Film Review: Mac And Me (1988)

Also known as: Mi amigo Mac (Spanish title)
Release Date: August 12th, 1988
Directed by: Stewart Raffill
Written by: Steve Feke, Stewart Raffill
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Christine Ebersole, Jonathan Ward, Tina Caspary, Lauren Stanley, Jade Calegory

New Star Entertainment, Vision International, Orion Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“You know what I feel like?” – Michael Cruise, “A Big Mac?” – Eric Cruise, “The man’s psychic!” – Michael Cruise

If you look at this as a 99 minute advertisement for McDonald’s and Coke, it’s not that bad. And really, isn’t that what this actually is?

As a kid, I kind of assumed that Mac was a new character in McDonlad’s roster that includes Ronald McDonald, Birdie, Grimace, the Hamburglar and the Fry Guys. I mean, “Mac” even fits perfectly within the McGimmick. But no, I guess this was supposed to be a real movie.

Now this is one of many blatant ripoffs of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. These films were a dime a dozen in the ’80s just as much as Gremlins ripoffs were.

This is also universally panned by just about everyone. However, the hatred towards it is by loads of people that haven’t actually seen it. They just read things on the Internet and have heard the legends about Mac And Me for decades. And while I remembered mostly liking this in 1988, I hadn’t seen it in a really long time and wasn’t sure how it would hold up.

Seeing this now, as it was finally lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the newest season, I still don’t think it’s as bad as the hype would want you to believe.

Now this is still a bad movie but it has a charm that most bad movies don’t. It’s ’80s cheese of the highest caliber and that can be a good or bad thing but it helps this picture, in my opinion. Also, all the kids were really likable and that goes a long way for me in a movie like this.

The story is cookie cutter and the high point is a big party at McDonald’s, which features Mac the Alien disguised as a teddy bear, dancing on tables and flying around the restaurant. But the scene is so bizarre and ’80s kitsch that it’s hard not to love if you grew up in that decade and have a soft spot for really weird, goofy shit.

But I get it, people will always have fun trashing this movie because it’s a bizarre and bad film by critical standards. Looking beyond that, though, it’s still entertaining, fun and lighthearted in a good way. At it’s core, the film is actually kind of sweet.

There are plot holes galore and a lot of things don’t make sense but it doesn’t necessarily need to. This wasn’t made to make you think, it was made to make you smile… and buy lots of Big Macs and Coke products.

Also, I loved the intensity of the Alan Silvestri score.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other blatant ripoffs of E.T. but if I’m being honest, this is the best of the lot. This also plays well as a double feature with Spaced Invaders.

Film Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 2 (working title)
Release Date: December 2nd, 2013 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Stephen Colbert, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)

New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 161 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“There is something about you. Something you carry, something made of gold… but far more precious…” – Smaug

I’ve been rewatching these, as I haven’t seen them since they were in the theater. And like the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films, I’m hoping that the Extended Editions of this trilogy help to make the films richer and give them more depth and context.

Where my disappointment with An Unexpected Journey was somewhat fixed, the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug didn’t do much to make this film any better and in fact, stretched it out more than it needed to be.

The extended scenes in the previous film seemed to make things better. But here, it drags out some of the scenes that could have been even shorter in the theatrical version.

All the stuff that featured Smaug was pretty good but it felt really stretched out in this film. But as I said in the previous review, they didn’t need to stretch out a short novel over a nine-plus hour trilogy. It’s friggin’ overkill, even with the narrative additions to the plot that weren’t from the original book.

Watching the extended version splits the movie up onto two discs. In all honestly, it showed me just how inconsistent the film is. The first half is not very good but the second half is much better.

The first half of the film was dragged down by things that didn’t need to be there. I get that Beorn is in the book but his inclusion in the film was unnecessary and didn’t really serve the plot in any meaningful way. They spend a half hour on this and all that comes out of it is that the dwarves get some ponies to ride for about two minutes. Just cut the whole thing out. It didn’t fit in the film, it slowed things to a crawl and it didn’t help the narrative and should have been omitted just as the Tom Bombadil stuff was left out of the Lord of the Rings movie adaptations.

Also, the forest with the giant spiders was a pretty weak sequence overall and even though giant spiders exist in Middle Earth, it felt more like a rehash of something we already saw just a few years earlier in one of the Harry Potter movies. Although, it does serve the purpose of pushing Bilbo towards being more of a badass.

Then there was the whole sequence of the dwarves getting captured by the elves, escaping really easily and then giving us the barrels down the river scene, which is the worst part of any of these Lord of the Rings related films. That whole scene is the worst kind of cringe and it pulls you right out of the movie and almost makes you embarrassed for liking these films. It felt like over the top Disney blockbuster schlock.

Also, the dwarf and elf romance felt really forced and awkward as hell.

Once you get to the second half, things get much darker tonally, which contrasts the goofiness of the first half so greatly that it doesn’t feel like the same movie. But this is the superior half, even if it is also drawn out too much.

I really liked Luke Evans as Bard though. I also enjoyed the bits with Stephen Fry.

The best part of the whole film is when the dwarves finally reach the mountain and Bilbo Baggins comes face to face with Smaug. For fans of the BBC show Sherlock, this is extra exciting, as Bilbo is Watson and Smaug’s voice is Sherlock. At least I thought that was a cool aspect of this film’s casting. Luckily, both men also were brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last few years.

I can’t say that this is the worst of the three Hobbit films, as of yet. I still need to rewatch The Battle of the Five Armies. But from memory, I think I did like that one better than this chapter.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 1 (working title)
Release Date: November 28th, 2012 (Wellington, New Zealand premiere)
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)

New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 169 Minutes, 182 Minutes (Extended Edition)

Review:

“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.” – Gandalf

When these movies first came out, I was really disappointed with them. Granted, they were still mostly enjoyable but they lacked the magic that made Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so spectacular a decade earlier.

I finally revisited this, as I got a great deal on the entire set of Hobbit films in their Extended Edition format, which is also the versions of the Lord of the Rings films I own. And like the other Extended Editions, this beefed up version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey became a better, more fleshed out movie.

Also, I’ve had six years to let this movie digest and I did find it more palatable this time around. Although, some of my issues with it are still there.

To start, this feels like a disjointed film, tonally. It’s as if it isn’t sure what it needs to be. Frankly, the tone of Lord of the Rings was perfect and this should have mirrored that. There isn’t really any reason why it couldn’t, as it had the same creative team behind it.

The film suffers from being too hokey at times and its the kind of hokey that is cringe. The dwarves look goofy as hell, the humor is usually off key or unnecessary and the musical bits, whether or not they exist in the book, really bogged this movie down and made it exude Disney level cheese but really bad Disney. I’m sorry but Aragon and the Mouth of Sauron didn’t break out into song and dance in Return of the King.

There’s also weird moments like the dwarf snoring and breathing moths in and out of his nose. And then there are strange, unnecessary things like Radagast the Brown having bird shit crusted to the side of his head. I also can’t leave out the insane physics of this movie and how the dwarves and Bilbo are seemingly indestructible and have incredible balance between the Stone Giants fight scene and sliding down a massive rock chute without splattering all over the place or breaking every bone in their bodies.

Another thing that hurts the film is that it relies on CGI much more heavily than its predecessors. The Lord of the Rings films had a bunch of guys in fantastic orc makeup and they looked real and totally badass. Here, we have computer animated orcs that look more like video game characters than something organic on the screen. Granted, I love that Manu Bennett plays the orc leader.

But the reason why CGI orcs don’t work for the film is because practical effects, if they can be utilized properly, just look better. The original Lord of the Rings trilogy was heralded as being a huge step forward in special effects on every level. The Hobbit movies, however, are just stagnation.

The film has some strong positives though.

All of the new main characters were well cast. I loved Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo and Richard Armitage as Thorin. It was also really cool seeing Lee Pace as the Elvenking, Thranduil. He wasn’t in this chapter very much but his role gets bigger in the two pictures after this one.

I also liked the additions to the story, at least in this film. The side story with the Necromancer is really cool and I liked seeing Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond come together to discuss the rising darkness in Middle Earth.

The problem with this trilogy, which becomes more apparent in the second and third film, is that this didn’t need to be a trilogy. The Hobbit is a short book when compared to the Lord of the Rings novels. This could have been expanded into two films and even included some of the additions to the story but three movies spreads the narrative too thin. Especially for movies roughly around the three hour mark.

An Unexpected Journey doesn’t quite work in the way that it should but it is still a hell of a good time for fans of Lord of the Rings.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.

Film Review: Kazaam (1996)

Release Date: July 17th, 1996
Directed by: Paul Michael Glaser
Written by: Christian Ford, Roger Soffer, Paul Michael Glaser
Music by: Christopher Tyng
Cast: Shaquille O’Neal, Francis Capra, Ally Walker, James Acheson, Da Brat (cameo)

Touchstone Pictures, Interscope Communications, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Buena Vista Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“He’s A Rappin’ Genie With An Attitude… And He’s Ready For Slam-Dunk Fun!” – marketing tagline

I’ve never seen this until now. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s f’n terrible but it’s not 2.9 on IMDb terrible. More like a solid 4.

Anyway, the story is bad, the special effects are really bad and the acting may be even worse. But this is a film that has some charm to it.

At this point in his career, Shaq couldn’t act himself out of a wet paper bag and he’s not much better over twenty years later but man, he needed some acting coaches before jumping into this weird movie.

He was still really likable in this, however, but rapping half of his lines was probably unnecessary. Then again, this came out at the same time he was a few albums deep into his short rap career. I just felt like this movie and his rap albums were the result of people not being able to tell him “no” when he wanted to do other things outside of basketball.

I think the glue of this picture was the kid Max, played by Francis Capra, who wasn’t a one-off child actor, he still works consistently in Hollywood today. The kid had charisma and as a character, I cared about him, even if this was a stupid and strange movie. His East Coast, New York attitude kind of reminded me of Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid.

The premise is about this bullied kid who frees a genie from a magic boom box. Yes, you read that right. Genie Shaq then spends a lot of time trying to convince the kid that he is a genie but his magic never works. Then it starts working and the kid takes the whole damn movie to come up with his three wishes. Genie Shaq, in the meantime, starts a rap career in the movie. So he is literally a rapping genie. You also read that right.

So the kid is trying to connect with his scumbag, criminal father. Eventually, the biological dad decides to fix his life and do what’s right by his son. The son then also learns to accept his step father, who really is the better male role model in his life. Genie Shaq eventually gets free and leaves to have a life with some chick that’s into rapping genies the size of a Sasquatch.

Anyway, you could probably go your entire life not knowing that this film even exists but what fun would that be? Sure, it’s probably a waste of your time but sometimes wasting time is a good use of time… or so a fortune cookie said to me once. Granted, I was hammered on Zhujiang and tweaking from monosodium glutamate, so I could have read it wrong.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Steel with Shaq.

Film Review: Explorers (1985)

Release Date: July 12th, 1985
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Eric Luke
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Amanda Peterson, James Cromwell, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Meshach Taylor

Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“It’s asking for coordinates on x-, y- and z-axes to locate a point in space relative to its terminal. How did you dream this?” – Wolfgang Müller

The Explorers was one of my favorite movies in the mid-’80s. It kind of fit in with all those other kid adventure movies like E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Goonies and Monster Squad. These kid films did really well back then and they all sort of just tapped into something that films didn’t do as good before the decade. I guess that’s why Stranger Things and the modern It movie have built up solid fan bases off of the nostalgia for these sort of films and stories.

This movie is no different and it also came from the imagination of Joe Dante. Ultimately, this feels like a Spielberg film too but he wasn’t even involved but maybe Dante’s experience working with Spielberg on Gremlins, a year earlier, kept that magic mojo going.

The plot follows three boys and their attempt at building a spaceship. Yeah, it is really fantastical and unrealistic but the movie is more about imagination and childhood than the going to space bit. Granted, they do go to space and meet aliens but even then, this is still about youthful imagination, living your dreams no matter how ridiculous they may be and never losing hope in yourself. It’s a metaphor, y’all!

What makes this movie so fantastic is that you do see this through the eyes of children but you also see it through the eyes of an adult, in this case the super talented and underutilized Dick Miller. Miller’s character, an old man that once had dreams and aspirations similar to the kids, discovers what these kids are up to and when he witnesses them succeed, he is living vicariously through them and tapping into something he hasn’t felt in decades. It’s pretty f’n touching and Miller really conveyed the right emotions in playing this part. While Miller’s role in the movie isn’t very big, it’s central to the most pivotal message this film tries to communicate to its audience.

The special effects in this are really good and I loved the sets and the creature effects on the aliens, once these kids journeyed to their spaceship.

Spoiler alert, the aliens are friendly and as the film rolls on, you come to discover that they’re just kids to. So the Earth kids and the alien kids meet and you see that they’re not too dissimilar. The alien kids are also driven to go on adventures and discover the universe with childlike enthusiasm. Plus, Robert Picardo was awesome as the male alien, even if you couldn’t see him under the bulky costume.

I like watching this film as an adult because it keeps me grounded by making me remember the ideals and view of the universe I had when I was a kid. Watching this as an adult is similar to being in the shoes of the Dick Miller character.

This is one of Joe Dante’s best pictures.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Flight of the NavigatorE.T the Extra-TerrestrialD.A.R.Y.L., The Goonies, Monster Squad.

Film Review: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)

Also known as: Fantastic Four 2, Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four: The Next Chapter (working titles)
Release Date: June 12th, 2007 (London premiere)
Directed by: Tim Story
Written by: Don Payne, Mark Frost, John Turman
Based on: Fantastic Four by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Kerry Washington, Andre Braugher, Doug Jones, Beau Garrett, Laurence Fishburne (voice), Brian Posehn

Marvel Entertainment, Constantin Film, 1492 Pictures, Dune Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“…I stayed in and studied like a good little nerd. And fifteen years later, I’m one of the greatest minds of the 21st century. I’m engaged to the hottest girl on the planet. And the big jock who played football in high school, he’s standing right in front of me asking me for my help, and I say he’s not going to get a damn thing, unless he does exactly what I say and starts treating me and my friends with some respect.” – Reed Richards

After revisiting the first film in this duology, which was really just an unfinished trilogy, I thought that I’d watch this one again too. Granted, I didn’t expect to be wowed by it, as I wasn’t wowed in the first place when it came out 11 years ago. But I’ve been slowly working my way through the Marvel films that existed before the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with Iron Man in 2008.

I thought that I preferred this one to its predecessor from what I remembered. However, having watched them again, this is the shitty one of the two films. Both are really shitty, mind you.

There is so much wrong with this film that it’s hard to pick where to start but I guess a lot of it can be lumped into one thing: tone. The tone just doesn’t work and this picture doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to be. This is a mish mash of extreme cheese, rom com cringe, buddy movie antics, sci-fi thriller elements, terrible villains and a pail full of wet turds.

The extreme cheese portion of the movie is the type of stuff that will make you puke in your mouth while experiencing uncontrollable shivers. If you don’t believe me, just watch the Reed Richards dance scene. Ioan Gruffudd is probably a nice enough guy but this whole sequence makes me hate him, the director and the special effects team. And ultimately, I cried inside because Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis had to be a part of it.

The rom com cringe comes from all the Reed Richards and Susan Storm marriage bullshit. There’s this ongoing joke throughout the movie about how their wedding keeps getting interrupted, it’s played up for comedy when it’s really not that funny and always takes a turn towards a serious attempt at stopping a threat which is poorly executed each time and falls victim to the extreme cheese residue that seems to be smeared over the celluloid that this was filmed on. Plus, this is one of the most unconvincing romantic relationships I have ever seen on screen.

When it comes to the buddy movie antics, the first film handled this stuff much better. I actually loved the relationship between Johnny and Ben in the first chapter. It carries over into this one but this story is more about how much of a fuck up Johnny is and it’s just not as funny. And since he becomes a responsible grown up by the end of the picture, it probably would’ve been worse in the third picture that didn’t get made. But where they try to push the buddy comedy shtick here, it just feels like a soulless copy of what’s already been done.

Then the film also tries to get serious and be a real science fiction thriller. The problem is that you are so bogged down by the cheesy bullshit that it doesn’t fit. I guess the best way to describe the confusing tone is to imagine taking a movie like Step Brothers and then trying to edit it together into one film with Terminator 2. The shit just doesn’t work and it’s weird.

Plus, Jessica Alba’s Sue Storm looks even more unbelievably bizarre in this film than the previous one. She’s a beautiful woman but the blonde hair and blue eyes are so exaggerated here that she looks like an alien in some scenes. I mean, it’s really fucking distracting. But in some scenes she looks fine too. Really, her whole look throughout the film is grossly inconsistent and when she does look weird, it’s super weird because 30 seconds earlier she probably looked okay.

I have to discuss the villain problem as well.

For one, I hated Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom in the first movie and he’s just so much worse in this one. The dude does everything he can to not wear the Doom mask, which is the main thing that makes the villain visually terrifying. But then when he does wear it, his dubbing is fucking deplorable. He doesn’t sound like a mad scientist in a cool mask, he sounds like a male dance choreographer trying to berate six year-old ballet students that don’t have the attention span to commit to his community theater production.

Then there is Galactus. Or isn’t there? One of the most powerful villains in the entire history of Marvel Comics is simply a cloud in this film. A fucking cloud. I don’t think I need to say anymore about that.

Also, the plot makes no sense by the time you get to the end. The Silver Surfer is helping Galactus eat planets because if he doesn’t, Galactus will eat his homeworld. But then in the end, Susan Storm convinces the Silver Surfer to stop him. So how does he do it? The Surfer flies into the cloud, tells the cloud he isn’t his servant anymore and then the cloud blows up and goes away. Couldn’t the Silver Surfer have just done this like fifty planets ago? Hell, couldn’t have just gotten Galactus’ power and then instantly turned on him without actually leaving his own planet and not only saving it but also all the worlds he prepared for his master like duck confit with a side of foie gras and truffle risotto?

Fuck, this movie is so stupid.

So I must put this movie through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: 2005’s Fantastic Four and the 2015 reboot. And I can’t forget 1994’s unreleased Fantastic Four film, which can be tracked down and seen nowadays. However, all these movies are terrible.

TV Review: Fuller House (2016- )

Also known as: Untitled Full House Revival (working title)
Original Run: February 26th, 2016-current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Jesse Frederick, Bennett Salvay, Carly Rae Jepsen (opening theme)
Cast: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Soni Nicole Bringas, Dashiell and Fox Messitt, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Scott Weinger, John Brotherton, Ashley Liao, Adam Hagenbuch, Bob Saget, John Stamos, Dave Coulier, Lori Loughlin, Mckenna Grace, Marla Sokoloff

Jeff Franklin Productions, Miller-Boyett Productions, Warner Horizon, Netflix, 44 Episodes (so far), 25-36 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2016.

It was a pretty eventful weekend full of binge watching for fans of the old ABC sitcom Full House, as it’s follow-up/sequel series finally hit Netflix.

This is definitely a show for those fans and really, those fans only. It really isn’t something to just pick up and watch without being familiar with the original series and honestly, that is perfectly fine. The producers and actors knew exactly what they were making and they succeeded in doing what they set out to do.

I consider myself a fan of the show, as I used to watch it during my childhood and then in syndication throughout my teen years. I still even catch an episode from time to time if I stumble upon it while flipping channels.

As its own show, standing alone from the original series, Fuller House doesn’t work. It is full of too many in-jokes and references to the original series and actors that it may be hard to follow for new viewers. And, at times, those references get to be overkill. The show is certainly holding on to nostalgia and to what came before but it is holding on to those things a little too hard. There are a few cringe-worthy and awkward moments here and there, which serve to hurt this show instead of help it.

Pop culture, as of late, has become obsessed with nostalgia and Fuller House is a product of that. Again, it works for fans of the old series but it doesn’t offer up anything new, worthwhile or engaging for a potential new fan who is just discovering the Full House universe.

It is too similar to the older show’s format and it just relies on it too much, instead of being daring and stepping outside of its 29 year-old box.

I like it for what it is but I don’t know if I am interested in a second season. I know that most people, other than the hardcore fans, will probably be over it once getting through the thirteen episodes.

But it was nice seeing the family together, meeting the new kids – who were fairly entertaining and experiencing the genuine feeling of love between these cast mates.

It is a show strictly for its fans and that’s about it. Although, I do like that the producers realize that the fans are older and they were able to sneak in some adult jokes.

If comparing this to the dozens upon dozens of previous reunion attempts from other famous shows done over decades, this is certainly in the upper echelon. My brain still hurts with how bad that Growing Pains reunion was years ago.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Full House and then other revival sitcoms Girl Meets WorldRoseanne (2018), etc.