Redemption of the Mad Monster Party at 23:59 – A Whole Lotta Meh

Just a quick mention of some things I’ve watched recently on Netflix that fit no particular category.

Mad Monster Party

 

Mad Monster Party (1967) – Not rated

Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller lend their vocal talents to this bizarre stop-motion animated parody of horror films. Dr. Frankenstein makes plans for his retirement and convenes a meeting of all monsters to announce his replacement. As word spreads that the doctor is going to choose his young nephew for the position, the visiting creatures plot a coup d’état that would leave Dr. Frankenstein retired … permanently.

A movie featuring all of the classic Universal monsters (Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Werewolf, The Creature, and The Invisible Man)? Yes, please. Mad Monster Party also featured one of the performances by Boris Karloff that I had yet to hear. Top all of that off with this feature being the precursor to the beloved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and you have quite the winning formula.

Sadly it all comes out half-baked. Boris Karloff is not in much of the film but the egregious sin is that even at a scant hour and a half, this is terribly boring and overstays its welcome. The other voices are grating as Allen Swift does most of them, giving one a fake Peter Lorre, another a fake Sydney Greenstreet, and the main character a terrible Jimmy Stewart impression.

All in all, Mad Monster Party comes across as an extended (over-extended) tech demo.

23:59 (2011) – Rated R

When an army recruit is found dead during a routine march at exactly 23:59, his fellow soldiers are forced to confront the terrifying secret that’s haunting their jungle island training camp.

Normally I like Asian horror movies but this one is rather generic. There isn’t much in the way of horrific imagery and nothing about this was memorable. Add in that you’ll have to read subtitles throughout and I really can’t recommend it.

Redemption (2013) – Rated R

Back home after a harrowing tour in Afghanistan and haunted by his dark past, veteran Joey Jones takes on an assumed identity and tries to atone. But when his pregnant girlfriend is murdered, he must risk stepping into the light to get revenge.”

I like Jason Statham. I really do. Unfortunately, he has been in only a few really good films. He is the new Charles Bronson (in more ways than one as Statham played Arthur Bishop in The Mechanic, a remake of one of Bronson’s best films).

Sadly, Redemption, like so many other Statham movies, is just meh. Redemption is a change of pace but it is still an incredibly cliched, by-the-numbers picture. Statham at least gets to stretch by playing, at various points, a Special Forces operative, a hobo, an enforcer, and an avenging angel.

This is not Statham’s Redemption.

Still More November Netflix Goodies

The hits keep coming on instant Netflix

Only God Forgives

Action: Only God Forgives, Caravans

Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist, Kaze No Stigma, Ouran High School Host Club, Rosario + Vampire, Soul Eater

Comedy: Dealin’ With Idiots, Frances Ha, The Joneses, A Russell Peters Christmas, Fun Size, Joan Rivers: Don’t Start With Me

Documentary: Let’s Make Money, Buffalo Girls, Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, Into the Cold: A Journey to the Soul, Tomorrow Will Be Better, An African Election, The Atomic States of America, Burn, Gypsy Davy, Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You

Drama: In the Fog, All She Can, I am Not a Hipster

Family: Teen Beach Movie

A Hijacking

Foreign: A Hijacking, Barbara, Satyagraha, Dragon Knight, Augustine, The Last Tycoon

Grabbers

Horror: Grabbers

Television: Exploding Sun, Max Steel and new seasons of Sister Wives and Undercover Boss

Thriller: Stalker, The American

Alamo Drafthouse

I love the Alamo Drafthouse. I have never been but how can you not love a theater that takes movies this seriously. My sister-in-law currently resides in Austin and regularly attends. My youngest daughter has been there and the other week my wife went out to visit and caught Captain Phillips.

Alamo Drafthouse

 

She brought me home the monthly in-house magazine, Birth. Movies. Death.

Birth. Movies. Death.

 

Apparently November is Tough Ladies Month. Girlie Night will feature Nine to Five. Aliens will be shown in a 70mm print. They will have a Pulp Fiction quote-along (with a Jackrabbit Slim’s dance off). They will also feature Bonnie and Clyde, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Gilda, Fargo, The Lady Eve, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and To Kill a Mockingbird. All this in addition to showing first-run movies.

They also have Afternoon Tea! – “Your ticket to the screening includes a delicious plate of British sweets and savories plus three courses of premium organic tea provided by Austin’s own Zhi Tea!”. This month’s Tea feature is Elizabeth.

They have so many special features that if I lived in Austin, I would just arrange for my check to be direct deposited into their account. On the other hand it’s hard to hold a job if you never leave the theater. Oh except working at the theater. I wonder if Alamo is hiring?

Thor: The Dark World

Thor Dark World

 

My long-suffering wife took me to Thor: The Dark World over the weekend. We had a lot of fun although the movie was definitely a mixed bag.

* Reducing Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) from a scientist to a love-sick stalker/catalyst who is only defined by her man

* Way too many lasers and spaceships

* A rather bland villain and enemies

On the other hand, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are not only nice to look at but have good chemistry, Rene Russo gets a nice action scene, Kat Dennings provides some nice comic relief (though the best laugh by far was from a star cameo).

As with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World is fun but not a good movie.

Be aware that there are two after-credits scenes a la The Avengers. Also if you go to the 3D version, you get a five-minute preview of Captain America.

While we were there, we got the Thor “plastic combo” – 2 large sodas in plastic cups and a large popcorn in a plastic bucket. I love this combo at Epic and try to collect each one they put out. The cups are a nice quality heavy plastic.

ThorDarkWorldpopcorn

 

ThorDarkWorldcups

 

Also one final note on Dumas week: I forgot to mention that Thor is currently showing on Netflix. While Thor is not based on Dumas’ works, it is clear that The Three Musketeers was an inspiration for The Warriors Three (Volstagg, Fandral the Dashing, and Hogun the Grim), a fixture in Thor since the late 60s.

The Return of the Musketeers – A Botched Reunion?

The Return of the Musketeers is the last of the Dumas adaptations on instant Netflix.

Return of the Musketeers

The Return of the Musketeers (1989) – Rated PG

With the British crown hanging in the balance, D’Artagnan (Michael York) implores his band of long-retired Musketeers — Porthos (Frank Finlay), Aramis (Richard Chamberlain) and Athos (Oliver Reed) — to join him for another adventure. Much has changed since Milady de Winter’s death 20 years ago, while other things are eerily similar: For one thing, Milady’s daughter (Kim Cattrall) seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps.

One Line Review: They do indeed return but somewhat worse for wear.

Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers (1973) is one of the finest swashbucklers ever made, exceeded only by Lester’s The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge. This assumes one counts them as separate films even though they were filmed simultaneously. Both films strode the fine line between comedy and drama masterfully. Both films feature incredible swordplay, fantastic characters, great laughs, and high drama.

One of the biggest challenges to any Three Musketeers adaptation is making each musketeer distinctive. This is where The Musketeer failed dismally. Expanding the adaptation to two films allows the characters room to breathe. D’Artagnon (Michael York) is young, impressionable, and brash. Aramis (Richard Chamberlain) is studying for the priesthood but has a soft spot for the ladies. Porthos (Frank Finlay) is narcissistic, a vain and self-important man but still a loyal friend. Athos (Oliver Reed) is a drunk with a tragic past.

Return of the Musketeers (1989) re-unites the cast, writer (George MacDonald Fraser), and director (Richard Lester). Not only do you have the same actors playing the musketeers but Geraldine Chaplin reprises her role as the Queen and Roy Kinnear as D’Artagnon’s manservant and comic foil Planchet. Even Christopher Lee returns as Rochefort which is odd to say the least.

Kim Cattrall plays Justine de Winter. While young and attractive, she is no Faye Dunaway. Phillippe Noiret is Cardinal Mazarin, not only is he no Charlton Heston but the musketeers even bemoan the loss of Cardinal Richeliu at one point. C. Thomas Howell plays Raoul. Jean-Pierre Cassel has a lot of fun as Cyrano de Bergerac.

With the first two films being absolute classics, what went wrong here? Just about everything. The story was based on Dumas’ Twenty Years Later so historically Cardinal Richeliu could not appear. The director Richard Lester was sick for most of the production. The leading lady dropped out and was replaced by Kim Cattrall.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Spanish crew misunderstood Lester’s directions and the result was that actor Roy Kinnear (Planchet) had a horse accident, breaking his pelvis. Taken to the hospital, he died of a heart attack the next day. Richard Chamberlain (Aramis) quit the film over the incident and Richard Lester essentially stopped directing afterwards.

The upshot of this was that Planchet’s role is mostly shot from behind with a stunt double and a voice actor dubbing in the lines. Aramis’ role is considerably shortened (almost a cameo). The roles of Cyrano de Bergerac, Cardinal Mazarin and the Duke of Beaufort are all dubbed by British actors.

The Return of the Musketeers is still enjoyable but it is very choppy and the timing isn’t right on many of the scenes. There are no incredible setpieces as in the Three Musketeers (the laundry swordfight, the convent swordfight) and The Four Musketeers (the swordfight on ice, breakfast at the bastion). The comedy is also strained.

I think what it most reminds me of is The Expendables. Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, Jet Li, and Statham have all been in great action films. The Expendables itself isn’t great but it evokes a certain nostalgia and it is nice to see all those icons in one film.

People Watch: Michael York would actually reprise his role as D’Artagnon one more time in The Lady Musketeer (2004) though no one else returns.

Revenge of the Musketeers in the Iron Mask

Here are some more Dumas adaptations on instant Netflix.

 

Revenge of the Musketeers

Revenge of the Musketeers (1994) – Rated R

Raised in a nunnery, Eloise (Sophie Marceau), the daughter of D’Artagnan, discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king of France. Leaving the cloister, she enlists the aid of her father and his retired Musketeer cohorts to stop the conspirators. Pulse-pounding sword fights and tons of treachery follow as Eloise and the Musketeers fight for their lives and the honor of their king.”

With a title of Revenge of the Musketeers, you might think this a rather dark adaptation of the Dumas classic. While the Mother Superior is killed almost immediately, while protecting a slave, the mood here is not dark. The actual translation of the title would be The Daughter of D’Artagnon which is certainly more fitting. Speaking of translations, this is in French with subtitles.

There is a great moment halfway through the film when Sophie Marceau kills her first guard and you can see in her eyes that swordfighting has ceased being a game. The second half of the film shifts the focus from Eloise D’Artagnon to the Musketeers. The fights are well-staged and humorous.

I have to say I’m baffled as D’Artagnon was much younger than the Three Musketeers and yet he appears to be the one who aged as he is now a decade older than they. Other than that (and the subtitles if those bother you), this is an enjoyable romp. Sophie Marceau is quite good as Eloise. Phillippe Noiret is excellent as an aging D’Artagnon.

 

Iron Mask

The Iron Mask (1929) – Not rated

In this lavish sequel to The Three Musketeers, dashing D’Artagnan (Douglas Fairbanks) reunites comrades Athos (Leon Bary), Porthos (Tiny Sandford) and Aramis (Gino Corrado) to undertake the rescue of Louis XIV (William Bakewell), rightful king of France, who is locked away and forced to wear an iron mask. The musketeers must thwart the murderous machinations of Count De Rochefort (Ullrich Haupt) in Douglas Fairbanks’s silent-film swan song.”

Douglas Fairbanks’ final role in silent films allowed him to repeat a past success. He played D’Artagnon in The Three Musketeers back in 1921 and here again assays the role of the ultimate swashbuckler. He is great, very physical as always, though The Mark of Zorro is probably his best work.

Be aware that this is a black and white silent film. The acting, while of that era, is quite good. The Iron Mask is an enjoyable romp.

People Watch: Nigel de Brulier played Cardinal Richeliu in 1921’s The Three Musketeers (also starring Douglas Fairbanks as D’Artagnon). He repeats the performance here. Apparently he was so popular that he again played Richeliu in The Three Musketeers (1935) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1939).

 

More New November Netflix Titles

Some more streaming goodies courtesy of Netflix.

Olympus Has Fallen

Action/Adventure: Olympus Has Fallen, Another Zero in the System, Dead Man Down, Skyfall, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Anime: Heaven’s Lost Property

Comedy: The English Teacher, Slightly Single in L.A., Computer Chess, Frank Skinner: Stand-Up, Grumpy Old Women Live, Russell Kane: Smokescreens and Castles, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors, InAPPropriate Comedy, Robot & Frank, Craig Shoemaker: Daditude

Documentary: Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel, Tar Creek, Ping Pong, Until They Are Home

Flight

Drama: Flight, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, The Lifeguard, Last Keepers, What Maisie Knew

Family: Top Cat the Movie, Lego Marvel Maximum Overload, Super Buddies

Fantasy & Science Fiction: The Host (2013), Europa Report

Foreign: Blancanieves, Aliyah, The Perfect Stranger, Veronica, City Under Siege, Better Mus’ Come

Sharknado

Horror: Sharknado, Zombie Massacre

Television: That 70s Show, The Devils Ride, My Hope America, and a new season of Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries

3 Musketeers, The Three Musketeers, Musketeers Forever – Alexandre Dumas week

3 Musketeers, The Three Musketeers (2004), and Musketeers Forever (1998) are currently available on instant Netflix.

3 Musketeers

3 Musketeers (2011) – Not rated

Unlike the big-screen swashbuckler of the same name, this B-movie takes a modern twist as NSA agent Alexandra D’Artagnan rounds up three famous spies to foil an assassination plot on the president of the United States.”

Tagline – “All for one. Guns for all.”

This starts with “The Asylum Presents”. Nothing more need be said. There was a credit for Line Producer. I think that is what Asylum calls a director as their movies are simply assembly line productions.

I could take an entire review detailing what is wrong with the first fifteen minutes of this movie. For example Aramis has a gun trained on a character. She then high kicks the character before shooting them twice. Just avoid this typical piece of Asylum garbage.

Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers (2004) – Rated G

In Disney’s take on the Alexander Dumas tale, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy want nothing more than to perform brave deeds on behalf of Queen Minnie, but they’re stymied by the head Musketeer, Pete, who secretly wants to get rid of the queen.”

Okay look at the photo – that tells you all you need to know. My granddaughter Dorothy enjoyed it. This is not really much of a Three Musketeers adaptation but better than the one from Asylum certainly.

Musketeers Forever (1998) – Not rated

A group of ex-secret agents open a jazz club in Las Vegas. One of them falls in love with a Native American and finds out that the local Reserve is threatened by the greed of a powerful gangster. So, like three modern musketeers, they start to act.”

Ouch! The film opens with a poker scene done in close-ups with an ear-splitting, nails on chalkboard score. When Ben O’Connor (Lee Majors!) wins a bunch of money, he throws all the chips in the air with the camera focusing tightly on that shot.

We then cut to a scene with Irina (Sylvie Varakine) and her companion, involved in a shady deal with two other characters. Irina places herself between the two characters (something no one would ever do). She hits the one in front of her and the one behind pulls a gun. She turns around, pulls a gun, grabs his gun with other hand, and after pausing, kills him. Please note this is not done with any particular artistry or skill.

We have a very brief obligatory nude scene and then there’s the fixing up the club we just bought montage. Every one of the first few scenes screams low-budget, direct-to-video and that’s all before we are even introduced to D’Artagnon (Michael Dudikoff).

This is just really bad. They try to shoehorn various Musketeer references in even though only D’Artagnon is named after the Dumas classic.

The Musketeer – Alexandre Dumas week

Time for Alexandre Dumas’ most enduring creation, The Three Musketeers.

Sadly Richard Lester’s definitive version from 1973 is not available. Neither is the 1948 version starring Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, and Vincent Price. Heck even the groan inducing (though Oliver Platt made a good Porthos) Disney version from 1993 is missing.

The Musketeer is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Musketeer

The Musketeer (2001) – PG-13

In this rollicking adaptation of the Alexander Dumas classic “The Three Musketeers,” young D’Artagnan seeks to join the legendary musketeer brigade and avenge his father’s death — but finds that the group has disbanded.

“We’re drunks, not fools.

One Line Review: The tagline “As You’ve Never Seen It” is a warning, not a boast.

Well I suppose there is some truth in advertising. Don’t expect this to be about the three musketeers – it really is all about D’Artagnon. The movie is doubly miscast. Aramis is really Athos but that’s okay because the three musketeers are just window dressing. Most of the part the musketeers played is handled by Planchet, D’Artagnon’s manservant. Count Rochefort is present but his character traits are actually given to the mysterious Man in Black, including his eye patch. Constance Bonacieux is renamed Francesca Bonacieux.

The three musketeers don’t hold a candle to young and somehow incredibly experienced D’Artagnon. Honestly, after seeing D’Artagnon in action, the Three Musketeers look incompetent. They even, embarrassingly, come to D’Artagnon proverbial hats-in-hand for aid. D’Artagnon turns them down of course because this is his film, until he needs aid in the final act.

The man in black believes himself more powerful and wiser than Cardinal Richeliu. He threatens the Queen and Captain Treville. He is so evil that he kills his own men (one of my least favorite tropes). The plot is so eye-rollingly ludicrous that I am still suffering from whiplash. All of this is before the final act, which I assure you is far worse though shall remain spoiler-free.

The fights are the only real reason to watch this. There is a lot of good fight choreography but if we don’t care about the characters (and we don’t) then it all seems rather pointless. Costuming and set design are quite nice but go somewhat unappreciated. The acting is wooden pretty much across the board including stars who know better like Mena Suvari. Stephen Rea and Catherine Deneuve are wasted here. Tim Roth is entertaining but does not have much to do and his character is essentially a transplanted Bond villain.

Very mild spoiler alert: The climactic battle is completely ripped off from an episode of Xena and actually makes no logistical sense. I will say though that it makes more sense than the scene immediately preceding it where a character has a choice of two weapons.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas week

While he only contributed two works to film, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas’ creations have been filmed over and over. The Man in the Iron Mask is also his but is an extension of The Three Musketeers.

There have been dozens of filmed versions from 1908 to 2002 but the only two versions of The Count of Monte Cristo that are currently available on instant Netflix are TV series.

Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo (1998) – Not rated

Gérard Depardieu stars as the French sailor Edmond Dantes in this faithful adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’s classic adventure tale. Wrongly imprisoned in the formidable Château d’If for 18 years, Dantes learns of buried treasure from a fellow inmate.

This 1998 French television production adapts Dumas’ classic work over a six hour period yet fails to understand what made the novel work. While I don’t typically discuss spoilers, this series does not stay with the book ending thus undermining quite a bit of the story.

Revenge

Revenge (2011-2) – Rated TV-PG

“Inspired by Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, this modern-day drama follows a lovely young woman who moves to the Hamptons and charms the pants off her new neighbors — while plotting their downfall for sins committed against her family.

Revenge absolutely begins with a Monte Cristo template, albeit one where the daughter of the wrongfully imprisoned man inherits wealth beyond imagining and plots revenge. The first half of the first season is brilliant. This being a television series, the writers have set up far more people compliant in the wrongful imprisoning, i.e. villains/victims, than were in The Count of Monte Cristo.

The show has an excellent focus but loses its way halfway into the first season. It recovers well by the end of season but the second season just adds contrivance after contrivance and it is no longer a story of revenge but a soap opera. Performances are interesting and Madeleine Stowe is fabulous.