A Christmas Carol (2009)

Charles Dickens is one of those authors that I can not remember a time where I wasn’t reading some version of one of his “big four” novels: A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and A Christmas Carol.  Given my addictive trends to subjects that I like, it is no surprise that I always found time to watch the various versions of Scrooge’s tale.  One of the earliest versions I remember watching was with Rich Little, who played all of the characters.  I also remember the Henry-Winkler made-for-TV version, An American Christmas Carol.  Of course most of us are familiar with Bill Murray’s comedic vehicle, Scrooged.  About the only version I haven’t seen is the Patrick-Stewart version from 1999.

Now, I usually have a strict policy about not doing Christmas-based stuff prior to December 12-15.  It annoys me that stores and others start pushing it in October and November.  I am always amused that Mom will call me Scrooge whenever I voice this opinion.  It’s not a case of hating Christmas; I just want it to be the same month.

Back to our story…

After leaving EPCOT where I was enjoying the final weekend of the Food and Wine Festival, I realized I had time to catch a late movie at a theater where I had 3 free passes.  So after grabbing my ticket for the 3-D spectacle, I grabbed some concessions and headed to my seat.  Now, I understand that if I go to a “family-friendly” movie in the afternoon or early evening, that I will more than likely have kids in the audience and must have tolerance for them.  After I settled in a mostly-empty theater, three LOUD families walked in and took the seats surrounding me.  First off, what parent thinks that taking under-5-year-olds to ANY movie at 10:30 at night is a good idea? Then you had the teenagers answering and talking on cellphones — yet I get the dirty looks for telling the kid to hang up the phone.  It may take a village to raise a child, but don’t glare at me if you are irresponsible as a parent in teaching your kids manners in a theater and I step in.  Just be glad I didn’t ask the usher to kick you and your family out.


The movie continues Robert Zemckis’s grand experiment with MoCap (Motion Capture); one he started with The Polar Express.  Jim Carrey is our Scrooge this time around, and is supported by Colin Firth, Carey Elwes, and Gary Oldman.  I love the look of the movie; Zemckis did a great job of capturing Victorian England.  The casting was excellent and the animators did a tremendous job in disguising the fact that the same actor was playing multiple roles (although I still flash-backed at times to the Rich Little special).  This was an improvement over The Polar Express, where audience members were sometimes disturbed by the “creepiness” of the multiple Tom Hanks.

My main criticism is one for animated movies coming out lately.  I love the offering of 2-D and 3-D options; and, for the most part, the 3-D has actually enhanced the movies.  What I am getting annoyed with is the inclusion of scenes that are there purely for 3-D purposes; had it been a strict 2-D movie, much of the scene would have been cut.

My advice:  Don’t be a Scrooge — see it at full price and enjoy it with the family….


I am not a big fan of the horror flick.  I love thrillers and mysteries, but the “blood and gore”/slasher genre has never interested me.  If I end up seeing a movie in that genre, it is because I am with friends that wanted to see it.  Every once in a while I will see one without influence from friends.  After finishing second in the Orlando Shakes poker tournament, I was not ready to head home.  So I stopped by AMC Altamonte to see what was playing – I had two choices:  Zombieland and This Is It.  I chose the zombie flick – Spaldy is having a heart attack somewhere.  I grab a drink and get to my seat as the previews are wrapping up.

Zombieland shows a world overcome with the zombie virus.  Columbus (played by the guy from Adventureland) describes how we got to this state and how he survives via his list of rules.  As we follow him, we meet up with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), who loves killing zombies and is on a quest for a Twinkie.  Along the way, a couple of girls meet our heroes and make fools of them.  It is good to see Abigail Breslin trying different roles as she grows up from Little miss Sunshine.  Fun and mayhem fill the screen and our eyes over the next 90 minutes as we follow the crew on the quest to find something “normal”.

Woody Harrelson is a perfect choice for his role.  This is probably my favorite role of his since Cheers, and appears to signal a resurgence of his movie career with two more movies due out soon.  There is a brilliant guest appearance from a comedy legend that I refuse to reveal here.  the legend has more screentime than a cameo role and helps remind us that this movie is a comedy at heart.

The gore is most prevalent at the beginning; afterwards it is scaled back some.  There are a couple of points where I am reminded of Woody in Natural Born Killers, and of a scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation.  I liked the visual choice of how the rules are presented to the audience – very cool look.

My advice:  Check it out for some decent comedy and a good, simple story – guess this means I will have to watch Shaun of the Dead….

Beverly Hills Cop 3

With any Halloween marathon, you need at least one scary movie; thus we have the final chapter of the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy.  Cop 3 came out 7 years after Cop 2 and eliminated half of the original cast.  The story has Murphy tracking down his boss’s killer to LA and invading a theme park.

I get what they were trying to do from a broad perspective: BHC showed a cop just starting out and making rash decisions; Cop 2 showed some maturity in some of the actions; and Cop 3 would show how he had fully matured and could lead a whole team.  Unfortunately, Eddie Murphy was no longer believable as Axel Foley.  BHC gave him an “everyman” look that matched his character; however the looks in 2 and 3 have shown an actor enjoying success when his character shouldn’t be that slick.  Combine this with jokes that do not work and yet another new director and it becomes painfully obvious that what made BHC work was a combo of director, cast, writer, and producers that needed to remain the same.  You can tell that Paramount does not think much of 3 either since there is only one featurette.  I did think it was interesting that the interviewees knew they had a shaky product based on their answers.

There is a rumor that Cop 4 is being shopped around/developed.  I hope this rumor is false.  Paramount needs to let the series remain “finished” and be satisfied with one great classic.

My advice:  See it only if you are bored or want to do your own comparison – if you hate it, you can’t say I didn’t warn you….

Beverly Hills Cop 2

Continuing my Halloween marathon, next up is Beverly Hills Cop 2.  Of course it was a no-brainer for Paramount to greenlight a sequel when the first one made $250 – 300 million.  The one big difference was the change in directors from Martin Brest to Tony Scott.  After watching the first movie and the interviews, I am in firm belief that BHC would have not performed as well with a different director. Tony Scott was coming off of Top Gun, another smash for Paramount.

Cop 2 finds Eddie Murphy heading back to Beverly Hills to investigate the shooting of one of his buddies from the first movie.  Again, the story is fairly straight-forward with no twists.  Unfortunately, it also lacks the depth the first movie had, as well as some of the comedy.  In the DVD interviews, even Tony Scott admits that he was looking to film a straight-up action movie versus a comedy with action.  It is these choices that create a movie that does not completely live up to fan expectations.  As a matter of fact, I still remember the conversation in AP Calculus that I had with Mike Harvey where he blasted the movie for phoning it in and turning out a “piece of crap” compared to the first one.  While I did not enjoy it as much as the first one, I felt it was still decent enough entertainment.

Similar to the BHC DVD, this disc featured interviews and a trailer.

My advice:  decent enough to watch, but I would not choose it over the first…

Beverly Hills Cop

I was listening to the “Best of” show yesterday for The Monsters in the Morning and the topic centered on comedic movies that could stand the test of time.  It made me think back to a discussion I had with Robert atSmart Guys Computers earlier in the week where we brought up Beverly Hills Cop.  So, I decided to spend Halloween watching the entire series.

For those unfamiliar with the movie, Eddie Murphy plays a Detroit cop who has a high school buddy gunned down in his apartment.  From there, Murphy pursues the case to Beverly Hills and its inevitable resolution.  No real twists were incorporated into the story; the story focused more on character development and comedic moments.

Along with 48 Hours and Trading Places, BHC is considered the genesis of Eddie Murphy’s movie career.  Interestingly enough, while he was the first choice of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, Murphy was not Paramount’s first choice.  The studio wanted Sylvester Stallone and had actually begun working with him on revising the script to better suit him.  Martin Brest, the director, finally made the studio see that the movie was moving too far from the original vision of “cop-out-of-water” idea.  Stallone agreed to step aside, and eventually made the movie Cobra based on some of the work he had done on BHC.  Paramount agreed to bring in Murphy and the rest is history.

The other notable feature of this movie is the soundtrack.  Harold Faltermeyer is responsible for one of the most recognizable movie themes, Axel F.  The way the theme is interlaced with the action helps balance the tone between action/mystery and comedy.  With songs from Glen Frey, The Pointer Sisters, and Patti LaBelle, the soundtrack became one of the most sought-after albums of 1984.

The DVD I have is part of a 3-disc collection that Paramount released for the whole series.  I liked the amount of interviews contained on the disc, which became the source of some of the info you have just read.  The audio is the standard 5.1 mix and the original trailer is also included.

My advice: grab a copy of this DVD and see a comedy/action movie that holds up 25 years later – In the words of Axel Foley, “Trust me….HEH HEH HEH”