Archive for May, 2014

Trailer Thursday 5/29

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on May 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

I’m a little behind this week, so please excuse the lack of reviews this week. They’re in the saved que, just haven’t been posted, yet.

I will go on and get this week’s Trailer Thursday, though.

With the release of Maleficent this weekend, I figured we should go back to the year 1959.

Imagine walking in the theater and a new Disney film is about to be released. One that has some of the most breathtaking imagery and artwork we have ever seen up to the point in time. Jaws surely dropped when this hit the screen.

Please enjoy the trailer for Sleeping Beauty

Labor Day

Posted in Chick Flicks, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on May 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1987, Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is a depressed single mom who lives in a rural home with her 13-year-old son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith). While they are clothes shopping, a bloody man approaches Henry and makes them take him home to look after him. The man is revealed to be Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin), a convict who is wanted by the local police after breaking out of jail. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Frank is a Vietnam veteran who returned home and married his pregnant girlfriend, Mandy (Maika Monroe), who soon gave birth. A year after the baby’s birth, Frank and Mandy had a fight, where she unintentionally revealed that he isn’t the baby’s father. During the fight, he accidentally pushed her against a radiator, resulting in her death. Simultaneously, the baby drowned and Frank was sent to jail for Mandy’s murder.

Adele and Frank fall in love and plan to go to Canada with Henry. They begin packing the house and cleaning on Labor Day. Meanwhile, Henry develops a friendship with a mature, but manipulative girl named Eleanor (Brighid Fleming), and goes to see her one more time before they leave. She manipulates him into thinking Adele and Frank are going to abandon him and he accidentally reveals Frank’s past. The morning they are going to leave, Henry takes a note to his father’s house and leaves it in his mailbox. While he is walking home, a policeman (James van der Beek) offers to drive him home, and Henry has no choice but to accept. The policeman is suspicious of the packed car and nearly-empty house, but eventually leaves. Adele goes to the bank to get all the money out of her account, and while she is gone the neighbor comes over to give Adele some cinnamon rolls, and speaks to Frank. She is suspicious of who he may be. Henry’s father finds the note he left, and calls the house wondering what is going on. Before Adele, Frank, and Henry can escape, the police arrive and arrest him. He ties Henry and Adele up before he goes out to surrender, so that they won’t be charged with harboring a fugitive. It is not revealed who called the police to report Frank’s presence at the house.

Years later, adult Henry (Tobey Maguire) has become a successful baker and is contacted by Frank, who is getting out of jail. Henry tells him that his mother is still single, and Adele meets Frank at the prison upon his release

REVIEW:

You know, they always say don’t let a stranger in your car and for kids not to talk to strangers, right? Well, Labor Day is going to make housewives rethink that and just go out picking up random guys that look like convicts, I think, if they haven’t started already.

What is this about?

What begins as a short ride turns into a life-changing event for divorced single mother Adele Wheeler and her 13-year-old son, Henry, when they give a lift to a bloodied man on a fateful Labor Day weekend.

What did I like?

Simple. Lady gets divorced. Lady goes into seclusion and depression. Lady meets escape convict in supermarket, brings him home and they fall in love as he is hiding out. See, nothing complicated about that plot, is there? Sometimes it is best to just strip things back to the bare bones, rather than making things so deep and complicated that the audience is lost and confused. There is an adage that was taught to me in junior high, K.I.S.S. No, not the band, but Keep It Simple Stupid. More than a few films would benefit from following this little nugget of knowledge.

Not a bad guy. Josh Brolin’s character is actually not a bad guy. He’s in jail for an accidental murder. For some reason, I feel sympathy for prisoners. Think about it, we put tax evaders, shoplifters, and people who get caught pirating movies and music in the same prison as hardened thieves, murderers, rapists, etc. What kind of sense does that make? Yes, there are a few bad guys, but I would wager that there are guys like Brolin’s character than not. It is a different take on the escape convict to have one that is guilty of his crime, but not a bad guy who wants to kill everyone who looks at him funny.

Dad is around. So many times when couples are divorced in movies, depending on the story, the father is usually a mean, violent drunk, or not around. Another thing that this film does right is let the father come around. Now, the guy isn’t in the film much, because he isn’t the focus of the film, neither is the kid, really, but the fact that they make sure to let the audience know that Clark Gregg’s character isn’t some deadbeat dad, is a plus in my book. Although, I have to wonder who in their right mind would leave Kate Winslet?!?

What didn’t I like?

Frumpy Kate. I’ve been in love with Kate Winslet ever since I first saw her in Titanic. Most of the stuff she makes is not my cup of tea, but I can usually find a scene or two that I like, if you know what I mean. None of those kind of scenes are in this, though, but that’s now what I have a problem with. My issue is that, while it is necessary for this character, there was really no reason for Kate to look all greasy and frumpy. She reminded me of the sister of this girl I once dated. The only thing missing was the 8 kids and innumerable animals running around the house. OF course, she was divorced, too, so that may just be something divorcee’s go through. Who knows? I know that I just wasn’t a fan of the look. At some point during the picture, they could have dolled her up at least once!

Spider no more. Tobey Maguire handles narration and appears in the last scenes as the grown-up version of the kid we watch for most of the film. Tobey is a good enough actor, and I could see the kid growing up into him, but his narration just didn’t work for me. There is something about his voice that doesn’t work in narration format. I had the same problems with the Raimi Spider-Man films (which I will still take over these new ones we have, but that’s a topic for another day).

Want some pancakes with that sap? As a romantic drama, one goes into this expecting a certain amount of sap, but good gravy! There was enough sap in here to supply IHOP with syrup for a decade or more! A sappy love story is what you expect when you watch this, and the way Brolin and Winslet fall for each other is cliché, but sweet. I just wish it wasn’t so saccharine. I can’t pinpoint what it was that made it so, just know that you will feel sticky after watching…unless you’re a female, then you’ll just want get all cuddly and whatnot.

I’m not really sure why Labor Day wasn’t released over Labor Day weekend, other than the fact it wasn’t going to be a big hit on the last official summer weekend. Still, the marketing pretty much wrote itself, but oh well. This is a film that is made for the lonely romantics out there. Everyone else who watches is basically just watching some pictures move. Do I recommend this? Not really, I mean, as the sum of its parts, it is ok, but nothing spectacular. Watch, if you must!

3 out of 5 stars

Man on Fire

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2003, burnt-out ex-CIA officer and former Force Recon Marine officer John Creasy (Denzel Washington) looks for work and reunites with old friend and comrade Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken), who runs a security firm in Mexico. Because of the extremely high rate of kidnappings in Mexico City for ransom money, businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) hires Creasy through Rayburn to guard his nine-year-old daughter “Pita” (Dakota Fanning), intending to keep him on for only a short period in order to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance on Pita. Creasy suffers from alcoholism, depression, and severe guilt as a result of his past work as a counterinsurgency fighter and professional assassin, and so works for Samuel at a rate far below what his experience would command. At first Creasy distances himself socially from Pita, but the two soon develop a friendship, which allows Creasy to overcome his demons and to act as a mentor and surrogate father-figure to the girl.

After a piano lesson, Pita is abducted in public; Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, but he is shot multiple times and collapses. The Ramos’ agree to deliver a dead drop ransom of US$10 million per the instructions of “La Voz” (“The Voice”) (Roberto Sosa), the mastermind behind the kidnapping ring. Samuel’s attorney, Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke), arranges for the ransom money to be collected from Samuel’s kidnapping insurance policy, then arranges for it to be delivered to the kidnappers. The drop, however, is ambushed by members of “La Hermandad”, a Mexican crime syndicate composed of corrupt police officers, leading to several of the ring members killed and the money being stolen. The Voice notifies the Ramos’ that Pita will be killed in retribution.

Creasy leaves the hospital before fully recovering from his wounds and vows to Pita’s mother Lisa (Radha Mitchell) that he will kill everyone involved in Pita’s abduction. Rayburn supplies Creasy with firearms and explosives, while Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin), a journalist investigating the kidnappings, and Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), an agent of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI), offer their support. Creasy tortures and murders several targets for their information, and eventually learns from a corrupt high-ranking police officer that the bags stolen from the ransom drop contained only $2.5 million.

Investigating further, Creasy finds Kalfus dead and evidence of Samuel’s desperate financial situation, and he confronts him with Lisa present. Samuel confesses to Creasy and Lisa that he agreed to Kalfus’ plan to stage Pita’s kidnapping, so he could pay off business debts by fraudulently collecting the insurance money. He planned to keep $5 million for himself, and split the rest between Kalfus and the kidnappers. He also confesses to killing Kalfus. Creasy leaves a pistol and one bullet (a faulty round that he had previously used to attempt suicide) for Samuel, who then uses these to commit suicide.

Using the information provided by Creasy, The Voice’s identity is revealed to be Daniel Sánchez, who Mariana exposes in the newspapers. Creasy shows up at Daniel’s ex-wife’s house and is shot by his brother Aurelio (Gero Camilo), who then tries unsuccessfully to escape. Creasy calls Daniel and threatens to kill his family, and Daniel reveals that Pita is still alive; offering to free her if Creasy surrenders himself and brings Aurelio. Creasy agrees and he and Lisa arrive at the exchange site, where he and Pita share a tearful goodbye before he is taken and driven away by the kidnappers. Creasy dies peacefully en route as a result of his gunshot injuries. Daniel Sánchez is later killed by Manzano during an AFI arrest.

REVIEW:

Am I the only who almost burst out into Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” with the title to Man on Fire? Talk about an earworm, right? So, here we have Denzel doing what he does best, but with a cast that is mostly on par with him, even if their material isn’t. Let’s find out if this is worth a watch, shall we?

What is this about?

Jaded ex-CIA operative John Creasy reluctantly accepts a job as the bodyguard for a 10-year-old girl in Mexico City. They clash at first, but eventually bond, and when she’s kidnapped he’s consumed by fury and will stop at nothing to save her life.

What did I like?

Connection. As the film begins and we meet Denzel Washington’s character, we learn that he is more the loner, not wanting to really have a connection to his clients. For a good part of the first half of the picture, we see him hold to that, but all it takes is a sweet little girl and that façade is quickly melted. Once the chemistry between Washington and young Dakota Fanning was ignited, this became a much more enjoyable film. Not to mention, without that connection, the events and motivation for the later parts of the picture would not have happened, I don’t believe.

Kidnap plot. We’ve all seen kidnap plots in television and movies, but the intricate way in which this one was planned and executed was something of interest. First off, the person behind it, who turns out to be a total surprise, is not someone you would expect to be kidnapping young Dakota Fanning. Second, the confusing paper trail, for lack of a better term, that was left behind throws everyone, including the audience off the scent, making for much time on the edge of your seat.

I’m Walken. Who doesn’t love Christopher Walken? I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s comic relief in this role, but he does manage to lighten the mood when he’s on screen, even if he isn’t necessarily cracking jokes. He also comes in handy as an informant and distraction when needed, which is always a plus.

What didn’t I like?

Accent. As usual, I take umbrage with a southern accent. Hey, I’m from and live in the south! I’m pretty sure I know what our accents sound like down here. Radha Mitchell, for some odd reason, is spitting out a horrendous accent that makes the cast of True Blood sound authentic. On top of her accent, I question why there was the decision to make her southern, living in Mexico and, to a lesser extent white. That isn’t a race thing, it just wasn’t explained. She doesn’t seem like the type that would just make random trip south of the border or uproot everything to move there.

Transition. The transition from the “happy” first half of the film to the darker second half was ok, but I felt having Washington laying there in the bed and accused of murdering police officers seemed a bit cliché and cliffhanger-ish. Surely, there had to be some other way to do this so that it didn’t seem so episodic!

Slow. With Denzel Washington films, you can never expect them to be fast-paced, action-packed popcorn flick, 2 Guns being the closest thing to an exception to the rule. However, his films that seems to be more action-based tend to actually pick up near the end. In this one, he goes on a killing spree in an effort to find the kidnapped little girl, and yet the film never speeds up. As a matter of fact, I think it gets slower as it gets darker. I would have liked for it to have picked up, if only for a little bit, during the killing/torture scenes.

I do not believe I have ever seen a bad performance from Denzel Washington. Even if the film is bad, he delivers! Man on Fire was nothing memorable, in my opinion, but it isn’t something that should be forgotten in terms of performances. Washington’s strong presence, as well as the mature way beyond her years Dakota Fanning help make this a film that is worth a watch or two. Then there is the actual plot and story, which are solidly written. Do I recommend this? Yes, while I don’t highly recommend it, I can say that it is worth checking out at least once. Give it a shot, why don’t you?

4 out of 5 stars

Bonnie & Clyde (2013)

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2014 by Mystery Man

Bonnie & Clyde

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The two-part TV movie is based on the true story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Barrow, a charismatic convicted armed robber, sweeps Parker – a young and impressionable, petite, small-town waitress, who is already married – off her feet. In the early 1930s, the two embark on one of the most infamous crime sprees in American history.

Part 1: Tells the story of Clyde Barrow’s childhood growing up in rural Texas with his older brother Buck as they steal chickens, and later they do a stint in prison for stealing bigger and better things. After Buck ends up incarcerated again, Clyde meets the love of his life Bonnie Parker, who dreams of becoming a movie star in Hollywood. Soon the couple goes on a crime spree, robbing banks together after Clyde’s partner is caught. They are able to stay one step ahead of the “laws” while they rob bigger banks in the state.

Part 2: Clyde asks his newlywed brother Buck to help them. Not wanting to be alone at home, his wife Blanche becomes the fourth member of the Barrow Gang. However, Bonnie pushes Clyde to commit more dangerous crimes and rob banks across the state line to generate headlines in the newspapers, and their life of crime soon leads to their deaths.

REVIEW:

I actually let Bonnie & Clyde (2013) slip by me when it first aired, only catching bits and pieces because I was watching something else. Tonight, though, I was able to sit down and watch all 4 hours. Before I go on any further, although this isn’t a remake, the comparisons to Bonnie & Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are inevitable.

What is this about?

Clyde Barrow, a charismatic convicted armed robber, sweeps Bonnie Parker, an impressionable small-town waitress, off her feet, and the two embark on one of the most infamous bank-robbing sprees in history.

What did I like?

Authenticity. Before I flipped through and saw that this was on tonight, there was an interesting documentary about the Bonnie & Clyde that brought to life some of the facts that I was not aware of before. Those same facts were omitted from the Beatty version of these two outlaws, but this version took the time to not make everything about them so sugar-coated. There was strife between the two lovers, Bonnie was not little Miss Perfect, Clyde had his own set of insecurities, etc.

Bonnie. Most portrayals of Bonnie Parker, even in the media of the time, have her as a perfect embodiment of culture at the time. Holliday Grainger’s porcelain beauty definitely helps define the wannabe actress part of the character, but it his her acting that really allows Bonnie to come back to life.

Go Speed Racer. I can’t remember what it was that I was watching or listening to the other day, but they mention how Emile Hirsch was supposed to have been the next big thing in Hollywood, but instead, he’s become a shadow of what he can be. As we can see here, and with some of his other independent films, Hirsch shows a wide variety of moods. At times, Hirsch looks to be channeling his inner Leonardo DiCaprio, and that’s it just fine with me. What really matters is that he takes the villainous leader of the Barrow Gang, Clyde Barrow, and humanize the guy, which is something that is barely is done in the previous film.

What didn’t I like?

Laser like focus. Some people praised the laser like focus that was shown by Frank Hamer, but I’m not one of them. To me, it felt like he was wronged in some way by these two he had never met, save for an off chance meeting early on in the film with Clyde (which probably didn’t happen). Bonnie & Clyde accidentally killed one person when he was called in, but because these bank robbers freed some prisoners, it became a federal case, one that wasn’t going to end until they were dead. Maybe I’m sympathetic to the duo, but it just doesn’t seem right.

Mother’s Day. Both Bonnie and Clyde’s mother’s are portrayed as a bit bi-polar, if you will. Bonnie’s mother is very loving and all, but she can’t stand that her daughter isn’t marrying the “right guy” or going off into this dark path rather than following her dream of being an actress. Clyde’s mother is very supporting, even with the crime stuff, surprisingly, but after Buck is killed, you can imagine that she isn’t as interested in being a loving mother to someone who was the reason her oldest boy is laying in a grave.

Romance over substance. Personally, I’m more interested in the criminal life of Bonnie & Clyde, like we saw in the Warrant Beatty take on their lives, as opposed to the romantic side. Now, the romance is great and all. For goodness sakes, they died in the car together, but I don’t believe it should have taken so much of a forefront in this picture that we forget these two were gangsters and not Romeo & Juliet (or some other great couple).

Bonnie & Clyde was a decent miniseries that aired over 3 networks simultaneously upon its initial showing. They managed to capture more of the history of these figures that previous films have done and seemed to be more in tune with the era, what with the soundtrack and look of the cast. Still, it seems as if this was made to get people interested in the history of Bonnie & Clyde, rather than an entertaining film. I guess what I’m trying to say is this might as well have been one of those documentaries that is acted out with little narration. Still, I found it entertaining and believe it is worth a watch, at least once. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do…if you have 4 hours to spare.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a dystopian future, sentient robots known as Sentinels are exterminating mutants and oppressing humans, since humans harbor the genes that lead to mutant offspring. A small band of mutant survivors manage to evade the Sentinels thanks to the powers of Kitty Pryde, who has the ability to project a person’s consciousness back in time to deliver warnings.

Kitty’s group rendezvous with Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier in a monastery in China. They hatch a plan to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to prevent Mystique from murdering Bolivar Trask, the lead designer of the Sentinels. Trask’s assassination will make him a martyr, Mystique will be captured and her mutant powers will be reverse-engineered and used to create the formidable Sentinels of the future. A caveat of the plan is that they will have to stand and defend Wolverine and Kitty until Wolverine finishes his trip to the past and returns, otherwise the changes he made to the timeline will be lost.

Wolverine wakes up in 1973 in his younger body. He travels to the X-Mansion, where he encounters the young Hank McCoy and a disheveled Xavier. His school has failed and most of his original X-Men are dead, and this has left him a broken man. He has also lost his telepathic powers through taking serum which allows him to walk again. Wolverine convinces Xavier to free Magneto — who was accused of murdering John F. Kennedy (a charge he denies, stating that Kennedy was himself a mutant) — from a prison cell beneath The Pentagon. They do this with the help of Peter Maximoff, a mutant who can move blindingly fast.

Trask unsuccessfully lobbies to Congress for approval for his Sentinel program. Meanwhile, in Saigon, Mystique prevents a young William Stryker from appropriating a group of mutant American GIs, including Havok, for Trask’s research. Mystique investigates Trask Industries and discovers he has been capturing and experimenting on mutants, including some of her old comrades. Knowing that the assassination of Trask occurs in Paris, Xavier and Magneto board a private plane with Beast and Wolverine in order to intercept Mystique, although the two argue over abandoning each other.

In Paris, the Americans and Vietnamese are negotiating the end to the Vietnam War. Mystique impersonates a Vietnamese general to infiltrate a meeting with Trask. As she is about to kill Trask, Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto and Hank arrive. To guarantee her powers can never be used for the Sentinels, Magneto tries to kill Mystique, who flees out a window. A fight on the street ensues, in front of onlookers and television cameras. Wolverine’s upsetting encounter with Stryker causes his future body to react violently and injure Kitty.

Although Trask is saved, the world is horrified by the existence of mutants. President Richard Nixon approves Trask’s Sentinel program and arranges an unveiling in Washington, D.C. Trask’s scientists recover Mystique’s blood from the battle site in Paris, and Magneto fears Trask could still create the future Sentinels. Magneto intercepts the Sentinel prototypes on their way to Washington and laces them with steel, as he would not be able to control them otherwise since they’re made of polymer. At the mansion, Xavier eschews his regular serum dose to regain his powers. Through Wolverine, Xavier communes with his future self and is inspired to struggle for human-mutant peace once again. He uses Cerebro to track Mystique en route to Washington.

Nixon unveils the Sentinel prototypes on the White House lawn. As a show of force, Magneto raises RFK Stadium and deposits it around the White House. He also commandeers the Sentinels and has them attack the crowd. Nixon and Trask are taken to a safe room, followed by a disguised Mystique. Xavier, Wolverine, and Beast try to stop Magneto. Magneto impales Wolverine with rebars and flings him into the Potomac River. In 2023, the X-Men make their final stand as the Sentinels assault the monastery.

Pulling the safe room out of the White House, Magneto aims the television cameras at himself and prepares to kill the President with the whole world watching. Disguised as the President, Mystique wounds him with a plastic gun and reveals her true form. Xavier persuades Mystique not to kill Trask and allows her and Magneto to flee. Mystique’s interference is seen as a Mutant rescue of the president; the Sentinel program is cancelled and Trask is arrested.

Wolverine wakes up in 2023 in Xavier’s school, where he finds the X-Men all alive and well, even Jean Grey and Scott Summers. Logan asks Xavier to fill him in on the 50 years that he has missed out on, stating that the history he knew was a different one. In 1973, Mystique, impersonating Stryker, has the younger Wolverine rescued from the river.

In a post-credits scene, a cloaked figure telekinetically assembles the Pyramids of Giza as four horsemen stand behind him and a throng of worshipers chants his name: En Sabah Nur.

REVIEW:

Following the success of X-Men: First Class, fans were wondering if that was a reboot or if we were ever going to see the originals back in their roles (excluding Hugh Jackman, who has been in every film related to this franchise). Well, in order to keep continuity amongst both “timelines”, as we’ll call them, there was one story that could bring them all together. Aside from The Phoenix Saga, it is probably the most popular of the X-Men stories, and now it has made it to the big screen, but how will everyone react to X-Men: Days of Future Past?

What is this about?

This superhero sequel tracks Wolverine’s journey back in time in an effort to alter history and prevent the annihilation of both humans and mutants. Conflict also develops between Professor X and Magneto about the X-Men’s relations with humans.

What did I like?

X marks the spot. There is a reason the X-Men are called “X” men, and it is because of Charles Xavier, one of the most powerful mutants and brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe. Patrick Stewart brought Professor X straight out of the comics in the X-Men trilogy, leaving some very big shoes for James McAvoy to fill when First Class was made. In one of the early trailers for this film, you see the two of them talking, and you get chills. The past meets the present/future sort of thing. I hate to burst your bubble, but that scene isn’t as long as you think, but it is there. What is remarkable about both professors is as the film progresses McAvoy’s Xavier is humanized. We have never really known Professor X to be a flawed individual. Stewart’s version is the wise old sage we know him to be, but the fact that he can influence even his younger self with his wisdom speaks volume to the kind of man he is.

Tyrion. Bolivar Trask is not a likable character in the comics. In the X-Men Universe, we have seen Trask before. Go back and look at X-Men: The Last Stand, you know the X-Men movie everyone wants to forget happened, he’s in there, but it is a very different role. Peter Dinklage’s take on Trask is closer to the comic incarnation. As someone who loves it when they stick as close to the source material as possible, I was loving this. I have to bring this up, though. Dinklage is a great actor, and by winning this role, one that honestly didn’t call for someone of his stature, he may have opened up some doors for others.  I appreciate how that his height is not once mentioned, showing that he was meant to be taken seriously. Although, I could see someone using that in a future film as a mutant thing, or they could just bring in Trask’s son, who is a mutant (just a little info for those unenlightened out there).

Girl on fire. Jennifer Lawrence has really come into her own since we last saw her in blue body paint. Not that she wasn’t already a really fine actress, mind you. I guess the filmmakers paid attention to the Hunger Games films and noticed that she can kick some ass, something that Mystique needs to do. She’s not the timid little girl hanging on Xavier’s coattails as she was when we last saw her but, at the same time, she’s not the focused mercenary we see in X-Men, either. Lawrence realizes this and portrays the inner conflict between which way she should be leaning, which is a primary plot point.

Newness. Along with just about all the cast in the X-Men Universe returning for this film (not sure why Anna Paquin’s character was cut down to cameo at the very end….something I’m not happy about), we have some new mutants joining the fray. Most of which have never been seen any medium, except for Bishop who was in the 90s X-Men cartoon for this very story arc. Also appearing are Warpath, Sunspot, Blink, and Quicksilver. Blink, judging by the post-credits scene and what I know about that story, will be seeing much more screentime, What they did to shower her powers, though, was awesome! While on the topic of awesome, Quicksilver, who will be played by a different actor when The Avengers: Age of Ultron is released thanks to Marvel and 20th Century Fox having a war over these characters with neither wanting to budge (just like Sony with Spider-Man), was a real surprise. I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be that cool, especially when you saw the early pictures. That being said, if there was ever a time to use bullet time, it is with him (and this fall when The Flash comes to TV). These new characters weren’t really needed to breath new blood into the franchise, but they didn’t hurt.

What didn’t I like?

Here Kitty. Ellen Page has never been an actress I have cared very much for. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat is not a character I have any feeling for one way or the other. So, you can see why Page as Kitty does nothing for me. I’m not going to bitch about her, but rather her sudden ability to transport people through time. If I recall from the comic, Kitty was able to transport herself back, but not other people. The fact that they gave her this ability in the film seemed as if it were an easy way to give her some screentime and keep it somewhat close to the source material, as it is obvious if you have the choice between Ellen Page and Hugh Jackman carrying your film, you go with Jackman.

Talk or fight. If you are an avid reader of my posts, then you know I love me some action and, unless it is a drama, could care less about a lot of talking. This film tries to balance out the dialogue and action, but I fear it doesn’t do it as well. However, there are some quite heated interactions between McAvoy’s Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto that were just as good as an all out brawl. Still, I was hoping we’d get more fun action, but I guess they can’t all be Captain America: The Winter Soldier, can they?

Be quick about it. As I said earlier, the effects on Quicksilver were great, but not everything worked as well. His personality, which actually is the personality he has in the comics, at least from what I’ve read. I’m not necessarily saying that I’d change anything about the way he was portrayed or tone it down when/if they show him as an older version of himself, but maybe not focus so much on him being as much of a dick towards everyone. I did appreciate the mention to Magneto when he broke him out of prison that his mom knew someone who could control metal, that was a nice little easter egg.

The perfect Storm. I have never had any problem with Halle Berry as Storm, except for that weird African accent she tried to have in the first film. Apparently, I’m one of the few, though, because it seems as if no one liked her as Storm. Not to spoil anything, but not only is she not in this film very much (she became pregnant during shooting, if I’m not mistaken, which caused them to change what they were going to do with her character), but she also has something major happen to her that will rock you one way or the other depending on how you feel about her character. Personally, I don’t think it should have happened, but given what was going on with everyone around her at the time, it makes sense.

People are already saying that X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best entry into the franchise. I can see how they think that, but for me this doesn’t stand out as the best. It is still pretty damn good, though. As one of the movie review podcasts I listen to pointed out, this was the triumphant return of Bryan Singer (who directed the first two X-Men films before leaving to do Superman Returns). The fact that Singer brings back the original theme should tell you something about how this film is going to be in comparison to what we got after he left. Hopefully, they won’t scare him off again! Do I recommend this film? Yes! Yes! Yes! It is a must-see before you die! Don’t forget to stick around after the credits for a scene that, if you’re a fan of the comics, you’ll know what it leads to and will more than likely piss yourself!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 5/22

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on May 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

With the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend, I though it fitting that this week’s trailer be the one that started it all!

Now, when I say started it all, I mean this is the film that many point to as the start of superheroes ruling the cinema (though a valid argument can be made for Blade). Enough of my rambling, though. Sit back and enjoy the trailer for X-Men.

 

The Lawnmower Man

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dr. Lawrence Angelo works for Virtual Space Industries, running experiments in increasing the intelligence of chimpanzees using drugs and virtual reality. One of the chimps escapes using the warfare tactics he was being trained for. Dr. Angelo is generally a pacifist, who would rather explore the intelligence-enhancing potential of his research without applying it for military purposes.

Jobe Smith, a local greenskeeper with an intellectual disability, lives in the garden shed owned by the local priest, Father Francis McKeen. McKeen’s brother, Terry, is a local landscape gardener and employs Jobe to help him with odd jobs. Father McKeen punishes the challenged Jobe with a belt whenever he fails to complete his chores.

Dr. Angelo realizes he needs a human subject to work with, and he spots Jobe mowing his lawn. Peter Parkette, Dr. Angelo’s young neighbor, is friends with Jobe. Dr. Angelo invites both of them over to play some virtual reality games. Learning more about Jobe, Angelo persuades him to participate in his experiments, letting him know it will make him smarter. Jobe agrees and begins the program. Dr. Angelo makes it a point to redesign all the intelligence-boosting treatments without the “aggression factors” used in the chimpanzee experiments.

Jobe soon becomes smarter, for example, learning Latin in only two hours. Meanwhile Jobe also begins a sexual relationship with a young rich widow, Marnie. However, Jobe begins to display telepathic abilities and have hallucinations. He continues training at the lab, until an accident makes Dr. Angelo shut the program down. The project director, Sebastian Timms, employed by a mysterious agency known as The Shop, keeps tabs on the progress of the experiment, and discreetly swaps Dr. Angelo’s new medications with the old Project 5 supply (reintroducing the “aggression factors” into the treatment).

Jobe develops telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers and takes Marnie to the lab to make love to her while in virtual reality. Something goes wrong in the simulation when Jobe’s virtual avatar becomes violent, attacking her mind directly; Marnie is driven insane, laughing endlessly at nothing.

Jobe’s powers continue to grow, but the treatments are also affecting his mental stability, and he decides to exact revenge on those who abused him when he was “dumb”: Father McKeen is engulfed in flames, a bully named Jake is put into a catatonic state by a mental “lawnmower man” continually mowing his brain, and a lawnmower invention of Jobe’s runs down Harold, Peter’s abusive father. Jobe uses his telepathic abilities to make the investigating police attribute it all to “bizarre accidents” in front of Dr. Angelo.

Jobe believes his final stage of evolution is to become “pure energy” in the VSI computer mainframe, and from there reach into all the systems of the world. He promises his “birth” will be signaled by every telephone on the planet ringing simultaneously. The Shop sends a team to capture Jobe, but they are ineffective against his abilities and he scatters their molecules. Jobe uses the lab equipment to enter the mainframe computer, abandoning his body to become a wholly virtual being, leaving his body behind like a husk.

Dr. Angelo remotely infects the VSI computer, encrypting all of the links to the outside world, trapping Jobe in the mainframe. As Jobe searches for an unencrypted network connection, Dr. Angelo primes bombs to destroy the building. Feeling responsible for what has happened to Jobe, Angelo then joins him in virtual reality to try to reason with him. Jobe overpowers and crucifies him, then continues to search for a network connection. Peter runs into the building; Jobe still cares for him and allows Dr. Angelo to go free in order to rescue Peter. Jobe forces a computer-connected lock to open, allowing Peter and Dr. Angelo to escape. Jobe escapes through a backdoor as the building is destroyed in multiple explosions.

Back at home with Peter, Dr. Angelo and Peter’s mother Carla (who has become a romantic interest) are about to leave when their telephone rings, followed by the noise of a second, and then hundreds of telephone rings, all around the globe

REVIEW:

Have you ever watched a film that you just knew was cutting edge at the time of its release, but in this day and age, they seem prehistoric? The Lawnmower Man is one such film. Going back to when this was released, I recall trying to watch it through the scrambled images through pay-per-view on television. Needless to say, it didn’t really work, but I was intrigued enough to come back and revisit this film years later.

What is this about?

A scientist performs experiments involving intelligence enhancing drugs and virtual reality on a simple-minded gardener. He puts the gardener on an extensive schedule of learning, and quickly he becomes brilliant. But at this point the gardener has a few ideas of his own on how the research should continue, and the scientist begins losing control of his experiments.

What did I like?

Evolution. In the beginning of the film, Jobe, our antagonist, starts out as a simple , developmental challenged guy. After some experimental drugs from Pierce Brosnan’s character, he gets smarts and evolves into a self-proclaimed god. Watching his change over the course of the film is the interesting part, as he slowly changes from a nice guy to the villain, including killing people and taking over virtual reality!

Trapped. I won’t spoil the ending, but the way Jobe is captured is brilliant. When dealing with a malevolent techno-villain, this is pretty much the only way to take care of them, is by doing what was done here. Add in the deception that took place in order for this to transpire and it is a great way to defeat the villain.

Pulling the strings. As you can imagine, whenever there is research funding involved, the military and/or some huge company is pulling the strings and dangling money like a piece of cheese to a lab rat. Normally, I don’t care for this trope, but the film doesn’t focus on them exclusively, until it is time. Even then, there isn’t much light shed on the company, other than they have the money. Fun little tidbit, the big boss who appears on video screens is familiar to fan of the show Breaking Bad as Hank.

What didn’t I like?

Virtual reality. In 2014, this version of virtual reality is extremely dated. I say this version, because there are other virtual reality programs out there still trying to become mainstream. That isn’t the reason I disliked it, though. The effects used inside the computer are very rudimentary compared to some of the other things being done at the time, such as the ballroom scene in Beauty & the Beast.

Powers to the test. It seems to be that whenever Jobe was about to let his powers loose, there was some mysterious force that wanted him to hold back. Why? I don’t know. It is obvious that the guy has developed some strong powers, but I felt that we never got to see the full extent of all of them. It is like in the X-Men movies, we get the basic powers of the mutants, but do we ever get to see them at the full extent? Magneto we do and Jean Grey when she becomes Dark Phoenix, but that’s it. Everyone else is shackled, and that is what I was getting from Jobe here, unfortunately.

Bond, James Bond. Pierce Brosnan is a capable actor. The guy has been James Bond before, for goodness sakes! However, this material doesn’t let him do anything but look bored. A tragic hero, as it would appear, even his remorse didn’t strike me as authentic, but just part of the script, nothing more.

The Lawnmower Man is one of those sci-fi horror films that is relevant for the time it was made, but has become dated. However, the subject matter is still relevant. Can you imagine someone becoming an internet god, running any and everything about the web, just like the government is trying to do with this net neutrality laws they keep trying to force through, but that’s a topic for another day. Do I recommend this? Eh, it is ok. I think I just wasn’t in the mood for it tonight. Maybe upon a second viewing I would have a different opinion. So, I have to say this is one of those you watch at your own risk.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Roman Holiday

Posted in Chick Flicks, Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ann (Hepburn), the crown princess of an unspecified country, has started a widely publicized tour of several European capitals. In Rome she becomes frustrated with her tightly scheduled life. Her doctor gives her a sedative to calm her down and help her sleep, but she secretly leaves her country’s embassy to experience Rome on her own.

The sedative eventually makes her fall asleep on a bench, where Joe Bradley (Peck), an expatriate American reporter working for the Rome Daily American, finds her. Not recognizing her, he offers her money so she can take a taxi home, but a very woozy “Anya Smith” (as she later calls herself) refuses to cooperate. Joe finally decides, for safety’s sake, to let her spend the night in his apartment. He is amused by her regal manner, but less so when she appropriates his bed. He transfers her to a couch. The next morning, Joe, having already slept through the interview Princess Ann was scheduled to give, hurries off to work, leaving her still asleep.

When his editor, Mr. Hennessy (Hartley Power), asks why Joe is late, Joe lies, claiming to have attended the press conference for the princess. Joe makes up details of the alleged interview until Hennessy informs him that the event had been canceled because the princess had suddenly “fallen ill”. Joe sees a picture of her and realizes who is in his apartment. Joe immediately sees the opportunity and proposes getting an exclusive interview for the newspaper for $5000. Hennessy, not knowing the circumstances, agrees to the deal, but bets Joe $500 that he will not succeed.

Joe hurries home and, hiding the fact that he is a reporter, offers to show Anya around Rome. He also surreptitiously calls his photographer friend, Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), to tag along to secretly take pictures. However, Anya declines Joe’s offer and leaves.

Enjoying her freedom, on a whim, Anya gets her hair cut short in a barbershop. Joe follows and “accidentally” meets her on the Spanish Steps. This time, he convinces her to spend the day with him. They see the sights, including the “Mouth of Truth”, a face carved in marble which is said to bite off the hands of liars. When Joe pulls his hand out of the mouth, it appears to be missing, causing Anya to scream. He then pops his hand out of his sleeve and laughs. (Hepburn’s shriek was not acting—Peck decided to pull a gag he had once seen Red Skelton do, and did not tell his co-star beforehand.)

Later, Anya shares with Joe her dream of living a normal life without her crushing responsibilities. That night, at a dance on a boat, government agents finally track her down and try to escort her away, but a wild melee breaks out and Joe and Anya escape. Through all this, they gradually fall in love, but Anya realizes that a relationship is impossible. She finally bids farewell to Joe and returns to the embassy.

During the course of the day, Hennessy learns that the princess is missing, not ill as claimed. He suspects that Joe knows where she is and tries to get him to admit it, but Joe claims to know nothing about it. Joe decides not to write the story. Irving plans to sell his photographs, but then reluctantly decides not to do so out of friendship.

The next day, Princess Ann appears to answer questions from the press, and is alarmed to find Joe and Irving there. Irving takes her picture with the same miniature cigarette-lighter/camera he had used the previous day. He then presents her with the photographs he had taken, discreetly tucked in an envelope, as a memento of her adventure. Joe lets her know, by allusion, that her secret is safe with them. She, in turn, works into her bland statements a coded message of love and gratitude to Joe. She then departs, leaving Joe to linger for a while, contemplating what might have been

REVIEW:

There seems to be an obsession with royals in this day and age that stems back further than I thought it did. Roman Holiday actually shows how obsessed society has been with royalty, but is that major selling point of this film? If so, why even bother watching, right? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

Audrey Hepburn stars as a stifled princess who slips away from her guardians and is taken under the wing of a tabloid reporter looking for a scoop.

What did I like?

When in Rome. I blame all those hours I spent jumping around the rooftops of Rome in Assassins Creed II and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood for my love of the scenery in Rome. Not to mention the fact that is just a beautiful city. Seeing Audrey Hepburn tour the city as a wide-eyed tourist was a highlight given the fact that the filmmaker allowed us to see the city through her eyes. I do wish we could have seen more, but that’s just me being selfish.

Green Acres. Growing up, I watched a lot of old TV shows, as if that comes as a surprise. One of the shows that I frequently watched was Green Acres, starring Eddie Albert. I, like many people, know him best for this comedic role and was surprised to see him sporting a beard and a svelte look in this dramatic (albeit comic relief) role.

Audrey. There is a commercial airing now, Diet Coke I believe, which features a woman who resembles Audrey Hepburn, or maybe they spliced some clips from her films like they did a while back with Gene Kelly. At any rate, there is a reason Miss Hepburn is so well-respected for her talents as well as her looks. She can flat-out act! I think she earned an Oscar for this role, which actually meant something back in these days! That is to not mention this was one of her first American movie roles. I may have to go back and watch her better known roles in My Fair Lady, Funny Face, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

What didn’t I like?

Implied actions. At the end of the film, rather than showing actual actions, such as handing over an envelope, it is implied that certain things happen. For the effect the filmmakers were going for, this works. However, one must wonder why not just show those things happen. The extra few seconds really couldn’t have hurt, could they?

Romance. This is a romantic comedy, so obviously the romance takes center stage and had to be believable, right? Thing is, I wasn’t buying the chemistry between Audrey and Gregory Peck. Both are great actors and they’re not phoning it in, but something about them just doesn’t seem to jive. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it is the age thing, but I doubt it, as she’s worked with older men in other films. At any rate, it just wasn’t quite working for me.

The truth will set you free. There is this sculpture in Rome called the Mouth of Truth. Peck’s character plays a prank on Hepburn where his hand was bitten off (the reaction from her was real as he had not told her he was going to do that before…um…hand). This was quite the cute scene and one of the few that shows some chemistry between the two. So, what didn’t I like about it? Nothing, other than it just seemed a bit random in the way it was presented. Other than a picture of the Coliseum, there was no real touring of the sites that we saw, so this was a bit out there.

Maybe it is my love for Aladdin, but I felt that this story of a princess sneaking out to be with the “common folk” was a bit too familiar. Still, Roman Holiday leaves the viewer with a good feeling after all is said and done, never mind the rather downer of an ending. Do I recommend this? As a fan of the classics, yes, but be warned, this is more of a chick flick than you would imagine it to be, but definitely worth checking out!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Great Outdoors

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Chicagoan Chester “Chet” Ripley (Candy), his wife, Connie (Faracy), and their two sons, Buckley “Buck” (Young) and Ben (Giatti), are on vacation at a lake resort in Pechoggin, Wisconsin during the summer. All is going as planned until Connie’s sister, Kate (Bening), Kate’s investment broker husband, Roman Craig (Aykroyd), and their twin daughters, Mara and Cara (Rebecca and Hilary Gordon), crash the vacation.

Ghost stories at the family BBQ include one of a man-eating grizzly bear that Chet met face-to-face when he was younger. Chet says that while he and Connie were honeymooning at the same lake, he was attacked by a giant grizzly bear. When Chet fired at it with a shotgun, the buckshot shaved the hair off the top of the bear’s head and from that day on, it was known as the ‘Bald-Headed Bear’ of Claire County.

After Roman pulls Chet around the lake on an impromptu water ski ride with his rented speedboat, tensions between families erupt. Chet is ready to pack up and go home, even as teenager Buck tries to romance local girl, Cammie (Deakins). The budding romance goes well until Chet is challenged to eat the Old 96’er (a 96-ounce steak) at a family dinner which causes Buck to break the date. Buck tries to apologize to Cammie for being late, but Cammie refuses to speak to him.

Connie and Kate bond at a local bar when the conversation drifts to Kate’s challenges of being wealthy. Later, just at the peak of tension between families, it emerges that Roman has made a bad investment and is broke. He has not told Kate and was planning to hit up Chet for the cash.

Later, during a thunderstorm, the twins wander off and fall into a mine shaft. Chet and Roman eventually find them, but the claustrophobic Roman is reluctant to descend into the tiny mine shaft. After some encouragement from Chet, Roman summons up all his courage, while Chet goes in search of a rope to pull them out. Upon realizing that the mine is stocked with old dynamite, Roman takes his daughters and climbs out of the shaft on his own.

When Chet returns with the rope, he is horrified to discover the ‘Bald-Headed Bear’, lurking in the mine. It chases him back to his house, smashes through the door, and rampages through the house. Wally (Prosky), the cabin owner, bursts into the house with a loaded shotgun. Chet takes the gun and shoots the bear’s rear end, blowing off the fur and leaving the bear’s bottom exposed. Roaring in embarrassment, the bear runs out of the house.

The next morning, the two families part on good terms. Unbeknownst to Chet, Connie has invited Roman’s family to stay with them until they can get back on his feet. Cammie and Buck make up and end their summer romance, as Buck and his family head back to Chicago.

REVIEW:

Well, if the 80s knew about anything, it was buddy movies and family vacations. The Great Outdoors takes these two popular elements, merges them together, and then lets John Candy and Dan Aykroyd so their thing, along with some mischievous raccoons. Is the final product a piece of entertainment or schlock?

What is this about?

Chet Ripley takes his family to a lakeside resort for a quiet vacation away from it all. When his brother-in-law Roman shows up with his family, Mother Nature steps in to add her two cents.

What did I like?

Raccoons. Maybe the funniest part of this movie is the raccoons. They bring in the kind of funny one expects to see when you hit play on this film. The self-effacing humor and insulting the humans had me cracking up. Had Dr. Dolittle done this kind of stuff, perhaps I would have liked it even better than I did. As it were, though, the raccoons were nothing more than some comic relief. Yes, comic relief in a comedy! What sense does that make?!?

Two peas in a pod. When you name of the 80s funniest guys, two names that pop up near the top of the list are John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. The guys have a great rapport with each other, which helps the film move along at the pace it should, even if their relationship is never really explained, unless I missed it.

Children are our future. In films about families, such as this, the focus is usually on the bumbling father. As you can imagine, no difference here, but the kids actually do get something to do besides show up, say a few lines in the beginning and end, and appear at the dinner scenes. These kids actually have a life. For instance, one of them meets a girl, the twins get into mischief, etc. Much better than just having some kids on the payroll, as most film of this ilk tend to have.

What didn’t I like?

Twins. There is a superstition amongst people which seems to be getting more and more popular that gingers have no soul. I love redheads, and can vouch for the fact that they do indeed have souls rather than lifeless, automaton bodies. However, the twins in the film gave me cause to pause. These girls were slightly less creepy than the twins from The Shining. Thing is, they don’t really do anything that is inherently creepy, other than just exist, which just makes it worse!

Formulaic. I briefly touched on the fact that this film follows the formula that was standard faire in the 80s. Thing is, with the exception of the little girls getting lost down in the well and the bear attack, which is a prerequisite if you in the woods in a movie, you can just about guess everything that happens or at least see it coming.

So much for Vacation. The National Lampoon Vacation franchise would have been the perfect place for this film to shine. Can’t you just see it? National Lampoon’s Wilderness Vacation?!? Unfortunately, we didn’t get that. Instead we are stuck with a subpar film that is trying to capitalize on that franchise’s popularity, but with much less success. My thing is, if you’re going to imitate something, that’s fine, but don’t just blatantly rip it off! I felt this film was doing that, unfortunately.

Please excuse the jumbled thoughts (more than normal) in this review. I’m just getting back from my weekend trip and while watching, I’m also answering e-mails, catching people up to personal matters, and getting ready for work tomorrow. So, let’s get right to final thoughts on The Great Outdoors. Someone posted in a review that Dan Aykroyd’s dance in the credits to “Land of 1,000 Dances” might be his shining moment. The fact that a post-credits scene shows the life of a character is never a good sign…unless its a Marvel stinger HA! Seriously, though, this film has moments interspersed here and there, but nothing memorable. Do I recommend this? Eh, it is one of those pictures you feel you should at least check out once, if for not other reason than to say that you saw it. Otherwise, this is just a forgettable film from the 80s that exists solely for nostalgia reasons nowadays. Your choice whether to watch or not.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 5/15

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on May 15, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

Since I am going away to the beach this weekend, how about we take a trip back to the era of beach movies?

The year is 1963. Teens are hitting the beach in droves, while their parents and adults are pulling their hair out wondering what is so special about the seaside and why “those darned kids have to play their beatnik music so loud”. During this time, two young stars helped launch a franchise and become mega-stars in the process, Annette Funnicello and Frankie Avalon. Please enjoy the trailer for the film that started it all, Beach Party. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

 

Knights of Badassdom

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Three best friends and dedicated roleplayers take to the woods to reenact a dungeons and dragons-like scenario as a live action role-playing game. Trouble arises when a prop spellbook purchased from the internet ends up being a genuine grimoire and they unwittingly conjure up a blood-lusting succubus from hell.

REVIEW:

Renaissance festivals, role-playing games, and other things in the same vein just don’t appeal to me. They never have and they more than likely never will. However, I will gladly watch something that takes the…I guess the word would be community and portrays them in a different light, be it good or bad. Knights of Badassdom does just that, while also honoring the practice.

What is this about?

Venturing deep into the woods to act out a medieval fantasy scenario, three friends forsake their imaginary roles when they face a real-life struggle for survival after inadvertently conjuring an evil succubus.

What did I like?

Cast. The cast list is a virtual “who’s who” of people who may not be well-known to the general public, but are very well-known to the geek community. Well, I guess Peter Dinklage is a bit more mainstream, thanks to Game of Thrones. With all these geek icons, plus the Renaissance fair setting, it is no wonder geek sites were going crazy about this film almost as soon as it was announced!

LARP. I never got into role-playing games. One of the drawbacks of being a military brat is that you move around a lot, so you don’t really get to gather a close-knit group of friends and foster lifelong friendships. So, the few times I did get to play games with a group of kids and become close to them, it was time to move again. As an adult, it just costs too much! I enjoyed seeing these lovable losers act out the equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons and make it look cool, at least to me.

Writing. The writing in this film isn’t the best, but it is competent enough. At many points in the picture, there could have been that moment when it started to talk down to the audience or assume that everyone is in to LARP and lose the non-geek viewers. Too often screenwriters do this and it totally ruins the film for everyone, when all it took was just a bit of thought to appeal to everyone.

What didn’t I like?

Succubus. The summer before last, I had the chance to watch this anime, Rosario + Vampire. It was quite good, I recommend it, if you’re into the goofier side of anime. At any rate, there was a character on there that was a succubus. She was everything that the traditional definition of succubus is. The so-called succubus in this film, though, was more of a vampire and later, a demon. There just seemed to be a lack of succubusing with this creature, as far as I was concerned.

Effects. Being that this is a cheap, independent picture, I can’t really complain about the effects, but I can’t help but mention the fact that they look like no effort was put into them. As a matter of fact, other than the demonic way they made Peter Dinklage look when he comes back from the dead during the death metal song, the effects look like something you would see in Todd & the Book of Pure Evil.

Stackhouse. Ryan Kwanten is not a bad actor, but as he shows here and in Griff the Invisible, his starring potential is limited to having a strong cast around him. Perhaps that is why he works so well on True Blood and not on his own. He just doesn’t have that special something it takes to be a movie star. Looks and abs can only go so far!

So, what did I ultimately think of Knights of Badassdom? It was a bit of a letdown, to be honest with you. Now, I say that and I’m sure you assume that I think it was a bad film, which it most assuredly was not. However, the bad ass aspect was only present in one scene with Summer Glau, and even that was subdued (I say this after watching her on Arrow about 30 minutes ago). Had there been more of that to go along with the LARPing and this would have been a great flick. Do I recommend it? Yes, but only if you are a fellow geek or a fan of one of the actors in this film, as this film is almost exclusively made for us. If you’re not, then it is best for you to move along to another film, sorry.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Sleeper

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , on May 14, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Miles Monroe (Woody Allen), a jazz musician and owner of the ‘Happy Carrot’ Health-Food store in 1973, is subjected to cryopreservation without his consent, and not revived for 200 years. The scientists who revive him are members of a rebellion: 22nd-century America seems to be a police state ruled by a dictator about to implement a secret plan known as the “Aires Project”. The rebels hope to use Miles as a spy to infiltrate the Aires Project, because he is the only member of this society without a known biometric identity.

The authorities discover the scientists’ project, and arrest them. Miles escapes by disguising himself as a robot, and goes to work as a butler in the house of socialite Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton). When Luna decides to have his head replaced with something more “aesthetically pleasing,” Miles reveals his true identity to her; whereupon Luna threatens to give Miles to the authorities. In response, he kidnaps her and goes on the run, searching for the Aires Project.

Miles and Luna fall in love; but Miles is captured and brainwashed into a complacent member of the society, while Luna joins the rebellion. The rebels kidnap Miles and force reverse-brainwashing, whereupon he remembers his past and joins their efforts. Miles becomes jealous when he catches Luna kissing the rebel leader, Erno Windt (John Beck), and she tells him that she believes in free love.

Miles and Luna infiltrate the Aires Project, wherein they quickly learn that the national leader had been killed by a rebel bomb ten months previously. All that survives is his nose. Other members of the Aires Project, mistaking Miles and Luna for doctors, expect them to clone the leader from this single remaining part. Miles steals the nose and “assassinates” it by dropping it in the path of a steamroller.

After escaping, Miles and Luna debate their future together. He tells her that Erno will inevitably become as corrupt as the Leader. Miles and Luna confess their love for one another, but she claims that science has proven men and women cannot have meaningful relationships due to chemical incompatibilities. Miles dismisses this, saying that he does not believe in science, and Luna points out that he does not believe in God or political systems either. Luna asks Miles if there is anything he does believe in, and he responds with the famous line, “Sex and death. Two things that come once in a lifetime. But at least after death you’re not nauseous.” The film ends as the two embrace.

REVIEW:

Woody Allen is a great filmmaker, but the one film of his that I’ve seen, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, I can barely remember anything about. To rectify this little issue, I decided to check out one of Allen’s more popular and, judging by reviews and reactions, funniest film, Sleeper. Would I be laughing or half asleep when all is over, though?

What is this about?

Health-food store owner Miles Monroe (Woody Allen, who also directs) bites the dust in 1973 and ends up cryogenically frozen, only to be defrosted in a dystopian future in which people pleasure themselves with an “orgasmatron” and dissidents’ brains are “electronically simplified.” Upon becoming a hunted man, Miles masquerades as an android butler in the home of a self-indulgent poet (Diane Keaton) — but the ruse doesn’t last.

What did I like?

Future. Well, it is back to the future for the second time this week, following the trip Beyond the Time Barrier on Tuesday. This future isn’t as dark and depressing. As a matter of fact, it is quite bright and hopeful. It almost seems, dare I say, normal. The drawback is the cops that pretty much don’t allow for independent thought. Other than them, this was actually an enjoyable future that I wouldn’t mind living in, perhaps.

Ragtime. It is established early on that Woody Allen’s character was a jazz clarinet player. You would think this is nothing more than a trivial fact. He doesn’t play clarinet anywhere in the film that I noticed, but he does pull it out and starts to put one together. The music that Allen chose for the film, mostly ragtime jazz, showcases the clarinet, and was played by the Preservation Hall jazz band out of New Orleans.

Chemistry. Two people I would never picture together in a billion years are Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. Why is that? I honestly can’t tell you. I do know that they just don’t strike m as a couple that would hit it off. I guess I can be wrong, because the chemistry between these two is magnetic, which is saying something since Allen’s first introduction to her is as a plastic robot.

What didn’t I like?

Foil. What kind of doctor would wrap a patient in foil? I ask because when they discover Woody Allen’s character, he is wrapped in foil. Yes, I said foil. Perhaps this was for comedic effect, at least that is my hops because, damn! First of all, foil doesn’t keep things fresh that long, especially 200 yrs! Second, if he was still alive at the time he went under for the procedure, why would he need to have been wrapped up anyway?

So close. It is amazing to me how close this society and its views mirror the way we seem to be leaning more and more. I enjoyed the ironic statements such as tobacco and steak being healthier than vegetables and such. With that in mind, though, it is kind of eerie that a film made in 1972 can get things so close to they way they are today. I forgot what year this supposed to be set in, but it would be interesting if that is the way we will be living when that time comes.

Forget the funny. A huge pet peeve of mine when it comes to movies is when a comedy forget that it is a comedy in the last act. Guess what this film does? Yep, you guessed it! The last act is nothing more than a drama. All the slapstick comedy that was prevalent in the rest of the film, which really allowed Allen to shine, was replaced with philosophical ramblings that no one really cares about or can relate to, and for what reason? I do not know, but it really lost me, and I’m sure other viewers would feel the same.

Sleeper for the most part is a great funny film that people not familiar with the work of Woody Allen, like myself, are familiar with, which is a shame, really. 90% of this film is an absolute delight to see. Allen is at the top of his game as a neurotic Jewish nerd, and even manages to bring in his love for the clarinet. The only thing missing was that this wasn’t set in New York City, as far as I know. So, do I recommend this? Eh, I suppose, but it isn’t a strong recommendation. I think I need to watch this again before I can say for sure, but based on this viewing I say sure, why not? Go ahead and give it a shot!

3 out of 5 stars

Beyond the Time Barrier

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

U.S. Air Force test pilot Major Bill Allison (Robert Clarke) flies an experimental aircraft to sub-orbital spaceflight successfully but loses radio contact. He lands at his airbase that now is abandoned and seems old and unused. Mystified by his surroundings, he sees a futuristic city on the horizon where he is rendered unconscious and captured by the inhabitants.

Allison discovers that he has entered a wormhole through time and has landed in the year 2024 that contains survivors from a cosmic plague that hit the Earth starting in 1971. The inhabitants of the dystopia who are dying out live in an underground city called The Citadel. They are led by the Supreme (Vladimir Sokoloff) and his mute and telepathic granddaughter Princess Trirene (twenty-year old, at the time, Darlene Tompkins). Against them are the literal outsiders, the bald violent mutants who seek to kill everyone they can. Also present are similar accidental time travelers labeled “scapes”; the Russian Captain Markova (Arianne Ulmer) who came from 1973 and General Kruse (Stephen Bekassy) and Professor Bourman (John Van Dreelen) who have come from 1994 to escape the plague of the time.

REVIEW:

It has been a couple of weeks since I last reviewed a good black and white film. Beyond the Time Barrier may not be considered a good film, but it is in black and white, at least. That should count for something, right?

What is this about?

After piloting a test flight through a suborbital wormhole, Maj. William Allison returns back to his base to discover that he’s been gone 64 years.

What did I like?

Time travel. Who doesn’t like a good story about time travel, right? Why else would the Back to the Future franchise have been so popular, and still is 30 years later? And let us not forget about Dr. Who! The time travel aspect of this film is totally by accident, which is usually how it happens, but the way it is done, by getting lost in space and coming back down to a dystopian Earth, was interesting to me. The mystery of how it all happened also piqued my interest.

Trirene. For a character that is mute, Darlene Tompkins’ Trirene is quite the character. Not only is she beautiful, but she somehow manages to tragically endear herself to the audience because she is the last hope of her people to reproduce. I still wonder why she was mute and how she managed to not be sterile like everyone else, but that could have just been a part that I missed.

Knowledge upon return. When our hero does manage to return to Earth, he is a changed man, in more ways than one. I won’t spoil what happens to him, but I will say that the knowledge he gained while in the year 2024 and shares it with his fellow man. In some instances of time travel, this would be a bad thing because it would unravel the space-time continuum, but in this case, it seems to be ok, as it what he knows can save the human race and prevent civilization from falling apart, as it had in the future he saw.

What didn’t I like?

Plague. From the minute we shift to the future, there is much talk about the plague that afflicted civilization. However, much like The Walking Dead, not much else is said about it, other than it started and wiped most people out. How did is start, though? Were there no doctors and/or scientists fighting to rid the world of this menace? Did they just sit idly by as the world was torn asunder? I’m sure these are questions many will have as they watch this film and hear talk, or lack thereof, of the plague.

Easy escape. Usually, when one manages to escape easily, it is a trap that sets up something bigger and better later on. However, this escape was just easy for the sake of being easy (and the low-budget). The mutant creatures that want to do nothing but kill should have been more of a threat, but they weren’t, and the opposing forces were all but nonexistent. No wonder our hero was able to get out of there so easily. Where was the challenge?!?

The look. I’m not sure if this was the way the film was originally film, the result of the transfer, or some Netflix issue, but there seemed to be an odd look about this film. I can’t exactly describe what it is, but it wasn’t the way a classic black and white picture was supposed to look like. As a matter of fact, it resembled the look that modern films have when they are films or converted to black and white.

Well, I said I wanted to watch an old film this afternoon and with Beyond the Time Barrier, that is exactly what I did. However, I cannot say that this was a good flick. It appears to be a C-list film and the low-budget is obvious. I think I read somewhere that this was made in the span of 10 days. Does that mean it is bad? Not really, but it doesn’t mean it is good either. Do I recommend this? No, and it pains me to say that. By every stretch of the imagination, this should be a good flick, but it isn’t. There are far superior classic sci-fi films out there, and if you must watch something to do with time travel, become a Whovian!

2 out of 5 stars