Archive for Ralph Fiennes

The Lego Batman Movie

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the irreverent spirit of fun that made “The LEGO (R) Movie” a worldwide phenomenon, the self-described leading man of that ensemble – LEGO Batman – stars in his own big-screen adventure: “The LEGO (R) Batman Movie.” But there are big changes brewing in Gotham, and if he wants to save the city from The Joker’s hostile takeover, Batman may have to drop the lone vigilante thing, try to work with others and maybe, just maybe, learn to lighten up.

What people are saying:

The LEGO Batman Movie isn’t the same experience as watching The LEGO Movie, but I also don’t think it’s trying to be. It’s trying to be a fun superhero movie with clever callbacks to previous Batman films (every single Batman movie all the way back to the 1940s serials are referenced) that can, at least, provide DC superhero fans with a taste of fun amidst all the doom and gloom. (That can either be a reference to ‘the real world’ or the current DC Cinematic Universe films, you can choose either one you want or both.) And at that, The LEGO Batman Movie succeeds” 5 stars

The Lego Batman Movie works precisely because it knows audiences are sick of its hero. It’s a reassessment, an intervention, an effort to try and remember what’s fun about him.” 4 stars

“After the endless outpouring of “this movie is just SOOO GREAT!!”, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch. It was incredibly disappointing. Way too many references being thrown around rapid-fire, the action was happening way too fast to catch what was going on related to the movie, let alone all the side references. Not especially fond of the choice of voice cast. Will Arnett was doing his best to hold the Kevin Conroy Batman voice and Ralph Fiennes made an excellent Alfred, the rest were forgettable. In fact, I had to use the pause button during the credits to figure out who the rest of the cast were. I got bored enough to fall asleep during the movie two or three times and didn’t feel compelled to wind back when I woke. I didn’t feel like I had missed anything. I think this movie has been classified as a “greatest movie ever” because the public was TOLD to think it was great. We really need to rein in pre-release movie hype.” 2 stars

“This is fun and all, but it suffers from the curse of all the best stuff being given away in the trailer. It also doesn’t have the novelty factor any more, since the animation isn’t anything we didn’t see in The Lego Movie. The jokes are funny, and as a Batman fan I enjoyed seeing a lighter side of that, but in hindsight I wish I had waited to rent it instead of paying to see it in theaters.” 3 stars

“This film was not part of DCEU, still it made an impact to my experience, the animation was so smooth and it moves in a fast then slow paste, the storyline was typical like the other Batman movies, characters like Robin and Batgirl had a silly of a backstory that are not align to the comics, the script was written like a child’s play conversation which makes it perfect for children, what is outstanding is the chemistry between heroes and villains and this is the first film written in a form like that, it was emotional, sympathetic, and inspiring, it is connected to the topic of self-worth, I know this is a spinoff film for kids but still it feels like it’s how the real world interacts with one another. We got tosee enough screentime of both Superheroes and Supervillains but in a one-to-one connection, this film has its touch and I had great experience watching it.” 4 1/2 stars

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Hail, Caesar!

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Four-time Oscar (R)-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo) write and direct Hail, Caesar!, an all-star comedy set during the latter years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum, Hail, Caesar! follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer who is presented with plenty of problems to fix.

What people are saying:

“The Coen brothers transcend genre, from noir to thriller to dark comedy, they can nail it. But I particularly enjoy their takes on farce (especially when George Clooney is involved). This movie is not perfect, but I laughed out loud throughout, particularly when everyone embraced the silliness of the story as part of the whole point. It may not be the Coen brothers’ best ever, but it doesn’t have to be to be enjoyable.” 3 1/2 stars

“Hail, Caesar! is great fun. Lively jabs at organized religion, Hollywood and the power structure. The cast must have had a blast during filming. Anyone who is interested in Hollywood in the 50″s blacklist era should enjoy. ” 4 stars

“A silly, jumbled, yet consistently entertaining chapter in the Coen Brother’s directorial saga, “Hail, Caesar!” commends the golden age of Hollywood with a star studded cast and an eye for historical detail. ” 3 1/2 stars

“If you love montages of old films(specifically from the 50’s) -this is perfect. Between Ethel Merman and Will Rodgers, to the creation of a scene of Ten Commandments. It is funny. I agree that it can be hard to follow at times. But, putting political satire in a movie is not new. Still, the scene with the Soviet submarine is hysterical!!!” 4 stars

“Very intelligent film. The filmakers deal honestly with many subjects. If you are looking for the typical crass Coen Brothers film, this one falls short. It still is iconoclastic but the icons it looks at are those things that are worshiped by a typically disconnected 21st Century intellectual, Take a look and see which icons you would have preferred the filmmakers to have left alone.” 5 stars

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Prologue

In the present, a teenage girl approaches a monument to a writer in a cemetery. In her arms is a memoir penned by a character known only as “The Author”. She starts reading a chapter from the book. The Author begins narrating the tale from his desk in 1985 about a trip he made to the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968.

Located in the Republic of Zubrowka, a fictional Central European state ravaged by war and poverty, the Young Author discovers that the remote mountainside hotel has fallen on hard times. Many of its lustrous facilities are now in a poor state of repair, and its guests are few. The Author encounters the hotel’s elderly owner, Zero Moustafa, one afternoon, and they agree to meet later that evening. Over dinner in the hotel’s enormous dining room, Mr. Moustafa tells him the tale of how he took ownership of the hotel and why he is unwilling to close it down.

Part 1 – M. Gustave

The story begins in 1932 during the hotel’s glory days when the young Zero was a lobby boy, freshly arrived in Zubrowka after his hometown was razed and his entire family executed. Zero acquires a girlfriend, Agatha, who is a professional pastry chef and proves very resourceful. Zubrowka is on the verge of war, but this is of little concern to Monsieur Gustave H., the Grand Budapest’s devoted concierge. The owner of the hotel is unknown and only relays important messages through the lawyer Deputy Kovacs. When he is not attending to the needs of the hotel’s wealthy clientele or managing its staff, Gustave courts a series of aging women who flock to the hotel to enjoy his “exceptional service”. One of the ladies is Madame Céline Villeneuve “Madame D” Desgoffe und Taxis, with whom Gustave spends the night prior to her departure.

Part 2 – Madame C.V.D.u.T.

One month later, Gustave is informed that Madame D has died under mysterious circumstances. Taking Zero along, he races to her wake and the reading of the will, where Kovacs, coincidentally the executor of the will, reveals that in her will she has bequeathed to Gustave a very valuable painting, Boy with Apple. This enrages her family, all of whom hoped to inherit it. Her son, Dmitri Desgoffe und Taxis, lashes out at Gustave. With the help of Zero, Gustave steals the painting and returns to the Grand Budapest, securing the painting in the hotel’s safe. During the journey, Gustave makes a pact with Zero: in return for the latter’s help, he makes Zero his heir. Shortly thereafter, Gustave is arrested and imprisoned for the murder (by strychnine) of Madame D after forced testimony by Serge X, Madame D’s butler, about seeing Gustave in her house on a particular night. Gustave tells Zero he has an alibi for that night but could never cite his aristocratic lady bedfellow in court. Upon arriving in prison, Gustave finds himself stuck in a cell with hardened criminals, but earns their respect after he “beat the shit” out of one of them for “challenging [his] virility”.

Part 3 – Check-point 19 Criminal Internment Camp

Zero aids Gustave in escaping from Zubrowka’s prison by sending a series of stoneworking tools concealed inside cakes made by Zero’s fiancée Agatha. Along with a group of convicts including Ludwig, Gustave digs his way out of his cell with the help of the tools. The group narrowly escape capture after one of them sacrifices himself to kill a large posse of guards with his “throat-slitter” and Ludwig and his crew escape by car after wishing Gustave and Zero well. Gustave then teams up with Zero to prove his innocence.

Part 4 – The Society of the Crossed Keys

Gustave and Zero are pursued by J. G. Jopling, a cold-blooded assassin working for Dmitri, who chops off Kovacs’ fingers on his right hand and kills him when he refuses to work with Dmitri. Gustave calls upon Monsieur Ivan, a concierge and fellow member of the Society of the Crossed Keys, a fraternal order of concierges who attempt to assist other members. Through the help of Ivan, Gustave and Zero travel to a mountaintop monastery where they meet with Serge, the only person who can clear Gustave of the murder accusations, but Serge is strangled by a pursuing Jopling before he can reveal a piece of important information regarding a second will from Madame D. Zero and Gustave steal a sled and chase Jopling as he flees the monastery on skis. During a face-off at the edge of a cliff, Zero pushes the assassin to his death and rescues Gustave.

Part 5 – The Second Copy of the Second Will

Back at the Grand Budapest, the outbreak of war is imminent, and the military have commandeered the hotel and are in the process of converting it into a barracks. A heartbroken Gustave vows to never again pass the threshold. Agatha joins the two and agrees to find a way to go inside – by delivering pastries – and retrieve the painting. Unluckily Dmitri comes at the same moment and discovers her. A chase and a chaotic gunfight ensue before Zero and Agatha flee with the painting (which had been hidden, still wrapped up, in the hotel safe). Gustave’s innocence is finally proven by the discovery of the copy of Madame D’s second will, which was duplicated by Serge before it was destroyed, and which he subsequently hid in the back of the painting. This will was to take effect only if she was murdered. The identity of Madame D’s murderer and how Gustave is proved innocent are left ambiguous (though earlier in the film a suspicious bottle labeled “strychnine” can be seen on Jopling’s desk). The will also reveals that she was the owner of the Grand Budapest. She leaves much of her fortune, the hotel, and the painting to Gustave, making him wealthy in the process, and he becomes one of the hotel’s regular guests while appointing Zero as the new concierge. Zero and Agatha marry while Dimitri dissapears.

Epilogue

After the war, which it is implied Zubrowka lost, the country is annexed. During a train journey across the border, soldiers inspect Gustave’s and Zero’s papers. Zero describes Gustave being taken out and shot after defending Zero (whom the soldiers had attempted to arrest for his immigrant status), as he did on the initial train ride in the beginning of the movie. Agatha succumbs to “the Prussian Grippe” and dies two years later, as does her infant son. Zero inherits the fortune Gustave leaves behind and vows to continue his legacy at the Grand Budapest, but a subsequent Communist revolution in Zubrowka and the ravages of time slowly begin to take their toll on both the building and its owner as Zero is forced to “contribute” his entire inheritance to the government to keep the dying hotel in business. In a touch of irony, the painting Zero and Gustave fought so desperately to take now sits on a wall, forgotten and crooked.

Back in 1968, Mr. Moustafa confesses to the Author that the real reason that he cannot bring himself to close the hotel has nothing to do with his loyalty to Gustave, or as a connection to “his world,” but because it is his last remaining link to his beloved Agatha and the best years of his life. He theorizes that Gustave’s world was gone long before he was ever in it, but he maintained the illusion quite well. Before departing to his room, Mr. Moustafa gives the Author a key to the “M. Gustave Suite” and readjusts the crooked painting. The Young Author later departs for South America and never returns to the hotel.

In 1985, the Author completes his memoirs beside his grandson.

Back in the present, the girl continues reading in front of the statue of the Author, a sign that Zero and Gustave’s story and that of the hotel will live on.

REVIEW:

In all of the Oscar talk this season, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Granted, there is quite an array of really good films for the picking. So, the question is, why is this a contender at all, right?

What is this about?

Between the world wars, Gustave H, the concierge at a prestigious European hotel, takes a bellboy named Zero as a trusted protégé. Meanwhile, the upscale guests are involved in an art theft and a dispute over a vast family fortune.

What did I like?

Tone. Since this is one of the films that was up for many awards this season, I expected it to be another of those super serious, depressing dramas that tend to be the norm. Much to my surprise, this was very light-hearted and fun. The tone was something akin to Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, where there is an obvious “heavy” story, but it is told as something more of a farce, for lack of a more appropriate term. The light tone really appealed to me and kept my interest, as I’m sure it has others who need a break from all these dark pictures we have these days.

Dark lord has humor. Even before he became known as Voldemort, from the Harry Potter films, I don’t think anyone would have accused Ralph Fiennes of being a comedic actor. He just doesn’t have the look, but he is capable of pulling off some comedy. I always enjoy the shock of seeing someone not associated with a certain type of acting pull it off so well. Now, I’m not saying Fiennes needs to go star in an Adam Sandler/Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart type film, but he does have some comedic chops, and I just want to give him props for that.

Structure. I really was able to appreciate that this film was set up with chapters. Everything from the way F. Murray Abraham (isn’t this guy like 1,000 by now?) set up the story to the interesting ways in which the chapter titles were shown to the seamless transitions was masterfully done.

What didn’t I like?

Hotel. For a film that has the hotel name as the title, we sure see very little of it. Yes, there a quite a few scenes that take place in this majestic living space, but the “meat and potatoes” of the picture are set elsewhere. I don’t know, I guess I just would have preferred for everything to be more centralized, much like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which I initially thought this was a sequel to…HAHA!)

Nazi clones. It is obvious that this is a picture set during the war, so I have to wonder why not use actual Nazis? Is that product placement now? Or does this take place in some alternate universe where a group of people who are the same organization, just with a slightly different insignia, bring about war, death, and worse. There was something else I watched recently that did the same thing, so I really am curious if there was some odd edict from the motion picture association banning the use of Nazis.

Gustave’s end. I wasn’t satisfied with Gustave’s end. Well, I take that back. It was the face that we didn’t get to see it happen and it was just told, as if rushing through the final stanza. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way he meets his end seems like the stuff of legend, and a fitting end considering what he was doing and who he was doing it for. Why not show that? I just don’t understand!!!

Final thoughts on The Grand Budapest Motel? Two things. First, it is obvious this is one of the best films of the year. Great script, acting, cinematography…everything. However, in comparison to the other contenders is does come off as a weaker entry, an underdog, if you will. The cast is great, even with some big names playing such cameo-esque roles. Do I recommend this? Yes. Yes, I do!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Maid in Manhattan

Posted in Chick Flicks, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , on February 14, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Marisa Ventura is a single mother trying to get by with her young son Ty by working as a maid for a classy hotel set in the heart of Manhattan. When not in school, Ty spends time among Marisa’s fellow hotel workers who think she is capable of being promoted to management.

While Marisa and fellow maid Stephanie (Marissa Matrone) are cleaning the room of a socialite, Stephanie convinces Marisa to try on a coat. The guest, Caroline Lane, had previously asked for it to be returned to the store and Stephanie argues that it “technically” doesn’t belong to anyone at the moment. Elsewhere in the hotel, Ty befriends hotel guest and senatorial candidate Christopher Marshall , whom Ty learns has an interest in Richard Nixon, the subject of his school presentation. Ty wants to go with Chris to walk his dog and the pair go to Caroline Lane’s room to ask Marisa for permission. Chris meets Marisa who is wearing the designer coat, and is instantly smitten with her. Of course, he assumes that she is Caroline Lane. The trio spend some time together in the park. Though Marisa and Chris are attracted to each other, Marisa is terrified that management will find out about the ruse and makes it a point to avoid Chris afterwards.

Chris asks the hotel’s head butler Lionel Bloch to invite “Caroline Lane” to lunch but he is confused when the real Caroline shows up instead of Marisa. Ironically, Marisa was present when she received the invitation and even offered Caroline some advice on what to wear for their “Lunch à deux”. When the real Caroline shows up, Chris asks his assistant Jerry Siegal to find “the other Caroline Lane” promising that he will attend an important dinner and wishes her to go with him. Jerry asks Lionel to find her. Lionel, who has figured out that Marisa is the woman Chris has been looking for, tells her to go to the dinner and end the affair swiftly if she wants to keep her possible future in hotel management. He and the hotel staff assist her in preparing for the evening by styling her hair, loaning her an expensive dress, and a spectacular necklace.

Marisa is unable to end the affair, and she spends the night in Chris’s hotel room. The next morning, Marisa is spotted by the real Caroline Lane and her friend leaving Chris’ room. Caroline blurts out the truth to the hotel management and Marisa is fired in front of Chris in Lane’s hotel suite. Both Marisa and Chris spend some time apart with him still thinking about her and Marisa hounded by the press and her disapproving classist mother Veronica.

Some time later, Marisa has obtained another job as a maid at another hotel. Chris is giving a press conference in the same hotel and Ty attends it and asks Chris whether people should be forgiven if they make mistakes, referencing former President of the United States. Ty leads him to the staff-room where Marisa is having her break. Chris and Marisa are reunited and the film ends with images of publications showing that Chris has been elected, he and Marisa are still together after one year, Marisa has started her own hospitality business, and Marisa’s maid friends have been promoted to management.

REVIEW:

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! In honor of today, I was going back and forth between whether to watch a sappy, romantic flick or something that is opposite of the holiday and just watch some uber-violent, bloody, cheesy action flick. As fate, and a flip of the coin, would have it, romance won out, thus allowing me to watch Maid in Manhattan.

What is this about?

It’s love at first sight when Marisa Ventura and fast-rising politician Christopher Marshall literally run into each other at a posh New York City hotel. The only problem? Christopher has mistaken Marisa for a guest, but she’s one of the maids.

What did I like?

Cinderella style. As one watching this film, it is very obvious that there is a Cinderella-esque feel to it. First, our main character is a maid, she goes to the ball, but has to break up with her dream guy, he tracks her down after a bit of a search, etc. The only thing that was missing was the glass slipper…and a few other things from the story, but the basics are there. I suppose if you’re going to steal from somewhere, at least make it a true classic and do it justice, which is what they have done.

Lose the formula. I think we are all aware of the romantic comedy formula. Girl meets boy. Girl breaks up with boy. Girl is miserable. Girl goes back to boy. That’s the basic formula, give or take some variations, addition, etc. Say what you will about this film, but it doesn’t really follow suit. It is for the this reason that I found a respect for this film that I didn’t expect. It isn’t something totally new, but the formula used in this film hasn’t been overused, at least in films that I’ve seen.

Jenny from the Block. About the time Jennifer Lopez was skyrocketing up to superstardom, she took every opportunity she could to make sure everyone knew she was from The Bronx. She even released a song, “Jenny from the Block”. Obvious from the title, this is set in Manhattan, and Lopez gets to show off her natural Bronx-ness. There is even a scene where her Latina ghetto-ness, for lack of a better term comes out. On the flipside, when it is time for her to be beautiful and demure, that is exactly what she is. My friend Kasey and I were having a discussion about her beauty the other day. Whatever you may think of her, you can’t deny J-Lo is a looker. Surprisingly, not much is made of her curves. As a matter of fact, she hides them in that maid outfit for most of the film. The one time we get any hint of what she is “working with” is at the park where Ralph Fiennes’ character briefly mentions how nice her backside is while taking off a newspaper that had stuck to her coat.

What didn’t I like?

Definition. Why do they call these things romantic comedies? I can’t really say that I laugh at very many romantic comedies. They tend to be more unrealistic dramas that give women false hope when it comes to what to expect from men. That being said, I’m sure females say the same thing about some of the stuff we guys watch. Where I’m going with all this is that this film didn’t make me laugh anywhere. There were moments that it genuinely seemed like it was trying for comedy, but the jokes didn’t work. The strength of this film is in its charm, not comedy.

Kids are cruel. Jennifer Lopez’ character has a little family that she obviously lover much. She lives with her overbearing, hateful towards anyone that has money mother and her cute as a button son. The mother is just a bitch. No other way to say it. Thank goodness she isn’t in it very long. The little boy steals the film in his films, especially a very important one near the end. However, when he is giving his speech near the beginning, his fellow classmates are laughing at him flubbing over it on stage. Perhaps it is because I was brought up in a generation that actually respected my fellow man, but I just found this to be cruel. The poor kid was already having a hard time being up there, his dad didn’t get to make it, and now these heartless kids were laughing at him. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy and wonder why it is that the filmmakers felt the need to include this scene. Yes, it moved things forward, but surely the filmmakers could have come up with something better.

Politico. What is this? An honest politician? I don’t believe it, and yet Ralph Fiennes’ character is the ideal politician. Where are the people like this that we need to run for office? All that aside, I hate how such a big deal was made about him being a politician and how he seemed like a nice guy, but one mistake and he is thrown to the wind (blame also goes to J. Lo’s character for that). The breakup was filmed for posterity. Are paparazzi that heartless these days to just sit there and watch this breakup and film it? Sickening!

Apparently, people are not a fan of Main in Manhattan. Many have this ranked as one of the worst romantic comedies of all time! To me, it is far from that. I actually smiled more than a few times during this film and found myself cheering for Lopez to get her happy ending, while wishing there was something more that could have ben done with some of the supporting characters, most notable Bob Hoskins and Natasha Richardson’s characters. All that said, this is a fairly cute romantic comedy that won’t alienate any male viewers, unless it part of a never-ending string of romantic comedies. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do. Maybe I’m just in the mood for this kind of film today, but I really enjoyed it and hope that you will, as well. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Wrath of the Titans

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ten years after defeating the Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington), the demigod son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), now lives as a fisherman with his 10-year-old son, Helius (John Bell) and has been widowed by the death of Io. One night, Perseus is visited by Zeus, who tells him that the powers of the gods are fading and the walls of the underworld prison of Tartarus are breaking due to the lack of devotion from humans. Zeus states they will need armies to combat the threat, but Perseus shows little interest and refuses to get involved.

Afterwards, Zeus travels to Tartarus to meet with his brothers Hades (Ralph Fiennes), Poseidon (Danny Huston), and his son Ares (Edgar Ramirez). He tells Hades they must forget the past and unite to rebuild Tartarus’ walls, but Hades rejects his offer and orders his minions to attack. They fatally injure Poseidon, and Ares betrays Zeus by taking him prisoner and stealing his Thunderbolt. In an exchange to remain immortal and powerful, Hades and Ares plan to drain Zeus’ divine power to revive Kronos, the father of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. They capture and hold Zeus prisoner in chains and the walls of Tartarus break, unleashing monsters into the world.

After slaying a Chimera that attacks his village, Perseus takes Helius to the Mount of Idols, so they can speak to Zeus, but the dying Poseidon arrives instead. He informs Perseus that Hades and Ares are holding Zeus in Tartarus, and tells him to meet with his demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell) to find the fallen god Hephaestus, who knows the way into Tartarus. Poseidon then gives Perseus his Trident before succumbing to his injuries and crumbling into dust. Perseus flies on Pegasus to the campsite of Queen Andromeda’s army. The queen is the princess Perseus saved a decade ago; Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) has imprisoned Agenor for stealing crown jewels, but Perseus negotiates his release by asking the reluctant Agenor to come along in their plan.

Perseus, Andromeda, Agenor, and a group of soldiers set out at sea to find Hephaestus, with Agenor explaining that Hephaestus created the three great weapons that Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon wield: Zeus’ Thunderbolt, Hades’ Pitchfork, and Poseidon’s Trident, and that together they form the Spear of Triam, the only weapon that can defeat Kronos. Agenor uses Poseidon’s trident to direct the boat to Hephaestus’s island, where they encounter three Cyclopes: Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, who attack them. When Perseus shows them the trident, they lead the group to Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), the smith god. He explains that he has a map to navigate the path though a deathly long labyrinth leading deep into Tartarus. He leads them to the door to the Labyrinth, where they are attacked by Ares, who found them after one of the soldiers, Korrina (Lily James), prayed to him. Ares is jealous of Perseus’ honor from his own father Zeus and kills all of the soldiers while Hephaestus opens the door and then sacrifices himself so that Perseus, Andromeda, and Agenor can enter the door before it closes.

Agenor tries to use the map to direct them, but the Labyrinth continually shifts and at one point nearly crushes them. Perseus gets cut off from the group and encounters and kills the Minotaur before finding that he is in the exit of the labyrinth to Tartarus. Eventually, the group manages to reunite and find Kronos becoming powerful. Meanwhile, Zeus has been almost entirely drained of power as Kronos starts to awaken. Zeus apologizes to Hades for banishing him to the Underworld and asks his forgiveness, as he has forgiven Hades for his actions. Though initially surprised, Hades has a change of heart and decides to help Zeus and stop Kronos, but Ares is still angry with his father and Perseus intervenes. Perseus arrives and uses the Trident to free Zeus. As they are escaping, Ares throws the Pitchfork into Zeus’s back, thus mortally wounding Zeus. To escape the charging Kronos, Perseus and Zeus use their powers to teleport them back to the Tyrene pass, where battle plans are made.

Perseus, Andromeda and Agenor carry a weakened Zeus down to the base of the mountain where Andromeda’s army is gathered. Although the Trident and Pitchfork are now in his possession, Perseus still needs the Thunderbolt from Ares to have the power to defeat Kronos. Perseus intentionally prays to Ares, challenging his brother to a final fight at the Temple of the Gods, which Ares happily accepts.

At the temple, Perseus finds out Ares has kidnapped Helius, who was brought to watch Perseus die in the fight. Ares easily overpowers Perseus, before pushing him into the ruins in the temple, but is distracted when Helius secretly tries to challenge him by pointing a sword at him, giving Perseus the chance to strike back anew. After a struggle, Perseus kills Ares with the Thunderbolt and combines the gods’ weapons into the Spear of Triam.

Meanwhile, Andromeda’s army is overwhelmed by Kronos’ army of demonic Makhai, but Hades arrives to revive Zeus. He and Hades reconcile, and Hades shares some of his immortality with Zeus, making Hades older and Zeus younger, and together they use what power they have left to defeat the Tartarian army. Kronos then appears and begins to attack the human army with lava and fire. Zeus and Hades attack him, giving Perseus the opportunity to fly down into Kronos’ throat and pierce the weapon into his heart. Kronos lets out one last blast to try to kill the two, but Zeus jumps into the way, pushes Hades and takes the explosion.

Perseus meets with Zeus and Hades; a fatally wounded Zeus advises Perseus to use his power wisely, stating that the time of the gods is over. He thanks Perseus for his bravery before finally turning to dust. Hades is now mortal, his powers spent, though he states he might be better off as such before heading off to parts unknown. Perseus reunites with Andromeda and kisses her as they prepare for possible Titan reprisal. Knowing that there are still monsters to fight, Perseus decides to train Helius to be a soldier and build a new kingdom

REVIEW:

I don’t know who it was that decided to start this remake fad, but they need to be tortured to the point they are teetering on death! I’m talking medieval stuff, people! What brings on these dark thoughts? Well, Wrath of the Titans is a sequel to a remake of one of the greatest sword and sandal flicks I’ve seen. A sequel that no one was really clamoring for, mind you, and it was still made…in 3D!!!

What is this about?

The film picks up about 10 years after the previous film. Perseus is now living the life of a simple fisherman with his son. One day he is visited by his father, Zeus, who tells him that Hades is trying to release the Titans and he needs his, along with another demigod, Agenor, son of Poseidon, to stop them. As one can guess, Perseus is none too thrilled about this offer and refuses to get involved until a Chimera attacks his village. With the aid of Andromeda and her men, Perseus tracks down Agenor and they head off to see Hephaestus in an attempt to find a way into Tartarus. Hephaestus tells them that the only way in is through the nigh unsolvable labyrinth, which he built with only one way out. When they reach Hades, they free Zeus, but are attacked by Hades, who is now consumed with carrying out the plan Hades started. Will Perseus and company be able to stop him?

What did I like?

Action. In Clash of the Titans (2010), they seemed to leave out all the action in favor of boring dialogue. This time around, they learned from their mistakes and upped the ante. The added emphasis on the action really made this much more enjoyable.

Bubo. In the last film, Bubo, the owl from the original Clash of the Titans, made a quick cameo, but the character was replaced by Gemma Arterton’s Io. She didn’t come back for this one, but Bubo makes a couple of appearances which I found as a nice gesture of respect towards the original, especially since this is a film that, quite frankly, has nothing to do with the original anymore.

Build-up. The way the filmmakers built up Kronos, not really revealing him until the last act made it that more impactful when he does appear. Couple that with his demonic minions (the things you saw wrecking havoc in the trailer) and the obvious degeneration of the world at the time and I was sold.

What didn’t I like.

Perseus. Sam Worthington may have taken a few acting lessons since the last film, but he still has a way to go before he can stop seeming so wooden on the screen. Even in the tender moments with his son and Zeus, I didn’t feel any different emotions from him that what I felt when he was fighting enemies or dodging the dangers of the labyrinth.

Hephaestus. Kudos for making him the slightly schizophrenic smith god that we know him to be. However, I have to say casting Bill Nighy and then killing him off so quickly was quite pointless.

Comic relief. I will never complain about the use of comic relief. We can always use a laugh now and then. They brought in some comedy this time around and it works, but the characters that bring in this comedy aren’t used as well as they could be and Perseus, in my opinion, should not be cracking jokes. It just doesn’t fit his personality.

Wrath of the Titans is a much improved outing than its predecessor. More action and less drama is the formula to use in this sword and sandal genre. Who ever it was that made the first film should have known that. No, this isn’t a great picture, but I would be more willing to see this again than its predecessor. Neither compares to the original, though. Do I recommend it? Sure, it is a good action flick.

3  1/3 out of 5 stars

Nanny McPhee Returns

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On a farm in Britain during World War II, Isabel Green is driven to her wits’ end by her hectic life. Between trying to keep the family farm up and running and her job in the village shop, aided by the elderly and partly blind Mrs. Docherty, she also has three dutiful, yet boisterous children to look after, Norman, Megsie and Vincent. All of this she has to do while her husband is away at war. So when her children’s two haughty and spoiled cousins, Cyril and Celia Gray are sent to live on their farm, another war is being fought between the two sets of children, she is in need of a little magic. She hears a mysterious voice telling her that she needs Nanny McPhee and, to her astonishment, Nanny McPhee appears on her doorstep one stormy night.

Nanny McPhee arrives to take matters into her own hands. At first, the children do not listen and carry on fighting, but she calmly bangs her stick, causing them to start hurting themselves, and Vincent to break things with his cricket bat. Eventually, they apologize, and the two groups learn to tolerate each other. Nanny McPhee then teaches them another lesson and punishes them, to share, by forcing the older boys to share their bed with a goat, the girls with the family cow, and Vincent with a baby elephant, making them realize sharing with one another wasn’t so bad and start acting kinder to one another. For instance, Megsie gives Celia some of her best clothing when the ones she brought are ruined, which had made her resort to wearing their mother’s wedding dress. Meanwhile, Isabel’s Uncle Phil has gambled away the farm and is being chased down by two hit women. He desperately attempts to make Isabel sell her half of the farm, using an array of schemes. These include digging a hole so that the family piglets can escape, but by working together, the children manage to round them up in time.

To celebrate catching the piglets, Mrs. Green takes all the children on a picnic, during which Mr. Docherty, warns them all about bombs and how he imagines a pilot might accidentally release his bomb in the remote area in which the family lives. At the end of the picnic Uncle Phil delivers a telegram saying that Rory Green has been “killed in action” in the war. Isabel believes the telegram, along with everybody else. But Norman does not, and says that he has a feeling “in his bones” that his father is not dead. He tells this to Cyril, who at first says it is just because he is upset, but then agrees to help Norman determine the truth. They realise that Cyril’s father, Lord Gray, a high-ranking figure in the War Office can find out for himself what has happened to Rory. So they manage to get Nanny McPhee to take them to London on her motorcycle. (For Pink Floyd fans: Note the Pig shaped barrage baloon above Battersea Power Station in the panoramic view as they arrive in London)

Upon arrival in London, Nanny McPhee uses her status in the army to get the boys access to the War Office, where they meet Lord Grey. At first he scoffs at Norman when he tells him about his disbelief of his father’s death, but after Cyril angrily informs his father that he knows that his parents are getting a divorce, he gives in and goes to check on Rory’s status. While he is gone, Cyril tells Norman that he and Celia have been sent away because their parents will be splitting up, and not because of the bombs, and he is unsure where he and Celia will have to live. Norman tells Cyril that he and Celia are welcome to live on the farm with the Greens, to his delight. Lord Grey returns and informs them that Rory is not listed as killed in action, as the telegram had stated, but rather missing in action, and that there is no record of a telegram ever having been sent to Isabel.

The boys then leave and Norman works out that the telegram brought to his mother by Uncle Phil was in fact a fraud to get Isabel to sell the farm. While the boys are at the War Office, Megsie, Celia and Vincent are trying to stop Isabel from signing the papers and selling the farm. When their own efforts fail, Megsie calls to Nanny McPhee for help, who hears her plea and summons a baby Elephant to stall for time. Just as Isabel is about to sign the papers, an enemy plane flies overhead. The pilot sneezes twice, and on the third sneeze, a huge bomb is dropped, but does not explode and is sticking out of the barley field. When Nanny McPhee returns with Norman and Cyril, thanks to the Nanny’s magic, the children go out to watch Mr. Docherty dismantle the bomb, but he falls from the ladder and faints, and Megsie takes over. She succeeds with the help of the other children and Nanny McPhee’s putty eating bird, Mr. Edelweiss. Nanny McPhee then helps to harvest the barley and saves Phil from the hit women, with a little magic, and she and Mrs. Docherty watch the family celebrate.

During their conversation, Mrs. Docherty says to Mr. Docherty that Nanny McPhee hates goodbyes and that she remembers from when she was young. She then takes out a rattle, revealing that she is baby Aggie from the first film. As Nanny McPhee walks away from the now happy family, true to her statement “When you need me, but do not want me, I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go”, the children and Isabel chase after her, determined to prove they still need her. However, they discover that they in fact do not, as they round a bend to see that their father is descending from the hill, passing Nanny McPhee along the way. Rory Green (Ewan McGregor), in army uniform and with an injured arm, runs to the arms of his children and wife and rejoices in the discovery that after leaving three children to go to war, he has returned to find five. As Nanny McPhee watches the reunion, now a beautiful woman, she forgives Mr. Edelweiss and allows him to perch on her shoulder as they leave into the distance

REVIEW:

Last month, I had a double nanny month, in that I reviewed both Mary Poppins and the original Nanny McPhee. Now, I figure it is time to do the fairly recent release, Nanny McPhee Returns. For those of you in love with nannies, you might also want to check out The Nanny Diaries, as well.

This film picks up quite some time after the original. As a matter of fact, other than the revelation of one of the characters at film’s end, the original is not even mentioned.

This time around Nanny McPhee comes to the aid of a family during WWII as their father is away at war, and their rich, spoiled cousins have come to live with them. Now, here is what has me scratching my head as to her need.

In the first film, the children were quite unruly, yet in this one, except for typical adolescent hijinks and the spoiled nature of the cousins, these kids are quite pleasant. This sort of makes Nanny McPhee useless, save for the overworked mother, played by a rapidly aging Maggie Gyllenhaal. Seriously, as much as I love her, doesn’t she seem to look older and older everytime we see her?

Anyway, as with the last film, this hideous old woman shows up after some cryptic messages saying “The person you want is Nanny McPhee”. The same rules from the first film apply as well, though the methods she uses to teach those lessons are different.

This is where I started to really be sold on this film. In so many other sequels, it seems as if they are nothing but a carbon copy of their predecessors, but this one did something not many do and that is they made a totally new story complete with a set of new challenges and adventures. That being said, there are some similarities, such as farm animals, evil relative, money problems, one of the kids crying out for help from Nanny McPhee, but these don’t feel recycled, and actually fit into this new version.

Color played a big part of the previous film, as every scene seemed like it was straight out of some 60s TV show, what with all the different colors. This one is a little better. The colors are still there, but they seem to be toned down. I’m still not sure what I think about that, but I figured it should be mentioned.

Of course with a film like this, there has to be a villanous plot. This one involves the “evil” uncle who own half the farm (the other half is owned by his brother who is away at war). Somehow, though, he has managed to lose the farm to an unseen crime boss and now he must pay up. This is why he spends the film concocting various nefarious plots. The worst of which was delivering a forged telegram saying that the father had been killed in the war.

Rhys Ifans really does a good job with the slime ball aspect of this character, and for some reason he seemed to be a bit more sweaty than one should be. Perhaps that may be due to the fact that he’s not used to being as heavy as he appears to be here.

Emma Thompson hasn’t lost a step as Nanny McPhee, but she does seem to be a bit more personable in this film. For some reason, though, she doesn’t seem to be hiding her magic, or at least she doesn’t deny it. In the last film, it wasn’t really an issue,but this time around, it was like everyone knew about it. Just an observation, not a criticism.

There was also some weird scenes with the crow, Mr. Edelweiss (who plays a major role near the end of the film). She seems almost pleasant when she’s talking to him, though. I’m not going to say I didn’t like it, but it was just out of character for her.

Only one word can really describe this film…magical. Nanny McPhee returns and is quite possible even better than the original. Everything one would expect from a film like this is here and with no random off-color jokes. This is just a great family film that all can watch and enjoy, so give it a shot, why don’t you?

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part II

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After giving Dobby a proper burial at Shell Cottage, Harry speaks with Griphook the Goblin about breaking into Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts, as he believes that a Horcrux is hidden there. Griphook agrees to take Harry, Ron, and Hermione to Bellatrix’s vault if they give him the Sword of Gryffindor in return. Harry then asks Ollivander, the wandmaker, to identify the wands they took from Malfoy Manor. Ollivander says they belong to Bellatrix and Draco Malfoy, but Malfoy’s wand has changed its allegiance to Harry. Harry then reveals that he knows Lord Voldemort has stolen the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand to ever exist, from Albus Dumbledore’s tomb.

After using Polyjuice Potion to disguise herself as Bellatrix, Hermione manages to slip past the Gringotts goblins along with Ron, also disguised, and Harry and Griphook, who are under Harry’s Invisibility Cloak. Griphook safely guides them past the dragon guard and into Bellatrix’s vault where Harry discovers the next Horcrux, Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup. When Harry manages to obtain the cup, Griphook takes the sword and runs. With Gringotts security on their tail, the three heroes jump onto the back of the dragon guard and fly far away from Gringotts. During their escape, Voldemort enters Harry’s mind and discovers that they have been destroying his Horcruxes. He then begins keeping his snake, Nagini with him at all times. During the vision, Harry sees that the next Horcrux is something that belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw and is at Hogwarts.

When Harry, Ron, and Hermione arrive in Hogsmeade, they unknowingly set off a Caterwauling Charm, and have to hide. They are rescued by Aberforth Dumbledore, Albus’s brother. Aberforth seems to have lost all hope, but Harry convinces him to let them into Hogwarts so they may find the Horcrux. Aberforth instructs a portrait of his younger sister, Ariana to fetch Neville Longbottom, who leads the three friends through a secret passage back to Hogwarts. Severus Snape, now headmaster of Hogwarts, has heard of Harry’s return and gathers all students and staff in the Great Hall to inform them of their punishment should they aid Harry in any way. Harry steps forward and confronts Snape, but Professor McGonagall defends Harry by firing her own spells at Snape. Snape retreats to Lord Voldemort and McGonagall gathers all beings in Hogwarts to prepare for the final battle. Luna Lovegood finds Harry and introduces him to Helena Ravenclaw, daughter of Rowena and ghost of Ravenclaw house. Helena reveals that she knows of Voldemort and the dark magic he had performed on her mother’s lost diadem. When Harry tells her that he wishes to destroy it, she tells him it is hidden in the Room of Requirement. While Harry is talking with Helena, Ron and Hermione go to the Chamber of Secrets and Hermione destroys the cup Horcrux with a Basilisk fang. After being engulfed by a torrent of water caused by the destruction of the Horcrux, the two share a brief kiss. Harry goes to the Room of Requirement where he finds Malfoy, Goyle, and one of their fellow Slytherins. Goyle attacks Harry, but Ron and Hermione arrive and defend him. Goyle casts a Fiendfyre curse in the Room of Requirement, forcing the three heroes to retreat. Before leaving, Harry saves Malfoy and his companion, but Goyle and the Room of Requirement itself are destroyed in the fire. Once outside the room, they destroy the Ravenclaw diadem with a basilisk fang and Ron quickly kicks away the destroyed Horcrux. The trio go on a search for Voldemort so that they may kill Nagini, the final Horcrux, but when they discover him, he has Nagini kill Snape to make the Elder Wand truly his. Before he dies, Snape passes Harry memories via a tear to be used in the Pensieve in Dumbledore’s office.

As Voldemort gives Hogwarts a reprieve, Harry looks into Snape’s memories and learned that he and his mother, Lily Potter, were close friends and that Snape defected from Voldemort after Lily’s death. From the memory, Harry learns that he himself is a Horcrux, as Voldemort’s soul was very fragile at the time he killed Lily and James. Due to the fragile state of his soul, a result of creating numerous Horcruxes, and his attempt to murder an innocent child, a part of Voldemort’s soul broke away, and attached itself to the only living thing in the house, this happened to be Harry. Harry then goes into the Forbidden Forest to face Voldemort, where he is hit with a Killing Curse. Harry enters a state of limbo, where he meets the spirit of Dumbledore. He then returns to the world of living and his reappearance re-ignites the fighting. As he and his friends try to kill Nagini, they lose their basilisk fangs, until Neville decapitates the snake with Gryffindor’s sword, destroying the last of the Horcruxes. Voldemort is then killed by his own Killing Curse as the Elder Wand falls into Harry’s hands. With the battle over, Ron suggests that they keep the Wand, because it would make them invincible, but Harry wordlessly snaps the Elder Wand in half, thinking it would be too much power to have.

Nineteen years later, Harry and Ginny Potter, along with Ron and Hermione Weasley, see their children off on the Hogwarts Express. But Harry’s middle child, Albus Severus, reveals his fears to Harry about the possibility of him being sorted into Slytherin house. Harry confides in his son regarding his namesake and assures him that the Sorting Hat will allow him to choose his own house. Albus gets on board the train, and both married couples watch their children leave to have their own adventures at Hogwarts.

REVIEW:

Every generation seems to have that one franchise that changes everything. For my generation, we have the Holy Trilogy (the Star Wars films for those not familiar with the terminology), the next one had the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but this current generation has literally grown up with the actors in this franchise, and have cemented Harry Potter in the echelon of great, moneymaking franchises.

The plot of  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part II picks up right where the previous film left off. I’ll discuss the separation later. Harry, Ron and Hermonie are still in search of the horcruxes so that Voldemort can be defeated. Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, Snape has been promoted to Headmaster and the school grounds are guarded by Dementors.

Before returning to Hogwarts, the trio makes a stop at Gringott’s bank to explore Bellatrix’s vault, where they find one of the Horcruxes. Of course, in there, they have to deal with this multiplicity spell and a double cross by Griphook, not to mention have to evade and escape the dragon guarding it.

After their daring escape, they apparete to Hogsmeade, but set off some type of alarm, which sets the Death Eaters on their trail. Before they can be detected, a mysterious figure pulls them aside. It is discovered that he is Dumbledore’s brother, Abeforth, and he helps them get back in the castle, with the help of the painting of his sister and Neville Longbottom.

This leads to the scenes we’ve been waiting 10 yrs for, the final battle between good and evil. Some of the character we’ve been waiting to see actually use their magic show what they can do, some characters die, and others slither away into the darkness.

The film is definitely the ultimate payoff for those of us that have been around since the beginning. Sure, when you think about it, this is kind of a sad day, but hey, it was a good run, and with the exception of the previous film, there are no real complaints.

Let’s talk about that for a bit, shall we. This film, which is based on the final book, was split into to films. If you will recall in my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part I, I wasn’t necessarily giving a ringing endorsement of the split. However, as much as I complained about he previous film being nothing more than an overpriced drama, there were some parts of it that were done well because of it being a separate film. Had both of these films been merged into one, I believe there would have been lots of things left out that really deserved to be seen on film.

I was convinced to see this in 3D. I don’t really know why this was released in (and converted to) 3D. I believe it would have been just as spectacular without it. I just didn’t see anything that warranted me spending the extra $$$. I can’t believe I was coerced into supporting this gimmick.

This might very well be the most special effects laden entry in the franchise. There isn’t anything wrong with that, either. If you read the book, it plays out as if it were meant to be seen on the big screen rather than in someone’s imagination.

For the most part, the film stays true to the source material. There are some things cut here and there, as well as some additions that I believe weren’t necessary, but we can all rejoice in how this film proves you don’t have to change someone’s work in order to create a great story for the big screen.

In an interview earlier this week, I heard Daniel Radcliffe say something about how he wanted to keep some of the lensless glasses. That’s great, but if you will watch in nearly every scene, he has on a different pair of glass, some with lenses and some without.

Personally, I think a film of this high caliber should be able to film something like that. Don’t you agree?

It was good to see some of those that have been nothing but background characters, mostly, get their chance to shine here, such as Professor McGonagall , Molly Weasley, and especially Neville.

Speaking of Neville, I know that we’ve watched all of these characters grow up over the years, but think about what he was like in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and compare that to how much of a force he was in this film. It really is a shame we didn’t see more of him over the course of the series.

Speaking of characters, I do believe, with the exception of the first film, that this is the first film to feel like it is truly about Harry and not some other character or event.

I also belive this to be the shortest of all the Potter films, at 2 hrs 10 min. With the exception of the beginning and a bit of a slowdown heading into the climax, this film is right up my alley in that it is not stop action.

Make no mistake, this is not the happy-go-lucky kiddie flick that first two films were. Someone even pointed it out the other day that when the opening logo is shown, you don’t hear th whimsical “Hedwig’s Theme” anymore, but instead its som dark, sinister chord, with maybe a modulated version o it underneath.

Speaking of the darkness…and this goes back to the 3d, in a way…this film is very dark. Part of the reason for that is that it occurs mostly at night, the other has to do with wearing those 3D glasses.

The epilogue was actually very well shot, but I couldn’t help but wish they would have gone one and made the trip to Hogwarts so that we could see what changes have happened there in the 19 yrs.

Well, the Harry Potter franchise comes to an end, and boy does it go out with a bang! Two things are going to happen to films now. There will be plenty of book series that are going to be positioned to be the next Potter, but pretty much all of them will fail. Just think of  The Golden Compass, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief or Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant for examples. While Twilight may be raking in some serious bank right now, truth be told, it doesn’t appeal to both sexes, but rather tween girls and gay men.

So, should you see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part II? I have to say yes, especially if you’ve seen the other films. On top of that, think about how often a worthy franchise comes along. Do you really want to miss out on a satisfying conclusion like this one has? So, stop reading and go out and see this right now!!!

5 out of 5 stars