Film Review: Malone (1987)

Release Date: May 1st, 1987
Directed by: Harley Cokeliss (as Harley Cokliss)
Written by: Christopher Frank, Rudy Wurlitzer (uncredited)
Based on: Shotgun by William P. Wingate
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Kenneth McMillan, Cynthia Gibb, Lauren Hutton, Cliff Robertson, Scott Wilson, Alex Diakun, Philip Anglim, Tracey Walter, Dennis Burkley

Orion Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve got socks older than you.” – Richard Malone

While I had hoped that this would be incredibly high octane, it paled in comparison to Charles Bronson’s awesome Death Wish movies. However, it’s still a much harder movie than what Burt Reynolds typically did, so it was cool seeing him go badass vigilante in order to help a small town combat a scumbag that was trying to buy everyone out for very nefarious reasons.

This movie also had a pretty solid cast with Cliff Robertson being the villain, Scott Wilson playing a good guy mechanic and Tracey Walter a.k.a. Bob the Goon playing a total shithead that got his back blown out with one of the largest squib explosions I’ve ever seen that represented just a single bullet.

Additionally, the women in this, Cynthia Gibb and Lauren Hutton, were damn enjoyable.

This is kind of a paint-by-numbers small town protector movie, though. These things were super common back in the ’80s but also, it’s a formula that most dudes love and why shouldn’t Burt Reynolds have had his go with one?

It didn’t really offer up anything new or bold but seeing a bunch of shitheads take a bullet from an all-time masculine great like Reynolds is a treat. His rivalry with Robertson in this was pretty well managed and both men performed well with one another.

Malone is just a mindless, entertaining action movie that features an aging cool guy showing that he’s still pretty fucking cool. It’s also got a good villain, a decent supporting cast and leaves you nodding your head with the type of satisfaction only these sort of movies can bring.

Rating: 6.25/10

TV Review: Berserk (2016-2017)

Original Run: July 1st, 2016 – June 23rd, 2017
Directed by: Shin Itagaki
Written by: Makoto Fukami
Based on: Berserk by Kintaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu

Liden Films, GEMBA, Millepensee, Universal, Sony, Wowow, MBS, TBS, CBC, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So I’ve heard people rave about the manga Berserk for years. I’ve wanted to read it for awhile now but there’s like 40 volumes and it’s going to be a real undertaking. However, I figured that I’d check out the anime, as it’s streaming on HBO Max.

I found out, after being a half dozen episodes deep, that this actually takes place after a trilogy of anime films and an earlier anime series from the ’90s. So I guess I started at the end but even then, I found this pretty easy to get into and never felt like there was a lot of context or knowledge missing.

For the most part, I dug the hell out of this, especially the first of the two seasons. I guess some people found the animation style to be off-putting but I actually liked it.

I’m also not a big fan of the mixture of CGI with traditional hand-drawn animation but for whatever reason, I liked how they blended together, here. I think that has to do with the style of shading in the art, which looks like thin-lined pencil shading.

I think most of all, I really liked the character designs. Everyone was distinct and pretty damn cool in their own unique way.

I also found the stories to be pretty solid and interesting. However, it really just left me wanting more, so I’ll probably try and check out the previous anime releases and then start reading the original manga, at some point.

All in all, this was dark, twisted, really fun and pretty damn entertaining.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: The Boys From Brazil (1978)

Release Date: August 19th, 1978 (Honolulu sneak preview)
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
Written by: Heywood Gould
Based on: The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner, John Rubinstein, Anne Meara, Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, Sky du Mont, Carl Duering, Prunella Scales

Sir Lew Grade, Producers Circle, ITC Films, 125 Minutes

Review:

“Do you know what I saw on the television in my motel room at one o’clock this morning? Films of Hitler! They are showing films about the war! The movement! People are fascinated! The time is ripe! Adolf Hitler is alive!” – Dr. Josef Mengele

This is a movie that I watched in middle school, back in the early ’90s. I remembered digging the hell out of it and thought it was a pretty cool story with some actors that I really liked. I haven’t seen it since then, though, so I wanted to see what I thought about it as an adult. Plus, the decades in-between have made me forget some of the finer details.

The story is about a mad Nazi doctor (Gregory Peck) that has made 94 clones of Adolf Hitler and is having them raised under similar circumstances in an effort to champion in the Fourth Reich. However, a clever Jewish Nazi hunter (Laurence Olivier) is informed of the mad doctor’s plot by a young man (Steve Guttenberg) that stumbled upon it in Paraguay.

The movie also features a lot of talent beyond Peck, Olivier and Guttenberg. You’ve also got James Mason, Rosemary Harris, Denholm Elliott, Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, Anne Meara and Prunella Scales.

Overall, this is just a cool concept that’s executed pretty well. This plays like other solid ’70s political thrillers but the stacked cast really brings it to a higher level, especially Peck, Olivier and Mason: three legit heavyweights that make everything they touch better.

The story is interesting, the acting is superb, the editing is good, the pacing is perfect and the movie gives you a really enjoyable finale that’s worth the wait.

After all these years, I actually think that I liked The Boys From Brazil more than I had anticipated. It’s something that I’m sure I’ll revisit again.

Rating: 8/10

TV Review: The Staircase (2004-2018)

Original Run: October 7th, 2004 – June 8th, 2018
Created by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Directed by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Written by: Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
Cast: Michael Peterson, various

Canal+, Netflix, 13 Episodes, 44-55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard people rave about this documentary series a few years back. Since I’ve recently been binging the shit out of Netflix true crime documentaries, I figured that I should finally give this one a watch.

Well, I was really underwhelmed by it and I think it’s just another case of hype blowing something up to an unrealistic level.

I will say that the story here is damn compelling and there are a lot of holes in the investigation or so it would appear, based on how this documentary reveals the details.

However, it’s the presentation of this series that made it somewhat of a bore to get through.

This follows the investigation and spends a lot of time in the court room during the trials. However, most of the show is shot and presented reality TV style, following around all the members of the family and legal team, as they constantly pontificate on that day’s activities and developments. It’s just not that interesting when you realize that all of the accused killer’s kids (minus one) are going to believe his innocence no matter what.

“Not my dad! There’s no way he could do that! I know my dad!”

“Did you know he had gay sex with male prostitutes?”

“What? I didn’t know my dad was gay! But he could never kill my mom! I know my dad!”

I also feel like this documentary was obviously biased towards the family and towards the sentiment that author-possibly-turned-killer, Michael Peterson, was innocent. Looking into that after watching this for myself, there are a lot of other people that feel like this was a biased documentary and that it omitted things that didn’t support its narrative.

In the end, I was initially captivated by the story but from a production standpoint, this wasn’t as polished and well-paced as the more recent Netflix true crime documentaries. I also don’t feel confident in the details provided by this documentary.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Only Yesterday (1991)

Also known as: Omoide poro poro (original Japanese title), Memories of Teardrops, Memories of Yesterday (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 20th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Written by: Isao Takahata
Based on: Omoide Poro Poro by Hotaru Okamoto, Yuko Tone
Music by: Katz Hoshi
Cast: Japanese Language: Yoko Honna, Miki Imai, Toshiro Yanagiba; English Language: Daisy Ridley, Alison Fernandez, Dev Patel, Grey DeLisle, Tara Strong

Nippon Television Network, Studiopolis, Studio Ghibli, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Rainy days, cloudy days, sunny days… which do you like?” – Hirota, “…cloudy days.” – Taeko, “Oh, then we’re alike.” – Hirota

I would have to consider this my least favorite Studio Ghibli film, up to this point in their history.

Honestly, it just didn’t connect with me in the ways that their other movies have. It’s just okay and pretty dry. It moves at a snail’s pace.

The story is about an unmarried woman being fixated on memories of her childhood. She does what we all do, looks back, overanalyzes the moments that shaped her, and questions where she is in life now.

I watched the English dubbed version, as the most modern English dubs of  Studio Ghibli films are typically top notch. However, I found Daisy Ridley’s performance to be really underwhelming, compared to the performances by voice leads in other films.

It sounded as if Ridley was just reading lines and putting just a bit of inflection in her voice. She felt like a teacher reading a book out loud to a classroom of elementary school kids.

I know that this movie has its audience and that many people love it. I’m just not one of them.

Still, it’s visually and technically sound as far as the animation and production goes.

Rating: 6/10

TV Review: Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)

Original Run: April 3rd, 1998 – April 24th, 1999
Created by: Hajime Yatate
Directed by: Shinichiro Watanabe
Written by: Keiko Nobumoto
Music by: Yoko Kanno
Cast: Koichi Yamadera, Unsho Ishizuka, Megumi Hayashibara

Sunrise, TXN, Wowow, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Decades upon decades of hype and Cowboy Bebop just didn’t live up to it for me. But this is what happens when people, for years and years, claim that something is the “best ever”.

In those situations, I think that a lot of people who hear that, repeat it, as they don’t want to be the asshole that disagrees with everyone else. It’s just this effect that happens with things that are grossly overhyped by a passionate few who are able to push something beyond cult status.

Now that’s not to say that Cowboy Bebop isn’t enjoyable, it certainly is. I also wasn’t quite ready for it to be over when it was.

I like that it’s unique, features an incredibly jazzy score and finds itself wrapped up in several genres not really committing to any of them fully. It’s a mix of noir, western, cyberpunk and space opera. But it also features real human drama, comedy and often times plays like a crime thriller.

Essentially, I like it for all the reasons that other people do. I just don’t think it’s the greatest anime I’ve ever seen and just because it was unique and fresh when it came out in 1998, doesn’t mean that its some sort of masterpiece.

The show has some weak, forgettable episodes, some of the characters begin to grate on you like the shrill little kid with the barky dog.

However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not game to check out the animated film that came after or any potential sequel or animated reboot.

In the end, this is still high tier anime and much better than the norm. I’d even call it a classic. However, I can’t look at it as the greatest thing that ever existed in anime. It simply isn’t. But that’s also subjective and doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Parasite (2019)

Also known as: Gisaengchung (original South Korean title)
Release Date: May 21st, 2019 (Cannes)
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Han jin-won
Music by: Jung Jae-il
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Jang Hye-jin

CJ Entertainment, Barunson E&A, 132 Minutes

Review:

“[to his son] You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned. Look around you. Did you think these people made a plan to sleep in the sports hall with you? But here we are now, sleeping together on the floor. So, there’s no need for a plan. You can’t go wrong with no plans. We don’t need to make a plan for anything. It doesn’t matter what will happen next. Even if the country gets destroyed or sold out, nobody cares. Got it?” – Ki-taek

It’s been long overdue but I finally checked out Parasite.

I actually had the opportunity to see this in the theater, two years ago. I passed on it, despite the buzz, because I wasn’t a fan of the other pictures I had seen from Bong Joon-ho. Those earlier films that I’ve seen are Snowpiercer and The Host.

This time around, Joon-ho captivated me and I really liked this movie, even if I think it’s been extremely overhyped and definitely wasn’t the Best Picture of the Year, as the ass clowns at the Academy decided.

The film is about an incredibly poor family that cons their way into a rich family’s home. All of them get various jobs for the rich people and they have to act like they’re strangers in order to protect the con. Then one night, while the rich family is away, the previous maid, who was unjustly fired as part of the con, returns and shit hits the fan.

For me, the story becomes unbelievable once you learn that the maid’s husband has been living in the labyrinthine basement for years, undetected by the rich family. In fact, I thought this part of the plot was kind of stupid and the rest of the movie was built off of this weird reveal. It reminded me of the implausibility of Snowpiercer and how that film fell apart for me, as it rolled on and got dumber and dumber.

The thing that makes Parasite not completely derail itself is its ability to build tension and how it essentially pits two families from two very different social classes against one another.

The picture is superbly acted from just about everyone. Even the young kid does a really good job.

My only real gripe about the movie is that it just makes some strange narrative choices, This is also the main flaw in the other Bong Joon-ho films I’ve seen. This one, however, is saved by its strengths, which keep it from completely falling apart for me. And it’s those great strengths and how they’re capitalized on that made me rate this as high as I did.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Basquiat (1996)

Also known as: Build A Fort, Set It On Fire (alternative title)
Release Date: August 9th, 1996
Directed by: Julian Schnabel
Written by: Julian Schnabel, John Bowe, Michael Holman, Lech Majewski
Music by: John Cale, Julian Schnabel
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Benicio del Toro, Claire Forlani, Michael Wincott, Parker Posey, Courtney Love, Elina Lowensohn, Paul Bartel, Tatum O’Neal, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Sam Rockwell, Michael Badalucco, Joseph R. Gannascoli, Vincent Laresca, Vincent Gallo (uncredited)

Eleventh Street Production, Jon Kilik, Miramax, 107 Minutes

Review:

“What is it about art anyway that we give it so much importance? Artists are respected by the poor because what they do is an honest way to get out of the slum using one’s sheer self as the medium. The money earned, proof, pure and simple, of the value of that individual, the artist. The picture a mother’s son does in jail hangs on her wall as proof that beauty is possible even in the most wretched. And this is a much different idea than fancier notion that art is a scam and a ripoff. But you can never explain to someone who uses God’s gift to enslave, that you have used God’s gift to be free.” – Rene Ricard

Everyone has a favorite movie or few. This is one of mine and honestly, I’ve put off reviewing it because I’ve found it difficult to put into words what I love about it so much. It’s just more of a feeling and a vibe that it gives off, and as an artist myself, I felt deeply connected with the film the first time that I saw it.

While the picture is a biopic about Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artist that rose to prominence and died way too young, it is also an examination of art itself and the artist’s place in the world. It’s a real critique on the art world, especially in the opulent ’80s and the New York City scene. What makes this even more interesting, though, is that this was made by people who knew Basquiat and who were part of this community at the time that he rose up and took the art world by storm.

Honestly, this is probably the most intimate look inside that world and of that specific era that outsiders have ever gotten. It’s an incredibly intriguing place. It’s also made that much more personal by the love of the filmmakers and the passion they put into this motion picture.

This passion goes beyond director Julian Schnabel and the writers, though, as it also comes out through the performances of the actors. And man, this is a movie with an incredible cast from top-to-bottom. For an indie picture about an artist that was here and gone so quickly, the production attracted so many worthwhile actors.

The two that standout the most, however, are Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat and David Bowie as Andy Warhol. These two men gave real life to these iconic figures and their chemistry together was so good that you truly believed in the real life bond between Basquiat and Warhol, a bond everyone else seemed jealous about.

I also loved the scene with Christopher Walken, as a journalist asking Jean-Michel some pretty pointed questions. But this scene kind of shows you where Basquiat is in life, at this point, as everything has moved so fast. Plus, the film shows sections of his life and there isn’t any sort of traditional progression of time, which I liked. Things happen in a dreamlike blur but that’s often times how life goes and you have these random moments that sort of ground you and put things into perspective.

There isn’t a weak performance in the whole film and it features incredible moments between Wright, a newcomer at the time, and well-established actors like Dennis Hopper, Willem Dafoe, Gary Oldman, Parker Posey, Michael Wincott, Benicio del Toro and so many others.

Additionally, the music in the film is just as important as the art and it truly sets the tone in every scene and it’s actually my favorite soundtrack that’s ever been assembled.

By the time you get to the end, the film tries to give you some hope and through a story Jean-Michel tells to his friend, Benny, you fully understand what his place in the world was and still is. Sadly, the writing was on the wall for how Basquiat’s story would end but even with his life cut incredibly short, he created something that would live on forever.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Léon: The Professional (1994)

Also known as: Léon (original title), The Professional (alternative title)
Release Date: September 14th, 1994 (France, Mexico)
Directed by: Luc Besson
Written by: Luc Besson
Music by: Eric Serra
Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello, Michael Badalucco

Gaumont, Les Films du Dauphin, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t wanna lose you, Léon.” – Matilda, “You’re not going to lose me. You’ve given me a taste for life. I wanna be happy. Sleep in a bed, have roots. And you’ll never be alone again, Matilda. Please, go now, baby, go. Calm down, I’ll meet you at Tony’s in an hour, I love you, now go, go now.” – Léon

While I need to rewatch The Fifth Element in the very near future because I surprisingly haven’t reviewed it yet, I’d have to say that Léon: The Professional is probably my favorite Luc Besson movie.

I first saw this when it came out to rent on VHS and upon seeing it, I had wished that I actually got to experience it on the big screen.

The four main actors in this are phenomenal. Jean Reno is perfectly cast and this is still the greatest thing that I’ve seen him do. Natalie Portman proved, at a very young age, that she had what it took to carve out a pretty stellar career, which she has. Gary Oldman absolutely shined as the movie’s antagonist and came across as a legitimately intimidating, psychotic, piece of shit. Danny Aiello wasn’t in the picture for more than a few scenes but he came across as the real veteran, making those who shared scenes with him even better. I especially liked the exchange between Aiello and Portman.

What’s really odd for me, at least, is that I’ve never been a big Portman fan and I think a lot of that stems from what felt like disinterest in some of the roles she’s played like in the Star Wars and Thor movies she’s done. But here, she is impressive and fully displayed her talent and how good she can be when she cares about the material she has to work with.

This is a violent but tender movie and the fact that it is able to balance the two things so perfectly is what makes it really damn good.

Additionally, the hitman stuff comes across as authentic and genuine. I love the opening of the movie, which shows you how great Léon is at his job. The action is intense and, at times, over the top and stylized for a greater cinematic effect but everything in the movie still feels real and plausible.

I also like the coming of age stuff and how Matilda is entering her teen years, having to deal with that, while also having to survive her family being murdered and essentially being on the run from a very dangerous madman with a police force at his disposal.

There are just a lot of layers to this movie but everything comes together so wonderfully. The fact that it’s so well acted and meticulously directed also makes it a film worthy of its strong cult status.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Also known as: Majo no takkyûbin (original Japanese title, lit. Witch’s Special Express Delivery) 
Release Date: July 29th, 1989 (Japan)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Based on: Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Japanese Language: Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Keiko Toda, Kappei Yamaguchi, Koichi Yamadera; English Language: Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille, Janeane Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence, Debbie Reynolds, Edie McClurg, Pamela Segall, Lewis Arquette

Kiki’s Delivery Service Production Committee, Nibariki, Nippon Television Network, Studio Ghibli, Toei, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly. Now I’m trying to look inside myself and find out how I did it.” – Kiki

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a pretty cute movie. Well, not as cute as My Neighbor Totoro but that film is on a different level of cuteness.

Here, we meet a teenage witch that goes off into the world to train as a witch but also has to survive and thus, gets a delivery job for a baker that also lets her live upstairs.

Ultimately, this is a sweet coming of age story where the character is full of doubt and lacks confidence but has to find those things within herself and does.

If you don’t love the character of Kiki, you’re probably not a human being. Also, her cat Jiji is the perfect feline sidekick. I loved the hell out of him, especially in the English language dub where he’s voiced by Phil Hartman, sadly in one of his last roles.

The American voice cast in this is great all around, though. While I typically watch anime with subtitles because of their history of shitty dubs, the second generation English dubbings of the Studio Ghibli films are top notch and it’s this one that really solidified it for me.

Overall, this is a great feel good movie that should appeal to all ages but especially kids closing in on their teenage years.

Rating: 8.25/10