Film Review: Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)

Also known as: Roxy (Sweden, France)
Release Date: October 12th, 1990
Directed by: Jim Abrahams
Written by: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Music by: Melissa Etheridge, Thomas Newman
Cast: Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels, Laila Robins, Dinah Manoff, Thomas Wilson Brown, Frances Fisher, Graham Beckel, Stephen Tobolowsky, Carla Gugino, Beth Grant

Incorporated Television Company, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Starting tomorrow there will be hourly tours of Roxy Carmichael’s birthplace. You’ll see where Roxy slept and where she ate during her wonder years. You’ll also see pictures of her beloved dog, Bonkers.” – Louise, “She loved that dog. She used to ride it. It was a big dog.” – Town Person

I remember seeing the VHS box for this at the video store, constantly. However, I never knew anything about the film and therefore, never rented it. Since I came across it streaming on HBO, I figured I could kill an hour and a half and check it out. Besides, I typically enjoy old school Winona Ryder.

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is a film with a lot of problems but none of them are really that bad. Also, none of these problems come from Winona Ryder, who is front and center in most of the movie’s scenes.

The film showcases how great of an actress Ryder is, even though she’s surrounded by a movie that really seems to miss its mark in nearly every other regard. For fans of Ryder, this is definitely worth watching just to see her performance, as an awkward kid that can’t seem to find her place in the world. And while that’s hardly an original concept, Ryder does wonders with the weak and derivative material. You can’t help not liking her and actually caring about her journey through this story and that’s most certainly due to her skill and not the humdrum script.

This feels like a picture that should have been better and needed to be but it’s far from terrible and I wouldn’t call it forgettable. We’ve just all seen this story a dozen times over. But at least the plot was fairly interesting in that revolves around a small town preparing for the return of a local girl that grew into a massive music star. In the case of Winona Ryder’s Dinky, she believes that this celebrity is her biological mother.

Adding more layers to the plot, we’re given Jeff Daniels’ character, who was the former lover of the star and the father of the baby she left behind when she bolted from town to live out her rock star dreams.

Additionally, we get to see the lives of other townsfolk and how this star’s return effects them on their own personal levels.

There’s a bit of a twist to the ending but it’s nothing shocking and frankly, it’s fairly predictable. 

In the end, we’re left with a pretty mediocre movie that was lucky enough to get a great performance out of its lead.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age teen movies from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: L.A. Confidential (1997)

Release Date: May 14th, 1997 (Cannes)
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson
Based on: L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel, Matt McCoy, Simon Baker

Regency Enterprises, The Wolper Organization, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.” – Capt. Dudley Smith

I’ve seen parts of L.A. Confidential over the years and I knew enough about the story before even watching it but yes, this is my first viewing of the film in its entirety.

While that may seem odd for a fan of film-noir, I didn’t become a true lover of noir fiction until I got past my teen years. Sure, I always liked crime movies but the noir aesthetic didn’t truly penetrate my psyche until my late 20s and really didn’t make me do a deep dive into the cinematic style until my mid-30s.

Now L.A. Confidential is a modern neo-noir that takes its narrative and stylistic cues from classic film-noir but it has this pristine razzle dazzle about it and that’s not simply because of the star power. It’s visual allure is just breathtaking and while other films in the ’90s tried to encapsulate the noir look, albeit in color, there is just something fantastical about how this comes off on screen.

On one hand, the movie feels like a dark fairytale of a time long gone and a world that doesn’t exist in the same way. On the other hand, there is a gritty realness to it that makes the darker parts of humanity come across as genuine and frightening.

That being said, this is still great because of its star power on top of the film’s visual look. You really have a solid cast between Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. Everyone does a perfect job with the script and the story.

However, I think the glue that holds everything together so well is director Curtis Hanson. While not having a prolific name like Scorsese, Coppola or De Palma, he takes the crime fiction material and makes it work, incredibly well. He got the most out of his cast while having a great eye for mise-en-scène. The film boasts stupendous cinematography and shot framing.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith is also pretty close to perfect.

My only real complaint about the film comes in regards to its pacing. While mostly energetic, there are a few points in the film that drag a bit more than they need to. I didn’t find it to wreck the movie or even be much of a distraction, though.

The ’90s produced a lot of neo-noir motion pictures but L.A. Confidential certainly deserves its place in the upper echelon.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s neo-noir films: Heat, The Two Jakes, The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Falls, Seven, Red Rock West, Devil In a Blue Dress, Dick Tracy, etc.

Film Review: C.H.U.D. (1984)

Also known as: C.H.U.D. (Caníbales Humanoides Ululantes Demoníacos) (Spain), C.H.U.D. – Panik in Manhattan (Germany)
Release Date: August 31st, 1984
Directed by: Douglas Cheek
Written by: Parnell Hall, Shepard Abbott
Music by: Martin Cooper, David A. Hughes
Cast: Daniel Stern, John Heard, Christopher Curry, John Goodman, Graham Beckel, Jon Polito

C.H.U.D. Productions, New World Pictures, 88 Minutes, 96 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Are you kidding? Your guy’s got a camera. Mine’s got a flamethrower.” – Captain Bosch

This was the first film featured on the full-time revival of Joe Bob Briggs on television. I’m talking about his show The Last Drive-In, which is now streaming weekly on Shudder.

But like Joe Bob, I’m apparently one of the few that isn’t too fond of this motion picture. It’s not really bad but it’s pretty damn dull for about 80 percent of its running time and there are so many better movies from the era. This is probably why I haven’t reviewed this yet, as I just didn’t have the urge to revisit this, even for review purposes.

In all honesty, I prefer the sequel more. Yes, it’s actually a worse movie but it’s batshit insane and pretty much a black comedy spunoff from the C.H.U.D. concept.

People have been asking me for my opinion on this movie for quite awhile, though. So I guess a review is overdue and if Joe Bob can sit through it again, I guess I can too.

It’s still dull as shit. But it does have several known stars in it to at least distract me from my boredom enough to get through this.

On the flip side of that though, I do like the scenes that feature the actual creature or some of the gore it’s responsible for. I also like the idea for the film, I just thought that this spent too much time boffining it up and not enough time spent on cool monsters eating dumb people.

The performances can be a bit over the top but not so much so that I’d call the acting bad. And at least the performances provide some energy where the story fails to do so.

It may sound like I’m a hater, I’m not. But I’m certainly not a lover of C.H.U.D. I understand that a lot of people have a nostalgic soft spot for the movie but it didn’t really resonate with me as a kid, even though I pretty much lived in ’80s video stores and loved the horror genre tremendously.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: it’s really bizarre sequel, as well as Street Trash and Neon Maniacs.

TV Review: Halt And Catch Fire (2014-2017)

Original Run: June 1st, 2014 – current
Created by: Christopher Cantwell, Christopher C. Rogers
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Paul Haslinger, Trentemøller
Cast: Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishé, Toby Huss, Aleksa Palladino, Annette O’Toole, Graham Beckell, James Cromwell, Annabeth Gish, Matthew Lillard, Anna Chlumsky, Cooper Andrews

AMC, Lockjaw Productions, Gran Via Productions, 30 Episodes (so far), 42 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire is one hell of a show. In fact, while people are mourning over the loss of Mad Men, this show can easily fill that void and is, in some way, AMC’s spiritual successor to that great long running show. I also think AMC knows that, as despite having abysmal ratings its first season, Halt And Catch Fire was renewed to many people’s surprise.

In the beginning of their runs Mad Men and Breaking Bad weren’t ratings hits but AMC stuck with them and both shows took off to become two of the biggest shows of their generation. Halt And Catch Fire could and deserves to follow suit.

The show follows a cutthroat business man in the early 1980’s computer industry and his quest to imprint his mark on the world. He is backed by his savvy, his ruthless approach and his burning desire to usurp the evil IBM. Employing a dream team of geniuses who have either failed at greatness or who are misfits, the journey from creation to completion in the first season is pretty remarkable.

Now having just started its second season, the show has already proven that it isn’t going to just stick to one formula, as it has veered off into unseen directions due to how the first season concluded. There really is no way to know where this show is going to go, how it is going to explore this interesting industry during its most interesting time and how this will all eventually wrap up, assuming it makes a lengthy run. I hope it does.

The acting is superb, once the ball gets rolling, and the casting just seems perfect. The actors are more than comfortable in their shoes and each character plays off of one another brilliantly. There is a natural dynamic between all of the characters on this show and the scenes just flow organically.

Like Mad Men before it, this show captures the essence of the time with great music selections, whether they are songs from that specific era or more modern tunes that assist in bringing the world of Halt And Catch Fire alive. This show has a distinct vibe and the music plays a big part in that, as does the attention to detail whether it be the culture of the time, the look of the era and the knowledge of the writers in regards to such complex subject matter.

Sure, the biggest tech head could find issue with things in this show but then again, a 1960’s advertising executive probably found discrepancies with Mad Men. Hell, as realistic as Breaking Bad felt, the chemistry wasn’t always on point. This is television and the narrative is the point, as is bringing the viewer into a believable world. Halt And Catch Fire succeeds in that and then some.

There aren’t a lot of shows that I am really enthused about. Halt And Catch Fire is one of those shows, however.

Rating: 10/10