Skyfall

Guest Review: Linda (Mariah) Altrocchi
I highly recommend seeing the new James Bond movie Sky Fall. Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and the beautiful Naomie Harris brought their physical strengths, focused passion and brilliant acting talents together. This was one of the most captivating films I've seen in years.

Snow Dogs




Director: Brian Levant

Lead Actors: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn and Sisqó

I should state at the beginning of this review that I’m not sure how some people fall off the A-list. Some creep down. Some dive off. Some careen off. But I can say with certainty that Cuban Gooding Jr., not so long ago, was fresh off winning ano Oscar for his energetic performance in Jerry Maguire - and in this movie, released in 2002, he is in a Disney movie sharing the screen with dogs. Maybe it's time to go into politics?  

That being said, maybe it doesn’t matter. For the purposes of this movie, Cuba Gooding Jr. worked.
Snow Dogs is about a successful Miama dentist, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., who seemingly has it all: a successful practice (cutely coined "Hot Smilt"), money, a nice car and a great reputation.



Well, his world is put into a tale spin when he receives notice via a summons that he is adopted! This puts him into a tail spin and he decides he has to find himself in the wilds of Alaska, where the will is being read over and his late real mom's inheritance is being sorted over.

Most of what his mom leaves behind is forgettable, dusty items and a broken down cabin.  But then, almost out of thin air, eight racing dogs, who used to belong to Ted (the main character)'s mother, appear.  

There he also meet Jack, the man who wants to buy the dogs off him cheap and a love interest who owns a  bar.
What You Might Not Like
Cuba is in full “show me the money” mode in this one, and is one moment away from doing a celebratory break dance move across a frozen pond during the whole movie. He rarely comes down from his super-hyped pitch long enough to deliver a normal line.

What You Might Like
Buuut. .. in a weird way, it works. The dogs, aided by some special effects, are brimming with personality and fight. They are led by Demon, the main sled dog, who has convinced all the other dogs to give their new master a run for his money before they’ll let him lead them.

The rest of the supporting cast is phenomenal.

Gooding Jr. is not the only award winning actor in the group. Coburn, who won an Oscar for “Affliction”, is convincing as Thunder Jack, champion dog sled racer. I felt that Michelle Nichols carried the movie as Ted’s adopted mother who didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth at a young age and who truly cares about her son. 
Former rapper and pop music star Cisqo is somewhat interesting as Ted’s nephew and heir apparent to the dentistry business. But that’s not where the great and funny performances end.
There was the indelible M. Emmet Walsh as Ted’s guide and pilot. Graham Greene as a snow golfing local. Joanna Bacalso works as Barb, the mixed race, possibly eskimo love interest.

Brian Doyle Murray, who I know as the boss in Griswold Family Vacation, but who also, according to his IMDB, was a member of Saturday Night Live at one point, was also great as a local with a lot of cavities and other dental problems. His character is excited to have a real dentist around! No one could stop talking about the stench of their rotting teeth in this norhtern Alaska town. Foreshadowing, possibly, to where Ted is truly needed.
Let’s face it, my dad walked out on this movie and I can see how it is not meant for the linear thinker. But, if you are the type who spots great comedic performances, stick around! The adventures are impossible and far fetched and the premise itself silly, but if you grab on to this dog sled, it will take you on a great ride.
Also, it is a great advertisement for the sport of dog sledding, which for obvious reasons doesn’t get much mainstream press in the mainland sports world.

From where I sit, recently we’ve seen an African American president, champion golfer, Secretary of State and now why not a champion African American dog sledding champion to mush past more race barriers.

Highlights
Anything having to do with the racing dogs. Coburn shushing and intimidating an entire Alaskan bar in the beginning. A scene where Gooding Jr. falls unconscious in the freezing cold and has a hallucinogenic dream where the dogs talk to and mock him and Joanna Bacalso, who must have been a Laker Girl before this movie, dons a bikini.


Rating: Two Mike and Ikes


Watch this movie, you will have fun!

Neo Ned



Review by Ty McLemore

Director

Van Fischer

Lead Actors

Jeremy Renner, Gabrielle Union, Sally Kirkland

Writer

Tim Boughn

Plot Synopsis:

Take one Neo-Nazi called Ned, add a deranged black woman who believes she is the reincarnation of Hitler, mix together in a mental institution, pour over a bed of quirkiness, drama and romance and serve hot.

This is the premise of writer Tim Boughn’s work. A body of work that is devoid of any glitz or glam, high-res cinematography or slick soundtrack. Instead, we are given a straightforward, yet unlikely love story of two individuals thrown together by vastly different circumstances.

In the end it gels, thanks in no small part to the likeability of both characters. While Ned has reluctantly followed his father’s footsteps in perpetuating hate, beneath the veneer we see an individual who in actuality is free-spirited and caring and simply longs to belong to something or someone.

That someone eventually appears in the form of Rachael - a black, single mother who is desperately trying to vanquish the demons of her past. Together, the pair help one another on a path toward redemption – albeit, not in the linear and normal way one might imagine.

While the movie seems to stall at times with excessive dialogue and senseless transitions, it is definitely thought provoking and relevant for its time.

Who Might Not Like It and Why

Those who are sensitive to offensive language and/or situations.

Top Scenes

In the opening scene, Ned has launched a verbal tirade and physical assault upon the medical staff and has to be physically restrained on the floor. While prone, the camera cuts to another part of the room where RACHAEL is violently screaming while being restrained.

Inquisitively, Ned asks of her situation to which no one gives an immediate answer. The clever juxtaposition of these two characters seems to be Boughn’s subtle way of allowing the audience to see their connection early on.

On a trivial note, I was cast as an extra in this movie and played the part of an uncredited mental patient. It was originally shot in 2003 at an abandoned hospital in the city of Pomona.

While on break from shooting, myself and several background actors engaged Gabrielle Union (Rachael) in meaningless conversation as she stretched out on a couch. She was as witty and amusing as she was beautiful and we were grateful that she indulged us for the length of time that she did.

This independent feature was first shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Palm Beach International and in 2008 was eventually released on DVD thru Code Black Entertainment.


Lincoln

Director:  Steven Speilberg

Lead Actors:  Daniel Day Lewis, David Stratham, Sally Field


Plot Synopsis:

Quite possibly one of the best films in a long time, coming from the modern day film-making master Steven Spielberg.



A history lesson from the heart. This epic movie about one of our influential presidents covers a very short period in Lincoln’s life wherein he used all of his political game to pass the 13th amendment which would ensure equal rights for all men under the law.

This from the man who gave us Color Purple. This from the liberal-minded who was working long before Tyler, the man who gave us Amistad. Here Spielberg honors the man, who, more than most anyone else, gave African Americans a chance in this highly prejudiced country.

Many are the societies on this Earth who had slaves, fewer are those who freed them and integrated them among their own society! Most say that issue is what started the Civil War, the bloodiest American war ever between the North and the South.


Scenes of the Civil War are painstakingly depicted in Lincoln, as are the thousands and thousands of dead bodies. In fact, in one scene, we see a wheel barrow of limbs dumped into the ground. THIS IS NOT YOUR FOURTH GRADER’S HISTORY BOOK LESSON ABOUT ABE LINCON.

Abe Lincoln is brought to life by undoubtedly the greatest actor of our time, Daniel Day Lewis. The master. The only thing is, I would have to take the filmmaker’s word for it tgat Day Lewis was involved with this movie, because I didn’t see him once. What I did see was Lincoln, the man I’ve read about the man I’ve idolized since someone gave me my first penny. Finally, there he was, in the flesh.

 
And I’m thankful that I am old enough to understand that Lincoln was, first and foremost, a politician. A good man no doubt, but also a scheming politician. I thank my lucky stars that he did his bartering and manipulating for causes I believe in.
Because before there was Obama, and Karl Rove, and Bush and the Clintons, there people before us doing everything for the vote, being lobbied, being tested.

Highlights/Top Scenes
Spielberg’s depiction of the US House of Representatives was both funny and a little scary. They all seemed so flawed and average for representatives. So human! Who knows what I would be saying after a day spent in today's House of Congress!

It has to be stated here that Tommy Lee Jones was a standout as a proponent of abolition whose vote was key to Lincoln's mission of getting the 13th amendment passed. While there were many fine performances among the 135 speaking roles created by this move, my favorite was James Spader as a sloppy, gutted lobbyist who had his hand in making history.



 
In the end, this is an honest look at American Politics by the creator of Jurassic Park and Jaws that left this humble viewer full of hope!

Frankenweenie

FRANKENWEENIE




Director: Tim Burton


Lead Actors: Martin Short, Winona Ryder

Produced by
Allison Abbate.... producer
Tim Burton.... producer
Derek Frey.... co-producer
Don Hahn.... executive producer
Connie Nartonis Thompson.... associate producer
Simon Quinn.... line producer


Plot Synopsis:
Young Victor Frankenstein, a child in New Holland, an American suburb, (which alert Tim Burton fans will notice is not a new theme for him) is hopelessly tied to his science experiments. His only friend is his dog, Sparky.

This bothers his Dad, played by a magnanimous Martin Short, who wants Victor to socialize with other kids. He makes a deal with Victor that if he will play baseball with the other kids, his dad will sign a permission slip for Victor to participate in the science fair (which is administered by a spooky, yet caring science teacher Mr. Rzykruski, who resembles Vincent Price but is played with much gusto by Martin Landau.

So Victor agrees, and he manages to hit a home run in a game against his equally spooky and creepy neighbors and classmates. His dog, Sparky, ever the trusty sidekick is watching and chases after the ball and in so doing meets his untimely end as he crosses a busy street.

Now, this is where some "Boy and his Dog" movies, like "Old Yeller" end- the boy's dog, and favorite companion, meet death while doing a heroic act.

But this happens not even half way through a full-length movie, and, well, the title pretty much gives away what's going to happen next. Young Victor, who resembles Mary Shelley's young Victor Frankenstein in his passion for science, will attempt to bring Sparky back to life . .. through science!

The results are interesting and heartwarming. Victor's experiments catch the eyes of his freakishly ghoulish neighbors and classmates who will be competing against him in the science fair. They see the magic that Victor can yield, and they want in.

Who Would Like It and Why
Monster movie fans will enjoy a full romp and homage to as many monster movie clichés as one monster movie fan can fit into a movie, including one of the inexplicably ghoulish neighbors of Victor being mummified,

SPOILER ALERT  one of the Japanese American neighbors brings his pet turtle named Shelley (which could be a tie back to Mary Shelley) turning into a Godzilla-like menace when an experiment to bring it back to life goes terribly terribly wrong!

Also, I think that all dog lovers will enjoy the realistic portrayal of a great dog by Burton, even after he dies and has been brought back to life!

Burton has fun with this little suburb called New Holland. Burton fans will know that as was well-documented in Burton's older movie "Edward Scissorhands", Burton has conflicted feelings about his upbringing in Burbank suburbs as a child. New Holland is portrayed with both love and contempt. Victor's contemporaries seem to all have something wrong with them. One of his friends looks like the hunch backed assistant to Dr. Frankenstein, with hunched back and teeth going in all different directions. Another character has eyes as big as some of the character's heads.

This just seems to be Burton having fun with animation. New Holland seems to be a strange place though, as it is revealed early on that the town is very susceptible to lightning. It is even revealed that Mr. Rzykruski, the odd yet stimulating science teacher played by Martin Landau, is a replacement to a teacher thought to have been killed by lightning.







No wonder the Mayor Burgmeister of New Holland seems to be so insecure about luring newcomers to New Holland.
 




Who Might Not Like It and Why
There were certainly some plot holes, and I think that Burton seemed to favor monster parody over Robert Mckee screenplay structure. This was clearly a case of a very powerful and popular director having fun with his animation and his friends and deciding to make it a full-lenght feature movie.

Burton seemed to bring some characters from his past into this movie, for example, I could have sworn he used one of the fat characters who played Tweedle Dee or Tweedle or Tweedle Dum in Alice In Wonderland as a fat kid in this movie.

Highlights/Top Scenes
What I loved most about this movie was Martin Short playing a very straight, caring, down to Earth father to a son who is without a doubt a genius and who has to be handled with great care. His performance brought comfort.

As a movie fan I was also thrilled to hear a voice that belonged to Hollywood's original "creepy girl", Winona Ryder. She played Victor's neighbor - a possible love interest. She was very much at home and welcome in this monster romp!

Also, having grown up as someone who was given Sea Monkeys as a present and never did anything with them, it was interesting to see what would happen if you just add water . . . and electricity . . . to the package’s contents. . . . !

Special Note:
Alert movie fans will remember that Tim Burton's Wife, Helena Bonham Carter, played the bride of Frankenstein in Kenneth Branaugh's brave film interpretation of the story not so long ago. Perhaps she had some influence on the appearance of Sparky's love interest, Persephone, in the movie. 

Burton's wife, Helena Bonham Carter as the "Bride of Frankenstein"


                                      Different interpretation of the Bride of Frankenstein.

     Persephone, Sparky's love interest.

Rating: Three Mike and Ikes



Sayonara ( 1957 Classic Movie )


Review by Ty McLemore

Director

Joshua Logan

Lead Actors

Marlon Brando, Red Buttons, Ricardo Montalban and Patricia Owens

Producer

William Geotz

Plot Synopsis
 
This lavishly produced, Irving-Berlin-scored masterpiece is a mix of hope, despair and fatalism that will ultimately leave the viewer mentally and emotionally taxed.

“Ace” Lloyd Gruver (Marlon Brando) is a decorated Korean War pilot on leave to Kobe, Japan for a short term of rest and leisure. Once there, Joe Kelly, (Red Buttons) an airman under his command, is set to marry a Japanese woman despite military regulations that forbid it. Kelly asks Gruver as his best man – an offer he initially declines, but reconsiders after sensing Kelly’s deep love for the woman.

Meanwhile, Gruver’s fiancé, Eileen, (Patricia Owens) has been secretly ferried to the island. Their pairing is short lived as she learns that Gruver’s intentions for marriage are born out of a sense of duty rather than love. As their relationship begins to unravel, Gruver is drawn to a beautiful Japanese dancer named Hana-Ogi. He enlists the help of Kelly’s wife Katsumi in arranging a tryst for the two of them.

Problems arise for Kelly when a vindictive and racist colonel arranges for his departure back to the states – without his new bride. Out of options and nearly out of time, the couple commit suicide rather than face the consequences of separation.

As Gruver and Hana-Ogi’s relationship is also brought to light, they must decide whether their own forbidden love is worth the risk of losing everything they have achieved.

There is a reason why many regard Brando as the greatest actor of all time. His effortless glide between two characters - the simple, and at times, comical, southern gentleman to the handsome, rugged and imposing Major Gruver, leaves no doubt about his place in cinematic history.

From the way his coat is tossed over his arm, the manner in which he points out directions or the style in which he cradles his cap while addressing military brass – it’s pure Brando at his coolest and smoothest.

Conversely, casting Miiko Taka as his female counterpart was sheer movie moxie. The Marilyn Monroe-esque bombshell with breathy speech, pouty lips and exotic beauty may have been MGM’s best method of softening the sting of an interracial romance in the 1950s.


Who Would Like it and Why

Anyone who loves Brando or a well-written, well-acted, dramatic love story.

Who Might not Like It and Why
 
Those who may be offended by racist language or stereotypes.  One example involves famed actor Ricardo Montalban in the role of Nakamura, a Japanese dancer in an all-male theatrical troupe.  Epic films as this, however, must be taken in their proper context. In the 1950s it was a normal occurrence in casting standard actors to play the roles of minorities.

Top Scenes
 
As Gruver and Hana-Ogi meet for the first time, he nervously babbles on with small talk while she remains stoic and motionless. Afterwards, she speaks of her stature as Japan’s premiere dancer and proclaims that despite the danger that awaits them, she is MORE than willing to engage in an illicit romance. Furthermore, she says that when it is over she will NEVER love another.

Her boldness leaves him speechless.  She begins to pour a cup of Saki as the screen fades to black. This is by far my favorite scene of my favorite Marlon Brando movie.

Summary
 
There is a constant undertone here about one having an obligation to oneself first. Gruver and Hana-Ogi are accomplished, high-ranking individuals who have lived their entire lives pursuing what was EXPECTED of them, rather than what they wanted.  As the door begins to close on their last chance at happiness, they must decide whether obligation trumps passionate, ever-lasting love. 




Tony Scott- an artist in his own right!

Do you remember Maverick throwing his dad's dog tags into the ocean? What about Denzel Washington's character in Man On Fire cleansing his fatal wound in a swimming pool so he can stay alive long enough to save a little girl.


Or what about in True Romance when the FBI, the Mafia and about three other crime and crime fighting organizations point guns at each other in an ultimate showdown.

These were all scenes crafted by Tony Scott, the brother of Ridley Scott.

In a way, I always felt Tony Scott was more in touch and funnier than his lofty and successful brother.

I remember listening to director's commentary of Man On Fire. With his raspy voice that I had never heard before, Scott recounted his adventures in Mexico City while filming this movie. He told the story of jumping into a closed-down public pool and being sick days afterwards and of almost being mauled by a gang of young boys somewhere in the city while trying to film some gritty action.

He sounded like someone who was always interested in adventure and reluctant to grow up.

He has had a hand in shaping Hollywood just as much as anyone, and I pray for him. I am sorry for the pain that he was going through and that he felt jumping off a bridge was the only way to end it. Sadly, he most likely will be missed more than he will ever know. Sometimes the most wonderful and influential people are the most critical of themselves. Suicide sometimes takes some of the finest human beings.

I can only hope that Scott's soul is at rest and that young film makers take into consideration his large and wonderful body of work.

Rest In Peace.
Sincerely,
Geoffrey Altrocchi

'Top Gun' director Tony Scott's family asks for privacy after his death

Tony Scott

The family of Tony Scott is asking for privacy after the "Top Gun" director jumped to his death off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro on Sunday afternoon.
"I can confirm that Mr. Scott has indeed passed away. The family asks that their privacy be respected at this time," a spokesman said in an emailed statement.
Scott jumped off the bridge about 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Law enforcement sources said officials looked inside the car he left behind and determined that it belonged to the famed movie director and producer. A note listing contact information was in the car.
A suicide note was later found in his office. Its contents were not revealed.
The Los Angeles County coroner's office confirmed Scott's identity Sunday evening,
Scott, the brother of director Ridley Scott, directed "Top Gun,"  "Enemy of the State," "Beverly Hills Cop II" and "Crimson Tide."
The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department and the coroner's office.
Witnesses told police that Scott parked his Toyota Prius on the bridge, scaled an 8- to 10-foot fence and jumped without any hesitation, law enforcement sources said.
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Witnesses saw 'Top Gun' director Tony Scott jump off bridge, police say
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Ex-porn star Jenna Jameson guilty in DUI crash
-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Photo: Director Tony Scott speaks onstage before a screening of "Top Gun" on May 17, 2010. Credit: Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images