Film Review: Animal House (1978)

Also known as: Laser Orgy Girls (original script title)
Release Date: July 27th, 1978 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, Donald Sutherland, Peter Riegert, Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill, James Widdoes, Douglas Kenney, James Daughton, Mark Metcalf, Kevin Bacon, Karen Allen, Sarah Holcomb

Stage III Productions, Oregon Film Factory, Universal Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“Christ. Seven years of college down the drain. Might as well join the fucking Peace Corps.” – Bluto

Animal House is a cult comedy that came out before I was born but was beloved by the generation slightly ahead of mine. I grew up hearing older people quote the movie constantly but I never actually saw it until the ’90s in my teen years. It’s also been that long since I’ve seen it, as although I love John Belushi, the film never hit the mark for me.

I feel like I did enjoy it more now, though, but that’s probably also because comedy is dead in the 2020s and everything in this film would be considered grossly offensive by modern snowflakes and “cancel everything” dweebs. Simply watching this felt like an act of defiance against Generation Bitch Made and everything their weak knees wobbly stand for.

Still, I can’t consider this a great movie, even if it spoke to an entire generation of slackers. However, it was never intended to be a great movie. This was made to entertain horny young folks that toked grass and drank a lot of beer. It also helped pave the way for a slew of mindless, funny films that did the same thing. Escapism is important to the human brain and National Lampoon’s Animal House provides solid escapism from your problems and your world for 109 minutes.

The film is also full of a lot of actors that would go on to have long careers, many of whom moved on to bigger and better things.

In the end, Animal House is goofy, obnoxious and reminds me of simpler times when people were still allowed to laugh and enjoy life.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other John Landis comedies, as well as the films of Ivan Reitman.

Film Review: Magnum Force (1973)

Also known as: Vigilance (working title), Magnum .44 (Spanish speaking countries), Dirty Harry II – Callahan (Germany, Austria)
Release Date: December 13th, 1973 (London premiere)
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: John Milius, Michael Cimino
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Felton Perry, Robert Urich, Kip Niven, Tim Matheson, John Mitchum, Albert Popwell, Suzanne Somers (uncredited)

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 124 Minutes

Review:

“You’re a good cop, Harry. You had a chance to join my team, but you decided to stick with the system.” – Lieutenant Briggs, “Briggs, I hate the goddamn system! But until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I’ll stick with it.” – “Dirty” Harry Callahan

Although, John Milius considered this the worst film he was involved with, I consider it to be fucking badass and a worthy sequel to the original Dirty Harry, as it builds off of some of the statements from that film and really examines how broken the justice system is from a cop’s perspective.

While this isn’t quite the classic that the original was, it is still a high octane, balls out action film with a certain kind of grit that could only exist in the 1970s.

Clint Eastwood is back as “Dirty” Harry Callahan and even though he tossed his badge in the river in the previous film, he’s back to work, crossing the line and fighting the scumfucks of San Francisco. In this film, however, the scumfucks just happen to be fellow police officers that operate like a team of Punishers.

The film is just as much a thriller as it is an action picture and it almost feels kind of noir-ish in its narrative tone, as there are swerves and twists. While you might see some surprises before the film reveals them, they’re still effective and make this an interesting story about corruption and justice.

Eastwood seems more fine tuned as Harry in this film and it’s obvious that he’s real comfortable in the role. Hal Holbrook plays opposite of Eastwood in a lot of scenes and I really enjoyed the banter between the two stupendous actors.

The film also features a young Robert Urich, as one of the dirty cops. It’s cool seeing him in this early role, as a piece of shit, especially since he typically played good, mostly moral characters as he got bigger roles and established himself as a really likable actor.

This is the longest film in the Dirty Harry franchise but there really isn’t a dull moment and time doesn’t feel like it’s wasted. This has a bulky story with a lot of layers to it but it’s easy to follow and moves at a good pace.

Ultimately, the film delivers where it needs to and the finale was really well done, as Harry has to outwit and survive the young killer cops that are determined to silence him.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

Film Review: Child’s Play (2019)

Release Date: June 18th, 2019 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Lars Klevberg
Written by: Tyler Burton Smith
Based on: Child’s Play by Don Mancini
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Mark Hamill (voice), Tim Matheson

Orion Pictures, BRON Creative, Creative Wealth Media Finance, KatzSmith Productions, United Artists, 90 Minutes

Review:

“[about to stab and mutilate Shane] This is for Tupac.” – Chucky

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have much urge to see this. I didn’t want or need a Child’s Play remake and in fact, I want the franchise to carry on with Brad Dourif as Chucky and Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany wherever Don Mancini wants to use her character. I certainly didn’t want a reboot that misses most of the point of the original film and really could’ve just taken its original ideas and made a movie where this new doll wasn’t Chucky.

After seeing the film, I don’t hate it but I also don’t really like it. It just kind of exists in this weird alternate timeline limbo in my head. The films with Dourif’s Chucky will always be my Child’s Play movies.

Sure, bringing in Mark Hamill as the new voice of Chucky was definitely a great move by the producers, as his voice work is almost always tremendous but it doesn’t make up for the lack of Dourif and the unique personality that he brings to the role. It’s like the remake for A Nightmare On Elm Street. I absolutely love Jackie Earle Haley as an actor but anyone else other than Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger is almost criminal.

It’s not just the change of voice that’s the problem though, it’s the whole “modern take” on the Chucky doll.

In the original film series, Chucky was a human serial killer that used a voodoo spell to hide his soul in a doll in order to evade death. His plan was to then transfer his soul into that of a child to start life over again, as a serial killer in a new, little kid body. I mean, that shit’s terrifying.

In this remake, Chucky is just a robot doll, no soul. He becomes a killer because a disgruntled employee in a Vietnamese factory removed the safety protocols from the Chucky doll’s A.I. chip. Really, that’s it.

I guess the scary thing is that Chucky is basically Siri in the form of a doll, as he can tap into the A.I. of every smart device made by the same Apple-like or Google-like company that manufactured him. So Chucky can control TVs, lights, cameras, automated Uber cars and all types of other shit. While that is actually a cool idea to explore, why did a neat concept like this have to be altered and crammed into a Child’s Play reboot, as opposed to just being its own, fairly original film?

Getting back to the A.I. chip thing, no manufacturer would have individuals manually put safety protocols into a chip. The chips themselves would be manufactured the way they needed to be before some Vietnamese dudes in an assembly line even touched them. The A.I. program would be copied directly to the chip at the point of the chip’s manufacture, as opposed to the doll’s manufacture.

Also, this movie must exist in the future, as we aren’t using automated robot cars as Ubers yet.

Additionally, Chucky seems to be motivated by his emotions, as he wants to be Andy’s BFF but Andy eventually rejects him after the murder spree begins. Are there real emotions there? Is it simply Chucky’s programming that makes him just simulate emotional responses? I’d probably go with the latter but even then, shouldn’t he be trying to win Andy over instead of plotting and executing the sort of revenge that will make Andy hate him? Sure, his safety protocols are gone but what does that have to do with logic?

But the core of what Chucky is, is also why this doesn’t work for me. I knew that the original Chucky was an evil human being that wanted to steal the body of a child at any cost. New Chucky is just a broken iPhone that can walk around and carry a knife. There’s no actual connection to it emotionally because it is just a broken object and not an actual force of true evil.

The film also seems to miss the point about Andy being a kid that is sort of isolated. While he starts out that way in this movie, he quickly makes friends and has a whole posse that he runs around with. In the original, Andy’s attachment to Chucky seemed more real and organic because he was a really lonely kid and because Chucky was actually a human being that knew how to pull Andy’s emotional strings.

Being an Aubrey Plaza fan, I did want to give the film an honest shot because she was in it and I’d like to think that she wouldn’t have done the film if the script was shit. While I enjoy her in this, as I do almost every role she’s played, it’s not enough to salvage the whole picture.

But I also thought that the majority of the cast was solid, despite the film being a mess.

Now the picture did give us some good horror kills with standard slasher level gore but none of the kills were great or anything all that original, except the death by robot Uber but even then, Chucky had to crawl into the car to finish the job.

Honestly, the only thing I truly thought was promising about the film was the concept of a corrupted A.I. turning a doll into a killer that could use your own devices and technology against you. The concept was ruined by having it forced into a pointless reboot instead of being its own fully realized idea that could’ve stood up proudly. But what we got was a kernel of an idea propped up by a now bastardized franchise that was once beloved.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the original, superior films.

Film Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Also known as: Jumanji 2 (alternative title)
Release Date: December 5th, 2017 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner
Based on: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Colin Hanks, Rhys Darby, Missi Pyle, Marin Hinkle, Marc Evan Jackson, Tim Matheson

Columbia Pictures, Seven Bucks Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Radar Pictures, 119 Minutes

Review:

“Why am I wearing this outfit in a jungle? Tiny, little shorts and a leather halter top. I mean, what is this?” – Ruby Roundhouse

I’ve got to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it but it delivered on what it was trying to do, which was being a funny, over the top, action-adventure movie.

The cast was pretty good.

I always like Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan, Jack Black is usually enjoyable in most things and Kevin Hart can be grating at times but he does well here, as he isn’t the focal point of the film.

Additionally, I really liked seeing Rhys Darby and Bobby Cannavale in this. I’ve loved Darby since Flight of the Conchords and Cannavale really impressed me when he joined the cast of Mr. Robot.

This is a sequel to the original Robin Williams starring Jumanji but it takes the concept and kind of modernizes it by making it a video game instead of a board game. Here, four teens are sucked into the game and they have to play out the game in a real-life simulation as their avatars, all of which are very different from their real personalities.

It’s a fun, cute movie where the teens are challenged by their situation, their avatars’ roles and having to work together to survive and free themselves from the game. It’s a good coming of age story, even if its pretty predictable and embraces some tropes and cliches.

I thought that the action was solid, the CGI effects were top notch and the environment was rich, lush and beautiful. This had a real Uncharted feel to it, which I think was the intent of the filmmakers, who went the video game route with the story and even put up an Uncharted 4 poster in one of the teen’s bedrooms.

I guess there is a sequel to this coming out in the near future. I’d probably go see it. I’m not sure what they can do to keep the concept fresh but this new take on it worked fine for this chapter in what appears to be a real franchise now.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Jumanji and Zathura.