Film Review: Hot Fuzz (2007)

Also known as: Raging Fuzz, Blue Fury (working titles), Bubblin’ Fuzz, Dead Right, Feelin’ Fuzzier (fake working titles)
Release Date: February 13th, 2007 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy, Edward Woodward, Bill Bailey, Olivia Colman, Julia Deakin, Kevin Eldon, Martin Freeman, Paul Freeman, Rafe Spall, Stephen Merchant, Steve Coogan (uncredited), Peter Jackson (uncredited), Cate Blanchett (uncredited), Edgar Wright (uncredited), Garth Jennings (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Universal Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“I may not be a man of God, Reverend, but I know right and I know wrong and I have the good grace to know which is which.” – Nicholas Angel, “Oh, fuck off, grasshopper. [Reverend Shooter pulls out a pair of derringers from his cassock]” – Reverend Philip Shooter

The moment this movie finished in the theater, I had a massive smile on my face and it stuck with me for days. Once it was gone, I went back to the theater to go see this picture again.

This is still my favorite Edgar Wright movie and revisiting it now just solidified that. For what it is, it is pretty close to perfect.

It features Simon Pegg and Nick Frost at their absolute best, as a duo. After two seasons of the television show Spaced and 2004’s cult classic Shaun of the Dead, these two guys had evolved into a perfect pair, where each half compliments the other and together they make a much better whole.

That being said, if there was ever a film from Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy that deserved a sequel, it’s this one. I doubt it will get a sequel but it perfectly represents the buddy cop genre and those films are perfect for sequelization. Just look at Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, Rush Hour, etc.

Anyway, this is just great from top-to-bottom. It has a stacked cast featuring several of my favorite British people, it has a solid, surprising story, superb action sequences and the sort of buddy cop camaraderie that you and your primary school homies used to try and emulate while playing cops on the playground.

Despite all the other great things Pegg and Frost have done, this feels like the roles they were born to play. And honestly, I almost feel the same way about Timothy Dalton in this, as he’s so damn good that he’s perfect.

Hot Fuzz is just a hilarious, balls out action flick. Once you get to the action packed finale, things escalate in ways you’d never expect and at the same time, this never jumps the shark. It just has the perfect balance of comedy, action and ridiculousness.

Not only is this my favorite of Wright’s films, it is also one of my favorite movies of its decade.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Film Review: The Sender (1982)

Release Date: October 22nd, 1982
Directed by: Roger Christian
Written by: Thomas Baum
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Kathryn Harrold, Željko Ivanek, Shirley Knight, Paul Freeman

Kingsmere Productions Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

Every now and again, I find an ’80s horror movie that somehow slipped through the cracks, even though I used to spend countless hours perusing the aisles of mom and pop video stores in the ’80s. Maybe I saw this at some point and the VHS box art just didn’t grab me. Whatever the reason, it was awesome to discover this now because The Sender is an exceptionally good sci-fi/horror flick that is grossly underappreciated and I guess, kind of lost to time.

The film stars Kathryn Harrold, who is really damn good and probably should’ve been in more than just a handful of movies I’ve seen in much smaller roles. Also, she has a kind of classic old Hollywood beauty to her.

This also stars a pretty young Željko Ivanek, whose work I’m familiar with is all much more recent. Fans of True Blood may recognize him as The Magistrate. He was also more recently in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. It was really cool seeing him in this, so young, as he’s a character actor I’ve grown to enjoy over the last decade or so.

Rounding out the cast is Paul Freeman, most recognized for his role as René Belloq, the primary villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Frankly, I love Freeman in everything and he doesn’t disappoint here. And just when you think he’s playing an annoying character trope, he surprises you in this.

The story is about a young man who is institutionalized after trying to drown himself in front of dozens of people at a lake. As the story rolls on, we discover that this young man has exceptional psychic power that he can’t control. He effects everyone around him but the good therapist at the hospital tries her damnedest to save him. As the film progresses things get more and more crazy and the movie really gives us some cool shit.

In fact, the film is damn impressive considering the things they achieved with the special effects. This came out in the heyday of practical effects in horror movies and this really just stands well above what was the standard quality of the time.

Additionally, this is surprisingly really well acted. At least, more so than you’d expect from a forgotten horror flick from 1982.

I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people check this out. It deserves a hell of a lot more love and recognition than it’s gotten over the years.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Hidden, Carrie, The Fury and Scanners.

Film Review: Double Team (1997)

Also known as: The Colony
Release Date: April 4th, 1997
Directed by: Tsui Hark
Written by: Don Jakoby, Paul Mones
Music by: Gary Chang
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Paul Freeman, Mickey Rourke

Mandalay Entertainment, Film Workshop, Columbia Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Offense gets the glory.” – Jack Quinn, “But defense wins the game.” – Yaz

This film came out just as Jean-Claude Van Damme was spiraling down into the lowest part of his career. His vehicles kept getting worse thanks to atrocious scripts and low box office turnouts. He’d soon be downgraded to having his films come out as “straight to video” releases where he’d remain until resurrecting his career with JCVD. This probably isn’t the worst film he’s done but it’s certainly pretty well down in the murky barrel.

This was also a starring vehicle for Dennis Rodman, who was a part of the Chicago Bulls second threepeat team when this was made and released. Rodman was a sports celebrity superstar but even his involvement couldn’t elevate this film into anything worthwhile. Granted, two decades later, it has become some weird novelty movie that happens to have Dennis Rodman and Jean-Claude Van Damme in it.

The film also stars Mickey Rourke and Paul Freeman. I feel bad for them being subjected to this massive turd but it’s directed by Tsui Hark, which on paper, makes this lineup of talent seem pretty damn good. Hark, a massive director in Hong Kong, just couldn’t cut the mustard in the United States but that’s probably because he aligned himself with the sinking ship that was Van Damme, as his two American films, both featured the actor. But maybe he was trying to follow John Woo’s lead, as that approach worked for him.

Double Team is a really hard movie to sit through, even at 90 minutes or so. It’s got deplorable editing, a script that would be better used as lining in a chicken coop, a nervous and awkward Dennis Rodman, Van Damme looking bored, Mickey Rourke looking depressed and Paul Freeman just looking around with a face that says, “WTF am I doing here?!”

Dennis Rodman’s acting career never took off and he followed this up with an even worse movie called Simon Sez. Switch out Jean-Claude Van Damme for Dane Cook and you can see how bad that film was.

Double Team is a pretty big offender and should be thrown into movie jail, if such a place exists. As is customary with pictures this bad, it must be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.”

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: Not much, really… but I’d recommend watching it with Rodman’s other “classic” Simon Sez, if you want to torture yourself.

Film Review: A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012)

Release Date: June 8th, 2012
Directed by: Chris Hopewell, Crispian Mills
Written by: Crispian Mills
Music by: Michael Price
Cast: Simon Pegg, Clare Higgins, Amara Karan, Paul Freeman, Alan Drake

Pinewood Films, The Works International, Keel Films, Indomina Productions, Universal Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You’re fucked up, Jack. You need therapy.” – Dr. Friedkin, “Oh I haven’t got time. I’ve got a meeting in about an hour.” – Jack

This was an unusual film. I wanted to like it, as I can enjoy Simon Pegg in almost anything. I just couldn’t wrap my head around its bizarreness, which being an aficionado of bizarre film, surprised me.

It had some stuff working for it – Simon Pegg as an eccentric lead character plus amazing cinematography and use of color. It also had things working against it – weird sequences that didn’t feel fluid with the film, a plot that wasn’t as interesting as the premise, choppy editing and an overuse of artistic film devices that felt out of place.

This film struggled to find its identity, as the director seemed to be struggling to figure out just what kind of film he was making. It’s a mish mash of film school clichés filled with a lot of characters who I felt you were supposed to endear yet none of them were remotely likable. It was a very hard film to process and relate too and it fell flat in almost every way. Except visually.

I don’t know this director’s background but this film makes me feel like he was a music video director that thought it would be a good idea to make a feature when he’s never had to create a narrative longer than four minutes. As I said, I don’t know if that’s the director’s background but that’s what this film felt like.

It’s not a bad film, it’s not a good film, it’s a forgettable film. I’ll most likely never watch it again. I don’t feel like I wasted my time on it but it left me with nothing to hold on to.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Also known as: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (after the release of sequels)
Release Date: June 12th, 1981
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliot, Alfred Molina, Pat Roach

Lucasfilm Ltd., Paramount Pictures, 115 Minutes

Review:

“You and I are very much alike. Archeology is our religion, yet we have both fallen from the pure faith. Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.” – Dr. René Belloq

Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the greatest films ever made. It was kind of cool seeing it on the big screen for the first time, which leaves Temple of Doom as the only Indy film I haven’t seen in the theater now. Indiana Jones is also my favorite film series of all-time. Yes, I even loved that Crystal Skull one that everyone feels the need to bitch about.

While Temple of Doom is my personal favorite (and an unpopular opinion), I can admit that Raiders is actually a better film. Everything about it is just right.

The casting was perfect and I can’t imagine how the film would have turned out had George Lucas had his first pick, Tom Selleck. Indiana Jones is Harrison Ford’s role and unlike James Bond, no one would probably ever accept someone else as the character. Granted, several actors played a young Indy but both River Phoenix and Sean Patrick Flanery did a fine job as the character outside of his normal form. Harrison Ford will always be the adult Indiana Jones but I am sure that Disney will somehow milk the franchise into oblivion at some point and then forever.

The chemistry between Ford and Karen Allen is wonderful and out of all the Indy ladies, she was the only one to eventually come back and marry America’s favorite adventurer. Rightfully so, by the way, as the relationship between Indy and Marion is, by far, the greatest romance in the series and a natural fit for both characters and both actors. While Karen Allen has been in several great films, she will always be Marion to me and probably to everyone.

Paul Freeman is perfection as Indy’s adventuring archaeologist nemesis René Belloq. It is unfortunate that Belloq dies, as he would have been a great villain to carry on in the series. In fact, there was a planned origin story for Belloq in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, the 90s TV series, but the show was cancelled before those stories were filmed.

Ronald Lacey was another villain and possibly the most frightening in the entire series as the reptilian-like Toht. He was a Gestapo interrogator dressed in black and always ready to torture Marion in vicious ways. Luckily, she is spared from anything that the evil Toht had planned.

Raiders also introduces us to John Rhys-Davies’ Sallah and Denholm Elliot’s Marcus Brody, two characters that would return and get more screen time in The Last Crusade.

This is the perfect adventure film. While it is obviously inspired by the serials of old, it brings that formula into the modern era and reinvigorates what was a dead genre, at the time. This, alongside the original Star Wars trilogy, tapped into the great storytelling style of those seemingly ancient serials. It would have been cool to see what other films from the old school serial style that Lucas and Spielberg could have done in addition to Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Maybe something along the lines of a superhero series like the Phantom or the Shadow could have worked well before their not-so-great 90s versions came out.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is what going to the movies is all about. At least in the summer blockbuster sense. They don’t make movies like this anymore and even though this was a massive film in 1981, it is much smaller than the grandiose CGI spectacles of today. The practical special effects keep the film grounded in reality and make it feel much more authentic and genuine than say, the Transformers film series, the Marvel stuff, a Zack Snyder flick or a Roland Emmerich “destroy the world” type of picture. The most recent version of The Mummy, which is close in subject matter, pales in comparison to Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A lot of the film’s magic isn’t just the work of Spielberg, Lucas and the wonderful cast, a lot of credit goes to the score that was composed by the movie music maestro John Williams. Say what you will but movies today just don’t have soundtracks and iconic themes like those composed by Williams. Can anyone even remember the theme from Iron Man? At least Wonder Woman had a pretty unique theme that stands out but it is just one film in a sea of modern movie making mediocrity.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a motion picture that did everything right. It should always be held up, above the vast majority of tent pole movies, as an example of what films like this should be. It shouldn’t be copied but it should be cherished and looked at for inspiration. Everyone from my generation knows it but as new generations are born and as movies are becoming nonsensical extinction level event CGI festivals, the greats like Raiders aren’t as appealing to younger generations that want bigger, louder, faster, more, more, more!

Rating: 10/10