Film Review: Angus (1995)

Release Date: September 15th, 1995
Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Written by: Jill Gordon
Music by: David E. Russo
Cast: George C. Scott, Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, James Van Der Beek, Charlie Talbert, Kathy Bates, Kevin Connolly, Irvin Kershner

Atlas Entertainment, BBC, New Line Cinema, 87 Minutes

Review:

“As for what anybody else thinks, always remember these words and live by them: screw ’em!” – Grandpa

Angus had a pretty big impact on me when I saw it back in the late ’90s. I thought it was one of the best movies of the teen coming-of-age genre. Something about it felt more pure and realistic than the dozens of other films like it and having now seen it, a quarter of a century later, I’m really pleased to discover that not only has it held up but it’s still relevant and even better than similar movies that came after it.

I think that this movie flourished in that it used a cast of mostly unknown teens. Sure, it had Academy Award winners George C. Scott (who refused his Oscar for Patton) and Kathy Bates but they just sort of added legitimacy to the film and probably helped get it in front of audiences that might have otherwise missed it. Plus, they’re both damn good in it and even if their roles are smaller than the teens in the movie, they really have a profound effect on the overall story and Angus’ character arc and personal growth.

The story is about a smart but awkward fat kid who is voted homecoming king as a joke. However, it gives him the opportunity to at least have a dance with the girl he is crushing on, as well as allowing him stand up against the bullies trying to break him down.

It’s a pretty fresh take on the awkward kid trying to win over the popular love interest trope and it’s done remarkably well, which I think has to do with superb writing but also the great performances of the young cast. Frankly, there isn’t a weak link among them and the film’s title character, played by Charlie Talbert, is just great in every scene.

Talbert was a newcomer and this was his first professional credit. Still, this kid held his own sharing scenes with George C. Scott and Kathy Bates and it’s pretty damned impressive.

I think another thing that adds a lot to the picture is the music. The film is full of great tunes from ’90s alternative rock bands and even if it dates the movie, it still sets the tone and allows the viewer to sort of sink into this kid’s world.

Angus is something I should probably revisit more often. It’s absolutely one of the best motion pictures of its type and it’s still good with a message that will always be relevant.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other teen coming-of-age movies of the ’80s and ’90s.

Documentary: Orson Welles: The One-Man Band (1995)

Also known as: The Lost Films of Orson Welles (UK TV title)
Release Date: October, 1995 (Chicago International Film Festival)
Directed by: Orson Welles, Vassili Silovic, Oja Kodar
Written by: Orson Welles, Vassili Silovic, Roland Zag
Music by: Simon Cloquet-Lafollye
Cast: Orson Welles, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Charles Gray, Jonathan Lynn, Oja Kodar

Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA), La Cinquieme Boa Filmproduction Ag Zurich, 88 Minutes

Review:

When Orson Welles died in the mid-’80s, he left behind some unfinished work.

None of it really saw the light of day until the ’90s when his creative and life partner Oja Kodar started compiling these works together and teamed up with other creatives in an effort to release them in some form. This is one of those releases.

This first debuted in 1995 and it’s really an anthology of unfinished films. Although, it feels more like of an anthology of shorts due to it being a varied mix of stuff, mostly little segments or scenes.

Overall, this isn’t all that cohesive and plays like a video mixtape of random Welles ideas that were put to film but never truly realized or massaged into what they could’ve been. That certainly doesn’t mean this is bad but it feels more like peering into his creative process and his experimentation. Honestly, I’m not sure what his plan was, if any.

I guess it’s hard to interpret what’s here but it’s still entertaining and the man was a fucking legend.

I can see people that are unfamiliar with Welles or who don’t already appreciate his work not digging this film at all. That’s fine. But for those who are intrigued by the man’s creativity and charm, it’s a fun look into what could’ve been.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Orson Welles documentaries and films, many of which have already been reviewed here.

Documentary Review: F for Fake (1973)

Also known as: Hoax (original script title), ?, Fakes, Fakes!!, About Fakes (working titles), Truth and Lies (alternative title), Fraude (Spain)
Release Date: September, 1973 (Spain – San Sebastián Film Festival)
Directed by: Orson Welles, François Reichenbach, Gary Graver, Oja Kodar
Written by: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar
Music by: Michel Legrand
Cast: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving, Edith Irving, Francois Reichenbach

Les Films de l’Astrophore, SACI, Janus Film und Fernsehen, 89 Minutes

Review:

“What we professional liars hope to serve is truth. I’m afraid the pompous word for that is “art”.” – Orson Welles

People have debated for quite some time whether this is a documentary or itself a forgery. After seeing it, I think it’s a little bit of both while also just being a really cool art piece that Orson Welles left us with to cap off his filmmaking career.

The film examines two notable forgers. One man makes fake Picasso paintings, the other wrote a fraudulent biography about Howard Hughes.

I loved the opening sequence of this scene, which set the stage for the film’s story and tone, as Welles did magic tricks for children while describing how magicians were actually actors.

It’s actually kind of hard to describe what the film is, though. While there seems to be some truth that this is based on, the movie begins to take some creative and narrative liberties, as it takes the viewer down a strange, jovial and entertaining rabbit hole. Before you realize what’s happening, you’re lost in this deep well of Welles’ creativity.

Some describe this as a film essay but it’s definitely a real work of art and it displays how “outside the box” Welles’ thinking and creativity were.

What really grabbed me with this film was the style of editing. Welles always did things before the rest of his contemporaries caught on (or stole from him) and this movie is no different. He has these stylish, quick edits that move the narrative along pretty quickly and with that, make this a much more energetic documentary than what was the standard in the early 1970s.

I also love his style of narration and how he acts out scenes the way he does as a presenter. Welles was never short on charisma and charm and despite his older age, he hasn’t lost it. Frankly, I could watch the guy talk about anything for hours and he’d still make it entertaining even if the subject matter wasn’t very interesting.

F for Fake is an unusual but really original film. It makes you ponder its legitimacy but that’s also the point. Welles was a clever guy and himself a true magician of his preferred art form. In the end, does the legitimacy even matter, as long as you were entertained?

I guess that’s a question for modern times, as so many people take everything at face value, verbatim, with no real desire to look for the actual truth. But then again, Welles was always well ahead of his time. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Orson Welles’ other pictures.

Film Review: Hot Fuzz (2007)

Also known as: Raging Fuzz, Blue Fury (working titles), Bubblin’ Fuzz, Dead Right, Feelin’ Fuzzier (fake working titles)
Release Date: February 13th, 2007 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy, Edward Woodward, Bill Bailey, Olivia Colman, Julia Deakin, Kevin Eldon, Martin Freeman, Paul Freeman, Rafe Spall, Stephen Merchant, Steve Coogan (uncredited), Peter Jackson (uncredited), Cate Blanchett (uncredited), Edgar Wright (uncredited), Garth Jennings (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Universal Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“I may not be a man of God, Reverend, but I know right and I know wrong and I have the good grace to know which is which.” – Nicholas Angel, “Oh, fuck off, grasshopper. [Reverend Shooter pulls out a pair of derringers from his cassock]” – Reverend Philip Shooter

The moment this movie finished in the theater, I had a massive smile on my face and it stuck with me for days. Once it was gone, I went back to the theater to go see this picture again.

This is still my favorite Edgar Wright movie and revisiting it now just solidified that. For what it is, it is pretty close to perfect.

It features Simon Pegg and Nick Frost at their absolute best, as a duo. After two seasons of the television show Spaced and 2004’s cult classic Shaun of the Dead, these two guys had evolved into a perfect pair, where each half compliments the other and together they make a much better whole.

That being said, if there was ever a film from Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy that deserved a sequel, it’s this one. I doubt it will get a sequel but it perfectly represents the buddy cop genre and those films are perfect for sequelization. Just look at Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Rush Hour, etc.

Anyway, this is just great from top-to-bottom. It has a stacked cast featuring several of my favorite British people, it has a solid, surprising story, superb action sequences and the sort of buddy cop camaraderie that you and your primary school homies used to try and emulate while playing cops on the playground.

Despite all the other great things Pegg and Frost have done, this feels like the roles they were born to play. And honestly, I almost feel the same way about Timothy Dalton in this, as he’s so damn good that he’s perfect.

Hot Fuzz is just a hilarious, balls out action flick. Once you get to the action packed finale, things escalate in ways you’d never expect and at the same time, this never jumps the shark. It just has the perfect balance of comedy, action and ridiculousness.

Not only is this my favorite of Wright’s films, it is also one of my favorite movies of its decade.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Film Review: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Also known as: Tea-Time of the Dead (working title), Zombies Party – Uma Noite… de Morte (Portugal), Zombies Party – Una Noche… de Muerte (Spain)
Release Date: March 29th, 2004 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: Pete Woodhead, Daniel Mudford
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz, Rafe Spall, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Matt Lucas, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Rogue Pictures, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie. And there’s an “I” in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team… I don’t know what he’s talking about.” – Shaun

The first time that I watched Shaun of the Dead, I knew that it would not only be a cult classic, right out of the gate, but I knew it would go down as a comedy classic and one of the best of its era. I wasn’t wrong and it helped Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carve out really nice careers for themselves.

It also kicked off the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, which included 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End.

Out of those three films, this one sits in the middle for me, as I like Hot Fuzz more and thought that The World’s End was fairly underwhelming.

This movie is pretty simple and straightforward, though. It also came out before zombie movies and television shows really blew up and became oversaturated in entertainment. So when I saw this for the first time in 2004, it was pretty unique and immediately became one of my favorite horror comedies.

There have been a lot of horror comedies since, especially in the zombie subgenre. But this and the original Return of the Living Dead are the only two I’d consider true classics.

The cast in this had great chemistry but most of them are good friends and had worked together previously in the TV shows Spaced and Black Books.

Shaun of the Dead also feels like a natural extension of Spaced, even though it features familiar actors in different roles. The style of the comedy, the two main characters’ camaraderie and the film’s general tone match up with Spaced, though. That also probably has to do with Edgar Wright helming both.

The story sees a lovable and well-meaning loser have to step up to the plate when the zombie apocalypse kicks off in London. He needs to win back his girlfriend, save his mum and his friends and try to survive the undead outbreak with a pint in his hand.

This doesn’t need a complicated story and it’s better that it’s simple and allows the characters the time to develop and win you over. It’s funny though, as this was the first time I saw Dylan Moran and by the end, I thought he was the biggest prick in the world. And he was, in this film, but he’d actually become one of my favorite comedians and comedic actors after seeing a lot of his standup, as well as his roles in Black Books and a slew of other appearances over the years.

Shaun of the Dead was my introduction to a lot of actors I’ve grown to love over the years. Kate Ashfield, the female lead, is actually the only person in this who I haven’t seen in anything else. Still, she’s really enjoyable in this and added a lot to this group’s dynamic.

I’m glad that I revisited this again, as it’s been so long since I’ve watched any of the movies in this trilogy or Spaced. But after seeing this, I’m going to work through them all again for future reviews.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Film Review: Double Dragon (1994)

Also known as: Double Dragon: The Movie (alternative title)
Release Date: November 4th, 1994
Directed by: James Yukich (as James Nickson)
Written by: Paul Dini, Neal Shusterman, Michael Davis, Peter Gould
Based on: Double Dragon by Technos Japan
Music by: Jay Ferguson, Tolga Katas
Cast: Robert Patrick, Mark Dacascos, Scott Wolf, Julia Nickson, Alyssa Milano, Leon Russom, Kristina Wagner, George Hamilton, Vanna White, Andy Dick, Cory Milano, Al Leong, Jeff Imada

Greenleaf Productions, Imperial Entertainment, Les Films du Scarabée, 96 Minutes

Review:

“I just want total domination of one major American City! Is that too much to ask for? Is it? Is it? Huh?” – Guisman

So out of all the “terrible” video game movies of the ’90s, this is one I hadn’t seen until now. While I loved the Double Dragon video game franchise, I never wanted to see this after the trailer for it dropped back in 1994. It looked horrendously bad, poorly adapted and like a hokey, steaming pile of shit.

That being said, I did enjoy the hell out of this even if it’s a pretty shitty movie. I know that I would’ve hated it when it was current, however. Especially, because I loved the tone of the Double Dragon games and in that regard, this didn’t just miss the mark, it wasn’t even aiming in the first place.

The film is bad from top-to-bottom but some of the big action sequences are actually kind of impressive in regards to how well this made the most of a moderate budget. It was able to give us a cool boat chase scene with good pyrotechnics and action. Plus, some of the sets, as corny as they are, were fairly large and well designed for the bizarre world that this film takes place in.

Sadly, the special effects took somewhat of a budgetary hit in the poor use of obvious matte paintings and the giant rubber suit the Abobo actor was forced to wear.

Additionally, the acting is pretty damn bad but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy how over-the-top and hammy Robert Patrick was in his role as the villain.

To put it bluntly, this is a bad movie but it’s weird as fuck. I really enjoy weird movies and because of that, I liked this. That doesn’t mean that I’ll ever watch it again or give it a positive rating but I’ve enjoyed other films that were far worse than this.

Granted, I would watch a RiffTrax version of this movie if one exists.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s video game film adaptations.

Film Review: Outlander (2008)

Release Date: July 11th, 2008 (Latvia)
Directed by: Howard McCain
Written by: Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain
Music by: Geoff Zanelli
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Aidan Devine

Ascendant Pictures, Rising Star Productions, VIP Medienfonds 4 GmbH & Co. KG, The Weinstein Company, Virtual Studios, 115 Minutes

Review:

“If you truly believe that you write the tale of your life, then the end is up to you.” – Freya

This movie came and went and I didn’t know about its existence until recently. But when I saw that this film was about an alien humanoid crashing into the Viking era with a very deadly alien cargo, I had to give it a watch.

This movie is like Predator meets Skyrim where the monster that must be hunted down is an insanely deadly beast.

The cast in this is also really damn good from its star Jim Caviezel to Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, Ron Perlman and the legendary John Hurt, who plays the Viking king in this film’s old world community.

This was a manly fucking movie that was just pure badass and a lot of fun. It’s action packed, deals with a pair of alpha males having to bro up and unite and the special effects are pretty damn decent. Also, the monster is strange but absolutely terrifying and seemingly unbeatable with the limitations of Viking technology.

What’s cool about this is the level of danger, the insane odds and how the heroes have to outwit and outlast the pissed off monster.

Outlander isn’t great but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and just a cool fucking movie that offers up real escapism and thrills.

The only real negative is that it should’ve probably been trimmed down to 90-95 minutes.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Pathfinder, Solomon Kane, The 13th Warrior and The Eagle.

Film Review: Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Also known as: Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (original script title)
Release Date: May 28th, 1993
Directed by: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel
Written by: Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, Ed Solomon
Based on: Mario by Nintendo
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Fiona Shaw, Richard Edson, Mojo Nixon, Dana Kaminski, Lance Henriksen, Frank Welker (voice), Dan Castellaneta (narrator)

Allied Filmmakers, Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures, 104 Minutes, 90 Minutes (Japan), 87 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“[bathing in mud] Do you know what I love about mud? It’s clean and it’s dirty at the same time.” – King Koopa

Super Mario Bros. was one film in a string of a few that helped to build the reputation that video game movies suck. Looking at the picture in comparison to the video game series it’s based on, I get it. And frankly, it irked the shit out of me when I saw it in 1993. 

However, seeing it with pretty fresh eyes nearly three decades later, I have a very different view of the film now. Especially, when I just look at it as its own weird body of work apart from the video game franchise.

Removing the source material from the equation, I can still see why this would be viewed as a bad film by most but for me, a lover of really weird shit, everyone in this cast and late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk shit, this is kind of a feast of awesomeness!

Additionally, the Alan Silvestri score is great, lively, playful and boisterous. It reminds me of his score to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which was, honestly, what really set the magnificent tone for that movie. Here, Silvestri’s work is just as effective and man, I miss scores like this.

This movie also feels like a time capsule into the heart of the ’90s. It embraces the wonky tropes of the decade and it completely misses the mark it should’ve been aiming for. Although, in retrospect, I really like that this just did whatever the hell it wanted to and provided the world with something so damn bizarre and zany.

I really liked the bond between Mario and Luigi, even if trying believe that Hoskins and Leguizamo are supposed to be real brothers is maybe the most unbelievable thing in the film. That kind of doesn’t matter, though, as nothing in this needs to make any sort of logical sense. It’s actually cooler that it doesn’t. Now that’s something I’d typically be highly critical of but this movie with its flaws is still so much fun and overly ridiculous that it adds to its charm.

I guess Dennis Hopper was miserable working on this due to behind the scenes clusterfucks and severe delays but honestly, it probably worked to the movie’s benefit, as he truly comes off as an insufferable prick and it just makes his character that much more sinister and entertaining to watch.

Additionally, I really liked Samantha Mathis in this, as she played Princess Daisy, the apple of Luigi’s eye. Her and Leguizamo had nice, believable chemistry and she really was a highpoint of the picture. In fact, her final scene where she returns as a gun toting badass really made me wish a sequel had been made.

That being said, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to having more things made from this version of the Super Mario IP. I get it, it was a bomb and most people hated it but it’s also unique and kind of special in its own odd way. Plus, it’s developed a good cult following over the years and I think many people are like me, where seeing this decades later really allows you to separate from what it should of been and wasn’t to seeing it as its own cool thing.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other few ’90s movies based on video games, as well as other early ’90s cyberpunk films.

Film Review: Silent Hill (2006)

Also known as: Centralia (fake working title), Terror en Silent Hill (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela)
Release Date: April 20th, 2006 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Written by: Roger Avery, Christophe Gans, Nicolas Boukhrief
Based on: Silent Hill by Konami
Music by: Akira Yamaoka, Jeff Danna
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland

Silent Hill DCP Inc., Davis-Films, TriStar Pictures, 125 Minutes, 132 Minutes (Special Edition Blu-ray, Canada only)

Review:

“When you’re hurt and scared for so long, the fear and pain turn to hate and the hate starts to change the world.” – Dark Alessa

When this came out, it was the film that seemed like it bucked the trend of video game movies being shit, as far as adaptations and overall quality goes.

The Resident Evil films were their own thing and before them we had the Street Fighter movie, Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon. I would say that the film that actually bucked the trend first, though, was 1995’s Mortal Kombat. However, Silent Hill is a much better film than that one and it works without having knowledge or appreciation of its video game series before seeing it.

In fact, I know several people that saw this film first, which then served as a gateway into the games due to the effect this movie had on them.

I used to watch this quite a bit after I bought it on DVD when it was first released that way. It’s probably been a dozen years since I’ve seen it but my fondness for it was still really strong and I wanted to revisit it. I also want to playthrough some of the earlier games too, which I might in the very near future.

Seeing this now was kind of cool because I was separated enough from it to see it with somewhat fresh eyes. I definitely see the flaws in it more than I did in 2006 but that could also be due to me not being as obsessed with the franchise as I was back then. Subpar sequels in both video games and film took the wind out of this once great property’s sails.

The film adapts elements of the stories from the first two games and sort of merges them while also doing its own thing. So it’s familiar enough for fans to immediately recognize but also takes some interesting turns that allow it to breathe and evolve in a different way.

I like the film’s story quite a lot, even if it does change some key things. Those things don’t break the film as its own body of work, though.

My biggest gripe about the film is the dialogue. It’s not terrible but there are some weird lines and some weird delivery, here and there. I’m not sure if that’s due to a language barrier due to the director, who also co-wrote the film, being French. I don’t know enough about him outside of his finished films that I’ve seen, which aren’t many.

However, the child actress delivers some lines with weird inflections on certain syllables that sound unnatural and a bit off. I don’t necessarily blame her, I blame the direction and the takes that were chosen to be used in the final film.

Overall, she did well essentially playing two different characters that were polar opposites of each other: one being good and innocent and the other being the absolute embodiment of evil. The requirements of her role aren’t easy for most adult actors and she did rather well considering her age and experience.

Moving on, some of the CGI effects look a little dated but for the most part, the film still looks great. There are just a few shots that look kind of weird.

The film as a whole looks incredible, however. Gans has a stupendous eye and from a visual standpoint, he captured the tone and aesthetic of the video game series phenomenally well. I am still really impressed by the scenes where the purgatory world dissolves into the Hell world.

Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of the ending but it fits well within the framework of what Silent Hill is. I guess there is a part of me that wanted something more optimistic but the ambiguous and strange ending leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Also, that’s not a bad thing, some of my favorite movies do that but after the literal hell that the characters went through, it felt like more of a reward was needed.

I liked the cult aspect of the story and I definitely loved their end. As violent and incredibly fucked up as the climax was, it was also satisfying as hell after learning who these people really were. This movie doesn’t simply provide you with sympathy for the Devil, it makes you root for him… or in this case, her.

The last thing I want to mention is the music. The film recycles the score and iconic songs from the video game series. That might not work in the case of most film adaptations but it really amplified the effect of the film and its brooding, disturbing atmosphere. I think that I appreciated it even more now, as I kind of forgot how good the games’ music was.

Silent Hill is, hands down, one of the best horror movies in its decade, which was unfortunately a terrible decade for horror. But I think it would’ve been just as great in earlier decades, regardless of the higher quality of the genre.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: it’s absolutely shitty sequel, I guess. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.