Film Review: After Hours (1985)

Also known as: Lies (script title), A Night In Soho (working title)
Release Date: September 11th, 1985 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Joseph Minion, Joe Frank
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Thomas Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, John Heard, Cheech Marin, Catherine O’Hara, Dick Miller, Will Patton, Bronson Pinchot, Martin Scorsese (cameo)

Double Play, The Geffen Company, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, come on, let’s go find my statue, man. It’s got to be around here someplace. That makes me sick. You know, that statue is the first thing in my life that I ever bought! See what happens when you pay for stuff! Somebody rips it off.” – Neil

How have I never seen this film until now?

While this has been in my queue for quite awhile, I only really heard about it a few years ago. And honestly, that’s kind of unfortunate, as after seeing it, it’s now become one of my all-time favorite Martin Scorsese films.

I think it was forgotten due to it being a straight up comedy, as opposed to his more popular crime films, many of which have received a sort of legendary status as the years have rolled on. However, in its own way, After Hours is just as great and deserves more recognition than it receives.

To start, I’ve always really liked Griffin Dunne since first seeing him as a kid in John Landis’ ’80s horror classic, An American Werewolf In London. Apart from that film, I’ve liked him in everything I’ve seen him in, as he has real charisma and he’s just really damn likable. Taking him and throwing him into this “yuppie in peril” comedy story, just enhances the film greatly in a way that would’ve been hard to achieve with just about anyone else. Dunne is simply perfect as this character.

This is also a big ensemble piece, as the story has so many great characters that weave in and out. It’s well cast from top-to-bottom, however, and there really isn’t anyone that doesn’t pull their weight and give something great to the film.

The story is about Dunne’s Paul, who meets a girl, goes off to see her in Soho and ends up having a series of mishaps that balloon out of control to the point that they would make Larry David jealous. The film slowly escalates but it does so really well, as you eventually get to a point where things are completely bonkers. However, within the rules of this film, which evolve with the story, everything works well and there’s a real magical, charming quality about the movie.

I could see where the finale might be a bit much but I thought it was perfect and brought everything full circle in a rather poetic way.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot as this is probably best enjoyed not knowing much about the details. In fact, even though I always post a trailer at the end of my reviews, if you’ve never seen this, I’d skip the trailer and go into this film completely blind, as I did.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other “yuppie in peril” movies, specifically comedies and from the ’80s.

Film Review: Troop Beverly Hills (1989)

Also known as: Be Prepared (working title)
Release Date: March 24th, 1989
Directed by: Jeff Kanew
Written by: Pamela Norris, Margaret Grieco Oberman, Ava Ostern Fries
Music by: Randy Edelman
Cast: Shelley Long, Craig T. Nelson, Betty Thomas, Mary Gross, Stephanie Beacham, Karen Kopins, Jenny Lewis, Emily Schulman, Carla Gugino, Kellie Martin, Tasha Scott, Ami Foster, Audra Lindley, Tori Spelling, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (cameo), Frankie Avalon (cameo), Dr. Joyce Brothers (cameo), Robin Leach (cameo), Cheech Marin (cameo), Ted McGinley (cameo), Pia Zadora (cameo) 

Fries Entertainment, Weintraub Entertainment Group, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Her recommendations for a campsite were totally unsuitable. There were no outlets. And there was dirt, and bugs, and… and it rains there. So anyway, we’ve found a place that’s much more us: the Beverly Hills Hotel.” – Phyllis Nefler

Troop Beverly Hills is the most Shelley Long movie ever made.

What I mean by that is that the film really showcases all of her strengths without even giving her the opportunity to possibly show any flaws. But I’ve always liked Shelley Long and this is the one film, above all others, that made me enjoy her most. And that’s not to take away from her greatest role of all-time, as Diane on Cheers. But as far as film goes, I would call this one her best.

The biggest reason is that she is the star of this picture and while I don’t think that it was written with her specifically in mind, she takes on the material like it’s hers, jumps in the deep end of the pool without a care in the world and gives the audience her great wit and electric charm. It’s impossible not to like her in this, despite her starting out in the film as a super rich housewife addicted to shopping and with no other real ambitions in life. Long makes it work.

I also love that Craig T. Nelson essentially just plays Craig T. Nelson and thus, allows Long to shine as the focal point of the picture. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but Nelson plays this without ego and is only there to help give Long’s character depth and ultimately, he gives her a secondary goal, which is to rekindle their failing marriage.

When I was a kid, I loved this movie. I didn’t care that it was about a bunch of girls in a scout troop. It was relatable to most kids and since I was a boy that was into scouting, I dug that this sort of existed in that world. Plus, all the young girls in this were solid, fun characters that didn’t just need adult guidance and life experience but they also served to be emotional support for Shelley Long and her own issues.

Also, as a kid, I liked the adult parts of the story, as it did a good job of making its point.

That point is that we can’t just coast through life regardless of how easy it may be for some of us. We’ve got to get off our asses, find what makes us happy and work towards it. We all need a purpose.

Troop Beverly Hills teaches its audience that you have to work through your issues, try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. And while the movie probably doesn’t need to be looked at that deeply, these things are there and it makes it a better movie because of them.

This isn’t a throwaway mindless comedy. Some probably see it that way but it’s positive, kind of uplifting and it has a lighthearted charm that goes beyond just Shelley Long’s performance.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even and Ladybugs.

Documentary Review: Bloodsucking Cinema (2007)

Release Date: October 26th, 2007
Directed by: Barry Gray
Written by: Barry Gray
Music by: Don MacDonald
Cast: Uwe Boll, John Carpenter, David S. Goyer, Corey Haim, John Landis, Kristanna Loken, Leonard Maltin, Cheech Marin, Greg Nicotero, Joel Schumacher, Stephen Sommers, Stuart Townsend, Stan Winston, Len Wiseman, Marv Wolfman

Insight Film Studios, Vamp Productions, 56 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my Starz queue for a long ass time, so I figured I’d give it a watch to clear out some of the stuff that’s been there for too long.

Overall, this was a pretty boring documentary with a lot of talking head interviews edited together pretty sloppily.

There didn’t seem to be a clear direction or objective about this short documentary other than having a bunch of actors and directors talking about vampire films they’ve been apart of.

Frankly, this felt random as hell and features a slew of films that no one cared about when they came out and certainly don’t care about now. While they talk about some solid films like Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn and Vampires, they also spend a lot of time talking about shit movies like Van Helsing, BloodRayne and Queen of the Damned.

I wouldn’t call this informative or entertaining. It’s a pointless, shitty production that only barely scratches the surface on the history of vampire cinema and would rather showcase Uwe Boll and Stephen Sommers rambling about their atrocious movies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: sniffing hobo farts.

 

Film Review: Grindhouse (2007)

While I have seen both Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof multiple times, I never got to see the full-length version of Grindhouse until now.

When it came out in 2007, only one theater near me carried it and it wasn’t there very long, so I missed it. Also, the films were released separately, as expanded editions, when they hit store shelves. There wasn’t a full version of Grindhouse available after its theatrical run.

When I subscribed to Starz via my Amazon Fire Stick, I saw that the full version of the movie was available and thus, I could finally rectify this cinematic injustice. I’m really glad that I did because these films actually play much better in this format, as double-billed companion pieces to one another.

Plus, I finally got to see the trailers, as a part of this overall experience, even though I have seen them on YouTube multiple times since 2007.

Robert Rodriguez’s trailer for Machete was a highlight of the film and it was so good that it became its own motion picture and then expanded into a franchise. Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS trailer was interesting enough, as a trailer, but doesn’t seem like something that will work as a full-length feature. The same can be said for Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Now Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving should be made into a full-length slasher film in the same vein as Machete. Roth has hinted at making it and I hope he eventually does.

This film also spawned a contest for fans to make fake trailers in the grindhouse style. This lead to the full-length feature Hobo With A Shotgun, which was a hell of a lot of fun. I need to re-watch it and review it in the near future.

Moving beyond the fake trailers, we have the two big films that make up the bulk of the Grindhouse experience. So let me get into each film and discuss them on their own.

Planet Terror (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Music by: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Stacy Ferguson, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Quentin Tarantino, Tom  Savini, Michael Parks

Rodriguez International Pictures, Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Now you’ve got a gal in your wrecked truck with a missing leg? A missing leg that’s now missing?” – Sheriff Hague

Planet Terror has always been my favorite of the two movies in Grindhouse. That still stands, as I love just about everything about it. It may even be my favorite Robert Rodriguez picture but it is a close race between this, From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

The film is essentially a zombie outbreak movie but it is really gross, even for that genre. People’s faces start bubbling into puss and there is a lot of blood and other strange bodily fluids oozing out of people throughout the movie. There are also lots of severed testicles and a melting penis. It’s a gross movie but it is still well done and it doesn’t overtake the picture making it a mindless gore festival.

Planet Terror has a lot of depth and character development for a movie loaded with a ton of people. Everyone has an interesting story and it is cool seeing it all play out as these people eventually come together in an effort to escape the growing threat of a zombie apocalypse.

It also really fits the old school 1970s exploitation style of horror pictures that populated grindhouse theaters in big cities. The cinematography really captures the right vibe and kudos to the extra graininess and inconsistent look of different shots in the same sequences.

The practical effects also work well in making this film fit the grindhouse mold. Sometimes there is obvious CGI and it is a reminder that this isn’t a true 70s grindhouse picture but it isn’t a distraction and it serves its purpose well enough.

The cast is also phenomenal. I remember that when I first saw this, that I hoped it would open up doors for Freddy Rodriguez. He’s still not anywhere close to being a household name but his character of El Wray should reappear in some way, in some other Rodriguez picture. He’s a guy too cool to just be confined to this one movie.

This is also my favorite thing that Rose McGowan has ever done. Plus you get a very evil Josh Brolin, an enchanting Marley Shelton, a bad ass Michael Biehn, plus Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Bruce Willis, Lost‘s Naveen Andrews and Quentin Tarantino as his most despicable character to date. Jeff Fahey, who is always stellar, really kills it in this movie as J.T. the Texas B-B-Q king. Also, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has never looked better.

Planet Terror is unique, even for a film in a tired genre. It takes the zombie formula and ups the ante in every way possible. Rodriguez made a fine picture that should be mentioned alongside other great zombie classics.

Rating: 8/10

Death Proof (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: Rachel Levy, Jack Nitzsche, Mary Ramos
Cast: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks, James Parks, Marley Shelton

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 114 Minutes

Review:

“Because it was a fifty fifty shot on wheter you’d be going left or right. You see we’re both going left. You could have just as easily been going left, too. And if that was the case… It would have been a while before you started getting scared. But since you’re going the other way, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to start getting scared… immediately!” – Stuntman Mike

When I first saw Death Proof, it didn’t resonate with me. I mean, I enjoyed it enough but it just didn’t compare to the work that Quentin Tarantino did before it. I still feel this way but I have more of an appreciation for the film now. Also, seeing it in the Grindhouse format, which is more condensed, serves the film better.

The problem I initially had with the film, and some of Tarantino’s other pictures, is that it is way too talky. Sure, he writes great dialogue but sometimes it can run on for far too long. Death Proof in its longer running time falls victim to this. The condensed Grindhouse version, however, is better balanced.

Another problem with the film, is that many of the characters just aren’t likable. This is especially true for the first group of girls we meet. At least the second group felt more like friends and their conversations came across as more natural and authentic.

Kurt Russell initially knocks it out of the park as the killer driver, Stuntman Mike. However, as the film and his character evolves, he completely loses the cool bad ass shtick and becomes a giant whining weeny. His character transformation isn’t a bad thing, it is just how it is executed that makes it a problem.

The one thing that really makes this a cool picture, however, is the cars and the stunts. Tarantino selected some seriously bad ass automobiles that were homages to films that influenced him. The stunt work and action was amazing and the sequence of the first major accident was shot and executed stupendously.

The problem with the film, being that it is supposed to be a grindhouse throwback, is that it needed more balls-to-the-wall mayhem and less chit chat. The fact that this has a lot more dialogue than Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror but somehow can’t develop characters as well is pretty baffling. Tarantino would just rather focus on cool conversations on subjects that directly interest him than to have any sort of meaningful character development. You just don’t care about these people in the same way you care about those in Planet Terror.

Regardless of my criticisms, I do still like this movie. But to be honest, I still think it is the worst film in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. Granted, that doesn’t mean much, as everything he’s done has been fairly great in some way.

In the end, this is still entertaining as hell and who doesn’t love muscle car chaos and kick ass chicks?

Rating: 7/10

Additional directorial credits:

Robert Rodriguez – Machete trailer
Rob Zombie – Werewolf Women of the SS trailer
Edgar Wright – Don’t trailer
Eli Roth – Thanksgiving trailer

Additional acting credits from the fake trailer segments: Danny Trejo, Nicolas Cage, Sheri Moon Zombie, Cheech Marin, Udo Kier, Tom Towles, Sybil Danning, Bill Moseley, Will Arnett, Nick Frost, Rafe Spall, Jason Issacs, Simon Pegg, Peter Serafinowicz