Film Review: Bird On a Wire (1990)

Release Date: May 18th, 1990
Directed by: John Badham
Written by: Louis Venosta, David Seltzer
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine, Bill Duke, Joan Severance, Stephen Tobolowsky

Interscope Communications, The Badham/Cohen Group, Universal Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“You come to Detroit and you rent a Beamer? That’s like going to Germany and eating Jimmy Dean sausages!” – Rick Jarmin

I hadn’t seen this in a decade or so but I forgot how enjoyable this was until I revisited it.

I mean, it has Mel Gibson during the height of his career, coming off of the first two Lethal Weapon movies and the Mad Max trilogy. It also has Goldie Hawn who was the quintessential ’80s comedy damsel in distress archetype. You also have them being hunted by David Carradine and Bill Duke, alongside Stephen Tobolowsky, who I will always just see as Stu from Californication. I also can’t forget the small part Joan Severance has in this as a total badass.

Mel Gibson plays Rick but he has a bunch of different names because he has been bouncing around for fifteen years, as he’s under witness protection after sending David Carradine’s drug smuggling character to prison. Carradine gets out, re-teams with his old partner, played by Bill Duke, and they set out to finally take out Rick, the one man that can stop them from going back to their old ways. Rick runs into his ex-fiance Marianne, played by Hawn, and this exposes him to the bad guys. Rick and Marianne then spend the movie on the run from Carradine and Duke, as they are forced to revisit several people from Rick’s witness protection past.

The plot is pretty good, fairly believable and a nice unique narrative twist that calls back to classic noir. Although, this is not a film-noir in any way, really. It’s an ’80s style action movie with a lot of laughs.

The coolest thing about the entire film is the final showdown, which happens at an indoor zoo exhibit that features tigers, alligators, monkeys and other dangerous creatures ready to make lunch out of anyone that finds themselves in their path. I absolutely love the finale of this film and while it has a hokiness to it, it is just a badass and incredibly well shot spectacle. The sequence of Marianne running from the tigers is better choreographed than one would expect from a simple action comedy from 1990.

The other thing that makes this work so well is that Gibson and Hawn have incredible chemistry and are believable as ex-lovers that fell away from one another, only to reconnect and find the spark is still burning strong.

Bird On a Wire is a better movie than it deserves to be, honestly. That’s not a knock against the filmmakers or actors, it’s just that films like these aren’t typically this good.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Lethal Weapon 2Air America, See No Evil, Hear No EvilWildcats and Overboard

Film Review: Predator 2 (1990)

Release Date: November 19th, 1990 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Morton Downey Jr., Adam Baldwin, Kent McCord, Calvin Lockhart, Elpidia Carrillo (cameo), Kevin Peter Hall

Gordon Company, Silver Pictures, Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 108 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t see the eyes of the demon, until him come callin’.” – King Willie

I know a lot of people that don’t like Predator 2. Those people are assholes and their opinion doesn’t matter.

Predator 2 isn’t as perfect as its predecessor, which was a true masterpiece of ’80s action filmmaking. It is impossible to follow up perfection with more perfection. Well, not impossible but incredibly hard, especially in Hollywood where chasing the money usually leads to shoddy results.

Still, Predator 2 is a damn fine picture that is true to the spirit of the original while being its own thing, in a different setting and expanding on the Predator mythos in new ways.

Most of what we know about these alien creatures came from this film. It’s the first to really sort of showcase the psychology of the alien. You understand why it is doing what it is doing a bit more, you come to see that it isn’t just a cold blooded killer. The alien has rules and just appreciates a good hunt and going toe to toe with good game. It also shows that they are a society of respect for those they hunt against, if they just so happen to be bested in battle. Plus, it throws in an Easter egg to the Alien franchise, letting us know that these different alien species exist in the same universe.

Like its predecessor, this film also boasts a large cast of really talented people: Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton, Robert Davi, Morton Downey Jr., Adam Baldwin and Calvin Lockhart, as an evil voodoo drug kingpin that is maybe more chilling than the Predator itself.

I think that doing a sequel in a different environment was a good idea. I also feel as if the film took its cue from the success of Robocop and other ’80s films that took place in a near future urban environment with extreme crime and chaos. This is set in Los Angeles but it very much feels like the Detroit of Robocop 12. Frankly, I love the setting and I love seeing the Predator come between a massive gang war and drawing the attention of the LAPD, most notably the task force led by Danny Glover’s character.

We also get Gary Busey and Adam Baldwin as FBI agents that know about the alien and are trying to capture it alive in an effort to study it and steal its advanced technology. Busey’s group are a real thorn in Glover’s side but the two do get into a really cool sequence where they fight the Predator in a meat packing plant.

Alan Silvestri returned to score this picture, which was fantastic, as he did such an incredible job with the first movie. All of his iconic Predator themes are here but he adds in some new stuff and tweaks some of the other themes and presents them in new ways, which works really well.

I also want to point out that by Bill Paxton being in this, he is the only actor to be killed by both a Predator and a xenomorph from the Alien franchise. That’s a pretty significant honor.

This is just a cool movie. For people that grew up in the ’80s loving the action movies put out by Cannon, this is like a balls to the wall Cannon film but with a much larger budget.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Predator and Predators.

Film Review: Men at Work (1990)

Also known as: Clear Intent, Pop 65 (working titles)
Release Date: August 24th, 1990
Directed by: Emilio Estevez
Written by: Emilio Estevez
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Keith David, Leslie Hope, Darrell Larson, Dean Cameron, John Getz, Sy Richardson

Epic Productions, Triumph Releasing Corporation, 98 Minutes

Review:

“There are several sacred things in this world that you don’t ever mess with. One of them happens to be another man’s fries. Now, you remember that, and you will live a long and healthy life.” – Louis

Men at Work was both directed and written by Emilio Estevez. Originally, he had planned to call it Clear Intenet and says that he came up with the idea in the mid-’80s while filming St. Elmo’s Fire. Originally, Estevez wanted it to star himself and another Brat Pack member, Judd Nelson. He also claims that John Hughes was interested in producing it. Charlie Sheen asked to be in the film after reading his brother’s script and feeling like he needed to do a comedy after a string of more serious roles. Estevez, who was busy and filming Young Guns II while editing this picture, wanted to see this pet project through.

While the critical reception was mostly negative to mixed, at the time of the film’s release, it did please fans of Estevez and Sheen and has gone on to be a cult favorite comedy of its era.

It certainly isn’t a classic or a great film but it is charming and amusing. Both brothers have charisma, they are great when together on screen and the addition of Keith David, Dean Cameron and John Getz gave this film a lot of fun characters to play with.

The plot sees two garbage men get caught up in the drama surrounding the murder of a city councilman. There is an evil capitalist type, played by Getz, who is illegally dumping chemicals into the waterways around this coastal Los Angeles suburb. The brothers, who are just friends in the film, run into a bunch of zany characters that get strung along for the ride as well. But none of them are as entertaining as Keith David, who is, let’s be honest, stupendous in everything he does. And frankly, this is one of my favortie David roles of all-time, right alongside They Live… obviously.

Yes, this is a goofy, stupid comedy but that’s its appeal. Estevez didn’t write the funniest or most engaging script but he was able to give us something that worked, was true to the actors involved and felt pretty organic.

The ’80s and ’90s had a lot of dumb buddy comedies. Some of them had cops, some of them had slackers in over their head but it was a really fun genre for a long time. Men at Work just adds to it in a good way.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Young Guns, as the brothers Sheen are united there too. Also, Tango & Cash, the Stakeout movies and Dragnet.

Film Review: The ‘Young Guns’ Film Series (1988-1990)

Young Guns was kind of a big deal when it came out in 1988. It had hip young stars and it was a western in a decade where they weren’t too popular. It was like a gritty, Brat Packy action flick that saw our heroes face off against one of the greatest western villains of all-time, Jack Palance.

And then there was a sequel, which brought in some other young stars on the rise.

Since it has been awhile since I’ve seen these two movies, I felt like it was time to revisit them.

Young Guns (1988):

Release Date: August 12th, 1988
Directed by: Christopher Cain
Written by: John Fusco
Music by: Anthony Marinelli, Brian Banks
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terry O’Quinn, Jack Palance, Terence Stamp

Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, Peppin. I see you got Charley Crawford down there with you.” – Billy the Kid, “Yeah, that’s right, Bonney. We got a whole…” – Peppin, [Bonney goes to the window and shoots Charley Crawford] “Hey, Peppin. Charley Crawford’s not with you anymore.” – Billy the Kid

While I still enjoyed this movie, so many years after I had seen it last, it isn’t a film that has aged well. Still, it has a lot of high adrenaline moments and a great young cast of up and coming talented actors. It just feels very ’80s and kind of hokey, at points.

Emilio Estevez is the star of the picture but he is surrounded by Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips, who would also join him in the sequel, as well as his brother Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko. There is also Jack Palance as the villain, Terence Stamp as the mentor and John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn, as an ally of sorts.

It is cool seeing these guys come together for a real balls to the wall adventure but the writing was pretty weak. This chapter in Billy the Kid’s life was interesting to see on screen but the movie does take some liberties, albeit not as many as its sequel.

Estevez is really enjoyable as William H. Bonney and he made the historical figure cool, even if he was a killer and not a very good person. He embraced the role, ran with it and gave it a lot of energy that someone else probably wouldn’t have been able to muster. At least not quite the same way Estevez did. Plus, I always like seeing him act with his brother. Sadly, Sheen doesn’t last too long and obviously didn’t return for the sequel after meeting his demise in this one.

Problems aside, Young Guns is still entertaining and a really fun movie. This one is considered the superior of the two but I actually like Young Guns II a hair bit more.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Young Guns II.

Young Guns II (1990):

Release Date: August 1st, 1990
Directed by: Geoff Murphy
Written by: John Fusco
Music by: Alan Silvestri, Jon Bon Jovie
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, William Peterson, Alan Ruck, Balthazar Getty, James Coburn, Jenny Wright, Robert Knepper, Viggo Mortensen, Tracey Walter, Bradley Whitford,

Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Yoohoo. I’ll make you famous!” – Billy the Kid

Young Guns II was a good sequel to the first. It’s far from a perfect film and has its share of issues but it feels consistent with its predecessor and I liked the additions to the cast in this one. And then there is the sexy bare ass scene with Jenny Wright that really got me excited when I was an 11 year-old in the movie theater seeing her majestic bum on a thirty foot screen. It was one of those special moments in life where you truly believe that God is real and he’s your best friend.

The soundtrack by Jon Bon Jovi makes the film feel dated but the instrumental versions of his pop rock song are still enjoyable and give the film an extra level of hipness that the previous picture didn’t have.

I really like the addition of Christian Slater here and he is my favorite character in this film series. I also liked seeing Alan Ruck and Balthazar Getty join the gang. Another plus for me was seeing Bradley Whitford get a small but important role, as I always liked him, even if I only knew him as being a dirtbag in several ’80s teen comedies. Whitford would go on to have a pretty nice career where he could show off his acting prowess much more effectively than his earlier roles.

While the big finale in the first film was bigger than anything that happens in this one, this film has a grittier feel to it, which I liked. I also liked that it told the Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett story, even if it took some big liberties.

The film also entertains the Brushy Bill Roberts story, where an old man back in the ’40s claimed that he was Billy the Kid and that he actually wasn’t killed by Garrett in 1881. Emilio Estevez also plays the older Bill, where Whitford plays the guy interviewing him.

Both films have some scatterbrained writing but that doesn’t make them hard to follow and not enjoyable. This chapter is more disjointed than the first but its positives give it an edge, in my opinion. The returning cast seemed more in tune with their roles and Slater was fun to watch.
Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Young Guns.

Film Review: Rocky V (1990)

Release Date: November 16th, 1990
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Richard Gant, Kevin Connolly, Tony Burton, Burgess Meredith (cameo), Carl Weathers (archive footage), Dolph Lundgren (archive footage),

United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Now, like your Mark Twain once said, ‘Virtue has never been as respectable as money.'” – George Washington Duke

I have never gotten the level of hatred that people have for Rocky V. Is it the best in the series? No. But I also don’t think that from a quality standpoint, it is anywhere below the later sequels III and IV. It actually has a great and important story and examines some areas of a boxer’s life and boxing as a sport that were probably long overdue in being explored in this long running film series. There is one big negative but I’ll get to that.

First, the film deals with Rocky Balboa getting brain damage after his bout with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It also deals with how athletes are often times taken advantage of by financial crooks, as we see Paulie give power of attorney to their accountant, who lost all their money in a failed scheme. Additionally, we get to see the crookedness of high profile boxing promoters with the character of George Washington Duke, who was an obvious caricature of Don King, who exploited several young boxers that he “owned” for his own personal monetary gain. Lastly, the film deals with a boxer and his relationship with his family and also with his personal struggles when his career is over. Rocky V is a film with a lot of layers, all of which I found to be interesting.

And that’s the thing. You could say that there is too much going on in Rocky V from a narrative aspect but I like that the film addresses these issues, shows them play out naturally and doesn’t have to spell everything out for the audience or beat them over the head with each issue. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the challenges as they appear and to understand that ultimately, Rocky has always had what he needs most and that the solution is simply embracing the love in your life.

Rocky V may be cheesy at points but aren’t most of the Rocky films to some degree? Balboa is a good hearted guy always ready to crack a bad joke and those characteristics have sort of become larger than Balboa in the films themselves. Plus, by the time you get into the later films, Paulie just adds in his own sense of humor that keeps the later sequels grounded in lightheartedness even with serious subject matter.

This film also brings the original creative team of the first Rocky back together. John G. Avildsen returns to direct, Bill Conti is back on the music and ultimately, it works well to recreate the poor area of Philadelphia that Rocky, Adrian and Paulie rose out of but now have to return to. The addition of Burgess Meredith, even as a ghostly cameo, is a nice nod to the first film and brings things full circle, which was good considering that this was the last film in the series for sixteen years.

The big negative I mentioned before is Tommy Morrision, who played the boxer Tommy Gunn. The character starts as Rocky’s protege but decays into a puppet for the sinister George Washington Duke and thus, becomes Rocky’s big opponent at the end. The problem with Morrison is that he is a real boxer and not an actor. Rocky films work better with actors as the rivals. Imagine if Apollo Creed was played by George Foreman or Larry Holmes, it just wouldn’t have worked as well. Also, I felt the same way about Antonio Tarver in the sixth film and Tony Bellew in Creed. None of these guys had the impact of Apollo, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. Plus, Morrison’s line delivery was really painful at times.

While people knock the street fight at the end of the film, I’m fine with it. We’ve seen Rocky in the ring more than a half dozen times. Seeing him take it to the streets and embracing his roots against a jacked up farm boy was kind of cool.

I think that Rocky V came out in a time when the franchise sort of ran its course. It was the fifth film in 14 years. Plus, there was solid competition when it came out, so it didn’t perform well. Critics weren’t crazy about it but they aren’t crazy about most movies. I think people shit on Rocky V because it’s fun to shit on something that everyone hates. But I think it is more about following the crowd and not really about the movie. People just parrot each other’s sentiment and comments without much actual thought of their own but that’s why we always end up with shitty presidential candidates. But I’ll stop there and not go on some political rant.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Other Rocky films.

Film Review: Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Also known as: Chucky 2: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 2 – Die Mörderpuppe ist zurück (Germany), Brinquedo Assassino 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: November 9th, 1990
Directed by: John Lafia
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Christine Elise, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Grace Zabriskie, Beth Grant, Catherine Hicks (archive footage)

Universal Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Surprise! Did you miss me, Andy? I sure missed you. I told you. We were gonna be friends to the end. And now, it’s time to play… I’ve got a new game, sport: It’s called “Hide the Soul”. And guess what? You’re it!” – Chucky

Child’s Play 2 is my favorite film in the Chucky franchise. While the first is probably considered the superior film in quality, this is the one that I think is the perfect Chucky movie and back in the day, this chapter resonated with me the most. So let me get into why.

To start, we know who and what Chucky is. In this film, he comes back to life and just goes for it. No waiting, no building of suspense for 45 minutes, just pure unadulterated Chucky, ready to kill anyone standing between him and his “best friend” Andy (Alex Vincent). And why? Because he needs young Andy’s body before his soul is permanently trapped in his doll form.

The true highlight of this film though, is the big grand finale in the Good Guy Doll toy factory. We get to see our surviving heroes run through mazes of dolls that look like Chucky. We get to see the heroes crawl through industrial machinery and try to outwit the pint-sized plastic killer. We also get to see Chucky get run through the ringer like never before and really, he’s never got his ass kicked quite like this again. Andy and his older foster sister Kyle (Christine Elise) make a formidable duo. I’m actually really glad that they are now both back in the franchise, two and a half decades later.

As a guy that has seen a shit ton of horror movies, the finale in Child’s Play 2 is one of the best final battles I’ve ever seen in the horror genre. Although, the county fair showdown in Child’s Play 3 is also pretty damn good.

I also like the casting in this film. The foster parents were Jenny Agutter, who I adored in An American Werewolf In London and Logan’s Run, and Gerrit Graham, who always makes me smile, even when he’s sort of just a snarky douche. I loved him in TerrorVision and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, as well as his multiple appearances in the Star Trek franchise. Then you have Beth Grant, who is always perfect, in a small role as an elementary school teacher that gets in Chucky’s way.

Child’s Play 2 is the peak of the original trilogy of films for me, back before the franchise got a lot more comedic with 1998’s Bride of Chucky. It’s a perfect Child’s Play film and has Chucky at his brutal best where he still gets in some funny one-liners without the film being overtly funny and still having a good amount of actual terror in it. And there is just something about that Chucky-Andy relationship that almost makes the Andy films feel like the only ones that actually matter.

Film Review: Marked For Death (1990)

Also known as: Screwface (working title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1990
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Steven Seagal, Joanna Pacula, Keith David, Danny Trejo, Danielle Harris, Kevin Dunn

Steamroller Productions, 20th Century Fox, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Look upon this madman! Him dead and him don’t even know it!” – Screwface

I’ll be honest, I was never really a Steven Seagal fan. I didn’t dislike him, however. But when I was younger, I was more into Jean-Claude Van Damme because BloodsportKickboxer and Lionheart were just better pictures than anything Seagal put out. However, I did remember liking the one where he fought evil voodoo Jamaicans. So I figured that I would revisit it, all these years later.

Marked For Death isn’t a good movie but it is a passable 1990ish action film. It’s high octane, balls to the wall and well, it features awesome evil voodoo Jamiacans. It also features one of my favorite badasses, not Seagal but Keith David, who will always have a special place in my heart for They Live and The Thing.

The film also features a young Danielle Harris, a still unknown Danny Trejo and a small part by a guy who is in a ton of movies I love, Kevin Dunn.

The story sees a DEA agent come to the realization that he has become just as bad as the criminals he tries to bring down. He quits his job and returns home to decompress. However, his town is overrun by Jamaican drug dealers. Seagal then gets caught up in it and makes it his personal mission to act as a rogue agent and take these bad guys down.

The leader of the baddies is a scary looking voodoo practitioner named Screwface. The guy is legit scary and one of the coolest action movie villains of the era.

There’s guns, explosions, voodoo and all sorts of sinister voodoo trickery. The last act of the film sees Seagal and Keith David track Screwface back to Jamaica for a final showdown. But we get two final showdowns because of some of that sinister voodoo trickery.

Marked For Death is certainly watchable and I’ll be honest, it’s kind of fun. This is the best of the early Seagal movies, as far as I remember, but I’ll probably rework my way through them, as it’s been awhile since I’ve indulged in Mr. Seagal’s flicks.