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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

3 Ninjas

Friday, September 16th, 2022

They used to say that August was the “dog days,” when all the shitty movies get dumped. Yeah, okay, maybe some of them. But August 7, 1992 was when they released one of the best movies of the ’90s. A movie I continue to watch every couple years and absolutely love. One of those movies that’s kind of seen as a commentary on its genre but really it’s just a high watermark for it. This was even the movie that won best picture that year. Oh yeah no I’m not talking about 3 NINJAS yet, I’m talking about Clint Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN. I was planning to revisit it as part of this retrospective but jesus christ it’s September already, and I’ve already reviewed it before, I’ve even reviewed its Japanese remake before (it’s good!). If I was gonna write about it again I’d want more time to really focus on doing it justice and I can’t do that right now, I’d have to rush it. So instead here I am reviewing some real dog shit released on the same day. These are the choices we make as writers.

I had never seen 3 NINJAS before, but obviously I wasn’t gonna skip a movie that has three or more ninjas in it. It’s from director Jon Turteltaub (THE MEG), who had only done the Barbarian Brothers comedy THINK BIG (1990) and something called DRIVING ME CRAZY (1991) at this point, but somehow he got this released by Touchstone Pictures. Then he continued his Disney relationship by following it with COOL RUNNINGS (1993), WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING (1995), PHENOMENON (1996), INSTINCT (1999), DISNEY’S THE KID (2000), NATIONAL TREASURE (2004), NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS (2007), and THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (2010). Man, he got lucky though, because this is some real bottom of the barrel dreck, almost as bad as any off brand DTV throwaway kiddy garbage you’ll ever encounter. I guess Michael Eisner only cared about that “we’re not spending DICK TRACY money on anything anymore” edict we discussed in the ENCINO MAN review more than he cared about finding movies worthy of showing to people. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pinocchio (2022) (the Robert Zemeckis one)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

Well, I’m afraid it seems my fellow people who write about movies were not open to a giant corporation treating an 80+ year old animation masterpiece as i.p. to remake in a modern style, especially coming from a once A-list director they’ve turned on in his later, weirder years. So they engaged in a hyperbole measuring contest to find out who could hate Robert Zemeckis’s PINOCCHIO (2022) most outlandishly.

I get it, I guess, but I don’t relate. I can see refusing to give in to the existence of these remakes, I can see not wanting them to do it to PINOCCHIO specifically (it’s my personal favorite Disney movie), I can see not liking the finished product. But I can’t see thinking it’s terrible, let alone the worst thing you’ve seen lately/in years/ever. That’s just silly talk.

Yes, that is correct, I liked it for what it was. I’ll get into it in a minute. Just let me pre-amble a little bit more. (read the rest of this shit…)

Honey, I Blew Up the Kid

Monday, September 5th, 2022

note: I am very much aware that I’m way behind and the summer movie season is over but I’m gonna keep going and finish this Weird Summer retrospective. Enjoy! Please?


July 17, 1992

HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID is the first sequel to the 1989 Joe Johnston directed Walt Disney hit HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. Last time, eccentric inventor Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis, STREETS OF FIRE)’s machine accidentally shrunk his and the neighbors’ kids to, by one kid’s estimation, “the size of boogers.” This time he accidentally causes his new toddler son Adam (played by twins Daniel and Joshua Shalikar) to grow in spurts until he becomes basically a kaiju.

It’s directed by Randal Kleiser (THE BLUE LAGOON) and written by Thom Eberhardt (writer/director of NIGHT OF THE COMET) and Peter Elbling (Mr. T’s Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool!) & Garry Goodrow (The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour). A story credit goes to Goodrow (who was also an actor in Shirley Clarke’s THE CONNECTION), so I suspect that means he was the one who wrote BIG BABY, an unrelated giant baby script that was rewritten to fit into the HONEYverse. In that sense, the HONEY saga is much like the DIE HARD series. (read the rest of this shit…)

Oz the Great and Powerful

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022

And now in our journey through the films of Sam Raimi we have arrived at a difficult spot. We have come to the film that was at the time “the new Sam Raimi” but for a few years became “the last Sam Raimi?” I enjoyed OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL well enough when it came out in 2013 (here’s my review), even though a big commercial Disney movie that’s an unsolicited prequel to a famous story wasn’t high on the list of what I wanted to see from him. And it definitely wasn’t what I wanted to see him go out on.

Luckily he has now actually filmed his next movie, so a comeback is on deck. But isn’t it crazy that it’s been 9 years since the last Sam Raimi movie? To remind you of how long ago this was, it’s when FURIOUS 6 and MAN OF STEEL came out. It’s when they were on the first film of MCU Phase Two, IRON MAN THREE. We’re talking seven David Gordon Green movies ago (he was on PRINCE AVALANCHE, starring Paul Rudd, who was not yet Ant-Man). It’s when Franck Khalfoun’s remake of MANIAC came out, and Spike Lee’s remake of OLDBOY, and Ryuhei Kitamura’s WWE Films joint NO ONE LIVES. Remember those? No? You weren’t born yet? That’s what I’m saying – it’s been a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bingo

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

You may have thought I was done with the weird dog movies of summer ’91 after the ROVER DANGERFIELD (plus 101 DALMATIANS re-release) review last week, but if so you forgot all about the live action division. August 9, 1991 also saw the release of BINGO, a pretty odd movie about a kid whose family moves, leaving behind a dog he had secretly befriended, E.T. style.

It’s directed by Matthew Robbins, who as a writer contributed to George Lucas’ original THX 1138 short and Spielberg’s SUGARLAND EXPRESS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, and as a director gave us CORVETTE SUMMER, DRAGONSLAYER, THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN and *batteries not included. He doesn’t have a credit on the screenplay here – that went to newcomer Jim Strain.

Bingo is a dog who lives with a circus. One day he has to fill in for an injured poodle, but he freezes when he’s supposed to jump through a flaming hoop – a flashback tells us that his mother was killed in a pet store fire. (I sincerely love the shot of puppy Bingo mourning at his mother’s grave [with flowers!] like he’s Bruce Wayne or somebody.) His trainer Steve (Simon Webb, one episode of MacGyver) tries to shoot him, but Bingo escapes because Steve’s Peg-Bundy-looking-wife Ginger (Suzie Plakson, MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN) at least briefly sympathizes with him, telling him to run away and “Do whatever makes ya happy!

(read the rest of this shit…)

Frankenweenie

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

Frankenweenie is a 26-minute long black-and-white Disney live action short that was not quite, as far as I can tell, a Summer of 1985 release. It was made in 1984, planned to play with a re-release of THE JUNGLE BOOK that summer, then production was delayed, moving it to PINOCCHIO in December, but when it received a PG rating they couldn’t play it with a G-rated movie, so it got shelved until playing with only the U.K. release of BABY: THE SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND. I couldn’t find proof of a date, but if it was the same as the U.S. then it was in March of ’85.

But I decided it was an important backstory to fill in, because it keeps coming up. It was one of the projects then-25-year-old Disney artist Tim Burton switched to after the company didn’t use any of his designs for THE BLACK CAULDRON. It was the short they considered releasing with MY SCIENCE PROJECT. And it was what brought Burton to the attention of Paul Reubens to direct a classic Summer of 1985 movie we’ll be discussing tomorrow.

It’s a simple story. Barret Oliver (D.A.R.Y.L.) plays Victor Frankenstein, a normal suburban kid who enjoys making Super-8 monster movies with his dog Sparky. But one day while playing fetch, Sparky is run over by a car – off screen, in a beautifully crafted sequence of visual storytelling that ends with a baseball rolling to the curb and Victor rising to his feet in shock. (read the rest of this shit…)

Follow That Bird

Friday, July 31st, 2020

August 2, 1985

THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979) is a one-of-a-kind American family film masterpiece, followed by several enjoyable sequels. FOLLOW THAT BIRD (a.k.a. SESAME STREET PRESENTS FOLLOW THAT BIRD) is sort of the younger kids’ version of that, and it never quite caught on the same, but it’s worthy of sitting on the same shelf. It depicts Sesame Street (the street) on film, in cinematic terms, and takes some of its Muppet inhabitants out into the real world for adventures both goofy and heartfelt, with guest appearances by a few Canadian comedy stars.

It all happens because of a well-meaning but clueless all-bird organization called The Society of Feathered Friends, whose mission is “to place stray birds with nice bird families.” Somehow they receive a dossier about Big Bird living on a vacant lot with no bird friends, and decide to “help.” As they discuss how sad he looks in a photo an owl comments, “That’s funny, he looks happy to me,” causing outrage, because, according to Miss Finch (voice of Sally Kellerman, M*A*S*H), “We all know he can’t be happy. He needs to be with his own kind. A bird family.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Explorers

Monday, July 13th, 2020

July 12, 1985

Director Joe Dante came up in the world of Roger Corman – first cutting trailers, then directing PIRANHA – before his success with THE HOWLING (1981) brought him to the attention of Steven Spielberg, who produced TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983) and GREMLINS (1984). So it’s notable that Dante’s Summer of ’85 entry EXPLORERS is another that (like D.A.R.Y.L. or especially COCOON) seems like it wouldn’t have existed without the influence of Spielberg’s films.

In an interview with Podcasting Them Softly, screenwriter Eric Luke confirms, “The thing that sold it, that Paramount thought, let’s make this was like the one sentence concept, because E.T. had just come out and been the biggest hit ever, so my answer to that was three boys build their own space ship and go into space and it all works, it’s not just a fantasy, there’s some scientific underpinning.”

(read the rest of this shit…)

Return to Oz

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

June 21, 1985

Forty-six years after MGM’s beloved Technicolor musical THE WIZARD OF OZ, Walt Disney Pictures produced their own journey through the world of L. Frank Baum. Though titled and framed like a sequel, writer/director Walter Murch and co-writer Dennis Gill (WALK THE LINE) treated it more as a literary adaptation, basing it mostly on book #3, Ozma of Oz, combined with some characters from #2, The Marvelous Land of Oz. In an article by Alan Jones in the July, 1985 issue of Cinefantastique (my most quoted source in this review series, you may have noticed), executive producer Gary Kurtz (THE DARK CRYSTAL) says they “pondered at great length” whether to even use the iconic ruby slippers, since in the books they were silver.

Like its predecessor, the not-really-sequel is full of whimsical characters and underpinned with fairy tale menace, but in most other ways it’s wildly different. The colors are subdued rather than vivid, the settings are grounded rather than stagey, it stars 10-year-old newcomer Fairuza Balk as Dorothy rather than a teen like Judy Garland, and she doesn’t sing, because it’s not a musical. While WIZARD’s costumes, jokes and dance numbers come out of the vaudeville tradition, RETURN creates its world and characters with the rapidly evolving cinematic puppetry, animation and visual FX technology of the Lucas/Spielberg era. Murch told Cinefantastique, “At first I was worried about using state-of-the-art animatronics, but so many of the OZ personnel are graduates of The Muppets, STAR WARS, and THE DARK CRYSTAL that I realized it would be pointless to worry.”

The result is a classic entry in the unique-to-the-‘80s subgenre of dark, imaginative, FX-heavy fantasy for children, preceded by THE DARK CRYSTAL and THE NEVERENDING STORY and followed by LABYRINTH. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Goonies

Monday, June 8th, 2020

June 7, 1985

I have long held a stance on THE GOONIES that was highly controversial: I found it annoying. I don’t think I’m alone on that anymore, but it used to get me into trouble because of how many people of a particular age group hold that movie as a sacred relic of childhood.

For most of my writing career I’ve had a policy of being ambiguous about my age, because I wanted to seem like a crusty old man, regardless of how little that seemed to fit with the particular things I was knowledgeable about. As I get closer to being authentically old and crusty I’m starting to be more lax about that, so at last the truth can be told: I am exactly the right age to have grown up loving this movie. In fact, I did grow up loving this movie. And I’ll even go you one further: I saw it twice in one day. My mom took me and my friends to see it on my birthday, and since there wasn’t room in the car for my siblings, she brought them to see it later in the day, and I went that time too.

But when I saw it again as an adult I learned something disappointing: those fucking goonies never fucking shut up! This despite one character putting their hand over another character’s mouth to shut them up being a major motif. It’s a movie starring a group of pre-teen boys, and though they’re not quite as naturalistic as the kids in E.T. (which I think they were deliberately modeled after) they do have an accurate 12-year-old-boy energy, which means they’re constantly joking and giggling and bickering and yelling over each other and telling each other to be quiet. I was less patient with them than my mom must’ve been with my carload of friends, so for years after that viewing I would say that GOONIES feels like being tricked into chaperoning somebody else’s kids at Chuck E. Cheese. I didn’t remember that Martha Plimpton’s slightly older character actually sums up the movie well when she says something similar: “I feel like I’m babysitting except I’m not getting paid.”

Fast forward to today. The futuristic year of 2020. That figurative trip to Chuck E. Cheese was considerably longer ago than the double-screening birthday party had been at that time. Since then I’ve learned things. I’ve been through things. My tastes have changed. The world has turned more goonie. I was kind of excited to see it again and find out if I still hated it. I had no idea if I would. (read the rest of this shit…)