Film Review: Return of the Living Dead, Part II (1988)

Release Date: January 8th, 1988 (premiere)
Directed by: Ken Wiederhorn
Written by: Ken Wiederhorn
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Michael Kentworthy, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Phil Bruns, Suzanne Snyder, Thor Van Lingen, Jason Hogan, Mitch Pileggi

Greenfox Productions, Lorimar Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Joey

I think that this movie gets unfairly shitted on, simply because it is not the pinnacle of perfection that its predecessor was. That being said, this is still a damn enjoyable zombie comedy and seeing James Karen and Thom Matthews return, as new but similar characters, was pretty awesome.

While this film took some minor missteps that kept it from being as iconic as the first movie, it’s still one of the more fun horror pictures of the ’80s.

This picks up shortly after the events of the first film, as we see the zombie-creating Trioxin accidentally released on a new town. Zombies rise from the grave, infest the town and try to eat all the brains they can possibly stomach.

We follow a group of survivors, as they try to find a way out of town but ultimately get trapped by a military blockade and thus, have to fight the undead in an effort to survive the night. Of course, many of them don’t survive. However, unlike the first film, which had a much better ending, some characters do make it out unscathed.

Apart from the fairly optimistic ending, the film made a few other mistakes.

First of all, this just isn’t punk rock enough. That’s the element that really made the first picture so fucking cool. The characters were punk rock dipshits and it was fun seeing them try to make it out alive but ultimately, fail.

Secondly, the film’s score is really generic and weak compared to the tunes of the first movie, which just ties it back to the film not being punk rock enough.

Thirdly, the setting isn’t as gritty and interesting. The film takes place in a suburban neighborhood that is still under construction. It reminds me a lot of the neighborhoods from E.T. and Poltergeist but it’s unfinished, which just means that it was probably cheap and easy to shoot there at night.

Fourthly, the film doesn’t feature Linnea Quigley as Trash. I need my Trash! Or just Linnea Quigley. She could’ve played another role.

In the end, the characters were all good and the story was decent enough. I thought that the big finale was actually well done, other than the town not getting nuked. It should’ve been nuked.

If you are a fan of the original and you haven’t seen this, it’s definitely worth a watch. Don’t expect the same level of greatness but it’s still a good compliment to the first flick that builds off of it nicely.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Return of the Living Dead, as well as other zombie comedies.

TV Review: Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

Also known as: Forever Sam Crow (working title)
Original Run: September 3rd, 2008-December 9th, 2014
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Bob Thiele, Dave Kushner, Curtis Stigers
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Johnny Lewis, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman, Ryan Hurst, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Jimmy Smits, Drea De Matteo, David Labrava, Niko Nicotera, Glenn Plummer, Taryn Manning, Emilio Rivera, Ally Walker, Mitch Pileggi, Kenneth Choi, Kurt Sutter, Titus Welliver, Walton Goggins, Henry Rollins, Hal Holbrook, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Marilyn Manson, Kim Dickens, Chuck Zito, Ray McKinnon

Linson The Company, Sutter Ink, Fox 21, FX, 92 Episodes, 41-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

This is one of those reviews that will probably turn a lot of my friends against me. I care not. I must tell it like it is from my point-of-view.

Sons of Anarchy is a show that I have developed a like/hate relationship with. I don’t say “love” because I’m not that enthralled with the positive aspects of it. It does however, have some positives amidst a sea of negatives. And I guess that makes me go against the popular opinion, as nearly everyone that I have talked to, has loved this show.

But I guess this isn’t a show for me. Where I expected something more like The Sopranos on motorcycles, this was more like a mindless action flick full of an overabundance of violence, bad CGI, bad acting, bad writing, bad music and really stupid and unlikable characters. Sons of Anarchy is geared more towards the male millennial crowd than it is for people who want good and groundbreaking television or at the very least, some sort of coherent plot.

This show is a mess. It is a moderately enjoyable mess at times but it is a show that constantly tries too hard and falls short. Yes, there are shocking and intense moments but they lose their meaning and significance almost immediately. For one, it is hard to care about any of these horrible characters. Also, with the show trying to constantly outdo itself and escalating further and further from episode to episode, things eventually get so over the top that it becomes unintentionally ludicrous.

The premise of the show also changes as it goes on and it loses sight of itself just a few seasons in. Maybe this is intentional but it really just feels like the weight of this ratings beast forced the showrunners to make quick, big decisions, which may have increased ratings further but sacrificed whatever integrity and soul the show may have had early on.

For instance, the show’s main drive in the beginning is the main character Jax’s obsession with his dead father’s writings. The writings talked about what the motorcycle club was supposed to be, how it got away from itself and how butt hurt Jax’s dad was about it. Jax then makes it his mission to right the wrongs and make the motorcycle club respectable. Maybe he would’ve been more inspired and followed through had he actually read more than two paragraphs of his father’s writings at a time. Maybe Jax has a bad attention span. Maybe that is why he couldn’t follow through because he got distracted by doing really stupid shit every episode.

In any event, the show evolves away from the club’s redemption through Jax’s leadership and instead shows the club fall on hard times and then even harder times. It just gets worse and worse, Jax stops reading his dad’s journals and pretty much turns into the asshole his stepfather Clay is. He actually turns out worse than Clay by the end of it all.

I could write a book about how much of an idiot Jax is but I’m not going to waste my time. I could also write a book about how much of an idiot his mother Gemma is.

All the characters really suck and all of them, for the most part, are stupid morons. They are the dumbest criminals I’ve ever seen. Darkwing Duck had smarter bad guys than the members of the Sons of Anarchy.

As far as likable characters, there are really only five. There is Wayne, who is on a tragic journey that ultimately ends up sucking really bad for him. Also, he had terminal cancer “eating away” at him in season one but somehow survived seven seasons. There is Jax’s ex-heroin addict wife who goes on to redeem herself and she’s about the only character you are happy for in the end. Then we have Nero, the pimp and tragic lover of Gemma. I really liked Nero but Jimmy Smits is awesome in every role. There’s Piney, who saw the bullshit for what it was and tried to hold everyone accountable. Since he was the voice of reason in a sea of shitty people, he was killed off. This brings me to my favorite character: Juice.

Juice is most likely the most tragic character in television history. Juice was a positive on this show even though his end was horrible. You couldn’t not like Juice and feel for him every step of the way. He truly cared about the club and doing the right thing but continually got fucked (literally) and lost his life and stature because the people he invested his love and loyalty in were pieces of garbage. Juice’s journey is one of the redeeming factors of this show. I don’t like how it ended but this show is one big tragedy.

In regards to the show’s music, it is terrible. The main theme is awful but somehow was nominated for an Emmy by some tone deaf Hollywood types. The songs throughout the show are even worse. More often than not, we are treated to some poor slowed down roots rock cover song of a known pop hit. It always feels bizarre, out of place and makes the show come off as generic and cheesy. At least once per season, we get some crappy song sung by Katey Sagal, who probably shouldn’t sing but is most likely encouraged by her husband, who is the show’s creator. That’s probably also why she was cast as Gemma. Lastly, the music selections are almost racist. When the biker gang fights another biker gang there is rock music. When they fight Mexicans: Spanish language gangsta rap. When they fight blacks: generic crappy English language gangsta rap. Asians: make sure to add in some Asian stringed instruments and gongs in over the soundtrack. Irish: Celtic shit. Persians: grab the sitar – hey wait, that’s Hindi you racist bastards! It’s sad and predictable and becomes a distraction.

This show was not The Sopranos on motorcycles, it was a Shakespearean tragedy on motorcycles. Which is perfectly fine. The problem is that the execution was shit and it tried to convince the viewer that it was clever while beating you over the head with its Shakespeareanism. After the tragic, pointless and retarded ending of the show, it even gives the viewer a Shakespeare quote before rolling its final credits. I’m sure dumb ass college students for years to come will write papers about how fantastic this modern Shakespearean saga is after just skimming over the Cliff Notes of Shakespeare’s work to make them feel the connection.

I don’t hate this show, even though it probably comes across like that. I had a hard time getting through segments of it but I enjoyed it enough to finish it. Granted, the ending was one of the worst in television history but really crappy endings to long-running shows is the trend lately. And maybe that ending just enhanced whatever bitterness I’m feeling.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The SopranosBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Justified but these are all better shows. Well, maybe not Justified, I’ll post my review for that soon.

Film Review: The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)

Release Date: July 25th, 2008
Directed by: Chris Carter
Written by: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Based on: The X-Files by Chris Carter
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner, Mitch Pileggi

Crying Box Productions, Dune Entertainment III, Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox, 104 Minutes

Review:

After binge watching The X-Files television series in its entirety and revisiting the first film, I had to cap it off by checking out the second film, which I had never seen.

The film is not a continuation of the alien conspiracy story. It plays more like an extended version of an X-Files monster of the week episode. The story is fine and dandy but I don’t think that it warranted a feature film.

Sure, it serves to help Mulder and the FBI bury the hatchet, it goes on to show what happened to him and Scully a few years after the series finale but other than that, there isn’t much here.

The new agents played by Amanda Peet and Xzibit are pretty disposable. Peet dies a senseless death that doesn’t impact the film, the plot or the characters. It would have been nice to see her continue on from this picture but she’s essentially just the tool to bring Mulder back into the fold and then just done away with. Xzibit was awful in this film. He’s just a grumpy skeptic asshole at every turn and isn’t even remotely likable or interesting.

Walter Skinner shows back up in the end and it is a nice reunion but it isn’t as impactful as you feel it should be. Doggett and Reyes are nowhere to be found and as far as I saw, not even mentioned, after being a huge part of the series’ final two seasons.

The film plays like a mediocre episode of the show but it is entirely too long and drawn out. It isn’t a complete waste of time and it isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t what should have warranted a theatrical release and would have served the franchise better as a television event instead of trying to be a summer tent pole film.

It isn’t nearly as good of a follow-up as the revival miniseries (or season ten) that they just aired last year.

This film should have picked up the alien conspiracy plot or it should have served to close out Doggett’s story of trying to solve his son’s murder, which still, to this day, is not resolved.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: The X-Files (1998)

Also known as: The X-Files: Fight the Future
Release Date: June 19th, 1998
Directed by: Rob Bowman
Written by: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz
Based on: The X-Files by Chris Carter
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Martin Landau, Blythe Danner, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, John Neville, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, Jeffrey DeMunn, Terry O’Quinn, Michael Shamus Wiles

Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox, 121 Minutes

Review:

I already reviewed The X-Files television show. This review is for the first film in the franchise, which is also known as The X-Files: Fight the Future.

The film takes place between the fifth and sixth seasons of the series and was released at that time as well. It continues and expands upon the main plot thread of the show regarding the alien conspiracy. It moves along the story pretty well and doesn’t have a definitive ending, thus leaving it open for further expansion on its mythos.

The film is really good if you are a fan of the television series and it was one of my favorite chapters in the overall story. However, if you aren’t versed in the series, it is probably hard to watch and even harder to follow. Sure, it is eerie and creepy and has a lot of cool shit in it. The problem, is that it relies on the viewer to have knowledge on the series and the alien conspiracy plot thread that has spanned five seasons, by this point.

It also doesn’t feel like a feature film, it feels more like an expanded episode with a much larger budget and better special effects.

Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are great but when aren’t they?

It would be best to watch this film between seasons five and six, if you are binge watching them. In fact, if you are watching the television series, this is required viewing because a lot happens that effects the show and jumping into season six may be a bit confusing without seeing the film first.

I do like the film in the same vein as the series but it should really be a part of the series and not a chapter placed elsewhere that may be missed by modern viewers because it isn’t available on Netflix like the show is. Although you can rent it on Amazon Video for a few bucks.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016- )

Original Run: September 10th, 1993 – May 19th, 2002
Revival Run: January 24th, 2016 – present
Created by: Chris Carter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Nicholas Lea, Chris Owens, James Pickens Jr., Tom Braidwood, Bruce Harwood, Dean Haglund, Laurie Holden, Brian Thompson, Mimi Rogers

Ten Thirteen Productions, 20th Century Fox Television, 208 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

the-x-files-tvReview:

The X-Files was on television for quite a long time: nine years. In fact, it just recently had a revival series that lasted six episodes and there will probably be some sort of follow up to that. It also spawned two motion pictures and two spinoff television series: Millennium and The Lone Gunmen. It also propelled the careers of stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. It even paved the way to greatness for producer and writer Vince Gilligan, who would go on to create Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul. Many don’t realize that The X-Files isn’t just a show, it is a massive franchise.

I hadn’t watched the series in its entirety, even when it was still on television, as I was a teenager at the time and being home on Friday nights wasn’t the cool thing to do. We also didn’t have DVR, On Demand or Hulu back then. But I did catch a lot of episodes and watched through most of the earlier seasons once the show went into syndication.

It wasn’t until recently, in early 2016, that I decided to dedicate some serious time to binge watching the 200-plus episodes.

There are certainly episodes that haven’t aged well in the two decades since the show was on television but there are many that are still pretty chilling and freaky. And many episodes hold up really well today and I can now consider some of them to be classics, as they stood the test of time and still maintain their effectiveness. Season Two was especially nightmarish and it still is at its high points.

For those who don’t know, the show follows FBI Agents Mulder and Scully. Mulder works on the FBI’s secret X-Files cases while Scully is sent in to partner up with him in an effort to be the skeptical voice in Mulder’s conspiratorial goose chases. Of course, Mulder is most often right and Scully is left questioning everything she knows while still maintaining her stance of skepticism until she can’t any longer. It’s actually a great relationship to watch, seeing these arguments happen throughout the show, as it always tries to debunk the weird stuff and usually does a good job of it until the shit hits the fan or a twist pops up near the end.

Duchovny and Anderson were perfect for the roles of Mulder and Scully and their relationship is the driving force of the series. Yeah, it’s cool to see aliens, vampires, monsters, demons and whatever other weird shit they throw at you, but without Duchovny and Anderson, the show doesn’t work. And that was apparent after Duchovny left the show at the end of the seventh season. He made sporadic appearances here and there but the show wasn’t the same. The magic was gone.

The X-Files is one of the greatest pop culture things from the 1990s. Hell, it is one of the greatest franchises out there. It is still eerie, unsettling and it plays well for the most part. And honestly, I would be okay with further miniseries and films until the end of time. Or just as long as Duchovny and Anderson want to keep doing them.

Rating: 9/10