Also known as: Cheech and Chong Join the Army (original script title) Release Date: June 26th, 1981 Directed by: Ivan Reitman Written by: Dan Goldberg, Harold Ramis, Len Blum Music by: Elmer Bernstein Cast: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P. J. Soles, Sean Young, John Candy, John Larroquette, John Diehl, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Bill Paxton
Columbia Pictures, 106 Minutes, 122 Minutes (extended cut)
“Who’s your friend? Who’s your buddy? I am, aren’t I? You’re crazy about me, aren’t you?” – John Winger
This is considered one of the all-time great Bill Murray comedies. While I do like it, it was never really at the top of my list. I’m not quite sure why, as it also features Harold Ramis, John Candy, John Larriquette, Judge Reinhold, Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas: all comedy legends I love.
Stripes is funny and amusing but from a narrative standpoint, it always felt kind of sloppy and pointless. Sure, these new recruit losers (mainly Murray and Ramis) do rise to the occasion and become heroes for a day, however, things in this movie just sort of happen without much purpose.
I get it, though, this is sort of just a goofy, mindless comedy. However, I guess I hold these guys and director Ivan Reitman to a higher standard because they’ve made much better films.
Without Bill Murray and someone as great as Ramis to play off of in nearly every scene, this would be reduced down to just a run of the mill screwball comedy like Meatballs or Porky’s.
I also know that Reitman probably didn’t have much of a budget to work with but this picture looks more like a television movie than a cinematic one. However, the film’s success did pave the way for the Ghostbusters movies, which are, to this day, my favorite comedy films of all-time.
Stripes is a movie that I still watch about twice a decade, as I can put it on and not think. But ultimately, it’s just never been as beloved by me as it seems to be by many others.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other Bill Murray films of the ’80s, as well as comedy pictures directed by Ivan Reitman and John Landis.
Release Date: May 25th, 1994 Directed by: John Landis Written by: Steven E. de Souza Based on: characters by Danilo Bach, Daniel Petrie Jr. Music by: Nile Rodgers Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizando, Theresa Randle, Timothy Carhart, John Saxon, Alan Young, Gilbert R. Hill, Bronson Pinchot, Stephen McHattie, Michael Bowen, Al Leong (uncredited), Al Green (cameo), George Lucas (cameo), Joe Dante (cameo), Ray Harryhausen (cameo), John Singleton (cameo)
Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures, 104 Minutes
“[his last words] Axel, you on a coffee break? Go get that son of a bitch.” – Inspector Todd
The words “they waited too long” definitely apply to what was Beverly Hills Cop III.
This was one hell of a dud that lost many of the key players and only brought back Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Gil Hill… just so they could kill him in the opening sequence, and Bronson Pinchot, who only appeared in the first movie in two very minor scenes.
Additionally, this closing chapter in the franchise was mostly devoid of any real humor, as Eddie Murphy barely told any jokes, barely did his signature laugh and kind of just zombie walked through his scenes giving one of the flattest performances of his career.
In fact, his scenes with Bronson Pinchot actually show how dry Murphy is in this, as Pinchot steals the scenes right out from under him.
Judge Reinhold was made to look like a total doofus and they ignored what was established with his character in the previous film, which saw him open up and reveal that he was a gun nut similar to Eugene Tackleberry from the Police Academy movies. Here, he just carries a tiny pistol, looks the opposite of badass and pretty much just acts like a total dope.
Being that this was directed by John Landis is absolutely baffling. Landis is a top notch director that made several classics over the course of a decade and a half before this movie. I’m not sure if the script ended up getting butchered or if a lot was left on the cutting room floor but this is, hands down, one of the worst things Landis has ever had attached to his name.
Harold Faltermeyer didn’t return to score this film and man, it really shows. The score is generic as fuck and the famous Axl Foley theme is reworked and completely destroyed by brass instruments, completely taking away from the funky synth grooves that we got in the first two pictures.
In fact, when the brass gets real heavy in the score, it almost sounds like its trying to emulate a James Bond movie. I guess that’s fitting as Bronson Pinchot essentially plays a ripoff of Q and Axl Foley has a bunch of weird gadgets to use ala Bond.
I think that the franchise should’ve just ended with two. This proves that it’s really, really hard to catch lightning in a bottle for a third time.
Rating: 4.75/10 Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.
Release Date: May 20th, 1987 Directed by: Tony Scott Written by: Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren, Eddie Murphy, Robert D. Wachs Based on: characters by Danilo Bach, Daniel Petrie Jr. Music by: Harold Faltermeyer Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox, Jurgen Prochnow, Brigitte Nielsen, Allen Garfield, Dean Stockwell, Paul Reiser, Gilbert R. Hill, Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Ridgely, Hugh Hefner, Chris Rock, Robert Pastorelli, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Tom Bower
Eddie Murphy Productions, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes
“[to Rosewood and Taggart] “If you get your head out of your ass long enough”? “Kiss my ass”? You’re gettin’ more and more like me every day. Next thing you know you’re gonna have Afros… big dicks and all!” – Axel Foley
Let me start this review by saying that the first movie is a better film. However, I always enjoy watching this one more, despite its total lack of a Bronson Pinchot cameo. But I’ll explain why I like it more, as I continue on.
To start, this chapter in the franchise takes things to another level in nearly every regard.
All the characters are better here and it almost felt like the first film was there to get them comfortable in their roles before they really gelled as an ensemble. I absolutely love the chemistry between Foley, Rosewood and Taggart. They just know each other so well and they compliment one another perfectly.
I also love how these characters have evolved. Axel is still pretty reckless but he’s more mature and just comes across as a much better and more gifted detective. Rosewood has essentially become this franchise’s Eugene Tackleberry and because it’s Judge Reinhold, it makes that all the more better and funnier. Taggart has warmed up to Foley a lot more and now there is a level of respect and true friendship between them. Even though Ronny Cox is barely in this, as he spends most of the film in a coma, it’s great seeing him get to share scenes with the other guys once he’s recovered.
Additionally, I really like Brigitte Nielsen in this, which I would consider her best role after Red Sonja. But it’s like this role was specifically written for her and it highlights her strengths without exposing her weaknesses. She’s just a badass with a unique look and you actually see her as a legitimate, dangerous threat. She’s cold, calculating and just about perfect.
The other villains feel weak by comparison and without Nielsen being added to their roster, they don’t hold a candle to how solid Steven Berkoff and Jonathan Banks were in the first movie. But I should also point out that I liked Dean Stockwell in this as an evil shithead, even if he was underutilized for his talent level.
The criminal scheme in the movie starts out with a bang but as it becomes clearer, it is kind of underwhelming. But it’s also secondary to the comedic momentum of the film.
That being said, when the action happens, it’s really f’n good. The movie feels more chaotic with bigger vehicle chases, bigger shootouts, bigger weapons and having the ante upped in nearly every regard in the action sequences.
Frankly, I love this movie and the first two in the franchise are classics. The third (and final) film, not so much. But I’ll get to that one in the very near future.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.
Also known as: Beverly Drive (script title) Release Date: December 1st, 1984 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Martin Brest Written by: Daniel Petrie Jr., Danilo Bach Music by: Harold Faltermeyer Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Elbacher, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, James Russo, Stephen Elliot, Paul Reiser, Jonathan Banks, Gilbert R. Hill, Bronson Pinchot, Damon Wayans
Eddie Murphy Productions, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes
“This is the cleanest and nicest police car I’ve ever been in in my life. This thing’s nicer than my apartment.” – Axel Foley
There weren’t a lot of characters cooler than Axel Foley back when I was a kid in the ’80s. Because of that, this and the second film, were always in constant rotation in my VCR.
I’ve seen this dozens of times but it’s been quite awhile since I saw it last. Having just come off of revisiting and reviewing all the Lethal Weapon films, I wanted to go back and get reacquainted with this trilogy, as well as the two 48 Hours movies. Reviews for all these Eddie Murphy action comedies will be up over the next few weeks.
Anyway, this movie holds up well and its still pretty enjoyable.
Eddie Murphy is at his absolute best in this and the film really shows how much of a star he was in his prime. About midway through the ’90s, he started to fall off and lose his touch but I’d say that’s more about the roles he chose over his talent because Beverly Hills Cop makes it pretty clear that the guy is stellar with perfect comedic timing, unlimited charm and the ability to have to be serious when the moment calls for it. This film showcases all of his strengths quite well and it is still my favorite Murphy movie.
Adding to his awesome performance is the rest of the cast, all of whom are also solid in this. I especially like Judge Reinhold, who, unfortunately, also fell off after the ’80s. Here, he is able to play the lovable and inexperienced straightman to Murphy’s fun antics. Although, Reinhold does get in on the fun too and frankly, Murphy and Reinhold have great chemistry and it’s that chemistry that makes these movies so good.
John Ashton and Ronny Cox are perfect in their roles and with Cox, it’s really great seeing him play an honest good guy because he’s such a great asshole when he wants to be. I love this version of Ronny Cox even though his performance as Dick Jones in RoboCop gave us one of the best movie villains of the ’80s.
The picture also benefits from an incredible ’80s pop soundtrack, as well as one of the best instrumental scores of its era.
This is action packed, hilarious, doesn’t take itself too seriously but delivers in everything it set out to do.
Overall, this movie is just a lot of fun and it should brighten any bad day because Murphy, at his absolute best, is amusing, entertaining, exciting and a real pleasure to watch. And this is, certainly, one of his best.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.
Also known as: Fast Times (working title, informal title) Release Date: August 13th, 1982 Directed by: Amy Heckerling Written by: Cameron Crowe Based on:Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story by Cameron Crowe Music by: various pop bands Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston, Amanda Wyss, Forest Whitaker, Vincent Schiavelli, Lana Clarkson, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, Taylor Negron, Lana Clarkson, James Russo, Pamela Springsteen
Refugee Films, Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes
“Why don’t you get a job, Spicoli?” – Brad Hamilton, “What for?” – Jeff Spicoli, “You need money.” – Brad Hamilton, “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine.” – Jeff Spicoli
Teen sex comedies were all the rage in the early 1980s. However, unlike all the others, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was much more than just a teen sex comedy. It was a film with purpose, heart and characters that you actually cared for and felt connected to. It had high drama, human emotion but it was still true to the spirit of the genre it was actually better than.
There were several factors that contributed to this movie being better than one would expect at first glance.
First, the story came from a book written by Cameron Crowe, who spent some time undercover in high school to capture the real lives of the teenagers around him. The book was full of true stories, which got adapted into this fictional movie tale. Crowe’s work gave this film a sense of realism and human emotion that other films like it were lacking.
Also, this was directed by Amy Heckerling and even though it was her first feature film, she was young, hip and connected to a lot of cool people at the time. She gave this picture a sort of life and energy that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. She also pulls off similar magic with 1995’s beloved teen comedy Clueless.
Additionally, this film benefits from having an incredible cast for its time. It has Sean Penn, just before he became a superstar, as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of the best actresses of her generation. The shy kind of nerdy character was played by Brian Backer, who had already won a Tony Award the year before for his leading role in Woody Allen’s The Floating Light Bulb on Broadway. You’ve also got quintessential ’80s cool guy Judge Reinhold, the always lovable Phoebe Cates, Robert Romanus, future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Amanda Wyss, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, as well as veterans Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli. How many other ’80s teen sex comedies can boast a lineup that impressive? And this didn’t even have a single person from the Brat Pack in it.
The film is well balanced between all of its main characters. It also doesn’t showcase the token stoner as just a token stoner. The chemistry between Penn’s Spicoli and Walston’s Mr. Hand is fabulous and makes for some of the best moments in the film. Seeing Walston go that extra step for a student that most teachers would just roll their eyes at is both sweet and refreshing. I could’ve watched a spinoff movie of just Spicoli and Mr. Hand and been happy, even if it had a lackluster script.
I also loved the chemistry between best buds Mark Ratner (Backer) and Mike Damone (Romanus). The shy Ratner needs Damone’s help in getting with the ladies and their exchanges are hilarious and entertaining. Life throws these best buds a curveball though but it was great seeing real friendship conquer all.
There are several good stories sprinkled throughout this ensemble piece. And it is sort of timeless in that the jokes still work, the characters are amusing and even though this gets very serious at points, it is never short on laughs and keeps things generally lighthearted.
It also has one of the best soundtracks of its decade.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a perfect template on how to create a teen coming of age movie. Sure, it is sex heavy, as it was the ’80s, but it’s light-years more mature than similar films like Private School and The Last American Virgin.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with:Dazed and Confused, The Last American Virgin and Private School. Also, Gremlins, as that features both Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold. Plus, Clueless, another teen coming of age comedy directed by Heckerling.
The Gremlins film series is proof that America wasn’t ruled by overprotective helicopter parents in the 80s. I’m glad I grew up in that era, as opposed to nowadays when a good old family film like Gremlins would be severely toned down and edited or have to be rated R and thus, not a family film.
I saw it in the theater with my parents. I was five. Yes, I saw people killed by little monsters and a bunch of horror violence but guess what? I loved it because I wasn’t coddled into being a complete wuss.
So let me discuss these films that, by today’s standards, should have destroyed me and turned me into a budding serial killer.
Release Date: June 8th, 1984 Directed by: Joe Dante Written by: Chris Columbus Music by: Jerry Goldsmith Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holiday, Frances Lee McCain, Dick Miller, Corey Feldman, Keye Luke, Jackie Joseph, Judge Reinhold, Glynn Turman, Jonathan Banks, Don Steele (voice)
Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes
The first one is the best one. It is a classic and a “must view” film come Christmas time, even though it oddly came out in the summer months of 1984.
Gremlins is a prefect balance of comedy, horror and holiday cheer. It also is a perfect balance of cuteness and insanity and I’m not talking about the very young Corey Feldman in this picture.
The creature effects are top notch for their time and I would still rather watch these animatronic puppets than CGI any day. And one can’t not be impressed with how many Gremlins they actually put in some of these scenes. In the movie theater segment alone, it looks as if there are dozens of these creatures, all controlled and animated by some off-screen puppeteer.
The story is pretty basic and straightforward but most fairy tales are. But this is a dark and amusing fairy tale. The Gremlins, for being terrifying little monsters are hilarious. They joke around, act crazy and are lethal, even to each other. The fairy tale also has its rules that must be followed. Of course, the rules aren’t followed and that is why we end up with the glorious chaos that is this film.
Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates are perfect as the leads in this film and they had great chemistry, which also worked well in the sequel. In fact, unlike other boys my age, this is the film where I got a huge crush on Phoebe Cates, as opposed to Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Hoyt Axton was entertaining as the father character, a struggling inventor whose gadgets are the butt of several jokes in the films. Judge Reinhold and Dick Miller both show up for a bit as well.
This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid and it has aged well. It still exudes the magic I found in it as a five year-old in the theater. Yeah, it is cheesy and over the top but it has a grittiness to it that you will never get when this film is eventually remade.
Gremlins is great. It is some of Joe Dante’s best work as a director.
And the soundtrack is fantastically nuts.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990):
Release Date: June 15th, 1990 Directed by: Joe Dante Written by: Charles S. Haas, Chuck Jones Music by: Jerry Goldsmith, Carl Stalling Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Christopher Lee, John Glover, Robert J. Prosky, Robert Picardo, Gedde Watanabe, Hulk Hogan, Paul Bartel, Rick Ducommun, Kathleen Freeman, Keye Luke
Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes
The New Batch is a pretty satisfactory sequel. I feel like they took too much time off between films but it still has a lot of the spirit of the original. It was also cool to see Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates return, as well as Dick Miller.
The film also has Christopher Lee in it, one of my favorite actors ever, as a mad scientist who does zany experiments on animals. His carelessness leads to the Gremlins acquiring some extraordinary abilities and a few bizarre abilities. The inclusion of Christopher Lee’s character ups the ante in this film, making the Gremlins more of a serious threat than they were in the first movie.
Also joining the cast are John Glover, as Daniel Clamp (a parody of Donald Trump in the 80s), Robert Picardo (a regular collaborator with Joe Dante) and Robert Prosky (as a late night horror movie show host dressed like a vampire). All three of these guys give superb performances, especially Glover.
Gremlins 2 isn’t as good of a film as the first but overall, it might be more fun. It is less dark but it is more campy. It has more Gremlin gags as opposed to a straightforward fluid story. The plot exists and there is a beginning and an end but the in-between stuff plays more like sketch comedy with a few plot points added in to keep it somewhat coherent.
This is a very different film than the first, which is refreshing. I probably wouldn’t want a rehash of what was done previously. This film did a great job of being its own thing while continuing the story on from the original.
I had always hoped for a third and final film but that ship has most likely sailed and Joe Dante isn’t the same director anymore.