Archive for Crispin Glover

Revisited: Beowulf

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Beowulf (Ray Winstone) is a legendary Geatish warrior who travels to Denmark with his band of soldiers, including his best friend, Wiglaf (Brendan Gleeson). They travel in response to the call of King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins), who needs a hero to slay a monster called Grendel (Crispin Glover), a hideously disfigured troll-like creature with superhuman strength. Grendel attacks Hrothgar’s mead hall, Heorot, whenever the Danes hold a celebration there, and Hrothgar was forced to close the hall. Upon arriving, Beowulf immediately becomes attracted to Hrothgar’s wife, Queen Wealtheow (Robin Wright Penn), who does not love her husband and reciprocates Beowulf’s interest.

Beowulf and his men celebrate in Heorot to lure Grendel out. When the beast does attack, Beowulf engages him unarmed and naked, determining that since Grendel fights with no weapon or armor he shall face him as equal. During the melee, Beowulf discovers that Grendel has hypersensitive hearing, which is why he interrupts Hrothgar’s celebrations – the noise they make is physically painful to him. After his eardrum is ruptured by Beowulf, he attempts to escape (having shrunk in size due to the injury). Beowulf manages to restrain Grendel and severs his arm using the door. In thanks for freeing his kingdom from the monster, Hrothgar gives Beowulf his golden drinking horn, which commemorates Hrothgar’s victory over the mighty dragon Fafnir.

Returning to his cave, the dying Grendel tells his mother what was done to him and by whom, and she swears revenge. She travels to Heorot in the night and slaughters Beowulf’s men while they were sleeping. Hrothgar tells both Beowulf and Wiglaf, who had been sleeping outside the hall during the attack, that it was the work of Grendel’s mother, the last of the Water Demons, who was thought by Hrothgar to have left the land. Beowulf and Wiglaf travel to the cave of Grendel’s mother to slay her. Only Beowulf enters the cave where he encounters Grendel’s mother (Angelina Jolie), who takes the form of a beautiful woman. She offers to make him the greatest king who ever lived if he will agree to give her a son to replace Grendel and let her keep the golden drinking horn. Beowulf agrees to the deal and returns, claiming to have killed her. Hrothgar, however, realizes the truth after hearing Beowulf describe her as a “hag” and a “witch.” He tells Beowulf indirectly that, much like Beowulf, he was also seduced by Grendel’s mother; Grendel was the result of their tryst. Hrothgar names Beowulf his successor as king, much to the dismay of his royal advisor, Unferth (John Malkovich), who was hoping to take the throne. Hrothgar then commits suicide by jumping from the castle parapet onto the beach below. A wave momentarily engulfs Hrothgar’s body, there is a golden flash underwater, and the body is gone.

Years later, the elderly Beowulf is married to Wealtheow. Over the years they had grown apart, husband and wife in name alone. Beowulf takes a mistress, Ursula (Alison Lohman) but his tryst with Grendel’s mother has left him sterile. One day, Unferth’s slave Cain (Dominic Keating) finds the golden drinking horn in a swamp near Grendel’s cave and brings it back to the kingdom. That night, a nearby village is destroyed by a dragon, which leaves Unferth alive in order to deliver a message to King Beowulf: the dragon is Beowulf’s son born to Grendel’s mother. Removing the horn has voided the agreement between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother, who has now sent their son, the dragon, to destroy his kingdom.

Beowulf and Wiglaf go to the cave once again and Beowulf goes into the cave alone. When Grendel’s mother appears, Beowulf gives her the golden horn to convince her to stop the attack. Grendel’s mother considers it too late for any kind of agreement. She releases the dragon to attack Beowulf’s kingdom again. Beowulf goes to great lengths to stop the monster, even severing his own arm, and ultimately kills the dragon by ripping its heart out. The dragon’s fall mortally wounds Beowulf, but he lives long enough to watch the carcass of the dragon transform into the humanoid body of his son before it is washed out to sea. Beowulf insists on speaking the truth about his affair with Grendel’s mother but Wiglaf insists on keeping Beowulf’s legacy intact. As the new king, Wiglaf gives Beowulf a Norse funeral and watches as Grendel’s mother appears and gives Beowulf a final kiss before his burning ship sinks into the sea. Wiglaf sees the golden horn in the sand while Grendel’s mother floats in the sea, looking at him seductively. The movie ends ambiguously with Wiglaf holding the horn and staring back at her.

REVIEW:

In high school and college, I was made to study the epic poem Beowulf. While I found it interesting, admittedly, I didn’t do too well in those units. It wasn’t until years later, when this film was released that I developed a real respect and understanding of the material. I almost wished I could go back and take those classes over again…almost.

What is this about?

Robert Zemeckis directs this film adaptation of the longest surviving Anglo-Saxon poem, an epic tale concerning a 6th-century Scandinavian warrior named Beowulf and his mission to slay the manlike ogre Grendel, a descendant of Cain.

What did I like?

Animation. Unlike other films that use this CGI-live action hybrid, the characters in this one actually look alive, as opposed to creepy dead behind the eyes creations of a mad scientist. When your characters actually look alive, then they can do so much more. You can show the pain and heartbreak of a betrayed queen, the lust of a young maiden for her king, the sensual glance of Grendel’s mother (a perfect rendering of Angelina Jolie, btw…circa the Tomb Raider days), etc. On top of all this, the action in this is done almost as well, if not better, than some of the stuff we see in live action today. Just watch the fight with Grendel or Beowulf’s tale of his battle with the sea monster and you’ll see all you need, trust me.

Score. Some of my favorite films are the epic adventures from the late 50s and 60s. Most of these films had two things in common. The genius stop-motion of Ray Herryhausen and brilliant scores, most notably would have to be Jason and the Argonauts. In that same vein, we have here an epic story that is more than worthy of an epic score that fits the tone and scope of what is happening, and that is exactly what our ears are treated to.

A hero’s entrance. Beowulf’s entrance is truly that of a hero. After the initial massacre at Heorot, cut to Beowulf on his ship. The guy is what you would expect him to look like, big, strong, etc. He jokes around with his friend, Wiglaf and then inspires his men to keep rowing, storm or not. While Beowulf didn’t enter the film with his sword a-blazin’, for lack of a better term, it is still a majestic entrance for our titular hero.

What didn’t I like?

Changes. If I’m not mistaken, there is no actual text of the original poem, so at this point, transcribers are changing all sorts of thing in this story. However, even with the changes they make, most things still stay the same. That is not the case with this film, though. Most of the changes I can live with, as they were done for film and time sake, such as Beowulf becoming king of Denmark, rather than his homeland. There are things that just aren’t right, though, such as Grendel’s mother attempting to seduce Wiglaf as the film ends, Unferth being a Christian, Grendel’s mother, etc. Ok, I have no problem with how they portrayed Grendel’s mother on-screen, just her character. HAHA! Seriously, though, these changes were a bit more than what was perhaps necessary, in my opinion.

Queen’s right. Queen Wealthow is a loyal mate to both her cheating husbands, Hrothgar and Beowulf. Hell, Beowulf does it twice, even if the first time is before they were married. This brings to question why she sticks around. A beautiful woman like that deserves better than to be cheated on over and over again.

Just keep swimming. The race that Beowulf has at sea is told through a flashback, but why? This is arguably one of the most beautifully animated and exciting scenes in the film and it is nothing but a flashback. Seems to me that this should have been given more of an actual sequence in the film, perhaps even use it as Beowulf’s entrance, since Unferth had apparently heard talk of the tale.

In theaters, I actually paid to see Beowulf in 3D *GASP* To this day, I have not regretted that decision. 8 years later it still stands as one of the best 3D films that I have seen in theaters, if not THE best. The story is captivating enough to keep audiences interested, and I doubt guys (and girls) will have issue with a naked and golden Angelina Jolie popping up now and then. Do I recommend this film? Yes, very much so. This is one of those films you need to see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

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The People vs. Larry Flynt

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with a 10-year-old Larry Flynt (Cody Block) in 1953, as selling moonshine in an Appalachian region of Kentucky. The narrative then advances 20 years. Flynt (Woody Harrelson) and his younger brother, Jimmy (played by Brett Harrelson, Woody’s younger brother) run a Hustler Go-Go club in Cincinnati. With profits down, Flynt decides to publish a “newsletter” for the club – the first Hustler magazine, full of nude pictures of women working at the club, in the hopes of attracting customers. The newsletter soon becomes a full-fledged magazine, but sales are weak. It’s only after Hustler publishes nude pictures of former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis that sales take off, partially due to all the publicity surrounding the photos.

Flynt, a habitual womanizer, becomes particularly smitten with Althea Leasure (Courtney Love), a runaway-turned-stripper who works at one of his dance clubs. With help from Althea and Jimmy, Flynt makes a fortune from sales of Hustler, and other business activities. With all his success, naturally, comes enemies – as he finds himself a hated figure of conservative, anti-pornography activists. He argues with the activists, one of a number of themes the film explores: in one scene, he argues that “murder is illegal, but if you take a picture of it you may get your name in a magazine or maybe win a Pulitzer Prize”. “However”, he continues, “sex is legal, but if you take a picture of that act, you can go to jail”. Flynt becomes involved in several prominent court cases, and befriends a young, whip-smart lawyer, Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton). In 1975, Flynt loses a smut-peddling court decision in Cincinnati, but escapes jail time when the case is thrown out on a technicality, thereby beginning his long clash with the legal system. (The real Larry Flynt plays the presiding judge in a cameo appearance.) Ruth Carter Stapleton (Donna Hanover), a Christian activist and sister of President Jimmy Carter, seeks out Flynt and urges him to give his life to Jesus. Flynt seems moved and starts letting his newfound religion influence everything in his life, including Hustler content, much to the chagrin of staffers and Althea alike.

In 1978, during another trial in Georgia, Flynt and Isaacman are both shot by a man with a rifle while they walk outside a courthouse. Isaacman recovers, but Flynt is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Wishing he was dead, Flynt renounces God. Because of the emotional and physical pain, he moves to Beverly Hills and spirals down into severe depression and drug use. During this time, Althea begins to dabble in Flynt’s pain medications, eventually becoming hooked on painkillers and morphine.

In 1983, Flynt undergoes surgery to deaden several nerves, and as a result of it, feels rejuvenated. He returns to an active role with the publication. In his absence, Althea and Jimmy run Hustler, removing any Christian influence in its content. Flynt is soon in court again, and is told to provide his source regarding a video tape of a drug deal. During his ever-increasing courtroom antics, Flynt fires Isaacman on the spot, then throws an orange at the judge, all the while refusing to name his source. Flynt is sent to a psychiatric ward, where he sinks into depression again. Before going to the psychiatric ward, Flynt publishes a satirical parody ad where famous evangelical minister Jerry Falwell (Richard Paul) “speaks about his first time”, and tells of a sexual encounter with his mother. Falwell sues for libel and inflicting emotional distress. Flynt countersues for copyright infringement (because Falwell copied his ad). Everything ends up in court in December 1984, attracting the attention of the media. The jury’s decision is a mixed one, as Flynt is found guilty of inflicting emotional distress but not libel.

By that time, Althea has contracted HIV, which proceeds to AIDS. Some time later in 1987, Flynt finds her dead in the bathtub, having drowned (possibly as the result of an overdose, though this is unclear in the film). With his true love gone, Flynt presses Isaacman to appeal the Falwell decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. Isaacman refuses, saying Flynt’s manic courtroom antics humiliate him. Flynt pleads with him, saying that he “wants to be remembered for something meaningful”. Isaacman agrees and argues the “emotional distress” decision in front of the Supreme Court, in a case the media nickname “God versus the Devil” (actually Hustler Magazine v. Falwell in 1988). While Flynt is uncharacteristically quiet in the courtroom, Isaacman argues the case and wins, with the court overturning the original verdict in a unanimous decision. The film culminates with Flynt’s victory; after the trial is over, Flynt is shown alone in his bedroom wistfully watching old videotapes of a healthy Althea.

REVIEW:

I’m sure that those of you that read this are not exactly big fans of Hustler magazine. On the other hand, you might be. Who knows? If you are, then you know that the publication is near the top of the pornographic market. Is that reason enough to give the founder a biopic? Well, if it was, don’t you think Hugh Hefner would have had one by now?

The fact of the matter is, Larry Flynt is more of a colorful character. Oh, and then there is that little spat he had with the Rev. Jerry Falwell that went all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The People vs Larry Flynt takes us on a journey through Flynt’s tumultuous life (he’s still alive, btw). The film starts with his humble beginning creating moonshine with his brother to the start of his club, to the start of and evolution of the magazine, and all points in between. All this plus the trials of his wife and the legal battles he has to endure.

Admittedly, there are parts of the film that Flynt, with his over-the-top personality, can be a bit much to swallow, but one has to just chalk it up the film exaggerating, though I’m not sure if they were or not.

The story moves along at a brisk enough pace that the audience doesn’t have to time to get bored, but it also takes its time in places so that no one gets lost. Too often film either fly through or drag which make it extremely hard to keep up.

Woody Harrelson does a good job as Flynt, but I think he’s too skinny. Maybe I’m ruined by this day and age when actors seem to gain or lose weight for roles, but if you’ve ever seen Larry Flynt (he actually plays a judge in the film), you will know that he is quite the large man, and not a skinny guy with a beer gut that way Harrelson plays him. Other than that, I had no real issue with his portrayal.

Courtney Love has never been better than she is here. When I saw this film the first time, it was about the time Love’s life was spiraling out of control. Now, years later, it is amazing to see how her life has almost completely mirrored this character. Hopefully she doesn’t overdose and drown in a tub, though. That point aside, her performance cannot be ignored. It is no wonder she earned so many rave reviews, accolades, and awards.

A young Edward Norton appears in one of his first big screen roles, but he masters this role as much as a more seasoned veteran would.

This is one of those pictures that falls into the category of you’ll either love it or hate it. I’m more on the side of loving it, but not 100%. It has good moments, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and of course has some gratuitous breasts (it about a guy who runs a porn mag…what do you expect?) As I was sitting watching this tonight, I found myself wanting to see it again, and I’m sure you will to, so give it a shot, why don’t you?

4 out of 5 stars

Hot Tub Time Machine

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 2010 Los Angeles, three friends are dissatisfied with their lives. Adam (John Cusack) has been dumped by yet another girlfriend, and his video-game-obsessed nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) lives in his basement. Lou (Rob Corddry) is a party guy way past his prime who is ridden with debt, divorce and a family that wants nothing to do with him. Nick (Craig Robinson) has a dead-end job at a dog spa and a controlling wife named Courtney (Kellee Stewart) who had an affair.

Lou almost dies from carbon monoxide poisoning in what his friends think is a suicide attempt. Adam and Nick impulsively take him and Jacob to the site of some of their most memorable weekends, the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, which has fallen on hard times. During a crazy night of drinking in a hot tub, they spill a can of an illegal Russian energy drink called “Chernobly” on the hot tub’s controls. The next day, they wake up in 1986. They see each other as their normal age, but in their reflections and to other people, they appear as they did in 1986. Jacob, who has not even been born yet, is still in his normal 2010 state. They arrive during “Winterfest ’86,” the weekend when Poison played to a huge crowd at the then-thriving Kodiak Resort. At first, the guys do not think that they have traveled back in time but are convinced when they find out that Michael Jackson’s skin has not become lighter yet.

It is a time that was hard on the group. Adam broke up with his first girlfriend and got stabbed in the eye with a fork. Adam’s sister, Kelly, conceived Jacob with an unknown father. Lou was beaten up by Blaine, the ski patrol bully. Nick’s show ended in disaster with his band at an open mic contest. The four are at first concerned that if they change even the slightest thing in this time, it could have drastic consequences in the future, so they set out to do exactly what they did 24 years ago. Later, they decide that this may be a chance to change their destinies. When Jacob begins to flicker in and out of existence, he warns the guys that if they continue what they’re doing, then he may be wiped out of existence. A mysterious hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase) informs Jacob that the key to their time travel was the Chernobly, which contains chemicals that are vital to the time travel process.

Nick calls Courtney (his then 9-year-old wife) and yells at her. Her dad interrupts the conversation and Adam and Jacob stop Nick from telling him that Courtney is his wife. Adam’s girlfriend, Jennie (Lyndsy Fonseca), dumps him before he can dump her (and he still gets stabbed in the eye with a fork), but he ends up spending the night with a music journalist, April (Lizzy Caplan). With Lou’s encouragement, Nick rocks the crowd with his band with performances of “Jessie’s Girl” and “Let’s Get It Started.” Lou is beaten up by Blaine (Sebastian Stan), but finds the courage to punch him back. He also seduces Kelly (Collette Wolfe) and conceives Jacob.

The guys are set to go back to 2010, but, just as the hot tub starts to activate, Lou decides to remain in 1986, admitting to Adam that he was trying to kill himself, and that if he goes back it will happen all over again. He says he wants to use his knowledge of future history to make investments, and do right by Kelly and Jacob. Adam says that if Lou is staying, so is he but Lou pushes Adam into the hot tub, just as it blasts the guys back into 2010.

Adam, Nick, and Jacob discover that Lou, Kelly, and Jacob are now a happy family enjoying a lavish lifestyle. Lou has become a successful rock star with his favorite band, “Mötley Lüe” and is the founder of an Internet search engine called “Lougle”. Adam discovers that he eventually married April, and Nick is a successful music producer married to a loyal and supportive Courtney. She tells him about a wrong number phone call she got when she was 9, that was enough to keep her from trying to cheat on anybody. Adam, Nick, Lou, and Jacob reunite at Lou’s mansion with their families, satisfied with their new lives.

REVIEW:

With a title like Hot Tub Time Machine, do you really expect this to be anything more than a hilarious comedy? If you do, then you will be sadly mistaken.

Remember how movies from the 80s began, with some kind of rock riff going on through some random images while the credits rolled? Well, you get those in this flick, which I thought was a nice homage to the 80s, especially since they bitch about going back there.

While this is a comedy, it wasn’t a total laugh riot. Like many comedies of today, it starts out full speed, then somewhere in the middle it becomes a drama and by the time it recovers, the movie is over. Is it so wrong to have a film that doesn’t get serious. A comedy should be a comedy, but that’s just my opinion.

So, the plot revolves around these 3 guys who were best friends in high school. Somewhere along the line they drifted apart, but still live in the same town together and have kept in touch enough to know that each other are still alive. When one of them attempts suicide, it brings them back together and they (with John Cusack’s character’s nephew) take a trip to a ski resort where they had the best time of their lives. This is where they get drunk, jump in a hot tub and it takes them back in time to 1986. How it knew to go back there is a mystery to everyone but the writers, but sometimes you just have to go with it and stop trying to analyze everything, right?

They also never explain why they went back as their younger selves, and what happened to said younger selves. Nor did they truly explain how the nephew didn’t become like an egg or something when they went back. That’s more stuff that would be nice to be explained, but just needs to be overlooked, even if it is  sort of a major plothole.

If you’ve seen Pleasantville, then you may remember Don Knotts’ cryptic handyman character. Well, Hot Tub Time Machine has one of its own, in the form of a hot tub repairman, played by Chevy Chase. Just like with Knotts, he helps move the story along and explains what happened…or does he?

Even with all the stuff that isn’t explained, you can’t help but stare in awe at how they captured 1986 perfectly. The only thing missing were someone wearing a “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirt and/or something dealing with Max Headroom.

Casting on its own sucks, but these guys together make a really good ensemble. I mean, who thinks of John Cusack as a comedic actor, but this character works for him, and he is the serious, straight man of the group.

Comedians Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson do what they do best and really make this film.

Clark Duke, who played the nephew, annoyed the living daylights out of me. First off, he bitched and moaned the whole time about not having his computer or other gadgets and wanting to get home…pretty much same kind of things that if you were to take anyone who grew up in the 90s and later would say. On top of that, this guy was just such a downer, and I’m still not exactly sure why they took him along. The guy is 20 years old, are you gonna tell me he couldn’t stay at home for a few days by himself? WTF?!?

A diamond in the rough, though, was Crispin Glover. When we first see him, he’s a grumpy one-armed bell boy, but when they go back in time, we find out that he was quite the nice, personable guy. Like Rob Corddry’s character, though, I was waiting for the moment where we got to see his arm cut off, but the anticipation and situations is what made him such an interesting character to watch.

For some unknown reason, people keep comparing this to The Hangover. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, but they are both hilarious. I give a slight edge to Hot Tub Time Machine. This is just one of those great films that is plain funny. That’s all it is. It’s not trying to be some kind of social commentary or anything like that, it is just plain enjoyable. For that reason alone, it is worth watching, so give it a shot.

5 out of 5 stars

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

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

PLOT:

Alice Kingsley, 19, attends a party at a Victorian estate shortly after the death of her beloved father. Learning that the party is actually an engagement party to wed her into the family of her father’s friend and current owner of his trading business, Alice spots a White Rabbit wearing a waistcoat and pocket watch. In shock and confusion, she runs off into a maze and follows the White Rabbit through it. She eventually tumbles down a rabbit hole into Underland, learning that the White Rabbit has been searching for “The Alice” who is the only one that can slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon who terrorizes the inhabitants of Underland under the rule of the Red Queen.

Alice meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Dodo, and Dormouse as they and the White Rabbit take her to see Absolem the Caterpillar. But after he says she is “The Alice” they’re looking for, the Bandersnatch appears and chases the clan through the woodland. As he corners Alice and scratches her arm, the Dormouse jumps on his head and stabs his left eye causing it to pop out. Alice continues on after the Tweedles are captured and meets the Cheshire Cat who brings her to a tea party being held by the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and Dormouse. The Knave of Hearts, the Red Queen’s army and the Bloodhound show up and begins a search for Alice, but failing to find her as she was hidden the Mad Hatter’s hat after drinking the potion to make her shrink, they continue on with their search for her in the woods.

After the Mad Hatter is arrested by the Knave, Alice manages to sneak into the Red Queen’s castle to free him, but only able to obtain the Vorpal Sword and escape with the Bandersnatch after she gives him back his eye. While Alice arrives to the domain of the White Queen, the Mad Hatter manages to escape execution with the Cheshire Cat’s help, rallying a revolt before his group flee to the White Queen’s castle. Though Alice was at first reluctant to fight, she later learns from Absolem as he enters his pupa state that she had visited Underland 13 years earlier. This gives Alice the strength to face the Jabberwocky the next day in a duel, though both armies clash when the Mad Hatter intervened until the Jabberwocky is slain. With the dragon dead, the Red Queen’s army sees no more reason to fight, and the White Queen exiles her sister from the kingdom, handcuffing the Knave to her. With the Jabberwocky’s blood, Alice returns to her world where she turns down the marriage proposal to Hamish and instead carries on her father’s work as an apprentice in which she goes to China to expand the trading firm.

REVIEW:

This is not the Alice in Wonderland we’re all familiar with. Gone is the happy-go-lucky, magical Wonderland, and in its place is a dark, gloomy place called Underland. Having said that, though, this is a Tim Burton film, so you know there is plenty of fantastical whimsy to be had.

Lots of hype surrounded this film, pretty much from the moment it was announced. I was a bit skeptical about it until I saw some early shots.

The good…Johnny Depp was obviously the selling point for this picture. I can’t argue with that, but I’m more excited that he learned a new accent. Using Jack Sparrow’s accent for all his characters was getting old. I’ve read some reviews that said that Helena Bonham Carter stole the show. Eh…not for me. Sure, Depp wasn’t as big a deal as they made him out ot be, but Anne Hathaway’s over the top White Queen stole the show, in my opinion. Stephen Fry’s voicing of the Cheshire Cat really sold me on the character. He brought that calm and coolness that Cheshire Cat needs. Alan Rickman as the wise caterpillar was pretty good, but I kind of wish he had more screentime. The look of Underland, especially the two castles and the battlefield is vintage Burton. You don’ get much better than those. The Jabberwocky may be the best looking creature in the film. He has a mix of Norse dragon and Chinese dragon with a hint of originality. Nice touch!

The bad…the non Underland parts. I realize that you needed these bookends to set up the story, and that’s fine and dandy, but they were just too long, especially the opening. Honestly, what did it serve to give us the back story of her father? I didn’t understand the reasoning behind this. I wasn’t too crazy with the actress who played Alice, Mia Wasikowska. At one point uring the film, I was telling myself they could have just let Anne Hathaway do it, then she blew me away with her portrayal of the White Queen, but Wasikokwska just didn’t inspire me. She may look like a slightly prettier version of  Tilda Swinton, but she doesn’t have half her talent. Tim Burton films are known for their contrasting of bright, exuberant colors over a slightly dark tone which equals a fun, entertaining film, however, Alice in Wonderland seems…normal. The fantasy and everything that is usually associated with these stories is almost gone and this is almost just a fancy sci-fi flick.

I saw this in 3D and have to say that it was half worth it and half not. I say that because while the effects looked cool, there was nothing that just screamed out to me that this had to be seen in 3D.

What is the final verdict of this film? Well, the hype is a bit much, but it is not unfounded. It is very good and entertaining, though not as good as it could/should be. It is infinitely more entertaining that SyFy crap that aired a few months back, Alice, then again almost anything could accomplish that feat. So, should you see this? I’m not going to say you should spend your last $8 (or however much it is where you live) on this, or that you should shell out the extra couple of bucks for the 3D experience, but it is worth seeing in theaters, but I just don’t think you’ll miss much by waiting for the DVD in a few months. Either way, it still is worth watching.

4 out of 5 stars

9

Posted in Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Prior to the events of the film, an unnamed man, referred to as, “The Scientist,” created the B.R.A.I.N. (or the Fabrication Machine) for peaceful purposes and to help evolve mankind’s technology. However, the leader of mankind took control of the machine and used it to wage war on other humans. With the lack of a human soul, the machine was corrupted and turned on mankind, wiping them out using other machines and poisonous gases. The Scientist constructed nine robotic like homunculi referred to as “Stitchpunks”, each one alive via a portion of the Scientist’s soul, and created an amulet which could be used to destroy the Fabrication Machine. The Scientist died shortly after creating the last of the Stitchpunks, 9.

9 awakens at the start of the film, taking the amulet with him. Outside, in the lifeless and devastated world, 9 meets fellow Stitchpunk 2, who gives him a vocal processor to speak. However, they are attacked by a machine called the “Cat-Beast” and 2 is captured. 9 is saved by one-eyed 5 who takes him to Sanctuary, an abandoned cathedral and home to the Stitchpunks, led by 1, and his bodyguard 8. 9 decides to rescue 2 from an old factory, aided by 5. The two locate 2 and the “Cat-Beast” is destroyed by 7, the only female Stitchpunk and a skilled warrior. 9 spots the shutdown Fabrication Machine where the amulet connects to, awakening it. It attacks 2 and sucks out his lifeforce, the soul being the machine’s power source. The Stitchpunks retreat to 3 and 4’s hideout where they reveal the machine’s origins. 9 realises they need to remove the amulet from the machine and returns to Sanctuary where 6 points out they need to return to a disclosed source. Sanctuary is attacked by a bird-like robot, called the “Winged Beast”, which is destroyed, but as is Sanctuary.

A snake-like robot, the “Seamstress”, kidnaps 7 and 8. 9 pursues it and witnesses 8 being killed by the Fabrication Machine, but rescues 7 before destroying the factory where the machine is, seemingly destroying it as well. The surviving Stitchpunks celebrate, but the machine rises and kills 5, and 6 soon after, the latter warning 9 that the souls of the deceased Stitchpunks are within the machine and it should not be destroyed, as well as the source is in the Scientist’s workshop where 9 awoke. 9 goes to the workshop and finds a video recording which explains how the amulet can be used to destroy the machine and free the trapped souls. 9 returns to the others who plan to destroy the machine. During the following battle, 9 prepares to sacrifice himself to defeat the machine, but 1 sacrifices himself to allow 9 to remove the amulet and destroy the machine.

The film ends with 9, 7, 3 and 4 releasing the souls of 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8, who fly up into the sky and cause it to rain, the raindrops containing small organisms, hinting that life in the world is not gone after all.

REVIEW:

I’ve seen some strange and confusing films in my day, but I have got to say that 9 takes the cake. THat is not to say that this is a bad film, by any stretch of the imagination, just a bit on the eccentric side.

The good…the animation is beautiful. Look at the detail in each of the puppets. It is quite impressive. Voice casting isn’t half bad, though I belive I would have switched Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau’s characters. THe fabrication machine is also quite the impressive manifestation, as are the things that “serve” it. The story is ok, but I think it could have been a bit lighter in tone, but I think that has more to do with my anti-dark film stance than an actual critique of the film.

The bad…I’m so tired of these post-apocalyptic films. Can’t anyone out there come up with something original? This could have easily happened on another planet. To make things worse, the time frame they seem to be in is as if the war happened around the 40s or so. I have no issue with that, really, but I do wish they had set down an actual time frame. Also, how is it that 7 is the only female, or how is she female, rather? I mean, these are all part of the scientist’s soul. I’m guessing that is the part of him that’s in touch with his feminine side? No, that can’t be it, because she was far from being all girly girl. I didn’t really have a problem with the character, but rather the fact that it was odd to have this one female and that its part of his soul. Just seemed a bit odd to me.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this picture, but the fact is that I didn’t. At the same time, I didn’t hate it. There just wasn’t anything to make me sit up and say I love this or that about this film, at least nothing that would make me choose it over a Pixar flick, or even remember it. However, I do think if you can get past the utter confusion of the film and how not for kids this is, you’ll find a decent film.

3 out of 5 stars

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The Angels are hired to locate a set of titanium rings stolen from the Department of Justice that, when put together in a special machine, will display a list of all individuals in the witness protection program. Having discovered that one person on the list has been killed, the Angels investigate the scene and discover evidence suggesting that the killer is a surfer with a scar on one leg. Having tracked the killer to his next victim- who is subsequently sent to Bosley’s house for protection- it is revealed that angel Dylan was once named Helen Zaas (pronounced “Helen’s ass”, making her the “butt” of many jokes) and is in the program herself for sending her former boyfriend- a member of the O’Grady mafia family- to jail.

Although they recover the rings, Dylan leaves the Angels because she doesn’t want to endanger them with her ex’s vendetta, but former Angel Kelly Garrett- in a visit that may have been spiritual- reminds her that every Angel is unique, and her flawed past shouldn’t define her present. Returning to the team, Dylan and the others deduce that former angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore) is the perpetrator of the crimes due to her being the only individual possessing the necessary contacts to carry out such a scheme. Madison, having concluded “Why be an Angel, when [she] can be God”, having shot the Angels after reacquiring the rings, although they are saved by their specially-designed kevlar vests- returns to the agency to ‘confront’ Charlie, rejecting his attempts to remind her that the Angels are a family and shooting his speaker off the desk, informing him coldly that she was always the best.

Learning that the rings will be sold after a rendezvous on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Angels travel to Hollywood, setting the crime families up to be caught by the FBI in a faked rendezvous. With Madison having contacted the O’Gradys to act as security, Alex and Dylan take out the O’Gradys, while Natalie and Madison go head-to-head themselves. Dylan manages to kill her ex, with the Angels subsequently stopping Madison’s attempt to blow up the premiere of Alex’s boyfriend Jason’s (Matt LeBlanc) new movie thanks to Bosley knocking the bomb away. Although Madison tries to escape, the Angels defeat her in a final confrontation in an abandoned theatre, throwing her through a gas main just as she fires her gun, causing an explosion that kills her. The film ends with the Angels celebrating their victory with Bosley (Bernie Mac).

REVIEW:

This film lives up to, if not surpasses, the original film. All the fun, action, and life that the original has, this film manages to keep, even with a totally different plot.

Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz reprise their roles as the angels. Similar to the first film, Drew seems to have the most depth in terms of character. However, we do get a little insight into the other angels, especially Alex, played by Lucy Liu, as her father makes a surprise visit. Unfortunately, they don’t use John Cleese to his full potential and he’s just a glorified cameo.

Demi Moore had been away popping out kids before this film and hadn’t really made any movies for a few years. This was her return to showbiz, and what a return it was. We first get a look at her on the beach in a black bikini. Let me say that there aren’t many that could upstage Cameron Diaz in a bikini, but she surely accomplishes this feat, and for a woman in her 40s, that body is ridiculously impressive. Characterwise, she is ruthlessly evil. Having been a former angel, she was trained in all the things the angels were, but now she’s rouge and that made her more dangerous.

Speaking of villains, Justin Theroux brought to mind Robert DeNiro from Cape Fear.He was THAT good as Seamus. Not to mention, he wouldn’t die. The man walked through fire and fell from a roof and was impaled by a sword and was still about to get up, had it not been for a giant “E” falling on him. No wonder Helen Zaas went into hiding!

As with the first film, there are nods to the original series that keep the purists happy (because we all know they have to complain about something). There are very few things that I found wrong with this film. I guess that’s what happens when you make a film that is means to entertain the people rather than take their money. The rumor mill is buzzing that a third film is now officially in the works. It can’t come out soon enough, but in the meantime, we can enjoy this film and its predecessor.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Charlie’s Angels

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Dylan, Natalie, and Alex are three talented woman currently at the employ of the unseen “Charlie”, who gives them cases to investigate via a speaker in his offices, and backing them with support for disguises and equipment; Charlie is assisted by Bosley who helps the woman directly when needed. They are assigned the case of the kidnapping of Eric Knox, a programmer and head of Knox Enterprises, supposedly by a company called Redstar for his voice tracking and identification system. The three woman infiltrate a party held by Redstar’s owner, Roger Corwin, and spot a thin man that was seen on the surveillance videos during Knox’ kidnapping. They give chase, and eventually corner and fight the thin man, but he runs off; when the woman follow, they discover Knox.

After reuniting Knox with his partner Vivian Wood, Knox implores them to help understand what Redstar would do with his software. The three manage to infiltrate Redstar’s secure computer system and plant a device to allow them to explore the Redstar mainframe at their leisure. They leave the laptop with Bosley and consider the mission successful. The group relaxes for the night, with Dylan taking up an offer to spend the night with Knox. However, Dylan discovers that Knox had planned the events all along with help from the thin man and Vivian; by gaining access to Redstar’s server, he is able to seek out the location of any voice that can be detected on it. Knox shoots Dylan, believing to have killed her, though Dylan is able to escape unharmed. When she regroups with Natalie and Alex, she finds they have also been attacked but each escaped, that Corwin has been murdered, and that’s Charlie’s offices have been blown up. They learn from a radio transmitter implanted in Bosley’s teeth that he is unharmed, captured by Vivian before the explosion, and are able to use information to target his whereabouts.

The woman, with help from Dylan’s current boyfriend “The Chad”, are able to approach the abandoned lighthouse that Knox is holding Bosley in. They discover that Knox is planning on using the software and the Redstar server to physically locate Charlie when he next attempts to contact Bosley, as he believes Charlie was responsible for his father’s death in the Vietnam War. While they are able to defeat Vivian and the thin man and rescue Bosley before Knox blows up the lighthouse, they are too late to stop him taking off in a helicopter armed with a missile to home in on Charlie’s location. The woman manage to board the chopper and reprogram the missile, sending it back to blow up the helicopter and kill Knox while they land safely in the ocean. Seeing the opportunity to finally meet their benefactor, the woman enter the house Knox has targetted to find Charlie has already left, though remotely congratulates them on a job well done. The woman and Bosley are treated by Charlie to a vacation getaway, where Charlie, unseen by the group, checks up on his Angels.

REVIEW:

I wasn’t around when the TV series Charlie’s Angels was on the air, but I have seen a few episodes on TV Land (back when they actually showed classic shows rather than reality). Based on the few episodes I saw, this captures a good portion of the show, but is not a faithful adaptation.

Any move that has the ever so hot Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu in the lead is guaranteed to bring in the male demographic. It doesn’t hurt that they give sold performances, with Barrymore being the best.

Crispin Glover lives up to his character’s moniker as The “Creepy” Thin Man. This guy was just out there, especially when he was chopping off the angels hair and sniffing it. My, my this guy has come a long way since George McFly(the Back to the Future movies).

Sam Rockwell makes a pretty good villain. His character is tormented and twisted by the belief that Charlie killed his father. Kelly Lynch as his sidekick/lover Vivian does a pretty good job as well.

Tom Green, Matt LeBlanc, and Luke Wilson could be a good combination in a buddy comedy, but here they accept that they are the respective angel’s significant other and don’t try to do anything to upstage them.

Bill Murray seems and odd choice for Bosley, but I can’t really think of anyone that would work better in that role.

This film is packed with action, comedy, and hot women. Unless you’re a purist, then chances are you’ll like it.

5 out of 5 stars