Film Review: Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Also known as: Eyes (working title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 1978
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Written by: John Carpenter, David Zelag Goodman
Music by: Artie Kane
Cast: Faye Dunaway, Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Rene Auberjonois, Raul Julia, Frank Adonis, Lisa Taylor

Major Studio Partners, Columbia Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“I’m completely out of control!” – Laura

I’m surprised that I had never come across this film until recently. I just sort of stumbled upon its existence while reading an article where it was mentioned. Considering it was directed by Irvin Kershner, written by John Carpenter and had a damn solid cast, I wanted to check it out.

Also, it’s a ’70s psychic thriller flick and those tend to be right up my alley. It also has slasher-y vibes too and a neo-noir-esque flavor. So in some ways, it reminds me of those damn good neo-noir movies that Brian De Palma did in the early ’80s.

This stars Faye Dunaway, who truly ruled the ’70s and this is just another great role to add to her impressive filmography. She’s pretty much perfect in this and even if she finds herself in the killer’s crosshairs and is very afraid, she plays the role with confidence and some real chutzpah, not being an incompetent damsel in distress. Frankly, this character and Dunaway’s part in bringing her to life feels real.

Dunaway is supported by several top tier male actors, many of whom were up and coming and on the verge of breaking out into bigger things: Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif, Raul Julia and Rene Auberjonois. Each of these guys brought something worthwhile to the film and each one had a good, strong presence, that just made the picture better, overall.

The film also does a good job with its red herrings. As it got closer to the end and a certain character is murdered, I thought the identity of who the killer was, became pretty apparent. However, the movie does keep you guessing for about 85 percent of its duration.

Beyond that, the film looks great but then again, Irvin Kershner is a fine director, who is unfortunately mostly just known for being the guy that directed Empire Strikes Back. While I love Empire and its immense success and iconic place in motion picture history, it does overshadow all of Kershner’s other great movies.

Eyes of Laura Mars is entertaining, creepy and kind of marvelous from top-to-bottom.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s and ’80s psychic thrillers and horror films.

Film Review: Tequila Sunrise (1988)

Release Date: December 2nd, 1988
Directed by: Robert Towne
Written by: Robert Towne
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kurt Russell, Raul Julia, J. T. Walsh, Gabriel Damon, Ely Pouget, Arliss Howard, 

Cinema City Films, The Mount Company, Warner Bros., 115 Minutes

Review:

“You son of a bitch! How could you do this? Friendship is the only choice in life you can make that’s yours! You can’t choose your family, God damn it – I’ve had to face that! And no man should be judged for whatever direction his dick goes – that’s like blaming a compass for pointing north, for Christ’s sake! Friendship is all we have! We chose each other. How could you fuck it up? How could you make us look so bad?” – Carlos

I remember this movie being a big deal when I was a kid. Not because it was considered to be great but because it was considered to be one of the biggest box office disappointments of the decade. I’m not sure how bad it performed, at least back then, but Tequila Sunrise sort of became a joke due to how bad it apparently floundered and underwhelmed.

I’ve never seen it until now but I had no reservations about checking it out. It features three of my favorite leads, especially from the ’80s, and I like neo-noir-esque crime pictures. This is just one of those movies that slipped way down the memory hole and every few years it’d pop back up somewhere and I’d think, “Man, I really need to watch that.”

Well, it’s far from great but I am glad that I finally saw it. I mostly liked it even though it was riddled with some narrative and pacing issues.

To start, it is a beautiful looking picture with stellar cinematography and even though it’s a modernized noir-styled picture, it still feels majestic and comes across as pristine cinematic art.

A movie needs more than great visuals, though, and this one is hindered by its script or the actual execution of it. Being that the director is the writer, the blame falls squarely on his shoulders.

I just found the simple plot a bit harder to follow than it needed to be. This isn’t a complicated movie but some of it was just off. Plus, there are moments where characters seem to be aware of things they shouldn’t be. Maybe some key scenes were deleted, I don’t know.

The pacing was inconsistent and choppy and this could have also been an issue with the editing.

Still, I really liked Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell and Michelle Pfeiffer in this. The movie also had Raul Julia in it, which I didn’t know until seeing it. All of his scenes were really enjoyable and I wish that the guy didn’t die prematurely and could’ve entertained us for more years than he did.

Overall, this was still a cool movie to check out for the first time. I don’t think that it is something I’d revisit on any sort of regular basis but the acting talent gave it their all and I appreciate their efforts not to mention their solid chemistry.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other modernized neo-noir films of the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Street Fighter (1994)

Release Date: December 23rd, 1994
Directed by: Steven E. de Souza
Written by: Steven E. de Souza
Based on: Street Fighter II the video game by Capcom
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Damian Chapa, Kylie Minogue, Wes Studi, Miguel A. Núñez, Andrew Bryniarski

Capcom, Universal Studios, 102 Minutes

streetfightermovieReview:

The Street Fighter video game series is still one of my favorites. It is the premier fighting game series of all-time, in my opinion. At the time that Street Fighter II was the current game on the market, the world was experiencing an obsession over the franchise. That obsession created mania and that mania created a slew of Street Fighter knockoffs. Some of them were good and created their own long running franchises. That mania, however, also gave birth to this film.

I saw the cinematic Street Fighter the day it came out in 1994. I had just turned sixteen and it was the first film my friends and I drove to ourselves. In fact, we drove to the theater after each blowing through twenty bucks or so playing Street Fighter II at the arcade close by. We were pumped. And in our defense, we all loved Van Damme back then (I still do).

Our experience ended up being a massive disappointment.

At the time, we were baffled by how wrong they got most of the characters. We were also distraught over how awfully cheesy it was. We expected a darker, more serious tone – similar to how all the Street Fighter animes played out when they were released after this movie. What we got was a daft and insipid cheese fest!

Street Fighter solidified my fears. It was the next film in the growing genre of video game movies that didn’t even come close to representing its source material. It rounded out an awful unofficial trilogy that included a couple unrelated video game pictures: 1993’s Super Mario Bros. and 1994’s Double Dragon.

Over twenty years later, despite my teenage broken heart, I finally decided to give the film a second chance.

Now that I know what the movie is and how badly it turned out in relation to the property it is based on, I have had a lot of time to process all of that and move on. I wanted to go into this fresh, without emotion and I did. I gave it an honest and pretty much unbiased viewing.

Well, I’m glad that I did.

To start, Street Fighter is absolutely ridiculous. It is a collage of everything good and bad about the 90s. It is also kind of magical in a weird way. Sure, it isn’t Street Fighter, at its core, but it is a fun movie with a ton of odd characters capped off by an intense and ludicrous final showdown between Jean-Claude Van Damme and the incredibly talented Raul Julia.

In fact, I didn’t appreciate it in 1994, but Raul Julia is actually pretty amazing in this film as the villainous M. Bison. He delivered his lines with a gusto and confidence that were unwavering despite the awful script he probably shook his head at when the cameras weren’t rolling. The scene where he is trying to woo Ming-Na Wen’s Chun Li is almost perfection.

Van Damme was bizarre as the American bad ass Guile. Sure, he was great in that JCVD sort of way that always makes him great but here we have an American colonel with a strong Belgian accent. Not to mention an obviously fake American flag tattoo on his shoulder.

Ming-Na Wen as Chun Li was decent but mostly because it was cool seeing her as a serious ass kicker two decades before her role as Agent May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Kylie Minogue was passable as Cammy and quite cute. Wes Studi was a convincing Sagat but I have always appreciated his work. Jay Tavare played Vega and looked the part more than anyone else in the movie. But props goes to Miguel A. Núñez, who knocks every role out of the park. That’s mostly because I adored him in Return of the Living Dead and Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning.

Street Fighter is still a pretty dumb movie but it is an enjoyable dumb movie. It never gets boring like a bad movie should. There are a lot of poorly developed characters but most of them provide enough material to keep you engaged from scene-to-scene. Also, almost everyone in the film is fairly likable, even the bad guys.

Street Fighter is just a weird mixed bag. But it is a bag I have come to enjoy with age and without feeling like an angry teen whose heart was stepped on.

Rating: 5.5/10

Film Review: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (1983)

Release Date: November 4th, 1985 (first airing)
Directed by: Douglas Williams
Written by: Corinne Jacker
Based on: a short story by John Varley
Music by: John Tucker
Cast: Raul Julia, Linda Griffiths, Wanda Cannon, Donald C. Moore, Louis Negin, Chapelle Jaffe, Jackie Burroughs, Maury Chaykin

RSL Productions, WNET, New Jersey Public Television (NJPTV), New World Video, 83 Minutes 

overdrawn-at-the-memory-bankReview:

What a bizarre experience this was!

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank is horrendous but it is at least somewhat imaginative and unique. It also stars Raul Julia, who brings a lot to every role that he plays. Julia was the best thing about this picture but even he couldn’t make any of this work.

This film was actually made for public access television and really only got somewhat known due to Julia’s inclusion in it and the fact that it was featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

After the success that public television had in adapting Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven in 1979 and their adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Between Time and Timbuktu, they wanted to make more science fiction films. Unfortunately, the picture just did not work well and it was far from a critical success. It was, however, quite ambitious despite its flaws and its limitations.

Other than Julia, the film starred a Canadian cast, as it was produced by Toronto’s RSL Productions. Other than Linda Griffiths, who did the best she could with atrocious dialogue and nonsensical situations, the cast acted over the top. It was like the first table read for an inexperienced community theatre.

To give a quick rundown of the zany plot, a man in a dystopian future where art is prohibited, gets caught watching Casablanca at his workstation. He is sent to be rehabilitated by having his mind uploaded into a wild baboon. This leads to Julia basically narrating over a nature video until an elephant starts shaking the tree that he, the baboon, is in. He tries to escape back to his body but discovers that it is missing and he is trapped in a digital world. There was a mix-up and his body was sent for a sex change. While the corporation tries to locate his missing body, he creates his own digital reality based off of Casablanca. As time goes on, he gets more and more agitated and fights back from the inside.

The story itself is so wacky that it is almost hard to follow. In fact, from scene-to-scene I often times found myself lost but stayed with it in the hopes that it would make some sort of sense. It never did.

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank also looks like a bad 1980s novella with its visual style. It was shot on video because that made the inclusion of special effects easier. The problem is that the special effects were terrible. The film tries to do a lot with very little and I respect that but the digital effects in this film make old school Doctor Who look like Star Wars.

As painful as this movie is to get through, there is still something warm and cozy about it. A weird description, yes, but I can’t think of more appropriate words. Maybe it just reminds me of all the public television stuff I watched as a kid in elementary school in the 1980s.

There was passion behind this project and it is really apparent. It’s just unfortunate, for those involved, that it turned out so poorly.

Rating: 4/10