Film Review: All the President’s Men (1976)

Release Date: April 4th, 1976 (Washington D.C. premiere)
Directed by: Alan J. Pakula
Written by: William Goldman
Based on: All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward
Music by: David Shire
Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, Ned Beatty, Meredith Baxter, Penny Fuller, F. Murray Abraham, David Arkin, Richard Herd, Dominic Chianese, James Karen

Wildwood Enterprises, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“I never asked about Watergate. I simply asked what were Hunt’s duties at the White House. They volunteered he was innocent when nobody asked if he was guilty.” – Bob Woodward

I hadn’t seen this in years and I honestly didn’t remember a lot of the details about the film itself. Sure, we all know the story about Nixon and Watergate, especially in the year that this came out in, but knowing the ending doesn’t mean that this is a boring or even predictable movie.

Also, having forgot all the details of the story and this film, I found it interesting and compelling, as events and information painted a damning picture of corruption and conspiracy.

I also found it intriguing that this picture’s cast was stacked with so many top notch actors that I had either forgotten about or hadn’t grown to truly appreciate when I last watched this back in the ’90s.

Back then, I didn’t understand or recognize the greatness of Jack Warden, Hal Holbrook, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards, Ned Beatty, F. Murray Abraham or James Karen. I also really only knew Meredith Baxter from her successful sitcom Family Ties. Well, at least I always knew that Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman were f’n legends.

I also didn’t know that this was directed by the same guy that gave us the near perfect film adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird, as well as Sophie’s Choice, The Parallax View and Klute.

So it should go without saying that the acting in this film is stupendous. In fact, it might really be a clinic, not that many modern actors care about their art anymore, where they seem to be mostly rewarded by cashing in virtue signal points, as opposed to making audiences believe them.

It’s also well directed except that I felt like the pacing could’ve used some work. Granted, this does a great job of building up suspense like a great thriller should, it just feels like it drags a bit in spots.

Still, this is an enthralling film that does its job well and if that’s the only negative, which is pretty minor, than I can’t really harp on it too hard.

All the President’s Men is deservedly a classic and every legend within this film brought their A-game and made this a much better picture than it would have been in less capable hands.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other top notch dramatic political thrillers, such as JFK, Marathon Man and Nixon.

Film Review: Wall Street (1987)

Release Date: December 11th, 1987
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Oliver Stone, Stanley Weiser
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook, Terence Stamp, John C. McGinley, James Karen, Sean Young, James Spader, Saul Rubinek, Sylvia Miles

Amercent Films, American Entertainment Partners, Twentieth Century Fox, 126 Minutes

Review:

“Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” – Lou Mannheim

I wrote pretty extensively on this film several years ago for a politics and economics site that I used to run. That article also made it into one of the books I published. That article was called Gordon Gekko, the Hero?

I won’t spend too much time rambling on about the morality, themes and messages within this film, as that lengthy article already does. This is a movie review, so I’ll focus on the things that make it great beyond just the story and my interpretation of its core characters and their real motivations.

To start, this is hands down one of my favorite Oliver Stone movies. It may, in fact, be my favorite but it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen Platoon and JFK.

This is also one of Charlie Sheen’s best performances and he held his own and wasn’t overshadowed by the stupendous cast around him, especially Michael Douglas, one of the greatest actors of his generation.

I did find Daryl Hannah to be kind of weak, though. I don’t necessarily blame her for that, as her character barely got time to develop or to allow you to care for her. I feel as if she was more than a predatory gold-digging shark but that’s pretty much all we got to see from her.

Additionally, I felt like Sean Young was really underutilized and honestly, the women just seemed like they were put on the backburner. Also, this wasn’t really their story but it felt like their efforts were a bit wasted for what they potentially could’ve brought to the film.

Anyway, the story is solid but the pacing can drag a bit, here and there, and I think that’s the main reason why I don’t see this as more of a masterpiece. That’s not to say it’s dull but a lot of scenes felt like padding, as if Stone wanted to hit a two hour mark on the running time.

The film is also full of so many great character actors in smaller roles and it’s sort of like a who’s who of cool ’80s dudes that were in everything. I especially liked James Karen and Hal Holbrook in this. John C. McGinley also stole the show in the scenes he was in.

Being an Oliver Stone picture, one should expect this to be technically sound and beautiful and it is. Wall Street doesn’t disappoint and it features some stellar cinematography and a few iconic shots that have been burned into my memory since I first watched this picture as a kid in the late ’80s.

Also, the music is perfect from the film’s score by Stewart Copeland and the pop music tracks sprinkled throughout. It’s been so long since I’ve last seen this that I forgot how much I loved that motorcycle sequence to Brian Eno’s “Mea Culpa”.

All in all, this is still a fantastic motion picture where just about everything goes right. There are those few minor flaws but they hardly detract from how great this movie is, as a whole.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel, as well as Boiler RoomThe Wolf of Wall Street and Rogue Trader.

Film Review: Magnum Force (1973)

Also known as: Vigilance (working title), Magnum .44 (Spanish speaking countries), Dirty Harry II – Callahan (Germany, Austria)
Release Date: December 13th, 1973 (London premiere)
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: John Milius, Michael Cimino
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Felton Perry, Robert Urich, Kip Niven, Tim Matheson, John Mitchum, Albert Popwell, Suzanne Somers (uncredited)

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 124 Minutes

Review:

“You’re a good cop, Harry. You had a chance to join my team, but you decided to stick with the system.” – Lieutenant Briggs, “Briggs, I hate the goddamn system! But until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I’ll stick with it.” – “Dirty” Harry Callahan

Although, John Milius considered this the worst film he was involved with, I consider it to be fucking badass and a worthy sequel to the original Dirty Harry, as it builds off of some of the statements from that film and really examines how broken the justice system is from a cop’s perspective.

While this isn’t quite the classic that the original was, it is still a high octane, balls out action film with a certain kind of grit that could only exist in the 1970s.

Clint Eastwood is back as “Dirty” Harry Callahan and even though he tossed his badge in the river in the previous film, he’s back to work, crossing the line and fighting the scumfucks of San Francisco. In this film, however, the scumfucks just happen to be fellow police officers that operate like a team of Punishers.

The film is just as much a thriller as it is an action picture and it almost feels kind of noir-ish in its narrative tone, as there are swerves and twists. While you might see some surprises before the film reveals them, they’re still effective and make this an interesting story about corruption and justice.

Eastwood seems more fine tuned as Harry in this film and it’s obvious that he’s real comfortable in the role. Hal Holbrook plays opposite of Eastwood in a lot of scenes and I really enjoyed the banter between the two stupendous actors.

The film also features a young Robert Urich, as one of the dirty cops. It’s cool seeing him in this early role, as a piece of shit, especially since he typically played good, mostly moral characters as he got bigger roles and established himself as a really likable actor.

This is the longest film in the Dirty Harry franchise but there really isn’t a dull moment and time doesn’t feel like it’s wasted. This has a bulky story with a lot of layers to it but it’s easy to follow and moves at a good pace.

Ultimately, the film delivers where it needs to and the finale was really well done, as Harry has to outwit and survive the young killer cops that are determined to silence him.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

TV Review: Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

Also known as: Forever Sam Crow (working title)
Original Run: September 3rd, 2008-December 9th, 2014
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bob Thiele, Dave Kushner, Curtis Stigers
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera, Glenn Plummer, Taryn Manning, Emilio Rivera, Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Kenneth Choi, Kurt Sutter, Titus Welliver, Walton Goggins, Henry Rollins, Hal Holbrook, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Marilyn Manson, Kim Dickens, Chuck Zito, Ray McKinnon

Linson The Company, Sutter Ink, Fox 21, FX, 92 Episodes, 41-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

This is one of those reviews that will probably turn a lot of my friends against me. I care not. I must tell it like it is from my point-of-view.

Sons of Anarchy is a show that I have developed a like/hate relationship with. I don’t say “love” because I’m not that enthralled with the positive aspects of it. It does however, have some positives amidst a sea of negatives. And I guess that makes me go against the popular opinion, as nearly everyone that I have talked to, has loved this show.

But I guess this isn’t a show for me. Where I expected something more like The Sopranos on motorcycles, this was more like a mindless action flick full of an overabundance of violence, bad CGI, bad acting, bad writing, bad music and really stupid and unlikable characters. Sons of Anarchy is geared more towards the male millennial crowd than it is for people who want good and groundbreaking television or at the very least, some sort of coherent plot.

This show is a mess. It is a moderately enjoyable mess at times but it is a show that constantly tries too hard and falls short. Yes, there are shocking and intense moments but they lose their meaning and significance almost immediately. For one, it is hard to care about any of these horrible characters. Also, with the show trying to constantly outdo itself and escalating further and further from episode to episode, things eventually get so over the top that it becomes unintentionally ludicrous.

The premise of the show also changes as it goes on and it loses sight of itself just a few seasons in. Maybe this is intentional but it really just feels like the weight of this ratings beast forced the showrunners to make quick, big decisions, which may have increased ratings further but sacrificed whatever integrity and soul the show may have had early on.

For instance, the show’s main drive in the beginning is the main character Jax’s obsession with his dead father’s writings. The writings talked about what the motorcycle club was supposed to be, how it got away from itself and how butt hurt Jax’s dad was about it. Jax then makes it his mission to right the wrongs and make the motorcycle club respectable. Maybe he would’ve been more inspired and followed through had he actually read more than two paragraphs of his father’s writings at a time. Maybe Jax has a bad attention span. Maybe that is why he couldn’t follow through because he got distracted by doing really stupid shit every episode.

In any event, the show evolves away from the club’s redemption through Jax’s leadership and instead shows the club fall on hard times and then even harder times. It just gets worse and worse, Jax stops reading his dad’s journals and pretty much turns into the asshole his stepfather Clay is. He actually turns out worse than Clay by the end of it all.

I could write a book about how much of an idiot Jax is but I’m not going to waste my time. I could also write a book about how much of an idiot his mother Gemma is.

All the characters really suck and all of them, for the most part, are stupid morons. They are the dumbest criminals I’ve ever seen. Darkwing Duck had smarter bad guys than the members of the Sons of Anarchy.

As far as likable characters, there are really only five. There is Wayne, who is on a tragic journey that ultimately ends up sucking really bad for him. Also, he had terminal cancer “eating away” at him in season one but somehow survived seven seasons. There is Jax’s ex-heroin addict wife who goes on to redeem herself and she’s about the only character you are happy for in the end. Then we have Nero, the pimp and tragic lover of Gemma. I really liked Nero but Jimmy Smits is awesome in every role. There’s Piney, who saw the bullshit for what it was and tried to hold everyone accountable. Since he was the voice of reason in a sea of shitty people, he was killed off. This brings me to my favorite character: Juice.

Juice is most likely the most tragic character in television history. Juice was a positive on this show even though his end was horrible. You couldn’t not like Juice and feel for him every step of the way. He truly cared about the club and doing the right thing but continually got fucked (literally) and lost his life and stature because the people he invested his love and loyalty in were pieces of garbage. Juice’s journey is one of the redeeming factors of this show. I don’t like how it ended but this show is one big tragedy.

In regards to the show’s music, it is terrible. The main theme is awful but somehow was nominated for an Emmy by some tone deaf Hollywood types. The songs throughout the show are even worse. More often than not, we are treated to some poor slowed down roots rock cover song of a known pop hit. It always feels bizarre, out of place and makes the show come off as generic and cheesy. At least once per season, we get some crappy song sung by Katey Sagal, who probably shouldn’t sing but is most likely encouraged by her husband, who is the show’s creator. That’s probably also why she was cast as Gemma. Lastly, the music selections are almost racist. When the biker gang fights another biker gang there is rock music. When they fight Mexicans: Spanish language gangsta rap. When they fight blacks: generic crappy English language gangsta rap. Asians: make sure to add in some Asian stringed instruments and gongs in over the soundtrack. Irish: Celtic shit. Persians: grab the sitar – hey wait, that’s Hindi you racist bastards! It’s sad and predictable and becomes a distraction.

This show was not The Sopranos on motorcycles, it was a Shakespearean tragedy on motorcycles. Which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the execution was shit and it tried to convince the viewer that it was clever while beating you over the head with its Shakespeareanism. After the tragic, pointless and retarded ending of the show, it even gives the viewer a Shakespeare quote before rolling its final credits. I’m sure dumb ass college students for years to come will write papers about how fantastic this modern Shakespearean saga is after just skimming over the Cliff Notes of Shakespeare’s work to make them feel the connection.

I don’t hate this show, even though it probably comes across like that. I had a hard time getting through segments of it but I enjoyed it enough to finish it. Granted, the ending was one of the worst in television history but really crappy endings to long-running shows is the trend lately. And maybe that ending just enhanced whatever bitterness I’m feeling.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The SopranosBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Justified but these are all better shows. Well, maybe not Justified, I’ll post my review for that soon.

Film Review: The Fog (1980)

Release Date: February 1st, 1980
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, John Houseman, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook, Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers, Buck Flower

Debra Hill Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know what happened to Antonio Bay tonight. Something came out of the fog and tried to destroy us. In one moment, it vanished. But if this has been anything but a nightmare, and if we don’t wake up to find ourselves safe in our beds, it could come again. To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness. Look for the fog.” – Stevie Wayne

I was never a huge fan of The Fog but for some reason, I like this film a lot more now. I did enjoy it when I was younger but it wasn’t something I felt the need to revisit as often as the typical slasher films of the day. This has slasher elements to it but it certainly is not a clone of HalloweenFriday the 13th or anything else similar.

This is a quintessential John Carpenter flick. It also stars just about all of his top dogs except Kurt Russell and Donald Pleasence. You do have Adrienne Barbeau, in what is my favorite role of hers, as well as Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins and Carpenter regulars Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis. The cast also boasts Hal Holbrook, who starred with Barbeau two years later in Creepshow. We also get to see Janet Leigh, Curtis’ real mother who is most remembered for Psycho.

The threat in this film is a mysterious fog that rolls into a small coastal California town. The fog carries some swashbuckling zombies that want their gold back. The nautical zombies don’t actually swashbuckle, instead they use their blades like a slasher would.

Barbeau plays a single mother who owns a lighthouse where she broadcasts over the radio. From atop the town, she can see the fog rolling in and tries to give the town a play-by-play on what is happening but ultimately, the ghosts come to haunt her as well.

I like this film a lot and I think it is underrated, even if it did get a crappy remake in 2005.

Unfortunately, the swashbuckling ghost zombies aren’t the most unsettling thing about the picture. Something about the Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis hookup was just bothersome to me. I like both actors but when this was made Curtis was 21 while Atkins was 44. As a 38 year-old man, I can’t even talk to a 25 year-old girl and find anything in common with her, just sayin’.

The Fog is a solid movie. It also has one of the best scores that John Carpenter has ever produced. It uses its fog and lighting effects perfectly and the monsters are damn cool.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Creepshow (1982)

Release Date: May 16th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: Stephen King
Based on: various stories by Stephen King
Music by: John Harrison
Cast: Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors, Ted Danson, Ed Harris, Tom Atkins, Tom Savini, Stephen King

Laurel Entertainment, Warner Bros., 120 Minutes

Review:

“I drove out there with the remains of three human beings… well, two human beings and Wilma.” – Henry

Creepshow was one of the first modern horror films I experienced as a kid. However, I was a kid in the 80s, so this was modern then. Now it is thirty-five years old. Revisiting it now though, is still a real friggin’ treat.

I love this movie. I admit that a lot of my warm and fuzzy feelings for it can be due to the fact that I’m a total sucker for nostalgia but it is a damn good picture for its time. I’m not even a huge anthology horror fan but when these films are good, I absolutely love them.

Creepshow is one of the best horror anthology films of all-time. Each story works and George A. Romero created a true piece of cinematic magnificence outside of his Dead series. Plus, having the help of Stephen King’s pen made this a bit more unique than other films like it.

There isn’t a dull story out of the five that we get within this film. Six stories if you count the intro and ending.

The weakest story is probably the one that stars King himself, as a man that becomes possessed and overcome by some sort of alien plant life. Even that one is entertaining because King plays the role so hilariously. It is also the shortest chapter.

The best story of the bunch is The Crate, which really could have been its own film and worked really well. It is also the longest chapter and feels like a throwback to an H.P. Lovecraft tale. In this story, we see a janitor discover a strange crate under a staircase at a college. It is from an expedition, decades earlier. Inside the crate is a hungry beast that pretty much want to devour everyone. But it is the monster itself that is the star of the movie, in my eyes.

The film has a good all-star cast with two highlights. The rivalry between Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen is well orchestrated and they play off of each other like the pros they are. The other is the relationship between the quiet and sweet Hal Holbrook and his annoying as hell wife played by Adrienne Barbeau. It is such a comedic mismatch but it works too a t.

The visual comic book style highlights within the film, give it an otherworldly life that really wraps the movie in that old school pulp feel.

Creepshow is so enjoyable and the funny bits are still funny. Yes, it has a real sense of terror but it is a load of fun.
Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Girls Nite Out (1982)

Also known as: The Scaremaker
Release Date: June 20th, 1982
Directed by: Robert Deubel
Written by: Joe Bolster
Cast: Julia Montgomery, Hal Holbrook, Rutanya Alda, James Carroll, Carrick Glenn, Richard Bright, Rutanya Alda

Independent International Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Whore!” – The Dancing Bear

This is one of those films that I didn’t even know about until recently, as slasher pictures were a dime a dozen in the 1980s and this one isn’t particularly good, other than a few things I found to be amusing.

The biggest thing that this film has going for it, other than Hal Holbrook being a sole campus cop dealing with murdered babes, is that the killer wears the school’s mascot costume. What we have, is a psycho dressed as a dancing bear. However, the bear has a makeshift bear claw comprised of serrated steak knives that he uses to shred college girls as he calls them “whore” and “slut” or my favorite line of the film, “Bitch! You bitch! Time to pay the price for being a slut!”

Girls Nite Out doesn’t feature any notably successful teens. Well, there is Julia Montgomery, who was in Revenge of the Nerds and two of its three sequels. Also, the super beautiful Carrick Glenn is in this. Her only other notable film was The Burning. She kind of disappeared after this film, which sucks. I thought she seemed like a cool chick that could do better things than where she was when she stopped acting.

As far as the teens go, they were all fairly unusual and goofy but it worked in a really entertaining way and at the very least, they all stood out in different ways and made the movie more playful than it otherwise would have been. There was great chemistry and camaraderie with the cast and it looked like a film where they were all having fun on and off camera.

The real problem with the movie, is that it is just such a cookie cutter slasher flick and it doesn’t do anything notable or new other than having a killer in a bear suit. However, there is a twist ending that I thought worked pretty well, even if everything leading up to it was sort of basic bullshit.

I do feel that the movie was a missed opportunity for the writers to come up with some really fantastic bear puns. If I wrote this thing, I’d be dropping puns all over the place. “Who do you think murdered these babes?” “I don’t know, deputy. But this is certainly… grisly.” Or something like “Hey, aren’t you that nerd from my civics class?” “No! But I’d like to express my right to bear arms!” “Arghhhhh!!!” Or how about “If you thought that was bad, bitch… you’re going to find what happens next… un-bear-able!” Or after hitting on some slutty chick at a party he says something like, “You’re too clingy, I’m going to have to claw my way out of this relationship!”

Such a missed opportunity for great bear puns.

Anyway, Girls Nite Out isn’t a total waste, even without those bear puns but it could have been much better. Hal Holbrook automatically improves just about anything and the teens were better than typical slasher fodder. There could have been a bigger emphasis on boobage and more creative killings but a bear mascot with a knife hand, two years before Freddy Krueger, is pretty creative.

Rating: 5.25/10