Film Review: The Great Outdoors (1988)

Also known as: Big Country (working title)
Release Date: June 17th, 1988
Directed by: Howard Deutch
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Stephanie Faracy, Annette Bening, Robert Prosky, Lewis Aquette

Hughes Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“I gotta go to the John, I’ll be right back. Gonna introduce Mr. Thick Dick to Mr. Urinal Cake!” – Roman

I used to watch the hell out of this movie when it first came out on VHS back in the day. I probably single-handedly wore down the tape at my local video store. As a kid, I just loved it and that has a lot to do with it starring two of my favorite movie comedians, as well as just being fun, lighthearted, goofy and a bit of a coming of age tale where it focuses on the oldest kid.

Also, I loved the raccoon and bear scenes.

Seeing this as an adult with a hell of a lot of movie watching mileage under my belt, I still enjoy this film. I think a lot of that enjoyment is due to the nostalgia bug latching onto me like a lamprey but even if I had never seen this, I’m pretty sure it would still amuse me like many other ’80s comedies do.

John Candy and Dan Aykroyd were both at the top of their game and in this, they had good chemistry that provided the moviegoing audience with a great rivalry that blossomed into something positive and strong. And at this film’s core, it’s really about loving your family in spite of your personal differences.

For the most part, this is really just a series of funny gags and sequences. There isn’t much story, as things just sort of happen, but it still does a good job with its characters and establishing their conflicts and their underlying love for one another.

Ultimately, it’s just mindless escapism that will still probably make most people laugh. It has that patented John Hughes charm to it, even if it isn’t as good as the films he personally directed.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s “summer” comedies, specifically Summer Rental, also with John Candy, and One Crazy Summer.

Film Review: Captain Marvel (2019)

Release Date: February 27th, 2019 (London premiere)
Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve
Based on: Captain Marvel by Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Carol Danvers by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan
Music by: Pinar Toprak
Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Kelly Sue DeConnick (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 124 Minutes

Review:

“You are Carol Danvers. You were the woman on that black box risking her life to do the right thing. My best friend. Who supported me as a mother and a pilot when no one else did. You were smart, and funny, and a huge pain in the ass. And you were the most powerful person I knew, way before you could shoot fire through your fists.” – Maria Rambeau

This was the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie that I didn’t see in the theater. Frankly, it looked boring and unimaginative and it really has nothing to do with the controversies surrounding the film regardless of what side of the argument your fanboy/girl heart lies on.

Seeing it now, I wasn’t wrong.

This is a drab, mostly pretty boring film. Also, it looks cheap compared to other Marvel movies. This looks more like an episode of a CW superhero show than a film produced by Disney and Marvel. And it’s kind of underwhelming and depressing, really. Especially since this had its fair share of outer space stuff, which Marvel has handled exceedingly well with Thor: Ragnarok and both Guardians of the Galaxy outings.

I think part of the problem is that this film had too many creatives trying to steer the ship. It had two directors and five writers. Fuck, guys… just pick a team of a few people like your best movies and let them make the magic happen. Films made by committees rarely wow anyone.

In regards to Brie Larson, she is, as I’ve said in reviews of other films, a charisma vacuum. She makes charismatic actors around here give uncharismatic performances. Sam Jackson and Jude Law are typically very charismatic and fun to watch. Here, they’re about as entertaining as sleeping dogs.

Throughout this entire film, Brie was told that she’s too emotional yet she barely shows any actual emotion and just delivers her lines with a blank face in monotone. She also does this juvenile smirk all the time that just makes her look like a middle aged soccer mom thinking that she’s still youthful, cute and wishes she was still in high school so she could cozy up to the mean girls.

If this film wasn’t part of the larger MCU canon, it would have come and gone and been completely forgotten already. It’s not even bad to where people can talk for years about how much of a shitshow it was like Catwoman. But this is the future that Disney apparently wants and between this dead on arrival, boring ass film and the slapped together, clusterfuck that Avengers: Endgame was, makes me think that the MCU‘s expiration date was 2019, just a year after it celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.

Usually for a film of this caliber, I’d have a lot more to say. But there isn’t much to talk about with this one. It’s a waste of time, it carries an obvious agenda with it and like things that are trying to be political statements, it fails at conveying that message in a meaningful or genuine way.

Plus, everyone and their mother has torn this film apart already. I don’t think it’s as bad as many people do but it’s certainly a soulless, unemotional, pointless film more concerned with its place in history and trying to challenge societal ideals in the laziest way possible than it is trying to be a fun, escapist piece of entertainment.

But hey, this isn’t as bad as Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, which still takes the cake as Marvel’s worst. I would put this in my bottom two or three though.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Everything else in the MCU, I guess.

Film Review: Mars Attacks! (1996)

Release Date: December 12th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Jonathan Gems
Based on: Mars Attacks by Topps
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Jack Black, Christina Applegate, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Joe Don Baker, O-Lan Jones, Ray J, Joseph Maher, Frank Welker (voice)

Tim Burton Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes

Review:

“They blew up Congress! Ha ha ha ha!” – Grandma Florence Norris

While this isn’t one of Tim Burton’s most popular films, it is one of my favorites and I feel like it missed its mark because it’s not the type of film that would resonate with most people.

Mars Attacks! came out in late 1996, not too long after Independence Day ruled American culture that same summer. Maybe people were confused that this was a ripoff of it or that one big alien invasion movie was enough to digest but either way, I don’t think people realized that this was vastly different and sort of a parody of the genre while also being an incredible live action adaptation of the Mars Attacks trading cards that Topps put out in the 1960s. It’s like those who were kids in the ’60s no longer cared and the teens of the ’90s didn’t know the reference.

Still, this is a hilarious romp starring dozens of top notch celebrities where not a single one of them is actually safe. I mean, these Martians murder Congress, the President and even try to crush a troop of Cub Scouts with the Washington Monument. They are sick, sadistic and really, just friggin’ awesome. They are also voiced by Frank Welker, the guy who gave life to Megatron from the original and still greatest Transformers cartoon.

By the star power that this movie has, it’s clear that Hollywood got the joke and appreciated it even if audiences didn’t flock to see this. Still, it wasn’t a massive failure, by any means. It did fairly well but not as well as what Warner Bros. was probably hoping for with Tim Burton being a mega earner for the studio. While it took some time, the film did earn back the $100 million that was put into it. It was considered a box office bomb in the United States but it fared much better internationally.

This is one of the most hysterical films of the ’90s put out by a major studio. The humor is perfect, the tone is great and it pokes fun at so many different facets of Americana that it almost feels like it was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

The special effects look dated but they looked sort of cheesy in the mid ’90s. The film was supposed to have a hokey, old school vibe to it though. Really, the effects are great and they work for what this picture is. It’s not Independence Day and didn’t need to take itself as seriously in the visual effects department.

From a stylistic standpoint, the film really has a timeless feel to it. It merges modern style with ’50s and ’60s style in a seamless way that gives this film a magical quality.

Additionally, this picture boasts one of my favorite Danny Elfman scores of all-time. The theme is powerful and perfect and really fits that old school Elfman sound. Frankly, watching this film makes me appreciate and miss the quality of Burton and Elfman’s old school collaborations.

What really resonates with me is how this film balances comedy with how dark it actually is. It’s an absurd picture in the best way possible and shows that Tim Burton really has a dark sense of humor. Well, Beetlejuice was really effective in showing that aspect of Burton as well.

Mars Attacks! was underappreciated when it came out in 1996. It is still underappreciated today, as people that like to list out their favorite Tim Burton films always have this near the bottom of the list. Like I said, it isn’t for everyone but Burton fans, who understand Burton’s influences, should really love this picture.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Joe Dante’s Matinee and alien invasion B-movies of the ’50s.