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Rating History

Cannonball Run II
11 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Cannonball Run II is the sequel to the 1981 coast to coast race film from Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds. Did you see that one? Then you've seen this one. It's a cartoonish romp with a collection of Las Vegas royalty and country stars. Yes, this is another on of those Burt Reynolds good ole' boy comedies.

Way over the top, Cannonball Run II is almost fun to watch. Almost. It's poorly written and the performances are strictly phoned in. Did Shirley Maclaine really follow up Terms of Endearment with this? Ugh. And Frank Sinatra's cameo? It's legendary in that the Chairman wasn't even there with the cast, yet appears in the blooper reel. Really? We can easily tell with the poor editing that they were not together. A poorly matched mess.

Far removed from Crosby and Hope, it's a road picture injected with steroids and over used '80's cliches. You can watch it, but the camp is turned up to eleven and all you get is a need to go on a real road trip. There isn't much left to say about it. It's just a bad movie.

Escape From Alcatraz
11 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Representing the culmination of a decade long collaboration between director Don Seigel and perpetual 1970's Clint Eastwood Escape from Alcatraz is a very loose account fo the 1962 escape from the legendary prison located in San Francisco Bay.

The film opens with Frank Morris (Eastwood) being delivered to his new island home. He meets the hard ass warden (Patrick McGoohan) and delivers the speech to Morris about no one ever escaping Alcatraz and no one ever will. The film then follows Morris and his compatriots (Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward, and Larry Hankin) use their wits and the materials they have on hand to make their daring escape.

Shot on the actual island, the film has a washed out and bleak look that obviously mimics its location in the foggy and cold bay area. The order in these broken down buildings shows how the island has rotted away with time, but the cogs of justice have continued to turn no matter what happens. Clint Eastwood's performance is one of his best, on par with Josey Wales or Unforgiven. You are not watching Dirty Harry in this film as Eastwood leaves that persona before the opening credits roll. The performances throughout the film are filled with hopelessness and even characters not involved in the escape seem to perk up when it's even hinted at. It's like sun light breaking through the clouds for one solitary moment.

As a whole, the theme of the film is hope. All of the convicts are hopeless until Frank shows up and starts filling their minds with the possibility, the hope, of escape. Could there be a way out of Alcatraz that doesn't end in death? This is another '70's film that flipped the good guys and the bad guys. Once again, after Vietnam and Watergate, the nation lost confidence in its authority figures. In Escape from Alcatraz you are rooting for the cons to overcome the authority that keeps pressing its thumb down on them from the opening moments. It is a great film that is really an underrated masterpiece of the 1970's.

Re-Animator (1985)
22 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Throughout the history of film one of the characters that continues to pop up is the mad scientist attempting to push his studies to the point of lunacy. This is a person who has become so obsessed with their primary objective that they throw any sense of moral code or obligation right out the window. The first and most famous example is Dr. Frankenstein in the numerous incarnations that have been brought to life over the decades, be it Colin Clive or Peter Cushing. Science is the only thing of importance to these men. With Re-Animator we get another take on the Frankenstein mentality, though it is more tongue in cheek and finds some humor in the situation.

Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, the film opens with what will be our resident mad scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) encountering the possible consequences of his experiments when his mentor dies at the European school he is attending. Having "learned all he can" there he arrives at an American university and rooms with golden boy med student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). Dan is the typical over zealous student that's dating the dean's daughter Megan (Barbara Crampton) and being a general BMOC (big man on campus). Herbert uses the relationship between Dan and Megan as leverage in getting Dan to assist him in his experiments. His goal: to bring people back from brain death. Eventually the pair are discredited by the administration and they are forced to go about their work in secret. Of course these plans go awry as issues spring up with how Herbert's "agent" works.

Director Stuart Gordon delivers a film that, even though it could have dated itself, manages to break that 1980's mold and become something more than a late night cable TV film lost to obscurity. He manages to walk the thin line between a horror film and a comedy, balancing the two and delivering a film that is stronger for it. It is a gorefest, but there is enough humor to take the edge off, but it doesn't end up a parody of itself. For being a lower budget film the performances are well done with the stand outs being Combs and David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill, an under handed professor that becomes a failed experiment with consequences.

The film is visually striking with its effects and even though the budget was low, still managed to push the envelope and deliver something new. Gordon shoots the film not with the effects as star, but as a valued character actor. There are scenes that remain legendary in Re-Animator even if they are old school camera trickery.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Re-Animator is the Frankenstein of the 1980's. The film is built as a loving parody of the Mary Shelly classic. It comes from an era where films are perpetually stuck because of their reliance on cliches of the era, but Re-Animator stands out and survives beyond those neon bounds. It captures you with a well worn idea that is garnished with more modern sensibilities. It's horror that gives you a break instead of slamming you in the head with murder-death-kill every ten minutes just for the sake of it. Re-Animator is a great overlapping genre piece that has the ability to be enjoyed more than once. The film never gets old and always delivers a great experience for the audience.

Independence Day: Resurgence
36 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Retro-sequel seems to have become all the rage lately. Star Wars is back with a vengeance, Indiana Jones is on his way, Alien, Blade Runner, Jurassic World and others have taken franchise stagnant for a decade or more and revived them not with a reboot, but a sequel that continues the long dead story. A film that could have delivered a sequel decades before now is Independence Day, a film that wasn't the greatest but it did deliver some summer popcorn entertainment. Why we didn't get a sequel until now is a mystery to me.

The plot isn't going to take much to describe.Honestly, if you've seen the first film then you have seen this one. I was thinking about doing a copy and paste from my view of the first film, but why go to the effort. Plus, there seems to be to much copy and paste going on with this one anyway. Aliens, angry that we beat them in the first film, show up. Throw in a McGuffin so that we have a way to set up another sequel and you're done. Like an assembly line.

The film is pure paint by numbers and that philosophy can work when you add something interesting or at least make an effort. This film doesn't do that. The beats are the same as the first film and what is new happens to be well worn cliches from films such as Pearl Harbor. Bill Pullman returns as the ex-President, but actually takes up the crazed Randy Quaid character. Jeff Goldblum also returns, does his thing, and collects his check. Will Smith does not return, opting to appear in Suicide Squad. Not perfect. but better than going backward on the part of Mr. Smith. Throughout the film the cast does its thing, re-making Independence Day.

I guess we're going to get hit with more of these. Reboots are garbage, so let's revitalize. The problem is that a retro-sequel can end up being more pathetic than actually starting over from scratch. The movie blatantly sets up a sequel, but whether or not that will come to fruition is up in the air at this time. It sounds like something different, which this movie should have been if it wanted to recapture an audience. Nods to the original are encouraged, but give the viewer a reason to spends time watching your movie. Oh well. The grand daddy of modern disaster porn has fallen. Let's just pack this one away as a relic of the old days.

X-Men: Apocalypse
37 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

When X-Men movies first hit the silver screen the world was staggering from the comic book films of the late 1990's (I'm looking at you Batman and Robin and Spawn). The concept of adapting super heroes was just not as viable as it is today. The X-Men series is the odd franchise that has been rebooted, but is still tied to its former self more tightly with timeline swaps creating a convoluted mess that becomes more and more confusing with each additional movie.

X-Men: Apocalypse opens in Egypt where Apocalypse (Oscar Issacs) is being transferred into another body, merging his powers with the powers of his new host. A coup renders him buried hundreds of feet below the ground in perpetual hibernation, waiting for the day that he can be rejuvenated by the sun. Obviously he is released and begins the process of taking control of the world back from humans- he feels that he is their god. He recruits four mutants (the four horsemen), one of them being Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who, after experiencing another tragedy, now feels that humanity is evil and needs to be exterminated. This leads to a confrontation with Professor X (James McAvoy) and his team of X-Men.

Bryan Singer is the mastermind of the X-Men franchise, helming four of the installments. After continuous disaster porn offerings in comic book films it really isn't a surprise that a film with the sub title Apocalypse should also contain massive destruction. It doesn't seem quite as bad as other comic book films, but it's still there and is starting to wear thin on viewers. The film holds itself together, but it does have issues. There are pairings that don't really fire on all cylinders, leaving an awkward feeling in the film when it really wasn't intended. The problem is that these intermingle with moments in the film that really work so when you get going into the movie and become heavily invested the film hits the breaks with awkwardness and pulls the viewer right out of it. This is all secondary when you get to the tacked on scene that is just there so that we can have a gratuitous Hugh Jackman cameo. To sum up that part of the film, it was not needed at all and the film could have been fine with it cut from the final product. Discarding it would have made the film a tighter piece and better in the long run. But it gets you hyped for the next film, right?

X-Men: Apocalypse is probably the weakest of the current X-Men franchise. The film blatantly sets up Logan, but where does this series go from here? Is there a future with this franchise in this form or will another reboot be in order? Time will tell. All in all this is a respectable film if you can get past the issues it contains. A decent super hero film as long as you don't expect too much out of it.