Archive for November, 2014

Getaway

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , on November 30, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Washed up former race driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) arrives home to find his house ransacked and his wife, Leanne, missing. Suddenly, his phone rings. On the other end is a mysterious man known only as The Voice (Jon Voight) who reveals himself as the kidnapper of Magna’s wife. The man tells Magna that he must follow a set of instructions precisely in order to be reunited with his wife. The Voice orders Magna to steal a specially customised Shelby Mustang from a parking garage. The Voice warns Magna that if he does not follow the instructions or is caught, Leanne will die.

Magna sees two police officers chasing him and speeds off. Being a skilled driver, he is able to evade them with ease, eventually setting a trap to cause one to crash into the other. Despite more police cars joining the pursuit, Magna is able to out maneuver them. Some time later, Magna is again contacted by The Voice, who directs him towards his first task. He tells Magna to speed up and take some perilous turns, eventually being forced to crash through a park, ice rink, and shopping center, nearly killing numerous civilians in the process. The Voice calls to congratulate him and tells him to keep moving. Magna is ordered to crash into a water truck and run through a red lighted intersection, causing accidents in his wake. Magna is then ordered to park in a construction zone and await further instructions. While Magna is waiting, a young woman known only as The Kid (Selena Gomez) attempts to steal Magna’s car. The Voice calls and orders Magna to kill The Kid. Magna refuses, and The Voice says that keeping her alive was the right choice, as he will need her help. As Magna and The Kid drive off, with more police in pursuit, she reveals that the Mustang is, in fact, her car, and that she was told, by a police officer, it was stolen. Magna realizes that their meeting was orchestrated by The Voice.

After the Voice assigns Magna another destructive task, The Kid reveals herself as a skilled computer hacker and the daughter of the C.E.O of a large bank. The Voice contacts Magna again and orders him to upload the contents of a USB flash drive into a computer before 11:30 pm. Upon reaching the designated area, a power plant, The Kid attempts to hack the computer in order to contact the police. She appears to have succeeded, only for The Voice to cut her off, revealing that he set up the computer as a trap for her. The plant suddenly overloads and explodes, destroying itself and blacking out a large portion of the city.

The Voice gives Magna his final task: to rob the bank owned by The Kid’s father. The Kid points out that there is no actual money at her father’s bank; it is an investment firm which holds all of its assets on computers. Gradually, the duo realizes that they are not actually committing a heist, but are merely providing a distraction for the police while The Voice executes the real robbery and subsequently frames them for it.

As The Voice’s men begin to commandeer an armoured car carrying sensitive hard drives, Magna surprises and overpowers them, succeeding in taking the drives. Now fleeing from the police and The Voice’s men, Magna calls The Voice and offers to release the hard drives in exchange for his wife. The Voice accepts and directs him to an airplane hangar. While it appears that Leanne is about to be returned, The Kid deduces that The Voice is planning to have them all killed once the deal is done. As Magna, Leanne, and The Kid attempt to escape, the police arrive, and in the ensuing chaos, a man Magna assumes to be The Voice grabs The Kid and drives off with her. Magna leaves Leanne with the police and pursues.

Following a high speed chase, both cars are destroyed, Magna rescues The Kid, and the police arrest the mysterious man. Leanne and Magna are reunited. However, Magna receives a phone call from The Voice, revealing that the man who was busted was no more than a decoy. The Voice thanks Magna for his help and hangs up. It is revealed that The Voice was in fact controlling the entire operation from a bar in the United States. He checks his account balance and walks out of the bar.

REVIEW:

Remember that Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock film, Speed? Well, Getaway seems to be somewhat in that same vein, what with the threat of someone dying if the driving stops, but I don’t believe this is as good as Reeves and Bullock’s, um, vehicle.

What is this about?

When washed-out race car driver Brent Magna’s wife is kidnapped, he partners with a sexy, enigmatic hacker known only as The Kid to track her down. But the figure behind the abduction is calling the shots, and is watching their every move.

What did I like?

Non-stop. I love my action, but most action films that are out there are light on the action and heavy on the useless talking which does nothing but put the audience to sleep. That being said, this flick does not fall into that trap, but does just the opposite. The action scenes take center stage…and they are GLORIOUS!!!! The talking does happen, but it is there just to get the heartbeat back to normal before things take off again. That, my friends, is how you do an action flick!

Property damage. For some reason, people got all up in arms about the property damage in Man of Steel. So much so, that it is rumored the reaction will be part of the plot of Batman vs. Superman. Why was this? I have no idea, but I do appreciate this film’s blatant disregard for cops cars and other property. Seeing vehicular rampage is a good thing once in a while. Sometimes audiences just want to see destruction. Is that so hard for studios and audiences to come together on?

Skeleton crew. We have a car, Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, and a mysterious voice. Do we really need anyone else? As it turns out, no we don’t. This small cast accomplishes a more believable story filled with emotion and intrigue than films with giant, overpaid, ensemble casts. Maybe it is best to just keep it simple, stupid.

What didn’t I like?

Who it is? I won’t spoil the identity of the mysterious voice, though his name is on the poster. However, there is something I have a problem with. This guy is revealed at the very end of the film, but that is the first time we see him in the whole film. It makes no sense to have a random guy be the villain, at least without a motive. Now, had he been seen somewhere in the film or turned out to be Selena Gomez’s father, then that would perhaps have made more sense and been a more effective “twist.”

Looks can only take you so far. Selena Gomez is cute, I’ll give you that, but if she wants to ever be a serious actress, she needs to take some lessons. Disney channel movies and shows don’t require actual acting talent because the target audience for those things just care if your character is someone they’d want to hang out with. Welcome to the real world, Selena! Here you must have actual talent and skill to go somewhere.

Hack and slash. I am no computer hacker. Hell, my technological knowledge is extremely limited. I don’t know if it is even possible to hack into a sophisticated infrastructure with an ipad. Kids these days seem to be able to pull off anything, but I just don’t see it as something that can be done. Much like the armored plating on the car, this is just a convenient plot device, I suppose.

Getaway received some really negative reviews and I don’t really understand why. This truly isn’t a bad film and, while it does have some issues, it is a fun flick. It could do without Selena Gomez, perhaps they should have used a more capable actress such as, I don’t know, Demi Lovato. All that said and done, I have to say that I would recommend this, if for no other reason than to see a film than isn’t bogged down with sex, drama, and drugs. Give it a go sometime, why don’t you?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Spice World

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins when the Spice Girls perform their song “Too Much” on Top of the Pops, but they later become dissatisfied with the burdens of it. The sinister newspaper owner, Kevin McMaxford (Barry Humphries), is attempting to ruin the girls’ reputation and even dispatches a photographer, Damien (Richard O’Brien), to take pictures and tape recordings of the girls. Less threatening but more annoying is a film director, Piers Cuthbertson-Smyth (Alan Cumming), who stalks the girls along with his crew, hoping to use them as documentary subjects. At the same time, the girls’ manager, Clifford (Richard E. Grant), is fending off two overeager Hollywood writers, Martin Barnfield and Graydon (George Wendt and Mark McKinney), who relentlessly pitch absurd plot ideas for the girls’ film. Amid this, the girls must prepare for their live concert at the Albert Hall, the biggest performance of their career. At the heart of it, the constant practices, traveling, publicity appearances, and other burdens of celebrity affect the girls on a personal level, preventing them from spending much time with their pregnant best friend, Nicola (Naoko Mori), who is due to give birth soon. Throughout the busy schedule, the girls attempt to ask Clifford for time off to spend with Nicola and relax, but Clifford refuses after talking with the head of the girls’ record label, the cryptic and eccentric “Chief” (Roger Moore). The stress and overwork compound, which culminatein a huge argument between Clifford and the girls; the girls suddenly storm out on the evening before their gig at the Albert Hall.

The girls separately think back on their humble beginnings and their struggle to the top. They reunite by chance outside the abandoned pub where they practised during their childhood years, they reconcile, and decide to take Nicola out dancing. However, Nicola goes into labour at the nightclub and is rushed to the hospital in the girls’ bus. When Emma notices that the Doctor has a camera, the girls realize that he is Damien, who runs off with the girls in hot pursuit, only to hit his head after accidentally colliding with an empty stretcher. When Damien sees the girls standing over him, he tells them that they have made him see the error of his ways, and he goes after McMaxford, who is subsequently fired in a “Jacuzzi Scandal”. After noticing the girls’ bus driver, Dennis (Meat Loaf) is missing, Victoria decides to take the wheel. It becomes a race against time as Victoria drives like a maniac. While approaching Tower Bridge, the bridge begins to raise to let a boat through the River Thames. Victoria drives up the bridge and over the gap. The bus finally lands safely on the other side, but when Emma opens a trapdoor in the floor, she discovers a bomb, and the girls scream before Emma slams the trapdoor shut again.

The girls finally arrive at the Albert Hall for their performance and run up the steps to the Rocky theme. However, the girls have one more obstacle to overcome: a London policeman (Kevin McNally) charged the girls with: “dangerous driving, criminal damage, flying a bus without a license, and frightening the pigeons”. Emma pushes forward and tells the policeman that she and the other girls were late for their performance at the Albert Hall. Emma smiles at the policeman, and he lets the girls off for their performance. The film ends when the girls perform their song “Spice Up Your Life” at the centre stage of the Albert Hall. The supporting cast later talk about the girls’ film during the closing credits. Mel C breaks the fourth wall and tells the other girls that the outgoing audience is watching them. The girls talk to the audience and discuss their film, just minutes before the bomb in their bus explodes.

REVIEW:

In the late 90s, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the music of The Spice Girls or seeing their merchandise in every store. The phenomena was similar to what it must have been like when The Beatles came to America. Speaking of The Beatles, Spice World has been compared to their pseudo-documentary A Hard Day’s Night. The question is do these 90s girls stack to the lads from the 60s?

What is this about?

Climb aboard the double decker Spice Bus and get ready for a madcap musical adventure with the sexy phenomenons of pop – the Spice Girls. An encounter with extra-terrestrials, a night in a haunted castle, and a moment of truth in a maternity ward are just a few of the escapades the endeavored upon as the Girls gear up for their first live concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

What did I like?

Spicy personalities. We all know the Spice Girls’ stage names (Scary, Sporty, Posh, Ginger and Baby), but how much do we know about them, personally? If this film does nothing else, it gives a bit of a look into who these women are, and does it in a funny, tongue-in-cheek sort of way. For this band, that is the best way, if you ask me. A serious Werner Herzog style documentary would not work as well.

More than just one-hit wonders. I’m not sure if they still do this, but VH1 used to have this series of programs dedicated to music from days gone by. One of them was “One-hit wonders of the 90s”. I mention this because I seem to recall the Spice Girls on there, even though they had like 3 or 4 hits, maybe it was some other countdown series they were on, now that I give it some thought. At any rate, their music is on full display with this film, including some tunes we have never heard, unless you bought the CD (it was the 90s, after all). For a film about and starring a music group, this is a prerequisite.

Foreshadowing, much? During one of the conversations the girls have on their bus, they bring up where they would be in 10 or so years. The ensuing dream sequence is like looking through the Wicked Queen’s magic mirror. Sporty got fat, and the others all have many children. Thing is, that’s not very far from the truth. Sporty, last picture I saw of her, was noticeably thicker than her performing days. Baby and Posh have settled down to normal family life (if you call that normal with Posh since she doesn’t eat and is married to soccer star David Beckham). Scary is still in the spotlight for various things, good and bad, and Ginger seems to have gotten hotter since leaving the group. Not really sure what she’s doing, but I do know she had a cameo as Jason Statham’s mom in Crank: High Voltage.

What didn’t I like?

Meatloaf. Ah, Meatloaf, remember the days when you were a great rocker? Now they have you driving the bus in a movie about the Spice Girls. Can we say the mighty have fallen? Don’t let me forget to mention that in both scenes he is in he quotes his songs. I appreciate the nod to who he is, but I don’t really think this was necessary, was it? Maybe if he was playing himself in disguise as the bus driver it would have worked better.

Plot. Supposedly, there is a plot in here somewhere. I cannot for the life of me tell you what it is, other than the girls need to get ready for a big performance and they’re being stalked by some evil photographer and some random documentary guy. As a side plot, we are also treated to someone pitching various movie plots that don’t tie in to the actual film and just cause confusion.

Bond. Roger Moore is a highly respected actor. For goodness sakes the man has been James Bond! However, he ends up in this film in a yuppie office holding a baby pig and bossing the road manager around. Like most of the other names in this film, he must have owed the director a favor, was a fan of the Spice Girls, or someone behind this film had some dirt on him, because this is so obviously beneath him!

I won’t beat around the bush here. Spice World is not a good film, but at the same time it isn’t unwatchable. All this is a fluff film. You can watch this, be entertained, and not feel dirty afterwards. However, if you are looking for serious study into who and what the Spice Girls were, you’d be better served finding the E! True Hollywood Story on them. So, do I recommend this? Yes, but I wouldn’t make this a “main event” viewing, unless you’re just a huge fan of this group.

For those wondering, Baby is my favorite spice, followed closely by Ginger.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Blue Lagoon

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the Victorian period, two young cousins, Richard and Emmeline Lestrange, and a galley cook, Paddy Button (Leo McKern), survive a shipwreck in the South Pacific and reach a lush tropical island. Paddy cares for the small children and forbids them by “law” from going to the other side of the island, as he found evidence of remains of bloody human sacrifices. He also warns them against eating a scarlet berry which is apparently deadly.

Paddy soon dies after a drunken binge, and his body is discovered by Richard and Emmeline. Now alone, the children go to another part of the island and rebuild their home.

Years pass and they both grow into tall, strong, and beautiful teenagers. They live in their hut, spending their days together fishing, swimming, and diving for pearls. Richard and Emmeline (now portrayed by Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields) begin to fall in love, although this is emotionally stressful for them because of their lack of education on human sexuality. Emmeline is frightened after she begins her first menstrual period and is nervous when Richard wants to inspect her for a cut.

Sometime later, their relationship suffers a major blow when a ship appears for the first time in years. Richard’s desire to leave comes into conflict with Emmeline’s desire to stay, and she does not light the signal fire. As a result, the ship passes by without noticing them. Richard’s fury leads him to kick Emmeline out of their hut. They make up for this fight after Emmeline is nearly killed upon stepping on a stonefish and Richard admits to his fear of losing her. Emmeline recovers and after she regains her ability to walk, they go skinny dipping in the lagoon and then swim to shore. Still naked, Richard and Emmeline discover sexual intercourse and then passionate love. They regularly make love from then on while occasionally spending their time together in the nude. Due to their regular sexual encounters, Emmeline becomes pregnant. Richard and Emmeline themselves do not know about the truth of childbirth and human reproduction and assume that the physical changes in Emmeline’s body is her getting fat. They are stunned when they feel the baby move inside her and assume it’s her stomach causing the movements.

One night, Emmeline gives birth to a baby boy, whom they name Paddy. Frustrated at not knowing how to feed the baby, Emmeline holds him and learns how to feed him as the baby instinctively starts sucking on her breast. The young parents spend their time playing with Paddy as he grows, teaching him how to swim, fish, and build things.

As the family plays, a ship led by Richard’s father Arthur (William Daniels), approaches the island and sees the family playing on the shore. As they are covered in mud, Arthur assumes these are natives, not the young couple they have been searching for all these years, and the ship passes.

One day, the young family takes the lifeboat to visit their original homesite. While waiting for Richard, Emmeline and Paddy remain in the boat. Emmeline falls asleep and does not notice when Paddy brings a branch of the scarlet berries into the boat. She awakes as Paddy tosses one of the oars out. The tide was sweeping the boat into the lagoon and Richard swims to her, followed closely by a shark. Emmeline throws the other oar at the shark, striking it and giving Richard time to get into the boat. Though close to shore, they are unable to return or retrieve the oars without risking a shark attack. They paddle with their hands to no avail; the boat is caught in the current and drifts out to sea.

After drifting for days in the boat, Richard and Emmeline awake to find Paddy eating the berries he picked. Realizing that these are poisonous berries, they try to stop him, but he had already swallowed a few. Hopeless, Richard and Emmeline eat the berries as well, lying down to await death. A few hours later, Arthur’s ship finds them floating in the boat. Arthur asks, “Are they dead?” and the ship’s captain (Alan Hopgood) answers, “No, sir. They’re asleep.”

REVIEW:

When I was little, my family and I would go to the video store (back in the days of videocassette rentals) and I would always see a copy of The Blue Lagoon. It intrigued me and, as I grew into puberty, I wanted to see it mostly because it had naked people on the cover. As you can imagine, the parental units never let that happen. So, up until today, I had never seen this film, but I have heard stories, rumors, complaints, and praise about it. So, let’s see what I think, shall we?

What is this about?

Two shipwrecked children, stranded for years on a deserted island, fall in love as teenagers and attempt to forge a life in the isolated paradise.

What did I like?

Under the sea. First off, can I just say that the exotic locale that was used for filming is breathtaking! I can imagine that when filming wrapped no one wanted to leave this place. Second, the undersea shots are majestically beautiful. It was like watching an old National Geographic special, only without the narration. Even the shot of Brooke Shields’ character stepping on a stonefish was beautiful, despite the harsh ramification of that act.

Sibling rivalry. Before they grow into young adults and fall in love, there is a sibling rivalry going on between our two leads that seems to be as authentic as I’ve seen. As much as I tortured my sister and messed with my brother, I think I know a thing or two about sibling rivalry. Their playful relationship is quite refreshing to see. It isn’t very often we get to see a boy and a girl just playing with each other, which leads me to the next topic…

Growing pains. Imagine you’re about 10 years old or so and your guardian person up and dies, leaving you and your brother to fend for yourself on an island where you are the only inhabitants. The years pass and you both grow into tall, beautiful people (more on that shortly). It isn’t long before you notice the changes in both of your bodies. No male, regardless of age, is comfortable dealing with women’s menstrual stuff. I still remember how squeamish my biology teacher was when we got to that part of the book. He rushed through it and didn’t look back. The film sort of does the same thing, but there really was no reason to harp on her monthly visitor. What I did appreciate was how they took the time to emphasize how both teens were noticing each other’s change in bodies and how attractive they were. Made for a more believable setting.

What didn’t I like?

Pretty perfect. I can’t help but wonder how it is that two people, abandoned on a deserted island at a very young age, grow into perfect specimens? Literally, Brooke Shields was still a model at this time, but she seems as if she came from off the runway, stripped her clothes off and went to work. Christopher Atkins is a little better, but he also seems like he should be on magazine covers. That is not to mention how clean they are. For a couple of people living off nature, they should have long fingernails, messy hair, scratches all over themselves, etc. Instead, they look like they are spending a day at the spa! WTF?!?

Shirt tales. Normally, I wouldn’t complain about a topless girl, but Brooke Shields was 14 or so at the time this film was made, and her younger self is just that, young. Apparently, though, Shields’ character had something against shirts because once she sheds that classy Victorian outfit she was wearing, she almost never had a top on. Had this film been made today, both version of her would have been covered up as much as possible in her younger days and then maybe a bikini top of sorts when she’s older. As a matter of fact, there was a made-for-TV remake that did just that.

Down comfort. I question whether or not this is a true drama. It doesn’t have that heavy depressing feel that most dramas tend to have. However, when we get to the final scene it is a bit out of place, due to its dark nature. The rest of the film has been pretty light and fun, with a couple of exceptions here and there, but this scene brought things back to the real world, if you will. For what purpose? I cannot tell you, other than the director wanted a Romeo & Juliet type of artistic moment.

Going into The Blue Lagoon, I expected to be bored out of my mind with some heavy flick, but that turned out to be the case. This was actually a fun film. There are issues, such as the leads and their inability to act. Brooke Shields was criticized for her wooden acting and I can see why. Thank goodness she got better as she got older. Atkins was a little better, but not much. Truth be told, this a film for everyone. If not for the nudity, I believe this could be a family film. I highly recommend it, so give it a shot sometime.

4 out of 5 stars

The Lady Vanishes

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

English tourist Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) arrives at the “Gasthof Petrus” inn in the fictitious country of Bandrika, “one of Europe’s few undiscovered corners”. Iris is returning to Britain to marry a “blue-blooded cheque chaser”, but an avalanche has blocked the railway line. The stranded passengers are forced to stay the night at the inn, including Charters and Caldicott, cricket enthusiasts who want to return to England to see the last days of the Test match.

That evening, Iris complains about loud folk music coming from the room above her. She has Gilbert (Michael Redgrave), the guilty musician, thrown out of his room, only to have him move into hers, forcing her to capitulate.

Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), a former governess and music teacher, listens to a tune performed by a folk singer under her window. Unseen by her, the singer is killed.

The next morning, before catching the train, Iris is hit on the head by a planter apparently aimed at Miss Froy, who then helps Iris onto the train. Also on board are Charters and Caldicott, Gilbert, and a lawyer named Todhunter and his mistress “Mrs. Todhunter”. As a result of her injury, Iris blacks out. After the train is moving, Iris wakes up in a compartment with Miss Froy and several strangers. She joins Miss Froy in the dining car for tea. Unable to be heard above the train noise, the elderly lady writes her name on the window with her finger. Soon after, they return to their compartment, where Iris falls asleep.

When Iris awakens, Miss Froy has vanished. The strangers in her compartment say they know nothing about an English lady. Even Todhunter in the next compartment, who spoke with Miss Froy earlier, pretends not to remember her. Iris searches, but cannot find her. She meets up with Gilbert, who agrees to help. Dr. Hartz (Paul Lukas), a brain surgeon, says Iris may be suffering from concussion-related hallucinations. Charters and Caldicott also claim not to remember Miss Froy, because they are afraid a delay would make them miss the cricket match.

Another lady appears, dressed exactly like Miss Froy, but Iris and Gilbert continue to search. They are attacked by a knife-wielding magician, Signor Doppo. They start to suspect that Dr. Hartz’s patient, whose face is covered by bandages, is Miss Froy. Dr. Hartz tells his fellow conspirator, dressed as a nun, to kill the couple; convinced they will soon be dead, he admits to being involved in the conspiracy. The false nun does not follow Hartz’s instructions out of loyalty to her fellow countrywoman; Gilbert and Iris escape, free Miss Froy and replace her with one of the conspirators.

When the train stops near the border, Dr. Hartz discovers the switch. He has part of the train diverted onto a branch line, where soldiers await. Gilbert and Iris inform their fellow passengers what is happening. When the train pulls to a stop, a uniformed soldier requests that they all accompany him. Todhunter attempts to surrender, waving a white handkerchief, and is shot dead. Another soldier fires and wounds Charters in the hand.

During the gunfight, Miss Froy reveals to Gilbert and Iris that she is a British agent who must deliver a message to the Foreign Office in Whitehall. The message is encoded in the tune that the folk singer sang. Gilbert memorises the tune. With his help, Miss Froy slips away into the forest. Gilbert and Caldicott then commandeer the locomotive, and the group escape across the border.

In London, Charters and Caldicott discover the Test Match was cancelled. Iris jumps into a cab with Gilbert in order to avoid her fiancé, and Gilbert kisses her. They arrive at the Foreign Office, but Gilbert is unable to remember the vital tune. Then he hears the melody on the piano; they are joyfully reunited with Miss Froy

REVIEW:

I guess I am stuck in a late 30s time warp, because The Lady Vanishes was released the year after Gone with the Wind. I was introduced to this film through a random mention in my rewatching of Hitchcock last week. Not really knowing what to expect, other than Hitchcock mastery, I figured why not give this a shot. Was the gamble worth it?

What is this about?

Traveling aboard a train, young Iris is alarmed when an acquaintance suddenly vanishes, and all the other passengers deny having ever seen the woman.

What did I like?

Music, maestro, please. Being a musician and a band nerd, it warms my heart to see the use of music and instruments in films that aren’t specifically music related. Newsflash, people play other instruments besides guitar, piano, drums, and members of the string family. Personally, I would have preferred for the instrument in question to be a trumpet (personal bias), a clarinet works (and made the little woman happy).

Comedic elements. As with most Hitchcock flicks, there is a subtle element of humor that is apparent. Obviously, there are these two British guys who want to do nothing more than find out what’s going on with the cricket match until they can get to it. However, there are also little jokes here and there throughout the film. I missed them, but a friend of mine who is more familiar with British humor picked up on the jokes. So, I guess if you’re into British humor, you’ll get the jokes. Maybe if I wasn’t eating Thanksgiving dinner, I’d have caught more of them.

Suspense. Alfred Hitchcock was known as the master of horror and suspense. He puts those skills on full display with this project as the audience is on pins and needles wondering what happened to the lady that just suddenly disappeared. Was she a ghost? A figment of our imaginations? Perhaps she did exist and something happened to her and, if that was the case, how long until the same thing happens to the rest of the passengers. Those kind of thoughts go through your head, making this a much more chilling film than you would expect.

What didn’t I like?

British. If I’m not mistaken, this is the last British film Hitchcock made before coming to Hollywood. As you can expect when one knows they are off to bigger and better things, work tends to show that level of care and craftsmanship decrease and you prepare for the next step. I can’t really comment on pre-Hollywood Hitchcock films, since I haven’t seen them, but this film feels like it is relying on the British nationalism to push it over the hump and cover up that this is not as fine a film as Hitchcock’s reputation would have you believe it is. Maybe that’s just me, though.

Not a western. For once, I have found an old film hard to relate to, not because it is old, in black and white, or has anything that is specifically outdated, but because of the train. Let me elaborate on that real quick. I had no issue with films set on trains such as Some Like it Hot, which has a good portion of its scenes on a train but, for me, when I see a train, I immediately shift into thinking about westerns and train robbers. So, in some weird way, I couldn’t help but with this was a western. Maybe I just need to go watch one and then come back and see if my opinion on this has changed.

Hotel. I must question the inner workings of this hotel. How is it that you don’t have enough rooms for everyone? Understandably, it is a small town that no one really goes to and the avalanche stretched them thin, but one would expect there should be a contingency plan, right? Maybe I’m just being too nitpicky, but I just didn’t understand why there weren’t enough rooms, especially since most of these people had just checked out of the hotel! No way could it have filled back up that quickly. Sure, the people who were on the train already needed rooms, but everyone else should have just been able to go back to the room they just check out of.

What a Thanksgiving treat, huh? Stuffing my face and watching a Hitchcock masterpiece, The Lady Vanishes. The problem is, I don’t believe I liked this as much as I should have. I felt no connection to the film or its characters. Sure, it had its moments of suspense and bits and pieces of things kept me interested, but I found myself wanting this flick to hurry up and end before I fell asleep. Now, it is possible that is because I wanted to see how my Cowboys were doing or it could be the result of all the food I have been scarfing down, but my opinion of this leans more toward not recommending it. However, I realize that this is a Hitchcock classic. Knowing how I am, his films usually take more than one viewing to get the actual opinion. I hated Psycho when I first saw it and now its one of my all-time faves. So, with that in mind, I say watch this and then at some later point in time come back and give it another shot and see what you ultimately think.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 11/27

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

It’s Trailer Thursday!

Before I begin, let me first say, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope you enjoy this day and the time with your loved ones.

Now, as I sit here and wait for the parade to start, have you noticed that there are Halloween and Xmas movies out the wazoo, Valentine’s Day has a few flicks of its own, but Thanksgiving doesn’t really have any. Well, any that are household names. I think Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is the one most associated with today.

So, I did a little research and found a list, a very short one, of Thanksgiving films. Randomly picking a number, this week’s trailer is for a film from 1995 that I think you can look forward to a review next year around this time, Home for the Holidays.

Gone with the Wind

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

Gone with the Wind

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On the eve of the American Civil War in 1861, Scarlett O’Hara lives at Tara, her family’s cotton plantation in Georgia, with her parents and two sisters. Her father reminds Scarlett of the importance of Tara and the heritage that comes with it. Scarlett learns that Ashley Wilkes—whom she secretly loves—is to be married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, and the engagement is to be announced the next day at a barbecue at Ashley’s home, the nearby plantation Twelve Oaks.

At the Twelve Oaks party, Scarlett notices that she is being admired by Rhett Butler, who has been disowned by his family. Rhett finds himself in further disfavor among the male guests when, during a discussion of the probability of war, he states that the South has no chance against the superior numbers and industrial might of the North. Scarlett secretly confesses to Ashley that she loves him, but he rebuffs her by responding that he and the sweet Melanie are more compatible. Afterwards, Rhett reveals to Scarlett he has overheard their conversation, but promises to keep her secret. The barbecue is disrupted by the declaration of war and the men rush to enlist. As Scarlett watches Ashley kiss Melanie goodbye from the upstairs window, Melanie’s shy younger brother Charles asks for her hand in marriage before he goes. Though she does not love him, Scarlett consents, and they are married before he leaves to fight.

Scarlett is quickly widowed when Charles dies from a bout of pneumonia and measles while serving in the Confederate Army. Scarlett’s mother sends her to the Hamilton home in Atlanta to cheer her up, although the O’Haras’ outspoken housemaid Mammy tells Scarlett she knows she is going there only to wait for Ashley’s return. Scarlett, who should not attend a party while in deep mourning, attends a charity bazaar in Atlanta with Melanie. There, Scarlett is the object of shocked comments on the part of the elderly women who represent proper Atlanta society. Rhett, now a blockade runner for the Confederacy, makes a surprise appearance. To raise money for the Confederate war effort, gentlemen are invited to offer bids for ladies to dance with them. Rhett makes an inordinately large bid for Scarlett and, to the disapproval of the guests, Scarlett agrees to dance with him. As they dance, Rhett tells her he intends to win her, which she says will never happen.

The tide of war turns against the Confederacy after the Battle of Gettysburg in which many of the men of Scarlett’s town are killed. Scarlett makes another unsuccessful appeal to Ashley while he is visiting on Christmas furlough, although they do share a private and passionate kiss in the parlor on Christmas Day, just before he returns to war.

Eight months later, as the city is besieged by the Union Army in the Atlanta Campaign, Melanie goes into premature and difficult labor. Keeping her promise to Ashley to take care of Melanie, Scarlett and her young house servant Prissy must deliver the child without medical assistance. Scarlett calls upon Rhett to bring her home to Tara immediately with Melanie, Prissy, and the baby. He appears with a horse and wagon and takes them out of the city through the burning depot and warehouse district. Instead of accompanying her all the way to Tara, he sends her on her way with a nearly dead horse, helplessly frail Melanie, her baby, and tearful Prissy, and with a passionate kiss as he goes off to fight. On her journey home, Scarlett finds Twelve Oaks burned, ruined and deserted. She is relieved to find Tara still standing but deserted by all except her parents, her sisters, and two servants: Mammy and Pork. Scarlett learns that her mother has just died of typhoid fever and her father’s mind has begun to fail under the strain. With Tara pillaged by Union troops and the fields untended, Scarlett vows she will do anything for the survival of her family and herself.

Scarlett sets her family and servants to picking the cotton fields, facing many hardships along the way, including the killing of a Union deserter who attempts to rape her during a burglary. With the defeat of the Confederacy and war’s end, Ashley returns, but finds he is of little help at Tara. When Scarlett begs him to run away with her, he confesses his desire for her and kisses her passionately, but says he cannot leave Melanie. Meanwhile, Scarlett’s father dies after he is thrown from his horse in an attempt to chase away a scalawag from his property.

When Scarlett realizes she cannot pay the rising taxes on Tara implemented by Reconstructionists, she pays a visit to Rhett in Atlanta. However, upon her visit, Rhett, now in jail, tells her his foreign bank accounts have been blocked, and that her attempt to get his money has been in vain. As Scarlett departs, she encounters her sister’s fiancé, the middle-aged Frank Kennedy, who now owns a successful general store and lumber mill. Scarlett lies to Frank by saying Suellen got tired of waiting and married another beau, and after becoming Mrs. Frank Kennedy, Scarlett takes over his business and becomes wealthy. When Ashley is offered a job with a bank in the north, Scarlett uses emotional blackmail to persuade him to take over managing the mill.

Frank, Ashley, Rhett and several other accomplices make a night raid on a shanty town after Scarlett narrowly escapes an attempted gang rape while driving through it alone, resulting in Frank’s death. With Frank’s funeral barely over, Rhett visits Scarlett and proposes marriage, and she accepts. They have a daughter whom Rhett names Bonnie Blue, but Scarlett, still pining for Ashley and chagrined at the perceived ruin of her figure, lets Rhett know that she wants no more children and that they will no longer share a bed.

When visiting the mill one day, Scarlett and Ashley are spied in an embrace by two gossips, including Ashley’s sister, India (who dislikes Scarlett). They eagerly spread the rumor, and Scarlett’s reputation is again sullied. Later that evening, Rhett, having heard the rumors, forces Scarlett to attend a birthday party for Ashley. Incapable of believing anything bad of her beloved sister-in-law, Melanie stands by Scarlett’s side so that all know that she believes the gossip to be false. After returning home from the party, Scarlett finds Rhett downstairs drunk, and they argue about Ashley. Seething with jealousy, Rhett grabs Scarlett’s head and threatens to smash in her skull. When she taunts him that he has no honor Rhett retaliates by forcing himself onto her, kissing Scarlett against her will, and states his intent to have sex with her that night. Frightened, she attempts to physically resist him, but Rhett overpowers her and carries the struggling Scarlett to the bedroom. The next day, Rhett apologizes for his behavior and offers Scarlett a divorce, which she rejects, saying that it would be a disgrace.

After Rhett returns from an extended trip to London, Scarlett’s attempts at reconciliation are rebuffed. She informs him that she is pregnant, but an argument ensues which results in Scarlett falling down a flight of stairs and suffering a miscarriage. As Scarlett is recovering, tragedy strikes when Bonnie dies while attempting to jump a fence with her pony. Melanie visits their home to comfort them, but then collapses during a second pregnancy she was warned could kill her.

On her deathbed, Melanie asks Scarlett to look after Ashley for her and to be kind to Rhett. As Scarlett consoles Ashley, Rhett quickly leaves and returns home. Realizing that Ashley only ever truly loved Melanie, Scarlett dashes after Rhett to find him preparing to leave for good. She pleads with him, telling him she realizes now that she had loved him all along, and that she never really loved Ashley. However, he refuses, saying that with Bonnie’s death went any chance of reconciliation. As Rhett is about to walk out the door, Scarlett begs him to stay but to no avail, and he walks away into the early morning fog leaving Scarlett weeping on the staircase and vowing to one day win back his love.

REVIEW:

Last month, Gone with the Wind returned to theaters for a couple of days. Unfortunately, these were days that were filled with other work-related activities for me. Thank goodness for AMC and their Thanksgiving marathons. Last year, they did all of the Hitchcock films, tomorrow will showcase the Jurassic Park trilogy, and another showing of this film was starting up and I changed the channel. So, let’s have a little look-see at this all-time great classic drama, shall we?

What is this about?

The epic tale of a woman’s life during one of the most tumultuous periods in America’s history. From her young, innocent days on a feudalistic plantation to the war-torn streets of Atlanta; from her first love whom she has always desired to three husbands; from the utmost luxury to absolute starvation and poverty; from her innocence to her understanding and comprehension of life.

What did I like?

Southern belle. Say what you will about the south, its traditions, etc., you cannot deny that there was a way of life that was almost regal during Civil War times. This point is emphasized with one of the written interludes and, if that wasn’t enough, just use you ears and eyes. The way these people dress, especially Scarlett and Captain Butler is the equal in extravagance to royalty and well-to-doers during medieval times.

Aunt Jemima. One of the great moments in African-American history happened when Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress…in 1939!!! As Mammy, she initially seems like just a nagging house slave who raised the O’Hara children. As time passes on, she becomes more of a character, albeit one that still nags, but also provides some moments of levity, inadvertently. That award was well-deserved.

Cinema! Great acting, extremely well-written story, sweeping cinematography, and lush scoring. When these elements come together, more often than not, we are treated to one of the best films of all time. No exception to that rule here. There isn’t a weak link in the cast, there are very few films that have been written better, and the music and visuals work in concert with each other for the ultimate experience.

What didn’t I like?

Strong and spoiled. Scarlett O’Hara goes through a tremendous transformation throughout the film, which I applaud. She starts out as your typical attractive heiress, for lack of a better term, who can get any man she wants. After some life-shaking events, she becomes a hardened, determined woman who “…will never go hungry again!” Then, in her final transformation, she suddenly gets everything she wants, but isn’t happy, for reasons I won’t spoil. Now, and this may just be my male brain talking, why is it that she can’t be happy with a man who is giving her everything? It isn’t like Rhett Butler is fat and ugly, either. I just don’t get it!

Race card. Apparently, there was some race issues with this film upon its release, focusing on the portrayals of the slaves/servants. The controversy around them is that they were too subservient. I hadn’t really noticed, but now that I think about it, I can see the issues. The afore-mentioned Mammy is a nag. Squirrel-voiced Prissy seems a bit air-headed. Pork is dim-witted and Big Sam is just happy to be serving. Maybe I’m a little jaded after watching 12 Years a Slave, but I highly doubt these people would have felt this way had this been real. Do I think the film was covering up some hidden racism? No, but one has to wonder if there was a reason to not have any of these slaves act as, well, slaves. I don’t think this came out the way I meant.

Length. So, I started watching this at 7 and here it is a little past midnight and the film ended a few minutes ago. That’s 5 hours on television, with commercial breaks coming more often and longer as the film neared its conclusion. I think the actual runtime is nearly or just over 4 hours. I’m not one to sit down and watch long flicks unless they keep my attention all the through. Amadeus and Titanic are a couple of examples that manage to do that for me. Close, but no cigar would be the best way to explain the experience I had with this film, though.

Gone with the Wind is on many lists as one of the top 5 films of all time, and it isn’t very hard to see why. Truth be told, it isn’t very hard to see why. If you can’t, well, to quote Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” With all the crap and schlock that we are subject to today, it was refreshing to watch a film that is a true accomplishment in cinematic glory. I have little to say on the negative side and highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you carve out a few hours to bask in the glory of the classic epic drama.

5 out of 5 stars

The Big Hit

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Melvin Smiley (Mark Wahlberg) is a hitman leading a secret life as well as maintaining two relationships, one with the demanding and demeaning Chantel (Lela Rochon), who doesn’t accept his work, and another with Pam (Christina Applegate), who knows nothing of his job. Melvin is somewhat of a pushover, trying to appease all of Chantel’s demands, even her most expensive wishes, as well as rolling over whenever one of his co-workers takes credit for his achievements. Perhaps as a result of his helplessness in asserting himself, throughout the early scenes Melvin is often seen drinking Maalox to relieve an incipient ulcer.

Feeling underpaid for their work for mob boss Paris (Avery Brooks), the assassin team of Smiley, Cisco (Lou Diamond Phillips), Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine), Vince (Antonio Sabato Jr.), and Gump (Robin Dunne) take an independent job, kidnapping Keiko Nishi (China Chow), the teenage daughter of local electronics magnate Jiro Nishi (Sab Shimono), for a hefty ransom. Unfortunately, the team does not realize that Nishi has recently gone bankrupt over his failed foray into motion pictures — and furthermore, their boss Paris is the girl’s godfather. Enlisted by the group to hold Keiko, Melvin has to hide the bound and gagged schoolgirl on his property, attempting to keep her presence hidden from Pam and her parents, who are coming for dinner. Melvin feels sorry for the girl, and relieves her from her bondage. In the ensuing hours they build up a rapport preparing dinner together, an act which leads into a love scene reminiscent of the pottery scene from Ghost, but which is cut short when Keiko attempts to escape.

Ordered by Paris to discover the kidnappers of his goddaughter, a panicked Cisco kills Gump, but not before coaxing him into also implicating Melvin for the kidnapping. A team of assassins crash Melvin’s dinner with Pam’s family, leading to a shootout during which Melvin realizes Pam was going to break up with him under pressure from her stereotypically Jewish mother (Lainie Kazan). Melvin and Keiko’s feelings for each other lead them to form an awkward romance, and she and Melvin attempt to escape from the fiasco, pursued by Cisco. In the chaos, Melvin happens to run into Chantel and finally takes the opportunity to stand up to her and end their relationship. An extended fight erupts, culminating at a video store where the ever-honest Melvin stops to return an overdue tape. Melvin kills Cisco, but not before Cisco arms an explosive device. Melvin leaves the building and is confronted by Keiko, her father and Paris. He re-enters the building, which explodes. Paris and Keiko, believing Melvin to be dead, call off the manhunt. Soon Melvin is revealed to have survived, sheltered from the blast by an enormous solid gold film stand-up made for the flop that destroyed Nishi’s career. In the end of the film Melvin and Keiko are reunited and ride off together. Nishi recoups his losses by making a film out of the story of his daughter’s kidnapping

REVIEW:

Please excuse the rushed crudity of this post on The Big Hit. I am trying to watch and write at the same time so that I can be finished in time to fully devote myself to a major event that is airing within the hour. So, let’s get to it!

What is this about?

Four enterprising hit men kidnap a wealthy executive’s daughter but overlook a few crucial details — including that she’s their boss’s goddaughter.

What did I like?

Off the Enterprise. Avery Brooks is best known for his role on one of those Star Trek spinoffs that was syndicated in the mid to late 90s. Forgive me for not being a Trekkie and not knowing every incarnation of the Enterprise and her crew. As has been apparent, being on most incarnations of that show can lead to type-casting as not many actors who were regulars on those shows do much else besides other sci-fi shows and comic cons, Patrick Stewart being the most notable exception. Seeing Brooks do something else shows how talented the guy actually is. I wonder why we haven’t seen him in anything else.

Nice guys don’t always finish last. There was an ongoing joke a few years back were Mark Wahlberg was the consummate nice guy, asking everyone how they were and how their family was doing. I can’t help but think that this character had some influence on that, unless there was something else that I missed. This is early in Wahlberg’s career, so he’s still young, and it shows, but for this character youth pays off. Not to mention he gets the girl in the end. Who says nice guys finish last, huh?

(Lou) Diamond (Phillips) in the rough. The last time I believe that I saw Lou Diamond Phillips, he was getting attacked by stuffed animals at the end of the “Radioactive” video by Imagine Dragons. Here’s the thing, this is a guy who is supremely talented, but for some odd reason, he has never really gotten the big break. Playing this hitman who loses it shows the audience a different side of Phillips that we haven’t seen before. Perhaps we need to see more of this. I know that I was impressed with what I saw. He was calm, cool, suave, and collected throughout the first part of the film, then a switch was flipped and he went insane. I loved it!

What didn’t I like?

Jewish parents. Let me preface this by saying that I have nothing against those that follow the Jewish faith. However, I didn’t really see the need for Christina Applegate and her parents to be Jewish, other than comic relief. Yes, they worked, but was it really necessary? They could have very easily been Baptist, Methodist, Atheist, or some other religion and just had funny personalities. While I’m on this topic, Applegate as a Jewish girl does not work. Something about her accent made her sound like Kelly Bundy meets the Jersey Shore. Not exactly the reaction that she would want, I’m sure.

Chow down. The fight between Wahlberg and Phillips in the video store in the final act, yes I said video store, is pretty epic. It makes you wish that there was more action in this so-called action comedy. After all the dust clears and the credits start rolling, it says “introducing China Chow.” Who is China Chow? Well, in this film, she is the girl who gets kidnapped and ends up falling for Wahlberg’s character. I’m not sure she warrants an introduction, though, as she doesn’t do anything of note in the film, and since the release of this film, hasn’t done much of anything, except a couple of episodes of Burn Notice, so what was the point of introducing her, really?

Lela. Sakes alive, Lela Rochon is drop dead gorgeous! Such a shame she’s a total bitch in this film, though. There isn’t a scene than she’s in where she’s not yelling at someone, except for when she has a gun pointed to her head, then she shuts up. Strange enough, how that happens, huh? I have to wonder how this shrew of a woman ended up with Wahlberg. No wonder he was cheating on her. Geez!

So, The Big Hit was not a big hit for me. I was looking for something more action comedy and what I got was the inbred child of Goodfellas and Ocean’s 11. Would I recommend this to anyone? Not really. I didn’t even know about this film until earlier this year when I happened to run across it while flipping through the channels late at night. While I won’t say avoid this, it isn’t worth your time.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars