Film Review: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Release Date: November 17th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker, Kevin Yagher
Based on: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Marc Pickering, Christopher Walken, Ray Park, Lisa Marie, Peter Guinness, Martin Landau (uncredited)

Mandalay Pictures, American Zoetrope, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Villainy wears many masks, none so dangerous as the mask of virtue.” – Ichabod Crane

This is one of my favorite Tim Burton movies and every time I watch it, it just makes me wish that he did more straight up fantasy horror films.

This is Burton’s take on the famous story by Washington Irving but it takes the Sleepy Hollow legend and makes it a lot darker and more badass than other adaptations. For many, the classic Disney animated version is probably the one they’re most familiar with. This Sleepy Hollow is very different.

I love that this is gothic horror at its core and you can see the influences of Hammer Films, as well as those Edgar Allan Poe movies with Vincent Price. In fact, Burton does more than homage Hammer, here, as he also includes some Hammer legends in the film: Michael Gough and Christopher Lee, to be specific.

This also features Ian McDiarmid and a visually obscured Ray Park, making it the only movie to feature Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and Darth Maul: Star Wars can’t even claim that.

Anyway, the film is led by Johnny Depp and I love him in this. He plays a sort of whimsical, awkward character and his version of Ichabod Crane shows early signs of what Depp would later create as his most famous character, Captain Jack Sparrow.

I love the humor in this movie and I don’t think that it would’ve worked quite the same way without Depp. Here we have a great investigator that has to get down and dirty… and often times bloody. The humorous bit is that he’s a germaphobe and winces every time he has to do something unsettling or gross. It’s a reoccurring gag throughout the film but it works every time and it isn’t overused.

Depp also has Christina Ricci to play off of and I always like when these two are together. I honestly wish that they worked together more often, as they have real chemistry and always tend to accentuate each other’s performance.

The rest of the cast is padded out with some immense talent between Christopher Walken, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Martin Landau, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Lisa Marie and Casper Van Dien, who had just come off of the cult classic Starship Troopers.

I enjoy the look and tone of the film and my only real complaint about it is that it seems a bit too drawn out. The story is too complex and should have been refined and tweaked to bring the film down to around 90 minutes. It doesn’t really need more than that but at the same time it could’ve also used a bit more head chopping and action.

Apart from that, the only other negative is that the CGI looks cheesy in two parts but both of those moments happen really quick and it doesn’t wreck the film. I just found it a little bit jarring in those split seconds and it does pull you out of this period piece setting.

In the end, this is still pretty solid and it’s one of the highpoints of ’90s horror, as the decade came to a close and gave us a new millennium full of subpar, mostly shitty horror.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other gothic horror films around 2000, as well as other Tim Burton films with Johnny Depp.

Film Review: Starship Troopers (1997)

Also known as: Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine (original script title), Invasion (some Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: November 4th, 1997 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Written by: Edward Neumeier
Based on: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Seth Gilliam, Bruce Gray, Marshall Bell, Amy Smart, Dean Norris, Rue McClanahan

Big Bug Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, TriStar Pictures, 129 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rico] I need a corporal. You’re it, until you’re dead or I find someone better.” – Jean Rasczak

I shouldn’t have slept on this movie in 1997 but I missed it in the theater, as the marketing for it made it hard to peg what it was. As it picked up a cult following, however, I eventually got intrigued enough to check it out and I was really surprised by it.

I also didn’t know that it was directed by Paul Verhoeven. Had I been aware of that, I probably would’ve seen it on the big screen, as RoboCop is one of my top films of all-time and I also really liked his interpretation/loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s story that became Total Recall.

Now I hadn’t seen this in a really long time, so I wasn’t sure how well it would hold up. While it does feel very ’90s, it’s still fun as fuck and I had a great time revisiting it and honestly, it made me wonder why I didn’t revisit it more often.

This is over the top and pretty damn nutty, at times, and in fact, it almost plays like a comedy while also being a much smarter, layered commentary film than one might expect. But Verhoeven has proved, with his sci-fi pictures, that he can take what could be easily written off as hokey bullshit and turn it into something with real merit that sticks with you, makes you think but also checks all the boxes under the cool, badass and entertaining categories.

Starship Troopers is unique and cool but it’s also so unique and cool that it’s a really hard formula to replicate, which is probably why the sequels are looked at, by most, with disdain. It’s kind of similar to RoboCop in that the formula only seems to be really effective once.

Beyond just Verhoeven’s work, the film is carried by its characters and their stories. You care about these people in this batshit universe and you want to see them succeed and crush the invading insects that want to conquer mankind and use Earth as just another one of their many hives.

People for years have debated the meaning of the movie and while some might take issue with the fact that it’s not made abundantly clear, I think that it’s a lot more effective and interesting that its kind of left open for interpretation and I think that its message isn’t made clear because Verhoeven was really just exploring his own thoughts on the subjects presented in the film.

Besides, that shit isn’t even that important, as this is just a fun movie about space marines blowing up giant bugs and it can be enjoyed as simple, mindless entertainment without trying to over-analyze the fuck out of it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other releases from the Starship Troopers franchise, as well as other sci-fi films by Paul Verhoeven.

Film Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Release Date: February 5th, 2019 (Spain premiere)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
Based on: Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro
Music by: Tom Holkenberg
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jeff Fahey, Derek Mears, Casper Van Dien, Edward Norton (uncredited), Michelle Rodriguez (uncredited), Jai Courtney (uncredited)

20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainment, Troublemaker Studios, TSG Entertainment, 122 Minutes

Review:

“I do not standby in the presence of evil!” – Alita

I didn’t get to see this in the theater but I did catch it on a Delta flight, as I was returning home from Las Vegas.

I’m glad that I finally got to see this movie, as I had been waiting a long time for its digital release.

Overall, I really enjoyed Alita. But it has become a movie that Hollywood and its shill media outlets are apparently shitting on now because some people seem to think it is tied to the Nazi-esque Alt-Right or something.

One, I don’t even really know what the Alt-Right is and I don’t care. Two, how the fuck is it Alt-Right when it was directed by Robert Rodriguez, a famous director of Mexican decent and stars an actress of Peruvian decent with another major character being a black man? Plus, it was put out by a major Hollywood (i.e. uber leftists) studio, as well as being written and produced by James fucking Cameron?!

Anyway, that criticism is stupid but I guess some people still subscribe to the mainstream media’s bullshit.

Moving on.

I thought the film had a solid story. In a day and age where we are spoon fed stories about unchallenged Mary Sues (the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Captain Marvel, for instance) it’s refreshing to see a strong, female character that has to fail and learn from that failure in order to grow and become better. In that, Alita: Battle Angel is a much more relatable story than those other films. But I guess that’s why the media wants to shit on it.

Personally, I like strong yet flawed characters that can learn and grown. All people have flaws and limitations and its the process of overcoming those limitations that build character and make people stronger. It has nothing to do with gender, race or any sort of identity politics despite the entertainment industry’s insistence that it does.

Plus, Rosa Salazar is incredible as Alita. She has more charisma in one CGI finger than Brie Larson had in her entire body for over two hours in Captain Marvel. You almost love Alita from the first moment you meet her and watching her grow, throughout the film, is really the whole point of the story. When she conquers evil, you feel it. It doesn’t matter that the film is somewhat bogged down by its CGI effects, the story is relatable and very human. But that also has a lot to do with the skill and craftsmanship of two great filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron.

The rest of the cast is solid, especially Christoph Waltz. But man, that guy is damn near perfection in everything he does.

Like the Alita character, the film does have its flaws too but the sum of its parts made it a fun, enjoyable picture. And frankly, I’d be on board for future sequels.

In the future, I’d like to see the CGI get more detailed and less artificial looking. But this is sort of the trend of the time now, as visual effects artists are rushed and have less time to produce top notch effects when Hollywood has become way too reliant on them over practical, physical effects that can be crafted in the real world.

In conclusion, this is not as great of a movie as some have said but it is still a fine way to spend two hours and it is more human than a lot of the alternatives in modern sci-fi action films.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the original manga and anime, as well as Ghost In the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Film Review: Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996)

Release Date: May 24th, 1996
Directed by: Gabrielle Beaumont
Written by: David Wise
Based on: The Beast Master by Andre Norton, characters by Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Music by: Jan Hammer
Cast: Marc Singer, Tony Todd, Keith Coulouris, Sandra Hess, Casper Van Dien, Patrick Kilpatrick, Lesley-Anne Down, David Warner

Stu Segall Productions, MCA, NBC Universal, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Your aim is poor for one with three eyes.” – Dar

The original Beastmaster is a sword and sorcery classic. Beastmaster II is hated by most but I really enjoy it for its hokiness and characters. Beastmaster III, however, is a hard film to get through, even with Marc Singer, Tony Todd and David Warner.

What sticks out like a sore thumb the most is how bad the acting is. Now I’ll never claim that Singer is an Oscar caliber performer but he at least has charisma and can carry an action movie. Here, the charisma is stifled by terrible line delivery and an abhorrent script.

However, I do like that this film is a call back to the first and that we get to see what happened to Seth and Tal. Even if Seth was no longer played by John Amos and Tal was now grown up, it was cool seeing these characters coming back into Dar, the Beastmaster’s life after being absent from the time traveling weirdness of Beastmaster II.

But that’s also not enough to carry the film or its shoddy plot.

David Warner played the villain here but he pretty much just phoned it in. Not that I blame him but when Warner wants to give a great performance, it’s something he is very capable of. He just looked bored here, as did most of the actors and frankly, the film suffers from a complete lack of interest from the cast. Granted, I think Singer still gave it his all, despite the horrible direction.

Additionally, the music in this film is so bad that it’s distracting. I was shocked to see that the composer was Jan Hammer, because that guy did a tremendous job when he worked on Miami Vice in the ’80s. Here, the score just sounds like cliche, generic, straight to video, ’90s synth bullshit.

I remember seeing this back when it was a new release at the video store and I know I wasn’t fond of it but I didn’t remember it being this bad.

This was a terrible way to end the film series but if I’m being honest, it didn’t need to stretch beyond the first movie unless Don Coscarelli was involved.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: washing poop off of your shoes.