Film Review: Spaceballs (1987)

Also known as: Planet Moron (working title), Spaceballs: The Video (video box title), Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (Germany)
Release Date: June 24th, 1987
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham, Thomas Meehan
Music by: John Morris
Cast: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Joan Rivers (voice), Michael Winslow, John Hurt (cameo), Jim J. Bullock, Ronny Graham, Leslie Bevis, Rudy De Luca, Dom DeLuise (voice), Stephen Tobolowsky, Robert Prescott, Rick Ducommun, Tim Russ, Tony Cox

Brooksfilms, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?” – Dark Helmet

I’ve been on a Mel Brooks kick, as of late. I’ve also been irritated with modern Star Wars shit. So I figured I’d go back and revisit Spaceballs, as it is a much better Star Wars movie than anything we’ve gotten in the last few years.

Well, it isn’t really a Star Wars film, it is a parody of the Original Trilogy, as well as some other sci-fi franchises like Star TrekAliens and Planet of the Apes, but it feels more consistent with the things I love about Star Wars than anything Disney has done, except for Rogue One.

Mel Brooks was the master of parody and he arguably lost his touch after this film but he was still on his A-game when he crafted this.

The thing that this film really has going for it is the cast. Brooks was perfect as always but it was cool seeing him ham it up with Rick Moranis and the inclusion of John Candy was great. Bill Pullman really stood front and center and carried the picture on his back. And that’s not to take anything away from the comedic actors, again, they were superb. Pullman had a certain panache and command of the screen when he was center stage and he’s really the star of the picture.

I also liked Daphne Zuniga as the princess and Joan Rivers as the voice of her robot sidekick, essentially a female C-3PO. You also have a lot of cameos and small parts for other well-known comedians and Brooks regulars, all of whom leave their mark.

This movie is hysterical if you love Brooks, Candy and Moranis. It’s certainly ’80s mainstream humor and it does feel a bit dated but it is a comedy classic in the same vein and style of Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

Plus, if you are a fan of the massive sci-fi franchises of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, then you’ll enjoy this even more.

This is a solid example of how to do a parody film, which in this day and age, seems like a lost art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the Mel Brooks classics: Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

TV Review: Californication (2007-2014)

Original Run: August 13th, 2007 – June 29th, 2014
Created by: Tom Kapinos
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Tree Adams, Tyler Bates
Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Madeleine Martin, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Madeline Zima, Stephen Tobolowsky, Bill Lewis, Judy Greer, Tim Minchin, Mädchen Amick, Ezra Miller, Justine Bateman, Peter Gallagher, Kathleen Turner, James Frain, Carla Gugino, Rob Lowe, Zoë Kravitz, Meagan Good, Rza, Maggie Grace, Michael Imperioli, Heather Graham

Totally Commercial Films, Aggressive Mediocrity, Twilight Time Films, And Then…, Showtime, 84 Episodes, 29 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I heard a lot of good things while Californication was on the air. I held off on checking it out until it was over, recently binge watching it on Netflix.

The story follows novelist Hank Moody (David Duchovny) as he tries to win back his long time baby mama Karen (Natascha McElhone) and balance a life of sex addiction, drugs, booze and his daughter (Madeleine Martin). Also, early in the series, he gets caught up in having sex with the underage daughter (Madeline Zima) of his baby mama’s new fiance. The show is accented by Hank’s manager and best friend, Charlie (Evan Handler) and his wife, Marcy (Pamela Adlon).

The show starts out really strong and each season is actually pretty good before it runs off the rails in the final season of its seven season run.

Duchovny is lovable as the childish and womanizing novelist but ultimately, he constantly does questionable things and always finds himself in trouble or making situations much worse. Sometimes, it is just the result of unforeseen circumstances but typically it is the result of a myriad of bad or careless decisions.

The constant back and forth between Hank and Karen is enjoyable for the first few seasons but it eventually grows tiresome about midway through the series’ run. Maybe that is because I binge watched it and didn’t see their relationship grow, evolve and fall apart over the course of several years time.

Hank’s daughter started out as a decent enough character but after a season or two, she becomes completely unlikable and doesn’t recognize that her father isn’t really all that bad and that despite his pitfalls has genuinely tried to put her first.

The best overall story during the run of the show was the up and down relationship of secondary characters Charlie and Marcy. They go through more real world problems and drama than Hank and Karen do and in the end, they reconnect and find each other, ending off better than they ever were throughout their tumultuous relationship. And Stu, who becomes Marcy’s husband over a season or two, was hysterical. The love triangle between Charlie, Marcy and Stu was the highlight of this entire show. And honestly, this relationship makes Hank and Karen’s look like bullshit high school level drama.

By the time I got to the end, I really didn’t care about where Hank and Karen ended up because based off of their track record, I knew it had the possibility to go in the opposite direction five minutes after the final credits rolled.

The show was pretty solid for most of its run but the final goodbye was long overdue by the time I got to the end.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Shameless, Weeds, Entourage and Aquarius.

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.

TV Review: Deadwood (2004-2006)

Original Run: March 21st, 2004 – August 27th, 2006
Created by: David Milch
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: David Schwartz
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcomson, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Sean Bridgers, Garret Dillahunt, Titus Welliver, Brent Sexton, Bree Seanna Wall, Josh Eriksson, Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Ray McKinnon, Brian Cox, Sarah Paulson, Zach Grenier, Cleo King, Stephen Tobolowsky, Richard Gant, Alice Krige, Fiona Dourif, Kristen Bell

Roscoe Productions, Red Board Productions, Paramount Television, HBO Entertainment, 36 Episodes (so far), 48-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

HBO’s Deadwood was ahead of its time. It only lasted for three seasons but luckily it stuck around that long. It also ended on sort of a cliffhanger and left you wanting to know what would happen after its final moments at the end of its stellar third season. Well, apparently HBO has announced that, ten years later, there is a movie on the way.

As for the show itself, it is really the first gritty and brutally realistic showcase of frontier life I had ever seen on television up to that point. It pulled no punches and went all out.

Now it did take some time to fall in love with. The first season moves a bit slow but by the time you get to the final episode of that season and see how the characters are changing and how they’ve evolved in a short time, it gets pretty compelling.

Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane are perfect and their relationship is one of the most dynamic in television history. This was also both men at their absolute best. While Olyphant is the first billed star, Ian McShane seems to get more actual screen time and overall, is the more interesting character.

The rest of the cast is full of several well known and great actors. And every one of these characters has a great story surrounding them. Most shows with large ensemble casts suffer from questionable quality with certain characters, as there is always someone wedged into large shows that either doesn’t fit or has an awful plot thread going on. This doesn’t happen in Deadwood. In fact, as far as a character driven drama, it has some of the best character development I have ever seen in a show. Even the characters, who at first, feel somewhat generic, end up having a lot of layers to explore.

Now the show isn’t as beautiful and as vast feeling as the AMC’s big western show Hell On Wheels but it edges it out in regards to its large ensemble cast, all of whom are more interesting and complex than most of the characters on Hell On WheelsDeadwood lacks in not being as visually epic as Hell On Wheels but it has more to sink your teeth into overall and it also takes place in a small camp and not an endless wide-open frontier. I like these shows pretty much the same but Hell On Wheels is a wee bit ahead simply because the rivalry between Bohannon and the Swede was incredible.

At the end of the day, Deadwood is one of the two best western shows I have ever seen. It is also one of the best HBO shows ever produced. It’s short run was unfortunate but the fact that this got on television to begin with is pretty awesome.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Hell On Wheels and because it shares a lot of actors with these shows, Fear the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.

Film Review: Bird On a Wire (1990)

Release Date: May 18th, 1990
Directed by: John Badham
Written by: Louis Venosta, David Seltzer
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine, Bill Duke, Joan Severance, Stephen Tobolowsky

Interscope Communications, The Badham/Cohen Group, Universal Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“You come to Detroit and you rent a Beamer? That’s like going to Germany and eating Jimmy Dean sausages!” – Rick Jarmin

I hadn’t seen this in a decade or so but I forgot how enjoyable this was until I revisited it.

I mean, it has Mel Gibson during the height of his career, coming off of the first two Lethal Weapon movies and the Mad Max trilogy. It also has Goldie Hawn who was the quintessential ’80s comedy damsel in distress archetype. You also have them being hunted by David Carradine and Bill Duke, alongside Stephen Tobolowsky, who I will always just see as Stu from Californication. I also can’t forget the small part Joan Severance has in this as a total badass.

Mel Gibson plays Rick but he has a bunch of different names because he has been bouncing around for fifteen years, as he’s under witness protection after sending David Carradine’s drug smuggling character to prison. Carradine gets out, re-teams with his old partner, played by Bill Duke, and they set out to finally take out Rick, the one man that can stop them from going back to their old ways. Rick runs into his ex-fiance Marianne, played by Hawn, and this exposes him to the bad guys. Rick and Marianne then spend the movie on the run from Carradine and Duke, as they are forced to revisit several people from Rick’s witness protection past.

The plot is pretty good, fairly believable and a nice unique narrative twist that calls back to classic noir. Although, this is not a film-noir in any way, really. It’s an ’80s style action movie with a lot of laughs.

The coolest thing about the entire film is the final showdown, which happens at an indoor zoo exhibit that features tigers, alligators, monkeys and other dangerous creatures ready to make lunch out of anyone that finds themselves in their path. I absolutely love the finale of this film and while it has a hokiness to it, it is just a badass and incredibly well shot spectacle. The sequence of Marianne running from the tigers is better choreographed than one would expect from a simple action comedy from 1990.

The other thing that makes this work so well is that Gibson and Hawn have incredible chemistry and are believable as ex-lovers that fell away from one another, only to reconnect and find the spark is still burning strong.

Bird On a Wire is a better movie than it deserves to be, honestly. That’s not a knock against the filmmakers or actors, it’s just that films like these aren’t typically this good.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Lethal Weapon 2Air America, See No Evil, Hear No EvilWildcats and Overboard

TV Review: Silicon Valley (2014- )

Original Run: April 6th, 2014 – present
Created by: Mike Judge
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Thomas Middleditch, T. J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Christopher Evan Welch, Amanda Crew, Zach Woods, Matt Ross, Suzanne Cryer, Jimmy O. Yang, Stephen Tobolowsky

Judgemental Films, Altschuler Krinsky Works, Alec Berg Inc., 3 Arts Entertainment, HBO Entertainment, 28 Episodes (so far), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Mike Judge is mostly known for his animated shows Beavis & Butt-HeadDaria and King of the Hill but when he does live-action stuff, it is still pretty darn good. Just look at Office Space and Idiocracy for examples.

Silicon Valley is almost a spiritual successor to Office Space but with a tech industry spin. It also benefits in ways that Office Space couldn’t, as that film was confined to just 90 minutes. The episodic format and now multiple seasons of Silicon Valley gives it more wiggle room and lots of different ideas can be explored in more depth. We have time to get to know our characters more intimately and the story of their company (and rival companies) is allowed to flourish in a broader way.

The cast is literally an all-star team of talent, many of whom have been on the scene for awhile but never really had the right project to shine in a long-term sense.

The cast is led by Thomas Middleditch, who had bit roles in a lot of television shows and movies but never had much time to stand out. He is backed by T.J. Miller, who would go on to be awesome in Deadpool but also worked in Cloverfield as well as a slew of other projects. Then you have Josh Brener, who I found to be hilarious in Maron but never got to see much else from him. Kumail Nanjiani may be recognized from small roles in Portlandia, as well as some commercials, but this too, is his first real long-term project. Martin Starr, who has probably had the most success, started his career in the cult classic television show Freaks & Geeks and went on to be integral to another cult show Party Down. Starr has really found the perfect role for his personality. You also have Zach Woods, who is mostly known as the unlikable character Gabe from the later seasons of The Office. Woods’ Jared is the antithesis of Gabe however, as he is one of the most likable characters on Silicon Valley. Finally, you have Amanda Crew, who should probably be featured on the show more than she has been in the first three seasons because she is great and adds a needed feminine element to the show’s male dominated cast.

The show also boasts a good supporting cast. Matt Ross is great as the dastardly villain of the series. Jimmy O. Yang is great as the Chinese roommate of the main cast. Christopher Evan Welch was enigmatic as the bizarre Peter Gregory but he unfortunately passed away during production of the first season. Chris Diamantopoulos is perfect as the douchebaggy rich guy Russ Hanneman. One of my favorite actors in any role he plays, Stephen Tobolowsky is fantastic as a short-lived CEO of the main characters’ company. Lastly, Milana Vayntrub, best known as Lilly in those AT&T commercials, plays Starr’s girlfriend in a few episodes and I wish she was in more.

The show is stellar and it is consistent throughout its first three seasons. I’m glad to see it coming back for a fourth but the show could run its course pretty soon and hopefully it doesn’t stick around longer than it should, like most successful shows these days.

Everyone is fairly likable and the contrast in personalities is what makes the show work. The show is perfectly cast, the funny look into the tech world is executed brilliantly and the balance between its lightheartedness and more dramatic parts is handled well.

Silicon Valley is one of those shows that is a perfect storm. While it isn’t a perfect show, the scale tips much more towards positives than negatives and it is hard not to care about the characters and appreciate the talent of the actors that bring the show to life.