Big Trouble In Little China (1985)

342995

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

Advertisements

Guardians Of The Galaxy – (2014)

guardians-of-the-galaxy-movie-wallpaper-25

Original Theatrical Release: August 01, 2014
Director: James Gunn

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is an intergalactic outlaw and treasure hunter who calls himself Star-Lord. When he nabs a mysterious artifact in the form of a powerful orb, he discovers that it is being sought after by a powerful individual known as Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace), who will stop at nothing to get it. The orb, as well as Peter’s outlaw status, puts him in contact with other misfits like Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) – all of whom must band together to survive Ronan’s crusade.

Guardians of the Galaxy was always a fringe title. It never really registered with me. I was pretty familiar with most of the characters, especially Rocket, Gamora, and Groot – but Spider-Man was usually the title I gravitated toward with mainstream comics. Maybe some Avengers or X-Men stuff. But not Guardians of the Galaxy. And if they are lesser-known to me and I’ve been reading comics since I was a wee lad, I can only imagine the reactions of some folks to these characters who are new to comics or who have no idea about the franchise. A musclebound killer? A green-skinned femme fatale? A walking tree in desperate need of a dictionary? An angry, anthropomorphic raccoon who fires guns? A sarcastic, egotistical human male flying around space like he’s a badass? Who knew it’d be so good and work so well as a film?

The key to the whole film’s success is the fact that the above characters sure ARE cool – but also the film’s resonance with our pop culture psyches via Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix-Tape that he plays on his Sony Walkman. (He was abducted by aliens in the late 1980’s – long story, and I don’t want to give anything away – so go see the film and see for yourself). The soundtrack had people swaying and bopping their heads in their seats during the showing I went to. It also makes Peter Quill accessibly human. Music is an access point that knows no language boundaries to be enjoyed.

Aside from the interesting characters and the amazing soundtrack, the casting was well done. The only complaints that I really had about the film were actually the villains. The heroes were well-established and had screen time together so that we really felt like they bonded, but Ronan’s motivation was flat and predictable. Ditto with Nebula (Karen Gillan). I would have liked to see more established backstory and/or screen time for those characters. As it is, they are very generic “we want ALL the power” villains. That is a really small gripe, though, because the main focus was really supposed to be on the Guardians themselves –  and Gunn (as well as the cast) not only excelled at that but as of right now, this is my favorite Marvel film to date.

Go see it, and make sure to stay for the end credits for a surprise cameo!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Guardians Of The Galaxy

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: March 8, 2013
Director: Sam Raimi

Oz (James Franco), a small-time traveling circus magician, finds himself on the run due to his philandering. He escapes the clutches of a slighted circus strongman with the aid of a hot air balloon and is hit by a tornado which transports him to the land of Oz. With his newfound companions, he must defeat the Wicked Witch and restore Oz to its former glory and also redeem himself.

Before seeing this film, I’d had lots of trepidation about it. We have all (hopefully) seen the original Wizard of Oz and it’s one of those untouchable films that has withstood the test of time, and will seemingly always be a classic in our hearts. So, when I heard that Sam Raimi was doing an Oz prequel with James Franco and Mila Kunis…yikes. I was pretty scared.

However, my fears turned out to be unfounded.

The film starts out true to 1930’s/40’s film fashion and Raimi does a great job with the transition from black and white to full color. You can definitely see his influence in the film with the way some of the scenes are shot and especially with how one of the witches looks. (She looks like a Deadite from his Evil Dead series) This may or may not be a good thing, given the nature of the flavor Oz movies have.

The best part of the film, to me, was Mila Kunis as Theodora. We finally see how she became the evil witch we all love to hate, and despite the crazy makeup she still somehow exudes sexy. There were a couple of weird nods to her hotness, with a butt-shot and a bodice-ripping scene…but it didn’t jar me for too long. She looked amazing as The Wicked Witch.

All of the companions are creepy but somehow entertaining. (Doll with a knife?! Helloooooo?!) There were nods to other characters like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow that we know we’ll eventually see. The visuals were great and the music was nice by Danny Elfman (despite the random pop song during the credits…WTF?)

All in all, I think it was a fun movie. It had some plot holes and dull moments, so it’s not perfect, but it’s nice to revisit Frank L. Baum’s universe again and see how Oz, The Great and Powerful got his start.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Oz The Great And Powerful

Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: May 7, 2004
Director: Stephen Sommers

Van Helsing stars Hugh Jackman as the movie’s title character. Gabriel Van Helsing is sort of a superhero/vigilante who travels the world hunting monsters that prey on the innocent. Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale) hears about his monster-hunting prowess and she summons him to Transylvania to help battle Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who her family has been fighting for centuries.

This is one of those movies that COULD have been really cool. I liked the idea of Van Helsing as a Blade/Punisher mashup set in the past with all sorts of steampunk-style sci-fi weapons. Unfortunately, writer/director Stephen Sommers kind of wasted his chance to really shine.

For one thing, there were WAY too many monsters. We open with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde as well as Frankenstein and his monster. Then we move on to Dracula and other vampires, werewolves and other creatures. How does anyone even survive in this world, let alone not know that Van Helsing is there to save them and is NOT murdering folks (as he’s been framed for doing). Focus on one, or maybe two….but as a viewer I was overwhelmed.

Some of the action is cool, but most of it is too cartoonish to have any real weight. The battles are sometimes too laden with chaos to follow very closely and a disconnect happens. I never really believed Van Helsing was in danger during the battles due to its campy nature.

If the story had been amped up to make it more believable as to why all these creatures came together or exist (yes, I know, monsters aren’t believable anyway but they need to be believable in the context of the film) and maybe if there had been a darker tone instead of trying to make Helsing seem like Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood (lots of rope swinging in this film, by the way), it could have easily been a great movie.

As it is, it’s still entertaining to watch if you just want a mindless action flick. Kate Beckinsale is drop-dead gorgeous (I’m sure many people think the same thing about Hugh Jackman, too) so it’s fun to watch these attractive people fight ugly monsters. Overall, I think the film relied entirely too much on CGI/special effects.

Richard Roxburgh had no bite as Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster was just weird. The werewolves were so-so. The most interesting villain in the movie, to me, was Jekyll/Hyde…but then again, it’s hard to mess him up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Van Helsing

 

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997)

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997)

Original Theatrical Release: November 21, 1997
Director: Clint Eastwood

This film was based on a novel by John Berendt , of the same name.

A New York journalist, John Kelso (John Cusack) travels to the slower-paced Savannah, Georgia to write a feature for Town And Country Magazine on the massive annual Christmas party that Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey) throws. After the party, Williams kills his violent and childish lover, Billy Hanson (Jude Law) and claims it was self defense. Sensing a hit-story and novel, Kelso stays in Savannah to cover the trial and ends up meeting all sorts of wacky characters including an African-American transvestite night club performer named Lady Chablis (Who plays herself) and a vocalist named Mandy Nichols (Alison Eastwood) whom John has a romantic interest in.

PHEW.

With a crazy cast of characters and a long-winded, potentially boring story…certain things have to come together for the film to be successful. Clint Eastwood’s direction seems to capture the essence of the slow, down-to-earth southern lifestyle of Savannah, Georgia. The movie sometimes follows too closely to that pacing and seems to lead down roads that go nowhere, blissfully taking its time in its own atmospheric qualities, which thankfully are good more often than not (the graveyard scene, anyone?).

I’m a huge fan of Spacey and Cusack, so I admittedly would watch almost anything either of them are in (probably even porn, if it existed…JUDGE ME NOT), but I think Spacey’s performance in this film almost borders on being a parody, which actually works. The man’s a genius, I’m telling you.

Cusack, while I love the guy, didn’t really turn in too much more than we usually get from him. The character in this movie is almost the same one from 1408 (which obviously came out later on), but you can’t help but watch the man work.

I think whether you like the book or not, the movie is a different animal. The atmosphere of the movie is the star and Eastwood did a good job with it.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil