Archive for May, 2015

Jersey Boys

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1951, in Belleville, New Jersey, Tommy DeVito, narrating the story, introduces the audience to himself, Tommy’s brother Nicky, and their friend Nick Massi, who perform together as The Variety Trio, and to a barber’s son, 16-year-old Frankie Castelluccio, already well known in the neighborhood for his singing voice. Frankie has the admiration of Genovese Family mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, who takes a personal interest in him.

One night, the group attempts a robbery of a safe, for which the police later arrest them. In court, Frankie is let off with a warning but Tommy is sentenced to six months in prison. After his release, Tommy reunites the group and adds Frankie as lead singer. Frankie changes his professional name to Frankie Vally, and then Frankie Valli. At a performance, Frankie is entranced by a woman named Mary Delgado. He takes her to dinner, and they are soon married.

The group, now called “The Four Lovers,” is in need of a songwriter after Nicky leaves. Tommy’s friend Joe Pesci tells him about a talented singer-songwriter, Bob Gaudio, and invites him to hear the group perform. Gaudio, now narrating, is impressed with Valli’s vocals and agrees to join.

The band, having recorded several demos, attempts to attract interest, with little success. One day in New York City, producer Bob Crewe signs them to a contract. However, they quickly realize that it only allows them to perform back-up vocals for other acts (as The Romans and The Topix). Crewe says that the group does not have a distinctive image or sound yet. Inspired by a bowling alley sign, the guys rename themselves “The Four Seasons,” and sing a new song Gaudio has written, “Sherry”, to Crewe, who agrees to record it.

“Sherry” quickly becomes a major hit, followed by two more, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”. However, before an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Valli is approached by Jewish mobster Norman Waxman, a loan shark for one of the other Five Families, who claims that Tommy owes him $150,000. Frankie goes to DeCarlo, who gets Waxman to allow the group to pay the debt, which turns out to be considerably larger. Tommy must go to work for the mob’s associates in Las Vegas until it is paid. Nick, irritated by Tommy’s irresponsibility, not being involved in the group’s decisions, and never being able to see his family, also leaves the group.

Forced to tour constantly to pay the debt, the band hires a set of studio musicians and becomes Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, with Gaudio now acting only as songwriter and producer. Valli learns from his now ex-wife Mary that his daughter, Francine, now a drug addict, has run away from home. Valli tracks her down and regrets not acting as a better father for her when she was growing up. He also arranges for Gaudio to give her singing lessons and for Crewe to cut a demo for her.

A few years later, the group has finally paid off Tommy’s debt. Sadly, this coincides with the news of Francine’s death by drug overdose. Frankie and Mary both grieve for their daughter. Gaudio composes a new number for Valli to sing, his first as a solo artist. Frankie is at first hesitant, as he is still in mourning, but eventually agrees. The piece, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, becomes a commercial success.

In 1990, the original Four Seasons are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The quartet performs “Rag Doll” onstage, their first performance together in over 20 years. The music fades as the four men take turns addressing the audience. Tommy, in an ironic twist, now works for Joe Pesci, who has gone on to become an Oscar-winning actor. Nick claims to have no regrets about leaving the group, enjoying the time he spends with his family. Bob has retired to Nashville, Tennessee. Lastly, Frankie finally takes over the narration, stating that the best time he had during his time with the Four Seasons was before their success, “when everything was still ahead of us and it was just four guys singing under a street lamp.”

REVIEW:

Clint Eastwood makes his first foray into the world of musicals with Jersey Boys, the Tony Award winning play detailing the life of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. With such great music, a great director, and a story that seems to be made for the big screen, this film can’t fail, right?

What is this about?

Adapted from the hit Broadway musical, this nostalgic look at the Four Seasons and their bumpy offstage lives stretches across four decades. Each of the musical act’s four original members presents a different set of memories from their shared past.

What did I like?

And we’re Walken. Christopher Walken has become that guy that you stick in your movie and he will automatically make it better. He’s in like 3 or 4 scenes as a mob boss, and just by the nature of who he is, those are some of the best scenes of the film. Would I have liked to have seen more of him, yes, but then this would have turned into a mob movie, I feel. A little bit goes a long way.

Narration. I’ve notices lately that narration needs to be done exactly right and by the right person for it work for me. Here we have a story about 4 guys. Why not give them each a chance to tell part of the story? That’s exactly what happens and you know what? I approve! Not only do we get the chance to hear from each of them on what was going on, but the tone of the film at the time fits with the particular member. For instance Nick Massi was a bit on the serious, brooding side and his section of the film is the “crash and burn” of the group.

Exit music. This is a film that was taken from a Broadway musical, so who wouldn’t expect there to be a grand musical finale? While there wasn’t as much music in here as I would like, when the songs did take center stage, they were on point, specifically the closing number. For the first time in this over 2hr film, it actually looked like the cast was having fun and we in the audience felt it. The ending medley of Four Seasons hits makes you want to get up and dance and I’m sure at some point more than a few people actually did!

What didn’t I like?

A little night music. So, this is a musical about a singing group. Last one of these we got was Mamma Mia!or was it Across the Universe?, but both of those went in a totally different directions. How is it that with all the opportunities to just belt out song after song, hit after hit, we literally have to wait an hour to get any real music in this. If Clint Eastwood wanted to take the music out of this, then why pick a musical about a singing group? Or why do this as a musical? As it stands, this is on the same level as Walk the Line, Ray, and all the other biopics about musicians. The music is there, but only because it has to be.

Melodrama. There is lots of drama to be had in the lives of these four to be sure, but the part that really got me was the death of Frankie Valli’s daughter. I believe that in any other film, this situation would have been a gut-punch, but because we get little to no time to connect with Valli’s family, this whole sequence of events was nothing more than filler, an attempt to setup the meaning of the song “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, and give the film an emotional edge, which I don’t believe it did as successfully as Eastwood would have liked.

Makeup. It really bothered me how no one really aged in this film until all of a sudden at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame ceremony they show up looking much older than when we last saw them. I can get over that, though. What I can’t let slide is how bad the makeup jobs were. Earlier this week, I watched an episode of That’s So Raven in which the three main character were about 60 years in the future. The makeup was bad, but that’s a low-budget kid’s sitcom from 10 yrs ago. The makeup that they put on these guys was on the same level, if not worse and the guy that was playing Frankie got it the worst. He looked like he just in the process of turning into a zombie. What were they thinking?!?

As I was telling somebody before I started watching. My expectation for Jersey Boys, and most musicals for that matter, is very high because I’m such a fan of those great productions from the Golden Age of Hollywood with the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Doris Day, etc. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come close. The acting is horrible, but I commend Eastwood for going with the original Broadway guys. They just don’t translate to the film that well. John Lloyd Young, who plays Frankie Valli, isn’t horrible and he does have some singing chops, but he needs a little bit more time to develop before we see him in anymore big screen projects. The songs are great, I just wish we had more time to enjoy them. Again, this is a musical with very little music!!! Do I recommend this? Not really, if you want to see this production but can’t make it to Broadway look it up on YouTube. I’m sure some high school, university, or community theater has done it, probably better than what this turned out to be. Don’t waste to 135 minutes!

3 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 5/28

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on May 28, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Remember those days when MTV actually played music videos and was truly a fun network complete with VJs you wanted to hang out with? Hell, I even wanted to hang out with the news people!

Well, in those days, there would be shorts that came on between shows and/or videos. One of these shorts got turned into a movie. Let’s have a look at the trailer for this piece of intellectual stimulation that was Joe’s Apartment.

300: Rise of an Empire

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Queen Gorgo of Sparta tells her men about the Battle of Marathon, in which King Darius I of Persia was killed by General Themistocles of Athens 10 years earlier. Darius’ son, Xerxes, witnesses his father’s death, and is advised to not continue the war, since only “the gods can defeat the Greeks”. Darius’ naval commander, Artemisia, claims that Darius’ last words were in fact a challenge and sends Xerxes on a journey through the desert. Xerxes finally reaches a cave and bathes in an otherworldly liquid, emerging as the 8-feet tall “God-King”. He returns to Persia and declares war on Greece to avenge his father.

As Xerxes’ forces advance towards Thermopylae, Themistocles meets with the council and convinces them to provide him with a fleet to engage the Persians at the sea. Themistocles (the Athenian general) then travels to Sparta to ask King Leonidas for help, but is informed by Dilios that Leonidas is consulting the Oracle, and Gorgo is reluctant to side with Athens. Themistocles later reunites with his old friend Scyllas, who infiltrated the Persian troops and learned Artemisia was born Greek, but defected to Persia as her family was raped and murdered by Greek hoplites and she was taken as a sex slave, and subsequently left for dead in the streets. She was rescued and adopted by a Persian emissary. Her lust for vengeance gained the attention of King Darius and he made her a naval commander after she killed many of his enemies. Themistocles also learns that Leonidas has marched to fight the Persians with only 300 men.

Themistocles leads his fleet of 50 warships and several thousand men, which include Scyllas, Scyllas’ son Calisto and Themistocles’ right-hand man Aeskylos to the Aegean Sea, starting the Battle of Artemisium. They ram their ships into the Persian ships, charge them, slaughtering several soldiers before retreating from the sinking Persian ships. The following day, the Greeks feign a retreat and lead a group of Persian ships into a crevice, where they become stuck. The Greeks charge the Persian ships from the cliffs above and kill more Persians. Impressed with Themistocles’ skills, Artemisia brings him onto her ship where she has sex with him in an attempt to convince him to join the Persians as her second-in-command. He refuses, causing her to push him aside and swear revenge on him.

The Persians spill tar into the sea and send suicide bombers to swim to and board the Greek ships with their flame bombs. Artemisia and her men fire flaming arrows and torches to ignite the tar, but an Athenian manages to kill one of the Persians, who falls into the tar carrying a torch, causing ships from both sides to explode. Themistocles is thrown into the sea by an explosion and nearly drowns before being rescued by Aeskylos, and stands by Scyllas’ side as he succumbs to his injuries. Believing Themistocles to be dead, Artemisia and her forces withdraw. After recovering from his injuries, Themistocles learns that only a few hundred of his warriors and six of his ships survived the disastrous attack executed by Artemisia.

Daxos, an Arcadian general, tells Themistocles that Leonidas and his 300 men have been killed after Ephialtes betrays the Greeks to Xerxes. Themistocles returns to Athens and confronts Ephialtes. The deformed Spartan traitor reveals that Xerxes plans to attack and burn Athens to the ground. Ephialites is regretful of his actions, and is welcoming death. Themistocles spares him instead, so he can warn Xerxes that the Greek forces are gathering at Salamis. He then visits Gorgo in Sparta while she is mourning Leonidas’ death to ask for her help, but she is too overcome with grief. Before leaving, Themistocles returns Leonidas’ sword, which had been delivered to him by Ephialtes under Xerxes’s orders, and urges Gorgo to avenge Leonidas.

In Athens, Xerxes’ army is laying waste when Ephialtes arrives to deliver Themistocles’ message. Upon learning he is alive, Artemisia leaves to ready her entire navy for battle. Xerxes suggests a more cautious plan but she still leaves for battle, ignoring Xerxes’ advice. The remaining Greek ships charge into the Persians ships, and the two armies battle, beginning the decisive Battle of Salamis. Themistocles and Artemisia fight, which ends in a stalemate with both receiving severe injuries.

At this moment Gorgo, who had been narrating the tale to the Spartans, arrives at the battle along with ships from numerous Greek city states including Delphi, Thebes, Olympia, Arcadia, and Sparta, all of them uniting against the surrounded Persians. Daxos leads the Arcadian army while Themistocles urges Artemisia to surrender. Xerxes, watching the battle from a cliff, turns his back on her and continues the march of his infantry. Artemisia tries to kill Themistocles one last time but is killed as he stabs her through the stomach. Themistocles and Gorgo take a moment to silently acknowledge one another’s alliance as the remaining Persians charge while Dilios leads the assault. The three then charge at the opposing Persians with the whole Greek army.

REVIEW:

What do you call a film that takes place before, during, and after its predecessor? Yeah, I have no idea, either, but whatever it is, 300: Rise of an Empire is one of the few that fits that category. Is this –insert term– worthy of its predecessor or has the time between films hurt it more than help?

What is this about?

Rodrigo Santoro is back leading the Persian forces in their invasion of Greece as mortal-turned-god Xerxes. Determined to thwart him is Greek general Themistocles, who takes to the sea in his quest to unite his country.

What did I like?

Origin clip. When we are first introduced to Xerxes in 300, he is this giant freak of a man with piercings, chains, and gold all over his body. I’m sure that I am not the only one to question who this guy was and how he got this way, especially since none of the other Persians look anything close to the abomination he is. In the early goings of this film, we learn what set off the war between Persia and Greece, and we watch as Xerxes is transformed from a mere mortal to the “god-king” by a series of incantations and immersing himself in some kind of sacred transformation liquid. My curiosity has been quenched.

Eva. In the last two or three years, Eva Green has become a dream girl of geeks and nerds everywhere. To this day, I cannot tell you why. Of course, I’m not too familiar with her work. I think the biggest role I’ve seen her in before this was in Dark Shadows. Eva plays the evil bitch very well. She is arguably the best character in this film because of it. She also is the only major character to get a true back story and motivation for why she does what she does, making her that much more interesting.

Bloodthirst. This is a bloody and violent movie. People get decapitated, impaled, etc., and blood gushes all over the place. Some have said this is a major detriment to the picture, but I found it appropriate. Remember, this is based on historical fact, but a fantasized version of what happened. One has to remember the kind of film they are watching these days before they criticize something like this. Sure, if this were something accurate like say Spartacus, Troy, or the like, then I’d raise a fuss, but this is a film that we are meant to have fun with, so let’s just bathe in the blood that is spilled and enjoy!

What didn’t I like?

The voice. Going back to Xerxes, I have two complaints. First, they make such a big deal about him in the film’s first act. Themistocles rues the day that he didn’t kill father and son, and his letting the boy live is now burning down Greece. With all the talk about him, Xerxes is in maybe a handful of scenes. I’m pretty sure Rodrigo Santoro showed up and filmed his scenes in a day or two and then left. Second, in the original film, Xerxes’ voice was deep and powerful. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was aided by a computer. This time around, he seems to be struggling to get down to those lower octaves. It was a bit distracting, especially at first.

Speech. Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas gave some epic speeches in the previous film, as did the narrator Dillios. This time around, Themistocles makes an attempt to recapture the same presence that Butler had while inspiring his troops, but it just wasn’t working for me. He just came off as some guy talking, rather than a brilliant military mind leading his troops to battle on what could very well be their last day alive. Lena Headey’s narration didn’t do anything for me, either. Like Green, she is best suited as an evil bitch. When she plays a good character, it is just hard to swallow. Kudos to her acting in other roles, though. It takes some hard work to get to that level of hatred.

Needed? Years have passed since the original was released. Was anyone asking for a sequel? Perhaps following the first film, yes, but here we are about 10 yrs later. No one was clamoring for this. Before I start ranting and raving about how this is just another in a long line of sequels released way after the original that studies are cranking out, hoping to ignite a fire under movie audiences, and it just isn’t working, it should be said that this film was delayed because of some director issues (he left for another project). While I enjoyed the film, I don’t think we really needed this.

Final verdict on 300: Rise of an Empire? Well, first of all, the timeline is a bit confusing. This isn’t a sequel, nor is it a prequel. It exists along the same time as it’s predecessor, which is a tad bit confusing. Eva Green is giving all she can here, but it is for naught. Where is that yellowish filter from the previous film? The lighting in this one seemed as if they wanted to use full color, but then they changed their mind. Action and blood are very prevalent, keeping this from being a total waste of time, but I’m not sure it really was enough. Do I recommend this film? Reluctantly, I think I have to say yes, but proceed with caution, as this is nowhere near as good as the first, but on the flipside, it is bloodier and have some deeper story moments.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The new, state of the art nuclear submarine Seaview is on diving trials in the Arctic Ocean. The Seaview is designed and built by scientist and engineering genius Admiral Harriman Nelson (USN-Ret) (Walter Pidgeon). Captain Lee Crane (Robert Sterling) is the Seaview’s Commanding Officer. One of the on-board observers is Dr. Susan Hiller (Joan Fontaine), studying crew-related stress. The mission includes being out of radio contact for 96 hours while under the Arctic ice cap, but the ice begins to crack and melt, with boulder-size pieces crashing into the ocean around the submarine. Surfacing, they discover fire burning in the sky. After the rescue of a scientist and his dog at Ice Floe Delta, Miguel Alvarez (Michael Ansara), the sub receives radio contact from Mission Director Inspector Bergan at the Bureau of Marine Exploration. He advises that a meteor shower pierced the Van Allen radiation belt causing it to catch fire, resulting in a world-threatening increase in heat all across the Earth. Nelson’s on-board friend and scientist, retired Commodore Lucius Emery (Peter Lorre) concurs that it is possible. Bergan informs Nelson that the President wants him at a UN Emergency Scientific Meeting as soon as possible.

Nelson and Commodore Emery calculate a plan to end the catastrophe. The USOS Seaview arrives in New York Harbor in two days. At the meeting Nelson informs the UN that according to their calculations, if the heat increase is not stopped, it will become irreversible and Earth has “a life expectancy of about three weeks.” The Admiral and the Commander have come up with a plan to extinguish the Skyfire. He proposes firing a nuclear missile at the burning belt from the best calculated location, the Marianas. Nelson posits that when fired at the right place and time, 1600 hours on August 29, the nuclear explosion should overwhelm and extinguish the flames, away into space, essentially “amputating” the belt from the Earth. The Seaview has the capability to fire the missile.

However, the Admiral’s plan is rejected by the chief scientist and head delegate, Emilio Zucco (Henry Daniell) of Vienna. His reasons are that he knows the composition of gases in the belt and he believes the Skyfire will burn itself out at 173 degrees. Zucco’s plan is to let the Skyfire do just that and he feels the Admiral’s plan is too risky. Nelson claims that Zucco’s burn-out point, however, is beyond that date and time if the current rise rate is maintained. But at Zucco’s urging, Nelson and Emery are shouted down and the plan is rejected. Despite the rejection, the Admiral and the Commodore quickly leave the proceedings, advising that his only authorization will be from the President himself.

It is a race against the clock as the Seaview speeds to reach the proper firing position, above the trench in the Marianas in the Pacific. During this time Nelson and Crane agree on tapping the Rio-to-London telephone cable to try to eventually reach the President. However, an unsuccessful attempt on the Admiral’s life makes it clear that there is a saboteur on board. But the confusion over who the saboteur might be revolves around rescued scientist Miguel Alvarez, who has become a religious zealot regarding the catastrophe, and Dr. Hiller, who secretly admires Dr Zucco’s plan. Other obstacles present themselves: a minefield and a near-mutiny. And Crane himself begins to doubt the Admiral’s tactics and reasoning. During the telephone cable attempt, Crane and Alvarez battle a giant squid. Although the London cable connection is made, Nelson is told there’s been no contact with the States for 35 hours. Also, a hostile submarine follows the Seaview deep into the Mariana Trench, but implodes before it can destroy the Seaview.

Near the end of the film the saboteur is revealed to be Dr. Hiller. Captain Crane happens by as she exits the ship’s “Off Limits” Nuclear Reactor core, looking rather ill. She has been exposed to a fatal dose of radiation: her detector badge is deep red. Walking over the submarine’s shark tank, she falls in during a struggle with the Captain, and is killed by a shark. The Admiral learns that temperatures are rising faster than expected. He realizes that Zucco’s belief that the Skyfire will burn itself out is in error.

At the end, Seaview reaches the Marianas. There, in spite of the threats and objections of Alvarez, Seaview launches a missile toward the belt and it explodes the burning flames outward, saving the world.

REVIEW:

The late 50s and 60s must have been a scary time to be alive because it seems like everything I watch involves fear of something, be it the Russians, aliens, or something out in the ocean coming to get us. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea plays on a fear that is very real and that we still have today, making this perhaps the most relevant picture from this era I’ve watched since The Day the Earth Stood Still, if not moreso.

What is this about?

Walter Pidgeon plays the designer and builder of a nuclear submarine called upon to fire its missiles on the Van Allen radiation belt to put out the fire raging there that threatens to incinerate the earth in this deep-sea adventure.

What did I like?

All-star. At the time of its release, many of the cast members hadn’t become household names. Fast forward 50+ years and the likes of Walter Pidgeon, Peter Lorre, Michael Ansara, Joan Fontaine, Barbara Eden, and a very young Frankie Avalon all strike up various memories of long careers and lives. It does give one cause to pause and think how the studio was able to get them all under contract for this flick.

It could happen. In my native land of Texas, it has been raining so much that parts are flooding. Meanwhile California is experience its worst drought in history. Down here in south Louisiana, the high was 64. Usually at this time of year, its 84! I say all this to say that something is off with our weather and its a sure bet that part of it goes back to the ozone layer, the very thing that a meteor shower breaks through in this film and nearly fries the planet. Unless you’re blind, like politicians, then you can tell that we’re experiencing a trend of global warming, if not worse, thanks to the way we’ve treated our ozone. If we’re not careful, the events of this film are actually going to happen, only we  won’t be as prepared. Who would’ve thought that a film released in the early 60s would hold relevance 50 yrs later?

Calamari, anyone? I love film that use giant creatures. No surprise that a sea adventure where we briefly encounter a couple of underwater sea creatures is great. I would have preferred for them to be stop-motion, but that just me. Both the squid and octopus attempt to crush the submarine, both failing, but not before we get a glimpse of their enormous. I guess they grow them big down there.

What didn’t I like?

Change of heart. So, I’m sitting here listening to the captain spout off his reasons why he believes the admiral’s plan will backfire, if not worse. He makes some good points, as does the admiral. This gets a little testy and uncomfortable at times, then as the film has its climax, suddenly the ship’s captain has had a change of heart and rather than fighting with his superior officer.

Dive, Dive! The great thing about a movie the features submarines is that they go underwater, right? We get plenty of scenes with the sub under the water’s surface, but it is the structure of the sets that bother me. Having never had anything to do with the Navy, save for recruiting me my senior year of high school, I can’t speak to how big or small, they are.

Sub-mariner. Diving in modern times is hard, but when one is down deep in the depths, you can’t just surface immediately. There has to be a period of time for the body to adjust without getting the bends, as they call it. So, why is it this not addressed? Your guess is as good as mine, but I would wager it was just something they felt unnecessary to include.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is perfect fodder for if you want a Saturday afternoon adventure. However, the film itself is not a masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination. The true meaning of this film is what is important. We need to save the ozone layer, or else that spells about the end of life on this planet. Do I recommend this picture? Sure, but be warned that at times this comes off as a bit more preachy than it should.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Let’s Be Cops

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Two longtime pals, Justin, a reject video game designer, and Ryan, a washed up college quarterback, recall a pact they once made: if they hadn’t “made it” in Los Angeles by the time they were thirty, they would head back to their Toledo, Ohio hometown. While exiting a bar, their car is hit by a vehicle full of Albanians, who intimidate them into doing nothing.

Justin attempts to pitch a game about policemen but is dismissed by his employer. Later, Ryan convinces him to use the police uniforms from his presentation as costumes for their college reunion party. Upon attending, both are confronted with their failures and mutually accept to honor their pact. As they walk home, they are treated like real cops and decide to enjoy the gag. It allows Justin to finally get the attention of Josie, a waitress to whom he is attracted and who works at a local diner, Georgie’s.

Ryan decides to take the hoax further than one night. He learns official procedures and buys a used police cruiser, modifying it to resemble the genuine article. Although reluctant, Justin agrees to continue the charade, and through it begins a relationship with Josie. Ryan gets revenge on the Albanians who hit his car, unaware they are actually mobsters blackmailing the owner of Georgie’s. During their many shenanigans, Ryan and Justin end up on a real distress call with Patrol Officer Segars. The experience shakes Justin, who realizes they face serious jail time if exposed. He tries to “retire,” but gets a phone call from Josie about a man frequently harassing her at work. It turns out to be Mossi Kasic, leader of the Albanian mobsters. Once more, the pair are intimidated into doing nothing.

Via Segars, Ryan obtains surveillance equipment to gather evidence and put Mossi away, along with an unidentified partner who has been investigating the pair. Ryan convinces Justin to do an undercover operation to obtain information on an incriminating shipment of crates. During the mission, they discover the crates full of SWAT equipment, along with secret tunnels in which they are shipped that run between Mossi’s club and Georgie’s restaurant. This necessitates the acquisition of the restaurant, explaining the blackmail. After a few close encounters, they barely escape. Fed up, Justin insists on mailing the evidence anonymously, but Ryan, finding purpose in his life again, is set on delivering it personally. They fight, and part ways.

Ryan brings his evidence to Segars, who recommends it go to the highest authority, which is Detective Brolin. Unfortunately, Brolin is actually Mossi’s partner. After instantly recognizing each other, Ryan makes it out of the station, but his sudden threat has blown their cover. Meanwhile, Justin decides to man up and, in uniform, assertively pitches his game again. One of Brolin’s officers shows up to try and kill him, inadvertently helping to sell the pitch. Ryan is abducted, and Mossi sends a threatening message to Justin. Overwhelmed, Justin pleas to Segars for help after admitting everything. He also confesses to Josie, which he had made previous attempts to do, and she disgustedly leaves him.

Justin goes into the tunnels alone while Ryan pits Mossi and Brolin against each other, prompting Mossi to shoot and kill the detective. Justin attempts to save his friend, but is overpowered. Segars arrives, causing Mossi and his crew to retreat. Segars admonishes the duo for their deception and orders them to leave before going after the mobsters without waiting for backup. Ryan and Justin agree they can’t abandon him, and suit up with the SWAT equipment. They save Segars, but he becomes incapacitated. The pair then face Mossi alone, during which the two reconcile. They fail to take him out, but luckily, Segars is able to show up and shoots Mossi in the back of the chest, saving Justin and Ryan.

Thanks to the respective confidence and motivation gained during their impersonations, Justin has become a successful game developer, while Ryan graduates from the police academy as a true, fully-fledged member of the LAPD. Justin apologizes to Josie, and after she forgives him, they rekindle their relationship. Ryan, however, still has not given up on their fun as cops together, and convinces Justin to don the fake uniform once again and join him on patrol.

REVIEW:

Police officers need some kind of good publicity now, since a few bad eggs are making them all seem as rotten as spoiled milk. Perhaps Let’s Be Cops will at least paint the police in a positive light, even if out here in the real world it is getting harder and harder to trust them.

What is this about?

When two pals show up at a costume party dressed as cops, they end up being mistaken for the real thing and get drawn into a bona-fide crime drama. Despite a lack of experience in police work, the duo takes their new roles seriously.

What did I like?

No drama. These days it is hard to tell what is a comedy and what is a drama because films in the so-called “comedy” genre start off funny and about halfway through they turn into Grey’s Anatomy and never really get back into the groove they had at the start. Thankfully this film doesn’t fall into that trap. Yes, there is a hint of drama, but it is more so that we can become emotionally attached to these characters.

Stick to your genre. Continuing on that thought track, a film like this just screams to make an attempt at being a buddy cop flick, forgoing the comedy for action and one-liners. Again, the powers that be remembered that this is a comedy first. Yes, there is some action, but it is hardly enough to even mention, other than the climax. Kudos to the filmmakers for sticking to the genre.

New guys. There is some real chemistry between Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans, Jr. (who looks and sounds almost exactly like his dad!!!). I think we may be watching the beginning of a new comedy team and/or comedic movie careers. Working together on New Girl probably helped make this transition as smooth as possible, I would imagine. The scenes when they are just acting as roommate feels like a couple of guys who live together and are just messing with each other because they are old friends. They really capture that aspect of these characters. Throw in their comedic talent and it is no wonder this film works on so many levels.

What didn’t I like?

Plausibility. Let’s say aliens were to come down to Earth and watch a movie that would tell them about our culture. For the sake of this example, they watched this film. When they assume human form, they also assume they can just wear a police officers uniform and get away with anything. Maybe that’s what’s going on with the cops today. Hmmm… Seriously, though, how is it that all one has to do is slap on a uniform and everyone takes them as cops. Surely they would have been figured out way before it got to the point that they were “helping” with a case. If not, then anyone can just slap on a uniform and do the same thing.

Odd couple. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. One roommate is tall, neurotic, possibly a neat freak, working hard to get his stuff together. The other is shorter, rounder, borderline slob, and has no idea where his life is headed. With some slight variations this is the plot to just about any comedy that involves roommates, most notably The Odd Couple. While it is a formula that has been tested time and time again, isn’t it time we come up with something else? Or is this more proof that no one has any original ideas anymore?

Sorority girls. There is a scene a little before the midway point where the fake cops are sent to sorority house. First off, I don’t know what kind of sorority only had 3 girls. Second, this scene seemed like something that Damon Jr.’s uncle Marlon would put in is his films, what with the “hood rat” girls fighting over some guy. I’m not sure what is more troubling, that or the fact that they just didn’t even acknowledge the super hot chick that made the call, answered the door, and just stood off to the side.

Let’s Be Cops is a film that probably could be turned into two or three more films, if they do it right. Unlike Ride Along, where the strength of the film lies in the names of the actors and not the actual story, this one is actually one to remember. Having said that, the villains are generic cartoons, but for this kind of film, they work. I do with Nina Dobrev and Keegan-Michael Key would’ve gotten bigger parts, though, more so with Dobrev. I won’t mention the tease she does to the audience (she starts to take her dress off, but all we see is her back). Key is typical Key. This guy is getting some major work and is killing it in everything, from being the President’s anger management translator at the White House correspondent’s dinner, to his role in Pitch Perfect 2, and now this. Oh, and Key & Peele is still on the air. Enough beating around the bush! Do I recommend this? Yes, while not the best film in the world, it is a comedy featuring relatable characters is absurd situations that will most likely brighten your day. Give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Pitch Perfect 2

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Three years after the events of the first film, the Barden Bellas are performing at the Kennedy Center for President Obama’s birthday. Now led by Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick), the Bellas – Beca, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe Beale (Brittany Snow), Cynthia-Rose Adams (Ester Dean), Stacie Conrad (Alexis Knapp), Lilly Onakurama (Hana Mae Lee), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), Ashley (Shelley Regner), and the newest addition Flo (Chrissie Fit) – come out in sequined outfits performing “Timber”. Commentating the event once again are a cappella commentators John Smith (John Michael Higgins) and Gail Abernathy-McFadden-Feinberger (Elizabeth Banks). Fat Amy comes out hanging from a silk sheet singing “Wrecking Ball”, when she is suddenly swung upside down and her outfit rips. She spins around and gives the crowd a great view of “down under”. The incident becomes nationwide news, and the Bellas are called in to see the university’s dean (Gralen Bryant Banks). Due to “Muffgate”, the Bellas are suspended from performing in any a cappella showcase or competition. Their best bet of getting back in is to compete in an a capella world tournament. John and Gail laugh them off since no American team has ever won a world title.

Freshman Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld) walks to a orientation with her mother Katherine (Katey Sagal), who was an early member of the Bellas herself. Emily hopes to follow in her mother’s footsteps, despite their recent troubles. She goes to the auditorium to see the Treblemakers, co-led by Beca’s boyfriend Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin) and his best friend Benji Applebaum (Ben Platt), perform “Lollipop”. Emily meets Jesse and Benji outside, where Benji immediately develops a crush on Emily. He tries to talk to her, but only makes things between them increasingly awkward.

Beca secretly starts an internship at a recording studio. She sits in with other interns as the boss (Keegan-Michael Key) tells them that Snoop Dogg is going to record a Christmas album with them, but he is looking for something fresh to add over all the other Christmas albums put out.

Chloe registers the Bellas to compete for the Worlds in Copenhagen. Emily stops by their house to personally audition for them, and the ladies become interested after learning that Emily is a Legacy Bella. Emily performs a song that she wrote called “Flashlight”. The Bellas like her, despite some reservations, and they officially make her a Bella. They take Emily to a party of a cappella students. Beca finds Jesse, who is the only one that knows about Beca’s internship.

The Bellas go to a car show that they would have performed at before their suspension so that they can check out their replacements, Das Sound Machine, a German powerhouse. DSM performs an epic mash-up of “Uprising” and “Tsunami”. The group, led by Pieter Krämer (Flula Borg) and Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen), approach the Bellas after the show to make condescending remarks, though Beca finds herself unable to retort. At work, Beca watches her boss as he records Snoop Dogg singing “Winter Wonderland”. The boss is frustrated at not finding anything good to add to this, until Beca steps in and volunteers to tweak with the beat player and then starts singing “Here Comes Santa Claus” alongside Snoop. The boss likes what he hears, and he asks Beca to show him whatever else she’s working on.

Beca goes back to the house to find the ladies pillow-fighting. She brings them a fancy invitation to the Bellas for an exclusive a cappella riff-off. The Bellas go to the house where the riff-off is held, and they find the Treblemakers there, along with DSM, the Tone Hangers, which now include ex-Trebles captain Bumper Allen (Adam Devine), and even the Green Bay Packers. Kommissar and Pieter taunt the Bellas again before the competition starts. The Bellas and DSM make it to the final round, but DSM wins when Emily flubs her song. The other Bellas are disappointed.

Beca’s boss is unimpressed with what she brings him since it’s mostly mash-ups. This, coupled with the Bellas’ recent embarrassments, hurts her confidence. Fat Amy goes into Beca’s room and tries to help boost it, admitting that she knows about the internship since she saw her badge after sneaking into her purse. Bumper brings Fat Amy into the bodega with a dinner he’s prepared, and he asks her to be his girlfriend since he wants to do more than just hook up. Fat Amy declines as she does not want to be tied down. She leaves Bumper disappointed. The Bellas go to put on a performance at a country club as a sort of practice before the Worlds. They braid their hair and do a medley of “Promises” and “Problem.” However, this performance fizzles after Cynthia-Rose’s hair gets singed by pyro.

Chloe decides to bring the ladies to a retreat center run by their old comrade Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp) in hopes of helping the Bellas get their sound back. Aubrey subjects them to several group exercises and activities. Beca becomes frustrated, prompting Chloe to ask her why she’s been acting odd lately. Fat Amy makes Beca admit to the internship, but she also adds that she’s the only one in the group that’s thinking of the future beyond being a Bella, unlike Chloe who didn’t graduate with Aubrey and stuck with the Bellas. They argue, and Beca walks away right into a net trap that pulls her up into the trees. She is cut down by Lilly.

At night, the ladies have chilled out and are roasting marshmallows. Beca says that after college, she won’t remember performing, but she’ll remember her Bella sisters. Chloe decides that she’ll finally graduate and teach children to sing…or exotic dancing. After regaining their harmony with “Cups”, Fat Amy starts to say what she’ll do later on, until she realizes that she is in love with Bumper. She runs off to her man, until she also gets caught in a trap. Fat Amy rides a paddle boat back to campus to find Bumper where they sing “We Belong” to each other, after which they start making out on the field. Beca helps Emily record her song with some of Beca’s beats. They show it to the boss, who feels the two of them have potential and is willing to work with them.

The Bellas graduate and head off to Copenhagen for the Worlds. As the show starts, the other competing teams sing their own renditions of “Any Way You Want It”. DSM goes up to do a grand medley of “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” and “All I Do Is Win”, complete with fire effects. The Bellas are up next, and they perform “Run the World (Girls)”, “Where Them Girls At”, and a special performance of Emily’s “Flashlight”, with a surprise appearance from other former Bellas, including Aubrey and Katherine. The audience waves the flashlights that Benji passed around, and they love the Bellas. Kommissar and Pieter shake their heads, knowing that they’ve been beaten. The Bellas become the new World Champions.

When the ladies get home, they give Emily a proper Bella initiation. The last step is to christen the house by sliding down the stairs. Fat Amy demonstrates and tumbles down the stairs hard, but she gets back up on her feet quickly. Emily then takes her turn.

In a mid-credits scene, Bumper performs “All of Me” on The Voice. He gets Blake Shelton to turn around until he starts acting weird and makes him turn back around. Bumper keeps performing his heart out and gets Blake to turn back around, along with Adam Levine, Pharrell, and Christina Aguilera. Bumper picks Christina to be his coach, and he goes to give her a hug.

REVIEW:

So, it was about this time last year that this city was being overrun by production crews. One was for Fantastic Four and the other was the just finished Pitch Perfect 2. Since this production overtook the city and streets and everything, I can’t help but feel a little biased, but then I remember that this is one of those rare films today that, in its own way, pushes music education, and I can’t be mad at it…or can I?

What is this about?

Hoping to be the first American group ever to win a prestigious international a cappella competition, the Barden Bellas return in this song-filled sequel and come up against a rival group of European singers who are also determined to win.

What did I like?

Pass the torch. In the years since Pitch Perfect, our Bellas have grown from freshman to seniors. While none of them really seem ready to strike out in the world, let alone willing, it is something that must be done. Of course, when they do this, someone has to fill their shoes. The film does a good job of letting them go out with a bang, as well as introduce the first of the new generation, if you will, in Hailee Steinfeld, who shows she has the talent and drive to keep this going both in and out of character.

Music. There seemed to be much more music in this film as opposed to its predecessor. Is that a good thing? I’m not so sure, especially given that there weren’t as many instantly recognizable tunes as before and it ended with an original piece. That being said, when the performances are happening, be they from the Bellas, Treble Makers, the German group, or even the Green Bay Packers, you can’t look away. I know that in the last performance, I nearly stood up and clapped when the “old” Bellas joined them on stage. It was a great moment, especially at that point in the plot and the song lent itself to that very well.

Now you know. Anna Kendrick’s character was so gung-ho about her “talent” for mixing songs in the last film and she thought she was could skip college and go straight to a career doing so. As I said in my review of the last film, that isn’t music. Furthering my point, Becca gets told by her boss that “any kid with an ear and some equipment can do what you do.” Sounds harsh, I know, but it is true. Mixing songs together isn’t music, and someone needed to tell her!

Germans. Here in the US, whenever we need a foreign villain, that isn’t going to destroy the world, we tend to make them German (pending the era). Nothing wrong with that, just an observation. This German group, whose name totally escapes me at the moment, is like a machine. They sing and perform with military precision and it is no wonder they are considered one of the world’s best. You can’t help but be in awe of their talent and physical superiority. A perfect foil for our Bellas.

What didn’t I like?

Sequelitis. If there is one thing I can say about this picture, it is that it doesn’t suffer from sequelitis, which is repeating the same film all over again. While there are some places that can be said to be copied, for the most part, this is a picture with its own plot. However, I do take issue with this being the second time the Bellas have had a disgrace on the national stage. Couldn’t there have been a better way to get them to compete on the international level than to go through all that? Not to mention using Fat Amy for that stunt was questionable in the first place.

Announcers. On their own, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are actually two really funny people. Put them together and the sparks fly. However, this script was not written very well, as all of their jokes are just unfunny, racist, or sexist. I appreciate their trying to get audiences to lighten up a bit.

Catalina she ain’t! Every chance they get, we are forced to suffer some sort of joke from the token Latina of the group, played by Chrissie Fit. I wouldn’t have a problem with her, except for the fact she was really playing up the illegal immigrant angle, which was done much better by Catalina from My Name is Earl. This chick doesn’t measure up and took away screen time from what should have been more randomosity from Hanna Mae Lee’s character.

My initial bias against Pitch Perfect 2 quickly went out the window and I was able to enjoy this film for what it was. A musical comedy meant for fans of the first film, but also aimed at bringing in some new blood. I do have some issues with the film, but for the most part, I found this to be an enjoyable time. Did it need to be made? Probably not. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! The last number and the underground riff-off sequences, as well as the performance by Key (from Key & Peele) is worth the price of admission. Check it out!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 5/21

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on May 21, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

School’s….out…for…summer! Come on, you all know the song. Sing with me!

School’s…out…for…summer!!!

Since school is out, why not feature a summer type movie, but wait…in other parts of the country school isn’t out for another few weeks. Isn’t that…Summer School?

HAHA See what I did there?