Film Review: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Release Date: December 19th, 1986
Directed by: Frank Oz
Written by: Howard Ashman
Based on: Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman, The Little Shop of Horrors by Roger Corman, Charles B. Griffith 
Music by: Miles Goodman (score), Alan Menken (songs)
Cast: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, Levi Stubbs (voice), Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Michelle Weeks, Vincent Wong

The Geffen Company, 94 Minutes, 102 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“Does this look “inanimate” to you, punk? If I can move and I can talk, who’s to say I can’t do anything I want?” – Audrey II

I used to watch this quite a lot when I was a kid. It was always on cable and I liked everyone in it, so when channel surfing in the late ’80s, I often times stopped when this was on.

Oddly enough, I haven’t seen it since the ’80s but I’ve always meant to go back and revisit it, especially since I love the original Roger Corman film and revisit that one every five years or so.

This version of the story was actually an adaptation of the off-Broadway musical, which was inspired by the Corman film from 1960. I’ve never seen the musical on-stage and there are some story differences but it’s something I’d like to see, even if it’s just on television, assuming there’s a version I can watch.

Anyway, back to this film.

This will always hold a nice spot in my heart because it features two I guys I really enjoy, especially when together, Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. This also sprinkles in Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, John Candy and Christopher Guest. Needless to say, it’s chock full of great ’80s comedic talent.

I also dig the hell out of Ellen Greene and Vincent Gardenia, who rounded out the cast nicely and played their parts perfectly.

The real gem of this picture, though, is the monster, Audrey II. The monster evolves into a massive, talking, man-eating venus flytrap. Audrey II is actually an alien trying to kickoff a full alien invasion but to do so, he needs to grow and to do that, he needs human blood.

What makes the monster so cool is two things, the first of which is the voice acting of Levi Stubbs, the lead vocalist of the Four Tops. Stubbs was stupendous and he made Audrey II one of the coolest villains in ’80s cinema.

The second thing is the practical effects, animatronics and puppeteering that brought the giant plant to life. This isn’t some CGI bullshit that takes you out of the movie, this is a real, physical beast that was live and on the set, interacting with the actors on film. The character just looks great, moves great and it’s incredibly easy to suspend disbelief and get caught up in this bonkers movie.

The real cherry on top of it all is the music. It’s great and I say that as someone that usually turns away from musicals because it’s the one genre that doesn’t really resonate with me. For me to care about a musical, it’s got to work on a level beyond that and attract me to it with some sort of cool twist. This picture does that well and I honestly don’t simply see it as a musical.

In the end, I’m glad that I finally revisited Little Shop of Horrors and it somewhat exceeded the expectations my memory had for it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the original film, as well as other comedies featuring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and John Candy.

Film Review: Another 48 Hrs. (1990)

Release Date: June 8th, 1990
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: John Fasano, Jeb Stuart, Larry Gross, Fred Braughton
Based on: characters by Roger Spottiswoode, Walter Hill, Larry Gross, Steven E. de Souza
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, Brion James, Ed O’Ross, Andrew Divoff, Kevin Tighe, Bernie Casey, Tisha Campbell, Frank McRae

Lawrence Gordon Productions, Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Let me tell you something, Jack. If shit was worth something, poor people would be born with no asshole.” – Reggie Hammond

This was a film that was most likely wrecked by post-production issues. Mainly, it had about 40 minutes of its running time chopped off. In fact, actor Brion James once said that he was really the third major star of the movie but a lot of his bigger scenes got cut. Which kind of sucks, as he’s a solid character actor and an integral part of so many movies I love.

Considering that the film really lacked a coherent plot, the massive edits could’ve really fucked the whole thing up. Sure, there’s a chance that the whole film was an incoherent mess and the edits actually helped it but it does feel like there is a lot of context missing. Maybe I can compare the script with the final film one of these days, assuming the script is online somewhere.

Looking at this as a complete and final body of work, though, means that I have to be honest and say that the film is a real disappointment.

On the positive side, Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte are great, once again, as are Brion James, Ed O’Ross, Kevin Tighe and Tisha Campbell, whose role was way too small and makes me think that she had a lot of material cut from the final edit.

I kind of liked the villains, as well, but they pale in comparison to how great James Remar and Sonny Landham were in the first movie.

And since I am speaking about things that pale in comparison, I also have to point out that the action in this chapter is weak and underwhelming. The first movie was mostly a non-stop ride of great action sequences, broken up with comedic scenes in-between. While this film has action, other than the prison bus sequence and the final showdown, it’s all pretty forgettable.

That being said, this movie just feels like director Walter Hill either had his hands tied or he was betrayed by his own studio, who potentially butchered his work in the editing room. The is the least Walter Hill feeling movie out of all his action heavy pictures.

At the end of the day, though, this is still watchable and amusing. If you like these characters and their bond in the first movie, you’ll probably like seeing them again. Unfortunately, everything around them kind of sucks.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon movies.

Film Review: House Party 2 (1991)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1991
Directed by: Doug McHenry, George Jackson
Written by: Daryl G. Nickens, Rusty Cundieff
Based on: characters by Reginald Hudlin
Music by: Vassal Benford
Cast: Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin), Full Force (“Paul Anthony” George, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George Jr., Brian “B-Fine” George), Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Kamron, Iman, Louie Louie, Queen Latifah, George Stanford Brown, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Ralph Tresvant, Tony Burton, Helen Martin, Whoopi Goldberg (cameo), Groove B. Chill (Gene “Groove” Allen, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell) (cameo), Robin Harris (archive footage)

New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Man, that Kid would forget his dick if it wasn’t screwed on tight.” – Play

House Party was a favorite film of mine when I was around middle school age. At the time, I though this film, the first sequel, was also really damn good and in some regards, I liked it better than the first movie even though I consider the first one to be a better film.

This chapter in the film series takes Kid ‘n Play and pushes them into new territory. This is still a coming of age story but now we see Kid go to college and Play have to adapt to things changing around him. Ultimately, this is about growing up and learning to take on adult responsibilities.

Full Force is also back to be the great thorn in the sides of Kid ‘n Play that they were in the first movie. Luckily, they don’t try to burn everyone alive in this film. That was a little dark and bizarre in the first movie.

We also see Tisha Campbell and Martin Lawrence return and this is before they would both go on to star on the sitcom Martin, not too long after this. Robin Harris unfortunately passed away between films and he only appears in this through archive footage from the first movie. Still, it is nice seeing him in it and knowing that his spirit is still a strong presence in Kid’s life.

The film’s new setting adds in some new characters. There is Jamal, played by Kamron from the rap group Young Black Teenagers (they were all white kids, actually), as well as Zora, who was played by Queen Latifah, just as she was breaking out into becoming a big star. Iman and Louie Louie appear as the villains of the story. We also get Tony Burton (of Rocky fame), as a mentor character to kid. Whoopi Goldberg has a cameo too.

The story sees Kid get screwed over by Play and one of his schemes. He loses his college money and the film leads to Kid ‘n Play throwing a big pajama party at the college in order to raise money for Kid’s tuition. It’s not the best plot but this is a college comedy from the early ’90s and you have to suspend disbelief. The film is still funny, effective and ultimately, carries a good message and does so with heart.

Besides, the film is full of rappers and new jack swing artists of the time. Music is a driving force within the picture and it really captures the magic of the time.

House Party 2 isn’t House Party 1 but it brings us back to these characters that we fell in love with and is still amusing, lighthearted and pretty satisfying.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: House Party 1 and 3, as well as the other Kid ‘n Play film Class Act.

Film Review: House Party (1990)

Release Date: March 9th, 1990
Directed by: Reginald Hudlin
Written by: Reginald Hudlin
Music by: Lenny White, Marcus Miller
Cast: Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin), Full Force (“Paul Anthony” George, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George Jr., Brian “B-Fine” George), Robin Harris, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, A.J. Johnson, Groove B. Chill (Gene “Groove” Allen, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell), Kelly Jo Minter, John Witherspoon, Clifton Powell, George Clinton, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams

New Line Cinema, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know why they named that boy that African name. Knowing he from Cleveland!” – Pop

I loved this film the moment I saw it for the first time when it debuted on premium cable, a year after it hit theaters. I had already been a Kid ‘n Play fan at that point but this immortalized them as cool, as far as I was concerned at twelve years-old.

House Party benefits from having an all-star cast before these actors were really all-star players.

Robin Harris is probably the biggest name and he was well-known for his stand-up comedy but he really had some great moments in this that brought him to a higher level. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after this film came out and didn’t get to reap whatever benefits would have came from the success this film had.

House Party also features Martin Lawrence, just on the cusp of his superstardom, as well as John Witherspoon, Tisha Campbell, Clifton Powell, Kelly Jo Minter and musicians George Clinton, Full Force and Groove B. Chill.

The picture was originally intended to be a vehicle for DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Jeff Townes and Will Smith) but Kid ‘n Play got the project. This could have been due to Smith’s big sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air creating a conflict.

With high school teen sex comedies being all the rage in the 1980s, House Party follows suit but gives us a film from the African-American perspective. Ultimately, there isn’t much of a difference other than the added hip-hop flair, which by 1990 was a welcome change following a decade of high school comedies scored to new wave pop music.

The film was critically acclaimed. Roger Ebert loved the film stating, “House Party is a light, entertaining teen comedy with an infectious energy.”

House Party is a great movie for its type. It gives something fresh to its genre and helped pave the way for a lot of up and coming talent. Additionally, it opened doors for black filmmakers, who would really make an impact on cinema throughout the 1990s. House Party was an African-American comedy that really went mainstream and helped in creating a shift in American entertainment, at the time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: House Party 2 and 3, as well as the other Kid ‘n Play film Class Act.