Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Category Archives: 1980s

Near Dark (1987)

The 80’s weren’t cool, but vampires were. That’s more than I can say about this decade.

A young man named Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) lives in a small midwestern town and becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires. Since he’s along for the ride, Caleb has to learn to love, kill, and also stay alive as a vampire.

Whenever you hear people bring-up director Kathryn Bigelow’s name, they usually associate it with The Hurt Locker and the next, Afghan-War-setting movie coming-out, Zero Dark Thirty. Yes, the gal has been keeping her self busy lately and definitely has been impressing everybody out there with what she can do but little do people actually know, is that she’s actually made a crap-load of films, way, way before she even got nominated for an Oscar. Some people probably don’t know this, but Bigelow actually took a chance at making a vampire flick, and it’s something I wish she did today to make us forget about all the Bella’s, Jacob’s, and Edward’s. Although, it doesn’t really matter anyway because they’re gone baby! Woo-hoo!

Taking elements of a western, vampire, road, and horror movie and putting them altogether in one movie, makes it seem a bit like a bad idea but somehow, Bigelow makes it work. Her keen-eye for the beautiful scenery of the American Southwest is definitely something that makes this feel a bit Western-y, but then you add in all of the creepy, horror-elements of these vampires, the things they do to survive, and how they don’t give a shit who or what it is that they kill. I don’t want to sell this film like a scary movie, because it really is not, but what it does work on is tension and being as gruesome to watch as it can possibly be.

"If you think we look bad, you should see what the other guy looks like. Especially his neck."

“If you think we look bad, you should see what the other guy looks like. Especially his neck.”

Bigelow has definitely nailed-down the true essence of how to build suspense in one film, but also in certain-scenes as well and there’s a scene here that seems like the first-instance of it. There’s this really cool scene where the whole family goes into this bar, with the intentions of drinking some people’s blood, and realizing that they have a somewhat packed-house, so all they do is basically have a great time with it, kill people left-and-right, terrorize the shit out of the place, and have a smile on their faces the whole time. It’s probably the best scene in the whole movie, and one that kept me tense the whole time because I never knew what was going to happen next, how, or who was going to be possibly killed-off next. To say that this flick is a horror movie would not be categorizing it in the right way, it’s more of a thriller, that just so happens to have vampires doing normal, vampire-like things like biting people, causing havoc, and sucking people’s blood. You know? The finer things in life when you’re a vampire.

However, this one scene may be the best of the whole film, but also just so happens to be the killer of it as well (pun intended, I guess). See, the problem that I had with this flick that so many other people probably didn’t really pay-attention to because they like fun more than me, is that the movie doesn’t really feel like it has any real-spark driving the film along at steady, understandable-pace. For instance, the movie starts off pretty boring as we watch these two love-birds try and see who can get lucky by the end of the night, only to have the whole vampire twisteroo pop-up, and send things into a weird-spin that should feel like the film’s going to pick-up, but it somehow doesn’t.

"It's a blood-patch. What? It hasn't yet caught-on to humans?"

“It’s called a blood-patch. What? It hasn’t caught-on to human culture, yet?”

With the exception of a couple of scenes, especially the one in the bar that I just mentioned, everything else in this flick is pretty dull to the romance that never shows any signs of actual chemistry, let alone any “love” being involved whatsoever; to the corny, synth score from Tangerine Dream that just so happens to be in here for one reason and one reason only: it’s the 80’s and synths are apparently cool; to the explanation of how you can overcome this vampire disease, that made me think the creators of Daybreakers actually worked with some scientists; and finally, to the family full of nuts that I didn’t quite care about, mainly because they don’t ever seem to share any pure-moments of bonding because all they ever do together is kill, suck, and move. I would have loved this movie like every other fanboy out there in the world, but the film just lacked any sort of emotional, or compelling-drive to honestly reel me in as much as it wanted to.

Since it is the 80’s, you know that we have to have a crazy-ass performance from Bill Paxton, and that’s exactly what he delivers here as Severen. Paxton can play crazy, like no otha motha, and he shows that so well here and even steals a couple of the scenes he’s been given permission to take. Yeah, Paxton may be over-the-top, campy, and hamming-it-up like nobody’s business, but at least the guy was fun to watch and kept my attention off of the relatively lame and dull story, that just never seemed to catch-up with this guys energy.

The only instance of this kid's career being "on fire."

The only instance of this kid’s career being “on fire.”

Playing the leader of the group of vampires, is Lance Henriksen that really does have a sinister act and persona to him that makes you shiver, quiver, and feel a bit scared whenever he’s around. The guy’s got a presence that makes me wonder why he isn’t in more stuff, just absolutely scaring the shit out of more and more people, and trust me, with a voice like that, a guy can do damage to some people’s pants. The lovebirds that get stuck in the middle of all of this craziness and horror are played by Jenny Wright and Adrian Pesdar, and as much as they try their hardest to make us feel their love and cook something-up, nothing ever gets hot and heavy between one another and it just seems like another forced romance that’s supposed to move the plot along, despite us not believing in a single-lick of it. I can’t also forget to mention the annoying piece of shit kid-actor known as Joshua John Miller, who I mainly remember annoying the crap out of me in River’s Edge, and you know what? Not much changes here, either, as I still wanted to beat the shit non-stop out of this kid and just hope and pray nobody cares about his movie-career. I highly doubt anybody would care anyway, but still, I just couldn’t help my evil-thoughts at times during this movie.

Consensus: In a day and age where vampires are star-crossed lovers that are torn-apart due to sappy stories that we don’t care about, Near Dark is a fresh change-of-pace for the vampire movie-genre where they were taken more seriously, showed more gore, and most of all, allowed themselves to do the dirty deeds they were invented to do in the first-place: suck blood out of random people’s necks. It’s not perfect, but it’s nice to watch if you want to get over the whole Twilight-craze being over and done with….for now.


Was that seriously the only light source they had in that area?

Was that seriously the only light source they had in the area?

They Live (1988)

Not much changes in the world we live in, except for dated movies apparently.

The film follows a nameless drifter referred to as “Nada” (Roddy Piper), who discovers the ruling class within the moneyed elite are in fact aliens managing human social affairs through the use of a signal on top of the TV broadcast, concealing their appearance and subliminal messages in mass media.

It’s funny how spot-on writer/director John Carpenter is with his satire here. All of the comments about the “Reaganomics” of the 80’s, TV, movies, and pop-culture, were all pretty funny and made me think about this a whole lot more than I was even expecting too. But I only wished that he could have kept that going on for longer.

The whole tone and setting that Carpenter started off with was pretty nice. The rich are getting richer, while the poorer are getting poorer and this is an element to this flick that starts this flick off with a bleak beginning but it isn’t as depressing because there is a big-hint of mystery in the air. I liked how Carpenter starts his flicks off, with just the right amount of mystery, setting, and even some character development roaming around as well and this one is no different. However, it was only a matter of time until he started to lose me, and lose me real, real bad.

Everything was going fine with this dark comedy satire idea on 80’s culture, but as soon as Piper puts on his cool shades, then the film goes for a huge action-packed ride. This bothered me because I felt like Carpenter really set himself up big-time with a groovy premise like this that would have everybody laughing at all of its irony, but instead, he just decided to waste his time on bullets and corny one-liners. It’s almost as if he had a good idea in his head and started off with it, and then he just decided to be a little teenager again and get a little crazy with his guns. I don’t know if that’s exactly what was going through Carpenter’s head but it sure as hell seems like it.

But it wasn’t just the fact that the film changed its tone in the first place, what really bothered me was the fact that the action wasn’t as exciting as it could have been to get this story off the ground. Of course, there’s scenes of Piper going around with a shot-gun, shooting off aliens left-and-right (which is always good fun to see) but it just keeps on starting and stopping, almost to the point of where I was utterly and completely bored. I had the same problem with Escape from New York, but it was just so much worse here and instead of keeping me glued in, it just lost me and at one point, even had me nodding off. Also, what the hell was up with that 7-minute fight!?! Made absolutely no sense as to why it went on as excruciatingly long as it did and didn’t really do much for the story, other than to show that Piper is a tough-ass mofo.

Speaking of Roddy Piper, he tries his hardest here as Nada but can’t do nothing else other than seem flat the whole time. I loved Piper as a wrestler, and always found out that he was a funny guy, who could always back it up in the ring with the best of them but he definitely can’t do that as an actor. The casting of Piper was a very smart idea from Carpenter, but Piper’s character is so flat and uninteresting, that’s it almost too hard to believe or even care what the hell this guy is going to do next to all of these bad-ass aliens. Actually, it seemed weird that Piper would start off so squeaky-clean at first, with a guy who almost seems like he wouldn’t hurt a fly, but then changes it up out of nowhere, and is now this wild, crazy, and violent one-liner dropping type of dude that don’t take no shit from nobody. It just seemed very strange to me and no matter how much I love Piper as a wrestler, the guy can’t act. Sorry my kilt-wearing friend.

But hey, at least Keith David was around to keep things going the right way, right?!? That guy better get a damn Oscar one of these days.

Consensus: They Live starts off fresh, smart, and very intriguing with it’s satire-covered premise, but then it switches gears to an action movie, and a not-so fun or entertaining action movie at that with it’s constantly uneven pace.


Red Dawn (1984)

When in doubt, always trust The Swayze.

It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers bands together to defend their town and their country from invading Soviet forces and also try to fend themselves off of each one another as well.

So, after about 4 years of being in post-production, the remake to this 80 classic is finally coming around and to celebrate (if that’s what you call this review) the arrival of it, I’m going to go back to the days when times were simpler, and hell of a lot cheesier. Big, big mistake on my part.

Back in the 80’s, it really seemed like America was paranoid as hell by the Ruskies and what they were going to do to us next, which makes it all the more reason why this film should have just had a whole bunch of more fun with itself. Seriously, when you see a premise that includes a bunch of young kids with AK-47’s, going around and shooting up the Soviets, you should be expecting a whole bunch of ridiculous fun that continues to get better and better as the flick goes on. However, that’s barely the case here and instead, we get a lot of moping, sadness, and total seriousness from everybody involved. I get the fact that maybe the idea back in the 80’s of us getting invaded wasn’t such a funny, little joke like we can sort of have now, but there wasn’t anything here at all to lighten-up the mood at all. Everything is taken as if it really was happening, with real people, real situations, and real guns. If I wanted to see something like this being real, I would go to Russia myself with a bunch of guns and start shooting up the place. When I go to the movies, I expect non-fiction fun and a whole bunch of it, as well.

See, even though the serious-approach to this story may be bad, it gets even worse when you consider the screenplay everybody has to work with here. This is some god-awful screen-writing that starts off corny, gets cornier, and just ends up being downright laughable by the end of it, but not just because of the lines these characters use, but because of what the writers and director behind this movie try to get us to care about. The scenes with the whole army of wolverines together, didn’t do shit for me as half of the time as when they were just sitting around, eating beans, and crying about how they miss their mommy and daddy. I don’t think a single conversation went by without one of them breaking down into a full-out cry-fest as if they just got done watching Marley & Me. Yeah, it’s pretty sad but come on, your shooting the freakin’ people that killed your mommy and daddy so be happy and put a smile on if you can and keep on nuking. Then, the film tries to have it both ways by trying to develop and have us sympathize with the evil characters from the Russian side, but it works for these characters, just like it works for the others: to no avail whatsoever. Basically, we are just left watching the movie without any real human-connection whatsoever and it’s pretty obvious that the film-makers were just depending on the cool premise and right-wing approach the whole time.

Then again, who needs substance, when you can just blow shit up for 2 hours?!? That’s pretty much what this film was asking, and you can totally tell because of the action is pretty solid, in terms of 80’s action glory. I don’t know if this matters at all in today’s day and age of NC-17 movies coming out every month, but this was one of the first flicks to ever get slapped with the PG-13 rating and has 2.23 glorious acts of violence occur every minute. Now, if that doesn’t tell you anything about this film then I don’t know what will but the explosions, gun-play, blood, killing, and warfare is pretty fun to watch and definitely where most of the film’s energy lies in. Didn’t understand why the hell the Soviets took time out of their day, just sitting around and being angry, when all they could have done was just look around for a bunch of young punks in the woods. However, though, I didn’t write this movie and thank God for that or else I would probably have to take up a job as a pizza-delivery boy for Domino’s!

The positive to this film that sort of kills all of those other bad germs is Mr. Patrick Swayze who I will never, ever say a bad thing about in any movie whatsoever. I love the guy and I loved him here, but it’s such a shame that everybody else around him just sucks the life out of everything good that The Swayze does and most of all, does with style. Seriously, you got a cast full of 80’s stars like Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, and Jennifer Grey all accompanying Swayze, and they are all so gosh darn terrible. I don’t know if it was the cringe-inducing script that screwed them over or what, but something was just not clicking here and every time one of these character’s opened their loud-ass mouths, I just prayed that a Soviet wrecking-crew would come around and blow their freakin’ heads off. I know, I know I sound like a freakin’ maniac, but they really pissed me off and I didn’t really give a shit whether or not they completed their mission (whatever that was). I just wanted them to start blowing shit up, taking names, and doing it all for the good of the country. In a way, I guess they succeeded, but damn is it a miserable time getting to that point.

Consensus: Red Dawn is an obvious flick for a cult following: it has guns, explosions, cheesy dialogue, and Patrick Swayze. Then again, though, a lot of those elements that make it so loved by a certain type of crowd, doesn’t always click so well with other viewers who just want to have some fun with a movie and not have to be bothered with a terrible script that’s unbearable at times.


Halloween Horror Movie Month: Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

You just had to go back to that cabin, didn’t you?

Basically, Dead By Dawn retcons the fact that Ash went with four other college students to the fact that he only went with his girlfriend Linda (Denise Bixler). It recaps the events of the first film, up until the point where the spirit attacks Ash, which basically means that it’s another night trapped with the horrifying demons of the Necronomicon.

After checking out The Evil Dead for Halloween Horror Movie Month last year, I knew I had to end this year’s one on a bang. And if you have seen this movie, you know exactly what type of bang I’m talking about. In-joke, bitches. In-joke.

If you think seeing this movie as being a part of my little meme for this month means that it’s scary, I will assure you: it’s far from that. Yeah, there is a couple of jump-scares here and there that catch you off-guard in the way most horror movies do, but this is more of a campy, over-the-top horror movie, with slight, comedic undertones, and that’s probably what makes this film so much damn fun in the first-place. Like with the first-movie, director Sam Raimi shows that he loves making these kinds of movies, regardless as to how much money or material is at his disposal. The guy just has a ball with everything that he owns here, and it shows, but in a good-way. So, for any movie-geek out there who thinks that making all of your wildest dreams come true of being a big-time film-maker are lost because you don’t know the difference between a 16 mm and a 70 mm, then have no fear and just take a note out of this guy’s book. Hell, he’s making this crap and no less than 15 years later he was already making a big-budget, Spider-Man movie. Just goes to show you what a bunch of fun and love can do and where it can get you in Hollywood.

Despite being a sequel to a relatively scary movie, Evil Dead 2 pulls no punches in making itself as goofy as can be. You got laughing furniture, prosthetic chainsaws, tree monsters, an evil book of the dead, and plenty of other crazy and goofy stuff that just so happens to show up in this movie, but it all works because it is never, not for once, taken in the least-bit seriously. Everything here is practically a joke and every scene that happens, is just as outrageous and crazy as the last one but who cares? It’s not about scaring the pants off of film-goers, it’s more about showing the audience that you can have a kick-ass time just watching a movie that does not pull any punches with itself, or it’s material.

And when I mean that this film “does not pull any punches”, I mean that it does not linger away from showing you some disgusting, freakishly-weird looking things up on-screen and as dated as they may be, they still are inventive and original, in their own, sick way. There’s plenty of blood and goo that just pops-out of nowhere sometimes so if you’re squeamish, remember, you have been warned to bring your brown paper bag with ‘ya. Then again, why the hell would you be going to see this movie in the first-place if you don’t like blood or gore. It’s called Evil Dead for chrissakes, and better yet, it’s the sequel. More evil, more dead, more blood, and more guts to be seen. That’s how I like my horror movies and that’s why I had a ball with this one.

I know, I know that this whole review has been all about me practically making love to this movie and telling you how much fun I had but when I say that, I really mean it. Yes, it can be perceived as corny-as-hell in most-spots but that shit doesn’t really matter when you have a cast and crew that sort of knows it and is doing it on-purpose. It’s so rare that you can come by a film that just knows what it is, plays around with itself, and makes no apologies for itself either. Trust me, rather than being scared shit-less until your own pants, literally fall-off from so much feces (sorry for the graphic image), you’ll most likely lose them from all of the piss that comes out when you laugh so hard. Seriously, lines like “Groovy” and “Swallow this”, just had me howling in my seat not only because they were corny, but just because they fit the whole tone of the movie and seemed like it served it’s purpose when it was all said and over with. You’re not going to get a more over-the-top and wild movie than this, and that’s a fact, Jack.

And you know who else serves his mother ‘effin purpose? Fuckin’ Bruce Campbell, that’s who! I remember seeing Campbell play Ash in the first movie, and remembering that this guy definitely seemed like he had a mean-streak in him and should totally let-loose against these demonic pieces of shit if he knew what’s best for him. Thankfully, by the end of that movie, he got that memo after all and gets that one right from the start here and it’s freakin’ awesome to see. The guy does a total 180 and starts kicking ass, taking names, saying cheesy-lines, saving dames, and doing everything else, other than chewing bubble gum (that was a They Live reference in case you peeps didn’t know). Campbell is the big reason why so many people love this movie, and exactly why I do too because no matter how many times the guy gets his ass kicked, he always comes back for more and that’s refreshing to see in a horror-genre that’s now plagued by high-school pussies that are more concerned with their virginity than their lives. That’s why we need another character like Ash in today’s day and age to smack some sense into these little pieces of crap. Actually, if there is a complaint I had with this movie was that when Ash does eventually meet-up with other people in this movie, they are annoying, despicable, and do every single, stupid thing that you would normally expect from horror-movie conventions and stock-characters. However, Ash was still there to save the day in the end and that’s all I cared about. Thank the lord for Bruce Campbell!

Consensus: I went back-and-forth on whether or not I should have given this movie an 8.5 or 9, and I just realized that the whole-time, I continued to smile and smile throughout and it’s exactly what I wanted in a horror flick. Pure fun, pure campiness, and pure, over-the-top, goofiness that never steps into serious-territory.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Running Man (1987)

Don’t trust the TV. Especially that crap on MTV.

Set in the future, one of the most popular TV shows is called The Running Man, and it features supposed crooks running away from these over-the-top manufactured villains, as well as escaping these torturous boobie-traps. These bad guys are there to kill the supposed crooks, and eventually, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself ends up in the “game”.

Believe it or not, it was none other than Paul Michael Glaser who directed this little 80’s gem from back in the day. Whoever thought that Starsky had it in him to make a movie like this and even though it may not be the most loved and adored out of Arnie’s 80’s to 90’s collection, it still hits a bit of a soft-spot with me for some odd reasons.

The main reason why this movie works so well, still in the year 2012, is because this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yeah, there’s a lot of corny one-liners, plenty of outlandish wardrobes that look like they were made for a drag-queen runway show, and a lot of over-the-top performances that may have you laughing your ass off by how dumb they sound in this movie, but the fact that this film is still able to have fun with itself makes it a more enjoyable ride than I expected. Even back when I saw this one in 8th grade, I just kept remembering how corny everything is and now, my opinion still hasn’t changed but I’m able to get by certain elements like that with a movie like this because it totally takes advantage of it’s kick-ass premise.

And yes, for all you little teenie-boppers reading this out there, this premise is very similar to The Hunger Games‘ one but this came out before that one, so if you got a problem, take it up with Arnie and see what he has to say. Aww man, good old, cheese-ball Arnie quotes. Those were the prank-call-using-soundboard days.

The problem I did have with this film, is that the film’s message is a little too in-your-face, almost to the point of where they are actually just telling you, “hey, don’t believe everything you see on the television”. Is this a very true statement that seems very relevant in today’s world? Yes, but do we really need to see this done so obviously and blatantly? No, and even if some of the material did have me laughing, it just felt like it was trying too hard to go for that satire idea and somehow failed at doing so. Maybe when you see films like these, the points that they’re trying to get across doesn’t really matter, but when it’s done in an hitting-over-the-head way like this, it can get pretty annoying, pretty quick. That’s why I just depended on Arnie to say dumb shit like this. Hahahahahah god! I just cannot get enough of that stuff!

But all joking aside, Arnie has never been the best actor, he knows it, we know it, Sylvester Stallone knows it, and even Maria Shriver knows it (hey yo!). However, that’s why we as a movie-loving audience, don’t really watch him to give grand-stand, Oscar-winning performances, we watch him so he can go around, kick the baddies’ asses, chew out some terrible one-liners, and at the end of it all, come out on-top with the girl on his arm. That’s all we need with Arnie in any role that he has ever done and that’s why I’m really glad to see him coming back on the big-screen because the guy still has that star-appeal to him, regardless of how much of that ravishing physique he’s lost over the years. Yikes!

Probably the reason why this film is so entertaining to watch, even when it seems like it’s starting to get boring and a little slow, is all because of Richard Dawson as The Running Man’s dick-headed host that seems all nice and lovely to everybody in front of the screen, but behind-the-scenes, is an evil and nasty guy that would do anything, and I mean, anything, just to get ahead in the ratings. I don’t know who’s bright idea it was to cast the kissy-face host from The Family Feud (aka one of the most family-oriented game shows of all-time) as the evil game-show host here, but it was one of the smartest pieces of casting and it’s even better because Dawson doesn’t even seem like he’s doing anything new for himself. He’s pretty much just playing what he’s always played for the past decade or so, except this time, he’s a little more evil than you might have seen him get. So if Arnie’s one-liners are pissing you off to the high-heavens (and I really don’t know why they would), then just depend on Dawson to keep your mind alive and awake during this one.

Consensus: Though it is definitely an over-the-top, corny, and silly piece of 80’s action, The Running Man still has a certain type of entertainment to it with some funny-ass one-liners, exciting action that can get pretty gory at times, and a solid supporting performance from Richard Dawson as the diabolical game-show host.


When Harry Met Sally (1989)

I really do hope that none of my lady friends know the real reason as to why I always answer their late calls at night.

Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) debate during a trip from Chicago to New York about sex and friendships between men and women. Eleven years later, they’re still no closer to finding these answers but are a lot closer to each other than they ever expected.

Can a man and a woman be friends? Or does sex get in the way of that? These are two obvious questions that this flick brings up and I think the solution of it all is pretty clear: yes.

Director Rob Reiner and writer Nora Ephron were definitely on the same page here when it came to meshing these two elements together, because it’s just about perfect. Ephron’s script is very good as it covers a lot of questions and themes that usually come up between a man and a woman, especially with relationships as well. There’s plenty of insight into the minds of two normal, everyday human beings that just feel very true and believable even if it does come from the minds of a whole bunch of Hollywood heads. The film is also very funny and made me laugh a whole bunch because it focuses on relationships in a funny way, but also shows them in a way that makes you rethink all of the relationships you’ve ever been in and may soon be in for the near future.

At the heart of this film though, is the friendship between Harry and Sally. At first, they both hate each other and make it obviously seem like they could never be friends but we stop by on them every time they spot each other every once and awhile, and each time the conversations are funny as well as biting. They both start to become friends, even best friends at that, and I think that’s where the film really won me over with was that I could believe these two as friends and maybe even as lovers. The conversations these two have with each other about relationships, sex, divorce, ‘Casablanca’, and so many other things, all feel real and what would be discussed between two people that are very good friends and will tell each other anything and everything. Reiner definitely did a great job with focusing on these two throughout the whole movie but also not forgetting let the points about relationships from Ephron hit as well.

What I did think was a bit strange about this direction from Reiner was the little interviews from elderly couples that have their own love stories to tell. For some reason they would just pop-up in this flick out of nowhere and some stories would be funny, sad, and even a little heartwarming but they didn’t really need to be here. I get that Reiner was trying to show how love can just come up and find you and your muse at any time in life, but I didn’t feel like it was suited well for the material they had here and instead it just showed that Reiner didn’t know how to transition between scenes very well. It’s my only complaint though so I can’t be too hard on him and this film.

The reason why this film works so well the way it does is because of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan‘s performances as Harry and Sally. Crystal is very, very funny as Harry and uses a lot of the sly humor he uses in ever film and also when he hosts the Oscars. His dramatic chops may not be the best skills he has to offer, but he at least gets by on showing us a very funny and believable character that you could probably walk by on the street and talk to for hours on end about anything. Ryan also is very good here in her own way as Sally and she shows a great divide between humor, heart, and beauty that fits together so perfectly. I don’t usually like Ryan in a lot of stuff (except for ‘In the Cut’, which is for obvious reasons ;)…..) but she won me over here with a female romantic lead that wasn’t stupid and knew just how ridiculous and over-dramatic she could be at some points. Together, they’re a perfect pair because they have such funny and believable interplay that it’s hard to take them as anything else but best buddies. This script was great to begin with but because of these two, it got a hell of a lot better in my book.

Consensus: When Harry Met Sally may fall for the same rom-com cliches we always get, but the smart and true script, mixed with two honest and likable performances from Crystal and Ryan, make this one of the better rom-coms I have seen in quite some time.


RIP Nora Ephron, you will truly be missed.

Heathers (1988)

It’s like the old saying; “if you hate ’em…kill ’em”. Not an actual saying but it should be.

Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) hates the girls in her popular clique. Enter mysterious newcomer J.D. (Christian Slater), who offers her the perfect — albeit deadly — solution to end the Heathers’ social tyranny.

Hasn’t every kid in high school at least once dreamed of killing off the popular high school sluts and jocks? I mean sure every one has, but to dream of it is one thing, but then to actually do it is another. Go geeks!

What I liked most about this flick is that it’s not like your usual high school flick and I think that’s where it’s real selling point was. The script by Daniel Waters is great because he makes fun of all the things we see in high school such as the bitchy prom queens, the asshole football players, the dumb teachers, and the clueless parents who have no idea of what’s going on. It’s a satire but it’s also very true in how it voices its mind of just how stereotypical high school can be. Waters definitely delivers the good when it came to making me laugh my ass off here but it’s also the central point here as well that made me think of it a whole lot differently as well.

No matter what anybody does, high school will always be high school. There will always be the cliques, there will always be the prissy girls that are too good for you so they go on top of college guys every weekend, there will always be those dickheads that try to take your lunch money everyday, there will always be those teachers/adults who “just don’t get it”, and there will always be the geeks who can never stand up for themselves. That’s how it’s been,  that’s how it will always be and there’s no way anybody can eliminate that. However, you still don’t have to be apart of all of that and you can just be your own person, without ever conforming or trying to “fit in” with a certain group of people. This rings very true, especially to a dude like me who never really tried to blend in with a certain group. I’ll be cool with any person who is able to be cool with me and it doesn’t matter how high on the social status they are either. Maybe this isn’t the point of the flick and I’m just looking for something to look in deeper with, but it still rang a little true for me.

But the main problem I had with this flick was that I think it started to get a little too serious by the end and that’s where it lost me. Yes, the whole idea of having teens kill off other teens is a very dark subject, and something you definitely couldn’t do in today’s day and age of post-Columbine, but you still can lighten it up just a bit without losing that comedic edge. The film loses itself half-way through because then everything starts to get scarier, a lot more serious, and a lot more darker to the point of where I wasn’t really laughing all that much. I think that Waters’ script is done very well here, but I think that he loses his comedic timing by the end and maybe, just maybe, gets a little too carried away with taking such a bizarre-o premise so seriously in the end.

It was really cool to see two stars such as Winona Ryder and Christian Slater back in their hay-day, and give great performances as two great characters. Ryder is awesome as Veronica, a character who seems like she’s definitely a lot more smarter than the girl she hangs around with, but then ends up almost getting sucked right back into it once the other girls start to get up in her grill about it. Ryder has great comedic timing in almost everything she does, and even though she starts to get a little cheesy by the end, I still have to say that I liked everything else she did with a very well-written character. Slater was awesome as J.D., using that “young Jack Nicholson” shtick he’s always known for but it also gives him this mysterious edge to him. I think that they kind of dropped the ball on this character later on in the flick as I think they could have developed him a bit more, but I still liked Slater for what he did here and it’s such a shame to see how much he has fallen down the radar since this.

Consensus: Heathers may get a tad too serious by the end, but it still maintains a smart, funny, and satirical look at the way high school is, how it’s always been, and how it always will be, even if the subject matter may be a bit too dark for some people to hold in.


Escape from New York (1981)

That poster has nothing to do with this flick but it’s still pretty damn cool.

It’s 1997 and crime rates have been soaring up so high that New York City has been blockaded off for a place where all criminals run around and do their own thing. However though, the U.S. president (Donald Pleasence) is soon captured by these criminals and soon has to be rescued by condemned criminal and former war hero, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell).

The 80’s may have been a rather lame decade but for legendary director John Carpenter, it was probably the best 10 years of his life that he will ever have and it all started because of this one. I don’t know why though either considering there isn’t anything really special to be seen here.

What bothered me with this film right from the start was how the flick started off so slowly and just seemed to just slide right by with barely any action or anything else that would have held my attention. There’s definitely a certain type of atmosphere here to really get you worried but the film never really plays up on that and is more concerned with building up the plot, which in some cases is a good idea but for this one, it doesn’t work and just comes off more as being a bore fest.

You can also definitely tell that Carpenter really didn’t hit his niche with this flick either. The vision is cool but it definitely isn’t pretty looking and it actually looks a lot more unprofessional and cheesy rather than eye-opening. Since I knew there was going to be a lot of New York looking like total ish the whole flick, I wasn’t all that surprised to see how much Carpenter just littered it up here but then again, he could have made it look a lot better rather than just making it look a bit too much like an indie flick. Basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s obvious that Carpenter was on the top of his game with this one but a year later, he ended up making The Thing, so I guess he can be forgiven for that.

However, once that first hour went by everything started to get better and better. There isn’t much dialogue but even when these characters do speak, they seem pretty mean, nasty, and tense which adds a lot to the whole vision and feel of this flick. Speaking of the vision, the central premise of how New York is now all of a sudden a huge play-ground for all of these angry and evil criminals to just do whatever the hell they feel like is really cool and used well enough here to give you a cool feeling that this place is basically shit and everybody in it deserves to die, with the exception of some nice peeps. The action is also pretty good but then again, there wasn’t enough of it except for a one-on-one fight between Snake and this big ass bearded dude that ends in a very cool way which definitely is one of the high-lights here.

The main reason why this film is probably as iconic as it is today is because of its central character himself, Snake Plissken, played by the always amazing Kurt Russell. Russell and Carpenter had great collaborations together and this was definitely one of them because Russell is able to create this bad-ass, cool, and utterly terrifying dudes that seemed like he didn’t give any shit whether or not you were ready to fight, he will just kick your ass no matter what. Plissken barely talks in this flick but even when he does, he always seems to talking through his clenched teeth but he’s not about his words and more about his actions. This guy is definitely one you want on your side in a bar fight and also a character that shows that Russell was and still is able to create characters like this where you don’t want to mess with them, even if you do think they need a nice ass-whoopin’.

As for the rest of the cast, they are all pretty good with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, and Donald Pleasence all showing up, but perhaps the most memorable from this whole flick is Issac Hayes as the #1 and only master of this little criminal playground, The Duke of New York. Hayes is cool no matter what flick he does and here is no exception even though I would have definitely liked to see a little bit more of him being an evil mofo, but then again I think we get enough.

Consensus: Escape from New York has a cool vision, great central performance from Kurt Russell playing the bad-ass character, Snake Plissken, and has some amount of B-movie fun to it, however, the first hour goes down with a whimper and you can definitely tell that this isn’t Carpenter’s best direction but he made up for it a year later so it’s not that bad.


An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

Being in the Army can blow, especially if the guy who’s constantly yelling at you really wants an Oscar.

Dreams of being a Navy pilot prompt Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) to enroll in officer training school, where he runs afoul of a drill instructor (Louis Gossett Jr.) who senses the cadet’s loner instinct and aims to school him on the importance of teamwork — or break him in the process. In the meantime, Mayo romances a working girl (Debra Winger), ignoring warnings to steer clear of the local lasses out to bag hotshot Navy flyboys.

This is a film that I’ve heard so much about from my parents, aunts, uncles, and even grand-parents. But since it has Richard Gere in the main cast, I wasn’t too happy to see it but I can say that this is one of those very few Richard Gere flicks that I actually enjoyed. Did I mention Richard Gere by any chance?

This film has a very old-fashioned feel to it but its set in the cool and hip 80’s. The whole idea of the modern “American dream” was still alive in the U.S. and this film showed how young working-class citizens could still have that dream fulfilled, and this is what sort of reminded me of films from the 40’s when we were off fighting in the war. I liked this feel and most of that is that is thanks to director Taylor Hackford.

Hackford does a great job with this material because he keeps this story building-up, to where we have a feel for all of these characters and why or why not we should give a rat’s ass about them. I liked how Hackford also kept this happy spirit alive within the film, even though there are some pretty dark moments that will sure ring into your mind as shocking but still very well-placed. Hackford is basically creating a happy-go-lucky story about a young and restless kid going into his life of manhood, something that was a huge staple back in the black-and-white days of film, but he adds a little bit more edginess with some sexy time, rough language, and a lot more violence than I actually expected.

The problem with this story and with this film overall is that even the film entertained me for the most part, I still couldn’t get involved with this story at all. I knew what was going to happen with this story because it’s all so cheesy and predictable at points, but I could never get involved with the character Zack Mayo. This guy seems like a total dick, who doesn’t really care about himself or the others around him and the whole time we’re supposed to watch him on-screen and possibly root for him. I didn’t take this in by one second and at the end of the film we’re supposed to believe he’s a changed man by saying thank you to people. Yeah, OK!

Speaking about the ending, I knew exactly what was going to happen since I’ve heard about it 100 times beforehand and seen it spoofed in all of these other shows and what not but my main problem with this ending was that it was way too sentimental and by the end of the flick, I didn’t think anything was changed. Mayo still seemed like a dick, but this time he just had a love in his life. Nothing new, just the same old dude.

Richard Gere has never been one of my favorites and here he does an OK job as Zack Mayo, but once again he’s not really doing anything new that I haven’t already seen him done before. Mayo is a dick and Gere is pretty good at playing that but I just never could get behind this guy for some odd reason. Debra Winger is very good as “his girl”, Paula, and actually creates a character that you can root for because she doesn’t want to love him, but sometimes, you just gotta give into the love. They create a good chemistry together and it’s a shame that I don’t see Winger in anything anymore other than indie productions like ‘Rachel Getting Married’. David Keith also is fine as Mayo’s good buddy, Sid, who always seems to be there for him no matter what.

The best performance out of the whole cast actually won an Oscar, which isn’t a real surprise but it’s Louis Gossett Jr. as Sgt. Emil Foley. Right from the get-go this guy is a total bad-ass that just shows up and tears about every single person he sees into pieces. He’s loud, funny, and altogether, just a total joy to watch even when this film does start to get very serious and dive into some pretty dark material, but he still found a way to keep me laughing and just pretty intimidated as well. “Mayooonaiseee!”.

Consensus: Some moments are cheesier than others, and the central character isn’t a very likable one, but An Officer and a Gentleman still has a lot of heart when it comes to creating a genuinely entertaining story, with good performances to back it up as well.


Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

If I ever need someone to drive me around, I definitely would want Morgan Freeman as the dude.

A genteel but strong-willed Southern matron (Jessica Tandy) is an old-crochity lady who wants to do everything herself. That is all until one day when her son (Dan Aykroyd) hires a driver for her by the name of Hoke (Morgan Freeman). She’s displeased with this, but she soon starts to form a bond with him.

Adapted from the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning play, ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is a film that I have been wanting to see for a quite awhile now considering it’s the last PG film to win Best Picture. To be honest though, there were better films that year.

Director Bruce Beresford does a great job here of giving us a story that is initially slow-paced but feels real by the way it moves and by the way characters act. The film starts off by showing these two characters who talk their own way, act their own way, and basically live their own way but soon start to change after they continue conversations with one another. Beresford really down-plays a lot of the changing moments between these characters and it almost feels like something that would happen in real-life is two people of different races and backgrounds were to come together and realize something about each other.

The film also has a great deal of love and warmth in the air, which I think is a real testament to Alfred Uhry’s screenplay. Beresford and Uhry make a great team because the smooth direction almost goes hand-in-hand with this very charming but very real screenplay that not only addresses a lot of the racial problems that were going around the time-period (1948 to 1989) but doesn’t over-do it and does it more subtle than I expected. I think it’s the way that Uhry is able to combine heart, humor, and race issues into this film is the reason it won so many Oscars and why I actually enjoyed listening to these characters talk.

The problem with this film is that even though it may talk about these racial issues, it never seems like anything we haven’t heard or seen done before. We never really get any insight on how these characters feel and even though we get glimpses of them changing, there’s never any real moment where we really see these race issues tackled up-front and center. Don’t get me wrong, I liked what the film was trying to show me but there isn’t anything really new or surprising that this film has to say other than old white women should not drive.

Also, I like the film for being very relaxed and warm with it’s direction and writing but I never actually felt involved with the emotion of this story. Yes, it does have a nice little friendship between two different people that is at the heart of this film but we never actually feel any certain type of heart-wrenching moments towards either of them until about the last 20 minutes. Before these 20 minutes actually happened though, the film brings up little snippets of these two actually getting along and becoming very close but there was not enough of that for me to fully get into the emotion that this story was trying to make me feel.

What really saves this flick is the performances by everybody in this small-cast of characters. Morgan Freeman gives an incredibly likable performance as Hoke and probably the one that put him right on-the-map. Hoke is just one of those Southern bumpkins you get that is always happy about something and finds joy in making others happy but is also true to himself no matter what may come his way. Freeman plays this up perfectly and he uses a lot wit to great advantage and makes us feel so much more for his character. Dan Aykroyd is also here and gives a very quiet and subtle performance as Boolie, and even though it’s a little too hard to forget who’s playing the role, it’s still great to see him actually watch him doing something that makes you laugh considering he doesn’t do much of that nowadays.

Jessica Tandy was absolutely perfect in this film as Miss Daisy and deserved the Oscar she got that year. Tandy is playing a Jewish woman and even though she may never seem Jewish her role as this old and grumpy old woman who complains about anything and everything, still somehow made me feel a lot for her. We see little moments in this film of her being alone and being very scared to be alone but as soon as somebody is there with her, she goes right back to her old and grumpy self. These moments were very moving as we see an old woman who starts to see not only the world changing, but her life as well and the way Tandy plays it all up works perfectly for this character. Her and Freeman actually work perfectly together using moments of silence to actually convey more emotions rather than when they actually are speaking.

Consensus: Though Driving Miss Daisy doesn’t have anything new or biting to say about its subject material, the performances from Aykroyd, Freeman, and especially Tandy and the warm screenplay will make you feel something for this story even if you won’t be crying your eyes out by the end of it.


The Accused (1988)

Never going to be able to play pinball the same way ever again now.

After being raped by three men in a local bar, Sarah (Jodie Foster), enraged at the light sentence her attackers receive, persuades attorney Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) to press charges against the men who cheered on the attack. But it won’t be easy: Sarah has a shady past that could be used against her in court.

There have been many films to deal with the subject of rape but never before 1988 was there one that dealt with it in such a straight-up and frank way. I mean we practically see rape happen in almost every horror/thriller but never do we get to see what happens when that racist is finally poned.

The film is based off of a real-life case that took place in 1983 and the film never loses that raw edge and feel about the whole subject of rape. Rape is obviously something that’s not good no matter who the person may be but this flick shows all of the damage it can do to one person and how they deal with it on a day-to-day basis. It’s a good and important story that deserves to be told but I still feel like it deserved a better flick.

The problem with all of this is though, the film never gave me any type of emotion to feel for the story or characters the whole time, probably because of its made-for-TV movie feel. We know how this case is going to go down right from the start and even though I may have been a bit intrigued by the courtroom drama scenes, they never really showed anything new or exciting that I haven’t seen done before in other dramas of this nature. There is also never any real insight or emotional depth to come along with these proceedings and as much as the film would like to say that it’s getting inside the mind of a person who’s just been rape, it really is just showing a person frustrated over the fact that the dudes who were there to watch the rape, never really did anything in the first place.

The other major problem with this flick is that you can’t really believe a lot of what is going on, with these evil characters and the actual rape itself. I’m not very sure that a whole bar of men, would just stand there and cheer on as three dudes constantly rape a chick into oblivion. Isn’t there any dude that would just stand up and say “what the eff are you doing!?!”? Of course there are people out there in the world who are this sick, but doesn’t anybody know what a rape looks like and know that it is a crime? Take it for granted though, the flick is based on a true story so it could have definitely happened that way but for some odd reason, it comes off as more exaggerated and over-blown than realistic in ways.

However, where this film’s strength really lies in is its amazing performance from Jodie Foster. Foster plays this character Sarah who is not too entirely likable. She’s white-trash, a whore, and dirty but somehow Foster gets us to actually care about her character and her story as well. You can tell that she feels pain from this rape that had happened to her and you know that she doesn’t mean any harm to anyone or anything, which is why it’s very easy to back her up and just about every chance Foster gets, she really lets loose with her raw energy built inside. The whole speech that she gives about what happened to her is definitely the best part of the flick and definitely the one moment that assured her that she was definitely going to get that Oscar.

Kelly McGillis is also fine as Kathryn, handling a lot of the court stuff pretty well but her character still seems underdevoloped in some way. She starts off as this strong-minded career woman that only wants to do the right thing but then she all of a sudden starts to turn into this woman who is all about fighting for a cause and woman’s rights. I’m not saying that this couldn’t have happened to anybody who would have taken a case like this but the film never really focuses on her enough to actually give her the chance to really show her character for what she is.

Consensus: The Accused features an amazing performance from Foster which rises this above the whole made-for-TV movie feel, but in the end it’s predictable, a little over-the-top, and something that you can’t really get emotionally involved with no matter how hard the film tries.


My Left Foot (1989)

Christy Brown makes seem like a real lazy dude.

My Left Foot tells the true story of Irishman Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), who was born with cerebral palsy, only allowing him to only control only his left foot. The film follows Christy Brown over time where he soon becomes a writer, artist and builds strong relationships with his mother (Brenda Fricker) and the rest of his working-class family.

Director Jim Sheridan does something with this pretty generic story, and make it actually very interesting to watch as if we’ve never seen this type of plot ever done before. One of the main reasons being is the fact that it is not told like the regular Hollywood biopic where you get a whole bunch of cheesy montages, sentimental scenes, and moments that seem only made-for-film rather than sticking straight to the realistic approach. Sheridan is able to linger away from these conventions and I think that is why this film mainly works.

Even though the film does try to set itself apart from what we usually see, the film still has great moments of inspiration mainly because this man, Christy Brown is such an extraordinary human-being, even if he was a little hard to handle. How a person can create beautiful paintings, write a whole book, and still be able to play soccer by only using only his left foot is really something remarkable especially since the doctors told his parents at birth that he would be nothing but a vegetable.

The film not only shows him as an inspiration to everyone, but also a person that had many anger issues and was very smart even though he could be sometimes very hard to work with. Rarely will you ever really get a film, let alone biopic, that shows the person they are portraying in a relatively dark light. Christy Brown was a gifted human-being (although some may disagree) but he was also a person that did not appreciate a lot of the things and it’s not that it made him a bad person by any means, it’s just the fact that he was very hard to be friends with or even work with.

However, the film did have its fair share of problems. I felt like the score that was played throughout the background the whole entire film, not only took away from a lot of the more emotional scenes but also were annoying because they didn’t really do anything for the scenes themselves. There are some great moments of silence but to be honest, I wish the whole film could have been played with silence considering it would have made the film seem a lot more realistic, which is obviously what the film was trying to go for.

The last part also feels rushed and ends on a pretty weak note. There were a lot of aspects of Brown’s life that were sort of left out and other parts that were random. We randomly get short bits of Brown holding a paintbrush as well as typing away on his type-writer, but never anything else added on to those scenes. This may seem like a strange complaint but I just wish they at least took their time with showing Brown’s later-life, instead of just getting past all of this in a hurry so they could at least say that they tried to end the film on a solid and emotional note.

The real reason why this film works is because of the perfect performance from Daniel Day-Lewis as Christy Brown, who also won an Oscar for his performance. To say Day-Lewis is amazing, would be understatement, this is probably one of the best performances of a handicapped person in any film, and that is a long long list. Every chance he gets, Day-Lewis just brings out the raw emotion that seems to have always be built up in Christy Brown and takes what we usually see of mentally/physically handicapped person and make him seem more like a human-being that won’t stop doing whatever he wants to do against all odds. I honestly don’t think they could have gotten a better performance if they casted another person who actually had cerebral palsy. He is THAT good.

Brenda Fricker is also great as his mom and gives her performance a lot of depth and warmth that all mommy roles should have no matter what. Did I keep on thinking about the pigeon lady from ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ whenever I saw her? Yes, but it still didn’t mean her performance didn’t deserve the statue that she got.

Consensus: There were moments in this film that seemed a bit predictable, but thanks to Sheridan’s way of creating a realistic, precise, and inspirational story, mixed with the amazing performance from Day-Lewis, is what makes this film a must-see. In other words: I liked it.


At Close Range (1986)

How mad at Daddy can you get to the point of where you want to kill him?

Reunited with his career criminal father (Christopher Walken) for the first time in years, tough teen Brad Whitewood Jr. (Sean Penn) thinks he’s found his ticket to an exciting life of crime, only to learn that his amoral father is more vicious than young Brad ever imagined.

The film started off as if it were adapted from one of those “young-adult” novels that shows alienated youth doing all of the things they think are cool and rebellious, which really had me feeling as if I was in store for something that would really annoy the hell out of me. Things don’t start to pick-up until Walken comes into play, then the film is all balls-to-the-walls.

Director James Foley does a great job with this real-life story that took place in my state of Pennsylvania (woot-woot!) and give a real beauty to it. There are some real magnificent shots here with the corn-rows looking so detailed that it actually made me hungry, the night shots feel like the moon is right over them, and almost lake, stream, or river reflects some sort of sun-light which gives this gorgeousness in how the film looks which preps us for all of the dirty crap that goes down in the last two acts of the film.

There is a lot of violence that goes down and a lot of disturbing things that happen, especially a rape scene that really had me cringing but none of it ever felt forced. I mean this is a true story so they have to get all of the facts right but all of the shootings, the killings, and non-stop murders felt realistic and needed to show the pure harshness that lied within this film’s subject matter. This was very controversial back in 1986, but the times have changed and there has been a lot worse we’ve seen but this film really packs on the violence and it works.

The film also has a nice central-story that develops as time goes on. The story is all about how this one kid, Brad, will stop at nothing to just be loved and gain the respect from his father, so by doing all of these criminal-like jobs he think that he will easily become daddy’s little boy. However, the dad never allows this and it shows the real sadness that Brad goes through not being able to fully live up to his father and even yet, still knows what’s right and what’s wrong. This story may seem a little bit sad and very depressing but Brad is a good character to begin with and I think as time goes on his story starts to become richer and richer.

The problem that lies within this story is where Foley is trying to take this story’s central theme. In the beginning of the flick, all of the kids are all about violence, guns, and crime but then they soon find out the hard way that it’s all fun and games until someone loses their head. The film itself basically strikes down against the use of guns/violence in society but then by the end when everything starts to get ultra violent and criminal, apparently the film is all about using guns for the murder of another person. I didn’t understand where this film was trying to go with it’s theme but to be brutally honest, it kind of lost me.

Another problem with this flick is the ending itself which seems to be totally and utterly ridiculous that somehow somewhere, it made me actually believe it could happen. *SPOILER ALERT* In the end of the flick, Brad and his girl Terry get shot up by these two gun-men and while Terry is basically dead right on impact,Terry is somehow still left alive, walking, and have enough energy to go in the shower and rinse off a bit. This seemed so idiotic to me that I could actually believe that something like this could actually happen, but when the film was over I was sort of left just knowing that it’s just a film, that is based on true events.

The real reason to see this film is the performances by these two power-houses. Sean Penn is great as Brad because he shows him the scary side to his character but also the morally-intact side that allows us to stand behind and root him on as he goes through all of these problems with his father and just life in general. Penn never lets loose of Brad once and plays all of the sadness and vulnerability so well that he seems like a real-life human being.

Christopher Walken is absolutely brilliant as Brad Sr., the cocky and evil criminal father. Walken takes over just about every scene he’s in, giving us this intimidating and restless figure of a person that you do not want to eff with. Walken is so good at playing likable that you don’t know whether or not to love this guy, or hate the very near-sight of him. Obviously Brad Sr.’s actions show how we should feel but its really Walken who shines through with this villain that just bleeds mean.

Consensus: The point of At Close Range may get lost in the very end of the film, but the story is engaging, the sights and shots look stunning, and the performances from Walken and Penn are what make worth your while, even though it can get extremely violent at times.


River’s Edge (1986)

Those damn Metal head stoners are always killing those girls for no reason.

A troubled high school slacker, Samson (Daniel Roebuck), kills his girlfriend for no particular reason and shows off her dead body to his friends Layne (Crispin Glover) and Matt (Keanu Reeves), whose reactions vary about whether to involve the police.

After watching ‘Bully’ a long long time ago, I realized that there were more stories like that one out there, and it soon started to make me realize something: Teens love to kill people.

Writer Neal Jimenez does a very good job at showing these kids as none other than complete alienated misfits, that don’t really have any effect from a murder of one of their own friends. You get the real idea that these kids have no idea what to do or even think after this shocking murder has just happened, and it seems like they also don’t even really care. This is a little shocking no matter how many years go by, but that can’t be said about the rest of the film.

Even though this film starts off very strong, it really starts to fall apart pretty easily. The plot goes into places that seem totally ridiculous because of actually focusing on this disturbing story at hand, we start to go into a pretty cheesy teen-romance, a 12 year-old (who is terribly annoying) looking for a gun, Crispin Glover running all-over-the-place talking like a mental patient, and Dennis Hopper talking about a blow-up sex-doll as if it has been his wife for the past 30 years. I’m all down for a little bit of creepiness here and there but the real story at hand, seemed so much more interesting than what any of these little annoying sub-plots or happenings even showed.

The gritty look of it has something to be admired, but many times I felt like the film could have been so much better with it’s real portrayal of these punk kids in a suburban town. These kids don’t give a damn at all, which was understood by about the 20-minute mark, but to have the whole film go on and not shed any light on the murder, why it happened, and what these kids are going to do to get by it, seemed pretty dumb to me. These kids are alienated from the rest of the world around them, I get it, but please show me something that can actually glue me into the story rather than just drag me along.

However, when I looked down on everything, I thought about the cast and that’s kind of when I eased up a bit since there are some real good performances here. Keanu Reeves plays his usual dumb-ass role here as Matt, but he does a great job with this character and gives a lot of his more emotional scenes, a believability that this character needed to actually work. Ione Sky is alright as Clarissa but I never understood why she’s so remarkable as a female character; Daniel Roebuck is a little weird as our killer for the hour and 39 minutes, John; and Dennis Hopper is great as Feck, this total nutty drug-dealer that holds on to a blow-up doll like I mentioned before, but the catch here is that he’s the good guy in this whole film.

The best performance from the whole cast is probably the one and only Crispin Glover as Layne, the total speed-freak that takes this whole film over with every scene he gets. Glover does a great job with this character because he’s doped out on his pills and weirdness that when it comes down to something real and dramatic like this murder, he doesn’t know what to do and panics every chance he has. Glover is perfect at creating this character that’s a little nutty, mean, raw, but also very emotionally attached to the world around him and was my favorite thing about this film.

Consensus: River’s Edge has some nice bleak touches on teenage society that may seem disturbing to most, but as the film transcends, it turns into this ludicrous, silly, and otherwise lame way of trying to get an interesting story out there that should have been more gripping. Check out ‘Bully’ instead.


The Verdict (1982)

Drinkin’ in the courtrooooooom.

A washed-up, ambulance-chasing attorney (Paul Newman) gets a chance at redemption when his friend (Jack Warden) tosses him an open-and-shut medical malpractice case. But instead of accepting an easy cash settlement, he takes the powerful defendant to court. James Mason plays the opposing counsel, whom his legal adversary calls “The Prince of Darkness”.

Director Sidney Lumet is a favorite of mine and even his films that aren’t amazingly great, are still OK even if they may be nothing new.

This is a courtroom drama that isn’t really all about an up-lifting story that’s high on inspiration and corny lines. It’s more about this guy who actually gains a lot of self-esteem through this one case and has a new out-look on life. Yeah, it still sounds pretty cheesy but I can assure you, farthest thing from really.

The script done by David Mamet is good although it seems too much like a stage play, rather than an actual full-length feature film. However, there are moments where he shows brilliance whether it’s Newman yelling an annoying judge, Newman and his girl getting into a yelling match, or any of the courtroom scenes, Mamet seems like he knows exactly how he wants to say everything, and it works out very well here. With this film, there’s also a portrayal of how dark the legal system can actually be. Sometimes, not all the time, sometimes it’s not all about who’s right or who’s wrong, it’s actually about the money and who is going to get a certain amount for the decisions to be made. I thought this was a pretty bold point to show, and very cool to see in a courtroom drama like this one.

Lumet is also good with his direction here because he uses the slow-burn process well to where the story is built up the whole entire time, to the point where the last 10 minutes of the film keep you on your seat the whole time. Lumet also uses a bunch of silences and awkward pauses in-between all of these conversations these character’s have to give it a real-life feel.

However, the problem with this direction is that I really didn’t feel like this film was actually going anywhere. It didn’t mind the slow-pace because I thought it actually helped the film, but for a long long time I didn’t feel gripped by this story at all. I almost just felt like I was watching Newman do these little lawyers thing-a-ma-jigs here and there and I wasn’t wondering just what was going to happen next. The whole sub-plot with Newman and his lady-friend, played by Lindsay Crouse, I felt was a little weird and didn’t add much to the film other than a really cool scene that I think I already gave away but when you see it, it’s pretty cool I must say.

Paul Newman is very very good in this lead role as Frankie Glavin. Glavin is just a guy who wants to do right but is such a bum and so out of it when it comes to getting this course case done, he feels pressured and almost out-of-sorts. He once had it all, then he soon lost it all, and is now trying to win it all back. This is a great character, and a character that Newman plays so well. Newman’s delivery of his famously stirring closing argument, is a career highlight and probably my favorite scene from this film, other than the one I came close to mentioning. There is also another good performance from James Mason as Ed Concannon, and he practically made me want to punch his face in. That is a good thing too. Also, be on the look-out for a young Bruce Willis in the background of the film by the end. That bastard always shows up in the most random places!

Consensus: The Verdict has good performances, especially Paul Newman and a good script that keeps the story going with it’s slow-pace, but it doesn’t really start to gain momentum, until the last act where something just didn’t feel like I was taken along with this story.


Countdown to Claus: A Christmas Story (1983)

Christmas just would not be the same without it.

Ralphie (Peter Billingsly) is part of the all-American family in the 40’s trying to survive the Christmas season. It is also his quest to finally get from the big man himself what he’s been wanting and been warned about for so long…an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Hey, he said it best.

Come on now! You had to know that this was coming around sooner or later. This is basically the definitive classic film for Christmas and it only gets better with age, considering I remember always watching this way back when I was still hanging out in my Superman undies on the 24th of December.

The reason why this film works so well is because it’s so damn memorable. I mean almost every line of dialogue is something everyone all over the world still remember to quote and even the events that happen as well are memorable as hell too. Who doesn’t want to go to a Chinese place on Christmas? Who doesn’t want that leg-lamp? Also, who doesn’t want a damn BB-gun for Christmas? These are only a couple of things that are memorable, but they aren’t the only ones I can promise you that.

I think the best part about this flick is that it really hits some reality points, especially if you’re a kid because a lot of what goes on here and said here, is actually how a kid is. Ralphie is just like any kid during Christmas time: he wants presents, he tries his hardest to stay on the nice list, and he day-dreams all day about getting good grades in class and having the whole class lift him up over their heads. I always thought like that as a kid, and in other ways still do but it’s just easy to say that if you’re a kid now watching this, you will see a lot to relate to and realize that you are not alone in the way you act. Then again, I don’t think any little kids are reading this anyway.

I don’t know where all of the stars in this film went because everybody here is memorable and perfect for their roles. Peter Billingsley at least directed the terrible flop ‘Couples Retreat’Darren McGavin kept on doing his own thang for awhile, even appearing as Billy’s dad in ‘Billy Madison’, but tragically died in 2006; and Melinda Dillon kept doing on doing whatever the hell it is that she was doing but the last time I saw her in anything was in ‘Magnolia’ and even then I had to look up who she was. Yes, three random-ass films like ‘Couples Retreat’, ‘Billy Madison’, and ‘Magnolia’ all share something in common.

The reason why this flick is just such a classic is because it just brings me on home some of the nostalgia that I love seeing in any film. This just reminds me of hanging around my house, drinking some egg nog and getting in the whole mood and spirit of Christmas which I always truly love. This is definitely a flick that will love on for as long as Christmas goes on for and I’m proud to call this one of my all-time favorite films no matter what.

10/10=Full Price!!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Countdown to Claus: Trading Places (1983)

Back in the day when these two guys were golden.

A down-and-out con artist (Eddie Murphy) trades lifestyles with a well-to-do investor (Dan Aykroyd, all because of a cheap bet between two wealthy power players (Done Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). Add a prostitute with a heart of gold (Jamie Lee Curtis) and craziness ensues.

Director John Landis is a guy that I could never really get into even though he has so many films that are regarded as “classics”. However, seeing that it is Christmas time and that I need to start getting rid of some of the DVDs I have stacked up and never watch, I thought this was a pretty good pick.

The premise is a fun and inspired one right from the get-go and you see how these two different life-styles create two different types of great characters. The dialogue itself is very funny because it’s not one of those cheesy and lame 80’s comedy scripts where they say something dirty and it’s supposed to be hilarious. Instead this film is edgy and has a lot of great moments where you either chuckle or laugh-out-loud, depending on the type of person you are. Landis also does a great job here behind the screen because he balances out the original screwball premise with the modern use of comedy.

A problem I did have with this flick was the fact that the comedy gets a little dry at moments, and I sort of found myself barely laughing for some pretty long periods of time. This doesn’t get dramatic by any means necessary, but it just feels like it focuses more on the plot and what’s happening, rather than actually being funny. I also could not believe how some people go to school and study how to be a successful Wall Street investor for about 3-4 years, but I guess if you’re Eddie Murphy it only takes about 5 minutes. This was a little strange and thought it was some lazy writing in trying to get us to see how much being a street-folk, like Murphy’s character, would benefit being a Wall Street investor.

Another problem I had with this film was the fact that it tried to be a splitting satire on Wall Street and very wealthy people, but for some reason, a lot of this just fell flat for me. There’s not much bite here even though it pretends like it’s actually saying something about the business world and the difference between social classes. Overall, this just felt like an unnecessary part to have in this flick, considering they could have easily just relied on the comedy they had going on here in the first place.

The real reason this film works and is so funny is because of its hilarious cast. Dan Aykroyd is very funny as Louis Winthrope this dude who I thought I was going to hate the whole time, but instead, I ended up really getting behind his character and the way Aykroyd plays this upper-class yuppie made me laugh because he’s so good at it. Yes people, I know it’s very hard to imagine, but there was once a time-and-age when Dan Aykroyd was actually funny in films.

Eddie Murphy gives one his funniest performances as Billy Ray Valentine and absolutely steals every single scene he has. He starts out as this very slick and sly con man, who goes through a total transformation as this rich-man but still stays likable and hilarious. Murphy breaks out all of these witty lines (lines that even my mom still quotes) and it also helps that he probably has the best character since this guy is just a good guy in general. I can’t really say much else other than the fact that he’s hilarious here and the real reason why this film is so memorable to be honest.

Let’s also not forget to mention everybody’s favorite part in the film where Jamie Lee Curtis lifted off her top for some big-ass booby time. That’s what I’m talking about!

Consensus: Trading Places may not be as satirical as it may like to think it is, but Aykroyd, Murphy, and Curtis all add a lot to this flick to make this funny premise go beyond its limits.


Ghostbusters (1984)

Trying to keep some of the Halloween spirit up and about during Christmas time.

After losing their academic posts at a prestigious university, a team of parapsychologists (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis) goes into business as proton-pack-toting “ghostbusters” who exterminate ghouls, hobgoblins and supernatural pests of all stripes. An ad campaign pays off when a knockout cellist (Sigourney Weaver) hires the squad to purge her swanky digs of demons that appear to be living in her refrigerator.

Before director Ivan Reitman decided to go on and do classics such as ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Evolution’, he actually did some legendary stuff with a film that you may have heard of, but then again maybe not. All I have to know is…who ya gonna call? I know that was corny but come on, you had to know it was going to happen at least once in this review.

I’ve seen this film a long long time ago and it was always a favorite of mine, so to give it another shot and see how it held up for me all these years later, was a real treat for me. The premise is pretty original right from the start and it would have easily fallen down like a sack of bricks but it somehow ends up being one of the most genius ideas ever put into a film, mainly because of all of the talent that is involved here.

There are so many hilarious one-liners here that I hear uttered from time-to-time but never really got the joke until I had this film refresh my memory and make me realize just how damn funny the lines are. I mean every situation they have here is just utterly ridiculous but the film knows that but still finds plenty of ways to bring out comedy no matter what whether they are depending on some well-placed slap-stick, dead-pan readings from everybody involved, or some sly satire of surging capitalist hubris. Each and every way this film approaches its comedy works beyond belief and I just laughed my ass off at so many things here that were said. Something that doesn’t usually happen when I’m watching an 80’s comedy.

The comedy isn’t the only fun aspect to this film though, Reitman also seems to have a lot of fun with this plot and his direction brings out some of the most imaginative stuff that ever came out on-screen in the 80’s. There is a lot of fun to be had with these guys all running around in these plain-looking jumpsuits chasing after flying goo that is actually a ghost, and every scene ending with some witty pun. Let’s also not forget everybody’s favorite giant villain, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I mean honestly, who comes up with this shit and can actually make it somethings that revered as comedic gold.

My one gripe with this flick is that the special effects here are very very bad but then again this is 1984 we are talking about here. I know I sound like a complete dickhead for even bringing this up and knocking down some points for this but to be honest, it sort of took me out of the film considering the whole time I just saw this dog flying through the screen as if he had just popped out of a PlayStation game. I know I’m nit-picking, but for some reason it just bothered me.

The real reason this film worked so well is because of the man that plays Peter Venkman, a man named none other than Bill Murray. Murray is always a show-stealer no matter what it is that he is in and here as Venkman he is no different. His dead-pan delivery is spot-on because he knows that everything in this film is just plain and simply ridiculous and he handles just about everything like the sarcastic unprofessional that he is and almost every time he is on-screen, he had me laughing my ass off. There is a reason why this guy was the main thing to see in ‘Zombieland’. It’s a shame that he is apparently kind of a dick in real-life, because if I saw him walking on the street I would probably just try my hardest to hang out with him the whole day, even though I would probably get denied.

Everybody else here is fine too and each give their own little funny lines, while Murray is off killing this film with his delivery. Harold Ramis is funny as the nerdy Egon, Dan Aykroyd is even funnier and nerdier as Ray, and Ernie Hudson is fun as the token black guy Winston. There is also some funny performances given by Sigourney Weaver as Venkman’s love-interest of sorts, Dana Barrett and Rick Moranis as Barrett’s nerdy next-door neighbor, Louis. As you can probably tell now that there are a lot of nerds in this flick but hey, nerds rule and they deserve their times to shine too.

Consensus: Ghostbusters is the classic that I always imagined it being even when I was still running around in my little Spider-Man undies. It’s funny, original, exciting, and perfectly-delivered by the likes of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and many many others.

9/10=Full Price!!

Countdown to Claus: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

I’m definitely not having half of my family over for Christmas now.

Hapless Clark (Chevy Chase), exasperated Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their ever-changing kids (Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki) gear up for Christmas. As usual, all the good intentions in the world can’t save them from disaster … or Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), whose unannounced visit throws the house into further disarray.

Since it’s “the most wonderful time of the yeaaaaarrr” I thought it would be cool to do a little Christmas-movie marathon starting with a film that I loved when I was a kid, but now realize that it’s not as funny.

John Hughes wrote this screenplay and has a great blend of some real silly humor that gets mixed in with a lot of the cartoon mayhem that occurs around the time of Christmas. Hughes is obviously not afraid to get a little goofy with this film as he throws a lot slap-stick in our faces with Clark Griswold getting hit in the chin, then falling down a ladder, then falling through the ceiling, and then basically everything else catching on fire. I like how Hughes is able to have a little fun with this screenplay and is able to show his goofy side.

My problem with the script though is that there surely is a lot here in this script that is pretty annoying and not very funny at all. The slap-stick at first was funny but then there were scenes that went on way too long that seemed too cute to actually be considered funny. There’s a long-ass scene with a squirrel running rampant throughout the whole house-hold and everybody is running around like a bunch of goons to bring out some sort of laughter, when in reality, this was just a lame way to get some laughs. This isn’t the only scene that tries a little too hard to be funny but I can easily say that it’s the one I remember mostly rolling my eyes at.

Although I may rag on this film for not being terribly funny, like it was trying so hard to be, I still think it captured a lot of the fun, warmth, and joy that goes into the holiday season. I mean you got you’re whole family right there with ya’ to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and the whole “getting the perfect Christmas tree” to the “lighting of the lights” is what really will make you feel all happy even if the comedy can’t do that much all for you.

Chevy Chase is great as as always as Clark Griswold who always seems to have everything figured out, until something changes right away to completley terrible. Chase has mastered this role and he shows no signs of a bad performance but it’s also a real shame considering that this guy doesn’t really do much now. The last time I probably saw him was actually in ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ and to be brutally honest, he was the most forgettable part of that forgettable film. That’s saying something.

Randy Quaid seems to be having a lot of fun as Clark’s cousin, Eddie, who is a total country bumpkin which is where the majority of the jokes for this film come from. I’m not saying Quaid is bad or anything here, because he’s actually one of the more delightful performances in this flick, it’s just that all of the jokes here centered around him just being this total red-neck that can’t pay for anything or even use his head right. They pulled this joke about 15 times and wasn’t funny once so I have to say that Quaid kind of got pulled under the neath the crap-shoot here.

Consensus: While Christmas Vacation isn’t funny the whole time, there is still enough silliness and warm moments to make this a great seasoned treat for anyone wanting a nice little laugh right next to the Christmas tree.


Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Don’t take taxis during rush hour. This is what will probably happen to you.

Neal Page (Steve Martin) is a high-strung advertising executive who needs to get from New York to Chicago in a matter of two days, for Turkey Day. Many things go bad for Neal and he ends up being stuck with a very nice, eternally sunny, and somewhat intolerable dude named Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower-curtain salesman. Things go from bad to worse, and Neal is stuck with Del in trying to get back to his crib for the turkey. And honestly, who wouldn’t be rushing home for Thanksgiving dinner? Yummy yummy.

John Hughes is a great writer and director and those are the two strengths that are shown here incredibly well, especially with his writing. The whole script here is basically watching this tight-ass be tormented by horrible situations that honestly do go from bad to worse and a guy he always seems to sneak away from, but in the end, he always ends up being right back to where he started from. It’s a formula that is very obvious but somehow Hughes makes it work.

The humor here is hilarious because I just loved seeing a buddy-comedy that had funny situations mixed with a lot of the usual jokes that come from two guys who are polar opposites. Del is talkative, loving, and always happy, while Neal is somehow always tense, annoyed, angry, or just bothered by everything going on around him. This clash between two characters creates a whole lot of fun for the film but then again, I do love road films, so my opinion could be a bit biased.

What really adds to this film is the fact that the humor is under-lined with some sentimental moments, but it doesn’t feel forced or corny in anyway. Hughes is able to draw out these characters so much that by the end of the film, we really do understand them and care for them and hope that no matter what they are both happy, which may sound a little cheesy now but the film spends so much time with its comedy that when it actually does get a little soft, it surprisingly works. The ending is quite a heavy one and I think that’s a real surprise and tribute to what a true talent John Hughes was as a screen-writer.

My problem with this film was that it was a little too obvious that there is a lot more to this guy Del, then we actually think. Without giving anything away, we never really find out where this guy is going, why he’s going there, and just how the hell he ends up going the same way as Neal the whole film. This to me seemed pretty obvious and I think if Hughes wanted to really shock us, he could have just been a bit more mysterious with the character of Del.

There was also this one scene where we find out the big “twist” if you want to call it that, at the end of the film. The scene doesn’t last long and I think for the film to really give this hard-hitting emotional impact on the audience, the scene needed to be help up longer before we started getting into the real heavy ending. Then again, I could just be nit-picking like a the highly-esteemed movie critic that I always am deep down inside.

The main reason why this film works is because of the great performances given by Steve Martin and John Candy who give some of their most memorable performances of their careers, and that’s saying something. Martin is great as the stuck-up Neal, who always seems to be freaking out at everything, and there are also many other scenes where he gets to show his true comedic talent. If you don’t believe me, just watch the F-bomb scene, then you’ll see what I mean. Just wish the dude would step away from ‘Cheaper By the Dozen’.

Candy has never been better as Del and it’s probably my favorite performance from him (beating out ‘Uncle Buck’) because he’s just so damn likable. The guy is always happy, looking on the bright side of things, and whenever something bad seems to come his way he always finds his way of sneaking out of it and bringing out a positive. Candy has a lot of funny lines and funny scenes where he gets to show his playfulness on-screen, but it’s really about the heart that Candy brings out inside of Del that works. You can tell there is something underneath Del, and there are a couple of scenes that hint this and the way Candy shows it is just perfect and real showing of how great he was with both comedy and drama. If I was stuck with John Candy on a two-day trip, I can easily tell you it would be a hell of a time though!

Consensus: Planes, Trains and Automobiles uses a formula we have all seen before but somehow Hughes makes it even more hilarious than it has any right to be, which is also with some thanks to Candy and Martin who are perfect in these roles, bringing out both comedy and heart within their own characters. Perfect Thanksgiving film.

9/10=Full Price!!

Happy Turkey Day everyone!


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