Film Review: Frogs (1972)

Release Date: March 10th, 1972
Directed by: George McCowan
Written by: Robert Hutchinson, Robert Blees
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark, Adam Roarke, Judy Pace, Lynn Borden, Mae Mercer, David Gilliam

Thomas/Edwards Productions, American International Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“I still believe man is master of the world.” – Jason Crockett, “Does that mean he can’t live in harmony with the rest of it?” – Pickett Smith

After revisiting this for the first time in a few decades, I was surprised to see how many different animals this film featured. Honestly, it shouldn’t have been titled Frogs. They should’ve called it Swamp Critters or Florida On A Tuesday, as it reminded me of a regular afternoon hike in my home state.

This movie is weirdly drab, even though it’s pretty eventful and features a lot of zany deaths. I wouldn’t say it’s boring but it does feel like the filmmakers barely took this seriously and tried their best. It certainly feels like a rushed production where they had x-amount of hours to film in a Florida State Park, so everything had to be done in a few takes: perfect shots, good effects and attention to detail be damned!

Now I did enjoy a very young Sam Elliott in this and I actually forgot he was the hero of the story. His environmentalist banter with the evil capitalist played by Ray Milland was enjoyable and it was cool seeing these two legends ham it up and try to turn this shoddy production into a film with a meaningful message. There are just so many other films that tell the “science run amok on nature” story much better, though.

This had the makings of something that could’ve been much better in an era where animal horror was really popular. However, for every Jaws you get ten Night of the Lepus.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other animal horror films of the ’70s.

Film Review: Hulk (2003)

Also known as: Big Green (fake working title), The Hulk (working title)
Release Date: June 17th, 2003 (US premiere)
Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: James Schamus, Michael France, John Turman
Based on: The Incredible Hulk by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte, Cara Buono, Lou Ferrigno (cameo)

Marvel Enterprises, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Universal Pictures, 138 Minutes

Review:

“You know what scares me the most? When it happens, when it comes over me… and I totally lose control, I like it.” – Bruce Banner

I haven’t watched this since around the time that it came out and with good reason. Despite liking the cast, this was a boring dud of a film that ran on for way too long and didn’t really give us a whole lot to care about.

Which is probably why a sequel was never made and the character of the Hulk was rebooted for the Marvel Cinematic Universe just half a decade later.

I did like Eric Bana as the title character and I thought that he was a solid choice. However, the script just made him completely vanilla. And I guess I can say the same for everyone else other than Sam Elliott and Nick Nolte.

Elliott was perfect as Thunderbolt Ross. But, then again, he’s perfect in just about everything.

Nolte was also damn great and committed to the role so well, that he was the only character I truly felt anything emotional from. The character was awful, though. He was sort of like the Absorbing Man but he was a different character, altogether and his story just didn’t work for me. That’s not to say that Nolte didn’t nail the part, he did. It’s just to say that the part was pretty shit.

The story was also shit and that’s really the main issue. The script and the plot were both uninspiring and slower than a mentally handicapped snail trying to compete at Monaco.

Additionally, Ang Lee wasn’t a wise choice for the director. It was a baffling decision to me in 2003 and even more so in 2020, looking back at this green turd sandwich and being annoyed by his visual style and his failed attempts at trying to give this some sort of artistic merit, inspired by his more beautiful Hong Kong pictures.

The audience wants to see Hulk smash, not kung fu masters magically flying over bamboo forests or gay, emotionally conflicted cowboys staring at meadow grass blowing in the wind. While Lee has an action background with his Hong Kong pictures, those movies are such a vastly different style than this one. Additionally, his style of really emotional human drama is great in the right picture but it’s not necessary in something like this.

Ultimately, this felt like a weird amalgamation of all things Ang Lee mashed together in the most non-Ang Lee style of motion picture.

Other than a few performances, the only other thing I really liked were the special effects.

What sucks, is that I really wanted to like this but I knew before even seeing it that it was destined to be a strange misfire.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel movies before the MCU was established in 2008.

Film Review: Ghost Rider (2007)

Also known as: El vengador fantasma (several Spanish speaking countries)
Release Date: January 15th, 2007 (Ukraine)
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Based on: Johnny Blaze by Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue, Peter Fonda, Brett Cullen, Rebel Wilson

Relativity Media, Crystal Sky Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes, 123 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“Any man that’s got the guts to sell his soul for love has got the power to change the world. You didn’t do it for greed, you did it for the right reason. Maybe that puts God on your side. To them that makes you dangerous, makes you unpredictable. That’s the best thing you can be right now.” – Caretaker

Even though 2003’s Daredevil received pretty bad reviews, under-performed and left most moviegoers feeling disappointed, it’s director was still given the character of Ghost Rider to adapt into another live-action Marvel movie.

While I liked the Director’s Cut of Daredevil for the most part, Ghost Rider is an atrocious motion picture from top-to-bottom. Honestly, this came out when Nicolas Cage seemed to run out of gas and saw his career trending downward fast. Honestly, this and its sequel could’ve been the nail in the coffin.

This is terribly acted, except for the scenes with Sam Elliott and the minimal appearances by Peter Fonda. They can’t save the rest of the movie, however, as Cage, Eva Mendes and Wes Bentley don’t really seem to give a shit about anything. Even Donal Logue severely under-performed and he’s a guy that I tend to expect a lot from, as he’s proven, time and time again, that he’s a more than capable actor with good range and convincing performances.

The special effects can’t save the film either, as they’re generally pretty generic mid-’00s CGI shit. Hell, the villains don’t look the way they’re supposed to look and it just adds to this movie’s cheapness.

It’s a vapid, shit film, a complete waste of time and could only be upstaged in its awfulness by its even worse sequel.

I guess I’ll have to review that flaming turd soon.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other terrible comic book adaptations of the era.

Film Review: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)

Release Date: July 20th, 2018 (Canada – Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Written by: Robert D. Krzykowski
Music by: Joe Kraemer
Cast: Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Caitlin FitzGerald, Sean Bridgers, Ron Livingston, Larry Miller, Ellar Coltrane, Rizwan Manji

Epic Pictures, Title Media, 98 Minutes

Review:

“An American Myth” – tagline

Sam Elliott is one of those guys that when you see him, you think to yourself, “This is the most badass guy on all of planet Earth.” Well, this film does nothing to dispel that thought.

This was also one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Well, as far as modern motion pictures go.

The story is mostly about an older man reflecting back on his life and thinking about the things he should’ve done and how some decisions have weighed heavily on his soul. In some regard, it reminds me of another recent Sam Elliott film, The Hero, as well as one of Harry Dean Stanton’s last, Lucky.

Unlike those films, though, this movie includes the death of Adolf Hitler and Bigfoot.

However, those two events that are actually given away in the film’s title aren’t a big part of the story. Well, they are, as far as how they effect the man’s life but they are just two really cool sequences that serve as a backdrop for the film’s human drama.

Sam Elliott is one hell of an actor and this film is him at his best. But Elliott never disappoints, so I feel as if that should go without saying. But it’s not just Elliott that puts in a superb performance, the same can be said about Aidan Turner, who plays the younger version of the character, as well as Larry Miller, who I wish I could see in more dramatic roles. I mostly associate Miller with comedic performances but the guy has got chops.

Additionally, even with minimal screen time, Ron Livingston livens things up once he shows up. I have loved Livingston ever since Office Space but I feel like he’s such an underutilized actor. Like Larry Miller, it’s always nice to see Livingston’s more serious side.

When researching this film, I noticed that the ratings aren’t high for it and I guess I get that. The title might imply that this is some strange, quirky, time traveling, action adventure. It’s definitely not that, it’s something much better, actually. But character studies and dramas about old men processing a lifetime full of regret doesn’t put modern asses in seats.

But fuck those modern asses.

This is a very touching and personal film with a neat, amusing and interesting premise.

Plus it has a monster in it and I really like the unconventional approach this film took with its Sasquatch.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the recent Sam Elliott starring The Hero, as well as Lucky with Harry Dean Stanton.

TV Review: Justified (2010-2015)

Also known as: Lawman (working title)
Original Run: March 16th, 2010 – April 14th, 2015
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard
Music by: Steve Porcaro, Gangstagrass (theme)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins, Jere Burns, M.C. Gainey, Brent Sexton, William Ragsdale, Stephen Root, Margo Martindale, Brad William Henke, Neal McDonough, Stephen Tobolowsky, Scott Grimes, Jeff Fahey, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Danielle Panabaker, Amy Smart, Alicia Witt, Michael Rapaport, Patton Oswalt, Gerald McRaney, Adam Arkin

Sony Pictures Television, Rooney McP Productions, Timberman-Beverly Productions, Nemo Films, Bluebush Productions, FX, 78 Episodes, 37-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Justified was one of those shows that everyone told me to watch. I really loved Deadwood and was pissed that it ended when it did, only after three seasons and on a cliffhanger. Timothy Olyphant was fantastic in that show. When Justified came around, it seemed like the modern spiritual successor to the near perfect Deadwood. And many people went on to confirm that to me, before I even saw it.

Then I saw it.

I don’t know what it is about majority opinion and my own opinion but when it comes to television shows, they don’t seem to match up. The thing is, I hate this show. “Awful” isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Maybe there is just something about FX that is horrible because every single FX show I have ever watched, except for Always Sunny, has completely underwhelmed me and left me befuddled as to how so many people are in love with FX’s product. The network is perceived by many to be on par with the greats like HBO, Showtime and AMC. Justified is just one of a string of many shows that feels just as safe and generic as the episodic crime drama bullshit found on the big networks: CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

I also don’t know who the music director is at FX but Justified easily has the worst theme song in television history. It is eye rolling, stomach churning and just a horrendous attempt at trying to force together hip-hop and bluegrass. But FX shows have a history of having really shitty theme songs, except for Always Sunny. The Justified theme, actually makes the terrible Sons of Anarchy theme, sound like a masterpiece.

The worst part, is that I like Olyphant and even more than him, I love Walton Goggins. This show has great talent on the screen but the final product is still crap. Sure, the acting is better than average but the plot, the characters and everything else is so drab and cookie cutter.

I only made it about halfway through the third season before giving up. I rarely give up on a show. But nothing really grabbed me by that point and the consensus from the fans of the show is that the first three seasons are the best and then it falls off after that. Well, it was never really on for me to begin with so I certainly don’t want to invest another twenty-plus hours in it “falling off”.

I wish there were more westerns and even neo-westerns on TV. I just wish more were like Deadwood, Hell On Wheels and Longmire (once it went to Netflix) and less like this basic bag of bullshit.

And ultimately, it’s just made me go back and start re-watching the far superior Deadwood once again.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Sons of AnarchyBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Deadwood.

Film Review: The Hero (2017)

Release Date: January 21st, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Brett Haley
Written by: Marc Basch, Brett Haley
Music by: Keegan DeWitt
Cast: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, Katharine Ross, Ali Wong, Cameron Esposito

Northern Lights, Park Pictures, Houston King Productions, The Orchard, 93 Minutes

Review:

The Hero finally came out in a theater near me. I had anticipated seeing this since first hearing about it when it played at Sundance in January. Anything with Sam Elliott in the lead is worth checking out and the rest of the small cast is made up of people I love, so I has hoping for something exceptional.

Well, the film is not exceptional but it was still somewhat enjoyable.

The Hero is an American independent drama in its most common form. The story is lighthearted but serious, there is personal tension and everything feels genuine but is sort of cookie cutter and predictable. Unfortunately, from a narrative standpoint, there just isn’t much to sink your teeth into.

The thing that prevents the film from being a total waste is the cast. It’s as if the main character was tailor made for Elliott and it is one of his best performances of all-time, which says a great deal, but the script around his performance just isn’t there to support him.

Laura Prepon, who plays Elliott’s love interest, is also fantastic in this but her character needed a bit more and sadly, the conversations between her and Elliott weren’t as well written as they should have been. This is also the case with Elliott’s scenes with his daughter, played by Krysten Ritter, and his ex-wife, played by the great Katharine Ross. None of the dialogue really had the weight and meaning that it needed.

The high point of the film, at least for me, was seeing Elliott reunited with Nick Offerman, who played his best friend and weed dealer. Elliott and Offerman had a good and hilarious chemistry in the episodes where they appeared together on Parks and Recreation. Their friendship feels real and it is always good seeing either of these guys get a beefy role in the movies. While Offerman only appears in three or four parts, its those scenes that seem to be the best in this picture, maybe because their chemistry and real life friendship cuts through the mediocre script.

The Hero is worth a watch if you like the people in it. It just kind of sucks that they didn’t have something more intimate and well-written to play off of each other. It is a film full of great talent in front of the camera but not a project worthy of their efforts.

Rating: 6.5/10

TV Review: The Ranch (2016-2020)

Original Run: April 1st, 2016 – ????
Created by: Don Reo, Jim Patterson
Directed by: David Trainer
Written by: various
Music by: Ryeland Allison
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Debra Winger, Sam Elliott, Elisha Cuthbert, Barry Corbin, Bret Harrison, Megyn Price, Kelli Goss, Kathy Baker, Ethan Suplee, Wendie Malick, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jon Cryer, Wilmer Valderrama, Martin Mull, John Amos, Thomas F. Wilson, Debra Jo Rupp, Jim Beaver, Conchata Ferrell

Ranch Hand Productions, Netflix, 30 Episodes (thus far), 28-34 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*originally written in 2016.

Netflix has gotten crazy with their original content. It seems like nearly every week there is some new show to watch now. I feel like one of their newest efforts, The Ranch, may have slipped through the cracks for most people.

It stars That ’70s Show alum Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, which is pretty awesome as their comedic chemistry in that previous show was pretty uncanny. It also adds in the always awesome Sam Elliott, as their father, and the fantastic Debra Winger, as their mom. The cast is pretty solid but it just isn’t enough for this lackluster sitcom.

The show was created by the creators of Two and a Half Men but that was never a great series and it ran its course at least half a decade before the show actually ended. But this does re-team Kutcher with the people he worked with on that show, so it is like a happy marriage of a bunch of people Kutcher worked with on his two most famous projects. That doesn’t necessarily create a good recipe, however.

The show is mostly humorous, in a “lowest common denominator” sort of way. Granted, it does have charm and appeal. The charm isn’t immediately apparent but it grows as the show progresses. The appeal is due to the cast and the nostalgic feeling of seeing Kutcher and Masterson together. Plus, Sam Elliott, again, is always awesome and he looks to be having a lot of fun on this project.

As of now, Netflix has only released ten episodes – the first half of season one. It is enough to sink your teeth into but not enough to know if this is going to be a slow build to something better. By the end, I was mostly happy with the show but not completely sold that it wouldn’t end up being cookie cutter CBS-style sitcom bullshit. Ultimately, the characters and their relationship is what works and the comedy is just sort of there for flourish.

Update:

Having now seen 30 episodes, I feel like the show has found its footing. It isn’t fantastic but I do find myself anticipating it when I see that new episodes are about to drop.

Over the course of the three parts (as they aren’t full seasons), the show has featured more of Kutcher’s former cast mates from other shows and it also brings in a lot of other talent, whether from other classic sitcoms or from other shows and movies.

The Ranch is pretty enjoyable. It isn’t the funniest thing on television or even close to the best show. For some reason, however, it just works and it comes off as incredibly genuine and looks to be a fun show to be a part of for those involved. Their enthusiasm comes through and it makes you care about these characters.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: Draft Day (2014)

Release Date: April 7th, 2014 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Rajiv Joseph, Scott Rothman
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Sam Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews, Kevin Dunn, W. Earl Brown

Odd Lot Entertainment, Montecito Picture Company, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, 110 Minutes

draft_dayReview:

*Written in 2014.

Being that tomorrow is the real 2014 NFL Draft, I figured that I should finally get to the theater to see the film Draft Day. Being a fan of Kevin Costner and sports movies in general means that I am a really big fan of sports movies starring Kevin Costner. Plus, this film also stars Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Terry Crews, Sam Elliott and a multitude of other stars I like in addition to countless cameos. It’s also directed by Ivan Reitman, who’s work filled my youth with joy – most notably Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Twins, Stripes, Kindergarten Cop and Meatballs.

Now this is hardly Reitman’s best work and certainly not Costner’s best sports movie. That doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a worthwhile and enjoyable film. It was a fresh angle on football films and showed that the action behind the scenes is just as tough, heavy and stressful as it is on the filed, if not more so.

The film showcased the difficult job of being the general manager of a major sports franchise and the level of responsibility that comes with such a position. Kevin Costner did a great job with the material he was given and his presence added a level of respect and charisma to the role that a lesser actor wouldn’t have been able to bring.

Leary was great as the coach. I especially enjoyed the bit where he pretty much dissed the City of Cleveland for being a shithole compared to the wealthy lifestyle he had in Dallas – his previous coaching gig. Leary, along with Langella and Jennifer Garner, added some good depth to the cast. Chadwick Boseman who starred as Jackie Robinson in last year’s 42, did a good job as one of the potential draftees in the film. He was a natural fit and it was nice seeing him move on into a new role after his great performance in 42.

Overall, the film wasn’t great but it was fun and entertaining and certainly not dull or redundant. Sports films are a dime a dozen but this is one that stands a little bit above the average films in the genre. It’s no Rudy but it also isn’t The Replacements.

Rating: 6/10