Film Review: Twister (1996)

Also known as: Catch the Wind (original script title), Wind Devils (working title)
Release Date: May 8th, 1996 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Jan de Bont
Written by: Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin
Music by: Mark Mancina
Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Joey Slotnick, Scott Thomson, Lois Smith, Alexa Vega, Zach Grenier, Patrick Fischler, Anthony Rapp, Jake Busey

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., 113 Minutes

Review:

“When you used to tell me that you chase tornadoes, deep down I always just thought it was a metaphor.” – Melissa

I hadn’t seen this movie since the theater but I had fond memories of that experience. I just never really went back and watched it again because it was a simple story that was very effects heavy and didn’t offer up much for a repeat viewing unless you’re a real digital effects junkie.

Since I came across it while scrolling through the content on HBO Max, I felt the urge to revisit it just to see how good it actually was and whether or not it’s held up after a quarter of a century. Plus, I really like the cast and it’s stacked with talent from top-to-bottom.

So for the most part, the effects do hold up. Sure, there are a few moments that might look hokey like the famous flying cow sequence but it hardly breaks the mind’s immersion into the film itself. And to be honest, I kind of like the humorous bits like that.

Generally, the tornado effects still look good and as effects heavy as this film is, it never feels like it’s too much. You kind of just get lost in the adrenaline rush of what’s happening and everything just works in the right way. Granted, I’d never want to see this sequelized or turned into a franchise. Once you’ve seen one tornado movie, you’ve pretty much seen them all and this surprisingly didn’t try to milk the flying cow to death.

It’s the personal stories in this that make the film work and make it much more than just a CGI fest.

I loved the chemistry between Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton and even with that, you still find yourself kind of sad over the way Jami Gertz, Paxton’s new fiancé, gets pushed to the side once he falls back in love with the woman he’s trying to get to sign divorce papers.

Hunt and Paxton just made a good couple and they balanced each other out, rather well. I also like that it’s the female half of the relationship that has become obsessed with her work and kind of let the romance fade away while the man steps up and reels her back in and centers her at a point in life when she needed it most. Then again, I always like seeing failed relationships finding a way to rekindle what was lost.

The supporting cast is pretty damn good too. I especially liked Lois Smith as the sort of matriarch of the storm chaser group. I also enjoyed Cary Elwes as the rival snot that gets himself killed because of ego. Philip Seymour Hoffman was enjoyable too, pretty much playing himself turned up to 11.

Twister seems like it’s been forgotten, as the years have rolled on. But honestly, it’s a really good movie in that summer blockbuster genre. I remember it being a big hit with moviegoers and everyone I knew, at the time, loved it quite a bit. When I worked at a video store, we could barely keep it in stock for the first few months.

Sadly, it was usurped by Independence Day, less than two months later and then the summer blockbusters kept getting bigger, louder and even more CGI heavy. 

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

Release Date: May 12th, 1989
Directed by: Arthur Hiller
Written by: Earl Barret, Arne Sultan, Eliot Wald, Andrew Kurtzman, Gene Wilder, Marvin Worth
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Joan Severance, Kevin Spacey, Alan North, Anthony Zerbe, Zach Grenier

TriStar Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Today I threatened to shoot a naked woman with my erection.” – Dave

I love Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. I especially love when they team up.

Starting with one of the latter team up films may seem weird but this was actually the first one I saw. I also got to experience it in the theater and its the first time my mum took me to a movie with boobies in it, so I had to try and dodge her hand as she attempted to shield my eyes from the mesmerizing and perfect Joan Severance.

While this is far from a great film and not close to the best of either man’s career, their chemistry is infectious and they’re so great at the buddy formula that there’s just something endearing about this and it’s a movie with genuine heart and soul in it.

Pryor plays a blind man and Wilder plays a deaf man. That is the setup for nearly all the jokes in the movie but even if that sounds like it’d get old really fast, they come up with several clever gags that work throughout the film and the formula doesn’t get as tired as one would expect. Also, it kind of draws awareness to the limitations of those handicaps even though it’s using them for humor. A film like this would probably be shunned in our current PC climate but in 1989, we still knew how to laugh and also understood that sometimes that’s an effective way of dealing with difficult and uncomfortable things.

Not having seen this in years, I forgot that it had Kevin Spacey in it, as well as character actors Anthony Zerbe and Zach Grenier. Joan Severance steals all the scenes she’s in, though, and I was always kind of surprised that her career didn’t take off after this, Bird On A Wire and No Holds Barred. Well, okay… I can see why no one views No Holds Barred as anything other than a cheesy, vanity film for a professional wrestler that essentially just played himself.

In this film, a man is murdered and a careless mistake makes the two stars the prime suspects. Heck, the only suspects. They have to work together to escape the police, clear their names and take down the bad guys. Most importantly, they find true friendship and as corny as this film can get in certain moments, this is where the heart really comes in.

You could tell that these guys loved each other in real life and many of their conversations felt organic and natural even if they usually centered around their characters’ disabilities.

I definitely like this movie more than most people but it’s great escapism, carries a good, positive message and it’s hard not to feel better about life once the credits roll. 

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other comedies with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.

TV Review: Ray Donovan (2013-2020)

Original Run: June 30th, 2013 – January 19th, 2020
Created by: Ann Biderman
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Marcelo Zarvos
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcomson, Eddie Marsan, Dash Mihok, Steven Bauer, Katherine Moennig, Pooch Hall, Kerris Dorsey, Devon Bagby, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon, Graham Rogers, Susan Sarandon, Elliott Gould, Peter Jacobson, Denise Crosby, Frank Whaley, Hank Azaria, James Woods, Rosanna Arquette, Sherilyn Fenn, Wendell Pierce, Ian McShane, Katie Holmes, Leland Orser, Aaron Staton, Fairuza Balk, Embeth Davidtz, Stacy Keach, Tara Buck, Ted Levine, C. Thomas Howell, Donald Faison, Lili Simmons, James Keach, Adina Porter, Jake Busey, Sandy Martin, Zach Grenier, Alan Alda, Lola Glaudini, Kerry Condon, Kevin Corrigan

David Hollander Productions, The Mark Gordon Company, Ann Biderman Co., Bider Sweet Productions, CBS, Showtime, 82 Episodes, 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Lots of people talked this show up for years like it was the second coming of The Sopranos. I wanted to wait for it to end, as I typically binge things in their entirety. With this show, that was probably the best way to view it, as so many things happen with so many characters, that it would’ve been hard remembering all the details over seven years.

I wouldn’t say that this is anywhere near as good as The Sopranos and I also don’t have as high of an opinion of that show as most people do. Granted, I did still like it quite a bit when it was current.

Ray Donovan follows Ray Donovan, a badass uber masculine guy that works as a Hollywood fixer. However, his entire family is complex and interesting and this isn’t so much about Ray being a fixer, as it is about his family’s criminal behavior and their turbulent personal lives.

The show does a remarkable job of pushing its characters to the point of you hating them but then finds a way to make you realize you love them. It’s a show that actually has a lot of mini redemption arcs but it also shows, within that, that people tend to surrender to their nature even if they want to work on themselves.

Ray is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen on television but that can also be said about several other core characters, here.

I think in the end, my favorite character ended up being Eddie Marsan’s Terry, the eldest Donovan brother, as he was always trying to do the right thing by his family, even if they often times found themselves doing really shitty things.

I also liked Bunchy a lot but by the end, his constant bad luck and terrible decisions became exhausting.

The first five seasons are really solid, even if the fourth was a bit weak. The show kind of lost me in season six, where it moved from Los Angeles to New York City and didn’t feel like it had much of a point. Plus, there are things that happened in season six that made the show jump the shark for me.

The only thing that really saved the last two seasons was how damn good Sandy Martin was once she entered the show.

Overall, I enjoyed watching this and if anything, it showcased incredible performances by stellar actors playing really fucked up but endearing characters.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Sopranos, Dexter, Sons of Anarchy, Justified.

Film Review: Problem Child 2 (1991)

Release Date: July 3rd, 1991
Directed by: Brian Levant
Written by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Music by: David Kitay
Cast: John Ritter, Michael Oliver, Amy Yasbeck, Jack Warden, Gilbert Gottfried, Laraine Newman, Ivyann Schwan, James Tolkan, Martha Quinn, Zach Grenier

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 91 Minutes, 93 Minutes (extended)

Review:

“Junior’s getting worse, we can’t even figure out what he did to that dog!” – Ben Healy

If you like Problem Child, you’ll probably like Problem Child 2, even if it’s not as good. If you don’t like the first film, then just skip this.

This is not a bad film in spite of it’s 4.9 out of 10 on IMDb, it’s just a film made for its audience, which isn’t made up of many people, especially nearly thirty years later.

This is a goofy, crude comedy but it’s that type of crudeness that worked really well for me when I was a kid. Even know, it’s over-the-top moments like the carnival ride vomitpocaplypse still play really well. It’s intentional hokiness is still funny. In fact, I was actually impressed by it, seeing it all these years later, as I couldn’t believe how far they pushed the bar and how much time and effort went into that massive gross-out gag.

The story is also good in that it isn’t really a re-tread of the previous film. Sure, at it’s core it is primarily about a kid that likes to be a total dick but it introduces a good foil for him. It also changes the setting, focuses a lot on John Ritter’s Little Ben looking for a new woman and it also focuses on the importance of family and friends.

Plus, I absolutely love Jack Warden and Gilbert Gottfried in these movies and they give us some really good shit, here.

Problem Child movies are simple, mindless, fun films. This one is no different in that regard. I think it lacks some of the heart of the original but the end sort of pulls you back in, as the characters you care about seem to find what they were looking for and what they need.

Ultimately, these weren’t movies that were made to be classics, they were just made to entertain people in a time where everything wasn’t offensive and we could laugh at bonkers, absurd shit.

The film is juvenile but it’s supposed to be. Back in the day, that worked for me. Seeing it now, it still works, as it brings me back to that place. But with that being said, I wouldn’t expect this to mean much to a person watching it for the first time in 2020.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and crappy sequel.

Film Review: RoboCop (2014)

Also known as: OmniCorp (fake working title)
Release Date: January 30th, 2014 (Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan)
Directed by: José Padilha
Written by: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner, Nick Schenk
Based on: character by Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner
Music by: Pedro Bromfman
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, Zach Grenier

Strike Entertainment, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia Pictures, StudioCanal, 118 Minutes

Review:

“This, my friends, is the future of American justice. How many like Thomas King will pay for their crimes now that RoboCop is here? Yes, let’s not shy away from what this means, people. Men weren’t up to the task, but Alex Murphy, a robot cop, was.” – Pat Novak

I had no urge to see this when it came out, even if I was a big fan of the first two RoboCop films and a lot of the comic books since then. This looked terrible, boring and like every other shitty remake that’s trying to milk a classic without offering up anything new or entertaining.

I wasn’t wrong. This is exactly that.

The only reason I watched this is because I just revisited the original trilogy of films and if I could sit through RoboCop 3, I could at least try and sit through this. That being said, this is better than RoboCop 3 but that doesn’t really say much about the quality of this picture as the aforementioned movie is absolute dogshit.

The only thing that makes this movie a little bit palatable is the cast. I was kind of intrigued that this attracted so many high profile actors to it and they really are the best part of the film. Gary Oldman owned all of his scenes, Michael Keaton was neat as a baddie and Samuel Jackson was the most entertaining element in the entire picture.

Sadly, none of the charm from these three solid actors rubbed off on Joel Kinnaman, who was the main star and the one thing in the film that had to work if this movie wasn’t going to be a complete dud.

The problem is that there really wasn’t a difference between human Alex Murphy and RoboCop Alex Murphy because Kinnaman played this like a robot from start to finish. He was a charisma vacuum that sucked so hard that he drained the charisma out of the more talented actors around him. As good and emotionally effective as Abbie Cornish was as RoboCop’s wife, she was stifled by her co-star’s complete inability to play his role convincingly. It’s like a wrestling match where the guy getting beat up doesn’t sell for the wrestler doing all of his signature moves.

There are other problems as well.

For instance, there are no memorable action scenes. I guess the part where RoboCop storms OmniCorp and fights a bunch of ED-209s is the highlight but its really kind of forgettable. By comparison, the two times RoboCop confronts an ED-209 in the original film, it is more memorable than this. So maybe less is more? This film kind of Michael Bays it up with an over the top action sequence that doesn’t serve much of a purpose other than wrecking RoboCop’s armor so that he looks cooler for the final showdown.

Also, the emotional journey of Alex Murphy is confusing and really sloppy. It’s not portrayed in a fluid way and I think we’re just supposed to guess at his emotions as Kinnaman gives blank stares while flashbacks overtake his circuits. Every now and then a scientist explains what’s happening but we really didn’t need this in the first two films, as Peter Weller conveyed real emotion regardless of being a robot.

There also aren’t any clear cut villains in this in the same way that there were in the other films. Sure, you suspect that Michael Keaton is evil but there isn’t a “big evil” that you need to see vanquished like Clarence Boddicker, Dick Jones or Kane from the first two movies.

Also, Alex Murphy’s death in this is weak and completely lacks the effect that his death had in the original film. Which also means that I need to point out that this film also completely lacks any real violence. The first film had a huge impact because you believed that the world RoboCop inhabited was extremely dangerous.

There were no montages of RoboCop cleaning up the streets like we got in the first two films. Those were always important sequences that helped build the world RoboCop lived and worked in. I don’t see this new version of Detroit as dangerous at all.

I did like the intro to the film though, which saw a bunch of ED-209s and RoboCop-like drones deal with a terror threat in Tehran but this felt like it was ripped right from the first act of the video game Metal Gear Solid 4. Granted, I love that game so seeing what appeared to be an homage to it was kind of cool.

Ultimately, this was pretty much a pile of shit. I think most people agree with me, as there haven’t been sequels to this and the next RoboCop movie, which is currently entering production, is a direct sequel to the first film and ignores this snoozefest completely.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: skim milk and cardboard.

TV Review: Deadwood (2004-2006)

Original Run: March 21st, 2004 – August 27th, 2006
Created by: David Milch
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: David Schwartz
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones, Paula Malcomson, Leon Rippy, William Sanderson, Robin Weigert, Sean Bridgers, Garret Dillahunt, Titus Welliver, Brent Sexton, Bree Seanna Wall, Josh Eriksson, Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Gerald McRaney, Keone Young, Ray McKinnon, Brian Cox, Sarah Paulson, Zach Grenier, Cleo King, Stephen Tobolowsky, Richard Gant, Alice Krige, Fiona Dourif, Kristen Bell

Roscoe Productions, Red Board Productions, Paramount Television, HBO Entertainment, 36 Episodes (so far), 48-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

HBO’s Deadwood was ahead of its time. It only lasted for three seasons but luckily it stuck around that long. It also ended on sort of a cliffhanger and left you wanting to know what would happen after its final moments at the end of its stellar third season. Well, apparently HBO has announced that, ten years later, there is a movie on the way.

As for the show itself, it is really the first gritty and brutally realistic showcase of frontier life I had ever seen on television up to that point. It pulled no punches and went all out.

Now it did take some time to fall in love with. The first season moves a bit slow but by the time you get to the final episode of that season and see how the characters are changing and how they’ve evolved in a short time, it gets pretty compelling.

Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane are perfect and their relationship is one of the most dynamic in television history. This was also both men at their absolute best. While Olyphant is the first billed star, Ian McShane seems to get more actual screen time and overall, is the more interesting character.

The rest of the cast is full of several well known and great actors. And every one of these characters has a great story surrounding them. Most shows with large ensemble casts suffer from questionable quality with certain characters, as there is always someone wedged into large shows that either doesn’t fit or has an awful plot thread going on. This doesn’t happen in Deadwood. In fact, as far as a character driven drama, it has some of the best character development I have ever seen in a show. Even the characters, who at first, feel somewhat generic, end up having a lot of layers to explore.

Now the show isn’t as beautiful and as vast feeling as the AMC’s big western show Hell On Wheels but it edges it out in regards to its large ensemble cast, all of whom are more interesting and complex than most of the characters on Hell On WheelsDeadwood lacks in not being as visually epic as Hell On Wheels but it has more to sink your teeth into overall and it also takes place in a small camp and not an endless wide-open frontier. I like these shows pretty much the same but Hell On Wheels is a wee bit ahead simply because the rivalry between Bohannon and the Swede was incredible.

At the end of the day, Deadwood is one of the two best western shows I have ever seen. It is also one of the best HBO shows ever produced. It’s short run was unfortunate but the fact that this got on television to begin with is pretty awesome.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Hell On Wheels and because it shares a lot of actors with these shows, Fear the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy.