Film Review: Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)

Release Date: February 6th, 1998
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis
Music by: Paul Shaffer, various
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, Joe Morton, J. Evan Bonifant, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, B.B. King, The Blues Brothers Band, Erykah Badu, Blues Traveler, Eric Clapton, Clarence Clemons, Bo Diddley, Issac Hayes, Dr. John, Lou Rawls, Paul Shaffer, Travis Tritt, Jimmie Vaughan, Steve Winwood, Kathleen Freeman, Frank Oz, Steve Lawrence, Jeff Morris, Nia Peeples, Darrell Hammond, Max Landis

Universal Pictures, 123 Minutes

Review:

“Listen, Willie, you gotta understand. Those goons are orphan remnants of the post-perestroika Soviet secret police apparatus, which, until 1991, carried out its twisted interpretation of the original well-intentioned Marxist-Leninist doctrine vis-a-vis state security, which was massively corrupted by Lavrentiy Beria in the ’30s. Of course, once a mass populace is coerced into such behavior as a permanent condition, a radical didactic, dialectic shift, such as glasnost, produces guys like these:…” – Elwood Blues

I never wanted to see this movie.

For one, the first one was perfect and should have been left alone. Especially, after the death of John Belushi. Had he not passed away at a young age and then wanted to do a sequel, I probably would’ve been fine with that. Something just seemed grossly inappropriate about this film even being made but Hollywood has no morals, shame or respect for anything so I can’t say that this movie’s existence didn’t surprise me.

I figured that I’d give it a fair shot, though. Mainly, I wanted to review it and because maybe I was initially too harsh on this and it’s possible that it might be a nice tribute to Belushi.

Well, I wouldn’t call it nice or even good, really. Now it’s not as terrible as other people have led me to believe, over the years, but it’s kind of a pointless movie.

The reason why it’s pointless is that it takes all of the famous beats of the original film and just reuses them… poorly. It’s like Dan Aykroyd and John Landis dusted off the script to the original, changed some character and location names, moved some scenes out of sequence and then tried to do some clever modifications. Unfortunately, these tricks were really transparent and what we’re left with is a lame, terribly derivative picture that doesn’t have a reason to exist. Well, except for maybe one reason.

That reason is the music itself. I know that Aykroyd and Landis love the blues and they, at the very least, were able to create some solid musical sequences that I enjoyed. Now none of them are as iconic as the ones from the original movie but these sequences are where you can see that the creatives involved in the movie were really trying their damnedest to make this something special.

So, I can’t knock the musical parts but if the threads holding these sequences together is made of shit material, well, the semi-attractive tapestry is just going to fall apart. And sadly, that’s what happens with this movie.

In the end, I don’t hate this but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: its far superior predecessor and other John Landis comedies.

Film Review: The Blues Brothers (1980)

Also known as: The Return of the Blues Brothers (original script title)
Release Date: June 20th, 1980
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, John Landis
Music by: various
Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Carrie Fisher, Aretha Franklin, Henry Gibson, John Candy, Kathleen Freeman, Twiggy, Frank Oz, Charles Napier, Steven Spielberg, Steven Williams, Paul Reubens, Chaka Kahn, John Lee Hooker, Steve Lawrence, Jeff Morris, Joe Walsh, Armand Cerami

Universal Pictures, 133 Minutes, 148 Minutes (extended version)

Review:

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.” – Elwood, “Hit it.” – Jake

This was a favorite comedy of mine, as a kid. It also probably helped develop my love of music, as it exposed me to styles that weren’t simply the standard pop tunes of the day. Given the film’s name, one could assume that this is full of blues music but it also features some soul, jazz, rock and a bit of country and western.

The Blues Brothers also solidified John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as two of the coolest guys working in Hollywood. Sadly, Belushi died two years later but my exposure and love of this movie led me down the path of watching everything Dan Aykroyd did for well over a decade. It also made me appreciate and love the work of director, John Landis.

A movie like this reminds of what movies used to be. It came out in a stupendous era for film and provided audiences with legitimate escapism from the harsh realities of the real world. This didn’t try to preach to you or force fed you some lesson, it was just a hell of a lot of fun, featured incredible music, didn’t take itself too seriously and offered up a tremendous dose of comedy when you didn’t have to worry about offending a small percentage of people that don’t buy anything, anyway.

This reminded me of why I watch so many retro movies and why I don’t really give a shit about new stuff coming out. At least for the most part. I’m am really intrigued by the newest adaptation of Dune, even if it is only going to be relegated to the small screen. But I digress, as I’ve gotten side tracked here. I just thought that it was necessary to explain what sort of feeling and thoughts this movie generated, seeing it in 2021 for the first time in quite awhile.

The Blues Brothers features dozens of great cameos of legitimate musicians essentially playing fictional versions of themselves. Strangely, this works. I think that also has to do with the film jumping around a lot and by putting the bulk of the acting work on Belushi and Aykroyd, who proved that even at their young age, they could certainly carry a motion picture and entertain just about everyone through their brand of comedy and music.

That being said, it also made me miss the really old days of Saturday Night Live. I was born after that show started but I did have access to a lot of those classic episodes growing up thanks to my uncle’s massive VHS library.

Anyway, this is just an energetic, lighthearted movie with soul and personality. It’s the type of picture that brings people together and leaves them all with a smile. I fucking miss movies like this.

I should also get the soundtrack on vinyl because not owning it should be a crime and I’m disappointed in myself for not having it.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other comedies by John Landis, also those by Ivan Reitman, as well as comedies starring Dan Aykroyd.

Film Review: Ready to Rumble (2000)

Also known as: Untitled Wrestling Movie (working title), Head Lock Go! Go! Professional Wrestling (Japanese English title)
Release Date: April 5th, 2000 (premiere)
Directed by: Brian Robbins
Written by: Steven Brill
Based on: World Championship Wrestling
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Bill Goldberg, Rose McGowan, Diamond Dallas Page, Joe Pantoliano, Martin Landau, Ahmet Zappa, Jill Ritchie, Caroline Rhea, Lewis Arquette, Kathleen Freeman, Steve “Sting” Borden, Bam Bam Bigelow, Randy Savage, Booker T, Sid “Vicious” Eudy, Juventud Guerrera, Curt Hennig, Disco Inferno, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Rey Misterio, Perry Saturn, Prince Iaukea, Van Hammer, Michael Buffer, Gene Okerlund, Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Charles Robinson, Billy Silverman, The Nitro Girls, John Cena (uncredited)

Bel Air Entertainment, Outlaw Productions, Tollin/Robbins Productions, World Championship Wrestling, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Just cause it’s your dream doesn’t make it right or noble or whatever! Charles Manson was following his dream! Joseph Stalin, Michael Bolton, you get my point?” – Mr. Boggs

When this came out in 2000, I didn’t bother to see it. It didn’t matter that I was a wrestling fan or that WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was promoting the shit out of it. The movie just looked terrible beyond belief and well, frankly, movies with major wrestlers in them were never good, at least up until this point. Thanks for fixing that, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I finally caught this on TV a year or two later because I was trapped at home with my car in the shop, Uber didn’t yet exist, and there was nothing on in the afternoon other than soap operas, lame game shows and even lamer talk shows. So I gave in and watched this unfunny and bizarre turd.

Now I don’t want to sound like I’m just being mean and shitting on a shitty film for the sake of being an asshole. It’s just a bad fucking movie and that’s mostly because it was written by someone who doesn’t know a damn thing about wrestling. If they do, the script and the story doesn’t show it and it’s almost insulting for those who have a love for this stuff.

Frankly, professional wrestling was treated like a joke. I get that this is a comedy movie but that doesn’t mean that you don’t do your research and try to give the audience something more authentic. Look at Slap Shot, a movie about hockey that is, at times, batshit crazy. Yet, it respects the sport and it doesn’t insult the fans of it by being written by someone just writing about what they think hockey is about, as opposed to someone who actually knew because she spent a season traveling with her brother’s team, an experience that led to her writing the Slap Shot script.

I don’t know how the wrestlers in this weren’t furious and insulted. I don’t know how they didn’t have meltdowns on the set about how stupid and inaccurate the script was in regards to something that was their beloved profession. Granted, I’m sure they were held hostage by their contracts and had more mouths to feed other than their own but the actual wrestlers had to see the writing on the wall with this shit show.

Now all that being said, I can’t hate on David Arquette or Scott Caan for being in this. They both really tried to make the best out of it and Arquette is a lifelong wrestling fan that probably signed on to this with some enthusiasm. I hope he didn’t see how bad the script was until after he signed the dotted line though because I’d rather hope that he just got hoodwinked.

But the effects of this movie were so bad that it led to Arquette legitimately becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion in real life, something he was apprehensive about and felt disrespected the talent that spent their entire adult lives training for the spot that was handed to him just to help market a shit movie. The tactic massively backfired and the Arquette incident is a major factor in what led to WCW permanently shutting its doors a year later.

As for the movie, it’s terribly unfunny. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense and it makes wrestling look stupid as hell. The whole thing is a caricature of what it’s supposed to represent, written as if it were some asshole’s personal take on something he didn’t even give a shit about in the first place.

I honestly feel bad for the people in this film. And while I like Brian Robbins as a comedic actor, as a director, this is the equivalent of him volunteering to wear a dunce cap made out of excrement.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really, really shitty ’90s and ’00s buddy comedies.

Film Review: Dragnet (1987)

Release Date: June 26th, 1987
Directed by: Tom Mankiewicz
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel, Tom Mankiewicz
Based on: Dragnet by Jack Webb
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Tom Hanks, Christopher Plummer, Harry Morgan, Alexandra Paul, Dabney Coleman, Elizabeth Ashley, Jack O’Halloran, Kathleen Freeman, Matthias Hues (uncredited)

Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Now let me tell you something, Streebeck. There are two things that clearly differentiate the human species from animals. One, we use cutlery. Two, we’re capable of controlling our sexual urges. Now, you might be an exception, but don’t drag me down into your private Hell.” – Friday

Man, I used to really love this movie as a kid. But it is a totally different film when you watch it several years later without the mind of a nine year-old in the 1980s.

Sure, Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks are both great and when put together, they are still pretty great. Unfortunately, the overall humor and the gags in this just don’t work as well in a world thirty years after the film came out.

When this was written, it was supposed to be juvenile and goofy and it still is but I don’t understand what Aykroyd was trying to accomplish. As a kid, I knew what Dragnet was but I wasn’t too interested in old black and white shows that my mum would watch on Nick At Nite in the 80s. This was supposed to bring the franchise to the next generation but it could have just been a buddy cop comedy and didn’t need to carry the Dragnet banner. I can only assume that Aykroyd was a massive fan of the original show.

While I did still enjoy the experience of this movie, it is probably because of nostalgia. It doesn’t come close to being anywhere near the level of Aykroyd’s Ghostbusters or The Blues Brothers and it also doesn’t come close to Hanks’ Big or Splash. It sort of just exists as this film where we got to see Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks come together with a little Dabney Coleman thrown in for extra laughs.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an awful film it is just a pretty basic one albeit amusing and endearing for fans of 80s comedies.

I did like the villain group P.A.G.A.N., even if my really religious mum thought it was Satanic and bizarre. The whole scene with the big P.A.G.A.N. ritual was really cool and one of the highlights of the movie.

Another highlight was the inclusion of Harry Morgan in this, as I did grown to become a fan of the original Dragnet, which he was a big part of.

I don’t think that Dragnet is going to be a film that will live on for generations. In fact, most people have forgotten about it or don’t know it exists. It really only works if you are a fan of the people in it and can watch a mostly mindless 80s comedy and enjoy it for what it is.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: The ‘Gremlins’ Series (1984-1990)

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.

Gremlins (1984):

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

gremlinsReview:

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.

Rating: 9.25/10

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

gremlins_2Review:

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.

Rating: 7.75/10