Archive for Mila Kunis

Hell and Back

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At a rundown pier carnival, idealistic promoter Remy (Nick Swardson) is desperate to bring in business. He is friends with the overweight and odd carnival repairman Augie (T.J. Miller) and the insolent assistant manager Curt Myers (Rob Riggle). After Curt discovers that the bank has foreclosed the carnival, a frustrated Remy heads down to the boat of a fortune-teller named Madame Zonar (Kerri Kenney-Silver), who is in possession of a crying Devil book. Seeing an opportunity to bring in business, Remy tells his friends that people would come around to see the Devil crying and sets the book up at The Gates of Hell, the park’s main ride attraction. When Curt requests a mint Remy has in his possession, Remy forces Curt to take a blood oath so he can pay Remy back with a mint only for Curt to callously admit that he doesn’t have a mint. While Remy and Curt argue, Augie sees strange weather and soon, Curt is sucked into Hell itself through the ride and Remy and Augie take a car from the ride into the portal to rescue Curt.

After landing in Hell, they discover that it is full of green lost souls and aggressive demons. After being discovered, they are taken to the Devil (Bob Odenkirk) himself, who reveals to be an aggressive, if comical being, who is just coming from a meeting. He encounters the duo and while speaking with them, mentions the Greek legend Orpheus who has a reputation for bringing mortals out of Hell. He forces the duo to hide while meeting with an angel from Heaven named Barb (Susan Sarandon) who he is infatuated with. When Barb mentions that she is aware of the mortals in his domain, he tries to show them to her, but discovers that they have escaped and calls out a search for them. Remy and Augie try to use a contraption to escape, but are discovered and are about to be apprehended by demons. Just then, a ship appears and captures them and a demon. On the ship, a mysterious figure disposes of the demon. When the duo tell the figure why they’re here, the figure reveals herself to be a female demon named Deema (Mila Kunis) who Augie becomes infatuated with. She agrees to take them to Curt if they take her to Orpheus They track him using the Devil’s cell phone (which Remy and Augie snagged from his office).

Meanwhile, Curt meets the Devil and hits it off with him pretty swell, but when mentioned that he is being sacrificed for not living up to his blood oath, he persuades the Devil to not sacrifice him via a contract if he puts on a show to win the favor of Barb who had a fling with him while she was dating God. It was God sent the Devil to Hell for this. Remy, Augie, and Demma locate the way to Orpheus which is guarded by Deema’s mother Durmessa (Jennifer Coolidge), but they manage to make it past her. Before Deema passes through, Durmessa warns her that Orpheus isn’t what she expects him to be. They use a submarine to find Orpheus and eventually locate him when he finds them through a giant robot. They discover that Durmessa was right about him as Orpheus (Danny McBride) reveals to be an eccentric slacker who is retired from bringing people out of the Underworld. Remy is the only one who seems to enjoy his lifestyle. After passing 2/3 of Orpheus’s ridiculous tests, he reveals himself to be Deema’s father, as he had a fling with Durmessa, but never came home. Annoyed with Orpheus, Deema leaves and Augie decides to go with her upon being fed up with Remy’s selfishness. After sharing a romantic moment, they discover from the Devil’s cellphone that Curt is being sacrificed at the crossroads and head out to save him.

When Remy finds out where Curt is via Orpheus’s TV, he leaves to find him and uses a Purgatory boat to catch up with his friends and reconciles with them. The Devil goes back on his deal with Curt and decides to sacrifice him anyway. After the Devil retires to the bathroom after he ate Curt’s contract, Remy, Augie, and Deema manage to make it past the Demons guarding Curt and reunite with him. They find themselves at the mercy of the demons and the Devil who decides to sacrifice them all. Having a change of heart, Orpheus attempts to rescue them while disguised as the leader of a demon band, but is also captured. Barb, who the Devil called and showed her the mortals, comes to Hell via a stripper’s pole and she becomes attracted to Orpheus because of his song when he disguised himself. A jealous Devil tries to use a bazooka cannon full of T-shirts to kill Orpheus. When they are escaping, a T-shirt hits Barb, knocking her unconscious. While they are falling, Remy slaps Barb awake, but the group find themselves in the lower regions of hell full of living sex-offender trees. One sex-offender tree (H. Jon Benjamin) had raped Orpheus (which he mentioned multiple times earlier). Orpheus will forgive him if he rapes the Devil, which he does later on.

Remy, Augie, Curt, and Deema are caught and bounded by the trees and when Remy is eventually held down by roots, Curt, while hanging upside down from a tree, drops a mint onto Remy. Although upset at first about Curt keeping this from him, Remy is told that if he eats the mint, the blood oath will be paid. The Devil and a demon try to stop him, but Remy eats it reopening the portal that brought the mortals to hell, sending them back to the land of the living with Deema going with them. When the Devil asks them where Barb is, she eventually appears with Orpheus flying on her, telling him about their relationship, much to his distress. On the surface, the group discovers that Remy’s idea to keep the park open is actually successful as people are lining up with coins in their hands to watch the Devil cry.

6 months later, Remy uses the money to renovate the carnival with attractions that are similar to what is seen in Hell, including an attraction called the “Gates of Heaven” with Orpheus and Barb in it.

The ending credits show a lost soul in Hell and a Demon who keeps misleading him (as he does this many times in the film) with the occurrences ending with the demon saying “Welcome to Hell.”

REVIEW:

Back in the fall, I heard a few things about Hell and Back, a small animated film that most definitely is not for kids. Once it left the theater, though, that was the last I heard anyone speak of it, until it popped up on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Curiosity finally got the better of me and I caved this evening. Hopefully, this won’t be a mistake.

What is this about?

After their buddy is accidentally sucked into hell, two friends set off on a wild quest to rescue him. In the process, the duo encounters more than a few strange spirits, including an alluring angel and the devil himself

What did I like?

Theology meets mythology. Mixing Greek mythology with the theological notion of hell is not something that is done often. When was the last time you heard of Charon ferrying people to the gates of hell, or Orpheus and the devil fighting over an angel? That is what you get here and, while I thought the filmmakers were just trying to cram all character associated with the Underworld, somehow it works!

Location. Everyone has their own personal idea of hell. These filmmakers decided that the portal to hell is located in an amusement park ride called “The Gates of Hell”. Interesting place to have it, right? I actually liked that it was there and didn’t just pop up in some random abandoned warehouse, some unsuspecting person’s house, restaurant, etc.

Creativity. Maybe this was done so that we could tell lost souls from the demons and our mortal stars, but it was a nice touch to have said souls looks like some sort of ghost-type shadow. I wonder if that is what our souls actually look like, since I doubt we will bare any resemblance to these mortal coils in the afterlife. Also, the one soul that was being tortured by the most mundane things, such as no pizza at a Pizza Hut/Taco Bell.

What didn’t I like?

Douche cast. I don’t know if it is how these characters are written or if it is the people voicing them, but I found it hard to like anyone. T.J. Miller’s character may have been the most likable, but that was only because he was often targeted for being a bit on the chubby side. Have we, as a society, reached the point where these are the kind of characters that will populate every film from now on? Who wants to see sarcastic douchebags in everything, as opposed to normal people?

Devil. At first, we see the devil as we all imagine him, a big red, scary guy. Then he changes into something that resembles Fred Astaire, in my opinion, but he’s also pink and one of his horns is bigger than the other. All this to impress the angel, Barb. I get the changing your look and all, even if you are the devil, but pink, seriously?!?

Sex offender forest. This is hell, and every evil thing imaginable is supposed to be down here, but was it really necessary to have an entire forest of rape trees? What’s worse is that we nearly see a rape happen! It was one thing to mention this place in passing and all, but to actually show it seemed a bit much for my taste. Maybe I’m alone in thinking this way, though.

Final verdict on Hell and Back? Not knowing what to expect when I started this film, my expectations were low. As the film went on, I didn’t become anymore enamored with this flick. I believe this was made just as a satire on everyone’s concept of hell, or maybe it was counter programming to all these conservative Christian films that are being released right now. Who knows? If you were to ask me, though, if I would recommend this flick, my answer is no. There just isn’t anything here worth watching. If you want to see a modern take on hell, check out Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, Lucy Daughter of the Devil, or even go back and watch George Burns’ Oh, God! You Devil franchise or either Bedazzled films.

2 out of 5 stars

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Oz the Great and Powerful

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1905 Kansas, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) works as a barnstormer and a small-time magician in a traveling circus. As a storm approaches the circus, the circus strongman (Tim Holmes) learns Oscar has flirted with his wife and goes to attack him. Oscar escapes in a hot air balloon, but is sucked into a tornado that brings him to the Land of Oz. There the witch Theodora (Mila Kunis) finds him and believes him to be a wizard prophesied to overthrow the Wicked Witch who killed the king of Oz. En route to the Emerald City, Theodora falls in love with Oscar. They also encounter the flying monkey Finley (Zach Braff), who pledges a life debt to Oscar when the latter saves him from a lion.

On reaching the Emerald City, Oscar meets Evanora (Rachel Weisz), Theodora’s sister, who is skeptical of Oscar being the foretold wizard. Evanora tells Oscar that the Wicked Witch resides in the Dark Forest and can be killed by destroying her wand, the source of her power. Oscar and Finley are joined en route to the forest by China Girl (Joey King), a young, living china doll whose home and family were destroyed by the Wicked Witch. The trio reaches the forest and discovers the “Wicked Witch” to be Glinda the Good Witch (Michelle Williams), who tells them Evanora is the true Wicked Witch. Evanora sees this with her crystal ball and manipulates Theodora against Oscar by showing him together with Glinda, saying he is trying to court all three witches. She offers the heartbroken Theodora a magic apple she promises will remove her heartache, which Theodora eats, transforming her into a heartless, green-skinned Wicked Witch.

Glinda brings Oscar’s group to her domain of Oz to escape Evanora’s army of Winkies and flying baboons. She confides with Oscar that she knows he is not truly a wizard, but believes he can still help them stop Evanora, and provides him an “army” of Quadlings, tinkers, and Munchkins to do it. Theodora enters Glinda’s domain and angrily reveals her new, hideous appearance to Oscar before threatening to kill him and his allies with the Emerald City’s well-prepared army. Oscar despairs that his army cannot defeat the Wicked Witches, but after telling China Girl about his exploits, he realizes they can fight using prestidigitation.

Glinda and her subjects use an automated army of scarecrows blanketed by thick fog to trick the Wicked Witches into sending their flying baboons through a poppy field that puts the baboons to sleep. However, two baboons manage to capture Glinda, who is brought to the city square to be executed. Meanwhile, Oscar infiltrates the Emerald City with his allies, only to seemingly abandon them in a hot air balloon loaded with the king’s gold, which Theodora destroys with a fireball. Oscar then secretly reveals himself to his friends, having faked his death. Oscar uses a hidden smoke machine and image projector to present a giant, holographic image of his face as his “true” form, and a fireworks display to attack and intimidate the Wicked Witches. Evanora fearfully hides in her castle while Theodora flies from the city on her broom, unable to hurt the “invincible” wizard. China Girl frees Glinda, who defeats and banishes Evanora, destroying the Wicked Witch’s necklace that hides her true, crone-like appearance before she is carried off by flying baboons.

The film concludes with Oscar, now king of Oz, using his projector to sustain the belief that he is still a powerful wizard and keep the citizens of Oz united against the Wicked Witches. He also presents gifts to his friends: Master Tinker (Bill Cobbs), who helped build his machines, receives a camping-tool jackknife; Knuck (Tony Cox), the grumpy city herald and an ally of Glinda, receives a mask with a smiley face; the long-suffering Finley receives Oscar’s friendship; and China Girl accepts her friends as her new family. Finally, Oscar takes Glinda behind the curtain of his projector and kisses her.

REVIEW:

Recently, there has been a string of films that have taken classic tales and reimagined them as dark and modern, that is not to forget those God-awful remakes Hollywood keeps shoving down our throats. Oz the Great and Powerful does not fall into that trap, but instead goes the prequel route, which wasn’t a bad choice considering how much of a sure backlash and uproar there would be had they even mentioned remaking that immortal classic, The Wizard of Oz.

What is this about?

In this prequel to The Wizard of Oz, circus magician Oscar Diggs is magically transported to the Land of Oz, where he deals with three witches and uses his illusionist skills and resourcefulness to become the wizard the residents have been expecting.

What did I like?

Know your history. For those of us purists out there, fret not, there are plenty of homages to the original. Take for instance the way this film is shot. It starts in black and white (yes, i know the original was more of a sepia) then, when we are in Oz, it goes into full color. A character has the last name of Gale, just like Dorothy and she is wearing a gingham dress. We see a flying monkey, the scarecrow’s face, a lion that runs away, etc. Basically, everything they could fit in there that wasn’t ties up in legal mumbo jumbo, they found a way to stick it in. Also, it should be noted, that many of the cha

Out-Burton Burton. In my review of Frankenweenie, I mentioned how Tim Burton went back to what made him such a great filmmaker in the first place. Well, apparently, Sam Raimi took notes from him, as well, because this is just as good, if not better than what we expect from Burton. The brilliant, vibrant colors pop on the screen as the imaginative characters take center stage.

China girl. All the reviews of this film I’ve been reading have been praising the little china girl. I’m going to join that group. Not only is she a great, emotional, relatable character, but her design is fascinating to behold. The back story they gave her is sure to touch even the most hardened of hearts.

3D. For some reason, the theater where I went to see this today didn’t offer a non-3D option for seeing this. Normally, I’d be all up in arms about the lack of the option, as I am no fan of 3D. To me, it is just a gimmick for studios and theaters to charge even more than they already do just for a pair of rental sunglasses (which is all those things are, really). Having said that, I do believe this is the first 3D film that I’ve seen since the resurgence of the technique that really takes advantage and does it right. It isn’t too much, nor is it distracting. As a matter of fact, there were a couple of times when I actually dodged. That, my friends, is how you do 3D!

What didn’t I like?

Romance. No, I don’t have any issue with the wizard’s romance with the witch sisters, as that leads to some animosity and makes for good reasons for villainy. However, it is his relationship with Glinda that I call into question. Never is it implies anywhere that the two of them had any kind of love connection, but somehow the filmmakers decided it needed to be there…at the very end of the film.

Witches. While these three actresses, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams are very talented in their own right, they didn’t really work as witches for me. First, Kunis just seemed more like a fish out of water than when she’s voicing Meg on Family Guy and let’s not even mention that gaudy hat. Weisz felt like she was holding back. It was as if she wanted to just be your stereotypical, insanely evil witch, but they wouldn’t let her. Personally, she seemed like she was trying to be Azkadelia from Tin Man (another Wizard of Oz film). Finally, there is Michelle Williams, who came off as rather bland. Also, I picture Glenda being this being or pure innocence and I didn’t quite get that from Williams, perhaps that chick that plays Snow White on Once Upon a Time…Gennifer Goodwin, would have been a better choice.

Wicked. The actress who ends up turning into the Wicked Witch we all know just doesn’t cut it. Part of it has to do with the way that they had her made up, the other part was her acting. It just didn’t become of a Wicked Witch that would turn eventually become the evil being we come to know. Also, where is Elphaba and Nessarose? Maybe there were some legal issues with Wicked, too, since they just (finally) greenlit it to become a film, but Theodora and Evanora. Those names sound like they were just randomly pulled out of thin air.

Oz the Great and Powerful is probably the best new film I’ve seen this year. As a matter of fact, I think it is the only new film I’ve seen this year. With that said, while watching this, I felt underwhelmed, much in the same way I did after watching Alice in Wonderland. That isn’t to say this is a bad film, it just may have been overhyped. I can’t help but think that this was made not as a way to tell us the story of the wizard, but to soften audiences up for a forthcoming remake of The Wizard of Oz down the line. They did green light a sequel Monday, after all. That being said, I did like it and give it a high recommendation, especially for those that are looking for something to take the kids to go see.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Ted

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1985, in a suburb south of Boston, John Bennett is a lonely child who wishes for his new Christmas gift, a teddy bear he names Teddy (“Ted”), to come to life to be his best friend. The wish succeeds with a falling star one night and Ted becomes fully alive. The newly sentient toy briefly becomes a minor celebrity, but never loses sight of his friendship with John.

Twenty-seven years later in 2012, John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), now living in the South End neighborhood of Boston, are still staunch, if immature, friends enjoying a hedonistic life, even while John is pursuing a relationship with an office worker named Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). Lori hopes to marry John, but she feels that he cannot move ahead with his life with Ted around, who is now a complete wastrel. John is resistant to kicking Ted out, but he is finally persuaded one night to act when he and Lori discover Ted at home with four prostitutes.

Soon, John finds Ted his own apartment and a job at a grocery store, where his irresponsible behavior on the job somehow manages to get him both promoted and acquainted with his co-worker Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). Ted and John still spend most of their time together, which irritates Lori when she discovers John has been skipping work to do so while using her for his excuses. Meanwhile, an obsessed stalker named Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), who idolized Ted as a kid, shows interest in possessing him for his destructive son Robert (Aedin Mincks). Things start to come to a head when Lori and John are invited to a party put on by Lori’s manager Rex (Joel McHale), who has a lust for her. They attend, but Ted lures John away to a party at his apartment with the offer to meet Sam Jones, the star of their favorite movie Flash Gordon. Although John arrives with the intention of spending only a few minutes, he gets caught up in the occasion which gets completely out of control, with Sam persuading John and Ted to snort cocaine with him. Eventually, Lori discovers John there and breaks up with him in tears. At that, John blames Ted for ruining his life and tells him to stay away.

Eventually, Ted and John confront each other about their ruined friendship in John’s hotel room and have a brawl after John provokes Ted, but soon manage to reconcile after the TV falls on John’s crotch. To repair John’s relationship with Lori, Ted arranges through Norah Jones (played by herself) for John to express his love for Lori with a song during a concert, being held at the Hatch Shell. Although John’s performance proves an embarrassment, Lori is touched by the attempt while repelled by Rex’s sneering. Later, Ted goes to visit Lori and explains that he was responsible for John’s lapse: however, he offers to leave them alone forever if she goes to speak with him. Lori is persuaded, but moments after she leaves, Ted is kidnapped by Donny and taken to his house as Robert’s unfortunate playmate.

Ted manages to distract Robert and reach a phone to contact John (but not before his ear is ripped off by Robert), but is soon recaptured. Realizing that Ted is in danger, John and Lori find Donny’s residence and chase him and Robert to rescue Ted. The chase leads to Fenway Park, where Robert tries to stop John and Lori from getting to Ted first, only to have John knock him out. During the chase, Ted gets himself damaged and just when Donny grabs him on the tower, Ted falls onto the field, torn completely in half. Donny is forced to flee when a police car shows up. As John and Lori gather his stuffing, Ted relays his wish that John be happy with Lori, as his life fades away.

Unable to accept Ted’s death, John and Lori return to her apartment to try to repair him, but it proves useless. That night, Lori makes a wish on a falling star. The next morning, Ted is magically restored and the couple reconcile with Ted, who encourages John and Lori to resume their relationship. With that resolution, John and Lori get married (with Sam Jones as their priest) and Ted accepts having his own life.

REVIEW:

Seth McFarlane’s shows account for a good chunk of Fox’s highest rated programs. Some have said that he has done all he can on television and needs to branch out to film. Well, he hasn’t left television, but did make a film, Ted, that his theaters this summer, going on to become one of the biggest hits of the year.

What is this about?

John Bennett’s constant companion, Ted — a hard-partying, foul-mouthed teddy bear who came to life when John was a kid — threatens to derail his belated attempts to enter adulthood and marry his girlfriend.

What did I like?

Ted. As a military brat, I moved around a lot. One of the most consistent things in my life during that time was my teddy bear. I can’t tell you how often I would wish that he would become real. So, you can guess that I have a soft spot, and harbor some jealousy that Ted came to life and was such a good friend for this guy. On top of that, he became a celebrity, had a sense of humor, and somehow attracted the hot girls. What’s not to like about the guy, other than the fact he sounds like Peter Griffin (McFarlane should have come up with another voice)?

Swing. If you’ve watched Family Guy, and who hasn’t, then you know that Seth McFarlane has a thing for musicals and big band. The score to this film is very much influenced by tat crooner era jazz, just without the vocalist. Have no fear, though, the gorgeous Norah Jones makes an appearance singing “Come Away With Me”, I think (sort of forgot which song it was), so that evened thing up. Not to mention she sings the opening theme.

Grounded. One thing that really impressed me was how this film seemed to be grounded in reality. Other than Ted, everything else was just like a romantic comedy. Yes, it could have been a good film without Ted, but he really spices things up, and makes this a much more interesting film. Having said that, I wouldn’t have objected to seeing a rival teddy bear that just happened to have the same circumstances as Ted, just without the fame. Maybe that’s the sequel?

What didn’t I like?

Marky Mark. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I have anything against Mark Wahlberg, because I don’t. I find him to be a very competent actor, but for some reason he seemed to be miscast. The whole pothead loser with no ambition role didn’t quite suit him. Maybe they should have switched him and Joel McHale, or brought it someone who is more believable as a loser. Also, I may be wrong, but didn’t he have some musical talent in the late 80s/early 90s? Where did it all go? Maybe he was just faking not being able to sing, but good grief was that painful!

Flash. The only thing I know about Flash Gordon is a couple of comics I read and the fact that there was a TV show and a few movies made at one time. So, you can imagine that the references did nothing for me, as I’m sure many of the audiences that saw this felt the same way, especially since they all but beat it past the point of death. I get that this a show McFarlane love, but there comes a point where enough is enough.

Get a life. Mila Kunis is one of the hottest women on the planet, which is ironic when you think about the fact that she voices Meg. As much as I love her, I was not really a fan of this character. Here we go with another female in a film that turns into a total bitch just because her boyfriend won’t give up something from his childhood and she listened to her “wise” (note the sarcasm) friends. Is it so wrong for a guy to just be a guy and girl just be a girl in films? As we see, she not only caused her and John much grief, but also nearly cost Ted his life! Yeah, you can argue the point that she made up for it at the end, but she wouldn’t have had to if she wouldn’t have pushed for things that obviously weren’t in the cards.

Ted has been a film that won critics and movie-goers over. The main criticism about it is that it resembles a live-action Family Guy, which I can see, but have no issue with. While crude at times, there is a real heart and soul in this film that is the reason it is worth checking out. These days it is so rare to get a great comedy, you should really check this one out. I guarantee you’ll keel over laughing!

5 out of 5 stars

Extract

Posted in Comedy, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Joel Reynolds is the owner and founder of Reynold’s Extract, a flavor-extract company. Although his business is successful, his marriage is now completely sexless. His best friend Dean, a bartender and pothead, offers to ease his mind with Xanax and various other drugs, but the straight-laced Joel refuses.

One day, a series of mishaps occurs at the extract factory, resulting in an employee, Step, losing a testicle. Cindy, a con artist and drifter, reads a news story about the accident and gets a job at the factory, flirting with Joel in order to find out more information about Step. Although Step initially decides not to sue the company, he changes his mind after a “chance meeting” with Cindy, and hires ambulance-chasing lawyer Joe Adler.

Joel entertains the idea of an affair with Cindy, but still loves Suzie and would not want to have any regrets. At the bar, Dean suggests hiring a gigolo to seduce his wife, so that Joel can then have a guilt-free affair of his own. Joel initially balks at the idea, but—after his judgment is impaired by an accidentally administered dose of ketamine—eventually accepts and the two hire Brad to pose as a pool cleaner and have an affair with Suzie. The next morning, Joel sobers up and realizes what he has done and tries to stop Brad from going to his house, but he is too late; Brad and Suzie have begun an affair. Brad falls in love with Suzie and wants to run away with her. After smoking marijuana with Dean and his friend Willie, Joel attempts to call Cindy, but soon realizes that he is calling Willie’s number. Just then, Cindy walks into the apartment. Willie realizes Joel is trying to make time with her [she’s living with Willie, they’re a couple] and Willie furiously punches Joel in the face.

Joel meets with Adler and his associates in the factory office to discuss the terms of the settlement. The workers, believing that the meeting is about a buy-out of the factory by General Mills, organize a strike. Frustrated by Adler’s unflinching negotiations and the disrespect from his employees, Joel storms out and goes home, where Suzie admits that she had an affair with Brad. Joel admits he hired Brad to do so, and leaves the house to escape her wrath.

Joel moves into a motel, where he spots Cindy staying in another room. When he goes to her room, he notices a purse stolen from one of his employees, along with other stolen items, and realizes that she is not only a thief, but behind a lot of the problems at the company. He begins to leave and call the police, but softens when Cindy breaks down in tears, and the two spend the night together. The next morning, Cindy disappears, but leaves the stolen items behind.

Step meets with Joel at the factory to tell him he is dropping the lawsuit on the condition that Joel promotes him to floor manager. Meanwhile, while cleaning the pool herself, Suzie loses her temper with her annoying, overly talkative neighbor Nathan and tells him what she really thinks of him; just as she is finishing her tirade, he collapses and dies. Feeling that she may have caused his death, Suzie attends the funeral, where she runs into Joel. After a few awkward moments, the two share a ride home, hinting at a possible reconciliation. It is revealed that Cindy has scammed Adler also and ends up stealing his luxury car, replacing it with Step’s truck.

REVIEW:

Independent comedies tend to lean more towards being dramas than comedies, but when you put someone like Mike Judge behind everything, then you might actually get something worth laughing about. This is the case with Extract.

What is this about?

Poised to sell his successful flavor extract company, Joel’s life is pretty sweet — until an on-the-job accident threatens his livelihood. To make matters worse, his marriage is failing, and a sexy con artist is stirring things up at the office. Will things work out for Joel, or is everything doomed to come crashing down around him?

What did I like?

Affleck. Some people may have forgotten, but Ben Affleck is actually a decent comic actor. If you don’t remember, just look at his work in Kevin Smith’s film’s. Probably his best in terms of funny would be Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. With all the serious stuff he’s been doing lately, it was good to see him back in a comedic role.

Formula. When Mila Kunis is trying to get some info out of Jason Bateman, he tells her how he got to be owner of his company and where the formula came from. Listening to how it was done takes you aback and makes you wonder if someone really did/could do that. There obviously is a market for it.

Simmons. Yes, Gene Simmons is in this, but he’s not the Simmons I’m referring to. That would J.K. Simmons. He has a bit of a supporting role, but it is one, much like J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man films, that is comically serious.

What didn’t I like?

Bateman. I don’t think I’ve ever liked this guy, even going back to Teen Wolf, Too. For some reason, though, the last few years have found either him or Paul Rudd in just about every comedy, playing the same whiny guy with an insanely hot wife and something to do with infidelity. Enough is enough! Time for a new character!

Wiig out. Kristin Wiig is apparently the current “it” girl in terms of hot comediennes. She’s not a bad looker, either. Hell, we see her rocking a bikini, and it is a pleasant surprise to see she’s quite the hardbody. That being said, I can’t help but think they wanted someone more attractive for this role, but settled for her because she was funny and looked good in a bikini.

Death. David Koechner is playing another character that the audience hates. Hey, it works for the guy, so I’m not going to knock him for it. However, he dies at a point in the film, and it leaves you wondering…why? I mean, there was no real point to killing him off, other than to get rid of an annoying character, but it didn’t move the plot forward any, so why would they do that?

Extract is supposed to be a companion piece to Office Space. As such, it fails to live up to that film’s legacy. However, when you think of it as a stand alone picture, it works on many levels, most notably, the comedy. While there are moments that I love in this film, there are also those that I didn’t care for. It is for that reason that I can’t fully recommend this to everyone. That being said, give it a shot if you’re in the mood for a chuckle or two.

3 out of 5 stars

Friends with Benefits

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jamie (Mila Kunis) is an Executive Recruiter for a leading job agency in New York City and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) works as an art director for a small internet company in Los Angeles. Jamie has the task of trying to recruit Dylan to interview for a job with GQ magazine and begin working in New York City. Dylan comes to New York and after interviewing for the position learns from Jamie that he has been given an offer to work for GQ. At first Dylan is hesitant to accept and move from Los Angeles to New York, but in an effort to get Dylan to accept the job Jamie spends the evening taking him around the city trying to sell him on the opportunity and the city.

After a fun night together exploring the city Dylan agrees to take the job. The next day Jamie presents Dylan with the contract to sign so she can land her commission for recruiting him. Not knowing anyone else in the city he and Jamie quickly develop a friendship. One night, while hanging out at Jamie’s apartment watching a romantic comedy, they get on the topic of sex and relationships. They come to the conclusion that sex should not come with so many emotional attachments. Both feeling the need for a physical connection they agree to have sex without emotion or commitment involved. After several trysts together Jamie comes to the realization that this isn’t really what she wants, and she would like to start dating again and informs Dylan that they need to stop.

Jamie meets Parker (Bryan Greenberg) and they begin dating. After five dates they consummate their relationship but the next morning Parker leaves and informs Jamie he really wasn’t looking for anything more. Furious, Jamie tells Parker off, assuring the end of their relationship. Trying to be sympathetic and to help Jamie get over the pain of the situation Dylan suggests she come with him to California over the July 4th weekend while he visits his family. Jamie is very hesitant, but agrees after much persistence from Dylan. They fly to California where Jamie meets his sister Annie (Jenna Elfman) and father (Richard Jenkins). While in California emotional feelings for each other begin to form and they share a passionate kiss, which leads to a night of close intimacy unlike any they had shared before. However the next day Jamie overhears a conversation between Annie and Dylan indicating he has no real feelings for her. Hurt, she flies back to New York. A few days later Dylan returns to New York trying to reconcile his friendship with Jamie and find out why she has been ignoring him. He finally finds Jamie and she informs him she overheard everything he said and has no interest in maintaining any kind of a friendship with him.

Soon after this Jamie discovers that Dylan may be leaving the GQ position for another job, which would affect her commission. She confronts Dylan about this which leads to another argument. Both begin to do some soul searching trying to come to terms with their feelings about their relationship. Jamie spends time with her mother (Patricia Clarkson), while Dylan discusses it with his sister over the phone. His sister informs him that their father, who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, will be flying to New York and he needs to be picked up at the airport. While eating at the airport with his father, his father, in a moment of Alzheimer’s-induced confusion, incorrectly recognizes a passerby as a woman from his past. Dylan asks him about this woman, and his father, upon regaining his lucidity, says that she was a woman he met in the Navy, that she was the love of his life, and regrets decisions he made in his youth to let her go.

Dylan realizes how he feels about Jamie and after a talk with his friend and coworker, Tommy (Woody Harrelson), decides to go after her. He calls Jamie’s mother to set up an excuse to get Jamie to go to Grand Central Station thinking she will be picking her mother up and arranges to have a flash mob scene set up to surprise Jamie at Grand Central. When the moment comes he catches up with Jamie and tells her how he really feels. Surprised and happy by this turn of events Jamie tells him to kiss her. After sharing a kiss Dylan suggests it is time they go on their first real date. They go to the café across the street, and although they attempt to keep the date casual and relaxed, the film ends with them in a sensual embrace and passionate kiss

REVIEW:

Back in college, I had a couple of exes who became “friends with benefits”, but the emotional baggage that apparently comes with that never reared its ugly head. Probably because it had done that during out time in a relationship, I would wager.

Friends with Benefits takes us back to the world of meaningless sex with no strings that another film, No Strings Attached, brought us to. Please note, that while these films have similarities, most notably the premise and starring one of the leads from Black Swan and two of main characters from That 70’s Show, they are totally different.

We start with out two leads experiencing the end of their respective relationships. Fast forward a little bit and they meet in NYC where Mila Kunis’ character, Jamie, is trying to get Justin Timberlake’s character, Dylan, to sign on as layout designer (or something along those lines) for GQ magazine.

To help him with his decision, she decides to show him the “non-tourist” version of New York (which somehow still  shows all the typical tourist sites, such as Central Park.) They end up at a party at her place, and after everyone is gone, they watch her favorite romantic comedy. While watching, they realize how cheesy and cliche’ it is.

Somehow, they get into a discussion about sex and how it ruins things, which leads to them having sex after agreeing to not get attached. For most of the film, they manage to keep this going without getting all tied up in emotions and whatnot, then the ill-fated trip to his parents’ happens and by accident Jamie overhears a conversation Dylan has with his sister. This leads to the film’s downfall, as everything it had worked so hard to overcome is suddenly rendered null and void, as it becomes nothing more than a generic romantic comedy from that point on.

A review I was listening to the other day, about this film, said that Kunis and Timberlake has no chemistry. I’m not so sure I agree with that, but I was sort of uncomfortable watching them together. I can’t put my finger on it, but something was weird. Perhaps they actually did have sex at one time (lucky bastard!!!), and this just made it weird?

Keeping on the topic of our leads, Timberlake is still trying to find that one picture that can launch him into leading man material. This just isn’t it. Sure, he does a good job, but let’s face it, no one is watching this for him, save for his die-hard female fans. The guy is very talented, especially in terms of comedy, but this isn’t the stepping stone he needs to get to the next level, in my opinion.

Kunis, has done better with roles such as this. I don’t know, at times it seems as if she wasn’t really there, and then others she seemed like she was giving it everything she had. I may be alone is seeing that, which is fine, but that’s how I saw it and my belief is that she could have given more of a steady performance here. It may have even helped out in the end.

Woody Harrelson and Jenna Elfman make nice appearances, but neither is really much to speak of, save for knowing that Elfman is still alive and Harrelson is playing a gay man (who is a sports editor, btw).

Romantic comedies are not my favorite genre, but I don’t hate them the way most guys do. The thing about this film, though, is that it started out to not be part of that genre. I was loving the direction is was headed, and all the sex really sold the premise (even if they did everything they could to not show a naked Mila Kunis). However, the last 30 minutes or so, as I said before, ruined it for me. That being said, in comparison to No Strings Attached, I think I would pick this one, based solely on the fact that it doesn’t get all whiny and overemotional 10 minutes in like that did. Do I recommend it? Yes, but it is with trepidation that I do so. You may or may not like this, depending on your preference and attitude toward romantic comedies and such.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Black Swan

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a young dancer with a prestigious New York City ballet company. She lives with her mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), a former dancer, now amateur artist, who stopped her career at 28 when she became pregnant with Nina.

The ballet company is preparing for a production of Swan Lake. The director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), has to cast a new principal dancer as he has forced his present principal dancer, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder), into retirement. The lead must be able to portray both the innocent, fragile White Swan and her dark, sensual, evil twin, the Black Swan. Nina is selected to compete for the part alongside several other dancers. After her audition goes badly, she visits Thomas to ask him to reconsider and give her the role. He tells her that her rigid technique makes her ideal for the White Swan, but she lacks the passion to dance the Black Swan. He then forces a kiss on her until she bites him. Later, she is chosen for the Swan Queen. An intoxicated Beth angrily confronts Thomas and Nina, and she is later hit by a car and seriously injured in what Thomas believes was a suicide attempt.

Nina begins to witness strange happenings around her. Thomas, meanwhile, becomes increasingly critical of Nina’s “frigid” dancing as the Black Swan and tells her she should stop being such a perfectionist and simply lose herself in the role. She makes the acquaintance of another dancer in the company, Lily (Mila Kunis), whom Thomas described as having the qualities Nina lacks. The relationship between the two dancers cools because of Lily’s indiscretions, but to make up for it, Lily appears at Nina’s door and invites her for a night out. Nina is hesitant at first, but decides to join Lily against her mother’s wishes. While out, Lily offers Nina a capsule of Ecstasy. Upon returning to the apartment, Nina has another fight with her mother. She barricades herself in her room and has sex with Lily. Next morning, Nina wakes up alone and late for rehearsal. When she arrives at the studio, she finds Lily dancing as the Swan Queen. Furious, she confronts Lily and asks her why she did not wake her up in the morning. Lily states that she spent the night with a man whom she met at the club, and it is revealed that Nina imagined the whole sex episode.

Nina’s hallucinations become stronger during rehearsals and at home, which culminates in a violent fight with her mother after which she passes out. Concerned about Nina’s erratic behavior, her mother tries to prevent her from attending the opening performance, but Nina forces her way through and insists that she can dance. Lily and Thomas are puzzled about her appearance since Nina’s mother had called saying she was sick.

The first act goes well until Nina is distracted during a lift by a hallucination and the Prince drops her. Distraught, she returns to her dressing room and finds Lily dressed as the Black Swan. As Lily announces her intention to play the Black Swan, she transforms into Nina herself. Nina and her double struggle, and Nina shoves her double into the mirror shattering it. She grabs a shard of glass and stabs her double in the stomach. Nina sees that the body is Lily’s. She hides the body, returns to the stage, and dances the Black Swan passionately and sensually. Growing black feathers, her arms become black wings as she finally loses herself and is transformed into a black swan. At the end of the act, she receives a standing ovation from the audience. When she leaves the stage, she finds Thomas and the rest of the cast congratulating her on her stunning performance. Nina takes him by surprise and kisses him.

Back in her dressing room preparing for the final act, the dying of the White Swan, there is a knock on her door. She opens it to see Lily, who has come to congratulate her on her performance as the Black Swan. Nina realizes her fight with Lily, just as all the strange visions she had experienced, were hallucinations, but sees the mirror is still shattered. She notices a wound on her body and realizes that she stabbed herself, not Lily. Back on stage, she dances passionately and seamlessly as the White Swan. In the last moments of the ballet, when the White Swan throws herself off a cliff, she spots her mother weeping in the audience. The theater erupts in thunderous applause as Nina falls. As Thomas and the rest of the cast enthusiastically congratulate her on her performance, Lily gasps in horror to see that Nina is bleeding. As Nina lies wounded, the film closes with her staring up at the stage lights, whispering, “I felt it – Perfect – It was perfect,” as the screen fades to white and the audience chants her name.

REVIEW:

In college, I was forced to take a Fine Arts class, during which we spent quite a fair amount of time on Swan Lake. Black Swan isn’t necessarily a film version of that ballet, but the ballet is a major plot point.

This is one of those film that one could not get around hearing about during awards season. Many had it picked to sweep the awards (until they saw The King’s Speech). Now, I’m not one to get too involved with who should or should not have won this or that awards, but in comparison to the film that were nominated, this one and …Speech are nearly neck and neck.

So, what is this highly acclaimed film about? Well, we have this ballet dancer, Nina, who is a hot young dancer trying to get her big break at the ballet company she dances for. The new season brings about the company’s production of Swan Lake, which will feature a new face, according to the director. Eventually, this turns out to be Nina, bit seriously has problem embracing both the white and black swans, unlike her frenemy, Lily, who appears to be primed to take her spot.

As the film progresses, we see the decline in Nina’s mental health, until she finally does something before she takes the stage for the finale of her performance that one would never have guessed she was able to do when we first met her.

The ballet scenes are quite breathtaking. It is no secret that most of us could care less about ballet, but this is one of those films that could make you convert. The director did a great job of filming these scenes and conveying the atmosphere to the audience.

The hallucination scenes are quite interesting, but they do cause the viewer to get a bit confused, if they’re not ready for it.

Natalie Portman as Nina is awesome! No wonder, she was nominated for so many awards.

Mila Kunis made for the perfect foil to Portman, as well as gave us some nice eye candy (just wait until you see the lesbian scene.)

Black Swan is far from the most interesting thing on film, but it has its moments. Great film often fall into this category. If you were to ask me, if I agreed with the awards and accolades this film has received. This year, though, too many folk don’t. Having said that, I did enjoy this film thoroughly, and I trust that you will, as well.

5 out of 5 stars

Date Night

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) are a married couple from New Jersey with two children whose domestic life has become boring and routine. Phil is a tax lawyer while Claire is a realtor. They are motivated to reignite their romance after learning that their best friends, Brad (Mark Ruffalo) and Haley (Kristen Wiig), are planning to divorce to escape the married-life routine and to have more excitement in their lives.

To avoid the routine that had become their weekly “date night”, Phil decides that he will take Claire to a trendy Manhattan restaurant, but they cannot get a table. Phil takes a reservation from a no-show couple, the Tripplehorns, despite Claire’s misgivings. While eating they are approached by two men named Collins (Common) and Armstrong (Jimmi Simpson), who question them about a flash drive they believe Phil and Claire stole from mobster boss Joe Miletto (Ray Liotta). Phil and Claire explain that they are not the Tripplehorns, but the men threaten them at gunpoint. Not seeing any other way out, Phil tells them it is in a boathouse in Central Park.

At the boathouse Claire pretends to search; while Collins and Armstrong’s backs are turned, Phil hits them with a paddle and escapes with Claire on a boat. At a police station, Phil and Claire talk with Detective Arroyo (Taraji P. Henson) but discover Collins and Armstrong are also detectives, presumably on Miletto’s payroll. Realizing they cannot trust the police, they decide to find the real Tripplehorns. They return to the restaurant and find their phone number.

Claire remembers a former client, Holbrooke Grant (Mark Wahlberg), is a security expert and James Bond-like action hero. At his apartment, Grant, whom Claire flirts with, traces the signal to an apartment owned by Tom Felton. Collins and Armstrong arrive, but Phil and Claire escape in Grant’s Audi R8.

They arrive at Felton’s apartment and break in. They question Felton, nicknamed “Taste” (James Franco), and his wife “Whippit” (Mila Kunis) about the flash drive and Joe Miletto. It turns out that they went to the restaurant but left when they spotted Collins. Realizing they are in danger, the couple gives the flash drive to Phil and flees. When Phil and Claire get back in the Audi, Armstrong and Collins shoot at them. Phil and Claire crash the Audi headon into a Ford Crown Victoria taxicab, resulting in their Audi and the Ford being attached at the bumpers. Phil and the cab driver (J. B. Smoove) decide to drive off to get away. Phil climbs into the Ford to navigate while Claire navigates the Audi. Phil checks the flash drive on the driver’s Amazon Kindle and finds pictures of district attorney Frank Crenshaw (William Fichtner) with prostitutes (early in the film, a press conference shows Crenshaw highlighting his integrity platform). After evading Collins and Armstrong, they are eventually hit and separated by an SUV. The Ford falls into the river; Phil and the driver escape, but without the flash drive.

In a subway, Claire determines that Felton obtained the flash drive to blackmail Crenshaw. They return to Grant’s apartment, and Grant is reluctant to help after becoming exhausted by their incompetence, but Phil begs and he agrees. Phil and Claire go to an illegal strip club that Crenshaw frequents, with Claire under the guise of a new prostitute and Phil as her pimp. After doing a pole dance for Crenshaw, they confront him and tell him they are the Tripplehorns. Collins and Armstrong come in and hold them at gunpoint and take them up to the roof with Crenshaw. Miletto arrives with henchmen and it is revealed that Crenshaw has been paid by Miletto to keep him out of jail. When Phil mentions the photos, a feud escalates between the mobsters and Crenshaw, Collins and Armstrong. Phil asks Claire to count to three (her typical method of calming their children). When she does, a helicopter appears and Arroyo and the SWAT team come onto the roof to arrest Miletto, Crenshaw and everyone else. It is revealed that Phil was wearing a wire courtesy of Grant, who informed Arroyo of the situation.

After being declared heroes, Phil and Claire enjoy breakfast at a diner, where Phil admits he would marry Claire and have their kids all over again if given the chance. When they return home, they kiss passionately on the front lawn.

REVIEW:

I don’t think there is anyone out there who is either married or in a long-term relationship who can say that the spark hasn’t dimmed a bit and could use a date night once in a while. Of course, if they all ended up like this one, it might be better off keeping with the humdrum routine, right?

Date Night is a hilarious film from the beginning. Of course, it stars Tina Fey and Steve Carell, do you really expect something less? While not a laugh riot like you would get from a Will Ferrell film, this really makes your side hurt after it is all said and done. 

The plot is pretty simple, a married couple is so busy that the romance ad excitement has left their marriage and lives, so they opt for a date night in the city. Randomly, instead of waiting for a table, they take the reservation of another couple who don’t show up, thus starting an exciting and rather funny chain of events that leads them to realize how much they truly love each other.

Carell and Fey are two of the funniest people around and the chemistry between the two on-screen is amazing. They make sch a cute couple and at times I wondered if they really were married.

Taraji P. Henson is authoritative as the detective in charge of their case, and yet she’s still hot as hell.

Mark Wahlberg apparently doesn’t own any shirts any this film, which I’m sure many female viewers didn’t mind. While his role is minor, at best, he commands the screen when he is on, mainly because of the fact that he’s just randomly sitting around with no shirt on.

Ray Liotta is known for his tough persona, which has led to many of his roles. Here he is the same kind of mafia tough guy, but his character isn’t really developed until the last minute, which really makes you wonder why they didn’t just go get a lesser known actor.

James Franco and Mila Kunis make a hilarious cameo as the real Tripplehorns. You have to see it to believe, is all I’m going to say about them.

Date Night is highly underrated. It is an action comedy that actually delivers on both the action and more importantly, the comedy aspects. With a great cast, awesome story, and fast pace, it is hard to not like this film. I highly recommend this to everyone!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars