Film Review: 1941 (1979)

Also known as: The Night the Japs Attacked (working title)
Release Date: December 13th, 1979 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, John Milius
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Ned Beatty, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Warren Oates, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, Penny Marshall, Nancy Allen, Eddie Deezen, Slim Pickens, Dianne Kay, Wendie Jo Sperber, John Candy, Frank McRae, Lionel Stander, Michael McKean, Joe Flaherty, Don Calfa, Elisha Cook Jr., Mickey Rourke, John Landis, Dick Miller, Donovan Scott, James Caan, Sydney Lassick (uncredited)

A-Team, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, 118 Minutes, 146 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 142 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“You get me up in that plane, then we’ll talk about forward thrust.” – Donna Stratton

Considering that this was directed by Steven Spielberg and is loaded with dozens of stars that I like, having not seen this until now seems like a crime. But honestly, it came out when I was a year-old and it wasn’t something that I saw on TV growing up in the ’80s. Frankly, it flew under my radar for years and even if I saw the VHS tape in a mom and pop shop, the box art wouldn’t have piqued my interest.

I have now seen the film, though, and while I enjoyed it, I can see why it wasn’t held in the same esteem as Spielberg’s other work at the time.

This features a lot of characters and ensemble pieces like this can be hard to balance. With that, this felt more like an anthology of separate stories that don’t really come together until the end, even if there is a bit of overlap leading to the climax.

Everyone was pretty enjoyable in this but at the same time, they all just felt like tropes and caricatures, as none of them had much time to develop. That’s fine, though, as this isn’t supposed to be an intense dramatic story about war coming to US soil.

One thing I will point out as great in this movie is the special effects and being that this featured World War II military vehicles, it almost felt like Spielberg’s test drive before directing the Indiana Jones ’80s trilogy, which employed some of the same techniques and effects style that this film did.

The miniature work was superb and I loved the sequence of the airplane dogfight over Hollywood, as well as the submarine sequence at the end. The action was great, period.

I also generally enjoyed the comedy in this. It’s almost slapstick in a lot of scenes and it kind of felt like Spielberg’s homage the comedy style of Hollywood during the time that the movie takes place in.

That being said, the costumes, sets and general design and look of the film was great and almost otherworldly. This felt fantastical but in the way that the films of the 1940s did. There was a cinematic magic to the visuals and the film should probably get more notoriety for that.

What hurts the film, though, is that it just jumps around so much and it’s hard to really get invested in anything. There’s just so much going on at all times that your mind loses focus and starts to wander.

The story, itself, isn’t hard to follow but nothing seems that important, other than the Americans need to defend their home from this rogue submarine that appeared off the coast of Los Angeles.

In the end, this is far from Spielberg’s best and I’d call it the worst film of his uber successful late ’70s through early ’90s stretch. However, it’s still an enjoyable experience.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other comedies with Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi or other Saturday Night Live cast members of the era.

Film Review: Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Nelson Shin
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: The Transformers by Hasbro, Takara
Music by: Vince DiCola
Cast: Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Orson Welles, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Scatman Crothers, John Moschitta Jr., Michael Bell, Casey Kasem, Chris Latta, Clive Revill

Toei Animation, Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, Hasbro, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Megatron must be stopped… no matter the cost.” – Optimus Prime

I’ve been meaning to revisit this for awhile, as I’ve also wanted to review the television series seasons after the movie. However, my DVD was missing and I just found it under my DVD shelf. It could’ve been there for years.

Anyway, having dusted this off, the 20th Anniversary Edition, I fired it up and gave it a watch. Man, it’s been too long and it doesn’t matter that I have nearly every line of dialogue still memorized, because every time I see this, it still feels like the first time.

I love this movie and it’s definitely the better film between it and Hasbro’s other major motion picture: G.I. Joe: The Movie. This was also the only one to get a theatrical release, as the backlash this film received, as well as it under performing, made them re-think their strategy.

However, the backlash and criticism was stupid and I wrote about it here.

Beyond that, it doesn’t matter that the franchise’s primary hero was killed off in the first act of the film. In fact, it gave this film much more weight than an episode of the cartoon could have. It also paved the way for a new line of toys and characters, which is really what this franchise was designed for.

For fans of the animated show, this movie was larger than life. It took these beloved characters and their universe and threw them up on the big screen and gave audiences a story that was worth that larger piece of real estate.

Now the plot isn’t perfect and the film has a few pacing issues but the pros far outweigh the cons and Transformers has never been cooler than it was with this movie.

The animation is done in the same style as the television show except it’s much better and the film looks stupendous. Honestly, it still looks great and it has held up really well, even with modern CGI and computer programs doing most of the heavy lifting.

Transformers: The Movie still feels like a living, breathing work of art. It’s an animated film of the highest caliber from an era that was stuffed full of so much fantastic pop culture shit.

That being said, there wasn’t an animated film that I appreciated and enjoyed as much as this one when I saw it. Looking at it now, I still feel the same way, other than a handful of Japanese animes that I discovered later.

Sure, this is no Akira but for something produced by an American company, it’s light years ahead of its domestic competition. Hell, I even prefer it over the best Disney movies of the ’80s.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Transformers television series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Film Review: Beyond the Law (1968)

Also known as: Al di là della legge (Italy), Bloodsilver, The Good Die First
Release Date: August 10th, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Giorgio Stegnani
Written by: Warren D. Kiefer, Mino Roli, Giorgio Stegani, Fernando Di Leo
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Antonio Sabàto Sr., Lionel Stander, Graziella Granata, Gordon Mitchell

Sancrosiap, Roxy Film, Cineriz, Stellar IV Film Corporation, 109 Minutes

Review:

After watching The Grand Duel last night, I immediately put in Beyond The Law, another film starring Lee Van Cleef. It also stars Antonio Sabato Sr. as a heroic European who comes to a western silver mining town and becomes a beacon of light and influence over Van Cleef’s initially criminal Billy Joe Cudlip.

Van Cleef’s character is introduced by robbing money from Sabato’s character on a stealth stagecoach heist. The two then become friends and Van Cleef becomes the sheriff of the mining town and slowly starts becoming a character with morals. The town is overtaken by an evil gang who hold women and children hostage in a church in an effort to steal the town’s silver.

It is an interesting enough story and it is a fairly engaging movie but it lacks in comparison to Van Cleef’s other spaghetti western films.

The score is decent, the direction is pretty good but the cinematography is a bit cookie cutter and generic. Also, it’s running time is a bit longer than it should have been.

It isn’t a spectacular Van Cleef outing and there are better films of his to watch, if you haven’t seen them yet. But it is a worthy film to kill some time.

The premise and the set up were really good, it just falls short in the end.

Rating: 6.25/10