Release Date: March 27th, 2000 (Westwood premiere) Directed by: Rob Cohen Written by: John Pogue Music by: Randy Edelman Cast: Joshua Jackson, Paul Walker, Hill Harper, Leslie Bibb, Christopher McDonald, Steve Harris, William Petersen, Craig T. Nelson
Original Film, Newmarket Capital Group, Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes
“Our rules supercede those of the outside world.” – Senator Ames Levritt
Twenty-one years later, I finally got around to seeing this movie.
I never had much urge to see it but I figured I’d give it a shot because it popped up on one of my streaming services and I had recently read a book about the Skull & Bones.
So, I probably shouldn’t have clicked “play” because this was just as pointless, terrible and mind-numbingly stupid as I had assumed it would be.
This film has no redeeming qualities, if I’m being honest.
The acting is below the capabilities of the decent actors in this, the direction is bad, the story is moronic, the cinematography looks like a ’90s music video, the score is fucking atrocious and there isn’t a single likable character in this apart from Leslie Bibb, who is the only moral character that doesn’t suck the fluid out of my brain.
Well, I guess that pretty quickly summed up this wet turd. There’s honestly not much else to say other than I wish this movie would’ve been as short as this review.
Also known as: Be Prepared (working title) Release Date: March 24th, 1989 Directed by: Jeff Kanew Written by: Pamela Norris, Margaret Grieco Oberman, Ava Ostern Fries Music by: Randy Edelman Cast: Shelley Long, Craig T. Nelson, Betty Thomas, Mary Gross, Stephanie Beacham, Karen Kopins, Jenny Lewis, Emily Schulman, Carla Gugino, Kellie Martin, Tasha Scott, Ami Foster, Audra Lindley, Tori Spelling, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (cameo), Frankie Avalon (cameo), Dr. Joyce Brothers (cameo), Robin Leach (cameo), Cheech Marin (cameo), Ted McGinley (cameo), Pia Zadora (cameo)
Fries Entertainment, Weintraub Entertainment Group, 105 Minutes
“Her recommendations for a campsite were totally unsuitable. There were no outlets. And there was dirt, and bugs, and… and it rains there. So anyway, we’ve found a place that’s much more us: the Beverly Hills Hotel.” – Phyllis Nefler
Troop Beverly Hills is the most Shelley Long movie ever made.
What I mean by that is that the film really showcases all of her strengths without even giving her the opportunity to possibly show any flaws. But I’ve always liked Shelley Long and this is the one film, above all others, that made me enjoy her most. And that’s not to take away from her greatest role of all-time, as Diane on Cheers. But as far as film goes, I would call this one her best.
The biggest reason is that she is the star of this picture and while I don’t think that it was written with her specifically in mind, she takes on the material like it’s hers, jumps in the deep end of the pool without a care in the world and gives the audience her great wit and electric charm. It’s impossible not to like her in this, despite her starting out in the film as a super rich housewife addicted to shopping and with no other real ambitions in life. Long makes it work.
I also love that Craig T. Nelson essentially just plays Craig T. Nelson and thus, allows Long to shine as the focal point of the picture. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but Nelson plays this without ego and is only there to help give Long’s character depth and ultimately, he gives her a secondary goal, which is to rekindle their failing marriage.
When I was a kid, I loved this movie. I didn’t care that it was about a bunch of girls in a scout troop. It was relatable to most kids and since I was a boy that was into scouting, I dug that this sort of existed in that world. Plus, all the young girls in this were solid, fun characters that didn’t just need adult guidance and life experience but they also served to be emotional support for Shelley Long and her own issues.
Also, as a kid, I liked the adult parts of the story, as it did a good job of making its point.
That point is that we can’t just coast through life regardless of how easy it may be for some of us. We’ve got to get off our asses, find what makes us happy and work towards it. We all need a purpose.
Troop Beverly Hills teaches its audience that you have to work through your issues, try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. And while the movie probably doesn’t need to be looked at that deeply, these things are there and it makes it a better movie because of them.
This isn’t a throwaway mindless comedy. Some probably see it that way but it’s positive, kind of uplifting and it has a lighthearted charm that goes beyond just Shelley Long’s performance.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with:Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even and Ladybugs.
Release Date: February 12th, 1988 Directed by: Craig R. Baxley Written by: Robert Reneau Music by: Herbie Hancock, Michael Kamen Cast: Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Vanity, Sharon Stone, Thomas F. Wilson, Robert Davi, Bill Duke, Jack Thibeau, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Al Leong, Sonny Landham, Mary Ellen Trainor
Lorimar Film Entertainment, Silver Pictures, 96 Minutes
“[turning a flamethrower on a bad guy] How do you like your ribs?” – Action Jackson
This was a film that was supposed to be the first in a franchise. That never happened and that could be due to the film being critically panned and for it being absolutely ridiculous and the type of cheese that induces a wee bit of cringe. But I still dig the hell out of Carl Weathers in this and it was cool seeing him step out from behind more famous action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But this also was born from Weathers’ involvement in the Schwarzenegger starring Predator, as he and producer Joel Silver loved blaxploitation flicks. Silver told Weathers to come up with something and its that idea that became the basis for this film.
The plot is pretty simple, Jericho “Action” Jackson is a no nonsense cop that loves the ladies and hates yuppie scum that kills and destroys for their own selfish, greedy means. In this film, the scum is played by Coach star Craig T. Nelson. And we even get to see Coach do some kung fu trickery.
Similar to a Bond film and other films with macho gun wielding heroes, there are two hot chicks. In this we get a very young Sharon Stone, just before she reached superstardom, as well as Vanity, who was super popular at the time due to her relationship with Prince. We also get boobage from both, which from my perspective, is a strong plus.
But this film is also like a who’s who of cool character actors from the era. We get Bill Duke, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Robert Davi, Thomas F. Wilson, Sonny Landham, Chino “Fats” Williams and ’80s action star/stuntman Al Leong.
Add in a sweet score by Herbie Hancock and you’ve just got a cool motion picture.
Overall, this is an action heavy film but it was the ’80s and all we really wanted back then was good, high octane, power fantasy escapism. You know, back in the day before that stuff was frowned upon and deemed as toxic masculinity, politically incorrect and insensitive. You know, back when people were happier and most of us got along regardless of political or social affiliation.
I really do enjoy the action in this and while it can be an ’80s cheeseball extravaganza in parts, who really gives a shit? Action Jackson actually drives a Ferrari-like supercar into Coach’s mansion, up the stairs and then smashes it through his bedroom door for the big final fight. Is that dumb? Of course it is! But that’s the appeal, people!
I can’t say that this has aged well but it might not have aged well in its current year. It’s noticeably more corny than similar films but I do like the humor, its lightheartedness and its insanity.
Action Jackson isn’t an ’80s action magnum opus by any means but it was a pretty enthralling and amusing flick with Carl Weathers being a badass, Craig T. Nelson being an evil shithead and lots of other actors that were at the height of cool at the time.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with:Cobra, Lethal Weapon, The Last Dragon, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Firewalker and Hurricane Smith.
Release Date: May 23rd, 1986 Directed by: Brian Gibson Written by: Michael Grais, Mark Victor Based on: characters by Steven Spielberg Music by: Jerry Goldsmith Cast: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Oliver Robbins, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein, Julian Beck, Will Sampson, Geraldine Fitzgerald
“You’re all gonna die in there! All of you! You are gonna die!” – Kane
Most sequels aren’t created equal and the general consensus is that this one isn’t very good. Hogwash! I love it! Not as much as the first but it’s still a great ’80s horror film and better than most movies like it.
What makes this a solid entry into the short lived film series is that it broadens the mythos. Really, in the first film, there wasn’t much of a backstory. All you knew was that the house was haunted by evil and as the movie rolled on you discovered that it was built on top of a graveyard. This film sort of ignores the generic graveyard under the house idea and puts something even worse under the house: Reverend Henry Kane and his dead followers.
Kane, as played by Julian Beck in this movie, is absolutely fucking frightening. He is, hands down, one of the greatest screen villains of the era and more of a horror icon of the time than modern history seems to remember. He was a pure force of evil in a time when slashers ruled the horror genre. He wasn’t a slasher, he was something more powerful and more cunning. Julian Beck played Kane so profoundly that it is impossible not to get chills during the doorway scene when he confronts the family on their front porch. Honestly, it is my favorite moment in this entire franchise.
The film also adds in Will Sampson as a Native American named Taylor, who is actually known as the Medicine Man and is Kane’s nemesis. Taylor arrives at the family’s new home, convinces them that he is there to help and then lives with them in an effort to keep them safe from Kane’s attempts at stealing away Carol Anne. I loved Sampson in this and it is probably my second favorite thing he has done after One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The entire family returns for this film, except for Dominique Dunne, as she was murdered by her boyfriend in real life. But that’s just one of many tragedies that surround the cast of this film series, which some consider to be cursed.
Zelda Rubinstein also returns as Tangina, the clairvoyant that helped the family survive the first movie. Some of her lines in the film are pretty cringe worthy but I can look past this stuff in ’80s horror pictures. But it is probably worth noting that she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. She would also be nominated again for the same award for her part in Poltergeist III. However, she did win the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress for the first Poltergeist.
Craig T. Nelson had more to do in this movie, as he took a bit of a backseat to JoBeth Williams in the first one. I thought he did really well and his emotion and doubt were conveyed pretty convincingly, as he just wanted the forces of evil to leave his family alone.
The special effects in this were also spectacular for 1986. While some of the cloud effects and matte painting work is very noticeable in modern HD, the CGI ghost effects were stellar and have held up well. The scene where young Robbie is attacked by his braces still looks incredible. Also, the practical creature effects used for the beast form of Kane, as he crawled through the bedroom without legs was stupendous. This definitely deserved the Academy Award nomination it got for special effects.
Lastly, Jerry Goldsmith’s score seems to come alive more in this chapter. His theme to the series is expanded on and presented in new ways. I miss movies that had scores like this. Movie music nowadays just isn’t as memorable.
Poltergeist II is not on Poltergeist‘s level but there is a part of me that enjoys it more because the villain was clearly defined and scary as hell. Plus, Sampson and the Native American influence were great additions to the proceedings.
And sure, the big final battle with Kane on “the other side” is ’80s cheese to the rind, but I still friggin’ love it.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: The other two Poltergeist films. Ignore the remake.
Release Date: June 4th, 1982 Directed by: Tobe Hooper Written by: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, Mark Victor Music by: Jerry Goldsmith Cast: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Beatrice Straight, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robbins, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein, Richard Lawson, Martin Casella, James Karen, Michael McManus
SLM Production Group, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 114 Minutes
“[first lines] [talking to the television] Hello? What do you look like? Talk louder, I can’t hear you! Hey, hello! Hello, I can’t hear you! Five. Yes. Yes. I don’t know. I don’t know.” – Carol Anne Freeling
Poltergeist was a massive hit back in 1982. I was too young to see it in the theater but once it hit TV, it was on all the time. It was also one of the few horror movies to actually scare the shit out of me. While those scenes aren’t as effective to my 39 year-old brain now, throughout the ’80s, I was terrified of clown dolls, creepy trees and the possibility of my face falling off just by washing it. Hell, I was afraid to turn the television off when there was snow on the screen. I didn’t want to be anywhere near that haunted infernal machine.
There was just something about the styles of Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper coming together that created a special kind of magic that complimented the two men’s styles even more. Granted, there was a lot of friction during the production of this film and bad blood formed between the two men but the end result is quite exceptional and still carries that magical quality today, thirty-six years later. In fact, the sequels didn’t come close to capturing lightning in a bottle like the original did and I really feel like that is due to Hooper not directing them.
The special effects in this are damn good for the time and the movie does feel like its a big budget affair when compared to other ’80s horror. This is much closer in special effects quality to Ghostbusters or Spielberg’s E.T. and Close Encounters than say Friday the 13th or Halloween III.
Poltergeist also has a really solid cast with Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams and Beatrice Straight. I also love that James Karen is in this, even if he isn’t as over the top as he was in Return of the Living Dead.
On paper, if you ignore the two capable directors behind this, Poltergeist is really just a run of the mill haunted house story. This is a tale that’s been told a million times but something about this film is just different and better. I wish I could define it with words but for fans of ghost stories, you just sort of have to experience this. I’d hate to keep using the word “magic” but there really isn’t another word to fit what this is.
I love this movie. Even if it scared the everliving crap out of me as a kid, I still watched it… a lot. As an adult, I still throw it on every couple of years and never grow tired of it.
Plus, for those ’80s horror aficionados that love those rotating room scenes in A Nightmare On Elm Street, this movie did it first. And it did it nearly three decades before Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: The other two Poltergeist films. Ignore the remake.
Release Date: April 25th, 1980 Directed by: Art Linson Written by: John Kaye Based on:The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat and Strange Rumblings in Aztlan by Hunter S. Thompson Music by: Neil Young Cast: Bill Murray, Peter Boyle, Bruno Kirby, René Auberjonois, R.G. Armstrong, Mark Metcalf, Craig T. Nelson, Richard M. Dixon, Brain Cummings
Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes
There are very few famous people that I give a shit about. Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Bill Murray are two of the very few. So if there is a film where Bill Murray plays Hunter S. Thompson, you can most assuredly guarantee that it would be something I would have to watch. Of course, I’ve watched this film at least a dozen times over the years and I would say that I play it just about annually.
I feel like this film should be looked at as a sequel to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, as it is set after those events. Actually, I now see it as the final part of a trilogy which also includes The Rum Diary, which takes place first if you care about chronology.
Out of the three Thompson films, I find this one to be the superior of the three. Again, it has Bill Murray in the lead and I like his interpretation of Hunter S. Thompson slightly more than Johnny Depp’s. Also, he provided the template for Depp to follow. I’m not taking anything away from Depp’s great performance but Murray’s was damned near Oscar caliber (and maybe Depp’s was too).
Where the Buffalo Roam is a hell of a journey and as far as story, it doesn’t follow a singular path. This movie is comprised of a series of events, all of which are entertaining and fun to watch. The only real constant in the film is Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson and the times that Peter Boyle pops up as Lazlo, Thompson’s lawyer. In fact, Lazlo can be seen as virtually the same character or companion as Benicio Del Toro’s role in Fear and Loathing. In fact, both characters are based off of Oscar Zeta Acosta, who was an attorney and politician that was close friends with Thompson.
I love this film. I have heard that Thompson wasn’t happy with it when it was released. I’m not sure if that changed over the years but regardless of his personal feelings, I think it is kind of a hidden gem that many people don’t know about. Hell, most people I know who are big fans of Fear and Loathing either haven’t seen this or haven’t even heard about it.
Is it a masterpiece? No. But it is a lot of fun and it respects the man and the work of the man it was based on.
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