Another 48 Hrs. (1990) Review

Director: Walter Hill

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 93 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte return for more in this so-so sequel to 48 Hrs. (1982). Once again, tough guy cop Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) recruits the help of conman Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to help him on a case. This time, the police officer wants to take down a mysterious drug lord known as “The Iceman” as well as clear his name after being accused of killing an unarmed man.

The plot of Another 48 Hrs. feels rather formless, which is the biggest problem with the film. In retrospect, it just seems like our dynamic duo are chasing various leads until the final shootout arrives. Sure, Nolte and Murphy do no wrong here, but the plot needed a little more meat on it. Oh well, at least the adequate pacing and relatively short runtime keep this flaw from being fatal.

The action scenes here are actually better than the ones in the first installment of this motion picture duology. They’re definitely not top-tier, but they are filmed and edited in a more coherent fashion than in 48 Hrs. This picture is somewhat famous for the amount of glass that gets smashed in it and, yeah, panes of that stuff are being broken left and right. I guess it adds to the fun of the whole experience.

Another 48 Hrs. features less racist and homophobic dialogue than the original, which may make it easier to watch for modern audiences. It’s also less grimy- and gritty-feeling, but – hey – if that’s the cost of superior action set-pieces, I’ll pay it. Okay, the bottom line is that this one isn’t quite as good as the 1982 flick, but it certainly is watchable.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

48 Hrs. (1982) Review

Director: Walter Hill

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Runtime: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The 1982 action-comedy 48 Hrs. is an excellent example of how the right casting can save a movie. Here, Eddie Murphy is the hero of the production. The story of the picture in question is about a down-on-his-luck San Francisco police officer named Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) who reluctantly teams up with imprisoned con man Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to track down a pair of cop killers. It’s often considered one of the first of the “buddy-cop” subgenre, but, in this case, only one of the two main characters is a lawman.

It’s largely thanks to Eddie Murphy that this gritty crime-thriller keeps afloat. The movie really comes alive when he shows up, and it’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role. The plot may be nothing worth writing home about, but when Murphy’s on a roll, he’s on a roll. Be warned, though, that this flick contains quite a bit of racist, sexist, and homophobic language that makes it a little awkward at times.

Director Walter Hill is generally very good at handling action scenes, but I don’t think 48 Hrs. is one of his better outings when judged by carnage alone. The action here feels a little clumsy sometimes. It’s certainly not all bad, but it doesn’t feel up to the Walter Hill par. The sequences of violence, however, do feel appropriately grounded for such a tight, intimate film.

This is an important landmark in the history of buddy-cop movies, and it holds up pretty well today (except for the bigoted remarks, of course). Sure, it would be topped by Lethal Weapon (1987), but it still has a sleazy, dirt-under-the-fingernails charm all to its own. Also, David Patrick Kelly, perhaps better known as “Sully from Commando (1985)” makes an appearance as criminal Luther.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Review

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre(s): Biography, Comedy, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 180 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

This depiction of the life and times of American financial criminal Jordan Belfort (Leonard DiCaprio) is a work of pure, unrestrained id. Set in the 1980s and 1990s, gleefully obnoxious and hedonistic-to-the-power-of-x stock-broker Belfort claws his way up to the top. At three hours, it’s a long one for sure, but director Martin Scorsese ensures that this comedic biopic is never remotely boring.

The Wolf of Wall Street feels like a circus or a party (not the kind I would want to go to, though), with its orgies, oversized yachts, mountains of cocaine, and literal hundreds of “f-words.” It’s all excess, all the time. The movie is so full of amplified depraved behavior that it starts to feel like a twisted sort of experimental film after a while. Despite (perhaps because of) the incessant debauchery, this is one hilarious flick, with a style that goes for maximum impact.

As funny as all of this is, one flaw with the picture is that it doesn’t really show the consequences of the main character’s crimes on the people he swindled. It barely feels like a crime film at all for that reason. Yes, there is an FBI agent, Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), on Jordan Belfort’s case, but this feature comes dangerously close to glorifying the law-breaking of the work-hard-play-harder man in the center of the narrative.

For a three-hour movie about wealthy thugs doing wealthy thug activities, The Wolf of Wall Street‘s story, acting, and script hold up well. The whole thing’s outrageous, but it’s handled by a master filmmaker (Scorsese) who prevents it from becoming pure schlock. This one’s not for the prudish, but, if you want to take a peak into the lives of the Rich and Sociopathic, this picture comes highly recommended.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

The Mercenary (1968) Review

Director: Sergio Corbucci

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Comedy, War, Western

Runtime: 110 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

Man, was director Sergio Corbucci on a roll with those “spaghetti westerns” (Italian-made westerns) between the mid-1960s and early-1970s or what? One of the better known of his flicks from this time period is The Mercenary, also sometimes called “A Professional Gun.” Set during the Mexican Revolution, a Polish gun-for-hire named Sergei Kowalski (Franco Nero) finds himself at the service of Paco Roman (Tony Musante), a Mexican bandit who’s an aspiring revolutionary. Many people will be blown away and many genres will be blended along the way.

The remarkable musical score from Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai is one of the first things the audience notices about the movie, and it leaves a major impression. Jack Palance shows up as “Curly,” the picture’s chilling villain. He’s a quietly sinister threat and Palance’s job holds up as one of the best bad guy performances of the 1960s. The action scenes are frequent and frenetic, with plenty of machine gun mayhem. The standout here is probably the highly stylish showdown in the empty bullfighting arena.

The biggest problem with The Mercenary is that it’s pretty episodic at times. The characters played by Franco Nero and Tony Musante are constantly fussin’ and fightin’ as they move from town to town, with Jack Palance’s “Curly” hot on their trail. A stronger central plot might be necessary. It’s interesting to note that this movie has some moral ambiguity for being a “Zapata western” (a politically-conscious western typically set during a time of revolution or rebellion in Mexico), with neither of the leads exactly being terrific role models.

With its effortless tough guy swagger and effective premise, The Mercenary is a must-watch for spaghetti western fans. Its plot may ramble a bit, but it’s fast-paced enough for this to not be a serious concern. For a winning mixture of action-adventure, spaghetti western, war film, and even comedy, check this one out!

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Blinded by the Light (2019) Review

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama, Musical

Runtime: 118 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

Blinded by the Light is a film about the music of Bruce Springsteen, but this is no rock star biopic. Instead, it follows Javed Khan (Viveik Kalra), the son of Pakistani immigrants living in Great Britain in the 1980s, who discovers the music of “the Boss” to help him cope with his chaotic life. Based on a true story, this is a euphoric movie that wears its heart on its sleeve.

This dramedy covers more than just classic rock, of course. It’s a coming-of-age story that tackles the issues of intergenerational conflict, prejudice, hero worship, and the role of family. It’s refreshingly earnest and some are bound to find it cheesy in its emotional directness and lack of subtlety. I, however, found the flick’s child-like enthusiasm infectious and charming.

Almost needless to say, there’s plenty of Bruce Springseen music in this feature to rock out to. Most of the biggies are here, like “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Prove It All Night,” and, obviously, “Blinded by the Light.” I was surprised to hear “Because the Night,” a song originally written by Bruce for the Patti Smith Group (it’s the Springsteen version that plays here). Even if you’re not familiar with the works of the New Jersey rocker at its center, you’ll still probably enjoy the picture.

Blinded by the Light is the kind of positive movie that’s not reliant on sex or violence that many people lament aren’t being made anymore. It’s a feel-good flick for sure, but it still shows a few glimpses of the darker side of humanity that must be overcome by our unassuming hero. It’s a focused work of cinema that succeeds without leaning too much on the Springsteen music that inspired it. It’s just a good story.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

22 Jump Street (2014) Review

Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime

Runtime: 112 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

22 Jump Street carefully follows the blueprints of its predecessor, 21 Jump Street (2012), and doesn’t pretend like it’s doing anything but that. The duo of undercover cops Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back, this time posing as college kids to, you guessed it, take down the dealers of a new drug on campus. It’s more of the same, but, in this case, “the same” is euphorically entertaining.

This foul-mouthed action-comedy repeats damn near all of the notes from the first picture, down to the sequence where the heroes find themselves taking the narcotic they’ve dedicated themselves to taking off the streets. Like 21 Jump Street, most of the action is stuffed into the third act. There’s some car chases, some gunplay, some explosions, and some hand-to-hand combat. The violence is notably a bit less graphic than it was in its predecessor.

22 Jump Street parodies the idea of being a derivative blockbuster sequel almost to the point of making the audience throw their hands up in the air and say “we get the picture!” It doesn’t break any new ground, although it does heighten the faux-homoerotic tension between the two leads. It’s interesting to note that this feature takes just as much from the rom-com handbook as it does from the action-comedy one.

So, does 22 Jump Street deserve a low score for its lack of originality or a high one for doing what is does so well? I’m going to go with the latter…this movie is a laugh riot. Make sure to stick around for the end credits! Also, take note of the Devo poster on a dorm room wall, because the frontman of that band, Mark Mothersbaugh, did the musical score for both 21 and 22 Jump Street.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

Logan Lucky (2017) Review

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Genre(s): Comedy, Crime

Runtime: 118 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

IMDb Page

Lucky Logan is an adequate heist/comedy movie…nothing more and nothing less. Two hick brothers – Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) – need to break safe-cracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) out of prison to help them with a daring NASCAR race track robbery. This is a low-octane picture that prides itself on its quirky characters and loosey-goosey storytelling.

This film has several chuckles, but its low-energy approach doesn’t do anybody any favors. Adam Driver’s Southern accent is pretty amusing, though. The pacing is leisurely, only being kicked up a notch when the actual heist goes down. The runtime may have been a tad too long, with a fair amount of scenes after the climax.

The central caper is appropriately intricate and is, as you might expect, the reason to watch. This is where the picture is in its element and the build-up starts to pay off. The movie’s lack of substantial violence is interesting to note. Yes, there are some fisticuffs, but it’s all oddly good-natured. I would not go into this feature expecting an action extravaganza, though.

Logan Lucky sometimes feels like the heist version of Napoleon Dynamite (2004), except it’s a lot less funny than that film. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a waste of time, but its awkward tempo is a disservice. There are some clever plotting and beats here, don’t get me wrong. People who adore pictures that say “look at my characters…aren’t they quirky and offbeat?!” will enjoy this one, but I am less enthused with it.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

21 Jump Street (2012) Review

Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Crime

Runtime: 109 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

The 2012 film 21 Jump Street is one of the better entries into the buddy-cop genre. This action-comedy is about Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), two inept police officers who’re assigned to pose as high schoolers to bring down a ring of drug dealers. You can think of it as a party-hardy high school movie with more explosions and gunfire.

21 Jump Street is simply a very, very funny film, no matter how you slice it. High-brow it ain’t, but if you don’t think the scene where the two leads converse with Mr. Walters (Rob Riggle) while losing their minds on drugs is hilarious, then I don’t want to know you. Yes, there are a couple of predictable beats in the picture, but most of it feels quite fresh.

There’s more humor than shoot-’em-up here, but the action scenes are competent (and bloody) when they do arrive. The gunplay and car chase action are mostly relegated to the third act, but the rest of the flick is so damn enjoyable that those who came just for the violence won’t be too frustrated. The pacing is noticeably fast, so there’s no worries in that department.

This is an immensely likeable comedy that has great chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. The overwhelming majority of jokes landed (for me, at least) and the characters were easy to distinguish from one another, partially thanks to being played by an all-star cast. I can’t say that 21 Jump Street is for everyone, but, if there’s something inherently comical to you about two trigger-happy cops posing as teenagers, you’ll need to check it out.

My rating is 8 outta 10.

Chef (2014) Review

Director: Jon Favreau

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama

Runtime: 114 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

You don’t have to be a “foodie” to enjoy this dramedy that was written by, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau. This feature’s plot’s about chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) who leaves the restaurant he works at after losing creative control of the cooking process and exploding at a food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), who gave him a negative review. Despite the detailed food preparation scenes, this is a movie just as much about people as it is about stuff you can eat.

Chef has a star-studded cast and succeeds on both the comedy and drama fronts. No, it’s nothing groundbreaking (the film’s detractors compare it to the comfort food that the main character dislikes having to make), but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s acceptable to just get a familiar story that’s told well. Characters are well-defined and the pacing never lags.

Chef tries to connect to the zeitgeist of its time, and this is most noticeable in its way of handling social media. References are made to staples of modern life, like Twitter and memes, but it doesn’t really feel like the film is trying to be hip-and-with-it. The character who knows the most about all of this technology is the main character’s son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), and the titular figure must bond with his kid to learn the ropes of social media.

When it wraps up, Chef is an enjoyable father/son flick that delivers more than just cooking sequences. While I generally prefer watching pictures with lots of explosions and gunfire, this is a welcome change of pace. It’s a fine dramedy with personal stakes, rather than existential ones. However, why don’t the characters wear seat-belts more often?

My rating is 7 outta 10.

Superman III (1983) Review

Director: Richard Lester

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Comedy, Romance, Science-Fiction

Runtime: 125 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

IMDb Page

I think most people who’ve seen the Superman series would agree that Superman III is a step down from the first two. It’s not bad, but parts of it are a bit of a chore by superhero movie standards. Evil businessman Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) is obsessed with cornering the market for certain commodities, so he decides to eliminate Superman (Christopher Reeve) with some artificial kryptonite to prevent the Man of Steel from interfering with his plans. There’s an interesting idea or two to be found here, but, overall, it feels routine.

Superman III is a lot more comedic than Superman (1978) or Superman II (1980), not that those films didn’t have plenty of comic relief. Much of the humor is provided by the character Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), a down-on-his-luck dude who turns out to be a whiz with computers. Speaking of computers, they’re all over the place here, in all their bulky, 1980s-looking glory. The technology is mighty dated, as is the picture’s campy aesthetic, but it serves as a cautionary tale about the powers of new-fangled gadgetry.

On the action front, things are…adequate. There’s a nice punch-up involving Superman in a junkyard that I won’t spoil the details of, but the finale feels fairly lethargic at times for the conclusion of an action-adventure flick. The special effects are actually on the impressive side, but what good are they when the story is undercooked? It’s cool and all seeing Superman constantly saving the day, but he needs a tighter plot to back him up.

Although the musical score is done by Ken Thorne, John Williams’ classic themes make a return. Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) does too, but the main romantic subplot here is between the titular character and his hometown high school sweetheart, Lana Lang (Annette O’Toole). Okay, this one isn’t essential viewing, but it’s not torture. It has a few enjoyable moments, but it sort of takes a while for the actual plot to kick in.

My rating is 6 outta 10.