Archive for Danny DeVito

Revisited: Big Fish

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At his son’s wedding party, Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) tells the same tale he’s told many times over the years: on the day Will (Billy Crudup) was born, he was out catching an enormous uncatchable fish, using his wedding ring as bait. Will is annoyed, explaining to his wife Joséphine (Marion Cotillard) that because his father never told the straight truth about anything, he felt unable to trust him. He is troubled to think that he might have a similarly difficult relationship with his future children. Will’s relationship with his father becomes so strained that they do not talk for three years. But when his father’s health starts to fail, Will and the now pregnant Joséphine return to Alabama. On the plane, Will recalls his father’s tale of how he braved a swamp as a child after he was dared by a few other children. He meets a witch (Helena Bonham Carter). She shows Don Price and another boy how they were going to die. They run away, frightened. When the witch shows Edward his death in her glass eye, he accepts it without fear. With this knowledge, Edward knew there were no odds he could not face.

Edward continues telling tall tales, claiming he spent three years confined to a bed as a child because his body was growing too fast. He became a successful athlete, but found the town of Ashton too small for his ambition, and set off with the misunderstood giant Karl (Matthew McGrory). The witch with the glass eye is seen bidding him farewell. While traveling, Edward and Karl see two separate roads out of Ashton. Edward suggest they each take one way. He’ll take the old dirt road and Karl should take the new paved road. They will meet on the other side. Karl feared that Edward was attempting to abandon him, but Edward gives him his backpack to prove that he isn’t. After walking through a scary swamp, Edward discovers the hidden town of Spectre, where everyone is friendly to the point of comfortably walking around barefoot. Their shoes can be seen hanging from a wire near the entrance. When he enters the town he is greeted by the Mayor and his wife. The Mayor has a clipboard that says Edward was meant to be in their town but he had arrived early. He also tells him of the poet Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi) who was also from Ashton. While there Edward has an encounter with a mermaid. She swims away before he could see her face. Edward leaves because he does not want to settle anywhere yet, but promises to the town mayor’s daughter Jenny (Hailey Anne Nelson), who developed a crush on him, that he will return. He believed that he was fated to be there someday.

Edward meets up with Karl. They attend the Calloway Circus where Edward falls in love at first sight with a mysterious woman. Together, Karl and Edward begin working at the circus. Karl meets his destiny by working as the giant man, replacing the old one who is much smaller than him. Edward works without pay, as he has been promised by the ringmaster Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito), who claims to know the mysterious woman, that each month he will learn something new about the mysterious woman. Three years later, having only learned trivia about her, Edward discovers Amos is a werewolf. In return for his refusal to harm him in his monstrous state, Amos tells Edward the girl’s name is Sandra Templeton (Alison Lohman) and she studies at Auburn University.

Edward goes to Sandra to confess his love. He learns Sandra is engaged to Don Price (David Denman), whom Edward always overshadowed during his days in Ashton. Sandra refuses Edward’s proposal but that does not discourage Edward. He writes “I love Sandra” everywhere he could. Don arrived to challenge Edward to a fight over Sandra. Sandra makes Edward promise not to fight Don. Edward allows Don to beat him up. Sandra, disgusted by Don’s violence, ends their engagement and falls for Edward. Edward later reveals that Don died from a heart attack on the toilet bowl at an early age (as Don saw in the Witch’s eye). During his recovery, Edward is conscripted by the army and sent to the Korean War. He parachutes into the middle of a show entertaining North Korean troops, steals important documents, and convinces Siamese twin dancers Ping (Ada Tai) and Jing (Arlene Tai) to help him get back to the United States, where he will make them stars. He is unable to contact anyone on his journey home, and the military declares him dead. This limits Edward’s job options when he does return home, so he becomes a traveling salesman. Meeting the poet Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi) from Spectre again, he unwittingly helps him rob a bank, which is already bankrupt. Edward explains this to Winslow, who then decides that he will work at Wall Street. Winslow later thanks Edward for his “advice” by sending him $10,000, which he uses to buy his family a dream house.

Still unimpressed by his father’s stories, Will demands to know the truth, but Edward explains that is who he is: a storyteller. Will finds Spectre, and meets an older Jenny (Helena Bonham Carter), who explains that Edward rescued the town from bankruptcy by buying it at an auction and rebuilding it with financial help from many of his previous acquaintances. Will suggests his father had been having an affair with Jenny, to which she replies that while she had indeed fallen in love with him, Edward could never love any woman other than Sandra. When Will returns home, he is informed his father had a stroke and is at the hospital. He goes to visit him there and finds him only partly conscious, and unable to speak at length. Since Edward can no longer tell stories, he asks Will to tell him the story of how it all ends: escaping from the hospital, they go to the river where everyone in Edward’s life appears to bid him goodbye. Will carries his father into the river where he becomes what he always had been: a very big fish. Edward then dies, knowing his son finally understands his love of storytelling.

At Edward’s funeral, Amos, Karl, Norther Winslow, and Ping and Jing arrive, making Edward’s stories real. Will finally realizes the truth of his father’s life for which his stories were embellishments. When his own son is born, Will passes on his father’s stories, remarking that his father became his stories, allowing him to live forever.

REVIEW:

With Big Eyes coming out soon and getting a bit of awards buzz, the spotlight is on director Tim Burton. A couple of critics that I regularly consult have been ripping the man a new one because they feel his style hasn’t evolved and he has become overrated. While there may or may not be some truth to this, Big Fish is one of his films that shows Burton is a capable filmmaker.

What is this about?

A reporter attempts to learn more about his dying father by finding the truth behind a lifetime of his tall tales and legends of epic proportions.

What did I like?

Soft light. In the flashbacks, I noticed a change in the lighting, especially when the camera was on Alison Lohman’s character. It was that soft light, and if I’m not mistaken they used what I call “the Vaseline filter” for even more dramatic effect. I have to say that it worked, because there is no question that she is the love of his life and the different look allows the audience to keep track of the past and present, just in case they can’t with the different actors.

Contrast. Tim Burton’s movies are perfect examples of how one can use light and dark tones together to make a quality film. In Edward Scissorhands, for instance, everything is bright and cheery, yet Edward is in a perpetual state of gray. With this film, Burton takes a “Southern gothic” story and inserts some fun tall tales into the proceedings causing an enjoyable result. I don’t believe this film would work as well had it been dark and dreary. The contrast is needed and appreciated.

Sweet home Alabama. I was talking to someone the other day about Southern accents in Hollywood and how hilarious it is that people from other countries tend to have the best versions, excluding those who have it naturally. Ewan McGregor, who is Scottish, if I’m not mistaken, gives a very convincing Alabama drawl when delivering both his lines and the narration. Is it accurate? Not being or lived in Alabama, I can’t tell you, but it is believable, which is more than can be said for many of his contemporaries who are don’t have to a)get rid of their UK accents and b)learn specific southern dialect.

What didn’t I like?

Run, Edward, run? I can’t remember exactly when this was released, but I know that it was after Forest Gump. What does that have to do with anything? Well, the basic plot of both films are very similar, making you wonder if Burton ripped off the idea. What is so similar? Both pictures feature someone detailing their life through a series of exaggerated stories. I could be totally off base here, but this just seems to be another case of Hollywood not having any originality left.

Cynical Manhattan. Does the name Billy Crudup ring any bells? No? Well, if you saw Watchmen, then you saw him in all his giant blue radioactive glory. In this film, he is the cynical, some say realistic, son of Albert Finney. With Finney’s character not long for this world, Crudup wants to get to know who the man really is and not a “series of lies.” Beside being some cynical, polar opposite of his father, I have to question why Crudup waited until his dad is on his deathbed to ask these questions. Was there something keeping him from inquiring when things were better?

Fantasy. As a fantasy film, this is not bad. I feel as if Burton was holding back and that perhaps some of the more fantastical elements ended up on the cutting room floor. For instance, Helena Bonham Carter’s character near the beginning of the film has a fake eye that shows people how they die. Seems to be that is something that would have been interesting to expand upon. How did she get this eye and why can it show such events? Is she a witch? Is she the character that she plays later in the film? I’m just saying that perhaps a little more fantasy would have been nice.

My best friend is a huge fan of Big Fish. She makes sure to let me know every chance she gets. For me, it is up there, but nowhere near as high as she has this ranked. The flaws are minor, but they do exist. The performances are great and the few effects we are privy to really compliment the picture. So, do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! For those that have been questioning the work of Tim Burton lately, this is one of his better, non-goth films that you should see (also check out Batman and Batman Returns). The man has talent. We just seem to have forgotten it with all the crazy goth stuff he’s done. I hope you enjoy this flick as much as I did.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Hercules

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After imprisoning the Titans beneath the ocean, the Greek gods Zeus and his wife Hera have a son named Hercules. While the other gods are joyful, Zeus’ jealous brother Hades plots to overthrow Zeus and rule Mount Olympus. Turning to the Fates for help, Hades learns that in eighteen years, a planetary alignment will allow Hades to locate and free the Titans to conquer Olympus, but only if Hercules does not interfere. Hades sends his minions Pain and Panic to dispose of Hercules. The two succeed at kidnapping and feeding him a formula that turns him mortal, but fail to remove his superhuman strength before Hercules is found and adopted by the farmers Amphitryon and Alcmene.

Years later, the teenaged Hercules becomes an outcast due to his strength, and wonders where he came from. After his foster parents reveal the necklace they found him with, Hercules decides to visit the temple of Zeus for answers. The temple’s statue of Zeus comes to life and reveals all to Hercules, telling him that he can regain his godhood by becoming a “true hero”. Zeus sends Hercules and his forgotten infant-hood friend Pegasus to find the satyr Philoctetes—”Phil” for short—who is known for training heroes. The two meet Phil, who has retired from training heroes due to numerous disappointments, but Hercules inspires him to follow his dream to train a true hero who will be recognized by the gods. Phil trains Hercules into a potential hero, and when he is older, they fly for Thebes. On the way, they meet Megara—”Meg” for short—a sarcastic damsel who Hercules saves from the centaur Nessus. However, after Hercules, Phil, and Pegasus leave, Meg is revealed to be Hades’ minion, having sold her soul to him to save an unfaithful lover.

Arriving in Thebes, Hercules is turned down by the downtrodden citizens until Meg says that two boys are trapped in a gorge. Hercules saves them, unaware that they are Pain and Panic in disguise, allowing Hades to summon the Hydra to fight Hercules. Hercules continually cuts off its heads, but more heads replace them until Hercules kills the monster by causing a landslide. Hercules is seen as a hero and a celebrity, but Zeus tells Hercules he is not yet a true hero. Driven to depression, Hercules turns to Meg, who is falling in love with him. Hades learns of this and on the eve of his takeover, offers a deal that Hercules give up his powers for twenty-four hours on the condition that Meg will be unharmed. Hercules accepts, losing his strength, and is heartbroken when Hades reveals that Meg is working for him.

Hades unleashes the Titans who climb Olympus and capture the gods, while a Cyclops goes to Thebes to kill Hercules. Phil inspires Hercules to fight and kill the cyclops, but Meg is crushed by a falling pillar saving Hercules from it, allowing him to regain his strength. Hercules and Pegasus fly to Olympus where they free the gods and launch the Titans into space where they explode, though Meg dies before he returns to her. With Meg’s soul now Hades’ property, Hercules breaks into the Underworld where he negotiates with Hades to free Meg from the Styx in exchange for his own life. His willingness to sacrifice his life restores his godhood and immortality before the life-draining river can kill him, and he rescues Meg and punches Hades into the Styx. After reviving Meg, she and Hercules are summoned to Olympus where Zeus and Hera welcome their son home. However, Hercules chooses to remain on Earth with Meg. Hercules returns to Thebes where he is hailed as a true hero as Zeus creates a picture of Hercules in the stars commemorating his heroism

REVIEW:

Perhaps the most well-known figure in Greek mythology is Hercules. Disney decided to take a chance and turn this myth into an animated musical comedy. Some have said this was the end of the Disney renaissance, but I happen to think this film gets a bad rap.

What is this about?

In Disney’s animated take on Greek mythology, the heavenly Hercules is stripped of his immortality and raised on Earth instead of Olympus, where he’s forced to take on Hades and assorted monsters.

What did I like?

Irony. I’ve seen this film quite a few time, but it was pointed out to me a few minutes ago that it is a bit ironic that a film about Greek mythology relies heavily on gospel. The irony isn’t lost on me. As a matter of fact, I appreciate the chance they took with the gospel chorus. When you think of a Greek chorus, can you really imagine them not having that gospel thing going when they sing? I know I can’t!

Hades. James Woods owns this role of Hades, perhaps even more than he does when he plays himself on Family Guy. I was reading some background info and it turns out that some have compared his performance to Robin Williams’ genie in Aladdin, which is pretty high praise, if you think about it. Woods manages to play Hades as a comedic villain, but there is still that dark quality that most, if not all, Disney villains have.

Music and color. I’ve already mentioned the gospel tinges, but I have to bring up a couple of standout songs, “Go the Distance” and “I Won’t Say I’m in Love”. Neither are gold standards in the Disney lexicon like “When You Wish Upon a Star”, “Whistle While You Work”, “I Wanna Be Like You”, etc, but they are quite enjoyable. Personally, I love Meg’s heart wrenching ballad. Moving on to color, well, this is a very colorful film. Look at the gods, each of them is a different color. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this at first, but now I think I really like that creative decision. In a way, this is kind of a dark story, so juxtaposing it with the bright-colored residents of Olympus is quite the contrast.

What didn’t I like?

Gods. I feel like they could have given us more of the gods. Perhaps I’m a bit spoiled from the Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys TV show, but it just seems as if Herc should have encountered some of his brothers and sisters, or at the very least, had regular run-in with Zeus. That would have been better than the freaky statue coming to life.

Character design. I’m not sure where I fall on the design of these characters, and that isn’t a good thing. On the one hand, I applaud the design of Hades, Philoctetes, etc., but on the flipside young Hercules, Megara, and some of the lesser gods just weren’t doing it for me. At first, I thought perhaps they were going for a look that resembled Grecian writing, but now it just seems like the animators just experimented with a style that didn’t work as well as they thought it would.

CG. In Hercules’ first heroic deed, or one of his firsts, he battles the dreaded Hydra. For some reason, animators decided that the Hydra needed to be CG, but I honestly could not tell you why. Other than the part where he suddenly has a gazillion heads because Hercules hadn’t figured out that chopping its head off only creates more, it could very well have been hand drawn. The animators just got lazy, which is why everything animated these days is CG. GRRR!!!

While not the crown jewel in the Disney collection, Hercules provided audiences with lots of fun. I really don’t understand why people seem to be so down on this flick, but they are. I highly recommend that you give this a shot! It is a Disney animated musical, you don’t get much better than that, now do you?

4 out of 5 stars

The Lorax

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Theodore “Ted” Wiggins, an idealistic 12-year-old boy, lives in “Thneedville”, a walled city that, aside from the citizens, is completely artificial: everything is made of plastic, metal, or synthetics. Ted sets out to find a real tree for his friend Audrey. His energetic grandmother suggests he speak with the Once-ler about this, and he discovers that their city has been closed off from the outside world, which is a contaminated and empty wasteland. The Once-ler agrees to tell Ted about the trees if he listens to his story over multiple visits. Ted agrees, even after the mayor of Thneedville, Aloysius O’Hare, who is also the greedy proprietor of a bottled oxygen company, confronts the boy and pressures him to stay in town. Over the course of the film, Ted, with the encouragement of his grandmother, continues to sneak out of O’Hare’s sight and learns more of the history of the trees.

Over the visits, the Once-ler recounts the story of how he departed his family to make his fortune. In a lush Truffula Tree forest, he met the Lorax. He is a grumpy yet charming orange creature who served as guardian of the land. At first, the Once-ler had a plan to chop down the trees. Eventually, he promised not to chop another tree down. The young businessman’s Thneed invention soon became a major success and the Once-ler’s family arrived to participate in the business. Keeping his promise at first, the Once-ler continued Thneed production by harvesting the tufts themselves in a sustainable manner. Unfortunately, his greedy and lazy relatives convinced him to resume logging as a more efficient gathering method. Breaking his promise, the Once-ler’s deforestation spiraled into a mass overproduction. Flush with wealth, the Once-ler rationalised his short sighted needs into arrogant self-righteousness and the helpless protests of the Lorax could not stop him. The Once-ler polluted the sky, river and landscape, until finally the last Truffula Tree fell outside, and the Once-ler realised what he had done while making the region uninhabitable with his business’s pollution. With that, the Once-ler was left ruined and abandoned by his own family and became a recluse with the creation and isolation of Ted’s town that came under young Mr. O’Hare’s control, giving him the plan to sell fresh air with the absence of trees. Eventually, the Lorax sends the animals away before departing himself into the sky, leaving a stonecut word: “Unless”.

At the end of the story, the Once-ler understands the meaning behind the Lorax’s last message, and gives Ted a gift of the last Truffula seed in hopes of planting it to regrow the forest. Ted’s desire to impress Audrey is now a personal mission to remind his town of the importance of nature. O’Hare, determined not to have trees undercut his business, takes heavy-handed steps such as covering Audrey’s nature paintings, closing off the door that Ted uses to see the Once-ler and forcibly searching Ted’s room for the seed. Ted enlists his family and Audrey to help plant the seed, which has begun to germinate after coming into contact with water. O’Hare and his employees pursue the dissidents until they manage to elude him and reach the town center. Unfortunately, their attempt to plant the seed is interrupted by O’Hare who rallies the population to stop them. To convince them otherwise, Ted takes an earthmover and rams down a section of the city wall to reveal the environmental destruction outside. Horrified at the sight and inspired by Ted’s conviction, the crowd defies O’Hare with his own henchmen expelling him from the town. The seed is planted, and Audrey kisses Ted on the cheek. Time passes and the land is starting to recover; the trees are regrowing, the animals are returning, and the redeemed Once-ler is happily reunited with the Lorax.

REVIEW:

The Lorax is best known as a character from the animated short which usually followed How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That is, it was before they stopped airing them together to “save airtime for revenue generating programming” (don’t get me started on a rant about that). Dr. Seuss’ beloved environmental champion is finally getting the spotlight in this animated film.

What is this about?

A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world. Can he do it? Will he get the girl?

What did I like?

Hunk o’ cheese. I think that it is safe to say these songs are not going to be winning any Grammy or Oscar nominations for best song. While they are cheesy and horrible, they are the kind of thing you just can’t turn away from. I dare you to watch and listen and not at least be intrigued.

About time. Look, you can say how this is some kind of environmental propaganda film all you want, but there is some truth to it. As I say in many of my western or medieval film reviews, the gorgeous countryside that was once nothing but trees is now nothing but buildings, smoke, smog, and grumpy people. If we keep headed that way, pretty soon we’ll choke ourselves to death. That is unless someone can find a way to charge for air. As greedy as people are in this day and age, I’m surprised they haven’t tried already!

Animation. Pixar threw down the gauntlet by showing that even fur can be animated in films like Monsters, Inc. and most recently, Brave. It is about time other studios started catching up. The forest animals and the Lorax are beautifully animated, right down to each and every last inch of fur. The trees, when we see them, are just like those troll dolls and fuzzy pen/pencil tops that were popular not so long ago. On the flipside, the humans seem as plastic as the town they live in.

What didn’t I like?

Once-ler. The book is very short and the animated special is about 15 minutes, I believe, possibly 30…been awhile since I’ve watched it. Obviously, in order to make a 90 minute film, they needed to flesh some things out. I would imagine this would allow us to get to know the Lorax a little better, seeing as how this is his film. However, they decided to give us this whole backstory on the Once-ler, including taking away the mysterious form he has and making him human, as well as foisting the Ted stuff on us.  I just can’t fathom why they decided to give the Once-ler the once over. It was like in Inspector Gadget when we see Dr. Klaw. These characters are mysterious and in shadow for a reason. Leave them be and don’t try to make them human!

Entrance. The Lorax makes a grand entrance, complete with thunder, lightning, the whole nine yards, and then…a whole lot of nothing. That isn’t his fault, but rather the writers. If you’re going to give him this big intro like that, then give him something to do, such as magical powers or something. Otherwise, just have him randomly appear and start bitching about how the trees have been cut down!

Controversy. As I mentioned earlier, there has been some controversy surrounding this film and its “environmental propaganda”. As an adult, I see it, but do you honestly think a 5 yr old kid is going to care about that? Truth be told, this is no worse that getting beat over the head with the environmental stick every week by Captain Planet in the late 80s and early 90s. As a matter of fact, that was worse. There is no reason to turn a harmless film into a political issue, but of course, some conservative nutjob had to do just that. They did the same thing with The Dark Knight, saying Batman was like President Bush going into Iraq. Ugh…why can’t we just watch films and not try to analyze (and ruin) everything!

Swift and unfaithful. Let me just get this out there. I do not care for Taylor Swift. She needs to be worshipping the ground that Kanye West walks on for her career, because if not for that little scene at the awards show a few years back, she would be just another country singer. I also do not care for the way this film treats the actual lines from the book. They do it with such a condescending tone, it is almost as if they want to disavow any knowledge of it, which is an insult to the great words spun from the creative mind of the late, great Dr. Seuss!

The Lorax is actually one of the better animated films I’ve seen this year. It does everything it sets out to do and even accomplishes a few other things along the way. Kids and adults will enjoy this light-hearted film and I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Junior

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Gynecologist Dr. Alex Hesse (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has a nightmare about urinating infants in a library. In the real world, he and his colleague Dr. Larry Arbogast (Danny DeVito) have invented a fertility drug, “Expectane”, that is supposed to reduce the chances of a woman’s body rejecting an embryo and thus prevent a miscarriage. Unfortunately, they are not allowed to test it on women since the Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the drug; so Hesse and Arbogast move forward in their research. In response, Hesse breaks into the laboratory and locks himself in. The head of the review board, Noah Banes, informs Arbogast that while the FDA has denied their team the right of human experimentation, the team has managed to receive a donation by Dr. Diana Reddin (Emma Thompson) from the ovum cryogenics department. When Hesse questions the chances of a woman taking an unapproved drug during pregnancy, Arbogast reveals that there is no need to identify the gender of the experiment and convinces Hesse to impregnate himself, using an ovum codenamed “Junior”.

That night, Hesse has another nightmare in which his potential offspring has his own face pasted onto it. That day, he complains to Arbogast that his nipples are hurting him. Later, the normally aloof Hesse inexplicably lightens up and chats incessantly about walks, massages, and naps. Reddin tells Hesse that being a woman is not as great as it sounds, citing the menstrual cycles which do not stop until menopause, while Arbogast warns Hesse of a disease that is turning men into strudels. Meanwhile, Arbogast’s pregnant ex-wife wants him to be the doctor delivering her baby. Hesse begins to wonder what it would be like to be a father and watches some television commercials to have himself a good sobbing. He later begins overeating, with Arbogast’s ex-wife noting his practice of “mixing cuisines”. It is revealed that the “Junior” ovum is actually Reddin’s own body, making her the mother of Hesse’s child. Banes wants to take credit for the experiment despite having no role in it. Arbogast disguises Hesse as a woman and hides him in a retreat for expecting mothers outside the city, passing off his masculine appearance as past anabolic steroid use. Eventually, Hesse goes into labor (as does Arbogast’s ex-wife) and gives birth via caesarean section to a baby girl naming her Junior. Arbogast delivers his ex-wife’s child and the two reconcile to raise their new son as their own. Before the credits, it shows the two families on a beach on vacation celebrating the birthdays of Junior and Jake (Arbogast and his ex-wife’s son), we discover that Reddin is pregnant and when the credits are rolling, they are all playing in the sea.

REVIEW:

Following up on the success of Twins, some studio exec had the brilliant idea to reunite Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito because they had such great chemistry. The idea is not a bad one, but one would think they could come up with a better film than this.

First off, this is not necessarily a bad plot, but the whole thing about a guy being pregnant just is not an interesting one. Of course, this is the second time I’ve seen this kind of thing today, the first being that episode of The Cosby Show where all the mean dream they drank something and got pregnant.

So, let get to what didn’t work…

Frank Langella, who is normally known as a creepy villain character actor, wasn’t really that intimidating, even though his character seemed to call for some kind of creepy, intimidation factor.

The pregnancy thing wasn’t really  that convincing. Schwarzenegger is a big guy, but that little pregnancy belly he was sporting seemed to be nothing more than a pillow they stuck under his shirt. I know these people could have done better than that!

The good…

Emma Thompson plays this clumsy, almost absent-minded scientist that comes in and eventually falls for Schwarzenegger’s character. Seeing the two of them together made no sense, and yet, at the same time they made a cute couple.

The chemistry Arnold and DeVito had in Twins resurfaces here, showing why they were chosen to star in this thing.

Pamela Reed was a bit of an ancillary character for a good chunk of the film, but when the time came for her to step up, just like she did in Kindergarten Cop, you’re sure to remember she’s in here.

The scientific mumbo jumbo seems to be well-researched. If it wasn’t, then they sure went through a lot of trouble to make it believable.

There really isn’t much to say about this film. It is one of those films that was made to capitalize on a surprise comedy duo. However, there are those that have called this the worst movie of all time. No, I don’t believe it is that bad. It actually isn’t bad, but rather just an average film. This is one of those films that you can either take or leave. Trust me, if you never see it, you can still have a clear conscious. On the other hand if you do decide to give it a shot, then its just another film that you can say you’ve seen.

3 out of 5 stars

 

Nobel Son

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman), a self-involved chemistry professor, learns he has been awarded the Nobel Prize. After verbally abusing his wife, son, colleagues, and nominal girlfriend, he heads off to Sweden with his wife, Sarah (Mary Steenburgen), to collect his award. His son, Barkley (Bryan Greenberg), misses the flight.

Barkley Michaelson has chosen to study not chemistry but anthropology, and this perceived failure triggers constant torrents of abuse from his father. His missing the flight, though, is the apparently innocent result of having been kidnapped by the deranged Thaddeus James (Shawn Hatosy), who claims to be Eli Michaelson’s son by the wife of a former colleague. Thaddeus successfully obtains a ransom of $2 million, which he then splits with Barkley, who, it appears, has orchestrated the kidnapping to obtain money from his father.

Shortly after Barkley’s release, Thaddeus rents a garage apartment from the Michaelsons and begins to charm Eli with his knowledge of chemistry. Barkley undertakes a campaign of psychological terror aimed at Thaddeus and his girlfriend, performance artist City Hall (Dushku). This ultimately results in the death of Thaddeus and commitment to a mental hospital for City.

Meanwhile, Barkley kidnaps Eli and threatens to expose the scientific fraud that lead to Eli receiving a Nobel prize that he did not deserve. Eli’s long suffering wife, Sarah, demands a divorce while praising her son for his devious behavior.

In the final scenes, Sarah, Barkley, and Sarah’s police detective boyfriend, Max Mariner (Pullman) are seen on a tropical beach. Mariner appears to have been in the dark through most of the movie, but has figured out towards the end that he wants to be with Sarah and can live with the theft of $2 million from her scoundrel husband. Eli is seen in his classroom unrepentantly flirting with another student. He has lost his wife, son, and the money, but it’s unclear whether he still has his Nobel Prize.

REVIEW:

Someone in this household has an obsession with Alan Rickman, so in order to appease her, we watched this film, Nobel Son, this evening.

Labeled as a thriller, this film somehow flies off into dark comedy territory. The twisted tale involves things such as a professor having many sordid encounters with his students, fingers being chopped off, mind games, and a hint of cannibalism.

If any of these things make you squirm, then this is most likely not the film you should be watching. Having said that, there are some parts that will entertain even the most hardened of skeptics and the story involving a son with his daddy issues really keeps one interested.

The kidnapping aspect of this film seems to be a major part of the film, but after the son is retrieved, it seems to be all but forgotten, but a rather interesting plot twist sort of makes up for it.

Alan Rickman shines as the slimy, egotistical professor. He may be a classically trained Shakespearean actor, but these dry humor roles are what really allow him to shine.

The rest of the cast is just there as a compliment to him, except for the actual star of the picture, Bryan Greenberg, who is more or less there to be the focal point of the picture.

Although he isn’t bad in this role, chances are 5 minutes after the credits roll you’ll have forgotten all about him and that really is the big problem with this picture. Outside of Rickman and the twisted nature of this picture, it is quite forgettable.

The final verdict on Nobel Son is that it is nothing more than an average film that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a thriller/suspense film or comedy. If it would have been able to actually decipher the genre it wanted to fit in, then maybe it would have been able to be more coherent in its writing. That being said, it isn’t that bad of a film, just not one that you should go out of your way to watch. If you’re a Rickman fan, though, you’re more than likely enjoy.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

When in Rome

Posted in Chick Flicks, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A successful and single Guggenheim art curator Beth (Kristen Bell) is at a point in her life where love seems like a luxury she just can’t afford. Years of waiting for the perfect romance have made Beth bitter. One day, she flies to Rome to attend her younger sister Joan’s (Alexis Dziena) impulsive wedding. She meets Nicholas Beamon (Josh Duhamel), who rescues her in a couple of difficult situations but is just as much of a clumsy clod as she is. They hit it off well and reach a point where both parties take an interest in the other.

Just as Beth convinces herself to believe in love again, she sees Nick kissing another woman, who turns out to be the groom’s (Luca Calvani) ‘crazy cousin’. Slightly drunk, she picks up coins (a poker chip, a rare coin, a penny, a quarter and a Euro) from the “fountain of love” (probably based on the Trevi Fountain). She later learns from Joan that legend says, if you take coins from the fountain, the owner of the coin will fall in love with you. She has to return the coins to the fountain to break the spell, but is tied up at work with an important gala that her demanding boss, Celeste (Anjelica Huston) has pressured her into taking care of.

She is pursued back to New York by a band of aggressive suitors whose coins she took, including a diminutive sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), lanky street magician Lance (Jon Heder), a doting painter (Will Arnett), and a narcissistic male model (Dax Shepard). As she falls in love with Nick, she realizes that the poker chip belongs to Nick and is convinced that Nick is merely under a spell, not truly in love with her.

Joan calls Beth on the day of the gala and informs her that the spell can also be broken by returning the coins to the original owner. Stacey (Kate Micucci), Beth’s secretary–who is highly concerned about Beth’s miserable love life–overhears the conversation and steals the coins, believing that Beth would lead a better life with people loving her, regardless of the spell.

Beth’s suitors all show up together at her apartment and she decides to break it to them that she does not love them and plans to return them the coins. After she blurts out her love for Nick to them, she realizes that Stacey has stolen the coins and goes on a mission to retrieve the coins with her suitors aiding her.

When Beth explains to Stacey that this is not the way she believes love is, Stacey returns the coins and Beth hands back the coins to their owners. Left with the poker chip, she calls Nick and thanks him for making her believe in love again. As Nick makes his way to the gala to search for Beth in a sudden lightning storm that hits New York, Beth is in a situation with Lance who plays with the poker chip by doing disappearing tricks. She accidentally hits the chip out of Lance’s hands and chases it as it rolls down three floors of the spiral gallery.

The chip is picked up by Nick, who appears to be in love with Beth still, convincing Beth that his love was true all along. However, on their wedding day in Rome, Lance reveals to Beth that he had multiple poker chips and the one Beth knocked out on the night of the lightning storm was just one of them, which proves that Nick did not break out of the spell. While exchanging wedding vows, Beth hesitates and dashes out of the building to everyone’s surprise. She revisits the fountain of love where she originally picked up the coins and climbs in like before.

Nick appears and climbs into the fountain. He claims that he didn’t throw a chip into the fountain at all. He drops the poker chip in the water and the priest is heard yelling ‘Free of temptation!’. Nick finally believes Beth and kisses her.

REVIEW:

In all the romantic comedies I’ve seen, the one thing that seems to be a constant is that they seem to forget the comedy. When in Rome does not fall into this category, though. Having said that, this thing is also heavy on the sappiness, so much so that is goes into the chick flick category.

Don’t get me wrong, the sappy love story part of this works and is the major plot point of this film, but seriously, what straight man is going to willingly want to see a film about some chick’s quest for true love, even if she is as hot as Kristen Bell? Not many, I can tell you that, especially when there are so many testosterone driven films out there that are more appealing.

That being said, this isn’t a bad film, and isn’t a typical man bashing rom-com, but instead it makes the guy seem human, which I really liked, and the girl has her own set of issues, such as not being able to find the right guy.

There are quite a few funny moments in this films, most of which involve Josh Duhamel being accident prone or some kind of situation with the 4 guys whose coins Kristen Bell has stolen.

The basic story here is quite good, although, I belive it could have been executed a bit better. There just seemed to be a disconnect somewhere between the magic of the coins and the real world. Yeah, that makes no sense to me, either. In a nutshell, it goes back and forth between being a fantasy film and having roots in the real world, without knowing which works better.

Casting was not a problem. Jon Heder, Danny DeVito, Will Arnett, and Dax Shepard are great as the suitors. Each with their own quirk. Heder probably does the best, in my opinion, especially in the scene where hereunites with Efrem Ramirez (who is playing a Pedro-like character).

Kristen Bell fits this role perfectly. Her girl next door looks and natural talent make it easy to feel connected to her throughout the film, though one has to wonder why she just didn’t get the hint about the poker chip.

Josh Duhamel is a true surprise, as I had no idea he had comedy chops, but he does. Combine this with his natural charisma and it makes for a solid leading man for this film. I really felt sorry for the guy, though. The whole being struck by lightning in the middle of a football game, his accident prone ways, and the way Kristen Bell seemed to be falling for him, only to keep pushing him away, just got to me.

I don’t really know why the critics are so down on it. I swear, I think they’ve forgotten what it is like to watch a film and enjoy it for what it is, rather than critique every little thing and have a default setting of “it sucks”.

This is not a film your typical guy is going to like, unless they have a huge crush on Kristen Bell or are a fan of Josh Duhamel, because there really isn’t anything guys would like in this. Well, there is a scene where Alexis Dziena is wearing nothing but an apron, but you can’t see anything there, so it doesn’t really matter. I liked this film, but I didn’t fall in love with it. It made me laugh and I felt for th characters, which is pretty much all you ask for in a rom-com, but in the end, it was just too sappy for my taste. Still, I would recommend this as a good date flick.

4 out of 5 stars

Get Shorty

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Chili Palmer (John Travolta), a Miami loan shark, clashes with another mobster, Ray “Bones” Barbone (Dennis Farina), after Ray takes his jacket (his own having been stolen from a restaurant cloakroom). Chili promptly finds him, breaks his nose, and takes his jacket back. Ray goes to the barbershop where Chili has his office, but Chili is warned by the barbers and shoots first when Ray bursts through the door, grazing the top of Ray’s head and causing him to flee. Ray’s boss, Jimmy Cap (Alex Rocco, who appears uncredited) refuses to go to war over such a trivial matter, and chastises Ray for foolishly taking the coat in the first place. When Chili’s powerful New York boss, Momo, dies of a heart attack, Chili finds himself working for Ray, who happily uses it to his advantage. Ray orders Chili to collect a large debt owed by Leo DeVoe (David Paymer), even though Leo is presumed dead.

When Chili visits Fay (Linda Hart), Leo’s supposed widow, she tells him Leo is alive. When Leo’s airliner sat on the runway for repairs, he debarked and got drunk at the airport bar. The airplane took off without him, then crashed. Leo was assumed to be dead and his wife received a $300,000 settlement from the airline. Leo took the money to Las Vegas, where he won another $200,000. Chili learns from Dick Allen (Bobby Slayton), a Las Vegas casino manager, that Leo has gone to Los Angeles. Allen asks Chili to collect a gambling debt from a B-movie producer named Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman) while he is in town.

Harry agrees to pay back the money in 60 days. With that settled, avid film fan Chili pitches a movie idea to Harry about a Miami loanshark chasing a scamming businessman to Los Angeles. Harry is interested in the concept, but he has another financial problem: he borrowed $200,000 from drug dealer Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) to finance the movie he wanted to make. It was not enough, so he tried to raise the rest by betting on sports and lost it all. Chili tells Harry he will take care of it. Chili also tracks Leo down and takes the $300,000 in insurance money, plus another $10,000 which he promises to pay back plus interest, but does not inform Ray.

Catlett himself is in a jam. When he goes to the airport to pay Yayo Portillo (Jacob Vargas), a messenger from drug lord Mr. Escobar (Miguel Sandoval), he spots undercover federal drug agents about, so he gives Yayo a key to a storage locker instead of the money directly. Yayo refuses to take the risk and accompanies Catlett home. Yayo becomes obnoxious, so Catlett shoots him, not realizing he has killed Escobar’s nephew.

When Catlett and his business associate Ronnie (Jon Gries) visit Harry for a progress report about the film he is supposedly financing, Chili tells Catlett that Harry has another project he has to finish first. Harry reveals too much, arousing Catlett’s curiosity about this other film. It turns out that Catlett, like Chili, wants to be a film producer. Meanwhile, Chili meets and is attracted to Karen Flores (Rene Russo), a cynical actress in low-budget horror films.

Later, Catlett offers Harry $500,000 interest free to drop Chili and let him produce the movie instead. Catlett gives Harry the locker key and suggests Chili go get the money. Harry, getting fed up with Chili and what he perceives as broken promises on his part, is intrigued. However, Chili is not fooled; he sees the agents and leaves the money untouched. Catlett’s enforcer, Bear (James Gandolfini), gets beaten twice when he tries to intimidate Chili. The second time, Chili does his best to get Bear on his side. Bear, a former movie stuntman and single father of a little girl, is weary of his job, but Catlett blackmails him into staying by implicitly threatening his daughter.

Chili wants famous actor Martin Weir (Danny DeVito) to star in the film. Through Karen, Weir’s ex-wife, Chili pitches him the idea. Weir is interested.

Harry telephones Ray and tells him that Chili has the money he was sent to collect and more. Ray flies to Los Angeles and starts beating Harry when he does not get satisfactory answers to his questions, but is interrupted when Ronnie shows up. Ray kills Ronnie and frames Harry for the killing. A badly beaten Harry is rushed to the hospital. He avoids jail when the death is ruled self defense.

A romance begins between Chili and Karen, but Catlett kidnaps her and demands Chili bring the money owed to him, as Mr. Escobar has arrived, looking for his money and his nephew. Though Chili turns over the money he got from Leo, Catlett reneges on their deal. Bear starts beating Chili, but it is just an act. In the ensuing struggle, Catlett is pushed against the balcony railing (which was earlier secretly weakened by Bear). It collapses and Catlett plummets to his death, with Bear saving Chili from the same fate.

Ray confronts Chili and demands Leo’s money. Searching Chili’s pockets, he finds the airport locker key, so Ray heads there to get the cash. When he opens the locker, he is confronted by police. This scene blends into one being filmed on a Hollywood set, with actor Harvey Keitel playing Ray, while Martin Weir portrays the loanshark. Chili’s movie is being directed by Penny Marshall, with Harry as executive producer, Chili and Karen co-producers, and Bear a technical consultant.

REVIEW:

This is one of those films that I have wanted to see, but for some reason just haven’t been inclined to rush out and pick it up. That’s not an indictment on the film itself, but rather the fact that there wasn’t anything that piqued my interest in the trailers and previews I had seen.

If not for a fluke occurrence of the top 10 films in my Netflix queue being on some sort of wait, then chances are I would have waited a little bit longer to watch this.

Get Shorty is one of those comedies that tries to be something it isn’t. what I mean by that is it tries to be serious and action-packed. The action I can live with, but when a film can’t make up its mind about its tone, we have issues. This film wants to be serious, but at the same time it doesn’t set that kind of tone. At the same time, the parts that are supposed to be funny, just aren’t.

John Travolta leads this underacheiving all-star cast. His role is pretty simple, a guy who wants out from under the thumb of his mob bosses and to become a Hollywood producer. Nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, his character actually has some of the best development in the picture. Travolta could have given his character a bit more…something. I just didn’t feel anything for the guy. He was just a guy hogging up most of the screentime for me.

Gene Hackman is a slightly off-kilter producer who it is never really said if he is sane or not. It doesn’t appear that he is, but that doesn’t mean anything, as he could just be eccentric. Hackman does what he can here, but I have to wonder who he lost a bet to in order to be stuck in this thing.

Delroy Lindo is the villain here. He doesn’t do half bad. you don’t even realize he’s the villain until a little past halfway through the film. Although, with those flamboyant suits,m it should have been obvious.

A secondary villain is played by Dennis Farina, Travolta’s boss in Miami. This guy is nothing but comic relief, though, except for the scene where he beats the living snot out of Hackman.

The plot to this film, as well as the pacing could have been thought out a bit more. It didn’t seem to flow, especially when they threw in the drugs at the airport. That just lost me and I never came back.

Get Shorty isn’t a bad film, but there are so many things that could have been better. In the same vein, there are plenty of things that could have been worse. Alot of people praise this film, but I don’t really see why. There is nothing memorable about it. Here it is 5 minutes after I finished it, and I can barely remember anything about it. I can recommend this in good conscience, but not without hesitation.

3 out of 5 stars