May 21, 2018

Willow.


Review #1085: Willow.

Cast: 
Warwick Davis (Willow Ufgood), Val Kilmer (Madmartigan), Joanne Whalley (Sorsha), Jean Marsh (Queen Bavmorda), Patricia Hayes (Fin Raziel), Billy Barty (The High Aldwin), Pat Roach (General Kael), Gavan O'Herlihy (Airk Thaughbaer), Maria Holvöe (Cherlindrea), Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton (Rool and Franjean), and Kate and Ruth Greenfield/Rebecca Bearman (Elora Danan) Directed by Ron Howard (#301 - How the Grinch Stole Christmas and #546 - Cinderella Man)

Review: 
It is strange to see this film 30 years after it came out, a high fantasy movie that certainly has its fans and detractors after all this time. The story was done by George Lucas (notable for his work on the original Star Wars trilogy) with the screenplay being done by Bob Dolman, who had done work in television such as SCTV Network 90 (for which he won two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series). In any case, the idea for the movie was conceived by Lucas in the 1970s that had mythical qualities that was in some of the same vein as had been done with Star Wars, with Lucas describing the similarities of his movies as such prior to making this film: "The underlying issues, the psychological movies, in all my movies have been the same...Personal responsibility and friendship, the importance of a compassionate life as opposed to a passionate life".

In any case, it is evident that there was a great deal of effort to really try to make something worthwhile as entertainment with this movie, but I don't think that it quite succeeds in its pursuit. By the time that this film came out, there had been numerous fantasy films that came and went in the decade, and I have covered a few of those in other reviews, such as Clash of the Titans (#064), Conan the Barbarian (#323), and Krull (#927), but I think that the problem with this movie is that it isn't particularly on the level of either of those films in terms of adventure. There isn't much in its story elements that hasn't been done in other movies, such as its quest and prophecy elements, but I will admit that it isn't an excruciating adventure, just one that isn't as fun as it thinks it is. Davis does a fine job with this title role, giving it some passion and usefulness that helps keep the movie on some sort of track. Kilmer, in a role that likely reminds viewers of other films with rogues, does a decent job with what he's given, having a few moments of amusement and action that come off convincing enough times. Whalley leaves a faint impression, but nothing too particularly inspiring. Marsh does an okay job as the villain, but it isn't anything too particularly notable. The others are alright, although Pollak and Overton's characters prove to a bit grating at times. The film's best highlight might be its effects, done by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), with the most notable one being when Hayes' character is changed from being an animal to human, done by digital morphing. It's an interesting effect to see the gradual change to the end result (aided by computer programs) that has a fine payoff. The film certainly has a decent look and cinematography (as done by Adrian Biddle), but I find that there just isn't enough in what the movie is trying to push in its action or its story to really make big entertainment. It feels a bit slow at times (such as in the middle), punctuated by its 126 minute run-time and a story that feels a bit by the numbers at times. It isn't anything too unique, but it also isn't anything that merits much passion beyond a mild interest. I can understand its cult status and why some may find it enjoyable, but I can't particularly give it a ringing endorsement. Take it for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

May 17, 2018

The Man from Snowy River II.


Review #1084: The Man from Snowy River II.

Cast: 
Tom Burlinson (Jim Craig), Sigrid Thornton (Jessica Harrison), Brian Dennehy (Harrison), Nicholas Eadie (Alistair Patton), Mark Hembrow (Seb), Bryan Marshall (Hawker), Rhys McConnochie (Patton Snr.), Peter Cummins (Jake), Cornelia Frances (Mrs. Darcy), Tony Barry (Jacko) Directed by Geoff Burrowes.

Review: 
Six years after the release of The Man from Snowy River (#032), a sequel was released, with a producer from the first film being the director this time around. It is known as Return to Snowy River in the United States and in the United Kingdom as The Untamed. The film was distributed by Buena Vista Pictures while having four companies behind it for production: Walt Disney Pictures, Silver Screen Partners III, Burrowes Film Group, and The Hoyts Group. In any case, it is safe to say that the sequel hasn't suffered any sort of breakdown in vision or spirit; it isn't as good as the original, but it is at the very least moderately entertaining enough to satisfy some sort of need that the original achieved. Kirk Douglas decided to not return for the sequel after not being allowed to direct (he had directed two other films prior to this: Scalawag and Posse, released in the previous decade), with Dennehy taking over for the role of Harrison (with no dual role playing this time around), although at least the main two actors are back once again. Bruce Rowland returns to provide the music and Keith Wagstaff is back to provide the cinematography, both of which are just as good as before.

Like the first film, there is a good deal of Australian scenery to look at, and there is a decent amount of horse action that will certainly prove a bit satisfactory to people wanting those sort of things. However, the film isn't as good as the original in part because it doesn't have all the spirit that made the previous film a neat little gem. That's not to say that it is a bad movie or a disappointment because I found it to be a decent experience, but it is pretty evident that it could have been better. The problem is that the plot feels a bit more routine, particularly when it comes to the motivations of the villain and the parts with Harrison. Burlinson and Thornton prove fine for the challenge of keeping the romance from being stale, although it takes them nearly half of an hour to meet again (I note this for a film that lasts 110 minutes). Dennehy doesn't do terrible, but I find that he doesn't live up to the performance(s) that Douglas had done in the last one, not having enough intensity to really make me invest too much in the conflict for the movie. The rest of the cast is okay if not standard for what you'd expect, although it is amusing that there is even an adversary to begin with, reminding me of someone you'd see in a TV special, for better or worse. It moves an at average pace, but it won't prove boring nor tiresome to go through. The climax is certainly acceptable enough for enjoyment. Although I recognize its evident flaws, I find the movie to pass through on the elements that work fairly well, such as its scenery, action, and a frontier spirit that persists just enough to win out. The movie can prove entertaining for family audiences, and for people who dug the original, they will accept this one pretty well even if isn't as sweetly made as before.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

May 16, 2018

Redux: The Man from Snowy River.


Redux Review #032: The Man from Snowy River.

Cast: 
Tom Burlinson (Jim Craig), Sigrid Thornton (Jessica Harrison), Kirk Douglas (Harrison / Spur), Terence Donovan (Henry Craig), Tommy Dysart (Mountain Man), Bruce Kerr (Man in Street), David Bradshaw (Banjo Paterson), Jack Thompson (Clancy), Tony Bonner (Kane), June Jago (Mrs. Bailey), and Chris Haywood (Curly) Directed by George T. Miller.

Review: 
On March 26, 2011, I reviewed this film as part of Season Two of Movie Night. Over seven years later, I have decided to do a Redux Review as part of a venture to revitalize certain reviews of the past and make them better in terms of their words and rating, which has evolved in some part since I was 14 as opposed to now. The original review wasn't even 100 words when I wrote it, so it is evident that this film deserves a re-look. Enjoy.

It is interesting to watch this film again, having not touched it since watching it with my dad in 2011. I described it as a film that had good acting (particularly from Kirk Douglas) that worked as a family film being comfortable being what it is. The film is an adaptation of the 1890 poem of the same name by Andrew "Banjo" Paterson, who is held in esteem to where he is on the Australian ten-dollar note, among other honors (including even being depicted in the film). This was the second adaptation of the poem, with the first being a 1920 film that also was an Australian production, although this movie is now lost. Obviously the film added aspects in its transition from poem to film, namely by having more characters and giving the title character a name - but that doesn't hurt the film in any sort of discernible way. This was filmed near the Victorian High Country in Australia, and the imagery is certainly beautiful to look at due to the cinematography by Keith Wagstaff. On a technical level, the film is wonderful, with the sets certainly selling themselves well. The horse action, particularly in the climax, is mesmerizing to watch, with Burlinson doing his own horse riding stunts. The most famous shot is one where he and the horse go over a cliff at a full gallop down, and that is something to behold, particularly since horse action isn't something you can't really fake. In any case, the chase at the end is exciting to watch. The main theme by Bruce Rowland is a particular standout, having a grace to it that I appreciate very much. The theme has been utilized for golf events and Rowland himself composed a special version of the theme for the 2000 Summer Olympics opening ceremony held in Sydney, Australia.

The acting performances are fairly well-done. Burlinson proves to be capable in his performance, having a fair sense of determination to him in his pursuit that comes off pretty convincingly. Thornton also proves pretty fair in her role; the romance between the two isn't too passionate, but it is at least convincing enough to make for a few interesting moments. It should be noted that Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum were considered for the dual role prior to Kirk Douglas signing on to portray Harrison and Spur. In any case, Douglas pulls it off pretty well, handling both characters with their own kind of personality without being too hammy. The rest of the cast do alright in their time on screen. As a Western, it has a plot structure that follows along the lines that you might expect (particularly with the romance), but the film earns its adventure and triumph through its execution and how it handles its story with enough care. At 102 minutes, the run-time is fairly paced, having a decent pace that never becomes too boring. Sometimes it feels a bit like a TV production, which makes a bit of sense given the TV background of some of the filmmakers such as Miller and John Dixon (who served as writer for the movie), but it all stays consistent enough to feel authentic enough without much distraction, whether for oneself or for families. This is a fair gem in a frontier of dramas and Westerns.

Thank you to you fellow readers who took the time to read this review. The decision to revise the rating is one made out of honesty and care for the system of doing rating decisions. Thank you for your consideration.

Next review: The Man from Snowy River II.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

May 15, 2018

Vegas Vacation.


Review #1083: Vegas Vacation.

Cast: 
Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswold), Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie), Ethan Embry (Russell "Rusty" Griswold), Marisol Nichols (Audrey Griswold), Miriam Flynn (Cousin Catherine), Shae D'Lyn (Cousin Vicki), Wayne Newton (Himself), Wallace Shawn (Marty the Blackjack dealer), Juliette Brewer (Cousin Ruby Sue), Sid Caesar (Old Guy), and Siegfried & Roy (Themselves) Directed by Stephen Kessler.

Review: 
I couldn't find any time in the review to make a Vegas sports joke/reference, given that they now have a hockey team (and a particularly good one this year), with the timing of this review to their appearance in the Conference Finals against the Winnipeg Jets (a team that I like and follow a bit more than the Golden Knights, although I appreciate both being in the final four) being a coincidence. In any case, enjoy the review and enjoy a good Conference Finals.

Remember the first three films? Although each had a varying quality to them, they managed to be fairly entertaining pieces of entertainment (at least for the first and third ones, in my view), with Chase and D'Angelo being key standouts, especially in National Lampoon's Vacation (#804). This time around, I can't say that is the case. If National Lampoon's European Vacation (#1060) could be cited by me as an average film, Vegas Vacation could be cited as an awful venture that produces the least amount of returns of the four films, which is made fairly obvious by the first half of the film. It is actually strange to see how long it took to make a fourth film that followed after National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (#771), being released eight years later, by which time Chase had already passed 50 and the two Griswold children are replaced again by actors who now look like they could almost be in college. This time around, the National Lampoon moniker has been removed, with the vacation destination being just one place (as evidenced by the title). It is the only Vacation film with a PG rating, as compared to the R rating for the first film and a PG-13 rating for the other two. The humor certainly feels sanitized in some part because of this decision to go for PG, although that doesn't mean that funny films can't come from things rated PG, it just means that this film isn't funny because of its attempts to reach across the aisle for audiences.

At any rate, it is obvious that this film doesn't have much motivation to go on beyond a bunch of weak gags and a few indulgent cameos that actually seem more interesting to watch than the actual film and its plot. When the parts with Wayne Newton and Siegfried & Roy are more interesting to watch than the scenes with the Griswolds, I think you have a big problem. It isn't so much that they don't have much chemistry with each other as a group, it's just that it feels more like a mediocre sitcom kind of family than anything actually really particularly funny, dwelling in cliché levels (particularly involving Las Vegas) that aren't at all surprising. Chase looks tired in his role (grey hair included), not really making the material given to him leap off much, with the greed aspects seeming more stale than anything. D'Angelo does fine, taking her material and rolling with whatever it leads to (ridiculous as it is), whether with Chase or Newton. Quaid's bumpkin role garners a few laughs, but it isn't anything too particularly new or any too funny. Embry and Nichols deliver plain performances, but it isn't anything too particularly annoying at least. The other members of the cast aren't too terrible, but they don't contribute to too many laughs; Caesar (in his final on-screen appearance) shows up near the end of the film, which is slightly amusing in its briefness for his gestures, sad as that may seem. Newton is okay, but sometimes his scenes fall a bit tiresome, in part because the movie doesn't really have much focus besides just throwing a bunch of gags and lines (and a few visuals of Las Vegas) and hoping it sticks with him. Shawn does fine with this brief but scuzzy part, even if the gag (involving Chase who can't stop losing in bets) gets tiresome fairly quickly. Each of the four Griswolds have their own kind of story, and only D'Angelo's feels particularly interesting, cliché as it is.

The components of writing and directing for this film are a bit different than usual, with the film's screenplay was done by Elisa Bell, who had written a few teleplays for TV movies prior to this film, while Bob Ducsay (a long time editor for films such as G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - #201 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi - #1027) contributed to the story, with Stephen Kessler (in his feature film debut) as director. The blame falls in part to them, but it also falls to people who thought it was a good idea to make a film after eight years with the belief that this would be a huge hit. Instead, the result that came from this movie is a huge dud. Is it horrible? No, but it is a miserable misfire that drags its cast down just as much as it drags the audience down with its attempts at humor. I'm reminded of my actual time spent at Las Vegas a few years ago with my dad, in which I bought a snow-globe that I still have in my house to this day. The brief experience I spent there (including a bad attempt at swimming and staying at a motel) was easily better than the time I spent watching this movie.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

May 12, 2018

Risky Business.


Review #1082: Risky Business.

Cast: 
Tom Cruise (Joel Goodson), Rebecca De Mornay (Lana), Joe Pantoliano (Guido), Nicholas Pryor (Mr. Goodson), Janet Carroll (Mrs. Goodson), Richard Masur (Rutherford), Curtis Armstrong (Miles Dalby), Bronson Pinchot (Barry), Shera Danese (Vicki), and Raphael Sbarge (Glenn) Directed by Paul Brickman.

Review: 
Risky Business is the kind of film that isn't merely just stuck to one type of genre or idea of what it is, whether that is a coming-of-age film, a romantic comedy, or look at society in the world of a teen. Whatever lens that you view the film through, it is a fairly effective experience that has enough clever moments and energy to make a solid winner. This was the film that helped launch the career of Cruise, who had starred in four other films prior to this one, and it is certainly easy to see his charisma on-screen and why he makes the film tick, including memorable moments such as the sequence with "Old Time Rock and Roll" (a fun song from Bob Seger to listen to in any context) - which is likely the most iconic thing from this film, with its own share of inspirations and parodies in the decades that have followed this film. In any case, it's an interesting part to the film. De Mornay manages to also pull off a fine performance, being quite the charming rogue that elevates a role that could've just been thankless with a sort of energy that works handily with Cruise in their scenes. The other members of the cast do fine jobs, with Pantoliano having some crudely effective zip in the scenes that he is in. The film is fairly engaging with its plot and its depiction of angst and greed that certainly make what could've probably just been a cliché teen comedy with less clever hands and instead make something a bit more sharper, with its own bits of social satire included. The cinematography by Bruce Surtees is glossy and effective, having some fine shots such as the sequence on the train or nighttime shots at times. Brickman (who also served as writer) wanted the film to end on a different note than what occurs in the film (as dictated by the studio), involving the nature of the two main characters and their future. It feels a bit more raw and it likely will touch a nerve for some, but I can't really object to the ending that ended up on-screen. Ultimately, this is a film that has enough amusing moments but also enough clever moments to make for a relatively engaging experience that is worth the 99 minute run-time - and then some.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

May 9, 2018

Waterworld.


Review #1081: Waterworld.

Cast: 
Kevin Costner (The Mariner), Dennis Hopper (The Deacon), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Helen), Tina Majorino (Enola), Michael Jeter (Old Gregor), Jack Black (Smoker Plane Pilot), Kim Coates (Drifter #2), Robert Joy (Smoker Ledger Guy), Robert LaSardo (Smitty), and Gerard Murphy (The Nord) Directed by Kevin Reynolds.

Review: 
Waterworld is a film that lurked on my shelf for years. My father watched this film a bunch of times when I was growing up, but I never had the idea to actually see the film until now in part because I figured it was futile not to. The film certainly seems like something made in an era with experimenting with making a sci-fi apocalyptic film with a big budget and big ambition. At the time it was made, it was the most expensive film ever made (done for $172 million), but it was plagued by production troubles (such as a hurricane destroying the set at one point and bringing in Josh Whedon as a script doctor at point), which certainly played into its reputation. It wasn't a huge success, but it isn't an entire failure, both financially along with as a film. On the one hand, it is nice to watch something based on an original idea with an effort to try and make for a spectacle for entertainment purposes, even if it does resemble Mad Max. On the other hand, I can't say that the movie is consistent enough to qualify as serviceable entertainment. The problem isn't so much with the acting as it is the writing, which at times feels uneven with its characters that gets in the way of really enjoying the action and its set-pieces, which hold up well for 1995. I feel that the film never gets itself into high gear often enough to really make its audience anything other than mildly involving. I can't even get myself to hate it, instead I just have a mild disappointment. Costner can't really elevate this main character into anything that seems compelling, being fairly bland in his gruffness - although his combative scenes with others in the first half could be construed as something to make fun of if you're in the right mood. That, or him peeing into a recycling canister to use for filtering to drink it later - which starts the film off, actually. Hopper certainly looks the part of a crazed villain, and he actually manages to be more entertaining than Costner, but it still is a fairly silly performance to watch at times - but who can blame him? This is a movie that can't find the right sense of captivating characters to go with its moments of adventure. The other members of the cast aren't terrible, but they also aren't too particularly inspiring, with Tripplehorn and Majorino contributing to a few moments that prove amusing instead of moving. In terms of comparison to other action flicks, this is likely the diet soda of action films - it's there along with other films of its ilk but it likely won't be something you go back to often.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

May 4, 2018

Star Odyssey.


Review #1080: Star Odyssey.

Cast: 
Yanti Somer (Irene), Gianni Garko (Dirk Laramie), Malisa Longo (Bridget), Chris Avram (Shawn), Ennio Balbo, Roberto Dell'Acqua (Norman), Aldo Amoroso Pioso, Nino Castelnuovo, and Gianfranca Dionisi. Directed by Alfonso Brescia.

Review: 
Sometimes you just need a bad flick to truly appreciate film-making and movies. What can you expect of a movie featuring hypnotism, stock footage, and an assortment of other bizarre images and actions? What can you expect when the film mangles its own title sequence with its listing of actors in alphabetical order that somehow goes wrong? Star Odyssey, known as Sette uomini d'oro nello spazio (or Seven Gold Men in Space) in its native land of Italy, was directed by Alfonso Brescia, who had made three other films revolving around sci-fi in the decade, such as Cosmos: War of the Planets (1977), Battle of the Stars (1978), and War of the Robots (1978). This happened to be released the same year as another Italian sci-fi flick, The Humanoid (#930), which I covered one year ago. It's funny that I mention that film, since I actually kind of got a kick out of that film, which had a sort of charm with its mish-mash of ideas and quirky casting choices. The same cannot be said for this film, which suffers from an assortment of inept and super-cheap film-making along with terrible dialogue. You know you've hit your peak when you show footage of an actual junkyard, complete with a crushing of a car and the rescue of a robot (resembling ducks) from said junkyard as a plot point.

To mention every odd thing that occurs in this film would be spoiling the "charm" in a viewer doing it themselves, but I can't really even say that seeing this film would be worth doing that task. Just imagine the kind of film that has "robot couple bickering" and editing as haphazard as a second grader's book report. It isn't so much a Star Wars ripoff as it is just something that sure likes to take inspiration with its special effects and space battle sequences, which go as well as you'd expect. The version I am watching is the 103 minute version, which is longer than the 88 minute Italian version, since I guess I really wanted to torture myself with a version that also is dubbed. The actors look like they're doing it just for the paycheck, with a few of these cast-mates having starred in the other films by Brescia, such as Somer (who did all four) and Longo. Hilariously, I couldn't even find a cast listing that had what character they were playing, so have fun with that, although the one with the mustache is pretty amusing. In any case, the dubbing isn't so terrible, minus the editing quirks that get in the way at times.

Roughly 30 minutes in, you get to see a boxing fight between an android and a human, which I suppose was done so you couldn't call every scene a ripoff of some other sci-fi products, because nobody, and I repeat, nobody, would ever come up with that. That, or an auction for the Earth. The film is terrible enough to where ripping it off would actually prove impossible nor advisable. The film was written by Brescia, Massimo Lo Jacono (who wrote science fiction and fantasy for Italian magazines), and Giacomo Mazzocchi, with Lo Jacono having written Cosmos: War of the Planets along with co-writing Battle of the Stars with Mazzocchi. This isn't even one of those films that was made by independent filmmakers with some sort of ambitious ideas, this was a studio production that manages to be utterly terrible and utterly embarrassing to watch, being made by people who wanted to make some sort of entertainment and ended up serving up something much weirder. They can't even make a plot that's actually comprehensible, where even the final line of the movie is cut off. You would actually be better served with watching a high school play adaptation of Star Wars than this dreck.

Unlike something like Starcrash (#755) or Battle Beyond the Stars (#819), this is a pile of junk that is best laughed at, where even one's own dubbing may very well make more sense than the actual final product. Oddly enough, this world cinema film is in the public domain, but I wouldn't recommend checking the cellar for this movie, where things like Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam (Turkish Star Wars) (#371) lurk. Sometimes you just have to make sure to not look too far into the b-movie abyss, which this is a part of.

May the 4th be with you, folks.

Overall, I give it 2 out of 10 stars.

May 2, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War.


Review #1079: Avengers: Infinity War.

Cast: 
Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes / War Machine), Tom Holland (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Chadwick Boseman (T'Challa / Black Panther), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Paul Bettany (Vision), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / Falcon), Sebastian Stan (James "Bucky" Barnes / Winter Soldier), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Peter Dinklage (Eitri), Benedict Wong (Wong), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Vin Diesel (Groot), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Benicio del Toro (Taneleer Tivan / The Collector), Josh Brolin (Thanos), and Chris Pratt (Peter Quill / Star-Lord) Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (#571 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier and #796 - Captain America: Civil War)

Review: 
On May 2, 2008, Iron Man (#135) was released into theaters, being the first film in what has become known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has served to try and tell stories of entertainment with adaptations of characters from all-throughout its numerous comic book series. Eighteen films later, here we are with Avengers: Infinity War, picking up plot points from numerous movies such as the first two Avengers installments (#312 and #706) but also Guardians of the Galaxy (#626 and #932) and Doctor Strange (#874) among others. It is obvious to see the amount of effort (and money) utilized to try and make something that achieves its goal of great spectacle. As such, the film is successful in being good entertainment. While it can be argued that it may be a bit overstuffed for its own good (in numerous categories), it will ultimately prove satisfying for people invested in what it is trying to showcase, as is the case for this series in other films, which have had their own range of success. It might not go down as the best in this series or even the best comic book film ever, but it will serve as solid joyfulness for its viewers.

This is a film with a large scale and large importance to what matters, but it is the parts involving its main villain that ultimately tie the film best. For a series that likes to show off its heroes and their abilities, their depiction of villains have generally not always been their highlight, but I think that it works here because of the conviction taken to give Brolin's character a level of importance and depth, which Brolin does a good job in making entertaining and prime for what you would expect. The film manages to take what could've been unwieldy with having such a large cast and having to balance each out and makes it work just enough to keep its plots going with enough energy and commitment. It never spends too much time on one thing without sacrificing the other parts of the plot to its detriment. If you have spent time watching these characters (or care about them), you will find a good deal to appreciate in seeing certain people interact with each other, such as Downey and Cumberbatch, or Hemsworth and Cooper, filled with its moments of fun quips. The film can't be faulted for being murky with its effects or its costume look since it manages to not blur the line between wonderful and cut-scene. The action sequences are executed as you'd expect, accompanying the film with good craft and energy. The film and its impact will differ from person to person, but I found the film to be at the very least successful with telling its story without becoming a crammed exercise in over-indulgence, but I can't say that I am a staunch defender of what it does. At 149 minutes, it may prove a bit of overkill for some while being just the right kind of length for others in the mood for what it tries to sell. Its climax is fairly satisfactory, with enough pull and punch to make something worth going home to without feeling cheated or feeling sick.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

May 1, 2018

Showtime.


Review #1078: Showtime.

Cast: 
Robert De Niro (Detective Mitch Preston), Eddie Murphy (Officer Trey Sellars), Rene Russo (Chase Renzi), Frankie Faison (Captain Winship), Pedro Damián (Cesar Vargas), Drena De Niro (Annie), William Shatner (Himself), Mos Def (Lazy Boy), and Peter Jacobson (Brad Slocum) Directed by Tom Dey.

Review: 
Showtime manages to read out like a studio notes version of what it wanted to be. It tries to have its moments to make fun of the buddy cop structure along with its moments about reality TV, but it all crashes down to mediocrity in part because it never really takes off. The chemistry between De Niro and Murphy is better than something like Hollywood Homicide (#1075) (which also depicted a cop who wanted to be an actor, only done less funny), but it is fairly obvious that the film doesn't give them much to really do. Both of them deliver okay performances, with Murphy generating a few more laughs than De Niro, but I didn't find myself laughing too particularly hard with it. Russo does a decent job with what she's given, with the rest of the cast delivering okay performances that don't really come off as detrimental to the film, although Damian can't lift the material to make his villain role anything good. The film isn't painful or intolerable by any means, but it also isn't anything that rises to anything particularly good. It doesn't help when the movie at one point starts throwing out lines from other films (such as Taxi Driver - #990) that only serves to remind me of what I'm not watching. Its beats with the plot are a bit by the numbers, and nothing comes off as a big particular surprise with even its action sequences seeming by the numbers. The parts with Shatner playing himself end up feeling like the most amusing parts of the film in part because they seem offbeat and interesting (with a T. J. Hooker reference, of course) compared to the other parts that come off as routine and a bit sloppy. At 95 minutes, the film isn't too much of a chore, but it isn't anything that will come off as particularly rewarding for most. If you watch as something just for entertainment and nothing more, you might get a few moments here and there, but you won't find yourself particularly loving it.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

April 28, 2018

Superman Returns.


Review #1077: Superman Returns.

Cast: 
Brandon Routh (Clark Kent / Superman), Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane), Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor), James Marsden (Richard White), Parker Posey (Kitty Kowalski), Frank Langella (Perry White), Sam Huntington (Jimmy Olsen), Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent), Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Kal Penn (Stanford), and Tristan Lake Leabu (Jason White) Directed by Bryan Singer (#008 - X-Men, #010 - X2, and #584 - X-Men: Days of Future Past)

Review: 
In honor of the 80th anniversary of Superman's debut in Action Comics #1, I figured that this would be the best time to finally cover this movie. I hope you enjoy this review, which I didn't try to stretch too long.

In 1978, Superman (#547) graced the big screen with an epic scale that had a collection of fine actors and a look that still manages to shine through after four decades, with this serving as a pioneer for comic book films. The sequel (#785) continued the good fortune of scope and a bit of amusement, having enough charm and magic to work, even if it was not as good as the first one. The two films that followed (#786 & #787) were terrible in their own right, having ridiculous plots along with bad execution and substance, and it would be nineteen years until Superman returned to the big screen. The film was a mild success at the box office, but it would be seven years before a new Superman film was released, which resorted to being an origin story. This film ignores the latter two films in an attempt to channel the energy of the first two films and make for great entertainment. Does it succeed?

I will first state that on the surface it is certainly an interesting idea to try and emulate the first two Reeve films, as some sort of attempt to pass the torch from the first two films onto this. After all, footage of Marlon Brando from the first film (with some help from some CGI) is utilized in the film, with John Ottman's music being a homage to the music from John Williams from the first one. For all the attempts of the film to follow the same beats, the best thing that can be said for Superman Returns is that it plays itself safe enough to at least feel like it wants to be a winner. The problem is that it doesn't really do much to prove that it is a winner beyond all doubt. It has a fine look to it at points with the cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel, and the effects are at least satisfactory for the expectations one would expect for the film, but other times it might seem more like it is going through the motions.

Perhaps it is the length of 154 minutes that undercuts the film and makes it feel a bit of chore, but I never hated the experience for being so long. The film rests upon Routh and his shoulders, and at times he does seem like he can live up to the task with some of the sequences. However, he never really clicks into full gear to where we really want to connect with him, particularly when paired with Bosworth. You might say that the gap that the film establishes between the last time the two characters had met (roughly five years) means that the awkward exchanges between the two makes sense, but the real problem is that they don't seem particularly interesting to watch in said exchanges. You could say that they seem a bit too young for the roles (after all, both actors were under 30 when cast), but it really seems more a problem of execution that does them in. After all, it's not like Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder were old when they portrayed their roles, but they had a certain charm and care to them that sold itself in each scene they were in, as opposed to this film. The fact that the film wants to channel the first two films makes the comparisons between those and this film hurt the latter upon examination.

Spacey proves to be fairly sour in his role, and he seems to relish in his lunatic role that actually manages to pull the film toward some sort of gain for most of his scenes, especially when paired with Posey, a fairly good charmer. I think the film probably could've done a bit better with some more scenes between Spacey and Routh, since it takes them nearly two hours to meet. However, that would likely mean having to try and make the film shorter with cuts, since I don't think making it longer would help it at all. Marsden doesn't really make too much of an impression for me, not so much a dull performance as it is just a slightly thankless role. Langella is fine for his time on screen. The film tries to go through so many motions with its plot that it just feels like it is trying to not bloviate itself into oblivion. From its parts with the scheme (which is amusing to ponder about) to its part with Lois and her son to a fairly okay climax, the movie likely has too much going on to really make a good focus. I never hated the experience with the film, but I also never found myself believing in what the film was trying to sell me. I feel that the film probably should've tried to be a reboot (much like Batman Begins (#062), released the year before) instead of trying to play itself a bit too safe with its homage of what had worked better decades prior. Can I recommend the film? I can in the sense that it will likely work just fine for people who are willing to buy into its homage attempt and willing to let the entertainment roll through without skepticism.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

April 25, 2018

Thelma & Louise.


Review #1076: Thelma & Louise.

Cast: 
Susan Sarandon (Louise Sawyer), Geena Davis (Thelma Dickinson), Harvey Keitel (Detective Hal Slocumb), Michael Madsen (Jimmy Lennox), Christopher McDonald (Darryl Dickinson), Stephen Tobolowsky (Max), Brad Pitt (J.D.), and Timothy Carhart (Harlan Puckett) Directed by Ridley Scott (#100 - Blade Runner, #530 - Alien, and #739 - The Martian)

Review: 
Thelma & Louise is an engaging road movie that has its shares of laughs and tough moments that belies itself on the strength of its two main characters. It manages to serve as great entertainment full of self-discovery and sharp honestly that resonates even after over two decades since its release. Sarandon and Davis make for a capable duo in part because of how their distinct personalities mix and match. Sarandon plays her role with a roughly honest type of viewpoint that never seems too cynical nor too out-of-place in any scene. Davis does a great job in making her dependably energetic character seem the perfect match to play with Sarandon, and her chemistry with Pitt is fairly well-done if not quick. Pitt has a slinky hustler charm to him that makes him watchable each scene that he is in, having a magnetic pull that served to be his breakthrough role. Keitel does a good job, evoking honestly in his authority role that never comes off as distracting. Madsen sells his casual rocker role fairly adeptly, quick to charm and care. McDonald plays his character with the right sense of control and inflated self-importance that fits the movie pretty well. The film has numerous particularly emotions in its scenes, whether shocking or amusing, and it manages to never veer itself too much in one direction that would come off as distracting. The screenplay by Callie Khouri is a tightly packed one that was rewarded with Academy Award and Golden Globe honors. The film has a controlled look that feels fairly authentic, having an execution to it that is surely captivating - particularly since it doesn't betray its principles. It doesn't ever comes off as just a road movie without much substance, with these main characters becoming memorable ones to follow. It has some turns and cliches that seem par for the course for this type of genre, but it doesn't detract from its value as an adventure too much. Even at 129 minutes, this is a film that never feels like it is wasting any moment with these characters and the tale that it is weaving. The movie has an ending that certainly serves as a symbolic and memorable capstone to something that clicks at the right times with the right kind of people behind and in front of the camera. It makes a leap for entertainment - and it succeeds at that quite well.

Overall, I give it 9 out of 10 stars.

April 23, 2018

Hollywood Homicide.


Review #1075: Hollywood Homicide.

Cast: 
Harrison Ford (Detective-Sergeant Joseph "Joe" Gavilan), Josh Hartnett (Detective K. C. Calden), Lena Olin (Ruby), Bruce Greenwood (Lieutenant Bernard "Bennie" Macko), Isaiah Washington (Antoine Sartain), Lolita Davidovich (Cleo Ricard), Keith David (Leon), Master P (Julius Armas), Gladys Knight (Olivia Robidoux), and Martin Landau (Jerry Duran) Directed by Ron Shelton (#381 - Cobb)

Review: 
If you have a film with two actors who seem to want to make the best of their time on screen and elicit some sort of chemistry with each other, you'll likely have a good time. It's a shame that is not the case with this movie, however. Ford and Hartnett manage to star in a film where they don't seem to share any kind of chemistry with each other, not eliciting many particularly amusing moments nor anything that seems remotely connecting. Ford does a decent job performance wise, but he doesn't seem to be the best type for this role, seeming a bit out of place that might've been better suited for someone like John Travolta (who originally was meant to star in the role), particularly with the real estate "dealmaking" parts. Hartnett doesn't fair much better, somehow looking too young to play this detective role while also seeming to be the wrong fit to go along with Ford, seeming a bit too relaxed for this part - and the parts with him playing a would-be actor also not hitting the notes correctly either. In any case, they don't make for a particularly inspiring duo. Washington doesn't particularly inspire much as the villain, mostly because the plot-line doesn't give him much room to actually seem compelling (especially with the climax), whereas Greenwood sells his adversarial role and scenes with Ford. Olin does a kooky but serviceable job, with her parts with Ford being nothing too special. The other members of the cast are all okay at best. It might interest you to note this was written by Shelton and Robert Souza, a former homicide detective in the LAPD Hollywood Division who also happened to moonlight as a real estate broker in his latter years. I'll give the film credit for having some sort of semblance of reality, but I didn't find the end product to be too particularly effective. The numerous subplots and how things seem to just connect out of thin air makes for a convenient but somewhat tiresome pace, complete with a somewhat long but somewhat effective climatic chase sequence. There isn't too much to the action, but it will likely be pleasing enough. The film never seems to get itself into high gear, seemingly stuck in a loop of a mediocre story and a buddy duo that doesn't live up to carrying the movie. The end product is something that can be mildly enjoyable as a late night flick watch, but it won't be anything regarded as anything too good in its action or comedy. Take this misfire for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

April 19, 2018

The Whole Nine Yards.


Review #1074: The Whole Nine Yards.

Cast: 
Bruce Willis (James "Jimmy The Tulip" Tudeski), Matthew Perry (Dr. Nicholas "Oz" Oseransky), Rosanna Arquette (Sophie Oseransky), Michael Clarke Duncan (Franklin "Frankie Figs" Figueroa), Natasha Henstridge (Cynthia Tudeski), Amanda Peet (Jill St. Claire), Kevin Pollak (Janni Gogolak), and Harland Williams (Special Agent Steve Hanson) Directed by Jonathan Lynn

Review: 
This is the kind of film that will linger on a movie shelf for years that you notice one day, and it inspires you to ponder on how it sat there - and the question pretty much remains prevalent even if you watch it. This is an easygoing kind of film, not having anything too particularly funny, but also nothing too particularly awful to it either, having a fine cast for a black comedy that will elicit some laughs.  At 98 minutes, it doesn't come off as a tiresome dredge, so there's that going for it. The story has its bits of turns, blurring the lines of cliche and clever at times in its execution. I did find it amusing that it's set in Montréal, though. Willis does a fine charming job with the slick role he is given, exuding a manner that is fairly amusing. Perry does a decent job, garnering a few laughs and making for a fairly watchable one to pair off Willis at times that doesn't get too grating. Arquette is fairly grating, as per the script, and the French accent does tend to border a bit on Inspector Clouseau at times - but I can't say I'm too surprised at that, so annoying or not, she is an okay adversary I suppose. Duncan does his enforcer well fairly well, complete with a bit of charm. Henstridge is fairly intriguing, having slight chemistry with Perry.  Peet delivers a fairly charming performance for the time she is on screen, managing to elict some laughs with a charm and style that makes her irresistible to watch. If you find the film something that engages you with its good intentions of dark-ish humor, you will find something worth watching; on the other hand, if you find the humor to be a bit like a sitcom without much bite, you might see the film as an afterthought. I didn't feel bored all too often, and I felt it was at least an okay crime comedy, so take that for what it's worth. It isn't a classic in any sense, but it will probably satisfy the curious tastes of most of the people picking it out. For me, it's just okay. It isn't a classic in any sense, but it is at least entertainment that succeeds - for the most part.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 18, 2018

A Quiet Place.


Review #1073: A Quiet Place.

Cast: 
Emily Blunt (Evelyn Abbott), John Krasinski (Lee Abbott), Millicent Simmonds (Regan Abbott), Noah Jupe (Marcus Abbott), Cade Woodward (Beau Abbott), and Leon Russom (Man in the woods) Directed by John Krasinski.

Review: 
In horror films, the best way to elicit scares is generally to use certain movements or certain imagery to get a reaction that will hopefully be effective consistently enough to deliver good entertainment. With this film, it utilizes its selective choice of sound and atmosphere to deliver a tense but successfully suspenseful horror film that I readily enjoyed. Its reliance on sound as a form of raising tension is effective, in part because the movie knows exactly what it is striving for with its sound, not making needless sound for the sake of a cheap thrill. This is the kind of movie that doesn't become just a gimmick without any sort of substance to it, having a heart to it. The film's emphasis on the family is fairly watchable, resonating well in a way that feels authentic, where you care about these characters and aren't just wanting to get a glimpse at the creature. It's interesting to watch a film that has more American Sign Language than English, where you can count the amount of scenes of dialogue between characters with their voices on probably one hand. In any case, the actors do a good job, being interesting to watch in their story and carrying their emotions on their sleeve with fair ease. The film's structure is fairly well done, and while it may have some slight distractions at times with some of the choices made, the basic outline is sound enough. Blunt, and Krasinski have fine chemistry with each other that is neatly natural, and Simmonds and Jupe do fine jobs in selling their roles without much hesitation. The film is shot well, having a clean and calculated look by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, with a fairly effective music score by Marco Beltrami and satisfactory direction from Krasinski (who helped with writing the screenplay along with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, who are credited for story). The effect for the creature are fairly decent,  The movie runs at a fairly coherent pace of 90 minutes, managing to be entertaining at the right moments along with having enough charm to power itself a winner.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 17, 2018

48 Hrs.


Review #1072: 48 Hrs.

Cast: 
Nick Nolte (Jack Cates), Eddie Murphy (Reggie Hammond), James Remar (Albert Ganz), David Patrick Kelly (Luther), Sonny Landham (Billy Bear), Brion James (Ben Kehoe), Annette O'Toole (Elaine Marshall), and Frank McRae (Captain Haden) Directed by Walter Hill.

Review: 
Admittedly, the buddy cop genre is not something that came out of thin air for entertainment. Pairing two people together with differing personalities to work together has been done numerous times over the past few decades, whether involving cops paired with each other in some sort of mismatch (such as the Lethal Weapon series or the Rush Hour trilogy), or even parodying the genre (such as in Last Action Hero - #576). In any case, 48 Hrs is considered one of the films that formed a blueprint for the genre that manages to succeed due to its chemistry between its main two leads, Nolte and Murphy. Whenever they are on-screen together, they just click together in their raw quirky nature, contentious but compelling to watch. Nolte sells his rough and cynical character well, a grouch that isn't grating as it could've been. This was the screen debut for Murphy, who had been starring on Saturday Night Live since 1980, and he manages to do a great job, selling this confident and clever role with the right sense of conviction and timing (interestingly, he was nominated for a Golden Globe for  New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture, although he lost to Ben Kingsley in Gandhi). They are a fun duo to watch mess around with each other, with my particular favorite being the scene in a bar in which Murphy intimidates the rowdy customers in order to get some useful information, mostly because of how amusing he plays his hand to the patrons. Remar is a decent villain, fairly slimy and not too much of an evil cliche, and Landham makes for an adequate second-fiddle. The other members of the cast aren't too involved with the plot much, but they are at least decent sidepieces for the film. The action sequences are neatly done, riveting in their execution and satisfactory for ones looking for excitement. The plot isn't anything revolutionary, but the film goes at an energetic pace that makes for quality entertainment that never really drags itself out at a brisk length of 96 minutes that will click at the right moments (such as with its action and main duo) to make it all worth it.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 13, 2018

13 Ghosts (1960).


Review #1071: 13 Ghosts.

Cast: 
Charles Herbert (Arthur "Buck" Zorba), Jo Morrow (Medea Zorba), Rosemary DeCamp (Hilda Zorba), Martin Milner (Benjamin Rush), Donald Woods (Cyrus Zorba), Margaret Hamilton (Elaine Zacharias), John van Dreelen (Van Allen), William Castle (Himself), David Hoffman (Messenger), and Roy Jenson (Dr. Plato Zorba's ghost) Directed by William Castle (#369 - House on Haunted Hill)

Review: 
Oh my, look what today is. So why not do a film with "13" in it? Also, I figured that it was time to do a William Castle film again, seeing how it was in April of 2013 that I last reviewed one of his films. Enjoy Friday the 13th, and if you miss out it won't be too bad since the next one is in July. 

What is there to say about a haunted house horror film? Quite a bit, actually. This is the kind of movie that tries to have fun with its premise with a few frights and a charming nature that permeates throughout its 84 minute run-time. Who can give this movie criticism for wanting to showcase a tight story and a few thrills that doesn't lie about its intent? One of my favorite lines in the film happens nearly an hour in: "I met a lion". Said line is stated by Herbert, who provides a fairly sincere performance for a twelve year old, being fairly adept in his environment that never cloys over the others. The rest of the cast prove to be fairly decent, never overplaying their hand nor going too much toward ridiculousness, with DeCamp and Woods being fairly useful parents for the film. Milner does fine, never too assuming or obvious in his role. Hamilton is also pretty fine to watch, having a strange aura around her that is watchable without being overt. On the whole, the movie is never boring, mostly because the cast plays along with the plot without being tongue-in-cheek or too serious, having a fine line of energy to it. The movie doesn't have too much of a great plot, but it manages to have a few twists and moves that actually seem riveting.

This was Castle's fourth film (with the others being Macabre (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959), and The Tingler (1959)) to utilize a gimmick to promote the movie, with this gimmick being dubbed "Illusion-O". As stated by Castle himself in the beginning, whenever there were scenes involving ghosts, the viewer had a choice (through a cardboard square with blue and red tint celluloid) to see the ghosts, since the footage for the ghosts was shot so that the viewer would see them if they saw through the red lens, while the blue would result in not seeing the ghosts. It takes roughly a third of the film for the first ghost to appear, and it's certainly an interesting gimmick - sure you can see the ghosts even without the glasses, but it doesn't detract too much from what is an interesting idea to see play out. It may not be very scary, but it at least is somewhat interesting to watch play out. This is a movie with vast showmanship, never betraying its principles of entertainment for a cheap force-out, having a fine time with its thrills (and gimmick) that will certainly prove satisfactory for most.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 11, 2018

Speedy.


Review #1070: Speedy.

Cast: 
Harold Lloyd (Harold 'Speedy' Swift), Ann Christy (Jane Dillon), Bert Woodruff (Pop Dillon - Her Grand-daddy), Byron Douglas (W.S. Wilton), Brooks Benedict (Steve Carter), and Babe Ruth (Himself) Directed by Ted Wilde (#1044 - The Kid Brother)

Review: 
Speedy was the eleventh feature film starring Harold Lloyd, along with being his last silent film, released during the early transition from silent to sound features, with his next film Welcome Danger (1929) being filmed in both silent and sound but released in the latter. In any case, this is a fairly interesting film that manages to have its own share of charms. The plot involves Lloyd's character trying to save his love's grandfather from losing his business of operating a horse-drawn streetcar in New York City. Lloyd plays this carefree role convincingly enough, being quite charming and as useful as ever in his work with selling the gags. Christy and Woodruff are fairly decent, showing a bit of charm in each of their scenes with Lloyd. The other members of the cast are decent enough, although there isn't any particularly memorable adversaries or companions this time around, though the gags manage to make up for it enough.

There are numerous scenes showing the landscape of New York City, such as the scenes at Luna Park at Coney Island, or parts with Yankee Stadium, with the credit going to the filmmakers for not resorting to sets to try to simply have the film all filmed in sets, although a street of the Lower East Side was constructed on property that Lloyd owned on Westwood, California to complete the film. In any case, it's certainly interesting to look at this film as a time capsule of the city 80 years ago. The sequences on Coney Island are pretty entertaining, particularly the dollar-bill gag. Over halfway through the film, Babe Ruth (along with Lou Gehrig, appearing for a few seconds) shows up in an extended cameo role, being one of Lloyd's passengers on the taxi, which is pretty amusing. It may interest you to know that Wilde was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director of a Comedy for this film, awarded at the 1st Academy Awards, although he lost to Lewis Milestone for his work on Two Arabian Knights (1927). This was the only Oscar ceremony in which there were separate categories (in this case, "Dramatic" and "Comedy") for Best Director. Naturally, the film ends with a big spectacle chase, filled with laughs and amusement that will surely prove charming to watch. On the whole, this is a fine piece of film-work that will certainly charm fans of silent films or fans of Lloyd - with me falling into both categories. It isn't as great as something like Safety Last! (#758), but it will fall under the line of an acceptable gem to focus 86 minutes on - take it for what it's worth.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 9, 2018

Lady of the Night (1925).


Review #1069: Lady of the Night.

Cast: 
Norma Shearer (Molly Helmer / Florence Banning), Malcolm McGregor (David Page), Dale Fuller (Miss Carr), George K. Arthur ("Chunky" Dunn), Fred Esmelton (Judge Banning), Lew Harvey (Chris Helmer, Molly's father), Gwen Lee (Molly's friend), and Betty Morrissey (Gertie) Directed by Monta Bell.

Review: 
I will admit that the concept of someone playing dual roles for a movie is pretty interesting, particularly in the era before CGI such as silent films like this, and it also helps if the actor or actress playing both roles manages to make the roles distinct. The story done to set up the two is a bit sketchy in setting them up, but it isn't anything too harmfully contrived. Shearer plays her two characters with enough contrast and believability to make for a fairly interesting pair of performances. It may interest you to know that Joan Crawford made her film debut in this movie, doing so in a uncredited role, serving as the body double for Shearer for the climax of the film involving Shearer's two characters, which is handled well. Her portrayal of Molly is more interesting to watch on screen than her portrayal of Florence, but the fun is seeing her presence and her grace that seems very believable for the time. McGregor is fairly decent, showing some carefulness and ready nature. The rest of the cast is okay, with Arthur being slightly amusing. The film is a fairly pleasant one, showing its characters and a decent little romance that has the hallmarks that you would expect from a love triangle. It manages to achieve its basic goals of entertainment without resorting to anything overtly ridiculous or anything boring. I won't say that it's a hidden classic or a hallmark of romance, but it is at least a decent experience. The color hues utilized in the film (such as blue or purple) are fairly pretty to look at. With the performances by Shearer, the film doesn't manage to overstay its welcome with its 62 minute run-time. This is a movie that you might find to be a neat little gem if you're in the mood for what it offers and what it shows.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 4, 2018

Ready Player One.


Review #1068: Ready Player One.

Cast: 
Tye Sheridan (Wade Watts / Parzival), Olivia Cooke ( Samantha Cook / Art3mis), Ben Mendelsohn (Nolan Sorrento), Lena Waithe (Helen Harris / Aech), T.J. Miller (i-R0k), Simon Pegg (Ogden Morrow), Mark Rylance (James Halliday / Anorak), Philip Zhao (Akihide Karatsu / Sho), Win Morisaki (Toshiro Yoshiaki / Daito), and Hannah John-Kamen (F'Nale Zandor) Directed by Steven Spielberg (#126 - Close Encounters of the Third Kind, #168 - Raiders of the Lost Ark, #169 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, #170 - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, #302 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, #351 - Schindler's List, #480 - Jaws, #563 - The Sugarland Express, #573 - E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, #642 - Jurassic Park, and #958 - Always)

Review: 
Hello fellow readers. I did not intend for this review to go a bit over 800 words, so forgive the increase in length for once. I hope you enjoy this review.

What can be said of a movie that basks itself in nostalgia and pop culture so deliberately? Can one really criticize said movie for pandering, particularly a blockbuster like this? The film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, who contributed to the screenplay for the movie alongside Zak Penn. It may serve overwhelming (or obnoxious) for some, but I can't really blame someone for getting some sort of enjoyment out of a popcorn movie, much like I can't really blame someone for liking a Transformers movie or even something terrible like The Room (#185). I will state that this is a better film than either of those examples, but being a thrill ride can't excuse the movie entirely. There is a considerable amount of thrills and action that can shine through most of its shortcomings. One particular shortcoming proves to be its narrative, a collection of cliches and contrivances that comes to the surprise of no one, whether involving its main character or even his chemistry with "Art3mis", and so on. To get angry at the movie for being exactly what it seems like seems fruitless to me.

With its approach to the OASIS, I found that there were times that felt mesmerizing, but there were also moments that felt ridiculous and nearly amusing to see, and having some of the references get explained didn't exactly help. I did find parts of the film that were pretty fun, such as the dance sequence and one particular sequence involving a homage to a certain horror film that is fairly clever, along with a few other references, such as one to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (#776). The film certainly has a fine look to it, and the CGI doesn't come off as too particularly distracting, for what it's worth. I never myself hating the film, but I also found myself laughing at parts I probably shouldn't have, such as some of the moments in the OASIS or the ending in particular. The climax isn't too bad, for an action film I suppose. If you find VR headsets cool, I'm sure you'll enjoy it in the film; if you find it to be a bit ridiculous, you might get a laugh, like I kind of did when seeing a scene in which people were using and acting out with the headsets in public. I was surprised to see that the film runs at 140 minutes long, so take your pick on if that is time worth using.

Although it can be said that the characters aren't too particularly developed, I will state that the acting is at the very least fine enough to carry the movie. I find that Sheridan does an okay job, in part because he has a role that doesn't really have much in terms of motivation besides a basic hero type (this can be signified by the speech given during the climax), but he isn't painfully annoying. Cooke does the best with what she is given for a role that also isn't too particularly developed, but she is slightly interesting to watch. I can't really say the chemistry between the two of them is particularly good, mostly going through the motions as if clicking boxes on the checklist. Mendelsohn does a fine job in making a character as generically evil as "corporate businessman" can be and turning it into something that is at the very least entertaining. There's is just something about him and the way that he interacts this environment. reminding me of Paul Gleason, particularly his role in The Breakfast Club (#046). Waike proves to be fairly endearing, providing a few laughs that help the film gain a bit of levity. Miller is also pretty amusing in his henchman role, for the most part. Pegg is fine for the time he is on screen. Rylance proves to be worthy to play this strange character that reminds me of Willy Wonka, albeit with random riddles. The other members of the cast don't have much time on screen, but they serve their parts well.

The film is never particularly moving, but it is at the very least a ride that won't make you too sick to your stomach. I can't give this movie much of an endorsement, but I also won't stand in the way of people who want to enjoy some sort of escapism. It isn't as good as some (or most) of the things that it references, but it is at the very least someone's version of a good time. Will it be some sort of cinema touchstone for pop culture or science fiction? I would say no, but I will conclude that it will just be a movie that comes and goes without leaving something obnoxious behind.

Overall, I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

April 3, 2018

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.


Review #1067: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

Cast: 
Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Walter Day, Robert Mruczek, Brian Kuh, Steve Sanders, Dwayne Richard, Roy Shildt, Todd Rogers, Greg Bond, and Doris Self. Directed by Seth Gordon (#772 - Four Christmases)

Review: 
This happens to be a rare occasion for Movie Night, a documentary film. This is only the second time I've done a documentary review, with the first being Life Itself (#690). The fact that it has been over a decade since this film was released has meant that there has been a few developments in the lives of some of the people in this movie (along with some bonus footage) - but I'll try to focus on the product as it was originally done in 2007.

How does one talk about a documentary like this, where at one point one person talks about how one has to pay to price in order to etch their name to a world record, particularly one such as Donkey Kong, which is a fairly interesting game in its own right? One particular favorite moment of mine is when Wiebe's daughter comments on the Guinness World Record Book and the people in it: "Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there." Stuff like that helps define the film into more than just a blind pursuit. In a world where any type of thing can be a competition (spelling bees, bagging contests, and even sudoku), I suppose that this film can fit the bill of stories that merit a watch - with the enjoyment level depending on how invested one gets in the subject matter of Donkey Kong. I can say that I found some enjoyment from it, as it managed to present itself in an entertaining but useful manner that made itself seem necessary to exist and not something made for laughs. It presents an assortment of interesting people - whether it's a teacher and would be musician and challenger for the record (Wiebe), or a man who in his day job owns a restaurant chain and sells hot sauce while parading his fame for his Donkey Kong record, among other records (Mitchell), or even a man that (I kid you not) goes by a nickname of "Mr. Awesome" (Shildt, in a minor role). Whatever the case, the film shows the strange nature of what it really means to go for as weird as the high score on Donkey Kong. The film certainly runs well enough at 79 minutes, managing to not feel boring or stretching its material out for too long. The movie isn't one that will work for everyone (mostly because of the fact that it is about a video game record, which seem like low stakes), but it manages to have a compelling entertainment value that certainly fits the mold for watchability, because the people showcased are useful enough to want to follow their story, for the most part. Wiebe seems to a fine humble guy to follow, and Mitchell's self-serving but confident manner is also useful to watch, with Day also seeming to be interesting to listen to. The rest of the people in the movie are also useful to watch in their own ways, such as Self, who was the world's oldest video game champion, with her record high score being on Q*bert and her attempt to try and get the record back. Shildt is a strange yet memorable highlight that certainly invites questions over what it means to pursue fame. There is something to be watched in a movie that sparks emotion of anxiety, along with a touch of jealousy in something as odd yet compulsively entertaining in its obsession that certainly makes for an interesting product. Is it anything great? I wouldn't say that necessarily, but I would say that it is at least a thing worth mentioning. No matter how you watch the movie (or play the game), this is one that I can recommend.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

April 2, 2018

The Longest Yard (2005).


Review #1066: The Longest Yard.

Cast: 
Adam Sandler (Paul "Wrecking" Crewe), Chris Rock (James "Caretaker" Farrell), James Cromwell (Warden Rudolph Hazen), Nelly (Earl Megget), William Fichtner (Cpt. Brian Knauer), Burt Reynolds (Coach Nate Scarborough), Bob Sapp (Switowski), Michael Irvin (Deacon Moss), Terry Crews ("Cheeseburger Eddy"), Bill Goldberg (Battle), Bill Romanowski (Guard Lambert), Brian Bosworth (Guard Garner), Kevin Nash (Sgt. Engleheart), and Steve Austin (Guard Dunham) Directed by Peter Segal (#466 - Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and #826 - Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult)

Review: 
Remember the original 1974 film (#778)? The film managed to generate a good deal of laughs that is finely aware of what it wants to be, complete with a fairly entertaining and brutal game of football, with Reynolds being a key highlight due to his charisma. It may interest you to note that this is the second remake of the original film, with Mean Machine being done in 2001, revolving around soccer. In any case, this is a movie that is mediocre in its approach, not doing anything too new with its material nor being anything too terrible to sit through, but it also isn't anything too noteworthy either. Sandler can't compare to Reynolds in terms of his portrayal of Crewe, not having too much energy nor being particularly funny, but it isn't anything that becomes loathsome to watch, at least. Rock has a bit of wisecracking energy that makes for a few amusing moments. Cromwell does okay with the material he's given. The other inmates are all okay for their moments on screen (such as Nelly and Sapp), even if they are used at times for some cheap gags - for better or worse. The guards don't have much time on screen, but at least they provide themselves to be the necessary foil. There weren't many moments that I got any big laughs from, just a few mild chuckles from time to time, but I can't say that it was consistently funny. It is strange to see Reynolds in the film, who looks a bit tired while serving as a reminder of the contrast between him and the other Crewe; it's just weird to see him star in a remake of a film he did, and I can't imagine that would be the case for something like Deliverance (#975) or even The Cannonball Run (#034). I didn't really get much enjoyment from the gags, but at least the football action is fine to watch. I can't hate the movie nor really give it a ringing endorsement, because it just feels like a middle-of-the-road type of film, where the gags can hit or miss depending on the kind of mood you are in. It won't top the original in any real discernible way, but it also won't be anything offensive to someone's sensibilities. If you're up to watching it, I suppose 113 minutes isn't too much of a chore. For others, I would just suggest the 1974 film.

Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.

March 26, 2018

Deathtrap.


Review #1065: Deathtrap.

Cast: 
Michael Caine (Sidney Bruhl), Christopher Reeve (Clifford Anderson), Dyan Cannon (Myra Bruhl), Irene Worth (Helga Ten Dorp), Henry Jones (Porter Milgrim), and Joe Silver (Seymour Starger) Directed by Sidney Lumet (#035 - 12 Angry Men, #036 - Network, and #404 - The Anderson Tapes)

Review: 
Deathtrap was adapted from the play of the same name by Ira Levin, which had run from 1978 to 1982 on Broadway, holding the record for the longest running comedy-thriller on Broadway. The original play comprised of two acts with one set and five characters. and it is easy to say that the transition to film went smoothly, with the only thing added being scenes set in the theater that bookend the movie - along with a few other small changes. Quite simply, this is an effective comedy-thriller, balancing its elements handily along with having a fine pair in Caine and Reeve. The film takes its time to get interesting, but it never comes off as boring nor stale, although I find that the second half of the movie is where it really gets itself into gear. Caine excels in his role, having the right kind of frantic and resourceful nature that makes him fun to watch on screen, particularly with the snappy dialogue that works with his dry tone. Reeve delivers an entertaining performance, managing to balance a boyish charm and unpredictability quite nicely. Cannon is the weak link in the main cast, coming off a bit annoying at points, with her shrieking being a bit tiresome to hear, although she can come off as endearing for others. Worth is fairly amusing in the parts that she is in, playing her eccentric nature with the right kind of conviction and energy that never rattles too much off the deep end. The movie doesn't elicit too much in terms of scares, but it does manage to elicit excitement from its main two actors in the finale to make up for it. The movie has often been compared to Sleuth (1972), which also featured Caine; I can't say how my opinion would've changed had I seen the other film before this one, but I would hope that the viewing experience for either film isn't bent too much because of any kind of comparison-making. The movie manages to run itself fairly well at 116 minutes, never becoming tedious with its twists nor lengthening itself to ridiculous heights, having fun with the ways it moves the pieces of its jigsaw puzzle kind of plot (which you should see for yourself) handily. This is a fine gem that has some dark humor to go along with its clever nature that works in the places it needs to the most with its cast and arrangements that is interesting enough to recommend.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

March 23, 2018

Jumper (2008).


Review #1064: Jumper.

Cast: 
Hayden Christensen (David Rice), Rachel Bilson (Millie Harris), Samuel L. Jackson (Roland Cox), Jamie Bell (Griffin O'Connor), Diane Lane (Mary Rice), Teddy Dunn (Mark Kobold), and Michael Rooker (William Rice) Directed by Doug Liman.

Review: 
It is only fitting that a movie like this involve teleporting, since the film seems to like getting away from itself, constantly shuffling between two modes: erratic and plain. I can't say that the idea of teleporting wouldn't make for a good film (The Fly (#710), anybody?), but I can't say that this movie succeeds, mostly because there isn't much fun delivered with its story nor its contents. The film is based of the book of the same name by Steven Gould, who also contributed to the story (with a screenplay done by David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls & Simon Kinberg), and I imagine that the novel must've had some sort of energy and life to it that must've felt appealing to try and make a movie out of. To say the film feels jumbled is an overstatement, such as the "Paladins", the villains of the film that don't really have much development besides some vague reasoning, or "jump scars", since I guess jumping leaves a trail (or something like that). This is a stunted narrative that can't make us care about what is going on; it's not so much that the film's plot is insulting in a dumb way, it's just that the plot is bland and not particularly involving, with a lack of focus.

In a way, the flatness of the characters means that you can't put all of the blame on Christensen, who delivers a stiff performance that in no way helps the movie get any sort of life, although his character isn't even easy to go for. His character never does anything that makes you really want to root for him, and if it wasn't for the hunting by the paladins, you could re-write him into a villain, complete with a bratty nature and an even more boring amorality, complete with his first lines of the film that describes how he was a normal person, a "chump, just like you" (good start). He doesn't seem to be a terrible actor, but he definitely isn't good in this film. Bilson doesn't bring much energy to a role that feels stiffer than a board, complete with no real chemistry between her and Christensen. Jackson can't really make this villain character anything other than a cliche - where his grey hair is the most noteworthy thing about him. I'd say Bell is the highlight - but that isn't giving the movie any real favors. The rest of the small cast is fairly standard, not doing anything too particularly amusing. The effects aren't terrible, but they also aren't anything that'll make the film any prettier to look at, particularly since the action sequences seem muddled and ridiculous (combined with no real stakes). Even the climax is dull, and the fact that it ends so anti-climatically and so lazily makes for a perfect capstone in this mess. You could likely have a laugh with this if you're in the mood to make fun of a paperthin plot, a cast that can't elevate said material, and 88 minutes to kill., but even re-watching RoboCop 3 (#006) over this dreck seems preferable.

Overall, I give it 5 out of 10 stars.

March 21, 2018

Blood Simple.


Review #1063: Blood Simple.

Cast: 
John Getz (Ray), Frances McDormand (Abby), Dan Hedaya (Julian Marty), M. Emmet Walsh (Private detective Lorren Visser), Samm-Art Williams (Meurice), and Deborah Neumann (Debra) Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (#659 - True Grit (2010) and #765 - Fargo)

Review: 
Blood Simple was the directorial debut of the Coen brothers (although due to guild rules Joel was the one credited as director while Ethan was credited as producer, with both also writing the film), with future director Barry Sonnenfield serving as cinematographer. The film has its edge of darkness and amusing nature, with a fine balance that never comes off as inconsistent nor endless. It's a twisted film that also serves as a good neo-noir that pulls its devious strings of paranoia and guilt with characters that certainly accompany the movie in their own particular ways. Easily the best part of the film is Walsh, who manages to elevate the character onto a sort of legal edge that can be both ruthless and amusing - never coming off as too much of one thing while also being an interesting person to watch on-screen. Getz and McDormand prove to be a fairly decent pairing, being adept at their situations that make this escape of a romance seem right and not out-of-place. Hedaya plays his slimy role comfortably well, doing his role with a sort of relish and emotion that seems right at home for a film like this. The film certainly has a good look to it, having a feel to it that is important to making such a tawdry tale come alive without being glitzy nor overtly muddled. The climax is tense and quick to the point, with a final line that certainly closes the film out on the right note. It is clear that the Coen brothers had a good vision that they wanted to tell on-screen, and they certainly achieve that, weaving a film that succeeds as a piece of noir that manages to hit more times than it misses. They manage to build tension without suffocating the audience in too many cuts or being too long, with this film lasting 96 minutes (with a director's cut that tightens the editing along with shortening certain shots that runs slightly shorter), which feels just right for this movie. Ultimately, this is a fine piece of film-making from the Coen brothers that certainly shows a kind of ingenuity and flair that makes for good entertainment if you're in the mindset for it.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.