Film Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Also known as: Die Hard 2 (simplified title), 58 Minutes (working title)
Release Date: July 2nd, 1990 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Steven E. de Souza, Doug RIchardson
Based on: 58 Minutes by Walter Wagner, characters by Roderick Thorpe
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Fred Thompson, Tom Bower, Sheila McCarthy, Vondie Curtis-Hall, John Leguizamo, Robert Patrick, Mark Boone Junior, Colm Meaney, Robert Costanzo

Twentieth Century Fox, Gordon Company, Silver Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Oh man, I can’t fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” – John McClane

Why the fuck do people shit on this movie? It’s a solid action flick with a solid action star that also boasts one of the manliest casts ever assembled for a motion picture not named The Expendables.

I love this movie and while I can recognize that it isn’t a perfect masterpiece like its predecessor, it is still a fine motion picture that helped to make the original Die Hard Trilogy one of the greatest trilogies of all-time. That was all undone and fucked up once Hollywood went back to the cow to milk the tits off of the franchise years later but I still consider the first three Die Hards to be a trilogy and that’s that.

John McClane is back and honestly, that’s all you really need. However, they set this one at Christmas, once again, and then padded out the rest of the cast with some of the coolest male actors of the time: Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Fred Thompson, Tom Bower, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Robert Patrick, John Leguizamo, Mark Boone Junior and Colm Meaney. Not to mention that they also brought back Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton and Reginald VelJohnson in a cameo.

There is so much testosterone in this picture that it is hard to see the movie sometimes as it’ll spill over the top of the screen and ooze down the front of it. If that’s not what you’re looking for in an action flick circa 1990, then go watch Fried Green Tomatoes with your Aunt Millicent!

This film grabs you from the get go and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. It’s packed full of action and when shit isn’t blowing up or getting shot at, we’re treated to solid scenes between the solid cast and thus, there isn’t a dull moment in this entire picture.

I love the chemistry between just about everyone in this film. Bruce Willis, at least in this era, could work with anybody and bring the best out of them. While the guy has unparalleled charisma, it always seems to carry over and rub off on anyone he works with. I absolutely loved his banter with Dennis Franz and I also loved his camaraderie with Art Evans.

Looking at another tandem that’s great in this picture, I have to tip my hat to Bonnie Bedelia and William Atherton. This is their second time playing these characters that are at odds with one another but they work so well together that it kind of sucks that they never came back for any of the other films.

Look, it is hard to top perfection, which is what the first Die Hard was. But, man, this is a really good attempt at trying to follow it up and just give the fans more of what they wanted.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films of the era.

Vids I Dig 311: Yesterworld: The Troubled History of the ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ – Why & How It Failed

From Yesterworld’s YouTube description: Exploring the little known History behind the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, how it came to be and why it’s one of the Star Wars Franchises most infamous blunders. The idea by George Lucas began with promise, but ultimately became “so bad it’s good” of the Star Wars universe.

Film Review: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Shane Black
Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Ed O’Ross, Al Leong, Jack Thibeau, Renée Estevez (uncredited – Director’s Cut)

Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes, 117 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I’m too old for this shit!” – Roger Murtaugh

Since there have been rumblings, once again, about Lethal Weapon 5, I was reminded that I haven’t really watched the original film in quite awhile. So, since I have the DVD box set, I figured that I’d give them all a rewatch and a review.

I actually forgot how dark this first film was in regards to Martin Riggs’ depression and suicidal thoughts. Sure, I remember that part of the story but I see a lot more layers with it now, as an adult that has dealt with depression his entire life and many of the experiences and thoughts that come with it. I can also relate to the loss and grief that Riggs felt over his wife’s death, as I lost someone very close to me, which had me in a similar head space for a few years.

As a kid and a teen, I don’t think I understood the real depth of Riggs’ despair and I also didn’t fully understand how this is a movie about a broken man finding something to live for and that he is essentially adopted by a family that grows to love him as one of their own. And honestly, I’m not sure if Shane Black’s script meant to take it that deep but Mel Gibson and Danny Glover add so much to their roles and this story, emotionally, that lesser actors couldn’t have achieved this on quite the same level with this much human emotion.

That being said, the film is really about a man emerging from absolute darkness and finding his way in the world again. And while this isn’t the main plot thread of the sequels, it helped to establish the bond between Riggs and Murtaugh so well, that the emotions and connections in this film created such a strong foundation that it made the camaraderie in the sequels natural and frankly, easy.

The movie is an action comedy, despite the really heavy emotional stuff, and within that, it has a great balance between the darker stuff and its lighthearted playfulness. It’s also full of badass action and just makes me wish that Hollywood could still make pictures like this that are this good.

Action comedies in the modern era just don’t hit the right notes. You can’t compare any of those Kevin Hart buddy action comedies to the Lethal Weapon films and that’s not a knock against the talented Hart, I think it is just a product of the times we live in and their contrast to what the 1980s (and ’90s) were.

A lot of the credit has to go to Richard Donner, who was on his A-game as a director in the ’80s, as well as producer Joel Silver, a man that was involved with some of the most iconic films of all-time, especially in this era and the action genre.

But it all really comes back to the greatness that is the pairing of Gibson and Glover. They’re bond and their banter is absolute perfection. You buy into what they’re selling and they feel like they’re your friends too. On top of that, Glover’s family is great and they make the scenes they share with the two leads pretty special.

While the actual plot dealing with the crime element in the film is a bit thin, it’s still interesting and it also brings in great performances from Gary Busey, Tom Atkins and the grossly underappreciated Mitchell Ryan. I also love seeing and hearing Al Leong actually speak in this beyond just being a voiceless henchman.

On top of all that, the action sequences are superb, the stunts are fantastic and this is a movie that still packs a punch and is just as exciting as it was over thirty years ago.

Lethal Weapon is a stupendous film. It has the greatest tandem in buddy cop movie history and it has aged tremendously well.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s buddy action movies.

Film Review: The Painted Hills (1951)

Also known as: Lassie’s Adventures in the Goldrush (alternative title), Lassie’s Christmas Story (DVD title)
Release Date: April 21st, 1951 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Harold F. Kress
Written by: True Boardman, Alexander Hull
Based on: The Lassie novels by Eric Knight
Music by: Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cast: Pal (credited as “Lassie”), Paul Kelly, Bruce Cowling, Gary Gray, Ann Doran

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 68 Minutes

Review:

This must have been featured on one of the few Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes that I missed because I don’t remember Joel and the ‘Bots ever riffing a Lassie movie.

In fact, based off of the film’s title, I had just assumed this was a standard western. Now while it is a western and a pretty basic one, Lassie the dog is front and center and gets top billing.

All that being said, this is a pretty boring movie even for a Lassie one but full disclosure, I’ve never been a big Lassie fan.

It lacks the energy and spirit of the television show, the version of Lassie I, and probably everyone, am most familiar with.

The story actually doesn’t even feel that much like a Lassie story, as the dog is named Shep. It’s also a darker tale than the television plots, as it focuses on a nice old prospector who finds gold but is then murdered by his partner. The evil partner also poisons Shep the dog and nearly kills Tommy, the little kid in the story. Lassie… er… Shep gets revenge though, as she chases the evil bastard until he falls off of a cliff to his death.

I should’ve prefaced that paragraph with a spoiler alert but I’m saving my readers from watching this dud. However, I guess it’s palatable if you watch it on MST3K.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Lassie movies, as well as the long running television show.

Vids I Dig 186: Yesterworld: 7 Abandoned Christmas Theme Park Attractions, Overlays & Events

From Yesterworld’s YouTube description: Explore 7 Abandoned Disneyland, Disney World, Universal Studios & More Theme Park Christmas Overlays and attractions. From Hollywood Studios Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, to Frozen Fever: Olaf’s Snow Fest, Universal Studios “Christmas” King Kong Encounter, and Knott’s Berry Farm Christmas Elf Mountain.

Film Review: Scrooged (1988)

Also known as: Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (original script title)
Release Date: November 17th, 1988 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Mitch Glazer, Michael O’Donoghue
Based on: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Michael J. Pollard, Alfre Woodard, John Glover, David Johansen, Mary Ellen Trainor, Mabel King, John Murray, Wendie Malick, Brain Doyle-Murray, Lee Majors (cameo), Miles Davis (cameo), Robert Goulet (cameo), Paul Shaffer (cameo), Buddy Hackett, Mary Lou Retton, Jamie Farr, Anne Ramsey, Logan Ramsey, Delores Hall, Joel Murray

Paramount Pictures, Mirage Productions, 101 Minutes

Review:

“That’s the one good thing about regret: it’s never too late. You can always change tomorrow if you want to.” – Claire Phillips

Scrooged is my favorite Christmas movie that doesn’t fit in the action or horror genres, even though it has a wee bit of those two things. It’s a comedy starring the legendary Bill Murray and it was directed by Richard Donner, coming off of Lethal Weapon, Ladyhawke and The Goonies.

The film also has an all-star cast comprised of a few legends, a few solid character actors and the always lovely Karen Allen and Alfre Woodard.

It’s a modernized adaptation of Charles Dickens’ most famous story, A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray essentially plays Ebeneezer Scrooge but in this story, he’s named Frank Cross and he is the president of a major television network, stressed out over the live televised adaptation of A Christmas Carol that he is producing.

As can be expected with adaptations of this story, Cross is visited by three ghosts: The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present and The Ghost of Christmas Future. He is taken on a journey through his life and is shown his fate if he doesn’t wise up and change his ways.

There aren’t any shocking twists or deviations from the traditional story structure of A Christmas Carol, other than setting it in contemporary times and modifying some of the smaller details to fit what was ’80s pop culture society.

The film has a good bit of crude humor but it’s nothing that’s off putting or that takes away from the spirit of Dickens’ classic story. In fact, I love the update and frankly, for the time that this came out in and the inclusion of Murray, this was probably the most palatable version of the story that had been adapted. It’s not strict to the source material but it benefits because of that while keeping the original plot structure intact.

Scrooged may feel dated to some and like a product of its time but it is a classic Christmas film for many, myself included, and it doesn’t get old. I think a lot of that has to do with the charisma supernova that is Bill Murray while the kind nature of Karen Allen, as well as the fantastic cast around Murray, make this something unique, special and entertaining.

Plus, there is just something perfect about Danny Elfman’s score in this film. It sets the tone for the picture immediately and it just accents and enhances the movie like a great musical score should.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other great non-traditional Christmas movies of the ’80s like Trading Places, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Die Hard, Gremlins and Lethal Weapon.

Film Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2 (1987)

Release Date: April 10th, 1987
Directed by: Lee Harry
Written by: Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle, Dennis Patterson, Lawrence Appelbaum
Music by: Michael Armstrong
Cast: Eric Freeman, James L. Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jean Miller, Lilyan Chauvin (archive footage), Robert Brian Wilson (archive footage), Linnea Quigley (archive footage)

Silent Night Releasing Corporation, 88 Minutes

Review:

“[about to shoot a man carrying a garbage can] Gaaarbaaage daaay!” – Ricky Caldwell

While I enjoyed Silent Night, Deadly Night, I’ve never seen the sequels except for the fifth one that stars Mickey Rourke as the creator of killer Christmas toys.

Seeing this one now, I was surprised to discover that I like it more than its predecessor. While the first third-to-half of this film is bogged down by flashbacks of the original movie, once this becomes its own story, focused on the younger brother of the original killer, the film becomes pretty awesome.

Frankly, you can probably just start with this film as everything important from the first movie is shown in this chapter and honestly, you’re not missing much from the scenes that were omitted.

While this movie has been panned for years because of how bonkers and absurd it can seem at face value, I absolutely love the performance of Eric Freeman as the killer younger brother. His performance is over the top but that just adds to the insanity and tone of the film, which honestly, would’ve been kind of drab without his intensity. He makes the picture work and if I dare be so bold, he saves it from just being a rehash of shit we’ve already seen.

The whole sequence surrounding the infamous “garbage daaay!” moment is schlock of the highest caliber. From the moment he kills his girlfriend’s ex, his girlfriend, the cop and then goes on a gun toting killing spree that ends in a damn good car stunt, we’re treated to one of the most entertaining, bizarre and unintentionally stupendous cinema moments of ’80s horror.

While the average person would find this movie off-putting and stupid, I found it to be a true hidden gem that hits the right notes, perfectly, for those of us that like hearty helpings of ’80s horror schlock. Plus, it’s a Christmas movie.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, but then again, that whole movie is basically re-told in the first half of this film. So I guess the sequels, which all veer off in their own weird directions.

Film Review: Jack Frost (1997)

Release Date: November 18th, 1997
Directed by: Michael Cooney
Written by: Michael Cooney, Jeremy Paige
Music by: Chris Anderson, Carl Schurtz
Cast: Christopher Allport, Stephen Mendel, F. William Parker, Rob LaBelle, Shannon Elizabeth, Jack Lindine, Zack Egniton, Brian Leckner, Marsha Clark, Eileen Seeley, Kelly Jean Peters, Scott MacDonald

Frost Bite Films Ltd., Moonstone Entertainment, Storyteller Films Ltd., A-Pix Entertainment, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Gosh. I only axed you for a smoke.” – Jack Frost

I’ve heard people refer to this as the movie that made Shannon Elizabeth famous. Actually, I think this is the movie that Shannon Elizabeth made famous after she blew up from her part in the original American Pie and rumors that she was also nude in this flick.

Apart from Shannon Elizabeth, there really isn’t anything in this film worth looking at.

It’s a horror comedy about a killer that has his body turned into shapeshifting sentient snow. So basically, he’s a killer snowman with some nonsensical snow-based powers and lots of really bad one-liners.

While this isn’t a movie made by Full Moon, it has a similar vibe in its cheapness, its terribly bad humor and its lack of anything that will make you want to sit still for 89 minutes. Well, except the infamous Shannon Elizabeth scene but that only takes up about three percent of the film’s run time.

The special effects are bad, the acting is bad, the jokes are even worse and the film is pretty boring, even though it features one of the strangest horror monsters of its time.

There’s not much else to say about the movie, as there isn’t much worth talking about other than Shannon Elizabeth. But you can just watch her important scene online and skip the other 97 percent of the movie.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other terrible, terrible horror movies.

Retro Relapse: Selling Out to Black Friday

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

I hate Black Friday.

Truthfully, everyone should loathe it. It is an awful day that shows commercially obsessed Americans behaving at their very worst.

You have people who camp out for a week on concrete in front of Best Buy – just to save $15 on a 12″ television set. You have insane people who will punch each other’s lights out over the last “jerk me off” Muppet doll. People get mauled, they get crushed and they get stomped to death in America’s version of the Running of the Bulls. Let’s call it the Running of the Fools.

The hysteria is only getting worse. Now stores open even earlier. In fact, some open up on Thanksgiving before people are even able to get to their second plate of gluttony. Trust the advertising, screw your family!

Americans watch football, stuff their faces and then shout for glee over every commercial that shows some insane Black Friday deal that you can only get if you drop your turkey right that second and rush out the door to beat the other psychos that sold out their family for a couple fifty cent pillow shams and a $30 phablet that can shit out espresso.

I hate you people; you are the absolute worst and I don’t shed a tear when I hear about your kind getting squished to death trying to grab a limited edition toaster designed by Beyoncé.

I have always refused to participate. Not because I don’t believe in capitalism, but because I believe in what Thanksgiving represents – enjoying time with those I care about and celebrating that time together and eating a fuck ton of food until I hate myself and then go on to eat even more.

Hell, I couldn’t participate in Black Friday if I tried, because I embrace Thanksgiving like a goddamned champion and because of that, don’t plan to move for at least 48-to-72 hours. Additionally, it forces my family and I to have to spend time together because we are all sprawled out all over the house like hibernating bears moaning loudly like cold winos with an empty bottle.

If any of us were to participate in Black Friday, we would lose this annual tradition and quality time with one another. In turn, we would be transformed to serial murderers trying to collect a bunch of pointless trophies we don’t need while throwing away money on them because someone else will acquire the pointless trophies if we don’t.

It’s like the whole point of Black Friday is to be able to say to your neighbors and friends, “Hey, look at me! I’ve got all this shit! I’m fucking broke but I’ve got the most shit! Haha! And I’m glad my children saw me kill a woman to get this Hello Kitty branded thimble! You’re all fucking losers! Ha!”

So after years of refusing to participate in this annual Purge event, I stepped outside of my house because I had to acquire something. No, not a pointless trophy and not just some shit. I had to acquire a four pack of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout.

I sold my soul to the commerce gods, I am aware of this. The payoff was worth it, however.

The thing is, what I sought wasn’t some super HD smart goggles or a smartphone that can make a sub or a limited release doll with a light-up asshole or a special edition hobo-scented candle. What I wanted to get was the very best stout that America has to offer. It is actually something that enhances and enriches life, as opposed to something that just drains it away.

This beer only comes out once a year and in very limited quantities. I hate that they tie it to Black Friday but since it is a Budweiser owned product, the fingers of evil are touching this majestic brew. Unfortunately for me, I could not deny myself the experience of drinking this annual release even though it is on Black Friday.

Reflecting on my decision and having now drank this year’s version of the beer, Bourbon County Stout not only lives up to the hype, it far exceeds it. I actually went into this with the utmost skepticism. I anticipated it being very good but I didn’t anticipate it being a five-star beer.

I’ve had many great stouts in my day but this one takes the cake.

There is a lot going on with this stout. There are slight nuances of barley, roasted grains, chocolate, molasses, vanilla, caramel, fig and charred wood. It is jet black with a thin khaki-colored head, as well as a thick and somewhat creamy body. It also packs a nice punch with its alcohol level but is still smooth as hell and not bitey.

It cost me around $24 for the four pack and even though I’m a bit broke this week, it was a wise purchase. This time next year, I am going to have some extra money set aside so that I can buy their other limited edition beers that also come out on Black Friday.

Now I don’t expect Budweiser to do anything not evil but if they cared about families and the real spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, they should release the Bourbon County beers before the holiday, not the day after. I would much rather stock up on as much as I could get and then share it with my appreciative family members and friends over our epic Thanksgiving dinner. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy this on the biggest day of the year to celebrate gluttonous behavior?

In fact, savoring this brew might make people slow down on Thanksgiving and savor their food more. Maybe they wouldn’t get as full so fast and they would eat less and thus, not hate themselves after going comatose in the third quarter of the Cowboys game.

If acquiring Bourbon County’s beers ever becomes as insane of a task as going to Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I won’t do it. The fact that I was able to walk into ABC Liquor and grab a four pack within ten minutes, made this Black Friday experience okay. If this beer generates psycho levels of hysteria and people will try to kill me for a place in line, I won’t be in that line.

The moral of the story is that people are often times stupid and crazy. This stout was worth taking the risk of having to traverse through a sea of psychos. Luckily for me, psychos don’t like good beer or at least the psychos in my town don’t have good palates.