Archive for Steve coogan

The Secret Life of Pets

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Living an easy life, happy terrier Max sees his world upended when his owner brings home Duke, a mongrel Max regards as a loser. But the two soon find themselves allied against a horde of abandoned pets looking to turn the tables on humans.

What people are saying:

“In much the same way that the smash Zootopia demonstrated that creatures of different culture and class and species are better off when they come together, The Secret Life of Pets is a testament to teamwork and friendship and fixing the rifts that divide us. Let the fur – and the warm, fuzzy feelings – fly.” 3 stars

“Draws on the universal experience of pet ownership to draw out the “awww” in all of us. But the film butt-scoots by on its premise. There’s not much more going on, thematically or emotionally below the surface.” 3 1/2 stars

“Quite disappointed. Not at all what I was expecting from the trailer! I thought this was going to be a cute, funny movie about the trouble that pets will get into everyday but then hide all evidence of it just before the owners get home. No not at all. It’s a movie about a big dumb bully who goes out of his way to destroy the life-style of the main character. But wait, it changes to “oh let’s work together and we can all be friends BS”. Ugh. more moral crap. And don’t forget, there’s psycho bunny who wants to kill all humans! At least he’s funny.” 1 star

“It certainly won’t be winning any awards for originality and you’ll probably feel like you’ve seen the story a thousand times before, but with its colorful animation, great voice cast and enough funny moments sprinkled throughout, particularly when it comes down to finding clever ways of portraying the typical animal behavior that all pet owners will recognize, it may be just charming and cute enough to hold your attention.” 2 1/2 stars

“The problem with The Secret Life of Pets is that we’ve seen it before. This movie borrows most of its tricks from Toy Story, Oliver & Company, Flushed Away and other animated features that came before it. It doesn’t really have anything to make it stand out from the crowd. This isn’t a bad movie, it just isn’t anything special.” 3 stars

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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1938, in Egypt a team of archaeologists is searching for a tomb and its treasure. A young boy falls into it, calling to his father and the team; they discover a significant artifact, the tablet of Ahkmenrah. The locals tell them that if they remove the tablet, “the end will come”.

In present-day New York City, five years after the events of the last film, night guard Larry Daley is overseeing an evening event at the American Museum of Natural History. Larry has gathered his favorite exhibits, which come to life every night, to help with the entertainment; they include Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun, Sacagawea, Dexter the Monkey, diorama miniature cowboy Jed and miniature Roman centurion Octavius, and Pharaoh Ahkmenrah. Larry meets a new wax figure Neanderthal who calls himself Laaa. Ahkmenrah warns of the tablet corroding, which had been causing the exhibits to act oddly. At the event, the exhibits go berserk and the attendees flee. When Larry gets home, he finds his son Nicky throwing a party. Nicky explains he doesn’t intend to apply to college, wanting to take a year off to figure out what he wants to do with his life.

Larry researches the tablet and learns that Cecil Fredericks, the former security guard who tried to steal the tablet (in the first film in the trilogy), was the boy from 1938 who helped discover it. Larry goes to Cecil’s retirement home and explains what is happening at the museum. Cecil recalls the locals’ warning that “the end will come”, realizing it was not an “end of the world” prophecy but a warning that the tablet’s magic would end. He suggests that Larry consult Ahkmenrah’s parents, who are in the British Museum. Larry persuades Dr. McPhee to let him take Ahkmenrah and his tablet to London, even though Dr. McPhee is no longer the museum director. He eventually yields to Larry’s request, and pretends that he is still director.

Larry and Nicky travel to the museum, meeting the security guard, Tilly, who lets them in. When Larry enters, he sees his exhibits friends stowed away. The tablet brings the British exhibits to life and the gang encounters a Triceratops skeleton, which chases them. A wax figure replica of Sir Lancelot, who thinks he is the real Lancelot, saves them, but Jed and Octavius fall into a ventilation shaft. Larry sends Dexter to find Jed and Octavius, who have landed in a Pompeii exhibit just before the model of the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupts. The others fight off a nine-headed Xiangliu statue and Dexter stops the volcano’s flow to save Jed and Octavius.

The gang finds Ahkmenrah’s parents, and his father, Merenkahre, reveals the purpose and power of the tablet: it was made to keep his family together forever. The tablet is endowed with the power of Khonsu, god of the moon, and needs frequent exposure to moonlight to retain its magic. Lancelot steals the tablet, mistaking it for the Holy Grail, then leaves to find his Lady Guinevere. The tablet continues to corrode, which damages the New York exhibits and threatens their “lives”. The gang splits up to find Lancelot, but Tilly apprehends Larry and locks him and Laaa in the employee break room. Larry reflects upon his relationship with Nicky and then Laaa breaks them out. The gang leaves the museum to continue the search, while Laaa stays behind to keep Tilly detained, during which, they become attracted to each other, but the Trafalgar Square lion statues corner them. Larry distracts the statues with his flashlight and the search continues.

Lancelot has arrived at a local theater showing a production of Camelot, starring Hugh Jackman as King Arthur and Alice Eve as Guinevere. He runs onstage, trying to convince “Guinevere” to join him. The gang arrives soon after and convinces Lancelot he’s mistaken, chasing him to the roof. Larry persuades Lancelot to give him back the tablet to save the other now lifeless exhibits. Larry adjusts the tablet and the moonlight restores it, reanimating the exhibits. Larry returns the tablet to Merenkahre after the New York exhibits decide that the tablet and the pharaohs should stay together. As everyone parts ways, Larry tells Tilly that tomorrow night she will have the greatest job in the world. After returning to New York, the exhibits accept that they will permanently return to their inanimate state and they say goodbye to Larry.

Three years later, Larry has given up his job as a night watchman to become a teacher, and a traveling British Museum exhibition comes to the museum. Tilly gives the tablet to McPhee, whose job Larry had saved by taking the blame for the chaos at the evening event at the beginning of the film. She shows him that all the exhibits have come to life because of the tablet’s power and are partying in the museum. Larry, who is walking by, pauses on the sidewalk to see the flashing lights of the party inside the museum, and smiles.

REVIEW:

Sometimes a franchise comes along and fills audiences with wonder and delight in every installment. Other times, they start off with such promise, only to crash and burn. With Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, this franchise seems to be coming to an end. Will it go out with a bang and be remembered or simply slink off unnoticed?

What is this about?

Security guard Larry Daley plunges into an adventure that transports him to a London museum, where he’s surrounded by a new set of artifacts — including the remains of an Egyptian pharaoh who’s resurrected by a magic tablet.

What did I like?

Origin. We’ve had this magic tablet at the center of things for two films now, but no one has really gone into the history about it. That is where it comes from, how it got its powers, etc. We finally get some answers with this film, as we learn it is powered by moonlight and was given said magical powers through some ancient Egyptian ritual. I am so glad that they gave us the origin, rather than just assume we don’t want to know or come to our own conclusions. Something like this deserves, née, needs an origin story.

Power of 3. As this is the third film in the franchise, it seems only fitting to bring back the three guards from the first film. Before you get excited, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, and Dick van Dyke (who can still dance as well as he did in his heyday, btw) serve as nothing more than a cameo, or fan service. Their appearance wasn’t necessarily needed, but it was nice to see them. Having said that, van Dyke’s character is tied in to the film’s opening, so his part was a bit necessary.

Last one. At the time of this release, both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams had left us. I won’t say these are the best roles for them to leave on, especially as both of these men have very impressive resumes spanning decades and genres. However, it is nice to know that, being one of their final on-screen roles, they won’t tarnish their legacies a la Raul Julia in Street Fighter. R.I.P. Robin and Mickey.

What didn’t I like?

Parenting 101. In Night at the Museum, Nicky was a little kid devoted to his father. Now he’s a teenager. Need I say more? Surprisingly, they didn’t make him totally disrespectful, overemotional, or any other traits that teenagers today exhibit. They only real change to his character is that he’s older (and played by a different actor). Here is my issue, though. We, the audience, are already having to chew and swallow this convoluted plot with the tablet, introduced to a possibly villainous Lancelot, and now we have to suffer through more drama between Nicky and his dad? They could left that out and focused more on the running joke of Laa and how he looked so much like Larry (even if I thought he looked more like Tom Cruise). Perhaps the fool that Lancelot spoke of could have made an appearance, as well.

Sir Ben. I spoke earlier on how Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney did not have their best performances in this film. Well, that was nothing compared to Sir Ben Kingsley’s role. First off, this isn’t bad casting, in theory, but I feel they could find someone who is actually descended from that region. The queen and Ahkmenrah are obviously of Middle Eastern origin, so why is the pharaoh British and white? That’s a minor point, though. Kingsley is a more than proven actor. Sure, he doesn’t mind lowering himself for a role, as we saw in Iron Man 3, but he was at least given material to work with. In this film, he just stands there, utters a few royal edicts, looks pharaoh-ish, and that’s it? Can we say waste of talent?

Dark. I know many out there are all about the dark stuff these days. Here’s the thing, though…this is, in essence, a children/family film. Why isn’t it the fun romp that the first two were? Are we trying the Harry Potter route and grow with the audience, because if we are then we need to know that the audience is still there, and I just don’t think they are. I don’t have a problem with the story, I just feel that some of the darker themes could have been replaced with more comedic moments. This is a comedy after all.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb may be the last entry into this flailing franchise. I think that is perhaps for the best with the loss Robin Williams and no one really clamoring for these films. Not to mention the tremendous drop off in terms of quality coming into this film and no one really giving off the vibe that they want to be there. I feel that this could have been a much better movie had there just been that extra bit of excitement in the cast, but they didn’t sell it, thus the film just meanders along. I will say Rebel Wilson did add a bit of spice to the proceedings. If they were to reboot this, like they do everything else, I suggest her in the lead. So, do I recommend this? No, unless you’re a completionist and want to finish the franchise. Otherwise, it is best to just leave this one alone.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Hamlet 2

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , on June 24, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dana Marschz is a recovering alcoholic and failed actor who has become a high school drama teacher in Tucson, Arizona, “where dreams go to die”. Despite considering himself an inspirational figure, he only has two enthusiastic students, Rand Posin and Epiphany Sellars, and a history of producing poorly received school plays that are essentially stage adaptations of popular Hollywood films (his latest being Erin Brockovich). When the new term begins, a new intake of students are forced to transfer into his class as it is the only remaining arts elective available due to budget cutbacks; they are generally unenthusiastic and unconvinced by Dana’s pretensions, and Dana comes into conflict with Octavio, one of the new students.

Dana is floored when Principal Rocker notifies him that the drama program is to be shut down at the end of the term. Seeking to inspire his students, Dana undertakes to write and produce an original play: a sequel to Hamlet featuring time travel to avoid the deaths of the characters, and new, more controversial content, including the introduction of Jesus Christ as one of the characters, complete with a song-and-dance number titled “Rock Me Sexy Jesus”. The kids gradually warm to the project, but Rand – cast as a bi-curious Laertes and overshadowed by Octavio as Hamlet – storms out of the drama group and provides a copy of the play’s script to Principal Rocker, who orders Dana to stop the controversial production.

Dana is further traumatized when his wife Brie leaves him for the uninteresting, but fertile, boarder Gary they had taken into their home to supplement their modest income, and reveals that he himself is infertile. Despondent, Dana falls off the wagon and tries to abandon the project, but his students encourage him to continue, arranging an abandoned warehouse and rave spot, technical assistance, and security being provided by the high school’s football and wrestling teams. Dana also learns that the cancellation of the play has become a civil liberties issue encouraged by fanatical ACLU activist Cricket Feldstein. As a result, the play opens to a sold-out house, including a critic from The New York Times. Rand returns to the group, apologizing for his desertion; Dana allows him to return to the role of Laertes.

The play itself initially meets with a mixed reception, due to its controversial content and mangling of the original play; in keeping with a running joke throughout the movie, much of the content revolves around the characters using time travel to mend their troubled relationships with their fathers; it ends with both Hamlet and Jesus forgiving their fathers for the wrongs done to them. Although initially reluctant to engage with the play, with several protesters infiltrating the audience to stage a direct protest, the play gradually wins the audience over. The film ends with Dana and his favorite actress, Elisabeth Shue – whom he is now dating – meeting Dana’s students to prepare for the show’s Broadway opening, complete with original cast.

REVIEW:

I’m pretty sure when William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, he did not have any notion that there would ever be a “sequel” to it. Well folks, here have Hamlet 2, but fret not, the film is not a sequel to Shakespeare’s play. The title comes from a play that is performed during the film. Confused yet?

What is this about?

With his department in danger of being cut, high school drama teacher Dana Marschz pens a heretical sequel to William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and exhorts his students to stage it in this sardonic comedy that riffs on the “inspirational teacher” genre.

What did I like?

Support the arts. There is a real problem in this country, and it involves the eradication of arts programs in schools, while sports and other activities go untouched. Without going into “preachy” territory, this film touches on how this very subject, when it is said that the theater department will be cut at the end of term. Also, Steve Coogan’s character apparently doesn’t get paid for teaching. How that happened, I don’t quite know. It is nice to see a film bring about awareness to the general public, though.

Push the boundaries. Remember the days when people weren’t walking on eggshells? A time when we weren’t afraid of offending anyone and if we did, so what? When did we get so soft and easily offended, I wonder? At any rate, this titular play is a mess, I won’t dispute that, but the hodge-podge of characters, including a modern take on Jesus is what we need today. Something that will remind everyone that it is ok to laugh and not be offended, as long as the comedy isn’t malicious. This makes me glad that this film was very limited in its release because, much in the same way the school cracked down on the play, I can imagine studios would have had a cow about the subject matter and demanded it be changed.

Babysitter. Remember Elisabeth Shue? Well, she may best be known as the babysitter in Adventures in Babysitting. She did a few films after that, but for the most part she disappeared from the business, only to resurface in this playing herself. While she hasn’t become a huge star since, her career has benefitted, as she has had a couple of lead roles, most notable in Piranha 3D. Say what you will about this flick, and celebrities making comebacks in small independent films playing themselves (remember Neil Patrick Harris in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle), it seems to work.

What didn’t I like?

Home life. In school, did you ever think about what kind of home life your teachers had? I know I didn’t, with the exception of pregnancies, divorces, etc. Life changing events like that, you can’t help but wonder. I’m sure these students are no different, especially the ones that were just shoved into that class because they couldn’t put them anywhere else. So, if the kids don’t care, why should we? Someone didn’t get this memo, because anytime they could slip in Coogan’s wife, their roommate, and various other personal problems, they did. Was this meant to develop his character? Perhaps, but I’m not sure that is succeeded.

Acting…or overacting. Playing a theater teacher can’t exactly have been easy. I say this because on top of conventional acting, one has to overact. With this character Coogan is playing, he really has to overdo it, but I wonder if it was too much. The eccentricities of this character are well-known before we’re even half-way through the picture. Does Coogan need to go as overboard as he does? That really is up to the individual to judge, but I wasn’t a fan.

Class. This is what appears to be a fairly large high school. How is it that only 2 kids sign up for drama each year? I can understand the shoving of the other kids into that class. That kind of thing happens at all schools. What doesn’t happen, though, is the complete lack of students. If this kind of thing went on in any other place, the drama teacher would have been fired, or the program cut due to lack of interest.

Hamlet 2, the independent comedy that had all the promise in the world, but fell flat on its face. Still, it has developed a bit of a cult following. People, such as myself, will watch, no matter what. Do I recommend this? Yes, it is the kind of film that will start plenty of discussion around the water cooler.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Despicable Me 2

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A secret laboratory near the Arctic Circle is stolen by a mysterious vehicle using a giant magnet. The Anti-Villain League (AVL) tries to recruit former super-villain Gru, now a devoted father to Margo, Edith and Agnes, to find out which evil person stole the lab, which contained a powerful mutagen known as PX-41 which can make indestructible and extremely aggressive monsters out of living organisms. They asked Gru because he, being an ex-villain, knows how villains work. But Gru refuses to help, saying he is a legitimate businessman now. Then Gru learns that Dr. Nefario, his friend and assistant, has decided to leave him for new employment, because he “missed being evil.” Gru reluctantly partners with undercover AVL agent Lucy Wilde, and together they search The Paradise Shopping Mall, where they are given a bakery called “Bake My Day” as their headquarters. Gru suspects Mexican restaurant owner Eduardo Perez of being a super-villain called “El Macho”, a bad guy who supposedly died after being TNT-laden, skysurfing a shark into the center of an active volcano. Gru and Lucy break into Eduardo’s restaurant at night, but only find a jar of secret-recipe salsa and nothing to prove that Eduardo is the culprit. Meanwhile, Agnes expresses her wish of having a mother someday and suspects that Gru will fall in love with Lucy. Gru tells her that his relationship with Lucy is strictly professional.

Gru and Lucy investigate wig merchant Floyd Eagle-san, but Gru is still suspicious of Eduardo. After the investigation, Gru is set up on a horrible dinner date with a woman named Shannon, who notices Gru’s wig and threatens to humiliate him. Luckily, Lucy bumps into them and rescues him from the date by shooting Shannon with a mild moose tranquilizer dart. They take Shannon home, and after they say good night, Gru realizes that Agnes was right: he has fallen in love with Lucy.

The next day, the AVL arrests Floyd Eagle-san (who claims that he was framed) because an almost-empty mutagen jar was found in his shop. The investigation is closed, and Lucy is reassigned to Australia. Before leaving, Lucy gives Gru her lipstick taser to remind him of her. This leaves Gru heartbroken because he loves her, but he cannot find the courage to ask her out on a date. Instead he brings the girls to Eduardo’s Cinco de Mayo party and finds proof that the Mexican restaurateur is in fact the super-villain El Macho. Gru discovers that he (and his helper, who turns out to be Dr. Nefario) have captured and mutated a large number of Gru’s minions using the PX-41, turning them into insane, savage purple-furred monsters. El Macho plans to send rockets full of mutated Minions to major cities and achieve world domination. El Macho emphasizes that he and Gru could team up and they would become evil again followed by ruling the city, but Gru avoids answering and leaves with his daughter Margo, who in the meantime has broken up with Eduardo’s two-timing son, Antonio, who had left Margo for another girl. In his vengeance, Gru uses his freeze-ray to freeze Antonio in a block of ice.

On her flight to Australia, Lucy realizes she has feelings for Gru, so she jumps out of the plane and hang-glides down to the party. She is captured by El Macho, who finds out she is an AVL agent after Pollito, his pet chicken, retrieves her AVL ID badge from her purse. Fortunately Dr. Nefario lets Gru know what is happening. In order to rescue Lucy, Gru visits El Macho along with two minions covered in purple paint, pretending he was captured by two of the mutant creatures. Fighting alongside his daughters and Dr. Nefario, Gru and his team spray all of the mutated minions with jelly containing a powerful antidote that Dr. Nefario made, whereupon they revert to their friendly yellow state. El Macho then takes the mutagen himself, but Gru and Dr. Nefario overcome him using a fart gun and Lucy’s lipstick-taser.

Lucy is, however, already strapped to a TNT-loaded shark rocket. Gru starts to untie her, but the rocket-launch remote button is pressed by Pollito. The rocket flies towards the same lava-spewing volcano where El Macho had previously faked his death. Lucy accepts Gru’s invitation for a date, and the pair dives into the safety of the ocean seconds before the rocket enters the volcano.

147 dates later, Gru and Lucy are married and Margo, Edith and Agnes finally have a mother. The minions close with a rendition of “I Swear” and “Y.M.C.A” while the whole family dances happily.

REVIEW:

So, it would appear that today is sequel day. This afternoon, I watched Kick-Ass 2 and now it is time for Despicable Me 2. Why do I suddenly want a box of Twinkies? This is a film that critics and fans were raving about, and it nearly shattered the box office during the summer, staying in the top 5 for way longer than it was supposed to. That means this has to have been an awesome movie, right?

What is this about?

Arch-villain Gru and his three orphan girls return for more shady exploits in this wacky animated feature voiced by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The story features new and eccentric characters and a plot to abduct Gru’s team of minions.

What did I like?

Emphasis. There are a couple of minor storylines that are touched on, such as the oldest of Gru’s girls having her first boyfriend or the obvious (dare I say obvious) hookup of Gru and Lucy, as well as some other lesser subplots. However, none of these take center stage, as the film makes sure to not stray too far from the central plot. Sure, it is nice to show Gru is a caring father for his girls and that he wants to be loved, but that isn’t what this is about. I applaud the filmmakers for staying on target, as many films of this nature are known to go off in totally different directions and never get back to what the films are really about.

Minions. If you know anything about this franchise, then you are more than aware that it is the minions that are the real selling point. The filmmakers know where their bread and butter is coming from and, aside from the forthcoming Minions movie (which they plugged in the end credits), this is their movie. Everyone else is just supporting cast while they do the kind of stuff we used to see in cartoons of yesteryear and every Saturday morning growing up.

Animation. There are some gorgeous scenes in the film, especially when the minions are relaxing before being taken to be mutated. The mall is also pretty impressive. What really struck me, though, was how that the characters seem, at least to me, to look more lifelike than before, while still maintaining their animated feel.

What didn’t I like?

Telegraph. Maybe it was just me, but I felt as if everything in this film was either predictable, or in the case of Dr. Nefario, telegraphed. For a kid’s film this works, but there are some adults watching that perhaps want a little more suspense, if you will. Perhaps if the Anti-Villain League would have been in cahoots with El Macho and they turned on Gru for leaving villainy, that would have been an avenue that could have been pursued and not have been so obvious.

Bailar. AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!! Another dance and the end of an animated film. Wait, hold on…this is a wedding, so it makes a little bit of sense, and the Minions singing “I Swear” by All-4-One (complete in 90s clothes) was nice, but I think it is long past the time when we put this tired gimmick to rest. What purpose does it really serve, other than to fill out a few minutes at the end of the film? Sure, it makes the kids happy and all, but so do silly scenes during the credits. Don’t even get me started on that “Happy” montage!

Matchmaker, matchmaker, find me a match. I realize that Gru’s interaction with his matchmaking neighbor was just to provide some comedic moments and also show that he is just a normal guy in the neighborhood, but I didn’t care for it. Granted, I’m not a particularly a fan of annoying neighbors and/or matchmakers, so there is a bit of bias there, but this woman is everything that I would never want coming anywhere near me or trying to fix me up with anything she knows (unless it was Nasim Pedrad, who voices her).

It would have been perfect timing if Red 2 would have come the same day as Despicable Me 2. The original films came the same day, so why couldn’t the sequels follow suit? Admittedly, I don’t recall Despicable Me that well, for whatever reason, but I do remember liking it. The plague of sequelitis has not his this film, as it is fresh, fun and enjoyable. I highly recommend it as a must-see for the whole family!

5 out of 5 stars

In the Loop

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

During a radio interview on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) accidentally states that a war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable”. He is told off for not remaining neutral by the Prime Minister’s enforcer, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). But when later caught by news cameras Foster makes a further mistake by saying there may be a need to “climb the mountain of conflict”. The two contradictory statements coincide with a visit by senior U.S. State Department officials, who jump on Foster’s two quotations and begin to use him, and his hapless new aide Toby (Chris Addison), as pawns in an international political game.

REVIEW:

And the first review for 2014 is….In the Loop? I bet you’re wondering what the hell is this crap and why is it special enough to warrant the prestigious honor of being the first review of the year? Well, I actually was going to do a “revisited” to start the year off, but someone advised against that. If you a member of the sci-fi community, and especially if you’re a Dr. Who fan, then you are well aware that we have a new Doctor, Peter Capaldi. The other weekend, I was looking him up on Youtube and came across a hilarious commentary about his dirty mouth, which led to a clip from this film. Morbid curiosity took over, and here we are.

What is this about?

When the U.S. president and the U.K. prime minister decide to invade a certain Middle Eastern country, skeptical American and British operatives do their best to stop the runaway train to war in director Armando Iannucci’s scathing political comedy.

What did I like?

My girl. This is a small something to like, but it was nice to see. Those of you that were around in the late 80s/early 90s may remember a little film called My Girl that starred McCauley Culkin and Anna Chlumsky. For years, I have wondered what ever happened to Anna. I think I saw her on some show that lasted a couple of episodes on CW, but that was it. Well, it is good to see that she still has some kind of career, not to mention the fact that she doesn’t look half bad.

Politics. I don’t pretend to know anything about political stuff. Occasionally, I’ll flip through the channels and stop on HLN or CNN, but not for long. Most of my news comes from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, or on-line. So, the fact that this is a political black comedy did nothing for me, as far as interest me or not. However, I did appreciate that it took an unfortunate event/subject, such as the middle east and poked fun at the way it was handled.

Doctor, Doctor. Sometimes a film or television show will come along that just allows the star to take over. I’m not so sure Peter Capaldi is the star of this film, but he takes it over, much in the same way characters like Urkel took Family Matters and other sitcoms back in the good ol’ days. Capaldi’s character is crass, rude, and has a mouth on him that would cause a sailor to blush, and through all of this the scenes he appears in are the ones you want to watch.

What didn’t I like?

Constituent. At a later point n the film, we are introduced to a constituent on Tom Hollander’s Prime Minister character. I’m still not sure what the point of this guy was, other than just to get Steve Coogan on the screen. Someone said it in a podcast once, when Coogan comes to America, he plays a dumbass, but in England he is a sophisticated, serious actor. Seeing as this is an English picture, you can guess which kind of character he played.

Is there a doctor in the house? As I mentioned earlier, without Peter Capaldi’s character, this film wouldn’t have two legs to stand on. Well, I take that back. It would be alright, just not worth watching, unless you’re into serious political dramas, which I am most certainly not. The only character that comes close to Capaldi is another Scot, not really sure what his title was, who had a mouth just as bad. I wonder if this was some kind of poke at the foul language of the Scottish?

Pwip Pip. All hell breaks loose when a paper, written by Anna Chlumsky’s character, is leaked, sending all the players every which way but up. The fact that they were all running around like chickens with their heads cut off is not the main issue here, but rather the fact this pwip pip paper is never fully explained to us, the audience. Then again, when was the last time a politician explained something, right? Still, we got more information about James Gandolfini’s bowel movements in this film, then we did pertinent information,

As I said, my main reason for watching In the Loop was to see what our new Dr. Who could do, especially since he was in that regeneration episode all of 15 seconds. I found this film mildly entertaining. Had I not watched Capaldi’s clips over and over again, and have them nearly committed to memory by doing so, I might have found more enjoyment out of this.  That is part of the problem I have this film. All of the best parts can be seen on youtube, and I would highly recommend going there, rather than sitting through some rather boring scenes in between. Still, if you want to see the whole package, it is there for you to view on Netflix streaming (as of this posting).

3 out of 5 stars

Ella Enchanted

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the kingdom of Frell, baby Ella (Anne Hathaway) is given the “gift of obedience” by her fairy godmother, Lucinda (Vivica A. Fox). This turns out to be more of a curse, making Ella do anything she is told to do, no matter how terrible or physically impossible. Some years later, Ella’s mother dies after instructing Ella to tell no one of the curse, not even her father. Eventually Ella’s father (Patrick Bergin), in need of money, remarries a wealthy socialite. His greedy new wife, Dame Olga (Joanna Lumley), and her two spoiled daughters Hattie and Olive (Jennifer Higham) treat Ella poorly. They eventually realize Ella’s obedience to commands, and begin making her life miserable.

Ella stumbles upon Prince Charmont (Hugh Dancy), the handsome heir to the throne, as he’s being pursued by his “fan club” of young women. He finds her lack of deference to him refreshing and after their encounter, sends an invitation to the Coronation Ball to her home, where it is intercepted by her stepmother and stepsisters. Hattie and Olive, who are part of Prince Charmont’s fan club, are overcome with jealousy. Along with their mother, they force Ella to insult and cut ties with her best friend Areida (Parminder Nagra). Ella cannot bear to live under the obedience spell and Hattie’s jealousy a moment longer, so she resolves to find Lucinda, the only one who can remove the spell. Mandy (Minnie Driver), the household fairy and the only other person who knows of the curse, tries to help by lending Ella a magical book that can show people in their current surroundings. The book holds Mandy’s boyfriend Benny (Jimi Mistry), who she had accidentally transformed in an errant spell. During her journey, Ella encounters an elf named Slannen (Aidan McArdle), who wants to be a lawyer instead of an entertainer as the kingdom’s laws now require. Slannen joins Ella on her quest, but they are captured by a group of ogres, who prepare to cook and eat them. They are rescued by Prince Charmont. He then accompanies her to a wedding in the land of giants, where Ella hopes to find Lucinda. Throughout the journey, Ella opens Charmont’s eyes to the cruelty of his uncle’s new laws oppressing elves and giants. Char suggests that Ella should come with him to his palace to visit the Hall of Records and track down Lucinda faster.

At the palace, Charmont’s uncle, Sir Edgar (Cary Elwes), has Ella’s “gift” called to his attention by his talking snake, Heston, voiced by (Steve Coogan), who has been spying on the prince. When Edgar offers Hattie Char’s hand in marriage, Ella’s stepsisters explain that she does everything she is told. Edgar knows that Prince Charmont intends to propose marriage to Ella, and he orders her to stab him to death and not to tell anyone of the plan. Sir Edgar also reveals that he murdered Prince Charmont’s father. To prevent the murder of Char, Ella asks Slannen to tie her to a tree outside the city and to find the giants so they can help. Lucinda now appears before Ella, who asks her to undo the “gift” of obedience. Offended by the request, Lucinda refuses, saying that if Ella no longer wants the spell, she must remove it herself. She unties Ella from the tree and gives her a fancy dress and tells her to attend the ball. When Ella gets to the ball, Charmont almost immediately takes her to the Hall of Mirrors and asks her to marry him. Ella is about to stab him with the dagger Edgar provided, when she realizes how to free herself from the curse: looking into a mirror, she orders herself to no longer be obedient. Charmont sees the dagger drop from her hand and realizes she tried to kill him. Edgar is watching the entire scene behind a two-way mirror, and before Ella can explain, Edgar orders the guards to lock her up and have her executed in a few days.

Meanwhile, Slannen gets the giants, and the ogres come to sneak into the castle to rescue Ella and find out that Sir Edgar is poisoning the crown that Char will receive during the ceremony. Just before Charmont puts it on, Ella and her allies interrupt. Edgar and Heston call for the knights and Red Guards, and a battle ensues. Ella explains everything to Charmont while fighting alongside him. When Sir Edgar’s forces lose the battle, Heston tries to bite Char, but is stopped by Ella. Caught trying to killing the prince, Edgar admits to killing the King to the assembled crowd. Then, carried away by his own rhetoric, he puts it dramatically on his own head, and promptly collapses from the poison, although he survives.

Char and Ella kiss; her stepsisters arrive and order her to stop kissing, and she is delighted to refuse. Ella then walks up to Hattie and takes her mother’s necklace back from her (Hattie had forced Ella to give it to her near the beginning of the movie). Char once again asks Ella to marry him, and she agrees. The movie ends with their wedding and a musical number (Elton John’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart).

REVIEW:

There are so many twists, turns, and mutations on the tale of Cinderella out there today that it is hard to remember some of the better ones. Ella Enchanted is one of these versions that has fallen by the wayside, partly because Anne Hathaway’s career skyrocketed shortly after this, if I’m not mistaken.

What is this about?

Burdened at birth with the “gift” of obedience by a flighty fairy godmother, Ella searches for a way to lift the curse that prevents her from pursuing her dreams — and her true love, Prince Charmont.

What did I like?

Role model. I was talking to someone about this film the other day and the topic of role models came up. In this day and age when the females that little girls see the most are anything but good role models (contrary to their belief), it is a nice break from the norm to get a strong Cinderella-type character. Personally, I prefer the original, but I’m a purist. That being said, Ella of Frel is a good example for young girls.

Cast. In my opinion, this is one of the more attractive casts that I’ve seen in quite some time. With the exception of the step sisters, who are complete dogs no matter what incarnation they’re in and the ogres, there isn’t one person that isn’t at least marginally attractive, in my opinion. For goodness sakes, Heidi Klum appears as one of the giants! Now, what does this mean for the film, since we can almost all be sure that people in this era didn’t look like they just walked out of a Hollywood salon? Well, the film does seem to be a bit of a satire on the fairy tale, so I’m sure the cast’s looks have something to do with that, as well.

Pop culture. Many people seem to be torn on the modern touches here and there, such as the songs, a wooden escalator, a university, complete with protests, fan clubs, etc. Hey, it worked in A Knight’s Tale, and before that, on The Flintstones, so why can’t it work here in a film that isn’t trying to take itself too seriously? I don’t see what the big deal is. Personally, I think we could have done with a touch more here and there, but not too much, lest we meander into territory defecated upon by the last couple of Shrek films.

What didn’t I like?

Smart. Ella is a smart, independent young woman, so it seems to be that by time she’s this age, she would have figured out a way around the curse or maybe even learned a few spells from Mandy, who I’m not really sure why she’s still there at this time. I just don’t get why she had to go on a trek across the countryside to find Lucinda, other than to fill out the film.

Spotlight. You might not realize it, but there are other characters in this film besides Ella, the Prince, Sir Edgar, and Slannen. Two of the biggest injustices are Mandy, played by Minnie Driver who really could be a throwaway character, if you think about it and Ella’s best friend, Areida. I would have loved to have seen more of these two, especially Areida, but instead, we get to see Vivica A. Fox in all her stereotypical, sassy black female glory. I am not a fan of her, let me tell you! Don’t even get me started on how the focus was only on one of the step sisters. Yes, that’s how it is in every incarnation, but this poor girl may as well have not even been there!

Deviation. I just learned that this is based on a book. One of these days, I may have to go check that out. In the meantime, I can’t really comment on how far from the source material but I do know that it doesn’t really resemble the book. As a I said earlier, I’m a purist, but I understand that certain allowances must be made. However, changing the whole story is something that I just can’t deal with.

Ella Enchanted is the first film where I believe we actually were able to see that Anne Hathaway had some real acting chops to go with those model looks of hers. If you’re in the mood for a nice family film that will keep you and your kids entertained, then I highly recommend this one. No, it isn’t perfect, but it sure is fun to watch!

4 out of 5 stars

Marmaduke

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert):

Marmaduke is a Great Dane living in rural Kansas with a cat named Carlos. His owner, Phil (Lee Pace), works for Bark Organic dog food. Phil is very strict, from Marmaduke’s perspective.

One day, Carlos tells Marmaduke that he overheard Phil saying that they were being transferred to Orange County. They move from Kansas into their new house in California. Phil’s boss, Don Twombly (William H. Macy), has the goal of getting Bark Organic into every Petco store in the country. Phil and Don meet at the dog park to discuss Phil’s assignment – an ad campaign to win over Petco. There, Marmaduke meets a beautiful Rough Collie named Jezebel (Fergie), whose boyfriend is Bosco (Kiefer Sutherland), a controlling and violent Beauceron with two Miniature Pinscher minions named Thunder and Lightning (Damon Wayans, Jr. and Marlon Wayans). Bosco intimidates Marmaduke, who does not want to fight.

Marmaduke then meets Mazie (Emma Stone), who develops a crush on Marmaduke. He also meets Giuseppe (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a Chinese Crested dog who is afraid of everything, and Raisin (Steve Coogan), a highly intelligent but decidedly minute Dachshund. They get together at night and crash a pedigrees-only party thrown by Bosco, only to be scared away by Bosco. Marmaduke asks Mazie to help him get a girl, whom she presumes is herself but is actually Jezebel.

Marmaduke has Carlos pretend to be lost in the dog park, and the two stage a fight in front of all the other dogs in order to boost Marmaduke’s perceived toughness. Marmaduke then enters a dog surfing contest put together as a promotional stunt by Phil to sway Petco and beats Bosco, who is an established dog-surfing champion. They get into a fight, which appalls the Petco executives.

He then takes Jezebel on Mazie’s dream date, which the latter watches from afar. While the Winslow family are on Don’s boat, Marmaduke throws a party, with most residents of the dog park attending save Mazie, Giuseppe and Raisin. Bosco crashes the party and discovers it was Carlos at the dog park. He then exposes Marmaduke, who loses his pedigree friends. He is left with no friends and a destroyed house. When Phil discovers the house in a wreck, he locks Marmaduke outside for the night. Marmaduke runs away, and leaves Mazie a toy that she had given him earlier. Mazie goes to Marmaduke’s house, and Carlos tells her Marmaduke never returned. She then goes looking for him. Marmaduke in the meantime has met Chupadogra, a wise, elderly English Mastiff (Sam Elliott) who is feared throughout Orange County for presumably killing his owner. In reality, he ran away to lead the pack, but they abandoned him. He has spent the time alone in the woods with nothing but a blanket and his old water bowl, which reads “Buster”. Buster/Chupadogra tells Marmaduke to go home and return to his family while he still has one, and then distracts a dog catcher. Marmaduke leaves, but gets lost.

In the morning, the family discover him missing and begin searching for him. Mazie and the family find him at the same time on the streets, but Mazie falls into the subterranean rainwater conduit after the street below her collapses. Marmaduke jumps in after her and Phil tries to retrieve him, as well as the fire department. The fireman saves Mazie, but loses Marmaduke in the raging water. By this time, Phil has been fired for missing the meeting for the last chance with Petco. He then runs to the aqueduct that the conduits lead to and finds Marmaduke in the raging waters. He begs Marmaduke to let go of the branch he’s holding onto and let the waters carry him to Phil. He reluctantly does, and is saved. Several kids get that on video and put it on YouTube. Since it generates almost 700,000 hits, Phil is rehired. Phil then talks about moving back to Kansas, but the entire family wants to stay in California. Marmaduke later confronts the pedigrees, saying that differences shouldn’t matter, that they’re all dogs and should have an equal share of the park. Everyone agrees and turn on Bosco, who leaves, vowing revenge. Meanwhile, the YouTube video also wins the company the Petco deal. He and Don begin thinking of new commercials when they ask each other about if the dogs could talk to each other, or even dance.

The finale then shows Marmaduke, Jezebel, Mazie, Giuseppe, Raisin, and Buster, among others, dancing and singing “What I Like About You”, which turns out to be the commercial. In the end, Marmaduke and Mazie are dating, Marmaduke and Jezebel are friends and all is well.

REVIEW:

I hate dogs! They are evil creatures that should be burned in hell! That being said, my personal feelings aside, whoever it was that did this to Marmaduke should be, to quote Garfield, “drug out into the street and shot”. Marmaduke is perhaps the most God-awful attempt at bringing a comic strip to life.

Did anything work?

Lee Pace. I’m still burned that Pushing Daisies was so abruptly and unjustly cancelled, but he seems to be doing alright for himself. While he isn’t the star of the film, he actually makes it watchable.

They remembered this is not about the humans. In contrast to what I said about Pace, I found it refreshing that they remembered this is a movie about Marmaduke, not the family or some other random human (played by an overpaid actor, btw).

What didn’t work?

Talking animals. I’m not one of those people who hates the sheer thought of talking animals, but I do hate it when they do this weird CGI on live animals that animated only their bottom lip. It freaks me out and looks tacky and cheap. They did this crap in Underdog and it nearly ruined that film for me.

The cast. Not a bad ensemble, but together they don’t work, especially the animals. I found myself more than once wondering WTF?!?

Wasted talent. I’m speaking specifically of William H. Macy, Emma Stone, and Judy Greer. All of which have small roles in this picture, Stone’s is a little bigger than the others, but they are all just wastes, especially Greer, who does nothing but pop up as the token housewife a couple of times, said her lines, and then we don’t see her again until the last act. I’m sure they could have gotten any Joe (or Jane) Schmo off the street to do these roles.

Owen Wilson. For some reason, this guy gets on my nerves more and more. As Lightning McQueen, his voice works, but not as Marmaduke. I guess there is a bright spot, though. We weren’t forced to see his deformed nose!

The plot. Could they have picked a more overused, cliché story than this? Small town family moves to the big city and tries to fit in. There is even the love triangle complete with the bully who gets humiliated, gets payback, only to culminate in a happy ending. I’m not saying they needed to make this some kind of dark tale, but they could have done something different with those elements.

I’m actually offended that they wasted time, money, and “talent” on this piece of crap they dare to call Marmaduke. I’m sure the character’s creator was none to pleased with this, I know I wouldn’t be. This has to have been the most painful 87 minutes I’ve spent in my life. Don’t waste your time with this. Trust me, you’d be more entertained clipping your toe nails!

1 out of 5 stars