Movie Review: HUDSON HAWK

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hudson hawkTriStar Pictures

“History, tradition, culture…are not concepts! These are trophies I keep in my den as paperweights! The chaos we will cause with this machine will be our final masterpiece!”

Whenever I come across the movie Hudson Hawk mentioned in an article or podcast or whatever and whatnot, it’s always referenced as one of the worst movies of Bruce Willis’ film career. Not the worst, as it’s not even close to the likes of The Whole Ten Yards or A Good Day To Die Hard. I haven’t heard anyone say anything good about Hudson Hawk.

I aim to change that. Because, I may be in the woeful minority, but I actually not only enjoyed Hudson Hawk when I watched it in the theaters when it was released back in 1991, but I continue to watch it more often than most other movies.

If, for some reason you haven’t checked this out due to the negative press, Hudson Hawk is about a former cat burglar who is just released from prison, and just wants to play it straight, stay out of the crime game, and most importantly get a decent cup of Cappuccino. Only, there are certain people from the Mayflower Industries corporation who want to utilize Hudson’s special skill set to steal three of the most highly secured ancient artifacts in the world: the maquette of the Sforza, the Da Vinci Codex, and a scale model of DaVinci’s helicopter design. Why? Because these three components hide the pieces to a device that turns lead into gold, and Mr. and Mrs. Mayflower want to make their own gold to crash the world’s economy. To help Hawk on his mission is his long-time partner in crime, Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina, along with several associates that are on the Mayflower Industries’ payroll — including Hawk’s parole officers, a minor mob ring and some candy-themed CIA agents. Also, there’s a snarky British butler named Alfred with a propensity for spring-loaded wrist blades. With the help of an undercover nun (which is a great band name), it’s a wacky series of misadventures trying to keep the Mayflowers from taking over the world while attempting to have that elusive Cappuccino.

Hudson Hawk, to me, is the perfect flawed guilty pleasure. I adore this movie. It’s all over the place, with the cheeky performances, the over-the-top scene chewing, the absurdist humor injected into the plot, the gleeful cheese that flies at you…darn it, I’m just going to say give this at least one look before deciding for yourself if Hudson Hawk really is as bad as everyone says. As for me, I believe I just talked myself into watching this movie again.


Movie Review: X2

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x220th Century Fox

“Logan, my tolerance for your smoking in the mansion notwithstanding, continue smoking that in here, and you’ll spend the rest of your days under the belief that you’re a six-year-old girl.”

Fascinating. All this time, and even though I’ve reviewed all the other X-Men movies that have come out, I’ve never did a proper review for the second movie in the franchise, X2: X-Men United. I don’t know what may have caused this glaring oversight; consider this my long-overdue rectification of that issue.

At the time, X2 was described by director Bryan Singer as a darker, Empire Strikes Back style movie for the Merry Mutants. And yes…that is a very apt description of this movie. And if you’re somehow unfamiliar with the X2 storyline, let me tell you…

After an opening where the President of the United States narrowly escapes an assassination attempt, Wolverine returns from the journey of discovery he went on at the end of the first movie back to the Xavier Institute to find Professor Xavier tracking a mutant with a very erratic movement pattern. Later, while the Professor and Cyclops are off visiting Magneto in his prison, and Storm and Jean Grey are out trying to find Nightcrawler (the mutant that tried to kill the President), a military scientist gets the go ahead to invade Xavier’s school for gifted students. Wolverine manages to get several of the kids to safety, and escapes with Rogue, Iceman and Pyro. Meanwhile, Xavier and Cyclops are captured, while Mystique helps Magnito escape his prison. The two then run into the other X-Men, and form an uneasy alliance to take down the military scientist that invaded the mansion. His name is Stryker, and turns out is the man who originally infused the adamantium to Wolvie’s skeleton. They find the location of Stryker’s underground base, where he is using Xavier to telepathically kill every mutant on the planet. They infiltrate the base, and manage to free the mutants being held there, as well as destroy the device that was going to kill all mutantkind, and Jean Grey dies using her powers to keep the burst dam from killing everyone before the X-Men’s jet can take off. Everyone is safe, but sad now, although Professor Xavier senses things are not over with Jean.

Overall, X2 is counted as the best of the first three X-Men films for good reason. The stakes were higher, not everyone gets out unscathed, the villains are cast in a more sympathetic light, and not everything is what you would call black and white, cut and dried, and what have you. When we get to the end, there’s a tremendous sense of loss, but also a glimmer of hope on the horizon. X2 is a very satisfying X-Men movie, as well as an action movie in general. I still watch this one frequently, at least once every year or so, and count this as one of the few sequels that was better than the movie that preceded it. Hindsight being what it is, obviously X2 was probably the last one that fans really liked, until the First Class prequel ten years later. Regardless, I can’t think of anyone who’s a fan of the X-Men movies who haven’t seen X2 yet; if this is the case, you owe it to yourself to rectify that. Recommended.

Movie Review: CATWOMAN

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catwomanWarner Bros.


It’s been fifteen years. Fifteen years. A decade and a half since Warner Bros. foisted upon us this live action big screen solo outing for one of Batman’s more notable rogues in his gallery. I can’t even recall who demanded a Catwoman film to be made, outside of the success of Batman Returns, where they pretty much greenlit a possible Catwoman spinoff with Michelle Pfeiffer. That, of course, didn’t pan out. But, then it did. With Halle Berry, no less. I have my issues with her as an actress, yes, but I’m always open to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

For the record, I never caught Catwoman when it was in the theaters initially. The previews didn’t impress me, and the word of mouth was not favorable. Also, this was probably the final DC movie to be released before Christopher Nolan would prove that a DC superhero movie didn’t have to suck.

But alas, a few years later, I was pet-sitting at my sister and brother-in-law’s place, and in a fit of boredom, saw a copy of Catwoman in their DVD collection, and figured, why not see how bad this movie is. I mean, the current 9% on Rotten Tomatoes can’t be that accurate, right?

*sigh* Spoilers: It is. Let’s proceed down amnesia lane, then.

Here, we meet one Patience Phillips, a graphic designer working for a cosmetics company called Hedare Beauty. She’s what you would call mousy, personality wise: a meek people-pleaser who’s used by the alpha types at her place of enslavement employment. But, as plot convenience would have it, she stumbles upon a discussion between the CEO’s wife and a scientist about the danger of the new skin cream they’re about to foist upon the consumers, and after being discovered eavesdropping, is literally flushed out of the building, drowning in the process. But, then she’s brought back to life by an Egyptian Mau cat that happened to be in the area (how convenient), and now has super-duper cat-like abilities, like really good balance, looking adorable while playing with a ball of yarn, and being confounded by a laser pointer. I would presume. She then learns from an eccentric cat lady that she’s now one in a long line of “cat women” who have taken the mantle in the past after being resurrected by cats. So, Patience then takes on the name…well, Catwoman, and begins investigating the evil corporation she used to work at, and…

…okay, look. It’s getting rather painful having to remember this movie to write the premise, let along watching it all together. Let’s just invoke my standard “wackiness ensues” for the rest of the bit, and if you’re masochistic enough to wonder what happens, by all means, have at it. In any case…

One other thing to point out, here: Clearly, the inspiration for this Catwoman was cribbed from the origin that Tim Burton made up for Batman Returns, and bears no resemblance to the cat burglar origins within the proper Batman comic book universe. I have no problem with that, whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I find that concept intriguing, something that, if put in the right hands, could be rich with stories from throughout history. Unfortunately, that was not the case, here. Clearly, the residue of Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies was still influencing things, as Berry plays Catwoman as having the powers of slinking around in skimpy leather while spouting off bad cat-based puns with the dialogue. To say nothing of how over-the-top Sharron Stone went with her villain character.

In the end, Catwoman encapsulates everything that went wrong with comic book movies in the 1990s and a bit into the Aughts. Things got better, yes, but with Catwoman, I’m left with a very, very bad taste in my mouth. Best to just trash this nasty hairball and pass on this.

Movie Review: BATMAN & ROBIN

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batman & robinWarner Bros.

“What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!”

So, here we are, at what is universally thought of as not only the worst Batman movie, but maybe the worst superhero movie ever made. I personally disagree with the later assertion (Catwoman? Barb Wire? Freakin’ Superman IV, anyone?); as to the previous — that this is the worst Batman movie — yes. I whole-heartedly agree that Batman & Robin is a rank pile of bat-guano. Pun intended.

Again, I watched Batman & Robin the weekend it was released. I went with my brother-from-a-different-mother Scott. We’re both aficionados of bad, cheesy movies; watching Batman & Robin was nearly our undoing. That’s right, people. I deliberately watch movies like Manborg, and this was the movie that nearly broke me back in 1997.

Here’s the rundown: Batman (now played by George Clooney) and Robin (still played by Chris O’Donnell, but sporting a costume more in keeping with Nightwing) go up against the nefarious Mr. Freeze, who’s stealing the diamonds from the Gotham natural history museum to help power up his suit needed to keep him alive. Meanwhile, at a Wayne Enterprises lab in Brazil (wow, his corporation can be found anywhere), a Dr. Isley is helping to develop the Venom drug under Dr. Woodrue (hey, shout-out to the Swamp Thing, nifty), which leads into the creation of the hulking Bane. Then Dr. Woodrue tries to kill Dr. Isley, which only results in turning her into Poison Ivy and destroying everyone and everything in the lab, except for Bane, who is essentially her muscle, escaping to Gotham to wreak havoc on Wayne Enterprises. Meanwhile meanwhile, back at stately Wayne Mannor, Alfred Pennyworth’s niece, Barbara Wilson, surprise visits. Both Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze crash a charity event attended by the Dynamic Duo, Robin starts getting all angsty with Batman, Alfred is dying from the same affliction that Mr. Freeze has, and Barbara stumbles upon the Batcave and becomes a nipple-less Batgirl. They all team up and defeat Poison Ivy, then head out to stop Mr. Freeze from freezing Gotham and making horrendous ice-based puns. They arrive at the spot a bit too late, is attacked by Bane, where Robin and Batgirl take him out, while Batman stops Mr. Freeze with hope for finding a cure for his wife. Also, a few punches. Gotham is de-iced, Alfred is cured (because of course he would be), and we end on the silhouettes of the three heroes running away from this awful movie. The end.

Batman & Robin is a glorious train wreck that is still talked about 20 years after the fact. It’s easily the worst superhero / comic book movie to have been released in 1997, and that was the year that the live-action Spawn movie was released. The camp is turn up to past 11, with every opportunity for puns exploited to full effect. If you groaned at the idea of Bat Shark Repellent from the 1966 Batman movie, you’re going to love things like the Bat Credit Card, pop-out ice skates in the boots, the numerous ice-based puns and one-liners that Arnold Schwarzenegger chews up and spits out at an 87% efficiency rating. To say nothing of the head-scratching decisions this movie decided to go with. Batgirl is now Alfred’s niece, and not the daughter of Commissioner Gordon? Bane is a meat-headed, non-articulate muscle regulated to Poison Ivy’s bodyguard, instead of the criminal mastermind who broke Batman in the comics? The Nightwing costume for Robin? George Clooney? Truly, Batman & Robin is the worst Batman movie ever made…

…and yet, I can’t not watch it whenever I stumble upon it. It’s horrible, yes, but it’s gloriously horrible. For the same reason I love the 1960s Adam West Batman series, I will watch Batman & Robin just to glory in the campy badness. Really, to quote a better Batman movie, Batman & Robin may not have been the Batman movie we wanted, but (for 1997) it was definitely the Batman movie we deserved for the time. Recommended to watch at least once.


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hitman's bodyguardLionsgate

“You’ve got a speck of blood on your…everywhere.”

Action comedies. They’re a think, I’m told. I’ve even seen a few here and there, even going so far as enjoying a handful. And the beauty of watching action comedy movies nowadays, you have the option of not having to pay monies to watch it in the theater. Nope, wait a month or so, and you can just stream a rental for half that price. Which is to say, I watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

On the outset, The Hitman’s Bodyguard seemed like the perfect weekend popcorn flick. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in a buddy road trip movie? Sounds like a license to print money, there. And yet, I waited until it was available as a rental to watch. So then, what did I think of the movie?

Eh, it’s all right.

So, Ryan Reynolds plays a bodyguard employed by a European-based protection agency. After a high-level client dies under his watch, he’s been stuck doing low-level protection gigs in London. Meanwhile, a notorious hitman is being brought in to testify against a ruthless dictator at the International Criminal Court, bu the convoy is ambushed, and everyone except the hitman and the bodyguard’s ex-girlfriend Interpol agent are killed. Figuring there may be a mole in the mix, she rings up her ex to try and convince him to protect the hitman and get him to the courthouse in time to testify. Of course, the hitman and the bodyguard’s respective personalities clash, something that doesn’t help the situations where they’re either getting shot at and bombed, or when the hitman tries to escape his reluctant chaperone. Your standard road trip action tropes ensue, ending in your standard way.

Yeah, I would say the best thing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is Samuel L. Jackson. That’s par for the course. You put Samuel L. Jackson in any movie, and we’re hard pressed to think of anybody else being the best part of said movie. And while I have nothing but massive respect for Ryan Reynolds’ brand of snarky dry sarcasm, he’s definitely outshined by Jackson’s portrayal of a hitman you can’t help but root for. Especially when he finally goes through his back story. As a matter of fact, Reynolds is probably the third memorable thing about this movie; ___ as Jackson’s rather feisty wife steals the show as well, I have to say. I want to see a movie about her and Jackson’s characters, actually. But, that’s probably not going to happen, so on with finishing things up here.

Overall, The Hitman’s Bodyguard was far more entertaining than I thought it would be, albeit just as formulaic as I expected. Jackson is fantastic, Reynolds’s character worked best when verbally sparring with his ex, and…well, things go boom and there is a pretty good boat and motorcycle chase that was rather entertaining to watch. Beyond that, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is more of a rental than something to own outright.


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amazing spider-manColumbia Pictures

“You know, in the future, if you’re going to steal cars, don’t dress like a car thief, man.”

For the longest time, I avoided watching The Amazing Spider-Man. I didn’t want to watch a movie that I felt was completely unnecessary. It had only been ten years since the first Spider-Man film tickled my fanboy sensibilities, and to me this whole rebooting nonsense was getting ridiculous. And thus, true to my curmudgeonly ways, I held off watching The Amazing Spider-Man for a couple of years. Until now, of course. The fanboy curiosity got the best of me, finally, coincidentally when it had been on DVD long enough to be rented for cheep. Fancy that.

First things first–The Amazing Spider-Man came about not from a strong desire to reboot the franchise (though, given Spider-Man 3, I wouldn’t have been that surprised if that was the case); seems Sony was more than willing to do a Spider-Man 4 with Sam Raimi, but his schedule was a bit busy, and Sony was in danger of having the rights revert back to Marvel in the intern, so they had to go forward without Raimi; but, instead of doing SM4 without him, they opted to do an entirely new take with another director. So…okay, understandable. Personally, I think Spider-Man belongs back home at Marvel Studios, but that’s not the point.

Also, kind of wanted to point out that I’m not out to compare The Amazing Spider-Man with the 2002 adjective-less Spider-Man. I shall be reviewing this on its own merits. So, with that in mind, how did The Amazing Spider-Man fare? Did the movie do live action justice to one of my all-time favorite comic book characters? Or is this the worst thing to happen since One More Day?

The Amazing Spider-Man is your basic origin story for the character, and anyone familiar with the comics know it well: Geekity-nerd Peter Parker, unpopular with his high school comrades, but popular with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, gets bitten by an experimented-on spider while at a science lab, and suddenly finds himself going through puberty…er, I mean, gaining the proportional speed and agility of spider, and using that power to be a jerk to his loved ones (are we sure his isn’t puberty, here?). His Uncle Ben dies at the hands of the thief Peter could have stopped but didn’t (see: “jerk”), and thus becomes the Luchador-esque crime fighter known as Spider-Man. Just in time, too, because his scientist mentor has taken a formula to regrow his arm, which it has…along with turning the rest of him into a lizard person. And in the process of trying to take down the Lizard, his crush’s police chief father gets caught in the crossfire, all the while learning the hard way that with great something-something comes great something-or-other. I haven’t worked that part out yet…

I found Amazing Spider-Man…well, not terrible. Not unwatchable. There was a lot of action, a lot of things going on, we get yet another variation of the origin story and such. Andrew Garfield did okay as Peter Parker; however, writing this after watching Spider-Man: Homecoming, I can’t help but compare him to what I now consider the definitive big screen Peter Parker…and he ranks a bit below Tobey Maguire still. I did enjoy the incorporation of The Lizard as the antagonist this go-around; overall, though, it seemed a bit more flash and a not much more than that. It was entertaining, and that was that. Worth a rental, I would say.


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batman returnsWarner Bros.

“Actually, this is all just a bad dream. You’re at home, in bed, heavily sedated, resting comfortably, dying from the carcinogens you personally spewed in a lifetime of profiteering. Tragic irony or poetic justice, you tell me.”

So, now that the world knows my thoughts on the 1989 Batman movie (and if you somehow missed it, it’s right here), you’re probably wondering if I happen to harbor the same “meh” reaction to the sequel, Batman Returns. Well…yes and no. And as always, there a long-winded story behind this.

Unlike the first Batman movie, I actually watched Batman Returns in the theater when it came out in the summer of 1992. And upon my first viewing of the movie, I wasn’t all that impressed. Looking back there were some factors that lent to that: The big one probably being expecting an action movie based on a comic book character. I was not expecting a really dark comedy disguised as an action movie.

It’s Christmastime (even though the movie was released in June, but whatever, it’s Christmas now), and after a flashback featuring a surprise Pee Wee Herman, we meet Salina Kyle, the rather put-upon secretary of Gotham business magnate Max Shreck, a man who, as the name suggests, is a very power man who probably fades away when the sun comes up. After accidentally discovering some nefarious doings Max’s company was involved in, Max personally pushes her out of a multi-story window, where she presumably dies but then brought back to life by ally cats. Meanwhile, there’s a deformed weirdo that dwells in Gotham’s surprisingly elaborate sewer system, calling himself the Penguin working with Shriek to become Mayor of Gotham. Between that and the appearance of Catwoman in the mix, Batman has his hands full this go-round.

Upon initial watching, I have to say I wasn’t very impressed with Batman Returns. It was just a little too weird for my tastes back then. Of course, as time passed and my tastes and sensibilities developed to what they are now, Batman Returns grew to become my favorite of the four Burton / Schumacher-era Batman movies. I’ve grown to appreciate the darkly Gothic weirdness, the bizarre twisted take of the comic book superhero world. The take on the Penguin here is gleefully terrifying, Catwoman proves to be a perfect foil to Batman (though I found myself wondering more than once how she could actually movie in that vacuum-sealed costume), and Gotham itself is a fever dream of a nightmarish Wonderland architecture. The fact that it is set during Christmas just adds to the ambience.

Overall, if you’re going to watch only one of the four Burton/Schumacher Batman movies, I recommend Batman Returns. Now, to relive the horrors that were the two following Batman movies…*shiver*

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