Archive for the Movie Reviews Category

Belle of the Nineties

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on August 16, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this film, Mae West is cast as cabaret entertainer Ruby Carter, plying her trade along the Mississippi. Having no trouble surviving on her own terms in a man’s world, Ruby fends off the unwarranted attentions of a steady stream of libidinous males, reserving her affections for a muscular boxer.

What people are saying:

“It’s fast, fun and funny — and the best-looking movie Mae West ever made, having the shimmery luster you only saw in Paramount movies.” 4 1/2 stars

“…a hopelessly forgettable effort that seems to have been assembled around a series of admittedly strong one-liners (ie the story is generic to an almost absurd degree).” 2 1/2 stars

“Mae lacks a charismatic male lead to play off here, so this is less funny than it could be. but the surreal vision of Mae as the Statue Of Liberty is worth the ticket price – and some great musical numbers with Duke Ellington’s band.” 2 1/2 stars

“Mae West throws all the curves in this one as a singer (?) in the 1890s who dumps her boxer boyfriend in a mix-up and runs off to New Orleans to perform and live there. She’s featured in a stunning musical number where she models a shimmering gown against which numerous costumes are superimposed by a projector! One pose has her as lady liberty. Unfortunately, this is a less liberated, somewhat cleaned-up Mae West. She still likes to have fun, and enough gags remain to make this one worth a few solid laughs. Good production by Paramount.” 3 stars

“This movie is classic Mae West, full of one-liners with carefully disguised meanings to escape the censors. It’s interesting to note that this is the movie where she really began to fight with the Hays Office and the Breen Office to get her movie past the censors…She had to change the title from “It’s No Sin” (people picketed in the streets with signs that said, “Yes, It Is”). Therefore, this movie could be seen by some as not quite as good as her 3 previous movies. However, it is still a gem from Mae’s classic period. Everyone should see a Mae West movie at least once…” 3 1/2 stars

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Tag

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

For one month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running in a no-holds-barred game of tag they’ve been playing since the first grade–risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take each other down with the battle cry “You’re It!” This year, the game coincides with the wedding of their only undefeated player, which should finally make him an easy target. But he knows they’re coming… and he’s ready. Based on a true story, “Tag” shows how far some guys will go to be the last man standing.

What people are saying:

“For audiences seeking a dose of high-concept yet undemanding action comedy, Tag might be close enough to it” 2 1/2 stars

“Based on a true story about fortysomething manchildren still playing tag, this bro-bonding comedy is all over the place, but fueled by a terrific cast and a partytime atmosphere that might be just what you’re looking for on a hot summer night” 3 1/2 stars

“The cast is talented and game. But the game itself is grotesque, largely because of the characters they’re forced to play. ” 1 star

“A real life 30 year game of tag “you’re it!” is the basis of this light summer comedy, that stars a pretty decent cast. You won’t remember much of it afterwards, but you won’t feel as if you’ve been gypped with half-assed, phoned-in performances miming a half-assed, phoned in script either. And it might well be rewatchable to boot.” 3 stars

“Simple entertainment for an undemanding audience let down by a lack of laughs. It’s a sweet story (all the more so as it’s based on truth), but could have been a lot funnier, drags on for too long, and gets very dark towards the end. Good acting, but there’s nothing really remarkable about it.” 2 stars

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

It’s back to the 1960s as Batman and Robin spring into action when Gotham City is threatened by a quartet of Batman’s most fiendish foes–Penguin, The Joker, Riddler and Catwoman. This time, the four Super-Villains have combined their wicked talents to hatch a plot so nefarious that the Dynamic Duo will need to go to outer space (and back) to foil their arch enemies and restore order in Gotham City. It’s a truly fantastic adventure that will pit good against evil, good against good, evil against evil… and feature two words that exponentially raise the stakes for both sides: Replicator Ray. Holy Multiplication Tables!

What people are saying:

“It’s both a subtle jab at more dour versions of Batman in the mythology and acts as a stamp that marks West’s version as a cunning and capable character.” 4 stars

“What’s this? A DC Original Animated Movie that is smartly written, fun, and captures the spirit of what it’s adapting? Not simply a extended episode serving as a homage to the original 60’s series, but actually a true Batman ’66 feature-length adventure. Sure, the returning cast members may sound their age- but they sure sound like they’re having the same kind of fun they had back in the day. And they thought Batman couldn’t be thing way again.” 4 stars

“Once you get past the voices, which are of course noticeably older or replacements for those that have passed on, you can settle into a film that perfectly captures the spirit of the 60’s show while adding in some clever commentary on Batman interactions that have appeared since. The animated medium allows for the proceedings to be on a much bigger scale, and while that counts against it towards the end when the runtime starts to go on a little too long (it’s about four episodes worth of the TV show and might have been better sticking to its standard two-part, 40 minute story format), it does use the extra time to wrap up a character arc from the show. It’s this tendency to go beyond its remit, as well as its razor-sharp script and contagious sense of fun, that makes it easy to recommend to Batman fans old and new alike.” 3 1/2 stars

“Let’s take just a second: Adam West has been Batman off and on for 50 years. That may be type-casting, but when fans think of Batman, The Caped Crusader, the name that comes to mind after Bruce Wayne is Adam West. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders reminds us all why Adam West is the best Batman. It brings back everything we liked about the series. This is pretty much a sequel to the Batman ’66 film. The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler and Catwoman have teamed up again to take over Gotham and ultimately – the world! There are jokes about three Catwomen. Commissioner Gordon sports his trademark mustache. There are cool things here in animation that would burst a live-action budget as far as special effects. There is one questionable joke that for me fell flat. Your mileage may vary. Make no mistake: this is The Bright Knight, a far different Batman than what we have seen since 1989. There is a sequel coming, with William (Captain Kirk) Shatner as Two-Face. Hopefully this will develop into a franchise – maybe a true return for the Caped Crusaders!” 5 stars

“There’s a joy impossible to deny. It’s crafted by a team that can hardly contain its adoration for the material. That love is so apparent it might win over a new generation.” 4 1/2 stars

Revisited: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

J. Pierrepont Finch (Robert Morse) buys a book, How to Succeed in Business, describing in step-by-step fashion how to rise in the business world. The ambitious young window cleaner follows its advice carefully. He joins the “World-Wide Wicket Company” and begins work in the mailroom. Soon, thanks to the ethically questionable advice in the book, he rises to Vice-President in Charge of Advertising, making sure that each person above him gets either fired or moved or transferred within the company.

Finch begins to fall in love with Rosemary Pilkington, a secretary at the company. Finch finds out that the president of the company, J. B. Biggley, has made advances towards Hedy LaRue, a beautiful but incompetent woman the company has hired. Finch uses this information to assist his climb on the corporate ladder.

Biggley’s annoying nephew, Bud Frump, also takes advantage of the situation and tries to get to the top before Finch. By story’s end, however, Finch has become chairman of the board, and might make the White House his next step to success.

REVIEW:

Full disclosure…i have an emotional attachment to How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. In college, this was one of the musicals in which i was playing in the pit orchestra. Arguably, it was the most fun! Here we are some 20 yrs later and i still find myself humming the tunes. Since this is the film version of the stage musical, i expect to leave with a similar feeling. Will it happen?

What is this about?

Ambitious window cleaner J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) buys a book describing how to get ahead in the business world and decides to test the tome’s methods by joining the multinational but poorly run Worldwide Wicket Co. Starting in the mailroom, he rises to vice president in charge of advertising while falling for secretary Rosemary Pilkington (Michele Lee). Frank Loesser provides the songs, and Bob Fosse choreographs the dances in this fizzy musical.

What did I like?

Color my world. Most films these days, including some of the animated pictures, are so dark that the viewer can’t see or tell what is going on. I am a fan of these old pictures because of how much of a polar opposite they are to what is being churned out today. The colors that were used in the 60s may cause some to throw up a bit in their mouths, but for some of the rest of us, they compliment the atmosphere.

Absurdity. Really? A window washer works his way up the corporate ladder in what seems like the span of a week? The boss’ nephew gets promotions with a call to his mother? These and many other things are just too absurd to believe, even for the 60s! However, it is because of the absurdity that this is such an entertaining film. Without it, we basically have a lighter version of Mad Men. Funny thing…Robert Morse had a recurring role on Mad Men

Music. As this is a musical, the music is a character. Does this character fit in with the rest of the cast? I would say yes it does. To me,  and again, i am slightly biased when it comes to the music of this particular musical, it does. The songs cover topics relevant to the era, they aren’t overly long, the choreography, while simplistic, is entertaining to watch, and many of the tunes are catchy. So, yeah, the music works.

What didn’t i like?

Hedy. The character of Hedy LaRue is written as your stereotypical ditzy female. As one character calls her, a “bubbleheaded tomato”. I’m actually ok with that. My issue is with Maureen Arthur. Ms. Arthur has an attractive body and all (as seen in her treasure girl outfit), but her facial structure put me in the mind of Charlie from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I don’t want to be too critical of someone’s looks because I’m no prize, myself, but for a woman who is supposed to ooze sex appeal, they sure found a very average person.

Hit or miss. I mentioned earlier that i felt the music worked. I still think it does, but not all of the songs are going showstoppers. As a matter of fact, some are pretty meh. This is just the law of averages. For every “Brotherhood of Man”, we get “Grand Old Ivy”, a catchy song, yes, but it feels out of place. There are a couple of other songs that follow this pattern.

Advertising. I felt that the face off with the vice president of advertising, Overton, was a bit rushed. By that, i mean, it is obvious that this guy could have been as much of a rival, if not a bigger one to Finch than Bud, but the brief time that was spend on him and that particular rung of the ladder was so rushed, the antagonism from Overton wasn’t as effective as it could have been.

Final verdict on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying? This is one of those musicals for those that are in the fanbase. What i mean by that is if you were to show this to someone who is not a fan of musicals hoping to change their mind, it probably wouldn’t work. That said, this is a highly entertaining picture, if for no other reason than the nostalgia factor. Definitely worth a viewing or 10!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

The War Wagon

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

John Wayne and Kirk Douglas spend half of The War Wagon trying to knock one another off and the other half working shoulder to shoulder. Settling an old score with avaricious mine owner Bruce Cabot, Wayne plans to steal a $500,000 gold shipment from his enemy. Douglas, at first hired by Cabot to kill Wayne, goes along with the robbery scheme. Also in on the plan is Howard Keel, superbly cast as a world-weary, wisecracking Native American (it’s the sort of part that nowadays would go to Graham Greene). The titular war wagon is the armor-plated, Gatling-gun fortified stagecoach wherein Cabot’s gold is transported. Thus the stage is set for a slam-bang finale, and director Burt Kennedy isn’t about to disappoint the viewers.

What people are saying:

“…that comparative rarity, a Western filmed with quiet good humor. It is also a point of departure for John Wayne, who plays a bad guy for just about the first time in his career” 4 stars

“John Wayne (in his 162nd film) joins forces with Kirk Douglas in this revenge Western that propagates rather dangerously vigilante justice, a theme Clint Eastwood will carry to an extreme in the Dirty Harry pictures.” 3 1/2 stars

“The expected clash of two headliners in the same Western is not as apparent as expected, it plays out as a mildly amusing adventure with Douglas’ lighter approach helping to offset Wayne who is as ever unchanged in another gunfighter role.” 3 stars

“This is a “caper” film, about what would be a heist in other circumstances. Since the ethics of the perpetrators are those which should have made the authorities make the robbery unnecessary, their act is justified in this situation. This noir western is a bit slick-appearing at some times; but it is physically attractive, has a good cast portraying colorful and somewhat desperate characters, and a strong theme song. Dimitri Tiomkin supplied the very capable score; and Burt Kennedy did a solid job of directing throughout. The very appealing storyline concerns Taw Jackson, played ably by John Wayne, who returns from prison to get back what he can from Bruce Cabot, who stole his ranch and framed him. All he can do is to recruit a group of “mission fighters”, beginning with the man who had shot him 5 years earlier, Lomax, played by dynamic Kirk Douglas-and raid the “war wagon”–his enemy’s vehicle for transporting gold, a Gatling-Gun-equipped armored stagecoach. Taw’s team includes a drunken young dynamite expert he met in prison Robert Walker Jr., Keenan Wynn who is insanely jealous of his young wife, Valora Noland as the wife, Levi Walking Bear in the charismatic person of Howard Keel, his liaison to needed Indian allies, and more. Gene Evans, Joanna Barnes, Ann McRea, Terry Wilson and Frank Mcgrath are among those also doing good professional work in this interesting narrative. Only Noland is a bit weak in this cast. There are some humorous lines and interesting character moments as Wayne assembles his group and plots an attack worthy of “The Dirty Dozen” or “Where Eagles Dare”, involving trees that fall at the right moment, Indians faking an attack as a diversion, dynamite used to block off access to a bridge, and a log that swings down and opens the rolling piggy bank violently. What happens after this successful robbery leads to a compromised denouement and ending; but the film is vividly put together, professionally mounted and decently scripted by Clair Huffaker from his own novel. The film stands as a reminder of what any well-made film about an ethical central character can provide relative to any un-ethical and not-fictional man’s story competing for a cinema viewer’s attention. Moments such as Wayne’s visit to his ranch and his talk with the man who stole it, the recruiting of Lomax, the relations of the group, and the raid itself are all memorable. Underrated and always visually interesting.” 4 stars

“Fun tongue in cheek Western that survives an initial slow start to be entertaining afterwards throughout. Both John Wayne and Kirk Douglas do great and have tremendous on screen chemistry together. Their friendly,competitive rivalry that mirrors their off screen persona’s. Works extremely well and carries what would have otherwise been an average western. Even though they had their differences in real life, such as politics, you can tell they had a real respect for one another, and this movie does a good job of capturing that. One of the few roles that put the Duke on the wrong side of the law. Let down by the Western scenery, but was impressed with Howard Keel. I liked it but seeing Wayne and Douglas jell as well as they did makes me wish they could have joined together for a better Western. Good but unspectacular movie is highlighted by a hilarious bar room brawl and an extremely catchy theme.” 3 1/2 stars

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI is a darkly comic drama from Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (IN BRUGES). After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby (Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson), the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.

What people are saying:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deftly balances black comedy against searing drama – and draws unforgettable performances from its veteran cast along the way” 4 stars

“McDonagh works way too hard to inject nearly every scene with his patented solution of acid wit and dark-roast comedy… It’s jarringly effective until it starts to feel like shtick, at which point it works only as a numbing agent.” 1 star

“While it’s a movie that keeps attention on the screen, it doesn’t feel authentic and insults everyone–police, minorities, and people with physical anomalies. The black actors were mere sidelines in a race vs bigot oriented theme, and I particularly disliked the treatment of the character played by Peter Dinklage, whose role in Game of Thrones gave respectability to dwarfism for the very first time in cinema. If you like superficial writing and PC, agenda based films- this is for you.” 1 star

“This movie is depressing. The characters are either racist, homicidal, lazy, disgusting, drunks, vigilantes, or idiots whose favorite word is some form of f**k. McDormand’s character is deadpan throughout the movie. This film paints the wonderful Ozark people as backwoods rubes not far removed from zombies. The tea and crumpet crowd will laud this mashup as a masterpiece. Unless you’re from either coast, avoid this one.” 2 stars

“Searing, sensitive and well crafted.This is the first time I have chosen to rate a movie here. Frances McDormand deserves all the accolades she has received for this performance, and Woody Harrelson continues to amaze me in how much he has grown as an actor since his time as affable Woody Boyd. What has made me choose to take a few moments to share with people that may be considering watching this movie/story is the craftsmanship of the film itself. There is a profoundly disturbing core to this movie. A family is devastated and many times people treat each other in despicable ways however the film maker (Martin McDonagh) finds subtle ways to show the underlying nature of both the main characters and supporting characters. Each may seem a cliche of midwestern stereotypes at first glance but they also have moments that show who they are. I could explain, but watch it and judge for yourself.” 5 stars

Sister Act

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Nightclub singer Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a mob hit and hides out in a convent, where she’s disguised (and tries to fit in) as a nun. She finds her calling when she introduces the sisters to doo-wop and turns the choir into fundraising stars.

What people are saying:

“If you like Whoopi, you should see this movie; if you like musicals, you should see this movie; if you like light-hearted comedies that make you feel a little bit gushy, that you know will have a happy ending, but you love it anyway, you should definetely see this movie! I loved this movie, for all of the reasons listed above, and after the first time I watched it, I went back and rewatched all of the singing scences. Whoopi is great and I think she fit the role just right. The second one I also love, because its the teen generation singing versus a bunch of nuns. But then again, the bunch of nuns singing was really good too. For kids I would probably suggest the second movie, but I can’t decide my favorite. See them both, enjoy yourself, and decide your own favorite.” 5 stars

“Light and fluffy as it is, Sister Act still has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and some warm fuzzies as well as some believable action, and that makes it a 7 out of 10 in my book.” 3 stars

“A great 90s “feelgood family film” where a conspicuous lover of a Reno mobster has to go in hiding inside a convent, where after a rough start and short adaptation period she transforms the choir into a local success!”  4 1/2 stars

“Though it is meant as a bit of light-hearted entertainment, it fails at it being appealing and an apparent satire by becoming unfunny, uninspired, and nowhere near as controversial as it thinks it is.” 2 1/2 stars

Sister Act has a great cast and a sizzling soundtrack, and a hilarious script with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and a rather ridiculous premise that somehow works. Goldberg’s soulful and well-acted performance is a highlight, but possibly the greatest character of comedy pictures during the 90’s, Kathy Najimy’s hilarious and stirring performance as Sister Mary Patrick, a rousing and successful bumbling sidekick who stumbles along with pride, is the greatest achievement of the film’s entirety. A great film.