Film Review: Twister (1996)

Also known as: Catch the Wind (original script title), Wind Devils (working title)
Release Date: May 8th, 1996 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Written by: Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin
Music by: Mark Mancina
Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Joey Slotnick, Scott Thomson, Lois Smith, Alexa Vega, Zach Grenier, Patrick Fischler, Anthony Rapp, Jake Busey

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes

Review:

“When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I always just thought it was a metaphor.” – Melissa

I hadn’t seen this movie since the theater but I had fond memories of that experience. I just never really went back and watched it again because it was a simple story that was very effects heavy and didn’t offer up much for a repeat viewing unless you’re a real digital effects junkie.

Since I came across it while scrolling through the content on HBO Max, I felt the urge to revisit it just to see how good it actually was and whether or not it’s held up after a quarter of a century. Plus, I really like the cast and it’s stacked with talent from top-to-bottom.

So for the most part, the effects do hold up. Sure, there are a few moments that might look hokey like the famous flying cow sequence but it hardly breaks the mind’s immersion into the film itself. And to be honest, I kind of like the humorous bits like that.

Generally, the tornado effects still look good and as effects heavy as this film is, it never feels like it’s too much. You kind of just get lost in the adrenaline rush of what’s happening and everything just works in the right way. Granted, I’d never want to see this sequelized or turned into a franchise. Once you’ve seen one tornado movie, you’ve pretty much seen them all and this surprisingly didn’t try to milk the flying cow to death.

It’s the personal stories in this that make the film work and make it much more than just a CGI fest.

I loved the chemistry between Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton and even with that, you still find yourself kind of sad over the way Jami Gertz, Paxton’s new fiancé, gets pushed to the side once he falls back in love with the woman he’s trying to get to sign divorce papers.

Hunt and Paxton just made a good couple and they balanced each other out, rather well. I also like that it’s the female half of the relationship that has become obsessed with her work and kind of let the romance fade away while the man steps up and reels her back in and centers her at a point in life when she needed it most. Then again, I always like seeing failed relationships finding a way to rekindle what was lost.

The supporting cast is pretty damn good too. I especially liked Lois Smith as the sort of matriarch of the storm chaser group. I also enjoyed Cary Elwes as the rival snot that gets himself killed because of ego. Philip Seymour Hoffman was enjoyable too, pretty much playing himself turned up to 11.

Twister seems like it’s been forgotten, as the years have rolled on. But honestly, it’s a really good movie in that summer blockbuster genre. I remember it being a big hit with moviegoers and everyone I knew, at the time, loved it quite a bit. When I worked at a video store, we could barely keep it in stock for the first few months.

Sadly, it was usurped by Independence Day, less than two months later and then the summer blockbusters kept getting bigger, louder and even more CGI heavy. 

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: Tombstone (1993)

Release Date: December 25th, 1993
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Written by: Kevin Jarre
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Robert John Burke, Dana Delany, Sam Elliott, Stephen Lang, Joanna Pacula, Bill Paxton, Jason Priestley, Michael Rooker, Jon Tenney, Billy Zane, Charlton Heston, Thomas Haden Church, Paula Malcomson, Lisa Collins, John Philbin, Harry Carey Jr., Billy Bob Thornton, Terry O’Quinn, Frank Stallone, Christopher Mitchum, Robert Mitchum (narrator)

Alphaville Films, Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures, 130 Minutes, 134 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Take a good look at him, Ike… ’cause that’s how you’re gonna end up! The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin’ it! So run, you cur… run! Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’! You tell ’em I’m coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?… Hell’s coming with me!” – Wyatt Earp

I feel like an asshole because I haven’t seen this since it was first on VHS where I then watched it a half dozen times but then haven’t seen it since.

I knew that this was packed full of a lot of great manly men actors. However, I had forgotten how many were actually in this and some of them I wouldn’t have recognized back in the mid-’90s as they hadn’t fully blossomed by that point.

What’s really interesting about this pretty over-the-top, high octane western flick is that it is pretty accurate. Granted, some things were adapted from stories and legends that made the rounds after the events of the film but that’s due to there not being a whole lot of recorded history on the lives and extra context of some of these historical figures and frankly, that’s not too dissimilar from most historical pictures trying to be as factual as possible. Sometimes, there are only so many facts and you have to turn to the folklore to fill in the blanks.

This film was directed by George P. Cosmatos, a guy I will always appreciate because he helmed Rambo: First Blood, Part II and one of my favorite and grossly underrated action films, Cobra. He also directed Leviathan, which is an underwater Alien knockoff but it’s got a solid cast and is pretty entertaining, regardless.

Apparently, Kurt Russell was also pretty instrumental in the direction of this movie, as well. From what I’ve read, he was pretty much an uncredited co-director, as he felt really passionate about this movie and his role as the legendary Old West hero, Wyatt Earp. So it’s hard to fully give director credit to either Cosmatos or Russell but their combined effort turned out one of the greatest westerns ever made.

Beyond the direction, this film is also great because of its immense and uber talented cast.

Top-to-bottom, this film is full of stars but they all fit their roles to a friggin’ tee. They blend into this world and while you very much know who they all are, you don’t get lost in the sea of familiar faces because they’re all so good and so is the script.

I’ve got to say that the real standout for me was Michael Biehn, though. Man, he’s already one of my favorite actors of his era but he shines in this movie like he never has before. This truly elevated him and he showed up for work, ready to make Johnny Ringo one of the most iconic western movie villains of all-time. He succeeded at that, greatly. Re-watching this now also kind of pisses me off, as he never really reached the superstardom he probably deserved and he should’ve really moved on to bigger things after this.

I also loved the hell out of Powers Boothe in this and I’d say it’s one of his best performances too.

All in all, this is action packed, fast paced and has the right level of testosterone flowing through every scene. Well, except for maybe the romantic horse riding bit, which feels a tad out of place. But other than that, this is a pretty close to perfect masterpiece.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s westerns and films with just a bunch of badass dudes kicking the shit out of assholes.

Film Review: Stripes (1981)

Also known as: Cheech and Chong Join the Army (original script title)
Release Date: June 26th, 1981
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Dan Goldberg, Harold Ramis, Len Blum
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P. J. Soles, Sean Young, John Candy, John Larroquette, John Diehl, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Bill Paxton

Columbia Pictures, 106 Minutes, 122 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“Who’s your friend? Who’s your buddy? I am, aren’t I? You’re crazy about me, aren’t you?” – John Winger

This is considered one of the all-time great Bill Murray comedies. While I do like it, it was never really at the top of my list. I’m not quite sure why, as it also features Harold Ramis, John Candy, John Larriquette, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas: all comedy legends I love.

Stripes is funny and amusing but from a narrative standpoint, it always felt kind of sloppy and pointless. Sure, these new recruit losers (mainly Murray and Ramis) do rise to the occasion and become heroes for a day, however, things in this movie just sort of happen without much purpose.

I get it, though, this is sort of just a goofy, mindless comedy. However, I guess I hold these guys and director Ivan Reitman to a higher standard because they’ve made much better films.

Without Bill Murray and someone as great as Ramis to play off of in nearly every scene, this would be reduced down to just a run of the mill screwball comedy like Meatballs or Porky’s.

I also know that Reitman probably didn’t have much of a budget to work with but this picture looks more like a television movie than a cinematic one. However, the film’s success did pave the way for the Ghostbusters movies, which are, to this day, my favorite comedy films of all-time.

Stripes is a movie that I still watch about twice a decade, as I can put it on and not think. But ultimately, it’s just never been as beloved by me as it seems to be by many others.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Bill Murray films of the ’80s, as well as comedy pictures directed by Ivan Reitman and John Landis.

Film Review: Weird Science (1985)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1985
Directed by: John Hughes
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchel-Smith, Kelly LeBrock, Bill Paxton, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Rusler, Suzanne Snyder, Judie Aronson, Vernon Wells, Michael Berryman, Steve James, Wallace Langham (as Wally Ward)

Silver Pictures, Hughes Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?” – Lisa

This was one of those films that I used to watch constantly when I was a kid. I loved this picture and, at the time, it was one of the coolest movies I had ever seen.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it but I still really enjoyed it, even if it’s much harder for me to suspend disbelief as much as this film requires. But it doesn’t really need to make sense if you just surrender yourself over to the absurdity of it.

However, it has not aged well and it almost feels like a relic from the ’80s in a bad way. Also, out of John Hughes’ four big teen movies of that decade, I’d have to consider this one the worst, even though it was once my favorite.

The story is just absolutely bonkers and doesn’t make a lick of logical sense but the spectacle of it makes it entertaining.

My main problem isn’t that two teens make a girl using “science” it’s just how half-assed and convenient the whole process seemed. As a kid, you don’t think about this shit. However, as an adult, you do and if most people are like me, your brain will get more literal thinking with age. That’s not really going to bode well for this film’s longevity, as its audience has grown up and moved on. Well, maybe not those that are so addicted to nostalgia that they have to continually live vicariously through the past.

It probably sounds like I’m shitting on the movie and I don’t mean to. It’s fine for what it is and for its era, especially considering the age of its audience at the time. But even seeing this now, it’s hard not to like these characters, even if their journey seems kind of pointless and they don’t seem to actually learn anything important other than boners can make a man brave.

Kelly LeBrock is great in this and honestly, she’s the glue that keeps this movie from falling apart. But, as an adult, you start to see her character through a new lens and her story is pretty tragic and incredibly fucked up.

Here we have a supremely intelligent woman that was created by two horny teenagers that take her for granted, use her and then dump her less than 48 hours later, leaving her to wander the Earth with her magic powers and no real human connection with anyone. Sure, she’s Einstein level intelligent with beauty and personality but this sounds like the origin of a horror monster. And maybe, just maybe… there’s some sequel potential there. Just send me a check, I’ll see myself out and go straight to the bank, Universal.

Anyway, this is a fun, dumb movie that might not work as well in 2020, as it did in 1985, but it still probably deserves the beloved status it’s built up over the years. Despite my new take on it, I’ll still probably revisit it once in a while. But that’s also because it’s hard for me to sometimes resist the nostalgia bug even though I can see it for what it is.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s John Hughes movies, as well as ’80s and ’90s teen comedies.

Film Review: Brain Dead (1990)

Also known as: Paranoia (alternative title), Lobotomie (Canada, French title)
Release Date: January, 1990 (Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Adam Simon
Written by: Charles Beaumont, Adam Simon
Music by: Peter Rotter
Cast: Bill Pullman, Bill Paxton, Bud Cort, George Kennedy, Nicholas Pryor, Patricia Charbonneau

Concord Pictures, New Horizons, 85 Minutes

Review:

“My brains are individuals – they’re special – they’re unique.” – Dr. Rex Martin

This film stars two of my favorite Bills but I had never seen it until now. I remember seeing the VHS box art at my local video stores though. It just never appealed to me back in the day and my appreciation for Bills Pullman and Paxton hadn’t completely blossomed in 1990.

Overall, this was a decent picture. I liked seeing both Pullman and Paxton in it, along with Bud Cort, who stole the scenes he was in, and the great George Kennedy. I also enjoyed Patricia Charbonneau, who I mostly only know as the kind scientist from RoboCop 2 but I was crushing hard on her in that movie when I was a wee little lad.

Anyway, this is a weird, trippy movie with a lot of mystery. Mostly, the story is a slow burn that builds up at the right speed but delivers just an okay conclusion.

This is one of those mindfuck movies though and they were really common at the time but unfortunately, this doesn’t come close to the better ones like Jacob’s Ladder or From Beyond.

The plot follows a neurosurgeon (Pullman) that specializes in brain malfunctions that cause mental illnesses. His high school buddy (Paxton), a yuppie businessman from a company called Eunice, asks for help in delving into the brain of a genius mathematician that turned into a psychotic. Really, they are trying to pry into his brain to reveal corporate secrets but the neurosurgeon starts to be effected by the horrors in the mind of the mathematician.

I wouldn’t call the ending satisfactory but the story was interesting enough to keep one engaged up to that point. But most of these mindfuck movies never really deliver anything profound and usually flounder at the climax.

This is a film that steadily builds suspense but comes up short in its final delivery. There’s nothing profound here and really nothing new either.

But this is carried by the performances of its leads and for that, it’s probably worth a watch for fans of this genre.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Altered States, From BeyondRe-Animator and Jacob’s Ladder.

Film Review: Trespass (1992)

Also known as: The Looters (working title), Die Rap-Gang (Germany)
Release Date: December 25th, 1992
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Bill Paxton, Ice-T, William Sadler, Ice Cube, Art Evans, De’voreaux White, Bruce A. Young, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson, T.E. Russell, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, John Toles-Bey, Byron Minns, Hal Landon Jr.

Universal Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“That’s the beauty of gold. It never tarnishes. Lasts forever, too. You can twist it, pound it, even piss on it but it’s always the same gold. It was here long before we were and it’ll be here a long time after we’re gone. I bet you a lot of men have died for the gold that’s just in this one piece.” – Bradlee

Man, I used to have a really high opinion of this film circa 1993 when I copied the VHS tape after I rented it. I mean, you’ve got two of the best gangster rappers of the era along with Bill Paxton and William Sadler, who forever won my admiration after playing Death in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, a year or so earlier.

Plus, this was directed by Walter Hill, the guy that did The Driver, The Warriors, The Long RidersStreets of Fire48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs. and Red Heat. Additionally, the film was produced and written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the creative force behind the Back to the Future trilogy.

But strangely, this just isn’t that great. Sure, it’s definitely okay for killing some time on a rainy day when you want an action film to help you with your low T. I don’t have low T though, my plums are solid and full of octane.

I do like this as more of a novelty thing though. You get to see both rappers named Ice come together at a time when they were both effectively breaking into movies. Ice-T killed it in New Jack City and Ice Cube gave a tremendous performance in Boyz N The Hood. You also get a solid cast of other up and coming black actors from the time: Tiny Lister, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson and De’voreaux White. Also, I have always liked Art Evans, he was great in Fright Night, and this may be my favorite role he’s done.

But still, this just falls really flat.

The plot is about these Arkansas firefighters that acquire a map to a stolen religious treasure. The treasure is hidden in an abandoned factory in East St. Louis. They travel there to look for the long lost gold but quickly find themselves in over their heads as they witness a gang murder. The two firefighters then find themselves holed up in a locked room with a hostage, the head gangster’s little brother, and a homeless man. The rest of the film is mostly a standoff that plays out in a lot of different ways but ultimately, the building is set on fire and we get some solid gun play.

Trespass is certainly watchable and makes for a better than decent early ’90s action flick but there isn’t much to make you care about it. It’s not a classic, by any means. But my problem with it, is that it should have been a classic. Look at the talent in front of and behind the camera.

I do still like this film but for Walter Hill, it’s one of his weakest.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other early ’90s hip-hop heavy action films: Judgment NightGunmenSurviving the Game and Deep Cover.

Film Review: Predator 2 (1990)

Release Date: November 19th, 1990 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Morton Downey Jr., Adam Baldwin, Kent McCord, Calvin Lockhart, Elpidia Carrillo (cameo), Kevin Peter Hall

Gordon Company, Silver Pictures, Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 108 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t see the eyes of the demon, until him come callin’.” – King Willie

I know a lot of people that don’t like Predator 2. Those people are assholes and their opinion doesn’t matter.

Predator 2 isn’t as perfect as its predecessor, which was a true masterpiece of ’80s action filmmaking. It is impossible to follow up perfection with more perfection. Well, not impossible but incredibly hard, especially in Hollywood where chasing the money usually leads to shoddy results.

Still, Predator 2 is a damn fine picture that is true to the spirit of the original while being its own thing, in a different setting and expanding on the Predator mythos in new ways.

Most of what we know about these alien creatures came from this film. It’s the first to really sort of showcase the psychology of the alien. You understand why it is doing what it is doing a bit more, you come to see that it isn’t just a cold blooded killer. The alien has rules and just appreciates a good hunt and going toe to toe with good game. It also shows that they are a society of respect for those they hunt against, if they just so happen to be bested in battle. Plus, it throws in an Easter egg to the Alien franchise, letting us know that these different alien species exist in the same universe.

Like its predecessor, this film also boasts a large cast of really talented people: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Morton Downey Jr., Adam Baldwin and Calvin Lockhart, as an evil voodoo drug kingpin that is maybe more chilling than the Predator itself.

I think that doing a sequel in a different environment was a good idea. I also feel as if the film took its cue from the success of Robocop and other ’80s films that took place in a near future urban environment with extreme crime and chaos. This is set in Los Angeles but it very much feels like the Detroit of Robocop 12. Frankly, I love the setting and I love seeing the Predator come between a massive gang war and drawing the attention of the LAPD, most notably the task force led by Danny Glover’s character.

We also get Gary Busey and Adam Baldwin as FBI agents that know about the alien and are trying to capture it alive in an effort to study it and steal its advanced technology. Busey’s group are a real thorn in Glover’s side but the two do get into a really cool sequence where they fight the Predator in a meat packing plant.

Alan Silvestri returned to score this picture, which was fantastic, as he did such an incredible job with the first movie. All of his iconic Predator themes are here but he adds in some new stuff and tweaks some of the other themes and presents them in new ways, which works really well.

I also want to point out that by Bill Paxton being in this, he is the only actor to be killed by both a Predator and a xenomorph from the Alien franchise. That’s a pretty significant honor.

This is just a cool movie. For people that grew up in the ’80s loving the action movies put out by Cannon, this is like a balls to the wall Cannon film but with a much larger budget.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Predator and Predators.