25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ELF

CAST
Will Ferrell (Anchorman)
James Caan (Misery)
Bob Newhart (The Big Bang Theory)
Edward Asner (The Crazy Ones)
Mary Steenburgen (The Proposal)
Zooey Deschanel (New Girl)
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)
Andy Richter (Semi-Pro)
Amy Sedaris (Puss In Boots)
Michael Lerner (Kingdom Hospital)
Kyle Gass (The Cable Guy)
Artie Lange (Old School)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Michael Roberds (The NEw Addams Family)
Mark Acheson (Alone In The Dark)
Robin Mossley (Staragte SG.1)
Matt Walsh (Ted)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
One Christmas Eve, during a stop at an orphanage, a baby boy, captivated by the sight of a teddy bear, crawls into Santa Claus’s (Ed Asner) sack of toys. Santa unknowingly takes the boy back to the North Pole, and when discovered, is named Buddy because of his “Little Buddy” branded diaper. Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) volunteers to raise him. Buddy (Will Ferrell) grows up at the North Pole and is unaware of his humanity. Papa Elf makes him his apprentice and explains that he repairs the “Kringle 3000, 500 Reindeer-Power” jet engine on Santa’s sleigh, which he invented in the 1960’s when the Christmas spirit that powers the sleigh started declining after people started to stop believing in Santa Claus, forcing him to build the engine to assist Santa. Due to his being a human in an environment designed for the North Pole elves, Buddy is uncomfortably bigger than the elves, and is unable to use the items utilized by them. His toy making skills are comparatively inferior and he is unable to keep up with the elves’ high quotas, and despite the elves’ assurances that he’s just “special”, is demoted to a demeaning job testing toys. While working, he overhears a conversation in which one of the elves mentions that Buddy is in fact a human. Papa Elf reveals that Buddy was born to Walter Hobbs (James Caan) and Susan Wells and given up for adoption, and that Walter never knew of his existence. He explains how Susan later died and that Walter now works at a children’s book company in New York City. Buddy is convinced by Leon the Snowman (Leon Redbone) to go to New York to find his father. Prior to leaving, Santa informs him that his father, Walter, is on the naughty list due to his greed and selfishness. This is a huge shock and upset to Buddy.
Upon arriving in New York City, Buddy fails to comprehend several aspects of the human world, crossing the street at the wrong time, chewing discarded gum from a subway banister (despite Santa’s warning), and taking a coffee shop’s claim to have the “world’s best cup of coffee” literally and running inside to congratulate them. Eventually, he finds his father in his office in the Empire State Building. Walter initially lets him in, thinking Buddy is sending him a Christmas gram but when Buddy tells him about Susan Wells, an incredulous Walter has him removed by security. Taking the guards’ sarcastic advice, Buddy goes to Gimbels, where the manager (Faizon Love), mistakes him for a store employee. In the store’s Santa Land, Buddy sees Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a Gimbels employee to whom he is instantly attracted. Upon learning that Santa will be arriving the next day, Buddy sneaks into the store after hours and spends the night giving Santa Land a makeover, complete with Lego models, pillow stuffing as snow, fancy decorations, and a giant LED sign.
When the store Santa (Artie Lange) arrives, Buddy is shocked to discover that it is not the real Santa Claus, and the two have a destructive brawl after Buddy rips off the man’s fake beard to expose him as an impostor. As a result, Buddy is banned from the store and sentenced to 24 hours in jail. Walter gets a call from the police and, after reluctantly bailing Buddy out, takes him to a pediatrician (Jon Favreau) for a DNA test, which confirms that Buddy is Walter’s biological son. Although Walter is still incredulous seeing Buddy as insane, he is pressured by the doctor into taking him home to meet his stepmother, Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and 12-year-old half-brother Michael (Daniel Tay). Walter and Michael are put off by Buddy’s childlike behavior (such as slathering his spaghetti in maple syrup and M&Ms and not seeming to understand that neither of them are interested in playing with him), but Emily insists that they take care of him until he “recovers”.
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Buddy eventually befriends Michael after single-handedly helping him defeat a gang of bullies in a snowball fight, and Michael encourages Buddy to ask Jovie out. Meanwhile, Walter learns from his boss Mr. Greenway (Michael Lerner) that his company is failing after publishing the flop “The Puppy and the Pigeon” with two missing pages, after Walter had refused to reprint the book citing the high cost of doing so. His boss said that the next big pitch for a next book idea will be taking place on Christmas Eve and expects Walter to be there or he will be fired. Although not wanting to, he accepts. The next day, after some pressure from Emily, Walter reluctantly takes Buddy to work with him and sends him down to the mailroom so he cannot be disturbed. However, he accidentally becomes drunk after mistaking a co-worker’s whiskey for syrup and throws an outrageous party, which causes the mailroom supervisor to interrupt a phone conversation between Walter and best-selling children’s author Miles Finch (Peter Dinklage), whom Walter wants to hire in order to save his company.
Buddy goes on a date with Jovie and manages to win her over with his child-like personality. Meanwhile, Miles Finch arrives at Walter’s company and begins to share some of his suggestions for book covers, but Buddy interrupts the meeting to tell his dad about his newfound love and believes the vertically challenged Finch to be an elf. Miles brushes it off at first, but becomes increasingly annoyed with Buddy’s attempts to find out how he had managed to leave Santa’s Workshop, to which Buddy remarks that Miles is an “angry elf”. Finch loses his temper and attacks Buddy before storming out, despite Walter’s attempt to explain Buddy’s misunderstanding. Furious that the one chance of saving his company has been ruined, Walter yells at Buddy, saying even though he is his son, he wants him out of his life. Deeply saddened and hurt, Buddy returns home and, after writing a message on an etch-a-sketch apologizing for ruining everyone’s lives, leaves Walter’s apartment.
Back at the office, Walter’s associates reveal a notebook Finch left behind in the conference room. Discovering that it is filled with excellent ideas for children’s books, Walter excitedly tells them to get a storyboard ready. Meanwhile, Michael finds Buddy’s note, and bursts in on Walter’s meeting with Greenway to frantically tell him that Buddy is gone. After Michael points out that Walter seems to care more about himself than his family, Walter asks Greenway to reschedule, but when he callously refuses, Walter and Michael tell him “up yours” before leaving. As a result, Greenway fires Walter. Buddy, while lamenting his situation, sees Santa’s sleigh crash in Central Park, which attracts the attention of various news stations, the NYPD, and fellow New Yorkers. When Buddy finds Santa, he explains that the sleigh’s engine had broken off, and that the last bit of Christmas spirit which powers the sleigh has faded as well. Walter apologizes for having hurt Buddy and accepts him as his son. Buddy then takes them to meet Santa, who reveals to them that believing in him can make his sleigh fly. Getting an idea, Michael steals Santa’s list and reads it in front of the TV cameras set up outside the park so that people all over New York City can believe in him, while the Central Park Rangers, who never forgave Santa for putting them on the naughty list, chase his sleigh as Buddy tries to reattach the engine.
Jovie, who was in the crowd after seeing the events on TV, manages to overcome her shyness and gets the sleigh back in the air by the power of Christmas spirit when she leads the crowd of people in singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” on live TV, recalling Buddy’s statement; “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” However, Santa is still unable to fully power the sleigh. Walter, who was mouthing the words, is convinced by Michael to overcome his lack of Christmas spirit and starts singing for real. This allows the sleigh to fly higher without the engine, as the Christmas Spirit has been restored. The TV cameras are unable to capture Santa’s sleigh as the news lady is in shock, so the world’s collective Christmas Spirit is safe. By the next Christmas, Walter has started his own publishing company with the first best-selling book released titled Elf, an account of Buddy’s adventures written and illustrated by Buddy himself. Sometime later, Buddy and Jovie have a daughter named Susie, named after Buddy’s now-deceased biological mother. During the film’s closure, the family visits Papa Elf at the North Pole.A wonderful family film, this is one the most delighful Christmas films ever made!

REVIEW: MYSTERY MEN

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Hank Azaria (Godzilla)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park 3)
Janeane Garofalo (Wet Hot American Summer)
Kel Mitchell (Kenan & Kel)
Wes Studi (Avatar)
Greg Kinnear (A Few Good Men)
Paul Reubens (Gotham)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speach)
Lena Olin (Alias)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Artie Lange (Rescue Me)
Claire Forlani (Mallrats)
Tom Waits (The Book of Eli)
Gerry Becker (Angel)
Monet Mazur (rageing Angels)
Marie Matiko (Xena)
Dane Cook (Good Luck Chuck)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Ricky Jay (Flashforward)
Ned Bellamy (Terminator: Tscc)
Michael Chieffo (Roswell)
Sung Kang (Fast & Furious)
Stacey Travis (Ghost World)
Jack Plotnick (Z Nation)
Dana Gould (The Simpsons)

In the metropolis of Champion City, the would-be superhero team of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Shoveler (William H. Macy), and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) attempt to make a name for themselves, but their suspect skills make them ineffective, and they find themselves upstaged by the city’s most successful superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). However, Amazing is finding that his effectiveness at fighting crime has practically made his job obsolete, and without any worthy adversaries remaining (some of them are either dead, in exile, or still in jail), his corporate sponsors are beginning to pull their funding. To create a need for himself, Amazing uses his alter ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, to argue for the release of insane supervillain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush). The plan backfires; once reunited with Tony P (Eddie Izzard) and his Disco Boys, Casanova Frankenstein blows up the insane asylum, captures Amazing, and prepares to unleash a doomsday device: the “Psycho-frakulator”, which lethally bends reality. Mr. Furious, while spying on Casanova Frankenstein’s mansion, discovers Amazing’s capture and informs the others.

After an unsuccessful rescue attempt, the three realize they need more allies, and through word-of-mouth and try-outs, they recruit Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), the Spleen (Paul Reubens), and the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo). The newly formed team “assaults” Casanova, which only succeeds in annoying him and damaging his car. While drunk from celebrating their victory, the team is nearly killed in retaliation by Tony P and the Disco Boys, but they are saved at the last minute by the Sphinx (Wes Studi). The Sphinx trains them, but his methods annoy Mr. Furious – he has them complete rote team-building exercises and speaks exclusively in Chiasmus. They also seek out mad scientist Doc Heller (Tom Waits), who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, to equip them for their battle.
Mystery Men (1999)
The group breaks into Casanova’s mansion during a gathering of several of the city’s gangs; but, while attempting to free Captain Amazing, they inadvertently set off the Psycho-frakulator, killing him instead. Without Amazing, the team despairs of saving the city, but the Shoveler delivers a pep-talk that succeeds in uniting and inspiring them.
Mystery Men (1999)
With new-found purpose, they assault the mansion and, by making effective use of their negligible superpowers and Heller’s weapons, manage to subdue most of Casanova Frankenstein’s henchmen. Unfortunately, as the heroes approach Casanova Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious’ girlfriend Monica (Claire Forlani) hostage, and proceeds to activate the Psycho-frakulator, which begins to wreak havoc upon the city. While the team tries to stop the device, Mr. Furious takes on Casanova Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Casanova Frankenstein, who is thrown into the core of the Psycho-frakulator and killed by its reality-bending powers. The rest of the team helps The Bowler use her bowling ball to destroy the device and escape the mansion as it implodes.
Mystery Men (1999)
The team is interviewed by reporters, begging to know their team name. As they argue among themselves, one reporter states “Well, whatever you may call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these ‘Mystery Men’,” but the others are too busy arguing to hear it.

Mystery Men (1999)

The casting is perfect. Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, William H. Macy as the Shoveler, Paul Reubens as the Spleen, Janeane Garofalo as the Bowler, Hank Azaria as the Blue Raja, Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy and Wes Studi as the Sphinx. They all played it straight, which was what sold it given that they’re really ridiculous characters and made you feel for these guys and cheer them on as they bumbled their way through their adventure.  It’s just simply fun.

REVIEW: OLD SCHOOL

CAST
Luke Wilson (My Super Ex-Girlfriend)
Will Ferrell (Elf)
Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers)
Jeremy Piven (The Kingdom)
Ellen Pompeo (Catch Me If You Can)
Juliette Lewis (Some Girl)
Leah Remini (The King of Queens)
Perrey Reeves (Childs Play 3)
Craig Kilborn (Cursed)
Elisha Cuthbert (The Girl Next Door)
Seann William Scott (American Pie)
Sarah Shahi (Alias)
Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost
Matt Walsh (Ted)
Artie Lange (Elf)
Patrick Fischler (Happy!)
Harve Presnell (Lois & Clark)
Bryan Callen (The Hangover)
Snoop Dogg (Training Day)
Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies)
Patrick J. Adams (Suits)
Andy Dick (Road Trip)
Attorney Mitch Martin (Luke Wilson) breaks up with his girlfriend when he accidentally discovers that she takes part in orgies. Mitch encounters his high school crush, Nicole (Ellen Pompeo), at the wedding of his friend Frank (Will Ferrell) and makes an awkward impression. Later, he finds a house located near the campus of the fictional Harrison University in New York.
Mitch’s other friend Bernard (Vince Vaughn) throws a party at Mitch’s house, dubbed Mitch-A-Palooza, which is a huge success. Frank gets drunk at the party and is seen streaking by his wife, putting a strain on their new marriage. The trio run into an old acquaintance whom they used to ridicule at school: Gordon Pritchard (Jeremy Piven), who is now the College “Dean”. He informs them that they must vacate because Mitch’s house has been designated exclusively for campus housing. Bernard proposes starting a fraternity that is open to anyone to meet the Dean’s criteria of campus housing. The new fraternity carries out several hazing events throughout campus, attracting the attention of the Dean and other members of the faculty.
Nicole brings her boyfriend Mark to the party for one of Bernard’s children and Mitch walks in on him in the bathroom while he was hooking up with a girl from the catering firm. While initially discreet, Mitch is forced to recount the entire incident to Nicole when Mark tries to lie that the girl was with Mitch instead of himself. The oldest fraternity member, Blue, has a heart attack, collapses, and dies during a “KY lube wrestling” match with two good-looking college girls at his birthday celebration. At Blue’s funeral, Frank’s wife says she wants a divorce, forcing Frank to live with Mitch. Plotting revenge against the group, Dean Pritchard bribes the Student Council President, Megan Huang, until she agrees to revoke the fraternity’s charter. Megan, who lost her virginity at one of their parties to her new boyfriend, initially remains loyal to the Fraternity until the Dean bribes her with promises to help her get into Columbia Law School. By video, he claims that the group is violating university policies subjecting the students in the non-sanctioned fraternity to expulsion. Mitch finds out that the group has the right to bypass the Dean’s ruling if all of their members complete activities that include academic tests, public debates and athletics to prove their legitimacy.
Frank is able to defeat James Carville in a debate over the government’s role in biotechnology. Next, the fraternity successfully navigates their way through a difficult academic exam largely due to the assistance of two of Mitch’s co-workers, who help the guys cheat. In the school spirit evaluation, the Fraternity loses points when Frank unsuccessfully attempts to jump through a ring of fire while dressed as the school mascot. Badly burned and humiliated, Frank rallies to give a strong performance in the floor exercise routine of the gymnastics competition. Bernard manages to complete the rings routine, leaving only the vault exercise remaining. Pritchard chooses Weensie, an obese member of the fraternity, to perform the vault. Amazingly, Weensie executes a perfect landing, allowing the Fraternity to pass gymnastics.
Luke Wilson and Elisha Cuthbert in Old School (2003)
The men are able to complete all of the activities successfully with an 84% average. However, Pritchard tells them that their average has dropped to a failing 58% after accounting for the absence of the deceased member Blue. While the students are in despair, Megan arrives with tape recorded evidence of the Dean’s bribery. After a chase, Frank obtains the tape and uses it to get the Dean fired. The fraternity’s charter is reinstated and the fraternity moves into Dean Pritchard’s old house.
Nicole visits Mitch, intent on moving their relationship forward. Despite Bernard and Mitch withdrawing from the fraternity, Frank maintains his ties as leader. In the closing credits, Mark’s car falls on top of Pritchard and explodes, killing both, and Frank hooks up with Mitch’s ex-girlfriend.
Fun from beginning to end, Old School will not win any awards for dramatic scenes or cinematography. But it will win a lot of points as an outright hilarious comedy.  Old School is a classic cult comedy fulfilling the dreams of countless former college fraternity members who ache to relive the greatest party days of their lives. Because it’s so funny, Old School is a definite must-see film.