Archive for Abigail Breslin

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

Posted in Chick Flicks, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Five years after the first film, Crown Princess of Genovia Amelia “Mia” Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) has just graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and is returning to Genovia with her bodyguard Joe (Héctor Elizondo). There, she will await her reign once her grandmother, Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews), steps down as Queen. During Mia’s 21st birthday party, she dances with all the eligible bachelors in hope of finding a husband. She becomes attracted to a handsome gentleman named Nicholas (Chris Pine). During the course of the night, Mia’s tiara falls off and is caught by a Member of Parliament, Viscount Mabrey (John Rhys-Davies) who secretly plans to steal Mia’s crown. While the Parliament is in-session the next morning, Mia stumbles upon a hidden room that allows her to secretly listen in. Viscount Mabrey reveals his nephew, Lord Devereaux, is another heir to the Genovian throne. Despite Queen Clarisse’s objection, the only way Mia can assume her duties as Queen is if she marries within the month. Clarisse invites Lord Devereaux to stay at the palace, while Mia is shocked to discover Lord Devereaux is Nicholas. Mia’s best friend Lilly Moscovitz (Heather Matarazzo) surprises her by visiting. Together, they pick through potential husbands. Mia eventually chooses Andrew Jacoby (Callum Blue), Duke of Kenilworth and days later they are engaged. Mabrey plans to have Nicholas woo Mia and dissolve the engagement.

For a ceremony, Mia is to ride sidesaddle but does not know how. Queen Clarisse provides an ancestral wooden leg decoy to make it look like she’s riding sidesaddle. Mabrey spooks Mia’s horse with a rubber snake and Joe rushes to Mia’s aide, but accidentally tears off the wooden leg. Humiliated, Mia flees to the stables, where Nicholas fails to comfort her. At a garden party, Mia and Nicholas quarrel about Mia’s relationship with Andrew; Nicholas tricks Mia into admitting she doesn’t love him. Angered, she argues but instead gets bombarded by a kiss. At first, she kisses him back but then backs away. Nicholas pursues her even more, which causes both of them to fall into a fountain. Queen Clarisse finally tells Mia that her behavior with Nicholas needs to stop.

During the Genovian Independence Day parade, Mia sees some boys picking on a little girl (Abigail Breslin), and abruptly halts the parade to comfort the girl. Learning the children are orphans, Mia has a vendor give them all tiaras and lets them walk with her in the parade. Everyone is impressed by her act of generosity, while Mabrey sees it as a political maneuver. Mia later decides to convert one of the royal palaces into a temporary children’s center. That night, Mia has her bachelorette/sleepover party, where Queen Clarisse surfs on a mattress and sings a duet with Princess Asana (Raven-Symoné), one of Mia’s good friends. In the meantime, Mabrey realizes Nicholas has fallen for Mia, but Nicholas says that Mia will never love him. Nicholas comes upon Mia as she is practicing her archery as part of her coronation rites. He helps her succeed in getting the arrow to hit the bullseye, something she had been struggling with. Nicholas then informs Mia that he is leaving, but asks to see her just one more time before he goes. She declines, saying she is under close guard.

That night, Nicholas appears outside Mia’s window and asks her to come out. Lilly encourages her to go, and Mia sneaks out. They ride out to a lake where they share secrets, dance and eventually fall asleep. They awaken to find a man in a boat videotaping them. Mia thinks Nicholas set her up, while he insists he had no idea. By the time Mia gets back to the palace, the scandalous footage is already being broadcast. Andrew is disappointed and kisses Mia to see if there is a romantic spark between them. They realize they do not love each other, but do not call off the wedding for the good of Genovia. The wedding is to take place the following day, and Mia’s mother Helen (Caroline Goodall) comes with her new husband Patrick (Sean O’Bryan) and their newborn son Trevor. Nicholas decides against attending, but his surly housekeeper Gretchen informs him that Mabrey engineered their televised scandal.

Right before the wedding, Joe informs Mia that Nicholas is innocent. Queen Clarisse encourages Mia to follow her heart, something she has never done and has now cost her Joe, the only man she truly loved. Mia reenters the church, and after pointing out how her grandmother has ruled Genovia while unmarried for a number of years, she tells the members of parliament in the audience to consider the significant women in their lives (such as their wives, sisters, daughters and nieces) and questions if they would have them do what they’re trying to force her to do (marrying people they don’t love). Mabrey cites the law again and once again suggests that his nephew be named King, but just then, Nicholas not only refuses the crown, but also disowns Mabrey as his uncle. Mia proposes the law on royal marriages be abolished, and the Parliament unanimously gives its assent. Encouraged by Mia to have her own happy ending, Clarisse proposes to Joe and they are promptly married.

About a week later, Mia is preparing for her coronation when Nicholas shows up. He professes his love for Mia on bended knees, and they share a romantic kiss. The next day, Mia is crowned “Her Majesty Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi, Queen of Genovia”, with all in attendance in the royal palace.

An epilogue shows that Genovian Parliament now allows female members, one of whom is Charlotte. And Queen Mia officially opens the children’s home

REVIEW:

Sometimes when the end credits roll on a film you wonder if you will ever see the characters again and what will they be up to the next time we see them, should we be privileged enough to see them again. This was the case with The Princess Diaries. The film ended in a way that left the audience wondering what happens next. Enter The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, a film that I swear I was not meant to see (up until tonight, I have never been able to watch it straight through for various reasons). With all that aside, let’s see if this film is comparable to its predecessor.

What is this about?

Directed by Garry Marshall, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement picks up where its predecessor left off — that is, with American teenager Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) reeling over the news that she is a princess within the royal family of Genovia, a little-known European nation with a population of barely 50,000. As promised, Mia, along with her best friend, Lilly (Heather Matarazzo), travels to Genovia after their high-school graduation. The unlikely princess has hardly settled into the castle, let alone begun representing the country, when she learns that a larger title is approaching more rapidly than expected; it seems as though Mia will have to take over as queen. Suddenly, in addition to further schooling on the etiquette of royalty, Mia finds herself with a daunting prospect — according to Genovian law, all princesses must be married before they can be crowned.

What did I like?

One more once. Not too long before the first film was made, Julie Andrews underwent surgery on her throat/vocal chords. The operation was a success, but she was no longer allowed to sing. I’m not sure what happened, but we get a song from her during the slumber party, albeit nowhere near as strong a vocal performance as we expect from her. Still, it is great to hear her sing a few notes.

In her skin. In this second time out, Anne Hathaway, as Princess Mia, seems much more confident both as an actress and the character as a royal. Can you imagine what this would have been like if she was still bumbling around like she was when we first met her? Granted, she does still have those moments that remind us that while she is the would be queen, the clumsy prep school girl is still in there somewhere.

Grandmother. Julie Andrews’ character is on her way out of the royal spotlight and off the throne as Mia takes her rightful place as ruler of Genovia. It is because of this that I think she is able to not be such a “stick in the mud” and be more of a grandmother towards her granddaughter. We get a few scenes where she is chewing her out, of course, but for the most part, she is the dream grandmother we all wish we had. She had poise, class, elegance, compassion…not to mention she’s Julie Freakin’ Andrews!!!

What didn’t I like?

Nevermore. Aside from her best friend, Lily, who was flown in from California (and felt a bit forced into the film), Mia seems to be close to Princess Asana. There are two glaring issues I want to bring up with this. First, if they are so close, why is Asana only in a couple of scenes? Second, who is she? How did they meet? Why are they so close? Mia grew up with Lily and they were both outsider freaks in high school, so we know that’s why they were so close, but with Asana, we get none of that. She’s just a random character that gets to sing with Julie Andrews.

Formula 1. Is it me or with every film, book, or tv show that involves a royal change of power of sorts, we get someone who wants to prove they are next in line. This is such a cliché’ nowadays. One could tell what was going to happen before it actually does, just by the film’s title and the type of film this is. Come on filmmakers, be creative!

Lionel. Joe, who is retiring when the Queen leaves the throne, is sacked with an intern in his last days. What I found odd about this guy was how he reminded me of Michael from the first film, but with darker skin and slightly shorter hair. This got me thinking…with the way Mia fawned over Michael in the first film, wouldn’t it have been a cool idea for him to show up as Lionel in disguise and be her dream ending? Of course, then Chris Pine’s whole character in this film would be worthless, but he goes on too much bigger and better things after this, so he’ll be fine.

Final verdict on The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement? Let’s see…it repeats some of the same notes from the first film. The soundtrack isn’t as catchy this go-round. Chemistry among the characters is so-so, but I actually believed it in the archery scene with Hathaway and Pine. The mattress surfing scene was perhaps the most fun part of the film. Do I recommend this? Yes, a good (non animated) family film is hard to find. While not great, it is somewhat entertaining and that’s worth something. However, I would suggest going for the first film, if you can.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Ender’s Game

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the year 2086, an alien species called the Formics attacks Earth. Mazer Rackham, commander of a small reserve patrol force, halts their advance and apparently sacrifices himself during their attack.

Fifty years later, a young cadet named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin beats a school bully named Stilson at a hand-held virtual game while Colonel Hyrum Graff and Major Gwen Anderson from the International Fleet watch via Ender’s monitor on his neck. Ender is summoned to have the monitor on the back of his neck removed. When Stilson and his gang attack him, Ender retaliates and violently beats Stilson. Ender returns home and confesses grief over his actions to his sister Valentine. Their older brother Peter interrupts them and convinces Ender to play a game. He then begins choking Ender, threatening to kill him but pulls back. Graff and Anderson visit the Wiggin family and offer Ender a place in Battle School, admitting that the final test was to see how Ender would react to his monitor’s removal. Graff talks privately with Ender and is able to convince him to accept, because Ender believes that “it was what he was born for”.

Ender is the last “launchie” to arrive at the shuttle taking off for Battle School. Upon arrival, the launchies are introduced to Sergeant Dap, who explains how the school’s Battle Room works. Ender soon gains the respect of the other launchies. Anderson, without informing Graff, authorizes for Ender to discover the “mind game”, a way for the school to secretly gauge the emotional state of the students in the form of a video game. Ender’s form in the mind game, a mouse, meets a giant who offers him two drinks, one of which he claims is poisoned. After finding both drinks to be poisoned, Ender has his character leap into the giant’s eye, killing him. Anderson comments that she has never seen anyone do this.

Ender is transferred to Salamander Army, where he meets Commander Bonzo Madrid and Petra Arkanian, who offers to teach him how to shoot during free time. Bonzo takes an instant disliking to Ender, describing him as skinny, untrained and inexperienced. During their first battle he orders him to hang back and observe once everyone else has entered. Ender disobeys, aiding Petra, and the two formulate a plan to win with a surprise attack.

Ender continues with the mind game, seeing what looks like a Formic materialize and dissolve before him. He follows an animated version of Valentine to a collapsed castle, where he fights a snake and sees an animated version of Peter. Anderson is unable to explain to Graff how Ender’s brother ended up in the mind game. Graff gives Ender command of Dragon Army. They climb to the top of the school’s rankings under Ender’s command. Despite overwhelming odds, Ender defeats two armies at once, including Bonzo’s Salamander Army. In retaliation, Bonzo challenges Ender to a fight in the shower. In self-defense, Ender seriously injures Bonzo, who is sent home to recover. Ender threatens to resign unless he can see his sister. Graff allows Ender to return to Earth, where Valentine convinces him to re-enlist.

Via faster-than-light travel, Ender and Graff go to “a former Formic colony world near their home world”, where the International Fleet has established a command base in a former Formic outpost. Ender meets Mazer Rackham, who explains the outcome of the battle that led to his apparent death. He announces his intention to program simulations to challenge Ender and tells him about a deadly weapon in Earth’s fleet called the Molecular Detachment Device (which, in the book, is called Dr. Device, due to its initials: MD Device. In the movie, it is called Little Doctor). Assembling Ender’s core friends from Battle School, together they engage in several skirmishes. “Graduation Day” is to be their final test, a simulation that takes place near the Formics’ home planet. Using the MD device, Ender eradicates the forces surrounding the planet. Every ship on the planet rallies to stop him, Ender has the Fleet’s fighters form a defensive ring around MD device but leaves the rest of the ships unprotected and many of the International Fleet ships are destroyed, but he gets Petra a clear shot with the device again, annihilating the planet. Graff reveals that the final simulation was a real battle and that Ender has extinguished the Formics in reality. He tells Ender he will be remembered as a hero, but a remorseful Ender says he will be remembered as a killer.

After being sedated and carried to his room, Ender realizes that the Formics had tried to communicate with him in the mind game. He rushes to a mountain similar to the one he saw in the game and finds a Queen with a single Queen egg remaining. He promises to find a planet for the egg. Ender dictates a letter to Valentine; after being promoted to Admiral, he takes off into space in a ship with the egg, determined to colonize a new Formic World with it

REVIEW:

These days, kids all but have video games implanted into their brains, but what it they were chosen to go to special school and defend the Earth based on what they can do with a controller? No, this isn’t The Last Starfighter, it is actually a book by controversial author Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game. Does this literary work translate successfully to the big screen?

What is this about?

Talented preteen children, including Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, discovered by humanity’s military International Fleet, are trained for battle against the alien insectoid Formics (“Buggers”) invading Earth.

What did I like?

Action. Much of the sci-fi films these days have been lacking in the action department, but not this film. From the impressive simulations, to the team battles, and even the confrontations Ender has with his classmates, there is plenty of action to go around in this film, but not at the film’s expense.

Game. Video game technology has come a long way since the first Atari system I had when I was a wee little tyke. Obviously, this game that Viola Davis’ character used to evaluate Ender’s psyche was just some CGI effects they created for the film, but it was still impressive to view, especially the way characters developed visually.

Calm and collected. Asa Butterfield is proving to be a great up and coming actor. He was pretty good in Hugo, even better in the TV show Merlin, and shines in this film. He brings a scary calm to this hotheaded character of Ender, and also shows his temper. That ability to show a range of emotions, not to mention go toe to toe with Harrison Ford is impressive.

What didn’t I like?

Faceless enemy. The alien enemy, known as Formics, never truly make an appearance. At the film’s end we see a queen, I believe, but what about the rest of the species? In nearly 2 hours, we didn’t get a picture, screen shot, or even a description of what the enemy looks like. Keeping alien creatures hidden seems to be the thing to do these days, as a way to build up tension and suspense.

Napoleon. When Ender is transferred/promoted to a team in Battle school, he is confronted by a short, megalomaniac commanding officer. Having not read the book, I don’t know what the reason for the animosity was, but the film made it seem as if he just didn’t like Ender because he was the new guy. There also seemed to be a bit of tension regarding a bit of a love triangle with Hailee Steinfeld’s character, but I may just be reading too much into that.

Sibling rivalry. At various times throughout the film, Ender mentions something about being a third and how he wasn’t supposed to succeed, or something to that effect. When he is kicked out of his first school at the beginning of the film and sent home, we get to meet his brother and sister, who both washed out of the program for varying reasons. It appears that Ender is close to them, at least to his sister, and yet she is barely in the film. Maybe she plays more of a role in subsequent books, but I still would have liked a larger role for her character.

I was looking at the financial reception of this Ender’s Game, which wasn’t as good as it should have been. I wonder if that has anything to do with Orson Scott Card’s controversial stance on gay marriage. Such a shame if that was it because this is really a good, exciting film with a twist for an ending (not a surprise if you’ve read the book, I would imagine). Do I recommend this? Yes, you’ll be very entertained and hope that they make a sequel, even though there are no plans for it as of now. Still, check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

The Call

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , on July 13, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

LAPD veteran 9-1-1 operator, Jordan Turner (Halle Berry), receives an emergency call one night from a teenage girl, Leah Templeton (Evie Thompson), fearing for her life as a man breaks into her home. Jordan wisely advises her to conceal herself upstairs, but when the call is disconnected, Jordan calls Leah back which gives away Leah’s hiding spot to the intruder. Jordan attempts to stop him over the phone, to which he says “It’s already done” and hangs up, leaving her distraught. A few days later, Jordan sees a report on TV confirming Leah had been murdered. Mentally affected by the incident, Jordan tells her boyfriend, Officer Paul Phillips (Morris Chestnut), she can no longer field calls.

Six months later, she is a trainer for 9-1-1 operators. Simultaneously, teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), having spent time with her friend Autumn who had to leave, is kidnapped from a mall parking garage and put into the trunk of a car. Casey uses her friend’s phone which had been accidentally left behind to call 9-1-1. Brooke (Jenna Lamia), a rookie operator, receives the call and cannot handle it, as Jordan overhears the situation and takes over. Unfortunately, Casey is using a disposable phone, and her exact GPS location cannot be found. While the kidnapper drives, Jordan guides Casey into knocking out a tail light and signaling people in nearby cars. One woman who sees Casey waving her arm out of the trunk of the car calls 9-1-1, allowing the police to narrow their search. The man ends up killing one person and burning another who tries to intervene and switches cars with one victim, Alan Denado (Michael Imperioli), to elude the police. However, he inadvertently leaves fingerprints at the scene of the car switch, and the police are finally able to determine his identity as Michael Foster (Michael Eklund).

Upon arriving at his destination, Michael removes Casey from the trunk and finds the phone in her pocket, with 9-1-1 listening on the line. Putting the phone to his ears, Jordan informs him that his identity is uncovered and advises him to turn himself in and not hurt the girl and that he does not have to do this. Before smashing the phone, Michael responds to the latter, “It’s already done”, and Jordan realizes Michael is the same culprit who killed Leah. Meanwhile, Paul, accompanied by Officer Jake Devans (David Otunga) and others in law enforcement, raid Michael’s home to look for clues. Finding a photo of Michael and his sister, Melinda, they realize Casey resembles his sister. Additionally, the house seen in the photo is eventually revealed by Michael’s wife to have burned down, although a nearby cottage still remains. The police raid it, but find nobody there and leave. Determined to catch the killer, Jordan drives to the secondary home where she finds endless photos of Michael with his Leukemic sister. Stepping outside, she recognizes sounds from an outdoor flagpole, reminiscent to sounds heard in the background in the final moments of the 9-1-1 call. She also finds a trap door amid dirt and scrub, a spot the primary house once stood. After she accidentally drops her cellphone down the cellar, she climbs down in without calling the police.

Navigating the cellar, Jordan is forced to hide from an emerging Michael. The cellar itself pieces together Michael’s back-story. It’s revealed Michael had been distraught to the point of having obsessive, incestuous feelings towards his sister and during her high school days, she developed Leukemia, lost all of her hair and passed away. Michael has a prop head that he keeps in the cellar that he treats like his sister. He has also been scalping and killing young girls who have similar blond hair, trying to find scalps that match the mannequin. Jordan soon finds Casey strapped down to a dentist chair and attacks Michael as he begins to lacerate her. She frees Casey, and they both manage to gradually escape the cellar. Michael pursues them, and they are able to injure and kick him back down into the cellar, rendering him unconscious. While he is knocked out, they tie him up and chain him to a chair. When he regains consciousness, they tell Michael they are going to leave him to die using the cover story that Casey had escaped, Jordan found her in the woods, and Michael simply disappeared. He tells them they can’t just leave him there. As they walk out, Jordan recites his words, “It’s already done”, then closes and locks the door, leaving Michael to die, although it is left ambiguous as to whether he dies or not.

REVIEW:

It has been quite a while since I last watched a film that starred Halle Berry. As a matter of fact, I seem to remember the last couple of films of hers that I watched not being that hot. No wonder she hasn’t been around, eh? Enter The Call, a film from WWE Studios. Yes, I said WWE. No worries, though, there is no wrestling and the only wrestler is David Otunga, who has a pretty small role.

What is this about?

When an abducted teenage girl makes a frantic call from the trunk of a serial killer’s speeding car, she connects with a sympathetic 911 operator who’s dealt with the perpetrator in the past.

What did I like?

911. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really think about what those 911 operators go through, especially if a call goes wrong. The first segment of this film covers just that, as we see Berry go from being on top of her game to having a call that leaves her visibly shaken. She is so shaken that she leaves her position at the call center. Fast forward 6 months and she is now the training officer for newbies. Man, these 911 operators go through a lot, huh?

Intense. Wow! What more can I say that the way the plot plays out is sure to blow your mind! With a film like this, you half expect to see what is coming, but the factors that come into play with the antagonist are not only a bit uncomfortable, but also quite scary if you think along the lines that there may actually be people out there like this guy.

Ending. It wasn’t planned, but a friend of mine from college also watched this film tonight, possibly at the same time, and we had a slight discussion about the ending. The best thing I can say about it, without divulging crucial details, is that it is totally unexpected. It is the kind of ending that you expect from a film of this nature. Kudos to the filmmakers for taking the chance with it!

What didn’t I like?

Jailbait. It seems like just yesterday Abigail Breslin was the little girl stealing our hearts in Little Miss Sunshine. Now she’s in a thriller with her bra on. I’m not sure of how old she is, but it just felt wrong seeing her décolletage on full display. The time will come when this won’t matter, but for now they should’ve known better, especially since there really was no reason for the  kidnapper to cut her shirt off, at least as far as I could tell.

Think. In the final scenes of the film, Berry leaves the call center to chase after Breslin. I don’t really understand why, especially since she has perfectly capable cop boyfriend. Best I can figure is they wanted to justify casting Halle Berry by giving her something to do. That makes no sense, though, because she was doing such a good job just with her reactions to the calls and such.

Belief. For some reason, everyone seems to believe that the kidnapper is the same guy that killed the girl from 6 months ago. Why? Berry told them so. I can only imagine that this was done to keep the films short and for convenience. Given her mental ties to that case, I find it hard to believe that everyone would have believed her so easily, not to mention there was a lack of investigation.

The Call was quite entertaining, Not only did it deliver a fairly slid thriller story, it was pretty fast paced and, most importantly, had the ungodly gorgeous Halle Berry. The film does have issues, but they aren’t the kind that you cannot get over, unlike Berry’s hairstyle. Do I recommend this? Yes, it isn’t the best film, but it is worth a viewing or two. Check it out!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

New Year’s Eve

Posted in Chick Flicks, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On New Year’s Eve, Vice-President of the Times Square Alliance Claire Morgan (Hilary Swank) is making the final arrangements for the ball drop with the help of her friend Brandon (Ludacris). Meanwhile, after being nearly run over by a car and denied a vacation, Ahern Records secretary Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) quits her job and offers the deliveryman Paul (Zac Efron) tickets for the Ahern Records Masquerade Ball if Paul helps her complete a series of New Year’s resolutions before midnight, which he accepts.

Paul’s sister Kim (Sarah Jessica Parker) is having trouble with her teenage daughter Hailey (Abigail Breslin) who wants to spend New Year’s Eve with her friends and her boyfriend Seth (Jake T. Austin) in Times Square. Paul’s friend, comic book illustrator Randy (Ashton Kutcher), who hates New Year’s Eve after his girlfriend left him on a date, gets stuck in an elevator with Elise (Lea Michele), an aspiring singer who will be providing back-up for musician Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi) in his show at Times Square, he also performs at the Ahern Records ball, where he rekindles his feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Laura (Katherine Heigl).

At a nearby hospital, Stan Harris (Robert De Niro), a man in the final stages of cancer who refuses chemotherapy and who only wishes to see the ball drop one last time, is kept company by Nurse Aimee (Halle Berry) and Nurse Mindy (Alyssa Milano) after his doctor (Cary Elwes) reveals he will not last much longer. In the same hospital, a young couple, Griffin (Seth Meyers) and Tess (Jessica Biel), about to have their first child, competes with another couple, James (Til Schweiger) and Grace (Sarah Paulson), for a bonus offered for the family of the first child born in the new year. Elsewhere, Sam (Josh Duhamel), a businessman from Ahern Records, attempts to go to the Ahern Records Ball, where he is to deliver an important speech, after his car malfunctions on the other side of New York, all the while wondering if he should attend a meeting with a mysterious woman he met and fell in love with on the previous New Year’s Eve.

As midnight approaches, one of the billboard lights of the Times Square panel malfunctions, jamming the ball and forcing Claire to call Kominsky (Héctor Elizondo), an electrician, who the company had fired a few weeks prior. Kominsky repairs the ball before midnight, and, in gratitude, Claire leaves him in charge of the operation, and rushes to see the ball drop with her father, Stan. Meanwhile, Nurse Aimee has a video conference with her husband (Common), a soldier serving in Afghanistan.

Paul helps Ingrid complete all the items on her list, and she gives him the tickets. Meanwhile, Randy and Elise bond, and, as they are about to kiss, the elevator is repaired and Elise rushes to Jensen’s show. Randy notices she forgot her rubber band and rushes to give it to her. At the Ball, Jensen leaves midway during the show and apologizes to Laura, who accepts him back and leaves with the approval of her assistant, Sous Chef Ava (Sofia Vergara). With Jensen gone, Elise is called to replace him and attracts the attention of the crowd. She kisses Randy, and they start a romantic relationship.

Griffin and Tess have their baby and, although it is born first, they allow James and Grace to have the bonus after discovering they actually have three children. Meanwhile, after being forbidden from attending the celebration, Hailey runs away to Times Square, where she sees Seth being kissed by another girl. Heartbroken, she meets and is comforted by her mother. Seth finds them and apologizes, claiming the girl stole a kiss from him. Hailey forgives him and Seth kisses her. Her mother allows her to go to an after-party. Kim then goes to a restaurant to meet Sam, who had succeeded in delivering his speech. She is the mysterious woman he met one year prior, and they finally discover each other’s names

REVIEW:

I actually toyed around with the idea of waiting until it was actually December 31 to watch New Year’s Eve, but apparently Netflix had other plans for me. Oh well, it happens. After sitting through this knee jerk of  a film, though, I don’t think this is something I would like to have as one of the last memories of the year.

What did I like?

A for effort. I give them credit for making a sequel that isn’t a carbon copy of its predecessor, in this case, Valentine’s Day, While it wasn’t a carbon copy, there are elements that seep in. I still wonder why or who thought there needed to be a sequel. No way in the world did that first film make that much money, right?

Cohesiveness. Just like the last film, there are many major stars in this film, but none of them get anymore time than the others. Sure, if you were to actually time the amount of screentime we saw Sofia Vergara as opposed to Sarah Jessica Parker, there might be a bit of a time difference, but for the mos part, we’re taking equality here, which is really impressive, especially since one can only imagine how egos got in the way when it came to making this picture.

Variety. Another interesting aspect of the film that I liked is how it is not focused solely on the “good looking” adults. We also get some teenage hormonal stuff in there, as well as some old people melodrama. I thought that was a nice touch.

Globes. Any straight guy with a pulse is going to love seeing Sofia Vergara out of that chef’s jacket and into that blue dress. I’m going to leave it at that.

What didn’t I like?

Wrong holiday. At times, it seems as if this film really was trying to be Valentine’s Day II, as opposed to an entirely different entity (technically this isn’t a sequel). They kept pushing the matchmaking, lovey-dovey part so much, the New Year’s aspect got lost until they flashed back to downtown New York as we saw the big ball and all of its technical issues.

Random. So, while most people in this film are the beautiful, well-to-do sorts, we get this one family that picks up Josh Duhamel and they are about as normal as can be. In any other film, they’d be great, but here they seem a bit out of place, and maybe that was the idea. They did add a bit of charm and provided a nice little departure from the norm. Still, I wasn’t in love with them.

Bon Jovi. Nothing against the guy as an actor. I think, especially for musicians, he is pretty good. My issue is why he couldn’t sing his own songs. Don’t give me this crap about the sings and right and all that junk, because Jon, if I’m not mistaken, owns his entire library. It would’ve been nice to get at least a snippet of him singing one of his hits, such as “Blaze of Glory” “Livin’ on a Prayer”, etc.

Sara Jessica Parker. Worst actress of all time. Need I say more?

New Year’s Eve doesn’t stack up to its predecessor. As a matter of fact, the only thing it does manage to achieve is proof that just because you have big name actors in a film, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a good one. This film has some moments that shine, but just as soon as those get settled into your brain, something goes wrong, and you remember that this isn’t that great of a film. Do I recommend this? Yes, but only for date night. I can’t see any other reason to willingly want to check this out.

3 out of 5 stars

Definitely, Maybe

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , on March 24, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) is a 38-year-old father who is in the midst of a divorce. After her first sex-ed class, his 10-year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) insists on hearing the story of how her parents met. Will gives in, but decides to change the names and some of the facts relating to the various love affairs of his youth, thereby creating a love mystery; Maya is left guessing which of the women will turn out to be her mother. The story he tells Maya is depicted in long flashbacks. From time to time the film switches back to the present, where Maya comments (often disdainfully) and asks questions.

The story begins in 1992 when Will, a starry-eyed aspiring politician, moves away from Wisconsin and his college sweetheart, Emily (Elizabeth Banks) to New York City, where he works on the Clinton campaign. Over the years, Will becomes involved with three women who enter and re-enter his life, including Summer Hartley (Rachel Weisz) an aspiring journalist, and April (Isla Fisher) the copy girl for the campaign. Will and April have a chance meeting outside work, where Will reveals he is going to propose to Emily. When Will practices his proposal to Emily on April, she is taken aback by Will’s heartfelt words, and replies, “Definitely, maybe.” They go back to her apartment, where April has multiple copies of Jane Eyre in her collection, explaining that her father gave her a copy with an inscription in the front shortly before he died, and the book was later lost. She has spent years looking through copies of Jane Eyre at secondhand stores hoping to find the copy her father gave her, but she buys any copy she finds that has inscription. They suddenly kiss, but Will backs away and leaves.

Emily comes back to New York where she confesses, just after Will proposes, that she slept with his roommate. She did it on purpose to break up with Will, saying that she is “letting him go” because she doesn’t share his rather lofty aspirations. After Clinton is elected, Will opens a campaigning business with most of his work colleagues, which enjoys a good amount of success.

Before Will left Wisconsin, Emily asked Will to deliver a package to her former roommate, Summer Hartley, who is living in New York City. Will first meets Summer when he gives her the package, a diary that she wrote when she was a teenager (which, among other things, tells of a brief affair with Emily). He finds she is going out with a famous writer who is old enough to be her father. However, the writer breaks up with Summer and Will starts a relationship with her. Meanwhile, April quits her job and goes to travel around the world. Will plans to propose to Summer when April comes back to tell him she loves him. However, she sees Will’s intentions and reluctantly congratulates him instead. Summer writes a derogatory article about one of Will’s clients, which causes the end of her relationship with Will. As a result of the article, Will loses his business and his dream of a political career goes down the drain.

April calls after a long while and finds that Will is unemployed and unhappy. She throws a birthday party for him where he is reunited with his old colleagues. In a drunken rant, Will confesses his romantic feelings for April, but in the process ends up having a fight with her, questioning why she works in a used book store and telling her to “go to life rehab.” Some time later, while walking the streets Will passes a used book store and sees the copy of Jane Eyre with the inscription from April’s father. Will goes to April’s apartment to give her the book, but he decides against it when he meets her live-in boyfriend Kevin.

Emily re-enters Will’s life when she moves to New York City, and turns out to be Maya’s mother and Will’s ex-wife, as Maya correctly guesses. Will explains to Maya that his story had a happy ending, which was Maya. Will and Maya share a hug and part ways as Maya leaves with her mother. At home, Will finds the book he has been saving for April, and goes to the offices of Amnesty International, where April is now working. After learning that April is now single again, Will gives her the book. But, when April finds out that Will had been holding on to the book for years, she becomes upset and asks him to leave.

Maya is happy that she figured out the story, but also realizes that her father still loves April, as even though Will changed the names of Emily (Sarah in real life), and Summer (Natasha in real life), he did not change April’s name. Encouraged by Maya, they go to April’s apartment, where Will confesses to April that he held on to the copy of Jane Eyre because it was the only thing he had left of her. As the three enter into April’s building, April springs into Will’s arms and kisses him.

REVIEW:

I actually had a request to do this one when it came out, but I had forgotten about it until I was reminded earlier this week.

Definitely, Maybeallows us to listen in as Ryan Reynolds’ character tells his daughter, at her insistence, about how he met her mother, but the catch is that she has to figure out who is who since he isn’t using the real names. All this because some brilliant elementary school teacher decided to tell a bunch of 10 year olds about sex ed!

So, what worked for me?

The dynamic between Reynolds and young Abigail Breslin. As a single father and his daughter, I really bought that they were really related. Not to mention the chemistry between the two of them was a joy to watch!

Personally, I can Isla Fisher all day, but in this film, she really flexes both her acting chops and natural….I guess the word would be likability? Basically, what I’m trying to say is that this character seemed like it was just her being her. Whether that was the intention or can be attributed to her talent, I cannot tell you, but man was she great!

Reynolds is his usual snarky self, but chances are, that is why he was cast. There are scenes where he is a little subdued, however, but that’s ok. It just shows how he has grown as an actor.

The story is a nice one that anyone can get into. Some real thought went into this, both writing and filming, and it shows. Kudos to the filmmakers for making such a competent film.

As a romantic comedy, I was expecting some cheesy, unrealistic scene to happen, but didn’t get it. Well, I guess you can make the case for the ending being a little rom-com cheesy, but it wasn’t like a Katherine Heigl or Kate Hudson flick, where things unnaturally occur.

What didn’t work?

The whole diary thing seemed like an odd plot device that was used to deviate from point A to point B. It seemed like it was going to be a big deal, but turned out to be nothing more than a virtual red herring.

I thought I was going to like Kevin Kline’s character, and I did, but I didn’t like how he is introduced and then falls asleep as Reynolds talks to Rachel Weisz’s character. Then, we don’t get any more lines from him until he non-maliciously causes the virtual ruin of Reynolds’ career while in the hospital.

Speaking of Weisz, it seems as if every film I’ve seen her in lately has been a small role for her that really is a waste of her true talents. I realize that she isn’t a major character here…or is she? It would have been nice to have gotten a little more from her, in my opinion.

The whole sex ed thing was funny, but you have to wonder what teacher would be teaching sex ed to 10 yr olds?!?

Definitely, Maybe is actually a nice little surprise for me this year. I was not expecting this to be an entertaining flick. For some reason, I was expecting this to be one of those tear-jerker type of films that populate the market. I can’t tell you how relieved I was that this didn’t go that route, although there were a couple of times I thought it was going to. Do I recommend this? Yes, it is a definitely a good watch and can be enjoyed by all, but sorry ladies, Ryan doesn’t take his shirt off!

4 out of 5 stars

Rango

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Rango, a pet chameleon (Johnny Depp), becomes accidentally stranded in the Mojave Desert after his terrarium falls from his owner’s car. After meeting an armadillo named Roadkill (Alfred Molina) who is seeking the mystical Spirit of the West, he narrowly avoids being eaten by a hawk. The next day, after having a surreal nightmare, he meets a desert iguana Beans (Isla Fisher), a rancher’s daughter, who takes him to Dirt, an Old West town populated by desert animals.

Beans discovers that the water reserves, stored in a water-cooler bottle in the bank, are dangerously low. At the Gas Can Saloon, Rango, using bravado and improvisation to fit in, presents himself as a tough drifter. He quickly runs afoul of outlaw Bad Bill (Ray Winstone), narrowly avoiding a shootout when the hawk returns, scaring Bill. The hawk chases Rango until by luck Rango kills the predator by crushing it under an empty water tower he’s accidentally made collapse. In response, Mayor Tortoise John (Ned Beatty) appoints Rango the new sheriff. A skeptical Beans demands Rango investigate the water problem while the townsfolk worry that the hawk was the only thing keeping gunslinger Rattlesnake Jake from returning to terrorize them.

That night, Rango inadvertently gives some mole robbers the location of the bank and tools to break into the vault. When the townsfolk find their water stolen, Rango organizes a posse that finds bank manager Mr.Merrimack (Stephen Root) dead. They eventually track the robbers to their mountain hideout, only for their leader, Balthazar (Harry Dean Stanton), to reveal that his clan of moles, prairie dogs and others greatly outnumbers the posse. Nabbing the covered wagon water-bottle, the posse flees, chased in a ground and air fight before discovering the bottle is empty. Despite the robbers professing that they’d discovered it empty, the posse returns them to town for trial.

After Rango and Beans deduce that the Mayor has been buying all the nearby land around, Rango recalls the mayor telling him how controlling water equals control of everything. He confronts the mayor, who denies he has done anything wrong and shows Rango that he is building a modern city on the old land. With no proof of the mayor’s wrongdoing, Rango leaves, while the mayor orders one of his men to call Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) — who soon arrives, firing shots with his gatling gun tail. Recognizing that Rango is a fake, Jake runs him out of town after humiliating him and making him admit that everything he told the town about himself is a lie.

Ashamed and no longer knowing who he is, Rango wanders the desert and in a daze meets the Spirit of the West (Timothy Olyphant), a cowboy whom Rango calls the Man with No Name. The Spirit inspires Rango and tells him, “No man can walk out on his own story.” With the aid of Roadkill and mystical moving cacti, Rango learns the source of Dirt’s water is Las Vegas, and that someone has shut off a water line. Realizing the mayor’s hand in this, Rango recruits the hill clan in his plan.

Returning to town, he calls out Jake for a duel — a diversion so that the hill folk and the cacti can flood the town with water. The mayor threatens Beans’ life, forcing Rango to surrender. The two are put into the bank vault to drown, while the mayor prepares to shoot Jake, whom he calls a relic. However, Rango manages to take the only bullet from the gun and uses it to break the door of the vault, flooding the room and taking out the mayor and his men. Jake, acknowledging Rango as a worthy opponent for saving his life, grabs the mayor and drags him into the desert to take his revenge. The citizens of Dirt celebrate the return of the water and acknowledge Rango as their hero.

Throughout the film, an owl mariachi band provides commentary that breaks the fourth wall.

REVIEW:

 I just came back from watching this film, and I have to say that all the positive praise everyone has been giving it is well worth it. Rango is a fun family film that keeps everyone entertained, but it isn’t perfect.

Fist of all, let me bow down to the genius decision to not put this in 3D. In this day when almost every film, especially animated family fare is forced down our throats with those rental glasses and the extra $$$$, it was great to go to film that was just there with no gimmicks or anything, though, I think it could have easily fallen into the 3D trap.

The film is about a lizard, apparently a chameleon, who has lived his life in a glass tank, but thanks to some roadkill, he is thrown out the window and is free to roam, which leads to the majority of the film. After his abrupt newly found freedom, the nameless lizard is told to wander the desert and happens across the town of Dirt, becomes the sheriff through some colorful stories, and eventually becomes the town’s savior.

Now, there is some more stuff between all that, but you have to see the film to find out what it is.

Let me start with the bad. It is no secret that I dislike films that start off slow and/or lag in the middle, and unfortunately Rango suffers from that affliction. This film also comes off as a bit predictable or formulaic. This is most apparent when Rango’s secret is revealed. I mean, why is it he deceit had to be discovered? Would someone tell me that? These people needed something to believe in, and it was more than apparent in the opening scene that Rango was a bit of an actor, or so he thinks. So, what harm would it have been for him to go on playing this character and giving the people something to believe in. I seriously saw nothing wrong with that.

On the other side, this is some of the best animation I’ve seen in quite some time. Not to take anything away from other animated masterpieces, but the detail in this film just takes it to another level. Some will say that these characters were made to look a little dirty and freaky. That may be the case, but take a look at the people in westerns such as The Magnificent Seven. These people aren’t exactly pictures of cleanliness and perfection. The animators took this idea and translated it to these animals.

This story isn’t exactly original. As a matter of fact, it seemed to be a nod to Clint Eastwood’s Man with no name trilogy. You know, the films that include The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, for instance. They even make as blatant a reference as one can near the end.  It’s quite interesting and surprising when you see it, let me tell you.

Character design was great. I already mentioned the look of the townspeople, but I have to talk about 3 characters in particular. The little girl, who I think was an opossum had to be one of the most detailed characters in the picture, save for maybe Rattlesnake Jake. Beans was interesting because I still don’t know exactly what she was supposed to be. My theory is she’s one of those weird creatures like Gonzo from the Muppets that we’re just supposed to keep wondering WTF?!?, but I could be wrong. Finally, Rango…I heard/read somewhere that it is believed he was based on the poster for another Johnny Depp film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I had to actually look  at the poster to see for myself, and in comparing the two, I do see it, though I’m not so sure that was the intent.

If you’ve ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, then you know about that scene where there isn’t much of anything except the twisted notions in the mind of Jack Sparrow. Well, we get the same thing here with Rango’s twisted psyche, but seeing as how most o the crew worked on both films, should we have been surprised. Thing is, I think it worked better in animation form.

The voice casting is top-notch, with named like Depp, Bill Nighy, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Ned Beatty, Isla Fisher, and a cameo from Timothy Olyphant, they could do no wrong.

I want to lightly touch on the mariachi owls. These guys were great narrators, though in the first appearance, the trumpet player’s valves were stuck. Hey, I play trumpet, you think I’m not going to notice that?

Finally, let me talk about this water shortage thing that was the major plot point of this film. As I was watching this, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was some sort of political statement that the filmmakers were making, or if they just wanted to use water as currency. I mean, the used a giant water cooler for the town bank and there was this weird ritualistic dance sequence in front of a spigot, so that idea went out the window, but it is worth mentioning.

Rango isn’t as kid-friendly as some of the other recently released animated films, but it isn’t as hardcore as say, Beowulf (which technically isn’t a family film) or A Christmas Carol. Still, it is a great time to be had by all with fun, excitement, and even subtle references to classic western cinema. Although I wish it would have been funnier, I highly recommend Rango to any and everyone!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Zombieland

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film takes place within a post-apocalyptic America, two months after a zombie apocalypse has been triggered.

College student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) is on his way to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents are still alive. He loses his car in an accident and encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) who is on a quest to find Twinkies. They travel together and when they stop at a grocery store, they meet two sisters, Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). The sisters con them into handing over their weapons and steal their vehicle. The two men walk and soon find a truck loaded with weapons. They then meet the girls again, who attempt to take the truck, their vehicle having broken down. Columbus proposes a truce and suggests they travel together.

Columbus tells Wichita he is heading home to Columbus, Ohio. But she blurts out that it has been burned to the ground and is overrun by zombies. He decides instead to stay with the group. Wichita tells Columbus that she is taking Little Rock to “Pacific Playland” in Los Angeles, an amusement park rumored to be zombie-free.

On the way to the park, they pass through Hollywood and Tallahassee decides to take them to Bill Murray’s mansion. Tallahassee and Wichita meet Murray himself, uninfected but disguised as a zombie with make-up so that he can walk safely among the infected and play golf without being bothered. Little Rock is unfamiliar with Bill Murray so Columbus shows her the film Ghostbusters. Murray later enters in order to scare Columbus and Little Rock as a practical joke, but Columbus — thinking he is a real zombie — shoots and kills him.

After a makeshift funeral, Columbus realizes Tallahassee has been grieving over his young son, lost to the zombies, rather than his pet dog as he had earlier led Columbus to believe. Wichita begins developing feelings for Columbus and fearing attachment, she leaves with Little Rock for Pacific Playland. Columbus decides to go after Wichita, and he and Tallahassee, who initially refuses, pursue the sisters in one of Murray’s vehicles.

Wichita and Little Rock arrive at Pacific Playland and turn on all the rides and lights, attracting nearby zombies. A battle ensues, leaving the sisters trapped on a drop tower ride and running low on ammunition. Tallahassee and Columbus arrive just as the sisters’ ammunition is depleted. Tallahassee manages to lure the majority away, then intentionally locks himself in a game booth while Columbus goes after the sisters. Columbus saves the girls and in thanks, Wichita reveals her real name to him. The two share their first kiss. Tallahassee eliminates the remaining zombies single-handedly and gets a Twinkie that Little Rock had acquired. Columbus comes to the realization that this is the only family he needs, and the four leave Pacific Playland together.

REVIEW:

When I first saw the trailer for this flick, I initially thought it was just some sort of random horror film and had no intention on seeing it as I’m not really that into horror, but it turned out that this was more of a comedy than a tried and true horror film. After I found that out, my interest shot up 100 fold.

There was a time when zombies were as popular as vampires are today. Not sure what happened, but they lost that hold over pop culture. Hopefully Zombieland will be the start to them dethroning the vampires.

Of course, I say that as if the zombies are the major characters in this flick, but the fact is they mainly appear in the beginning and in the climactic final scene, with a few thrown in here and there. For a film about a zombie apocalypse, one would think there would be more.

3/4 of the cast is awesome. Emma Stone sheds a bit of her hotness for this role and comes off as a bit of a cold, focused, hard woman who only thinks of surviving and protection her sister. Speaking of her sister, Abigail Breslin is perfectly cast. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that these two were sisters. Although, I do think that she could have been used a bit more, but given the pacing o the film and whatnot, it was enough.

Woody Harrelson steals the show as Jacksonville. This guy lives to kill zombies and has some sort of obsession with Dale Earnhardt since he paints the #3 on every vehicle he obtains. He is also obsessed with Twinkies. Somewhere I heard that if ever there was any type of apocalypse, Twinkies and roaches would survive. I didn’t see any roaches in this picture, but there sure were a ton of those sno-ball things, but Twinkies were a little less abundant.

Jesse Eisenberg, who is supposed to be the “star” of the film is also the weak link. He just doesn’t sell me on his character. It was like he was trying to be Michael Cera-esque, but not making it look that way. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work,

Bill Murray made a surprise appearance playing himself, and was a pleasant surprise. I have to wonder if he could have had a bigger role had he not been shot because he was trying to play a prank on Little Rock and Columbus.

Columbus’ rules are a good addition and moving plot point, but it would have been nice if they would have popped up a list in the screen with all of them on there, even if it was after the credits or something.

The thing that bothers me the most about this flick is they never really say what caused the apocalypse. Apparently, it just happened. Columbus even says so in his opening narration. If this is true, one would think they’d have found some way to reverse the effects or find out what happened. Also, I find it hard to belive that these are the only 4 people (5 if you count Bill Murray) left in the country that aren’t zombies. Someone else has to be out there. I guess that’s going to be addressed in the sequel.

I all but knew I was going to love this flick. I probably could have loved it been more, had Jesse Eisenberg not been in it, but that’s just me. He really kills the film for me. Everything else clicks on all cylinders. The zombies look about as real as zombies can look. While this picture is bloody, there isn’t much gore. Still it isn’t for everyone. Die hard horror fans aren’t ging to like it because it isn’t serious enough, for instance, but they can go watch an actual horror film for that. I highly recommend this picture to you all, and hope that if it is you cup of tea, you’ll give it a shot.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars