Archive for February, 2014

Trailer Thursday

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags , , on February 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

Welcome to another edition of “Trailer Thursday”.

This week’s trailer comes from the year 1984 (thanks, Karen).

These days, superhero movies are all the rage, but there was a time when they were cheesy as hell. Just take a gander at the trailer for the not as bad (or good) as you think film, Supergirl

We lost a legend this week in Harold Ramis. As it just so happens, ’84 might have the year that his biggest success was released.

You may have heard of this little film called Ghostbusters

RIP Harol Ramis (Egon)

Advertisements

Epic

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Seventeen-year-old Mary Katherine, or M.K. (Amanda Seyfried), moves in with her eccentric scientist father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), who has been searching for tiny human soldiers called Leafmen. They protect the forest Bomba lives near from evil creatures called Boggans and their malevolent leader Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). An independent young soldier, Nod (Josh Hutcherson) decides to quit, much to the ire of the no-nonsense Leafmen leader Ronin (Colin Farrell).

The queen of the forest, Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles), must choose an heir to her throne and goes out to a field of leaf pods, guarded by a laid-back slug named Mub (Aziz Ansari) and a wannabe Leafman snail named Grub (Chris O’Dowd). Immediately after she chooses a pod, the Boggans attack. Tara flees the area with the pod, and though her bodyguards do their best to protect her, they are soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of Boggans. Eventually, Ronin arrives for her and the pair fly off on his hummingbird mount. They are then attacked by Mandrake and his son Dagda (Blake Anderson). Dagda is killed by Ronin, but Tara is fatally wounded when Mandrake shoots her with an arrow.

Meanwhile, M.K. decides to leave. Before she can leave, the family’s one-eyed, three-legged dog, Ozzy, runs into the woods. While looking for Ozzy, M.K. sees Tara falling. Dying, Tara gives her the pod and uses her magic to shrink her. She tells M.K. to take the pod to a Glowworm named Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler) before she dies, and M.K. joines Ronin and the Leafmen, along with Mub and Grub. Ronin discovers that Nod has entered a race against other creatures and bugs on birds. He goes back on a deal with a tough bullfrog named Bufo (Pitbull) to lose the race. Before Bufo and his two henchmen can kill Nod, Ronin intervenes and orders them to leave. A reluctant Nod joins him, M.K., Mub, and Grub after hearing about Tara’s death.

They eventually find Nim Galuu who leads them down to the scroll library, where M.K. discovers Tara’s brief message before shrinking her, and a message that will get her back to normal size. When Ronin leaves, Nod takes M.K. on a deer ride, and they begin to fall in love. Mandrake (to whom Bufo fearfully reveals the location of the pod, which he overheard from Ronin and Nod) arrives and kidnaps Mub and Grub and imprisons them, along with the pod, which he hopes to bloom in darkness then to use to destroy the forest. To get into Boggan territory undiscovered, M.K., Nod, and Ronin set out to Bomba’s house to get some disguises, where M.K. learns that the Leafmen have deliberately been leading Bomba off their trail.

When they reach the Boggan land Ronin distracts the Boggans while M.K. and Nod rescue Mub, Grub, and the pod. They are eventually found out by Mandrake, who summons the Boggans to stop them. M.K., Nod, Mub, and Grub escape alive, but Ronin sacrifices himself to ensure their escape. Before the full moon can sprout the pod at Moonhaven, Mandrake’s bats block the light, causing the pod to begin sprouting in darkness. As the Leafmen set out to fight the Boggans, M.K. sets out to get her father for assistance. However, upon regaining consciousness, Bomba believes that he didn’t really see M.K. and that he has been insane all these years, and shuts down all his cameras, but changes his mind when he sees a red push-pin that M.K. had put on his map while they were getting disguises.

Bomba is overjoyed to see that he has been right and when he follows M.K. to Moonhaven, he uses his iPod to make bat sounds, causing the bats to follow Bomba. Meanwhile, Mub and Nim Galuu try to stop Mandrake from reaching the pod, but are unsuccessful. Just then, Ronin appears, bearing scars and bruises from the Boggans. Mandrake manages to outdo him, but Ronin is defended by Nod, who finally realizes the importance of teamwork. Before Mandrake can obtain his victory, the moonlight takes over the pod before it blooms in darkness, causing it to bloom in light and defeat the Boggans.

The chosen heir is the flower child who helped save Tara earlier in the film. Grub becomes a Leafman, Nod and Ronin reconcile, and Nod and M.K. kiss before M.K. is returned to her original size. After reuniting with Bomba and becoming his assistant, the human family still keeps regular contact with their small friends as they continue the research of their world.

REVIEW:

With a title like Epic, one would expect some sort of epic adventure, right? That is what this picture intends to be, but I’m not quite sure it accomplishes that goal. Still, I am curious as to the journey it takes us on, not to mention the fact that this film was advertised for like a year, and never seemed to be released until it could be buried amongst the summer blockbusters, rather than coming out at another point in the year, where it could capitalize on the family market.

What is this about?

Magically transported to an enchanted forest, a teenage girl joins forces with a scruffy group of residents fighting a battle against evil — and soon realizes they must win to save both their world and hers.

What did I like?

Scum and villainy. The thing any epic film needs is a great villain. Since this film involves a mysterious heir to the throne, you just know there has to be some bad guy out there who wants the crown to himself. Enter Mandrake, the evil Boggan leader, voiced by Christoph Waltz. Character-wise, he is the typical bad guy, but when you throw in the vocal stylings if Christoph Waltz, there is just a new level of sophisticated evil that wouldn’t be there, otherwise.

Animation. This is some truly breathtaking animation. Seeing the world from the viewpoint of someone who is 2 inches high and then the human world from her viewpoint, as well, was imaginative and impressive. It is amazing to see how far  inferior computer animation (I still prefer traditional hand drawn and/or stop-motion) has come over the years.

What didn’t I like?

Voices carry. Have you ever listened to someone on the radio without ever seeing them, and then suddenly you get the chance to see what they look like and it is nothing like what you expected? Well, this film is the exact opposite. While the voice cast is pretty good, I didn’t feel as if many of the voices fit the characters, save for Beyoncé as the Queen and, as much as I hate to say this, I believe that was only because of her race. Surely, they could have done a better job with the voices than this. Christoph Waltz was one of the few exceptions, as were a handful of others, but for the most part, this was bad casting.

Is it over yet? So, I was sitting through this film and I couldn’t help but notice that for the gorgeous spectacle that this is, the film itself is not even close to be interesting. It doesn’t matter how much action, stunning visuals, or what have you is put into a film, it still has to be entertaining and not coma inducing. Apparently, these filmmakers didn’t get that memo.

Epic is a film that can best be summed up in two words…epic fail. For all its efforts to capture the kind of charm that Pixar and DreamWorks films receive, it fails horribly. For me, this just didn’t work, but I can see how kids and younger audiences would have a blast with it. Do I recommend it? Yes, if you’re into this kind of film, but I have to also say there are much better flicks than this.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

Beach Blanket Bingo

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A singer, Sugar Kane (Linda Evans), is unwittingly being used for publicity stunts for her latest album by her agent (Paul Lynde), for example, faking a skydiving stunt, actually performed by Bonnie (Deborah Walley). Meanwhile, Frankie (Frankie Avalon), (duped into thinking he rescued Sugar Kane), takes up skydiving, prompted by Bonnie (Deborah Walley), who secretly wants to make her boyfriend, Steve (John Ashley) jealous. This, of course, prompts Dee Dee (Annette Funicello) to also try free-falling. Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) and his Malibu Rat Pack bikers also show up, with Von Zipper falling madly in love with Sugar Kane. To top all this, Bonehead (Jody McCrea) falls in love with a mermaid (Marta Kristen). Eventually, Von Zipper “puts the snatch” on Sugar Kane. The film takes a The Perils of Pauline-like twist, with the evil South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey) kidnapping Sugar and tying her to a buzz-saw.

REVIEW:

The other day, one of my friends and I were talking about plans for the summer and the beach came up. Suddenly, I remembered that it has been awhile since I visited the Beach Party series. As it so happens, Netflix is removing Beach Blanket Bingo from streaming at the end of the week, so what better time to watch this fine film (or is it) than this week?

What is this about?

In this fifth installment of the Beach franchise, Bonehead falls for a mermaid, and dimwitted biker Eric Von Zipper and his gang terrorize the seaside crowd. Meanwhile, Frankie and Dee Dee break up and make up as they skydive, surf and sing.

What did I like?

Frolic. There was a time when we were all teenagers, having fun and hanging out with our friends. That is the basic selling point of this film. Say what you will about this franchise, the fact that these teens are hanging out at the beach, scantily clad I might add, and having fun is something that they do. Throw in the fact this the 60s, and well it all you can do is sit back and enjoy the fun.

Skydiving. With my deathly fear of heights and flying, skydiving is not something that I am normally into. However, I have to say that seeing the skydiving lessons and the few scenes that actually happened were pretty cool. By today’s standards, they are nothing, but I’m one of the few people who appreciates things from yesteryear and doesn’t insist on modern technology being infused into everything, so I liked it.

What didn’t I like?

Annette. In every one of these films, the main draw seems to be Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. While Avalon gets his fair share of stuff to do, I felt that Annette Funicello’s character just meandered through the film, occasionally expressing her jealousy and wearing tight sweaters. Ok, the sweater part I have no problem with, but I know that she is a much more talented actress than to be an ornament in this film.

Mermaid. You may not believe it, but there is a mermaid who saves on of the surfer’s lives. I really wish this would have been the main storyline, but it is pushed so far to the back-burner that she doesn’t even show back up until the start of the last act, and after all is said and done, she doesn’t get a happy ending, leaving the audience to wonder why even have her at all? If they wanted to user her in this franchise, perhaps they could have given her a film where she was the focal point, rather than an afterthought as she is here.

I must apologize for the briefness of this review. Handling a work emergency after leaving work while watching a movie is a bit distracting. That aside, Beach Blanket Bingo ended up being ok. Yes, I said ok. Nothing about this film did anything for me. At the same time, it was interesting enough to keep me interested, but that may have just been all the bikini clad babes, and not the film, itself. Do I recommend this film? I can’t say as I do. Sure, it is a fun kitschy flick, but there is no substance here. Don’t waste your time, unless you’re really into these kind of films.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Pompeii

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The movie opens with scenes of the bodies of victims of Pompeii encased in magma as quotes on the destruction are made.

In 62 AD Britannia, a tribe of Celtic horsemen are brutally wiped out by Romans led by Corvus. The only survivor is a boy named Milo whose mother Corvus personally killed. The boy is captured by slave traders. Seventeen years later, a slave owner named Graecus watches a class of gladiators battle. He is unimpressed until he sees the grown Milo, a talented gladiator the crowds call “the Celt.” Milo is soon brought to Pompeii with his fellow slaves. On the road, they see a horse fall while leading a carriage carrying Cassia and her servant Ariadne. Milo kills the horse to end its suffering and Cassia is drawn to him. Cassia is the daughter of the city ruler Severus and his wife, Aurelia, happy to have her back after a year in Rome. Severus is hoping to have the new Emperor Titus invest in plans to rebuild Pompeii but Cassia warns him of Rome becoming more corrupt. A servant named Felix takes Cassia’s horse for a ride only to be swallowed up when a quake from Mount Vesuvius opens up the Earth under him.

At the gladiator arena, Milo soon has a rivalry with Atticus, a champion gladiator who, by Roman law, will be given his freedom after he attains one more victory. The gladiators are shown off at a party where Corvus (now a Senator) tells Severus the Emperor will not invest in his plans but Corvus will. It turns out Cassia left Rome to escape Corvus’ advances as he desires her for his wife. When an earthquake causes horses to become excited, Milo helps calm one down. He then takes Cassia on a ride, telling her that they cannot be together. Returning to the villa, Corvus is ready to kill Milo (not recognizing him from the village massacre) but Cassia pleads for his life. Milo is lashed for his actions and Atticus admits respect for the man as they prepare to face each other at the upcoming festival.

To punish Milo, Corvus orders him killed in the first battle and wicked trainer Bellator convinces Graecus to sacrifice Atticus as well. The two men, and other gladiators, are chained to rocks as other gladiators come out as Roman soldiers, to recreate Corvus’ “glorious victory” over the Celts. Working together, Milo and Atticus survive the battle, Atticus realizing the Romans will never honor his freedom. During the battle, Corvus forces Cassia to agree to marry him by threatening to have her family killed for supposed treason against the Emperor. When Milo and Atticus win, Cassia defies Corvus by holding a “thumbs-up” for them to live and he has her taken to the villa to be locked up. Claiming an earthquake is a sign from Vulcan, Corvus has his officer Proculus fight Milo one-on-one. Their battle is interrupted when Mount Vesuvius erupts, creating quakes that cause the arena to collapse, sending Milo and Proculus crashing to the jail levels. Milo opens up the gates to allow his fellow gladiators a chance to attack, Proculus escaping while the gladiators kill Bellator. Seeing Corvus fallen under a collapsed beam, Severus tries to kill him but is stabbed by Corvus, who escapes.

The volcano unleashes balls of fire across the city as the populace tries to flee to the harbor. One fireball destroys a ship killing the escaping Graecus. Aurelia tells Milo that Cassia is at the villa before dying. Milo races to the villa to rescue Cassia, saving her but Ariande is killed when the villa collapses into the sea. Corvus and Proculus kill civilians blocking their path to safety. Atticus tries to reach the harbor but a tsunami created by the volcano smashes into the city, destroying the outer walls and smashing apart ships, Atticus barely rescuing a girl and her mother from the tidal wave. Reuniting with Atticus, Milo suggests searching the arena for horses to escape to the south. As the gladiators face Roman soldiers at the arena, Cassia sees to the bodies of her parents only to be abducted by Corvus. Atticus has Milo chase after the chariot carrying the two while he faces off against Proculus. The Roman manages to mortally wound Atticus but the gladiator rises up to break the blade and use it to kill the soldier.

Milo chases Corvus across the city, both barely avoiding balls of fire and collapsing roads and buildings. Cassia manages to free herself before the chariot crashes into a temple. Milo and Corvus battle it out in a duel as a fireball destroys the temple. Cassia chains Corvus to a building as Milo declares that his gods are coming to punish the Senator. Milo and Cassia ride off as a wave of ash and fire races from the mountain to wash over the city, burning Corvus to a crisp. At the arena, Atticus proudly meets his fate, proclaiming he dies a free man. At the city outskirts, the horse throws off Milo and Cassia. Milo tells Cassia to leave on her own but instead, she sends the horse off, not wanting to spend her last few moments running. She and Milo kiss as the volcano’s fury washes over them. The last shot is of the duo’s bodies encased in solid magma, locked in an eternal embrace.

REVIEW:

Over the holidays, I first saw a trailer for Pompeii, and ever since then, I’ve been trying to learn a little more about what happened there by watching some documentaries on Netflix. I’ll cover those a little bit later, if I think about it, but here is a spoiler about this film, spoiler alert, EVERYBODY DIES!!!!

What is this about?

In the days leading up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a slave on a ship headed for Naples is determined to get back home to save the woman he loves, as well as his best friend, who is a gladiator trapped in the city’s coliseum.

What did I like?

Gladiator. So, the filmmaker decided to tell a story that happens the days leading up to explosion of Mt. Vesuvius (correct me if that is the wrong volcano). One of the things he decided to do was take a page from the Spartacus TV show that was so popular before the death of its star. Gladiators take center stage for a good portion of the film, complete with matches and being used as sex slaves. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would agree with this, but it turns out that this gave us some action while things were stirring up there on the mountain.

Laying in wait. With the gladiator fights, love story, and the hint at what life was like in Pompeii scenes ended, there would be a scene showing the mountain rumbling, giving the audience notice that it is there and while we may be watching some action drama for a disaster flick. Personally, I thought this was a nice touch, as the whole reason we’re even watching this film is to see the horrible fate that befell the city of Pompeii.

Run for your life. Now, before I go any further, I should let it be known that my stomach literally erupted at the same time as the volcano and I was fighting off sickness, to no avail. I was able to catch most of the exciting action that took place after the volcano erupted and was spewing flaming rocks towards the city of Pompeii, buildings falling into the sea, ships being destroyed as they attempted escape, etc. Watching these people run for their lives was a sadistic treat for me, especially as I was sitting in pain there in theater.

What didn’t I like?

Not Caesar. I know everyone loves Kiefer Sutherland because of that overhyped show, 24, but I have yet to see this guy do anything blow me away. This role as a villainous senator from Rome just has him as a token antagonist for a film that doesn’t really need him. The opening scene with him murdering the Celtic rebellion was supposed to do something towards making him (and the Romans) a credible bad guy. Thing is, he is chewing up the scenery so much, it is hard to take him seriously as anything more than your typical moustache-twirling villain, which if he had one, I’m sure he’d have been twirling it. This guy does nothing that we haven’t seen from other villains in other films, so why should we care?

No sangre. Let’s go back to the gladiators for a wee bit, shall we? Watching Spartacus, Gladiator, and even the Kirk Douglass Spartacus, to an extent, there is blood, lots of it in those first two examples. In this film, not a drop of blood was spilled, even though people are getting their asses handed to them, heads are sliced in the opening scene, and buildings collapse on people. By all accounts, this should be a bloody, violent film, but there is little to no blood. What is the reason for this? Simply to give it a PG-13 rating. Ugh! I hate it when films do this. This could have been so much better if it was bloodier, if you ask me. Gladiators without blood is like watching flag/touch football, rather than tackle football, it just isn’t the same.

No love. So, a few years back, there was this little film you may have heard of, Titanic. It was another disaster movie that everyone already knew what happens in the end. The love story in this film has been compared to the one that happened on that boat. I won’t go into the similarities and all that jazz, because you can read every single other review of this film that you can find to get that. I want to focus on how utterly pointless it was to have this love story. Now, Kit Harrington and Emily Browning made a cute couple, and their ultimate fate was the only redeeming factor in this angle. However, the whole slave falls in love with nobility (or whatever her station in life was) we’ve seen so many times before. Was this love story really necessary? No, at least not as a focal point for the film. The ending imagery of the two kissing while the magma encompasses them was ok, and it is something that Pompeii is known for (people preserved forever in their last pose). A little while before, though, Browning’s character’s parents were killed and dies holding each other’s hands. For me, I was more invested into that than some manufactured romance that didn’t work as well as it was supposed to, despite what the film would like to believe.

The story of Pompeii is truly a heartbreaking tale, as those two documentaries I watched last month, Pompeii: The Last Day and Pompeii: Back from the Dead. The former of the two, I warn you now, is so dark and depressing you will want to slit your wrists after watching! Coming back to this film, though, it has been getting trashed by critics and the average movie goer, but for me, I didn’t find it to be that bad. Thing is, there is a blueprint for making a disaster flick with a story around it, in Titanic, but they seemed to not follow it, or at least not execute is as well. That being said, this is a valiant effort, just not good enough. Truth be told, most people will forget this film not long after the final credits roll. Do I recommend it? Actually, yes I do, but only for the second half of the film when the volcano starts. The rest of the film is forgettable, maybe even including the gladiator scenes. So, if you think about it, check it out. Otherwise, go find a documentary on this subject, many of them are quite more entertaining than you would imagine.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Weird Science

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film takes place in the fictitious Chicago suburb of Shermer, Illinois. Two high school nerds, Gary Wallace (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt Donnelly (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), are pantsed by school bullies Ian (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler).

Later on, at Wyatt’s house, the boys have the house to themselves for the weekend. Inspired by the 1931 version of Frankenstein, which the boys watch on TV, they decide to create a “perfect” woman on their home computer (a Memotech MTX512). When their computer reaches its computing capacity, the boys decide to hack into a government mainframe for more processing power and data storage capacity. As a finishing touch they connect a Barbie doll to Wyatt’s computer through a series of wires and electrodes. At the exact moment they hit “enter” to execute the computer program, a lightning bolt strikes the house leading to a series of supernatural occurrences. When the smoke clears a beautiful woman (Kelly LeBrock) emerges from Wyatt’s bathroom. Her first words are “So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?”

In addition to being totally devoted to them, the woman has superhuman abilities, such as memory manipulation, molecular manipulation, and reality warping. The boys are too intimidated to take advantage of the obvious opportunities presented, as is shown when they keep their jeans on while showering with her. Realizing the boys need to lower their inhibitions, she transforms their outfits and then takes them out in a pink 1959 Cadillac convertible that she conjured up. The boys name her Lisa. Lisa takes them to a blues club. The trio end up ingratiating themselves to the staff and some of the regulars, in part with the help of alcohol.

As they head home, Lisa asks Wyatt about his older brother, Chet (Bill Paxton), who extorts blackmail money from him in exchange for withholding information from their parents, as shown when he brings a drunk Gary home past Wyatt’s curfew. After putting Gary to bed, Wyatt shares a series of increasingly passionate kisses with Lisa. At a shopping mall, Gary and Wyatt, finally feeling secure after their time with Lisa, are humiliated once again by Ian and Max, who dump an Icee onto them in front of the whole mall, upsetting their own girlfriends, Deb (Suzanne Snyder) and Hilly (Judie Aronson). Ian and Max then spot Lisa on the escalator and abandon the girls to run after her. When they catch up with her, she invites them to a party at Wyatt’s. Gary then pulls up in a black Porsche 928 and he, Wyatt, and Lisa leave together, to Ian and Max’s chagrin.

The milquetoast Wyatt begs Lisa to cancel a planned party, but she refuses, pointing out that it will lead to the popularity that he and Gary want. She then picks up Gary at his house, but when Gary’s parents, Al (Britt Leach) and Lucy (Barbara Lang), object to Gary going out with a woman Lisa’s age, Lisa manipulates their memories so that Lucy forgets the incident and Al forgets he has a son. Back at the house the party begins. Gary and Wyatt, too intimidated to socialize at first, lock themselves in the bathroom. Deb and Hilly meet Gary and Wyatt in the bathroom and are surprised to discover that they, not Lisa, are the party hosts. Max and Ian encounter Lisa and make a pass at her. She refuses, explaining that she “belongs” to Gary and Wyatt.

Ian and Max then scheme to offer Gary and Wyatt permission to date their own girlfriends in exchange for dating Lisa, leading Gary and Wyatt to explain how they created her and an attempt to recreate the process in Wyatt’s bedroom with the computer follows. They forget, however, to connect the computer to the Barbie doll, instead leaving it clamped to a Time magazine on whose cover is a Pershing medium-range ballistic missile. As soon as the machine starts up, the kitchen turns blue, a picture of Wyatt’s parents starts dancing, the chimney proceeds to suck up all the furniture in the living room and launch it into a lake out back, and the “Weird Science” song starts playing. The missile, like Lisa, becomes real and ends up emerging in the middle of Wyatt’s bedroom from underground. When Gary and Wyatt are dejected by this, Lisa decides to provoke a confrontation in order to spur them to stand up for themselves. She conjures a group of mutant bikers to disrupt the party. At first the bikers intimidate and humiliate Gary and Wyatt, but after they accost Deb and Hilly, Gary and Wyatt stand up to the mutants, mainly because they realize they are Lisa’s creation. Everyone present, including Deb and Hilly, are impressed by the boys. After the mutant bikers apologize and leave the house, the boys and girls end up pairing off, Gary with Deb and Wyatt with Hilly.

Early the next morning, Chet returns from spending the night out and is angry at the state of the house. Lisa tells Gary and Wyatt to take Deb and Hilly home. Gary and Wyatt take the girls home, each guy sharing a kiss with his new girlfriend. Lisa confronts Chet, telling him that he will no longer threaten or extort money from Wyatt. Lisa then transforms Chet into a squat, grotesque creature, humbling him enough to apologize to Wyatt. Gary and Wyatt talk to Lisa, who understands that the boys now have girlfriends, which is all what she wanted for them. After saying goodbye, Lisa disappears in a puff of smoke and the damage to the house and Chet’s transformation is reversed just in time for the return of Wyatt’s parents from Cincinnati, Ohio.

In the epilogue, a group of high school students hear their new gym teacher’s whistle. When their teacher turns out to be Lisa, the entire class of boys faint and Lisa winks to the viewer.

REVIEW:

Arguably one of the most popular films on the 80s, Weird Science ranks up there with the likes of Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont Highand others that immediately come to mind when you think of this period of time. The question everyone asks is what was so weird about the science? Was it too much for the 80s? What about today? Well, you just have to watch if you want to know the answer to those questions. In the meantime, I hope I can give you a little insight into this light comedy from the late, great John Hughes.

What is this about?

When teen geeks Gary and Wyatt use a computer to create Lisa, a gorgeous woman with a genius IQ, they enlist her help to boost their seemingly pathetic social status. But she thinks the boys just need a lesson in courage.

What did I like?

Bullies never prosper. It may seem like a distant memory, but there was a time when us nerds, geeks, and dweebs were nothing but the object of ridicule by bullies. In the case of this film, those bullies do everything they can to make life a living hell for our stars, and it seems like they aren’t going to get any repercussions from this, but their girls nearly leave them and, by film’s end, they have dumped the girls for a shot with Lisa, the perfect girl, or an attempt to create their own piece of perfection, which ends up backfiring and becoming a missile.

Lisa, Lisa. After being created from so hacked military software and a Barbie doll, which Kelly LeBrock sure fit the waist definitions, at least, it seemed that once we got past her wanting to party and have sex, she became, well a character very similar to Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled. Thing is, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as her intentions are to be a hot chick that opens the doorway for them to become happy, which does happen, so mission accomplished.

Dated. This film was released in 1985, so in 2014, of course the technology and effects are going to look a little dated. That is part of the charm of the picture, though. This happens to be one of those films that hasn’t aged well, thanks to advances in technology, but is still worth watching in spite of that because it gives off that nostalgic vibe that takes us all back.

What didn’t I like?

Practically perfect. I won’t deny that Kelly LeBrock is a looker. She has a rocking body, and as I mentioned earlier, could quite possible pass for a living Barbie doll. That being said, is that the “perfect” woman? For me, I have to say no. I prefer some mean on my women and more curves. The next guy may prefer the opposite. Another guy may prefer that masculine body builder type. As a wise man once said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I guess the beholder is the casting director. Again, nothing against Kelly LeBrock, she’s just not my ideal woman.

Creature feature. In the last scenes of the film, the big brother character, played by Bill Paxton, is turned into this weird poop like creature. There is a level of supposed realism that is going on in this film (and I use that term lightly), but this sudden creature that he was turned into, especially this late in the film, didn’t quite fit with everything else in the film. It was just…odd.

Girls. Through the work of their creation, our boys finally get girlfriends, but I have to wonder why it is that these girls were chosen. Sure, they are cuties, but seems to me a couple of girls that were more along the nerdy plane of existence, if you will, would have worked better. No, I’m not talking about the kind that would have thick coke bottle glasses, braces, headgear, and a bad case of acne, just the kind that are wallflowers, but you can still tell they are a bit of a looker.

All in all, I had a good time with Weird Science. This is a film that you can have issues with, and there are plenty of things to take issue with, but it is still fun to kick back and enjoy. Do I recommend this film? Why yes I do. There is no reason to not watch this sci-fi comedy from 80s legend John Hughes, even if it isn’t his strongest work. Give it a shot sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

A Man Called Adam

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

A Man Called Adam

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Adam Johnson is a talented African-American jazz trumpeter, plagued by ill health, racism, alcoholism and a short temper, as well as guilt over the deaths years before of his wife and child. The result is a caustic personality that wears even on those who care the most about him, such as his best friend Nelson, and Vincent, a young Caucasian trumpeter whom Adam mentors. Arriving unexpectedly at his New York home drunk after walking out on his jazz quintet, Adam finds prominent Civil Rights worker Claudia Ferguson and her grandfather, Willie, who is himself a well-known jazz trumpeter, in his apartment. The two have been given access to the apartment by Nelson, but despite having authorized this, the drunken Adam is rude to both, including making a vulgar pass at Claudia.

The next day, a sober Adam is apologetic and strikes up a new friendship with the two. This eventually leads to a romance with Claudia, who cautions Adam that from that point on, she will not allow him to be any less than he is. Nelson warns Claudia against it, saying that although he understands what she sees in Adam, he will still ultimately only hurt her. She is not dissuaded, saying that she is determined not to let Adam destroy himself.

The relationship has a positive effect on Adam and all is well until an encounter with some racist police officers. Adam tells them off and fights with them when they seek to take him into custody. Claudia is upset that he intentionally antagonized them, while Adam can’t understand why she thinks he should submit to being humiliated. They quarrel, leading to Adam drinking more and beginning to lose control of his temper. Manny, Adam’s booking agent, says he intends to send Adam on a tour of the South, insisting Adam accept whatever racist treatment he may encounter there. Adam violently threatens Manny and later physically assaults a jealous former girlfriend who had just slapped Claudia.

Adam tells Claudia she is too good for him, but when he subsequently takes ill, she moves in with him and their relationship is renewed. He confesses to her his secret that he was driving while intoxicated during the car accident which killed his family, having gotten drunk in response to being demeaned and insulted by a racist police officer. Claudia convinces Adam’s old group to reunite with him and things again seem to be looking up for him. However, the police pressure the owner of the club where the group plays to ban him. When he learns of this, Adam lashes out at everyone, including Nelson, Claudia and Vincent.

A drunken Adam crawls back to Manny, who sends Adam on the Southern tour. Adam asks to have Vincent come along and they perform well together. On one occasion, Adam and Vincent hug after a particularly well-received number, prompting a violent audience reaction. This time, Adam maintains control of himself and does not respond. The tour continues very successfully, and upon returning home, a cheerful Adam proposes to Claudia.

Afterward, Vincent is violently attacked in front of Adam and Claudia. Claudia looks for Adam to do something, but he remains frozen, only watching as a helpless Vincent is pummeled. Finally, Adam just runs away. Claudia reflects that it was her insistence that caused Adam to change from a man who would never accepted any slight to the man she had just witnessed. She regrets that she effectively took away his manhood.

Eventually, Adam resurfaces at the club, looking “chewed up and spit out”, as Willie puts it. Adam is relieved to learn that Vincent is not dead. Despite his physical condition, Adam accepts the invitation to join the group on stage. His performance is first brilliant, with Claudia, Willie and Vincent all watching and thoroughly enjoying his resurgence. Soon, though, Adam begins to struggle physically and his playing turns frenetic. Eventually, everyone stops playing, leaving nothing but Adam’s fevered trumpeting, which he attempts to continue even while virtually doubling over in agony. Finally, he collapses and dies, leaving his friends to grimly mourn him.

REVIEW:

Well, it finally happened. With A Man Called Adam, I have now officially gone through every film that Louis Armstrong has starred in, to my knowledge. I’ll double check that stat once I finish this post, though. I actually have been putting this film off for the past two or three years because I thought it was some uninteresting sappy drama which was sure to put me to sleep, but that was not to be the case.

What is this about? Sammy Davis Jr. stars as a respected but volatile jazz trumpeter on a downward spiral sparked by racism and personal tragedy. A relationship with a civil rights activist (Cicely Tyson) seems to lift him out of his doldrums, but the turnaround is temporary.

What did I like?

Themes. This is one of those films that is able to tackle such heavy themes as racism, alcoholism, etc. without getting too preachy. Of course, when you’re dealing with musicians, what do you expect, since it is very well documented how much they were subject to racism and were rampant, raging alcoholics. Some things never change. These are sensitive topics and, in 1966, weren’t exactly the kind of coffee table conversation starters one would use in polite conversation.

Music in black and white. Nearly 30 years after the release of this film, a similar flick will be released, Mo’ Better Blues. Why am I bringing that film up? Well, no matter what you think of the film, it cannot be denied that the music is a huge part of its success. The formula was laid down with this film and the great music laid down by the liked of Nat Adderly, Mel Torme, and the incomparable Louis Armstrong. I also have to mention that this is in black and white. In 1966, films had long since made the shift to brilliant Technicolor, but for some reason, I don’t believe this would have worked as well had it not been in black and white. There is just something about jazz musicians and black and white film that works so well. The other day I was watching a Miles Davis feature that also would not have been as impressive to look at, had it been filmed in color. Isn’t it amazing how different things look in black and white, as opposed to color?

Satchmo. I’m one of the world’s biggest Louis Armstrong fans, so is it really a surprise that I was a fan of him being in this film? Hell, he’s one of the reasons I even added this to my list. If you’re knowledgable of Louis’ film career, then you know most of the time he plays himself or a character that is a band leader, and these roles are usually quick cameos. With the exception of The Five Pennies, I believe this is the only time he’s actually had the opportunity to flex his acting chops. However, let’s face the facts, the reason you put Pops in a movie is to hear him play, even if this is at the tail end of his career, at a point when he was doing less and less playing. I love this character of Sweet Daddy. It allows Armstrong to be the older musician who has paid his dues and the performance of “Back O’ Town Blues” is a real treat!

What didn’t I like?

Learn to play. Before I go on this long rant, keep in mind that I am a trumpet player, so I’m a tad bit biased. That being said, it is obvious that Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra, Jr., for that matter aren’t playing their horns. There is a point where the music is a sustained note and Davis is pushing buttons down in rapid succession. Even if you’re not a trumpet player, you can tell something is off about that! Here’s what makes matters worse, they have one of the greatest trumpet player to ever pick up the horn as part of the cast. Surely they could have picked his brain and had him give Davis and Sinatra some tips, or at least a focal point as to what to look like when you’re playing. I am taken back to The Mambo Kings for a second. Antonio Banderas isn’t playing his horn in that film (there is some debate about this), but he at least looks like he is trying. For me, Davis was just winging it and no one did anything about it. Sinatra had a bit more of a grasp on the concepts, but we don’t see him playing that often.

Woman, please. From the moment we are first introduced to Cicely Tyson’s character, I could tell that she wasn’t going to be one that I would care for. As the film progresses and she nags Davis’ character to the point that she changes who he is, and as a result when Sinatra’s character is getting the crap beat out of him, all Davis does is stand there as an onlooker, afraid to do anything. She does however, realize the error of her ways, but I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like had Lola Falana’s character been the object of Davis’ affection.

Life story. From what I can deduce, those that resort to alcoholism have some kind of personal demons they are facing. For Davis’ character, he had a car accident that killed his wife and kids and blinded his best friend, who is/was also his piano player. Quite the tragic tale, huh? Thing is, we don’t get the full story until nearly half way through, if not past that point. Why so long to give us the details of what happened? Given the way the film opens, that would have been the perfect time to give the audience the lowdown as to what happened and set up the misery that Davis is going through, and explain his walking off stage.

Initially, I was only going to watch A Man Called Adam for Louis Armstrong and the music, but this film surprised me and ended up being a really entertaining film. Strong performances by Davis and the rest of the case really sell what could have been a mediocre, at best, film. Do I recommend this film? Yes, I would say it is a good drama with great music that most can enjoy. Is it for everyone? No, but can you honestly tell me a film that is? Give this one a shot sometime. You may be surprised how much you enjoy it!

4 out of 5 stars

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Charlotte, a young woman, is abducted by Baron Meier Link, a vampire nobleman who is known not to harm humans needlessly. Charlotte’s father hires D to find her and kill her humanely if she turns into a vampire. At the same time, her older brother also hires the notorious Marcus brothers for backup. Among them is a woman named Leila, who hunts vampires because of a personal grudge rather than for monetary gain. The two parties (D and the Marcus brothers) race inexorably after Meier Link. However, Meier Link hires the Mutant Barbarois; a group of lethal mercenary body guards. They consist of Caroline, a shape shifter; Benge, a shadow manipulator; and Mashira, a werewolf.

As the story progresses, Meier Link’s abduction turns out to be an escape by him and Charlotte, as they are lovers. Through the journey, D talks to Leila and tells her that she can have a life that someone like him could never have, the life of a normal human. They make a pact, if either one of them survives, the survivor can bring flowers to the other’s grave. Near the end of the movie, Meier Link goes with Charlotte to the Castle of Chaythe, where Countess Carmilla, Meier Link’s matron, waits for them. Carmilla, a ghost of a vampire who died long ago, reigned supreme within the Castle of Chaythe when vampires were all-powerful and unchallenged. However, her bloodlust was so strong that Count Dracula, D’s father, killed her in disgust. After going to the Castle of Chaythe, D fights Carmilla’s ghost, who plotted to kill Charlotte and return to life. D, along with Leila, let Meier Link leave for the City of the Night with Charlotte’s body.

In the final scene of the movie, D arrives at Leila’s funeral, watching from a distance. Leila’s granddaughter greets him and invites him to stay with them for a while. D declines, saying that he simply came to “repay a favor to an old friend, who feared no one would mourn her death.” He admitted he was glad she was wrong. The girl thanks him, and D replies by smiling gently at her, and leaves.

REVIEW:

The last anime film that I watched, without viewing the series, was Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, which led me to watch episodes. Now I rank Cowboy Bebop as one of my top 5 anime series. Was I hoping for lightning to strike twice with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust? Not necessarily, but the concept of this film and the series has intrigued me.

What is this about?

Based on the graphic novels of Hideyuki Kikuchi, this beautifully drawn anime film melds spaghetti Western style with the gothic settings and flashy violence of 1960s Italian horror flicks to tell the story of a girl kidnapped by a vampire. Determined to get his daughter back, the kidnap victim’s wealthy father hires D — the half-breed spawn of a human mother and vampire father — to retrieve her. But what if she doesn’t want to be brought home?

What did I like?

Stunning. It is an overused term, but my goodness gracious is this a visually stunning film! Now, in this day and age where everything is done on computers, I may just be yearnin’ for some hand drawn animation, and a bit nostalgic for something that looks like it was made in the late 80s-early 2000s. The animation is smooth, breathtaking, and just flat-out awesome!

Vampires. Young people seem to refuse to believe this, but there was a time when vampires didn’t glitter in the sunlight while brooding over some mopey, unattractive chick (thanks Twilight). No worries about that here, though, the vampires and various other creatures and monsters are out for blood. Remember those days? If for nothing else, this film should get a star for showing real vampires doing their thing!

Isn’t it romantic. Vampires are very well-known as romantic and/or lecherous creatures in most vampire lore. This film’s plot involves a vampire kidnapping a human with which he has fallen in love. At first, I thought this was going to be some kind of villainous plot that would be culminated at the film’s climax, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, it turns out to be a tragic love story.

What didn’t I like?

Thin. I tend to no really agree with many other critics, but I have to go with them on the opinion that the plot is thin. With the great visuals and orchestral score, one would imagine that they would have spent the same effort on the plot, but that didn’t seem to be the case. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with it, but to me, it just seemed as it they hit a few points here and there without fully developing the plot points, this resulting in a bit of a disappointment.

Blood. I was led to believe this was going to be glorious, gory goodness, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Yes, there is blood, but was it as much as I had been led to believe? I can honestly say that isn’t the case. As a matter of fact, there are scenes where D slices and dices, but no blood is shed. How is this possible? I want some blood and guts spewed, dammit!

Dunpeal. All throughout the film, they refer to D as a dunpeal. I’m not really sure what that is and it doesn’t appear that they define it anywhere in this film, but it is possible something that could have been described in the series or manga. Still, I do wish they would have told us what it was if they were going to keep calling him that term.

As it turns out, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is a sequel to the 1985 film Vampire Hunter D. I can’t really say if you need to see it first, as this is my intro to the character, myself. That point aside, this is an exciting film with beautiful imagery and animation, some great orchestration that fits the tone of the film, and great character, but the thin plot and disappointment that I am experiencing after watching this have hurt my view on this film. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, but not very highly. This film was ok, but it just didn’t really blow me away the way I thought it would have. Still, you should give it a shot, if you’re interested.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars