Archive for the Movie Reviews Category

Revisited: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT: (spoiler alert!!!):

In ancient China, a brutal and tyrannical warlord unites the country’s kingdoms into an empire and becomes the Dragon Emperor. He orders the construction of the Great Wall of China to bury and curse his dead enemies, eventually learning power over the traditional Chinese Wu Xing elements of fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Emperor Han soon grows fearful that his death will end all he has accomplished and summons Zi Yuan, a sorceress who is said to know the secret of immortality. She seemingly casts a spell on Han in Sanskrit, before he executes General Ming, his trusted friend and Zi Yuan’s secret lover. He stabs Zi Yuan with a dagger, but having foreseen this event, she immolates and imprisons the Emperor and his soldiers in clay, transforming his army into the Terracotta Army, and flees.

In 1946, Alex O’Connell, Rick and Evelyn O’Connell’s son, and his archaeology professor Roger Wilson locate Han’s tomb. Though attacked by a mysterious woman, they succeed in bringing the coffin to Shanghai. Meanwhile, the British government entrusts the O’Connells to take the Eye of Shangri-La back to China. However, they learn that Wilson works for a rogue military faction led by General Yang, who had provided the financial backing of Alex’s expedition. Yang believes that Han is the one who can lead China out of the chaos following World War II and plans to resurrect the Emperor using the Eye, which contains the Elixir of Life. They open it, but it accidentally lands on the statue of the carriage driver, which is revealed to actually be Han’s mummified body. He accepts Yang’s service but kills Wilson and escapes.

Along with Evelyn’s brother Jonathan Carnahan, the O’Connells and the mysterious woman, Lin, travel to a stupa in the Himalayas that will reveal the path to Shangri-La when the Eye is placed on top of it. With the help of Yetis summoned by Lin, the group hold off Yang’s soldiers but Han discovers Shangri-La’s location. Alex attempts to trigger an avalanche. Han throws a dagger at him, but Rick shoves Alex and is stabbed instead. Lin takes the group to Shangri-La, where Zi Yuan still lives and heals Rick’s wound. The group discovers that Lin is Zi Yuan’s daughter, both rendered immortal due to the power of Shangri-La’s waters. As Rick heals, Alex and Lin have grown attached to each other, but Lin refuses due to her immortality, unable to bear falling in love with Alex only to watch him grow old and die, just as Zi Yuan mourned for General Ming.

Han and General Yang eventually arrive and attack them in Shangri-La, and Han bathes in the mystical waters, which restores his human form and youth, and gives him the ability to shapeshift. Transforming into a dragon, Han kidnaps Lin and flies back to the tomb, raising his Terracota Army, planning to cross the Great Wall, where they will be invincible. The O’Connells and Zi Yuan pursue Han to the Great Wall where she sacrifices her and Lin’s immortality to create an undead army from beneath The Great Wall, led by a revived General Ming. As Alex rescues Lin, Zi Yuan fights Han and is mortally wounded, but secures the dagger. Zi Yuan gives the dagger to the group before dying. Meanwhile, Han goes into the Great Wall to use his elemental powers to negate the undead spell. Rick and Alex fight off Han while Evelyn and Lin fight and kill Yang and Choi. Han gains the upper hand over Rick, but Rick and Alex manage to stab Han in his heart with the dagger, killing him and defeating the Terracotta Army. Ming’s army briefly celebrates before finally moving on to a peaceful afterlife.

The O’Connells return to Shanghai while Jonathan decides to move to Peru with the Eye of Shangri-La, as he wants to go somewhere with no mummies. However, in postscript, it is revealed that upon his arrival, mummies were discovered in Peru.

REVIEW:

Ten years ago, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor began my journey as a movie critic blogger type person. It seems fitting that I revisit it as a way to bookend all 2,743 entries. Aside from that, we still have a film to talk about here. A film that sees our intrepid hero, Rick O’Connell once again messing with the undead. Many times the third time is not the charm for film franchises. Could that be the case here? Let us find out, shall we?

What is this about?

The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen continues the tale set into motion by director Stephen Sommers with this globe-trotting adventure that finds explorer Rick O’Connell and son attempting to thwart a resurrected emperor’s (Jet Li) plan to enslave the entire human race. It’s been 2,000 years since China’s merciless Emperor Han and his formidable army were entombed in terra cotta clay by a double-dealing sorceress (Michelle Yeoh), but now, after centuries in suspended animation, an ancient curse is about to be broken. Thanks to his childhood adventures alongside father Rick (Brendan Fraser) and mother Evelyn (Maria Bello), dashing young archeologist Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) is more than familiar with the power of the supernatural. After he is tricked into awakening the dreaded emperor from his eternal slumber, however, the frightened young adventurer is forced to seek out the wisdom of his parents — both of whom have had their fair share of experience battling the legions of the undead. Should the fierce monarch prove capable of awakening his powerful terra cotta army, his diabolical plan for world domination will finally be set into motion. Of course, the one factor that this emperor mummy failed to consider while solidifying his power-mad plans was the O’Connells, and before this battle is over, the monstrous monarch will be forced to contend with the one family that isn’t frightened by a few rickety reanimated corpses.

What did I like?

Out of Egypt. I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I think of mummies, the first place that comes to mind is Egypt. If I’m not mistaken, that’s where the legends were born that led to the other film’s in this franchise, the classic mummy that we know from old cartoon and tv and, though I hate to bring this up, the recent film with Tom Cruise. With that said, it is a nice change of pace to have mummies from and in China, especially one that has these superpowers and is based in actual history. Now the question is, who would win in a fight, the Dragon Emperor or Imhotep?

Action-packed. Movies today seem to forget that audiences don’t want to sit in an already darkened theater looking at a dark alley with people talking for 3/4 of the film. No, if we go to an action film, then that is what we want to see. Perhaps it is fitting that this director is from the Fast and the Furious franchise because it has come as a surprise that those film have been raking in the bucks of late. Truth is, they are mindless action, an escape from reality, and that is what people want. In this film’s case, much like the Indiana Jones films, we come to see a normal guy kicking ass while fighting off supernatural beings. I would say he also is fighting to get the girl, but he got her in the first film.

Fun. This franchise has always impressed me with how fun it is. Not just with the action and comedy, but with how it captures the feel of an old Hollywood swashbuckler or the serial comics from that time. It is interesting that I bring this up, because it was around the time that this film came out that films shifted toward darker, more serious tones. Even this flick is guilty of that, but it manages to keep the fun factor. I mean, the dead emperor barges into Shangri-La and bathes in the rejuvenating pool only to re-emerge as a 3 headed dragon! That’s some video game boss level stuff there. I love it!

What didn’t I like?

Weisz she gone? I don’t want to take anything away from Maria Bello. She is a beautiful woman and a fine actress. However, she is not Rachel Weisz. What I mean to say is that there was a certain chemistry Weisz had with Brendan Fraser and John Hannah, as well as certain feel for the character of Evie that Bello doesn’t seem to have. To me, she felt like if your starting quarterback on your fantasy football team got hurt and you have to scour the waiver wire hoping to get a player that will put up decent numbers, but it just isn’t the same (and may cost you some games…not that I’m speaking for personal experience, mind you).

Daddy issues. Why is it no one if movies today has issues with their mother? It’s always about Daddy? If you will recall from The Mummy Returns, Alex was the precocious son of Rick and Evie O’Connell. Fast forward a few years and he is now estranged from his parents and an adventurer in his own right. Not to mention, he seems to take after his dad as a bit of a flirt. When we finally see the three of them together, we learn that he and his dad aren’t exactly on speaking terms. I could list for days films that have a similar subplot, especially with how it resolves. Personally, I think this whole thing could have been left out in favor of more development of Michelle Yeoh and Isabella Leong’s characters.

Try, try, try again. For everything that worked in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, changing location and doing the same thing doesn’t fly with this. You have an all powerful mummy and the famed Terracotta army, not to mention Yetis and the Great Wall of China, yet almost all of these are wasted and/or underused. With Imhotep, we spent the both films getting to know him, both with his actions on-screen and a history “lesson” from Evie. The Dragon Emperor is introduced to us in the opening and when he appears in modern day, he is actually more intimidating than when he becomes human again. The only redeeming scene for him is when he becomes the 3 headed dragon or when the filmmaker’s realized it was Jet Li and let him do some martial arts.

Final verdict on The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I probably have made this sound worse than it is. Truth be told, this is a film that would be enjoyable on a Saturday afternoon when you just need something to watch. However, this was meant to keep the franchise going, or at least revive it, but instead it seemed to kill it (along with other factors). There is obvious effort here to make a worthy film but, in the end I cannot in good faith recommend this to anyone, unless you just want to complete the trilogy.

3 out of 5 stars

Coco

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.

What people are saying:

“At every imaginative juncture, the filmmakers (the screenplay is credited to Pixar veteran Molina and Matthew Aldrich) create a richly woven tapestry of comprehensively researched storytelling, fully dimensional characters, clever touches both tender and amusingly macabre, and vivid, beautifully textured visuals” 4 stars

“None of Coco‘s few flaws can fatally undermine the film because it is, most of all, a smart and enduring piece of storytelling with a satisfyingly twisting narrative and richly complex theme. ” 4 stars

Cocos rich visual pleasures are matched by a thoughtful narrative that takes a family-friendly—and deeply affecting—approach to questions of culture, family, life, and death” 5 stars

“The topic this movie handles is unconventional, but it doesn’t take away from the humour, the fun and the insanity that we come to expect from Pixar. They balanced the topic well and respectfully to the culture the topic relates to. Truly one of the best movies in it’s class.” 5 stars

“Once again, leave it to a kid flick to show the adults how to tackle a film about inclusiveness, acculturation and celebrating heritage. Young Miguel Rivera disobeys his family’s perplexing ban on music to pursue his dream of becoming an accomplished, strumming virtuoso. Pixar strikes tear-jerking gold with its first lead Latino character and a story that resonates in a climate where Dreamers face unknown, frightful futures and accepting those with different beliefs and backgrounds still proves a challenge.” 3 1/2 stars

Spring Breakers

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 25, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine) and Faith (Selena Gomez) have been best friends since grade school. They live together in a boring college dorm and are hungry for adventure. All they have to do is save enough money for spring break to get their shot at having some real fun. A serendipitous encounter with rapper “Alien” (James Franco) promises to provide the girls with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for. With the encouragement of their new friend, it soon becomes unclear how far the girls are willing to go to experience a spring break they will never forget.

What people are saying:

“If Michael Mann was to take a lot of hallucinogenics and shoot a Girls Gone Wild video, it might look something like this” 4 stars

“…this attractively fizzy pic may be a shock to the system for fans of teen queens Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, but remains pretty toothless titillation by its writer-helmer’s standards” 2 stars

“Korine’s story is a searing indictment of today’s hedonistic, nihilistic youth, and his script is loaded with sharp, telling dialogue that exposes the rotten moral cores of its characters.” 4 stars

Spring Breakers tries to be more than the typical party movie, and that is admirable, even if it doesn’t always work. The movie has a pretty strong social commentary and satirical vibe that is fascinating to watch. The characters are interesting enough and the standout performance in the movie is the one given by James Franco. I thought the movie starts off strong but really fizzles out at some point in the middle. The movie’s structure also feels somewhat repetitive at times and I was exhausted by certain parts of it. Some scenes like they’re a bit too over the top but I think it just comes back to the tone the movie is going for. It’s a movie made with a lot of energy and is unlike anything else this genre has seen before and for the most part its a good thing.” 3 1/2 stars

“I didn’t expect to hate this film as much as I did, I watched it not expecting much, and well…that’s exactly what I got! Sure the film looks good and the girls looked hot in their bikinis BUT! The acting was horrific apart from surprisingly.. Selena Gomez. I love James Franco but not in this movie, he looked stupid, was very repetitive ( in fact the whole film was) he sang a Britney Spears song and gave sexual pleasure to a couple of guns (very strange) All in all this has to be one of the worst films I have ever seen.” 1/2 star

Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the sequel to the hit comedy Sister Act, Whoopie Goldberg reprises her role of Deloris Van Cartier, a Las Vegas entertainer who hid out with in a convent of nuns to avoid a nasty bunch of gangsters. In Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Deloris is persuaded to return to the convent by the Mother Superior (Maggie Smith), because her help is needed in teaching their choral students at St. Francis High in San Francisco. However, St. Francis is in a crisis, since the administrator running the school (James Coburn) is threatening to shut the place down. If the gospel choir wins first place in a singing contest in Los Angeles, St. Francis will be saved from the priest’s plans.

What people are saying:

“While the kids may sing a storm when at last they get down to mixing Beethoven, gospel and rap, in the good clean fun department this is monumentally weak and derivative.” 2 stars

“One must remember this is sequel and will probably not be as good as the first movie. Personally I really don’t like sequels all that much but see them anyway. Most of time they have the same plot as the first one. If the first film made a lot of money, It will continue on the same theme without being that good because they don’t have be to make money. So one should keep that in mind when viewing this movie. It’s okay but with no suprises. Whoopi Goldberg usually does well in comedies and will probably to continue with this type of role. In this movie she helps school children with their music abilities they don’t seem to know that they have until she as a nun comes along. A good movie but certainly not a great one. See the movie and form your own opinions. ” 3 stars

“I love this movie — Lauryn Hill singing, Maggie Smith vs. James Coburn, just wonderful music. I don’t know why it got such a low rating…I’ve gotta watch it every year at least. It’s such fun! Look at the discrepancy between the audience reviews and the critics — critics can’t always tell you what’s going to life your heart. She even quotes my favorite poet/philosopher Rilke. I’m a songwriter with major label credits and I just love the music — Lauryn Hill singing His Eye Is on the Sparrow slays me…and the final competition number is absolute joy. Glee fans should enjoy it too!” 5 stars

“Unfortunately, the sequel took a very cliche attempt of “reaching the children’s hearts” and tried for a more heartwarming feel good kind of film while the plot seemed to kill whoopi’s skills in comedy, since her comedy from the first film would have been somewhat inappropriate for this film. However what wasn’t filtered of Whoopi’s humour is worth at least knew watch even though it’s more or less a film that has you saying “I’d rather watch the good one”. Whoopi at least saves ut to be a half decent movie even though the script seems fairly unbelievable and predictable.” 2 1/2 stars

“It’s heart is definitely in the right place, but only the Good Lord Above knows where the hell its brain is. Goldberg throws her nun disguise back on for absolutely no reason, other than to lead an aged plot concerning a class of unruly kids learning to respect one another, and themselves. It turns out to be nice enough, and the music is as awesome as ever. But while the first one was loveably daft, this one’s just numbingly stupid.” 2 stars

Footlight Parade

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , on August 23, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The last–and to some aficionados, the best–of choreographer Busby Berkeley’s three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he’ll stage musical “prologues” for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd

What people are saying:

“…generates laughs at a criminal rate” 4 stars

“What a gem! Saw it in the TCM’s on demand line-up, started it and just was transfixed. Dated, but in a timeless way that goes back not just to the 1930’s but to what it must have been like in vaudeville. Cagney is in top form and terrifically supported by Blondell, Keeler and a all round great cast. Powell is ok, being not nearly as annoying as he usually is. Great music/dance numbers with pussy cats, a honeymoon hotel, a waterfall and – the topper – Shanghai Lil. All of it wrapped up in snappy, risqué dialogue.” 4 stars

“It has singing. It has drama. It has comedy. It has a story. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made … period. If you can’t enjoy this movie, then you must be either asleep or in some kind of mental disarray. In “Yankee Doodle Dandy” James Cagney sings and dances his way to an Academy Award; but in this movie he is BETTER! This is James Cagney at his quisessential BEST! He’s fast with the one-liners! He’s fast with his feet! It’s nonstop action. And the song-and-dance skits are classics, especially “Shanghai Lil.” And the supporting cast is great; and the entire movie is upbeat, fast moving, and exudes confidence. And even though this movie was made over 70 years ago, it’s still watchable, even today. And of course, this movie features Miss Ruby Keeler (who was married to Al Jolson). She is the perfect partner for James Cagney … and Dick Powell too! If you like upbeat, fast paced movies, with lots of singing and dancing, this is the movie to watch.” 5 stars

“This is an example of one of those “super cutesie” type of flicks. Every character is loveable and silly in their own way. Though the Busby Berkeley dance numbers aren’t the best, the achievement of complexity and style is still in others choreographers left field.” 5 stars

“This fabulous movie must be viewed knowing that millions scraped together 10 cents to see it and forget the gloomy day-to-day economic conditions during the 30’s. Remember, 10 cents bought a loaf of bread back then, so this was a minor luxury for many people. It’s testimony to how Hollywood did its best to make the USA feel a little better about itself. You’ll note that with the studio system in Hollywood at the time many of the actors and actresses were type-cast in similar movies, e.g. James Cagney, William Powell, Ruby Keeler, Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee . Then too, branches of the U.S. military were always respected with enthusiasm and patriotism as in the use of military precision marching by the great choreographer, Busby Berkeley, at the end.” 4 stars

The Dark Tower

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

What people are saying:

“I’ve been told that The Dark Tower books are jam-packed with dense plot, wonderful characters, and a sprawling mythology – which is what made the movie so hard to make for all these years. Well, the solution seems to have been to just scrap all that and release a shockingly short 95-minute movie that just kind of glosses over everything to the point that has any meaning or purpose” 2 1/2 stars

“Elba, eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, delivers a one-note performance of weary stoicism, while McConaughey fails to embody evil incarnate, though he does at least display the odd flash of malevolent wit.” 2 stars

“What an abomination. Any resemblance between this and the Stephen King novels that inspired it(?) is purely coincidental.Elba is the best thing in it and I admire his ability to stay in character instead of running screaming from the set. Poor CGI, disjointed story,strained dialogue, indifferent acting other than the three leads, it’s a hodge podge of the worst B movie traditions. Tedious and boring. King deserves much much better.” 1 star

“Going into the movie without knowing the story it was quite entertaining. If you just enjoy the movie rather than worrying about low reviews you will likely enjoy it. decent story about good vesus evil.Several really great action scenes and you actually care bout the two main actors. Well worth a rental.” 4 stars

“I don’t know why people complain about non-compliance with a book. You read to stoke YOUR imagination. Do you expect a director to please everyone else who read it? Thus we come to the quality of the movie–never read the books. This is above average for the genre. McConaughey is so brilliantly evil. Elba and the boy bond beautifully. Well paced and written, the story line worked for me as presented. Better than 20 hours and six films of Hobbits, etc. to get the story. It’s a well done and entertaining movie.” 4 stars

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

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.