Archive for Jason Lee

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami…and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother.

What people are saying:

“In some respects, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip is a marginal improvement over prior installments, although this in no way qualifies as a recommendation.” 1 star

“A cute and harmless family movie which will definitely gain the approval of the kids as the three most famous chipmunks venture to Miami with a stereotypical rebelling teen. Despite a predictable plot, the film makes a decent enough movie for children to enjoy.” 3 stars

“I think Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise should’ve quit after the second movie. The third one was boring at best. We had four kids with us. They were pretty bored after the first 30 minutes. There were some good songs but they did not make up for the very forced story line. Save your money and watch it on a rental.” 2 stars

“Irritating characters, little semblance of a plot, weak gags, and sub-par performances … result in a film that doesn’t even have enough going on to interest a five-year-old.” 1 star

“Definitely better than the third movie, which, unfortunately, was pretty lame. “The Road Chip” had some great music and was genuinely funny in many places. Though I agree with some other reviews that this was not a movie particularly geared toward young children, I think that young adults ages 12 or 13 on up, including adults, would really appreciate it. Younger children would like the music and some of the comedic lines and scenes, too.” 4 stars

Revisited: Dogma

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Bartleby (Affleck) and Loki (Damon) are fallen angels, banished for eternity from Heaven to Wisconsin for insubordination after an inebriated Loki (with Bartleby’s encouragement) resigned as the Angel of Death. When the trendy Cardinal Glick (Carlin) announces that he is rededicating his cathedral in Red Bank, New Jersey in the image of the “Buddy Christ”, the angels see their salvation: Anyone entering the cathedral during the rededication festivities will receive a plenary indulgence; all punishment for sin will be remitted, permitting direct entry into Heaven. They receive encouragement from an unexpected source: Azrael (Lee), a demon, once a Muse, also banished from Heaven (for refusing to take sides in the battle between God and Lucifer); and the Stygian Triplets (Barret Hackney, Jared Pfennigwerth, and Kitao Sakurai), three teenage hoodlums who serve Azrael in Hell.

Bethany Sloane (Fiorentino)—a despondent, infertile, divorced abortion clinic employee—attends a service at her church in Illinois. Donations are being solicited to help a hospitalized, comatose homeless man—known only as John Doe Jersey (Cort)—who was beaten senseless outside a skee ball arcade in New Jersey by the Triplets. Later that day, Metatron (Rickman)—the Voice of God—appears to Bethany in a pillar of fire and declares that she is the last relative of Jesus Christ. He explains that Bartleby and Loki cannot be allowed to succeed: By re-entering Heaven, they would be overruling the word of God, thereby disproving the fundamental concept of God’s omnipotence, and nullifying all of existence. She, together with two prophets who will appear to her, must stop the angels and save the universe.

Now a target, Bethany is attacked by the Triplets, and is rescued by the two foretold prophets—drug-dealing stoners named Jay and Silent Bob (Mewes and Smith). Azrael then summons a Golgothan (a vile creature made of human excrement) to find and kill Bethany, but Silent Bob immobilizes it with aerosol deodorant. Other allies in Bethany’s mission are Rufus (Rock), the thirteenth apostle (never mentioned in the Bible, he says, because he is black), and Serendipity (Hayek), a Muse with writer’s block.

On a train to New Jersey, a drunken Bethany reveals her mission to Bartleby, who tries to kill her; a melee ensues, and Silent Bob throws the angels off the train. Bartleby and Loki now realize the potential consequences of their scheme; and while Loki wants no part of destroying all existence, Bartleby remains angry at God for his expulsion—and for granting free will to humans while demanding servitude of angels—and to Loki’s horror, resolves to proceed.

Bethany and her allies discuss the situation: Who is really behind the angels’ plan, and why has God not intervened? Metatron explains that God’s whereabouts are unknown; he disappeared while visiting New Jersey in human form to play skee ball. At the cathedral, the group attempts in vain to persuade Cardinal Glick to cancel the celebration; Jay angrily steals Glick’s golf club.

At a nearby bar, Azrael captures Bethany and her protectors and reveals that he is the mastermind behind the angels’ plan—he would rather not exist at all than spend eternity in Hell. Silent Bob kills Azrael with Glick’s blessed golf club. Serendipity tells Bethany to bless the bar sink, turning its contents to holy water, and Jay, Rufus and Serendipity drown the Triplets in it. Bartleby and Loki reach the cathedral; Bartleby kills all the celebrants, and when Loki attempts to stop him he tears off Loki’s wings, making him mortal. When the protectors block Bartleby’s entry into the church, Bartleby kills Loki and fights off Rufus, Serendipity and Bob, but as he flees, Jay shoots off his wings with a machine gun.

During his latest of several attempts to seduce Bethany, Jay mentions John Doe Jersey. Realizing that the homeless man is the mortal form that God assumed, Bethany and Bob race to the hospital. Bethany disconnects John Doe’s life support, liberating God, but killing herself. As Bartleby again attempts to enter the cathedral, God manifests before him as a woman (Morissette), and kills him with the power of her voice. When Bob arrives with Bethany’s lifeless body, God resurrects her and conceives a child within her womb. God, Metatron, Rufus, and Serendipity return to Heaven, leaving Bethany and the two prophets to reflect on what has happened.

REVIEW:

Sometimes when I watch a film that was released in my lifetime, I don’t look back on it with nostalgic longing, but instead I am in awe of how far the cast and crew have come (or fallen) since its release. Dogma was the last time Ben Affleck did a Kevin Smith film., until he was brought back in for Jersey Girl and there was a cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back2 as a matter of fact). For this one, he even brought in his buddy Matt Damon. The two of them haven’t worked or have been seen together since, that I can recall. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for this film, but maybe that was just a falling out behind the scenes.

What is this about?

Fallen angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck), a gnarly demon (Jason Lee) and a half-baked apostle (Chris Rock) walk among America’s cynics and innocents and duke it out for humankind’s fate in director Kevin Smith’s 1999 comic meditation on religion. A modern-day battle against evil takes place in suburban New Jersey, after an abortion clinic worker (Linda Fiorentino) gets a higher calling from two clueless prophets (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith).

What did I like?

Religious satire. Hard to believe in this era where everything offends everyone that people actually had a sense of humor. Religion is one of the institutions that tends to be held to a higher standard. No one really touches it , especially the Catholic faith. Kevin Smith, though, had the balls to take on the church and their rules. All throughout the film, characters joke about how depressing it is to go to church, how Catholics think they are the only ones that are right, etc. It is true that this could not be done with another religion, like say Islam, but Smith, being a Catholic, himself makes jokes that come from the heart and aren’t meant to be malicious and that may be why this film succeeds in its humor.

Story. Two angels get kicked out of heaven and have to live on Earth for eternity, in Wisconsin! Azrael, a demon, plots to get them back in, thus negating all of existence just so he can stop living in torture. With God missing, thanks to being mugged while playing skeeball, the only one that can stop all of this is the last Scion, a couple of prophets, the 13 th apostle, and a muse. Sounds a bit far-fetched, but Smith is such a capable writer and this cast has enough talent and chemistry, that this insane story, which should have been a disaster, comes together brilliantly. I do wonder, though…the angels were banished after Sodom and Gomorrah. That was way before Wisconsin was any near becoming a state. Did they just get banished to the woods, or whatever was up there, until it became Wisconsin? I’ve always wondered that.

No one is safe! Not only does Smith attack the Catholics, he goes after atheists, pro-life/pro-choice, feminists, racism, etc. I think the only group he didn’t get were politicians. In attacking everyone, Smith shows that he is an equal opportunity offender, not just one joke that lasts for two hours. “Variety is the spice of life!” they say and that applies towards comedy, as well.

What didn’t I like?

Fading chemistry. As I mentioned in my opening, there was a time when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were inseparable. I believe that it was around the time of this film that we started to see them go their separate ways. It is obvious that something changed in their dynamic as the film progresses because they maybe have a handful of scene in which they are both on the screen. The few scenes in which they are both on, it is like an uncomfortable dinner with your ex who you just broke up with. Maybe I’m just seeing something that isn’t there, though.

Lead, lady, lead. Call me crazy, but I feel that a leading actress should make you take notice of her, regardless of what her character’s characteristics are. Linda Fiorentino doesn’t really do that. Nothing about this woman is particularly special, and that may be why she was cast. As a leading lady, though…well, there’s a reason she hasn’t been in more stuff. She is constantly overshadowed by the rest of the cast and, if not for her character being so necessary to this plot, one has to wonder why she’s even around. Since Janeane Garofalo made a quick appearance, I wonder if she would have made for a better leading lady, or perhaps one of Smith’s usuals from the ViewAskew-verse?

Alanis? The thought of a female version of God scares some people. That was part of the controversy surrounding that song in the 90s, “One of Us”. Chris Rock’s character sums it up best when he says God isn’t a she or he, not anything. In essence, he says God is what you make him out to be. Apparently, Kevin Smith thinks Alanis Morissette is God. Some people would have picked Charlton Heston, Lynard Skynard, Ronald Regan, Morgan Freeman John Ritter, etc. Myself, I’d have gone with Louis Armstrong. I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste. Why she was skipping around like a flower child is a mystery to us all, though.

Kevin Smith has said he feels Dogma is one of his most personal films. If I’m not mistaken, this is also his first film to not be released as an independent. My final thoughts on it are it does what it sets out to do, make a smart satire about Catholic dogma and the way Smith feels about, having grown up in the church. Will people be offended if they watch this? Probably, and other will enjoy the ludicrous situations. It all is a matter of personal opinion and tastes. Do I recommend it? If you’re a conservative bible-beater, this is not for you. I’ll say that right away. For everyone else, this is a fun ride from start to finish with interesting and insane situations as well as an inspired story. Yes, I do recommend it, very highly as a matter of fact!

4 out of 5 stars

 

Almost Famous

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1973, William Miller is a 15-year-old boy aspiring to be a rock journalist. His mother, Elaine, wants him to become a lawyer. Shunned by his classmates, he writes for underground papers in San Diego, sharing the love of rock music instilled in him through a gift of albums left behind on the day his sister Anita left home.

William listens to an interview with rock journalist Lester Bangs. William has sent Bangs copies of his work, and Bangs gives William a $35 assignment to write up a review of a Black Sabbath concert. At first reluctant to assist a journalist, the band Stillwater brings William backstage after he praises their work. The guitarist, Russell Hammond, takes a liking to William, partly because of William’s friendship with a groupie he has romantic feelings for, Penny.

William goes with Penny to the “Riot House” – the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard – to meet Stillwater. Penny, feigning retirement from her rock glory days, acts as William’s chauffeur, but only to get close to Russell, for whom she has genuine feelings and a past relationship.

William is called by Ben Fong-Torres, editor of Rolling Stone, who wants him to do a story, believing William is several years older than he really is. When William convinces Ben to let him do a story on Stillwater, he is instructed to go on the road with them.

On the first leg of the trip, William makes his first in an increasingly frustrating number of attempts to interview Russell. Penny watches the interaction and sympathizes with William. William experiences tensions with the band due to his role as a journalist.

A new manager, Dennis, comes on board to help steer the band, and it is revealed that Penny must leave the tour before New York, where Leslie, Russell’s ex-wife/girlfriend, will join them. During a poker game he allows Dick to put up the groupies as a stake. The band loses the groupies to the band Humble Pie for $50 and a case of Heineken. When William tells Penny, she acts nonchalant but is devastated. Penny and Doris, the band’s tour bus, are left behind; Dennis has piled the band into a plane for more gigs.

Penny goes to New York on her own, and as the band gathers in a restaurant with Russell’s girlfriend, Penny shows up. As they celebrate making the cover of Rolling Stone, Penny makes Leslie uncomfortable and Dick asks her to leave. William chases Penny back to her hotel and finds her overdosed on quaaludes.

Believing they will die during a plane ride, the group confesses their secrets. When Penny is insulted by Jeff, the band’s lead singer, William defends her and discloses his love. The plane lands safely, leaving everyone to ponder the changed atmosphere.

William continues on to San Francisco to finish the story, parting ways with the band in the airport. Upset about Penny, he rewrites the article, telling the truth. The Rolling Stone editors cannot wait to publish it, but have to ask the band to verify it. Fearful of how the article will affect their image, the band makes William look like a liar. William is crushed and the story is dead. Sitting dejected in the airport, he sees his sister, who has become a stewardess and lives on her own terms. She tells him they should go on a trip together and, exhausted, William chooses to go home to San Diego.

Backstage at the Miami Orange Bowl on the Stillwater tour, Sapphire talks to Russell about Penny’s near-suicide and how despite the warnings she received about letting people fall in love with her, one of them saved her life. Russell is curious about the person in question, but Sapphire chastises him, saying that everyone knows what the band did to William and how awful they think it is. Russell calls Penny and asks for her address, telling her he wants to meet. Unbeknown to Russell, she gives him William’s address in an attempt to resolve their conflict. Russell goes to the house, thinking it is Penny’s, but finds Elaine instead. Learning who he is, she lets him in to see William as Russell realizes where he is. They reconcile and Russell reveals that he called Rolling Stone and told them William’s story is true. Russell gives William a proper interview, Penny purchases a ticket to Morocco, and William’s story is published, with Stillwater on the cover of “Rolling Stone”.

REVIEW:

Music…truly the greatest of the arts. As a musician, I may be a bit biased, though. Almost Famous does something that I don’t think many films of its ilk do, it intersperses real life with fiction. Oh wait, that has been done. Whoops! Seriously, though, other than giving us a close-up of Kate Hudson’s beautiful face, is there any reason to sit through this? Let’s find out shall we?

What is this about?

In the early 1970s, William Miller writes about the band Stillwater on a cross-country tour, learning about friendship and love along the way.

What did I like?

Wonder years. Let’s see, set in the 70s, teenage kid coming of age…what does this remind you of? That’s right! The Wonder Years! In some ways, this film brought me back to that show, but without the narration and with a somewhat darker tone, of course, but that’s a good thing because I grew up loving that show. The fact that someone was either obviously inspired by it to make this film, ripped off the idea, or just happened to have a coincidental idea is brilliant, mainly because I don’t think would have worked at any other point in time. You could probably argue for the swing era, but that would be an entirely different film, filled with race issues, depressions, etc.

Golden child. Patrick Fugit is one of those actors who you know you’ve seen him in this or that and hoped he would get his big break, but nothing ever happened past one or two starring roles for whatever reason. This is one of his star vehicles. He also had a big role in Saved, but other than that I don’t know that he’s anything major. That’s neither here or there, though. Fugit kills it in this role as an underage teen who happens to have a job at a local paper in San Francisco and, because of his outstanding skills, gets noticed by Rolling Stone magazine and asked to do a piece on the (fictional) band Stillwater. I should mention that he’s one of those graduate high school at 15 kids and this happens during the end of his senior year. Fugit has the innocent, dough-eyed look that one has at that age and he brings the worldly knowledge that an experience reporter, as we are led to believe he is, has as well. No wonder everyone thought this guy was going places.

Music, man. A film about a music reporter following around a band and doing a piece on them wouldn’t be complete without at least some music, right? I’m a little disappointed there weren’t more clips of the band performing, but I’m happy with what we got. Also, copyright issues and all that legal mumbo jumbo probably prevented this from being about someone like, say, Black Sabbath, who Stillwater is opening for when we first come across them. Back at this point in time, it was all about the music, man, and this film accomplishes the goal of showing us just why that is by portraying the ups and downs of a band which, in turn, translates into great songs.

What didn’t I like?

Mom. First off, let me say that Frances McDormand does a great job as the mother in the film. However, it is no wonder that, as she says, “…my children don’t want to be around me.” She shelters, brainwashes, and coddles them to the point that Zooey Deschanel’s character runs off to become a stewardess and Fugit jumps at the chance to goon tour with a band and its groupies. Pardon me, “band-aids.” Maybe it is because I am not a parent, but to be this kind of mother just seems to be too much. I didn’t see the dad, or hear mention of him, though, so perhaps this is some kind of coping mechanism or other psychological issue that she is inflicting on her children, causing them to drift further and further away.

Zooey and Phillip. Both Zooey Deschanel and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s roles could have been bigger, I felt. Hoffman’s role was pretty decent, but as the resident mentor/father figure in this story, I almost feel as if he should have stepped in when things went south at the end. As for Zooey, she runs away in the beginning of the film and, by chance, she shows up at the end. As far as the audience knows, she and her brother haven’t talked since her departure, and yet they still seem close. Maybe it is my love for Zooey, but I would have liked to have seen some more interaction with the two throughout this journey. I also wonder what it would have been like had she had Kate Hudson’s role and vice versa.

Youth of a nation. What was it with young people in the 70s? Were they just able to run around free and willy-nilly take random bus rides across the country? Don’t even get me started on the girls! Apparently, they just went around when the first guy came around, they opened their legs and let them in. Ok…I’m exaggerating a bit, but if this film is to be believed, that was the life young people led back then. Not really something I disliked about the film, just a statement.

Dare I say Almost Famous is one of the best made films I’ve seen? Yes, I do dare. Kate Hudson, with her California girl looks, is perfectly cast as the independent Penny Lane. I’ve mentioned Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel, and Frances McDormand. The music keeps you going and interested in the whole picture, and there are some comedic moments to keep the mood light. Do I recommend this? Yes, this is definitely a film to see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

For a vacation, Dave (Jason Lee) and the Chipmunks go on a cruise ship. The Chipmunks and Chipettes turn the ship into their personal playground causing trouble and running amok as they will. Dave notices that his old boss, Ian Hawke (David Cross) is working as a safety monitor on the cruise. Alvin goes para-sailing on a kite and he flies away with the other chipmunks. Dave goes on a hang glider to find them with Ian and they both end up in the ocean.

Meanwhile, the six chipmunks find an island and they sleep for the night. Dave enlists Ian’s help to find the same island and begin looking for the six chipmunks. The next morning, the chipmunks go and find food and while doing so, an island castaway named Zoe (Jenny Slate) shows up and sees the Chipmunks and Chipettes for the first time. They then go to Zoe’s tree house and Simon gets bitten by a spider, the side effects including personality changes and loss of inhibition.

The morning after, everyone observes Simon’s personality has changed and he becomes a French, adventurous chipmunk named Simone. Simone asks Jeanette to dance to Alvin’s dismay. Later, Zoe takes Simone, Jeanette, Eleanor and Theodore to a waterfall and Simone finds a cave. He returns with a gold bracelet which he gives to Jeanette. Brittany and Alvin see an active volcano the next day and they decide to leave the island. Theodore and Simone find Dave and Ian and they go to meet with the other chipmunks. They all begin to prepare a raft to get them off the island and everyone is assigned a job. When Jeanette and Simone go and look for food, Zoe kidnaps Jeanette and Simone gets knocked unconscious, and reverted to normal.

Everyone finds Simon awake and he cannot remember anything since the bite. They discover that Zoe has taken Jeanette and they head towards the waterfall. When they approached the tree log to cross, Dave and Alvin decide they’ll go and find Jeanette. As Zoe forces Jeanette to get the treasure by tying her to a rope, Alvin and Dave come to her rescue. The island begins to rumble again and Zoe let go of the rope and Jeanette runs with Dave and Alvin back to the raft. When they reach the log to cross, Dave almost falls.

Alvin and Ian convince Zoe to help save Dave. They then run towards the raft and escape the eruption. While on the raft, Zoe apologizes to Jeanette for kidnapping her and forcing her to get the treasure. As a gift, Jeanette gives Zoe the gold bracelet that Simon had given to her. Alvin reconciles with Dave and they are rescued. The Chipmunks and Chipettes perform at the International Music Awards.

In the post-credit scenes, the Chipmunks, the Chipettes, and Dave are on a plane heading back home. Alvin is speaking on the pilot’s microphone that the plane’s destination is set for Timbuktu, accidentally pushes the food cart, and it hits Dave.

REVIEW:

There comes a point when a franchise passes the point of being a franchise and becomes nothing more than a cash grab. What is a cash grab? Well, it is where a film is so bad that it is obvious it was only made so that studios can wrangle a few more bucks out of us poor moviegoers. A good example of this is Shrek the Third. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked follows suit and does nothing but provide an excuse for there to be more merchandising.

What is this about?

When Alvin and the Chipmunks board a luxury cruise liner for a little R&R with Dave and the Chipettes, they naturally get themselves into trouble … and end up “chipwrecked” castaways on a deserted tropical island.

What did I like?

Back to basics. The last two films seem to have had our heroes departing from the behavior that we all know and loved them to have. The behaviour they exhibit in this installment is more reminiscent of what they had in the Saturday morning cartoon (80s version, since that’s the one I grew up on).

Different. The previous two films have involved Ian conning and subsequently kidnapping the chipmunks and chippettes in a selfish act to further his career. This time around we actually make it through the entire film without any group being kidnapped. I say group because one of them does get snatched up.

Simon/Simone. Simon starts off the film as a bit of a nagging, overprotective type, perhaps even more so that he normally does. Following the bite from a particular breed of spider, he is the victim of a personality change, which results in him becoming Simone. Simone is a French adventurer and ladies’ man who fears nothing; the polar opposite of Simon. I”m not sure which I prefer, but it was nice to see Simon loosen up a bit.

What didn’t I like?

Ian. He made for a great villain in the first film. Last go around he felt recycled and this time around it is more like they just stuck him in there for…well, I don’t really know why. David Cross has been outspoken with his thoughts on this film, and I can’t blame him. There really was no reason for him to be in it, let alone spend the whole time in a pelican costume. That being said, he does seem as if he has turned over a new leaf. Then again, what is the point of kidnapping them if there is nowhere to take them to?

Jenny. Jenny Slate plays this girl, Zoe, who they run across on the island. Everything about her just seems off, especially the sudden change in her character. I didn’t quite understand why they brought her in, why they made the constant reference to Castaway, or why they shoehorned in this mysterious underwater cave full of treasure that she spent years on the island looking for. What were they thinking?!?

Island. It seems that anything we get a film that has an island it has to be subject to some kind of disaster, usually a volcano. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island was nothing more than an island experiencing every natural disaster known to man, this one has volcanoes, and I can imagine that the next island picture is sure to be in danger of something like, oh I don’t know, a meteor coming to wipe it out? One of these days, maybe we’ll get an island that won’t deal with such things and can just be an island out there.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked will hopefully be the last time we see them on the big screen. Enough is enough and, as I said before, this is nothing more than a cash grab. When I heard they were making this, I was appalled, and the finished product did nothing to change my mind. Having said that, I belive that kids will enjoy it, but their parents and chipmunk fans may not be so easily fooled. I do not recommend this to anyone but those that ether want to finish the trilogy (I use that term lightly), or parents of young children.

3 out of 5 stars

Heartbreakers

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on February 18, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Max (Sigourney Weaver) and Page Conners (Jennifer Love Hewitt) are a mother-daughter con artist team. When the film opens, the Conners are settling a con on Dean Cumanno (Ray Liotta), an auto-body shop owner and small-time crook. The con, which the Conners have played a number of times before on other men, involves Max marrying Dean, passing out on their wedding night to avoid actually consummating the marriage, and then Page (posing as Dean’s secretary) luring Dean into a compromising position to justify Max’s immediate divorce and hefty settlement. The con is a success.

Page declares that she wants to go solo. Max initially relents, but when they visit the bank to split their earnings, they are confronted by an IRS agent (Anne Bancroft) who declares that they owe the government a considerable sum on top of the rest of their savings, which have already been seized. Page reluctantly agrees to work together with Max on one last con in Palm Beach (refusing to work anything cheaper as Palm Beach would result in enough money to pay off the I.R.S. and set up Page to work on her own). For their target, they choose widower William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman), a tobacco baron who is addicted to his own product.

Complicating matters is beachfront bartender Jack (Jason Lee), whom Page meets without her mother’s knowledge while attempting to go after a target she pointed out earlier (a doctor who inherited money from an uncle; Max rejected him on the grounds that he was a “momma’s boy”). Page learns that Jack is worth $3 million, having inherited the bar, and decides to target him for a side con. Page ends up developing genuine feelings for Jack, but Max, who has been hurt many times before, tells her to break it off; Page reluctantly ends the relationship.

Tensy proposes to Max ahead of schedule, but before they can get married, he passes out and dies due to his lifetime of smoking. While Max and Page are deciding what to do with the body, Dean arrives, having tracked Max down in order to propose to her again. Dean discovers the ruse Max and Page played on him, and threatens to expose them. Max offers to return Dean’s divorce settlement money if he’ll help them make Tensy’s death look like an accident. Max reveals to Page that the money wasn’t really taken by the IRS, and the agent had in fact been Max’s mentor, Barbara, in a ruse to prevent Page from leaving. But when Max, Page and Dean go to the bank, the money really has gone, liquidated in an act of betrayal by Barbara.

In order to help Max, Page decides to accept Jack’s offer of marriage, planning to work it as a regular con. Page insists that Jack will not cheat on her, but is heartbroken when during the wedding night she breaks into his room and finds him in a compromising position with Max. After the divorce settlement is paid, Dean confronts Max about the ethics of their con, pointing out that even a “goody-goody” like Jack is only human. Max reveals that Jack actually turned her down, and she drugged him, defending her decision by claiming that Jack would have gone on to hurt Page eventually. Dean counters that life is about pain, but that it can also be good, and Max has no right to keep Page from living her life just because of what might happen.

Chastened, Max tells Page the truth, admitting that her own efforts to protect her daughter from pain have only hurt her in other ways, recognising that Page has to make her own life. Page returns to Jack, giving him back the bar he’d had to sell to pay the settlement, and tells him her real name. Max and Dean also get together, Dean having admitted that he still misses Max even after what she put him through. The final shot of the film is of Dean — using the name ‘Stanley’ — romancing Barbara, with Max watching them via binoculars, implying that Max and Dean are now working together to get Max’s money back.

REVIEW:

The first time I saw this was when it first came out on video. At that time I had grown to become a fan of Jason Lee, thanks to his appearances in Kevin Smith films. Also, Jennifer Love Hewitt was one of the hottest creatures on the planet, despite not really being in anything to make her a star except Party of Five, which I never watched. That couple with what, at the time, was an interesting trailer, drew me toHeartbreakers.

I can sum this film up by saying that it is about some scum of the earth people. What I mean by that is that this woman, Max (played by Sigourney Weaver), goes around scamming men by using her feminine wiles to get them to fall in love with and eventually marry her. After which, she has her daughter, who is also in on the scam, to seduce them leading to divorce where she gets a hefty settlement.

I’m actually not sure which part is worse, using her daughter, manipulating the guy, or the divorce. It is all disgusting, if you ask me. If this is actually done in real life…well, I don’t know what to say about that, really. However, as a plot device for this film, it seems to work as well as people crashing weddings seems to work in so many films.

A subplot of the film involves the daughter and her want to get out and do a scam on her own. As you can about imagine, her mother is having none of it, just like any other overprotective mother. She also doesn’t want to lose her business partner. Truth be told, with a hot daughter like that, scamming is much easier than being a middle-aged woman on her own.

Things get even more complicated when the daughter, did I mention she was played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, falls for a guy she sneaks off to scam. Apparently, it is a big faux pas to fall for your victim. Complicating things even further, the latest husband tracks them down and with original intentions of proposing, threatens to expose them after something, which I won’t mention, happens.

Yeah, so this isn’t a good film, by any stretch of the imagination. The story has its moments. It actually starts off pretty good, and then right as we get into the final act, and things should be pushing toward that final moment, we instead are forced to watch this limp noodle limp across the finish line. The audience can do nothing less than scratch their head and wonder why we sat through this whole thing.

I will give it to the casting directors,  they captured some pure gold with Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver. They not only have great chemistry, but are quite believable as mother and daughter. Hard to belive they wanted Anjelica Huston and just about any other young, hot Hollywood actress for this.  Then again, some of them most iconic roles in cinema have gone through the same process.

Hewitt not only has great chemistry with her “mother”, but also with Jason Lee. Watching them once they get past the initial hatred phase and into the loving stage is like watching a cute high school couple (before they get to that sickening need to be separated by a crowbar phase).

So, ultimately, what did I think of this flick? Eh, I can take it or leave it. This is one of those films that for everything good, there are two things bad. Would I recommend it? Not necessarily, but at the same time, it isn’t one of those films that will cause your head to explode if you decide to give it a go, just don’t expect to be blown away by some awesometacular pice of cinema, because that is not what you are going to get.

3 out of 5 stars

Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

During the Chipmunks’ benefit concert in Paris, Dave Seville (Jason Lee) suffers a severe injury, when Alvin (Justin Long) jumps on top of a scaffolding and a falling billboard sends Dave flying across the stage into some electric devices. After the accident, he is rushed to the hospital. Although he survives, he must stay for a few days to recover, so he leaves his lazy 21-year-old cousin Toby (Zachary Levi) and Aunt Jackie (Kathryn Joosten) in charge of the Chipmunks until he returns. Prior to the event, Dave had made arrangements for Alvin, Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) to go to school. But, at the airport, Aunt Jackie falls down some stairs and an airport luggage trolley crashes into her. She has to go to the hospital too, so Toby is left in charge. Little does Dave know, on their first day at school, the Chipmunks feel uncomfortable with all the bullies around, when Ryan, one of the bullies, gives Simon a swirlie. The boys have fun being babysat by Toby, mainly because he is basically a big kid himself. Theodore tries to bond with Toby but Toby is always either ignoring him or being short towards him.

Meanwhile, Ian Hawke (David Cross) the greedy soundtrack-editor now lives in the basement of Jett Records. But, a FedEx mail comes to the building and a package falls out. And, three singing female chipmunks, The Chipettes, Brittany (Christina Applegate), Jeanette (Anna Faris), and Eleanor (Amy Poehler) come out of the package, and introduce themselves. Brittany says that since Ian made the Chipmunks stars, they want to be stars too. So they sing “Put Your Records On” to make Ian adopt them. He does, telling them that the Chipmunks ran away from him, spat on him, and left him broken-hearted, to make the Chipettes not trust them. He lets the Chipettes stay in his apartment (in actuality, breaking into a model suite) and have their own dressing mirrors. Meanwhile, the Chipmunks enter the school concert to win $25,000 and save the school’s music program. The tension between Alvin and Simon continues to build as Alvin hangs out with the jocks of the school, but the one who is most affected is Theodore who believes he is losing his brothers with them fighting all the time. The Chipmunks meet the Chipettes and fall in love, until they discover they’re with Ian. The Chipettes sing “Hot N Cold” to get Dr. Rubin (Wendie Malick), the school principal to enter them in the contest. The Chipmunks and the Chipettes compete against each other in a Battle of the Bands. Alvin warns Brittany about what Ian did to him and his brothers, but she doesn’t believe Alvin. Alvin then humiliates Simon in front of everyone when he tells one of the jocks to trick him into thinking he’s now the school Litter Moniter and Simon ends up being thrown into the dumpster. Meanwhile, Ian gives Eleanor some platform shoes, telling her to “work on being taller.” At the concert, the Chipettes sing “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Eager to get rich, Ian videotapes the Chipettes performance and posts it on YouTube, along with his phone number. The Chipettes win after Simon and Theodore forfeit the competition because Alvin failed to show up (he hung out with the football team instead). Finally, Alvin shows up only to see that everyone’s gone. Brittany says to Alvin that he doesn’t care about anyone but himself and that she never wanted to win the way Ian was making her. When Alvin returns home, Simon and Theodore pretend they’re sleeping and ignore him. The embarrassment is too much for Theodore to take who runs away to the zoo, hoping to live with the meerkats, after seeing Meerkat Manor. When Toby and the boys find him and save him from an eagle, it brings out the best in all of them and the Chipmunks all forgive each other and go back to “One for all, and three for one”. (As Theodore put it)

Soon, the Chipettes are hired as the opening act at a Britney Spears concert at the Staples Center. Jeanette says the concert is on the same night as the school concert, so Ian decides to blow off the battle and make the Chipettes perform at the concert. However, since he focuses on Brittany the most, he wants her to perform onstage alone while Jeanette and Eleanor sing backup. Brittany refuses to sing without her sisters, so Ian threatens to barbecue them at a restaurant if they don’t. At the school, Alvin gets a phone call from Brittany, saying that she and her sisters have been locked in a cage. Alvin races to save them on his red motorbike while Simon tells Jeanette how to open the cage on the phone. The Chipettes escape from the cage, climb out of the limo, and they jump onto Alvin’s motorbike. (Digger, from NASCAR on FOX, makes a cameo during the chase) While being chased, Brittany apologizes to Alvin for not listening to him about Ian. Ian pursues them with a R.C. helicopter, but they leap off the motorbike and grab onto the helicopter. Jeanette snatches the remote and steers the helicopter away from Ian, while the motorbike drives straight into Ian’s groin. Simon and Theodore are about to forfeit the concert again, but Alvin and the Chipettes fly into the hall on the helicopter and they all sing “We Are Family”. Dave then comes back and watches them perform, along with Toby. Meanwhile, Ian pathetically dresses up as Brittany, performing in the center alone while people boo him, while the Chipmunks and Chipettes sing “Shake Your Groove Thing”. Finally, the Chipmunks go back home with Dave, while Toby goes back home. The Chipettes are re-adopted at the boy’s request and sleep at the Chipmunks’ house where Dave has another injury, tripping over Alvin’s skateboard and he yells the famous line “ALVIN!” As the credits roll, the screen shows photos of the Chipmunks and Chipettes at the beach, at Christmas, in the kitchen, in the garden, and with Aunt Jackie. An epilogue shows Ian being thrown into a dumpster backstage by the guards.

REVIEW:

Alvin & the Chipmunks surprised everyone when it was released and became such a huge hit. Even more surprising was the news that they were making a sequel. Obviously, the only reason you would bother to make a sequel is to bring in the Chippettes, but they aren’t a big enough reason to make an unnecessary sequel. At least they aren’t big enough to have a theatrical release.

I went into this expecting either something as good or better than the original or far worse. Unfortunately, I got the latter.

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way. It’s obvious that the CG people have honed their craft a bit more as Alvin and the boys look a bit more refined. The Chippettes were a good addition as characters, and so was Toby. David Cross returns as Ian, so we don’t get a new villain, and we see what happened to him after the boys escaped. The characteristics of each of the chipmunks was more prevalent this time around. Also, if you’ve ever sen the cartoon (preferably the 80s version), then you will notice that the chipmunks seemed to be more on par with those versions of themselves, especially in the school. Most importantly, this is more of a chipmunks movie, rather than Dave with Alvin & the Chipmunks. Jason Lee got to scream “ALVIN!” more in this picture, which is more or less what the point of Dave was.

Now, the bad. Poor Jason Lee, as someone in a review I rad earlier said, he seems to be in pain while he’s on-screen, and I’m not talking about the pain DAve is feeling after all the accidents he has. No wonder he’s barely in this one. Speaking of barely in the film, why did they go through all the trouble of bringing in brilliant comedic actress Kathryn Joosten, for what amounts to a cameo? It made no sense to me. While I’m on the casting topic…the chipmunks and chippettes are all big name actors/actresses…except for Simon…but you can’t tell by listening to them, so really, what’s the point? Theodore is supposed ot be the cute one, that’s fine and dandy, but at times it was a bit too much. Ian’s berating of Elanor for being short was uncalled for. I half expected him to say she needed to lose weight while he was at it, which would have totally been out of line. Like I said about the last film, Alvin needs his hat!!!!

Musically, there are ups and down. The first film brought us songs from the past and present, whereas this one stayed with current songs, mostly. Nothing wrong with that, as the chipmunk cartoons I watched growing up used mostly modern tunes, but I just wished they would have gone old school a bit more. Sure, they’re trying to appeal to the younger crowd and all, but some of us older folks are fans, too.

The film gets an A+ for brining to the forefront the topic of budget cuts costing schools their music programs. However, it doesn’t really deliver on that topic, just like they don’t really go into Toby crush on Julie. /both are barely hinted on until pivotal moments. What a waste!

Alright, let’s face the facts, if you’re going to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, you’re not expecting anything like Citizen Kane, but if you’re like me, you do expect the filmmakers to at least show us why they felt the need to make a sequel..er…squeakquel, other than to just milk money out of chipmunk fans past, present, and future. The fact of the matter is, though, that they just don’t accomplish that feat, when all is said and done. If not for the underlying, and underemphasized, note of saving the music program, this would probably be getting a lower rating from me. Yes, there are some good parts, but I think the bad outweighs the good. My suggestion is to save your money until it comes out on DVD. Personally, I won’t be rushing out to buy it, but probably will eventually get it, because of my chipmunk loyalty. Still, I was highly disappointed, especially when the first film was so great.

3 out of 5 stars

Monster House

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Halloween, c.1975, preteen boy, D.J. Walters (Mitchel Musso), spends a lot of his free time spying on the house across the street and its owner, Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), a crotchety old man who terrorizes anyone who steps anywhere on his lawn or close to his house. DJ has seen and documented Nebbercracker taking toys from kids that have stepped in his grounds. His parents (Catherine O’Hara and Fred Willard), dismiss his comments as “kid talk” and leave town for the weekend, during which he is to be cared by Elizabeth or “Zee” (Maggie Gyllenhaal), DJ’s apathetic babysitter.

When Charles “Chowder” (Sam Lerner), DJ’s best friend, loses his basketball on Nebbercracker’s lawn, DJ ventures there to recover it, but Nebbercracker appears and grabs DJ, who then starts screaming. This causes him to collapse from a stroke, seemingly dead. While Nebbercracker is carried away by the paramedics, a gold key is dropped, which DJ scoops up.

That night, DJ gets a call from Nebbercracker’s house (which was just eerie moaning from the other end). He calls Chowder and they agree to meet at a construction lot. There, they decide to investigate the house. When Chowder tries to ding-dong-ditch the house, it comes to life and attempts to eat him. They run back to DJ’s house and spend the night watching across the street. Unknown to them, Zee’s recently ex-boyfriend, Bones (Jason Lee), has already been “swallowed” by the house.

The next morning, a girl named Jenny Bennet (Spencer Locke) is on the street selling Halloween chocolates. DJ and Chowder see her going to Nebbercracker’s house, and they rush out to warn her, managing to catch her before she is eaten by the house. Jenny decides to call for the police, but when police officers Landers and Lester (Kevin James and Nick Cannon) arrive, they don’t believe their story, as the house doesn’t react to the kids’ teasing while the cops are there.

The children then go to an arcade and ask advice from a video-game addict nicknamed Skull (Jon Heder). They learn that the house is a “domus mactibilis” (deadly homein Latin), which is created when a human soul merges with a man-made structure. They conclude that the house is Nebbercracker back from the dead and that the only way to “kill” the house is to destroy its heart. Though they have trouble figuring out what the heart is until DJ realizes that the chimney has been smoking (and apparently beating like a heart) ever since Mr. Nebbercracker died.

The kids make a dummy that they fill with cold medicine from Chowder’s parent’s drug store, intending to “drug” the house. As the house is about to swallow the dummy, the police officers return. Officer Landers decides to arrest the children for stealing the cold medicine and places them in the car. The house then swallows Lester, Landers and the police car, while the kids survive by jumping out the broken back window.

As the group is trapped inside the house, they notice that it has fallen “asleep”. They see lights in a net in the shape of a uvula and Chowder incorrectly thinks it is the heart. They explore the house and find a locked cage, which DJ opens it with the key he took at earlier. They find the body of Nebbercracker’s wife, Constance the Giantess, covered in cement. The house then realizes that the kids are inside and starts attacking them. They manage to escape by pulling on its uvula and forcing the house to “vomit” them outside.

As they return home, Nebbercracker arrives in an ambulance, with an arm in a sling, revealing that the house isn’t possessed by hissoul, but by the soul of Constance. DJ confronts him, and Nebbercracker reveals his story. He met Constance (Kathleen Turner), who was an unwilling member of a circus freak show, and fell in love with her. After helping her escape, Nebbercracker moved them away and started building the house she always wanted. However, children still taunted and threw things at her for her size. On one particular Halloween day, as children cruelly attacked her with objects, Constance went after them yet lost her footing retaliating and as she fell from the edge of the house’s foundation, she grabbed the lever of a cement mixer, which covered her in cement as quickly as she fell to her death. Nebbercracker ended up finishing the house, yet found her spirit had not left. It possessed it. To protect children from her wrath, Nebbercracker had to pretend to be a child-hating old man. However, Nebbercracker felt it was now time for the house to be destroyed. The monster house overhears this alliance between him and DJ and is angered. It breaks free from its foundation to attack the group.

As they flee from the now-walking house, they run to the construction lot. A chase ensues, during which Nebbercracker tries and fails to throw a stick of dynamite into the house. Jenny kisses DJ good luck; getting courage, DJ takes the dynamite and climbs to the top of a tower crane. He swings with the crane cable and throws the dynamite down the chimney, where it reaches the furnace and destroys the house completely. The kids see Nebbercracker dancing with the spirit of Constance as he lets go of her and she fades away. DJ apologizes to him and Nebbercracker thanks him for freeing him and Constance after 45 years of being “trapped.”

The film ends with the kids returning to the hole where the house was, and Chowder, DJ, and Jenny helping Nebbercracker return all the toys. During the credits, it is shown that everyone that was eaten by the house crawls out of the basement bewildered but unharmed.

REVIEW:

In about a month, Halloween will be here, so I figured a way to get in the swing of things would be to watch a film of this nature. The feeling I got from this picture is that Monster House is a training wheels horror film. What do I mean by that? Well, you know how when you’re young and you get training wheels on your bike before you learn how to ride it? That’s what this was for me. It’s like a way to introduce the horror genre to kids.

The all-star voice cast that was put together for this picture is actually overshadowed by the spectacular beauty of the animation. I belive this was released as a 3D film, because there are more than a few scenes and backgrounds that look like they were designed for viewing only with the glasses. Still, hearing Maggie Gyllenhall, Jason Lee, Jon Heder, Nick Cannon, Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Kathleen Turner, and a few others lend their voices to these characters was quite the treat. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see them recording their lines, especially when they were doing action and/or comedy lines.

When it comes to the actual story, it was ok, but I felt like something was just missing. Near the end, the film take a drastically serious, dark turn and we learn the origin of the house. I’m not going to sit here and say that shouldn’t have been in there, but I think they could have come up with a better origin. On top of all this, they make Nebbercracker the typical grumpy old man who doesn’t like kids on his yard, but all of a sudden he becomes a caring individual. Seems a bit odd and forced to me.

I didn’t really have any expectations for this film. With the current trend of non-Disney or Disney/Pixar animated films that I’ve seen lately, my expectations have been lowered. I am pleased to say that, while I didn’t fall in love with Monster House, it was worth watching and very enjoyable, except for the middle section which seemed to not fit with the tone of the rest of the movie. I wouldn’t rush out to go buy this or anything, especially since everytime you turn around it’s on Cartoon Network, but if you get the chance, don’t hesitate to check it out. you may be surprised as what you ultimately think of it.

4 out of 5 stars