Movie Review: ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES

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Movie Review ADDAMS FAMILY VALUESParamount Pictures
1993
PG-13

“You have enslaved him. You have placed Fester under some strange sexual spell. I respect that. But please, may we see him?”

Two years after the first live action Addams Family music delighted my sensibilities, here came a sequel that, somehow, turned out to be just as good as — if not better than — the first movie. The entire cast is back, and everything builds on the wackiness of the first.

We begin the movie immediately with the birth of the newest Addams addition — little Pubert. As such, Gomez and Morticia hire a nanny to take care of the baby. Uncle Fester finds himself smitten with her, while the other children — Wednesday and Pugsley — are less than thrilled with the new additions. Unbeknownst to everyone, the nanny is a serial killer named the Black Widow, whose MO is marrying wealthy bachelors and then killing them to get their fortune. And she has her eye on bagging Uncle Fester. To get the suspicious kids out of the way, she sends them to summer camp, where things go exactly as you would expect for them. Meanwhile, Uncle Fester and the Nanny get hitched, and she then tries to kill him, and things go exactly as you would expect with that. Pubert catches a nasty case of The Normals, and the newly minted Mrs. Addams takes the entire family hostage in frustration. Then things get weird.

Originally watching Addams Family Values in the theater back when this was first released was great. I immediately wanted to own it on video, despite it being a new release at the time. The movie somehow not only duplicated the extremely funny type of whimsical morbid humor that I loved about the first Addams Family movie, but upped it. I especially love the summer camp parts, with Wednesday’s interaction with the normal kids and counselors. To this day, I still sing the “Eat Me” song around Thanksgiving.

Overall, the entirety of Addams Family Values is great. Darkly funny, highly quotable, getting something new out of it every time I watch it…seriously, why am I still writing this review? I am going to watch this movie again. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: JOE Vs. The VOLCANO

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joe vs the volcanoWarner Bros.
1990
PG

“Do you want to marry him?”
“Yes.”
“Do you want to marry her?”
“Yes.”
“Good. You’re married.”

The year was 1990, t’was the later spring time, and I was a 16-year-old buck with my first car and freedom and a bit of disposable income, so one Saturday afternoon I decide to catch a flick at the movie theater in town. “Town” being 20-25 minutes away by car. 15 minutes by foot. Yep, I just made an obscure M*A*S*H reference. Because that’s how I roll.

Anyway, the movie that I was fated to watch that afternoon was Joe Vs The Volcano. I remember choosing it because it starred Tom Hanks. At this point in his career, Hanks was famous, but he had yet to hit the uber-famous icon status that he would in the 1990s and beyond. Personally, I loved him in Big, so I caught Joe Vs. The Volcano on that strength alone. Also, the TV spots made it look like a wacky comedy. Only, Joe Vs. The Volcano wasn’t a wacky comedy, so much as it turned out to be an offbeat romantic comedy.

One more thing before I continue: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly certain this is the first on-screen team up between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Anyhoo…

Hanks plays the titular Joe, a desk jockey working a dead end and thankless job, until one day his doctor diagnoses him with a “brain cloud”, an incurable condition that will kill Joe within five or six months. Give or take a plot convenience. This gives him the motivation to quit his job and live the rest of his remaining time to his fullest. Soon thereafter, he’s approached by a wealthy industrialist with a proposition to have Joe sacrifice himself into a volcano to appease the natives of the Pacific island of said volcano, so he can mine a McGuffin mineral that is only found on that island, all within 20 days. Take as long as you need to let that process, there. Figuring he has nothing to lose, Joe agrees to this, and takes off on the wackiest boat ride of his life to the island. Along the way, he meets up with the daughter of the wealthy industrialist (well, one of ’em, anyway), gets caught in a storm and adrift on his floating luggage in the ocean (not the last time Tom Hanks was going to find himself adrift on the ocean in a movie), then serendipity! finds himself adrift-ed onto the very island he was supposed to be on, where the natives are lead by Abe Vigoda, who marries the two before they jump into the volcano together…only to have the volcano immediately belch them back out and destroy the island anyway. Which is fine, because it seems the doctor gave Joe a fake diagnosis in the first place, because the wealthy industrialist paid him to get a willing sacrifice. So, um…the end, I guess.

I have to admit that I wasn’t very much enamored with Joe Vs. The Volcano when I first watched it at the theater back in the day. I recall being a bit bored at points, but it was quirky enough to keep my interest. Even now, with me having developed a better appreciation for what it is as an offbeat dark comedy. To this day, my favorite part of the movie was where Abe Vigoda marries Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters by going “Do you want to marry him? Do you want to marry her? Good, you’re married. I’m going now.” Regardless, Joe Vs. The Volcano isn’t very high ranking in my Nostalgia Memory Banks. But, it’s more entertaining than the sum of its parts. Worth a look-see some time.

Movie Review: BRIGHT

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brightNetflix
2017
R

“This is like a nuclear weapon that grants wishes.”

In an alternate present day, humans, orcs, elves and faeries have been coexisting since the beginning of time. Two police officers, one a human, the other an orc, embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which, in the wrong hands, could destroy everything.

When discussing with my friends movies of the past that are remembered fondly, but would agree could probably do with an updated redux, one that always springs to mind is Alien Nation. One of my many favorites from my youth, it’s a buddy cop sci-fi flick in which a human cop and a space alien cop who find themselves caught in the midst of shenanigans between other humans and the space alien refugees who are acclimating to human society. Yeah, it’s pretty heavy-handed with the social commentary, but I love it, and think it should be redone, especially in this political climate.

The reason why I bring this up is because I was getting some serious Alien Nation vibes while watching the Netflix original movie bright. I hate to say this, but Bright may be the closest we’ll get to a modern retelling of Alien Nation (sorry, District 9). And this one doesn’t even have space aliens.

Pause for a moment…is it bad that I feel the need to specify space aliens, and not just say “aliens”? I digress…

Bright takes place in a modern society where the folklore creatures of old have always existed, and dwell side-by-side with humans, giving rise to a different kind of class struggle, but still similar: the Elves are the rich upper-class, the Orcs are the lower class, while the humans are somewhere in the middle. And since the social commentary is about as subtle as a wrecking ball with the word “SUBTLE” spray painted on it, the regular prejudices between species abound.

So, anyhoo, the story of Bright involves a couple of LAPD cops–one human that’s just got back from leave after being shot by an orc while on duty, and the other an orc rookie–who come across an Elvin Bright and a magic wand. A “Bright” is essentially any being–human, orc and elf alike–that can wield magic and, most importantly, can hold a magic wand without being immediately atomized in the process. Now, the two cops who don’t really like each other to begin with have to survive the night protecting the elf and the wand from crooked cops, gang bangers, orc gang bangers, renegade elf cultists and the Magic Feds. Wackiness.

So far, since its release, Bright has been getting some divisive reviews, from those who praise it as a great gritty urban fantasy movie, and those who deride it as the worst movie to ever be released in 2017, if ever. I have yet to stumble across a review speculating that perhaps Brightis threatening The Lord Of The Rings as the most ambitious fantasy movie of the 21st Century, but then again the group of online reviewers and vloggers of movies is kind of limited. Anyway, let me throw in my paltry two cents on Bright.

I rather enjoyed Bright. Sure, it comes off as if someone just took two random genres and smooshed them together — “What if, like, Training Day or Lethal Weapon had, like, orcs and elves and other fantasy creatures?” — but for what it is, it’s a well-made multi-genre smooshing. Yes, the story follows the same beats as the other police drama thrillers that David Ayer has made — S.W.A.T., Street Kings, the aforementioned Training Day — and Will Smith once again plays Will Smith as a fill-in-the-blank. And did I mention the not-so-subtle social commentary? But, despite all this, the movie works on a level that I don’t think anyone was expecting. The dynamic between the main characters Ward and Jakoby works, as they don’t really like each other, but find themselves in a situation where they have to have each other’s backs. Mind you, the story is rather predictable, but at no point did things get stale along the way. Admittedly, at first I thought this was another adaptation of a comic book series, as the premise does seem custom-made for one. But no, this was an original script (in a matter of speaking). By far, my favorite character is the orc Jakoby, who refuses to succumb to stereotypes and try to do some good in a world that doesn’t seem to care for his type.

Overall, though the flaws are evident, I would recommend checking out Bright. You may like it, you may not, but it’s definitely not the worst thing ever to come out of 2017.

Movie Review: The APE

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ape, theMonogram Pictures
1940
NR

“I don’t like things I can’t understand.”

The Ape is one of those old-timey B-Movies that were included on the 50 Horror Movies pack I picked up a little over a decade ago, and am still working my way through. These were comprised mostly of Public Domain films, which I dig on, because of both my love of kitschy cheese movies from the past, and sometimes you stumble upon a charming classic in the process.

The Ape falls under the former category, here.

Released in 1940 and staring Boris Karloff as a kindly yet a bit excentric doctor of medicine, The Ape clocks in at just over an hour in length. Technically not movie length, but just right for what it is.

Anyway, The Ape tells the tale of a medical doctor who is working on a way to cure a local town lady’s polio and get her to walk again. The formula he’s working on calls for spinal fluid to work; of course, everyone in town thinks the doctor is strange and ostracizes him, so there aren’t any willing donors around to help. However, an ape escapes from the nearby circus, and begins a reign of terror in the town. Soon, the ape breaks into the doctor’s laboratory, and in the ensuing fight is killed by the doctor, who then decides to skin the ape and use it as a disguise to essentially murder townspeople to harvest their sweet, sweet spinal fluid to cure the young lady. It goes about as well as you would expect.

Accordingly, The Ape was loosely base on a play made in 1924, in that the only element kept from the play was the disguising as an ape part. Otherwise, the rest of the plot was a product of the writer’s imagination. As a movie in and of itself, really the only thing keeping me from regulating The Ape to a “pass on this” verdict is Boris Karloff, who was an actor who could lend gravitas to an Elementary School play. The drama behind the townsfolk not liking the doctor seems like a forced issue, as it’s never really established why he’s disliked to begin with, beyond the standard “small town yokel” stereotyping. Fortunately, it’s only an hour long, and not too much of a slog to sit through. Definitely watch this if you’re something of a Karloff enthusiast, otherwise this is more of something you’d find on an obscure cable channel some weekend afternoon after a nap.

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