Film Review: Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Release Date: February 23rd, 1987 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Howard Deutch
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Stephen Hague, John Musser
Cast: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Craig Sheffer, Lea Thompson, Elias Koteas, John Ashton, Candace Cameron, Maddie Corman

Hughes Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Keith… you’re losing it. And when it’s lost, all you are is a loser.” – Watts

About a week ago I reviewed Pretty In Pink, which was written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch. I commented on how Hughes didn’t like the ending and wanted to correct it, so he wrote this film, which was actually released just a year later.

While researching this, I discovered that Deutch wasn’t actually the first choice for director and that Hughes pulled him in after two other potential directors left the project.

That being said, knowing what’s behind the genesis of this film makes comparing it to Pretty In Pink kind of hard. However, they’re still very different, especially tonally, as this is more of a drama and doesn’t have the more lighthearted comedy side that Hughes’ other teen pictures do.

I think with the more serious tone, though, this film just loses some of the patented Hughes magic and comes across as a bit dry. This may be why it’s not as highly regarded as the other teen movies Hughes was creatively a part of in the ’80s.

If I’m being honest, I feel like Hughes may have been a bit out of steam by this point. At least in regards to these kind of flicks, as he would still create great cinematic magic with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and the first two Home Alone films.

This is okay but it’s hard to care about these characters as they seem to lack personality and depth. Mary Stuart Masterson’s Watts is the most developed character of the bunch but you still never really come to understand her as deeply as you should and her pining starts to become annoying by the end of the film.

While this may have been the ending that Hughes wanted for Pretty In Pink, it’s just not as good of a film leading up to that big romantic climax.

I did really like Elias Koteas in this, though. I wish there was more of him, as he robbed every scene he was in and apparently, ad-libbed a lot of his lines.

Anyway, this is a fairly mundane teen drama. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before and it doesn’t have much to really justify its own existence when compared to better, similar movies.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Pretty In Pink and other John Hughes teen movies of the ’80s.

Film Review: Almost an Angel (1990)

Release Date: December 19th, 1990
Directed by: John Cornell
Written by: Paul Hogan
Music by: Maurice Jones
Cast: Paul Hogan, Elias Koteas, Linda Kozlowski, Doreen Lang, Douglas Seale, David Alan Grier, Larry Miller, Charlton Heston (cameo)

Ironbark Films, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“From time to time, worthy people are chosen to be Angels of Mercy. But these are difficult times, Mr Dean. In this century you’re the first scumbag we’ve sent back.” – God

As enjoyable as Crocodile Dundee and Crocodile Dundee II were, Paul Hogan was never able to replicate that success in the United States again. Which kind of sucks, as I’ve always loved the guy and his sense of humor.

Like his Dundee movies, this one also featured his real life wife, Linda Kozlowski. Granted, they met on the set of the first Dundee movie and married after but she was always a presence in Hogan’s films, which I’m actually fine with, as she does a decent job onscreen and has solid chemistry with Hogan.

This movie also stars Elias Koteas, fresh off of his role as Casey Jones in the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In this, he plays a handicapped guy that Hogan’s Terry Dean befriends.

The plot sees master thief and cool gadget maker Terry Dean get released from prison. He immediately goes back to his criminal ways and robs banks dressed as Willie Nelson and Rod Stewart. However, after meeting God (played by Charlton Heston), he is made an angel in training. He has one last chance to do something right with his life and if he succeeds, he’ll be a full-fledged angel and earn his wings.

Sadly, most of the movie is kind of slow and boring. There are a few good, comedy sequences, like when Dean convinces drug dealers outside of a youth center that they pissed off the local mob or when he does his Rod Stewart and Willie Nelson schticks. However, most of the film is dry and you never really know what the point of anything is, other than Dean needs to become a legit angel for some reason that doesn’t even seem that important.

I like Paul Hogan and he’s a charming guy. That’s still apparent in this movie. However, this just doesn’t connect with the viewer in the same way that the first two Dundee movies did. And I guess that’s fine because those are classics to some degree and Hogan definitely left his mark.

I can imagine that Hogan didn’t want to just play Mick Dundee for the rest of his life and that’s understandable. I just don’t think that this film really maximized his talent and didn’t do him any favors in trying to transcend his greatest role.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the Crocodile Dundee movies.

TV Review: The Killing (2011-2014)

Original Run: April 3rd, 2011 – August 1st, 2014
Created by: Veena Sud
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Forbrydelsen by Søren Sveistrup
Music by: Frans Bak, We Fell to Earth (theme)
Cast: Mireille Enos, Billy Campbell, Joel Kinnaman, Michelle Forbes, Elias Koteas, Peter Sarsgaard

Fox Television, Fuse Entertainment, KMF Films, Fabrik Entertainment, AMC, Netflix, 44 Episodes, 42-59 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

The Killing is interesting as it started on AMC, got cancelled twice and renewed twice. The second renewal did not come from AMC however, it came from Netflix, who picked up the show for its final season.

As interesting as the story of the show’s turbulent history is, the show itself falls flat.

I really wanted to like The Killing. I gave it a real shot, as I stuck around for the duration, even though I wanted to shut it off after just a few episodes.

I thought it may improve or that it was building towards something fantastic. Well, it never really quite got there and the build up was so slow and dragged out that I often times found myself either daydreaming or huffing markers to pass the time. It is rare that I am this bored watching a show but I’d rather watch gnats procreate than see another episode of The Killing.

The acting isn’t good or bad, it is just there. It is about as exciting as the show itself and I felt like the actors were asleep half the time, bored off of their asses because it took two full seasons to solve one crime when Jeff Goldblum on one of those Law & Order shows solves a different crime each week. Maybe these cops are just shitty at being detectives and they should’ve consulted with Jeff Goldblum.

There’s nothing really more to say because frankly, I am even bored talking about the show.

But hey, great cinematography and and technical prowess from a visual standpoint, if I have to throw in something positive.

Rating: 4.75/10

Documentary Review: Val Lewton: The Man In the Shadows (2007)

Release Date: September 2nd, 2007
Directed by: Kent Jones
Narrated by: Martin Scorsese, Elias Koteas

Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Entertainment, Sikelia Productions, 77 Minutes

Review:

I remember seeing this on television a decade ago and it is where I really discovered who Val Lewton is and why his contribution to the film industry was so important.

When I was a kid, I discovered classic film early, as my mother and grandmother were both avid watchers of AMC, which at the time still stood for American Movie Classics. I also watched a lot of TCM, or Turner Classic Movies, when that cable network debuted. I got pulled in to old school horror, as I loved the Universal Monsters movies, Vincent Price’s Edgar Allan Poe pictures and the movies put out by Hammer with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I didn’t quite experience Val Lewton’s body of work though, until years later.

My appreciation for all that other stuff, really gave me the foundation to appreciate and understand what Lewton was trying to do for RKO Radio Pictures. His mission was to run the B-movie unit for the studio, where he and the artists he brought in, would create films to rival what Universal was doing with all their successful Monster franchises.

I’m glad that I found this on television a decade ago and it was really fantastic revisiting it now, as it is streaming on FilmStruck.

It is produced and narrated by Martin Scorsese with Elias Koteas jumping in to narrate Val Lewton’s actual words.

It is a nice and quick documentary that covers a lot of ground and gives a good amount of time to each of Lewton’s pictures. It also gets into how his collaborations with Boris Karloff came to be and how Lewton initially didn’t want to work with Karloff but quickly grew to love the man’s work, as he helped contribute to these films, which were much more psychological and intelligent than the majority of Universal’s horror pictures.

Lewton created horror movies that had a noir style about them. In fact, his films sort of built a bridge between German Expressionist horror movies like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the film-noir movement of the 1940s.

If you love classic horror or film-noir and haven’t seen Lewton’s films, you need to. You should also check out this documentary, which is a great primer on the man and his work.

Rating: 8.75/10

Film Review: The Original ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Film Series (1990-2007)

*written in 2014.

With the upcoming release of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, which is a reboot, I wanted to revisit the original film series. I hadn’t seen these movies since the 90s and I hadn’t seen the 2007 CGI sequel at all. I remember really liking the first two and finding the third one to be pretty boring. Maybe it was because it was missing their main antagonist, Shredder. Regardless of all that, here’s what I felt about these films now.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990):

Release Date: March 30th, 1990
Directed by: Steve Barron
Written by: Todd W. Langen, Bobby Herbeck
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Music by: John Du Prez
Cast: Judith Hoag, Elias Koteas, Robbie Rist, Brian Tochi, Corey Feldman, Kevin Clash, Sam Rockwell, Scott Wolf (uncredited)

Golden Harvest, Limelight Entertainment, 888 Productions, Mirage Enterprises, Northshore Investments, New Line Cinema, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Damn.” – Raphael

This first film in the series was the best of the original trilogy. It was gritty, it was fun, it was action packed and it embodied everything that made the TMNT franchise unique and awesome. Seeing this in the theater as a 5th grader, blew my damn mind.

The turtle costumes were phenomenal, the facial animatronics were outstanding and the range of movement the martial artists had inside the suits was uncanny. The acting in this film, considering what it is, wasn’t bad. Elias Koteas as Casey Jones and Judith Hoag as April O’Neil were both really good. I cared about their characters and even their romance.

My favorite part in the whole film though, had to be Shredder. For a live-action movie based on a comic book, especially for the era, he looked fantastic and menacing. I can’t even imagine a better looking Shredder in a real world sense.

Splinter was also pretty great and Kevin Clash (most famous for playing Sesame Street‘s Elmo) provided him with a good voice that gave a sense of authority and respect to a character that is really just an animatronic rat.

The movie never stops once it gets going. It actually flies by pretty quickly and is well-paced. Props to the writers who made a really good script and to the director, who orchestrated how it all went down.

Look for a very young Sam Rockwell playing a thug in a few scenes.

Rating: 8.5/10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991):

Release Date: March 22nd, 1991
Directed by: Michael Pressman
Written by: Todd W. Langen
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Music by: John Du Prez
Cast: Paige Turco, David Warner, Ernie Reyes Jr., François Chau, Kevin Nash, Vanilla Ice, Robbie Rist, Brian Tochi, Kevin Clash, Frank Welker

Golden Harvest, Mirage Enterprises, Northshore Investments, New Line Cinema, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Go, ninja! Go, ninja! Go!” – Vanilla Ice

It didn’t take long for Golden Harvest and New Line Cinema to pop out a sequel. This movie came out less than a year before its predecessor. While it still turned out pretty well, you can feel that it is lacking in quality from the first film and that they didn’t prepare for it as well.

Also, the turtles use their weapons a lot less than the first movie because busybody assholes thought that the darker and more violent tone of the previous film was too much for kids to handle. The lack of darker tone, hurt this movie.

Unfortunately, neither Judith Hoag or Elias Koteas returned for this film. I’m not sure why but due to the film being rushed out, one could assume that it had to do with scheduling conflicts. The April O’Neil character is still in the film but was recast with Paige Turco.

I do still like this movie but I miss the atmosphere of the first one. These aren’t films that you should take too seriously, but this one got a bit too campy and the script just wasn’t as good.

The edition of David Warner to the cast, an actor I have always enjoyed, as well as Ernie Reyes Jr., who is still the best kid martial artist I have ever seen, was a treat. Vanilla Ice also shows up to give us the greatest ninja-themed rap song of all-time.

Shredder was better looking in this film, as they retrofitted his helmet and made the sharp edges on it look like bad ass buzzsaw blades. However, when he became Super Shredder, he was just ridiculous and completely pointless as he killed himself in about ten seconds. Although it was cool that wrestling legend Kevin Nash was the guy in the Super Shredder suit.

The evil mutants that they made to combat the Turtles, were horrible. They should’ve done what kids were familiar with and gave us the famous Turtle villains Bebop and Rocksteady. Instead, we got Tokka and Rahzar. Stupid names for stupid characters.

All bullshit aside, I still really enjoy this film for what it is but it lacks in a lot of areas compared to the first.

Rating: 6.25/10

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993):

Release Date: March 19th, 1993
Directed by: Stuart Gillard
Written by: Stuart Gillard
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Music by: John Du Prez
Cast: Paige Turco, Elias Koteas, Vivian Wu, Sab Shimono, Stuart Wilson, Brian Tochi, Robbie Rist, Corey Feldman

Golden Harvest, Clearwater Holdings, New Line Cinema, 96 Minutes

Review:

“I think I swallowed a frog. I hope it wasn’t an ancestor.” – Donatello

Some people call this film Turtles In Time but that was the name of a TMNT video game. This film plot-wise, is completely unrelated to that game but they do share a time travel element.

I remember watching this just once as a kid and that was on video, as I didn’t even bother to see it in the theater. I just found the idea of the Turtles traveling back to feudal Japan to not be a story worthy enough to carry a film. It seemed like a bad one-off episode of the cartoon and at least those episodes are just twenty minutes.

Watching it now, over twenty years later, I still don’t like the film. It is boring, soulless and flat. There is really nothing interesting or redeeming about the film. Elias Koteas shows back up, after skipping out on the second film, but he is essentially wasted.

The villain is some evil British guy who comes off like an unfunny poor man’s version of Rik Mayall. Had he actually been played by Rik Mayall and humorously, the film may have been a tad bit better. But even Rik Mayall couldn’t have saved it.

The Turtles were also redesigned for this movie and they look like shit. They added a bunch of spots to them, gave them bigger eyes that looked incredibly fake and their animatronics were clunky at best.

After all that time to heal and accept this for what it is, I still hate this film.

Rating: 2.75/10

TMNT (2007):

Release Date: March 17th, 2007 (Grauman’s Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Kevin Munroe
Written by: Kevin Munroe
Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: Chris Evans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mako, Kevin Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ziyi Zhang, Laurence Fishburne

Imagi Animation Studios, Warner Bros., 87 Minutes

Review:

“Duuuude.” – Michelangelo

This film is considered the fourth in the series and takes place quite some time after the others. It is also the first (and only) to be CGI instead of live-action.

This movie is pretty good. There is a lot story-wise that makes this one the best written of the series. There is a whole subplot about Raphael being a masked vigilante hero on a motorcycle, which would be great as its own standalone movie.

Also, Casey Jones is back in a much more expanded role, as he teams up with Raphael on their vigilante adventures. Although I wish Elias Koteas would’ve voiced Casey Jones, Chris Evans did a solid job.

There is another cool subplot about Leonardo living and training in solitude in Central America, which added a lot of depth to his character and his struggle as a leader.

As for the CGI, it was very well done. It wasn’t Pixar or DreamWorks level but it held its own and it was fluid and worked great with the action sequences of the film. The only thing that seemed off was that the voices were different. For instance, Splinter seemed like an entirely different character and this kind of gets in the way of consistency with the live action films. However, the Laurence Fishburne narration was fantastic.

Having now watched the original trilogy again and this film, I’d rank this as second behind the original.

Rating: 7/10