(mostly) long film reviews from a slightly movie-obsessed teen
As the Rocky, Rambo, and even Police Academy films have all proved over the years, making sequels to movies people like is easy. Making said sequels live up to their predecessors’ standards is a bit harder, though it can be done (Aliens). Francis Ford Coppola didn’t just accomplish this for one of the most acclaimed films in cinematic history (The Godfather), but did it only two years after that masterpiece came out, having near-complete control over the production all the way through… and was greeted with some surprisingly mixed reviews.
Though the excellent performances, stunning cinematography, and Nino Rota’s unforgettably haunting score were still highly praised, The Godfather Part II’s very unconventional structure was initially viewed much less positively…[continued here]
As you may already know, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the most recent Star Trek films. Instead of fitting the more thoughtful tone, relaxed atmosphere, and steady pacing that made the classic Trek TV shows so timeless, they mainly (“mainly” meaning every one of them except 2009’s surprisingly solid Star Trek, which still had some major issues of its own) relied on mindless, repetitive sci-fi action to move everything along. This may have entertained some, but if we’re being frank here, it left me rather bored. So imagine my surprise when my family watched Star Trek Nemesis, a fairly older Trek film that fit all the franchise’s best aspects, and it turned out to be just as bland as anything whipped up in 2013’s Into Darkness or 2016’s Beyond. What a shame.
For all you non-Trekkies back home, Nemesis is the fourth—and, unsurprisingly, the final—Trek film to star the crew of the beloved sequel series Star Trek: The Next Generation, including Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Commander/Captain William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner), and Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn)…[continued here]
Without a doubt, The Godfather is one of the most vital classic films ever made. Not only is it a towering, masterful cinematic achievement, but it also broke new ground for American cinema, ushering in a whole new wave of influential directors and screenwriters. There was truly nothing like it back then, and there still isn’t anything quite like it now. However, I would be lying if I said—and some of the following statements may be pretty controversial, so just try and stay with me here—it didn’t take me a little while to really love it.
Getting into an energetic, easy-to-follow thrillride like Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (another gangster classic I’d highly recommend) was easy…[continued here]
Nacho Libre is a deeply, deeply stupid movie, which in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, if put in the right hands, even the dumbest of concepts can be made fun, clever, or even smart. Just look at Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which had a really silly plot (a geeky teenager falls in love with a cute delivery girl, then literally has to fight her seven evil exes Street Fighter-style), but was more than well-crafted and well-written enough to make up for that. Unfortunately, Nacho Libre doesn’t do much more than bog down the career of Jack Black—an admittedly impressive feat, given how naturally funny the man usually is.
On paper, the idea of loosely basing a Black-starring comedy on the story of Sergio Gutiérrez Benítez (a real-life Mexican Catholic priest who competed as a masked luchador—the term used in Mexico for “professional wrestler”—for 23 years in order to support the orphanage he directed) sounds like a great way to pay tribute to him…[continued here]
Ralph Bakshi’s transition from edgy X-rated animation (Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic) to more family-oriented fare was, to put it mildly, very rough. Yes 1977’s Wizards is a bit of a cult classic now, and yes, I do understand why: it’s so weird, trippy, and just plain Bakshi (both in his signature “underground” animation style and jazzy, ethereal score) that his devotees were—and still are—sure to instantly lap it up. That doesn’t change how much I dislike this awkward mashup of child-targeted fantasy and adult subject matter, though.
Wizards’s basic premise sounds like fairly routine fantasy material: after the Earth is dramatically devastated by nuclear war, all that’s left are humanity’s “true ancestors” (that is, fairies, elves, and dwarves), as well as grotesque mutants and a few unaffected humans…[continued here]
Randomly flipping on Starship Troopers with my dad, I wasn’t hoping for much, but I did expect a few things. I expected it to be a dumb, loud Verhoeven (that is, Paul Verhoeven—the famed director of Robocop, Basic Instinct, and more) sci-fi action flick. I expected it to have tons of ridiculous R-rated carnage. Heck, I even expected it to satirize the military, as many online had been claiming. What I wasn’t expecting, however, is for my feelings on that particular film to be as split as they are, to the point where even thinking about it leaves me incredibly frustrated and confused.
Now, when Starship Troopers is trying to be a satire of military propaganda (as many of its devotees claim the entire movie is), it succeeds surprisingly well…[continued here]
Over the years, A24 has produced mostly excellent “independent” films like Ex Machina, Waves, and Uncut Gems (as well as a whole lot more I haven’t seen yet, including Good Time, The Lighthouse, Midsommar, It Comes At Night… I could go on and on), which has lead to me trusting them as a provider of the most unique voices in cinema today. Whenever something has their name on it, I’m almost always excited to see it, even if it doesn’t actually turn out to be that good (I’m looking at you, While We’re Young).
Their distributive collaborations with DirecTV Cinema (an AT&T company, of all things), however, have admittedly looked far less promising, with features like The Hole in the Ground and Low Tide (both from 2019, and both not likely to be watched by me anytime soon) resembling standard “direct-to-video” fare more than what you’d expect from such a consistently great studio...[continued here]
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by an excessively violent group of police officers outside a Minneapolis grocery store, just because he used counterfeit money to pay for some cigarettes there, then refused to return them when challenged about that. Afterwards, the country exploded with violence. Stores have been smashed to pieces, cars have been lit on fire, and other cops have even been injured and/or killed themselves.
Until The Invisible Man, Universal had not had a great time revitalizing its classic horror icons. First there was 2014’s Dracula Untold, which lost money in the States (nearly $20 million, in fact), and soon forgotten by everybody. Only three years later, the studio attempted the launch of its own “Dark Universe” (think of it as Universal’s stab at an MCU) again with The Mummy, which was an even bigger critical and commercial failure—so big, in fact, any attempts to develop this Universe more were promptly halted.
Now, if that hadn’t been the case, The Invisible Man probably would’ve been a blandly mild PG-13 origin story starring Johnny Depp as the titular character (no, really), which nobody would’ve seen at all…[continued here]
In honor of the recently deceased gymnast Kurt Thomas, I decided to watch Gymkata, his first—and only—venture into the movie business. It may technically be based off Dan Tyler Moore’s 1957 novel The Terrible Game, but let’s be real here: the film only—and I mean only—exists to piggyback off of Thomas’s stardom, straining at every angle to show off his talent while also squeezing him into some bad Bond-wannabe nonsense. The resulting product was just about as good as this tagline from the trailer: “When gymnastics and karate are fused, the combustion becomes an explosion, and a new kind of martial art superhero is born: GYMKATA.” Yep, that’s the kind of movie we’re getting here.
Supposedly around the Hindu Kush mountain range, there lies a tiny Asian country of Parmistan, which, for some inexplicable reason, forces all foreigners—and yes, I mean all foreigners—to compete in “the Game” (that’s the movie’s name for it, not mine)…[continued here]
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