Film Review: Total Recall (1990)

Release Date: May 31st, 1990 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Written by: Ronlad Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Jon Povill
Based on: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Ronny Cox, Mel Johnson Jr., Marshall Bell, Roy Brocksmith, Ray Baker, Michael Champion, Rosemary Dunsmore, Robert Costanzo, Marc Alaimo, Dean Norris, Debbie Lee Carrington, Lycia Naff

Carolco Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“Sorry, Quaid. Your whole life is just a dream.” – Lori

Paul Verhoeven has made some of the most iconic and entertaining sci-fi action movies of all-time and Total Recall is no different. While I don’t put it on the same level as RoboCop, a near masterpiece, or Starship Troopers, it is still a fun, badass, sci-fi action flick that stars one of the top action stars to ever walk on Earth (or Mars for that matter).

The film is a very loose adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, but then so were most of the earlier films based on his work.

In this, we see an average guy go to a company that has the technology to enter his brain and send it on a vacation, tailor-made to his personal preferences. However, things suddenly go nuts and we’re taken on a journey where we never really know if what we’re seeing is a dream or reality. While there are clues sprinkled into the film, unintentional or not, it’s still left pretty ambiguous.

Honestly, I don’t care if it’s a dream or not, I just like rolling with the movie and letting it play out, regardless of what the truth is. And frankly, I’m not going to devote much time to over-analyzing the hell out of it like other people have done for decades. There are much better, smarter films to ponder the mysteries of.

Anyway, this is a well cast picture with a lot of people that were either stellar character actors or people just on the verge of breaking out like Sharon Stone.

Additionally, the special effects were really good, especially for this coming out just before the CGI-boom. The effects were best in regards to the animatronic and physical model work. The scenes with heads about to explode in the Martian atmosphere, as well as the mutant effects, were top notch stuff for the time.

In fact, this was one of the most expensive films of its day, as far as production costs went. It’s uncertain if it broke the record or not but it was definitely in the running.

However, the weird thing about that, is I thought the sets looked pretty cheap and generic. I’m not trying to knock them but the Martian city stuff looked weak. This isn’t just me seeing it through 2020 eyes, I actually felt this way when I saw it as an eleven year-old kid in 1990.

Now the sets aren’t terrible, they just aren’t impressive or very creative. I felt like more money definitely went into the animatronic effects and that they tried to trim some of the budgetary fat by making the world these characters inhabit a little too basic.

Also, I think that the lighting didn’t help the sets either, as everything was lit really, really well. Even the scenes in the mining caves. I feel like some of the cheapness could’ve been easily obscured with more subdued lighting that felt more natural and not like these characters were on a stage or a sitcom.

Complaints aside, I still love this movie and none of the flaws really wreck it.

All in all, this was and still is an exciting film. It did really well when it came out and a sequel script, based off of Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report was written. It never got made, however, but Minority Report would eventually become a film by Steven Spielberg, who used a very different script.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Paul Verhoeven sci-fi movies, as well as other Arnold Schwarzenegger action films.

Documentary Review: In Search of the Last Action Heroes (2019)

Release Date: September, 2019
Directed by: Oliver Harper
Written by: Oliver Harper, Timon Singh
Music by: Peter Bruce
Cast: Scott Adkins, Shane Black, Ronny Cox, Steven E. de Souza, Bill Duke, Sam Firstenberg, Jenette Goldstein, Matthias Hues, Al Leong, Mark L. Lester, Sheldon Lettich, Zak Penn, Phillip Rhee, Eric Roberts, Cynthia Rothrock, Paul Verhoeven, Vernon Wells, Michael Jai White, Alex Winter, Graham Yost, various

140 Minutes

Review:

When this popped up on Prime Video, I got pretty excited. Especially, because I had just watched Henchman: The Al Leong Story and felt that ’80s action flicks needed more documentary love.

Overall, this was enjoyable and it covered a lot of ground but it also had a beefy running time. However, I felt like they jumped from movie-to-movie too quickly and nothing was really discussed in depth.

Still, this gives the viewer a good idea of how broad, vast and popular the action genre was through the ’80s and into the first half of the ’90s.

I guess the thing that I liked best was that this interviewed a lot of people that were involved in the making of these iconic films. You had actors, directors, writers and stuntmen all taking about their craft and their love for a genre that hasn’t been the same since its peak, a few decades ago.

Now this was a crowdfunded project and with that, you can only do so much. But I wish that some distributor or streaming service saw this and decided to make it much broader like a television series where episodes can focus on specific films or at the very least, spend more time on each era or topic.

Maybe someone will see this, take the bull by the horns and actually do that at some point. But this could be a solid pop culture documentary series like Netflix’s The Toys That Made Us.

For those who love the action flicks of this era, this is certainly worth checking out. Had I known about it when it was raising funds, I would’ve backed it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent historical filmmaking documentaries, most notably Henchman: The Al Leong Story and Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.

Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

Release Date: May 20th, 1987
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren, Eddie Murphy, Robert D. Wachs
Based on: characters by Danilo Bach, Daniel Petrie Jr.
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox, Jurgen Prochnow, Brigitte Nielsen, Allen Garfield, Dean Stockwell, Paul Reiser, Gilbert R. Hill, Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Ridgely, Hugh Hefner, Chris Rock, Robert Pastorelli, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Tom Bower

Eddie Murphy Productions, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rosewood and Taggart] “If you get your head out of your ass long enough”? “Kiss my ass”? You’re gettin’ more and more like me every day. Next thing you know you’re gonna have Afros… big dicks and all!” – Axel Foley

Let me start this review by saying that the first movie is a better film. However, I always enjoy watching this one more, despite its total lack of a Bronson Pinchot cameo. But I’ll explain why I like it more, as I continue on.

To start, this chapter in the franchise takes things to another level in nearly every regard.

All the characters are better here and it almost felt like the first film was there to get them comfortable in their roles before they really gelled as an ensemble. I absolutely love the chemistry between Foley, Rosewood and Taggart. They just know each other so well and they compliment one another perfectly.

I also love how these characters have evolved. Axel is still pretty reckless but he’s more mature and just comes across as a much better and more gifted detective. Rosewood has essentially become this franchise’s Eugene Tackleberry and because it’s Judge Reinhold, it makes that all the more better and funnier. Taggart has warmed up to Foley a lot more and now there is a level of respect and true friendship between them. Even though Ronny Cox is barely in this, as he spends most of the film in a coma, it’s great seeing him get to share scenes with the other guys once he’s recovered.

Additionally, I really like Brigitte Nielsen in this, which I would consider her best role after Red Sonja. But it’s like this role was specifically written for her and it highlights her strengths without exposing her weaknesses. She’s just a badass with a unique look and you actually see her as a legitimate, dangerous threat. She’s cold, calculating and just about perfect.

The other villains feel weak by comparison and without Nielsen being added to their roster, they don’t hold a candle to how solid Steven Berkoff and Jonathan Banks were in the first movie. But I should also point out that I liked Dean Stockwell in this as an evil shithead, even if he was underutilized for his talent level.

The criminal scheme in the movie starts out with a bang but as it becomes clearer, it is kind of underwhelming. But it’s also secondary to the comedic momentum of the film.

That being said, when the action happens, it’s really f’n good. The movie feels more chaotic with bigger vehicle chases, bigger shootouts, bigger weapons and having the ante upped in nearly every regard in the action sequences.

Frankly, I love this movie and the first two in the franchise are classics. The third (and final) film, not so much. But I’ll get to that one in the very near future.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.

Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Also known as: Beverly Drive (script title)
Release Date: December 1st, 1984 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Martin Brest
Written by: Daniel Petrie Jr., Danilo Bach
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Elbacher, Ronny Cox, Steven Berkoff, James Russo, Stephen Elliot, Paul Reiser, Jonathan Banks, Gilbert R. Hill, Bronson Pinchot, Damon Wayans

Eddie Murphy Productions, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“This is the cleanest and nicest police car I’ve ever been in in my life. This thing’s nicer than my apartment.” – Axel Foley

There weren’t a lot of characters cooler than Axel Foley back when I was a kid in the ’80s. Because of that, this and the second film, were always in constant rotation in my VCR.

I’ve seen this dozens of times but it’s been quite awhile since I saw it last. Having just come off of revisiting and reviewing all the Lethal Weapon films, I wanted to go back and get reacquainted with this trilogy, as well as the two 48 Hours movies. Reviews for all these Eddie Murphy action comedies will be up over the next few weeks.

Anyway, this movie holds up well and its still pretty enjoyable.

Eddie Murphy is at his absolute best in this and the film really shows how much of a star he was in his prime. About midway through the ’90s, he started to fall off and lose his touch but I’d say that’s more about the roles he chose over his talent because Beverly Hills Cop makes it pretty clear that the guy is stellar with perfect comedic timing, unlimited charm and the ability to have to be serious when the moment calls for it. This film showcases all of his strengths quite well and it is still my favorite Murphy movie.

Adding to his awesome performance is the rest of the cast, all of whom are also solid in this. I especially like Judge Reinhold, who, unfortunately, also fell off after the ’80s. Here, he is able to play the lovable and inexperienced straightman to Murphy’s fun antics. Although, Reinhold does get in on the fun too and frankly, Murphy and Reinhold have great chemistry and it’s that chemistry that makes these movies so good.

John Ashton and Ronny Cox are perfect in their roles and with Cox, it’s really great seeing him play an honest good guy because he’s such a great asshole when he wants to be. I love this version of Ronny Cox even though his performance as Dick Jones in RoboCop gave us one of the best movie villains of the ’80s.

The picture also benefits from an incredible ’80s pop soundtrack, as well as one of the best instrumental scores of its era.

This is action packed, hilarious, doesn’t take itself too seriously but delivers in everything it set out to do.

Overall, this movie is just a lot of fun and it should brighten any bad day because Murphy, at his absolute best, is amusing, entertaining, exciting and a real pleasure to watch. And this is, certainly, one of his best.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.

Film Review: The Car (1977)

Also known as: Wheels (working title)
Release Date: May 13th, 1977
Directed by: Elliot Silverstein
Written by: Michael Butler, Dennis Shryack, Lane Slate
Music by: Leonard Rosenman
Cast: James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Elizabeth Thompson, Ronny Cox, R.G. Armstrong

Universal Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“[addressing his officers] So look… I want everybody out on the streets. I want you to remember… a young man was killed today, passing through our town… and I don’t like it… I don’t like it at all. Goodbye.” – Everett

The Car is my favorite killer vehicle movie, as it just beats out Steven Spielberg’s early film, Duel. However, unlike Duel, this one has more in common with Christine and Maximum Overdrive in that it features a vehicle without a driver.

What I really like about the film is that it’s a mystery as to who or what is behind the wheel and by the end of it, it’s still unclear other than a demonic face appearing briefly within the smoke of the vehicle’s flaming wreckage.

This is a pretty badass movie, as the meanest looking car of all killer cars mows people down without any hesitation.

Now the only real negative about the film is that there isn’t any blood or even the slightest bit of gore. This is a horror film from the late ’70s, man! Take the kid gloves off and show us some vehicular splatter porn!

I guess that the televised version of this film was heavily edited down but I’m not sure why it needed to be? This is practically PG in how it alludes to violence and doesn’t show anyone actually getting the Gallagher watermelon treatment.

What makes this better than it should be is the fact that the car looks so damn menacing. Plus, it moves like a real predator because whoever was driving it and orchestrating how its movements needed to work within key shots and scenes knew exactly what the hell they were doing.

Sure, there are some cheesy and goofy bits, like the car barrel rolling over two cop cars and the weird French horn toting pothead in the beginning but that stuff works within the framework and tone of the picture.

The character development is also good and no one really seems disposable other than the two bicycle teens that meet their terrible fate in the opening sequence.

The Car introduces you to several characters and it does a superb job of giving them life, even with limited time. For instance, the cop who dies early on didn’t have much screen time but his death hits you in the feels because even with just two small scenes, he was shown to be a good, honorable man.

Additionally, Kathleen Lloyd’s death was a real punch in the nuts. She came off as really likable and she’s definitely one of the people you hoped would survive to the end. Sure, she talked shit to the demon car and some of her disses were corny but it really humanized her and showed her strength as she stood strong against a lethal predator despite showing that she knew she was vulnerable and was very frightened underneath it all. Her death is one of the coolest scenes in the movie though.

James Brolin, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong were all very good too. I’ve never seen Cox play a character that came off as kind of dopey and weak and it’s a real departure from his role as Dick Jones in RoboCop or as the police captain in the Beverly Hills Cop film series.

When I saw this for the first time, I was surprised by how good the main players in this film were. Especially for a late ’70s horror picture that seems like it’s mostly forgotten today.

I also dig the score to this film. The opening credits were eerie and ominous as hell, as they truly set the tone for something dark and brooding.

In a lot of ways, this film reminds me of Jaws, as a killer force of nature descends upon a small, quiet town and starts picking off its citizens one by one until it dies in a explosion caused by the town’s brave sheriff.

The Car is damn good. And it’s just one of those films that I can watch over and over and never get bored with it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other killer vehicle movies: Duel, Christine, Maximum Overdrive, etc.

Film Review: Captain America (1990)

Release Date: December 14th, 1990 (UK)
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Written by: Stephen Tolkin, Lawrence Block
Based on: Captain America by Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Music by: Barry Goldberg
Cast: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Francesca Neri, Michael Nouri

21st Century Film Corporation, Marvel Enterprises, Jadran Film, 97 Minutes, 124 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Assassination isn’t worth the trouble. It took me two years to find Sirhan. Three to find Oswald. The King job alone cost me over twenty million dollars. What do we get for our pains? Saints. Martyrs to the cause.” – Red Skull

Somehow this attracted the talents of Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty and Darren McGavin. Although, I’m not sure why. There couldn’t have been much money for them to make and had they read the script, they probably would have ran away. I mean, I can only assume that they didn’t read the script.

This movie has a terrible reputation and it is very apparent pretty much immediately, as to why. At the same time, it’s not that bad and is almost enjoyable for its cheesiness and its lighthearted, playful nature.

It is very clear that Marvel had no idea on how to make movies with their characters at this point in history. Granted, it’s not Marvel’s fault, as they didn’t have the control they have in modern times and they were just selling off the film rights to their key characters in an effort to stay financially afloat. But this was produced by one half of the duo behind Cannon Films and yet it didn’t even come close to matching their action pictures in quality, gravitas or fun.

Matt Salinger looked the part for Captain America but he wasn’t qualified for the role. Really, no one in the cast was qualified to do anything other than the three actors I mentioned in this review’s first sentence.

Red Skull at least looked cool when he was actually Red Skull. However, for the majority of the movie, he is just a scarred up looking Italian mobster guy. This film also has his daughter, known as Sin in the comics, but she is a poor version of the character that doesn’t amount to much.

The story is hard to follow but mostly just because it’s boring and paying attention is hard to do with this movie, as I’d rather mindlessly scroll social media feeds on my smart phone than try to stay locked on this picture.

I can’t say that this is as bad as Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four movie from 1994 but this makes the 1989 Punisher movie look like the 2004 Punisher movie.

This isn’t a film worth watching unless you enjoy torturing yourself or you love Captain America so much that you’ve tattooed his entire costume under your street clothes.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other terrible early Marvel films like 1994’s Fantastic Four and 1989’s The Punisher but at least that one was much better than this. Also, the ’70s Captain America live action stuff and The Incredible Hulk TV movies.

Film Review: RoboCop (1987)

Also known as: Robocop: The Future of Law Enforcement (script title)
Release Date: July 17th, 1987
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven, Monte Hellman (uncredited second-unit director)
Written by: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, Robert DoQui, Felton Perry

Orion Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!” – RoboCop

I put off reviewing RoboCop for a long time on this site because it’s one of my all-time favorite movies and I wanted to save it for a rainy day. Well, the day wasn’t rainy but I was suffering from my almost annual mini cold that all the snowbirds bring down to Florida every January.

It is hard for me to talk about this film and not get overly excited about it, which certainly gives me a strong bias towards it and also taps into nostalgia and the possibility that I can’t be as objective, as I don’t care about a single flaw in the movie. But there really aren’t many, to be honest, and this was absolutely one of the best action movies of the ’80s and really, it’s better than almost every action movie now, 32 years later.

This is a film that just has the right kind of magic. It is lightning in a bottle and even though I like the first sequel, that film doesn’t come close to what director Paul Verhoeven did here. Plus, the script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner was absolutely superb. But the one thing that really brings everything together is the stupendous score by Basil Poledouris. His work on the Conan films and its themes were wonderful. Poledouris worked his musical magic again and gave RoboCop one of the best themes of all-time and the score is pretty incredible, overall. They just don’t quite make movie music this good anymore and without it, I don’t know if the movie has the same sort of energy and spirit.

All of those elements I just mentioned, created a film where the tone was perfect for the story that they needed to tell. And all of these solid pieces coming together so well still doesn’t account for how great the cast was. I mean, RoboCop truly is a perfect storm of badass sci-fi action.

Peter Weller is RoboCop and it will always be the role he is most remembered for but he has such a long and rich career of amazing performances that it isn’t hard to understand how he was so good in this and how he gave a robotic character a real sense of humanity. You feel his emotion, his pain and it is impossible to not root for Alex Murphy a.k.a. RoboCop.

The villains in this were so damn good though. They were kind of terrifying to me, as a kid, but the impact of who and what they are is still strong and it isn’t lost in a film where there is some of that famous ’80s movie cheese. The bad guys are well written with strong dialogue but they were also well cast between Kurtwood Smith, who steals the show, Ronny Cox, Ray Wise and even Miguel Ferrer, who isn’t specifically a villain but he is a reckless yuppie piece of shit.

I love Dan O’Herlihy in just about everything I’ve seen him in. He was creepy as hell as the villain in Halloween III and on the flip side of the coin, he was absolutely lovable as Grig, the alien co-pilot in The Last Starfighter. This is my favorite role he’s ever played, however. He was great as the old man running OCP, the corporation that pretty much owns all of Detroit. I also love that he continued to play the role after this film.

RoboCop birthed a franchise. While no other movie in the series has lived up to this one, which is a really tall order, it still spawned comic books, video games, a cartoon, action figures, sequels, a live action TV show, TV movies and a remake nearly three decades later. In fact, there is another RoboCop film in development now.

Many ’80s films don’t age well and while this is very much an ’80s motion picture, it doesn’t feel dated in quite the same way as other similar films from the time. RoboCop doesn’t have a dull moment and none of it slows down, it’s just balls out action and super violence of the highest caliber. Even critics love it and this is the type of thing that critics loathe.

If you’ve never seen this film, you’ve done yourself a disservice.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the RoboCop sequels and the first two Terminator movies.

Film Review: The Beast Within (1982)

Release Date: February 12th, 1982
Directed by: Philippe Mora
Written by: Tom Holland, Danilo Bach (uncredited)
Based on: The Beast Within by Edward Levy
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Don Gordon, R.G. Armstrong, Meshach Taylor, Logan Ramsey

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Oral sodomy?… Well, that’s why it’s a small town… Yeah, we’ll look into it. Thank you for calling.” – Sheriff Pool

The Beast Within is what happens when someone says, “You know what would be cool? A werewolf movie but instead of a wolf, the guy turns into a cicada!” I guess, just think about the Cronenberg remake of The Fly but nowhere near as good or as cool. And certainly not featuring an awesome level of Jeff Goldblum.

However, I do have to give the film props on one thing, the transformation scene at the end is absolutely friggin’ horrifying and a great use of practical effects. Also, it is really drawn out and doesn’t try to throw in quick cuts to hide its imperfections. It is a stellar sequence that was put together by the filmmakers and still holds up well.

Also, the film’s music was made by Les Baxter, who was a pioneer of exotica music and is mostly known for easy-listening tunes. His score here is a stark contrast to his norm. It is uneasy and chaotic but in a great way.

The film itself isn’t that bad, actually. The story is a bit slow and drawn out but at ninety minutes, I can’t really complain. At least I was entertained by R.G. Armstrong, a guy I’ve always liked, and Ronny Cox, most famous as the evil Dick Jones from Robocop.

The story starts with a woman being raped by a were-cicada. She gets pregnant, has a baby and her and Ronny Cox raise it as their own. When the kid grows to be a teenager, he starts to exhibit weird behavior. The kid is the son of the were-cicada and we discover a small town conspiracy to keep a wraps on this were-cicada stuff.

It’s a strange tale and incredibly dark and while it can actually get drab, at certain points in the film, the high points make up for it. It is just a movie suffering from multiple personality disorder. The pacing is bad, the narrative execution isn’t very good but most of the effects and scares are impressive.

The Beast Within is nowhere near as remembered as other horror films of its day but it should be respected and cherished for its practical effects, especially that awesome transformation scene that kicks off the big climax.

It also has a fantastic poster. And there is something truly unsettling about a woman getting knocked up by a bug.

Rating: 6/10