Documentary Review: Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (1998)

Release Date: December 20th, 1998
Directed by: Paul Jay
Written by: Paul Jay
Cast: Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Stu Hart, Helen Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, Brian Pillman, Blade Hart, Julie Hart, Diana Hart, Keith Hart, Tammy Sytch, Georgia Hart, Dave Meltzer, The Honky Tonk Man, Earl Hebner, Vince Russo, Mick Foley, Dustin Rhodes, Pat Patterson, Leon ‘Vader’ White, Ellie Hart, Alison Hart, Michael P.S. Hayes, Savio Vega, Harry Smith

High Road Productions, National Film Board of Canada (NFB), TVOntario, Vidmark/Trimark, 93 Minutes

Review:

Wrestling with Shadows is, hands down, one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen on any subject. Luckily for me, it’s on a subject I love: professional wrestling.

When this came out back in the late ’90s, it was a mega hit! Well, as much as it could be, as Vince McMahon used his influence to try and stop it from being seen. I remember that they did end up broadcasting it on A&E in 1999, which was the first time I saw it.

As a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s, this was one of those holy grail things that was being passed around, as well as the screener copies of 1999’s Beyond the Mat.

For those that don’t know, this was supposed to be a simple documentary about a year in Bret Hart’s life. What it ended up being is an intimate peek into one of the biggest scandals in professional wrestling history: The Montreal Screwjob.

The documentary is more intimate than most on the subject of professional wrestling. It truly delves into the personal lives of not just Bret Hart but the entire Hart Family. While Bret is certainly the focus, we get to hear from several family members and even see what family dinners looked like. We get an intimate look at the famous Hart Family Dungeon and even get to spend time with his parents, most notably his mother Helen. The Hart matriarch talks about how she truly feels about the wrestling business and how what was only supposed to be temporary became her family’s all-consuming legacy.

Beyond that, this starts to tell the story about how WWE owner Vince McMahon offered Bret Hart a twenty year contract worth a ton of money and how he decided he needed to renege on that deal and let Bret Hart leave for greener financial pastures with Ted Turner’s WCW, the company that was taking WWE to the woodshed at the time.

Eventually, this all leads to Vince lying to Bret and double-crossing him in front of the world.

The last twenty minutes or so of this documentary are damn compelling and it still holds up, twenty-three years after the incident.

Whether you give a crap about professional wrestling or not, this is still a fascinating documentary that started out as one thing and then evolved into something much, much more.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other wrestling documentaries but most notably Beyond the Mat and 350 Days.

Film Review: Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Also known as: Lethal 4 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 7th, 1998 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Channing Gibson, Jonathan Lemkin, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Based on: characters by Shane Black
Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Chris Rock, Jet Li, Kim Chan, Calvin Jung, Eddy Ko, Conan Lee, Richard Riehle, François Chau, Al Leong (uncredited)

Donner/Shuler Productions, Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 127 Minutes

Review:

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

Well, I’ve reached the end of my Lethal Weapon reviews. From memory, I thought that the third one was my least favorite but having re-watched them all now, so close together, I’d say that this is the worst.

That being said, I still like Lethal Weapon 4 a lot.

I think that the problem with this one is that we get to check in with characters we’ve grown to love but the Murtaugh-Riggs Family has grown so much that the dynamic between the core characters is kind of watered down and subtracted away from, due to the additions of so many new faces.

This does setup a really sweet ending for the final scene in this, the final film (for now), but the core dynamic worked best when it was just Riggs, Murtaugh and sometimes Getz, when you needed to throw in some comic relief.

Moving past that, I think that this film also suffers from the same thing that the third one did, it lacks the chutzpah of the first two films. Those movies were written by Shane Black, at the top of his game, and even though he is still credited for creating these characters, these last two films don’t have the same girt or energy as their predecessors.

Now Lethal Weapon 4 still boasts some stupendous action sequences. It’s certainly not lacking in that regard, I’m grateful that it still brought the fire and frankly, Richard Donner just knows how to shoot and present action better than most directors.

After analyzing the four films in this series with a sharper eye than I’ve given them, previously, I can see that Donner has a certain style in regards to action. Everything just looks organic and real and it’s edited to maintain a quick, flowing pace but not so quick that it becomes choppy and disorienting like modern action films. In fact, a lot of modern directors should take notes from these pictures.

Speaking of action, I really enjoyed the opening of this film. It’s the second best opener in the series, after Lethal Weapon 2, and it really gets things moving and off to a bang. However, the sequence that immediately follows with the Chinese boat, stifles the momentum.

Additionally, there are too many things that happen within the plot that just seem way too convenient to be real. This was a problem that started in the third film but it’s much more apparent here.

As far as the plot, it’s okay. It’s definitely a bigger scheme on par with the first two movies but it’s not that interesting. I guess it works to shed light on the fact that some Chinese are treated like modern slaves in an effort to buy their way into the United States but it’s presented pretty heavy handedly and also quite cheesily.

There are two saving graces in this film that keep it from sinking too far down in the muck. The first is the great action, which I already mentioned, and the second is the characters. The camaraderie is generally really solid and this movie does generate some real feels, especially towards the end in a scene with Riggs and Getz and then the big finale at the hospital, where two babies are born, expanding the family even more.

In the end, this is a “feel good” movie in how it closes things out for these characters. You kind of hope that you’d get to see them again but for now, this is the conclusion of the series. Granted, the television reboot did fairly well and stayed on TV for three seasons but that version of the characters is different. However, due to the show’s popularity, they have been talking about a Lethal Weapon 5 for the first time in years. So, maybe, just maybe… this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the real Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s/’90s buddy action movies.

Film Review: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Also known as: Child’s Play 4, Chucky, Chucky and His Bride (working titles)
Release Date: October 16th, 1998
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Kathy Najimy

David Kirschner Productions, Midwinter Productions Inc., Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“My mother always said love was supposed set you free. But that’s not true, Chucky. I’ve been a prisoner of my love for you for a very long time. Now it’s payback time.” – Tiffany

Initially, I didn’t know what to make of this movie when it came out in 1998.

Over time, I grew to love it though, as I mostly see it as a black comedy, which is how it’s really intended to be seen. It’s not so much a parody of the Child’s Play movies, as it is a true vehicle to just let Brad Dourif’s Chucky be unrestrained from trying to make a more serious slasher film.

Bride of Chucky goes beyond horror accented by comical one-liners and evolves the franchise into something more in-line with its star character’s personality. Overall, it’s less scary and less terrifying but it makes up for that in its coolness. And it really does get nuts in the best way possible.

Now with that being said, I don’t like it as much as the original three films but it is more energetic and more fun, overall. Without, I feel as if it has more replay value than most of the movies in the series.

I love the inclusion of Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany, Chuck’s actual bride who also becomes a killer doll. And of course, this leads to the sequel Seed of Chucky, which focuses on the offspring of the killer dolls. Most people seem to hate that movie but I kind of love it too for what it is but I’ll get into that when I review it, specifically.

Ronny Yu did a fine job of giving life and energy to Don Mancini’s script and frankly, I thought he was a wise choice. I also love his Freddy Vs. Jason, even though some people think it sucks. But fuck those people, as Yu understands how to turn these slasher franchises into something beyond the norm, which was kind of needed in the time that he made this film and FvJ.

The best part about this (and its sequel) is the chemistry between Tilly and Dourif. It’s f’n spectacular. Where I originally wasn’t keen on the concept before seeing the film, Tilly won me over almost immediately and proved she was a perfect choice for the role. And she has since become nearly as iconic as Chucky.

Bride of Chucky is an enthralling entry into a series that didn’t have much left in the tank. It reinvented what a Child’s Play movie could be and it left the door open for more, which allowed the Dourif era to flourish for three more films.

Despite my distaste for the 2019 Child’s Play reboot, I’m glad that the Dourif version of Chucky still isn’t dead, as there is a television show in-development, which will continue to build off of this movie and all the ones before and after it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Film Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death (True)² (1998)

Release Date: 1998 (Japan premiere)
Directed by: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Based on: Shin Seiki Evangerion by Hideaki Anno
Music by: Shirō Sagisu

Gainax, Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Movic, Production I.G/ING, Toei, 67 Minutes

Review:

“Shinji, this is your home now.” – Misato Katsuragi

This, the last of the three Evangelion offerings on Netflix, is a bit confusing.

This is the second re-edit of part of the Death & Rebirth animated film. And if Evangelion isn’t confusing enough, this is sort of just a few of the episodes mashed together.

I don’t know, this whole franchise is a real clusterfuck. I guess just watch the show and be annoyed by its Patrick Duffy in the shower ending. And if you want a better ending, they made one but I wouldn’t say it’s better unless you like Shinji screaming like a bitch for an hour and a half straight.

But I’ve said all this in previous Evangelion reviews.

So back to this.

In a nutshell, this was a complete waste of time.

That is all.

Just stick to the show and dip out before the last two episodes. Then just make up whatever ending you want in your head because it will probably be better.

But seriously, the show was pretty great until they totally shit the bed.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: all things Evangelion, as well as all things Robotech or Macross and Knights of Sidonia.

Film Review: Vampires (1998)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Vampires (complete title), Vampire$ (working title)
Release Date: April 15th, 1998 (France)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Don Jakoby
Based on: Vampire$ by John Steakley
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell, Tim Guinee, Mark Boone Junior, Gregory Sierra, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

JVC Entertainment Networks, Film Office, Storm King Productions, Largo Entertainment, Spooky Tooth Productions, Columbia Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Can I ask ya somethin, Padre? When I was kickin your ass back there… you get a little wood?” – Jack Crow

James Woods is cooler than any of us could ever be. And frankly, this may be the coolest he’s ever been. I mean, shit, he’s a vampire slaying, foul mouthed, badass, ready to burn down hordes of undead bloodsuckers.

Then you have Daniel Baldwin, who is always very convincing as an overweight piece of shit that isn’t afraid to punch his way through problems.

Both of these guys inject so much testosterone into this picture that it truly is cinematic Viagra.

Now I’m not saying they’re good people or even heroic. But that’s what makes this movie so badass and chock full of the best ’90s action movie cliches.

This also features Thomas Ian Griffith as the big evil vampire that they have to kill. Griffith was born to play this part, even if he’s given better performances elsewhere – The Karate Kid, Part III is still my favorite thing he’s ever done. But he is absolutely convincing, has the right build and physical presence and is able to terrify the audience. I remember people in the theater being in absolute awe during the scene where Griffith crashes the vampire hunters’ motel party, ripping everyone and everything to shreds.

What I really enjoy about this movie, is that it is a vampire movie with a real hard edge to it. In the ’90s, vampires were still scary and this does a good job of tapping into that while reminding you how cool vampires can be when used as legitimate monsters. This, along with Blade and From Dusk Till Dawn used these mythological terrors in the way that God intended.

This isn’t John Carpenter at his finest but it’s the second best movie he did in the ’90s after In the Mouth of Madness. It’s tough as shit, blue collar as fuck and it shows you that being a vampire slayer means that you’re probably going to die a very early death instead of just being a cool teenage girl that talks like all her dialogue is written by a balding middle aged guy pretending to be a teenage girl.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn and John Carpenter’s ’90s movies.

Film Review: Blade (1998)

Also known as: Blade, the Vampire Slayer (working title), Blade: The Daywalker (Norway, Denmark, Finland), Blade: Cazador de vampiros (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil)
Release Date: August 19th, 1998 (premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Norrington
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: Blade by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff, N’Bushe Wright, Donal Logue, Udo Kier, Sanaa Lathan, Arly Jover, Traci Lords

Amen Ra Films, Imaginary Forces, Marvel Enterprises, New Line Cinema, 120 Minutes, 110 Minutes (cut)

Review:

“Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill.” – Blade

Revisiting Blade has been long overdue but I’m glad that I finally did.

While I loved this movie, back in the day, I think I like it even more now. Maybe that’s because it is the least formulaic Marvel movie ever made and because it is just so balls to the wall badass that every time I watch it, I sprout another testicle.

Wesley Snipes is a man’s man and he’s got no time for some prissy ass bullshit. He just fucks shit up, does a cool pose, fucks up more shit, smiles and then fucks up whatever shit he hasn’t yet fucked up.

Also, this stars another man’s man in the legendary Kris Kristofferson. Add in Udo Kier, Donal Logue and Stephen Dorff being the best he’s ever been and you’ve got one hell of a cast. I also love the small role for Traci Lords, the coolness of Arly Jover and the loveliness of N’Bushe Wright.

Almost everything in this film feels right. The only real hiccup is some of the really dated CGI effects that didn’t look great even in 1998. But I can look past that, as this flick is one of the coolest comic book movies ever put to celluloid.

The script is great, the characters have real depth and the movie has perfect pacing.

There aren’t any dull moments and the action is aplenty, even with the story itself being pretty rich and layered.

Although, I don’t entirely understand Duncan Frost’s evil plan to turn the entire population of Earth into vampires because that would leave them without food. But hey, maybe the high tech vampires have a lab where they can clone and mass produce human blood. So my brain can just file that away as a plot point from a deleted scene I’ll never see.

One thing that really works well in this movie is the music. It hits the right notes, provides the right tone and propels the action sequences to another level. The soundtrack is mostly made up of hip-hop and techno or a hybrid of the two. In fact, I feel like this may have had an effect on the production of The Matrix, which came out a year later.

All in all, Blade is a fantastic comic book adaptation and in a lot of ways, I think it exceeds the source material, as the Blade character wasn’t all that popular before the movie and his interpretation in the film would go on to alter him in the comics themselves.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the Blade sequels, as well as other ’90s action films with Snipes.

Film Review: Chairman of the Board (1998)

Also known as: Untitled Carrot Top Project (working title)
Release Date: March 13th, 1998 (limited)
Directed by: Alex Zamm
Written by: Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Alex Zamm
Music by: Chris Hajian
Cast: Carrot Top, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Larry Miller, Raquel Welch, Mystro Clark, M. Emmet Walsh, Jack Warden, Estelle Harris, Bill Erwin, Glenn Shadix, Taylor Negron, Cindy Margolis, Butterbean, Little Richard, Fred Stoller

Trimark Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I’m telling you guys there’s not enough radiation in those TV dinners to make somebody a walking night light.” – Edison

If you ever needed proof that Rotten Tomatoes is full of shit, this movie holds a 13 percent rating by critics on their site. Well, I guess that could also just be a damning stat for the film critic profession in general because it means that 13 percent of them liked this noxious turd.

That being said, at least this is better than The Pest but that’s not saying much.

Carrot Top, a man that somehow got famous for prop comedy, the worst discipline of all comedy, was given this as a vehicle to further his career and make him a superstar. It failed, quite gloriously. Luckily for Mr. Top, he was able to still sustain a pretty successful comedy career in Vegas.

I guess what’s most surprising about this film is that it actually has a lot of fairly well-known actors in it. I’d have to assume that none of them actually read the script or they somehow bought into Carrot Top being the next big thing in entertainment.

The story is just like every other story that sees some lovable loser inherit a corporation or a large sum of money from a stranger or person they met for five minutes. It makes sure to borrow every single trope that we’ve seen a dozen times in similar films but then it sort of just smears shit all over them.

But to be fair, Carrot Top showed some charisma, even if his material wasn’t funny. He didn’t write the script and I think this was just thrown into his lap with his agent yelling, “You’re fucking doing it!” Even though I’m not a fan of his regular work, I felt kind of bad for him as this material wasn’t made to work with anyone in his role.

I can’t call this a forgettable film as it is so bad that it will always haunt you. But at least it’s that type of bad that needs to be seen to be believed and its faults make it worthwhile if bad movies are your thing. I’ll probably never watch it again but I wouldn’t mind eventually seeing a Rifftrax version of the film.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Freddy Got Fingered and The Pest.