Film Review: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Release Date: December 6th, 1990 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Tim Burton, Caroline Thompson
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Oliveri, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin, Conchata Ferrell, Caroline Aaron, Dick Anthony Williams, O-Lan Jones, Nick Carter (uncredited)

Twentieth Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Hold me.” – Kim, “I can’t.” – Edward

This movie came out around my 12th birthday. But I didn’t get to see it in the theater because I was a kid that didn’t control his own life and it was also the holidays and back then, that meant lots of travel to see cheek-pinchers and older rotund family members that wanted to force feed me into a sugar coma. That’s not a snarky complaint, I actually miss those simpler times and those people, who have mostly passed on.

Anyway, I really wanted to see Edward Scissorhands but I didn’t get to check it out until it was available to rent at the video store. Once I did see it, I was blown away by it and even as a pre-teen, I remember thinking that Tim Burton had truly created something special and evolved really quickly as a filmmaker with this being just his fourth feature film after the previous year’s Batman, as well as Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

As much as I had loved Burton’s previous work, especially Batman, it was this movie that really cemented him as my favorite director of this era behind Steven Spielberg.

This also cemented Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder as two of my favorite actors of the era, as both of them really transcend the screen and put in such beautiful and believable performances that it’s impossible to watch this film and not be emotionally effected.

Furthermore, this also features my favorite performance by Dianne Wiest, an actress I have loved for as long as I can remember. But in this, she really turns up the matriarch persona she is so well at playing. She’s so lovely, kind, has a tremendous heart and you find your own heart breaking, as she comes to realize that as much love as Edward deserves, maybe she made a grave mistake in trying to bring him into her world so quickly. And this realization is where the movie takes a turn and gets much deeper, much darker and much more meaningful.

At its core, this is a Grimms’-style fairytale set in the modern world. However, the modern world is presented in a way that’s sort of timeless. While it features things that were modern for 1990, the look of suburbia is done in a colorful 1950s style. This is one of the things I love most about the movie, as it takes the things that influenced Burton’s development and sort of blends them together. It gives the film a dreamlike, fantastical quality that couldn’t have been achieved had Burton just set this in a place that was blatantly contemporary for the year it was filmed in.

The film is also populated with so much talent and great performances from everyone involved like Alan Arkin, Robert Oliveri, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Conchata Ferrell, etc.

For me, though, seeing Vincent Price in this was truly special. He was a huge inspiration to Burton and myself, as well. This picture provided him with the perfect role to go out with honor and grace. And while he did a television movie after this, Edward Scissorhands was the legend’s true exit from film and his few moments in this were just beautiful and brilliant.

Edward Scissorhands is a close to perfect film. Sure, as I’m now older and hadn’t seen this in a long time, I do see some minor flaws, here and there. However, they’re not worth nitpicking over, as the film has held up tremendously well and the things it does perfectly far exceed the small things that might have been lacking.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: Vibes (1988)

Release Date: August 5th, 1988
Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Written by: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Deborah Blum
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum, Julian Sands, Googy Gress, Peter Falk, Michael Lerner, Steve Buscemi, Park Overall

Imagine Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I’d give you the finger but I’m too refined.” – Sylvia Pickel

I was nine years-old when this hit theaters but I remember seeing the ads on television constantly. I never did see the movie in the theater or thereafter until now, over three decades later.

I generally like Cyndi Lauper but I haven’t seen her act in anything else. In this, she’s not great by any stretch but she’s at least likable and entertaining. Then again, she’s pretty much playing herself with psychic powers.

Beyond Lauper, you have Jeff Goldblum, who I love in everything he’s ever done. He’s good here but he also plays a character that’s pretty much just himself with psychic powers. So neither lead in this movie really had to try too hard.

You also get Peter Falk, Julian Sands, Michael Lerner, Park Overall from Empty Nest and a very young Steve Buscemi in this.

I guess out of everyone, I enjoyed Falk the most.

The plot is pretty damn rickety and it’s not very good. Although, it is somewhat salvaged by the charm of the Lauper and Goldblum, who I thought had fairly decent and unique chemistry.

Vibes just barely kept my attention, though. I didn’t find it tough to get through but had it lasted longer than its 99 minutes, I would’ve probably needed to take a break.

In the end, this is pretty forgettable and I can see why it’s been lost to time and never really gained a cult following, even from the many fans of Cyndi Lauper’s that still exist today.

Rating: 5/10

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: The Lady of the Lake’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

At last, I have reached the final book in The Witcher saga! Well, technically there is one more that takes place after the saga. So, this is the fifth of the five saga books and the seventh of eight, overall. Regardless, it’s been a hell of a ride up to this point and I’m kind of bummed that there’s just one book left.

This book is thicc.

It’s the thickest of the series, anyway, and with that, a whole lot of shit happens.

In fact, this probably could’ve been split into two volumes and that may have made it easier to digest all the details but regardless, it’s still the strongest and best book in the series.

This taps into the King Arthur myth, as it features the knight Galahad and Nimue, the Lady of the Lake. The story starts with Ciri recounting events in her life, which sets up the novel’s story.

In this, we see Geralt and his party face certain doom and very, very few survive. But we also see Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer come back together to close out the series.

Before that, however, we see what happens to Ciri when she’s trapped in the magical realm she entered at the end of the previous book. While there, she grows exhausted of what’s expected of her by the elves that hold the power in that mysterious place. Eventually, she discovers the unicorns, who have beef with the elves and thus, help Ciri escape back to her homeland.

There are a lot of different plot threads weaving in and out and despite the complexity of the novel as a whole, it’s well organized and the story is well told.

In the end, there is a satisfying conclusion and Ciri gets to walk her own path in spite of everyone telling her what her destiny should be over the course of her entire life, up to this point.

This was a solid conclusion to the saga and frankly, the book was hard to put down.

I’m pretty happy that I picked this series up. It actually exceeded my expectations and lived up to the hype, which things rarely do.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: Wolf (1994)

Release Date: June 17th, 1994
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Written by: Jim Harrison, Wesley Strick
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Eileen Atkins, David Hyde Pierce, Ron Rifkin, Prunella Scales, David Schwimmer, Allison Janney

Columbia Pictures, 125 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve never loved anybody this way. Never looked at a woman and thought, if civilization fails, if the world ends, I’ll still understand what God meant.” – Will Randall

Back when this came out, I initially wanted to see it. However, everyone that did really trashed it and since I was still a young teen and my time and funds were limited, I passed on it. But over the years, I did wonder why people seemed to dislike it so much.

I saw it streaming on one of my many services, so I figured that I’d check it out to see what people took issue with. However, I really couldn’t find anything glaringly negative and thought that Wolf was rather good. And I guess the opinion of the public has changed over the years, at it seems to be viewed fairly favorably these days.

I mean, how bad could a film be with this cast?

You’ve got Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Spader and all three give good performances. As does the talented supporting cast that includes Christopher Plummer, Richard Jenkins, Prunella Scales and Ron Rifkin. You’ve also got smaller roles for up and coming actors like David Schwimmer, David Hyde Pierce and Allison Janney. Between all of them, there isn’t a weak link in the bunch.

Plus, this is a werewolf movie! And not just that, it is a werewolf movie featuring Jack f’n Nicholson and James f’n Spader as feuding werewolves! Granted, they start as friends but as the story rolls on, you learn that the young, opportunistic Spader is willing to crush his friends for his own personal benefit. James Spader has always made a great bad guy and it’s kind of refreshing seeing Jack Nicholson playing a very good, moral character that is victimized by his own power hungry protégé.

Speaking of werewolves, the practical special effects here are handled by Rick Baker, who is the greatest werewolf effects guy of his generation after working on both An American Werewolf In London, as well as the original Howling. He also crafted effects for other werewolf related projects like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video and the Fox television show Werewolf, which scared the bejesus out of me when I was too young to watch it.

Baker’s effects in this are top notch and he really takes the best of what he’s learned from his other werewolf projects and utilizes them to great effect, here.

I also liked the story, as it focuses on the rivalry of two literal alpha dogs in the corporate world. However, even the romance stuff was pretty decent. The love story isn’t by any means the greatest ever told onscreen but Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, despite their age difference, felt like they had a natural connection and it just works.

Now I thought the ending was a bit strange but it doesn’t wreck the film. The actual finale was pretty well done but the the closing moments, after the awesome werewolf fight, were presented oddly. It’s like this went from a pretty straightforward werewolf movie to something overly stylized and artistic in it’s closing sequence. It just felt weird and out of place and I audibly muttered, “Huh?”

Still, Wolf is pretty solid and damn enjoyable.

Rating: 7.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: The Tower of the Swallow’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

Man, this series doesn’t seem to be dropping off or getting stale.

This is the fourth book in the regular saga of five novels but it’s the sixth if you read the two prequels of short stories first, which is recommended.

This picks up where the previous book left off.

Ciri has to deal with the murder of her group of friends while also seeking answers to who she is, what her destiny is and what needs to be done to conquer the evil that keeps finding its way into her life.

Additionally, Geralt is with the same group he was with at the end of the previous story. They’re travelling with the queen and her army, who they fought alongside with. However, Geralt wants to locate a group of druids he believes can help lead him to Ciri.

Like the previous books, this one is really driven by the drama and the relationships of the characters and how they handle the hardships they face. It also has a good amount of action and high stakes.

This is the beefiest novel to date but it still reads like a breeze.

I found it hard to put down but luckily I read the bulk of it on flights to and from Vegas from Florida. It made that time pass pretty quickly in those tiny, uncomfortable ass seats.

Rating: 9.25/10

Film Review: Rumble Fish (1983)

Release Date: October 7th, 1983 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: S. E. Hinton, Francis Ford Coppola
Based on: Rumble Fish by S. E. Hinton
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Vincent Spano, Diane Lane, Diana Scarwid, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Chris Penn, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, Sofia Coppola, S. E. Hinton (cameo)

Zoetrope Studios, Hotweather Films, Universal Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“No, your mother… is not crazy. And neither, contrary to popular belief, is your brother crazy. He’s merely miscast in a play. He was born in the wrong era, on the wrong side of the river… With the ability to be able to do anything that he wants to do and… findin’ nothin’ that he wants to do. I mean nothing.” – Father

Rumble Fish truly is the spiritual sequel to The Outsiders and was even released in the same year.

Francis Ford Coppola wrote this alongside S. E. Hinton, based off of her novel of the same name. She also wrote the young adult novel that Coppola adapted into The Outsiders.

This was thrown together pretty quickly and was worked on and developed while The Outsiders was still filming and while this was made much cheaper, shot in black and white and released through a different studio, the spirit of what made The Outsiders a truly special movie, also exists in this picture.

In some ways, due to the presentation and look of this picture, Rumble Fish is more majestic and magical. It also feels like it’s a story that takes place in the late ’50s or early ’60s but it features modern cars and other inventions that wouldn’t have been around in the same era as The Outsiders. It’s hard to peg exactly when this takes place but that just adds to the otherworldliness of it.

That being said, I love the use of black and white and the overall cinematography of this picture. It’s pretty high contrast and stylish and it reminds me of classic film-noir but sort of has the energy of one of those Japanese neo-noir pictures by Seijun Suzuki. And no, I wouldn’t consider this a neo-noir but it just shares a very similar visual presentation.

Coppola also brought back some of the actors from The Outsiders, primarily Matt Dillon and Diane Lane. However, the additions to the cast like Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper, Nicolas Cage, Chris Penn and Laurence Fishburne were all great. The cast is pretty packed with talent ala The Outsiders but I’m glad that it shuffled the deck somewhat and brought in some fresh faces, allowing this to stand on its own.

So while this shares similar themes to the other movie I keep mentioning, this has its own unique story that I found to be really interesting. It has different beats, moves at a more rapid pace and ultimately, has a very different but still tragic ending.

I’m kind of surprised that long-time fans of The Outsiders haven’t heard of or seen this movie. It’s a perfect companion piece to it and it hits you in a very similar way while not being a complete rehash of what you’ve already seen before.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1984
Directed by: Stewart Raffill
Written by: Wallace C. Bennett, William Gray, Don Jakoby, Michael Janover
Based on: The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility by Charles Berlitz, William L. Moore
Music by: Kenneth Wannberg
Cast: Michael Paré, Nancy Allen, Eric Christmas, Bobby Di Cicco, Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Currie

New Pictures, Cinema Group Ventures, New World Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“You know, I got it all figured out… Navy owes me 40 years back pay.” – David Herdeg

In my mind, I thought that I had seen this movie once or twice, as a kid. I was wrong. I have never seen this until now and my memory played tricks on me by conflating images of other movies that may not even be remotely accurate. Hey, I’ve done some drugs at different points in my life.

Anyway, I thought that this was a really weird movie, even for ’80s standards and the story was pretty wonky. Still, I did enjoy it and I really liked the bond that developed between the leads: Michael Paré and Nancy Allen.

The story is about these two Navy seamen that were aboard a ship during a strange experiment where the Navy were trying to make the vessel invisible to give them a tactical advantage during World War II. This experiment made the ship vanish but with that, the two seamen were transported through time to 1984. The time travel also gave them some weird sci-fi side effects and one of the men keeps having seizures and electrical phenomenon happening to his body until he eventually explodes into pure energy and disappears. The rest of the film is a race against time, as Michael Paré’s character is trying to solve his dilemma before the same fate happens to him.

This is also an “on the run”/road trip movie similar to Starman and other films where a protagonist is trying to outrun and outwit authorities in an effort to reach their goal.

I liked Paré a lot in this and I always thought that he was an underutilized actor that should’ve reached bigger heights in the ’80s. I also liked Nancy Allen too but she’s been a favorite of mine ever since I saw the original RoboCop, as a wee li’l lad.

The film is entertaining and it was a cool picture in spite of its hokiness and strange premise. It is slow in a few parts and the climax is a bit weird but it’s still a worthwhile experience. Granted, I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever go out of my way to watch again.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other early ’80s sci-fi and “on the run” movies.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Baptism of Fire’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

As I’m working my way through The Witcher books, this is my favorite installment of the regular “saga” novels, thus far. It’s also the third and middle chapter of the five.

I guess it’s actually my favorite, counting the two short story compilations that I started with and honestly, the first one of those is hard to top.

In this volume, we pick up where things left off with the previous book. The trio of Geralt, Yennefer and Ciri are split up and in different places, dealing with their own issues and adventures.

Ciri’s part of the story deals with her taking on an alias and running with a gang called “The Rats”.

Yennefer deals with the politics and issues following the fall of the Brotherhood of Sorcerers.

Geralt, on the other hand, really gets the bulk of the time in this novel but then he should, as he’s the title character of the series.

In this, Geralt wants to search for Ciri. He sets off to find her with his bestie Dandelion and a newcomer, Milva, who initially has a rocky relationship with Geralt. They also meet up with Zoltan and his dwarves and along the way they are shadowed by Cahir, who was the “black rider” that Ciri was having nightmares about in the previous book. Eventually, Cahir joins the group, as does Regis, a vampire, who the group doesn’t trust but he comes with valuable medical skills.

The big climax of the novel sees the Battle of the Bridge on the Yaruga. This is where Geralt’s chosen name of “Geralt of Rivia” actually becomes an official title, after his heroism and skill helps win the day.

Additionally, we also learn a big secret about Ciri’s lineage, which I won’t spoil.

This book had superb action, a great battle, shaky alliances, new friendships and loyalties forged and it was just one hell of a fun, badass adventure. Honestly, this was just great escapism and an enthralling epic tale.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.

Film Review: The Princess Bride (1987)

Release Date: September 18th, 1987 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Rob Reiner
Written by: William Goldman
Based on: The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Music by: Mark Knopfler
Cast: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane

Act III Communications, Buttercup Films Ltd., The Princess Bride Ltd., Vestron Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” – Inigo Montoya

I’m going to be honest, this wasn’t a film that captivated me in my childhood like it did most people from my generation. However, I have still always liked it and it’s one of those things I’d leave on if I was flipping the channels in my teen years.

This was the first time I had seen this, though, since probably the ’90s. At least, in its entirety. So revisiting it was kind of a treat and I actually think I’m more fond of it now, simply because they don’t make movies like this anymore.

At its core, this is just a wholesome fairytale. But it’s also full of several characters who have become iconic over the three and a half decades since this was released.

I think that these characters became so iconic because this movie was so well cast, from top-to-bottom.

I also really underappreciated the swashbuckling bits and the camaraderie between the characters, which was so good and natural that one would have to assume that all these people genuinely clicked and enjoyed working together.

As a big wrestling fan, especially the ’80s era, I love seeing Andre the Giant in this. He’s absolutely superb and it makes me wish that he got to do more films before he died, shortly after this.

The Princess Bride is just a really entertaining and fun movie that should work for anyone, regardless of age, gender or generation. It’s kind of perfect in its wholesomeness and its adventurous spirit.

While it’s not what I personally consider a classic, I can see why so many people are immensely fond of it.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s family friendly fantasy movies.

Book Review: ‘The Witcher: Time of Contempt’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Time of Contempt is the second book in the five-part main novel series of The Witcher. It’s my fourth book, as I read the two prequel short stories first, as was recommended.

This one starts off a bit slow but even the slower parts are good, as this series does a stupendous job of character development. And with that, we see Ciri mature a little bit and also experience the threat of the Wild Hunt for the first time.

The book also reveals more about Ciri and her destiny and how everyone is tied to her.

Beyond the first act, the book shifts into overdrive. We reconnect with some familiar faces but there are plots and twists and then, major conflict and action.

The core trio gets split up in the mayhem but this sets Ciri off on the path she is destined to follow.

I honestly don’t want to spoil too much about the plot but I hope these stories are something that the Netflix show can eventually get to, as long as they do it justice. I worry that they won’t but then, I’ll always have these books, which are the superior versions of The Witcher mythos.

I dig this series a lot and honestly, I’m halfway through the eight books now and I still find them hard to put down. I feel like this is a novel series I will return to multiple times in the future, as I have with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Witcher books, comics and television shows.