Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Movie Round-Up Part 1 of 3

This will be the first of three posts covering the movies I have seen so far this summer. Each post will include 8 brief reviews. At the end of this post I'll go over my scoring system. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be my first film topic post, which will be a weekly feature. On Sunday I'll continue with Part Two.

Joel Schumacher's 1987 vampire flick, The Lost Boys, is a lot of fun. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the soundtrack. It was hard to believe that this movie was directed by the same guy who made Batman & Robin. The acting wasn't anything special, but just what was called for as this is a horror film geared toward teenagers that features plenty of humor. My favorite character was Grandpa (Emmy Award winner Barnard Hughes) who was hilarious and should have had his own movie. I saw this with a group of friends, some of whom had seen the movie before, and we had a blast. However, when it comes to 80s vampire movies I still prefer Fright Night (the remake starring Colin Farrell is coming soon!) and Near Dark (which is also reviewed in this post).
The Lost Boys bites into a 6/10!

The Untouchables, also released in 1987, is the second Brian De Palma movie I have seen. The first you ask? Well it is hard to believe, but this is the same guy who directed the mediocre at best Mission to Mars! Luckily this is much better as well as a much more enjoyable film. The Untouchables is based on the true story of government agent Eliot Ness as he tries to bring down the gangster Al Capone. Although there are some historical inaccuracies, it doesn't matter since the film is engrossing and makes you want to know more about the real story. Sean Connery is fantastic as Jim Malone, an older cop who helps Ness in his quest to defeat Capone. This role won Connery an Oscar (his only) for best supporting actor.  
The Untouchables shoots its way into 8/10!

At the moment Thor is the most recent movie I have seen in theaters, and I was lucky to see it with a group of friends which made for a fun experience. Thor is based on the Marvel comic book character which is in turn based on the Norse god of thunder and Norse mythology in general. While I was not too familiar with either before watching Thor, I enjoyed it. Sure there is a bit too much CGI and the romance between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane (Natalie Portman) felt forced, but overall Thor has a solid blend of action and humor. Director Kenneth Branagh put his Shakespearean background to good use by giving the movie shades of King Lear, while the villain is not a one-sided bad guy but a complex, tragic figure. Thor is more on par with Iron Man 2 (which I still liked even though it was a bit of a mess) than the first Iron Man, but so far Marvel Studios has only made good movies. Hopefully this trend will continue with the July 2011 release of Captain America as well as the highly anticipated The Avengers in 2012.
Thor hammers a 6/10!

When Spike TV first started it would air two Jean-Claude Van Damme movies over and over again. One was Bloodsport (1988) and the other was KickBoxer. The movies share the same star, were filmed around the same time, and are both martial arts movies so you can understand why they always blended together in my mind. Luckily I got to re-watch this with a group of friends which is the best way to watch this flick. The fighting scenes are done well and Van Damme's facial expressions alone make this one worth watching. Don't expect much of a plot, even though it is supposedly based on true events. Donald Gibb is hilarious in a supporting role as Van Damme's friend who competes with him in a deadly martial arts competition. Bloodsport may not be a good movie, but it certainly is entertaining which is not something all movies can claim.
Bloodsport kicks and punches its way to a 5/10!

I first heard about Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) from my Dad, who told me it was a movie he had seen as a kid. We watched it together and even though he had seen it before, it was so long ago that we both did not know what to expect. I was guessing it would be cheesy and campy but it was not. Instead the film is an interesting sci-fi adaptation of the Robinson Crusoe story with a quiet atmosphere as the main character (Paul Mantee) simply tries to survive while spending most of the film by himself. It is an older film but still looks stunning on the Criterion Collection Blu-ray released. Adam West appears in a minor role as one of only four characters in the film, one of whom is a monkey! The film was directed by Byron Haskin who is most famous for directing Treasure Island (1950) and The War of the Worlds (1953). This makes sense as Robinson Crusoe on Mars is sort of a combination of the two since it is a version of a classic adventure story as well as science fiction. The science used in the story is dated, but Mars is portrayed close to the science of the time and not simply as pure fantasy.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars blasts off into a 7/10!

I am a big fan of Predator and I liked Predator 2 so I had been cautiously optimistic about another Predator movie. And no, I don't count the Alien vs. Predator series as real Alien or Predator movies! Although we didn't get the Arnie cameo that all Predator fans wanted, this was an enjoyable sequel with some nice twists and turns. There are still no bad movies in the Predator canon. Adrien Brody is cast against type as a bad-ass soldier, but somehow it works. Topher Grace on the other hand is totally out of place, even when the true nature of his character is revealed. I loved the concept of having an alien planet as a game preserve and it was fun watching these dangerous characters having to work together. However, the jungle setting, as well as a few other aspects, tend to rehash the original a bit too much. The relationship between Royce (Brody) and Isabelle (the female lead, played by Alice Braga) worked, but felt too similar to that of Hicks and Ripley in Aliens. There were even some direct references to that movie such as the line, "If the time comes, I'll do us both" and the fact that at the end of both movies the characters finally share their names with each other. I still enjoyed it, but I just wish Predators spent more time being Predators instead of trying too hard to be Predator and Aliens. Predator 2 often gets ragged on, but at least it tried to do something different with its "urban jungle" setting. Considering how some sequels turn out, Predators is not bad at all though still the weakest of the series for me. I'm not counting the Aliens vs. Predator movies which I haven't seen.
Predators hunts down a 6/10!

Before the Roger Corman Blogathon kicked off, Nate told me to watch X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963). Starring Ray Milland as a doctor who gave himself x-ray vision, this was actually only the second Corman movie I had ever seen. While I obviously still need to see a lot more Corman movies, this is so far the one I consider to be his best. The acting is perfect for the tone and there is some great directing. My favorite scene had to be the dance party in which Dr. Xavier sees everyone naked thanks to his x-ray vision! It was fun to see some familiar faces (Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt, and Don Rickles) who appeared on my all-time favorite TV show, The Twilight Zone. "If thine eye offends thee... pluck it out!"
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes has the vision to get a 7/10!

Before Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for directing The Hurt Locker, which also won best picture, she made a fun little movie set in the American West about... bloodsuckers. You know, people who bite others and stay up all night. I'll stop, but the point is that Near Dark (1987) is a movie about vampires that never uses the dreaded v-word! Unfortunately this movie got overshadowed by The Lost Boys which came out the same year and was also about teenage vampires. However don't let success at the box office fool you, this is a better and more interesting movie. Jenny Wright puts in a haunting performance as Mae, a young female vampire who "turns" Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), a farmhand who works for his father. The other vampires are played by the cast of Aliens. I'm not kidding, we have Bill Paxton, Lance Hendrickson, and Jenette Goldstein as the older vampires. I guess it makes sense since Bigelow was married to James Cameron at one point. In addition to those actors, Joshua John Miller plays Homer. He appears to be about twelve years old and therefore the youngest in this group of vampires. However, since vampires can live forever, it actually turns out that he is the oldest with the other characters referring to him as an "old man." The synthesizer score by Tangerine Dream felt out of place, but I don't think it significantly detracts from the movie. This gritty vampire flick is criminally underrated and the perfect antidote for those Twilight movies!
Near Dark doesn't suck, as it gets a 7/10!

Here is how I do my rating system: It is not rocket science but merely a combination of how much I enjoyed the movie plus how well I felt it was made (acting, directing, writing, cinematography, etc.). A 10/10 would be a movie I absolutely loved and felt was incredibly made, a 5/10 would be about average in both respects, while a 1/10 would be totally boring and utter crap. Actually for this blog I'll make that a 0/10 although IMDB only goes as low as 1/10. I might also do .5 ratings (ex: 7.5/10) on this blog since I can't do that on IMDB. I don't give out 1's and 2's easily and 9's and 10's are even more rare. My ratings can change a bit over time, especially when I haven't seen a film in a while. I feel that the content of the review is more helpful and important than any number or grade, but I'll still include my rating for each movie.

On Sunday I will post Part Two, in which I review a Hitchcock film, another Corman flick, and three movies released in 2010!


  1. When you saw "The Untouchables" was that during Good Movie Club?


    My icy thoughts concerning "Thor" have somewhat warmed over the past month or so...still...I think that it could have been a lot better.

    As for "Bloodsport"...all I can say is CHONG LI! CHONG LI! CHONG LI!

    "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" was a delightful discovery that I found when I was working my way through the Criterion Collection (I am proud to say that I have seen 541 of the 582 films in the collection). It was a fantastic piece of sci-fi glory featuring some surprisingly great effects!

    I still need to see "Predators"...and for that matter one of these days "Predator 2."

    I'm thrilled that you loved "X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes." That film brings me so much joy! "PLUCK IT OUT! PLUCK IT OUT!"

    I've never even HEARD of "Near Dark." And you say it was directed by Bigelow?

    Anyway...I'm looking forward to your next update!

  2. The Lost Boys and Untouchables were both on good movie night and Thor and Bloodsport were also both before we graduated so I think you saw 3 of those 4 with me!

    Glad to hear you liked Robinson Crusoe on Mars, the Criterion Collection did a great job with it, although I guess they usually do with every movie they release.

    Near Dark was only Bigelow's second full-length movie but it does have a cult following. If you ever get the chance check it out

  3. RVChris, glad to see you giving generally favorable reviews to some of my favorites, including the modern classic NEAR DARK; THE UNTOUCHABLES (I love that look in Charles Martin Smith's eyes when they toss a gun into his hands, as if to say, "Wow! My big chance!"), and the PREDATORS remake. Admittedly, I'm also somewhat biased because I'm a big fan of Adrien Brody. :-) I just got reacquainted with X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES thanks to our own Nathanael Hood giving us an excuse to blog about it in his Roger Corman Blogathon. Will you be participating in the upcoming Monster Movies Blogathon in late July/early August?

  4. Glad to hear you are enjoying my blog, Dorian! By the way Predators is a sequel and not a remake, although there was a lot of rehashing so I can see why you made that mistake! I didn't think Brody would be able to pull off that role at first but I think he did a good job.
    And yes, I will be doing the monster movies blogathon. I am going to review one of my favorite movies, Forbidden Planet!