Quick Movie Review: Road House (1989)

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Often times, the hero of an action movie is broodingly void of any human emotion. Too cool to laugh or smile. But Patrick Swayze knows just how to make his character realistic so that we can actually relate. He doesn’t just make himself a cookie cutter of every other action hero before him.

Swayze’s charisma carries the somewhat uninspired dialogue that tries to sound deeper than it is. And maybe it is a little deep. Surprisingly. Perhaps even philosophical. Some lines come off as cheesy, but you hardly notice when it’s Swayze saying them. But most other actors can’t handle them quite the same.

James Dalton, played by Swayze, is a famous bouncer, who is hired by the owner of a notorious bar in small-town Missouri to help clean up the bar and eliminate all the fighting. Along the way, he develops relationships with people in this town, attempting to protect them from a corrupt businessman who is the de facto town dictator.

Road House is the very definition of a guilty pleasure movie. It’s a movie about bar fights. Yet somehow it manages to take it one step further than that. It actually makes a lot of nice artistic choices, which is interesting considering that, on the surface, it’s a cheap action flick.

And at times it’s obvious. Even losing itself for a minute, nearly becoming unraveled about halfway through. It realizes that there haven’t been any fights for awhile, so it throws in a couple in vain, even though we stop needing them. As it turns out, we actually become genuinely invested in these characters and the story around them.

The fight scenes are actually amazing. They’re well-choreographed and very realistic. But what keeps the film afloat is still Swayze himself. His demeanor helps the movie not take itself too seriously, even when you know it probably wants to.

Twizard Rating: 85

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Quick Movie Review: Batman (1989)

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I’m never sure how I feel about Michael Keaton. He always has such unorthodox delivery in his performances. I can’t deny the personality he brings to his characters. And a lot of the time that’s what makes certain performances so good. But he has such a specific style, that at times he seems a little out of place. Not every role is fit for his idiosyncrasies.

At times you feel that way about his role as Bruce Wayne. He does an okay job as Batman, but his usual tongue-in-cheek style gets somewhat stymied as Wayne. You can tell he’s holding back, but then other times he doesn’t, and it seems out of place. The result is a character who is neither stoic nor hyper. He’s just lethargic.

The premise is pretty convoluted, so I’m going to bare-bones it. The Joker (Jack Nicholson) becomes Batman’s first true supervillain as the Caped Crusader tries to clean up the streets of Gotham City.

Nicholson is the obvious standout in this film. He’s a psychopath who makes you uneasy just because you know he literally has no conscience.

Over the course of the film, the story turns into the Joker attempting to create some sort of political race with Batman to become the city’s favorite bad guy. It’s twisted and doesn’t make much sense–but in the most intentional way possible. The way only the Joker could pull off.

But this trend continues as other characters have muddled motives also. The Joker’s motives are supposed to not make sense, but the rest of the characters’ still should.

There’s some backstory in the first 45 minutes of how the Joker comes to be, but it’s confusing as well.

Watching the film now, it’s an exercise in nostalgia, but it’s still a very slow watch, sagging all throughout. However, the dialogue is snappy and holds up pretty well (the dialogue does–not the movie as a whole). The movie is definitely dated and would never fly as a Batman movie these days. Post-Christopher Nolan, we as a society have become extremely picky about our Batman films.

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: Ghostbusters II (1989)

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Before about 15 years ago, it was hard to accept any sequel as serious–give or take a select few. And I’m sure there were many who didn’t take the Ghostbusters sequel too seriously either. But who could blame them back in 1989.

Sure it has its issues. The villain’s modus operandi has devastating effects, but his method of using a baby’s body as a vessel to come back from the dead is played off as silly. Although it doesn’t intend to be, it can’t help it. The levity of the film is that strong.

In this one, all the guys are back and they have to stop the evil Vigo the Carpathian–who is trapped in a painting–from coming back from the dead and ruling the earth. Weird things start happening all over town, as the ghostbusters discover that all of New York City’s negative energy has been compiled into slime in the sewer system and is acting as a portal to bring back evil spirits.

It isn’t easy for them, as they are faced with adversity that doesn’t make much sense. They go from being the popular saviors of the city, to all of a sudden no one believing in ghosts anymore.

Ultimately, the film lacks any real depth. Character issues are heavily introduced but never resolved in the end. It gets a little lost in that department, sure.

But there is a charm that carries over from the original. In fact, I find this one just as funny. The talents are far better utilized here, other than Bill Murray, who is just as good as he is in the last. Peter MacNicol is an especially great addition as the oft-confused foreigner, Dr. Janosz Poha, who curates the art museum where the evil painting is being kept.

The first Ghostbusters movie is fantastic. It’s legendary. But it shows its age quite a bit. Ghostbusters II may not be as iconic, but it holds up a little better. And although we don’t feel as threatened by our villain, the threat is still very much there.

Twizard Rating: 87

Quick Movie Review: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

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Finally, a Vacation film that is good all around. It puts together the good qualities of the first and second movies to make a solid third installment.

Maybe I’m just getting used to these characters and the style of these films, but I’m certainly liking them more and more with each one.

In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the series goes back to being about Clark (Chevy Chase) and Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo). And it’s never been more evident than by casting a third pair of children to play Rusty (Johnny Galecki) and Audrey (Juliette Lewis)–which has become an in-joke at this point. Clark attempts to have a perfect Christmas at his home, although it’s being made very difficult with a house full of rowdy relatives.

This film is far more heartwarming than the previous two films, which are a giant batch of straightforward irreverence. But while that style may turn off some viewers, the well-balanced tone of this third film will have a little bit of both to satisfy everyone.

Possibly the highlight of this series is the brilliant running joke with the Griswold’s pretentious neighbors, whose Christmas is getting incidentally ruined as a result of Clark needing to have a perfect one. It speaks of the depth of Clark’s character as well as providing the audience with some of the most amazing pratfalls and farce of the franchise.

It’s still very John Hughes-ey in its writing, but it definitely doesn’t showcase any lack of ideas.

Twizard Rating: 83

Quick Movie Review: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

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Anyone who knows me is well aware that Bill & Ted is my favorite movie. I’ve been quoting it since I was 10. It’s a film whose sole purpose is to bring joy to the world. It’s a comedy-adventure of the best variety–and that’s my favorite genre. Throw in some time travel and it’s perfect. It’s created to make us laugh and to buy into the normally-ridiculous scenario that one band can bring harmony to the world through the power of their music alone. And the script is so well-written that you believe it, too.

Sure, it has a couple of minor time travel paradoxes, but you just don’t care because it’s such an awesome ride that you won’t want it to end! It snubs it’s nose at overcomplicated time travel movies by making itself one that is very matter-of-factly presented, and it has some fun with causality loops while winking at the audience. It calls attention to the notion that when you have a time machine you can literally go back and fix anything you want–or even PLAN to go back and do it later so that you can help yourself out in the present (it makes sense if you watch it).

But this movie is so self-aware and so silly and innocuous that you can’t help but love it. Everyone has that film in their life that they feel like it was made for them. Mine is Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Twizard Rating: 98