July 30, 2009

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (2009)

IN CASE YOU haven’t gathered from earlier reviews (Sunshine, Mongol), I’m a longtime fan of British heavy metal band Iron Maiden.

Amidst the glut of glam bands in the ‘80s, Maiden were thinking-man’s metal – each of their songs told a story or delivered a message. And I completely idolized phenomenal bassist Steve Harris, who wrote many of Maiden’s best songs and played his bass as a lead instrument, giving the band a large chunk of its distinctive sound.

So it was with equal parts excitement and apprehension that I sat down to watch Iron Maiden: Flight 666
Excitement: I was going to see a lot of what goes on with Maiden backstage and on the road (something the notoriously private band never allowed in their heyday).
Apprehension: Would they still enthrall me with their metallic, musical storytelling like they did in my youth?

• It’s January 2008, and Iron Maiden is about to embark on the first leg of their Somewhere Back in Time tour. The goal: 21 cities, in 12 countries, on four continents…in six weeks.
• How will they accomplish this? By flying the band, crew, and gear on their own private 757 – with lead singer Bruce Dickinson, a licensed pilot, at the helm.

Flight 666 is essentially one continuous ride-along – lots of cameras trailing the band members from one destination to another, interspersed with concert footage from the various stops on the tour.
• Directors Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey) capture the energy and sheer scope of Maiden’s international crowds – thousands of people singing and jumping in unison to songs whose lyrics they probably don’t understand. (Concert crowds in other countries put U.S. crowds to shame in terms of unified participation.)
• While it’s true that watching a concert on TV is nowhere near the same as seeing it live, the film does a commendable job of making you feel like a crowd member at each of Maiden’s shows. The energy levels of the concerts are through the roof, and the band’s musicianship is still as tight as it was 20 years ago.
• Some of the stage sets, and the costumes worn by Dickinson, may seem a bit Spinal Tap-y to the uninitiated, but for Maiden fans it’s all as serious as a heart attack.
• Also in the Spinal Tap vein: During a golf game between shows, drummer Nicko McBrain suffers the most un-metal of injuries: a welt on his wrist from a rogue golf ball.
Songs performed in the film: “Aces High,” 2 Minutes to Midnight,” “The Number of The Beast,” “The Trooper,” “Can I Play with Madness,” “Powerslave,” “Run to the Hills,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Fear of the Dark,” “Iron Maiden,” “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”
All you ‘80s metalheads, pay attention to the backstage scene at Maiden’s L.A. show. It’s a who’s who of metal, including Ronnie James Dio, Kerry King (Slayer), Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath), and of all people, WWE superstar Chris Jericho. (HA! I just checked Jericho’s Twitter page, and one hour ago he tweeted, no kidding: “Listening to Rime of the Ancient Mariner with my three kids and everybody is rocking! No Wiggles in this house!”)

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 is an eye-opener for fans and novices alike. And 23 years later, Adrian Smith’s solo on “Wasted Years” still gives me goosebumps (3:10 mark).

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Will your kids want to watch it?
• If they’re interested in discovering new music – music that’s new to them, at least – here’s your chance to give them a Maiden education. (Also see my playlist below.)
• However, that education may need to be limited to the playlist if your kids are pre-teens. While I watched the edited version of Flight 666 on VH1, apparently there is a bit of offensive language and a handful of scenes unsuitable for young ones. See the IMDb's parents guide for details.

Will your FilmMother like it?
An appreciation of metal will probably help your FilmMother enjoy Flight 666 more, but it’s still an engrossing documentary aside from the music. If you’re a Maiden fan, maybe it’ll help give her insight as to why.

The British are singing! The British are singing!

Essential “Maiden 101” Playlist:*
“Running Free” (from Iron Maiden)**
“Wrathchild” (from Killers)**
“The Number of the Beast” (from The Number of the Beast)
“Run to the Hills” (from The Number of the Beast)
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” (from The Number of the Beast)
“Flight of Icarus” (from Piece of Mind)
“The Trooper” (from Piece of Mind)
“Aces High” (from Powerslave)
“2 Minutes to Midnight” (from Powerslave)
“Powerslave” (from Powerslave)
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (from Powerslave)
“Wasted Years” (from Somewhere in Time)
“Can I Play With Madness” (from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son)

* Yes, Maiden fans, there are many other great songs beyond this. This is just a primer for newbies.
** With original vocalist Paul Di’Anno

Iron Maiden: Flight 666
* Directors: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen
* Screenwriters: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen
* Stars: Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, Nicko McBrain
* MPAA Rating: N/A

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>

July 27, 2009


FilmFather has been pirated!

Technically, I’ve been plagiarized. (I must still have pirate on the brain after my last review.)

Thanks to my Google Alert, I found out that someone had taken my original review of Fired Up, doctored my words, and published it on their blog as their own.

After seeing this, my emotions went from anger…to disbelief…to amusement. I mean, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

I’m not going to link to the offender’s page; they doesn’t deserve the clicks. But here’s what I can surmise about my plagiarized piece:

• It’s posted on a very popular student blog service (confirmed by my teacher wife).
• Based on the horrific, largely nonsensical rewrite – and some of the Arabic on their page – my guess is that they took my review, translated it into Arabic, then translated it back to English.

The results of that translation are quite comical. Here are some of my favorite rewrites at the offending blog (let’s call it ShmilmFather), compared to what I originally wrote:

FilmFather: Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) is the star quarterback and resident horndog at his high school.
ShmilmFather: Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) is the role quarterback and occupant horndog at his heinous religious order.

FilmFather: But I was happily surprised at how much it made me not only smile, but chuckle often and laugh out loud more than once.
ShmilmFather: But I was cheerily surprised at how much it made me not but grin, but snigger generally and shrug isolated beside the headland exhausted stentorian more than directly.

FilmFather: I don’t know why Fired Up didn’t do better at the box office.
ShmilmFather: I don’t have consciousness of why Fired Up didn’t do less bad at the sock firm.

FilmFather: The marketing campaign didn’t do it any favors, selling it as a raunchy sex romp – and releasing it in February (the burial ground for bad films) was a mistake.
ShmilmFather: The marketing operations didn’t do it any favors, selling it as a raunchy f**king [my edit] romp - and releasing it in February (the interment justification an eye to evil-doer films) was a misjudge.

FilmFather: He was the only good thing in 2004’s Cellular (where I first noticed him), and he’s got the looks and acting skills to play the likeable a-hole to perfection.
ShmilmFather: He was the but benefit junk in 2004’s Cellular (where I influential noticed him), and he’s got the looks and acting skills to contrivance for heyday the friendly a-hole to pre-eminence.

Oh well…I’m far enough removed from this to laugh about it now. I did send a comment to the blogger (no email address was available), informing them of their violation of my copyright – a comment they promptly deleted the next day. The offending page is still up.

July 22, 2009

Tom & Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers (2006)

IF YOU’RE A REGULAR READER, you know my thoughts on new kids’ movies based on classic cartoon characters (especially my love/hate relationship with the recent Scooby-Doo animated films).

So when Dash and I sat down to watch Tom & Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers, I did it with a healthy dollop of skepticism…

Tom and Jerry get caught between warring pirate captains (three brothers) fighting over a map that leads to buried treasure…a map that is CURSED!

Tom & Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers is a workable blend of old-school Tom & Jerry and above-average, made-for-Cartoon-Network animation. In addition, a lot of the sound and vocal effects come from the classic Tom & Jerry shorts of the ‘40s and ‘50s, which aired on TV quite frequently during my ‘70s childhood. Hearing simple things – such as Jerry skidding to a stop or Tom screaming – instantly took me back to grade school, watching classic T&J at home after class.
• Director Scott Jeralds (Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster) keeps things moving at a steady clip, which will no doubt keep the attention of both kids and adults.
• Fans of Match Game and Lidsville will get a kick out of Charles Nelson Reilly as the Red Pirate's wisecracking parrot. And Mark Hamill provides several laughs for the grownups as a floating skull and crossbones who warns Tom, Jerry, and the pirates about the fate that awaits them.

If you’re looking for a fun way to bridge the gap between the cartoons your children watch and what you watched as a kid, Tom & Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers is as good as any place to start.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
(adding .5 for nostalgia)

What did Dash think?
• He seemed to get a kick out of it; pirates are usually a sure bet with him. It was fun to watch him react to Tom and Jerry’s antics – laughing at the cat and mouse much like I did as a kid.
• Afterward, I wasn’t sure if the movie was worth saving on our TiVo playlist. Then two days later, after no mention of the movie since we watched it, he asked, “Can we save the Tom and Jerry movie until we delete?” I consider that a stamp of approval.

Will your kids want to watch it?
I would say so. Funny cat and mouse, pirate adventures, wacky hijinks…a good blend for kids, though (as I say in other kid movie reviews) you might want to keep it away from the pre-K crowd. There are a few comically intense scenes featuring a shark, a giant squid, swordplay, skeleton pirates, and the aforementioned floating skull/crossbones with glowing eyes.

Will your FilmMother like it?
She’ll probably find it watchable, and after seeing and hearing some of the old-school aspects of the movie, she may take a few mental detours to her childhood.

For those about to laugh, we salute you.

Tom & Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers
• Director: Scott Jeralds
• Screenwriter: Christopher Painter
• Stars: Mark Hamill, Kathy Najimy, Charles Nelson Reilly, Kevin Michael Richardson, Wallace Shawn
• MPAA Rating: G

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>

July 17, 2009

ffolkes (1980)

LAST DECEMBER, there was a great article by Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty about Roger Moore, where Nashawaty mentions how people his age (children of the ‘70s, including yours truly) see Moore as the James Bond. Sure, we go back and watch Sean Connery’s Bond films out of obligation, but Moore will always be 007 for our generation.

Which makes ffolkes – and Moore in the title role – so refreshing to watch…

• On the North Sea, a team of terrorists led by Lou Kramer (Anthony Perkins) hijacks the Norwegian ship Esther and two British oil platforms, Ruth and Jennifer – planting bombs on all three.
• Kramer then anchors Esther next to Jennifer and tells Jennifer’s commander his demands: The British government must pay him £25 million in five different currencies (“the money market is so unstable these days,” he quips). If he doesn’t get the money in 24 hours, he blows up Ruth. Four hours after that, he blows up Jennifer.
• The British military can’t get close to Ester, Ruth, or Jennifer without Kramer’s team getting wise, so they call on Rufus Excalibur ffolkes (Moore) – leader of an elite special-ops team who’s also an eccentric, cat-loving misogynist.

Rumor has it Moore felt he was miscast as ffolkes, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s deliciously perfect as the dapper, egocentric ffolkes, and it’s fun to watch him in a decidedly different role from his then-current James Bond gig (he shot ffolkes between Moonraker and For Your Eyes Only). He fires off commanding dialogue from a script by Jack Davies (adapting his own novel), featuring several great zingers you’ll be repeating to yourself for days.
Perkins is highly effective as head terrorist Kramer – starting as a bold, emotionless villain who slowly unravels as the standoff drags out. Veteran James Mason also appears in a supporting role as an apprehensive admiral of the British Royal Navy who goes along with ffolkes’ plan of attack.
• Some of Michael J. Lewis’ musical score is a bit overdramatic, but nothing that gets in the way of enjoying the film.

In Moore’s autobiography, he dedicates a few pages to filming ffolkes – talking about how Perkins was a walking encyclopedia of film knowledge, and relaying a funny anecdote about the film crew trying to sedate the overly frisky cats without cat-lover Mason finding out.

Bottom line: ffolkes is a unique, overlooked little gem. I highly recommend seeking it out.

aka North Sea Hijack.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Will your kids want to watch it?
I highly doubt your children have ever heard of ffolkes, but when you watch it, do so without young kids in the room. Though ffolkes is largely bloodless, people are shot, poisoned, harpooned, and thrown overboard. Also, a terrorist tries to get frisky with a female hostage.

Will your FilmMother like it?
ffolkes has more of a “guy” feel to it, and Moore’s title character is quite the he-man woman-hater. Though if she likes characters who like cats, maybe she’ll give it a chance.

That pizza should've been here by now...

• Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
• Screenwriter: Jack Davies
• Stars: Roger Moore, Anthony Perkins, James Mason, Michael Parks, David Hedison, Jack Watson
• MPAA Rating: PG

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>

July 13, 2009

Finding Nemo (2003)

I CAN’T BELIEVE I let Father’s Day pass without reviewing a movie that focused on dads, or the relationship between a dad and child.

To amend for that oversight – and to cleanse Dash and my palates of the last two lackluster kids’ films we watched (here and here) – I popped in Finding Nemo.

Overprotective, recently widowed clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks) takes his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) to his first day of school. But when Nemo rebels after yet another of Marlin’s lectures about playing it safe, he’s snatched up by a diver, who takes him away. With the help of a friendly, forgetful blue tang named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), Marlin begins the seemingly impossible quest of finding his son and bringing him home.

• Like Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo is a movie that you view much differently after becoming a parent. The film starts by playing on one of our worst fears – having one of our children be lost or abducted – then takes us on Marlin’s journey, against seemingly overwhelming odds, to bring his boy home.
• Directors Andrew Stanton (WALL-E) and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) – with a script from Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds – pack enough adventure into Nemo’s 100 minutes to fill three films. There are so many layers and sequences, with a massive amount of characters – each one fully fleshed out thanks to a cast whose voices perfectly fit their respective roles.
The underwater world of Nemo is amazing, full of rich colors and lifelike underwater movement – not just the fish themselves, but their surroundings as well.
• In addition to the main story and characters, there's an abundance of smaller treasures in Nemo that help make it such a joyful experience: The shark support group. The “tank gang.” The “Mine! Mine! Mine!” seagulls. The father-and-son, surfer-dude sea turtles (dad Crush is voiced by Stanton). The pitch-perfect score by Thomas Newman. The “heyyy, heyyy, heyyy” crabs. The school of fish impressionists (voiced by Pixar lucky charm John Ratzenberger).
And while I’m not the biggest Ellen DeGeneres fan, she is priceless as Dory – providing comic relief while dishing out the occasional pearl of wisdom.

As fathers, we each want to be a hero in our kids’ eyes; a brave, loving, and trusting protector who knows when to hold our children tight, when to loosen our grip…and when to let go (something Marlin learns on his quest to find Nemo).

For me, Finding Nemo captures that dad-as-hero ideal in the simple look of awe and admiration on Nemo’s face when the pelican Nigel (Geoffrey Rush) tells him about Marlin’s adventures. That’s the face we all want our kids to have when they look at, or even think about, their father.

By the way…if you’re a father with young kids, and you don’t get misty at least once while watching Finding Nemo, call your doctor. Something’s wrong with you.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

What did Dash think?
Dash talks a lot when we watch Finding Nemo – not out of boredom, but excitement and laughter. He always wants to share the amazing and funny moments in the film, sometimes just to make sure that I “get it.”

Will your kids want to watch it?
• The more appropriate question is, “How soon will you want your kids to watch it?” If you have young children, Finding Nemo is an absolute must-see.
• That being said, there are a few intense scenes and scary fish, and Nemo’s mommy dies in the opening segment (albeit off-screen). Use your judgment showing Nemo to the pre-K crowd.

Will your FilmMother like it?
She won’t like it; she’ll love it. Finding Nemo is a great, virtually flawless film. And even if she has seen it, it’s worth another viewing…or five.


Finding Nemo

• Directors: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
• Screenwriters: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds
• Stars: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Geoffrey Rush
• MPAA Rating: G

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>

July 8, 2009

FilmFather turns 1!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of FilmFather!

Thanks to all the readers, followers, commenters, lurkers, and
came-here-by-mistakers who have stopped by.

In lieu of gifts, please tell 5 of your friends about FilmFather. :)

July 6, 2009

Fired Up (2009)

AS A TEENAGER in the ‘80s, I grew up on the so-called “teen sex comedies” that poured out of Hollywood that decade. Most of them have been forgotten, and rightfully so. (Though I still say Porky’s, the granddaddy of them all, is a really funny film with a lesson-learning subplot involving anti-Semitism.)

Anyway, modern-day teen sex romps seem to be as quickly forgotten and dismissed as their forefathers (the increasingly devalued American Pie series notwithstanding). So did this year’s Fired Up buck the trend of tripe, or join their brethren in obscurity?

• Nick (Eric Christian Olsen) is the star quarterback and resident horndog at his high school. He and nice-guy buddy/teammate Shawn (Nicholas D'Agosto) are getting psyched about another summer at football camp in party-friendly Daytona Beach. However, their gruff, profane coach (Phillip Baker Hall) informs them that this summer’s camp is in the hot desert locale of El Paso, Texas.
• While mourning this news, the guys overhear that their cheerleading squad is heading to cheer camp in Illinois…where 300 girls from other schools will be attending. Nick then browbeats Shawn into ditching football camp and joining the cheerleading squad so they can be immersed in as many babes, boobs, and butts as humanly possible.
• After a few quick lessons from Shawn’s little sister Poppy (Juliette Goglia), Nick and Shawn bail on football camp for cheer camp. But cheer squad captain Carly (Sarah Roemer) is on to them, and plans to keep them in her sights…and at arm’s length.

• I was ready to dismiss Fired Up as another by-the-numbers teen sex comedy – to be filed under “Garbage In, Garbage Out” after a brief second life on DVD and On Demand. But I was happily surprised at how much it made me not only smile, but chuckle often and laugh out loud more than once. It has a crisp, rapid-fire delivery – relying on situations and dialogue for laughs, rather than American Pie-esque gross-out gags.
I don’t know why Fired Up didn’t do better at the box office. It’s a genuinely funny film amidst an ongoing glut of dumb, unfunny teen comedies. The marketing campaign didn’t do it any favors, selling it as a raunchy sex romp – and releasing it in February (the burial ground for bad films) was a mistake. Either way, it’s a pity.
I also don’t know why Olsen isn’t a bigger star. He was the only good thing in 2004’s Cellular (where I first noticed him), and he’s got the looks and acting skills to play the likeable a-hole to perfection.
• To use cheer competition-speak, I deduct one point from Fired Up for the inclusion of Brewster (Adhir Kalyan), a sadly over-stereotypical gay trainer at the camp.

Yes, Fired Up is predictable. Yes, you’ll root for the good guys and boo the baddies. No, it doesn’t matter. Because...

It. Is funny. It. It. Is funny.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Will your kids want to watch it?
I suspect tweens and teens will be drawn to Fired Up. Teens probably see, say, and hear what happens in Fired Up on a daily basis (except maybe for all the pompoms and human pyramids). But for tweens, use discretion: The movie’s rated PG-13, and appropriately so. A couple of examples why:
• Some crude language and sexual innuendo, though nothing a high schooler hasn’t heard before.
• Requisite T&A close-ups, though it’s pretty tame in the nudity department. Girls don’t go beyond bra and panties, while there’s one bare male butt and a sequence involving Nick and Shawn running down a street naked – cupping their manhood (manhoods? menhood?) and being forced to cheer nude with strategically placed pompoms.

Will your FilmMother like it?
As long as she's not looking for high art, then undoubtedly yes. Make Fired Up your next pick for movie/date night at home. You’ll enjoy it, and you’ll make points choosing something she’ll like as well.

"I brushed my hair with my uniform again..."

Fired Up
• Director: Will Gluck
• Screenwriter: Freedom Jones (a pseudonym for four uncredited writers)
• Stars: Eric Christian Olsen, Nicholas D'Agosto, Sarah Roemer, Molly Sims, Danneel Harris, David Walton, Philip Baker Hall
• MPAA Rating: PG-13 (crude and sexual content, partial nudity, language and some teen partying)

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>


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