own passage, and “bumps into” Pike, just as they met before. “Hopsie” is overjoyed to see Jean again, and they instantly dash to her cabin where they mutually affirm their love for each other. Charles confesses that he is married, and Jean replies tenderly, “So am I, darling.”

REVIEW:

For some reason, I wanted to watch Miracle on 34th Street this afternoon. That didn’t happen because Netflix only has a 45 min TV version of it. However, they have been trying to shove The Lady Eve down my throat for a couple of years now, based on my affinity for classic cinema, so I figured what harm could it do, right? I might even like it.

What is this about?

Seductive gold-digger Barbara Stanwyck and her conniving father (Charles Coburn) set out to fleece wealthy but naïve ophiologist Henry Fonda, the socially inept heir to a brewery fortune. But the tables turn when Stanwyck falls for her prey and Fonda gets wise to their scheme. Stanwyck then goes all-out to recapture Fonda’s heart in this raucous battle of the sexes from renowned writer-director Preston Sturges.

What did I like?

Luck be a lady. Usually, right about here is where I mention how hot the leading lady is. Barbara Stanwyck is no exception, but it is her acting that is the selling point and perhaps why this is widely regarded as her finest film. She plays the sexy vixen as well as her contemporary blonde bombshells and then flips the script to play a woman scorned, without missing a beat. Impressive, to say the least.

Innocence lost. While Stanwyck’s character is a “colored-up city woman”, her co-star and love interest, played by Henry Fonda, is going on a downward spiral from naïve ophiologist to someone who has had to curtain pulled back to reveal the truth. Personally, I preferred Fonda in the first half, but like Stanwyck the change in his character gives the film that extra bit of spice to keep things interesting.

What didn’t I like?

Train. Once we get to the train scene, which really should be the climax of the film, I suddenly lost interest. Why? I cannot tell you what the reason is. I imagine it was because it seemed to detach from the plot and change the tone of the film, and not in a way that worked for me.

Players. Other than our leads, I found it hard to determine who was who and what their relationship was to the goings on. Realizing that there is some deception going on made it a little easier, but I still wanted to know that this person is a friend of that person and they want to help them get rid of person x, for example.

The Lady Eve is a good example of what romantic comedies used to be. Everything that we say is wrong with these films these days was fixed back in the day. Watching this film, you get to see an example of actual talent on the screen in both starring and supporting roles, which results in a great, memorable film. I highly recommend it, so check it out!

4 out of 5 stars