Film Review: Godzilla (1998)

Release Date: May 18th, 1998 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio
Based on: Godzilla by Toho
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria, Kevin Dunn, Michael Lerner, Harry Shearer, Doug Savant, Vicki Lewis, Richard Gant, Nancy Cartwright, Frank Welker (voice)

Centropolis Film Productions, Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Toho Co. Ltd., 139 Minutes

Review:

“What the hell’s the matter with you people? You’ve caused more damage than that goddamn thing did!” – Mayor Ebert

Yes, Mayor Ebert… you’ve got a fucking point, as most of the actual destruction in this movie is committed by the moronic military and not the giant monster.

I’m not sure if that’s because Roland Emmerich wanted to paint the military and the government as incompetent assholes or because he’s just a shitty director that didn’t have the talent to replicate the success of Independence Day. But his first big mistake was making this story’s heroes the absolute antithesis of those from that much better movie.

Whatever the reason though, this movie is so fucking stupid that it’s painful to watch, which is why I have never actually sat down and watched this in its entirety in one sitting. Sure, I’ve seen the whole film in increments thanks to cable television but as a lifelong Godzilla fan, I had no urge to see this in the theater when it came out and all the footage and sequences I’ve seen over the years has only solidified my disdain for this big budget kaiju-sized abortion.

Many people have claimed that this isn’t a true Godzilla film and that it is the worst one ever made. Those people aren’t wrong, as I’d rather be stuck in a room for 24 hours being forced to watch Godzilla’s Revenge, over and over, than have to watch this film ever again.

It’s completely incompetent from top-to-bottom with brainless characters, impressively bad dialogue and a story that feels like it was freestyled from the mind of a child playing with kaiju toys in the bathtub.

There is no traditional three act structure and this is just a string of sequences where some of them feel like they don’t even fit within the same movie. It also gets so far away from the core of what Godzilla is that it truly isn’tGodzilla movie, it’s some sort of generic kaiju flick trying to borrow more from Jurassic Park than its own namesake.

Had this not been given the Godzilla name and branding, it may have been more palatable but there is nothing about this that can win over the fans they assumed they’d lure in just by using the name of the world’s most famous giant monster. While that may have been a run-on sentence, 1998’s Godzilla was a run-on movie.

About two-thirds of the way into the film they “kill” Godzilla, after destroying half of Manhattan. Then suddenly we’re sucked into a different movie where baby Godzillas are chasing the heroes idiots through Madison Square Garden like an army of velociraptors in a cheap attempt at trying to one-up the far superior Jurassic Park movies. Once the babies are killed, Godzilla miraculously rises from the ashes like, “Fuck you, hoes! Ain’t dead!” It’s a clusterfuck that shows that Roland Emmerich doesn’t have time for any sort of traditional narrative structure. And no, that’s not an artistic choice it’s just the incompetence of a moron that cares more about mass destruction than actually making cinematic art.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects yet, which are a mixed bag but mostly shit. Where practical effects are used, things actually look quite good but where the film employs CGI, it looks terrible even for 1998. Hell, this movie came out two years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day and it looks significantly cheaper than that film. This is really where big studios started to rely on CGI too much and it killed the immersion into the cinematic world onscreen. I never feel that way when watching Independence Day or Jurassic Park but here, it’s fucking distracting.

The action sequences with dozens of Apache helicopters flying through the canyon-like streets of New York City like swarms of insects just look cartoonish and buffonish. In fact, all these big action sequences between the military and Godzilla look more like a video game than a motion picture. Maybe modern HD makes it look worse than it did in 1998 but the digital flaws are really apparent and it looks like the studio cut corners in post-production or just rushed this out too soon.

Based off of the final product, Roland Emmerich could’ve just invented his own kaiju creature. But I guess less people would’ve gone to see that, so bastardizing something beloved was the easiest route to go when you can’t actually rely on talent.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Roland Emmerich schlock that cost way too much to make.

Film Review: CB4 (1993)

Release Date: March 12th, 1993
Directed by: Tamra Davis
Written by: Chris Rock, Nelson George, Robert LoCash
Music by: John Barnes, various
Cast: Chris Rock, Allen Payne, Deezer D, Phil Hartman, Chris Elliot, Charlie Murphy, Khandi Alexander, Art Evans, Theresa Randle, Willard E. Pugh, Rachel True, Richard Gant, Stoney Jackson, J.D. Daniels, LaWanda Page, Tommy Davidson (uncredited), Shirley Hemphill (cameo), Issac Hayes (cameo), Ice-T (cameo), Halle Berry (cameo), Ice Cube (cameo), Flavor Flav (cameo), Shaquille O’Neal (cameo), Eazy-E (cameo), Butthole Surfers (cameo)

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“You ain’t tough. There are real some kids out there that are going to kick your narrow ass. You ain’t from the street, I’m from the street. And only somebody who wasn’t would think it was something to glorify.” – Albert, Sr.

When I reviewed Fear of a Black Hat several months ago, I brought up how similar these two movies were and how one may be ripping off the other. I also said that I preferred that one slightly but now, after revisiting CB4 for the first time in quite a long time, this picture just slightly takes the cake.

I think that over time, my memories downplayed how clever this movie was. While Fear of a Black Hat is more gritty and certainly more indie, CB4 feels like it has a better grasp on the material and it is much more refined and is a better complete body of work.

While some of the jokes and gags, almost thirty years later, may be over some people’s heads now, I still think that this aged well and it carries a good positive message. The gist of what the film tries to communicate is still very apparent, despite outdated references to a time when rap music was much better than whatever this modern mumble rap garbage is today.

Chris Rock was great in this and I have to say, it’s my favorite picture where he is the star. He’s relatable, he’s likable and his character is very human despite getting lost in the glamour, glitz and bullshit of trying to make it in the early ’90s rap game. Ultimately, even if his spirit is corrupted, it’s the goodness within himself (and his two best friends) that wins out and makes things right in the end.

One thing I really loved about this movie was the music. While most of it is parody of what was the gangsta rap of its era, it’s all really damn good. I actually owned the soundtrack in my teen years and used to bump it quite regularly.

Even though this came out very early in Chris Rock’s career, I still feel as if it is his magnum opus as an actor, comedian and writer. Sure, he’s always been funny but something about CB4 just felt like it was real personal for him and it’s something that truly comes out when you watch the film.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: a movie that’s very similar, Fear of a Black Hat.

TV Review: Deadwood (2004-2006)

Original Run: March 21st, 2004 – August 27th, 2006
Created by: David Milch
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: David Schwartz
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcomson, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Sean Bridgers, Garret Dillahunt, Titus Welliver, Brent Sexton, Bree Seanna Wall, Josh Eriksson, Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Ray McKinnon, Brian Cox, Sarah Paulson, Zach Grenier, Cleo King, Stephen Tobolowsky, Richard Gant, Alice Krige, Fiona Dourif, Kristen Bell

Roscoe Productions, Red Board Productions, Paramount Television, HBO Entertainment, 36 Episodes (so far), 48-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

HBO’s Deadwood was ahead of its time. It only lasted for three seasons but luckily it stuck around that long. It also ended on sort of a cliffhanger and left you wanting to know what would happen after its final moments at the end of its stellar third season. Well, apparently HBO has announced that, ten years later, there is a movie on the way.

As for the show itself, it is really the first gritty and brutally realistic showcase of frontier life I had ever seen on television up to that point. It pulled no punches and went all out.

Now it did take some time to fall in love with. The first season moves a bit slow but by the time you get to the final episode of that season and see how the characters are changing and how they’ve evolved in a short time, it gets pretty compelling.

Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane are perfect and their relationship is one of the most dynamic in television history. This was also both men at their absolute best. While Olyphant is the first billed star, Ian McShane seems to get more actual screen time and overall, is the more interesting character.

The rest of the cast is full of several well known and great actors. And every one of these characters has a great story surrounding them. Most shows with large ensemble casts suffer from questionable quality with certain characters, as there is always someone wedged into large shows that either doesn’t fit or has an awful plot thread going on. This doesn’t happen in Deadwood. In fact, as far as a character driven drama, it has some of the best character development I have ever seen in a show. Even the characters, who at first, feel somewhat generic, end up having a lot of layers to explore.

Now the show isn’t as beautiful and as vast feeling as the AMC’s big western show Hell On Wheels but it edges it out in regards to its large ensemble cast, all of whom are more interesting and complex than most of the characters on Hell On WheelsDeadwood lacks in not being as visually epic as Hell On Wheels but it has more to sink your teeth into overall and it also takes place in a small camp and not an endless wide-open frontier. I like these shows pretty much the same but Hell On Wheels is a wee bit ahead simply because the rivalry between Bohannon and the Swede was incredible.

At the end of the day, Deadwood is one of the two best western shows I have ever seen. It is also one of the best HBO shows ever produced. It’s short run was unfortunate but the fact that this got on television to begin with is pretty awesome.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Hell On Wheels and because it shares a lot of actors with these shows, Fear the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.

Film Review: Rocky V (1990)

Release Date: November 16th, 1990
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Richard Gant, Kevin Connolly, Tony Burton, Delia Sheppard, Burgess Meredith (cameo), Carl Weathers (archive footage), Dolph Lundgren (archive footage),

United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Now, like your Mark Twain once said, ‘Virtue has never been as respectable as money.'” – George Washington Duke

I have never gotten the level of hatred that people have for Rocky V. Is it the best in the series? No. But I also don’t think that from a quality standpoint, it is anywhere below the later sequels III and IV. It actually has a great and important story and examines some areas of a boxer’s life and boxing as a sport that were probably long overdue in being explored in this long running film series. There is one big negative but I’ll get to that.

First, the film deals with Rocky Balboa getting brain damage after his bout with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It also deals with how athletes are often times taken advantage of by financial crooks, as we see Paulie give power of attorney to their accountant, who lost all their money in a failed scheme. Additionally, we get to see the crookedness of high profile boxing promoters with the character of George Washington Duke, who was an obvious caricature of Don King, who exploited several young boxers that he “owned” for his own personal monetary gain. Lastly, the film deals with a boxer and his relationship with his family and also with his personal struggles when his career is over. Rocky V is a film with a lot of layers, all of which I found to be interesting.

And that’s the thing. You could say that there is too much going on in Rocky V from a narrative aspect but I like that the film addresses these issues, shows them play out naturally and doesn’t have to spell everything out for the audience or beat them over the head with each issue. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the challenges as they appear and to understand that ultimately, Rocky has always had what he needs most and that the solution is simply embracing the love in your life.

Rocky V may be cheesy at points but aren’t most of the Rocky films to some degree? Balboa is a good hearted guy always ready to crack a bad joke and those characteristics have sort of become larger than Balboa in the films themselves. Plus, by the time you get into the later films, Paulie just adds in his own sense of humor that keeps the later sequels grounded in lightheartedness even with serious subject matter.

This film also brings the original creative team of the first Rocky back together. John G. Avildsen returns to direct, Bill Conti is back on the music and ultimately, it works well to recreate the poor area of Philadelphia that Rocky, Adrian and Paulie rose out of but now have to return to. The addition of Burgess Meredith, even as a ghostly cameo, is a nice nod to the first film and brings things full circle, which was good considering that this was the last film in the series for sixteen years.

The big negative I mentioned before is Tommy Morrision, who played the boxer Tommy Gunn. The character starts as Rocky’s protege but decays into a puppet for the sinister George Washington Duke and thus, becomes Rocky’s big opponent at the end. The problem with Morrison is that he is a real boxer and not an actor. Rocky films work better with actors as the rivals. Imagine if Apollo Creed was played by George Foreman or Larry Holmes, it just wouldn’t have worked as well. Also, I felt the same way about Antonio Tarver in the sixth film and Tony Bellew in Creed. None of these guys had the impact of Apollo, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. Plus, Morrison’s line delivery was really painful at times.

While people knock the street fight at the end of the film, I’m fine with it. We’ve seen Rocky in the ring more than a half dozen times. Seeing him take it to the streets and embracing his roots against a jacked up farm boy was kind of cool.

I think that Rocky V came out in a time when the franchise sort of ran its course. It was the fifth film in 14 years. Plus, there was solid competition when it came out, so it didn’t perform well. Critics weren’t crazy about it but they aren’t crazy about most movies. I think people shit on Rocky V because it’s fun to shit on something that everyone hates. But I think it is more about following the crowd and not really about the movie. People just parrot each other’s sentiment and comments without much actual thought of their own but that’s why we always end up with shitty presidential candidates. But I’ll stop there and not go on some political rant.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Rocky films.

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part III – The Kane Hodder Years (1988-2001)

Friday the 13th, Part VII – The New Blood (1988):

Release Date: May 13th, 1988
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Manuel Fidello, Daryl Haney
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini, Fred Mollin
Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Blair, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Jeff Bennett, Heidi Kozak, Diana Barrows, Larry Cox, Craig Thomas, Diane Almeida, Kane Hodder

Paramount Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

Hey, it’s Bernie from Weekend At Bernie’s and he’s alive! Well, not for long – it is a Jason movie.

This film also features Jason Voorhees going against Jean Grey from the X-Men. Actually, it is some girl named Tina but she has telekinetic and psychic powers and thus, spends a lot of time confusing Jason with cheap parlor tricks. I have a theory that she has no powers and was a con artist that rigged her house with lots of Hollywood strings. In any event, it gives this film an interesting dynamic that we haven’t seen in this series before.

The New Blood is important, in that it is the first film to feature Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. He is the only guy to play the role more than once. In fact, he played him over the course of four films and is the most recognized Jason actor and pretty much the overall fan favorite. I definitely think he had the best presence and mannerisms and brought the role to the next level, even though C.J. Graham did a pretty phenomenal job in Jason Lives (the installment before this one).

Jason also looks the absolute best in this film. He still looked pretty good in the next film but this is definitely my favorite Jason, as far as overall appearance. The fact that you can see his spine and ribs through the back of his tattered jumpsuit is pretty damned cool, as he was fish food in a lake for like ten years leading into being set free at the beginning of this movie.

The problem with this film, is that it was butchered by the censors and the MPAA. There is less gore, not because it was filmed that way but because it was edited down a lot. The fluidity of certain scenes and certain cuts are horrible.

Despite those issues, this is still a better-than-decent Friday the 13th chapter. It is also the best of the four Kane Hodder films.

Rating: 7/10

Friday the 13th, Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan (1989):

Release Date: July 28th, 1989
Directed by: Rob Hedden
Written by: Rob Hedden
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Fred Mollin
Cast: Jensen Daggett, Todd Caldecott, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder, Kelly Hu

Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

Jason Takes Manhattan is a really misleading title. Jason is only in Manhattan for less than a third of the film and he’s pretty much just in the alleyways and the sewer other than a quick chase scene in Times Square. This film should really be called Jason On A Boat because it is primarily Jason on a boat, killing some teens.

There are a few good kills, like a sauna rock through a stomach and a boxer having his head knocked off by a Jason uppercut. That’s about it though. This takes Jason out of his normal element but it isn’t a wanted change and it is executed with absolutely no imagination. This is just a very boring film.

The ending is retarded level bizarre. It makes no sense and I’m not sure why the City of New York flushes their sewers with toxic waste every night at midnight and how hanging out on a ladder above the rampaging toxic river didn’t asphyxiate and cause severe brain damage in our heroes. And somehow, toxic waste melts Jason down to a crying little boy.

The film is also visually inconsistent with previous installments. The child Jason looks nothing like Jason has looked in the past at that age. The tone of the film is just strange and it feels more like an old Sci-Fi Channel slasher knockoff film than a chapter in a storied franchise.

I’ve always liked Jensen Daggett though and this is her first film. That is about the only positive I can give.

This was the last film of the original series to be released by Paramount.

Rating: 5/10

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993):

Release Date: August 13th, 1993
Directed by: Adam Marcus
Written by: Jay Huguely, Dean Lorey, Adam Marcus
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Erin Gray, Allison Smith, Steve Culp, Steven Williams, Kane Hodder, Richard Gant

New Line Cinema, 88 Minutes

Review:

This is the worst film in the entire franchise. It is beyond horrible. Jason is barely in it and the monster is a demonic heart worm.

New Line Cinema acquired the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise and decided to reinvent it in their own way. Kane Hodder is back as Jason Voorhees but he is only in the opening sequence and the final battle, other than appearing in mirrors throughout the film when other people are possessed by his evil spirit.

By the way, that evil spirit travels from host to host via a worm crawling out of one mouth and into another. And Jason’s evil French kiss worm hatched from his heart. So I guess his heart is really some sort of egg. Well, the heart was eaten by a possessed guy in a morgue but that is how he got infected with the Jason worm and how this whole stupid process began.

The film also introduces a horrible concept that was abandoned after this film. Basically, now it is learned that Jason can only be killed with a magic knife wielded by a blood relative. So Jason is hunting down surviving family members because if he kills them, he can’t be killed. And somehow, all these people live around Crystal Lake and yet, he has never tried to hunt them down before, in any of the eight movies that predate this one!

The truth is, I completely ignore this film when it comes to the Friday the 13th mythos. The movie is absolute shit. It doesn’t exist except in some parallel universe. No, it doesn’t exist there either. Avoid it at all costs, unless you really want to torture yourself.

Jason also looks horrible. He looks like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplaying as Jason. Why does his noggin look like a big mutant brain with a hockey mask that is obviously too tight for his newly enormous head?

The only noteworthy thing about this movie, is that after Jason is dragged to Hell, the glove of Freddy Krueger (from the A Nightmare On Elm Street series) bursts out of the ground, grabs Jason’s hockey mask in the dirt and drags it down to Hell. This set up the eventual Freddy vs. Jason film that was in development hell for a decade.

Rating: 3/10

Jason X (2001):

Release Date: July 24th, 2001 (Germany)
Directed by: James Issac
Written by: Todd Farmer
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Jonathan Potts, Melyssa Ade, Melody Johnson, David Cronenberg, Kane Hodder

New Line Cinema, 92 Minutes

Review:

This is the last film in the regular series of movies unless you count Freddy vs. Jason in 2003. It is also the last film to star Kane Hodder as Jason.

So when horror franchises jump the shark, they usually go to space. Where most horror franchises go to space by the fourth film (see Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun), at least Jason didn’t have to leave Earth until the tenth installment of his series.

Jason X is a bad movie. It is a really bad movie. But it is a bad movie that is great in its awfulness. It is fun, it is ridiculous and the film doesn’t, at any time, try to take itself seriously. It knows it is bad but it is doing a damned good job of creating a good time.

After nine films full of killing teens at (or around) a summer camp, the new direction was refreshing. At least the scenery changed and at least it wasn’t a boring ghetto cruise ship on the way to a boring Manhattan sewer.

Jason is cryogenically frozen, wakes up 500 years in the future on a spaceship conducting a high school field trip and goes on a sci-fi killing spree. At one point, he is rebuilt by nanomachines into what fans call Uber Jason. Basically, he looks like a much angrier and deadly version of a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain.

If you try to take this film seriously, you will hate it. If you take it for what it is, an intentionally bad but awesome time, you will most likely enjoy it.

Rating: 6/10

*I will review Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 Friday the 13th remake at a later date.