Archive for December, 2013

Death Becomes Her

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1978, the narcissistic, manipulative actress Madeline Ashton (Meryl Streep) performs in “Songbird”—an ill-conceived musical version of Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams—on Broadway. Following her performance, Madeline invites her long-time rival Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn), an aspiring writer, backstage, along with her fiancé, plastic surgeon Dr. Ernest Menville (Bruce Willis). Ernest is visibly smitten with Madeline, which worries Helen, who has lost other men to Madeline in the past. Although Ernest reassures Helen there is nothing going on between him and Madeline, he soon breaks off his engagement with Helen and weds Madeline. Seven years later, Helen has been committed to a psychiatric hospital after becoming fixated upon Madeline. Obese and depressed, Helen is encouraged to “erase [Madeline] from [her] mind” in order to move on. Helen feigns rehabilitation and is released, all the while plotting revenge on Madeline.

After an additional seven years, Madeline continues to live well financially in Beverly Hills with Ernest, but the two are miserable in their marriage. Madeline’s career is all but over, and Ernest is an alcoholic reduced to working only as a reconstructive mortician. Following the receipt of an invitation to a party later that evening celebrating Helen’s new book, Madeline rushes to a spa where she regularly receives extensive facial treatments. Understanding the urgency of Madeline’s situation, the spa owner gives her the business card of Lisle von Rhoman, a woman who specializes in beauty and youth rejuvenation. Madeline dismisses the spa owner’s advice and returns home to prepare for the party.

Madeline and Ernest attend the book-signing party for Helen’s novel Forever Young and discover that Helen is now thin and youthful looking. Dumbfounded and depressed by Helen’s new appearance, Madeline goes to see her young lover but discovers he is spending the evening with a woman his own age. Dejected, Madeline re-discovers Lisle’s business card and drives to her home. There, Lisle (Isabella Rossellini) is revealed as a mysterious, wealthy socialite who appears to be in her thirties. However, Lisle discloses her true age as 71, and reveals to Madeline the secret of her beauty: a potion that promises eternal life and an ever-lasting youthful appearance. Madeline purchases and drinks the potion and is returned to her youthful form. However, as a condition of purchase, Madeline must disappear from public life after ten years in order to keep the existence of the potion a secret. Lisle also warns Madeline to take good care of her body.

Meanwhile, Helen has seduced Ernest and convinced him to kill Madeline, intending to drug her and fake a drunk-driving accident, which will then free Ernest from Madeline and allow him to wed Helen. However, when Madeline returns home (now appearing young and beautiful), she and Ernest have an argument, during which Madeline falls down the stairs and breaks her neck. Believing Madeline to be dead, Ernest phones Helen for advice, not noticing as Madeline slowly stands and approaches him with her head now twisted backwards. Horrified, Ernest assumes that she has a seriously dislocated neck and drives her to the emergency room. After losing consciousness in the emergency room, Madeline is taken to the morgue due to her body having no pulse and a temperature below 80°F. After rescuing Madeline, Ernest takes the sign of her “resurrection” as a miracle, returns home with Madeline and uses all his skills to repair the damage to her body.

Helen later arrives at her mansion, demanding information about Madeline’s situation. Overhearing Helen and Ernest re-discussing their earlier plot to stage Madeline’s death as an accident, Madeline confronts Helen and then shoots her with a double-barreled shotgun. However, although the blast causes a gaping basketball-sized hole in her stomach, Helen does not die. She and Madeline both realize they drank the same potion. Finally fed up with the pair’s rivalry, Ernest prepares to leave for good but Helen and Madeline convince him to do one last repair on their bodies. The pair quickly realize that their bodies will need constant repair and scheme to have Ernest also drink the potion in order to ensure he will always be available.

After bringing Ernest to Lisle, she makes an impassioned argument for immortality and offers to give him the potion free of charge. Ernest refuses, stating he’d rather live his own life and die rather than spend an eternity with only Madeline and Helen for company and no way to escape. He pockets the potion and attempts to flee, but during his escape becomes trapped on the roof. After slipping and becoming stuck on a rain gutter, held up only by his suspenders, Helen and Madeline implore Ernest to drink the potion in order to survive the impending fall. Ernest refuses, drops the potion, and seemingly falls to his death. However, Ernest survives the fall, crashing through a glass skylight and landing in Lisle’s pool, and escapes. After Lisle effectively excommunicates Madeline and Helen from her group, the pair realize they must now rely on each other for companionship and maintenance for the remainder of their “lives”.

Thirty-seven years later, Madeline and Helen attend Ernest’s funeral, where he is eulogized as having lived an adventurous and fulfilling life. The two bicker as they leave Ernest’s funeral, upon which it is revealed they are now horrifying parodies of their former selves, with cracked, peeling paint and putty now covering most of their grey and rotting flesh. While walking, Helen accidentally trips on a can of spray paint Madeline had earlier dropped, leaving her precariously teetering at the top of a staircase. After deliberately hesitating to help her companion, Helen grabs Madeline and the two tumble down the stairs, literally breaking to pieces as they crash to the bottom. As their disembodied heads roll and totter together, Helen sardonically asks Madeline, “Do you remember where you parked the car?”

REVIEW:

We live in the age of plastic surgery. Take for instance one of the stars of Death Becomes Her, Meryl Streep. This film was released in 1992 and for the most part she hasn’t changed much. Good genes? Perhaps, but I prefer to think its more the work of a good surgeon. The obsession with beauty and staying young is the heart of this film.

What is this about?

Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep run wild in this black comedy that mixes rapier wit with cutting-edge special effects. Insufferably vain, the two “frenemies” discover the secret of eternal youth — and find that it has a few unadvertised drawbacks.

What did I like?

Relevant. Beauty has always been an obsession in Hollywood, going back before the “Golden Age”. Many films have been made about said obsession, some memorable and some not-so-much. This is one of those films that has managed to stay relevant over the years, thanks to the constant focus on beauty and youth in Hollywood. Obviously, this is a little different, what with the magic, immortality potion, but that is what makes this film special.

Special effects. The special effects are a little bit dated, let’s not kid ourselves, and yet that is part of the charm of the film. We know this was released in the early 90s and the technology just wasn’t where it is today, but that still doesn’t make it any less fun to watch Meryl Streep twist and turn her body, not to mention have many altercations with her “frenemy”, played by Goldie Hawn.

Isabella. Stepping out of character from what I’ve seen of her in the past, Isabella Rossellini takes a turn as an over-the-top socialite (who may actually be a witch, of sorts). Playing a bit of a vixen, complete with wearing next to nothing, you can’t help but pay attention to her when she is on the screen, and that is not even mentioning her natural beauty. I almost want to say we should have gotten a bit more of her, but that might have diluted the character, so we got just the right amount.

What didn’t I like?

3 way. Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn had great chemistry together. When paired with Bruce Willis’ character they have a dynamic rapport that serves the film well. However, when it comes to all three being together, the part just don’t come together as well as they would like. I can’t tell who, but it seems as if it is Willis who isn’t pulling his weight.

Au natural. There quite a few comedic moments in this film, it is a comedy, after all, but whoever it is that wrote this script either didn’t get the idea that this was supposed to be a dark comedy and just tried too hard with the jokes, many of which don’t fit with the tone of the film and/or fall flat.

Selfish. At the heart of the film’s premise is the selfish and vain nature of these women, but that also serves as the film’s downfall. Because of their selfish nature, the film’s stars become very unlikable, which is never a good thing. Unless your star is a villain, then they should be likable, otherwise you end up alienating the audience. Thankfully, this film had the talents of Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep to keep it afloat, but heaven forbid lesser actresses were cast.

I know more than a few people who love Death Becomes Her, for various reasons. I can’t say that I love it, but I did really like it. With elements of fantasy sprinkled in with murder and comedy, this makes for quite the interesting picture. Do I recommend it? Yes, it is definitely worth a viewing or two. Plus it has arguably the best actress of our generation, Meryl Streep. So, how can you go wrong? Give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

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Revisited: Half Baked

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Thurgood Jenkins and his friends Brian and Scarface are forced into selling marijuana stolen from the lab where Thurgood works as a “master of the custodial arts” (janitor). They do this in order to bail their friend Kenny out of jail for $1 Million, after he accidentally kills Buttercup, a diabetic police horse, by feeding it junk food. Their business, named Mr. Nice Guy in honor of their good-natured incarcerated friend, becomes immensely popular, even attracting famous clientele. Thurgood’s personal life is ruined once his adamantly anti-drug girlfriend, ironically named Mary Jane Potman, discovers that he works for Mr. Nice Guy.

Soon, all of their lives are in danger once Samson Simpson, a local drug lord, learns that Mr. Nice Guy is costing him business, including his former client rapper Sir Smoke-a-Lot. He threatens to kill them if they do not pay him $20,000 every week. Brian buys a pouch that is supposed to contain the ashes of Jerry Garcia with some of the money they are making, and Scarface buys a rottweiler named Killer.

Thurgood tells police about a future meeting he has with Samson Simpson after they arrest him for stealing marijuana from the laboratory. The police agree to drop the charges if Thurgood wears a wire, that way they can get the proof they need to arrest the drug lord. Before the guys go into Samson’s home they smoke a joint in the police van. The cops get high from the second hand smoke. The cops tell them to say “abracadabra” when they have purchased the drugs. During the interview, Samson discovers that Thurgood is wearing a wire and is about to kill them. They scream “abracadabra” into the wire to try to get the cops to save them. But the cops are high from second-hand smoke and busy mocking a letter Thurgood wrote to Mary Jane. A fight breaks out with Samson and his army of women. Brian throws the pouch he bought earlier on the ground. The ghost of Jerry Garcia emerges and hits Samson with a guitar, knocking him out. The police then rush in and recover all of the drugs, and arrest Samson after he wakes up. Thurgood, Brian, and Scarface’s deal with the police works to get Kenny a pardon from jail. Thurgood gives up smoking and is able to win back Mary Jane whose dad is a marijuana dealer.

REVIEW:

I was taking a chance on this show called Key & Peele the other day and it reminded me about how much I missed Dave Chappelle when he was on Comedy Central. This brought me to the realization that I need to go back and watch him again in Half Baked. The film that really put him on the map.

What is this about?

Three ganja-smoking dimwits hatch a plot to raise bail money for their jailed friend by selling dope on the street. But they’d better spring their incarcerated buddy fast — before he ends up as the “boy toy” of a criminal named Nasty Nate.

What did I like?

Short, but sweet. So many films, past and present, take forever and day to get going because they spend so much time on the backstory of the characters. Sometimes it is best to just get the basic idea and move on. I mean, with a film like this, there’s no need to go deep into each character’s backstory, unlike something more serious like Lincoln or some other character drama.

Know your roots. Max, the Netflix recommendation program, had recommended Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke the other day when I was looking for something to watch (ended up going with Desperado, if you’re interested). In his recommendation, he brought up the point that no stoner flick, including this one, which was mentioned by name, would exist without that flick from Cheech and Chong. I bring this up because Tommy Chong actually has a small supporting role as Squirrel Master, showing the filmmakers knew they needed to honor the legacy. I wonder why they couldn’t get Cheech, though.

Dave. Anyone want to take a guess at who the star of this film is? If you said Dave Chappelle, then you are 100% correct. Chappelle is the man whose career took off following this film. His character is the most grounded of the bunch and he even gets the girl, ironically named Mary Jane.

What didn’t I like?

Hey, kids! Dave Chappelle said that the original version of this film he wrote was a bit more adult-oriented, but the studios turned it into “a weed movie for kids”. Now, I like this version of the film, but I can see where he’s coming from. Studios are often changing films from what they are originally meant to be. One of the most famous of these is Superman II, which thankfully some home video company had the foresight to release the infinitely superior Richard Donner cut of the film, so that people can judge which version they prefer (and most prefer the Donner cut). As far as Chappelle calling this a weed movie for kids…can you blame him? His roommates are about as smart as the dumb henchman you see on Saturday morning cartoons, the “villain” is a caricature of a cartoon villain, and everything works out a little too perfectly at the end.

Jailhouse Rock. Maybe this is just the goodie two-shoes in me talking, but the whole reason these guys are in the situation is because of weed, including their stations in life (excluding the teacher, who is ironically the one who gets arrested). I guess I just expected something more dire to happen to them, even considering the lighter tone of this film.

Samson. So, the villain’s name is Samson Samson. Aside from the fact that he has double names and some kind of weirdly permed hair, this guy made no sense as a villain. The rapper, who was also played by Chappelle, Sir Smokes-a-Lot, would have made more sense. Also, in the escape from Samson’s lair, one of the potheads is fighting with Delilah, or one of his henchwomen, and suddenly her breast is revealed. The whole film is stopped just to look at it, and I realize it was for comic effect, but really?!? What was the point?

I was asked the other day why I watch so many stoner comedies, such as Half Baked. Well, the reason is that even though I’m not a smoker, I do find them funny. This is no exception as the issues I have are minor, at best. With that said, this is far from a perfect film, but it is sure to bring you some laughs. I give this a high recommendation, as we all could use more laughter in our life, right? Give it a shot, eh?

4 out of 5 stars

The World’s End

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Gary King, a middle-aged recovering drug addict, resolves to track down his estranged friends and complete the “Golden Mile”, a pub crawl encompassing 12 pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven. The group attempted the crawl as teenagers over 20 years earlier, but failed to reach the final pub, The World’s End. Gary persuades Peter Page, Oliver “O-Man” Chamberlain, Steven Prince, and Andy Knightley to join him in Newton Haven.

After arriving in Newton Haven, the group are briefly joined for a drink by Oliver’s sister Sam, over whose affections Gary and Steven had previously rivalled. In the toilets of the fourth pub, Gary gets into a fight with a surprisingly strong and agile teenager. Gary accidentally knocks the teen’s head off, exposing him as a robot. Gary’s friends join him and fight more robots, after which Andy abandons his teetotal ways and drinks an order of shots. The group decide to continue the pub crawl to avoid suspicion.

Several pubs later, the group runs into Sam again and Gary warns her of the robot invasion. Though skeptical of the news at first, Sam is convinced after Gary saves her from twin robots impersonating her friends. At The Mermaid, robots impersonating attractive girls from their youth attempt to seduce the men and steal their DNA. When Sam’s childhood crush Adrian appears, she panics and drags the others from the pub, explaining that Adrian had died in a motorcycle crash years previously. When they reach the next pub, Guy Shepherd, a teacher from the group’s secondary school, encourages them to accept their fate and be replaced by robots. Noticing the reappearance of a surgically removed birthmark on Oliver’s head, Andy realises that he has been replaced with a robot, and crushes his head. A fight breaks out, and the group scatters as Gary convinces Sam to leave.

Once reunited, the friends accuse each other of having been replaced by robots. Steven, Peter and Andy prove their humanity, but Gary refuses to roll his sleeves up to reveal a scar on his elbow, and instead repeatedly head-butts a pillar to prove that his skull is tougher than those of the robots. The robots close in on the group and capture Peter. Despite this, Gary is determined to finish the pub crawl and after having a drink at the other two pubs along the way, runs towards the final one on their list, The World’s End. Abandoning Steven, Andy chases Gary through the streets.

At The World’s End, Andy confronts Gary. During an ensuing quarrel, Andy notices that Gary’s wrists are bandaged and marked with a hospital armband, indicating that Gary had attempted suicide and thus explaining why he refused to show his arms earlier. Andy tries to stop Gary from drawing his final pint, but Gary manages to pull the tap lever. The bar lowers into a hidden chamber, where the two are reunited with Steven. A disembodied alien entity called The Network reveals that the robot invasion of the town is one of 2,000 “penetration points” on Earth, and that it had been responsible for all of humanity’s advances in telecommunications in recent decades. The Network then offers the men eternal youth should they choose to become robots, but they decline, belligerently arguing that humans should be allowed to be free. The Network, defeated, ceases communication and abandons the invasion. Sam arrives to drive the trio to relative safety as the town begins to self-destruct.

Some time later, Andy recounts this story around a campfire in the ruins of London, explaining how the destruction of Newton Haven was accompanied by a worldwide electro-magnetic pulse that wiped out modern technology and set humanity back to the Dark Ages. The remaining robots have reactivated and are regarded with mistrust by surviving humans. Andy’s marriage has recovered, Steven is in a relationship with Sam, and robot versions of Peter and Oliver have returned to a semblance of their former lives. In the ruins of Newton Haven, the now-sober Gary enters a pub with the younger robot versions of his friends and orders five glasses of water, reprising his speech from the start of the Golden Mile. When the bartender refuses to serve any robots, Gary draws a sword and leads his robot friends into a brawl.

REVIEW:

Bringing the “Three Flavors Cornetto” Trilogy to an end, we have The World’s End. I honestly can’t remember anything about Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, other than the fact that I’ve seen them and that some weird stuff goes down in them both. Keeping that spirit alive, this film manages to pull out all the stops, except for blowing the planet up.

What is this about?

Twenty years after attempting a marathon pub crawl, a group of friends reunites to give it another shot. Their ultimate destination is the World’s End pub, whose name turns out to be rather literal.

What did I like?

Reunion. As someone who moved around a lot and never really had the chance to develop a close-knit group of friends, whenever I see reunions of friends and such, it really gets to me. Even though they treated Simon Pegg’s character like total crap, even though all he wants to do is get them back together and have a night drinking, it is still a plus to see old friends reunited.

Kickstart. After the characters are introduced and the plot set up, we finally get the film going. All it needed was a jolt of blue ink filled/powered robots and a brawl in a pub bathroom that resembled tag team mayhem in wrestling, only no hold barred. I wasn’t expecting the sci-fi action aspect of the film, but, considering how the film was going up to that point, I’m glad it was there.

What didn’t I like?

Pike’s peak. I don’t want to come off as a hater of Rosamund Pike, because I’m not. However, her character served no purpose in this film. I would say the she was eye candy, but that is what the “Marmalade sandwich” was for. Not to mention the fact that she was barely in it. To me, it seemed as if all she was there for was to throw a female in the mix.

Ink. We’ve seen all kinds of creatures, monsters, and whatnot in film during our time, correct? The color of blood in these beings runs the color spectrum, so the color that spewed forth from these robots wasn’t a big deal to me. However, the fact that it was revealed to be nothing more than ink bothered me. Had it been some kind of oil or other lubricant, it makes sense, but ink? How do you run a robot with ink?!?

Slow and steady. The beginning of this film is so slow that it makes you think you’re watching a serious drama. There are few to no jokes and the pacing is so slow that is nigh unbearable. As I said earlier, this is done to introduce the characters, but good gravy! Couldn’t they have found a better, more interesting way to do this, rather than force us to sit through this torture?

Remember last year when everyone was freaking out about how the world was going to end according to the Aztec calendar? Surprisingly, there weren’t too many apocalyptic movies that came out. They’ve all been coming out this year, and The World’s End is said to be the best. I think that I enjoyed This is the End a wee bit better. That being said, this isn’t a film to avoid. There are moments that are worth watching. Be warned, though, this is British humor, as opposed to American, so the tone is a little different. I don’t recommend this, but if you happen to catch it on the telly one day, give it a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

We’re the Millers

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Low level marijuana drug dealer David Clark is robbed of his money and stash, some of which he owes to his supplier. His boss, wealthy drug lord Brad Gurdlinger forces David to smuggle marijuana from Mexico in order to clear his debt. Realizing that one man attempting to get through customs is too suspicious, he hires a stripper stage-named Rose, a runaway teenage girl and thief named Casey, and his 18 year-old neighbor Kenny to pose as a bogus family called the “Millers”. Because of the extra load of the marijuana on the RV, one of the radiator hoses breaks while going up a steep incline. A family they had encountered at the border called the Fitzgeralds, consisting of Don, Edie, and Melissa, catch up to them and tow the Millers’ RV to a repair shop. On the trip to the shop, David learns that Don Fitzgerald is a DEA agent after finding his badge and gun in the glove compartment.

The marijuana turns out to be stolen from Pablo Chacon’s cartel. The next day, when the Millers head to the shop to pick up the RV, Chacon and his henchman One Eye are waiting for them and prepare to execute the family. They immediately tell Chacon that they aren’t a real family and that they didn’t know they were stealing from him. Rose is given a chance to prove that she is a stripper by dancing, and when she gets close, turns a steam vent onto Chacon. The Millers then escape in the RV, with Kenny behind the wheel. Due to Kenny’s erratic driving, the RV veers off the highway and a tarantula, hiding in a bowl of fruit given to them when they picked up the marijuana, crawls up Kenny’s leg and bites his testicle. As Kenny has a severe allergic reaction to the bite, the Millers head to the hospital. This further delays the delivery of the contraband, but David re-negotiates with Gurdlinger for a fee of $500,000. When Kenny is finally released, David rushes him to the RV in a wheelchair and tips him over. David inadvertently reveals how much he is getting paid, in comparison to how little he offered to pay each of the others. Casey, Rose, and Kenny are left in disgust by the revelation, and so David leaves them at the local carnival.

David regrets abandoning them and returns to the carnival, begging them on his knees to come back with him. On their way back to the RV, One Eye discovers them and as he is about to shoot everyone, Don Fitzgerald comes out of the camper and subdues him. Chacon then comes around the corner and is about to kill them all, but David hits Chacon and he drops his gun. Rose picks it up and accidentally shoots Chacon in the shoulder and as he is recovering, Kenny punches Chacon and knocks him out. Don arrests Chacon and One Eye and tells the Millers that he will arrest them too, but actually gives them the opportunity to leave. David delivers the drugs to Gurdlinger who tells him he’s late and that their deal is off. DEA agents then crash into the room, arresting Gurdlinger. The agent in charge is Don, who tells David that he will have to be in the witness protection program until Gurdlinger’s trial. He then adds that anyone that was a witness to the crime will be in protection, and David smiles. The Millers are then seen together in a beautiful home, with several marijuana plants growing in the garden.

REVIEW:

Comedies these days seem to forget what its like to actually be funny, so when I heard people raving about how hilarious We’re the Millers was, my interest was piqued. I just hope that I wouldn’t end up being let down.

What is this about?

When a small-time pot dealer gets mugged, he needs to find a way to pay back his supplier. Agreeing to smuggle in a major stash from Mexico, he rounds up a fake family to act as his cover, and they head for the border in an RV.

What did I like?

Charming. You don’t normally think of a film about a drug dealer smuggling pot across the border being charming, but it actually is. Credit the chemistry between the four leads with that “miracle”, if you will. Bringing together four random people who just happen to cross each other’s paths and making them a family so that they can smuggle pot for the “father’s” boss could not have been easy, but the real selling point is how they seem to bond over the course of the trip, and that is what truly makes this film.

Support. Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, and Molly Quinn play a family that also is traveling down to Mexico. As it turns out, Offerman’s character is DEA, so you can imagine how that sits with our drug smuggling family. That point aside, he turns out to play a very key part later on in the film, as well as being a hilarious supporting character.

Love story. Even though they are playing husband and wife, Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Anniston’s characters are not being forced down our throats as trying to fall in love. I bring this up because most comedies would have done that very thing, especially seeing as how they can’t stand each other at the very beginning of the film (the story of why is told when they meet Offerman and his family). I was a fan of how the filmmakers were smart enough to realize the hormones of the kids and bring in characters for them to fall for, otherwise it was sure to end up with them falling for each other making for a story that just would have caused more complications that it was worth.

What didn’t I like?

Identity thief. Out of the blue, we meet the real Pablo Chacon, who was believed to be the name that Ed Helms’ character was using to smuggle drugs in and out of Mexico. My issue with this is that it served no purpose other than to throw a little action into a film that really didn’t need it. Just make Helms more of the bad guy and the deadline he set should have has more weight attached to it. That’s just my idea, though.

Wanna be a baller. So, Will Pouter’s character gets bitten by a tarantula that was in the fruit he was given when they picked up the pot. For some reason, the filmmaker’s decided to have him pull his pants down and show his swollen testicle (and other parts). I’ll be the first one to sat that had he been a girl and that was his chest, I’d have no problem, but since he’s a guy, I have issue with it. Yeah, double standard, I know…but it happens. Fact is, I really didn’t find this funny. It was just fine without them having to show it 3, 4, even 5 times, I believe. Once was enough!

Friends strip. Jennifer Aniston is a beautiful woman with a body most women would die for, but I just found it hard to buy her as a stripper. She just doesn’t have the curves for it. Maybe someone a little more voluptuous would’ve been more convincing, because even when she was stripping, I wasn’t buying it. On the flipside, she makes a very believable mom.

What can I say about We’re the Millers. This is a comedy that many people who was just going to e a run of the mill, pardon the pun, film that was destined to be inferior. As it turns out, this is on many people’s “best of” lists in terms of comedy, and I believe I saw it on at least one person’s best of 2013. For me, it wasn’t that good, but it is a solid viewing, sure to leave you laughing and thoroughly entertained. Word to the wise, stick around for the credits. There is a nice little scene involving the family and the Friends theme. I highly recommend this film. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Man of Tai Chi

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Tiger Chen is the sole student of his elderly master’s Ling Kong Tai Chi style. Whilst Tiger excels in the physical aspects of his training, his master struggles to instill in him the philosophical aspects, and fears for his character. Tiger harbours a determined ambition to prove the martial effectiveness of the style, as he competes in the local Wulin contest.

When the mysterious Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) offers him a “security” job, Tiger seizes the chance to escape his tedious day job as a courier, but when he discovers that the “job” is to become a paid contestant in an underground fighting ring, he refuses to compromise his honour by fighting for money. However, he quickly relents when he discovers that his master’s 600-year-old temple faces a demolition order, and realises that Donaka’s money is his only hope of saving the temple.

In Donaka’s fighting ring, Tiger is pitted against formidable opponents in brutal, no rules combat. Donaka is clearly grooming Tiger for some specific purpose, pushing him harder and harder. Tiger is well paid for his time, and showers his parents with expensive gifts, but his character begins to darken, and he becomes a more ruthless and cruel fighter. Before long, his brutality sees him ejected from the Wulin contest in disgrace.

When this public shaming tarnishes the name of Ling Kong Tai Chi, costing him the heritage protection order that was protecting the temple, Tiger realises the error of his ways, and agrees to work with Hong Kong detective Sun Jing Shi (Karen Mok) to bring down Donaka’s deadly ring.

On the night of Tiger’s final fight for Donaka’s organisation, he discovers that the audience of his fights have not only been watching his fights, but an entire movie of secretly-filmed footage from his life, designed to document the corruption of his character, culminating in his first fight kill, planned for that night. He refuses to fight his designated opponent, demanding to fight Donaka instead. He is able to stall his opponent long enough for the police to arrive and shut down the enterprise.

Only Donaka escapes, and later challenges Tiger himself in a one-on-one showdown in the courtyard of the Ling Kong Temple, where Tiger finally defeats him with a fatal application of the darkest secret of Ling Kong Tai Chi.

REVIEW:

Fret not if you haven’t heard of Man of Tai Chi. Chances are that unless you are a fan of Keanu Reeves every move, live in China, or are an actual film critic, this didn’t come anywhere near being a blip on your radar. For me, I happened to catch a couple of trailers on some DVDs and I believe there was some mention about it leading up to 47 Ronin.

What is this about?

Keanu Reeves makes his directorial debut with this action-packed kung fu tale set in Beijing, where a young man armed with incomparable martial arts skills gets embroiled in the world of underground fight clubs.

What did I like?

Fight. One thing that can be said about martial arts films is that when the fighting starts, you are sure to take notice. That is most definitely the case here as our star, played by newcomer Chen Hu, delivers gripping and believable fight scene after another. I was thoroughly entertained by the fights, which are a good portion of the film.

Descent. In the beginning, Chen Hu’s character is a pure, innocent type, but as the film progresses and gets involved more and more into the fights, he becomes corrupted. Late in the film, they even show his descent. I liked how they were able to really show the “fall from grace”, if you will, in a fight with his Master. From what I know about Tai Chi, everything I black and white, yin and yang, and so forth. The Master was in white, and Hu was in black. I don’t think I need to say more than that, in terms of how well that scene was designed.

Debut. For his directorial debut, Keanu Reeves didn’t do a bad job, in my opinion. He manages to capture the fight scenes on camera in a way that has proven to be difficult for many filmmakers who have attempted doing to with the genre in the past. He also has found a way to keep us at least somewhat interested in these characters. Hopefully, he can keep this up in future films he directs.

What didn’t I like?

Subtitles. I know that I always complain about subtitles and it makes me sound like an uneducated oaf, but this time I have an excuse. This is one of those flicks where just as you get used to reading subtitles, it switches to English. I don’t know, for me I think I would have preferred if they would have just stuck to one language.

Cops. I have two things to say about the police in this film. First, the whole plot involving them seems to be like the scientists in Godzilla films. They exist just to fill time and not really to move the plot forward or do anything spectacular. Second, it seems as if they are incompetent when it comes to locating this underground fighting circuit, and when they do, nothing really gets done. No one gets arrested, nothing gets shut down, etc. This makes the audience ask the question, what really is the point?

Temple. Shortly after Hu’s meeting with Reeve’s villainous character, the Temple in which he practices tai chi is going to be demolished. Everything about this seems so perfect for a plot by Reeves’ character, but it is never mentioned that it is, if that were the case. So, this is just a convenient plot point just to drive our protagonist and give him something to fight for. We’ve seen it time and time again.

For me, martial arts just isn’t something I can get into unless it has Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, or has something to do with Mortal Kombat (it is kind of ironic that I say that, and Reeves says “Finish him” a few times early on). That being said, Man of Tai Chi turned out to be an interesting little film that is highlighted by its action/fight scenes. I want to say that I would recommend this, but it just isn’t a film for everyone, based on its nature. That being said, if you’re into martial arts films, or want to see Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut, then give this a shot!

3 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Rundown

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , on December 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Beck (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a “retrieval expert”, a bounty hunter who collects debts for a man named Walker (William Lucking). He is dispatched to a nightclub to retrieve a championship ring from a football player, and after doing so is assaulted by one of Walker’s other collectors. Angry, he confronts Walker and tells him that wants out of the business. Walker talks him into one last bounty – retrieve Walker’s son Travis (Seann William Scott) from a small mining town in Brazil and Walker will give him enough money to open his own restaurant. Beck accepts and leaves for Brazil. When Beck arrives in the town of El Dorado he meets with the man running the mining operation, Mr. Hatcher (Christopher Walken). Hatcher gives Beck his blessing to grab Travis, but reneges when he finds out that Travis has discovered a missing golden artifact called “El Gato do Diabo”. Beck confronts Hatcher and his men in the local bar and leaves with Travis. On the way back to the airfield, Travis forces their Jeep off the road and into the jungle. There he tries to escape but is re-captured by Beck. After an unfortunate encounter with some local monkeys the two find themselves in the camp of the local resistance.

At the resistance encampment, Travis convinces the rebels that Beck works for Hatcher and was sent to kill them all. After a prolonged fight, Beck gains the upper hand before the rebel leader Mariana (Rosario Dawson) intervenes. She wants Travis, as the Gato can be used to ensure the locals can free themselves from Hatcher. Hatcher suddenly attacks the camp, killing many rebels. Beck, Travis, and Mariana escape the camp and Beck makes Mariana a deal: she helps him get Travis to the airfield in exchange for the Gato. After some searching, Travis leads them to a cave behind a waterfall where the Gato is located. They retrieve it and begin the journey back.

On the way back, Mariana chastises Travis for wanting to sell the artifact, but Travis argues that he actually did want to give it to a museum. Mariana gives the two men Konlobos, a toxic fruit that paralyzes the eater. As she tells Beck which direction the airfield is, she leaves them with the fire to keep the animals away. After waking up able to move, Beck hauls Travis to the airfield. The local pilot, Declan (Ewen Bremner), tells Beck that Mariana was captured earlier by Hatcher and will probably be killed. Travis pleads with Beck to help, and the two head into town to rescue her. Using a cow stampede for cover, the two begin their assault on Hatcher’s goons. Travis becomes trapped by gunfire in a bus, and Beck saves him before the bus explodes. Hatcher tells his brother to take Mariana and the Gato and flee, but they are stopped by Travis. Hatcher confronts Beck, who offers him the chance to leave town still. Hatcher refuses, and is confronted by the townspeople who shoot him before he can leave. Travis gives the Gato to Mariana before leaving with Beck, who tells him that despite all they’ve been through he must still return Travis to the US. Back in the U.S., Travis is delivered to his dad who begins to verbally and physically abuse him. Beck asks to celebrate with them and gives Walker and his men Konlobos. As they are paralyzed, Beck uncuffs Travis and the duo leave together, with Travis continuing to jokingly annoy Beck.

REVIEW:

The Scorpion King may have been the film that started action career of The Rock, but it was The Rundown that really laid the foundation for him as a movie star that has been doing nothing but getting brighter and brighter (even when he was doing those family movies like The Game Plan). For some reason, though, this is one of those films that seems to be forgotten, though.

What is this about?

Looking to retire and open a restaurant, a bounty hunter named Beck gets roped into one final assignment: fetching his employer’s errant son from the Amazon jungle. Along the way, Beck finds himself involved in a treasure hunt and a rebel uprising.

What did I like?

Action. Earlier today, I was listening to a review of the Indiana Jones collection on Blu-ray. Not long after, I started watching this. What is the connection? Well, in a way, they are both action packed and set mostly in the jungle (not all Indy movies are set in the jungle, remember). The Rock at this point in time was still a wrestler turning actor not an actor who was a wrestler and occasionally goes back to appease the ungrateful fans. As a fan of The Rock during his heyday in WWE, I noticed a few of his moves, especially in the club scene. The jungle fights though were a bit more inclusive of all different types of fighting. I guess it is kind of hard to Rock Bottom or give the People’s Elbow to little men flying around and kicking your ass with their speed.

Connection. The Rock and Sean William Scott have a nice chemistry that works very well throughout the course of the film. Scott’s character provides much of the film’s comedy, as expected from him, and The Rock is the straight man to his antics. A tried and true formula, to be sure, but it is one of those that works, so why question it? I think we can all admit we’ve seen this formula in other films and it doesn’t quite work as well as advertised.

The Dawson. When we first come across Rosario Dawson’s character in the bar, you just assume she’s eye candy. To a certain extent she is, considering how she is the only female in this cast, except for background ladies in the village, town, and club. With that in mind, it isn’t long before she shows her true colors as a rebel who wants to find the El Gato so that she can free her people from the evil hands of Christopher Walken’s character, who I believe he bought and runs the town, but I’m not 100% sure what his definitive relationship with it is. Dawson is a tour de force, if you will, in this role, even taking on a Brazilian (subtitles said she was speaking Portuguese) accent and speaking the language in a couple of spots. Something else of note is that there is no romantic relationship with either The Rock or Scott’s character. This is noteworthy because it shows that not every action film needs a woman for the guy to fall for or a girl to fall for the guy that rescues her, or any other scenario you want to cook up. Dawson’s character gets the job done and then goes about her merry way, rather than forcing us to deal with some useless relationship drama and convoluting the film with thoughts, feelings, and whatnot.

What didn’t I like?

Jungle danger. Maybe I watch too many cartoons, but I half expected to see more in the way of dangers in the jungle. Other than a trap set by the rebels, the howler monkeys, and konlobos fruit that was given to them by Rosario Dawson’s character, there weren’t any natural dangers and I just don’t understand why that was. Surely, something could have come up. Oh, there was the mention of those piranha that swim up penis holes, but nothing came of that, either.

Guns. The whole film, The Rock’s character makes it perfectly clear that he doesn’t like guns and will not use them because of something that happened. When he does use them “you wouldn’t like the person I become”, or something to that effect. The this is, near the film’s end he has no choice but to pick up a gun, which he does and owns that shootout like the hero in a western! Apparently, something happened in his past,  which perhaps could give us the dark tale of how he got into the bounty hunter game. I would like to know why it is he has issues with guns. At least Batman has an excuse, he watched his parents get gunned down when he was a little boy. What is this guy’s reason?

Shut up! While the final shootout is going on, the pilot is spouting off some kind of mumbo jumbo gibberish that no one really is paying attention to. I guess the best way to describe it would be to think of those old blues singers that cameras often pan to in certain movies when the hero has a revelation that makes them become the hero. It was sort of like that, as The Rock’s character was picking up the guns. In theory, it should have worked, but the way it was shot and the fact that what he was saying made no sense derailed it from doing so.

In the years since The Rundown, The Rock has decided to go by his real name and now goes by both his real and ring name. He has also become a big star, literally and figuratively. This film may not be the greatest, but as an action flick it is good fun and it served as a nice big stepping stone for The Rock. Do I recommend this? Yes, very much so! Some people won’t care for it that much because the parts that try to be a more serious-minded film, rather than just a fun action flick don’t seem to work that well, but it still is something that you should check out sometime. As a matter of fact, it seems as if this is always on Spike TV. So, there go, give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on December 22, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a California forest, a group of alien botanists collect flora samples. When government agents appear on the scene, the aliens flee in their spaceship, mistakenly leaving one of their own behind. The scene shifts to a suburban home, where a 10-year-old boy named Elliott is trying to hang out with his 16-year-old brother Michael and his friends. As he returns from picking up a pizza, Elliott discovers that something is hiding in their tool shed. The creature promptly flees upon being discovered. Despite his family’s disbelief, Elliott lures the alien from the forest to his bedroom using a trail of Reese’s Pieces. Before he goes to sleep, Elliott realizes the alien is imitating his movements. Elliott feigns illness the next morning to stay home from school and play with the alien. Later that day, Michael and their five-year-old sister Gertie meet the alien. They decide to keep him hidden from their mother. When they ask it about its origin, the alien levitates several balls to represent its solar system and then demonstrates its powers by reviving a dead plant.

At school the next day, Elliott begins to experience a psychic connection with the alien, including exhibiting signs of intoxication due to the alien drinking beer, and he begins freeing all the frogs in a biology class. As the alien watches John Wayne kiss Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man, Elliott kisses a girl he likes.

The alien learns to speak English by repeating what Gertie says as she watches Sesame Street and, at Elliott’s urging, dubs itself “E.T.” E.T. reads a comic strip where Buck Rogers, stranded, calls for help by building a makeshift communication device, and is inspired to try it himself. He gets Elliott’s help in building a device to “phone home” by using a Speak & Spell toy. Michael notices that E.T.’s health is declining and that Elliott is referring to himself as “we”.

On Halloween, Michael and Elliott dress E.T. as a ghost so they can sneak him out of the house. Elliott and E.T. ride a bicycle to the forest, where E.T. makes a successful call home. The next morning, Elliott wakes up in the field, only to find E.T. gone, so he returns home to his distressed family. Michael searches for and finds E.T. dying in a ditch and takes him to Elliott, who is also dying. Mary becomes frightened when she discovers her son’s illness and the dying alien, just as government agents invade the house. Scientists set up a medical facility there, quarantining Elliott and E.T. Their link disappears and E.T. then appears to die while Elliott recovers. A grief-stricken Elliott is left alone with the motionless alien when he notices a dead flower, the plant E.T. had previously revived, coming back to life. E.T. reanimates and reveals that his people are returning. Elliott and Michael steal a van that E.T. had been loaded into and a chase ensues, with Michael’s friends joining them as they attempt to evade the authorities by bicycle. Suddenly facing a dead end, they escape as E.T. uses telekinesis to lift them into the air and toward the forest.

Standing near the spaceship, E.T.’s heart glows as he prepares to return home. Mary, Gertie, and “Keys”, a government agent, show up. E.T. says goodbye to Michael and Gertie, as Gertie presents E.T. with the flower that he had revived. Before entering the spaceship, E.T. tells Elliott “I’ll be right here”, pointing his glowing finger to Elliott’s forehead. He then picks up the flower Gertie gave him, walks into the spaceship, and takes off, leaving a rainbow in the sky as Elliott (and the rest of them) watches the ship leave

REVIEW:

Over the years I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve reviewed some films that have been pretty well-known, some that have gone on to become huge hits, some that are supremely obscure, and some classics that as soon as you mention the name, it takes you back to feeling you had when you first saw it, be it in the theater, home, or other. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is one of those films.

What is this about?

Steven Spielberg’s 1982 smash hit tells the heartwarming story of the special bond 10-year-old Elliot (Henry Thomas) forges with an alien he names E.T. The adventures they share as Elliot tries to hide his new friend and E.T. tries to get back to his planet (“E.T. phone home!”) provide plenty of action, laughter and tears.

What did I like?

Connection. As we settle in and get to know and laugh at E.T. as he stumbles around trying to figure out the way things work and if there is a way he can use these crude inventions to help him contact his home plane. He and Elliot, played by Henry Thomas, develop a bond that is so deep that they can feel each other’s feeling. This is best on display during the frog scene where E.T. is watching something, I forgot what, drinking beer, and letting his feeling flow through Elliot, which culminates is his kissing a young Erika Eleniak (future “Baywatch babe”). A downside to the connection is that as E.T. appears to die, he turns white and everything, Eliot gets really sick. I’ll go more into that in a little bit.

Music. Anytime you get a score from one of the best film score composers of all time, John Williams, you’re sure to get something great and memorable. The score he came up with for this film is no exception, but it is the majestic way he mixes the score with what is happening on screen. This is no more obvious than in the flying scene. The masterful way he builds up the theme as it climaxes just as the kids are in the center of the moon, as it were, is a thing of beauty!

E.T. This is a sci-fi film from the early 80s, so you can imagine that there are fantastic creatures to be seen, right? Well, other than E.T. and his species that appear at the beginning of the film, everyone else is human. However, the design of E.T. is great. The rumor is that this was Spielberg’s imaginary friend after his parents divorced. I wonder if I can parlay my imaginary friend from childhood into highly successful movie character. Aside from the great design, E.T. is also a character that we feel for. We want him to get home. We want him to not be caught by the kids’ mother or the government guys. There is a connection that he has with the audience that is developed in a very short amount of time.

Matters of the heart. When I was little, my dad went to Korea for a TDY assignment (he was in the Air Force). Aside from some Korean stuff, he brought my sister and I back E.T. plushes. Being the wanna be artist that I was at the time, I drew a heart on mine and also doused him in baby powder. The powder came off easily, but to this day, he still has the heart drawn on him. Why did I try to turn him white? Well, in what is the most emotional scene of the film, E.T. and Henry Thomas’ character are caught by the government and, because of his apparent sickness, being studied. E.T. appears to be getting worse, as his skin has turned from slimy brown to dried out white. After a few moments, he apparently dies. When this happens, you can just feel the life sucked out of the room and a tear comes your eye. Talk about a powerful scene!

What didn’t I like?

Change. I happen to have the 20th Anniversary DVD. What is wrong with that? Well, there are scenes that E.T. is CG. I am never going to be a fan of CG, especially when it is added in as this is. E.T. was animatronic and, in some scenes, I believe someone in a puppet suit. As bad as the CG E.T. was, and trust me, it is bad…noticeably bad, the fact that someone decided to take the guns away from the cops later in the film and replace them with walkie-talkies is just stupid! Yes, I said walkie-talkies. Our society has become so squeamish that these days if someone is smoking it adds a rating to a film, i.e. PG becomes PG-13, at one point they were talking about taking the twin towers out of any and all films featuring New York City, etc. UGH!!!! Well, apparently, they changed the guns to walkie-talkies because…well, I don’t really know, but it makes no damn sense to me! Thankfully, though, Spielberg listened to the backlash about this and for the 30th anniversary edition the guns are back.

Drew. Making her debut is 8 yr old Drew Barrymore and she is cute as a button. That is the problem. A very small problem but, as is the problem with many child actors, it is hard to see her as a young ‘un compared to the gorgeous hottie she grew up to be.

When all the dust is cleared, the credits have rolled, and E.T. has gone home, what did I ultimately think of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? I think you would be hard pressed to find a better film for the whole family. There have been many duplicators, imitators, and what not, most notably Mac and Me, but none came anywhere near the quality of this great classic. Do I recommend? Yes! Emphatically, I say this is a film that you must see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars