Christmas Evil (1980) Review

Posted in Christmas Evil with tags , , on December 18, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

IMG_6621.JPG
CHRISTMAS EVIL (YOU BETTER WATCH OUT)

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- He’ll Sleigh You

Release Date- November 1980

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- Lewis Jackson

Starring- Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull

Released in 1980 You Better Watch Out, which also goes under such titles as Terror in Toyland and the more common title of Christmas Evil is a cult favorite and filmmaker John Waters has dubbed this the best Christmas film. Despite the cult following some of the backlash it sometimes gets are from people expecting a slasher film, which this was marketed as and even the title Christmas Evil implies it. The trailer for the film has such lines as “this Christmas you better believe in Santa or he’ll sleigh you” and “the night he dropped in”. Christmas Evil does at times have a slasher like feel going for it, but its much more of a character study of a disturbed man who is losing his grip on reality. Writer/director Lewis Jackson came up with the concept for the film in the 70s, but it didn’t get made until 1980 and with the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween perhaps it slightly influenced certain aspects of Christmas Evil though Halloween and such films as Friday the 13th and Prom Night very much influenced the marketing. Christmas Evil is one of those films you can link to the slasher film, but its also one of those films that’s kind of a slasher, but at the same time isn’t. As mentioned some of the detractors of the film at the time of the release and even in the years following are due to some expecting a straight up slasher. Even the home video releases for Christmas Evil very much play up to the slasher aspect of the film. While there are a few death scenes with a killer in a Santa suit (more on that later), Christmas Evil is nothing like say Silent Night, Deadly Night. If anything its more like William Lustig’s Maniac only without the graphic gore. While I would list Maniac as a slasher film so perhaps that’s not the best comparison, but both films are a character study though if anything maybe Christmas Evil can sort of be compared to something like the Town That Dreaded Sundown in regards to it has a number of slasher aspects and the Town That Dreaded Sundown served as a clear influence of Friday the 13th Part 2, but it still toes the line of being a slasher and even a film like the Stepfather (1987) would also make a good comparison since Christmas Evil in regards to being more of a thriller with a little slasher thrown in.

What I find so interesting and I also mentioned this is my review for the 1980 slasher film To All a Goodnight is both films feature a killer dressed in a Santa outfit and no one seemed to care, but 4-years later in 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night would also have a killer dressed as Santa and would cause such outrage and even protests it only had a 2-week theatrical run and would later find an audience on home video. Silent Night, Deadly Night actually opened against A Nightmare on Elm Street and out grossed it very slightly opening weekend, but all went downhill after that due to the protesters and even the film Don’t Open Till Christmas had scenes with a killer Santa and was also released in 1984. The trailer for Christmas Evil as mentioned does play up to slasher conventions with a killer in a Santa outfit, but again nobody seemed to care and Christmas Evil was left alone with no outrage.

As a child Harry Stadling loved Christmas and looked forward to Santa coming every year, but when he learns Santa isn’t real and sees his mother and father (who is dressed as Santa) getting busy, for the rest of his life the now adult Harry (Maggart) tries to keep the Christmas spirit alive and even spies on children making a naughty and nice list; Harry ends up taking his obsession with Christmas and Santa too far as he begins to lose his grip on reality.

Christmas Evil was written and directed by Lewis Jackson and the script is actually fairly strong with interesting characters and the family drama really works well and adds a bit of depth. Harry is quite an interesting character as he isn’t a bad person and just wants to keep the Christmas spirit alive, but he’s clearly unhinged and as the film goes on Harry begins to lose his grasp more and more on reality. There’s also a lot of dark comedy, which fits in quite well with the offbeat nature of the film. While the writing is strong what really elevates Christmas Evil is the direction by Lewis Jackson and this would also be his last picture. From the very start, Jackson establishes a tone that’s quite odd and offbeat, which adds a layer of eerie atmosphere throughout the picture. The fact Harry spies on children and has a naughty and nice book even if he means no harm by it does give the picture a perverse feel regardless if that was Jackson’s intentions or not, but the way Harry watches the children adds this really eerie and strange feel to the film. The pace of the film is quite strong, but not exciting either as Christmas Evil is by no means a body count film despite a decent batch of killings in the 2nd half. Lewis Jackson makes a film that’s a character study and while those looking for a slasher film will be disappointed, but for those who get it you’ll appreciate what Jackson was going for. The tone of the film does kind of feel like a slasher and the 2nd half of the film does offer up slasher style killings, which were quite effective and I think the buildup works very well, but the only issue is Christmas Evil doesn’t quite have an identity at times, but regardless Lewis Jackson makes a terrific film that very much stands out in an era dominated by the stalk and slash film.

Brandon Maggart who is the father of singer Fiona Apple delivers a truly wonderful performance and he’s in almost every scene and is very much able to carry the picture. I really like films where the main character in this case Harry might do some bad things such as murder, but he isn’t really a villain either. He’s a person that just becomes more and more unhinged and loses sight of wrong and right. It’s a very interesting character study and Brandon Maggart is quite excellent.

As mentioned John Waters has dubbed this the best Christmas film and a few people have echoed that statement. As enjoyable as I found Christmas Evil I personally wouldn’t rate it as one of the best Christmas themed films and just sticking with the horror genre in no way could I ever rate this film above the original Black Christmas. I’d also give the edge to Silent Night, Deadly Night as well, but make no mistake Christmas Evil is still a terrific film and its essential viewing during the Christmas season.

Christmas Evil was released on a blu-ray/DVD combo pack on November 18th, 2014 from Vinegar Syndrome. Christmas Evil has a brand new 4k scan from the original negative and results are nothing short of spectacular. Vinegar Syndrome in my opinion along with Synapse are by far the best two companies when it comes to horror and cult cinema in terms of quality. The releases from Vinegar Syndrome are more often than not seldom seen films and while Graduation Day and Christmas Evil are cult favorites I’m not sure if their popularity warrant the work Vinegar Syndrome puts into them, but this is why they’re a truly great company. Christmas Evil is a low budget film and the blu-ray comes 34-years after its original release so you can’t expect perfection, but the HD video is terrific and hands down one of the best video presentations of an 80s horror picture. The audio is also quite strong and this is a very pleasing release. The extra features are a mix from past DVD releases from Troma and Synapse. The DVD version is also quite strong, but the blu-ray shines above it. Christmas Evil easily rates as one of the best blu-ray releases of 2014.

IMG_6612.JPG

IMG_6613.JPG

IMG_6615.JPG

IMG_6614.JPG

IMG_6616.JPG

IMG_6619.JPG

IMG_6618.JPG

IMG_6622.JPG

IMG_6663.JPG

IMG_6664.JPG

IMG_6665.JPG

IMG_6666.JPG

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) Review

Posted in Home Alone 2 with tags , on December 15, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

IMG_6583.JPG

HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- He’s Up Past His Bedtime in the City That Never Sleeps.

Release Date- November 20th, 1992

Running Time- 120-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- John Hughes

Director- Chris Columbus

Starring- Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard and Brenda Fricker

In 1990 when Home Alone was released it became a massive success pulling in 285-million dollars in the US and 476-million worldwide and was the highest grossing film of 1990 and was also by far the biggest success in the career of the legendary John Hughes. Not only was Home Alone a massive success in terms of the money it made, but it also became a huge part of pop culture. In 1992 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was released and while the box office numbers dropped, but Home Alone 2 still was a major success making 173-million dollars in the US and 358-million dollars worldwide and was the 2nd highest grossing film of 1992 (Aladdin was the top grossing film). When it comes to sequels most aren’t nearly as good as the original with a few exceptions and while Home Alone 2 was an enjoyable film it wasn’t nearly as excellent as the original. As I’ve mentioned in other John Hughes productions he’s my film idol, but Home Alone 2 would in my opinion be one of his weaker films, but even a weaker John Hughes film is still better than the bulk of films by other writers. I think the biggest problem here is there really isn’t a reason for this film outside of existing simply because it could due to the success of the original film. In general even if really good most sequels really aren’t needed, but certain genres such as action and horror films due to their setup can generally work better with sequels since they both have a simple formula, but films such as Home Alone 2 in my opinion generally feel a little more forced.

On a trip to Florida for Christmas the McCallister family is again late getting to the airport only this time they don’t forget Kevin (Culkin) however when rushing to board their plane Kevin gets separated and ends up on a plane to New York. Meanwhile during a prison riot Harry (Pesci) and Marv ( Stern) escape from prison and also are in New York and have another showdown with Kevin.

John Hughes like any writer has a style, but each script by Hughes never felt like a rehash even though you know a John Hughes film when you see one. Hughes was extremely active in the 80s and even into the 90s before basically retiring. John Hughes could have 3 films produced a yearly, but quality never dropped, which is quite rare for someone as active as John Hughes and all his films follow the same structure even if as mentioned they never felt like a rehash and had their own identity. Home Alone 2 was released 2-years after the original, but the film itself is set a year after the original. The script by John Hughes while well written does however feel like a rehash of the first film and if anything its pretty much a rewrite and the John Hughes formula was perhaps wearing a bit thin. In the 90s, Hughes started to go in a different direction focusing more on family themed films and even though Hughes is my film idol I wasn’t really the target audience anymore. While John Hughes still had some quality films in the 90s perhaps the change of times and heavy workload caught up to him. Characters are solid, but don’t quite make the same impact as they did in past John Hughes films. There’s plenty of amusing bits as well as the typical heartfelt moments, but as states it feels too much like the original, which lessen their impact. With all that said though the script by Hughes is still quite entertaining and it is a solid script even if not on par with the typical John Hughes production.

Director Chris Columbus returns for the sequel and while he makes a fun film, but like how the script rehashes the original the direction by Columbus also very much follows the original. Running at 120-minutes Home Alone 2 is a bit on the long side and the middle sections is where the pace can get a bit sluggish. Chris Columbus made a terrific film with the original, but Home Alone 2 is bogged down by offering nothing new. There are plenty of funny moments, but as a whole Home Alone 2 isn’t quite as fun as the first film as scenes from the original are more or less re-staged. While my review might sound negative, Columbus does craft an enjoyable film and with a bit of editing to tighten the pace Home Alone 2 would have been better served.

The cast for Home Alone 2 is quite solid with appearances by Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, Eddie Bracken and a cameo by Ally Sheedy. Macaulay Culkin is fun to watch even if his scenes are basically the same as the original. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are again a blast to watch.

Overall Home Alone 2 is a fun film, but it just follows the original film far too closely and it just lessens the impact. However its still an enjoyable and funny movie, but plays it far too safe. This wouldn’t be the end of the series as John Hughes would write a 3rd film, which was a box office flop and it still wouldn’t end there as there would be two more films only this time without John Hughes and were made for TV movies.

Home Alone (1990) Review

Posted in Home Alone with tags , , , , on December 10, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

IMG_6580.JPG
HOME ALONE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- A Family Comedy Without the Family.

Release Date- November 16th, 1990

Running Time- 103-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- John Hughes

Director- Chris Columbus

Starring- Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Robert Blossom with John Candy and Catherine O’Hara

Released in 1990 Home Alone would become one of the most popular comedies of the 90s and spawn sequels and even video games. I remember seeing Home Alone when it was released theatrically and I was 11-years old at the time and while a couple of years older than the main character it was still something I could connect with and I also even remember having the video games as well. As a kid Home Alone was easily one of my favorite comedies and I think every child kind of had that fantasy of being alone and battling monsters or this case burglars. Home Alone may not be as epic as it was in 1990, but its a film that actually stands the test of time and still makes for a really fun time no matter how old you are.

The McCallister family are heading to France over Chrustmas vacation and with a late start in the morning they rush to the airport and everything goes smoothly that is until they realize they forgot one minor detail. 8-year old Kevin (Culkin). Now home alone Kevin must defend his house from two bungling thieves.

The screenplay was written by John Hughes and at this stage of his career he kept all the trademarks that helped make him such a great writer, but he was also going in a different direction as well. While he’s best known for his teen driven films such as Sixteen Candles, the Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off all, which he also directed, but starting with Plains, Trains & Automobiles he began to move away from teen films and by the 90s he was writing more family themed films. Uncle Buck in 1989 can also be seen as the transition to family themed comedies, but Home Alone is the one that really kicked it off. The script by Hughes is terrific and heartfelt and nobody can write characters like John Hughes. What makes the characters in a John Hughes film so great is they feel like real people. They aren’t perfect and are flawed, which makes them so believable. A lot of films where a child is the main character might be great for children, but can be torture for adults, but no matter how old you are Home Alone can still be enjoyable as you’re bound to find one character to relate to. Sure the script can be silly at times, but Hughes knew how to balance silly from absurd where its too far over the top. In my opinion while Hughes would still write some solid films in the 90s such as Dutch and Career Opportunities, but times were changing and with the emergence of writer/directors like Kevin Smith the new era was upon us and Hughes would stick with family friendly films for the most part with Dennis the Menace and 101 Dalmatians and by the late 90s would basically retire with only a couple of credits here and there. While certain themes may have changed Home Alone has everything that made John Hughes such an iconic writer. Characters are great and there’s always that lesson learned by the characters in the end. Another thing Hughes was masterful at was mixing comedy and drama so well and that’s very much on display here as Home Alone is both funny and touching.

Home Alone was directed by Chris Columbus who started out writing such films as Gremlins and the Goonies and made his directorial debut in 1987 with Adventures in Babysitting. Columbus also directed the Robin Williams classic Mrs. Doubtfire and would later go into direct two Harry Potter films (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). As director Chris Columbus delivers a well paced and fun film that very much captures the spirit of the screenplay by John Hughes. Columbus gives the film a
natural flow and even the more over the top scenes fit in perfectly and work well where it doesn’t seem silly. The final act is quite hysterical and even all these years later I probably laughed just as much as when I was a child.

The cast is excellent and in general children in films tend to get on my nerves even when I was a child. But Macaulay Culkin is actually quite terrific and even though he was very young at the time he does a great job in carrying the film. Joe Pesci as Harry and Daniel Stern as Marv the bonehead thieves are a laugh riot and for me at least Home Alone works best when they’re onscreen as these are two truly great actors that aren’t afraid to be silly and really sell the final act. And the scene when Kevin puts the tarantula on Marv’s face and that scream he lets out puts me in tears laughing so hard. John Candy one of the truly great actors of his time has a bit, but highly memorable role and since Candy’s passing in 1994 comedy hasn’t been the same.

Overall Home Alone is a wonderfully funny and heartfelt film that only John Hughes could write. In my opinion Home Alone is essential christmas viewing or should I say simply essential viewing anytime of the year.

IMG_6581.JPG

IMG_6594.JPG

IMG_6595.JPG

IMG_6582.JPG

IMG_6598.JPG

IMG_6596.JPG

IMG_6599.JPG

IMG_6604.JPG

IMG_6606.JPG

Christmas Vacation (1989) Review

Posted in Christmas Vacation with tags , , on December 8, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

IMG_6579.JPG
CHRISTMAS VACATION

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Yule Crack Up!

Release Date- December 1st, 1989

Running Time- 97-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- John Hughes

Director- Jeremiah S. Chechik

Starring- Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, Doris Roberts and Randy Quaid

Released in 1989 Christmas Vacation is the 3rd part of the popular National Lampoon’s Vacation series. By many fans of the Vacation franchise this one is considered the best and the IMDb rating comes in at a solid 7.5 just edging out the original’s 7.4. As much as I enjoyed Christmas Vacation I can’t really agree with the majority on this being the best of the series, but regardless it is still a solid and very entertaining film and is very much classic John Hughes. In some ways with the 80s ending the classic era of John Hughes ended as even at this time he was starting to move away from teen films and started to focus more on adults or adult issues and by the 90s Hughes would begin to write much more family themed comedies.

After taking a trip to Wally World than Europe the Griswold family stays home for Christmas, but are joined by their families including Cousin Eddie (Quaid). And just like how the Griswold’s vacations turn into chaos so does their Christmas gathering as whatever can go wrong often does.

The screenplay by John Hughes is well written with some truly memorable characters. In the good portion of the films Hughes wrote they all have a certain theme and you know a John Hughes film when you are one, but yet despite certain themes these films never seemed like a rehash and have their own identity, which just goes to show how great of a writer John Hughes was since other filmmakers that use a lot of the same themes it becomes tiresome and feels like the same exact script being written over and over again, but Hughes 99% of the time always made his trademarks feel fresh each time out. The screenplay for Christmas Vacation is excellent, but than again its John Hughes so its expected. The script is quite funny with some of John’s best dialogue as mentioned the characters are strong and while like many of the scripts by John Hughes it can be a little over the top, but yet it works well.

Christmas Vacation marked the directorial debut for Jeremiah S. Chechik who would go onto direct such films as Benny and Joon and Diabolique and Chechik has also directed various TV shows including the Bronx Is Burning, Gossip Girl, Chuck and Burn Notice. Sometimes filmmakers make their best film with their debut since they might take chances they normally wouldn’t with more experience. However there are also times where while the film can be well made and even a good film there might be that little something missing and for me that describes Christmas Vacation. Jeremiah S. Chechik delivers a well made and generally well paced film, but it just lacks that extra something that keeps it a good film. There are some really hysterical moments, but the production just feels a little restrained and perhaps that could be due to the PG-13 rating, but for me this one really doesn’t differ from the previous two and while the original was R-rated, European Vacation was also PG-13. While Chechik makes a fun film that’s high on the re-watch factor, but I think a director with a little more experience may have gotten a little more like even perhaps John Hughes. Regardless, Chechik delivers an entertaining film that’s essential christmas time viewing.

Overall Christmas Vacation is a highly entertaining film with a terrific cast and top notch writing from Hughes with no shortage of quotable dialogue. While I cannot rate this as highly as many seem to, but I still found the film a lot of fun. As mentioned perhaps a more seasoned director could have gotten a bit more, but what we do get is good enough.

Gremlins (1984) Review

Posted in Gremlins with tags , , , , on December 4, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

20140413-222234.jpg
GREMLINS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Cute. Clever. Mischievous. Intelligent. Dangerous

Release Date- June 8th, 1984

Running Time- 106-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Chris Columbus

Director- Joe Dante

Starring- Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain, Corey Feldman

Released in 1984 Gremlins is a film I saw as a kid, but than it was years and years until I finally saw the film again. I’ve seen it on TV and watched a few minutes here and there, but it wasn’t until I bought the blu-ray I finally saw the film again in its entirety and that viewing came 30-years after the original release. There are those films you haven’t seen in ages, but as you watch it scenes start coming back to you, but than there are those films that you haven’t seen in so long that when you see it again its almost like seeing it for the first time and that’s what my reviewing of Gremlins was like. There were a couple of scenes I remembered, but I was surprised at how little memory I had whereas Gremlins 2, which I probably only saw once and that was the theatrical release, but I had more of a memory of that film. Gremlins is a film that features horror aspects, but done more in a family viewing kind of way, but there are scenes that might be a little tense for kids. Horror films that aimed to attract families were a little common in the 80s and outside of Gremlins, the Monster Squad and the Goonies are the most notable.

Gremlins was rated PG and while the film isn’t exactly graphic there is some decent amount of violence as well as I mentioned scenes that might be a little intense for kids. Apparently, Gremlins is one of the films that helped create the PG-13 rating. The Flamingo Kid was the first film to receive a PG-13, but Red Dawn would be the first film released as PG-13, which like Gremlins also came out in 1984. When Gremlins 2 came out 6-years later in 1990 it would be rated PG-13.

Billy Peltzer (Galligan) receives a Mogwai named Gizmo as a gift from his father, but there are 3 important rules. The Mogwai must be kept out of bright lights, isn’t to be fed after midnight and he must not get wet. After an accident, which water spills on Gizmo suddenly more Mogwai’s appear, but soon they turn into ugly gremlins that wreak havoc around town.

The screenplay was written by Chris Columbus who also wrote the Goonies and would direct such films as the first two Home Alone films, Mrs. Doubtfire and Adventures in Babysitting (which was his directorial debut). The script by Columbus is well written with solid characters, but the only real flaw is it does take too long for the plot to get going and despite some solid character development in the first half, Gremlins doesn’t really have a direction until the film gets going. Regardless of the issue I have Chris Columbus does deliver a highly entertaining script in particular the 2nd half with great characters.

Gremlins was directed by Joe Dante who got his start working for Roger Corman and directed the Corman produced Piranha and than would direct the Howling, which is why he got he directing job on Gremlins since producer Steven Spielberg was a fan of the Howling. I can’t say I’m the buggiest fan of Joe Dante, but he’s made some terrific films and Gremlins by many is considered his best. At 106-minutes I personally found Gremlins a little overly long, but with that said I was never bored as the pace is fairly strong, but the first half does have scenes that feel more like filler scenes. However the 2nd half is quite excellent and is filled with some truly hysterical scenes as well as some solid suspense. The highlights include the gremlins running amok in a bar where they drink beer and smoke cigarettes and another classic scene finds them being obnoxious while watching Snow White.

The cast for Gremlins is excellent with the highly underrated Zach Galligan and of course 80s dream girl Phoebe Cates. Corey Feldman also appears in a bit part as does cult actor Dick Miller. And Howie Mandel is the voice of the adorable Gizmo.

Overall Gremlins is an entertaining film that provides plenty of fun moments and while in my opinion the film doesn’t quite hold up as well for me I still enjoyed it. And come on who doesn’t love Gizmo?

20140413-222250.jpg

20140413-222257.jpg

20140413-222320.jpg

20140413-222327.jpg

20140413-222333.jpg

20140413-222341.jpg

20140413-222348.jpg

20140413-222353.jpg

20140413-222358.jpg

20140413-222404.jpg

20140413-222415.jpg

20140413-222421.jpg

20140413-222427.jpg

Ghostbusters II (1989) Review

Posted in Ghostbusters II with tags , , on December 3, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

IMG_6362.JPG
GHOSTBUSTERS II

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Guess Who’s Coming to Save the World Again?

Release Date- June 16th, 1989

Running Time- 108-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis

Director- Ivan Reitman

Starring- Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Rick Moranis

The original Ghostbusters, which was released in 1984 became a massive success pulling in roughly 242-million in the US and about 295-million totaled worldwide. That’s a whole lot of money in any era, but for 1984 its an insane amount of money and it seemed as if everyone in the world went to see Ghostbusters. Not only was it a massive hit in the box office, but it was a critical hit as well. Ghostbusters became a pop culture phenomenon that spawned an animated series and a ton of merchandise. When looking back at film in the 80s it was very much a decade of sequels and to me the biggest surprise it took 5-years until Ghostbusters II was made. When looking back at the 80s Friday the 13th, which came out in 1980 spawned 7-sequels in the 80s alone with most coming out the following year. The first Police Academy, which like Ghostbusters was released in 1984 would have a sequel every year through the 80s. A Nightmare on Elm Street another 1984 film would have a sequel in every year except 1986. Even the Halloween series, which after a few years away returned in 1988 and the 5th film came out a little less than a year later, which makes it even more surprising it took 5-years for Ghostbusters II seeing as it was far more successful than any of the films I mentioned. However by the late 80s the tide was starting to turn on sequels and 1989 saw such films as Halloween 5, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child and Police Academy 6: City Under Siege pull in roughly half of what the previous films made. Ghostbusters II made far more than all those films combined, but was seen as a slight disappointment as Ghostbusters II pulled in about 112-million, which is far below the 242-million of the original however the sequel did make more money than the original outside of the States, which brought the worldwide total to about 215-million, which is still far below the original, but a little closer. However Ghostbusters II did open to 29-million, which was a bigger opening than the original film, but unlike the original, which spent several weeks as the number 1 film, and did the rare lose it than get it back, the sequel though didn’t quite have the same lasting power, but based on the opening the hardcore fans came out and the rest moved on. All those other films mentioned at some point had sequels, but Ghostbusters III has been just long rumored. I think Ghostbusters II perhaps waited a little too long and with the market dominated by sequels I think the audience was growing tired. Sometimes for whatever reasons a film fails to catch on if we look at John Carpenter’s the Thing and Big Trouble in Little China both films didn’t fair well despite being now seen as classics (the Thing in particular). So when it comes to Ghostbusters II I think its partly the 5-year gap as well as the market being dominated with sequel after sequel. By most Ghostbusters II is seen as inferior to the original, which is usually the case for sequels and perhaps the high expectations could have led to a drop, but over the years Ghostbusters II while still considered inferior to the original has found an audience and is looked upon to some degree as a classic in its own right.

5-years after the events of the original the Ghostbusters business is going bankrupt due to the amount of lawsuits filed on them. But soon they’re forced to get back together and save New York once again.

The best thing about Ghostbusters for a studio is its easy to turn into a franchise. There’s so many directions that the sequel could have gone. The screenplay by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis is quite solid and while not as strong as the original it’s still quite effective. With character development out of the way there’s more that can be done with the characters, but don’t take that wrong as characters are as well written with plenty of depth like the original and all the characters have some truly great moments. The story does take a little longer to get going and perhaps a little more could have been done with it. I liked the idea and I liked the script, but with a 5-year gap one would think Aykroyd & Ramis could have done a bit more with the concept in regards to maybe expanding on the idea. To some degree it does follow the structure to the original film and doesn’t mix things up as much as I’d hoped. Regardless of a couple of issues Aykroyd & Ramis are very talented and they deliver a fun and well written script that had potential for more, but with that said Aykroyd & Ramis Ghostbusters II is terrifically written, funny and has great character moments.

Once again Ivan Reitman returns to direct and Reitman while a highly successful filmmaker is also someone I find underrated as he’s made some wonderful films. Reitman made his directorial debut in 1971 with a film called Fox Lady and he also directed a film back in 1973 called Cannibal Girls, which starred Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin from Black Christmas. Reitman’s breakthrough film was with Meatballs in 1979 and was the first time he worked with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. He would than go onto direct the classic Stripes and in 1984 with Ghostbusters he would have his biggest success. Reitman also directed the comedy classics Twins and Kindergarten Cop both starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ivan Reitman had also done some prolific work as a producer as he worked with David Cronenberg on such films as Shivers and Rabid. He also produced Animal House, Beethoven and Private Parts. As mentioned Ivan Reitman is a very popular filmmaker, but in my opinion deserves more credit. With Ghostbusters II he does play things a little safe, but he delivers a well paced film that’s high on the fun factor throughout. Pacing is quite strong, which also has a lot to do with watching these terrific actors. While Ghostbusters II is an excellent film, but sure a bit of a letdown, but Reitman delivers another solid film in his excellent career.

In someways Ghostbusters II is a bit of a letdown after the terrific original and again it doesn’t really expand on the concept as much as maybe it could have. The original film holds up quite well and for me personally it isn’t quite as epic as it was in the 80s, but I still however very much enjoy it. Ghostbusters II is also very good and one of the stronger sequels in regards of standing proudly next to the original. Ghostbusters II has all the right elements to be a fun ride and it brings back the core of the cast and the director and unlike the majority of modern Hollywood blockbusters Ghostbusters II delivers the good even if it plays it a bit safe. Despite the advancements of technology the special F/X in both Ghostbusters movies hold up quite well, which is also assisted on how its was filmed and edited and sure certain F/X show their age, but revisiting the series I was quite surprised by how terrific both films hold up with the F/X. Overall Ghostbusters II is a solid and highly entertaining film and the cast really elevates the film and Rick Moranis again steals the show. Ghostbusters II isn’t as good as the original, but to be honest it really isn’t far behind it either. Again I’ll say it I think a little more could have been done with the concept, but regardless Ghostbusters II is a terrific and fun filled movie with great performances from the cast. There’s been other films that grossed about what Ghostbusters did only to see the sequel drop to roughly what Ghostbusters II made, but the fact the original film became such a pop culture phenomenon I suppose the studio expected around the same box office return. Though I still find it odd that despite the drop Ghostbusters II was still a massive hit, but yet nothing ever came about making another one.

Ghostbusters II was released on blu-ray in a single disc edition as well as packed with the original for the 30th-Anniversary of the original and 25th for the sequel. Ghostbusters II has a brand new 4k scan and all I can say is wow. The HD presentation on both films are incredible and they look like newer films. Everything is natural with no use of DNR. In my opinion the Ghostbusters films might be the best looking blu-ray’s for an 80s film I’ve seen. Actually they look so good its almost distracting as I’m thinking the whole time how beautiful the HD quality is. The colors jump right off the screen and detail is amazing.

IMG_6363.JPG

Die Hard (1988) Review

Posted in Die Hard with tags , , on December 2, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

IMG_6421.JPG
DIE HARD

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Twelve Terrorists. One Cop. The Odds Are Against John McClane. That’s Just the Way He Likes It.

Release Date- July 15th, 1988

Running Time- 132-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Jeb Stuart & Steven E. de Souza

Director- John McTiernan

Starring- Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason and Alan Rickman

Released in 1988 Die Hard became not only one of the most successful action films, but one of the most influential and along with Lethal Weapon shaped the 80s and 90s action film and even in the following decades these two films are still influencing filmmakers. I always preferred Lethal Weapon, but Die Hard is no doubt one of the greats and I know this is a cliched saying, but they truly don’t make them like this anymore. Action films have become nothing except big explosions with little story and even less character development. If only more filmmakers would utilize the story and character aspects of Die Hard the action genre would be far better off. Die Hard actually quite an interesting journey to the screen as its based off a novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which was written by Roderick Thorp. In 1966, Thorp wrote the novel the Detective, which was turned into a movie by the same name in 1968 and starred Frank Sinatra. Nothing Lasts Forever was first published in 1979 and was a sequel to Thorp’s novel the Detective. There was an attempt to adapt Nothing Lasts Forever into a film, but nothing came about due to Sinatra passing on it. Nothing Lasts Forever was than adapted to be Commando 2, but when Arnold Schwarzenegger passed on the project it was rewritten into Die Hard. The script for Die Hard takes the basic premise of the novel, but seeing as the novel is a sequel and Die Hard its own films obviously changes has to be made. However a lot of aspects of the film remain true to the novel. Many actors were offered the role of John McClane with all passing until Bruce Willis accepted and at the time Willis was starring on the TV show Moonlighting and while a TV star he wasn’t a bankable film star and that all changed after Die Hard as Bruce Willis became one of the most successful film stars and became one of the top action film stars along with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

John McClane (Willis) an NYPD cop arrives in Los Angeles to visit his wife over Christmas at the Nakatomi plaza where she works. A terrorist group led by Hans Gruber (Rickman) take control of the plaza and take hostages including McClane’s wife. Now its up to McClane to save the day.

The screenplay was written by Jeb Stuart & Steven E. de Souza and its a truly great script. Die Hard is well plotted, but its the characters that drive the film and with such a great cast we get some of the most memorable characters. Stuart & de Souza give the characters their own identity and depth as almost all the characters have these great character moments and I really can’t think of many films that had the amount of characters Die Hard does and almost every single one of them have depth. While well plotted Die Hard as mentioned isn’t driven by it, but everything here is so well written that it adds depth to everything here. This is how you write an action film and the script by Jeb Stuart & Steven E. de Souza should be studied on how to structure an action film.

Die Hard was directed by John McTiernan who made his directorial debut with Nomads in 1986 and would than go into direct such films as Predator, Hunt for the Red October, the Thomas Crown Affair and McTiernan would also return to the Die Hard series with the 3rd film Die Hard with a Vengeance. John McTiernan has made some truly great films in his career and looking up his filmography he’s had plenty of success with perhaps the only real dud being Rollerball, but despite the success he’s had and despite what some hail as the greatest action film ever made with Die Hard he is also vastly underrated. As mentioned along with Lethal Weapon, Die Hard since its original release date has become the most influential action film. A lot of people dub Die Hard the ultimate guy film, which is fair, but in my opinion undersells the film as when I think of the so called guy film I think mindless fun and Die Hard isn’t just some mindless action film. It’s driven by characters and story and the action doesn’t really kick into roughly the 20-minute mark and even after that there’s still plenty of character moments to go along with the action. Die Hard is one of my favorites and while I personally wouldn’t rate it as my favorite action film it is however the one with the best structure on how to make an action film. Despite the 132-minute running time Die Hard is well paced and often quite exciting and McTiernan delivers some epic action scenes and Die Hard isn’t just a great action film, but a great film.

What I love most about Die Hard is the truly terrific cast and one you would never see in a modern Hollywood film as nobody was a big Hollywood star, but instead Die Hard is basically filled with truly great character actors. Paul Gleason was in my opinion one of the very best actors of his time and he’ll be forever know as Richard Vernon in the Breakfast Club. Reginald VelJohnson who basically steals the show is another great character actor who is best known for playing Carl Winslow on the sitcom Family Matters. Than add in such actors as William Atherton, Clarence Gilyard Jr, Hart Bochner and Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush who would both appear together again in Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence along witn Paul Gleason and what you have is again a truly great cast of terrific actors. Alan Rickman made his theatrical debut with Die Hard and as mentioned at this time Bruce Willis was a TV star and any films he’d done prior he either had a small role or the film wasn’t very successful. Die Hard was a summer blockbuster and no way in the modern era would you have a cast made up of character actors regardless of talented they are and the hero and villain played by actors who aren’t proven movie stars. Die Hard is a wonderful film in terms of writing and directing, but the cast also helps elevate it. The cast may not be made up of big time Hollywood actors, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better cast as every actor makes their part memorable including De’voreaux White as Argyle who doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but makes so much out of it Argyle was one of the best characters in the film.

Overall Die Hard is a truly wonderful action film with an amazing cast and memorable characters. Die Hard is not only a classic action film, but a classic film and this one forever changed the action film.

IMG_6422.JPG

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 632 other followers