Film Review: Crocodile Dundee (1986)

Release Date: April 24th, 1986 (Australia)
Directed by: Peter Faiman
Written by: Paul Hogan, Ken Shadie, John Cornell
Music by: Peter Best
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Blum, David Gulpilil, Michael Lombard, John Meillon, Reginald VelJohnson, Terry Gill, Steve Rackman, Paul Greco

Rimfire Films, Hoyts Distribution, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 97 Minutes, 93 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“New York City, Mr. Dundee. Home to seven million people.” – Richard Mason, “That’s incredible. Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on Earth.” – Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee

The first two Crocodile Dundee movies were films that I used to watch a lot, as a kid. The third one is a total turd but I’ll review that after revisiting the first two.

Starting with this one, the first film, I immediately felt the nostalgia bug creeping in when I heard the fairly iconic Crocodile Dundee opening theme start playing, as the helicopter carrying Sue into the Outback showed us that we were ready to go on a cool adventure.

Watching this, all these years later, allowed me to see a lot of the flaws and issues that weren’t apparent to me before. The movie is riddled with editing and pacing issues and there doesn’t seem to be much of an idea as to what the film is supposed to be.

At its core, it is a romantic comedy but it doesn’t fully commit to that and it seems to be more about showing two different characters as fish out of water.

The first half of the picture deals with Sue going into the Australian bush to meet Mick Dundee and to learn about how he survived an alligator attack. The second half deals with Mick going back to New York City with Sue to see what life is like outside of the Outback.

There is an actual plot but it is really thin and it seems to rely more heavily on gags and jokes from scene to scene, as opposed to telling a cohesive story that one can sink their teeth into.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the humor in the film is mostly fine but it lacks any sort of emotional investment into the characters and their budding romance. It also doesn’t help that there doesn’t seem to be much chemistry between them, at least not natural chemistry. I kind of find that strange, as they got married in real life and remained married for a few decades, only getting divorced a few years ago.

Some of the gags are pretty dated and I think some stuff might make people’s stomach churn in modern society where everything is offensive. Two scenes that come to mind are the ones where Mick grabs someone’s genitals to see if they’re a bloke or a sheila.

Crocodile Dundee is still a mostly humorous, lighthearted picture that is actually kind of charming and cute because Paul Hogan is actually pretty great as the title character. But that charm can’t carry a whole movie and this one is sort of a mess, structurally.

I don’t really see what the point of it was and that’s because it’s objective wasn’t all that clear. I think this is why I liked the second film better, back in the day, because it actually has a more solid plot and objectives you can follow, as Mick fights a drug cartel and it’s more action heavy. Most people seem to think the second one was a much weaker film but I guess I’ll have to see how I feel about it now, when I watch it in the very near future.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Crocodile Dundee movies, as well as other films starring Paul Hogan.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 2: God Killer

Published: March 1st, 2016
Written by: Tony Salvador Daniel
Art by: Tony Salvador Daniel

DC Comics, 134 Pages

Review:

Hands down, this is one of the coolest and most fun Deathstroke comics that I have ever read. Kudos to Tony S. Daniel for crafting something so damn energetic and enjoyable!

The story follows Deathstroke, as he is given a special weapon that has the power to essentially kill a god. It also controls its wielder and can change shape and morph into whatever is needed to win the battle. Slade is sent to Wonder Woman’s island and tricked into resurrecting an evil god that can bring destruction to the world.

Initially, he gets into fights with Wonder Woman and Superman, while using his new, magical weapon, but the three figure out that they had better work together if they’re going to bring this evil god down.

The story is very mythological based, which is kind of neat for a Deathstroke tale. It goes into new and exciting territory and also pairs him up with two iconic heroes that he seldomly interacts with. Within this story, I like the dynamic of the three working together and it feels like DC’s holy “Trinity” but with a darker, harder edge.

This is fantastical, action packed and badass.

On top of that, Daniel’s art is superb and I like his style quite a bit.

Man, this was just a blast and it completely caught me off guard.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of the 2014-2016 Deathstroke run, as well as the Christopher Priest era that followed.

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965)

Also known as: The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (Season 8-10)
Original Run: October 2nd, 1955 – June 26th, 1965
Created by: Alfred Hitchcock
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Stanley Wilson (music supervisor), various
Cast: Alfred Hitchcock, various

Revue Studios, Universal Television, Shamley Productions, CBS, NBC, 361 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode – seasons 1-7), 50 Minutes (per episode – seasons 8-10)

Review:

I grew up watching this show a lot with my granmum in reruns on cable. The theme song always got me excited and even though I was a kid of the ’80s that loved everything about that decade, I still also enjoyed older stuff like this and the other anthology shows of the era like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents always intrigued me though, as it seemed to have more legitimacy, at least to my little kid brain. This was because I knew very much who Hitchcock was, I was familiar with a lot of his work and I really liked his films, even when I was too young to grasp them or fully understand their meaning and themes. Plus, I just really liked Hitchcock’s personality.

Over the last few years, I’ve rewatched a lot of the episodes. I haven’t seen all of them, as there are just so many and because even if family members have DVD collections they have let me borrow, there are still a lot of missing pieces I haven’t gotten my hands on.

Regardless of that, I feel as if I have seen a large enough sample size, from most seasons, to give the show a review.

Overall, Alfred Hitchcock Presents is pretty good from top to bottom and the quality of the seasons feels consistent. Sure, like with any anthology series, there are episodes that don’t live up to expectations and sometimes feel like they could’ve been snuffed out at the pre-production stage. However, there aren’t a lot of episodes like this and, for the most part, the show isn’t hindered by its low points.

The show has a pretty wide range of genres it uses over the course of its 361 episodes but nearly everything feels like it lines up with Hitchcock’s own cinematic work.

Each episode may be written and directed by its own team but it seems as if Hitchcock was pretty involved in everything and just about every story maintains a certain tone and visual style.

This is such a massive show to get into and to try and watch in its entirety. I’m not even sure if all of it is commercially released, as it switched from different networks over the years it was originally broadcast. However, I know that a lot of episodes were on Hulu, recently. I’m assuming that you can still find them there. That is, unless the NBC episodes have been pulled for their upcoming streaming service.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other anthology mystery and horror shows of the era.

Video Game Review: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (NES)

I have never played this game, as it came out at the end of the original Nintendo era and I had moved on to Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it, anyway, as I was into better graphics, better sound and hadn’t had good experiences with other Indiana Jones games for the NES.

Playing it now, this is the best Indiana Jones game on the NES console. It’s actually kind of fun and it has better controls and overall mechanics than the other games.

Now the controls can still be wonky and frustrating but as bad as the other games were, this is actually a step up.

Additionally, there is more than one gameplay mode. You do the standard side scrolling action stuff but you also get to fly a plane and drive a motorcycle. There are also cool locations. I enjoyed the train level, as you punch and whip your way through baddies on a train moving through the European countryside.

For those familiar with the G.I. Joe games released on the NES, this has a similar gameplay style on most levels.

The game is rather difficult, however, especially some of the later boss battles, as the amount of damage you can take is pretty minimal.

Ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised by the game and, for the most part, like it.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other NES Indiana Jones games, as well as the NES G.I. Joe titles.

Film Review: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Shane Black
Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Ed O’Ross, Al Leong, Jack Thibeau

Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes, 117 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I’m too old for this shit!” – Roger Murtaugh

Since there have been rumblings, once again, about Lethal Weapon 5, I was reminded that I haven’t really watched the original film in quite awhile. So, since I have the DVD box set, I figured that I’d give them all a rewatch and a review.

I actually forgot how dark this first film was in regards to Martin Riggs’ depression and suicidal thoughts. Sure, I remember that part of the story but I see a lot more layers with it now, as an adult that has dealt with depression his entire life and many of the experiences and thoughts that come with it. I can also relate to the loss and grief that Riggs felt over his wife’s death, as I lost someone very close to me, which had me in a similar head space for a few years.

As a kid and a teen, I don’t think I understood the real depth of Riggs’ despair and I also didn’t fully understand how this is a movie about a broken man finding something to live for and that he is essentially adopted by a family that grows to love him as one of their own. And honestly, I’m not sure if Shane Black’s script meant to take it that deep but Mel Gibson and Danny Glover add so much to their roles and this story, emotionally, that lesser actors couldn’t have achieved this on quite the same level with this much human emotion.

That being said, the film is really about a man emerging from absolute darkness and finding his way in the world again. And while this isn’t the main plot thread of the sequels, it helped to establish the bond between Riggs and Murtaugh so well, that the emotions and connections in this film created such a strong foundation that it made the camaraderie in the sequels natural and frankly, easy.

The movie is an action comedy, despite the really heavy emotional stuff, and within that, it has a great balance between the darker stuff and its lighthearted playfulness. It’s also full of badass action and just makes me wish that Hollywood could still make pictures like this that are this good.

Action comedies in the modern era just don’t hit the right notes. You can’t compare any of those Kevin Hart buddy action comedies to the Lethal Weapon films and that’s not a knock against the talented Hart, I think it is just a product of the times we live in and their contrast to what the 1980s (and ’90s) were.

A lot of the credit has to go to Richard Donner, who was on his A-game as a director in the ’80s, as well as producer Joel Silver, a man that was involved with some of the most iconic films of all-time, especially in this era and the action genre.

But it all really comes back to the greatness that is the pairing of Gibson and Glover. They’re bond and their banter is absolute perfection. You buy into what they’re selling and they feel like they’re your friends too. On top of that, Glover’s family is great and they make the scenes they share with the two leads pretty special.

While the actual plot dealing with the crime element in the film is a bit thin, it’s still interesting and it also brings in great performances from Gary Busey, Tom Atkins and the grossly underappreciated Mitchell Ryan. I also love seeing and hearing Al Leong actually speak in this beyond just being a voiceless henchman.

On top of all that, the action sequences are superb, the stunts are fantastic and this is a movie that still packs a punch and is just as exciting as it was over thirty years ago.

Lethal Weapon is a stupendous film. It has the greatest tandem in buddy cop movie history and it has aged tremendously well.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s buddy action movies.

Comic Review: Queen Sonja, Vol. 4: Son of Set

Published: October 3rd, 2012
Written by: Arvid Nelson
Art by: Edgar Salazar
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 140 Pages

Review:

Where the previous installment of the Queen Sonja series felt kind of light and was more of a prequel/Year One type of tale, this moves the story forward in a great way and also serves as a sequel to Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom, as Doom is resurrected by an ancient force claiming to be the god Set.

All the Thulsa stuff here is pretty great for fans of the character. Also, everything with Set has very strong Lovecraftian vibes and it draws comparisons to the old Robert E. Howard stories that kind of tied to Lovecraft’s mythos, as the two writers were very close friends and it’s been said that it’s possible that the original Conan, Kull and Red Sonya stories happen in the same universe as Lovecraft’s.

The story was the second strongest of the Queen Sonja series thus far, following the second volume. I liked the action, the stakes and how Sonja overcame adversity and was able to further develop into a real leader, able to rally her kingdom behind her, even when it’s all in complete disarray.

My only complaint about the story is that the faux Set and Thulsa Doom sort of have their own battle and we didn’t get the satisfaction of seeing Sonja really fight either of them. But the ending, regardless of that payoff, was still good and it makes sense for the story. I just wanted to see Sonja and Doom get into a physical confrontation once again.

Overall, this was some good shit, especially for fans of Howard lore, Lovecraftian lore and simple yet badass sword and sorcery tales.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other older Red Sonja comics from Dynamite.

Film Review: House On Haunted Hill (1999)

Release Date: October 27th, 1999 (premiere)
Directed by: William Malone
Written by: Dick Beebe, Robb White
Based on: House On Haunted Hill by Robb White, William Castle
Music by: Don Davis
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Ali Larter, Chris Kattan, Peter Gallagher, Bridgette Wilson, Max Perlich, Jeffrey Combs, Slavitza Jovan, Lisa Loeb, Peter Graves (cameo), Greg Nicotero (uncredited)

Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Dr. Richard Benjamin Vannacutt. He out-butchered Bundy, made Manson look meek.” – Peter Graves

Man, it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched this but for some odd reason, it holds a special place in my dark heart. I’m not sure if it is due to when it came out and the effect of nostalgia or because I actually consider it to be better than the film it is a remake of, which almost feels sacrilegious to type because Vincent Price, that film’s star, is why I fell in love with horror to begin with.

Generally, I’m not a fan of remakes in the same way I’m not a fan of cover songs. I really feel as if these things should only exist if they can justify themselves by being better or at the very least, being an interesting new take on the source material they are borrowing from.

1999’s House On Haunted Hill is a really good example of a film that takes its inspiration from its predecessor and makes it something else without sacrificing what the original vision was. It’s not an easy task to achieve but Dark Castle really started out on a good foot with this, their first of a few classic horror remakes.

Ultimately, this takes the formula from William Castle’s classic haunted house tale and ups the ante in a way that is very ’90s. It’s more extreme, has a fair bit of good gore and it updates the concept into something contemporary for the time. It’s also more of a psychological horror film and goes places that the original one couldn’t. The scene in the hallucination chamber is well done and actually kind of terrifying, even for a horror aficionado like myself.

That being said, there are three key things that make this remake a solid one.

The first is the ensemble cast. For a horror film with slightly more than a half dozen main players, we have an assemblage of some really good talent. Everyone sort of plays a typical horror archetype but they are all really good at it. I like everyone in this, top to bottom, regardless of whether or not they’re playing the innocent and good character thrown into a literal hell or they’re playing the evil, conniving bastard with some sort of dastardly trick up their sleeve.

Frankly, as good as everyone is in their roles, Geoffrey Rush and Famke Janssen steal every single scene they’re in. I can’t say that they outclass and out act every other actor here but they just rise to a different level and they seriously look like they are enjoying hamming it up in this twisted movie.

The second thing that makes this film work is the atmosphere. This isn’t the house from the original film. Instead, we’re trapped with these characters in a burned out art deco styled fortress of the 1930s, which was used as an insane asylum ran by an evil and sadistic doctor that used to butcher his patients.

Beyond that, the sets are incredible and the art direction in this film was magnificent. I really dig the lighting, the visual effects, the general cinematography and just about everything visual. The practical effects are great and even if the CGI feels dated now, it works for what this is and it doesn’t take you out of the picture like some of the CGI you’d see from this era. The Lovecraftian inspired blob of spirits is actually kind of cool and it works tremendously well with the tone of the film.

The third thing that works wonders is the score. The music is a great mix of a classic horror movie soundtrack and ’90s era industrial styled instrumentals. The film even features Marilyn Manson’s “Sweet Dreams”, which adds another level of dread and atmosphere to the already effective presentation of the picture.

I’d like to give credit to the director, William Malone. He managed this project well and I have to give credit where it’s due, especially since I don’t like the other films that I’ve seen of his: Creature, FeardotCom and Parasomnia. But maybe I will give those movies a re-watch soon, as it’s been a long time.

When this came out, it was a film that critics hated but I remember most people enjoying it. It’s got a ’90s campiness to it but it’s far from comedy and I’d say that it’s aged well. It’s certainly better than what the modern standard seems to be in the horror genre.

I think that I’ll revisit Dark Castle’s Thirteen Ghosts remake soon, as it has been a long time since I’ve seen it but I had a good experience with it, back in the day. I may also finally watch the sequel to this film. I heard it’s nowhere near as good but with this fresh in my mind, I’d like to take another trip to the haunted asylum.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Dark Castle remakes of classic horror films, as well as other late ’90s and early ’00s ghost movies.