Film Review: Coming 2 America (2021)

Also known as: Coming 2 America: Quest (working title), Coming to America 2 (informal title)
Release Date: March 5th, 2021
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Written by: Kenya Barris, Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, Justin Kanew
Based on: characters by Eddie Murphy
Music by: Jermaine Stegall
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne, Shari Headley, Teyana Taylor, Wesley Snipes, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Paul Bates, Louie Anderson, Rotimi, Nomzamo Mbatha, Clint Smith, Rick Ross, Trevor Noah, Colin Jost, Morgan Freeman, En Vogue, Salt-N-Pepa, Gladys Knight, Dikembe Mutombo

Eddie Murphy Productions, Misher Films, New Republic Pictures, Amazon, 110 Minutes

Review:

“You must heed my words before I am gone, my son. Now, you will be king, but the throne must pass to a male heir. Akeem, it appears you have a son. He must be found.” – King Jaffe Joffer

Well, Coming 2 America has finally debuted on Amazon Prime Video, after delays and losing its theatrical release due to the ‘rona.

It’s pretty much what I expected, which was the film being an unnecessary sequel to a classic movie that couldn’t find a reason to justify its existence. But sure, there’s a part of me that really wanted this to be good even though pictures like this rarely are.

I will say that it wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be and in some regards, it exceeded my expectations. Not by much but I didn’t hate this and there were moments where I actually laughed out loud. However, as far as the jokes go, there are more misses than hits.

There are also some jokes that could potentially get this movie and its stars cancelled because everything is offensive now and comedy is dead. I found some of these jokes funny but when they make you more worried about the career of the actors saying them than generating laughs, we’re in a dark place as a society.

My biggest problem with this movie is that the story was really bad. In fact, the plot is terrible and kind of pointless by the end of the movie.

I guess the big positive is that it is kind of cool seeing these characters come back and it updates you on how their lives went after three decades. There’s also a part of me that did get wrapped up in the genuine love that these people have for one another, which is definitely real in how it transcends this mediocre film.

As hokey as the scenes between Eddie Murphy and James Earl Jones came across, as a fan of the original picture, it was kind of heartwarming. Murphy’s pep talk by John Amos towards the end of the film was also effective and I honestly wished these two greats would’ve worked together more over the years.

The plots with all the kids felt forced and got tiresome. Although, I did like them all. This part of the story was just a mess.

Two highlights for me, though, were Wesley Snipes and Tracy Morgan.

Snipes was just perfect in this and I love seeing the guy really ham it up, playing over the top characters. Every time the man came onscreen, it was hard not to pay attention. He owned this role and honestly, he steals every scene he’s in.

Tracy Morgan was simply Tracy Morgan from start-to-finish but that’s okay with me. The guy always makes me laugh and you can’t not love him.

I do, however, wish that Shari Headley had a few more scenes. I love her in the original and she has some of the best material in the script to work with, here, but she is Akeem’s Queen and I feel like she deserved to be more front and center than she was. Also, she’s still damn beautiful.

While the world didn’t really need this movie, it did at least make me smile and laugh a bit in a time where life’s been hard for most people. And, if anything, it reminded me that we need comedy, we need to laugh and we have to stop taking everything so damn seriously.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor and Trading Places.

Film Review: Coming to America (1988)

Also known as: The Quest (working title)
Release Date: June 26th, 1988 (Beverly Hills premiere)
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein, Eddie Murphy
Music by: Nile Rodgers
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley, Paul Bates, Eriq La Salle, Frankie Faison, Vanessa Bell, Louie Anderson, Allison Dean, Sheila Jackson, Jake Steinfeld, Calvin Lockhart, Samuel L. Jackson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Cuba Gooding Jr., Don Ameche (cameo), Ralph Bellamy (cameo)

Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“Do not alert him to my presence. I shall deal with him myself.” – King Jaffe Joffer

I’ve reviewed a lot of films lately that I know inside and out but hadn’t seen in their entirety in well over a decade. This is one of those films and after rewatching it, I realized how much I missed the good feelings that this generates, as well as how infectious Prince Akeem’s optimism is. This is really something that I hope is not lost in the sequel, which comes out in a few months.

At it’s core, this is a modern fairytale romance. While it doesn’t feature magic and mythic creatures, it does feature a great quest that sees its protagonist travel to a strange, foreign land in an effort to find treasure.

This treasure is his true love and in seeking her out, he defies his father, the King of Zamunda, as well as centuries of tradition. But in the end, love conquers all and this film conveys that message so splendidly that I feel like it’s impossible not to adore this motion picture.

Eddie Murphy is at his absolute best in this classic but his performance is maximized by Arsenio Hall, his real life best friend and a guy that plays off of him so perfectly well that it feels like they’ve been a comedy team for years when this is actually, their first movie together.

Beyond the two leads, this film is perfectly cast from top-to-bottom. It’s frankly an all-star cast that features a lot of the top black talent of the time, as well as Louie Anderson in what’s still his most memorable role.

I love the scenes with Murphy and John Amos, as well as the ones with his storyline father, James Earl Jones. Murphy holds his own alongside these legends and this is the one film where he really proves that he is the prime time talent that most assumed he was.

Also, this is the first picture where Murphy, as well as Hall, play multiple characters. This worked so well that it would go on to be a trope in several Eddie Murphy movies in the ’90s and beyond. I can only assume that many of these extra characters will also make their returns in the upcoming sequel. I hope we see the old guys from the barber shop again, even though it’d be shocking if they were still alive 33 years later.

The most important thing that needed to work in this film was the relationship that develops between Akeem and Lisa. It’s a great, simple love story and the two had dynamite chemistry and the emotion of their best scenes shined through, making this a much better picture than it really needed to be.

One thing that really jumps out, that I didn’t notice or appreciate until now, is the music. Nile Rodgers orchestrated an incredible score full of memorable pieces that make certain scenes and sequences, magical. In fact, his King Jaffe Joffer theme is so damn good it’s iconic in my book.

All in all, this is a film where everything went right and I feel as if it exceeded the expectations that even its producers had. John Landis was truly a master of ’80s comedy and this is one great example of how good of a comedic director he was.

As much as I have always loved this movie, I don’t think that I ever had the appreciation that I have for it now. It’s a pretty close to perfect romantic comedy, which is a genre I’m not a massive fan of. But when you make one so great, the genre doesn’t matter and the end result is something that far exceeds the label of “chick flick”.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as Eddie Murphy’s ’80s and early ’90s films.

Film Review: Ricochet (1991)

Release Date: October 4th, 1991
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: Steven E. de Souza, Fred Dekker, Menno Meyjes
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Lindsay Wagner, Sherman Howard, Mary Ellen Trainor, John Amos, Miguel Sandoval, Jesse Ventura

Indigo Productions, Cinema Plus, HBO Pictures, Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“I guess a Beretta in the butt beats a butterfly in a boot, huh?” – Nick Styles

Man, this may be the most Fred Dekker movie ever put to celluloid. It’s got his fingerprints all over the story and Steven E. de Souza’s script really encapsulates the spirit of Dekker’s style. Beyond that, the director, Russell Mulcahy, then turns everything up passed eleven! I’d say he turned it to about seventeen!

I haven’t seen this since it was a new movie on VHS but I’ve got to say that even though I remember enjoying it, I didn’t realize how over the top and crazy it was. I guess that’s because this was fairly normal for an early ’90s edgy boi action flick.

Seeing greats like Denzel Washington and John Lithgow clash in this was fucking incredible, though! These guys brought their a-game, their balls and then, I’m assuming, shot a bunch of steroids and extra testosterone into their man bits. That’s the only way I can really explain their intensity in this movie.

This is a high octane action thriller from the very beginning. It follows a young cop that takes down an extremely violent criminal in the first few minutes. The cop becomes a hero and a bit of a celebrity and eventually starts working for the district attorney’s office. He ends up getting married and has two daughters. All the while, Lithgow rots in prison, fighting and murdering other prisoners, waiting for his chance to escape and get vengeance on the cop that put him there.

Once out of prison, the criminal creates an elaborate plot to break the cop down, destroy his personal life, his career, pump him full of heroin and have him get raped by a hooker with an STD. This story goes to some dark, bonkers places.

In the end, Denzel sets his own trap by utilizing the gangsters he grew up with. The big, legitimately awesome finale takes place on the famous Watts Towers. The finale is fucking great! Especially, for those who loved these type of over-the-top, bar pushing action flicks of this era.

All in all, this is far from a perfect film and it has its flaws but it is perfect escapism, chock full of that “toxic” masculinity that modern Hollywood loathes.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other cop thrillers of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

Also known as: Die Hard 2 (simplified title), 58 Minutes (working title)
Release Date: July 2nd, 1990 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Steven E. de Souza, Doug RIchardson
Based on: 58 Minutes by Walter Wagner, characters by Roderick Thorpe
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Reginald VelJohnson, Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Fred Thompson, Tom Bower, Sheila McCarthy, Vondie Curtis-Hall, John Leguizamo, Robert Patrick, Mark Boone Junior, Colm Meaney, Robert Costanzo, Tony Ganios

Twentieth Century Fox, Gordon Company, Silver Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Oh man, I can’t fucking believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” – John McClane

Why the fuck do people shit on this movie? It’s a solid action flick with a solid action star that also boasts one of the manliest casts ever assembled for a motion picture not named The Expendables.

I love this movie and while I can recognize that it isn’t a perfect masterpiece like its predecessor, it is still a fine motion picture that helped to make the original Die Hard Trilogy one of the greatest trilogies of all-time. That was all undone and fucked up once Hollywood went back to the cow to milk the tits off of the franchise years later but I still consider the first three Die Hards to be a trilogy and that’s that.

John McClane is back and honestly, that’s all you really need. However, they set this one at Christmas, once again, and then padded out the rest of the cast with some of the coolest male actors of the time: Franco Nero, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Fred Thompson, Tom Bower, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Robert Patrick, John Leguizamo, Mark Boone Junior and Colm Meaney. Not to mention that they also brought back Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton and Reginald VelJohnson in a cameo.

There is so much testosterone in this picture that it is hard to see the movie sometimes as it’ll spill over the top of the screen and ooze down the front of it. If that’s not what you’re looking for in an action flick circa 1990, then go watch Fried Green Tomatoes with your Aunt Millicent!

This film grabs you from the get go and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. It’s packed full of action and when shit isn’t blowing up or getting shot at, we’re treated to solid scenes between the solid cast and thus, there isn’t a dull moment in this entire picture.

I love the chemistry between just about everyone in this film. Bruce Willis, at least in this era, could work with anybody and bring the best out of them. While the guy has unparalleled charisma, it always seems to carry over and rub off on anyone he works with. I absolutely loved his banter with Dennis Franz and I also loved his camaraderie with Art Evans.

Looking at another tandem that’s great in this picture, I have to tip my hat to Bonnie Bedelia and William Atherton. This is their second time playing these characters that are at odds with one another but they work so well together that it kind of sucks that they never came back for any of the other films.

Look, it is hard to top perfection, which is what the first Die Hard was. But, man, this is a really good attempt at trying to follow it up and just give the fans more of what they wanted.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films of the era.

Film Review: The Beastmaster (1982)

Also known as: Invasión Junk (Argentina), Dar l’invincible (France), El señor de las bestias (Spain)
Release Date: August 16th, 1982 (US limited)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Based on: The Beast Master by Andre Norton
Music by: Lee Holdridge
Cast: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn, John Amos, Billy Jacoby

Beastmaster N.V., ECTA Filmproduktion, GmbH & Co., K.G., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t move. The beast is fierce. But if we show no fear, we might escape.” – Dar

I used to love the hell out of this film when I was a little kid. It could because it was the first time I remember seeing boobies in a movie and that my parents seemed oblivious to this having boobies and lots of violence and therefore, never making me turn it off when I put it on. But then again, they were usually walking around the house doing adult things.

Anyway, I still like to revisit this movie every few years. It had been awhile seen I’d seen it this time though, maybe five years or more. But I wanted to work my way through all of The Beastmaster films since I haven’t reviewed them yet.

This is absolutely the best film in the series and I’d say that it’s the second best sword and sorcery film after the original Conan the Barbarian, which also came out in 1982.

I think that a lot of this film’s awesomeness can be attributed to it being written and directed by Don Coscarelli, the man behind the Phantasm film series, Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End. It has a very dark fantasy vibe that isn’t too dissimilar from his Phantasm series. And there are parts of this film that feel like actual horror, like the scenes with the winged demon vampire creatures that captured people within their wings and devoured them, turning them into a dripping acidic goo. Also, there is children sacrifice and all types of other hardcore shit thrown in.

The film also has a pretty layered narrative. It’s a straightforward movie where the hero is born, the hero loses the life he knows due to a tyrant, the hero grows up and then takes the tyrant down. But there are multiple villains in the movie: Rip Torn as an evil religious cult leader and a big brutish warrior with one of the coolest helmets in movie history. Plus, there are other evil abominations thrown in at certain points.

For those that might not know, Dar, the Beastmaster, has the power of befriending animals and using them as allies in his war against evil. It’s a cool concept and even though the idea comes from the book this is based on, which is really all they took from the book, it gives this story an edge over other sword and sorcery movies. Now it isn’t better than the first Conan but it is, at times, more entertaining.

I really enjoy Marc Singer in this. I also liked Tanya Roberts, here, but she was always a favorite of mine when I was a kid, between this film and A View to a Kill. Also, she’s the best thing about Tourist Trap. I think the real highlights for me though, are seeing John Amos being a total buff badass in this, as well as Rip Torn embracing his character’s evil insanity. All of the performances are better than what’s typical within this genre.

The movie has good cinematography and the shots are framed quite well. I especially like the scene where Dar faces off with the evil helmeted dark knight amongst the flames. It was well lit, well captured and the use of contrast in this sequence was well done.

Decades have come and gone since this film came out but like Coscarelli’s other motion pictures, it has survived the test of time and it is still a lot of fun to watch.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other sword and sorcery movies of the time, most notably the Conan films. It’s also fun to watch with its sequels but this is much better than them.

 

TV Review: The Ranch (2016-2020)

Original Run: April 1st, 2016 – ????
Created by: Don Reo, Jim Patterson
Directed by: David Trainer
Written by: various
Music by: Ryeland Allison
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Debra Winger, Sam Elliott, Elisha Cuthbert, Barry Corbin, Bret Harrison, Megyn Price, Kelli Goss, Kathy Baker, Ethan Suplee, Wendie Malick, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jon Cryer, Wilmer Valderrama, Martin Mull, John Amos, Thomas F. Wilson, Debra Jo Rupp, Jim Beaver, Conchata Ferrell

Ranch Hand Productions, Netflix, 30 Episodes (thus far), 28-34 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

Netflix has gotten crazy with their original content. It seems like nearly every week there is some new show to watch now. I feel like one of their newest efforts, The Ranch, may have slipped through the cracks for most people.

It stars That ’70s Show alum Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, which is pretty awesome as their comedic chemistry in that previous show was pretty uncanny. It also adds in the always awesome Sam Elliott, as their father, and the fantastic Debra Winger, as their mom. The cast is pretty solid but it just isn’t enough for this lackluster sitcom.

The show was created by the creators of Two and a Half Men but that was never a great series and it ran its course at least half a decade before the show actually ended. But this does re-team Kutcher with the people he worked with on that show, so it is like a happy marriage of a bunch of people Kutcher worked with on his two most famous projects. That doesn’t necessarily create a good recipe, however.

The show is mostly humorous, in a “lowest common denominator” sort of way. Granted, it does have charm and appeal. The charm isn’t immediately apparent but it grows as the show progresses. The appeal is due to the cast and the nostalgic feeling of seeing Kutcher and Masterson together. Plus, Sam Elliott, again, is always awesome and he looks to be having a lot of fun on this project.

As of now, Netflix has only released ten episodes – the first half of season one. It is enough to sink your teeth into but not enough to know if this is going to be a slow build to something better. By the end, I was mostly happy with the show but not completely sold that it wouldn’t end up being cookie cutter CBS-style sitcom bullshit. Ultimately, the characters and their relationship is what works and the comedy is just sort of there for flourish.

Update:

Having now seen 30 episodes, I feel like the show has found its footing. It isn’t fantastic but I do find myself anticipating it when I see that new episodes are about to drop.

Over the course of the three parts (as they aren’t full seasons), the show has featured more of Kutcher’s former cast mates from other shows and it also brings in a lot of other talent, whether from other classic sitcoms or from other shows and movies.

The Ranch is pretty enjoyable. It isn’t the funniest thing on television or even close to the best show. For some reason, however, it just works and it comes off as incredibly genuine and looks to be a fun show to be a part of for those involved. Their enthusiasm comes through and it makes you care about these characters.

Rating: 7.75/10