Archive for January, 2016

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1936, archaeologist Indiana Jones braves an ancient booby-trapped temple in Peru and retrieves a golden idol. He is confronted by rival archaeologist René Belloq and the indigenous Hovito people. Surrounded and outnumbered, Jones surrenders the idol to Belloq and escapes aboard a waiting floatplane.

Jones returns to his teaching position at Marshall College, where he is interviewed by two Army Intelligence agents. They inform him that the Nazis, who are obsessed with the occult, are searching for his old mentor, Abner Ravenwood. The Nazis know that Ravenwood is the leading expert on the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis in the Kingdom of Egypt, and that he possesses the headpiece of the Staff of Ra. Jones deduces that the Nazis are searching for the location of the Ark of the Covenant; the Nazis believe that if they acquire the Ark their armies will become invincible. The Staff of Ra is the key to finding the Well of Souls, a secret chamber in which the Ark is buried.

The agents authorize Jones to recover the Ark to prevent the Nazis from obtaining it. He travels to the Kingdom of Nepal and discovers that Abner has died, and the headpiece is in the possession of Ravenwood’s daughter Marion. Jones visits Marion at her tavern, where she reveals her bitter feelings toward him from a previous romantic affair. She rebuffs his offer to buy the headpiece, and Jones leaves. Shortly after, a group of thugs arrive with their Nazi commander, Arnold Toht. Toht threatens Marion to get the headpiece, but when Jones returns to the bar to fight the Nazis and save Marion, her bar is accidentally set on fire; and during the fight, the headpiece ends up in the fire. Toht severely burns his hand trying to take the hot headpiece, and flees the tavern screaming. Jones and Marion escape with the headpiece, and Marion decides to accompany Jones in his search for the Ark so he can repay his debt to her.

The pair travels to Cairo, where they meet up with Jones’s friend Sallah, a skilled excavator. Sallah informs them that Belloq and the Nazis are digging for the Well of Souls with a replica of the headpiece, created from the scar on Toht’s hand. They quickly realize the Nazi headpiece is incomplete and that the Nazis are digging in the wrong place. The Nazis kidnap Marion and it appears to Jones that she is killed in an exploding truck. After a confrontation with Belloq in a local bar, Jones and Sallah infiltrate the Nazi dig site and use their staff to correctly locate the Ark. Jones, Sallah, and a small group of diggers unearth the Well of Souls and Jones is forced to face his fear of snakes to acquire the Ark. Belloq and Nazi officer Colonel Dietrich arrive, seize the Ark from Jones, throwing Marion into the Well of Souls with him before sealing it back up. Jones and Marion escape to a local airstrip, where Jones has a fistfight with a Nazi mechanic before blowing up a flying wing. The panicked Nazis remove the Ark in a truck and set off for Cairo, but Jones catches them and retakes it. He makes arrangements to take the Ark to London aboard a tramp steamer.

The next day, a Nazi U-boat appears and intercepts the ship. Belloq and Dietrich seize the Ark and Marion but cannot locate Jones, who stows away aboard the U-boat and travels with them to an island in the Aegean Sea. Once there, Belloq plans to test the power of the Ark before presenting it to Hitler. Jones reveals himself and threatens to destroy the Ark with a panzerfaust, but Belloq calls the bluff and Jones surrenders rather than destroy such an important historical artifact. The Nazis take Jones and Marion to an area where the Ark will be opened and tie them to a post to observe. Belloq performs a ceremonial opening of the Ark, which appears to contain nothing but sand. Suddenly, angelic and beautiful, ghost-like beings emerge from the Ark and float around the assembly. Jones cautions Marion to keep her eyes tightly closed, and not to observe what happens next. Belloq and the others look on in astonishment as the apparitions are suddenly revealed to be angels of death. A vortex of flame forms above the opened Ark and energy surges out into the gathered Nazi soldiers, killing them all. As Belloq, Toht and Dietrich all scream in terror, the Ark turns its fury on them: Dietrich’s head shrivels up, Toht’s face is melted off his skull and Belloq’s head explodes. Flames then engulf the remains of the doomed assembly, save for Jones and Marion. The Ark’s lid is blasted high into the air before dropping back down onto the Ark and sealing it. Jones and Marion find their ropes burned off and embrace.

In Washington, D.C., the Army Intelligence agents inform Jones and Marcus Brody that the Ark is someplace safe and will be studied by “top men”. The Ark is shown being permanently stored in a giant government warehouse among countless similar crates.

REVIEW:

Action films in the 80s were all about explosions, excitement, and machismo. Indiana Jones, while obviously a bit more cerebral than his counterparts, was no exception. In this day and age where we get a reboot or remake of everything that we hold near and dear to our hearts, I felt it was time to weigh in with my thoughts on Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What is this about?

When Dr. Indiana Jones — the tweed-suited professor who just happens to be a celebrated archaeologist and adventurer — is hired by the government to locate the legendary Ark of the Covenant, he finds himself up against the entire Nazi regime.

What did I like?

Everyman. Sometimes a hero just needs to be a someone just doing their job. In the case of Indiana Jones, that is especially true. Why do I say this? Well, as an archaeologist, he is tasked with obtaining historical artifacts and such. This is sure to come with some dangerous territory, make enemies, etc. As he is our protagonist, I don’t think he is just going to let people associated with him, be they tour guides, female companion, or what-have-you lose their life on his watch.

Action. I was sitting back and watching this film and I was really taken back watching the action. Harrison Ford in his prime whipping his whip around, jumping  around these Nazi trucks, and more (yes, I know it was mostly his stunt double) was a real joy to behold. Action movies these days are all CG and explosions. This was some real stunt work that harkens back to the day of Errol Flynn.

Back in the day. It is no secret that I prefer WWII era settings. What is surprising is that, as many times as I have seen this film, I never really put it together that this was set in the 40s. I know, I know…kind of hard to imagine when the Nazis are the antagonists, the cars are not even close to being modern, and the style of dress gives it away. If you go strictly by the parts in the Middle East, though, it isn’t as obvious. At least, that is my half-hearted defense for why I didn’t notice it before.

What didn’t I like?

Off days. This has always bothered me. Indiana Jones is a professor of archaeology, meaning he has an obligation to teach classes of students. What happens to these classes when he’s off globetrotting? For instance, this trip to obtain the Ark of the Covenant was not a weekend excursion, obviously. I would say he was gone for at least a couple of weeks! Did his students just have assignments to do during that time? Was there a sub?

Wooden crate. The Ark is placed in a wooden crate and locked away at film’s end. Sounds like a good thing to do right? I would agree with you, except earlier in the film it was in a wooden crate and somehow managed to burn a hole through that, so who’s to say it won’t do the same this time around?

Snakes. We all have that one thing that scares the living bejesus out of us, be it flying, heights, rats, spiders, needles, or in Indiana Jones’ case, snakes. Wait, this is a guy that goes around to ancient abandoned temples and such, which are all surely loaded with snakes, and this is the thing he’s scared of? I’ve always found that to be perplexing or ironic. Big bad archaeologist scared of the thing that he is sure to run into everywhere he goes.

Final verdict on Raiders of the Lost Ark? This is one of the tent pole films of my childhood. I grew up in the 80s and films like this were my bread and butter. Every franchise has to start somewhere and when you look back at the Indiana Jones franchise (even though Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull is universally reviled), it is real easy to see that this is a great starting place for bigger and better things that were sure to come. If you’re looking for a film that has action, humor, romance, and dash of 80s special effects, then I highly recommend this.

5 out of 5 stars

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Demise of the ritual

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2016 by Mystery Man

Greetings dear readers!

I’m sure you may have noticed that in these early days of the New Year, I haven’t really posted much. Actually, this goes back to the busy fall I endured.

Well, after some deep thought, I have come to the conclusion that I just need to scale back with this site, especially given the fact that there are only a handful of you that pay any attention to what goes on with this lil ol’ blog of mine.

This is not a shutdown, though. I will still review new films that I get to see, Trailer Thursday will resume next month, and while every film I watch may not get a review, I will at least post it. For instance, if I watch Amityville Horror, but don’t want to review it, then I’ll post that I’ve watched it, but there won’t be a review at the bottom.

Lastly, I was not planning on having a 2015 awards post, opting instead to just post some of the highlights of the year, but I can change that, if anyone wants it.

Well, that’s all I have! Thanks for being such a great fanbase! Again, I’m not leaving you guys, just scaling back a little. Stay tuned as I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m ready to get back to regular posting!

To Kill a Mockingbird

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film’s young protagonists, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (Mary Badham) and her brother Jeremy Atticus “Jem” Finch (Phillip Alford), live in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the 1930s. The story covers three years, during which Scout and Jem undergo changes in their lives. They begin as innocent children, who spend their days happily playing games with each other and spying on Arthur “Boo” Radley (Robert Duvall), who has not been seen for many years by anybody as a result of never leaving his house and about whom many rumors circulate. Their widowed father, Atticus (Gregory Peck), is a town lawyer and has a strong belief that all people are to be treated fairly, to turn the other cheek, and to stand for what you believe. He also allows his children to call him by his first name. Early in the film, the children see their father accept hickory nuts, and other produce, from Mr. Cunningham (Crahan Denton) for legal work because the client has no money. Through their father’s work as a lawyer, Scout and Jem begin to learn of the racism and evil in their town, aggravated by poverty; they mature quickly as they are exposed to it.

The local judge (Paul Fix) appoints Atticus to defend a black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), against an accusation of rape of a white teenaged girl, Mayella Ewell. Atticus accepts the case. Jem and Scout experience schoolyard taunts for their father’s decision. Later, a lynch mob, led by Mr. Cunningham, tries to lynch Robinson over Atticus’ objections. Scout, Jem and their friend, Dill, interrupt the confrontation. Scout, unaware of the mob’s purpose, recognizes Cunningham as the man who paid her father in hickory nuts and tells him to say hello to his son, who is her schoolmate. Cunningham becomes embarrassed and the mob disperses.

At the trial, it is undisputed that Tom came to Mayella’s home at her request to assist with the chopping up of a chifforobe, and that Mayella showed signs of having been beaten around that time. Among Atticus’ chief arguments, he points out that Tom is crippled in his left arm, and that the supposed rapist would have had to make extensive use of his left hand in assaulting Mayella before raping her. At the same time Atticus demonstrates that Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, is left handed, implying that he – rather than Tom – was the one who beat Mayella. Atticus also states that the girl had not even been examined by a doctor to check for signs of rape after the supposed assault. In his closing argument Atticus asks the all white, male jury to cast aside their prejudices and instead focus on Tom’s obvious innocence. In taking the stand in his own defense, Tom denies he attacked Mayella, but states she kissed him. He testifies he voluntarily assisted Mayella because “I felt sorry for her because . . . “. He didn’t finish the sentence but the prosecutor hammered home the point that he was a black man feeling sorry for a white woman. In a town where whites are viewed as superior to blacks, Tom’s sympathy for Mayella dooms his case, and he’s found guilty.

Atticus arrives home to discover from the sheriff (Frank Overton) that Tom has been killed by a deputy during his transfer to prison. The sheriff states that according to this deputy, Tom was trying to escape. The deputy reported that Tom ran like a “crazy” man before he was shot. Atticus and Jem go to the Robinson family home to advise them of Tom’s death. Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father, appears and spits in Atticus’ face while Jem waits in the car. Atticus wipes his face and leaves.

Autumn arrives and Scout and Jem attend a nighttime Halloween pageant at their school. Scout wears a large hard-shelled ham costume, portraying one of Maycomb county’s products. At some point during the pageant, Scout’s dress and shoes are misplaced. She’s forced to walk home without shoes and wearing her ham costume. While cutting through the woods, Scout and Jem are attacked by an unidentified man who has been following them. Scout’s costume, like an awkward suit of armor, protects her from the attack but restricts her movement and severely restricts her vision. Their attacker is thwarted and overcome by another unidentified man. Jem is knocked unconscious and Scout escapes unharmed in a brief but violent struggle. Scout escapes her costume in time to see a man carrying Jem to their home and entering. Scout follows and once inside runs into the arms of a concerned Atticus. Doc Reynolds comes over and treats the broken arm of an unconscious Jem.

When Sheriff Tate asks Scout what happened, she notices a man standing silently behind the bedroom door in the corner of Jem’s room. Atticus introduces Scout to Mr Arthur Radley; he is the person who came to their aid against Ewell in the woods. Boo is also the man who carried Jem home. The sheriff reports Bob Ewell was discovered dead at the scene of the attack with a knife in his ribs. Atticus assumes Jem killed Ewell in self-defense. Sheriff Tate, however, believes that Boo killed Ewell in defense of the children and tells Atticus that to drag the shy and reserved Boo into the spotlight for his heroism would be “a sin.” To protect Boo, Sheriff Tate suggests that Ewell “fell on his knife.” Scout draws a startlingly precocious analogy to an earlier lesson from the film (hence its title) when she likens any public outing of Boo to the killing of a mockingbird. The film ends with Scout considering events from Boo’s point of view, and Atticus watching over the unconscious Jem.

REVIEW:

This morning, I was talking to someone about classic films and To Kill a Mockingbird came up. Both of us realized it had been quite some since we last watched. Speaking for myself, and I’m sure many of you, it was way back in high school after we had to read the book for class. I wonder how my opinion has changed in these years since, especially with the current political and racial climate.

What is this about?

Southern comforts abound in this big-screen adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel as lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck, in an Oscar-winning role) defends an innocent black man (Brock Peters) against rape charges but ends up in a maelstrom of hate and prejudice. Meanwhile, with help from a friend (John Megna), Finch’s children, Jem (Phillip Alford) and Scout (Mary Badham), set their sights on making contact with a reclusive neighbor (Robert Duvall).

What did I like?

Just a Peck. I am not inherently familiar with Gregory Peck’s body of work. Before this, I had only seen him in How the West was Won and Roman Holiday, hardly enough to judge the man’s career. Watching him command the screen when he would show up, though, was enough to see why he was and still is such a respected actor. The highlight, though, was his brilliant recital of his lines in the courtroom. That speech is a very powerful moment in the book and Peck brought every bit of emotion he could to the forefont as he delivered a powerful defense that left the courtroom silent.

Respect. As we all know, when books are made into movies, many things are added, subtracted, and changed. I am glad, though, that the scene where all the African-Americans, who were forced to sit in the balcony area because of the time period, stood up as a sign of respect as Atticus Finch was leaving. It shows that, while this was a very hard time in race relations, they respect any who try to help. I doubt that if the color tables were turned, that would have been the case, sadly.

Chifforobe. When I was growing up and would make the summer trip to visit my grandmother, she would always yell to go get her purse out of the chifforobe. To this day, the only place I hear the word chifforboe is in the backwoods of Mississippi and the one episode of Family Guy where Brian tries is dating this older woman. The only reason I even know what thing is was this movie. Watching today made me remember that, but I’m sure I’ll forget in about an hour or so.

What didn’t I like?

Today’s evidence. This has always bothered me, even when I read it in the book. All the evidence leads to Tom being innocent, but because of Mayellen Ewell having a breakdown in court and the race issue, Tom is convicted. Not even Atticus’ eloquent words were enough to save him. I’m sitting here thinking, this should not have been this way, and then I look at some of the high profile cases of the past few years, and they turn out the same way. How else is George Zimmerman free, for instance? I’m all for innocent until proven guilty, but you shouldn’t be guilty even if you’re proven innocent!

Boo who? The subplot involving Boo Radley, from what I remember, was much more of a factor in the book. Here it is mentioned and forgotten until the end. Personally, I think they could have spent less time showing Scout fighting and more time developing the Boo Radley angle, because as it is in the film, sort of just comes out of nowhere. The scenes where his dad is closing up that knothole in the tree doesn’t mean anything, either. Whoever it was that did the cutting for this film shouldn’t have cut so much out.

AFI voted Atticus Finch the #1 hero in film. This is over the likes of Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Tarzan, and even Superman! If you’ve never seen this picture, that may make no sense, but after you watch and see how Atticus defends a man who is surely destined for prison, no matter what he does, his family, and shows a great deal of respect and patience towards those less dignified and educated, you’ll see why he earned that spot. The film itself is a brilliant masterpiece that everyone should watch during their lifetime. I very highly recommend it!

5 out of 5 stars