Archive for the Drama Category

Female Jungle

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on June 13, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Also known under the title The Hangover, this crime film follows Sergeant Stevens (Lawrence Tierney) as a detective who must clear his name when incriminating circumstances make him the prime suspect in a film-actress’ murder.

What people are saying:

“A muddled but diverting B film noir melodrama from cheapie American International Pictures. Future sex queen Jayne Mansfield, known as the blonde bombshell, made her acting debut, costarring as a nymphomaniac. Its attempts to be hard-boiled fall apart when it becomes apparent that writer Burt Kaiser couldn’t get a handle on the plot line, and instead lets the narrative get mired in too much silliness. It also suffers from a weak directing effort by Bruno Ve Sota and cheesy production values” 3 stars

“Rather lurid and somewhat boring.” 2 stars

Female Jungle is a fairly good and at times noteworthy low budget indie feature. Produced by star Burt Kaiser, who plays a down on his luck sketch artist with the longest 1950’s hair this side of Elvis, the film also features Lawrence Tierney, who sleepwalks through his role as a drunken cop trying to win back the respect of his sergeant by helping solve a murder mystery. Tierney’s career was entering crisis mode at this point thanks to his own drinking problem, and though he’s obviously trying his best here, it shows. The story is fairly feeble, but the fine cast–which also includes John Carradine, Attack of the Giant Leeches man Bruno Ve Sota, an unglamorous looking Jayne Mansfield, and Davis Roberts–is worth watching. For a poverty row cheapie the film looks quite good–a testament, perhaps, to the effective work of DoP Elwood Bredell, who always did good work with little money on ‘B’ classics like Man Made Monster and Phantom Lady.” 2 stars

“I’m not into old flicks from the 50’s and even the 60’s but still, I have to buy some to complete my collection. But it came clear after this one, I don’t like horrors from that era but crime stories I do like. The reason is very simple, they don’t use cheap effects. But still, they have to give you a special reason to watch them. This one still stands after those years due the perfect editing, what I mean is that they use single camera to make those flicks, so when you see a cut it’s been taken from another take. Mostly faults are visible in expression of faces or drinks that are for example empty and suddenly they’re full again. Another reason to watch it is to see sex symbol Jayne Mansfield in her screen debut. Already in some sexy outfit and as seducer. A strange life she had dying at age 34. All acting is well done, of course no nudity in it but the use of blood dripping from one’s hand is impressive for that era. When one is killed due gunshots, the close up and the blood running was also well done. It’s not a master piece but it surely is still enjoyable.” 2 1/2 stars

“Even allowing for the fact that it was a low budget, quickly made picture (like many film noirs were), this picture for me was more bad than good. First the bad, the film suffers from some stilted acting by the supporting players and so-so dialog. The film even manages a couple of moments of unintentional humor. It is about a murder that takes place outside a bar where an off duty cop is drinking heavily. The cop is played here by Lawrence Tierney (who looks more like his younger brother, Scott Brady, than he has in any other role of his I’ve seen). The cops on duty browbeat Tierney into helping out with the investigation. I did not understand why they expected Tierney’s character to help, he was off duty after all. Now for the good, after a few false leads and dead ends, the killer is revealed. I must admit, the killer’s identity was unexpected. I was fooled. The leading performers here are competent but the one person that really stands out, literally, is a young temptress played by Jayne Mansfield. It is easy to see why she ended up with a Hollywood career playing Marilyn Monroe type parts. This film was released as the second half of a double feature. That is where it belongs. The western it was released with, Oklahoma Woman, is a much better film.” 2 1/2 stars

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Martian Child

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A recently widowed sci-fi writer adopts a 6-year-old boy to quell his loneliness. The catch? The kid claims to be from Mars. Dad’s dubious at first, but an odd series of events prompts him to wonder whether his son could be telling the truth.

What people are saying:

“Despite some charms, overt emotional manipulation and an inconsistent tone prevents Martian Child from being the heartfelt dramedy it aspires to be” 3 stars

“It’s off in many directions — false in its details, false in its relationships, false in its emotions — but probably the first and worst thing that needs to be said about it is that it’s also overlong and dull.” 2 stars

“A lot of critics and reviewers are putting this movie down because it is sentimental and predictable. Ok so this movie wasn’t edge of your seat thrilling – it wasn’t supposed to be. This is a sweet drama that will make you laugh and make you cry. The Cusaks are great as always and the little boy is adorable. If you like this type of movie, ignore the critics.” 4 stars

“As an adoptive parent I see so much truth in this movie. Bringing him into reality slowly was an awesome description of how to help a child from a traumatic background. Maybe it wasn’t a box office hit, but it definitely gives a picture of the difficulty of bonding with a kid who has been hurt by his birth parents.” 4 1/2 stars

“John Cusack continues his late-’00s slide in this spacey, whitewashed translation of a semi-fictional novella. Cusack, who never seems to make a film without his sister, plays a moody, depressed sci-fi writer who adopts a similarly introverted six-year-old as a way to move on from an intense personal loss. Following the formula to a tee, the two then struggle to understand each other for the rest of the picture before feeling their way to a generic happy ending, complete with montage. The film halfheartedly drops sporadic hints that the child might be from outer space as he so boldly proclaims, but never seems to completely commit to that direction. Instead, it’s content to just lean back into an easy, overplayed routine and let the chips fall where they may. Really, the narration is so passive it’s hard to imagine what it does stand for – even the shoehorned introduction of a love interest for Cusack (a heavily criticized change from the novella, in which the narrator is gay) is just lightly dangled across the screen before being tossed aside and forgotten. Bland, faceless and safe, it’s family-friendly to a fault.” 2 stars

Moonrise Kingdom

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore — and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in more ways than anyone can handle.

What people are saying:

“Warm, whimsical, and poignant, the immaculately framed and beautifully acted Moonrise Kingdom presents writer/director Wes Anderson at his idiosyncratic best” 4 stars

“Phonies may complain that Anderson’s island of misfit toys is a retreat from the real world, but for pure-hearted adventurers who share the secret map,  Moonrise Kingdom is a joy that cannot be eclipsed.” 5 stars

“Since I couldn’t stay focused the first time I watched this, I decide to have it another go since it is Wes Anderson. Obviously the artistic ability Anderson possess is magnificent. The color design screams Wes Anderson style and I’ll always appreciate a well constructed and detailed set design. The undertones of a rough family life between Sam and Suzy made for a great plot line that should have been exploited farther. With the inclusion of the purposeful bland acting, this movie wasn’t for me. Having a low attention span keeps me from physically investing myself in the storyline, the slow pace is a taste I haven’t yet desired. I was excited about Bruce Willis and Bill Murray in this movie but sadly both of them had no character build, all of the adults in this movie had little to no characterization. This movie made me feel like everything was being hinted at with a little *wink* *wink*, but nothing was ever explained entirely. I applaud Anderson for steering towards more creative films but it requires a taste.” 2 stars

“This is a Fairy Tale. A lonely princess lives in a remote castle with her eccentric father and mother, the King and Queen, and three younger, equally eccentric, brothers. She spends time on the top of the castle looking through her telescope at the land around the Kingdom. One day she spies a handsome young prince and falls in love with him. He is with his regiment of hussars but feels alienated from them because of their emphasis on uniformity. He spies the princess and also falls in love with her. She escapes the castle and together they flee into the wilderness. The King, and local sheriff, and the hussars all search for them, only to discover that the lovers are about to be captured by a wicked witch. The hussars never much liked the prince because of his carefree attitude but the regiment has a code of never abandoning a trooper and they set out to save the Prince and his Princess…etc. etc. etc.” 3 stars

“I’m now a fan of Wes Anderson directed films and am going to rent another one for my next movie rental. I loved the colorful scenes and quirky story line. I’m reminded of Lemony Snicket when I watch this. It has that type of artsy, colorful, adventuresome feel. The love story was a wonderfully written sweet example of love that accepts the whole person, idiosyncrasies and all. You want to root for the young couple throughout the entire movie. There are unexpected twists at every juncture. The additional perk of a well-known supporting cast puts this movie over the top. I thought it was refreshingly different and very entertaining!” 5 stars

Cocktail

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on April 5, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

After being discharged from the Army, Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) moves back to Queens and takes a job in a bar run by Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown), who teaches Brian the fine art of bartending. Brian quickly becomes a patron favorite with his flashy drink-mixing style. Brian adopts his mentor’s cynical philosophy on life and goes for the money. He leaves his artist girlfriend Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue) for Bonnie (Lisa Banes), a wealthy, high-powered executive. Brian soon must chose between the two, as he evaluates his options.

What people are saying:

“There are no surprises in Cocktail, a shallow, dramatically inert romance that squanders Tom Cruise’s talents in what amounts to a naive barkeep’s banal fantasy” 3 stars

“This vacant, misshapen film is basically an extended beer commercial that presents the world as a ludicrous place populated by sex-and-cash-and-booze-crazed zomboids. Cruise, meanwhile, comes off as a somewhat taller Spuds MacKenzie.” 3 stars

Cocktail is Tom Cruise fluff. No necessity to do a good job of acting just act like a jerk, I do not think that takes much acting for him. A film about drinking your way to the top somehow seems a little inane and this movie is inane. But if you like drunks and socialite harlots, snobby poets and elitists, as well as watching the mighty fall, then this movie is probably your martini.” 2 stars

“Coughlin’s Law: “Any thing else is always something better.” This film won Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay and Tom Cruise was nominated for Worst Actor…and that recognition is justified. This is not one of Cruise’s best roles, nor one of his better performances. He is adequate, as is Bryan Brown. The best acting in the film is by a young and beautiful Elizabeth Shue; and she is a joy to watch in this. The film was a big box office hit, which should tell you that it is at least entertaining…and it is. So watch it for its entertainment value and for a memorable performance by Shue. Don’t watch it, looking for something deep and meaningful…or even shallow and meaningful, for that matter. You won’t find it” 3 stars

Cocktail is frustrating to watch. It almost feels like this movie has nothing to offer other than annoying and unpleasant people arguing with one another. No one treats the other characters with any respect other than Elisabeth Shue, and her presence in the film just accentuates the fact that everyone else is unlikable. Plus I end up worrying about her because of all the awful decisions she makes for this one guy. The most notable thing that everyone remembers about this film is the flair bartending. Now I appreciate that Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown clearly do a lot of these tricks themselves, but they aren?t the greatest at it and flair bartending makes up a very small part of the movie. Most of the film is made up of depressing relationship drama that will probably end up with Tom Cruise?s character following in the footsteps of Bryan Brown?s character. They don?t do anything that makes sense with their choices for the future, and yet I think I?m supposed to be celebrating with them at the end. It?s a sad film filled with the worst kinds of characters. I?ll be happy to never watch it again.” 1 1/2 stars

Walt Before Mickey

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

This film is about Walt Disney’s early years. For ten years before the creation of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney struggled with, failed at, and eventually mastered the art and business of animation. Walt Disney worked in a variety of venues and studios, refining what would become known as the Disney style. This film captures the years 1919 – 1928, creating a portrait of the artist from age seventeen to the cusp of his international renown.

What people are saying:

“Few visionaries are as fascinating as Walt Disney, so it’s particularly frustrating that this drama is so uninspired. It seems more like an adaptation of a student’s book report than a compelling look at one of the most influential men of the 20th century” 1 1/2 stars

“The story is solid, but the screenplay is only partially effective, content to mope along with little joy or whimsy. And scenes resemble re-enactments more than meaningful human encounters.” 1 star

“Critics hated this flick – they hated the script, they hated the voice overs, they found it dull, didn’t appreciate the acting. Eh! The basic idea of the film is covering Disney’s initial 10 years. Good chance that there was a dull, plodding aspect to those years. The script was convincing and entertaining enough, I think, given the subject material. And I was sufficiently impressed with the actors abilities. Maybe I have a greater than average interest in Disney’s early years – but I did find it to be a worthwhile watch.” 3 stars

“To put it plainly, Walt Before Mickey was surprisingly disappointing. The acting occasionally felt like high school plays and the script skips to a new plot line every time it gets close to an answer. This results in many instances of flashing forward and never knowing how Disney continues to magically keep his business afloat. In the end, I find that I never got the answers that I sat down to find out in this film. Instead, I received interesting tidbits and a rough draft with crucial points missing entirely.” 1 star

“As a Disneyphile of sorts, there was no way I was going to miss watching this film on the big screen even though I had to travel two hours via the Interstate through Kansas to the Kansas City metro area (appropriately enough since that is where Disney started his animation company) to get to the nearest theater showing it. The trip was worth it for me personally, but the film itself may disappoint others. Its quality is uneven; it needs the sort of polish and texture that the Disney organization would be able to give it. Don’t expect something like  Savings Mr. Banks, the Disney film that dealt with Disney’s struggles to get Mary Poppins made toward the end of his life. While the story of Walt Before Mickey is itself engaging, and the plotting, pace and dialogue not all that bad, the editing is uneven, the cinematography is uninspired, and the acting is just this side of wooden and amateurish. However, Thomas Ian Nicholas saves the day, practically carrying the entire film on his performance alone. His acting is earnest and sympathetic to the persona of a young and struggling Walt Disney; and the character he creates is believable and likable. In the final analysis, the film will never win any awards, but it has a lot of heart and wins the approval of those, like myself, who wish to see Disney (and the Disney legacy) treated in the sort of fair, even-handed, and yet respectful manner he deserves.” 3 1/2 stars

The Canyons

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , on January 4, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

While calculating young movie producer Christian makes films to keep his trust fund intact, his actress girlfriend, Tara, hides an affair. But a chance meeting thrusts them into a violent, sexually charged tour through the dark side of human nature.

What people are saying:

“Film noir, absolutely, although in mix of styles that mainly go back to the eighties Michael Mann movies. I don’t understand why anyone would be complaining about the acting, it’s minimal with a dash of natural. The awkward conversations could have done with a slower pace. S*x is the currency of power and trust is the currency of love of what people believe it is. That’s as far as this film goes thematically, it’s neither superficial nor deeply layered. The film starts and ends with shots of derelict abandoned places, like cinema theaters. The world as a rotten stage, and people playing sad parts. And still, this is a chill film, for when you don’t need to remember what you were watching the night before. ” 3 stars

“A tale of young, vapid, sexually insatiable Z-listers in Hollywood had the credentials to be deliciously awful fun but almost every time something tawdry (and potentially interesting) is about to happen, the film pulls its punches and leaves the action.” 3 stars

“This film was doomed from the start when they cast James Deen in the lead part as some kind of cool tough guy when he comes across as a wimp and a geek. He looks a lot like Anthony Weiner former politician from New York. Face the facts the only reason anyone rented this film is because they were told they would see Lohan nude. The most shocking thing about this film is that Paul Schrader directed it, why? This is really a story about nothing!” 1 star

“A perfect depiction of the underbelly of the entertainment industry & Hollywood. Actors doing anything for work, people saying they’ll do something when they never actually do…boring, sad, disturbing, and dull are the elements The Canyons combines perfectly into a raw and deeply meaningful film. Also, the best performance Lindsay Lohan has ever had. She’s better in this than in The Parent Trap, I’m not kidding.” 5 stars

“This fecal lump came & went out of circulation quickly and quietly, like a phart in an elevator. “James Deen” is cast strictly for “let’s get an Adult-film dude to give us some street cred” and he does the same eyebrow-lift & smirk schtick that got him a following among emotionally stunted hairy-palm dudes, which he learned at the Sasha Grey Academy of Fake Cool, and Lohan looks one OD away from the pearly gates. And that’s the good news. The script and acting are stillborn on the operating table. Schraeder’s got a track record that can afford him some mistakes, but this one will forever loom the largest and fetid on his resume’.” 1 star

Logan

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2029, no mutants have been born in 25 years. Logan’s healing ability has weakened and he has aged; he spends his days drinking and working as a limo driver in El Paso, Texas. In an abandoned smelting plant in northern Mexico, he and mutant tracker Caliban care for nonagenarian Charles Xavier, Logan’s mentor and founder of the X-Men. Charles, a psychic, suffers from a brain disease that causes him to have destructive seizures unless controlled with medication; a seizure a year earlier killed seven mutants, leaving Logan, Caliban and Xavier as the last of the X-Men.

Gabriela Lopez, a former nurse for biotechnology corporation Alkali-Transigen, tries to hire Logan to escort her and an 11-year-old girl, Laura, to Eden, a refuge in North Dakota. Logan reluctantly accepts, but finds Gabriela killed. He is confronted at his hideout by Gabriela’s killer, Donald Pierce, Transigen’s cyborg chief of security, who is looking for Laura. Laura has stowed away in Logan’s limo, and has powers like Logan’s. She, Logan and Charles escape Pierce and his Reavers, but Caliban is captured and tortured by Pierce into tracking Laura.

A video on Gabriela’s cellphone shows that Transigen created Laura and other children from mutant DNA samples to turn into weapons; Laura was created from Logan’s DNA. As they proved difficult to control and Transigen had found an alternative, the children were to be killed, but Gabriela and other nurses helped some of them escape.

In Oklahoma City, Logan discovers that Eden appears in an X-Men comic in Laura’s possession, and assumes it is fictional. The Reavers arrive, but Charles has a seizure and incapacitates everyone in the vicinity, except for Logan and Laura, who kill the attackers and inject Charles with medication, and they flee. Dr. Zander Rice, head of Transigen, arrives to help Pierce.

Logan, Laura, and Charles help farmer Will Munson and his family after a traffic incident and accept an offer of dinner at their home. Logan drives off enforcers from a corporate farm harassing Will. Rice unleashes X-24, a Transigen clone of Logan, who murders Charles and Will’s family, stabs Will, and captures Laura. Caliban sets off grenades, killing himself and several Reavers while injuring Pierce. Logan fights X-24, but is outmatched. Will pins X-24 with his truck, but dies from his injuries. Logan and Laura escape with Charles’ body.

After burying Charles, Logan passes out. Laura takes him to a doctor and persuades him to take her to Eden, where they find Rictor and other Transigen children preparing to cross to Canada. Laura finds an adamantium bullet Logan has kept since his escape from Weapon X, which he once considered using to commit suicide. Logan decides his job is done and chooses not to accompany them, much to Laura’s dismay.

The children are captured by the Reavers. Logan takes an overdose of a serum given to him by Rictor that temporarily strengthens his physical and healing abilities. With Laura’s help, he slaughters most of the Reavers, but the serum wears off. As Pierce holds Rictor at gunpoint, Rice tells Logan, who killed Rice’s father years ago while escaping from Weapon X, that no new mutants were born due to a Transigen virus that Rice created. Logan shoots Rice dead and attacks Pierce. X-24, enraged by Rice’s death, fights Logan. With their guards distracted, the children kill Pierce and the remaining Reavers. Rictor uses his seismic powers to flip a truck onto X-24. X-24 frees himself and impales Logan on a tree branch, but Laura shoots X-24 dead with the adamantium bullet. Before he dies, Logan tells Laura not to become the weapon she was made to be, and Laura finally tearfully acknowledges him as her father. After his burial, Laura turns the cross on his grave on its side to create an X, to honor him as the last X-Man and then departs with the other children.

REVIEW:

Ever since he first appeared on the big screen, way back in X-Men, fans worldwide have longed to get that raw, uncut Wolverine that is more akin to what we see in the comics, rather than what we’ve seen in shows like X-Men: The Animated Series. Logan looks to be the film to finally accomplish this. Let us find out if the goal was achieved.

What is this about?

In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X, somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan’s attempts to hide from the world, and his legacy, are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

What did I like?

What’s old is new again. Many years ago, Charles Xavier and Logan first met. While their relationship hasn’t always been the best, you can tell from the beginning that there was a mutual respect between them. That respect is perhaps why we find Logan as a sort of caregiver for Xavier. Sure, some may say this is done just to give Stewart one last shot at being the professor, which may have been rue before Disney bought the rights last week, but that’s a whole different post altogether. As we watch these two in their old age, severely slowed down due to the passage of time, wear and tear on their bodies, and various ailments, it is good to see their friendship last all these years, even when one has to change the other’s adult diaper!

Bloodsport. Go read a Wolverine comic, especially one released in this day and age. Logan does not hold back with the spillage of blood. As a matter of fact, I remember when I was growing up, I had to hide my Wolverine comics because my parents thought they were too violent and that I would turn into some mass murderer or something. Unless you count the endless lives I’ve ended in video games, I haven’t hurt a fly! Back on topic, though, we finally get to see Wolverine kill people with blood squirting out. This seems like a small thing to non-comic fans, but if you know truly know the character, its a huge thing, tbh. Also, we are privy to a bit more of the berserker rage that made Wolverine such an unstoppable force. Such a shame we had to wait for the last film to get all this.

Comic relief. This is a dark and serious film. As such, it was nice to get a few moments of levity to lighten the mood. Most of these came from Caliban, played by comedian Stephen Merchant. When I saw this casting,  I questioned it, but it makes sense now. Not only does the guy fit the character’s description, but he also provides a few much needed jokes in dire situations.

What didn’t I like?

Sabretooth? One of the antagonists is a clone of Logan, a younger, more powerful version of Logan, with a healing factor that hasn’t been slowed down. He actually makes for an interesting enemy. What I wonder is if he was originally supposed to have been Sabretooth. Wearing all black and with his hair cut the way it is, I was reminded of Liev Shrieber’s Sabretooth from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you know that movie that everyone seems to hate for whatever reason.

Another family. At a point in the film, Logan says something along the lines of “bad things happen to good people who get attached to me.” A few scenes later, a family that has taken him, X-23, and Professor X in for the night is under attack. What is my problem with this? I guess it just feels a bit like the old couple in the first Wolverine film. They were just doing what was right, being good human beings, and found themselves 6 ft under. I guess the writers just wanted to take the bloodlust R-rating as far as they could and kill everyone just because they could.

Like father, like daughter. Ever daughter has certain mannerisms that they take from their parents, that’s just nature. X-23 is a clone of Logan, though, so she really takes after him. I don’t know much about her in the comics, but I do know she has a violent temper and is a bit of a loner, just like her “father”. What’s wrong with this? I guess I just expected something more from the film version. Not necessarily a sassy teen with attitude, we got that in X-Men: Evolution, just something other than a silent assassin type that speaks very little, broken English.

Final verdict on Logan. People have been praising this film as the best superhero film since The Dark Knight and that it is sure to be a game changer for the genre. I can see why people would think this, but for me, this was just a very well made conclusion to Wolverine’s story and, with the Disney acquisition of the X-Men rights, sets up perfectly for a reboot of the character, whether through X-23 or bringing someone else in as Logan. That said, this is a beautiful, powerful film that will tug on your heartstrings in a couple of places. You feel the consequences in this picture more than any of its predecessors, perhaps because we’ve known these characters for so long. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! If for no other reason than to see Stewart and Jackman play these characters for what they have said is the final time.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars