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

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

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

Posted in Independent, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Set in 1961, the film begins with scientist Dr. Paul Armstrong (Larry Blamire) and his wife Betty (Fay Masterson) driving into the mountains. Dr. Armstrong is searching for a meteorite that has fallen in the nearby woods, suspected to contain the rare element atmosphereum. Another scientist in the area, Dr. Roger Fleming (Brian Howe) questions Ranger Brad (Dan Conroy) about Cadavra Cave, a site rumored to contain a “Lost Skeleton.”

That evening, both the Armstrongs and Dr. Fleming observe another falling meteor. A short time later a farmer (Robert Deveau), encountered by the Armstrongs on their way to the cabin, is mutilated by a mysterious beast. The second meteorite is actually a spaceship carrying two aliens. Kro-Bar (Andrew Parks) and Lattis (Susan McConnell) are from the planet Marva and are now stranded on Earth, in need of the element atmosphereum to repair their powerless ship. The ship’s pet mutant (Darren Reed) escapes from its cage while they are distracted.

The next day, Dr. Roger Fleming finds Cadavra Cave and locates the Lost Skeleton. The Skeleton commands Fleming to bring atmosphereum to return him to life. Meanwhile, Dr. Armstrong and Betty venture into the woods, discovering the meteorite just outside Cadavra Cave. Dr. Fleming overhears them and plots to steal the meteorite from the pair. Kro-Bar and Lattis also journey into the woods, locating the cabin with the meteorite. Using a device called the “transmutatron,” they disguise themselves as “Earth people” and clumsily manage to talk their way into the cabin, having been mistaken for the property owners. Not long after they arrive, Dr. Fleming discovers the aliens’ transmutatron, left outside the cabin since it would ruin their disguise. He uses it to create an ally for himself, the alluring Animala (Jennifer Blaire), created from four different animals. After briefly teaching Animala the basics of human interaction, he leads her to the cabin and convinces the Armstrongs to invite him inside.

Soon it becomes clear to Lattis and Kro-Bar (calling themselves “Turgaso” and “Bammin” on Earth) that Fleming knows their secret. They soon cooperate in stealing the meteorite, after Betty is psychically attacked by the Skeleton and Dr. Armstrong is entranced by Animala’s dancing. The evil scientist tricks the pair, however, and the Skeleton uses his mind powers to freeze the aliens in their tracks once Dr. Fleming has the meteorite. Dr. Fleming and Animala soon use the atmosphereum to resurrect the Skeleton. Meanwhile, Betty, waiting for Dr. Armstrong to come back, encounters the Mutant, who appears to fall in love with her, but she is terrified and flees.

The Skeleton, meanwhile uses his mental powers to force Lattis into becoming his bride, much to Kro-Bar’s chagrin. The Skeleton mocks everyone, including Fleming (whom he later kills), but keeps them in line with his telepathy. Betty, trying to escape the Mutant, runs past the makeshift wedding, causing the Mutant to bump into the Skeleton. The Skeleton tries his powers, but the Mutant is immune. They instead fight until the Skeleton is thrown over a cliff, smashing apart on impact. The mutant then succumbs to its injuries and dies. The alien and human couples spout the traditional homilies about different species working together in harmony, then go to retrieve the atmosphereum.

REVIEW:

This afternoon, I was in the mood for some classic cinema, but couldn’t find anything that I really wanted to watch at the time, then I came across The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. A modern film set in the ’60s, complete with all the tropes that made those cheesy sci-fi films such a joy to watch, but does it work the way similar films such as Alien Trespass have?

What is this about?

In this ’50s sci-fi spoof, a meteor shower rains down a unique ore and a scientist discovers that a couple of stranded aliens need the mineral as fuel for their spaceship. But an evil scientist wants the ore for his own nefarious scheme.

What did I like?

Retro. Returning to the sci-fi roots films have strayed so far away from, this flick has the feel of films such as Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Brain from Planet Arous, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, while still maintaining its own identity and charm. Filmed in 2001 and set in 1961, the filmmakers were brilliant enough to even turn this into a black and white flick. No matter what you may think of the film, itself, the retro vibe is one of its best charms.

Dialogue. This script is horrible. When I say it is bad, I mean REALLY bad. Now, before you write it off, remember that this is not meant to be taken as a serious film, much in the way that Black Dynamite was horrible. If you’ve ever watched a sci-fi flick from the 50s and 60s, or a tv show from that time, then you can tell what this film was doing with the rhythm and pattern of the speech and the constant laughter. The only thing missing was some of the slang used in this era.

Aliens. The actors were told to give wooden performances, but it is the performance given by the aliens that is so wooden and lifelike, even when they are trying to have life, that is impressive. As you can imagine, they are fish out of water when it comes to meeting humans and their interaction with them is quite comical. All the while, though, they are stiff as a board, which is what was expected of them.

What didn’t I like?

Elements. Maybe I missed it, but this whole film revolves around the element atmosphereum. My question is, what is so special about this stuff that the aliens and the villainous skeleton want it? A better, more clear explanation of the purpose of this stuff would have been nice.

Cadaver. Speaking of the skeleton, the titular character may as well have been one of those skeletons you can purchase from the store around Halloween. The only difference is that he needed to be hooked up to some sort of voice recording. This skeleton was far from threatening. Maybe he should have been made from Hydra’s Teeth as his skeleton brethren were in Jason and the Argonauts. As far as an antagonist goes, the skeleton was ok, just not the big baddie one would expect. Maybe the mutant would have been a better choice for the main antagonist.

For a small film on an extremely limited budget, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra was actually quite entertaining. I bet you’re wondering, though, what makes it worth your time? To be honest with you, if you’re not a fan of classic sci-fi from the 50s and 60s, there is no real reason to even acknowledge this film’s existence, unless you’re into the retro spoofs. If you fall into this category, then give this is a shot, otherwise, it may be best if you keep away.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

World War Z

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Former UN employee Gerry Lane, his wife Karin and their two daughters are in heavy Philadelphia traffic when the city is attacked by zombies. As chaos spreads, the Lanes escape to Newark, New Jersey and take refuge in an apartment, home to a couple with a young son, Tommy. UN Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni—an old friend of Gerry’s—sends a helicopter that extracts the Lanes and Tommy to a U.S. Navy vessel in the Atlantic where scientists and military personnel are analyzing the worldwide outbreaks. Dr. Andrew Fassbach posits that the plague is a virus, and that development of a vaccine depends on finding the origin. Gerry reluctantly agrees to help Fassbach find the outbreak’s source after it is made clear that he and his family will be removed from the ship if he does not.

Gerry and Fassbach fly to Camp Humphreys, a military base in South Korea, where they are attacked on arrival by zombies. Turning to re-enter the aircraft, Fassbach slips, falls and accidentally discharges his gun, killing himself. After being rescued by the base’s surviving personnel, led by Captain Speke, Gerry learns that the infection was introduced to the base by its doctor, who was ultimately incinerated by a soldier with a lame leg whom the infected ignored. A former CIA operative, imprisoned at the base, tells Gerry to go to Jerusalem, where he says a safe zone has been maintained by the Israeli Mossad since before the outbreak’s official acknowledgement. As Gerry and his team bike back to their aircraft, zombies attack, kill several soldiers and infect Captain Speke, who commits suicide to prevent himself from turning. Gerry and his pilot escape.

In Jerusalem, Gerry meets Mossad chief Jurgen Warmbrunn, who explains that months earlier, the Mossad had intercepted an Indian military message claiming that Indian troops were fighting the rakshasa, or the “undead”. Israel had thereupon quarantined Jerusalem, erecting huge walls around it. Just as Jurgen shows Gerry that Israel is allowing survivors to take refuge in the city, loud celebratory singing from refugees prompts zombies to scale the walls and attack. Jurgen orders some Israeli soldiers to escort Gerry back to his plane. On the way, Gerry notices zombies ignoring a sick old man and an emaciated boy. Soon after, one of Gerry’s escorts, a soldier who identifies herself only as “Segen”, is bitten on the hand, which Gerry quickly amputates to stop her turning. Gerry and Segen escape on a commercial airliner as Israel is overrun.

Gerry contacts Thierry, and the airliner is diverted to a World Health Organization (WHO) facility in Wales. When a stowaway zombie attacks in mid-air, Gerry uses a grenade to blow the infected out of the aircraft, but this also causes the plane to crash. Gerry is injured, but both he and Segen survive. They proceed to the WHO facility, where Gerry loses consciousness for three days, then explains to the remaining WHO staff a theory he has, based on the people he has seen the zombies ignore: the infected do not bite the seriously injured or terminally ill, since they would be unsuitable hosts for viral reproduction. He suggests that they test this by deliberately infecting somebody with one of the facility’s pathogens, but these are in a wing already overrun by zombies. Gerry, Segen and the lead WHO doctor go to get a pathogen, but are separated on the way; Gerry continues to the pathogen vault while Segen and the doctor return to the main building. A zombie corners Gerry inside the vault, prompting him to inject himself with a deadly, but treatable, virus and open the vault, thereby testing his theory. The zombie ignores him, as do those he encounters while returning to the main wing. Everybody rejoices at Gerry’s success, and he is successfully inoculated against the virus.

Gerry and his family are reunited in a safe zone at Freeport, Nova Scotia. A “vaccine”, derived from deadly pathogens, is developed and issued to troops battling the infected, acting as a kind of camouflage. The vaccine also helps survivors to reach quarantine zones. Human offensives begin against the zombies, and hope is restored. “This isn’t the end,” Gerry comments, “Not even close. Our war has just begun.”

REVIEW:

About this time last year, there was a bit of a controversy surrounding World War Z. Early screenings and the rumor mill were saying that it was basically no good. However, that assumption has not panned out because this film went on to become one of the best reviewed of the summer, not to mention one of the highest grossing films.

What is this about?

A U.N. employee races against time and fate as he travels the world trying to stop the spread of a deadly zombie pandemic. As the undead hordes gain strength across the globe, governments topple and Earth stands on the brink of total social collapse.

What did I like?

Pacing. Anyone that reads this blog on a regular basis is more than familiar with my distaste for films that drag on and on and on. Thankfully, this film does the opposite of that. Once it establishes the loving family dynamic and all that jazz, it starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Ah…an action film with action, YES!!!!

New breed. We’re more than used to the typical zombie. You know the type that just lumbers around and has no mind of their own. Well, how about this new breed that seems able to think for themselves, can run, and won’t be stopped by walls (if you’ve seen the trailer, then you know what I’m talking about). For me, I prefer the traditional zombies, just fine, but every now and then a new twist is nice, I suppose.

Explanation. Usually with these zombie outbreak films, we just know that there is an outbreak happening. Sometimes, they may make an attempt to tell us what happened, but that usually doesn’t do anything but confuse us more than anything. In this flick, we get to a few theories, such as rabies, but I don’t believe we know the exact cause. Still, the fact that they made an attempt to explain it, even going so far as to have a doctor throw his theories out there.

What didn’t I like?

Job. All throughout the film, we keep hearing about Brad Pitt’s job and how important he was. Inquiring minds want to know, though…what was his actual job?!? It seems to me if you’re going to keep bringing it up, then you need to say what it is or use the vagueness as a running joke. This film could have used a couple of moments of levity here and there.

Acting. Maybe it was just me, but the characters in this film come off as lifeless and bland when they’re not screaming and running about. Even Brad Pitt, who some consider a great actor –rolls eyes– seems a bit lifeless in parts, partly because of his character, and part because he seems to be more or less sleepwalking through this film. Maybe they should have made him a zombie and we could have gotten a performance that has more life in it.

Just coincidence. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. What does that have to do with anything, especially this film? Well, the next incarnation of the doctor will be played by one of the Doctors in the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) When this was announced, people went crazy and said this was a sign. I seriously doubt it was anything more than a coincidence, but Whovians are a fanatical bunch, that’s for sure.

Just like a car accident on the interstate, I couldn’t turn away from World War Z. All the action had me hooked from the beginning and the way they handled the zombie outbreak intrigued me. Rumors are swirling about whether there will or won’t be a sequel. Personally, I don’t think there needs to be one, but you know how studios are. They’ll rush it out just to make money. With that said, I highly recommend this film. It is as good as advertised. Whatever it was that was wrong with it before it was released must have been fixed. Check it out and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

White House Down

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins) after Cale saved Raphelson’s nephew’s life during a tour in Afghanistan. Cale is struggling to develop a better relationship with his daughter Emily (Joey King), who has a strong enthusiasm for politics. He hopes to impress her by getting a job with the Secret Service, but the interview is conducted by Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a former college acquaintance of his who believes that he is unqualified due to a lack of respect for authority. After lying to Emily about the outcome of the interview, she and Cale join a tour of the White House. At the same time, U.S. President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) proposes a controversial peace treaty between allied countries to remove military forces from the Middle East.

Meanwhile, a man disguised as a janitor detonates a bomb at the center of the United States Capitol, destroying the building’s dome. Raphelson – who was in the Capitol but is uninjured – and Finnerty are taken to a secure command center underneath the Pentagon while Vice President Alvin Hammond (Michael Murphy) is taken aboard Air Force One. The White House is put on lockdown separating Cale from Emily (who had left the tour group to use the restroom). Meanwhile, mercenaries led by Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke) start killing off most of the Secret Service and take the tour group hostage, but Cale manages to take a gun from a mercenary named Carl Killick (Kevin Rankin) and escapes to go and find his daughter. Following protocol, retiring Head of the Presidential Detail Martin Walker (James Woods) escorts President Sawyer and his detail to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. Once Sawyer gains access, Walker kills everyone else in Sawyer’s detail, revealing himself to be the leader of the attack; he wants revenge for the death of his son who was killed during a botched black ops mission. Cale, who fails to find Emily, kills a mercenary and takes his gun and radio. Using the radio, Cale locates and rescues the President.

Walker and Stenz bring in Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson) to hack into the defense system, but they still require Sawyer to activate the nuclear football. Emily, while hiding, records a video of the mercenaries and uploads it to YouTube before eventually being captured by Killick. Walker demands $400 million from the Federal Reserve as ransom for the hostages. Cale and Sawyer manage to get in contact with the Pentagon, and Finnerty tells Cale to get Sawyer out through a series of secret underground tunnels. Finnerty then uses Emily’s video to discover the mercenaries’ identities, discovering that they used to work for various government agencies and radical political groups. They are informed that Stenz, a former Special Forces operative, was disavowed and burned on mission, leading to his capture by the Taliban. They also discover that Walker has terminal cancer, suggesting his involvement to be a suicide mission and that the attack is not for ransom. Cale and Sawyer find the tunnel gate rigged with an explosive and are forced to escape in a presidential limousine. After a car chase/shootout with Stenz on the White House lawn, Cale and Sawyer are flipped into the White House pool after Cale gets distracted by the sight of Killick holding Emily at gunpoint. A gunfight erupts which results in an explosion that leaves Sawyer and Cale presumed dead. Hammond is then sworn in as President.

When Cale and Sawyer reveal they are still alive, they learn Hammond has approved an aerial incursion by Delta Force to take back the White House. Knowing the mercenaries have Javelin surface-to-air missiles, Cale tries but fails to stop the mercenaries from shooting down the helicopters. Cale gets into a fight with Stenz and ends up dropping his White House passes for himself and Emily while escaping. Having already learned of Emily from the video, Stenz, knowing that she is Cale’s daughter, takes her to Walker in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, Tyler finishes the upload to NORAD and launches a missile at Air Force One, killing everyone on board, including Hammond. Raphelson is then sworn in as President and, in a last ditch effort to end the crisis, orders an air strike on the White House. Finnerty informs Cale of Raphelson’s decision.

Walker tells Cale over the White House intercom to surrender Sawyer or he will kill Emily. Sawyer ultimately surrenders himself to save Emily, knowing Cale could still save them both if he was free. Holding the pair in the Oval Office, Walker reveals to Sawyer that his motive for the attack was to convey a message of American power. Because of Sawyer’s dislike of military force, as well as backing out of the mission that killed his son, Walker had grown to believe Sawyer was too weak to be President; by launching a nuclear attack on Iran, Walker had hoped to regain international respect for America and avenge his own personal loss. He asks for Sawyer to activate the nuclear football. Sawyer refuses, and tries to convince Walker that his son did not die in vain, and that the peace treaty was a form of victory. When Walker threatens to kill Emily again, the alarms and sprinklers are activated by Cale setting fire to the Lincoln Bedroom. In the chaos, Tyler tries to escape but encounters the tunnel gate bomb. When he tries to deactivate it, it detonates instead, killing him. Killick finds Cale and tries to kill him, but is ambushed by Donnie Smith, the White House tour guide (Nicolas Wright), who bludgeons Killick to death with a clock. After freeing the hostages and entrusting Donnie to get them out safely, Cale battles Stenz in a fistfight which spills into the press conference room. The fight ends when Cale ultimately kills Stenz with a grenade belt. Using the explosion to catch him off guard, Sawyer attacks a distracted Walker, but Walker gains the upper hand and forces Sawyer to activate the football before apparently shooting him dead. Using updated launch codes from an anonymous source, Walker targets various cities in Iran, but before he can initiate the launch, Cale smashes through the wall of the Oval Office with a presidential SUV, and kills Walker with the SUV’s minigun. Cale warns Emily of the air strike, and she takes a presidential flag and waves it on the front lawn, prompting the pilots to call off the attack. Meanwhile, Sawyer reveals himself to be alive since the bullet that hit him hit a pocket watch his wife (Garcelle Beauvais) had given him. Finnerty calls them to reveal that the mercenaries were not hired by Walker, and that there is another person behind the attack. Cale realizes who it is and asks Sawyer for his help in exposing the person.

Later, Finnerty arrives at the White House with Raphelson. When Cale tells them Sawyer was killed, Raphelson then orders troops to be placed back into the Middle East, which would go against Sawyer’s peace treaty. Cale then reveals Raphelson had conspired with Walker to orchestrate the attack because of Raphelson’s opposition to Sawyer’s treaty and then proves it by having Finnerty call the call-back number on Walker’s pager, which was the source of the updated launch codes. Sawyer arrives and has Raphelson taken into custody, treating his taking of the Presidency as a coup d’état. Sawyer then officially offers Cale a job in the Secret Service and takes him and Emily on an aerial tour of Washington, D.C. on his way to the hospital. Realizing an increased need for peace due to the days events, Russia, Iran, China, and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries agree to sign Sawyer’s peace treaty.

REVIEW:

The White House just can’t seem to catch a break this year. White House Down is the second film that I’ve seen involving a plot to take over/destroy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There is a debate about which film is better, this or Olympus has Fallen, which I will weigh in on a bit later, but first, let’s get on to the review, shall we?

What is this about?

When a paramilitary group engineers a violent takeover of the White House, the president must try to hide from the attackers until he can be rescued. Caught up in the chaos, Secret Service agent John Cale ends up becoming his sole protection.

What did I like?

Commentary. Say what you will, regardless of your political beliefs/opinions,  but you can’t help but notice how Jamie Foxx is playing the president in a manner similar to Obama. I’m not up on foreign policies and whatnot, but I believe there are similarities there, as well. I found this all to be some sort of commentary on what this filmmaker thinks of the political system that is in place right now, or it could just be coincidence/done for comedic effect.

Charming potato.  I can’t remember what the first film I saw Channing Tatum in was. I think it might have been She’s the Man, but I could be wrong. Since those days, his star has been steadily rising and his acting skills have been improving. He doesn’t have that urban white boy vibe anymore, though he does slip into it now and then. This is one of his most mature roles as he plays a father who just wants to do right by his daughter and do everything he can to keep her safe, the president just happens to be in the way, for lack of a better term.

Action and chemistry. Believe it or not, the chemistry between Foxx and Tatum is pretty good, especially for two guys that are from different walks of life. They come together in the most unfortunate of circumstances and form a pretty close bond that seems to go on and be a long-standing relationship. For the lead characters, this is a must. On another note, the action in this film is what you would expect when one man is trying to protect the White House and save his daughter, badass! Nothing more needs be said about it than that.

What didn’t I like?

Motives. So, the head of the President’s detail masterminds a plot, but the thing is we’re not really sure what his plot is. Does he want to destroy the White House? Kill the president? Start World War III? Also, what are his motives? Apparently, is has something to do with his son getting killed in the Iraq war, but it is never implicitly said what it is that is driving him to do this. Even the guy that is pulling his strings doesn’t seem to have a clear motive, other than greed.

Mercenaries. This group of mercenaries is about as ragtag as they come. With the exception of the lead guy, they seem to be used more for comic relief than anything else. I don’t have a problem with this at all, but I do have an issue with the “forgotten” mercenary, who was the computer hacker. Sure, the guys with the guns are important and all, but this guy literally was locked in a room and could destroy the world with the stroke of a button, if he so chose to, and yet they didn’t bother him at all. I think he may have even got away in the end, or at least isn’t found out by Tatum.

Reunited. I was glad to see that Jamie Foxx was reunited (and married) Garcelle Beauvais, his costar from The Jamie Foxx Show. For many seasons on the show, he would be rejected  by her. However, it made no sense to me that if her husband’s life was in danger, she wasn’t calling 24-7 finding out what was going on or coming up to the bunker to see get some info. What kind of wife is she?!?

With the two White House under siege films that were released this year, White House Down was the weaker of the two. Having said that, it did have the better story than Olympus has Fallen, but I felt the latter had the better action and was more of an enjoyable film. If you’re in the mood for this type of film, though, you can’t really go wrong with either. Focusing on this one, though, nothing makes this film memorable. I wasn’t expecting this film to blow me away, but I did think that something would capture my imagination, and that just didn’t happen. Still, I would recommend this, as action films that are worth seeing are few and far between. Give it a shot sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark return home to District 12. On the day Katniss and Peeta are to start a victory tour of the country, she is visited by President Snow, who explains that when she defied the Capitol by breaking the rules so that she and Peeta both survived the last Hunger Games, she inspired rebellions in districts and now must continue to pretend to be in love with Peeta or her family will be killed along with Gale and Peeta’s families to maintain the illusion that her actions were out of love, not to incite an uprising.

The first stop of the tour is in District 11, home of Katniss’ friend Rue, the 12-year-old who competed in the 74th Hunger Games. Peeta offers to read the speech from a script Effie provides them, but throws it away and voices his thoughts instead. As they leave, a sorrowful Katniss delivers an inspiring speech that causes a man to whistle the tune Katniss used during the 74th Hunger Games to inform Rue she was safe, and provides the three-finger salute of District 12. Everyone follows the man until Peacekeepers shoot him dead, causing Katniss to scream in panic. Fearing for their safety, Haymitch tells Katniss and Peeta they have become a political target. The two youths proceed to visit the other districts. To solve disputes between Katniss and Snow, Peeta proposes to Katniss in public.

When they return to District 12, they find Gale has been punished and is being publicly whipped because he defended an old woman when the Commander and his troops were destroying the Black Market. Peeta, Katniss and Haymitch try to save Gale. Snow, watching them, reads out that the 75th Hunger Games will be the Quarter Quell, an event taking place every 25 years in which a new rule is added to the game. The new rule for this Third Quarter Quell states that contestants will be reaped from the existing pool of victors. Katniss is devoted to allowing Peeta to become the champion of the Quarter Quell and makes a deal with Haymitch that whatever he does he must make sure Peeta is safe and will win. Haymitch’s name is drawn at the reaping, but Peeta immediately volunteers and Haymitch has no power to stop him from joining.

During the individual training session, Peeta leaves a painting of Rue on the floor of the Training Center. Mad, Katniss hangs one of the Training Center’s dummies, leaving the words Seneca Crane (former Head Gamemaker) on it.

As the games almost start, with Katniss in the tube to the arena, Peacekeepers beats Katniss’ stylist until he is knocked out because he changed Katniss’ dress for interviews, to turn into a Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion. Katniss goes up her glass tube as the games commence.

The games are set around a saltwater lake, during which Katniss becomes an ally of Mags and Finnick Odair, both from District 4. Mags sacrifices herself when they are attacked by fog of painful poisonous gas that causes their skin to blister, allowing Finnick, Katniss and Peeta to escape. The trio rests in the middle of the forest where they are attacked by mandrills. During the attack, the woman from District 6, a camouflage expert and drug addict, sacrifices her life for Peeta. After they escape the mandrills and rest at the beach, they are met by Wiress and Beetee from District 3, who are extremely smart, and Johanna from District 7, who is cunning and violent. Wiress soon learns the saltwater lake is arranged like a clock and that every hour another attack will come—the first being the fog, the second being the mandrills. At midnight and noon, lightning strikes a very large tree. After Wiress dies, Beetee suggests a plan that requires them to direct the electricity from the lightning to the lake to electrocute the remaining two tributes from District 2. When the wire snaps, Katniss attaches the remaining wire to an arrow and shoots it at the force field to destroy the arena, causing her to black out.

She awakens in an aircraft with an unconscious Beetee. Entering the cockpit, she finds Haymitch, Finnick and Plutarch, the gamemaker, who is actually their ally and a rebel against Snow. Learning Johanna and Peeta were taken away by the Capitol, she attempts to attack Haymitch for not fulfilling his promise, but Plutarch sedates her before she can do so. She awakens days later with Gale by her side and learns her family is safe but District 12 has been destroyed, and that she is on her way to District 13.

REVIEW:

It seems like forever since The Hunger Games was in theaters, and many people have been counting down the days for the sage to continue. In the time since the first film, I actually took the time to read the books. Actually, I just read and finished them a few weeks ago, so they are quite fresh on my mind, which could be a good or bad thing for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

What is this about?

After her triumph in the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen begins a new life and confronts more danger in this sequel to the postapocalyptic fable. As Katniss travels through the districts on a “Victor’s Tour,” a rebellion gathers steam around her.

What did I like?

Emotion. Very early on, the victory tour makes a stop in District 11, home of Rue and Thresh, who were very instrumental in Katniss’ win in the last games. Once Katniss takes the mike and starts to talk about Rue, all the feelings about how she was killed so quickly and needlessly came rushing in. Even a cold-hearted bastard like myself felt a twinge in the back of my throat once the people in the district started whistling those notes and holding up the fingers. In the back of my mind though, I have to wonder, are we sure Katniss is the one everyone is getting behind, or is it Rue’s memory? Hmm…

Arena. When I was reading this book, the thing that I was most looking forward to was how they were going to be translated the arena to the big screen. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised in how they brought all the dangers to life, even if some things were cut out, and also spend much more time in the arena than in the last film. There is a reason these films are not named after the Capitol or one of the districts. I’m not sure which of the dangers I liked the most, but I think it may very well be the killer monkeys, with the poison smoke a close second.

New stuff. The new characters introduced in the film seamlessly fit in just as well as the ones that return, most notably Sam Claflin’s Finnick Odair. Personally, I think we could have gotten more development into his arrogant side, like the book, but the same can be said for just about any and all of the characters. An expanded role for Elizabeth Banks’ Effie (and her costumes) and Donald Sutherland helped to add to the newness of the film, as they just had a handful of lines in the first film, especially Sutherland.

What didn’t I like?

Connection. Earlier, I mentioned the connection we all felt to Rue in the last film, and how that connection is still here in the second. That same connection cannot be said for a couple of characters that don’t make it through the film. First, there in Mags, a tribute from Finnic’s district who is the only thing that he cares for more than himself. Also, there is Cinna, whom we briefly got to know in the first film, but should play a larger role here. Both of their deaths are parts that nearly bring the book to a screeching halt, but in the film they don’t have that same weight, especially Cinna’s. His just seem to be the beating of another designer, nothing special.

Get in where you fit in. This was actually brought up by someone else, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Plutarch is out of place. No, I’m not talking about him being cast as Plutarch. He seems to do job as far as I can tell. However, in the Capitol, everyone is dressed in extreme designer garb. That is, except Plutarch Havensebee, which seems to have just walked out of Salvation Army. The guy just doesn’t fit in with all the over the top outfits surrounding him.

Difference. I could sit here all day and list the number of changes that were made from the book to the big screen, but we’d be here all day and night discussing them. The reason the changes were made were to keep this film relatively short, well, under 3 hrs. Having said that, the parts they cut out leave the general audience wondering about some thing, such as the aforementioned emotional attachment to some of the characters. Whoever wrote this script could have done a better job of finding some level of continuity. As it is, with everything that was taken out, there is a bit of a random episodic feel to it that doesn’t quite work for me.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire obviously learned some things from its predecessor’s mistakes, such as no shaky cam, a bigger budget, etc. I still say Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” should be used somewhere in the soundtrack, but that’s just me. On a side not, I have to mention that when/if we ever get an Aquaman movie, or if they decide to feature him on Arrow, they need to look no further than Sam Claflin. In more ways that you think, Finnick is a version of Aquaman, but I digress. I had a great time with this film, despite my issues with it. I’ll gladly go see this again, and probably will. Now, we start the countdown for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part I.  While you’re waiting, go out and see this a time or two.

4 1/3 out of 5 stars

Live and Let Die

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Three British (MI6) agents, including one “on loan” to the American government, are killed within 24 hours, under mysterious circumstances, while monitoring the operations of Dr. Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island, San Monique. James Bond – agent 007, is sent to New York to investigate the first murder. Kananga is also in New York, visiting the United Nations. Just after Bond arrives, his driver is shot dead by a passing motorist, while taking Bond to meet Felix Leiter of the CIA. Bond is nearly killed in the ensuing car crash.

A trace on the killer’s licence plate eventually leads Bond to Mr. Big, a ruthless and cunning gangster who runs a chain of Fillet of Soul restaurants throughout the United States. It is here that Bond first meets Solitaire, a beautiful virgin tarot expert who has the uncanny ability to see both the future and remote events in the present. Mr. Big, who is actually Kananga in disguise, demands that his henchmen kill Bond, but Bond overpowers them and escapes unscathed. Bond flies to San Monique, where he meets Rosie Carver, a CIA double agent. They meet up with a friend of Bond’s, Quarrel Jr., who takes them by boat to Solitaire’s home. Bond suspects Rosie of working for Kananga. She is shot dead, remotely, by Kananga, to stop her confessing the truth to Bond. Inside Solitaire’s house, Bond uses a stacked tarot deck of cards, that show only “The Lovers”, to trick her into thinking that seduction is in her future, and then seduces her. Solitaire loses her ability to foretell the future when she loses her virginity to Bond and is forced into cooperating with Bond to bring down Kananga.

Bond and Solitaire escape by boat and fly to New Orleans. There, Bond is captured by ‘Mr. Big’, who reveals himself to be Kananga. It transpires that Kananga is producing two tons of heroin and is protecting the poppy fields by exploiting locals’ fear of voodoo and the occult. Through his alter ego, Mr. Big, Kananga plans to distribute the heroin free of charge at his Fillet of Soul restaurants, which will increase the number of addicts. Kananga also believes that other drug dealers, namely the Mafia, cannot compete with his giveaway, to which Kananga can later charge high prices for the heroin, after he has simultaneously cultivated huge drug dependency and bankrupted his competitors.

Kananga asks Bond if he has slept with Solitaire. When he finds out that he has, Kananga turns Solitaire over to Baron Samedi to be sacrificed, as her ability to read tarot cards is gone. Meanwhile, Kananga’s one-armed henchman, Tee Hee Johnson, leaves Bond to be eaten by crocodiles at a farm in the Louisiana backwoods. Bond escapes by running along the animals’ backs to safety. He sets the farm on fire and steals a speedboat. He is then pursued by Kananga’s men, as well as local Sheriff J.W. Pepper and the Louisiana State Police.

Back in San Monique, Bond rescues Solitaire from the voodoo sacrifice with a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver and throws Samedi into a coffin of snakes. Bond and Solitaire escape below ground into Kananga’s lair. Kananga captures them both and proceeds to lower them into a shark tank. Bond escapes and forces a shark gun pellet into Kananga’s mouth, causing him to blow up like a balloon, float to the top of the cave, and explode.

After the job is done, Felix puts Bond and Solitaire onto a train and out of the country. Tee Hee Johnson follows Bond and Solitaire onto the train and tries to kill Bond, but loses his prosthetic arm in a fight with him and is flung out of the window. As the film ends, Bond comforts Solitaire, and a laughing Samedi is revealed perched on the front of the speeding train

REVIEW:

So, James Bond returns for yet another outing where he will kiss the girls, use impressive gadgets, and kick the bad guys’ butts. The next entrance in to the Bond franchise is perhaps best known for the titular song, Live and Let Die. Is this a worthy entrant in the franchise and is Roger Moore a worth success to the Bond franchise.

What is this about?

Roger Moore debuts as suave secret agent James Bond, who’s sent to the United States to go after a master criminal scheming to take over the country by turning the populace into heroin junkies. Paul McCartney provides the Oscar-nominated title tune

What did I like?

New direction. With Sean Connery getting on up there in age, whether the studios wanted to admit it or not, it was time for some new blood to be injected into the Bond franchise. This was tried before with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which starred George Lazenby, but that didn’t work out. So, enter Roger Moore, who brings a different style of charm to Bond and also ushers in an era of Bond films that don’t have anything to do with SPECTRE, but rather individual adversaries.

Boats. The climactic boat chase is something you just have to see to believe. Not only is it exciting, but there are some funny moments with it as well. The best way I can think to explain it to you is to compare it to the car chases from The Blues Brothers. The chase even ends with a big car crash. Yes, a boat chase ends with a car crash!

Local. An hour down the road from me in New Orleans, a city that I love to visit. As you can imagine, I love the fact that this film is set in NOLA and takes advantage of the second like funerals and such. I was reading that they were going to use Mardi Gras, but because they used Carnival in a previous Bond film, I forgot which one, the similarities might be off-putting. Still, I can only imagine the Bond girls that would have come out of Mardi Gras one way or another.

What didn’t I like?

Bond girl. Bond girls are known for being goddesses and some have great characters. However, Jane Seymour didn’t quite work for me. Why? Well, she looks more porcelain than human. In a few years, she will star in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, looking like a true vision of loveliness. So, why did they mess her up so in this film?

Race. I’m somewhat a fan of Blaxploitation films, but all the race stuff in here wasn’t working for me. I almost want to say that it doesn’t work because it is a Bond film, but there has to be something more to it than that. I can’t say it was racist, because they actually don’t bring up anything race related, other than some voodoo stuff, but something seemed off about it all to me, and I can’t pinpoint what it is, other than to say I didn’t care for it.

Cops. Some comic relief is offered up in the final act by this Louisiana sheriff. I hate to say this, but I feel as if this was a bit too much. Living down here, I know that these cops down here can be a bit too overzealous sometimes (drive through a small town 1 mile over the speed limit and see what happens), but this guy was a bit of a caricature. I wasn’t offended, but I can see how some people were.

While I will miss Sean Connery as James Bond, Live and Let Die has shows us that someone else can take the mantle of Bond and run with it. This film also allows us to get a little more Felix Leiter, which is a nice change, but make no mistake this is a Bond film, despite the lack of Bond-isms (gadgets, England, seducing girls, etc.) As popular and memorable as the theme song is, the film doesn’t live up to the same standards. Do I recommend this film? Eh…maybe as a part of the Bond collection, but otherwise, this is a somewhat forgettable film. I guess you can check it out, if you want.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Little Mermaid

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ariel, a sixteen-year-old mermaid princess, is dissatisfied with life under the sea and curious about the human world. With her best fish friend Flounder, Ariel collects human artifacts and goes to the surface of the ocean to visit Scuttle the seagull, who offers very inaccurate knowledge of human culture. She ignores the warnings of her father King Triton and his adviser Sebastian that contact between merpeople and humans is forbidden, longing to join the human world and become a human herself.

One night, Ariel, Flounder and an unwilling Sebastian travel to the ocean surface to watch a celebration for the birthday of Prince Eric on a ship, with whom Ariel falls in love. In the ensuing storm the ship is destroyed and Ariel saves the unconscious Eric from drowning. Ariel sings to him, but quickly leaves as soon as he regains consciousness to avoid being discovered. Fascinated by the memory of her voice, Eric vows to find who saved and sung to him, and Ariel vows to find a way to join him and his world. Noticing a change in Ariel’s behavior, Triton questions Sebastian about her behavior and learns of her love for Eric. In frustration, Triton confronts Ariel in her grotto, where she and Flounder store human artifacts, and destroys most of the objects with his trident. After Triton leaves, a pair of eels, Flotsam and Jetsam, convince Ariel to visit Ursula the sea witch in order to be with Eric.

Ursula makes a deal with Ariel to transform her into a human for three days in exchange for Ariel’s voice, which Ursula puts in a nautilus shell. Within these three days, Ariel must receive the “kiss of true love” from Eric; otherwise, she will transform back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula. Despite her claims that she’s doing this out of the kindness of her heart, Ursula is plotting to use Ariel as a bargaining chip to challenge Triton’s right to rule. Ariel is then given human legs and taken to the surface by Flounder and Sebastian. Eric finds Ariel on the beach and takes her to his castle, unaware that she had saved his life earlier, assuming her to be a mute shipwreck survivor. Ariel spends time with Eric, and at the end of the second day, they almost kiss but are thwarted by Flotsam and Jetsam. Angered at their narrow escape, Ursula disguises herself as a beautiful young woman named Vanessa and appears onshore singing with Ariel’s voice. Eric recognizes the song and, in her disguise, Ursula casts a hypnotic enchantment on Eric to make him forget about Ariel.

The next day, Ariel finds out that Eric will be married to the disguised Ursula. Scuttle discovers that Vanessa is actually Ursula in disguise, and informs Ariel who immediately goes after the wedding barge. Sebastian informs Triton, and Scuttle disrupts the wedding with the help of various animals. In the chaos, the nautilus shell around Ursula’s neck is broken, restoring Ariel’s voice and breaking Ursula’s enchantment over Eric. Realizing that Ariel had saved his life, Eric rushes to kiss her, but the sun sets and Ariel transforms back into a mermaid. Ursula reveals herself and kidnaps Ariel. Triton confronts Ursula and demands Ariel’s release, but the deal is inviolable. At Ursula’s urging, the king agrees to take Ariel’s place as Ursula’s prisoner. Ariel is released as Triton transforms into a polyp and loses his authority over Atlantica. Ursula declares herself the new ruler and a struggle ensues in which Ursula accidentally kills Flotsam and Jetsam. In her rage, Ursula uses the trident to grow into monstrous proportions.

Ariel and Eric reunite on the surface just before Ursula grows past and towers over the two. She then gains full control of the entire ocean, creating a storm with a maelstrom that causes shipwrecks, one of which Eric commandeers. Just as Ursula attempts to destroy a trapped Ariel in the maelstrom, Eric runs Ursula through the abdomen with the ship’s splintered bowsprit, killing her. Ursula’s power breaks, causing Triton and all the other polyps in Ursula’s garden to revert into their original forms. Realizing that Ariel truly loves Eric, Triton willingly changes her from a mermaid into a human. Ariel and Eric marry on a ship and depart.

REVIEW:

There has been some debate about this, but one of the most significant things about The Little Mermaid is that is signifies the start of the Disney Renaissance (which would end 10 years later with Tarzan). Some argue that Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is the start of it, and that is a valid argument, but not correct.

What is this about?

Winner of two Oscars for Best Score and Best Song, this colorful adventure tells the story of an impetuous mermaid princess named Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) who falls in love with the very human Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes) and puts everything on the line for the chance to be with him. Memorable songs and characters — including the villainous sea witch Ursula (Pat Carroll) — helped make this an instant Disney classic.

What did I like?

Musical. When this was released, I wasn’t anywhere near the fan of musicals that I am today. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even into music that much at this period of time (a few months later, I would join band to get out of P.E., and that opened many cans of worms, good and bad). As such, I have gone on to become a fan of the musical genre, and this, along with many other Disney masterpieces, is responsible for that. When characters randomly burst into choreographed song and dance, it is great, especially when the music is a joy to listen to. Only thing missing was Gene Kelly dancing! The showstopping “Under the Sea” is sure to be stuck in your head for days (or years) after watching. On a personal level, “Kiss the Girl” is hard for me to stomach. High school homecoming…need I say more?

Villain. Most of us “Disneyfiles” have agreed that Maleficent is the greatest villain. Well, they agreed on that, I say Jafar (ignoring those direct-to-video sequels). Many people have Ursula ranked pretty high in the villain hierarchy and can you blame them? The sea witch is so cruel that she gives Ariel what she wants, but at the expense of her voice. Then, just as she is about to break the curse, intervenes and takes the prince for herself until the 3 days of the curse are over. Can I just say that Ursula as Vanessa was not half bad-looking? As I was saying, after all that, Ariel is destined to become part of the witch’s polyp garden. If you don’t think this is an effective villain, I don’t know what to tell you, my friend!

Come together. After the last film Disney had direct influence on was released, the company went on a bit of a downward spiral, culminating with the flop that is The Black Cauldron (I actually like it, though). With the release of this film, it is obvious that things were back in synch at the House of Mouse. Everything about this picture works like a well oiled machine, the music, the voices, the comedy, the drama, the action, all of it. Is it any wonder that it is held in such high esteem and started the Disney Renaissance?

What didn’t I like?

Whine. Maybe this is just me showing my age now, but Ariel comes off as a whiny little brat for most of the picture. Being the youngest, and obvious favorite, of her father, it appears she gets away with more than her sisters. I seem to recall this being brought more into the forefront with that horrible cartoon series that was spawned from this. She whines to the sea witch about not being human, and I’m sure she whined to Eric after they were married about something or other. All I have to say is, where is the cheese to go with all this whine?!?

Controversy. I have to bring up a couple of controversial alleged images with this film. The first is on the original box art (which you can see that I used in this post). For some reason, it is believes that one of the spirals on the towers resembles a penis and that this was done on purpose. I won’t deny the similar design, but I highly doubt this was done on purpose with malicious intent, contrary to what many parents believed. There is a reason this film was put back into the vault, aside from the usual rotation, and it is because of those damn parent watchdog association that think there is something wrong with everything. Also, during the wedding, apparently the priest has an erection, according to this same organization/group of people. I actually did a paper in college on the hidden meanings of things Disney related and this is one that came up. We were supposed to bash Disney, but I couldn’t do it….still can’t as a matter of fact, unless you’re talking about the princes at Disneyworld, or the “music” they churn out, but that’ a topic for another blog. Back to the priest, if I recall, it is not an erection, but rather his knee. If you look closely, this is quite obvious, but because someone saw an erection and blabbed their mouths off, everyone assumes it is a hard on. Amazing what the power of suggestion can do, eh?

Family. I’ve always wondered about this, so bear with me. We see Ariel’s father, Triton, especially when he overreacted and blows up everything in her treasure trove (still a mystery to me how Flounder got that Eric statue in there). We see her sisters in the opening, but what happened to her mother? Is she one of those mystery cartoon mothers that popped out the kids and then only exists when you go to Toontown? Think about Donald’s nephews, Huey, Duey, and Louie. We’ve never seen their mother, but they had to come from somewhere, right? In that same vein, Eric is only a prince, so where is the king and/or queen that is keeping him from ascending to the throne? Can it be that they are dead and he just needs to get married? If so, then they should have made that known.

What else can be said about The Little Mermaid that hasn’t been said before? This is one of those feel good films that is sure to put a smile on even the most hardened, gruff, curmudgeon. The few things that I have negative to say are nitpicky. I can’t help but reiterate a point that I said earlier. Everything about this picture works like a well oiled machine, the music, the voices, the comedy, the drama, the action, all of it. Is it any wonder that it is held in such high esteem and started the Disney Renaissance? I highly recommend this as something you should see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars