Archive for based on a book

Adore

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on July 14, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In New South Wales, two young girls, Roz and Lil grow up as best friends. Many years later, Lil’s husband Theo, dies in a car accident and she is left to raise her young son, Ian, alone. Roz is married to a drama professor, Harold, and has a young son, Tom. Roz, steps up to the plate and becomes almost something of a second mother to Ian. Her friendship with Lil deepens to that of sisterhood. Lil, Roz, Harold, Ian, and Tom live near the beach.

Years pass and Tom and Ian are now 20 years old, still close. Harold applies for and is offered a job in Sydney without telling Roz. It becomes obvious that while Roz’s friendship with Lil has deepened over the years Harold and Roz have grown apart. He expects Roz to move to Sydney with him; she hesitates. Despite himself, Ian becomes seriously attracted to Roz. One night he looks at her and it is obvious that his feelings toward her have changed. Ian starts making casual advances towards Roz. Roz, despite herself, starts flirting back in the same manner. Saul, a man who has been after Lil for a long time, gets blown off by her again. One night Ian, Tom, Roz, and Lil are having dinner together. Roz and Ian flirt and watch Lil and Tom dance together. That night Tom has a little too much to drink. Ian goes back to the main house, where there is a guestroom that Ian often stays in. Ian kisses Roz, and although she is hesitant the two of them end up going to his room together.

That night Tom goes up to the kitchen for a drink and witnesses Roz coming out of Ian’s room, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and carrying her jeans in her hand. The next day Tom puts the moves on Lil and ends up telling her what has been going on between Ian and Roz. Tom takes revenge by initiating a sexual relationship with Lil. He informs his mother that he was with Lil and Roz slaps him in the face. Both, Lil and Roz agree that they have crossed a line and that it shouldn’t be crossed again. Lil informs Ian of this. Ian tells his mother that he loves Roz as Harold returns. Roz informs Harold that she and Tom don’t plan to move to Sydney with him because they can’t bear the thought of living anywhere else.

Things don’t go so well at first and Tom and Ian get into a fight then make up. Roz and Ian continue their relationship, but they are now getting along with Tom and Lil, who are continuing their relationship as well. Tom and Ian are acting brothers and best friends who are in love with a set of sisters. Later Roz and Harold divorce.

Two years later, Ian is working with his mother Lil, while Tom pursues his career as a stage director. Tom informs Ian that Harold has offered him a month-long directing job in Sydney, but is hesitant to leave, worrying that Lil would not be happy with this. But Ian encourages Tom to go, stating that Lil would not want to get in the way of his goals. Tom leaves for Sydney and soon meets a young woman named Mary who auditions for the lead. Tom is instantly attracted to Mary. Tom calls Lil and tells her about Mary, but does not mention that they are beginning a relationship. Lil begins to worry, however, though Ian and Roz try their best to console her. When Tom returns he continues his relationship with Lil, but at the same time receives calls from Mary.

On Tom’s 21st birthday, Harold comes back to celebrate and brings Mary as a surprise for Tom. Lil is unaware of this, and arrives later that night with Ian to the party. She sees Tom dancing with Mary. Tom in turn sees her and comes over to introduce the two women. Ian then asks Mary to dance and takes her to the dance floor. Tom informs Lil that Mary is staying at a hotel room and that he can come over after dropping her off. Lil tells him that it is not a good idea and soon leaves. Tom goes to Mary’s hotel and the next day Lil is devastated. She and Roz decide to unite together and end their respective relationships for good.

Tom and Mary later get married. At the wedding Ian is still mad at Roz, and hints to Harold that it’s his fault for the wedding. Ian then meets Mary’s maid of honor, Hannah. Ian is distraught and tries to see Roz early the next morning; still angry, he goes surfing and lands himself in the hospital. Hannah visits him in the hospital and the two later become involved. While meeting with Tom, Ian tells him that Hannah is great but it’s not going anywhere. That night after work Hannah informs Ian that she is pregnant.

Years later Ian and Tom both have daughters about the same age. Both couples, along with Lil and Roz, spend the day at the beach. Later that evening Lil leaves early, and Tom claims to be drunk and takes a walk to sober up. Ian then discovers that Tom and Lil have resumed their sexual relationship and is so angry that he discloses to the two young women what has been going on. Mary explains to a confused Hannah that Ian and Roz were lovers and that Tom and Lil are still lovers. Mary decides to leave Tom and Hannah goes with her, taking both girls with them. Mary informs Roz that she never wants to see any of them ever again. Lil explains to Roz about restarting her sexual relationship with Tom shortly after his wedding to Mary.

The movie ends with Ian swimming to the floating platform that has been a meeting place for the boys and their mothers all throughout the film. “Good morning,” he says politely. The next shot, from over the platform of sin, reveals each of the four, all lying there, but not touching; together, but each utterly alone.

REVIEW:

I believe they call those random posts on Facebook that have nothing to do with any of your friends, but seem to appeal to the stuff you like “clickbait”. I clicked on one of those, I believe it was called underrated films on Netflix, or something to that effect and saw Adore. From what they said about it, I thought it would be interesting. Was I right or wrong?

What is this about?

In this seaside drama adapted from a novella by Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, two lifelong friends who fall in love with each other’s teenage sons must carry out their affairs in relative secrecy.

What did I like?

Friendship. Two women who have become best friends are every so proud of their two sons, who one of them calls “Greek gods”, also best friends. One can never have too many friends. You never know when you just need someone to talk to, get you out of a jam or, in the case of this film have illicit affairs with their son without them judging you.

Taboo. We are living in a society that is getting so homogenized, for lack of a better term, that we can do, say, or show anything without fear of offending someone. Sometimes a film just needs to grow some balls and go for it, you know? Thankfully, that is what we get here as the subject matter is very taboo. Or is it? Think about the premise of a teenage boy hooking up with his best friend’s mom while his said friend hooks up with his mom. If I’m not mistaken that is very similar to some porn “plots”. It works for that industry, no reason it can’t do the same for indie drama, right?

Cinema. Sometimes, in the era of explosions, giant robots, dinosaurs, and superheroes, we forget what real cinema is. Nothing about this film is flashy. Even the two lead actresses, who are beauties in their own right, seemed to be “uglied” up a bit. All this is done in the name of acting, the craft that many of Hollywood’s “actors” cannot do without special effects and a teleprompter.

What didn’t I like?

Oldman-light. There is an actor in here, I don’t really know his name, whose look, mannerisms and actions are very reminiscent of Gary Oldman, As a matter of fact, that’s who I thought he was at first. Instead, he’s just poor man’s clone on Oldman. He’s not as good an actor, but he tries. It is such a shame he will always be overshadowed by the man with the bigger, more successful look-alike.

One mistake. Women can be such fickle creatures. All it takes is just one mistake, be it big or small, and it is like the end of the world for us guys. Heaven forbid they are “surfing the crimson wave!” because that just makes things worse. A scene near the end of this film showcases how unforgiving women can be. The guys both make one mistake and they storm out with the kids, vowing to never see any of them again.

Wine, wine, and more wine…with a couple of beers. A small complaint that I have about this film is how in nearly every scene, Watts and Wright are sipping down wine like its water. When they drink beer with the boys they aren’t as fast. Is there something in the wine? Speaking of wine and beer, there is a scene where the ladies and their sons are talking and the subject of boobs is brought up which leads me to believe the author had women a bit more endowed than these two happen to be. For the purpose of the story that was told, it would work better if at least one of them was more than an A cup. This is totally not where I meant to go with this topic, but oh well.

Some people really do adore Adore. I am not one of these people. For me, this film was rather boring. The subject matter should have kept me interested, but it didn’t. This coming of age story about taboo relationships just isn’t my cup of tea, but I’m sure the audience it is targeted for will enjoy it. I recommend it to them, while the rest of us can find something more our speed like Fast and Furious. If you do insist on watching this, I trust that you’ll enjoy the melodrama and taboo subjects.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In New York City, teenager Clary Fray (Lily Collins) begins seeing a strange symbol, worrying her mother Jocelyn Fray (Lena Headey) and her mother’s friend Luke Garroway (Aidan Turner). Later, while attending a nightclub with her best and only friend Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan), Clary witnesses the murder of a man by the hands of Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower), whom appears only Clary is able to see. Meanwhile, Jocelyn is abducted by two men, Emil Pangborn (Kevin Durand) and Samuel Blackwell (Robert Maillet), but not before leaving a message for Clary to warn her that someone named Valentine is coming after her. Jocelyn then drinks a potion which leaves her in a comatose state. Returning home, Clary is attacked by a demon, but Jace appears and kills the demon. He reveals himself to be a Shadowhunter, a warrior trained to slay demons hidden on Earth, such as the man in the nightclub. Jocelyn was a Shadowhunter as well, and Clary has inherited her powers, including the ability to use runes.

Clary and Jace visit Clary’s neighbor and friend of her mother, Madame Dorothea (C. C. H. Pounder), a witch who deduces that Pangborn and Blackwell are after the Mortal Cup, one of the three Mortal Instruments given to the first Shadowhunter by the Angel Raziel, that allows normal humans to become half-Angel Shadowhunters. Simon, now able to see Jace, joins them as they leave to meet Luke in his bookstore. There, they discover that Luke is being interrogated by Pangborn and Blackwell, stating that he cares nothing for Jocelyn, and is after the Mortal Cup himself. The trio then escapes to the Shadowhunters’ base of operations, the Institute, where Clary and Simon meet Jace’s fellow Shadowhunters, Alec Lightwood (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle Lightwood (Jemima West), and their leader, Hodge Starkweather (Jared Harris), who reveals that Pangborn and Blackwell are working for Valentine Morgenstern (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an ex-Shadowhunter who betrayed the race of the Nephilim and sought to steal the Mortal Cup to gain control over all Shadowhunters and demons.

Believing the key to find the Mortal Cup lies within Clary’s mind, Hodge instructs Jace to take Clary to the City of Bones, where fallen Shadowhunters are laid to rest, to meet Brother Jeremiah (Stephen R. Hart), a member of the Silent Brothers who probe Clary’s mind and uncover her connection to a powerful warlock, Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao). Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec and Isabelle meet Magnus in a nightclub, where he reveals that Jocelyn has hired him to block knowledge of the Shadowhunters from Clary’s mind. Their conversation is interrupted when Simon is kidnapped by vampires, leading to a confrontation in a nearby hotel. Their group is nearly killed until the werewolves (that share a truce with the Shadowhunters) intervene and rescue them.

Back in the Institute, Clary shares a moment of romance with Jace during a romantic evening with him in the Institute’s greenhouse, sharing a kiss. Simon confronts Clary about it and Jace gets angry and confused when she refers to it as just a kiss. Simon pours out his heart to Clary and Simon leaves the room leaving Clary feeling guilty.

Clary discovers that the Mortal Cup is hidden inside a tarot card painted by her mother, so the group returns to Madame Dorothea’s apartment to retrieve it. There, they discover the witch has been replaced by a demon sent to steal the Cup. It is killed by Simon and Jace, not before critically wounding Alec, while Clary retrieves the Mortal Cup.

The group returns to the Institute only to find that they have been betrayed by Hodge, who takes the Mortal Cup from Clary and summons Valentine Morgenstern. He reveals himself to be Clary’s father and persuades her to join him in his cause, but she refuses and escapes with help from Luke, who is revealed to be a werewolf. Luke tells Clary that she has a brother called Jonathan, and returns to the Institute with her and his pack to fight Valentine, who uses a forbidden spell to open a portal and summon an army of demons to New York. Simon and Isabelle manage to close the portal with help from Hodge, who sees the error of his ways and sacrifices himself to kill Blackwell. Meanwhile, Magnus arrives to heal the injured Alec, and Luke kills Pangborn.

Clary and Jace fight Valentine, who reveals that they are siblings, and that Jace’s real name is Jonathan. He once more attempts to convince them to join him, but they refuse again and push him through the portal with a false Mortal Cup, and after a brief struggle the portal is destroyed by Jace. Jocelyn is rescued but remains in a coma at the hospital, where Luke accompanies her. Clary assures Simon that although she does not love him back, somebody will. Clary heads back home and uses her powers to repair the damage done to her apartment. Shortly thereafter, Jace appears, confessing that he needs her and wants her to come back with him to the Institute. Without much thought, she agrees to go with him.

REVIEW:

Harry Potter has come and gone, becoming a part of cinematic lore. Since then, Hollywood has been struggling, and I emphasize that word, to find the next young adult novel that will go on to make them lots and lots of money. The Twilight franchise, much to the chagrin of many who weren’t in the demographic worked, but they’ve also come and gone. The Hunger Games books have proven they can make some bank, but they aren’t going to be around forever, so what else is out there? Well, apparently The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

What is this about?

After teen Clary Fray witnesses a murder at a New York nightclub, a sinister stranger named Valentine attacks and kidnaps her mother. Endowed with supernatural vision, Clary recruits a band of youthful human-angel hybrids to help rescue her mother.

What did I like?

Effects. The CG demons and werewolves were pretty impressive, especially the demon dog that attacks our heroine. I went into this film expecting some cheesy effects and was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case. I can’t recall if this was released in 3D, but I’m sure if it was, people would be gushing about how great these creatures looked.

Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach is far from my favorite composer. Apparently, when his music is played, it affects demons. At first, I though this was a nice little bit of comedy thrown in there, as well as some demon hunter history, but it turns out that Bach actually was a hunter, himself. When they show the portrait of him above the piano, you can faintly see the tattoo he is covering above his wrist. Did I mention that my college mascot was a Demon? Perhaps that is why his music affect me so. Ha!

Tone. While watching those Twilight movies, all I wanted to do was slit my wrists. That isn’t a commentary on the films themselves, but rather a statement regarding the morose tone they maintained throughout the entire franchise. Truly, it wasn’t as bad as something like Requiem for a Dream or Black Swan, but man, those films are not happy. Luckily, this film (and perhaps the books?) don’t go down that path. Sure the leading man is a bit of a downer, but on a whole, the film won’t depress you, depending on how you feel about the villains, of course.

What didn’t I like?

Mix and match. One cannot help but notice the amount of genres that seem to be shoved in here. Pretty much if you can name the sci-fi franchise, it is in here somewhere. This would’ve worked, but this seems to be more done to make the film appeal to the male demographic, rather than move the film forward. Yes, guys want to see action and such, but not at the expense of good filmmaking.

Comedy. Usually, I am the last one to bitch and moan about jokes thrown in here and there, but the jokes that are force-fed to us all fall flat. Whomever it was that wrote the jokes obviously did not know how to write a joke. I appreciate the attempt at comedy, I really do, but if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all.

Casting call. The cast isn’t horrible, just full of more “pretty people” that you would see on the CW. As it turns out, looks don’t mean talent. Many of the cast come off as wooden and stiff. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, as good an actor as he is, is just chewing up scenery and going over the top with his character. If he would have scaled it back just a little it would have worked better.

Having not read the book, I think The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones could go on to become a successful franchise, if they listen to the criticisms people have with this film and make those changes moving forward (a sequel is planned for next year). Do I recommend this film? Well, if you’re into goth night at Hot Topic, you’ll love the look of it, but as far as the picture itself, I hesitant to give it a recommendation because it isn’t good, but it isn’t bad. It just exists. I may need to read the book and watch again, maybe that will help my decision. For now, I say give it a shot. What harm can that do?

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Cloud Atlas

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film consists of six interrelated and interwoven stories spanning different time periods. The film is structured, according to novelist David Mitchell, “as a sort of pointillist mosaic.”

South Pacific Ocean, 1849
Adam Ewing, an American lawyer from San Francisco, has come to the Chatham Islands to conclude a business arrangement with Reverend Gilles Horrox for his father-in-law, Haskell Moore. He witnesses the whipping of a Moriori slave, Autua, who later stows away on Ewing’s ship. Ewing advocates for Autua to join the crew as a freeman. Meanwhile, Dr. Henry Goose slowly poisons Ewing, claiming it to be the cure for a parasitic worm, aiming to steal Ewing’s valuables. When Goose attempts to administer the fatal dose, Autua saves Ewing. Returning to the United States, Ewing and his wife Tilda denounce her father’s complicity in slavery and leave San Francisco to join the Slavery Abolishment Movement.

Cambridge, England and Edinburgh, Scotland, 1936
Robert Frobisher, a bisexual English musician, finds work as an amanuensis to composer Vyvyan Ayrs, allowing Frobisher the time and inspiration to compose his own masterpiece, “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.” But Ayrs wishes to take credit for Frobisher’s work, and threatens to expose his scandalous background if he resists. Frobisher, who has read a partial copy of Ewing’s journal in the meanwhile, shoots Ayrs and flees to a hotel, where he finishes “The Cloud Atlas Sextet” but then commits suicide just before his lover Rufus Sixsmith arrives.

San Francisco, California, 1973
Journalist Luisa Rey meets an older Sixsmith, now a nuclear physicist. Sixsmith tips off Rey to a conspiracy regarding the safety of a new nuclear reactor run by Lloyd Hooks, but is assassinated by Hooks’ hitman Bill Smoke before he can give her a report that proves it. Rey finds and reads Frobisher’s letters to Sixsmith, resulting in her tracking down a vinyl recording of Frobisher’s “The Cloud Atlas Sextet.” Isaac Sachs, another scientist at the power plant, passes her a copy of Sixsmith’s report. However, Smoke assassinates Sachs and also runs Rey’s car off a bridge. With help from the plant’s head of security, Joe Napier, she evades another attempt against her life which results in Smoke’s death and exposes the plot to use a nuclear accident for the benefit of oil companies.

United Kingdom, 2012
Timothy Cavendish, a 65-year-old publisher, has a windfall when Dermot Hoggins, a gangster author whose book he has published, murders a critic and is sent to prison. When Hoggins’ brothers threaten Cavendish’s life to get his share of the profits, Cavendish asks for help from his brother Denholme. Denholme tricks him into hiding in a nursing home, where he is held against his will, but Cavendish escapes. Cavendish receives a manuscript of a novel based on Rey’s life and writes a screenplay about his own story.

Neo Seoul, (Korea), 2144
Sonmi-451, a genetically-engineered fabricant (clone) server at a restaurant, is interviewed before her execution. She recounts how she was released from her compliant life of servitude by Commander Hae-Joo Chang, a member of a rebel movement known as “Union”. While in hiding, she watches a film based on Cavendish’s adventure. The Union rebels reveal to her that fabricants like her are killed and “recycled” into food for future fabricants. She decides that the system of society based on slavery and exploitation of fabricants is intolerable, and is brought to Hawaii to make a public broadcast of her story and manifesto. Hae-Joo is killed in a firefight and Sonmi is captured. After telling her story and its intent, she is executed.

The Big Island (dated “106 winters after The Fall”, in the end credits and book cited as 2321)
Zachry lives with his sister and niece Catkin in a primitive society called “The Valley” after most of humanity has died during “The Fall”; the Valley tribesmen worship Sonmi (Sonmi-451) as a goddess. Their sacred text is taken from the broadcast of Sonmi’s manifesto. Zachry is plagued by hallucinations of a figure called “Old Georgie” who manipulates him into giving in to his fear, and hiding while witnessing the murder of his brother-in-law and nephew by the cannibalistic Kona tribe. Zachry’s village is visited by Meronym, a member of the “Prescients”, a society holding on to remnants of technology from before the Fall. In exchange for saving Catkin from death, Zachry agrees to guide Meronym into the mountains in search of Cloud Atlas, a communications station where she is able to send a message to Earth’s colonies. At the station, Meronym reveals that Sonmi was mortal and not a deity as the Valley tribes believe. After returning, Zachry discovers the slaughter of his tribe by the Kona. Zachry kills the Kona chief and rescues Catkin; Meronym saves them both from an assault by Kona tribesmen. Zachry and Catkin join Meronym and the Prescients as their boat leaves Big Island.

Epilogue
A seventh time period, several decades after the action on Big Island, is featured in the film’s prologue and epilogue: Zachry is revealed to have been telling these stories to his grandchildren on a colony of Earth on another planet, confirming that Meronym, who is present at the site, succeeded in sending the message to the colonies and was rescued along with him.

REVIEW:

It is my understanding that Cloud Atlas is based on a very successful book. If the book is anything like what I just saw, then is must be highly imaginative…and long…VERY long.

What is this about?

In this star-studded drama, six seemingly disparate stories take viewers from a South Pacific Island in the 19th century to 1970s America to a dystopian future, exploring the complicated links that humans share through the generations.

What did I like?

Make-up. It should go without saying that the makeup is a star of its own in this film. The reason I say that is because what other way can you use the same group of actors over 6 very different eras and change things such as their race, nationality, and in a couple of cases, sex. The makeup artists are to be highly commended for the job they did with these people.

Time. There was something about the way these people connected in one era, then would find each other in another era and connect, then do the same thing again in another era that resonated with me. I guess if you’re meant to be friends, lovers, or enemies with someone, then it’ll happen in all of your incarnations.

Mix. A review I read about this a little before I started this post said that this is the perfect mix of all the genres that people would want to see, be it comedy, drama, intrigue/suspense, action, etc. I had to think on that for a minute and it is true. Each of these segments is not only set in a totally different era, but they all have a different tone to them. That is what keeps the film interesting.

What didn’t I like?

Ambitious. I give this film all the credit in the world for taking a stab at doing something different. However, I felt that it may have taken a bit too big of an undertaking. This is a big film, but feels like it is an independent flick. The two don’t gel the way they could/should and ultimately, it hurts the proceedings.

Asian. The story involving Neo-Seoul wasn’t working for me. I just couldn’t seem to get into it. That isn’t my complaint, though. That section of the film also featured some very odd make-up that could be construed as racist by some. I didn’t think so, but I can see how some would cry foul. Having said that, I’m not really sure what else could have been done.

Long. At nearly 3 hours long, you better be ready to be sitting for quite some time. I’m not really a fan of long films, unless they can keep my attention, which this one did not. As a matter of fact, I actually found myself dozing a bit in the middle and had to rewind in a couple of sections just so I wouldn’t be lost. I don’t know what they could have cut out, but I’m sure there had to be a way to make this shorter, right?

Cloud Atlas was very much hyped up before it was released, but the finished product doesn’t live up to that hype. For me, it was ok, but nothing spectacular. I can’t not recommend this, because it isn’t a bad film but, at the same time, I can’t say that you should rush out and see it. Yes, it is above average and worth seeing, but I just don’t know how much you should move your schedule around to check it out.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Help

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2012 by Mystery Man

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PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) is a middle-aged black maid who has spent her life raising white children and has recently lost her only son. Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is another black maid and Aibileen’s best friend whose outspokenness has gotten her fired a number of times; she has built up a reputation for being a difficult employee, but she makes up for this with her phenomenal cooking skills.

Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is a young white woman who has recently moved back home to her family’s plantation after graduating from Ole Miss to find that her beloved childhood maid, Constantine (Cicely Tyson), has quit while she was away. Skeeter is skeptical, because she believes Constantine would not have left without writing to her.

Unlike her friends, who attended university to find husbands (and are now all married and having children), Skeeter is single, has a degree, and wants to begin a career as a writer. Her first job is as a “homemaker hints” columnist in the local paper. With Constantine gone, Skeeter asks Aibileen, the maid to her good friend, Elizabeth (Ahna O’Reilly), for her help in answering domestic questions. Skeeter becomes uncomfortable with the attitude her friends have towards their “help,” especially Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her “Home Help Sanitation Initiative”, a proposed bill to provide for separate toilets for black help because she believes (as she puts it) that “black people carry different diseases to white people.” Amidst the era of discrimination based on color, Skeeter is one of the few who believe otherwise, and she decides to write a book based on the lives of the maids who have spent their entire lives taking care of white children.

The maids are at first reluctant to talk to Skeeter, because they are afraid that they will lose their jobs or worse. Aibileen is the first to share her stories, after she overhears Hilly’s initiative, and realizes that the children whom she has been raising are growing up to be just like their parents. Her friend Minny has just been fired as Hilly’s maid as a punishment for Minny using the bathroom during a thunderstorm (revealed by Aibileen to have spawned a tornado and killed eighteen people: ten white, eight black), instead of going to use the separate outdoor toilet. Hilly poisons all the other families against Minny, making it impossible for her to find other work, and her daughter is forced to drop out of school to find a job as a maid. Minny initially declines to participate in Skeeter’s book research, but later agrees to share her stories. Aibileen helps her find work with Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), who is married to a rich socialite (Mike Vogel), but is an outcast from the other society ladies (as influenced by Hilly), because she was born into a working-class family and her husband is Hilly’s ex-boyfriend. Also, unlike Hilly, Celia treats Minny with respect.

Skeeter writes a draft of the book, with Minny and Aibileen’s stories in it, and sends it to Miss Stein (Mary Steenburgen), an editor for Harper & Row in New York City, New York. Miss Stein thinks there may be some interest in it, but requires at least a dozen more maids’ contributions before it can become a viable book. Believing that the book will only be publishable during the Civil Rights movement, which she believes is a passing fad, Stein advises Skeeter to finish the book soon. No one comes forward, until Medgar Evers is assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi, and Hilly’s latest maid is brutally arrested (for attempting to pawn one of Hilly’s rings, to pay for her twins’ college tuition, after Hilly had refused to give her a loan). With racial tensions running high, the maids realize that Skeeter’s book will give them an opportunity for their voices to be heard, and Skeeter suddenly has numerous stories to include. Minny shares one last story with Skeeter and Aibileen, which she calls the “Terrible Awful,” to ensure that no one will reveal that the book was written about Jackson, Mississippi. As revenge for being fired and accused of stealing, Minny bakes a chocolate pie and delivers it to Hilly. After Hilly has finished two slices, Minny informs her that she has baked her own feces into the pie. Minny tells Aibileen and Skeeter that if they add that part into the book, Hilly will try to prevent anyone from figuring out that she made her eat human feces and will convince the town that the book is not about Jackson. The book is almost finished, except for Skeeter’s own story of being brought up by Constantine. Skeeter manages to find out what had happened to Constantine, when her mother, Charlotte (Allison Janney), finally explains that she reluctantly fired her in order to save face during a reception. Soon afterwards, feeling guilty about the incident since the Phelans are quite close to their help, Charlotte had sent Skeeter’s brother to bring Constantine home from Chicago, Illinois, where she was living with her daughter Rachel, but he discovered that she had died, not long after leaving Jackson. However, Constantine’s daughter forgives them knowing that the family they served genuinely love them.

The book is accepted for publication and is a success, much to the delight of Skeeter and the maids. She shares her royalties with each of the maids who contributed, and is offered a job with a publishing company in New York City. She tells her boyfriend about the job and the book. Revolted by her ideas of racial equality, he immediately breaks up with her. Later in the afternoon, Hilly hatches a plan to get rid of Aibileen as Elizabeth’s help, by falsely accusing her of stealing silver. Elizabeth tries to defend Aibileen, but to no avail. Aibileen denounces Hilly as a godless woman and tells her that she will never have peace if she continues her vindictive ways, leaving her in limbo. As Aibileen tries to convince Hilly and Elizabeth of her innocence, Elizabeth’s daughter, Mae Mobley, arrives and pleads with her not to go. Elizabeth is forced to accept the firing of Aibileen, and Mae Mobley cries by the window, shouting for Aibileen as she leaves to start a new life

REVIEW:

I don’t think it is a mystery that racial relations weren’t the best in the 50s, some can even say they were nonexistent. For the longest time, whites looked down on all other races, going so far as to think they couldn’t drink from the same water fountain or use the same toilets for fear of different diseases. The Help turns out to be a film that, after seeing some of the comments that were populating (infecting) the internet after the election, this country really needs to see, so that they can realize how stupid racism is!

What is this about?

In 1960s Jackson, Miss., aspiring writer Eugenia Phelan crosses taboo racial lines by conversing with Aibileen Clark about her life as a housekeeper, and their ensuing friendship upsets the fragile dynamic between the haves and the have-nots. When other long-silent black servants begin opening up to Eugenia, the disapproving conservative Southern town soon gets swept up in the turbulence of changing times.

What did I like?

Acting. This is a powerful film and it needed some strong performances from its cast. Some of them give the best performances of their career, such as Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone, while others are just business as usual such as Allison Janney and Viola Davis. Leave us not forget the outstanding bitchiness and believable hatred from Bryce Dallas Howard and the lovable naiveté of Jessica Chastain. They say you’re only as strong as your weakest link, but I did not find a weak link in this entire film…well, maybe the men.

Levity. With subject matter as heavy as this, I really expected this to be some heavy, tear jerking drama, but it turns out that there were quite a few moments that almost made this a comedy. For someone like me that isn’t particularly a fan of serious stuff, it made this film much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

Pacing. I looked at how long this film was and though I was in for some never-ending melodrama, but it actually moves along at a decent pace with no places that grind the film to a screeching halt. The audience is sure to stay with the proceedings from start to finish.

What didn’t I like?

Stray. I haven’t read the book, but from what I hear, there were some things left out, most notably something about a certain kind of pie that is brought up every chance they get, but was left out of the movie, and no, I’m not referring to the *ahem” chocolate pie that Minny was serving.

Male. Maybe it is because I’m a guy, but I found the lack of any kind of central male character a bit disturbing. It was almost as if these women denied the existence of the men in their lives. The only one that got any kind of major acknowledgment were the two we never saw, Minny’s husband Leroy, and Celia’s husband, who does show up at the end, Johnny.

South. The setting for this was perfect. I can’t imagine this working as well if it were set in someplace like Boston. That being said, one can’t help but be frustrated by the attitudes and actions of these women and how they treated the women that work for them. I am a native Southerner, living most of my life down here, save for a few years moving around (dad was in the Air Force), but it is things like this that just flat out make you wish you were a Yankee, for lack of a better term. Just plain disgusting that anyone could ever think like this, and the fact that some people still do is even worse!

The Help surprised everyone when it was released in 2009. No one thought it would be racking up awards like it ended up doing. In that same vein, I didn’t expect to like it. I figured it was just some chick flick with racial overtones. Man, was I wrong. I highly recommend this film to everyone. It is a definite must-see!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Jurassic Park

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), CEO of InGen, has recently created Jurassic Park: a theme park populated with dinosaurs cloned from the DNA extracted from insects preserved in prehistoric amber.

After a park worker is fatally attacked by a dinosaur, Hammond’s investors, represented by their lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), demand that experts visit the park and verify that it is safe. Gennaro invites Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), a mathematician, while Hammond invites paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern). They are joined on the island by Hammond’s two grandchildren—Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards). Hammond asks Malcolm, Grant, and Sattler what their thoughts are about having recreated dinosaur species. The three of them engage in an intense philosophical debate about the ethics of having cloned extinct dinosaurs with Gennaro being the only one to express optimism. The group sets off to explore the park while Hammond observes his guests along with Head Technician Ray Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson) and his game warden, Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck).

The head computer programmer, Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight), is secretly in the employ of one of InGen’s corporate rivals, and has been paid to steal fertilized dinosaur embryos. During his theft, Nedry deactivates the park’s security system, allowing him access to the embryo storage. During the exploration, Dr. Sattler spots a sick Triceratops and the group gets out to investigate. With a storm heading in, everyone gets back into the cars except for Dr. Sattler, who stays with the park doctor to look after the animal. The rest of the group, who have been stranded in the park due to the system shutdown, are attacked by the Tyrannosaurus, which kills Gennaro. Grant and the children are able to escape.

Meanwhile, a fleeing Nedry crashes his jeep. He decides to attach a winch on the front of his jeep to a tree that will pull him to the road and help him reach the dock. As he’s attaching the winch to the tree, he encounters a dilophosaurus which kills him.

Ellie and Muldoon try to find Alan and the children, but to no avail. Then they find Ian under the demolished bathroom. As they try to look for the children deep inside the jungle, Ian realizes the Tyrannosaurus is near. He orders Ellie and Muldoon to flee, with the Tyrannosaurus chasing after them. The three of them are able to escape in their jeep.

Meanwhile, Alan and the children climb up a high tree to avoid the Tyrannosaurus, and in a distance from the tree, they can see a family of “Brachiosaurus”.

Back at the Visitor’s center, being unable to decipher Nedry’s code to reactivate the security fences, the group decides to take the drastic measure of rebooting the entire park’s computer and electrical network. Arnold refuses at first by worrying that the park’s network might not come back on at all, But Hammond pressures him by saying that people are dying. Arnold, along with Ellie, Hammond, Muldoon and Malcolm, shut down the park’s grid and retreat to the emergency bunker, from where Arnold heads to the maintenance bunker to reboot the system. When he doesn’t return, Ellie and Muldoon decides to head for the bunker. At the same time, Grant and the children discover a nest full of hatched eggs, indicating the dinosaurs are breeding on their own.

As Muldoon and Ellie proceed to the maintenance bunker, Muldoon notices Velociraptors in the bushes making him notify Ellie that they are being hunted. Muldoon gets killed by a raptor, while Ellie makes it to the bunker and restarts the park’s systems. After Ellie turns the park’s systems back on, she almost gets killed by a raptor hidden within some cables; she then discovers Arnold’s mutilated remains and narrowly escapes the raptor. At the same time, Tim, Lex and Grant climb an electrified fence out of the park’s animal zone and Tim is nearly killed upon the reactivation of the electricity.

Grant and the children head for the visitor’s center; he leaves them alone in the restaurant while he reunites with Ellie and the others. The kids manage to eat something until they see a raptor’s shadow through a stained glass window. They head to kitchen, in which the raptor opens the door making it into the kitchen, in which another raptor accompny’s it. The kids escape two raptors before reuniting with Grant and Ellie. Lex is able to assist getting the park’s security systems working from the control room. Grant contacts Hammond and tells him to call the mainland for rescue, but the two raptors find the group and attack.

The group flees through the vents, only to be cornered in the entrance hall by the raptors, who prepare to strike. However, the Tyrannosaurus breaks into the main hall and attacks the raptors, allowing the foursome to escape outside where they are rescued by Malcolm and Hammond. Hammond and the others escape via helicopter. Hammond takes one last look at Jurassic Park, before boarding the helicopter. As the helicopter flies away, Grant watches a flock of pelicans gliding over the sea.

REVIEW:

It came to my attention last week that I had actually watched the Jurassic Park films after I had started this blog, but for some reason, I never reviewed them. Oh well, it happens, right?

When this film was released, I was a junior high kid and in awe of dinosaurs and the whole span of this film. Not to mention the heroic music that only John Williams could deliver. Now, some 20 years later, that feeling hasn’t waned at all.

I’ve long been against CGI, and will probably always be, unless it is used to animate Transformers or create explosions, but the great way it was put to use here in order to create these prehistoric creatures really shows you what they can do with the technology when they actually sit down and take their time with it, as opposed to today where they juts take like 5 minutes, draw something and paste it on the some film.

The plot here, I believe follows very closely with the book, but don’t quote me on that. A hot topic, to this day, is whether or not dinosaurs could be resurrected using blood found in mosquitos trapped in amber.

I’m no scientist,but I would imagine the answer would be no. As they say in the film, there would be missing parts of code, and I just don’t see how using a frog’s DNA to fill in the gaps would work. Kudos to whoever thought of the idea, though. It was bloody brilliant.

If you’ve read any of my western reviews, you know that I”m big on scenery. If ever there was a film that deserved an award for just the magnificent location, or what have you, Jurassic Park would be it. The scene where they fly in takes your breath away. I remember seeing that on the big screen and nearly being brought to tears by its beauty.

With any film of this nature, there has to be some sort of plot meant to throw a monkey wrench in everyone’s plans. In this case, it is a rival company that has hired the compter technician to steal dinosaur embryos and bring them back to him.

I’ve seen this flick many a time, and always wondered why there was this random espionage, for lack fo a better term, plot going on. I think today was the first time I saw the scene that explained it.

This is one of those films where the cast, as great as it is, takes a back seat to the amazing special effects and story.  I actually have no issue with any part of this cast, except maybe Jeff Goldblum’s character. I still wonder exactly what his branch of science actually is, as opposed to the others who were actual acclaimed paleontologists.

I guess him being a different branch was just that…different, and he also gave a different vibe than the stoic demeanor of the others.

There is a majestic beauty that goes along with the dinosaurs, as well as a fear factor when one sees a Tyrannosaurus Rex charging at you in the middle of the night, but there is also this one bit of irony this film has that you cannot overlook.

Early on, they are threatened by T-Rex, but near the end when the kids are trapped in the kitchen by the velociraptors, it is the same T-Rex that tears the roof of and eats the raptors. How ironic, right? That has to be one of my favorite scenes of the film, hands down!!!

Jurassic Park holds a special place in my heart for being able to bring dinosaurs back and make them cool again. This film was released in 1990, or somewhere around there, and is still as relevant today as it was back then. Talk about a film standing the test of time! I more than highly recommend this one. You should have this on your see before you die list. Hell, why haven’t you seen it already?!?

5 out of 5 stars

Me and Orson Welles

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In New York in 1937, 17-year-old Richard Samuels (Efron) meets theatre director Orson Welles (McKay), who unexpectedly offers him the role of Lucius in Julius Caesar, Broadway’s first Shakespearean production, at the Mercury Theatre. Welles is having an affair with the leading actress while his wife is pregnant. Richard finds ambitious production assistant Sonja Jones (Danes) is attracted to him.

Welles tells Richard a few days before the premiere that he is worried, because he has recently had nothing but good luck; he fears that he will finally have bad luck with the premiere, and that the play will be a flop. During rehearsals, Richard accidentally sets off the sprinkler system, but persuades Welles he was not responsible, and that anyway, this was the bad luck that he needed.

Welles decides the entire production crew would benefit from a coupling game, and Richard cheats to ensure he is paired with Sonja. Richard spends the night with Sonja, but becomes jealous when she spends the next night with Welles. He confronts Welles, mentions his pregnant wife, and is fired. An apparent reconciliation follows, and Richard performs on the first night. The anti-fascist adaptation of Caesar is a huge success, but Richard is told he is still fired.

The broken-hearted but wiser Richard finds a new girlfriend, a young aspiring playwright whom he met in a music store at the film’s beginning

REVIEW:

I posted on Facebook this weekend how it seems as if I’m obsessed with this particular era (the 30s). Why else would I enjoy Me and Orson Welles so much?

Well, first off, I’m sure there are some of you that have no idea who Orson Welles is. Well, in the late 30s he read H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds with such believability that people actually thought aliens were coming. Also, he is the director of what many believe to be the greatest film of all time, Citizen Kane. Those of us that are more geeked out may know him as the voice of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie. Welles was a larger than life personality and an extremely talented actor and director. Now that you have a little bit of info on Orson, let me tell you what this film is about.

A young actor named Richard is looking for his big break. He happens to meet a young Orson Welles who is putting on a production on Julius Caesar and is offered a part in the show. Throughout the film, we become privy to the ins and outs of Orson, but he is actually not the star of the film, Richard is, as apparent by the focus on his love interest in Sonja and the meetings with Gretta.

The film ends with a confrontation between Richard and Orson that results in hin getting fired, but things do work out for him in the end.

I initially saw this as a trailer on some film earlier this year, and while the thought of a film about Orson Welles intrigued me, I didn’t go out of my way to see it. After watching it this afternoon, I am inclined to believe that I should have watched this long ago.

First off, I have to commend the acting. Claire Danes is great, but isn’t she always? I mean, she is an Emmy Award winning actress.

Zac Efron has come quite away since his days in High School Musical, but, much in the same way John Travolta can’t seem to be in a movie without dancing, Efron can’t get away without singing, for some reason.

The real standout in this cast in Christian McKay as Orson Welles. He really made me believe he was Orson Welles. Not only did he put on a great performance, but he also looked the part! The casting director outdid themselves when they chose him.

Much of this film is fast paced and frantic, much in the way Noises Off! fires off in a machine gun type style. I think this is one of the reasons this film doesn’t fall into the realm of boredom, but keeps the audience’s attention, which is always a plus.

On top of the great acting, the soundtrack really shines in this film. I’m a little biased, but how could you not love the music of this era. The mixture of swing tunes and the music of Cole Porter is a real treat and helps frame the tone of the film.

I really liked how this film didn’t get too sappy with the love story between Richard and Sonja, but at the same time, I think they could have played it up a little more, or at least set up the ending a bit more.

This really was a surprise for me. I was not expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did, especially since I don’t recall it being released in theaters (not sure if it was a direct-to-DVD feature, though). This is one very well written, enjoyable film that I highly recommend.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Posted in Classics, Drama, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dorian Gray is a handsome, wealthy young man living in 19th century London. While generally intelligent, he is naive and easily manipulated. These faults lead to his spiral into sin and, ultimately, misery.

While posing for a painting by his friend Basil, Dorian meets Basil’s friend Lord Henry Wotton. Wotton is cynical and witty, and tells Dorian that the only life worth living is one dedicated entirely to pleasure. After Wotton convinces Dorian that youth and beauty will bring him everything he desires, Dorian openly wishes that his portrait could age instead of him. He makes this statement in the presence of a certain Egyptian statue, which supposedly has the power to grant wishes.

Dorian visits a tavern, where he falls in love with a beautiful singer named Sibyl Vane. He eventually enters a romance with her (much to the disapproval of Sibyl’s brother), and within weeks they are engaged. Though initially overjoyed, Dorian is again persuaded by Lord Henry to pursue a more hedonistic lifestyle. Dorian sends Sibyl a hurtful letter, breaking off their relationship, and “compensating” her with a large sum of money.

The next morning, Lord Henry informs Dorian that a heartbroken Sibyl Vane had killed herself the night before. Dorian is at first shocked and guilt-ridden, but then adopts Lord Henry’s indifferent manner. He surprises Basil by going to the opera immediately after hearing of Sibyl’s death. Returning home that night, Dorian notices a change in the portrait Basil had painted, which now hangs in his living room. The portrait now looks harsher, and a shaken Dorian has it locked away in his old school room. He becomes even more dedicated to living a sinful and heartless life.

Years later, Dorian is nearing his fortieth birthday, but he looks the same as he did when he was twenty two. The townspeople are awestruck at his unchanging appearance. Over eighteen years of pointless debauchery, the portrait remained locked away, with Dorian holding the only key. Dorian had grown more and more paranoid about the picture being seen by others, and would even fire the servants that he thought might suspect something. Over the years, the painting of the young Dorian had warped into that of a hideous, demon-like creature, to reflect Dorian’s sins. Basil eventually catches a glimpse of the portrait and attempts to talk Dorian into reforming his life. However, Dorian panics and murders his friend, leaving the body locked in the school room with the painting.

Dorian blackmails an old friend into disposing of Basil’s body secretly. He then enters into a romance with Basil’s niece, Gladys, who was a young child when the portrait was painted. Though Gladys had always loved Dorian (and is overjoyed when he proposes marriage), those who were once close to him begin to find him suspicious.

Dorian begins to realize the harm his life is doing to himself and to others. He is assaulted by James Vane, Sibyl’s brother, who had sworn revenge for his sister’s death. Dorian calmly tells James that he is too young to be the same man from eighteen years before. However, James soon learns the truth, but is shot during a hunting party at Dorian’s estate while hiding in the bushes. Dorian knows he is guilty for yet another death, and realizes that he can still spare Gladys from the misfortune he would certainly cause her. After leaving her a letter explaining himself, he returns to his old school room to face the painting. After stabbing his portrait in the heart to destroy his sins, Dorian collapses and dies, as he and the portrait were the same being.

Dorian’s body is found, but it is now the monstrous creature from the painting. The portrait once again depicts Dorian as a young, innocent man.

REVIEW:

 I first became aware of Oscar Wilde’s tale The Picture of Dorian Gray when Dorian was featured as a character in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. After viewing that film, I wanted to know more, so I decided to read the book. I wasn’t particularly impressed, not because it wasn’t interesting, but rather it was just a bit on the wordy side…for lack of a better term.

This film version seems to fall right in line with the book, but there is just something that works better for me. Perhaps it is just the fact that this is a visual medium, as opposed to a book? I’m not sure.

So, for those of you not familiar with the book, this film follows closely with the plot, but to sum it all up. Handsome socialite Dorian Gray has a friend paint a portrait of himself. When the portrait is finished, Gray unwillingly makes a wish to an Egyptian goddess cat statue that allows him to not age, but the portrait will.

I applaud them for keeping close to the actual story, but then films in this era didn’t stray too far from the source material, as opposed to today. Having said that, the parts they did add in were obvious. Now, I need to read the story again, but I don’t remember any mystical Egyptian cat. I’m sure there are other things that they added or taken out, I just don’t care to list them here right now.

One thing that is really outstanding is the fact that while this is filmed in black and white, the “jump scare” shot of the portrait is in full Technicolor. There are two portraits. The first is the original painting and the second is the horrific, disfigured version of Dorian that had to literally scare the pants off some poor schmo when they first saw it. Even today, that is quite freaky!

This film movies along at this ungodly slow pace. I found myself nodding off during the first hour. Does that mean it was boring? No, but like the book, it gets wordy. For some people, that works, but I’m not fan of exposition, just for the sake of hearing people talk. They need to just say what they have to say and move on.

As with almost all classic cinema, the acting is top-notch. Of course, that’s what happens when actors actually care about their craft and aren’t hired for their looks/name, as opposed to their talent.

Two particular cast members to look out for are a very young Angela Lansbury and George Sanders, who many my recognize as the voice of Shere Khan from The Jungle Book.

So, what do I ultimately think of The Picture of Dorian Gray? I actually really liked it. As I said, it drags a bit, but for the most part, it was entertaining and in a day or two, I’ll probably still be talking about this flick. I think you should all go check it out.

4 out of 5 stars