Release Date: November 16th, 1944 (first chapter) Directed by: Spencer Gordon Bennet, Wallace Grissel Written by: Basil Dickey, Jesse Duffy, Grant Nelson, Joseph Poland, Johnston McxCulley (original Zorro novel) Cast: Linda Stirling, George J. Lewis, Lucien Littlefield, Francis McDonald
Republic Pictures, 182 Minutes (total over 12 chapters)
Zorro’s Black Whip is pretty unusual, as Republic Pictures didn’t have the rights to use the Zorro character in a film but they could still use the name. So with that, they created this serial where the Zorro-esque hero is named The Black Whip and is, in fact, a dame!
The story also takes place in Idaho, a far departure from southern California, even though that’s where this would’ve been filmed.
I like the heroine and thought that Linda Stirling did a pretty decent job as a female version of Zorro with a different name.
The rest of the cast was about as good as film serial casts go. No one really stood out other than the lead.
The story was a bit all over the place and I thought that the chapter cliffhangers were fairly weak and mundane. Honestly, in a lot of ways, the writing and the situations were incredibly derivative for the genre style.
Still, this did have some spirit for something that was a gender-swapped generic ripoff of a popular hero.
In the end, this is very far from being the best representation of “Zorro” but it’s also not dreadful. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, though.
Also known as: The Three Caballeros (working title), ¡Three Amigos! (UK spelling) Release Date: December 10th, 1986 (Beverly Hills premiere) Directed by: John Landis Written by: Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Randy Newman Music by: Elmer Bernstein, Randy Newman (song lyrics) Cast: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Alfonso Arau, Tony Plana, Patrice Martinez, Joe Mantegna, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz
“You dirt-eating piece of slime! You scum-sucking pig! You son of a motherless goat!” – Lucky Day
When I was a kid, I probably saw this movie two dozen times between renting it and seeing it on HBO. It featured three of the funniest guys of the era (and ever, really), it was a bizarre concept but it also had action and heroism. When my mum brought back sombreros from a Mexican cruise, my cousins and I used to play “Three Amigos” in the backyard.
Now after exposing my absolute dorkiness in the ’80s, I still really enjoy this movie and kind of wish that stuff like this could still be made. Hopefully, Hollywood’s pendulum swings back towards sanity and fun in the near future.
Anyway, the story sees three singing cowboy actors from the earliest era of film getting called down to Mexico because they’re mistaken for their characters. The Mexican village is under the threat of a warlord and the people summoned the Three Amigos for protection. However, the actors have just been fired by the studio after a box office failure and are under the assumption that their trip to Mexico is an acting gig. Once there, they slowly figure out what’s happening, want to flee but then rise to the occasion and help the village free themselves from tyranny.
The best part about the film is that the three comedians have incredible chemistry. While all three very easily could’ve succumbed to their own egos and desire to be the movie’s one true star, they gel as an ensemble in a way that is similar to the casts of Ghostbusters and Tropic Thunder. While I’ve heard for years that Chevy Chase was a hard guy to work with, if that was true on this picture, it didn’t effect the final product.
Overall, this is a lighthearted, fun movie. The action is great for a comedic picture and I think the action really made this a much cooler film, especially for those of us who grew up with this.
Looking at it through a modern lens, the film serves as a reminder that we could have entertaining, mindless escapism and not feel guilty about it. Three Amigos! was (and is) a movie that just wanted to entertain its audience and make them not think about the world and its problems for 104 minutes. I wish Hollywood would tell stories like this again and just lay off of their political/social agendas from the point-of-view of a fantasy land that’s the furthest place away from reality.
Also known as: Greenbriar (working title), El Camino (informal title) Release Date: October 7th, 2019 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Vince Gilligan Written by: Vince Gilligan Based on:Breaking Bad by Vince Gilligan Music by: Dave Porter Cast: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Krysten Ritter, Charles Baxter, Matt Jones, Scott Shepherd, Scott MacArthur, Tom Bower, Kevin Rankin, Larry Hankin, Tess Harper, Robert Forster, Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston
High Bridge Productions, Sony Pictures, Netflix, 122 Minutes
“You’re really lucky, you know that? You didn’t have to wait your whole life to do something special.” – Walt
I wouldn’t call this movie a disappointment but it was incredibly underwhelming. But I also didn’t have much anticipation for it and the fact that I put off watching it for nearly two years, shows my lack of enthusiasm for it.
The reason being is that I didn’t need this. I very easily assumed that Jesse was headed to Alaska after the finale of Breaking Bad. Seeing this movie just lets me know that I was right.
All this movie really was, was Jesse running a few dangerous errands while having flashbacks before he could actually leave for Alaska. Granted, based off of how much he was wanted by authorities, he really should’ve booked it to somewhere outside of the United States’ jurisdiction. But whatever, there are some other logic flaws with the story.
I feel like this was made just because fans have been clamoring for more Breaking Bad since the show ended. Well, they got the Better Call Saul show, which seems to be doing well and satisfying the fan base.
If a sequel needed to be made, I would’ve rather it come much later and we check in on Jesse years later. Maybe some dangerous character from his past is also hiding up in Alaska and recognizes him, setting off a crazy series of events. But whatever this movie was, I didn’t need to experience it.
This isn’t particularly bad but it isn’t particularly good either. The acting was actually pretty stellar but I didn’t expect it not to be.
El Camino is what happens someone like Netflix comes along and throws a lot of money at a creator who is apparently just out of gas.
In the end, there were only two real highlights in this for me. The first, was the scenes between Jesse, Skinny Pete and Badger. That does hit you in the feels. The second, was seeing Robert Forster go out with a bang, as he died just after this was released.
Release Date: September 18th, 1987 (Toronto Film Festival) Directed by: Penelope Spheeris Written by: Randall Jahnson Music by: Charles Bernstein Cast: Jon Cryer, Catherine Mary Stewart, Daniel Roebuck, Flea, Lee Ving, Glenn Withrow
Vista Organization, 90 Minutes
“Look, Milo, we’re talking about real life here, okay? Real life is not California. Real life is a shit sandwich and every day you gotta take another bite.” – Grant
Dudes is a pretty cool movie for its time. It sees three teenage punk rockers from Queens go cross-country in an effort to make it to California and hopefully a new, better future.
However, along the way, while camping out in the desert of Arizona, the three teens are attacked by a gang of vicious rednecks and one of the boys is murdered and their stuff is then stolen.
The two surviving teens find the local cops to be useless and ultimately, decide to take down this gang by themselves. Along comes the local tough, hot chick that teaches them how to actually shoot a gun properly.
Now maybe the premise sounds a bit wonky but the story works well within the world that this film creates for itself. Sure, the movie is a comedy but it’s still got a lot of real drama and heart to it. I also think that Jon Cryer was the perfect guy to handle what was needed for the lead role. He’s good at comedy, can handle serious stuff and he’s likable as hell and can give a convincing performance with the right material.
I also really enjoyed Daniel Roebuck as his large, punk rock sidekick. While Roebuck looks like the more imposing of the two, I like that this movie’s plot doesn’t just run with that and it gives us something more realistic where the big punk rocker is more of a gentle giant.
Catherine Mary Stewart was perfect as the local girl. I’ve always loved seeing her ever since I first watched The Last Starfighter, as a kid. Here, she reminds me a lot of her tough girl role in Night of the Comet, which is my favorite role she’s ever played.
Additionally, you have two real musicians in this. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays the friend who is murdered by the gang while Lee Ving of Fear is the leader of the scumbag gang. Both of these guys brought their A-game to the picture and showed they had legitimate acting chops.
Dudes really is a western movie at its core. Being that it takes place in what was modern times when it was made doesn’t really matter, as it follows the beats of that genre. Maybe there are other punk rock neo-westerns out there but I don’t think I’ve seen any others and it’s kind of a cool mix now that I’ve seen it come together.
All that being said, I dug this movie quite a bit. It was well cast, the story was decent but made better by the performances and it leaves you pretty satisfied at the end.
Release Date: January 14th, 1948 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: John Huston Written by: John Huston Based on:The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven Music by: Max Steiner Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett, Robert Blake (uncredited), John Huston (uncredited)
Warner Bros., 126 Minutes
“Ah, as long as there’s no find, the noble brotherhood will last but when the piles of gold begin to grow… that’s when the trouble starts.” – Howard
As big of a fan of Humphrey Bogart as I am, I hadn’t seen The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in probably two decades. A friend I suggested it to was talking to me about it after he had watched it and I realized that some of the details were gone from my brain. So, I had to revisit it immediately, as it’s a picture I loved growing up.
Seeing it now, I have an even deeper appreciation for it. While I’m not the best pre-spaghetti era western aficionado, I now realize the impact this must have had, as it’s so realistic and gritty that it has a much harder edge than the typical westerns that predate it. Sure, John Wayne movies had grit and balls but the earliest ones were still kind of clean, crisp and for lack of a better word: staged.
Part of me thinks that if I were a kid in the late ’40s, this would’ve been my favorite movie, as it had legit chutzpah.
Being that Bogart is in this, great acting should be expected. However, it goes beyond Bogart and this gave me a real appreciation for Tim Holt and Walter Huston, who is actually the father of this film’s director, the legendary John Huston.
I also love that Bogart plays a really complex character, especially for this time in cinema’s history. He’s not some overly heroic archetype. Instead, he’s a severely flawed character, as are the other core players. In fact, this movie shows how these guys are sort of at odds throughout the film, as mistrust develops on top of individual greed.
Ultimately, they get in over their head and have bigger problems than each other. I don’t want to ruin the end but each of the three primary characters have wonderful character arcs from start-to-finish.
Additionally, this is a beautiful looking picture that has incredible scope. The wilderness is vast and this movie capitalizes off of that by giving us great shots and sequences that showcase how big the wide open west was.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is an all-time classic in the long history of motion pictures. It’s one of the best films of its decade, one of Bogart’s best and it further cemented John Huston as one of the greatest American directors that ever lived.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other Humphrey Bogart movies of the ’40s and ’50s but also adventure films and westerns of the era.
Release Date: April 8th, 2004 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Written by: Quentin Tarantino Music by: RZA, Robert Rodriguez Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Julie Dreyfus, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, James Parks, Bo Svenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Larry Bishop, Sid Haig, Sonny Chiba
Super Cool ManChu, A Band Apart, Miramax, 137 Minutes
“Bitch, you don’t have a future.” – The Bride
I dropped my review of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 a week ago but I watched them back-to-back and reviewed them that way, as well. But I like to save my last review on Fridays for bigger, well-known films, so that’s why this one dropped out of sequence.
I wanted to watch these back-to-back primarily to get the full effect of the story. I’ve done that before but it’s been a really long time since I’ve watched these and I wanted to really make a day out of it due to how much I loved them when they were still fairly current films.
As I said at the end of my review for the previous film, it was a near masterpiece but it was also outdone by this movie.
I think the main reason for that, is that this one switches to more of a spaghetti western style than the Yakuza revenge flick the previous movie was. Martial arts are still alive and well in this picture, though, and it gives this a really unique feel. Also, despite the tonal differences in the films, the martial arts aspects still tie them together well and in some regards, this reminds me of the Kung-Fu television series, which oddly enough, also featured David Carradine, this film series’ primary antagonist.
I liked the spaghetti western feel because, well, I’m a big fan of that style. This was also Tarantino’s first attempt at delving into a western aesthetic and he did a tremendous job with it. Sure, this is more of a neo-western, as it is set in modern times but it kind of laid a solid foundation for him to build his skills off of in the genre. Without this, he may not have done Django Unchained or The Hateful Eight. Granted, in my opinion, this film is still superior to both of those.
Another thing that makes this the better half of the series, is that it is the culmination of everything that The Bride has set out to achieve. It’s the finale, the big final fight. But this also doesn’t give you a grand final battle. Instead, it subverts expectations in a beautiful and much more meaningful way. Unlike most modern filmmakers who like to take giant shits on well-established franchises like that never-been-laid fucknut Rian Johnson and that fart sommelier J. J. Abrams.
Anyway, the climax of the film is incredible and it has probably the best acting I’ve ever seen from David Carradine, as well as Uma Thurman. You believe that they have a lot of love between them, as well as a lot of anger and it’s fucking heartbreaking to watch, regardless of how many times you’ve seen it. Adding in the fact that there’s a young child placed between them makes the final showdown emotionally tragic but more complex and serious than it otherwise would’ve been. At this point, this moves beyond just being a simple revenge story, as the hope for a real life emerges at the end of The Bride’s violent journey.
Apart from the finale, the film also subverts expectations well in how Bud dies. He’s someone else on The Bride’s hitlist but he gets the best of The Bride and actually defeats her, quite easily. He underestimates her drive, though, and she goes right back on the hunt while he feels he’s safe from her wrath. However, by the time The Bride reaches him again, there’s a pretty big twist, which pits her against Elle, the second to last name on her list.
The fight between The Bride and Elle in Bud’s mobile home is damn good and it utilizes the cramped environment exceptionally well.
In the end, this is just a great fucking motion picture and one of Tarantino’s best, hands down. It’s my favorite and even though it’s not as talked about, these days, as his other movies, it’s still the best of the lot from where I stand.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: the other Kill Bill films, as well as other movies by Quentin Tarantino, as well as the many films this homages.
Also known as: Black Bart (working title) Release Date: February 7th, 1974 Directed by: Mel Brooks Written by: Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Al Uger Music by: John Morris Cast: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Alex Karras, Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, David Huddleston, Dom DeLuise, Count Basie
Crossbow Productions, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes
“My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.” – Hedley Lamarr, “God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty dollar whore.” – Taggart
I’m a fan of Mel Brooks’ work but not as much as the hardcore fans out there. Most of the ones I’ve talked to over the years seem to like this film the best out of Brooks’ oeuvre. Young Frankenstein is my personal favorite but I’ve also got a deep affinity for the Universal Monsters, which it paradoies.
I also really love westerns too, though. So, naturally, I like this picture quite a bit too. However, I don’t hold it in the same esteem as others.
Everyone in this is pretty damn great, however. Cleavon Little stands out the most, as the actual star of the picture and because he’s just so damn charismatic and likeable. Additionally, his camaraderie and comedic timing with Gene Wilder is incredibly good.
Beyond the two leads, everyone else in the picture is well cast and this is written in a way that allows them all to play to their strengths while also maximizing their value to this large tapestry of talent.
I guess it probably goes without saying but this is a film that you couldn’t make today. It features so much language that would overwhelm the easily offended, which seems to be everyone these days. Modern filmgoers would be so fixated on the language that they’d miss the point of it all.
This was a film that came out in the ’70s and American entertainment was greatly effected by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the racial tensions the United States had to work through. This movie reflects that, as did most comedy of the time, and it features a lot of racially charged language and situations. But it’s how it handles all of that and presents it that is important. Nowadays, nuance and context are completely lost because fingerblasting your own pearls while on public display is the only way these kids know how to communicate, anymore.
Blazing Saddles is a film that doesn’t give a fuck about anyone’s feelings. It cannonballs into the deep end of the pool, splashing everyone and everything, and it just puts it all out there, letting people express their points and their social grievances through comedy. And this is why comedy was great. It could challenge us, turn the world on its head and directly engage with tough topics and things that many would otherwise try to ignore or suppress.
In reality, comedy brought people together and it built bridges between cultures and different points-of-view born from very different experiences. Also, it didn’t allow everyone to have such thin skins. It forced most people to toughen up and deal with shit, so we could all move forward.
And while I didn’t want a movie review to devolve into a political or social discussion, I know that it’s only a matter of time before the censors retroactively try to cancel this picture.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: other Mel Brooks parody films.
Release Date: December 25th, 1993 Directed by: George P. Cosmatos Written by: Kevin Jarre Music by: Bruce Broughton Cast: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Robert John Burke, Dana Delany, Sam Elliott, Stephen Lang, Joanna Pacula, Bill Paxton, Jason Priestley, Michael Rooker, Jon Tenney, Billy Zane, Charlton Heston, Thomas Haden Church, Paula Malcomson, Lisa Collins, John Philbin, Harry Carey Jr., Billy Bob Thornton, Terry O’Quinn, Frank Stallone, Christopher Mitchum, Robert Mitchum (narrator)
“Take a good look at him, Ike… ’cause that’s how you’re gonna end up! The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin’ it! So run, you cur… run! Tell all the other curs the law’s comin’! You tell ’em I’m coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?… Hell’s coming with me!” – Wyatt Earp
I feel like an asshole because I haven’t seen this since it was first on VHS where I then watched it a half dozen times but then haven’t seen it since.
I knew that this was packed full of a lot of great manly men actors. However, I had forgotten how many were actually in this and some of them I wouldn’t have recognized back in the mid-’90s as they hadn’t fully blossomed by that point.
What’s really interesting about this pretty over-the-top, high octane western flick is that it is pretty accurate. Granted, some things were adapted from stories and legends that made the rounds after the events of the film but that’s due to there not being a whole lot of recorded history on the lives and extra context of some of these historical figures and frankly, that’s not too dissimilar from most historical pictures trying to be as factual as possible. Sometimes, there are only so many facts and you have to turn to the folklore to fill in the blanks.
This film was directed by George P. Cosmatos, a guy I will always appreciate because he helmed Rambo: First Blood, Part II and one of my favorite and grossly underrated action films, Cobra. He also directed Leviathan, which is an underwater Alien knockoff but it’s got a solid cast and is pretty entertaining, regardless.
Apparently, Kurt Russell was also pretty instrumental in the direction of this movie, as well. From what I’ve read, he was pretty much an uncredited co-director, as he felt really passionate about this movie and his role as the legendary Old West hero, Wyatt Earp. So it’s hard to fully give director credit to either Cosmatos or Russell but their combined effort turned out one of the greatest westerns ever made.
Beyond the direction, this film is also great because of its immense and uber talented cast.
Top-to-bottom, this film is full of stars but they all fit their roles to a friggin’ tee. They blend into this world and while you very much know who they all are, you don’t get lost in the sea of familiar faces because they’re all so good and so is the script.
I’ve got to say that the real standout for me was Michael Biehn, though. Man, he’s already one of my favorite actors of his era but he shines in this movie like he never has before. This truly elevated him and he showed up for work, ready to make Johnny Ringo one of the most iconic western movie villains of all-time. He succeeded at that, greatly. Re-watching this now also kind of pisses me off, as he never really reached the superstardom he probably deserved and he should’ve really moved on to bigger things after this.
I also loved the hell out of Powers Boothe in this and I’d say it’s one of his best performances too.
All in all, this is action packed, fast paced and has the right level of testosterone flowing through every scene. Well, except for maybe the romantic horse riding bit, which feels a tad out of place. But other than that, this is a pretty close to perfect masterpiece.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: other ’90s westerns and films with just a bunch of badass dudes kicking the shit out of assholes.
Release Date: November 27th, 1920 (New York City premiere) Directed by: Fred Niblo Written by: Johnston McCulley, Eugene Miller, Douglas Fairbanks Based on:The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley Music by: Mortimer Wilson Cast: Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite De La Motte, Noah Beery, Robert McKim, Milton Berle (uncredited)
“We never let business interfere with drinking!” – Undetermined Role
My mother used to love this film a lot and I saw it multiple times, as a kid, because of that. Granted, her favorite Zorro film was the one with Tyrone Power but it was my mum’s love of Zorro movies and swashbuckling in general that made me appreciate these whimsical adventure movies too.
I wanted to go way back and revisit this one, though, as it actually set the stage for what Zorro would evolve into over the years. This generated the tone and style for the franchise from a visual standpoint and with this picture, specifically, you can see how this character and his world inspired the main character and world of the Batman comic book series.
Douglas Fairbanks, working with the original Zorro creator, made a pretty action packed, energetic and jovial motion picture, especially for its time, as this is a silent picture and had to rely more on the physical performances and athleticism of its cast.
This has a good, straightforward story and it created a template that wasn’t just reused in the dozens of Zorro films, serials and television shows that followed but also in other intellectual properties.
The Mark of Zorro is quite fantastic for its era. While it isn’t my favorite version of Zorro, it made it possible for those other versions to exist, as well as so many pulp heroes and stories from Batman, The Shadow, The Phantom and countless others.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Zorro pictures and film serials, as well as other Douglas Fairbanks movies.
Release Date: June 9th, 2002 (CineVegas International Film Festival) Directed by: Don Coscarelli Written by: Don Coscarelli Based on:Bubba Ho-Tep by Joe R. Lansdale Music by: Brian Tyler Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Reggie Bannister
“What do I really have left in life but this place? It ain’t much of a home, but it’s all I got. Well, goddamnit. I’ll be damned if I let some foreign, graffiti writin’, soul suckin’, son of a bitch in an oversized cowboy hat and boots take my friend’s souls and shit ’em down the visitors toilet!” – Elvis
I’ll always have a certain level of respect for Don Coscarelli, as he gave the world Phantasm and Beastmaster, two films that had pretty profound effects on me as a kid.
However, I saw this back when it was new and it didn’t really speak to me like I hoped it would have. I haven’t watched it since then but I do love Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis, so I thought that giving it another shot was long overdue. Plus, tastes change, I’m nearly twenty years older and I often times find myself enjoying movies that I previously hadn’t.
I’m glad to say that I enjoyed this much more than I originally did in 2002. But, at an older age, I think it’s also more relatable. Plus, I’m probably just able to enjoy the slow pace and the nuance of the picture much better.
The plot surrounds two guys that become best buds in a nursing home and discover that something strange is afoot when a reanimated mummy starts killing some of the residents. The odd thing is that Bruce Campbell believes he’s Elvis Presley and he might very well be. Ossie Davis believes he’s John F. Kennedy, after being reconstructed in a lab and dyed black. We never find out if they really are who they believe themselves to be but it doesn’t really matter and it’s part of the movie’s unique charm.
So basically, we have a story where an elderly Elvis and an elderly, black JFK team-up to fight a killer mummy. What’s not to like?
My first impression of the film, years ago, was that it was kind of cool but it moved way too slow and felt uneventful. Now, I like the pace and it isn’t slow, so much as it tries to really develop the characters, their personal bond and build up some suspense before the big final fight at the end.
It’s still far from Coscarelli’s best work but it’s definitely better than the later Phantasm sequels and the Beastmaster movies he didn’t direct.
As I get older in age, I feel like I can just relate to the movie and its characters much more than I did in my early twenties. It probably reflects where Coscarelli saw himself at the time that he made it, as well as the two stars. Davis died a few years later and even though Campbell is still going strong, today, by 2002, he had to be feeling age creep up on him.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other Don Coscarelli movies, as well as other films starring Bruce Campbell.