Archive for Christopher Walken

The Jungle Book (2016)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Inspired by the animated Disney classic, this live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s beloved novel follows young Mowgli as he navigates a jungle full of wonder and peril with his animal allies Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear.

What people are saying:

“Exceptionally beautiful to behold and bolstered by a stellar vocal cast, this umpteenth film rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s tales of young Mowgli’s adventures amongst the creatures of the Indian jungle proves entirely engaging, even if it’s ultimately lacking in subtext and thematic heft” 5 stars

“It’s not like we don’t all already know this story backward and forward, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from giving this remake a chance. It’s visually beautiful, and I loved that they kept some of the music from the original animated Disney version. Neel Sethi is a perfect Mowgli and the casting of the voice actors is pretty much spot on. ” 4 stars

“By the time its evolution is complete, The Jungle Book has proven itself a minor Darwinian miracle, perhaps the oddest of all species: a movie nearly devoid of human beings, yet one bursting with humanity.” 4 1/2 stars

“Meh. While I was pretty impressed by this film on a technical and visual level, this film didn’t work nearly as well for me as it did for other people. The writing was lazy and there was no connection between the characters. Nothing was better done here than the book or even the animated one.Some will disagree with me but while Christopher Walken as King Louie was better than I thought, I still can’t get into Bill Murray as Baloo. Bill Murray is a very funny guy but I never saw a character in his performance, I just heard Bill Murray’s voice out of this bear and I found it quite distracting. Personally, I would’ve asked for a movie that had the Disney spirit but kept some of the brilliant themes and ideas from the book by Rudyard Kipling. I guess if I’ll give this 2016 version anything…….at least its not the 1994 Stephen Sommer’s version?” 2 1/2 stars

“Amazing! Where reality laves off and fantasy takes over is seamlessly executed and the movie transports you through an unforgettable journey. We watched this as established fans of Kipling, appreciating the tragedies of his life along with the magnificence of his writing; while the movie is an art form unto its own, it captures Kipling and wrings your heart as it unfolds. We watched it twice, the second time leaving no lesser impression. A film for all ages.” 5 stars

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Jersey Boys

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1951, in Belleville, New Jersey, Tommy DeVito, narrating the story, introduces the audience to himself, Tommy’s brother Nicky, and their friend Nick Massi, who perform together as The Variety Trio, and to a barber’s son, 16-year-old Frankie Castelluccio, already well known in the neighborhood for his singing voice. Frankie has the admiration of Genovese Family mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, who takes a personal interest in him.

One night, the group attempts a robbery of a safe, for which the police later arrest them. In court, Frankie is let off with a warning but Tommy is sentenced to six months in prison. After his release, Tommy reunites the group and adds Frankie as lead singer. Frankie changes his professional name to Frankie Vally, and then Frankie Valli. At a performance, Frankie is entranced by a woman named Mary Delgado. He takes her to dinner, and they are soon married.

The group, now called “The Four Lovers,” is in need of a songwriter after Nicky leaves. Tommy’s friend Joe Pesci tells him about a talented singer-songwriter, Bob Gaudio, and invites him to hear the group perform. Gaudio, now narrating, is impressed with Valli’s vocals and agrees to join.

The band, having recorded several demos, attempts to attract interest, with little success. One day in New York City, producer Bob Crewe signs them to a contract. However, they quickly realize that it only allows them to perform back-up vocals for other acts (as The Romans and The Topix). Crewe says that the group does not have a distinctive image or sound yet. Inspired by a bowling alley sign, the guys rename themselves “The Four Seasons,” and sing a new song Gaudio has written, “Sherry”, to Crewe, who agrees to record it.

“Sherry” quickly becomes a major hit, followed by two more, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”. However, before an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Valli is approached by Jewish mobster Norman Waxman, a loan shark for one of the other Five Families, who claims that Tommy owes him $150,000. Frankie goes to DeCarlo, who gets Waxman to allow the group to pay the debt, which turns out to be considerably larger. Tommy must go to work for the mob’s associates in Las Vegas until it is paid. Nick, irritated by Tommy’s irresponsibility, not being involved in the group’s decisions, and never being able to see his family, also leaves the group.

Forced to tour constantly to pay the debt, the band hires a set of studio musicians and becomes Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, with Gaudio now acting only as songwriter and producer. Valli learns from his now ex-wife Mary that his daughter, Francine, now a drug addict, has run away from home. Valli tracks her down and regrets not acting as a better father for her when she was growing up. He also arranges for Gaudio to give her singing lessons and for Crewe to cut a demo for her.

A few years later, the group has finally paid off Tommy’s debt. Sadly, this coincides with the news of Francine’s death by drug overdose. Frankie and Mary both grieve for their daughter. Gaudio composes a new number for Valli to sing, his first as a solo artist. Frankie is at first hesitant, as he is still in mourning, but eventually agrees. The piece, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”, becomes a commercial success.

In 1990, the original Four Seasons are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The quartet performs “Rag Doll” onstage, their first performance together in over 20 years. The music fades as the four men take turns addressing the audience. Tommy, in an ironic twist, now works for Joe Pesci, who has gone on to become an Oscar-winning actor. Nick claims to have no regrets about leaving the group, enjoying the time he spends with his family. Bob has retired to Nashville, Tennessee. Lastly, Frankie finally takes over the narration, stating that the best time he had during his time with the Four Seasons was before their success, “when everything was still ahead of us and it was just four guys singing under a street lamp.”

REVIEW:

Clint Eastwood makes his first foray into the world of musicals with Jersey Boys, the Tony Award winning play detailing the life of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. With such great music, a great director, and a story that seems to be made for the big screen, this film can’t fail, right?

What is this about?

Adapted from the hit Broadway musical, this nostalgic look at the Four Seasons and their bumpy offstage lives stretches across four decades. Each of the musical act’s four original members presents a different set of memories from their shared past.

What did I like?

And we’re Walken. Christopher Walken has become that guy that you stick in your movie and he will automatically make it better. He’s in like 3 or 4 scenes as a mob boss, and just by the nature of who he is, those are some of the best scenes of the film. Would I have liked to have seen more of him, yes, but then this would have turned into a mob movie, I feel. A little bit goes a long way.

Narration. I’ve notices lately that narration needs to be done exactly right and by the right person for it work for me. Here we have a story about 4 guys. Why not give them each a chance to tell part of the story? That’s exactly what happens and you know what? I approve! Not only do we get the chance to hear from each of them on what was going on, but the tone of the film at the time fits with the particular member. For instance Nick Massi was a bit on the serious, brooding side and his section of the film is the “crash and burn” of the group.

Exit music. This is a film that was taken from a Broadway musical, so who wouldn’t expect there to be a grand musical finale? While there wasn’t as much music in here as I would like, when the songs did take center stage, they were on point, specifically the closing number. For the first time in this over 2hr film, it actually looked like the cast was having fun and we in the audience felt it. The ending medley of Four Seasons hits makes you want to get up and dance and I’m sure at some point more than a few people actually did!

What didn’t I like?

A little night music. So, this is a musical about a singing group. Last one of these we got was Mamma Mia!or was it Across the Universe?, but both of those went in a totally different directions. How is it that with all the opportunities to just belt out song after song, hit after hit, we literally have to wait an hour to get any real music in this. If Clint Eastwood wanted to take the music out of this, then why pick a musical about a singing group? Or why do this as a musical? As it stands, this is on the same level as Walk the Line, Ray, and all the other biopics about musicians. The music is there, but only because it has to be.

Melodrama. There is lots of drama to be had in the lives of these four to be sure, but the part that really got me was the death of Frankie Valli’s daughter. I believe that in any other film, this situation would have been a gut-punch, but because we get little to no time to connect with Valli’s family, this whole sequence of events was nothing more than filler, an attempt to setup the meaning of the song “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, and give the film an emotional edge, which I don’t believe it did as successfully as Eastwood would have liked.

Makeup. It really bothered me how no one really aged in this film until all of a sudden at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame ceremony they show up looking much older than when we last saw them. I can get over that, though. What I can’t let slide is how bad the makeup jobs were. Earlier this week, I watched an episode of That’s So Raven in which the three main character were about 60 years in the future. The makeup was bad, but that’s a low-budget kid’s sitcom from 10 yrs ago. The makeup that they put on these guys was on the same level, if not worse and the guy that was playing Frankie got it the worst. He looked like he just in the process of turning into a zombie. What were they thinking?!?

As I was telling somebody before I started watching. My expectation for Jersey Boys, and most musicals for that matter, is very high because I’m such a fan of those great productions from the Golden Age of Hollywood with the likes of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Doris Day, etc. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come close. The acting is horrible, but I commend Eastwood for going with the original Broadway guys. They just don’t translate to the film that well. John Lloyd Young, who plays Frankie Valli, isn’t horrible and he does have some singing chops, but he needs a little bit more time to develop before we see him in anymore big screen projects. The songs are great, I just wish we had more time to enjoy them. Again, this is a musical with very little music!!! Do I recommend this? Not really, if you want to see this production but can’t make it to Broadway look it up on YouTube. I’m sure some high school, university, or community theater has done it, probably better than what this turned out to be. Don’t waste to 135 minutes!

3 out of 5 stars

A View to a Kill

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

MI6 agent James Bond is sent to Siberia to locate the body of 003 and recover a microchip originating from the Soviet Union. Upon his return Q analyses the microchip, establishing it to be a copy of one designed to withstand an electromagnetic pulse and made by government contractor Zorin Industries.

Bond visits Ascot Racecourse to observe the company’s owner, Max Zorin. Zorin’s horse wins a race but proves hard to control. Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a racehorse trainer and MI6 agent, believes Zorin’s horse was drugged, although tests proved negative. Through Tibbett, Bond meets French private detective Achille Aubergine who informs Bond that Zorin is holding a horse sale later in the month. During their dinner at the Eiffel Tower, Aubergine is assassinated by Zorin’s bodyguard May Day, who subsequently escapes, despite being chased by Bond.

Bond and Tibbett travel to Zorin’s estate for the horse sale. Bond is puzzled by a woman who rebuffs him and finds out that Zorin has written her a cheque for $5 million. At night, Bond and Tibbett break into Zorin’s laboratory learning that he is implanting adrenaline-releasing devices in his horses. Zorin identifies Bond as an agent, has May Day assassinate Tibbett and attempts to have Bond killed too.

General Gogol of the KGB confronts Zorin for killing Bond without permission revealing that Zorin was initially trained and financed by the KGB, but has now gone rogue. Later, Zorin unveils to a group of investors his plan to destroy Silicon Valley which will give him—and the potential investors—a monopoly over microchip manufacture.

Bond goes to San Francisco where he learns from CIA agent Chuck Lee that Zorin could be the product of medical experimentation with steroids performed by a Nazi scientist, now Zorin’s physician Dr. Carl Mortner. He then investigates a nearby oil rig owned by Zorin and while there finds KGB agent Pola Ivanova recording conversations and her partner placing explosives on the rig. Ivanova’s partner is caught and killed, but Ivanova and Bond escape. Later Ivanova takes the recording, but finds that Bond had switched tapes, leaving her with a recording of Japanese music. Bond tracks down the woman Zorin attempted to pay off, State Geologist Stacey Sutton, and discovers that Zorin is trying to buy her family oil business.

The two travel to San Francisco City Hall to check Zorin’s submitted plans. However, Zorin is alerted to their presence and arrives, killing the Chief Geologist with Bond’s gun and setting fire to the building in order to both frame Bond for the murder and kill him at the same time. Bond and Sutton escape from the fire, but when the police try to arrest Bond, they escape in a fire engine.

Bond and Sutton infiltrate Zorin’s mine, discovering his plot to detonate explosives beneath the lakes along the Hayward and San Andreas faults, which will cause them to flood, resulting in Silicon Valley and everything within to be submerged underwater forever. A larger bomb is also in the mine to destroy a “geological lock” that prevents the two faults from moving at the same time. Once in place, Zorin and his security chief Scarpine flood the mines and kill the mine workers. Sutton escapes while Bond fights May Day; when she realises Zorin abandoned her, she helps Bond remove the larger bomb, putting the device onto a handcar and pushing it out of the mine, where it explodes, killing her.

Zorin, who had escaped in his airship with Scarpine and Mortner, abducts Sutton as Bond grabs hold of the airship’s mooring rope. Zorin tries to kill Bond, but he manages to moor the airship to the framework of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sutton attacks Zorin and in the fracas, Mortner and Scarpine are temporarily knocked out. Sutton flees and joins Bond out on the bridge, but Zorin follows them out with an axe. The ensuing fight culminates with Zorin falling to his death, whereupon Mortner attacks Bond using sticks of dynamite, but drops a stick in the cabin, blowing up the airship and killing himself and Scarpine. General Gogol awards Bond the Order of Lenin for foiling Zorin’s scheme.

REVIEW:

This is a little bittersweet for me, as we say goodbye to Roger Moore as James Bond in A View to a Kill. That’s right people, the next Bond flick will have a new actor in the lead role. Before we get to that, though, let’s see if this film lives up to the lofty standards of the 007 franchise and sends Moore out with a bang.

What is this about?

Agent 007 must stop a French industrialist aiming to corner the world’s microchip supply by triggering a massive quake in California’s Silicon Valley.

What did I like?

Duran Duran. My boss and I have been talking Bond lately and actually have had a bit of a disagreement over some of the music that has been selected for these films. He really hates the 80s stuff, saying it feels dated. This coming from a child of the 80s. Me, I like it. To me, yes it is dated, but that is what makes it so special. If this were made with today’s music, it would be crap. HAHA Seriously, though, it would probably be that dubstep stuff that gives me a headache. Thank goodness that wasn’t around when this was made and we had the greatness of Duran Duran to deliver a worthy theme that screams 80s theme song. It was the perfect choice for this film.

Aged like fine wine. When this was made, Roger Moore was getting on up there in age. Not to be mean, but it shows. However, you really cannot tell with all the action. Yes, those are stuntmen, but the point is that Bond is ageless and despite Moore’s advancing years, James bond is still able to be a kick-ass, suave spy who all the guys envy and the ladies want to be with.

Diabolical. I cannot recall a villain as diabolical as Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin that Bond has had to face. Wait, there was the one played by Christopher Lee in The Man with the Golden Gun. Excuse me for not remembering his character name at the moment. Walken gives a new brand of villain in this franchise. One that is has no regard for other lives, as shown when he is flooding the mines, which are filled with his own workers, and then proceeds to gun them down. Zorin is a villain for the changing times, as I’m sure the villains that follow him will be, as well.

What didn’t I like?

Forget the horses. What seems to be a big plot point in the first half of the film, horses achieving far beyond their potential, seems to be forgotten in the second half. Now, if you have the choice between horses on some kind of steroid or some madman who wants to destroy Silicon Valley so that he can be the only producer of microchips (in my estimation), you choose the latter. It would have been different to see something with the horses, though. It seems that every Bond flick involves world domination through technology, but what if someone used animals to accomplish this goal? Just a  thought.

One-liners. Bond is known for one liners. These add a bit of levity to these films and make them more enjoyable. At least that is what they are intended to do, but something in this film went awry. The one-liners here just don’t work or feel forced. The worst culprit comes from Walken and/or Grace Jones’ character when they are flying over the Golden Gate Bridge and are say something about it being a beautiful view…a view to a kill. *SIGH*

Young Walken. Christopher Walken is on up there in age now and, much like I did with Sean Connery, I find it weird to see his younger self. I really shouldn’t since he looks about the same as he does in Batman Returns, but for some reason it just wasn’t right to see his younger self. The guy does a fantastic job playing the evil Zorin, that’s not my issue. I just couldn’t get past the youth. Just a personal thing, I suppose.

Once again I find myself pondering whether I should continue with this franchise. A View to a Kill did nothing spectacular. It has a place in Bond lore as the last picture with Roger Moore as 007 and is considered the weakest entry in the franchise. For me, I found it average entertainment. There are ups and downs but, truth be told, I’m already starting to forget what I just watched. Do I recommend this? If you’re a Bond fan, then this obviously is a must-see. For those just looking for a random Bond flick, this isn’t the one to watch, unless you’re into mediocrity and disappointment.

3 out of 5 stars

MouseHunt

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When once-wealthy string magnate Rudolf Smuntz (William Hickey) dies, he leaves his outdated string factory and a run-down mansion to his two sons, Lars (Lee Evans) and Ernie (Nathan Lane). When Lars declines an offer by representatives from the large Zeppco conglomerate to buy their string factory, his greedy wife April (Vicki Lewis) promptly throws him out. Meanwhile, Ernie serves Mayor McKrinkle (Cliff Emmich) at his restaurant in anticipation of becoming a famous chef for serving such a high-profile guest, only for the mayor to accidentally consume a cockroach and die from a resulting heart attack in concerns of his twin daughters Becky and Betty. As a result, Ernie loses both his house and his job.

Both homeless and jobless, Ernie and Lars are forced to live in the mansion together. Finding blueprints of the mansion, they discover that it is a lost masterpiece designed by famous architect Charles Lyle LaRue. Alexander Falko (Maury Chaykin), a wealthy LaRue collector makes an offer, but Ernie declines under the belief they can make a larger profit by restoration and auction. However, the brothers have already realized that the house has an occupant: a highly-intelligent mouse. Fearing a repeat cockroach incident, Ernie decides that they need to get rid of the rodent. Despite attempting a wide array of methods, including numerous mousetraps and a vacuum cleaner, they fail. To make their situation worse, Ernie borrows $1,200 against the house mortgage to buy a jacuzzi tub (which is lost to the bottom of a nearby lake), and the bank threatens to foreclose on the house in two days unless they reimburse the money. The brothers purchase a monstrous cat to deal with the mouse while they set out to find a way to pay the mortgage, but the cat is killed when the mouse sends it on a one-way trip down the dumbwaiter. They then hire an eccentric exterminator named Caesar (Christopher Walken) to handle the mouse, though he too is outsmarted.

Meanwhile, Lars attempts to raise the money by withholding the salaries of the string factory’s employees. The angry employees instead go on strike, and Lars’s attempt to run the factory himself ends in disaster. Elsewhere, Ernie discovers documents about the offer for his late-father’s factory and attempts a rendezvous with the Zeppco representatives. However, distracted by two attractive Belgian hair-models named Hilde (Camilla Søeberg) and Ingrid (Debra Christofferson) while he is waiting, he is struck by a bus and rushed to a hospital, missing his appointment. Lars later meets Ernie in the hospital and explains that April, now aware of Lars’ possible auction profits (and having made love with him upon finding out), has agreed to pay the mortgage off.

Upon returning home to find a delirious Caesar being carted away by paramedics, the brothers resume their task to kill the mouse with renewed obsession. When Ernie chases the mouse up a chimney and gets stuck, Lars tries to light a match while the mouse starts a gas leak, creating a terrible explosion that blasts Ernie out of the chimney and into the lake. In rage, Ernie grabs a gun and fires it at the mouse, accidentally shooting a compressed can of pesticide left by Caesar that explodes and causes enormous damage to the property.

As the brothers recover from the blast, Zeppco calls and leaves an answering machine message, stating that they have withdrawn their offer to buy the factory. Now angry at each other for all the lies and deception, the brothers start arguing and Lars starts throwing fruit, but accidentally hits the mouse and knocks it unconscious. Unable to finish it off, they instead seal the mouse in a box and mail it to Fidel Castro in Cuba. With the mouse seemingly gone and with April having paid off the mortgage, the brothers reconcile again and finish renovating the house.

The night of the auction finally arrives, which is attended by Falko, April, Hilde and Ingrid, and a wide variety of international multi-millionaires. Falko attempts to get Ernie to call off the auction with a sizable offer, but Ernie declines and the auction soon begins. However, Lars discovers the mouse’s box in the snow outside, returned due to insufficient postage and with a big hole gnawed through it. Lars and Ernie panic upon seeing the mouse return, but attempt to maintain their composure as the auction continues. When the mouse’s antics starts sparking panic and riot in the guests, the brothers desperately attempt to flush out the mouse by feeding a hosepipe into the wall. As the auction reaches a record $25 million bid, the house rapidly floods through the walls and finally the floors, and all the people are washed out of the house as it promptly collapses. Watching as April and all the bidders leave in disgust, the brothers’ only consolation is the fact that the mouse must finally be dead.

With nowhere else to go, the brothers return to the factory and fall asleep, with only a single chunk of cheese for food. The mouse, having followed the brothers, restarts and feeds the cheese into the machinery to make a ball of string cheese, which inspires Ernie and Lars. In the final scene, Ernie and Lars end their war with the mouse and have successfully rebuilt the factory as a novelty string cheese company. Lars has begun a relationship with Hilde, Ernie is able to put his culinary skill to work in developing new cheese flavors, the mouse has become his personal taste-tester, and their father’s spirit is finally pleased.

REVIEW:

MouseHunt is one of those flicks that I have long avoided because I thought it was just another cheap attempt to cash in a board game…and yet I willingly watched Battleship a couple of years ago. Oy! As it turns out, this is a favorite film of the lady of the house, which means I better at least check it out once. Will I like it? Or will I be forever doomed to sleep on the couch?

What is this about?

Two brothers want to sell the mansion they’ve inherited — but first they must evict its diminutive tenant: a mouse with no intention of leaving.

What did I like?

Move over Mickey. As you can tell by the title and the poster, there is a little mouse that is actually the star. Not only does he cause much frustration for the humans who are trying to sell the house he is currently occupying, but he also is a cute little character. The filmmakers don’t necessarily give him human emotions, make him talk, or anything like that, but every now and then you can see that they tease him to be human-ish, such as when he is getting ready for bed and gets all snuggled in before Lee Evans’ character starts shooting up the wall with a nail gun. I’m not really sure what that was about, honestly, other than he was just trying to kill the mouse.

Slapstick. There are many varying forms of comedy. Some work for some films and some don’t. For instance, I can’t see this working as a romantic comedy, can you? On the other hand, a physical, slapstick comedy seems to be just what the doctor ordered. The hijinks these two brothers, as well as a few others, endure as they try to catch the ever elusive mouse is just too funny and perfect to be done with the kind of humor that almost requires a disclaimer before the film starts.

Paint your emotions. Cartoons will often have a painting that seems to have wandering eyes or change emotions when the main character gets near it or someone says something related to it. Well, the painting of the dearly departed father appears to have the same mannerism. Throw in the fact the camera pans over to it every chance it gets to show the different emotions. At first, I found this to be unnecessary, but as  the film wore on, it became a bit of the charm, as if the father were still parenting his boys. Of course, I was also half expecting his ghost to pop out of there like Vigo in Ghostbusters II.

What didn’t I like?

Be the bad brother. The way this film sets the brothers up is that one is the good brother that the father seemed to care for, while the other is the one that wasn’t as loving. That second brother went on to become a popular chef, until his restaurant randomly is closed down because he fed roaches to the mayor and his family. By cinema logic, this should make for some kind of villain original, right? Instead, he becomes a good guy, just greedy. The only shade of that evil brother comes when he tried to sell the string factor behind his brother’s back, and that doesn’t happen because he was too busy flirting and wound up getting hit by a bus! They just didn’t let the guy be bad, no matter how hard he tried!

String theory. I’ve never really given it much thought, but I guess there actually are factories that churn out string. However, I’m sure they don’t look like sweatshops, as the one in this film seems to resemble. I say that not knowing exactly the time period in which it is set (it never is really made clear). I still wonder why they chose a strong factory of all places, though, other than what happens in the end which is convenient for a mouse.

Catzilla. As one can imagine, with a mouse, there must be a cat. The brother go to the pound/animal shelter and get this monster cat, named “Catzilla”. The thing chases the mouse for a while and then suffers a fate unbefitting such a magnificent creature. Given that the mouse is supposed to be the hero in the film, I can allow the defeat of Catzilla. I cannot let slide that he suffered such a horrendous end, not can I let is go that he was vanquished so easily. Hell, they took longer building him up than he was actually on screen….just like Godzilla, I guess.

Letting the smoke clear, the obvious question is what did I think of MouseHunt, right? Well, it has its moments of ups and downs. Nathan Lane and Lee Evans have decent enough chemistry together, the mouse is cute, and the colorful, light tone to the film make it watchable. However, there are problems with the film, most notably that it starts with a rather dark tone for what it obviously a kid’s flick. I mean, Matilda starts off dark, but it is nothing compared to this! There are other issues, but let’s right down to it, shall we? Should you take the time to watch this? Yes, I see no reason why you should about your life avoiding this film. It may not be for everyone, but I’m sure most people will at least get a laugh out of it here or there. Check it out sometime!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Man on Fire

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2003, burnt-out ex-CIA officer and former Force Recon Marine officer John Creasy (Denzel Washington) looks for work and reunites with old friend and comrade Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken), who runs a security firm in Mexico. Because of the extremely high rate of kidnappings in Mexico City for ransom money, businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) hires Creasy through Rayburn to guard his nine-year-old daughter “Pita” (Dakota Fanning), intending to keep him on for only a short period in order to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance on Pita. Creasy suffers from alcoholism, depression, and severe guilt as a result of his past work as a counterinsurgency fighter and professional assassin, and so works for Samuel at a rate far below what his experience would command. At first Creasy distances himself socially from Pita, but the two soon develop a friendship, which allows Creasy to overcome his demons and to act as a mentor and surrogate father-figure to the girl.

After a piano lesson, Pita is abducted in public; Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, but he is shot multiple times and collapses. The Ramos’ agree to deliver a dead drop ransom of US$10 million per the instructions of “La Voz” (“The Voice”) (Roberto Sosa), the mastermind behind the kidnapping ring. Samuel’s attorney, Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke), arranges for the ransom money to be collected from Samuel’s kidnapping insurance policy, then arranges for it to be delivered to the kidnappers. The drop, however, is ambushed by members of “La Hermandad”, a Mexican crime syndicate composed of corrupt police officers, leading to several of the ring members killed and the money being stolen. The Voice notifies the Ramos’ that Pita will be killed in retribution.

Creasy leaves the hospital before fully recovering from his wounds and vows to Pita’s mother Lisa (Radha Mitchell) that he will kill everyone involved in Pita’s abduction. Rayburn supplies Creasy with firearms and explosives, while Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin), a journalist investigating the kidnappings, and Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), an agent of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI), offer their support. Creasy tortures and murders several targets for their information, and eventually learns from a corrupt high-ranking police officer that the bags stolen from the ransom drop contained only $2.5 million.

Investigating further, Creasy finds Kalfus dead and evidence of Samuel’s desperate financial situation, and he confronts him with Lisa present. Samuel confesses to Creasy and Lisa that he agreed to Kalfus’ plan to stage Pita’s kidnapping, so he could pay off business debts by fraudulently collecting the insurance money. He planned to keep $5 million for himself, and split the rest between Kalfus and the kidnappers. He also confesses to killing Kalfus. Creasy leaves a pistol and one bullet (a faulty round that he had previously used to attempt suicide) for Samuel, who then uses these to commit suicide.

Using the information provided by Creasy, The Voice’s identity is revealed to be Daniel Sánchez, who Mariana exposes in the newspapers. Creasy shows up at Daniel’s ex-wife’s house and is shot by his brother Aurelio (Gero Camilo), who then tries unsuccessfully to escape. Creasy calls Daniel and threatens to kill his family, and Daniel reveals that Pita is still alive; offering to free her if Creasy surrenders himself and brings Aurelio. Creasy agrees and he and Lisa arrive at the exchange site, where he and Pita share a tearful goodbye before he is taken and driven away by the kidnappers. Creasy dies peacefully en route as a result of his gunshot injuries. Daniel Sánchez is later killed by Manzano during an AFI arrest.

REVIEW:

Am I the only who almost burst out into Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” with the title to Man on Fire? Talk about an earworm, right? So, here we have Denzel doing what he does best, but with a cast that is mostly on par with him, even if their material isn’t. Let’s find out if this is worth a watch, shall we?

What is this about?

Jaded ex-CIA operative John Creasy reluctantly accepts a job as the bodyguard for a 10-year-old girl in Mexico City. They clash at first, but eventually bond, and when she’s kidnapped he’s consumed by fury and will stop at nothing to save her life.

What did I like?

Connection. As the film begins and we meet Denzel Washington’s character, we learn that he is more the loner, not wanting to really have a connection to his clients. For a good part of the first half of the picture, we see him hold to that, but all it takes is a sweet little girl and that façade is quickly melted. Once the chemistry between Washington and young Dakota Fanning was ignited, this became a much more enjoyable film. Not to mention, without that connection, the events and motivation for the later parts of the picture would not have happened, I don’t believe.

Kidnap plot. We’ve all seen kidnap plots in television and movies, but the intricate way in which this one was planned and executed was something of interest. First off, the person behind it, who turns out to be a total surprise, is not someone you would expect to be kidnapping young Dakota Fanning. Second, the confusing paper trail, for lack of a better term, that was left behind throws everyone, including the audience off the scent, making for much time on the edge of your seat.

I’m Walken. Who doesn’t love Christopher Walken? I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s comic relief in this role, but he does manage to lighten the mood when he’s on screen, even if he isn’t necessarily cracking jokes. He also comes in handy as an informant and distraction when needed, which is always a plus.

What didn’t I like?

Accent. As usual, I take umbrage with a southern accent. Hey, I’m from and live in the south! I’m pretty sure I know what our accents sound like down here. Radha Mitchell, for some odd reason, is spitting out a horrendous accent that makes the cast of True Blood sound authentic. On top of her accent, I question why there was the decision to make her southern, living in Mexico and, to a lesser extent white. That isn’t a race thing, it just wasn’t explained. She doesn’t seem like the type that would just make random trip south of the border or uproot everything to move there.

Transition. The transition from the “happy” first half of the film to the darker second half was ok, but I felt having Washington laying there in the bed and accused of murdering police officers seemed a bit cliché and cliffhanger-ish. Surely, there had to be some other way to do this so that it didn’t seem so episodic!

Slow. With Denzel Washington films, you can never expect them to be fast-paced, action-packed popcorn flick, 2 Guns being the closest thing to an exception to the rule. However, his films that seems to be more action-based tend to actually pick up near the end. In this one, he goes on a killing spree in an effort to find the kidnapped little girl, and yet the film never speeds up. As a matter of fact, I think it gets slower as it gets darker. I would have liked for it to have picked up, if only for a little bit, during the killing/torture scenes.

I do not believe I have ever seen a bad performance from Denzel Washington. Even if the film is bad, he delivers! Man on Fire was nothing memorable, in my opinion, but it isn’t something that should be forgotten in terms of performances. Washington’s strong presence, as well as the mature way beyond her years Dakota Fanning help make this a film that is worth a watch or two. Then there is the actual plot and story, which are solidly written. Do I recommend this? Yes, while I don’t highly recommend it, I can say that it is worth checking out at least once. Give it a shot, why don’t you?

4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Rundown

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , on December 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Beck (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is a “retrieval expert”, a bounty hunter who collects debts for a man named Walker (William Lucking). He is dispatched to a nightclub to retrieve a championship ring from a football player, and after doing so is assaulted by one of Walker’s other collectors. Angry, he confronts Walker and tells him that wants out of the business. Walker talks him into one last bounty – retrieve Walker’s son Travis (Seann William Scott) from a small mining town in Brazil and Walker will give him enough money to open his own restaurant. Beck accepts and leaves for Brazil. When Beck arrives in the town of El Dorado he meets with the man running the mining operation, Mr. Hatcher (Christopher Walken). Hatcher gives Beck his blessing to grab Travis, but reneges when he finds out that Travis has discovered a missing golden artifact called “El Gato do Diabo”. Beck confronts Hatcher and his men in the local bar and leaves with Travis. On the way back to the airfield, Travis forces their Jeep off the road and into the jungle. There he tries to escape but is re-captured by Beck. After an unfortunate encounter with some local monkeys the two find themselves in the camp of the local resistance.

At the resistance encampment, Travis convinces the rebels that Beck works for Hatcher and was sent to kill them all. After a prolonged fight, Beck gains the upper hand before the rebel leader Mariana (Rosario Dawson) intervenes. She wants Travis, as the Gato can be used to ensure the locals can free themselves from Hatcher. Hatcher suddenly attacks the camp, killing many rebels. Beck, Travis, and Mariana escape the camp and Beck makes Mariana a deal: she helps him get Travis to the airfield in exchange for the Gato. After some searching, Travis leads them to a cave behind a waterfall where the Gato is located. They retrieve it and begin the journey back.

On the way back, Mariana chastises Travis for wanting to sell the artifact, but Travis argues that he actually did want to give it to a museum. Mariana gives the two men Konlobos, a toxic fruit that paralyzes the eater. As she tells Beck which direction the airfield is, she leaves them with the fire to keep the animals away. After waking up able to move, Beck hauls Travis to the airfield. The local pilot, Declan (Ewen Bremner), tells Beck that Mariana was captured earlier by Hatcher and will probably be killed. Travis pleads with Beck to help, and the two head into town to rescue her. Using a cow stampede for cover, the two begin their assault on Hatcher’s goons. Travis becomes trapped by gunfire in a bus, and Beck saves him before the bus explodes. Hatcher tells his brother to take Mariana and the Gato and flee, but they are stopped by Travis. Hatcher confronts Beck, who offers him the chance to leave town still. Hatcher refuses, and is confronted by the townspeople who shoot him before he can leave. Travis gives the Gato to Mariana before leaving with Beck, who tells him that despite all they’ve been through he must still return Travis to the US. Back in the U.S., Travis is delivered to his dad who begins to verbally and physically abuse him. Beck asks to celebrate with them and gives Walker and his men Konlobos. As they are paralyzed, Beck uncuffs Travis and the duo leave together, with Travis continuing to jokingly annoy Beck.

REVIEW:

The Scorpion King may have been the film that started action career of The Rock, but it was The Rundown that really laid the foundation for him as a movie star that has been doing nothing but getting brighter and brighter (even when he was doing those family movies like The Game Plan). For some reason, though, this is one of those films that seems to be forgotten, though.

What is this about?

Looking to retire and open a restaurant, a bounty hunter named Beck gets roped into one final assignment: fetching his employer’s errant son from the Amazon jungle. Along the way, Beck finds himself involved in a treasure hunt and a rebel uprising.

What did I like?

Action. Earlier today, I was listening to a review of the Indiana Jones collection on Blu-ray. Not long after, I started watching this. What is the connection? Well, in a way, they are both action packed and set mostly in the jungle (not all Indy movies are set in the jungle, remember). The Rock at this point in time was still a wrestler turning actor not an actor who was a wrestler and occasionally goes back to appease the ungrateful fans. As a fan of The Rock during his heyday in WWE, I noticed a few of his moves, especially in the club scene. The jungle fights though were a bit more inclusive of all different types of fighting. I guess it is kind of hard to Rock Bottom or give the People’s Elbow to little men flying around and kicking your ass with their speed.

Connection. The Rock and Sean William Scott have a nice chemistry that works very well throughout the course of the film. Scott’s character provides much of the film’s comedy, as expected from him, and The Rock is the straight man to his antics. A tried and true formula, to be sure, but it is one of those that works, so why question it? I think we can all admit we’ve seen this formula in other films and it doesn’t quite work as well as advertised.

The Dawson. When we first come across Rosario Dawson’s character in the bar, you just assume she’s eye candy. To a certain extent she is, considering how she is the only female in this cast, except for background ladies in the village, town, and club. With that in mind, it isn’t long before she shows her true colors as a rebel who wants to find the El Gato so that she can free her people from the evil hands of Christopher Walken’s character, who I believe he bought and runs the town, but I’m not 100% sure what his definitive relationship with it is. Dawson is a tour de force, if you will, in this role, even taking on a Brazilian (subtitles said she was speaking Portuguese) accent and speaking the language in a couple of spots. Something else of note is that there is no romantic relationship with either The Rock or Scott’s character. This is noteworthy because it shows that not every action film needs a woman for the guy to fall for or a girl to fall for the guy that rescues her, or any other scenario you want to cook up. Dawson’s character gets the job done and then goes about her merry way, rather than forcing us to deal with some useless relationship drama and convoluting the film with thoughts, feelings, and whatnot.

What didn’t I like?

Jungle danger. Maybe I watch too many cartoons, but I half expected to see more in the way of dangers in the jungle. Other than a trap set by the rebels, the howler monkeys, and konlobos fruit that was given to them by Rosario Dawson’s character, there weren’t any natural dangers and I just don’t understand why that was. Surely, something could have come up. Oh, there was the mention of those piranha that swim up penis holes, but nothing came of that, either.

Guns. The whole film, The Rock’s character makes it perfectly clear that he doesn’t like guns and will not use them because of something that happened. When he does use them “you wouldn’t like the person I become”, or something to that effect. The this is, near the film’s end he has no choice but to pick up a gun, which he does and owns that shootout like the hero in a western! Apparently, something happened in his past,  which perhaps could give us the dark tale of how he got into the bounty hunter game. I would like to know why it is he has issues with guns. At least Batman has an excuse, he watched his parents get gunned down when he was a little boy. What is this guy’s reason?

Shut up! While the final shootout is going on, the pilot is spouting off some kind of mumbo jumbo gibberish that no one really is paying attention to. I guess the best way to describe it would be to think of those old blues singers that cameras often pan to in certain movies when the hero has a revelation that makes them become the hero. It was sort of like that, as The Rock’s character was picking up the guns. In theory, it should have worked, but the way it was shot and the fact that what he was saying made no sense derailed it from doing so.

In the years since The Rundown, The Rock has decided to go by his real name and now goes by both his real and ring name. He has also become a big star, literally and figuratively. This film may not be the greatest, but as an action flick it is good fun and it served as a nice big stepping stone for The Rock. Do I recommend this? Yes, very much so! Some people won’t care for it that much because the parts that try to be a more serious-minded film, rather than just a fun action flick don’t seem to work that well, but it still is something that you should check out sometime. As a matter of fact, it seems as if this is always on Spike TV. So, there go, give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

America’s Sweethearts

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Lee Phillips (Crystal) is a movie publicist with a major problem with movie stars Gwen Harrison (Zeta-Jones) and Eddie Thomas (Cusack). The once golden Hollywood duo formerly known as “America’s Sweethearts” is now split, due to Gwen’s affair which has caused Eddie to have a nervous breakdown. While Gwen is shacked up with Hector (Azaria), Eddie has holed up in a New Age retreat. The eccentric director of their last movie, Hal Weidmann (Walken), has demanded that the first viewing of the film be at a press junket although no one has seen it. To sell the film (since he hasn’t seen it to be able to do his job properly), Lee has decided to get the two back together and sell them as a couple.

Both Gwen and Eddie are manipulated into attending the junket: Gwen’s ego is massaged into going so she looks better to the press and her fans (as well as being able to present Eddie with divorce papers). Lee gives the owner of the retreat a very expensive car in return for convincing Eddie that he should leave. Once there, Gwen immediately plays the martyr and Eddie’s delicate psyche is put to the test in the outside world. Complicating matters are both Gwen’s personal assistant and sister, Kiki (Roberts), and Hector, who is overly watchful of his love. Though Kiki has always been in Gwen’s shadow, Eddie finds himself drawn to her. However, upon their arrival at the junket, Eddie discovers Kiki is no longer the wallflower, having lost a considerable amount of weight.

As the junket begins, Eddie and Gwen are thrown together although neither wants anything to do with the film or each other. As in high school (and most of her life) Kiki is forced to be the one who does Gwen’s dirty work. However, this puts her in Eddie’s company quite often and the spark that has always been between them continues to grow. Gwen is oblivious to their attraction but still refuses to be outshone by anyone, least of all her own sister.

When the movie is finally shown at the press junket, the press, actors and others involved in the film discover, to their dismay, that Weidmann essentially junked the script and instead delivered a movie composed of footage shot making the movie – much taken without the actors’ knowledge. Essentially, Weidmann delivered Hollywood’s first “Reality Movie”. The footage shows Gwen as self-centered, conniving and manipulative and Eddie as a man slowly becoming more and more paranoid as he (correctly) suspects his wife is having an affair. Eddie, however, is the only cast member who is pleased with Weidmann’s direction, and because of the favorable support from the press, forcing the studio to release the film despite being against it (which is what Weidmann had planned all along). It is implied that the movie will revive Eddie’s acting career but ruin Gwen’s, and the studio would face a lawsuit from the latter.

Gwen attempts to resolve the situation by announcing the couple is reuniting, but Eddie finds the courage to admit his love for Kiki. Upon hearing this revelation, Gwen fires Kiki. After the junket, Kiki and Eddie pack to leave the hotel together

REVIEW:

Two things popped in my head when I decided to stream America’s Sweethearts this evening. The first was the song by Fall Out Boy, “America’s Suitehearts”. The second was who is that says this person is America’s sweetheart? I think the reigning sweetheart is either Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Aniston, but who can keep up with these things? Funny thing, one of the stars of this film, Julia Roberts, was long considered “America’s sweetheart”. Perhaps that is why she was cast.

What is this about?

Gwen and Eddie are a separated movie-star couple who “make nice” for the cameras at a press junket promoting their new movie together. Meanwhile, Gwen’s sister harbors a crush on the oblivious Eddie, and a press agent mediates the warring parties.

What did I like?

Sisters. Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones actually pass for sisters. I’m not sure what it is, but something about their facial structure is similar. Of course, that could also be me just wanting to find similarities between these two drop dead gorgeous women. I also bought the chemistry between the two as sisters, though I would have loved to have seen more fighting. Don’t sisters fight?

Say Anything. Fairly early on, John Cusack is trying to get his estranged wife, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones back. At one point, there is a nod to the famous boombox scene from Say Anything. It was a nice little tongue-in-cheek joke that cinephiles and Cusack fans will appreciate.

Cinderella story. I was getting a bit of a Cinderella vibe from this flick with the way Roberts is being treated by Zeta-Jones. In a way, you can say that Cusack is the prince and the penultimate movie premiere is the ball. It was a nice little touch, but I’m sure some weren’t really digging it.

What didn’t I like?

Chemistry. Among 3 of the 4 leads, the chemistry is just not collectively there. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they seemed like 3 ships passing in the night and not an ersatz love triangle. This isn’t all on the actors, but the script and director, as well. Is it really too much to ask for there to be a little more connection?

Not so crystal clear. Billy Crystal wrote and produced this, as well as acted in it, but I wonder if that was a bit too much. His character, on paper at least, was just there to throw in another lead. At times Crystal seems old and tired, but then he turns the switch on and its vintage Billy. Thank goodness for his chemistry with Roberts and Seth Green, because this is not his best role.

Mood swing. As we get into the final act, Julia Roberts’ character goes through a sudden metamorphosis. I guess having sex with John Cusack does that to you because she suddenly becomes more assertive and starts dressing a bit less conservatively. For instance, she had been covered from head to toe, then all of a sudden she is showing a little bit of her midriff. I think I would be ok with this change, if they would have developed it more, rather than just having this mood swing happen randomly. Since they didn’t do this, it just seems to be a random, albeit convenient, plot device.

Sometimes a romantic comedy comes along that actually doesn’t suck. America’s Sweethearts, flaws and all, is one of those films. I wish that they would have been a bit more consistent, but because they weren’t, the film suffers and becomes a much less enjoyable film than it could have been. That being said, I think there are enough moments in here to keep you interested, so take a chance and give it a shot!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars