Archive for June, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a pre-historic time, ancient Transformers detonate the Seed, killing all life on Earth. In the present, an archaeologist named Darcy discovers a dinosaur covered in an unknown metal.

Five years have passed since the Battle of Chicago. The U.S. government has severed its ties with the Autobots and branded them as fugitives. An elite CIA unit called “Cemetery Wind” is formed by Harold Attinger with the intent of hunting down and exterminating the surviving Autobots with the aid of Lockdown, a Transformer bounty hunter. Meanwhile, using data obtained from destroyed Transformers, business tycoon Joshua Joyce and his technology firm Kinetic Solutions Incorporated (KSI) have discovered “Transformium”, the molecularly unstable metal that is the lifeblood of Transformers. Joshua’s prized creation is Galvatron, a Transformer created from the data inside Megatron’s severed head with the aid of a captured Brains.

In rural Texas, struggling robotics inventor Cade Yeager and his friend Lucas Flannery purchase an old semi-truck in hopes of stripping it down and selling the parts to get Cade’s daughter Tessa into college. Cade discovers that the truck is an injured Optimus Prime, and it is not long before Lockdown and Cemetery Wind operatives led by James Savoy storm into the Yeagers’ farm and threaten them. Optimus comes out of hiding to fend off against the operatives while Cade, Tessa, and Lucas are rescued by Tessa’s boyfriend Shane Dyson, an Irish rally racer. They lose the operatives in a lengthy chase in Paris, Texas, but Lucas is killed by Lockdown’s grenade during their escape. Using a drone he took during the raid, Cade discovers that the operatives and KSI are working together. Optimus rallies the remaining Autobots – Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, and Crosshairs – and travel with their new human allies to infiltrate KSI’s headquarters in Chicago. There, Cade, Shane, and Bumblebee discover the firm’s reverse engineering of Transformer technology. Upon discovering that Ratchet has been slain and his head is being melted down, Optimus and the Autobots storm into the headquarters to destroy the laboratory and rescue Brains, but Joshua convinces them that their actions are futile and they are no longer relevant to this planet.

As the Autobots leave the premises, Joshua launches KSI’s prototype Transformers Galvatron and Stinger. Optimus and Galvatron engage in a grueling battle where Optimus realizes that Galvatron is Megatron in a new body. Suddenly, Optimus is blasted from behind by Lockdown, and in the midst of the chaos, he and Tessa are captured and taken into Lockdown’s ship. Aboard the ship, Lockdown explains to Optimus that the Transformers were created by a mysterious alien race known as the “Creators”, which hired him to capture the Autobot leader. As a reward for Optimus’s capture, Attinger’s operatives are given the “Seed”, a bomb that cyberforms any wide area of land if it explodes. Cade, Shane, and the Autobots storm into the ship to rescue Optimus and Tessa; while Bumblebee, Crosshairs, and the humans escape and crash into downtown Chicago, the other Autobots detach the rear section of the ship before it leaves into space. Joshua and his business partners Su Yueming and Darcy Tyril retreat to Beijing, where Attinger hands Joshua the Seed in exchange for a stake in KSI control. The Autobots and their human allies follow them to prevent them from detonating the Seed.

At KSI’s Beijing factory, Galvatron suddenly activates by himself and infects all 50 of the firm’s prototype Transformer soldiers to do his bidding. Realizing the folly of his creations, Joshua betrays Attinger before he, Su, and Darcy take the Seed to Hong Kong. There, the Autobots struggle to protect Joshua and the Seed from Galvatron and his minions, who shoot down the Autobots’ ship. Cade kills Savoy during a fight in an apartment building. Outnumbered and outmatched, Optimus Prime releases a group of legendary knights and leads them back to the city to destroy Galvatron’s army. Lockdown returns to Earth and uses his ship’s magnetic weapon to pull anything metal into his ship, in an effort to recapture Optimus. Optimus destroys the weapon and engages in battle with Lockdown before killing Attinger to save Cade. Lockdown grabs Optimus’s sword and impales him, but the combined efforts of Bumblebee, Cade, Tessa, and Shane distract the bounty hunter before Optimus stabs him in the chest and slices his head in half. Galvatron retreats, vowing to battle Optimus another day. With Lockdown dead and Cemetery Wind dissolved, Optimus sets the Dinobots free before flying into space with the Seed, sending a message to the Creators.

REVIEW:

If you’ve been keeping up with how Transformers: Age of Extinction has been doing with the critics, then you know they haven’t been kind. The average movie-goer, also hasn’t really had the nicest of things to say about this flick, either. This brings about the big question. What will I, a Transformers fanboy, have to say about what I just saw?

What is this about?

In the fourth CGI-fueled Transformers actioner, Cade Yeager is a father trying to protect his daughter, Tessa, from the perils of the outside world. Cade views Tessa’s beau, Shane, as one of the leading dangers, but the lad soon redeems himself.

What did I like?

New blood. Thank goodness, Shia LeBeouf and his constant spouting of “no, no, no!” are gone. In his place is Mark Wahlberg, his daughter Nicola Pelts (you may recall her from that horrendous The Last Airbender) and her boyfriend, Jack Reynor. The three of them, once they get over the family and dating issues, actually make a great team and a solid addition to this franchise, if not an upgrade from what we’ve been force fed in the previous films. Also, with Megatron gone, it is nice to have a new villain after the Autobots in Lockdown and the prerequisite new Autobots in Hound, Drift, and Crosshairs.

Dinobots. While I was watching my Denver Broncos get the taste smacked out of their mouths on Super Bowl Sunday, I was patiently awaiting the first trailer for this film. It wasn’t much, but it did feature Optimus Prime riding Grimlock (note- they never specifically call him Grimlock, or them Dinobots). Say what you will about what you think of this franchise, that was something that awoke the 10 yr old kid that would wake up and watch Saturday morning cartoons. That same feeling occurs when you finally see it happen on the big screen. Hopefully, Michael Bay, who said when he was making the first Transformers that he would never use the Dinobots, takes note of how well received these magnificent creatures are and will bring them back for more.

True form. Transformers: Dark of the Moon finally gave Optimus Prime his trailer, but those of that grew up with Prime still have a soft spot for what he is supposed to look like, which is a flat faced semi. For the first however long it is that we see Optimus, he is in the form that we all know and love…sort of. He’s all beaten down and rusted, but beggars can’t be choosy and, since Michael Bay is an ass and wants to ruin all of our childhoods, this is all we’re going to get.

Trilogy? Judging by how this picture ends, it seems as if they are setting up for something bigger down the road. A trilogy, perhaps? I’m not sure how I feel about that, but one more wouldn’t hurt, if for no other reason than to up the ante from this one, and there is a cliffhanger ending that needs to be resolved!

What didn’t I like?

Length and language. With a runtime of 2 hours and 45 minutes, this film takes everything you have and more. There is no reason for this film to be this long, but Michael Bay just has to show us his hard-on for the military and make sure they get their time in the spotlight, as well as plenty of explosive scenes that tend to drag on to the point that you are bored with them. I dare say a good 30-45 minutes could have been cut out of this flick and it would have been just fine. Also, as much as they want to keep advertising this as a darker, more mature film, the fact remains that kids are going to see it, so why all the cursing? Even Bumblebee, through the use of his radio (didn’t they fix his voice already?). slips a four-letter word out, but it is bleeped. I’m not usually one to complain about language, but this just was out of place and uncalled for.

Too many cooks in the kitchen. Apparently, filmmakers, or studio execs, rather, haven’t gotten the memo that there is such a thing as too many villains in a film. Here we have another case of that. First we have the bounty hunter, Lockdown, who should have been the main villain, and is treated as such in parts. Next, there is Kelsey Grammer’s CIA or FBI agent character, who apparently thinks that the Transformers are the worst thing ever, and that the events of the previous film were solely on their shoulders. Somehow, the human involvement is forgotten. Lastly, there is Galvatron, who I can’t say much about, for risk of spoiling anything, but if you know anything about G1 Transformers, then you have an idea of who he is. Now, Grammer’s character gets the majority of the antagonist role, followed by Lockdown, and Galvatron is forgotten, except for when he actually puts his plan into motion, but by that time it just seems like he is just an inconvenience and a distraction whose main purpose is to create and army so they can use more CG. Seriously, they should have focused on Grammer and Lockdown, and maybe had a post-credits scene involving Galvatron coming to “life” instead of being a mindless drone. That way, those two characters could have been more fully realized and Galvatron could be the character that deserves to be, rather than a shoehorned villain, a la Venom in Spider-Man 3.

Only human. I think I have said this for 3 of the 4 films in this franchise. Ironically, the one I didn’t say this about is the one that gets criticized for giving the robots actual characterizations. You just can’t win for losing, I guess. At any rate, this film is entirely too obsessed with giving us a human story. The audience goes in wanting to see a flick about giant robots, not some drama about a dad and his daughter and the boyfriend who is some kind of Irish stunt car driver. Bay needs to learn that the audience for this film could care less about the humans. True, you get a star like Mark Wahlberg, you’re not going to have him do nothing, but this is a film that needed to be more about the Transformers. Speaking of giant robots, I am not sure whether this was intentional, but I have to give it up for naming Wahlberg’s character Yeager. What’s so special about that? Well, that’s the name of the giant robots in Pacific Rim. Suddenly, yesterday, a sequel was announced to that film. Hmmm…

Primal attitude. Continuing with Michael Bay raping and pillaging all that is good and holy out of the Transformers universe, he has taken Optimus Prime and turned him into a bitter shell of himself, rather than the unflappable, John Wayne-esque leader he is best known for. Given the circumstances, I can understand a little change, but he should have reverted back to his normal self. Also, Bumblebee seems to have problems keeping his emotions in check with this one. That fancy new Transformers: Prime inspired face mask probably had something to do with is. Keeping with the attitude, I loved the design of Crosshairs, but why was he so full of prejudice towards the humans? Hound, who looks like he was designed more like Bulkhead. Finally, there is Drift, the samurai. Love that design, but hate that they made him such a stereotype, complete with broken English. Did Ken Watanabe not read the script before he signed on for this?!?

It is obvious that Bay and his cronies did a little more research into the Transformers universe. Why else would there be so many obvious references and inspirations from Transformers: Animated and Transformers: Prime. However, that does not mean that they have made Transformers : Age of Extinction the Transformers film we have all been waiting to see. Even with the “Dinobots” making an appearance and the new Transformers antagonist, Lockdown, there is just too much wrong with this film for it to be respectable. It is no wonder everyone is hating on this film. However, I’m not one of those that jumps on the bandwagon and hates a film for no good reason. I actually liked parts of this film and think that it is worth watching. I recommend you at least give it a shot, knowing how flawed it is. This is a summer action flick, if you will remember. Check it out and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Æon Flux

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2011, a deadly pathogenic virus has killed 99% of the Earth’s population, forcing the survivors to regroup and scatter across the Earth.

404 years later, in late 2415, all of the survivors inhabit Bregna, a walled futuristic city-state, which is ruled by a congress of scientists. Although Bregna is largely an idyllic place in the destroyed Earth, people routinely disappear and the population suffers from bad dreams.

A skilled warrior, named Æon Flux, is a member of the Monicans, an underground rebel organization who communicate through telepathy-enabling technology and are led by the Handler. After a mission to destroy a surveillance station, Æon comes home to find her sister Una has been mistaken for a Monican and killed. When Æon is sent on a mission to kill the government’s leader, Trevor Goodchild, she discovers that both she and the Monicans are being manipulated by council members in a secret coup.

Æon questions the origins of everyone in Bregna, and in particular, her personal connection to Trevor. Everyone in Bregna is revealed to be a clone, grown from recycled DNA. With the dead constantly being reborn as new individuals and bearing partial memories of their previous lives, their troubling dreams have increased. Cloning was required because the antidote to the virus made humans infertile. Trevor’s ongoing experiments were attempts to reverse the infertility. His ancestors had also worked on this problem. Æon learns that she is a clone of the original Trevor’s wife Katherine, and is the first “Katherine” clone in over 400 years.

One of Trevor’s experiments, Una, was successful: she had become pregnant. However, in order to stay in power, Trevor’s brother, Oren Goodchild, had her killed along with the other members of the experimental group. He ordered all of Trevor’s research to be destroyed. In a confrontation with Trevor and Æon, Oren reveals that nature has corrected the infertility problem and that some women are becoming pregnant. Oren has had them all killed to maintain the Goodchild reign. Æon is forced to go against both her former allies, who want to kill Trevor, and Oren.

She convinces the other Monicans to ignore the Handler and help her to kill Oren and his men. Æon goes to destroy the Relical, the dirigible that stores the DNA for cloning. There she meets the old man who monitors everything. She discovers he preserved her DNA for years, although Oren had ordered it to be destroyed so “Katherine” could not influence Trevor in any way. The dirigible crashes into the city wall, breaking it down to reveal the surrounding land for the first time in centuries. It is lush and fertile, not a wasteland as they were taught.

REVIEW:

Looking at MTV today, it is hard to imagine that at one time all they showed on there was music videos. That’s what the ‘M’ stands for, as a matter of fact, music! In the 90s, they would occasionally show short little vignettes between video shows. Those that are around my age will remember these, Dogboy, Beavis & Butthead (which went on to its own success, including a spinoff, Daria), The Specialists, and the one that perhaps was the most popular at the time, Æon Flux. Brining a character of few words and little known background to the big screen is a challenge, indeed, but was it worth the gamble? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

Aiming to hasten an uprising, the leader of an underground rebellion (Frances McDormand) dispatches acrobatic assassin Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) to eliminate the government’s top leader in this futuristic thriller based on the popular animated MTV show. It’s the 25th century, and a rampaging virus has forced the remnants of humanity into seclusion. But political conflict swirls within, and the climate is ripe for revolution.

What did I like?

Re-creation. It has been awhile since I’ve any episodes of this show. I wonder if there are any clips on YouTube? One of the things I do recall was how almost every episode opened with Æon Flux’s closed eye-opening to catch a fly. That is not something you would expect the filmmaker’s to recreate, but they managed to actually do it, surprisingly, showing that they did at least watch an episode or two of the series before they started filming.

Action. A film about an extremely acrobatic and flexible assassin trying to bring down some form of government. Hmmm…will there be action? You bet your sweet ass there is. Now, there isn’t the kind of action where everything blows up, but rather this is the more subdued somersaults across deadly blades of grass type stuff. Still, it works for the film and its characters.

Conspiracy. Overthrowing government is a popular plot device in films, or so I’ve noticed. I’m not quite sure that I’d necessarily call this a government, as much as it is a group of people who have made themselves the rulers because they created the cure for the virus that wiped out the population of Earth. Still, some people are easily corrupted by immense power and think they can rule everything. These people must be stopped, hence the reason for the Monicans and their plan to bring the power back to the people…by any means necessary!

What didn’t I like?

Close, but no cigar. Recreating the wispy frame of Æon Flux for the big screen, let alone real life, was no easy task. The only person I can think of who may have pulled this off better than Charlize Theron would have been Angelina Jolie in her scary skinny skeleton like stage around  the time that this was released. Strangely enough, Michelle Rodriguez was up for the role. No offense to her, but she’s a bit too…um…genetically blessed for this character. At any rate, my issue is that Theron does a good job, but not good enough. Her take on Æon Flux wasn’t working for me, partly because of how she was written, partly because I’m sure Theron insisted on having actual lines, rather than being true to the character and staying mostly silent. Also, the hair was wrong, and what was the deal with Sithandra’s enhancements? Blech! Don’t even get me started on how the costume was altered. I think that was done so that she didn’t look like a dominatrix, though.

Explain! We get a brief explanation near the end as to why the Monicans are being hunted by the scientists/government, but even then you are still left scratching your head. What is the motivation? Is it all because of the DNA that just happens to be floating above the city in a giant dirigible? There are more questions than answers to be found in this film, which isn’t a good thing, as they are questions that should have been answered early on, not before the climax!

Handle this. I’ve seen this move 3 or 4 times and still have no idea why Æon Flux, Sithandra, and I’m assuming other Monican assassins take some kind of pill and are transported to this alternate dimension where they wear some sort of white ritual robe and talk to “the Handler”. Where is she? Why haven’t the scientists targeted her? Surely they have knowledge that someone is calling the shots, right? I don’t recall her from the show, so this was just a bad idea that whoever penned this script brought in, I imagine. Why can’t anyone stay close to the source material anymore?!?

Æon Flux should have been a fun action flick, especially enjoyable by those who are clamoring for a strong female lead in this genre. However, due to severe departure from the source material, bad writing, and even worse and uninspired storytelling, this film crashes and burns. Such a shame for such a great character. It is no wonder she has been all but forgotten. So, do I recommend this? Yes, but only as a weekend afternoon flick. You know, the kind that you watch when you’re flipping through and absolutely nothing else is on? That is probably the only time to watch this, if you must.

3 out of 5 stars

Dr. Strangelove

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper is commander of Burpelson Air Force Base, which houses the SAC 843rd Bomb Wing equipped with B-52 bombers. The 843rd is currently on airborne alert, in flight just hours from the Soviet border.

Ripper orders his executive officer, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake of the UK Royal Air Force, to put the base on alert, asserting that it is not a drill, and orders him to issue Wing Attack Plan R to the patrolling aircraft, including one commanded by Major T. J. “King” Kong. All of the aircraft commence an attack flight on Russia, and allow communications only through the CRM 114 discriminator.

Mandrake discovers that no order for war has been received, and tries to stop Ripper, who locks them both in his office. Ripper tells Mandrake that he believes the Soviets have been using fluoridation of United States’ water supplies to pollute the “precious bodily fluids” of Americans.

At the Pentagon, General Buck Turgidson briefs President Merkin Muffley and several other top officers and aides about the attack in the “War Room”. Muffley is shocked to learn that such orders could be given without his authorization, but Turgidson reminds him that Plan R – enabling a senior officer to launch a strike against the Soviets if all superiors up to the President have been killed in a first strike on Washington D.C. – allows such an action. Turgidson reports that his men are cycling through every CRM code to issue the stand-down order but this could take over two days. Muffley orders the Army chief to storm the base and seize Ripper, though Turgidson warns that Ripper may have already alerted his men to this possibility.

Turgidson attempts to convince Muffley to let the attack continue, as their first strike on the Soviets would wipe out the majority of the Soviet missiles, and the few remaining would only cost a few million American lives. Muffley refuses, and instead brings Soviet ambassador Alexei de Sadeski (Peter Bull) into the War Room, despite Turgidson’s protest, to get Soviet premier Dimitri Kisov on the “Hot Line.” The President tells the Premier, who is drunk, about the situation, and suggests that the USSR fire upon the planes to stop the attack.

After a heated discussion, the ambassador explains that the Soviet Union has created a doomsday device consisting of 50 buried bombs with “Cobalt Thorium G” set to detonate should any nuclear attack strike their country. The Soviets had conceived of this system after reading a New York Times article claiming the United States was working on such a device. The President’s wheelchair-bound scientific advisor, former Nazi Dr. Strangelove, is skeptical, noting that a doomsday device would only be an effective deterrent if everyone knew about it. Sadeski admits they had plans to reveal its existence the following week at a Soviet party conference in honor of the Premier, “who loves surprises.”

United States Army forces arrive at Burpelson, but, as predicted, the base’s troops take the troops to be Soviets in disguise and open fire. The Army forces eventually take over the base and Ripper shoots himself, fearing he will be tortured into revealing the recall code. Colonel “Bat” Guano forces his way into Ripper’s office. He suspects Mandrake of being the enemy until Mandrake convinces him otherwise.

Mandrake identifies Ripper’s CRM code from his desk blotter doodles (“OPE,” a variant from both “Peace on Earth” and “Purity of Essence”). He contacts the President with difficulty via payphone, the only working method of communication, and SAC is able to contact the bombers and direct them away from Soviet air space. The War Room celebrates. However, Sadeski reports that the Soviets cannot account for one of the four planes they believed they had shot down, Major Kong’s. In fact a surface to air missile had ruptured the plane’s fuel tank and left “all radio gear kaput, including the CRM-114.” President Muffley tells the Soviets the plane’s target to help them find it, but due to the shortened range of the crippled aircraft Major Kong has selected a closer target, a nuclear missile complex at Kodlosk.

On approaching the new target, the bomb doors will not open. In a display of Yankee ingenuity, Major Kong climbs on a bomb and adjusts the wiring. The doors open and the bomb releases, with Kong straddling it and riding it like a rodeo cowboy, waving his hat, as it falls.

Sadeski notes that, within ten months of the activation of the doomsday device, the surface of the earth will be uninhabitable. Dr. Strangelove recommends that the President gather several hundred thousand people, with a female-to-male ratio of 10 to 1, to live in deep mineshafts in order to escape the radiation, and to then institute a breeding program to allow the United States to repopulate the surface after a hundred years have passed. Gen. Turgidson warns that the Soviets will likely do the same, and worries about a “mineshaft gap.”

Dr. Strangelove shouts that he has a plan, gets up from his wheelchair, takes a few halting steps and shouts, “Mein Führer! I can walk!” The film finally cuts to a montage of nuclear detonations, accompanied by Vera Lynn’s recording of “We’ll Meet Again.”

REVIEW:

In the long tradition of black comedy satires about the cold war…is there a long tradition on black comedy attires about the cold war? As I was saying, in that honored tradition, we get an often overlooked (in the repertoire of director Stanley Kubrick) film, Dr. Strangelove. I’m going into this film blindly, as I know little to nothing about it, but I think it should be at least interesting, to say the least, right?

What is this about?

When a fanatical U.S. general launches an air strike against the Soviets, they raise the stakes by threatening to unleash a “doomsday device,” setting the stage for Armageddon in this classic black comedy that brilliantly skewers the nuclear age.

What did I like?

Sell it. Often time, comedic actors, especially the more versatile and talented ones, are chosen for a role with the idea that they can play a couple of other characters in the same film. Sometimes this pays off a la Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Other times, it is a big flop, a la Murphy in Norbit. What can be said, though, is that Peter Sellers creates 3 totally different characters and is totally invested in them. I don’t believe the film would have been the same had there been another couple of actors paying those other roles, so kudos to Sellers for selling the audience on his performance.

Air Force. Maybe I’m a little biased since I grew up as an Air Force brat, but it seems to me that whenever the military is involved in something on film, 9 times out of 10, it is the Army, unless specified otherwise. It is good to see the Air Force getting the spotlight, even if it isn’t exactly the best of situations. Still, it is better than nothing, right?

Red scare. At the time of this release, the US was still fearing that the Russians were going to bomb us at any time. I watch episodes of I Dream of Jeannie and often they will refer to the Russians as the enemy or something along those lines. I’m not fully versed in the history of this time, but I know that there was rampant paranoia and hysteria. Those feelings are what this film skewers and satirizes, though I’m not so sure it was as well received then as it is now.

What didn’t I like?

Titular time. The titular character is barely in the film. I think he may have a total of 5 minutes on the screen. Perhaps that is the reason for the alternate title, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, because there really is no reason to name the film after Dr. Strangelove. Why, you may ask? Well, take for instance something like Dr. No. The titular character isn’t there very much, but makes an impact with the scenes he is allotted. With Strangelove, though, he is nothing more than a random comedic character that isn’t very well introduced. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is funny, but I don’t see why he was worthy of being the namesake of this picture.

Can we get more of her? Only one woman appears in this film. She actually appears twice, but one of those times is in the form of a Playboy centerfold that one of the pilots is looking at, but that’s beside the point. We see this woman, Tracy Reed, sauntering on the screen and answering the phone in what is either a bikini or bra and panties, I’m not sure, and heels. Now, there are two reasons to want more of her. The first is she is smokin’ hot! The second is that this film is a sausage fest, a little female injection wouldn’t hurt it at all, but Kubrick apparently felt this needed to be very male driven, and given the fact that this is mostly military, I can understand that. Still, it would have been nice to see more of Ms. Reed.

Subplots assemble. There are about 4-6 storylines going on in this film. My problem is that they all seem to want to intersect at some point, but never actually get around to it. Why that is, I cannot tell you, but given the way this film is set up, it would seem the perfect opportunity for everything to intersect and then we get the ending, but I guess that wasn’t to be. Or maybe that was the original plan and it just would have made for too happy a film, who knows?

Stanley Kubrick is considered one of the most brilliant filmmakers of the last 30 or so years. Dr. Strangelove is a bit different from him more conventional, for lack of a better word, films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is pretty interesting. Dealing with the nuclear paranoia of the time, as well as enlisting a cast of characters that are over the top, plus a young James Earl Jones in a small role, this is a film that should be watched by all, right? Well, there is something that doesn’t quite make this a must-see and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it is the fact that I was expecting either a serious film or a laugh out loud comedy, but got neither. So, do I recommend this? Yes, it is definitely worth watching, but you have to decide yourself how much of a must-see this is.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 6/26

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags , , , on June 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Yesterday, we lost a true legend in Eli Wallach. As of the time that I am writing this, we know that he died of natural causes (something rare to hear these days) at age 98. For those of you that don’t know who he is, these trailers will inform you. I know him best as a star of westerns, usually as the villain as in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

 

 

He also had a part in How the West Was Won

 

 

Personally, I know him best for his role as Calvera in The Magnificent Seven.

 

I’ve always said that when I go, I want people to celebrate my life, rather than mourn my death. I hope that this trilogy of trailers featuring films in which Eli Wallach starred accomplished that feat. If you haven’t checked t hose films out, you really should ASAP!

MouseHunt

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When once-wealthy string magnate Rudolf Smuntz (William Hickey) dies, he leaves his outdated string factory and a run-down mansion to his two sons, Lars (Lee Evans) and Ernie (Nathan Lane). When Lars declines an offer by representatives from the large Zeppco conglomerate to buy their string factory, his greedy wife April (Vicki Lewis) promptly throws him out. Meanwhile, Ernie serves Mayor McKrinkle (Cliff Emmich) at his restaurant in anticipation of becoming a famous chef for serving such a high-profile guest, only for the mayor to accidentally consume a cockroach and die from a resulting heart attack in concerns of his twin daughters Becky and Betty. As a result, Ernie loses both his house and his job.

Both homeless and jobless, Ernie and Lars are forced to live in the mansion together. Finding blueprints of the mansion, they discover that it is a lost masterpiece designed by famous architect Charles Lyle LaRue. Alexander Falko (Maury Chaykin), a wealthy LaRue collector makes an offer, but Ernie declines under the belief they can make a larger profit by restoration and auction. However, the brothers have already realized that the house has an occupant: a highly-intelligent mouse. Fearing a repeat cockroach incident, Ernie decides that they need to get rid of the rodent. Despite attempting a wide array of methods, including numerous mousetraps and a vacuum cleaner, they fail. To make their situation worse, Ernie borrows $1,200 against the house mortgage to buy a jacuzzi tub (which is lost to the bottom of a nearby lake), and the bank threatens to foreclose on the house in two days unless they reimburse the money. The brothers purchase a monstrous cat to deal with the mouse while they set out to find a way to pay the mortgage, but the cat is killed when the mouse sends it on a one-way trip down the dumbwaiter. They then hire an eccentric exterminator named Caesar (Christopher Walken) to handle the mouse, though he too is outsmarted.

Meanwhile, Lars attempts to raise the money by withholding the salaries of the string factory’s employees. The angry employees instead go on strike, and Lars’s attempt to run the factory himself ends in disaster. Elsewhere, Ernie discovers documents about the offer for his late-father’s factory and attempts a rendezvous with the Zeppco representatives. However, distracted by two attractive Belgian hair-models named Hilde (Camilla Søeberg) and Ingrid (Debra Christofferson) while he is waiting, he is struck by a bus and rushed to a hospital, missing his appointment. Lars later meets Ernie in the hospital and explains that April, now aware of Lars’ possible auction profits (and having made love with him upon finding out), has agreed to pay the mortgage off.

Upon returning home to find a delirious Caesar being carted away by paramedics, the brothers resume their task to kill the mouse with renewed obsession. When Ernie chases the mouse up a chimney and gets stuck, Lars tries to light a match while the mouse starts a gas leak, creating a terrible explosion that blasts Ernie out of the chimney and into the lake. In rage, Ernie grabs a gun and fires it at the mouse, accidentally shooting a compressed can of pesticide left by Caesar that explodes and causes enormous damage to the property.

As the brothers recover from the blast, Zeppco calls and leaves an answering machine message, stating that they have withdrawn their offer to buy the factory. Now angry at each other for all the lies and deception, the brothers start arguing and Lars starts throwing fruit, but accidentally hits the mouse and knocks it unconscious. Unable to finish it off, they instead seal the mouse in a box and mail it to Fidel Castro in Cuba. With the mouse seemingly gone and with April having paid off the mortgage, the brothers reconcile again and finish renovating the house.

The night of the auction finally arrives, which is attended by Falko, April, Hilde and Ingrid, and a wide variety of international multi-millionaires. Falko attempts to get Ernie to call off the auction with a sizable offer, but Ernie declines and the auction soon begins. However, Lars discovers the mouse’s box in the snow outside, returned due to insufficient postage and with a big hole gnawed through it. Lars and Ernie panic upon seeing the mouse return, but attempt to maintain their composure as the auction continues. When the mouse’s antics starts sparking panic and riot in the guests, the brothers desperately attempt to flush out the mouse by feeding a hosepipe into the wall. As the auction reaches a record $25 million bid, the house rapidly floods through the walls and finally the floors, and all the people are washed out of the house as it promptly collapses. Watching as April and all the bidders leave in disgust, the brothers’ only consolation is the fact that the mouse must finally be dead.

With nowhere else to go, the brothers return to the factory and fall asleep, with only a single chunk of cheese for food. The mouse, having followed the brothers, restarts and feeds the cheese into the machinery to make a ball of string cheese, which inspires Ernie and Lars. In the final scene, Ernie and Lars end their war with the mouse and have successfully rebuilt the factory as a novelty string cheese company. Lars has begun a relationship with Hilde, Ernie is able to put his culinary skill to work in developing new cheese flavors, the mouse has become his personal taste-tester, and their father’s spirit is finally pleased.

REVIEW:

MouseHunt is one of those flicks that I have long avoided because I thought it was just another cheap attempt to cash in a board game…and yet I willingly watched Battleship a couple of years ago. Oy! As it turns out, this is a favorite film of the lady of the house, which means I better at least check it out once. Will I like it? Or will I be forever doomed to sleep on the couch?

What is this about?

Two brothers want to sell the mansion they’ve inherited — but first they must evict its diminutive tenant: a mouse with no intention of leaving.

What did I like?

Move over Mickey. As you can tell by the title and the poster, there is a little mouse that is actually the star. Not only does he cause much frustration for the humans who are trying to sell the house he is currently occupying, but he also is a cute little character. The filmmakers don’t necessarily give him human emotions, make him talk, or anything like that, but every now and then you can see that they tease him to be human-ish, such as when he is getting ready for bed and gets all snuggled in before Lee Evans’ character starts shooting up the wall with a nail gun. I’m not really sure what that was about, honestly, other than he was just trying to kill the mouse.

Slapstick. There are many varying forms of comedy. Some work for some films and some don’t. For instance, I can’t see this working as a romantic comedy, can you? On the other hand, a physical, slapstick comedy seems to be just what the doctor ordered. The hijinks these two brothers, as well as a few others, endure as they try to catch the ever elusive mouse is just too funny and perfect to be done with the kind of humor that almost requires a disclaimer before the film starts.

Paint your emotions. Cartoons will often have a painting that seems to have wandering eyes or change emotions when the main character gets near it or someone says something related to it. Well, the painting of the dearly departed father appears to have the same mannerism. Throw in the fact the camera pans over to it every chance it gets to show the different emotions. At first, I found this to be unnecessary, but as  the film wore on, it became a bit of the charm, as if the father were still parenting his boys. Of course, I was also half expecting his ghost to pop out of there like Vigo in Ghostbusters II.

What didn’t I like?

Be the bad brother. The way this film sets the brothers up is that one is the good brother that the father seemed to care for, while the other is the one that wasn’t as loving. That second brother went on to become a popular chef, until his restaurant randomly is closed down because he fed roaches to the mayor and his family. By cinema logic, this should make for some kind of villain original, right? Instead, he becomes a good guy, just greedy. The only shade of that evil brother comes when he tried to sell the string factor behind his brother’s back, and that doesn’t happen because he was too busy flirting and wound up getting hit by a bus! They just didn’t let the guy be bad, no matter how hard he tried!

String theory. I’ve never really given it much thought, but I guess there actually are factories that churn out string. However, I’m sure they don’t look like sweatshops, as the one in this film seems to resemble. I say that not knowing exactly the time period in which it is set (it never is really made clear). I still wonder why they chose a strong factory of all places, though, other than what happens in the end which is convenient for a mouse.

Catzilla. As one can imagine, with a mouse, there must be a cat. The brother go to the pound/animal shelter and get this monster cat, named “Catzilla”. The thing chases the mouse for a while and then suffers a fate unbefitting such a magnificent creature. Given that the mouse is supposed to be the hero in the film, I can allow the defeat of Catzilla. I cannot let slide that he suffered such a horrendous end, not can I let is go that he was vanquished so easily. Hell, they took longer building him up than he was actually on screen….just like Godzilla, I guess.

Letting the smoke clear, the obvious question is what did I think of MouseHunt, right? Well, it has its moments of ups and downs. Nathan Lane and Lee Evans have decent enough chemistry together, the mouse is cute, and the colorful, light tone to the film make it watchable. However, there are problems with the film, most notably that it starts with a rather dark tone for what it obviously a kid’s flick. I mean, Matilda starts off dark, but it is nothing compared to this! There are other issues, but let’s right down to it, shall we? Should you take the time to watch this? Yes, I see no reason why you should about your life avoiding this film. It may not be for everyone, but I’m sure most people will at least get a laugh out of it here or there. Check it out sometime!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Texas Chainsaw 3D

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Picking up after the events of the original film, the people of Newt, Texas, led by Mayor Burt Hartman (Paul Rae), burn down the farmhouse of the Sawyer family for their role in aiding Jedidiah “Jed” Sawyer (Dan Yeager), also known as “Leatherface”, in several murders. The arsonists are celebrated as heroes in the town, and the entire family is presumed dead. However, an infant, Edith Sawyer, is found by one of the townsmen, Gavin Miller (David Born), who promptly murders her mother, Loretta Sawyer (Dodie Brown), and adopts Edith with his wife Arlene (Sue Rock). Decades later, Edith has been raised by Gavin and Arlene as Heather Miller (Alexandra Daddario). One day, Heather is notified that her grandmother, Verna Carson (Marilyn Burns), has passed away and left everything to her; discovering that she was adopted, Heather and her boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine Neverson), and two other friends, Nikki (Tania Raymonde) and Kenny (Keram Malicki-Sánchez), travel to Newt to collect her inheritance. Along the way, the group picks up hitchhiker Darryl (Shaun Sipos).

When they arrive, the Sawyer family lawyer, Farnsworth (Richard Riehle), gives her the keys to the family house along with a letter from Verna. Excited about the property she now owns, Heather and her friends look through the house, decide to stay the night, and immediately set off to buy supplies and food, trusting Darryl to stay and look over the house. Darryl begins looting it and believes he will find valuables in a locked room in the cellar of the house; however, upon entering the locked room he is bludgeoned by Leatherface. Heather and her friends return and discover the house has been ransacked, but choose to let it go. As Kenny prepares dinner he finds the butler’s cellar, where Darryl was killed, and Leatherface impales him on a hook. Heather finds a decomposing body upstairs and runs to find her friends, but she is knocked unconscious by Leatherface. Waking up in Leatherface’s room, she manages to escape to the graveyard. Hearing the screams and chainsaw, Ryan and Nikki draw the attention of Leatherface, while Heather gets their van and picks up her friends.

In the ensuing chase, Leatherface saws through one of the van’s tires, causing it to crash and subsequently kill Ryan. Heather escapes and makes her way into a carnival, but Leatherface escapes the police who are patrolling the grounds. Sheriff Hooper (Thom Barry) realizes that Leatherface survived the fire and is still alive; Mayor Hartman sends Officer Marvin (James MacDonald) to the Sawyer house to kill Leatherface, against Hooper’s orders. While looking for Leatherface, Marvin is startled and accidentally kills Nikki, before being killed by Leatherface himself. While at the station, Heather learns of what the townspeople did to her family and flees. She is soon caught by Hartman’s son, Deputy Carl Hartman (Scott Eastwood), who ties her up at the long-abandoned Sawyer slaughterhouse to lure Leatherface. Once there, Leatherface finds out that Heather is his cousin and cuts her ties, but is attacked by Mayor Hartman and another officer, Ollie (Ritchie Montgomery). As Heather hears her cousin being beaten she decides to help him, killing Ollie with a pitchfork and giving Leatherface his chainsaw, which he uses to force Mayor Hartman into a meat grinder. Afterward, Heather and Leatherface return home, where Heather reads the letter from Verna that tells her Leatherface will protect her in return for being taken care of. Realizing Leatherface is the only family she has left, Heather decides to stay with him.

In a post-credits scene, Gavin and Arlene show up at the mansion to visit Heather, intending on greedily splitting her assets. As they wait in front of the door, Leatherface answers with his chainsaw in hand.

REVIEW:

Well, this is a drastic change from the film I watched earlier today, Teen Beach Movie, wouldn’t you say? I’m no fan of modern horror or remakes/reboots, so don’t expect good marks for Texas Chainsaw 3D. Just letting you know in advance. That being said, rumor has it that this could possibly change my mind. We’ll see if that happens or not.

What is this about?

When a young woman travels to Texas to collect her inheritance, she discovers that a brutal, chainsaw-wielding madman is part of the bequest.

What did I like?

Clip art. I believe this was meant to be a reboot, rather than a remake, which works for me, because I detest and despise remakes as the lowest and laziest form of “entertainment” just a notch above reality TV (the exception being remaking foreign films). That being said, this seems to serve more as a sequel than anything else, due to the fact that the story is continued from the previous films, and they show clips from the original. At least I think that was a genuine clip. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

Leave Percy behind. I think I may be one of the few people to genuinely enjoy the Percy Jackson films. The get a bad rap, in my opinion, because they are so similar to the Harry Potter films and books, so people don’t give them the chance they deserve, but that’s a topic for another time. One of, if not THE best thing to come out of that franchise, though, is Alexandria Daddario. She was already a teen hottie in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, but she has grown into quite the female specimen. Someone tell me why she wasn’t considered for Wonder Woman? She has the look! I don’t want to say she should leave the franchise that made her career behind, but she is the only thing worth watching in this film and judging by a certain scene in HBO’s True Detective, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.

Black guy doesn’t die….first. A popular trope in horror films is who dies first. Normally it is the slutty, huge chested blonde bimbo (usually wearing a cheerleading outfit or something that shows off her assets) or the black guy, occasionally you can throw in the token gay guy, but that hasn’t happened enough to become part of the pattern. Our token black guy in the film, played by R & B singer Trey Songz in his film debut, is not the first to go. Usually, when someone is making their debut that would mean they won’t be around very long, but Songz sticks around for much longer than expected. The first to die is actually someone not associated with the core group of characters, which I found to be quite interesting. Especially since, had he not been snooping around, this whole massacre could have been avoided.

What didn’t I like?

Bad CG. I was talking to someone the other day about why it is that everyone seems to hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I didn’t think it was such a bad film, but one of the things that we both agreed on was how Wolverine’s claws seem to be the same kind of CG that was used to bring cartoons to life in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Bad CG can kill a film, no matter how good it is. This film is far from being good and the CG just makes it worse. I can get over the blood spouting everywhere, but the killings resemble something from the early days of Mortal Kombat, rather than something we would get in a modern day horror flick.

Convenient car trouble. So, in the first encounter with Leatherface, as the group is trying to escape, the van seems to decide it needed to conveniently stop working just long enough for Leatherface to catch up with them, but then it will start and we repeat the sequence again, until he slashes their tires. My big problem with this is that they were able to drive from wherever they were to out in B.F.E. Texas without a problem. They even made a trip into town with the thing and yet, it stops working conveniently as a psycho killer with a chainsaw is coming after them.

Timeline. These people need to get their timeline straight. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out in the 70s. Alexandria Daddario’s character, who was a baby at that time, so she would be about 40 at the time of this film, rather than 20 something she is portraying. I see no reason that this couldn’t have been set in the 90s, or Daddario couldn’t have been the daughter of the abducted baby, but I guess that would make too much sense, now wouldn’t it?

Apparently, Texas Chainsaw 3D was more concerned with making Leatherface into some kind of sympathetic character, rather letting him kill people. Yes, that’s right, the serial killer in this film kills maybe 3 or 4 in the whole film. I didn’t care for what they tried to do with his character. The guy needs to be a mindless killer. There’s no need to explore it any deeper than that, but because this film does, it loses sight of what it needs to be, not to mention the side story involving the gang of college kids led by Alexandria Daddario, which is actually the main plot, is pushed away and forgotten. Still, I think there are some redeeming qualities about this flick. Do I recommend it? No, but if you’re in the mood for some unhorror-like horror, this would be one that you need to check out.

3 out of 5 stars

Teen Beach Movie

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Brady (Ross Lynch) and McKenzie “Mack” (Maia Mitchell), are high school sweethearts enjoying their time together surfing at the beach. Each time Brady mentions their best summer never ending, Mack looks guilty as if she is hiding something from him but he doesn’t notice it. After coming back inside McKenzie’s grandfather’s hut, McKenzie sees that Brady is a fan of the film “Wet Side Story”, a 1960s Beach Party film. In the film, bikers and surfers battle for which gang gets the privilege to hang out at Big Momma’s, a local diner and hangout. Mack, however, does not like such shows, viewing it as silly and illogical (as in the characters start singing about things for no reason and when they go in the water their hair never gets wet). Brady later learns that Mack made a promise to her aunt that after her mother died she would attend a private school and they were to leave the next day. Brady is annoyed Mack never told him about this (which she regrets) and is very upset she will be leaving. Mack asserts that although going is her choice, she feels it is what she has to do, since it’s what her mom would want. She sadly informs Brady that they will have to break up since when she leaves they will be unable to maintain their relationship.

As Mack packs up to leave, she then decides to go and surf a few hours before the flight, as that day the 40-foot wave is going to hit the beach. Seeing that the waves are becoming too strong, Brady gets on a jet ski and goes after Mack, who is still in the ocean. When Mack tries to ride a fairly big wave, she falls off her board and submerges and Brady jumps into the ocean after her. The two are swept away and when they end up on another beach they find out they’ve been swept inside the movie “Wet Side Story” They watch as the real movie cast perform “Surf Crazy”, which Brady at one point joins, though Mack is just frazzled. Brady sees their situation as an opportunity to have fun but Mack finds it the opposite. Brady tells her there will be a storm and giant wave that could probably bring them back home at the end of the movie but Mack is reluctant to wait for it. They go into Big Momma’s, the movie’s diner and hangout and introduce themselves to the surfers just before the bikers appear and start the surf and turf war. Brady tells Mack about the war, and why it exists, though Mack is still the opposite of amused. The bikers perform a musical number, “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin”, which Brady actually joins in on, even going so far as to dress like some of the bikers. After the song, Mack and Brady are invited by surfers to come to a party at Big Momma’s later that night. Mack was about to say no, but Brady cuts in, and automatically accepts, which leaves Mack even more upset. Just then, their clothing is suddenly changed to fit the movie and Mack’s surfboard appears nearby them.

That evening during a dance in Big Momma’s where Lela (Grace Phipps) is singing “Falling for Ya”, Mack and Brady argue about staying or trying to find a way out and Mack decides to investigate on her own. However, they suddenly change the movie when the movie’s lead man, Tanner (Garrett Clayton), falls in love with Mack after she bumps into him and Brady catches the lead girl, Lela when she falls off the stage. This interferes with the movie’s plot, in which Lela falls into Tanner’s arms, not Brady’s and thus another feud between the bikers and surfers would start. Brady and Mack decide to make Tanner and Lela fall in love to fix things. Brady also tells Mack about the villains of the film, Les Camembert (Steve Valentine) and Dr. Fusion (Kevin Chamberlin), who are going to try to affect the weather to make the surfers and bikers leave so they can control Big Momma’s and turn it into a beach resort.

Brady, Mack, Tanner and Lela take part in a musical number, “Meant to Be”, where Lela and Tanner express their love for Brady and Mack, while Mack and Brady subtly suggest to them that there may be someone else they are really meant to be with. This however doesn’t work, so Mack and Brady decide to split up to convince Lela and Tanner to be with each other. That night Mack joins Lela and the other biker girls for a slumber party, while Brady hangs out with Tanner and the surfer boys at Big Momma’s. While talking about love and the opposite gender, Mack and Brady’s modern relationship views conflict with the 60’s views, which leads to the song, “Like Me”. The next morning, biker-dressed Mack and surfer-dressed Brady meet and discuss how they are not having any success. Later that night, Lela tells Mack that she actually would like to surf and Mack persuades her to do it despite surfing being something that Lela shouldn’t do as a biker.

Mack and Brady each have Lela and Tanner walk down the beach in opposite directions, though Mack suddenly notices waves vanishing and goes to talk to Brady. However, Les’ plan isn’t their only concern as they realize they are morphing into the movie when Mack falls into shallow water her hair does not get wet and then suddenly they are forced to perform a song, “Can’t Stop Singing”. After the song Mack and Brady are captured by Les Camembert and Dr. Fusion and taken to the villains’ lighthouse lair.

Lela and Tanner fall in love with each other while waiting for Mack and Brady and sing a reprise of “Meant to Be”. They soon realize that their friends have been kidnapped by Les and Dr. Fusion. They go to Big Momma’s and convince the bikers and surfers to team up and save Mack and Brady. Meanwhile at the lighthouse, Mack and Brady talk about their experience in the movie and Mack finally admits that she is glad that she came and is spending more time with Brady. She says that she really doesn’t want to go to college but she felt it was what she was “supposed to do”. Mack realizes that it is similar to her telling Lela to surf despite what she is supposed to do and Mack concludes that Lela is braver than her. Brady denies that, saying that Mack is the bravest girl he knows. After that, they sing their own reprise of “Meant to Be”.

The surfers and bikers then crash into the lair, free Mack and Brady and destroy the machine that the villains made. The movie’s plot returns to normal and Mack and Brady realize they are able to return home when they magically are wearing their old clothes again. After saying goodbye to everyone, Mack and Brady get on the surfboard and ride a wave, which submerges them and sends them back to the real world, where they see that no time has passed since they left. The 40-foot wave Mack was looking forward to is still about to approach her too.

Brady allows Mack to surf the giant wave and she successfully does and safely returns to shore. Her aunt appears, upset about Mack delaying their flight but Mack decides to spend the rest of the year on the beach with Brady, seeing that following her heart would still make her mother happy, even though she originally thought going to college was the right thing to do. Her aunt accepts her decision and everyone on the beach participates in one last musical number along with the other teens on the beach, “Surf’s Up”.

In a post-credits scene, Lela, Tanner, Butchy, Struts, Seacat and Giggles wash up into the real world. A modern day surfer thinks they’re lost and allows them to use his cell phone, which they marvel at as they try to use it.

REVIEW:

Since today is the first day of summer, I thought it would be fitting to do something a bit more summer-like, so I was told to give Teen Beach Movie, one of those Disney Channel movies in the vein of High School Musical, but hopefully not as annoying. I recall seeing plenty of advertisements for this, but for some reason I missed it. I guess something more important was on or I had something else to do. At any rate, let’s have a look at thing one, shall we?

What is this about?

A rogue wave magically transports two teens inside a classic ’60s beach party flick, in which a rivalry between bikers and surfers threatens to erupt.

What did I like?

Homage. This generation of teens has no respect for classic films, especially the cheesier ones from the 60s. That attitude is on full display in the attitude that Maia Mitchell’s character has towards the way things were back then and how films were made. That’s beside the point, though. What is of note is how well the filmmakers managed to recreate the fun tone from the films of this era while still managing to bring in the melodrama of today’s emo teen flicks. That could not have been an easy task!

Zac Efron II. There must be a clone machine there at the Disney Channel because one of the film’s leads, Garret Clayton, bears a striking resemblance to Zac Efron. However, when it comes to acting, he isn’t quite where Efron was at this point in his career. Still, I think the future is bright for this kid. Who knows, maybe even down the road he can play Efron’s brother, son, or some other relative, along with the next clone they have in waiting. Ha!

Cheesy villain. If there is anything that I can recall from those Beach Party films, it is the scantily clad women. That won’t fly on the Disney Channel, though. So, the next thing that comes to mind was how cheesy the plot and villains were. Keeping in that spirit, the film brings in a couple of cheesy evil doers who show up, say what they’re plotting, then disappear until it is time for their plot to unfold. For the purposes of this flick, it works!

What didn’t I like?

Feminist. I don’t want to sound like some kind of chauvinist pig, but I’ve had enough of these female characters who insist on doing everything their male counterparts can do, don’t want to be saved, etc. I guess I’m just old fashioned that way. Sue me! What makes it really bad with this film is that Maia Mitchell’s character beats us over the head with her beliefs, much in the same way your typical feminist character would in 80s and 90s movies and television. Strangely enough, by the film’s end, after all the bloviating, she seems to have come around, making it a moot point, if you ask me.

Music. Say what you will about the 3 High School Musical films, they had decent music. Some of it was even catchy, I think. With this, though, someone dropped the ball. There are two semi-catchy tunes, including one that seemingly merges Grease with West Side Story in its choreography. I must say that while I wasn’t expecting a tour de force, in the musical department, I at least wanted to be entertained, This is a musical, after all!

Mysterious ways. The major plot device is how our two leads manage to get from modern day to 1962. Not just 1962, but inside a movie! Closest way I can think of this is in Pleasantville, but they had a remote control to explain things. How it is that they ended up in a movie, which was conveniently mentioned in the scene before, by falling through a monster wave is never explained, other than a special glow on the surfboard. I guess that was supposed be enough to show everyone what happened.

Teen Beach Movie was obviously made to get this generation interested in those beach movies of the 60s. Unfortunately, it spends too much time trying to bring in the modern themes and make fun of the old school. For the most part, though, this is a decent enough film, but the fact that it doesn’t have a strong musical score, despite being a musical, I can’t get past. Also, it seems to appeal directly to the teen/tween audience, leaving everyone else out in the dark. Do I recommend this? Yes, but not very strongly. For me, this is just an average flick that some will like, some will hate, and other will love. Check it out and decide which one you are!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 6/19

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on June 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

This week, let’s go back to the year 1946.

Let’s get all dolled up, grab a few coins and head to the theater for the next big motion picture. First, let’s check out one of the trailers that catches our eyes, shall we.

With a cast, that sports the likes of Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Judy Garland, Red Skelton, among others, this is sure to be a hit! I don’t know about you, but after watching this, I can’t wait to come back and watch Ziegfeld Follies.

Rumor has it that there is a dance scene between Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. That in itself should be enough to check it out, right?

What do you think?

Revisited: Mr. Holland’s Opus

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1965, Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) is a professional musician and composer who has been relatively successful in the exhausting life of a musical performer. However, in an attempt to enjoy more free time with his young wife, Iris (Glenne Headly), and to enable him to compose a piece of orchestral music, the 30-year-old Holland accepts a teaching position.

Unfortunately for Holland, he is soon forced to realize that his position as a music teacher makes him a marginalized figure in the faculty’s hierarchy. He comes face to face with how seriously he is outranked by the high school’s football coach, Bill (Jay Thomas), who ultimately becomes his best friend. Administrators, such as vice principal Gene Wolters (William H. Macy), dislike him, while others, including principal Helen Jacobs (Olympia Dukakis), remind him that he should not teach just because of financial reasons. It is Mrs. Jacobs’ scolding that helps Holland turn a corner. He starts to use rock and roll as a way to help children understand classical music. Reluctantly, he begins seeing his students as individuals and finds ways to help them excel.

When Iris becomes pregnant, Holland uses the money saved up for his orchestrating to buy a house. Their son Cole is born sometime during the summer after his first year of teaching. Holland is then assigned to be in charge of the school marching band. Bill helps him in exchange for allowing football player Louis Russ (Terrence Howard) to play the drums for academic credit.

The film marks the passing decades with newsreels about Vietnam, corresponding to the tragic combat death of Louis, and the death of John Lennon in 1980. The passage of time and the mysteries of personal growth are a frequent underlying theme in this film.

Holland’s lack of quality time with his wife becomes problematic when their son, Cole, is diagnosed as deaf. Holland reacts with hostility to the news that he can never teach the joys of music to his own child. His wife willingly learns American Sign Language to communicate with their son, but Holland learns at a much slower rate, causing further estrangement within the family.

Through three decades, Holland becomes closer to students at John F. Kennedy High School than he is with his own son. At one point in the film, he is briefly tempted by the shining talent of a young female student, who invites him to leave his stressful, unsatisfying life and run off to New York City with her. When Holland expresses to Cole the assumption that he cannot understand what music means to his father, Cole lashes out and reveals that he does appreciate music but needs his father to reach out to him. The incident encourages Holland to find different ways for Cole and other deaf children understand music, and he puts on a concert for them during which he sings and signs Beautiful Boy, directing the song towards Cole.

Holland addresses a series of challenges created by people who are either skeptical of, or hostile towards, the idea of musical excellence within the walls of the average middle-class American high school. He inspires many students, but never has time for himself or his family, forever delaying the composition of his own orchestral composition. Ultimately, he reaches an age when it is too late to realistically find financial backing or ever have it performed.

In 1995, the adversaries of the Kennedy High music program win a decisive institutional victory. Holland’s longtime adversary Gene Wolters, assigned school principal when Jacobs retired, works with the school board to eliminate music, along with the rest of the fine arts program, in the name of necessary budget cuts, thereby leading to Glenn’s early retirement at the age of 60. Glenn is a realist who realizes that his working life is over. He believes that his former students have mostly forgotten him.

On his final day as a teacher, Iris and an adult Cole (who is now a teacher himself) arrive to help Holland pack up. Feeling despondent over his self-perceived lack of achievement, Holland is led to the school auditorium, where his professional life is surprisingly redeemed. Hearing that their beloved teacher is retiring, hundreds of his former pupils have secretly returned to the school to celebrate his career.

Holland’s orchestral piece, never before heard in public, has been put before the musicians by his wife and son. One of his most musically challenged students, Gertrude Lang (Alicia Witt as a child and Joanna Gleason as an adult), who has become governor of the state, sits in with her clarinet. Gertrude and the other alumni ask the retiring teacher to serve as their conductor for the premiere performance of Mr. Holland’s Opus (“The American Symphony”). A proud Iris and Cole look on, appreciating the affection and respect that Holland receives.

REVIEW:

I don’t know where I’d be without the music teachers in my life because, truth be told, the only thing I was ever any good at was music. Well, I was decent at ROTC stuff, but major dad (not the show) took care of that. Mr. Holland’s Opus reminds us all of how important music teachers are in the lives and development of their students (that is not to say that other teachers aren’t as important). The question here is, why is this something that deserves a movie and is it worth watching?

What is this about?

Decades pass after a musician takes a high school teaching job, thinking it’s just an obstacle to reaching his true calling: writing a historic opus.

What did I like?

Say it ain’t so, Coach. A popular stereotype is that the “band geeks” and “jocks” can’t stand each other. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that this comes from coaches and band directors hatred/disdain for each other. I know that’s how it was for me in high school, even though there were a few that burned the candle at both ends. Surprisingly, though, this film throws that out the window. On Mr. Holland’s first day, as he is standing in the lunch line, the P.E. coach comes through, tells him teachers don’t wait in line and a lifelong friendship is started. This is the kind of thing we need to see more of, don’t you think? Coaches can’t always be complete dumb jocks who never grew out of that bully stage of their lives, now can they?

Music in our schools. Sadly, the film’s final act is prefaced with the nightmare of every teacher who isn’t a (football) coach or core curriculum instructor…budget cuts. I don’t need to tell you what got cut, do I? Yes, the music department. Well, all the arts apparently. As an advocate for music in our schools, I could go on some long diatribe about how this happens everyday in our country, but this is not the place. However, as I said with Music of the Heart and Our Song, this brings the plight of our youth, and what is being taken away from them, to the public eye. Richard Dreyfuss has a line in this scene that sums it up best, “…you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.”

High school. Nine times out of ten, when it comes to films about high school, the focus is on the horny and/or overdramatic teenagers. Am I right? Yes, there will be a subplot involving certain teachers, but only just. What is different about this film is that is focuses solely on Mr. Holland and 2 or 3 other faculty members throughout the entire film. As far as students go, there is one that is focused on for each year the film chooses, such as a young Alicia Witt struggling with her clarinet, or Terrence Howard (in his film debut) trying to find the beat, or the lovelorn Jean Louisa Kelly, who brings down the house with her rendition of “Someone to Watch Over Me”. Those three are important, yes, but they aren’t central to the film’s plot, even though Alicia Witt’s character returns for the finale.

What didn’t I like?

Time lapse. So, the film takes its time going through the later half of the 60s, but fast-forwards through the 70s, stops in 1980 to honor John Lennon’s death, then skips the rest of the 80s and end is 1995. I wouldn’t have such an issue with this, except that is seems as if this was done just to save time. There is no real reason to suddenly skip through all those years, especially since the film moves so slow through the 60s!

Performance. First off, with the exception of the final performance, and maybe the one at the school for the deaf, it seemed as if the band/orchestra selections were played by high schoolers, rather than a college band or professionals in a studio *COUGH* Drumline *COUGH*. However, they still didn’t convey that they were actually playing. As a trumpet player myself, it is easiest for me to pick them out, especially when they’re holding the horn with the wrong hand and pressing down multiple keys in rapid succession when only a single note is being played. My other issue is with Richard Dreyfuss’ conducting. It doesn’t matter if you’re left-handed or not, the baton goes in your right hand and your left is used to emote, cue, etc. I give kudos for trying to make it look authentic, but that is a major detail that whoever taught him failed to mention.

Long gig. Man, when Mr. Holland woke up that first day in 1965 to start this teaching gig, I’m sure the last thing he thought was that he’d be doing it for 30 years. The guy was a professional musician. Oh wait…was he? From what we can infer, it seems like it, and the gigs just dried up, but the film never specifically says that is what he was. I don’t really know why, either. All it would have taken is one line to say what he was doing before he started teaching and that’s it, but no, guess that was too much.

Mr. Holland’s Opus has a special place in my heart, and always will, because it shows that teachers make a lasting impression on their students, whether they realize it then or down the road. It also has a great variety of music from its trip through time, including a Gershwin revue, brings up issues that are still relevant today, and takes some chances with tropes that have been popular since tropes began. For me, there isn’t much wrong with this film, except for a few nitpicky things. I highly, highly recommend this as a film to see before you die! So, go check it out!

5 out of 5 stars

Chisum

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

John Chisum (John Wayne), a virtuous, patriarchal land baron, locks horns with greedy Lawrence Murphy (Forrest Tucker), who will stop at nothing to get control of the trade and even the law in Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Chisum is an aging rancher with an eventful past and a paternalistic nature towards his companions and community. Murphy, a malevolent land developer, plans to take control of the county for his own personal gain.

The story begins with Murphy’s men tipping off Mexican rustlers who plan to steal Chisum’s horses. Chisum and his sidekick Pepper (Ben Johnson) stop the bandits with help from a newcomer to the area, William Bonney (Geoffrey Deuel), also known as Billy the Kid. A notorious killer, Billy has been given a chance to reform by Chisum’s philanthropic neighbor, rancher Henry Tunstall (Patric Knowles). Billy also falls for Chisum’s newly arrived niece, Sallie (Pamela McMyler).

Murphy is buying up all the stores in town and using his monopoly to push up the prices. He appoints his own sheriff and deputies. He also brings in a lawyer, Alex McSween (Andrew Prine), whose principles lead him to switch sides and seek work with Chisum and Tunstall. The two ranchers set up their own bank and general store in town under McSween’s control.

Chisum’s land and cattle remain targets. Murphy’s men attempt to steal Chisum’s cattle before he can sell them to the Army. Chisum’s ranch hands are warned by Pat Garrett (Glenn Corbett), a passing buffalo hunter. Garrett agrees to help Chisum and soon befriends Bonney. Together they foil an attack by Murphy’s men on the wagons bringing in provisions for the new store.

Fed up with Murphy’s underhand activities, Tunstall rides off to Santa Fe to seek the intervention of Gov. Sam Axtell (Alan Baxter). On the way he is intercepted by Murphy’s deputies, who falsely accuse him of cattle rustling and shoot him dead. Chisum and Garrett hunt down the deputies and ride them back towards town for trial. Bonney, seeking revenge for the murder of his mentor, overpowers Garrett and shoots dead both deputies. Before Sheriff Brady (Bruce Cabot) can organise a posse, Billy rides into town and kills him too.

Murphy appoints bounty hunter Dan Nodeen (Christopher George) as the new sheriff, giving him orders to hunt down Bonney. Nodeen has a score to settle, as a previous encounter with Bonney has left him with a permanent limp.

Billy’s plans for revenge are only just beginning. He breaks into McSween’s store looking for dynamite. He is spotted by Nodeen, who gets Murphy’s men to surround the store. McSween comes out unarmed but Nodeen shoots him in cold blood.

Chisum is alerted by McSween’s wife (Lynda Day George) and rides into town. The main street is blocked, so Chisum stampedes his cattle through the barricades. He tracks down Murphy and takes him on in a fist fight which ends with both men falling from a balcony. Murphy ends up impaled on steer horns. With his paymaster dead, Nodeen flees with Billy in pursuit.

The film ends with Garrett taking over as sheriff and settling down with Sallie. It’s been learned that General Lew Wallace takes over as governor of the area. With law and order restored, Chisum can resume his iconic vigil over the Pecos valley.

REVIEW:

First off, let’s get the sophomoric, mind in the gutter jokes about the name/title of this film out of the way.

 

I’ll wait…

 

Everybody good now? I had to spew a couple of those out myself, so don’t feel bad if you couldn’t resist. So, things seem to be settling down and I am slowly, but surely, getting back to a regular schedule of film viewing. With Chisum, I happened to be standing in line and saw it in the $5 bin. The reason I picked it up was because it happened to be a double feature with perhaps my favorite John Wayne film of all time, The Cowboys. I had never seen this one, but as hard as it is to find that classic Wayne film without mortgaging a house and sacrificing your first-born, I couldn’t resist. Was this worth the price? Should I have left it in the bin? Perhaps it is just one of those accompanying discs that no one ever pays any attention to, other than to say it came as a package deal. Which will it be?

What is this about?

John Wayne stars as tough cattle baron John Chisum in one of his better late-era Westerns, directed by Andrew McLaglen. Chisum fights con artists, corrupt town officials (Forrest Tucker) — even Billy the Kid (Geoffrey Deuel) — in order to keep the peace and his cattle ranch intact.

What did I like?

Billy boy. One of the most infamous outlaws in the old west is Billy the Kid. When we meet him in this flick he has garnered a bit of a reputation, but is trying to go straight. As you can imagine, one does not put Billy the Kid into their movie without making him an outlaw, or at the very least, the sharpshooter that the history books tell us he was. While this wasn’t my favorite portrayal of him on the big screen, I did appreciate Geofrrey Deuel’s take on the character.

Real or not. It turns out that John Chisum was a real person. I should have guessed that since there is an entire school district in Texas named after him. As you can imagine liberties were taken, and you will be scratching your head as to what is real and what isn’t. That being said, for the purpose of making a film, I think what the filmmakers did was an excellent job. No, I wouldn’t show this in a history class, but sometimes it is ok to fudge the facts for entertainment purposes. Anyone remember Amadeus and how far removed it is from the truth?

Black and white. In today’s film, audiences don’t seem to be happy unless the hero and villain deal in shades of gray when it comes to their moral character. I tend to be a bit more old school and prefer the days when you knew who was good and who was bad. Hell, give me the day when the bad guy wore the black hat and the good guy wore the white hat. Well, maybe not (he says looking around at all of his black caps). I felt refreshed to go back to a simpler time and know that this villainous banker was the bad guy almost from the first time we meet him and Chisum is the good guy. The only grey area is with Billy the Kid, and we all know his tale.

What didn’t I like?

Womenfolk. Not to come off sounding like a male chauvinist, but what was the point of the women in the film? They weren’t the strong type, they weren’t in the kitchen cooking, and they weren’t damsels in distress. The two females in the cast were just there. Wait, let me take that back. The young lady that is Chisum’s niece served as some sort of love interest for Billy the Kid and subsequently Pat Garrett, but otherwise, she was useless other than looking pretty and buying a $100 horse as soon as she got off the train. The other lady, married to the lawyer, McSweeney, has one big moment near the end, but that was something that could have been done by anyone, so she was useless, as well.

I don’t like yer face. Motivation for this villain? Basically, he comes into town, learns that when Chisum moved out there he bought up everything and now he wants a piece of the pie, even though everyone is happy and prospering. In other words, he’s just an ass. No fancy word for that. People die all because this guy thinks he’s entitled to what Chisum worked for. Guess he never heard of the phrase, “the early bird catches the worm.

Showing his age. At this point in his career, John Wayne was filming his last few roles. Long gone are the days when he commanded the screen from the entire runtime of the film, but rather he shows up for a few scenes, and is gone for large chunks of the movie. I can only assume this was due to health reasons, but I could be wrong. It is always hard to watch a hero in his twilight. A video was posted not long after WrestleMania showing the Undertaker, my all time favorite wrestler, coming out of the hotel and it nearly brought me to tears. It reminded me of the last days my grandfather spend on this Earth, after so many years as a strong, able-bodied man, to go out like that. With Wayne, it isn’t as severe as that, but it is disheartening when you compare this to his earlier films and notice the difference in screen time.

As far as westerns, and film for that matter, go, Chisum will go down as one the more entertaining, yet poignant pictures that I have seen. There is a lesson to be learned here about the law of the land, bits of comedy, romance, and the standard western shootout. Also, we get John Wayne punching a guy’s lights out. Is there anything else you need to see? I highly recommend this as a film you should see before you die, so go find it and watch ASAP!

4 1/3 out of 5 stars

Hercules in New York

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 13, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Hercules, at Olympus, berates his father Zeus for not allowing him to leave the gods’ abode to adventure on earth. Eventually Zeus sends Hercules, on a beam, to the land of men.

After some strange encounters in the air and at sea, Hercules arrives in New York City, where hilarity ensues in the form of interactions with various New Yorkers, who regard him as physically superior but socially awkward. He meets a skinny little guy called Pretzie (Arnold Stang). Hercules becomes a successful professional wrestler.

Zeus, watching Hercules from the heights, becomes irritated with Hercules’ antics, which he feels are making a mockery of the gods, and calls on Mercury to stop Hercules. After Mercury makes an unsuccessful attempt to bring Hercules home, Zeus orders Nemesis to see to it that Hercules is consigned to the infernal regions ruled over by Pluto.

However, Juno instead convinces Nemesis to poison Hercules with a poison that would strip him of his divinity and then talk to Pluto. Nemesis informs Pluto of what is happening and he bets a large sum of money against Hercules in an upcoming strongman competition with Hercules’ gangster manager.

When Hercules loses the strongman competition his friends try to lead off Hercules’ angry manager’s henchmen, but Hercules follows them to save them.

Meanwhile, Zeus uncovers the truth from Nemesis as to what is happening but only intervenes at the last minute to restore Hercules’ divinity, not wanting any son of his to die at the hands of a mortal.

Hercules defeats the gangsters and realizes that he has been disobedient and returns to the heavens shortly after, only saying good-bye to Pretzie over a radio after he leaves.

In the heavens, Zeus tells Juno and Hercules that he is not going to punish Hercules for his behavior as they ask him about it and then asks to be left alone. They leave him alone, and upon their departure, Zeus sneaks out of the heavens and descends to earth, scaring a passenger jet on his way down.

REVIEW:

Before he was The Terminator, Governator, or any other -ator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was nothing more than a new muscle-bound face in Hollywood. Hercules in New York is his first US film, I believe, as he is only 22 years of age and had just beaten Lou Ferrigno (you know, Th Incredible Hulk from TV) for the title of Mr. Olympia, Universe, or whatever the bodybuilding title is. Arnold’s muscles were a thing of beauty, but were they enough to carry an entire film?

What is this about?

Long before he became governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger (billed as Arnold Strong) starred as the titular god in this comic adventure. Bored of life on Mount Olympus, Herc is zapped by a lightning bolt into 20th-century New York. He befriends a pretzel vendor (Arnold Stang), tears through Times Square in a chariot and crosses paths with the mob and a shifty wrestling promoter before Zeus (Ernest Graves) orders him to return home.

What did I like?

Sidekick. What is a good action film without a nerdy sidekick, right? In this one, we get a guy who must have been an inspiration for Rick Moranis, because many of his mannerisms remind one of good ol’ Rick. I would wager no one known who Arnold Stang is. Even I don’t know much about him other than he appeared in an episode of The Cosby Show (the one with Sammy Davis, Jr.) and was the voice of Top Cat, Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, and various other characters and commercials. His pairing with the giant, muscle-bound Schwarzenegger is odd, to say the least, but it also genius. Remember, in about 15-20 years after this, Arnold teams up with another man of diminutive stature that you would never guess he’d have chemistry with, Danny DeVito, in Twins. We all know how well that one ended up, right?

Ye Gods. Originally, I thought this was going be some movie where a guy wakes up in a museum and realizes he’s Hercules, but in New York, and the only mention of the gods would be in passing here and there. That wasn’t the case, though, as they are major parts of the plot, especially Zeus. As a matter of fact, there is almost this Clash of the Titans vibe with their gathering on Olympus that I really enjoyed.

Strong look. Apparently, finding someone who has the look of how we all think Hercules should appear is next to impossible, but Schwarzenegger pulls it off. Then again, the guy is a bodybuilder, what do you expect? Take a look at the upcoming Hercules movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and he is about the same size, if not bigger. There is always the Disney version and Kevin Sorbo’s take in the PS3 game, God of War III that also seem to be very similar. All this is to say, with everything else about this film, Arnold had the look.

What didn’t I like?

Action. I was watching something one day and it showed what some of the most iconic scenes in film would look and sound like without the score behind them. Most were painful to watch because of the silence. That is what happens to this flick whenever there is an action scene. Not only does the music cut out, but so does all the sound! Come to think of it, I don’t think there was much of a score to this film! Who had that bright idea?!?

Mixology. Last I checked, Zeus, Juno, and Samson weren’t all in the same belief. Hercules is a Greek demigod, so all the other deities should have been Greek, as well. So, why was Hera called Juno? Why was Samson, a character from the Bible, called in? It was all quite confusing! Stick to one or the other. I would make an exception for Pluto, because some people get offended when you say Hades, but they say hell in the movie, so no excuse for not calling him Hades!

Petulant child. In Thor, we meet an immortal of immense strength, royal lineage, and a bad attitude. The same thing applies to Hercules. Similarities between him and Thor abound, but the thing that sticks out the most is how much more Hercules seems to not care about anyone but himself. At least Thor showed compassion for his compatriots. Hercules just came off as a brat throughout most of the picture.

Dubstep. At this time in his career, Schwarzenegger’s English was not so good, so the filmmakers decided to dub his voice. The problem with that is that it is obviously not Arnold’s. At least with kung-fu and Godzilla films, when the Japanese is dubbed, we English speakers get a chuckle of how bad the dub is because the words don’t line up with the mouths. That isn’t the case with Schwarzenegger, as the dubbed voice sounds as pretentious as this version of Hercules appears to be. This isn’t the first time Hercules has been dubbed, either. If I recall, I believe Mickey Hargitay was dubbed in Hercules vs. the Hydra and Arnold was again dubbed in his next major release, that I know of, Conan, the Barbarian. Those were better dub jobs, though.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to put Hercules in modern-day, mix him up with some gangsters, and attempt to give him a rather average looking love interest needs to be drug out into the street and shot! There is a reason this is considered one of the worst films ever made. Still, I’ve seen much worse. Do I recommend it? If you’re a die-hard Schwarzenegger fan, especially when he was young and even more muscle-bound than we have grown to know him being, then yes, but don’t expect greatness. This is one of his first films, after all, and he doesn’t even deliver the lines (unless you happen upon the version that isn’t dubbed). Otherwise, best to avoid this at all costs!

2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 6/12

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on June 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday, people!

On Facebook, I’ve been noticing lots of people going through changes, be it through losing weight, having babes, getting married, breaking up, or even a new haircut. This got me thinking about change. Suddenly, Sheryl Crow’s “A Change Will Do You Good” popped in my head. Then I thought Crow. Wouldn’t that be a good trailer for this week? So, let’s go back to the year 1994 and enjoy the trailer for The Crow.

 

 

Maleficent

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An elderly woman narrates and tells the story of Maleficent, a young and very powerful fairy living in the Moors, a magical realm bordering a human kingdom. As a young girl she meets a human peasant boy named Stefan. As they grow older they begin to fall in love. However, Stefan’s wishes take him away to the castle, and his love for Maleficent is overshadowed by his ambition to become king. They begin to drift apart until Stefan stops coming to see her on the border between the two kingdoms. After Maleficent defeats the king in battle, the king becomes fatally ill and offers his crown to whoever kills Maleficent. Stefan visits her at night, drugs her, and burns off her wings with iron (a lethal substance to faries) and presents them to the king as proof she was slain. Maleficent awakens, and heartbroken by Stefan’s betrayal and the loss of her wings, she names herself queen of the Moors, which becomes a dark and oppressive kingdom. Maleficent saves the life of a raven named Diaval by turning him into a human. He swears to serve her for life as her one companion and confidant, constantly being shape-shifted from man to bird and other animals as she needs him.

Some time later, Maleficent sends Diaval to the castle to update their status, to which he returns to inform her that the king (now married to the former king’s daughter Leila) has had a baby girl named Aurora. As revenge for Stefan’s betrayal, Maleficent arrives uninvited and curses the baby with a sleeping curse to take effect on her sixteenth birthday after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. However, in an act of mercy and irony, she gives the curse an antidote in true love’s kiss, which she believes does not exist. Stefan, paranoid of Maleficent and her vengeance against him, orders all the spinning wheels in the kingdom to be burned and locked away, and he sends Aurora off to live with three pixies hidden deep in the woods until the day after her sixteenth birthday.

Despite her initial dislike for Aurora, Maleficent begins caring for her from afar when the neglectful pixies fail to care for her. When Aurora is 15, she finally comes in contact with Maleficent, believing her to be her “fairy godmother” as she recalled being watched over by her all her life. Maleficent allows Aurora to spend more time in the faerie kingdom. Realizing she has grown fond of the princess, Maleficent attempts to revoke the curse, but fails to do so as she made it so that it could not be changed by any power, not even her own. When Aurora meets Prince Phillip, the two are immediately attracted to one another. He tells her he is on his way to King Stefan’s castle, but promises to return to see her. On the day before her sixteenth birthday, Aurora expresses her wish to live with Maleficent in her kingdom, which Maleficent allows in the hope that doing so will prevent the curse. However, the pixies let slip truth about Aurora’s parentage and Maleficent’s curse. Heartbroken by the truth, Aurora runs from Maleficent and the pixies back to her father.

Stefan locks Aurora away for safe keeping after a quick and heartless reunion. However, the curse takes hold, drawing Aurora to a spinning wheel (magically assembled by her curse) in the dungeon and hypnotizing her to touch it. Having failed to protect the princess, Maleficent sneaks into the castle with Phillip, hoping his brief meeting with Aurora in the woods will be enough to break the curse. Phillip’s kiss fails, however, and Maleficent apologizes to the princess, swearing no harm will come to her while she sleeps, and kisses her forehead. Aurora awakens, as Maleficent’s “true love” for Aurora is that of a mother to her daughter, and reaffirms her wish to live with her in the faerie kingdom. As they attempt to flee the castle, Maleficent is captured by an iron net that falls from the ceiling from an ambush of angry guards. The guards and Stefan, in iron armor and using iron weapons, beat and torture a disoriented Maleficent. Using her last power, Maleficent transforms Diaval into a dragon and while they initially hold the upper ground, they soon begin to lose as the guards restrain Diaval. Maleficent is nearly killed before Aurora frees Maleficent’s stolen wings from their glass case. With her wings restored, Maleficent overpowers Stefan and he eventually falls to his death. Aurora is later named queen of both the humans and faeries by Maleficent, forever unifying the two kingdoms, with Phillip at her side. The narrator then reveals her identity as Aurora, affirming that the kingdoms had been united not by a hero or a villain, but by someone who was both — Maleficent

REVIEW:

Arguably the most popular villain in the world of Disney is Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty, although I personally rank her behind Jafar, from Aladdin. Continuing with the trend of reminaging fairy tales as darker stories and giving us the tale we all know, but with a little more back story on the villain, as made popular by the Broadway musical, Wicked, Maleficent aims to humanize the evil fairy, but does it succeed?

What is this about?

Turning the classic fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” on its head, this fantasy drama retells the story from the point of view of evil godmother Maleficent. While defending her homeland from invaders, the young Maleficent is dealt a cruel blow by fate.

What did I like?

Casting. When you look at the animated version of Maleficent and think of anyone that could possibly bring her to life, the only logical person is Angelina Jolie. The only thing that had to be changed was some added angular cheekbones. I joked with a friend a little while ago that had this been made around the time of Wanted, they may not have even had to do that. Casting Jolie was not only good to bring people into the theater, but she also brought some real life to this character and seemed to genuinely be having fun with it, something that I don’t believe we’ve seen her do since the Tomb Raider movies, or at least Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

History. When you reimagine a film, especially a true classic such as Sleeping Beauty, you better be sure to throw in some nods to the original. In some places, this film not only nods to the source material, but it recreates certain scenes, most notably the grand entrance of Maleficent where she curses Aurora. I was watching this and in the back of my mind remembering the animated version. Save for a couple of changes is wordplay, different hand gestures, and taking out the death pat of the curse, it was the exact same scene! How awesome is that?!?

Beauty. Being a Disney film about one of their most popular characters, you know this wasn’t going to be some half-hearted schlock that they just spit out because they could. Obvious care was taken in crafting the visual effects. It almost felt like you were watching a Guillermo del Toro picture what with the variety of creepy creatures and such. Don’t get me started on how beautiful the moor was both in the “happy” times, and when it is covered in thorns and darkness. Truly breathtaking!

What didn’t I like?

Stefan. *SIGH* Since Maleficent is a bit more of an anti-hero in this retelling, there needs to be a villain, right? Who better to become the villain than the king? I have no problem with Sharlto Copley’s take on the character. He was doing what the script told him to do, and did a damn fine job of it. However, let’s go back and look at the original, shall we? King Stefan is about as cool, calm, and collected as one can be. How in the bloody blue hell did they decide he needed to go over the deep end and become a villain? Seems to me that either Prince Philip, who was totally useless in this film, or his father…can’t think of his name right now…would have been better fitted, based on their personality. However, I do see the motivation for Stefan, it just doesn’t gel with what we already have seen. More on that shortly.

Wings. Apparently, Maleficent had wings. When she had said wings, she was a force for good, but once those wings were cut off, she required the use of a walking stick, turned evil, and made everyone around her subservient. On top of that, these wings still managed to maintain a life of their own, as can be seen in the climactic battle. My only issue with the wings is that they apparently are the source of her good mood. Is Maleficent really that emotionally unstable?

Change. People are loving this change to what we know about this story, but not me. I prefer to keep things the way they are supposed to be. I wasn’t expecting this to be another Sleeping Beauty story, but rather more of a story of Maleficent leading up to part of that tale, much like Oz: The Great and Powerful. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that and many of the key story points were changed, much t my dismay. With Cinderella next on the docket, I can only wonder how much that one will be changed. I really wish they’d leave stuff alone!

Surprisingly, Maleficent was a much more entertaining (and dark) film than I thought it would be. Angelina Jolie does a great job of bringing her to life and my only real problem with her is that she isn’t green and doesn’t have that evil presence that the original, voiced by Eleanor Audley, managed to bring. Still, with all my personal issues with this film, mostly me being a Disney purist, I still found a way to enjoy this picture. So, I’m sure those that aren’t as anal as myself will have a good time with it and I highly recommend you check it out!

Any takers on how long until we get a Jafar movie?

4 out of 5 stars