[St. Patrick’s Day] Leprechaun 2 (1994)

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Director: Rodman Flender

Cast: Warwick Davis, Charlie Heath, Shevonne Durkin, Adam Biesk, Arturo Gil, Linda Hopkins, James Lancaster, Sandy Baron

Screenplay: Turi Meyer, Al Septien

85 mins. Rated R for violence, and for nudity.

 

You’re damn right I picked Leprechaun 2 to watch today, and I hope I don’t regret it terribly. Spoiler Alert: I will.

LEPRECHAUN 2, Warwick Davis, Shevonne Durkin, 1994, (c)Trimark Pictures

Leprechaun 2 follows the same Leprechaun (Warwick Davis, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens) as the first film (at least I think so, the last time he kicked the bucket in a fairly gruesome way and this time, he’s born out of a tree) as he searches for true love. A thousand years ago, he had fallen for a beautiful young woman, and according to some bullshit about turning 1000, he can claim her as his bride, provided that she sneeze three times and nobody say “God Bless You” (seriously, I can’t even make this up). The problem is that the young woman is the daughter of his slave, William O’Day (James Lancaster, The Prestige, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), who mucks it up to save her. One thousand years later, in present day 1994, the Leprechaun is back to attempt to claim her back when he discovers Bridget (Shevonne Durkin, Ghost in the Machine, Spermicide), a young woman who resembles the girl he fell for so long ago. Bridget’s boyfriend, Cody (Charlie Heath, The Beverly Hillbillies, Friends Til the End), and his boss/friend/guy Morty (Sandy Baron, Sid & Nancy, Vamp) must unite to trick the evil little Leprechaun and destroy him before he gets her to sneeze. Wow, I had trouble explaining all that.

Leprechaun 2 is pure shit. As I said before, I’m still not sure if this is supposed to be the same Leprechaun as before or if we are to think that they all look alike (that might put me in hot water). Warwick Davis is clearly the only one having fun here, playing off the uninterested cast as best he can. Director Rodman Flender (Idle Hands, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop) cannot handle the poorly written screenplay from Turi Meyer and Al Septien (Chairman of the Board, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End).

Oh my God, I couldn’t defend this film if I tried. It’s a wonder even this one made it to theaters.

So, let’s just cover what is good. Warwick Davis can’t be faulted. Sandy Baron is probably the most skilled performer here and, again, does his best. There is a great scene involving  a lawnmower. The Leprechaun drives what amounts to a miniature Formula 1 death machine at one point. The credits were nice at the end.

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If you have already imbibed the green beer on this St. Patrick’s Day, then maybe you can stomach Leprechaun 2. If not, then I’m glad I gave you fair warning.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Mark Jones’ Leprechaun, click here.

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Fourth Day… The Santa Clause (1994)

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Director: John Pasquin

Cast: Tim Allen, Judge Reinhold, Eric Lloyd, Wendy Crewson, David Krumholtz, Peter Boyle

Screenplay: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick

97 mins. Rated PG for a few crude moments.

 

Killing Santa is kind of morbid. Very few can get through an event like that and still be likable. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen, TV’s Home Improvement, Toy Story 3) tries his best to overcome that nasty hurdle. That is, until he discovers The Santa Clause, a decree that if Santa is killed, one must take up the red coat and beard and continue the job. While this news excites Scott’s son Charlie (Eric Lloyd, Batman & Robin, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2), it certainly frightens Scott as well as his ex-wife Laura (Wendy Crewson, Air Force One, Antiviral) and her new husband Neil (Judge Reinhold, Beverly Hills Cop, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts), who both believe that Scott is losing his grip on reality in order to make his son believe in Santa. As Scott continues his transformation into St. Nick in time for the next Christmas Eve, he must come to grips with this new reality and try to salvage his life as Scott Calvin with his life as Kris Kringle.

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The Santa Clause is very much a nice piece of cheese. I end up watching it every year around this time because it’s just a lot of fun. Tim Allen has a lot of fun with this role, keeping it all light-hearted even though the film itself could come off rather morbid. The supporting characters in Crewson and Reinhold ride the line of asshole vs. caring human nicely. Eric Lloyd doesn’t provide much, but his career proves that enough.

The screenplay is rather fun, though the film has definitely aged. It looks aged, but it still is a treat to watch. This Disney film is quite imaginative while also being slightly more grounded than it needed to be. Most of all, The Santa Clause is a movie about responsibility. It’s about taking up your baggage and understanding that the person you need to be may not be the person you wanted to be.

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Worth a couple laughs indeed.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Trapped in Paradise (1994)

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Director: George Gallo

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey

Screenplay: George Gallo

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for some rude language.

 

Christmas is just around the corner, so I thought it fitting to jump into the Christmas spirit by talking about a classic (at least on Comedy Central) that came to screens twenty years ago today. I’m talking about a little black comedy called Trapped in Paradise. It stars Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Left Behind) as Bill Firpo, the rightest of the three Firpo brothers, and the only one who can mostly ignore his temptations to commit crimes. His brothers Dave (Jon Lovitz, Happiness, Grown Ups 2) and Alvin (Dana Carvey, Wayne’s World, Jack and Jill) cannot ignore theirs, and are being released from prison due to overcrowding. Bill is begged by his paroled brethren to head to Paradise, Pennsylvania to visit the daughter of an incarcerated friend and ask her to visit her dying father. Bill eventually goes along, and for reason, he is most easily convinced to commit a bank robbery. The bank robbery goes somewhat awry, and the boys are now stuck in the town to a sweltering blizzard hitting town. They must survive being trapped in Paradise. See what I did there?

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Nicolas Cage is just terrible here. He yells and screams and Cages everything in sight. His is one of the most unlikable performances in his career. He thankfully gets outshined by Lovitz and Carvey who provide a few laughs and have good chemistry, but altogether become more of a chorus than active members of the family. They provide a hokey commentary on the events going on without really bearing much weight on the story.

And what’s the deal with this bank robbery? Cage’s character Bill spends most of the film trying to keep his brothers from committing petty theft before being easily swayed into robbing a bank? C’MON! Totally unbelievable and uninspired. Prove it to me, unheard of director George Gallo! Prove it!

I enjoyed some of the tertiary characters in this film. They play as caricatures of picturesque small-town people. If the film were set a bit more to the west, I could call it Minnesota Nice to the extreme.

Director Gallo (Middle Men, Double Take) sleeps through this film. I didn’t find myself swept up in any of the events of the film. His screenplay offers far too few laughs and far too much fluff (and this isn’t good fluff, it is crap covered fluff). Even the cast in the film looks like it isn’t having any fun in this “funny Christmas” film. They referred to it as “Trapped in Bullshit” for the entirety of the strained shoot, and it shows here.

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Part of me is drawn to Trapped in Paradise once every couple years, and when I finish it, I’m still not sure why. The film is dark and unfunny, it isn’t beautifully shot or acted, and it isn’t a plot that I can connect to in the slightest. This film exists somewhere above the Hallmark film releases but dreadfully below most anything else.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

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Director: Peter Farrelly

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Karen Duffy, Mike Starr, Charles Rocket, Victoria Rowell, Teri Garr

Screenplay: Peter Farrelly, Bennett Yellin, Bobby Farrelly

107 mins. Rated PG-13 for off-color humor.

 

1994 was a very good year for films. I may have already discussed this, but I feel like I need to reiterate. 1994 was one of the best years for films in history. From a critical standpoint, we had such classics as Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump. From a comedy standpoint, audiences received a hilarious turkey (or triple play) from Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kick-Ass 2) with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and Dumb & Dumber. It was a great year.

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Dumb & Dumber is a bit of a comedy enigma. The film is far too stupid and outlandish to be good, and yet it is one of the most incredibly perfect comedies ever constructed.

Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) is an idiot. He has just fallen in love at first sight with a woman he doesn’t even know named Mary (Lauren Holly, TV’s NCIS, Spirited Away) and when he finds a briefcase she has lost in an airport terminal, he vows to return it to her. He enlists dog groomer and best friend Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels, TV’s The Newsroom, Good Night and Good Luck) who, like Lloyd, is an idiot, to help him in his quest and make a new name for themselves in the land of opportunity, Aspen. The trouble is, Mary didn’t lose her briefcase, and Lloyd and Harry have entangled themselves in a plot more menacing than either could have anticipated.

The film is made by its performances. Everybody in this movie plays it straight to the book except Carrey and Daniels, and it is made all the more goofy than it should be. We have some incredible supporting work from Mike Starr (TV’s The Young and the Restless, GoodFellas) as a hitman trying to take our lovable morons out of the picture. There is also the terrific late actor Charles Rocket (Dances with Wolves, Hocus Pocus) who is a family friend of Mary’s.

There are some truly laugh-out-loud moments and one-liners that keep this film at the forefront of fans’ minds long after viewing for the zillionth time. I still cringe at the encounter that the dumb-dumbs have with local law enforcement after getting discovered with an open bottle. I still giggle everytime the guy in the diner yells “Kick his ass, Seabass!” and I still find a happy place every time Seabass tries to get revenge on Lloyd in the bathroom stall of a gas station.

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To make a long story short, or for that matter, a smart story dumb, Dumb and Dumber is a perfect comedy that belongs in a hall of fame alongside other greats like Tommy Boy and Animal House. It stands the test of time even after twenty years and I can see it living on another few decades.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)

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Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Stephen Rea, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst

Screenplay: Anne Rice

123 mins. Rated R for vampire violence and gore, and for sexuality.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Score

 

I always find it intriguing when a non-genre director of merit gets involved in a horror film or something with supernatural elements, as if Martin Scorsese got up one day and decided to direct the next Star Wars. When Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Byzantium) decided to direct the adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, I’m sure it shocked some people. After all, this doesn’t happen often, but I think he proved that when it does happen, it can be a magical thing.

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Interview with the Vampire follows Louis (Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds, Fury) a man of means and a wonderful family back in the 1700s. When Louis is bitten and turned by a vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise, Top Gun, Edge of Tomorrow), he learns the details of his life from his new sire and, through his recollection of the past to patient listener Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater, True Romance, Nymphomaniac Vol. 1) in present day 1994, he recounts the tragic details of his 200 years of death.

Damn, such a great movie, and twenty years haven’t hurt it. It still looks stunning, in part due to its tremendous set design, for which it was nominated for an Oscar. Tom Cruise is at his top form here as the infamous Lestat. This is the kind of role that Cruise should go for more often. I find that much of his work harkens back to Mission: Impossible style action-thrillers (which work sometimes) but I feel like taking chances offers up some pretty amazing work. Brad Pitt as Louie is another performance where you actually forget who is playing the role, but I think the big winner here is Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) as Louis’ new sire Claudia, forced to live forever in the body of child. She just steals those scenes where her mind has developed but not her body. She is forced to watch as her partners Lestat and Louis practically salivate at the sight of a nude woman in all her sensual glory.

That’s the reason someone like Neil Jordan would take on a project like this. It has depth. Its characters are not presented as one-dimensional flat cardboard cutouts. These are really people, or undead beings, portrayed by those who have learned the craft, and Jordan takes these talents and puts them to good work, showcasing a veritable Forrest Gump of the undead. This is a film with wit, charm, blood, and sex. It has a lot of things going for it, including a great script from the novel’s author Anne Rice, who “adapts” her novel instead of just putting the same story on the screen. Rice understood where changes need to be made, and she did.

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Watch this movie if you love horror movies. Watch this movie if you don’t. In case I need to be clearer, watch this movie. Please.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 20th Birthday!] Frankenstein (1994)

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hulce, Helena Bonham Carter, Ian Holm, John Cleese, Aidan Quinn

Screenplay: Steph Lady, Frank Darabont

123 mins. Rated R for horrific images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Makeup

 

After the commercial and critical success that was Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, the decision was made to revisit another gothic horror classic novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Coppola made the decision to pass directorial duties to the talented Shakespearian director/performer Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Cinderella), something he would later in life admittedly regret, but we will get to that later.

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Frankenstein 1994 is closer to Shelley’s original novel than its 1931 counterpart, showing the story of Victor Frankenstein (played by Branagh) and his making of the iconic Creature (Robert De Niro, GoodFellas, Grudge Match), much to the tragedy of friend Henry Clerval (Tom Hulce, Amadeus, Jumper) and love Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club, Burton and Taylor).

Frankenstein suffers from a crisis of identity. On one hand, it is trying to be a gothic horror filled with a mixture of dark realism and fantastical surrealism; on the other hand, it is too much Shakespeare. Branagh seems to have difficulty playing to anything other than Shakespeare, with a series of over-the-top performances and exaggerated jubilation during the happy moments. I just couldn’t believe the events of this film as actually realistically happening.

De Niro dominates this film with his portrayal of The Creature. He studied stroke victims and other medical cases where speech patterns can be fractured in his line delivery. He becomes a tragic figure in cinema, a man who is ultimately an angry boy with a conflict of adult attraction and childhood longing for understanding. I could watch this movie just for Robert De Niro.

The rest of the cast really struggles here with giving viewers something to attach themselves to. Nobody can decide the tone and mood of a picture like this. I’m not saying the film is a complete failure, but it certainly has more detachers than strengths.

The screenplay is pretty strong here, delivered by Steph Lady (Doctor Dolittle) and Frank Darabont (TV’s The Walking Dead, The Shawshank Redemption). I enjoy the addition of unique steps in the creation of Frankenstein’s monster; this film has electric eels rather than the toted lighting. That being said, Frankenstein’s obsession with lighting in the beginning now makes less sense and has less impact on the actual movie.

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I would say that Frankenstein isn’t a worthless movie, but it has unnecessary conflict behind the scenes that reduces the tension in front of the camera. Coppola agreed that the film was scary and that Branagh completely mishandles the picture, and I can’t say my opinion differs.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, click here.

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