REVIEW: MONKEY TROUBLE

CAST

Thora Birch (The Hole)
Harvey Keitel (Little Nicky)
Mimi Rogers (Ginger Snaps)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Remy Ryan (Robocop 3)
Frank Welker (Transformers)

9-year-old Eva Gregory longs for a pet to call her own, but her divorced mother, Amy, does not think she is responsible enough, as her room is a mess, and she’s completely unwilling to help out at all with her little half-brother, Jack. Also her stepfather, Tom, a police lieutenant, is allergic to fur. She can’t keep the pet at her father Peter’s house because he is a pilot and travels a lot. One day, a Capuchin monkey named Fingers runs away from his drunken master, a gypsy thief named Shorty, who had trained him to pick pockets and now blames him for Shorty’s domestic woes. He meets Eva in the park, and she names him Dodger. At home, she finds that keeping him a secret is trouble. She only allows Jack, who can’t speak yet, into her room with him.As Eva spends certain weekends with her father, one arrives. However, he leaves a phone message that he’s in Canada and can’t have her over. She takes advantage of this circumstance to have a personal weekend alone with Dodger in her father’s empty house, and hides his message from her mother and stepfather, and has her friend Katie’s mother drive her over to her father’s house. Once there, they realize that they have no food, but they manage to raise money at the nearby boardwalk with Dodger (who is secretly pickpocketing everybody) as a main attraction. At a grocery store that evening, he steals food and hides it in Eva’s backpack, but she catches him in the act and returns the stolen groceries. When she returns home, she discovers golden jewelry and wallets in her backpack that he had also stolen. So she spends the rest of the weekend teaching him not to steal.Shorty, who has been looking for Fingers all this time, finds and kidnaps him at a pet shop where Eva had left him while she was at school. Shorty discovers that the monkey won’t steal anymore. Meanwhile, Amy and Tom, who has been dealing with reports on stolen jewelry, discover more stolen property in Eva’s room. They confront her about it, and she tries to explains about her hidden monkey, but they refuse to believe her. Things get worse when Peter stops by and reveals that he had been in Canada all weekend, which reveals that Eva had lied about that time. She, already heartbroken at the disappearance of her beloved pet, is additionally upset that no one will believe her, and so she runs away to look for Dodger. She is accosted by Shorty, who is furious about her teaching Dodger not to steal. Meanwhile, Jack ends up saying his first word, “monkey”, revealing to Amy, Peter, and Tom that there really is a monkey in the house (Dodger escaped from Shorty again, shortly after Eva ran off and sneaked back into her bedroom) and that Eva had been telling them the truth. They all go out, along with Tom’s fellow police officers, to look for her. Dodger saves her and Shorty is arrested by Tom. His son, Mark, tries taking Dodger back, but fails. He ends up living with Eva, after she shows her mother that she is responsible and her stepfather discovers that he is not allergic to the fur of monkeys.A funny, feel good film, which is guaranteed to make you laugh.

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REVIEW: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (2000)

CAST

Justin Whalin (Lois & Clark)
Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie)
Jeremy Irons (Batman V Superman)
Thora Birch (American Beauty)
Bruce Payne (Highlander: Endgame)
Zoe McLellan (Inventing The Abbotts)
Kristen Wilson (Dr. Dolittle)
Lee Arenberg (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Richard O’Brien (Dark City)
Tom Baker (Doctor Who)

The Empire of Izmir has long been a divided land, ruled by the Mages, an elite group of magic users. An evil mage named Profion (Jeremy Irons) attempts to create a sceptre that allows him to control Gold Dragons. His attempt to control a captive golden dragon fails, and he is forced to kill it. The dragon bleeds into the river, causing it to catch fire, which many inhabitants notice, including a pair of thieves, Ridley (Justin Whalin) and Snails (Marlon Wayans).Later, Profion and the Council talk about the controversial views of Empress Savina (Thora Birch), who wants to give rights to non-mages in Izmir. Meanwhile, Ridley and Snails break into the magic school to steal valuables, but are caught by Marina (Zoe McLellan). She is distracted when the Library wizard is held hostage and interrogated by Profion’s henchmen, Damodar (Bruce Payne) for information on where the map to the magic sceptre that controls Red Dragons is. After refusing to talk, Damodar kills him. Marina gets the map and travels through a portal to escape, accidentally taking the thieves with her. After crashing into a pile of garbage, they meet a dwarf named Elwood (Lee Arenberg), who ends up joining Ridley, Snails and Marina escaping through the sewer.Damodar puts a price on Marina, Ridley, Snails and Elwood’s heads and, after letting Profion know that the protagonists got away, Profion creates a tentacled monster inside Damodar’s head. The protagonists hide in a tavern and read the map that Ridley and Marina get sucked into. Damodar and his henchmen attack Elwood and Snails, but they manage to get away with the map. Ridley and Marina exit the map and all decide to work together to find the sceptre. They apparently have to find a red ruby called the “Eye of the Dragon” that can open the door to a tomb where the red sceptre rests. The ruby is located in a den of thieves that is led by Xilus (Richard O’Brien) who’ll give the protagonists the “Eye of the Dragon” if Ridley solves a maze of booby traps. Ridley manages to get the “Eye of the Dragon” when Damodar arrives to capture him and his friends. Marina is captured while Ridley, Snails and Elwood escape, meeting an elf named Norda (Kristen Wilson) who works for Empress Savina and informs the Empress about Profion’s plans to get the Red Dragon sceptre. Meanwhile, Damodar interrogates Marina, using the tentacles in his head to gain her knowledge.Ridley and Snails break into the castle to rescue Marina, while Norda and Elwood stay behind. Ridley and Snails split up and Ridley finds Marina, but Snails is confronted and killed by Damodar when he throws the map to his comrades. Ridley becomes enraged at Damodar and attacks him, but Damodar disarms him and stabs him in the left shoulder with his own sword. In the confusion Marina grabs some magic dust and uses a magic portal to escape with Ridley, leaving the corpse of Snails behind. During the council meeting, Profion and Empress Savina battle over the domination of Izmir.Meanwhile, an elf (Tom Baker) heals Norda’s soldiers and Ridley, and Marina tries to help Ridley get over the death of Snails, but Ridley angrily rebukes her. After an argument in which Marina convinces Ridley that Snails didn’t die in vain, they become love interests. Ridley uses the “Eye of the Dragon” to finally get the Red Dragon sceptre, which is held by a skeleton that comes to life and warns Ridley that “anyone who wields the power of the rod shall suffer a horrible fate”, but Damodar arrives to steal the sceptre and brings it to Profion, where Ridley, Marina and Elwood follow.They travel back to the Empress’ castle where Gold dragons controlled by the Empress are battling the Mages below. Profion uses the Red Dragon sceptre to summon Red dragons, which battle the Gold dragons and slowly begin to win the fight. Ridley comes across Damodar, duels him with his new magic sword and then kills him, sending his body off the castle wall, and then, after a confrontation with Profion, Ridley destroys the sceptre and a Gold dragon eats Profion. idley later visits Snails’s grave, where Snail’s engraved name disappears, and Norda teleports Ridley to a place where “your friend awaits you”, along with herself, Marina and Elwood. This is a very much underrated film and the reasons for this escape me.The action is non-stop and the special effects really are good. Having never been into the game, I chose this film on the basis that I wanted something light, entertaining, and fun. Having watched it, it fulfilled all my criteria.

REVIEW: THE SMOKERS

CAST

Dominique Swain (Lolita)
Busy Philipps (White Chicks)
Keri Lynn Pratt (Cruel Intentions 2)
Oliver Hudson (Scream Queens)
Thora Birch (The Hole)
Nick Loeb (Precious Cargo)
Ryan Browning (Bounty Hunters)

Three rebellious teenage girls decide to even the score in the battle of the sexes. Looking back a few years after the events depicted, Jefferson Roth (who, along with her sisters are named after former presidents) tells the story of the last few months of her senior year at a Wisconsin boarding school when she and two girl friends, the naive Lisa and the outrageous Karen, conspire to use a pistol to turn the tables on males after a wealthy older man, with whom Karen had a one night stand, refuses to give her his home phone number.Image result for the smokers (2000)They stage a sexual assault on David, Lisa’s on-and-off boyfriend, in an effort to try to be more like their male counterparts. But, it backfires, as all three girls learn they are not able to have sex the way they feel a man can. Their unfaithfulness to their own objective is summed up in Karen’s words, just prior to her tragic ending, “I wish I had a boyfriend.”Image result for the smokers (2000)I really liked this film and have a hard time understanding why so many hated it. The cinematography was a bit amateurish, but the writing, directing and acting was superb. It has great insight into the young female American psyche. Male and female characters alike were portrayed with realism and complexity. Busy Philipps in particular takes on the role of incest survivor with bravery and compassion,and an understanding of the way the cycle of abuse repeats itself, left unchecked. Dominique Swain complements her performance in “Lolita” with a heightened level of understanding of the many facets of young female sexuality. I can’t help but think that most who dislike this film vehemently don’t understand young contemporary women, and don’t want to, even if they’re women themselves.Image result for the smokers (2000)

REVIEW: THE HOLE (2001)

CAST

Keira Knightley (King Arthur)
Thora Birch (American Beauty)
Desmond Harrington (Wrong Turn)
Daniel Brocklebank (The Hours)
Laurence Fox (Gosford Park)
Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness)

The film opens with the appearance of a dishevelled, blood-soaked Liz (Thora Birch), one of four private school pupils, also including Mike (Desmond Harrington), Geoff (Laurence Fox), and Frankie (Keira Knightley), who have been missing for 18 days. Liz is interviewed by a psychiatrist, Dr. Philippa Horwood (Embeth Davidtz), and describes what has happened to the four.

Liz describes how she told Martyn (Daniel Brocklebank) about her unrequited love for Mike; Martyn promised to help, as he and Liz were best friends. Martyn took his four classmates, musician’s son Mike, his best friend Geoff, Liz and popular girl Frankie to an abandoned underground nuclear fallout shelter, where they decided to stay in order to avoid a school field trip. The four students climbed into the shelter, Mike reluctantly, and Martyn locked the door shut.

When Martyn was due to release them, the locked-in students belatedly realized they were trapped and began to turn on each other. Then they discovered that Martyn had hidden microphones in the shelter. Voice-acting, Frankie pretended to be sick, while Mike and Liz pretended to hate each other because Liz had said that this was what Martyn wanted – he had been in love with Liz “since we were eleven”. The plan apparently worked, as one morning they woke up and the hatch was open. They all climbed out, and Liz described how Mike hugged her, thanking her for saving them.

However, soon after Liz finishes her story, the psychiatrist tells someone on the phone that she does not believe Liz’s story, while Liz waves happily to her from the window behind her.

Martyn has been taken into custody for questioning in regards to Liz’s story and the psychiatrist brings Liz back to her home. Martyn begins telling the police a completely different story, claiming that Liz and Frankie orchestrated the scheme, to allow Liz to get close to Mike, and Frankie to spend time with Geoff. The police are forced to release Martyn, despite their belief he is guilty, because they can find no evidence. In the meantime, Liz is experiencing flashbacks of the true events in the hole. Martyn comes to see her, angry and distraught that she has framed him. She runs from him through the garden and approaches a weir. Martyn cries, and Liz hysterically says that she knew they would let him go because they could not prove anything. She strokes his neck, but what happens next is not revealed.

At their next meeting, Liz tells the psychiatrist that she cannot remember what happened, however hard she tries. The psychiatrist is persuaded to take Liz back to the hole. Once inside, Liz reveals the truth: Liz had locked herself and her comrades in as a last-minute change to an adolescent plan to win Mike’s affection – a spontaneous response to the realization that both Geoff and Mike were attracted to Frankie and had both slept with her. Her obsession with Mike led Liz to believe that, with time, she could win him over, and that locking the door bought her time. Their sojourn in the bunker was initially meant to be a booze and drug party, but when they realized that they could not get out anymore, the mood quickly turned sour. Frankie soon ended up dead from side effects of her bulimia.

The remaining three gradually ran out of food and water. Before Liz can tell Mike that she had the key, Mike discovers that Geoff was hoarding Cola in his bag, and kills him in an uncontrollable outburst of violence by smashing his head against the concrete floor. Reduced to two, Liz suggested a suicide pact, whereupon Mike professed his love for Liz, prompting Liz to climb the ladder towards the shelter’s entrance and unlock the door. Perched on a landing high above the shelter’s floor, she told Mike she had had the key all along; she had done it all for him. Mike, overwhelmed by the events of the past few days, angrily rushed up the ladder towards her, but the ladder broke and Mike fell to his death, crushed by the broken ladder.

The film then cuts back to Liz and the psychiatrist, Liz concluding that since Mike is dead, he can never leave her. Dr. Horwood asks her to make an official statement which would corroborate Martyn’s version of events, although Liz refuses and it is revealed that Liz has murdered Martyn. The police then arrive at the bunker and Liz begins screaming for help as if the doctor was trying to hurt her. The body of Martyn is fished from the river where he had previously chased Liz and the key is found in his pocket, therefore placing guilt on Martyn and the police attribute his death to suicide. In the end, Liz is allowed to go free. The film ends with her sitting in the back of an ambulance, smiling at the doctor, which turns into a somewhat sinister look.The casting is superb. Every actor/actress suits his/her part exactly. The suspense is also particularly good at many points. On the whole, if you’re looking for a chilling look into the human psyche, this is a great film

 

REVIEW: GHOST WORLD

 

 

CAST

Thora Birch (The Hole)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Steve Buscemi (Fargo)
Illeana Douglas (Ugly Betty)
Brad Renfro (Apt Pupil)
Stacey Travis (Easy A)
Dave Sheridan (Scary Movie)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Rini Bell (Road Trip)
T.J. Thyne (Bones)
David Cross (Scary Movie 2)
Diane Salinger (Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue)

Best friends Enid and Rebecca face the summer after their high school graduation. The girls are social outcasts, but Rebecca is more popular with boys than Enid. Enid’s diploma is withheld on the condition that she attend a remedial art class. Even though she is a talented artist, her art teacher, Roberta (Illeana Douglas), believes that art must be socially meaningful and dismisses Enid’s sketches as nothing more than “light entertainment.”

The girls see a personal ad in which a lonely, middle-aged man named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) asks a woman he met recently to contact him. Enid makes a prank phone call to Seymour, pretending to be the woman and inviting him to meet her at a diner. The two girls and their friend, Josh (Brad Renfro), secretly watch Seymour at the diner and make fun of him. Enid soon begins to feel sympathy for Seymour, and a few days later the girls follow him to his apartment building. They find him selling vintage records in a garage sale. Enid buys an old blues album from him, and they become friends. She decides to try and find women for him to date.

Enid has meanwhile been attending her remedial art class, and she persuades Seymour to lend her an old poster depicting a grotesquely caricatured black man, which was once used as a promotional tool by Coon Chicken Inn, the fried chicken franchise now known as “Cook’s Chicken”, where Seymour works in a managerial position. Enid presents the poster in class as a social comment about racism, and Roberta is so impressed with the concept that she offers Enid a scholarship to an art college.

Seymour receives a phone call from Dana (Stacey Travis), the intended recipient of his personal ad. Enid encourages him to pursue a relationship with Dana, but she becomes unexpectedly jealous when he does so.

Enid and Rebecca’s lives start to diverge. While Enid has been spending time with Seymour, Rebecca has found a job at a coffee shop and has become more interested in clothing, boys and other typically traditional teenage obsessions. Enid also finds herself a job so she can afford to rent an apartment with Rebecca, but she is fired after only one day. The girls argue, and Rebecca abandons the idea of living with Enid.
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At the end of the summer, Enid and Seymour’s lives fall apart. When Enid’s poster is displayed in an art show, school officials find it so offensive they force Roberta to give her a failing grade and revoke the scholarship. Enid turns to Seymour for solace, resulting in a drunken one-night stand. Seymour breaks up with Dana, and is called to account at work when the Coon Chicken poster is publicized in a local newspaper. He unsuccessfully tries to contact Enid, only for Rebecca to tell him about Enid’s prank phone call, describing the way the trio mocked him at the diner. Seymour is understandably upset and ends up confronting Josh. Seymour is injured while doing so and is hospitalized. Enid visits Seymour in an effort to apologize, causing him to realize that he has no chance of any kind of future with her.
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Enid gives in to her childhood fantasy of running away from home and disappearing. Throughout the film, she has seen an old man named Norman (Charles C. Stevenson Jr.), who waits at an out-of-service bus stop for a bus that will never come. Enid sits next to him, and Norman boards an out-of-service bus. The next day, while Seymour discusses the summer’s events with his therapist, Enid returns to the bus stop and boards the out-of-service bus when it arrives.

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This is a really enjoyable film. Focusing its attentions upon the young person’s search for identity,the perpetuation/cessation of teen-angst malaise and the fear of conventionality, this is a proverbial hoot. A cracking, well-structured script infectiously and sympathetically portrays an early, formative rites-of-passage tale with infectious and engaging humor.

REVIEW: AMERICAN BEAUTY

CAST
Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns)
Annette Bening (The Siege)
Thora Birch (The Hole)
Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games)
Mena Suvari (American Pie)
Chris Cooper (Red Dawn)
Allison Janney (Mom)
Peter Gallagher (Mr. Deeds)
Scott Bakula (Chuck)
Sam Robards (A.I.)
John Cho (Sleepy Hollow)
Lester Burnham is a middle-aged magazine writer and advertising executive who despises his job. His wife, Carolyn, is an ambitious real estate broker; their sixteen-year-old daughter, Jane, abhors her parents and has low self-esteem. The Burnhams’ new neighbors are retired United States Marine Corps Colonel Frank Fitts and his introverted wife, Barbara. Their teenage son, Ricky, obsessively films his surroundings with a camcorder, collecting hundreds of recordings on video tapes in his bedroom. His job as a part-time bar caterer serves as a front for his secret marijuana dealing. Col. Fitts is a strict disciplinarian, and had previously sent Ricky to a military school and briefly committed him to a psychiatric hospital. Jim Olmeyer and Jim Berkley, a gay couple who live nearby, welcome the family to the neighborhood; the homophobic Col. Fitts angrily asks Ricky “why these faggots have to rub it in”.
Lester becomes fixated with Jane’s vain cheerleader friend, Angela Hayes, after seeing her perform a half-time dance routine at a high school basketball game. He starts having sexual fantasies about Angela, in which red rose petals are a recurring motif. Carolyn begins an affair with her business rival, Buddy Kane. When Lester’s boss and efficiency expert Brad tells him that he is to be laid off, Lester instead blackmails him for $60,000 and quits his job. Lester takes a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant, trades in his Toyota Camry for his dream car, a 1970 Pontiac Firebird, and starts working out after he overhears Angela tell Jane that she would find him sexually attractive if he got in shape. He begins smoking marijuana supplied by Ricky, and flirts with Angela whenever she visits Jane. The girls’ friendship wanes after Jane becomes involved with Ricky. Jane and Ricky bond over what Ricky considers the most beautiful imagery he has filmed: a plastic bag being blown in the wind.
Lester discovers Carolyn’s infidelity, but reacts indifferently. Buddy ends the affair, fearing an expensive divorce. Col. Fitts becomes suspicious of Lester and Ricky’s friendship when he finds his son’s footage of Lester lifting weights while nude, which Ricky captured by chance, leading him to believe that Ricky is gay. After spying on Ricky and Lester through Lester’s garage window, the colonel mistakenly concludes the pair are sexually involved. He later confronts and beats Ricky for the affair and accuses him of being gay. Ricky falsely admits the charges and goads his father into kicking him out of their home. Carolyn is sitting in her car in the rain, she takes a gun out of the glove box while a voice on the radio talks about not being a victim. Ricky goes to Jane’s bedroom, finding her arguing with Angela about Angela’s flirtation with Lester. Ricky convinces Jane to flee with him to New York City and assures Angela that she is ugly, boring and ordinary.
Col. Fitts confronts Lester and attempts to kiss him; Lester rebuffs the colonel, who tearfully flees. Carolyn puts the gun in her handbag shouting “I refuse to be a victim!” Lester finds a distraught Angela sitting alone in the dark; she asks him to tell her she is beautiful. He does, and he begins to seduce her.
Carolyn drives through the rain, rehearsing a confession to Lester. As Lester strokes Angela she admits that she is a virgin, and Lester changes his mind. He instead comforts her and the pair bond over their shared frustrations. Angela goes to the bathroom and Lester smiles at a family photograph in his kitchen. An unseen figure raises a gun to the back of his head, a gunshot sounds and blood sprays on the wall. Ricky and Jane find Lester’s body, while Carolyn breaks down crying in the closet. A bloodied Col. Fitts returns home, where a gun is shown to be missing from his collection. Lester’s closing narration describes meaningful experiences during his life; he says that, despite his death, he is happy because there is so much beauty in the world.
American Beauty is a pure cinematic triumph that is both funny and sad. It’s disturbing… and yet, it’s extremely provocative and deep. The film is an extraordinary achievement that reveals a tragic and realistic story about a family that is anything but ordinary. It’s a film with so many layers that it is almost impossible to dissect them all in one single thought.