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”.

REVIEW:

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.

REVIEW:

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.

REVIEW:

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.

REVIEW:

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.

Enjoy!

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

REVIEW:

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