Film Review: Jackie Brown (1997)

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

Review:

“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.

Film Review: The Meteor Man (1993)

Release Date: August 6th, 1993
Directed by: Robert Townsend
Written by: Robert Townsend
Music by: Cliff Eidelman
Cast: Robert Townsend, Marla Gibbs, Eddie Griffin, Robert Guillaume, James Earl Jones, Bill Cosby, Another Bad Creation, Luther Vandross, Sinbad, Naughty by Nature, Cypress Hill, Big Daddy Kane, Stephanie E. Williams, Roy Fegan, Frank Gorshin, Marilyn Coleman, Bobby McGee, Don Cheadle, Nancy Wilson, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Jenifer Lewis, LaWanda Page, Faizon Love, Biz Markie, John Witherspoon, Wallace Shawn, Chris Tucker (uncredited)

Tinsel Townsend, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You don’t have to vote. I’ll leave. I’m sorry about what happened to the neighborhood tonight, but I feel even sorrier watching what’s going on in this room. How can we stop the crime and the gangs if we act like we don’t see them? Everybody complains about the police. They aren’t perfect, but how can you complain when you do nothing? You don’t have to vote.” – Jefferson Reed

Meteor Man is a very ’90s movie but it’s also aged tremendously well for what it is. Additionally, it has so much heart it’s damn hard not to love. Plus, it features a large roster of legendary black actors that it’s really cool seeing them all in one place under the direction of the uber talented and then young Robert Townsend.

I love this movie, although I was a bit apprehensive in revisiting it for the first time in at least two decades, as I didn’t want my memories of it to be diminished.

I’m happy to say that I actually have a deeper appreciation for it now than I did back then when I was really impressionable and nowhere near as versed in motion picture history or the art of filmmaking.

To be real, this is a film with several flaws and it features a superhero whose powers are never clearly defined and seem to change on a whim for plot convenience. At the same time, this barely matters, as this isn’t simply a cookie cutter superhero tale, it’s something deeper with more meaning than a typical Marvel or DC adaptation. It’s also better than the vast majority of comic book movies from (and before) its era.

At its core, this examines the turmoil and effects of inner city crime on its communities. It asks when “enough is enough” and it shows good people actively trying to overcome it and clean up their neighborhoods.

Many critics in 1993 tried to make the point that the film failed because it showed that people could only make a difference with a superhero doing the bulk of the work. What the reviewers failed to see was the bigger picture or frankly, the f’n film.

Reason being, Meteor Man loses his powers and is about to be killed by the violent gang and that’s the moment where the good, scared folks of the neighborhood finally proclaim that “enough is enough” and they fight back to help save the one man that came to their rescue when he’s at his darkest hour.

The community in the film become the heroes the neighborhood needs. And while Meteor Man regains his powers for a final showdown with the film’s big villain, it’s the community again that saves the day when even bigger villains show up to finish the job. More than anything else, this is about people inspiring each other and coming together.

That being said, it’s still really damn cool that this message came together so beautifully in a film about a superhero. That also made it cooler and more universally accessible for all ages than just being a movie about a gang controlled neighborhood. We’d seen those many time before this and many of them lacked the heart and soul that Townsend put into this motion picture.

As far as I know, this is also the first black superhero film. If it’s not, please correct me in the comments.

All in all, Meteor Man is a product of its time but that doesn’t mean that its message isn’t relevant, today. It’s light, it’s fun, it’s energetic, it has character, it has love and it definitely deserves more recognition than its gotten over the years. I hope, at some point, new generations discover it and see it for what it is and not what the critics in 1993 thought it was.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert Townsend movies, as well as other ’90s superhero movies.

Film Review: Austin Powers In Goldmember (2002)

Also known as: Austin Powers 3, Austinpussy, Austin Powers: Never Say Member Again, The Next Installment of Austin Powers, The Third Installment of Austin Powers (working titles)
Release Date: July 26th, 2002
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Mike Myers, Michael McCullers
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Michael Caine, Michael York, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Mindy Sterling, Verne Troyer, Clint Howard, Rob Lowe, Fred Savage, Masi Oka, Michael McDonald, Donna D’Errico, Greg Grunberg, Kinga Philipps, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Kristen Johnston, Tom Cruise, Danny DeVito, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, John Travolta, Britney Spears, Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne, Jack Osbourne, Willie Nelson, Burt Bacharach, Nathan Lane, Katie Couric

Team Todd, Gratitude, New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes

Review:

“There are only two things I can’t stand in this world: People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures, and the Dutch.” – Nigel Powers

The third and unfortunately final film of the Austin Powers series may be the worst of the three but it’s still damn enjoyable and pretty good. Besides, all the films are fairly close in overall quality; this one just happened to be the odd one out.

That being said, this one is the most ambitious of the three pictures.

I like this movie, even if the story feels really overstuffed. There are some cool, big twists to the series’ mythos and I actually kind of loved what they did with it by the end of the film. It also ended in a way that opened up a fresh take on the franchise that would’ve been really neat to explore in another movie.

While a fourth film has been rumored since this one came out, I don’t see how you could even do it now in our overly sensitive, always offended modern world. Comedy is truly dead in the 2020s and anything they could make, would be an unfunny, mittens wearing, faded Xerox copy of the original three flicks. No thanks.

Anyway, I think what I liked most about this was the inclusion of Michael Caine as Austin’s father. He was so enjoyable in this that I wish they would’ve debuted his character earlier so that we could’ve got him in more than just one picture.

Mike Myers also ups the ante, as he now plays not just Austin, Dr. Evil and Fat Bastard but also a new villain, Goldmember.

Heather Graham is gone, unfortunately, but Beyonce was decent as the new female partner for Austin. They didn’t really seem to give the two a romantic plot, though, which kind of felt weird, as Austin, in spite of his ugliness, is a chick magnet of incalculable levels.

As I said, this is the worst movie of the three but it’s still a good send off for these characters and their story, assuming we never get a fourth film.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the other Austin Powers films and other ’60s styled spy spoofs like the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies and the original Casino Royale.

Film Review: The Dark Knight (2008)

Also known as: Batman Begins 2 (working title), Rory’s First Kiss, Winter Green (fake working titles)
Release Date: July 14th, 2008 (Buenos Aires & New York City premieres)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy, Nestor Carbonell, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Ritchie Coster, Michael Jai White, Colin McFarlane, Tom “Tiny” Lister, William Fichtner, David Dastmalchian

DC Comics, Syncopy, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 152 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t talk like one of them. You’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you. When the chips are down, these… these civilized people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” – The Joker

I was a bit apprehensive about revisiting this for the first time in a long time. The reason being, is that I remembered it as being perfect and it was the movie I saw in the theater more times than any other. But with so much time passing, I had worried that my take on it now could have soured a bit.

I’m glad to say that it didn’t, as this is still a masterpiece of crime fiction and social commentary.

As far as superhero films go, I still think that this is the greatest one ever made. I think a lot of that has to do with the realistic approach of the film and just how real and plausible it comes across even though it features a man in a bat costume and a criminal in clown makeup. Not to mention a guy with half his face burnt off and some wonky sci-fi gadgets like the incredibly high-tech sonar surveillance computer.

This is a film where just about everything went right. It was a perfect storm of great writing, great direction, great acting, stellar cinematography and an incredible musical score.

It was well balanced between action and drama and even with its somewhat lengthy running time, there isn’t a wasted moment in the film. Every scene has meaning and every scene does exactly what it needs to without dilly dallying and slowing the pacing down. At the same time, the timing is impeccable and this film perfectly creates tension when it needs to. The whole film is about escalation and the final product is a perfectly curated example of that.

It’s sad and tragic that Heath Ledger died before this was released. It would’ve been cool for him to have seen the final product and to have enjoyed the fanfare and praise his performance as The Joker got. It’s hands down one of the best performances of that decade and even though his death gave the role an added level of mystique and importance, it stands on its own as one of the greatest villain portrayals in motion picture history.

Additionally, I also really liked Ledger’s version of The Joker, as he kind of did his own thing with the character and it forced Nolan to kind of portray the character differently than what was originally intended. And while it might not be a perfect adaptation of the comic book Joker, which no film has done thus far, it kind of exists as its own, great thing and it added so much to this already stellar trilogy.

My only real complaint about the film was how growl-y Bale’s Batman voice was. I much preferred his voice in Batman Begins and I think most people did, as well. I’m not the only person to point this out and in fact, it sort of became a social meme after the movie’s release.

That being said, the Batman voice doesn’t wreck the film and I still think it’s a damn near perfect movie that transcended the superhero genre, forever changed it and hasn’t yet been eclipsed regardless of some of the superb comic book movies that have been released since.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two films in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

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

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

Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Review: Trespass (1992)

Also known as: The Looters (working title), Die Rap-Gang (Germany)
Release Date: December 25th, 1992
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Bill Paxton, Ice-T, William Sadler, Ice Cube, Art Evans, De’voreaux White, Bruce A. Young, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson, T.E. Russell, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, John Toles-Bey, Byron Minns, Hal Landon Jr.

Universal Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“That’s the beauty of gold. It never tarnishes. Lasts forever, too. You can twist it, pound it, even piss on it but it’s always the same gold. It was here long before we were and it’ll be here a long time after we’re gone. I bet you a lot of men have died for the gold that’s just in this one piece.” – Bradlee

Man, I used to have a really high opinion of this film circa 1993 when I copied the VHS tape after I rented it. I mean, you’ve got two of the best gangster rappers of the era along with Bill Paxton and William Sadler, who forever won my admiration after playing Death in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, a year or so earlier.

Plus, this was directed by Walter Hill, the guy that did The Driver, The Warriors, The Long RidersStreets of Fire48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs. and Red Heat. Additionally, the film was produced and written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the creative force behind the Back to the Future trilogy.

But strangely, this just isn’t that great. Sure, it’s definitely okay for killing some time on a rainy day when you want an action film to help you with your low T. I don’t have low T though, my plums are solid and full of octane.

I do like this as more of a novelty thing though. You get to see both rappers named Ice come together at a time when they were both effectively breaking into movies. Ice-T killed it in New Jack City and Ice Cube gave a tremendous performance in Boyz N The Hood. You also get a solid cast of other up and coming black actors from the time: Tiny Lister, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson and De’voreaux White. Also, I have always liked Art Evans, he was great in Fright Night, and this may be my favorite role he’s done.

But still, this just falls really flat.

The plot is about these Arkansas firefighters that acquire a map to a stolen religious treasure. The treasure is hidden in an abandoned factory in East St. Louis. They travel there to look for the long lost gold but quickly find themselves in over their heads as they witness a gang murder. The two firefighters then find themselves holed up in a locked room with a hostage, the head gangster’s little brother, and a homeless man. The rest of the film is mostly a standoff that plays out in a lot of different ways but ultimately, the building is set on fire and we get some solid gun play.

Trespass is certainly watchable and makes for a better than decent early ’90s action flick but there isn’t much to make you care about it. It’s not a classic, by any means. But my problem with it, is that it should have been a classic. Look at the talent in front of and behind the camera.

I do still like this film but for Walter Hill, it’s one of his weakest.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other early ’90s hip-hop heavy action films: Judgment NightGunmenSurviving the Game and Deep Cover.

Film Review: No Holds Barred (1989)

Release Date: June 2nd, 1989
Directed by: Thomas J. Wright
Written by: Dennis Hackin
Music by: Jim Johnston
Cast: Hulk Hogan, Kurt Fuller, Joan Severance, Tiny Lister, David Paymer, Jesse Ventura, Gene Okerlund, Howard Finkel, Stan Hansen

Shane Distribution Company, New Line Cinema, 93 Minutes

noholdsbarred6pcReview:

No Holds Barred is an amazing movie! Okay, that may be an overstatement and yes, I am aware that it was critically panned and that it has been the butt of jokes for nearly three decades but who gives a shit what those snobbish film nerds and Hulkster haters out there have to say?

This movie was a vehicle to launch Hulk Hogan’s film career. Let’s be honest, Hogan sucks as an actor and all of his films after this one are abominations and blights on the film industry. No Holds Barred however, had some very enjoyable bits and had some redeeming qualities that set it apart and have made it an entertaining movie.

The acting was awful, the cinematography was b-movie 80s schlock, the plot was worse than the acting and the characters were beyond goofy and bizarre. But those are the things that made it great. Because while those elements can easily create a stomach-churning viewing experience, there are those films that somehow have the right balance and formula that magically transform those bad elements into something exceptional.

No Holds Barred is a beautiful smorgasbord of bad 80s filmmaking clichés. It is quite literally a perfect storm.

As a kid, I didn’t get to see the film until it was out for 6 months. Two days after Christmas in 1989, the World Wrestling Federation held a pay-per-view event called No Holds Barred: The Movie, The Match. That event showcased the film in its entirety and was then followed by a tornado tag team cage match pitting Hulk Hogan and his partner Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake against “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hogan’s opponent in the film, Zeus. Zeus was played by now semi-famous actor Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Jr. Lister has since gone on to star in a ton of films and television shows, most notably Friday and The Fifth Element.

Having just experienced this film for the first time in years, I was still entertained and loved it. It brought me back to a time when professional wrestling still felt magical, Hulk Hogan was a god and Joan Severance replaced Phoebe Cates as the apple of my eye.

Sure, this may not have the same effect on others; I am probably falling victim to nostalgia but I don’t care. This film is in a rare breed considering that it is still completely stupid yet completely awesome. If you don’t believe me, watch the clip below.

Rating: 6.5/10

And now, the trailer!