Fat Albert

Thomas and I went to see Fat Albert (or “Fat Albret” as Thomas says it) Monday night. Believe it or not, it was great! I was prepared for a mind-numbing movie resurrecting the cartoon that would be painful to watch. But what I got was much more.

First, it was the first time in a very long time that I’ve seen a “family” film that was truly family oriented. There was no cursing, and only one use of the now ubiquitous “Oh my G_d!” [As an aside, that exclamation really bothers me. People use it without even thinking; it gets said by some people almost as often as they say the word “the” or “and.” I hate how so many “kids” shows or “family” shows have characters saying that every other sentence.] Anyway, the film got a PG rating for “momentary language,” but I didn’t detect any. There were two scenes where Mushmouth says something which is completely unintelligible, to which Old Weird Harold exclaims “Watch your mouth!” That was funny.

Anyway, it’s a very funny film. Parts of it are unbelievable, but so is the premise: Fat Albert and the gang come through a girl’s television to help her solve a problem. So you just have to suspend disbelief a little bit more.

There are also lessons to be learned here, about achievement, effort, and knowing who you are. And it’s funny. Did I mention that?

The end of the film is great, too. But to discuss it, I have to give it away. So if you don’t want it spoiled, read no further.

At one point, Fat Albert seeks out the real Bill Cosby. After Bill recovers from his initial shock, Albert tells Bill what has transpired. Albert says he came to help “Doris” with her problem. Cosby asks, “Who’s Doris?” Albert responds that she’s “Doris Robertson.” Cosby then tells Albert that Albert Robertson was a friend of Bill’s, was Doris’ grandfather, that he had died recently, and that when Cosby designed Fat Albert, he designed him after Albert Robertson. Now you see the connection, and the supposed reason why Albert was able to come out of the television.

Anyway, at the end, the camera opens onto a cemetery. It zooms in on a headstone that says “Albert Robertson” and below that “Our ‘Fat Albert'”. We then see Cosby lay flowers on the grave. The camera pans around and there are several old men standing with Cosby. As the camera pans past each man, there is a brief shot from the cartoon of one of the characters; these are the men on which those characters were based! Cosby’s old friends from North Philly. It was at this point that a tear ran down my face… It was a very touching scene to see all these old men at the grave of their friend.

Now, these men are not listed in the credits. IMDB does not list them. So far no one has been able to get definitive proof that those men really were Cosby’s inspirations for the characters, but that’s the general consensus. I hope it turns out to be true.

Anyway, go see it with your family. It’s excellent!

Latest Movies Seen

I haven’t had much time to update the site recently because I’m spending most of my time working on the new company… but, in response to a plea from my mother (Hi, mom!) I decided to give you a brief rundown of films I’ve seen recently.

I joined NetFlix back in early November, and I love it! Not all of the films listed below came from NetFlix, but quite a few did. And remember, you can always see my star rating for films I’ve seen, down the left-hand side of this page.

Huoxeh (To Live)
I’ve been a fan of Li Gong for several years now, and this was another excellent feather in her cap. She plays the wife of a man who loses everything because of his gambling problem, in China in the 1940s. The story then traces their lives over the next 30 or so years as the Communists take over (or “liberate,” as the Communists called it) China from Chiang Kai-sheck. It’s a heartbreaking story of how absolutely evil Communism is. I’ve always known that it was evil, but this film really drives it home. I’ve already added Lan feng zheng (The Blue Kite) to my NetFlix queue; it’s another film about the Communist takeover of China. It should be here in a few days.

The Polar Express
I couldn’t imagine how they could turn a very short book like The Polar Express into a feature-length film. They did it by turning the whole story into an action/adventure film that scared the crap out of my son. Overall it was pretty good, but way too much adventure.

Bend it Like Beckham
This is a wonderful Indian picture about a girl who challenges what her parents think a “proper Indian girl” should and should not do. I watched it twice in one weekend. Ever since watching Monsoon Wedding I’ve gotten more and more intrigued with Indian films. This is another great one.

Streets of Fire
I first saw this movie back in the 80s, but I’d forgotten most of it. I got it through NetFlix a few weeks ago, and it was quite good. It has a young Diane Lane (love her) playing a singer who is abducted by a motorcycle gang, lead by Willem Dafoe. Good music, interesting sets, and Diane Lane…

The Terminal
This is an excellent film that is very loosely based on the real-life story of a man who has been living in Charles De Gaulle Airport since 1988. Tom Hanks is extremely believable as a man from some backwater former-Soviet republic. Funny and sad, all at the same time.

Ying Xiong (Hero)
Beautifully filmed. Lovely colors. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was better.

The Last Samurai
I was absolutely blown away by this film. Tom Cruise is outstanding as a brash, arrogant Civil War veteran who goes to Japan to train troops. This is a beautiful story that was completely under-appreciated.

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away)
Absolutely brilliant! This is an amazing piece of animation. Disney pictures brought this Japanese masterpiece, by the legendary directory Miyazaki Hayao, to America, faithfully translating it with an American cast. Wonderful, wonderful movie. My son loves it. I bought it for him for Christmas, and I just bought the sound-track.

I’ve seen several others recently, but that’s enough pontificating on films for now…

Band of Brothers

Two words: Watch It. I missed it when it first ran on HBO but caught it a few weeks ago on the History Channel. Absolutely amazing mini-series. I didn’t want it to end. So much so that I promptly went out and bought the book and the DVD set. I finished reading the book this morning. There are some incredible stories in the book, and the mini-series does a fabulous job of portraying them. The actors are superb and look very much like the men the portray, which is neat.

Read it. Watch it. Now.

The Oscars

I watched the last 20 minutes of The Oscars last night and was utterly disappointed to see that the wretched Return of the King walked away with 11 awards. What a joke. If you’ve been reading for a while, you already know how I feel about this travesty of a film. 11 Oscars? Give me a break.

I was also disappointed to see that the amazing film Lost in Translation only one a single award, for Best Original Screenplay. It should have won more than that. This is one of the best films I’ve seen in a very long time, and I’m glad I bought it on DVD.

Latest Screenings

I’ve watched a few things lately and here are my mini-reviews.

50 First Dates
It’s about a man who meets the girl of his dreams only to discover that she has no short term memory and forgets everything from the day before at night while she sleeps. Thus the title. This was a really cute film that made me laugh out loud several times. It’s quite touching at times as well. The only problem is that they went way overboard with one particular plot line, early on, that almost ruined it. They mostly recovered though, and it was an enjoyable film. Rob Schneider steals every scene he’s in. Drew Barrymore is adorable as the forgetful Lucy and Adam Sandler is the intrepid wooer. Four stars. It would have been five but for the aforementioned plot-overdoage…

Underworld
This film is sort of like The Matrix meets vampires and werewolves. It’s about the age-old war between vampires and werewolves with the lovely Kate Becksinsale as Selene, a vampire “Death Dealer” whose job it is to hunt the werewolves into extinction. She is the narrator and protagonist and runs around in a tight black leather cat suit the whole time, usually with this flowing black leather trench coat. Very chic. To be honest, if Selene ever attacked me and wanted to turn me into a vampire… Well, let’s just say she would meet with fabulous success… But I digress… This movie didn’t fare very well with the critics, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a good action film, not a horror picture, which may have turned some horror fans off. I don’t watch horror films any more so I was pleased. There’s some amount of wire stunts, though that technique was used sparingly and thus didn’t make the whole movie about the wire work. Good sound-track too. Four stars.

Lost In Translation
I was up until 0200 this morning watching this movie. It is a wonderful film. Touching, funny, poignant, engrossing. Bill Murray is a has-been actor who is in Japan filming whiskey commercials. Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte, a young married girl in Japan with her photographer husband who is to busy to spend any time with her. She and Bob (Murray) meet up in the hotel lounge one night and end up spending several nights running around Tokyo enjoying each other’s company. Bob has been married for 25 years, but his marriage is not so great any more. Charlotte has been married for 2 years and it is already going downhill. While her husband seems to love her, he has no time for her. She and Bob connect in that hotel lounge and have a great time together in Tokyo. Of course eventually Bob has to leave… This movie was deeply touching and vexing at the same time. On the one hand, they are two married people who should not be hanging out together like they do. But on the other hand, both are miserable and for a few brief nights they share companionship, fun, excitement and a love that can’t be expressed. There are similar themes to one of my other favorite films, Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown where two people are madly in love with each other, but know that they can never express that love. I was conflicted in that I wanted them to express their love for each other, yet I also wanted them to stay true to their vows. It was a strange feeling. Lost in Translation is a definite Five Stars.

Sex and the City: Series Finale
Yes, I admit it, SatC is one of my favorite shows. I paused Lost in Translation last night to watch the series finale and it was worth it. I will miss the show, but I like how they tied everything up. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but I was very satisfied with all the endings. I’m sure it will be on many more times this week.

Return of the King is AWFUL!

I went to see RotK today and it was so much worse than I ever could have imagined. Not only should Peter Jackson, et al, not win any awards for this travesty, but they should be strung up for destroying one of the greatest literary works of the 20th Century. Here are some of the low-lights from Jackson’s 3.25 hour monstrosity, in no particular order:

  • Aragorn is a big ol’ pussy with nothing Kingly about him who wanders around with a bewildered look on his face most of the time
  • When Aragorn goes along the ‘Paths of the Dead,’ a place he seems to have vaguely heard of, he doesn’t command the dead to fight for him, he asks them politely if they’d care to join him
  • Aragorn does try his best at pretending to be Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn
  • Gandalf is a Kung-fu master bo-staff wielding bad-ass
  • Frodo is a weakling who trusts Gollum more than Sam
  • the ‘secret stair’ that leads to Cirith Ungol is 5 feet away from the entrance to Minas Morgul thus affording Frodo the opportunity to march across the bridge, risking capture by the Nazgûl
  • Gollum throws away the remaining Lembas bread then frames Sam for its being missing; Frodo then sends Sam away as he continues to ascend the stair, meaning that he finds his way through Shelob’s
    lair by himself
  • Although we don’t see Sam take the Ring from a seemingly-dead Frodo, he does take it. Of course he never puts it on himself, and thus has no clue what Frodo has been going through and doesn’t need it to get past the Orcs, because they’ve all killed each other before he gets there
  • Minas Morgul is equipped with a laser beam
  • Frodo pushed Gollum into the fire of Mount Doom
  • Denethor, after being set on fire, runs out of the door and leaps to his death over Minas Tirith
  • The character assassination of Faramir from TTT continues
  • When the armies of Gondor and Rohan ride to the Black Gate, instead of an embassy coming out to show Aragorn Frodo’s clothes and Mithril shirt, the gates open revealing 10 bazillion Orcs for yet
    another boring battle scene
  • Sam never puts on the Ring and is able to find Frodo in the tower inside Mordor within about 5 minutes. He also pretends to be Dirty Harry
  • When the Hobbits get back to The Shire, everything is just as it was when they left
  • It’s one long boring battle scene after another; there is NO subtlety from the book that Jackson has left intact

That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ll be adding to the list.

To put it bluntly, this movie sucks ass! I hated this movie!!! But some people like it… Some chowder-head stood up when it was over, clapping madly, shouting ‘BRAVO!’ I was thinking, ‘Dude! This ain’t the Met, here…’ I sat there for the last two hours of the ‘film’ constantly checking my watch… It’s that bad. The only tool that Jackson didn’t employ to ruin this film was to have the Hobbits start swearing like
sailors; I’m actually surprised he missed that one… Anyway, I am terribly disappointed. If you love the books, you will hate this movie.

Note: Sorry for the swearing, mom…

The Cat in the Hat Sucks Really, Really Bad

We just got back from seeing The Cat in the Hat and I can say without equivocation, that this is one of the absolute worst films I have ever seen. I sat there constantly looking at my watch to see when the torment would end. It’s not funny. It’s not even mildly amusing. It’s just dumb. It’s a travesty of a film based on a wonderful book. The estate of Dr. Seuss should be ashamed of themselves (again) for letting something this horrible happen. Not since Opie butchered the Grinch has such a horrible rendition of a Dr. Seuss work been seen.

I don’t know if I can really explain just how terrible it was, but perhaps this will help. The one thing that was heard in the packed theater, filled with kids of all ages: silence. Yes, no body was laughing, at all! Not even the kids. My son hardly cracked a smile, though on the way out we did get the ceremonial “let’s go see it again, dad!” The closest thing to laughter that I heard was some adults groaning at some of the gross “humor.”

Trust me on this. Do not, under any circumstances, inflict this pain on yourself or your loved ones. Friends don’t let friends see “The Cat in the Hat” and all that. It’s horrible. And I’m not the only one who thinks it sucks.

Bubba Ho-Tep

I won free passes to see Bubba Ho-Tep at my new favorite art house cinema last night. Three words: funny as hell. It’s the heart-warming story of an elderly Elvis Presley who not only didn’t die, but is living still at an old folks’ home in east Texas. There he meets ‘Jack’, played by Ossie Davis, who thinks he is John Kennedy (‘They dyed me this color!’). The residents of the home are being picked off one by one by an Egyptian soul-sucker and it’s up to Elvis and ‘The President’ to save everyone. The film stars Bruce Campbell as The King and he does a good job. It’s a very crude film in terms of dialog but man is it ever funny. The scene of Elvis in his white studded jump-suit gimping down the hall with a walker and ‘The President’ in a motorized wheelchair heading off to defeat the soul-sucker is extremely funny. If this film comes to your town, go see it!

And Now… Ladies and Gentlemen

I finally got a chance to see And Now… Ladies and Gentlemen Saturday night. I’ve been waiting over a year for this movie to make it to the States and it finally has. It stars Jeremy Irons who is wonderful as master jewel thief Valentin. The scenery is beautiful; it was filmed in France and Morocco, and the story is also quite good. But the main reason I wanted to see it was the debut performance of my favorite French chanteuse, Patricia Kaas. She played a lounge singer (surprise!) who ends up in Morroco and meets Valentin. She sings through a great deal of the film, which was wonderful, but quite a bit of it was in English. While she sounds lovely in any language, I much prefer it when she sings in French. The deal is that they are both suffering from blackouts and Valentin has the added bonus of migraine headaches. They are pulled together by the careless tongue of the Morroccan doctor who mentions to Valentin that the singer at the local hotel has the same problems as he. Valentin heads to the hotel to see her, and witnesses her having one of her blackouts. She walks out of the hotel and ends up in a dark alleyway. Two thugs attempt to mug her, but Valentin is there to save the day. She ends up returning the favor the following day when Valentin is accused of a robbery in the hotel. This is the beginning of their relationship that will continue through the rest of the film as they head for Lalla Chalia’s grave; supposedly Lalla can heal people from “the other side.” I won’t give away what happens…

Anyway, I really enjoyed the film. There are sad moments and funny moments (Jeremy Irons dons several disguises during his various robberies) and then there’s all the lovely singing. I highly recommend this film, if it’s anywhere near you. It probably won’t be, but you can always watch for it on DVD. I had to drive 40 miles in to “the Big City” (Atlanta) at 9:40 PM Sunday night to see it at the Landmark Midtown Cinema. I generally don’t like going into the city, but I occasionally head to the Red Light Cafe to see Glenn Phillips, which is about a block away, so it wasn’t that bad.

Freaky Friday

We went to see Freaky Friday last night. This, of course, is a remake of the original film of the same name from 1976. I was not terribly excited about seeing it, really rather wanting to see Pirates of the Caribbean or Terminator 3. But since I got to choose P. F. Chang’s for dinner, I had to go along, and I’m glad I did. This was an excellent film; extremely funny and well played. Jamie Lee Curtis is really good as the mom and as the daughter-trapped-in-the-mom’s-body. The daughter is good as well. I wouldn’t take my son to see it because of the terrible attitudes of the teen-agers and their proclivity for words like “sucks” and “blows” and a couple of other curses by the grown ups. For teens and up though, I think it’s ok. Here’s what ScreenIt.com has to say about it.

Bottom line: it was a very good and funny movie.