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Reviews Written by
D. Mikels "It's always Happy Hour here" RSS Feed (Skunk Holler)

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Hitman (Unrated Edition)
Hitman (Unrated Edition)
DVD ~ Timothy Olyphant
Offered by Blue Moon Discounts
Price: $7.87
228 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Just For Giggles, April 4, 2014
This review is from: Hitman (Unrated Edition) (DVD)
On its face, HITMAN is preposterous. A suit-wearing, cue-ball assassin being pursued by legions of suit-wearing cue-ball assassins. . .all with bar codes on the back of their heads, as Agent 47 overcomes overwhelming odds to take down a diabolical Russian mobster and foil Interpol all at once. Yeah, pass me the vodka. Yet with a grimacing, unemotional Timothy Olyphant blasting his way through this ridiculous caper, the viewer never, not once, thinks this actor is taking himself seriously; Olyphant is having loads of fun, and he's inviting us to come along for the ride.

Accordingly Agent 47 fights: at the train station, all over a church, even in a five-star restaurant bathroom. He never sleeps, he rarely smiles, he's always two steps ahead of Interpol and his pursuers, and he's determined to protect a vagabond hooker targeted by the mob (the incredibly scrumptious Olga Kurylenko). He even relies on the CIA itself to pull his chestnuts out of the fire. The way Olyphant plays this cat, Agent 47 could read the phone book and be cool. The action is fast-paced and furious, the violence gratuitous yet oh so awesome, and the plot predictable yet supremely delightful. If you want to watch a nonsensical movie (based, of course, on a video game) that will have you do nothing more than giggle with prurient glee, pull up a chair and take in HITMAN. Now I'm wondering what Olyphant's bar code would register at Wal-Mart.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


The Hangover Part III (Two-Disc Special Edition DVD+Ultraviolet)
The Hangover Part III (Two-Disc Special Edition DVD+Ultraviolet)
DVD ~ Bradley Cooper
Price: $10.87
91 used & new from $3.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Comes Full Circle, March 26, 2014
I pulled up a chair to watch THE HANGOVER PART III with much trepidation and scant anticipation. I dreaded another more ratcheted up version of the classic original, which was basically the case for Part II. Instead, THE HANGOVER PART III has a delightfully original plot, pays subtle homage to both of its predecessors, and even brings back a couple of characters from the original that are fun to say hello to again. And even though there is an ominous undertone to this version (in the form of a threatening mobster, played by the always superb John Goodman), the Wolf Pack members demonstrate their ineptness over and over again, from getting trapped in the basement of a bad guy's mansion, to scooting down tied-together bedsheets from atop Caesar's Palace. And is it ever fun to watch.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha all return as Wolf Pack members Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug. . .and no HANGOVER version would be complete without the outrageous antics of Lesley Chow (Ken Jeong). Look for brief appearances from the original by Heather Graham (the now-reformed Jade) and Mike Epps ("Black" Doug); and Melissa McCarthy joins the cast as Cassie, a dysfunctional romantic interest for Alan. THE HANGOVER PART III gleefully blazes its own plot trail, refusing to be a copycat of its two predecessors--although the closing credits bring a brief blackout scene that promises to be--in two respects--rather jarring. And based on the demise of a giraffe, some fighting roosters, and a couple of guard dogs, this is not a movie that PETA is going to endorse. If this is indeed the end of the HANGOVER franchise, THE HANGOVER PART III is a more than worthy finale. Nice to see that Wolf Pack ride off into the sunset.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


The Great Gatsby (Two-Disc Special Edition DVD + UltraViolet)
The Great Gatsby (Two-Disc Special Edition DVD + UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Price: $10.00
94 used & new from $5.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Luhrmann Is The Star of This Show, March 21, 2014
I've never tried absinthe, never been privy to this opiate's ability to bring to its user vivid and fantastic images, sights, and sounds. Yet something tells me watching a Baz Luhrmann film is akin to drinking absinthe; I became a fan of this creative director ever since I was floored by his amazingly bizarre Moulin Rouge. And his latest offering, a provocative version of Fitzgerald's classic THE GREAT GATSBY, evokes the same sensations: vivid, brightly colored images; anachronistic music; wild party shots almost to excess; haunting sights transposing to another scene; eerie animation; and acute attention to detail. Luhrmann weaves all of these mind-altering components like an enchanted sorcerer, making his THE GREAT GATSBY one entertaining experience.

We're all familiar with the fatalistic, tragic story. And the cast does an admirable job bringing Fitzgerald's characters to life; Tobey Maguire lends credibility to Nick Carraway's initial naivete, giving way to anguish and despair; Leonardo DiCaprio keeps getting better and better, and here he doesn't disappoint as the ever-optimistic Gatsby, forever pursing that green orgiastic light; and Carey Mulligan is a pseudo weak link as pampered, indecisive Daisy Buchanan. Of the remaining cast, I especially enjoyed Joel Edgerton as the philandering jock Tom Buchanan, and the scrumptious Isla Fisher as Tom's mistreated mistress Myrtle Wilson. But again, the real star of this ensemble is Luhrmann; he brings his version of THE GREAT GATSBY to pyrotechnic life like a master craftsman. So as far as the absinthe, I'll pass. I've seen heady images, compliments of Luhrmann. That's psychedelic enough for me.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


A Winter Haunting
A Winter Haunting
by Dan Simmons
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
134 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Dogs With Human Grins, March 13, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I had no idea A WINTER HAUNTING is a quasi-sequel to the novel Summer of Night. I purchased A WINTER HAUNTING because the novel's plot looked interesting--and because Dan Simmons is one gifted writer and storyteller. English Professor Dale Stewart is, to say the least, having one whale of a midlife crisis. He's left his wife and daughters for a dalliance with one of his grad students. . .who in turn dumps him. Sleepless and in the throes of massive depression, he botches a suicide attempt. Desperately wanting to get his life back together, he takes a one year sabbatical from the University of Montana to go, against his psychiatrist's pleading wishes, to his boyhood town of Elm Haven, Illinois, to write a break-out novel. Dale hasn't been to Elm Haven in over 40 years, following that horrid summer of 1960, when his boyhood chum, Duane McBride, was killed in an unspeakable "accident". And Dale has chosen to rent the abandoned McBride farmhouse to write his novel. There's no cell phone signal, no land line, and the entire second floor has been sealed off with layers of plastic.

With a setup like that, count me in.

Here Simmons patiently sets up a story about Dale's journey into further darkness. And the author is talented enough to show us the musings between Dale's ears--a cross between fear of going insane, to self-deprecating dark humor. A laptop that turns itself on, showing cryptic messages; an old radio in the basement that's constantly playing; the county sheriff, the bully of Dale's childhood; some sneering skinheads; a pack of barrel-chested dogs surrounding the house; and a light that comes on in the sealed-off second floor--these are the ingredients that threaten to push Dale over the edge. . .if he's not there already. The ending is predictably bloody and brutal, with just one development that threatens to have the reader eye-rolling with annoyance, followed by one majestic and utterly surprising plot twist. Wonderfully written and marvelously paced, A WINTER HAUNTING is an edge-of-your seat mesmerizer.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


Now You See Me
Now You See Me
DVD ~ Jesse Eisenberg
Price: $11.99
59 used & new from $4.50

4.0 out of 5 stars "Welcome to the Eye. . .", March 3, 2014
This review is from: Now You See Me (DVD)
Nothing like a little slight of hand to stir the excitement juices. But when four magicians--aided by a mysterious and anonymous third party--come together to rob a French bank, the FBI comes calling, and the charms and outright fun of NOW YOU SEE ME come to the forefront. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher (wolf howl), and Dave Franco play the magicians; naming themselves the Four Horsemen, they rob the French bank doing a show in Las Vegas, steal all the money in their greedy benefactor's (Michael Caine) bank account in New Orleans (distributing over $140 million to the audience), and pull off the climatic show in New York by stealing a safe from a corrupt manufacturer containing half a billion dollars. All the while a debunker of magic shows (Morgan Freeman) continues to warn the FBI Agent in charge of the investigation (Mark Ruffalo) and his Interpol counterpart (Melanie Laurent) that law enforcement is being set up for the ultimate comeuppance. Yet there is a surprising (and very satisfying) plot twist showing ultimately who gets played the fool. Accordingly the four magicians join the Eye, the metaphysical level for elite practitioners where magic really is magic.

This is one fun romp. The pacing and plot and acting are all fast and furious, as the Four Horsemen are always one step ahead of their pursuers. And it's a good thing NOW YOU SEE ME gets out of the gate and moves; if it slowed down where the viewer can actually think about the plot and how the "magic" is performed, the movie would unravel in a heartbeat. Thankfully such is not the case here, making NOW YOU SEE ME a thrilling, entertaining, and very fun ride. Highly recommended.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


Mutiny on the Bounty (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Mutiny on the Bounty (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Marlon Brando
Offered by TOTAL ECLIPSE ENTERTAINMENT
Price: $10.96
100 used & new from $5.94

4.0 out of 5 stars One Fine Tale, February 24, 2014
Gable and Laughton. Brando and Howard. Hopkins and Gibson. We all have our favorite pairing of Christian and Bligh. I have few problems with any of the three--although Brando's version is the most foppish Fletcher Christian of all. (And his English accent is atrocious.) In any event, the 1962 remake of the classic tale MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY has become a classic itself--even though it was not well received back when it was released. Marlon Brando brings his own brand of roguish charm as second officer Christian; Trevor Howard portrays Captain Bligh as a sadistic, almost evil, tyrant. (His version of Bligh is easily the least likable.) We're all familiar with the tale of HMS Bounty, commissioned in 1789 to sail to Tahiti to collect breadfruit plants to feed to slaves in the British Empire. In order to reach their destination before the plant's dormant season, Bligh is ruthless with his crew, pushing them ever harder to save time and sail faster. Officers and sailors alike become disgruntled and demoralized, and Bligh's behavior draws the ire of Lt. Christian, who although he follows captain's orders is developing a disrespectful attitude (and from Bligh's perspective the disrespect is mutual). Yet the Bounty reaches Tahiti, and here the crew receives a long overdue respite, and enjoys spending time on the island--and in the arms of the gorgeous native women. Several members of the crew are sorely tempted to desert, yet none do as the Bounty, now loaded down with breadfruit plants, sets sail for Jamaica.

It is on this leg of the journey the men revolt. Because the plants need plenty of fresh water, Bligh cruelly rations it for the men, hanging the water ladle from the top mast. This is the tipping point; once a crewman weak with thirst falls to his death, Christian seizes the Bounty, placing Bligh and those still loyal to him in a schooner to be cast adrift. Christian is of course tormented by his actions, realizing the Bounty will be on the run for the rest of its days. The ship returns to Tahiti to collect natives who wish to accompany the sailors no matter where they go. An island that is coincidentally misplaced on all shipping charts by hundreds of miles is selected, and even though Christian is convinced the Bounty should return to England to plead the crew's case, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY ends quite tragically.

I enjoyed watching a very young Richard Harris play disgruntled Seaman Mills; other solid supporting roles include Hugh Griffith and Gordon Jackson. Again, Brando is charming and Howard quite evil, the cinematography often majestic, and the story timeless. If you haven't seen this 1962 version of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, you're not doing yourself any favors.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


42 (DVD+UltraViolet)
42 (DVD+UltraViolet)
DVD ~ Chadwick Boseman
Price: $7.99
109 used & new from $2.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Abolutely Inspiring, February 18, 2014
This review is from: 42 (DVD+UltraViolet) (DVD)
We're all familiar with Jackie Robinson's story, how he was the first African-American to break the "color barrier" of major league baseball, making history in 1947 as first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yet the highly inspiring film 42 takes away the nuance of such a statement and gives the viewer the stark, brutal, ugly racism that Robinson endured--not only from a skeptical public, but from his very own teammates. There are several scenes that are downright jarring, and through all the hostility it was Robinson himself who had to exercise herculean self-control. (Easily the most jarring scene takes place while Robinson is at bat and simultaneously being viciously taunted by Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman, played by Alan Tudyk.) Yet it's Robinson's playmaking abilities on the field that begin to win hearts and minds, as the Dodgers come together as a team and make their historic pennant run in the summer of 1947. So in addition to the historical ramifications 42 is also a compelling, highly entertaining sports movie.

Chadwick Boseman gives a commanding performance in the lead role, depicting Jackie Robinson as a determined, gritty professional focused on not only making the team, but succeeding at the highest level of baseball. Nicole Beharie is solid as Rachel, Jackie's always-supportive, constantly-worrying wife. Yet the cast excels by veteran actor Harrison Ford's portrayal of Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, a compassionate, yet tough-as-nails pioneer determined to bring the first black ballplayer to major league baseball. Sporting shaggy eyebrows and constantly holding a half-smoked cigar, Ford's Rickey sets the National League on its proverbial ear, and is it fun to watch. Finally, I also enjoyed Christopher Meloni as my-way-or-the-highway Dodgers manager Leo Durocher. Meloni gives his white players a spring training dress-down that had me grinning ear to ear. 42 has everything, from compelling drama to outstanding baseball action to absolute inspiration. This is a film that will have you cheering from your chair.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


Fool Moon: Book two of The Dresden Files
Fool Moon: Book two of The Dresden Files
by Jim Butcher
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $8.99
126 used & new from $1.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Dresden Is No Howler, January 31, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Werewolves. Hexenwolves. Streetwolves. Loop-garous. Who knew the full moon could bring about such multi-tiered, complicated creatures?

Yet we learn about them all in Jim Butcher's entertaining novel FOOL MOON, the second installment in the always-fun Dresden File series. Our protagonist Harry Dresden returns--the only self-proclaimed wizard in the Chicago yellow pages, mind you--to help the Chicago PD investigate a breakout of brutal murders in the city--murders that can only be caused by something inhuman. On top of that, Chicago's most corrupt mobster also is somehow involved, and the FBI has four less-than-savory agents snooping around, too. Over the course of a handful of nights during October's full moon, Harry has quite the adventure, from getting shot to being a fugitive to taking on a gang of streetwolves. . .and then taking on the ultimate night creature, a loop-garou, first at the police station, then on the very estate of the corrupt crime lord. All the while, Harry faces each peril with his unique brand of self-deprecating humor; his life might be in danger, but he'll always find a humorous lining.

Jim Butcher has scored a grand coup with this enjoyable series about a gumshoe magic man. I usually avoid series like the cholera morbus, yet the Dresden Files is a terrific exception. FOOL MOON is a light, fun, and entertaining read. You'll find yourself eagerly looking forward to the next installment of this fast-moving series.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


American Horror Story: Season 1
American Horror Story: Season 1
DVD ~ Connie Britton
Price: $24.99
24 used & new from $18.00

4.0 out of 5 stars This DVD Does Go Bump In the Night, January 17, 2014
For those of us who thought the horror genre was gone forever as serial television, AMERICAN HORROR STORY arrived to dispel that notion. Innovative and creative--with the most jarring and disturbing opening credits sequence in all of television--AMERICAN HORROR STORY is about an old Gothic mansion in LA. The house harbors dark forces so powerful that all its inhabitants succumb to terror and madness--all its inhabitants lose their lives, either at their own hands, or at the hands of others; to die in the "Murder House", as it is known to those familiar with its history, is to be eternally cursed. The ghosts of those who have died in the house are condemned to remain there forever. And the Harmon family from Boston, a troubled trio moving cross country for a much-needed fresh start, comprises the essence of the DVD collection for AMERICAN HORROR STORY - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON.

I had never seen this series when it made its original run on FX. I received this 4-disc collection as a gift, and do I ever owe the giver some heartfelt gratitude. The Harmons, psychiatrist Ben (Dylan McDermott), musician Vivien (Connie Britton), and their daughter Violet (Taissa Farmiga), definitely need a change of scenery. Ben has been unfaithful, while Vivien has just suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage. They fall in love with an old, very unique house (constructed in the Twenties), and are surprised the sale price is so low. When it's disclosed the previous owners have died in the house, they decide to take the home anyway. The home "comes" with a housekeeper (Frances Conroy/Alexandra Breckenridge) who appears as a seductress to men, and as a matronly, elderly lady to women. Headstrong next-door neighbor Constance (Jessica Lange) can't seem to stay away from the house, while troubled teen Tate (Evan Peters) becomes one of Ben's first patients, and becomes very attracted to Violet. Finally, Ben is stalked by Larry (Dennis O'Hare), a horribly disfigured man who constantly warns Ben to take his family and flee the house. This is the core cast as the series unfolds, with each succeeding episode introducing new characters--inhabitants from the past--and layer upon layer of storylines and subplots. The episodes build to one very satisfying season finale.

I mentioned AMERICAN HORROR STORY is innovative and creative. Is it ever. The writing, acting, editing (particularly the jump-editing), camera angles, and effects create a disturbing and compelling effect. This is one exceptionally-made series. However, one star off for the plot and logistical inconsistences (and they stick out like a sore thumb), nuisances that will not take away from the overall enjoyment of this series. Special features include an audio commentary of the opening episode by series co-creator Ryan Murphy, along with behind-the-scenes looks at the cast, crew, and a detailed discussion of the making of the disturbing opening credits. AMERICAN HORROR STORY - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is a must-have for all horror buffs.
--D. Mikels, Esq.


The Birds (DVD + Digital Copy)
The Birds (DVD + Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Tippi Hedren
Price: $9.68
47 used & new from $7.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Hitchcock Keeper, December 19, 2013
When I saw THE BIRDS as a boy, it terrified me. Now I watch this film and chuckle at the special effects--laughable by today's standards, but state of the art in distant 1963. Yet the entire premise of this Hitchcock classic is still daunting; what would happen if the billions of birds on this planet decided to wage war against mankind? Would we stand even the slimmest of chances? THE BIRDS suggests we would not.

Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, and Veronica Cartwright headline the cast, giving the viewer the story of a remote California town suddenly under siege by seagulls, blackbirds, and crows. The sounds of thousands of birds assaulting a fortified home--while its inhabitants tremble in abject fear--is still dramatically effective. And I've learned the lengths of cruelty Hitchcock himself went to in making this film; the scene where Hedren's character is attacked in the bedroom by birds was shot over several days, and the actress was forced to endure, hour after hour, off-camera workers throwing dozens of live birds at her. The animals really did harm her, so what you are seeing is truly real. Not exactly something an Angelina Jolie or Sandra Bullock would have to put up with this day and age, for sure. If you can get past the hokey special effects, THE BIRDS is a classic thriller recommended to all horror buffs. This Hitchcock classic is a keeper.
--D. Mikels, Esq.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2014 2:21 PM PST


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