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

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

The Internship

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Billy McMahon (Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) seek employment after being laid off from their positions as watch salesmen when their employer goes out of business. Billy then applies for an internship at Google for the two of them, and they are accepted due to their unorthodox interview answers, despite a lack of relevant experience; they are the only interns not of traditional collegiate age. They will spend the summer competing in teams against other interns, also known as “Nooglers”, in a variety of tasks, and only the members of the winning team will be guaranteed jobs with Google. Billy and Nick are teamed with other interns seen as rejects: Stuart, who is usually engrossed in his smart phone; Yo-Yo, an Asian-American boy who was homeschooled by a stereotypical overbearing Asian mother; and Neha, an Indian-American girl who is an enthusiast of nerd-related kink. The team is led by Lyle, who constantly tries to act hip in order to hide his insecurities. Another intern, Graham, aggressively bullies Billy and Nick’s team. Mr. Chetty, the head of the internship program, also expresses his doubts about the older men’s abilities. Stuart, Yo-Yo, and Neha see Billy and Nick as useless during a task focused on debugging, and send them on a wild goose chase. But later, during a game of Muggle Quidditch against Graham’s team, Billy rallies his team to a comeback that unifies them as a team despite ultimately losing.

When the teams are tasked with developing an app, Billy and Nick convince the team to indulge in a wild night out. At a strip club, Neha admits to Billy that, despite her rich fantasy life, she has no real-world experience and is nervous; with his support, she decides to stay. Nick gets Yo-Yo to break out of his shell by drinking and receiving lap dances. And, encouraged by Billy, Lyle approaches one of the dancers, Marielena, who is also a dance instructor at Google on whom he had developed a crush. She is charmed by him, but another customer challenges Lyle for her attention and a fight breaks out; the team is ejected from the club. Before sunrise that same night, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Stuart learns to appreciate his surroundings, and Lyle’s drunken antics inspire the team to create an app that guards against reckless phone usage while drunk; they win the task by earning the most downloads.

Meanwhile, Nick has been flirting with an executive, Dana, with little success. When he begins attending technical presentations to impress her, he takes a real interest in the material. While the teams prepare to staff the technical support hotline, only Billy feels at a loss. A Google employee, “Headphones”, who always wears headphones and had not been seen to talk to anyone, approaches Billy and tells him that the way he interacts with people is special. He tutors Billy on the technical information. Dana agrees to go on a date with Nick, and she invites him in at the end of the evening. During the task, Billy is comfortable with the material, but his team receives no score because he failed to properly log his calls for review. Dejected, Billy leaves Google to pursue a new sales opportunity with his former boss. The final task is announced as a sales challenge; teams must sign the largest possible company to begin advertising with Google. The team is stunned when Nick tells them that Billy has left, and they declare that they do not want to do the task without him. Nick convinces Billy to return, and Billy leads the team to show a local pizzeria owner how Google can help connect him with potential customers and how Internet resources can help him expand the business while remaining true to his professional values.

The team arrives during the final assembly just as the winners are to be announced; but the official rules allow them to present their results even at the last moment. The screen behind Chetty shows all the team members dancing with giant afros and Billy is throwing pizza at everyone. Chetty recognizes that although the pizzeria is not a large business, its potential is now limitless because it has embraced technology. Graham protests and is dressed down by Headphones, who turns out to be the head of Google Search. Nick, Billy, Stuart, Yo-Yo, and Neha are declared the winners and will receive jobs at Google, which the latter three will start after their senior years in college. As the students depart, Nick and Dana are still seeing each other, as are Lyle and Marielena. Stuart and Neha have formed a romantic connection, as well, and Yo-Yo asserts himself to his mother.

REVIEW:

In this economy, is it any surprise that people are losing their jobs and having to go back and learn new skills? It shouldn’t be. Someone got the masterful idea to take this notion and create a comedy, The Internship. I’m not so sure if this was a good or bad idea, when all is said and done, though.

What is this about?

Two out-of-work salesmen, lacking the digital-savvy skills they need to find jobs, sign on as interns at a high-tech company. While their new assignment may give them the training they need, it also means staying one step ahead of their ignorance.

What did I like?

Google. I don’t know if Google really is like they have it portrayed here, but if it is, I’m going to quit my job and become an intern out there…even though I know little to nothing about computers. Still, the film makes the place out to be this giant playland, of sorts, for computer geeks. Throw in the free food, places where you can actually take a nap during working hours, and free coffee (if you drink it), and that place could be heaven!

Culture gap. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s characters are a bit older than the rest of the interns. This is no more obvious that when it comes to various references that expose the culture gap between the generations, such as quoting the plot from Flashdance or various books/video games of today. Some of the funnier parts of the film are watching as these scenes unfold, especially the quest to find Professor X!

Quidditch. One of the things that I loved the most about the Harry Potter books and films was Quidditch. To this day, I still wonder if there was a way to actually create some sort of real version of the sport. Well, we finally got that, sort of, with a quick game amongst the intern teams. The way it was just as brutal as soccer and yet still a friendly game, until the golden snitch shows up. I’ll leave you to see what happens after that.

What didn’t I like?

Union Jack. How is it possible that someone who is actually British has an accent that sounds so fake? Seriously, I have to question this guy’s British-ness with that horrible accent. As a character, he wasn’t bad. He actually was a decent antagonist, even if all he did was give evil looks and sowed the seed of doubt in Vince Vaughn’s character. Still, that accent was not something I could get past.

Interns. I felt the interns were great, but would have liked to have learned more about them. This film is already too long, so I hesitate to say we needed some background on them, but I did feel that all of the time was spent on the group leader. Personally, I felt each of them had something to bring to the table and would have liked to have gotten more from Tiya Sircar’s character, who seems to have a fetish for nerdy stuff.

Formulaic. We’ve all seen these films where you can pretty much tell what is going to happen once it gets going, right? Well, this is another one of those. Pretty much from the minute these guys walk into Google, you can tell what is going to happen. Nothing can’t be predicted. Is it so wrong to want an original script these days? Is that too much to ask? If you must rehash this formula, then at least do it well and/or bring something new and fresh to the party.

Tired. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have been doing the same thing throughout their entire career. Wilson, who I already am not a fan of, plays the sensitive, soft-spoken guy who ends up with the hot chick. Vaughn plays the big, fast talking guy. In their teleconference interview, the two of them were so busy trying to outdo each other that I nearly turned the film off, for fear that I wouldn’t be able to take these two. If they must insist on the same shtick for the rest of their careers, then they need to do it separately, because together, while they have great chemistry, they hard to stomach.

The Internship is a film that has its moments, but not enough to make it worth your time. With that said, had this film been released at least a couple of years ago, it surely would have been a hit, but as it stands, it feels as it is dated, and not in a good, nostalgic way. Do I recommend this flick? I can’t say that I do, but it isn’t bad enough to totally avoid. I would say that if you must watch, wait a couple of years for it to show up on the basic cable stations and you’re sure to be able to watch it then.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

 

The Conjuring

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1971, Roger and Carolyn move into a dilapidated farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island with their five daughters. During the first day, their move goes smoothly, though their dog, Sadie, refuses to enter the house and one of the daughters finds a boarded up entrance to a cellar.

The next morning, Carolyn wakes up with a mysterious bruise and finds Sadie lying dead outside the house. Over the next several days, various instances of paranormal disturbance occur. The activity culminates one night while Roger is away in Florida. After hearing various clapping and giggling noises, and seeing the picture frames shattered on the stairs, Carolyn is locked up in the cellar. Later Cindy, one of the daughters, is awakened after sleepwalking into her sister Andrea’s room—she sees a spirit on top of a wardrobe in the room that attacks Andrea.

Carolyn contacts noted paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren for help. The Warrens conduct an initial investigation and conclude that the house may require an exorcism, but they needed authorization from the Catholic Church and further evidence before they can proceed.

While researching the history of the house, Ed and Lorraine discover that the house once belonged to an accused witch, Bathsheba, who tried to sacrifice her children to the devil and killed herself in 1863 after cursing all who would take her land. The property was once 200+ acres but has since been divided up into smaller parcels. They find reports of numerous murders and suicides in houses that have since been built upon parcels that were once part of the property.

Ed and Lorraine return to the house to gather evidence to receive authorization for the exorcism. Cindy again sleepwalks into Andrea’s room and reveals a secret passage behind the wardrobe. Lorraine enters the passage and falls through the floorboards into the cellar, where she sees the spirit of a woman whom Bathsheba had long ago possessed and used to kill her child. Another of the Perron children, Nancy, is violently dragged by her hair along the floor by an unseen force.

The Perron family decides to take refuge at a hotel while Ed and Lorraine take their evidence to the Church to arrange an exorcism. While the Warrens are on their way home, their daughter is attacked in their own home by the spirit of Bathsheba, though Ed arrives in time to prevent her from being harmed.

Carolyn, now possessed by the spirit of Bathsheba, takes two of her daughters, Christine and April, and drives back to the house. Ed, Lorraine, Roger, and two assistants rush to the house where they find Carolyn trying to stab Christine with scissors. After subduing Carolyn, Ed decides to perform the exorcism himself, though Carolyn escapes and attempts to kill April. Lorraine is able to temporarily distract the possessed Carolyn from killing her daughter by reminding her of a special memory she shared with her family, allowing Ed to complete the exorcism, saving Carolyn and her daughter.

Returning home, Lorraine tells Ed that the priest who they sought for the exorcism had called back and left a message, saying that he had gained approval from the Catholic Church to perform it. In addition to this, he also has another case for them to investigate on Long Island.

REVIEW:

If there is something that 2013 as a year will go down in history for, it will be the success of smaller films like The Conjuring, as opposed to mega-blockbusters. I’ll get more into that later. For someone like me, who isn’t a horror fan to be as engulfed in this as I was speaks volumes about the quality of this picture.

What is this about?

Based on true events, this spine-chiller tells the story of a New England family who begins having encounters with spirits in their farmhouse, and the paranormal experts who help them do battle with the supernatural forces.

What did I like?

Creepy. Pretty much from the minute the film starts, the creep factor kicks in. With the exception of some character development parts, it never lets up. True, nothing is as freaky as that Annabel doll that is show in the opening vignette and on display in the glass case in the Warren’s house. This is the kind of stuff that can keep you up at night, the way horror films used to be able to, so I give my kudos to the filmmakers for being able to pull that feat off.

Look. It was impressive to see that the film, which is set in the 70s, also goes about using a look that one would see in those films from that era. Sure, there are some hiccups, such as the way a home video looks just as good as one would look if it were filmed on an iPhone, but that’s a minor mistake that you really have to be anal to pick up on. The main thing is that inspired retro look is something to behold.

Exorcism. There have been tons of exorcism in movies. This one isn’t going to be remembered for years to come like the one in The Exorcist, obviously, but it is of note because it is done in a different way. I don’t believe that I’ve seen one involving a bag over the victim’s head, only to emerge a more demonic version of themselves. It was quite the experience watching.

What didn’t I like?

Prequel. For a film like Captain America: The First Avenger to end with a scene that obviously is leading to something more makes sense, but for this, not so much. The ending has the Warrens headed to a case in Long Island, which turns out to be the Amityville Horror cases (surely you’ve heard of those films, right?) So, in a way this is a prequel, of sorts, but I just don’t think that ending scene was as effective as intended.

Perfect…or not? Is it me, or do Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga seem to be just about type cast in these type of films these days, Wilson especially. At one point this year, he had 2 or 3 films that were just about the same thing out at the same time, including Insidious 2. Farmiga seems to be a bit of a horror queen, her daughter was in at least the first season of American Horror Story, so it is a family business, I suppose. At any rate, these two are great together, but it would be nice to see them branch out.

Convenience. Before I started writing this review, I was watching a video that detailed the “cinema sins” of this film. One thing that they and I agreed on is the convenience of how all hell breaks out just as the dad gets home. Seems to me that would have worked out better with him gone, but that’s just me. I guess the demon/ghost wanted the whole family.

As I mentioned earlier, The Conjuring, along with The Purge and a couple of other films this summer, proved that big budget cinema isn’t everything, both in terms of the audience they can bring in and the quality of film. Not only was this a really good film on a limited budget, but come this time next year, I’m sure I’ll be more apt to remember this than most of the summer blockbusters that may have been good, but they were quite forgettable. That being said, this is a rare high recommendation for a horror flick from me, so you know that you need to check it out!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars

Can’t Hardly Wait

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film revolves around an eclectic group of students from Pennsylvania attending a high school graduation party at a large house owned by a rich class member’s family. Each character has different plans for the night. Preston Myers (Ethan Embry) plans to proclaim his love to his four-year secret crush, to whom he has never had the nerve to speak before, prom queen Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who has recently been dumped by her jock boyfriend, Mike Dexter (Peter Facinelli) who is targeted by nerd classmate William Lichter (Charlie Korsmo), who is plotting revenge against Mike for years of bullying.

Denise Fleming (Lauren Ambrose) has no intention of going to the party but is dragged along by Preston. Kenny Fisher (Seth Green) is a wigger who plans on losing his virginity by the end of the night. When he goes into the upstairs bathroom to “get ready”, Denise happens to walk in. After getting locked inside, the pair of former friends begin talking about how they drifted apart; their conversation eventually leads to the restoration of their friendship and then escalates into them having sex.

At the party, Amanda deals with being alternately consoled by the drunken girlfriends of Mike’s jock friends and her own cousin (who tries to hit on her) and tries to figure out if she truly has an identity beyond being known as “Mike Dexter’s girlfriend”. At one point, she discovers a letter addressed to her. Unbeknownst to her, the letter was written by Preston. After reading and being moved by its contents, she makes it her mission to find him.

Before the party, Mike convinces his fellow jock friends to follow his lead and dump their girlfriends to make a pact in which they all pledge to remain single as they go to college. Later on, an intoxicated Mike learns from a guy named Trip McNeely (Jerry O’Connell in a cameo) — a graduate and former stud from his high school — that in college, guys like them are “a dime a dozen”. This reality is even driven in further by the fact that Trip emphasizes how he dumped his girlfriend in the same fashion that Mike did to score with women which was unsuccessful. Terrified, Mike tries to get Amanda back, but she replies that she is happier without him and humiliates him in front of everyone at the party.

At the same time, William devises his plan to get revenge on Mike. He has his two even more nerdy, X-Files-obsessed friends wait on the roof, while he goes into the party to drive Mike out. However, while inside the party, William begins drinking alcohol to fit in. After a while, he drinks enough to make him forget what he was originally doing there and then an impromptu sing-along to Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” causes him to become popular for the evening. William begins talking with Mike, and Mike apologizes for bullying him. William forgives him, and the two of them seemingly become friends. When Mike and William are jailed as a result of a police bust, Mike takes the blame, saying that he forced William into drinking. However, the next morning when William sees Mike and some of his friends at a local diner, he tries to thank Mike for taking the fall. But Mike acts as though he remembers nothing of what happened the previous night and proceeds to ridicule him in front of his friends. William, feeling the sting of betrayal, leaves dejected while Mike laughs with his friends.

Meanwhile, Preston eventually finds Amanda and confesses his love; however, she assumes he is another drunk pervert and rejects him. She later finds a yearbook, sees his picture, and realizes her mistake. She tries to find Preston again, but he has already driven home. The next morning, Preston is at a railway station, about to leave. Amanda visits Preston at the station and asks him about the letter. Preston confesses he wrote it and that he is about to depart for a pre-college writing workshop with Kurt Vonnegut. The two regretfully say their goodbyes; but soon after, Preston stops and runs back to Amanda, and they kiss.

As the film ends, the characters’ fates are revealed:
-Seven hours later, Preston finally got on a train to Boston. Amanda wrote him a letter for every day that he was away. They are still together.
-The day after the party, Denise and Kenny meet up in a diner; five minutes later, Denise dumped Kenny. Ten minutes later, they found a bathroom and got back together.
-Mike went on to college but, after drinking too much, lost his football scholarship. He ended up forty pounds overweight and working at the car wash, a job he lost when incriminating Polaroids surfaced.
-William became one of the most popular students at Harvard. He went on to form his own computer company that has made him worth millions, and he is dating a supermodel.
-William’s two nerdy friends were abducted by aliens after discussing that they did not miss anything by not attending the party

REVIEW:

Remember graduating high school and then going off to get drunk at this huge party at someone’s house where you were sure to confront the bully and tell the girl of your dreams your true feeling for her? Yeah, me neither, but that’s why we have films like Can’t Hardly Wait.

What is this about?

At a wild party, newly minted high school graduates celebrate and ponder the future — including love-struck dork Preston Meyers, who tries to work up the courage to act on his feelings for beautiful prom queen Amanda Beckett.

What did I like?

Relatable. Often in films like this, the characters are so unrelatable that the audience just turns into mindless zombies watching a flick, rather than engaging in the story (or lack thereof). Seriously, how many of us are rich socialites living in Beverly Hills (as an example)? Now, a somewhat geeky guy who had a crush on a girl who never gave him the time of day, had a girl for a best friend, and was known by all the classmates, but not popular is a character I can really relate to. Make him a band geek and that pretty much was me in high school. I’m sure other people will relate to the other characters, no matter who they are.

Names. Some of the characters don’t necessarily get named, but I just watched the credits and saw names like “Ready to Have Sex Girl”, “Reminiscing Guy”, “Girl Whose House It Is”, “Yearbook Girl”, etc. I got a little chuckle out of this, because it just goes to show that this is not a film to be taken too seriously. It is basically a teen movie, after all (even if the case is almost all in their late 20s and 30s).

Soundtrack. The songs selected for use on the soundtrack and that play during the film really capture the spirit of the times. This is from 1998, if I’m not mistaken. If you can recall, that was when bands like Smash Mouth, Eve 6, Third Eye Blind, and the like were populating the airwaves. The soundtrack reflects that, as well as throwing in some classics from Run D.M.C., Parliament, Young M.C., Guns ‘N Roses, Nazareth, etc.

What didn’t I like?

Pretty face. I can look at Jennifer Love Hewitt all day. You can’t deny that the girl is gorgeous. However, when she actually starts to spout lines, she comes off almost as wooded as Carrie Underwood did in that abomination, The Sound of Music Live! It gave me cause to pause and ponder this thought…She is a pretty big star, but what has she really done to warrant that? Aside from a couple of films and Party of Five, everything she’s been in has been mediocre, at best, or limited, independent release. I guess a pretty face and a nice pair of breasts go a long way.

Too many? Although the film centers on Ethan Embry’s character and his attempt to finally woo Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character, I wouldn’t necessarily say they were the stars, as there are many different story arcs that are being covered. Each one as interesting as the other, much like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Still, I wonder if perhaps this was too many. Should the film have picked 2 or 3 primary storylines to focus on and then have them all converge at the end? I wonder…

Cops. So, as with every teen party flick, the cops come to break things up. I realize that it is their job to do so and the filmmakers needed to show this so that teenagers don’t get ideas, but there comes a point when you just get tired of seeing the same things happen over and over again. With the way Girl Whose Party It Is, or whatever her name was, was acting, I was expecting her parents to come home early. Now, that would have been more interesting than the, pardon the pun, cop out.

I can’t help but be astonished by the amount of stars that have gone to bigger and better things that were in Can’t Hardly Wait. I wonder what film like this now will be the launching pad for many careers. As far as what I think of this film, it is decent enough for  repeat viewings, but nothing to write home about. The nostalgia factor outweighs its mediocrity. So, with that, I recommend it, but proceed with caution.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

The Searchers

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1868, Ethan Edwards (Wayne) returns from the American Civil War, in which he fought for the Confederacy, to the home of his brother Aaron (Walter Coy) in the wilderness of west Texas. Wrongdoing or legal trouble in Ethan’s past is suggested by his three-year absence, a large quantity of gold coins in his possession, a Mexican revolutionary war medal that he gives to his young niece Debbie (played as a child by Natalie Wood’s sister Lana Wood), and his refusal to take an oath of allegiance to the Texas Rangers, as well as Rev. Samuel Clayton mentioning that Ethan “fits a lot of descriptions”.

Shortly after Ethan’s arrival, cattle belonging to his neighbor Lars Jorgensen (John Qualen) are stolen, and when Captain Samuel Clayton (Ward Bond) leads Ethan and a group of Rangers to follow the trail, they discover that the theft was a ploy by Comanche to draw the men away from their families. When they return home, they find the Edwards homestead in flames; Aaron, his wife Martha (Dorothy Jordan), and their son Ben (Robert Lyden) dead, and Debbie and her older sister Lucy (Pippa Scott) abducted.

After a brief funeral, the men return to pursuing the Comanches. On the trail, they find some of the Comanches buried who apparently were shot during the raid. Ethan further mutilates one of the bodies. When they find their camp, Ethan recommends an open attack, in which the girls would be killed, but Clayton insists on sneaking in. The Rangers find the camp deserted, and when they continue their pursuit, the Indians almost catch them in a trap. The Rangers fend off the Indian attack, but with too few men to ensure victory, Clayton and the posse return home, leaving Ethan to continue his search for the girls with Lucy’s fiancé Brad Jorgensen (Harry Carey, Jr.) and Debbie’s adopted brother Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter). However, after Ethan finds Lucy brutally murdered and presumably raped in a canyon near the Comanche camp, Brad becomes enraged, rides wildly into the camp, and is killed.

Ethan and Martin search until winter, when they lose the trail. When they return to the Jorgensen ranch, Martin is enthusiastically welcomed by the Jorgensens’ daughter Laurie (Vera Miles), and Ethan finds a letter waiting for him from a man named Futterman, who has information about Debbie. Ethan, who would rather travel alone, leaves without Martin the next morning, but Laurie provides Martin with a horse to catch up. At Futterman’s (Peter Mamakos) trading post, Ethan and Martin learn that Debbie has been taken by Scar (Henry Brandon), the chief of the Nawyecka band of Comanches. A year or more later, Laurie receives a letter from Martin describing the ongoing search. In reading the letter aloud, Laurie narrates the next few scenes, in which Ethan kills Futterman for trying to steal his money, Martin accidentally buys a Comanche wife (Beulah Archuletta), and the two men find part of Scar’s tribe killed by soldiers.

After looking for Debbie at a military fort, Ethan and Martin go to New Mexico, where a Mexican man leads them to Scar. They find Debbie after five years, now an adolescent (Natalie Wood), living as one of Scar’s wives. When she meets with the men outside the camp, she says she has become a Comanche and asks them to leave without her. However, Ethan would rather see her dead than living as an Indian. He tries to shoot her, but Martin shields her with his body and a Comanche shoots Ethan with an arrow. Ethan and Martin escape to safety, where Martin saves Ethan by tending to his wound. Martin is furious at Ethan for attempting to kill Debbie and wishes him dead. “That’ll be the day,” Ethan replies. The men then return home.

Meanwhile, Charlie McCorry (Ken Curtis) has been courting Laurie in Martin’s absence. Ethan and Martin arrive home just as Charlie and Laurie’s wedding is about to begin. After a fistfight between Martin and Charlie, a nervous “Yankee” soldier, Lt. Greenhill (Patrick Wayne), arrives with news that Ethan’s half-crazy friend Mose Harper (Hank Worden) knows where Scar is. Clayton leads his men to the Comanche camp, this time for a direct attack, but Martin is allowed to sneak in and rescue Debbie, who welcomes him. During the attack, Martin kills Scar and Ethan scalps him. When Ethan sees Debbie, Martin is unable to stop him from chasing her, but instead of killing her, Ethan carries her home. Once Debbie is safely with her family, and Martin is reunited with Laurie, Ethan walks away, alone and clutching his arm, the cabin door closing on his receding image in one of the most famous and iconic closing scenes in film history.

REVIEW:

Awhile back, I think it may have been earlier this year, I was looking at a list of the top westerns. Nearing the top of just about every one of those lists was The Searchers. As you can imagine, I just have to see what all the hype was about and if all the praise was worth is, especially since this film wasn’t even nominated for any awards (not that that’s a bad thing).

What is this about?

After his entire family is viciously wiped out, hardened war veteran Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) embarks on a long journey to find his only surviving niece, Debbie (Natalie Wood), who has been captured by hostile Comanche Indians.

What did I like?

Binary sunset. I don’t know if this is the case, but very early on John Wayne’s character has his family wiped out by the Comanche Indians. As a matter of fact, they are burned to death. As I watched that scene, I was taken back to the binary sunset scene from Star Wars, where Luke returns to the charred remains of his family and the farm. Both scenes are very powerful and set up the motives for both characters.

Start the conversation. Whether you want to admit it or not, there is an underlying them of racism that the film tries its best to not get too involved with. Don’t believe me? John Wayne’s character tries to kill his niece because she has been living with the Comanche. At the beginning of the film, he creates quite the tense scene at dinner with Jeffrey Hunter’s character because he’s 1/8 Cherokee. There are a few other moments like this, I think they all involve Wayne’s character that make you think. At this point in time, talk about race wasn’t commonplace.

Cowboys and Indians. When I was a little boy, my friends and I occasionally would play cowboys and Indians. The climactic scene of this film took me back to those days. Don’t let it be said that there isn’t action in this film, because there is. It may only be a minute or so long raid that brings this film to its climax, but it is worth the wait. It should be noted that it is done effectively without the use of special effects or bloodshed, just straight up action and good direction. Do those things even exist anymore?

Scenery. I would be remise if I didn’t mention the scenery. One of the reason I love westerns so much is seeing the open range that used to be the old west. This is one of those films where you can really see part of the desert part of the US. I believe this was filmed in Texas/New Mexico and it just gorgeous. There were times I found myself drifting away from what was going on and just drooling in awe of majesty that used to be out there, but now is nothing but cityscape, except for some parks.

What didn’t I like?

Got Wood. Natalie Wood may not have been as big of a star as she would go on to be, especially after West Side Story, but one has to wonder why you use her in a film that she doesn’t really have any lines, when they could have very easily just used any run of the mill actress in her place, preferably one that was actually Native American, or at least had dark skin. On the flipside, using her younger sister (who would go on to fame as Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds are Forever) was a stroke of genius.

Race. Earlier I mentioned how Wayne’s character had a problem with the Indians (he was also a Confederate soldier, mind you). I don’t know if this was just a thing in Hollywood at the time, or if there were just no Native American actors at the time, but with as many films about cowboys and Indians as there are out there, one would think that you could find some decent ones out there to play the leading roles. I say this because the squaw wife, played by Beula Archuleta, is an actual Native American actress. She played similar characters throughout her career, but never got a major role, as those have always gone to someone who was spray tanned to look darker. I don’t know, but to me this is very similar to the blackface dilemma African-Americans faced in the 30s.

Watching The Searchers, I was taken back to those Saturday mornings when I was little and sitting on my grandfather’s lap watching the afternoon movie or Bonanza. They say that John Wayne not only felt personally connected to this film (he named one of his sons after his character, Ethan), but also considers it his best. Personally, I was blown away with how great this film turned out to be. I thought it might have ended up being another subpar western, like many that I have seen recently, but it has reaffirmed my love for the genre! Do I recommend this film? With an emphatic yes, I do. With this film you get action, drama, comedy, and tragedy. Not to mention one of the best endings ever put to film. This is a flick that not only needs to be put on your must se before you die list, but moved near the top! Watch it ASAP!!!

5 out of 5 stars

Lifeforce

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on December 18, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A joint US-UK crew on board the space shuttle Churchill is on a mission to investigate Halley’s Comet under the command of US Air Force Colonel Thomas Wolfe Carlsen (Railsback). They find a 150-mile long alien spaceship hidden in the comet’s corona, seemingly derelict. Upon entering the spacecraft, the crew finds hundreds of dead, shriveled bat-like creatures and three naked humanoid bodies (two male and one female) in suspended animation within glass containers. The crew recovers the three aliens and begins the return trip to Earth.

During the return journey, Mission Control loses contact with the shuttle and a rescue mission is launched to investigate. The rescuers discover that the Churchill has been severely damaged by fire, with its internal components (including video) destroyed, and the three containers bearing the aliens are all that remain intact. The aliens are taken to the European Space Research Centre in London where they are watched over by Dr. Leonard Bukovsky (Gothard) and Dr. Hans Fallada (Finlay). Prior to an autopsy, the female alien (May), referred to throughout the film as the Space Girl, awakens and fully drains the “life force” out of a guard, as well as some extra energy from the intervening Bukovsky. The Space Girl (nude throughout most of her appearance in the film) then escapes the research facility and proceeds to drain various other humans of their life force, revealing in the interim an ability to shape-shift.

It transpires that the aliens are in fact part of a race of space vampires that consume the life force of living beings, rather than their blood. To make matters worse, their victims, which are in a mummified state when completely drained, are temporarily revived as zombies that are also capable of draining others of their life forces as well, each victim needing a regular infusion of life energy every two hours lest they disintegrate (some which explode into ashes).

Meanwhile, in Texas, an escape pod from the Churchill is found, with Carlsen inside. Carlsen is flown to London where he describes the course of events, culminating in the draining of the crew’s life force. Carlsen explains that he set fire to the shuttle with the intention of saving Earth from the same fate and escaped in the pod. However, when he is hypnotized, it becomes clear that Carlsen possesses a psychic link to the Space Girl. Carlsen and SAS Col. Colin Caine (Firth) trace the alien to a psychiatric hospital in Yorkshire. While in Yorkshire, the two believe they have managed to trap the alien within the heavily sedated body of the hospital’s manager, Dr Armstrong (Stewart); but Carlsen and Caine later learn that they were deceived, as the aliens had wanted to draw the pair out of London.

As Carlsen and Caine are transporting Dr Armstrong in a helicopter back to London, the Space Girl breaks free from her sedated host and disappears. When they reach London a “plague” has overtaken the city and martial law has been declared by NATO forces surrounding the city, with thermonuclear device being approved for use should the “plague” spread beyond the city boundaries. The two male vampires, previously thought destroyed, have escaped from confinement by shape-shifting into the soldiers guarding them; the pair then transform most of London’s population into zombies. After their life force has been drained by the male vampires, the victims seek out other humans in order to absorb their life force, perpetuating the cycle. The absorbed life forces are channeled by the male vampires, traveling throughout the city in the form of energy bolts, to the female vampire, who transmits the accumulated energy to their spaceship in Earth’s orbit.

Fallada impales one of the male vampires with an ancient sword of “leaded iron”, which has to be driven through the energy center of each of the space vampires, located two inches below the heart. He then later contacts Caine and Carlsen that these space vampires are actually possibly the origin of the vampires of Earth mythology, which Carlsen confirms because he learned from his psychic link that they visited Earth before, they have been involved in the destruction of other inhabited worlds, and that it was possible that they were thriving on each other’s energies as a last resort until the Churchill discovered their ship. Carlsen also confesses to Caine that, while on the shuttle, he felt compelled to open the female vampire’s container and to share his life force with her. She is later found inside St Paul’s Cathedral, lying upon the altar, transferring the energy to her spaceship. She reveals, much to Carlsen’s shock upon his arrival there to try and stop her, that they are a part of each other due to the sharing of their life forces, thus their psychic bond.

Caine follows Carlsen into the cathedral and is intercepted by the second male vampire, whom he dispatches using the leaded iron sword that he has obtained from Fallada, who has unfortunately been converted along with Bukovsky and the rest of the Centre’s team into zombies. Upon entering the church, Caine manages to deliver the sword to Carlsen while he is under the Space Girl’s influence. Carlsen impales himself and the female alien simultaneously. The female vampire is only wounded and returns to her ship with Carlsen in tow, releasing a burst of energy that blows open the cupola dome of St. Paul’s. The two ascend the column of energy to the spaceship and rejoin the revived vampire race, and the ship then returns to its hiding place within the comet, leaving behind a wrecked London.

REVIEW:

I have to thank the guys over at Oneofus.net for recommending Lifeforce to me, otherwise I might not have even known it existed. Sci-fi in the 80s was mostly about space, aliens, etc. Very similar to the genres beginnings in the 50s, as a matter of fact, just with better special effects.

What is this about?

American and British astronauts on a joint mission exploring an alien spacecraft discover that the vessel contains several seemingly human bodies. But after they’re brought back to Earth, they come alive and start turning Londoners into zombies.

What did I like?

Connection. The crew finds what turn out to be energy vampires in the tail of Halley’s Comet. As you can just about imagine, once on Earth, the vampires go about making their own vampire zombie slaves. What I liked was how the writers connected the space vampires to the likes of Dracula, by saying it was possible that they were directly descended. Forgive me for not remembering the exact line.

Development. Something that has been plaguing our films these days is that they seem to spend too much time in one place or another. Take Green Lantern, for instance. Aside from the fact that I may be the only person to actually like it, think about how much time was spent on Earth, as opposed to in space. The Green Lantern Corps are basically space cops, so why was so much time spent on Earth? This wasn’t always a problem, though, as this film proves. They are in space long enough to develop the plot and then come crashing down to earth, where the outbreak begins. A harmonious balance between both. It can be done!

May. It didn’t matter what a film was rated in the 80s, there was going to be a gratuitous nude scene in there somewhere. Forget the scene, Mathilda May, the film’s female lead, is naked throughout the entire picture. The only time she is covered up is in one scene where she is wearing this cloak of some sort. Today if a woman is naked throughout the entire film, they call it porn, even if it is done artistically, like we have here.

What didn’t I like?

Bodies. After the humans are turned into these vampires, they resemble unwrapped mummies. I actually could care less about the look, but when they come to life, it is an obviously dated technique that they use. Normally, I would be all for it, but given the high quality of the special effects being used to create the lifeforce near the end, I have to mention the inconsistency there.

Billing. Patrick Stewart, in more recent releases, has gotten pretty heavy billing. Considering he’s the biggest and only mainstream recognizable name, I can imagine why. That being said, he has such a minor role, you have to wonder why they even bother giving him credit at all. Studios seem to do this, though. There was something I watched the other day and had some huge star, Robert Downey, Jr., I believe, but he had one line, but they had him billed like he was the star! I feel that this does more harm than good to the film because some people watch the film for that person and are highly disappointed when they don’t get as big a dose as they would have liked.

Death. So, these vampires can be killed by impaling them through their lifeforce, which is located underneath where the heart is. Maybe I’m asking for change for change sake, but couldn’t they have come up with something different? These are space vampire after all!

Expectations were not necessarily high for Lifeforce. All that I expected was some cheesy 80s sci-fi and a naked chick in a couple of scenes, because that it what most people seem to remember about this flick. That being said, I was actually more entertained than one would expect to be. Sure, this film has its flaws, but it is nostalgic fun, if nothing else. Do I recommend it? I can’t do that to everyone. This is the kind of film that has a certain audience, and if you’re not in that audience, it won’t appeal to you. So, best bet is to make your own opinion and watch at your own risk.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Turbo

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a suburban San Fernando Valley garden, Theo, a.k.a Turbo, is a snail who dreams of being the greatest racer in the world, just like his hero, 5-time Indianapolis 500 champ, Guy Gagné. His obsession with speed and all things fast has made him an oddity and an outsider in the slow and cautious snail community, and a constant embarrassment to his cautious older brother, Chet. Turbo desperately wishes he could escape the slow-paced life he’s living, but his one chance to live proves a near fatal disaster when he tries to recover a prize tomato and needs to be rescued by Chet.

Demoralized, Theo wanders onto a freeway to admire the traffic and wishes on the very first star (which is actually an airplane light), “I wish…I wish I was fast”. Suddenly, he gets into a freak accident when he gets sucked into the supercharger of a drag racer, fusing his DNA with nitrous oxide on a street race. The next day, when Theo wakes up from unconsciousness, his incident the night before finds himself vested with the power of incredible speed and accuracy, as well as some of the characteristics of an actual car, such as eyes that light up like headlights, and a shell that blinks red like taillights and makes car sounds and music from a radio.

Unfortunately, Theo’s first attempt to show this power off ends with him crashing a Big Wheel tricycle into the garden, getting himself and Chet fired from the garden crew. As the siblings quarrel, Chet is snatched by a crow, but is pursued and rescued by Theo at a run down strip mall where they are then captured by Tito, a “Dos Bros” taco truck driver and is brought to race with other snails. Theo astounds both human and snail alike with his speed and earns the respect of the snails, led by Whiplash, with his crew Smoove Move, Burn, Skidmark, and White Shadow, who have impressive skills of their own.

Inspired by this extraordinary snail, Tito dreams to revive the strip mall with Theo as an attraction, and eventually with the help of the snails who manage to divert and strand a tour bus and drum up impressive business. At this success, Theo convinces Tito to try to enter the snail in Indianapolis 500 as a competitor. While Tito’s brother, Angelo, still declines to support him, the neighbors agree to put up the entrance fee and accompany them to Indianapolis. Once there, Tito is refused entry into the race, but a chance meeting with Guy Gagné gives Turbo a chance to show off his speed which astounds the race track at the snail qualifying for the race.

This impossible feat soon becomes a sensation on social media and the owner of the race gives in to the pressure, egged on by Gagné himself, to let the snail compete. However, the night before the race, Turbo is demoralized when his hero, Gagné, sneers at his attempt to race while Chet confesses that he cannot bear to see his brother endanger himself. Undeterred, Turbo enters the race the next day, but the dangerous racetrack and the far more experienced competition leaves him trailing in last place.

At a pitstop, Whiplash and his crew give Turbo a vital pep talk, advising him to stop racing like a car. Back in the race, Turbo realizes what they mean and uses his small size to maximum advantage with maneuvers around and under the competition that no human racer can emulate. With the snail rapidly gaining in the standings, Gagné starts racing dirty and manages to knock Turbo against the circuit wall, damaging his shell and weakening his speed powers. Eventually, in the final stretch with Turbo in the lead, Gagné tries a desperate maneuver to beat the snail and gets into a major crash that snares most of the competitors in a major pileup. Similarly, Turbo is thrown, waking up once again from unconsciousness with his shell punctured and his speed all but gone.

Alarmed at seeing Turbo giving up and retreating into his shell barely a few feet from the finish line, Chet puts himself into incredible dangers to meet up with Whiplash’s crew to get to the racer. Seeing his brother and friends arrive riding crows to encourage him to continue, Turbo resumes the race. Unfortunately, Gagné, refusing to lose, singlemindedly pursues him by dragging his wrecked car after the snail and attempts to crush him. At the last second, Chet tells Turbo to tuck and roll into his shell at Gagné’s last blow and the force allows him to tumble past the finish line to win.

At this victory, the strip mall becomes a major attraction with all the businesses becoming spectacular successes including extremely elaborate snail races with Whiplash’s crew getting special propulsion aids for their shells, while Chet is content as the track referee. As for Turbo, he becomes happier discovering that his shell has healed, and with that, his superspeed has returned.

REVIEW:

With the success of Pixar’s Cars, DreamWorks decided they wanted to get their piece of the pie that included kids that liked racing with Turbo. I won’t get into the debate about which is better because they are two different films, but I will say that no matter what you think of either, kids will love them regardless.

What is this about?

A speed-obsessed snail who dreams of being the world’s greatest race car driver gets his chance when a freak accident imbues him with high-octane speed. But he soon learns he’ll need the help of his friends if he’s going to go the distance.

What did I like?

Parallel. There is a dynamic between Turbo and his brother and the Dos Tacos brothers that really parallels each other as the younger brother is a visionary, for lack of a better term, while the older brother is the more grounded cynical type. At one point during the film, they are both fussing at the respective siblings and seem to finish each other’s thought processes (sometimes sentences). I found this to be quite the sight and some impressive creativity on the part of the filmmakers.

Speed. I was listening to a podcast a couple of days ago and they brought up an interesting point. Turbo gets his speed powers by being doused in Nitrous Oxide. In some ways this is similar to how the Flash gets his speed powers (he gets doused in chemicals). So, basically Turbo could be a super hero. If you watch the film and notice some of the feats he accomplishes, superhero could be in his future, if he wanted to. That point aside, it was a masterful idea to have a snail compete in the Indy 500. Who would have ever thought of that?

Crew. They may have been a small part of the film, relatively, but I was enjoying the Starlight Crew. Each of them had a different, unique personality and they really embraced Turbo…and eventually his brother. Given the fact that he needed someone to have his back and help him through the race, they really came in handy. Leave us not forget the voice talents of Samuel L. Jackson, Maya Rudolph, and Snoop Dogg who lend their pipes to these snails.

What didn’t I like?

Turbo. Ryan Reynolds does a great job lending his voice to Turbo, but there is a rather large section about half way through the films, starting with the montage that he just stops talking. Sure, some people are easily annoyed by Reynolds, but this is a character that needed a voice. To take that away from him I felt hindered his development as a character, as well as his relationship with the others, including the humans.

Lacking. In this day and age, kids movies need to show some imagination. That wasn’t happening here as the film follows a very formulaic premise that, as one critic said, “…even the average 6-year-old couldn’t imagine…” I applaud the bright colors and the comedy, but can’t get past how that, other than how Turbo got his speed and the climax (which put me in the mind of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), everything was so predictable.

Dead horse. There is a character that calls himself the “White shadow” and it apparently is a joke that he appears out of nowhere. Ok, that’s fine, but it turns out to be one of those jokes that they run into the ground and never really works, no matter how much they want it to or hard they try.

I had a little chuckle to myself about Turbo. Think about that slug monster who was rushing to get to class in Monsters University but took the whole semester to get there. Think about what kind of film we’d have if he got super speed! You can argue that it would be more entertaining, but the truth is, this isn’t that bad of a film. It was just overshadowed by the aforementioned Monsters and Despicable Me 2. So, chances are you had your fill of children’s films when this was released and skipped it. Not to mention there isn’t much for the adults in the film, either, except for maybe a couple of songs that are played. That being said, I still give this a pretty high recommendation. If nothing else, the comedy and uplifting story will put a smile on your face!

4 out of 5 stars