Archive for March, 2015

The Quick and the Dead

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , on March 31, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An unnamed gunslinger, referred to as The Lady, enters the Old West town of Redemption circa 1881 where she enters a single elimination gunfighting contest held by Redemption’s ruthless leader, John Herod, a former outlaw. She meets Cort, a former Herod henchman turned reverend, whom Herod captures and forces to enter the contest; and Fee, also known as “The Kid,” a brash young gun shop owner who hopes to impress Herod, whom he believes to be his father, by winning the contest. Though now a preacher, Cort is an amazingly fast and talented gunfighter, and the only man that Herod truly respects and fears. Herod covers this by treating Cort cruelly, denying him water, beating him and keeping him chained to an old fountain.

In the first round of duels, The Kid defeats a Swedish quick-draw champion, while Herod kills braggart Ace Hanlon, who had taken credit for some of Herod’s own accomplishments. The Lady defeats an old enemy she left shackled to a wagon, while Cort defeats one of Herod’s men who thought he was getting an easy kill. Herod later learns that the townspeople have secretly hired a bounty hunter, Clay Cantrell, to enter the contest and kill him. The next day, Herod declares that all remaining duels must be to the death, then kills Cantrell when the two face off against one another. Herod angrily informs the townspeople that since they had enough money to hire Cantrell, he will raise their taxes. Later that day, during a rainstorm, the Lady duels and guns down a competitor who has sexually abused the bartender’s young daughter.

Flashbacks reveal that The Lady’s true name is Ellen, and she had grown up in Redemption, where her father was the town’s Marshal. One day Herod and his men invaded the town, killed all the deputies and tied her father to the gallows. Herod gave Ellen a gun and offered to let her shoot the rope and free him. However, she missed and killed her father instead. Seeking revenge, she has come to Redemption with the intent of killing Herod. However, an uncomfortable dinner date with Herod leaves Ellen unsure about whether or not she can go through with it and she attempts to flee. She then reunites with the town’s local doctor, Wallace, who was also her father’s best friend. The old man convinces her to return to Redemption and free the town from Herod.

With Ellen, Cort, Herod and The Kid left as the four remaining contestants, Kid challenges Herod to a duel to win his respect. Although Herod and the Kid both injure each other with bullet wounds, Kid’s wounds prove fatal and he dies in Ellen’s arms. Herod is saddened by the Kid’s death, but does not publicly acknowledge the Kid as his son. When Ellen and Cort are forced to face each other, they refuse to open fire and Cort only shoots Ellen after Herod threatens to kill them both. Cort furiously challenges Herod to a duel the next day, but seconds before their duel, Ellen suddenly reappears after using the Kid’s stolen dynamite to blow up Herod’s illegitimate business establishments. She and Cort had faked her death with help from Wallace and a blind salesman.

In the confusion, Cort dispatches Herod’s men while Ellen goes on to fight Herod. Although Herod outdraws and shoots Ellen in the arm, she shoots him in the chest and finishes him once and for all with a well-aimed gunshot to the eye. With Herod gone and the law restored, Cort becomes the new Marshal of the town as Ellen rides off into the sunset.


Sometimes, there are genres that seem to do nothing but repeat themselves over and over again, such as with westerns. In this case, someone needs to come in and do something different, or at least attempt it, no matter what the financial result will be. The Quick and the Dead is a film that takes such a chance.

What is this about?

In this offbeat Western, a lady gunslinger arrives in a frontier town seeking revenge for the murder of her sheriff father by town boss John Herod.

What did I like?

Tournament. Maybe it is the fact that I love fighting like Mortal Kombat so much (until I get bored with fighting the same guys over and over again), or maybe it is the March Madness thing that is going on right now, but I am a sucker for a good tournament. In a stroke of genius, someone decided that it would be a good idea to use gunfighters instead of martial artists in a tournament. While the execution of said tournament isn’t flawless, I can appreciate it. Really, how many of us have thought of a tournament of our favorite gangsters, heroes, villains, etc. This is the same concept, just using gunmen from this, universe, if you will.

Lady Stone. What’s this?!? A female lone gunman that seems to be the hero of the film? Say it ain’t so! Believe it or not, Sharon Stone is the star of this picture. Much like Clint Eastwood’s character in the “Man with no name trilogy”, we don’t know much about her at first, other than she has a hero side to her and knows her way around a pistol. When I think about it, all westerns, with the exception of Bandidas, use women as housewives, whores, eye candy, and/or some kind of sidekick. Stone, who was still riding high from Basic Instinct 3 or 4 years earlier, would have been perfect for a more feminine part, but she took a chance as a lead, standing toe to toe with the big boys. I don’t think she did too bad a job, myself.

Not a Hack…man. Gene Hackman is at his finest villain role here, perhaps even better than Lex Luthor in Superman II. He plays an outlaw gunman who has apparently killed the local lawman and taken over the town, ruling it with fear tactics and taxing them into poverty. In other words, this guy is just plain evil. Having said that, though, one does get the sense he has a sense of honor about him. In the last two rounds of the tournament he faces a young Leonardo DiCaprio, who is rumored, but not confirmed to be his son. The rest of the film he kills on sight, without the slightest bit of hesitation, but with DiCaprio, he does everything he can to keep from killing his possible son. The following round, he faces his former henchman, played by a young Russel Crowe. The previous night, one of Hackman’s cronies does some sort of damage to Crowe’s hand and, sensing that it won’t be a fair fight, he offers to use his other hand to even the odds. It really is quite the twist in a character who seems to be as villainous as they come, but there is a heart in there, somewhere.

What didn’t I like?

Paternity. DiCaprio’s “The Kid” character is similar to many of the character he was playing at this point in his career, brash, cocky, headstrong, etc. It isn’t until he decides to challenge Hackman that we get a sense of humility from him as he tells Stone that he wants to prove himself to his father. All this is well and good, but I didn’t get the emotional weight that I feel it deserved. Had this angle been played up more, perhaps the result of that fight would have been more of a, pardon the term, shot in the gut.

Stone. I give Sharon Stone all the props in the world for being a female lead in gun fighting western. However, I just don’t buy her character. Obviously, the makeup department did all they could to “ugly” up Stone’s beauty, and the wardrobe department kept her looking very unisex, but there is still something too feminine about her. If this were made today, I would cast someone like Michelle Rodriguez or maybe Charlize Theron. Both have proven they don’t take crap from anyone, and also have shown to be able to fit into a man’s world the way this character needs to be able to do. Stone didn’t sell that to me, I’m sorry to say. In the last scene, it was like they gave up trying, put her in tight leather pants, let her hair down, and borderline made her sexy. WTF?!?

Mustache. This is a very small complaint, but Keith David’s character, who was almost non-existent, had the typical old-west moustache, but it looked a bit on the cartoony side of things. I half expected him to start twirling it! It was very distracting, especially for a character that didn’t have much to do. What were they thinking with this, I wonder?

To sum up, The Quick and the Dead is probably one of the more underrated westerns out there. Is it on the level of the great ones from the 60s? No, but it is a decent watch. I say give this one a shot, even if you’re not a fan of the genre. Surely there will be something that you can latch on to. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Bruce Almighty

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) is a television field reporter for Eyewitness News at WKBW-TV in Buffalo, New York, but desires to be the news anchorman. He is in a healthy relationship with his girlfriend Grace Connelly (Jennifer Aniston), but also has a mild crush on his co-worker, Susan Ortega (Catherine Bell), who barely seems to notice him. Bruce however continues to suffer unfortunate events and it reaches his breaking point when he is passed over for promotion by his rival, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell), who then steals dialogue from Bruce’s segment in accepting the promotion on-air. Bruce becomes furious and aggressively criticizes the station during his first live report (culminating with calling them “fuckers”), leading to his dismissal from the station. Following a series of other misfortunes, Bruce complains that God (Morgan Freeman) is “the one that should be fired.”

Bruce later receives a message on his pager, directing him to an empty warehouse where he meets God. God offers to give Bruce His powers to prove that He is doing the job correctly. God tells Bruce that he cannot tell others he has God’s powers, nor can he use the powers to alter free will. Bruce ignores God and is initially jubilant with the powers, using them for personal gain, such as training his dog to use the toilet, chasing away thugs by spewing out a swarm of hornets, and sexually impressing Grace. Bruce also finds ways of using the powers to cause miraculous events to occur at otherwise mundane events that he covers, such as discovering Jimmy Hoffa’s body or causing a meteor to harmlessly land near a cook-off, earning him his job back. Bruce then uses his powers to cause Evan to make a fool out of himself on-air, causing Evan to be fired in favor of Bruce as the new anchor.

After taking Grace to a fancy dinner and telling her he made anchor (angering her, as she thought he was going to propose), Bruce begins to hear voices in his head. He re-encounters God, who confronts Bruce on using his powers for personal gain and not helping people. He also explains that the voices are prayers to God that Bruce must deal with. Bruce creates a computerized email-like system to receive the prayers and respond, but finds that the influx is far too great for him to handle—even though God had stated that Bruce is only receiving prayers from the Buffalo area – and sets the program to automatically answer Yes to every prayer.

Bruce attends a party celebrating his promotion. When Grace arrives, she finds Bruce being seduced and kissed by Susan, and quickly leaves. Bruce follows Grace, but she is heartbroken and will not listen to him. He tries to use his powers to convince Grace to stay but cannot influence her free will. As Bruce looks around, he realizes that the city has fallen into chaos due to his actions. Bruce returns to God, who explains that He can’t solve all the problems, and that Bruce must figure out a way to solve it himself. Bruce then begins to solve his problems in life practically, such as helping a man whose car broke down across the street, training his dog normally, and allowing Evan to have his job back. Bruce returns to his computer system and goes about answering prayers as best he can. As he reads through them, he finds a prayer from Grace, wishing for Bruce’s success and well-being. As he reads it, another prayer from Grace arrives, this one wishing not to be in love with Bruce anymore.

Bruce is stunned and walks alone on a highway, asking God to take back His powers and letting his fate be in His hands. Bruce is suddenly struck by a truck, and regains consciousness in a white void. God appears and asks Bruce what he really wants; Bruce admits that he only wants to make sure Grace finds a man that would make her happy. God agrees and Bruce finds himself in the hospital, shortly after being revived—near miraculously—by the doctors. Grace arrives and the two rekindle their relationship, with Bruce and Grace later becoming engaged. After his recovery, Bruce returns to his field reporting but takes more pleasure in the simple stories. Bruce and Grace announce their engagement on live TV. The film ends with the beggar who Bruce had previously ran into on various occasions finally revealing himself to be God.


Jim Carrey has had quite the career when it comes to film, especially the comedies. One his most memorable, though perhaps not for his performance, is Bruce Almighty. Let’s take a look at this film and see what is so intriguing about it, shall we?

What is this about?

When TV reporter Bruce Nolan angrily ridicules God, the Almighty responds by giving Bruce all His divine powers. But can Bruce improve on perfection?

What did I like?

Phonemonal cosmic power. Let’s think for a moment. If you had the power of God, what would you? My guess is that most of us would test it out a little bit, then do things to make our lives better, which would then be followed by the workload of the Almighty. So, pretty much what Jim Carrey does here is what we all do. Can’t fault him for that, at all, and he does so in true Carrey fashion. Love it!

God. Few people are capable and worthy enough to take on a role as big as God.  Alanis Morrissette did in Dogma, but all she did was skip around and smile. Patrick Stewart and James Earl Jones are usually called on to be the voice of God, but I don’t think they’ve ever portrayed him in person. Morgan Freeman, however, seems have that mixture of commanding screen presence, warmth, and Je ne se quoi that makes him the perfect choice. Even better is the fact that when he was cast, I don’t recall an uproar about his race, which really shows how well respected an actor he is.

Dog. In a small bit of comic relief (is that what you call this…in a comedy?), the dog has a couple of moments where it stands up, lift the toilet seat, and takes a piss. This is followed by another scene where he’s sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper. I thought that was kind of clever, as we all know dogs are horrible when it comes to using the bathroom where they are supposed to. Perhaps this is the director’s way of showing “what if”?

What didn’t I like?

Devil. If Morgan Freeman is God, shouldn’t there be a devil somewhere? I suggest that either the sister-in-law or his big rival, Evan, though the latter would ruin the premise of Evan Almighty, should be getting some kind of unholy help. It just makes sense to have yin and yang. Maybe that’s just me wanting too much balance, though.

Forgiveness. Is it me, or in every movie Jennifer Aniston is in she ends up walking in on a guy at the wrong moment and then spends the rest of the film being all pissy about it? Katherine Heigl is guilty of this, as well. Maybe this is just a female thing, but I know that guys are willing to forgive and forget in the blink of an eye, but women hold on to any and everything they see, regardless of the situation. This situation where Aniston walks in and seen Bruce making out with Catherine Bell’s character (who wouldn’t want to be in a triangle with those two, btw?) was nothing more than a misunderstanding. Had Aniston not been so overemotional and gone in the first place, Bell’s character wouldn’t have had the chance to throw herself at Bruce. Forgiveness is needed all around, methinks.

Blood type. At the end of the film, Bruce is laying in a hospital bed and glances over to see the bag of blood which is being pumped into him. He gives is a confused look and Jennifer Aniston’s character enters and says something that leads us to believe we missed an important scene. Roll credits and we se the outtakes of this scene in which they are sitting in the car discussing blood type and Bruce says the line that Aniston says. It all makes sense, now! Films do this more often than not. They will cut something that has significance to something later on, leaving the audience confused. I don’t know the reason this scene was cut, but since it was related to the hospital scene, some kind of effort should have been made to at least mention the blood type stuff somewhere else.

It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I feel like I should be outside enjoying it, but I need to get some work done. Ever the procrastinator, I decided it was movie time! Bruce Almighty fit the bill perfectly for what I was looking for. Something light, funny, with a beautiful leading lady. I actually have very little negative to say about this, so let’s dispense with the formalities and allow me to tell you this a definite must-see film. I very highly recommend it!

5 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 3/26

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on March 26, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

It seems like a day can’t go by without someone talking about a reboot/remake. This time the subject is the 1988 classic sci-fi flick, which also went to become a TV series, Alien Nation.

Before they bastardize this property, have a look at the original trailer and enjoy!

Daddy Long Legs

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , on March 25, 2015 by Mystery Man


Wealthy American Jervis Pendleton III (Fred Astaire) has a chance encounter at a French orphanage with a cheerful 18-year-old resident, Julie Andre (Leslie Caron). He anonymously pays for her education at a New England college. She writes letters to her mysterious benefactor regularly, but he never writes back. Her nickname for him, “Daddy Long Legs”, is taken from the description of him given to Andre by some of her fellow orphans who see his shadow as he leaves their building.

Several years later, he visits her at school, still concealing his identity. Despite their large age difference, they soon fall in love.


Don’t let the title fool you, Daddy Long Legs has nothing to do with those spiders. Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron star in this film that was released during the time that American cinema was obsessed with France. Did this turn out to be another in a long line of same ol’, same ol’, or is there something special about it?

What is this about?

While touring France, a convivial American millionaire decides to sponsor an orphaned young woman who soon falls in love with her anonymous patron.

What did I like?

Dance, dance. Folks have argued for days on end about who is better, Fred Astaire of Gene Kelly. Personally, I think Astaire is the better dancer, but Kelly was the better performer. The margin of difference between the two is very miniscule. Since this is an Astaire film, you know that he is going to showcase those fancy feet of his and boy, does he. We get ballet, swing, tap, comedy, and I believe there is even a hint of street dancing thrown in there. Astaire wasn’t the only one showing off his fancy dance moves, Leslie Caron also shows she’s no slouch. Then again, her first film, An American in Paris, had her dancing with Gene Kelly, and in her career she would also collaborate with Nuryev and Baryshnikov.

My heart belongs to daddy. Even though, he wasn’t her father, Caron’s character had strong enough feeling for a man whom she had never met and was nothing more than an anonymous benefactor. One would think this would be all because of the money, but it turns out that she did indeed value this man’s company.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. If I’m not mistaken, this is actually based on a book which replaces the dance sequences with a creepier, stalker vibe, playing up the age difference. Thankfully, the filmmaker’s decided to not do that with this film. I don’t think it would have worked since this is meant to be a lighthearted comedy.

What didn’t I like?

Ballet. As the film is rounding third base and heading home, we are privy to a dream sequence featuring Leslie Caron. As I said before, Caron is a beautiful and talented dancer, so this wasn’t the problem. What I did have an issue with was how this whole ballet sequence made no sense in terms of the film. Sure, it was meant to be a nightmare, but it just wasn’t working for me. The fact that it was 12 minutes, didn’t help matters, either. When Gene Kelly does scenes like this, they are always relevant to the film. Caron’s ballet was beautiful, but out of place.

Profession. It is made clear from the first scene that Fred Astaire’s character is a very rich man, but what exactly is it he does? It is hinted at a few times that he has some government ties but it is also mentioned that he does some sort of accounting-type stuff. While this has no bearing on how the film plays out, I will admit that I am curious as to what the guy does.

Length. I think this film would have done well with a bit of editing.  At just over 2 hours, at times it feels as if it is dragging, with no end in sight. I just felt that this is a film that could have easily told the same story, just as effectively, within 90 or so minutes.

Final verdict on Daddy Long Legs? This is definitely one of the more fun films I’ve seen Astaire in and at times I questioned if this was a role meant for Gene Kelly, Dick van Dyke, or someone of that ilk. The songs are fun, although none are necessarily memorable, save for “Something’s Gotta Give” Overall, though, this is something I would gladly watch again and again. I highly recommend that you give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Pee-wee Herman is a puer aeternus with a bicycle he treasures and that his neighbor, Francis Buxton, covets. A bike shop employee, Dottie, has a crush on Pee-Wee, but he does not reciprocate it. Pee-Wee’s bike gets stolen while he’s at the mall and he confronts Francis, but lacks proof. Pee-wee then offers a $10,000 reward for his bike. Francis, who did indeed steal the bike, is frightened by Pee-Wee’s relentlessness and pays to have it sent away.

Desperate, Pee-wee visits a medium, Madam Ruby, who lies that his bike is in the basement of the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas. Pee-wee begins hitchhiking, getting rides from a fugitive, Mickey, and from a ghostly trucker, Large Marge.

At a truck stop, Pee-wee discovers his wallet is missing and pays for his meal by washing dishes. He befriends Simone, a waitress who dreams of visiting Paris, and Pee-Wee encourages her to stop doubting as they watch the sun rise. Simone’s jealous boyfriend, Andy, misconstrues this as a fling and tries to attack Pee-Wee. Pee-wee flees into a boxcar on a moving train where he meets Hobo Jack, and eventually reaches San Antonio. Disappointed to learn the Alamo has no basement, Pee-wee contacts Dottie and informs her of his situation. At a bus stop, Pee-wee runs into Simone as she boards a bus, leaving on her way to Paris, whom encourages him not to give up his search. Andy, stalking Simone, sees Pee-Wee and resumes his attack. Pee-wee evades Andy at a rodeo by disguising himself as a competitor in the bronco busting competition. He rides well but receives a concussion and develops temporary amnesia, while Andy must flee an angry bull who sees his red shirt.

Pee-wee enters a biker bar to use the telephone, where an outlaw motorcycle club, The Satan’s Helpers, expel him. Pee-wee then accidentally knocks over their motorcycles, enraging the gang. His life threatened, Pee-wee makes a last request: to dance to Tequila. He thereby wins the respect of the bikers, who accept him as one of their own and give him a motorcycle. Pee-wee crashes it through a billboard and ends up in hospital, where he has a surreal nightmare of clown doctors performing joke repairs on his bike. Awakening with his memory restored, Pee-wee learns from a TV interview that his bike was bought by Warner Brothers, and is now used as a prop in a movie starring Kevin Morton, a pretentious child star.

By mixing into Milton Berle’s entourage, Pee-wee sneaks onto the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank, California. After disguising himself as a nun, he steals his bike back from Morton. Pee-wee flees, chased by security staff, through a variety of sets, causing havoc throughout the lot and interrupting the shooting of a music video for Twisted Sister’s Burn in Hell. Pee-wee’s bike has numerous gadgets which he uses along with sleight-of-hand to evade the guards and escape the studio. Outside, Pee-wee discovers a burning pet shop. He heroically rescues the animals but faints on the sidewalk just as police and firefighters arrive. Though the firefighters hail Pee-wee as a hero, the police arrest him. Pee-wee is brought before a WB executive, who says Pee-Wee is the rightful owner of the bike and agrees to have all charges dismissed. Warner Brothers believes Pee-Wee’s experience would make a good movie. Acquitted, Pee-wee is overjoyed to see Dottie brought in the executive’s office along with his bike.

Some time later, at a drive-in, Pee-wee and Dottie attend the premiere of the action B-movie starring James Brolin as P.W. and Morgan Fairchild as Dottie fighting ninjas who steal an important motorcycle. Pee-wee has a cameo appearance as a bellhop. At the premiere, Pee-Wee gives refreshments to all the friends he met along his journey, all of whom are living slightly better lives for having known him, as well as Mickey, who has been recaptured and furloughed in a prison bus to see the film. Pee-Wee also encounters Francis, who brags to the media about how knowledgeable he is about Pee-wee’s bike but makes a fool of himself using one of the bicycle’s gadgets. Pee-Wee offers to go bicycling with Dottie, who wonders why he is not staying for the rest of the film, causing Pee-Wee to remark it is not necessary, he lived it.


I remember being a kid and every Saturday morning I would sit in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal and slice of cheese toast my mom made for me and watch Pee-wee’s Playhouse. With the success of that show, Pee-wee hit the big screen with a couple of films. The first, and most successful, was Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. How big of an adventure did this end up becoming, you wonder?

What is this about?

When his treasured bicycle is stolen, childlike prankster Pee-Wee Herman sets off on a whirlwind cross-country adventure to recover it.

What did I like?

Manchild. The magic of Pee-wee Herman is that he is a fully grown man who acts like a 10 yr old boy. The sweet and innocent nature of this character is what has allowed him to become so popular. As we see on full display in this film, people do gravitate toward such a being. Today, I’m not so sure it would be that way, but I hear talk of some new Pee-wee material on its way, so we’ll find out.

Burton magic. Did you know that Tim Burton directed this? You didn’t? Don’t worry, it isn’t obvious except for in a couple of places. First is the appearance of Large Marge. Burton, especially at this point in his career, was known for his work with stop-motion and clay effects. Marge was one of those character that could have easily appeared in a little film that would come soon after this one, Beetlejuice. The next Burton moment, if you will, comes in the form of a trippy nightmare that Pee-wee has. It resonates as the darkest part of the picture and had Tim Burton’s contrasting dark characters superimposed on light, happy backgrounds.

San Antonio. I’m currently planning on going to visit San Antonio early on in the summer, so it was a surprise to see the city in a movie that wasn’t about the Alamo or Miss Congeniality. In the short while that Pee-wee is down in ol’ San Antone he gets in and out of a few jams and, in the process we get to see a bit of the city, specifically it’s most famous landmark, the Alamo, which does not have a basement, btw.

What didn’t I like?

That’s how they make movies. Let’s face it, as much as I bitch and moan about films that need to be true to the source material, that isn’t how things are done. In a sort of meta way of speaking to the audience, the film within a film takes Pee-wee’s adventure and totally changes it. What was a light-hearted road trip becomes an action-packed spy thriller. Is this for the best? Hard to say without actually seeing it. I appreciate the spoof on Hollywood’s tactics, but this whole scene, which was conveniently at a drive-in, seemed to be a way to show us everyone that was in the movie all in one place before the credits rolled. Also, having Pee-wee deliver them snacks one by one as he made his way back to wherever he was going to watch seemed a bit of a reach, as well.

Spoiled rich kid. Every Yin has to have a Yang, right? For Pee-wee, there is this spoiled, rich brat, who appears to be about the same age and wants Pee-wee’s bike for his birthday because his dad said he can have anything he wants. Thus enters the plot. Here’s my thing, though. This guy would have made a great villain for the film if they just would have let him be the bully that he seems to be. Instead, they attempted to make him some sort of ersatz Kingpin. It just ruined what could have been a great character for me.

Similarities. While I was watching, I couldn’t help but think about how many films that were released around this time had the same or similar plot elements. Something, or someone, goes missing and the someone, or the gang, has to trek cross-country, encountering many colorful characters along the way, to get it back. The first of these films that pops in my head is Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird. While I appreciate this plot, like anything, there is a limit to what I can take, and I think I’m just tired of the rehash.

Family movies in the 80s and 90s were just that, family movies. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is a film that is meant for the whole family, not just the kids. Is this a good film? I’d say it is above average. Burton, no matter what you may think of him today, is a capable director when he’s not trying to be king of the goths (his best works tend to be the non-goth films, if you notice), and there is nothing dark about Pee-wee Herman. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, sit the family down with a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1882, in the town of Old Stump, Arizona, a cowardly sheep farmer named Albert Stark is dumped by his beloved girlfriend Louise as a result of his withdrawal from a duel. He prepares to leave for San Francisco, believing that the frontier holds nothing for him. Meanwhile, infamous outlaw Clinch Leatherwood robs and kills an old prospector for a nugget of gold. He orders one of his men, Lewis, to escort his wife Anna to Old Stump to lie low while he continues his banditry. Lewis and Anna arrive in Old Stump under the guise of two siblings intending to build a farm, but Lewis is arrested after shooting a man in a saloon. During the ensuing brawl, Albert saves Anna from being crushed by two of the brawlers and the two form a friendship. They attend a county fair at which Louise’s new boyfriend, the foppish Foy, challenges Albert to a shooting contest. Albert is defeated, but Anna steps up and defeats Foy. Foy insults Albert, who angrily challenges Foy to a duel in a week’s time.

Anna teaches Albert how to shoot. During a barn dance the night before the duel, Anna slips Foy a Mickey. After leaving the dance, Albert and Anna kiss before heading home. Upon breaking out of jail and murdering the sheriff, Lewis sees the kiss and reports it to Clinch. On the day of the duel, Foy arrives late and goes into convulsions due to the laxative he had unknowingly imbibed. Albert, who has decided that Louise is not worth the trouble, once again forfeits the duel. He retires to the saloon, but Clinch arrives and demands to know who kissed his wife. When no one comes forward, Clinch shoots a nearby cowboy. He reveals that Anna is his wife and threatens to continue killing unless his wife’s lover duels him at noon the next day. Clinch later compels Anna to reveal Albert’s name and then prepares to have sex with her, but she knocks him unconscious and escapes.

Anna returns to Albert’s farm where he confronts her. Clinch pursues Anna to the farm and recaptures her, but Albert escapes. While fleeing, he is captured by a tribe of Indians who threaten to burn him to death. The Indians spare him when he reveals that he can speak their language. They give him a bowl of peyote, which sends him flashing back to his birth and through traumatic events of his childhood before making him realize that he loves Anna. Albert returns to Old Stump and confronts Clinch. He wounds Clinch with a bullet poisoned with rattlesnake venom before having his own gun shot out of his hand, but manages to stall until Clinch lethally succumbs to the poison. Louise attempts to win back Albert, but he rejects her and instead enters a relationship with Anna. Albert also receives a bounty for killing Clinch and uses the money to buy more sheep.

At the fair, the proprietor of a racially charged shooting game asks who would like to take a shot. Django Freeman steps up and shoots the man while commenting that a lot of people die at the fair.


If you know anything about the old west, then you are more than aware of the plenitude of dangers that awaited anyone living our there during those hard times. The title, A Million Ways to Die in the West, is an allusion to that, but does the film represent the varying ways one can meet their end, or is it just a title that supposedly sounds good?

What is this about?

After backing out of a duel and losing his girlfriend, sheep farmer Albert slowly rebuilds his self-respect with the help of a married woman. But Albert’s new solidity is put to the test when the woman’s criminal husband rides into town.

What did I like?

Subject matter. I think we all have a certain period in time that we are all fascinated with, be in Medieval times, the 80s, the Swing/WWII era, the Disco era, etc. For Seth McFarlane, it appears he has an affinity for the old west, as this film is a love letter to not only the great movies based on that period of American history, but also the actual events and way of life people endured. On top of that, this is a comedy. To my knowledge, I don’t believe there has been a comedy about the west since Blazing Saddles, so kudos to McFarlane for bringing something back to the table.

Specific set of skills. Liam Neeson seems to have become pigeon-holed as an action hero here in the last few years. I say this because in every film he’s done since the original Taken, he has been playing a version of the same guy, and of course in The A-Team, he was just a bad ass! I think what we’ve all forgotten, though, is that Neeson is a highly capable actor with great range…and he’s Irish. With this role, he was able to not only remind us of his natural accent, but also have some fun playing the bad guy for once. It was a nice change of pace for him because, from what I hear, in his last couple of films he has just been looking bored with doing the same stuff over and over again.

Supporting cast (and cameos). Say what you will about Seth McFarlane, the guy known how to bring in some talent. Think about how many big names have guest starred on Family Guy, American Dad, and even The Cleveland Show. Also, this is a guy that was able to get permission from George Lucas to do those Star Wars specials, which was no easy feat. So, it should come as no surprise that he was able to land a great supporting cast for this film, each bringing something special to the table, be it as a rival for McFarlane’s character, comic relief, or what have you. Also, there are a couple of cameos. I won’t spoil them, but when you see them you’ll be giddy as a school girl. They are totally out of place, but are nice just the same.

What didn’t I like?

Racist. With Seth McFarlane’s brand of humor, he usually inserts a race joke or two in just to spice things up. That’s fine, I have no problem with that. However, I do have an issue when you have a blatant racist machine that has the customer shooting runaway slaves, who are eating watermelon, btw. Also, in the barn dance scene, when talking to Charlize Theron’s character about her bustle, he makes an off-hand joke that alludes to the notion that black guys like big butts. Granted, the second one is more of a stereotype, but I don’t believe either of these should have even been thought of as funny, let alone filmed, even if the machine gets its comeuppance by a certain cameo at the end of the film.

Extended Family Guy. I can’t help but feel that this was initially written as a special episode of Family Guy. It has that vibe to it. McFarlane just probably thought it was such a brilliant ideas that it needed to be brought to the big screen. I will give him that. This is a good idea, in concept, but the execution is lacking. I was half expecting there to be cutaways in some of these scenes. Perhaps it would have done better as an episode, rather than a film.

Go East, young man! For someone who says they love the west so much, McFarlane sure doesn’t waste any time criticizing it. As a matter of fact, every chance he gets, he makes it a point to have his character say bad things about the west, killing any illusion that we may have, despite knowing the truth. For me, I wasn’t a fan. The Old West, as we see in the movies, is a fantasy and should be kept that way. McFarlane’s cynical diatribes in this film were nothing more than someone wanting to ruin other people’s fun, to put it simply. Given the title, maybe some narration early on with said diatribe would have worked, but even that would’ve been pushing it, in my opinion.

I have mixed feeling about A Million Way to Die in the West. On the one hand, it gets points for being a western comedy. That joke about Amanda Seyfried’s eyes was priceless. Why wasn’t she cast in Big Eyes, again? On the other hand, a good majority of this film just seems to be petty and cruel toward the west and the story muddles along until the next big joke happens. All in all, though, I had a decent time watching, but I don’t think I can recommend this as something anyone needs to watch.

3 1/4 out of 5 stars


Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Miami-born Carl Casper is the head chef of Gauloise in Brentwood, California. While popular with his kitchen staff and hostess Molly, the restaurant owner Riva wants Carl to stick to tired “classics” rather than innovative dishes. Carl has a strained relationship with his tech-savvy preteen son Percy and ex-wife Inez.

When Carl has a chance to prove his talents during a visit from prestigious critic and blogger Ramsey Michel, Riva demands that he stick with old favorites at the last minute, causing Carl to concede, leading to a scathing review. On Twitter, Carl insults Ramsey, not realizing that his reply is public, and gains a large Twitter following. Carl comes up with an inspirational new menu that his staff loves and invites Ramsey to a “rematch”. After a confrontation with Riva, Carl walks out, quitting. At home, he prepares the menu he wanted to serve to Ramsey, goes to the restaurant, and angrily berates Ramsey.

Videos featuring Carl’s meltdown go viral, and his professional credibility evaporates. Molly and Inez encourage him to run a food truck. He accepts Inez’s invitation to Miami, where he spends some quality time with Percy and rediscovers his love for Cuban cuisine. Inez’s ex-husband Marvin offers him a dilapidated food truck, and Carl reluctantly accepts. He and Percy bond while restoring the truck and buying groceries and Carl buys him a chef’s knife. Martin, his friend from Gauloise, turns down his restaurant promotion to work with Carl, who has become an exuberant and passionate chef again.

The three drive the food truck across the country back to Los Angeles, serving top-quality Cuban sandwiches and yuca fries. Percy finds ways to promote the food truck on social media websites, and the truck becomes successful in New Orleans and Austin, Texas, where the daily specials include items made with local ingredients such as po’ boys and barbecued brisket.

Back in Los Angeles, Carl realizes the importance of his relationship with his son and accepts Percy’s enthusiastic offer to help out on weekends and holidays. Ramsey visits the truck to explain that he wrote the bad review as he knew Carl’s creativity did not suit a restaurant which had been serving the same menu for years. He leaves with an offer to bankroll a new restaurant. In a flashforward set six months later, the new restaurant is a hit and closed for a private event: Carl and Inez remarry.


Whenever I would go downtown to visit my ex at work for lunch, there would be food trucks all over the place. To this day, I still haven’t tried any food truck food, but maybe one day. Chef may have inspired that decision.

What is this about?

When chef Carl Casper’s plans for opening a restaurant in Los Angeles fail to pan out, he returns home to Miami and debuts a food truck instead.

What did I like?

Know where you came from. For those that don’t remember, before Jon Favreau directed big blockbusters like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Cowboys & Aliens (which apparently was bad enough to have him contemplate quitting the business), he directed small, indie films. Remember Swingers? Sometimes, you can get too big for your britches and need to go back to basics in order to find that passion again. In some respects, you can say that this film is an allegory for Favreau’s career, because his character does just that, return to his roots and work up from there.

Tight leash. This film does something that so many other projects have failed to do and that is give us a kid that isn’t an annoying brat (even more impressive given that he lives with his apparently well-off mother) and give Sofia Vergara a character that isn’t a stereotype. The kid just wants to spend time with his dad, but unlike other children in film, he doesn’t scheme to ruin him in order to do it, he’s just patient about things. With Vergara, she still has her super thick accent, wears clothes that are a very tight, but she gives perhaps the best performance I’ve seen from her. All it took was for her to bring it down a couple of notches. Simple is better, people!

Food porn. Ever watch Food Network, or even just a commercial where food is being cooked and it looks so good that you want to just reach right through the screen and taste it? That is what this film does, especially in the first half. Favreau’s character cooks up all types of good stuff and it made my pidddly little dinner seem like bread and water in comparison. If you’re a foodie, you’ll eat this stuff up!

What didn’t I like?

With imagination. Changing the menu up doesn’t hurt anyone. On the one hand, if it succeeds, you’re looked at as a genius. If it flops, at least you tried something new and the customers will appreciate that. Even fast food changes their menu up once in awhile! Dustin Hoffman apparently didn’t get the memo, though, and on both night that the food critic comes in, he insists on serving the same boring food. A little imagination, rather than stubbornness, and maybe there would have been a glowing review, but I guess we’ll never know, now will we?

Scarlett. Arguably one of the most beautiful women in the world, Scarlett Johansson was very average looking in this film. Why? I can’t tell you. Maybe it was the bangs? The dark hair? No make-up? A combination of all of the above, but she wasn’t her normal hot self. Given that her character is a hostess of some sort, I would think she would still be some level of attractive. I’ve seen hostesses in restaurants that put glamour models to shame! Maybe if Scarlett used her look from Don Jon it would have been better? HA!

Twitter. No, I still have not joined Twitter. I’ve come close a few times, and then I realize no one would want to follow me, so I say “screw it!” This film however must have had some backing from Twitter because, once it is introduced, we don’t stop hearing about tweets, vines, and whatever else it is that people do over there. Realizing that this is how people get information out these days, I can appreciate the use of the service. However, I don’t think it needed to be shoved down our throats.

Many people were raving about Chef when it premiered at SXSW last year, and then when it had a major release. After watching tonight, I can see why. Favreau definitely has his groove back as a director. This is a film filled with comedy, drama, and food. I warn you now…DO NOT WATCH THIS ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!!! All in all, I had a good time watching and it isn’t hard to see why so many had this as one of their top films of the year. Do I recommend it? Yes, this is one of those film you must see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars