Archive for April, 2016

Trailer Thursday 4/28

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags , on April 28, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

As we come to the conclusion of jazz month, I thought it would be a good time to share a couple of modern jazz trailers.

First is the lesser known of the two, Born to Be Blue, based on the life of cool jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Check it out!

Second, is a similar film, but this one is based on the legend of jazz legend Miles Davis and is a passion project for actor and first time director, Don Cheadle. Check out the trailer for Miles Ahead.

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St. Louis Blues

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Will Handy grows up in Memphis with his preacher father and his Aunt Hagar. His father intends for him to use his musical gifts only in church, but he can’t stay away from the music of the streets and workers. After he writes a theme song for a local politician, Gogo, a speakeasy singer, convinces Will to be her accompanist. Will is estranged from his father for many years while he writes and publishes many blues songs. At last the family is reunited when Gogo brings them to New York to see Will’s music played by a symphony orchestra.

What people are saying:

“Black casted movies are a rarity in and of themselves, but one with such mega stars of old was so very uplifting! The movie was made by blacks for blacks and had a plot, story-line and theme that blacks can indeed relate to with pride dignity and a sense of self-esteem. The movie is one that you can watch over and over again and get something more out of it each and every time. It deals with human weaknesses and pitfalls such as are common to man; but finishes on a high note of strength and victory because of faith in and love for God and perseverance. ”

“I found the father-son estrangement contrived along conventional religion vs the devil lines, but moving nonetheless. I had forgotten what a good piano player Nat Cole was. Ertha Kitt is the heart of the film. She acts as she sings — biting, precise, and all-knowing. I think the great Pearl Bailey is wasted here — wonderful as the Aunt, but we only hear her singing a snippet of the title song. Cab Calloway was also much more talented than permitted to be here. I saw him as “Sportin’ Live” in the post-WW II revival of “Porgy and Bess.” We get a too brief taste of the great clarinet player, Barney Bigard, and an anachronistic appearance by Ella Fitzgerald singing “Beale St. Blues.” The film provides a good definition of the blues as an authentic American musical and poetic form. This one, almost 50 years old now, has aged well. It makes one regret that more African-American based and performed films were not made when these great stars were available.”

“In the hands of a bolder director, this could be a better-remembered film. It was Allen Reisner’s second film, and he’d only do one more in a career that was dominated by television work. There are a few nicely expressive shots (W.C. and his father regarding each other through the lattice of the organ’s music stand) but the material often feels like it could soar higher. And it feels like someone should have tried to coax a better performance out of Cole. Still, the movie is worth checking out, especially for the music and for Eartha Kitt”

“After several years of only seeing the last hour of this movie, I finally watched the whole thing on Netflix Streaming. Nat King Cole plays the famous composer W.C. Handy and he’s not bad. I especially was touched when his character’s blindness caused him to bump into things. And non-musicians Juano Hernandez as his father Reverend Charles Handy and Ruby Dee as girlfriend Elizabeth, respectively, certainly hold their own when sharing scenes with singers Pearl Bailey and Eartha Kitt. Cab Calloway also effectively conveys his role as a hustling businessman though unlike the others, he doesn’t do any singing which is too bad. The actual story is probably more colorful than what was presented here but it wasn’t bad for what it was. And how enjoyable to see not only Ms. Bailey and Kitt do their thing but also Ella Fitzgerald and Mahalia Jackson, too! And of course, Nat King Cole looks cool every time he’s at the piano warbling Handy’s tunes. It was also interesting to see Billy Preston as a young boy at the beginning as the child Handy and such musicians like Barney Bigard, Teddy Buckner, George “Red” Callender, Lee Young, and George Washington sitting in the band. Really, all I’ll say now is St. Louis Blues is worth seeing for the number of musical icons in one film that are presented here. ”

“I really enjoyed this movie. And it was really nice seeing my all-time favorite singer, Mahalia Jackson, use her acting skills. Also, Pearl Bailey was very funny in this film- the protective aunt, as I would call her. Eartha Kitt was great and very believable- she really played the part! Nat “King” Cole, to me, still seemed a little shy on camera, but I was told that he was a shy individual. Young Billy Preston did very well with his acting and he “tore up” that organ- as he is already known for doing. There just aren’t any words that I can use to describe my feelings for this video, except for it’s awesome, great, and fantastic!”

Blue Mountain State: The Rise of Thadland

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

According to the official website of the movie, the plot is: “With Blue Mountain State football star Thad Castle (Alan Ritchson) recently signing a multi-million dollar NFL contract, his teammates and college life seem like a distant memory. However, when a new school dean threatens to clean up the BMS image by auctioning off the infamous Goat House, Alex, Sammy and the boys must find a way to convince him to get involved. Despite his new fortune and fame, there is one small favor that Thad needs done before he saves the day: the biggest booze-and-sloot fest in BMS history. Welcome to Thadland!” The film focuses entirely on one wild party to make an end for it all.

What people are saying:

“It was all the worst parts of the show strung together in a mish mash of terrible plot lines. They brought back Radon and Shiloh, but neither of them had anything to do with the plot, if you can even call it a plot.” 1 star

“Nowhere near as good as the show- kinda felt like the writers were just trying to fit loads of cameos and one-liners in without thinking it through. Such a shame!” 3 stars

“I loved the series! When I heard they were making a movie, I was so excited, but this movie feels like Thad wrote the script for it.” 2 stars

“Greatest thing out there! So glad BMS gave this to its fans. This was a series I wish would never have ended!” 5 stars

“Huge fan of the show, but this movie was not good overall. There were some parts that had me laughing, but way more parts that had me wanting to turn it off. I would give it zero stars if I could.” 1 star

Trailer Thursday 4/21

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 21, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

This week, we return to our theme of jazz films with the 1958 Nat King Cole film, St. Louis Blues. Have a peek at the trailer and enjoy! Be sure to notice all the major stars in this thing…wow!

Chicken Little

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the small town of Oakey Oaks, Chicken Little rings the school bell and warns everyone to run for their lives, allowing the whole town into a frenzied panic with much damage ensuing. Eventually, the Head of the Fire Department calms down enough to ask him what’s going on and Little explains that a piece of the sky shaped like a stop sign had fallen on his head when he was sitting under the big oak tree in the town square; however, he is unable to find it. His father, Buck Cluck, assumes that this “piece of sky” was just an acorn that had fallen off the tree and had hit him on the head, making Little the laughing stock of the town.

A year later, Little has become infamous in the town for being crazy. His only friends are outcasts and underdogs like himself: His literal “Ugly Duckling” friend — the dorky and supportive Abby Mallard (who has a not-so-secret crush on him), Runt of the Litter (who ironically is extremely large), and a literal Fish Out of Water (who wears a helmet full of tap water).

Trying to help, Abby encourages Little to talk to his father, but he really only wants to make his dad proud of him. As a result, he joins his school’s baseball team in an attempt to recover his reputation and his father’s pride but is made last until the ninth inning of the last game. Little is reluctantly called to bat by the coach (even though the coach is certain that he will lose the game for them).

Little is able to hit the ball and make it past first, second, and third bases, but is met at home plate by the outfielders. He tries sliding onto home plate, only to be touched by the ball. While it’s presumed he lost the game, the umpire brushes away the dust to reveal Little’s foot barely touching home plate, thus declaring Little safe and the game won; Little is hailed as a hero for winning the pennant.

Later that night at home, Little is hit on the head by the same “piece of the sky” that he had mentioned earlier at the beginning — only to find out that it is not a piece of the sky but a device designed to blend into the background (which would thereby explain why Little was unable to find it last time). He calls his friends over to help figure out what it is.

When Fish pushes a button on the back of the piece, it becomes a hovercraft in which Fish rides on. It turns out to be part of the camouflage of an invisible UFO. Little manages to ring the school bell to warn everyone, but aliens who have emerged from the spaceship see everyone coming and manage to escape, leaving an orange alien child behind. No one believes the story of the alien invasion, and Little is ridiculed yet again…until the next day.

He and his friends discover the little alien (whose named turns out be Kirby) and a few minutes later, a whole fleet of spaceships descends on the town and start what turns out to be an invasion, which is actually a misunderstanding, as the two aliens are looking for their lost child and only attack out of concern. As the aliens rampage throughout Oakey Oaks vaporizing everything in their path, Little realizes that he must return the alien to his parents to save their planet. Despite this, he first has to confront his father and regain his trust.

As he begins to tell his father the truth inside an abandoned cinema, Abby bursts in and says they should address the problem, as in the invasion, but because it is a phrase that she used to Little about his issues with his dad, then he begins to explain them. Little talks about what his father was doing and that he had emotionally let Little down by not being there for him and not listening to him enough. After he and his father reconcile and begin to leave to return Kirby to his parents, Little runs back down the row of seats to Abby and tells her that he always found her extremely attractive and he kisses her, only for her to act silly.

Their first attempt to return the child to his mom and dad is aborted when they witness town mayor Turkey Lurkey get apparently vaporized, after offering the key to the city, the key to his car and finally Tic Tacs as surrender terms.

In the invasion, Buck, now regaining his confidence and trust in his son, protects him from the aliens until they get vaporized. It is then discovered that the aliens weren’t vaporizing people, but the ray guns had teleported them aboard the UFO. Afterwards, the aliens return everything to normal (except Foxy Loxy, whose brain got scrambled, turning her into a Southern belle, and as a result, Runt falls for her), and everyone is grateful for Chicken Little’s efforts to save the town.

One year later, the townsfolk have made a film about the story, exaggerating it incredibly. In the film, Little is more masculine and Abby is far more beautiful in reality, and Fish can speak properly. After the film finishes, everyone begins to celebrate, Buck lifts Little onto his shoulders as he is applauded, and Abby (now his girlfriend), kisses him on the cheek

REVIEW:

In our infant and/or toddler years, we are all told the story of Chicken Little, as a way to deter us from becoming big fat liars. I don’t think it worked that well, look at all the lawyers, politicians, and cable tv execs in the world today! Disney took note that the story just wasn’t working in its old fashioned telling and gave us their version of Chicken Little.

What is this about?

No one believes Chicken Little (who has a history of overreacting) when he tries to warn of an alien invasion. But this time it’s the real thing — so it’s up to him and his misfit friends to save the world!

What did I like?

Creativity. When dealing with a story that is more of a passed down tale, it is important to come up with characters to keep the audience interested. These animators did just that in bringing to life other characters from similar tales like Foxy Loxy and the Ugly Duckling, as well as taking random saying and making them characters like Runt of the Litter and Fish out of Water. The characterization given to each of these side characters was interesting, as well. Who knew that Turkey Lurky was the mayor of Oakey Oaks?

Papa can you hear me. It seems like every family film these days has some sort of family struggle. I was almost going to say this is a negative thing for this picture, but then I realized how the relationship and characters grew. Sure, Chicken Little and his dad have some issues, but when the time comes, they quickly work those issues out and are ready to work together to save the world!

Scared straight. If I were watching this as a kid, I would have been enthralled by the bright and colorful characters, but when the aliens come down and start blowing stuff up, as if it were War of the Worlds, then I would’ve been scared out of my wits. Truthfully, the scenes where the aliens are vaporizing everyone and everything can be scarring for a child, until you see a little later on that the people are just vaporized to a dark limbo. It is Disney, after all, they can’t go around randomly killing people and destroying things

What didn’t I like?

Come together. Is there some unwritten rule in film that says the lead character has to have a love interest, even if they are supposed to be kids? I saw no reason for Chicken Little and Ugly Duckling to hook up, unless they were forced to. It made no sense to the how the story was progressing. Sure, the tease of a childhood crush is fine, but to have them actually get together in the middle of an alien invasion?!?

Another widower. Think of every Disney cartoon and movie for a second. How many of them had the “nuclear family”? Not many that I can think of. Most of our characters were raised in one-parent households, if any at all! Ace Cluck is another in the long line of a widowed fathers raising his kid after the mother has left, for whatever reason (kidnapping, divorce, death, etc.) I appreciate telling us that at least there was a mother, but know I want to know what happened to her.

Small time. You may notice that Chicken Little is very small. I think this is only mentioned once or twice. Normally, I’d be ok with that, but it seems that this is such a major part of his character bringing it up some more would have done wonders. Also, the short gags pretty much write themselves!

Final verdict on Chicken Little? This is a cute kids film about a tale we have all been told time and time again. The creators got creative with the characters and inserting the alien invasion plot was an interesting addition, to say the least. The furry alien rescue mission was a letdown after all the buildup, but I think that is more of me not thinking as a kid watching. All in all, this is a pretty solid flick and I highly recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 4/14

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 14, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Let’s go back to 1967 and check out the original The Jungle Book, especially since the live action remake is being released tomorrow.

Watch and enjoy!

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eighteen months after the destructive attack by General Zod in Metropolis from Man of Steel, Superman has become a controversial figure. Daily Planet journalist Clark Kent, Superman’s alter ego, has moved in with Lois Lane. Billionaire Bruce Wayne, who has operated in Gotham City as Batman for nearly two decades, sees Superman as a potential threat to humanity. After learning of Batman’s activities, Superman also views him as a threat, and seeks to stop him via the Daily Planet articles under his disguise.

Wayne learns that weapon-trafficker Anatoli Knyazev has been contacting LexCorp’s mogul Lex Luthor. Meanwhile, Luthor tries to convince Senator June Finch to allow him to import Kryptonite retrieved from the Indian Ocean (results of Zod’s terraforming attempt), claiming to use it as a “deterrent” against Kryptonians. He also makes side dealings with Finch’s subordinate and demands access to Zod’s body and the Kryptonian scout ship. In the next meeting with Luthor, Finch denies his request.

Wayne attends Luthor’s party at LexCorp, where he meets mysterious antiques dealer Diana Prince, and retrieves data from the company’s mainframe. The data drive, however, is stolen by Prince, who later returns it to Bruce, due to her inability to decrypt the data. While decrypting the drive at the Batcave, Wayne receives a vision of a post-apocalyptic world, where he leads a group of rebels against Superman. He is snapped out of the vision by a mysterious time traveler, who warns him of Lane’s crucial role in the distant future, and urges him to find “the others”. Wayne later realizes that Luthor is not only experimenting with Kryptonite, but also investigating metahumans. One of them is Prince herself, who is an immortal warrior. Wayne admits to Alfred Pennyworth that he plans to steal the Kryptonite to weaponize it, should it become necessary to fight Superman. Batman pursues the convoy carrying the Kryptonite from the White Portuguese ship to LexCorp, but Superman intercedes and orders him to cease his activities.

Luthor orchestrates a bombing at a congressional hearing, where Finch is questioning Superman on the validity of his actions. The bomb kills dozens of people, including Finch. Frustrated with failing to save people, Superman goes into self-imposed exile. Batman breaks into LexCorp and steals the Kryptonite, in preparation to battle Superman by building a powerful exoskeleton and creating a Kryptonite grenade launcher and a Kryptonite-tipped spear. Meanwhile, Luthor enters the Kryptonian ship and learns of its functions, as well as recorded alien worlds.

Luthor kidnaps and holds hostage Martha Kent, Clark’s adoptive mother. He reveals that he has been sending messages to Batman and Superman to heighten their animosity towards each other. Luthor forces Superman to fight and kill Batman, in exchange for Martha’s life. Superman tries to reason with Batman, but Batman initiates the fight and eventually subdues him. Before Batman can kill Superman with the spear, Superman urges Batman to “save Martha”, whose name is also shared with Wayne’s late mother. Lane arrives and explains the situation. Upon learning of Luthor’s plan, Batman leaves to rescue Martha, while Superman confronts Luthor on the scout ship. Luthor unleashes a monstrous creature made from Zod’s body spliced with Luthor’s DNA. Superman, Batman and Diana join forces to fight the creature, but are outmatched by its ability to absorb energy. Realizing that it is vulnerable to Kryptonite, Superman retrieves the Kryptonite spear and impales the creature, while it stabs him with its bone protrusions, killing Superman.

Luthor is arrested and imprisoned. Facing Batman in prison, he gloats that Superman’s death has made the world vulnerable to powerful alien threats. A memorial is held for Superman in Metropolis. Clark is also declared dead and Wayne, Lane, Martha, and Diana attend a private funeral for him in Smallville. Martha passes an envelope to Lane, which contains an engagement ring from Clark. After the funeral, Wayne reveals to Diana that he plans to form a team of metahumans, starting from the ones from Luthor’s files, to protect the world in Superman’s absence. After they leave, a faint heartbeat echoes from Clark’s coffin and the dirt around it begins to levitate

REVIEW:

Let’s get ready to rumble! The fight every comic book fan and superhero nerd has been waiting on is about to go down in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The question on everyone’s mind, though, is with Zack Snyder directing will this be more flash over substance? Also, would it just be better to wait for the “main event” coming next month in Captain America: Civil War?

What is this about?

Following his titanic struggle against General Zod, Metropolis has been razed to the ground and Superman is the most controversial figure in the world. While for many he is still an emblem of hope, a growing number of people consider him a threat to humanity, seeking justice for the chaos he has brought to Earth. As far as Bruce Wayne is concerned, Superman is clearly a danger to society. He fears for the future of the world with such a reckless power left ungoverned, and so he dons his mask and cape to right Superman’s wrongs. The rivalry between them is furious, fueled by bitterness and vengeance, and nothing can dissuade them from waging this war. However, a dark new threat arises in the form of a third man: one who has a power greater than either of them to endanger the world and cause total destruction!

What did I like?

It’s all about the game. Batman has always been a badass, even in his campier days, but in this flick, he takes it to another level. There is a scene near the end of the film where he swoops in and, like a ninja takes out a room of about 12 guys with guns. It is a sight to behold and, those of us that have played the Arkham City franchise of Batman games may recognize that the fighting style is very similar. Whether that was done on purpose or not, I cannot be sure, but I liked it!

Clash of the Titans. Say what you will about Man of Steel, it brought Superman back to the forefront of the DC cinematic universe. A place he should have stayed, but they just couldn’t resist having Batman in there. So, here we go, a fight for supremacy, Superman vs. Batman. I would have preferred this be Christian Bale’s Batman, though, for continuity’s sake. No offense to Ben Affleck, he did perhaps the best Batman we’ve seen since…well, since Kevin Conroy in the animated series. The fight between these two pushes them to their limits, which is what we would expect.

She’s a Wonder. I do not believe Wonder Woman has ever graced the big screen with her presence. We all know of the infamous TV series starring Lynda Carter, her appearance in the Justice League animated series, and various other incarnations, including her own animated film. Word just dropped that her film was moved up to next summer, which is sure to have feminists and fans of the Amazon warrior happy. For me, I’m just glad we finally got to see her. Now, whether or not this is what she should look and act like is a different topic for another section.

What didn’t I like?

Contrast. Batman and Superman are both heroes to their cities and whatnot but it is their methodology which causes them to butt heads often. If you expecting to see that in this film, you will be sadly disappointed. The best way I can put this is that dark needs light and vice versa, but when you have two dark characters they cancel each other out. For this to have truly effective, we needed the Superman we all know, love, and deserve. A character steeped in goodness, truth, and is a beacon for right. Instead, we have a Superman who really isn’t that different from Batman, and that is why during the fight I found myself enjoying it, sure, but not really cheering for either one, because there was no clear side, save for the consequences should one or the other lose.

Riddle me this! Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Justice League cartoon, but when I think of Lex Luthor, I see a cold, calculating, brilliant businessman. That is not what we get here. Before I begin my rant on Lex, it should be known that none of the other films have produced one that is equal to what we got in animated form, including the original Superman franchise. None of those, however, insulted their audience with this version of Lex who might as well have been playing The Riddler, because that is what his mannerisms felt like. I kept expecting him to throw a riddle or two out at any moment. That didn’t happen, so we are left with this crazed, ADHD version of Lex who seems like a kid playing with his inheritance and brilliance. Oh, and don’t get me started on the casting of Jesse Eisenberg. It is well documents that any film with him is automatically starting out in the negative, but apparently the filmmakers could have cast Bryan Cranston, but instead they cast this punk and…ugh…let me stop before I throw my computer across the room.

That Gal. Give credit where it’s due, Gal Gadot put in the work to bulk up for her role as Wonder Woman. It just isn’t enough, as she still looks anorexically thin. I’m sure that I am not the only one that thinks this, but when I envision Wonder Woman, I think of Lucy Lawless during her Xena days. Can’t you just imagine her, or some equivalent, as Wonder Woman?

Anything Marvel can do. By now, everyone knows that this is a) not the sequel Superman deserves and b) is nothing more than a setup for a Justice League movie. Here’s the thing about that, Marvel meticulous took their time setting up The Avengers. It was something that had never been done before. Now everyone is trying to set up their own cinematic universe. Hell, even on television (ironically DC isn’t doing too bad in that department), they’re doing it. For me, I feel as if this is just something being fast tracked because they feel they are behind Marvel and need to play catch up.

Final verdict on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? There are good and bad parts to this film. First, the additions of Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman work much better than what everyone who initially criticized their casting thought they would. There is a scene where Batman perches on the side of a building and it looks like it is straight off the cover of one of the graphic novels! On the other side of the coin, this is a film that should be fun, with two uber popular superheroes duking it out for superior, but that level of fun never shows. Instead, we get a film that is so dark, it almost makes you want to slit your own wrists! DC really needs to lighten up. I also question the casting of Jeremy Irons as Alfred. He just seemed to not fit. All in all, there are more faults in this film than reasons to watch, but do I recommend it? Reluctantly, yes…it is still a high quality superhero movie. I don’t think I’ll be rushing to see it again, though.

4 out of 5 stars