Forbidden Planet (1956) - Fred M. Wilcox

GOOD OLD SCI-FI 68/100

Director: Fred M. Wilcox (as Fred McLeod Wilcox)
Writers: Cyril Hume (screen play), Irving Block (based on a story by)
Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen
Genres: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Certificate: G
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 22 August 1956
Production Co: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Budget: $1,900,000 (estimated)
Gross USA: $3,000,000
Trivia: The critical success of this film convinced many in the film industry that well-funded science-fiction projects could be successful. Film historian Ben Mankiewicz has claimed that this film's success made future big-budget science-fiction films possible.

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Forbidden Planet is an American science fiction film from 1956. It was helmed by Lassie Come Home director, Fred Wilcox, and produced by MGM studios. This is a classic flick. Presented with a truly beautiful picture. A product of being filmed in Cinemascope and Eastmancolor from Kodak. Forbidden Planet is a scifi retelling of William Shakespeare's classic tale, The Tempest. It's extremely cheesy and has some very questionable acting. Except for lead actors Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon. They are both great.

A rescue mission from Earth is sent to Altair IV after command loses transmission with the colony living there. Led by Commander John J. Adams, the rescue team’s spaceship sets down on the mystery planet against the warnings from Doctor Morbius, a strange man hailing the ship from the planet. The crew finds out that Morbius is one of the few inhabitants left alive, along with his daughter and their servant robot, Robbie. The other people living on the planet have been killed by a mysterious force and Morbius fears that the same may happen to the rescue team. He encourages the crew to leave with his daughter before something bad happens, but it's soon too late.

Again, the film looks amazing. I watched this in HD on FilmStruck, and it looked great. Full color. Vibrant and interesting. We can credit the amazing set design and art to Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Lonergan working in the MGM lot. It’s a trip when you realize that the entire film was made indoors. Creative shots and a lot of huge matte paintings that make the settings look so believable. There is even some great animation provided by Joshua Meador from Walt Disney Studios. I loved the art direction and effects. Not the best, but tremendous for the time. There is a well made scene that shows an invisible monster walking on steel stairs and the filmmakers added in some bending steel. It looked great.

Aside from the bigger named actors like Leslie Nielsen or Anne Francis, the acting tends to be pretty bad. But it’s not bad enough to hinder the entertainment. The acting feels more television quality, probably since most of the props and some actors turn up in the Twilight Zone a few years later. There is an aire of cheapness that hangs about the movie. Unfortunately, that’s just something that drive-in monster movies from the fifties had to deal with. The technology for science-fiction movies wouldn’t catch up until at least the seventies.

Forbidden Planet is an amazing feat of filmmaking in the mid-fifties. The effects are top quality and the filmmaking is good. It’s a movie that should be studied by film aficionados all over the world. I simply cannot recommend it enough. Some people might find the slower pace annoying or boring, but I can almost guarantee you will find something else to like about it. I had some pretty low expectations before watching this movie. I thought it would of looked a lot worse than it did. But I came away happy and fully entertained.

The Big Lebowski (1998) - Joel & Ethan Coen

TREMENDOUS COMEDY - 99/100

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (uncredited)
Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore
RATED: R
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 6 March 1998
Budget: $15,000,000
Gross USA: $17,498,804
Production Co: Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Working Title Films

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The Big Lebowski is a comedic mystery from the Coen brothers, distributed in 1998. It stars Jeff Bridges in his most iconic role as the burnt-out slacker, Jeffrey Lebowski, known to everybody as The Dude. Bridges is accompanied by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi. We also get performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, David Huddleston, John Turturro and even Tara Reid. I had first come across this picture late one evening on HBO. I was quickly enamored and very fascinated with the witty comedy and style. This was the movie that sparked my interest in films.

Jeffrey Lebowski, or The Dude, is just a laid back stoner that meanders through life, and occasionally gets into strange experiences. His best allies are a deranged Vietnam vet named Walter, and his sheepish sidekick Donnie. The Dude likes to employ his time bowling, drinking White Russians, and living in Zen. So when two thugs rough up his place, confusing him for a rich Jeffrey Lebowski. The Dude is less than happy. He is sunk into a world of mystery, sex and intrigue. But the Dude just wants to roll!

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The Coen brothers had come up with the concept for The Big Lebowski alongside their dramatic gem, Fargo. Confidence had been firmer with Fargo, and that was released first. The Big Lebowski was distributed by PolyGram and Working Title Films in 1998. It got mixed reviews at the box-office and recovered much more life on cable, VHS and DVD sales. Gaining a cult following. There is even an annual festival devoted to it called Lebowski Fest. I linked to the current 2018 festival here.

The writing is the strongest element here. The characters are rich; the dialogue is witty and interesting; the world is built masterfully. The Coen’s had drawn inspiration from the detective pulp stories of the thirties and forties. They noted Raymond Chandler as a big influence. Also drawing on their surroundings in early nineties Los Angeles. It’s the perfect California movie. I love how elements throughout the film play back into each other in the dialogue and in the surroundings. Again, this is some really strong writing.

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The acting is truly on point. Everyone plays their characters perfectly, and they are all quotable. The Dude character was based on a friend of the Coen’s, Jeffrey Dowd. And Jeff Bridges brings everything his role asks for. He and John Goodman have an amazing dynamic. The Dude comes off as such a genuine character that everyone can identify with. I think that's the reason for his reputation. The Dude represents that part of us that wants to chill-out and be mellow. Deep down everyone wants to be the Dude.

The Big Lebowski is excellent. It has everything that you could want from a film. A great story line full of comedy, drama, adventure, mystery and suspense. Tremendous acting from top notch actors with bonus added cameos from surprise stars. Quotable lines. A deep and rich world. It literally ticks every single box in film-making 101. If you are a fan of comedies, please check this out. Also, I am writing this on April 20th 2018, that’s 4/20 for my ent’s out there. If you're a fan of movies like Pineapple Express or Cheech & Chong, then I think you’re going to embrace this!

The Big Lebowski gets 99/100

Total Recall (1990) - Paul Verhoeven

AWESOME SCI-FI ACTION FILM 98/100

Director: 
Paul Verhoeven  

BASED ON: 
"We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick

WRITERS:
Ronald ShusetT, 
Dan O'Bannon,
Jon Povill and
Gary GoldmaN

Stars:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside

Rating: R

Country:
USA

Language:
English

Release Date:
1 June 1990

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Total Recall is a tremendous science-fiction action film from 1990. It had been Directed by Paul Verhoeven who had helmed Robocop the prior year. And produced by Carolco Pictures and Tri-Star. Arnold Schwarzenegger is our lead actor supported by Michael Ironside, Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin. The story is based on a Philip K. Dick short story called "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" and the screenplay was handled by Gary Goldman, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Kind of an all-star affair for 1990. This movie was a staple of my childhood, and the reason for my love of cheesy Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks. I had rented this several times from Blockbuster or Hollywood Video and also viewed is uncountable times on television. Hell, it still runs on AMC and Syfy to this day! No matter how you cut it Total Recall, is an important movie that can never be replicated.  

Douglas Quaid is a mild-mannered construction worker living on earth in 2089. He has a beautiful wife, a good job, but yearns for the stars. Something inside of Doug wants to get away. He wants to go to Mars, much to the behest of his wife and friends. Doug goes to Recall, a service that can implant a memory into your brain. A virtual vacation. However, during the operation, something is ticked and happy ol’ Douglas Quaid becomes the ruthless, cunning and deadly Hauser. A hired agent from Mars that has been suppressed with mental blocks. Now awakened to the false reality around him, and being pursued by people trying to kill him, Hauser must return to Mars to find out who wants him dead! 

The screenplay for the film was picked up by Dino De Laurentiis and shopped around Hollywood in the early eighties. De Laurentiis had tried to get the film off the ground seeking either Richard Dreyfuss or Patrick Swayze in the lead role. That would have been bad. He had gotten David Cronenberg attached to direct, but Cronenberg was hard about having William Hurt as the lead. Things just couldn’t come together and the screenplay had floundered in development hell. In 1989, the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group had folded leaving the script out in the wild. It was picked up by Carolco Pictures and the rest is history. 

Total Recall is the best science-fiction movie of all time. The acting, music, effects and writing are running on all cylinders. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the perfect fit for this role, and this was a big hit for him. The Quaid character is very complex, something that doesn’t become clear until his trip to Recall. The soundtrack was masterfully composed/conducted by a legendary musician, Jerry Goldsmith. It sets every scene with an epic beat that makes this movie a blockbuster. The main theme is unforgettable. Much better than many scores today. The special effects were handled by effects master, Rob Bottin. Bottin is famous for his tremendous work on movies like The Thing, The Howling, Robocop and Legend. He doesn’t shy away from gore and turns out some creative scenes. I would never expect less.

I really love this movie. I have seen it countless times and still love watching it frequently today. It’s the perfect film to come out of the late-eighties, early nineties time period. Arnold is a badass here. If you aren’t familiar with his work in action films, then I plead that you watch this movie along with classics like The Running Man, Predator and Conan the Barbarian. That man was entertainment in the eighties. Total Recall hits on every level and is now tame enough for early teens to enjoy. I highly recommend it. Five stars.

Clerks. (1994) - Kevin Smith

GREAT COMEDY - 92/100

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A hilarious comedy from Kevin Smith that's relatable to just about anyone.

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Produced by: Scott Mosier and Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith

Studio: View Askew Productions and Miramax Films

Release date: October 19, 1994

Budget: $27,575

Box office: $3.2 million

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Clerks. is an independent comedy from Kevin Smith, released in 1994. It is quite possibly the most independent film ever made. Famously, the filmmaker and his friends had to max out all of their credit cards to finance the filming of the picture. But it paid off, because Clerks. has gone down in history as one of the most important indie films of all time. Cementing low-budget film making in the mainstream.

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The plot is simple, almost too simple. Dante and Randal are two clerks running the Quick Stop Convenience and RST Video Stores, in a quiet suburb of New Jersey. Dante was called into work on his day off, and has compounding issues throughout the day. We get to focus on his struggle to maintain order at the Quick Stop, play hockey, go to a wake and balance his love life. All while his best friend and coworker, Randal commentates from the sidelines. We are also introduced to Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), two cheebed-up drug dealers that loiter outside of both stores and thread together the bulk of Smith's work.

Clerks. is the beginning of Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse and the best example of the strengths in his work. It's a tremendous comedy that has more relatability than most other films. The tight, black-and-white static shots of our characters talking makes up a good 85% of the picture. And that style makes it more comforting and familiar. That style is what keeps it so relevant with young people today.

Jeff Anderson (Randall) and Brian O’Halloran (Dante) feel so natural as buddies. A scene featuring their back-and-forth about Star Wars’ independent contractors dying is a perfect example of Smith's top notch writing. The acting slips up quite a bit, but it's forgivable. The films charm far outweighs the negative and graphic conversations. It's too good to give any focus to the negative cracks.

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Clerks, Pulp Fiction and Swingers shaped cinema for me in the nineties. It blew my mind open to the possibility that my friends and I could express ourselves artistically without it being a financially impossible task. Clerks speaks to everyone and it's inspired so many. If you are a fan of comedy, or just a fan of cinema in general. Then I implore you to check this out. It's a wonderful movie and a shining example of what Kevin Smith can do. 

Beyond the Mat (1999) - Barry W. Blaustein

GOOD DOCUMENTARY 80/100

Director: Barry W. Blaustein

PRODUCERS: Barry W. Blaustein
Barry Bloom
Brian Grazer
Ron Howard
Michael Rosenberg

WritER: Barry W. Blaustein

Narrator: Barry W. Blaustein

Production
COMPANIES:
Imagine Entertainment,
Lions Gate EntertainmenT,
Universal Family & Home Entertainment

DistributOR:  Universal Pictures

Release date: October 22, 1999

Running time: 102 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

BudgeT: $500,000

Box officE: $2,053,648

Beyond the Mat is an eye-opening documentary from 1999, about Professional Wrestling in the late nineties. I had been a fan of this film since it's release on video and shared it with all of my high-school friends. It's an awesome documentary that can help turn people into wrestling fans by giving them a backstage look at the WWE, then the WWF (World Wrestling Federation), and how the product is brought to world every week. 

This film leaves nothing in the dark. We get an intimate look at the inner workings of promotions like the WWF, ECW and independent bay-area promotion, APW. It's a chance to see how wrestlers become superstars by the hand of the almighty Vince McMahon. We look at these performers and how their lives are affected, both negatively and positively, in this very secretive business. It's worth the time just to see Vince McMahon critiquing wrestlers with commentator, Jim Ross. It's worth it to watch ECW promoter, Paul Heyman creating the Extreme Championship Wrestling product in his mother's basement! It's an emotional look at the lives of legends like Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts and many more, as they balance their lives both in the squared circle and out of it.

Most wrestling fans agree that this is one of the most important documentaries for fans of wrestling. They get some amazing footage and interviews with WWF/ECW wrestlers like Mick Foley, Terry Funk, Vince McMahon, Jake Roberts, Dave Meltzer and APW's promoter, Roland Alexander. We also get an intimate look at the family lives of most of these names. Beyond the Mat is a phenomenal look at the wrestling business. A documentary that cannot be replicated today. 

The Wrestler (2008) - Darren Aronofsky

REALLY GREAT FILM 95/100

The Wrestler is a intense look at the life of a down-and-out wrestler.

Directed: Darren Aronofsky

Produced: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin

Writer: Robert Siegel

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

Studio: Weisblum
Production Co., Wild Bunch, Protozoa Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Release date: September 5, 2008

Country: United States

Budget: $6Million

Box office: $44.7Million

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The Wrestler is an independent dramatic film from 2008, directed by Darren Aronofsky. It stars Mickey Rourke as the lead character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson. Randy is an aged performer that appears to be edging closer and closer to the end of his rope. It's a realistic and depressing look at professional wrestling, and the effect it has on the superstars from the past. I had attended an early screening of this film at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood in early 2008. It was tremendous. Everyone was emotionally moved and we all stood and applauded. It was a shoe-in for Best Picture. Unfortunately, 2008 was an insane year for movies and it had incredible competition with films like Slumdog Millionaire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk and The Reader. The Wrestler didn't even make it into the running. Don't feel bad though, neither did The Dark Knight. 

In this movie, we follow The Ram in modern times. Old. Poor and too far disconnected from the world he lives in. He isn't doing too well and is only pulling in a few sheckles by wrestling on the independent circuit. Regardless of his declining health both mentally and physically. We see the impact of his lifestyle on himself and his own family that he has harmed. Randy is trying to figure out which way he should go in his life. Does he take a normal 9-to-5 job, or does he stay wrestling regardless of his ailing health. 

This movie is filmmaking at its finest. Mickey Rourke puts in the performance of a lifetime. He had literally become a professional wrestler for this role. This was incredible. The emotion. The raw emotion that is put on screen is heavy. It has weight. Rourke has such a great performance that he had a small career revitalization after the release of this film. It's hard to watch and not be hit in the feels. Also we have tremendous performances from Evan Rachel-Wood as the daughter of Randy, and Marisa Tomei as his love-interest. All of them are so fantastic. This is acting at its best. Aronofsky does a tremendous job of capturing a very secretive business and shows how it works on the inside. It's an eye-opening look that will definitely get you talking. 

Day of Resurrection (1980) - Kinji Fukasaku

BORING SCI-FI FILM 35/100

Day of Resurrection (35)

A forgettable end of the world epic that focused on a killer virus.

Virus is a end-of-days, survival horror movie from 1980. It’s a Japanese produced major international film from rookie director Kinji Fukasaku. It’s an ambitious movie that boasts a very diverse cast of characters. It has a good deal of roles from actors like Masao Kusakari, Isao Natsuyagi, Sonny Chiba, George Kennedy, Bo Svenson, Edward James Olmos, Glenn Ford and Robert Vaughn. It was also filmed in Alaska. The original cut runs 156 minutes with a US cut running at 103. I am watching the original cut of the film.

The movie is about the outbreak of a virus called MM88 that destroys most of the human population. A group of scientists in Antarctica are tasked to find a cure that may help. It follows the virus and it’s slow effect on the remainder of society. We get into a political drama with the President of the United States being filled in on the scope of the destruction. We then get a strange Black Mirror type situation when the remaining eight hundred some-odd men are determining how they are all going to sleep with the remaining eight women. It’s bizarre.

This movie puts elements from movies like The Thing, Halloween, and Dawn of the Dead into a political drama. Unfortunately it doesn’t work very well. It's boring. It had a $16Million dollar budget but still couldn’t seem to tell a deep and compelling story. The acting is alright, but they are just standing around talking for 90% of the time. There are some really great shots of major cities reacting to a virus outbreak, but these are really just clips and sporadic shots. The best part of the movie is when footage of Japan is shown after the virus wipes out a city. The worst is watching everyone sit around listening to a five year old shoot himself.

On the positive side, this movie employed the help from naval vessels from all over the world. The chilean and canadian navies had both lent ships for the production. Some sailors were even included in shots as extras. The movie isn’t entirely unwatchable. In fact it has some great scenes and ideas. One of my favorite quotes was from this movie, “A rational mind is not always a prerequisite for a position of power.”  

For a film that was intended for a major international release, this didn’t bring much. The story was far too shallow and it ran too long. The original feature, the one that I am reviewing, runs for 159 minutes. This story would eventually be told time and time again in future productions like Outbreak or Contagion, in a much better fashion. While I appreciated the effort of director Kinji Fukasaku, I think he had bitten off a bit more than he could chew. While it boasts an all-star cast, Day of Resurrection was too ambitious a task.

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) - Richard Donner

OKAY ACTION MOVIE 65/100

Lethal Weapon 4 (65)

The worst of the franchise clocks in at the longest. A long winded action romp pitting LAPD against Triads.

Directed by:
Richard Donner

Produced by:
Richard Donner & Joel Silver

Screenplay by:
Channing Gibson

Starring:
Mel Gibson,
Danny Glover,
Joe Pesci,
Rene Russo,
Chris Rock,
Jet Li

Studio:
Silver Pictures & Doshudo Productions

Distributed by: 
Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date: 
July 10, 1998

Running time: 
127 minutes

Country: 
United States

Language: 
English

Budget: 
$100–150 million

Box office: 
$285.4 million

Lethal Weapon 4 is an action film from 1997. Most of the usual crew had returned. Director Richard Donner, Musicians Eric Clapton, Michael Kamen and David Sanborn all return along with actors, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo, Joe Pesci and introduces Chris Rock and Jet Li. It’s the fourth entry to the Lethal Weapon franchise, and it happens to be the slowest paced. It’s also framed as the final entry to the series. Nostalgically capping off a tremendous action series that ran for just over a decade.

A freighter full of Chinese immigrants runs aground in Los Angeles, much to the dismay of Officers Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. They are being imported by the Triads, who are trying to get their incarcerated crime bosses onto American soil and away from China. To make things worse, Murtaugh decides to stow an entire family of immigrants in his home. This puts the entire investigation in jeopardy. Also, Riggs and Murtaugh have to work with an annoying new detective, Lee Butters. Needless to say, our heroes can’t wait to kick some major Triad ass.

Lethal Weapon 4 visits Riggs and Murtaugh at a mature time in their lives. Roger’s daughter is pregnant, he is on the verge of becoming a grandfather. Riggs has also been told that Lorna is pregnant. Both guys have to face this turning point in their lives. That tone reflects the slower pace of the film. It still has explosions and car-chases as well as a good deal of character development. The relationship between Riggs and the Murtaughs is so comfortable and fun. It’s a pleasure to see the whole group interacting. I have fallen in love with the characters.

This wouldn’t be a Lethal Weapon movie without copious amounts of action. Over-the-Top action. Jet Li is a very convincing villain even though it's his first time playing one. His showdown with Mel Gibson is tremendous. It’s one of the highlights of the picture. The chase scene that doubles-up with a construction theme is another tremendous scene. Most scenes are really well shot, but lack substance. Thats a problem that echoes throughout. While it's fun nostalgically, it doesn’t have what it takes to make a good film.

This is supposed to be the final film in the franchise. It ends with the quote from our protagonists, “We’re not friends, We’re family!” Then we get a montage of production photos and a group shot of the entire crew. It’s a great send off, but what if they wanted to return? Would you hate it?

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) - Richard Donner

PRETTY GOOD ACTION MOVIE 79/100

Lethal Weapon 3 (79)

Not the best of the franchise, but not the worst.

Directed by:
Richard Donner

Produced by:
Richard Donner & Joel Silver

Screenplay by:
Jeffrey Boam & Robert Mark Kamen

Story by:
Jeffrey Boam

Starring:
Mel Gibson,
Danny Glover,
Joe Pesci,
Rene Russo and
Stuart Wilson

Studios:
Silver Pictures
Warner Bros.

Release date:
May 15, 1992

Running time:
118 minutes

Country:
United States

Language:
English

Budget :
$35 million

Box office:
$321.7 million

Lethal Weapon 3 is an action comedy film from 1992. Director Richard Donner has returned along with screenwriter, Jeffrey Boam. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson are back as Riggs and Murtaugh. Our favorite destructive comedic cop duo. Joe Pesci makes a return as Leo Getz, now a family friend to the Murtaugh family, and Rene Russo makes her appearance as Internal Affairs agent, Lorna Cole. The love interest for Riggs. It’s not a film that fared as well as the previous entries, but it had a lot of heart. I loved this one as a kid, so I hope it holds up!

Roger Murtaugh is only eight days away from retirement. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy eight days. His partner Riggs ends up destroying a building and getting them both busted down to beat cops. Then they stumble onto a chase with some dangerous criminals that happen to be using new, lethal “cop-killer” bullets. The leader of the criminals is a former police Lieutenant that has some dirty cops on the force. Riggs and Murtaugh are reinstated to detectives and then paired with Internal Affairs agent Lorna Cole. The love interest of Martin Riggs.

In usual Lethal Weapon tradition we are treated to jaw-jacking between Riggs and Murtaugh, an awesome car-chase through Los Angeles, a housing development used as an action background, range shooting, Riggs popping his shoulder back into place and various other tropes from the franchise. It also boasts a long run-time of 118 minutes. The longest of the franchise to that point. It would be surpassed by Lethal Weapon 4, clocking in at 127 minutes.

Mel Gibson is the saving grace of the picture, his comedic performance is great. It’s always funny to see him muscling down his Australian accent. His Martin Riggs character appears to be tired, but Rene Russo is a good pairing for him. I enjoyed her action scenes just as much as Gibson’s. I didn’t care much for the villain, Jack Travis. He wasn’t memorable. But the ending fight scene between Riggs and Travis is a high-point in this production.

The filmmakers had been a bit too ambitious with Lethal Weapon 3. It felt like they had intended to amp up the main elements in the franchise, but ended up cramming too much into one package. The film goes on far too long and begins dragging about half-way through. While I had a great time watching the further adventures of Riggs & Murtaugh, I could have done with a tighter and more trimmed storyline that still provided the same amount of entertainment as the second film. Lethal Weapon 3 is still entertaining, but you can mark this as start of the decline of the series. Interestingly enough, wikipedia lists the late Carrie Fisher as a script doctor. Seven stars.

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) - Richard Donner

REALLY GOOD ACTION MOVIE 88/100

Lethal Weapon 2 (88)

One of the greatest action films of the nineteen eighties. A must watch for every action fan.

Directed by: 
Richard Donner


Produced by: Richard Donner & Joel Silver

Screenplay by:
Jeffrey Boam

Story by: 
Shane Black & Warren Murphy

Starring: 
Mel Gibson
Danny Glover
Joe Pesci
Joss Ackland
Derrick O'Connor
Patsy Kensit

Music by:
Michael Kamen
Eric Clapton
David Sanborn

Studio:
Silver Pictures

Distributed by: 
Warner Bros.

Release date: 
July 7, 1989

Running time:
114 minutes

Country:
United States

Language:
English

Budget:
$50 million

Box office:
$227.9 million

Lethal Weapon II is a buddy-cop action film from 1989, and is the second installment to the Lethal Weapon franchise. Richard Donner returns to the helm and directs with a screenplay penned by Jeffrey Boam. Screenwriter, Shane Black had originally written the film, but he left the series due to various disputes. Both Mel Gibson and Danny Glover return as our heros, Riggs & Murtaugh. With Joe Pesci brought in to help emphasise the more comedic elements of the film. We also get another amazing soundtrack that harkens back to the first Lethal Weapon film thanks to Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, and David Sanborn. Again, yes! THAT Eric Clapton.

Our heroes are assigned to protecting an annoying federal witness, Leo Getz. However, they also get tied up in investigating Arjen Rudd, a corrupt and murderous South African politician that is hiding behind diplomatic immunity and the vienna commission. It’s extremely frustrating. We also get introduced to a clueless South African secretary that becomes the love interest to Riggs.

This sequel took everything that worked in the first movie and magnified it! The comedy, the action and the story were all improved. The addition of Joe Pesci is welcomed and his character works really well with Riggs and Murtaugh. Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) is a believable villain although sometimes he starts to feel like an over-the-top James Bond antagonist, a bit theatrical for my tastes. The action is huge. They had definitely ramped it up. Giant shootouts, a lot of explosions and car chases. Michael Bay would be proud. It wouldn’t be Lethal Weapon without a final showdown and this movie has a great one.

The comedy is great. It feels so comfortable and well written. Mel Gibson is always wonderful as the Martin Riggs character. Gibson’s comedy has a familiarity that feels like he could be related to you, like an uncle or older brother that gives you a well meaning funny jab. I loved the comedy. Joe Pesci is hilarious and a great addition, Mel Gibson is on top form too. Danny Glover does the usual straight man routine of Roger Murtaugh, but is involved in the hilarious and iconic toilet bomb scene. A scene that you cannot unsee.

One thing I noticed was the product placement for things like Tales from the Crypt and Subway restaurants. That kind of thing doesn’t really bother me but it's noticeable. I had a great time watching Lethal Weapon 2. It’s an amazing sequel that hits all the checkmarks. I laughed hard and appreciated the hard-hitting action. I also love how this movie keeps pace with the original. Both are intense but this is far more flushed out. It’s a prime example of a sequel surpassing the original.

Lethal Weapon (1987) - Richard Donner

REALLY GOOD ACTION MOVIE 86/100

Lethal Weapon (86)

A full throttled action film that packs in Comedy, Explosions and intriguing storytelling. A must see for Action fans.

Directed by:
Richard Donner


Produced by:
Richard Donner & Joel Silver

Written by:
Shane Black

Starring:
Mel Gibson
Danny Glover
Gary Busey
Michael Kamen

Studio:
Silver Pictures

Distributed by:
Warner Bros.

Release date:
March 6, 1987

Running time:
110 minutes

Country:
United States

Language:
English

Budget:
$15 million

Box office:
$120.2 million

Lethal Weapon is the eighties action film that kicked off the whole buddy-cop trope in Hollywood. It’s directed by Richard Donner (Superman II) and penned by Shane Black (Predator). Our cast of stars features Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in the lead roles with Gary Busey as a henchman to the main villain, The General played by Mitchell Ryan. I decided to pair the film with a nice Indica like King Louis XIII from Marley Natural. It’s a relaxing strain that provides a good deal of happiness. A good combination to dive right into a badass picture like this. The earthy tastes and piny aromas pair well with a good beer too. If that's your kind of thing.

The film follows the pairing of two LAPD detectives. Martin Riggs is a detective that is psychologically broken and emotionally damaged following the death of his wife. Roger Murtaugh is a veteran cop that works hard to support his family. They get paired together as partners working various crimes and bonding. Roger is constantly tested by Riggs’ inherently psychotic behavior. He almost gives up. However, after things go south and the duo bands together to put an end to a very dangerous group of drug smugglers called Shadow Company.

The film features cheesy action film acting and witty dialogue, mostly between Gibson and just about everyone he comes in contact with. His Martin Riggs character is iconic. He stands as one of the best cops in movie history. Danny Glover is the perfect straight man but it’s kind of unfortunate that he was so tight cast. Busey is badass in this movie. He looks awesome and does a great job of projecting himself as menacing. Tom Atkins is good too, his role is minimal, but he gives it everything. That is up until his death, which is rather goofy looking.

Lethal Weapon also has an amazing soundtrack provided by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton. Yes, that Eric Clapton. The howling saxophone and blazing guitar set upon a sprawling Los Angeles cityscape provide an amazing atmosphere for the story. The soundtrack provides a great technique for building suspense that gets paid off with intense action scenes.

This movie is a hell of a ride. It builds an amazing world that gets explored at break-neck speed. In some cases it’s far too fast-paced to be bad. All of the faults with the film are steamrolled by the constant action. The fight scenes are brutal and unrelenting. The final showdown is a thing of pure eighties glory. I love it. It’s a classic that should be enjoyed by everyone at least once! There’s a reason that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia loves it so much.

The King Louis XIII paired really well with Lethal Weapon. It tasted so good, I ended up having an extra snapper or two. The cannabis had me feeling really relaxed and sunken into my couch. The uplifting effects had me alert and ready for the suspense of the action scenes, which were numerous. The effects were long lasting and are still prevalent when writing this review. Although it feels great, the taste and smell are the leading factors with this particular batch from Marley Natural. Check it out if you can!

Jingle All the Way (1996) - Brian Levant

OKAY COMEDY 67/100

Jingle All the Way is a 1996 holiday comedy film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside the comedic Sinbad. It was directed by Brian Levant and produced by Chris Columbus. Levant had experience behind the camera with The Flintstone's and Beethoven, both were effective kids pictures. Jingle All the Way proved to be a fun kids movie, but it also entertains adults. It’s a fun feature that has a great atmosphere and entertainment for the whole family.

 Howard (Schwarzenegger) is an overworked mattress salesman that has been spending too much time at the office and not enough with his family. His son, Jamie (Lloyd), wants the hottest selling toy of the Christmas season. An action figure called Turboman. The problem is that Howard never bought the toy, and it’s Christmas Eve. That means Howard will have to fight his way through the horrendous shopping crowds, including a sociopathic mailman (Sinbad), in order to fulfill his son’s Christmas wishes.

It was a success at the box office, dragging in $129 million worldwide. It was met with good reviews, but critics complained about the focus of the movie being on the commercialism of Christmas. Those complaints gained some serious traction, and the movie had gotten a bit of a negative response. But it quickly died out, and the film had begun to air regularly on television during the holiday season.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had only starred in a few comedy films before this one. The bulk of his portfolio is made up with action films, but Jingle All the Way was a change of pace. The story is really basic, and it plays it safe with the plot. This was another gripe by critics. But I think that the simplicity brings more out in the characters. This is less about the story and more about watching Arnold and Sinbad act around each other in a Christmas setting.

The cast is great for this movie. Even Jake Lloyd. He wasn’t nearly as annoying as he was in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Phil Hartman is perfect for the role of Ted. He plays a scummy neighbor so well. The way he acted and his mannerisms, they made me want to punch him in the face. I would say that’s pretty convincing acting, considering how much I adore Hartman’s comedic genius. I also liked Sinbad. He was great and worked as the comic antagonist. It’s interesting that Joe Pesci was originally intended for this role.

I am a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger films and found this comedy to be hilarious. I remember seeing this movie with my family during the 1996 Christmas season at the Northridge Fashion Center in Northridge, CA. I was a kid, but I can still recall the madness of the crowds. It was and still is a topical movie that rings true with a lot of people. This is a great holiday movie that I always enjoy around Christmas. It’s fun for fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and serves as something that the entire family can enjoy. There is also a quick cameo from the WWE’s Big Show as a giant Santa.

Jingle All the Way (67/100)

A good Christmas movie filled with laughs. Great for family movie night.

Director: Brian Levant
Producers: Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Mark Radcliffe
Writer: Randy Kornfield
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Jake Lloyd, Curtis Armstrong, Robert Conrad, Jim Belushi
Studios: 1492 Pictures, 20th Century Fox
Release date: November 16, 1996
Budget: $75 million
Gross: $129.9 million

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Trading Places (1983) - John Landis

GOOD HOLIDAY COMEDY 80/100

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Trading Places is a comedy film from 1983. It was directed by John Landis and had an all-star cast including Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s a loose and modernized take on the Mark Twain tale The Prince and the Pauper. It isn’t just a great comedy, Trading Places is a great movie. It satirizes our society so accurately and relevantly. And it does so with charm. I’ve been a fan of this movie since first seeing it as a kid. My friends and I grew up quoting it in the schoolyard. This high-quality film pairs masterfully with the holiday season especially with a bit of spiced wine.

Mortimer (Don Ameche) and Randolph Duke (Ralph Bellamy) are two old and greedy entrepreneurs. They are brothers that own and run the commodities brokerage firm of Duke and Duke. They are horrible rich bullies that play games with young executives at their firm. They make a bet for one dollar to take a snooty, up-and-coming investor, Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), and trade his everyday life with a destitute conman, Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy). Louis is framed for theft and drug abuse, destroying his life and forcing him into the care of a crass prostitute, Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis). Valentine is picked up by Duke and Duke and dropped into Winthorpe’s old life. He goes from a street conman to a well adjusted young businessman. Louis vows revenge on the Dukes and Valentine for stealing his old life.

This is my favorite comedy of the eighties. It never ceases to make me laugh. Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are in top form. The content of their jokes is a bit dated, but it doesn’t take away from the hilarity. Both do a tremendous job. I loved watching a snooty Dan Aykroyd. “... Oh sure, like he went to Haaarvard.” is just one of his amazing lines. Aykroyd just plays a scummy character so well. Jamie Lee Curtis was great too. She broke away from the scream queen moniker that followed her since Halloween. The role of Ophelia gave her the opportunity to broaden her range as an actress.

I cannot recommend Trading Places enough. It’s hilarious, and it has a good story. The racial and sexual jokes are a bit harsh for our society today, but they shouldn’t detract from the entertainment of the picture overall. We love rags-to-riches stories that are set in a world we know. Even with the heavy handed, pro-capitalist nature of the film. If you can look past that you will see one of the greatest comedy films of the eighties.

Trading Places (80)

A fantastic comedy from Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. A bit dated, but still highly entertaining and perfect for the holiday season.

DIRECTOR

JOHN LANDIS

PRODUCER

AARON RUSSO

WRITER

TIMOTHY HARRIS
HERSCHEL WEINGROD

STARRING    

DAN AYKROYD
EDDIE MURPHY
RALPH BELLAMY
DON AMECHE
DENHOLM ELLIOTT
JAMIE LEE CURTIS

STUDIOS

CINEMA GROUP VENTURES
EDDIE MURPHY PRODUCTIONS
PARAMOUNT PICTURES

RELEASE DATE

JUNE 8, 1983

RUNNING TIME

116 MINUTES

COUNTRY

UNITED STATES

BUDGET    $15 MILLION
BOX OFFICE    $90.4 MILLION

The Addams Family (1991) - Barry Sonnenfeld

REALLY GOOD FAMILY COMEDY 85/100

The Addams Family (85)

Another great feature for the holidays! It's not necessarily a Christmas movie, but it feels that way. Gather the family around for this one.

Directed by    Barry Sonnenfeld
Produced by    Scott Rudin
Written by    
Caroline Thompson
Larry Wilson
Based on    The Addams Family
by Charles Addams
Starring    
Anjelica Huston
Raúl Juliá
Christopher Lloyd
Music by    Marc Shaiman
Cinematography    Owen Roizman
Edited by    Dede Allen
Production
company

Orion Pictures
Distributed by    Paramount Pictures
(North America and Latin America)
Orion Pictures
(International, 1991-1997)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
(International, 1997-current)
Release date
November 22, 1991
Running time
99 minutes
Country    United States
Language    English
Budget    $30 million
Box office    $191.5 million

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The Addams Family is a dark comedy from 1991. It was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starred Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci. The film is based on the old Addams Family cartoon from Charles Addams and the television program from the sixties. I’ve loved this film since my childhood. The humor is perfect. It’s the perfect mix of tame dark comedy that hasn’t suffered from age. While it isn’t a Holiday Film, it still stands a great comfort film that the entire family can enjoy. I lump this in with a lot of Christmas pictures and it doesn’t feel out of place.


The Addams Family are Gomez and Morticia. Their children, Wednesday and Pugsley. Morticia’s mother, Granny. Their butler Lurch and their hand, Thing. They are a rich but very strange family who appears to be a thorn in the side of the community they live with. The Addams’ lawyer, Tully Alford Esq. swindles the family out of their savings, a large cache of gold doubloons that makes up the entire Addams fortune. Tully is assisted in this rouse by a loan-shark, Abigail Craven and her “son” Gordon. Gordon closely resembles the long-lost Addams Family member, Fester Addams, and the duo use this to their advantage. Using Gordon to infiltrate the Addams’ estate and lead them to the riches. Only the problem is that “Gordon” is feeling more and more at home.  

This movie is written so well and the acting is awesome! The dramatic scenes can touch you while bringing a smile to your face. Everyone hits their mark, Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia are enchanting as Morticia and Gomez Addams. Their chemistry on screen is so real. My favorite character was that of Christopher Lloyd as the insane Fester Addams. Lloyd steals the show. Scenes with Fester coaching the young Pugsley and Wednesday are top notch. Its heart-warming to watch his admiration of their grotesque school talent show performance. 


The style of the film reminds me a lot of Burton’s quirky gothic esthetic. It felt like Barry Sonnenfeld had borrowed from Beetlejuice and the more recent, Edward Scissorhands. The effects were handled by Tony Gardner (127 Hours, Seed of Chucky) and are really good. Thing was, a great example of that. The scenes with Thing running around town and delivering for FedEx are great. It’s interesting to note that most of this movie was filmed on the same set as the original Addams Family television show. Also, Nineties Pop Rapper, MC Hammer contributed to the films soundtrack with The Addams Groove. A music video was produced and played before the film during the early theatrical run. It’s horrible. 


The Addams Family is a fantastically weird comfort film that leaves you entertained. I recommend this movie to everyone that hasn’t seen it. The characters might not be familiar, but it’s guaranteed to make you smile and laugh. Each member of the family brings their own bit of hilarity to the picture. Its heavily detailed and I keep finding new things to appreciate with each viewing. 

 

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The Fist of the White Lotus (1986) - Lieh Lo

PRETTY GOOD KUNG-FU MOVIE 70/100

Fists of the White Lotus (73)

A great action film from Lieh Lo. My first official classic Kung-Fu movie has gotten me excited for more!

Director

LIEH LO

Producer

RUN RUN SHAW

Writer

HAUNG TIEN

Starring

LO LIEH,
GORDON LIU,
KARA HUI,
JOHNNY WANG,
HSIAO HO

STUDIO

SHAW BROTHERS STUDIO

Release date

JANUARY 1ST, 1980

Country

HONG KONG

Kung Fu movies have never been high on my list. In fact, It’s a genre I'd ignored. Not because I dislike ‘em. I never put time aside to examine these flicks. That being said, Fist of the White Lotus was a amazing feature that impressed the hell out of me. It has great fight scenes and stars some awesome Kung Fu stars like Lo Lieh, Gordon Liu Chia Hui and Johnny Wang Lung Wei. It also features the monk, Pai Mai. A character that had become popular in Quentin Tarantino's film Kill Bill. You might consider this to be a sequel to that feature.

Shaolin brothers, Hung Wei-Ting and Hu Ah-Piao are both being released from imprisonment after the emperor pardons their killing of the evil monk, Pai Mei. Mei was a member of the White Lotus Clan. A group that opposed the Shaolin. He was also a classmate of the leader the clan, White Lotus. Lotus is dangerous. He can float, he can retract his testicles into his body and he is the master of the White Lotus 100-Pace Punch. After the brothers are released, The White Lotus Clan vows revenge attacking the Shaolin and killing Ah-Piao. This leads to Hung Wei-Ting retaliating against White Lotus, hoping that his Tiger-Crane Style will vanquish the Lotus’ evil from the world forever.

Gordon Liu and Lo Lieh give some awesome fight sequences. The choreography is effective. I love the sound effects. A whoosh and bump for every move. What the film may lack in production it makes up with exquisite choreographed fight sequences including interesting additions. Additions like White Lotus’ floating or the wind power behind Wei-Ting’s punches. These elements add more interest to the fights then you see in average martial arts movies.

This movie is known as either Clan of the White Lotus or Fist of the White Lotus, depending on who you're asking. It’s bizarre but entertaining. The endless fighting and sparring keeps your interest. But the overabundance of crotch punches is insane. Gordon Liu cannot throw a punch without hitting a groin. This weirdness gets worked into the plot. These low-blows seem to be part of Wei-Ting’s Tiger-Crane Style. So White Lotus displays the ability to pull his testicles into his abdomen! Weird! But these dodged nut shots advance the plot. Wei-Ting must learn different styles of Kung Fu to defeat White Lotus. These are weird styles too, Feminine Kung Fu and Acupuncture Kung Fu.

Some of my favorite scenes are of Hung Wei-Ting practicing fighting the White Lotus. He wraps his friend in paper and hangs him up like a pinata. Then practices his punches and dodges on him. It’s hilarious. Wei-Ting learning to do “woman’s work” comes in at a close second. The comedy spots are appreciated. They tend to break up the endless sparring and fighting. Hsiao Ho, as Wei-Ting is hilarious.

Clan/Fist of the White Lotus is a perfect jumping off point for those that aren’t familiar with this style of film. The Shaw Brothers have a quality and nostalgia to their films. It’s chock full of overdubbed fighting and the fantastical elements that add a lot of intrigue. Including Pai Mei/White Lotus also adds an interesting factor. I recommend this movie to film buffs that want to experience a Shaw Brothers production. It goes a lot of places I wouldn’t had expected a kung fu movie to go. Its epic for such a low budget production.