Film Review: Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990)

Also known as: Roger Rabbit: Roller Coaster Rabbit (alternative title)
Release Date: June 15th, 1990
Directed by: Rob Minkoff, Frank Marshall (live-action part)
Written by: Bill Kopp, Kevin Harkey, Lynne Naylor, Patrick A. Ventura
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Lou Hirsch, April Winchell, Corey Burton, Frank Welker, Charlie Adler (uncredited)

Amblin Entertainment, Silver Screen Partners IV, Walt Disney Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, 8 Minutes

Review:

“Save me. Save me.” – Jessica Rabbit

Like Tummy Trouble, this Roger Rabbit animated short was released theatrically and paired with a big live-action Disney movie. In the case of this film, it was originally released in 1990 with Dick Tracy.

I don’t like this one as much as its predecessor but it’s still a quick, amusing animated short that does a pretty good job of using Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman and Jessica Rabbit.

The plot follows Roger, as he once again has to babysit Baby Herman. Except in this cartoon, they find themselves at a theme park with dangerous carnival games, an angry bull, a roller coaster and other obstacles. We also get another Droopy Dog cameo.

Overall, the plot and the gags aren’t as good as Tummy Trouble but it’s still effective and hits the right notes.

From a production standpoint, the animation looks like it’s a bit of a step down. The colors and shadowing look muted and more simplistic but that could also be due to where this takes place. Regardless, I can’t look at this after Tummy Trouble and not feel like this one was rushed out.

It’s still fine for what it is and honestly, I wish Disney would have made more of these than just three.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Roger Rabbit shorts, as well as the fill-length Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Film Review: Bad Boys (1995)

Also known as: Bulletproof Hearts (original script title)
Release Date: April 6th, 1995 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Written by: Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland, Doug Richardson, George Gallo
Music by: Mark Mancina
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Tea Leoni, Tcheky Karyo, Theresa Randle, Joe Pantoliano, Nestor Serrano, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Imperioli, John Salley, Chris Mitchum, Kim Coates

Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, 119 Minutes

Review:

“He steals our shit, kidnaps Julie, shoots at my wife. Oh, we beatin’ him down. We beatin’ him down!” – Marcus Burnett

I always liked the Bad Boys movies but I haven’t watched any of them since they were in the theater. I also haven’t seen the recent, third picture and I wanted to refresh my memory with the old ones before checking it out.

So going way back to 1995 was kind of cool. It was a turning point year in my personal life, as I moved from one parent’s house to another’s and with that, got to experience my later teenage years with more freedom and greater experiences.

The pairing of Martin Lawrence and Will Smith was just money, especially back then. And frankly, it worked so well, they’re still making these movies two and a half decades later, even if they take too damn long to actually make sequels. We could’ve been up to Bad Boys 9 by now and honestly, with these two, each film would’ve probably still been enjoyable. I mean, they are the second greatest buddy cop duo after Riggs and Murtaugh from the Lethal Weapon film series.

I also like all the other characters in these guys’ orbit from Joe Pantoliano, Theresa Randle and the two other detectives that they have a professional rivalry with.

In this film, we also get Tea Leoni and I liked her so much with these guys that it was kind of a let down that she wasn’t in the second film, even in a cameo role. I’m not sure if she’s in the third but she was such a big part of this original film, I find it weird that she’s not even mentioned after it. Well, as far as I know, as I haven’t seen the third one yet.

The story is pretty cookie cutter, buddy cop stuff. The villain is a European shithead, which was also common with the action flicks of the ’80s and ’90s. The baddie is fairly generic and his acting skills aren’t all that up to par but he serves his purpose and gives these two awesome cops a target to take out.

This film has very strong Lethal Weapons and Beverly Hills Cop vibes about it. That’s a very good thing, as it kept cool buddy cop movies going into another decade, especially after the incredibly weak and disappointing misfire that was Beverly Hills Cop III in 1994.

Being that this is an early Michael Bay picture, it isn’t completely over the top and the action all feels plausible and real. I remember the second film in the series getting really insane and it felt less grounded in reality. This one keeps things pretty straightforward, pretty simple and very badass and cool.

Seeing this now, this is a film series I probably should’ve revisited since its chapters were released. It’s good, it’s fun, I love the two leads, their allies and the total package. While I can’t put it on the same level as the early Lethal Weapon movies, it successfully borrows the formula and creates something unique and special.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Bad Boys films, as well as the Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop movies.

Film Review: Bartleby (2001)

Also known as: Bartleby at the Office (working title)
Release Date: March 10th, 2001 (SXSW)
Directed by: Jonathan Parker
Written by: Herman Melville, Jonathan Parker, Catherine DiNapoli
Based on: Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Music by: Seth Asarnow, Jonathan Parker
Cast: David Paymer, Crispin Glover, Glenne Headly, Maury Chaykin, Joe Piscopo, Seymour Cassel, Carrie Snodgrass, Dick Martin

Parker Film Company, 83 Minutes

Review:

“I would prefer not to.” – Bartleby

Outside of his own directorial efforts, Bartleby may be the most Crispin Glover movie out of all the Crispin Glover movies ever made.

But I’ve always liked Glover and since I hadn’t seen this since it was fairly new, I figured it was time to revisit it. Plus, it was available for free to Prime members.

The film is a modernized adaptation of Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivemer and despite its setting, it doesn’t really deviate too much from the source material. I also think that the creative approach makes it more palatable to a modern audience, who might not want to read the old story or watch the 1970 adaptation of it.

While Crispin Glover plays the title character, the main character is actually The Boss, played by David Paymer.

Paymer approaches the role a bit understated, except where emotion overcomes him. It’s a really good performance and he is able to display agitation and care on almost the flip of a dime. He feels damn genuine, as he tries to understand and deal with the difficulties of his new employee.

Glover’s performance is even more understated than Paymer’s but the role of Bartleby calls for that, as one has to assume that he’s a guy that’s just given up on life. What’s interesting about the story is that you never really get to solve or really understand the mystery that is Bartleby. He comes into the story and eventually, his story is over, not revealing much about him. Now there are some clues as to why he was so depressed and unable to participate in the world but it’s never made fully clear to the viewer.

The cast is rounded out by other really talented people who work at or come into the office. You have Glenne Headly as the secretary with Joe Piscopo and Maury Chaykin as co-workers who become very disgruntled over Bartleby’s lack of effort. Seymour Cassel also appears in a minor role as a sort of sleazy businessman.

I like the style and simplicity of the film. It feels otherworldly and its supposed to but it works well for the material. Everything is also helped out by an interesting, quirky and cool score by Seth Asarnow and the film’s director, Jonathan Parker.

Overall, this is a strange but interesting movie that was the perfect vehicle for someone as unique and talented as Glover. I don’t know if it was made with him in mind for the title character but it really was perfect casting and gave the film a certain mystique it probably would’ve been lacking without his involvement.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the 1970 adaptation of Bartleby, as well as other films starring Crispin Glover.

Comic Review: Michael Allred’s Madman, Vol. 2

Published: March 11th, 2009
Written by: Mike Allred, Frank Miller
Art by: Mike Allred, Laura Allred

Dark Horse, Image Comics (reprint), 323 Pages

Review:

Michael Allred created something special, unique, quirky and cool with Madman. And since I own a lot of the floppies from the earliest issues, I’ve wanted to revisit them from the beginning. While I don’t have them all, I did pick up the collected editions during a sale on Comixology.

I really enjoyed the first volume, so I figured that reading the second one was long overdue.

This sort of picks up where that one left off and this collection covers multiple story arcs but everything here happens in order and builds off of the constantly evolving narrative.

These issues came out once the series moved from Tundra to Dark Horse. What’s cool about that is that this was able to have a cameo by Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. It’s really neat seeing the two characters come together, even though it just happens in one issue and is short-lived. I’m not sure if this series has anymore minor crossovers in the following volumes but I liked seeing Allred and Mignola’s universes overlap, even if it was just briefly.

The art in this one feels more crisp and more polished. The first volume was initially in black and white but this one comes to life with incredibly vibrant colors that just work so well with the line art and give this a cool, pulpy look that made it stand out from what was the norm in the ’90s when this was originally produced. That’s really what made me take notice of the original floppy copies back then.

In the end, this expands the mythos and made me love this world even more. This series is hilarious and strange in the best way possible.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other early Madman collections, as well as SCUD: The Disposable Assassin, the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics and The Goon.

Film Review: Leap of Faith (1992)

Release Date: December 15th, 1992 (Dallas premiere)
Directed by: Richard Pearce
Written by: Janus Cercone
Music by: Cliff Eidelman
Cast: Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Lolita Davidovich, Liam Neeson, Lukas Haas, Meat Loaf, Philip Seymour Hoffman, M. C. Gainey, Delores Hall, Troy Evans

Paramount Pictures, 108 Minutes, 95 Minutes (Ontario cut)

Review:

“Look, I run a show here. It’s a lot of smoke and noise and it’s strictly for the suckers. I’ve been pulling one kind of scam or another since I was your age, and if there’s one thing I know it’s how to spot the genuine article because that’s what you’ve got to watch out for. Not the cops, you can always get around the cops. But the one thing you can never, ever get around is the genuine article, and you, kid, are the genuine article.” – Jonas

I saw this movie once a really long time ago but I really liked it and had been meaning to revisit it at some point. It’s just one of those films that slipped down the memory hole. But when I reviewed My Blue Heaven, I discovered that I hadn’t yet reviewed any of Steve Martin’s work, which was surprising due to how much I love the guy. So when I went down the list of his films, this one immediately popped out as one I needed to revisit as soon as possible.

I’m really glad that I did, as it’s held up pretty well and I’m honestly not sure why this isn’t considered one of Steve Martin’s best from the general critical consensus.

This is a film that really shows Martin’s dramatic range while still allowing him to be comedic. But this is a more serious picture than his most popular ones. Just being a few years removed from Parenthood, however, Martin was able to kind of build off of that film’s more serious tone and deliver another well-balanced performance that is both campy and real.

In this, he plays a professional conman that is running around America as a faith healer. He tries to justify his massive con by pointing out that his work, despite its dishonesty, does in fact help people because he makes them believe it. But ultimately, the story and the people he encounters on this stop of his journey, make him see himself and his work differently.

Martin is surrounded by a solid, very capable cast made up of Debra Winger, Liam Neeson, M. C. Gainey, Meat Loaf, a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman and an even younger Lukas Haas. But everyone in this film brings it. Plus, seeing the relationship blossom between Neeson’s Sheriff character, who wants to expose Martin’s preacher as a fraud, and Debra Winger, Martin’s trusted assistant, is really well orchestrated and executed.

The film lets you know that Steve Martin’s Jonas Nightingale is a pretty scummy guy from the get go but it still allows him to win you over and lure you in regardless of how he capitalizes off of very poor people’s naivety. You still fall for the guy even knowing the con and once you actually get to know him, you understand that his life has been pretty shitty too. It doesn’t excuse his poor life decisions but it allows you to understand where they came from and hope that he somehow finds a better path because he does touch people and could actually do some good in the world.

In its simplest form, this is a movie about redemption and I love redemption stories. It’s far from the greatest redemption story ever told but it is still a very enjoyable one that features a complex and charismatic character that you kind of want to root for in spite of his selfish, predatory nature.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Steve Martin comedies with a high emphasis on drama.

Film Review: The White, The Yellow, and The Black (1975)

Also known as: Il bianco il giallo il nero (original Italian title), Samurai (Canada), Ring Around the Horse’s Tail (US dubbed version), Shoot First… Ask Questions Later (US alternative title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Amendola & Corbucci, Santiago Moncada, Renee Asseo, Antonio Troisio, Marcello Coscia, Sergio Spina
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Tomas Milian, Eli Wallach

Filmel, Mundial Film, Tritone Cinematografica, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[about to be hanged by a gang] I’ll never die without my boots on, and a star on my chest.” – Sheriff Edward Gideon

I’ve seen and reviewed about a half dozen Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns in recent years. I didn’t know about this one, however, until I stumbled across it while looking for something else. But I’m glad I did, even if it’s one of Corbucci’s weaker westerns.

Still, it’s a well cast film with three cool characters that had nice chemistry and provided solid performances that required dramatic and comedic acting with a little pinch of badassness sprinkled in.

People today would probably find the fact that Italian actor Tomas Milian plays a samurai in the Old West to be “problematic” and while the character is written mostly for laughs by tapping into cultural stereotypes, Milian still gives his character a certain panache and coolness when push comes to shove.

Spaghetti western legends Eli Wallach and Giuliano Gemma also add some fun to the proceedings, with Wallach playing a Sheriff and Gemma playing a typical western cowboy.

The plot sees this unlikely trio come together to track down a stolen Japanese horse that was intended to be a gift for the US government. The three men end up embroiled in a rivalry with a band of desperadoes that are made up of former Confederate soldiers.

Side note: this film was actually made as a loose parody of the Charles Bronson starring Red Sun. Milian’s samurai character would also reappear in the film Crime at the Chinese Restaurant in 1981, directed by Sergio’s younger brother, Bruno Corbucci.

Out of the Corbucci westerns I’ve seen, this one is, unfortunately, the weakest. But I can’t fault the director for trying to do something different for his last picture in the genre. While the characters are amusing and work fairly well together, the movie does kind of miss its mark and pales in comparison to Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. I’d also rank it behind Navajo Joe, which wasn’t anywhere near as goofy and borderline slapstick-y despite having more humorous bits than Corbucci’s other spaghetti westerns.

This also lacks the gravitas of those earlier films. Not that that’s a bad thing, per se, but Corbucci sort of had a particular style with his westerns and this plays more like a generic western comedy than the great action flicks one could expect from Corbucci.

Overall, I like the casting and I enjoyed their characters but apart from that, this is almost forgettable and probably only stayed afloat in a sea of spaghetti flicks due to who made it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns.

Film Review: Dumbo (1941)

Also known as: Dumbo the Flying Elephant (working title)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1941 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Ben Sharpsteen (supervising director), Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, Samuel Armstrong
Written by: Otto Englander, Joe Grant, Dick Huemer
Based on: Dumbo, the Flying Elephant by Helen Aberson, Harold Pearl
Music by: Frank Churchill, Oliver Wallace
Cast: Edward Brophy, Herman Bing, Margaret Wright, Sterling Holloway, Verna Felton, Cliff Edwards, James Baskett, Nick Stewart, Hall Johnson, Jim Carmichael

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 64 Minutes

Review:

“[singing] I seen a peanut stand /And heard a rubber band /I’ve seen a needle that winked its eye / But I been done seen about everything / When I see an elephant fly.” – Jim Crow

Coming off of the masterpiece that was Fantasia, Disney had its work cut out for them but this was still a great animated feature film. I’d say that it falls somewhere between Pinocchio and Snow White, which just proves how consistently good Walt Disney Animation Studios were from the get go.

Dumbo is a really short film at just 64 minutes but it tells its story well and also still has time to get in some of the most iconic musical sequences in Disney’s long history.

The tone of the film is very similar to Pinocchio and it also shares some narrative similarities, as it follows a young, newborn character, as he tries to overcome adversity, learn from his experiences and grow into someone better. Like Pinocchio, it’s a film about personal growth but it does it in a fresh way that doesn’t simply retread what Pinocchio already did.

Additionally, where Pinocchio was an improvement in animation over Snow White, this film improves upon its predecessors. The animation is even more fluid here and Disney got really experimental in some sequences. The use of animated shadows is superb for the time and then in the “Elephants On Parade” musical sequence, Disney experimented with animating vibrant colors over a black background. They had to tweak and rework how they produced that sequence and ultimately, their innovation won out, creating one of the coolest moments from any Disney picture.

Dumbo isn’t close to being my favorite motion picture in the larger Walt Disney oeuvre but it’s simple, straight to the point and displays the greatness of the cinematic craftsman behind its production.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other early animated feature films.

Film Review: Mad Monkey Kung Fu (1979)

Also known as: Mad Monkey (Germany)
Release Date: October 5th, 1979 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lau Kar-leung
Written by: Ni Kuang
Music by: Eddie Wang
Cast: Hsiao Ho, Lau Kar-leung, Lo Lieh, Kara Hui, Ching Chu

Shaw Brothers, 116 Minutes

Review:

This was one of my favorite kung fu movies that used to pop up on cable when I was a kid. I’d watch it every time I came across it and my cousins and I would often times try to replicate what we saw in the film.

It’s also one of the pictures that led to us actually taking up martial arts. We wanted to be as cool as the heroes in this film, as well as the heroes in other innovative martial arts flicks like it. Then as the ’80s rolled on, we got more into ninja shit but it all really started with the clever and amusing Shaw Brothers films like this gem.

Watching it now, it all sort of came back to me. Honestly, I barely remembered the movie and a lot of the kung fu pictures of that era sort of blended together in my head. But certain scenes and sequences just triggered that nostalgia bug in my brain.

For what this is, it has aged really well and the film has this cool, youthful energy about it that makes it a lot of fun to watch, even as an adult with back problems that can’t do 1/10th of the martial arts that he thought he could do well as a kid.

As much as I enjoy Lo Lieh’s work, I actually forgot he was in this. It was cool seeing him get to ham it up while also being a total badass.

This is one of those kung fu classics that is really the perfect type of late ’70s/early ’80s drive-in action movie. It’s got just about everything you’d want in a Shaw Brothers film and just a wee bit more.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Shaw Brothers kung fu flicks.

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: The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Also known as: The Graveside Story (re-issue title, Germany)
Release Date: December 25th, 1963 (Detroit premiere)
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Written by: Richard Matheson
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown

Alta Vista Productions, American International Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“To… uh… paraphrase the venerable adage: we shall kill two birds, with one… pillow.” – Waldo Trumball

When I was a kid, I thought that the plot to The Comedy of Terrors was genius. In fact, it inspired a script outline that I wrote in high school for a movie I wanted to eventually make called Cremation.

The plot is about a funeral parlor owner who is about to lose his home/parlor due to not having any business. So he sets out to create business by killing some of the richer people in the community. Eventually, he sets his sights on his rich landlord because that would solve his biggest problem.

While the plot may sound dark and twisted, this is also a comedy and not standard 1960s horror fare.

The film also stars four great horror legends and it is directed by Jacques Tourneur, who helmed some solid horror and classic film-noir pictures in his day.

The humor is great and the tone of the film is superb. Vincent Price and Peter Lorre always had incredible chemistry and this might be the best they’ve ever been together, even though I consider The Raven to be a better film.

I also like the recurring gags in the film with Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, who don’t have as much screentime as Price and Lorre but they still add extra layers of awesomeness to the proceedings. Joyce Jameson is also entertaining and perfect in her role, as the object of Lorre’s affection while being married to the cantankerous and murderous Price.

This is a goofy but solid horror comedy in a time where films like that were rare. In the end, this really just showcases how great these actors were, all around, despite being mostly typecast as “horror actors”.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other pictures Vincent Price did for American International. Especially those co-starring Peter Lorre and/or Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone.