Archive for ghosts

Casper

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this Brad Silberling-helmed comedy, Bill Pullman plays James Harvey, a ghost doctor hired by Carrigan Crittendon (Cathy Moriarty) to rid Whipstaff Manor of spirits so she can find a treasure trove rumored to be hidden there. But her plan backfires when James’s daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) befriends Casper, the friendly phantom who inhabits the place along with The Ghostly Trio, who disdain humans. Includes games, featurettes and more.

What people are saying:

“This doesn’t usually happen to me, but 15 minutes before the end of Casper I suddenly realized that if I didn’t take a deep breath, I was going to start sobbing.” 4 stars

“Three stars. Why is this worth watching? Christina Ricci. She pretty much carries the film, and does a great job of it. And the cameos. Don Novello, Dan Aykroyd, Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield and Mel Gibson all turn in howlingly funny snippets. It gets thin after that. Cathy Moriarty and Eric Idle are both okay. But that’s pretty weak praise for two usually brilliant actors. And Bill Pullman was just a guy. The narrative is about as by-the-numbers as it possibly could be. But the house looks cool. And the ghost graphics were pretty nifty. Also the film doesn’t trash it’s namesake. Casper has been around for a long time, and he has a pretty well-defined character. Hollywood comic-book movies often ignore that sort of history, and end up making glitzy garbage as a result. They also tend to worry more about effects than story. I didn’t see those problems here. It’s simple to follow, it’s pretty funny (with both slapstick and subtle humor), and it taught my seven year old at least one new swear-word. Not a great film, but not bad” 3 stars

“This version of Casper goes along okay at first, then picks up steam when the Victorian sci-fi sets appear. A decent story then becomes exciting and fun. I leaned toward three stars early on, then toward four, then finally a little past four when I took into consideration all the great extras, and even better, all the cameos. Christina Ricci avoids the angst her role could have fallen into, which I suspect is a credit to the screenplay. Great cinematography and effects enhance what’s already good. This is one rental you’ll want to rent no matter how scared of ghosts you might be.” 4 stars

Casper is a surprisingly good film, one that might look a bit bland and generic around its edges but that finds a much deeper, much more welcoming, much more tenderhearted center. The characters are simple but strongly developed and very well performed. The story isn’t all that novel but the emotions that flow from it are genuine. The special effects hold up very well even two decades after its release. Casper may not be a classic, but it holds up to repeat viewings and never loses its outer charm and inner dramatic appeal.” 4 star

“Considering I’ve never been a HUGE fan of Casper (then again who is these days?) and considering the film doesn’t have the best reputation for an animated adaptation, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but I was surprised at how good I thought the film was. Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci both do decent jobs and you can sense the relationship of father and daughter with the two, and the kid who played Casper does a good job at pulling off his personality, but the characters that steal the show are the ghostly trio, Stretch played by Joe Nipote, Stinky played by Veteran VA Joe Alaskey (Bugs, Daffy, Tweety, & Sylvester from 2000 to 2006), and Fatso played by Everybody Loves Raymond actor Brad Garrett. Not only are all three of these guys entertaining as hell as these characters, but they make them each funny, give them distinct voices, and make each character just mean but the likable and funny kind of mean. Also the film has a few very good cameo moments and does have a good sense of humor which considering most Cartoon to film adaptations usually have the same humor of juvenile fart jokes or other jokes, but no this film did try a number of jokes and a lot of them actually work? 4 stars

The Sixth Sense

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this chilling psychological thriller, eight-year-old Cole Sear is haunted by a dark secret: He is visited by ghosts. A helpless and reluctant channel, Cole is terrified by threatening visitations from those with unresolved problems who appear from the shadows. Confused by his paranormal powers, Cole is too young to understand his purpose and too terrified to tell anyone about his torment, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe. As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the ominous truth about Cole’s supernatural abilities, the consequence for client and therapist is a jolt that awakens them both to something harrowing — and unexplainable.

What people are saying:

“M. Night Shayamalan’s The Sixth Sense is a twisty ghost story with all the style of a classical Hollywood picture, but all the chills of a modern horror flick” 3 1/2 stars

“M Night Shyamalan has fashioned a modern classic here, a chilly, intelligent, emotional ghost story that relies not on the obligatory gore and knifeplay for its many shocks but on glimpses of an afterlife that’s anything but angels and harps.” 5 stars

“Everyone raves about the twist ending in this movie and how it is so unpredictable. For me it was the exact opposite, the ending was exactly how I predicted it (Like all Shyamalan films). This didn’t detract from the story in any way, in fact I think it added to it. There are subtle yet obvious clues throughout which cause me to be surprised at all the people that couldn’t see the ending coming. All that aside, this is a fantastic movie and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers with “twist” endings.” 5 stars

“Refreshing to see a 2-HR movie for a change without 30 minutes of filler. Haley Joel Osmet was very good. Twist at end surprised me, which earns it points. See too many movies to be surprised very often. This was good, but not Best Picture fodder. It was not better than The Talented Mr. Riley. Guess it was the box office talking. Also not better than The Hurricane.”

“With fantastically scary moments and an amazingly well done double-twist ending, it’s hard to top the horror of Sixth Sense… regardless of your feeling for M. Night Shyamalan. Though many dislike his movies, this one is masterfully plotted, suspenseful and emotionally powerful. Perhaps most impressive about this 1990s horror classic is it’s thought provoking take on the afterlife, a realistic depth not typically seen in the genre. Well acted and intellectually scary, this is one horror film most will love.” 4 stars

The Haunted Mansion

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jim Evers is a workaholic real estate agent whose continuous pursuit for new deals leaves very little time with his family. He misses his wedding anniversary with his wife Sara, but to make amends, suggesting going on vacation to a nearby lake. Beforehand, Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the Louisiana bayou. Eager to make a deal, Jim drags Sara and his children Megan and Michael to the mansion. They meet its owner Edward Gracey, his stern butler Ramsley, and other staff members Emma and Ezra. When a storm floods the nearby river, Gracey allows the Evers to stay the night, though everyone save Jim is unhappy with the idea. Ramsley takes Jim down to the library to have a talk with Gracey, but while he waits, Jim gets trapped in a secret passage.

Megan and Michael encounter a spectral orb and follow it up to the attic, where they find a portrait of a woman resembling Sara. Sara herself talks with Gracey in the library, who explains his grandfather hanged himself after his lover Elizabeth Henshaw poisoned herself despite their plans to wed. Jim meets Madame Leota, a gypsy woman’s ghost whose head is encased in a crystal ball, but she scares him away. Jim runs into his children, Emma and Ezra, and returns to Madame Leota for answers about Elizabeth’s likeness to Sara. It is revealed everyone in the mansion are ghosts, cursed a century ago by Gracey and Elizabeth’s suicides and can only go to the afterlife when they are reunited, and Gracey believes Sara is his lover back from the dead. Madame Leota sends the Evers off to the mansion’s expansive cemetery to find a key which will reveal the truth behind Elizabeth’s unusual death. Jim and Megan venture into a crypt where they find the key, but disturb its undead residents. They escape with help from Michael. Madame Leota then instructs them to find a trunk in the attic, Jim unlocking it to find a letter written by Elizabeth to Gracey, revealing she wanted to marry, revealing she was murdered. Ramsley suddenly appears, revealing he poisoned Elizabeth to prevent Gracey from abandoning his heritage. To hide the truth, he traps the children in a trunk and throws Jim out of the house, enchanting the house so Jim cannot break in.

Gracey and Sara enter the ballroom. He asks Sarah if she can recognize him which confuses her. Desperate, he insists to Sara that she is his beloved Elizabeth from long ago. The room fills with ballroom dancing ghosts of the past which causes Sara to flee from the room. As she runs up the stairs Gracey reveals his true ghost self to Sara begging her to understand and that she really is Elizabeth and that they can finally be together. She shouts that she is not Elizabeth and slams the door in his face. Gracey begins to believe that Sarah can’t Elizabeth because she doesn’t remember him. But Ramsley insists that it is her and that in time she will remember. Ramsley tells Sara to get ready for her wedding to Gracey. Sarah refuses but Ramsley blackmails her into marrying Gracey in return for her children’s safety. Encouraged by Madame Leota, Jim drives his car through the mansion’s conservatory, rescues his children, and stops Sara and Gracey’s wedding ceremony where he gives Elizabeth’s real letter to Gracey. Gracey confronts Ramsley, who rages at his master’s apparent selfishness for loving Elizabeth, and summons wraiths to kill the group. However, a fiery dragon emerges from the ballroom fireplace and drags Ramsley down to hell for eternal damnation for his crimes. Sara suddenly collapses, having been poisoned by Ramsley during the wedding, only for the spectral orb encountered by the children to appear and possess Sara, revealed to be Elizabeth’s ghost. Elizabeth and Gracey reunite, and Sara is revived. With the curse lifted, Gracey gives the Evers the mansion’s deed and departs to the afterlife with Elizabeth, Emma, Ezra, and the other ghosts.

The Evers head off on a proper vacation, accompanied by Madame Leota, and four singing busts strapped to the back of their car. In a post-credits scene, Madame Leota bids farewell to the audience, inviting them to join the dead using dialogue from the Disneyland attraction.

REVIEW:

Anyone that has ever been to Disneyworld, or knows anything about Disney, is at least somewhat familiar with the fact that this film The Haunted Mansion, much in the same vein as the first Pirates of the Caribbean was an attempt to bring the ride to life on the big screen. However, it wasn’t the huge success that some assumed it would be, but why is that, besides not have a mega budget?

What is this about?

When Jim Evers, his wife and kids encounter a ghost while visiting a haunted house during a job interview, they get a crash course in family values.

What did I like?

Tragic story. Well, we can’t have a big haunted house without some tragic history, right? In this case, the well to do owner of the house has his beloved taken away from him through an apparent suicide that, from what I can tell, closed to door for all spirits to pass through on those grounds. Truly this is a tragic love story. Imagine if Scarlett O’Hara hung herself and Rhett Butler was heartbroken for centuries about her death. So much so, that he stays and searches for his lost love to be reincarnated.

Kneel before Stamp. Terrence Stamp can really play the stoic villain. Some forget that he was the iconic villain in Superman II, General Zod. This character calls for him to be a proper British butler and also a delusional ghost who takes his duties too far, I’ll leave it at that. This film isn’t known for being scary, but Stamp makes an attempt to add in a bit of haunting that it severely needed.

Ghostly appearance. I was gearing up to complain about the way the special effects in this film look a bit…unkept, but then I noticed something about the ghosts. They have the appearance reminiscent of the ride. Say what you will about this film, at least it is making an attempt to stick to its roots. Can the other films based on rides say that? Ok…maybe Tower of Terror, but that was specifically made as an advertisement for that particular ride. I have to tip my hat to the effects department for being cheap and having it work.

What didn’t I like?

Haunted? I know that this is a Disney film about a Disney ride and all that jazz, but should something that has the word haunted in the title, actually make you feel a little bit scared in a place or two? I’m not talking full-on horror, obviously (though with the stuff that comes out today, this might actually fit in), but rather something more along the lines of a jump scare here and there. Terrence Stamp was doing a good job with his random appearances scaring the family, but that wasn’t toward the audience. I would have liked for there to have been something more haunting about this haunted mansion.

Poker head. Jennifer Tilly has had quite the interesting career. However, these days she is known mostly for her distinctive voice. Can you imagine a film starring her and Joey Lauren Adams? Oh…and get Macy Gray to do the soundtrack! Ugh! That would kill us all! Anyway, Tilly’s voice is not the only thing that gets her noticed, as she has quite the attractive body. I don’t need to tell you that there are a couple of things that can’t help but be noticed. With that said, why take away Jennifer’s body and make her a head in a jar? Seems to me that her character could have conjured up a body to help with the ongoings in the climax, rather than stay in the crashed car trapped by an airbag. I’m just saying!

Eddie, oh Eddie. Many wonder where it is that we can pinpoint the moment that Eddie Murphy’s career started to take a downward spiral and he lost his way, so to speak. This is often considered that point. As far as performances go, yeah, this isn’t Murphy on the top of his game. I’ve long said that he belongs making comedies where he can just let f-bombs fly left and right. Since this is a family picture, he had to struggle to say “crap”. Personally, I don’t think this was the film for Murphy. He did an ok job, but someone more used to doing films like this would have fit in more.

The Haunted Mansion is one of those films that you forget exists because if so overshadowed by the success of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates franchise. Still, there were people who went out to see this. No, it wasn’t a huge blockbuster, but it did earn double the budget back. Will this make anyone want to go ride the ride? Perhaps, but I don’t see anyone having nightmares after watching the picture. Do I recommend this? With Halloween coming up next month, I am sure  you’re looking for something to show early on in your party. Well, that’s what this is for! That and background noise. Use in good health!

3 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Beetlejuice

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Barbara and Adam Maitland decide to spend their vacation decorating their idyllic New England country home. While the young couple are driving back from town, Barbara swerves to avoid a dog wandering the roadway and crashes through a covered bridge, plunging into the river below. They return home and, based on such subtle clues as their lack of reflection in the mirror and their discovery of a Handbook for the Recently Deceased, begin to suspect they might be dead. Adam attempts to leave the house to retrace his steps but finds himself in a strange, otherworldly plane covered in sand and populated by enormous sandworms.

After fleeing back into their home, the Maitlands’ peace is soon disrupted when their house is sold and obnoxious new residents, the Deetzes, arrive from New York City. The new family consists of Charles, a former real estate developer; his second wife Delia, an aspiring sculptor; and his goth daughter Lydia from his first marriage. Under the guidance of interior designer Otho, the Deetzes transform the house into a gaudy piece of pastel-toned modern art. The Maitlands seek help from their afterlife case worker, Juno, who informs them that they must remain in the house for 125 years. If they want the Deetzes out of the house, it is up to them to scare them away. The Maitlands’ attempts at scaring the family away prove utterly ineffective.

Although the Maitlands remain invisible to Charles and Delia, their daughter Lydia can see the ghost couple and befriends them. Against Juno’s advice, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Beetlejuice, a freelance “bio-exorcist” ghost, to scare away the Deetzes. However, Beetlejuice quickly offends the Maitlands with his crude and morbid demeanor, and they reconsider hiring him, though too late to stop him from wreaking havoc on the Deetzes. The small town’s charm and the supernatural events inspire Charles to pitch his boss Maxie Dean on transforming the town into a tourist hot spot, but Maxie wants proof of the ghosts. Using the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, Otho conducts a séance and summons Adam and Barbara, but they begin to decay, Otho having unwittingly performed an exorcism. Horrified, Lydia summons Beetlejuice and agrees to marry him if he saves them. Beetlejuice disposes of Maxie, his wife, and Otho, then prepares a wedding before a ghastly minister. The Maitlands intervene before the ceremony is completed, with Barbara riding the sandworm through the house to devour Beetlejuice.

Finally, the Deetzes and Maitlands agree to live in harmony in the house. Beetlejuice, meanwhile, is seen waiting in the afterlife reception area, where he angers a witch doctor, who shrinks his head

REVIEW:

Earlier this week, I think it may have been yesterday, Michael Keaton announced that he was “in talks” for Beetlejuice 2. This prompted me to dust off Beetlejuice and offer up some of my thoughts. Over the years, it seems as if this film becomes more and more popular, and with good reason.

What is this about?

A young couple who drowned return to their house as poltergeists but must enlist the help of a goofy ghost to put a scare in the rude new owners. Unfortunately, he’s got a diabolical agenda of his own.

What did I like?

Dark can be funny. This is categorized as a dark comedy. It is amazing how much that term has changed over the years, as films like this and to a lesser extent Death Becomes Her, were actually funny. On the other side of things, today’s dark comedies such as Ghost World and Young Adult don’t really conjure up laughs. The laughs in this film are plenty, thanks to sight gags and an outstanding performance from the titular character who was brought to life by Michael Keaton.

Beetlejuice. This film would be nothing if the title character wasn’t memorable. Keaton is over the top and it works to perfection for Beetlejuice. A mixture of maniacal comedian and arrogant, murderous “ghost with the most”. Since taking the lead role in Batman, we haven’t seen Keaton do roles like this, so it is nice to see him back in the days when he would get nuts and let it all hang loose. It is a thing of beauty to see. If the sequel does happen, I hope we get to see this Keaton again.

Afterlife. The way the afterlife is portrayed is not something I look forward to. I hate waiting rooms! However, the imaginative way in which each person was show is impressive. Also, the stop motion effects for the ghostly effects, even Beetlejuice was using his powers to scare away the Deetzes, and leave us not forget about the sandworms!

What didn’t I like?

Beetlejuice. Although this film is far from being a deep character study, I would have liked to have known a little bit more about Beetlejuice, such as what era he died in, why you have to say his name 3 times, his time with Juno, etc. Perhaps the sequel will cover this but for now we can just guess. The only clue we have is a teaser line in which he mentions being around during the Black Plague.

Saturn. So, according to this film, Saturn is a planet in which the afterlife send their outcasts, I guess you would say. When Geena Davis’ character tries to step out of the house, she is transported to the desert world with the sandworms. Also, Beetlejuice mentions he has been there a few times. My issue is, why Saturn? Couldn’t there have been somewhere on Earth or some alternate dimension?

Lydia. Maybe it was just her character, but Winona Ryder came off as wooden and uninteresting to me. That is saying something when you think about how Lydia is supposedly the liaison, if you will, between the film and audience. By all accounts, she should have been the best character in the film, outside of Beetlejuice, but I just wasn’t a fan of her. Perhaps it was just  that she was another teen in a long line of annoying teenagers. Something different and unique would have been to let her character be a little girl, but maybe that’s just my odd idea.

I really had almost forgotten how much I love Beetlejuice. My issues with the film are minor, and it cracks me up every time. Tim Burton has always impressed me with his use of stop-motion in his films and the decision to use Harry Belafonte’s music may have been an odd one, but I don’t think anyone has questioned it since the film’s final release. So, do I recommend this film? Yes, enthusiastically yes! This is most definitely a film that you should see before you die, so check it out ASAP!!!

5 out of 5 stars

Tower of Terror

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins in Halloween 1939, revolving around the fate of five people – singer Carolyn Crosson, her boyfriend Gilbert London, child actress Sally Shine (who is modeled after child actress Shirley Temple), her nanny Emeline Partridge, and bellhop Dewey Todd, they were invited to be at the Tip Top Party located on the hotel’s twelfth floor. The elevator suddenly got stuck at the eleventh floor, then at exactly 8:05 pm, lightning strikes the building which causes the elevator to collapse, and the five people mysteriously vanish..

The scene then travels to almost sixty years later, when newspaper reporter Buzzy Crocker and his niece Anna meet up with an old woman named Abigail Gregory, Abigail claims that Emeline Partridge, nanny of child actress Sally Shine, orchestrated the incident through an evil spell because she was annoyed over the girl’s spoiled attitude. However, the spell backfired, trapping the guests as spirits in the earthly realm inside the hotel. Abigail says she can reverse the spell if the elevator is repaired and the team finds something that belonged to each of the hotel guests, then repeat the guests’ actions in the elevator on Halloween. This will free their spirits from the hotel. They then enlist the help of Chris “Q” Todd, a car mechanic and Dewey’s grandson, who, despite being initially reluctant, volunteers to help his deceased grandfather and the four other guests.

The team realize that Abigail was the one responsible for the disappearance of the hotel guests on the elevator, including her younger sister Sally, born Sally Gregory, out of personal vendetta and jealousy against her sister’s booming career. The final straw being the party, to which she wasn’t invited, having been set on her birthday, which no one remembered . Buzzy then realizes that what they did actually gave Abigail the means to complete her spell. The team then rushes back to the hotel, but they are too late.

Meanwhile, the ghosts board the elevator. Anna rushes in as well, trying to keep them from boarding. Sally manages to run out of the elevator, joining the living, but Anna gets trapped as the passenger elevator moves up. They then confront Abigail, who then tearfully admits her wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the elevator continues to move up, only to once again get stuck on the eleventh floor, with only minutes left before history repeats itself. Sally, wondering what the commotion was about, joins the group, and Abigail gets frightened. When asked by Buzzy what would she say to Abigail, Sally says that the whole party was meant to be a surprise birthday for her older sister, and apologizes for not being able to get to the party. Sally even kept the present she wanted to give to Abby, a bracelet with their names on it, but couldn’t since she could not get to the party. Abby, Buzzy, Jill, Q and Sally then board the service elevator, catching up with the others on the eleventh floor. Anna manages to escape from an emergency escape hatch, rejoining Buzzy and the others in their elevator. At exactly 8:05pm, the lightning strikes the hotel again, and both elevators plummet downwards. Amidst the chaos, Sally forgives her sister, and as they hold hands, they both turn into a shower of gold dust, breaking the curse and stopping both elevators just as they were about to hit the ground floor.

The groups are saved, and they all go to the Tip-Top Club on the top floor, restored to its former glory. One by one, the ghosts then ascend to Heaven, along with the other partygoers. Abigail, young once more, appears, meeting up once more with her sister, and thanks her for the present. The Gregory sisters then join hands and vanish into the night, breaking the curse on the hotel. With the spell broken, the Tower is re-opened to the public, with Q taking charge.

REVIEW:

Back in March, I went to Disneyworld and one of the rides I rode was the “Tower of Terror” (thank my boss’ super-hot sister for getting me to forget my fear of heights and getting on that thing). I really was digging the 30s vibe that was used as decoration and also the Twilight Zone video that was used to set up the story of the ride. I came back to find those episodes, only to be disappointed that they weren’t real. I did find Tower of Terror. This is a made for TV movie of the mid-90s, so I guess the question is how bad/cheesy is it?

What is this about?

Steve Guttenberg stars as a tabloid reporter who wants to return to mainstream journalism; all he needs is a big story. He gets one when he happens upon the mystery surrounding the disappearance of five people at an old luxury hotel in the 1930s. The locals believe that the ghosts of those five people now haunt the hotel.

What did I like?

Location. As you can imagine, a good chunk of this film takes place at the hotel. I imagined they would have just found some way to make a Tower of Terror replication, but it appears that they used the actual ride for the set. Considering that this was made for no other reason than to advertise the ride, that was some inspired scouting. Not to mention the fact that they probably saved some money.

Back and forth. As any avid reader of mine will tell you, I’m a huge fan of all things retro, swing, 30s, etc. This starts in 1939 at a hotel party, complete wit big band playing swing and a Shirley Temple inspired character. I was eating this up and wishing they would have stayed there the whole time. However, that wouldn’t have worked, as they needed to be ghosts and the old woman needed to be…well, old. The flashbacks appeased me, though, and the present day stuff wasn’t too bad, so it was a nice balance.

What didn’t I like?

Connect the dots. As I said before, the purpose of this film is that it is propaganda for the ride that had just opened when this was released. If you’ve ever been on that ride, you know that there is a story there. Parts of it are kept in this plot, but I have to wonder, if Disney had the right to use the Twilight Zone name, footage, etc, why couldn’t they have the same story that we see on the ride and expand upon it, rather than coming up with this, which was almost too sweet to stomach.

Magic storm. There is a plotline in here involving a jealous sister and magic that caused the elevator accident that fateful night. I think this was part of the attempt to make this a totally separate entity than the ride, but it just comes off as uninspired to me. A mechanical malfunction caused by a freak lightning bolt works just as well. Now, if they must bring in magic, that could have been used for how they still walk the earth. Hell, one of them even gets hired as an actress! I just feel they could have done something more interesting with the witchcraft angle, if they must use it.

For a made-for-TV movie, Tower of Terror is much better than you would imagine. It even passes the test of time…for now. A teenaged Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg as well as the gorgeous Nia Peeples and Melora Hardin star in this family light-hearted supernatural thriller, but it is the hotel and the elevator that should be getting top billing. This is not a great film, but it is sweet enough that you can enjoy with the whole family. I recommend it based on that, but if you’re looking for something on the ride, best to look for Youtube videos and enjoy people’s screams.

3 1/4 out of 5 stars

The Frighteners

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1990, architect Frank Bannister loses his wife Debra in a car accident. He gives up his profession, letting his unfinished “dream house” sit incomplete for years. Following the accident, Frank gains the power to see ghosts and befriends three: Cyrus, a 1970s gangster, Stuart, a 1950s nerd, and the Judge, a gunslinger from the Old West. The ghosts haunt houses in the area to accumulate work for Frank’s ghostbusting business; Frank then “exorcises” the houses for a fee. Most locals see him as a con man.

Frank cons local health nut Ray Lynskey and his wife Lucy, a physician. Ray dies of a heart attack not long after. An encounter with his ghost leads Frank to discover that an entity representing himself as the Grim Reaper is killing people and marking numbers on their foreheads that only the psychic can see. Frank’s wife Debra had a similar number when she was found.

Because Frank can see the numbers ahead of time, he can foretell the murders, but this puts him under suspicion with the police, even Sheriff Walt Perry, who is usually patient with Frank. He calls in FBI agent Milton Dammers. Highly paranoid, obsessive and disturbed from years of undercover work, Dammers is convinced that Frank is psychically responsible for the killings. Frank is captured and detained after the town’s newspaper editor-in-chief Magda Rees-Jones is killed – she has previously publishing articles attacking him. During the confusion of the arrest, the Judge “dies” when he tries to protect Frank from the Reaper.

Lucy investigates the murders and becomes a target of the Grim Reaper. She is attacked while visiting Frank in jail, but they escape with the help of Cyrus and Stuart, who are both dissolved in the process. Frank wants to commit suicide to stop the Grim Reaper. Lucy helps Frank have a near-death experience by putting him into hypothermia and using barbiturates to stop his heart. Dammers abducts Lucy revealing that he had been a victim of Charles Manson and his “Family” in 1969.

In his ghostly form, Frank confronts the Grim Reaper and discovers that he is the ghost of Johnny Bartlett, a psychiatric hospital orderly who killed 12 people about 32 years earlier, before being captured, convicted, and executed. Patricia Bradley, then a teenager, was accused as his accomplice, although she escaped the death penalty due to her underage status. Lucy resuscitates Frank and they visit Patricia. Unknown to them, Patricia is still in love with Bartlett and on friendly, homicidal terms with Bartlett’s ghost. Lucy and Frank trap Bartlett’s spirit in his urn, which Patricia has kept. The pair make for the chapel of the now-abandoned psychiatric hospital hoping to send Bartlett’s ghost to Hell.

Patricia and Dammers chase them through the ruins. Dammers throws the ashes away, releasing Bartlett’s ghost again before Patricia kills him. Bartlett’s ghost and Patricia hunt down Frank and Lucy. Frank realizes that Bartlett’s ghost, with Patricia’s help, was responsible for his wife’s death and the number on her brow.

Out of bullets, Patricia strangles Frank to death, but Frank in spirit form rips Patricia’s spirit from her body, forcing Bartlett to follow them. Bartlett grabs Patricia’s ghost, while Frank makes it to Heaven, where he is reunited with Cyrus and Stuart along with his wife Debra. Bartlett and Patricia’s spirits claim they will now go back to claim more lives, but the portal to Heaven quickly changes to a demonic looking appearance, and they are both dragged to Hell. Frank learns it is not yet his time and is sent back to his body, as Debra’s spirit tells him to “be happy.”

Frank and Lucy fall in love. Lucy is now able to see ghosts as well. Frank later begins demolishing the unfinished dream house and building a life with Lucy while the ghost of Dammers is riding around in the sheriff’s car.

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago, AMC was showing The Frighteners as part of some scary marathon they were having at a time that wasn’t Halloween. I can’t remember what else was shown, but I know that Fright Night was shown either before or after this. I didn’t get the chance to watch for whatever reason, but I did say I was going to eventually get to it and, well, you get the picture.

What is this about?

Blending humor and horror, director Peter Jackson’s outlandish tale centers on shady psychic detective Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox), who uses his ability to communicate with the dead to boost his business. But when a sinister spirit is unleashed and members of the community are mysteriously killed, the P.I. — with the help of a comely widow (Trini Alvarado) — must use his powers to get to the bottom of the supernatural slayings.

What did I like?

Balance. Horror comedies seem to be the type of films that everyone either love or hate, depending on if they swing toward the horror or comedy side of thing more. In this case, I believe we have a good balance between the two genres in this film, thanks to some good performances from the cast and decent direction from those on the other side of the camera.

Question. As the paranoid FBI agent, Jeffrey Combs is great. He actually reminds me of some shifty gangster turned stool pigeon from those old gangster movies, but that may be because of the hair. I wonder if he used this character as a basis for his voicing of The Question in Justice League Unlimited years later, because they have very similar timbres, except Questions isn’t insane…at least not in the same way.

Plot. I’m a little shaky as to my opinion on the plot, but if it gives an excuse to have a bunch of ghosts running around, then you can’t really complain, I suppose. The way the film climaxes is pretty nice. As a matter of fact that whole final sequence in the asylum (when did asylums become so scary, btw?) is a big payoff with all the shooting, stabbing, falling elevators, decaying floors and whatnot.

What didn’t I like?

Length. Can this be? Peter Jackson directed a film that was under 3 hrs? Even better, it doesn’t have that stretched out, padded feeling. Or does it? For me, at nearly 2 hrs, I felt this was a bit too long. Cut out a good 15-30 minutes and this would have been just fine, but that didn’t happen and we get this. I suppose it could be worse, though.

Newspaper. There seems to be some animosity between Michael J. Fox’s character and the editor of the local paper. At a couple of points in the film, I thought she was going to have something to do with the murders, or at least come back as a ghost the way the husband did earlier in the film.

Effects. For 1996, these aren’t exactly bad effects, but the Grim Reaper stuff still seemed rather cheap. Maybe I’m looking at it through modern eyes, but that whole computer grease look didn’t work, especially since a few years earlier liquid metal was done so convincingly in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, a technique that still stands up here in 2013, so there’s no excuse!

Now that I’ve watched both, I can say without a doubt that this was a heavy influence on Paranorman. With a title like The Frighteners, the movie poster, and the way a good 60% of this flick play out, one would think is it some truly scary film, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, this is one of those Halloween party films you put in while your guests are arriving, so that you can warm up before the scary “main event” films. That being said, for what it is, this isn’t a bad film at all. I just feel it needs a little work to be better. Does that mean I don’t like it? Of course not! As a matter of fact, I actually recommend it, so give it a go, eh?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past stars Matthew McConaughey as Connor Mead, a famous photographer and confirmed womanizer. He takes a break from his playboy lifestyle to attend his brother’s wedding, where he becomes reacquainted with Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner), the only girl who ever captured his heart. After Connor delivers a drunken speech at the rehearsal dinner where he says that love isn’t real, he’s met in the bathroom by the ghost of his uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), a Hefner-esque horndog who taught Connor everything he knows about picking up chicks. Uncle Wayne informs Connor that, over the course of the evening, he’ll be visited by three ghosts who will lead him through his romantic past, present, and future

The first ghost to visit Connor is the “Ghost of Girlfriends Past” in the form of Allison Vandermeersh (Emma Stone), one of his high school girlfriends and his first lover. Together, they revisit scenes from his past, focusing on his relationship with Jenny. Connor and Jenny were very close as children; she gave him his first instant camera which he used to take her picture, promising to keep it forever. By middle school, the two were on the verge of romance, but Connor’s hesitation at a dance caused Jenny to dance with and kiss another boy. Heartbroken, Connor was told by Wayne that he must avoid romance at all costs in order not to feel such pain again. For the next two years, Wayne schooled Connor in the art of seduction. When he next saw Jenny, at a high school party, Connor ignored her and had sex with Allison. Several years later, as adults, Connor and Jenny rekindled their romance, but Jenny forced him to woo her for several weeks in an attempt to rid him of his womanizing ways. After they finally did have sex, Connor falls in love with her, but then panics, running out on her so he won’t be hurt. Jenny wakes up alone and broken-hearted. His relationships thereafter consisted of a series of very short flings.

Awakening back in the Mead mansion in the present, Connor accidentally destroys Paul and Sandra’s wedding cake and unsuccessfully attempts to reconcile with Jenny. As he storms out of the house, he is confronted by the “Ghost of Girlfriends Present” in the form of his assistant Melanie (Noureen DeWulf), the only constant female figure in his life. With her, he sees that in his absence the other wedding guests make fun of him and his shallow lifestyle. Paul stands up for his brother, recalling that Connor helped to raise him after their parents’ death, and expresses his hope that Connor will someday change for the better. Connor also sees that Jenny is being comforted by Brad (Daniel Sunjata), and is upset that his own actions and attitude are bringing the two closer. He is further upset to discover that Melanie and the three women who he previously broke up with via conference call are bonding over his disregard for their feelings.

Returning to the house, Connor finds Sandra furious at learning that Paul had slept with one of her bridesmaids very early in their relationship, information that Connor had let slip earlier in the evening. Connor attempts to mend the situation but only makes things worse, and Paul tells him to leave. On his way out, he is confronted by the “Ghost of Girlfriends Future” (Olga Maliouk), who takes him forward in time to see that Jenny marries Brad while Paul remains alone. Further in the future, Paul is the only mourner at Connor’s funeral. Wayne appears and tells Connor that this is his future if he continues on the same path, pushing him into the grave to be buried by his many ex-girlfriends.

Connor awakens in the Mead home and learns that Sandra has called off the wedding and is on her way to the airport. He intercepts the bridal party by driving Wayne’s classic car down the snow-covered hill and into a lake, and convinces Sandra to forgive Paul by sharing lessons learned from his own mistakes, particularly that the pain of heartbreak is outweighed by the regret of never risking one’s heart in the first place. Connor helps Jenny to pull the wedding back together and reconciles with her afterward by showing her the picture he still carries of her as a child, and promises to always be there when she wakes up. The two kiss and dance in the snow.

REVIEW:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if A Christmas Carol was updated and used to change the ways of a womanizer, rather than someone who has become bitter and jaded about the holidays? Well, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is the film for you, as this is exactly what it does.

What did I like?

Player’s club. I’ve always thought that guys/gals that run around “getting some” from any and everything should be taught a lesson, be that in the way of some disease or getting a total beatdown. Seeing a guy like Matthew McConaughey’s character get his comeuppance here was a thing of beauty.

Old man still has it. Michael Douglas has a fairly small, but major, role in the film as the older (deceased) uncle who has taught him everything he knows, which turned out to be his downfall a la Jacob Marley. It is good to see that he still can steal a scene at his age, then again, his dad was doing the same thing at this age, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, should we?

Gotta love the 80s! The junior high dance scenes that took place in the 80s were radical, man! They even had some of the great music one would have heard at a dance back then!

Doppelganger II. In 13 Going on 30, Jennifer Garner’s younger self was played by Christa B. Allen. She does it again here in the early flashback scenes, and doesn’t look like she’s aged a day!

What didn’t I like?

Emma Stone. There was a time when I thought she was extremely hot. Ever since she has become a household name, though, she has become more and more annoying. Now, she is supposed to be an annoying 8th grader here, but good grief, I nearly turned the movie off everytime she was on the screen.

No Meg. If you’ve ever watched Family Guy, and are aware that in the first few episodes Meg’s voice was not Mila Kunis, but rather Lacey Chabert. I’m not sure why they made the change, but it was definitely for the better. Lacey is the bridezilla of this film and while she pulls that off perfectly, her character is just as unlikable, which is quite a shame, because at first she seemed like a bit of a sweetheart.

Not all that. There are these three girls in the wedding party who seem to be there just to get laid. If that’s what they’re into, that’s great, except none of them are that impressive looking, and the fact that one of them is the reason behind the chaos that ensues as the film progresses just makes them even less attractive.

Not even a bridesmaid. For some reason, I was pulling for McConaughey to hook up, permanently, with secretary, played by Noureen DeWulf. Just once, it would be nice if the nerdy girl in the corner would get some love without having to become what is believed to be “super sexy” (in other words take the glasses off, let her hair down, and put on a tight red dress…lol)

Too much carol. At the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge leans out of his window and asks a boy outside what day it is, then sends him to get a goose or turkey or something. The filmmakers decided to do a similar thing here, but they didn’t have him send the boy out for a game bird, though I half expected him to.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is not the worst thing to happen to romantic comedies. As a matter of fact it is somewhat enjoyable, but make no mistake, this is not something you’ll be going out of your way to watch over and over again. There are some good performances and the cast is alright, but something about this film keeps it from being nothing more than just an average flick. I don’t recommend this, but there are worse things you could watch.

3 out of 5 stars