Archive for Anne Hathaway

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

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The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW:

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

What is this about?

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

What did I like?

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

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

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

What didn’t I like?

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

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

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

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

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Princess Diaries

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Teenager Mia Thermopolis lives with her artist mother, Helen, and her black and white cat, Fat Louie, in a remodeled San Francisco firehouse. A somewhat awkward and unpopular girl, she is terrified of public speaking and often wishes to be “invisible”. She has a crush on the popular Josh Bryant, but is frequently teased by both him and his cheerleader girlfriend, Lana Thomas. Mia’s only friendships are in the form of the equally unpopular Lilly Moscovitz and Lilly’s brother Michael, who secretly has a crush on Mia.

Just before her 16th birthday, Mia learns her paternal grandmother, Clarisse, is visiting from (the fictional) Genovia, a small European kingdom. When Mia goes to meet her at a large house (later revealed to be the Genovian consulate), Clarisse reveals she is actually Queen Clarisse Renaldi, and that her son, Mia’s late father, was Crown Prince of Genovia. Mia is stunned to learn she is a princess and heir to the Genovian throne. In shock, Mia runs home and angrily confronts her mother, who explains she had planned to tell Mia on her 18th birthday, but that her father’s death has forced the matter. Queen Clarisse visits and explains that if Mia refuses the throne, Genovia will be without a ruler (a subplot involves a scheming baron and his unsightly baroness quietly rooting for Mia’s downfall). Helen persuades a hesitant Mia to attend “princess lessons” with the Queen, telling her she does not have to make her decision until the upcoming Genovian Independence Day ball.

Mia is given a glamorous makeover, the use of a limousine and a bodyguard (the Queen’s head of security, Joe). This and Mia’s frequent absences for the lessons make Lilly suspicious and jealous, so she accuses Mia of trying to be like the popular girls. Mia breaks down and tells Lilly everything, swearing her to secrecy. However, the San Francisco Chronicle learns that Mia is the Genovian Crown Princess after hairdresser Paolo breaks his confidentiality agreement (so his work would be known), causing a press frenzy, and a sudden surge in popularity at school for Mia. In a craven urge for fame, many of her classmates (mostly Lana) bluff that they are friends of the princess to reporters.

At a state dinner, Mia embarrasses herself with her clumsiness, delighting her rivals for the crown. However, all is not lost as the situation amuses a stuffy diplomat, and the Queen tells Mia the next day she found it fun. Deciding it is time the two bonded as grandmother and granddaughter, the Queen allows Mia to take her out in Mia’s late 60s Ford Mustang convertible for the day to the Musée Mécanique, an amusement arcade. The day almost ends terribly when Mia’s car stalls a hill and rams backward into a cable car, but Queen Clarisse saves the day by “appointing” the attending police officer and the tram driver to the Genovian “Order of the Rose” (something she clearly made up on the spot), flattering them into dropping any charges. Mia sees this and is impressed with her grandmother.

Later, Mia is delighted when Josh Bryant invites her to a beach party, but her acceptance hurts Lilly and Michael, with whom she had plans (the former wanting Mia to appear on her self-made cable show, and the latter wanting her to watch his band perform). Things go wrong when the press arrive, tipped off by Lana. Josh uses Mia to get his 15 minutes of fame by publicly kissing her, while Lana tricks her into changing in a tent, pulling it away as the paparazzi arrive, giving them a scandalous shot of her in a towel. She breaks down into tears in her mother’s arms when she gets home. The photos appear on tabloid covers the following day, leaving Queen Clarisse furious at Mia. A humiliated Mia tells her that she is renouncing the throne, feeling she is nowhere near ready to be a true princess. Joe later reminds the Queen that although Mia is a princess, she is still a teenager and her granddaughter.

Back at school, Mia attempts to rescue her friendships with Lilly and Michael by inviting them to the Genovian Independence Day Ball, gets back at Josh for using her by hitting a baseball into his gut during gym class, and finally stands up to Lana when she is cruel to Lilly’s friend Jeremiah, publicly humiliating her by smearing ice cream on her cheerleader outfit and telling her that while she (Mia) might grow out of her proclaimed odd ways, she (Lana) will never stop being a jerk; the teachers do not interfere, knowing Lana deserved it. While Lilly is excited at the prospect of attending a royal ball, Michael, brokenhearted over Mia’s initial feelings for Josh, turns her down. Clarisse apologizes to Mia for being furious at her over the beach incident, and states that she must publicly announce her decision to become princess of Genovia. Mia, terrified at this large responsibility placed upon her, plans to run away. However, when she finds a letter from her late father, his touching words make her change her mind, and she makes her way to the ball. Mia’s car breaks down in the rain, but she is rescued by Joe, who had suspected she was going to run.

When they arrive, a drenched and untidy Mia voices her acceptance of her role as Princess of Genovia. Mia gets dressed up and accompanies Clarisse to the ballroom, where she is formally introduced and invited to dance. Michael, accepting an apologetic gift from Mia (a pizza with M & M candies cleverly topped to say “sorry”), arrives at the ball, and after a quick dance, they adjourn to the courtyard. Mia confesses her feelings to him, stating that even when she was constantly teased and embarrassed at school, he liked her for who she truly was. Mia shares her first kiss with Michael, while Clarisse and Joe are seen holding hands. In the final scene Mia is shown on a private plane with Fat Louie, writing in her diary, explaining she is moving with her mother to Genovia, just as the beautiful royal palace and landscape come into view below.

REVIEW:

I’ve been writing reviews here for nearly 10 yrs and one of the films that I get the most flak for not reviewing is The Princess Diaries. There is no reason for me not reviewing this film before this morning. It just happens to have slipped through the cracks up to this point, but since I was able to watch the whole this for the first time in forever, allow me to share my thoughts on this film.

What is this about?

The life of gawky Mia Thermopolis changes drastically after learning she’s the heir to a European principality’s throne. But as her royal grandmother schools Mia on conducting herself with gracious disdain, she ends up at odds with her best friend.

What did I like?

Introducing Anne Hathaway. Today, she is viewed as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, but when this was released in 2001, no one knew who Anne Hathaway was. I must say, for an introductory film, she knocked it out of the park, giving a performance that is not only scene stealing, but hints at the great actress she will turn into in the coming years. On top of that, she has some nice chemistry with Dame Julie Andrews, who is playing her estranged grandmother. More on that shortly.

Real teens. We’ve seen teens portrayed ad nauseam in TV and movies, but I think this is one of the few films where they actually felt like teenagers act (or acted at the time). There is no random kid who seems to have unlimited amounts of money, but still goes to high school. Mia and her friend are social outcasts for the most part and, while they aren’t popular, they aren’t getting pranked, ridiculed, or something more life altering (see Central Intelligence). All in all, with the exception of Mandy Moore’s head cheerleader character, who is in the same vein as her character from Saved! btw, none of the teens we meet are cartoonish caricatures.

Can she be my grandmother? No matter what your age, chances are Julie Andrews had a part in raising you, be it as Mary Poppins, Maria von Trapp, or just her normal, warm-hearted self. Those were characters she made popular in the 60s, though. Fast forward some 40 years and here she is as a grandmother. I can’t help but wish she was mine, though. She is firm but fair, regal, elegant and did I mention she’s Julie freakin’ Andrews?!?

What didn’t I like?

Joe. After Mia first meets the Queen and is told she is a princess, she runs out. The next couple of scenes seem oddly cut, as Queen Clarice asks Joe to keep an eye on her and he introduces himself as “…the head of her security, not a chauffeur and a babysitter[sic].” For a character that plays such an important role throughout the film, his introduction felt…I dunno…underwhelming because of how that was cut. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that is the only time in the entire film the editing was so choppy.

Papa, can you hear me? I have never read the book this was based on, so my familiarity with these characters hinges strictly on what I see on film. I’m sure more than a few viewers feel the same way. This brings in to question the legend of Mia’s father. Throughout the film, especially around the time Queen Clarice shows up, everyone starts mentioning the accident, but that is all we know. Obviously, giving graphic details about what happened would have brought the film down, but just a little information would have been nice like, I don’t know, what kind of accident that took his life and inadvertently put all this pressure on young Mia’s shoulders

Makeover. One of the big problems people have with makeovers, in movies especially, is that the person being made over is obviously drop-dead gorgeous in the first place. Take She’s All That for example. Rachel Leigh Cook is a total cutie, and even though they stuck a thick pair of glasses on her and shoved the poor girl in some baggy overalls, it didn’t hide the fact that she was a total hottie. This was even mentioned in the film! With Anne Hathaway, they did something very similar, giving her some “Groucho Marx meets Brooke Shields” eyebrows, unkept curly hair, and an all around geeky look. Anne was still developing into the beautiful creature she is today, but she was still extremely gorgeous back then, and it was obvious, despite attempts to hide it.

Final thoughts on The Princess Diaries? Well, first off, this is one of those squeaky clean family films that Garry Marshall excelled in making. The introduction of young Anne Hathaway as the titular princess was actually a pretty good idea. As we’ve seen her career take off from this film. I wonder where the other actresses who were considered/audition for the part are today. There is very little negative that I have to say about this picture. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! This needs to be on your list of movies to watch before you die! Check it out, if you haven’t already!

5 out of 5 stars

The Intern

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 15, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Agreeing to participate in a community outreach program, e-commerce entrepreneur Jules Ostin hires a 70-year-old intern — who ends up bringing his special brand of business savvy to her fashion enterprise.

What people are saying:

“Interesting premise where the intern is a retired senior citizen. Originality basically stops there. This movie relied on its two stars. Hathaway is worthy, but DeNiro’s brilliance carries an otherwise mediocre film.” 2 stars

“Truly loved this movie! My wife couldn’t stop raving about it. I disagree about what some other reviewers commented on regarding the last “third” of the movie and it’s ending and I’m a hard judge on endings. I believe what happened in the last third added to the reality of the situation and the ending was quite appropriate. This is the “supreme” feel-good movie with some wonderful life-lessons. It was perhaps Anne Hathaway’s best piece of work. You will enjoy it immensely!” 5 stars

“Probably what I liked best from this movie was seeing Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway as the two lead characters here as I really like the both of them. Anne looked especially gorgeous in this one and did a great job as usual. De Niro is very likeable too. The supporting cast is fine enough, not really annoying except for one of the interns named Davis, but it didn’t really do anything to take away from this film. If anything maybe it’s just a tad too long, but overall it’s a good watch.” 3 stars

“I LOVE Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro so I was guessing this was going to be a pretty decent movie. I was wrong. I have no idea why this movie is getting high reviews from people. The story is about a widowed old guy failing at retirement and going back to work at a job. Does that sound appealing to you? He meets a beautiful female boss and has no romance or sexual tension with her. THAT is the story. They try to dress it up. But in the end the take-away message is “Don’t work things out with your spouse.” The worst movie I have seen in a long time.” 1 star

“it’s not the comedy that will make you laugh, it’s the comedy that will make you smile. Nancy Meyers makes movies for women, and this time for senior as well. There is no single story, more like fragments of people’s lives. Senior internship program of an e-commerce start-up founded by a young female already set the scene up for the drama and conflicts. Women can relate to this movie, especially women with a purpose. It was also nice to see the office scenes with a lot of open space, MacBooks, large windows, and the CEO bikes in the office.” 3 stars

Rio 2

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Blu and Jewel enjoy life in Rio with their 3 kids, the oldest and music-loving Carla, book smart Bia, and the youngest and mischievous Tiago. Meanwhile, Blu’s former owner, Linda Gunderson and her ornithologist husband, Tulio are on an expedition in the Amazon and eventually discover a quick-flying spix’s macaw that loses one of its feathers. When word gets out about this through television, Jewel believes that they should go to the Amazon to help find the blue macaws. While the kids are ecstatic, Blu is uncertain, but is pressured into going along. Rafael, Nico and Pedro decide to come along. Luiz attempts to follow, but fails. Blu brings a fanny pack full of supplies, one of which he uses mostly is a GPS, much to Jewel’s displeasure.

Meanwhile, the leader of a group that is in a line of illegal logging named Big Boss, discovers Linda and Tulio’s expedition to find the macaws and orders his henchmen to hunt them down to avoid disruptions to their work. Also, Blu and Jewel’s old nemesis, Nigel the cockatoo, has survived the plane crash from the first film, but is now unable to fly and is working as a fortune teller/con artist. When he sees Blu and his family flying overhead of him, he immediately decides to seek revenge on them. He enlists two minions to help him in his plans; a silent anteater named Charlie and a poison dart frog named Gabi, the latter of which is in love with Nigel. Blu and his family use a boat to get to the jungle (with Nigel’s first plan of revenge being inadvertently foiled by Charlie), and when they arrive, they find nothing in sight. However, they are eventually taken to a flock of blue macaws that are hiding in a secret paradise land. There, they meet Jewel’s stern long lost father, Eduardo, his older sister Mimi, and Jewel’s childhood friend, Roberto. Eduardo seems unimpressed with Blu’s domesticated human behavior.

While searching for the macaws, Linda and Tulio are eventually trapped by the loggers. Meanwhile, Blu does his best to fit in with the flock, as his family and friends are doing, although the flock (especially Eduardo) are against humans and all things human. Meanwhile, a disguised Nigel plans to kill Blu at the new Carnival show after landing in an audition hosted by Rafael, Nico, Pedro, and Carla. When Blu tries to pick a Brazilian nut for Jewel, he accidentally tries to get it in the territory of the Spix Macaw’s enemies, the Scarlet macaws, led by the hostile Felipe. Blu inadvertently causes war between the two tribes for food when he accidentally hits Felipe with a twig. The war turns out to be just like football (soccer), and Blu accidentally costs the flock the food when he sends the fruit ball into his own team’s goal.

Blu visits Tulio and Linda’s site, where he discovers that it has been majorly disturbed. After discovering the loggers are destroying the jungle, Blu sends Roberto (who followed Blu) to warn the flock as he saves Linda and Tulio. Blu persuades the macaws to defend their homes, and they easily outmatch the loggers with help from the Scarlet macaws and the other animals. Big Boss tries to blow up the trees as a back-up plan, but Blu steals the lit dynamite. Nigel goes after Blu, and reveals himself as they are falling down when he tugs on the dynamite. After the dynamite goes off, Blu and Nigel engage in a battle while tangled in vines. Gabi and Charlie try to help Nigel by shooting Blu with a dart that has Gabi’s poison on it, but it accidentally hits Nigel, who gives a Shakespearean death speech before seemingly dying. Gabi tries to commit suicide by drinking her own poison and the pair are seemingly dead. However, Bia reveals that Gabi isn’t poisonous at all (she was lied to by her parents that she was). Nigel tries to attack Blu one last time, but Gabi showers Nigel with affection against his will. Meanwhile, Big Boss is eaten alive by a boa constrictor.

With the flock now under Linda and Tulio’s protection, Blu and Jewel decide to live in the Amazon with their kids and friends, though still agreeing to visit Rio in the summer. Meanwhile, Nigel and Gabi are captured by Tulio and are both taken back to Rio, Luiz finally arrives in the Amazon after hitching a ride with Kipo, and Charlie joins the birds’ party.

REVIEW:

I was not the biggest fan of Rio, the first film featuring a rare blue macaw, but apparently more than a few people liked it. How else do you explain the existence of Rio 2? Here’s hoping this is better and not just some cruel April Fool’s joke someone is playing on me.

What is this about?

Blu, Jewel and their three youngsters visit the Amazon, where they find adventure, friends old and new, and even a little danger. The family finds the rain forest in peril, but first they must contend with their old nemesis, Nigel the cockatoo.

What did I like?

Singing frog. Kristin Chenoweth had a recognizable voice, so casting her is really a no-brainer. When casting her, especially in a kids film such as this, it is almost automatic that she’s going to get the chance to belt out at least one number. Considering how we can’t see her vertically challenged cuteness, then we as the audience expect nothing less and I believe the filmmakers knew this, as well. Why else would that little pink frog have a song in a film that really isn’t a musical?

Colors. If there is one thing to be said about this film, it doesn’t skimp on the colors! They are brilliant, vibrant, and plentiful. Even in the darker parts of the film, we are blasted in the face with color, but not in a way to make us wish for less, just enough to keep respectful to the region. I can respect that and wish more films of this, or any, nature would take note and use the color palette as liberally.

What didn’t I like?

Bigger does not always mean better. I don’t care what franchise it is, when it comes time for the sequel, there is more money, which makes filmmaker go bigger. This does not equal better, though. Using the jungle setting of most of the film seemed like a good idea, especially with the 3D, but other than the birds, we really didn’t see any wildlife. This brings into question, why use the jungle at all. Wouldn’t have just been easier to keep everyone in Rio and bring in these new birds? I just didn’t get it.

Length. For a children’s film, I felt this was too long. Sure, the aforementioned bright colors will keep kids’ attention, but what about the adults and/or older siblings that are forced to watch with them? This story is not strong enough to justify the nearly 2 hour run time. A good 30 minutes needed to be cut, methinks.

Enough Eisenberg. I will never be a fan of Jesse Eisenberg. The guy is a no-talent hack who somehow has a career. His voice grates on me, and it is even worse in animated form. The stammering thing he does is not cute. In comparison, Jay Baruchel has a much more annoying voice, but at least he’s doesn’t annoy the living %!#%^@$& when he talks.

Final verdict on Rio 2? Well, it is definitely a sequel. I don’t really have much to say on this other than that. I mean, the first film was forgettable and this one follows suit. Other than some inspired voice casting with the likes of Kristin Chenoweth, Rita Moreno, Bruno Mars, etc., this is just a mess of a film that only got the greenlight because kids can be sold just about anything these days. I do not recommend this!

2 out of 5 stars

Les Misérables

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1815, convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) after serving a nineteen-year sentence. He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson), but later steals the Bishop’s silver during the night. He is caught by the authorities, but the Bishop says that the silver was given as a gift, and secures Valjean’s release. Ashamed by the Bishop’s generosity, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start an honest life under a new identity. Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice.

Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his workers, is discovered to be sending money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who lives with the unscrupulous Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and their daughter Éponine (Natalya Angel Wallace), and is dismissed by the foreman (Michael Jibson). Left with no option, Fantine turns to prostitution. During an argument with an abusive customer, Javert, now a police inspector, arrests Fantine, but Valjean intercedes and takes her to a hospital.

Later, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. Unable to condemn an innocent man, Valjean reveals his identity to the court before departing for the hospital. There he promises a dying Fantine that he will look after her daughter. Valjean finds Cosette and pays the Thénardiers to allow him to take her, and promises to be like a father to her.

Nine years later, Jean Maximilien Lamarque, the only government official sympathetic toward the poor, is nearing death. Students Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), together with street urchin Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), discuss fomenting revolution. Later Marius catches a glimpse of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), now a young woman, and instantly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, despite Cosette’s questioning, Valjean refuses to tell her about his past or Fantine.

At a café, Enjolras organises a group of idealistic students as Lamarque’s death is announced. Meanwhile, Éponine (Samantha Barks), now Marius’s friend, leads him to Cosette, where the two profess their love for one another. Lamenting that her secret love for Marius will never be reciprocated, Éponine fatalistically decides to join the revolution. Later, an attempted robbery of Valjean’s house makes him mistakenly think that Javert has discovered him, and he flees with Cosette. As they leave, Enjolras rallies the Parisians to revolt, and Marius sends a farewell letter to Cosette.

The next day, the students interrupt Lamarque’s funeral procession and begin their assault. Javert, disguised as one of the rebels, spies among the revolutionaries, but is quickly exposed by Gavroche and captured. During the ensuing gunfight, Éponine saves Marius at the cost of her own life, professing her love to him before she dies. Valjean, intercepting the letter from Marius to Cosette, goes to the barricade to protect Marius. After saving Enjolras from snipers, he is allowed to execute Javert. When the two are alone, Valjean frees Javert and fires his gun to fake the execution. Initially disbelieving, Javert wonders at Valjean’s generosity.

With the Parisians not joining the revolution as the students expected, they resolve to fight to the death. Everyone is killed but Marius, who is saved when Valjean drags his unconscious body into the sewers. Thénardier, scavenging the dead bodies, steals Marius’s ring. Valjean recovers and escapes the sewers carrying Marius, but is confronted at the exit by Javert. Javert threatens to shoot Valjean if he doesn’t surrender, but Valjean ignores him. Unable to reconcile the conflict between his civil and moral duties, two things which he always considered the same, Javert commits suicide.

Later, Marius mourns for his friends but Cosette comforts him. Revealing his past to Marius, Valjean tells him he must leave because his presence endangers Cosette, and makes Marius promise never to tell her. Marius and Cosette marry; the Thénardiers crash the reception and testify that they saw Valjean carrying a murdered corpse in the sewers. Thénardier unwittingly shows Marius the ring that he stole from him as “proof.” Recognising the ring, Marius realises that it was Valjean who saved his life. Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean after being told his location by Thénardier.

As Valjean sits dying in a local convent, he perceives the spirit of Fantine appearing to take him to Heaven. Cosette and Marius rush in to bid farewell. Valjean hands Cosette his confession of his past life, and the spirits of Fantine and the Bishop guide him to paradise, where he joins the spirits of Enjolras, Éponine, Gavroche, and the other rebels at the barricade.

REVIEW:

My freshmen year of college, we opened our marching band show with the music from Les Miserables. It may come as a surprise to some, but up until a few minutes ago, I had no idea what the songs were that comprised that 2 1/2 minute medley. I just listened to it again, and found myself singing along, as if I knew the words as well as an Earth, Wind, & Fire song.

What is this about?

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, ‘Les Miserables’ travels with prisoner-on-parole, 24601, Jean Valjeun, as he runs from the ruthless Inspector Javert on a journey beyond the barricades, at the center of the June Rebellion. Meanwhile, the life of a working class girl with a child is at turning point as she turns to prostitution to pay money to the evil innkeeper and his wife who look after her child, Cosette. Valjean promise to take care of the child, eventually leads to a love triangle between Cosette, Marius who is a student of the rebellion, and Eponine, a girl of the streets. The people sing of their anger and Enjolras leads the students to fight upon the barricades.

What did I like?

Stage to screen. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, musicals were all the rage. Some of them were real close to their Broadway counterparts, while others shared only the name. I cannot say for certain, but it seems as if this film didn’t try to do anything special with the sets, other than find and/or build real life version of what was used in the stage version. You have to give them credit for that, as audiences these days want bigger, better, more, as opposed to simplistic and authentic.

Better than the rest. Earlier this year, when the Grammys were on, someone asked me, “I wonder how it feels to be Adele and know that you are hands down the most talented singer in that entire room, and probably the world?” The same thing can be said for Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. They are far and away the most talented members of this cast, though, I see some budding young musical talent in Samantha Parks and Aaron Tveit.

Casting. In the good old days, actors were actually trained, as opposed to being picked up off the street because they had “the look”. This is how we got people like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Julie Andrews, Ginger Rogers, and their ilk. These talents were trained to not only act, but sing, and possibly dance. These days, that is such a rare occurrence, but Hugh Jackman has proven over the last few years, that it may be a good idea to go back to those days. This whole cast, with the exception of Russell Crowe, seems as if they were trained in musical theater. A couple of them, I know for sure, have been starring in London’s version of Broadway (I forgot what it is called, sorry). The one weak link is Russell Crowe. I’ll get to him shortly. Also, how perfect casting can you get than Anne Hathaway and Amanada Seyfreid. They both have those big “anime eyes” and could actually pass for mother and daughter because of some similar facial structure. Don’t forget young Cosette, who I think they did an exhaustive search to find someone who looks that much like Seyfreid. There is no way they could have been that lucky to have just come across her.

Dream. Susuan Boyle made us all sing “I Dreamed a Dream” all over the place a couple of years ago but, believe me when I say this, Anne Hathaway will blow you away with her rendition. Once you see the context in which that song is placed and watch Hathaway give, arguably, the performance of her career as she tears your heart out with each note, showing that she is more than a pretty face, but a true acting and singing talent.

What didn’t I like?

Length. I don’t believe they cut anything from the original stage version, so this is pretty much the same show you would see on Broadway, just on a grander scale, obviously. However, and this may because yesterday I sat through two nearly three hour movies and have a two more sitting in the living room waiting to be watched, but I felt that this was a scoche long. Having said that, I can’t really say where you could cut anything out.

Opera. Since there are very few lines not sung in this musical, some have called it an opera. I won’t go into a big spiel on the actual definition of an opera, but just because everyone is singing doesn’t make it an opera. Think about it like this, the Star Wars saga (that includes the prequels that people seem to hate so much) is often called a space opera, and other than that weird singing alien George Lucas added in to Jabba the Hutt’s palace, there is no singing, that I can recall, except the Ewok celebration after everything is over.

Opera mouth. Keeping on the subject of opera, I have to mention this because it sort of bugged me. Eddie Redmayne has some real chops, but he needs to do something about his facial movements when he sings. Watch a Broadway or opera singer perform, or you can watch Jessica Simpson sing, she does the same thing. You’ll notice that they move their mouth when they sing long notes, and so does Redmayne. It wouldn’t have been such a bother, except no one else does it!

Crowe. Russell Crowe impressed me with his singing skills. With this and his role in the upcoming Man of Steel, it looks like the guy is on his way to reviving his career. Here is the problem, though, his vocal chops don’t do him any good, especially against the likes of Jackman. He wasn’t as bad a Piece Brosnan in Mamma Mia!, but I still cannot help but think they should have gone with someone else. I’m sure Gerard Butler wouldn’t have minded dusting off his singing chops for this, or they could have gone with Paul Bettany, who was rumored to have originally been cast in the role.

Comic relief. I’m the last person to have issue with comic relief, especially in something that’s more on the serious side, as this film is. However, if you’re going to have comic relief, they cannot be a nuisance, but I found Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s characters to be nothing more than your typical lowlife vagrants. I’m not sure if that is how they are actually written in the book and/or musical, but I wasn’t a fan. Seems to me that they could have done something else, like be funny narrators, for instance.

Accents. This whole film is set in France, except maybe the opening scene, but I think that is just off the coast of France. At any rate, here we have these French people all speaking with British accents. I cannot be the only one that noticed this! I don’t get why they chose to give them all British accents. The little street urchin, Gavroche, has a cockney accent, as do the hookers and other peoples that mess chop off Fantine’s hair and send her to a life of, shall we say, less that wholesome living?

The few complaints that I have about Les Miserables are minor and can be considered nitpicky. I don’t intend to come off as if I didn’t enjoy the film, because I did. A few tweaks here and there and this very well could have been a stronger(er) contender for my top film of the year. I believe that the niche audience for this will not be disappointed and neither will the general public. This director was ale to find a way to please everyone. Maybe he should try his hand at a comic book movie! I highly recommend this, so go see it NOW!!!

5 out of 5 stars

Ella Enchanted

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the kingdom of Frell, baby Ella (Anne Hathaway) is given the “gift of obedience” by her fairy godmother, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox). This turns out to be more of a curse, making Ella do anything she is told to do, no matter how terrible or physically impossible. Some years later, Ella’s mother dies after instructing Ella to tell no one of the curse, not even her father. Eventually Ella’s father (Patrick Bergin), in need of money, remarries a wealthy socialite. His greedy new wife, Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley), and her two spoiled daughters Hattie and Olive (Jennifer Higham) treat Ella poorly. They eventually realize Ella’s obedience to commands, and begin making her life miserable.

Ella stumbles upon Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), the handsome heir to the throne, as he’s being pursued by his “fan club” of young women. He finds her lack of deference to him refreshing and after their encounter, sends an invitation to the Coronation Ball to her home, where it is intercepted by her stepmother and stepsisters. Hattie and Olive, who are part of Prince Charmont’s fan club, are overcome with jealousy. Along with their mother, they force Ella to insult and cut ties with her best friend Areida (Parminder Nagra). Ella cannot bear to live under the obedience spell and Hattie’s jealousy a moment longer, so she resolves to find Lucinda, the only one who can remove the spell. Mandy (Minnie Driver), the household fairy and the only other person who knows of the curse, tries to help by lending Ella a magical book that can show people in their current surroundings. The book holds Mandy’s boyfriend Benny (Jimi Mistry), who she had accidentally transformed in an errant spell. During her journey, Ella encounters an elf named Slannen (Aidan McArdle), who wants to be a lawyer instead of an entertainer as the kingdom’s laws now require. Slannen joins Ella on her quest, but they are captured by a group of ogres, who prepare to cook and eat them. They are rescued by Prince Charmont. He then accompanies her to a wedding in the land of giants, where Ella hopes to find Lucinda. Throughout the journey, Ella opens Charmont’s eyes to the cruelty of his uncle’s new laws oppressing elves and giants. Char suggests that Ella should come with him to his palace to visit the Hall of Records and track down Lucinda faster.

At the palace, Charmont’s uncle, Sir Edgar (Cary Elwes), has Ella’s “gift” called to his attention by his talking snake, Heston, voiced by (Steve Coogan), who has been spying on the prince. When Edgar offers Hattie Char’s hand in marriage, Ella’s stepsisters explain that she does everything she is told. Edgar knows that Prince Charmont intends to propose marriage to Ella, and he orders her to stab him to death and not to tell anyone of the plan. Sir Edgar also reveals that he murdered Prince Charmont’s father. To prevent the murder of Char, Ella asks Slannen to tie her to a tree outside the city and to find the giants so they can help. Lucinda now appears before Ella, who asks her to undo the “gift” of obedience. Offended by the request, Lucinda refuses, saying that if Ella no longer wants the spell, she must remove it herself. She unties Ella from the tree and gives her a fancy dress and tells her to attend the ball. When Ella gets to the ball, Charmont almost immediately takes her to the Hall of Mirrors and asks her to marry him. Ella is about to stab him with the dagger Edgar provided, when she realizes how to free herself from the curse: looking into a mirror, she orders herself to no longer be obedient. Charmont sees the dagger drop from her hand and realizes she tried to kill him. Edgar is watching the entire scene behind a two-way mirror, and before Ella can explain, Edgar orders the guards to lock her up and have her executed in a few days.

Meanwhile, Slannen gets the giants, and the ogres come to sneak into the castle to rescue Ella and find out that Sir Edgar is poisoning the crown that Char will receive during the ceremony. Just before Charmont puts it on, Ella and her allies interrupt. Edgar and Heston call for the knights and Red Guards, and a battle ensues. Ella explains everything to Charmont while fighting alongside him. When Sir Edgar’s forces lose the battle, Heston tries to bite Char, but is stopped by Ella. Caught trying to killing the prince, Edgar admits to killing the King to the assembled crowd. Then, carried away by his own rhetoric, he puts it dramatically on his own head, and promptly collapses from the poison, although he survives.

Char and Ella kiss; her stepsisters arrive and order her to stop kissing, and she is delighted to refuse. Ella then walks up to Hattie and takes her mother’s necklace back from her (Hattie had forced Ella to give it to her near the beginning of the movie). Char once again asks Ella to marry him, and she agrees. The movie ends with their wedding and a musical number (Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart).

REVIEW:

There are so many twists, turns, and mutations on the tale of Cinderella out there today that it is hard to remember some of the better ones. Ella Enchanted is one of these versions that has fallen by the wayside, partly because Anne Hathaway’s career skyrocketed shortly after this, if I’m not mistaken.

What is this about?

Burdened at birth with the “gift” of obedience by a flighty fairy godmother, Ella searches for a way to lift the curse that prevents her from pursuing her dreams — and her true love, Prince Charmont.

What did I like?

Role model. I was talking to someone about this film the other day and the topic of role models came up. In this day and age when the females that little girls see the most are anything but good role models (contrary to their belief), it is a nice break from the norm to get a strong Cinderella-type character. Personally, I prefer the original, but I’m a purist. That being said, Ella of Frel is a good example for young girls.

Cast. In my opinion, this is one of the more attractive casts that I’ve seen in quite some time. With the exception of the step sisters, who are complete dogs no matter what incarnation they’re in and the ogres, there isn’t one person that isn’t at least marginally attractive, in my opinion. For goodness sakes, Heidi Klum appears as one of the giants! Now, what does this mean for the film, since we can almost all be sure that people in this era didn’t look like they just walked out of a Hollywood salon? Well, the film does seem to be a bit of a satire on the fairy tale, so I’m sure the cast’s looks have something to do with that, as well.

Pop culture. Many people seem to be torn on the modern touches here and there, such as the songs, a wooden escalator, a university, complete with protests, fan clubs, etc. Hey, it worked in A Knight’s Tale, and before that, on The Flintstones, so why can’t it work here in a film that isn’t trying to take itself too seriously? I don’t see what the big deal is. Personally, I think we could have done with a touch more here and there, but not too much, lest we meander into territory defecated upon by the last couple of Shrek films.

What didn’t I like?

Smart. Ella is a smart, independent young woman, so it seems to be that by time she’s this age, she would have figured out a way around the curse or maybe even learned a few spells from Mandy, who I’m not really sure why she’s still there at this time. I just don’t get why she had to go on a trek across the countryside to find Lucinda, other than to fill out the film.

Spotlight. You might not realize it, but there are other characters in this film besides Ella, the Prince, Sir Edgar, and Slannen. Two of the biggest injustices are Mandy, played by Minnie Driver who really could be a throwaway character, if you think about it and Ella’s best friend, Areida. I would have loved to have seen more of these two, especially Areida, but instead, we get to see Vivica A. Fox in all her stereotypical, sassy black female glory. I am not a fan of her, let me tell you! Don’t even get me started on how the focus was only on one of the step sisters. Yes, that’s how it is in every incarnation, but this poor girl may as well have not even been there!

Deviation. I just learned that this is based on a book. One of these days, I may have to go check that out. In the meantime, I can’t really comment on how far from the source material but I do know that it doesn’t really resemble the book. As a I said earlier, I’m a purist, but I understand that certain allowances must be made. However, changing the whole story is something that I just can’t deal with.

Ella Enchanted is the first film where I believe we actually were able to see that Anne Hathaway had some real acting chops to go with those model looks of hers. If you’re in the mood for a nice family film that will keep you and your kids entertained, then I highly recommend this one. No, it isn’t perfect, but it sure is fun to watch!

4 out of 5 stars