Archive for December, 2015

Trailer Thursday 12/31

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 31, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Well, it is New Year’s Eve, so this should be fitting (regardless of how mediocre the film was)

Please enjoy the trailer for New Year’s Eve

Have a Happy New Year!!!

The Aviator

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Houston, 1913, nine-year-old Howard Hughes is warned by his mother of the diseases to which she is afraid he will succumb. Fourteen years later, he begins to direct the movie Hell’s Angels. However, after the release of The Jazz Singer, the first partially talking film, Hughes becomes obsessed with shooting his film realistically, and decides to convert the movie to a sound film. Despite the film being a hit, Hughes remains unsatisfied with the end result and orders the film to be re-cut after its Hollywood premiere. He becomes romantically involved with actress Katharine Hepburn, who helps to ease the symptoms of his worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In 1935, Hughes test flies the H-1 Racer, pushing it to a new speed record, and three years later, breaks the world record by flying around the world in four days. He purchases majority interest in Transcontinental & Western Air, the predecessor to Trans World Airlines, aggravating company rival, Juan Trippe, chairman of the board for Pan American World Airways (Pan Am). Trippe gets his friend, Senator Owen Brewster, to introduce the Community Airline Bill, which would give Pan Am exclusivity on international air travel. As Hughes’ fame grows, he is linked to various starlets, provoking Hepburn’s jealousy, later causing them to break up following her announcement that she has fallen in love with fellow actor Spencer Tracy. Hughes quickly finds a new love interest with 15-year-old Faith Domergue, and later actress Ava Gardner.

Hughes secures a contract with the Army Air Forces for two projects: a spy aircraft and a troop transport unit. In 1946, with the “Spruce Goose” flying boat still in construction, Hughes finishes the XF-11 reconnaissance aircraft and takes it for a test flight. With one of the engines malfunctioning mid-flight, he crashes the aircraft in Beverly Hills, getting severely injured. With the end of WWII, the army cancels its order for the H-4 Hercules, although Hughes still continues the development with his own money. When he is discharged, he is told that he has to choose between funding the airlines or his ‘flying boat’, in which he then orders Dietrich to mortgage the TWA assets so he can continue the development.

Hughes grows increasingly paranoid, planting microphones and tapping Gardner’s phone lines to keep track of her. His home is searched by the FBI for incriminating evidence of war profiteering, provoking a powerful psychological trauma on Hughes, with the men searching his possessions and tracking dirt through his house. Privately, Brewster offers to drop the charges if Hughes will sell TWA to Trippe, an offer he rejects. With Hughes in a deep depression, Trippe has Brewster summon him for a Senate investigation, as they’re confident that he’ll not show up. Hughes has been shut away for nearly three months when Gardner visits him and personally grooms and dresses him in preparation for the hearing.

Hughes defends himself against Brewster’s charges and accuses Trippe of bribing the senator. Hughes concludes by announcing that he has committed to completing the H-4 aircraft, and that he will leave the country if he cannot get it to fly. He successfully test flies H-4 aircraft, and after the flight, talks to Dietrich and his engineer, Glenn Odekirk, about a new jetliner for TWA. The sight of men in germ-resistant suits causes Hughes to have a mental breakdown. As Odekirk hides him in a restroom while Dietrich fetches a doctor, Hughes begins to have flashbacks of his childhood, his obsession for aviation, and his ambition for success, while repeating the phrase, “the way of the future”.


Growing up an Air Force brat, there are two things one is bound to do. That is move around a lot and foster a love and/or respect for airplanes. While I am scared of flying, I love airplanes, especially the old ones from the WWII era. Many of the innovations of those planes forward are the brainchild of one Howard Hughes, the subject of The Aviator. Does this biopic give us a look into the man or just another fabrication of events meant for our entertainment?

What is this about?

Leonardo DiCaprio portrays eccentric tycoon Howard Hughes, who turned a small fortune into a massive one by producing Hollywood classics such as Scarface. He simultaneously branched into and transformed industry after industry — including aviation.

What did I like?

Leonardo leads. Today, Leonardo DiCaprio is hailed as one of the best actors working today. He is constantly up for Oscar every year and turns out critically acclaimed performance year in and year out. As Howard Hughes, he did much the same, bringing to life the eccentric billionaire moviemaker and aviator to audiences that knew little to nothing about him. His shining moment, though had to have been when he is locked away in that room as a way to escape from everyone. It is a powerful scene that shows Leo’s talents and Hughes’ OCD in all their glory.

Classic Hollywood. What film set during this era about a Hollywood filmmaker would be complete without some of Hollywood’s brightest, such as Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Errol Flynn, and I think I saw Cary Grant on set. Obviously, these aren’t the real thing, but I give kudos to the filmmakers for finding those that respected these great thespians (I can use that term for these actors, because they actually studied their craft rather than spend their time posing for magazine covers). In some instances, I thought that perhaps I was looking at the real thing!

Hercules! Hercules! Howard Hughes may be best known for his giant airboat, the H-4 Hercules, better known as the “Spruce Goose”. Hard to believe that an aviation fan such as a myself has never seen this thing, but it is true. When I saw the parts driving down the road, I got a lump in my throat and was hoping that they would show the competed aircraft. Lo and behold they did, and it was splendiferous! Everything I had wished to see, short of viewing the real thing (which is in Oregon, btw). No matter what I think of the rest of this film, that construct was worth the 3 hrs I just spent watching this!

What didn’t I like?

Katharine or Tilda? Cate Blanchett plays Katharine Hepburn and I must say she pulls it off quite nicely. Her mannerisms, way of speaking and the generic look are all there. What I couldn’t get past, though, was how much Blanchett resembled a more feminine Tilda Swinton in this getup. I can’t speak for anyone else, but it was a major distraction for me. Realizing that she is the best actress for the job, I really shouldn’t complain, but I can’t leave that alone. Surely, they could have done something more with her, right?

Still a boy. In 2004, DiCaprio still had a bit a boyish look to him. When he was wearing a suit, he looked like he borrowed his dad or big brother’s so that he could go to the prom. If not for his stellar job at acting, I wonder how much of a career he would have had because his young look took away from his performance as Hughes. I can’t look at the face of a 17yr old and think he is the genius multibillionaire moviemaker and aviator. It just doesn’t work that way! I wonder if this is the problem Selena Gomez and her ilk, that look years younger than they actually seem to be, are running into.

Aftermath. The film ends a couple of years following the Senate Hearing. That isn’t a spoiler, just an idea of the timeline. What’s the big deal about that? Well, this is supposed to be a film about the life of Howard Hughes, yet we don’t get any of the stuff that happened after the film ends. The man lived until 1976, so there are at least 20 something years left to go through. At the very least, we could have had some reading material pop up on the screen right before the credits rolled, instead of the abrupt ending we were treated to.

In the end, The Aviator shows that DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are magic together, capable of bringing out the best in each other and delivering a powerful, yet entertaining film about a historical figure not many people know much about, short of the tall tales. Truth be told, the most many know about Hughes is that he built the “Spruce Goose” and occasionally someone has played him in movies, such as The Rocketeer. With all the hub-bub this film seemed to put into The Outlaw rating, you would think they’d have cast someone as Jane Russell or spent some time making that film, but I guess not. Oh well! So, what did I ultimately think of the film? Is it worth watching? Yes, I very highly recommend it! Most of the complaints I have about this picture are personal issues. I will warn you, though. Get used to hearing Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare”.

5 out of 5 stars

The Man with the Iron Fists 2

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Thaddeus the blacksmith is on his way to the monks at Wu Chi Temple on a quest on inner peace when he is attacked by the brother of Silver Lion and his henchmen. Thaddeus manages to defeat them all but receives a near fatal wound from Silver Lion’s brother’s claw. He succumbs to his wounds and is seen drifting on a log down a river.

There is a narration about a spring of Chi, the Golden Nectar flowing from the mountains that were protected by monks and the Gemini Twins. Lord Pi raided the temple in an attempt to gain control of the Golden Nectar but was defeated. His ghost is rumored to roam the mountains, still looking for the Nectar and stealing chi from anyone he encounters.

Meanwhile, in Tsai Fu village, a man is burying his daughter and demands that the killer be found. He challenges the mayor and Master Ho, the silver mine owner. All the men proceed to the mine to work where Master Ho is shown to be an oppressive task master, frequently maiming and killing underperforming workers. Most of the village men seek to rebel but Li Kung talks them down. Another girl is killed but nothing is done.

Li Kung’s brother challenges Master Ho’s man, Duyan to a fight and wins. However, he is later found dead in the mines. Meanwhile, Li Kung’s daughter, Innocence finds Thaddeus floating in the river and tends him to health. His presence is hidden from the village and he is moved to the old blacksmith’s residence. Li Kung and his men find a hidden cave with a fountain which Kung drinks from. The cave is rich in silver but they hide the existence of the cave from Master Ho. Li Kung, infuriated by the death of his brother, challenges Master Ho’s clan to a fight. He asks Thaddeus to build weapons for the village but Thaddeus claims he is on a path of peace. He promises to forge better mining tools but whatever the tools are used for are not Thaddeus responsibility.

Li Kung defeats two of Master Ho’s men and Kung is threatened with the safety of his family. He replies by challenging Master Ho himself. However, on the way to the fight, a masked man cuts Kung badly. He proceeds with the fight in spite of his injuries and Master Ho aims punches to open the wound. As Ho is about to defeat Kung, Thaddeus arrives and saves his life. They are recaptured and sentenced to hanging the next morning. That night, his fellow miners, aided by the bow wielding Mayor, rescue them. Thaddeus chooses to build the crippled Mayor Iron legs, like his iron fists so he can join in the rebellion.

Li Kung reveals to the abbot of temple of the Golden Nectar that Master Ho wants to mine under the well and steal it. The abbot reveals that they did not kill Lord Pi because he was of royal blood but they ensured that he would never be able to steal the Nectar again. The monks join forces with the villagers against Master Ho and the Black Beetles to protect the source of the Golden Nectar.

The battle begins in the morning where the Mayor is revealed to be Lord Pi. His legs were cut off so he would not be able to try for the nectar again. After drinking from the spring, he steals the chi out of Innocence and kills her. After defeating the abbot, Li Kung fights him and together with Thaddeus, defeat Lord Pi. Kung bathes his daughter in the river and she is resuscitated. Thaddeus continues on his journey while the village rebuilt. Kung became Mayor and the villagers protect the source of chi.


Have you ever wondered why certain films get sequels? What about the ones that are direct-to-DVD? I know that I have, and with the release of The Man with the Iron Fists 2, that curiosity is still there. What does that mean as far as my opinion on this flick? Well, just read on and see.

What is this about?

On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.

What did I like?

Continuity. The Man with the Iron Fists introduced us to some very…interesting lore, characters, etc. How does one follow that up? Well, keep the timeline flowing when you make a sequel would be a good start. As far as a I can tell, that is what the filmmakers have done. In an opening scene, they even mention how RZA’s character is responsible for the death of Silver Lion, one of the antagonists from the previous film.

V.I.P. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the work of Dustin Nguyen. For me, I remember him from his days on Pam Anderson’s cheesy syndicated crime show, V.I.P. Don’t judge me, the women on the show were beautiful, especially in the eyes of a horny college kid! Anyway, Nguyen is very good in the role as the leader of a tribe of people whom he is sworn to protect, including his family. He is so good that it makes you wonder why he never became a bigger star, or how did the RZA find him, depending on which way you look at things.

What didn’t I like?

Violence. The first film was super stylized and hyper violent. This one, not so much. There are a couple of deaths that are befitting the “franchise”, if we can call it that, but nothing to get too excited about considering its predecessor. I know that this doesn’t have the same budget, but surely they could have given us some more blood, exploding bodies, etc. Instead, we are privy to a bad imitation of those kung fu movies from the late 70s, just without the subtitles not lining up with the actors mouths.

RZA. I applaud RZA for having the gumption to bring a passion project to life, and then he kept it going with this sequel. My problem is that he doesn’t seem to get that he isn’t that great of an actor. Well, maybe he does since he isn’t in this one as much, but he still is around a bit more than he needs to be. Until he either gets some acting classes, or casts someone else in this role, this films are never going to be worth a damn.

Characters. What made people like the first film so much was the enjoyable and memorable characters. In this, the closest that we have to them is Lord Pi, and even he is reduced to a mortal coil when it feels like he should have so much more power! I wonder why the filmmakers did this? Did they read reviews about the least film that said people liked the colorful characters, so they took them out? That is what it seemed like to me!

Let me not beat around the bush. The Man with the Iron Fists 2 is one of those sequels that should not have been made. I can see this story working in another franchise, but it doesn’t fit with what we saw (and enjoyed) from the first film. Everything that was good about the theatrical release must have cost too much for this direct-to-DVD sequel, because it is a pathetic attempt at entertainment. Do I recommend this? No, if you come across this run the other way! That is your best option!

2 out of 5 stars

50 First Dates

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Henry Roth is a veterinarian at Sea Life Park on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, who has a reputation of womanizing female tourists and shows no interest in committing to a serious relationship. Henry’s closest friends are Ula, a marijuana-smoking Islander; his assistant Alexa, whose sexuality is unclear; Willy, his pet African penguin and Jocko, a walrus.

One day Henry’s boat breaks down while he is sailing around Oahu. He goes to the Hukilau Café to wait for the Coast Guard. There he sees a young woman named Lucy Whitmore, who makes architectural art with her waffles. Henry assumes she is a local, which prevents him from introducing himself, but the next day he comes back. Lucy and he hit it off instantly and she asks him to meet her again tomorrow morning.

When Henry goes back to the café, Lucy shows no recollection of ever meeting him. The restaurant owner Sue (Amy Hill) explains to Henry that one year ago, Lucy and her father Marlin went up to the North Shore to pick a pineapple for his birthday. On the way back, they had a serious car accident that left Lucy with anterograde amnesia and she wakes up every morning thinking it is October 13 of last year. To save her the heartbreak of reliving the accident every day, Marlin and Doug, Lucy’s lisping steroid-addicted brother, re-enact Marlin’s birthday by following a script, including putting out October 13’s Sunday newspaper, re-watching the same Vikings game, and refilling Lucy’s shampoo bottles.

Despite Sue’s warning, Henry invites Lucy to have breakfast with him. Eventually he does, but it ends poorly when Henry unintentionally hurts Lucy’s feelings. He follows her home to apologize where Marlin and Doug instruct Henry to leave Lucy alone. Henry begins concocting ways to run into Lucy through the following days such as pretending to have car trouble, creating a fake road block, or by having Ula beat him up. Eventually, Marlin and Doug figure this out due to Lucy singing The Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” on the days when she meets Henry.

One day, as Henry is about to sit with Lucy at breakfast, she notices a police officer writing her a ticket for her expired plates. Lucy attempts to argue that they are not yet expired, and takes a newspaper to prove herself, but sees that the date on all the newspapers is not October as she thought, and Marlin and Doug are forced to admit their ruse when she confronts them.

Henry comes up with an idea to make a video explaining to Lucy her accident and their relationship and play it every morning for her. She watches the tape and is hurt, but eventually comes to her senses and is able to spend the day by picking up where the tape says she left off. She spends more time with Henry and goes to see some of her old friends. Lucy decides to erase Henry completely from her life after learning of his decision not to take a sailing trip to Bristol Bay to study walruses, something he has been planning for the past 10 years. He feels he cannot leave Lucy for the year it will take him. Henry reluctantly helps her destroy her journal entries of their relationship.

A few weeks later, Henry is preparing to leave for his sailing trip. Before he departs, Marlin tells him that Lucy is now living at the brain institute and teaching an art class. He also tells him that she sings. Then, he gives Henry a Beach Boys CD. Listening to the CD, Henry becomes emotional and curses Marlin for giving him the CD and making him feel so emotional. He then remembers that Marlin once told him that Lucy always sings after she meets him. Concluding that Lucy remembers him, he returns home. She says she does not remember, but then she dreams about him every night and paints pictures of him. They reconcile.

Some time later, Lucy wakes up and plays a video tape marked “Good Morning Lucy”. It again informs her of her accident, but ends with her and Henry’s wedding. From the tape, Henry says to put a jacket on and come have breakfast when she is ready. Lucy then sees that she is on Henry’s boat, which finally made it to Alaska. She goes up on deck and meets Marlin, Henry and their daughter, Nicole.


I probably should have saved this one for closer to Valentine’s Day, but oh well. 50 First Dates is considered by many to be one of Sandler’s best film, but it is also one of the films that started the belief that he just pays for his friends to go on a vacation, and I should also mention that this is one of the last of the Sandler films that people really like. So, since this brought about the end of an era, let’s see if he went out with a bang, shall we?

What is this about?

In this offbeat romantic comedy, marine veterinarian Henry Roth changes his womanizing ways after he falls for pretty art teacher Lucy Whitmore. Trouble is, she has no short-term memory, so Henry has to win her over again every day.

What did I like?

Creativity. Imagine if someone in your life was afflicted with this brand of short-term memory loss. I am more than inclined to believe we would all do everything we can to make sure everything is perfect for them. That is exactly what Lucy’s father, brother, and all the people around her try to do. While it may seem like the neverending hell of Groundhog’s day to them, it is always a new experience for her. When Henry comes into the picture, it was intriguing to see how creative he was at getting her to remember him. Not going to say any of them here, just watch for yourself.

Chemistry. In Blended, we were treated to the on-screen reunion of Sandler and Barrymore and were amazed at how well their chemistry has withstood the years. Here, we get to see their second go-round (The Wedding Singer being the first), and perhaps the best pairing of the two. It may have just been the way they or the situation were written, but they have this puppy dog type of romance that just gives you the warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Romance. Continuing on that romance angle, think back to your best romance (doesn’t have to be your current significant other, mind you). Wouldn’t you like to take the best parts of that relationship and live it everyday, at least for awhile? I know that I would (and forget about the mistakes that brought it to an end…lol). These two are like a high school couple. They truly enjoy each other’s company, share each other’s affection, etc. I believe the term they use for this is “meetcute”. For this film, it works a thousand fold!

What didn’t I like?

Ulu. I know that Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider are friends, at least they were for the longest time. They had an argument or something and haven’t really done much together since. Anwyay, as I was saying, they are friends, and Schneider is a good comedic foil. However, making a Hawaiian just wasn’t working. Did he have to be painted that weird gray-brown color? And that accent…was he Hawaiian? Mexican? Some mixture of all nationalities? What was the deal there?

Get off the juice. I didn’t really get the reason to have Sean Astin’s character allegedly juicing. First of all, he looks like he is just ripping off Josh Brolin’s clothes from The Goonies (which was his big brother in that movie). Second, he isn’t anywhere near big enough to be roided out. Seriously, who did this casting?!?

80s…in reggae form. Adam Sandler is in love with the 80s, and who can blame him. Normally, I would defend his love of that totally awesome decade, but I don’t think the songs fit in this film. Part of that may have just been that they were given reggae/ska remakes and it was distracting. That isn’t to say all of them fall into that category, but most do. Perhaps we could have just been treated to new reggae/ska tunes? There was a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that is typically associated with Hawaii, maybe more stuff like that would have worked better.

Man, can you just imagine taking your significant other on 50 First Dates (see what I did there?) Seriously, though, this is a nice, I believe the term is “Netflix and chill”, film. Those that are into that sentimental, sappy stuff have something to watch, while those that are into good comedy have something, as well. Don’t let me forget to mention the beautiful Hawaii scenery, though it isn’t on as full display as you would think with a Sandler film. Do I recommend this picture? Yes, very highly. You and your date will have a nice romantic evening!

5 out of 5 stars

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2009, an elderly Cecil Gaines recounts his life story, while waiting at the White House to meet the newly inaugurated president.

In 1926, at the age of seven, Gaines is raised on a cotton plantation in Macon, Georgia, by his sharecropping parents. One day, the farm’s owner, Thomas Westfall, rapes Cecil’s mother, Hattie Pearl. Cecil’s father confronts Westfall, and is shot dead. Cecil is taken in by Annabeth Westfall, the estate’s caretaker and owner’s grandmother, who trains Cecil as a house servant.

In 1937, at age eighteen, he leaves the plantation and his mother, who has been mute since the incident and presumably dies of old age by the time the plantation shuts down. One night, Cecil breaks into a hotel pastry shop and is, unexpectedly, hired. He learns advanced skills from the master servant, Maynard, who, after several years, recommends Cecil for a position in a Washington D.C. hotel. While working at the D.C. hotel, Cecil meets and marries Gloria, and the couple have two sons: Louis and Charlie. In 1957, Cecil is hired by the White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration. White House maître d’ Freddie Fallows shows Cecil around, introducing him to head butler Carter Wilson and co-worker James Holloway. At the White House, Cecil witnesses Eisenhower’s reluctance to use troops to enforce school desegregation in the South, then his resolve to uphold the law by racially integrating Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.

The Gaines family celebrates Cecil’s new occupation with their neighbors, Howard and Gina. Louis, the elder son, becomes a first generation university student at Fisk University in Tennessee, although Cecil feels that the South is too volatile; he wanted Louis to enroll at Howard University instead. Louis joins a student program led by Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activist James Lawson, which leads to a nonviolent sit-in at a segregated diner, where he is arrested. Furious, Cecil confronts Louis for disobeying him. Gloria, who feels that Cecil puts his job ahead of her, descends into alcoholism and an affair with the Gaines’s neighbor, Howard.

In 1961, after John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, Louis and a dozen others are attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan as well as people wearing Nazi uniforms. while traveling on a bus in Alabama. Louis is shown participating in the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, where dogs and water cannons were used to stop the marchers, one of the movement’s actions which inspired Kennedy to deliver a national address proposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several months after the speech, Kennedy is assassinated. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, enacts the transformative legislation into law. As a goodwill gesture, Jackie Kennedy gives Cecil one of the former president’s neckties before she leaves the White House.

Louis is later shown participating in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement, which inspired Johnson to demand that Congress enact the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson also gives Cecil a tie bar.

In the late 1960s, after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Louis visits and tells his family that he has joined the Black Panthers. Outraged, Cecil orders Louis and his girlfriend, Carol, to leave his house. Louis is soon arrested, and Carter bails him out. Cecil becomes aware of President Richard Nixon’s plans to suppress the movement.

The Gaines’ other son, Charlie, confides to Louis that he plans to join the Army in the war in Vietnam. Louis announces that he won’t attend Charlie’s funeral if he is killed there because while Louis sees Americans as multiple races, Charlie sees the country as one race. A few months later, Charlie is killed and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Louis does not attend. However, when the Black Panthers resort to violence in response to racial confrontations, Louis leaves the organization and returns to college, earning his master’s degree in political science and eventually running for a seat in Congress.

Meanwhile, Cecil confronts his supervisor at the White House over the unequal pay and career advancement provided to the black White House staff. With President Ronald Reagan’s support, he prevails, and his professional reputation grows to the point that he and his wife are invited by President and Nancy Reagan to be guests at a state dinner. Yet at the dinner and afterwards, Cecil becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the class divisions in the White House. Finally, after witnessing Reagan’s refusal to support economic sanctions against South Africa, he resigns. Afterwards, Cecil and Gloria visit the Georgia plantation where he was raised, which by then had long been abandoned.

Gloria, wanting Cecil to mend his relationship with Louis, reveals to him that Louis has told her that he loves and respects them both. Realizing his son’s actions are heroic, Cecil joins Louis at a Free South Africa Movement protest against South African apartheid, and they are arrested and jailed together.

In 2008, Gloria dies shortly before Barack Obama is elected as the nation’s first African-American president, a milestone which leaves Cecil and Louis in awe. Two months, two weeks and one day later, Cecil prepares to meet the newly inaugurated President at the White House, wearing the articles he had received from presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A man approaches Cecil and tells him the president is ready and shows him the way to the Oval office. Cecil tells the man that he knows the way and as he walks down the hallway the voices of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson are heard which later fade away as president Barack Obama’s famous “Yes we can” quote can be heard as Cecil walks through the doors of the Oval office.


When Lee Daniels’ The Butler was released a couple of years ago, there was much talk about how it would be received, partially because this was another historical race-based film that seemed to be tailor-made for a run at the Oscar. All that talk subsided, though, when people actually watched the film and realized that it wasn’t as racially motivated as they were led to believe. If race isn’t the driving force of this picture, then let’s find out what is, shall we?

What is this about?

Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker delivers a powerful performance as Cecil Gaines, who served as the White House butler under eight presidents. His three decades of service unfold against a backdrop of unparalleled change in American history.

What did I like?

Longevity. The timeline of this film is from the late 20s to 2009 (or somewhere around that time). In that time span, our lead character became a butler at the White House in the early 50s, during Eisenhower’s administration, and was steadily employed there until the end of the Reagan era, and still kept spy until his death is 2010. Sakes alive! We can only wish for that type of longevity, right?

History. As I said, this isn’t a race film, but you can’t go through 80 something years without hitting the racial strife and turmoil in this country’s history, especially when the main character is a black man. As such, we get to see the Civil Rights movement, rise of the Black Panther party, Voting Rights Movement, etc. These have little to no effect on Forest Whitaker’s character directly, save for the Civil Rights movement, but his son is involved in them all, which causes an interesting subplot of family drama.

Silence speaks words. It took me awhile to recognize who Whitaker’s mom was in the first scenes, but as it turns out, she is that great actress, Mariah Carey! Ok, I’m being a little facetious, but Carey does give a really good performance…and she doesn’t say a word. The plantation owner takes and rapes her, and the other couple of scenes she’s in are silence. Her silence, though, speaks volumes as to how she was affected. Mariah is good at these small, but powerfully dramatic roles. Maybe she can graduate to bigger ones, soon.

What didn’t I like?

Spitting image. I’m really not sure what to think of the casting of the presidents in this film. With the exception of Robin Williams and John Cusack, they all resemble their counterpart (with the aid of makeup), but I still wonder if someone just pulled names out of a hat and said they should be this person. How else do you explain Alan Rickman as Ronald Regan or Liev Shrieber as Lyndon B. Johnson? I will give credit to John Cusack and James Marsden, they were pretty good at bringing their characters to life, despite not really resembling them.

Comment on Hollywood? Halfway through the picture, I noticed that a good chunk of black Hollywood was in this film. Some of the bigger names are missing (Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah,  Angela Bassett, etc.), but I have a feeling they were at least contacted. Here’s the thing, what does it say about Hollywood when everytime there is a film that casts a chunk of black actors, it is the same handful? Case in point…there is a scene in which Oprah and Terrence Howard are talking about hooking up. Funny thing is that they were husband and wife a few years back in The Princess and the FrogA good chunk of the cast starred in Red Tails and Oprah and Forrest Whitaker seem to be joined at the hip. Just some food for thought.

Underrated support. Most people know Lenny Kravitz as musician, but he’s been making a name for himself on the big screen, most notably in the Hunger Games franchise. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that he is a level-headed fellow butler who seems to have his pulse on the world outside. A stark contrast to the fast-talking, smooth ladies man that is Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character. What strikes me as odd, though, is that neither of these guys gets any recognition for their fine performances. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know they were in here until they appeared on the screen, yet I knew Vanessa Redgrave had a tiny part at the beginning. Definitely underrated performances, if you ask me, and they deserve more respect for what they accomplished.

So, Lee Daniels’ The Butler…what did I think of it? Well, first of all, it is a very fine piece of modern cinema. It manages to keep the audience captivated from start to finish, which is a hard task, especially with this subject matter and over a vast amount of years. That being said, I feel this film may have spent a little too much time with the oldest son, as opposed to giving the youngest a little time to shine and/or focusing on the titular character. That said, I do recommend this. However, for me, it is a bit too heavy to watch more than one time. If I feel the need to check it out again, I’ll just find some clips.

5 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/24

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 24, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

As you may, or may not, be well aware, tomorrow is Christmas. In the spirit of the holiday, I figured this week’s trailer should be a holiday classic.

Now, there has been some debate, as of late, about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. My vote is that it is, but not in the same way as something like It’s a Wonderful Life happens to be.


Merry Christmas to you all!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Approximately 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has disappeared. The First Order has risen from the remains of the fallen Galactic Empire and seeks to eliminate Luke and the Republic. The Resistance, a military force backed by the Republic and led by Luke’s sister, Leia Organa, opposes them while searching for Luke to enlist his aid.

Resistance pilot Poe Dameron meets with village elder Lor San Tekka on the planet Jakku to obtain a map to Luke’s location. Stormtroopers under the command of Kylo Ren destroy the village and capture Poe. Poe’s droid BB-8 escapes with the map, and comes across a scavenger, Rey, at a junkyard settlement. Ren tortures Poe and learns of BB-8. Stormtrooper FN-2187, unable to kill for the First Order, frees Poe and they escape in a stolen TIE fighter; Poe dubs FN-2187 “Finn”. They crash on Jakku, and Finn appears to be the only survivor. He encounters Rey and BB-8 and tells BB-8 of Poe’s fate, while lying to Rey that he’s a part of the resistance. The First Order tracks them and launches an airstrike, but the three are able to flee the planet in a stolen, rundown ship, the Millennium Falcon.

The Falcon breaks down, leaving Finn and Rey stranded. They are found by Han Solo and Chewbacca, who reclaim their former ship, taking it aboard their freighter. Han reveals to them that the force, the Jedi, and Luke Skywalker, who were thought of as mere stories, were real. He explains that Luke tried to rebuild the Jedi Order, but after a student turned to the dark side and destroyed all that he had built, Luke went into exile, feeling responsible. Criminal gangs seeking to settle debts with Solo attack, but the five escape in the Falcon. However, the criminals inform the First Order of Han’s involvement with the droid. The Falcon crew arrive at the planet Takodana and meet Maz Kanata, who can help BB-8 reach the Resistance, but Finn wants to flee on his own. Rey is drawn to a vault and finds the lightsaber that belonged to Luke and his father before him. She experiences disturbing visions, and flees into the woods. Maz then gives Finn the lightsaber for safekeeping.

At the First Order’s Starkiller Base, a planet converted to a superweapon capable of destroying star systems, Supreme Leader Snoke orders General Hux to use it for the first time; they use the weapon to destroy the Republic capital and its fleet, declaring it the end of the Republic. Snoke also tells Ren that to overcome the call of the Light Side of the Force, Ren must kill his father, Han Solo. The First Order then attacks Takodana. Han, Chewbacca, and Finn, who uses the lightsaber in the fight, are saved by Resistance X-wing fighters led by Poe, but Rey is captured by Kylo Ren and taken to Starkiller Base. Ren, confident that he could find the map from Rey and didn’t need BB-8, interrogates Rey, but she resists his mind-reading. Discovering she too can use the Force, she escapes her cell with a Jedi mind trick.

Han, Chewbacca, Finn, and BB-8 arrive at the Resistance base on D’Qar, where they meet Leia and the droids C-3PO and R2-D2, the latter of which has been inactive since Luke’s disappearance. As Starkiller Base prepares to fire on D’Qar, the Resistance devises a plan to lower the planetary shield so their fighters can attack. Using the Falcon, Han, Chewbacca, and Finn infiltrate the base. They lower the shields, find Rey, set explosives, and encounter Ren. Han confronts Ren, calling him by his birth name, Ben, and implores him to abandon the dark side. Though conflicted, Ren kills Han. An angered Chewbacca shoots Ren in the arm, kills several stormtroopers, and sets off the planted explosives, allowing the Resistance X-wing fighters to attack the weakened weapon and starting a chain reaction that destroys Starkiller Base.

The injured Ren chases Finn and Rey to the surface. Ren, bent on taking his grandfather’s lightsaber for himself, knocks Rey unconcious, forcing Finn to battle Ren with the lightsaber. Finn holds his own and even slashes Ren in the arm, but he is wounded by Ren. Ren tries to take the lightsaber using the force, but a now concious Rey proves to be stronger with the force and takes the lightsaber to fight Ren. Although Ren is the better lightsaber fighter and starts off with an advantage, she overpowers him with the Force and wounds him before they are separated by a fissure opening. Snoke orders General Hux to evacuate and bring Ren to him, while Rey, Chewbacca, and Finn escape in the Falcon. On D’Qar, the Resistance celebrates its victory while Leia, Chewbacca, and Rey mourn Han’s death. R2-D2 then awakens and reveals the rest of the map, allowing Rey to travel with R2-D2 and Chewbacca to an island on a distant planet. Finding Luke, Rey offers the lightsaber to him


Finally, after what has seemed like forever and day, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has arrived in theaters. Those of us super nerd fanboys can die happy…right? Maybe not quite yet. I hear this is only the start of a trilogy, as well as more movies, series, etc. that Disney has planned for the franchise. As long as they don’t go overboard like George Lucas did, that’s fine with me, but it is all for naught if this film is no good.

What is this about?

The Galactic Empire was defeated thirty years ago. The Galaxy is now facing a new threat: a new faction named the First Order. Their main mission is to rule the Galaxy and destroy all who oppose them. Their commander is a ruthless, mysterious, powerful Sith, Kylo Ren. Kylo has an ambition to find and kill the last Jedi who is able to restore order and revive the Jedi ways, Luke Skywalker. Luke’s unknown location is also a main concern for General Leia Organa, a General from the Resistance that now trying to find him too. Han Solo and Chewbacca meet some new companions: Finn, a defective First Order Stormtrooper, and Rey, a scavenger from the Jakku planet who acquired Luke’s location through a BB-8 rolling droid. This unexpected team is forced not only to fight and resist the First Order, but also to find Luke Skywalker

What did I like?

Know where you come from. The prequels are generally reviled by fans of the franchise, so for this film to really stand on its own and not be compared to those it did the smart thing, return to its roots. What do I mean by that? Well, we are now 30 years after Return of the Jedi, and on this planet Jakku, you can see remnants of Star Destroyers, AT-AT, and even the Millennium Falcon is found there. While the latter becomes part of the film, it is still a nice easter egg for us die-hard fans to see these vehicles.

New class. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford could probably still carry this franchise if need be, but they aren’t as young as they used to be. It is time for some new blood to be injected. Enter Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. I didn’t really know what to expect from these two. Boyega I’ve seen in Attack the Block, but I didn’t pay that much attention to him back then and Ridley is cute as a button, but this is one of her first roles. The chemistry these two have, though, really lets them shine when they are together, couple that with the talent they have on their own and these two have very bright futures ahead of them, in this franchise and beyond!

Practicality. George Lucas ruined the holy trilogy by forcing CG into scenes where there wasn’t any and the prequels may as well have been as CG as The Clone Wars animated series. Thankfully, J.J. Abrams shut that down and used mostly all practical effects. Meaning the creatures you see are actual people wearing costumes, as opposed to someone in a MOKAP suit. I really can appreciate this approach to filmmaking. We are entirely to reliant on computers for everything these days, and it isn’t for the better!

What didn’t I like?

Kylo. How do you follow up a classic cinema villain like Darth Vader? Apparently, you create someone similar, give him daddy issues, and throw in the little subplot about his leaving jedi training to follow the Dark Side. Ok, all this works, but something about this guy just wasn’t menacing. He seemed more like that high school bully, rather than a threat to the whole universe. Think back to Star Wars, from the first time we see Darth Vader, it is known that he is not a force to be reckoned with. Don’t get me wrong, Kylo Ren has impressive powers, but there is something that just doesn’t make him a threat, yet. It may have been that he took his mask off, but I can’t be sure.

All for one. As I said earlier, there are some clever easter eggs for those of us that grew up with the holy trilogy, but the biggest of those may be the plot of this film. It is very similar to Episode IV. I was on board with the girl on the desert planet who finds a droid that has to complete its mission, her discovery of jedi powers, and other parts similarities too numerous to list. When it came to the giant planet that destroys solar systems though, I had to take issue. Is there nothing else for the First Order to do but to blow up planets? Did they not learn from the Empire’s mistakes?

Starkiller. How many of you have ever played The Force Unleashed? Anybody? Well, the main character is a clone Darth Vader made and his name is Starkiller. I’m not sure if this is mean to be a coincidence, an easter egg, or what, but naming this giant battle station Starkiller felt a bit forced, pardon the pun, if that was the intention. I guess Death Star III would have been too much, though.

Let’s not beat around the bush, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was definitely worth the wait! I was a little nervous going in that this was going to be one of those overhyped pictured, but it wasn’t. Sure, there are some scenes that I felt could have used a bit of tweaking, especially in the early part of the film, but all in all, this is quite the enjoyable experience. For me, I got the feeling i did (and still do) when i watch the holy trilogy. Now, it isn’t quite at the level yet, but it could get there. Do i recommend this? Yes! Yes! A billion times YES! Why are you wasting time reading this? Go see it NOW!

5 out of 5 stars

Lawrence of Arabia

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens in 1935 when Lawrence is killed in a motorcycle accident. At his memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, a reporter tries (with little success) to gain insights into this remarkable, enigmatic man from those who knew him.

The story then moves backward to the First World War, where Lawrence is a misfit British Army lieutenant, notable for his insolence and knowledge. Over the objections of General Murray, Mr. Dryden of the Arab Bureau sends him to assess the prospects of Prince Faisal in his revolt against the Turks. On the journey, his Bedouin guide is killed by Sherif Ali for drinking from his well without permission. Lawrence later meets Colonel Brighton, who orders him to keep quiet, make his assessment, and leave. Lawrence ignores Brighton’s orders when he meets Faisal. His outspokenness piques the prince’s interest.

Brighton advises Faisal to retreat after a major defeat, but Lawrence proposes a daring surprise attack on Aqaba; its capture would provide a port from which the British could offload much-needed supplies. The town is strongly fortified against a naval assault but only lightly defended on the landward side. He convinces Faisal to provide fifty men, led by a sceptical Sherif Ali. Teenage orphans Daud and Farraj attach themselves to Lawrence. They cross the Nefud Desert, considered impassable even by the Bedouins, travelling day and night on the last stage to reach water. Gasim succumbs to fatigue and falls off his camel unnoticed during the night. When Lawrence discovers him missing, he turns back and rescues Gasim—and Sherif Ali is won over. He gives Lawrence Arab robes to wear.

Lawrence persuades Auda abu Tayi, the leader of the powerful local Howeitat tribe, to turn against the Turks. Lawrence’s scheme is almost derailed when one of Ali’s men kills one of Auda’s because of a blood feud. Howeitat retaliation would shatter the fragile alliance, so Lawrence declares that he will execute the murderer himself. He is then stunned to discover that the culprit is Gasim, the very man whom he risked his own life to save in the desert, but he shoots him anyway.

The next morning, the Arabs overrun the Turkish garrison. Lawrence heads to Cairo to inform Dryden and the new commander, General Allenby, of his victory. While crossing the Sinai Desert, Daud dies when he stumbles into quicksand. Lawrence is promoted to major and given arms and money for the Arabs. He is deeply disturbed, however, confessing that he enjoyed executing Gasim, but Allenby brushes aside his qualms. He asks Allenby whether there is any basis for the Arabs’ suspicions that the British have designs on Arabia. When pressed, the general states that they do not.

Lawrence launches a guerrilla war, blowing up trains and harassing the Turks at every turn. American war correspondent Jackson Bentley publicises his exploits, making him world famous. On one raid, Farraj is badly injured. Unwilling to leave him to be tortured by the enemy, Lawrence shoots him before fleeing.

When Lawrence scouts the enemy-held city of Deraa with Ali, he is taken, along with several Arab residents, to the Turkish Bey. Lawrence is stripped, ogled, and prodded. He strikes out at the Bey and is severely flogged and possibly raped. He is then thrown into the street. The experience traumatises Lawrence. He returns to British headquarters in Cairo, but he does not fit in.

A short time later in Jerusalem, Allenby urges him to support the general’s “big push” on Damascus, but Lawrence is a changed, tormented man, unwilling to return. He finally relents.

He recruits an army that is motivated mainly by money rather than by the Arab cause. They sight a column of retreating Turkish soldiers who have just slaughtered the people of the village of Tafas. One of Lawrence’s men is from the village; he demands, “No prisoners!” When Lawrence hesitates, the man charges the Turks alone and is killed. Lawrence takes up the dead man’s cry, resulting in a massacre in which Lawrence himself participates with relish. Afterwards, he regrets his actions.

His men take Damascus ahead of Allenby’s forces. The Arabs set up a council to administer the city, but they are desert tribesmen, ill-suited for such a task. Despite Lawrence’s efforts, they bicker constantly. Unable to maintain the public utilities, the Arabs soon abandon most of the city to the British.

Lawrence is promoted to colonel and immediately ordered home, as his usefulness is at an end to both Faisal and the British. A dejected Lawrence is driven away in a staff car.


We are coming to the end of the year and, per tradition, I am trying to empty out my Netflix queue and also watch some true classic films. You may recall last year, I tested Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. This year I have a couple of masterpieces lined up, the first is the epic masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia.

What is this about?

This Oscar-winning epic tells the true story of T.E. Lawrence, who helped unite warring Arab tribes to strike back against the Turks in World War I. This lush, timeless classic underscores the clash between cultures that changed the tide of war.

What did I like?

Score. Wow! Maurice Jarre really captured the essence of the sweeping desert winds with the main theme of this film. Not only that, but he also composed a score that fits perfectly with the rest of the film. I didn’t notice any part of it that stuck out or felt like it belonged to another genre. I am not inherently familiar with Jarre’s work, but if this sample is any indication, this man is severely underrated!

Cinematography. When people talk about epic films and sweeping cinematography, it is this film that they tend to use as an example. The lush score mixed with the visual of the vast desert makes for a great image. Add in an army crossing 20 days worth of barren sands with no water in sight, and you have the visual formula, as it were, that many films attempt to use still to this day (note that I said attempt).

A pint of Guinness. Alec Guinness is best known to those of us less cultured saps as Obi Wan Kenobi from the original (holy) Star Wars trilogy. Seeing him outside of his Jedi robes sometimes takes me aback, but then I remember that this is a man who is quite the capable actor. His scenes as Prince Faisal are quite interesting as he portrays this man as forceful, yet gentle, slow to rage and respected. The depth and range of his performance is of note because he isn’t on the screen but for maybe 10-15 min total. A trivia tidbit, this role was originally meant for Sir Laurence Olivier, but he couldn’t take because of other engagements.

What didn’t I like?

Extra, extra! Lately, there have been a string of films set in the middle east area. Here in the present day, one would think that casting directors would do everything they can to cast actors that fit what people in that part of the world look like, rather the whitest actors alive, just with a dab of tan makeup to make an attempt to look like they are native. That isn’t the case, however. The old saying, “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” is certainly coming true in Hollywood today as film like this, Cleopatra, The Ten Commandments, and others did not cast accurately. I will give this film credit, though. The extras look like they actually are from this part of the world and Omar Shariff is a major character

Length. Look, this is an epic film and it tells a grand story, but did it really need 3 hours and 42 minutes to do so? I think I fell asleep somewhere near the end, but I’m not sure. I will admit, though, that audiences in the 60s had better attention spans, so perhaps this was not a problem for them, but for me it was a challenge.

Dead men tell no tales. As the film starts, we see present day, well 1935,  T.E. Lawrence riding a motorcycle until he is killed in an accident. The very next scene is his memorial service where we thrown to the rest of the film. I am fine with this being told as a flashback, I just feel that it should have bookended with the reporter again at the end, rather than the abrupt ending we were shown. A bit of closure would have been nice there.

So, there is no doubt that Lawrence of Arabia is a grand, epic film, worth of high praise and accolades. One review I happened to see on Netflix said it best,

Lawrence of Arabia is not a film to be trifled with. It spreads out its own epic-ness like a down comforter, and then proceeds to roll around in it luxuriantly for the next four and a half hours or so. T.E. Lawrence is a complicated man, equal parts genius and lunatic, and Peter O’Toole’s decidedly quirky performance conveys this excellently. The smart script also pays close attention to the political string-pulling behind Lawrence’s thrilling adventures, and displays admirable respect for its Arab characters. The likes of Sherif Ali and especially the sad, dryly witty Prince Faisal are presented as full-blooded human beings, without the slightest trace of condescension. With all these graces, gorgeous desert cinematography and a lush score, you’ve got a movie so appropriately mammoth it’ll take two nights’ viewing to appreciate it all.

Not much more I can really say after that summation. Do I recommend this fine example of what cinema should and could be? Yes, very highly, but make sure to clear your schedule before viewing.

5 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Crow

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On October 30, Devil’s Night in Detroit, Police Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) is at the scene of a crime where Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) has been beaten and raped, and her fiancé Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) then died on the street outside, having been stabbed, shot, and thrown out of the window. The couple were to be married the following day, on Halloween. As he leaves for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl, Sarah, who says that she is their friend, and that they take care of her. Albrecht tells her that Shelly is dying.

One year later, a crow taps on the grave stone of Eric Draven; Eric awakens and climbs out of his grave. Meanwhile, a low level street gang, headed by T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), is setting fires in the city. Eric goes to his old apartment and finds it derelict. He has flashbacks to the murders, remembering that those responsible were T-Bird and his gang: Tin Tin, Funboy, and Skank. Eric soon discovers that any wounds he receives heal immediately. Guided by the crow, he sets out to avenge his and Shelly’s murders by killing the perpetrators.

The crow helps Eric locate Tin Tin; Eric kills him and then takes his coat. He then goes to the pawn shop where Tin Tin pawned Shelly’s engagement ring the year before. Eric forces the owner, Gideon, to return the ring and blows up the shop, letting Gideon live so that he can warn the others. Eric finds Funboy with Sarah’s mother, Darla. After killing Funboy, Eric talks to Darla, making her realize that Sarah needs her to be a good mother. He visits Albrecht, explaining who he is and why he is here. Albrecht tells him what he knows about Shelly’s death and that he watched as she suffered for thirty hours before dying. Eric touches Albrecht and receives from him the pain felt by Shelly during those hours. Sarah and her mother begin to repair their strained relationship. Sarah goes to Eric’s apartment and talks to him. She tells him that she misses him and Shelly. Eric explains that, even though they cannot be friends anymore, he still cares about her.

As T-Bird and Skank stop at a convenience store to pick up some supplies, Eric arrives and kidnaps T-Bird. Skank follows the pair and witnesses Eric killing T-Bird; he escapes and goes to Top Dollar, a top-level criminal who controls all the street gangs in the city. Top Dollar and his lover/half-sister Myca have become aware of Eric’s actions through various reports from witnesses. Top Dollar holds a meeting with his associates where they discuss new plans for their Devil’s Night criminal activities. Eric arrives looking for Skank. A gun fight ensures the deaths of nearly all present, with Eric succeeding in killing Skank. Top Dollar, Myca and Grange, Top Dollar’s right-hand man, escape.

Eric, having finished his quest, returns to his grave. Sarah goes to say goodbye to him and he gives her Shelly’s engagement ring. She is then abducted by Grange who takes her into the church where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting. Through the crow, Eric realizes what has happened and goes to rescue her. Grange shoots the crow as it flies into the church, making Eric lose his invincibility. Myca grabs the wounded crow, intending to take its mystical power. Albrecht arrives, intending to pay his respects to Eric, just after Eric is shot and wounded. Top Dollar grabs Sarah and climbs the bell tower as a fight ensues, with Grange being killed. The crow escapes Myca’s grip, clawing her eyes and sending her down the bell tower to her death. When Albrecht is wounded, Eric climbs to the roof of the church on his own. There, Top Dollar admits ultimate responsibility for what happened to Eric and Shelly. In their fight, Eric gives Top Dollar the thirty hours of pain he absorbed from Albrecht; the sensation sends Top Dollar over the roof of the church to his death. Sarah and Albrecht go to the hospital, and Eric is reunited with Shelley at their graves.


In the early-mid 90s, there was a movement to be moody and depressed…goth if you will. One of the films that came out and helped strengthen this movement was The Crow. In the years since then, there has been a cult classic status has been achieved by this picture, but I wonder if it is really worth it.

What is this about?

Exactly one year after young rock guitarist Eric Draven and his fiancée are brutally killed by a ruthless gang of criminals, Draven — watched over by a hypnotic crow — returns from the grave to exact revenge.

What did I like?

Sting. In the late 90s/early 2000s, I became a fan of professional wrestling for a second thanks to the likes of The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldberg, and Sting. Why do I bring this up? Well, the first couple of times I watched this film, I didn’t really pick up on the similarities, outside of the face paint, but watching it tonight, I noticed the dark avenger persona Sting has been using in WCW, TNA, and now WWE comes from this film. You may scoff at that being a part of its legacy, but take a minute and think about how global wrestling is and to think that Sting has kept his character, which was based on this film, going for so long blows the mind!

Who you gonna call? Ernie Hudson never really got a chance to do anything in the Ghostbusters movies, but in everything else I’ve seen him in, the man has really shown he has some acting chops. It makes you wonder what kind of ectoplasm was holding him down in those classic films, doesn’t it? I like that, in this picture, he plays a cop with a heart of gold. A man who will do anything to protect his beat. In this day and age when police officers are just randomly beating, shooting, and killing anyone that looks at them wrong, it is a breath of fresh air to get that from a boy in blue. Shame that the real police can’t follow suit!

I am the night. 99% of this film takes place in the night. Why is this important? Well, think about the character of the crow. Does this look like someone who would do well in the middle of the day? No, but in the middle of the night and he flourishes. Unlike all 5 Spider-Man movies, the filmmakers knew what the time frame our hero works best in is and they used that to his advantage.

What didn’t I like?

Scum and villainy. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, a good hero needs a good villain. The Crow, at least in this outing, doesn’t have one. I’m not saying he needs a name villain such as the Joker or the Kingpin, but someone who poses a threat to more than just a neighborhood block. The antagonist we are given is nothing more than a bully who happens to have hired thugs. Honestly, the thus are more intimidating than him. If he didn’t have the long hair, I doubt he’d even have been the one in charge! Ha!

Bye, Ling. Funny thing, Bai Ling is actually a normal character. Something must have happened to cause her to lose a few screws because everything of note that she has been in after this, the woman has been muy loco en da cabeza! Take Crank: High Voltage as an example! That isn’t why I bring her up, though. She seems to be learned in some sort of mysticism, but we never see that, other than her knowing the significance of the crow.

Candyman. Tony Todd is an intimidating presence, both in terms of his looks and stature, as well as his deep, booming voice. So, tell me why is it that this man is relegated to being a right-hand man? I would say this is one of his early film roles, which would allow me to forgive his lack of leading man ability, but this man been around since Platoon, if not longer! Maybe the filmmakers should have had a crossover, especially considering Todd’s success in Candyman. Can’t you see it? The Crow vs. Candyman? Fight to the…whatever it is that comes after death.

So, what is my final verdict on The Crow. To be honest, I don’t really see the lasting appeal, nor do I see why everyone is so in love with this picture. That being said, I appreciate the performance given by Brandon Lee, it is just too bad that we never got to see how far his star was going to rise. The action here is enough to appease those that don’t want to just watch someone brood for 2 hours. I feel as if the mother/daughter relationship as well as some more back story on our titular character would have added a little something to the picture, but that’s just me. Overall, I do think this was a decent picture and I would recommend it to those that are interested.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Penguins of Madagascar

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Antarctica, three young penguins – Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico – defy the laws of nature to save an egg the other penguins believe to be doomed. After saving it from a pack of leopard seals and accidentally setting themselves adrift on an iceberg, the egg hatches into Private.

Ten years later (after the events of the previous film), the penguins decide to leave the circus to celebrate Private’s birthday by breaking into Fort Knox in order to treat him to a discontinued snack called “Cheezy Dibbles” in the vending machine of their break room. Despite this, Private begins to feel out of place with the team, as he is described as being the “secretary/mascot”. Suddenly, they are abducted by the machine and sent to Venice, Italy by Dr. Octavius Brine, a renowned geneticist who removes his human disguise and reveals he is actually an octopus named Dave, who has grown resentful of penguins after their nature of cuteness had shunned him out of every major zoo in the world.

Rico swallows Dave’s collection of snowglobes along with a canister of a green substance called the Medusa Serum before the four escape and are chased through the canals and streets of Venice by Dave’s henchmen. When cornered, they are rescued by a group of animals from a spy agency called “North Wind” consisting of their leader, a grey wolf whose name is classified, (Skipper mistakenly refers to him as “Classified” throughout the entire film) a harp seal demolitionist named Short Fuse, a polar bear named Corporal, and an intelligent snowy owl named Eva with whom Kowalski is instantly smitten. Their mission is to help animals who can’t help themselves.

At their hideout, their communication systems are hacked by Dave, who reveals that he has an enormous supply of the Medusa Serum and that he intends to capture the penguins out of every zoo he was kicked out of. Not wanting the penguins’ help, Classified sends the group to their most remote base (which happens to be on Madagascar) but the penguins awaken midflight and crash land in the Sahara Desert before making their way to Shanghai, which they mistake for Dublin, Ireland. Discovering Dave’s next target in Shanghai, the penguins ship themselves to their current location and make their way to the zoo. Disguising himself as a mermaid-tailed penguin (a tourist attraction) to distract Dave from his real target, Private himself is captured along with the Shanghai penguins after the North Wind arrives to put a stop to Dave’s plan. The penguins take the North Winds’ high-tech plane to give chase, but accidentally self-destruct the machine. They manage to track Private to an island though, using a device planted on him when Classified tranquilized them. Meanwhile, on the island, Dave demonstrates his way to genetically mutate the penguins into hideous monsters as an effort to make humans disgusted in them as revenge.

Skipper and Classified argue on the best means to rescue the captives and stop Dave, settling on Classified’s plan of a frontal assault. The North Wind manages to corner Dave at his lair only to be captured by Dave’s henchmen as well as the other penguins. Dave demonstrates his disfiguring ray at full power on Private, apparently disintegrating him with the beam, but unbeknownst to them he escapes at the last minute by using a paper clip he swallowed earlier. Private rescues the North Wind members, who want to regroup, but Private, not wanting to leave anyone behind goes to stop Dave. As Dave’s submarine docks at New York with the promise of returning the penguins he found to the zoo, he turns the ray on the rest of the penguins, mutating them all into hideous monsters. The city erupts into chaos as the brainwashed, mutated penguins run amok on the terrified human crowd. Getting the senses back into Skipper, Kowalski and Rico, they decide to connect the cute Private into the ray to return them to normal. They turn all the penguins back to normal in one huge blast.

Private is left mutated from the machine while the rest of the penguins are restored to normal. Despite his strange new look, the Penguins show their gratitude and newfound respect for Private. Dave (who caught in the blast) has been turned into a pipsqueak version of himself and is trapped in a snow globe where he is admired by a little girl. Finally seeing one another as equals, Classified promises to grant the Penguins anything they want. In addition to Kowalski getting a kiss from Eva, the Penguins are given their own jetpacks and they then fly off above the clouds looking for their next adventure.

In a mid-credits scene, the Penguins return to the circus and plug Mort into the ray and use him to revert Private back to normal. Mort does not appear to show any side effects from the ray until he manages to swallow King Julien whole, much to King Julien’s delight.


Well, we have now reached that point in time where the animated franchises we’ve been watching the past few years are now letting their popular side characters have their own films. Aside from this film, Penguins of Madagascar, there was this summer’s huge hit Minions, next summer we get a film based on Scrat from Ice Age, and I’m sure there are more to come.

What is this about?

Having shown their mettle in previous Madagascar animated epics, dauntless penguins Skipper, Rico, Private and Kowalski team with a covert group, the North Wind, to stage an all-or-nothing showdown with the fiendish Dr. Octavius Brine.

What did I like?

On their own. We were first introduced to the penguins way back in the first Madagascar movie. Seeing as how they, and apparently King Julien, have been the breakout stars of that franchise, rather than the main characters, it makes sense that they have their own show on Nickelodeon and are making an attempt to cash in some more with a big screen adventure. Not having any of the characters from their original franchise, not counting a mid-credits scene, allows them to stand on their own two feet, which I can appreciate.

Documentary. When it comes to nature documentaries these days, Werner Herzog seems to be the guy you go to for narration. He pops up at the beginning of this, filming what looks to be a penguin documentary. I’m sure this was put in for the adults watching, and it was a very nice touch.

Animation. The other day, it was brought to my attention that it has been 20 years since the release of Toy Story. Think about what that film looks like and compare it to the more recent animated films that have come out. You can clearly see how far animation has come! In this case, there is a fluidity to the octopi that we wouldn’t have seen not that long ago, a more defined look to the penguins feathers, and even the snow looked more realistic. I still am no fan of using computers to animate, but I respect what they have been able to accomplish.

What didn’t I like?

Dr. Brine. The villain of the film is an octopus who masquerades as a human scientist and feels he has been slighted by penguins around the world. Ok, that makes for a good plot to go with the story, but what is my issue? Well, in his human disguise, he is still moving around like a slinky! How does no one get this? The villain in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 does something similar, but he’s a yoga nut, if I recall. Also, the design of this guy doesn’t fit with John Malkovich’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, Malkovich does a great job as the villain, but the way this guy was drawn, you’d think they were expecting Rainn Wilson!

Puns. When it comes to jokes, there are certain types that are sure to generate laughs, others that will draw boos, and then there are puns. Puns are the best when used sparingly. Someone should have told that to whoever it was that wrote this script, because the puns used as names was a joke that got old fast. For example, “Halle…bury them! Helen…Hunt them down! Hugh, Jack…man the battle stations! Charlize…they’re on the ship [sic]” (Halle Berry, Helen Hunt, Hugh Jackman, Charlize Theron). Admittedly, these could be clever, but for me it was too much at one time.

Attempted feelings. Someone thinks that these penguins needed a backstory complete with feelings about how Private is left out and unappreciated. I don’t know who this person is, but they messed up the dynamic of the team by doing so. Skipper is the leader! It is his job to lead the penguins, regardless of the outcome. Private is the young and cute one. End of story! Why must everyone mess with the formula. Remember when Coca-Cola tried that in the 80s? Didn’t work too well, did it?

For a spinoff children’s film, Penguins of Madagascar wasn’t half bad. It accomplished what it needed to in a short amount of time which, given the ADHD of the audience this is made for works out just fine. There are a couple of jokes here and there for parents to enjoy, and a flashback to Madagascar 3, for those that wanted to see what the penguins were up to while all that singing and dancing was going on. All in all, this is a pretty good picture to watch with the kids. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/17

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 17, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

In one of the early episodes of Family Guy we saw Gene Kelly dancing with Stewie. Where did this clip come from? Well, originally, Stewie was Jerry of Tom & Jerry fame and the scenes was from the classic musical starring Gene and Frank Sinatra, Anchors Aweigh.

Check out the trailer and see if it is something you’d like to watch sometime (it is currently on Netflix streaming)

For the Boys

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the early 1990s, retired entertainer Dixie Leonard (Midler) has a commitment to attend a Hollywood ceremony being televised live to honor her and her longtime show-biz partner Eddie Sparks (Caan). When a young man from the TV show comes to pick her up, Dixie balks and explains what brought Eddie and her together, as well as what drove them apart. The majority of the film is an extended flashback.

Dixie’s story begins during World War II when she receives an offer to entertain the troops overseas as part of Eddie’s act. Dixie is an instant hit with the boys in uniform, but Eddie wants her gone, ostensibly because he finds her kind of humor too coarse, but really because she stole the show by topping his jokes. Dixie doesn’t care for him much either, but fellow entertainers and her joke-writer uncle (Segal) persuade her to stay.

Eddie wins her over, particularly by reuniting Dixie with her soldier husband on stage. However, later in the war, Dixie’s husband dies in battle.

Despite her distaste for Eddie, she continues working with him back in the U.S. to support herself and her son. Eddie is married with daughters, but treats Dixie’s son as if he were his own.

The two bickering performers go overseas twice more to entertain the troops in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. They endure the horrors of combat, the sin of temptation where they appeared to have slept together after seeing a soldier killed in action, the paranoia of McCarthyism and, ultimately, the death of Dixie’s son in Vietnam (which occurs right in front of them when the show is attacked in a mortar barrage), which they both mourn.

Dixie has not forgiven Eddie for his part in all this. But, at the last minute, because he speaks of their joint loss in Vietnam, she consents to join him on stage for one last song and dance, before appearing to accept their mutual love for one another.


A few weeks ago, I was on the road with some friends and we got to talking about who was the best live performance we’d seen. Of course the usual came up, Journey, Aerosmith, Kanye, etc., but one of my friends made a surprise entrant into the mix, Bette Midler! This got me thinking, is she puts on such a great show, I need to go see it. First off, though, I need to check out a few more of her films, starting with For the Boys.

What is this about?

On the eve of receiving a presidential medal, aging USO performer Dixie Leonard (Bette Midler) reflects on the events of her 50-year career. Plucked from obscurity by Eddie Sparks (James Caan), Dixie agrees to a tentative partnership that takes the duo through many wars, onstage and off. Eddie and Dixie never quite see eye to eye, but they somehow manage to keep the act together — for the sake of the boys in uniform.

What did I like?

Divine Miss M. I have always know Bette Midler to be a fine actress, but everything I have seen her in, with the exception of Hocus Pocus, has relegated her to a small supporting role. She is a natural at old school comedy and throw in a couple of songs for her to belt out and it is no wonder this woman is so highly revered and respected!

Casualties of war. There are war films that show the gritty reality of war, rather than glorify it. For the most part, the focus of this picture is on the entertainers during that time, but there is one scene near the end that, while not as graphic as what can be seen in something like Saving Private Ryan, will break your heart and cause you to realize the horrors that go on over there. I won’t reveal said scene, just be prepared.

Back and forth. James Caan and Bette Midler as a comedy duo. Who’d have thunk it, right? Somehow these two seasoned professionals have chemistry that rivals that of Lucy and Desi! Ok, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but they do play off each other as well as the greats. It makes for some very entertaining scenes for when they are on and off stage. I was enjoying their witty repartee throughout the whole film.

What didn’t I like?

Old and fake. Hollywood just cannot make people look genuinely old. In present day, James Caan and Bette Midler are in their 90s, yet with their make up on, they look like puppets. Who ever it was that did this makeup job needs to be fired! I have never seen old people that look like that! Wouldn’t have just been easier to find a couple of old farts that somewhat resemble them a la A League of their Own?

More music. For a film about USO performers there is an apparent lack of music. I’m not saying this needed to be a musical (although I think they did turn this into a Broadway musical recently), but a few more songs would have been nice, especially during the WWII days. I’m just saying.

Cliffnotes. Realizing that these are not real people, but rather based on various aspects of real life, I feel as if we only got touches of this and that when in comes to their history. For instance, the whole “red scare” angle was mentioned for a couple of scenes and then forgotten, as if it never happened. Midler’s son’s attachment to Caan was shown, but other than him being a male figure in his life, we don’t really know why he was so close to him all through his life. Things like this are why I felt like I was watching a cliffnotes summation of the events that transpired.

When For the Boys was initially released, I believe I was still in junior high, possibly even elementary, so you can imagine I had no interest in watching. That being said, I can say that everytime the trailer would come on television, I remembered the swinging music. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more of this, but given that this is the span of 50+ years, I can forgive that little tidbit. Really, this is a good film, albeit a bit longer than it probably needs to be. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so, as it is an enjoyable trip through time with a couple of USO performers. Watch and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars


Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , on December 15, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone) is a paid assassin who wants nothing more than to get out of ‘the business’, haunted by the memory of murdering his own mentor Nicolai years ago. Rath is a quiet, morose professional who is on an assignment to kill someone when someone else gets to the ‘mark’ (the target) before he does. That person turns out to be Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas), a fellow assassin and a competitive sociopath.

Rath then has the trouble of trying to figure out who sent Bain, the contractor offers him one last job that could financially allow him to retire: killing the four Dutch buyers and the computer hacker named Electra (Julianne Moore) and retrieve a disk that contains sensitive information. Electra has set up cameras in all the rooms of the apartment block where she lives and watches them like watching television.

Bain is assigned to kill Electra as well. Bain kills the four Dutch buyers who turn out to be Interpol agents and Rath comes to kill Electra but for the first time has a change of heart. His pay for the job is given to him in a briefcase in exchange for the disk. The briefcase actually contains a bomb placed by his own contractor in an attempt to kill him. Luckily Electra had swapped the disk, not sure if Rath was coming back or not.

The contractor takes the chance and hires Bain to terminate him; now having become a target along with Electra he must try and extract enough money out of his contractor so he can disappear for good, while avoiding the bloodthirsty Bain. Rath’s contractor turns out to be none other than Nicolai himself who also hired Bain to track down Electra and the disk.


A film that has been floating on my curiosity radar has been Assassins. Why, you may ask? Well, first off, I am a huge fan of the Assassins Creed series, and I believe about the time I was getting into the games was when I was made aware of this picture. Second, I’m just curios as to why this is not a bigger film. No one I know that has seen it has said it was bad. Let’s dive into this mystery ourselves, shall we?

What is this about?

Veteran hit man Robert Rath is looking to get out of the business when he meets young, eager competitor Miguel Bain, who has Rath at the top of his “to do” list. Rath takes one last job, but complications ensue when he falls in love with his mark.

What did I like?

Loco. Over the last few years, I have developed a new respect for Antonio Banderas. As he has ages, he is no longer the “latin ass from heaven”, or whatever it is that ladies called him back in the day, but a versatile actor. How else do you explain being able to be the voice of an animated cat in Puss in Boots and then a hyper active, parkour ex-soldier in The Expendables 3. I wager he can still do the dramatic roles, too. Now, in this film he is a crazy, bloodthirsty young assassin who wants to be the best, and will stop at nothing to get that “title”. His unstable temperament worked for this character, especially in adversarial contrast to Stallone’s stoicness. Why hasn’t Banderas been a villain more often? He does it so well!

Twist. So many movies have twist endings, but not many of them come out of nowhere. The twist in this film was something I wasn’t expecting, and for that this film gets major kudos. The audience never sees it coming! I wonder, though, since this film was made in 1995, if the pre-internet/cellphone age played a part in keeping it a secret.

Pacing. Many of the reviews I’ve read have brought up that this is slow and boring. Here’s the thing, this is a film about assassins. Assassins are hired killers who take their time and wait for the perfect time to go for the kill. There is a mirroring image of sorts between that and the pacing of the film. It waits until the right time, and then picks up. Not every Stallone film is going to be non-stop action, I’m sorry!

What didn’t I like?

Less is Moore. I love Julianne Moore! She is a highly talented actress and doesn’t look half bad. We get a younger version of her in this film, and she is a bit of an annoyance. It is obvious that she is in here to fit the typical eye candy role, but they also have her as the tech geek and damsel in distress. Speaking of which, was it really necessary for her to fall for Stallone? That seemed to be too convenient!

Tone. I don’t want to say that this is a light film, but it does feel a bit…happy, for the subject matter. Maybe it is just the era, but when I think of a couple of assassins going head to head, I imagine a darker film. That sounds so weird coming from me, as I am not a fan of dark films most of the time but in this case, I think it would have worked better than what we get.

Other assassins. In Afro Samurai, there is one person that has the #1 headband. The only person with the right to challenge him wears the #2 headband. Everybody and their dead grandma comes after the #2 for that headband. I mention all this, because it seems weird to me that there are only two assassins. Where are the others? Surely, someone else would want the chance to take out Stallone, right?

Final verdict on Assassins? This is a film that takes its plot a little lighter than I would like for it to have done. That being said, I enjoyed Stallone and Banderas’ performances and chemistry. I now understand why his character was the way he was in the last Expendables. I feel this film could have done with some touch ups to the script because I was bored with most of it, especially the first half. All that said, do I recommend it? No, but I see no reason to avoid this film, either.

3 out of 5 stars