Archive for August, 2014

The Man from Planet X

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A spaceship from a previously unknown planet lands in the Scottish moors, bringing an alien creature to earth near the observatory of Professor Elliot (Raymond Bond), just days before the planet will pass closest to the earth. When the professor and his friend, American reporter John Lawrence (Robert Clarke), discover the creature, they help it when it is in distress and try to communicate with it, but fail. They leave, and the alien follows them home. A colleague of the professor, the unscrupulous and ambitious scientist Dr. Mears (William Schallert), discovers how to communicate with the creature and tries to get from it by force the formula for the metal the spaceship is made of. He shuts off the alien’s breathing apparatus and leaves it for dead, telling the professor that communication was hopeless.

Soon, Lawrence discovers that the alien is gone, as is the professor’s daughter, Enid (Margaret Field). Tommy, the village constable (Roy Engle), reports that others from the village are missing as well. Lawrence takes the constable to the site where the spaceship has been, but it is no longer there. With more people now missing – including Mears – the phone lines dead and the village in a panic, they get word to Scotland Yard by using a heliograph to contact a passing freighter.

When an Inspector (David Ormont) and sergeant fly in and are briefed on the situation, it is decided that the military must destroy the spaceship. Lawrence objects that doing so will also kill the people who are under the alien’s control. With the mysterious planet due to reach its closest distance to the earth at midnight, Lawrence is given until 11:00 to rescue them. He sneaks up to the ship, and learns from Mears that the alien intends the ship to become a wireless relay station in advance of an invasion from its home planet, which is dying. Lawrence orders the enthralled villagers to leave and attacks the alien, shutting off its breathing apparatus, then escapes with Enid and the professor. Mears, however, returns to the ship and is killed when the military destroys the ship, just before the planet approaches and then recedes back into outer space.

REVIEW:

Returning to the realm of classic (cheesy) sci-fi of the 50s and 60s, as well as looking for something I could watch quickly before bedtime, I came across The Man from Planet X. Just the fact that it has planet X in the title was enough to pique my interest. Is this planet some mysterious entity or does the X represent a homeworld of pornographic intentions? The possibilities are endless, so I just had to know!

What is this about?

An alien from a dying planet becomes the puppet of an evil scientist and uses his superior intellect to enslave the minds of his victims.

What did I like?

Military involvement. One thing that really “grinds my gears” about sci-fi alien films is how the military is always there to shoot first and ask questions later, often sparking a war, as in Mars Attacks, or causing the near destruction of Earth, even though the alien came on a peacekeeping mission, as in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Until the last few scenes of this film, the military is nowhere to be found. I guess European military forces have the common sense to find out what the true intention of our visitors are, rather than attack them as soon as they land, like we do over here in the U.S.

Elegance in simplicity. For the most part, the plot of this film is simple. Alien comes to Earth because his planet is dying, fools the Earthlings and then tries to enslave them and take over the planet. Nothing fancy about that, right? Well, that is the precise reason this film works so well. We don’t get anything too complicated that ruins one’s enjoyment of the film by causing us to have to be constantly thinking about this, that, or the other. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that is okay, but not everything needs to be on the level of Inception. Something simple can be just as effective, if not more so.

Communication is key. Here on Earth, it is hard enough to communicate with people who live next door to us, let alone halfway across the globe, so how it makes sense that topic of communication with a being from another world come to the forefront. In some cartoons, movies, TV shows, etc., it is automatic that we understand each other or there is some kind of device that allows us to communicate, such as the Babel fish from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. All this is well and good, but sometimes, it just needs to be left alone, as done here and see how things play out.

What didn’t I like?

Another one. When we first the titular character, it is quite the jump scare. I’ll get more into his look and design shortly, but after a pretty good introduction to the audience like that, he mostly, dissolves into just another alien that we see in these type of films over and over again. It seems to me that they should have made him more of a character and less of a prop. Even when all the humans are enslaved, we don’t really see him! For what turns out to be an antagonist, he sure is a non-character.

Left with a questionable character?  One member of the group is a man with a questionable past. Forgive me for not remembering what it is he did that was so horrible, but it was bad enough to leave everyone questioning whether or not to trust him. I don’t know about you, but if there is a question of trust, then I’m not going to leave such a valuable commodity like the alien with him to watch. That would be like leaving your small child with a convicted child molester, or worse! Sure enough, his true colors come out and the alien is put in danger.

Sympathy. How often do we feel sorry for the antagonist in films? It happens now and then, right? In the case of the alien, we give him our sympathy because of two things, the way he is treated by Mears and the way he is designed. No creature should be forced to do anything, and Mears, as I just mentioned does nothing but try to force him to do things so he can make a fortune. As far as the design of the alien goes, he is quite the pathetic looker. As you can tell by the poster up top, it is almost as if he was given a frown, or at least a near crying face. I don’t know about you, but that draws me in and gives me cause to feel for this creature more than if had a scowl on his face would.

When we think of classic sci-fi, The Man from Planet X is not one that immediately comes to mind. There is nothing that hasn’t been done before (or after) this was released and executed better. Having said that, I still believe this film has a place among the better average films of this genre. There isn’t anything inherently horrible about this film. As a matter of fact, it is quite good, but the sum of its parts does not equal anything more than an average film, which is a shame, because this feels like it should be better. Do I recommend it? It is a good watch on a rainy weekend when you’re stuck inside and can’t do anything, but as far as watching out of the blue, I would have to say no because there are far superior sci-fi films out there from this period of time.

3 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 8/28

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on August 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

This week, let’s travel back to the days of sock hops and drive-ins to watch the trailer for what has been called one of “the worst movies of all time”. Have a look at the trailer for Plan 9 from Outer Space and see if you’re interested in watching the “awesomeness”….of maybe that should be “awfulness” HA!

Revisited: Ali

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with Cassius Clay, Jr. (Will Smith) before his championship debut against then heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. In the pre-fight weigh-in Clay heavily taunts Liston (such as calling Liston a “big ugly bear”). In the fight Clay is able to dominate the early rounds of the match, but halfway through the fight Clay complains of a burning feeling in his eyes (implying that Liston has tried to cheat) and says he is unable to continue. However, his trainer/manager Angelo Dundee (Ron Silver) gets him to keep fighting. Once Clay is able to see again he easily dominates the fight and right before round seven Liston quits, therefore making Cassius Clay the second youngest heavyweight champion at the time after Floyd Patterson. (Mike Tyson would later beat Patterson’s record). Ali spends valued time with Malcolm X (Peebles) and the two decide to take a trip to Africa.

Clay is then invited to the home of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad where he is granted the name Muhammad Ali due to his status of World Heavyweight Champion. While at home with his wife and children, Malcolm X is called by the Nation of Islam and has been informed Ali will not go to Africa and his suspension (Malcolm’s) has been extended. Muhammad Ali takes the trip to Africa where he finds Malcolm X, but later refuses to speak to him, honoring the wishes of Elijah Muhammad. Upon returning to America and defeating Sonny Liston a second time, Ali continues to dominate as champion, until he is stripped of the title, boxing license, passport suspended and sent to jail for his refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War. After a three year hiatus, his conviction is later overturned, and attempts to regain the Heavyweight Championship against Joe Frazier. Dubbed the Fight of the Century, Frazier wins, giving Ali the first loss of his career. When Frazier loses the championship to George Foreman, Ali makes a decision to fight George Foreman to be the first boxer to win his title a second time. Ali goes to Zaire to face Foreman for the title. While there, Ali has an affair with a woman he meets named Veronica Porsche (who he is said to later marry in the epilogue). After reading rumors of his infidelity through newspapers, his wife, Belinda Ali (Nona Gaye) travels to Zaire to confront him about this. Ali says he is unsure as to whether he really loves Veronica Porsche (Michael Michele) or not, and just wants to focus on his upcoming title shot. For a good portion of the fight against Foreman, Ali leans back against the ropes and covers up, letting Foreman wildly throw punches at him. During the fight Muhammad Ali realizes that he has to react sooner or else he will be knocked out or possibly die in the ring. As the rounds go on, Foreman tires himself out and Ali takes advantage. He quickly knocks out the tired Foreman, and the movie ends with Ali regaining the Heavyweight Championship of which he was previously stripped.

REVIEW:

When it comes to boxing, there is arguably no bigger name than Muhammad Ali. Not only was he a great boxer, but he had a larger than life personality that just lends itself perfectly to the movies. This is where we get Ali, one of the few biopics made about someone who is still living, but does it do the man justice?

What is this about?

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali stirred controversy when he ruled the ring, as shown in this biopic that also frames the social climate of his heyday.

What did I like?

Boxed in. It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when boxing matches were a big deal, much in the same way football and basketball games are today. The film captures that enthusiasm by showing how packed arenas are, the reception Ali would get, even after his draft dodging defiance, and talking about the payout/ratings for these matches, if only in passing.

Transformation. At the time of this release, Will Smith was a big movie star, no question, but he hadn’t done anything that would capture the Academy’s attention and make him a respected actor, as opposed to the skinny kid from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. One of the things that went to change people’s opinion of him was how much he transformed his body to play Ali, packing on muscle, learning to box, and even capturing Ali’s mannerisms as best one can without actually being Ali.

Cosell. When it comes to sportscasters, you would be hard pressed to find any more recognizable that Howard Cosell. As his era was in the 60s and 70s, it is no surprise that he was an important role in the rise of Muhammad Ali. What does surprise me, if this is true, is the close relationship they have. The film takes the time to show and nurture this, especially in later scenes, if for nothing more than comedic effect, and those scenes turn out to be some of the most memorable non boxing scenes.

What didn’t I like?

X marks the spot. The first 45 minutes or so of this film are spent telling the audience how Cassius Clay became Cassius X and then Muhammad Ali. All that is fine and good, but the Malcolm X angle was a bit much. I don’t know if Ali and X were actually friends, but if they were as close as this film suggests, then I’m sure it would be talked about a bit more. As such, this is the first that I’m hearing about their friendship. Also, not to take anything away from the fine performance of Mario van Peebles (where has he disappeared to?), but if I wanted to watch a movie about Malcolm X, I’d watch the one from a while back with Denzel Washington. Overall, my big issue with this is just too much time was spent on Malcolm X, even going so far as to show his home life in a couple of scenes and the FBI tapping his phone (which doesn’t go anywhere, btw).

Molasses. Sakes alive does this film move slow! I was constantly watching the time of this 2 1/2 hour film. The boxing matches, while the most exciting parts of the picture, are a little bit of a spike in movement, but even they seem to be sluggish. I don’t want to say that those should have just been highlights, but perhaps it would have been better that way. When a film is this slow and serious, it needs something to keep the audience interesting. I mentioned the Howard Cosell scenes, which are a sprinkle of life, but the boxing scenes should have captured the audience and not let go. Instead, they contribute more to the comatose feeling that this film inspires.

Hair of the fox. This is a small little issue, but it is one that I’m going to bring up. Jamie Foxx looks like he pissed off his barber or jumped while they were cutting his hair. I don’t know if that’s the way the real Bundini’s hair looked, but geez, man! I was talking to my friend a few minutes ago, and mentioned how there are some similarities to Foxx’s hair here and in his pre-Electro scenes from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yes, his hair doesn’t have anything to do with his performance, but everytime he was on-screen, all I could do was look at the bald strip.

When I was growing, like most people around my age, the boxing that I got into was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the original Nintendo system. I heard about Muhammed Ali, mostly from greatest athlete of all time lists and the barbershop scene in Coming to America, but never really knew anything about him. It wasn’t until 1996, when an older, Parkinson’s stricken Ali appeared in Atlanta at the Olympics and lit the torch, that I became interested in his life. Not long after that, we get Ali, which has turned out to be a quality film, even with its few flaws. Once you get past the snail like pace of this picture, you may actually enjoy it, or at least learn something. Keep in mind, that Ali himself has said that many of the even portrayed were not accurate. Do I recommend this? Yes, no reason for you not to check this out.

4 out of 5 stars

Dirty Dancing

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

It’s the summer of 1963, and Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey) is vacationing with her affluent Jewish family at Kellerman’s, a resort in the Catskill Mountains. Baby is planning to attend Mount Holyoke College to study the economics of underdeveloped countries and then enter the Peace Corps. She was named after Frances Perkins, the first woman in the U.S. Cabinet. Her father, Dr. Jake Houseman (Orbach), is the personal physician of Max Kellerman (Jack Weston), the resort’s owner.

During her stay, Baby meets—and develops a crush on—the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze), who is also the leader of the resort’s working-class entertainment staff. While walking around on the resort grounds, Baby encounters Billy (Johnny’s cousin), and when Baby helps Billy carry watermelons to the staff quarters, she observes their secret after-hours party and the “dirty dancing” (i.e., the rock’n’roll) involved. She becomes intrigued by the sexy dancing and receives a brief, impromptu lesson from Johnny. Later, Baby discovers that Johnny’s regular dance partner, Penny Johnson (Rhodes), is pregnant by Robbie Gould (Max Cantor), a womanizing waiter who dates (and cheats on) Baby’s sister Lisa. Baby learns that Robbie plans to do nothing about the pregnancy (as he says, “Some people count, some people don’t”), so Baby secures the money from her father to pay for Penny’s illegal abortion. Jake agrees to give the money to Baby despite her secrecy regarding what it will be used for, because of the trust he has always held in her. In her efforts to help, Baby also becomes Penny’s substitute dancer for an important performance at the Sheldrake, a nearby resort where Johnny and Penny perform annually. The upcoming show requires Johnny to teach Baby the routine in time.

As Johnny teaches Baby to dance, tempers flare and a romance begins to develop. Their performance at the Sheldrake goes reasonably well, though Baby is too nervous to accomplish the dance’s climactic lift.

When they return to Kellerman’s, they learn that Penny’s backstreet abortion was botched, leaving her in agonizing pain. Baby brings her father to help Penny, but when he asks, “Who is responsible for her?” he misinterprets Johnny’s reply of “I am” to mean Johnny had impregnated her. For that reason, after the treatment (successful), Jake forbids Baby to associate with Johnny or his friends. Jake is furious at Baby for lying to him and betraying his trust. Baby, however, defies him and sneaks out to visit Johnny in his room later that same night, where they dance intimately and have sex.

Johnny and Baby’s relationship is eventually revealed after Johnny is accused of stealing a wallet from one of the resort guests and is unable to provide a verifiable alibi. To save Johnny from being fired, Baby confesses that Johnny could not have been responsible, as she was with him in his cabin that night. Johnny is cleared of the theft; however, Max still fires Johnny for having an affair with a guest. Baby’s selfless act inspires Johnny to realize, “there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them.”

At the final talent show of the season, Jake gives Robbie a check to help defray the costs of medical school. Robbie then willingly confesses to getting Penny pregnant and insults her in the process, leading Jake to angrily snatch the envelope back, clearly disgusted with his arrogant and careless attitude. Also, to everyone’s surprise, although Johnny’s been fired and left the premises, he returns to the resort to perform the final dance of the season with Baby. Criticizing the Housemans for their choice of Baby’s seat at the table, Johnny declares the now-famous line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” as he pulls her up from their table. He leads her onstage, interrupting the show which is already in progress. After Johnny makes a brief speech about how “Frances” has made him a better man, he and Baby dazzle the audience with a stunning dance performance to the song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, which ends with Baby doing the lift successfully for the first time.

After the dance, Jake apologizes to Johnny and admits that he was wrong to assume Johnny had gotten Penny “in trouble”. Jake also praises Baby for her dancing. The film ends as the dance sequence continues and the room is transformed into a nightclub, where everyone (staff and guests) dances together

REVIEW:

In the mid to late 80s, Patrick Swayze was one of the most bankable stars. Without a doubt, his breakout role was here in Dirty Dancing. Some 30 years later, this is a film that has withstood the test of time, partially because of Swayze’s untimely death, the great soundtrack, and Jennifer Grey’s homage during her time on Dancing with the Stars. Is this a good film, though?

What is this about?

While spending summer with her family in the mountains, 17-year-old Frances falls in love with the resort’s free-spirited dance instructor.

What did I like?

Dance, Baby, Dance. Dancing is in the title, so of course, there just has to be some really impressive dance scenes, right? Delivering on that promise, there is plenty of dancing going around, not all of it clean (by the standards of the era in which this was filmed). Even if you’ve never seen this film, I’m sure you’ve come across a clip or two of the iconic dance scene at the end, which is the culmination of all the training we saw earlier in the film. Watching Baby grow as a dancer is one of the pleasures of the picture, especially for those of us that have two left feet and can’t dance a lick.

Welcome to the 60s. Had this been set in modern day, I don’t believe it would have worked as well. Going back to the 60s, the filmmakers were able to do more with people’s attitudes towards some of the themes that were covered, such as class separation, abortion (which is never said, but hinted at), etc. Also, for some reason sweaty dancing training seems to be more…I guess the word I’m looking for is effective? In the 60s, air conditioners weren’t exactly commonplace, so everyone was getting hot and sweaty during the summer. A nice little touch that was added in for effect.

Chemistry. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey have great on-screen chemistry. While not on the level of say, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, they still manage to pull off the likability factor, despite the obvious age gap (at least with their characters). Par for the course with these types, they start off distant, only to grow together out of necessity, have a fight, and a glorious reconciliation. You would think this would be boring, but the magic these two share on screen draws the audience in and we just can’t look away.

What didn’t I like?

Show some skin. I have a minor bone to pick with the costume people. Jennifer Grey’s character is supposed to be this goody-goody girl who is sheltered by her affluent, conservative parents. The first chance they get, they choose to stick her in something and show off her midriff. Every outfit from there on, seems to show more and more skin, unless she is doing something family related or the actual dance. Here is my problem, if this was a rebellion against her parents, then it would make sense, but as she shows no sign of that, and still maintains her goody-goody image, even after sneaking off and sleeping with Swayze’s character, why did they try to “slut her up”, for lack of a better term. Don’t get me wrong, Grey has a decent enough body to look at, but the outfit choices didn’t fit her character, at least in my opinion. Obviously, it was hot and she needed air circulating her body, but I still didn’t get the decision to put her in such “revealing” attire.

Parents. Lingering over Grey’s character are her parents, or at least her dad. What is my issue with that? Well, for having such a presence in the film, they seem to be nonexistent, for the most part. However, I don’t really know what could be done to change that without changing the whole film. If they become the “evil parents”, then they wouldn’t be as liberal with that Baby is allowed to do, which changes the whole dynamic of the film. This is the problem. For me, I feel that they needed to be more instituted into things and such a red herring, of sorts.

80s color. This is another minor issue I have. In the two big dance scenes, the one in the staff quarters and then the big one at the end, you will see in the shadows an African-American couple. A little bit of diversity is good, right? Normally, I’d say yes, but not in this case. First off, they aren’t part of the film, just extras. IF you watch West Side Story, you’ll notice there is one African American guy at the dance in the gym (see if you can find him), as well, for the same reason. Second, this is a film set in the early 60s. It is not likely that they’d be welcome into an affluent club like this, even as part of the staff, just yet. Finally, this was made in ’86-’87 and the way they are dressed screams that, as opposed to ’63.

The legacy of Dirty Dancing is perhaps its greatest selling point. As a guy, I can’t really get into this as much as many females do, other than wish I had half the muscles Patrick Swayze has. That being said, I have to say that this is an enjoyable film with few major flaws, mostly minor stuff that can be ignored. The soundtrack sets the tone for the film and you will find yourself getting lost in the story, not realizing that its over until the credits roll. Do I recommend this? Yes, this is a film that you must see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

El Dorado

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Cole Thornton (John Wayne), a gunslinger-for-hire, is hired by wealthy rancher Bart Jason (Edward Asner) to help him in a range war with the McDonald family in the town of El Dorado. The local sheriff, an old friend of Thornton, J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) gives Cole more details that Jason had deliberately left out – including the possibility of having to side against Harrah. Unwilling to fight his friend, Thornton quits, to the relief of saloon owner Maudie (Charlene Holt), who is in love with Thornton (and was for a time a romantic interest of Harrah’s).

The McDonalds learn of Thornton’s presence in town. Fearing that he might come for them, Kevin McDonald (R.G. Armstrong) puts his youngest son, Luke, on guard. When Thornton passes by on his way back from rejecting Jason’s offer, Luke (Johnny Crawford), who has fallen asleep, wakes and fires a wild warning shot whereupon Thornton reflexively shoots him. Luke is still alive when Thornton finds him, but he refuses treatment based upon the belief that a gut-shot man wouldn’t have a chance anyway and commits suicide when Thornton turns his back on him.

Thornton subsequently brings the boy’s body to the McDonald ranch and offers an explanation. The only McDonald daughter, Joey (Michele Carey), impulsively rides off before Thornton can finish his story and ambushes him shortly thereafter. Her shot is not fatal, but the bullet lodges next to Thornton’s spine and in time begins to trouble him by occasionally pressing against the spinal cord, causing temporary paralysis of his right side. The local doctor, Dr. Miller (Paul Fix), does not have the skill to remove the bullet and Thornton soon departs El Dorado for a new job.

Several months later, Thornton runs into another gunslinger-for-hire named Nelson McLeod (Christopher George) and a young greenhorn called Mississippi (James Caan), who has come for revenge against one of McLeod’s men. McLeod has been hired by Jason for the same job Thornton turned down and Thornton hears from McLeod about how Harrah has turned into a drunk after an unhappy love affair. Thornton decides to return to El Dorado, hoping to save Harrah from being gunned down by McLeod and his men. He is followed by Mississippi who also wishes to help, despite his lack of experience and terrible aim with a gun.

Once Thornton and Mississippi arrive in El Dorado, they hear more of the story behind Harrah’s change. The two men then join with Deputy Sheriff Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) in order to get Harrah sober and cleaned up. Mississippi contributes an old folk recipe for a hangover that he learned from his old friend and mentor Johnny Diamond. The recipe includes such ingredients as cayenne, mustard, ipecac, asafetida, croton oil and gunpowder, and he promises it will make any man unable to drink liquor for a while. The concoction proves to be violently effective, and leaves Harrah sober and furious. Within a day of their arrival, McLeod and his men also come to El Dorado and are hired on by Bart Jason. When one of them shoots one of the McDonalds, Thornton, Harrah, Bull and Mississippi chase the shooter and his friends into an old church and then into Jason’s saloon. Harrah arrests Jason and takes him to the jail for his part in the shooting of one of the McDonalds. Later that night, Thornton and Mississippi decide to patrol the town in the hope of keeping the peace and are deputized by Bull. There is another shootout with McLeod and his men, which results in a minor leg injury for Harrah.

The next day, Maudie sends a message to Thornton and his friends stating that McLeod’s men are frightening her and her patrons. When Thornton and Mississippi go to help her, they are ambushed and Thornton has an attack that leaves him partially paralyzed and captured by McLeod. Subsequently, McLeod trades the injured Thornton for Bart Jason, a trade Harrah agrees to despite knowing that doing so will mean that nothing will stand in the way of McLeod going after the McDonalds.

Sure enough, McLeod and his men shortly thereafter kidnap one of the McDonalds in order to force Kevin McDonald to sign over his water rights to Jason. Thornton and the others are forced to quickly come up with a plan to rescue Kevin McDonald’s son and neutralize Jason and McLeod. Despite Thornton’s paralysis and Harrah’s leg injury, the two of them along with Bull and Mississippi return to town on wagons. While Thornton distracts Jason and McLeod outside of the front of the saloon, Mississippi, Harrah and Bull attack from the rear. The kidnapped McDonald is rescued, Jason, McLeod and his men are killed (with a little help from Joey McDonald) and order is restored to El Dorado. Thornton also begins to imply that he may discontinue his wandering ways in order to stay in the town with Maudie

REVIEW:

Sometimes, a guy just wants to go back and watch something where men are men. There was honor even among the slimeballs and degenerates, and your one’s reputation went a long way in determining what people perceive of you, especially if you were a gunslinger and/or outlaw. Since I was more in the mood for a western than a romantic drama or biopic this afternoon, I decided it was time to watch El Dorado, hoping it would fit the bill and check off all these prerequisites.

What is this about?

Howard Hawks reunites with Rio Bravo star John Wayne in this classic Western about a hired gun who teams with a sheriff to thwart greedy ranchers.

What did I like?

Friendship. With all the John Wayne movies I’ve seen, I believe this is the only one where he has been almost downright cheerful for the entire picture. The cause of this could be because he has a friend in Robert Mitchum. Nothing like having someone to just joke around and confide in to make your whole outlook better. There is real chemistry between these two. I wonder how close they were when not on the set because they were magic, otherwise.

Youth has advantages. A very young, almost unrecognizable James Caan appears as the token young buck that Wayne gets to slap around and berate into a “better man”. I don’t believe this is his film debut, but it is one of his first roles. With that said, you can see that the acting chops we see from him in later roles such as The Godfather, for instance are there. They just need to be polished a little bit

Invincible. “The Duke”, as Wayne was also known as, was a larger than life personality. If you notice, though, in just about all of his films, he is nigh invincible. Well, the one’s I’ve seen, except for The Cowboys, that is. So, should it come as a surprise that he gets shot and nearly dies fairly early in this picture? Not really, but I think that is what makes this character human, as opposed to some of his others.

What didn’t I like?

Win, Lose, or Draw. So, we have here 3 of the 4 fastest draws in the west, as stated by Wayne’s character at one point during the film, but do we get that ill-fated shootout? Not really. We get a hint at it, but Wayne and Mitchum are so far banged up and crippled that it ruins what could have been. Why couldn’t we get that shootout before, I wonder?

Perfect hair. If you’re reading this, then more than likely you’ve seen a western or two. As such, you know that the women in these films are either tomboys with their hair in pigtails, they are the housewife type, or they are the gussied up prostitute type. The girl who shoots Wayne’s character could pass for a supermodel. She even has perfect hair like she just walked out of a salon! What was up with that? It was almost as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide if they wanted to make her attractive or just another tomboy and compromised by putting her in frumpy clothes, but fancy hair, for lack of a better term.

Bring a knife to a gunfight. In the west, one had to have a gun to survive. At least that is the message John Wayne is giving to James Caan’s character. The big problem with that is that he is obviously really good with throwing knives, so why not just let him keep throwing them, especially since he’s a horrible shot. It worked for Salma Hayek in Bandidas, so what’s so different about this, other than they just wanted him to shoot up the countryside, apparently.

On a list I was reading the other day, El Dorado was listed as one of the greatest westerns. That’s all well and good, except that this film has some pretty major plotholes, like how the girl who shot Wayne’s character and nearly paralyzes if not kill him is forgiven without even batting an eye. To me, it just seems that, as good as this film is, this is something that should have been addressed. That point aside, I did enjoy this film and would still recommend this to any and everyone. So, check it out sometime, why don’t you?

4 out of 5 stars

Mighty Joe Young

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jill Young is seen as a child at the beginning of the film when she witnesses the death of her mother, Ruth Young (Linda Purl) and the mother of Joe, an infant mountain gorilla, at the hands of poachers led by Andrei Strasser (Rade Šerbedžija). Strasser loses his right thumb and trigger finger to Joe, and swears revenge on the gorilla for the damage. Before she dies, Ruth tells Jill to take care of Joe, to which Jill agrees. 12 years later, Jill has raised Joe (who, because of a rare genetic anomaly, has now grown to the size of 16 1/2-feet (5 meters) and weighs 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms); as a result, the other gorillas won’t accept him and both are now living in relative peace until a wildlife refuge director, Gregg O’Hara (Bill Paxton), convinces Jill that they would be safer from poachers if they relocate to the United States.

The trio goes to Hollywood, Los Angeles, California and win the hearts of the refuge staff. There, Jill is approached by Strasser, who is now running a fake animal preserve while really selling animal organs off on the black market – who has seen a news report about Joe and is now eager for revenge. At first Jill fails to recognize Strasser as the poacher who killed both her mother and Joe’s, since Strasser hides his right hand in his coat pocket. Strasser tries to persuade Jill that Joe would be better off in his wildlife refuge back in Africa. Later, during a gala, Strasser’s henchman, Garth (Peter Firth), uses a poacher’s noisemaker to scare Joe into a frenzy. Joe trashes the gala, recognizes Strasser and tries to attack him. Joe is then captured and placed in a concrete bunker. Before their departure, Gregg has fallen in love with Jill and he kisses her goodbye.

When Jill learns that Joe may be euthanized, she decides to take Strasser’s offer. She and the refuge staff smuggle Joe out in a truck. On the way to the airport, Jill notices the half-glove covering Strasser’s missing fingers, and realizes who he really is. She briefly fights with Garth and Strasser, then jumps from the truck and onto Hollywood Boulevard, leading to the first of several automobile accidents. Joe sees her and rocks the truck over onto its side and escapes. Meanwhile, Gregg has realized that Strasser is a poacher and goes after both Jill and Joe. He finds Jill, who reveals to Gregg that Strasser killed her mother and plans to kill Joe. They locate Joe at a carnival where he is playfully wreaking havoc. Strasser arrives and attempts to shoot Jill. But Garth pushes Strasser’s gun away from Jill, causing him to fire at a spotlight, which subsequently starts a fire and causes the Ferris wheel to break down. Realizing how ruthless Strasser truly is, Garth says that he quits, but Strasser knocks Garth unconscious with his gun. Strasser eventually confronts Jill and attempts to kill her, but Joe sneaks up behind them and tosses Strasser into the air, where he grips onto electrical wires over a transformer. Short two fingers on the hand holding the wire as he lost his thumb and trigger finger, as previously mentioned, Strasser is electrocuted to death when his grip fails and he falls into the transformer, leaving only the half-glove hanging from the wiring. Later, at the Santa Monica Pier, Joe tries to save a child from atop the burning wheel but the fire burns it down and Joe and the child fall to earth where Joe is crushed beneath the wheel but the child is unharmed. Joe apparently dies from his wounds, but is later shown to have survived. The young boy Joe saved donates money to Jill after hearing her say how they’d need money to buy a new home for Joe and the people who witnessed the whole accident follow suit.

Joe is returned to Africa where Jill opens the “Joe Young Preserve.” In the final scene Joe runs off into the distance, seemingly enjoying his new found freedom

REVIEW:

Sakes alive, this has been a week that makes you wonder what is wrong with people in the world, right? First we have a young man get shot by a police officer which, based on the different races, has exploded into protests. I turn on the television and I swear I’m looking at some historical show about what went on in the 60s. Also, there was a beheading of a journalist, by some radical extremists. Geez, man, can it get any worse than this? I really do wonder. So, how about we go with something extremely light tonight, Mighty Joe Young.

What is this about?

In a remake of the 1949 classic, director Ron Underwood’s Oscar-nominated adventure follows Gregg O’Hara’s quest to capture a two-ton African gorilla and transport him to a California reserve far from poachers.

What did I like?

Give good face. Primates are known to have very human-like facial expressions at times. Joe takes that to a whole new level, as his expressions are actually more expressive than some of the humans. Not only that, these looks come at just the right time as to convey just the right emotion at the time. Whether Joe is CG, animatronic, or a mixture of both, these emotions are perhaps the best thing about him.

Not the bad guy. Bill Paxton has made a career out of being a character actor who has a resume filled with playing the villain. Most recently, he was seen on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the head of the Hydra infiltration, otherwise known as the Clairvoyant. What a change it is to see him in this role, where he is not that bad guy, but actually is the hero who gets the girl in the end. As good as he is at being the bad guy, had he taken more roles like this, perhaps he could be a leading man today. I’m just sayin’!

King Kong ain’t got… Although this is a remake of a film of the same name from the 30s or 40s, I can’t help but believe it exists only as a watered down, family version of King Kong. All the elements are there, giant ape, wildlife preserve, poachers, climbing tall building in the city, etc. However, the difference is in Joe’s personality, which is very playful, something that I don’t believe we ever saw from King Kong. That slight change makes a huge difference, believe it or not.

What didn’t I like?

Twirl the moustache. Often, I will hear critics refer to villains as “cartoony” or the “twirl the moustache” kind. Well, the villain here is one that I feel belongs in that category. He has everything that you ask for in a cartoon villain. Mysterious European accent, quest for revenge because of something that happened in his younger days, intriguing facial hair…all check. The only thing missing was the black cape and top hat!

We should care, because? As expressive as Joe’s facial expressions were, I had a hard time finding a reason that we as an audience should care whether he lives or dies. There was no connection between him and us, so by the time the ferris wheel scene comes and Joe falls off, it is hard to feel anything for him. Same goes for when he goes on his rampages. Granted, this may just be me and my black hole for a heart, but I felt nothing. He was just a big ape, honestly.

Editing. I have an issue with the herky jerking editing that was done in this film. In one scene, everyone is in Africa, the next they’re on the road to Hollywood. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it almost felt like one of those Family Guy cutaways, where something happens and then the next scene is totally different setting. It seems that Disney was going more for the serious filmmaking side of things with this film, as opposed to something like George of the Jungle, which was a live action cartoon. Better editing would have helped that situation.

Apparently, the little woman loved Mighty Joe Young when it came out, so I have a feeling this will not be the last time I see it, and that’s okay. Truth be told, I didn’t find this to be a horrible film. Some scenes are quite emotional, there’s some action, romance, comedy, and a villainous poaching plot. By all means this should be a great film, but something is hindering it from making that step. I cannot put my finger on it, but I think it might be related to the original, which I will eventually get around to watching. So, do I recommend this? Yes, it is a quality family film that can be enjoyed by all without worries of language, sexual situations, or violence. Enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 8/21

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on August 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

I’m in a little bit of a rush this afternoon, so since I’ve been thinking about Anne Hathaway today, why don’t we go back to when we fist met her, eh?

Check out the trailer for The Princess Diaries