Film Review: Coming 2 America (2021)

Also known as: Coming 2 America: Quest (working title), Coming to America 2 (informal title)
Release Date: March 5th, 2021
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Written by: Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, Justin Kanew
Based on: characters by Eddie Murphy
Music by: Jermaine Stegall
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, Teyana Taylor, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Paul Bates, Louie Anderson, Rotimi, Nomzamo Mbatha, Clint Smith, Rick Ross, Trevor Noah, Colin Jost, Morgan Freeman, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, Dikembe Mutombo

Eddie Murphy Productions, Misher Films, New Republic Pictures, Amazon, 110 Minutes

Review:

“You must heed my words before I am gone, my son. Now, you will be king, but the throne must pass to a male heir. Akeem, it appears you have a son. He must be found.” – King Jaffe Joffer

Well, Coming 2 America has finally debuted on Amazon Prime Video, after delays and losing its theatrical release due to the ‘rona.

It’s pretty much what I expected, which was the film being an unnecessary sequel to a classic movie that couldn’t find a reason to justify its existence. But sure, there’s a part of me that really wanted this to be good even though pictures like this rarely are.

I will say that it wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be and in some regards, it exceeded my expectations. Not by much but I didn’t hate this and there were moments where I actually laughed out loud. However, as far as the jokes go, there are more misses than hits.

There are also some jokes that could potentially get this movie and its stars cancelled because everything is offensive now and comedy is dead. I found some of these jokes funny but when they make you more worried about the career of the actors saying them than generating laughs, we’re in a dark place as a society.

My biggest problem with this movie is that the story was really bad. In fact, the plot is terrible and kind of pointless by the end of the movie.

I guess the big positive is that it is kind of cool seeing these characters come back and it updates you on how their lives went after three decades. There’s also a part of me that did get wrapped up in the genuine love that these people have for one another, which is definitely real in how it transcends this mediocre film.

As hokey as the scenes between Eddie Murphy and James Earl Jones came across, as a fan of the original picture, it was kind of heartwarming. Murphy’s pep talk by John Amos towards the end of the film was also effective and I honestly wished these two greats would’ve worked together more over the years.

The plots with all the kids felt forced and got tiresome. Although, I did like them all. This part of the story was just a mess.

Two highlights for me, though, were Wesley Snipes and Tracy Morgan.

Snipes was just perfect in this and I love seeing the guy really ham it up, playing over the top characters. Every time the man came onscreen, it was hard not to pay attention. He owned this role and honestly, he steals every scene he’s in.

Tracy Morgan was simply Tracy Morgan from start-to-finish but that’s okay with me. The guy always makes me laugh and you can’t not love him.

I do, however, wish that Shari Headley had a few more scenes. I love her in the original and she has some of the best material in the script to work with, here, but she is Akeem’s Queen and I feel like she deserved to be more front and center than she was. Also, she’s still damn beautiful.

While the world didn’t really need this movie, it did at least make me smile and laugh a bit in a time where life’s been hard for most people. And, if anything, it reminded me that we need comedy, we need to laugh and we have to stop taking everything so damn seriously.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and Trading Places.

Film Review: Top Gun (1986)

Release Date: May 12th, 1986 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr.
Based on: Top Guns by Ehud Yonay
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, John Stockwell, Barry Tubb, Rick Rossovich, Tim Robbins, Clarence Gilyard, Whip Hubley, James Tolkan, Meg Ryan, Adrian Pasdar

Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“That was some of the best flying I’ve seen yet. Right up to the part where you got killed. You never, never leave your wing man.” – Jester

If you weren’t around when this movie originally came out, it might be hard to understand how much of an impact it had on pop culture. As a kid and a big fan of G.I. Joe and movies like Iron Eagle and Red Dawn, I thought it was cool as hell. The coolness was also maximized through the casting of Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, as well as the Kenny Loggins hit song “Danger Zone”.

Also, to my little mind, Maverick was about the coolest f’n name ever!

Anyway, I used to watch this a lot. It’s been years since I’ve seen it though but I wanted to get a fresh take on it before its long-awaited sequel comes out later this year, assuming it’s not delayed again.

While I actually don’t see this as a great film or have the crazy amount of love for it as many from my generation do, it’s still entertaining as hell and it’s really cool simply for the insane visuals of all the fighter jets just doing their thing. The aerial stunt work is f’n phenomenal! That being said, there just wasn’t anything like this when it came out and many have tried to replicate it with less success. Nowadays, they just opt out and go the CGI route but everything you see in this movie is real.

Apart from that, the story is just decent. It doesn’t really grab you or pull you in and it feels like its all just to set up the aerial parts of the movie. While I do like the characters, they also feel grossly underdeveloped. You spend all this time with them but it’s hard to connect to them. Sure, it’s tragic when Goose dies and you understand Maverick’s heartbreak but it doesn’t have as much impact and meaning had we seen these characters fleshed out more.

I think that the movie actually suffers from having a little too much of its best part: the aerial stunts. If that was trimmed down a bit or the film was a wee bit longer and just spent more time developing the core characters, it could’ve been something much better.

Still, it is a cool and energetic movie that’s well acted and superbly executed. And despite what I feel is a lack of character development, it does hit me in the feels when Iceman finally accepts Maverick at the end.

Also, I f’n love James Tolkan in everything.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Tom Cruise movies of the ’80s.

Film Review: The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)

Release Date: August 22nd, 1987 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Rod Amateau
Written by: Rod Amateau, Melinda Palmer
Based on: Garbage Pail Kids by John Pound, Topps
Music by: Michael Lloyd
Cast: Anthony Newley, Mackenzie Astin, Katie Barberi, Phil Fondacaro, Debbie Lee Carrington, Leo Gordon

Topps Chewing Gum Company, Atlantic Entertainment Group, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You wanna see a dog wanking off into a garbage pail?” – Girl #2

While I know this film’s awful reputation, I did enjoy the hell out of it when I was a little kid. I haven’t seen it since way back then and I’ve always wanted to revisit it to see how bad it truly is. However, it never streams anywhere so I had to finally just track a DVD copy down. Luckily it was like four bucks.

So, yeah, this is a terrible movie in just about every regard. Although, I do like the practical effects, even if the Garbage Pail Kids characters look hokey, clunky and not at all real. I’m honestly fine with it considering the limitations of the time, this film’s small budget and because it’s definitely not the worst flaw this film has.

Plus, most of the costumed actors were good in these roles and the voice work was decent. I also liked most of the characters used for the film and they’re supposed to gross you out and they effectively do. So mission accomplished in that regard.

The only really known actor in the movie is Mackenzie Astin and you probably only really know him if you’re a fan of the ’80s sitcom The Facts of Life and watched the last few seasons of it. I liked him on that show and in this. Seeing this now, though, he’s better than most kid actors and he did fine even though the movie and its script were very subpar.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this other than it fails in every way outside of the two positives I already mentioned.

The other actors are a mixed bag but most of the performances are pretty bad. The film looks like shit and it just comes off as incredibly cheap and slapped together. Hell, the sequence where the Garbage Pail Kids are basically in a prison for ugly people is so damn cheap and ridiculous.

Although, I really liked the idea of a prison for ugly people and thought that could’ve been a cool concept and a more solid gag had they explored it a bit more. Plus, Leo Gordon, a legendary character actor, pops up in this sequence as a prison guard.

All in all, yes, this is shit. It’s enjoyable shit if you’ve got the stomach for it and feel nostalgic for the source material but I wouldn’t force anyone to watch it.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other really bad, ’80s “kids” movies like Mac & MeMunchies, etc.

Documentary Review: Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade (2007)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2007 (Sundance)
Directed by: Lincoln Ruchti
Cast: various

Men At Work Pictures LLC, 90 Minutes

Review:

After revisiting The King of Kong for the first time in years, I wanted to also revisit this, as it’s a very similar documentary that came out just before that more famous one.

While this isn’t the near masterpiece that The King of Kong is, it ties directly to it and its story and frankly, this plays like a prelude or a setup to that movie.

This goes through the history of arcade gaming and also covers the legends that rose up in the early days, their records, their effect on pop culture, as well as the creation of Twin Galaxies, the organization that records and maintains world records in arcade gaming. I believe they also keep records for console and PC gaming but it’s the arcade side of things that inspired them to exist in the first place.

There is a lot in this documentary about Billy Mitchell, who was pretty much the villain in The King of Kong story. It also features nearly all of the key people and legends that played a part in that film.

While this isn’t as good as The King of Kong it does feel like a necessary companion piece to it, allowing the viewer to have a deeper, richer experience in getting to know these people and their interesting, competitive and sometimes cutthroat subculture.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The King of Kong, which this truly plays as a preface to.

Film Review: Porky’s (1981)

Release Date: November 13th, 1981 (Columbia, SC)
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Bob Clark
Music by: Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Cast: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight, Roger Wilson, Cyril O’Reilly, Tony Ganios, Kaki Hunter, Kim Cattrall, Nancy Parsons, Scott Colomby, Boyd Gaines, Doug McGrath, Susan Clark, Art Hindle, Wayne Maunder, Alex Karras, Chuck Mitchell

Astral Bellevue Pathé, Melvin Simon Productions, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Look’s like I’m gonna make a man out of you yet, boy.” – Mr. Cavanaugh, “A man? If being a man means being what you are, I’d rather be queer.” – Tim

Somehow, this low budget Canadian teen sex comedy became the fifth highest grossing movie of 1982. With that surprising success came two mediocre sequels and a slew of other teen sex comedy movies that tried to replicate the Porky’s formula with poor-to-moderate success.

Porky’s is a strange film for me in that I don’t hold it in as high regard as some people but I also feel personally connected to it, as my father lived close to the high school and other iconic spots in the film series. And even though this takes place in the ’50s, I had been to these same places in the ’80s and not much was different.

I like the movie but it’s not something I revisit very often, as there are other teen comedies I prefer much more than this. Sure, this one takes the cake in raunchiness and it just dives right into the subject of teen sex but those things don’t make it a good movie. What works most of all is that you generally like the core characters and over the course of three films, they actually come to mean something to the viewer.

Still, this really is lowest common denominator, gross out, perverted humor. I’m not really saying that’s bad but the jokes and gags are predictable and there’s just an overabundance of it at every turn.

Additionally, this movie could never be made today, as everything… and I mean everything is offensive in the 2020s. Comedy is deader than my dog Chipper, who was hit by a car in 1984. See, most people may be thinking, “WTF, dude! That’s not funny! That’s fucked up!” And I’d just point and go, “See what I mean?!” Truthfully, Chipper wasn’t hit by a car, she was ran over by a lawnmower but I didn’t want my example to be too over the top.

Anyway, Porky’s is still fun if you’re not a sour cunt looking for things to cancel under every rock. It’s most definitely a product of its time and I can get why people that were born after it came out might not enjoy it and may find it off putting but every generation after mine is primarily comprised of pansies and tattle tales. 

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.

Film Review: The Sender (1982)

Release Date: October 22nd, 1982
Directed by: Roger Christian
Written by: Thomas Baum
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Kathryn Harrold, Željko Ivanek, Shirley Knight, Paul Freeman

Kingsmere Productions Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

Every now and again, I find an ’80s horror movie that somehow slipped through the cracks, even though I used to spend countless hours perusing the aisles of mom and pop video stores in the ’80s. Maybe I saw this at some point and the VHS box art just didn’t grab me. Whatever the reason, it was awesome to discover this now because The Sender is an exceptionally good sci-fi/horror flick that is grossly underappreciated and I guess, kind of lost to time.

The film stars Kathryn Harrold, who is really damn good and probably should’ve been in more than just a handful of movies I’ve seen in much smaller roles. Also, she has a kind of classic old Hollywood beauty to her.

This also stars a pretty young Željko Ivanek, whose work I’m familiar with is all much more recent. Fans of True Blood may recognize him as The Magistrate. He was also more recently in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. It was really cool seeing him in this, so young, as he’s a character actor I’ve grown to enjoy over the last decade or so.

Rounding out the cast is Paul Freeman, most recognized for his role as René Belloq, the primary villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Frankly, I love Freeman in everything and he doesn’t disappoint here. And just when you think he’s playing an annoying character trope, he surprises you in this.

The story is about a young man who is institutionalized after trying to drown himself in front of dozens of people at a lake. As the story rolls on, we discover that this young man has exceptional psychic power that he can’t control. He effects everyone around him but the good therapist at the hospital tries her damnedest to save him. As the film progresses things get more and more crazy and the movie really gives us some cool shit.

In fact, the film is damn impressive considering the things they achieved with the special effects. This came out in the heyday of practical effects in horror movies and this really just stands well above what was the standard quality of the time.

Additionally, this is surprisingly really well acted. At least, more so than you’d expect from a forgotten horror flick from 1982.

I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people check this out. It deserves a hell of a lot more love and recognition than it’s gotten over the years.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Hidden, Carrie, The Fury and Scanners.

Film Review: Gamera vs. Viras (1968)

Also known as: Gamera tai uchu kaijû Bairasu (original Japanese title), Gamera vs. Bairus (alternative spelling), Destroy All Planets, Gamera vs. Outer Space Monster Viras (US alternative titles)
Release Date: March 20th, 1968 (Japan)
Directed by: Noriaki Yuasa
Written by: Niisan Takahashi
Music by: Kenjiro Hirose
Cast: Kojiro Hongo, Toru Takatsuka, Carl Craig

Daiei Studios, 90 Minutes (TV cut), 81 Minutes (theatrical cut)

Review:

“Attention all spaceship crew members. Attention all spaceship crew members. Gamera has been located. He’s at the bottom of the ocean. Prepare to attack at once. Activate the super catch ray.” – Doctor A

This Gamera film is really a mixed bag but due to the behind the scenes troubles that Toei was dealing with at the time, their shortcuts in this film are somewhat excusable and the new stuff is pretty enjoyable for a Gamera picture.

What I’m referring to is that the studio was in financial trouble and they needed to make some money to stay afloat. The biggest money maker for them was the Gamera film series but since money was tight, this picture reuses footage from previous ones.

So on one hand, this plays like a Gamera’s Greatest Battles compilation while also providing a new, cool alien threat and an awesome kaiju creature for Gamera to fight in the final act.

From my youth, this was the Gamera movie that always stuck out in my memories, as the set design of the alien ship was just f’n cool. It’s pretty simplistic and just uses triangular screens and flashing light panels but it’s surrealness just burned into my brain. Plus, the outside design of the alien ship is cool and I always wanted a toy of it.

I also liked the monster Viras, who was essentially just a space squid with a sharp, pointed head and the ability to fly.

The plot is wonky as shit and the overall production is cheap and noticeable, even for a Gamera picture.

Still, this isn’t a bad way to waste some time, especially if you’re a kaiju fan and haven’t seen this one.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other classic era Gamera films.

Film Review: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Also known as: Into Thin Air (working title), Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (complete title)
Release Date: April 29th, 1956 (Cannes)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: John Michael Hayes, Charles Bennett, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis
Music by: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Banzie, Bernard Miles, Christopher Olsen, Daniel Gelin, Reggie Nalder, Carolyn Jones

Filwite Productions, Paramount Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Remember, you will only have time for just one shot. If you need another, the risk is yours.” – Edward Drayton

I think that the 1950s were my favorite decade for Hitchcock movies and this is another really enjoyable one that just adds to that hefty pile of cinematic greatness.

This one also stars two of my mum’s favorite leading stars: James Stewart and Doris Day. That being said, this is also the first really dramatic role I’ve seen for Doris Day, as I mostly saw her comedies and musical movies as a kid.

This is also the second film that Alfred Hitchcock made with the name The Man Who Knew Too Much. This isn’t a remake of the black and white ’30s version of the picture, as both are very different. I’m not sure why we reused the name and it probably creates some confusion for those who haven’t seen them. I plan to watch that ’30s one in the near future though, so I can compare the two and because it features Peter Lorre, a favorite actor of mine.

Anyway, this is a story about a husband and wife traveling to Morocco with their son. They initially get confused for another married couple, who are there as spies. In this confusion, a good guy is murdered and the husband is taken into the police station for questioning. The couple leaves their son with another couple they met on the trip but soon realize that this was a grave mistake and that their friends were actually the spies. The son is held hostage, as the couple does everything they can to try and get him back.

This is a great thriller in the way that any fan of Hitchcock’s work should expect. While it’s not my favorite of this era or with James Stewart, it’s still a damn fine picture that keeps you on the edge of your seat once the real plot kicks in about a half hour into the proceedings.

It’s superbly acted but that should go without saying. Doris Day was really impressive in this and I’m glad that I got to see her outside of the type of roles she’s most known for. I also really liked Stewart kind of being a real fish out of water but rising to the occasion and being a real hero to his son.

1956’s version of The Man Who Knew Too Much was a solid ride that wasn’t predictable and ended up giving the viewer a very satisfying and emotional finale.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Alfred Hitchcock thrillers.

Film Review: Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Also known as: Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (original script title)
Release Date: May 28th, 1993
Directed by: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel
Written by: Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, Ed Solomon
Based on: Mario by Nintendo
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Fiona Shaw, Richard Edson, Mojo Nixon, Dana Kaminski, Lance Henriksen, Frank Welker (voice), Dan Castellaneta (narrator)

Allied Filmmakers, Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures, 104 Minutes, 90 Minutes (Japan), 87 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“[bathing in mud] Do you know what I love about mud? It’s clean and it’s dirty at the same time.” – King Koopa

Super Mario Bros. was one film in a string of a few that helped to build the reputation that video game movies suck. Looking at the picture in comparison to the video game series it’s based on, I get it. And frankly, it irked the shit out of me when I saw it in 1993. 

However, seeing it with pretty fresh eyes nearly three decades later, I have a very different view of the film now. Especially, when I just look at it as its own weird body of work apart from the video game franchise.

Removing the source material from the equation, I can still see why this would be viewed as a bad film by most but for me, a lover of really weird shit, everyone in this cast and late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk shit, this is kind of a feast of awesomeness!

Additionally, the Alan Silvestri score is great, lively, playful and boisterous. It reminds me of his score to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which was, honestly, what really set the magnificent tone for that movie. Here, Silvestri’s work is just as effective and man, I miss scores like this.

This movie also feels like a time capsule into the heart of the ’90s. It embraces the wonky tropes of the decade and it completely misses the mark it should’ve been aiming for. Although, in retrospect, I really like that this just did whatever the hell it wanted to and provided the world with something so damn bizarre and zany.

I really liked the bond between Mario and Luigi, even if trying believe that Hoskins and Leguizamo are supposed to be real brothers is maybe the most unbelievable thing in the film. That kind of doesn’t matter, though, as nothing in this needs to make any sort of logical sense. It’s actually cooler that it doesn’t. Now that’s something I’d typically be highly critical of but this movie with its flaws is still so much fun and overly ridiculous that it adds to its charm.

I guess Dennis Hopper was miserable working on this due to behind the scenes clusterfucks and severe delays but honestly, it probably worked to the movie’s benefit, as he truly comes off as an insufferable prick and it just makes his character that much more sinister and entertaining to watch.

Additionally, I really liked Samantha Mathis in this, as she played Princess Daisy, the apple of Luigi’s eye. Her and Leguizamo had nice, believable chemistry and she really was a highpoint of the picture. In fact, her final scene where she returns as a gun toting badass really made me wish a sequel had been made.

That being said, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to having more things made from this version of the Super Mario IP. I get it, it was a bomb and most people hated it but it’s also unique and kind of special in its own odd way. Plus, it’s developed a good cult following over the years and I think many people are like me, where seeing this decades later really allows you to separate from what it should of been and wasn’t to seeing it as its own cool thing.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other few ’90s movies based on video games, as well as other early ’90s cyberpunk films.

Documentary Review: Circus of Books (2019)

Release Date: April 26th, 2019 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Rachel Mason
Written by: Rachel Mason, Kathryn Robson
Cast: Karen Mason, Barry Mason, Rachel Mason, various

Netflix, 92 Minutes

Review:

I saw this pop up on Netflix, so I figured I’d check it out, as I generally enjoy the documentaries they distribute through their streaming service.

I wasn’t disappointed, as this is a really interesting story about a religious Jewish family who opened up a gay porn store, which also became a gay porn film studio and distributor. The store rose to prominence within the Los Angeles gay scene in the ’80s and would also reach far beyond its home city.

This kind of hit close to home, as I’ve been around gay culture since my teen years. The scene in southern Florida is big and even though I’m straight, I’ve always had gay friends and also lived with a pretty legit drag queen for a bit. The era that the bulk of this story took place in just brought a lot of those great memories back.

Beyond the nostalgia, this is an intriguing story about really interesting, good people. It’s hard not to love the family that started this store and it’s just as much a love letter to them, as it is the store itself.

I especially liked how interesting the father was with his backstory and the road that life took him on, leading up to becoming a straight, religious, family man that owned a gay book store.

This also examines the impact that owning the store had on the family as a whole in an age when it was considered really taboo. I liked meeting the kids, getting their take on all of it and how they grew up with this “moral” cloud over their religious upbringing.

It was also really cool seeing people from the L.A. gay community talking about the store and what it meant to them during really difficult times in their lives.

This really hits you in the feels and it’s unfortunate that the store, during the filming of this documentary, was falling on real hard times due to the world evolving away from the old mediums of pornography thanks to the Internet.

While this documentary was made by someone within the family, it’s not in any way inauthentic or dishonest because of that. In fact, it made the experience more intimate and meaningful.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about LGBTQ cultural history, porn and small business.