Film Review: All-American Murder (1991)

Release Date: December 1st, 1991
Directed by: Anson Williams
Written by: Barry Sandler
Music by: Rod Slane
Cast: Charlie Schlatter, Christopher Walken, Josie Bissett, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Kind

Greenwich Films, Enchantment Pictures, Trimark Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“She’s some bunny isn’t she? Great to see her again, it’s been years. But I never forget a face… especially, if I’ve sat on it.” – Decker

I actually didn’t even know about this movie until the scene I’ve linked below came across my YouTube suggestions while I was looking for some other Christopher Walken clips for something else completely unrelated.

That scene is pretty incredible and maybe the most Walken thing that Walken has ever done. Once I saw that this long lost flick also featured Charlie Schlatter and Josie Bissett with small roles for Joanna Cassidy and Richard Kind, I knew that I had to check it out.

This was a straight-to-VHS release and while it’s not a very good movie, it’s pretty entertaining for those who love Walken and late ’80s/early ’90s crime thriller schlock.

All-American Murder also dabbles into horror due to the dark nature of its plot, the crimes committed and a few sequences that almost play more like a slasher flick than a hard-nosed, gritty crime picture.

The plot is damn clunky and it became predictable pretty early on but it’s still fun to watch the absurdity of the story unfold.

Ultimately, I loved Walken in this and being that he’s one of my all-time favorite actors of his generation, I could see this bad movie becoming one of those guilty pleasure flicks that I feel compelled to revisit every few years or to show others that come over for a movie night that want some solid cheese and over-the-top Walkenisms.

Most people may be bored shitless with this movie. But those are the type of people I don’t talk to about film.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other crime thrillers from the era.

*instead of the trailer, I’ll just share this scene, one of the best in Christopher Walken’s decades-long career.

Film Review: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (complete title)
Release Date: August 24th, 2001
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Larry Sulkis
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall, Joanna Cassidy, Robert Carradine, Wanda De Jesus, Peter Jason

Storm King Productions, Screen Gems, 98 Minutes

Review:

“…Friday night, the whole place should be packed. A whole twelve hours before sun up and there’s money to burn, whores to fuck and drugs to take.” – Melanie Ballard

Well, this was the only John Carpenter film I had never seen. That is, until now. I just remember that when it was coming out, I thought it looked terrible. My friends that did see it only confirmed my reservations about it and in fact, they were harsher on this film than I expected. So I never really wanted to give it a watch but hey, I review movies and this was on my Starz app, so I figured I’d torture myself for 98 minutes.

I wouldn’t quite say that it was torture though. It was stupid enough to entertain me but it didn’t do much to excite me. And it’s not like John Carpenter did anything wrong, it’s just that this proved that his style had become dated. Had this script been shot by him in the late ’80s, this could have been a film that was remembered more fondly because it would’ve fit that era better.

A big issue with it though, is its reliance on poorly shot and constructed miniatures, very confined sets and going the digital route in places where practical effects would’ve probably worked better. Also, it definitely lacks in the violence department, at least in what one should expect from a Carpenter film.

It’s also kind of a boring movie, for the most part. The villains are pretty shitty and this is really just a movie with space zombies that understand how to use primitive weapons. Also, the main villain just looked like any generic horror monster from the late ’90s that was trying to be a scarier version of Marilyn Manson but just ended up looking like a goth kid without a good Halloween costume.

The acting in this is terrible too. Ice Cube can do better but he really just plays himself and dialed it in. Natasha Henstridge was okay and at least believable in her role but she looked bored. Statham was pointless in this, as was Clea DuVall, who can deliver a good performance when given the right role.

This isn’t an unwatchable movie but I can’t recommend it. I think that most people will actually hate it, even though I found it okay enough to kill 98 minutes during a tropical depression.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Later John Carpenter films, as well as other films from the era that dealt with Mars: Red Planet and Mission to Mars.

Film Review: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)

Release Date: June 7th, 1991
Directed by: Stephen Herek
Written by: Neil Landau, Tara Ison
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Christina Applegate, Joanna Cassidy, Keith Coogan, John Getz, Josh Charles, David Duchovny, Kimmy Robertson, Danielle Harris, Sydney Lassick

HBO Pictures, Outlaw Productions, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“I’m right on top of that Rose.” – Sue Ellen “Swell” Crandell

I had the rare opportunity of revisiting this film on the big screen. Okay, not in a theater per se, but on a large silver sheet stretched between two large trees at my friend’s makeshift movie theater in his backyard in the woods.

This was a pretty good vehicle for Christina Applegate, who was huge at the time for playing the slutty teenage daughter of Al Bundy on Fox’s television hit Married… with Children. This was Applegate’s attempt at breaking out and as being seen as someone other than a slutty daughter on a sitcom.

Here, she plays a much smarter and resourceful character and this is ultimately, a coming of age story. Applegate shines, as does the rest of the young cast, who had great chemistry and felt like actual siblings.

I’ve always liked Keith Coogan but Kenny is my favorite role he’s ever played. Also, horror icon Danielle Harris, pretty fresh off of Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, plays the youngest sister of the five children here. We also get to see Joanna Cassidy, David Duchovny and Kimmy Robertson in supporting roles.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is a comedy where you have to suspend some disbelief because the premise sees a babysitter die, the kids stuff her into a trunk and drop her body off at a cemetery – this way they can have their summer to themselves. This really is kind of a black comedy at its core, even if the darkness is buried in colorful teen comedy candy.

I can’t honestly say that this is a great film but I still love it to this day and, at least for me, it’s had some staying power. Maybe I was always attracted to it because of it’s dark narrative underbelly. But I think that the real reason this film has stuck with me for over a quarter of a century is that everyone in it works so well together. Plus, Christina Applegate is kind of a badass in this and it forever changed how I perceived her.

This is a film that was underappreciated and underrated at the time it came out. Most people have probably forgotten about it, all these years later. But for some reason, I still pop it into the DVD player every few years.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Release Date: June 22nd, 1988
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman
Based on: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, Joanna Cassidy, Kathleen Turner, Mel Blanc, Joel Silver

Touchstone Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Buena Vista Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Is he always this funny, or only on days when he’s wanted for murder?” – Dolores

Back in 1988, I saw this movie in the theater. It was a pretty memorable experience, as this was an incredibly unique and enjoyable motion picture. I used to watch this a lot as a kid but I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Watching it again, I realized how much I missed this film. I mean, what’s not to like?

The film uses animated characters in a live action world. When I was young, this was a really cool experience, as I hadn’t seen anything like it before, at least not an entire movie like this. After Roger Rabbit, this would become a technique that was fairly common but this was the first movie to do it on such a large scale.

The really cool thing about the use of animated characters, is that everyone was in on the movie. For the first time, we got to see Disney characters mingle with Warner Bros. characters. One scene, in particular, has both Bugsy Bunny and Mickey Mouse on screen together. The film really is a cool crossover before crossovers even really became a thing.

Roger Rabbit stars Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd, as the main human components of the movie. The film provided iconic roles for both men and they hit it out of the park. Hoskins was tailor made to play a noir type private dick while Lloyd had the perfect balance of being sinister, chilling and completely insane when the reveal of his true identity came out.

Charles Fleischer was perfect as the voice of Roger and he instantly made this character a megastar and worthy of a place alongside the great animated stars of the Disney and Looney Tunes characters he shares the screen with. Roger truly felt like he belonged, which wasn’t an easy feat but Fleischer gave the character real life and comedic charm.

Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman wrote a great script that had elements of film-noir, comedy, fantasy and lightheartedness mixed in with some really dark material. The scene where a character gets steamrollered was pretty harsh stuff for a kid but it is counterbalanced by the fantastic absurdity of how that moment plays out. This is truly a living cartoon.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a real classic. It still hits the right notes and being a period piece makes it a pretty timeless motion picture that still works just as well today, as it did in 1988.

Rating: 8.75/10

Film Review: Blade Runner (1982)

Release Date: June 25th, 1982
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Hampton Fancher, David Peoples
Based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Music by: Vangelis
Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong

The Ladd Company, Shaw Brothers, Blade Runner Partnership, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes (original workprint), 116 Minutes (original US theatrical), 117 Minutes (international theatrical), 114 Minutes (US television broadcast), 116 Minutes (The Director’s Cut), 117 Minutes (The Final Cut)  

Review:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.” – Roy Batty

Blade Runner is a classic but I think my appreciation of it is different than that of most. While I see a lot of weaknesses and flaws with it, which I’ll explain, the pros most certainly outweigh the cons by a tremendous amount.

For me, Blade Runner is an incredibly slow paced film. Not a lot really happens in it. You quickly understand the setup and the hunt that is taking place, as well as the fact that the main character, Deckard, is falling in love with the very thing he is hunting. There are a lot of layers here that could be explored in more depth but everything is just sort of presented on the surface and not explored beyond a sort of subtle emotional response to the proceedings. You never really know what Deckard is thinking but the film also works in that regard, even if I feel that it makes it hard to align your emotions with the characters’.

Blade Runner is a very topical film. What I mean by that is that there are all these beautiful and mysterious things in the forefront but the substance of what is really behind it all isn’t greatly explored or understood. You have some clues with the conversations Deckard has with Rachael and Batty but most of the characters feel as soulless as the Replicants were intended to be. I don’t blame the acting, which is superb, I blame the ambiguous way that the film was written, as it leaves you perplexed and with more questions than answers, really. And frankly, it is hard to care about those questions without the emotional investment in the characters living in this world.

Speaking of which, Ridley Scott created such a cool and stunning world that I wanted to know more about it. I truly wanted to experience and live in it, alongside these characters, but it is hard to do that when everything feels so cold, emotionless and distant. But this also begs the question, which people have been asking for decades, is Deckard also a Replicant and if so, is that what the tone of the film is very blatantly implying? I would have to say yes but I guess that question won’t truly be answered until this film’s sequel finally comes out later this year, a 35 year wait since this picture came out.

As I already pointed out, the film takes place in an incredible looking world. While it is the Los Angeles of the future, two years from now to be exact, it is a cold, dark and dreary place highlighted by flaming industrial smokestacks and neon signs. Scott made his future Los Angeles look otherworldly and menacing, tapping into the fears of where we could find ourselves in a world that further urbanizes itself, where we are all living in dark metropolises blanketed by dark smoky skies.

The music of the film, created by Vangelis, is absolutely perfect. It is one of the best scores ever produced for a film and its magnificence will be hard to top in the upcoming sequel. The end titles song of the film is one of my favorite pieces of music ever created.

The film is very loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In reality, it just shares a few concepts and ideas and Blade Runner is really its own thing, where Dick’s novel was more or less the kernel of an idea that Hampton Fancher and David Peoples turned into this tech-noir tale. Honestly, someone could do a true adaptation of the novel and no one would probably pick up on it being the same material. But Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite authors of all-time and anything inspired by his work will get my attention. But I probably wouldn’t have found his work as early as I did in life, had it not been for this movie and really, this film is what gave his work notoriety, after his death.

Blade Runner is not a film for everyone. In fact, when I have shown it to people over the years, I’ve gotten more negative or baffled responses than I have positive ones. I think it is a film that works for those who already know it or who grew up in a time when it was well-known. There was nothing like it at the time but there was a lot like it after it made its impact on pop culture. I don’t think that The Terminator would have been quite the same film had Blade Runner not come out two years before it.

It will be interesting to see where a sequel can go and what it answers and how. But we’ve got a month or so to wait for that. But it’s already been over 35 years, so what’s a month?

Rating: 9.5/10