Archive for Alan Rickman

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Posted in Action/Adventure, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this trippy sequel to the 2010 blockbuster “Alice in Wonderland,” young Alice returns from several years at sea and again passes through to the magical landscape, where she ends up journeying into the past to try to save the Mad Hatter.

What people are saying:

“A solid kids’ movie in the old style. One with something to say about something real – family and time- and a willingness to admit consequences, even as it serves up goofy humor, mild thrills, and slippy-slidey accents from slumming stars.” 2 stars

“It deviated from the actual book, but that doesn’t mean it was not entertaining. It had good messages about positive attitudes for women not to be victims of circumstance. A much needed improvement from much of the stuff many kids are watching now. ” 5 stars

“The charm found in the first Alice in Wonderland is definitely missing in the sequel. The story is a mix match of going in the past future time etc. The plot that is way too confusing for most children even some adults. The acting isn’t anything great most of the actors you can tell look like they’re in front of a green screen. Some of the special effects were nice and there’s some creativity to be found in this movie but in the end it just didn’t come together very well.” 2 stars

“I never read the Alice in Wonderland books, but I doubt this is one of them. Yes, it has that zany twisted quality you expect in Wonderland, but there is a theme running through the movie that gives it a scifi depth, “Why can’t I go back in time and change the past?” Most of the characters from the first movie are back and Cohen’s Time fits in Wonderfully. ” 5 stars

“the most offensive kind of film…one that spends an enormous amount of money yet seems to have nothing on its mind but money. You give it, they take it. And you get nothing in return but assurances that you’re seeing magic and wonder. The movie keeps repeating it in your ear, and flashing it onscreen in big block letters: MAGIC AND WONDER. MAGIC AND WONDER. But there is no magic, no wonder, just junk rehashed from a movie that was itself a rehash of Lewis Carroll, tricked out with physically unpersuasive characters and landscapes and ‘action scenes’, with blockbuster ‘journey movie’ tropes affixed to every set-piece as blatantly as Post-It Notes” 1 star

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2009, an elderly Cecil Gaines recounts his life story, while waiting at the White House to meet the newly inaugurated president.

In 1926, at the age of seven, Gaines is raised on a cotton plantation in Macon, Georgia, by his sharecropping parents. One day, the farm’s owner, Thomas Westfall, rapes Cecil’s mother, Hattie Pearl. Cecil’s father confronts Westfall, and is shot dead. Cecil is taken in by Annabeth Westfall, the estate’s caretaker and owner’s grandmother, who trains Cecil as a house servant.

In 1937, at age eighteen, he leaves the plantation and his mother, who has been mute since the incident and presumably dies of old age by the time the plantation shuts down. One night, Cecil breaks into a hotel pastry shop and is, unexpectedly, hired. He learns advanced skills from the master servant, Maynard, who, after several years, recommends Cecil for a position in a Washington D.C. hotel. While working at the D.C. hotel, Cecil meets and marries Gloria, and the couple have two sons: Louis and Charlie. In 1957, Cecil is hired by the White House during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration. White House maître d’ Freddie Fallows shows Cecil around, introducing him to head butler Carter Wilson and co-worker James Holloway. At the White House, Cecil witnesses Eisenhower’s reluctance to use troops to enforce school desegregation in the South, then his resolve to uphold the law by racially integrating Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.

The Gaines family celebrates Cecil’s new occupation with their neighbors, Howard and Gina. Louis, the elder son, becomes a first generation university student at Fisk University in Tennessee, although Cecil feels that the South is too volatile; he wanted Louis to enroll at Howard University instead. Louis joins a student program led by Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) activist James Lawson, which leads to a nonviolent sit-in at a segregated diner, where he is arrested. Furious, Cecil confronts Louis for disobeying him. Gloria, who feels that Cecil puts his job ahead of her, descends into alcoholism and an affair with the Gaines’s neighbor, Howard.

In 1961, after John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, Louis and a dozen others are attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan as well as people wearing Nazi uniforms. while traveling on a bus in Alabama. Louis is shown participating in the 1963 Birmingham Children’s Crusade, where dogs and water cannons were used to stop the marchers, one of the movement’s actions which inspired Kennedy to deliver a national address proposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Several months after the speech, Kennedy is assassinated. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, enacts the transformative legislation into law. As a goodwill gesture, Jackie Kennedy gives Cecil one of the former president’s neckties before she leaves the White House.

Louis is later shown participating in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement, which inspired Johnson to demand that Congress enact the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson also gives Cecil a tie bar.

In the late 1960s, after civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Louis visits and tells his family that he has joined the Black Panthers. Outraged, Cecil orders Louis and his girlfriend, Carol, to leave his house. Louis is soon arrested, and Carter bails him out. Cecil becomes aware of President Richard Nixon’s plans to suppress the movement.

The Gaines’ other son, Charlie, confides to Louis that he plans to join the Army in the war in Vietnam. Louis announces that he won’t attend Charlie’s funeral if he is killed there because while Louis sees Americans as multiple races, Charlie sees the country as one race. A few months later, Charlie is killed and buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Louis does not attend. However, when the Black Panthers resort to violence in response to racial confrontations, Louis leaves the organization and returns to college, earning his master’s degree in political science and eventually running for a seat in Congress.

Meanwhile, Cecil confronts his supervisor at the White House over the unequal pay and career advancement provided to the black White House staff. With President Ronald Reagan’s support, he prevails, and his professional reputation grows to the point that he and his wife are invited by President and Nancy Reagan to be guests at a state dinner. Yet at the dinner and afterwards, Cecil becomes increasingly uncomfortable with the class divisions in the White House. Finally, after witnessing Reagan’s refusal to support economic sanctions against South Africa, he resigns. Afterwards, Cecil and Gloria visit the Georgia plantation where he was raised, which by then had long been abandoned.

Gloria, wanting Cecil to mend his relationship with Louis, reveals to him that Louis has told her that he loves and respects them both. Realizing his son’s actions are heroic, Cecil joins Louis at a Free South Africa Movement protest against South African apartheid, and they are arrested and jailed together.

In 2008, Gloria dies shortly before Barack Obama is elected as the nation’s first African-American president, a milestone which leaves Cecil and Louis in awe. Two months, two weeks and one day later, Cecil prepares to meet the newly inaugurated President at the White House, wearing the articles he had received from presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A man approaches Cecil and tells him the president is ready and shows him the way to the Oval office. Cecil tells the man that he knows the way and as he walks down the hallway the voices of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson are heard which later fade away as president Barack Obama’s famous “Yes we can” quote can be heard as Cecil walks through the doors of the Oval office.

REVIEW:

When Lee Daniels’ The Butler was released a couple of years ago, there was much talk about how it would be received, partially because this was another historical race-based film that seemed to be tailor-made for a run at the Oscar. All that talk subsided, though, when people actually watched the film and realized that it wasn’t as racially motivated as they were led to believe. If race isn’t the driving force of this picture, then let’s find out what is, shall we?

What is this about?

Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker delivers a powerful performance as Cecil Gaines, who served as the White House butler under eight presidents. His three decades of service unfold against a backdrop of unparalleled change in American history.

What did I like?

Longevity. The timeline of this film is from the late 20s to 2009 (or somewhere around that time). In that time span, our lead character became a butler at the White House in the early 50s, during Eisenhower’s administration, and was steadily employed there until the end of the Reagan era, and still kept spy until his death is 2010. Sakes alive! We can only wish for that type of longevity, right?

History. As I said, this isn’t a race film, but you can’t go through 80 something years without hitting the racial strife and turmoil in this country’s history, especially when the main character is a black man. As such, we get to see the Civil Rights movement, rise of the Black Panther party, Voting Rights Movement, etc. These have little to no effect on Forest Whitaker’s character directly, save for the Civil Rights movement, but his son is involved in them all, which causes an interesting subplot of family drama.

Silence speaks words. It took me awhile to recognize who Whitaker’s mom was in the first scenes, but as it turns out, she is that great actress, Mariah Carey! Ok, I’m being a little facetious, but Carey does give a really good performance…and she doesn’t say a word. The plantation owner takes and rapes her, and the other couple of scenes she’s in are silence. Her silence, though, speaks volumes as to how she was affected. Mariah is good at these small, but powerfully dramatic roles. Maybe she can graduate to bigger ones, soon.

What didn’t I like?

Spitting image. I’m really not sure what to think of the casting of the presidents in this film. With the exception of Robin Williams and John Cusack, they all resemble their counterpart (with the aid of makeup), but I still wonder if someone just pulled names out of a hat and said they should be this person. How else do you explain Alan Rickman as Ronald Regan or Liev Shrieber as Lyndon B. Johnson? I will give credit to John Cusack and James Marsden, they were pretty good at bringing their characters to life, despite not really resembling them.

Comment on Hollywood? Halfway through the picture, I noticed that a good chunk of black Hollywood was in this film. Some of the bigger names are missing (Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Queen Latifah,  Angela Bassett, etc.), but I have a feeling they were at least contacted. Here’s the thing, what does it say about Hollywood when everytime there is a film that casts a chunk of black actors, it is the same handful? Case in point…there is a scene in which Oprah and Terrence Howard are talking about hooking up. Funny thing is that they were husband and wife a few years back in The Princess and the FrogA good chunk of the cast starred in Red Tails and Oprah and Forrest Whitaker seem to be joined at the hip. Just some food for thought.

Underrated support. Most people know Lenny Kravitz as musician, but he’s been making a name for himself on the big screen, most notably in the Hunger Games franchise. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that he is a level-headed fellow butler who seems to have his pulse on the world outside. A stark contrast to the fast-talking, smooth ladies man that is Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character. What strikes me as odd, though, is that neither of these guys gets any recognition for their fine performances. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know they were in here until they appeared on the screen, yet I knew Vanessa Redgrave had a tiny part at the beginning. Definitely underrated performances, if you ask me, and they deserve more respect for what they accomplished.

So, Lee Daniels’ The Butler…what did I think of it? Well, first of all, it is a very fine piece of modern cinema. It manages to keep the audience captivated from start to finish, which is a hard task, especially with this subject matter and over a vast amount of years. That being said, I feel this film may have spent a little too much time with the oldest son, as opposed to giving the youngest a little time to shine and/or focusing on the titular character. That said, I do recommend this. However, for me, it is a bit too heavy to watch more than one time. If I feel the need to check it out again, I’ll just find some clips.

5 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Dogma

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Bartleby (Affleck) and Loki (Damon) are fallen angels, banished for eternity from Heaven to Wisconsin for insubordination after an inebriated Loki (with Bartleby’s encouragement) resigned as the Angel of Death. When the trendy Cardinal Glick (Carlin) announces that he is rededicating his cathedral in Red Bank, New Jersey in the image of the “Buddy Christ”, the angels see their salvation: Anyone entering the cathedral during the rededication festivities will receive a plenary indulgence; all punishment for sin will be remitted, permitting direct entry into Heaven. They receive encouragement from an unexpected source: Azrael (Lee), a demon, once a Muse, also banished from Heaven (for refusing to take sides in the battle between God and Lucifer); and the Stygian Triplets (Barret Hackney, Jared Pfennigwerth, and Kitao Sakurai), three teenage hoodlums who serve Azrael in Hell.

Bethany Sloane (Fiorentino)—a despondent, infertile, divorced abortion clinic employee—attends a service at her church in Illinois. Donations are being solicited to help a hospitalized, comatose homeless man—known only as John Doe Jersey (Cort)—who was beaten senseless outside a skee ball arcade in New Jersey by the Triplets. Later that day, Metatron (Rickman)—the Voice of God—appears to Bethany in a pillar of fire and declares that she is the last relative of Jesus Christ. He explains that Bartleby and Loki cannot be allowed to succeed: By re-entering Heaven, they would be overruling the word of God, thereby disproving the fundamental concept of God’s omnipotence, and nullifying all of existence. She, together with two prophets who will appear to her, must stop the angels and save the universe.

Now a target, Bethany is attacked by the Triplets, and is rescued by the two foretold prophets—drug-dealing stoners named Jay and Silent Bob (Mewes and Smith). Azrael then summons a Golgothan (a vile creature made of human excrement) to find and kill Bethany, but Silent Bob immobilizes it with aerosol deodorant. Other allies in Bethany’s mission are Rufus (Rock), the thirteenth apostle (never mentioned in the Bible, he says, because he is black), and Serendipity (Hayek), a Muse with writer’s block.

On a train to New Jersey, a drunken Bethany reveals her mission to Bartleby, who tries to kill her; a melee ensues, and Silent Bob throws the angels off the train. Bartleby and Loki now realize the potential consequences of their scheme; and while Loki wants no part of destroying all existence, Bartleby remains angry at God for his expulsion—and for granting free will to humans while demanding servitude of angels—and to Loki’s horror, resolves to proceed.

Bethany and her allies discuss the situation: Who is really behind the angels’ plan, and why has God not intervened? Metatron explains that God’s whereabouts are unknown; he disappeared while visiting New Jersey in human form to play skee ball. At the cathedral, the group attempts in vain to persuade Cardinal Glick to cancel the celebration; Jay angrily steals Glick’s golf club.

At a nearby bar, Azrael captures Bethany and her protectors and reveals that he is the mastermind behind the angels’ plan—he would rather not exist at all than spend eternity in Hell. Silent Bob kills Azrael with Glick’s blessed golf club. Serendipity tells Bethany to bless the bar sink, turning its contents to holy water, and Jay, Rufus and Serendipity drown the Triplets in it. Bartleby and Loki reach the cathedral; Bartleby kills all the celebrants, and when Loki attempts to stop him he tears off Loki’s wings, making him mortal. When the protectors block Bartleby’s entry into the church, Bartleby kills Loki and fights off Rufus, Serendipity and Bob, but as he flees, Jay shoots off his wings with a machine gun.

During his latest of several attempts to seduce Bethany, Jay mentions John Doe Jersey. Realizing that the homeless man is the mortal form that God assumed, Bethany and Bob race to the hospital. Bethany disconnects John Doe’s life support, liberating God, but killing herself. As Bartleby again attempts to enter the cathedral, God manifests before him as a woman (Morissette), and kills him with the power of her voice. When Bob arrives with Bethany’s lifeless body, God resurrects her and conceives a child within her womb. God, Metatron, Rufus, and Serendipity return to Heaven, leaving Bethany and the two prophets to reflect on what has happened.

REVIEW:

Sometimes when I watch a film that was released in my lifetime, I don’t look back on it with nostalgic longing, but instead I am in awe of how far the cast and crew have come (or fallen) since its release. Dogma was the last time Ben Affleck did a Kevin Smith film., until he was brought back in for Jersey Girl and there was a cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back2 as a matter of fact). For this one, he even brought in his buddy Matt Damon. The two of them haven’t worked or have been seen together since, that I can recall. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for this film, but maybe that was just a falling out behind the scenes.

What is this about?

Fallen angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck), a gnarly demon (Jason Lee) and a half-baked apostle (Chris Rock) walk among America’s cynics and innocents and duke it out for humankind’s fate in director Kevin Smith’s 1999 comic meditation on religion. A modern-day battle against evil takes place in suburban New Jersey, after an abortion clinic worker (Linda Fiorentino) gets a higher calling from two clueless prophets (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith).

What did I like?

Religious satire. Hard to believe in this era where everything offends everyone that people actually had a sense of humor. Religion is one of the institutions that tends to be held to a higher standard. No one really touches it , especially the Catholic faith. Kevin Smith, though, had the balls to take on the church and their rules. All throughout the film, characters joke about how depressing it is to go to church, how Catholics think they are the only ones that are right, etc. It is true that this could not be done with another religion, like say Islam, but Smith, being a Catholic, himself makes jokes that come from the heart and aren’t meant to be malicious and that may be why this film succeeds in its humor.

Story. Two angels get kicked out of heaven and have to live on Earth for eternity, in Wisconsin! Azrael, a demon, plots to get them back in, thus negating all of existence just so he can stop living in torture. With God missing, thanks to being mugged while playing skeeball, the only one that can stop all of this is the last Scion, a couple of prophets, the 13 th apostle, and a muse. Sounds a bit far-fetched, but Smith is such a capable writer and this cast has enough talent and chemistry, that this insane story, which should have been a disaster, comes together brilliantly. I do wonder, though…the angels were banished after Sodom and Gomorrah. That was way before Wisconsin was any near becoming a state. Did they just get banished to the woods, or whatever was up there, until it became Wisconsin? I’ve always wondered that.

No one is safe! Not only does Smith attack the Catholics, he goes after atheists, pro-life/pro-choice, feminists, racism, etc. I think the only group he didn’t get were politicians. In attacking everyone, Smith shows that he is an equal opportunity offender, not just one joke that lasts for two hours. “Variety is the spice of life!” they say and that applies towards comedy, as well.

What didn’t I like?

Fading chemistry. As I mentioned in my opening, there was a time when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were inseparable. I believe that it was around the time of this film that we started to see them go their separate ways. It is obvious that something changed in their dynamic as the film progresses because they maybe have a handful of scene in which they are both on the screen. The few scenes in which they are both on, it is like an uncomfortable dinner with your ex who you just broke up with. Maybe I’m just seeing something that isn’t there, though.

Lead, lady, lead. Call me crazy, but I feel that a leading actress should make you take notice of her, regardless of what her character’s characteristics are. Linda Fiorentino doesn’t really do that. Nothing about this woman is particularly special, and that may be why she was cast. As a leading lady, though…well, there’s a reason she hasn’t been in more stuff. She is constantly overshadowed by the rest of the cast and, if not for her character being so necessary to this plot, one has to wonder why she’s even around. Since Janeane Garofalo made a quick appearance, I wonder if she would have made for a better leading lady, or perhaps one of Smith’s usuals from the ViewAskew-verse?

Alanis? The thought of a female version of God scares some people. That was part of the controversy surrounding that song in the 90s, “One of Us”. Chris Rock’s character sums it up best when he says God isn’t a she or he, not anything. In essence, he says God is what you make him out to be. Apparently, Kevin Smith thinks Alanis Morissette is God. Some people would have picked Charlton Heston, Lynard Skynard, Ronald Regan, Morgan Freeman John Ritter, etc. Myself, I’d have gone with Louis Armstrong. I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste. Why she was skipping around like a flower child is a mystery to us all, though.

Kevin Smith has said he feels Dogma is one of his most personal films. If I’m not mistaken, this is also his first film to not be released as an independent. My final thoughts on it are it does what it sets out to do, make a smart satire about Catholic dogma and the way Smith feels about, having grown up in the church. Will people be offended if they watch this? Probably, and other will enjoy the ludicrous situations. It all is a matter of personal opinion and tastes. Do I recommend it? If you’re a conservative bible-beater, this is not for you. I’ll say that right away. For everyone else, this is a fun ride from start to finish with interesting and insane situations as well as an inspired story. Yes, I do recommend it, very highly as a matter of fact!

4 out of 5 stars

 

Revisited: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

One Thursday morning, Arthur Dent discovers that his house is to be immediately demolished to make way for a bypass. He tries delaying the bulldozers by lying down in front of them. Ford Prefect, a friend of Arthur’s, convinces him to go to the pub with him. Over a pint of beer (as “muscle relaxant”), Ford explains that he is an alien from a planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and a journalist working on the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a universal guide book, and that the Earth is to be demolished later that day by a race called Vogons, to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Suddenly, a Vogon Constructor Fleet appears in the sky and destroys the planet. Ford saves himself and Arthur by hitching a ride on a Vogon ship. The two are found and forced to listen to poetry. They are then thrown out of an airlock, but are picked up by the starship Heart of Gold. They find Ford’s “semi-half brother” Zaphod Beeblebrox, the President of the Galaxy. He has stolen the ship along with Tricia “Trillian” McMillan, an Earth woman whom Arthur had met previously, and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

Zaphod explains that he is seeking the planet Magrathea, where he believes he can discover the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything to match with the answer “42” given by the supercomputer Deep Thought. Zaphod stole the Heart of Gold to use its improbability drive to get to Magrathea through trial and error.

During one of these attempts, they end up on the planet Viltvodle VI. Zaphod decides to visit Humma Kavula, his opponent from the election. Upon learning of Zaphod’s plan, Kavula announces that he has the coordinates to Magrathea. He takes one of Zaphod’s two heads hostage and demands they bring him the Point-of-view gun created by Deep Thought, which allows the target to understand the shooter’s point of view. As they are leaving the planet, Trillian is captured by Vogons. The others travel to rescue her from the Vogon home world bureaucracy, facing long lines and frustrating form processing. Trillian is outraged to learn that Zaphod signed the authorisation for the destruction of Earth thinking it was a request for an autograph.

The Heart of Gold is chased by the Vogons, led by Galactic Vice-President Questular Rontok, who is attempting to rescue Zaphod from himself. As the Heart of Gold arrives in orbit above Magrathea, Arthur triggers the improbability drive to avoid the automated missile defence systems. The missiles transform into a bowl of petunias and a sperm whale.

On the planet, Zaphod, Ford, and Trillian take a portal to Deep Thought. When they ask the computer whether it has calculated the ultimate question, it reveals that it designed another supercomputer to do so—Earth. When the trio finds the Point-of-View gun, Trillian shoots Zaphod, making him understand how she feels about the destruction of Earth. She also finds out how much she loves Arthur. Arthur and Marvin miss the portal and encounter a Magrathean called Slartibartfast, who takes Arthur on a tour of the construction floor where Earth Mark II is being built. Slartibartfast takes Arthur home, where the others are enjoying a feast provided by pan-dimensional beings who resemble a pair of mice. Arthur realises he has fallen into a trap. The mice, who constructed Deep Thought, used the supercomputer to build an even larger supercomputer, the planet Earth, to determine the Ultimate Question. Believing Arthur, the last remaining supercomputer component, may hold the Ultimate Answer, the mice attempt to remove his brain. Arthur kills the mice.

As the crew regroup outside the house they are surrounded by Vogons and take shelter in a caravan as the Vogons open fire. Marvin is left outside and shot in the back of the head, and uses the Point-of-View gun on the Vogons, causing them to become depressed and unable to fight. As the Vogons are taken away and Questular rejoins with Zaphod, Arthur chooses to explore the galaxy with Trillian and lets Slartibartfast finalise the new Earth without him. The Heart of Gold crew decide to visit the Restaurant at the End of the Universe while Marvin points out they are going the wrong way.

REVIEW:

Everyone has those movies that they can watch over and over again, no matter what mood they are in or how good or bad the film is. One of these films for me is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I loved the book and the film, while a bit of a departure from the source is ranked among my all time favorites. Will it be one of yours?

What is this about?

After learning his house is about to be leveled to make way for a bypass and that Earth is about to be destroyed to clear the way for an interstellar thruway, jinxed Arthur Dent survives by hitching a ride on a passing spacecraft.

What did I like?

Zooey. I believe this is the film where I fell in love with Zooey Deschanel, or maybe it was Elf. I’m not 100% sure, but at any rate she has always been a cutie in my book. This character she plays, Trillian, is a bit more grounded and serious than we are used to seeing from the quirky and free-spirited Deschanel, and yet she makes her a likable character who may actually be the deepest character in the film.

Guide. For those that haven’t read the book, fret not because the guide, voiced by Stephen Fry, is read to you in animated vignettes and voice overs. The very first time I saw this film, I had not read the book and the voice-overs not only helped me keep up with everything, but also inspired me to go read the book. I’m sure that I’m not the only person to have that urge, nor will I be the last to have the inkling.

Devices. Any fantastical sci-fi film is sure to have great gadgets and devices, right? Well, no exception to that rule here. Two such devices stand out above everything, the Improbability drive which changes things to the most improbable objects (there is also an Infinite Improbability Drive which allows the ship to travel faster than light speed) and the point of view gun which allows the person holding it to send their point of view to someone else. I’m sure there are more than a few women who would love to shoot this at their husbands!

What didn’t I like?

Best of the best. Some of the best parts of the film are the parts that don’t get as much, such as Alan Rickman voicing Marvin the Robot. As much of a downer as Marvin is, you can’t help but want to see more of him. John Malkovich’s Humma Kavula was darkly odd and he basically is nothing more than a cameo. Perhaps they were holding him off for a bigger role in the sequel that never happened, or more scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast was also of note. While he wasn’t the best character, Night is always entertaining. These are just some of the examples of underutilized talent.

Towel. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t believe the importance of the towel was ever discussed. If such a big deal is going to be made over having a towel while hitchhiking across the galaxy, shouldn’t we know what is so important about it? Other than being able to chase Vogons away with it, I don’t think any reference was made to its use. Would it have been too much to ask for them to tell us why is it necessary?

Pacing. At times, the flick slows down, which is fine, I guess, but it does this at the most inopportune times. Just as the audience is getting into one story, such as the Vogons addiction to paperwork, it just prattles on with filler until the next big scene. Perhaps this is a British thing, but my American sensibilities didn’t quite jibe with the pacing.

What else can I say about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? The mix of sci-fi, comedy, action, and a hint of drama make for quite the enjoyable film, if I do say so myself. Sadly, this overlooked film never got the sequel it deserved because it didn’t make as much money as the studios would have liked. So, do I recommend this film? Do you really need to ask? I highly recommend this gem as a must see before you die! Check it out and enjoy!

5 out of 5 stars

CBGB

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

CBGB follows the story of Hilly Kristal’s New York club from its conceit as a venue for Country, Bluegrass and Blues (CBGB) to what it ultimately became: the birthplace of underground rock ‘n roll and punk. When Kristal had difficulty booking country bands in his club on the Bowery he opened his doors to other kinds of rock music. Kristal had one demand of the acts he booked; they could only play original music. No top 40’s, no covers. It was the credo he lived by, support the artist at whatever the cost. Hilly Kristal ironically became known as the godfather of punk giving a chance to such bands as Blondie, Television, Ramones, Talking Heads, Dead Boys and The Police

REVIEW:

I bet you’re thinking to yourself, “What does CBGB stand for?” Well, the answer is County Blue Grass Blues. It just so happens that for about 30-40 years or so, there was a club in New York that specialized in just this sort of thing, but just because it happened doesn’t mean it makes for an interesting film, or does it?

What is this about?

Renewing the legend of one of New York’s most storied nightclubs, this raucous drama features the punk and rock legends who made CBGB famous. While the club’s owner had hoped to open CBGB as a country venue, it soon became something quite different

What did I like?

Music. For a film based about a club that served as a place for many groups to grow their name, debut, or just come and jam, music has to be a major part of this film. If you were thinking there isn’t any music in this film, then I hate to disappoint you. The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, and even The Police, among others, are all populating the airwaves of this film, creating one of those soundtracks any music fan just has to have.

Cast.To say this is an impressive cast would be doing them a disservice. Names like Alan Rickman, Malin Akerman, Rupert Grint, Ashley Greene, and even a fairly small role for Johnny Galecki are sure to strike a chord with the fans. Rickman and Greene in particular shine above and beyond the material they are given and, in the scenes they have together, they have great chemistry.

Dream big. I keep hearing more and more about how the American dream is dead. Well, here we have a guy who was about go into his third bankruptcy, lived in a crappy apartment, and just had everything going the wrong way for him, and yet somehow he was able to pull out his dream of a club, and it turned out to be a humongous success (despite all the issues along the way).

What didn’t I like?

Back to the club. For about 30 minutes of this film, the focus is on Alan Rickman’s character trying to get the Dead Boys signed to a deal. Previous films with similar subject material have shown us that this can be done with an interesting spin, but apparently these filmmakers didn’t get the memo. First of all, this part of the story was just randomly introduced into the storyline and second, I found myself looking at my watch and patiently waiting for this phase to be over and get back to the club, which is what this film is actually about, in case they forgot.

Magazine. The film starts with these two guys in a room deciding they wanted to start a magazine. That is the last we hear about them until they randomly show up interviewing some chick for a reporter job. For me, having them in there doesn’t really make much sense, since they didn’t really have anything to do with the club, Hilly Kristal, or any of the bands. The only good thing may have been the comic book screens between scenes.

Runaway baby. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying to get across that Hilly Kristal was some sort of legend with the opening scene. Baby Hilly wakes up from his crib and just walks out the door and down the road a couple of miles. The next scene we see is grown Hilly being told he needs to stop trying to open a club. What these things have to do with each other, I have no idea, it is about as confusing as it sounds to have a random baby scene like that.

To say I was looking forward to CBGB would be a bit of a lie, but I am always up for hearing about parts of music history. Granted, parts of this film changed what actually happened, but there is still that part of it that is close to what went on back in those days. Sadly, this is not a film I can recommend. I almost want to say check it out for the music, but you can just as easily download the soundtrack and avoid it. Rickman and a few of the other cast members are trying their hardest, but in the end, this is just an incoherent mess that is an insult to the legacy of the real CBGB. Please avoid this film. It is for your own good!

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Die Hard

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 5, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On Christmas Eve, New York City Police officer John McClane arrives in Los Angeles to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly. McClane is driven to the Nakatomi Plaza building for a company Christmas party by limo driver Argyle. While McClane changes clothes, the party is disrupted by the arrival of Hans Gruber and his heavily armed group: Karl, Franco, Tony, Theo, Alexander, Marco, Kristoff, Eddie, Uli, Heinrich, Fritz, and James. The group seize the tower and secure those inside as hostages except for McClane who manages to slip away, barefoot.

Gruber singles out Nakatomi executive Joseph Takagi claiming he intends to teach the Nakatomi Corporation a lesson for its greed. Away from the hostages, Gruber interrogates Takagi for the code to the Nakatomi computer to access the building’s vault. Gruber admits that they are using terrorism as a decoy while they attempt to steal $640 million in bearer bonds in the vault. Takagi refuses to cooperate and is executed by Hans as McClane secretly observes. McClane accidentally gives himself away and is pursued by Tony. McClane manages to kill Tony, taking his weapon and radio. McClane uses the radio to contact the LAPD who send Sgt. Al Powell to investigate, while Hans sends his men to stop McClane. McClane kills Heinrich and Marco and escapes. Powell, finding nothing strange about the building, attempts to leave, but McClane drops Marco’s corpse onto Powell’s car, alerting the LAPD who surround the building. McClane takes Heinrich’s bag containing C-4 explosives and detonators.

The police assault the building with a SWAT team and an armored vehicle. The attack is anticipated and James and Alexander massacre the SWAT team with missiles. McClane uses the C-4 to blow up the building floor occupied by James and Alexander, killing them both. Holly’s coworker Harry Ellis attempts to mediate between Hans and McClane for the return of the detonators. McClane refuses to return them causing Gruber to execute Ellis. While checking the explosives attached to the roof, Gruber is confronted by McClane. Gruber passes himself off as an escaped hostage and is given a gun by McClane. Gruber attempts to shoot McClane but finds that the gun has no bullets. Before McClane can act, Karl, Franco, and Fritz arrive. McClane kills Fritz and Franco, but is forced to flee, leaving the detonators behind.

FBI agents arrive and take command of the police situation outside, ordering the building’s power be shut off. The power loss disables the vault’s final lock as Gruber had anticipated, allowing them to access the bonds. Gruber demands that a helicopter arrive on the roof for transport—his intention is to detonate the explosives on the roof to kill the hostages and to fake the deaths of his men and himself. Karl finds McClane and the two fight. Meanwhile Gruber views a news report by Richard Thornburg that features McClane’s children, causing Gruber to realize that McClane is Holly’s husband. The terrorists order the hostages to the roof, but Gruber takes Holly with him to use against McClane. McClane seemingly kills Karl and heads to the roof. He kills Uli and sends the hostages back downstairs before the explosives detonate, destroying the roof and the FBI helicopter.

Theo goes to the parking garage to retrieve their getaway vehicle but is knocked unconscious by Argyle who had been trapped in the garage during the siege. A weary McClane finds Holly with Gruber and his remaining men and knocks Kristoff unconscious. McClane surrenders his machine gun to spare Holly, but then distracts Gruber and Eddie by laughing, allowing him to grab a concealed handgun taped to his back. McClane kills Eddie and shoots Gruber in the shoulder, sending him crashing through a window. Gruber prevents himself from falling by holding onto Holly by her watch. McClane manages to release the watch and Gruber falls to his death on the street below.

McClane and Holly are escorted from the building and meet Powell in person. Karl emerges from the building disguised as a hostage and attempts to shoot McClane, but he is gunned down by Powell. Argyle crashes through the parking garage door in the limo. Thornburg arrives and attempts to interview McClane, but is punched by Holly. McClane and Holly are driven away by Argyle

REVIEW:

One can never go wrong with some, pardon the pun, “die hard” action. This is what brings me to the classic 80s action flick, Die Hard.

It may come as a surprise to many that I had actually never seen this before. Why is that, you may ask? Well, upon its release, I was too young to see R-movies. Hell, I couldn’t even go to a PG movie by myself back then. Second, I keep thinking about watching these, especially since either Spike or AMC seem to have it on loop, but for some reason I I just don’t think the watered down, er…edited TV version would do it justice, especially after seeing what they did to Crank on Syfy and even how much they watered down a wholesome film like Grease on ABC Family. Strangely enough, though, they seem to leave the Harry Potter movies alone, and even add stuff to those, but that’s a topic for another day.

What is this about? Well, John MacClane, played by Bruce Willis, is visiting his estranged wife in L.A. He arrives at this party straight off the plane and goes upstairs to change clothes. While he is changing, the building is put under siege by a group of (German?) terrorists. Being a cop, MacClane’s hero factor kicks in and, well, he begins to throw a monkey wrench in their plans and become the proverbial thorn in their sides.

No, there isn’t much else to it, but there is lots of action. Remember the days when films actually could do this without a ton of special effects? Well, this is one of the prime examples of what filmmakers have forgotten to do, because it works so well and has gone on to become such a memorable flick.

Yes, there are explosions and gunfire, but they don’t take away from the overall film they way such things seem to do in this day and age. If anything, they enhance it, especially since they tie in with the story and whatnot. Still, I’m sure there are those out there that think this was too much. To those people I have to wonder what they thought they were watching because it is no secret that this film is good ol’ 80s violence!

The story is quite appealing, but I wonder why they used Germans as opposed to just some whacked out group of mercenaries, for instance. I’m not saying it didn’t work, just that it had me scratching my head out of curiosity.

This film should be known for introducing the film world to a couple of major entities. The first, in his big screen debut (and while he still had hair), is Bruce Willis. Who knew he’d become such a big action star, but this is what put him on that path. While he doesn’t really have anything difficult to do here, it is still impressive, especially considering its his first foray into the big time.

The second debut is Alan Rickman. If I’m not mistaken, this is his first U.S. film as well as big budget debut. Whether he did any films across the pond, I’m not so sure about, though. As always, he out acts any and everyone in the entire cast, but the German accent didn’t really work for me.

All in all, Die Hard is one of those pictures that really should be seen at some point before you die. I love mindless action flicks, and while this has a bit more of a plot that I’d like, it still is right up my alley. Now, for those of you looking for some kind of random love story shoe horned in, you won’t find it here. For everyone else, check it out and enjoy!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Nobel Son

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman), a self-involved chemistry professor, learns he has been awarded the Nobel Prize. After verbally abusing his wife, son, colleagues, and nominal girlfriend, he heads off to Sweden with his wife, Sarah (Mary Steenburgen), to collect his award. His son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg), misses the flight.

Barkley Michaelson has chosen to study not chemistry but anthropology, and this perceived failure triggers constant torrents of abuse from his father. His missing the flight, though, is the apparently innocent result of having been kidnapped by the deranged Thaddeus James (Shawn Hatosy), who claims to be Eli Michaelson’s son by the wife of a former colleague. Thaddeus successfully obtains a ransom of $2 million, which he then splits with Barkley, who, it appears, has orchestrated the kidnapping to obtain money from his father.

Shortly after Barkley’s release, Thaddeus rents a garage apartment from the Michaelsons and begins to charm Eli with his knowledge of chemistry. Barkley undertakes a campaign of psychological terror aimed at Thaddeus and his girlfriend, performance artist City Hall (Dushku). This ultimately results in the death of Thaddeus and commitment to a mental hospital for City.

Meanwhile, Barkley kidnaps Eli and threatens to expose the scientific fraud that lead to Eli receiving a Nobel prize that he did not deserve. Eli’s long suffering wife, Sarah, demands a divorce while praising her son for his devious behavior.

In the final scenes, Sarah, Barkley, and Sarah’s police detective boyfriend, Max Mariner (Pullman) are seen on a tropical beach. Mariner appears to have been in the dark through most of the movie, but has figured out towards the end that he wants to be with Sarah and can live with the theft of $2 million from her scoundrel husband. Eli is seen in his classroom unrepentantly flirting with another student. He has lost his wife, son, and the money, but it’s unclear whether he still has his Nobel Prize.

REVIEW:

Someone in this household has an obsession with Alan Rickman, so in order to appease her, we watched this film, Nobel Son, this evening.

Labeled as a thriller, this film somehow flies off into dark comedy territory. The twisted tale involves things such as a professor having many sordid encounters with his students, fingers being chopped off, mind games, and a hint of cannibalism.

If any of these things make you squirm, then this is most likely not the film you should be watching. Having said that, there are some parts that will entertain even the most hardened of skeptics and the story involving a son with his daddy issues really keeps one interested.

The kidnapping aspect of this film seems to be a major part of the film, but after the son is retrieved, it seems to be all but forgotten, but a rather interesting plot twist sort of makes up for it.

Alan Rickman shines as the slimy, egotistical professor. He may be a classically trained Shakespearean actor, but these dry humor roles are what really allow him to shine.

The rest of the cast is just there as a compliment to him, except for the actual star of the picture, Bryan Greenberg, who is more or less there to be the focal point of the picture.

Although he isn’t bad in this role, chances are 5 minutes after the credits roll you’ll have forgotten all about him and that really is the big problem with this picture. Outside of Rickman and the twisted nature of this picture, it is quite forgettable.

The final verdict on Nobel Son is that it is nothing more than an average film that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a thriller/suspense film or comedy. If it would have been able to actually decipher the genre it wanted to fit in, then maybe it would have been able to be more coherent in its writing. That being said, it isn’t that bad of a film, just not one that you should go out of your way to watch. If you’re a Rickman fan, though, you’re more than likely enjoy.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars