Film Review: The War of the Roses (1989)

Release Date: December 4th, 1989 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Written by: Michael J. Leeson
Based on: The War of the Roses by Warren Adler
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sagebrecht, Dan Castellaneta, Sean Astin, G.D. Spradlin, Roy Brocksmith

Regency International Pictures, Gracie Films, Twentieth Century Fox, 116 Minutes

Review:

“I think you owe me a solid reason. I worked my ass off for you and the kids to have a nice life and you owe me a reason that makes sense. I want to hear it.” – Oliver Rose, “Because. When I watch you eat. When I see you asleep. When I look at you lately, I just want to smash your face in.” – Barbara Rose

When this came out, I remember my mum rushing out to see it based off of her love of Romancing the Stone and to a lesser extent, The Jewel of the Nile. I then remember her coming home upset because it didn’t have a happy ending and in fact, had a really dark, tragic one. While my mum was a fan of comedy and romance pictures, she was never too keen on black comedy or dark humor in general.

I had never seen this one until now. Sure, I had seen scenes and knew how it would end but I was always kind of disappointed that in the final act of the Douglas-Turner-DeVito trilogy we didn’t get another fun adventure movie akin to their previous films together. I’m still kind of bummed we never got a third Romancing the Stone film but Turner wasn’t happy with The Jewel of the Nile and most people saw it as a big step down.

Anyway, this certainly isn’t a bad film and I find it more palatable than my mum did. But I’ve also always loved dark humor because I was a teenage male in the ’90s and everyone was an edgy boi in love with edgy shit. Also, watching Turner start to go off the deep end in this reminded me a lot of another one of her movies I love: Serial Mom.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this. It’s hard watching this married couple fall apart, though. Also, by the end of the story, neither of them are good people. They just become obsessed with trying to hurt one another and its a game of escalating one-upmanship that ends in their demise.

Some of this really stung because the performances were so good and after the setup and their backstory, it’s hard watching things fall apart and to the extreme extent that they do. I also think that in my mind, as it’s still fresh, and in many people’s minds, we were still in love with the couple we got in their two other movies.

Danny DeVito was just kind of there to be the eyes and ears of the audience, observing and ultimately reporting and telling the story to a client in his office. DeVito starts out as this sort of sleazy lawyer but evolves, as the tale rolls on.

In the end, this isn’t the way I wanted to see this creative partnership between these three great talents end but for decades, this was it. At least Kathleen Turner popped up as Michael Douglas’ ex-wife in his show The Kominsky Method, which I’ve heard is good. I’ll probably give it a watch down the road. Danny DeVito appeared on the show, as well.

Rating: 6.25/10

Book Review: ‘The Untold Legend of the Batman’ by Len Wein, Jim Aparo & John Byrne

This was a paperback book I had when I was a kid and it may have actually been the first Batman comic that I read, as I got this when I was really young.

This paperback is a collection of a three-issue comic book miniseries of the same name. Except, here, the comic is in black and white and reformatted to fit this medium, having just one-to-three panels per page.

The Untold Legend of the Batman is a bit strange, as its details differ from the continuity of the actual comic book series. Events in Batman’s past are slightly altered but it was still a fun read and the origin of the Caped Crusader wasn’t so different that it wrecked anything. At worst, it’s still more accurate than many of the film and television versions of the hero’s backstory.

I really dug the art in this, especially with it being presented in black and white, as it allowed the linework of both John Byrne and Jim Aparo to really standout on its own.

This was a really fast read but it was still worth hunting down and giving it a look again.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: The Jungle Book (1967)

Release Date: October 18th, 1967
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry
Based on: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Music by: George Bruns
Cast: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, John Abbott, Louis Prima, Bruce Reitherman, Clint Howard

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“What do they call you?” – Baloo, “His name is Mowgli, and I’m taking him back to the man village.” – Bagheera, “Man village? They’ll ruin him. They’ll make a man out of him.” – Baloo, 

While I always liked The Jungle Book it wasn’t one of the films that popped into my head when thinking of Disney’s greatest classic animated features. However, seeing it this time, the first in a few decades, gave me a new appreciation for it, as seeing it through the eyes of an adult made it a richer experience.

The reason for that, is that even though I can relate to Mowgli, I have more appreciation for Bagheera’s point-of-view and also have grown away from my more care-free ways that Baloo exhibits. Well, until Baloo has to ultimately let the kid move on and live his life.

The magic of this film is that it can connect to anyone through the youthful Mowgli but it has the ability to speak to the adults watching it in a way that the kids also probably understand but can’t fully connect to until they’ve actually experienced more in life.

Also, this is just such a fun and jovial movie that its music really stands out for this era of Disney pictures.

I also like the art style and the lush colors and environment.

It reminds me a lot of the film before it, The Sword In the Stone, in how this plays more like two friends going on random adventures where the main plot is just kind of secondary. Except, this does that better and overall, provides a more memorable and emotional bond.

The Jungle Book is simply great. It’s a positive, fun, coming of age story that has some of the best tunes in the history of Disney films.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: Arcadia of My Youth: Endless Orbit SSX (1982-1983)

Original Run: October 13th, 1982 – March 30th, 1983
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Tomoharu Katsumata, Masamitsu Sasaki
Written by: Leiji Matsumoto, Hiroyasu Yamaura, Hiroyuki Hoshiyama
Based on: Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Shunsuke Kikuchi

Discotek Media, Toei Animation, Tokyo Broadcasting System, 22 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This second Captain Harlock series served as a loose sequel to the Arcadia of My Youth feature film that came out in the same year.

Following the events of the film, Harlock and the crew of the Arcadia are exiled from Earth, which has been taken over by the Illumidas, along with several other planets.

For much of the series, Harlock explores space while also having battles with the Illumidas. He’s also searching for the mythical “Planet of Peace”, a place where all intelligent species can live free of war and interplanetary conflict.

The show was originally planned to have double the episodes that it got. It struggled in the ratings due to competition from new series like the original Gundam, which was a quicker paced, more action oriented show.

Still, this did have a proper and good conclusion, even if production was cut short.

I also liked this show a hair bit more than the earlier Captain Harlock series. I enjoyed the stories, the characters and the overall style of it.

Rating: 8.75/10

Film Review: The Terror (1963)

Also known as: The Night of Terror, The Haunting, Lady of the Shadows (alternative titles)
Release Date: June 17th, 1963 (Buffalo premiere)
Directed by: Roger Corman; uncredited: Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Jacob, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill, Jack Nicholson
Written by: Leo Gordon, Jack Hill
Music by: Ronald Stein, Les Baxter (uncredited)
Cast: Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Dick Miller, Sandra Knight, Dorothy Neumann, Jonathan Haze

Roger Corman Productions, The Filmgroup, American International Pictures, 81 Minutes

Review:

“The crypt! It must be destroyed, and with it the dead.” – Helene

Man, The Terror is a really bizarre, nonsensical movie but if you are a fan of Corman’s ’60s gothic horror and know about this movie’s strange production, it’s a worthwhile experience to see this playout onscreen.

The movie shares the narrative and visual style of Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe pictures but this features an original, albeit very sloppy, story that was thrown together quickly in an effort to crank out this movie as rapidly as possible to recycle the still standing sets from Corman’s The Raven, which also featured Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson.

While Karloff’s scenes were shot in just two days, the movie took a staggering nine months to complete, which was absolutely unheard of for a Corman production. But like almost every Corman film, this didn’t lose money.

This is also legendary for the fact that so many people worked on it that would go on to be pretty damn famous: Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson, who even worked as one of the many directors, behind the scenes.

The story was written by regular Corman actor Leo Gordon, along with Jack Hill. The story itself is a mess but I don’t know if that’s due to Gordon and Hill’s initial script or if the chaotic production really screwed things up. There is a scene, leading into the finale of the film, where Dick Miller’s character just gives the audience a massive info dump, so that they can make sense out of what the hell they had been watching up to that point.

Overall, the story is all over the place and hard to follow. I feel like the info dump was necessary to salvage it somewhat. However, it doesn’t save the mess and honestly, there is more entertainment value in enjoying the mess itself.

Additionally, you also get to see Karloff work with Nicholson and Dick Miller in almost all of his scenes. It’s just cool seeing these three legends on the screen together despite the overall quality of the film.

In what must’ve been a real treat for a young Francis Ford Coppola, this was released on a double bill with his horror classic, Dementia 13.

Rating: 5.25/10

Comic Review: Captain America – Epic Collection: The Bloodstone Hunt

Published: April 25th, 2018
Written by: Mark Gruenwald, Kieron Dwyer
Art by: Mark Bagley, M.D. Bright, Rich Buckler, Kieron Dwyer, Ron Lim, Al Milgrom

Marvel Comics, 495 Pages

Review:

Well, this is probably the greatest string of Captain America issues that I have ever read. The first few were a bit shaky but they laid the groundwork for the start of the two primary stories, here, The Bloodstone Hunt and the Captain America portion of the Acts of Vengeance crossover and its fallout.

The Bloodstone Hunt was pretty incredible and a hell of a lot of fun. It was like an Indiana Jones story as Cap and Diamondback, now essentially his partner, raced against Baron Zemo, Batroc and their crew to try and hunt down five magic gems. It wasn’t clear why Zemo wanted them until the end, where he attempts to use them to resurrect his father, the original Zemo. However, he resurrects the powerful soul that was locked in those gems instead.

That story also features the debut of Crossbones and John Jameson (a.k.a. Man-Wolf) becoming Cap’s pilot. Sadly, we don’t get Man-Wolf action but this series of issues drops some hints that Jameson might not be able to suppress his cosmic werewolf alter ego for much longer.

After that, we get a two-issue arc that sees Cap and Crossbones fight for the first time. Man, I forgot how much I loved Crossbones in these early stories. He’s such a good sack of shit and a perfect rival for Cap. I really wish they would’ve used him better in the MCU movies, especially with Frank Grillo in that role.

Following that, we get the Acts of Vengeance stuff, which sees Cap have to fight Namor, his ally, as well as The Controller and Crossbones, again. There are also side plots about The Hellfire Club being raided and Magneto kidnapping and burying Red Skull alive in a tomb due to his ties to the Nazis, which a young Magneto and his family were victims of.

There’s just so much in this volume and all of it is damn good, once the story gets rolling.

Mark Gruenwald might be the best Captain America writer of them all. Additionally, the art throughout this stretch was superb. I still remember buying a lot of these single issues off of the racks, many of which I still own, and I remember loving back in 1989. I’m glad to say that this aged exceptionally well.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Schindler’s List (1993)

Release Date: November 30th, 1993 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Zaillian
Based on: Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 195 Minutes

Review:

“It’s Hebrew, it’s from the Talmud. It says, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”” – Itzhak Stern

Schindler’s List is nearly thirty years-old but I hadn’t seen the movie until now. I knew the story of Schindler but I also had assumptions about this movie that I found out weren’t entirely true after having finally watched it.

I expected this to be immensely depressing and also very, very long. The combination of those two things is why I could never get myself to sit down and watch it.

Additionally, based off of the footage I had seen over the last few decades, I assumed this was going to focus on the actual horrors of the Holocaust primarily and that the story would be pretty minimal. I was glad to learn that this has a very layered and deep story, more so than I could have anticipated.

Sure, I assumed it would be superbly acted and it most definitely is. Liam Neeson is incredible, as are Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes and Embeth Davidtz. Yet I was still blown away and surprised by how good their performances were and I was much more moved by that than the specific horrors that happen in the movie. It’s those performances that kept the horrors and tragedy grounded and genuine.

I thought that this was going to be more docu-drama than a narrative driven, performance driven motion picture.

This may also be Steven Spielberg’s best work behind the camera, as some of the shots aren’t just incredible but they’re almost otherworldly. I love that he did this in black and white, which makes it kind of timeless, but also makes it tonally darker.

I really enjoyed John Williams’ beautiful score and it is certainly one of the greatest things he has done in his long career, as a composer who has probably made more memorable movie themes than any other.

The subject matter, here, is really hard to digest. However, this is a story that should be known by everyone. We can’t forget these atrocities because we’re doomed to repeat them in the future, as insane and implausible as that may sound.

After watching this and Grave of the Fireflies just a few days apart, I really need something uplifting because that was a lot of dark human shit that I had to experience in a short span.

Rating: 10/10