Also known as: Rum Punch (working title) Release Date: December 8th, 1997 (New York City premiere) Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Written by: Quentin Tarantino Based on:Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard Music by: various Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro, Michael Bowen, Chris Tucker, LisaGay Hamilton, Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jr., Hattie Winston, Sid Haig, Aimee Graham, Gillian Iliana Waters, Quentin Tarantino (voice, uncredited), Denise Crosby (uncredited)
Lawrence Bender Productions, A Band Apart, Miramax, 154 Minutes
“Here we go. AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.” – Ordell Robbie
Jackie Brown is probably the most underappreciated film of Quentin Tarantino’s career. It followed Pulp Fiction and it has similar vibes but it didn’t seem to connect with audiences in the same way.
I think the main reason that this didn’t win over audiences, as effectively, is because Tarantino adapted a novel, as opposed to just doing his own thing, which has been his modus operandi in every movie that he’s made apart from this one.
Elmore Leonard is a great crime writer that makes cool characters and has seen his work adapted a dozen times over. Plus, his writing style actually fits well with Tarantino’s filmmaking style. However, I think that because this was an adaptation, it was more of a straightforward, fluid story, as opposed to what Tarantino did in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, before it.
Those movies followed non-linear paths, which was kind of groundbreaking at the time for regular filmgoers. Jackie Brown was presented in a regular chronological narrative style and maybe it seemed less “cool” to people.
Whatever. I think it’s a pretty solid movie that was superbly cast, superbly directed and had a great flow and pace. Tarantino also does get a bit tricky in showing events in the film from different points of view. So he still does his own thing with how time is managed in the movie, it’s just not as prevalent as it was in his previous flicks.
Most importantly, the story in the film is really good and engages the viewer. A big reason for this is that the core characters, even the plain evil ones, are all charismatic and kind of likable. Mostly, you just find yourself pulling for Jackie, as well as Max, her accomplice and a guy that’s a bit smitten with her.
Also, as prickish as they can be, you kind of like the cop and his FBI agent partner in this. Michael Keaton and Michael Bowen were both damn good. Keaton actually plays this exact same character in 1998’s Out of Sight. That film isn’t actually a sequel to this but it kind of feels like it exists in the same universe because of Keaton revisiting the same role just a year later.
I also enjoy the scenes with any combination of Sam Jackson, Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda. The three of them played off of each other really well and had pretty nice chemistry. De Niro’s character was pretty chill and his performance was understated but he still brought a certain intensity to his character.
This is a very character driven movie. So I guess it’s great that all of these characters are interesting and that all the actors brought their A-game to this movie.
Jackie Brown is just damn good. I feel like it gets overlooked when people discuss their favorite Tarantino pictures but it’s always been one of my favorites. It fits well with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, as well as a film Tarantino wrote but didn’t direct, True Romance. Honestly, I wish he’d make films like these again.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: Quentin Tarantino’s other early crime films.
Release Date: April 8th, 2004 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Written by: Quentin Tarantino Music by: RZA, Robert Rodriguez Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, James Parks, Bo Svenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry Bishop, Sid Haig, Sonny Chiba
Super Cool ManChu, A Band Apart, Miramax, 137 Minutes
“Bitch, you don’t have a future.” – The Bride
I dropped my review of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 a week ago but I watched them back-to-back and reviewed them that way, as well. But I like to save my last review on Fridays for bigger, well-known films, so that’s why this one dropped out of sequence.
I wanted to watch these back-to-back primarily to get the full effect of the story. I’ve done that before but it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched these and I wanted to really make a day out of it due to how much I loved them when they were still fairly current films.
As I said at the end of my review for the previous film, it was a near masterpiece but it was also outdone by this movie.
I think the main reason for that, is that this one switches to more of a spaghetti western style than the Yakuza revenge flick the previous movie was. Martial arts are still alive and well in this picture, though, and it gives this a really unique feel. Also, despite the tonal differences in the films, the martial arts aspects still tie them together well and in some regards, this reminds me of the Kung-Fu television series, which oddly enough, also featured David Carradine, this film series’ primary antagonist.
I liked the spaghetti western feel because, well, I’m a big fan of that style. This was also Tarantino’s first attempt at delving into a western aesthetic and he did a tremendous job with it. Sure, this is more of a neo-western, as it is set in modern times but it kind of laid a solid foundation for him to build his skills off of in the genre. Without this, he may not have done Django Unchained or The Hateful Eight. Granted, in my opinion, this film is still superior to both of those.
Another thing that makes this the better half of the series, is that it is the culmination of everything that The Bride has set out to achieve. It’s the finale, the big final fight. But this also doesn’t give you a grand final battle. Instead, it subverts expectations in a beautiful and much more meaningful way. Unlike most modern filmmakers who like to take giant shits on well-established franchises like that never-been-laid fucknut Rian Johnson and that fart sommelier J. J. Abrams.
Anyway, the climax of the film is incredible and it has probably the best acting I’ve ever seen from David Carradine, as well as Uma Thurman. You believe that they have a lot of love between them, as well as a lot of anger and it’s fucking heartbreaking to watch, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. Adding in the fact that there’s a young child placed between them makes the final showdown emotionally tragic but more complex and serious than it otherwise would’ve been. At this point, this moves beyond just being a simple revenge story, as the hope for a real life emerges at the end of The Bride’s violent journey.
Apart from the finale, the film also subverts expectations well in how Bud dies. He’s someone else on The Bride’s hitlist but he gets the best of The Bride and actually defeats her, quite easily. He underestimates her drive, though, and she goes right back on the hunt while he feels he’s safe from her wrath. However, by the time The Bride reaches him again, there’s a pretty big twist, which pits her against Elle, the second to last name on her list.
The fight between The Bride and Elle in Bud’s mobile home is damn good and it utilizes the cramped environment exceptionally well.
In the end, this is just a great fucking motion picture and one of Tarantino’s best, hands down. It’s my favorite and even though it’s not as talked about, these days, as his other movies, it’s still the best of the lot from where I stand.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Kill Bill films, as well as other movies by Quentin Tarantino, as well as the many films this homages.
Also known as: The Quest (working title) Release Date: June 26th, 1988 (Beverly Hills premiere) Directed by: John Landis Written by: David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein, Eddie Murphy Music by: Nile Rodgers Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, John Amos, Madge Sinclair, Shari Headley, Paul Bates, Eriq La Salle, Frankie Faison, Vanessa Bell, Louie Anderson, Allison Dean, Sheila Jackson, Jake Steinfeld, Calvin Lockhart, Samuel L. Jackson, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Cuba Gooding Jr., Don Ameche (cameo), Ralph Bellamy (cameo)
Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes
“Do not alert him to my presence. I shall deal with him myself.” – King Jaffe Joffer
I’ve reviewed a lot of films lately that I know inside and out but hadn’t seen in their entirety in well over a decade. This is one of those films and after rewatching it, I realized how much I missed the good feelings that this generates, as well as how infectious Prince Akeem’s optimism is. This is really something that I hope is not lost in the sequel, which comes out in a few months.
At it’s core, this is a modern fairytale romance. While it doesn’t feature magic and mythic creatures, it does feature a great quest that sees its protagonist travel to a strange, foreign land in an effort to find treasure.
This treasure is his true love and in seeking her out, he defies his father, the King of Zamunda, as well as centuries of tradition. But in the end, love conquers all and this film conveys that message so splendidly that I feel like it’s impossible not to adore this motion picture.
Eddie Murphy is at his absolute best in this classic but his performance is maximized by Arsenio Hall, his real life best friend and a guy that plays off of him so perfectly well that it feels like they’ve been a comedy team for years when this is actually, their first movie together.
Beyond the two leads, this film is perfectly cast from top-to-bottom. It’s frankly an all-star cast that features a lot of the top black talent of the time, as well as Louie Anderson in what’s still his most memorable role.
I love the scenes with Murphy and John Amos, as well as the ones with his storyline father, James Earl Jones. Murphy holds his own alongside these legends and this is the one film where he really proves that he is the prime time talent that most assumed he was.
Also, this is the first picture where Murphy, as well as Hall, play multiple characters. This worked so well that it would go on to be a trope in several Eddie Murphy movies in the ’90s and beyond. I can only assume that many of these extra characters will also make their returns in the upcoming sequel. I hope we see the old guys from the barber shop again, even though it’d be shocking if they were still alive 33 years later.
The most important thing that needed to work in this film was the relationship that develops between Akeem and Lisa. It’s a great, simple love story and the two had dynamite chemistry and the emotion of their best scenes shined through, making this a much better picture than it really needed to be.
One thing that really jumps out, that I didn’t notice or appreciate until now, is the music. Nile Rodgers orchestrated an incredible score full of memorable pieces that make certain scenes and sequences, magical. In fact, his King Jaffe Joffer theme is so damn good it’s iconic in my book.
All in all, this is a film where everything went right and I feel as if it exceeded the expectations that even its producers had. John Landis was truly a master of ’80s comedy and this is one great example of how good of a comedic director he was.
As much as I have always loved this movie, I don’t think that I ever had the appreciation that I have for it now. It’s a pretty close to perfect romantic comedy, which is a genre I’m not a massive fan of. But when you make one so great, the genre doesn’t matter and the end result is something that far exceeds the label of “chick flick”.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as Eddie Murphy’s ’80s and early ’90s films.
Also known as: Son of Shaft (Germany) Release Date: June 14th, 2019 Directed by: Tim Story Written by: Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow Based on:Shaft by Ernest Tidyman Music by: Christopher Lennertz Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Titus Welliver, Method Man, Lauren Velez
Davis Entertainment, Khalabo Ink Society, Netflix, 111 Minutes
“You’re the one being misogynistic, I never even mentioned her gender! I’m an equal-opportunity ass-whooper!” – John Shaft II
I put this off for awhile, especially after revisiting the 2000 Shaft film, as I found that one to be really lackluster and not as good as my memories of it were.
However, this one was definitely better than the 2000 film and I think that had a lot to do with this installment being more comedic and lighthearted, even though it dealt with some serious stuff.
Overall, this plays more like a Bad Boys film where the buddy cop formula is played out by a father-son duo. The grandfather, the original John Shaft, joins them for the climax.
Sam Jackson is back on his A-game for this one but I’m sure it’ll rub sensitive, cancel culture Millennials the wrong way because he puts them on blast, repeatedly.
In fact, I give the filmmakers and the studio immense props for not taking the bitch route and making this an overly “woke” movie and instead, allowed it to be critical of this generation’s young adults, as seen through the eyes of the older generation.
Weirdly, though, this Shaft film seems to be a lot less obsessed with race and social politics. While I like that these issues have been at the forefront of the other four films in the franchise, it was actually kind of refreshing to see these characters just be badass and not just fighting for some sort of racial injustice.
With that, though, it sort of loses the long-lasting blaxploitation vibe that the name Shaft has carried since 1971. But maybe this was trying to convey that we were starting to enter a post-racial era before 2020 happened and fucked everything up again.
For the most part, I liked everyone in this film. Jessie T. Usher’s John Shaft Jr. was annoying but his character was supposed to be, as part of the story dealt with him being kind of a pussy and overly concerned with how society sees him. He’s a “woke” Millennial that has a grudge against his uber-masculine father, who wasn’t around when he grew up.
These character traits allowed for some great criticism of his generation, though, and Sam Jackson delivers his punches without remorse or worry that his snowflake son wants to hear it or not. In a lot of ways, it felt like the writers and Tim Story, the film’s directors, were trying to send a message to the kids of today that think they’ve got the world figured out.
It also felt that it was trying to convey the importance of fathers, which Hollywood seems to hate.
Honestly, this Shaft film felt like it was really trying to be anti-“woke”.
As far as the crime story goes, it’s a bit weak but in films like this, that stuff doesn’t matter too much. This is more of a film about three generations of men coming together, in spite of their personal issues, in an effort to force justice down the throats of some shitty scumbags.
In the end, this was a better movie than I thought it could be. I don’t think it necessarily needs a sequel but I’d be much more willing to check one out if the same creative team stayed on.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: 2000’s Shaft, as well as the original ’70s Shaft trilogy.
Also known as: JP (promotional abbreviation) Release Date: June 9th, 1993 (Washington D.C. premiere) Directed by: Steven Spielberg Written by: Michael Crichton, David Koepp Based on:Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton Music by: John Williams Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, BD Wong, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Miguel Sandoval, Whit Hertford
“Yeah, but, John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” – Dr. Ian Malcom
I think it might be hard for younger people to understand the hype around Jurassic Park when it came out. For me, it came out in the summer between middle school and high school but I spent most of my eighth grade year listening to my science teacher enthusiastically rave about the novel it was based on. In fact, she offered up extra credit for those of us who read the book and did a report on it, which I did. I liked the book better, FYI.
Anyway, I think that I may have been just a hair too old for this movie to have had the same effect on me as it did younger people in my life. For those born just after the Star Wars films had their theatrical releases, this was their Star Wars. And while I liked it, quite a lot, I do feel like the movie is a bit overrated.
Now I still think it’s damn solid and a fun movie but the story seems pretty basic, overly simplistic and just there to show off what Industrial Light and Magic could do with CGI effects. In that regard, this is a masterpiece of its time and without this film, we wouldn’t have gotten anymore Star Wars films, as this was the real test that George Lucas wanted in order to see if he could make more space movies in the way that he had always envisioned.
This led to the Special EditionStar Wars movies, which I thought were cool to see but I still preferred the unaltered originals. But then those movies led to the Prequel Trilogy and a bunch of other effects heavy films to follow.
Getting back to this film, though, it kind of recycles the best animal horror elements of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws but makes the monster a bunch of dinosaurs and shifts the man-eating to land.
Overall, this is less horrific than Jaws and it isn’t really categorized as “horror” even though it very much is. But I guess marketing it as such, kind of hurts trying to sell it to the public as a family adventure movie. Now if they had put (or left) some actual gore in it, I probably would’ve dug it more as a kid but then parents would’ve been outraged and this might not have become a massive franchise.
The film is really good and probably Spielberg’s best from the ’90s, after Schindler’s List, of course.
It was well cast and the main players are all pretty great, as they created iconic roles that seem to leave a void when they aren’t included in the Jurassic movies after this one. This was, in fact, the only film to feature the Jurassic Holy Trinity of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern.
This one also feels the most special, as it was the first. It’s probably the best too but I really need to watch the second and third, as it’s been years.
Top to bottom, this is just fun, energetic, doesn’t have a dull moment and you find yourself getting lost in it. It’s a good movie to turn your brain off to and it’s still one of the greatest popcorn movies of its time.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: the other Jurassic Park/World films.
Also known as: Shaft Returns (working title) Release Date: June 16th, 2000 Directed by: John Singleton Written by: John Singleton, Shane Salerno, Richard Price Based on:Shaft by Ernest Tidyman Music by: David Arnold Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale, Dan Hedaya, Busta Rhymes, Toni Collette, Richard Roundtree, Lynne Thigpen, Pat Hingle, Mekhi Phifer, Elizabeth Banks, Gordon Parks, Andre Royo, Daniel von Bargen, Issac Hayes (uncredited), Lawrence Taylor (cameo)
Scott Rudin Productions, New Deal Productions, Paramount Pictures, 99 Minutes
“Golf is phat… Tiger Wooo, Tiger Wooo, I like him.” – Peoples Hernandez
While I did dig this when it came out in 2000, I hadn’t seen it since then. I’ve gotta say, it hasn’t aged well at all.
This film feels like a relic and it feels like it is about five years older than it is. It had more cheesy, ’90s action flavor than it did the ’70s blaxploitation aesthetic it was trying to recapture and homage.
Shaft, the 2000 version, is just a mundane, boring movie that surprisingly had a good director and an incredible cast that couldn’t keep this ship afloat. It’s a sinker and a stinker.
I guess, despite initially enjoying it, there just wasn’t enough beyond one viewing that ever really made me want to revisit this. And I only did so now because I haven’t reviewed it and also because I wanted to revisit it to re-familiarize myself with Sam Jackson’s incarnation of Shaft before watching the 2019 version, which is now streaming on HBO.
Overall, Jackson was the perfect choice for a modern Shaft. I also liked seeing Jeffrey Wright and Christian Bale in this, as the villains. However, despite the awesomeness that was Wright’s Dominican accent, everything just feels pedestrian and dry.
There are no real surprises in the film and it plays out quite sloppily. It’s a clunky story with a few subplots that all seem forced and unnecessary. In fact, the movie is overly complicated and it feels like it is more into showcasing yuppie racism than it is at telling a good plot or making you care about any of the characters in any way that is deeper than just surface level. It certainly needs more character development than plot layers. The movie gets lost within itself and if you don’t care about anyone, what’s the point?
It’s not a poorly acted film but it is poorly written and directed. John Singleton has proved, specifically before this, that he is capable of so much more.
I guess this is okay if you go into it as just a mindless 99 minute action romp but it’s nowhere near as cool as it thinks it is and it pales in comparison to the original film it wanted so hard to be.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: the other films in the Shaft franchise, as well as late ’90s/’00s Samuel Jackson action movies.
Also known as: Exorcist III: Legion, The Exorcist: 1990 (working titles), Legion (alternative title), William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist III (complete title) Release Date: August 17th, 1990 Directed by: William Peter Blatty Written by: William Peter Blatty Based on:Legion by William Peter Blatty Music by: Barry De Vorzon Cast: George C. Scott, Ed Flanders, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson, Brad Dourif, Harry Carey Jr., Tyra Ferrell, Samuel L. Jackson, C. Everett Koop, Larry King, Patrick Ewing, Fabio, Colleen Dewhurst (voice)
Morgan Creek Entertainment, 110 Minutes, 105 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
“You again. You’ve interrupted me. Well… come in, Father Morning. Enter, knight. This time you’re going to lose.” – Patient X
I used to think that my take on The Exorcist III was a weird one, as I always found it to be scarier and creepier than the original. In fact, the original film, even as a kid, didn’t really scare me like it apparently scared the absolute shit out of everyone else.
For whatever reason, this one just scared the fucking bejesus out of me.
In recent years, however, I’ve come to discover that many people feel the same way I do about it, as it sort of hit them in their psyche in a similar way. Maybe that’s a generational thing and this one just seems to resonate more with Generation-X where the first film resonated much more with the Baby Boomers.
Now I do think that the 1973 original is a better motion picture, overall, but that’s mainly due to the narrative flaws of this picture, which probably stemmed from the issues between the director and the studio.
To start, the original Exorcist author William Peter Blatty was hired to direct this third film. He was tasked with adapting his novel Legion. The studio wanted him to rework it into their Exorcist film canon, which means that one should just ignore the insane second movie.
Anyway, the story was reworked and Blatty wanted to just make a Legion movie that stood on its own but the two parties worked out a happy compromise, which was this picture. Granted, it probably wasn’t too happy in the end, as it’s not really what either party wanted and it failed to produce the financial results they were hoping for. However, it’s definitely made back its money over the years, as it became sort of a cult favorite once it was on video.
I think that all the production shenanigans are why the narrative is so shaky and a bit all over the place. Regardless of that, however, it isn’t that difficult to follow and the acting by George C. Scott and Brad Dourif is incredible. In fact, this is probably the greatest performance of Dourif’s storied career despite it not being critically recognized as much as his performances in Mississippi Burning and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
While the film’s pace may be a bit slow, the pacing works well where it counts. I have to give immense props to Blatty for creating one of the greatest jump scare scenes in motion picture history because even though I’ve seen it a half dozen times and know it’s coming, it is still damn effective and gives me chills for days after watching the film.
Also, all the other creepy shit still works and this is a film that has aged really well, as it had to rely on practical effects, as opposed to CGI bullshit that takes you out of the picture. The scene with the possessed nurse on the ceiling just couldn’t work in the same way with modern film technology.
The Exorcist III is not a masterpiece but it is a film that maybe could have been if the director was able to just make the film he intended. While flawed, the high points of the film certainly make up for the low ones and the creepiness of it will linger with you for awhile after you’ve seen it.
Rating: 8.75/10 Pairs well with: the first Exorcist movie, as well as The Changeling.
Also known as: National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (complete title) Release Date: February 5th, 1993 Directed by: Gene Quintano Written by: Don Holley, Gene Quintano, Tori Tellem Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson, Kathy Ireland, Frank McRae, Tim Curry, William Shatner, Jon Lovitz, Lance Kinsey, Denis Leary, F. Murray Abraham, Danielle Nicolet, Beverly Johnson, Ken Ober, Bill Nunn, Lin Shaye, James Doohan, Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Corey Feldman, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Gleason, Phil Hartman, Richard Moll, J. T. Walsh, Rick Ducommun, Vito Scotti, Charles Napier, Charles Cyphers, Denise Richards, Allyce Beasley, Joyce Brothers, Charlie Sheen, Robert Shaye, Chirstopher Lambert (deleted scene), Bruce Willis (uncredited)
National Lampoon, 3 Arts Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 84 Minutes
“Nice weather? You think we’re having… nice weather? I guess you didn’t lose the only one that meant anything in your life. I guess you don’t feel burned out by the human misery and despair perpetrated by the criminal vermin that infest every pore of this decaying city, forcing you to guzzle cheap wine and cheaper whiskey to dull the pain that shatters your heart, rips at your soul, and keeps your days forever gray. What flavor Icee you got today?” – Colt
Regular readers of this site probably already know that I’m not a big fan of parody movies outside of Mel Brooks’ work. However, ever now and again, I discover a parody film that is actually quite good.
I never saw National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 because I didn’t have much interest, even when it came out in 1993 and I was a huge Lethal Weapon fan. These films tend to be predictable, lame and lowest common denominator humor. While this is pretty low brow and a bit predictable, it wasn’t lame and it was actually really well done and executed.
I think this stands above other films like it because it has a really solid cast with several heavy-hitters that just commit to the material so convincingly, it makes everything work. You buy into the goofy jokes and the absurdity of it all and frankly, Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson had good chemistry. I wouldn’t say that it was on the level of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover but they played off of each other nicely and looked like they were having a blast playing these characters.
WIlliam Shatner and Tim Curry were both enjoyable as villain characters. Shatner went into this with no fucks given and it just made his performance that much more entertaining. I loved his accent, his facial expressions and the guy isn’t just a sci-fi legend, he’s a master of comedic timing.
This ridiculous film is just a lot of fun. If you like buddy action films and have a sense of humor, you’ll probably dig this.
Rating: 6.75/10 Pairs well with: the Lethal Weapon films and the dozen other movies this parodies, as well as other parody films of the time.
Also known as: Die Hard 3, Die Hard: New York, Simon Says (working titles) Release Date: May 15th, 1995 (New York City premiere) Directed by: John McTiernan Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh Based on:Simon Says by Jonathan Hensleigh, characters by Roderick Thorp Music by: Michael Kamen Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Larry Bryggman, Sam Phillips
Cinergi Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, 128 Minutes
“Yippie-kai-yay motherfucker.” – John McClane
The original trilogy of Die Hard films might be the greatest trio of action films ever made. While the solid Die Hard brand would become diluted with sequels, over a dozen years later, this third (and once final) film closes out the trilogy with a fucking bang!
This also teams up Bruce Willis with Samuel Jackson, one of the actors he has worked best with over the years due to their chemistry and both men’s energy and charisma. The film also pits them against Jeremy Irons in one of the greatest roles he’s ever played, as the terrorist brother of the first film’s Hans Gruber (played by the great, late Alan Rickman).
Irons’ Simon Gruber isn’t just looking for revenge on Willis’ John McClane, he is also using the opportunity to steal the gold from New York City’s branch of the Federal Reserve. There are a lot of layers to the plot but this film does a great job of telling its story, slowly revealing new layers and twists as it rolls on and escalates from scene-to-scene.
This calls back to the first film, a legitimate masterpiece of the action genre. But it doesn’t just do that by using a villain that is the brother of the original film’s, it also brings back that film’s director, John McTiernan. For those that don’t know, McTiernan is the heavyweight champion of cinematic action storytelling between his two Die Hard films, Predator, The Hunt for Red October and Last Action Hero, which has been unfairly crapped on since it came out. Maybe I’m in the minority but I love that film. We should all ignore his Rollerball remake though.
Anyway, this film is literally a non-stop action bonanza that is able to balance those sequences with a good, layered plot that isn’t predictable and provides some real surprises.
Setting this in the middle of New York City also propels it to a new level of scale when compared to the two films before it. The entire island of Manhattan is the playground for the movie’s villain and it’s incredible watching John McClane and Zeus Carver constantly race against time, rushing from location to location in an effort to prevent as much collateral damage as possible. And the whole time, the game is a ruse to cover up what the criminal’s real plan is. Furthermore, his plan also doesn’t align with all of his allies and that just leads to another great plot shift.
This is a superb movie on every level. While it isn’t on the same level of perfection as the first, it’s pretty damn close and it should satisfy those who have loved other chapters in this five film series. But I would say that this is the last of the great ones.
I’ll review the final two in the near future, as I haven’t seen four since it came out and I’ve never actually seen the fifth in its entirety.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Die Hard movies, as well as other Bruce Willis action films of the era.
Release Date: December 16th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow Based on: characters by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Harrison Ford (uncredited), Billie Lourd, Greg Grunberg, Dominic Monaghan, Warwick Davis, Denis Lawson, Jeff Garlin, Kevin Smith, James Earl Jones (vocal cameo), Andy Serkis (vocal cameo), Ewan McGregor (vocal cameo), Alec Guinness (vocal cameo), Hayden Christensen (vocal cameo), Ashley Eckstein (vocal cameo), Freddie Prinze Jr. (vocal cameo), Olivia d’Abo (vocal cameo), Frank Oz (vocal cameo), Liam Neeson (vocal cameo), Jennifer Hale (vocal cameo), Samuel L. Jackson (vocal cameo), Angelique Perrin (vocal cameo)
Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm, Bad Robot, 142 Minutes
*There be spoilers here!
“We had each other. That’s how we won.” – Lando Calrissian
Congratulations, Disney and Lucasfilm. You finally broke me to the point that I didn’t have the urge to see a Star Wars movie in the theater. Nope, I waited on this one because the previous few movies left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to sit in a crowded theater with a bunch of normies clapping like seals every time there was a weak attempt at a cameo or minor victory. Also, people have been ruining the theater experience for awhile, so this film had that working against it already.
Now I figured I’d go see it once the buzz calmed down and the theaters cleared out a few weeks later but even then, it just wasn’t worth the trip or the money for me to make the effort.
Well, I finally watched it now that it’s available to rent and because this COVID-19 bullshit has us all trapped in our houses with nothing to do.
Anyway, as much as I anticipated not liking this, it was the best film of the three from the Disney produced Sequel Trilogy. Some of the more angry fans out there may think that’s crazy of me to say but I respect the effort of J.J. Abrams trying to fix the abortion that Rian Johnson created with The Last Jedi, especially with the weak skill set that Abrams has.
Honestly, they should have called this Star Wars: Episode IX – MacGuffins and Mystery Boxes but I guess that would require Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bob Iger, Disney and Lucasfilm to actually understand humility and that they aren’t the great storytellers that they think they are.
Now this movie had a lot of weird shit that made certain sequences hard to get through. If I’m being honest, there aren’t really any sequences that didn’t have issues. I’ll list out some of my gripes from memory at the end of the main part of this review, as I did for some of my other Disney Star Wars reviews.
If I’m going to talk about what I liked about this film, I guess it’s that it tried really hard to give good fan service. Not so much, soulless, cheap attempts at winning me back but more like an admission that the series fucked up with the previous Rian Johnson stinker and that Abrams felt sorry and embarrassed that his larger vision for this trilogy was skull fucked in the eye by Johnson.
Rian Johnson cared more about his own ego and career than being the trusted custodian of something much larger than himself, which was created by others who were a lot more talented than he will ever be. If that’s harsh, I don’t care. Johnson didn’t care about the responsibility he signed up for, so he can deal with the repercussions of that from the fans who felt betrayed by his piss pigeon performance.
I’m glad that J.J. Abrams kicked Johnson in the nuts though. And his disdain for Johnson’s wreckage was made abundantly clear in the short scene where Luke returns, stops Rey from throwing her lightsaber away and states, “I was wrong.” Then he goes on to tell her what we all needed him to tell her in the previous film. For Luke Skywalker and Mark Hamill’s sake, I’m glad that the character didn’t go out like a weak piece of shit and was somewhat salvaged.
While on the subject of Rey, though, I still don’t understand how she is just simply the best at everything. She has an insanely weak character arc, hasn’t had anywhere near the level of adversity that Luke and Anakin had and you barely see her train at all and then she can barely deal with a fucking tiny laser drone. It’s like these modern filmmakers don’t think beyond what looks cool on the screen in a shot.
Anyway, this movie is a mess, narratively speaking. It’s really two movies wedged into one, as Abrams had to try and course correct while also coming up with a satisfying ending. That being said, he does okay in trying to achieve this but maybe this should have been longer or released as two parts. But I guess he is stuck with the numbering system and being tight within the framework of a trilogy.
Unfortunately, while we do get to see the main three characters spend some time together, it is hard to buy into their bond, as they spent the first two movies apart. I want to believe in it and I actually like the actors but this is something that needed to be done in every film. This is why people love the trinity of Luke, Leia and Han so much. But for whatever reason, Abrams, Kennedy and Iger don’t understand what worked about previous Star Wars films.
As much as my brain was picking things apart, I still found this to be the most palatable of the Disney Saga films. It’s hard to peg why but I think that Abrams genuinely wanted this to make up for the damage that’s been done and he did put his heart into it. But that also doesn’t mean that he was the right guy for the job way back when they announced him for The Force Awakens. He wasn’t and I had reservations about it back then.
In the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever watch any of these films again. If I do, it won’t be for a very long time. Maybe they’ll work better as a larger body of work but I doubt it with Rian Johnson’s big lame turd sitting smack in the middle of it. Honestly, it’s like a cat jumped on the table, took a shit in the middle of a mediocre pizza and you just decided to eat around it.
Assorted notes and gripes:
Watching the film, I was bombarded with a lot of WTF moments, these are the ones I remember. Maybe I should’ve taken notes.
-The opening crawl, immediately revealing Palpatine’s “resurrection” was cringe and the worst written opening crawl in the franchise.
-Who the fuck is manning all of Palpatine’s Star Destroyers?
-Why would the Star Destroyers break through thick ice to reveal themselves? There are hundreds of them and this seems like it would cause a lot of damage? And they’re already on a very hidden planet to begin with.
-Since Palpatine’s appearance isn’t explained but cloning is implied, am I just to assume that there’s only one Palpatine and not like 364?
-Lightspeed skipping? Really? And they land safely within a different planet’s atmosphere with every skip? Really? I’m no astrophysicist but I’d assume a planet’s atmosphere is a small percentage of a planet’s total structure and that planets themselves take up an insanely small amount of actual space in the universe, as a whole.
-“Hey Rose… you coming on the mission?” “Nah… I’m good, bro!”
-The group goes to outer space Burning Man… really?
-Don’t get me started on the jetpack trooper scene. That’s a clusterfuck of cringe and stupidity.
-I’m alright with the healing power but shouldn’t it drain Rey, even just a little bit. I mean, it fucking kills Kylo like two hours later.
-The Rey v. Kylo’s TIE Fighter scene was absolutely, unequivocally stupid. Just crush that shit with the Force, hoe!
-I guess Abrams views Droids as abused house pets.
-Gurl 1: “Not that you care but I think you’re okay.” Gurl 2: “I care.” Girl power! No lesbian kiss.
-So did C-3PO have red LED lights installed this whole time? Where were they when he was attempting to murder Jedi in Attack of the Clones?
-Rey doesn’t feel Chewie “die” on a ship that’s right in front of her. But then Rey feels that Chewie is alive when he’s much further away.
-Where’s Phasma? Is she really dead now? I thought she was Star Wars‘ version of Kenny from South Park.
-Are the Knights of Ren just laser sword thugs who don’t actually answer to Kylo Ren? Sith in training? Palpatine super soldiers? What the fuck are they?
-How does a billion year-old dagger line up with the wreckage of a Death Star that was built well after the dagger. And how was Rey lined up at the right angle and altitude to make it work? This was just a ripoff of the medallion from The Goonies and it was just stupid.
-I’ve lost count of the number of MacGuffins. I think there were five… maybe six? Is this a G.I. Joe miniseries from 1983? Nah… those were much better written.
-Weak as fuck lightsaber duels. Maybe the weakest in the entire franchise.
-Did Leia die because she called out to Kylo or was that just a perfect timing plot convenience?
-Harrison Ford? Why?
-Luke in 30 seconds was the Luke I wanted in the previous movie.
-Rey in a tiny X-Wing had to navigate through tight, dangerous, moving space corridors to reach the Palpatine planet but the Rebels’ big ass warships simply followed her path? It’s space, can’t they fly around that shit? What about the massive fucking armada of “regular people” that just shows up conveniently to win the war?
-Also, a militia of citizens overthrows a corrupt government by force. When did Hollywood become so blatantly pro-Second Amendment? I kid, Hollywood is just stupid.
-When they’re riding horses on the deck of a Star Destroyer, why doesn’t the ship just turn fucking sideways? It would’ve ended the war. One simple maneuver.
-The teleporting physical objects Force power is another lame plot convenience.
-What’s this random fucking Force Dyad thing? Abrams still thinks he’s making up stories with his toys in the bathtub.
-If Palpatine created Anakin and Anakin created Luke and Leia and Leia created Kylo Ren, all the while Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter, isn’t their attraction kinda incest-y?
-I’d watch a Lando & Chewie in the Falcon movie.
-Why bury the lightsabers? A safe would be more secure.
-Why even take the Skywalker name and why did it take her so long to say it? Maybe because a part of her knew it was wrong to just take their name, their personal shit and Luke’s childhood home. Bitch, you ain’t in the will, that shit all goes to the state!
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: the other Disney era Star Wars movies.