Day 146: Predator 2

Predator 2
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Starring: Danny Glover, Gary Busey and Kevin Peter Hall
Rated: R
Length: 108 min.
Release: November 21, 1990
Trailer

Synopsis:
LAPD lieutenant Mike Harrigan and his cocky detective partner Jerry Lambert soon realize that what seemed a bloody feud between voodoo high priest King Willie’s Jamaican gangs and Ramon Vega’s Colombian drug gang is actually the work of a scary third party. Peter Keyes’s federal team shields the crime scene even for the LAPD. BUt after forensics proves it must be an alien, who keeps making victims, the chase brings them all together.

My Thoughts:
If the first Predator movie were to be a prime cut of the best quality beef money could buy…then Predator 2 would be all the left over ground up chunks of crappy meat, fat and whatever else was lying around in the butcher shop to make a salisbury steak for a frozen TV dinner. Simply put…this one is bad…really…really…bad.

Are the special effects great?…absolutely. Does it have big stars?…yes it does. Does it have a good musical score?…once again, yes it does. So what’s wrong with it? Everything else.

I’ve always said that (as a general rule) in order to make a great hero you need an amazing villain. Predator 2 is proof that some times the opposite is also true. In this case, they have a great villain, and a very weak and un impressive hero. This does not make me invest in the story. I mean come on…they gave the lead to Danny Glover!?!? He is most certainly NOT a lead action hero! Yeah sure, he’s got the Lethal Weapon series, but he only looks good as an action star along side another GOOD lead action star like Mel Gibson. Glover was not a strong enough action star to carry this film and make it believable that he could go toe to toe with a predator, especially after Arnold barely made it in the last one! To be honest they almost set the bar too high. I mean, how do you top Arnold? The conflict just didn’t seem very strong after facing off against Arnold and, to be quite honest, Glover was not very believable as a cop with an attitude and balls of steal.

And don’t get me started on the script/story. It’s total crap. I mean, a Predator in the “urban jungle” sounds like a good idea on the surface and many of the new toys they gave the predator were really cool, but they just couldn’t come up with a story and dialog that really pulls it all together. It all seems far too forced and over the top. You can tell they are trying too hard to top the first one, and it gets too bogged down with all the gang war stuff and then the gangs vs cops and then for some reason its really hot. Not sure why it matters…but it is.

Really the only take away from this is the predator special effects. Again, it’s some of Stan Winston’s best stuff. It’s just too bad it was squandered by a tiresome story and characters you could care less about. Predator 2 gets 1.5 stars out of 5.

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Day 145: Predator

Predator
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Kevin Peter Hall
Rated: R
Length: 107 min.
Release: June 12, 1987
Trailer

Synopsis:
A team of special force ops, led by a tough but fair soldier, Major “Dutch” Schaefer, are ordered in to assist CIA man, George Dillon, on a rescue mission for potential survivors of a Helicopter downed over remote South American jungle. Not long after they land, Dutch and his team discover that they have been sent in under false pretenses. This deception turns out to be the least of their worries though, when they find themselves being methodically hunted by something not of this world.

My Thoughts:
Arguably one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films! The thing that makes Predator work so well is that it starts out as a typical brainless 80’s military action hero shoot-em-up pow pow kind of movie. Find a thin excuse of a plot to motivate big military guys to go shoot guns and blow stuff up. But then the second act hits…and this typical pointless shoot em up action flick takes a decidedly different turn into the world of the Sci-Fi, and it’s for the better.

The most brilliant move of this movie is the casting of Arnold as the lead. As an audience we are so used to seeing him as a fearless action star taking on the bad guys without much fear or regard for his own safety. Seeing him play his typical tough guy military character but actually afraid and running for his life as HE is hunted (while trying to learn about, and how to defeat, this very different and intelligent enemy) is a nice twist. It makes for a much more intense and eerie feeling through much of the film as we see the Predator plotting his next move.

While the special effects are a little dated, they still pull it off rather well. This is a fantastic example of some of Stan Winston’s best work as Hollywood’s special effects gooroo! Seriously, any top notch special effects movie from the 80s and 90s is almost guaranteed to have his influence.

Overall, this is one of the best action movies of the 1980s and in my top three best Arnold Schwarzenegger films of all time. If you are an action movie fan and have not seen this film…well then you probably aren’t as much of an action movie fan as you would like to believe, because I can’t  think of a single action movie or Arnold Schwarzenegger fan that hasn’t seen this film. If you want to call yourself an action movie/Schwarzenegger fan then you MUST see this movie. For being one of the best blends of action and sci-fi Predator gets 5 stars out of 5.

Day 144: Jaws

Jaws
Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss
Rated: PG
Length:
Release: June 20, 1975
Trailer

Synopsis:
When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

My Thoughts:
Considered one of the best movies ever made, Jaws is by far in my top ten favorite movies of all time. Seeing as it’s “Shark Week” I felt it was only appropriate for me to review this Spielberg classic.

Does this mean I plan to review the three atrocious sequels? Absolutely not. I don’t own them (see the rules in my “About The Goulson Movie Marathon” page) and I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to have them as part of their movie collection.

So, why does this movie work so well? Could it be because of the perfect cast?…yes. Is possible that the stellar job by director Steven Spielberg might have had something to do with it?… absolutely. Could it have been the good old fashioned true Hollywood special effects all blockbusters to follow were birthed from?…without a doubt.

All of these things contributed to the success of the first ever Hollywood “blockbuster,” but the key element that truly makes this movie work so well is the music. John, William’s theme that has haunted every person who has gone swimming in the ocean since 1975 takes this move from good suspenseful creature movie to totally spellbinding creature horror movie. The music creeps in and you know Jaws is in the neighborhood. It’s so eerie…I love it.

The best part of this movie is that you don’t even need to see the shark through much of the movie to still get the idea. Much of the back story as to why the physical shark isn’t in the movie more is because it quite simply wasn’t working. A true blessing in disguise as the techniques they were forced to use ended up working beautifully and making the film an instant classic. Jaws gets 5 stars out of 5! Happy shark week!!!

Day 143: My Kid Could Paint That

My Kid Could Paint That
Director: Amir Bar-Lev
Starring: Marla Olmstead, Laura Olmstead and Mark Olmstead
Rated: PG-13
Length: 82 min.
Release: October 18, 2007
Trailer

Synopsis:
Four year old Marla Olmstead from Binghamton, New York became the sensation of the art world for her abstract artwork, which have sold for thousands of dollars per piece. The showing of her work started off as a lark, but when the paintings sold without the buyers knowing who the artist was, the media began to run with the story. Through it all, Marla’s parents, Mark Olmstead and Laura Olmstead, want to be grounded in what is best for their daughter while exposing her to whatever positive may come from the experience. But some negative and big name media also surfaces, some questioning whether Marla is the real artist behind the work, and some questioning exposing a four year old to such infamy. Regardless, the fact of this art selling brings up the legitimacy of abstract art being quantified as “quality”, especially if a four year old can produce it but can’t express the emotions or rationale behind its creation. Or is art truly in the eyes of the beholder? Regardless, money, in the art world as is much in life, becomes the great equalizer.

My Thoughts:
Right up front I have to say I love this movie. This is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the type of film that you could watch with friends and have a very interesting conversation about the film afterwards…and I love that. It presents both sides of an issue, raises solid questions about that issue and lets you decide what side you fall on in the end…and that’s what a documentary should do.

I love how the controversy unfolds in the film. The story starts out about an infectiously adorable girl Marla and her amazing paintings, then (after a story put out by 60 Minutes) the focus of the story changes to the parents, and towards the end the movie starts to focus more on the director himself found caught in the middle of all of this controversy as he tries to make the documentary impartially but finds himself having doubts about Marla being the lone artist of these paintings.

Whatever the real story is (which is left entirely up to you to decide) there is controversy as a result. If Marla didn’t paint them entirely on her own then clearly this is a big scam providing a story behind the truth of the paintings that isn’t true. If it is true and a 4 year old did paint them…what does that say about the modern art world in general. How authentic is the emotional expression and depth behind the art if a 4 year old can do it with no thought of artistic abstract expressionism.

Perhaps the funniest thing about that question is seen in the reaction of those who do love the paintings, believe Marla is the real artist and are willing to pay thousands for them. They say there is some kind of “spiritual” force that moves through her to provide the abstract expressionism they see in the paintings. In my opinion, people will see what they want to see. Instead of realizing either Marla had help or the entire idea of “abstract expressionist” art is a load of crap…they make an excuse that justifies to themselves why it’s still worth the thousands they are willing to pay for the painting. People are dumb.

There are several fools all through the movie, but perhaps the biggest is seen in the morons willing to pay for this art.  The truth is either Marla had help and the history of the painting is a load of crap making it not worth the money…or she did make them and the entire concept of abstract art is a load of crap also making it not worth the thousands people are paying. That’s just my opinion, but never the less I found this documentary very very intriguing and a fantastic discussion starter for those interested in the art world even a little bit. My Kid Could Paint That gets 4.5 stars out of 5.

Day 142: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer and Marcia Strassman
Rated: PG
Length: 93 min.
Release Date: June 23, 1989
Watch on YouTube

Synopsis:
Erstwhile inventor Prof. Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) has been experimenting with an electromagnetic shrinking machine. He leaves the device unattended in his attic; shortly afterward, it is accidentally activated. Alas, the demon machine is aimed at his children, as well as the son of neighbor Russ Thompson (Matt Frewer). The kids, shrunk to 1/4-inch height, are tossed into the trash bin by the unwitting Szalinski. For the rest of the film, our teeny-tiny protagonists attempt to gain their parents’ attention — and to survive the wilds of the backyard, where all sorts of dangers, from bumblebees to lawnmowers, threaten their well-being. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids features Marcia Strassman as Moranis’ wife, and juvenile players Robert Oliveri, Kristine Sutherland,Thomas Brown, Jared Rushton, and Amy O’Neill. The visual effects are the handiwork of such masters as Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett, and David Allen.

My Thoughts:
Easily one of the most under appreciated live action Disney movies of the 80s. The squeals were not all that great…but the original is fantastic. The first time I saw Honey, I Shrunk the Kids I was as a little kid and it was such a blast to see on a large screen. It stuck with me to this day as one of the best movie experiences I had as a kid.

The best thing about this movie is that so much of it is meant for the big screen. The bigger the better if you ask me. A large screen just immerses you into the predicament these kids are in and adds to the overwhelming sense of how small they really are. Though at times the special effects used to pull it all off look a little dated at times, they still hold up really well and never detract from the story…they only enhance it.

After watching it again the thing I found myself most impressed with was how well this movie was cast. At first glance you would think that the rest of the cast was built around Rick Moranis, but it’s really not. Each character has a solid amount of development and screen time, and each one has some element of relatability.

Rumor has it that Disney is already in pre-production on a possible reboot film. It would be interesting to see…but I’m sure they would screw that up just like Columbia Pictures did with The Karate Kid. Nothing will ever be as good as the original.

At its core, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is a family comedy. Everyone in your family will probably find someone in the cast to relate to and something to laugh about. Really, it’s just a lot of fun and a nice little gem from the 80s that will forever remain a classic in my mind. 4 stars out of 5.

Day 141: Doom

Doom
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Starring: Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Rated: R
Length: 100 min.
Release Date: October 21, 2005
Trailer

Synopsis:
A frantic call for help from a remote research station on Mars sends a team of mercenary Marines into action. Led by ‘The Rock’ and Karl Urban, they descend into the Olduvai Research Station, where they find a legion of nightmarish creatures, lurking in the darkness, killing at will. Once there, the Marines must use an arsenal of firepower to carry out their mission; nothing gets out alive. Based on the hugely popular video game, “Doom” is an explosive action-packed thrill ride.

My Thoughts:
I must admit, this is one of the movies in my collection I am not proud to admit I own. I have a feeling I got it really really cheap on a Black Friday sale for like maybe $2.00 and since I hadn’t seen it since I saw it in theaters I had forgotten how bad it was. Two bucks blown…no doubt.

Still, this movie does have a little special place in my heart because it was the first movie I ever went to with the woman I am now married to. We went with a group of friends, and I was rather taken back that she was willing to go to what is most assuredly a “manly movie.” I think it’s safe to say my final crush started then. Anyway, enough of this sentimental mumbo jumbo…on to the movie.

Soooo…Doom. What is there to say about this movie?…It’s bad…really really bad. And if you are a fan of the game(s)…it’s even worse. Ever heard of Director Andrzej Bartkowiak? I didn’t think so. That’s because he’s not a director. Well, not a good one anyway. He’s done a respectable job in his role as cinematographer and you can see that work in such films as The Devil’s Advocate, U.S. Marshals, Falling Down and Speed. But as a director, the only other movie you are likely to have heard of is Romeo Must Die from back in 2000. It was his debue as a director and not a particularly terible film…but not exactly a great one either.

Concerning the movie Doom, perhaps the biggest problem most gamer fans have with it is how much they screwed up the monsters. In the game you are facing off against demons that are coming through a portal directly from hell. That’s a rather creepy concept if you ask me. That would have made for one scary and action packed film. Did Andrzej Bartkowiak use this creepy idea in his movie?…of course not. He abandoned this creepy and awesome idea that was already well established (minor spoiler alert) for a concept that more closely resembles that of Resident Evil. It just was not what I was hoping for when I went into this movie.

The acting is acceptable given the mediocre dialog they had to work with and the music gets the job done…but the story never really delivers a truly Doom story arch. There are moments when it kinda feels like the game, but just for a moment. One sequence that actually goes into a classic FPS (First Person Shooter) screen shot is really cool…but it’s done during one of the worst possible moments in the movie! During that whole sequence I’m thinking, “This is cool, but for this particular moment in the movie it would be better to take a step back and let us see all the action.”

All in all, it has tons of action and great special effects, but that’s really about all it has going for it. The fact that there are no “demons” from hell that you are facing off against really sucks a lot of the Doom feel right out of the film. Ultimately that takes it from a potentially decent movie adaptation of a classic video game to an absolute joke of the sci-fi, horror and/or action genres. Doom gets 1.5 stars out of 5.

Day 140: A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore
Rated: R
Length: 138 min.
Release Date: December 11, 1992
Trailer

Synopsis:
A U.S. soldier is dead, and military lawyers Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee and Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway want to know who killed him. “You want the truth?” snaps Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson). “You can’t handle the truth!” Astonishingly, Jack Nicholson’s legendary performance as a military tough guy in A Few Good Men really amounts to a glorified cameo: he’s only in a few scenes. But they’re killer scenes, and the film has much more to offer. Tom Cruise (Kaffee) shines as a lazy lawyer who rises to the occasion, and Demi Moore (Galloway) gives a command performance. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, J.T. Walsh, and Cuba Gooding Jr. (of Jerry Maguire fame) round out the superb cast. Director Rob Reiner poses important questions about the rights of the powerful and the responsibilities of those just following orders in this classic courtroom drama.

My Thoughts:
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

Okay, now that we have that out of the way…

A Few Good Men is easily one of the best examples anyone could give of a good “court room drama.” Not only does it poses an absolutely stellar cast (see the synopsis above) that delivers amazing performances all around and a fantastic director Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally…, The Princess Bride) but it has an amazing script that gives the director and the cast a lot to work with.

In a drama (especially a court room drama) the pacing and overall arch of the story is absolutely critical. The unveiling of certain facts as well as tension of the relationships and what is at stake is all critical to gaining an audiences interest and keeping it through the entire film and A Few Good Men does that beautifully.

You realize very quickly that these people should not be working together and they have no chance at all of actually winning this case given the facts presented and what they are up against…yet you know they are right so you find yourself desperately rooting for them the entire time.

The film deals a lot with Guantanamo Bay which always has had a shroud of controversy surrounding it. But I have to say, watching this movie now post 9/11 is really interesting.  The film really touches on deep political questions that are even more relevant today than they were back in 1992. One of the major questions being, to what extent do we turn a blind eye when people in charge of our safety are effectively keeping us safe? I’ll leave the answer to that one in your hands…but it’s interesting to see the question raised in the context of Guantanamo Bay that far back.

Because of the brilliant acting, directing and writing…this one is getting 4.5 stars out of 5. It’s the perfect example of a classic courtroom drama.