Archive for the Movie Reviews Category

Paris Blues

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on April 22, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Ram Bowen and Eddie Cook are two expatriate jazz musicians living in Paris where, unlike the US at the time, Jazz musicians are celebrated and racism is a non-issue. When they meet and fall in love with two young American girls, Lillian and Connie, who are vacationing in France, Ram and Eddie must decide whether they should move back to the US with them, or stay in Paris for the freedom it allows them. Ram, who wants to be a serious composer, finds Paris too exciting and is reluctant to give up his music for a relationship, and Eddie wants to stay for the city’s more tolerant racial atmosphere.

What people are saying:

“Despite how square this movie about hepcats seems — if only from the admittedly unfair vantage point of more than five decades on — expressions of raw emotion stir Paris Blues to life.” 4 stars

“An interesting cinematic mis-step, the movie is of note for getting these three great actors in one movie — and for capturing images of a Paris at a transitionary time in its post war history.” 3 stars

“Martin Ritt directs Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musician American ex-pats living in Paris. How could a film with that set-up not be great! Newman and Poitier fall for the pretty tourists Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll. Take all that and add in an amazing Duke Ellington score and you’ve got an incredibly cool film.” 4 stars

“You’ve got Newman and Woodward and Poitier and Diahann Carroll, you’ve got a great soundtrack by *the* Duke Ellington–throw in Louis Armstrong as “Mad Man Moore” and you’re pretty much set. It would’ve been nice for Poitier and Carroll to have had more screen time because their story (she wants to return to the US to fight for civil rights, but he likes the fact that Paris doesn’t marginalize him as a black man) is genuinely interesting and they have a great chemistry. But all in all it’s a solid film with solid acting.” 3 1/2 stars

“This films certainly has all the pieces; Newman, Poitier, Woodward in their prime, with a score by Duke Ellington and a Paris setting, the only thing missing is a strong story. It follows budding romance, but doesn’t really go anywhere…that being said, it’s still worth watching to see these fine actors work and hear the excellent score. Give it a try!” 3 1/2 stars

Blow

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Johnny Depp turns in a quietly powerful performance at the heart of this Ted Demme-directed drama as real-life coke smuggler George Jung, who rises from poverty to become one of the biggest drug dealers in America before his eventual downfall.

What people are saying:

“Johnny Depp shines in this amazing film. Depicting the rise and fall of real life coke smuggler George Jung, this film tells an amazing true life tale with the right amount of humor, drama and ultimately sadness. Not too many films can effectively make you root for the bad guy. The fact remains… Depp gives the right amount of sympathy and charisma to the character of Jung that it’s easy to forget his real life crimes and empathize with his decisions. At times inspirational and ultimately tragic, this movie is a winner on all levels. Look for a hysterical cameo by Bobcat Goldthwait. This film is a gem.” 5 stars

“Comes off like a flamboyant cartoon, another film about the deglamorization of glamorous people living it up in the glamorous world of drugs.” 2 stars

“Yes it’s cliche and yes it does appropriate from other movies, however it works. Depp commands the screen and the subtle plot and theme shift from ambition to o a more sentimental lesson – Blow, is still a thoroughly enjoyable ride.” 3 1/2 stars

“Blow is an excellent absorbing crime drama with a good cast. Depp is good, but his smaller bit players like the actress who plays his Mom or Diego or Paul Reubens are very memorable too. The movie paints the crime smuggler in a sympathetic light, which may ring false to some but ultimately its a well acted drama with a talented cast. Cliff Curtis and Emma Roberts were good too.” 4 stars

“Much better than I expected. Rather than over-glamorizing the life of a drug lord, it shows Jung to be just a regular guy. But a regular guy with an exceptional story. “Blow” reminded me not to judge people soley on their actions, because you never know what pushes people to do what they do. It really makes you feel for a man who, as a high-volume drug dealer with multiple arrests, would often be dehumanized. On a less emotional note, don’t let the R rating scare you. It’s mostly for the drug references & a prevalent use of the “f” word. Only one major sexual scene (which can be skipped without losing any of the plot), and little violence (none that’s graphic), especially for a film about drug dealers.” 5 stars

It Happened in Athens

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , on April 20, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1896 it is announced that the Olympic Games will be revived in Athens. A young shepherd, Spiridon Loues, decides to enter the 26-mile marathon. Once in Athens, he meets Christina Gratsos, a young woman from his hometown who is now the personal maid of Eleni Costa, Greece’s most glamorous actress. Though he has arrived after the qualification date, Spiridon’s athletic prowess so impresses Coach Graham of the American team that he is permitted to enter the contest. Eleni informs the press that she will marry the victor, confident it will be her lover, Lieutenant Vinardos.

What people are saying:

“In 1962 It Happened In Athens was released. Jayne Mansfield’s contract was up at Fox. A flm, at least a little different from her usual roles. Jayne fans love her in anything.” 4 stars

“Jayne has a supporting role but gets top billing and is playing against type. Jayne plays a self absorbed stage actress and is a little villainous. I think it was meant to be a vehicle for introducing Trax Colton to the movies and they needed a big star to carry the movie, so they put Jayne in. Jayne looks mesmerizing in this film. I wish Fox would put it on an official DVD, though they do show it on the Fox Movie Channel sometimes. Trax plays a Greek shepherd boy trying to enter the first Olympics. Jayne plays a glamorous stage actress who promises to marry one of the winners of one of the games. Jayne’s acting is inspired and even though she has a supporting role, she is the one you will be watching the film for. This movie has a reputation of being one of Jayne’s ‘loan out’ film roles for Fox, but in fact this was a major motion picture big budget movie filmed in 1960 and was made in Cinemascope. ” 5 stars

If the movie were made by the Walt Disney studio, it would have been great!” 1 1/2 stars

“I found it rather difficult to watch this film all the way through. The acting was uninspired, the story was weak, and overall it just dragged.There were moments that were intended to be humorous that just fell flat. The actors don’t seem interested in giving there all here for the most part. Maria Xenia makes some effort, but given the weak script there is little she could do. I do think that it could have been interesting had there been a little more focus on the Olympics aspect and less on Mansfield’s character attempting to seduce Colton’s character. The seduction falls flat on screen. And it seems the actors are just embarrassing themselves.” 3 stars

“This is a frivolous light hearted comedy about about Greek farm boy, Trax Colton, who decides to enter the first Olympics in 1896. The movie follows his struggles through to his success. It’s amusing to watch the primitive conditions athletes competed under back then, and the lack of formality. Real-life Olympic hero Bob Mathias plays the American captain. A real attraction is Jayne Mansfield, who as a beauty promises to marry the winner of the marathon. She appears in a number of skimpy, revealing costumes, trying to tempt the virtuous Colton, to humorous effect. ” 4 stars

Turner & Hooch

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on April 19, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Tom Hanks stars as fastidious detective Scott Turner, who’s saddled with a slobbering new partner: a dog named Hooch. The pup’s previous owner was killed, and he and Turner team up to collar the culprit.

What people are saying:

“From the moment when Hooch first appears to the strains of Strauss’ ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’, the gags can be smelt a mile off, and the thriller elements are as hackneyed as an episode of Murder She Wrote.” 2 stars

“I didn’t expect to like this movie at all and was pleasantly surprised. You can’t go too far wrong with Tom Hanks, though. Of course the dog is going to eat the shoes and furniture and slobber all over Tom, but if you look beyond that, the relationship between the man and dog is portrayed very well and realistically. Nice characters, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but overall very enjoyable film! ” 3 stars

“This movie is super fun, and highlights a great relationship between man and man’s best friend. It was funny at times and thrilling at times, but I would mainly characterize this movie as sentimental. Tom Hanks is a superb actor and there was never a dog who could have played a better hooch.” 4 stars

“I watched this movie back in the 80’s and thought I would watch it again. I couldn’t make it through this movie more than 40 minutes. I love Tom Hanks and he was great but that ugly DROOLING dog, YUCK. Too much of the movie was focused on scenes of the dog destroying things, growling, barking, and drooling on everything. It just makes you want to throw up. ” 2 stars

“Tom Hanks is an obsessive-compulsive cop who takes in a filthy, slobbish French Mastiff when it’s the only witness to a murder. Basically The Odd Couple with a dog. It’s predictable and formulaic to the bone, but hits a strange nerve that allows us to overlook its shortcomings and appreciate the sweetness of the ride. Hanks is largely to thank for that, at the top of his game very early in his dramatic career. Though a few not-so-surprising supporting actors pop in from time to time, (Reginald VelJohnson as a policeman? What a shock!) it’s almost entirely a one-man show that sails beyond expectations on the merits of his lone performance. In fact, the closest competition is Beasley the dog, who’s absurdly emotive and personable throughout the film. He and Hanks make for a great team, as silly as that might sound, and it’s easy to tell that a lot of their best scenes were ad-libs that miraculously avoided the cutting room floor. Funny, bittersweet movie magic that really has no business being as entertaining as it is.” 4 stars

Slums of Beverly Hills

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Tamara Jenkins wrote and directed this comedy-drama depicting the experience of growing up poor in the 90210 zip code, told from the point of view of Vivian Abramowitz (Natasha Lyonne), a teen who lives a nomadic existence in the outskirts of Beverly Hills with her single, divorced father, Murray (Alan Arkin) and her two young brothers (David Krumholtz, Eli Marienthal). As Murray tries to keep the family in the Beverly Hills school district, the family moves into a one-bedroom apartment in a shabby complex. When sexually liberated Rita (Marisa Tomei), daughter of Murray’s brother Mickey (Carl Reiner), checks out of a drug rehab and moves into the apartment, she becomes a “role model” for the young Vivian.

What people are saying:

“Though hypocritical in the way it sensationalizes sexuality, this serious and funny 1998 movie about a 15-year-old coming to terms with her body and her family in 1976 is, refreshingly, never coy or ironic.” 4 stars

“The kind of comedy that could easily have been a dead-serious drama. Alan Arkin and Natasha Lyonne (drop-dead gorgeous face!) steal the show, with a little comic relief help from Marisa Tomei and Carl Reiner. Interestingly, the writer-director is telling about her own life as a “nomad Jew” in Beverly Hills, according to her interviews. So this has a ring of sad truth to it, but overall, it is a sweet and cuddly dysfunctional family tale.” 3 stars

“Nice little film, if a little unfocused. Treads a fine line with over the top wantonness out of the good taste’s ballpark or just plain silliness, but still at times manages to be genuinely funny. Natasha Lyonne’s sizzling hotness in this is undeniable.” 3 1/2 stars

“It would be hard to imagine suffering through a more improbable, half-baked, doughy cake of a movie than Slums of Beverly Hills. In the concept stage, the movie probably looked promising, including the fact that it includes proven players such as Arkin, Tomei, etc. But it stumbles and bores from start to finish. Even the title is nonsensical. There is no Beverly Hills venue pay-off to be found–surprising since Rodeo Drive, etc. should be ripe for comedic exploitation; the title could just as easily have been Slums of Pomona. Throughout the movie, the actors and actresses seem to be, well, acting; it’s almost like they are still rehearing their lines. Although the unlikely plot and predictable dialogue are so second-rate, great acting could never rescue this forgettable waste of 91 minutes.” 1 star

“An adorable, light hearted coming of age film with wonderful performances from Alan Arkin as a nice, but burned out blue collar father, Marisa Tomei as a loopy kinda-sorta-bad influence cousin, David Krumholtz steals his scenes as a wanna-be entertainer, swiveling his hips in his birthday suit as he croons away to Old Standards in the family’s bland, drab apartment while his sister (Lyonne) comes to terms with her ample bosom and her boring lifestyle as she mildly pines for a neighbor (Kevin Corrigan) It’s the kind of film that could easily be done too seriously or as farce, but strikes a successful balance between dramatic plot points and an overall light hearted, seriocomic tone. Natasha Lyonne steals the show as the beautiful, disaffected and wholly exasperated elder daughter of Arkin, looking for a breast reduction surgery and some direction in life. The film is light, fast, fun and suitable for the whole family- tweenage and up, of course. ” 4 stars

Beauty & the Beast (2017)

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Rococo-era France, an enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman offers an enchanted rose to a prince in exchange for shelter from a storm, but he refuses. For his arrogance, she places a spell that transforms him into a monstrous beast, turns the servants into anthropomorphic household objects, and erases the castle from the villagers’ memories of loved ones. She gives the Beast a magic mirror that shows faraway events and leaves him the enchanted rose. To break the spell, the prince must learn to love another and earn her love in return before the rose’s last petal falls, otherwise he will remain a beast forever and his servants will lose their remaining humanity.

Years later in the village of Villeneuve, a young woman, Belle, lives with her father Maurice, an artist and tinkerer. Gaston, a celebrated former soldier, seeks her hand in marriage, but she is repulsed by his arrogance and narcissism. On a trip to the market to sell music boxes, Maurice and his horse Philippe lose their way in the forest and are attacked by wolves. They seek refuge at the castle, but Maurice is imprisoned by the Beast as penance for taking a rose from the garden. When she realizes her father is missing upon Philippe’s sudden arrival, Belle ventures into the forest in search for him, and finds him locked in one of the castle’s towers. The Beast confronts her and accepts her offer to take her father’s place, despite Maurice’s objections.

Belle befriends the servants in the castle: Lumière, Cogsworth, Plumette, Madame de Garderobe, Mrs. Potts, and Chip. After the servants treated her with dinner, she eventually wanders into the forbidden west wing and finds the rose. The Beast, enraged, frightens Belle into fleeing into the woods. However, he later rescues her from a pack of wolves but gets injured in the process. Belle escorts him back to the castle and nurses him back to health. A friendship develops, and the servants tell her she may be the one who can break the curse. The Beast develops feelings for Belle and allows her access to his library. However, Belle remains uncertain of her feelings due to her imprisonment. The Beast shows Belle a gift the enchantress gave him, a book that could take people wherever they wanted. Belle uses it to bring the Beast and herself to the attic of an old windmill in Paris, where she used to live with her parents as an infant. Upon finding a plague doctor mask, Belle discovers that she and her father were forced to leave her mother’s deathbed as the latter succumbed to the plague.

Meanwhile, Maurice returns to Villeneuve but is unable to convince the others to rescue Belle. Gaston agrees to help Maurice, but when he reveals that he only agreed to help Maurice in order to win his favor to give Belle to Gaston in marriage, Maurice refuses. In response, Gaston ties up Maurice in the forest to be killed by wolves. Maurice is rescued by a hermit, Agathe and confronts Gaston, accusing him of committing an attempted murder, but Gaston convinces the townsfolk to send Maurice to the local insane asylum.

After sharing a romantic dance with the Beast, Belle discovers her father’s predicament using the magic mirror. The Beast releases her to save Maurice, giving her the mirror to remember him with. At Villeneuve, Belle proves Maurice’s sanity by revealing the Beast in the mirror to the townsfolk. Realizing that Belle loves the Beast, Gaston furiously has her thrown into the asylum carriage with her father and rallies the villagers to follow him to the castle to slay the Beast. Maurice and Belle escape from confinement and Belle rushes back to the castle while Maurice deals with Monsieur D’Arque, the asylum keeper.

During the ensuing fight, Gaston abandons his companion LeFou, who sides with the servants to fend off the villagers. Gaston attacks the Beast in his tower, who is initially too depressed to fight back, but regains his will upon seeing Belle return. He corners Gaston but spares his life before reuniting with Belle. However, Gaston fatally shoots the Beast in the back before the stone bridge he is standing on collapses beneath him, and Gaston falls to his death. The Beast dies as the last rose petal falls and the castle’s servants become completely inanimate. Belle professes her love to him, then Agathe reveals herself to be the enchantress and undoes the curse, restoring the Beast’s life and human form. The servants’ humanity and the villagers’ memories are also restored, with several villagers recognizing some of the servants as their relatives. The Prince and Belle host a ball for the kingdom, where they dance happily.

REVIEW:

One of the most beloved Disney movies of all time, or least since the Disney Renaissance is Beauty & the Beast. When a live action film was announced to be in production, you can imagine the outcry of rage and, conversely, support. For me, I try to wait until I see the finished product before I judge. Well, I just finished seeing it. Time to judge!

What is this about?

Disney’s animated classic takes on a new form, with a widened mythology and an all-star cast. A young prince, imprisoned in the form of a beast, can be freed only by true love. What may be his only opportunity arrives when he meets Belle, the only human girl to ever visit the castle since it was enchanted.

What did I like?

Bring me to life. Many have tried to bring animation to life (see the recently released Ghost in the Shell). While we are curious as to what these world would look like, it just doesn’t seem to work. That is, unless you are Disney! They literally took the beloved animated classic, made very few changes, toned it down a bit for today’s cynical audience and voila! Everything is here from the opening sequence with Belle singing, the wolves attacking Beast in the woods, the iconic ballroom scene, and even the fight with the villagers at the end. Much care was given to this project to make sure everything was exactly right and it shows!

Crazy old Maurice. In the original, we don’t get to know much about Maurice, other than he’s Belle’s father and some kind of crackpot inventor. Also, if that last scene is to believed, he may have started a little something with Mrs. Potts, but that’s open to interpretation. I really appreciate how this film gave us a little bit more insight not only into Maurice, but introduced new characters, or characters whom we didn’t know their names, such as Plumette, the feather duster Lumiere is in love with, Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe, etc. If only we would have gotten a bit more about life before they got turned into appliances and such.

Visuals. This is a beautiful film. I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful sight than when the camera pans back in the opening and we get a good look at the castle. That’s just the start of it, though. Without spoiling anything, your eyes are in for a treat the deeper you get into this film.

What didn’t I like?

Be original. While I appreciated the film for bringing a beloved classic to life, I can’t help but feel like they could have done something more with this material. No, I’m not talking about furthering Emma Watson’s feminist agenda, but give us something new with this story. For instance, Maleficent was told from a different point of view. Imagine if this was told from, let’s say Lefou’s point of view?

Where was the fear? I was not impressed with the look of the Beast. Sure, they tried to make him look more animal, but he had too much of a human look to him for my taste. Much like with superheroes, I feel they were trying to keep the actor’s face in the public, rather than giving us a true frightful looking beast. Also, they may have had something more blood curdling in mind, but this is a kid’s movie when all is said and done, so I can understand that. Still, the animated version was a kids film and there were times when Beast gave us jump scares. Not so much with the live action version, though.

Realistically creepy. I’ve had issues with the servants since I first saw what they did with Mrs. Potts. First off, let me say that I have no problem with the casting. My issue is with the look. These days it seems as if we want everything to look as realistic as possible. Well, the nightmare inducing versions of Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, etc. are on all of you that want things to be as real as possible. I mean, seriously, this is a fairy tale about and prince who gets turned into a beast and his servants that become the household objects in the castle. What is real about that?!? *SIGH*

Final verdict on Beauty & the Beast? Very solid for a live action remake of a beloved animated classic. The music is taken straight from the original, with a few changes here and there. The acting is solid, plenty of laughs to go around, and the new characters fit right in with the ones we already know and love. The problems I have with this film are very small, but they do add up. So, do I recommend this? Yes, especially if you’re looking for a good date or family film to check out or just want a bit of nostalgia. Check it out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Peanuts Movie

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the beloved “Peanuts” gang make their big-screen debut, like they’ve never been seen before, in state of the art 3D animation. Charlie Brown, the world’s most beloved underdog, embarks upon an epic and heroic quest, while his best pal, the lovable beagle Snoopy, takes to the skies to pursue his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron

What people are saying:

“The Peanuts Movie is delightful from beginning to end and doesn’t rely on baddies, silly sidekicks or lame toilet gags to distract your munchkins.” 4 stars

“Have to admit…I sure expected to hate this film. Entirely unnecessary and not terribly relevant nevermind the stylized character design. But I saw it and it won me over! Didn’t seem the kids in the audience had much connection to the kids and Snoopy but I heard plenty of chuckles from the adults around me. And what a nice ending! Stayed true to the Peanuts we grew up with (right down to phones with long cords you can get tied up in) and even the voices seemed more right than on the specials I’ve seen lately on television.” 4 stars

“Great movie! It really feels like the old Charlie Brown. The only downside is that modern pop music that ruins the moment (kind of Rio music). It was unnecessary. I don’t think that little kids today can’t feel in touch with funny jazzy music. But overall, great product.” 5 stars

“Sorry, I love Peanuts, but this was a disappointment. It felt less like the classic holiday specials, and more like the follow-on half hour of short gags they always show on network television to keep the kids watching. Peanuts was so special because it was dark and funny at the same time. Schultz never ignored the bitter disappointments and angst that all children have to go through. He showed it to us, and got us to laugh about it. This movie doesn’t do that. I can’t assess this movie from the perspective of a child. They might find it entertaining, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m being unfair.” 2 stars

“A movie which the entire family will enjoy. Parents will like the nostalgia of the film, which stays true to Charles M. Schulz’s vision of the characters. Kids will enjoy the antics of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and friends, as kids have for generations. Kids loved “Peanuts” 50 years ago, and kids will love “Peanuts” 50 years from now. The Peanuts Movie is proof that you can update and modernize classic characters without having to reimagine them.” 4 stars