Archive for Eric Idle

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins in an unnamed war-torn European city in the late 18th century (dubbed “The Age of Reason” in an opening caption), where, amid explosions and gunfire from a large Turkish army outside the city gates, a fanciful touring stage production of Baron Münchhausen’s life and adventures is taking place. Backstage, city official “The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson” reinforces the city’s commitment to reason (here meaning uniformity) by ordering the execution of a soldier (Sting in a cameo) who had just accomplished a near-superhuman feat of bravery, claiming that his bravery is demoralizing to other soldiers. Not far into the play, an elderly man claiming to be the real Baron interrupts the show, protesting its many inaccuracies. Over the complaints of the audience, the theatre company and Jackson, the “real” Baron gains the house’s attention and narrates through flashback an account of one of his adventures, of a life-or-death wager with the Grand Turk, where the younger Baron’s life is saved only by his amazing luck plus the assistance of his remarkable associates: Berthold, the world’s fastest runner; Adolphus, a rifleman with superhuman eyesight; Gustavus, who possesses extraordinary hearing, and sufficient lung power to knock down an army by exhaling; and the fantastically strong Albrecht.

When gunfire disrupts the elderly Baron’s story, Jackson cancels the acting troops’ contract because of the Baron. The Baron wanders backstage where the Angel of Death tries to take his life, but Sally Salt, the young daughter of the theater company’s leader, saves him from it and persuades him to remain living. Sally races to the wall yelling for the Turkish army to go away, and the Baron accidentally fires himself through the sky using a mortar and returns riding a cannonball, narrowly escape the Angel of Death once again. Insisting that he alone can save the city, the Baron escapes the city’s walls in a hot air balloon constructed of women’s underwear, accompanied by Sally as a stowaway. The balloon expedition proceeds to the Moon, where the Baron, who has grown younger, finds his old associate Berthold, but angers the King of the Moon, a giant with separate minds in his head and body, who resents the Baron for his romantic past with the Queen of the Moon. The death of the King’s body, and a bungled escape from the Moon brings the trio back to (and beneath) the Earth, where the Roman God Vulcan hosts his guests with courtesy and Albrecht is found. The Baron and Vulcan’s wife, the Goddess Venus, attempt a romantic interlude by waltzing in air, but this cuts short the hospitality and Vulcan expels the foursome from his kingdom into the South Seas.

Swallowed by an enormous sea creature from the play earlier, the travelers locate Gustavus, Adolphus, and the Baron’s trusty horse Bucephalus. The Baron (who again appears elderly after being “expelled from a state of bliss”) struggles with the conflicting goals of heroism and a peaceful death meeting the Angel of Death for a third time. Finally deciding to escape by blowing “a modicum of snuff” out into the sea creature’s cavernous interior, causing the sea creature to “sneeze” the heroes out through its whale-like blowhole. The Baron, young once again, sails to where the Turkish army is located but the Baron’s associates are now too elderly and tired to fight the Turk as in the old days. The Baron lectures them firmly but to no avail, and he storms off intending to surrender to the Turk and to Jackson; his cohorts rally to save both the Baron and the city. During the city’s celebratory parade, the Baron is shot dead by Jackson and the Angel of Death appears a final time to take the Baron’s life. An emotional public funeral takes place, but the denouement reveals that this is merely the final scene of yet another story the Baron is telling to the same theater-goers who were attending the theater in the beginning of the film. The Baron calls the foregoing “only one of the many occasions on which I met my death” and closes his tale by saying “everyone who had a talent for it lived happily ever after.”

An ambiguous finale reveals that the city has indeed been saved, even though the events of the battle apparently occurred in a story rather than the film’s reality. The Baron rides off on Bucephalus. As the Baron and Bucephalus are bathed in the light of the sun parting through the clouds, they apparently disappear, and the credits roll over a triumphant blast of music.

REVIEW:

Listening to a review of Mr. Peabody & Sherman earlier this week, it was brought up about how Commander McBragg (another character from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons) was similar to Baron Munchausen. As you can imagine, this piqued my interest and I just had to see if this was a true statement and what this big deal about The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was.

What is this about?

Writer-director Terry Gilliam puts a fantastical spin on the stories of Baron Munchausen, an 18th-century German aristocrat and renowned teller of tall tales, whose claims include a trip to the moon and being swallowed by a sea monster.

What did I like?

Fantastic. Say what you will about Terry Gilliam’s films, the guy knows how to create a fantastical world full of interesting characters and creatures. While the special effects are not the best to be seen on film, they are still enjoyable to watch, and for that reason, this film is a whole lot more entertaining than it has any business being.

Duality. From what I’ve heard and read, the Man in the Moon is known for being very duplicitous. Since the King of the Moon is apparently somewhat based on that character, it makes perfect sense for this guy to exhibit signs on multiple personality disorder. Not to mention, he’s played by Robin Williams. Who better for a character such as this? On a side note, the king was originally meant to be played by Sean Connery, but he didn’t feel the character was “kingly enough”.

What didn’t I like?

Death. Maybe it is just me, but I felt that the Angel of Death should have looked like something more than a second rate school skeleton wearing a couple of rags. Also, he just didn’t seem to serve the purpose that the filmmaker’s wanted. Maybe the parts that developed him wound up on the cutting room floor, though.

No salt. A very young Sarah Polley appears and, like just about every other little kid in just about any film, is pushy and annoying, rather than cute and innocent. Yes, she is the reason this film keeps going, aside from the Baron’s outrageous story, but couldn’t they have made her more likable? Why is it every kid has to be so damn despicable?

As much as I tried, I just really couldn’t get into The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Like Terry Gilliam’s other films, it is great to look at, but couldn’t really keep my attention. There is a decent story to be told here, but if you were to ask me, I can’t recommend this film as anything more than eye candy.

3 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Splitting Heirs

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie centres on the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Bournemouth (England), upon which misfortune has befallen throughout history, leading it to believe itself cursed. The most recent heir, Thomas Henry Butterfly Rainbow Peace, was left in a restaurant as an infant in the 1960s, by the time his parents remembered him, he had disappeared. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, Tommy Patel (Eric Idle) has grown up in an Asian/Indian family in Southall, never doubting his ethnicity despite being taller than anyone else in the house, fair-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned – and not liking curry. From the family corner-shop he commutes to the City, where he works for the Bournemouth family’s stockbroking firm, handling multimillion-pound deals.

He is given the job of acting as host to the visiting American representative of the firm, Henry Bullock (Rick Moranis), who turns out to be the son of the head of the firm, the present Duke; they become friends, and the friendship survives Henry’s becoming the new Duke when his father dies. Circumstantial evidence shows that the true Bournemouth heir is actually Tommy, we see a series of family portraits each of which captures something of Tommy’s facial characteristics, and his Indian mother tells him the story of his adoption. He consults the lawyer who dealt with his adoption, Raoul P. Shadgrind (John Cleese), who says Tommy has no hope of proving his claim, but plants the idea of him obtaining his rightful place in the family by getting Henry out of the way; Shadgrind himself then engineers a variety of ‘accidents’ in the belief that he will share in the spoils as Tommy’s partner. The delightfully complicated love interest comes with Tommy’s and Henry’s (shared at the same time) lover, later the new Duchess (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and their (shared at different times) mother, the dowager Duchess (Barbara Hershey). As befits a classic comedy of errors, the final resolution of everyone’s doubts and misconceptions leaves everyone living “happily ever after – well, for a bit, at least…”

REVIEW:

As a lover of the Monty Python comedy troupe, I’m always looking for other works they’ve done, if for no other reason than to see how they have grown as entertainers since those days. With Splitting Heirs, there is a chance to see Eric Idle (and a little bit of John Cleese) do a little comedic film on their own.

What is this about?

Eric Idle and John Cleese team up in this farce about a lowly bank employee who tries to claim the noble title that is his birthright. Seems there was a switcheroo when Tommy was born, and Tommy was inadvertently substituted with an American baby by his drug-addled mom, the Duchess of Bournemouth. What’s worse, the would-be duke just happens to be Tommy’s best friend, and the Duchess (who’s clueless about Tommy’s real identity) is hot for him!

What did I like?

Brothers. I have to give props to the casting director. Eric Idle and Rick Moranis could pass for long-lost brothers that grew up in different environments. Sure, no one would mistake them for real-life brothers, but remember that this is just a film. The chemistry between the two of them is also something to behold. Sometimes we forget how much of a funnyman Rick Moranis is, I think, since he usually plays lovable losers and sometimes the straight man.

Funny ha ha. As you can imagine when you have a cast of comedians, there are quite a few funny moments. The first half of this film, as well as the scenes with John Cleese are sure to have you rolling on the floor laughing and asking for more. That is not to deny the women in this film, either. Barbara Hershey’s overly slutty character will have you chuckling and/or feeling uncomfortable as you watch her seduce her son.

What didn’t I like?

Forgettable. I hate to say this, but there just is nothing memorable about this film. By the time the credits finish rolling, then you’ll be wondering what happened 10 minutes ago in what you just watched, which is really a shame, but blame the fact that so many similar (and better executed) films have been released that make this seem just plain and humdrum.

Curse. In the opening, we get some info on the Bournemouth curse but, for the rest of the film, it is all but forgotten, save for a couple of mentions in passing. Now, personally, I feel that they could have done more with the curse, both in terms of plot and comedy. Why they didn’t explore it a bit more, is beyond me, other than maybe they didn’t want to turn this into some sort of horror/thriller, perhaps.

Splitting Heirs is a film I selected because I just wanted something funny. Certain people in this house prefer the heavy dramas, so it is nice to get an escape into hilarity. This could have been funnier, yes, but it accomplished what I got it for. Now, having said that, I won’t go so far as to say it is a good film, but there are so many things that it could have done worse and made itself into a bad film. So, do I recommend this? Not really, I found this to be average at best, but it does have some moments. Unfortunately, there are also plot pints that were merely touched on and never expanded upon and that is what hurts this more than anything. So, check this out if you want, but don’t expect greatness.

3 out of 5 stars

Ella Enchanted

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the kingdom of Frell, baby Ella (Anne Hathaway) is given the “gift of obedience” by her fairy godmother, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox). This turns out to be more of a curse, making Ella do anything she is told to do, no matter how terrible or physically impossible. Some years later, Ella’s mother dies after instructing Ella to tell no one of the curse, not even her father. Eventually Ella’s father (Patrick Bergin), in need of money, remarries a wealthy socialite. His greedy new wife, Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley), and her two spoiled daughters Hattie and Olive (Jennifer Higham) treat Ella poorly. They eventually realize Ella’s obedience to commands, and begin making her life miserable.

Ella stumbles upon Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), the handsome heir to the throne, as he’s being pursued by his “fan club” of young women. He finds her lack of deference to him refreshing and after their encounter, sends an invitation to the Coronation Ball to her home, where it is intercepted by her stepmother and stepsisters. Hattie and Olive, who are part of Prince Charmont’s fan club, are overcome with jealousy. Along with their mother, they force Ella to insult and cut ties with her best friend Areida (Parminder Nagra). Ella cannot bear to live under the obedience spell and Hattie’s jealousy a moment longer, so she resolves to find Lucinda, the only one who can remove the spell. Mandy (Minnie Driver), the household fairy and the only other person who knows of the curse, tries to help by lending Ella a magical book that can show people in their current surroundings. The book holds Mandy’s boyfriend Benny (Jimi Mistry), who she had accidentally transformed in an errant spell. During her journey, Ella encounters an elf named Slannen (Aidan McArdle), who wants to be a lawyer instead of an entertainer as the kingdom’s laws now require. Slannen joins Ella on her quest, but they are captured by a group of ogres, who prepare to cook and eat them. They are rescued by Prince Charmont. He then accompanies her to a wedding in the land of giants, where Ella hopes to find Lucinda. Throughout the journey, Ella opens Charmont’s eyes to the cruelty of his uncle’s new laws oppressing elves and giants. Char suggests that Ella should come with him to his palace to visit the Hall of Records and track down Lucinda faster.

At the palace, Charmont’s uncle, Sir Edgar (Cary Elwes), has Ella’s “gift” called to his attention by his talking snake, Heston, voiced by (Steve Coogan), who has been spying on the prince. When Edgar offers Hattie Char’s hand in marriage, Ella’s stepsisters explain that she does everything she is told. Edgar knows that Prince Charmont intends to propose marriage to Ella, and he orders her to stab him to death and not to tell anyone of the plan. Sir Edgar also reveals that he murdered Prince Charmont’s father. To prevent the murder of Char, Ella asks Slannen to tie her to a tree outside the city and to find the giants so they can help. Lucinda now appears before Ella, who asks her to undo the “gift” of obedience. Offended by the request, Lucinda refuses, saying that if Ella no longer wants the spell, she must remove it herself. She unties Ella from the tree and gives her a fancy dress and tells her to attend the ball. When Ella gets to the ball, Charmont almost immediately takes her to the Hall of Mirrors and asks her to marry him. Ella is about to stab him with the dagger Edgar provided, when she realizes how to free herself from the curse: looking into a mirror, she orders herself to no longer be obedient. Charmont sees the dagger drop from her hand and realizes she tried to kill him. Edgar is watching the entire scene behind a two-way mirror, and before Ella can explain, Edgar orders the guards to lock her up and have her executed in a few days.

Meanwhile, Slannen gets the giants, and the ogres come to sneak into the castle to rescue Ella and find out that Sir Edgar is poisoning the crown that Char will receive during the ceremony. Just before Charmont puts it on, Ella and her allies interrupt. Edgar and Heston call for the knights and Red Guards, and a battle ensues. Ella explains everything to Charmont while fighting alongside him. When Sir Edgar’s forces lose the battle, Heston tries to bite Char, but is stopped by Ella. Caught trying to killing the prince, Edgar admits to killing the King to the assembled crowd. Then, carried away by his own rhetoric, he puts it dramatically on his own head, and promptly collapses from the poison, although he survives.

Char and Ella kiss; her stepsisters arrive and order her to stop kissing, and she is delighted to refuse. Ella then walks up to Hattie and takes her mother’s necklace back from her (Hattie had forced Ella to give it to her near the beginning of the movie). Char once again asks Ella to marry him, and she agrees. The movie ends with their wedding and a musical number (Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart).

REVIEW:

There are so many twists, turns, and mutations on the tale of Cinderella out there today that it is hard to remember some of the better ones. Ella Enchanted is one of these versions that has fallen by the wayside, partly because Anne Hathaway’s career skyrocketed shortly after this, if I’m not mistaken.

What is this about?

Burdened at birth with the “gift” of obedience by a flighty fairy godmother, Ella searches for a way to lift the curse that prevents her from pursuing her dreams — and her true love, Prince Charmont.

What did I like?

Role model. I was talking to someone about this film the other day and the topic of role models came up. In this day and age when the females that little girls see the most are anything but good role models (contrary to their belief), it is a nice break from the norm to get a strong Cinderella-type character. Personally, I prefer the original, but I’m a purist. That being said, Ella of Frel is a good example for young girls.

Cast. In my opinion, this is one of the more attractive casts that I’ve seen in quite some time. With the exception of the step sisters, who are complete dogs no matter what incarnation they’re in and the ogres, there isn’t one person that isn’t at least marginally attractive, in my opinion. For goodness sakes, Heidi Klum appears as one of the giants! Now, what does this mean for the film, since we can almost all be sure that people in this era didn’t look like they just walked out of a Hollywood salon? Well, the film does seem to be a bit of a satire on the fairy tale, so I’m sure the cast’s looks have something to do with that, as well.

Pop culture. Many people seem to be torn on the modern touches here and there, such as the songs, a wooden escalator, a university, complete with protests, fan clubs, etc. Hey, it worked in A Knight’s Tale, and before that, on The Flintstones, so why can’t it work here in a film that isn’t trying to take itself too seriously? I don’t see what the big deal is. Personally, I think we could have done with a touch more here and there, but not too much, lest we meander into territory defecated upon by the last couple of Shrek films.

What didn’t I like?

Smart. Ella is a smart, independent young woman, so it seems to be that by time she’s this age, she would have figured out a way around the curse or maybe even learned a few spells from Mandy, who I’m not really sure why she’s still there at this time. I just don’t get why she had to go on a trek across the countryside to find Lucinda, other than to fill out the film.

Spotlight. You might not realize it, but there are other characters in this film besides Ella, the Prince, Sir Edgar, and Slannen. Two of the biggest injustices are Mandy, played by Minnie Driver who really could be a throwaway character, if you think about it and Ella’s best friend, Areida. I would have loved to have seen more of these two, especially Areida, but instead, we get to see Vivica A. Fox in all her stereotypical, sassy black female glory. I am not a fan of her, let me tell you! Don’t even get me started on how the focus was only on one of the step sisters. Yes, that’s how it is in every incarnation, but this poor girl may as well have not even been there!

Deviation. I just learned that this is based on a book. One of these days, I may have to go check that out. In the meantime, I can’t really comment on how far from the source material but I do know that it doesn’t really resemble the book. As a I said earlier, I’m a purist, but I understand that certain allowances must be made. However, changing the whole story is something that I just can’t deal with.

Ella Enchanted is the first film where I believe we actually were able to see that Anne Hathaway had some real acting chops to go with those model looks of hers. If you’re in the mood for a nice family film that will keep you and your kids entertained, then I highly recommend this one. No, it isn’t perfect, but it sure is fun to watch!

4 out of 5 stars

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Brian Cohen is born in a stable a few doors from the one in which Jesus is born, a fact which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews. They manage to put up with Brian’s boorish mother Mandy until they realise their mistake. Brian grows up an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea, even after learning his father was a Roman Centurion – Naughtius Maximus – who raped Brian’s mother ("You mean; you were raped?", "Well, at first, yes"). While attending Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he becomes infatuated with an attractive young female rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred for the Romans lead him to join the People’s Front of Judea (PFJ), one of many factious and bickering separatist movements who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans (see Political satire below). The group’s cynical leader Reg gives Brian his first assignment: He must scrawl some graffiti on the wall of the governor’s palace. Just as he finishes doing this, he is confronted by a passing centurion who, in disgust at Brian’s faulty Latin grammar (“Romanes eunt domus“, or “the people called ‘Romanes’ they go the house”), forces him to write the grammatically correct message (“Romani ite domum” or “Romans, go home”) 100 times. By dawn, the walls of the fortress are covered in text. When the Roman guards change shift at daybreak, the new guards try to arrest Brian, but he manages to slip away with the help of Judith.

Brian then agrees to participate in a kidnapping plot by the resistance, which fails miserably (due to a clash with an "enemy" separatist faction intent on the same mission) and forces him to go on the run again. This time, he doesn’t evade capture and is summoned before Pontius Pilate. He tries to get away with it by claiming his Roman heritage, as the son of Naughtius Maximus. The captain of the guards refuses to believe the authenticity of the name. Pilate does not understand his doubt, to which the captain remarks that it would be like someone being named "Sillius Soddus or Biggus Dickus." Fortunately for Brian, the guards collapse into a giggling fit after an irate Pilate reveals that one of his best friends is a high-ranking centurion genuinely named Biggus Dickus (with a wife, Incontinentia Buttocks) and he makes his escape.

Following a series of misadventures (including a brief trip to outer space in an alien spaceship), the fugitive winds up in a lineup of wannabe mystics and prophets who harangue the passing crowd in a plaza. Forced to come up with something plausible in order to blend in and keep the guards off his back, he babbles pseudo-religious nonsense which quickly attracts a small but intrigued audience. Once the guards have left, Brian tries to put the episode behind him, but has unintentionally inspired a movement; and finds that some people have started to follow him around (MAN: We have walked many miles to see you oh great Messiah. What do you wish! BRIAN: BUGGER OFF!), with even the slightest unusual occurrence being hailed as a “miracle.” After slipping away from the mob (who are busy persecuting a “heretic” – actually a hermit that Brian unwittingly disturbed) and spending the night with Judith, he opens the curtains the following morning to discover that an enormous mass of people, proclaiming him the Messiah, has formed outside his mother’s house. Appalled, Brian is helpless to change the people’s minds, as his every word and action are immediately seized as a point of doctrine.

The hapless Brian cannot even find solace back at the PFJ’s headquarters, where people fling their afflicted bodies at him demanding miracle cures. Reg even claims that he has booked a session at the Mount for him. After sneaking out the back, he is finally captured and scheduled to be crucified. Meanwhile, a huge crowd of natives has assembled outside the palace, spurred on by the general feeling in the community that Brian’s fellow "prophets" have been exacerbating. Pilate (together with the visiting Biggus Dickus) tries to quell the feeling of revolution, by granting them the decision on who should be pardoned.

Instead, Pilate is just fed various names intended to highlight his speech impediment (Very well. I shall wewease Wodewick,. Biggus Dickus then attempts to take control of the situation by reading out the prisoner list, but the combination of his severe lisp and every prisoner having a name starting with S (e.g. Samson the Sadducee Strangler) causes the assembled hordes collapse to the floor in laughter at the spectacle. Pilate eventually orders Brian’s release, but (in a moment parodying the climax of the film Spartacus), various crucified people all claim to be "Brian of Nazareth" – one man stating "I’m Brian and so’s my wife" – and the wrong man is released. Various other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as one by one his "allies" (including Judith) step forward to explain why they are leaving the "noble freedom fighter" hanging in the hot sun. Condemned to a long and painful death, Brian’s spirits are lifted by his fellow sufferers, who break out into song with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

REVIEW:

This is another classic from the Monty Python guys filled with spoofs, satire, and genuine British comedy. I warn you now, though, if you are one that gets easily offended by those that make fun of religion, then you’d do best to steer clear of this film.

Once again the cast includes Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Each takes on multiple roles in a comedic way.

The viewer can’t help but feel sorry for Brian throughout the film. He can’t catch a break, and the one time he does, when he sleeps with Judith, his mother barges in and fusses at him.

This is your typical Monty Python film, though the aliens that catch Brian about halfway through the film were totally random.

Critics have said this is the best of the Monty Python films, but audiences prefer Monty Python & the Holy Grail.  As hilarious and fun as this film was, it is no Holy Grail, and with the religious parts, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people would make a big stink after seeing this. All that aside, though, this is quite enjoyable and worth a watch (especially around Easter as a break from the typical Easter films).

4 out of 5 stars

Shrek the Third

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

King Harold (voiced by John Cleese) falls ill and his ogre son-in-law Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and daughter Princess Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz) are next in line to be King and Queen of Far Far Away. Shrekdeclines, insisting that an ogre as king is a bad idea and that there has to be someone else for the job. With his final few breaths, the king tells Shrek that there is one other heir who can become the new King of Far Far Away: his nephew, Arthur Pendragon (voiced by Justin Timberlake). After a mournful funeral, Shreksets out on a quest to bring back the new king, along with Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (voiced Antonio Banderas). As they’re sailing off, Fiona runs to the dock and announces to Shrek that she is pregnant and he is going to be a father. Shocked, Shrek begins to have nightmares about his future children on the journey to find Arthur.

The trio’s journey soon leads them to Worcestershire Academy, an elite boarding school, where they discover that Arthur (“Artie”, as he prefers to be called) is a scrawny 16-year old underacheiverpicked on by virtually everyone, from the cool kids down to the retainer wearing Dungeons and Dragons geeks. Far removed from the courageous legend his name evokes, Artie stands literally at the bottom of the high school food chain. He is constantly showered with insults, used as a punching bag by the school Jousting Team, led by the obnoxious Lancelot du Lac (voiced by John Krasinski), and cruelly scorned by Guinevere (Latifa Ouaou), the girl he had always loved.

At the school pep rally Shrek tells him he’s going to be the new king of Far Far Away. Artie is only too excited to be on his way to the throne, until Donkey and Puss inadvertently scare him by talking about responsibilities of being king. Panicked, Artie tries to take control of the ship and ends up crashing it on an island where they meet Artie’s retired wizard teacher, Merlin (voiced by Eric Idle).

Meanwhile, a revenge-lusted Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett) has gone to the Poison Apple Bar, where he encounters a slew of fairy tale villains including Captain Hook (voiced by Ian McShane), the Evil Queen (voiced by Susanne Blakeslee), a Cyclops (voiced by Mark Valley), Rumpelstiltskin (vooiced by Conrad Vernon), Mabel the Ugly Stepsister (voiced by talk show host Regis Philbin), the Headless Horseman (Conrad Vernon), Stromboli the Puppet Master (Chris Miller), and an assortment of outlaws, black knights, pirates, ents, and witches. Although they initially despise Charming, he persuades them to join him in a fight for their “happily ever after”. The villains feel their side of the story has never been told and now is the time to do it.

Charming and the other villains invade the kingdom and pillage for a time before attacking the castle, disrupting Fiona’s celebrating of becoming a mother. They capture all of Shrek’s fairy tale friends: Gingerbread Man (also voiced by Conrad Vernon), Pinocchio (voiced by Cody Cameron), The Big Bad Wolf (voiced by Aron Warner), and The Three LittlPigs (also voiced by Cameron), Dragon, and Donkey and Dragon’s children. Fiona and Lilian (Julie Andrews) try to escape through an underground passage, along with Doris the Ugly Stepsister (voiced by Larry King), Cinderella (voiced by Amy Sedaris), Snow White (voiced by Amy Poehler), Sleeping Beauty (voiced by Cheri Oteri) and Rapunzel (voiced by Maya Rudolph); the ladies are captured, however, when Rapunzel betrays them and leads them into a trap. They learn that she is in love with Charming, who plans to make her his queen once he claims the throne.

Captain Hook and some of his pirates track Shrek and company to Merlin’s island, where they attempt to capture Shrek and kill the others. Shrek and Artie tag-team them effectively, however, and send the villains running, but not before Hook mentions Prince and the takeover of Far Far Away. Concerned for his wife and his future children, Shrek urges Artie to return to the safety of Worcestershire; Artie, however, has other ideas. He cons Merlin into coming out of retirement long enough to use his magic and send them all back to Far Far Away; the spell works, but accidentally causes Puss and Donkey to switch bodies because they were touching each other. They find that Charming is bent on revenge against Shrek for ‘stealing’ his “happily ever after,” and plans to kill Shrek in a play later that night. Charming’s men arrive shortly, but another clever ruse by Artie tricks the knights into not taking them into custody. They then break into the castle, where play rehearsal and set design are in full swing, and where Charming is becoming not good at rehearsing and is also not good at mock battles, killing two faux Shrek in a row. In Charming’s dressing room, Shrek menaces Charming but Charming is able to summon his men, who burst in and take the four captive.

Charming prepares to kill Artie, believing he’s the next king. To save Artie’s life, Shrek tells Charming that Artie was just a fool to take his place as King of Far Far Away. Charming believes Shrek and decides not to kill him. Artie, who had just been growing to trust Shrek, is crushed by this and runs away. Donkey and Puss are thrown into the tower withFiona and the other ladies, where Fiona is growing frustrated with the other princesses and their lack of initiative. Queen Lilian soon grows fed up, and successfully smashes the stone wall of the prison by head butting the walls. While the women launch a rescue mission for Shrek, who is being held captive elsewhere, Donkey and Puss work to free Gingy, Pinocchio, the wolf and pigs, Dragon, and the Dronkeys. As they prepare to enter the castle and join the ladies, they encounter Artie, and Puss and Donkey explain to him that Shrek lied so Charming wouldn’t kill him. Artie seems hesitant to believe them.

As the kingdom watches, Charming stages a theatrical performance in which he heroically rides to the rescue of Rapunzel in a (fake) tower and sings, somewhat badly. To Charming’s profound annoyance, the chained Shrek wins the audience’s support by ridiculing his singing and acting. Just as Charming is about to kill Shrek, Fiona and her friends, along with Puss, Donkey and the Fairy Tale characters, leap onto the stage to confront the villains. It goes awry, however, as the villains largely outnumber the heroes and take them prisoner again. In the nick of time, Artie arrives and convinces the villains to stop and turn over a new leaf, proving himself to possess effective leadership skills. He says something that Shrek told him when they were sitting around a fire at Merlin’s island- “Just because some people treat you like a loser, it doesn’t mean you are one. The thing that matters most is what you think of yourself. If there’s something you really want or someone you really want to be, then the only one standing in your way is you.” The villains drop their weapons and release their captives.

Charming, furious at having been thwarted, lunges for him with his sword. Shrek blocks the blow and appears to take it in his own chest, leading Charming to believe he’s won; but Charming missed, and the sword is lodged harmlessly under Shrek’s arm. Shrek informs Charming that he needs to keep looking for his own happily ever after, because he’s not giving up his own. As Shrek pushes Charming aside, Dragon slyly knocks over Rapunzel’s tower, which lands on Charming, killing him. Charming’s crown is sent rolling across the stage by the impact and is caught by Artie. Shrek tells him that the throne is his if he wants it, but it is his decision to make. Artie lifts the crown toward the audience, who cheer him loudly, then sets it on his own head. While the kingdom celebrates their new monarch, Merlin appears and restores Puss and Donkey to their proper bodies, though their tails were temporarily mismatched.

As Far Far Away is left in the capable hands of young Artie, the move ends as Shrekretires with Fiona to their swamp a few months later, becoming the parents of ogre triplets.

REVIEW:

Shrek has become Dreamworks’ Mickey Mouse of sorts. He’s everywhere. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the appeal of Mickey in that the big green ogre is a bit overexposed, and this unnecessary third film (and subsequent 4th and 5th films) are proof of that.

Mike Myers returns to voice Shrek. There was a time when I loved Myers’ work, but now he just seems to be doing the same joke over and over and over again. As Shrek in this film, he seemed to be just reading the lines and no feeling was put into it.

Cameron Diaz might as well not have been in this film. Other than the whole Fiona pregnancy thing, there really was no reason for her to be there other than as a nagging wife. I hate to say that because I love Cameron and Fiona, but it just didn’t work this time.

Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas return as the sidekicks Donkey and Puss in Boots, respectively, and actually have some pretty good interaction. However, and I think this is a result of the script, each of their characters seems to not fit into the story after the halfway point. At least, that’s how it seemed to me.

Justin Timberlake provides a fresh face (and voice) as Artie. He was definitely the highlight of the film.

The princesses seem to fit the stereotypical rich girls that you would expect to live in an L.A.-type city. It works for them. I was most impressed with Amy Poehler as Snow White…partially because she had the most lines.

Prince Charming comes into his own as a viable villain here. Obviously, he’s trying to still please his mother, the now deceased Fairy Godmother, and get his (and her) happy ending. He actually does good job at it, and keeps some comic relief and overall buffoonery that you would expect from a non-serious villain.

Eric Idle as Merlin….need I say more? His take on the wizard is reminiscent of the Disney version from The Sword in the Stone, only more eccentric and absent-minded. Typical Idle, though. Too bad, he and John Cleese couldn’t have been reunited in some scenes as kind of a mini- Monty Python type thing. Maybe Merlin could have brought the king back to life, or at least broke the spell. Oh well.

Shrek  and Shrek 2 were both huge hits for Dreamworks, and so was this one, but for me, this just felt like it was made to capitalize on the popularity of the character and not to keep the story moving on or entertain the fans. While there are some entertaining momentshere and there, they are few and far between, and it is for that reason that, as much as I would like to give this film a good rating, it was just average. Sure, you can sit down with your kids and watch it. It’s pretty safe for the family and all, but if you’re looking for the magic the first two films had, you’ll be disappointed.

3 out of 5 stars

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film is divided into chapters, though the chapters themselves often contain several more-or-less unconnected sketches.

  • The Crimson Permanent Assurance, a lengthy introductory film directed by Terry Gilliam. In a satire on globalization, elderly office clerks rebel against their cold, efficient corporate masters at ‘The Permanent Assurance Company’, commandeer their building and turn it into a pirate ship, raiding financial districts in numerous big cities – before falling off the edge of the world.
  • The film proper opens with the six Pythons playing animated fish in a tank, who engage in a brief philosophical conversation. The opening credits then roll.
  • “Part I: The Miracle Of Birth”, comes in two parts. The first involves a woman in labour who is ignored by doctors (Cleese and Chapman), nurses, and eventually the hospital’s administrator (Palin) as they drag in more and more elaborate equipment, including their pride and joy, “the machine that goes PING!”. The second part, subtitled “The Third World”, is set in Yorkshire. It depicts a Roman Catholic couple (Palin and Jones as husband and wife), who can no longer afford to feed their 63 children, a number that has arisen because their religion forbids birth control. They are forced to sell their many offspring for medical experiments. The skit culminates in the musical number “Every Sperm is Sacred”. This satire on the Catholic Church’s attitudes toward contraception and masturbation is followed by one on Protestants: Chapman plays the husband of the household next door, who lectures his wife on their church’s tolerance toward having intercourse for fun, although his frustrated spouse (Idle) points out that they never do.
  • “Part II: Growth And Learning” features a group of public schoolboys attending an Anglican church service (conducted by Palin), which commences with an invented and obscure reading from the Old Testament, followed by a hymn entitled “Oh Lord, Please Don’t Burn Us”. In a subsequent class, they watch in boredom as their teacher (Cleese) gives a sex education lesson, by physically demonstrating techniques with his wife (played by Patricia Quinn). Later, we see a rugby match of students vs. teachers, the ending of which overtly segues into a battlefield in the middle of a war.
  • In “Part III: Fighting Each Other”, a First World War officer (Jones) attempting to rally his men to find cover during an attack is hindered by their insistence on celebrating his birthday, complete with presents and cake. This leads into a lecture on the positive qualities of the military, and a drill sergeant (Palin) trying to lead his men marching up and down the square. There follows a long sketch set during the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War in Natal, in which a decimating attack by Zulus is dismissed in lieu of a far more pressing matter: One of the officers (Idle) has had his leg stolen during the night. The military doctor (Chapman) hypothesizes that a tiger might be the perpetrator (despite the African setting). To recover the leg, a hunting party is formed, which later encounters two suspicious men dressed as two halves of a tiger suit, who attempt to assert their innocence in the matter through a succession of increasingly feeble excuses as to why they are dressed as a tiger.
  • “The Middle Of The Film” is extremely surreal. Introduced by Gilliam dressed as a black man, the viewer is invited to play (by Palin, in drag) “Find The Fish”. A drag queen (Chapman), a gangly playboy (Jones), and an elephant-headed butler challenge the audience. (This scene was shot in the operations floor at the former Battersea Power Station, Wandsworth, with a slight attempt at making it resemble a living room). The elephant-headed butler is a creature from Gilliam’s earlier film Time Bandits. After this, the fish in the tank briefly return, praising the previous scene and commenting on the film so far.
  • “Part IV: Middle Age” features a middle-aged American couple taking a vacation to a bizarre resort (including Gilliam dressed in drag, and an authentic medieval dungeon with Hawaiian music). Having nothing to talk about, they order a conversation about the “meaning of life”. Being apparently quite intellectually uncurious, they send it back, complaining “this conversation isn’t very good.”
  • In “Part V: Live Organ Transplants”, two paramedics arrive at the doorstep of a card-carrying organ donor, Mr. Brown (Gilliam, supposedly as a Jewish Rastafarian with a Hitler moustache), to claim his liver. Still being alive, he initially refuses. Not to be deterred, the paramedics burst through the door and brutally disembowel him, removing the organ “under condition of death”. Mrs. Brown (Jones) goes to make a cup of tea for one of the paramedics, who asks her if she’d consider donating her liver. She is unsure. To convince her, the paramedic introduces her to the man in a pink suit (Idle) who lives inside her fridge to sing her a song about the wonders of the universe, resulting in her realizing the futility of her existence and agreeing to the request. This is followed by an attempt by the “Crimson Permanent Assurance” to take over the film proper, which is dealt with by dropping a large skyscraper on the Assurance building.
  • Part VI: The Autumn Years”, is also split into two stages. The first is introduced with a Noel Coward-esque fop (Idle) performing the song “Isn’t It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?”. Following this, Mr. Creosote, an impossibly fat man (Jones), waddles into a decorous restaurant, swears at the French waiter (Cleese), and vomits copiously, into buckets if available. After making room, he eats an enormous meal, and finally, despite protestations that he is now full, he is persuaded to eat one last “waffer”-thin mint, whereupon he explodes, showering the restaurant with human entrails. Many of the other patrons are so disgusted and horrified that they themselves throw up. After this comes the second stage of this part, “Part VI-B”, which contains two philosophical monologues. The first is delivered by a cleaning lady (Jones), entirely in rhyme, culminating with “I feel that life’s a game, you sometimes win or lose / And though I may be down right now, at least I don’t work for Jews”. Her reward for this offensive comment is to have one of the buckets of vomit dumped on her head by the waiter, who then offers a profuse apology for her racism. The second is delivered by another French waiter (Idle), who leads the camera on a long walk through the streets to the house where he grew up, and delivers his personal philosophy: “The world is a beautiful place. You must try and make everyone happy, and bring peace and content with you everywhere you go. And so I became a waiter… well, it’s not much of a philosophy I know, but well… fuck you, I can live my own life in my own way if I want to – fuck off.”
  • “Part VII: Death” opens with a funeral setup. After this, we see Arthur Charles Herbert Runcie MacAdam Jarrett (Chapman), a criminal convicted of making gratuitous sexist jokes in a film, killed in a manner of his choosing: He is chased off a cliff by topless women in brightly-colored crash helmets. A brief animation of suicidal leaves falling off a tree leads into “Social Death”, in which a group of people at an isolated country house are visited by the Grim Reaper (Cleese), who knocks on the door. Not knowing who he is, the dinner guests spend a lot of time arguing with him before finally being persuaded to shuffle off their mortal coils. ‘Heaven’ turns out to be the resort from Part IV. When they enter, all of the characters from the film who have died throughout its course (the Roman-Catholic children, the topless women, the liver-less Brown couple, Mr. Creosote, etc.) are already seated, and all are then serenaded by a Tony Bennett-like lounge singer (Chapman) with the monumentally cheesy song “Christmas In Heaven”, a parody of Las Vegas-style shows, complete with women wearing plastic breasts in Santa Claus outfits and a gleaming-toothed lounge singer (played by Graham Chapman) telling all those present that in Heaven, it’s Christmas every day, forever. (According to the DVD commentary, the women were supposed to be topless but the female costume designer, who was against the original idea in principle, convinced the Pythons that fake, uniformly sized breasts would be funnier than the disparately sized, natural breasts of the dancers.)
  • “The End Of The Film”, in which the female character from “The Middle of the Film” (Palin) concludes the matter by reading out ‘the meaning of life’ (introducing it by saying “It’s nothing very special really”):
“Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

She finishes by promising gratuitous pictures of penises “to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy”.

  • Finally, the film ends with part of the title sequence from Flying Circus (itself rife with the aforementioned gratuitous phallic imagery) – together with a portion of the theme music; Sousa’s Liberty Bell – playing on a TV set drifting off into space, before the “Galaxy Song” plays over the end credits, ending in a letter of thanks to all the fish who participated in the film, and a wish for peace and a better future for fish everywhere.

REVIEW:

As mush as I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you would think that I would have seen more Monty Python films, however that is not the case, but after seeing this, I’m going to have to something about that.

This film is quite hilarious, though it doesn’t have a real plot, but rather a them that ties the pseudo-sketches together.

I was a bit confused and perplexed by the opening sequence, though, yet I enjoyed it. This film follows the same pattern. There is a lot of it that you have to think in order to enjoy, but its still quite pleasurable.

The best part was the restaurant scene near the end and the lady in the middle and end when she went on the rants. Being a Catholic, I also enjoyed the satire in “The Miracle of Birth”.

If you’re a fan of Monty Python or sketch comedy, then you’ll love this film. It is very funny and from my understanding, it is the Monty Python troupe on the top of their game.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2008 by Mystery Man

 

Who is Monty Python anyway? lol

PLOT:

King Arthur is recruiting his Knights of the Round Table throughout England. He is frustrated at every turn by anarcho-syndicalist peasants, a Black Knight that refuses to give up despite losing both his arms and legs, and guards that are more concerned with the flight patterns of swallows than their lord and master. Finally he meets up with Sir Bedevere the Wise, Sir Lancelot the Brave, Sir Galahad the Pure (also called “the Chaste”), Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot, “and the aptly-named Sir Not-Appearing-in-this-Film.” They declare themselves the Knights of the Round Table. When ‘riding’ to Camelot, they are given a quest by God (represented by an animated photograph of legendary cricket figure WG Grace) to find the Holy Grail.

They encounter a castle with a Frenchman who randomly taunts them with names like ‘Daffy English knnnnnnigghits’ and odd insults such as, “I fart in your general direction!” and “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” The Knights then retreat, weathering a barrage of livestock. Arthur decides that he and his knights should search for the Grail individually. After they split up, Sir Robin travels through a forest with his favourite minstrels, and encounters a Three-Headed Giant, Galahad follows a Grail-shaped light to the perils of Castle Anthrax (the girls of which are very interested in having oral sex with him), Sir Lancelot massacres a wedding at Swamp Castle, and Arthur and Bedevere encounter the dreaded Knights who say Ni, who want a shrubbery. They each overcome their individual perils (usually by “bravely running away”) and reunite to face a bleak and terrible winter, the happenings of which are told in the form of a Gilliam animation. After this they venture further to a pyromaniac enchanter named “Tim,” who takes them to a cave guarded by a killer rabbit.

After killing the vicious Rabbit of Caerbannog with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, the knights face the Legendary Black Beast of Aaargh in another animated scene, escaping this peril after the animator suffers a fatal heart attack. Their final task is to cross the Bridge of Death, which is guarded by “the old man from scene 24.” Only Arthur, Bedevere, and Lancelot survive to arrive at Castle Aaargh, whereupon they face the French taunter once more and find that the whole thing has been a wild goose chase. The film ends abruptly when a group of modern police (for the 1970s) interrupt the climactic battle scene to arrest Bedevere and King Arthur for the murder of the “famous historian,” who was earlier seen cut down by a unidentified knight while he was presenting a television program on a topic from the film’s supposed era.

REVIEW:

This is one of those movies that has gained cult status over the years. It’s not very hard to see why. There are many memorable lines from the film. Why, I even had a roommate who had most of the lines programmed to play when certain commands or actions were performed on his computer.

The film moves along at a pretty brisk pace, and doesn’t lag, which is a good thing for those of us with short attention spans. There are plenty of funny moments, after all this is a movie made by a comedy troupe. It would pretty much suck if it weren’t. The debates about the air speed velocity of swallows at the beginning may seem pointless, but as the movie moves on, you see that little bit of information, comes in very handy.

The only issue I have with the film regards the reporter that was killed and all the hoopla surrounding his murder including the investigation. i know it was meant as another gag or what-have-you, but I just didn’t care for it.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars