Film Review: Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Also known as: The All New George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (poster title)
Release Date: October 19th, 1990
Directed by: Tom Savini
Written by: George A. Romero
Based on: Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero, John A. Russo
Music by: Paul McCullough
Cast: Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley

21st Century Film Corporation, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“This is something no one’s ever heard about, and no one’s ever seen before. This is hell on earth.” – Ben

Other than the solid special effects, I’m not a fan of this movie. And that does kind of suck because I am a fan of Tom Savini, the special effects master turned director.

I think what I don’t like about this movie is that everyone in it makes the worst decisions possible. Also, they’re all pretty unlikable because all they do is make dumb choices and scream the entire time with all the lights on in the house and zombies outside listening for food. I also should mention that everyone is hammering fucking boards over the windows for almost the entire length of the picture!

Now I know that this was a remake of the original 1968 film and that the script was pretty damn close to the source material. However, by 1990, zombie movies had been around for a long time and with that, there are much smarter films on the subject that George Romero, himself, had written.

While this was his attempt to start over with his original concept, it doesn’t mean that it has to be populated with really stupid, self-sabotaging assholes. A person in 1990, whether they know what zombies are or not, should still have the common sense to shut the fuck up and act like you don’t exist when there is literally death surrounding your house. No, not these dopes, they might as well have been banging pots and pans outside screaming, “Come and get it!”

By 1990, you can’t suspend this much disbelief. Well, I guess some people can because many consider this to be better than the original. Well, if I’m being honest, I was never a huge fan of the original either. In fact, I much prefer the sequels that started a decade later.

Whatever, no disrespect to Tom Savini but fuck this movie. His special effects were great, though.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Fletch Lives (1989)

Also known as: Fletch Saved (working title)
Release Date: March 17th, 1989
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Leon Capetanos
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Chevy Chase, Hal Holbrook, Julianne Phillips, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Libertini, Cleavon Little, Randall “Tex” Cobb, George Wyner, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Belzer, Phil Hartman

Cornelius Productions, Vincent Pictures, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. I am not a big man.” – Fletch

I was surprised that I liked this film as much as I did.

The reason being, I remember people trashing it pretty heavily when it came out. While I used to see pieces of it on television over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in its entirety in one viewing. But people did always say that this was a pretty shitty sequel and not on the level of the original.

Well, it’s not as good as Fletch but Fletch Lives is still a pretty funny movie that’s tailormade for Chevy Chase’s strengths. So while I have a much higher opinion of this movie than the majority, I feel like maybe I should defend it, as I feel like it probably deserves that.

I think that the new setting of the film actually helps it and makes it fresh. I liked seeing Fletch go to the bayou to expose some seedy shit. I also liked how they used it to emphasize the cultural clash between an L.A. investigative reporter and the Cajun folk, ranging from the good Southerners to the outright racist pieces of shit. I also loved the televangelical angle and R. Lee Ermey’s role as the megachurch pastor.

Beyond Ermey, I also enjoyed the great Hal Holbrook playing a crooked Cajun millionaire.

Additionally, I liked the chemistry between Chase and the film’s leading lady, Julianne Phillips.

Chase also had solid camaraderie with Cleavon Little. Seeing those two comedic icons come together is a real treat regardless of the perceived quality of the film.

This installment of the series relies more on Chase wearing funny costumes while “undercover”. I really like these sequences, though, and I like seeing Chase play odd characters.

Overall, Fletch Lives is pretty solid and I say that as a guy who was never a big Chase fan. However, I do really enjoy him as this character and I honestly think it’s his best.

Sadly, we never did get that third Fletch picture and I’m pretty sure the ship has sailed on that.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: The Wiz (1978)

Release Date: October 24th, 1978
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Written by: Joel Schumacher
Based on: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Wiz by William F. Brown
Music by: Charlie Smalls, various
Cast: Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Mabel King, Thelma Carpenter, Theresa Merritt, Stanley Greene, Roberta Flack (uncredited), Quincy Jones (uncredited), Luther Vandross (uncredited)

Motown Productions, Universal Pictures, 134 Minutes

Review:

“Success, fame, and fortune, they’re all illusions. All there is that is real is the friendship that two can share.” – Scarecrow, “That’s beautiful! Who said that?” – Dorothy, “[modestly] I did.” – Scarecrow

It’s been ages since I’ve seen this but I enjoyed it back in the day. Mainly, because I always thought the sets, style and overall visual look of it was pretty awesome. Although, it was also loaded with people I like such as Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Mabel King and more.

It wasn’t until more recently that I discovered that this was directed by Sidney Lumet with a script by Joel Scumacher. Also, Quincy Jones was very involved in the production. Having a newfound understanding of the talent involved in this made me want to revisit it with fairly fresh eyes and ears.

I’m really glad that I did, as it still captivated me and pulled me into its magical world.

Now the film has its share of flaws but it’s one of those movies that’s so fun and sweet that you don’t really care about the imperfections.

While Diana Ross was too old to play Dorothy, I still think she’s pretty great in this once you suspend disbelief. Originally, the film was supposed to star the young lead actress from the stage musical but Ross really pulled some strings to get this part. Honestly, I don’t blame her and movies are a cutthroat business.

Anyway, Ross is still Ross and she has immense talent, which shines through in her performance. Also, her scenes with Michael Jackson are so genuine and affectionate that it transcends the picture. The two were great friends before this film went into production and I think that personal connection really boosted their performances.

Nipsey Russell is tremendous as the Tin Man, as is Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion.

I have to say, though, the absolute highlight of the film for me is the grand performance by Mabel King, this film’s version of the wicked witch, as she makes her factory workers slave away. Man, this scene is just amazing to watch from the size of the set, it’s design, the amount of performers in the sequence and King’s perfect performance.

Two other really solid sequences are the one where Dorothy meets the Munchkins, which was filmed at the somewhat dilapidated New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows. It was a site built for the 1964 World’s Fair but it created such an interesting looking location for Dorothy’s arrival in Oz.

The other was the Emerald City sequence, which was filmed at the foot of the World Trade Center. It’s a beautiful and opulent scene with great music and considering the world we live in now after 9/11, the scene just has much more meaning now. It makes you really appreciate the beauty and immensity of those two iconic structures.

Overall, this is a lively and jubilant picture. I typically don’t like musicals but this is one of the few that I do enjoy.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Release Date: December 6th, 1990 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Tim Burton, Caroline Thompson
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Oliveri, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin, Conchata Ferrell, Caroline Aaron, Dick Anthony Williams, O-Lan Jones, Nick Carter (uncredited)

Twentieth Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Hold me.” – Kim, “I can’t.” – Edward

This movie came out around my 12th birthday. But I didn’t get to see it in the theater because I was a kid that didn’t control his own life and it was also the holidays and back then, that meant lots of travel to see cheek-pinchers and older rotund family members that wanted to force feed me into a sugar coma. That’s not a snarky complaint, I actually miss those simpler times and those people, who have mostly passed on.

Anyway, I really wanted to see Edward Scissorhands but I didn’t get to check it out until it was available to rent at the video store. Once I did see it, I was blown away by it and even as a pre-teen, I remember thinking that Tim Burton had truly created something special and evolved really quickly as a filmmaker with this being just his fourth feature film after the previous year’s Batman, as well as Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

As much as I had loved Burton’s previous work, especially Batman, it was this movie that really cemented him as my favorite director of this era behind Steven Spielberg.

This also cemented Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder as two of my favorite actors of the era, as both of them really transcend the screen and put in such beautiful and believable performances that it’s impossible to watch this film and not be emotionally effected.

Furthermore, this also features my favorite performance by Dianne Wiest, an actress I have loved for as long as I can remember. But in this, she really turns up the matriarch persona she is so well at playing. She’s so lovely, kind, has a tremendous heart and you find your own heart breaking, as she comes to realize that as much love as Edward deserves, maybe she made a grave mistake in trying to bring him into her world so quickly. And this realization is where the movie takes a turn and gets much deeper, much darker and much more meaningful.

At its core, this is a Grimms’-style fairytale set in the modern world. However, the modern world is presented in a way that’s sort of timeless. While it features things that were modern for 1990, the look of suburbia is done in a colorful 1950s style. This is one of the things I love most about the movie, as it takes the things that influenced Burton’s development and sort of blends them together. It gives the film a dreamlike, fantastical quality that couldn’t have been achieved had Burton just set this in a place that was blatantly contemporary for the year it was filmed in.

The film is also populated with so much talent and great performances from everyone involved like Alan Arkin, Robert Oliveri, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Conchata Ferrell, etc.

For me, though, seeing Vincent Price in this was truly special. He was a huge inspiration to Burton and myself, as well. This picture provided him with the perfect role to go out with honor and grace. And while he did a television movie after this, Edward Scissorhands was the legend’s true exit from film and his few moments in this were just beautiful and brilliant.

Edward Scissorhands is a close to perfect film. Sure, as I’m now older and hadn’t seen this in a long time, I do see some minor flaws, here and there. However, they’re not worth nitpicking over, as the film has held up tremendously well and the things it does perfectly far exceed the small things that might have been lacking.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee (2020)

Also known as: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (working title), The Very Excellent Mr. Crocodile Dundee, Mr. Dundee (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 17th, 2020 (Australia, New Zealand – Internet)
Directed by: Dean Murphy
Written by: Robert Mond, Dean Murphy
Music by: John Foreman
Cast: Paul Hogan, Rachael Carpani, Jacob Elordi, Chevy Chase, John Cleese, Olivia Newton-John, Reginald VelJohnson, Wayne Knight, Paul Fenech, Shane Jacobson, Kerry Armstrong, Charlotte Stent, Luke Hemsworth, Jim Jefferies, Costas Mandylor, Nancy O’Dell

Clock Sounds Productions Pty, Kathy Morgan International, Piccadilly Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“He’s back, whether he likes it or not.” – tagline

I grew up loving Paul Hogan, which is honestly why I even watched this in the first place. I certainly wasn’t lured in by the trailer or the 4.9 out of 10 on IMDb. But Hogan is a hell of a cool guy and I wanted to give this a shot because I immensely enjoy Crocodile Dundee I and II.

Needless to say, I thought that this was better than a 4.9 but not by a large margin. I enjoyed it, mostly, but it isn’t something that I’ll probably ever watch again. It was certainly better than the mostly terrible Crocodile Dundee III but a hair beneath Hogan’s Almost An Angel.

That being said, it’s nice spending time with Hogan again, as well as some of the other people he brought into this movie like Reginald VelJohnson, John Cleese, Wayne Knight, Chevy Chase and Olivia Newton-John. It’s also chock full of cameos from a lot of Australian celebrities and other friends of Hogan’s.

The plot sees Hogan playing himself and I guess it’s a lot like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where the actor playing himself constantly screws up in every situation. For the most part, though, Hogan means well and not to offend but he either doesn’t fully understand the situation he’s in or someone else is a complete asshole but Hogan is blamed for it – like when the nun gets knocked out, which was due to Hogan protecting himself from an object thrown by a raging imbecile.

Most of the gags are still amusing, even if you see them coming from a mile away.

I thought that was is just a charming and lighthearted picture because of Paul Hogan. But honestly, there’s not much reason to watch it more than once and you should already have a love for its star.

Rating: 5.5/10

Film Review: Vibes (1988)

Release Date: August 5th, 1988
Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Written by: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Deborah Blum
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum, Julian Sands, Googy Gress, Peter Falk, Michael Lerner, Steve Buscemi, Park Overall

Imagine Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I’d give you the finger but I’m too refined.” – Sylvia Pickel

I was nine years-old when this hit theaters but I remember seeing the ads on television constantly. I never did see the movie in the theater or thereafter until now, over three decades later.

I generally like Cyndi Lauper but I haven’t seen her act in anything else. In this, she’s not great by any stretch but she’s at least likable and entertaining. Then again, she’s pretty much playing herself with psychic powers.

Beyond Lauper, you have Jeff Goldblum, who I love in everything he’s ever done. He’s good here but he also plays a character that’s pretty much just himself with psychic powers. So neither lead in this movie really had to try too hard.

You also get Peter Falk, Julian Sands, Michael Lerner, Park Overall from Empty Nest and a very young Steve Buscemi in this.

I guess out of everyone, I enjoyed Falk the most.

The plot is pretty damn rickety and it’s not very good. Although, it is somewhat salvaged by the charm of the Lauper and Goldblum, who I thought had fairly decent and unique chemistry.

Vibes just barely kept my attention, though. I didn’t find it tough to get through but had it lasted longer than its 99 minutes, I would’ve probably needed to take a break.

In the end, this is pretty forgettable and I can see why it’s been lost to time and never really gained a cult following, even from the many fans of Cyndi Lauper’s that still exist today.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Twister (1996)

Also known as: Catch the Wind (original script title), Wind Devils (working title)
Release Date: May 8th, 1996 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Written by: Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin
Music by: Mark Mancina
Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Joey Slotnick, Scott Thomson, Lois Smith, Alexa Vega, Zach Grenier, Patrick Fischler, Anthony Rapp, Jake Busey

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes

Review:

“When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I always just thought it was a metaphor.” – Melissa

I hadn’t seen this movie since the theater but I had fond memories of that experience. I just never really went back and watched it again because it was a simple story that was very effects heavy and didn’t offer up much for a repeat viewing unless you’re a real digital effects junkie.

Since I came across it while scrolling through the content on HBO Max, I felt the urge to revisit it just to see how good it actually was and whether or not it’s held up after a quarter of a century. Plus, I really like the cast and it’s stacked with talent from top-to-bottom.

So for the most part, the effects do hold up. Sure, there are a few moments that might look hokey like the famous flying cow sequence but it hardly breaks the mind’s immersion into the film itself. And to be honest, I kind of like the humorous bits like that.

Generally, the tornado effects still look good and as effects heavy as this film is, it never feels like it’s too much. You kind of just get lost in the adrenaline rush of what’s happening and everything just works in the right way. Granted, I’d never want to see this sequelized or turned into a franchise. Once you’ve seen one tornado movie, you’ve pretty much seen them all and this surprisingly didn’t try to milk the flying cow to death.

It’s the personal stories in this that make the film work and make it much more than just a CGI fest.

I loved the chemistry between Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton and even with that, you still find yourself kind of sad over the way Jami Gertz, Paxton’s new fiancé, gets pushed to the side once he falls back in love with the woman he’s trying to get to sign divorce papers.

Hunt and Paxton just made a good couple and they balanced each other out, rather well. I also like that it’s the female half of the relationship that has become obsessed with her work and kind of let the romance fade away while the man steps up and reels her back in and centers her at a point in life when she needed it most. Then again, I always like seeing failed relationships finding a way to rekindle what was lost.

The supporting cast is pretty damn good too. I especially liked Lois Smith as the sort of matriarch of the storm chaser group. I also enjoyed Cary Elwes as the rival snot that gets himself killed because of ego. Philip Seymour Hoffman was enjoyable too, pretty much playing himself turned up to 11.

Twister seems like it’s been forgotten, as the years have rolled on. But honestly, it’s a really good movie in that summer blockbuster genre. I remember it being a big hit with moviegoers and everyone I knew, at the time, loved it quite a bit. When I worked at a video store, we could barely keep it in stock for the first few months.

Sadly, it was usurped by Independence Day, less than two months later and then the summer blockbusters kept getting bigger, louder and even more CGI heavy. 

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: Dr. Giggles (1992)

Also known as: Doctor Giggles (alternative spelling)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1992
Directed by: Manny Coto
Written by: Manny Coto, Graeme Whifler
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Larry Drake, Holly Marie Combs, Cliff DeYoung, Glenn Quinn, Doug E. Doug

Largo Entertainment, JVC Entertainment Networks, Dark Horse Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Sorry…the Doctor is in…sane” – tagline

I remember how hard the studio was marketing Dr. Giggles when it was coming out. Being that I was in 8th grade, at the time, I didn’t see it in the theater and just planned to wait for it to come out for rental on VHS like most horror movies when I was that age. However, it came and went and I never did rent it.

So nearly thirty years later, I finally checked it out.

To start, it’s not very good. But it’s also not terrible. It’s very middle of the road, predictable and doesn’t make a big enough mark to warrant a film series like so many other slashers with unique villains that came out over the ’80s and ’90s.

That’s not a knock against Larry Drake, who plays the title character. Drake is a multi-time Emmy Award winner and a talented actor in the right role. I’ve always liked him in movies where he’s the villain like the Darkman series or when he’s just simply in a horror movie like Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

Drake really got to shine as the focal point of this picture and he was superb at being creepy. His laugh was great and unique. His character also had a decent backstory, capped off by an incredibly well-crafted scene where the child Dr. Giggles emerges from the womb of his dead mother in the morgue. It’s actually the highlight of the film, if I’m being honest.

The rest of the cast is pretty bad, even if the movie has some notable people in it like a young Holly Marie Combs, Colin Quinn, who played Mark on Roseanne, and Cliff DeYoung, who I will always have a fondness for because of his role as the dad in The Flight of the Navigator. The movie also features Doug E. Doug before he’d become better known in Cool Runnings and Cosby.

Apart from those actors, the rest of the cast is abysmally bad and it drags the movie down, as it relies on throwaway caricatures and tropes for these characters.

This is a forgettable movie and that’s probably why people forgot about it immediately after its release in 1992.

Rating: 5/10

Documentary Review: Stripped: Los Angeles (2020)

Release Date: September 1st, 2020 (online premiere)
Directed by: Marc Ostrick
Written by: Marc Ostrick
Music by: Danny Mordujovich
Cast: Bama Babii, Erica Solitaire Chappell, Della Dane, Nikki Knightly, Sizi Sev

Ostrick Productions, 80 Minutes

Review:

Man, this was excruciating to watch. Not because of the subject matter, by any means, but because the production was amateurish as hell and I kind of found it shocking that Starz would even distribute this. Then again, Starz’s self-produced documentaries have rarely, if ever, been all that good.

I actually wanted a peek into the lives of the girls, here. I worked as a bodyguard and as security in the adult industry in my early twenties. I met a lot of cool and interesting people back then and with that, was expecting some pretty solid personal stories in this.

The problem wasn’t really the girls featured, as much as it was the presentation itself.

This is sloppily edited and most of it was shot like they were making videos for TikTok. Half of the movie is just strippers smoking weed talking about their pets and pointless, boring shit. Do strippers and adult entertainers not really party or have a good time, anymore? I mean, I know that they do but the director seemed to pick the worst days to capture these girls lives.

I know that this was made in an effort to show the real personas of these women but it failed to captivate or even hold my attention.

Honestly, as someone who worked in that industry, I’ve got to wonder if the director was just like all those random dudes that would come into the strip clubs and porn events I worked at, trying to butter up the girls, convincing them they were legit photographers and producers that wanted to use them for a big project. These dudes were a dime a dozen and while most adult entertainers have heard this shit a zillion times, some still gave out their phone numbers. 

Rating: 3.5/10

Film Review: Doctor Detroit (1983)

Also known as: Dr. Detroit (alternative spelling)
Release Date: May 6th, 1983
Directed by: Michael Pressman
Written by: Bruce Jay Friedman, Carl Gottlieb, Robert Boris
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Howard Hesseman, George Furth, James Brown, T. K. Carter, Donna Dixon, Fran Drescher, Lydia Lei, Lynn Whitfield, Kate Murtagh, Peter Aykroyd, Glenne Headly

Black Rhino Productions, Brillstein Company, Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Mom, I am going to rip off your head and shit down your neck.” – Doctor Detroit

This is a Dan Aykroyd movie that, for whatever reason, eluded me until I was much older. I probably would’ve loved it, as a kid, but maybe it was just buried down deep in the video stores I visited and thus, I never came across it until I worked in one as a teenager in the ’90s.

I like this movie and it has a pretty good cast. However, it is kind of sloppily thrown together and the humor is crude, even for the ’80s. That’s more of a reason why I would’ve liked it back then. But because I don’t have those fond childhood memories of watching this, I don’t have much nostalgia for it and I think that allows me to be more objective.

Aykroyd is good in this, as are most of the core people, but I can see why this went down the memory hole for most fans of ’80s comedies and why it was never a hit when it came out, despite Aykroyd’s popularity from the early days of Saturday Night Live.

The plot is goofy and you have to suspend disbelief quite a bit. The Doctor Detroit persona that Aykroyd creates is way over the top and so bizarre that it’s hard to believe that anyone would’ve taken him seriously, even in an ’80s screwball comedy. That’s not to say that the character isn’t funny and entertaining, he is.

The story is pretty wonky and poorly crafted and you kind of just have to enjoy the segments as they happen and not think too deeply about the movie. During the era in which this was made, though, this sort of stuff was the norm.

Audiences coming out of decades of civil and political strife in America just needed to breathe and enjoy life again. Many ’80s comedies are products of this societal feeling. And honestly, I think that’s why so many are still beloved today and still matter to so many people, as modern times aren’t all that great.

Doctor Detroit just isn’t one of those that can be considered a classic like Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, the Vacation movies or all those John Hughes teen dramadies. This isn’t even Revenge of the Nerds quality, it’s more like Revenge of the Nerds II or Caddyshack II.

However, like Revenge of the Nerds II and Caddyshack II, I enjoy this movie where I’d assume most people probably wouldn’t. And maybe this is actually a bit better than those, as I don’t have the nostalgia factor as part of its equation.

Rating: 6/10