Also known as: Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (poster title) Release Date: January 22nd, 2018 (Sundance) Directed by: Kevin Kerslake Written by: Joel Marcus Music by: The Runaways, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Cast: Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Pop, Michael J. Fox, Rodney Bingenheimer, Debbie Harry, Kristen Stewart, Pete Townsend, Dana White
Joan Jett is awesome. If you disagree, you have horrible taste.
Now that that’s out of the way, I was glad to come across this documentary about her life and career. Because, frankly, outside of just enjoying her music whether with the Runaways or with the Blackhearts, I never knew much about her.
As a biographical music documentary, this is pretty standard fare. It goes into her personal life, her backstory and then talks about all the major points in her career.
It’s a well produced and edited piece though and it’s Joan, herself, that gives this thing its life. She’s just great to listen to and her passion comes through.
Additionally, there are a lot of talking head interviews with a slew of famous fans and other musicians. This had a good, solid cast of people with their own unique takes and stories about Joan.
This is definitely one of the more enjoyable rock and roll documentaries to come out in the last few years. The production quality is great, there isn’t a dull moment and it was a fantastic way to kill time on a cramped, cross country flight.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other recent rock and roll biopics: Gimme Danger, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Whiteny, A Band Called Death, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’, Mayor of the Sunset Strip and David Bowie: The Last Five Years
Also known as: Three (fake working title) Release Date: May 25th, 1990 Directed by: Robert Zemeckis Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue, Flea, James Tolkan, Jeffrey Weissman, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, Donovan Scott, Bill McKinney
“Listen up, Eastwood! I aim to shoot somebody today and I’d prefer it’d be you. But if you’re just too damn yella, I guess it’ll just have to be your blacksmith friend.” – Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen
The Back to the Future trilogy is one of the greatest trilogies in cinematic history. It’s damn near perfect and the films are still just as enjoyable now, as they were thirty years ago.
Each one is a tad bit weaker than the previous but since the first one is an absolute masterpiece, the sequels are still better than 95 percent of all the movies ever made.
Part III is my least favorite chapter in the trilogy but it is still one of the best popcorn movies a film fan could ask for.
This takes the Back to the Future formula and throws it into the Old West. I like that they did this and it opens up the series for some fresh takes on some of its tropes but I also feel like the western twist maybe wasn’t strong enough on its own to carry the whole film. What I liked most about the second film, the one I find to be the most entertaining, is that it jumped around and showed us a variety of different times and alternate timelines.
Also, I feel like going further back in time to the Old West might have worked better in the second film. Like maybe they could have flip-flopped the second and third pictures. Which also could have given us the wonderful Mary Steenburgen in two movies instead of just this one where she was actually a bit underutilized. Sure, you’d have to rework some narrative details.
I am going off on some tangents and most people will probably disagree with my take but in the end, this was still a superb motion picture and one of the best from its era.
While it is still exciting it is a bit bogged down by the scenery and is the slowest of the three films, which also adds to my thoughts on it not being the best choice for the final chapter. This feels more like a second act and when it ends, it ends quite abruptly.
But I love the tone of the film and it still captures the amazing Back to the Future spirit. It also probably would have played better, at least for me, if they kept making these and just didn’t cap it off at three films like every other movie franchise of its time. They could’ve given us two more of these pictures, had they made them shortly after this one and frankly, I’m pretty sure they would have maintained the same quality had they utilized the same creative team.
Back to the Future, Part III is the weakest of the three but the bronze medal winner in the strongman championships is still stronger than just about everyone else in the world.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.
Also known as: Paradox (fake working title) Release Date: November 20th, 1989 (Century City premiere) Directed by: Robert Zemeckis Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson, Elisabeth Shue, Flea, James Tolkan, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jeffrey Weissman, Charles Fleischer, Jason Scott Lee, Elijah Wood, Joe Flaherty, Buck Flower, Marc McClure (uncredited), Crispin Glover (archive footage), Mary Ellen Trainor (uncredited)
“The almanac. Son of a bitch stole my idea! He must have been listening when I… it’s my fault! The whole thing is my fault. If I hadn’t bought that damn book, none of this would have ever happened.” – Marty McFly
Back to the Future is pretty much a perfect film. Back to the Future, Part II isn’t perfect but it’s so damn good, it’s hard to see the flaws unless you really look for them and then, they’re mostly narrative issues that can be dismissed if you look at this with a Doctor Who “timey wimey” sentiment.
This chapter in the classic and awesome film series sees our heroes go to the future, return to an alternate present and then take a trip back to the past where we saw them in the first film. Part II takes you to more places than the other two films combined but it works really well for the middle act of this three act trilogy. It also does the best job of showing the consequences that can arise from disrupting the timeline.
I think that this has the most layered plot and with that, tells a more complicated story. I remember some people back in 1989 saying it was kind of hard to follow but these were also people significantly older than me. As a ten year-old, I thought it all made sense and I still do. Granted, there are some other paradoxes that this would have created and the film just conveniently ignores them but if it were to follow science to a T it would have broke the movie.
The cast is still solid in this film but Crispin Glover is sorely missed. I really wish he had returned to this just because I think it would have made the story better. While he appears in archive footage and another actor stands in for him and wears a mask of his face, this all lead to a major lawsuit that forced Hollywood to change how they use the likeness of non-contracted actors.
While I can’t say that this is better than the first movie, it is my favorite to revisit just for all the things it throws at you. It’s certainly the most entertaining overall and it sort of embraces the absurdity of its subject matter without overdoing it. It’s mostly a comedy but it is balanced well with its more dramatic moments. There is an underlying darkness in this chapter that the other two movies don’t have and I think it gives it a bit of an edginess lacking in the other two. Not that they needed to be edgy but that element works well here.
Back to the Future, Part II is how you do a sequel. It upped the ante, was more creative than its predecessor and enriched its universe, giving it more depth while developing its characters further.
Rating: 9.75/10 Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.
Release Date: July 3rd, 1985 Directed by: Robert Zemeckis Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, George DiCenzo, Frances Lee McCain, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jason Hervey, Maia Brewton, Courtney Gains, Buck Flower, Huey Lewis (cameo)
“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.” – Dr. Emmett Brown
Back to the Future is a classic, which makes it kind of hard to review. It’s a film I’ve put off reviewing for awhile because I can’t really come up with anything other than paragraphs of praise. It’s perfect.
Do I need to run through all the regular tidbits about it having a great story, script, director, cast, composer, cinematographer, special effects department and everything else under the sun?
I’m reviewing this right after I reviewed RoboCop, which I also gave a 10 out of 10. But don’t take that score lightly, it is really hard for me to give out 10s but this film certainly deserves it and maybe even a score slightly beyond that. The only other movie from my childhood that can really compete for this as the best film from that era is Raiders of the Lost Ark.
While the Roger Eberts, Gene Siskels and Pauline Kaels have their Citizen Kane, Vertigo and Seven Samurai, I have Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire Strikes Back and Back to the Future. These are my generation’s classics and even though they are much more modern, their greatness can’t be denied. Well, unless you’re completely devoid of taste.
This film was a perfect storm, even if it had some major production issues early on. But those issues led to this and it’s hard to imagine that a film with a slightly different cast would have been as good as this ended up being.
If you haven’t seen this film already, I don’t understand what you’ve been doing with all of your time on this planet. If you have seen it and don’t like it, we probably won’t be friends.
This is, hands down, one of the absolute best films of the 1980s, regardless of genre or style. There are other movies that one can refer to as “perfect” but how many are actually this fun?
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.
Release Date: December 12th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: Tim Burton Written by: Jonathan Gems Based on:Mars Attacks by Topps Music by: Danny Elfman Cast: Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Jim Brown, Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Jack Black, Christina Applegate, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Joe Don Baker, O-Lan Jones, Ray J, Joseph Maher, Frank Welker (voice)
Tim Burton Productions, Warner Bros., 107 Minutes
“They blew up Congress! Ha ha ha ha!” – Grandma Florence Norris
While this isn’t one of Tim Burton’s most popular films, it is one of my favorites and I feel like it missed its mark because it’s not the type of film that would resonate with most people.
Mars Attacks! came out in late 1996, not too long after Independence Day ruled American culture that same summer. Maybe people were confused that this was a ripoff of it or that one big alien invasion movie was enough to digest but either way, I don’t think people realized that this was vastly different and sort of a parody of the genre while also being an incredible live action adaptation of the Mars Attacks trading cards that Topps put out in the 1960s. It’s like those who were kids in the ’60s no longer cared and the teens of the ’90s didn’t know the reference.
Still, this is a hilarious romp starring dozens of top notch celebrities where not a single one of them is actually safe. I mean, these Martians murder Congress, the President and even try to crush a troop of Cub Scouts with the Washington Monument. They are sick, sadistic and really, just friggin’ awesome. They are also voiced by Frank Welker, the guy who gave life to Megatron from the original and still greatest Transformers cartoon.
By the star power that this movie has, it’s clear that Hollywood got the joke and appreciated it even if audiences didn’t flock to see this. Still, it wasn’t a massive failure, by any means. It did fairly well but not as well as what Warner Bros. was probably hoping for with Tim Burton being a mega earner for the studio. While it took some time, the film did earn back the $100 million that was put into it. It was considered a box office bomb in the United States but it fared much better internationally.
This is one of the most hysterical films of the ’90s put out by a major studio. The humor is perfect, the tone is great and it pokes fun at so many different facets of Americana that it almost feels like it was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
The special effects look dated but they looked sort of cheesy in the mid ’90s. The film was supposed to have a hokey, old school vibe to it though. Really, the effects are great and they work for what this picture is. It’s not Independence Day and didn’t need to take itself as seriously in the visual effects department.
From a stylistic standpoint, the film really has a timeless feel to it. It merges modern style with ’50s and ’60s style in a seamless way that gives this film a magical quality.
Additionally, this picture boasts one of my favorite Danny Elfman scores of all-time. The theme is powerful and perfect and really fits that old school Elfman sound. Frankly, watching this film makes me appreciate and miss the quality of Burton and Elfman’s old school collaborations.
What really resonates with me is how this film balances comedy with how dark it actually is. It’s an absurd picture in the best way possible and shows that Tim Burton really has a dark sense of humor. Well, Beetlejuice was really effective in showing that aspect of Burton as well.
Mars Attacks! was underappreciated when it came out in 1996. It is still underappreciated today, as people that like to list out their favorite Tim Burton films always have this near the bottom of the list. Like I said, it isn’t for everyone but Burton fans, who understand Burton’s influences, should really love this picture.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Joe Dante’s Matinee and alien invasion B-movies of the ’50s.
Release Date: October 21st, 2015 Directed by: Jason Aron Music by: Allen Calmes, G.C. Johnson
Malka Media Group, Jason Aron Media, Patchwork Media, FilmRise, 95 Minutes
There is an old adage that says, “If you don’t love Back to the Future, you must be a horrible person.” Okay, so maybe I made that up but that’s pretty much how I feel about it.
Back In Time is a documentary about the film and its huge cultural impact. It came out just in time for Back to the Future‘s 30th anniversary.
While not as amazing as I had hoped, it does interview a lot of the people involved in the production and creation of the film series. It talks to Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Steven Spielberg, Huey Lewis and actors Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and others.
Unfortunately, Thomas F. Wilson and Crispin Glover weren’t in this documentary. It would have been really cool to hear their insight and how the film has effected them over the years. Glover, especially, due to how he left the film series and ended up suing over the use of his likeness, forever changing how business is done in Hollywood. While his actions left a bad taste in the mouths of many involved, enough time has passed, one would hope, to where he could have talked about the experience.
Back In Time talks a lot about the films themselves but it really showcases the fandom that has grown since the first one came out three decades earlier. It also interviews other notable people in the entertainment industry who were influenced by the Back to the Future franchise.
If you love the film series and have some time to kill, this documentary is worth a watch. There is nothing vital here but it is cool seeing those involved with it, reflect on it. It is also nice to see how it has captivated so many people since its release.