Archive for December, 2014

The Sons of Katie Elder

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The four adult sons of Katie Elder – John (John Wayne), who is a famous (or infamous) professional gunman; Tom (Dean Martin), a professional gambler; Bud (Michael Anderson, Jr.), the youngest brother, still in school; and Matt (Earl Holliman), an unsuccessful hardware dealer – reunite in their hometown of Clearwater, Texas, in 1898 for their mother’s funeral, sharing regret that none of them has lived up to her high expectations of them.

The townspeople are unfriendly, to John and Tom in particular. Katie Elder was extremely well liked by everyone in the community, who were all aware of her honesty, her poverty and her undying love for the sons who neglected her. The brothers want to do something for Katie’s sake, and their plan is to send youngest son Bud to college, raising money through a sale of another man’s herd of horses, even though Bud wants to emulate his eldest brother.

Morgan Hastings (James Gregory), a gunsmith and rising entrepreneur, claims ownership of the Elders’ ranch, saying he won it from their father in a game of cards; Bass Elder afterwards was shot in the back, and the killer is still unknown. Hastings hides a hostile attitude towards the brothers and brings in a hired gun, Curley (George Kennedy), just in case. The Elders suspect foul play. Hastings claims Bass lost the ranch in a game of Blackjack, so John, in a ruse, states their father wouldn’t have been caught dead playing Blackjack.

When Hastings learns about the brothers’ investigations, he frames them for murder of the sheriff (Paul Fix). Then, not content with seeing them go to prison, Hastings arranges an ambush in which Matt is killed and Bud seriously injured. John and Tom take it upon themselves to avenge the family.

Tom manages to kidnap Hasting’s weak-willed son Dave (Dennis Hopper), although he is seriously injured in the process. Hastings shoots his own boy in an attempt to prevent him from testifying. In the presence of John Elder and the local judge, a wounded Dave manages to relate the tale of his father’s crimes before he dies. John takes up arms and sends Hastings to meet his maker inside his own gun store

REVIEW:

Well, it is the last day of the year 2014. Guess I should end with something that should theoretically be a good watch, right? Since Netflix is forcing my hand and telling my that The Sons of Katie Elder will be leaving instant streaming tomorrow, I guess I don’t have much choice in the matter and need to get this film watched. What will the verdict on it be, though?

What is this about?

John Wayne stars as the eldest of four Elder brothers who reunite in Texas to bury their mother and investigate the death of their father. But a meddling sheriff and a rival gang have other plans for the brothers, and soon the air is thick with lead.

What did I like?

Brotherly love. Four brothers come together for their mother’s funeral. Given the circumstances in which the two oldest and the youngest left, it is no wonder that they are at each other’s throats. There is hurt there from feelings of abandonment, or maybe it is just sibling rivalry. At any case, the film does a great job of making these guys feel as if they really are brothers but, let’s face it, that is some age gap between John Wayne and the youngest. Not to mention who in the world would believe that Wayne and Dean Martin are brothers?

No shades of gray. It has been said that westerns, especially the spaghetti westerns, cloud the moral code to the point that you can’t tell who is the good and who is bad (or ugly, too?) It is pretty clear who is good and bad with this film. I would go so far as to say the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black, but the sheriff is wearing a black hat. Still, the moral ambiguity that has become commonplace today is not on display. Instead we get characters that clearly portray to the audience whether they are right or wrong.

Scenic Clearwater. Westerns are underrated when it comes to scenery. I say this because most assume that all that can be seen is tumbleweed, dirty towns, and maybe a farm or two. With that said, there isn’t much in the way of a town to be seen in this film, but when they go out into the frontier, well, it is beautiful open space. The kind of land that we just don’t see anymore because America is so “developed”. One has to just take in the beauty of nature, if only for a few seconds.

What didn’t I like?

Just the facts. While this is loosely based on a true story, that is not my issue with the film, but rather the way no one would give our heroes any answers. They all seemed to either clam up or dance around the questions. Why is that? I cannot tell you, but it made for a good mystery. Thing is, this isn’t a mystery film, nor did it try to go down that route. However, going that way may have helped it, as it would have given us something new and different, rather than the same old stuff we typically get from films of this nature.

Little brother. Myself and many of my ilk seem to have a real issue with kids and teenager in today’s film, and society for that matter. They are annoying and disrespectful. I don’t know about you, but had I talked back and cussed out my parents, I’d have been slapped into the next millennium! Today’s kids can do that and if the parents do anything about it, they’re quick to yell child abuse. Ugh! What has our society devolved into? The youngest Elder son, while not that level of disrespectful, does seem to have a hint of it in him. I think this was done to give him some character, but he needs to respect his Elders more (see what I did there), as well as stop complaining about college and go.

Single white female. Aside from the red herring that is the deceased Katie Elder, the only female that is seen or heard from is Mary Gordon. Miss Mary is someone who had a close relationship with Katie and appears to have caught the eye of her eldest son. Thing is, though, she doesn’t serve any real purpose in the film other than to just be a female presence and cause some uncomfortable flirting from Wayne. Does she contribute to the plot in any way? No. Is she eye candy? Well, she’s not an eye sore, but I wouldn’t exactly call her eye candy, at least in this role. Like I said, she’s exists to exist.

The Sons of Katie Elder was quite entertaining and well-made, though I am starting to wonder if John Wayne can do anything other than play the tough guy in thee westerns. On the flip side, Elmer Bernstein provided a great score for this flick, very similar to his work in The Magnificent Seven. While there are better westerns out there, this is still a very good, quality film. For those that want to introduce the family to the genre, but are too scared of the violence, maybe this is one you should consider. Yes, there are fights, drinking, and gunfights, but compared to many of the other westerns, it is quite tame. So, do I recommend it? Yes, very highly!

4 1/3 out of 5 stars

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The governor of an unnamed western state, Hubert “Happy” Hopper (Guy Kibbee), has to pick a replacement for recently deceased U.S. Senator Sam Foley. His corrupt political boss, Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), pressures Hopper to choose his handpicked stooge, while popular committees want a reformer, Henry Hill. The governor’s children want him to select Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), the head of the Boy Rangers. Unable to make up his mind between Taylor’s stooge and the reformer, Hopper decides to flip a coin. When it lands on edge – and next to a newspaper story on one of Smith’s accomplishments – he chooses Smith, calculating that his wholesome image will please the people while his naïveté will make him easy to manipulate.

Junior Senator Smith is taken under the wing of the publicly esteemed, but secretly crooked, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), who was Smith’s late father’s friend. Smith develops an immediate attraction to the senator’s daughter, Susan (Astrid Allwyn). At Senator Paine’s home, Smith has a conversation with Susan, fidgeting and bumbling, entranced by the young socialite. Smith’s naïve and honest nature allows the unforgiving Washington press to take advantage of him, quickly tarnishing Smith’s reputation with ridiculous front page pictures and headlines branding him a bumpkin.

To keep Smith busy, Paine suggests he propose a bill. With the help of his secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), who was the aide to Smith’s predecessor and had been around Washington and politics for years, Smith comes up with a bill to authorize a federal government loan to buy some land in his home state for a national boys’ camp, to be paid back by youngsters across America. Donations pour in immediately. However, the proposed campsite is already part of a dam-building graft scheme included in an appropriations bill framed by the Taylor “political machine” and supported by Senator Paine.

Unwilling to crucify the worshipful Smith so that their graft plan will go through, Paine tells Taylor he wants out, but Taylor reminds him that Paine is in power primarily through Taylor’s influence. Through Paine, the machine in his state accuses Smith of trying to profit from his bill by producing fraudulent evidence that Smith already owns the land in question. Smith is too shocked by Paine’s betrayal to defend himself, and runs away.

Saunders, who looked down on Smith at first, but has come to believe in him, talks him into launching a filibuster to postpone the appropriations bill and prove his innocence on the Senate floor just before the vote to expel him. In his last chance to prove his innocence, he talks non-stop for about 24 hours, reaffirming the American ideals of freedom and disclosing the true motives of the dam scheme. Yet none of the Senators are convinced.

The constituents try to rally around him, but the entrenched opposition is too powerful, and all attempts are crushed. Owing to the influence of Taylor’s machine, newspapers and radio stations in Smith’s home state, on Taylor’s orders, refuse to report what Smith has to say and even distort the facts against the senator. An effort by the Boy Rangers to spread the news in support of Smith results in vicious attacks on the children by Taylor’s minions.

Although all hope seems lost, the senators begin to pay attention as Smith approaches utter exhaustion. Paine has one last card up his sleeve: he brings in bins of letters and telegrams from Smith’s home state, purportedly from average people demanding his expulsion. Nearly broken by the news, Smith finds a small ray of hope in a friendly smile from the President of the Senate (Harry Carey). Smith vows to press on until people believe him, but immediately collapses in a faint. Overcome with guilt, Paine leaves the Senate chamber and attempts to commit suicide, but is stopped by other senators. When he is stopped, he bursts back into the Senate chamber, loudly confessing to the whole scheme; that he should be expelled from Senate, and affirms Smith’s innocence.

REVIEW:

Politics has never been my cup of tea. I tend to avoid it whenever and however I can, which is rather hard considering the fact that my boss was a one time Democratic campaign manager up in Connecticut and gets his jollies off of any and all things politics. That being said, I have heard so many things about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, none of them bad, that the chance to watch this film and determine its greatness could not be passes up.

What is this about?

In Frank Capra’s classic, junior senator Jefferson Smith remains idealistic despite widespread corruption among his cynical colleagues in Washington.

What did I like?

Kid in a candy store. Think about something you want but never think would ever happen to you. For me, it would be meeting my idol, Louis Armstrong. The shock and awe from that moment would leave me speechless and probably a bit bewildered, to say the least. Jimmy Stewart’s character, Jefferson Smith, has a very similar position as he has been chosen to fill a Senate seat. The wide-eyed look he has is akin to taking a country kid, who never gets out, to the big city. That innocence is also what drives his character and makes the audience appreciate him that much more.

Scatter like rats. I found humor watching the press scatter with every sentence that was uttered in the Senate chamber. Taking into account that this is only a film, I can’t help but wonder how much is rooted in actual fact. I can just see the press of today going out to make a call on their phones. Actually, they probably wouldn’t even have to go out, just type it up on their laptops or send a text, but back in these days they had to scatter like rats and roaches, which is basically all the press is anyway.

Powerful. Back when I first got cable, I would just randomly flip through channels, not necessarily looking for anything, but because I could. Occasionally, I’d come across C-Span and would see the people standing there prattling on about something or other. Little did I know that they were filibustering. What does this have to do with anything? Well, the most powerful and penultimate scene in this film is where Jefferson Smith, who has been framed, begins talking to the Senate in an attempt to clear his name. After some squabbling amongst the Senators, he pulls out what appears to be a speech, some fruit, and a thermos and goes on to talk for nearly 24 hours. It takes a driven man to do this, and a great actor to portray him. Watching him give everything he had in an effort to defend himself will show you why this film is held in such high regard.

What didn’t I like?

Corruption. Government is corrupt. Today’s society knows that probably more than at any other time in history, save for the gangster era. However, I think the problem we have today is between the parties. Back then, though, it seemed as if one man was able to control the entire system. How is this possible? Can a governor wield this much power? I know that I wouldn’t want my governor doing such. Hell, he already has tried to shut down colleges, bankrupt poor college kids, and end public schools. I’m sure he has something else up his sleeve before his term is over. Back to the Governor in the film, though. This guy is almost like a crime boss with the amount of power he has. He’s even able to control things in Washington. Again, this is a Governor controlling all of this!!!

Turncoat. If ever there was a sympathetic villain, I think it would be Senator Paine. This is the guy from the same state  as Jefferson Smith, was best friends with his dad, and took the guy under his wing. Then this business of Willett Creek came up and we found out his true colors…or did we? Paine, who was a lawyer before becoming a Senator, goes on the attack, drumming up phony documents that frame Smith for owning the land where he wants to build his camp, and this is just the beginning. From that point on, Paine twists the knife deeper and deeper into Smith’s back, but complains to the Governor how he can’t take it and wants out. Finally, he caves and confesses, but it leaves the audience to question his motives. If he liked the kid so much, why didn’t he confess earlier, rather than constant attacks? Did it really require a near-death experience to get to this revelation?

Sheep. I hear, well see, people talking on Facebook all the time about how “the masses are sheep following a blind leader into destruction that will ultimately end this country” or something like that. Whenever I see something like this, I have to think to myself. Everyone has a brain and they can make up their own mind. No one is being brainwashed. Watching the Senators reaction to Jefferson Smith after the accusations makes me wonder, though. I don’t think there was a man in there that believed Smith, except maybe the Senate President, who had to remain neutral. I find it hard to believe that every single one of these men believed that cock and bull story that was presented to them by the corrupted Senator Paine and the Governor’s payroll (did I mention how his boys threatened and beat up kids to make sure Smith’s name stayed in the mud?). I guess if there were, the film decided not to show any supporters for Smith, except for Saunders, for dramatic effect, but still, that was a bit much. It was like the guy was disliked by all before and then they all just started to hate on him!

Jefferson Smith is the kind of man we need today in Washington. He is proud, idealistic, innocent, and won’t stand for corruption. Unfortunately for us, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is just a movie. Well, not just a movie, a damn great film! I really don’t have much else to say about this flick other than it is something I feel as if I should have watched in high school Civics class as a way to demonstrate filibusters, and to a lesser extent, the Senate in action. Do I recommend this film? Yes, very much so! This is without a doubt one of those film you need to see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Battle Beyond the Stars

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The farmers of the peaceful planet Akir are threatened by the space tyrant Sador (John Saxon) and his army of mutants, the Malmori. Sador’s huge ship carries a weapon called a “Stellar Converter”, which turns planets into small stars. He threatens to use the Converter unless the planet submits to him when he returns in several days. Zed (Jeff Corey), the last Akira warrior, is old and nearly blind. He suggests they hire mercenaries to protect the planet. Lacking valuable resources, they can only offer food and shelter in payment. Unable to go himself, Zed offers his ship, which has an artificial intelligence navigation and tactical computer named Nell, for the job if they can find a pilot. The ship is fast and well-armed but cannot defeat Sador alone. Shad (Richard Thomas), a young man who has piloted the ship and is well known to Nell, volunteers for the recruiting mission.

Shad’s first stop is the Hephaestus space station, which repairs androids. Expecting to find weapons, Shad instead finds only two humans among the androids: Doctor Hephaestus (Sam Jaffe), kept on life support, and his beautiful daughter Nanelia (Darlanne Fluegel). The doctor attempts to force Shad to mate with his daughter. Shad doesn’t want to abandon his people, and escapes, with Nanelia following in her own ship. Although she has no weapons, her highly advanced computer systems might be useful. The two split up to look for more mercenaries.

Shad comes across Space Cowboy (George Peppard), a spacegoing truck driver from Earth. Shad learns that Cowboy is late delivering a shipment of laser guns to a planet which, as they watch, Sador destroys with his weapon. Lacking the fuel to carry the weapons home, Cowboy offers to deliver them to Akir. Shad talks him into teaching the Akira to use the guns. Later, Shad meets a set of five alien clones who share a group consciousness named Nestor. They admit their life is incredibly dull, since their whole race shares one mind. In order to be entertained, they have sent five members to join Shad’s cause. Nestor does not require payment, saying they are completely self-sufficient. Next, Shad recruits Gelt (Robert Vaughn), a wealthy assassin who is so well known he can’t show his face on any civilized planet. Gelt offers his services in trade for the ability to live peacefully hiding among the Akira. Gelt’s spaceship is highly maneuverable and well armed. On his way back to Akir, Shad is approached by Saint Exmin (Sybil Danning), of the Valkyrie warriors. She is a headstrong woman looking to prove herself in battle. She pilots a small, barely armed, but extremely fast spaceship. Shad finds her annoying and wishes she would go away, but she tags along.

While waiting for Shad’s return, Nanelia is captured by a reptilian slaver named Cayman. Cayman possesses a powerful old ship with an eclectic crew of aliens. She quickly recruits Cayman to their cause when he learns that they are looking for mercenaries to fight Sador. The only payment Cayman wants is Sador’s head, since Sador’s forces had destroyed Cayman’s homeworld.

The fleet of seven ships return to Akir. Shad takes the mercenaries down to the surface, but they are greeted with caution by the natives, who are not used to violent species. Eventually, Sador returns, but his fleet of fighters is intercepted by Shad and his new friends. In the opening battle, Gelt skillfully destroys several of Sador’s ships but is mortally wounded when his ship crashes. Meanwhile, Cowboy and the Akiran natives, armed with his laser guns, fight off Sador’s invading ground forces.

Sador survives an assassination attempt by one of the captured Nestors and launches all of his ships in retaliation against the planet. The Akira ground troops, lead by Cowboy, defeat Sador’s army, but Zed is killed in the fighting. There is another huge space battle and the mercenaries’ ships are destroyed one by one. However, the mercenaries are successful in destroying all of Sador’s star fighters and the Stellar Converter, leaving only Sador’s flagship. Shad and Nanelia, piloting Nell, are captured by the flagship in a tractor beam. The pair escape in a lifepod after Shad orders Nell to activate the ship’s self-destruct program. Sador’s ship is destroyed in the explosion. As Shad and Nanelia return to Akir, Nanelia despairs over the deaths of their friends. Shad tells her that the Akira believe that no one is truly dead when they are remembered and beloved by the living. The Akira will remember the sacrifices made by the mercenaries and honor them forever.

REVIEW:

Cult movies seem to be the theme for the upcoming year for me. We’ll have to see if this becomes something more than a fluke. In the meantime, I bring you Battle Beyond the Stars. Chances are you have no idea what this is, right? Well, let’s find out what’s going on with this, shall we?

What is this about?

With the peaceful planet of Akir in peril, seven mercenaries join forces to protect it from the plottings of an intergalactic megalomaniac.

What did I like?

Referendum. For those that aren’t familiar with the source material, this is another remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. You may be more familiar with the western remake, The Magnificent Seven. With such a well-known property such as this, it doesn’t hurt to throw some fan service in there, if it does right. For instance, the planet under siege is called Akir, obviously after Akira. Little touches like that offer a pleasant nod to the true creator of this plot.

Familiar. Speaking of The Magnificent Seven, Robert Vaughn appears in a role that is very similar to the one he played in that classic western. Once again he is someone who is above his compatriots, at least he appears that way, and is a very talented and skilled assassin. When I heard that this was the case, I thought I would not be a fan, but as it turns out, it would be hard to picture anyone else in this role, without comparing them to Vaughn. So, why not get the man himself and let him do his thing, right?

In space. Here is something that I’ve noticed, many films that are “set in space” end up spending way more time on planets than they need to. Most of these films are modern, but back in the late 70s and 80s, they knew how to make a sci-fi flick that stays in space for most of the flick. Yes, they do go on a couple of planets, but they aren’t there very long, and I appreciate that.

What didn’t I like?

Lean back. The final member of our seven is a buxom Valkyrie named Saint-Exmin who, when in her Valkyrie gear, seems to be the inspiration for Sif in the Thor comics. Is that what I have against her? No, it is the way she sits in her ship. For some weird reason, she is leaning back as if she is Barbarella on that pleasure/torture machine she had. I don’t really get what the reason for this was, and I may just be grasping at something complain about, but I didn’t like it.

Cowboys and aliens. This wouldn’t be a space flick complete with mercenaries without a Han Solo-type character. This iteration of our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder is known as Cowboy and is played by George Peppard. I have nothing against Peppard’s character, except that is does seem strange that an Earthling is out there in the middle of space. Do I think that he should have been an alien? Not necessarily, but it was just strange to have him from Earth.

Remake. There are very few things that I detest, despise, and just flat-out hate more than remakes. Like I always say, those things are nothing but lazy filmmaking and show how Hollywood doesn’t have any creativity left, since all they do is recycle old ideas and spit on their legacy. Before I go off into an epic rant, let me say that while I love the western version of this and appreciate that this version takes the original and puts it in space, they are both remakes, again proving the lack of originality coming out of Hollywood.

The year is 1980. Earlier in the year, the second part of George Lucas’ opus was released. Perhaps you’ve heard of that small film, The Empire Strikes Back? Yes, this film was made to combat the space craze that was going in films at the time. Another small fact that you may not know is that a couple of young up and comers worked on this film, composer James Horner and future director James Cameron who was then working as a special effects artist. Aside from those little trivia bit, we must appreciate the different alien races and ships. As fun as this film is, I have to say that it really isn’t that good. The acting is very rudimentary, at best, there is a lack of humor that would have served this film much better, though Peppard tries, and the motivation behind the antagonist doesn’t seem to exist. With all that said, do I recommend this? Yes, this is a very fun film in the vein of Star Wars, but not quite the authentic. Mixing two of my favorite films together in Star Wars and The Magnificent Seven, of course I’m going to like this, and I hope other will enjoy, as well.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Wolf of Wall Street

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After losing his job at a Wall Street firm, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes a job at a boiler room trading company that specializes in penny stocks. Thanks to his aggressive pitching style and the high commissions, he makes a small fortune. He befriends a man named Donnie Azoff, and the two decide to go into business together. They recruit Belfort’s accountant parents as well as several of Jordan’s friends, whom Jordan trains in the art of the hard sell. The basic method of the firm is a pump and dump scam. To cloak this, Belfort gives the firm the respectable name of “Stratton Oakmont”. After an exposé in Forbes, hundreds of ambitious young financiers flock to his company.

Jordan becomes immensely successful and slides into a decadent lifestyle of prostitutes and drugs. Jordan has an affair with a woman named Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) at one of his parties. He divorces his wife and marries Naomi, and soon they have a daughter, Skylar. Meanwhile, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI begin investigating Stratton Oakmont.

Jordan instantly makes $22 million on his securing the IPO of Steve Madden, Ltd. To hide his money, Jordan opens a Swiss bank account with the corrupt banker Jean-Jacques Saurel (Jean Dujardin) in the name of Naomi’s aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley), who is a British citizen and outside the reach of American authorities. He uses friends with European passports to smuggle cash to Switzerland.

Donnie gets into a public fight with Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), one of their money couriers, and Brad is arrested. Jordan also learns from his private investigator that the FBI is wiretapping his phones. Fearing for his son, Jordan’s father pressures him to leave Stratton Oakmont and lay low. Jordan, however, cannot bear to quit.

Jordan, Donnie and their wives are on a yacht trip to Italy when they learn that Emma has died of a heart attack. Over the objections of his grieving wife and his yacht captain, Jordan decides to sail to Monaco so they can drive to Switzerland without getting their passports stamped at the border and settle the bank account, but a violent storm capsizes their yacht. After their rescue, the plane sent to take them to Geneva is destroyed by a seagull flying into the engine. Jordan considers this a sign from God and decides to sober up.

Two years later, the FBI arrests Jordan during the filming of an infomercial. Saurel, arrested in Florida over an unrelated charge, has told the FBI everything. Since the evidence against him is overwhelming, Jordan agrees to gather evidence on his colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Disgusted with Jordan’s lifestyle, Naomi tells Jordan she will divorce him and wants full custody of their children. Jordan throws a violent tantrum, gets high, and ends up crashing his car in his driveway during an attempt to abscond with their daughter.

The next morning, Jordan wears a wire to work. Jordan silently slips Donnie a note warning him about the wire. The note finds its way to the FBI, and Jordan is arrested for breaching his cooperation deal. The FBI raids and shuts down Stratton Oakmont.

Despite this one breach, Jordan receives a reduced sentence for his testimony and is sentenced to 36 months in a minimum security prison in Nevada. After his release, Jordan makes a living hosting seminars on sales technique.

REVIEW:

Given the events of today, which I will keep to myself, if you don’t mind, I wasn’t really in the mood to watch a film, to be honest with you, let alone sit here and write a review. However, an outing with the little woman and a big fat burger have lifted my spirits and I am now able to bring you The Wolf of Wall Street.

What is this about?

Martin Scorcese’s high-rolling Wall Street drama is based on the memoirs of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, whose giddy career ended in federal prison.

What did I like?

Go for it. There are certain subjects that films tend to avoid or just skim over. Money laundering isn’t necessarily one of them, as can be proven by watching just about any drug trafficking flick, but when you throw in the face that this actually happened and director Martin Scorsese is taking the chance to bring this to light, then you know it has to have been something big. I don’t know much about the goings on up there on Wall Street, other than the whole place is corrupt and money hungry. This film demonstrates that in one chance scene with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and Mathew McConaughey, who has this cool chest beating song that I’m sure will be stuck in my head for days.

Frantic. The first half of this film is very quick. There are cutscenes to random clips from mostly the 70s and, just like the reaction from the cocaine that is being ingested, the whole first half or so moves along at a level that is far above what it should be doing. Now, I did notice that as the drug use lessened, the pace slowed. If that correlation was done on purpose then it was a stroke of genius!

New girl. Amy Adams. Jessica Biel. Jennifer Lawrence. Scarlett Johansson. Jennifer Aniston. Sandra Bullock. These are just a few names of the “hot” actresses (use whichever definition for that term that you wish) at the time. Truth be told, some of them are getting a bit long in the tooth, others just don’t have the draw they one had, while some are just coming into their prime. Enter Margot Robbie, she has a somewhat small role in this film as DiCaprio’s second wife, but, damn, what she does with those scenes shows that this is someone that is more than a pretty face and a hot body. There is a real talent there. I mean, she is able to go toe to toe with DiCaprio, a man some consider on the list of the greatest actors currently working.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. I want to come back to the pacing of this film, but this time I will focus on the second half of the film. This the part of the film where we are taken down a darker path than what was shown to us in the first half, also the comedy seems to be less in this half and, as I mentioned before, the frantic pace has drastically slowed. In short, the film has become a serious drama. Given that this is the part of the film that deals with the criminal activities, it is understood, but I have to wonder if there would have been a way to do this without slowing things down and making one remember than this is a 3 hour film!

Leo. Nothing against DiCaprio, but what does he have on Scorsese, or vice versa? It seems like he has been in every one of his films since he made the jump from TV to film, maybe even before. I will say, though, that it is not out of the ordinary for a director to have a go-to guy. Quentin Tarantino has Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Howard has Tom Hanks, Alfred Hitchcock has Cary Grant, and Tim Burton has Johnny Depp (remains to be seen if he keep Helena Bonham Carter after their split). DiCaprio does a great job in this role, but I can’t help but feel as if it would have worked better with someone else and Scorsese just cast his golden boy for the sake of casting him.

Glorification. Have you noticed that some of the most popular “heroes” in culture are actually deplorable human beings? Think about it, pirates weren’t exactly moral, upstanding citizens, knights did more raping and pillaging than saving villages and such, and most of the names from the Old West that we look up to are the villains. For some reason, we celebrate the villains. Take a look in the comic book world. As popular as Batman is, it is the Joker that more people want to be (I know I did). There is a fascinating documentary about this very subject that I recommend, Necessary Evil: Villains of DC Comics. What does this all have to do with this film? Well, our “hero”, if you will, in this flick is DiCaprio, obviously, but he and his lackeys are actually taking money from their clients. It really isn’t shown in the film, so that his character, Jordan Belfort, can come out smelling like roses, but that is what really happened. Why are we celebrating this villainy? I can’t tell you, but I’m sure the people who got ripped off by the real Belfort were none too pleased about this.

Final verdict on The Wolf of Wall Street? Well, first off all, it is way too long for what it is. Scorsese has done much better work. There is a lack of depth to this film that seems as if this was either rushed into production, theaters, or there was just a lack of care. On the positive side though, we get great performances from DiCaprio, introduced to Margot Robbie, and continue to see Jonah Hill prove his acting mettle. Who would’ve thought the Seth Rogen clone from Superbad would turn out to be a competent actor? So, do I recommend this? In terms of cinematic works, yes. While flawed, this is still a fine piece of cinema. However, if you’re just looking for a film to kick back and enjoy, then this isn’t for you. If not for all the hookers and blow, this would be more artsy-fartsy version of Wall Street in some respects. It is what it is, though, and only your personal proclivities can determine whether you’ll like this or not.

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/25

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 25, 2014 by Mystery Man

Merry Xmas, everyone!

I’m sure that by now you (or your kids, siblings, etc.) have opened all the presents and are winding down for the day. I hope it was blessed and merry one, but I almost for that….

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

So, I’ve been debating whether or not to go with a holiday flick for this week’s edition. I mean, we have all been bombarded with them for since Halloween, after all. One network, Hallmark, even shows nothing but Christmas movies since October. Watch, next year, it’ll be July when they start that!

Let’s go with a film that is set around the holidays, but isn’t a Christmas film. Rumor has it that this was initially meant to be a horror flick, but I think the sci-fi route (or whatever genre it is) worked better for Gremlins.

Ernest Saves Christmas

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A man who claims to be Santa Claus (Douglas Seale) arrives at the Orlando International Airport on December 23.

Ernest P. Worrell (Jim Varney) is working as a taxi driver. He takes a passenger to the airport, but speeds and the passenger falls out of the taxi. Ernest later picks up Santa Claus, who tells Ernest that he is on his way to inform a local celebrity named Joe Carruthers (Oliver Clark) that he has been chosen to be the new Santa Claus. Joe had previously hosted a children’s TV program named “Uncle Joey’s Treehouse” in the Orlando area similar to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with emphasis on manners and integrity with the catchphrase “They never get old. They always stay new. Those three little words, Please and Thank You.” It got cancelled three weeks before and Joe must settle for a new job reading stories to children.

While they are driving, a runaway teenage girl (Noelle Parker) calling herself Harmony Starr joins Ernest and Santa in the cab. When they get to their destination, Santa possesses no legal currency (only play money), so in his giving Christmas spirit, Ernest lets him ride for free. The decision ultimately gets Ernest fired. As a dejected Ernest leaves the taxi garage, his former boss throws out Santa’s sack, which it turns out Santa had left behind.

Santa arrives at the Orlando Children’s Museum to talk to Joe, but is interrupted and rebuffed by Joe’s agent Marty Brock. Marty misunderstands Santa’s name, thinking he said “Mr. Santos,” and continues to call him by that name, even when he tells him his real name. He begins to worry as he then discovers that he had left his sack in the cab, and becomes more discouraged as he realizes he is becoming forgetful in his old age (he’s 151 years old, as his passport shows he was born in 1837). Joe does not believe Santa’s story and Marty has him arrested. Meanwhile, Ernest goes over to his friend Vern’s house to put up a Christmas tree, much to Vern’s distress (as with the original commercials that first introduced Ernest, the audience never sees Vern’s face and only his point of view). Ernest discovers the magic power of the sack, and realizes that the owner really is Santa Claus. He and Harmony immediately set off to find Santa and return it.

On Christmas Eve, having learned of Santa’s imprisonment, Ernest poses as Astor Clementh, an employee of the governor and Harmony as the governor’s niece Mindy, and they help Santa escape from jail by convincing the police chief that Santa believing that he is Santa Claus is “infectious insanity” and he must be taken to solitary confinement. Ernest disguises himself as an Apopka snake rancher (Lloyd Worrell from Knowhutimean? Hey Vern, It’s My Family Album) who sneaks Santa into a movie studio and speaks to a security guard about delivering the snakes to people who direct horror films. Meanwhile, Marty presses Joe to move on from his children’s show career, shave his beard, and instead land a part in a movie as a father and family man, since he is good at working with kids; however, it turns out to be a horror film titled Christmas Slay about an alien which terrorizes a bunch of children on Christmas Eve; this offends Santa so deeply that he punches the director in the eye. Joe accepts the part but feels uncomfortable swearing in front of the kids on set.

Harmony is fascinated by the power of the sack, and hopes to find gifts of monetary value inside. She steals it, replacing it with one filled with feathers, and attempts to run away yet again to Miami. Santa tracks down Joe at his home, but has nothing to show except the fake sack. Joe politely but firmly declines the job.

Ernest heads to the airport to pick up the sleigh, reindeer, and two of Santa’s elves before they hit rush hour traffic. But their truck is disabled and Ernest decides to drive the sleigh to the Children’s Museum. His inexperience, though, leads him and the elves on a wild, out-of-control ride through Orlando. Meanwhile, Joe is overcome by conscience when the director refuses to tone down any of the profanity and violence in the film. He sees the haphazardly-flying sleigh from a distance, and realizing that Santa was telling the truth all along, is overcome with joy and runs off to find him.

Joe finds Santa at the Children’s Museum and accepts the job. Harmony returns with the real sack, apologizing to Santa (who reveals that her real name is Pamela Trenton.) The sleigh arrives just in time and Joe asks Ernest (saddened that the adventure is over) to drive for the first night, while Pamela (who decided to go home) hitches a ride as an honorary elf.

The film ends with the words, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!,” followed by a sleigh dash that spells, KnoWhutImean?, one of Ernest’s catchphrases. Meanwhile, Chuck and Bobby were looking at the letter “E” for what it means. Suddenly, you see the Easter Bunny’s ears when they come out of the cargo box, and Chuck rolls his eyes and squeals like he is screaming for help.

REVIEW:

Growing up, there were two flavors of man-child that graced Saturday morning TV, Pee Wee Herman and Ernest P. Worrell. Technically, there was a third and fourth in Ed Grimley and Weird Al Yankovic, but Ed Grimley’s show only lasted one season and Weird Al isn’t a character, so to speak. Ernest went on to star in a somewhat successful string of films. Since tomorrow is Christmas and I haven’t done a true Christmas film this year, unless you count Holiday Inn, I figured this would be a great opportunity to enjoy Ernest Saves Christmas.

What is this about?

When Santa Claus decides to retire and pass on his magic bag of Christmas surprises to a new St. Nick, A perky teen runaway and hapless taxi driver Ernest P. Worrell must convince a skeptical kids-show host to take over the post of Father Christmas.

What did I like?

Characters. Here we are nearly 15 years after Jim Varney’s death and I still don’t think he gets the respect he deserves. Other than Ernest and the voice of Slinky Dog in the Toy Story franchise, I can’t really name a major role he was in, save for maybe Jed Clampett in that awful Beverly Hillbillies remake. That being said, I believe he was just so good at what he did, no one would take him seriously as anything else. Ironic, since the guy that is in line to be Santa in this film has that exact same problem. Varney is a true chameleon, transforming from Ernest, to an elderly woman, to some greasy lawyer-type, and also to a snake rustler. All character with their own distinct personalities, quirks, and what have you. I believe some of Varney’s characters were so good that they got their own special/direct-to-video film, but don’t quote me on that one.

Good guys. Sometimes it is good to get a film that doesn’t have a specific antagonist and is just about letting the story unfold as it may. In this case, while the agent guy seems as if he’s a giant douche of epic proportions, he isn’t anything more than an annoyance. There is no one interfering with Ernest as he helps Santa, no one stopping Joe from becoming the new Santa, and no one telling that runaway chick to do bad things. Sometimes less is more.

Christmas Spirit. Ernest is a simpleton, I think we can all agree on that. While he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, he does have a sunny outlook on life and that becomes quite infectious, especially in a Christmas movie. Now, this is not one of the more inspirational Christmas flicks, you would be hard pressed to not find yourself filled with some sort of spirit after watching and that is the sign of pretty good Christmas flick.

What didn’t I like?

Runaway. So, out of nowhere, Ernest is joined by some runaway that latches on to him for the rest of the film. Why? My guess is because the film needed someone young and also a female, so put the two together saved time. Why did she have to be a runaway? I don’t know. Why did she have to be borderline annoying, yet cute? No clue. Could the film have done without her? Yes, indeed!

Agent. In a film that is this good-natured, there was only one “bad guy” and he was the sleazy agent. Everything stereotypical that you can think of this guy was. For that, he was a good character, but the fact that he had Santa Claus arrested and really served no other purpose for the rest of the film kind of puts him on the naughty list for this flick. Had he become a better person by film’s end or something like that, this would be an entirely different conversation.

Santa Clause. Although I’ve never seen it all the way through, I can’t help but notice how the basic plot of The Santa Clause seems to have been “borrowed” from this film. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess that it’s ok. No…no, it’s not! Look, I realize Disney needed some kind of Christmas franchise and that’s fine and dandy, but with all those geniuses working over there, surely they could have come up with something original, rather than ripping off an idea from the Ernest P. Worrell catalogue!

Man, I have missed Ernest. It really is a shame that Netflix doesn’t have his films available. I just happened to have seen this one back in the fall and said that I’d probably get to it around the holidays and here are. Ernest Saves Christmas is arguably his best film, though I think Ernest Goes to Camp was better reviewed and received. Funny thing is, this is the one that is the least about Ernest. Vern only appears as a quick, and random, cameo because…well, it’s Ernest. The few flaws I have with this film are very minor things that are mostly nitpicking. This is a Christmas flick that the whole family can enjoy without fear of scenes being too violent, harsh language, gratuitous sex, etc. A truly holsum flick this is and I highly recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars

Good Burger

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On the first day of summer, dim-witted but charming Ed (Kel Mitchell) experiences a nightmare featuring talking burgers. Troubled by it, he shows up late to work at Good Burger. On the same morning, Dexter (Kenan Thompson), a high school student, steals his mother’s car after she leaves for a business trip. He accidentally crashes into that of his teacher, Mr. Wheat (Sinbad). With no driver’s license or insurance, he is in danger of going to jail. Mr. Wheat agrees to allow him to pay for a total of $1,900 in car damage, which later becomes $2,500, instead of calling the police. He must find a summer job to pay for the expenses. He first finds employment at Mondo Burger, but after a clash with the strict manager, Kurt Bozwell (Jan Schweiterman), he is fired and has to find employment at another place, and manages to do so at Good Burger. There, he meets and reluctantly befriends Ed (who helps him find a job position) and a slew of colorful employees. Little does he know Ed inadvertently caused the car accident; he was rushing to make a delivery on rollerblades, and skated in front of Dexter, causing him to swerve and hit Mr. Wheat’s car.

Dexter finds much success at Good Burger, but his success takes a turn for the worse. Across the street, the Mondo Burger where he previously worked opens to the public. It produces oversized burgers, much bigger than the Good Burgers, and threatens to put them out of business. Fortunately, with the invention of Ed’s “secret sauce,” they are saved. After Dexter realizes that Ed caused his car accident, he takes part of Ed’s bonus paychecks earned from the sauce to pay off his debt to Mr. Wheat.

Good Burger continues to be popular because of Ed’s sauce, causing Kurt to attempt to steal it. First, he entices Ed with a higher hourly wage at Mondo Burger. Dedicated to Good Burger, he denies it. He buys Dexter a similar yo-yo that his dad bought him as a kid. It was at this moment that he not only begins to truly care about Ed, but he is also overcome with guilt for taking most of Ed’s bonus money. Kurt then sends in an attractive employee named Roxanne (Carmen Electra) who fails to seduce Ed into divulging his “secret sauce” recipe, ending up badly injured and resigning from her job.

Meanwhile, Dexter takes a shine to coworker Monique (Shar Jackson), and she eventually agrees to a double date with him along with Ed and Roxanne. The next day, however, she tells him off and breaks up with him after she discovers his attempts to cheat Ed out of most of his money.

Later on, Ed and Dexter encounter a dog on the street and attempt to feed him a Good Burger and a Mondo Burger. It eats the former, but refuses to even look at the latter, apparently sensing something wrong with the meat. Suspicious, Ed and Dexter disguise themselves as old women and enter Mondo Burger to find out what is wrong with their meat. They discover that they chemically induced their burgers with an illegal food additive called “Triampathol,” which makes them oversized. Kurt is not fooled by Ed and Dexter’s disguises and kidnaps them by sending them to Demented Hills Mental Hospital (run by his friend) to prevent the public from learning Mondo Burger’s secret.

After sending Ed and Dexter to Demented Hills, Kurt and his employees break into Good Burger after closing hours and spike Ed’s “secret sauce” with shark poison. When Ed and Dexter’s coworker, Otis (Abe Vigoda), attempts to call the police on them, Kurt takes him captive and sends him to Demented Hills as well. There, he tells Ed and Dexter about Kurt’s scheme to poison the “secret sauce.” They devise a plan to escape. Ed begins to dance and sing, encouraging the other patients to join in. After the entire mental hospital breaks out in dance, the trio escapes. They steal an ice cream truck to leave, but are pursued by a Demented Hills van; cleverly, Ed and Dexter throw ice cream treats at it, causing it to crash. Upon arriving at Good Burger, Ed stops a lady from eating a Good Burger with the poison-laced sauce just in time. Dexter then informs the staff that the sauce has been poisoned by Kurt and convinces them not to let anyone consume it. Ed and Dexter then break into Mondo Burger so they could expose the chemically induced burgers to the police. While Dexter provides a distraction, Ed tries to take a can of Triampathol, but accidentally knocks one into the meat grinder. Ed then decides to pours the rest of it into there. On the roof, Kurt catches Ed and Dexter and confiscates the empty can that Ed is holding. Just then, the building begins to blow up, caused by the Triampathol-overdosed burgers exploding. After it destructs and the patrons flee, the police arrest Kurt for illegal substance use. Ed then explains to Dexter that he did that on purpose to prevent Kurt from manipulating the legal system and escaping conviction, ironically responding to Dexter’s questions by saying, “I’m not stupid.” With the destruction of Mondo Burger, Mr. Wheat’s car is destroyed once again (much to Dexter’s amusement as he hands him the first half of the money owed for the damage).

Dexter apologizes to Ed for taking advantage of the latter’s salary from the sauce and both end up on friendly terms. They then walk back to Good Burger, where the employees praise them, especially Ed, as Good Burger heroes. The film ends as Ed proudly says “Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger. Can I take your order?”

REVIEW:

It may be hard to tell or remember, but there was a time when Nickelodeon was fun network aimed at kids, not tween girls. Kenan & Kel was one of the shows that aired at the end of that era and perhaps may be best be known for introducing us to Kenan Thompson who starred in Fat Albert and is now the longest running cast member currently on Saturday Night Live, I believe. Also, it brought us this film that everyone has insisted I watch, Good Burger. Let’s see what all the hullabaloo is about, shall we?

What is this about?

Two L.A. teens with summer jobs at Good Burger try to save their small restaurant when a corporate giant burger franchise moves in across the street.

What did I like?

Burger time. To quote Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction, “I love a tasty burger!” At the same time, I would never work in a burger joint, for a myriad of reasons. However, I do like that these filmmakers made the job and atmosphere look fun and welcoming and the burgers were so tasty looking, but that might have had something more to do with my hunger.

Shar. A few years ago, Shar Jackson was all in the news for being Kevin Federline’s baby mama and all that reality TV drama. After his 10 minutes of fame were up, so were hers apparently, but I don’t see why. The girl is gorgeous and, has at least some acting talent. I think she also had a song or two released, but so does Paris Hilton, so that means nothing. What I like most about Shar’s character, though, is that she doesn’t fall into the typical “ghetto” trappings that I feel had this not been a kids’ flick, she would have. Instead, she comes off as well-spoken and educated, who just happened to have a job in the fast food industry.

SpongeBob? Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants. Ok, for those of you not familiar with the extremely popular, long running Nickelodeon animated series, it is about a dimwitted fry cook who works at a restaurant and the rival place across the street want the secret formula to their “Krabby Patties.” Being that this is a Nickelodeon property, as well, I can’t help but wonder if this is where the basic plot for SpongeBob came from. The similarities are hard to miss!

What didn’t I like?

Kel, dude. With Kenan enjoying immense success over on SNL, a long running joke has been “where is Kel?” I honestly have no idea. He may just be one of those guys that preferred to not stay in the spotlight. At any rate, this is not his best performance. This lovable, empty-headed, nimrod, for lack of a better term, sounds like a weird hybrid of Crush from Finding Nemo, Ted from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and pretty much every other surfer/skater dude. Thing is, I don’t really understand why he talks like that. Sure, they’re in L.A., but he roller blades to work, shows no sign of going to the beach and hanging 10, as it were, and no one else comes even close to speaking in such a way. Shaquille O’Neal makes a quick cameo and upon meeting Kel’s character asks him, “you’re not like everyone else, are you?”, or something to that effect. I guess the big mystery surrounding this guy is that he just isn’t like the rest of us.

Afro circus. I remember watching Sinbad on A Different World and then on his own show. The guy has a love for the 60s and 70s, that’s for sure. Does that excuse him dressing like a live-action Disco Stu, no. Seriously, there are two sides to my opinion on this. On the one hand this was probably done for comedic effect, which is totally fine, as it works to some degree and doesn’t make him seem like the antagonist that he sort of is. On the other hand, though, this is a teacher dressing! Initially, I thought maybe it was a Halloween thing, or something about the last day of school, but in subsequent scenes, we see him still sporting retro styles, though not as gaudy as in our initial introduction to him. Ay Caramba! This guy was just a mess, but at least the loud clothing distracts the audience from the giant plot hole that was thrown out with him wanting to help Kenan’s character, but instead keeps charging him money to fix his car.

Big or small screen? Taking into account that this was released when times were different, I still can’t shake the feeling that this just seems as if it were initially meant for TV audiences or direct-to-video (DVD). There is nothing screaming big screen that I can tell and it mostly just rehashes jokes, characters, and cast members from various Nickelodeon shows. Aside from the brief cameo by the always gorgeous Carmen Electra, we’ve seen everyone in this at some point on Nick, I believe. Perhaps the film should have stayed there, as well.

Watching Good Burger I was taken back to a simpler time and age, when the only worry I had was what to wear to school and which girl was going to ignore me. There is a definite nostalgia feeling that this film brings and that may be its best-selling point because, honestly, this is one of those film that isn’t that good, but because of fond memories people have of watching it when they were younger, it has persevered longer than it has any right. That being said, I wouldn’t go out and say this is horrible. As a matter of fact, it is a good choice for a family film. Do I recommend this? Yes, go get some burgers, plop down on the couch and have a blast!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The dragon Smaug destroys Laketown, while Tauriel escorts Fili, Kili, Oin, Bofur and Bard’s children out of the burning town on a boat. Bard breaks out of his prison cell and kills Smaug with the black arrow, and the dragon’s falling corpse crushes and kills the fleeing Master of Laketown. The survivors choose Bard as their new leader, who then decides the Laketown people should head for the ruins of Dale for refuge. Kíli confesses his love for Tauriel, and he and the other Dwarves journey to reunite with their company at the Lonely Mountain while Tauriel travels to investigate Mount Gundabad with Legolas. Upon arriving at Erebor, they are informed by Bilbo that Thorin has been afflicted with Smaug’s “dragon sickness” as he searched for the Arkenstone. It is revealed that Bilbo actually stole the Arkenstone from Smaug but knows it should be hidden from Thorin.

Meanwhile, Galadriel arrives at Dol Guldur, frees Gandalf and lifts the fortress’ spell of concealment. The Ringwraiths then reveal themselves and converge on Galadriel and the wounded Gandalf. Elrond and Saruman appear and battle the Ringwraiths while Radagast arrives and escorts Gandalf away. Sauron then comes forth and tries to tempt Galadriel, who casts Sauron and the Ringwraiths from the fortress. Saruman tells Elrond to take the weakened Galadriel to safety while he deals with Sauron. Gandalf leaves Radagast for Erebor to warn of the Orc army approaching the Lonely Mountain. Azog, marching on Erebor with his vast Orc army, sends Bolg to Mount Gundabad to summon their other army. Legolas and Tauriel witness the march of Bolg’s Orc army, bolstered by Goblins and giant bats.

While Bard and the Laketown survivors shelter in Dale, an elf army led by Thranduil arrives with supplies and aid. Thranduil forms an alliance with Bard, wishing to claim a necklace of white gems from the Mountain. In Erebor, Thorin commands the Dwarven company to ready for battle and presents Bilbo with a Mithril shirt. Bard travels to Erebor to negotiate and reason with Thorin, who refuses to listen or share any of the treasure. After Gandalf arrives at Dale, Bilbo sneaks out of Erebor to hand the Arkenstone over to Thranduil and Bard. The next day, Bard and Thranduil’s armies gather at the gates of Erebor, offering to trade the Arkenstone for gold. Thorin learns of Bilbo’s actions and almost kills him, before Gandalf makes Thorin release him and let him climb back down to Gandalf. Just before Thranduil’s and Bard’s forces begin their assault on Erebor, Thorin’s cousin Dáin arrives with Dwarf army. The Dwarf army prepares to attack the Elves and Men when Azog’s army makes its appearance, converging on Dale and the Dwarfs. With the Orcs outnumbering Dain’s army, Thranduil’s and Bard’s forces join the battle.

Inside Erebor, Thorin, refusing to fight, falls into a hallucinatory nightmare before finally regaining his sanity and leading his company into battle. While the other Dwarves of the company aid Dain’s forces, Thorin rides towards Ravenhill with Dwalin, Fíli, and Kíli to kill Azog and force the Orc army to retreat. Meanwhile, Tauriel arrives at Dale and tries to stop Thranduil from returning to Mirkwood, but is banished. Legolas and Tauriel leave to warn Thorin of Bolg’s approaching army with Bilbo following them using the ring.

At Ravenhill, Thorin, Fili, Kili and Dwalin fight a troop of Goblins shortly after Bilbo arrives and warns them of an attack. Thorin tells Fili and Kili to insepct a tower but Fili gets caught and killed by Azog. Tauriel tries to help Kili from Orcs, but Bolg ambushes and wounds her. Bolg is about to kill Tauriel when Kili comes to protect her, sacrificing himself in the process. Meanwhile, Thorin is fighting Azog while Legolas goes after Bolg to save Tauriel. While fighting Bolg, Legolas throws Orcrist to Thorin and saves the Dwarf King from Azog. Legolas then battles Bolg on top of a crumbling tower while Azog and Thorin fight on a frozen lake above them. After Legolas kills Bolg, Bilbo, who was knocked unconscious by an Orc, wakes to see the Great Eagles appear, carrying Radagast and Beorn into battle, after which the Orc armies are quickly decimated. Thorin kills Azog but is left mortally wounded in the process. He makes peace with Bilbo before dying.

On Thranduil’s suggestion, Legolas leaves to meet with a Dunedain ranger while Tauriel mourns Kili. Bilbo bids farewell to the remaining Dwarves and journeys home to the Shire with Gandalf. As the two part, Gandalf admits to his knowledge of the ring and cautions Bilbo he will be watching him. Bilbo’s story ends when he returns to Bag End to find his belongings being auctioned off by the Sackville-Bagginses, who assumed he died, though Bilbo clarifies his identity.

Sixty years later, Bilbo, while reflecting on the past journey, receives a visit from Gandalf and happily runs to greet his old friend

REVIEW:

One of the most anticipated films of the year, not just in the sci-fi/fantasy nerd community, but in terms of film in general has been The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the thrilling conclusion to Peter Jackson’s (unnecessarily drug out) Hobbit trilogy. Being the final film in the franchise, one would expect it to go out with a bang, not to mention set the foundation, at least, for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Is this mission accomplished, or were these 3 films nothing more than a cash grab?

What is this about?

Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lone Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.

What did I like?

Action packed finale. With the recent release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, part I, we are reminded about how downright dull a film cane be while waiting for the big payoff finale flick. No saying that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was anywhere near as boring, but it wasn’t the finale that delivered on most levels as this one does. As a matter of fact, the last hour or so is nothing but a giant battle among the titular 5 armies. Are you telling me that isn’t exciting?!?

Thorin vs. Azgog. Staying on the topic of action and satisfying conclusions, we finally get the final showdown between Thorin and Azgog. As one can imagine, the rivalry between these that has been building up over the previous films comes to glorious fruition as these two don’t pull any punches and give us a an epic battle that is sure to be remembered for years to come.

Comedy bits. Inflections of comedy are always welcome, especially in more serious films so as to break the tension. There are a couple of comic relief characters in this film but they are mostly forgettable. The comedy gold comes from the subtle sight gags, one liners, and/or situations that our heroes manage to find themselves in. I can appreciate the subtle use of comedy, even if some people probably think this should be a super serious flick akin to the original trilogy.

What didn’t I like?

Little Hobbit. Here’s something worth noting, the titular Hobbit is barely in this film, or the last one for that matter. If he was going to play such a minor role, not to mention all the changes and additions to the original book, shouldn’t they have just renamed this something to do with the dwarves?

Sauron, is that you? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe we get Sauron in the book. Obviously, this was done to create some type of origin and tie-in, which I would be fine with, except it didn’t feel natural. That whole scene to me felt like it was filmed at the last minute and randomly spliced in, but perhaps I missed something during the time I had to run out and answer my phone (don’t give me that look, it was my mother!) Maybe when I watch this again in the future, it will make more sense.

Did we really need 3 films? If I had to sum this film up in a phrase it would be “one big battle” because, as I mentioned earlier, most of the film is a giant battle. There really isn’t much of a story to be told here, that was all done in the fist film. Yes, they could have put these three films into one and wouldn’t have hurt anything. I bet it would be closer to the source material that way, as well. Of course, had that have happened, then studios wouldn’t have made 3x the amount of money they would have with just one picture and the exec who is driving around in a 2014 Porsche can now afford to get a 2015 Porsche. Ugh!

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a film of epic scheme and scope that accomplishes what it sets out to do, entertain the audience, tell a good story, and placate director Peter Jackson’s ego and obsession with Middle-Earth. While this is perhaps the shortest film in this saga, I still found it unnecessarily long, with a good 30 minutes or so that could have been left on the cutting room floor. Still, I did have a good time watching and believe that most who will take the time to check this out won’t be disappointed. Go watch and have fun!

4 out of 5 stars

Holiday Inn

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), and Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) have a musical act popular in the New York City nightlife scene. On Christmas Eve, Jim prepares to give his last performance as part of the act before marrying Lila and retiring with her to a farm in Connecticut. At the last minute, Lila decides she is not ready to stop performing, and that she has fallen in love with Ted. She tells Jim that she will stay on as Ted’s dancing partner. While heartbroken, Jim follows through with his plan and bids the act goodbye.

One year later on Christmas Eve, Jim is back in New York City. Farm life has proven difficult and he plans to turn his farm into an entertainment venue called “Holiday Inn”, which will only be open on holidays. Ted and his agent Danny Reed (Walter Abel) scoff at the plan, but wish him luck. Later at the airport flower shop, while ordering flowers for Lila from Ted, Danny is accosted by employee Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) who recognizes him as a talent agent and begs him for a start in show business. Danny refers her to Holiday Inn and gives her a pass to Ted’s club. That night, Linda sits at the performer’s table with Jim, who pretends he owns a big club and isn’t sure he could use an act like Hanover and Dixon. Linda pretends she’s a celebrity and friend of Ted’s, then escapes when the two performers come to Jim’s table.

The next morning, Christmas Day, Linda arrives at Holiday Inn, where she meets Jim—both realizing they were fooling each other the previous evening. Jim is preparing the place for New Year’s Eve, and they take to one another immediately. Jim sings her his new song, “White Christmas”, a song he would have performed had the inn been open that night. Later that week, on New Year’s Eve, Holiday Inn opens to a packed house.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Ted learns that Lila is leaving him for a Texas millionaire. Drinking heavily, he drives up to Holiday Inn to talk with Jim, arriving at midnight. While wandering aimlessly across the dance floor, Ted sees Linda, who remembers him from Christmas Eve. They dance, with Ted bringing down the house despite his inebriated state. Danny arrives just as the dance ends and is ecstatic that Ted found a new partner. The next morning, however, Ted remembers very little and doesn’t remember Linda at all. Jim doesn’t say anything and hides Linda away, afraid that Ted will steal her away from the inn.

At the next performance, Lincoln’s Birthday, Ted and Danny return to Holiday Inn in search of Linda. Jim is ready for them and decides to run the night’s big minstrel show number “Abraham” with disguised performers, including Linda, in an effort to foil the search. While applying Linda’s blackface makeup, Jim asks if she will stay with him between holidays, and Linda takes this as a proposal. Having come up empty, Ted and Danny will not give up and plan to be back for the next holiday.

During rehearsals for the Valentine’s Day performance, Jim presents Linda with a unique Valentine, a new song called “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”. While Jim sings with his back to her, Linda begins dancing alone, and as Ted enters, he spots Linda and launches into an impromptu romantic dance with her. Convinced that Linda is the girl he danced with on New Year’s Eve, Ted demands that Jim provide a number for them to perform on the next holiday, and Jim reluctantly agrees.

On Washington’s Birthday, Ted and Linda perform in elaborate 18th century period costumes, while Jim attempts to sabotage their dance, changing the tempo from a minuet to jazz every time the couple attempts to kiss. Afterwards, Ted asks Linda to join him as his new dance partner. Linda refuses, saying she has promised to stay at the inn and that she and Jim are to be married. When Ted asks him about the marriage, Jim plays it off, but Ted is unconvinced, telling Danny he will continue to pursue Linda.

At Easter, romance continues to blossom between Jim and Linda as they travel home from church in a carriage. When they reach the inn, Ted is sitting on the porch waiting for them. Ted asks Jim if he can remain in his shows, claiming he wants to experience “the true happiness” they’ve found at the inn. While Linda is charmed, Jim is suspicious.

Jim’s suspicions are confirmed on Independence Day when he overhears Ted and Danny discussing an offer Ted received from Hollywood representatives, who will attend that night’s show and determine if Ted and Linda are suitable for motion pictures. Desperate, Jim bribes hired hand Gus (Irving Bacon) to ensure that Linda does not arrive at the inn. After Gus drives the inn’s car into a creek attempting to delay her, Linda tries to return to the inn and is picked up by Lila, who left the Texas millionaire after his tax problems were revealed. Lila tells Linda, who is pretending to be a waitress, about the studio tryout and that Lila will be Ted’s partner. Assuming that Jim arranged for her to take Linda’s place, Linda directs Lila into the same river.

Back at the inn, Ted is forced to perform a solo dance. When Linda eventually makes her way to the inn, she finds that Ted has impressed the studio honchos with his improvised solo and the opportunity stands. Irritated with Jim for not trusting her to make her own decision, Linda takes the offer and leaves for Hollywood. The producers want to make a film about Holiday Inn, and Jim reluctantly agrees.

At Thanksgiving, the inn is closed and Jim is deeply depressed, barely touching the turkey dinner prepared by his housekeeper Mamie (Louise Beavers). Jim is prepared to mail to Hollywood a recording of his new Thanksgiving song, but, before he does, he plays it on a record player and makes negative comments over the positive ones in the recording. Realizing what is wrong and ignoring decorum, Mamie implores him to travel to California to win Linda back by telling her how he really feels.

Jim arrives at the studio on Christmas Eve, just as Ted is preparing to leave with Linda to get married. Jim confronts Ted in his dressing room, then locks him in it. Before Linda films the final scene for her movie, which features a recreation of Holiday Inn, Jim walks around the set with the director, who boasts it is the most exact recreation ever created for a motion picture. Jim leaves his pipe on the set’s piano and hides nearby. Linda enters the room and sits at the piano, performing “White Christmas”. Startled by the pipe’s presence, she falters, then continues as Jim’s voice joins her. Jim appears and Linda runs to him as the director yells “cut”. Meanwhile, Ted and Danny learn of Jim’s plan, but they are too late to stop him.

At Holiday Inn on New Year’s Eve, Ted is reunited with Lila, who is ready and willing to perform with him again. Jim and Linda prepare to stay together and run the inn.

REVIEW:

I just happened to be flipping through channels this morning as I was waiting to fully awaken and set my fantasy football lineup for this week (a pox on Frank Gore for finally having a breakout game when I don’t have starting), and came across Holiday Inn. Now, this is a film that has been on my list for sometime as both Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are two of the greatest performers of all time. I was interested to see how they would work together, hoping this wouldn’t disappoint.

What is this about?

Bing Crosby croons to the tune of the Oscar-winning “White Christmas” in Irving Berlin’s love triangle romantic comedy. Tired of the bright lights of showbiz, Jim Hardy (Crosby) retires to the countryside to become a farmer. He converts the farm into the Holiday Inn, open only on holidays, then competes against his pal (Fred Astaire) for a singer-dancer’s (Marjorie Reynolds) affection.

What did I like?

Inn. Doubtful that it could work in today’s society where everyone and everything is money hungry, but I like the idea of a little inn out in the country that is only open for the 15 or so holidays and they put on themed shows for said holidays. I’m wondering if anyone has tried this because if they haven’t I’m headed to the bank tomorrow to get started on it! Ha!

Servant. At the time this film was made, African-American roles were relegated to musicians, dancers, slaves, and/or servants. The maid/cook, played by Louis Beavers, seems like she is a clone of Hattie McDaniel’s character from Gone with the Wind. However, whereas Scarlett O’Hara seems to have little to no respect for her maid, Crosby treats his like she’s family, even listening when she gets sassy and gives him advice.

Singing and dancing. On one side we have Bing Crosby, best known for his warm, baritone voice and endless charm and charisma. On the other side, we have Fred Astaire, arguably the best dancer to ever hit the big screen (Gene Kelly, and others, can be argued ad nauseum, but we’ll go with Astaire for now), as well as hold a tune on his own. Put the two together and let them do what they do best and you have a formula success. So much so, that when this film was pseudo remade a few years later as White Christmas, Crosby returned. Too bad Astaire didn’t, but Danny Kaye did alright. Watching Crosby and Astaire duel in the opening and closing numbers is a real treat for fans of crooners and dancers. Throw in the beautiful ladies they are fighting over, who can sing and dance themselves, and it is pure magic!

What didn’t I like?

Grab her. After Fred Astaire’s character makes a drunken appearance at then Inn, majestically dancing with Crosby’s new “find”, the sleazy agent assumes that is his new partner and seemingly doesn’t rest until he has taken her away. My problem with this is, who was it that told this guy he could just up and have her? Neglecting the fact that she is her own person, she is also an employee of Crosby and until he voids her contract and/or let’s her go, she really can’t just up and leave, now can she?

Look who’s back! Going into the final act, all of a sudden, the original girl who left Astaire on their wedding day, appears on her way to the Inn. Isn’t that convenient? We don’t hear anything about her since that shot of the telegram she left and now she’s on her way back to rejoin Astaire, possibly on Crosby’s advice, but still a rather coincidental appearance. Look, I have no problem with how she returns, but if she was going to bookend the film the way she does, then they could have name dropped her a couple of times. As is, I had all but forgotten about her by the time she shows up!

Blackface. Before I get into the topic it should be stated that there is a scene in which Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds and the musicals all perform in blackface. Had I watched this on Netflix or DVD I imagine I would have seen it, but since I was watching this on AMC, it was cut. I couldn’t even find the scene on-line. The song is catchy, though. There are two parts to this, first the use of blackface was done so that Crosby could hide Reynolds from Astaire and that manager guy. With it missing, there is a hole in the film that leaves one scratching their head because you know something is missing. The other part is, blackface is offensive. Crosby, who was known to have performed with many an African-American performer in his day, such as Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis, Jr., and in this film Louis Beavers, should have known better than that.

All in all, Holiday Inn was a truly enjoyable film. The only reason I don’t say memorable is because I saw White Christmas first, which is pretty much the shame film, just in color and with some different songs. That said, the music in here will really get you going, the entire cast is great, there are moments of comedy and drama for those that like one or the other, and this is a holsum film for the entire family to enjoy! I highly recommend this one as one you should see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Big Ass Spider!

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Alex Mathis (Greg Grunberg), a cash strapped but good natured exterminator, wakes up on the ground in the middle of a city being destroyed by a giant spider, which has climbed to the top of a giant skyscraper a la King Kong. The spider swats a helicopter which comes crashing down towards Alex as he looks up and the show blacks out. Cut to earlier that day, where we meet Alex proper, as he helps a crazy old lady with a rodent problem. She thanks him and wonders why such a great guy is still single. Alex notes he just hasn’t met the right women yet. Before he leaves she spots a poisonous spider on his arm and swats at it in spite of his warnings not to provoke it. Alex wakes in a hospital and is treated for the bite by a hot nurse who promptly rejects his flirtations. Meanwhile, a mortician is bitten by a rodent sized spider that crawls out of a dead body which just arrived at the hospital. Learning of this, Alex offer to take care of the hospital’s spider problem in exchange for clearing his hospital bill. Jose Ramos (Lombardo Boyar), a hospital security guard, offers to help Alex and the two enjoy a breezy friendship and hilarious dialogue throughout the movie as they pursue the spider.

Their first stop is the morgue, where Alex quickly deduces the now cat sized spider has escaped into a vent. Alex enters the vent and communicates with Jose via walkie talkie. Meanwhile, a military task force led by Major Braxton Tanner (Ray Wise) and lieutenant Karly Brant (Clare Kramer) show up at the hospital to examine the dead body the spider burst out of. They note that spider’s rate of growth is exponential and will soon be too big to stop. Meanwhile, the spider kills a paralyzed hospital patient who is unable to move or call for help. Back inside the air vent, Alex stumbles upon a section covered in spider webs and inadvertently gets stuck. He uses his lighter to burn the web and is surprised when it ignites as if it were soaked in gasoline. Alex exits the vent into a room in the hospital basement covered in webs. The spider appears behind him, readying to strike, but Karly shows up just in time to shoot it. The spider escapes into a grate down into the sewer where it promptly kills a homeless person. Alex is immediately enamored with Karly who tolerates his advances and offers to help but Major Braxton declines, especially when Alex presses him for answers on where the spider came from. Braxton warns Alex to stay out of his way, and he initially agrees, but Jose convinces him to continue their pursuit as it could be the most important thing either of them do with their lives and it might help with his lady problems.

The duo tracks the now elephant sized spider to a public park. Everyone at the park screams and runs for their lives as the spider snags victims with its web and stomps on / impales others with its giant legs. Alex and Joser get the spider to chase their car, luring it away from the park. Major Braxton sees aerial footage of the chase and Karly is impressed noting it’s Alex (who calls her during the chase). Eventually the duo lead the spider to the spot where the military are set up and a huge firefight ensues. It looks like they are going to kill it but the spider surprises them by making a giant leap over everything and escapes into some nearby woods. Again, Alex offers his assistance and again Major Braxton declines. Karly leads a group of soldiers armed to the teeth into the woods in spite of Alex’s warnings and they promptly get their asses kicked by the giant spider. Karly gets stuck in a web, but Alex shows up in time to free her using his lighter trick. The spider corners them but Jose shoots the spider with a machine gun he grabbed from a dead soldier. The trio almost all get away but the spider catches and cocoons Karly using its web. Alex is horrified as it escapes with her after more military show up and fire their guns at it. Alex and Jose demand to know more about the spider. Braxton reveals that they discovered some alien DNA and hoped to use it as a growth hormone (to perhaps solve the food crisis) but a spider’s nest was hidden in some test fruit exposing the spider to the alien DNA. It is also revealed that the spider will soon start reproducing based on its size and their studies of the alien DNA.

Alex and Jose head for the city, where the now enormous spider is rampaging through as seen in the opening scene. A piece of falling building causes their vehicle to crash the show blacks out. Alex wakes up as seen in the opening scene and finds Jose. The duo enters the giant skyscraper which the spider has climbed on top of. Major Braxton tells them Karly is located on one of the floors with the soon to be hatching spider eggs, and warns them of an impending airstrike (as the military can’t risk the eggs hatching). They get to Karly and free her just before the hatching baby spiders can get her, and make it out of the building seconds before the air strike hits. The giant spider roars and plummets to the streets below. Major Braxton congratulates Alex, noting he was wrong about him, but the feel good moment is short lived as the giant spider rises behind them, still alive. Alex theorizes if the spider’s webs are so flammable that maybe they can blow it up by shooting the part of the spider where the webs come out. Jose is amused by this plan as it basically boils down to “we have to shoot the spider in its ass” (as this is where the webs shoot out of). Alex distracts the spider and is almost stomped on / impaled several times while Jose grabs a bazooka from a fallen soldier. Jose tosses the bazooka to Alex who shoots the spider in its ass. The spider explodes, finally killing it. Alex embraces a more than willing Karly, and the two enjoy a passionate kiss. In a humorous scene after the end credits start rolling, Major Braxton calls Alex to tell him they have another problem and we see a giant cockroach climbing the Statue of Liberty in a video monitor in the background behind him.

REVIEW:

I recently noticed that every girl who I’ve been with has a deathly fear of spiders, hence the reason I tend to have to watch films about spiders alone, unless the subject is Spider-Man. They also have an issue with clowns, but that’s a story for when/if I watch a clown film. This brings us to Big Ass Spider! Obviously, by that title, this isn’t meant to be taken seriously, but is it any good?

What is this about?

A giant alien spider escapes from a military lab and rampage the city of Los Angeles. When a massive military strike fails, it is up to a team of scientists and one clever exterminator to kill the creature before the city is destroyed.

What did I like?

Growing menace. Obviously, the spider is the antagonist in the film. Because of that, it is kind of hard to develop the “character”, but by having the military (and that weird scientist guy) tell us how it is evolving, we get a sense of how much more dangerous it is becoming, not to mention the growth spurt it is going through. Had this been a true horror movie, the screams and level of terror would have risen with each stage the spider was entering.

Sidekick. Having a sidekick is great, especially when the hero really isn’t that charismatic. In Heroes, Greg Grunberg showed he was a likable guy and capable actor, but he just needs help in scenes. Perhaps that is why they cast him in the lead here, to give him a shot, and see what he can do with a capable sidekick, the “Mexican Robin”, as he calls him at one point. I think they make a great team and, should they turn this into a franchise, it would be interesting to see how their chemistry and relationship grows.

Likable military. You know, I get a lot of flack for my words against the military in films but, if you look at each film I’ve “bashed” them in, they are the ersatz bad guys. Last night I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still again and, again I have to say this, the military shot Klatuu as he was getting out of his ship without asking questions and again at the very end, they gunned him down, rather than take him in for questioning. This is just one example of a million times the military in movies does nothing more than throw their weight around because they have the means. This is why it was such a breath of fresh air to get a military that is somewhat likable in this film. Yes, they are behind the titular spider, but they aren’t hiding behind some phony story. They just want to destroy it. At one point, rather than level an entire city, they chose to let Grunberg’s character save the survivors before the airstrike. In most other films, this wouldn’t have happened. Kudos to these filmmakers for making that choice in military direction.

What didn’t I like?

Let’s get the mood right. This is a horror/comedy, a genre that generally isn’t well-respected, and for good reason. For the most part, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but in pockets here and there, especially in the early half, it feels as if it doesn’t exactly know what tone to take. Should it be more on the horror/thriller side, setting up this giant spider that attacks from the shadows? Perhaps it should be more on the comedy side with the little Mexican cop with the untranslatable accent.

Better than Syfy, but… Syfy has made a name for themselves with cheesy “horror” flicks. Some of them tend to be decent, and others will make you want to sue the network for wasting your time. This film screams as if it were meant to be a Syfy flick, but for some reason they turned it down. Perhaps it is because the spider looks better than the creatures typically seen over there. That being said, it still isn’t a masterpiece in the field of CG, just passable in comparison.

Sack. In the climax, as Grunberg’s character is saving the “damsel in distress”, for lack of a better term, the eggs are hatching. Obviously, no one wants these things to get out and start an epidemic, so the situation needs to be contained. As they are escaping he starts squishing and they and the other survivors start shooting as they get on the elevator. After the escape comes the showdown with the original spider. Here’s the thing, the military shot the building, but they didn’t drop a bomb, fumigate, or anything like that. To me, that leaves the door open for those babies to run free, but the way the film makes it seem is as if they are all dead. WTF?!?

With a title like Big Ass Spider! you obviously are not meant to expect much. This turned out to be a lot of fun, much more than it had any right to be. This is the kind of B-movie you watch on a lazy weekend afternoon with your friends, laugh and have a good ol’ time with. Personally, I think they could have switched the Lieutenant and the nurse because the latter is more attractive than the former, but that’s just me. Go ahead and give this a shot, it will no doubt turn out to be one of those lesser films that will shock you, as long as you know better than to take it seriously. Just watch and have fun!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/18

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 18, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Unfortunately, theaters are about to be infiltrated with yet another remake. This time it is of a classic musical that really has no reason to be remade. Leave us not mention that they’ve made it urban and modern, which probably doesn’t work. At least, Will Smith’s untalented offspring isn’t in it and they got a little girl that can actually act.

Ugh! I need to stop thinking/talking about that and get to this week’s trailer, Annie!

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Senator Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) arrive in the frontier town of Shinbone by train to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). As they make their way toward the undertaker’s establishment to pay their respects to the deceased, a reporter (Joseph Hoover) and his editor, Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) approach and ask Stoddard to explain why a United States Senator would make the long journey from Washington just to attend the funeral of a local rancher.

Stoddard’s story flashes back 25 years to his arrival in Shinbone as a young, idealistic attorney. His stagecoach is robbed by a gang of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). When Stoddard takes Valance to task for robbing old ladies of their heirlooms, he is brutally beaten. In town, restaurant owner Peter Ericson (John Qualen), his wife Nora (Jeanette Nolan), and employee Hallie tend to his injuries, and explain that Shinbone’s townsfolk are regularly victimized by Valance. Link Appleyard (Andy Devine), the town marshal, has neither the courage nor the gunfighting skills to challenge Valance; Doniphon (who loves Hallie and plans to ask her to marry him) is the only man willing to stand up to him.

When Stoddard, the naive “pilgrim” (as Doniphon dubs him), opens a law practice in town, Doniphon and many others believe him crazy for inviting retribution from Valance, who cannot abide any challenge to his “authority”. Force, Doniphan explains, is the only thing Valance understands; he advises Stoddard to either flee the territory or buy a gun. Stoddard maintains he will do neither; he is an advocate for justice under the law, not brute force. He earns the town’s respect by refusing to knuckle under to Valance, and by founding a school to teach reading and writing to illiterate townspeople — including Hallie.

Stoddard does buy a gun, however; and when Doniphon sees that he is trying to teach himself to use it, he brings Stoddard to his house for a shooting lesson. During target practice he shoots a hole in a paint can, splattering paint on Stoddard’s suit, explaining that this is the sort of trickery that he can expect from Valance. Infuriated, Stoddard punches him in the jaw and leaves.

Shinbone’s residents meet to elect two delegates for a statehood convention at the territorial capital. Doniphon nominates Stoddard for one of the positions, because he “knows the law, and throws a mean punch”. Stoddard addresses the group, explaining that statehood will benefit the people of the territory through improvements in infrastructure, safety, and education. The area’s cattle barons, who oppose statehood and the new regulations that it would bring, hire Valance to sabotage the effort. He interrupts the meeting and attempts to bully the townspeople into electing him as a delegate, but Stoddard defies him yet again. The townspeople elect Stoddard and Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien), publisher of the local newspaper, prompting Valance to challenge Stoddard to a gunfight. Doniphon again advises Stoddard to leave town, but Stoddard maintains that he still believes in the rule of law (even though Link will do nothing to help him), and he is willing to risk his life for his principles.

That evening, after Valance and his gang (Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin) assault Peabody and trash his newspaper office, Stoddard goes into the street to face Valance. Valance toys with Stoddard, shooting a pottery vase near his head, and then his right arm, knocking his gun to the ground. He condescendingly allows Stoddard to retrieve his gun. The next bullet, he says, will be “right between the eyes”; but Stoddard fires first, and to everyone’s shock, Valance falls dead. Doniphon watches Hallie as she lovingly cares for Stoddard’s wounds, then heads for the saloon to drown his sorrows. At his homestead, in a drunken rage, he sets fire to the addition that he has just finished in anticipation of asking Hallie to marry him. His ranch hand, Pompey (Woody Strode), rescues him from the inferno, but the house is destroyed.

At the statehood convention, Peabody nominates Stoddard as the territory’s delegate to Washington, but his “unstatesmanlike” conduct is challenged by a rival candidate. Stoddard decides that his opponent is right; he cannot be entrusted with public service after killing a man in a gunfight. Seeing Stoddard’s reluctance, Doniphon takes him aside and confides that he, Doniphon, actually killed Valance from an alley across the street, firing at the same time as Stoddard. Doniphon explains that he knows Hallie loves Stoddard; he shot Valance to secure her happiness. Reinspired, Stoddard returns to the convention, accepts the nomination, and is elected to the Washington delegation.

The flashback ends, and Stoddard fills in the intervening years: He married Hallie, and then, on the strength of his reputation as “the man who shot Liberty Valance”, became the first Governor of the newly minted state. He then served as Ambassador to Great Britain before his election to the U.S. Senate. Scott now knows the truth about Valance’s death; but after some reflection he throws his notes into the fire. “This is the West, sir,” he explains. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” On the train back to Washington, Stoddard informs Hallie, to her delight, that he has decided to retire from politics and practice law in Shinbone. When Stoddard tells the train conductor (Willis Bouchey) that he will write to railroad officials, thanking them for their many courtesies in expediting his trip back to Washington, the conductor replies, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!”

REVIEW:

There’s a song from the 60s or 70s entitled “Who Shot Liberty Valance.” When I first saw this flick in a bargain bin somewhere years ago, that’s what immediately popped in my head. Now, years later, it still pops in there but, after watching this fine film, there may be other things that will accompany that catchy tune when speaking of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

What is this about?

When Senator Ransom Stoddard returns home to Shinbone for the funeral of Tom Doniphon, he recounts to a local newspaper editor the story behind it all. He had come to town many years before, a lawyer by profession. The stage was robbed on its way in by the local ruffian, Liberty Valance, and Stoddard has nothing to his name left save a few law books. He gets a job in the kitchen at the Ericson’s restaurant and there meets his future wife, Hallie. The territory is vying for Statehood and Stoddard is selected as a representative over Valance, who continues terrorizing the town. When he destroys the local newspaper office and attacks the editor, Stoddard calls him out, though the conclusion is not quite as straightforward as legend would have it.

What did I like?

President Stewart. The more and more I see Jimmy Stewart films, the more I realize that this guy was more than just some tall, thin guy that was used to play the put upon roles, but rather someone who can actually act. Imagine that! In this film, we get him as a senator who, as we learn later in the film, has been in every political office one can have in the old west, save for law enforcement or President. Yet, this doesn’t stop him from delivering a series of eloquent speeches and monologues that could have been used in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which I debated about watching this afternoon, strangely enough.

Grounded meat does not spaghetti. Let’s face it, westerns are just another fantasy like sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero flicks. Even when they are real, we turn the characters into such exaggerated caricatures of who they really were, that they become legends. Coincidentally, that topic is touched on in this film. I believe it is Stewart that utters the line, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” It could have been someone else, though. My point is that this is probably the most grounded and believable western I’ve seen in all my days, except maybe for something like The Searchers.

Pilgrim. John Wayne is known as having certain mannerisms and a way of speaking, such as calling people “pilgrim”, if we are to believe Peter Griffin’s impersonation of him from Family Guy. While that is an extreme exaggeration, the basis of it and what many people have come to associate Wayne with over time can be traced back to this film. This is The Duke in his prime, creating a character that commands the audience’s attention when he’s on the screen while not chewing up the scenery, not to mention some nuances involving lost love, tragedy, and just being a hardened lawman. I have to give it to Wayne, while some say that his characters became stale and repetitive, especially in his later years, one can’t deny that he seemed in his element and that he had fun with these roles.

What didn’t I like?

Be the law. So, Jimmy Stewart’s profession before he gets into politics is a lawyer…and teacher at a point later in the film. Here’s the thing, though. The guy goes through a variety of occupations adjusting to life after his attack at the hands of Liberty Valance, but he never really practices law. I guess there is no reason to, and with his law books gone, it would make it a bit difficult, but still, the guy is a lawyer, he should be doing law stuff.

You own a paper? Jimmy Stewart is in town for John Wayne’s character’s funeral, if you can call it that. As he comes into town, being a Senator, the newspaper has to get an interview. He grants said interview and then heads to the undertaker’s. Upon reaching the shop, he is accosted by the newspaper editor who all but demands he tell him the reason for his coming to town. Apparently, even in the old west, media felt they had the right to tell people every little detail of people’s lives, even if it meant disturbing a funeral to do so!

Friar Tuck. Disney’s Robin Hood ranks up there as one of my favorite films. One of those reasons is Friar Tuck. The man who lent his voice to that beloved badger, Andy Devine, seems to be the human version of what Friar Tuck looks like. That isn’t my issue with him, though. He is obviously comic relief, and that’s fine, but it seems as if they made him nothing more than your typical bungler. Had it not been for the drinking problem of the newspaper editor, I’m sure they would have given him that, too. All this is not to mention, he sure seems scared to death to confront Liberty Valance, or any criminal.

There is a hint of irony in the last line of this film, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!”, seeing as how they just spent the whole film discussing said man. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance offers us much insight to our heroes, but not much in the way of telling us about the titular character of Liberty Valance. All we know about him is that he’s a big time criminal in them there parts. Other than wishing for a better understanding of this guy, I felt this was a pretty solid film. I’d say its a highly entertaining flick that needs to be in the collection of any one the collect western DVDs and Blu- Rays. I give this a very high recommendation. Take the time to check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/11

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 11, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

Ever have one of those days where you wish you could just shut your brain off and watch a movie? Today is one of those days for me, let me tell you!

I think this evening, I’m going to watch a film that requires no thinking whatsoever, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Oh, you’ve never heard of it? Well, have a look at the trailer and enjoy!