As the title might suggest, this is an adaptation of the Mark Twain… MoreAs the title might suggest, this is an adaptation of the Mark Twain novel 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court'. To make things more interesting Disney flipped the idea on its head and made it a spaceman going back in time, thusly adding much more scope for visual fun and games.
NASA are trying to send a manned crew to out nearest star Alpha Centauri with the use of a new flashy super fast shuttle. This shuttle will fly faster than the speed of light by collecting atoms and ionising them, all through magnetic fields fitted to the wings. No idea how this is suppose to work but its heavy foreshadowing that's for sure. By mistake Trimble and his android replica get blasted into space and on this perilous journey, but they don't get too far before ending up crashing back on Earth in the Middle Ages. Once discovered Trimble must convince the locals he's not an alien or monster, get to grips with medieval life and eventually try to stop Merlin and Mordred from overthrowing Arthur.
Right so this is a Disney movie, an old Disney movie, so you know to expect slushy crapola just like all old live action Disney movies. I mean straight away, this professor dude at NASA rings up the main character Trimble and tells him to make a humanoid android for the shuttle project...and he does! He just says 'yes sir' and gets right to it, creating the perfect human looking android with perfect senses, reactions and even emotions, just like that. If people in this universe have those kinda of skills why are humans still stuck on Earth? Anyway this isn't about scientific authenticity, its a pure fantasy aimed at kids to enjoy, and back in the day I did enjoy this thoroughly.
The lead character played by Dennis Dugan is terribly wet and preppy that's for damn sure, but I'd imagine he is appealing to the younger generations with his quirky, jaunty self. Other cast members are a who's who of classic British talents. Jim Dale of the famous British [i]Carry On[/i] movie franchise plays the baddie knight Mordred and gives quite a surprisingly solid performance to be honest. Ron Moody is Merlin and looks like your typical evil wizard mixed with Fu Manchu, couldn't help but think it was Fagin in the Middle Ages though. John Le Mesurier plays Sir Gawain adding some nice light-hearted humour to the role, whilst Kenneth More completes a little double act with Mesurier as King Arthur. This duo really played off each other well, like a little bickering old couple, its quite cute and charming, very childish, but adorable. Good old Pat Roach is in here too as Merlin's main henchman and muscle, what else would he be.
The cast was pretty epic looking back, like many of old movies, but for kids at the time it was all about the adventure really, and this had all the right ingredients. Medieval knights, jousting, large scale battles and space technology. The movie was shot in and around a real castle in Northumberland, UK which really added to the realism and excitement when you were a kid. Everything looked like a giant adventure playground with lots of wondrous (yet dangerous) toys, the weaving dimly lit castle corridors, secret passages, the space shuttle in the courtyard, swords, crossbows, various futuristic gadgets, a moon buggy etc...Everything in the film does look pretty good too, considering the films age it still holds up well today. All the sets and costumes look terrific too, very accurate for a Disney kids flick, it does appear that this movie had a reasonable budget and plenty of tender loving care lavished upon it.
Yet despite the fact this was indeed a kids flick, it didn't shy away from tiny moments of edgy material. For starters they actually have a full scale, full view burning of Trimble at one point. Even though everyone knows its not real they don't actually cut away from it! you actually see the stunt guy in there burning! or at least close to the flames with clever use of forced perspective...I think! Put it this way it looks pretty realistic for a Disney movie sheesh! Then you have the jousting contest where we see Trimble's android getting taken apart piece by piece until his head is speared off, and yes there are no cuts, you see it fly off. Lastly there are actually references to [i]Playboy[/i] magazine here, its actually shown, front cover en all! Of course you don't see anything but the fact its in there, presumably as product placement, is quite bizarre frankly.
Yes this fantasy adaptation has something in it for everyone, lots for the boys of course, romance with a maiden for the girls, and the legendary actors hamming it up something rotten for the adults. There is plenty of silly hokey stuff naturally, yet some quite clever stuff also, and what's more the special effects and props all add to the atmosphere perfectly. The big battle finale set in and around the castle at the end is the coup de grace, chock full of fun little moments. To be honest this whole thing feels a bit like a pantomime for kids, you half expect to hear hissing when the villains walk in shot. Its all so horrendously good-natured and delightful, its sickening...but in an acceptable way, nice score too.
Adapted from a novel of the same name, yet after a bit of reading the… MoreAdapted from a novel of the same name, yet after a bit of reading the movie is quite different from the book. With a title like this you'd think this film was about werewolves, but you'd be wrong. In fact it kinda depends on what source you go by, the book is sort of about werewolves, a species of creature that are descended from wolves, intelligent and probably more like werewolves than in this film. In the movie there are no werewolves and no creatures descended from the wolf line.
And there lies the problem with this movie, no werewolves. The plot is all about these mysterious murders in New York, bodies are turning up badly mutilated or half eaten and everyone knows there aren't any alligators in the sewers doing this so...what gives?! Fear not, along comes the most unlikely monster hunter in the form of Albert Finney to try and crack the case, with the help of his female partner and the plucky coroner played by Gregory Hines. Now this isn't a jokey action packed supernatural thriller, oh no, its actually a reasonably slow paced detective story as we follow Finney and co snooping around in the Bronx.
For the most part its quite intriguing I can't deny, I had no clue who or what was actually killing these people. You're not so sure if its actually a supernatural beastie or just some looney tune, someone close to Finney perhaps. Without trying to give the game away it is disappointing how they go about this movie, the alterations they make. Like I said in the book there are actually genuine creatures on the prowl, here in the movie they substitute monsters for wolf spirits, or more accurately, Native American wolf spirits. I'm still not sure if these wolves were actually the Native American descendants Finney's character follows up on, these guys claim they are shapeshifters in the movie. Seeing as in the book the creatures are descendants of wolves, it makes sense in this movie that the wolf spirits on the loose are Native American descendants. It never really confirms this concept (I don't think) but I'm guessing the local Natives were the wolves, or they were able to summon them maybe.
What really disappointed me was the fact the wolves actually did look like proper wolves, they actually used real wolves in the movie. This of course ties in with the new Native American angle they use, but I found it an anti-climax because I wanted to see something more terrifying, more of a monster, pack of monsters. The whole movie has this pretty decent eerie atmosphere going on showing us wolf POV, how they stalk their prey, their vision, how they attract prey by making ghostly baby noises etc...Then they merely turn out to be actual wolves that you can see in the zoo or where ever. I didn't find that scary, after all the great buildup, dark moody moments and horrific deaths...they just turn out to be actual wolves.
Speaking of the wolf POV shots, well blow me down if John McTiernan didn't swipe ideas from this movie for 'Predator'. I kid you not! I have read this movie is notable for its early use of thermography/thermal imaging with the wolf vision sequences. You see these sequences and right away you know McTiernan probably pinched the idea for his Arnie vehicle, but jazzed it up a bit with bolder colours. Its these sequences that really add some spice to the wolf antics in the movie, mainly because for the most part you believe its a monster or werewolf and these sequences are darn effective conveying that.
What's more I do firmly believe Alan Silvestri also pinched the musical score from this film for that particular Arnie vehicle! You listen to it throughout this film and its pretty obvious if you ask me, its nearly identical! All this time I thought McTiernan and co had spearheaded such an original franchise and material.
Its certainly dated these days but the gore effects hold up well, very well actually. There's something a bit off about it all though, I guess the sight of these Native American fellas and their own little bar in downtown NY doesn't quite seem to fit in with the surroundings. I can't help but think the whole thing would have worked better in the wilderness or a smallish town out west, the sight of these wolves running around the city looks more out of place than scary really. Again the choice of Finney in the lead was an odd one if you ask me, he also doesn't quite fit into the NY surroundings. Its definitely an off-kilter movie and slightly misleading at the same time, the book does sound much better and more of what you'd expect.
The title doesn't inspire much does it, much like the drab 'First… MoreThe title doesn't inspire much does it, much like the drab 'First Knight', remember that? Anyhoo as you can probably guess this is all about medieval knights, the twist being its an adaptation of the classic historical Japanese tale, Forty-Seven Ronin. So its 47 Ronin...but with medieval knights, so predictable I'm amazed it hasn't been done already.
So the plot should be obvious to any movie fan. A group of elite knights led by their aged master are up against a corrupt official who is in-turn very close to the Emperor of this unknown land. The corrupt official manages to get the knights master into trouble and executed as a traitor to the Empire basically because he wouldn't cooperate with his bribes. This of course leaves the small group of elite knights masterless and seething for revenge.
Mkay so, we have our adventure, our hairy manly adventure for big sweaty burly men...grrr. First thing, this movie is based on the historical Japanese event of the 18th century, an event that is supposedly true although I think historians are unsure of the exact facts. This movie is an adaptation of that story yet its apparently completely fictional, unless I have missed something major. I have no idea where this movie is suppose to be set, we are not given any city names, regions, lands nothing, not even the character names give much away. Obviously as we are dealing with knights here its presumably set somewhere within Europe during the Middle Ages, and judging by the landscapes on view I'd hazard at guess at Eastern Europe somewhere. This leads me to question how historically accurate this movie is suppose to be, it sure looks historically accurate, it looks great in fact, but it seems to be set within some mythical land like a Conan movie. I have to ask myself, if you want the movie to be an authentic entity, why are you not using real places? maybe with some real people even.
This leads me to other factors such as the character names. Clive Owen's character is called...Raiden, yes Raiden, as in we just totally pinched that off 'Mortal Kombat'. The corrupt official is called Geza Mott, Morgan Freeman's character is Bartok and Cliff Curtis's character is called Cortez. Yes it does all sound like a line up of Star Wars characters or indeed, a Conan flick. I will point out here that Owen is of course the rugged leader of the elite knights and Freeman is of course the aged master who gets killed off, surely no surprises there.
Now I get to the crux of this movie, well the apparent crux anyway. It seems the small unit of elite knights in this movie are pretty diverse, in fact the whole cast of the movie is pretty diverse. Now that's not an issue of course but it does again hinder the historical authenticity of the film. The main issue being...what exactly is the director trying to aim for here?? is this suppose to be an accurate depiction of medieval Europe or just a fantasy movie that looks accurate? This small unit of knights consists of men from all over, Englishmen, New Zealand (or in the film Arabic maybe), Oriental...presumably Japan, African and I'm sure I heard some Yanks in there too. Their master, played by Freeman, is of course African too (presumably), his daughters looked Asian to me, the Emperor of the land appears to be possibly Arabic or maybe Turkish? he has an accent for sure, and Mott the corrupt official has a definite Japanese samurai warrior at his side.
So what the hell is going on here?! where is this taking place exactly?? I'm sure there was diversity in places during the Middle Ages but not like this, this is like a historical avengers team for the politically correct. To further add more questions, Owen's character towards the end states he will restore his peoples name, their lands, his nation, but surely all these people are within the same country? Freeman and his knights ruled a city somewhere, and they traveled to the capital to see the Emperor, so its all within one country, so what the hell is Owen's character on about saying he wants to restore his nation. Unless he means he wants to free his nation from corruption, but it doesn't really seem that serve to be honest.
Truth be told the film does look wonderful throughout, no expense has been spared on getting every set and costume looking really authentic. The location work is also breathtaking at times with some amazing landscapes all captured against some stunning weather conditions. Clearly much love, time, patience and attention to detail was spent on this project, kudos. There is some CGI thrown in the mix too but only for longshots of the landscapes and buildings, you can tell at times but generally its add great scope, depth and atmosphere to the proceedings.
Its definitely a fun sword and sandal adventure with dashing gruff heroes, slimy villains and all the cliched uber testosterone packed fight sequences you'd expect. Add to that lots of predictable stirring emotional moments of death, happiness and vengeance in a flurry of fast paced thrills n spills. The movie adds nothing new to the mix at all, hard to when its an adaptation of 47 Ronin of course. Its basically the same old revenge tale but this time with medieval knights...typically dressed all in black to look ultra badass. Its a shame they didn't utilise English knights of the 14th-15th century when they were very colourful and kitted out in mail coifs, closed helmets and full body armour, that would have been more original methinks. Fun but jumbled, it seems they have taken elements from various other movies and thrown them all in the mix with reasonable results.
I guess it was inevitable that we would see a sequel, the first movie… MoreI guess it was inevitable that we would see a sequel, the first movie was quite good fun I can't deny, unsure how well it did but most things get sequels these days. Hell I'm sure there will be a third too, because all the bigwigs like to make trilogies, its great for DVD sales. But yeah...I did like the first movie somewhat, it was a reasonable idea, a mall cop thinking he's a real cop, trying to be a real cop, it worked on some levels.
The main pull for this franchise was/is of course Kevin James who uses his weight to gain laughs lets not beat around the bush. Admittedly I am a fan of the guy to a degree (said it before and I'll say it again), I think he's enjoyable, fun and effective with his physical gags, plus he's a good everyman that we the audience can relate too. Unfortunately he does seem to have had more success on TV than the big screen, and he's not helping himself here.
This movie is virtually the same shit that we saw in the first movie. Blart and his daughter go to a security convention in Vegas, low and behold at the exact same time a group of criminals are planning to steal all the valuable paintings from the same hotel Blart is staying in. Just like the first movie Blart blunders into the crime caper and ends up stopping it in his usual clumsy overweight manner, spoiler alert! he manages it. Oh...would a Las Vegas hotel have the Van Gogh Sunflowers painting in it?
Yep its the same as the first movie yet somehow its much worse, probably because its a babyish infantile pile of crap this time around. Seriously, the last movie has some good moments of sarcastic humour, this has nothing, its completely void of anything that would make an adult or child smile. Its bizarre, there literately isn't anything funny at all! not a single moment that made me smile. Hell there aren't any actual jokes! it pretty much consists of James making stupid faces (that aren't funny faces) and mincing around trying to be funny. What I really don't get is the franchises obsession with those Segway things, seriously there is an entire scene dedicated to trying to make out those things are funny. I realise its Blart's little trademark and part of his character but it isn't funny! watching him trying to show off on one isn't funny, its just lame.
Everything else is completely predictable throwaway spiel we've seen a shitzillion times before. Blart's daughter is fat just like him, she falls for a good looking guy who is clearly out of her league and Blart doesn't like it, the main baddie looks like a Bond villain, the baddie henchmen are a standard bunch with a token black guy and token sexy females, the hotels security is headed by some uber sexy male hothead and the hotels general manager is a sexy supermodel type. The only thing they add here which had promise and showed some ingenuity, was the little gang of security officers that meet with Blart for the convention. A ragtag team of misfits that really shouldn't be in security...but are, clearly for reasons other than actual security. James older brother Gary Valentine stars in this as one of the aging, fat, balding security guards in this little gang. Again clearly meant to be a hilarious addition...but it isn't.
The whole security convention aspect could of been a winner, they did the same silly thing in the US TV version of 'The Office' with an office supply convention. Seeing that episode shows how funny this movie could have been in the right hands, even with James, the material was there (albeit a little bit of good material) but its been wasted. That one small idea does not make up an entire movie of course, and as already explained there is nothing else here of value. Even the apparent suspenseful finale where Blart takes down the bad guys is pathetic and not even up to the meager standards of the first movie! This could have been better with a slight adult edge, it was never gonna be great but it could of been better, but its not, its pretty darn terrible.
I liked this, sure its very childish, predictable, cheesy and we've… MoreI liked this, sure its very childish, predictable, cheesy and we've seen it all before but its still humorous and doesn't take itself seriously (of course), so hey...what the hell.
James makes it funny, simple, I like Kevin James ('King of Queens') a lot. Like John Candy, John Belushi and Chris Farley his size gives his light-hearted, visual comedy skills a mega boost. He's a nice guy, easy going, makes you feel happy and comfortable with his average guy, blue collar persona.
The plot is utter trash, very stupid, a total 'Die Hard' parody in the second half (almost a spoof) which at times becomes a bit too close to serious and not funny. The whole hostage idea kinda spoils the comedy side of things, it should of remained just a 'Dumb n Dumber' style comedy to the very end. It all gets a bit moody and at times a tad dark, the movie forgets what its suppose to be here and there, methinks.
The whole concept at the start is funny, a mall cop who thinks he's a real cop in a mall, the scene where Blart stops an OAP in a buggy is brilliant, best scene, other things are very babyish eg. prat falls and drunk tomfoolery etc..That angle does lower the tone when it could of been a great 'Dodgeball' style adult comedy.
A slight shame because it could of been a solid classic spoof/parody comedy. Nevertheless its still a reasonably fun little film, good time if your with your mates...possibly a bit tipsy.
Possibly one of the most iconic horror thrillers around that everyone… MorePossibly one of the most iconic horror thrillers around that everyone forgets about. Its probably the epitome of schlock horror with the added bonus of having some quite dazzling practical effects courtesy of the legend Rick Baker. Get a load of that title! As with many sci-fi movies of the 70's and 80's, this film was heavily influenced by older sci-fi thrillers of the 50's that pretty much had the same plot. A dude comes back from outer space with some kind of illness or infection that slowly kills him.
Sure enough, in this movie a dude (Steve West) comes back from the far reaches of space (travelling to Saturn), after getting hit in the face with a blast of radiation. Although, I'm not too sure how they managed to get back to Earth when two of the crew were fried alive and the other was left half alive. Anyway with his other two crew mates dead, he is the only survivor back on Earth. But to everyone's horror the surviving astronauts flesh is slowly melting away, his whole body is slowly falling apart, and no one knows why. Role credits...oh wait!
Yes there is more, the movie continues for another hour and a half or so of simply watching this guy melt slowly. Its strange really because the movie starts off really well, the small sequence of the three astronauts in their little craft approaching Saturn's rings is quite decent. It looks really authentic with a solid little set, good costumes and good lighting, you could be fooled into thinking you're watching a serious sci-fi. Its the moment we get back to Earth the movie transforms into an extremely hammy tacky slasher thriller. For starters why would this astronaut leave the hospital and run off?? why would he even get out of bed in the first place? You're in a hospital, there is obviously something seriously wrong with you, you'd want the best help you can get, you'd want top people on the case, you'd want answers etc...Getting out of bed and running off after seeing your rotting hands and face is easily the wrong choice in my opinion.
From here on things get a tad silly, first off he starts to kill people in horrendous ways, yeah that's not cool bro. OK he's gone a bit loopy from the shock of seeing himself rotting away, but would that really cause you to start killing people in a fashion that would make Jason Voorhees proud? Its at some point during the stalking carnage that we find out he needs to eat human flesh to keep his strength up...yeaaah kinda leeching of the 1968 zombie craze set in motion by Romero methinks. This means we basically get one death scene after another, all set up in cheesy ways which are so blatantly obvious they offer no scares at all these days. Its also at this point that you basically don't really care about the character of West anymore, seeing as he's slaughtering folk for no real reason other than he looks like a monster. Each victim is the predictable stereotypical type, an old couple, a single bloke who looks a bit geeky, a young married couple, some faceless cops and some military dudes, oh and there's a little girl...but she of course escapes unharmed. Amazingly there are no teens having sex that get killed off, quite surprising really considering.
Despite all that its really all about the makeup and gore effects for the melting that we're interested in. Needless to say you can't go wrong with Rick Baker at the helm and he doesn't disappoint here. Admittedly the melting effects don't actually change all that much for the majority of the middle of the film, its only right at the very end we see the real money sequence. Up to that point we get lots of little gory moments with his ear coming off, his arm being cut off, various chunks of flesh and blood splodges, lots of gooey POV views from the melting mans perspective and some violent kills. For the most part he looks like a large runny cheese n tomato pizza that is dripping away but it is highly effective. But as I said the finale where we actually see the titular character melt away into a slushy, sticky, puddle of goo is by far the highlight. The vision of West's remaining eye slowly sliding down his face as his skull collapses in on itself is really terrific and haunting. Its a near perfect example of hands-on, practical effects that still holds up today, Baker the master craftsman.
Its a mixed bag really. The concept is not original, the start is good, the entire middle of the film is (now) a cliched monster slasher flick, but the effects are fantastic and you do kinda feel for West, at times. Although the morality aspect of the movie is well n truly lost beneath a sea of grisly gunk. Unfortunately overall the cheap slasher-esque motif sticks in your mind and brings the movie down, not even the so called black comedy segments, which are sporadic, make any real difference. I have read it was suppose to be a more light-hearted movie at first but they changed their minds, alas you can tell with some scenes feeling out of place. The old couple that get killed are clearly an old comedy sequence left in. In the end I can't deny that the movie is thin on plot, thin on motives for the characters and of course focuses more on horror and gore. Its a movie about a man...who slowly melts away, and that's it, nothing more, nothing less...but hell I liked it!
Hal Needham is back with Reynolds and all the gang for another dose of… MoreHal Needham is back with Reynolds and all the gang for another dose of pedal to the metal, tarmac burning, high octane, highway speeding...I think. This time the movie has gone for a more all out comedy slapstick route, more along the lines of Needham's other movie 'The Cannonball Run', or dare I say, Disney's Herbie franchise.
Once again the plot revolves around the Bandit and his partner the Snowman, transporting a cargo across the country as quickly as possible. This time its from Miami to Dallas, once again the challenge is set by Big Enos, once again there is a big monetary reward and lastly the cargo is an elephant (only thing that is different). Here lies the problem with this movie, its exactly the same shit as the first movie, exactly!! Once again the duo team up with Sally Field's character Frog, who has once again left Junior Justice at the altar, which naturally means Sheriff Buford T. Justice is back on their trail...again. The entire premise of the first movie is basically rebooted or remade here, accept the cargo is an elephant.
I really couldn't believe my eyes as I was watching this (first time viewing), the plot simply retreads everything. When we find the Bandit he has become a drunk which adds a new dimension to the character, but that is quickly forgotten as the plot recaptures the same old vibe, but not in a good way. Frog is once again lured away from getting married to Junior, which begs the question why on earth is she still even wanting to marry this guy! I thought she was over him in the first movie. The fact that this leads to Buford Justice chasing the Bandit and co across the country yet again feels really really rehashed and boring.
This movie seriously takes a nose dive in terms of dignity, talk about selling out and milking your original idea. The whole project just feels like its patting itself on the back whilst slapping product advertisement stickers all over itself. I mean lets look at the Bandits attire in this one, he's wearing a shiny red jacket with the words 'Bandit' and 'Trans Am' down the sleeves and across the back. Even the car has 'Bandit' on its paintwork which makes me wonder why really, it that really necessary? is the Bandit a product within this movies universe? Plus how the hell did they manage to afford a Pontiac Trans Am by chopping in that crappy old car?
As the story unfolds more and more ridiculous things happen which make no sense and have clearly been chucked in to be funny, apparently. Enter Dom Deluise, a Needham regular, a regular movie partner of Reynolds and a regular slapstick comedian of the time. If you ever needed your movie to be bolstered with in your face comedy then Deluise was your man, and sure enough he is on good form here as expected. The only problem is his character has obviously been jammed in just to extract the best from Deluise and nothing more, the character is a throwaway job. The fact the Bandit and co take him along on their adventure makes no sense either because they could of dropped him off anywhere, he's obviously there to salvage the movie.
Now lets talk about the cargo, the elephant. Yes that's right, they stuff a living creature into the trailer of a big rig, no light, no food, no water and most importantly no air! Couldn't help but wonder if this would have been allowed these days, of course its not real but we do actually see the animal climb into the trailer. The point is its the whole idea of doing it, and the way the characters think its perfectly OK, although admittedly they do look after the animal much better later on. Gotta ask why a Republican party would need an elephant, yeah sure its your mascot but you really need a real one?!
The whole thing is so drab, just watching Buford chase the Bandit all over again, doing the same spiel but without any grown-up edge to it. Everything is so childish, the chases are almost like Benny Hill sequences, the carnage is tame and has this cartoon-esque quality to it, there is never any real threat or danger etc...because its all so light-hearted. In the first movie it felt relatively realistic, like it could happen, here its all over the top and off the wall, which in-turn takes away any proper enjoyment. Perfect example being the big money sequence where the Snowman and all his big rig buddies take on an entire squadron of smokies. Now this is the sequence which I refer to as (Disney's) 'The Love Bug' sequence, this is what I meant at the start of this review. The whole thing is pretty cringeworthy and virtually destroys any self respect this movie had.
I was seriously disappointed with this sequel, never knew it was such a rehash...or reboot basically! Its exactly the same as the first movie with minor alterations, watered and dumbed down incredibly. There isn't even any car or truck porn to get excited about, they have completely jettisoned that idea leaving only the famous black Trans Am. I can't count all the big rigs in the Love Bug sequence simply because it was so crap and infantile, clearly not about the trucks. Do yourself a favour and don't bother with this shockingly woeful attempt at a sequel.
Twas this movie that helped along the creation of the popular cult TV… MoreTwas this movie that helped along the creation of the popular cult TV show 'The Dukes of Hazzard'. Not solely of course, but these fast drivin' Southern cowboys really grabbed the public's attention back in the late 70's. In an odd way, now I think about it, this franchise could well be looked upon as the 'Fast and the Furious' of its day. A lot of the interest here focuses on the automobiles, well the Pontiac Trans Am, but if you have a thing for big American rigs then you'll enjoy this too.
The premise goes like this, two mega rich Texan cowboys want a driver to smuggle a load of Coors Beer from Texas (in the west), to Georgia (in the east), within a set time limit. No particular reason for this challenge I might add, this millionaire father and son duo merely want to see if a driver can succeed in the bet, for fun, because...reasons, don't question it. The snag is, Coors Beer was not allowed to be sold east of the Mississippi River, because...I don't know. The beer was also supposedly one of the finest beers in the USA at the time, but I still have no idea why it couldn't be sold in the east. So the Bandit steps up to the challenge with his sidekick the Snowman, they gotta collect the merchandise and haul it back east, if they manage it they stand to win $80,000!
Directed by Hal Needham and the first of his movies to feature fast cars and Burt Reynolds. Back in the late 70's, early 80's there was a definite splurge of these goofy fast car comedies, very loose plots about getting from A to B in a variety of vehicles, lots of slapstick, tomfoolery and sexy ladies. These movies were pure male fodder, for young lads, petrol heads and showboaters, Reynolds was (at the time) the epitome of the cool ladies man, not necessarily big and strong but rebellious, dashing and cocky, Errol Flynn in a fast car. In this movie we see him at his peak, the tash is dark and bushy, the attire is the stereotypical southern bar-hopping US cowboy, he's laid back but also on the ball, he smokes and he drives a slick black all American Pontiac Trans Am. Its like they made the Marlboro Man the main character...but in a fast car.
Everything about this movie is all American and that's what made it so popular around the world I believe, it was an insight into (southern) American life which many people (outside the US) had never seen before. The Bandit and his partner, one driving a badass muscle car and the other driving a typical all American big rig, tearing across the southern States with the law on their tail. Despite the fact this duo are breaking the law they are made out to be the good guys, Robin Hood types, just'a good ol' boys.
On the flip side you have the police which seems to consist of two people, the fat loud Buford T. Justice played by Jackie Gleason, and Junior Justice played by Mike Henry. Its quite clear to see the similarity between these two characters and the law enforcers of Hazzard County, especially the simple Junior Justice. However the whole angle for these two seems a bit far fetched, they are merely after the Bandit because he picked up Carrie (Sally Field) who was running away from her wedding with Junior. I don't believe Buford knows about the Bandits illegal cargo, he just wants to kidnap Sally Field's character and drag her back to get married against her will. To achieve this the Sheriff crosses numerous State lines and goes way out of his jurisdiction, seems ridiculous, but then again its not a sensible movie.
If you're expecting masses of car carnage then you might be disappointed, the only real devastation we see is to Buford's police car. The Bandit gets into various scraps and sticky situations along the journey from Texas to Georgia, but naturally evades most cleanly. The various police forces that try to nab the Trans Am of course end up flippin' over, crashing into each other or getting dunked into ditches. Along the route they are assisted by many other big rig drivers and locals that all believe the Bandit to be a local southern hero. This happens via everyone's CB radios which was also became very popular at the time, lots of rapid quickfire radio gibberish flying about that sounds cool but only truckers understand. Leaves you struggling to keep up with the dialog but its impressive sounding and actually authentic.
This is a very simple concept movie, there isn't really a lot to it. There aren't that many super duper stunts in all fairness, sure there's the obligatory 'Dukes of Hazzard' jump in the Trans Am and various bits of solid driving skills on show, but don't go expecting a 'Blues Brothers' riot of wreckage. Numerous drive-by shots of the now famous black Trans Am both near, far and wide, some in the rain, some in the gleaming sunshine, tyre spins, skids etc... Same again for the Kenworth rig and its iconic trailer art, lots of lovely wide shots and close-ups, and all vehicles with many interior shots of the cast as they speed along. Most of these sequences and shots are accompanied by a pretty good country soundtrack that's enough to get your foot tapping, overall it certainly delivers on open road auto porn that's for sure.
Its easy to see why this became such a hit, it was fresh, quirky, exhilarating stuff that kick started an entire genre. What's more it can be enjoyed by all ages as it offers thrills n spills for kids and adults, its one of those movies that was often shown on TV here in the UK. Looking back in retrospect I think it just about holds up, its stupid in places with the pratfall/slapstick comedy going overboard at times (Gleason's Buford and Henry's Junior mainly), but Needham keeps it together generally. Its basically one long real car chase interspersed with cheesy visual gags, cornball cult fun stuff, pure Americana.
Here we are, the final chapter in this blatantly over-milked… MoreHere we are, the final chapter in this blatantly over-milked adaptation of the Tolkien Hobbit book. If you've been following this franchise up to this point (stupid thing to say really) then you'll know this movie completes the story arc for Smaug the dragon, Bard and Thorin. Sauron himself pops up along with Saruman to hint at what is to come in the follow up trilogy, after freeing Gandalf, but as the title suggests the main crux of this movie centres around the battle at Lonely Mountain for the treasures deep within.
The most impressive part of this entire movie is right at the start, the destruction of Laketown by Smaug. Whether or not you agree that this sequence should have been at the end of the second movie is no longer of importance really, we all know it should have been. Nevertheless this sequence is mightily impressive with full-on dragon kickassery as Smaug swoops down, back n forth, carpet-bombing the town with a tsunami of fiery death. Even though we have witnessed much death and destruction in these movies up to this point, there is something quite brutal and genuinely terrifying about this slaughter.
Alas its all brought to a stupid conclusion with the way Smaug is brought down, one black arrow hitting one small chink in the dragons armour. I believe this is in the original book but the way it plays out on the big screen just feels totally unachievable, even for a fantasy film. What's more, this entire sequence is the climax of the original book, yet here its all done and dusted before the opening credits.
From this point onwards its merely a case of Jackson moving the various chess pieces into position for the long drawn out CGI battle at Lonely Mountain. Unfortunately that is exactly what makes up the rest of this movie, an elf army turns up to help the people of Laketown and retrieve a precious elven item from the mountain. There is already an army of men led by Bard, there are a couple of orc armies marching to the mountain, and a dwarf army arrives on the scene too. There is virtually no plot here, its quite simply...everybody wants the gold...fight!! What little else you see is basically padding and invented for the purpose of the movie.
Lets get gritty, the battles, that's what its all about, how good are these battle sequences. Well first off we've all seen the LoTR's trilogy and the previous two Hobbit movies, so basically we've all seen this before. No I'm not being harsh, this movie actually feels like a rehash with the same CGI battles over and over, nothing new, its been done to death by Jackson and co now, battle fatigue much! The CGI in question looks pretty bad too, I kid you not, its like the quality is basically about on par with the original trilogy or worse! (LoTR's trilogy finished in 2003). Seriously there was very little here that actually jumped out at me, accept for the Smaug devastation at the start, everything else just felt like watching solid videogame sequences (again). To make matters worse the greenscreen was horribly obvious throughout, obvious and everywhere.
In general, I think watching masses and masses of CGI men, elves, orcs and a variety of beasties, clash in a clinically sterile CGI arena or environment, has just become tiresome. Yes I know everything does have an aged, weather-beaten appearance but it still doesn't detract from the shiny plastic looking visuals and rag doll effects we get with CGI. What really amazes me though is how this movie franchise never seems to grow up, the amount of deus ex-machina bullshit that still goes on is mind numbing. Time and time again various characters could and should be killed outright but the enemy pauses, or uses a non-lethal blow, or falls over, or gets shot with an arrow by someone else at the last second etc...It really becomes a joke, the entire climax for the this movie is one big deus ex-machina, everything that Legolas does is a continuous deus ex-machina moment...with gravity defining skills.
During the main overly long battle sequence Azog and some of his orcs appear to be watching the battle from the peak of a mountain or cliff, what mountain/cliff is this?? The battle ground is quite flat and expansive, so where on earth is Azog standing because from his viewpoint its right over the top of the battlefield. Oh and how do orcs control Were-worms?? During the battle the elves and dwarfs suddenly appear with these battle rams? like...where the fuck did they come from??! Oh and the way they run up the steep mountain pass with riders on their backs is inane. One other thing that made me laugh, the orcs are winning at one point, the dwarfs were staring defeat in their hairy faces. Luckily Thorin and his tiny band of fellow dwarfs decide to join the fight and run headlong into the battle, and this somehow rallies all the dwarfs to fight? eh?
I also love how predictable Jackson is with his battles. I think in every one of these movies he's had a moment where one army, or group of people, is saved at the last minute when another army, or group of people, decide to attack and save the day in a stirring heroic manner. Then at the end of all that, after all that fighting and bloodshed, the battle just ends. Bilbo and Thorin have done what they needed to do elsewhere and that's all we need to know, so apparently the hundreds of thousands of elves, men, orcs, goblins, dwarfs etc...all just finished the battle and went home.
Bilbo is a secondary character in his own story (its more about Thorin), we don't actually see what happens to most of the characters at the very end after the battle (Dain?), the battle itself was an anti-climax. Billy Connolly was dreadful as Dain the dwarf, I hated how Legolas is told to go find Aragorn at the end (this makes no sense if you do your homework), I hated how Legolas is at the forefront of this movie, and the Grima Wormtongue rip-off character Alfrid, was a cringeworthy rehash. What's so utterly ridiculous (and kinda insulting) about including Legolas so much is the fact there is zero tension in whatever he does. He keeps getting into these tight situations of certain death, but its all for nothing because we know damn well he isn't gonna die (facepalm!!).
I'm not really an expert on the Hobbit book and its content but I do get the impression Jackson and co really really wanted to make these movies identical to the previous LoTR's trilogy. I think we all know now how much was stuffed into these films which wasn't suppose to be there, and I think its obvious that it was done to ride on the coattails of the previous trilogy. Its funny that Jackson is actually trying to leech off the success of his own movies...and can't manage it. The fact he clearly tried to cash in on the franchise by making this adaptation into a trilogy was probably his downfall. This final chapter really feels very anti-climatic, the main criticism being its badly over stretched and padded out (obviously so). I mean come on, virtually the whole movie is that one battle between the five armies, and its not even that good! (thank God for those eagles huh).
Another throwaway comedy from Ferrell? yeah pretty much. Despite the… MoreAnother throwaway comedy from Ferrell? yeah pretty much. Despite the fact this guy is mega famous and has made some solid movies, his filmography is top heavy with throwaway garbage, literately littered with trashy flicks. I find it weird that three of his worst movies happen to be about various sporting events, ice skating, tennis and NASCAR racing.
So lets be honest here this movie is simply one big stereotype, one big cliche, every angle is nailed well and truly...almost to an offensive level. Put simply, Ferrell plays a rich successful businessman who works for a large company. He has it all including a mansion, flashy automobile, slick suits and a hot fiancee, he is on top of the world. Then as quickly as his lavish lifestyle is presented to us, its all torn down as he is accused of corruption. He now has 30 days until he goes to jail for the next ten years. In desperation he turns to humble car washer Kevin Hart for help, his request? to train him for prison life, to get him hard, tough, butch. At the same time Ferrell's character must also try to figure out how he was busted when he is innocent.
I don't wanna sound overly politically correct mainly because I can't stand the modern extremist PC trend, but damn is this entire story just one big insult. I mean lets look at the actual premise, Ferrell's character is a stereotypical rich, smart, white character, Kevin Hart is actually a hard working honest black character. Yet King (Ferrell) goes to Lewis (Hart) for help simply because he is a black man and he automatically assumes he will know about being in prison, criminal life, or automatically assumes he has been to prison. Right there you have a bit of a no no technically, not a great start.
From there on Lewis helps King train for prison, this naturally entails every single stereotypical prison cliche in the book. All prison inmates are automatically assumed to be either black or hispanic/latino with all the regular well known cliches that accompany that outlook. You know exactly what I mean, virtually all the characters are big, tattooed, gold teeth, bling, baggy pants around the hips, shades, silly headgear and loads of profanity and street lingo. Of course revolving around prison there will also be lots of homosexual references, gags, innuendos and slapstick. One sequence actually shows King trying his hand at oral sex on a man! he doesn't actually do it of course but we do actually see a penis! full screen! was it fake? looked real to me. But its not just people of colour that are hit, to counter the black and latino gangs there are of course the stereotypical redneck, black leather clad, white biker gangs just so no one feels left out.
What's funny is even the presentation of Ferrell's character is a slightly offensive or annoying stereotype. A weedy, wussy, straight-laced, well spoken, college grad type that is unable to interact with lower income people and treats them like slave labour. All the people that clean his huge mansion appear to be Mexicans and all the workers in Ferrell's company are white, not a single person of colour to be seen. The black street gang the duo visit for help later in the movie are the epitome of movie stereotypes (the women with the gang are all dressed and act like sluts etc...). This entire movie is enough to give all the social justice warriors out there a heart attack. The fact that we all know deep down most of this is kinda accurate to reality anyway isn't the point (it really isn't), everything we see is so tired, old, formulaic and unoriginal its just not really funny.
The story isn't even particularly relatable or realistic anyway which affects the comedy. The first scenes we see of King revolve around his luxurious lifestyle, so basically its just like watching Will Ferrell in his own real life because we all know these movie stars live in massive abodes, driving supercars with hot partners. Later on in the movie as King's training becomes more intense they actually convert his home into a makeshift prison? Putting bars on windows, electrified barbwire fencing and spotlights around the grounds, creating a cell, using his cleaners as prison wardens etc...I realise its just a dumb comedy going for laughs but would anyone really go to those lengths? it just seems like stretching for a visual gag. Indeed most of the jokes here solely rely on really grasping for laughs with forced visual tomfoolery, or they just bank on the old racist, homophobic, sexist angle to win the day.
Admittedly there were a few moments that made me smile, a few bits of dialog that made me chuckle, I can't recall them now but it happened. The second half the film gets a bit better as we discover how and why King got set up, although this doesn't enhance Craig T.Nelson's role in the movie, nor does it explain his decision for being here in the first place. The one thing I did like about the film was the fact its an adult movie with adult things...like some nice moments of tits n ass (sexist remark is recognised, hypocrisy noted). In this day and age I'm actually stunned this type of movie is allowed to go ahead and the fact it actually did well! Yes its good to laugh at ourselves and each other, no harm in that, but these days is risky lets not beat around the bush. Bottom line everyone knows what they're getting into with this, its all quite intentional and they do hit their marks, but that doesn't mean its good.