Film Review: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Also known as: X-Men 3, X-Men 3: The Last Stand (working titles), X3, X III: The Last Stand (alternative titles)
Release Date: May 22nd, 2006 (Cannes)
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Powell
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart, Ben Foster, Ellen Page, Dania Ramirez, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Bill Duke, Daniel Cudmore, Eric Dane, R. Lee Ermey

The Donners’ Company, Marvel Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.” – Magneto

From memory, this was the worst X-Men film of the lot. Well, after about a dozen movies with spinoffs and whatnot, this one still takes the cake in that regard.

This really killed the film franchise, at least for its time. It wouldn’t bounce back until First Class rolled around and gave the series a bit of a soft reboot.

Here, we see the original trilogy of films come to an end and unfortunately, that end is a very unsatisfactory one. Granted, none of these films have aged particularly well and they actually feel quite dated now.

That’s not to say that some of the performances aren’t great or iconic, a few of them are. Specifically, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. This is probably also why they tried to find ways to include these guys in the X-Men films that followed during the reboot era.

The plot for this is pretty fucking atrocious and the film spends more time killing off beloved characters than trying to tell a good story. It’s like it went for shock and cheap emotional grabs but it failed in generating any real emotion because it all felt soulless and cheap.

I think the biggest issue with the film was that Bryan Singer left to make that big bust, Superman Returns. While Brett Ratner probably wasn’t a bad choice, the final product makes me feel like he was sort of just inserted into a movie that was already well into production and found himself in over his head.

The film is also pretty short when compared to the two chapter before it. It makes me wonder if a lot was left out of the final movie. It certainly feels like it’s lacking story, context and depth.

In the end, this is okay if you want to spend a little more time with these characters and if you turn your brain off, it has some neat moments, but overall, it’s a sloppy misfire.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.

Film Review: Willard (2003)

Release Date: March 14th, 2003
Directed by: Glen Morgan
Written by: Glen Morgan
Based on: Ratman’s Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert, Willard by Gilbert Ralston
Music by: Shirley Walker
Cast: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring, Jackie Burroughs, Kimberly Patton

Hard Eight Pictures, New Line Cinema, 100 Minutes

Review:

“What an awful name. Willard. If you had a stronger name, Frank Martin wouldn’t push you around. Or maybe you’ve found a girlfriend if you’d had a more handsome name. Mark or Kyle. Clark. From now, Willard, your name’s Clark. Good night, Clark.” – Willard’s Mother

I remember that when this movie came out, I didn’t get it in my area. Also, back in 2003, we didn’t have a third of the theaters we now have and they also weren’t as big or nice. There certainly wasn’t any sort of emphasis on showing films outside of what was guaranteed to make a shit ton of cash.

So I never got to see this until the DVD release but when I did, I really liked it at the time. I think a lot of that has to do with it starring Crispin Glover, a guy I’ve always been a big fan of, as well as R. Lee Ermey, another guy I really dig.

I probably viewed this through very different eyes when I was in my early twenties because seeing it now, I found it really hard to sit through. That’s mainly due to a bad script and wonky scenes that I feel have more to do with bad dialogue and bad direction than the actors themselves.

Aesthetically, the picture is near perfect and Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermey are both very convincing in their roles.

However, the pacing is really weird and the film could’ve lobbed off about twenty percent and played better.

The characters are written very thin and one-dimensional, though. For instance, the “love interest” or whatever she’s supposed to be is constantly pushing her way into Willard’s life, making him uncomfortable. It’s like she’s written with no self or situational awareness and just muscles her way into situations for plot convenience and to add tension or make things worse. She forces a cat on him that he clearly doesn’t want, only to toss it into his house where it is eaten alive by Willard’s army of rats. She also barges into his house to take a piss when Willard pretty clearly doesn’t want her inside. She’s also the only person to show up for his mother’s funeral, which is weird considering that he barely knows her. She’s just an oddly written character that comes off as more psycho and out of touch that the title character who is supposed to be the psycho and out of touch one.

Also, the actress, Laura Elena Harring, is stunning and I don’t know why the hell she’d be chasing Willard so hard or why Willard doesn’t just focus on her, as opposed to the terrible shit in his life but I digress. In the real world, Harring is a legitimate countess and she was Miss USA and Miss Texas in 1985, as well as ranking in the top ten of the 1985 Miss Universe pageant.

Anyway, this picture hasn’t aged well but I don’t think that it was very good to begin with despite my thoughts on it nearly twenty years ago. I mostly like Glover and Ermey’s performances but they do get adversely affected by poor dialogue, bad direction and scenes that run on too long for no apparent reason other trying to make it even clearer that the two characters despise one another.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Willard and its sequel Ben, as well as other films starring Crispin Glover.

Film Review: Toy Soldiers (1991)

Release Date: April 26th, 1991
Directed by: Daniel Petrie Jr.
Written by: David Koepp, Daniel Petrie Jr.
Based on: Toy Soldiers by William P. Kennedy
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan, Andrew Divoff, Denholm Elliot, Lou Gossett Jr., George Perez, T.E. Russell, Shawn Phelan, R. Lee Ermey, Jerry Orbach (uncredited)

Island World, TriStar Pictures, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Great, the school gets taken over by terrorists and I’m still on pots and pans.” – William “Billy” Tepper

I thought this movie was pretty badass when I was twelve years-old. I mean, it’s still okay but it hasn’t stood the test of time very well. Plus, I think at twelve, I still believed that being a real G.I. Joe was an obtainable life goal.

Toy Soldiers like Red Dawn, Iron Eagle and The Rescue before it, sees its teen stars pick up arms to take down some corrupt, evil motherfuckers.

In the case of this film, the teens’ military school is taken over by a Colombian drug cartel because the cartel’s leader’s daddy is being held captive by the United States government. The reason he chose the school was because the son of one of the U.S. government officials is enrolled there. However, he was pulled out of the academy just before the evil shitheads arrived. So the bad guys already suck before the ball really gets rolling.

Anyway, we see a pretty solid cast of Sean Astin, Keith Coogan and Wil Wheaton (before he totally sucked) work with their other buddies in an effort to stop the drug cartel and take their school back.

The adult officials in the movie are also pretty solid, as they’re played by Louis Gossett Jr. Denholm Elliot and R. Lee Ermey.

Seeing this now, almost thirty years later, all the film’s extra excess of cheese is very apparent. Sure, I noticed it when I was a pre-teen but having just come out of the ’80s, cheesiness was still at the forefront of American pop culture. So was patriotism and kicking foreign ass, as we had just won the Cold War, conquered mainstream communism and were embroiled in the first Gulf War. Also, for kids my age, we had guys like Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan preaching to us about the awesomeness of Americana. Don’t talk to me about Slaughter becoming an Iraqi sympathizer because that wasn’t real, you imagined it.

So the movie is still enjoyable in spite of its goofiness and its awkward stars trying so hard to be tough guys. It’s hard to buy into, especially when you see little Willy Wheaton shooting a machine gun on the steps of the school, only to be gunned down in an effort to give this meaningless movie more meaning.

As mindless entertainment goes, you could watch much worse. This is a pretty forgettable film but it had some good young actors for its time. I only wish it would’ve been retooled into a Pauly Shore movie because that would’ve taken it to a whole other level.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other teen soldier movies like Red Dawn, Iron Eagle and The Rescue.

TV Review: The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (1993-1994)

Original Run: August 27th, 1993 – May 20th, 1994
Created by: Jeffrey Boam, Carlton Cuse
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Velton Ray Bunch, Stephen Graziano, Randy Edelman
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Julius Carry, Christian Clemenson, Kelly Rutherford, John Astin, Billy Drago, M. C. Gainey, R. Lee Ermey (cameo), Tracey Walter

Boam/Cuse Productions, Warner Bros. Television, 27 Episodes, 45 Minutes (per episode)

briscocountyReview:

I have been a huge fan of Bruce Campbell since first experiencing the Evil Dead films in the 80s. However, as much as I love his character Ash, my favorite role Campbell has ever had is Brisco County, Jr. This is, hands down, the greatest thing Campbell has ever been a part of and it still bothers me, over twenty years later, that the show ended after a single season.

In the same vein as The Wild, Wild West (the show, not the atrocious movie), The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. mixes the western and science fiction genres. It also adds in lighthearted but excellent comedy and a family friendly level of violence, as it isn’t really violent at all.

Bruce Campbell plays the title character, Brisco County, Jr. He is a bounty hunter who is trying to round up all the men who helped murder his father, a U.S. Marshall (played by R. Lee Ermey). He finds himself pitted against John Bly (played by the always enigmatic Billy Drago), as well as Bly’s gang. Gang members, Big Smith (played by M.C. Gainey) and Pete Hutter (played by John Pyper-Ferguson) are fantastic characters that have a lot of depth and make this show even more enjoyable. Pete Hutter is actually one of my favorite comedic villains of all-time. But nothing is as cold, chilling and evil as Billy Dargo’s John Bly. He is still one of the best television and western villains I have ever seen.

On the heroic side, Brisco is joined by the lawyer Socrates Poole (played by Christian Clemenson) and rival/friend bounty hunter Lord Bowler (played by the perfectly casted Julius Carry). The camaraderie between Brisco and Bowler is amazing. They are one of the great all-time buddy pairings. The inclusion of Clemenson rounds out the trio and makes a stellar team. They are also assisted, at times, by Professor Wickwire (John Astin a.k.a. Gomez from The Addams Family) and Dixie Cousins (Kelly Rutherford in her best role).

In addition to apprehending the John Bly Gang, Brisco keeps finding himself involved with a mysterious object called “The Orb”. In fact, it is the one thing that John Bly is after. The Orb brings a supernatural element to the show that is refreshing and new. This show still feels like it is one-of-a-kind, even today, because of things like the Orb and the way that it was always looking to the future and teased technological innovations before their time.

27 episodes weren’t enough, even though the show does leave you with a somewhat satisfying ending. At least the main story arc is closed by the end of the season with a few hints at the future sprinkled in. It would’ve been awesome if it had kept moving forward though.

According to the creators, the second season would have seen Brisco becoming the sheriff of a small town while settling down with Dixie and having a family.

Rating: 9.5/10