Film Review: Soldier (1998)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1998
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: David Webb Peoples
Music by: Joel McNeely
Cast: Kurt Russell, Jason Scott Lee, Sean Pertwee, Connie Nielsen, Michael Chiklis, Gary Busey, Jason Issacs, Paul Dillon, Wyatt Russell 

Jerry Weintraub Productions, Morgan Creek Entertainment, Warner Bros., 99 Minutes, 91 Minutes (edited)

Review:

“Brave. It means that even when you’re scared you control your emotions. You make the fear be really small and tiny.” – Sandra

I have to thank this film’s existence and Kurt Russell’s part in it for giving us Event Horizon, a far superior film and one of the greatest sci-fi/horror movies ever made. The reason being, this was supposed to be made earlier but Russell requested and extra year to get super diesel. To kill that time, Paul W.S. Anderson went off and directed the best film he’s ever made.

Plus, we still got this, which I also like quite a bit and it shares a couple of actors with 1997’s Event Horizon, the always awesome and underappreciated Sean Pertwee and Jason Issacs, who has a hell of a presence in every film he finds himself in.

In this, we also get Gary f’n Busey and Jason Scott Lee, who is the other super soldier that Kurt Russell ultimately has to face off with. Lee was also jacked as fuck in this and their big battle at the film’s climax is like swimming in Niagara Falls if the water was liquid testosterone.

Strangely, and something I didn’t know until reading up on this film before revisiting it, Soldier is an unofficial, spiritual sequel to Blade Runner. In fact, there are some Easter eggs sprinkled throughout that I didn’t catch the first time I saw this in the theater back in ’98.

The reason for this is that this film’s writer, David Webb Peoples, was one of the writers on Blade Runner, so he sprinkled some things in to tie it back to that legendary movie (and the original Philip K. Dick story). I guess I’ll always think of it as Blade Runner 1.5 from now on.

Anyway, the story sees an old super soldier get dumped like trash on a trash planet. He soon discovers a discarded civilization there and has to fight to protect them, as the government that threw him away brings war to their doorstep. With that, they bring their updated, newer super soldier model, which Kurt Russell has to face, testing his mettle and proving that sometimes newer isn’t better.

While this film has some apparent budgetary limitations, everything still looks pretty damn good for the time. I also really like the story and think it’s something that’s relatable to most people. Especially those of us that have lived a little while and may feel like changing times and younger blood may try and push us out of our spots, specifically in a professional setting.

Soldier is just a good, balls to the wall, popcorn movie. It’s the type of great manly man film that we’re not allowed to have anymore. Sure, it’s far from perfect and there are many movies that hit similar notes and do it better but this is still an awesome way to spend ninety-nine minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi action films of the ’80s and ’90s like Enemy Mine, Stargate, Escape From L.A., Event Horizon, etc.

Film Review: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

Also known as: Austin Powers 2, It’s Shagging Time (working titles)
Release Date: June 11th, 1999
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Michael McCullers, Mike Myers
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Will Ferrell, Clint Howard, Burt Bacharach, Michael McDonald, Rob Lowe, Jeff Garlin, Elvis Costello, Jerry Springer, Rebecca Romijn, Woody Harrelson, Charles Napier, Tim Robbins, Willie Nelson, Fred Willard, David Koechner, Tony Jay (narrator)

Moving Pictures, Gratitude, New Line Cinema, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I can’t believe Vanessa, my bride, my one true love, the woman who taught me the beauty of monogamy, was a fembot all along. Wait a tick, that means I’m single again! Oh behave!” – Austin Powers

Out of the three movies in the Austin Powers trilogy, this one is my favorite, even though all the films are really close in overall quality.

There are a few reasons why I like this one slightly better.

First, I like the plot better than the first movie. It’s more complex, more interesting and doesn’t simply try to rehash the beats of the first picture. There’s also a time travel element that works for me, even though it quickly breaks the fourth wall dismissing the paradoxes and narrative problems it creates. Because, honestly, this is a mindless, fun Austin Powers movie and you shouldn’t be thinking that hard anyway.

Second, I loved all the new characters from Mini-Me, Fat Bastard and especially Rob Lowe, as the younger version of Number 2.

Third, this has Heather Graham in it as the main “Powers Girl” and she’s always been a favorite of mine and certainly my favorite babe in a film series packed full of incredible, badass babes.

Apart from those three things, this film is just as fun and entertaining as the first movie. Additionally, the cast seems much more at-home in their roles and they’re even better than they were in the previous film.

I also like this chapter because it shows you which jokes sort of become reoccurring gags. Many of these bits became staples of the series while also becoming one of the more endearing things about this goofy, amusing franchise.

It’s also obvious that this movie had more money to play around with. There are bigger, better sets and more of them. Dr. Evil gets multiple lairs and each of them are much grander than the previous film’s underground bunker.

All in all, this is still solid, fun escapism and it made me smile in a young decade that hasn’t been very kind to most of us.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Austin Powers films and other ’60s styled spy spoofs like the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the original Casino Royale.

Film Review: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Also known as: Austin Powers (working title)
Release Date: April 29th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Mike Myers
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Fabiana Udenio, Will Ferrell, Joe Son, Paul Dillon, Charles Napier, Elya Baskin, Clint Howard, Tom Arnold (uncredited), Carrie Fisher, Larry Thomas, Burt Bacharach, Michael McDonald, Cindy Margolis, Christian Slater (UK version only), Rob Lowe (scene deleted) 

Capella International, Gratitude, Juno Pix, New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes, 68 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my underground lair. I have gathered here before me the world’s deadliest assassins, and yet each of you has failed to kill Austin Powers. That makes me angry. And when Dr. Evil gets angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset. And when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset… people die!” – Dr. Evil

I, like most people, was a big fan of this film series when it was current. Weirdly, I hadn’t watched any of these since the third movie, Goldmember, came out in theaters. I had seen the first two at least a half dozen times, however, leading up to that third and final chapter.

Revisiting these now was a lot of fun. Even though I remembered just about everything and knew all the jokes and gags, it still felt like I was seeing it fresh and frankly, it made me nostalgic for a time when you could make movies like these because the world wasn’t so f’n PC and sensitive. If they ever made a fourth film, it would be a neutered and unfunny bitch.

This first film is still a hell of a lot of fun and it’s great, solid escapism. Especially in the early 2020s, as the world is really turning into a big ball of shit. Not having much in the way of real entertainment has also taken its toll on people, so looking back at stuff like this is kind of comforting.

In spite of the adversity nearly everyone has gone through as of late, it’s still hard not being happy watching Mike Myers ham it up as an uglied up, horny, British spy that’s part playboy, part buffoon and somehow still a hero when the odds are against him.

Like the ’90s, as a whole, this movie is crass and low brow. But growing up in that time is why I love that shit and probably why I miss it. Then again, people still knew how to laugh back in 1997.

Anyway, Myers also plays Dr. Evil, the film’s villain and his greatest character. But Myers also had the benefit of playing off of so many other great actors in this film. It’s this series that really cemented Seth Green as a legitimate talent for me and it also helped me fall in love with the comedic greatness of Mindy Sterling. Plus, Robert Wagner has never been better and that guy is always f’n great!

Additionally, this movie is full of hot babes, most notably the angelic Elizabeth Hurley. We also get Mimi Rogers at her all-time hottest, as well as Fabiana Udenio, a long time favorite babe of mine, and the glorious and sultry Fembots.

Austin Powers wasn’t the first film to parody the James Bond franchise but honestly, it’s probably the best and I say that as someone that adores the Dean Martin Matt Helms quadrilogy. 

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Austin Powers films and other ’60s styled spy spoofs like the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the original Casino Royale.

Film Review: Almost an Angel (1990)

Release Date: December 19th, 1990
Directed by: John Cornell
Written by: Paul Hogan
Music by: Maurice Jones
Cast: Paul Hogan, Elias Koteas, Linda Kozlowski, Doreen Lang, Douglas Seale, David Alan Grier, Larry Miller, Charlton Heston (cameo)

Ironbark Films, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“From time to time, worthy people are chosen to be Angels of Mercy. But these are difficult times, Mr Dean. In this century you’re the first scumbag we’ve sent back.” – God

As enjoyable as Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee II were, Paul Hogan was never able to replicate that success in the United States again. Which kind of sucks, as I’ve always loved the guy and his sense of humor.

Like his Dundee movies, this one also featured his real life wife, Linda Kozlowski. Granted, they met on the set of the first Dundee movie and married after but she was always a presence in Hogan’s films, which I’m actually fine with, as she does a decent job onscreen and has solid chemistry with Hogan.

This movie also stars Elias Koteas, fresh off of his role as Casey Jones in the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In this, he plays a handicapped guy that Hogan’s Terry Dean befriends.

The plot sees master thief and cool gadget maker Terry Dean get released from prison. He immediately goes back to his criminal ways and robs banks dressed as Willie Nelson and Rod Stewart. However, after meeting God (played by Charlton Heston), he is made an angel in training. He has one last chance to do something right with his life and if he succeeds, he’ll be a full-fledged angel and earn his wings.

Sadly, most of the movie is kind of slow and boring. There are a few good, comedy sequences, like when Dean convinces drug dealers outside of a youth center that they pissed off the local mob or when he does his Rod Stewart and Willie Nelson schticks. However, most of the film is dry and you never really know what the point of anything is, other than Dean needs to become a legit angel for some reason that doesn’t even seem that important.

I like Paul Hogan and he’s a charming guy. That’s still apparent in this movie. However, this just doesn’t connect with the viewer in the same way that the first two Dundee movies did. And I guess that’s fine because those are classics to some degree and Hogan definitely left his mark.

I can imagine that Hogan didn’t want to just play Mick Dundee for the rest of his life and that’s understandable. I just don’t think that this film really maximized his talent and didn’t do him any favors in trying to transcend his greatest role.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the Crocodile Dundee movies.

Film Review: The Game (1997)

Release Date: September 3rd, 1997 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Michael Douglas, Sean Penn, James Rebhorn, Deborah Kara Unger, Peter Donat, Carroll Baker, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Anna Katarina, Mark Boone Junior, Tommy Flanagan, Spike Jonze, Daniel Schorr (cameo)

A&B Producoes Lda., Propaganda Films, Polygram Filmed Entertainment, 129 Minutes

Review:

“They just fuck you and they fuck you and they fuck you, and then just when you think it’s all over, that’s when the real fucking starts!” – Conrad

I don’t think that I’ve seen this since the theater but I remembered really liking the hell out of in the ’90s and I had always meant to revisit it because Fincher’s other two ’90s films (not named Alien 3) were pretty much masterpieces.

This one doesn’t live up to the quality and iconic status of Se7en and Fight Club but it is a good filling within the ’90s Fincher cinematic sandwich.

The big selling point for me, at least when this came out, was that it starred Michael Douglas and Sean Penn. The thought of seeing those two great actors together made this picture a “must see” for me. Plus, the trailer intrigued me.

For the most part, this is a thrilling ride where you don’t really see what’s coming and how deep this “game” will go. It gets bigger and more complex with each twist in the plot and it’s a lot of fun, seeing it play out.

The problem with the film, though, is knowing that it’s just a game. Granted, the movie does its damnedest to make you question that and it really pushes the bar in pushing Michael Douglas’ Nicholas over the edge. However, I thought that the big reveal was really obvious, even before I knew the ending. In fact, I thought it was obvious from the trailer but I still was captivated enough to see how far the story would push things.

Overall, the plot doesn’t disappoint but being that so many things are so over the top and elaborate, the picture leaves me with more questions than answers. It would’ve been cool to see how all of this was pulled off but you don’t really get that and just have to accept that this is just the work of powerful pranksters with unlimited funding.

From a visual standpoint, the movie looks good and I’d say it’s less stylized than Fincher’s other movies. I’m not sure if he felt like he needed to be more reserved in that regard or of it was the work of the producers. But out of all Fincher’s movies, this one is the least Fincher-esque, as far as the cinematography goes.

As should be expected, it’s a picture that is superbly acted and the leads are truly great, here.

In the end, this is still fun to watch, even after knowing what the ending would be. As I stated earlier, I knew it was just going to be a game beforehand but that doesn’t make it a bad thriller. The big thrills still work and this is an intense movie that still packs a punch.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other David Fincher films of the ’90s that aren’t Alien 3.

Film Review: Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996)

Also known as: Leprechaun 4 (shortened title)
Release Date: 1996 (Russia)
Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written by: Dennis Pratt
Based on: characters by Mark Jones
Music by: Dennis Michael Tenney
Cast: Warwick Davis, Brent Jasmer, Jessica Collins, Tim Colceri, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Debbe Dunning, Gary Grossman, Rebekah Carlton, Rick Peters, Geoff Meed, Michael Cannizzo, Ladd York, Guy Siner

Blue Rider Pictures, VIDMark Entertainment, Trimark Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“No one leaves this ship unless I so say! Say so.” – Dr. Mittenhand

This is the point in the Leprechaun franchise where the movies started to get more bad than good. I still like this one, though, as the drastic change of setting at least freshened things up and opened the series up for even more campiness.

Additionally, Warwick Davis is always entertaining in this role and he had some great moments in this picture. There’s the scene where the Leprechaun gets a lightsaber and the awesome kill where the Leprechaun explodes out of a dude’s dick who is about to have some hot sex.

The sets looked incredibly cheap and the CGI effects were extremely subpar, even for the mid-’90s. However, the makeup effects of the mutant spider guy were really good and looked badass.

I also liked the cast for the most part between the commander with the metal head who gives us a weird drag show, the hot doctor, the hot princess and the inclusion of one of my favorite character actors, especially in horror, Miguel A. Nunez Jr.

Positives aside, this is still kind of shit and actually tough to get through in one sitting.

Honestly, this is worth checking out if you really love the Leprechaun character and you have a weird appreciation for horror franchises that end up going to outer space once the well runs dry. If you don’t, you might end up banging your head against the coffee table.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.

Film Review: Ricochet (1991)

Release Date: October 4th, 1991
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: Steven E. de Souza, Fred Dekker, Menno Meyjes
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Lindsay Wagner, Sherman Howard, Mary Ellen Trainor, John Amos, Miguel Sandoval, Jesse Ventura

Indigo Productions, Cinema Plus, HBO Pictures, Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“I guess a Beretta in the butt beats a butterfly in a boot, huh?” – Nick Styles

Man, this may be the most Fred Dekker movie ever put to celluloid. It’s got his fingerprints all over the story and Steven E. de Souza’s script really encapsulates the spirit of Dekker’s style. Beyond that, the director, Russell Mulcahy, then turns everything up passed eleven! I’d say he turned it to about seventeen!

I haven’t seen this since it was a new movie on VHS but I’ve got to say that even though I remember enjoying it, I didn’t realize how over the top and crazy it was. I guess that’s because this was fairly normal for an early ’90s edgy boi action flick.

Seeing greats like Denzel Washington and John Lithgow clash in this was fucking incredible, though! These guys brought their a-game, their balls and then, I’m assuming, shot a bunch of steroids and extra testosterone into their man bits. That’s the only way I can really explain their intensity in this movie.

This is a high octane action thriller from the very beginning. It follows a young cop that takes down an extremely violent criminal in the first few minutes. The cop becomes a hero and a bit of a celebrity and eventually starts working for the district attorney’s office. He ends up getting married and has two daughters. All the while, Lithgow rots in prison, fighting and murdering other prisoners, waiting for his chance to escape and get vengeance on the cop that put him there.

Once out of prison, the criminal creates an elaborate plot to break the cop down, destroy his personal life, his career, pump him full of heroin and have him get raped by a hooker with an STD. This story goes to some dark, bonkers places.

In the end, Denzel sets his own trap by utilizing the gangsters he grew up with. The big, legitimately awesome finale takes place on the famous Watts Towers. The finale is fucking great! Especially, for those who loved these type of over-the-top, bar pushing action flicks of this era.

All in all, this is far from a perfect film and it has its flaws but it is perfect escapism, chock full of that “toxic” masculinity that modern Hollywood loathes.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other cop thrillers of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

Release Date: November 15th, 1992 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: John Hughes 
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Devin Ratray, Gerry Bamman, Hillary Wolf, Kieran Culkin, Tim Curry, Brenda Fricker, Eddie Bracken, Dana Ivey, Rob Schneider, Ally Sheedy (cameo), Donald Trump (cameo), Bob Eubanks (cameo), Rip Taylor (cameo), Jaye P. Morgan (cameo), Jimmie Walker (cameo)

Hughes Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Hey. You guys give up? Have you had enough pain?” – Kevin McCallister

As I said in my review of the first Home Alone, I hadn’t seen that movie in-full in years. Well, I hadn’t seen this one since it came out. I’ve seen scenes on television over the years but I felt like a full watch was grossly overdue.

So while this isn’t as great as the original and while I don’t think that it was necessary, it’s still really endearing and a fun, holiday movie.

All the important cast members are back but if I’m being honest, it would’ve been nice just getting a cameo from Roberts Blossom after he saved Kevin and reunited with his estranged son in the first film.

That being said, it’s kind of unbelievable that Kevin would’ve been left behind by his family once again but you’ve got to kind of suspend disbelief and just go with it. I mean, it’s also unbelievable that this kid could live and survive in New York City on his own and that while there he’d run into the same burglars from the first film but I digress. This isn’t the type of story where you should be really thinking that hard.

My only real gripe about this film is that it’s too long. I don’t know why they had to go for a full two hours, as the just over ninety minute running time of the first movie was perfect. But I guess Kevin is in a much larger environment and that provided John Hughes the luxury of writing more gags.

Despite the new, grandiose setting, though, the film is really formulaic and just tries to repeat the main beats of the first movie. That doesn’t wreck it though, it just makes it a slightly inferior but still a pretty good copy of the masterpiece it’s trying to emulate.

I really liked the cast additions of Tim Curry and Rob Schneider in this one, though. They added a lot to the movie and their interactions with Kevin and then his parents were pretty good.

It was also great seeing Kevin put the burglars through the gauntlet once again and while this sequence isn’t as iconic as the original, it still provided some great slapstick comedic moments and I love seeing Culkin, Pesci and Stern play off of each other in these scenes.

All in all, the first film is perfect but this is a worthwhile sequel that doesn’t diminish the greatness of the original while giving you a few more hours to spend with these characters you love.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and other John Hughes holiday movies.

Film Review: Leprechaun 3 (1995)

Release Date: June 27th, 1995
Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written by: David DuBos
Based on: characters by Mark Jones
Music by: Dennis Michael Terry
Cast: Warwick Davis, John Gatins, Caroline Williams, Lee Armstrong, Marcelo Tubert, John DeMita, Michael Callan, Tom Dugan

Blue Rider Productions, VIDMark Entertainment, Trimark Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“There was an old man of Madras whose balls were made of fine brass. So in stormy weather they both clang together and sparks flew out of his ass.” – Leprechaun

I think that Leprechaun 2 and 3 are pretty close in quality and both films are a bit better than the Jennifer Aniston starring original. However, these movies are very far from great and they don’t hold a candle to other slasher-y franchises with iconic monsters at their center. And frankly, this is probably why when people want to have famous slashers fight one another in mashup movies, no one ever really throws the Leprechaun in the mix.

That’s not to say that Warwick Davis isn’t good, he’s as the British say, “brilliant!” He’s just unfortunately bogged down by a string of crappy productions that he singlehandedly keeps afloat just by being great in them.

One benefit that this one has though is Caroline Williams, who I have always liked since first seeing her in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and then several other horror films since then. She’s a pretty iconic scream queen and she plays an interesting character, here, who ends up having one of the best deaths in this franchise.

Additionally, I really liked the Vegas setting even if the casino in this film was obviously some warehouse in California that they simply rolled a few gaming tables into.

I also really liked the main female lead and thought that she was the best final girl in the film series. Plus, she’s absolutely stunning and I’m surprised that she never had much of a career.

The male lead on the other hand was pretty awful. But he would go on to have a pretty good writing career in the film business.

Overall, I guess this one is tied for first place with the second film. But I do like this one just a wee bit more because of the setting, the final girl and Caroline Williams’ inclusion.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Leprechaun movies starring Warwick Davis.

Film Review: Home Alone (1990)

Release Date: November 10th, 1990 (Chicago premiere)
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: John Hughes 
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Roberts Blossom, Angela Goethals, Devin Ratray, Gerry Bamman, Hillary Wolf, John Candy, Larry Hankin, Kristin Minter, Kieran Culkin, Billie Bird, Bill Erwin

Hughes Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Down here you big horse’s ass, come and get me before I call the police.” – Kevin McCallister

I’m just going to come out and say it immediately, this is a perfect film: a true masterpiece.

I hadn’t seen this in-full in a few decades, actually, but I was quickly reminded as to why I loved this movie so much, as a middle school-aged kid back in 1990.

The film has that special John Hughes charm but it’s turned up to eleven. I think that had a lot to do with Chris Columbus’ direction and his ability to seemingly magnify Hughes’ effect into something magical, charming and so heartwarming that it’s impossible not to love.

The cast is perfect from top-to-bottom, which is difficult with big ensemble pieces. However, most of the scenes feature the trio of Macaulay Culkin, in his first starring role, as well as great actors regardless of genre, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

These three main players had immense chemistry and they looked like they enjoyed the hell out of making this movie. I’m sure they had no idea that this would blossom into a cultural phenomenon but it did and their great work paid off, immensely.

What surprised me most about this was how much heart it really had. It’s a film with soul and while I picked up on that as a kid, I see it much differently now, as an adult that has lived a much fuller life. In that time, I’ve lost several people close to me and had a deeper understanding of family that you don’t fully grasp as a child.

Home Alone really does hit you in the feels in a really profound way and I guess I can understand why my mom cried every time she saw it. I just thought she was weird but I was also a little shit obsessed with Nintendo, comics and G.I. Joe.

It’s actually kind of hard to review a perfect film. I can’t really pick anything apart or point out negatives because there aren’t any.

So I guess that’s it.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: its direct sequel and other John Hughes holiday movies.