Big Trouble In Little China (1985)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: July 2, 1986
Director: John Carpenter

Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is an all-American truck driver with a penchant for gambling. When his friend in Chinatown, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), loses a bet to Jack – he has to pay up. But first, he needs to pick up his girlfriend from the airport. However, all does not go as planned and instead ol’ Jack finds himself in the middle of a mystical battle between an evil Chinese sorcerer named Lo Pan (James Hong) and the forces of good, led by the cantankerous old Egg Shen (Victor Wong).

This film is a classic now, though it flopped when it was first released. If you haven’t seen it yet, I envy you because that means you can see it for the first time. Granted, some of the special effects in the movie are a bit dated (it was 1986, after all) but overall – the film has held up over time. Kurt Russell gives a great performance as Jack Burton – a sort of bumbling badass who manages to “accidentally” achieve his goals, though most of the time he just talks tough and likes to spout one-liners that don’t quite hit the mark. Kim Cattrall is great as the sexy-yet-annoying love interest, Gracie Law, and Dennis Dun is decent as the ass-kicking “sidekick” to Burton.

John Carpenter, for me, either is right on the money or far off base with his films. (John Carpenter’s Vampires was terrible, for instance) With Big Trouble In Little China – he did right by everyone. It’s got the right mix of adventure, style, horror and camp to make it an enduring franchise. Also – there is currently a comic book adaptation being published that relays events which take place after the film ends. You can check that out HERE. If you loved Army Of Darkness, then you’ll love this movie too.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Big Trouble In Little China

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Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) lives a charmed life, despite being born with a lower I.Q. than most – as well as a physical deformity of the spine which forces him to wear corrective leg braces. Gump’s mother (Sally Field) pushes and encourages him enough that he eventually sets out on his own and ends up witnessing lots of events in recent history that have shaped the world. On his journey of self, he chases love – in the form of Jenny Curran (Robin Wright), his childhood friend and crush – and also experiences war, happiness, loss and the gamut of the human experience, proving that despite his setbacks, Gump is wiser than most of us can say we are.

I remember seeing this back around the time it first came out, and I remember being blown away. So, I figured I’d revisit it, since it’s on Netflix, and to tell you the truth – Forrest Gump holds up pretty well over time.

Forrest Gump, the character, is one of Tom Hanks’ better roles. I’m no Hanks hater by any means, but he has a particular style that doesn’t lend to camouflaging his own personality. When I see him in films, I have a hard time separating film Hanks from real-life Hanks that I’ve seen. In Forrest Gump, this isn’t a problem.

Much like Billy Bob Thornton’s role in Slingblade, this is one of those times where you wonder if they’d have been able to make a film like this nowadays. There are some questionable messages in the film that critics would pounce on in present times, but for the time it was made it was a nice reflection on the Baby Boomer generation.

The movie is based, of course, on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom from 1986, although in the book, Forrest Gump is a pretty different character. Also, there are a few different events in the book that never made it to the movie version – like when Forrest went to space (would’ve been strange to see Hanks in space in Forrest Gump as well as in Apollo 13, amirite?!)

The only thing that didn’t really hold up too well was when it showed footage of Forrest in the old newsreels and footage from things and events that Forrest was privy to witnessing as history in the film progressed. You could really notice it. Other than that, though, the cinematography was great and the pacing of the film was really well done.

If you haven’t seen this one yet – do. It’s a classic.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Comic Book Men: Season 1 (2012)

Comic Book Men: Season 1 (2012)

Original Air Date: February 12, 2012
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 6

Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash is a comic book store located in New Jersey where many familiar faces from Kevin Smith’s films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc.) are employed. Touted as being unscripted, Comic Book Men centers around the staff’s exploits as well as trying to capture the essence of fanboy culture in the comic book world.

Overall, the first season (and by extension, the show) was interesting. but even though it’s supposed to be unscripted, I can’t imagine that it’s NOT unscripted. Each episode fit neatly into a different theme and many customers came in with items seemingly relevant to the episodes as well. Other reality shows seem to be able to hide the scripted feeling a little better.

The best part of the show is actually the podcast portion, which is usually the only part where you get to see Kevin Smith (for those of you who are fans of his) and is also the only part of the show which feels unscripted and genuine. It’s just a bunch of friends hanging out and talking about geek culture.

Getting to see all the neat back issues and rare toys and artwork is another great reason to watch Comic Book Men. The comic collector in me squeals with joy in seeing the issues that I own being haggled over on television. There is a happy nostalgia and fanboy appreciation that the show encourages and succeeds in fostering.

If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith and/or enjoy Pawn Stars type of programming, or are a fan of seeing comic books and/or toys and artwork, this is the show for you. I will give the second season a chance but I will probably only do so at this point in order to check out all the rare and weird finds.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Trailer For  Comic Book Men

 

Deathstalker (1983)

Deathstalker (1983)

Original Theatrical Release: February 1984
Director: James Sbardellati (As John Watson)

The warrior known as Deathstalker (Richard Hill) is tasked by an old witch to gather three powerful items; a sword, an amulet and a chalice, before the evil magician Munkar (Bernard Erhard) collects them first and becomes unstoppable. After getting his hands on the sword and angering Munkar, Deathstalker enters The Big Tournament where he hopes to wrestle the kidnapped princess from Munkar’s control, while Munkar has plans of his own to kill Deathstalker.

First off, this movie is from 1983. I was only two years old, then. The special effects are TERRIBLE and are pretty consistent with the visual effects limits of the time, utilizing even puppetry to supplement the fantastical needs of the film. That being said, the puppetry is part of what made this movie so laughably bad.

Bernard Erhard is pretty much the only actor who can actually act in this film, but his performance is so over the top that it’s awkward to watch next to the wooden and stoic Richard Hill and his portrayal of Deathstalker.

As far as Deathstalker movies are concerned, I actually thought Deathstalker II was the best out of the bunch. (Even though Deathstalker II rips a scene right off the reel from this movie and just re-uses it, no questions asked)

Most lovers of fantasy have to give a nod to cheesy, 80’s Fantasy films like this, filled with topless barbarian women, oiled and dumbed-down Conan the Barbarian clones and ridiculous makeup, and this is no exception. It’s worth a watch if you’re in the mood to laugh at a terribad film, or for nostalgic reasons…that’s it.

This is definitely not Lord of the Rings caliber material.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Deathstalker

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: December 14, 2001
Director: Cameron Crowe

David Aames (Tom Cruise) is a successful publisher who inherited the majority of his father’s money and business and lives a carefree life where nothing ever goes wrong and everyone caters to his every need. During David’s posh birthday party, his friend Brian Shelby (Jason Lee) shows up with who could very well be the girl of David’s dreams – Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz). David has to decide if she’s worth changing his life for. However, there are consequences to every action, and a very manic and depressed “fuck buddy” of David’s, named Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz) waits on the sidelines in quiet anger and desperation.

Let me first tell you that I am often not a fan of Tom Cruise. Or Cameron Diaz. Or Penelope Cruz. About the only actor I initially liked in this movie in other projects is the amazing Jason Lee.

None of that matters, though, because this movie completely blew me away.

It’s a remake of the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) in which Penelope Cruz reprises her role. Many think that Abre Los Ojos is far superior, but to each his own. I felt that Vanilla Sky hit harder with me under Cameron Crowe’s direction.

I rented this one night on a lark, not really knowing what to expect. Tom Cruise turns in one of the most memorable performances of his career, donning makeup that makes him look disfigured throughout the film when he’s not wearing the facial prosthetic/regenerative mask. Cameron Diaz has mostly unimpressed me (aside from There’s Something About Mary) but she was perfect for Julie Gianni’s moody, depressed character. Jason Lee was awesome as Brian, the best friend character….and Penelope Cruz was charming as the independent Sophia. Oh, and KURT RUSSEL. Seriously.

I have seen this movie so many times that I can quote it by heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry. The music was amazing (I bought the soundtrack after seeing the film), the cinematography was gorgeous.

This is a highly underrated film and didn’t get much attention when it first came out. I think it has staying power and an extremely strong message that I definitely identified with. It’s commentary on life, on love, on material possessions and existential thought. Go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Vanilla Sky

Chrono Trigger (2011 – Wii)

Chrono Trigger (1995)

Original Release Date: May 16, 2011
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square

Chrono Trigger is a video game masterpiece.

As the main character, Crono, you begin your tale in Guardia in 1000 A.D. being woken up by your mother. You rise, go to the Millennial Fair which isn’t too far from your house, and accidentally bump into Marle, your soulmate. Moving around the fair with her, you eventually lead her to your friend Lucca’s science experiment that she’s showcasing for everyone. It’s a teleportation device. Trying it out to impress the new lady, you are transported from one platform to the other and come out fine on the other end. Marle decides to try and disappears, accidentally transported back in time to the middle ages. You jump in after her and are taken on an epic journey through time that culminates in a battle for the fate of the world with a giant, planet-destroying parasite named Lavos.

I originally played this on the SNES back when it first came out. (I rented it from Blockbuster) Back then, I was simply blown out of the water with the quality of the game. I’d stay up nights playing it, telling all my friends about it (who were all busy with the Playstation 1 that had just come out) and I was emotionally invested in the game which hadn’t happened for a long time, if ever.

First off, the creative team behind the game was earth-shattering.

  • HIRONOBU SAKAGUCHI: The creator of the Final Fantasy series
  • YUJI HORII: The creator of the Dragon Quest series
  • AKIRA TORIYAMA: The man behind the artwork in Dragon Quest/Dragon Ball Z
  • YASUNORI MITSUDA and NOBUO UEMATSU: Behind the music of Xenogears and Final Fantasy, respectively

Wow. That’s some amazing talent all bundled up for one game.

At the time of its release, Chrono Trigger was revolutionary and had multiple endings, graphics that were pushing the limits of the SNES’ capabilities, an amazing storyline which advanced character development and an amazing battle system. For the Wii, everything holds up still today and I’d rather play the Wii port of Chrono Trigger than most of the games available for the Wii, even the newer ones. (And one of my friends reminded me today that the Nintendo DS has the best version, with a new dungeon and everything)

If you like RPG’s at all, do yourself a favor and sit down with this amazing game. Of course, you might not like it but I guarantee most of you will.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Game Trailer For Chrono Trigger (Wii)

This is what I look like when I’m blogging my reviews

This is what I look like when I'm blogging my reviews

I just wanted to take some time, and a breather, and say that this new blog is fun and I’m enjoying writing these reviews of (so far) games, movies and books.

I truly appreciate the time everyone takes to read, like or share the reviews because I know there are a million other blogs out there that do the same thing.

I have lots more Wii game reviews coming up soon, seeing as how I let my cousin borrow my X Box 360 so he could play the new Resident Evil game. There will be vintage games (like Super Mario Brothers and Chrono Trigger) because those are all available on the Wii so HELL YEAH I’m going to be playing them.

You can also count on other movie reviews soon, including some old Sword-And-Sorcery 80’s films, some newer stuff like The Avengers and Dark Knight Rising…and some older stuff, too, like Stand By Me and Suicide Kings.

On the book end (ha!) of things, I will have a review on The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers and also Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters coming up fairly soon, too.

I plan on getting into some more comic book and graphic novel reviews as well, but I have no idea when. Music and television shows are on the list, too.

Keep on keepin’ on!

-Joe