Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) Review

Posted in Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo with tags , , , on July 29, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

*** Out of 5

Tagline- They’re Back for Everyone Who Believes in the Beat.

Release Date- December 21st, 1984

Running Time- 94-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Jan Ventura & Julie Reichert

Director- Sam Firstenberg

Starring- Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo ‘Shabba-Doo’ Quinones, Michael ‘Boogaloo Shrimp’ Chambers

In 1984 with the release of Breakin’ it became the highest grossing film for the Cannon Group, which is quite a surprise seeing as in the 80s they worked with the likes of Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris and even Stallone. But Breakin’ was destined for success since how else could we get the most epically titled film ever Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Actually we would have gotten it anyways, since at the end of Breakin’ during the credits the text tells us a sequel is coming. As mentioned Breakin’ was Cannon’s biggest hit with about a 1.2-million dollar budget it pulled in 38-million. To show what a success it was Death Wish 2-4 pulled in a combined about 40-million. Breakin’ alone almost pulled that in. I’m not sure what the budget was for Breakin’ 2, but I’d guess to say roughly around the same and it pulled in 15-million and while a drop off by more than half it was still a hit and one of Cannon’s more popular titles. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (seriously is there a cooler title) was released in 1984 just like the original. The original Breakin’ isn’t exactly a good film, but enjoyable enough in how silly it was and while I don’t think the film really warranted a sequel, but we got one anyways. To enjoy this film and the original as well I think you have to be old enough to remember the breakdancing craze or be a huge fan of 80s films.

Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo is the gripping tale about a community center that’s gonna be torn down and replaced with a shopping mall. But our trio of dancers from the original won’t allow that so what do they do? Well dance of course and dance some more and for good measure even more dancing.

The screenplay by Jan Ventura & Julie Reichert is light on plot and heavy on dance scenes and its almost like they added in the small of amount of plot afterwards. The returning characters are fun, but more or less have the same basic dialogue. Like the original we get sappy moments, over dramatic moments than even more dancing. When in doubt on how to handle a scene just write in another dance scene.

Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo was directed by Sam Firstenberg better known for his action films with the Cannon Group with such films as Revenge of the Ninja from 1983, Ninja III: The Domination, which like the Breakin’ films was released in 1984 and also starred Lucinda Dickey. Sam Firstenberg’s other credits include American Ninja and American Ninja 2 so he was very much an odd choice for a film such as this since Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo is very far removed from those films. Sam Firstenberg may not be a great film filmmaker in the traditional sense, but he’s made some really fun B-movies and while this wouldn’t be one of his better films it is however a fairly entertaining film. Like the original film at some point of it I started to lose interest and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo is no different. The film runs at 94-minutes, but quite honestly it would have been better served running about 70-74-minutes. To Firstenberg’s credit he makes the best out of what he’s given, but after a while the dance numbers grow tiresome and while I understand that’s the concept of the film, but it feels as if the majority of the film is just dancing. However with that said, Firstenberg does deliver a fun film, but I’d highly recommend watching Ninja III or the first two American Ninja films to see why Sam Firstenberg has gained a cult following. This was very much a director for hire film and again to Firstenberg’s credit he makes a silly, yet fun film.

As I mentioned in my review for Breakin’, Lucinda Dickey had a very brief career in the film industry. 1984 was her only year of note with the Breakin’ films and Ninja III. Her next film credit wouldn’t come until 1988 and it would also be her last with the film the slasher/comedy Cheerleader Camp. While her career was brief she has developed a cult following and for good reason.

While the original film has built a cult following, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo has a little more of a following, which no doubt has more to do with the title. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo has to be the most epic title and that’s why every chance I got to use the full title in this review I did. Odds are the film is better remembered for its title than the actual quality of the film. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, like the original film does make for a fun time, but the dancing can get quite tiresome. In 1985 there was an unofficial sequel titled Rappin’, which starred Mario Van Peebles and also has an appearance from Ice-T who also appeared in both Breakin’ films and Rappin’ would be directed by Joel Silberg who also directed Breakin’.

Who says movies can’t be educational? When bulldozers are coming to destroy something like in this case a community center just start dancing in front of it, but when that no longer works just start throwing pizza boxes at them and it’ll do the trick and they’ll leave.

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Breakin’ (1984) Review

Posted in Breakin' with tags , , on July 28, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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BREAKIN’

*** Out of 5

Tagline- For the Break of Your Life!

Release Date- May 4th, 1984

Running Time- 87-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Charles Parker, Allen DeBevoise & Gerald Scaife

Director- Joel Silberg

Starring- Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo ‘Shabba-Doo’ Quinones, Michael ‘Boogaloo Shrimp’ Chambers and Christopher McDonald

Breakin’ was released in 1984 and I don’t know who came up with concept for this film, but whoever it is deserves some kind of an award. Back in the 80s breakdancing was quite the rage and here comes the Cannon Group to cash in on the popularity. Dance themed films were quite popular in the 80s as we had such films as Flashdance and Dirty Dancing, which was probably the most iconic of them all. Even the horror genre got in on it with Lucio Fulci’s Murder Rock, which also goes under the title Slashdance. While slightly different aerobic themed films were also popular with such films as Killer Workout and Ninja III: The Domination, which was also Cannon and like this film starred Lucinda Dickey. Breakin’ the film on hand here became a big success for Cannon and was their most popular film from a financial side of things and would even have a sequel the epically titled Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, which was also released in 1984. At the end of Breakin’ during the credits it’s showed in text how a sequel is coming, which I suppose Cannon had high hopes for Breakin’, which, proved to be accurate.

As I mentioned Breakin’ was a big hit for Cannon and pulled in about 38-million dollars, which may not sound like a big deal, but in 1984 that was big business. Of course the actual gross may not be totally accurate, but Cannon also made such films as Death Wish 2-4 and adding up their US gross it would add up to around 40-million and Death Wish 2 & 3 were very successful for Cannon, but point I’m trying to make is Breakin’ pulled in roughly about 2-million or so less than Death Wish 2-4 combined and when considering Cannon was also involved with such films as Missing in Action and the Stallone films Cobra and Over the Top as well as Superman IV (regardless on quality its an iconic character) it’s actually quite impressive on how successful Breakin’ ended up being. I’m not really sure why this film was such a huge hit I know breakdancing was quite popular at the time, but it’s still quite surprising that Breakin’ was such a huge hit.

Breakin’ is the heartwarming story of Kelly (Dickey) a waitress/dancer who dreams of making it big. She forms a partnership with Ozone (Quinones) and Turbo (Chambers). The trio wants to enter a competition, but nobody wants break dancers since its nothing but street dancing. But of course our trio is able to enter and are a smashing success and warm over the judges and become a huge success.

The screenplay was written by Charles Parker, Allen DeBevoise & Gerald Scaife and I’m not totally sure why it took three people to write this but ok. There really isn’t much plot as the film is filled with cheesy 80s dance music and a lot of dancing. Somewhere in between this there is hint of a plot, but than its right back to dancing. Character wise they’re cliched, but a likable bunch and sure they don’t have the most depth, but characters are fairly decent. Mixed in with all the happy dancing are some overly dramatic moments and we get an awesomely bad, but a highly entertaining screenplay.

Director Joel Silberg crafts a fun film that’s mostly well paced, but by the end the constant dance scenes begin to get a bit tiresome, but Silberg always keeps the film fun to some degree. Intentional or not, Joel Silberg delivers an extra layer of cheese and Breakin’ is actually quite a feel good movie in that 80s sort of way. This isn’t masterful direction and sure it’s a bad film, but it is actually quite enjoyable.

One of the things Breakin has now become known for is being the first onscreen appearance for Jean-Claude Van Damme. Yes you read that correctly. The Van Damme has a very small uncredited role. Early into the film when Kelly dances at Venice Beach with Ozone and Turbo, Van Damme is in the background wearing a black singlet and he’s seen clapping and dancing around, which is quite hysterical. Apparently to get more attention he started doing back flips, which was edited out. For me this scene became Where’s Waldo only it was Where’s Van Damme. And lastly Ice-T also has a bit role and he also appears in the sequel.

Lucinda Dickey had quite brief film career, but has built up a nice cult following. Her first screen appearance was a minor role in Grease 2 and 1984 was her breakout year with Breakin’, Breakin’ 2 and Ninja III: The Domination. Her next film role wouldn’t be for another 4-years in 1988 and it was also her last film credit and that film would be silly slasher film Cheerleader Camp. I’ve really enjoyed each film I’ve seen with Lucinda Dickey and it’s too bad she didn’t make more films.

Overall Breakin’ is quite a silly film that’s light on plot and over dramatic at times and it’s filled with an insane amount of dance scenes. However with that said it really is such silly, but fun film.

Here’s Van Damme!!!

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Tango & Cash (1988) Review

Posted in Tango & Cash with tags , , , on July 25, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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TANGO & CASH

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Two of L.A.’s Top Rival Cops are Going to Have to Work Together. Even If It Kills Them

Release Date- December 22nd, 1989

Running Time- 104-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Randy Feldman

Director- Andrey Konchalovskiy

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Teri Hatcher, Brion James and Jack Palance

Released in 1989 Tango & Cash was made to cash in (no pun intended) on the success of Lethal Weapon. While most cite Lethal Weapon as the start of the buddy cop film it was actually 48 Hours that started the formula despite Eddie Murphy playing a criminal and not a cop and than of course Beverly Hills Cop, but Lethal Weapon, which is one of my all time favorite films elevated both the buddy cop and action film to a whole other level and along with Die Hard are two of the most influential action films of all time. Tango & Cash is a film I enjoy, but its also for me one of my biggest letdowns since it stars two of my favorite actors, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell during the prime of their careers and Tango & Cash also has a great supporting cast and its a film that should have reached epic heights, but turns out a fun film nothing less and nothing more. When all is said and done what makes the film enjoyable is the chemistry between Sly and Russell who really worked amazing together. Outside of Rocky, Rocky Balboa and First Blood this is my favorite Sly performance and Kurt Russell is always great in anything he does.

Ray Tango (Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Russell) are rival cops each thinking their the best in L.A., but when they’re both set up for murder and sent to prison they hatch an escape plan and form an alliance in trying to clear their name. The screenplay was written by Randy Feldman who in 1981 wrote the now cult classic slasher film Hell Night, which starred Linda Blair, Tango & Cash came out 8-years later and was his 2nd script produced after this Feldman would write Nowhere to Run with Van Damme and Metro with Eddie Murphy and than just have a couple of TV credits. Feldman’s script takes the basic formula of Lethal Weapon only not nearly as creative or well written. The script is basically filled with banter between Tango & Cash and at times Feldman seems to try and be witty, which causes the material to seem forced. However what makes the script work is how Sly and Russell work together and manage to make a slightly below average script seem much better. Both of them really sell the dialogue, which makes the script again seem much better than it actually is. Characters do lack depth in particular the villains, which is unfortunate due to have some very good actors, Tango & Cash fair a bit better, but that’s also due to Stallone and Russell. Overall Feldman’s script isn’t terrible and it does have some fun moments, but at times the material feels a bit forced and its never as good as the films its imitating.

Tango & Cash was directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy, but apparently late into the production he was replaced by Albert Magnoli who directed the Prince film Purple Rain. Magnoli doesn’t have a credit only Andrey Konchalovskiy does. From what I can gather Konchalovskiy wanted to make the film a little more serious, but the studio wanted it to have a light tone. Konchalovskiy delivers the standard buddy cop film and while well paced for the most part its never as exciting as the idea may have seemed. It feels like bits and pieces of other much better films and even the action scenes aren’t as exciting as they could have been. Konchalovskiy does deliver an entertaining film and the action is alright, but there was potential for a lot more.

As I stated a couple of times it truly is Stallone and Russell that elevate this film. I often feel Stallone doesn’t get enough credit as an actor now granted in some of his films his performance may not have been great, but I never really had a problem with his acting, but people forget he is an Oscar nominated actor. I found his performance is Rocky to be great and its one of my favorite acting performances. Here in Tango & Cash he was great playing a character quite different than the typical Sly character. And what I love about Sly is he has a sense a humor when one character says how Tango thinks he’s Rambo, Tango replies with Rambo’s a pussy. In my opinion Sly gave one of his best performances and Kurt Russell is equally as great here and in my opinion despite the acclaim Kurt Russell has gotten his career I also find him one of the most underrated actors. Together Sly and Russell have such great chemistry and I cannot stress enough how great they were and really elevate a film that without them might be a bit below average. Jack Palance sadly is sort of wasted here and I hate when such a terrific actor has such a forgettable character. Palance was a terrific actor, but really anyone could have played this role. Teri Hatcher as Tango’s sister is excellent and while still early in her career she holds her own and really stands out.

When Warner Brothers made this film I’m sure they probably saw potential for a franchise, but that never came to be and I never cared enough to look into it, but Tango & Cash was produced on a 55-million dollar budget, which may not seem like a lot for an action film with two big name actors since modern action films tend to be at a budget of 150-million and even more than that. In 1988 Stallone with Rambo III on a 63-million dollar budget had the most expensive film ever produced at the time. So the 55-million dollar budget here isn’t too far behind and while Tango & Cash made 63-million dollars in the US perhaps it wasn’t a big enough of a profit for Warner to make a sequel.

Overall Tango & Cash is a decent enough film mainly thanks in part to the two leads. My rating is a light 3.5, but its a film I can revisit from time to time, but like I said its a film that is also one of my biggest disappointments since with a cast that includes Sly, Russell, Hatcher, Palance, Michael J. Pollard, James Hong and Brion James should have come out far better. Like I said Tango & Cash is fun, but there was potential for a lot more. The highlight of the film was Kurt Russell in drag!!

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Red Dawn (1984) Review

Posted in Red Dawn with tags , , on July 24, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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RED DAWN

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Invading Armies Planned for Everything. Except for Eight Kids Called the Wolverines.

Release Date- August 10th, 1984

Running Time- 114-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- Kevin Reynolds & John Milius

Director- John Milius

Starring- Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen with Harry Dean Stanton and Powers Boothe as Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner

Released in 1984 Red Dawn is a film that still causes a lot of controversy from people it calling pro-war and pro-American and a lot of the negative reviews stem from that and I suppose people saying that wanna come off as more sophisticated and intelligent. Is it really shocking an American made film is pro-American? Other countries have made pro (insert name of country) movies and how is that any different than Red Dawn? This film was made during the Cold War and its not the safe Hollywood film and people are so afraid someone might be offended that films like this are rarely made or people need to bash it to try and try to come across as being smarter. Fact of life something will always offend people. Simply put to be loved you gotta do something, but to be hated you don’t have to do anything at all. Is Red Dawn pro-war? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer as it seems to play up to both. Regardless of any controversy the film should be judged on its own merits and personally I think Red Dawn is a terrific film.

After 9/11 I think Red Dawn has a renewed meaning and social importance. The odds of an army invasion of the United States is doubtful. Of course Pearl Harbor had an invading military, but that was a different time, but I don’t foresee a military occupying the States, but 9/11 showed us we are indeed vulnerable to an attack and sure there is a difference between a terrorist group and military, but most people never thought an attack like 9/11 would happen on US soil. Some find it silly teenagers can hold their own against a military, but never underestimate sheer determination and a will to survive. History has seen powerful empires crumble or be defeated by weaker armies or rebel armies or in some cases civilians banding together. So I wouldn’t just write this off as impossible.

The US comes under invasion from the Columbian’s and Russians a few teenagers manage to escape and hideout. But there comes a time when they have no choice, but to fight back and wage guerrilla war to save their town and country.

The screenplay was written by Kevin Reynolds & John Milius and is generally well written and plotted the only knock the film gets, which I agree with to some degree is the characters lack depth. However I liked the characters, but I think I was more attached due to the cast and being a fan of several of the actors in particular Patrick Swayze. While characters aren’t as developed as they could have been we do see how the horrors of war take their toll on the characters where some breakdown while others become detached. Jed (Swayze) is the strong leader of the group, but as the film goes on even he begins to breakdown mentally and by the end of the picture he’s far removed from how he began. Robert (Howell) kills one of their own for betraying them and Robert was very detached with zero emotion after he did it. Terrible things happen in war and while I don’t condone killing innocent civilians this is what happens in war and we see characters do horrible things, but we also see they’re human and have feelings. Such as Colonel Ernesto Bella (O’Neal) who leads the slaughter of civilians, but by the end even he’s breaking down and begins to change evident by what he does in his last scene.

Director John Milius crafts a well made film that’s quite suspenseful with terrific action scenes. The film is about survival and I love stories like this regardless if its a war film or a horror film such as Dawn of the Dead. Milius stages some great action scenes early, but than slows it down and builds the suspense and than when the action starts get its often quite thrilling. In my opinion this was his best film.

The cast for Red Dawn is hands down one of my very favorites. Patrick Swayze is one of my favorite actors of all time and despite his popularity I also felt he was often underrated. We also have C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Darren Dalton and Jennifer Grey plus veteran actors such as Ben Johnson, Harry Dean Stanton, William Smith and Lane Smith plus Powers Boothe. The actors are all great in their roles and help add a little more than what was written for them at times.

Red Dawn was the first film released with a PG-13 rating however the first film with that rating was the Flamingo Kid, but it sat around before getting released. In reviews I sometimes mention how odd the MPAA is with their ratings and Red Dawn is action packed with a strong amount of violence and while its nothing overly graphic I’m still surprised in 1984 this was rated PG-13 and not an R. In the modern era PG-13 would be possible, but its a very hard PG-13. I’ve seen films released around the same time as Red Dawn that featured far less violence that got hit with an R-rating.

Reports on set were Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey didn’t get along very well and 3-years after Red Dawn in 1987 the two would co-star in Dirty Dancing where again they didn’t get along.

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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Review

Posted in Once Upon a Time in the West with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- There Were Three Men in Her Life. One to Take Her. One to Love Her and One to Kill Her

Release Date- December 21st, 1968

Running Time- 165-Minutes

Rating- PG-13

Screenplay- Sergio Leone & Sergio Donati

Director- Sergio Leone

Starring- Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson

Released in 1968 Once Upon a Time in the West was Sergio Leone’s 2nd epic with the first being The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and by many Once Upon a Time in the West is not only seen as one of the greatest westerns, but also one of the all time great films. With A Fistful of Dollars the first film in the Man with no Name Trilogy is when Sergio Leone really arrived as a filmmaker and what I love about watching the trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West was the evolution of Leone as a filmmaker. A Fistful of Dollars was a good film, but it was a little rough around the edges, but you could really see something special in Leone. For a Few Dollars More the production values went up, the writing was sharper and Leone’s direction was a lot more improved as well and than came The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which from a technical side was by far the best of the trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West again speaking from a technical side was the overall better film. Of the 4 films For a Few Dollars More was my favorite and it is possible for one film to be the better made, but not as enjoyable. That’s not to say I disliked The Good, the Bad the Ugly or Once Upon a Time in the West, but For a Few Dollars More would rate as my favorite film by Sergio Leone. When I reviewed The Good, the Bad and the Ugly I mentioned how when a film goes top far over the 130-minute mark I am a little weary with a few exceptions of course and even though I loved the film I did feel the just under 3-hour running time was a little overly long so I also was a little weary of Once Upon a Time in the West since it ran at 166-minutes. To me Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the greatest films and one of the greatest directed films and quite honestly the only thing that keeps me from giving it the full 5-star rating was I did find the film to be a little overly long and even though I was never bored I did feel though as if it could have been a bit shorter.

The debate between man fans of Sergio Leone is, which film was better between The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Once Upon a Time in the West and on the IMDb top 250 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly does rate higher, but there are many myself included who prefer Once Upon a Time in the West, but really a case for either film can easily be made. As a film buff of all eras and countries when I watch films like Once Upon a Time in the West it makes me sad when watching more modern films. Movies like this are truly a thing of the past and what’s even sadder is how a modern audience would watch this and dismiss it as boring. Once Upon a Time in the West has plenty of action, but no it isn’t the most exciting film in that regard, but at the same time it’s not just meant to be an action film. But films like this really do make me sad on how modern films have gone.

The plot focuses on an outlaw Frank (Fonda) who brutally guns down a family in an attempt to get their land and Cheyenne (Robards) is set up for the crime and he teams with a mysterious man with no name (Bronson) who is dubbed Harmonica in an attempt to help a widow Jill (McBain) keep the land while Cheyenne clears his name and Harmonica gets his revenge. The screenplay was written by Sergio Leone & Sergio Donati and the film is well plotted, but like I said in my review for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in terms of writing the main plot and subplots didn’t warrant a film just under 3-hours and I could say the same about this one, which clocks in at 166-minutes. However both films still feature terrific writing and the length of the film never really hurts the film even if it could have been shorter. Characters are excellent with plenty of depth, which is a mixture of the writing, direction and acting. Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy also called the Dollars trilogy, Eastwood actually has a name in all three that was a marketing gimmick when released in the US and if anything Once Upon a Time in the West is the real Man with No Name since we never find out Harmonica’s real name. Harmonica is one of my favorite Leone characters. We know nothing of him though it isn’t hard to figure out his motive even if not fully revealed until the end, but we know nothing about him, but yet the character is filled with depth thanks to the direction by Leone and Charles Bronson. In some ways the script mirrors For a Few Dollars More in regards two guys team up to take out an outlaw and in For a Few Dollars More Lee Van Cleef has a personal vendetta against the outlaw and it isn’t revealed until the end just like how Harmonica has a personal vendetta against Frank. Once Upon a Time in the West features a truly fantastic screenplay and it’s something screenwriters should study.

As director Sergio Leone does a brilliant job; the opening 15-minutes is text book filmmaking. It features very little dialogue and there are several minutes without any, but Leone’s direction, the acting and sound F/X, which play a huge part really elevate the opening. Three guys show up waiting for the train to arrive we have no idea who they’re waiting for and we don’t know why exactly, but we do know whatever it is it isn’t good and these scenes are some of the best suspense and tension I’ve ever seen and I’ve said this before in past reviews for Leone films I really wish Sergio Leone would have done a horror or thriller film since the suspense he’s able to capture on film is better than most horror filmmakers. For a modern audience I’m sure they would be a little bored and wouldn’t quite grasp what Leone was doing, but the opening 15-minutes just might be the best directing I’ve ever seen. The next 10-minutes are equally as strong as we have a family brutally gunned down including a child. Killing children in film is something we don’t often see, but when done it’s always shocking. Films like Psycho and even films by schlock filmmaker HG Lewis started to take filmmaking in a new direction and the late 60s and throughout the 70s we saw these rebel filmmakers not afraid to push the envelope and shock the audience, but killing children was still something rarely seen in an era where again filmmakers pushed the boundaries. In Once Upon a Time in the West the cold blooded killing of a child is quite unsettling and shocking and Sergio Leone shows he’s a filmmaker not afraid to take chances. After the first 25-minutes, Leone settles things down and the film plays at a slower, but equally as steady pace. Leone gets the most out of each scene and really crafts some truly memorable characters. However the last hour is when the pacing can get a little sluggish at times, perhaps that isn’t the right word since I was never bored or anything, but the film does start to run out of a little steam, but again I wasn’t bored. Leone though gets things back on track in the final act and this in my opinion is one of the very best directed films I’ve ever seen. Sergio Leone shows again why he’s a master at his craft.

When it comes to the career of Charles Bronson the first thing people will think of is Death Wish and that’s fair enough as its an excellent film with fun sequels. Death Wish is probably the best Bronson film, but not his best overall as he’s starred in many classic films as part of an ensemble such as the Great Escape and the Magnificent Seven. Of all his films like I said the best Bronson film is Death Wish, but his best film in my opinion was Once Upon a Time in the West. After the success of Death Wish it seemed every character he played was a variation of Paul Kersey and he’d play that role a total of five times. People sometimes forget Bronson was a very good actor and while he didn’t always show the most emotion he’s one of the very best film tough guys along with the likes of Eastwood, McQueen and Lee Van Cleef. As much as I enjoyed his films in the 70s after Death Wish and his work in the 80s he didn’t always have the best material even if the films were a lot of fun, but when given a great script, Bronson was a terrific actor and he’s great here as Harmonica. Charles Bronson really brings a lot of depth to the mysterious man with no name.

Overall Once Upon a Time in the West is truly a great film and quite an achievement in the career of Sergio Leone. While I did feel the 166-minute running time was a little longer than need be and the only reason it doesn’t get the full 5-star rating I was never bored and while again For a Few Dollars More is my favorite Leone film he outdid himself here with the overall production.

Once Upon a Time in the West is a legendary film for many reasons, but for horror fans Dario Argento has a story credit here and its one of his earliest works in film and 3-years after this he would write and direct Bird with the Crystal Plumage in 1971, which was his first film and like this film was also scored by Ennio Morricone. Also Giannetto De Rossi best know for his makeup F/X on such Lucio Fulci films as Zombie, The Beyond and House by the Cemetery to name a few also worked on Once Upon a Time in the West on the makeup.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) Review

Posted in Good, the Bad and the Ugly with tags , , , , , , on July 21, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

**** Out of 5

Tagline- For Three Men the Civil War Wasn’t Hell. It Was Practice.

Release Date- December 23rd, 1966

Running Time- 179-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone

Director- Sergio Leone

Starring- Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach as Tuco

Released in 1966 and in the States in 1967, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the 3rd part of the Man with No Name trilogy and by many it’s seen as the best of the 3 and by many its also seen as the greatest western and the best film in Sergio Leone’s career though some favor Once Upon a Time in the West, but it seems to me The Good, the Bad and the Ugly gets a little more acclaim. I enjoyed Fistful of Dollars a lot, but don’t rate it as highly as some, but with A Few Dollars More I felt Sergio Leone arrived and as influential as Leone’s films are this was his first epic and once again Leone changed the way westerns were made. When released in Italy The Good, the Bad and the Ugly clocked in at 179-minutes, but when released in the States it was cut down to 161-minutes and home video releases have restored the film to its 179-minute running time. For me personally when a film starts to go over 130-minutes I often find it overly long with some exceptions of course and while The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a great film I just found it overly long and I’m not sure the film needed to be 3-hours. As much as I liked the film again it was just a little too long even if still a great film and while its better than A Fistful of Dollars I’d rate For a Few Dollars More as my favorite of the trilogy.

The trilogy is called either the Dollars trilogy or the Man with No Name trilogy, but in all three films Clint Eastwood’s character does have a name it was MGM who came up with that gimmick while marketing the film in the US. Regardless of what you wanna call it none of the three films are connected and each are stand alone the only connection is a lot of the same cast and crew. This time around Blondie (Eastwood) is running a scam with Tuco (Wallach) a wanted outlaw. Blondie brings him in and collects the bounty and when Tuco is about to hang, Blondie shoots the rope helping Tuco getaway and the two split the money. However after one scam Blondie decides to keep the money and Tuco vows revenge. He captures Blondie and makes him walk through the desert. While there they come across a stage coach where everybody is dead except one person who has buried money. He tells Tuco what cemetery and when Tuco leaves to get him water, Blondie finds out what grave it’s buried in. The man than dies, but now Tuco must keep Blondie alive. The two set out for the cemetery, but Angel Eyes (Van Cleef) is also hot on the trail for the money as well.

The screenplay by Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone is well written with some great characters, but the only problem I had is while the script well written and well plotted, I’m not sure the plot even with the subplots warranted a film running at 179-minutes. The script always remains strong thanks in part of the terrific characters and actors, but some scenes even if they impact the plot also sort of feel like filler scenes. Regardless, the screenplay is terrific with some great characters.

In each film of the trilogy the budget went up as did production values and the direction by Leone also got stronger. While For a Few Dollars More is my favorite of the three this part was the best directed. The first hour is very well paced and its funny, dramatic and exciting. After that things do slightly slow down, but for a 3-hour film the pacing is actually strong and I was never bored, but like I said I just felt as if a few scenes could have been edited and as great as a film this is I don’t think it needed to be 179-minutes. With all that said Leone shows why he’s a master at his craft and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is quite the epic and its influence on filmmakers is quite clear. The one thing that isn’t mentioned enough about Sergio Leone’s films is the suspense level. Too bad Leone never made a horror or thriller since at times his films had some great suspense and tension.

What I loved about For a Few Dollars More was the pairing of Eastwood and Van Cleef two great actors known for playing the tough guy roles. Here Eastwood and Van Cleef don’t have a whole lot of scenes together, but its more than made up for by pairing Eastwood and Wallach together. Both actors worked very well together and as great as Eastwood was, Eli Wallach steals the show with an hysterical performance. Eastwood is great as usual and Lee Van Cleef was also great only downside is not enough screen time.

Overall The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is truly a great film and one of the most influential films of all time. Like I said the 179-minute running time was a little overly long even if the pacing is generally strong. This was a great end to the trilogy.

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For a Few Dollars More (1965) Review

Posted in For a Few Dollars More with tags , , , , on July 17, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE

**** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Man with No Name Is Back

Release Date- December 18th, 1965

Running Time- 132-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone

Director- Sergio Leone

Starring- Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte, Mario Brega, Luigi Pistilli, Klaus Kinski

Released in Italy in 1965 and in the States in 1967, For a Few Dollars more is the 2nd film in Sergio Leone’s epic Man with No Name trilogy, but don’t go into For a Few Dollars more expecting a sequel since all three films stand on their own and none are continuations of the previous. With a Fistful of Dollars, Leone took not only the spaghetti western in a new direction, but the American western as well and as good as Fistful of Dollars was For a Few Dollars More in my opinion trumps it in every single aspect. Fistful of Dollars was an excellent film with a great opening and closing act, but the middle could be a bit sluggish in spots and while I very much enjoyed the film I also don’t think its as good as its reputation. Its a very good film, but I don’t rate it as one of the great films, but For a Few Dollars more is one of the greatest westerns of all time and one of the greatest films of all time. For a Few Dollars More is the film that Sergio Leone truly arrived.

This time around the Man with No Name (Eastwood) or as he’s referred to Monco is a bounty hunter and he’s on the trail of El Indio (Volonte), but Monco has some competition as Col. Douglas Mortimer (Van Cleef) also a bounty hunter arrives into town also seeking to bring down El Indio and Monco and Mortimer end up forming a bit of an uneasy alliance as they set their sights on El Indio and his gang.

The screenplay by Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone is well plotted and often funny as well at times. The plot for For a Few Dollars More is rather straight forward, but it always works well. Characters are much stronger here than Fistful of Dollars as they have more depth and far more interesting. This is a very well written film with a solid plot and excellent characters. El Indio is one of my favorite movie villains and he’s quite evil; he’s a rapist and murderer and two of his victims are a woman and her 18-month old baby, but Vincenzoni & Leone also show another side of El Indio as he does seem to have some regrets about what he’s done not that it makes him sympathetic or any less evil, but it was an interesting touch to an excellent screenplay.

Director Sergio Leone greatly improved from Fistful of Dollars as this film gets off to a great start and remains just as good throughout the picture. Despite the 132-minute running time, For a Few Dollars More is excellently paced as each scene somehow advances the picture. For a Few Dollars More like many Italian films has a great visual look and the action scenes are better staged and far more polished than Fistful of Dollars (they were good, but greatly improved here). To me this is when Sergio Leone went from a good filmmaker to a great filmmaker and this was a great directed film the action scenes as I stated are excellent and are also very exciting and the suspense level is quite high as well, which is something most people seem to ignore when talking about For a Few Dollars More.

I think a big part of what elevates this film to greatness is the pairing of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef two of the best film tough guys. Eastwood like always is great here and there isn’t any actor that could have played the role of Monco any better, but in many ways it’s Lee Van Cleef as Mortimer that steals the show. He’s just as deadly and just as tough and has this cool factor working for him. Seeing these two legends together is quite a blast and Mortimer also has a backstory with El Indio though it takes the whole film to get to it.

Overall For a Few Dollars More is a truly great film with an excellent screenplay and fun and exciting action scenes and with Eastwood and Van Cleef its one of the best pairings in film and Gian Maria Volonte is also terrific as the sadistic El Indio. For a Few Dollars More is as good of a western as you’ll find and despite the popularity I think it deserves even more credit.

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