Archive for Bradley Whitford

Get Out

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined.

What people are saying:

“Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.” 4 stars

“What makes Get Out more than just a slam-bang scarefest is that, in its own darkly satiric way, it is also a movie about racial paranoia that captures the zeitgeist in ways that many more “prestigious” movies don’t.” 5 stars

“I had high hopes and high expectations for this film, knowing little about it prior to watching. Quick review: Overhyped Not a horror, lacks tension building and atmosphere and falls flat Not a thriller, just weird. Not a comedy, one dude playing a stereotype with 7 minutes of screen time does not make this a comedy. Acting is decent Early attempts at effecting the audience with the score showed promise but failed to deliver. Story failed to shock/suprise. (People should have been able to see the story coming) Too heavy handed, felt like one of those films in Jr High that tried to be extra cool while telling you that underaged drinking is back mmmmkaay. Summary: It’s a pretentious and condescending movie that failed more often than it succeeded and the fact that people were blind to it because of its social cause is disheartening. If people (over)like it and give it extra stars because of who made it and his world view, they are doing a disservice to the film community, the audience, the actors and producers. Encourage films to be great on their own and take the “everyone gets a trophy for trying” gloves off.” 1 star

“This was a superbly executed horror film. The chilling moments were chilling. The laughable moments were intentional, because typically when you’re laughing during a horror film, we all know you are not laughing with, but at the film. The acting was flawless: from Daniel Kaluuya to Catherine Keener, the actors brought so many levels to their performances. I was especially impressed with Keener and Bradley Whitford’s ability to go from warm, parental figures to subtly menacing to their ultimate terrifying performance.  The fact that they were able to include the old hypnosis trope, and make it fresh and horrifying in 2017, was worthy of applause in and of itself. I am so impressed with Jordan Peele and his first foray into horror. He managed to make a suspenseful horror film that also made you think. I applaud Mr. Peele, the cast, and crew. Best film I’ve seen in quite some time!” 5 stars

Get Out is surprisingly eloquent when it comes to criticizing the topic of modern racial tension, but made it a bit funny, too. Jordan Peele is able to balance the horror elements and his usual comedic tone quite well. As it progresses, the premise seems more ridiculousness, but the reality of the situation is grounded and effective. And much like the main character, you find the rest of the cast predictably sketchy, but you believe the slight of terror they give off. It’s pretty entertaining and while we may never experience this, there’s probably something in the film that makes us think about the things we deal with surrounding us.” 5 stars

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Billy Madison

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Billy Madison is the 27-year-old heir to a Fortune 500 hotel company that his father, Brian, has created. He spends his days drinking with friends and creating disturbances across his father’s estate. One day, Billy ruins a dinner meeting between his father and his associates by acting obnoxiously. Brian loses confidence in his son and chooses the conniving Eric Gordon as his successor. When Billy begs his father to reconsider his decision, Brian reveals that he secretly bribed Billy’s school teachers to give him passing grades. The two finally compromise: Billy must complete all 12 grades in two week intervals to prove he is competent enough to manage the company.

Shortly after enrolling into school, Billy becomes attracted to a teacher named Veronica Vaughn, who initially ignores him. Nevertheless, Billy successfully progresses through his first two grades. He finds himself as one of Veronica’s students in the third grade and earns her respect by standing up for Ernie, his friend and classmate. Billy becomes popular among the third graders and misses them as he advances through school. Billy’s progress alarms Eric, who becomes increasingly agitated as Billy completes each grade. Eric blackmails Billy’s principal, Max Anderson, into claiming that Billy bribed him for passing grades.

Brian swiftly terminates his agreement with Billy and names Eric as his successor. Billy grows distraught and reverts to his carefree lifestyle. Veronica motivates him to return to school, while his grade school classmates convince Max to retract his bribery accusations. Brian agrees to give Billy another chance but Eric cites that Billy failed the challenge by taking more than two weeks to complete a grade. He then threatens to sue Brian if he does not pass the company onto him. Billy intervenes and challenges Eric to an academic decathlon to finally settle their feud.

Both men excel in different activities but Billy manages to take a single-point lead before the contest’s final event, a Jeopardy!-style academic test. Billy stumbles on the opening question in the event, and Eric is given the chance to win the contest by answering a question about business ethics. Eric is unable to withstand the pressure and breaks down. He brandishes a handgun, but Max tackles Eric before he can harm Billy. Eric recovers from the attack and attempts to shoot Veronica, but he is shot by Danny McGrath, a rifle-wielding madman whom Billy apologized to earlier in the film.

At his graduation, Billy is delivering a speech. Billy announces he will pass the hotel business to Carl Alphonse, one of his father’s more polite businessmen, and attend college in order to become a teacher. Eric watches on and fumes in frustration over Billy’s decision

REVIEW:

Remember the days when Adam Sandler was actually not hated by most critics, but rather loved? No, well, hopefully a journey back to the days of Billy Madison will change that for you. Many call this one of Sandler’s best. It must be since it is part of his company, Happy Madison, name. Let’s see what the big deal is, shall we?

What is this about?

Job-averse goofball Billy Madison stands to inherit a fortune when his hotel magnate father retires and leaves him in charge. But Billy’s dad won’t trust him with the family business unless he goes back to school. All the way back.

What did I like?

It worked…back then. The Waterboy is perhaps my favorite Adam Sandler movie but, I got to thinking the other day, if it were made today, would it work? The answer is probably no. A big part of that is Sandler’s character. Many of the mannerisms he used for Bobby Boucher are present in almost every film, now that I think about it. Today, we are tired of this schtick, but when you turn on the retro vibe, one can remember how great we thought, no we knew he was!

Kids love him. Once Sandler’s character, Billy, makes it to high school, he has to leave his young friends down at the elementary school (not quite sure what happened to the junior high years). For some reason, it warmed my heart to see them all flock to him when came back to visit one day. I guess that is just the military brat in me wishing that I could have gone back to see my friends and get that kind of reception after very school I left. Who knows?

On the boardwalk. Steve Buscemi makes a small cameo in a couple of scenes. Unlike most of his parts in Sandler movies, he isn’t the butt of some kind of joke, but rather a sympathetic character that Billy apparently was mean to when they were in high school. What is so impressive to be about this role is how much he says with his performance in such a short amount of time. There is obviously some scarring there from his high school days, as we can see from the list of people to kill and the fact that he puts on lipstick, but Billy’s call seems to help with that. That one call did so much, as seen later in the film.

What didn’t I like?

Sonya Blade. I don’t like Bridgette Wilson’s face! That’s me being honest. There is a reason she got the role of Sonya in Mortal Kombat (though she wasn’t the first choice), and it is because of her body. As an actress, she’s decent, but as we can see from her career, nothing special. There is just something about her fact that doesn’t sit right with me. Add on that this character she plays is some kind of borderline bitch towards Billy at the beginning and then at one party, she’s in love with him, and there really is no reason for me to like her, and I don’t think I am the only one that feels this way.

Business villain. There are actors who play good or bad guys so well that they are typecast into that role. Some do it so well people can’t separate them from their character, like Joffrey in Game of Thrones. Bradley Whitford has played a villain in everything I have seen him in. I think there may have been one or two things where he wasn’t, but I can’t really remember those. If that’s his niche, then fine, but this over-the-top, mustache twirling, cartoon slimeball was a bit much, even for a Sandler film. I felt he needed to pull it back in or go full-on supervillain!

Don’t give me Lippy. I hear kindergarten teachers are weird. I can’t really remember mine, so I can’t comment on her. Miss Lippy, the kindergarten teacher at this school is…special, to say the least. When she sends the kids out for recess, it is for “her time”, in which she stays in and does some sort of yoga/tai chi/I don’t know wtf! In another scene, she is shown to be smearing paste on her face. She can be as weird as possible. That isn’t the issue, but if she’s going to be weird, at least give us a reason for her mental state (drugs, divorce, concussion, etc.)

For a film that is considered one of the crown jewels of the Sandler library, I must say that Billy Madison wasn’t as good as I was led to believe. There are two reasons for this, though. First is that I expected it to be more similar to Jack, the Robin Williams movie where he is an overgrown child, literally. Second, this is very similar to a film Sandler’s buddy Chris Farley released not too long after, Tommy Boy, which is actually the better film (in spite of David Spade). A third reason is that we don’t get a reason why Billy acts the way he does. It is obvious he has some brains, but most of the film he just does the Sandler stupid thing. All that aside, do I recommend this? It may be hard to believe, but yes. I did enjoy this film and think that most who view it will, too! Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Adventures in Babysitting

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!:)

After her boyfriend, Mike Todwell (Bradley Whitford), cancels their anniversary date, 17-year-old Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) volunteers to babysit for the Andersons’ children, 15-year-old Brad (Keith Coogan), who is infatuated with Chris, and 8-year-old Sara (Maia Brewton), who is infatuated with the superhero Thor. However, she gets a frantic phone call from her friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who has run away from home, asking her to come pick her up after running out of money from the cab ride to the bus station. Throughout the film, Brenda’s situation is interspersed with the rest of the film, showing her dealing with a bum who thinks a phone booth is his house, a homeless woman who steals her glasses, a hot dog vendor who demands payment only in cash, and her holding a stray cat, refusing to hand it over to animal control officers until they inform her that what she is holding is actually a sewer rat, which she cannot recognize due to her lack of eyeglasses. Chris takes Brad, Sara, and Brad’s friend Daryl Coopersmith (Anthony Rapp) and sets out, but they get a flat tire, find the spare compartment empty, and become stranded on the expressway.

A friendly tow truck driver with a hook on one of his hands, “Handsome” John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan), realizing they are on their own in the city for the first time, offers to tow them to Dawson’s Garage free of charge. En route to the garage, he gets a call on his CB saying that his wife is cheating on him and he heads home. The kids look away when Pruitt claims that he keeps his severed hand in his glove compartment, which in truth it contains his firearm, then a brief shootout ensues in which during the crossfire the windshield of Chris’ family car is shattered. During their scramble to get away, the kids unwittingly climb into a Cadillac just as it is being hotwired by a professional car thief, Joe Gipp (Calvin Levels). Gipp promises to help them get out of the city but first he needs to get the car to his boss at a chop shop. Gipp’s boss briefly detains the kids, then decides to leave them in his office as he has more important issues with his underlings. Daryl finds a Playboy magazine and steals it before they escape onto the building’s roof; however, it contains incriminating notes, causing the crooks to chase after them. They stumble into a Blues club and are forced to sing about their ordeal by Albert Collins, receiving applause from the audience. Billy Branch plays himself as the harmonica player in this scene. After they have left, the car thieves are held up when they are forced to do the same thing.

The car thieves manage to once again catch up to the kids, but the four narrowly escape by stowing away aboard a Chicago ‘L’ train. Inside the near-empty train, Chris and the children become suddenly caught in the middle of a gang fight in which Brad is injured and taken to the hospital (Mercy Medical Center), where an Indian doctor first says Brad is dead, but embarrassingly then says he mixed up his patients and that Brad only fainted from the shock and that the doctor has easily patched up the knife wound, which only knicked Brad’s foot. The group again encounters Pruitt, who is on the run due to his earlier fight. He tells Chris he took responsibility for the broken windshield, replacing that at his expense, but that his boss Dawson charged them $50 for a new tire and that he will keep the car until the debt is squared. They then come across a college fraternity party at Daryl almost gets into a fight with a jock whose lonely girlfriend attempts to make out with him. Chris encounters a fraternity member Dan Lynch (George Newbern), who is a gentleman to her, but only can offer Chris $45 towards her debt with Dawson. Dan then drives them to Dawson’s garage.

In the garage, Dawson (Vincent D’Onofrio) is seen with a sledgehammer, which makes Sara believe he is Thor. Chris gives him Dan’s cash, but he says that is insufficient to release the car. Sara says that Thor would not be stingy like that, and she gives him her plastic winged helmet, causing Dawson to reconsider and allowing Chris to reclaim the car. On their way through the city, they pass by the restaurant to where Mike was going to bring Chris on their date, and Daryl spots his car parked out front. She goes in to find him flirting with the sleazy Sesame Plexer. Furious, Chris yells at Mike, but when he insults her, Brad and Daryl shove him into a table full of food. Meanwhile, Sara wanders off and is spotted by Joe Gipp and Graydon, the underboss of the car theft ring. She is chased to the Crain Communications Building, where her parents are attending a party. Sara tries to find her parents to get to safety, but she ends up the unoccupied top floor, which is undergoing renovation. She then uses a rope to escape, but finds herself dangling precariously. Graydon goes out on the ledge in order to rescue Sara, but the intent of his rescue is to capture her to find out what happened to the crucial plans. At the last moment, Sara is rescued by Chris and Joe, who has turned on his bosses and is now convinced to go straight, joking to Chris that her babysitting job is tougher than anything he has done.

The group successfully pick ups Brenda, whom Chris returns to her house, telling Brenda she just has to face her own problems with her family. The group then speeds back to the Anderson residence. Chris sends the kids upstairs while she quickly tidies up the mess left earlier in the day. She settles in just as Mr. and Mrs. Anderson walk in through the door. She goes up to say good night to the kids and they all thank each other for the greatest night of their lives. As she leaves, Dan shows up to return Sara’s skate which she had accidentally left behind, but notes that wasn’t the only reason, and they share a kiss.

A post-credits scene shows Graydon still leaning against the side of the building, desperately waiting for rescue.

REVIEW:

Well, it appears that is my 2000th post, so it better be a good one, right? How does Adventures in Babysitting sound? Recently, I’ve gotten addicted to taking those Buzzfeed movie quizzes. One of them was about how many movies have you seen from the 80s. I thought I would’ve done better than I did, but oh well. Let there be one from the 40s or 50s, maybe even the 60s, and I bet I get a really high score! Ha! Enough rambling, let’s get to the review, shall we?

What is this about?

When Chris agrees to baby-sit for the Andersons after her boyfriend stands her up, it’s hardly the boring night she expected. Chris takes the kids along on an errand to downtown Chicago, but one flat tire leads to an outrageous all-night fiasco.

What is this about?

Excitement. There is a reason adventure is in the title. Along with all the comedy this film has to offer, the entire film is a caper. For those of us that didn’t grow up in a major metropolis, an outing to the big city with the parents was enough of an adventure. Just imagine what it would have been like to experience said trip with a babysitter, no money, and car thieves chasing you.

Blues. “Don’t nobody leave here without singing the blues.” As part of their trek across downtown Chicago, a town that look beautiful at night, btw (they just don’t show cities at night like this anymore…at least to the point that the audience can enjoy them), they end up in a blues club and Elizabeth Shue’s character is forced to sing the blues, with the kids backing her up. Now, a group of white kids from the suburbs on stage at a blues club on the wrong side of Chicago is sure to not go over well with the crowd, as you can imagine, but since this is a family film, you can also imagine that they’ll eventually warm up to them with a good performance, and that is what we get, in perhaps the most memorable scene of the film.

Back in time. Maybe it is because of the strict copyright laws (and greedy artists/companies) we have today, but 30 years from now, I don’t think any of us are going to be able to watch a film and be transported back to today based strictly on the soundtrack. This film doesn’t sport a soundtrack that is indicative of the era, such as Back to the Future, Animal House, or Clueless, but it is definitely 80s, one of the most entertaining eras for music, if nothing else. One the opening tune started, I was immediately taken back to my childhood (I was in elementary school when this was released) and had a strong desire to torture my big sister.

What didn’t I like?

Car trouble. This whole adventure happens because of car trouble. Well, actually, it starts because of Chris’ friend running away, but who is arguing exact details, right? The whole busted tire and all the trouble that happens accordingly has never really made much sense. Not because it happened, but because she didn’t have a spare. As someone says to her, “You got on the freeway without a spare?!?” Even the most inexperienced driver knows to not go anywhere without the right preparations. Since this is her parents’ car, it just seems like common sense that, unless they were driving around on a donut, they would have a spare. Why didn’t they, other than this is just a convenient plot device to get the ball rolling?

Playboy. We are constantly being teased with how much Elisabeth Shue’s character looks like the current Playboy centerfold. Keep in mind that this is somewhat of a Disney film. I say somewhat because the company that released it was owned by Disney. At any rate, even though there is some choice language sprinkled in here and there, this is a pretty clean picture. That being said, I can’t help but wish they would have given us a glimpse at said centerfold. Not because I would have gotten some horny pleasure from it, but rather because 80s films are known for gratuitous nudity, a little glimpse at a Playboy wouldn’t have hurt, now would it?

Thor. Maia Brewton’s character is obsessed with Thor. In this day and age, where superheroes have all but taken over all of pop culture that hasn’t been polluted by the kardashians, miley cyrus, and the like, a little girl obsessed with the Norse God of thunder is nothing, but remember that this was released in the late 80s. I don’t even think our current Thor, Chris Hemsworth was out of diapers, yet. I don’t need to tell you that this Thor obsession was a bit much, but when you notice that the guy in charge of the garage happens to look like he could play Thor (he doesn’t look anything like that anymore, fyi), it makes me wonder if they had plans to do something more Thor-ish at some point, but instead, we just get the annoying references to Thor from Brewton every chance she gets.

Can I go back to this simpler time, please? Adventures in Babysitting made me realize how much the world has change in a short amount of time, and not for the better. This is one of those films that sets out to entertain, and does so in spades. Do I recommend it? Yes, very emphatically! Sometimes you just cannot go wrong with a classic film from a time not so far gone. Give it a shot some time, why don’t you?

5 out of 5 stars

Saving Mr. Banks

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In London in 1961, financially struggling author Pamela “P. L.” Travers (Emma Thompson) reluctantly agrees to travel to Los Angeles to meet with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) at the urging of her agent Diarmuid Russell (Ronan Vibert). Disney has been courting Travers for 20 years, seeking to acquire the film rights to her Mary Poppins stories, on account of his daughters’ request to make a film based on the character. Travers, however, has been extremely hesitant toward letting Disney bring her creation to the screen because he is known primarily as a producer of animated films, which Travers openly disdains.

Her youth in Allora, Queensland in 1906 is depicted through flashbacks, and is shown to be the inspiration for much of Mary Poppins. Travers was very close to her handsome and charismatic father Travers Robert Goff (Colin Farrell), who fought a losing battle against alcoholism.

Upon her arrival in Los Angeles, Travers is disgusted by what she feels is the city’s unreality, as well as by the naïve optimism and intrusive friendliness of its inhabitants, personified by her assigned limo driver, Ralph (Paul Giamatti).

At the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Travers begins collaborating with the creative team assigned to develop Mary Poppins for the screen, screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and music composers Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak respectively). She finds their presumptions and casual manners highly improper. She meets Disney in person, and he is jocular and familiar from the start, but she remains unfriendly.

Travers’ working relationship with the creative team is difficult from the outset, with her insistence that Mary Poppins is the enemy of sentiment and whimsy. Disney and his associates are puzzled by Travers’ disdain for fantasy, given the fantastical nature of the Mary Poppins story, as well as Travers’ own richly imaginative childhood existence. Travers has particular trouble with the team’s depiction of George Banks, head of the household in which Mary Poppins is employed as nanny. Travers describes Banks’ characterization as completely off-base and leaves the room distraught. The team begins to grasp how deeply personal the Mary Poppins stories are to Travers, and how many of the work’s characters are directly inspired by Travers’ own past.

Travers’ collaboration with the team continues, although she is increasingly disengaged as painful memories from her past numb her in the present. Seeking to find out what’s troubling her, Disney suggests the two of them go to Disneyland. The visit to Disneyland, along with Travers’ developing friendship with her limo driver, the creative team’s revisions to the character of George Banks, and the insertion of a new song to close the film, help to soften Travers. Her imagination begins to reawaken, and she engages enthusiastically with the creative team.

This progress is upended, however, when Travers realizes that an animation sequence is planned for the film. Travers has been adamant from the start that any animated sequences would be unacceptable. She confronts and denounces a protesting Disney, angrily declaring that she will not sign over the film rights and returns to London. Disney discovers that Travers is writing under a pen name. Her real name is Helen Goff, and she’s actually Australian, not British. Equipped with new insight, he departs for London on the next flight, determined to salvage the film. Appearing unexpectedly at Travers’ residence, Disney opens up—describing his own less-than-ideal childhood, while stressing the healing value of his art—and urges her to shed her deeply-rooted disappointment with the world. Travers relents and grants him the film rights.

Three years later, in 1964, Mary Poppins is nearing its world premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Travers has not been invited because Disney fears that she will give the film negative publicity. Goaded by her agent, Travers returns to Los Angeles, showing up uninvited in Walt Disney’s office, and finagles an invitation to the premiere. She watches Mary Poppins initially with scorn, reacting with particular dismay to the animated sequence. She slowly warms to the film, however, and is ultimately surprised to find herself overcome by emotion, touched by the depiction of George Banks’ redemption, which clearly possesses a powerful personal significance for her.

During the end credits, a surviving recording of one of the sessions between Travers, the Sherman Brothers and DaGradi plays out.

REVIEW:

Mary Poppins is one the most beloved films in the Disney cannon, but how much do we really know about the making of this great film? Did you know that it was based on a book? I did, but I wasn’t aware there was an entire series of them. Saving Mr. Banks takes us on a journey during the adaptation from book to film, and all the bumps on the road along the way.

What is this about?

When Walt Disney sets his sights on obtaining the rights to the children’s classic “Mary Poppins,” he reaches out to the book’s author, P.L. Travers, only to find that she proves a tough nut to crack.

What did I like?

History lesson. As much of a Disney freak I am, admittedly, I know very little about what went on in the making of this film. Obviously, liberties were taken with the events and whatnot, but to know that it took Disney 20 years to secure the rights to Mary Poppins and then had to deal with this uptight, grumpy British lady who doesn’t believe in happiness, making her the antithesis to Disney, himself. Seeing her oppose every idea for this film they come up with and stand toe to toe against Walt Disney was intriguing, as well. I can’t help but wonder how much of this was real and how much was fabricated.

Characters. Tom Hanks is a dead ringer for Walt Disney, or as close you’re going to without defrosting him from that hyperbaric chamber that holds him under Disneyworld. HA! Seriously, though, Hanks captures everything about Walt that we can see on video clips that we can see of the man, the myth, the legend. One cannot help but be impressed. Also worth mention is Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, the crotchety old and bitter author who is stingy with the rights to her character. It is kind of ironic that the woman who brought Nanny McPhee, a character some have said to be Mary Poppins’ sister…among other rumors, to the big screen is playing the creator of Mary Poppins, and she does so with such emotional range and a dark comedic element that helps to make this an enjoyable flick.

Driving Miss Travers. How often have we seen a film where the chauffeur becomes as interesting a character as the main cast? Not very often, at least that I can think of. Well, Paul Giamatti’s character becomes one of the best and most interesting in the film. Not only because he is a happy-go-lucky fellow who looks on the bright side of life, but also because he becomes a friend to “Mrs. Mrs.” and has somewhat of a tragic family life, regarding his disabled child. With such gradual character development, and Giamatti’s natural likability, this guy becomes almost as likable as Hanks’ Walt Disney.

What didn’t I like?

Flashbacks. As far as the story goes, I can understand the flashbacks and their purpose. However, the random jumping back and forth without some sort of setup didn’t make much sense to me. I’m not saying we needed some sort of Family Guy cutaway, necessarily, but just a better setup would have been nice. Also, this is the best I’ve seen Colin Firth is quite some time. I guess since he’s done nothing but star in crappy remakes lately, his talent has been forgotten. Shame it gets buried since it isn’t the major plot.

Cameo. I was a little disappointed that, for all the behind the scenes stuff we saw and learned, we never learned anything about the filming. Part of this might be because no one can capture Dick Van Dyke and especially Julie Andrews’ characteristics. There was an actress who was cast as Andrews but all she had to do was get all dolled up to stand around and smile for the camera in the premiere scene.

Put the brakes on. Going into the final act, there is a time jump which I felt might have been better served to not be there. I say this because it sort of made the film feel like they were in a rush to get the scene showing Emma Thompson’s reaction to the film (and the whole frustration to not being invited to the premiere) in and wrap things up. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with the way they chose to do it, especially since the film is already nearing the 2 hr mark. I just felt that they could have spent a few more minutes on the timeline, rather than bulldozing through to the end.

The best word I can think of to describe Saving Mr. Banks is charming. This comedy/drama biopic gives us laughs, a history lesson, great performances, and tugs on the heartstrings. All the kinds of things that critics tend to look for when they nominate films for awards, but this didn’t make the cut. You can argue whether or not it deserved nominations, though. Do I recommend this film? Yes, especially if you like films like A League of Their Own. If that sounds like something up your alley and you are a fan of Mary Poppins, you have to check this out!

5 out of 5 stars

Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2013 by Mystery Man

Revenge of the Nerds II Nerds in Paradise

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The Lambda Lambda Lambda from Adams College are packing their suitcases to get ready for a national fraternity convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Just before heading to the airport, Lewis’ (Robert Carradine) best friend Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) explains to him that he feels stupid that he cannot come, due to breaking his leg (during a chess match).

After arriving at Fort Lauderdale and heading to the Royal Flamingo Hotel, A trainee named Sunny (Courtney Thorne-Smith) informs Lewis that their reservation is canceled and has been given to the Alpha Betas. The Royal Flamingo manager (Ed Lauter) explains to Sunny that they do not want nerds staying in this hotel. The Tri-Lambs also meet Stewart (Barry Sobel), a geeky bellboy at the hotel who is also friends with Sunny. Lewis finds another hotel called the Hotel Coral Essex, located in a shady neighborhood, and makes their reservation there. Roger (Bradley Whitford), the president of the local chapter of Alpha Betas (and chairman of the regional conference) is seen planning with his fellow jocks to get rid of the Tri-Lambs by any means necessary. Furthermore, Ogre (Donald Gibb) is revealed to be at the conference, scheming with Roger and the Alphas.

The Lambdas arrive at the Florida swamplands hoping to attend the United Fraternity pre-conference barbecue. They take the wrong way and see a group of Seminole Indians capture an Indian maiden and throw her into a flame (an act concocted by the Alphas to humiliate the Tri-Lambs into leaving the conference). They are captured and forced to strip to their underwear, until Poindexter (Timothy Busfield) tests their ethnicity by yelling “Bite my crank” at them in Seminole, to which no one responds. They’re chased off by Ogre, and forced to make their way across town back to their hotel in their underwear.

The next day, Roger announces a new bylaw to be voted upon by the conference; “Proposition 15”, a rule that would require physical as well as academic standards to be met by all members of the conference. Before Lewis can make any argument against the proposition, he is co-opted by a wet-nightie contest happening poolside. The Lambdas decide to beat the Alphas at their own game and throw a party at the Hotel Coral Essex. The neon sign outside the hotel is deliberately broken (so that it reads “HOTel cORAL esSEX”), which draws people for miles. The Tri-Lambs (along with Stewart) perform outside of the Hotel Coral Essex, winning over the crowd, and Prop 15 is voted down the next morning. At this time, Roger, seemingly sincere, expresses a desire to make peace once and for all with the Tri-Lambs, and to that end he proposes a bylaw stating that any fraternity found to be guilty of a crime will be expelled from the national conference and their charter revoked. The Lambdas, satisfied that the Alphas now cannot attack them without being expelled from the conference, accept their offer of friendship and their luxurious hotel suite at the Royal Flamingo. Roger encourages Sunny to grab a couple of girls and take the Tri-Lambs to the beach in his car. While on the beach Sunny and Lewis get to know and like each other. Unfortunately, Roger has reported his car stolen, and the Lambdas are arrested.

Stewart and Sunny bail the Tri-Lambs out of jail. Sunny apologizes and tries to explain that she knew nothing of Roger’s plan, but Lewis doesn’t believe her. Before she can explain, The Alpha Betas kidnap the Tri-Lambs along with Sunny and dump them on an uninhabited island. Disgusted by Roger’s actions, Sunny jumps overboard. When they realize Ogre cannot be trusted to keep his mouth shut, they also throw him into the water, despite the fact that he cannot swim. Upon seeing Ogre drowning, Wormser jumps into the ocean and rescues him, though he is seemingly ungrateful. As the group sleeps Lewis has a dream about Gilbert, who explains to him that all is not lost and implores Lewis not to give up. He also points out the Lewis is acting like a jerk to Sunny, who is stranded with him on this island by choice. This helps give Lewis the confidence he needs to apologize to Sunny for his behavior and to try and find a way off the island.

The next morning The Tri-Lambs, using their combined intelligence and ingenuity, find a Cuban military officer’s hidden cache of military supplies, including an amphibious vehicle. Meanwhile at the conference, Roger is presiding over the vote to expel the Tri-Lambs, when, decked out in military gear, they literally crash the conference, driving right through the conference room wall, then chase the attendees out to the pool. Roger is unfazed and tries to continue to have the Lambdas voted out for stealing his car, until Sunny reveals that Roger set them up and kidnapped them. Roger states that it doesn’t matter since he will always be cool, popular and good-looking and the Lambdas will always be weird, different and pathetic, and that there’s nothing they can do or say about it. Lewis takes a moment and quietly agrees with Roger, stating that there’s nothing he can say, but that there is “something I’ve gotta do about it.” and punches Roger in the jaw, knocking him into the pool.

Back at Adams College, in an induction ceremony, Ogre is sworn in to Lambda Lambda Lambda as the newest member.

REVIEW:

The nerds are back! Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise reunites us with our favorite social outcasts as they head to a national convention in Florida. As one can assume, hijinks ensue with old and new friends.

What is this about?

The sequel to the 1980s hit continues the tradition of nerdy hilarity, as the members of the Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity (Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong and others) travel to Fort Lauderdale for a fraternity conference. They’ll have to beat off the attacks of their rival frat, the Alphas, if they want to maintain their self-respect — and, of course, if they want to get anywhere with the pretty girls!

What did I like?

Not the same. Many sequels fall into the trap of just copying the plot from the previous film and moving locations or flipping the script, as it were. For instance, this could very well have been the nerds are now the power on campus and the jocks want it back. Luckily, they went with something else, although some may have issue with the use of the same fraternities.

Nerd in training. Since this doesn’t take place on campus, there aren’t any recruits, or pledges, if you will. How do we get new blood? Simple, the bellhop at the original hotel the nerds are scheduled to stay in is perfect material for a new guy. He even makes a career of playing a bit of a nerd…the kind that thinks he’s “street”.

Get the girl. These days it seems as if nerds always get the girl, but that wasn’t always the case. Not taking anything away from the females in Revenge of the Nerds, but Courtney Thorne-Smith is a supreme upgrade. Leave us not forget that she was wronged in all sorts of ways throughout this entire picture. I guess, in some ways, you could say that she is a nerd in her own right.

What didn’t work?

What’s up doc? Anthony Edwards apparently had become too big of a star to give this film his full attention, so he only appears in a handful of scenes. I don’t think I would’ve had as big of a problem if they would have given him a better story to go out on, but breaking his leg playing chess?!? Really?!? At least in Top Gun, he breaks his neck trying to eject from the plane.

Just sitting. During most of the film, we see other members of the Tri-Lamb fraternity at the tables of the convention. They sit and watch as their brothers are picked on and nearly expelled. Very easily they could have stepped in nad done something, but they don’t…until the last scene. Now, I don’t know if this because they were supposed to be just extras or if they were meant to be as aloof as they appeared to be, but they could have done something. That’s what brotherhood is about, if I’m not mistaken.

Ogre. I get why they brought Ogre back, as opposed to any of the other antagonists from the first film. He’s the only one that was memorable, but he had no reason to be here other than they just wanted him back. If they wanted dumb muscle, they could have very easily found another big guy, or had him play his twin brother, distant cousin, or some other look-alike relative.

As with most sequels, Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. That isn’t to say it is horrible, but the sum of its parts don’t quite add up to as high of a score. I enjoyed this film, especially since the DVD was a double feature with the original included. I say see this, but it doesn’t get as high a recommendation as the film on the other side of this DVD.

4 out of 5 stars

The Cabin in the Woods

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Technicians Gary Sitterson and Steve Hadley prepare for an operation, one of several taking place around the world, while joking with fellow technician Wendy Lin.

College students Dana Polk, Jules Louden and her boyfriend Curt Vaughan, Holden McCrea, and Marty Mikalski go to a remote cabin in the woods for a vacation. While there, the technicians control the local environment and give them mood-altering drugs to manipulate the group into following a scenario. The drugs gradually reduce the group’s intelligence and awareness, and also increase their libido. After entering the cellar, the group discovers a large assortment of items, including a diary by Patience Buckner, a girl abused by her sadistic family. Reciting an incantation from the diary, Dana inadvertently triggers the Buckner family scenario — a family of zombies who rise from their graves.

Curt and Jules go outside to have sex, encouraged by more mood-altering drugs. The Buckners attack the lovers and kill Jules, but Curt flees to the cabin. Meanwhile, Marty, who frequently smokes marijuana, becomes paranoid and believes they are being manipulated. Curt informs the group of Jules’ death. Discovering a hidden camera, Marty thinks that he is on a reality television show, but is attacked and dragged away by one of the Buckners. Holden, Dana, and Curt attempt to flee in their RV, but the technicians barely block their path. Curt attempts to jump a ravine to flee only to crash into an invisible forcefield and fall to his death. Realizing that something is unusual about the environment, Dana becomes convinced that Marty’s worries about their manipulation were correct. While driving back to the cabin, Holden is killed by a Buckner who hid in the RV. The RV falls into the lake and Dana swims away, only to be attacked by a Buckner on the dock.

The technicians celebrate the completion of the ritual, but a phone call from “upstairs” informs them that Marty is still alive. Arriving at the dock, Marty saves Dana. Marty reveals that he dismembered his assailant after being dragged away, stumbled upon a control box hidden in the Buckners’ graves, and was able to access an underground elevator. The technicians realize that Marty is immune to their drugs because of his marijuana habit. Marty and Dana take the elevator down to the lower levels of the facility, passing a variety of imprisoned monsters. Some of the monsters remind Dana of items from the cabin’s cellar, and she realizes that the items determine which monster will be released. When Dana and Marty are cornered by a security team, Dana uses a control station to release the monsters, who massacre the facility staff, including Hadley and Lin. Sitterson is inadvertently stabbed by Dana while fleeing into the lower levels of the facility.

Discovering a temple adorned with large stone tablets, Dana and Marty meet the Director. They are informed that the ritual is to appease the “Ancient Ones” — beings who live beneath the facility and are kept in perpetual slumber through an annual, ritual sacrifice of five young people who embody certain archetypes: the Whore (Jules), the Athlete (Curt), the Scholar (Holden), the Fool (Marty), and the Virgin (Dana). The order in which they die does not matter, as long as the virgin is last, and her death is optional, as long as she suffers. Should the Ancient Ones awake, they will destroy the world. The Director reveals that rituals around the world have been taking place for the same purpose, but each of them failed. Dana is urged by the Director to kill Marty to complete the ritual. Dana draws a gun on Marty, but is attacked by a werewolf while the Director fights with Marty. Patience Buckner arrives and kills the Director before Marty pushes them both into the Ancient Ones’ pit.

Marty forgives Dana for threatening to shoot him. The pair accept that it might be better for another species to take humanity’s place if this is the price of its continued existence. Marty and Dana light a joint and hold hands as the gigantic hand of an Ancient One rises up, destroying the facility and the cabin

REVIEW:

Not too long ago, the trend in horror was a subgenre called “torture porn”. You know you’ve seen it, the kind where you see some strapped to a chair, table, or something and they are tortured to death. The Saw and Hostel franchises are excellent examples of this. The Cabin in the Woods while telling its own tale also seeks to make a point about your horror watching.

What is this about?

Five teenagers head off for a weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods. They arrive to find they are quite isolated with no means of communicating with the outside world. When the cellar door flings itself open, they of course go down to investigate. They find an odd assortment of relics and curios but when one of the women, Dana, reads from a book she awakens a family of deadly zombie killers. There’s far more going on however than meets the eye as the five campers are all under observation.

What did I like?

Done right. With the exception of the free-for-all that is going on in the last half of the film, every murder, attack, or what have you, is done tastefully. We don’t see body parts flinging all over the place. As a matter of fact, we don’t see much, other than them throwing knives and bear traps. I’m one of these old school guys. I could care less for the gore. For me, it is really more effective to not see but know what happens. It is like when you’re a little kid and you’re afraid to walk down the hall at night. It is a small hallways and nothing is going to get you, but the fear of not knowing what is out there has you freaked out.

Chemicals. I’m not a science guy, but the way these chemicals were used to keep these “subjects” under control. Things like pheromone and mind altering gases, some kind of controlled marijuana, and of course blonde hair dye (because there always has to be a blonde). The dye apparently was formulated so that it reduced brain cell, making the girl spider and stupider.

Final curtain. The entire last act is insane. There are various types of mythical creatures locked up in this compound. Once they are released, all hell breaks loose, literally. Factor this is with the ensuing blood bath and then the plot twist that no one sees coming, but really should have.

What didn’t I like?

Who watches whom? Once it is established that this is some kind of twisted reality show, the technicians keep mentioning upstairs, downstairs, and the master, but not one of them have any clue that they too could possibly be being watched. You can make the case that this is very similar to The Truman Show or The Hunger Games if you wanted, but if you do that, see if you can figure out which group is the lkeast evil. I know I can’t.

Foreign policy. At times back during the scenes with the technicians, they will show something going in another part of the world, mostly China, dealing with the same kind of show over there that we have over here. I didn’t quite understand what all that was about, but it had something to do with ratings and marketing, I believe.

False advertising. See how the cabin is in a state of rotation up there in the poster? Well, unless I missed something, that did not happen. I think it would have been cool if it did, though. Think of something like 13 Ghosts but with various mythological creatures.

People were gushing about how awesome The Cabin in the Woods was and how it was set to change the face of horror. Not being a horror fan, I don’t really know what the current face of horror is at the moment, but I don’t think this did enough to change anything. That being said, this the kid of horror film I like…one where you can actually enjoy the film’s craftmanship, laugh at a couple of things, and enjoy a few scares along the way. I recommend this pretty highly. Horror fans and non horror fans will enjoy it, I think. If you’re wondering why Chris Hemsworth looks so small, though, remember that this was filmed while he was training for Thor, so he’s not fully bulked and buffed up, yet. Sorry, ladies!

4 out of 5 stars

Robocop 3

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The main plot of RoboCop 3 involves RoboCop (Robert John Burke) finding a new family, as he has apparently given up hope of seeing his wife or son again. He forms a bond with an orphaned little Japanese-American computer whiz girl named Nikko, as well as coming into contact with an underground paramilitary resistance. The resistance, built up of underprivileged urban families, formed after Omni Consumer Products (OCP) began relocating them in order to build Delta City on the land encompassing Detroit’s Cadillac Heights area. RoboCop also finds one of the original scientists from the first two films, Dr. Marie Lazarus (Jill Hennessy), who built and operated on him, and has left the organization after becoming disillusioned with it.

Meanwhile, OCP is on the verge of bankruptcy and creates an armed force called the Urban Rehabilitators (“Rehabs” for short), under the command of Paul McDaggett (John Castle), to combat rising crime in Old Detroit and augment the ranks of Detroit Police in apprehending violent criminals, while in reality forcibly relocating the residents of Cadillac Heights, killing some of them (including Nikko’s parents) in the process. The Police force is gradually superseded by the Rehab forces, and violent crime begins to spiral out of control once more. The Delta City dream of the former CEO and “Old Man” lives on through the help of a Japanese zaibatsu, the Kanemitsu Corporation, who bought a controlling stake in OCP. Kanemitsu sees the potential in the citywide redevelopment, and moves forward with its own plans to remove the current citizens. The company develops and uses its own ninja robots (called “Otomo”) to help McDaggett and the OCP President overcome the resistance of the anti-OCP militia forces.

When RoboCop and Lewis try to defend unarmed civilians from the Rehabs one night, Lewis is killed by McDaggett. Unable to fight back because of the Fourth Directive, RoboCop is saved by members of the resistance and eventually joins their cause. Due to severe damage sustained in the shootout, RoboCop’s systems efficiency plummets, and he asks the resistance to summon Dr. Lazarus, who promptly arrives and begins to treat him, deleting the Fourth Directive in the process. During an earlier raid on an armory, the resistance has picked up a flight pack prototype originally intended for RoboCop’s use, which Lazarus modifies and upgrades.

After recovering from his injuries, RoboCop conducts a one-man campaign against the Rehabs. He finds McDaggett and attempts to subdue him, but McDaggett is able to escape, and accepts information from a disgruntled resistance member (Stephen Root) to find the base. The base is invaded by the Rehabs, and most of the resistance members are either killed or taken prisoner. Nikko escapes with the help of Lazarus, who is taken back into the OCP building as a prisoner.

RoboCop returns to the rebel base, only to find it abandoned. One of the Otomo ninjabots shows up and attacks him. RoboCop experiences another power drain, but is able to destroy his opponent. Meanwhile, Nikko infiltrates the OCP building and manages to have Lazarus broadcast an improvised televisation of OCP being behind the entire criminal outbreaks and implicating them for the removal and termination of the Cadillac Heights residents. RoboCop hears this broadcast and latches the jetpack onto himself. The broadcast also causes OCP’s stock to plunge dramatically, driving the company into total ruin.

McDaggett decides to execute an all-out strike against Cadillac Heights with the help of the Detroit City police department, but all of the police officers defect to the resistance in outrage, as moving people out of their homes is not part of a cop’s job; as a result, McDaggett hires street gangs and punks as additional muscle. Just when the combined forces of the Rehabs and gangs are about to wipe out the rebels and Detroit Police, RoboCop flies into the scene with his jetpack and defeats the attackers before he proceeds to the OCP building, where McDaggett is waiting for him. Two other Otomo robots confront RoboCop and nearly manage to defeat him when Nikko and Lazarus succeed in reprogramming them, forcing them to destroy each other. This, however, triggers a self-destruct in both units. RoboCop reignites his jet pack, the discharge of flame hitting McDaggett’s leg and rendering him immobile, and escapes with Nikko and Lazarus, while McDaggett perishes in the blast.

As Old Detroit is being cleaned up, Kanemitsu arrives and bows to RoboCop. When the now ex-OCP President calls RoboCop by his former name Murphy, RoboCop scolds him, “My friends call me Murphy. You call me RoboCop.”

REVIEW:

This franchise started with such promise, but the sequels just have not stood up to the brilliance of the original Robocop. Robocop 3 should be a lesson to filmmakers on why you don’t make a random third film, unless it furthers the story along.

My initial issue with this film is, first of all, they changed the actor who played Robocop. While it doesn’t take the best Thespian to play Robocop, there is juts something about continuity here. I read that there was a scheduling conflict that kept him out of it. If that was the case, then they should have waited for him to be done. Just having him in this would have made it at least more bearable.

Next, this thing is so un-Robocop like that it isn’t even  worthy of the title. They reduced this to a PG-13 rating, For those of you that have seen the first two films, you know that they are graphic, violent, and deal with lots of intense themes. This one totally ignores such things and just plods along through some plot that a 5 yr old kid could have come up with.

My frustrations continue with the killing of Nancy Allen’s character. I’m torn on this because on one hand, killing her makes for a good plot twist (one of the few good things about this film), but on the other hand, taking her away took something away from Robocop. The guy doesn’t have much, and you take away his one human friend. WTF?!?

Action is alright here, but I was so disillusioned and borderline pissed-off at this thing, that it was hard for me to enjoy it, but I did notice that it wasn’t really anything spectacular. Maybe because I was expecting some kind of blood and guts to be spilled. The watered down rating, diluted the action, that’s for sure.

The plot, as I mentioned could have been written by some kid in kindergarten, and I really wonder if that was the case. Robocop 2 didn’t have the best plot, but at least it didn’t feel like it was done with the same handiwork as a popcorn necklace.

What is it about the plot that I dislike? Well, the Rehab force made no sense. The fact that Detroit has seemingly gotten worse since the previous two films (even though it looked better in Robocop 2) bothers me, the ninja robots seemed thrust in just to give Robocop a robotic adversary. Oh, and the jetpack was nothing special. If they wanted to make that big of a deal about the thing, then they should have built it into him when they repaired him and have him make a big deal about his new equipment.

Robocop 3 is the weak link in the franchise (not counting the TV show). No wonder they wanted to reboot this thing. After seeing this, I’m almost tempted to back off my stance on reboots/remakes just to erase the memory of this mess. As much as I have sat here and bashed the hell out of this, but it isn’t a truly horrible film, it is just bad, especially in comparison to its predecessors. For that reason, I can’t, in good faith, recommend this film, unless you just want to finish the trilogy. It just isn’t worth it, unless you want to get angry seeing how far this franchise has fallen since the original Robocop.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars