Film Review: The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee (2020)

Also known as: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (working title), The Very Excellent Mr. Crocodile Dundee, Mr. Dundee (alternative titles)
Release Date: July 17th, 2020 (Australia, New Zealand – Internet)
Directed by: Dean Murphy
Written by: Robert Mond, Dean Murphy
Music by: John Foreman
Cast: Paul Hogan, Rachael Carpani, Jacob Elordi, Chevy Chase, John Cleese, Olivia Newton-John, Reginald VelJohnson, Wayne Knight, Paul Fenech, Shane Jacobson, Kerry Armstrong, Charlotte Stent, Luke Hemsworth, Jim Jefferies, Costas Mandylor, Nancy O’Dell

Clock Sounds Productions Pty, Kathy Morgan International, Piccadilly Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“He’s back, whether he likes it or not.” – tagline

I grew up loving Paul Hogan, which is honestly why I even watched this in the first place. I certainly wasn’t lured in by the trailer or the 4.9 out of 10 on IMDb. But Hogan is a hell of a cool guy and I wanted to give this a shot because I immensely enjoy Crocodile Dundee I and II.

Needless to say, I thought that this was better than a 4.9 but not by a large margin. I enjoyed it, mostly, but it isn’t something that I’ll probably ever watch again. It was certainly better than the mostly terrible Crocodile Dundee III but a hair beneath Hogan’s Almost An Angel.

That being said, it’s nice spending time with Hogan again, as well as some of the other people he brought into this movie like Reginald VelJohnson, John Cleese, Wayne Knight, Chevy Chase and Olivia Newton-John. It’s also chock full of cameos from a lot of Australian celebrities and other friends of Hogan’s.

The plot sees Hogan playing himself and I guess it’s a lot like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where the actor playing himself constantly screws up in every situation. For the most part, though, Hogan means well and not to offend but he either doesn’t fully understand the situation he’s in or someone else is a complete asshole but Hogan is blamed for it – like when the nun gets knocked out, which was due to Hogan protecting himself from an object thrown by a raging imbecile.

Most of the gags are still amusing, even if you see them coming from a mile away.

I thought that was is just a charming and lighthearted picture because of Paul Hogan. But honestly, there’s not much reason to watch it more than once and you should already have a love for its star.

Rating: 5.5/10

Film Review: The Wanderers (1979)

Release Date: July 4th, 1979
Directed by: Philip Kaufman
Written by: Rose Kaufman, Philip Kaufman
Based on: The Wanderers by Richard Price
Music by: various
Cast: Ken Wahl, John Friedrich, Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Jim Youngs, Tony Ganios, Alan Rosenberg, Dolph Sweet, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Price (cameo), Wayne Knight (uncredited)

Film Finance Group, Polyc International BV, Orion Pictures, Warner Bros., 112 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a shame to see kids beatin’ each other’s brains out, especially when there’s no financial advantage.” – Chubby Galasso

This movie’s been in my queue to watch and review for a really long time. I’m glad that I finally got around to it, though, as it’s pretty damn enjoyable. Especially, if you like teen gang movies that take place in the ’50s and ’60s.

The Wanderers kind of feels like one-part The Outsiders mixed with one-part The Warriors but then it meets somewhere in the middle.

Mostly, this is a dramatic, coming-of-age story that just happens to be set in the Bronx in 1963, which was overrun by youth gangs. It also reflects a time when America was just about to head to Vietnam and the civil rights movement was starting to make significant changes in American culture.

I liked most of the characters in this movie a lot, except for the one kid that was always causing all the problems for the gang because he was tiny and couldn’t shut his mouth. I had a friend like that in my high school crew and when he thought he could talk shit and then hide behind us, we let him get his ass kicked. That cured his short man’s syndrome really quick.

Anyway, I like that all of the gangs have unique identities and that many are segregated by race. It allows the story to show the racial tensions between the different groups of kids but ultimately, it shows many of them from various backgrounds, coming together to fight the biggest asshole gang of the bunch. Through that unity, the kids of different cultures gain each other’s respect and a broader sense of brotherhood.

All of the young people in this were really good. I was really impressed with Ken Wahl and Tony Ganios’ performances, as they’re the two that really stood out. Karen Allen also held her own and was as sweet and charming as always. I also thought that Toni Kalem was really good and your heart kind of breaks for her, witnessing what she goes through in this.

I also have to point to the incredibly intimidating performance of Dolph Sweet. As a kid of the ’80s and ’90s, I only really knew Sweet as the loving police chief father on the sitcom Gimme A Break. Here, he essentially plays a 1960s Tony Soprano. Honestly, he’s like a proto-Tony Soprano that gives such a powerful performance that I wouldn’t be surprised if James Gandolfini didn’t look at it and take some pointers. The scene with the bowling ball was an absolutely chilling but perfect sequence.

I like that this movie also included a side plot about a shady Marine recruiter that dupes a bunch of drunk youth into joining up, just as America is one the verge of war.

There are a lot of characters in this and they’re all pretty well-balanced. You mostly care about everyone and there are just so many good sequences that they all get their moment to shine in some way.

The Wanderers isn’t a film that people talk about today. It feels kind of lost to time. But I think that fans of The Outsiders, The Warriors, Rumble Fish, etc. will find a lot to love in this picture.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other youth gang movies of the ’50s through ’80s.

Film Review: Jurassic Park (1993)

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

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“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 Edition Star 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.

Film Review: Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Also known as: The Punisher 2, The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank (working titles)
Release Date: December 4th, 2008 (United Arab Emirates)
Directed by: Lexi Alexander
Written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Nick Santora
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Michael Wandmacher
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchinson, Dash Mihok, Wayne Knight

Valhalla Motion Pictures, MHF Zweite Academy Film, SGF Entertainment Inc, Lionsgate Films, Marvel Studios 103 Minutes

Review:

“God be with you, Frank.” – Priest, “Sometimes I would like to get my hands on God.” – Frank Castle

Well, my memory of this film was better than what it actually is now that I’ve seen it again, ten years later.

It has a big problem and really, it’s that it’s boring. Yeah, the action stuff is pretty damn good and badass but all the filler in-between is just uninteresting and really f’n derivative.

Now I do like Stevenson as Frank Castle. I think he looks the part more than any other actor who has been in the role. However, he’s missing the charm of Thomas Jane even if he makes up for it with a much needed harder edge. I mean, I also liked Dolph Lundgren’s version of Frank Castle but that 1989 movie really wasn’t up to snuff and he didn’t even have a skull on his chest.

The only real problem with Stevenson and it’s not his fault, is that he is just very one-dimensional. But the script was written without Frank Castle feeling all that human. But I get it, even in the comics he’s typically a quiet badass that doesn’t let people into his orbit on any sort of emotional level. I just feel that the character, in a cinematic sense, should fall somewhere between Ray Stevenson and Thomas Jane. And that’s something that probably needed to be done at the script level.

Lexi Alexander did fine behind the camera from a visual standpoint and also handled the action sequences nicely. The big battle in the hotel at the end was fun to watch and that early scene where the Punisher murders the mob in their mansion was fantastic. Granted, spinning upside down from a chandelier was a bit stupid, as one of the thugs outside of his line of sight could’ve got in a head shot. Unless the mob has the accuracy of Star Wars Stormtroopers.

This movie just makes me sad though. It had the makings of something that could have been a great Punisher film but it fell flat in just about every regard outside of the action. Plus it had parkour in it, which is just a silly form of freestyle walking. I respect the athleticism but people pushing for it to be an Olympic sport need a lobotomy.

Anyway, if you just want a lot of awesome and senseless violence, this will be right up your alley. Unfortunately, you spend a lot of time waiting around for it between those high octane scenes.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Punisher movies from 1989 and 2004, as well as the current TV show.

Film Review: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Release Date: February 1st, 2016 (Regency Village Theater premiere)
Directed by: The Coen Brothers
Written by: The Coen Brothers
Music by: Carter Burwell
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Alison Pill, Wayne Knight, Christopher Lambert, Fisher Stevens, Patrick Fischler, Clancy Brown, Robert Picardo, Dolph Lundgren, Michael Gambon, Peter Jason

Working Title Films, Mike Zoss Productions, Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

hail_caesarReview: 

The Coen Brothers always peak my interest when they have a new film coming out. Granted, I’m not a nut like the hardcore Coen loyalists but I am a legit ordained minister of Dudeism, a relgion based off of their film The Big Lebowski.

Hail, Caesar! is a motion picture littered with stars. For the most part, everyone other than Josh Brolin, Alden Ehrenreich and George Clooney feel like they are just glorified cameos. Ehrenreich isn’t even on the poster. But then you have Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson and Jonah Hill on it, while they are only in a handful of scenes.

The film is beautiful to look at but it is lacking in just about every other regard. Sure, the acting is top notch but when you have a cast full of talent like this, where most of them are limited to just a few scenes, they all probably had their best stuff because they weren’t bogged down by a rough shooting schedule and didn’t need to focus on anything longer than a few pages of dialogue, if that.

It is an enjoyable movie, don’t get me wrong, it just wasn’t as exciting or as interesting as it would lead you to believe. The introduction of Johansson’s character was magnificently shot and executed but I feel like her character was just brought into the film so that the Coen Brothers had a reason to create their own old school Hollywood synchronized swimming extravaganza. And I feel like that is the true purpose of this film, that the Coens wanted to try their hand at old school filmmaking techniques and to do it while working with all their friends.

Additionally, where we saw footage of films within the movie, they never really looked like pictures from 1951, where this is set. The films, even if they were black and white, were too sharp and too clean. The typefaces used looked out of place and not of that era.

There was just too much going on in the movie. I know that the plot is about Brolin’s Eddie Mannix and how he has to manage all these Hollywood superstars. However, it would have been a more interesting movie had it really just focused on one of his situations. Sure, the others could have been included but too much time was given to things that distracted from the narrative. The only real interesting plot thread was Clooney’s Baird Whitlock being kidnapped and held for ransom by communist writers. In fact, I adored the dialogue in those scenes between Clooney and the commies.

Hail, Caesar! is fun, to an extent. It just feels very empty and although it created a world that truly feels lived in, it didn’t explore it deeply enough.

Rating: 6/10