King Ralph, released in 1991 and directed by David S. Ward, is one of those films I half-remember from childhood. I know I saw the film, and I remember enjoying it. My brother even had the exact poster at right hanging in his bedroom. But I only saw it the one time, and like a lot of films I saw exactly once when I was just barely a teenager (or even younger in some cases), I didn’t remember much of the film. So, despite seeing that it doesn’t seem to be highly regarded on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes, I decided to see how well it held up now that I’m an adult.
You know what? I think this film is unfairly maligned. It’s still pretty darned funny. Continue reading →
Trees Lounge is the 1996 directorial debut of actor Steve Buscemi, who also wrote and starred in the picture. Buscemi is a quality, respected actor, and I was sufficiently curious to check the film out, especially as another Buscemi-helmed film, Animal Factory, has been recommended to me before. I haven’t gotten around to that one yet, but I figured if one film of his came highly recommended, another might well be worth checking out.
Unfortunately, Trees Lounge is a bit of a mixed bag. It does show Buscemi’s talent as a director, but the film itself is a lot like its protagonist: lifeless, aimless, and not entirely likeable. Continue reading →
I suppose on some level I should have known better. An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is a mockumentary about a terrible film. The risk that it was itself a terrible film should have been apparent, especially after I’d watched the horrendous Not Another Not Another Movie, which has a similar root premise and format. And its reception on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes certainly wasn’t setting the world on fire. But I thought it might still be worth watching. After all, it could simply have been too avant garde for most people; hey, it’s possible, and it’s certainly not a mainstream premise, after all. And it starred Eric Idle, who I’ve usually liked in films. And unlike Not Another Not Another Movie it wasn’t lying about its stars; it really does star Eric Idle in the title role as Alan Smithee. The potential was there. But, alas, it seems that movies about bad movies are themselves bad movies. Continue reading →
Sometimes your first impressions, no matter vague and ill-formed, are correct. I’ve actually watched Ghost Dad before, but it was when it was new to video and I was fairly young, not quite a teenager yet. I don’t remember much — though I did recall a few scenes — but I remembered not being particularly impressed by it. But I decided to give it another chance as an adult. Sure, the overall rating it’s received on IMDb was more-or-less in line with my childhood impression, but Bill Cosby can be a funny guy, and I thought maybe having some years on me might give me a better appreciation for some of the more nuanced jokes.
One of the things that’s occasionally difficult about reviewing movies that are new to me, but old to virtually everybody else is that sometimes I’m aware of the reception a film has had before I sit down to write my review. I was aware even before I watched it that many people think The Shawshank Redemption should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture. With Shawshank, I’ve now seen four of the five nominees for that year (1995′s awards, 1994′s films) — the only one I’m missing now is Four Weddings and a Funeral — and I can certainly see the argument that The Shawshank Redemption should have won. I can definitely see the argument against Forrest Gump, even though I did like that film. I can understand the Academy picking it over Pulp Fiction (though that film ranks higher in my personal estimation, it’s more for enjoyment than for overall quality). I don’t think Forrest Gump is better than Shawshank, though, and I don’t think I’d put it above Quiz Show either.
So how am I to review a film that has been wildly critically acclaimed since its release, that has only become more and more popular over the years? How do I review a film that many feel was robbed of an Oscar? That Ted Turner loved so much he broadcast it weekly on his stations for years to make sure people saw it? How do I review a film that currently sits at #1 on IMDb’s rankings?
Well, I could be contrary and say The Shawshank Redemption sucks. It would certainly get my review some attention, at any rate. Continue reading →
This film was loaned to me by my brother, who was surprised I hadn’t seen it yet; since today is his birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to review his selection today. I’ll admit to having had just a small amount of wariness, as this is after all a Tim Burton picture, and I haven’t often been a fan of Burton’s work; however, I figured if anything was tailor-made for Burton’s sensibilities, it’s an over-the-top retro invasion sci-fi comedy.
Mars Attacks! began life as a series of trading cards put out by Topps in the 1960s; after some adults grew concerned about children buying cards with the graphic and violent images, they were cancelled, only to be brought back in the 1990s. In 1996, a movie inspired by the cards and their pulp sci-fi style was released. It was the same year as Independence Day, and though Mars Attacks! was released several months later, it still took a beating in the box office. Part of that may have been due to people seeing the other alien film earlier in the year, and part of it may have been due to Mars Attacks! being a parody/homage to 1950s science fiction. Films with a pulp fiction sensibility (regardless of genre) — such as The Rocketeer, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and John Carter — have a tendency to do poorly at the box office and become cult classics at best. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head would be the Indiana Jones series, and that’s at least partly because very few people recognized it as such. Like its pulpy brethren, Mars Attacks! has had more success on home video and cable than at the box office. And watching it, it’s not hard to see why it has held on. Continue reading →
The Iron Giant is one of those films that seems to have had a better reception in the long run than in the short run. Released in 1999, the film had very little press and was quickly ushered out of theatres. But a stronger marketing campaign for home video, coupled with heavy airplay on Cartoon Network, led to it becoming more popular as time went on. So even though I’m coming to the film “late”, as it were, at least I’m not alone in that.
The film was directed by Brad Bird, who would later become known for directing two of Pixar’s more popular films, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. This film, however, was for Warner Brothers. It is, on the surface, a story about a boy and his robot. Young Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal) lives in a small town in Maine, being raised by his single mother Annie (Jennifer Aniston). He has a habit of bringing home “pets” which are stray animals or woodland creatures. The story starts when he encounters a “pet” that is just a bit more out of the ordinary. Continue reading →
The warning signs were there. There are certain little signs that can be used to tell if a superhero movie, or at least a film on a similar theme, is going to be bad. Mixed reviews from the audience. Status as an underground or cult hit. A director who had previously only directed horror films. A hero name that sounds like the uninspired and grim superhero names of the Dark Age of Comics. Being released in the 1990s. There were indications.
But the director in question was Sam Raimi. Sure, he had only done a few schlocky horror movies by that point, but he would follow it up with the still schlocky but hilarious Army of Darkness, and more importantly he would go on to direct the Spider-Man trilogy, which consists of two very good superhero films. And the film stars Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand, both of whom are talented actors. It seemed like Darkman would be worth the risk. Continue reading →
We’ll start Bat-Month off with one of the animated features. Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero is the second of three animated features spun-off from Batman: The Animated Series. The film was directed by Boyd Kirkland, and unlike it’s predecessor, Mask of the Phantasm, SubZero was released direct-to-video. Like Mask of the Phantasm, however, it continues to use the regular series voice actors for the characters, and primarily uses the same style of animation.
I say primarily, because there are several scenes, most particularly in the opening sequence but also during some chase scenes, where they use some computer animation to create the scenes. Although the CG animation is well done, this is one of the significant flaws of the film, as it is not just obvious, it also becomes rather distracting. It doesn’t blend well at all with the regular animation style that the cartoon uses, and which the film uses in most scenes. Continue reading →
A few months back I picked up a copy of Ernest Goes to Campand reviewed it here, as one of the many movies of the 1980s that I couldn’t quite remember seeing. That movie came on a cheap DVD three-pack, which meant that there were a couple other Ernest P. Worrell films to get to eventually. Looking at the films, I decided to space them out about three months apart — the third is a Halloween film so it should be seen in October — and so it has now come time to watch and review 1990′s Ernest Goes to Jail. Although it’s the second Ernest film I’ve seen, it’s technically the third in the series — the second being Ernest Saves Christmas — but I figured that the Ernest series was unlikely to have an in-depth continuity that needed to be followed.
There do, however, seem to be some constants in the Ernest films. Besides Jim Varney as the title character, the films all seem to be directed by John R. Cherry III, and at least in the first few films, Gailard Sartain plays a bumbling friend of Ernest with an interest in inventions. In this case, however, he’s a different character than in “Camp”, playing Chuck, one of two security guards at the bank. The other, Bobby, is played by Bill Byrge, who never speaks a word but mugs for the camera even more than Varney himself does. Continue reading →