Film Review: The First Power (1990)

Release Date: April 6th, 1990
Directed by: Robert Resnikoff
Written by: Robert Resnikoff
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Lou Diamond Phillips, Tracy Griffith, Jeff Kober, Mykel T. Williamson. Elizabeth Arlen

Nelson Entertainment, Interscope, Orion Pictures, 98 Minutes

Review:

“See you around, buddy-boy.” – Patrick Channing

I remember seeing this film when I was in sixth grade. I rented it from the video store because kids could do that shit in America back before parent groups ruined our culture and started coddling children into pussies suckling the teat for participation trophies.

I also remember thinking that this movie was cool as hell and it burned Jeff Kober’s face into my mind due to how terrifying and creepy he was in this as the killer. So whenever I see him pop up in things now, like Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead, I return to the fond feeling I had for this movie when I was in my first year of middle school.

The film also made me have an even deeper appreciation for Lou Diamond Phillips, a guy I really liked in Stand and DeliverYoung Guns and La Bamba. Nowadays, he’s a guy whose work I absolutely love because of how great he is on Longmire and how much I enjoyed him popping up in The Ranch.

Unfortunately, The First Power is not as good as I remembered it. Give me a break, I was like eleven when I saw it. It is still entertaining and effective though but so many similar films have come and gone that are much better in the genre.

Basically, you have a cop (Phillips) that is in pursuit of a Satanic killer (Kober). He catches the killer and sees him killed in the gas chamber. However, the killer has made some sort of unholy deal and is basically an unstoppable, unkillable force of nature like Jason Voorhees but with more personality and a broader objective.

The cop teams up with a psychic (Griffith) and a nun (Arlen) and they try to stop the killer. In the process, a lot of crazy shit happens and there is a cool scene where the killer rips a ceiling fan down and somehow electrically animates it to use as a shield and to repel our heroes away, as they don’t want to be sawed in half.

The killer’s mask is also pretty cool, even though he doesn’t wear it nearly enough and spends most of his time showing his face or possessing some random person in an effort to surprise the heroes.

I still liked this movie, not having seen it in like twenty-five years, but it wasn’t as dark and insane as I thought it would be. It hasn’t aged well but it also hasn’t aged so poorly that it is a bad film.

Film Review: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Release Date: January 21st, 1992 (Sundance)
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Michael Madsen, Edward Bunker, Quentin Tarantino

Live America Inc., Dog Eat Dog Productions, Miramax Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, why am I Mr. Pink?” – Mr. Pink

Every great director has to start somewhere and this is where Quentin Tarantino’s career truly began. This is his origin story and for a first real attempt at creating a full-fledged motion picture, the young director absolutely nailed it and gave the world something exceptional.

The film also has a great ensemble of actors who would go on to do great things, as well as Harvey Keitel, who was already established as a master of his craft, especially in crime pictures.

The bulk of the movie, from a performance standpoint, mostly falls on the shoulders of Keitel and Tim Roth. While Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn and Lawrence Tierney were all perfect, it is the bond between Keitel and Roth that drives the picture and gives it the needed emotional weight and purpose.

The majority of this film takes place in one room. It actually only leaves this room when the actors walk out into its parking lot or during a flashback sequence. It is a very confined film but that works to its advantage and for its building of tension.

Reservoir Dogs also showcases Tarantino’s mastery of dialogue. While I feel that his dialogue tends to get really carried away in his later films and almost ruins them, in this picture he has the perfect balance of great dialogue, pivotal plot developments and overall motion. The conversations may go on for a bit but they are the driving force of the film. But never does it go on too long or go off on drawn out unnecessary tangents that don’t work as well on a second viewing. Every scene says what it needs to say and serves a purpose. The film just moves, flows and keeps you on edge in the right way. It is witty and it is fast in a way that Tarantino’s later pictures aren’t.

Now the film is also surrounded in some minor controversy, as people have gone on to notice that this film seems to borrow quite heavily from the 80s Hong Kong film City On Fire. Ringo Lam’s well-known picture in the Hong Kong crime genre predates Reservoir Dog by five years. It features an undercover cop infiltrating a group of jewel thieves, tension around the fact that no one knows who the cop is, a Mexican standoff finale and a whole laundry list of other similar plot points. Tarantino has casually denied that Reservoir Dogs is a sort of remake of City On Fire but it is hard to deny the myriad of similarities when you have seen both films.

The thing is, even if Tarantino ripped it off to launch his career, the fact remains that he made a much better picture than Ringo Lam’s City On Fire. Also, Reservoir Dogs, despite its inspiration, is very much a Tarantino picture. Also, hasn’t Quentin Tarantino’s entire career just been made up of artistic homages to all the things he thinks are cool? But I guess the thing that bothers people is that he won’t admit he lifted the plot when he very honestly states that Kill Bill was his version of Lady Snowblood or when he just borrows titles from other movies for his films like using Django in the title of Django Unchained or taking Inglorious Bastards and stylizing it Inglourious Basterds.

At the end of the day, I don’t care how Tarantino came to create Reservoir Dogs. It is still very much his and a work of modern cinematic art. It was, by far, one of the greatest debuts of any director in history and it will always be considered one of the greatest indie films of the 1990s.

Film Review: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Release Date: August 13th, 1967
Directed by: Arthur Penn
Written by: David Newman, Robert Benton
Music by: Charles Strouse
Cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Gene Wilder

Warner Bros., Seven Arts, 111 Minutes

Review:

“This here’s Miss Bonnie Parker. I’m Clyde Barrow. We rob banks.” – Clyde Barrow

For the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde, Fathom Events put it back on the big screen. I was glad that I got to see it in its original format, fifty years to the exact day it came out.

For those who haven’t seen the film or who don’t know about it, it follows the true story of Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Beatty), two young lovers that became famous bank robbers in the Mid-South. It also showcases their gang: their driver C.W. Moss (Pollard), Clyde’s brother (Hackman) and his wife (Parsons), who is actually strung along and wants nothing to do with the crime and violence.

Bonnie and Clyde was an important motion picture in the history of filmmaking. It was actually a trendsetter that changed everything going forward, which makes its 50th anniversary quite significant for all of film history. It was the first picture to truly show violence and to push the bar higher in regards to its sexual content. It also experimented with its style visually and musically.

It is the oldest film I can think of that edits action packed music-filled scenes with cuts back to people talking. In some spots, it plays more like an early MTV music video. This, of course, existed a decade and a half before MTV and the musical choices reflect the 1930s, when this takes place, as opposed to the poppy 1980s new wave sounds. But it is easy to see how Bonnie and Clyde not only influenced movie filmmakers but also music video filmmakers and many other people in pop culture.

While the film was nominated for ten Academy Awards. It won for cinematography, which was quite deserved. Also, Estelle Parsons won for Best Supporting Actress, as Clyde’s sister-in-law Blanche. It was cool seeing Parsons in this, as I really only knew her as Roseanne’s mother on Roseanne, when I was a kid. I always loved her on that show, she was actually one of my favorite characters and seeing her here, much younger but in some respects, the same, was a really cool experience.

This wasn’t the first time I saw Bonnie and Clyde, I first watched it in my early twenties but I hadn’t seen it since then. I was glad I got to revisit it, as it is still a solid film, through and through. It has had a tremendous impact on film, television and music. It would inspire countless films and was a template for the Quentin Tarantino written Natural Born Killers and the Ice Cube and Yo-Yo song “The Bonnie and Clyde Theme”.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were magnificent in this. And really, what’s hotter than Faye Dunaway firing a tommy gun?

Also, Michael J. Pollard was dynamite as the bumbling but kindhearted C.W. while Gene Hackman was boisterous and entertaining as Clyde’s crazy ex-con brother. The film is also the debut of Gene Wilder, who comes off like a solid veteran.

Bonnie and Clyde is a classic American film that deserves its recognition. It is also great that such a trendsetting and groundbreaking picture was actually quite good.

TV Review: Daredevil (2015- )

Original Run: April 10th, 2015 – current
Created by: Drew Goddard
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: John Paesano, Braden Kimball
Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Élodie Yung, Stephen Rider

ABC Studios, Marvel, DeKnight Productions, Goddard Textiles, Netflix, 26 Episodes (so far), 48-61 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

If you haven’t watched Daredevil at some point over the last week, you have been severely missing out.

Marvel, now teaming up with Netflix, has given hardcore old school comic book fans a television show that they deserve. Being that it is on Netflix and not ABC or some other network, Daredevil has a lot of creative freedom. It also isn’t catered to the younger viewer, which can often times be a pretty tedious and annoying factor in regards to Marvel’s other live-action outings. What we’ve got is something very close to the source material and as dark as the stellar Frank Miller stories were in the early 80s. What we don’t have is a two-plus hour toy commercial accented by Tony Stark witticisms. For the record, I like Tony Stark witticisms but this isn’t the place for them.

Now I am not going to completely fan boy out like most of the people praising this show. It isn’t perfect and could improve in various areas but it is one of the best Marvel adaptations of all-time.

The positives are pretty abundant though.

To start, the tone of the show is perfect. The lighting is amazing, as it conveys the same color palette as the comic book from its most iconic runs. The cast, for the most part, is perfect. And the evolution of Daredevil throughout the first season of this series is very well done. We don’t have a hero that immediately kicks ass and looks invincible. We have a normal guy who is generally a bad ass but still gets his head kicked in a lot. The show just feels more real and more organic than any other live-action comic book property ever has and that in and of itself is a great feat.

The show also benefits by the fact that it isn’t stuffed full of characters and villains. The only real major Daredevil villains that even appear are Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) and Leland Owlsley (a.k.a. the Owl). Kudos on the producers for holding off on Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, Elektra, Mr. Fear and the rest.

Although, the amount of time focusing on the inevitable confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk is pretty drawn out. The pace of the show is a bit slow and lacking energy in areas. I feel like the bulk of everything important could have been covered in six-to-eight episodes. What we’ve got instead is thirteen episodes with too much filler material.

The one performance that I question is Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk. It isn’t bad but there are times where his voice is odd and out of place. I get that the character is written as a sort of fucked up kid turned “kingpin” but at this stage of his life, he should be more sure of himself and confident in his abilities. And I am not saying that he isn’t confident but his bizarre tone just seems out of whack for what the character needs to be. The Kingpin is not some emo child in a fat suit, he is an exacting, ruthless and very motivated evil genius that isn’t intimidated by anything. Maybe that makes him one dimensional but I’d rather have a caricature of pure evil than what we have with this character on the show. Besides, the comic book version of Kingpin has been fleshed out so well over the years that there is a lot to work with without some new and unnecessary spin on the character.

Daredevil is fantastic though. It is worth your time and as an avid reader of Daredevil in the comics, I think that this show truly hits the mark. It can be improved upon but it is a step above everything else Marvel has done thus far.

Film Review: Streets of Fire (1984)

Release Date: June 1st, 1984
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Walter Hill, Larry Gross
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Willem Dafoe, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, E.G. Daily, Richard Lawson, Bill Paxton, Lee Ving, Stoney Jackson, Robert Townsend, Grand Bush, Mykelti Williamson, Ed Begley Jr., John Dennis Johnston, Lynne Thigpen

Universal Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Well, it looks like I finally found someone who likes to play as rough as I do.” – Raven Shaddock

I have always looked at 1984’s Streets of Fire as a sort of spiritual successor to 1979’s The Warriors. They share the same director, some of the same themes, some of the same acting talent and take place in a vivid and surreal fantasy version of urban America.

While music often times drove the narrative and the action of The Warriors it takes over Streets of Fire and propels this picture forward as a perfect balance between the action and musical genres. Granted, this isn’t a traditional musical, it is mostly a string of live performances setting the tone, as the action flows around it. It is a movie full of energy and it is incredibly kinetic.

The film also has a neo-noir look, which was becoming popular in the 80s thanks to films like Blade Runner and slew of independent movies employing the visual style. While made in the 80s, the picture mostly looks like an homage to the 1950s and the rockabilly scene of that decade. The movie is a hybrid of 1950s and 1980s culture but the 50s were on a comeback in the 80s and this film really embraces that.

Streets of Fire also crosses over into the biker gang genre of film and Willem Dafoe’s Raven Shaddock seems to channel his character Vance from his debut film The Loveless, a biker gang picture that was also Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial debut.

The film also stars Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis and Amy Madigan.

Paré was a good hero and it is unfortunate that he didn’t do a whole lot after this movie. His acting was a bit better than average, at this point in his career, but he had a presence and just epitomized cool. Diane Lane was beautiful and did great with the musical numbers, even if it wasn’t her voice. Rick Moranis was incredibly unlikable but even then, who doesn’t like Moranis? This film was Amy Madigan’s coolest role and second only to her part in Field of Dreams. I wish she would have got more roles like her character McCoy.

There are a lot of cameos by up and coming actors, as well as Walter Hill regulars. We get to see a young Bill Paxton, as well as Ed Begley Jr., Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Lynne Thigpen, Lee Ving of the punk band Fear, as well as small roles played by Stoney Jackson and Robert Townsend, who were members of the band The Sorels.

For the most part, the acting is not exceptional and the script is often times cheesy and bare bones but for this picture, it works. This is exactly what it markets itself as, “A rock & roll fable.”

The film is exciting and fast paced and never has much downtime. Sure, the plot might not be as developed as many would like but this isn’t that sort of movie. It is a roller coaster ride of bad ass tunes and bad ass characters where two manly men duel in a fairly original fashion. Plus, Dafoe’s presence adds so much to the picture, despite his lack of experience when this was made.

Streets of Fire was a true throwback when it came out and it still fits that mold, over thirty years after its release. It doesn’t need to be set in a defined space and time. It is imaginative and well executed and it has gone on to become a cult favorite among film aficionados.

Film Review: Police Story 2 (1988)

Release Date: August 20th, 1988 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Jackie Chan
Written by: Jackie Chan, Edward Tang
Music by: Michael Lai, Tang Siu Lam
Cast: Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Charlie Cho

Golden Harvest, Media Asia Group, 101 Minutes 

Review:

I was a big fan of Police Story, as a kid, but I never saw this one until now. I’m glad I did, as it bridges the gap between the original film and the third one, which was released theatrically in the United States as Supercop.

This chapter in the series is a true continuation of the first movie and it features much of the same cast. It goes deeper into the relationship between Chan’s Chan Ka-kui and his girlfriend May, played by the returning Maggie Cheung. It also shows the repercussions of Chan’s actions from the first film, as he starts out being demoted to traffic patrol.

The version I got to see of this film was in its native language and subtitled, which was a huge improvement over the dubbed version of the original Police Story, which I have watched for years. Although, the subtitles kept referring to Inspector Chan Ka-kui as “Kevin”.

This film is not as good as the original but it is still a solid Chan flick. It is tamer in nature and not nearly as gritty as its predecessor. The humor, while still there, seems to be a bit toned down too. It is still a lighthearted movie but the slapstick shtick is more reserved, even though the stunts still employ the typical Chan style.

Police Story 2 is a bit all over the place, from a narrative standpoint. It reintroduces old villains but then brings in some new ones. It just doesn’t seem to work and it feels like the addition of these new baddies, when it pops up, is sort of out of nowhere.

While most people don’t really watch Jackie Chan outings for a great story, a good narrative helps to set apart which of his films are in the upper echelon and which aren’t. In that regard, this one fails to live up to the standard bearer that is the first Police Story.

The stunts are still top notch and pretty impressive. Nothing is as iconic though, as the big finale of Police Story, the original. While the factory finale here is really good, it just doesn’t hit the mark like the shopping mall finale.

All things considered, if you love Chan, you will probably still really enjoy this picture. It came out in his prime and his athleticism and charm are incredible.

Film Review: Superdome (1978)

Release Date: January 9th, 1978
Directed by: Jerry Jameson
Written by: Barry Oringer, Bill Svanoe
Music by: John Cacavas
Cast: David Janssen, Edie Adams, Ken Howard, Clifton Davis, Peter Haskell, Susan Howard, Van Johnson, Donna Mills, Tom Selleck, Michael Pataki, M. Emmet Walsh, Vonetta McGee, Bubba Smith, Ed Nelson, Dick Butkus

ABC, 97 Minutes

Review:

This appeared in the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, before the show went national. Maybe they never featured it once they went to cable because it was a film so bad that they couldn’t handle sitting through it twice. I really couldn’t handle sitting through it once.

I watched this movie and I really have no idea what the hell was going on in it. There was some plot about a killer, a football veteran with a bum knee, a young quarterback trying to make a name for himself and a really young hot girl swooning over some old fart. And while IMDb categorizes this as a sports movie, it doesn’t feature any sports moments, just people talking about sports as it leads up to the Superbowl. When the Superbowl begins, the film ends.

Superdome is awful. In fact, “awful” isn’t the right word, it just doesn’t have the weight or the meaning I am looking for.

For a movie that takes place in New Orleans, the capital of fun in the American South, it was bland, boring and felt like medieval torture.

I’ve been to New Orleans multiple times, it is a magical place. In fact, you’d have to try damn hard to make a movie in New Orleans and make it an uneventful bore with absolutely no style. I’d be less bored watching a lab rat in a computer class try to write code with C++ for two hours.

Seriously, this film was so damn boring and bogged down with thirteen dozen characters and ninety-three subplots that it was impossible to know what the hell was happening from scene to scene. I mean, at least Bubba Smith and Dick Butkus showed up and tried their best but it was obvious that they were bored too.

Superdome should have been titled Superbore or Superdumb. Either of those would have been more fitting. Besides, this is a slap in the face to the people of New Orleans, the New Orleans Saints, the actual Superdome, the NFL, the entire sport of football and America. The NFL doesn’t need Hollywood’s help in trying to destroy its image, they are doing just fine.

And you bet your ass that this is going into the Cinespiria Shitometer! The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”