Archive for Tim Blake Nelson

The Homesman

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

When three women living on the edge of the American frontier are driven mad by harsh pioneer life, the task of saving them falls to the pious, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa, she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones), to join her. The unlikely pair and the three women (Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Sonja Richter) head east, where a waiting minister and his wife (Meryl Streep) have offered to take the women in. But the group first must traverse the harsh Nebraska Territories marked by stark beauty, psychological peril and constant threat.

What people are saying:

“Swank and Jones, in particular, are a very good odd couple, playing saint and sinner, sometimes reversing the roles. What the directing side of Jones does best is to cede the spotlight to his star. He builds a strong platform for Swank to take on yet another woman who refuses to be bound by gender conventions” 4 stars

The Homesman is a dark, complex story of gender issues and changing conventions on the frontier, and in an era that sees this genre fading, Jones has made a Western winner.” 4 stars

“This unorthodox, sensitive western succeeds at conjuring starkly beautiful pastoral imagery as it tells the tale of three pioneer women who descend into madness. Oscar winning actress Hilary Swank plays a lonely farmer who transports these mentally ill women across the plains with a grumpy, whiskey-swilling anti-hero of questionable morals played by Tommy Lee Jones. The connection between these characters is awkward but interesting and the story is sufficiently emotional.” 3 stars

“Tommy Lee Jones’s The Homesman is an austere western which may please (I guess so…) some buffs for its setting but that’s unlikely to satisfy any entertainment required by any other audience. It is tragically slow-paced, and its shots, though occasionally beautiful, are as boring as they’re pale and unengaging. The kind of film you don’t want to see. I can’t believe that it’s the same guy that made the ultra-entertaining, fast-paced The Fugitve.” 2 stars

“Beautifully done but very unexpected, surprising, and challenging movie, sometimes difficult to watch. Hard to categorize. It takes place in the old west, but is not “a western” precisely in that there is only so much of the moral absolutism that marks those. And hardly a gunfight to speak of, either. On the other hand, if you think some of the best westerns are those about the closing of the west, of those who do not fit into the world, etc. then this is right there as a continuation of those themes of isolation, duty, and independence. I’m thinking Lonely Are the Brave, but also Bad Day at Black Rock, High Sierra, and so on. Ends not at all where you might expect it to — except in the strictest sense — and much of the power of the film is in how it gets to the end. Be careful reading too many reviews beforehand lest they reveal plot points or motivations without you discovering them yourself. ” 5 stars

The Astronaut Farmer

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on September 13, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Dismissed from NASA’s space program, former astronaut-in-training Charles Farmer pursues his lifelong dream by building his own rocket. On the eve of his launch, he must battle foreclosure on his ranch, a small-town community of disbelievers, the FAA and FBI agents who want to shut him down in the name of Homeland Security–but he remains determined to reach his goal and instill in his children the courage to pursue their own dreams, no matter the odds.

What people are saying:

“While it is far too long, especially in the home stretch, The Astronaut Farmer is a heartwarming and fun story about the tenacity it takes to see a dream through.” 4 stars

“Although a fry cry from space classics such as Apollo 13, this nice, heartwarming family flick still has enough of the “man can do anything with love of his family behind him” theme to make it worth a watch, along with good performances from Thornton and Madsen. Farfetched but charming.” 3 1/2 stars

“Filled with lovely images (the opening credit sequence, of Charlie in his spacesuit, riding the range on horseback, is a beaut) and nice character turns, The Astronaut Farmer nonetheless veers too close to cliché.” 2 1/2 stars

“So many layers of awful. The science alone is completely bogus. I could write a review breaking down all of the completely improbable science in the film but it would be longer than the movie. Orbiting the earth is not exactly easy. Successfully entering the earth’s atmosphere without breaking up into a million pieces, is also not exactly easy. His pod lands on perfectly flat terrain within driving distance of where he took off, AND he accomplishes this with a lone parachute. TOTAL UTTER NONSENSE. The only redeeming value is that it’s funny to mock, that’s about it.” 1/2 star

“There’s something old-fashioned about The Astronaut Farmer that’s so conventional it feels unconventional. It follows the paradigm of inspirational movies so perfectly that even the smallest deviation seems rebellious. The movie’s orthodoxy is precisely what allows us to take such pleasure in its irregularities . . . With this movie, the [Polish] brothers have been given a giant coloring book. While both write and produce, Mark directs and Michael acts . . . and for the most part, they attempt to stay within the lines. But it’s in the few moments when they go outside those lines that the movie momentarily soars” 4 stars

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the Depression-era deep South, three escapees from a Mississippi prison chain gang: Everett Ulysses McGill, sweet and simple Delmar, and the perpetually angry Pete, embark on the adventure of a lifetime as they set out to pursue their freedom and return to their homes. With nothing to lose and still in shackles, they make a hasty run for their lives and end up on an incredible journey filled with challenging experiences and colorful characters. However, they must also match wits with the cunning and mysterious lawman Cooley, who tracks men, bent on bringing the trio back to the prison farm.

What people are saying:

“A roller-coaster ride with a goofy fun-house spirit, it’s full of clever pranks.” 4 stars

“This is the type of movie I like to revisit from time to time because I find it comforting in some kind of way. The music is the biggest standout for me, but I definitely find that I appreciate the comedy more as I get older too. ” 4 stars

“It takes a lot for the Coen Bros to make a movie that isn’t entertaining. ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ is engaging at times but it’s very hit or miss. The cast is having fun which isn’t unusual for a Coen flick, but it just didn’t make me laugh and there were instances I was bored. Worthwhile for the performances and the supporting cast but we have come to expect better from Coen and Company. ” 3 stars

“The Coen brothers cleverly combine the Odyssey with the Depression to create this wonderfully humorous and lighthearted tale of three escaped prisoners on a quest. With a few detours and strange encounters along the way, their hilarious journey will entertain you through and through” 4 1/2 stars

“There is nothing else I can think of like this movie. Based on Homer’s Odyssey, it keeps its mythological feel even though everything could be described as mundane. It’s like the feeling you get while watching Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, but no magic is necessary here. And the role music plays in this film… it’s hypnotic. I can’t quite explain why, but this is (in my humble opinion) one of the greatest films to have come out in a very long time.” 5 stars

Fantastic Four (2015)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Childhood friends Reed Richards and Ben Grimm have worked together on a prototype teleporter since youth, eventually attracting the attention of Professor Franklin Storm, director of the Baxter Foundation, a government-sponsored research institute for young prodigies. Reed is recruited to join them and aid Storm’s children, scientist Sue Storm and the somewhat reckless technician and her younger brother Johnny Storm, into completing a “Quantum Gate” designed by Storm’s wayward protégé, Victor von Doom, who begrudgingly agrees to help due to his unrequited feelings for Sue.

The experiment is successful, and the facility’s supervisor, Dr. Allen, plans to send a group from NASA to venture into a parallel dimension known as “Planet Zero”. Disappointed at being denied the chance to join the expedition, Reed, Johnny, and Victor along with Ben use the Quantum Gate to embark on an unsanctioned voyage to Planet Zero, which they learn is a world filled with otherworldly substances. Victor attempts to touch the green-lava like substance, causing the surface they are on to collapse and the ground to erupt. Reed, Johnny, and Ben return to their shuttle just as Sue brings them back to Earth. Victor is seemingly killed after he falls into the collapsing landscape. The machine explodes, altering Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben on a molecular-genetic level, affording them superhuman abilities beyond their control: Reed can stretch like rubber, Susan can become invisible and generate force shields, Johnny can engulf his entire body in fire and fly, and Ben becomes bigger and develops a rock-like hide which gives him superhuman strength and durability. They are then placed in government custody and confinement to be studied and have their conditions and abilities tested. Blaming himself for the accident, Reed escapes from the facility and tries to find a cure for their changes.

One year later, Reed is now a fugitive and has built a suit that is able to adapt to his body’s plasticity and help him control his ability. Hiding in Central America, he is eventually found by the United States military with Sue’s help and captured by Ben, who has become a military asset along with Johnny and Sue. Johnny and Sue have been outfitted with specialized suits designed to help them stabilize and control their abilities. Reed is brought to Area 57, where Dr. Allen conscripts him to open another portal to Planet Zero in exchange for giving Reed the necessary resources to find a cure. Arriving in Planet Zero, Dr. Allen’s explorers find Victor, who has been fused to his spacesuit and can now control the elements, as well as having telekinetic abilities, and bring him back to Earth. Believing the human race needs to be destroyed so he can rebuild Planet Zero in his image, Victor kills scientists and soldiers in the base including Dr. Allen and Professor Storm and returns to Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate, with Ben, Johnny, Reed, and Sue in pursuit.

Now dubbing himself “Doom”, Victor activates a portal on Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate II, and a structure consisting of the rock formations in Planet Zero he made while in the realm, that begins consuming the landscape of the Earth. He is confronted by the four and, after a short battle, Ben punches Doom into the portal’s energy beam, disintegrating him while Johnny closes the portal. Returning to Earth, the group is rewarded for their heroics by being given a new base of operations by the US military known as “Central City” to study their abilities. They decide to use their powers to help people and adopt the mantle of the “Fantastic Four”.

REVIEW:

In Marvel Comics, there have always been 3 main groups (though these days it isn’t so cut and dry). The Avengers, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four…and Spider-Man is on the outside looking in sometimes. We are all aware of how the big screen has treated the Avengers and X-Men, but the Fantastic Four haven’t fared so well, be it the early film that director Harvey Korman wants kept from public viewing or the two films from the early 2000s,  the studio felt it time to give this family another shot. This brings us to Fant4stic, but will the film be fantastic?

What is this about?

In this updated sci-fi saga about the legendary Fantastic Four, a team of scientists who suddenly acquire superhuman abilities are soon obliged to put them to use when a powerful nemesis with malevolent plans threatens Earth.

What did I like?

Basics. When it comes to the Fantastic Four, it is next to impossible to get the basics wrong, unless you are just changing things for the sake of changing them (more on that later). The filmmakers were smart enough to give us the basic origin and characteristics of the titular characters and their arch-nemesis (albeit slightly altered), showed us the infamous Baxter building, and threw in the magical voice of Reg E. Cathey for good measure.

What didn’t I like?

Tone. For quite some time, I have been saying that not every superhero film needs to be dark and brooding. Marvel Studios knows how to have a different tone for their films, though I’m not so sure about the TV and Netflix shows. How else do you explain the reason Captain America’s films feel totally different from the Iron Man films? Now, while the FF may be Marvel properties, the still aren’t under the studio banner because of some legal mumbo jumbo that I don’t really feel like getting into right now. What is important to note is that a character like Batman works in a dark, gritty, realistic landscape. The Fantastic Four belong in the optimistic, bright, family friendly city. Someone suggested that this might have worked better as a period piece, set in the 60s. I can totally see that, or maybe being set in something similar to the new Spider-Man film. This darkness, though, does nothing for these characters.

Chemistry. These four are supposed to be family, even though at this point they’re just meeting each other. I just wasn’t feeling it, though. Sue and Reed have about as much spark as two sticks being rubbed together in the ocean. Johnny and Ben, who are known for having witty repartee’, barely interact until the last scene, and then it feels forced. One more thing, their interaction with Dr. Doom…sorry, its just Doom for some reason, was more like, *YAWN* let’s get this over with. Who ever put this group together…well, I’m not done with you, yet!

Storm front. Before this film was released, much was made of the casting of the Johnny and Susan Storm. Kate Mara as Susan felt like everything opposite of Sue Storm, except for smart. When I think of Sue Storm, I picture a smart, sexy woman with maternal qualities keeping the group together, not a cold bitch who could care less about any of them. As far as Johnny goes, he actually might have been the best part of the film, as far as acting goes. That being said, I feel Michael B. Jordan was cast for no other reason than to stir up headlines. There was no reason for Johnny Storm to be an African-American and have a white sister, a situation which was never explained as far as I can tell. Nothing against Michael B. Jordan, but his casting is one of the reasons this film didn’t work. It was too much of a distraction. If the filmmakers insisted on going with him, then they shouldn’t have cast Mara as Sue, but instead found an African-American actress who could do the role justice.

Effects. Let me get right down to it. The effects are horrible. I want to focus on 2 in particular, Doom and The Thing. As we say in Fantastic Four, Victor von Doom just can’t have a regular mask. He has to be an entire suit of metal, complete with telekinesis powers. Why? Don’t ask me! I’m really dumbfounded by the fact that they copied his look from a film that they were trying to distance themselves from. As far as Ben Grimm goes, well, he didn’t look like a lovable, blue-eyed thing, but instead a true monster. If that was the look they were going for, great. However, imagine if you’re a little kid and you run into him. Chances are you’d run away. Thing isn’t supposed to be scary, but this filmmakers seemed to think that was the way to go…and he was wrong!

Quantum leap. We are taught in school that every good story has a beginning, middle, and end, and somewhere in there needs to be a climax. Well, the person who wrote this film obviously didn’t go to school because after this film’s 90 minute extremely slow intro, it skips the middle and jumps to the climactic confrontation. What happened to the middle? Your guess is as good as mine!

Final verdict on Fant4stic? For those that are looking for a truly solid Fantastic Four film, Pixar has one in their library. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, The Incredibles? I struggle to have anything good to say about this film. Oh, it was filmed here in Baton Rouge! Does that count? Much like Man of Steel, someone got the bright idea that these characters would work better if you took away everything that had made them so popular in the first place (humor, chemistry, color, etc). As a result, the film suffers and we’ll probably have to wait for Marvel to get the rights back for anything positive to happen with these characters. Do I recommend this flick? No, you’re better off finding one of the other films, if you must have a FF fix. Don’t waste your time with this one.

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Mystery Inc. (Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo) attend the opening of an exhibition at the Coolsonian Criminology Museum commemorating their past solved cases with monster costumes on display. However, the celebrations are interrupted by the Evil Masked Figure who steals two costumes using the reanimated Pterodactyl Ghost. The gang are ridiculed by journalist Heather Jasper Howe who starts a smear campaign against them. Concluding an old enemy is the mastermind, the gang revisit old cases, dismissing the former Pterodactyl Ghost, Jonathan Jacobo, due to his death during a prison escape, they guess Jeremiah Wickles, the Black Knight Ghost’s portrayer, is the culprit.

Going to Wickles’ mansion, the gang find a book that serves as an instruction manual on how to create monsters. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo find a note inviting Wickles’ to visit the Faux Ghost nightclub. They are attacked by the Black Knight, but escape when Daphne holds him off. Shaggy and Scooby sneak into the Faux Ghost, speaking to Wickles, but learn he has resolved his ways. The rest of the gang discover the key ingredient to create the monsters is a substance called “randomonium” which can be found at the old silver mining town. They go to the museum, accompanied by the curator and Velma’s love interest Patrick Wisely, but discover the rest of the costumes have been stolen. The gang go to the mines, finding Wickles plans to turn it into an amusement park.

The gang then find the Monster Hive where the costumes are brought to life as real monsters. Shaggy and Scooby play around the with the machine’s control panel, brining several costumes to life, and the gang flee the city with the panel as the Evil Masked Figure terrorises the city. Escaping to their old high school clubhouse, the gang realise they can reverse the control panel’s power by altering its wiring. Captain Cutler’s Ghost emerges from the bayou, forcing the gang to head back to the mines, encountering the various monsters along the way. Velma encounters Patrick in the mines, finding a shrine dedicated to Jacobo, but Patrick proves his own innocence by rescuing Velma from falling through a cat walk.

The gang confront the Evil Masked Figure but the Tar Monster captures all of them save Scooby, who uses a fire extinguisher to freeze the Tar Monster’s body. He reactivates the control panel, transforming the costumes back to normal. The gang take the Evil Masked Figure to the authorities, unmasking him as Heather, but in turn reveal she is actually Jacobo in disguise, having escaped death and tried to get revenge on Mystery, Inc. Jacobo’s cameraman Ned is also arrested as an accomplice. Mystery, Inc. are praised as heroes once again in Coolsville.

REVIEW:

After foiling all those monsters in Coolsville, wouldn’t you think that Scooby-Doo and the gang would be bona fide star in their city? Big enough to perhaps even have a museum dedicated to their exploits? Be honest, you never really though about that, did you? Me neither, but the people behind Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed must have been big fans!

What is this about?

In this live-action adventure, friends Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and their canine buddy Scooby vow to put an end to a menacing scoundrel who plans to turn their town of Coolsville into the complete opposite.

What did I like?

They’re back! The original Scooby-Doo cartoon was before my time but, as a child of the 80s, there was another incarnation that would come on Saturday mornings. These days, I think you can catch Scooby on Boomerang, as well as some insult to his legacy on Cartoon Network. In this film, though, you can catch some of the more recognizable monsters from Scoob’s history. If there is nothing else to be said about this film, that is something to mention, as the monsters are a major part of the history of Scooby-Doo, just as the rogues gallery is a big part of Batman.

Velma. In Scooby-Doo, I was a bit critical of the sexualization of Velma. Make no mistake, I still feel this way, but this time around, they at least do it to comic effect. Take for instance the scene where she is wearing a pleather suit. First off, no way in the world would you ever catch Velma in that get-up. Second, they play up the weird noises as she is awkwardly playing coy to Seth Green’s character, who has a crush on her. If Velma must be seen in this light, and if you google Velma, you will see that there is more than a market for it, then I am glad the film decided to go this direction, which keeps with the character, rather than randomly give her cleavage, as in the last film.

Story. There have been many detractors about the film’s story, calling it to simple, dumbed down, etc. Well, here’s the thing, as much as everyone loves Scooby-Doo, we must remember that this wasn’t made for adults, but rather for kids. Saying that the plot, which actually isn’t bad if you think about it, is simple is like saying Requiem for a Dream is depressing. That’s common sense, people! The target audience for this film, though, eats it up, as well as some others, and that is what really matters, not what some old curmudgeon critic who has become jaded toward all film that isn’t “art” has to say.

What didn’t I like?

Effects. I don’t want to criticize the special effects too much, as this was made at a time when they weren’t that great, and it is a kid’s film, so they are going to have a different look to them. That said, the CG in this film is not that great. Taking into account that, as I said this is a kid’s film, the monsters have a cartoon look to them, which is fine. That fits the tone of the film, but I feel as if the bringing them to life aspect should have made them scarier. Take for instance the Tar Monster. He has the generic cartoon look to him. Why couldn’t he have been more of a terrorizing creature now that he is alive? Maybe that’s just my opinion on how the effects could have been better, though.

Meta-attempt. Poking fun at one’s self is great…to a point. The last film was all about the flaws of the cartoon and while this one scales that back, we are still forced to watch as Daphne questions what she brings to the gang, Fred ponders if he’s a good leader, etc. Can we not just get a Scooby-Doo movie where the gang has fun solving mysteries and busting monsters, without all this negativity? Is that too much to ask?

Flashback. Let me go back to the monsters for a minute. To explain to the younger viewers and refresh/remind the older viewers who these monsters were, the film uses a series of flashback to get the point across. I am okay with that, except that I feel it would have made more sense to show these monsters in their animated for, rather than create some faux history. Yes, I know showing clips from the cartoon in a live-action movie makes no sense, but surely there is some way there can be a compromise, right? I just wasn’t feeling the live-action flashbacks, I’m sorry.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monster Unleashed is almost a cartoon, if you really thin about it, but no one took the time to draw it. Personally, I like this film. It is a fun escape from reality. That doesn’t mean it is good, though. There is wasted talent, such as Alicia Silverstone, who has one good scene, and Seth Green, recycled jokes from the first film, bad CG, and a feeling as if the gang was just doing this because it was in their contracts. Add all this up and you have the reason this film didn’t make as much as its predecessor and the third film was cancelled (though I’m sure it would have been better than the prequels and everything Scooby related that has come out since). Do I recommend this? It is with a heavy heart, that I must say no. This is this the kind of film you catch while you are randomly flipping through channels, not something you willingly watch. Just go back and watch the first film, or even better, watch the cartoons!

3 out of 5 stars

Leaves of Grass

Posted in Comedy, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Bill Kincaid (Edward Norton) lecturing his class at Brown University about Plato’s Socratic dialogues, and discussing Greek philosophy. He dismisses the class and then meets up with his student, Anne (Lucy DeVito). Anne attempts to have sex with Bill, which he refuses. A coworker enters the room, and talks to Bill about an upcoming meeting he is having with Harvard associates.

Brady Kincaid (also played by Edward Norton) is down South lecturing two drug dealers who work for Pug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfuss). Brady grows and sells all natural marijuana. He explains that he has no intention of expanding his sales, despite needing money to repay a debt to Rothbaum. Meanwhile, Bill talks with Dean Sorensen (Ty Burrell) about a job at Harvard in which philosophy would be included in their law school. Bill leaves, and on his way back to Brown, his brother’s partner Bolger (Tim Blake Nelson) tells Bill that Brady has died from a crossbow arrow. Bill flies to Tulsa, meeting a Jewish orthodontist on the plane.

Bill arrives in Tulsa, and Bolger is waiting outside to pick him up. Bill is mistaken for Brady at the Broken Bow Market, and is beat up and knocked unconscious by marijuana dealers angry that Brady has taken half their territory. When Bill wakes, he is being looked after by Brady. Brady tells Bill that he is getting married and having a baby, and guilts Bill into staying. Brady persuades Bill to try his marijuana. Brady asks Bill to pretend to be Brady while he goes up state to take care of Rothbaum. Bill meets Janet (Keri Russell) at a party at Brady’s, and is immediately smitten with her. Later that night, Bill agrees to Brady’s proposal.

Bill accompanies Janet catching catfish. Janet drives Bill to the old folks home to make amends with his mother. Bill argues with his mother about her lack of mothering.

Bolger and Brady go to Rothbaum’s synagogue in Tulsa, where Rabbi Zimmerman (Maggie Siff) is giving a sermon. Ken Feinman (Josh Pais), the orthodontist Bill met on the plane, mistakes Brady for Bill. Rothbaum spots Brady, and tells him they will talk elsewhere. Brady and Bolger meet with Rothbaum at his compound, where Rothbaum demands his money. When Rothbaum threatens to kill them if they don’t have his money, Bolger shoots Rothbaum’s thugs, and Brady stabs Rothbaum. They head to the Broken Bow Market, and attack the people who beat up Bill. Upon returning home, Bill has figured out that Brady killed Rothbaum. After an argument, Bill is called and told that his teaching is suspended, due to the earlier situation with Anne.

In Tulsa, Ken Feinman (Josh Pais) hears of Rothbaum’s murder and figures everything out. He purchases a gun and sets off for Brady’s house. Ken accuses Brady of the murder. He tells Bill and Brady that he needs money, as his orthodontist career is failing. Bill stares the gun-wielding Ken down, and both prepare to leave. Brady and Bolger won’t let Ken leave, and Ken shoots Brady in the chest. Bill shoots Ken in retaliation. The police arrive. Brady takes the gun so Bill isn’t blamed for the murder. Brady dies.

At Brady’s funeral, Bill shares that Brady was responsible for the best times of his life, and explains the regret and difficulty of leaving everything behind. Bolger takes Bill up to Tulsa to see Rabbi Zimmerman, as Brady wanted her to know that Rothbaum’s murder was not a hate crime. Bill tries to sell Brady’s marijuana growing system to the Broken Bow Market, but Bill is shot through the chest by a crossbow, and Bolger kills the thug and takes Bill to the hospital. Janet visits him. Bolger is told that he saved Bill’s life, repaying his debt to Brady (who had saved his life in prison). A few weeks later, Bill is sitting outside of Brady and Colleen’s house while Daisy takes care of the baby. Janet and Bill hold hands over a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass as it starts to rain.

REVIEW:

Once in a while, Netflix will suggest a film that is so intriguing that you just have to watch. With Leaves of Grass, I was hoping that would be the case, but it wasn’t. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. A little background about this flick would be nice to start, right?

What is this about?

Edward Norton stars in this quirky tale centered on a respected Ivy League professor who’s lured back to Oklahoma to help his equally brilliant twin brother — who grows the world’s finest hydroponic marijuana — best a big-time pot pusher.

What did I like?

Duality. Edward Norton is a fine actor. Many of us don’t realize that or push it aside because of his ego and rumors about him being hard to work with on set. Watching this film, though, it can’t be said that the guy can’t transform himself and play two different roles in the same picture, because he is portraying the straight-laced professor of philosophy (if I’m not mistaken), and his twin drug dealing brother, who turns out is actually the smarter of the two. Other than the fact that they look alike, one would never think they are related, let alone played by the same actor.

Moments. While this is necessarily a laugh out loud picture, there are some funny moments, mostly taking place in the film’s first half. The best, for me, was the student attempting to seduce Norton’s professor character in his office. It is the awkward moments that make this film enjoyable and not a complete bore, especially if you’re labeling yourself as a comedy.

Reunion. What do Edward Norton, Tim Blake Nelson, and Ty Burrell have in common? Well, they all starred in The Incredible Hulk. You remember that one, right? It technically is a part of Marvel Phase I, but Norton talked himself out of a sequel and The Avengers by wanting a bigger part, producer credits, etc. At any rate, it is nice to see these guys back together, but I wonder if Keri Russell’s role was meant with Liv Tyler in mind.

What didn’t I like?

Anti-Jew. I really would like to know what it is that the filmmaker has against Jews, because there is a definite anti-Jew feeling here, and I’m not just talking about the scene where they invade a synagogue, kill a rabbi, then spray paint backwards swastikas and hate speech on the walls, but just various pieces of dialogue and jokes that don’t work that well.

Double trouble. Have you ever seen shows from like the 60s or so where a character would also play their “evil” twin/sibling? Those of you that can’t seem to get over the fact that technology wasn’t the same back in those days and call everything “cheesy” will notice that mirror like effect that goes on in said episodes. At various points of this film, it seems as if they use the same technique. Obviously, they do all they can to not use both of Norton’s characters in the same scene, but when they do, the look of it, just doesn’t look that great.

Cute co-ed. The cute co-ed at the beginning of the film, played by Lucy DeVito (daughter of Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman), would have been great to have as a bigger part, especially since students aren’t allowed to have flings with their professors. Does this come up, even though they get caught? Yes and no. No, in that it seems to be forgotten until just before the final act, where she overacts a bit. Why set up the hilarious situation at the beginning, only to nearly leave it dangling in the wind for the rest of the film? Your guess is as good as mine, but I wish she’s come back to Melissa & Joey.

Shift. The last 10-15 minutes of this film, which serve as some odd, epilogue, could very well have been cut. First off, there is the shooting, which makes no real sense, especially when you see who does the shooting and their reasoning behind their actions. Then there is the sequence of events that follows. For a film that, for the most part, has had that tone of comedy, all the life is sucked out of this flick and it just becomes a dark drama. As I said, this could have all been cut and it wouldn’t have hurt the film. Hell, it may have actually made it better!

As it stands, the only pot film that won’t make you lose more brain cells that if you were actually smoking the stuff is Dazed & Confused. Leaves of Grass is a bit more cerebral that the usual stoner flick, but that doesn’t mean it is worth watching. There are a couple of moments here and there than make this film worth watching and the cast is pretty good, but over all I don’t recommend this flick. If you’ve never heard of it, there is a reason for that, and it is best you forget you even know it exists.

2 out of 5 stars

Fido

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film takes place in a 1950s-esque alternate universe where radiation from space has turned the dead into zombies. This resulted in the “Zombie Wars”, where humanity battled zombies to prevent a zombie apocalypse, with humanity the ultimate victor. The radiation still plagues humanity, as all those who die after the original contamination turn into the undead, unless the dead body is disposed of by decapitation or cremation. In order to continue living normal lives, communities are fenced with the help of a governing corporation named Zomcon. Zomcon provides collars with accompanying remote controls to control the zombies’ hunger for flesh so as to use them as slaves or servants.

In the town of Willard, whose name is a reference to the town in the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, housewife Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) buys a zombie in spite of her husband Bill’s (Dylan Baker) zombie phobia, as Bill has had bad experiences with zombies having been a veteran of the Zombie Wars. Their son, Timmy (K’Sun Ray), befriends the zombie, naming him “Fido” (his true name is never revealed, and little is revealed of his “pre-zombie” life, except that he died of myocardial infarction, and at one point Helen wishes she had met him before she got married and when he was still alive). One day, Fido’s collar malfunctions and he kills their next door neighbor, who turns into a zombie. Timmy “kills” the zombified neighbor later, but not before she kills and infects another person, causing a small outbreak. Zomcom security forces quell the situation and then investigate what caused the outbreak.

When a pair of local bullies are blamed for the missing neighbor, they capture Fido and Timmy. Fido escapes and runs to find Helen, who comes and rescues Timmy from the bullies (who, through misadventure and Fido’s hunger for human flesh, are now zombies), and they try to forget about the whole thing. Several days later, the neighbor’s body is found and the murder is traced back to Fido, who is taken away to Zomcon where the public is told he will be destroyed. Timmy learns through Cindy Bottoms (Alexia Fast), daughter of Jonathan Bottoms (Henry Czerny), Zomcon’s abusive security chief, that Fido is simply working in a factory at Zomcon. Timmy sets out to rescue him with the help of Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson), previous security chief of Zomcon who was forced into early retirement when it was discovered he was found guilty of fraternization with his female zombie, whom he has remarkably preserved well to retard her decaying process, thus giving her a relatively attractive appearance.

Meanwhile, Timmy locates Fido, but is captured by Mr. Bottoms, who attempts to throw Timmy into the zombie-infested “wild zone” that exists outside of the fenced communities. Bill comes to the rescue and is killed by Mr. Bottoms, who in turn is killed by Fido. Timmy is set free and the news media propagandizes that the Zomcom security breach was the fault of rednecks who venture out into the wild zone to hunt zombies for fun. Helen finally learns not to belittle Bill’s bad experiences from the Zombie Wars by paying for a headless funeral in order to prevent his zombification. The film ends with Fido as a surrogate father and husband, Timmy, Helen and Helen’s newborn baby by Bill as a new family. They, along with a few neighbors happily enjoy their new domestic lives together, including the zombified Jonathan Bottoms who is now more attentive to his daughter.

REVIEW:

Continuing with the horror comedy theme I seem to have going on this Halloween, Netflix actually recommended Fido. I’ve been seeing this thing pop up every now and then in various categories, but never really had an inkling to watch it. For some reason, today on a whim I figured it couldn’t hurt.

What is this about?

Director Andrew Currie’s imaginative horror-comedy follows the misadventures of typical boy-next-door Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray) and his very unusual pet — a loyal, lumbering zombie named Fido (Billy Connolly). Problems arise when Fido breaks loose and noshes on a neighbor. Timmy is suddenly forced into damage-control mode while he tries to persuade his parents (Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker) to keep Fido.

What did I like?

Welcome to the 50s. I’m a big fan of all things retro, and this film has that retro look down pat. Starting with the opening school film about the zombie wars and continuing with that bright-colored motif that tends to be prevalent in films that use this retro style. Remember how bright Speed Racer was? The same color scheme applies here, and I loved it!

Zombies. Before I started watching this, I caught a piece on ESPN about how former Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward would be guest starring as a zombie in an episode of The Walking Dead. What does that have to do with anything? Well, zombies on that show are mindless savages. The zombies here aren’t as violent, or so it seems, but  I’m sure if they were to lose those collars this nice little 50s utopia would become hell on earth. Zombies seem to be what vampires were a couple of years ago, so it is good to see different variation of them. Let’s just hope we don’t get any overdramatic, sparkly zombies!

Billy Connolly. This guy is seriously one of the most underrated actors around. He doesn’t have much to do here but limp around, grunt, and do zombie-type stuff. However, it takes some real talent to do all that and still come across as lovable. Kudos to Connolly for making this character endearing to the audience. That could not have been an easy task to accomplish!

What didn’t I like?

Trinity. In The Matrix, I loved Carrie-Ann Moss, despite her cold nature. This film allows her to show some emotion, which she does, but it is her look that doesn’t work for me. She just doesn’t seem to fit in with her costume and the look and feel of this world. I don’t know why she doesn’t, but it just doesn’t work, which is a shame. Maybe she should have done something with her hair?

Lizard. Dylan Baker has all the sympathy in the world from me since he was screwed out of being the Lizard in the Spider-Man films since they just had to reboot it. Don’t get me started on that. With that in mind, this whiny bastard he plays sort of makes me wonder if they just didn’t think he could handle such a role. It is ok that he is scared of zombies. That makes for a nice little backstory for him, but the fact that he whines about it and impedes on everyone’s life with his daddy issues.

Tammy. The whole film we see this creepy couple next door, Mr. Theopolis and his zombie, Tammy. Tammy doesn’t look half bad for a zombie, and as it turns out she has been well-preserved by Theopolis due to his ties to his former employer, Zomcon. Every neighborhood like this has to have that weird couple, but it just seems weird that he seems to have a relationship with this zombie. Having said that, it seems as if Carrie-Ann Moss’ character is ready to start something with Fido if she wasn’t married.

Fido is a fun film when all is said and done. I really enjoyed it and found very little that made me question why I was even watching it. Is this the perfect film? No, there are plenty of plot holes and oddities that leave you scratching your head, but it is the entertainment factor that really sells this film. To answer the question of if I recommend this or not…yes…yes, I do.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars