Film Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2010 (Sundance)
Directed by: Eli Craig
Written by: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson
Music by: Michael Shields, Andrew Kaiser
Cast: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Chelan Simmons

Eden Rock Media, Looby Lou, Reliance BIG Pictures, Urban Island, Magnet Releasing, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Holy shit. We have go to hide all of the sharp objects!” – Tucker

I really liked this movie when I first saw it, which was way back when it came out in 2010. Weirdly, I hadn’t revisited since that initial viewing. Going back to it now was refreshing, as there hasn’t been a whole lot that I’ve liked in the horror genre, as of late. Especially in regards to comedy horror.

The premise of this film is great and it kind of makes you rethink horror films from the past. This is a movie that is about a series of misunderstandings and misinterpretations based on preexisting biases and well, other horror movies.

Tucker and Dale are two hillbillies that are driving to their vacation home in the woods. On their way, they meet a group of college kids and Dale is smitten with a girl in the group named Allison. He tries to talk to her but is nervous and comes off to the kids as a crazy, creepy, backwoods redneck. The kids are on the immediate defense because they’ve obviously watched too many horror films about killer rednecks in the woods.

Following the setup, the rest of the film is full of other misunderstandings that convince the college kids that these two hillbillies are trying to murder them. In reality, they are two nice and chill guys. The college students try to save a friend that the hillbillies have in their house, as she is recovering from an injury. As the college kids swarm the house, some of them end up killing themselves accidentally in the chaos. Tucker and Dale are left thinking that these kids are trying to kill Allison and have some sort of suicide pact. The surviving kids continue to think that Tucker and Dale are savage killers.

While the premise is fantastic it wouldn’t survive without good and clever writing and without some surprises thrown in. Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson penned a stellar script and Craig also did a fine job behind the camera, directing the action.

Tucker and Dale are incredibly likable characters, as is Allison. Other than that, it’s great seeing all the other kids get maimed, disfigured and killed in a myriad of interesting ways. I also loved seeing how freaked out Tucker and Dale were, as they couldn’t make sense out of what was happening.

Alan Tudyk played Tucker and he’s fun to watch in any role. However, Tyler Labine really stole the show as Dale. He was a true everyman and was just good at it. He wanted to win the girl, he didn’t look the part but through his heroics, bravery and loyalty to those he cares about, was able to win in the end.

There have been rumors about a sequel for years. In fact, a script was written but it was terrible and they decided against making it. So kudos to the filmmakers and actors for not just trying to cash in and ride the wave of success from the first movie. Besides, this is a very satisfying film on its own and doesn’t need a sequel just to have one.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other good recent horror parodies: Cabin in the WoodsShaun of the DeadZombieland and What We Do In the Shadows.

Film Review: Family Plot (1976)

Also known as: Alfred Hitchcock’s 53rd Film, Deceit, Deception, Missing Heir (working titles)
Release Date: March 21st, 1976 (Filmex)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Ernest Lehman
Based on: The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris, William Devane, Ed Lauter

Universal Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“[to Fran] We’re gonna have to kill these two ourselves.” – Arthur Adamson

Family Plot has the distinction of being Alfred Hitchcock’s last film. It also proves that even in old age, the director was a true auteur that never lost his mojo. This is an engaging and entertaining motion picture that while it isn’t Hitchcock’s best, probably deserves more recognition than it has gotten over the years.

The plot is about one giant misunderstanding. Unfortunately for the nice duo, it becomes a big mess, as the other duo locked in this cat and mouse game aren’t nice people and in fact are pretty evil and dangerous.

Barbara Harris plays a fake psychic that swindles rich old ladies out of their money. She partners up with a crafty cab driver played by Bruce Dern. The two of them are given a job that will reward them with $10,000 upon completion. That job is to find a long lost heir to a family fortune and return him to the fold. What they don’t know is that this heir is a career criminal and conman. The conman thinks that he is being pursued by the duo because of something heinous from his past. The heir is teamed up with a often times reluctant accomplice played by Karen Black. The film becomes a chase where the mostly good guys keep finding themselves in over their heads and the bad guys are running in fear of what these do-gooders may have on them.

The plot is well structured and executed marvelously for the most part. My only real complaint about the film is that it seems a bit too drawn out. Hitchcock loved a two hour-plus running time and frankly, this could have been 100 minutes and been just as good.

I loved seeing a younger Ed Lauter in the movie and with Bruce Dern and Karen Black, this just has a really cool cast. The fact that these actors also got to work with Hitchcock is kind of impressive. Not because they aren’t capable, they certainly are, but because it’s a teaming of great talents from different generations.

Speaking of which, it was also really neat that John Williams got to score a Hitchcock picture. Two different artists that defined two different generations in very different ways came together and made something that worked to benefit both parties. Williams score here isn’t anywhere as well known as those that he’d do for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg but it enhanced the overall experience of Hitchcock’s Family Plot and gave it some life it might not have had with a less capable composer.

I really enjoyed Family Plot. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it exceeded any expectations I could have had, even if I knew more about it before diving in.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: A lot of Alfred Hitchcock’s later work from the late ’60s into the ’70s.

Comic Review: American Flagg! – Definitive Collection

American Flagg is considered a classic and a masterpiece by many comic book aficionados since it was running regularly in the 1980s. I never read it back then, I was pretty much only concerned with G.I. JoeStar Wars and superhero comics at the time. It was also much more adult than what I was ready for back when I was in elementary school.

I did finally pick this up, after Comixology had it up for free for Unlimited subscribers. I’ve heard only good things and thought that it was an experience that was long overdue.

Sadly, it didn’t resonate with me. Maybe it’s because it feels like a relic of that ’80s era and it doesn’t work outside of that time, other than being nostalgia for those who loved it back then.

I will say that the writing is pretty good and that the artwork is better than what was the standard, at the time. I like the character design, use of color and the tone of it. I just couldn’t get into the narrative despite the writing being mature and better than what I used to read back in the ’80s.

With those who I’ve talked to about it, this is often times compared to Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s work on Robocop, as well as the original Robocop film. It may even have hints of Blade Runner. While those are all things I like, I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about American Flagg, which actually disappointed me.

I wanted to like it at more than just a visual level. I just felt that the characters were too generic and simple but then again, maybe that’s the point, as they live in a superficial, entertainment obsessed society. Still, it didn’t make for an interesting read, as it was difficult to feel a connection to any of the main characters.

I liked the talking cat though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Has similar themes to Robocop and Watchmen.

TV Review: Blackadder (1983-1989)

Also known as: The Black Adder (Series 1), Blackadder II (Series 2), Blackadder the Third (Series 3), Blackadder Goes Forth (Series 4)
Original Run: June 15th, 1983 – November, 1989
Directed by: various
Written by: Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson, Ben Elton
Music by: Howard Goodall
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rik Mayall (cameos)

2entertain, BBC, 24 Episodes (plus 3 specials), 30 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2014.

Rowan Atkinson is pretty much a comedic genius. Add in Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson, Brian Best and a bit of Rik Mayall and you’ve got a dream team of British comedic talent.

This is one of the best sitcoms ever produced. It is also quite unique in that each series was different and completely new. Series 1 took place in the British Middle Ages, Series 2 was set during the reign of Elizabeth I, Series 3 takes place during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, while Series 4 takes place on the Western Front during World War I. The one thing connecting all the shows is Rowan Atkinson’s character Edmund Blackadder or just “The Blackadder”, who is a different character each series, although each incarnation is a part of the same lineage. Many of the characters on the show are also different people within their own long lineages.

Out of the series, I really enjoy the fourth series the best. All of them are good but for some reason, in the fourth, they really hit their stride and knocked it out of the park in each episode. Going backwards, I also loved series 3, as it brought Hugh Laurie in full-time and gave the show a new and permanent dynamic that really upped the ante. Series 2 is my least favorite overall but it is still a level above the majority of televisions shows from that same era. The first series is pretty fantastic too and as good as Atkinson is in it, Brian Blessed really brings something exceptional to the show.

To this day, the show still feels timeless, is pretty damned hilarious and never really seems to get old. Maybe the the fact that each series is its own period piece, helps this show have that timeless vibe. I probably watch through each series almost annually. I feel like Atkinson’s Mr. Bean has become a more popular character, at least in the United States, but his greatest work comes here, as Edmund Blackadder.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: A Bit of Fry & Laurie and The New Statesman.

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: Shoulder Arms (1918)

Release Date: October 20th, 1918 (limited)
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin

Charles Chaplin Productions, First National Pictures, 45 Minutes, 36 Minutes (TCM print and DVD)

Review:

Shoulder Arms came out around the same time as A Dog’s Life, which I loved. Both films are early Charlie Chaplin works but also helped to bolster his growing popularity and lead to him being one of the most celebrated comedians of all-time.

This is Chaplin’s shortest feature film but it is also the first feature length picture that he directed. It was his most popular film commercially and critically up to its point of release in 1918.

The film has some solid material from the master of slapstick.

Charlie is at war and he hasn’t received any letters from home. However, one day he gets a package of some pretty stinky cheese, which he needs a gas mask to handle. After throwing it into a German trench, he captures thirteen enemy soldiers. He then spends some time wandering around behind the enemy lines disguised as a tree. The tree stuff is some of my favorite Chaplin material that I’ve seen. Most of the film ends up being a dream sequence.

Even though this is an early film in Chaplin’s long career, he was already a veteran at comedy and his shtick is just as effective here, as it has ever been.

The film is light, amusing and a quick watch.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Chaplin’s early films for First National: A Dog’s Life, The BondSunnysideA Day’s PleasureThe KidThe Idle ClassPay Day and The Pilgrim.

 

TV Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – The DiC Era (1989-1992)

Release Date: September 2nd, 1989 – January 20th, 1992
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Larry Hama
Music by: Stephen James Taylor
Cast (voices): Kevin Conway, Chris Latta, Sgt. Slaughter, Ed Gilbert, Maurice LaMarche, Morgan Lofting, Dale Wilson, Scott McNeil, Garry Chalk, Ted Harrison

DiC Entertainment, Hasbro, Claster Television, 44 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“What am I paying you for, anyhow?” – Cobra Commander, “You’re not paying me! I haven’t seen a dime from you in months!” – Destro, “…Minor detail.” – Cobra Commander

I recently reviewed the feature length miniseries that kicked off this era. I didn’t think that G.I. Joe could sink to lower depths than Operation Dragonfire but this series that followed proved me wrong.

Sure, I had seen these episodes before but not since I was in middle school when I didn’t have a refined palate.

The DiC era of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero is an example of what can happen when you take something perfect and try to replicate it with less money and shoddy resources. It’s not even like a Chinese knockoff it’s more like a North Korean knockoff. And for some reason, even though “American” is still int he show’s title, G.I. Joe are now presented as “international heroes”. So are they a U.N. thing? Or is that because the United States has a base in nearly every country anyway and this cartoon was pointing that out in a tongue and cheek sort of way? I doubt that it is the latter, as the people behind this show don’t seem smart enough to know how to flush a toilet let alone create some sort of clever, subtle and sarcastic “fuck you” to U.S. foreign policy and the military.

Well, this is an inadvertent “fuck you” to the military regardless, as it takes once heroic and badass soldiers that defended Old Glory and turns them into the Three Stooges with laser rifles. I have never seen dumber characters fighting for freedom than the ones represented here. And really, it’s a big “fuck you” to all the fans that loved G.I. Joe because the quality of the stuff before this (excluding The Movie) was friggin’ solid.

The biggest complaints I have about this era of G.I. Joe are the same as those I discussed in my Operation Dragonfire review. But to summarize, the character designs are ugly, the dialogue is atrocious, the animation looks like shit and the writing is painful and baffling.

Granted, Hasbro is probably to blame for the character designs but this show does nothing to make them better and in fact, it enhances the vibrant colors and goofy flourishes.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was once my favorite thing on television. Then DiC Entertainment came along and took a giant f’n shit on it.

And my god, man… that theme song they did is enough to make your eyeballs melt and your ears explode.

I must run this turd pile through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 2 Stool: Sausage-shaped but lumpy.”

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: Nothing good.