Archive for January, 2014

Tower of Terror

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins in Halloween 1939, revolving around the fate of five people – singer Carolyn Crosson, her boyfriend Gilbert London, child actress Sally Shine (who is modeled after child actress Shirley Temple), her nanny Emeline Partridge, and bellhop Dewey Todd, they were invited to be at the Tip Top Party located on the hotel’s twelfth floor. The elevator suddenly got stuck at the eleventh floor, then at exactly 8:05 pm, lightning strikes the building which causes the elevator to collapse, and the five people mysteriously vanish..

The scene then travels to almost sixty years later, when newspaper reporter Buzzy Crocker and his niece Anna meet up with an old woman named Abigail Gregory, Abigail claims that Emeline Partridge, nanny of child actress Sally Shine, orchestrated the incident through an evil spell because she was annoyed over the girl’s spoiled attitude. However, the spell backfired, trapping the guests as spirits in the earthly realm inside the hotel. Abigail says she can reverse the spell if the elevator is repaired and the team finds something that belonged to each of the hotel guests, then repeat the guests’ actions in the elevator on Halloween. This will free their spirits from the hotel. They then enlist the help of Chris “Q” Todd, a car mechanic and Dewey’s grandson, who, despite being initially reluctant, volunteers to help his deceased grandfather and the four other guests.

The team realize that Abigail was the one responsible for the disappearance of the hotel guests on the elevator, including her younger sister Sally, born Sally Gregory, out of personal vendetta and jealousy against her sister’s booming career. The final straw being the party, to which she wasn’t invited, having been set on her birthday, which no one remembered . Buzzy then realizes that what they did actually gave Abigail the means to complete her spell. The team then rushes back to the hotel, but they are too late.

Meanwhile, the ghosts board the elevator. Anna rushes in as well, trying to keep them from boarding. Sally manages to run out of the elevator, joining the living, but Anna gets trapped as the passenger elevator moves up. They then confront Abigail, who then tearfully admits her wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the elevator continues to move up, only to once again get stuck on the eleventh floor, with only minutes left before history repeats itself. Sally, wondering what the commotion was about, joins the group, and Abigail gets frightened. When asked by Buzzy what would she say to Abigail, Sally says that the whole party was meant to be a surprise birthday for her older sister, and apologizes for not being able to get to the party. Sally even kept the present she wanted to give to Abby, a bracelet with their names on it, but couldn’t since she could not get to the party. Abby, Buzzy, Jill, Q and Sally then board the service elevator, catching up with the others on the eleventh floor. Anna manages to escape from an emergency escape hatch, rejoining Buzzy and the others in their elevator. At exactly 8:05pm, the lightning strikes the hotel again, and both elevators plummet downwards. Amidst the chaos, Sally forgives her sister, and as they hold hands, they both turn into a shower of gold dust, breaking the curse and stopping both elevators just as they were about to hit the ground floor.

The groups are saved, and they all go to the Tip-Top Club on the top floor, restored to its former glory. One by one, the ghosts then ascend to Heaven, along with the other partygoers. Abigail, young once more, appears, meeting up once more with her sister, and thanks her for the present. The Gregory sisters then join hands and vanish into the night, breaking the curse on the hotel. With the spell broken, the Tower is re-opened to the public, with Q taking charge.


Back in March, I went to Disneyworld and one of the rides I rode was the “Tower of Terror” (thank my boss’ super-hot sister for getting me to forget my fear of heights and getting on that thing). I really was digging the 30s vibe that was used as decoration and also the Twilight Zone video that was used to set up the story of the ride. I came back to find those episodes, only to be disappointed that they weren’t real. I did find Tower of Terror. This is a made for TV movie of the mid-90s, so I guess the question is how bad/cheesy is it?

What is this about?

Steve Guttenberg stars as a tabloid reporter who wants to return to mainstream journalism; all he needs is a big story. He gets one when he happens upon the mystery surrounding the disappearance of five people at an old luxury hotel in the 1930s. The locals believe that the ghosts of those five people now haunt the hotel.

What did I like?

Location. As you can imagine, a good chunk of this film takes place at the hotel. I imagined they would have just found some way to make a Tower of Terror replication, but it appears that they used the actual ride for the set. Considering that this was made for no other reason than to advertise the ride, that was some inspired scouting. Not to mention the fact that they probably saved some money.

Back and forth. As any avid reader of mine will tell you, I’m a huge fan of all things retro, swing, 30s, etc. This starts in 1939 at a hotel party, complete wit big band playing swing and a Shirley Temple inspired character. I was eating this up and wishing they would have stayed there the whole time. However, that wouldn’t have worked, as they needed to be ghosts and the old woman needed to be…well, old. The flashbacks appeased me, though, and the present day stuff wasn’t too bad, so it was a nice balance.

What didn’t I like?

Connect the dots. As I said before, the purpose of this film is that it is propaganda for the ride that had just opened when this was released. If you’ve ever been on that ride, you know that there is a story there. Parts of it are kept in this plot, but I have to wonder, if Disney had the right to use the Twilight Zone name, footage, etc, why couldn’t they have the same story that we see on the ride and expand upon it, rather than coming up with this, which was almost too sweet to stomach.

Magic storm. There is a plotline in here involving a jealous sister and magic that caused the elevator accident that fateful night. I think this was part of the attempt to make this a totally separate entity than the ride, but it just comes off as uninspired to me. A mechanical malfunction caused by a freak lightning bolt works just as well. Now, if they must bring in magic, that could have been used for how they still walk the earth. Hell, one of them even gets hired as an actress! I just feel they could have done something more interesting with the witchcraft angle, if they must use it.

For a made-for-TV movie, Tower of Terror is much better than you would imagine. It even passes the test of time…for now. A teenaged Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg as well as the gorgeous Nia Peeples and Melora Hardin star in this family light-hearted supernatural thriller, but it is the hotel and the elevator that should be getting top billing. This is not a great film, but it is sweet enough that you can enjoy with the whole family. I recommend it based on that, but if you’re looking for something on the ride, best to look for Youtube videos and enjoy people’s screams.

3 1/4 out of 5 stars

Escape from Alcatraz

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story begins as Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) arrives at the maximum security prison Alcatraz, having been sent there after escaping from several other prisons. He is sent in to meet the warden (Patrick McGoohan), who curtly informs him that no one has ever escaped from Alcatraz. Eventually he meets his old friends, brothers John and Clarence Anglin (Fred Ward and Jack Thibeau), and he makes the acquaintance of the prisoner in the cell next to his, Charlie Butts (Larry Hankin). Morris befriends numerous other inmates, including English (Paul Benjamin), a black inmate serving two life sentences for killing two white men in self-defense; the eccentric Litmus (who keeps a pet mouse and calls himself Al Capone), and the elderly artist and chrysanthemum grower Doc (Roberts Blossom).

Morris also makes an enemy of the rapist Wolf (Bruce M. Fischer), whom Morris beats in the shower room after Wolf attempts to come onto him. Still seething from this encounter, Wolf attacks Morris in the yard and both men spend time in the hole. When the warden discovers that Doc has painted a portrait of him, as well as other policemen on the island itself, he permanently removes Doc’s painting privileges; in response, a depressed Doc cuts his fingers off with a hatchet from the prison workshop and is led away. Later, the warden finds one of Doc’s chrysanthemums and crushes it in front of the inmates; an angry Litmus leaps at the warden and suffers a fatal heart attack. The warden coldly reminds Morris that “some men are destined never to leave Alcatraz–alive.”

Morris notices that the concrete around the grille in his cell is weak and can be chipped way, which evolves into an escape plan. Over the next few months Morris, Butts, and the Anglins dig through the walls of their cells with spoons (which have been soldered into makeshift shovels), make papier-mâché dummies to act as decoys, and construct a raft out of raincoats. On the night of their escape, Butts loses his nerve and does not go with the others. Morris and the Anglin brothers make it out of the prison and are last seen paddling their raft into the night. When their escape is discovered the following morning, a massive manhunt ensues. The warden is adamant that the men drowned, despite no bodies being found. He finds a chrysanthemum on the shore of Angel Island and throws it into the bay after being told that they do not grow there.


So, this morning, since I’m stuck here at home thanks to the icy roads for a 3rd straight day, I turned on Netflix and decided to check out Stephen Fry in America. Quite the interesting viewing, if you get the chance. Seeing all 50 states from the point of view of a British guy. When he reached San Francisco and visited Alcatraz, he mentioned no one escaped from there except Clint Eastwood, which prompted me to look up the reference. This is how I came to view Escape from Alcatraz.

What is this about?

Sent to Alcatraz for life, hardened crook Frank Morris plans his unauthorized departure from the island prison. Enlisting two bank-robber brothers as accomplices, Morris meticulously works out every detail before commencing his daring escape attempt.

What did I like?

Deception. Clint Eastwood is the star, but that doesn’t mean that he is the hero. As a matter of fact, there is no true hero in this film. To some extent, the “good guys” are the bad guys.. We only happen to cheer for Eastwood because we want him to escape. The deception is a bit of a switch from what we are used to, thus making for some interesting filmmaking.

No sugar. Alcatraz is not a happy place and this film doesn’t sugarcoat how horrible the inmates were treated by the guards. I’ll get into some other parts of life there a little later, though. For the tone of this film, it really works. This is a flick that has a couple of sympathetic, comedic characters, but for the most part is serious and dark in its tone. Would you really expect anything less from a film about Alcatraz?

Escape. As you can imagine the escape scene is quite exciting. What is really worth mentioning about it, is that they mange to keep it exciting without the use of explosions, gunplay, or anything other than just the actors doing what they were supposed to do. It should also be noted that these are not stunt doubles, but the actual actors.

What didn’t I like?

Work, boy. In the beginning of his stay in Alcatraz, Eastwood’s character is put to work in the library. The way this scene plays out, it would appear that it was going to go on and become something more important to the main plot and also the relationship with English, who turns out to be one of the most respected guys in the prison, should have been a bigger, but didn’t turn out that way. There is a relationship there, just not as much focus is placed on it as the audience expects.

Hotel Alcatraz. Early on, we meet the Warden who tells Eastwood’s character the rules. One of the points he makes sure to drive home is that the inmates aren’t there for a vacation, unlike other prisons. Then we turn around and see that each of the prisoners get certain amenities given to them, such as art supplies, accordions, etc., things that aren’t exactly given to prisoners.

D-block. After a prison fight with some inmate named Wolf, Eastwood’s character is sent to the dreaded D-block. After what seems like a couple of days, they release him back to his regular cell (the other guy is apparently there for 6 months or so). What’s so bad about this? Well, for such a bad place, it isn’t mention, except in passing in one scene, then it is never brought back, even when he returns to the regular cells. It just seems to me that a prisoner or two would be curious, its just human nature.

Every year, it seems that there is a loop of The Green Mile. I noticed some similarities between the characters in it and Escape from Alcatraz, showing that this film has etched quite the legacy for itself. Does that mean it is worth watching? Well, it isn’t the most exciting, thought-provoking, dramatic, or funniest film, but it is solid enough from beginning to end to warrant a viewing or two, so sure, give it a shot!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Invincible Iron Man

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

While attempting to unearth an ancient Chinese city using his company’s resources – while also diverting money into a project that will put Stark Enterprises on the cutting edge of technology – Tony Stark’s ambitions are thwarted when the Jade Dragons attack the excavation site, killing almost everyone and kidnapping his friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes. Traveling to the site to investigate, Tony is captured and injured by the Jade Dragons, his life saved by a Chinese shaman named Ho Yen and Rhodes’ skills as an army medic after a piece of shrapnel damages his heart.

The shaman tells Tony that the Dragons leader Wong-Chu seek to prevent the return of the Mandarin, an evil ruler of great power who ruled China three thousand years ago, and who the city commemorates. Should four rings created by the Mandarin – their purpose being to grant him power over death – be brought together after the city rises, the Mandarin will awaken. The Dragons force Tony to construct, within a week, a weapon to sink the city or he will face execution. To show they are serious they kill the shaman. Befriending Li Mei, a member of the group, Tony learns that she has a duty that has been passed down her family from father to son – she had no brothers – but she will not reveal what it is. Meanwhile, four elemental spirits are released when the city is raised, and they find two of the Mandarin’s four rings.

When the weapon that Stark and Rhodes created is revealed to be a fake, Chu is about to shoot Rhodes, but Li Mei shoots him from behind. Tony subsequently emerges in their true project; a suit of armor. Rescuing Rhodes, Tony flees the temple and return home, but Li Mei refuses his offer to take her with him. Studying a painting of the prophecy, Li Mei realizes that Tony is the ‘Iron Knight’ who it was foretold would battle the Mandarin, but this brings her no comfort, as the prophecy only states that one of the two shall die without specifying who. To spare Tony this fate, she leads the Jade Dragons in attempting to destroy the city, but the rest of the Dragons are killed and she is confronted by a shadowy dragon-like creature.

After returning to America, Tony and Rhodes are shocked to discover that they are wanted by S.H.I.E.L.D. for selling weapons to the Jade Dragons; Howard Stark, Tony’s father, sent Rhodes weapons to provide enhanced security for the site against Tony’s wishes, and, with the Dragons having stolen the shipment, he has apparently used Tony as a scapegoat to maintain his position.

Having escaped the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and sneaked into his office with the aid of his secretary Virginia “Pepper” Potts, Tony reveals his secret project to Rhodes; multiple suits of armor, each one designed for tasks that human beings could not possibly accomplish alone. Taking an underwater suit of armor to the third temple at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean (the temples’ locations provided on a map from the shaman) – Tony manages to defeat the Fire Elemental by throwing it into the water, but the other three escape with the ring.

Following a brief confrontation with his father over Howard framing Tony for arms dealing (during which it is revealed that the two men have long been at odds over their opinion regarding weapons, a division that has only worsened since the death of Tony’s mother), Tony dons another armor and flies to recover the last ring, located in an active volcano, Pepper and Rhodes allowing themselves to be arrested to buy Tony time. Although he defeats the Air and Water Elementals – he tricks the Water Elemental into freezing the Air Elemental before throwing the Water Elemental into the molten lava – and escapes with the ring, Tony’s armor is badly damaged by the Earth Elemental’s assault, forcing him to abandon the armor and make his own way home.

Having returned to New York, Tony is confronted by Li Mei, who begs him to give her the ring to prevent the Earth Elemental from attacking Tony. Deciding to try and destroy the temple, but unable to reach his more advanced armors due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel in the building, Tony and Li Mei return to China using the armor Tony developed while being held prisoner, which remains on the plane he and Rhodes used to return home.

Arriving at the city just as the Earth Elemental raises an army from the ground, Tony clashes with the Elemental, destroying his adversary with a final desperate mid-air collision. However, as he prepares to search for the last Ring, Li Mei reveals that her bracelet is the final ring; her family seeks to ensure the resurrection of the Mandarin rather than his defeat, and, as the last descendant of the Mandarin, only Li Mei can hold the Mandarin’s spirit, and only she can become the vessel he will need to walk the Earth again. Admitting that she was the one who gave S.H.I.E.L.D. the documents incriminating Tony for arms dealing in an attempt to protect him, Li Mei begs Tony to leave while he still can, but when he refuses, the army activates, forcing Tony to fight the soldiers as Li Mei advances towards the Mandarin’s tomb.

Although Tony vanquishes the soldiers, he is subsequently forced to fight a vast dragon as Li Mei makes contact with the Mandarin’s spirit. Despite his damaged armour, Tony manages to defeat the dragon by forcing a vat of liquid metal to expand and solidify inside it, but when he enters the temple, he finds Li Mei naked and under the control of the Mandarin. As his armor is torn even further apart by the assault, Tony begs Li Mei to remember who she is, managing to convince Li Mei to turn against the Mandarin. As she removes the rings from her hand, the Mandarin’s connection to the real world is broken, triggering a brief explosion before his spirit vanishes,but with his last breath, he unleashes an energy which blasts Li Mei. After thanking Tony for saving her with a kiss, Li Mei dies in his arms, leaving Tony alone in the temple to mourn her death.

Returning to the U.S, Tony is cleared of all charges by the Chinese government and S.H.I.E.L.D., subsequently buying up all available shares in Stark Enterprises, bringing the company under his complete control. However, he has only two actions to take: promoting Rhodes to the position of Chief Engineer for Advanced Technologies, and handing control of the company over to his father. Saying that he’s always regarded the company as a father/son enterprise, Howard and Tony shake hands, Howard subsequently firing the board of directors to free him and Tony from the bureaucracy that nearly tore them apart.


Remember a few years ago when no one knew anything about Iron Man? That seems like forever ago, right? Well, before Iron Man was released, or at least around the same time, audiences were treated to the animated adventure, The Invincible Iron Man. Is this just another animated superhero origin tale or is it just another in a long line of forgettable films in the subgenre.

What is this about?

In this animated adventure, inventor Tony Stark digs up more than he bargained for when he unearths an evil entity buried for centuries in an ancient Chinese ruin. To protect himself from the destructive force, Tony designs a high-tech suit of armor.

What did I like?

Mandarin. Similar to Iron Man 3, this is not the true version of the Mandarin, but another interpretation. Normally, Mandarin is a green (in some interpretations) megalomaniac who uses 10 magical rings. In this interpretation, he uses 5 rings and was a murderous dictator who spirit inhabits his descendants after some strange ceremony that they voluntarily go through. I’m a purist, but this version is acceptable, as it makes Mandarin seem to be more of a threat, keeps some elements of the character, and doesn’t make him a stereotype (although I’ve never thought of him as such).

Howard. I’m not really sure what universe of Iron Man this takes place in, but apparently Howard Stark is still alive and Tony is in charge of the scientific division. Thinking back to all of the Iron Man animated series and films, I believe this is the only one that feature Howard. Sure, he appears in a couple of flashbacks here and there, but that’s about it. Nice to get him some screentime, if you ask me.

Shrapnel. The first issue of Iron Man that I read, incidentally, featured the Mandarin and a flashback to Tony Stark’s origin, which was him getting shrapnel lodged in his chest moving ever closer to his heart, hence the real reason he created the chest plate, which evolved into a full suit of armor. This has been retconned since then, and this is another version of it, but it does keep the hunk of metal lodged in his chest. Without that, you can’t really have Iron Man, now can you?

What didn’t I like?

Animation. For me, this anime style of character design was a big turn off for me. I actually think it is one of the reasons I have avoided this film for all these years. Also, the early CGI animation that they used was not doing it for me. I’m not really a fan of the stuff as it is, but for some reason, it didn’t seem to gel. It feel antique when used with the more modern look of the rest of the film.

Mandarin. Is it too much to ask for the real Mandarin? I mean come on, the spirit of a murderous dictator with 5 rings? No Fin Fang Foom? WTF?!? Also, what was the deal with the elementals? Why did they have to bring these guys in? I want to say they were just created so that the animators could use their crappy CGI, but I hesitate because they could be a part of the Mandarin’s origin that I am not aware of. Still, I want the Fu Manchu mustache having, green skinned, pure Mandarin. Guess I’ll just have to look up some Iron Man cartoons to get that, more specifically the 1994 show.

Pacing. The first hour of this film has very little in the way of action, but rather just seems to go on and on with family drama. Yes, it sets up the characters, but most people who are going to check this out come for some action, and we don’t get it until the last 30-45 minutes, and I’m not quite sure it is worth the wait.

The Invincible Iron Man is anything but invincible. There are flaws with this film, many of which are par for the course when it comes to Marvel Animated features. They try to be more adult, using violence and adult themes, but end up suffering from lackluster pacing and relying way too much on computer animation. Marvel may be winning the “war” at the box office, but DC has the leg up in the animated feature department. This could be an interesting film, but it just doesn’t capture one’s interest. For me, it is worth watching if you’re an Iron Man fan, but for everyone else, you’re best checking out the Robert Downey, Jr. films.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Ghost Dad

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Elliot Hopper (Bill Cosby) is a workaholic widower who is about to land the deal of a lifetime at work, which he hopes will win him a promotion and a company car. After he forgets his daughter Diane’s birthday, he attempts to make it up to her by promising her she can have his car when he secures the deal at work on the coming Thursday. After being persuaded to give the car to his daughter early, Elliot must hail a taxi from work, which is driven by Satanist Curtis Burch (Raynor Scheine), who drives erratically and speeds out of control. Attempting to get the taxi stopped, Elliot announces that he is Satan and commands him to stop the taxi. Shocked to see his “Evil Master,” Burch drives off a bridge and he and Elliot fall to their deaths.

Elliot emerges from the accident scene, but when he approaches a police officer, he learns that he is a ghost when the officer urinates on his shoes, then when he walks into the road, a speeding bus goes straight through him and he endures an ugly old lady on the back seat chomping into a sandwich with her legs far apart coming closer towards him. While not shown it is implied he passes through her crotch. When he gets home he discovers that his 3 children can see him, but only in a totally dark room, and they can’t hear him. He struggles to tell them what happened when he is whisked away to London by paranormal researcher Sir Edith (Ian Bannen), who tells him he is a ghost who has yet to enter the “After Life”; his soul will not cross over until Thursday.

The pressures of work and family life lead to a comedic events, such as Elliot rubbing meat tenderizer into his face while screaming about the burning in his eyes, as Elliot struggles to keep his job until Thursday to ensure his family’s survival without him. One day, he must choose between staying in an important work meeting and helping his son with a magic trick at school. He eventually decides that his family’s happiness is more important and walks out on his furious boss, Mr. Collins (Barry Corbin), who later fires him.

Dejected, Elliot reveals himself as a ghost to his love interest, Joan (Denise Nicholas) whose initial shock soon turns to sympathy. Edith arrives from London to announce that Elliot is not dead; his spirit jumped out of his body in fright. In the excitement to find Elliot’s body to reunite his spirit with it, Diane trips on a pair of skates that her little sister Amanda left on the stairs; she falls and is seriously injured. The family rush her to the hospital where her spirit has also jumped out of her body. As she delightedly flies around, Elliot begs her to re-enter her body; his own has started to “flicker.” When he collapses, Diane becomes concerned and races into the intensive-care unit to find her father’s body. She helps him into the room and they discover that the taxi driver had taken his wallet before the accident, so he has no identification. Elliot returns to his body and wakes up; Diane does the same and jumps off the operating table to tell the family what has happened.

As the reunited family leave the hospital, Elliot spots a yellow taxi parked outside and Burch behind the wheel. Delighted to see his “Evil Master,” Burch returns Elliot’s imitation Gucci wallet back. Elliot then tells Burch to go to hell and sit on red hot coals waiting for him “until it snows.” Curtis agrees enthusiastically and drives off while Elliot, Joan, Edith, and the family leave the hospital.


So, Bill Cosby has had huge success as a comedian and on the small screen, but when it comes to the big screen, not-so-much, as I last saw in Leonard part 6 (whatever happened to first 5 parts?!?). Cosby takes another stab at big screen success with Ghost Dad, but is there any difference in the result?

What is this about?

When workaholic widower Elliot Hopper (Bill Cosby) is killed in a tragic accident, his three children — Danny (Salim Grant), Amanda (Brooke Fontaine) and Diane (Kimberly Russell) — are left parentless. Now, Elliot has three days to return from the dead and get his family’s finances and priorities in order. Will he be a better father in the afterlife?

What did I like?

The zone. Usually, we are used to seeing Bill Cosby play a character that is squeaky clean and extremely likable, such as Dr. Huxtable or Fat Albert. As Elliot Harper, though, he isn’t necessarily unlikable, but he doesn’t make you want to give him a big hug. This guy is just out to move up at his job and forget about his deceased wife. Stepping out of his comfort zone, in terms of characters worked for Cosby. I joked with someone last night that he stepped out of it in real life, as well, and has just become a bitter old man. Ha!

Connexus. The connection Cosby forms with the kids is heart warming, especially the scene where he triumphantly connects with his son, despite the consequences. If you know Cosby, then you know how important family is to him, so this is no surprise that he is able to make the connection so believable.

Give up the ghost. As far as ghosts on film go, Cosby’s characters isn’t the worst. As a matter of fact, watching him fumble through his new found situation may very well be the best part of this film. I actually felt that I was with him on this journey to convince certain people he was still alive, come to terms with his state of non-living, and still be an effective father.

What didn’t I like?

Ball of confusion. For me, this plot could have worked, but somewhere along the way things got so muddled that the viewer can’t really keep up with the storyline. It jumps all over the place and has no cohesiveness whatsoever. Also, for the most part, it seems to be an innocent family film, but it has Satanic elements, strong language, and sexual innuendo. Basically, this is a flick that doesn’t know what it wants to be or do.

Hereditary. Heading into the final act, it is brought up that the father of Cosby’s character was the only other known case of a spirit jumping out of their body. A few minutes later, the oldest daughter jumps out of her body, further proving the hereditary trait. All this is fine and good, but it should have been a little more, I don’t know…detailed? They way it is casually brought up and then quickly forgotten leads me to believe that they only brought it up to fill in the blanks about why he is a ghost.

Aw, hell. The boss of the company seems to be a decent guy, until the Cosby goes to help his son, which suddenly sends him over the edge. For a second there, I thought we were going to see him turn into the devil and try to claim the spirit of Cosby’s character for himself. Also, how is it possible that the Satanic cab driver, who fell into the water with his cab, still lives? That seems like some evil stuff, too, if you ask me. Maybe this would have been a more interesting and arguably better film if these two character would have had some kind of devilish intentions, especially since they brought in the Satanic angle and Cosby’s character said he was the “Evil Master”

Ghost Dad is listed on many of the worst films of all time lists. As much as I tried to see the positives in this film, there just aren’t very many. While it isn’t as horrible as many think it is, I don’t think this is a flick that should be seen in any other form than a couple of clips. The few redeeming factors this film has aren’t enough to save it and leaves you wondering how a competent actor director Sidney Poitier allowed this to be released under his name. I only hope that the studio made changes and the result was this. All that being said, avoid this film, if you can. Trust me, it is not worth your time.

2 out of 5 stars

Last Tango in Paris

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on January 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Paul, a middle-aged American hotel owner mourning his wife’s suicide, meets a young, engaged Parisian woman named Jeanne in an apartment that both are interested in renting. They proceed to have an anonymous sexual relationship in the apartment, and Paul demands that neither of them share any personal information, not even their names. The affair goes on until one day Jeanne comes to the apartment to find that Paul has packed up and left without warning.

Paul later meets Jeanne on the street and says he wants to renew the relationship. He tells her of the recent tragedy with his wife, and the telling of his life story carries them to a tango bar, where he continues telling her about himself. The loss of anonymity disillusions Jeanne about their relationship, and she tells Paul she does not want to see him again. Paul, not wanting to let Jeanne go, chases her back to her apartment, where he tells her he loves her and wants to know her name.

Jeanne takes a gun from a drawer. She tells Paul her name and shoots him. Paul staggers out onto the balcony, mortally wounded, and collapses. As Paul dies, a dazed Jeanne mutters to herself that he was just a stranger who tried to rape her, that she did not know who he was, as if in a rehearsal, preparing herself for questioning by the police.


As a budding cinephile, it has been brought to my attention that I need to step out of my comfort zone and check out some films that every good (or bad) reviewer should see. First up is Last Tango in Paris, a films starring Marlon Brando that received an NC-17 rating, which it might still keep today, but not for the same reasons.

What is this about?

An American expatriate living in Paris is still reeling from his estranged wife’s suicide. While searching for an apartment, he encounters an equally despondent Frenchwoman, and the couple embarks on an anonymous, no-strings-attached sexual liaison.

What did I like?

Underbelly. The other day, I was having a discussion about The Simpsons. For those of you that were around in the early days, you may remember the episode when Bart is a foreign exchange student and ends up at a wine farm, a far cry from the France he was expecting. That same idea is what one gets watching this film. There is nothing glamorous about the Paris of this film. Come to think of it, I don’t believe they show any landmarks. As much as I love the tourist views we get, it was nice to see the other side for once, and it set the gritty tone for the film.

NC-17. In my opening paragraph, I mentioned that the rating for this film was NC-17 and that it may keep that rating if this was released today, but not for the same reason. Well, the reasons it was given that rating when it was released was because of “sexual explicit content”. I would like to see the original X-rated version of this, though.  Truth be told, this content isn’t so explicit. Today, it would the full frontal hairy bush and all the smoking that would garner that rating. I still don’t get how smoking can affect a rating, but whatever. There are some odd things that do so. For me, though, such raw content is a contrast to the artsy feel of this film, very similar to Monster’s Ball.

Tango with Brando. Marlon Brando was one of the world’s finest actors. I believe this was released a couple of years before The Godfather films, but I don’t know the exact years. Brando’s acting chops seem to have been forgotten in the wake of sexual controversy that surrounds this film. Damn shame, really. On another note, the titular tango scene, which does not include either of our leads, is pretty entertaining. Maybe it is all these years of watching Dancing with the Stars, but I was wanting to see more of the tango.

What didn’t I like?

Starting line. Brando’s character’s wife has committed suicide before the film starts and this serves as the motivation for his character. Now, I know how I would be if I experienced such a loss. I wouldn’t want to feel anything. Does that mean I’d go around picking up any chick I come across in town? No, but different strokes for different folks. My issue with this suicide angle is that they brought it up now and then to develop the character and then, after what seems like a few weeks, we see the body of the wife laying in repose in the apartment. It is almost implied that she’s always been there, which is quite odd, if you ask me.

French tickler. This is going to make me sound totally uncultured and uneducated, but the subtitles of this film were too much reading. Yes, this is a film made in France by an Italian director, but for some reason, I suppose I was hoping for more English, even though Paris is in the title.

Shove it. There is a scene where Marlon Brando tells his chick to stick a finger up his butthole and then he says something along the lines of her having sex with a pig. For those that are into this kind of thing, it may have been a treat to see/hear in a major Academy award nominated picture. However, for many of us, this was a little uneasy to watch. I can imagine it was meant to be hot and sexy at the time, but didn’t really come off that way to me.

There is no doubt that Last Tango in Paris is a great film. The problem with it is that is too artsy fartsy for my taste. There are elements of this film that are intriguing and interesting. There are moments of sexiness that will lend themselves to the rewind button, as well. In the end, though, this is just a flick that was made more for the Academy, as opposed to the audience. That being said, if you were to ask me whether or not you should watch this, I’m going to say that this is a film you need to watch at least once, so check it out.

3 out of 5 stars


Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family attend a Thanksgiving dinner at the house of their neighbors, the Birches; that afternoon, both families’ young daughters, Anna Dover and Joy Birch, go missing. A police hunt finds an RV which had been parked outside the house, and when Detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to confront the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) he attempts to escape but is arrested.

Loki’s investigations uncover a corpse wearing a maze pendant in the basement of a local priest, who says he had killed the man who claimed to be “waging a war against God” by killing numerous children.

Alex Jones is found to be developmentally disabled, having the IQ of a ten-year-old, and despite many hours of aggressive questioning, the police cannot link him to the missing girls, so he is released. Dover then confronts Jones, who whispers to him “They didn’t cry until I left them”, although no one else hears it. Dover abducts and imprisons Jones in an abandoned apartment building, and tortures him for days, but obtains no further information. Franklin discovers that Dover has abducted Alex and later Nancy discovers it too. They do not help in the torture but plead with Alex to tell them where the girls are.

During a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki sees a hooded man acting suspiciously. When Loki approaches the man for questioning, he runs away. Both girl’s houses are broken into, apparently by the same man, who is now a suspect. A clerk at a local store reports the man had been buying different sizes of children’s clothing. This suspect, Bob Taylor (David Dastmalchian), is arrested at his home, where the walls are covered in drawings of mazes. In a back room, Loki finds crates filled with maze books, live snakes, and bloodied children’s clothing. The Birches and Dover positively identify some of the items of clothing. Detained, Taylor confesses to the abduction, but before giving any more information, he kills himself.

Dover continues to torture Jones, who finally says he is not Alex Jones, and that he escaped from a maze. Dover visits Jones’s aunt, Holly (Melissa Leo) and brings up the topic of mazes, but Holly only says Jones does not say much ever since an accident involving snakes when he was young.

The blood on the children’s clothes is found to be pig’s blood. It is concluded that Taylor had been abducted as a child, and had been play-acting recreations of abductions using a true-crime book which involves unsolvable mazes; the clothing was items that had been stolen during the break-ins, and Taylor had no real involvement in the abductions.

Days later, a drugged Joy Birch is found, having escaped, but Anna is still missing. When Dover visits Joy in the hospital to ask for information, she mumbles to him “You were there.” Dover runs off, believing he now knows where his daughter is. Not knowing Dover’s true motivations, Loki goes looking for him at the abandoned apartment building and finds the imprisoned Jones.

Dover is not there, however; he had realized that Joy overheard him at the Jones’ house and that is where he returns, intending to torture Holly. She invites him in and pulls a gun on him, revealing that she alone was responsible for the recent abductions. She and her husband had abducted many other children, including Bob Taylor, as part of their own particular “war on God” for letting their young son Alex die of cancer. The man now known as Alex was the first child they abducted, and probably the only one along with Bob whom they did not murder. Holly shoots and imprisons Dover in a pit under an old car in her yard; there he finds a whistle that belonged to his daughter.

Loki goes to Holly’s house to tell her that “Alex Jones” was found. There is no answer at the door but he hears someone inside, so he enters. When he sees a photograph of Holly’s husband wearing the maze pendant, Loki draws his weapon, and searches the house, discovering Anna being injected with poison by Holly. When he confronts her she shoots at him, but he returns fire and kills her. Loki rushes Anna to the hospital, where she soon recovers. “Alex Jones” is reunited with his real parents.

Outside the Jones residence, a police team stops digging for the night. They tell Loki it will take weeks because the ground is frozen. Loki hears the faint sound of a whistle; he initially hesitates, but then hears it again and turns to investigate as the screen cuts to black.


I don’t have any children, so I can’t relate to Prisoners, but I can see how the sudden disappearance of a couple of young girls can send someone off the deep end. Will they find the girls in time? Who is behind the kidnapping? What was the motivation behind the abductions?

What is this about? When his 6-year-old daughter is abducted and the investigation stalls, carpenter Keller Dover tracks down the culprit himself. But his vigilante action pits him against the case’s lead detective and puts his own sanity at risk.

What did I like?

Intense. I cannot remember the last time I saw Hugh Jackman this intense, outside of him playing Wolverine. I think we sometimes forget that the guy is a very talented actor, who can pull off these disturbing roles and then go sing in a Broadway show. Jackman’s character is hell-bent on finding his daughter. He’ll stop at nothing to get her back, even beating the snot out of some punk kid who just happened to be in the neighborhood, and torturing him until he talks. This is not the kind of guy you want to mess with. At times, it is uncomfortable to watch, but you know that you are watching greatness.

Truth. The deeper and deeper I get into this world of movie reviewing, the more I hear that trailers are giving away too much. Well, I went back and looked at the trailer for this. The only thing it gave away was the basic plot, who was starring in it, and the tone. For me, that is all a trailer need do to be effective. Sure, there are trailers that literally show all the good scenes, and there are those that tell you absolutely nothing, but the ad blitz behind this film was smart enough to keep it close to the vest and give us the bare minimum, making the film that much more of a mystery. Remember the says when you had to actually go see a picture to know what it was about, rather than look it up on Wikipedia or somewhere else on the internet? That’s the truth behind this trailer, and it works, for the most part.

What didn’t I like?

Solo act. At some point in the film, it becomes more about Jackman than anyone else, followed by the same kind of film from Jake Gylenhaal. Where is everyone else? Well, apparently they were there strictly as supporting cast and nothing more. Terrence Howard, who I thought was going to be awesome in this, especially since he was playing trumpet in the beginning, plays a guy who is a little more reserved and, for lack of a better term, conservative about getting his daughter back. After his wife is brought in on what Jackman is doing, we don’t see them again until near the end, and then neither one has a line of dialogue, if I’m not mistaken. This is pretty much the way it is for all of the families, but for what reason? The film just takes them out and plugs them back in later, without any explanation for what they were doing. Had it been something like they were researching previous abductions or wanted time away from this town, that would have at least made sense.

Length. At 153 minutes, this film felt as if it dragged in a couple of places. I know, I know, I’m always complaining about the lengths of movies, but this is one that I literally was getting into and then it lost me because it wasn’t really going anywhere. Luckily, it does take a sharp turn, dare I saw twist that brings the audience back in for the final act. I would say that about 15-30 minutes of this film could have been cut, making it much more effective and not so bleh.

I must apologize for the briefness of this Prisoners post. I just got in from a long weekend and am dead tired. Still, the show must go on, right? What is my final verdict on this film? Well, if you’re into thrillers of this sort, then this is right up your alley. For me, I would have preferred something a little more action-driven, as opposed to character based, but that’s a personal preference. This not a bad film. You get great performances from Hugh Jackman, Jake Gylenhaal, and a chilling one from Melissa Leo, but I can’t really say that I was gushing over. Perhaps you will so, at your own risk, give it a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

Mr. Bean’s Holiday

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is attending a raffle. Mr. Bean wins the raffle and claims his prize. The prize is a holiday involving a train journey to Cannes, a Sony video camera, and €200. Bean proceeds to film his trip to the French Riviera beach on the video camera.

Accidentally taking a taxi from the Gare du Nord railway station to the arch at La Defense in Paris, Bean is forced to make his way on foot, literally walking through Paris (with disastrous effects) towards Gare de Lyon from La Défense to board his next train towards Cannes. He misses his train when his necktie gets stuck while trying to buy a sandwich from a vending machine. Discovering that a back-up train wont leave for 1 hour, he has time to try some French food at Le Train Bleu restaurant. Not knowing how to speak in French and not understanding the waiter’s suggestion, he accidentally orders oysters and langoustines, which he cannot bring himself to eat. He pours the oysters into a nearby lady’s handbag and eats a whole lobster without removing the shell.

Back on the platform, Bean asks a man, who happens to be a Cannes Film Festival jury member and Russian movie critic Emil Dachevsky (Roden), to use his camcorder to film his walking onto the train. By the time they are done, the TGV is about to leave. Although Bean manages to get onto the train, the doors close before Dachevsky can get on. Dachevsky’s son, Stephan (Max Baldry) is left on board by himself. Bean attempts to befriend Stepan, who gets off at the next stop to meet his father. While confronting a threatening stranger who approaches Stepan, Bean accidentally misses the train’s departure, leaving his bag aboard. The train that Stepan’s father has boarded does not stop at the station, and he holds up a mobile number which reads 06-08-08-07-97, but the last two digits are covered by his fingers. When their efforts at calling the number prove fruitless, they board the next train, accidentally leaving Bean’s ticket, passport and money behind which results in the duo being forced off the train. They ask a lady for money to try and contact Stepan’s father, but still, they are unable to reach his father. Then a security camera takes a picture of Bean and Stepan. The station master falsely sees Bean and Stepan vandalizing the phones and chases them out of the station.

Bean attempts at busking by miming to Puccini’s O mio babbino caro (sung by Rita Streich) and other music prove successful in a shopping area. Bean buys two bus tickets to Cannes, and some food to eat on the way, but loses his ticket when it gets caught in the breeze and then snagged in the talon of a chicken, which is subsequently loaded into a farm pick-up. Bean steals a nearby bicycle and follows the pick-up, only to reach a large chicken pen with no hope of finding the ticket. While he is on the farm, the bicycle is run over by a passing tank. Ironically, a van with Stepan in it passes by when Bean accidentally locks himself in a public loo. After attempting to steal a moped and almost getting killed by a passing truck, Bean falls asleep in a village but wakes up to realize that he has stumbled onto a set for a 1940s film. His video camera battery dies but while recharging it, he accidentally blows up the set, injuring the director Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe).

Hitchhiking, Bean is picked up by actress Sabine (Emma de Caunes), whom Bean encountered at the commercial filming, driving the same car as Bean. She is on her way to the 59th Cannes Film Festival where Carson Clay’s film in which she makes her debut is going to be presented. When they stop at a service station, Bean finds Stepan in a café. Continuing to drive to Cannes, Bean finds Sabine’s cell phone, which gives him an idea to try and contact Stepan’s father, but yet again, they still are unable to reach him. When Sabine falls deeply asleep on the way due to Bean accidentally activating a lullaby on her cellphone, he drives the car himself happily, finally reaching Cannes.

When Sabine goes into a fuel station to change for the premiere, she watches TV news depicting Bean as Stepan’s kidnapper and Sabine as an accomplice. On their way, they pass a billboard saying that Stepan was missing and Bean was wanted with the picture of Bean and Stepan the security camera at the train station took. Confronting Bean, he explains he is “going to the beach”. Not wanting to miss the premiere, the three plan to get into Cannes without being identified. Stepan dresses up as Sabine’s daughter, while Bean dresses up as Sabine’s mother. They manage to get past the police and Sabine arrives at the premiere on time.

The three sneak into the premiere, “Playback Time”, a shameless vanity production written by, produced by, directed by, and starring Clay himself. From the first few moments, the audience is horribly bored. Sabine tells Bean that her big scene is coming up, but is disappointed to see that her role has been cut from the film. Hoping to cheer up Sabine, Bean goes to the projection room and plugs his video camera into the projector. The ensuing scenes, heavily featuring Sabine, fit director Clay’s narration. Emil then sees footage of his son and claims that Bean stole Stepan despite not seeing that he is enjoying the videos. Bean walks on stage nearly arrested as Stepan is finally reunited with his father. The audience gives a standing ovation for what they believe to be part of Clay’s movie. Clay’s initial anger fades and he embraces Bean and takes credit for the film’s success. After the screening, Bean leaves the building and goes to the beach, encountering many of the other characters including Sabine and Stepan. The film ends with Bean and all the other characters of the film miming a large French musical finale, lip-syncing the famous song by Charles Trenet, “La Mer” (Beyond the Sea).

In a post-credits scene, Bean writes “FIN” on the wet sand using his foot. He films it until the camera says “low battery” again, then the sea washes the words away and the camera turns off.


Mr. Bean, the lovable, silent, bumbling guy who always finds himself in bad, yet comical situation returns to the big screen with Mr. Bean’s Holiday. True, no one was really asking for this film, but is anyone really going to complain about a character that does nothing but make people smile?

What is this about?

The hapless Mr. Bean takes a vacation on the French Riviera, where he becomes ensnared in an accidental kidnapping, discovers romance with a lovely actress at the Cannes Film Festival and manages to give a pompous movie director his comeuppance.

What did I like?

Bean…Mr. Bean. One of the biggest complaints everyone has about Bean: The Movie is that it changed who Mr. Bean was and tried to make him into more of a joke, rather than the comedic figure he really is. Thankfully, this film returns Bean to his Chaplin-esque roots. The silent antics and nearly undecipherable language are what he is known for. Not to mention the accidental way he gets into trouble and has things happen to him, good and bad.

Partner. While it may not have been the best of circumstances, bringing in the kid for Bean to have chemistry with was a stroke of genius. Not only do they work well together, but he gives the audience someone who can actually speak, even if it is in Russian. As their relationship grows, it becomes apparent that Bean actually cares for this kid. Who would have thought a Mr. Bean movie would dabble in getting deep, huh?

Language barrier. So Mr. Bean speaks, when we can understand him, English. The kid talks Russian. Enter cutie French chick who drives the same kind of car as Bean and she talks French. In real life these 3 wouldn’t be able to get a word in for trying to figure out what they are saying, but it turns out that the filmmakers made for some great comedic moments when they are talking and they think they are saying something that is the total opposite of what they have actually said. I could have done with more of this, it was hilarious.

What didn’t I like?

Clayface. Man, Willem Dafoe is one strange looking man, isn’t he? It like his face is made of clay or some other strange substance that hardened wrong. Anyway, I question why or how they brought him in for this. First off, he is the only name actor, even though you can make a case for Rowan Atkinson. Second,  his character isn’t exactly material worthy of Dafoe, which makes me wonder if he owed someone a favor, lost a bet, or just genuinely wanted to take on this role.

Camera. For this vacation, Bean is given tickets to Cannes and a video camera. For me, the hand-held camera shots were cute at first, but after a while it got old fast. I’m not sure why because it was actually a good gimmick. I just felt that it was overused to the point that it took a bit away from what they were trying to accomplish by using it.

Film Festival. This is actually a small complaint, but it is still a complaint, nonetheless. When I think of Cannes Film Festival, I think of many celebrities in attendance, and yet there were none in sight. I realize the budget may not have allowed for it or that no one wanted to, but it just seems as if they could have made up some if the latter was the case, rather than have it come off as just a screening.

Everyone needs to take a holiday once in a while, even Mr. Bean. Mr. Bean’s Holiday is a fun film featuring the titular character, but something seems to holding this film back from being the hilarious masterpiece it should be. Parts of it really work and parts of it don’t quite gel the way it feels they should. All that aside, this is a decent flick that everyone will find something to latch onto and enjoy. This isn’t the best film in the world, but it is watchable, so check it out!

3 4/5 out of 5 stars

James and the Giant Peach

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the 1930s, James Henry Trotter is a young boy who lives with his parents by the sea in the United Kingdom. On James’s birthday, they plan to go to New York City and visit the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the world. However, his parents are later killed by a ghostly rhinoceros from the sky and finds himself living with his two neglectful aunts, Spiker and Sponge.

He is forced to work all day and they threaten him with beatings to keep him in line and taunt him about the mysterious rhino and other hazards if he tries to leave.

While rescuing a spider from being squashed by his aunts, James meets a mysterious man with a bag of magic green “crocodile tongues”, which he gives to James to make his life better. The soldier warns him not to lose the “tongues” and disappears. When James is returning to the house, he trips and the “tongues” escape into the ground.

A peach is soon found on a withered old tree, and expands into immense proportions. Spiker and Sponge then use the giant peach as an attraction, making lots of money as James watches from the house, not permitted to leave. That night, James is sent to pick up the garbage. While doing so, he grabs a chunk of the peach to eat as one of the “crocodile tongues” unknowingly jumps into it. A large hole appears inside the peach and James crawls inside, where he finds and befriends a group of life-size anthropomorphic bugs who also dream of an ideal home (Grasshopper, Centipede, Earthworm, Miss Spider, Ladybug, and Glowworm), and is also turned into a more animated form. As they hear the aunts search for James, Centipede manages to cut the stem connecting the giant peach to the tree and the peach rolls away to the Atlantic Ocean with James and his friends inside it, seemingly crushing Spiker and Sponge’s antique car as they try to chase it.

Remembering his dream to visit New York City, James and the insects decide to go there with Centipede steering the peach claiming he sailed the world as a “Commodore”. They use Miss Spider’s silk to capture and tie a hundred seagulls to the peach stem, while battling against a giant robotic shark. They escape just in time. While flying, James and his friends eventually find themselves hungry and soon realize that “their whole ship is made out of food”. After gorging most of the inside of the peach, Miss Spider, while using her web to tuck in James, reveals to him that she was the spider he saved from Spiker and Sponge. James then has a nightmare of him as a caterpillar attacked by Spiker, Sponge, and a spray the aunts used that resembles the rhino. When he wakes up, he and his friends find themselves in The Arctic, lost and cold. The Centipede has fallen asleep while keeping watch, resulting in them drifting further away from their expected destination. It is then revealed that the Centipede has never traveled the world and has lived on two pages of the National Geographic. After hearing the Grasshoper wishing they had a compass, Centipede jumps off the peach into the icy water below and searches a sunken ship for a compass but is taken prisoner by a group of skeletal pirates. James and Miss Spider rescue him and the journey continues.

As the group finally reaches New York City, a storm appears. A flash of lightning reveals the rhino approaching them. James is frightened but faces his fears and gets his friends to safety before the rhino strikes the peach with lightning; The strings keeping the seagulls attached to the peach break and James and the peach both fall to the city below. James coughs up the crocodile tongue as he reawakens, transforms back into his normal form, and emerges from the peach realizing it has landed directly on top of the Empire State Building.

After being rescued by police and firefighters, Spiker and Sponge arrive, supposedly having driven their car across the seabed, and attempt to claim James and the peach. James stands up to Spiker and Sponge, and they attempt to kill James. Using the remaining seagulls, the bugs arrive in New York City. They tie up Spiker and Sponge with Miss Spider’s silk and they are taken away. James introduces his friends and allows the children of New York to eat up the peach.

The peach pit is made into a house in Central Park, where James lives with the bugs and has the friends he could wish for. Centipede runs for New York mayor, Grasshopper becomes a professional violinist, Earthworm becomes a mascot for a new cream, Ladybug becomes an obstetrician, Glowworm lights up the Statue of Liberty, Miss Spider owns a nightclub called “Spider Club”, and James celebrates his 9th birthday with his new family.

In a post-credits scene, a new arcade game called “Spike the Aunts” is shown, featuring the rhino.


Stop motion animation is still my favorite style of animation. For some reason, after all these years, I was under the impression that James and the Giant Peach was early computer animation, but that turns out to not be the case. This is one of those films that has gained quite a following over the years, but is it any good?

What is this about?

When young orphan James spills a magic bag of crocodile tongues, he soon finds himself in possession of a giant peach that flies him away to strange lands. But that’s not half as odd as the oversize talking insects he finds living inside the peach.

What did I like?

Bugs. There must be something about insects over there in England that makes them not so creepy. With a few exception, every anthropomorphic bug we have here in the states (Spider-Man doesn’t count HA!) is not the kind that you would want to hang out with or watching your kids.  This group of giant insects is quite the collection of characters, each one with their own pros and cons, but all very likable.

Influence. This is not a Tim Burton directed film, but he does serve as producer. His influence is clearly obvious in the animation and in some ways the mixture of light and dark elements. A recent film that has the influence of the producer is Man of Steel. Although Zak Snyder directed it, the dark, depressing nature of Christopher Nolan was there (and hurt the film, in my opinion). Burton’s influence doesn’t hurt. As a matter of fact, be on the lookout for Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Mixture. The bookends of this film are live-action segments. First off, let me say that the transition of James to stop motion was kinda interesting. Nothing special, just him crawling through the peach and changing to stop motion. Second, the animation is ahead of its time. Smooth movements, realistic look, and no visible strings all contribute to what Disney was about to unleash a few months later. Perhaps you heard of a little film known as Toy Story, which they released with a little company known as Pixar.

What didn’t I like?

Rhino. So, James’ parents are killed by a rhino from the sky. All through the film, we hear about the rhino and what he did, but he doesn’t appear again until the last stop-motion scene. Thing is, the rhino is on screen for about 30 seconds total, which is criminally short for the thing that is the living embodiment of all evil in this film. No information is given about this thing, its just a scary thing in the sky.

Shark. Similar to the rhino, there is a shark that we come across once the giant peach set out to sea. Now, this is no ordinary shark, as it is clearly some kind of robotic menace. Question is, who is behind it? Where did it come from? Why did this filmmaker decide to not give us that info if they were going to put it in there? I don’t have anything against the robotic shark, but it had to come from somewhere. I don’t care if it is a trap set by pirates, the creation of a mad scientist, or some kind of abomination that was brought to life by a fluke accident. As an audience, we need to know a little something, otherwise it might as well have just been some kind of useless henchman.

All the way live. The live action segments, while innovative change of pace from what one would expect in this film based on the trailers, went on way too long. This is especially true of the opening segment. The film is barely over an hour, was it really necessary to give us 20 minutes of live action? That could have been cut in half very easily. The last scenes weren’t as bad, but they felt as if it was just tacked on and not very well thought out, but the peach pit thing was pretty nice.

The town where I spent many of my formative years has a peach festival every summer. Because of this, I can only take peaches once a year. I can see James and the Giant Peach becoming a film that families pull out once a year, but it isn’t the kind that you would watch over and over again, contrary to what everyone seems to think it is. Yes, it is a good family film, but there are so many plot holes, it takes away from the enjoyment that this flick should have provided. So, I must say that this is an average flick that you should read the book. Now that I think about it, so should I!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Coffy

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nurse “Coffy” Coffin (Pam Grier), seeks revenge for her younger sister’s getting hooked on drugs and having to live in a rehabilitation home, a product of the drug underworld, mob bosses and chain of violence that exists in her city. The film opens with Coffy showing her vigilante nature by killing a drug supplier and dealer. She does this without getting caught by using her sexuality as an attractive and athletic woman willing to do anything for a drug fix.

She lures the men to their residences, which gives her the privacy to kill them both. After the killings, Coffy returns to her regular job at a local hospital operating room, but is asked to leave when she is too jumpy when handing tools to the surgeon.

The film introduces Coffy’s police friend Carter (William Elliott), who used to date Coffy in their younger years. Carter is portrayed as a straight-shooting officer who is not willing to bend the law for the mob or thugs who have been bribing many officers at his precinct. Coffy doesn’t believe his strong moral resolve until two hooded men break into Carter’s house while she’s there and beat Carter severely, temporarily crippling him. This enrages Coffy, giving her further provocation to continue her work as a vigilante, killing those responsible for harming Carter and her sister.

Coffy’s boyfriend Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw) is a city counselor who appears to be deeply in love with Coffy at the beginning of the film. Coffy admires Brunswick for his body as well as his use of law to solve societal problems. She is very happy when he announces his plan to run for Congress, and his purchase of a night club. The two share a passionate love scene in the first part of the film.

Coffy’s next targets are a pimp named King George (Robert DoQui), who is supposedly one of the largest providers of prostitutes and illegal substances in the city, and Mafia boss Arturo Vitroni (Allan Arbus).

Coffy questions and abuses a former patient of hers who was a known drug user to gain insight into the type of woman King George likes and where he keeps his stash of drugs. This is the first scene where Coffy brutalizes another woman and shows no remorse because the former patient is using drugs again and thus a societal deviant. Coffy quickly goes to a resort posing as a Jamaican woman looking to work for King George.

George is quickly interested in her exotic nature and asks her to come with him back to his house to experience Coffy himself first. One of the prostitutes returns from a far away job and gets disgruntled and jealous when seeing George taking such a liking to Coffy. At a party later that day Coffy and the other prostitutes get into a massive brawl, which entices mob boss Vitroni and he demands that he have her tonight.

Coffy prepares herself to murder Vitroni and just when she is about to shoot, is overtaken by his men. She lies and tells Vitroni that King George ordered her to kill him, which makes Vitroni order George to be murdered. Vitroni’s men kill George by dragging him through the streets by a noose.

Coffy then discovers her clean-cut boyfriend is actually corrupt when she’s shown to him at a meeting of the mob and several police officials. He denies knowing her other than as a prostitute and Coffy is sent to her death. Once again, Coffy uses her sexuality to seduce her would-be killers. They try injecting her with drugs to sedate her, but she had switched these out for sugar earlier. Faking a high, she kills her unsuspecting hitmen with a piece of glass.

Running to avoid capture, Coffy carjacks a vehicle to escape. Coffy drives to Vitroni’s house, murders him, and then goes to Brunswick’s to do the same. He pleads forgiveness and just as she is about to accept, a naked white woman comes out of the bedroom. At this, Coffy shoots Brunswick in the groin. The film then closes with Coffy being satisfied at having avenged her sister and Carter.


I am such a glutton for punishment! The luscious, busy, beautiful, Nubian goddess Pam Grier will be making an appearance down the road in New Orleans at Comic Con. However, due to budget restrictions, I won’t be able to go. So, I decided to give Pam some love her on this little blog by checking out some of her films, starting with Coffy. Before I forget, if anyone wants to donate to the cause, feel free to do so!

What is this about?

Determined to avenge her young sister, a tough nurse goes on a bloody rampage to execute the drug dealers and corrupt cops who hooked her on heroin. Coffy appoints herself judge, jury and executioner in this classic 1970s blaxploitation flick.

What did I like?

Drugs. Blaxploitation films at the time this was released were more interested in pushing drugs in the African-American community, rather than showing the dark side of becoming addicted. A prime example of this is Superfly. However, with this filmmaker’s ball of steel, he turned the genre on its head and turned drugs into basically the villain of this film.

Goddess. The very first time I saw Pam Grier was in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Ever since then, I’ve been in love with this vision of loveliness. Sure, she’s a bit older now, but no less gorgeous, but back then she had a “banging’ body”. There was a video on Youtube that I was watching the other day that used “Brick House” by the Commodores and another used “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” by Carl Carlton. Both songs perfectly describe Pam. The character of Coffy is a badass chick who doesn’t take anything from anyone. She also is brutal in her quest for revenge, something that wasn’t seen on film from a female during this time.

Set the tone. From the opening scene, the audience knows they aren’t in for some watered down, girly flick with guns. Yes, that is what some people thought this was going to be when it was released, if you can believe it. Using her sex appeal to get her way and then becoming a cold-blooded, vengeance seeking killer is what you get in the opening and that is what you can expect for the entire film.

What didn’t I like?

Acting. I hate to say this about my goddess Pam, but she cannot act in the film. For that matter, neither can the rest of the cast. For a somewhat major produced film, one would expect better out of this and not this wooden acting, especially from Grier. She may be easy on the eyes, but I can’t help but think she was the Megan Fox of her time, based on this performance. That is, she had the looks but no discerning acting talent.

Spillage. Normally, I wouldn’t complain about this, but it seemed like every possible chance, Pam Grier was spilling out of her dress. Granted, who wouldn’t want to see her beautiful breasts on display? However, there is such a thing as too much. Seeing this happen in nearly all of her scenes just took the specialness, for lack of a better term, out of it. The same thing would have been said if she would have gotten completely naked in all those scenes, but instead there is just that once scene, and it is a special treat.

Plot. Don’t kid yourself with the plot. It is mostly irrelevant. All you need to know is that Grier is out for revenge. If this was a more comedic film, rather than the serious revenge flick it ultimately turns out to be, then that would be fine, but this feels like the kind of picture that you would want to have a plot that the audience can sink their teeth into. Sadly, that is not the case.

Coffy is regarded as the film that launched Pam Grier’s career, and with good reason. At the time she was an unknown and burst on the scene with a role and film that takes chances like this, of course she is going to have her career launched. The sad part, though, is that nothing else is really memorable about this film. I would have liked for there to have been more action, but looking at Pam and a decent enough story made this a watchable film, albeit average. If you’re a fan of nostalgia, especially one that seems to have a plot that was later reused for Black Dynamite, then give this a shot. What harm could it do?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Lone Ranger (2013)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At a sideshow in a San Francisco fair in 1933, a boy, Will, who idolizes a legend known as the Lone Ranger, encounters Tonto, an elderly Comanche Native American, who proceeds to recount his experiences with that Old West adventurer.

In 1869 Colby, Texas, lawyer John Reid returns home via the uncompleted Transcontinental Railroad, managed by railroad tycoon Latham Cole. Unknown to Reid, the train is also carrying Tonto and outlaw Butch Cavendish, who is being transported for his hanging after being captured by Dan Reid, John’s Texas Ranger brother. Cavendish’s gang rescues Butch and derails the train. Tonto is subsequently jailed. Dan deputizes John as a Texas Ranger, and with six others they go after the Cavendish gang.

Cavendish’s men ambush and kill their pursuers in a canyon and Cavendish cuts out and eats Dan’s heart. Tonto, who has escaped from jail, comes across the dead men and buries them. However, a white spirit horse awakens John as a “spirit walker,” and Tonto explains John cannot be killed in battle. Tonto also tells him Collins, one of the Rangers, betrayed Dan and is working with Cavendish, whom Tonto believes is a “wendigo.” As John is thought to be dead, he wears a mask to protect his identity from enemies. Tonto gives John a silver bullet made from the fallen Rangers’ badges and tells him to use it on Cavendish.

At a brothel Collins recently visited, Red Harrington informs them about Dan and Collins’ fight over a cursed silver rock. Meanwhile, Cavendish’s men, disguised as Comanches, raid frontier settlements. John and Tonto arrive after raiders abduct Dan’s widow and son, Rebecca and Danny. Regretting his earlier actions, Collins attempts to help Rebecca and Danny escape but is shot dead by Cole, who rescues them. Claiming the raiders are hostile Comanches, Cole announces the continued construction of the railroad and dispatches United States Cavalry Captain Jay Fuller to exterminate the Comanche.

A Comanche tribe captures John and Tonto soon after the pair finds railroad tracks in Indian territory. The tribe leader tells John of Tonto’s past: As a boy, Tonto had rescued Cavendish and another man from near-death and showed them the location of a silver mine, in exchange for a pocket watch. The men murdered the tribe to keep the mine a secret, leaving Tonto with great guilt.

Tonto and John escape as the cavalry attack the Comanche. At the silver mine, they capture Cavendish. Tonto demands that John use the silver bullet to kill Cavendish, but John refuses. Tonto attempts to kill Cavendish, but John knocks him unconscious and brings in Cavendish alive. Upon returning Cavendish to Cole and Fuller’s custody, Cole is revealed to be Cavendish’s partner. Fearing that if his actions are publicly revealed he’ll be charged as a war criminal, Fuller sides with Cole. Rebecca is held hostage, and John is taken back to the silver mine to be executed. However, Tonto rescues him and the two flee as the Comanche attack and are massacred by the cavalry. Realizing that Cole is too powerful to be taken down lawfully, John dons the mask again.

At the site of the union of the Transcontinental Railroad with two trains, Cole reveals his true plan: to take complete control of the railroad company and use the mined silver to gain more power. John and Tonto steal nitroglycerin and use it to destroy a railroad bridge. With Red’s help, Tonto steals the train with the silver and speeds it in reverse, and Cole, Cavendish, and Fuller pursue him in the second train on which Rebecca and Dan Jr. are being held captive. Riding Silver, John pursues both trains. After a furious chase and fights on both trains, both Cavendish and Fuller are killed, Rebecca and Dan Jr. are rescued and Cole dies buried beneath the silver ore after the train plunges off the severed bridge and into the river below.

The town and railroad enterprise recognize John (whose identity is still unknown to them) as a hero and offer him a law-enforcement position. John declines and accepts his new life as the Lone Ranger, and he and Tonto ride off. Back in 1933, Will questions the truth of the tale. Tonto gives him a silver bullet and tells him to decide for himself.


A few years ago, I reviewed The Lone Rangera film that was a continuation of the TV series. Today, we see how well that character has withstood the test of time with the 2013 version of The Lone Ranger. Let’s not beat around the bush. This film had its fair share of setback before it even made it into production and then it got blasted by fans and critics, but was their vitriol warranted?

What is this about?

In this reboot of the 1950s television series, Native American warrior Tonto rescues wounded lawman John Reid and restores him to health, thus creating an often-contentious but effective partnership as they attempt to rid the Old West of corruption.

What did I like?

Origin. Unlike superhero films where the origin takes forever to be told, this film manages to basically inform us in the span of maybe 5-10 minutes. Granted, if there was a sequel, I’m sure Armie Hammer would be more comfortable in his role as the masked man, but for what its worth, he does a really good job with filling his predecessors shoes. Being only vaguely familiar with the classic TV series, I can’t tell you if any liberties were taken, but I can say that the spirit walker angle they took was a nice touch.

Villains. The villains are not only believable, but the one played by William Fichtner is almost scary, especially with the whole heart eating angle. On the one hand we have the corporate face of the railroad, who we don’t find out it a villain until a little bit later in the film. You know the type, he has everyone fooled until the truth is brought to light. Then, we have Fichtner’s character who is the most dirty, vile and evil being in the film. He has the look of an old west villain and his mannerisms fit perfectly into the setting. As far as his actions go, well, he eats hearts. Need I say more?

Catch that train! The train sequence that serves as this film’s climax is the best scene in the film. With the nonstop action, gunplay, explosion, and stunts, this scene manages to bring together. I was taken back to those old train robbery westerns watching this scene and wondered why most of the film wasn’t more of this instead of trying to tell some dramatic story.

What didn’t I like?

Length. It is well documented for disdain for lengthy films, especially when they make you feel like they are long. This is one of those that was pretty long and I’m not really sure why. The middle section really could have been taken out, if you ask me. The reason they decided to bring in a rather lengthy section that tore down Tonto and, as is commonplace in today’s films, left our hero doubting himself. Outside of the Tonto origin, there was really no reason for this and probably about another 30-45 minutes.

Depp. I have two complaints about Johnny Depp. First, the guy is very talented. We all can agree on that, but 1/16 Cherokee or whatever percentage of Native American he is doesn’t make up for the fact that Tonto should have been played by a Native American actor.  Also, what was up with the white face paint? Realizing that Depp is the name is fine, but come on, they could have cast him as another character and used an actual Native American to play Tonto. Speaking of him playing other roles, perhaps he should have been cast as the Lone Ranger because he was more the star than Armie Hammer was. It was so much that it made you wonder why this wasn’t just called Tonto.

Tone. This film has issues with the tone it wants to keep. In one scene there is a shootout that results in a guy eating a heart and then a little later we have a horse in a tree. It leaves the audience confused as to what they’re watching. Personally, I think the lighter tone works as the Lone Ranger is not a dark character, but the violent stuff works for the western aspect of this character. I just with the filmmakers would have taken the time to find a better balance with the tone, rather than making random shifts.

When you hear Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, then you pretty much can be assured that there is a masked man coming to save the day, you’re watching “The Band Concert” with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, or you’re attending a band/orchestra concert. Thankfully, they left that theme in here, even it did go on a bit long at the end. That is what plagues The Lone Ranger more than anything. It takes one step forward and two steps back. I’m still trying to figure out what I think about old Tonto at the sideshow talking to this random kid. Final verdict on this film though is that it tries valiantly, but it just isn’t good enough. Having said that, it is nowhere near as bad as everyone would have you believe. With all its issues, this film is still a fun ride, and you should at least give it a shot.

3  1/4 out of 5 stars

Mulan II

Posted in Animation, Disney, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A month after the events of the first film, General Shang asks Mulan for her hand in marriage, which she accepts. Hearing about their engagement, Mushu is thrilled for them-until the leader of the ancestors informs him that if Mulan gets married, he will lose his job as a guardian dragon and have to leave her and his pedestal, his place of honor as a guardian. The reason for this is because Mulan would be getting married to Shang, thus she becomes a part of his family which requires her to have his family ancestors and guardians.

Wanting to keep his job and his friend, Mushu attempts to tear the couple apart (especially for selfish reasons, but, officially, because he sees that they are not very compatible). Meanwhile, the Emperor calls upon Mulan and General Shang to escort his three daughters- Princesses Mei, Ting-Ting, and Su across China to be betrothed to three princes so that an alliance can be formed with the kingdom of Qui Gong. If the task is not completed within three days, the alliance will crumble, and the Mongols will destroy China.

Mulan and Shang set out, along with Yao, Ling and Chien-Po (from the first film), to safely escort the princesses to their new kingdom. However, due to Mushu’s interferences and the fact that the three princesses are upset by their arranged marriages and actually love Chien-Po, Ling, and Yao, Mulan decides to go against her orders and, despite Shang’s wishes, stop the joining of kingdoms. One night, Chien-Po, Ling and Yao take the princesses out to a village where they impress the girls with their antics. Meanwhile, Mushu tricks Shang into thinking Mulan is taking advantage of him.

They then go through bandit country. Pressured by Cri-Kee, Mushu confesses to Mulan on what he had done. Enlightened about the news (yet mad at Mushu), Mulan tries to talk to Shang when bandits attack. While saving the three princesses, the bridge they are on breaks, and General Shang and Mulan are left dangling off a broken bridge. Since the rope can only support the weight of one person, Shang sacrifices his life to save Mulan and lets go of her hand, falling into the river.

Mulan then continues alone to Qui Gong. Not wanting the princesses to be forced into marriage, and because Shang is dead, she offers herself to marry one of the ruler’s sons. Shang, who actually survived the fall, finds out about it and tries to stop her. Mushu decides to help by pretending to be the Great Golden Dragon of Unity, who forces the ruler to stop the marriage. Mulan and Shang get married and the princesses are released from their vows, again thanks to Mushu. At the end, Shang combines the family temples. This means that Mushu gets to keep his job, and in his happiness, he accidentally reveals himself to Shang, even though Mulan already told Shang about Mushu. Mulan, Shang, and Mushu live happily ever after.


Disney has not had the best record when it comes to their direct-to-DVD sequels. Very few of them, no matter how good the original was, have been worth watching. Mulan 2 did nothing to change that tradition, but I have been curious as to what happened after Mulan ended, haven’t you?

What is this about?

Courageous heroine Mulan and her hilarious luck dragon, Mushu, are back in this sequel to Disney’s smash hit. But Mushu frets when Mulan gets engaged, fearing he’ll lose his cherished role as her guardian.

What did I like?

They’re back. For the most part, all the character from the original film return. We see Mulan, Shang, the Fa family, Mushu, Cri-kee, the Emperor, Yao, Ling, Chien-Po, and even the matchmaker makes an appearance. Setting wise, there is no change, so there would be no reason to not see the same people, which would justify keeping the same characters, rather than spawning a whole new cast.

Grounded. Of all the Disney princesses (don’t ask me how Mulan is a princess), Mulan is the most realistic and grounded (although, you can make a case for Tiana…without the frog stuff), so it makes sense that this film manages to tackle the topic of opposites attract in her relationship with Shang. It is even brought up that once the initial infatuation is gone, they probably won’t last. This not a topic that is normally mentioned in your typical Disney flick. No, it isn’t necessarily mature or anything like that, just not something you expect to be covered. It was nice that they took the time to go into the problems of their relationship, rather than magically having them live happily ever after. Just a nice change of pace, is all. There is absolutely nothing wrong with happily ever after.

What didn’t I like?

Attitude adjustment. In the first film, the ancestors were ribbing on each other, but they weren’t complete assholes as they have turned into in this film. Who decided they needed to have a change in attitude, I wonder, because this accomplished nothing, except for make them unlikable, including the level-headed lead ancestor. It was like they were bullies to Mushu, then he helped Mulan save China, and they had to be put in their place…resentfully.

Princesses. First, I want to say that the princesses were a nice plot device and match for the guys from the first film. I just wish there wasn’t such a fallback on the arranged marriage trope. Yes, that is tradition in Chinese culture, but this whole scenario was so predictable and uninspired that it brought the whole film down, especially since it was the major plot point.

Music and animation. It is more than obvious this isn’t a big budget production. First, the songs are forgetful and leave you longing for the masterful productions of the original. Second, the animation is down a few levels from the first film. It isn’t bad, but in comparison it is noticeable. Don’t even get me started on non-Eddie Murphy Mushu!

Let’s face it, Mulan II was made for the sole purpose of cashing in on the tremendous popularity of the first film. However, it doesn’t come anywhere near that masterpiece. The film as a whole is a decent attempt, but the execution is lacking. This isn’t the worst of the direct-to-DVD sequels, but I have to say this is one of Disney’s less than stellar outings. Do I recommend this? No, if you’re in the mood for Mulan, then watch the original.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Long-time friends Bacon, Eddy, Tom, and Soap put together £100,000 so that Eddy, a genius card sharp, can buy into one of Harry “The Hatchet” Lonsdale’s weekly high-stakes three card brag games. Harry learns about Eddy from his trusted bodyguard Barry “the Baptist”, and rigs the game so that Eddy loses not only his £100,000 buy-in, but an additional £400,000 that Harry bullied him into borrowing to play out the biggest pot of the night. Harry demands repayment within a week, and pulls Eddy’s father’s bar into the deal as an alternative.

After several days with no luck acquiring the funds, Eddy returns home and overhears his neighbours, a gang of thieves led by a man named Dog, planning a heist on some marijuana growers supposedly loaded with cash and drugs. Eddy relays this information to the group, intending for them to rob the neighbours as they come back from their heist. They install taping equipment to monitor the neighbours, and Tom acquires a pair of antique shotguns from a black market dealer, known as Nick “the Greek”, who also strikes a deal with Rory Breaker, a sociopathic gangster, to buy the stolen drugs. Nick had purchased the guns from a pair of bungling small-time criminals, Gary and Dean, who had stolen them from a bankrupt lord as part of a job for Harry, not realizing that of the entire stolen firearms collection, his only desire was the two antique shotguns. After learning the guns had been sold, an enraged Barry threatens the two into getting them back.

The neighbours’ heist gets under way; despite a gang member being killed by his own Bren Gun, and an incriminating encounter with a traffic warden, the job is a success. On returning to their flat, the gang is ambushed by the four friends, who take the loot and return later that night to stash the goods next door, before celebrating with a wild night of drinking. Rory discovers that the drugs he was going to purchase were stolen from him, as the marijuana growers were in his employ. Rory interrogates Nick into revealing where the four friends live, and enlists one of the chemists, Winston, to identify the robbers. Meanwhile, furious about their loss, Dog throws one of his men through the wall of their flat and discovers the taping equipment and eventually the stolen goods. While he counts the money, his men prepare an ambush. Gary and Dean, trying to recover the antique shotguns, call Nick, who directs them to the same address, while Big Chris, Harry’s debt collector, departs with his son to the same destination as the four friends drive home from the bar.

Rory and his gang assault the flat and have a shootout with the neighbours, resulting in the deaths of all but Dog and Winston, the latter taking off with the marijuana. Dog is mugged by Big Chris of the shotguns and money during his escape; Gary and Dean spot Big Chris with the guns and hastily follow him, while the four friends return to find their loot missing. Big Chris gives the guns and cash to Harry, but on his return to the car he finds Dog threatening to kill his son if he doesn’t retrieve the loot. Desperate to get the guns, Gary and Dean attack Harry and Barry at their office, not knowing what Harry looks like and not noticing Barry until after he retaliates. Within seconds all four men are dead. The four friends arrive, find everyone dead, and take the cash back. Big Chris suddenly crashes into their car to disable Dog, then brutally bludgeons him to death with his car door. He takes the debt money back from the unconscious friends but allows Tom to leave with the antique shotguns.

The friends are arrested, but declared innocent after the traffic warden identified Dog’s dead gang as the prime suspects. The four reunite at Eddy’s father’s bar and decide that Tom should dispose of the shotguns, which are the only remaining evidence linking them to the crimes. After Tom leaves, Big Chris arrives and tells them he is keeping the debt money for himself and his son, but gives them an antique guns catalogue which reveals that the shotguns are each worth a fortune. They quickly call Tom, and the film ends with Tom’s mobile phone ringing as he hangs over the side of a bridge, preparing to drop the shotguns into the River Thames.


Since I am such a huge Jason Statham fan, everyone assumes that I’ve seen Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, which is the film that brought him to everyone’s attention, but until today, I hadn’t. I’ve been wondering what the big deal about this film is and, to be honest with you, I’m still wondering.

What is this about?

Hoping to make a bundle in a high-stakes poker game, four shiftless lads from London’s East End instead find themselves swimming in debt to underworld porn king “Hatchet” Harry — and with only a week to repay him.

What did I like?

Get real. Have you ever watched a film about a group of friends and felt that they barely know each other? Well, this is the opposite of that. The guys are almost as close-knit a group as the group we see in every ViewAskew flick or Simon Pegg and his boys. I really bought the friendship between these guys and felt that they would do anything for each other. The only way this film works is if they are believable, and that they are.

Interweave. Lately is seems as if films have been using multiple story arcs for the sole purpose of using them. They need to go back and watch pictures like this, Pulp Fiction, and the like. Each arc is given the time to develop and relates to the big picture, which is something that should be applauded, especially since they all come together at the end.

Walls. Living in an apartment that has rather thin walls (the lady next door has is watching the game right now, if I’m hearing right), I can relate to the living situation that these guys were in, although mine is nowhere near that bad. At any rate, everytime it was brought up how thin the walls were I got a chuckle and thought back to my college dorm days where the walls were nearly see through, they were so thin. This is another aspect of real life that isn’t really shown on film, except for in exaggerations, and I was really loving the decision to portray it in a non-negative light.

What didn’t I like?

No cops. How is it possible that the police have little to no knowledge of these capers that are going on. I didn’t quite understand that, or perhaps I was just expecting them to actually show up and ruin everything, but there wasn’t a cop in sight throughout most, if not all, of the picture.

Woman’s touch. There is one woman in this film, she is a minor character who spends most of her time stoned out of her mind. Am I saying this film needed more females, no. However, the fact that they used her to pick up a dropped gun and wipe out a bunch of lowlifes and then is killed herself, just made her seem even less of a factor than she was and that they brought her in for the sake of having a female on the cast list.

Accents. In most of the reviews I’ve read, a common complaint is how thick the accents are, which they really are quite intense. They are so thick, that in one scene subtitles have to be used. I think the subtitles were done for comedic effect, but the accents were probably exaggerated, much like southern accents are in cartoons and comedies. If it was for comedic effect, then I commend their handle on comedy, but if it wasn’t, they should’ve backed off a little for us non-Cockney speakers.

Here’s a random fact about Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Sting, who appears as one of the guys’ father, is or was married to one of the producers. Seeing him is actually something of a highlight of the film, but without him, I believe this film stands on its own. Unfortunately, I think that by this time next week I will have forgotten about this film, save for the fact it is part of Jason Statham, and to a lesser extent, Vinnie Jones’ resume. Do I recommend it? Yes, especially if you’re into gritty, realistic action comedies. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then give it a shot!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Flowers in the Attic

Posted in Chick Flicks, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2014 by Mystery Man

Flowers in the Attic


Based on V.C. Andrews’ controversial, cult classic book, Flowers in the Attic tells the story of the Dollanganger kids who, after the unexpected death of their father, are convinced to stay hidden in the attic of their ruthless Grandmother.


The Lifetime channel has long been associated with programming geared towards women, a distinction they wear as a badge of honor. It was announced that they were remaking Flowers in the Attic without much excitement, save for the fans of the book. Unlike the horrendous all African-American abomination that they foisted the holy name of Steel Magnolias on, this one at least seems to have some promise, but does it deliver?

What is this about?

This chilly drama chronicles the fate of four siblings confined in their grandparents’ attic and abused daily after the children’s father dies. As the two older kids grow up, they begin looking for a way to escape their nightmare world.

What did I like?

Not shy. I haven’t seen the previous incarnations of the film on screen (big or small), but it is my understanding that neither film actually covered the topic that is a predominant theme in the book, which is incest. Part of the reason for this is that these films were released in a more conservative (read=squeamish) time, as opposed to today where you can do just about anything, except smoke, but that’s a topic for another day. The fact that they did manage to cover the topic and do it effectively with such young talent is quite impressive.

A couple of winners. Ellen Burstyn delivers a chilling performance that is sure to get some attention when this film is up for awards nomination. As the strict, overbearing, super-religious grandmother of these children, she commands your attention whenever she’s on the screen and scares the children in a way that reminds you of the nuns from American Horror Story: Asylum. Also delivering an impressive performance is young Kiernan Shipka, who may best be known as Sally Draper from Mad Men. I recall an early episode where she told her Dad, who has just been getting kinky with his girl of the night the night before, that she would just sit there and be quiet. The way she said it and the impact it had on that uncomfortable scene came to mind as I was watching her in this role. Not quite star material, in my opinion, but she does have some chops that are worth mentioning.

What didn’t I like?

Graham. For some reason, I was not able to buy Heather Graham as a mother. As a shallow, gold digger, who has no skills other than being a trophy, yes, but not a mother. Adding to her unbelievability is the fact that she is so wooden and emotionless, even in the parts where she is supposed to show a bit of emotion. There are times where is seems as if she is just reading the phone book. I like Heather Graham and applaud her for trying to take on something serious, but this just wasn’t the right fit for her.

Frail. After all the time the kids spent in the attic with little to no food, it seems to me that they should have been withering away. Instead, they look just about as fresh faced as they were when they got there. Perhaps the most evident is the eldest boy, played by Mason Dye, who is a strapping young lad who looks as if he is some type of athlete. I almost want to say that he gets bigger during his locked away. How is that possible?!?

For a TV movie, Flowers in the Attic isn’t half bad. While it didn’t blow me away, this heavy drama kept my attention from beginning to end, which is something extremely hard to do. Do I recommend this? Eh…I suppose, but for me, I can’t say that I’ll be moving my schedule around to watch. Not because this is a bad film, but it just isn’t my cup of tea. Ultimately, this is one of those films that you need to give a watch and make your own decision about. So, see what you decide, eh?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars