Film Review: Private Resort (1985)

Release Date: May 3rd, 1985
Directed by: George Bowers
Written by: Alan Wenkus, Gordon Mitchell, Ken Segall
Music by: various
Cast: Rob Morrow, Johnny Depp, Emily Longstreth, Toni Azito, Dody Goodman, Leslie Easterbrook, Hector Elizondo, Andrew “Dice” Clay, Karyn O’Bryan, Michael Bowen

Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, thank you, Baba Rama Nana!” – Shirley

Private Resort is the final film in the Private trilogy, which is comprised of three unrelated sex comedy films. It’s also my favorite of the three, just beating out Private School. However, I haven’t seen Private Lessons since the ’90s and should probably revisit it again for a review and to compare to the other two films.

This is a dumb, goofy, ’80s comedy with lots of raunchy sex jokes and random boob shots. So basically, this is something I loved as a kid back when this sort of stuff was still acceptable.

Sure, things like this were never considered “high art” but people generally enjoyed them because we enjoyed life back then and we also used our entertainment as a means of escape from the problems that come from reality. Everyone needs a break and comedy used to be a great medicine for negative emotions. Boobies are also a great medicine for that but you’re not supposed to admit stuff like that anymore.

Anyway, this stars Rob Morrow, who would go on to be the lead in Northern Exposure, and Johnny Depp, just after he was in the original A Nightmare On Elm Street and before he blew up from his role on the original 21 Jump Street.

The film also features Andrew Dice Clay in one of my favorite roles he’s played, Leslie Easterbrook, Hector Elizondo and a young Michael Bowen.

The story follows two young guys showing up at a beach resort in an effort to get laid. While chasing girls, they draw the ire of the hotel security manager, a jewel thief, a total dick that works at the resort and a buff womanizer.

It feels like half the movie is just zany, slapstick chase scenes throughout the resort’s grounds but I’m fine with that, as a lot of the gags are still funny and they still make me laugh. Granted, I don’t know how well any of this would play for modern audiences that didn’t grow up with these kind of movies.

Overall, this is mindless fun and if you’ve read enough of my other reviews, you know that’s something I’m a fan of.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: The Rescuers (1977)

Also known as: Bernard and Bianca (alternative title)
Release Date: June 19th, 1977 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Art Stevens
Written by: Larry Clemmons, Vance Gerry, Ken Anderson, Frank Thomas, Burny Mattinson, Fred Lucky, Dick Sebast, David Michener, Ted Berman
Based on: The Rescuers and Miss Bianca by Margery Sharp
Music by: Artie Butler
Cast: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Joe Flynn, Geraldine Page

Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Productions, 78 Minutes

Review:

“Poor Evinrude. Your carburetor is all pooped out.” – Miss Bianca

The Rescuers was a movie I watched a hell of a lot as a kid. It came out before I was born but my uncle that had access to things gave me a copy, I think before it was even commercially available on VHS tape. I was young, details are murky.

Anyway, I guess this was immensely popular, even though I feel like it’s been forgotten today. In fact, Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers originally started out as a Rescuers show. It was changed once The Rescuers were given a theatrical sequel film, being the first and only Disney animated feature of the old hand-drawn style to receive a theatrical sequel. There would end up being many sequels for various Disney films after that, however, except those were always straight-to-video.

Staying focused on this film, however, it still plays well and I think it’s aged tremendously and represents an era of Disney that is too often overlooked and underappreciated.

The Rescuers is also kind of a dark film, even if it is kid friendly. It deals with dark subject matter and a fairly realistic, truly evil woman as its villain.

However, most of the characters are cute animals, so that helps keep the movie from going too deeply into darkness.

I love the characters in this, though, specifically the mice Bernard and Miss Bianca. I think it also helps that they were voiced by the great Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor, who already had voicework experience from The Aristocats.

The story is about a kidnapped orphan, an evil woman obsessed with a mythical diamond and how these two mice are on the search for the little girl and ultimately, have to take down the villainess.

I really liked the setting of the film being the bayou. It gave it a very unique look and style and it also provided the right type of place for those two villainous alligators to thrive. I always loved the alligators as a kid but I also grew up on the edge of the Everglades, which isn’t too dissimilar from the bayou.

The Rescuers is still an entertaining movie and my second favorite of the ’70s Disney animated features after Robin Hood.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Mobile Suit Gundam – The Original Trilogy (1981-1982)

Release Date: Part I: March 14th, 1981; Part II: July 11th, 1981; Part III: March 13th, 1982
Directed by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Written by: Yoshiyuki Tomino
Based on: Mobile Suit Gundam by Yoshiyuki Tomino
Music by: Joe Hisaishi, Takeo Watanabe, Yushi Matsuyama
Cast: Toru Furuya, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Toshio Furukawa, Kiyonobu Suzuki

Sotsu Agency, Sunrise, Kodansha, Nagoya Broadcasting Network, 139 Minutes (Part I), 133 Minutes (Part II), 144 Minutes (Part III)

Review:

“A mobile suit’s abilities don’t decide a battle’s outcome. I’ll teach you that!” – Char Aznable

Yes, I have watched anime my entire life. Yes, I have loved Robotech and other mecha-centric anime since I was about six years-old. No, I have never watched anything from the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise until now.

While I know that’s basically a crime in nerdom, it’s not that I didn’t want to watch Gundam, it’s just that there is so much of it that I found it overwhelming and didn’t know where to even start. But luckily, one of my hardcore Gundam homies said he’d walk me through it. Also, since a literal fuck ton of Gundam is now on Netflix, I figured there was no better time than the present to finally jump into this massive I.P.

So I started with the original theatrical trilogy of Gundam movies, which aren’t technically the first things released. Well, I guess they sort of are but let me explain.

The film trilogy was created using footage from the original anime series. Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino wanted to streamline it down, omit some of the stuff that didn’t matter as much and then re-edit everything into a three-part epic, telling the main story with the most important parts.

I think that Tomino succeeded, even though I can’t compare it to the original series, as I haven’t seen that yet. But I don’t know if I would consider the television series and all 43 episodes to be a masterpiece and pretty damn close to perfection. I consider this trilogy of films to be exactly that, though.

The lore to this series is so well defined and the introduction to the movies fill you in on it pretty quickly. Beyond the general framework and concept, though, the story and characters all evolve in really unique ways.

While war is the thing that hangs over everyone’s head, this greatly explores the characters’ places within that, as well as their relationships with one another. In many instances, this stuff gets pretty deep and it reminds me of the character development and exploration of relationships in Robotech but this surprisingly does it better and the pain of the characters cuts deeper. It’s a hard thing to quantify or explain, really, but you find yourself caring about these people, even the ones you wouldn’t expect at all, on a pretty profound level for an animated series/movie.

The relationships and the challenges that come with them is actually the main thing that makes me want to watch all of the 43 episodes that were whittled down into these three pictures.

As far as the fun stuff goes, which is the general action, the mecha suits and the big battles, this does all that exceptionally well. This has fast-paced, exciting action and it’s different than the other sci-fi anime properties before it. It just shifts into high gear in a way that anime hadn’t before this.

If you’re like I was, and love this sort of stuff but haven’t seen this yet, you really need to.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Also known as: The Mummy 3 (informal title), Untitled Rick O’Connell Adventure, The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon (working titles)
Release Date: July 24th, 2008 (Moscow premiere)
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Written by: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Randy Edleman
Cast: Brendan Fraser, John Hannah, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Michelle Yeoh

The Sommers Company, Relativity Media, Universal Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“I hate mummies! They never play fair!” – John Carnahan

Fuck me. This was damn near unwatchable and getting through it was a hell of a challenge. But I wanted to complete the trilogy for the sake of reviewing them all.

This was so bad and weird that Rachel Weisz passed on it after reading the script and not wanting to play mother to a twenty-two year-old son. I guess Brendan Fraser came back after they threw like fourteen million dollars at him.

The only other returning cast member from previous films was John Hannah.

Somehow, Rick O’Connell has a kid that’s in his twenties, even though Rick looks the same as he did in the previous two movies. If you remember, the son was like seven years-old in the previous film and he wasn’t even born yet in the one before that. But whatever.

This time Evie is played by Maria Bello. Generally, I like Maria Bello but man was she poorly cast for this role. She doesn’t look like Evie, doesn’t act like her and it just breaks the movie. It’s a situation where the film would’ve been better off having the character omitted, whether that came from being an offscreen death or divorce.

In this story, the heroes go to China and we get a new mummy played by Jet Li. I hope Li got a fat paycheck too because this utilized him poorly.

Additionally, the special effects seem like they’re worse than they were in the previous movies.

Man, this just shouldn’t have been made. It’s absolute shit and I probably would’ve hated it more had I seen it in the theater back in 2008.

At least now, I can say that I’ve seen it, reviewed it and can go on to forget it.

Rating: 3.75/10

Film Review: Kamen Rider: The First (2005)

Also known as: Masked Rider: The First (alternative English title)
Release Date: October 26th, 2005 (Tokyo Film Festival)
Directed by: Takao Nagaishi
Written by: Toshiki Inoue
Based on: Kamen Rider by Shotaro Ishinomori
Music by: Gorou Yasukawa
Cast: Masaya Kikawada, Hassei Takano, Komine Rena, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Eiji Wentz, Ryoko Kobayashi, Sada Mayumi, Issa Hentona, Hideyo Amamoto, Itsuji Itao, Kanji Tsuda

Toei, 91 Minutes

Review:

I haven’t seen this since around the time that it first came out on DVD in the US, which probably wasn’t too long after its 2005 theatrical release in Japan.

This also had a sequel, which I remembered liking better, as it leaned even heavier into the violence and edginess that this strange retelling of the original two Kamen Riders origin introduced.

This plays much darker and more like horror than the standard Kamen Rider television series. It’s a reboot but it was made for an older audience that had grown up with the shows but found them to be too kiddie for typical adults.

For what this set out to do, I think it achieved its goals fairly well. This isn’t in any way superior to the source material but it definitely respects it and still homages it in a good way that captures the aesthetic and vibe. It looks and feels like a modern tokusatsu production but with a bigger budget and without having its hands tied by the creative limitations of a children’s show.

I thought that the acting was decent. None of it as particularly great but also, none of it felt overly hokey or cheesy like typical tokusatsu shows often times deliver.

I thought that the special effects were good. The costumes were top notch and looked impressive. My only gripe in that regard is that I felt like the Shocker foot soldiers would’ve looked a lot cooler if they kept their classic costumes and lucha libre style masks.

Ultimately, this was a really interesting experiment. I think it paid off for what it was and it didn’t do anything to diminish the legacy of the intellectual property unlike just about every Hollywood reboot and remake over the last decade or more.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Release Date: July 7th, 1988 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Charles Crichton
Written by: John Cleese, Charles Crichton
Music by: John Du Prez
Cast: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Cynthia Cleese, Stephen Fry

Star Partners Limited Partnership, Prominent Features, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 108 Minutes

Review:

“You pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, English, giant, twerp, scumbag, fuck-face, dickhead, asshole.” – Otto, “How very interesting. You’re a true vulgarian, aren’t you?” – Archie, “You are the vulgarian, you fuck.” – Otto

I remember adults talking about how much they loved this movie when I was nine years-old. I also vaguely remember seeing the John Cleese getting caught naked gag whether from trailers or just seeing it pop up on HBO while flipping the channels.

That’s really all I knew about the movie, though, but people still talk about it fondly, so I figured that I should finally check it out. Plus, I like Cleese, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and Kevin Kline. Cynthia Cleese and Stephen Fry also pop up in this.

For the most part, this was amusing and I liked that it was essentially a film-noir structured comedy. Curtis essentially plays a femme fatale without the murder and you never really know which guy she’s screwing over and who she may choose in the end… or no one.

Cleese was as likable and hilarious as always and this really felt like somewhat of spiritual successor to probably his most famous character, Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers. Although, Cleese’s character here is less of a shithead.

Kline is solid as a total bastard and I especially liked his banter and scenes with Michael Palin.

Overall, this is pretty quick paced, whimsical and entertaining. However, it didn’t captivate me on the level that it has seemed to for other people, especially at the time of this picture’s release. Maybe it worked better in 1988 and for an audience that was older than me then. 

Honestly, it reminds me a lot of other comedies of the time featuring a small group of people all trying to fuck each other over. It was kind of a normal comedy trope at the time and with that, I can’t really see this as something wholly original or refreshing, even for its era. While it beat Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to the theater by a few months, it pales in comparison to that by a pretty substantial margin.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Porco Rosso (1992)

Also known as: Kurenai no buta (original Japanese title), The Crimson Pig (literal English title)
Release Date: July 18th, 1992 (Japan)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Based on: Hikotei Jidai by Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Japanese Language: Shuichiro Moriyama, Akio Otsuka, Akemi Okamura, Tokiko Kato, Sanshi Katsura; English Language: Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, Bill Fagerbakke, Frank Welker

Japan Airlines, Nibariki, Nippon Television Network, Studio Ghibli, 94 Minutes

Review:

“I’d rather be a pig than a fascist.” – Porco Rosso

I’ve gotta say, I went into this with no real expectations but it kind of blew me away and impressed me a great deal.

The humor in this is fantastic and up to the point of this film’s release, this may be Studio Ghibli’s best use of comedy. It helped set the film’s playful tone from the get go.

The story is about an ace pilot during the World War I era. He’s Italian and work as a bounty hunter around the Adriatic Sea. He’s also been cursed with the head of a pig, even though he’s a pretty normal human being.

Over the course of the film, he develops a rivalry with an American ace and loses a contest against him. He then is convinced by a young girl that she can design and build a better plane for him, even though he doesn’t initially like the idea. Over the course of the story, they develop an incredible bond and Porco Rosso sets his sights on redeeming himself against the American ace.

While this is more of a comedy than a drama, it has very strong dramatic moments and I think it’s those parts that make this pretty great.

I watched the English dubbed version and I thoroughly enjoyed the voice acting. I especially liked Michael Keaton and Cary Elwes as the voices of the two rival aces, which made their banter pretty entertaining.

As far as the animation goes, this is exactly what you should expect from a Hayao Miyazaki picture. I also think this has a lot more energy than many of his films, as it features so much aerial action.

While I doubt that I’ll ever discover a bad Studio Ghibli film, this wasn’t one that I expected to be really impressed by. In the end, it did just that and I think this may be one of my favorites of the bunch. But I still have many to get through, that I haven’t seen.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Doctor X (1932)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1932 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Robert Tasker, Earl Baldwin
Based on: Terror, 1928 play by Howard W. Comstock, Allen C. Miller
Music by: Leo F. Forbstein, Bernard Kaun
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster

First National Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“Were the murdered women… attacked?” – Dr. Haines, Academy of Surgical Research

I don’t know if this is the first horror/comedy ever made but it’s gotta be pretty close. However, it also blends together several genres in what’s a really unique experience for a motion picture from 1932.

This is directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct several film-noir pictures, as well as big budget swashbuckling blockbusters starring the legendary Errol Flynn. Curtiz was a pretty versatile and now celebrated director but this may be his most unusual film.

So the version of this that I watched was actually the one restored by George Lucas’ people, which was also in Technicolor, as opposed to the traditional black and white.

However, I really liked the Technicolor work in this film and it made it feel gritty and real and also somewhat haunting and majestic. The use of green accents enhanced it in a unique way and while I typically prefer to see films, as they were intended, this almost makes a good argument for the use of colorization just by how it was employed here.

I thought that the film was amusing, I liked the comedy and it still works for those few of us that still enjoy pictures from this era.

I also enjoyed the performances by Lionel Atwill, a guy that was featured in a slew of classic Universal Monsters films, as well as Fay Wray, who will always be remembered for her iconic part in the original King Kong.

While this is sort of your typical mad scientist tale, it’s genre bending narrative comes across as fresh and unique when compared to similar movies of the time.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The Mummy Returns (2001)

Also known as: The Mummy 2 (working title)
Release Date: April 29th, 2001 (premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stephen Sommers
Based on: characters by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle, Kevin Jarre
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velásquez, Freddie Boath, Alun Armstrong, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Imhotep Productions, Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 130 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rick] My friend, there is a fine line between coincidence and fate.” – Ardeth Bay

Let me start by saying that this is not as good as its predecessor, 1999’s The Mummy. That’s probably not a shock, though, as generally everyone agrees with that, critics included.

However, I will also say that this was better than I remembered it being and I think that fun adventure movies were in such abundance in this era that I may have taken it for granted.

My only big gripe with this movie is how atrocious the CGI was on the Scorpion King character at the end of the film. It looks like they took The Rock straight out of WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role for the PlayStation 1 and added pinchers to his hands. Man, I remember it being atrocious in 2001 and it looks even worse now. What’s really odd about it, is that most of The Mummy effects looked pretty good and held up fairly well. Even the worst CGI effects are still somewhat passable.

I thought that the story was just okay but I did like that Patricia Velásquez actually had a bigger role and I liked the material they came up with for her past connection to Rachel Weisz’s Evie. I also like that this allowed Evie to hold her own in the action sequences and that she was no longer just a typical damsel in distress.

I wasn’t crazy about the kid being added to the proceedings, as kid actors can wreck a movie and honestly, his scenes are mostly annoying. I’d hate to blame the kid, specifically, and I think it has more to do with the script and Stephen Sommers’ directing.

One takeaway from this and the previous movie, as well, is the fact that Oded Fehr’s Ardeth Bay is such a cool f’n character and even though The Rock became a massive star, I think that the producers should’ve probably given Fehr his own spinoff movie first.

Anyway, this is mostly more of the same but it does feel like it’s happening on a much larger scale. However, for some reason, when Imhotep is resurrected in this film, I guess the Ten Plagues of Egypt aren’t a factor anymore.

One doesn’t watch these sort of movies to be overly picky about details, though. This is just supposed to be fun, mindless escapism, which is something I praise a lot. This movie really works in that regard until the finale where we get PS1 graphics Dwayne Johnson.

Rating: 6.5/10