Archive for Kurt Russell

The Fox and the Hound

Posted in Animation, Classics, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

After a young red fox is orphaned, Big Mama (Pearl Bailey) the owl, Boomer (Paul Winchell) the woodpecker, and Dinky (Richard Bakalyan) the finch arrange for him to be adopted by the Widow Tweed (Jeanette Nolan). Tweed names him Tod (voiced by Keith Coogan), since he reminds her of a toddler. Meanwhile, Tweed’s neighbor, Amos Slade (Jack Albertson), brings home a young hound puppy named Copper (Corey Feldman) and introduces him to his hunting dog Chief (Pat Buttram). Tod and Copper become playmates, and vow to remain “friends forever.” Slade grows frustrated at Copper for constantly wandering off to play, and places him on a leash. While playing with Copper at his home, Tod awakens Chief. Slade and Chief chase him until they are stopped by Tweed. After an argument, Slade says that he intends to kill Tod at his first opportunity. Hunting season comes and Slade takes his dogs into the wilderness for the interim. Meanwhile, Big Mama explains to Tod that his friendship with Copper cannot continue, as they are natural enemies, but Tod refuses to believe her.

Months pass, and Tod and Copper reach adulthood. On the night of Copper’s return, Tod (Mickey Rooney) sneaks over to meet him. Copper (Kurt Russell) explains that he is a hunting dog now and things are different between them. Chief awakens and alerts Slade, a chase ensues and Copper catches Tod. Copper lets Tod go then diverts Chief and Slade. Chief maintains his pursuit onto a railroad track where he is struck by a train and wounded. Copper and Slade blame Tod for the accident and swear vengeance. Tweed realizes that her pet is no longer safe with her and leaves him at a game preserve. Big Mama introduces him to a female fox named Vixey (Sandy Duncan), then Slade and Copper trespass into the preserve and hunt the two foxes. The chase climaxes when Slade and Copper inadvertently provoke an attack from a bear. Slade trips and is caught in his own trap and drops his gun just out of reach. Copper fights the bear but is no match for it. Tod battles the bear until they both fall down a waterfall. Copper approaches Tod as he lies in the lake below when Slade appears, ready to fire at the fox. Copper interposes his body in front of Tod, and refuses to move away. Slade lowers his gun and leaves with Copper, but not before the two former adversaries share one last smile before parting. At home, Tweed nurses Slade back to health while the dogs rest. Copper, before resting, smiles as he remembers the day when he became friends with Tod. On a hill Vixey joins Tod as he looks down on the homes of Copper and Tweed.

REVIEW:

The Fox and the Hound is a nice coming of age story that is one of the better known of the lesser known Disney films.

The film beings with the quiet calm of the forest, then all of a sudden, a mother fox holding baby Tod, is seen running from hunters and their dogs. Before we know it, he is left by the fence to be discovered by Big Mama. Big Mama is the typical matronly type, compete with African-American mannerisms, partially because she’s voiced by Pearl Bailey.

With the help of Dinky and Boomer, a sparrow and woodpecker, respectively, she gets the Widow Tweed to come notice Tod by the fence. At the same time Tod is discovered by the widow, the hunter neighbor, Amos Slade, brings home a hound pup named Copper.

Soon enough, Copper and Tod meet and, despite the fact that they should despise each other, become best friends. That is until Copper leaves with Amos on a hunting trip and comes back a trained hunting dog. Needless to say, things change between the two, especially after Chief is injured falling of a bridge in pursuit of Tod.

Tod is dropped off at the animal preserve and has a miserable night. would you expect him to just fall right into things after living with a human his entire life? With the help of Big Mama, though, he meets a female fox, Vixey. As with many films of this nature, they immediately hit it off and before we know it they are a couple.

Just in time to ruin things, here comes Amos and Copper, hell-bent on getting Tod. They trick him (and Vixey) down. After a cunning escape, Amos and Copper are cornered by a big black bear. Copper is roughed up quite a bit and lets out a whine that Tod hears. you can see the look on Tod’s face as he takes a few moments to decide whether to keep escaping or go back and help his former friend. He goes back and fights the bear tooth and nail, until he gets the upper hand.

Amos, still wanting Tod’s hide, even though he saved his life sees him ripe for the picking and is ready to shoot him, when Copper stands over Tod and gives Amos the puppy dog eyes. Somehow this sends the message to Slade to leave Tod be. As Copper leaves, he and Tod share one glance that says we’re friends again and thanks.

This is not the best Disney film, but the story is one of the best. Strangely enough, I think of all the Disney films that have come from literary material, this one deviates the most, but considering this is a kid-friendly film, it had to. The original book is quite dark. I don’t think it would have worked as well had they gone more in the direction of the source material. Having said that, the overlying theme of friendship conquers all that is prevalent throughout the film, is perhaps the best thing about it, and is handled so expertly that it doesn’t even come off as preachy.

4 out of 5 stars

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Grindhouse: Death Proof

Posted in Action/Adventure, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Three friends – Arlene (Vanessa Ferlito), Shanna (Jordan Ladd) and radio disc jockey “Jungle Julia” Lucai (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) – are driving down Colorado Street in Austin, Texas to celebrate Jungle Julia’s birthday, unknowingly followed by a man in a souped-up 1970 Chevy Nova. While drinking at Güero’s Taco Bar, Jungle Julia reveals that she made a radio announcement earlier that morning, offering a free lap dance from Arlene in return for calling her Butterfly, buying her a drink and reciting a segment of the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. As the night goes on, the girls run into Pam (Rose McGowan), a childhood adversary of Jungle Julia’s, who is being studied by Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), a stunt double for Hollywood action films. He spends the night flirting with the women, working his way up to Arlene, who realizes that he’s been following them all day but accepts his excuse because of his charm. After giving Mike the lap dance, Arlene finally leaves with Jungle Julia, Shanna, and their marijuana dealer, Lanna Frank (Monica Staggs).

Stuntman Mike agrees to give Pam a ride home in his car and stays sober all night. Up to this point Stuntman Mike seems to be a normal guy, and when Pam is presented with a plexi-glass sealed passenger seat with no seatbelt, he simply explains that the camera is sometimes set up in that area and assures her that his car is “death proof”. It’s at this moment, Stuntman Mike looks directly into the camera, and grins from ear to ear, foreshadowing the mayhem to come. In the car, he asks for directions, and when Pam says right he sighs and says they’re going left, and he wished she had said left so she wouldn’t get scared right away. He reveals himself to be a sadist, and begins to ride at extreme speeds and swerve the car around, thrashing Pam around the box. She pleads with Mike to let her out of the car, but Mike ignores her and informs her that the car is only death proof for the driver, but “to get the benefit of it honey, you really need to be sittin’ in my seat”. He then slams on the brake, causing her to smash her face on the dashboard, killing her. Then it’s “time to find me my other girlfriends”, and he tosses his voyeur photographs of the girls out the window so the police don’t find evidence of premeditation. Mike then chases after the other four girls. Finding their car on an empty road, he speeds past them and spins his car around. He proceeds to race at the girls’ car head-on at full speed with his headlights off, and turns them back on at the last moment. Mike crashes into them, killing them.

At the hospital, it is revealed that Mike suffered only minor injuries. Because the girls were driving while intoxicated and Mike had not consumed any alcohol or marijuana, he is cleared of all criminal charges (Pam’s death is likely attributed to the collision), angering Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Michael Parks), who knows the stuntman is guilty, but decides not to investigate due to the lack of evidence and energy he thinks could be better spent elsewhere, such as following the Nascar circuit. He vows to bring him down next time he does it in Texas, however due to barriers in cross-state police communication, Mike is soon in Tennessee looking for victims again without fear of being caught.

Fourteen months later, Lee Montgomery (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Abernathy Ross (Rosario Dawson), and Kim Mathis (Tracie Thoms) are traveling through Lebanon, Tennessee and stop at a convenience store where Mike has stationed himself. When Kim goes inside, Lee moves into the driver’s seat and starts listening to her iPod with Abernathy still trying to sleep in the backseat. Mike then gets out of his car and begins playing with Abernathy’s bare feet which are hanging out of the car window. When she wakes up, Mike pretends he bumped into her while looking for his car keys. He gets into his car and takes off. Abernathy catches one last glimpse of Mike’s car speeding off, which the other two don’t notice, before the three depart. The trio pick up their friend, stuntwoman Zoë Bell (playing herself), at the airport, who informs them she wants to test-drive a classic white 1970 Dodge Challenger. Later, she reveals her true motives: she wants to play a game called “Ship’s Mast,” in which she will hang onto the car’s hood with two belts while someone else drives at high speeds. When the girls reach the barn where the Dodge is being sold, Kim reluctantly agrees to help with the stunt and Abernathy tags along, while Lee finds herself left behind to placate the car’s owner, Jasper (Jonathan Loughran).

During this game, Mike arrives suddenly, and targets them with his 1969 Dodge Charger, repeatedly crashing into them, and eventually Zoë is thrown from the hood. Kim, who carries a gun for protection, shoots Mike in the left arm, causing him to flee. Zoë, due to her training and agility, is unharmed except for a “bruise on her bum.” The three girls decide to take revenge against their attacker. At this point the character roles abruptly switch, as Stuntman Mike becomes hysterical. His intended victims, on the other hand, become enraged in their pursuit, jeering and laughing at their foe’s efforts. Stuntman Mike’s injury forces him to stop and attempt to tend to his wound. In doing so, he releases his safety harness. Kim crashes into the back of his Charger and Zoë attacks him with a pipe, but Mike flees again without refastening his harness. An extended chase scene follows; just when he thinks he has escaped, the pursuing vehicle blindsides him and he crashes to a stop, breaking his right arm. Screaming in pain, he is hauled out of the car and the three women administer a vicious beating. Stuntman Mike is knocked to the ground, and the women leap in celebration, caught in a midair freeze-frame as the film ends. After a moment of credits, the film returns to show Abernathy delivering an axe-kick to Mike, crushing his head with her boot.

REVIEW:

I really wish films would take hint from this film and strip the CGI to minimum in the film and use real stunts and action. It seriously would be better, and possibly cheaper, but these days everything has to be done with computers I guess, and we, the viewers just have to deal with it.

This is actually the first part of the Grindhouse double feature, preceding, Planet Terror. While i liked this one, I think I preferred the other film. Of course, when/if I watch these again, my opinion is totally opt to change.

It is obvious that this is a Quentin Trantino film. On top of the nods to his other films here and there, there is the snappy Tarantino dialogue and old school soundtrack filled mostly with lesser known songs/artists. He does an excellent job of capturing the essence of car scenes from yesteryear, without the use of CGI *GASP* I’ve always respected Tarantino, but the direction he took with film, really upped my respect for him.

The real star(s) of the film has to be the car that Russell is driving. It is a true beast of a machine, and I would not want to be on the receiving end of a head on collision with it. Now the second incarnation of it isn’t as fearsome, but still is a force of man and machine, as the girls found out.

Kurt Russell doesn’t have much to do in this film other than drive. Well, he does have a few lines and the forst time we see him is a very gross close up of him eating nachos. He is very convincing as a grimy stuntman stalker who gets his jollies by killing his victims.

Jordan Ladd and Syndey Tamiia Poitier may not be household names, but their parents are. These aren’t the best roles for these actresses, Ladd especially, but it does get them out there in the public. Poitier really shines, though, in her role as Jungle Julia. Although, I was wondering if she would ever shut up.

Ladd and Poitier are accompanied by Vanessa Ferlito. Ferlito isn’t a well-known actress by any stretch of the imagination, but she shows some real acting chops in her role, going toe to toe with Russell, and giving a pretty nice lap dance.

The crash scene between Stuntmn Bob and these girls is epic, especially from the  many angles they show it from.

The second half of the film brings us Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, Rosario Dawson, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  all are very competent actresses, especially Rosario, and nice bits of eye candy, but they just seem to talk on, and on, and on, and on…until they decide to go look at the white Dodge Challenger and take it for a test drive. Similar to the first half of the film, that’s when the real action starts.

After some real car chase action, the girls finally catch up with Stuntman Bob and give him his comeuppance. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but I kind of felt that he should/could have fought back rather than drive around whimpering. I understand that he didn’t kill them, because Zoe Bell was playing herself. That was pretty much a dead giveaway that she was going to live.

Similar to Planet Terror, Death Proof  has the look of a classic projector film, complete with pops and scene jumps, though they aren’t as prevalent in this one as they are in its counterpart. While it seems that this film is meant to be a serious piece of cinema, I couldn’t help but crack up at the cheesy factor of some of it, especially the ending. Despite its ups and downs, from the luscious eye candy that is the female cast, to the testosterone filled REAL car chase scenes, this is a pretty solid film, that any red blooded male (and I’m sure a few females) will enjoy.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars