Quick Movie Review: The NeverEnding Story (1984)

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Director Wolfgang Petersen sure had an ambitious task on his hands when he decided to take on creating the spectacular world that is Fantasia. And it sure paid off.

I watched NeverEnding Story often as a child, though hadn’t seen it in almost 20 years. But images like these stick in your brain indelibly.

Based on the 1979 novel of the same name by Michael Ende, it follows a young boy, Bastian, as he happens upon a mysterious book that bridges the gap between what’s real and what’s fantasy.

Filled with unique and visionary characters and set pieces, it’s such an attractive film. The vision is executed so imaginatively that when we see the world of Fantasia, we never for a second feel like it’s the same world–the real world–that Bastian is living in.

You can tell it enjoys showing off its effects. And it should–they’re amazing! But the film isn’t just a “look what we can do” effects spectacle. No, it’s very deep and has some important things to say. It’s mainly about hope and imagination, with subtle religious undertones as well.

It’s a fairly short movie, but the adventure never feels rushed, building momentum evenly and moving along at an almost-perfect pace.

Often times, filmmakers know that if they just throw a bunch of fancy effects and weird-looking characters into their children’s movie that the details of the story don’t matter. This isn’t the case here. For a fantasy film, the details aren’t convoluted at all. It’s easy for kids to understand, but adults won’t feel talked down to, either. In fact, they’ll likely relate to it too.

Twizard Rating: 100

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Quick Movie Review: Baywatch (2017)

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There’s proof out there that it doesn’t take comedians to make great comedies. The Baywatch movie isn’t a great comedy. It’s a comedy in intent, and actually has some bits that are really funny, but it’s doesn’t break enough new ground in that department. All of its jokes are derivative and mostly uninspired. It’s never sure what type of comedy it wants to be. The humor is never grounded in anything. It’s just recklessly random insertions into the script.

The film is more concerned with how the characters look rather than actually having a consistent tone and coherent plot–just like the TV show, except this one tries to be funny. But not in a so-bad-it’s-good way that helped make the show so popular in its heyday. There’s more intention here.

The ’90s show was known for its campiness. Fans could only hope that the movie either replicates that tone or parodies it. Unfortunately, it does neither.

Take the 21 Jump Street movie, for example. It’s fully aware at all times of its self-parody. Baywatch may make a joke or two at its own expense, but, considering its flippant style of humor, should be making way more.

Baywatch follows Dwayne Johnson as Mitch Buchannon, the head lifeguard of Emerald Bay, Florida, and his attempt to bring down a local drug lord, much to the chagrin of his boss and the local police.

Amidst all this, a new recruit, Matt Brody (Zac Efron), shows up. He’s an Olympic gold-medalist who’s turned into an entitled slacker. He’s constantly butting heads with Mitch, making for more subplots.

It goes back and forth between taking itself too seriously to not taking itself seriously at all. And it’s at its best when it doesn’t try to be witty and acts like an actual action film. The issue is, it never wants to stay that way.

Never quite set in stone, the characters are all over the place, too. One minute they handle a situation one way, then the other it’s totally different.

The script is so uneven, it’s like David Hasselhoff wrote it himself. The dialogue is completely illogical and unrealistic–not in a good way. And it’s full of foreshadowing, which makes it predictable. At times it even seems to conveniently forget about some of its major characters.

It’s pretty easy to shoot holes in the plot. And the main premise involving the drug dealers is convoluted. But honestly, it doesn’t matter because you just accept everything it’s spewing at you.

Some of the best scenes come from Yahya Abdul-Mateen, who plays a local beat cop on the beach. He’s the only actor who seems to always fully grasp what’s supposed to be going on in the script. He’s great.

Baywatch isn’t an unenjoyable movie. It’s longer than it needs to be, but makes itself easy to watch. And fortunately has enough cheap thrills for it not to be a complete waste of time. Yet, as evident with the Fast and Furious films, it could’ve also been so much more.

As an aside, isn’t it weird that Dwayne Johnson never has to cover up his tattoos for any of his roles?

Twizard Rating: 68

Quick Movie Review: Suburbicon (2017)

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Suburbicon is a film consisting of two plots. More like a plot and a subplot. These two exist in the same world, but barely ever intersect. In fact, one could make the case that they aren’t even necessary for each other’s survival. Although, they serve a subtle symbiotic purpose, however contrived it may seem.

The subplot happens first. We arrive in a utopian town in the 1950s, called Suburbicon. News gets around that a black family has moved into the community, and the people there begin protesting. The white people are scared that their “perfect” little town will now become disturbed by the presence of black people.

Across the street from the black family is where our main plot begins. A home invasion kills a woman (Julianne Moore), and nearly kills her husband (Matt Damon), son (Noah Jupe), and twin sister (also Julianne Moore). We’re not sure why it’s happening, but we know we’re about to find out.

There seems to be a lot going on, but the film carefully picks out what’s important in order to drive the plot and build tension. Careful sense is made out of all the chaos.

Amidst a slew of films that attempt to create commentary on racial issues by shoving it in your face, this one tries to keep it in the background. However, it’s not all that subliminal.

Many viewers will no doubt feel a sense of pride for figuring out what statements this film is trying to make. But the truth is, it’s pretty on-the-nose and not hard to analyze properly.

The events with the black family and the protesters outside their house serve no real purpose other than to show irony of ignorant racists becoming the actual source of all the disruptions in their peaceful lives. The crazy people are actually the white Matt Damon and Julianne Moore, and the white townsfolk are violently protesting the normal people who happen to be black. The white people are really the ones we should hate; they’re really the ones causing all the problems–we get it.

If you were previously unaware that racism exists–especially in the 1950s–then this film is for you. Except this film takes that trope to new heights. No new ground is covered in this area, and it isn’t like it’s a true story that needs to be told. At times it seems like the filmmakers (George Clooney, the Coen Brothers, et al) are merely trying to pass off this moral that all white people are bigots.

I probably shouldn’t like this movie, but I do and I can’t quite figure it out. Maybe I just like seeing Matt Damon play a terrible person. Maybe the two likable people in the whole film are actually worth all the trouble. The truth is, it contains a pretty cool murder mystery and I’m a sucker for utopian settings. Suburbicon does a lot of things wrong, but it’s actually still very entertaining as a whole.

Twizard Rating: 87

Quick Movie Review: Clueless (1995)

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Clueless does something interesting. It’s a complete social satire, but director Amy Heckerling makes it so that the jokes can also be taken at face value. On one hand it begs you to notice the commentary it’s making on society, while on the other hand relishes in the idea that the jokes may be all on you. In fact, that’s what makes Clueless so great. It’s a film that makes fun of people who take themselves too seriously, but also accepts the fact that those same people will take IT too seriously. Some satires are too transparent, but what makes this one brilliant is the fact that it’s not.

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Quick Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok (2017)

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Marvel has just completed their best year ever, by far. And if you continue their current run back a little further, to 2016’s Doctor Strange, it’s even more impressive (still technically within 365 days of this release).

I really struggled with the 2nd Thor film back in 2013. Sure, it was entertaining, but it was completely forgettable and uninspired.

Thor Ragnarok fixes what’s broken. Barely set on Earth at all, it moves past the fish-out-of-water schtick that runs stale in the last film. This one’s light on its feet and incredibly fun.

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Quick Movie Review: Kenan & Kel – Two Heads Are Better Than None (2000)

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Often times, longer episodes–or specials–of a half-hour sitcom series don’t work. The pacing is all thrown off and the lack of a laugh track makes the jokes fall flat.

And while Two Heads Are Better Than None is a little odd at first without the studio audience, any fan of Kenan and Kel will enjoy this made-for-TV movie. It’s the same humor, minus the scheming by Kenan.

This one lets the boys get into trouble all without having to scheme anything at all. Kel crashes Kenan’s family’s cross-country road trip vacation. Along the way, they encounter the ghost of a headless knight who is looking for a living soul to give him a new head.

The details tend to get a little foggy, but it’s not a far cry from the usual flippancy of the half-hour episodes. Continue reading

Quick Movie Review: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

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The amazing imagery of Little Shop of Horrors is enough to make an indelible impression in our brains. Though it never becomes complacent in knowing this.

Rick Moranis plays a nerdy florist who discovers an evil giant talking plant who helps him get the fame he’s always wanted and may lead to his ticket out of the sleazy part of town. He’s also in love with a woman named Audrey (Ellen Greene), who he thinks is out of his league.

The depth of the film runs much deeper than you’d think. The themes are thought-provoking. Mainly, the one regarding Audrey being physically abused by her boyfriend. Greene is able to showcase the severity of her issue while still bringing humor and sincere levity to the production. In fact, Audrey is perhaps the real main character of the film. She’s the one who’s mind we see inside of the most.

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Quick Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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On the surface, Blade Runner 2049 appears to be yet another action blockbuster. But for those who are familiar with the first movie, you know this is a wrong.

The original 1982 film takes place in 2019 Los Angeles, starring Harrison Ford as a blade runner–a cop who is in charge of tracking down and killing bioengineered beings known as “replicants”. The replicants look and act exactly like humans and were sent to an off-world colony to become slaves. But a small group of them have violently come back to Earth to kill their creators.

Although deep, the first film wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s slow, boring, and had no relatable characters.

The sequel is still set in the same dystopian universe, but 30 years later. For the fans’ sake, it’s very much in the same vein as its predecessor. It’s just as slow, and much longer. But here, it’s much more tolerable. In fact, it’s extremely entertaining, which goes to show that maybe it isn’t even the pacing of the original that makes it so boring.

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Quick Movie Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

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10 minutes into the film you get a clear idea why this has a cult following. The incredibly imaginative set pieces and impressive artwork almost fool us into believing that this film isn’t low budget. The indelible images you can’t get out of your head.

The title screams “’80s B movie”, but despite the B movie facade, it’s more along the lines of something Tim Burton would come out with. It’s like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure meets The Blob. You go into it expecting it to be so-bad-that-it’s-funny, but instead get a sincerely fun story. And unlike most B movies, you can tell it’s not written by an idiot.

The premise is simple. A couple of teenagers discover that giant clowns have landed on Earth and are going around their small town killing people and putting them in cotton candy cocoons.

These aren’t the typical human clowns you see in the circus, but large costumed individuals that look like walking puppets. They’re high concept super villains like something out of Batman. They shoot popcorn guns, throw pies made of acid, and make hand shadow puppets that eat people.

Practical effects seem to be lost in today’s industry. They bring so much character to older films. If it weren’t for practical effects, Killer Klowns From Outer Space would have gotten lost in the shuffle of all the other CGI showcases. It’s what makes this film unique and memorable–despite the flaws it may have.

The film, at times, tends to be carried by these eye-popping visuals and colorful set pieces, as the plot is underwhelmingly routine. It grows nicely and fills the script well, but story-wise just doesn’t quite live up to the curiosity it inspires. Figuring out the motive of the clowns doesn’t pay off as well as you’d hope.

At least it gives us likable human characters, even if their personalities don’t progress much past what’s on the surface. But they’re much smarter–and much more well-acted–than average horror movie teenagers.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and oddly enough it also doesn’t give us too much to laugh at either. But it doesn’t even matter. We almost don’t notice, because the fun mystery of it all is enough for us to be entertained.

You wouldn’t think this film would be scary, but with the help of awesome visuals and a killer score, it genuinely sends chills down your spine a number of times. Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a half-baked idea, sure, but it fully delivers.

Twizard Rating: 87

Quick Movie Review: Clue (1985)

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Before it was common to turn toys and board games into movies, John Landis had the idea to make a film based on the game Clue. Paramount must’ve really trusted Landis, because they also let him go ahead with his idea to have multiple endings. Depending on which theater you watched it in, you could have seen any one of the three.

Now in DVD format, the film consolidates the endings into one viewing and presents the first two as “this is what COULD have happened” and the last one as “this is what REALLY happened.” You’d think the multiple endings would create plot holes upon looking back at the events that occur, but they really don’t. Confusion, maybe, but not plot holes.

Either way, this movie is so enjoyable that it’s a good lesson in just going along for the ride, not worrying about innocuous details along the way.

It’s an amazing premise, but Clue isn’t just a gimmick. It’s a remarkably entertaining movie that still holds up more than 30 years later.

Taking place in 1954, six strangers are anonymously invited to a dinner party at a mansion. Unclear what exactly is going on, they are forced, by the butler, to solve a murder.

The humor in Clue is very self-aware. Vaudevillian at times. Much like the movie Airplane!–except it does it without compromising the seriousness of the story or distancing itself from its audience, causing them to become less invested. Sort of like what Mel Brooks achieves in The Producers.

It doesn’t concern itself with committing to being a true comedy, but it also doesn’t just jarringly add jokes intermittently. They’re always appropriate and always smoothly transitioned to. Amongst the ensemble cast, Tim Curry grounds the entire film as the eccentric butler who always seems to be one step ahead.

The dialogue often borders on Tarantino-ian with its snappy banter between characters. Perhaps an inspiration for The Hateful Eight (I’m half joking). The script is carefully calculated and makes all the right decisions with pedantic attention to detail.

It doesn’t force character depth, because it knows it doesn’t have to. This allows the plot to swell nicely, leaving us on the edge of our seats pretty much the entire time.

The runtime is short, and it actually spends almost 30 minutes towards the end recapping the scenarios in order to help everyone figure out whodunit. It executes this in a fun way, though it’s  obviously trying to reach a time limit. But it’s a small price to pay for all the entertainment it provides.

Twizard Rating: 93