Archive for Michael J. Fox

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

Stuart Little 2

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Three years after the first film, Stuart Little questions his ability after a grueling soccer match alongside George, who kicked him with a soccer ball. He becomes even more downhearted after George’s toy airplane gets broken in an accident because of him. However, Stuart’s father, Frederick Little, tells him that for every Little, there is a “silver lining”, a good thing that comes out of an apparently bad situation.

On his way home from school, Stuart saves a female canary named Margalo who is being pursued by a peregrine falcon, and they become friends. But she is secretly working with Falcon to case and steal from households. When he presses her to find and take an object of value, or lose the sanctuary he promised her, she can’t seem to concentrate on her assignment, as she is beginning to fall in love with Stuart. Falcon eventually loses patience and threatens to kill him if she doesn’t deliver. Worried for his safety, she takes Eleanor Little’s diamond wedding ring.

When the Littles see that the ring is missing, they think it has fallen down the sink. Stuart offers to be lowered down the drain on a string to get it, and nearly succeeds. When the string breaks Margalo saves him, and his thanks to her only makes her feel even more guilty, so she decides to leave. When he can’t find her, he assumes she has been kidnapped – and that Falcon is somehow involved. He leaves on a quest to rescue her with the household’s reluctant cat Snowbell, but not before setting up a plan with George.

Stuart and Snowbell enlist the help of Monty, who tells them that Falcon’s lair is at the disused observation deck of the nearby Pishkin Building. They use balloons to get Stuart to the top, where he finds out that Margalo is Falcon’s slave, and was forced to take the ring. He tries to save her, but Falcon captures him, and drops him in a garbage truck. Falcon then shuts Margalo inside a paint can as punishment for rebelling against him. Meanwhile, Snowbell makes his way to the top of the building while the Falcon is absent and frees Margalo, who tearfully tells Snowbell that Falcon killed Stuart. Distraught, Snowbell vows revenge.

On a garbage scow where he has ended up, Stuart blames himself for everything, and has almost lost all hope. Suddenly, he finds George’s broken plane, fixes it up, and flies to save Margalo. Falcon returns and almost hits Snowbell off the building, but Margalo defies him by taking the ring and fleeing. Falcon gives chase, but Stuart catches up in the plane and saves Margalo while trying to evade the Falcon. The Littles, who have discovered his absence and whereabouts follow him by taxi as he begins an aerial adventure through the park, with Margalo at his side. They lose Falcon, but he catches up and makes an attempt to kill Stuart, when he detaches the plane’s upper wing, damaging the main one and causing it to enter a steep nose dive, which fails when Stuart recovers from the dive, nearly missing the Littles. Unable to run from Falcon, he lets Margalo off. He turns and flies the damaged plane in a kamikaze run while Falcon goes into an attack dive. He uses Mrs. Little’s ring to temporarily blind him, and jumps out using a bandana as a parachute. The kamikaze attack works and Falcon is struck head on and defeated. Although he survives the attack, he falls out of the sky and lands in a garbage can that Monty is scavenging in, and is presumably eaten by him, but not before Stuart falls when his parachute is sliced apart by the propeller of the shattered plane, and then is rescued by Margalo.

Stuart is congratulated by his family, and Margalo, who gives Mrs. Little her ring back, and Snowbell reunites with them as well. Soon after, Margalo leaves with the other birds to migrate south, but not before saying goodbye to her friends. Stuart says the “silver lining” is that she’ll be back in the spring, and his baby sister, Martha, says her first words: “Bye bye, birdie.”, which the family then celebrates and then head inside to the comfort of their home.

REVIEW:

Welcome back to the colorful world where no one seems to notice that a human family has a talking mouse for a son. It is that suspension of disbelief that makes childhood great. Stuart Little 2 takes us all back to those innocent youth days with an adventure that we could very well have seen on Saturday morning television, and that is part of the charm and attraction of this film.

What is this about?

In this sequel to the 1999 blockbuster, adorable white mouse Stuart still lives happily with his adoptive family, the Littles — and more zany misadventures are in store as Stuart, his human brother and their mischievous cat raise the roof.

What did I like?

Message. Say what you will about every other aspect of this film, the one thing that you cannot say is that it is portraying a negative message. As a matter of fact, you can’t get much more positive than one of family and acceptance, now can you? Sure that may be a bit on the sugary, sweet side, but that’s what this film is.

Keep it moving. Not only is this film bright and colorful, but it is also short. With a run time of 76 minutes, you can be sure that kids and the ADHD crown won’t be going insane when you put this in to watch. Also, there isn’t some weird nonsensical drama involving the different species. Everyone is just who they are. It makes you wonder why can’t society nowadays be more accepting like the people in this film.

Stuart. In a strange bit of irony, you may recall that Stuart Little was more about George, played by Jonathan Lipnicki, than Stuart. This time around, we get much more of Stuart, which is really what we’re watching this for, after all, right?

What didn’t I like?

Motherly love. I love Geena Davis in these movies. She has never looked better. However, I can’t get over how overbearing a mother her character is. I don’t recall her being so protective of George in the first film. I have to wonder if this is all because Stuart is a mouse or being the youngest/smallest. At any rate, a certain amount of motherly love is ok, but she was just written almost to an extreme. They may have wanted her that way, which is fine, but I was not a fan.

Falcon. James Woods does a great job of voicing the villainous falcon. The problem I had with the character is that, well, what is a falcon doing flying around New York? If they would have had him running things from the zoo, or on the run from animal control, then that would have added something to his character, but as it stands he’s just a falcon flying around NYC. Perhaps there is a level of suspension of disbelief that needs to be had here, though.

Cats. You won’t find anyone that loves cats more than myself (except for crazy cat ladies and ancient Egyptians). I couldn’t help but notice that Snowbell and Monty returned for this flick. Snowbell, being a family cat, I can accept having a bit of a role, but Monty just made no sense, other than they just wanted to shoehorn in a familiar character that perhaps did well with audiences but wasn’t in the source material.

They say that more often than not, sequels don’t live up to the original. Stuart Little 2 is no exception. Having said that, it is able to stand alone and doesn’t feel like a cash grab the way many sequels do. If you’re looking for a fun family film that won’t insult your intelligence, this is something you should check out. The kids will enjoy it, if no one else does. I highly recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars

Stuart Little

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Eleanor and Frederick Little and and their son George on the day they are intending an adoption. While George is at school, his parents go to the orphanage where, they fall in love with a thoughtful, observant mouse named Stuart, who knows almost everything about the other children, having been there for a long time. Despite the warnings of Mrs. Keeper (the woman in charge), who says that humans should not be adopting mice, they decide to adopt him as their second son.

Immediately after getting home, Stuart meets Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane) the family cat, who immediately attempts to eat him. George is surprised when his parents introduce Stuart as his new brother. He thinks it is a joke at first, but is shocked when he sees they are serious. That night, Snowbell visits Stuart and requests that he keep a low profile, so as to avoid getting seen by the other cats and damaging Snowbell’s reputation.

George is at first sullen and somewhat disappointed and treats Stuart with contempt. He eventually snaps at a family gathering when they encourage him to play “catch” with him. He also earns Snowbell’s wrath when his friend, Monty the Mouth visits for food. As Snowbell tries to keep him from seeing Stuart, he makes a scene trying to get a cereal box from a cupboard. When he sees him and discovers he is a member of the family, Monty cannot contain himself. Enraged, Snowbell tries to kill him, who narrowly escapes by fleeing into the basement. Here, he learns that George keeps a playroom and the two interact and eventually, George comes to accept him as his brother. He also finds that George keeps a toy car just his size. They decide to work together to finish George’s homemade model boat, the Wasp, for the Central Park Boat Race the following week.

Snowbell, however, isn’t finished. He and Monty head to an alley that night to visit Smokey (voiced by Chazz Palminteri), a Mafia Don-like Russian Blue who is the leader of the alley cats. Since Snowbell doesn’t want Stuart killed, he makes a plan with the alley cats to remove him from the Littles’ house. On the day of the 92nd annual Central Park Boat Race, the Wasp is finished, and they arrive at Central Park. George discovers his nemesis, Anton, is there. At the same time, Stuart accidentally destroys George’s remote control, rendering his boat inoperable. To make up for this, he takes control of it himself. Anton, however, attempts to cheat by ramming his much larger boat into other ones and sinking them. When he attempts to do the same thing to the Wasp, Stuart manages to bite into the line of his sail, rendering Anton’s boat inoperable. He subsequently wins the race.

That night, the Littles are visited by Reginald and Camille Stout, a mouse couple claiming to be Stuart’s parents. After discussion, he reluctantly leaves with his parents, taking the toy car with him as a goodbye present from George and they go to their home, a small toy castle on a golf course. Three days later, the Littles are visited by Mrs. Keeper, whom they had asked to do some background research on Stuart. She tells them that, according to the records, his parents died several years ago after a pile of canned food fell on them. The Littles realised that he had been kidnapped and call the police.

A terrified Snowbell rushes to the alley and warns Smokey and the others about the Littles’ discovery. He then decides that the only way to rectify things is to kill him. They call a meeting with Reginald and demand that he and Camille hand Stuart over. But the Stouts, having grown to care for him, reveal the truth and Reginald orders him to escape before the cats find him. He does so after saying goodbye to his “fake parents”. Meanwhile, the Littles decide to place “missing” posters around the city to get help in finding him. While going through Central Park, he is ambushed by Smokey and a few cats. He manages to evade them by driving his car into the sewer, but he loses both the car and his luggage while escaping the storm drain. Eventually, he finds his way home just as the Littles leave to hang the posters. The only one home is Snowbell, and he tells him a lie about how they are enjoying life without him, and shows him the family picture with his face cut out (they had actually removed it to provide one for the missing posters). He leaves again. However, Snowbell sees the pain his absence has caused and realises his selfishness.

Discovering Stuart’s location from Monty and the other cats, who intend to eat him, Snowbell heads to Central Park and finds him sitting alone in a bird’s nest. Snowbell, however, turns on the other cats and escapes with him, admitting his lie to him and that the Littles actually do love him, he is in fact the only one who hates him. The cats catch up with them and Snowbell attempts to convince Smokey to call off the hit on Stuart, but is refused. Instead, he orders the cats to kill them both. Stuart responds by taking off Snowbell’s collar and using it to lure them.

The cats give chase, and eventually corner Stuart hanging from a tree branch. They group together on a lower one to catch him, but Snowbell breaks it at the last minute and sends them into the water below. Smokey sneaks up behind Snowbell and is about to kill him when Stuart releases a thin branch that hits him in the face and knocks him into the water. Enraged and humiliated, he walks off, only to be attacked by dogs upon turning a corner. Monty and the other cats also climb out of the water, whimpering and embarrassed. Snowbell and Stuart walk home and he shares a warm reunion with his family, telling them that Snowbell helped him get there. The Littles bring them inside and close the windows, ready for

REVIEW:

A term the movie industry tends to use a lot, mostly when it comes to family flicks, is “movie with heart”. Well, there is no better example of this than Stuart Little! I have never been fortunate enough to view a film that really makes you feel for the central character, except maybe a few of those Pixar films, but I tend to have high expectations for those.

So, what did I like?

Story. More often than not, today’s films choose to forget good storytelling in favor of any and everything else. This film does the opposite. Yes, it has a little CG mouse as its star, but, unlike other films that stick a CG character in the “real” world, they don’t focus on how he’s different, but rather just stick to him being a normal orphan. Yes, they touch on his being a mouse here and there, but that really is a side note to the major plot line of Stuart wanting his fairytale ending with a real family.

Age of innocence. There is just something about how innocent and sweet this story is that appeals to all ages and may very well be why this film, and more so the books, are such a success. With the exception of the rather dark turn that leads to the film’s climax, this is almost G rated sweetness.

Animation. I’m won’t say that this is the best use of CG I’ve seen, but compared to that waste of time that was Marmaduke (which was released 13 years later, btw), this shines. Stuart is very well crafted and executed and the cats don’t have that weird, creepy moving jaw that is used way too often when it comes to talking animals.

Cast. Those of you that have grown to love Hugh Laurie as the curmudgeon Dr. House on House will be shocked to see him as this loveable father here. He has great chemistry with Geena Davis, who seems at home in the colorful, dare I say retro setting. The voice casting isn’t half bad, either, led by Michael J. Fox as Stuart.

What didn’t I like?

Unnecessary plot twist and deviation from the source material. I know that this film doesn’t stick very close to the source material, so the dark tone the film takes near the end is probably the result of the director thinking this was too happy of a film. Personally, I had no issue with things going just right for Stuart. Where is it written that every film character has to be thrown a life curveball? The whole thing where the “mafia” cats hire a fake family to take Stuart away, just seemed unnecessary.

Stuart Little is one of those films that is good for all ages. It has something for everyone and will have you wanting to watch it over and over again. I wish I could say that this is a perfect film, but it isn’t. More importantly, though, it is a fun film to watch. So, give it a look-see!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

Teen Wolf

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

High school student Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is seventeen years old, sick of being average and wishing he were special. His father runs a local hardware store. Scott plays basketball for his high school’s team, the Beavers, with a not-so-good win-loss record. The girl of his dreams, Pamela Wells (Lorie Griffin), is dating Mick, a jerk from an opposing high school team, the Dragons. After another of the team’s losses, Scott begins to notice strange changes to his body. While at a party, Scott keeps undergoing changes and eventually he returns home, locks himself in the bathroom, and undergoes a complete change and becomes a werewolf, while his father demands that he open the door. He tries to refuse, only to finally give in and obey, to find his father has also transformed into a werewolf.

Harold never told his son about the condition because “sometimes it skips a generation” and he was hoping it wouldn’t happen to Scott. Scott first reveals his transformation to the public at one of his basketball games, after getting pinned in a pile-up. After momentarily stunning the crowd with The Wolf, Scott goes on to wow them with his basketball skills and he finishes the game with a quadruple double.

Scott subsequently learns to use his family “curse” to gain popularity at school, becoming the team’s star basketball player, and learns to transform at will between his normal self and The Wolf. His basketball team goes from last to first, and Scott begins spending most of his school time as The Wolf. He also wins the heart of Pamela while ignoring the affections of his best friend, Boof (Susan Ursitti), who has loved him since childhood.

Scott’s other best friend ‘Stiles’ (Jerry Levine), a party animal with an entrepreneurial streak, quickly cashes in on Scott’s new-found popularity, selling Teen Wolf T-shirts and other merchandise. Stiles’ “wolfmania” reaches such extremes that he trades in his own vehicle for a stepvan dubbed “Wolfmobile.”

After a freak encounter with Mick at the Spring Dance that almost turns violent, Scott wishes to be himself. During the final basketball game (Beavers VS. Dragons again), Scott refuses to “wolf out” and insists on winning the game on his own. Coach Bobby Finstock tells Scott that the team is doomed to fail without The Wolf, but Scott is able to prove him wrong. In a dramatic ending, and with the help of four fouls from Mick, Scott is able to rally the team back to within a point as time is expiring. Scott is fouled one last time by Mick on the final play and given two shots. In a clear violation of the rules, Mick is able to stand underneath the basket as Scott attempts his foul shots. Scott makes both baskets and the Beavers win the game by one point.

Pamela attempts to get Scott’s attention after the game is over, but he passes her by to hold Boof in his arms, kissing her passionately.

REVIEW:

The 80s was a good time for cinema. Back in those days, movies were made for the people that watched them, not solely for the purpose of making moeny. Furthermore, no matter how totally “rad” (had to get that 80s term in there) or awful a movie ended up being, they were still fun to watch and not depressing like many of today’s movies.

Teen Wolf is what I like to consider a forgotten 80s classic. Think about it…name 5 80s films and I bet Teen Wolf doesn’t come up on the list, does it? There is a reason for that. Simply put, it isn’t that great a film, even by 80s standards. Having said that, it doesn’t totally suck, but there’s isn’t anything really memorable about it. As a matter f fact, I think I remember more about the SAturday morning cartoon than I did about the actual movie.

The good…the studio did a good job of casting and capitalizing on Micaheal J. Fox’s growing star power. The initial transofmation sequence is impressive, and belive it or not, one of the better werewolf tranformation scenes I’ve seen (at least they don’t jump in the air and turn into giant dogs *cough* Twilight *cough*). The fact that the school seems to accept this teenage werewolf, when we all know theyd have shunned or shied away from him in real life, is something I’ve always liked. The scenes where the dad scares the piss (literally) out of the vice principal has long been one of my favorites of the film.
 
The bad…muhc of this film is the cliche high school stuff, culminating with the “hero” falling for the popular girl when a perfecty beautiful best friend is secretly pining over him, but at film’s end he falls for her. That kid of stuff you can see a mile away. As good as the transformation sequences are, the actual look of the werewolves is just plain bad. The look like some kid of hybrid between Cousin It and the monkey creatures (can’t think of their name right now) from Land of the Lost.  Talk about bad acting, the actress that plays the object of Scott’s affection is in a high school play and is supposed to sound like a band actress, that’s fine and dandy, except that there are times that I think she may have have gone too far into her preparation because she wasn’t that great.
 
I seem to remember loving this film when I saw it in my younger days. I guess now my tastes have changed, or I now more about what to look for in a good film. Not totally sure what the reason is, but this picture isn’t as good as I remember. Still, it isn’t that bad, but rather just and average film. No reason for you not to give it a look see. You could definitely do a million times worse.
 
3 out of 5 stars

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1914, Milo James Thatch (Michael J. Fox), an aspiring cartographer/linguist/explorer working in the boiler room at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., believes he has found the secret to the location of Atlantis through a manuscript called the Sheppard’s Journal. When his request to lead an expedition is denied by Institute’s board, he finds himself contacted by Preston B. Whitmore (John Mahoney), who reveals he was a friend of Milo’s grandfather, Thaddeus Thatch, who had originally located the Journal. Whitmore requests that Milo become part of a team to search for Atlantis as their linguist expert, which Milo eagerly agrees to. Milo is introduced to the specialists on the team, led by Commander Lyle Rourke (James Garner) and his second-in-command Helga Sinclair (Claudia Christian). The team includes Italian demolitions expert Vincenzo “Vinny” Santorini (Don Novello), crazed French geologist Gaetan “Mole” Molière (Corey Burton), medical officer Dr. Joshua Sweet (Phil Morris), teenage tomboy mechanic Audrey Ramirez (Jacqueline Obradors), redneck cook Jebidiah Allerdyce “Cookie” Farnsworth (Jim Varney), and elderly cynical communications expert Wilhelmina Packard (Florence Stanley). The team initially teases and plays tricks on Milo but slowly warm up to him over the adventure.

The expedition quickly meets a fateful start when a robotic Leviathan destroys the main submarine, and most of the ship’s crew are killed during the evacuation, but Milo’s team are able to find the underwater cavern described by the Journal that leads to Atlantis, and proceed with the exploration, unaware they are being watched. After misadventures with the local fauna and discovering the caves are resting on a dormant volcano, they find themselves at the outskirts of Atlantis. Kida (Cree Summer), one of the Atlantians that had been tracking the group, invites the team to see her father, King Kashekim Nedakh (Leonard Nimoy). However, the King demands that the team leave immediately, but acquiesces when Commander Rourke asks to stay the night to recover and refresh supplies. While the others relax, Rourke orders his soldiers to arm themselves.

Kida discovers that Milo can read and speak the Atlantean language, something that her people have long forgotten, and enlists his help to transcript ancient murals that can be used to save the city. Diving near some of the city’s ruins, Milo and Kida learn that the city is protected by the Heart of Atlantis, and that the strange blue gems that each Atlantian wears are connected to it. Kida recalls when her mother was taken away from her by the Heart in order to save the city from a mega-tsunami. As they leave the ruins, they are caught by Rourke and the rest of the team, who have turned mercenary and are after the Heart. The armed men take Milo and Kida by force to the King. Rourke mortally wounds the King when he refuses to reveal the location of the Heart, but manages to deduce the location anyway from the clues in the Journal. Rourke, Helga, Milo, and Kida travel to chamber below the King’s quarters, finding the Heart to be a large blue crystal hanging in mid-air. Kida is drawn to the crystal and is infused with its power; as she is walking towards the crystal, she tells Milo in Atlantian that he should not worry.

Still under gunpoint, Rourke forces Kida into a metal chamber they will use to return to her to the surface, using her power for financial gain; however, without the Heart, the city and its residents will soon die. The other team members quickly recognize Rourke’s motive was not part of the mission and stand behind Milo in demanding him to release Kida. Rourke refuses, leaving the others stranded while he and his men leave the city. Before going in pursuit of Rourke, Milo sees the king for the last time. Sweet informs Milo that the king has internal bleeding caused by Rourke’s attack. The king pleads to Milo for the return of his daughter and the survival of Atlantis. The king also adds that the Heart would choose a host of royal blood, like Kida and her mother before her, to protect itself and its people. It thrives on the collective emotions of previous hosts, in return the Crystal would grant them power, protection, and longevity. Through the years and ages that passed the Crystal began to develop a mind of its own. He attempted to use the Crystal as a weapon of war, but its power was too great to control, which lead to their destruction, so he hid the crystal beneath the city so that history wouldn’t repeat itself. The king also warns that if Kida remains fused to the crystal for too much time, she would be lost forever, the same fate that Kida’s mother suffered. The king in his last moments tells Milo that he will be gone and his daughter too, hands him the crystal he wore and tells him that it is up to him to save Atlantis. With those words, the king dies.

Milo, the other team members, and the Atlantians discover how to use ancient flying machines to give chase to Rourke, who is trying to launch the chamber with Kida in it to the top of an extinguished volcano which leads right to the surface. A large battle ensues between the Atlanteans (with Milo and the expedition gang) and Rourke, Helga, and their soldiers. In an attempt to save Kida, Milo rams his vehicle into part of the balloon, Making it lose altitude. Rourke tells Helga to lighten the load, and throws Helga off as well, stopping at nothing to win. Milo finally makes it on board, and fights Rourke. Down below, Helga takes her last breaths and fires a round into the balloon, helping Milo to win. Milo, finding a shard of glass powered by the crystal, jabs it into Rourke, crystallizing him, and killing him. The battle has caused the volcano to start to erupt, the lava threatening to destroy Atlantis. Milo returns Kida to the center of the city where she is taken once again by the Heart; her life force is used to activate giant stone guardians at the city’s edge that form a protective barrier from the lava. After the city is saved, Kida is returned to Milo’s arms from the Heart, no longer infused with its power.

The rest of the surface team prepares to return with vehicles full of treasure as thanks from the city, but Milo decides to stay behind, smitten in love for Kida and determined to help preserve Atlantis to its former glory, and passes a note (using his picture of him and his grandfather) to be given to Whitmore, with a blue life crystal as evidence he found the city and his thanks for the opportunity. Whitmore is enlightened by this, and the rest of the team, after returning to the surface, concoct a tale for the public with Whitmore’s cooperation that they never found Atlantis, despite their newfound wealth, and that Milo, Rourke and Helga went missing in action. The film ends with Milo and Kida creating a memorial for the dead King while going forward to help restore Atlantis back to its former glory.

REVIEW:

I don’t really understand why this film isn’t more popular than it is. There’s action, adventure, deception, drama, and a bit of a love story. All the things that make for good cinema. I guess since  it’s rated PG, people had a cow.

The animation, as with 99.9% of anything Disney, is spectacularly breathtaking. From the minute the film starts you can’t help but be dumbfounded, but I’m a purist, and don’t believe in computer animation when things could just as easily been hand drawn like they were in the old days. Yes, it looks cool and all, but for me, that’s a negative. It sends the message that the artists are too lazy and reliant on computers to do the work it takes to make a good animated film. That may just be me, though.

Michael J. Fox couldn’t have been more perfectly cast as the voice of Milo Thatch. For some reason, his voice seemed to fit the character perfectly. Also in perfect casting were Cree Summer as Princess Kida (why is she never brought up as a Disney Princess) and James Garner as Commander Rourke, not to mention Jim Varney as the cook. The rest of the cast isn’t too shabby either.

The plot of the film could use some work, or at least the development of the crew could. Of course, it just so happens that they had originally intended for this to lead to a TV series, but because of poor box office results, that idea was shelved. So, as a result, the characters, who all seem to be very interesting, got shortchanged in the development department. Personally, I would love to know Mole’s backstory that Dr. Sweet told Milo “You don’t wanna know…”

Not too shabby of a film, if you ask me. Sure its not the most memorable, but they all can’t be. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. It has something for everyone!

4 out of 5 stars

Back to the Future part 3

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

After lightning strikes the clock tower and sends the Back to the FutureMarty back to 1985, Marty McFly (Michael J Fox), who is stranded in 1955, takes “Doc” Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) home. He explains to the Doc of that era that Doc’s future self and the DeLorean time machine were accidentally sent back to the year 1885. Marty learns from a letter written by Doc in 1885, that the DeLorean is hidden in an old mineshaft. The letter instructs Marty to find the car, return to 1985, and then destroy it in order to prevent further disruption of the space-time continuum.

With the help of the Doc of 1955, Marty retrieves the DeLorean. In the process, he discovers a tombstone which leads him to learn that Doc was killed in 1885 by Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen, just seven days after having written the letter. Ignoring Doc’s urging to return to 1985, Marty decides that he must save Doc, who had no idea he would be killed days later. Marty takes the DeLorean back to 1885, and arrives in the middle of a skirmish between a group of Native Americans and the United States cavalry, resulting in the DeLorean’s fuel line being ruptured. Marty reunites with Doc, who agrees to leave when he learns of his upcoming fate. Doc sees Marty’s photograph of his tombstone and concludes from the inscription that he was to have fallen in love with a woman named “Clara”. Learning that the new schoolmarm he has promised to pick up is named Clara Clayton, Doc decides to leave without meeting her.

However, the ruptured fuel line has left the DeLorean’s gas tank completely empty; and the DeLorean cannot reach 88 miles per hour without gasoline. After several failed attempts to accelerate the car through alternate means, Doc decides to push the DeLorean up to speed with a steam locomotive, but finds that the only track straight enough ends in an incomplete bridge over a deep ravine. The car will have to reach 88 miles per hour before reaching the bridge, so that it can travel to 1985 where the bridge is completed. As they scout the location, they save a woman from falling into the ravine on a runaway carriage, only to discover that she is Clara Clayton. She and Doc immediately become enamoured with each other.

At a festival dedicating the newly constructed clock tower, Buford attempts to kill Doc, only to be thwarted by Marty. Marty, however, is goaded into a gun duel after Buford calls him “yellow”. With Doc’s original death averted, his name disappears from the tombstone in the photograph, but the date remains. Doc warns Marty that his name may end up on it if he chooses to meet up with Buford. Still infatuated with Clara, the Doc expresses his desire to stay with her in 1885, but Marty talks him out of it. Doc decides to say goodbye to her and, when pressed, tells her that he’s from the future. Thinking this an obvious lie, Clara angrily slaps him in rejection and starts to cry as Doc heads to the town saloon to get drunk. Marty convinces him to leave the saloon, but not before Buford shows up and insists that it’s time for the showdown. Marty is forced to participate and defeats Buford by using a stove cover as a bullet-proof shield. Following the duel, Buford is arrested for having committed a robbery the previous day. Clara, meanwhile, hears about how heartbroken the Doc was when she rejected him and sets off to find him.

Doc and Marty manage to hijack the locomotive and start to push the DeLorean; Marty waits in the DeLorean while Doc remains on the train to add specially-created logs to the boiler that will overheat it and increase its speed. Clara catches up with the locomotive on horse and climbs aboard as Doc makes his way to the DeLorean. Seeing Clara in the cab, he is forced to return for her, and manages to fly off with her on the hoverboard just as the DeLorean reaches 88 miles per hour and transports Marty back to 1985 alone. The locomotive, which subsequently runs past the track, falls into the ravine and explodes.

As planned in the parallel year 1985, Marty coasts safely across the ravine bridge, but he immediately encounters a modern-day diesel locomotive bearing down on him. Marty escapes, but the DeLorean is smashed to pieces. Marty picks Jennifer up at her house where he left her in Part II, and having learned his lesson back in 1885, refuses to take part in a drag race with Needles, who calls him ‘chicken’. This causes him to avoid the automobile accident which resulted in the ruined future depicted in the previous film. Marty takes Jennifer to the site of the destroyed DeLorean, where he accepts that it is what Doc wanted. At that moment, however, a time machine built out of a locomotive appears. The door opens to reveal Doc, Clara and their two sons, who are named Jules and Verne (before appearing in Back to the Future: The Animated Series) after the author Jules Verne. As Doc prepares to leave again, Marty asks if they plan to go to the future. Doc replies that they’ve already been there, and the train lifts off from the ground and flies off into time.

REVIEW:

The finale in the Back to the Future saga goes out with a bang. For my taste, though, it’s not as good as part one and takes a bit of a dramatic turn that really wasn’t necessary.

Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd reprise their roles as Marty and Doc Brown, respectively. Fox also hit the makeup chair so that he could play Seamus McFly.

Just as the first one was almost completely about Marty with Doc in a supporting role, this one is more about Doc with Marty in the supporting role. It’s an interesting shift, especially since their roles are pretty even in the second.

Thomas F. Wilson gves his best performance of the saga as  the eccentric Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen. One must wonder if real outlaws were like that.

Mary Steenburgen does not fit into the cast. This may be a bit of a biased observation by me, but she just feels like they threw her in to give Doc a love interest and a female lead other than Lea Thompson.

Lea Thompson does appear in this film, but her biggest role in the trilogy was the first film.

I love the old west, so I really liked the fact that they chose to go back to that period of time. However, I wish there would have been more gags with steam engines and horses and such, rather than spending valuable film on one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen on a film, Clara Clayton.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the fact that she stopped the train she was on and chased after Doc. It was nice to see a woman chase after the guy for once, but she got him stranded in the past, all because she didn’t give him the benefit of the death. Just my two cents, though.

To close up the trilogy, this is a pretty solid film. I belive there are things that could have been better or changed, but it’s still a good film. I recommend you watch it.

4 out of 5 stars

Back to the Future part 2

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Marty McFly, “Doc” Brown, and Jennifer Parker (now played by Elisabeth Shue) arrive in 2015. Jennifer begins asking many questions about her future. Doc tranquilizes Jennifer, who is not necessary for his plan, explaining that he brought her along only because she saw the time machine. After landing in Hill Valley, Marty and Doc leave Jennifer in an alley, expecting her to remain unconscious while they attend to the crisis involving Marty’s children. Doc explains that Martin McFly Jr., Marty’s and Jennifer’s son, is about to be approached by Griff Tannen, Biff’s grandson, and his gang, who will offer him the chance to take part in a robbery. According to Doc, this event leads to the ruin of the entire McFly family. Marty impersonates his future son and tells Griff he will not join the robbery; however, his self-control crumbles when his courage is called into question, and he is accused of being a “chicken”. The resulting confrontation leads to a hoverboard chase that causes Griff and his thugs to damage the glass facade of the nearby courthouse. Griff and his gang are arrested and the planned robbery never occurs.

Before reuniting with Doc, Marty notices a sports almanac displayed in an antique store window, which lists sports statistics from 1950 through to 2000. He buys it, intending to take the book back to 1985 and use the data within for financial gain. Doc discovers the almanac, and sternly tells Marty that the purpose of inventing this time machine was for scientific investigation, not financial gain (especially dishonest), and pitches the almanac into a garbage can. Meanwhile, Jennifer, still tranquilized, is found by the police, who mistake her for her future self after thumbprint identification, and take her to her future home, waking her up just as they arrive. Confused, she hides in a closet, not seeing Marlene McFly, Marty’s and Jennifer’s daughter, letting George and Lorraine in for dinner. She also witnesses the Marty of 2015 being fired from his job after his Japanese boss catches him “cooperating” in an illegal scheme (a sting operation) that his immediate boss and longtime friend, Douglas Needles, goads him into joining, again by taunting him that he is too ‘chicken’ to try it. Travelling to the house, Doc leaves Marty with the DeLorean, finds Jennifer and sneaks her out of the house. Along the way, she encounters her older self, who has just arrived home, with the shock causing both women to pass out. Unable to carry her himself, Doc calls Marty for help, leaving the DeLorean unguarded.

While Doc and Marty rescue Jennifer, the original Biff (age 78), having overheard Doc and Marty talking about time travel and about the folly and hazards in using it to win at gambling, recovers the discarded sports almanac, steals the DeLorean and travels back in time. He returns the car just before Marty and Doc return to it to leave for their own time, stumbles away in pain and collapses (he has the same symptoms that Marty exhibited in Back to the Future when he was beginning to be “erased”). Upon arrival in 1985, Marty and Doc find that Hill Valley has become a dilapidated, crime-ridden slumlorded over by a middle-aged Biff, who is now immeasurably rich, powerful and corrupt thanks to decades of successful sports betting, the proceeds of which he invested in toxic waste dumps, oil, and to purchase the Hill Valley courthouse and convert it into a luxury hotel and casino. Biff has also married Marty’s widowed mother, Lorraine, after secretly killing her husband George. Doc deduces that the Biff of 2015 must have given the almanac to his younger self sometime in the past. Marty confronts Biff and finds out that he received the almanac on November 12, 1955, the date of the lightning storm that Marty used to get back to the future. Biff then intends to kill Marty (telling him that it’s the same gun that he used to kill Marty’s real dad George) as he now knows too much. Marty again is saved by Doc when Doc knocks out Biff with the DeLorean’s gull-wing door.

Marty and Doc travel back to 1955 to prevent Biff from getting the almanac. Marty goes through a long and complicated series of events involving his multiple attempts to recover the almanac, all the while making sure that he does not interfere with past events again and does not undo all that he had previously done in 1955 in the first film to set his parents up with each other. After revisiting the events of the Enchantment Under the Seadance, he eventually manages to steal the book from the 1955 Biff with the help of Doc in the flying DeLorean, and burns it, restoring history to its proper course. As Doc fights the controls (and accidentally turns on the time circuits) while attempting to land the DeLorean during the storm to pick Marty up, the car is struck by lightning, causing it to disappear, the time-travel capability having been triggered by the lightning. A few minutes later, a Western Union delivery man appears with a letter, which he explains was sent seventy years ago with the explicit instructions that it be delivered to Marty “at this exact location, at this exact minute, November 12, 1955”. Marty opens the letter, which is from Doc, explaining that he is now living happily in 1885. Knowing he has only one source of help, Marty runs to the clock tower to find the Doc of 1955, just as lightning strikes to send the previous film’s Marty back to the future. The shock of suddenly seeing the new Marty, whom (he thinks) he has just sent back to 1985 causes Doc to faint. The film ends as Marty tries to revive Doc.

REVIEW:

This series of films is a true trilogy, as each film is a different part of the story. This particular one is  arguably the most entertaining.

Michael J. Fox reprises his role as Marty, but this time he also had to go into makeup so that he could play his son, daughter, and older self. I almost didn’t recognize him as  the daughter.

Christopher Lloyd reprises his role as Doc Brown and is more eccentric that in the first film. A very good performance from him here.

Elizabeth Shue takes over the role of Jennifer from Claudia Wells. While not the biggest role in this film, she does a good job with what she has. I actually think she’s a better Jennifer, if for no other reason than she’s cuter.

Thomas F. Wilson is all over this film as young Biff, old Biff, present Biff, corrupt Biff, and his grandson Griff. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he was the star of the show. Still, he makes a good villain.

Lea Thompson is a cutie and though she doesn’t have as big of a part in this film as she did the previous one, she does have a similar scene with Marty, only instead she’s nursing her son back to health and apparently gained some implants in the corrupt world of Biff’s 1985.

The best part of this film has to be the future scenes. It’s too bad they rushed everything back to 1955, though. Here it is 2009, and we don’t have flying cars, hoverboards, fusion fuel generators (you know you thought of those when gas was inching ever so close to $5/gal), and all the other gadgets and gizmos in 2015, but hey there’s still 6 years left, right?

The alternate present was actually kinda scary and dark. It really left the impression that it wasn’t someplace you wanted to live.

1955 was, well it was 1955, but this time we got to see it from a different angle and some of the other event that happened while Marty was fixing his past from the first film.

All in all this is a good film. Like I said earlier, it’s part 2 of a trilogy, not a sequel, so you may need to refresh your memory by watching the first one. After doing so, you’ll enjoy this one that much more. I know I did!

4 out of 5 stars