Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

Release Date: May 20th, 1987
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren, Eddie Murphy, Robert D. Wachs
Based on: characters by Danilo Bach, Daniel Petrie Jr.
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox, Jurgen Prochnow, Brigitte Nielsen, Allen Garfield, Dean Stockwell, Paul Reiser, Gilbert R. Hill, Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Ridgely, Hugh Hefner, Chris Rock, Robert Pastorelli, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Tom Bower

Eddie Murphy Productions, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rosewood and Taggart] “If you get your head out of your ass long enough”? “Kiss my ass”? You’re gettin’ more and more like me every day. Next thing you know you’re gonna have Afros… big dicks and all!” – Axel Foley

Let me start this review by saying that the first movie is a better film. However, I always enjoy watching this one more, despite its total lack of a Bronson Pinchot cameo. But I’ll explain why I like it more, as I continue on.

To start, this chapter in the franchise takes things to another level in nearly every regard.

All the characters are better here and it almost felt like the first film was there to get them comfortable in their roles before they really gelled as an ensemble. I absolutely love the chemistry between Foley, Rosewood and Taggart. They just know each other so well and they compliment one another perfectly.

I also love how these characters have evolved. Axel is still pretty reckless but he’s more mature and just comes across as a much better and more gifted detective. Rosewood has essentially become this franchise’s Eugene Tackleberry and because it’s Judge Reinhold, it makes that all the more better and funnier. Taggart has warmed up to Foley a lot more and now there is a level of respect and true friendship between them. Even though Ronny Cox is barely in this, as he spends most of the film in a coma, it’s great seeing him get to share scenes with the other guys once he’s recovered.

Additionally, I really like Brigitte Nielsen in this, which I would consider her best role after Red Sonja. But it’s like this role was specifically written for her and it highlights her strengths without exposing her weaknesses. She’s just a badass with a unique look and you actually see her as a legitimate, dangerous threat. She’s cold, calculating and just about perfect.

The other villains feel weak by comparison and without Nielsen being added to their roster, they don’t hold a candle to how solid Steven Berkoff and Jonathan Banks were in the first movie. But I should also point out that I liked Dean Stockwell in this as an evil shithead, even if he was underutilized for his talent level.

The criminal scheme in the movie starts out with a bang but as it becomes clearer, it is kind of underwhelming. But it’s also secondary to the comedic momentum of the film.

That being said, when the action happens, it’s really f’n good. The movie feels more chaotic with bigger vehicle chases, bigger shootouts, bigger weapons and having the ante upped in nearly every regard in the action sequences.

Frankly, I love this movie and the first two in the franchise are classics. The third (and final) film, not so much. But I’ll get to that one in the very near future.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.

Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Also known as: Beverly Drive (script title)
Release Date: December 1st, 1984 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Martin Brest
Written by: Daniel Petrie Jr., Danilo Bach
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Elbacher, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, James Russo, Stephen Elliot, Paul Reiser, Jonathan Banks, Gilbert R. Hill, Bronson Pinchot, Damon Wayans

Eddie Murphy Productions, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“This is the cleanest and nicest police car I’ve ever been in in my life. This thing’s nicer than my apartment.” – Axel Foley

There weren’t a lot of characters cooler than Axel Foley back when I was a kid in the ’80s. Because of that, this and the second film, were always in constant rotation in my VCR.

I’ve seen this dozens of times but it’s been quite awhile since I saw it last. Having just come off of revisiting and reviewing all the Lethal Weapon films, I wanted to go back and get reacquainted with this trilogy, as well as the two 48 Hours movies. Reviews for all these Eddie Murphy action comedies will be up over the next few weeks.

Anyway, this movie holds up well and its still pretty enjoyable.

Eddie Murphy is at his absolute best in this and the film really shows how much of a star he was in his prime. About midway through the ’90s, he started to fall off and lose his touch but I’d say that’s more about the roles he chose over his talent because Beverly Hills Cop makes it pretty clear that the guy is stellar with perfect comedic timing, unlimited charm and the ability to have to be serious when the moment calls for it. This film showcases all of his strengths quite well and it is still my favorite Murphy movie.

Adding to his awesome performance is the rest of the cast, all of whom are also solid in this. I especially like Judge Reinhold, who, unfortunately, also fell off after the ’80s. Here, he is able to play the lovable and inexperienced straightman to Murphy’s fun antics. Although, Reinhold does get in on the fun too and frankly, Murphy and Reinhold have great chemistry and it’s that chemistry that makes these movies so good.

John Ashton and Ronny Cox are perfect in their roles and with Cox, it’s really great seeing him play an honest good guy because he’s such a great asshole when he wants to be. I love this version of Ronny Cox even though his performance as Dick Jones in RoboCop gave us one of the best movie villains of the ’80s.

The picture also benefits from an incredible ’80s pop soundtrack, as well as one of the best instrumental scores of its era.

This is action packed, hilarious, doesn’t take itself too seriously but delivers in everything it set out to do.

Overall, this movie is just a lot of fun and it should brighten any bad day because Murphy, at his absolute best, is amusing, entertaining, exciting and a real pleasure to watch. And this is, certainly, one of his best.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.

TV Review: Stranger Things (2016- )

Original Run: July 15th, 2016 – current
Created by: The Duffer Brothers
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Mac Quayle, Heather Heywood, Alexis Martin Woodall
Cast: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink, Dacre Montgomery, Sean Astin, Paul Reiser, Maya Hawke

21 Laps Entertainment, Monkey Massacre, Netflix, 17 Episodes (so far), 42-62 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I became a really big fan of Stranger Things the moment I watched the first episode, last year. I wanted to review it after season one but I decided to wait until after the second season, at least. Reason being, as great as this was from the start, greatness has a really hard time maintaining over the long haul. I wanted a larger sample size but now I’ve gotten it.

So now that I have seen season two and know that I’m halfway through the series, as The Duffer Brothers have said it will end with season four, I thought now was a good time to talk about what is currently one of my favorite shows. In fact, out of what’s on TV in 2017, this and Mr. Robot are the only shows that I really even care about on more than a casual level.

The thing is, Stranger Things, at least by the end of season two, has done the impossible. The show has maintained its greatness. The high precedent set by the first season was not a fluke, Stranger Things 2, as they call this season, is on the level. It may even surpass it, to be honest.

A quality that the show has that others don’t, is that it doesn’t constantly churn out a set number of episodes. The Duffer Brothers don’t want to be confined in that way. They write the story and however many episodes they need to tell it, is what they make. It isn’t a show bogged down by filler episodes or dragging its ass because more episodes mean more advertising revenue. I hope all other streaming shows follow suit and realize that this is probably the best way to present a show. I mean imagine if a movie just introduced a random character out of nowhere and then distracted you for a significant amount of time, disrupting the overall narrative? (*cough – Matt Damon in Interstellar)

I’ve never been a big fan of kid actors, especially in ensembles. It barely ever works out but the 1980s were a strange decade where a lot of child ensemble films just worked. This show is a true throwback to that because these kids are magic together. And maybe we’re coming into some child actor renaissance, as It also featured a great young ensemble cast. That film also featured Finn Wolfhard from this show, so maybe he is a magic ingredient.

Stranger Things is three parts 80s Stephen King, two parts John Carpenter, one part The Goonies, one part Monster Squad, one part E.T. with a John Hughes floater. This is probably why it is such a popular show with people my age, those of us who were the age of these kids in the same decade it takes place. The show also resonates with a younger generation too but that’s probably because this is a real 80s throwback and the 80s were infinitely cooler than today’s pop culture. Hopefully, the show’s popularity has inspired younger people to look at this show’s influences because I’d rather watch anything this is an homage to than Scream Queens or the television remakes of Teen Wolf or Scream.

This is a stupendous show. Really, it’s fucking amazing and even that feels like an understatement. It was a breath of fresh air that entered our pop culture scene a year ago and hopefully, stays fresh over its upcoming final two seasons. If not, I’ll have to adjust my rating and express my loss of enthusiasm. But, at the midway mark, it deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Rating: 9.25/10

Film Review: Aliens (1986)

Release Date: July 18th, 1986
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill
Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, William Hope, Jenette Goldstein, Mark Rolston

20th Century Fox, 137 Minutes

aliensReview:

Aliens is a movie that I have seen at least a few dozen times. It was a staple in my movie diet when I was a kid in the 80s. I never got to see it in the theater because it is rated R and I was seven when it came out. But I did see it when it hit video, probably a year later. Then I watched it all the time and as an adult, at least once a year. But I am now reviewing it because I finally got to see it on the big screen and man, what an experience it was!

Seeing Aliens in a large theater made one thing very clear, it has been a really long time since I have seen something as good as this while at the movies. It made me nostalgic and I went back to a place where I haven’t been since I was a kid, in a decade where there were so many amazing blockbusters. It also made me sad, simply because there really isn’t anything in the modern era of filmmaking that even comes close to the big tent pole pictures of 1980s summers. I mean, it really was the decade that made summer movies a thing in the first place.

This is James Cameron’s greatest film. Sure, many will argue for TerminatorTerminator 2: Judgment DayThe Abyss, True Lies, the incredibly overrated Titanic or the derivative CGI lovefest AvatarAliens is simply his best, period.

I’ve always sat on the fence over which is better between Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens. I still do. They are both equally as brilliant and fascinating but for very different reasons, as both are very different films. And I’m fine with that, because both pictures are special and exceptional and one doesn’t have to be better than the other. They are perfect companion pieces that are, I would have to assume, impossible to replicate because no other chapters in the franchise have come close to the pure magic of the first two films.

What still makes Aliens work, is the effects. They are practical, everything you see is real, apart from the wonky landing sequence of the dropship. The use of animatronics, real slime, luscious matte paintings, massive physical sets and meticulous physical detail are why this film stands the test of time. It is also why it carries a sense of realism that just alludes you when you watch something like the Star Wars prequels or Cameron’s most successful picture, Avatar.

The cinematography is perfect. The sets are incredible, the lighting is superb and the world truly feels like a dreadful and cozy home for the viscous alien xenomorphs that have overrun the fairly large settlement of humans sent to terraform the planet.

Just about every character in Aliens serves a purpose. Sure, there are a few grunts solely there to be immediately exterminated upon discovering the alien threat. However, after that, each character is pretty dynamic or at the very least, very entertaining, as is the case with Bill Paxton’s hilarious Hudson and Jenette Goldstein’s big gun-toting Private Vasquez.

Sigourney Weaver has never been better than she was in this movie. She’s played a version of Ellen Ripley four times but this is where she was on another level. She took control of a horrible situation and became the savior of those who survive, primarily the young girl Newt, who lost her entire family to the xenomorphs. Ripley became the ultimate bad ass mother figure of the 1980s. Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Aliens, which is pretty unheard of for a sci-fi or horror film, at least in the acting category.

Paul Reiser truly owned it as the corporate weasel Burke. Michael Biehn was good as Hicks, even if he felt like an extension of his Kyle Reese character from The Terminator, two years earlier. The real standout in the supporting cast was Lance Henriksen as the android Bishop. This is one of the absolute best roles Henriksen has ever played and my favorite character in the Alien franchise after Ripley.

Aliens is as close to perfection as you can get minus a few minor hiccups, mainly just the one or two effects that didn’t hold up to the test of time. But considering that it is now over thirty years old, nitpicking a slight visual issue with a scene isn’t really fair to its legacy and what it was at the time of its release.

I was glad that I got to see this on the big screen. It made the film come alive in a way that I have never experienced. Yet, we live in a time where people watch movies on their phones. It makes me feel like the love of movies I grew up with is dwindling away. We need to find a way to get back to creating motion pictures that can generate the emotions and feelings and visual awe of a movie like Aliens. I guess that’s my challenge to any up and coming filmmakers that may just stumble across this review.

Rating: 10/10