Rules of Engagement
Even William Friedkin's most loyal fans would admit the Nineties were not a particularly fertile artistic period for him. That decade saw him putting out the laughable horror film The Guardian (1990), the eventual release of his long-on-the-shelf and heavily recut 1987 death penalty drama Rampage (1992), the tepid sports drama Blue Chips (1994), and the resoundingly unnecessary (save for a nifty car chase) Jade (1995). On the small screen, he helmed two made-for-cable remakes, the Roger Corman production Jailbreakers (1994) with Shannen Doherty, Antonio Sabato Jr., and Adrien Brody, and 12 Angry Men (1997) with a powerhouse cast that included Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott, Ossie Davis, James Gandolfini and, perhaps inevitably, Tony Danza. Continue Reading →
After the aggressively negative critic and audience response to 1980’s Cruising, William Friedkin took a curious “hell with it, I’m going to do whatever I want” approach to projects. None of what he directed over the next decade, save for To Live and Die in L.A., came close to receiving the kind of acclaim his early 70s career did. If anything, it seemed as though he had given up his precise, occasionally unreasonable eye for perfection in favor of churning out the most generic cable-friendly nonsense possible. Continue Reading →
While difficult, it is essential when reviewing a film to evaluate it within the context of the era. To choose a relatively inoffensive hypothetical, if a movie made before 1980 refers to bipolar disorder as “manic depression,” you shouldn’t ding it for the outdated terminology. After all, at that moment, that was the proper parlance. Still, it’s not easy, especially when our understanding of an issue has changed significantly in the years since. This reviewer, for instance, struggled mightily to judge William Friedkin’s 1994 directorial effort Blue Chips on its own era-specific merits. Continue Reading →
If Sorcerer’s sole highlight was Roy Scheider's descent into hallucinatory madness amidst an almost lunar rock field, it would still be a special movie. Scheider is Jackie Scanlon, an American getaway driver turned washed-up exile in the isolated Columbian village of Porvenir. He’s the last survivor of a desperate mission to transport increasingly unstable dynamite to a burning oil well. The blaze is so bad that only controlled explosions to burn off its fuel stand a chance of extinguishing it. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, including Jackie’s kibashed truck giving out a long walk from the well. Haunted by—or just plain hallucinating—the laughter of his dead co-driver, he stumbles forward. Surrounded by the surreal with nothing but a rickety crate between him and the hair-trigger death, it’s all he can do besides die. Continue Reading →
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Despite their hue, not all TMNT films deserved to be greenlit.
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1984. Now almost 40 years later, what started as a comic book has inspired seven movies, five television series, and countless amounts of merchandise. This week the four ninja tortoises return in a new animated incarnation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Considering I’ve been a fan of the Turtles since six years old, this seems like the perfect time to put an official rating on four decades of movies. Some are gnarly, some tubular, and there’s always a whole lot of cowabunga. Continue Reading →
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
For characters who started in part as an affectionate homage to and goof on the character-defining Frank Miller-written Daredevil comics, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are remarkably flexible. This is true in-universe: being bendy is a package deal with being a master of ninjitsu. But I'm talking more about the sheer variety of Ninja Turtle projects. Continue Reading →
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
One of Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One's earliest pieces of marketing was a trailer-by-way-of-behind-the-scenes featurette. In that clip, Tom Cruise, strapped to a motorcycle, rockets off the edge of a cliff in the Swiss Alps. He lets the bike drop away before popping his parachute and sailing into the horizon. It's one of the most death-defying sequences ever captured on film and, as we now know, it's one Cruise himself did again and again and again. The sequence, even devoid of context, sums up exactly what director Chris McQuarrie and Cruise (the two are also co-producers) hoped to achieve in Dead Reckoning: grade A movie spectacle. Continue Reading →
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts
The blockbuster landscape shifted with Michael Bay's 2007 Transformers movie. It fit his directing style, with his love of explosions and male gazing, but what it amounted to was a guy playing with big, expensive cinematic toys. There was knowledge gained from those five previous installments when the 2018 spin-off Bumblebee had more personality and excitement than any of its predecessors. Continue Reading →
Forty years on, Adrian Lyne's tale of welding, dancing, dreaming, and cold-shoulder sweaters still leaves us all feeling like maniacs.
Personally, the notion of referring to films as "guilty pleasures" has always struck me as slightly absurd—if a movie can touch, thrill, amuse, arouse or otherwise entertain you in some way, don't feel guilty about it. Continue Reading →