Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Robert's Movie Review of the Week: "The Nutty Professor" (1963) by Robert Steven Mack

People in the past have described screen legend Jerry Lewis as “the human ape” or “a child who drank one too many Shirley Temples.” Others derided him as just plain silly. Similarly my mother, Diana, was reluctant to see Jerry Lewis’s classic slapstick comedy The Nutty Professor, which he directed and co-wrote until it was confirmed that the film was not a Martin-Lewis combination. It has now become one of her favorite films!

Was Jerry Lewis misjudged? I believe he was. Jerry Lewis is often referred to as a clown, yet it takes a genius to make a film such as this! The Nutty Professor is about a shy, timid, accident-prone college professor who invents a magic potion that turns him into the very opposite: a sort of Jimmy Dean parody. His “cool dude” goal is to win the hand of senior student Stella Perdy. Under the cover, this Jekle-and-Hyde parody covers a number of issues, such as perception and reality.

Lewis did this film as carefully as possible, showing details of society as well as using wit to make us laugh. The Nutty Professor is different from the Martin-Lewis movies. Whereas in the Martin-Lewis films has comedy, slapstick, and an abundance of chaos, Lewis created a sort of serious 1960’s comedy. It reminds me of Groundhog Day - which received the same rating I gave this film. Why is this movie so different? The Nutty Professor was released in 1963, seven years since Martin and Lewis split up. According to my research, Jerry Lewis split up with Martin when critics started claiming that Jerry Lewis was the real talent and that anyone could replace Dean Martin’s straight man role, back in the early 50’s. Lewis vehemently denied that any of this was true and often said in interviews that he could not have made success without Martin. Hollywood or Bust (1956) would prove to be their last film together when the pressure got too hard on Martin and the two got into a damaging fight. And so with that, the great comedy team of Martin and Lewis, a partnership that had gone from their first performance in 1946 in a dusty night club, to the glammer of film, radio, and television.
The Nutty Professor would not be the first that Jerry Lewis would do alone, but it is probably the most remembered. The great comedian is still alive and well for he just completed a voice-over work for the direct-to-video film Curious George 2: Follow that Monkey!(which was released on March 2, 1010). Another film in which he is set to star in is Max Rose,where he is set to play the title character in the film. The Nutty Professor franchise includes a 1996 remake of the original film with the same title starring Eddie Murphy, and a sequel to the remake also starring Eddie Murphy, titled The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. Interestingly, both Eddie Murphy films were produced by Jerry Lewis.

The pure magic Jerry Lewis is fully displayed in this funny, sexy, hilarious Jekle-Hyde parody that can be shared and enjoyed by friends and family for generations to come!

Movie ratings on scale from 1-100: Robert Steven Mack – 99/100

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack

Monday, March 22, 2010

Robert's Book Pick of the Week: "Lunch Money" by Andrew Clements

Do you like to read a witty book with humor and basaise..a book that has great writing and well-developed characters? Perhaps written by a great author like Andrew Clements? If that is what you are looking for, then "Lunch Money" is the book for you! The moment I saw it in the stores, I knew that this was a good book. It had a plot summary that grabbed me; and when a plot grabs me, there is only one thing that I can do: Buy it!

"Lunch Money" is the story of a talented young sixth-grader by the name Greg Kenton. A born business man, Greg has always been able to come up with profitable ideas to make money. Becoming a family bank at that, Greg has come up with his hottest idea yet: Chucky Comic Co. Greg came up with the billiant idea to sell his own comics at school for 25 cents each. Trouble arises when long time business rival and competitor, the equally talented Mara Shaw, starts selling comics of her own. But the two must soon get over their long-time competition to become partners in business when the school tries to ban the selling of their comic books. It is showdown time between Chunky Comics Co. v.s. the School District - a battle of the minds!

"Lunch Money" is an exciting book that can be read by everyone: from business men and business women, to comic book lovers to kids just wanting to sit down and read a good book!

book rating from scale 0-100: Robert Steven Mack: 100/100

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack

Robert's Movie Pick of the Week: "Finian's Rainbow" (1968) - Irish Delight

It was Dick Van Dyke who was to play Finian in the musical adapted from the 1948 Broadway hit “Finian’s Rainbow.” Warner Bros. had purchased the rights to the film back in the early 1950's. Yet, for whatever reason, the studio had never gotten around to this.

That is to say, until 1968! The film was set for release sometime in 1968 and to be directed by 29 year-old Francis Ford Coppula. It was to star Tommy Steele, Petula Clark - who would make her film debute in America- and Dick Van Dyke. However, when the deal with agile Dick Van Dyke fell through, Warner Bros. replaced him with a true Hollywood icon and legend: the one and only, now 69-year-old Fred Astaire! Some people derisively say that Astaire took the role just to cure his arthritis, but I think he took the role because it was the perfect role for him.

The story follows an Irish rogue and his daughter who come to Rainbow Valley in Kentucky right next to Fort Knocks. The man comes to the free world with a dream and a pot of gold! Trouble arises from the ground when a greedy and racist senator detects gold on the land and starts causing 13-shamrock trouble! The film deals with a number of problems such as racism and prejudice and the impact they have on society. Age, on the other hand, does not matter in screen legend Fred Astaire's case in the film for he sings, he dances, and does it extremely well. The only difference from the young Fred Astaire and the old Fred Astaire is that he wears a worn-out hat instead of a topper, a ruddy old cardigan instead of black tails, and instead of a white tie he wears an old scarf that he drapes warmly around his shoulder. This is still Fred Astaire!

With Fred Astaire as Finian, Petula Clark as Finian's daughter Sharon, Tommy Steele as Og, the Leprecon, Don Franks as Sharon’s lover Woody Mahoney, Barbara Hancocks as Susan the Silent and the classic Disney villain, Keenan Wynne as the senator, this film is a sure Irish delight! As this was Fred Astaire's last musical, I think the role he played in this funny and witty musical was just the kind of role he wanted to play. Fred Astaire’s last musical was one of the greatest musicals of its time!

movie rating on scale of 0-100: Robert Steven Mack - 98/100

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack

Monday, March 15, 2010

Robert's Special Movie Pick of the Week: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

In a previous book review I commented on the similarities between Percy Jackson’s “The Lightning Thief” and Harry Potter. Since then, I have seen the film adaptation of the children’s novel "The Lightning Thief" and feel I have to explain my initial reasoning. First, Percy Jackson was directed by Chris Columbus, coincidentally also director of the first two Harry Potter films. Hence, I had my suspicions and prejudices that Percy Jackson was to be just another Harry Potter. Also, since the Harry Potter film series will be ended in 2011 (release year of the final HP film), the film series could be seen as a sort of replacement for the audience, yet in competition for viewers. Moreover, Chris Columbus might have seen as being given a second chance at directing a super-natural fantasy film. Indeed, director Chris Columbus stated in an interview that the actors were chosen with sequels in mind.

True or not, when I went to see the film, I was in for a big surprise! Instead of a cookie-cutter Harry Potter from the cupboard, Percy Jackson in the movie was a teenager in High school! Overall, it almost seems as if Chris Columbus created the opposite of his two Harry Potter films: Whereas in the two Harry Potter films, the story is driven more by the characters and the acting, this was not the case in Percy Jackson. Indeed, the plot could have been more developed and the characters could have been better introduced to the viewer. Instead, the movie dives right into the plot. For the reader who has not read the book nor watched the movie, I would like to point out that Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter films are notable for there closer-to-the book approach. Indeed, some Harry Potter movie critics disliked that very fact. In Percy Jackson, on the other hand, there are a number of notable changes in the adaptation from book to film. For example, Percy Jackson's age was changed from age twelve in the book to eighteen in the movie. Another significant change is that in the book it is not until Percy gets to Camp-Half Blood that it is known that PJ is the son of Poseidon. In the movie adaptation, however, it is known from the start that he has this rare demi-god position. I wonder why Chris Columbus chose these changes? Were they purposeful changes to make a point or were they economic necessities?

Whatever you may think of all the above, the visual effects in the movie were truly amazing. While the characters were quite undeveloped, the visual effects seem almost to drive the story! One of the most memorable scenes in the movie was the scene at the Lotus Casino in Las Vegas. Here, thousands of people are seen amusing themselves and playing endless video games that seduce with the charm of luxury. People never wake up because they are eating drugged lotos flowers, half voluntarily and half under pressure. It is scary because they never really know what year it is. It might be a description of some part of American society. In other words, that scene may be more powerful than it was meant to be. On the other hand, if the films crew did intend to capture it, years from now it shall be viewed by scholars and preserved as a historical treasure! I and some fellow viewers also thought that the depiction of the Hollywood sign as “Gateway to Hell” was an interesting way to show Hollywood hopefuls what they are in for! In conclusion, I think that viewers of the first two Harry Potter films will find a certain magic from "Sorcerer's Stone" and "Chamber of Secrets" missing. However, “The Lighting Thief” must be viewed in a different light with qualities of its own. My mother, Diana, called “The Lightning Thief” a “disturbingly good” movie and asked to refrain from rating it until she has seen it a second time.

I can recommend this movie to you. It is an action-packed, humorous and unforgettable film that will be enjoyed for generations to come!

ratings on scale from 0-100: Robert Steven Mack: 96/100, Alex Mack: 95/100, Peter T.: 96/100, Jayne T.: 83/100, Diana Mack: pending a second review; average rating: 92.5/100 (but Diana Mack's rating is pending)

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack (with special thanks to my editor Diana Mack)

Robert's Movie-Pick of the Week: Walt Disney's Aladdin (1992)

My theory on the essential characteristics of a truly enjoyable movie is a well-balanced amount of comedy, romance, and action.
The 1992 Disney production of Aladdin has all these elements which make it a joyous comedy-adventure film for the whole family! After years of seeing previews of Aladdin on other Disney DVD's and VHS's, I happily acquired the film at a local library sale for 50 cents only!

In this adaptation of Aladdin, our hero is nothing more than a “worthless peasant,” longing for riches and royalty. Meanwhile, Princess Jasmine of Arabagh, bored in her golden cage, longs for a life of adventure outside the castle walls. One day, while escaping from her palace life, her Highness runs into a peasant of the streets, a thief to boot, who steals for survival. It is, of course, none other than the one and only Aladdin himself and accompanied by his pet monkey Abu. Naturally, it is love at first sight – with all the problems that this unfortunate condition brings…

Once Aladdin discovers that his love interest is the Princess, he is bewildered that the one he fell in love with is royalty. While he longs for her hand, and she longs for his, they both know that they are star-crossed lovers: a princess can only marry royalty and not some worthless street urchin. Alas! Meanwhile, an evil sorcerer named Jafar, royal advisor to the sultan plans to overthrow the government and become Sultan himself. He tries to achieve this with the help of a magic lamp in a Cave of Riches. However, only a man worthy enough, best described as a “diamond in the rough” may enter this wondrous cave. Java knows that this diamond in the rough is no one other than Aladdin! Jafa subsequently tricks Aladdin into going into the cave and get the magic lamp for Jafar. Fortunately, Jafar's plan goes wrong and Aladdin gets to meet the Genie inside the lamp! The rest is history…

While watching the climax of the film, I wondered about how the sequence would look with live action visual effects. I very much enjoyed the comical elements in the movie. Most of the film’s comedy comes from Aladdin’s wise cracking Genie (voiced by Robin Williams). Nevertheless other characters also share a portion of comic relief which casts away the traditionally comic “flatness” from the movie. That is to say, in similar animated films where there are jokes only on one character, and this can sometimes bring a certain flatness to the film.

In any event, the film is a humorous tale of adventure, mystery, and forbidden love that is sure to enchant the whole entire family!

movie rating on scale of 1-100: Robert Steven Mack - 99/100

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Robert's Book-Pick of the Week: A Spy in the White House - Capital Mysteries #4 by Ron Roy

I have always liked books by Ron Roy, and this book is no exception:

A U.S. president is always on the news, and there is always someone in the world speaking about the Leader of the Free World.

In “A Spy in the White House”, our president is soon to be married to an ordinary citizen about to embark into her historic role as the First Lady in the White House. That is exactly what is about to happen to youth-detective K.C. Corcoran’s mother. As you can imagine news reporters, photographers, and television networks from around the world crowd the president buzzing him questions faster than he can answer them. They ask him questions from A-Z (pun intended), and the president is trying to answer their questions as best he can. However, when a reporter asks the future first-couple where they will be spending the honeymoon, the president refuses to answer on account of privacy. Yet, when the story appears in the newspaper the very next morning -along with the thousand of questions that were asked - the secret location of their honeymoon is revealed. It is feared that there is a security gap in the White House. K.C’s best friend Marshall Li surmises that a bug was planted somewhere in the private chambers of the White House. Mysteriously, nothing was to be found! As the investigation proceeds, K.C. and Marshall question the news reporter who asked the president this personal question as well as printed the answer about the honeymoon location in the paper. The reporter claims that she got that piece of unauthorized information from an anonymous man with a scratchy voice over the phone.

Now it is up to K.C. and her best friend Marshall to find the mystery man. Although this roller-coaster mystery book by Ron Roy is no Hitchcock thriller, it will keep you in suspense of the answer until the very end. Ron Roy did a fine job in writing another enjoyable novel. The characters are well-developed, the story is very intriguing coupled with superb writing. It is a book that can be enjoyed by children of all ages.

ratings on a scale of 1-100: Robert Steven Mack 96/100

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Robert's Book-Pick of the Week: The Hardy Boys' Casefiles - Witness to Murder

If it were up to me, and me alone, to name the 15 greatest mystery series of all time, I can only say that The Hardy Boys would be very near the top!

I first started reading The Hardy Boys when I was 9 years old. Encouraged by the fact that the first books were written in 1927 - for I am a fan of old works of art -and by the fact that my father, Alex Mack, had also been intrigued by this fascinating group of mind-boggling mystery stories, I loved them! I have collected and read the first twenty-five books up to date. Surprisingly little did I know until recently that the stories were actually changed between 1959 and 1974. For example, they shortened the books from 25 chapters to 20 chapters. In addition, the editors also eliminated certain points at racism, such as the term “negro” were also altered. Despite the fact that I was not reading the original versions of the books, I was happy with what I had! Later I heard of the 1980's books. At first, I was reluctant to read the newer, 1980's books on The Hardy Boys for fear that they would not be as good. Yet, as I started researching the series, I found out that there was a whole new world of Hardy Boys mysteries out there! In fact,there was also series for younger children plus the most recent series The Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers. I started to become more and more curious what they were like. But my mind was still not made up.

One day, however, while I was at the library book and film sale and fishing for good deals, I came across two books from The Hardy Boys: The Casefiles mystery series. I had read of this series in my research. It was the series started in the 1980's and dealt with first-degree murder and international espionage. It was a lot more violent than the original series. I decided to buy them along with the other good deals I liked. The two books that I bought were Casefiles#4: The Lazarus Plot and #20: Witness To Murder.

I decided to read Witness to Murder first. I read it none-stop with my eyes literally glued to the page: In this story, 17 year old Joe Hardy has been down ever since the death of his girl friend,Lola Morton, was killed by a terrorist bomb intended for Joe and his 18 year old brother Frank. This is until now, for he falls in love again. A love affair that leads to disastrous results. He falls in love with Annie Shea, the pretty new girl in town, who ran away from her jealous ex-boy friend who died when he was hit accidentally by a car when he and Annie were physically fighting in the parking lot of a mall. Responding to Annie's cries for help, Joe drove to Annie’s plea for help only to be accused of manslaughter. While Joe is out on bail, word comes in that Annie's late ex-boy friend was part of a million-dollar diamond robbery. And Annie too! While Joe continues to deny that Annie could be part of a diamond robbery, Frank who did not like her and was suspicious of Annie from the very beginning, investigates the case more closely.

This was my first Hardy Boy Casefiles book, and I liked it tremendously! I felt like this book gave better detail of the characters than the 1959 series. For instance, you see Joe struggling with his emotions with the shocking death of Lola. Also, he fights with Frank who is suspicious of Annie. With a Shocking ending, this book is among my favorite books. As all Hardy Boys books are!

Book ratings on scale from 1/100: Robert Steven Mack: 100

Copyright 2010 by Robert Steven Mack (with special thanks to my mother Diana and father Alex for letting me stay up late)