Film Review: Quicksand! (1950)

Also known as: Gungfly (Sweden)
Release Date: March 24th, 1950
Directed by: Irving Pichel
Written by: Robert Smith
Music by: Louis Gruenberg
Cast: Mickey Rooney, Jeanne Cagney, Barbara Bates, Peter Lorre, Jack Elam (uncredited)

Samuel H. Stiefel Productions, United Artists, 79 Minutes

Review:

“Now, wait a minute! Don’t holler ’til you hurt!” – Daniel ‘Dan’ Brady

Quicksand was pretty highly touted in a few books I read on classic film-noir. However, I found it to be a bit pedestrian and drab.

Now the performances by most of the main cast were good, especially Peter Lorre, but Mickey Rooney was kind of a distraction, as I just didn’t find his character to be believable. That may also be because I’m watching this through modern eyes and I mostly only know Rooney through his work, later in his career.

It was just hard for me to buy into him in this but that’s also a moot point when the picture itself isn’t very engaging, has a really basic plot and also has really predictable twists and turns.

The film is also very short, which isn’t a big deal, especially with smaller noir productions of the time but there is such a lack of story that even with a scant running time, it feels like there are scenes that are too drawn out. It feels like the script was 60 pages and they tried their damnedest to stretch it to the length of a film with 80 to 100 pages.

Still, it’s not bad. It’s passable and fairly competent from a technical standpoint. There just isn’t a whole lot here to care about or sink your teeth into. There’s a hundred classic noir pictures that are better than this one.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other noir B-movies of the ’40s and ’50s.

Film Review: Weird Science (1985)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1985
Directed by: John Hughes
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchel-Smith, Kelly LeBrock, Bill Paxton, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Rusler, Suzanne Snyder, Judie Aronson, Vernon Wells, Michael Berryman, Wallace Langham (as Wally Ward)

Silver Pictures, Hughes Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?” – Lisa

This was one of those films that I used to watch constantly when I was a kid. I loved this picture and, at the time, it was one of the coolest movies I had ever seen.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it but I still really enjoyed it, even if it’s much harder for me to suspend disbelief as much as this film requires. But it doesn’t really need to make sense if you just surrender yourself over to the absurdity of it.

However, it has not aged well and it almost feels like a relic from the ’80s in a bad way. Also, out of John Hughes’ four big teen movies of that decade, I’d have to consider this one the worst, even though it was once my favorite.

The story is just absolutely bonkers and doesn’t make a lick of logical sense but the spectacle of it makes it entertaining.

My main problem isn’t that two teens make a girl using “science” it’s just how half-assed and convenient the whole process seemed. As a kid, you don’t think about this shit. However, as an adult, you do and if most people are like me, your brain will get more literal thinking with age. That’s not really going to bode well for this film’s longevity, as its audience has grown up and moved on. Well, maybe not those that are so addicted to nostalgia that they have to continually live vicariously through the past.

It probably sounds like I’m shitting on the movie and I don’t mean to. It’s fine for what it is and for its era, especially considering the age of its audience at the time. But even seeing this now, it’s hard not to like these characters, even if their journey seems kind of pointless and they don’t seem to actually learn anything important other than boners can make a man brave.

Kelly LeBrock is great in this and honestly, she’s the glue that keeps this movie from falling apart. But, as an adult, you start to see her character through a new lens and her story is pretty tragic and incredibly fucked up.

Here we have a supremely intelligent woman that was created by two horny teenagers that take her for granted, use her and then dump her less than 48 hours later, leaving her to wander the Earth with her magic powers and no real human connection with anyone. Sure, she’s Einstein level intelligent with beauty and personality but this sounds like the origin of a horror monster. And maybe, just maybe… there’s some sequel potential there. Just send me a check, I’ll see myself out and go straight to the bank, Universal.

Anyway, this is a fun, dumb movie that might not work as well in 2020, as it did in 1985, but it still probably deserves the beloved status it’s built up over the years. Despite my new take on it, I’ll still probably revisit it once in a while. But that’s also because it’s hard for me to sometimes resist the nostalgia bug even though I can see it for what it is.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s John Hughes movies, as well as ’80s and ’90s teen comedies.

Film Review: My Blue Heaven (1990)

Release Date: August 17th, 1990
Directed by: Herbert Ross
Written by: Nora Ephron
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Joan Cusack, Melanie Mayron, Bill Irwin, Carol Kane, William Hickey, Deborah Rush, Daniel Stern, Ed Lauter, Colleen Camp, Troy Evans

Hawn / Sylbert Movie Company, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes

Review:

“Richie loved to use 22s because the bullets are small and they don’t come out the other end like a 45, see, a 45 will blow a barn door out the back of your head and there’s a lot of dry cleaning involved, but a 22 will just rattle around like Pac-Man until you’re dead.” – Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Antonelli

Even though My Blue Heaven kind of bombed when it came out, I’ve always liked the movie. I’d even go as far as to say that Vinnie Antonelli is my favorite Steve Martin character. I think a lot of that has to do with it being a real departure from typical Steve Martin while still having his DNA all over it.

Rick Moranis is also great, here. However, he plays the straight character and he’s not too dissimilar from the regular Moranis role. Well, except he’s an FBI agent and a bit of a badass when push comes to shove.

Rounding them out is a good cast of character actors, as well as Joan Cusack, who is pretty dynamite, overall. I like her character a lot and as you get to know her, you start to feel for her while the story makes her character’s journey a worthwhile one.

The plot revolves around an ex-mafioso who has been put into Witness Protection by the FBI. Martin plays the mafioso while Moranis plays the FBI agent assigned to him. Cusack plays the District Attorney of the town where Martin has been relocated to. Martin’s Vinnie can’t keep his hands clean, however, so Cusack’s D.A. keeps trying to throw the book at him while Moranis keeps interjecting, drawing the ire and the attraction of Cusack.

Mostly, the film plays out like a series of gags and funny bits with a simple but nicely layered story bringing it all together.

The best parts are where Steve Martin interacts with other people. He really makes this picture work and on paper, he probably didn’t seem like the best casting but he actually shines and shows his range in the comedy realm. Granted, Moranis and Cusack also bring a lot to the table and they only compliment Martin’s performance, giving him solid people to work off of.

In a lot of ways, this is just a feel good romantic comedy with some crime and a wee bit of action. It’s good, mindless entertainment and reminds me of a simpler time when we could escape into our entertainment and forget the world for 90-120 minutes.

The film has held up well and even though many would disagree, it’s still one of Steve Martin’s best.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Steve Martin comedies of the ’70s up to the early ’90s, especially Parenthood and Little Shop of Horrors, which also feature Rick Moranis.

Film Review: Robot Carnival (1987)

Release Date: July 21st, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Hidetoshi Oomori, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Written by: Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Music by: Joe Hisaishi, Isaku Fujita, Masahisa Takeichi

A.P.P.P., Studio 4°C, Diskotek Media, Streamline Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

Robot Carnival is a pretty neat and interesting picture.

The film is an anime anthology where everything in it has the theme of robots. It also has a steampunk and cyberpunk aesthetic throughout the picture. Another interesting thing about it is that most of the film is actually silent in regards to dialogue.

The biggest thing that made me want to check this out, however, is that it features a story by Katsuhiro Otomo before he worked on the film adaptation of his megahit manga Akira.

Otomo’s contribution to this film is the opening and ending scenes. Both are fairly short but they act as the bookends to all the short stories in-between. These segments also feature a massive city structure on treads, rolling over the countryside. It’s actually pretty damn clear, once seeing this, that the Otomo segments were the inspiration behind the novels and film adaptation of Mortal Engines.

All the other stories are pretty cool and unique. It’s honestly a mixed bag, really, but it is cool seeing all of this as a larger body of work where its segments have a nice variance in art style and narrative structure.

This is a pretty chill and kind of relaxing anime to sit through. Each film is straightforward and just a neat, simple concept that has been realized and presented in all its glory. While everything has its own feel to it, the picture, as a whole, has a pretty consistent vibe.

I wouldn’t categorize this as a classic but I can see why many have held this in pretty high regard. I see it as more of a sampler of what many of these creators were capable of before they went off to make their own, larger features.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk and steampunk anime of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Film Review: Clash by Night (1952)

Release Date: May 30th, 1952 (limited)
Directed by: Fritz Lang
Written by: Alfred Hayes
Based on: Clash by Night by Clifford Odets
Music by: Roy Webb
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan, Marilyn Monroe, Keith Andes, Silvio Minciotti, J. Carrol Naish

Wald/Krasna Productions, RKO Radio Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“What do you want, Joe, my life’s history? Here it is in four words: big ideas, small results.” – Mae Doyle

While I love the hell out of Fritz Lang movies, especially his noir films, as well as just about anything that Barbara Stanwyck has done, this film mostly missed the mark for me.

This also has Marilyn Monroe and Robert Ryan in it too but regardless of the film’s star power, I found it mostly dull and sort of wrecked by Paul Douglas, who had me wanting to kill him by the third act of the picture.

Now I haven’t seen much with Paul Douglas in it, except for the original Angels In the Outfield, but he really started grating on my nerves due to how overly intense he was once he lost his shit due to his wife running around with Robert Ryan behind his back.

Sure, I understand the guy would be pissed but he wrecks the scenes he’s in by acting like a bull in a china shop. That might not be Douglas’ fault though, as Lang probably thought that it was effective, as he was sitting behind the camera directing these scenes. I guess my biggest issue with it is that it pulls you out of the picture and diminishes the great performance by Stanwyck, who felt like she was whispering her lines next to a madman with a bullhorn.

Still, it’s hard not to sympathize with Douglas’ character and maybe that’s just the magic of it all and Fritz Lang got the performance that he wanted out of him. And maybe I didn’t see how effective it was until that final scene that closed out the film, which had a surprisingly pleasant conclusion and made my heart warm for the two leads.

This isn’t the type of noir I fancy the most, however, as I like gritty crime stories. This one is more about a woman that creates human wreckage in her wake but starts to realize that she’s found something she didn’t even know she needed. Unfortunately for her, at least at first, she learns this way too late, after her selfish impulses have caused a lot of damage.

For those who prefer noir pictures that focus more on human romance, this will most assuredly be your cup of tea. It’s hard to deny how great Stanwyck, Ryan, Monroe and J. Carrol Naish are in this. And while this isn’t close to Fritz Lang’s best, you leave the film fairly satisfied with how it all turns out, which is kind of odd and unique for the noir genre.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other classic film-noir pictures of the era, especially those featuring Barbara Stanwyck or Robert Ryan or directed by Fritz Lang.

Film Review: Highlander: The Final Dimension (1994)

Also known as: Highlander III: The Sorcerer (original title), Highlander: The Magician (Sweden VHS title)
Release Date: November 30th, 1994 (Philippines)
Directed by: Andrew Morahan
Written by: Paul Ohl, Rene Manzor, Brad Mirman, William N. Panzer
Based on: characters by Gregory Widen
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Mario Van Peebles, Deborah Unger, Mako, Clancy Brown (archive footage)

Fallingcloud, Initial Groupe, Karambole Films Productions, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I’ll see you in hell!” – Kane, “I’ll be the judge of that.” – Connor MacLeod

While the Highlander series should have stopped at one film, this third entry is at least much better than the second. Granted, it’s still fairly shitty.

Christopher Lambert returns as Connor MacLeod and once again, he has to fight another Immortal because sequels gonna sequel. It doesn’t matter that he killed the last Immortal (other than himself) in the first film. Actually, he does that in the second one too.

However, at least this doesn’t try to make sense out of the terrible, second film and this really just ignores that it ever happened. But that’s another problem with this series, as each new chapter just sort of did what it wanted. It’s kind of like the Terminator franchise without a big budget or bankable star.

The only good thing about this movie is that I liked the villain. While Mario Van Peebles’ Kane has the most generic name ever and he isn’t nearly as badass as Clancy Brown’s The Kurgan, I liked the sorcerer twist to the character and he looked fucking cool.

Plus, Van Peebles really seemed to be enjoying the role, as he got to be a total bastard that looked like he was truly relishing in his bastardness. Sure, he was hammy but he was good hammy while the rest of the film was shit hammy.

Other than that, this movie is a fucking mess and it’s really damn hard to sit through in one go. I had to pause it about three times to walk around the house and stare into the abyss of my empty fridge, as there was nothing to curb my boredom hunger.

That being said, this is still a more enjoyable and palatable picture than its direct predecessor. But that movie was so bad it was used to torture information out of terrorists.

God, I really don’t want to have to watch the fourth and fifth films in this franchise.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Highlander sequels, none of which come close to the cool and original first film.

Film Review: Gilda (1946)

Release Date: March 14th, 1946 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Charles Vidor
Written by: Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet, Ben Hecht (uncredited), E.A. Ellington
Music by: M.W. Stoloff, Marlin Skiles
Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia

Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it. Darling… [they kiss passionately] I think I’m going to die from it.” – Gilda

Out of all the film-noir classics I’ve watched and reviewed over the last few years, Gilda was low on my radar, even if it is beloved by many and considered a top noir.

I’m not sure why I wasn’t in a rush to see this one, as I like Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford, but I do tend to be more attracted to intense crime thriller noir.

This does have a crime thriller element, more than I anticipated, actually, but it is mostly focused on drama and romance, as two ex-lovers who are still in love try their damnedest to try and hurt each other.

There really isn’t a likable character in this film, if you look past the charm and beauty of Hayworth. She acts shitty, Glenn Ford acts shitty and no one else is that great either.

I have to say, though, I was surprised by a rather shocking twist at the very end. I didn’t see it coming and it was jarring in a good way. However, that twist was quickly dealt with and a solid swerve immediately went out with a somewhat underwhelming whimper.

Directed by Charles Vidor, the film’s overall composition looked splendid.

This boasts great cinematography even for the high standard that was set during the height of film-noir. It’s a superb looking picture with magnificent shot framing, incredible lighting and a lush tropical setting that feels both lived in and opulent.

I was mostly pleasantly surprised by this. Sure, it may have been a bit slow, here and there, but it makes up for the lack of narrative energy in how energetic the performances are by the two leads.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other classic noir pictures like Laura, The Lady From Shanghai, The Killers and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Film Review: One Crazy Summer (1986)

Also known as: Greetings from Nantucket (working title)
Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Savage Steve Holland
Written by: Savage Steve Holland
Music by: Cory Lerios
Cast: John Cusack, Demi Moore, Curtis Armstrong, Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray, William Hickey, Joe Flaherty, Mark Metcalf, John Matuszak, Kimberly Foster, Matt Mulhern, Tom Villard, Jeremy Piven, Rich Hall, Taylor Negron, Billie Bird

A&M Films, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

“[Reading the obituaries] “Hey, Hoops, you ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?” – George Calamari

One thing that makes this film so damn fun to watch is that it was chock full of a lot of talent from the time.

While it stars John Cusack and Demi Moore, it boasts great comedic and character actors like Bobcat Goldthwait, Curtis Armstrong, Joel Murray, William Hickey, Joe Flaherty, Taylor Negron, Rich Hall and Billie Bird. It also features big man John Matuszak a.k.a. Sloth from The Goonies and a very young Jeremy Piven.

This is a really goofy and surreal film but I don’t feel like it gets too lost in its zaniness. It does stay pretty well grounded and just works as a great ensemble comedy that is very much a product of its time. While that might mean that it hasn’t aged well to some, I still found it to be energetic, charming and goofy while still being an entertaining and mostly mindless pleasure.

The story focuses on a summer vacation to Nantucket for two buddies that recently graduated high school. One falls for a musician girl and there is a romantic subplot there but it isn’t heavy handed or really even the centerpiece of the movie’s plot. Most of the film is a series of gags with an overall story that connects everything and gives the characters more of a purpose and an objective towards the end.

Additionally, the film’s director is an animator and he incorporates his animations into the film. I found that stuff to be pretty cool and it just fit the film well. In fact, it really sets the tone from the opening credits, as it then slides the viewer into live action. The director, Savage Steve Holland would go on to create Eek! The Cat.

My favorite part of the film was the bit where Bobcat Goldthwait got stuck in a rubber Godzilla suit and accidentally crashed a party, which also saw him stomp across a miniature real estate model of a residential community. Granted, I’m a massive Godzilla fan, love Bobcat and this was at the height of his awesomeness.

One Crazy Summer is silly but it is enjoyable silly. I still like it quite a bit and it’s a good flick to cheer you up on a gloomy day.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies of the ’80s.

Film Review: Just One of the Guys (1985)

Also known as: I Was a Teenage Boy (working title)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Lisa Gottlieb
Written by: Dennis Feldman, Jeff Franklin
Music by: Tom Scott
Cast: Joyce Hyser, Clayton Rohner, Billy Jacoby, Toni Hudson, William Zabka, Leigh McCloskey, Sherilyn Fenn, Arye Gross, Robert Fieldsteel, Stuart Charno, Kenneth Tigar

Summa Entertainment Group, Triton, Columbia Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Budmeister, are you okay?” – Terry, “No, Terry, I’m not. Mom and Dad come home Monday. I’ve had two weeks of total freedom. The closest that I’ve come to sex was a girl who took her top off to seduce my sister. What’s wrong with me?” – Buddy

This used to be one of those movies that was good to watch on a rainy weekend. Plus, it was on cable TV all the time in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s goofy but charming and it’s also kind of endearing because of how ridiculous the premise and the execution is while having actors fully committed to the bit.

I really liked Joyce Hyser in this and it’s actually strange to me that this didn’t lead to a lot more work, as she’s pretty good dramatically, as well as comedically. She was also believable and you just liked her and rooted for her, even if it wasn’t entirely clear what the hell was going on from scene-to-scene. You just had her trying to play a teenage boy to prove a point to the teacher that didn’t take her journalistic prowess seriously because she’s a girl. It’s really awkward and quirky but it’s supposed to be.

William Zabka is also in this, showing that he was pretty much Hollywood’s go-to guy for high school/college bullies. In fact, I consider this to be the second part of an unofficial trilogy of films I call the Zabka Trilogy. The other two films being 1984’s The Karate Kid and 1986’s Back to School. Needless to say, he was just good playing a jerk and he’s definitely on his A-game here, as Greg, the popular douche that wears weightlifting gloves and jacks up lunch tables causing nerds to lose their lunches to the cafeteria floor.

The film also features a young Sherilyn Fenn before she’d go on to enchant males of all ages in Twin Peaks.

Another interesting tidbit is that one of the writers on this was Jeff Franklin. For those who don’t recognize his name, he was the creative mind behind Full House and was also a writer on 1987’s Summer School. He also wrote scripts early in his career for The Bad News Bears TV show, as well as Laverne & Shirley and the Tom Hanks starring Bosom Buddies, which may have inspired the story for this film to some degree, due to similarities.

Ultimately, this isn’t a must-see film but it’s still funny, amusing and lighthearted. You can just sit back, kick up your feet and enjoy the ’80s nostalgia and well-aged cheese.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other goofy ’80s teen comedies.

Film Review: Crocodile Dundee (1986)

Release Date: April 24th, 1986 (Australia)
Directed by: Peter Faiman
Written by: Paul Hogan, Ken Shadie, John Cornell
Music by: Peter Best
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Blum, David Gulpilil, Michael Lombard, John Meillon, Reginald VelJohnson, Terry Gill, Steve Rackman, Paul Greco

Rimfire Films, Hoyts Distribution, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, 97 Minutes, 93 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“New York City, Mr. Dundee. Home to seven million people.” – Richard Mason, “That’s incredible. Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on Earth.” – Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee

The first two Crocodile Dundee movies were films that I used to watch a lot, as a kid. The third one is a total turd but I’ll review that after revisiting the first two.

Starting with this one, the first film, I immediately felt the nostalgia bug creeping in when I heard the fairly iconic Crocodile Dundee opening theme start playing, as the helicopter carrying Sue into the Outback showed us that we were ready to go on a cool adventure.

Watching this, all these years later, allowed me to see a lot of the flaws and issues that weren’t apparent to me before. The movie is riddled with editing and pacing issues and there doesn’t seem to be much of an idea as to what the film is supposed to be.

At its core, it is a romantic comedy but it doesn’t fully commit to that and it seems to be more about showing two different characters as fish out of water.

The first half of the picture deals with Sue going into the Australian bush to meet Mick Dundee and to learn about how he survived an alligator attack. The second half deals with Mick going back to New York City with Sue to see what life is like outside of the Outback.

There is an actual plot but it is really thin and it seems to rely more heavily on gags and jokes from scene to scene, as opposed to telling a cohesive story that one can sink their teeth into.

Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the humor in the film is mostly fine but it lacks any sort of emotional investment into the characters and their budding romance. It also doesn’t help that there doesn’t seem to be much chemistry between them, at least not natural chemistry. I kind of find that strange, as they got married in real life and remained married for a few decades, only getting divorced a few years ago.

Some of the gags are pretty dated and I think some stuff might make people’s stomach churn in modern society where everything is offensive. Two scenes that come to mind are the ones where Mick grabs someone’s genitals to see if they’re a bloke or a sheila.

Crocodile Dundee is still a mostly humorous, lighthearted picture that is actually kind of charming and cute because Paul Hogan is actually pretty great as the title character. But that charm can’t carry a whole movie and this one is sort of a mess, structurally.

I don’t really see what the point of it was and that’s because it’s objective wasn’t all that clear. I think this is why I liked the second film better, back in the day, because it actually has a more solid plot and objectives you can follow, as Mick fights a drug cartel and it’s more action heavy. Most people seem to think the second one was a much weaker film but I guess I’ll have to see how I feel about it now, when I watch it in the very near future.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Crocodile Dundee movies, as well as other films starring Paul Hogan.