Quick Movie Review: The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter (1991)

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One of the things that makes the first NeverEnding Story so amazing is its unique storytelling. It follows Bastian’s journey of reading Atreyu’s adventure in the storybook, while at the same time placing Bastian in the mind of Atreyu, eventually summoning him into the book itself.

The NeverEnding Story II takes place a few years after the events from the first film. Bastian, this time played by Jonathan Brandis, discovers that words from the NeverEnding Story book are missing from its pages. Summoned inside again, he must face a new threat to the land of Fantasia.

While taking place in the same world, the version created for this sequel is confusing and often times suffocating. Whereas the Fantasia in the original film feels like a place you would actually want to visit. Here, it’s a much more lazily created world, relying mostly on what’s already been established in our minds by its predecessor.

This time, Bastian must save Fantasia from the evil sorceress Xayide. We’re never quite sure what threat she poses to the universe, but we do know that she doesn’t want Bastian there to stop her.

And in order to do so, she creates a machine that strips Bastian of one of his memories each time he makes a wish with his magical necklace. But since he’s unaware of this machine, he continues to make wishes. And the film finds absolutely every opportunity for him to keep making more wishes.

There are few things more frustrating in a movie than when the audience knows of a threat to the protagonist that the protagonist won’t figure out for almost the entire film. Watching him fall into the same trap repeatedly, not knowing that it’s harming him, makes us want to rip our hair out.

The film relies on the protagonist’s cluelessness to move the story along. Which isn’t usually a good thing unless we’re watching a comedy. Though this movie almost becomes one. But since the first film is so beloved, those normally-laughable moments are more disappointing than anything.

The sequel also gives the evil more of a face and personality–an insult to the original, whose evil is a malevolent force rather than an actual character–punctuating and emphasizing its truly deep themes.

The NeverEnding Story II never seems to know what it’s trying to say. All it wants to do is be appealing to young kids, while its predecessor is aimed at the kid in all of us.

It just tries to be too appealing, bringing a type of sitcom-y humor to the franchise. Instead of being the wide-eyed, innocent Bastian, they’ve made him a sarcastic smart aleck. He’s basically not even the same character. And neither is Atreyu. Here, he is a vulnerable child with an ego. Before, he was a strong and humble warrior inside the body of a child.

In the first NeverEnding Story, you couldn’t wait to get back inside of Fantasia. While most of the highlights in the sequel take place in the real world.

There’s an intriguing subplot involving the relationship between Bastian and his father. The entire film should have been grounded in this, but instead tries to conjure up forced depth through other means. But even those are never fully realized either.

By the end of the film, we still never quite figure out what Bastian’s purpose in Fantasia is.

It’s not exactly unwatchable, but it’s pretty poor. The lore of Fantasia itself–where it’s found–is still enough to make it externally appealing. But every time you get sucked in, the bad acting and atrocious dialogue take you right out.

Twizard Rating: 50

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Ranking Every ‘Salute Your Shorts’ Episode Ever!

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Salute Your Shorts is easily my favorite ’90s Nickelodeon show. It became synonymous with the summers of my childhood. Watching Nick In the Afternoon and hoping that Stick Stickly would announce it up next was perhaps the most anxious my life got at such a young age.

It ran from 1991 to 1992, but Nickelodeon syndicated it well until 1998, to where it was even among the top 15 highest-rated regularly scheduled basic-cable series in 1996, according to Nielsen, despite not having aired a new episode in four years.

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Quick Movie Review: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

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The memory of Terminator 2 from my childhood is a foggy one, but I remember, as a child who couldn’t have been any older than 10, that I really liked this movie. There were scenes that, to this day, have stuck with me. I remember the ending almost shot-for-shot as I rematch it some 16 years later.

I like the first Terminator film a great deal, but it has that ’80s feel to it and it’s very dated. But the 1991 sequel is ahead of its time. And 24 years later, It holds up perfectly–just as my memories of it as a child.

In this movie, a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger), looking exactly like the one who tries to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in the first film, is sent back to the past to protect her son, John Connor (Edward Furlong), who is being hunted down by a more advanced evil cyborg (Robert Patrick) who can morph into any person or metal object.

The plot is more developed and longer. We realize that there is more at stake here. We know the background already and know who must live and who must die. At 2 and a half hours, the movie never seems to overstay its welcome.

Schwarzenegger has never been more perfect for any role he’s played. He’s truly at his best and even displays his comedic talents. Patrick, playing the main antagonist, creepily stalks Sarah and John throughout the whole movie, evoking true fear from the audience.

This is a near-perfect cinematic experience. It’s one of my favorite films and it’s even better watching it with more context than when I was a child.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: City Slickers (1991)

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I always say that even the worst movie is good if it has Billy Crystal in it. And although Crystal helps make this film what it is, along with a great supporting cast, it’s really a nice story. It’s about a man’s second coming-of-age and it’s about camaraderie and second chances.

The comedy is slightly irreverent and jarring, as it is partially a satire. It juxtaposes tragedy with humor, but that goes along with the film’s theme of “That’s life!” And although the intermittent jokes may disrupt and off-put the film’s tone at times, the build up to the 3rd act is well worth the wait.

Even if the humor is not for you, the story is undeniably charming. If I ever get to the point in my life where I’m facing a midlife crisis, I will be sure to queue up City Slickers.

For a comedy, the writing in this movie is superb. There aren’t any silly plot holes or goofs that stand out. This film just doesn’t do anything to annoy you.

With circumstances that are easily related to and fun in-jokes you feel like you’re on the journey with them. And as someone who hasn’t yet gotten to their midlife crisis, this movie makes me realize that it won’t be so bad.

Twizard Rating: 96