Archive for Anjelica Huston

Martian Child

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

PLOT:

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

What people are saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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Captain EO

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , on November 22, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film tells the story of Captain EO (Michael Jackson) and the ragtag crew of his spaceship on a mission to deliver a gift to “The Supreme Leader” (Anjelica Huston), who lives on a world of rotting, twisted metal and steaming vents. Captain EO’s alien crew consists of his small flying sidekick Fuzzball, the double-headed navigator and pilot Idey (Debbie Lee Carrington) and Ody (Cindy Sorenson), robotic security officer Major Domo (Gary Depew), a small robot, Minor Domo (who fits like a module into Major Domo), and the clumsy elephant-like shipmate Hooter (Tony Cox) who always manages to upset the crew’s missions. Dick Shawn plays Captain EO’s boss, Commander Bog.

Upon arriving on the planet, the crew is captured by the henchmen of the Supreme Leader, and brought before her. She sentences the crew to be turned into trash cans, and Captain EO to 100 years of torture in her deepest dungeon. Before being sent away, Captain EO tells the Supreme Leader that he sees the beauty hidden within her, and that he brings her the key to unlock it: his song, “We Are Here to Change the World”.

The two robot members of the crew transform into musical instruments, and the crew members begin to play the various instruments. As Hooter runs toward his instrument, he trips over EO’s cape and breaks it, stopping the music. The spell broken, the Supreme Leader orders her guards to capture Captain EO and his crew.

Hooter manages to repair his instrument and sends out a blast of music, providing EO with the power to throw off the guards. He uses his power to transform the dark hulking guards into agile dancers who fall into step behind him for a dance number. As EO presses forward toward the Supreme Leader, she unleashes her Whip Warriors, two cybernetic defenders each with a whip and shield that can deflect EO’s power.

The others all run away, leaving Captain EO to fight the Whip Warriors alone. EO is trapped by a closing gate and is preparing for a last stand as both the whip warriors draw their whips back for a final blow. Fuzzball drops his instrument and speedily flies over to tie the two whips together, causing the Whip Warriors to be thrown off balance giving EO an opportunity to transform them as well. With no further obstacles, EO uses his power to transform the remaining four henchmen (not yet unleashed) and they, the transformed whip warriors and the other dancers, press forward in dance before EO transforms the Supreme Leader into a beautiful woman, her lair into a peaceful Greek temple, and the planet into a verdant paradise.

A celebration breaks out to “Another Part of Me”, as Captain EO and his crew triumphantly exit and fly off into space.

REVIEW:

I was just not meant to see Captain EO in theaters. The three times I’ve been there, I have missed out on it. Now it seems as if Disney will be shelving this 17 minute 3D Michael Jackson opus and I will never see it with the full experience of the interactive theater. Oh well, at least there is Youtube!

What is this about?
Captain Eo and his rugged crew set out on a mission to deliver a special gift to a wicked queen who lives on a dark, desolate world. Getting there is half the fun, especially when the good captain starts boogying and the special effects start flying.

What did I like?

Michael Prime. Michael Jackson is one of the greatest performers of all time. When it comes to his acting…well, let’s just say there is a reason he’s not in more movies. That aside, MJ was cast in this for his performance ability. In this short Disney attraction piece, we see everything that made him a star. The smile, the dancing, the singing, charisma and charm, it is all there…including the infamous moonwalk!

80s effects. As a child of the 80s, I am of course going to be a little biased towards the cheesy effects of the day. I’ll also be the first to admit that in comparison to today, these aren’t the greatest, and yet they look far more realistic than today’s CG. I can only imagine how much more impressive they happened to look on the big screen with 3D glasses. Fuzzy creatures, alien tentacle woman hanging from the ceiling, android guards, all vintage 80s look. Can we go back to this period of time, please?

What didn’t I like?

Another ripoff? It cannot be ignored the influence that Star Wars had on many of the sci-fi movies of the day…and it is still leaving its mark today. However, I think this is a downfall for this film. Why? Well, first off, there are the cuddly creatures. If this wasn’t a Disney production, they would be reviled, much as many people do with the Ewoks! Michael’s powers are in the spirit of a jedi knight. No, they aren’t the same, but he is a meek, as far as we can tell, guy who suddenly unleashes tremendous powers. There are other examples, but I don’t want this to take all night. Just be aware that the source material

Song. Quickly, off the top of your head, what is the most catchy Michael Jackson song? For me, I have to go with “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough”, but there are countless others to choose from. When it comes to the song in the film, though, it isn’t that memorable. I don’t know if that was done on purpose, but I can’t even hum you the melody right now to “We Are Here to Change the World”, and I just finished listening to it. It isn’t a bad song, just not the kind of quality we expect from MJ, especially at this point in his career, when he was releasing the likes of  “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “Thriller”, etc. On the plus side, we do get “Another Part of Me” as a pallet cleanser as the credits roll.

Disney had a nice little film that they were able to use as an attraction in their parks with Captain EO. There isn’t much to say about this short film. It has good and bad things, so I’m just going to come out and say that I do recommend it. If you can go to a Disney park and see it before they take it away, all the better. If not, until (and if) they release this for home release, you just have to catch it on youtube. Watch and enjoy!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Art School Confidential

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Starting from childhood attempts at illustration, young Jerome pursues his true obsession to art school. Jerome enrolls in Strathmore, an urban college. His roommates include aspiring filmmaker Vince and closeted-gay fashion major Matthew. Jerome looks for love amongst the coeds, but is turned off by them all, before falling in love with the art model, Audrey. In his art classes, he forms a friendship with perennial loser, Bardo, who guides him through the college scene and introduces him to a failed artist, Jimmy, a belligerent drunk.

As Jerome learns how the art world really works, he finds that he must adapt his vision to the reality that confronts him. The community has been wracked by a serial killer, the Strathmore Strangler, who has confounded the police. As Jerome slowly loses his idealism at art school, he finds himself In competition with a strange newcomer, Jonah (an undercover detective), both for Audrey’s affection and for artistic recognition.

In a wild attempt to win a prestigious art competition, Jerome asks for, and gets, Jimmy’s paintings, all of which are of the Strangler’s victims. Jerome leaves a lit cigarette in Jimmy’s apartment by accident, setting a fire and burning up the apartment and Jimmy. The police arrest Jerome as the Strangler (who in fact was Jimmy); Audrey realizes that her true love is Jerome and that she was stupid to be in love with Jonah (who is actually married); and Jerome is sent to prison. Jerome’s paintings, especially one of Audrey, become prized by collectors; Vince scores a huge hit with his documentary of the Strangler called My Roommate: The Murderer. In prison, Jerome continues to paint and sells his works at high prices, not caring that people think he is the killer, while all the while Audrey is still in love with him. At the end, Audrey and Jerome share a kiss through the protective glass.

REVIEW:

Art School Confidential was suggested to me by a friend from junior high who, strangely enough, is an art teacher now. I actually had no intention on rushing to see it, but would get to it at some point in time, but that plan was scrapped by Netflix rushing to take it off instant streaming (and me not wanting to waste an actual DVD slot for it) in the next few days. The real question, though, is, was this worth seeing?

What is this about?

Jerome, a kid from the suburbs who loves to draw, goes to New York City’s Strathmore College for his freshman year as a drawing major. Competition and petty jealousy consume faculty and students, with an end-of-first-semester best-student award held out as a grand plum. Worse, a strangler is on the loose, killing people on or next to campus. The idealistic Jerome falls in love with Audrey, a student who models for life-drawing classes and who responds to his sweetness. But he has a rival: the clean-cut, manly Jonah, also a first-year drawing student, whose primitive work draws raves and Audrey’s attention. As cynicism seems to corrode everything, Jerome is desperate to win.

What did I like?

Supporting cast. The true shining stars of this film are the supporting cast, with the likes of Anjelica Huston, Jim Broadbent, Ethan Suplee, and in slightly larger roles, John Malkovich and Joel David Moore (is it me, or does it seem like he pops up in just about everything?). Each one makes the two actual leads seem like total amateurs.

Nude models. You know how in some films and/or TV shows we’ll see someone modeling nude and it seems gratuitous? Well, in a film that is based in an art school, you can’t exactly do that. The nude models here are about as generic as they come and don’t really try to do anything more than just sit there and do their nude thing. When they’re done, they don’t go around trying to have sex with all of the students, they just put their robe back on and leave. I’ve never been in an art class, but I would imagine this is how they actually act, though I imagine one or two wish they could have a giant orgy with the class, honestly.

What didn’t I like?

Yawn. As far as independent film go, one can expect there to be a certain level of, shall we say, not-so-interesting-ness, but there is usually something there that piques you interest enough to at least stave off boredom. Sadly, this is not the case with this film. It seems that, save for the scenes with the aforementioned supporting  cast taking center stage, the film gets worse as it goes on.

Lead. Drumline has a line in it that says, “You have to learn to follow before you can lead.” Someone should have really told Max Minghella that before he took this role. The guy just does not have the chops and charisma to carry a film. You may ask who this guy is, and that is because he hasn’t really been in anything since, at least in leading man capacity.

Killer. This whole subplot about the serial killer strangler that is going around campus might have actually helped the film be a bit more interesting if they would have made it a bit more central to the film, as opposed to an afterthought that is suddenly pushed to the forefront in the film’s final act. Granted, that might have pushed this more into the horror/suspense/thriller category, as opposed to dramedy, but at least there would have been something going on that was interesting.

Art School Confidential is an independent film from the same guy who brought us Ghost World. Where that was actually a somewhat entertaining and arguably memorable film, this one leaves the audience with nothing to talk about after the credits roll, except for how utterly forgettable it is. No, I do not recommend this, unless you’re looking for a cure to your insomnia, or need something playing in the background while you study or work on some big project for work.

2 out of 5 stars

Addams Family Values

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Gomez (Raúl Juliá) and Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) welcome the birth of their third child, Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper). Older siblings Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are antagonistic toward their new baby brother and attempt to kill him several times, but Pubert fortuitously survives each attempt. Worried by this behavior, Gomez and Morticia seek out a nanny to help look after the children. After Wednesday and Pugsley scare off the first few applicants, Debbie Jelinsky (Joan Cusack) is hired. Gomez’s brother Fester (Christopher Lloyd) is immediately infatuated with her. Unbeknownst to the family, Debbie is a serial killer known as “The Black Widow”, who seeks out wealthy bachelors, marries them and then murders them on their wedding night, making the deaths appear accidental so that she inherits their fortunes.

Wednesday and Pugsley become suspicious of Debbie’s intentions toward Fester, believing that she is after his vast riches. Debbie tricks Gomez and Morticia into sending the children away to a summer camp, where they quickly make enemies of the perky camp owners Gary (Peter MacNicol) and Becky Granger (Christine Baranski) and the snobby Amanda Buckman (Mercedes McNab). Joel Glicker (David Krumholtz), another social outcast, develops a crush on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Debbie advances her plot to seduce Fester: she professes to love him, but claims to be a virgin and says they cannot consummate their relationship until marriage, prompting Fester to propose. Wednesday and Pugsley are distraught at the news and try to escape from camp, while Gary and Becky repeatedly attempt to get them to be peppy. They are allowed to attend the wedding, and Wednesday brings Joel along.

On their honeymoon, Debbie attempts to electrocute Fester by dropping a radio into the bathtub with him, but he is unaffected. Frustrated by his resilience, Debbie uses her sexual hold over Fester to manipulate him into severing all ties with his family. The two move into a lavish mansion, and when Gomez, Morticia, Grandmama (Carol Kane) and butler Lurch (Carel Struycken) attempt to visit, Debbie forbids them from seeing Fester. Pubert soon goes through dramatic changes, becoming blonde-haired, rosy-cheeked and cheerful. Grandmama determines that he is possessed, a condition brought on by anxiety over Fester’s separation from the family.

Back at camp, Wednesday refuses to participate in Gary’s play, a musical production of the first Thanksgiving. She, Pugsley, and Joel are locked in the “Harmony Hut” and forced to watch upbeat family films to curb their antisocial behavior. On emerging from the hut, Wednesday feigns perkiness and agrees to play the role of Pocahontas. However, during the play, she leads the other social outcasts — who have all been cast as Native Americans — in a revolt, capturing Gary, Becky and Amanda and leaving the camp in chaos. Before she leaves, Wednesday and Joel kiss.

Debbie tries once again to kill Fester, this time by blowing up their mansion with a bomb. When he again survives, she pulls a gun on him and admits that she never loved him. Thing — the Addams’ animated, disembodied hand — helps him to escape. Fester, Wednesday and Pugsley arrive at the Addams mansion, but the family’s reunion is interrupted by Debbie who straps them — with the exception of Pubert — into electric chairs and forces them to watch a slide show detailing how she murdered her parents and previous husbands. Pubert, having returned to normal, is propelled into the room via a chain reaction of events and manipulates the wires just as Debbie throws the switch, causing her to be incinerated while the rest of the family is spared.

At Pubert’s first birthday party, Uncle Fester becomes enamored with Cousin Itt’s child’s new nanny, Dementia. Wednesday and Joel visit Debbie’s grave in the family cemetery; Wednesday says that if she wanted to kill her husband, she would simply scare him to death. As Joel lays flowers on the grave, a hand shoots up from the ground and grabs him while Wednesday gives a satisfied smirk.

REVIEW:

As much as Morticia and Gomez are constantly all over each other, it is amazing that they don’t have more kids. How about we have a film that features them having another baby? That is where Addams Family Values comes in, or does it?

What is this about?

Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) Addams will stop at nothing to get rid of Pubert, the new baby boy adored by parents Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia (Anjelica Huston). Things go from bad to worse when the new “black widow” nanny, Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), launches her plan to add Fester (Christopher Lloyd) to her collection of dead husbands.

What did I like?

Change. I can’t say that I am a fan of this change in tone from The Addams Family, especially since it didn’t hurt its predecessor, but taking a chance on changing to a more black comedy tone seemed to pay off, at least for this incarnation of the beloved macabre family.

Summer camp. When I first heard that the Addams kids were being sent off to camp, I assumed it was just to ship them out and focus on the grown-ups with the new baby. After all, they really weren’t that big of a part of the original TV series. However, it turns out that the summer camp scenes were a nice little separate story for them, and could arguably be viewed as a stronger story than the main plot.

Christina Ricci. She had a few scenes in the last film that showed what she was sure to be capable of, but here she really gets the chance to flex those acting chops a bit more. Her speech in before the chaos at camp was priceless and could only be delivered be her. Anyone else, and it just wouldn’t have been the same, coming off as overly preachy and not something we really need to hear.

What didn’t I like?

Macabre. I mentioned earlier how I wasn’t sure about the change in tone, so it goes under both the like and dislike category. Being a fan of the original series, I’m more in favor of the slapstick, goofy kind of stuff, but the comic strip that started this all was a bit more on the macabre humor side, so you really have to take you pick. For me, it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but the same kind of stuff worked in Dark Shadows. Weird, huh?

Plot. The whole black widow thing didn’t seem to work. If they wouldn’t have made Fester such a major focal point of the previous film, then maybe it would’ve been just fine, but this is the second flick where they put everything on him. I’m all about Fester, as much as the next guy, but this should have been more about the new baby. Instead, Pubert is just an afterthought who gets a mention here and there, sort of like Jack Jack in The Incredibles.

Eyes. It seems as if everytime we see Morticia, her eyes have this weird light around them. Even in the middle of her giving birth, she has that light. It is sort of like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, but at least he was menacing. Morticia is just Morticia.

Addams Family Values doesn’t quite live up the original or the legacy of the great series, but it has carved a niche of its own, which does seem to work for it. I was not blown away by this picture, not that I thought I would be, but was rather underwhelmed. Do I recommend it? Well, I found this to be more of a Saturday afternoon treat, rather than something you go out of your way to see. It is just an average film that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.

3 out of 5 stars

The Addams Family

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Gomez Addams (Raúl Juliá) laments the 25-year absence of his brother Fester, who disappeared after the two had a falling-out. Gomez’s lawyer Tully Alford (Dan Hedaya) owes money to loan shark Abigail Craven (Elizabeth Wilson), and notices that her son Gordon (Christopher Lloyd) closely resembles Fester. Tully proposes that Gordon pose as Fester to infiltrate the Addams household and find the hidden vault where they keep their vast riches. Tully and his wife Margaret (Dana Ivey) attend a séance at the Addams home led by Grandmama (Judith Malina) in which the family tries to contact Fester’s spirit. Gordon arrives, posing as Fester, while Abigail poses as psychiatrist Dr. Pinder-Schloss and tells the family that Fester had been lost in the Bermuda Triangle for the past 25 years.

Gomez, overjoyed to have Fester back, takes him to the family vault to view home movies from their childhood. Gordon learns the reason for the brothers’ falling-out: Gomez was jealous of Fester’s success with women, and wooed the conjoined twins Flora and Fauna Amore away from him out of envy. Gomez starts to suspect that “Fester” is an impostor when he is unable to recall important details about their past. Gordon attempts to return to the vault, but is unable to get past a booby trap. Gomez’s wife Morticia (Anjelica Huston) reminds “Fester” of the importance of family amongst the Addamses and of their vengeance against those who cross them. Fearing that the family is getting wise to their con, Abigail (under the guise of Dr. Pinder-Schloss) convinces Gomez that his suspicions are due to displacement.

Gordon grows closer to the Addams family, particularly the children Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman), whom he helps to prepare a swordplay sequence for a school play. The Addamses throw a large party with their extended family and friends to celebrate Fester’s return, during which Abigail plans to break into the vault. Wednesday overhears Abigail and Gordon discussing their scheme, and escapes them by hiding in the family cemetery. Tully learns that Fester, as the eldest brother, is the executor of the Addams estate and therefore technically owns the entire property. With the help of the Addamses’ neighbor Judge George Womack (Paul Benedict), who Gomez has repeatedly angered by hitting golf balls at his house, Tully procures a restraining order against the family banning them from the estate. Gomez attempts to fight the order in court, but Judge Womack rules against him out of spite.

While Abigail, Gordon, and Tully try repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get past the booby trap blocking access to the vault, the Addams family is forced to move into a motel and find jobs. Morticia tries at being a preschool teacher, Wednesday and Pugsley sell toxic lemonade, and Thing—the family’s animate disembodied hand—becomes a courier. Gomez, despondent, sinks into depression and lethargy.

Morticia returns to the Addams home to confront Fester and is captured by Abigail and Tully, who torture her in an attempt to learn how to access the vault. Thing observes this and informs Gomez, who gathers the family and rushes to Morticia’s rescue. Abigail threatens Morticia’s life if Gomez does not surrender the family fortune. Fed up with his mother’s behavior and constant berating, Gordon turns against Abigail. Using a magical book which projects its contents into reality, he unleashes a hurricane in the house, which strikes his own head with lightning and launches Tully and Abigail out a window and into open graves dug for them by Wednesday and Pugsley.

Gordon turns out to actually have been Fester all along, having suffered amnesia after being lost in the Bermuda Triangle and turning up in Miami, where Abigail had taken him in. The lightning strike has restored his memory and he is enthusiastically welcomed back into the Addams household. With the family whole again, Morticia informs Gomez that she is pregnant.

REVIEW:

When this movie first came out, all I know about the Addams were that they were some creepy family that occasionally popped up in old Scooby Doo cartoons. After this was released, though, I remember that there was a new cartoon and the original show started airing again. However, it wasn’t until recently that I finished every episode. Does The Addams Family stack up to the original?

What did I like?

Faithfulness. If you’ve ever seen the original series, then you will notice that these characters, for the most part, stay faithful to their classic TV roots. This isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions, for instance, it seems as if Wednesday and Pugsley’s mannerisms have been switched a bit, with a bit more cruelty added to her, and then of course Fester is different, but that is part of the plot. There is even a scene with Gomez’s trains. The only thing missing was the stock footage of Kitty Kat.

Wednesday. Speaking of Wednesday, this is the film that brought us Christina Ricci, and for that I am ever so grateful.

Casting. I have to say that they got the perfect casting for the most part. Raul Julia as Gomez is every bit as flamboyant, albeit more subdued than John Astin. Anjelica Huston captures everything we know and love about Morticia (except for those killer curves!!!) Fester, for all the changes they’ve made, seems to be the same old Fester, though it is kind of hard to tell since he isn’t the same guy as the series.

Story. I liked the story for the most, though, I think it would have been much better without the focus being on Fester so much.

What didn’t I like?

Change is not always for the best. They changed the relationship with Fester and Gomez to make them brothers, whereas in the original TV series he is Morticia’s uncle. I am not sure which is the true relationship.

Lurch Itt. Two of the major characters in every incarnation this family has been in have been Lurch and Cousin Itt. This one, though, relegates Lurch to a couple of scenes, none of which allow him to say his famous line, “You rang?” As for Cousin Itt, he pops up for a couple of scenes, which isn’t bad, since he isn’t in every episode, but a little more of Itt would have been nice.

Bermuda triangle induced amnesia. So, Fester apparently gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle and gets amnesia. That sounds a bit soap opera-ish, but I can live with it. My issue is how they rushed the explanation at the film’s end. It reminded me a bit of how they used to wrap up thing in the final scenes of The A-Team back when it was on the air. It just seemed tacked on to tie up some loose ends, but you really could have lived without it.

The Addams Family is a good flick that will please everyone, including those of us that prefer things to stay close to the source material. As a matter of fact, the show didn’t even stick this close to the source material. While I would have liked for it to have been more slapstick comedic, it works for what it is. Man, here’s a thought…imagine if Tim Burton would have directed this. Wow! Anyway, I highly recommend this to everyone!

4 out of 5 stars

 

Ever After: A Cinderella Story

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 23, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the early 19th century, the Grande Dame of France (Jeanne Moreau), an elderly aristocrat, summons the Grimm Brothers and proposes to tell them the real story of the little cinder girl. The lady claims that Cinderella was really a young woman named Danielle de Barbarac. She reveals a portrait of Danielle and a glass slipper, and proceeds to tell the story.

Danielle de Barbarac is a young girl who lives in a manor with her widowed father, Auguste, whom she adores. When Danielle is eight, her father marries the haughty Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent (Anjelica Huston), who has two daughters about Danielle’s age. Soon after, Auguste dies. Rodmilla is envious of Danielle, and treats her like a servant after Auguste’s death.

Ten years pass. The Baroness has fallen into debt. Marguerite, her spoiled older daughter, has grown to be cruel, arrogant, and bad-tempered; while the younger, Jacqueline, is kindhearted, soft-spoken, and constantly overlooked. In the orchard one day, Danielle encounters a man attempting to steal her father’s old horse. She pelts him with apples, knocking him to the ground, and is horrified to learn that the man is Henry, the Crown Prince of France. Henry explains that his own horse was lamed in his attempt to escape stifling royal life. He forgives Danielle in exchange for her silence, and rewards her with money.

In the nearby woods, Henry rescues an old man’s prized possession from a band of gypsies who stole it. The man turns out to be Leonardo da Vinci and the possession is the Mona Lisa. Henry’s parents, the king and queen, have summoned Leonardo to the court. He and Henry become friends.

Danielle resolves to use the money to rescue Maurice, an old family servant whom Rodmilla had sold. While her step-family is out of the house, Danielle dons a noblewoman’s dress and goes to court. She finds Maurice about to be shipped to the Americas, and demands his release. Prince Henry sees this and is impressed with Danielle’s intellect, strength of character, and beauty. Danielle refuses to tell Henry her name, though eventually she leaves him with the name of her mother, Comtesse Nicole de Lancret.

Meanwhile, the Baroness schemes to match Marguerite with Henry, even as Henry is enthralled with the mysterious “Nicole.” Henry and Danielle meet up several times and have passionate arguments about Utopia, class conventions, responsibility, and freedom. She challenges him to use his position for a greater good. At one point, they stumble on the gypsy camp, and after they are accosted, Danielle rescues Henry in an uproarious turn of events that wins them the gypsies’ goodwill. Danielle and Henry share their first kiss by the gypsy campfire that night. However, Henry knows that unless he chooses a wife before the upcoming masquerade ball, his parents will marry him to a Spanish princess.

When Danielle’s family receives their invitation to the ball, they lament their failing fortunes and lack of fancy clothes. The Baroness proposes that Marguerite should wear Danielle’s mother’s wedding dress and the matching glass slippers, which were stored away for Danielle’s wedding. Danielle discovers them however, but when she retaliates against Marguerite for mocking her dead mother, she is punished with a severe whipping and having her treasured copy of Utopia burned. Through this, she gains a confidant in Jacqueline.

Danielle decides her idealized view of her relationship with Prince Henry is futile, and that she must break it off. She meets him again as they had planned, but her courage fails her as Henry misinterprets what she says and declares his love for her. Danielle, on the verge of tears, bids him farewell and flees.

Just before the ball, the Baroness discovers the interludes between Danielle and Henry, and her masquerade as the Comtesse de Lancret. The Baroness then informs the Queen that “Nicole” has gone to marry another, and the Queen in turn tells Henry. The Baroness also forbids Danielle from attending the ball.

On the day of the ball, the Baroness and Marguarite accuse Danielle of hiding the dress and slippers. After shouting that she would rather die than see Margurite wear her mother’s gown, Danielle is locked in the larder. Her childhood friend Gustave asks for help from Leonardo, who frees her by unhinging the door. He also encourages her to go to the ball and tell Henry the whole truth, saying that the Prince’s love for her will be enough to overcome convention. The servants give Danielle her mother’s dress and slippers, which they had hidden from Marguerite, and Leonardo gives her a pair of wings.

Just as the King and Queen are about to announce Henry’s engagement to the Spanish princess, Gabriella, Danielle arrives at the ball. Henry is overjoyed, but the Baroness rushes forward and tears off one of Danielle’s wings, accusing her of plotting to entrap the Prince and revealing that she is a commoner. Danielle tries to explain but Henry is humiliated and refuses to listen, calling her an imposter. Devastated, she runs away, losing one of her slippers. Leonardo picks up the slipper, and reprimands Henry for abandoning Danielle, and the principles he claimed to espouse, when she risked everything for him.

Henry stubbornly refuses to consider the truth until he is about to be married. As the wedding begins, the Spanish princess sobs uncontrollably, imploring her parents to allow her to marry her commoner lover. Henry bursts out laughing, and the wedding is called off.

Henry rushes out of the church to find Danielle only to learn that she has been sold to a vile landowner, Pierre Le Pieu. He sets off to rescue her. At his castle, Le Pieu threatens Danielle, now a servant in shackles, with sexual advances. She turns the tables on him and threatens him at sword-point; in exchange for his life he frees her. She walks out of the castle just as Henry arrives. He begs for her forgiveness, telling her he’s been looking for the woman who left behind the glass slipper the night of the ball. He asks her to marry him as he slips it on her foot, and she accepts.

The Baroness and her daughters are summoned to court, assuming that Henry plans to propose to Marguerite. Instead, Rodmilla and Marguerite are asked if they have ever lied to the Queen about Danielle’s engagement. The Baroness makes feeble excuses, while Marguerite tries to save herself by blaming her mother. The ladies turn to Jacqueline for corroboration, but she stands up for herself and refuses to lie for them. The Queen strips the Baroness and Marguerite of their titles and tells them that they will be shipped to the New World colonies, unless someone pleads for them. Danielle steps forward and is introduced as Henry’s wife. Danielle asks that Marguerite and the Baroness be sent to work in the royal laundry for the rest of their days as a fitting punishment. Jacqueline, who had always been kind to Danielle, is spared punishment. She marries the captain of the royal guard, whom she met at the ball.

The Grand Dame reveals to the Brothers Grimm that she is Danielle’s great-great-granddaughter, and, as evidenced by the glass slipper and Da Vinci’s portrait, not only did they live happily ever after, but the story is indeed true.

REVIEW:

I love Drew Barrymore, especially before she went and became all anorexic like she is these days. Somehow, I had let Ever After: A Cinderella Story slip by me, though. The little woman, though, felt the need to watch it tonight, so there you have it.

I have to say that this was not to my liking at all. That is not to say that this is a bad film, I just didn’t care for it.

First off, they took the Cinderella story and made it seem as if it was a historical event, rather than a fairy tale. I applaud them for taking this risk, but they could have done it with a little more…something. This just seemed to drag on and was extremely heavy on the drama, even for a drama.

The characters all seem rather 1 dimensional, with the exception of Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Houston’s. Each of these people just seem to be floating around in a world that seems like it could use something, anything, interesting to happen. I also didn’t quite understand why they put Leonardo da Vinci in here, except for they needed him to bring some sort of credibility, for lack of a better term, to the historical aspect.

In the end, there are going to be those that really love this film. I would wager that most of those people are going to be of the female persuasion. For me, I think that if you want this story told the way it was meant to be and not just another lifeless drama, then you’d be better served watching Ella Enchanted or, even better, Disney’s Cinderella (animated or musical).

3 out of 5 stars

The Witches

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An old Norwegian woman named Helga (Mai Zetterling) warns her grandson Luke (Jasen Fisher) about witches, wicked females whose primary aim is to destroy children. Helga explains that witches reside in every country in the world, and look very much like ordinary women. She goes on to describe how witches use devious methods to do away with children, and evade police, including how a Norwegian witch once locked one of Helga’s childhood friends inside a painting. Helga lists the subtle features of how to recognize a witch. Witches are indicated by Helga to have a highly developed sense of smell, and that they find the smell of children repulsive akin to fresh dog poo. She also tells Luke about the Grand High Witch, their leader and the most evil who rules over all the witches on earth.

Shortly after the death of Luke’s parents, Luke and Helga move to England. It is here that Luke has his first encounter with a witch, while he is playing in his treehouse. A woman in black (Anne Lambton) approches him from below, whom he recognizes as a witch from his grandmother’s specific descriptions. The woman offers Luke a snake she found on her walk. As Luke calls in panic for his grandmother, the woman offers him a chocolate bar instead, while also mysteriously appearing to know his name. Some distance away, Helga interrupts the witch’s coaxing and calls Luke to dinner. The witch is forced to abandon her attempts at getting to Luke, and proceeds to walk away. The snake she left behind vanishing and reappearing back in her handbag. Luke tells his grandmother of the ordeal, and attention is drawn to Helga’s hand, missing a finger, implied to be from her own near miss encounter with a witch when she was a child.

On Luke’s birthday, Helga is diagnosed with diabetes, and the doctor recommends a holiday by the seaside to recover. They visit a hotel in Cornwall where it happens that the witches are holding their annual meeting, under the pretense of belonging to a children’s charity group. They ironically disguise their function using the pseudonym “The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children” (RSPCC). An attractive and imposing aristocratic looking woman named Eva Ernst (Anjelica Huston) also books into the hotel. Helga when first spotting Miss Ernst across the dining room, believes she has seen her somewhere before, as her face seemed familiar to her.

Luke wanders around the hotel with his pet mice, William and Mary. He ends up in a wide, deserted conference room and hides behind a screen to train his mice.

Suddenly the “charitable organisation” members arrive and begin to fill the seats in the room. Luke is trapped in the room with them near the stage, although they cannot see him behind the screen. When he notices one woman with purple eyes, and another of them scratching underneath her wig (with a gloved hand), he realises that the “charity members” are the witches of England who have come for their annual conference. One of the witches in the audience is the same woman in black Luke encountered in his treehouse. After the doors are securely locked, the witches unveil their true selves: removing wigs to reveal bald scalps, their gloves to reveal long sharp claws, and shoes to reveal squared feet with no toes. The woman aliased Miss Ernst removes her beautiful human face mask to reveal a hideous and hunchbacked body beneath her glamorous exterior. Luke realises that she is the Grand High Witch.

The Grand High Witch reveals she is fed up with her underlings’ dithering, and that she has come up with a master plan to rid the country of every single child. A witch named Beatrice (Nora Connolly) quietly scoffs at the implausibility of the Grand High Witch’s plans, but the Grand High Witch overhears her. As punishment for the witch’s insolence, the Grand High Witch incinerates Beatrice with magic beams projected from her eyes. After killing Beatrice, the Grand High Witch warns the rest of the witches at the assembly not to make her cross. The Grand High Witch goes on to discuss specifics of her plan. She orders the witches to resign from their jobs when they return to their homes and buy sweet shops and candy stores with money she will give them. She then tells them to lace their confectionery with a magic formula she will provide them with, called ‘Formula 86′, a potion which turns anyone who ingests it into a mouse. The Grand High Witch explains that ingesting one dose of the formula causes delayed transformation two hours after it has been taken. However, it is further explained that consuming more than five doses of the formula would break the delay barrier and the formula’s effects would instead be instant.

The Grand High Witch magically transforms a greedy, obese boy named Bruno Jenkins (Charlie Potter) who was lured there by the promise of chocolate bars, into an anthropomorphic mouse. She had given him one dose of a contaminated chocolate bar two hours earlier in the day and promised him more chocolate if he met her in the conference room later; his arrival time planned perfectly as a demonstration for the witches to see how the formula works.

The witches then sniff out Luke, and try to capture him when they notice him lurch behind the screen, adament to kill one who has spied on such secret affairs, but Luke initially escapes back to his grandmother’s hotel room. Helga remains in a deep sleep unrousable (unconfirmed later by Luke as either magically induced or possibly diabetes induced). The Grand High Witch appears in Helga’s room, and identifies Helga as an “old adversary” when Luke accuses her of causing his grandma’s comatose state. The witches transport Luke back to the conference room, and pour an entire bottle of Formula 86 down Luke’s throat (500 doses of the formula) thus instantly transforming him into a second mouse. The Grand High Witch orders her assembly to kill him and while the witches proceed to try to stomp on him, Luke escapes to the edge of the room scuttling into a hole in the wall. Despite failing to kill Luke, the witches believe him neutralized and not worth bothering about. While looking for Bruno, Luke realizes he can still talk in his mouse form.

Luke and Bruno (as mice) reach Helga, now awake, and explain to her what has happened, and that the witches are in the hotel. Later, with Helga’s help, Luke steals a bottle of Formula 86 from the Grand High Witch’s room and uses it against the witches by adding it to the soup reserved for the witches’ party. All the witches attend the banquet except of the Grand High Witch’s mistreated assistant Anne Irvine (Jane Horrocks) who wasn’t invited to the banquet. One of the cooks in the kitchen preparing the soup (also a witch) taste tests the spiked batch before it is served. After she turns into a mouse, she races into the witches’ party, trying to warn them that the formula is in the soup, and that they should not touch it. Mistaking the talking mouse for a transformed child, the woman in black seated next to the Grand High Witch squelches the mouse under her boot. With the failed warning, all of the witches at their dining tables eat the soup. Helga notices Bruno’s father (Bill Paterson) about to eat the soup which he demanded from the manager Mr. Stringer (Rowan Atkinson) even though it was not on the standard menu. After Helga tips out his soup and returns Bruno to his parents, she offers to reveal to them who is responsible for Bruno’s alteration. As she is preparing to tell them who did it, chaos breaks out as all the witches start transforming into mice.

Initially, panic ensues when the witches suddenly transform into mice in the dining room, but soon both hotel staff and guests are attacking and killing the mice running around unknowingly ridding England of its witches. The Grand High Witch is stunned as she watches all of the witches transform around her, as she herself seems to be unaffected to the effects of the potion. Noticing Helga across the room and attributing the fault to her “old adversary”, the Grand High Witch advances menacingly upon Helga until Bruno leaps onto her and bites her. The formula finally begins to work and The Grand High Witch turns into a repulsive, snarling mouse. After Helga traps her under a water jug, the Grand High Witch mouse is finally destroyed when Mr. Stringer kills her with a meat cleaver.

After Luke and Helga have returned home, Luke surprises Helga when a trunk is delivered to their house which he arranged to be posted. In it is all of Miss Ernst’s money and an address book filled with the names and addresses of every witch in America. They discuss their plans to travel there by ship. Later that night when both have gone to sleep, Irvine drives up to Luke and Helga’s house. She uses her magic to turn Luke back into a human and returns his glasses and pet mice. As she gets out of the car, it is observed that Irvine no longer has gloves, and wears open toed shoes. Her evil witch’s deformities of claws and footstumps have been cured, assumedly by her change in allegiance. While Ann Irvine leaves to help Bruno, Luke and Helga look out the window and wave her goodbye.

REVIEW:

 I, like many of you, had never heard of The Witches, but it appears as though it was a hit with the critics, but not the box office (big surprise there right?)

This film continues in the Jim Henson sci-fi/fantasy lexicon, following in the footsteps of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The question, though, is does it stand up to those towering legacies?

I have to say no, but it does make a valiant attempt and deserves kudos for doing so.

The story revolves around a boy and his grandmother on vacation in Norway. Suddenly, the parents get killed and he’s forced to live with his grandmother, who seems to be a bit off, but then he seems a bit odd, as well, so no big there. It turns out that in her youth, grandma was a witch hunter of sorts, and knows how to spot a witch. This is knowledge which she passes down to the boy. They end up at this hotel in England which just happens to be hosting this large witch convention where they are planning on turning all the country’s children to mice. Apparently, witches can’t stand the smell of them.

First of all, let’s talk a bit about grandma. When the film starts, she seems like this woman who was ready to kick some witch ass. Hell, she even lost a finger (it is never explained how) doing so. That’s all well and good, but when the time comes for her to show what she can really do, she seems to have grown a yellow streak down her back. To me, that made her character seem as if she was either lying and just probably chopped her finger off with a knife while cooking, or just was too old to do anything anymore. If the latter was true, then she sure seemed a bit spry, if you ask me. I don’t know, it just seems as if they didn’t really think her out very well. Perhaps in the book, there isn’t this confusion about her character.

This is a Jim Henson production, so some puppetry was expected. However, I expected something more fantastical that some bald women with rashes on their heads for witches. The Grand High Witch ended up looking like some kind of mutated vulture or something, which seemed odd, especially since none of the other witches looked anywhere near as different from their human forms as she did.

On the flipside, though, the Bruno and Luke as mice were vintage Henson. If you’ve ever seen Stuart Little, then this is what he more than likely would have looked like had he not been CGI.

The film moves along at a fairly brisk pace, but I can’t say that it works. I mean, for a family film like this, you obviously don’t want to go down the dark, detailed road like the last few Harry Potter films, but at the same time, it just sort of felt like there was something that we were missing in terms of the story, and I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

So, what did I finally think of The Witches? Well, first and foremost, it must be noted that this was the last film that Jim Henson personally worked on. Such a shame, really. We’ve all seen better work from the man. I guess the last years took their toll on him. I actually sort of liked it, but the, for lack of a better word, incoherent story, took me out of the film and I just never got back into the groove. With witches, I would have also expected more magic, and not just some random potion that can turn humans into mice. Having said all that, I guess it was a nice departure from what we normally think of witches, but I still didn’t see anything special about this picture. I really would like to know why the critics were drooling all over themselves about this thing when it was released. I sure didn’t see anything worthy of such high praise. However, it was a pretty decent picture and worth a viewing or two.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars