Lionheart

Official Poster

Release Date: January 11, 1991

Genre: Action, Drama, Crime   

Director: Sheldon Lettich     

Writers: S.N. Warren (Earlier Screenplay), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Story & Screenplay) & Sheldon Lettich (Screenplay)

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page, Deborah Rennard, Lisa Pelikan, Ashley Johnson, Brian Thompson

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

It’s been a while since I reviewed a movie with an 80s action star. I didn’t want to do another Sylvester Stallone, Steven Seagal nor Dolph Lundgren movie since I’ve done one of each. I combed through the list of action stars and one name shocked me as I’ve never reviewed any of his movies for the site yet. The person I’m referring to is the Muscles from Brussels himself, Jean-Claude Van Damme. JCVD was a prolific action star with good looks, kick ass moves and the master of the splits that would make men cringe. Going through is filmography one movie stood out as a perfect film to present since it doesn’t seem to find a whole lot of love in the movie review community. For this review, we look back to 1990 and the film, Lionheart.

In the movie Lionheart, Van Damme plays Lyon Gaultier, a solider in the French Foreign Legion stationed in Djibouti. He receives a delayed letter from his sister-in-law in Los Angeles regarding his brother in the hospital after a drug deal gone bad. After being denied leave, Lyon deserts the legion and escapes in a Jeep. Wandering the desert, he gets work as a tramp steamer which the boat he is working on is heading for the United States. He arrives in New York City instead of Los Angeles. Penniless and with no way of getting to his brother in time he comes across an illegal street fight ring led by a man named Joshua (Harrison Page). Lyon participates in a match which he wins (of course) and earns money. Seeing the potential, Joshua takes Lyon to meet a woman named Cynthia (Deborah Rennard) who runs an organized street fight for the rich. Impressed by his fighting skills Cynthia sponsors him a flight home. Unfortunately, Lyon is too late as his brother has passed. He agrees to fight for Cynthia to bankroll an account to give money to his sister-in-law Helene (Lisa Pelikan) and his young niece Nicole (Ashley Johnson). Unbeknownst to Lyon, members of the French Legion have arrived in America to apprehend him to be Court Marshalled for desertion. Lyon must save his family as fast as possible before he is taken into custody.

Jean-Claude Van Damme as French Legionnaire solider Lyon Gaultier

Directed by Sheldon Lettich who wrote the screenplay alongside Van Damme, Lionheart is one of the standout films that he’s done. It’s more than a movie with a ton of fights. It’s a film that has heart. Van Damme is looking for redemption for abandoning his brother for a long time and trying to make right with what’s left of his family. The sacrifices he makes in the film from deserting his unit to his body being bloodied, bruised and broken are displayed with determination and will.

The performances in the movie are good and convincing. Van Damme naturally evolves the character of Lyon as a loner who slowly breaks out of his shell and works to make amends to his family and generate an unlikely partnership/friendship with Joshua. Harrison Page does a great job playing Joshua. Although he is a recruiter for Cynthia and is all about the money, he does look out for Lyon and helps him connect with his sister-in-law and niece. He is also credited with giving Lyon the nickname “Lionheart” which he gets known by through the fighting world. Deborah Rennard as Cynthia is seductive and manipulative. She tries to use Lyon as her personal boy toy, but Lyon rejects her advances. She only sees dollars with him and doesn’t care for his well-being. Lisa Pelikan gives a heartbreaking emotional performance as Helene who is angry at Lyon for not making it home on time to see his brother one last time and struggles to find forgiveness, but essentially allows him back into her life and Ashley Johnson was cute as a button as Nicole. There’s an appearance from Brian Thompson as Cynthia’s bodyguard/right hand man Russell, but he doesn’t get a lot of screen time. He appears only when Cynthia appears except for one scene.

Lyon getting a proposal to fight for money

The fights in the film are engaging and enjoyable as Van Damme goes up against some of the best each with different builds and abilities. I loved the fact they used different locations for each fight including an underground parking garage complete with cars parked in a circular format to represent a cage, a near empty swimming pool with just enough water to dunk the fighters in and even a racquetball court. It felt like I was watching two gamers play Street Fighter.

The plot is simple and there’s no real twists or turns. There is some predictability near the third act which I won’t go into in order to avoid spoiling anything. Lettich does a great job keeping the audience focused going from a fight to a dramatic scene and then to a character scene, etc. There are a few moments that drag out, but most of it comes from the first quarter of the film.

The final fight

Lionheart would rank as my third favorite Van Damme film only to Bloodsport and Hard Target. It’s the most human film of his body of work that we won’t see a performance like that again until his semi-biographical movie JCVD (another classic). The film went on to gross $24.3 million on a $6 million budget which is a nice chunk of change. It’s a dramatic actioner with gladiator combat that encompasses the spirit of not just a warrior, but a man. 

Trivia (Per IMDB)

  • A trailer for the film, seen on various VHS releases from Imperial Entertainment, which produced the film, makes absolutely no indication of Universal Pictures’ involvement, since Universal would only pick up the U.S. distribution rights later in the process.
  • Filmed after Death Warrant (1990) despite being released prior.
  • A sequel was planned but never materialized.

AUDIO CLIPS

Your Brotha is Not My Problem
You’re A Real Asshole
America
Rude Operator
Let Me Count This
This Is The Lion
You’re Kinda Pretty
What’s Happening?
You Told Them To Burn My Clothes?
Everything OK In There?
I’m Not Your Toy
Scotland
I’m Going To Draw Myself A Bike
Hard Cold Sick Bitch
You Need Karate Lessons
I Knew You Weren’t A Stranger
Wrong Bet

Clifford

Official Poster

Release Date: April 1, 1994

Genre: Comedy  

Director: Paul Flaherty    

Writers: William Porter (as Jay Dee Rock) & Steven Kampmann (as Bobby von Hayes)

Starring: Martin Short, Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen, Dabney Colman, Richard Kind

Note: This review is dedicated to the memory of Charles Grodin. Thank you for the laughs.

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Does anyone remember the move Three Amigos which was the 1986 comedy starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short? I had watched it recently after not having seen it in over twenty years. It featured three Saturday Night Live alums. While Steve Martin and Chevy Chase went on to be leading comedic stars on film, Martin short was left behind. Sure, he’s been a great supporting actor on film, but I couldn’t quite name a starring movie role for him. That is until I discovered that one of the first movies I saw Short in is available to watch on HBO Max. It’s a movie that would play all the time on Comedy Central just as I was getting home from school. It’s been twenty-five years since this movie’s initial release, and this is one that is truly a “Guilty Pleasure Film” for me. For this review, we’re going back to 1994 with Clifford!

The film starts out in the future as Father Clifford Daniels catches a boy trying to leave the orphanage. He sits down with the boy to discuss his reasons for leaving which then Clifford breaks into a moment in his childhood. The flashback is where the movie picks up. Clifford is a ten-year-old boy (You guessed it. Short, a forty-something man at this time is playing a ten-year-old boy) who has severe ADHD (which is caused by a high sugar intake as you will see in various points of the movie) and carries his recorder and his toy dinosaur named Stefan which he always carried in his pocket. He is in an airplane with his parents going to Hawaii for a convention. After hearing that the plane is flying over Los Angeles, Clifford asks if the plane will be landing there so he can go to Dinosaur World, the theme park of his dreams. After finding out it’s not stopping, Clifford goes into the cockpit of the plane and shut down the engines to which the plane must land in Los Angeles. As a result of this, Clifford is banned from the flight. Worried that he’ll miss the convention, Clifford’s father (Richard Kind) calls up his estranged brother Martin (Charles Grodin) who lives in Los Angeles and asks if he would look at him. Martin, a big named architect who is going through his own problems such as finishing a massive train system for the city and trying to save his relationship with his fiancé Sarah (Mary Steenburgen) who are at a stalemate over wanting children agrees to take Clifford into his home. And that’s when Martin’s world would be even turned more upside down.

Marin Short as the eponymous Clifford.

Clifford was shot in 1990 but didn’t get released in theaters until 1994. The reason was Orion, who produced the movie was on the verge of bankruptcy and they held off releasing several movies until they got their financials in order. The movie tanked at the box office and was universally panned by everyone, especially Roger Ebert who wrote, “The movie is so odd, it’s almost worth seeing just because we’ll never see anything like it again. I hope.”[1] and gave it a rare ½ star. Despite the overwhelming negative reviews, the movie has developed a cult status.

Clifford is indeed an odd dark comedy. I’m not sure what director Paul Flaherty or the writers were trying to accomplish with making this. It seems like they just told everyone let’s be as silly and weird as we can possibly be. I’m surprised Charles Grodin, a respectable actor stayed as long as he did, or he was completely oblivious to what was going on. The reasons that I do like Clifford not just because of the fact it was a movie that was played a lot during my childhood years. There are some things that I do enjoy about it, but then again, I enjoy obscure macabre comedy.

Mary Steenburgen, Martin Short, Charles Grodin and Dabney Coleman.

Martin Short and Charles Grodin carry the weight of the movie. Short portrays Clifford very reminiscent of his most iconic characters on SCTV, which was the pointy hair Ed Grimley. Like a ten-year old, when Clifford doesn’t get his way, he behaves badly. He gets triggered that he pulls out Stefan as a kind of security blanket. Some of his actions are even criminal in today’s society. It’s not until the near end of the movie where he realizes why his family is tormented by him. Grodin is the calm authoritative figure who slowly breaks down when Clifford continues to get to the best of him. He develops his own madness and when he tries to find ways of disciplining him, it makes matters worse. It’s as if both are playing Chess against each other predicting on who will make the next move. The cast of the movie is very small. The only supporting actors to this movie are Mary Steenburgen as Sarah who desperately wants children and when she sees Clifford she becomes in awe of him and Dabney Coleman as Martin’s sleazy womanizing boss Ellis who looks to capture Sarah’s heart for himself.

As for the jokes, it’s a blend physical comedy with insanity due to Short’s actions and reactions. Short makes great use of his facial expressions to crack a laugh or two. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Clifford takes Stefan out of his pocket and puts it in the shower just as Steenburgen is in it. They’re other jokes such as Short putting Tabasco sauce in Grodin’s Bloody Mary, Clifford’s dancing skills when he has a house party at his uncle’s after tricking him that he was leaving for San Francisco.

The movie ultimately failed due to its shear psychoticism and emotional issues between the two lead characters. There are moments in the film which could be depicted as negligence, kidnapping, and endangering the well-being of a child. Not to mention that when Clifford gets bad news he goes into this trance where he will do things such as eating everything in sight, demanding chocolate or creating something just out of nowhere to get even. This movie would not be possible to make today.

Marin Short and Charles Grodin

So, if you’re daring enough to watch Clifford you will be in for a comedic experience like no other. If you like madness mixed in with your comedy, then this movie will be right up your alley. My advice though is to not show this to any young children. They could learn some dastardly things watching Martin Short and his antics.

[1] Clifford Roger Ebert review

Trivia (Per IMDB)

  • Originally filmed in 1990.
  • Although planned for a 1991 release, Clifford became one of many films (including RoboCop 3 (1993)) produced by Orion and filmed years before its release date. The reason it was not released until 1994 was due to company Orion’s pending bankruptcy, and not because of bad press screenings, as some sources claim.
  • Charles Grodin and Mary Steenburgen were also a couple in the movie It Runs in the Family (1994).
  • Martin Short’s co-stars are usually standing on boxes and next to slightly oversize props.

AUDIO CLIPS

Dreams of Days In The Circus
Haven’t You Heard of the Word Sofa Bed?
Mrs. Extra Wide Load
Larry The Scary Rex
I You, Clinton
Bestest Looking Wig I’ve Ever Seen
Get Me The Bunny
An Authority On Wigs
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
I Don’t Want To Make This About Lighting
Leave The Dinosaur There
I’ll Get Him Later
Evil Little Monster
You Look Like Willie Nelson
Uncle Ten Most Wanted

Evil Ed

Original Poster

Release Date: May 2, 1997 (Sweden)

Genre: Horror, Comedy

Director: Anders Jacobsson   

Writers: Anders Jacobsson , Göran Lundström, Christer Ohlsson

Starring: Johan Rudebeck, Olof Rhodin, Camela Leierth, Per Lofberg

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

When I think of countries that have produced horror films, the most notable ones that come up besides the United States are Japan and Italy. There are so many notable films in the horror genre that birthed from these countries. Of course, that’s not to say that foreign horror films are limited to these countries. There have been films shot in Spain (1982’s Pieces), Australia (2005’s Wolf Creek) and Romania (Subspecies movies from the 90s) just to name a few. A couple years ago when I was getting back into the world of exploitation films thanks to the hit Shudder series “The Last Drive In” featuring my all-time favorite critic, Joe Bob Briggs I was looking for titles that were lesser known, but had a cult following. One of those movies I discovered through the streaming app Tubi was a 1997 Swedish slasher film which premise caught my attention. Within the first viewing I was hooked on it and ended up buying the Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition which featured three versions of the film. That film which is this week’s “Guilty Pleasure Cinema” review is Evil Ed!

Directed by Anders Jacobsson, who also wrote the script with Göran Lundström and Christer Ohlsson, Evil Ed stars Johan Rudebeck as Edward ‘Eddie’ Tor Swenson, an editor for the film company European Distributors, who gets assigned to the “Splatter & Gore Department,” which is the horror movie line to complete the unfinished edits of the company’s biggest franchise, the Loose Limbs films. The head of the department Sam Campbell (Olof Rhodin) allows Eddie to use his private cottage in the Swedish countryside to complete the films. Alone in the cottage and viewing these films for the first time Eddie is exposed to the blood, gore, violence, and craziness of the series as he has never seen a horror film in his life. Working late hours and watching every entry to edit them due to each European country’s different censor laws, Eddie develops hallucinations and sees anyone checking up on him as a monster to the point where he develops insanity and kills them.

Johan Rudebeck as protagonist Edward ‘Eddie’ Tor Swenson

The writers of Evil Ed created this movie as a political statement to the harsh censorship laws of Sweden. At the time, the country did not allow films to feature blood, gore, sex, or excessive violence. Eventually the country eased up on their restrictions which allowed Anders Jacobsson to proceed with making of this film. The film took five years to finish. It’s original intention was to be a short film, but ended up turning into a full length feature. The production went through some troubled times. The film was made using discarded equipment and there were constant re-shoots in order to get it to look the way it ends up on the film. When it was finished, Evil Ed was shown in only four theaters in Sweden. However, the great reviews of the movie created a buzz and ended up selling the distribution to over sixty countries.

There is so much I enjoyed about Evil Ed. The first thing I praise is its originality. I’ve never seen a film up to that point about a film editor who goes completely mad while performing his job. When you think about it, film editing is just a typical job. It can get frustrating, and you must work long hours in order to get the cut that the Director wants. It’s his vision, after all. The character of Eddie reminds us of ourselves as how we would react to something that we see for the first time and don’t know how to compute it. This could be anything from seeing your first horror movie to perhaps seeing a naked body for the first time and not knowing how to process it in your brain or you watch something traumatic that you don’t know how to react, and stays bottled up with you inside. Jacobsson does a great job exploring these feelings throughout the lead character which in turn is performed great by Johan Rudebeck. You see how innocent and mild mannered he is and then you slowly watch as his morality and clean soul is polluted by what he sees on the monitor. Rudebeck’s Eddie goes through the moods like changes of the season. He goes from innocent to scared to humorous in a dark tone to outright madness which doesn’t end well.

Image of the Loose Limb killer

There’s not much of a supporting cast other than the principal actors. I found Olof Rhodin’s portrayal of Sam Campbell to be hilarious and he acts just how an executive would act. He doesn’t care about the concerns Eddie brings up to him. All he cares about is the job getting done so his distribution deal can be signed and delivered. That’s the name of the game in the film industry. The art aspect is gone, and films are seen as products being sold to the highest bidder. Before I go any further into the performances I should point out since that the film is Swedesh, the characters were dubbed by English speaking actors. The dubbed actors played it straight. You don’t have to worry about it being too goofy or over the top with the exception of some of the monsters that Eddie sees when he takes his periodic breaks in between his editing jobs.

Evil Ed has the right balance of horror and comedy not to take it too seriously. Each scene fits appropriately to the situation that is unfolding. Many fan reviews compare the humor and horror to that of the Evil Dead movies. That’s a fair statement to make. I found myself laughing at the littlest moments. The ample amount of blood and gore is right on the level of Evil Dead and will keep not only those fans, but gore fans hungry for more. It didn’t occur to me until I started doing research on this movie is that the filmmakers were obviously influenced by Sam Raimi’s classic horror trilogy and the character name of Sam Campbell didn’t resonate in my head until I realized he took Sam Raimi’s first name and Bruce Campbell’s last name. I can be naive to those minute details.

Eddie’s Descent Into Madness

I loved the cinematography of the film. Evil Ed was shot in 16MM and most of the film takes place at night with a cold blue light that surrounds the scenes to give it a very eerie tone. The makeup effects for the characters were top notch with a few frightening moments including a hag looking monster who screams at Eddie, which happens to be my favorite part in the movie (I have an Audio Clip as proof). There’s even a scene where the monster is reminiscent of Tim Curry’s Darkness character from Ridley Scott’s Legend. The short clips shown of the Loose Limbs films are full of blood and slapstick as an homage to the popular slasher films of the 80s.

The only gripe I really have about the movie is the pacing and the third act. Things start to slow down during the third act and get very silly. I won’t go into too many details to avoid spoilers, but I felt that the writers could’ve taken the time to finish the story in a different way. My impressions from the final act was that they were struggling to come up with a satisfactory ending so they decided to rush one through with something common. It tarnishes from the rest of the film’s originality.

Evil Ed is a fun and frightening flick that is great to watch on a Friday or Saturday evening. It falls in the category of my favorite underrated and underappreciated horror films. Evil Ed put Sweden on the horror movie map. I’ll need to I would love to see it get “The Last Drive In” treatment someday. This is the perfect movie to watch with your friends while Joe Bob provides insightful information about the movie and what the actors, writers and filmmakers are doing these days. I’m not sure if it’s available to watch on Tubi, but if it is definitely reserve a night to watch and if you like it, pick up the Collector’s Edition which features the Director’s Cut.

TRIVIA (Per IMDB)

  • It took five years to make this movie which started as a short film project. All the trailers and “films-in-the-film”-scenes was the first sequences to be filmed.
  • The title is an obvious play on The Evil Dead (1981). The character name Sam Campbell is another reference to that movie: the director of The Evil Dead (1981) is Sam Raimi, and the star is Bruce Campbell.
  • Only four theaters in Sweden wanted to see this film. It was later sold to over 60 countries.
  • All the dubbed voices were performed by American actors at Bandit Radio, an English-speaking radio station in Stockholm.
  • Although his part is unspecified in the credits, Bill Moseley provides the voice for the killer in the “Loose Limbs” films.
  • When Ed throws the head of the crackhead out of the window, it bounces off the hood of a car. The man driving the car is Director Anders Jacobsson.
  • The movie originally ended with Barbara shooting Edward and him being taken away to hospital. Then the camera goes into the house and up the stairs into Edward’s editing room. The shot ends with a zoom into the editing screen as we see the trailer to “Loose Limbs 8”. The filmmakers realized that the movie was too short and wasn’t exciting enough. So a new ending had to be shot.
  • When it was completed, the filmmakers changed the the camera used in the film was an archived 16mm camera owned by Sveriges Television, the Swedish state TV-station. The producers acquired the camera from an elderly janitor for a bottle of whiskey.

AUDIO CLIPS

I’m Just Another Chunk of Meat
So This Is The Splatter & Gore Department?
You Keep Them Heads Rolling
Do You Like What You See Darling?
What I Need Is Results
Don’t You Look At Me
I Think I Maybe Should Go To A Hospital
Do You Call That A Great Movie?
Don’t Thank Me, Thank Science
Close The Door You Nazi
Answer A Simple Question
Coffee?
Good Night
This Is Dying Time
I’m Coming To Get You Barbara
Is This The Police?
You Can Remove The Jacket
I Told The Doctor Someone’s After Me
Nice Tie

The Great White Hype

Official Poster

Release Date: May 3, 1996

Genre: Comedy, Sport

Director: Reginald Hudlin   

Writers: Tonya Hendra, Ron Shelton

Starring: Damon Wayans, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Berg, Corbin Bernsen, Jon Lovitz

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Hello readers! Welcome to another review on “Guilty Pleasure Cinema!” This week’s review is a real treat. The movie I’m presenting is one I’ve been wanting to post for over a year. Every time I get around to start working on it, I would get delayed by life….you know how that goes. I’m on vacation from my regular day job as I’m typing up this review and I told myself, “No more excuses, get it done!” For this week’s review I decided to do a sporting themed movie, which I don’t believe I’ve done yet (feel free to call me out if I do). It’s a Boxing themed movie that mixers comedy and satire into one overlooked film that I completely forgot about until it was available to watch on HBO Go, the original HBO streaming service before they changed to HBO Max. Featuring a ensemble cast of recognizable faces including those who would become future stars in their own right, this week we’re looking at 1996’s The Great White Hype!

The Great White Hype stars Samuel L. Jackson as Boxing promoter Reverend Fred Sultan, who represents the undefeated Heavyweight Champion James “Grim Reaper” Roper (Damon Wayans). After Roper’s latest victory, Sultan reveals that the fight was a financial flop and interest in the sport is declining. He theorizes that audiences are sick and tired of watching only black boxers beat each other up. Sultan comes up with a way to reenergize the sport and generate a huge payday for everyone by having Roper go up against a white contender citing the 1982 fight between Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney. After some research, they track down the only white man whom had defeated Roper at the Amateur level, Terry Conklin (Peter Berg). Conklin lives in Cleveland and is now in a rock band. After being approached at an after party at one of his gigs, Sultan offers Conklin a chance to return to the ring for a hefty sum. Conklin refuses stating he’s more interested in his band and fighting social issues than fighting people. Sultan uses his charm and manipulation to convince Conklin that he could use the money to eradicate homelessness which is Conklin’s main priority. Conklin agrees. Sultan uses his power and influence to get Conklin into the Top Ten rankings and the fight between him and Roper is on with Conklin training hard and Roper hardly training.

Samuel L. Jackson’s Fred Sultan Introducing Peter Berg’s Terry Conklin to the Press

In addition to the names above the film also stars Jeff Goldblum as investigative television journalist Mitchell Kane who has gathered evidence to show how unethical and corrupt the Sultan is only to sell out and join Sultan’s team, Corbin Bernsen as Peter Prince, owner of the MGM Grand, Jon Lovitz as Sol, who is Sultan’s PR guy, Cheech Marin as Julio Escobar, commissioner of the Nevada Boxing Committee, Michael Jace as Marvin Shabazz, who is the number one contender to face Roper only to be passed over for Conklin and Jamie Foxx in an early role as Hassan El Ruk’n, Shabazz’s manager. The film features guest appearances from longtime Boxing writer Bert Sugar, Brian Setzer doing a musical number and Method Man.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, The Great White Hype is a satirical Boxing film taking influence from not only Rocky but the title is based on the Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney fight of 1982 where Cooney is dubbed, “The Great White Hope.” That term has been used by Boxing to recognize up and coming white heavyweight Boxers who have the potential of being great. One name that sticks out to me is the late Tommy Morrison, who was the last known great white heavyweight boxer from the 90s until his career shockingly ended due to him testing positive for HIV (one of Morrison’s fights is shown in the film when Sultan’s crew is researching white Boxers).  

Jeff Goldblum as Investigative Journalist Mitchell Kane

The Great White Hype is a simple story with very little twists and shocking moments. It’s about one match, the Main Event. Within that one match, director Reginald Hudlin showcases the political nature of the Boxing world. Each character declares a form of morality which only a mask for them wanting to achieve their hidden goals dealing with power, money, influence, and greed all together. Jackon’s Sultan is like Don King, who is only looking after his interests and raking as much money for him from his prized fighter. Wayans’ Roper is yearning for the respect and the cash he desperately wants, being sick and tired of having his fight winnings in the form of one new Rolls Royce after another. Berg’s Conklin has his ethics and principles contradicted through being in the media spotlight and being adored by many despite the fact no one knows who he is and Goldblum’s Kane sells out his journalistic integrity to be part of a bigger click. The casting is perfectly fitted to the characters. My favorite performances were Jackson, Wayans, Berg, Goldblum and Jon Lovitz. Jackson’s loud and eccentricity glows through the film. Wayans his hilarious as Roper who gets cocky and lazy with his training that he shows up to the fight overweight complete with a huge belly. Berg’s Conklin is dimwitted who you feel during the movie that his heart is not wanting to get back into the ring. Goldblum is Goldblum and Lovitz is Lovitz who provides some great liners with the zest and snap that Lovitz is known for. I do however feel that there should have been more screen time with Michael Jace and Jamie Foxx. They only appear during each press conference pleading their case to get a title shot and one scene where they confront Sultan and his posse in his own penthouse.

I enjoyed the pacing of the film and gave some great insights as to how Roper and Conklin were preparing for their fight. Conklin is training hard but is also spending a lot of time in photo shoots and interviews where he gets contradicted on comments he was saying. Wayans’ training routine (or lack thereof) were some great laugh out loud moments. The dialogue has its cheesy moments most notably from the supporting cast. I especially enjoyed the commentary from Boxing writer Bert Sugar and the announcers of the fight who are in disbelief over both fighters.

The Main Event

Boxing is one of the few sports that seems to translate well in a film adaptation and The Great White Hype is one of those films. It is a funny and sharp satirical film that will keep you laughing through it’s near 90-minute runtime. I’m surprised this film doesn’t get mentioned when people talk about their favorite Sports films or Boxing films. Yes, it doesn’t take itself seriously like a Rocky or Raging Bull, but it’s a fresh funny take on the sport and everything that goes on behind the scenes. If you’re lucky to find it on a streaming site or if you have to pay to rent it, then do it. The Great White Hype is another in a long line of underrated films to come from the 90s.

TRIVIA (Per IMDB)

  • Reverend Fred Sultan (Samuel L. Jackson) greets a man with shoulder length black hair and a black suit, with “Hey Vincent, Vincent, where’s Jules man?”, a reference to Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction (1994).
  • Sol (Jon Lovitz) mentions, when watching the film of Tommy Morrison being knocked out, that he is “John Wayne’s cousin”. Morrison was John Wayne’s (real name Marion Michael Morrison) grand-nephew.
  • Many members of the cast made either guest appearances or had recurring roles on the FOX television series Roc (1991), which featured Rocky Carroll as a regular cast member. This includes Samuel L. Jackson, Corbin Bernsen, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Jamie Foxx, Albert Hall, Lamont Johnson, Art Evans, and Rick Scarry.
  • Ron Shelton has expressed distaste for the film, because his script was completely revised by comedian Tony Hendra.
  • Such was Ron Shelton’s dislike of this movie that he has said, “I tried to get my name taken off it, because the film they made was not the script I wrote. I find it a horrible movie.”
  • Jason Flemyng auditioned for the role of Conklin. Asked to strip to the waist and shadowbox, he sneezed because of the cold and smeared the snot over himself to keep in character, much to the cameraman’s disgust.

AUDIO CLIPS

I’m An Artist
I’ll Spank You
That’s The Third I Love You
I Drive A Brougham
You’ve Got A Whole Bunch of Guns
Who Beat Roper As An Amateur?
I Don’t Need My Ego Fed
I Give My Money To The Homeless
The Announcement
Kid’s Not Even A Professional
Cannot Make Caviar Out of Fish Eggs
I Can Beat Conklin and My Meat At The Same Time
How Do You Like Las Vegas?
Donations
Roper At The Weigh In
Never Met A Meal He Didn’t Like

Dirty Work

Official Poster

Release Date: June 12, 1998

Genre: Comedy

Director: Bob Saget 

Writers: Norm MacDonald, Frank Sebastiano & Fred Wolf  

Starring: Norm MacDonald, Jack Warden, Artie Lange, Taylor Howard, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Hello, readers! For this edition of “Guilty Pleasure Cinema” I wanted to dive into another comedy film. A comedy starring one of the more underrated comedians of the 90s. A man who got fired from Saturday Night Live because one of the executives at NBC claimed he was “not funny.” (on the contra-ire). I’m talking about Norm MacDonald. If you’re not familiar with Norm MacDonald, his comedy is brutally outspoken opinions that is delivered in a sarcastic monotone delivery. He was known on Saturday Night Live as the “Weekend Update” anchor, who would start the beginning of the skit with, “Here’s the fake news!” (sound familiar?) MacDonald was known on “Weekend Update” for his constant bashing of Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson. After being dismissed from SNL, he would go on to star in his first comedic outing, 1998’s Dirty Work!

In Dirty Work MacDonald plays Mitch Weaver, a down and out loser. After being fired from his fourteenth job in two months and his girlfriend kicking him out of their apartment, he goes to live with his best friend, Sam McKenna (Artie Lange) and his dad, whom they refer to as ‘Pops’ (Jack Warden). During a night watching television Pops has a heart attack and is in the hospital. The treating physician, Dr. Farthing (Chevy Chase) informs Mitch and Sam that Pops needs a heart transplant and needs $50,000 for the transplant. Mitch and Sam do various odd jobs to get the money. After an event at their jobs where they were paid by their co-workers to embarrass their boss, they start a revenge for hire business called “Dirty Work!” Their concept is for people to pay them to do their dirty work. With this new business they hope to raise the funds in time and save Pop’s life.

Norm MacDonald getting strangled by Jack Warden

Not only is this Norm MacDonald’s first leading role, this is the directorial debut of Bob Saget (yes, THAT Bob Saget). Together they create a movie that has plenty of sleazy jokes, cringe-worthy moments and even a lightweight love story.  It’s an interesting concept by MacDonald which I’m sure came from the idea of getting revenge on NBC. It has a feel similar to “National Lampoon’s Animal House!”

MacDonald holds up good as the lead in this movie. He’s pretty much playing himself. There are times in the movie where he is repeating the same jokes such as bringing out a tape recorded and dictating a, ‘Note to Self’. You get the idea after a few of them. Some of the revenge schemes are bizarre in nature, but the purpose is to get rid of the nuisance that their client is paying them to do.

The rest of the cast has some familiar faces. Legendary actor Jack Warden who plays Pops chews up the scenes he’s in with his twist of humor and dirty mind. Chevy Chase plays the aloof and gambling addict Dr. Farthing. When you hear about some of the things he’s gambled on, it makes you want to shrug your shoulders and raise your hands in disbelief. Traylor Howard, best known for being in the sitcoms Two Guys & A Girl aka Two Guys, A Girl & A Pizza Place and Monk plays Kathy who would become Mitch’s love interest after meeting in a bar. She finds him funny and witty but is not amused when his business starts getting noticed. Christopher McDonald, best known for playing Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore plays local real estate mogul Travis Cole who hires Mitch and Sam to get revenge on a rival. My favorite performances in the movie are the small special guest appearances from Chris Farley who plays Jimmy, a barfly that had his nose bitten off by a prostitute and Don Rickles playing a movie theater manager. Look out for cameos from Gary Coleman, Adam Sandler and John Goodman as well.

Norm MacDonald, Artie Lange and Chevy Chase

The weakest performance by far is Artie Lange as Sam. He’s not very funny and seems to be concerned about the things Mitch is doing to gain money. Not only that, but his desperate attempt to get noticed by women is repetitive.  Norm would’ve benefited more by having an experienced actor play his best friend.

The comedy in the movie is a blend of physical jokes and MacDonald’s stand up puns. The majority of their jobs that they do for their clients are downright criminal although they seem to get away with it. This movie would not be made in today’s world. The movie clocks in at an hour and twenty-three minutes, which is pretty short for a comedy movie, but there’s no moment that seems to drag out.

One of the revenge jobs in Dirty Work

There’s not much more I can say about this movie without spoiling it, but if you were a fan of the 90s Saturday Night Live or a fan of Norm MacDonald, I recommend Dirty Work! I give the film props for coming up with something that has never been done before, a revenge business comedy. It’s almost as if this movie is in its own category since there hasn’t been a revenge comedy in recent memory. And if you watch this movie and don’t enjoy it, then you can pay someone to do your dirty work on me!

Trivia (Per IMDB)

  • Chris Farley’s last film, but he wasn’t included in the credits.
  • This movie came out a few months after Norm MacDonald was fired from Saturday Night Live (1975). When it was out in theaters, none of the shows on NBC were allowed to advertise it.
  • Howard Stern was offered a cameo appearance as Satan, but turned it down. Adam Sandler ended up with the role.
  • In the scene where Mitch (Norm MacDonald) and Sam (Artie Lange) are getting berated by Mr. Hamilton (Don Rickles), Don Rickles started ad-libbing insults. At one point, Don Rickles started insulting Norm McDonald, and not his Mitch Weaver character. This, of course, didn’t make it into the film, but the “baby gorilla” line, directed towards Sam, was used.
  • According to Chevy Chase, he was impressed by the original script’s raunchy, R-rated, “over the top” tone (particularly a filmed, but ultimately cut, gag involving MacDonald and Lange delivering donuts that had been photographed around their genitals), and went so far as to tell MacDonald and Lange to not allow any changes. However, the studio insisted on a PG-13 rating, and re-scheduled the film’s release from February to June, where it fared poorly against blockbusters like Godzilla (1998). Unfortunately, no alternate scenes had been shot, and the dialogue could only be changed with the actor’s re-recording their lines. This may explain why some of the dialogue is dubbed in certain scenes.
  • Julia Sweeney plays Mitch’s deceased mother in a still photograph.

AUDIO CLIPS

Don’t Take No Crap From Nobody
Didn’t Make It On Time
Sorry For Being A Creepy Old Man
Two Kinds of People
If I Were A Betting Man
We Lied On Our Resumes
Don’t Mess Up
Revenge For Hire Business
Installment Plan
Dead Hooker In The Trunk
There’s The Saigon Whore
Note To Self
Ridiculous
Note To Self 2
In The Land of Skunks
Remember When You Said This?

Critters 4

Official Poster

Release Date: October 14, 1992

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi

Director: Rupert Harvey    

Writers: Rupert Harvey & Barry Opper (Story), Joseph Lyle & David J. Schow (Screenplay)

Starring: Don Opper, Terrence Mann, Paul Whitmore, Anders Hove, Angela Bassett, Brad Dourif, Eric DaRe

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

The Critters franchise is one of my favorite Horror/Sci-Fi franchises. While the first film is considered a knock off from Gremlins or Ghoulies, it’s a movie that holds up to this date. I loved the story, effects and of course those intergalactic hairballs getting into mischief mayhem with some situations resulting in their deaths. The first Critters movie was a surprise success at the box office and produced a second movie two years later that did as equally as good. The Critters franchise has spawned a total of five movies and a short-lived miniseries on Shudder. The franchise featured great character actors and future leading stars including a sixteen-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio who made his silver screen debut in Critters 3. One of the sequels in the series happens to be a guilty pleasure of mine. While many fans groan over the results, I happened to enjoy it. I remember the Sci-Fi Channel playing this film Saturday afternoons and I would spend those days laying on the couch watching it every time it played. I’m talking of course of Critters 4. Why do I enjoy Critters 4 more than the average fan? I will tell you, but first a quick synopsis.

Critters 4 picks up right at the ending of 3 as bumbling bounty hunter Charlie (Don Opper) does a thorough inspection of the burned down apartment building looking for any remaining Krties. He discovers two eggs in the dryer. Charlie takes them out and gets ready to blast them. He then receives a distress signal from his friend and fellow bounty hunter Ug (Terrence Mann) who tells him it is illegal to destroy those eggs due to a intergalactic mandate. He instructs Charlie to place the eggs in a pod, which crashes down on him to be transported back. Charlie places the eggs as instructed by gets trapped inside the pod when the door closes on him and is gassed. The movie jumps forward to the year 2045. A small group of pirates discover the pod floating in space and acquire it. They are contacted by a galaxy conglomerate called TerraCorp claiming ownership of the pod and instruct the team to head to their station where they will be rewarded. When the team gets to the station, they find that it has been abandoned. As they wait for their payment, the captain of the group, Rick (Anders Hove) decides to rip off the pod after being humiliated by co-pilot Fran (Angela Bassett) in a memorable shower scene. After opening the pod door, Charlie awakens, and the eggs have hatched unleashing the Krites which kill Rick. With the two furballs on the loose it’s up to Charlie and the rest of the team to either stop them or escape the station alive without their reward.

Brad Dourif, Don Opper and Angela Bassett

If you’ve managed to check out the Shout Factory release of the entire Blu-Ray collection of the original four movies, they each come with their own little behind the scenes specials. In the documentary for 4 director and producer Rupert Harvey claimed that New Line Cinema gave them a combined budget for 3 and 4. Due to the team on 3 spending the most money out of that budget, there was extraordinarily little left for 4 hence why they had to reuse scenes, lack of Krites and other dollar store sets.

Regardless of the budget, what made this movie was the acting done by the mixed of new and veteran cast. Don Opper and Terrance Mann reprise their roles from the previous films. I was enthralled by Mann’s performance this time around with Ug as he went from being a bounty hunter to a corporate bureaucrat. His promotion into that ranking corrupts his mind as he is only concerned with his mission rather than what happened to his friend. Guess the old saying goes, “Power can corrupt someone!” Brad Dourif once again steals the spotlight as engineer, Al Bert. He is witty and a smart ass but knows his way of computers as evident when he tricks the computer of the abandoned station to give him full security clearance. He essentially becomes the de facto leader as the movie progresses which suits him well as he is the most experienced actor. My other favorite performance in the movie was Anders Hove as the captain Rick. He is a pain in the ass leader when it comes to the crew members always scheming to get more than what he is offered. The other cast members include Angela Bassett in his film debut as co-pilot Fran, Eric DaRe best known for playing Leo Johnson in Twin Peaks as Bernie, who is obsessed with getting access to the station pharmacy and Paul Whitmore as the apprentice, Ethan who sees Al Bert as a friend and mentor and gets the brute of Rick’s temper tantrums. There was a rumor from fans that suggested that Al Bert and Ethan may have had a “more than just friends” relationship. There’s some evidence displayed in the movie, but it’s as big of a mystery as Bigfoot.

Krite Attacks Bernie

 The Chiodo Brothers return for one final time (well..not the final time)  providing the Critters and the puppetry work. The Critters look just like they’ve always been except they are somewhat bigger in size than what they were in the previous movie. They are still ruthless and won’t let anyone stand in their way of reaching earth. The special effects in the film are mundane compared to its predecessors. They even stole a few shots from Critters 2 and another early 80s Sci-Fi flick starting Opper called Android. Because there are only a few of the intergalactic hairballs to wreak havoc, Harvey uses them like the Xenomorph in Alien where they are running amok around the station and use stealth to sneak up on their prey before they unleash their attack. There’s minimal blood and gore and the death total is the lowest in the series. Again, the performance of the actors keeps the film going at a steady pace.

There’s plenty of flaws that this movie has including the repetitive computer that’s not up to date that gets on the nerves of the crew. I think it’s a failed attempt at adding comedy to a series that has comedic elements to it. Some of the sound design sounds distorted or frazzled like someone is playing on a broken synthesizer and the overall timeline of the story. I don’t think this movie needed to fast forward fifty years to get to where there at considering the advancement of technology and galactic lifeforms other than the Krites that appeared in the first movie.

Terrance Mann returns as Ug

Personally, I prefer Critters 4 over Critters 3 and the more recent Critters Attacks. While Critters 4 is not the definitive conclusion to the franchise, it does close the chapter on the storyline that was started from the first movie. 

TRIVIA (Per IMDB)

  • All external space scenes and many sets are lifted from one of Don Keith Opper’s earlier films, Android (1982).
  • First Critters movie where Don Keith Opper is the highest billed actor.
  • Filmed simultaneously with Critters 3 (1991), from February 1991 until July 1991.
  • The footage of the cargo retrieval ship, and docking with the spaceship are from Android (1982) but the footage of Ug’s ship at the end are taken from Critters 2 (1988).
  • Terrence Mann and Don Keith Opper have appeared in all four films in the series.
  • Critters 4 is the only Critters movie where the Critters are unable to shoot poison darts at their victims.
  • There are mostly only two Critters in this movie, and the second one gets a haircut from a laser rifle, in order to separate the looks for both Critters. However this is also an obvious reference to Critters 2 (1988) where one Critters gets a similar haircut from a laser rifle held by a bounty hunter.

AUDIO CLIPS

Too Much Coffee Again?
You Got A Date Or Something?
Smells Like A Wet Sock
What’s That Chick’s Name?
Guess Angela Ain’t Going To College
Give It About A Month Before We All Glow In The Dark
Captain Asshole
Station Just Cut A Fart
I’ll Tell You What My Problem Is
I’m In Space Aren’t I?
Of Course I’m From Earth
Says You’re Expired
Maneating Hairballs That You Do Not Believe In
That’s Not Normal
Stop Shooting The Gun In Here
You’re Not My Father
Where Are They?
Chill Out Asshole

Mr. Stitch

Official Poster

Release Date: August 17, 1996

Genre: Sci-Fi  

Director: Roger Avary

Writer: Roger Avary

Starring: Wil Wheaton, Rutger Hauer, Nia Peeples, Ron Perlman, Michael Harris

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

For those that have followed this blog from the beginning, you might recall a review I did for a Sci-Fi Channel original movie entitled Evolver! If you haven’t seen the post before, don’t worry you still can. All my posts are archived 😊 It’s one of my favorite made for television movies. The movie represented a time in the 90s when the Sci-Fi Channel was really coming up in the cable world and its popularity would spawn its own original movies. Another movie I recall seeing when it first came out that I discovered again was a movie called Mr. Stitch! I remember seeing the trailer for it where it was just a man all wrapped up in giant bandages in front of an all-white screen. As an impressionable pre-teen during the day I was overwhelmingly excited to see this. I don’t recall watching it when it premiered, but I remember I was quite fond of the idea, concept and execution. Watching it again not too long ago I double down on my comments. For a movie that is twenty-three years old, it still holds up despite some moments of outdatedness. With that let’s get to the synopsis of Mr. Stitch!

Mr. Stitch stars Wil Wheaton, best known for playing Ensign Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation as an androgynous human made from body parts and skin from various donors and chooses to be a man despite not having the sexual organs of one. He was created by a group of scientists led by Dr. Rue Wakeman (Rutger Hauer). He’s referred to only as ‘Subject 3.’ Later he chooses a name for himself. He is now ‘Lazarus’ after the biblical character.  At first, Lazarus is obedient and follows commands and performs his tests.  As Lazarus learns more about himself he begins having memories and nightmares from the lives of his donors. They offer clues as to the identities of those who inhabit his body while simultaneously torture him. This creates a rift between his relationship with Wakeman. Wakeman realizes he is losing control over Lazarus as he is developing independent logic and feeling. Lazarus realizes that Wakeman is hiding secrets from him causing him to no longer want to work with him. Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth English (Nia Peeples) is assigned to help Lazarus deal with his tension between Wakeman and deal with his nightmares and with it develop a sense of trust with other humans. They start to get close until Lazarus mentions a phrase that triggers English as it is a phrase that said to her from her deceased science partner and lover Dr. Frederick Texarian (Ron Perlman). Lazarus starts to be overwhelmed by being trapped in the ward and requests to see the outside world which is immediately rejected by Wakeman. He sneaks out and investigates Wakeman’s true intentions with him. Lazarus understands what his purpose is and must find a way to stop Wakeman’s plans as well as make amends with English.

Wil Wheaton and Rutger Hauer in “Mr. Stitch”

Written and directed by Roger Avary, Mr. Stitch is essentially a modern day retelling of Frankenstein. You have the Scientist who is looking to create a human being from dead (in this case created by tissue and organs of deceased humans) and you have the monster, which in this case is aware, functional and intelligent compared to the monster of the classic tale. It has the same elements in terms of the scientist creating this new life and teaching it how to interact with others and how to function with the purpose that is only known to them. You have the monster that is trying to learn, but starts to become resilient and unbalanced. The two will clash into this tug of war over power and control.

About ninety percent of the film takes place in this ward where everything is white. The scientists wear white suits and Lazarus is bandaged in all white. To me it represents both the first light we see when we are born as well as a state of purgatory where we are trapped in this area and are waiting to get to the outside of what lies ahead (for Lazarus this would be the outside world). We don’t see the outside of the ward until the near climax of the movie and several flashback scenes that Lazarus experiences as nightmares. Only other color we see in the movie is a black couch similar to a top hat that acts as Lazarus’ bed and the snot colored goo that comes out from a giant eyeball called the Observation Eye that watches Lazarus’ every move and from a device that measures and records his brain wave pattern when he is asleep (both are destroyed by Lazarus in a fit of anger).

The look of Lazarus is comprised of numerous pieces of skin from all different colors of humans (Black, White, and Brown). His eyes have different pigments of color. His hair is long and frazzled, almost like a witch. Although he is androgynous, he identifies himself as man due to his strength and anger that is to be more in common with a man than a woman. I give the makeup department credit for creating a creature like this to represent that we are all human begins regardless of race, color, sex and creed.  I think that was Avary’s intention as well.

Rutger Hauer in “Mr. Stitch”

Mr. Stitch has some unique shots and visuals. What stood out to me are the choice of lenses that were used in certain scenes. For example, the “think tank” office of the scientists is shot like they are working inside a bubble. To me, the bubble represents the inner circle of those who are in it as to their research and their plans as to what to do with the research they are developing. The climax scene is deep underground and has a glossy watery effect that surrounds the confronting characters. Based on your impressions it gives you either a dream like effect or an effect if someone where high on drugs.

The pacing is a little uneven, but it doesn’t take away from the plot. Music is incorporated in practically every scene and it’s appropriate for what is happening in the scene. There is heavy metal during Lazarus’ bouts of anger or paranoia. There is a dreamy soft guitar sound during a hypnosis scene. Each piece of music sets the tone for what is happening.

The movie contains a very small cast with the majority of screen time belonging to Wil Wheaton and Rutger Hauer. Both of them I felt did a good job with their performances despite some flaws in the script. Wheaton starts out as very calm and compliant as he performs the tests that Hauer has him do. He’s quite intelligent by quickly developing his self-awareness and heightened sensibility. He is hostile to the scientists, but finds a soft and calming nature when he is around Dr. English. He develops a deep sense of trust and in some cases, love when they are together. Wheaton is able to channel his emotions of the character in the appropriate scenes throughout the film.   Hauer portrays Dr. Wakeman as a teacher and somewhat of a father figure to Lazarus. He is cautious with his responses to Lazarus’ questions and steers him away from anything he sees as a threat to his control of him. Hauer was very unhappy with the writing of the movie that he disregarded the script and began to improvise his scenes to match what he felt was more logical of his character and the story. I honestly can’t tell you that I was able to pick out which scenes he improvised, but that’s what makes him a great established actor was that he knew more about the character than what Avary had on paper.

Nia Peeples and Wil Wheaton in “Mr. Stitch”

The rest of the cast includes Nia Peeples as Dr. Elizabeth English who is brought in to help Lazarus deal with his dreams and nightmares. She builds a rapport with Lazarus during their sessions together. As they get to know each other, she becomes slightly distraught at what she discovers about him. Her feelings for him come full circle in the climax of the film. Peeples is very attractive and gives a soft touch to the films constant hostility between the two main characters. The other main performance comes from Michael Harris as General Hardcastle, who is the head of a secret government organization called ‘The Outfit’ and is in charge of the project. He shovels billions of taxpayers’ dollars to Wakeman and his team with the goal of creating a superior human being that could be used not only in warfare but to take down the bureaucrats in Washington so he can remodel the government in his own vision. He is the real antagonist of the movie. This was perhaps the weakest and most laughable performance of the movie. His dialogue reminds me of something a professional wrestler would say, but he gets what’s coming to him and it’s very satisfying. There is also small appearances from Ron Perlman as Dr. Texarian, the original team leader of the Stitch Project, Taylor Negron as Dr. Alan Jacobs who replaces Dr. English and gets a not so warm welcome by Lazarus and Make Up Effects Guru Tom Savini as a scientist.

Mr. Stitch is available to watch on YouTube since it’s hard to find any video copies. I think you would enjoy watching this made for television movie. It’s a creative take on an original monster story. It doesn’t drag and keeps your attention with every scene. I wish the Sci-Fi Channel would make more of these compelling films than cheap monster movies involving five headed sharks or a yeti with the speed of a greyhound dog. Really makes you miss the 90s.

TRIVIA (Per IMDB)

  • Part way through production, Rutger Hauer completely discarded the script and refused to do any scenes from it. The majority of his scenes were improvised by the actor. Later, Roger Avary was forced to rewrite the remaining script to match up with Rutger’s footage.
  • This movie was the first “original” aired by The Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy). It would be a few more years before they started advertising their made-for-TV movies as “Sci-Fi Originals”, but they did advertise this quite a bit as new and never-before-seen.
  • Was meant to be a pilot for a proposed television series. After Rutger Hauer gave up on the movie, the series was sunk.

AUDIO CLIPS

Frankenstein
Do We Have Anymore Weights?
Reference To A Word I Don’t Have Meaning For
I Do Seem To Have A Knack For Fisticuffs
You’re An Improvement of Nature
I’ve Chosen A Name
It Was Residue Thought
Feet First
Classified Territory
I Dream About An Elephant
I’m Happy To See You
I Will Skin You Alive
I Want To See The Outside
She Should Be Teaching Preschool In Florida
Jacobs Being Tortured
Get Out Of The Car
General Hardcastle Speech

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Official Poster

Release Date: July 19, 1991

Genre: Adventure, Comedy

Director: Peter Hewitt

Writers: Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, William Sadler, George Carlin, Joss Acklund

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

In 1989 movie audiences were treated to a new original concept adventure movie about the fate of the future lying in the balance of two high school musicians passing their history exam. That movie was called Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It was a surprise success that not only launched Keanu Reeves into a mainstream star, but it also spawned a cartoon show and two sequels including 2020’s Bill & Ted Face The Music. For this review I wanted to look at the second film in this newly formed trilogy, which coincidentally is reaching the big 3-0 milestone! I’m talking of course about Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey!

The movie takes place five years after the events of the first movie. A man from the future by the name of De Nomolos (Joss Acklund) has created two evil robot versions of Bill & Ted and sends them back to their time to disrupt the next phase in their destiny, which is winning the Battle of the Bands and being one step closer to the Wild Stalyns changing the world with their music. The present day Bill & Ted continue to struggle at being good musicians, even with the help of their other band members, their girlfriends they rescued from 15th Century England. They encounter their evil doppelgangers when they arrive at their apartment and tell them that they are here to help solve their problems. Instead they take Bill & Ted to a desert and throw them off a cliff killing them. Now in a state of limbo, Bill & Ted must figure out a way to come back to life and stop the evil robots from accomplishing their mission. After two failed attempts at warning their parents about what happened, they are banished to Hell where they go through trials from their childhood until they are confronted by the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) who states they can return to the physical world if they beat him in a contest. After defeating Death in a contest……or in the case several contests, they go to Heaven and ask God for assistance in beating the evil robots. They are directed to a creature named ‘Station’ who is considered the most brilliant scientific mind in the universe. With Station’s help, they create two good Bill & Ted robots to counter the evil robots. They return to earth just as the Battle of the Bands begin and engage in a confrontation with the evil robots and De Nomolos for the fate of the future.

Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.”

The sequel was as successful as the first movie, but fans are divided as to which of the two movies was better. Some fans believe Excellent Adventure was the superior of the two. Other fans believe Bogus Journey was the better film. After watching the film, I think Bogus Journey is on equal footing to its predecessor. . I would use the analogy in another Keanu Reeves movie, The Matrix to describe the two. They are two radically different films, but when they are put together they equal out. It’s a great idea to go from Bill & Ted having a positive and “Excellent” adventure to having a negative and “Bogus” journey, hence the equal concept.

The story is good although I think the script could’ve been fleshed out a little more and could’ve used a better third act. Reading the Behind the Scenes of this movie, writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon admit that the original third act was ripped up and they were struggling to come up with an act that would satisfy viewers and bring the story of Bill & Ted full circle. I’m not sure what the original third act entailed with the exception of a trivia note at the bottom. With the exception of a few returning characters the only other reminiscence of the first film that are shown in the second are the phone booth which is found in only a few scenes and you get a glimpse at the future where is a harmonious utopia thanks to the protagonist and their music.

The only returning characters in the second film are Bill, Ted, Ted’s father, Missy and George Carlin, who reprises his role as Rufus, although his role has shrunk from the first film. All the other characters are new. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter play dual roles as not only the dim witted heroes, but the evil robot versions of them. The evil robots are stronger and smarter, but they are programmed to speak and act just like their human counterparts which I found funny. Their master DeNomolos, played by legendary character actor Joss Acklund I found to be a very weak villain as he appears only in the opening scenes, a few scenes where he is checking up on the robots’ statuses and the final confrontation. Not much is known about DeNomolos other than the fact he was Rufus’ old teacher and that he despises the society that Bill & Ted have created and goes on a crusade to destroy them so he can reshape the future into his ideals, which could be perceived is having a Marxist ideology. Acklund didn’t have much to work with and his acting and body language gave me the impression that he didn’t want to be in this movie, which is a shame. I’m sure he was thinking to himself, “How do I go from playing an evil South African diplomat in “Lethal Weapon 2” to playing a villain having to babysit two robots in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey? I guess we’ll never know what his mindset was. 

Joss Acklund in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.”

The real star of the film and without question the best performance goes to William Sadler who plays the Grim Reaper. His portrayal of Death starts out serious and then goes completely one eighty when he spends more time with the heroes. When Death first encounters them just as they died, he is prepared to take them into the afterlife, but they distract him and give him a “Melvin” in order to escape. It’s only when they are in Hell that they summon Death and accept his challenge of playing him in a game to return to Earth (I won’t tell you what game or games they play, but they were my favorite scenes of the film). When Death joins Bill & Ted he becomes more of a nuisance rather than a helper. He’s always looking attention and feels left out when Bill & Ted don’t give him credit for things that he supposedly did. The accent Sadler uses is Slovakian which gives him range and power, but also makes it funny especially when during his angry outburst moments in the film.

As far as the rest of the film in terms of special effects and settings, it’s interesting to see the film’s vision of the future where everyone wears highlighter colored clothing which reflects well with the lighting in their classrooms. You see a small glimpse of Evil Bill and Evil Ted pulling their skin off to reveal their robot form which is colorful and high tech for the time and the vision of Hell in the film is depicted as a never ending industrial corridor with infinite doors and the Devil instructing the damned to “Choose their Eternity”.

Alex Winter, William Sadler and Keanu Reeves in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.”

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is one of the few sequels out there that matches up to its predecessor. Matheson and Solomon rolled the dice and took their chances of not repeating the same concept of the first movie and it paid off. Watching it again after all these years, it holds up strongly in comparison to other sequels that came out in the early 90s.

Trivia (Per IMDB)

  • The guitar solo before KISS’ “God Gave Rock And Roll To You”, is performed by guitar legend Steve Vai. The footage had already been shot, and the world premiere was a week away, when he was asked to do it. He also contributed various music in the film, including “The Reaper Rap”, which features on the end credits.
  • When Bill and Ted go to Missy’s séance, you can see Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, the creators and writers of Bill and Ted. They’re the only men that are attending the séance. (Chris is the guy with the white shirt, and Ed is the guy with the glasses.) They also say “Ed and Chris rule the world” backwards
  • The original title was “Bill and Ted go to Hell” but was changed because of American objections to the use of the word “hell”.
  • The “Riddance of Evil” book that Missy uses to send Bill and Ted to Hell, is actually a re-dressed copy of the Stephen King short-story collection “Four Past Midnight.” She opens it to a page in the story “Secret Window, Secret Garden,” which can be read clearly in a few frames of the film.
  • During the séance scene, the chant to send Bill’s and Ted’s spirits, can be read backwards as “Ed and Chris will rule the world.” Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson being the movie’s scriptwriters.
  • The mountain, to which Bill and Ted are brought to be killed by the evil robots, is the same mountain Captain Kirk climbs in Star Trek: Arena (1967), which Bill and Ted watched in their apartment.
  • Joss Ackland said in a Radio Times interview, he only did this project, because of a bet between him and a family member
  • In a deleted sequence, the Evil Robots use devices to re-create Bill’s and Ted’s’ personal Hells (Granny Preston, the Easter Bunny, and Colonel Oats) and send them after the heroes. Bill and Ted end up having to face their fears to get rid of them. Bill gives Granny her kiss on the cheek, Ted calls his brother and apologizes for stealing his Easter candy, and both boys treat Oats with kindness and friendship rather than terror.
  • Director Peter Hewitt has a cameo in the film. He plays the smoker in the Builder’s Emporium to whom Death says, “I’ll see you soon.” In the cast credits The Smoker is credited as “Max Magenta”.

AUDIO CLIPS

Total Metalheads
Catch You Later, Evil Dude
Girls Mature Faster
I Can’t Believe Missy Divorced Your Dad
Most Excellent Adventure
Robot Chubby
Meeting Death
I Totally Possessed My Dad
What’s Gotten Into You?
Deep Hole
Not What I Expected
Yes Sir Dude Sir
Don’t Fear The Reaper
I Hate Them
What Is The Meaning of Life?
Logan Residence
See You Real Soon
Reaping Burns A Lot Of Calories

National Lampoon’s Senior Trip

Official Poster

Release Date: September 8, 1995

Genre: Comedy, Adventure

Director: Kelly Makin

Writers: Roger Kumble, I. Marlene King

Starring: Matt Frewer, Jeremy Renner, Valerie Mahaffey, Lawrence Dane, Tommy Chong

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

National Lampoon was a well-known humor magazine that ran from 1970 to 1998. The magazine formed as a spin off of Harvard’s Harvard Lampoon. The magazine was popular in the 1970s and spawned a series of comedy movies that included their title. The most famous of their films include Animal House and the Vacation movie series starring Chevy Chase. At the turn of the century, National Lampoon started a corporation and generated low budget raunchy comedy films that you would only be able to find at your local video store (which are unfortunately extinct) or streaming services. One of the last National Lampoon films to be released in theater’s was 1995’s National Lampoon’s Senior Trip.

It’s a typical teen comedy with a realistic plot. The students at the fictional Fairmount High School in Columbus, OH write a letter about how bad the education system when several students blame school for not wanting to learn and party all the time. The letter reaches the desk of the President of the United States who phones their Senator and personally invite them to Washington D.C. to help support the President’s new Education Bill. Despite the Senator having his own Education Bill lined up and seeking higher office, he intends to use the ‘slacker students’ to embarrass him and push his own agenda. The Senator arrives at the school and instructs their principal, Todd Moss (played by Matt Frewer) to get them to Washington on time. The road trip doesn’t go as smoothly and on schedule as the students get themselves into crazy shenanigans on and off the bus.

The students from Fairmount High School

I remember seeing the trailer for this movie on the VHS copy of Dumb and Dumber. I was a pre teen when I saw the trailer and it looked like a pretty funny movie. Unfortunately the movie was rated ‘R’ and I had strict parents who would not let me watch anything that above a ‘PG-13’ rating. Eventually the film made its way onto the small screen and I watched it on my local channel. I watched it with a friend and we enjoyed this movie. A decade later, I found this movie on DVD at a local store where I buy all my movies. Not surprising to this review, the movie still holds up.

This film relates to the experiences we went through in High School (although I’m sure none of you stole a bunch of beer from a mini mart, break stuff at a five star hotel or having your bus driver die on the way to Washington). You can relate to any of the character that best fit your personality in high school. If you were a computer nerd, you were the character Virus. If you were a straight A scholar, you were either Steve or Lisa. If you were a vengeful Trekkie, you were Travis. One thing these characters have in common is they like to party and they get along real well in this film (unlike real world where you were in your groups). There are some scenes of drugs and sex, but it’s only a pinch of it compared to most of the other National Lampoon movies or other teen comedies.

Matt Frewer as Principal Moss

I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of each character. All of them had great chemistry together. Each character had their own standout moments. Matt Frewer’s portrayal of Principal Moss reminds me of a real life Principal McVicker from Beavis and Butt-Head. He’s very spastic, agitated and punctual and finds himself in uneasy situations. This movie was the feature film debut of Jeremy Renner. He plays the leader of the class named Dags who is a stoner and the vigilante of the school. His antics are praised by many and loathed by some. Then there’s Kevin McDonald who plays Travis, the school crossing guard and an obsessed Star Trek fan. He lives in his basement that is built to replicate the enterprise, carries around a blow up doll dressed like Uhura and he is obsessed with seeking revenge on Reggie (Dag’s sidekick). With the exception of a confrontation in the movie, there’s no explanation as to why Travis is out to kill Reggie. It’s funny seeing him trying to get to Reggie, but ends up being caught in an unpleasant scenario when things start happening to him. He talks to himself and only speaks in Star Trek language. I can relate to that because I’ve known quite a few people that were serious Trekkies.

The best performance by far is Tommy Chong as Red, the bus driver. In pure Tommy Chong fashion, he steals every scene he is in. He blends in with the students and praises them for their mad partying habits.

Tommy Chong as Red

This film manages to bring up a moral issue at the end. They talk about the importance of education for future generations. It’s funny how the students define themselves as the poster children of slackers and losers with no future as a way to get their message across. This film came out in 1995 when Bill Clinton was pushing for a better education program for kids in America. Maybe he watched this film to help advance his narrative? (Wouldn’t surprised me if he did.)

Senior Trip is one of the most underrated teen comedies to come out in the 90s. It may not be the cream of the crop in the National Lampoon film library, but this has enough chuckles to keep you entertained.

TRIVIA (Per IMDB)

  • Film debut of Jeremy Renner
  • The bus driver “Red” played by Tommy Chong hums the tune, and sings some of the lyrics, from the song “Earache My Eye”, which was the song that Chong and Cheech Marin play at the end of Up in Smoke (1978).
  • Wanda and Reggie discuss a crossover between horror icons Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. This eventually happened in Freddy vs. Jason (2003).
  • Dag’s first name is never mentioned. But when Lisa is listing his good qualities vs. his bad qualities, it is seen at the top of the paper. Mark.

AUDIO CLIPS

No One Here
Van Damage
You’re Gonna Wake Up
Good Day To You Asshole
Travis The Star Trek Nerd
Mr. Spock, Your Analysis
The Magic Bus
Reggie
Open The Door
Bus Sick
Follow That Bus
Can I Buy Some Off You?
You Guys Know How To Party
You People Don’t Deserve Kennedy
How Did You Know I Like Chocolate?

The Rookie

Official Poster

Release Date: December 7, 1990

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime  

Director: Clint Eastwood  

Writers: Boaz Yakin, Scott Spiegel  

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Charlie Sheen, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, Tom Skerritt, Lara Flynn Boyle

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Hello, readers! Happy New Year! I apologize for being absent the last couple months. I took a short hiatus from writing to clear my head and get refreshed for the new year. I’m going to dedicate more time on this blog for movie reviews on top of other writing projects that I have planned. Thank you for being a loyal reader and I hope you enjoy the collection of movies that we’ll be looking at in 2021!

While Buddy Cop movies have been around since the dawn of film, they didn’t start becoming commercially successful until around the seventies. Some of the more memorable duos include Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder, Mel Gibson/Danny Glover and in today’s Buddy films, you could argue Kevin Hart/Ice Cube or Jonah Hill/Channing Tatum. Then there are those that didn’t pair well like Chevy Chase/Jack Palance, Jay Leno/Pat Morita, Burt Reynolds/an eight-year-old boy. As the nineties began, you saw more offbeat pairings. One of those offbeat pairings included Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood and Hollywood Bad Boy Charlie Sheen (Yeah never in a million years did I think that would be possible). Both appeared in the 1990 film The Rookie.

Like all Buddy Cop movies this movie focuses on two cops with quite different and conflicting personalities who are forced to work together to solve a major crime. Sheen plays David Ackerman, a rookie cop who is assigned to the LAPD’s Robbery and Auto Theft Division. He is partnered with Eastwood’s Nick Pulovski, a rough wisecracking Sergeant Detective who uses tactics against police procedures to get what he needs to put the bad guys away. David gets thrust into Nick’s case involving a car theft ring that is run by a man named Strom, played by the late great Raul Julia. In addition, Strom is responsible for killing Eastwood’s original partner. Throughout the film, David gets cold feet when it comes to helping Nick. It’s attributed to not only his family background, which he comes from money and power as portrayed in a dinner party scene, but also a post traumatic episode involving the accidental death of his brother when they were children and feeling responsible for it. During a tip from an illegal wiretap, Nick and David head to a local casino where Strom is attempting to steal $2 million dollars to pay his creditors due to Nick constantly disrupting his business. During a search, Strom’s right-hand woman slowly walks towards David. David has his gun pointed at her threatening her to stop or he will shoot. He hesitates and allows himself to be shot and Nick being taken hostage by Strom. David is put on leave from the department due to his cowardice and allowing his partner to be taken. Strom demands the money within twenty-four hours otherwise he will kill Nick. David, feeling guilt and tired of being afraid hunts down Strom’s associates to find where Nick is in time before the police decide to pay up.

Clint Eastwood and Charlie Sheen in “The Rookie.”

I first encountered this movie during a night flipping through channels with my father several years ago. It appeared on one of the major film channels you can get on cable or satellite. The film was already playing, but we decide to check it out. We turned it on and the first scene we see is Eastwood giving a local news interview on a junkyard search and seizure. In typical Eastwood humor, he begins a profanity laced taunt at the criminal he is after. My dad I instantly cracked up and continued to watch the film all the way through. After the movie, we both agreed that it was a fun flick with loads of action and humor. Recently, I shopped at the place where I do all my movie shopping and found The Rookie on DVD for a mere two dollars. I instantly picked it up. I watched it in full for the first time over the weekend and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time around.

Clint Eastwood’s performance in this movie is a carbon copy of Dirty Harry, not like that’s a bad thing. From the physical gruffness and aggressive tactics to the smart-ass comments, Eastwood doesn’t skip a beat. When Eastwood gets paired up with Sheen, he’s not amused to the fact that he must “babysit” this rookie. He keeps his pursuit of Strom close to his chest, not revealing too much information to his new partner.

Charlie Sheen’s performance was mellow, but I think he nailed the character of David Ackerman, a rookie cop who is getting more than what he bargained for when joining the force. He becomes a burden to Eastwood due to his inexperience and the fact that Eastwood must bail him out on several occasions. Besides the things I mentioned about Ackerman in the beginning of the review, he also must deal with his girlfriend (played by Lara Flynn Boyle) who is finishing law school. He feels his job is beneath to what she will become. He does gain Eastwood’s admiration in the film when he helps him fix his motorcycle. You will see in a couple scenes how good Sheen is at fixing things. This is in part to Ackerman’s degrees in Engineering and Economics as mentioned during the party scene. Other than that, he struggles to build Eastwood’s trust in him. The botched arrest of Strom along with the kidnapping of Eastwood becomes Sheen’s turning point. When he faces his fears and stops blaming himself for the tragic events of his childhood, he learns from his subordinate and does what he can to find his partner even going as far as breaking up his dad’s meeting to confront him.

The last great performance goes to Raul Julia playing Strom. He is cunning at first when things go as planned. As the movie progresses and Eastwood thwarts his criminal business, Strom becomes angry and determined.  When he kidnaps Eastwood, he gains leverage over the cops and devises a way to get his money and take out his enemy at the same time. The only gripe I have about Julia’s character is that he is supposed to be German. Raul Julia is Puerto Rican. It would’ve made more sense to change the character of Strom to a different nationality, but that shouldn’t take away from his performance.

Clint Eastwood, Sonia Barga and Raul Julia in “The Rookie.”

A Buddy Cop film wouldn’t be complete without loads of action. There’s not a lot of shootouts in this film, but there are quite a few chase sequences. There’s one shortly after the beginning of the film, a chase scene involving Sheen and a motorcycle and a chase scene at the climax. The film does a good job of changing the chases so that they’re not repetitive as in car chase after car chase after car chase. All these chases were performed by stuntmen at the physical shooting locations. The explosion effects were also done on location without the use of any blue or green screens brining a sense of authenticity. One scene was done in one take due to the fact they did not have the means to keep doing take after take. It’s incredible what these stuntmen put themselves through to create an entertaining picture. They are the real heroes in the movie industry.

The film does have its flaws. The film doesn’t divulge into Sheen and Boyle’s relationship. She appears in only a handful of shots and one important scene of the film. The same goes with Sheen’s parents. While you know he comes from luxury, you really don’t know much about his dad’s business. One of the more controversial moments in the film is when Strom’s right-hand woman is toying with a tied-up Eastwood. As she speaks to him and slashes his forehead with a razor, she turns on a video camera and begins to rape him. Was it something she did with all her male victims? Did she see something in Eastwood she found attractive such as his boldness or the fact when she gave him a drink of water, he proceeded to spit it at her face? I didn’t think it was necessary especially since you didn’t know anything about her other than she’s a trusted accomplice.

The movie’s run time is two hours on the dot, but it doesn’t feel like a two-hour movie. It’s fast paced with a lot of things happening on screen. You get immersed with what is going on in each scene that time doesn’t exist.

Clint Eastwood and Charlie Sheen in “The Rookie.”

Overall The Rookie is a good Buddy Cop flick. It may not stand out like the Lethal Weapon movies, but it is better than most of the recent movies of this genre that have been released. The pairing of Clint Eastwood and Charlie Sheen is still baffling, but it works in this concept if these two could work great together in a Buddy Cop film, who knows what the next great pairing will be? I could see Tom Hardy and Michael Cera in a Buddy Cop flick…….or maybe not.

TRIVIA (Per IMDB)

  • According to the book “Clint Eastwood A Cultural Production” by Paul Smith, during the early stages of principal photography, actor Charlie Sheen had substance abuse problems. Eastwood reportedly took on a father-figure role in disciplining Sheen into responsible behavior.
  • The film featured over twice as many stuntmen as it did actors. Held the world record for the biggest ratio of stuntmen/actors. Reportedly, over eighty stuntmen worked on the movie.
  • Clint Eastwood agreed to do this movie in exchange for Warner Brothers letting him make his personal film project, White Hunter Black Heart (1990).
  • The movie was to be directed by Craig R. Baxley starring Matthew Modine and Gene Hackman in 1988 but the production was stopped by the Screen Actors Guild strike
  • The make and model of the car that Clint Eastwood took a disliking to its color was a lime green Type 85 Lotus Esprit SE. The Lotus Esprit was the car that had become famous for appearing in the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and later used again in For Your Eyes Only (1981). In the movie, Eastwood gets to drive the famous James Bond car.
  • According to the article ‘Slam, Bang, Crash, Boom for The Rookie” published in American Cinematographer in January 1991, the movie’s stunt scenes were mostly shot at night with no use of blue screens and with no use of miniatures.

AUDIO CLIPS

Chasing G Rides
I Was Talking About The Babe
No Mistaking This German Beer
Defacing This Car
Watch Your Ass
All Of You Driving Without Auto Insurance Are Under Arrest
Your Wife
Need A Babysitter
Singing To Me Like A Canary
I Didn’t Lie
Bug Up Your Ass
Static Peep
Warm All Over
Let’s Get Hot
Cop Trope
I Was Starting To Enjoy That
Told You To Fasten Your Seat Belt