Film Review: Back to the Future, Part II (1989)

Also known as: Paradox (fake working title)
Release Date: November 20th, 1989 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue, Flea, James Tolkan, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jeffrey Weissman, Charles Fleischer, Jason Scott Lee, Elijah Wood, Joe Flaherty, Marc McClure (uncredited), Crispin Glover (archive footage)

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“The almanac. Son of a bitch stole my idea! He must have been listening when I… it’s my fault! The whole thing is my fault. If I hadn’t bought that damn book, none of this would have ever happened.” – Marty McFly

Back to the Future is pretty much a perfect film. Back to the Future, Part II isn’t perfect but it’s so damn good, it’s hard to see the flaws unless you really look for them and then, they’re mostly narrative issues that can be dismissed if you look at this with a Doctor Who “timey wimey” sentiment.

This chapter in the classic and awesome film series sees our heroes go to the future, return to an alternate present and then take a trip back to the past where we saw them in the first film. Part II takes you to more places than the other two films combined but it works really well for the middle act of this three act trilogy. It also does the best job of showing the consequences that can arise from disrupting the timeline.

I think that this has the most layered plot and with that, tells a more complicated story. I remember some people back in 1989 saying it was kind of hard to follow but these were also people significantly older than me. As a ten year-old, I thought it all made sense and I still do. Granted, there are some other paradoxes that this would have created and the film just conveniently ignores them but if it were to follow science to a T it would have broke the movie.

The cast is still solid in this film but Crispin Glover is sorely missed. I really wish he had returned to this just because I think it would have made the story better. While he appears in archive footage and another actor stands in for him and wears a mask of his face, this all lead to a major lawsuit that forced Hollywood to change how they use the likeness of non-contracted actors.

While I can’t say that this is better than the first movie, it is my favorite to revisit just for all the things it throws at you. It’s certainly the most entertaining overall and it sort of embraces the absurdity of its subject matter without overdoing it. It’s mostly a comedy but it is balanced well with its more dramatic moments. There is an underlying darkness in this chapter that the other two movies don’t have and I think it gives it a bit of an edginess lacking in the other two. Not that they needed to be edgy but that element works well here.

Back to the Future, Part II is how you do a sequel. It upped the ante, was more creative than its predecessor and enriched its universe, giving it more depth while developing its characters further.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.

Film Review: Back to the Future (1985)

Release Date: July 3rd, 1985
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, George DiCenzo, Frances Lee McCain, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jason Hervey, Maia Brewton, Courtney Gains, Huey Lewis (cameo)

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.” – Dr. Emmett Brown

Back to the Future is a classic, which makes it kind of hard to review. It’s a film I’ve put off reviewing for awhile because I can’t really come up with anything other than paragraphs of praise. It’s perfect.

Do I need to run through all the regular tidbits about it having a great story, script, director, cast, composer, cinematographer, special effects department and everything else under the sun?

I’m reviewing this right after I reviewed RoboCop, which I also gave a 10 out of 10. But don’t take that score lightly, it is really hard for me to give out 10s but this film certainly deserves it and maybe even a score slightly beyond that. The only other movie from my childhood that can really compete for this as the best film from that era is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

While the Roger Eberts, Gene Siskels and Pauline Kaels have their Citizen KaneVertigo and Seven Samurai, I have Raiders of the Lost ArkEmpire Strikes Back and Back to the Future. These are my generation’s classics and even though they are much more modern, their greatness can’t be denied. Well, unless you’re completely devoid of taste.

This film was a perfect storm, even if it had some major production issues early on. But those issues led to this and it’s hard to imagine that a film with a slightly different cast would have been as good as this ended up being.

If you haven’t seen this film already, I don’t understand what you’ve been doing with all of your time on this planet. If you have seen it and don’t like it, we probably won’t be friends.

This is, hands down, one of the absolute best films of the 1980s, regardless of genre or style. There are other movies that one can refer to as “perfect” but how many are actually this fun?

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.

TV Review: American Gods (2017- )

Original Run: April 30th, 2017 – current
Created by: Bryan Fuller, Michael Green
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Music by: Brian Reitzell
Cast: Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Pablo Schreiber, Gillian Anderson, Cloris Leachman, Peter Stormare, Orlando Jones, Dane Cook, Kristin Chenoweth, Corbin Bernsen, Beth Grant

Living Dead Guy, J.A. Green Construction Corp., The Blank Corporation, FremantleMedia North America, Starz, 8 Episodes (so far), 52-63 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been a subscriber of Starz for a bit now but I didn’t watch this as it was on. I’m a bigger fan of waiting for something to be over and then binging out on it for a few days.

But how could I not like this show? It has Ian McShane, a guy I have absolutely loved since Deadwood. It also features Crispin Glover, a man who has mesmerized me since I first discovered him in Back to the Future and then further enchanted me as I followed his career as it evolved well beyond the iconic George McFly. Plus, throw in Emily Browning and Gillian Anderson and you’ve certainly got my attention.

This show is also based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, who from a creative standpoint, never really disappoints.

It takes awhile to figure out what this show is and where it is going. I went into with no knowledge of the book, other than it being about gods. Essentially, Ian McShane plays an Old God and he is being challenged by the New Gods, who are trying to take over the world. McShane’s character hires Ricky Whittle’s character to be his driver and bodyguard. You don’t actually find out who McShane is until the end of the final episode of season one.

There are other characters and gods sprinkled into the show and they all have really interesting stories and plot threads. It is obvious that everything is connected but we don’t get to see how it all comes together by the end of the first season. Being only eight episodes, the first season is more of a setup than anything else. Luckily, there is a second season already in production.

It is hard to review the show, as it is very short and kind of just exists as a door into a much larger universe. So far, I really like what I see and this has a lot of potential to grow into something extraordinary.

The acting, directing, cinematography, music and tone are all great. The way the stories weave together is also well handled. If the quality maintains, as the universe broadens, those of us who watch this show are in for a real treat.

Plus, Crispin Glover and Gillian Anderson, as far as we know, are the villains.

I eagerly anticipate what’s to come when the show returns.

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part II – The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy (1984-1986)

Friday the 13th, Part IV – The Final Chapter (1984):

Release Date: April 13th, 1984
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Written by: Barney Cohen, Bruce Hidemi Sakow
Based on: characters by Victor Miller, Ron Kurz, Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Kimberly Beck, Peter Barton, Corey Feldman, E. Erich Anderson, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Barbara Howard, Lawrence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Judie Aronson, Camilla More, Carey More

Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

This film is the start of The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy. Reason being, all three films (IV-VI) feature the character of Tommy Jarvis at different ages, battling Jason Voorhees. Well, Part V doesn’t, as he battles a lame copycat killer.

In this film, Tommy is a small boy, played by Corey Feldman when he was still a cute kid. In fact, this is the best thing Corey Feldman ever did, even though the original The Lost Boys was pretty awesome and I am a fan of License to Drive for some odd reason.

The film also stars one of my favorite actors, Crispin Glover – most famous for playing George McFly in the original Back to the Future.

In this installment, Jason kills a house full of horny teens and decides to move on to the neighbor’s house where a young Tommy Jarvis lives with his older sister and mother. Tommy and his family also have the protection of Rob Dier, who is the brother of one of Jason’s victims from the second film. Rob has returned to Crystal Lake to destroy Jason. Considering there are like eight more films after this one, we know how that turns out for him.

I find this film to be better than the three before it. While the first is the most unique and the template of the series, The Final Chapter is more refined, fluid and engaging. It also features Crispin Glover’s dance scene, which is the best dance scene in film history.

This is the first film where Jason really feels like the Jason everyone is used to. And for a long time it was my favorite film in the series but upon re-watching these again, was upstaged a bit by Part VI – Jason Lives.

Although this film’s bizarre and intense ending is still my favorite in the series.

Friday the 13th, Part V – A New Beginning (1985):

Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Directed by: Danny Steinmann
Written by: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, Danny Steinmann
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Carol Locatell, Vernon Washington, John Robert Dixon, Jerry Pavlon, Caskey Swaim, Mark Venturini, Anthony Barrile, Dominick Brascia, Tiffany Helm, Richard Lineback, Corey Feldman, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr.

Paramount Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

Tommy Jarvis is back! But Jason isn’t.

That doesn’t make this a bad film even though fans of the series seem to hate this installment. Sure, the killer is Roy. Who the fuck is Roy? No one cares. What is Roy’s motivation? Still, no one cares. The point is, there is a psycho in a hockey mask murdering teens and other people who seemingly don’t fit the Jason Voorhees victim profile.

Tommy is older, he is slightly mad and somehow a master of judo, which he somehow forgets about when the sixth film rolls around a year later. He has visions of Jason and when the copycat killer springs up, it makes Tommy have to face those demons.

The film features a few scenes with Miguel A. Núñez, Jr, an actor I love in just about everything. In horror, he has been in the first Return of the Living Dead and Leprechaun 4: In Space. He is probably most known for being the star of the somewhat awesome, mostly awful Juwanna Man. The film also features a young Shavar Ross a.k.a. Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes and Vernon Washington, who played Otis in The Last Starfighter.

The film also features the second greatest dance scene in movie history when Violet the goth girl is putting her stellar 80s moves to the tune of Pseudo Echo’s “His Eyes”. She dies violently immediately afterwards, as Fake Jason apparently wasn’t impressed.

There is also the crazy backwoods redneck mom and her dufus son. They are over the top and entertaining. And strangely, the actors had great chemistry being the comedic distraction in a film about murdering teenagers.

This isn’t as bad as many say it is. It isn’t even the worst film in the series. It is the low point of this trilogy of films but it is still an entertaining and worthwhile bridge between the two best installments of the series.

Friday the 13th, Part VI – Jason Lives (1986):

Release Date: August 1st, 1986
Directed by: Tom McLoughlin
Written by: Tom McLoughlin
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renée Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley, Ron Palillo

Paramount Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

Tommy is back, again! But this time, so is Jason!

Wait, is that Horseshack?! Yes, it is!

This film starts with the oldest version of Tommy Jarvis we will see in the series, fresh out of the psych ward. He is healed but needs to make sure Jason is actually destroyed before he can move on with his life. He brings Horseshack from Welcome Back, Kotter with him to dig up Jason’s grave and burn the body. Except he inadvertently causes Jason to resurrect and for the first time, we know that Jason is some sort of supernatural zombie demon.

This film is the start of Jason looking truly undead and a lot less like just a human with a facial abnormality.

Where The Final Chapter was a more refined version of the formula, Jason Lives shocks new life (literally) into the franchise, and is even more refined. In short, this is the best film in the series. Pretty crazy, I know, considering that this is the fifth sequel to the groundbreaking original.

This is the best Jason has ever been before Kane Hodder took over the roll for the four films following this one. He looked truly predatory in his movement and felt like an unbeatable zombie hulk. The resurrection scene is actually the coolest scene in the entire series and showed Jason at his absolute best.

Thom Mathews (also great in the first and second Return of the Living Dead) is perfect as the aged and more experienced Tommy Jarvis. He feels like a bad ass, even though he is missing his ninja skills from the previous film.

Jason Lives also looks the best visually. I don’t know if it was just the talent of the director, the cinematographer or the person lighting the set and setting the tone but it just looks perfect.

While I adore the fourth film, this one here, is the cream of the crop for me. This is the perfect Friday the 13th film in every way. It has everything you want and nothing that you don’t.