Archive for Bill Nighy

I, Frankenstein

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1795, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Aden Young) creates a monster (Aaron Eckhart), a soulless creature patched together from corpses, and then rejects it. In a fit of rage, the creature kills Victor’s wife Elizabeth (Virginie Le Brun) and Victor chases it to the Arctic to get revenge, but succumbs to the weather. The creature buries his creator and is then attacked by demons before being rescued by the gargoyles Ophir (Mahesh Jadu) and Keziah (Caitlin Stasey), who bring it before the gargoyle queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) and their commander Gideon (Jai Courtney). Leonore explains that they were created by the Archangel Michael to battle demons on Earth and protect humanity. They name the creature “Adam” and invite him to join them, but he declines and departs after being given blade-like weapons that allow him to “descend” demons (destroying their bodies and trapping their souls in Hell) as they have the symbol of the Gargoyle Order carved on them.

Throughout the centuries, Adam fends off the demons that pursue him. During a modern-day confrontation at a nightclub, a human police officer is killed. While Adam is summoned by the gargoyles once more, the demon Helek (Steve Mouzakis) reports that Adam is alive to his leader, the demon-prince Naberius (Bill Nighy), who is disguised as billionaire businessman Charles Wessex, and his right-hand man, Dekar (Kevin Grevioux). Wessex has employed scientist Terra Wade (Yvonne Strahovski) to conduct experiments with reanimated corpses, and sends a group of demons led by his most formidable warrior, Zuriel (Socratis Otto), to attack the gargoyles’ cathedral and capture Adam so he can unlock the secret to giving life.

Before Leonore can punish Adam for the police officer’s death, the cathedral is attacked, and Adam convinces Ophir to release him. In the ensuing battle, a number of gargoyles, including Ophir and Keziah, are “ascended” (returned to and trapped in Heaven) while Leonore is captured and brought to an abandoned theater. Adam and Gideon head there where Gideon exchanges Leonore for Victor Frankenstein’s journal, containing the secrets of the experiment. Adam follows Zuriel to the Wessex Institute, where he learns that Naberius plans to recreate Frankenstein’s experiment and create thousands of reanimated corpses as the souls of the descended demons will be able to return from Hell if they have soulless bodies to possess. Adam retrieves the journal and escapes and later confronts Terra before they are attacked by Zuriel. Adam manages to “descend” Zuriel.

Adam warns the remaining gargoyles of Naberius’ plan and Lenore sends Gideon to kill him and retrieve the journal. After a violent fight, Adam is forced to “ascend” Gideon and then decides to burn Frankenstein’s journal and destroy its secrets before the gargoyles come after him. Adam evades them, leading them to the Wessex Institute where they join battle with Naberius’ demons, descending Dekar early in the fight. While the battle progresses, Adam ventures into the Institute to rescue Terra, who had been kidnapped by Naberius, who takes his true demonic form and activates the machine. Naberius overpowers Adam, and tries to have one of the demon spirits possess him, but Adam proves immune as he has grown his own soul. As the gargoyles attempt to stop the reanimated demons, Adam carves the symbol of the Gargoyle Order on Naberius, sanctifying his very body and utterly destroying it, descending Naberius alongside all the other demons in his army, and causing the entire building to collapse.

Recognizing Adam’s bravery, Leonore rescues him and Terra and forgives Adam for Gideon’s death. Adam retrieves his weapons. After bidding farewell to Terra, Adam departs to begin an immortal quest to protect the humans of the world and hunt demons for selfless reasons, the attitude that had earned him his soul in the first place. In so doing, he embraces his role and his true name of “Frankenstein”.

REVIEW:

In the 40s and 50s, monster movies were all the rage because people wanted to be scared and it didn’t take much. Today, for a monster movie to work it has to be deep, dark, complex, etc. As I said in my review of Dracula Untold, there is a rumor of a rebooted monster universe on the horizon. I’m not quite sure if I, Frankenstein will fit in there, but supposedly it has the ball rolling.

What is this about?

Adam Frankenstein is still hunted decades after his creation, although now his pursuers are opposing demons seeking the mystery of his longevity.

What did I like?

Bill Nighy, the evil guy. I was just thinking, lately Bill Nighy has been taking nice guy roles, which he has been doing fine in, but he does so much better as the villain. If I’m not mistaken, his last big screen villainous role was Davy Jones in the Pirates of Caribbean franchise. As evil as an undead pirate who trades shipwrecked sailors’ lives for time working on his ship, as well as his own control over the Kraken, I don’t think that compares to the evils of being a demon prince. Granted, we don’t really seem him do much more than be the head of a company for most of the film, but there is just something about the way he carries himself and commands your attention that lets the audience know at a moment’s notice, this guy could rain down hellfire.

Action. The selling point of this flick is the action. After the opening flashback and once the film gets going we are enthralled in a major action scene with angels(gargoyles) and demons fighting each other. Once the monster joins in, you know there will be death, blood, and destruction. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

Nomenclature. A common mistake that is made is what to call the monster. He is not Frankenstein, that is the scientist’s name. The creature is simply known as Frankenstein’s monster. In this film, the Gargoyle queen gives him the name Adam, which seems to have stuck.

What didn’t I like?

Angels and Demons. Someone please tell me what Frankenstein has to do with gargoyles and demons, because I am still trying to figure it out. All of a sudden, after 200 years oh hiding, he becomes a demon hunter. Is there any reason behind this? No, not really. It isn’t like they know hot to make him forget the wrongs he’s done in the past, such as kill Frankenstein’s wife. I applaud them fir giving him a chance, but this was just an element that left me scratching my head.

Why the hate? As one can imagine, there is a bit of hate and vitriol towards Adam. Thing is, it isn’t coming from the demons. They seem to just be doing the their jobs. It is the head of the Gargoyle security, Gideon, that is a hater. Why is this? He says it is because Adam is an unnatural being that was not created by God, so he must be destroyed, but why? Aren’t all creatures to be loved? I guess I just felt his anger as a cheap plot point that allowed Jai Courtney to be the dick that this character asked for.

Pretty fly for a dead guy. I’m sorry, but when I think of Frankenstein’s monster, the first thing that pops in my head is a hideously deformed creature spliced and stitched together, as I’m sure most people do. So, who was it that thought having good looking guy like Aaron Eckhart, with some stitches and scars on is a “realistic” attempt to convince the audience that…oh, who am I kidding? The reason they did this was to have a marketable name on the marquis and bring in the ladies. I don’t believe it worked.

Final verdict on I, Frankenstein? Well, it tries, I’ll give it that. The problem is that it takes itself too seriously. By all accounts, this should be a fun action-horror flick with some comedic elements  thrown in, but instead they took this material and tried to make it dark and brooding at a time when audiences are getting past dark and brooding and want fun and action packed. This was a good afternoon flick to watch, but it is something I’ll have forgotten come this time tomorrow. My recommendation, give it a shot, if you must, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Revisited: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

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

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

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

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

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

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

REVIEW:

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

What is this about?

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

What did I like?

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

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

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

What didn’t I like?

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

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

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

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

5 out of 5 stars

About Time

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family can travel in time. There are a few conditions: they can only travel backward in time, and only to places they have actually been. Upon learning this, Tim goes back to the night of a recent New Year’s Eve party where at midnight he had been too shy to kiss someone and rectifies the situation. After being discouraged from using it to acquire money and fame, he decides that he will use this ability to help his love life.

The following summer, Charlotte (Margot Robbie), the beautiful friend of Tim’s sister Kit Kat, comes to stay with the family. Tim has an instant attraction and at the end of her stay, decides to let her know. She tells him that he left it too late to do anything, and so Tim travels back to an earlier point. This time, Charlotte says that they should wait until her last day and talk again. Heartbroken, Tim realises that she is not attracted to him and that time travel will not be able to help change her mind.

Tim moves to London to pursue a career as a lawyer and stays with an acquaintance of his father, Harry, a misanthropic playwright. After some months, Tim and his friend Jay visit a Dans le Noir establishment, where Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), and the two fall for each other. He gets her phone number and returns home to find out Harry’s play’s opening night was a disaster as the lead actor forgot his lines. Tim then goes back in time and attends the play and, after many complications, ensures it is a success.

Later, Tim attempts to call Mary only to find her number is not in his phone. He realises that by going to the play instead of the restaurant he never met Mary. Remembering something from the date, Tim eventually locates Mary and learns that she has a boyfriend (met after the night of the play). Tim decides to go back to the point where she met her boyfriend and ensures she goes out with him instead. They become a couple.

On a night out with his friend Rory, Tim meets Charlotte again. After time travelling several times to prevent and do over multiple awkward conversation mishaps, Tim walks her back to her apartment and she invites him inside. Tim turns her down and runs back to his apartment and proposes to Mary. She accepts, and they learn later that she is pregnant.

On the first birthday of Mary and Tim’s daughter, Posy, Tim’s sister Kit Kat crashes her car after a row with her obnoxious boyfriend, Jimmy. Tim, deciding it best she never met him, tells her about his ability to time-travel and takes her back to make sure they never meet, but upon returning to present time finds that altering the timeline means that Tim never had Posy. Instead, a boy was born in her place. After speaking to his father, Tim learns that once his child was born, travelling back to a time before the child’s birth will in fact stop that child from ever being born, as time will happen differently in every aspect of his life and a different child will be conceived each time. Tim reluctantly changes things back to the way they were and has to watch Kit Kat go through the pain of breaking up with Jimmy to ensure Posy is born. Kit Kat begins to put her life back together, Tim sets her up with his kind friend Jay, and the two become a couple. Tim and Mary have another child.

One day, Tim learns that his father has terminal cancer due to smoking and that time travel cannot change it as he started before Tim and Kit Kat were born. His father has known for quite some time but kept travelling back in time to effectively extend his life and spend more time with his family, but his time is running out, though he is ready to pass away. Eventually his father dies, but before he does his father tells Tim to re-live each day, once with all the stresses a normal person faces, and then again knowing what to expect from the day, and to embrace it and enjoy it. Tim follows his advice and keeps travelling back into the past to visit his dad whenever he misses him.

Eventually, Mary wishes to have another child. Tim also wants another but knows doing so means he won’t be able to visit his father in the past again after the baby is born, but he agrees and Mary becomes pregnant. After visiting his dad for the following nine months, the time eventually comes for Mary to give birth, Tim goes back and lets his father know that this is the last time he will visit him. They then both travel back in time together when Tim was a small boy and relive a fond memory of them playing on the beach. Tim comes to realise that it is better to live each day once as if he was an ordinary person and as if he has deliberately travelled back in time to be there. The film ends with Tim getting his three children ready for school.

REVIEW:

Before the holidays, About Time was released, but it wasn’t a hit. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe it has made its budget back. With that said, though, this is the kind of film that is perfect for those that like to see their favorite novels appear on the big screen, or are fans of non-cheesy, borderline drama romantic comedies. However, is there anything for the general fan to enjoy? Is it any good?

What is this about?

A young man who comes from a family of time-travelers changes history for the better in this romantic comedy from director Richard Curtis. During one of his trips to the past, he falls for a woman played by Rachel McAdams.

What did I like?

Time travel. We’ve all had those moments where we wish we could go back just a few minutes and do or say something different. Well, that is the major selling point of this film for me. This guy, played by Domhall Gleeson, is part of a family that is able to travel through time. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could go back and change something, especially if I could do it without consequences, as we are led to believe (more on that later).

Balance. There seems to be a nice balance among this film between the comedy, touching moments, heavy drama, and even a couple of “off-color” comments, for lack of a better term. Not very often we get a film that manages to strike such a perfect balance among those elements, so kudos to this film for doing such an impossible feat. My initial thoughts were that this was going to turn into some sappy, chick flick, tear jerker.

Rachel. I’ve had my eye on Rachel McAdams since Mean Girls. What an actress she has grown into, let me tell you. This isn’t the best material for her, but it allows her to flex her chops with some juicy and emotional scenes, including one where she is able to display the insecurities that every woman seems to have about what they look like in their clothes and what their significant other thinks about what they look like. I don’t know why, but I found this to be quite a poignant observation on her part that helped us to connect with her character a little better.

What didn’t I like?

Rules. As with every time travel movie, book, TV show, or whatever, there are rules that have to be followed, or everything falls apart. I mentioned earlier that there really aren’t any rules for these time travelers. Well, for a good portion of the film, that is what we are led to believe, but conveniently in the second half of the film, it is introduced that once they have a kid, they can never go past the birth. Something about that specific sperm, I believe. I don’t have an issue with that rule, but rather that is seemed to be conveniently introduced after the child was born. Could we have not gotten than in the first place?

Sister. Why is it that every film of this nature has some sort of sibling drama that seems to all but bring the film to a complete stop, and it usually happens around a wedding or other important event. The free spirit sister has an issue with her boyfriend beating her, which is no laughing matter, but my goodness did that whole segment bring things down, especially since she was such a light character. Having her go through such unfortunate events was not a good choice, in my opinion, but given the weight that this film wants to have, would it have really hurt to have someone who was a true free spirit?

Charm only goes so far. There is no question that this film is extremely charming, but that doesn’t excuse it for what some have said is “reassuringly bland.” I want to defend this film, but I just can’t bring my self to do so because it is pretty much the equivalent of an unsalted cracker. It provides sustenance, and you can add some stuff on top of it, such as time travel, but in the end all you have is a flatlining, somewhat boring film.

Surprisingly more entertaining that I expected, About Time delivered on all that it promised. However, the plotholes and genericness that it possesses will keep me from returning to this world and watching it again. Does that mean that I will steer others from seeing it? No, as a matter of fact, I think many who are more into this type of film will really get a kick out of it, so go ahead and give it a shot. You may enjoy it more than you think!

3 out of 5 stars

Jack the Giant Slayer

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the Kingdom of Cloister, Jack, a young farm boy, is fascinated by the legend of Erik, an ancient king who defeated an army of invading giants from a realm in the sky by controlling them with a magical crown. At the same time, Princess Isabelle becomes fascinated with the same legend.

Ten years later, Jack goes into town to sell his horse to support his uncle’s farm. There, Jack spots Isabelle and develops a crush on her, after defending her honor from a group of thugs. Meanwhile, Lord Roderick returns to his study, only to find that a monk has robbed him. The monk offers Jack some magic beans he stole from Roderick as collateral for Jack’s horse. Back at the castle, Isabelle quarrels with her father, King Brahmwell, as she wants to explore the kingdom, but he wants her to stay and marry Roderick. Likewise, Jack’s uncle scolds him for being foolish before throwing the beans on the floor and leaving the house.

Determined to be free, Isabelle sneaks out of the castle and seeks shelter from the rain in Jack’s house. As it rains, one of the beans takes root and grows into a massive beanstalk that carries the house and Isabelle into the sky as Jack falls to the ground.

Jack, Roderick, and Roderick’s attendant Wicke volunteer to join the king’s knights, led by Elmont and his second in-command, Crawe, and climb the beanstalk in search of Isabelle. As they climb, Roderick and Wicke cut the safety rope, intentionally killing some of the knights. At the top, they discover the giants’ realm and decide to split into two groups: one with Jack, Elmont, and Crawe, and the other including Roderick and Wicke, but not before Roderick forcibly takes the remaining beans from Jack (although Jack manages to save one for himself).

Jack’s group is trapped by a giant, who takes everyone prisoner except Jack. Meanwhile, Roderick’s group encounters two other giants; one eats Wicke, but before they can do the same to Roderick, Roderick dons the magic crown.

Jack follows the giant to the giants’ stronghold, where the two-headed giant leader, Fallon, has killed Crawe. There, Jack finds the imprisoned Isabelle and Elmont. As the giants prepare to kill their remaining prisoners, Roderick walks in and enslaves the giants with the crown. He tells the giants they will attack Cloister at dawn and gives them permission to eat Isabelle and Elmont. Jack rescues Isabelle and Elmont as one of the giants prepares to cook Elmont as a pig-in-a-blanket. The trio makes for the beanstalk, where Jack causes the giant guarding the beanstalk to fall off the realm’s edge. Seeing the giant’s body, Brahmwell orders the beanstalk cut down to avoid an invasion by the giants.

Jack and Isabelle head down the beanstalk, while Elmont stays to confront Roderick. Elmont kills Roderick, but Fallon takes the crown before Elmont can claim it, and Elmont is forced to escape down the beanstalk. Jack, Isabelle, and Elmont all survive the fall after the beanstalk is cut down. As everyone returns home, Jack warns that the giants are using Roderick’s beans to create beanstalks to descend down to Earth and attack Cloister.

The giants chase Jack, Isabelle, and Brahmwell into the castle, where Elmont fills the moat with oil and sets it on fire. Fallon falls in the moat and breaks into the castle from below. As the siege continues, Fallon captures Jack and Isabelle, but Jack throws the final bean down Fallon’s throat, causing a beanstalk to rip apart his body. Jack takes the crown and sends the giants back to their realm.

Jack and Isabelle marry and tell the story of the giants to their children. As time passes, the magic crown is crafted into St Edward’s Crown and is secured in the Tower of London.

REVIEW:

Fairytales seem to be coming to cinemas more and more lately, but with a darker tone. I am not a fan on this trend and, judging by the response to the majority of these films, many people agree with me. Jack the Giant Slayer, a new take on the classic tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” is the newest tale that Hollywood claims they came up with.

What is this about?

When Princess Isabelle is kidnapped by rampaging giants, intrepid farm boy Jack, who accidentally opened the gateway that allowed the giants to enter the kingdom, goes in search of her, despite interference from the king’s wicked chief advisor.

What did I like?

We know the story. The basic story we all know and love is alive and well. Sure, they threw a few more elements in there to flesh out the runtime, but all the elements of the classic story are the primary focal point, which I really appreciated. The way the trailer for this looked, I was expecting certain elements to be retained, but most of it to have been changed in order to make it more “hip” or “cool”.

McShane. As far as kings go, I don’t believe you can do much better than Ian McShane. He has the look of someone who might have been a king during medieval times and he is very capable of playing an intimidating father. Just ask Penelope Cruz. He played her father, Blackbeard, in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Too bad this wasn’t a bigger role for him, but sometimes being a king just isn’t the much of a necessary role.

Remake. Until I finished watching this, I was under the impression that this was a remake of Jack the Giant Killer, especially since that was the initial title, until they decided it would be better marketed toward a younger audience. It is no secret that I hate, despise, and detest remakes. They are the lowest forms of entertainment, barely registering above reality television. As you can imagine, it does my heart good to see that this indeed was an “original” story, just not an original title.

What didn’t I like?

Jack. Call me crazy, but shouldn’t the guy that the film is named for be a bit more likable? I’m not saying that Nicholas Hoult did a bad job, but he just didn’t appeal to me as an audience member. I imagine Jack to be a genuinely good guy, not this off-putting teenager. Mickey Mouse does the best job I’ve seen of bringing this character to the big screen in Fun and Fancy Free.

CG. *SIGH* These giants looked so generic. If you are going to go through all the trouble of casting a veteran actor like Bill Nighy to voice a giant, as well as build them up and this unstoppable force, then make them at least look the part. Instead, we are privileged to see bottom of the barrel CG created giants that mostly serve as comic relief until they decide to bite someone’s head off. Obviously, there was some miscommunication regarding the tone of this film.

No wonder. The beanstalk may very well have been the best looking thing about this picture. Thing is, though, when one climbs to the top of the beanstalk and get to the world of the giants, you expect to see a wondrous land and we just didn’t see that. For me, this was a bit of a disappointment as I expected something that would take my breath away akin to the hovercarrier taking flight in The Avengers.

I suppose Jack the Giant Slayer should get credit for at least trying, because it does. However, I cannot abide by the fact that this was not an entertaining picture. It felt like it couldn’t make up its mind on whether it wanted to be dark and scary for older audiences or light and funny for younger generations. Also, where was the magic harp and the goose that laid the golden eggs? Geesh! Seriously, though, this is not a film that gets a recommendation from me. If you want to see this story done in a far superior way watch Fun & Fancy Free and/or Jack the Giant Killer and do your best to avid this.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Recently widowed housewife Evelyn (Dench) must sell her home to cover huge debts left by her late husband. Graham (Wilkinson), a high-court judge who had spent his first eighteen years in India, abruptly decides to retire and return there. Jean (Wilton) and Douglas (Nighy) seek a retirement they can afford, having lost most of their savings through investing in their daughter’s internet business. Muriel (Smith), a retired housekeeper prejudiced against Indians, needs a hip replacement operation which can be done far more quickly and inexpensively in India. Madge (Celia Imrie) is hunting for another husband, and Norman (Pickup), an aging lothario, is trying to re-capture his youth. They each decide on a retirement hotel in India, based on pictures on its website.

When the group finally arrives at the picturesque hotel, despite its energetic young manager Sonny (Patel), the hotel is very dilapidated. Jean remains ensconced in the hotel, while her husband Douglas explores the sights. Graham, finding that the area has greatly changed since his youth, disappears on long outings every day. Muriel, despite her racist attitudes, starts to appreciate her doctor for his skill and the hotel maid for her good service. Evelyn gets a job advising the staff of a call centre how to interact with older British customers. Sonny struggles to raise funds to renovate the hotel and sees girlfriend, Sunaina (Tena Desae), despite his mother’s disapproval. Madge joins the Viceroy Club seeking a spouse, and is surprised to find Norman there. She introduces him to Carol (Diana Hardcastle). He admits he is lonely and seeking a companion, and the two begin a relationship.

Graham confides in Evelyn that he is trying to find the Indian lover he was forced to abandon as a youth. Social-climber Jean is attracted to Graham, and makes a rare excursion to follow him, but is humiliated when he explains he is gay. Graham reunites with his former lover, who is in an arranged marriage of mutual trust and respect. Graham dies of a heart condition. Evelyn and Douglas grow increasingly close. Douglas finally admits he is tired of defending his wife’s negative attitude, revealing just how unhappy their marriage has become. Muriel reveals that she was once housekeeper to a family who tricked her into training her younger replacement and now she feels that she has lost purpose in her life.

Sonny’s more successful brothers each own a third of the hotel, and plan to demolish it. His mother (Lillete Dubey) agrees and wants him to return to Delhi for an arranged marriage. Jean and Douglas prepare to return to England. Douglas returns to the hotel to say goodbye to Evelyn, but Muriel tells Douglas that Evelyn is not there. Now that the hotel is closing, Madge prepares to return to England and Norman agrees to move in with Carol. Madge, after encouragement from Carol and Muriel, decides to keep searching for another husband.

On their way to the airport, a rickshaw driver tells Jean and Douglas that he can only take one of them. Jean decides to leave Douglas behind. He follows his wife to the airport, misses the plane and spends the rest of the night wandering the streets. Sonny finally tells Sunaina that he loves her and confronts his mother, who finally gives the couple her blessing. Before the guests can leave, Muriel reveals that the hotel can make a profit and that Sonny’s investor has agreed to fund his plans as long as Muriel stays on as assistant manager. All the guests agree to stay. Douglas arrives just as Evelyn is leaving for work, and says he’ll have tea waiting for her when she gets back.

A closing montage shows Muriel checking in customers as assistant manager, Madge dining with a handsome older Indian man, Norman and Carol living happily together, and Sonny and Sunaina riding a motorbike, passing Douglas and Evelyn on a scooter

REVIEW:

Like many of you, I have heard the horror stories about what happens in retirement homes and how residents are all but reduced to infants because of the way they are treated. This is where The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel comes in, as these elderly citizens don’t want to go to a place like that, but rather live out their lives in a place they can enjoy, such as scenic India, for instance.

What is this about?

To make the most of their meager retirement savings, a group of British seniors moves to India to live out their golden years at the Marigold Hotel. But upon arrival, they discover the once-lavish resort has wilted considerably.

What did I like?

You’re only as young as you feel. Many people worry about getting old and losing touch with their humanity, blah, blah, blah. This film actually takes people who are of an age we seem to forget and treats them as if they weren’t second class citizens, but rather real people with real problems, and that is what makes this film so endearing to the audience.

Cast. Everyone…well, most everyone, is recognizable to audiences as great actors from across the pond. Someone said these were all the leftovers from the Harry Potter films, just need Michael Gambon and Alan Rickman to make an appearance. Rumor has it that there will be a sequel, so maybe they’ll show up.

McGonnagall. Maggie Smith’s character was one of the best things about this film, what with her old-fashioned, but not really offensive, racism, and hard-nosed focus, not to mention the one-liners she pops out now and then. Recently, I’ve begun watching Downton Abbey and in the episode I’ve seen with her in it, the two characters are very similar. I may change my mind, though, after I watch a few more episodes.

What didn’t I like?

Big or small. It seems as if the film knows the star power of its cast and gives them relative screen time. For instance, it can be argued that Dame Judi Dench is the biggest star in the film, and she gets the biggest amount of screen time followed by Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith. I get the idea behind that, but some of the more interesting stories were only touched upon, such as the two who are looking for love and the guy who is coming back to where he spent his childhood. These are stories that we probably should have gotten more of, in my opinion.

Mummyjii. What is the deal with Indian guys and their mothers? This is like the 4th or 5th time I’ve seen something like this in the past few months. Is this something culture related? If not, than it is just not a good plot device, as it does nothing but make the men look weak-willed. No wonder these same guys can’t keep their women!

Hotel. I was going to mention how rundown the hotel is, but there are some hotels here in the US that aren’t in that great of shape. However, I have to wonder about the phones. Was this just a device they threw in for comic effect, or was this place in such disrepair that the phones really didn’t work? How can you run a successful hotel without working phones? Sure, these days everyone uses cell phones, as opposed to landlines, but you still need at least one landline, just in case, and with tenants of the previous generation, landlines are more common and comfortable to them than a cell.

When all the smoke clears, I found The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to be a heart-warming, charming, dramedy. I did find it to be a tad bit longer than it needed to be, but that isn’t something I couldn’t get over, what with the great performances that the cast turns in. I’m not going to highly recommend it, but it is worth watching, so give it a shot sometime.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Arthur Christmas

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Set on Christmas Eve, the film opens with hundreds of elves helming the command centre of Santa’s mile-wide, ultra–high-tech sleigh, the S-1. Santa and the elves deliver presents to every child in the world using advanced equipment and military precision. These complex operations are micromanaged by Santa’s oldest son Steve and his obsequious elfin assistant Peter (amongst thousands of more elves) at mission control underneath the North Pole, while Steve’s clumsy and panophobic younger brother Arthur answers the letters to Santa. During a delivery operation, when a child wakes up and almost sees Santa, an elf back in the S-1 inadvertently presses a button, causing a present to fall off a conveyor and go unnoticed.

Having completed his 70th mission, Santa is portrayed as far past his prime and whose role in field operations now is largely symbolic. Nonetheless, he is held in high esteem, and delivers a congratulatory speech to the enraptured elves. Much to Steve’s frustration, who has long anticipated succeeding his father, Santa announces he looks forward to his 71st. During their family Christmas dinner, Arthur’s suggestion for the family to play a board game degenerates into a petty quarrel between Santa and Steve, while Grand-Santa, bored by retirement, resentfully criticises their over-modernisation. Distraught, the various family members leave the dinner table. When Arthur humbly compliments Steve that he believes he will be a great Santa Claus, Steve rudely dismisses Arthur’s overture; later, their father shares with Mrs. Claus his grave doubts about his self-identity should he retire.

Meanwhile, an elf named Bryony finds the missed present—a wrapped bicycle that has yet to be delivered—and alerts Steve and his elf-assistant to the problem. Arthur is alarmed when he recognises the present as a gift for Gwen, a little girl to whom he had personally replied. Arthur alerts his father, who is at a loss as to how to handle the situation; Steve argues that one missed present out of billions is an acceptable error whose correction can wait a few days. Grand-Santa, on the other hand, proposes delivering the gift using Evie, his old wooden sleigh, and the descendants of the original eight reindeer, forcefully whisking away a reluctant Arthur and a stowaway Bryony. They get lost, lose reindeer, and land in danger several times, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Through all this, Arthur eventually learns to his compounding disappointment that Grand-Santa’s true motive is to fulfil his ego, that Steve refuses to help them out of petty resentment, and that his own father has gone to bed, apparently content.

Finally, stranded in Cuba after losing the sleigh, Arthur renews his sense of purpose—that it all comes down to preventing a child’s disappointment—and with Grand-Santa’s help manages to recover the sleigh. Meanwhile, the elves grow increasingly alarmed at rumours of this neglected delivery and the Clauses’ unthinkable indifference, sending them into a panic. In response, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Steve take the high-tech sleigh to deliver a superior present—to the wrong child. Santa’s navigation error and Steve’s mishandling of the mistaken identity throw into sharp relief their intentions against those of Arthur.

After much difficulty, A US Predator drone intercepts and opens fire on EVE, causing Arthur to bail out of the sleigh, via parachute and ultimately with Mrs. Claus’ and Bryony’s help, all the male Clauses arrive at Gwen’s house before she awakens, only to have all but Arthur quarrel about who gets to actually place the gift. Noticing that only Arthur truly cares about the girl’s feelings, the elder Clauses collectively realise that he is the sole worthy successor. As a result, Santa gives Arthur the honour and Steve forfeits his birthright to his brother. In a fitting conclusion, Gwen glimpses a snow-bearded Arthur in a wind-buffeted sweater just before vanishing into the night.

With the crisis resolved, Santa goes into a happy retirement with Mrs. Claus; he also becomes grand-Santa’s much-desired new companion. Meanwhile, Steve finds true contentment as Chief Operating Officer while Bryony is promoted to Vice-President of Packing. In a nod to traditionalism once neglected, the high-tech S-1 is re-christened EVIE and refitted to be pulled by a 5000-reindeer team—led by the original eight reindeer, all of whom managed to return safely via innate homing abilities. Finally, Arthur happily guides the entire enterprise in the proper spirit as the new Santa.

REVIEW:

In two weeks, Santa Claus will be delivering presents to all good little boys and girls around the world. Since I’ve been labeled as a Grinch for not reviewing any Christmas flicks recently, so here we have Arthur Christmas.

What is this about?

This all-ages animated holiday feature draws back the curtain on the super-secret toy-making facility Santa Claus keeps hidden beneath the North Pole. It also reveals the ultra-important mission Mr. Claus entrusts to his son, Arthur, one Christmas.

What did I like?

Modern. Most iteration of Santa and his elves show him cobbling wooden toys in an old shack up there in the North Pole, but here it turns out that there is a whole enterprise up there complete with capabilities to make name brand toys. I think I even saw them crank out an iPad or two in that spaceship looking sleigh of his. Hop showed us a modern world with the Easter Bunny, so the next one up should be what, Tooth Fairy? Leprechauns? I’ve always wondered what it would be like for them in this modern world.

Arthur. Remember the innocent eyes you used to look at Christmas through? Arthur is the kind of character that reminds us all of innocence lost. I think someone said he is just as pure and innocent as Spongebob, but with an actual brain. Not the best analogy, but, when you think about it, there is some merit there. A character like this is something we really need in this dark world. It is no wonder he ends up with the happiest of endings. Thank goodness he loses the furry slippers, though.

Voices. A couple of months ago, I reviewed The Pirates!: Band of Misfits. I noticed that many of the voice actors are also lending their pipes to characters in this flick, as well. I’m not sure, but I think the same company produced both films. With the likes of Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, and James McAvoy leading the way, how can you go wrong with this collection of talent?

What didn’t I like?

Antagonize this. Usually in films of this nature, there is some kind of villain who hatches a nefarious plot to overthrow the power structure and inflict their will on others. That doesn’t happen, though. While I applaud them for not being predictable, I can’t help but think Steve would have been perfect as the villain who tries to dethrone Santa, or maybe the elves rise up and decide they’re tired of playing second fiddle to the Claus lineage.

Santa. The current Santa Claus seemed to be a bit airheaded, very similar to Professor Slughorn in the final Harry Potter movies. Perhaps that is why they brought Jim Broadbent to voice him. I just didn’t really care for him to be so, shall we say not there. I guess it works for this universe, though.

Military. So, the military, I can’t think of what they are actually called here, see Santa’s sleigh and automatically try to shoot it down. What is the deal with the shoot first attitude of the military? Did they not learn anything from watching The Day the Earth Stood Still, Mars Attacks, amongst numberous other alien flicks where they shot first and regretted it later.

Arthur Christmas is a nice little Christmas flick for all to enjoy, but it won’t actually be going on my list of must-see holiday favorites. It makes a valiant effort, but just doesn’t quite stand up to the greats that have come before it. I still would recommend this, though, so check it out this holiday season.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Wrath of the Titans

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ten years after defeating the Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington), the demigod son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), now lives as a fisherman with his 10-year-old son, Helius (John Bell) and has been widowed by the death of Io. One night, Perseus is visited by Zeus, who tells him that the powers of the gods are fading and the walls of the underworld prison of Tartarus are breaking due to the lack of devotion from humans. Zeus states they will need armies to combat the threat, but Perseus shows little interest and refuses to get involved.

Afterwards, Zeus travels to Tartarus to meet with his brothers Hades (Ralph Fiennes), Poseidon (Danny Huston), and his son Ares (Edgar Ramirez). He tells Hades they must forget the past and unite to rebuild Tartarus’ walls, but Hades rejects his offer and orders his minions to attack. They fatally injure Poseidon, and Ares betrays Zeus by taking him prisoner and stealing his Thunderbolt. In an exchange to remain immortal and powerful, Hades and Ares plan to drain Zeus’ divine power to revive Kronos, the father of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. They capture and hold Zeus prisoner in chains and the walls of Tartarus break, unleashing monsters into the world.

After slaying a Chimera that attacks his village, Perseus takes Helius to the Mount of Idols, so they can speak to Zeus, but the dying Poseidon arrives instead. He informs Perseus that Hades and Ares are holding Zeus in Tartarus, and tells him to meet with his demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell) to find the fallen god Hephaestus, who knows the way into Tartarus. Poseidon then gives Perseus his Trident before succumbing to his injuries and crumbling into dust. Perseus flies on Pegasus to the campsite of Queen Andromeda’s army. The queen is the princess Perseus saved a decade ago; Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) has imprisoned Agenor for stealing crown jewels, but Perseus negotiates his release by asking the reluctant Agenor to come along in their plan.

Perseus, Andromeda, Agenor, and a group of soldiers set out at sea to find Hephaestus, with Agenor explaining that Hephaestus created the three great weapons that Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon wield: Zeus’ Thunderbolt, Hades’ Pitchfork, and Poseidon’s Trident, and that together they form the Spear of Triam, the only weapon that can defeat Kronos. Agenor uses Poseidon’s trident to direct the boat to Hephaestus’s island, where they encounter three Cyclopes: Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, who attack them. When Perseus shows them the trident, they lead the group to Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), the smith god. He explains that he has a map to navigate the path though a deathly long labyrinth leading deep into Tartarus. He leads them to the door to the Labyrinth, where they are attacked by Ares, who found them after one of the soldiers, Korrina (Lily James), prayed to him. Ares is jealous of Perseus’ honor from his own father Zeus and kills all of the soldiers while Hephaestus opens the door and then sacrifices himself so that Perseus, Andromeda, and Agenor can enter the door before it closes.

Agenor tries to use the map to direct them, but the Labyrinth continually shifts and at one point nearly crushes them. Perseus gets cut off from the group and encounters and kills the Minotaur before finding that he is in the exit of the labyrinth to Tartarus. Eventually, the group manages to reunite and find Kronos becoming powerful. Meanwhile, Zeus has been almost entirely drained of power as Kronos starts to awaken. Zeus apologizes to Hades for banishing him to the Underworld and asks his forgiveness, as he has forgiven Hades for his actions. Though initially surprised, Hades has a change of heart and decides to help Zeus and stop Kronos, but Ares is still angry with his father and Perseus intervenes. Perseus arrives and uses the Trident to free Zeus. As they are escaping, Ares throws the Pitchfork into Zeus’s back, thus mortally wounding Zeus. To escape the charging Kronos, Perseus and Zeus use their powers to teleport them back to the Tyrene pass, where battle plans are made.

Perseus, Andromeda and Agenor carry a weakened Zeus down to the base of the mountain where Andromeda’s army is gathered. Although the Trident and Pitchfork are now in his possession, Perseus still needs the Thunderbolt from Ares to have the power to defeat Kronos. Perseus intentionally prays to Ares, challenging his brother to a final fight at the Temple of the Gods, which Ares happily accepts.

At the temple, Perseus finds out Ares has kidnapped Helius, who was brought to watch Perseus die in the fight. Ares easily overpowers Perseus, before pushing him into the ruins in the temple, but is distracted when Helius secretly tries to challenge him by pointing a sword at him, giving Perseus the chance to strike back anew. After a struggle, Perseus kills Ares with the Thunderbolt and combines the gods’ weapons into the Spear of Triam.

Meanwhile, Andromeda’s army is overwhelmed by Kronos’ army of demonic Makhai, but Hades arrives to revive Zeus. He and Hades reconcile, and Hades shares some of his immortality with Zeus, making Hades older and Zeus younger, and together they use what power they have left to defeat the Tartarian army. Kronos then appears and begins to attack the human army with lava and fire. Zeus and Hades attack him, giving Perseus the opportunity to fly down into Kronos’ throat and pierce the weapon into his heart. Kronos lets out one last blast to try to kill the two, but Zeus jumps into the way, pushes Hades and takes the explosion.

Perseus meets with Zeus and Hades; a fatally wounded Zeus advises Perseus to use his power wisely, stating that the time of the gods is over. He thanks Perseus for his bravery before finally turning to dust. Hades is now mortal, his powers spent, though he states he might be better off as such before heading off to parts unknown. Perseus reunites with Andromeda and kisses her as they prepare for possible Titan reprisal. Knowing that there are still monsters to fight, Perseus decides to train Helius to be a soldier and build a new kingdom

REVIEW:

I don’t know who it was that decided to start this remake fad, but they need to be tortured to the point they are teetering on death! I’m talking medieval stuff, people! What brings on these dark thoughts? Well, Wrath of the Titans is a sequel to a remake of one of the greatest sword and sandal flicks I’ve seen. A sequel that no one was really clamoring for, mind you, and it was still made…in 3D!!!

What is this about?

The film picks up about 10 years after the previous film. Perseus is now living the life of a simple fisherman with his son. One day he is visited by his father, Zeus, who tells him that Hades is trying to release the Titans and he needs his, along with another demigod, Agenor, son of Poseidon, to stop them. As one can guess, Perseus is none too thrilled about this offer and refuses to get involved until a Chimera attacks his village. With the aid of Andromeda and her men, Perseus tracks down Agenor and they head off to see Hephaestus in an attempt to find a way into Tartarus. Hephaestus tells them that the only way in is through the nigh unsolvable labyrinth, which he built with only one way out. When they reach Hades, they free Zeus, but are attacked by Hades, who is now consumed with carrying out the plan Hades started. Will Perseus and company be able to stop him?

What did I like?

Action. In Clash of the Titans (2010), they seemed to leave out all the action in favor of boring dialogue. This time around, they learned from their mistakes and upped the ante. The added emphasis on the action really made this much more enjoyable.

Bubo. In the last film, Bubo, the owl from the original Clash of the Titans, made a quick cameo, but the character was replaced by Gemma Arterton’s Io. She didn’t come back for this one, but Bubo makes a couple of appearances which I found as a nice gesture of respect towards the original, especially since this is a film that, quite frankly, has nothing to do with the original anymore.

Build-up. The way the filmmakers built up Kronos, not really revealing him until the last act made it that more impactful when he does appear. Couple that with his demonic minions (the things you saw wrecking havoc in the trailer) and the obvious degeneration of the world at the time and I was sold.

What didn’t I like.

Perseus. Sam Worthington may have taken a few acting lessons since the last film, but he still has a way to go before he can stop seeming so wooden on the screen. Even in the tender moments with his son and Zeus, I didn’t feel any different emotions from him that what I felt when he was fighting enemies or dodging the dangers of the labyrinth.

Hephaestus. Kudos for making him the slightly schizophrenic smith god that we know him to be. However, I have to say casting Bill Nighy and then killing him off so quickly was quite pointless.

Comic relief. I will never complain about the use of comic relief. We can always use a laugh now and then. They brought in some comedy this time around and it works, but the characters that bring in this comedy aren’t used as well as they could be and Perseus, in my opinion, should not be cracking jokes. It just doesn’t fit his personality.

Wrath of the Titans is a much improved outing than its predecessor. More action and less drama is the formula to use in this sword and sandal genre. Who ever it was that made the first film should have known that. No, this isn’t a great picture, but I would be more willing to see this again than its predecessor. Neither compares to the original, though. Do I recommend it? Sure, it is a good action flick.

3  1/3 out of 5 stars