Friday, June 24, 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

34% on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 114 reviews)

Runtime: 120 minutes

Directed by: Roland Emmerich

Starring: The returning faces plus people like Maika Monroe, William Fichtner, Sela Ward, Jessie T. Usher, and Liam Hemsworth

From: 20th Century Fox

I have a controversial opinion about this movie; you can read it below in my Letterboxd review but even I am surprised that I enjoyed something where people constantly yell as they're doing something big, especially with one character in particular. I try to explain why I felt this way:

Looking at the Internet last night and today, I realize that I have a far different view of this movie than most; many seem to hold the original in high regard and think this is awful; me, I think this was actually a little preferable to the original, and even I am surprised at such an admission. I guess never having the OG flick on a pedestal for years is part of it, but this is full of CGI and is just as stupid as the movie from 1996. I'll try to explain why I feel this way.

I won't reveal anything that wasn't already public knowledge; the aliens come back from revenge, and that's about it. Oh, humanity has also used the left behind alien technology to become more advanced in their tech-filled 2016 than we are in our 2016, and the UK gets destroyed... in a different way than the UK is destroyed after what happened yesterday... the children of some of the original's characters now have a role in this and in case anyone had any doubts, this is as jingoistic as the first one. Sure, the plot takes place in a few countries and there is some diversity (although I can certainly be cynical about it, especially the Chinese presence) but it's still jingoistic.

So why did I enjoy this when most critical types hate it? Honestly, not having as many stupid/annoying characters was a big reason why. Oh, there are still some awful cringe-worthy character moments that fail at being funny or even amusing; it's not as bad as the original. At least like with the first one, the action can be followed and isn't horribly edited to where it's a blur that gives you a headache trying to follow it. In this day and age I have to commend Emmerich for doing such a thing, even if most of what he does is stuff I'd rather not see. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that me not seeing too many extravaganzas bloated with CGI means that I haven't grown as tired of them as most people have. Or maybe that this is 2 hours even and not as long as the original, and I am thankful it's not grossly bloated like “the superhero” movies are.

I thought the cast was fine, from the returning faces to the new people returning. Will Smith's absence did hurt, charisma-wise. The guy that played his son, that character definitely wasn't the same. They have to deal with a cliche-filled script jam-packed with ridiculous moments... so just like Independence Day. The universe is expanded upon and it offers up more information about the aliens and why they are the way they are. I realize that most detest this movie and that is OK with me. Who knows, you may end up liking this also no matter your opinion of ID4.

Independence Day

Independence Day (1996)

Runtime: 145 minutes

Directed by: Not one of my favorite directors in Roland Emmerich

Starring: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid

From: 20th Century Fox

I saw this movie and the new one yesterday. Tonight I'll post the review to Resurgence. In the meantime, read the review of this:

Would people believe me if I said that my watching a theatrical double bill of this movie then its debuting sequel Independence Day: Resurgence yesterday was the first time that I had ever watched the original Independence Day in full? I am sure many would think such a statement is poppycock and claptrap, but I swear to you it's true. Oh, I've seen parts of the movie before and knew of such things as Bill Pullman's great speech, the LOL stupid way that the alien shields were disabled, and the White House blowing the F up. I just never felt like watching it in full; finally doing so last night... I probably come off as a stereotype of the worst type of serious film fan by stating such a thing, but Hollywood blockbusters (I am mainly talking about the summer ones) just aren't for me, including ones from way back in this period.

I've talked before about how according to my tastes“The superhero movies” from the 21st century inspire little to no interest. Feces like the Transformers franchise I only need to see clips of to realize I need to avoid them like they have the Zika virus. For the longest time I only make rare trips to the cineplex during the summer and this is definitely true this year, where aside from Star Trek Beyond and possibly seeing something old being specially shown, I have no need to go there as nothing looks appealing at all to tastes that probably sound snobby; even as a 15 year old in 1996, something like this I wanted nothing to do with.

But I finally figured I should check out those films.; considering that the main people behind this gave us the “cinematic masterpiece” known as Godzilla 1998, I was not surprised by how stupid this was, and Lord Almighty was this ever stupid. There is a reason why before last night the newest thing I had seen from Roland Emmerich was... Godzilla 1998. The opening act of ID4, I was hating this because there were so many stupid/obnoxious characters braying like jackasses and being dumb, it was painfully bad; Harvey Fierstein's character, I wanted to throw in a woodchipper! As the story progressed, thankfully most of those characters went by the wayside and the focus was put on more tolerable figures. Cliches happened and the characters are the definition of “stock” but sometimes that is OK and Randy Quaid making a huge sacrifice is satisfying. By the way, what an unfortunate state of affairs that Quaid's character here is pretty much Randy Quaid the human being for the past 6 or 7 years; the mental problems he and his wife have: very unfortunate.

What helps make this jingoistic crap, this brainless slop something that I can rate as average (am I being generous? Maybe) is the cast of familiar faces, quality actors most of them. Seeing mostly practical effects is nice in this day and age, and they by and large still look good now. I realize that me not loving this may be controversial, given that on this site there are plenty of high reviews and I know people in real life who say this is among their favorite flicks of all time. No way would I ever agree with such viewpoints. Sorry, but that's my honest viewpoint.

Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol

Runtime: 88 minutes

Directed by: Jim Drake

Starring: The usual cast you'd expect

From: Warner Bros.

There is not a lot I can say to intro this, as everyone knows what to expect from a Police Academy sequel before they watch it, whether or not they had ever seen it before... yes I have watched all the movies in the franchise, albeit years ago before I got them from a UK import Blu set early this year. My review of this is below, from you know where:

It has been a few months since I've watched a Police Academy movie so I figured this was the time to see one; I only had faint memories of this one from my childhood, such as a gag or two, the balloon & biplane filled ending, and the large African-American man known as House carrying his own moped. It's quite silly and yet I laughed enough-even if some things weren't “politically correct” by today's standards-to where I can say this is OK.
The plot is about having Citizens on Patrol to help assist the police but it's a flimsy excuse to have a bunch of a random gags & a threadbare story. Love interest Sharon Stone only appears in a few scenes; there are plenty of characters so some don't get a lot of screentime. Yet, the movie somehow includes ninjas; why? Why not!
As you know what to expect from this franchise there isn't too much else for me to say, except to note how this entry has its share of famous faces, and not just a few “that guy” or “that gal” actors you know better from appearance than by name. Besides Stone and Randall “Tex” Cobb, there's David Spade, Tony Hawk and Steve Caballero as skateboarders, years before all of them became famous; there's a few minutes of then-nifty innovative skateboarding stuff back before people regularly saw such things. Of course, G.W. Bailey returned as Harris and it was nice for the franchise for him to return; Steve Guttenberg played Mahoney for the last time here and that is sad for the franchise's fans; who knows if the long-rumored new movie in the series will ever happen so this may be the last time ever that we see him in the role.
As an addendum, I have to mention the rap song theme to the movie; it's not the only 80's-riffic song you hear in the movie but that one is the most charmingly bad.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The St. Louis Kid

The St. Louis Kid (1934)

Runtime: 67 minutes

Directed by: Ray Enright

Starring: James Cagney, Patricia Ellis, Allen Jenkins, Robert Barrat, Hobart Cavanaugh

From: Warner Bros.

This is a rather rare James Cagney movie I watched earlier today on TCM. I explain my watching of it below in my copied and pasted Letterboxd review:

Earlier today on TCM they showed 9 obscure James Cagney movies; I was only able to see one of them, but that is OK as most of the rest can be rented from Amazon for a few bucks each. The one I decided to watch was one that can't easily be streamed. In the future I'll see more of his movies, both famous and not so famous. The St. Louis Kid is the only flick where Cagney plays a truck driver who gets involved in a feud between dairy farmers and the dairy union in Illinois who are ripping off the poor farmers.

The plot: Cagney and Allen Jenkins are truck drivers from St. Louis who often get into trouble, usually because of alcohol and women. James headbutts a man & knocks him out soon after he gets into an accident with Patricia Ellis. Those two feud whenever they later meet up with each other in a small random Illinois town but of course they soon fall in love. In fact, much of the action takes place in that small town; it's obviously filmed in Southern California but I say that as I am a nerd and I grew up in Illinois. Anyhow, Cagney and Jenkins get entangled in that feud between the farmers and the union (resulting in the union bringing in guys with guns to try and stop the blockades that the farmers have set up) and it leads to such things as murder and kidnapping.

It's a drama with many humorous moments. It's a standard programmer but the charms of its cast-especially Cagney-helps. I admit that some parts of the plot aren't fully developed with its 67 minute runtime (such as there not being a definite resolution of the plot); that said, it's still an entertaining enough movie where I can say I enjoyed it. There are brawls, a tough dame or two, nice words said about the farmers of America... and not only does James headbutt several people, he even lights a gas station on fire to get out of a jam. How can I dislike a movie with such moments?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Shield For Murder

Shield for Murder (1954)

Runtime: 82 minutes

Directed by: Howard W. Koch... and Edmond O'Brien

Starring: Edmond O'Brien, John Agar, Marla English, Emile Meyer, Claude Akins

From: Camden Productions Inc.

This is a film noir I saw last night; tomorrow Kino Lorber's releasing it on Blu but right now it can be watched either for a few bucks on Amazon or if you have Prime, it's one of the many noir titles they offer for free. It's something many fans of the genre would likely dig, me thinks. I explain why below in my Letterboxd review.

Yep, also I found out about this noir from a messageboard post. In this case, someone mentioned that tomorrow, Kino Lorber will be putting this out on Blu. As it's available for free on Amazon Prime, I figured I should check it out and give it some publicity.

This has Edmond O'Brien as bad Los Angeles cop Barney who murders someone for 25,000 dollars. Not that a cop could do this in these modern times... he's a loose cannon copper in the worst ways. To be frank, this could describe how some members of law enforcement are now. Someone starts off as a “good person” but due to all the stress and dangers of having to deal with the worst members of society, they change and become pretty awful, despite them trying to justify their actions. Between that and the Boys in Blue deciding to protect their own from any outsiders, and it seems rather modern today. I don't mean to sound like I am bashing all police officers, as I am sure most of them are quality human beings and do their jobs well. It's just that there's always some bad apples that spoil the entire barrel. The movie says as much in a soliloquy given by a supporting character.

Anyway, Barney wants to move into a nice new house with his gal Marla English. That is the impetus of him wanting all that cash. That murder is literally the opening of the picture and for Barney Nolan it somehow gets even worse. He tries to control the escalating situation but he's unable to; when you rip off a leader in the underworld... the cast is nice and has some familiar faces, like John Agar, Claude Akins and Carolyn Jones... as someone who watched The Addams Family in reruns as a real young'n, it was nice to see her, and she played “a tough dame”. But to me it was O'Brien as the standout as he did a nice job playing a real A-hole who ends up doing some awful things. There is also a quality setpiece near the very end set at what is pretty much a YMCA.

This is a hard-hitting noir which pulls no punches and as a bonus you get to see a bit of how LA used to be back in those days before urban sprawl and smog-choked air dominated the scene. If you enjoy watching the genre, I think this is definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Supernatural (Not That TV Show)

Supernatural (1933)

Runtime: 65 minutes

Directed by: Victor Halperin

Starring: Carole Lombard, Alan Dinehart, Randolph Scott, Vivienne Osborne, H.B. Warner

From: Paramount

Here is an obscure movie I heard about a few days ago and via less than ethical means I was able to see this. I explain it all below in my Letterboxd review:

This is yet another movie I found out about via a messageboard post. In this case, someone posted the poster for this movie (not the one listed here on Letterboxd) and noted that it was awesome, which I can't disagree with. I looked up the film's details and I was intrigued by this being the only horror movie of a famous actress, in this case Carole Lombard. In addition, the main people who made this film previously made the famous Pre-Code horror shocker known as White Zombie. I was able to track this down... nevermind how.

The plot to this Pre-Code thriller is the spirit of an executed woman-she was a killer so it's not like it was an unjust execution-entering the body of innocent Carole Lombard after a séance gone wrong. This was after an opening which listed quotes from Confucius, Mohammed, and the Old Testament. At least most of their bases were covered... this also includes such things as a phony psychic, a dead twin brother and a world where people rather easily believe that after death a spirit can easily enter an innocent person's body and take over.

For a movie that is only 65 minutes long, it does take awhile to really get going, and the actual possession is not as lengthy as you might expect. At times things do seem confused, so I wonder if this was edited down so it could be a proper second feature on a double bill with another Paramount movie; it does seem like a few scenes are missing or at least truncated. At least the movie is still watchable, there are some creepy moments, the disses against charlatans who engage in spiritualism made me laugh-as I agree-and Lombard did a swell job as a character who acts drastically different before and after possession. The ending is also deliciously macabre.

It's just that when some of the people involved made White Zombie, you hope for more and I can only rate this as about average.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Street Fighter (The Van Damme Movie, Unfortunately)

Street Fighter (1994)

Runtime: 102 minutes

Directed by: Stephen E. de Souza

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Raul Julia, Ming-Na Wen, Byron Mann, Damian Capa

From: Universal

I watched this on Wednesday night, and I am just now posting this here. I haven't watched anything since, but I'll get back to the swing of things tonight. Anyhow, I saw this bad movie before, and thought it was bad. Well, it's still bad.

This is a movie that I've seen before and always thought was pretty bad; in the past few years I've heard several people on a messageboard praise it and they wanted me to see it again. Well, the El Rey Network showed it late last night so that's what I did.

I had to be honest to those people on that messageboard: I thought the movie still sucked.

Admittedly I never played any of the Street Fighter game on any of its console versions and rather played the arcade version of Street Fighter II (or rather, several of the many versions of SF II that Capcom released) a few times in my life. I don't have a deep love for the series, in other words. I am just rating this on whether it's a coherent, entertaining, or just plain good movie, and it's none of those thing. It's incoherent, confused, and it's not good overall. This is despite a gleefully over the top performance from Raul Julia as M. Bison; legend has it he only took the role for a paycheck as he was in poor health and wanted to help his family after he was gone. While I feel bad for bashing a movie when a lead actor did such a thing, my bashing of this has nothing to do with him or his performance, which was right for such goofball entertainment.

Polygon is a site I rarely look at and there are many reasons for that; them producing bad and whiny content is a big reason right there. Yet, in 2014 they wrote this great article where all the production problems were explained; even if the people interviewed aren't always clear or accurate with all of the facts, it explains how:

* Filming in Bangkok did not go smoothly at all... although at least they enjoyed partaking in the massage parlors

* Capcom had too much influence on production and demanded all those characters from the game, which was a big problem.

* Director Stephen E. de Souza was a talented and proven screenwriter, but a newbie as a director, and that caused problems.

* Several members of the crew experienced major ailments, including a heart attack and a car crash.

* Jean-Claude Van Damme was in the midst of a bad drug problem, and had an affair w/ co-star Kylie Minogue to boot.

* There was not even one Hadouken.

* The MPAA reared its ugly head again.

The movie ended up making money worldwide; that said, I still think it's bad... although I understand Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li is even worse. I do not fault the cast who was in this; it was just a troubled production where too many bad things happened and the script wasn't solid when filming began, resulting in this mess where a character is basically turned into The Incredible Hulk.