Also known as: Laser Orgy Girls (original script title) Release Date: July 27th, 1978 (New York City premiere) Directed by: John Landis Written by: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller Music by: Elmer Bernstein Cast: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, Donald Sutherland, Peter Riegert, Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill, James Widdoes, Douglas Kenney, James Daughton, Mark Metcalf, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Sarah Holcomb
Stage III Productions, Oregon Film Factory, Universal Pictures, 109 Minutes
“Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps.” – Bluto
Animal House is a cult comedy that came out before I was born but was beloved by the generation slightly ahead of mine. I grew up hearing older people quote the movie constantly but I never actually saw it until the ’90s in my teen years. It’s also been that long since I’ve seen it, as although I love John Belushi, the film never hit the mark for me.
I feel like I did enjoy it more now, though, but that’s probably also because comedy is dead in the 2020s and everything in this film would be considered grossly offensive by modern snowflakes and “cancel everything” dweebs. Simply watching this felt like an act of defiance against Generation Bitch Made and everything their weak knees wobbly stand for.
Still, I can’t consider this a great movie, even if it spoke to an entire generation of slackers. However, it was never intended to be a great movie. This was made to entertain horny young folks that toked grass and drank a lot of beer. It also helped pave the way for a slew of mindless, funny films that did the same thing. Escapism is important to the human brain and National Lampoon’s Animal House provides solid escapism from your problems and your world for 109 minutes.
The film is also full of a lot of actors that would go on to have long careers, many of whom moved on to bigger and better things.
In the end, Animal House is goofy, obnoxious and reminds me of simpler times when people were still allowed to laugh and enjoy life.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as the films of Ivan Reitman.
Release Date: November 25th, 1987 Directed by: John Hughes Written by: John Hughes Music by: Ira Newborn Cast: Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins, Michael McKean, Kevin Bacon, Dylan Baker, Larry Hankin, Richard Herd, Edie McClurg, Bill Erwin, Ben Stein, Martin Ferrero, Lyman Ward
“You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. Yeah, you’re right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you… but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.” – Del
While I don’t love this movie as much as most people, it’s still something I watch leading up to Thanksgiving almost every year. The main reason, is it focuses on what’s important in life while also reminding its audience to open up to other people, even those who may seem difficult, because human beings are human beings and we’re all in this ride together.
Plus, I love buddy comedies and the pairing of legends Steve Martin and John Candy was a great one.
The film benefits from John Hughes’ masterful skill in blending comedy and drama, tackling tough subjects while also remaining lighthearted and hopeful. I miss good, positive films like this and even if it’s a “very ’80s thing” on the surface, it’s still sort of timeless and has a real charm about it that most modern films can’t replicate even when they really try.
This is why John Hughes was so great, though, because even though other filmmakers were able to make similar, feel good movies in the ’80s, Hughes’ films just had an extra sprinkle of something special that not only transcended the screen but also the time in which they were made.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles isn’t even the best of Hughes’ comedies (or even his holiday themed ones) but it captures that magic exceptionally well and it’s hard not to smile while watching these guys bumble through one crappy situation after another, seemingly attached at the hip all the way till the end.
That being said, I also don’t know how well this would’ve worked with other actors. Martin and Candy were reaching legendary status with each passing film and the merging of their talents in this took this picture to a level that it otherwise probably wouldn’t have reached, even with Hughes behind the camera and the typewriter.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other John Hughes holiday comedies, as well as comedies starring Steve Martin and John Candy.
Release Date: May 25th, 2011 (New York City premiere) Directed by: Matthew Vaughn Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Sheldon Turner, Bryan Singer Based on:X-Men by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby Music by: Henry Jackman Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Oliver Plat, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Jason Flemyng, Lucas Till, Edi Gathegi, Caleb Landry Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Michael Ironside, Ray Wise, James Remar, Hugh Jackman (cameo)
Marvel Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Ingenious Film Partners, Twentieth Century Fox, 131 Minutes
“I can’t stop thinking about the others out there, all those minds that I touched. I could feel them, their isolation, their hopes, their ambitions. I tell you we can start something incredible, Erik. We can help them.” – Professor Charles Xavier
While I haven’t seen this picture since it was in the theater, it left a great impression on me and gave me hope for the future of the X-Men franchise in film. Granted, we’d get two pretty good movies and two mostly poopy ones, but the weak whimpering farts of the second half of the prequel series of films didn’t take away my satisfaction with this one and its followup, Days of Future Past.
It was nice to revisit this, all these years later, as it holds up fairly well, even if I’m not as optimistic about the franchise now.
To start, this was much better than the last of the first run of films, X-Men: The Last Stand. That movie left such a bad taste in my mouth that anything better would have made me happy. Luckily, this was a lot better but I think that my original impression was a bit over-inflated due to the precedent set before it.
That’s not to say that this isn’t solid, it is. This is, in fact, a damn good superhero film and one of the best in the schizophrenic X-Men series.
What really sets this one on a pedestal is that the story was pretty good and the acting, at least from the core actors, was convincing and impressive. I didn’t know much about Michael Fassbender, before this, and I wasn’t yet sold on James McAvoy, but this picture cemented both men as two of my favorites over the last decade.
On the flip side of that, you also had some really weak performances from January Jones, who felt out of place and awkward, as well as the younger actors in the cast. A few of them would become better actors over time but they all mostly felt green, here.
I did like the inclusion of Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt in this, as well as character actors Michael Ironside, James Remar and Ray Wise. While the character actors had small roles, they added an extra level of legitimacy and coolness to the picture.
I loved that this took place in the ’60s, tied to the Cuban Missile Crisis and also went back into Nazi Germany to establish the relationship between Magneto and Sebastian Shaw. The general look and aesthetic of the film were really good and it actually fits with the previous X-Men films, despite those being set over thirty years later. One thing Fox did well, while they managed the X-Men movie franchise, was that they kept everything sort of visually consistent.
My only real gripe about the film is that there isn’t enough emphasis on the actual “first class” of students, which this film is named after. They all felt generic and disposable, cast to play archetypes and nothing more. Sure, some of them are major comic book characters but they didn’t feel that way in this movie.
Overall, this was a good, fresh, soft reboot of the series. It eventually ties to the older films and the series becomes an even bigger continuity clusterfuck but at least this generation of the franchise started out on the right foot.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Fox X-Men films.
Also known as: Land Sharks, Beneath Perfection, Dead Silence (working titles) Release Date: January 19th, 1990 Directed by: Ron Underwood Written by: Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson, Ron Underwood Music by: Ernest Troost, Robert Folk (uncredited) Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Victor Wong, Bibi Besch, Ariana Richards
“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya you bastard!” – Burt Gummer
I know that Tremors somehow spawned a franchise that a lot of people seem to like. However, I’ve never been a big fan of it. In fact, I’ve only seen this film, the original, in its entirety. I’ve seen bits and pieces of others but never cared enough to watch them all the way through, even if Michael Gross’ Burt Gummer is damn entertaining.
So I’d say that this one is the best but I don’t really know. But I’d assume so, as it’s the only one to get a proper theatrical release and wasn’t just made for video, DVD or the SyFy Channel.
Also, this one has the best cast with Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Victor Wong, Reba McEntire and Bibi Besch all alongside Gross. Plus, Gross wasn’t the star of the series yet. He wouldn’t really become the centerpiece till the third film after Fred Ward dropped out following part two.
This movie is enjoyable. I mean, I love giant killer animal movies and even if these maneating sandworms aren’t the size of kaiju or the Shai Hulud from Dune, they’re cool creatures that, at the time, offered up a pretty cool and original threat for horror audiences.
There is just something terribly frightening about being swallowed alive through the ground you’re walking on. The victims in this film get sucked under in a way that isn’t too dissimilar to how the killer shark from Jaws pulled his victims underwater, chomp by chomp.
Overall, this is a well cast movie that allows its stars to ham it up. I was kind of sad to see Victor Wong go so early though, as I was hoping he’d have a bigger presence and get to kick some ass. But we get some solid Fred Ward material, which is always a plus for me as he’s been underutilized and underappreciated his entire career. Sure, that’s my opinion but it’s probably fact too.
For a 1990 film, the special effects are good, practical ones that exist in the real world. This isn’t chock full of CGI, which seemed to become the norm as the series rolled on into the future. This one was lucky enough to come out a few years before Jurassic Park changed the game with digital monster effects. But everything onscreen looks great. I also loved the first person point-of-view of the sandworms chasing their victims, even if it didn’t make sense because they hunted underground and blindly chomped at vibrations.
Tremors is a dumb but fun movie. It may have gotten flushed down the memory hole if it weren’t for all the sequels but it’s definitely mindless and entertaining enough to provide 96 minutes of amusing and lively escapism.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: all the other films in the franchise, as well as any other killer animal movies.
Release Date: September 4th, 2015 (Venice International Film Festival) Directed by: Scott Cooper Written by: Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk Based on: Black Mass by Dick Lehr, Gerard O’Neill Music by: Tom Holkenborg Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Dakota Johnson, David Harbour, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, W. Earl Brown
Cross Creek Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes
*written in 2015.
“Take your shot, but make it your best. ‘Cause I get up, I eat ya.” – Whitey Bulger
Black Mass is the latest mobster biopic to come down the pipeline. What makes this one interesting is Johnny Depp wears a bunch of heavy make-up that looks odd and makes him look like the elderly love child of Ray Liotta and one of those reptilian aliens that I heard are taking over the U.S. government.
The film is directed by Scott Cooper, who also did the critically-acclaimed Crazy Heart and the mediocre Out of the Furnace. He also acted in an episode of The X-Files a long time ago. I wouldn’t say that this film brings back the bright shining star status Cooper had with his debut Crazy Heart but it isn’t a bad film by any means. It is more eventful than Out of the Furnace but unlike that film, I don’t care about any of the characters in Black Mass.
Depp’s portrayal of James “Whitey” Bulger is interesting and well executed for the material but there is a real lack of material there. There is no character building or development. What you have is a one-dimensional psycho on screen from the opening bell to the closing bell. His backstory is casually mentioned, his relationship with his friends and family is bland and he just feels like a cookie cutter bad guy in a cookie cutter mob film. I don’t care about Bulger, good or bad. I don’t sympathize with him or hate him. I should feel something, correct? And that is how it is for every character in this film.
For a movie boasting a cast of names like Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Joel Edgerton, Jesse Plemons, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, Julianne Nicholson and Juno Temple – I expected more. Additionally, Rory Cochrane from Dazed and Confused and Empire Records has an integral role, as does Dakota Johnson, who I am not as familiar with but she is some sort of big deal because she was in Fifty Shades of Grey (hopefully that’s not all she’s going to be known for).
This film seems to be getting a lot of love from critics. I’m not sure why. It plays from scene-to-scene and has a logical and fairly fluid plot but there just isn’t a lot of suspense or build up. Everything is predictable. You know who is going to die and when, you know what this psycho is thinking. Realistically, shouldn’t the psycho surprise you? I know that this is a biopic but some of us don’t know the whole “Whitey” Bulger story and the film would benefit from giving us a few surprises instead of blatantly foreshadowing everything to the point of eliminating any real tension or drama in the movie.
Black Mass is more good than bad, even though I am being somewhat harsh. The thing is, it is pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of gangster movies. It is interesting enough to watch but it certainly isn’t a classic in the sense of Goodfellas, The Godfather, Scarface or even Depp’s 1997 film Donnie Brasco.
Friday the 13th was a cultural phenomenon when I was growing up. While I have always been a bigger fan of Freddy Krueger, I still loved these films, which followed Jason Voorhees, as he murdered sexually active teens that got too close to Crystal Lake.
This is one of the most successful film franchises in cinema history, despite being panned by critics. There have been a total of twelve films between sequels and a remake, as well as an entry that saw Jason fight Freddy of A Nightmare On Elm Street fame. There was even a television show that didn’t directly tie into the movies but was inspired by their tone and spirit.
It is rumored that there is a new films and a television show currently in development. Although things seem to be at the very early stages.
In this review, I am going to cover the first three films. The second review will cover what I call The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy as Parts IV, V and VI focus on the character of Tommy Jarvis and his three film battle with the masked killer. Part three will cover Parts VII, VIII, Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X – the films featuring Kane Hodder as Jason. I will review Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 remake at a later date.
Friday the 13th (1980):
Release Date: May 9th, 1980 Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham Written by: Victor Miller Music by: Harry Manfredini Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Irwin Keyes
Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes
The first film was created to cash-in on the success of its slasher predecessor Halloween. It was also the first film of its type to be distributed by a major studio – Paramount Pictures. The studio heads were geniuses taking a risk like that because it turned into a massive franchise. Well, they sold the rights to New Line Cinema years later but someone definitely got a huge bonus.
The first film sets the tone for all the others. It even features a young Kevin Bacon.
What makes the first film so unique, is that people have come to associate these films with Jason as the killer. However, in the original film, Jason was not the killer. I thought this was pretty much common knowledge until my girlfriend watched it with me and was shocked at the reveal. While she had seen many of these films, the first movie was not one of them and it was cool to see someone effected by the reveal for the first time.
This seems to be considered the best film, despite Jason only being in it for a few seconds. It’s a good slasher movie but I don’t feel that it is the best, as the films evolve and develop over time.
It still plays well today, and it is still effective despite aspects of it coming off as cheesy. The practical effects still look better than modern CGI blood splatter and gore but I constantly beat a dead horse with that point in my reviews of older horror movies.
The atmosphere of this film is great. It has a similar environmental vibe to Wes Craven’s Last House On the Left but it is lighter in tone, with comedic elements being sprinkled in. It certainly doesn’t make you as uncomfortable as Last House On the Left. Oddly enough, Sean S. Cunningham, who directed and produced this film, worked with Craven on Last House. He wanted to distance himself from that film and wanted to create something a bit more approachable and fun. He succeeded.
Friday the 13th, Part II (1981):
Release Date: April 30th, 1981 Directed by: Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham (additional scenes) Written by: Ron Kurz, Phil Scuderi Based on: characters by Victor Miller Music by: Harry Manfredini Cast: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Stuart Charno
Paramount Pictures, 87 Minutes
The second film picks up with Jason looking for revenge. Revenge for what? Well, watch the first film, if you don’t know.
Jason is finally the killer and introduced as a menacing hulk for the first time. Although he doesn’t have the hockey mask yet and walks around with a potato sack over his head. While that is bizarre, there is still something scary about it and about his one eye – peering through a small tear in the sack.
Another group of teens show up at Crystal Lake and the body count starts to rise.
This isn’t as strong of a film as a few of the later installments but it does set the course for the franchise. It becomes the template to follow, even more so than the first part. There is more violence, more boobies and the most important element: Jason!
The only real negative about this chapter, is that they kill off Crazy Ralph. That dude should have been in every Friday the 13th movie.
Friday the 13th, Part III (1982):
Release Date: August 13th, 1982 Directed by: Steve Miner Written by: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson, Petru Popescu Based on: characters by Victor Miller, Ron Kurz Music by: Harry Manfredini, Michael Zager Cast: Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Richard Brooker
Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes
This was a 3D film. It is funny to watch because there are all these bizarre shots done that were made specifically for the 3D format. So when you watch them now, they look bizarre and out of place. But even if you didn’t know this was a 3D film, it is made pretty obvious with some of the gags and angles.
The most important thing about this movie, is that Jason finally gets his hockey mask! And even though it takes three films to get to completely familiar territory with this franchise, I do love the slow build over three movies. While it wasn’t necessarily intentional at the time, it now plays out really well. It also keeps the films from becoming too similar, up to this point.
Another group of teens show up because Jason likes killing a specific type of people and a senior citizens convention wouldn’t be as exciting.
Teens die, other people die, Jason fucks shit up and then we get our final battle of the heroine versus the monster. Not to give too much away but the final fight sees Jason take an axe to the head, which is how he got that iconic mark at the top of his mask.
This film is more comedic than its predecessors, especially in regards to the marijuana jokes and hippie characters that were obviously put in the film to appeal to the Cheech & Chong crowd at the time.