Film Review: True Romance (1993)

Release Date: September 8th, 1993 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini, Bronson Pinchot, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, Conchata Ferrell, Chris Penn, Anna Thomson, Victor Argo, Tom Sizemore, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Beach, Ed Lauter (uncredited)

August Entertainment, Davis-Films, Morgan Creek Entertainment, 119 Minutes (theatrical), 121 minutes (unrated Director’s Cut)

Review:

“If there’s one thing this last week has taught me, it’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” – Clarence Worley

Since I just revisited Natural Born Killers, a film written by but not directed by Quentin Tarantino, I figured that I’d also checkout the other one.

True Romance was directed by Tony Scott using a script that Tarantino sold in an effort to get enough money to make Reservoir Dogs. That being said, out of the two scripts he sold, this is the one that was translated to screen the best. Also, Tarantino doesn’t disown this film, as he does Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

I think that Scott’s directorial style mixed with Tarantino’s writing was a pretty good match. Granted, this also benefits from having an incredibly talented ensemble cast and one of Hans Zimmer’s most unique but incredibly effective musical scores.

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are f’n dynamite in this and despite the insanity of the circumstances they created, they were pretty believable, had superb chemistry and you really wanted these two kids, who had just found true love in each other, to make it though and have that “happily ever after” ending. They luckily succeed. Although, maybe they don’t but I’ll get into that towards the end of the review.

Beyond the two leads you’ve got so many notable people, many of which are in small roles or in the case of Val Kilmer, completely obscured to the point that you don’t even know that it’s him. The real standout scene in the film doesn’t even star the leads, though, it stars Dennis Hopper, who is only in a handful of scenes and Christopher Walken, who is only in this one iconic scene. And man, it’s one of the greatest scenes of Walken’s career. It happens midway through the film and it leaves you with a legitimate sense of dread, making you understand just how much trouble the young lovers are actually in.

The second most iconic scene in this is where Patricia Arquette enters her motel room alone to find James Gandolfini sitting in a chair clutching a shotgun. It’s an unnerving and extremely f’d up scene, as Gandolfini brutalizes Arquette. It’s a scene that Hollywood wouldn’t have the balls to do today due to how brutal it is. However, Arquette does get the upper hand in this ultraviolent fracas and makes Gandolfini pay in an even more brutal way.

That being said, this is an exceptionally violent film but those who have experienced Tarantino’s work, should know what they are getting into, even if the material is brought to life by another director.

So watching this film for the first time in a long time, I was left wondering about the ending. We see the young lovers leave behind the craziness that became their life for a bit. The closing moments show them on a beach with a child. All seems well and good.

However, I doubt that Christopher Walken’s very driven and cold mobster character isn’t just going to stop looking for them, especially after the crew he sent to catch and kill them were all taken out in a blaze of violence in the film’s finale. So there’s that bit of worry in the back of my head and it does leave the movie open for a sequel. However, I’d leave this alone and never attempt that. By this point, that ship has most definitely sailed, anyway.

True Romance is a great film, top-to-bottom. It’s built up a legitimate cult following over the years and being that Arquette’s Alabama is directly tied to Harvey Keitel’s Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs sets it in the same universe as that film and Pulp Fiction and just adds to the picture’s mystique and coolness.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Angus (1995)

Release Date: September 15th, 1995
Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Written by: Jill Gordon
Music by: David E. Russo
Cast: George C. Scott, Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, James Van Der Beek, Charlie Talbert, Kathy Bates, Kevin Connolly, Irvin Kershner, Anna Thomson

Atlas Entertainment, BBC, New Line Cinema, 87 Minutes

Review:

“As for what anybody else thinks, always remember these words and live by them: screw ’em!” – Grandpa

Angus had a pretty big impact on me when I saw it back in the late ’90s. I thought it was one of the best movies of the teen coming-of-age genre. Something about it felt more pure and realistic than the dozens of other films like it and having now seen it, a quarter of a century later, I’m really pleased to discover that not only has it held up but it’s still relevant and even better than similar movies that came after it.

I think that this movie flourished in that it used a cast of mostly unknown teens. Sure, it had Academy Award winners George C. Scott (who refused his Oscar for Patton) and Kathy Bates but they just sort of added legitimacy to the film and probably helped get it in front of audiences that might have otherwise missed it. Plus, they’re both damn good in it and even if their roles are smaller than the teens in the movie, they really have a profound effect on the overall story and Angus’ character arc and personal growth.

The story is about a smart but awkward fat kid who is voted homecoming king as a joke. However, it gives him the opportunity to at least have a dance with the girl he is crushing on, as well as allowing him stand up against the bullies trying to break him down.

It’s a pretty fresh take on the awkward kid trying to win over the popular love interest trope and it’s done remarkably well, which I think has to do with superb writing but also the great performances of the young cast. Frankly, there isn’t a weak link among them and the film’s title character, played by Charlie Talbert, is just great in every scene.

Talbert was a newcomer and this was his first professional credit. Still, this kid held his own sharing scenes with George C. Scott and Kathy Bates and it’s pretty damned impressive.

I think another thing that adds a lot to the picture is the music. The film is full of great tunes from ’90s alternative rock bands and even if it dates the movie, it still sets the tone and allows the viewer to sort of sink into this kid’s world.

Angus is something I should probably revisit more often. It’s absolutely one of the best motion pictures of its type and it’s still good with a message that will always be relevant.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other teen coming-of-age movies of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Bad Boys (1995)

Also known as: Bulletproof Hearts (original script title)
Release Date: April 6th, 1995 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, Doug Richardson, George Gallo
Music by: Mark Mancina
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Tea Leoni, Tcheky Karyo, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, Nestor Serrano, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Imperioli, John Salley, Chris Mitchum, Kim Coates, Anna Thomson

Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, 119 Minutes

Review:

“He steals our shit, kidnaps Julie, shoots at my wife. Oh, we beatin’ him down. We beatin’ him down!” – Marcus Burnett

I always liked the Bad Boys movies but I haven’t watched any of them since they were in the theater. I also haven’t seen the recent, third picture and I wanted to refresh my memory with the old ones before checking it out.

So going way back to 1995 was kind of cool. It was a turning point year in my personal life, as I moved from one parent’s house to another’s and with that, got to experience my later teenage years with more freedom and greater experiences.

The pairing of Martin Lawrence and Will Smith was just money, especially back then. And frankly, it worked so well, they’re still making these movies two and a half decades later, even if they take too damn long to actually make sequels. We could’ve been up to Bad Boys 9 by now and honestly, with these two, each film would’ve probably still been enjoyable. I mean, they are the second greatest buddy cop duo after Riggs and Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon film series.

I also like all the other characters in these guys’ orbit from Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle and the two other detectives that they have a professional rivalry with.

In this film, we also get Tea Leoni and I liked her so much with these guys that it was kind of a let down that she wasn’t in the second film, even in a cameo role. I’m not sure if she’s in the third but she was such a big part of this original film, I find it weird that she’s not even mentioned after it. Well, as far as I know, as I haven’t seen the third one yet.

The story is pretty cookie cutter, buddy cop stuff. The villain is a European shithead, which was also common with the action flicks of the ’80s and ’90s. The baddie is fairly generic and his acting skills aren’t all that up to par but he serves his purpose and gives these two awesome cops a target to take out.

This film has very strong Lethal Weapons and Beverly Hills Cop vibes about it. That’s a very good thing, as it kept cool buddy cop movies going into another decade, especially after the incredibly weak and disappointing misfire that was Beverly Hills Cop III in 1994.

Being that this is an early Michael Bay picture, it isn’t completely over the top and the action all feels plausible and real. I remember the second film in the series getting really insane and it felt less grounded in reality. This one keeps things pretty straightforward, pretty simple and very badass and cool.

Seeing this now, this is a film series I probably should’ve revisited since its chapters were released. It’s good, it’s fun, I love the two leads, their allies and the total package. While I can’t put it on the same level as the early Lethal Weapon movies, it successfully borrows the formula and creates something unique and special.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Bad Boys films, as well as the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop movies.

Film Review: ‘The Crow’ Film Series (1994-2005)

I just re-watched The Crow and all of its sequels. I watch the original film about once a year or so but it has been a long time since I have seen the sequels. Instead of just reviewing one of them, I figured I’d give my two cents on each film.

The Crow (1994):

Release Date: May 13th, 1994
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Written by: David J. Schow, John Shirley
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling, Rochelle Davis, David Patrick Kelly, Jon Polito, Tony Todd, Jeff Imada, Anna Thomson

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 102 Minutes

the_crow_1994Review:

The first film in the series is by far the best, that isn’t even debatable. The cast was pretty fantastic, as director Alex Proyas (Dark City, I, Robot) strung together a nice team comprised of Brandon Lee (Rapid Fire, Showdown In Little Tokyo), the late son of Bruce Lee, as well as Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Oz), Michael Wincott (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Basquiat), Tony Todd (Candyman, Platoon), Bai Ling (Anna and the King, Three… Extremes), David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors, Twin Peaks) and newcomer Rochelle Davis, who has only appeared in one other film.

The tone of the film was perfect, the music was perfect, the casting of Brandon Lee was perfect. There aren’t a lot of negatives that one can find in this near masterpiece. For its time, it was one of the best, if not the best, comic book films of all-time. The only comic book films that one could possibly put in front of The Crow are the Richard Donner Superman films and the Tim Burton Batman films. In 1994, when this movie was released, comic book movies were very scarce.

This is a film that has a strong cult following and deservedly so.

Brandon Lee died on set due to a firearm accident and it had to be finished without him. There was a lot of debate as to whether or not the film should even be released but it was and has had a certain degree of mystique attached to it. The real-life tragedy added to the emotion and darkness of the film in a way that didn’t make light of Lee’s death or try to capitalize off of it. Everything, in my opinion, was done tastefully and in a way that honored the actor and gave people a look at his best work.

The chemistry between Lee and Davis, as well as Lee and Wincott was pretty strong. Brandon Lee gave this his all and it was a good display of his talent, which never got to grow and reach the heights it could have.

Plus, there is a performance by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult in the film.

Rating: 9/10

The Crow: City of Angels (1996):

Release Date: August 30th, 1996
Directed by: Tim Pope
Written by: David S. Goyer
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Vincent Perez, Mia Kirshner, Iggy Pop, Richard Brooks, Thomas Jane

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 84 Minutes

the_crow_2Review:

The first sequel in the series was pretty bad, which would become the trend. It starred Vincent Perez (Queen of the Damned) as the title character and I still can’t recall anything noteworthy that I have seen him in besides this. It also starred punk rock legend Iggy Pop (Dead Man, Tank Girl), Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung) and Mia Kirshner (The L Word, The Black Dahlia).

Iggy was fantastic and just completely Iggy, which made his character great. Kirshner was angelic and beautiful with a real genuine level of sweetness but she was also more or less a statue propped up in the background to add allure to a very ugly looking film. Tom Jane basically just played a weird pervert and he was unrecognizable in the role.

I would consider this film to be the second to worst in the series. And there really isn’t much one can say about it. It is empty, soulless and an awful rehash of the classic before it.

But again, it features Iggy Pop and I will watch him in anything.

And I love Mia Kirshner, who has never looked better than she does in this.

Rating: 4/10

The Crow: Salvation (2000):

Release Date: January 23rd, 2000
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Written by: Chip Johannessen
Based on: The Crow by James O’Barr
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Fred Ward, William Atherton, Walton Goggins

IMF, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, Jeff Most Productions, Pacifica Film Development, Dimension Films, 102 Minutes

the_crow_3Review:

The second sequel was better than the first sequel. After the original film, this is the best installment of the series. It starred Eric Mabius (Ugly Betty, Cruel Intentions), Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Melancholia), William Atherton (Real Genius, Ghostbusters), Fred Ward (Tremors, The Right Stuff) and Walton Goggins (The Shield, Justified).

Mabius was much more personable and likable than his predecessor, Vincent Perez. Dunst was good but nothing extraordinary. Atherton and Goggins were both presences in the film but didn’t leave me with anything all that memorable. Fred Ward, one of those lesser-known actors I’ve just always liked for some reason, did a pretty solid job of playing the scumbag evil bastard in this film.

From a storytelling standpoint, this offered so much more than City of Angels. It involved a conspiracy, a cover-up and evil dudes sending an innocent kid off to die for their sins. It wasn’t as straightforward and as simple as the previous films in this series. Granted, it wasn’t a storytelling masterpiece but it had depth and a bit of mystery.

Rating: 6/10

The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005):

Release Date: June 3rd, 2005
Directed by: Lance Mungia
Written by: Lance Mungia, Jeff Most, Sean Hood
Based on: The Crow: Wicked Prayer by Norman Partridge
Music by: Jamie Christopherson
Cast: Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Dennis Hopper, Tito Ortiz, Danny Trejo

Dimension Films, 99 Minutes

the_crow_4Review:

The final film in the series was god awful, and that might be an understatement. It starred Edward Furlong (Terminator 2, American History X), Tara Reid (American Pie, The Big Lebowski), David Boreanaz (Angel, Bones), Tito Ortiz of UFC fame, Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn), Dennis Hopper (Speed, True Romance) and a very brief appearance by singer Macy Gray.

Furlong just looked ridiculous as the Crow. I think the hair had a lot to do with the sloppy shitty look. Also, Furlong by this point, had grown too old and looked like a washed up forty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup instead of an awesome twenty-something Robert Smith wearing his Cure makeup. Furlong’s acting was horrible but so was everyone else’s.

Boreanaz was deplorable, Tara Reid was annoying and not naked enough, Tito Ortiz was a dipshit and Danny Trejo was the worst I’ve ever seen him and I really love that guy. Dennis Hopper took the cake, however, as he stumbled through some of the worst written lines I have ever heard in a film. It sucks that such a great actor was working on shit like this so late in his career.

Technically speaking, the special effects were disastrous, the cinematography was nightmarish and the editing was shit. There isn’t anything nice I can say about this film.

Rating: 2/10