Film Review: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Also known as: Austin Powers (working title)
Release Date: April 29th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Mike Myers
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Fabiana Udenio, Will Ferrell, Joe Son, Paul Dillon, Charles Napier, Elya Baskin, Clint Howard, Tom Arnold (uncredited), Carrie Fisher, Larry Thomas, Burt Bacharach, Michael McDonald, Cindy Margolis, Christian Slater (UK version only), Rob Lowe (scene deleted) 

Capella International, Gratitude, Juno Pix, New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes, 68 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my underground lair. I have gathered here before me the world’s deadliest assassins, and yet each of you has failed to kill Austin Powers. That makes me angry. And when Dr. Evil gets angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset. And when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset… people die!” – Dr. Evil

I, like most people, was a big fan of this film series when it was current. Weirdly, I hadn’t watched any of these since the third movie, Goldmember, came out in theaters. I had seen the first two at least a half dozen times, however, leading up to that third and final chapter.

Revisiting these now was a lot of fun. Even though I remembered just about everything and knew all the jokes and gags, it still felt like I was seeing it fresh and frankly, it made me nostalgic for a time when you could make movies like these because the world wasn’t so f’n PC and sensitive. If they ever made a fourth film, it would be a neutered and unfunny bitch.

This first film is still a hell of a lot of fun and it’s great, solid escapism. Especially in the early 2020s, as the world is really turning into a big ball of shit. Not having much in the way of real entertainment has also taken its toll on people, so looking back at stuff like this is kind of comforting.

In spite of the adversity nearly everyone has gone through as of late, it’s still hard not being happy watching Mike Myers ham it up as an uglied up, horny, British spy that’s part playboy, part buffoon and somehow still a hero when the odds are against him.

Like the ’90s, as a whole, this movie is crass and low brow. But growing up in that time is why I love that shit and probably why I miss it. Then again, people still knew how to laugh back in 1997.

Anyway, Myers also plays Dr. Evil, the film’s villain and his greatest character. But Myers also had the benefit of playing off of so many other great actors in this film. It’s this series that really cemented Seth Green as a legitimate talent for me and it also helped me fall in love with the comedic greatness of Mindy Sterling. Plus, Robert Wagner has never been better and that guy is always f’n great!

Additionally, this movie is full of hot babes, most notably the angelic Elizabeth Hurley. We also get Mimi Rogers at her all-time hottest, as well as Fabiana Udenio, a long time favorite babe of mine, and the glorious and sultry Fembots.

Austin Powers wasn’t the first film to parody the James Bond franchise but honestly, it’s probably the best and I say that as someone that adores the Dean Martin Matt Helms quadrilogy. 

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Austin Powers films and other ’60s styled spy spoofs like the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the original Casino Royale.

Film Review: 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

Also known as: 2010 (original title), 2010: Odyssey Two (original script title)
Release Date: December 7th, 1984
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Written by: Peter Hyams
Based on: 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke
Music by: David Shire
Cast: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain (voice), Madolyn Smith, Dana Elcar, Elya Baskin

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 116 Minutes

Review:

“[message relayed from monolith] All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.” – HAL-9000

Since I did 2001: A Space Odyssey as my 2001st film review, I figured that I’d also revisit 2010: The Year We Make Contact for my 2010th. Both are great films: the first being an absolute masterpiece and this one being one of the best science fiction films of its decade, as well as one of my favorite of all-time.

Unfortunately, 2010 gets compared to 2001, which really isn’t fair, as there was no way that this movie was going to live up to the hype that a 2001 sequel would’ve gotten, even back in the early ’80s. As its own film, though, it’s exceptional even if it wasn’t necessary.

Now there were four Odyssey books written by Arthur C. Clarke, two at the time of this film’s release, so I don’t see why further movies couldn’t have been made, as the story already existed and for fans of the novels, this was probably something they wanted to see. Hell, I’m still hoping that someone eventually adapts 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. Tom Hanks was going to do them about twenty years ago and there were rumors that Syfy was going to take a crack at it as well but neither of those really materialized.

From what I remember from the novel, this is a pretty good adaptation that takes some liberties but tells the gist of the story. It also changes the location of the monolith from being near Saturn to being near Jupiter for some reason. But I also kind of see this as existing in its own continuity, as it’s really hard to envision what could’ve even come after the 2001 movie despite this story trying to follow it up. As far as it being a movie sequel to the first book, as it is written, it works. The Kubrick 2001 film was much more mystical and fantastical than the book and it left a lot open for interpretation where the novel was more clear cut and explained things better.

Like the books, this film tries to define the strange things that are happening within the plot, unlike it’s cinematic predecessor. In fact, this film starts with an opening recap of the first movie with actual explanations of plot details to try and ground the story and set certain events in stone. I actually really like that, as it immediately shows that this movie is indeed different in its style and how it is going to present its fantastical journey.

Additionally, I really liked the casting of Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd, as he felt like a better version of the character than what we got in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. Granted, he was more of a minor character in the first film and we needed someone with more presence and gravitas, as he becomes the main character in this story.

Scheider was a great choice, though, as he had just come off of the first two Jaws movies and was one of the top actors of his era. He had a certain panache and a good level of manliness but also came across as a smart guy that would think before reacting and usually had a clear head and felt like a natural leader.

The rest of the cast is also good with Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban, the return of Keir Dullea as Bowman and the rest of the Russian crew. I especially liked Elya Baskin as Brailovsky, as his chemistry with Lithgow’s Curnow was superb. Some of you may know Baskin from his role as Peter Parker’s landlord in Spider-Man 2 and 3.

I also love that the story is anti-Cold War, as it forces the Americans and Russian astronauts and scientists to work together, despite their countries being on the cusp of war. In fact, the countries do go to war while the crew is on their mission and what they may return home to is a somber, dark cloud over the rest of the story. Late into the story, the crews are forced to separate by the orders of their feuding governments but in spite of this, the two crews still end up working together to complete the mission and attempt to solve the universe’s greatest mystery.

Some people have said that the ending was underwhelming but I don’t think that’s true at all. It kind of felt like the ending to a really good classic Star Trek episode where the crew must solve a cosmic mystery. The reward for doing so is actually quite profound, as it forever changes the solar system and man’s place in it.

The movie also has incredible special effects and I especially liked how well they did in recreating the Discovery. It really pulls you back into the iconic ship and it just adds an extra level of legitimacy to this film, marrying it to the original one, aesthetically. Having the same voice for HAL-9000 was also a nice touch, as the character wouldn’t have been the same with someone else doing the performance.

Ultimately, this isn’t on the level of 2001: A Space Odyssey but what is in the science fiction genre? As it’s own motion picture, it’s cool, imaginative and it expands upon the greater work before it while also entertaining and boasting some solid acting performances across the board.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Odyssey series of books by Arthur C. Clarke.

 

Film Review: Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Also known as: 3 (trailer title)
Release Date: April 3rd, 2007 (Uruguay)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi, Alvin Sargent
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, Bryce Dallas Howard, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Elya Baskin, James Cromwell, Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Joe Manganiello (cameo)

Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 139 Minutes, 137 Minutes (Editor’s Cut)

Review:

“Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside us, we always have a choice. My friend Harry taught me that. He chose to be the best of himself. It’s the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what’s right.” – Peter Parker

While this wasn’t as bad as I remembered, there are still some things that are very off about this picture.

Starting with a positive, I do like the visual tone of this film the best out of the trilogy. It abandoned that overly copper, sunset look the other ones had and most of the film takes place at night or in normal daylight.

However, the improvements in the visual look are overshadowed by the film’s very shoddy CGI effects. It’s kind of baffling but this is the worst looking film of the three when it comes to digital effects. I’m not sure if the studio cut some corners or were rushed but most action heavy CGI sequences looked like a video game. It was distracting and pulled you out of the magic.

I think it’s possible that they overextended themselves in trying to include both Venom and The Sandman, as it’s damn near impossible to create those characters, in all their glory, without the use of CGI. In fact, their battles in the film needed to be larger than life spectacles.

Now the problem isn’t the use of either villain but it’s the use of both of them at the same time. Plus, Harry Osborn also becomes the new Green Goblin.

This picture suffers across the board because trying to wedge in three villains just didn’t work from a narrative standpoint and it forced the effects artists to focus their efforts into multiple effects heavy characters.

Now the film did a superb job with The Sandman’s story and if this movie just focused on him, it could’ve actually been incredible. The Sandman gets thrown to the side at multiple points throughout the movie though, as they then have to rush through Venom’s origin in the most half-assed way possible. Then they have to deal with Harry and his Goblin thing, Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship issues, introducing Gwen Stacy and even having Peter turn into an emo douche because I guess that’s what the Venom symbiote does in the movie universe.

The narrative is disjointed as hell but where it’s good, it’s great. But every time you really get into a portion of the story, it shifts gears or throws something stupid at you. The misfires and shifts are pretty maddening, especially when there are things in the film that work and come across as spectacular. It’s like you can see the real love for these characters rise up like cream to the top but then the filmmakers stir the coffee again. By the third act, they just keep throwing hot coffee in your face.

In a nutshell, this is a clusterfuck but it’s a clusterfuck that has greatness in it. I still like the movie despite its massive flaws and for fans of Harry Osborn, his journey comes to a beautiful end. With it, the film hits you right in the feels, as you feel the pain that Peter and Mary Jane share over the loss of their dear friend and how wrecked their own relationship has become.

The film does leave you with some hope but the ending is still kind of a downer. Granted, they planned a followup (or three) to this film but those movies never happened.

In the end, this movie was a weird end to the film series. I know it wasn’t intended to be the send off for these characters but it left the film series in a strange, uncertain place. I would’ve liked to have seen this cast get to make at least one more picture but that ship has sailed.

Maybe a comic book sequel could work but with the comic industry being in the shitter, waiting to be flushed, that’s probably wishful thinking. Plus, they’ve already rebooted the film series twice since this came out.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.

Film Review: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Also known as: Spider-Man: No More, Spider-Man 2: Lives, The Amazing Spider-Man (working title), Spider-Man 2.1 (recut version)
Release Date: June 25th, 2004 (Lithuania)
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Written by: Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar, Michael Chabon
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Alfred Molina, Donna Murphy, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn, Elizabeth Banks, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Dylan Baker, Daniel Gillies, Vanessa Ferlito, Elya Baskin, Hal Sparks, Joel McHale, Emily Deschanel, Joey Diaz, Chloe Dykstra, John Landis (cameo), Willem Dafoe (cameo), Cliff Robertson (cameo), Phil LaMarr (uncredited), Peyton List (uncredited)

Marvel Entertainment, Laura Ziskin Productions, Columbia Pictures, 127 Minutes, 135 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“We need a hero, couragous sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero, people line up for ’em, cheer for them, scream their names, and years later tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to HOLD ON a second longer. I believe theres a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dreams.” – May Parker

I always thought of Spider-Man 2 as the superior film between the first two. However, having revisited them for the first time in over a decade, I think they break even. And that’s a good thing, as the first was a wee bit better than I remembered and this one was just about the same.

I like the story and the stakes in the first one better but this film has what I consider to be one of the greatest moments in superhero film history, if not the greatest.

That moment comes at the end of the train battle where Spider-Man exposes himself to the people on the train while he is risking his own life to save them from a horrible death. Those people, in a very powerful moment, stand up for Spidey and vow to protect his identity. Shit gets me misty… every fucking time.

The rest of the film is pretty great too and while I get bored with there being a lot of romance in superhero films, Sam Raimi did a stupendous job with these pictures, as he truly captures the emotions and the heartbreak of the characters, showing both sides of the equation equally and fairly.

A lot of the credit also has to go to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, who played these roles greatly while also having incredible chemistry. Sure, their story gets a bit fucked up in the third film but I’ll review that one in about a week.

Another thing I like about the film is how Raimi foreshadows things to come. Spider-Man is exposed to the public, which sort of foreshadows his identity becoming known to his love Mary Jane and his best friend Harry Osborn, who has vowed to get revenge on Spider-Man for the accidental death of his father.

It also foreshadows stories to come after this film by including Dr. Curt Connors, the man who would become The Lizard, as well as J. Jonah Jameson’s son, who would become Man-Wolf. Granted, Raimi never got to explore these characters more, as Spider-Man 4 and the films following it were eventually cancelled after the third movie misfired pretty hard.

It also felt like the groundwork was being laid for a Sinister Six story, which would become a focal point of The Amazing Spider-Man films that followed but that series was also cancelled in favor of another reboot that brought Spidey into Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe via Captain America: Civil War and his own solo films and guest appearances that followed.

Anyway, getting back on the topic of this film, my only real criticisms of it are the same as the previous one and that’s the visual style of it and how it looks overly copper. Granted, that feels like it is less of a problem here and the visual aesthetic was a bit more fine tuned and natural looking.

Apart from that, I just don’t like Dr. Octopus as much as I liked the Green Goblin. Both characters had weird designs and outfits in these movies but with the films being so good, you quickly look passed that. But Octopus feels kind of generic and uninspiring. While I like Alfred Molina in the role, I felt like he needed more meat to chew on and a much better look. In the end, however, you do really sympathize with him when he realizes what he’s done and decides to undo his work in an effort to save New York City and redeem himself in the eyes of Peter Parker, a kid he likes and respects.

Wrapping up two movies, this picture has an absolutely perfect ending. If the series ended here, it probably would’ve been remembered even more fondly but we did get that third film that derailed everything and it sort of left a stink on top of the series. Plus, after this, it would’ve felt almost criminal not to continue on.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in this mostly great series.