Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stranger Things

Instead of reviewing a movie, I thought I would do something different and talk about the 8-part big hit series that came from Netflix this summer called Stranger Things. If you have Netflix Instant, this probably popped up on your screen whenever you logged onto the site to get your Netflix Fix. (I feel like the F in "fix" should be capitalized for that!) I didn't check it out until I kept hearing about it through people I knew and podcasts that were talking about it. Since there are only eight episodes; each about 45 minutes (give or take), it took me less than a week to devour them all.

There will be slight spoilers in this review, but nothing that will give anything major away. But even if you are wary of spoilers, you may want to read this until after you've seen the show. And I highly recommend it.

As I was watching it, I couldn't help but get a Super 8 vibe from it. That movie was set in 1979 and had a cast of eleven/twelve/thirteen year olds. Mostly boys, but there was one girl. They are trying to figure out a mystery involving a monster. This show was set in 1983 (1979, 1983, same thing! At least to me!) It also has a group of eleven/twelve/thirteen year olds. Again, mostly boys, but there was also one girl in this. They are also trying out to figure out a mystery involving a monster, but most of all, their mystery involves trying to figure out what happened to their missing friend. Which involves the monster...obviously!

I was listening to a podcast about this show and someone described it as something that would be created if Steven Spielberg and Stephen King collaborated together. I've heard a lot of comparisons of this show to those two and I can see it. There are definitely elements of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., The GooniesStand By Me (or "The Body" if you want to go with the original short story title), and It. Although I have never read or seen It because I don't need to be any more scared of clowns than I already am, thank you very much, but I trust those people who say this reminded them of that. But there are no clowns in this show. Thank God! However, there are plenty of jump scares and I probably shouldn't have watched this at night...there were some creepy moments!

The show starts with a very short prologue of a scientist running away from something we don't see. He runs to the elevator and hits the button several times frantically. Of course then when it finally opens, he has to hit the button again several times to close it. It finally does close and it looks like he's escaped from the monster, except the monster is a lot smarter than he thought because...oops...he's on top of the elevator and snatches the man.

In the next scene, we first meet our young characters. They are four middle-school aged boys who are playing Dungeons and Dragons in Mike's basement. Out of the kids, Mike is the main character. At first, I couldn't decide if he was an odd-looking kid or super cute, but in the end, he won me over and I have opted for the latter choice. The actor who plays him, Finn Wolfhard, has a very distinct bone structure to his face and pair that with his very early '80s haircut (and the very early '80s wardrobe!) it makes him look a bit odd, but it is perfect as he is suppose to be a huge dork and isn't suppose to be with the in crowd at school. This kid is absolutely adorable and if I were a twelve year old girl right now, I would have a crush on him. He's soooo cute! Mike's closest friend and next door neighbor is Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), the only black kid in town. (Well, they do live in a small town in Indiana called Hawkins.) He and Mike have known each other the longest out of the four friends and often communicate with each other through Walkie Talkies which reminded me of the two young friends and next door neighbors in Big. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) is the brains of the group, which is saying something since they're all dorky kids! But he's the one who always comes up with the ideas. He's also the fat kid of the group, although I would describe him more as husky than fat...cuz that kid ain't fat! The smallest kid of the group and the one with the least amount of screen time is Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). He's the kid who goes missing hence the limited screen time. This kid has so little screen time he's not even credited in the opening titles! Poor kid! He does show up in flashback scenes in later episodes, but compared to the other kids (and not to mention the other people in the cast), he's not in the series that much.

Will is riding his bike home at night after playing Dungeons and Dragons with his friends when he rides past the laboratory we saw earlier where the scientist was. Something pops up in front of him and startles him and he skids off the road. He ditches his bike and runs home the rest of the way. (They do live in a small town, so it must not have been very far). He enters his house where his dog is barking and calls for his mom and brother, but doesn't get an answer from them...we later find out his brother got home late that night because he was working, but I'm not sure if his mom was there or not. She must not have been. He looks out the window and sees a slow-moving figure from a distance slowly advancing towards the house and it is definitely not human. Very creepy. He gets on the phone to call 911, but he just gets static and a weird sound. When the chain to the door becomes undone, Will runs out the back and into the shed where he gets a shotgun and aims it towards the door. We see Will see the monster, which has snuck up behind him, but we don't see the monster close up. In the next shot, Will has vanished. Where has he gone? Seriously, where is he?

During the course of the show, we follow three groups of characters who take different paths to find Will. In one path, we have Will's mother, Joyce. She is played by Winona Ryder. Yes, a name you finally recognize! She was really good in this and it was nice seeing in her something. I can't even remember the last recent thing she had done. She is a single mother of two who works long hours (so therefore she probably wasn't home that night Will vanished). She tells the local sheriff, Jim Hopper aka Hop (David Harbour) who tells her that Lonnie, her ex-husband, probably has something to do with this because "99 times out of 100 the missing kid is with a parent or a relative." Joyce asks him what about the other time, what happens then, and he tells her that the worst thing that has ever happened in their small town was when an owl attacked someone's head because it thought the hair was a nest. (Ouch!)

Weird things start happening at their home. Joyce gets a phone call with just static on the other line, but she very faintly hears Will's voice, but the wires in the phone burn. Will's favorite song, "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by the Clash plays off and on to get Joyce's attention. The lights flicker on and off as if somebody is trying to communicate with her and in a funny scene at the store she works at, Joyce buys all the Christmas lights. At least this was set in November, so she could just say she was getting ready for Christmas! She finds she is able to communicate with Will by having him answer yes and no questions with flicking the lights once or twice. I kept waiting for her to set up an alphabet system and sure enough she paints the alphabet on her wall so Will can spell things out for her. Of course, everyone thinks she's crazy, including Hopper and Mike's mom who comes over to offer her support and comfort for the grieving mother. But mostly, Lonnie, her douche bag ex-husband who left her for a younger woman and never spends time with his sons.

Then there's Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Will's older brother, who does help his mom and sheriff search for Will. But he soon takes a different path with Mike's older sister, Nancy (Natalia Dyer). She is a straight-A student, the goody two shoes daughter. She used to be deemed "cool" by Mike's friends until she started dating the super cool dreamboat Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) who has the most perfect and amazing hair ever known to mankind. Can you the blame the girl for falling for him? I can't! If I were a high school girl in the '80s, I would have a crush on him, although he is a bit of a douche bag, but then he ends up not being one. Nancy becomes involved with the monster mystery when her friend, Barb, also goes missing under mysterious circumstances. They were at Steve's pool party and Barb was by herself while Nancy was giving it up to Steve in his bedroom. Jonathan, a photographer, decides to be a creep when he's lurking in the woods near Steve's house at the time of the party and takes photos of Nancy without her shirt on through the window. He also takes photos of Barb sitting on the diving board, nursing a cut she got on her hand from slicing a beer can sideways with a knife, but it cut her. I'm not sure exactly what they were doing either because this is a party thing and I'm not cool enough to have attended any parties in my day (well, plus, I hate parties!) or if this is an early '80s things and I was a toddler during this time, so therefore I wasn't drinking beer! The photos prove to be helpful as there is an odd figure behind Barb and they believe it to be the monster.

Then there are Will's three friends who meet a strange girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown...maybe her parents were fans of My Prerogative?) They find her, hair shorn and wearing a hospital gown in the same spot where Will went missing. They ask her who she is, but she doesn't seem to talk except for one word syllables like "yes and "no", though over the course of the show she does talk more, but still very limited. She has 011 tattooed on her forearm, thus her name. Mike says they can call her "El" for shore. Me thinks it's a shout out to Elle Fanning who was in Super 8. Maybe that's a stretch! The boys take her back to Mike's basement where he gives her some dry clothes and she starts to take off her shirt and the boys, especially Dustin, start freaking out and tell her to change in the bathroom. I was cracking up over that.

Mike has an idea to have Eleven go to the front door and tell his mom she's lost so she can call someone, but Eleven, clearly scared, tells him no, so he lets him stay in his basement where he has a little fort she sleeps in and sneaks her down food. She really takes a liking to Eggos. The boys soon find out Eleven is very special as she has telekinetic powers (like Carrie, another Stephen King shoutout!) I was just waiting for when she was going to use her powers on the two bullies, Troy and some other kid whose name I don't remember. They relentlessly pick on Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. They call Dustin Toothless because he is missing his two front teeth and has a lisp. Eleven uses her powers to humiliate them and humiliate she does. So much in fact that the bullies come back for retaliation. Troy is clearly a sociopath as he tells Mike to jump off a cliff into the lake that is high enough that it will kill anyone who will jump off from there. In fact, we had a scene in an earlier episode where Hopper tells someone that if someone jumped from this cliff, their bones would shatter when they hit the water. Troy tells Mike that if he doesn't jump, then he will cut out Dustin's remaining teeth with the pocket knife he has. Even the other bully tells Troy that this is wrong, but Troy doesn't seem to care and decides he wants to be a murderer at age 12. Good going there, kid. They encountered the bullies when they were looking for Eleven, who had run away. Mike had to know she was close by or else he wouldn't have jumped, right? Surely he knew that jump would kill him! Because he does jump, but she manages to save him with her powers, and also breaks Troy's arms which was awesome. Because he totally deserved it.

As you may have guessed, the three different paths cross and everyone is working together to figure out the mystery. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say the end is left open for a second season. If you love anything about the '80s, the fashion, the music, synthesizers (which play a big part in the score), and movies from that era, you will enjoy this immensely.

I read that the show was pitched to about 15 different networks before finally it was taken to Netflix because nobody would take it. I bet all those networks are kicking themselves now. But I prefer it being on Netflix. Much easier to access and you have all the episodes at your disposal and you can watch whenever you want to; you're not bounded by a schedule. It's no wonder I've been with Netflix for over ten years now, wow!

The young cast was on Jimmy Fallon and they did a hilarious skit where Jimmy played cool guy Steve and then "Barb" showed up. OMG, I was laughing so hard. If you missed it, you should defintely check it out on YouTube...I'm sure you can find it there. There are major spoilers, though!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pool of Rejuvenation

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Wilford Brimley, Don Ameche, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Brian Dennehy, Steve Guttenberg, Maureen Stapleton, Gwen Verdon, Tahnee Welch
Released: June 21, 1985

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Don Ameche (won)
Best Visual Effects (won (really?!))

People who saw the teaser trailer for Cocoon before it was released were probably really confused and were probably wondering what the hell this movie was about! I would have thought it's about nautical exploration as you see something covered with barnacles and seashells and crustaceans crawling all over it.

Those pods, or cocoons, you might say, are from outer space, specifically a planet called Antarea and have been housing aliens in the depths of the ocean for thousands of years. About a hundred centuries ago, they had an outpost on Earth and when it was time to leave, they were able to retrieve everyone except for the ground crew. A team of four aliens from Antarea have come to Earth to retrieve them. They disguise themselves as humans (good idea if you're an alien visiting Earth!) God, this movie sounds so weird and crazy, but for some reason, I kinda love it. Among the disguised aliens are Walter (Brian Dennehy) and Kitty (Tahnee Welch - she is Raquel's daughter). Along with two other aliens (disguised as dudes), they pay a guy named Jack (Steve Guttenberg), who has a boat to take them out to sea every day for a month. They offer him a nice, hefty sum and since Jack is low on money he is happy to oblige. Hmm, I wonder if the creators of Third Rock From the Sun got their inspiration from this movie? I couldn't help thinking of that show when I was watching the scenes of the aliens disguised as humans!

Each day after the Antareans have collected the cocoons, they return to the house with the indoor pool they're renting and put them in the pool. You know, they never do tell us how these aliens pay for the house and boat they're renting for about a month! Maybe they've been disguised as humans for decades and have gotten jobs to accumulate money to pay for all of this. They do come from a planet where you never get sick or die, so they are immortal. Before he finds out the truth about what the pods actually are, Jack questions Kitty about them and she tells them that they are extremely rare large snails shells and they are taking them to a maritime museum to study them.

This movie takes place in Florida, which means senior citizens aren't too far away and not far from the house with the pool housing the cocoons is a retirement home called Sunny Shores. Often trespassing to swim in the pool are three of its residents: Ben (Wilford Brimley), Art (Don Ameche), and Joe (Hume Cronyn). They invite Ben's 12-year-old grandson, David, to come with them one day, but when they see people moving into the house, they abort. Later, they see them unloading the pods (covered up) and think they are up to some shady business and decide if they're up to something illegal, then they won't feel bad about breaking into their pool while they're away. The first time they swim in the pool after the mysterious new neighbors have moved in, there are four cocoons in the pool. They wonder what these strange-looking rocks are, and after determining they're harmless, they all get in the pool. After a few seconds of swimming, they all declare how great they feel and are soon splashing and jumping into the pool like little kids. We get a montage of this with very '80s-sounding music. What is happening is that the cocoons are giving out a life source which makes the old people feel rejuvenated. So much so, that they are ready for some action with their wives/lady friends. Mary (Maureen Stapleton) is Ben's wife, Art is wooing Bess (Gwen Verdon), and Joe is married to Alma (Jessica Tandy, who was married to Hume Cronyn in real life. There was a cute behind the scenes featurette where he referred to her as "Jessie". I totally "ahhh"-ed over that.) The ladies join the men in the pool, and soon, they too, start to feel younger and livelier than ever. Mary is able to climb a tree with her grandson. Ben, who failed his eye test pre-pods, returns and is able to read the last line of the smallest print. And most remarkable of all, Joe, who had cancer, soon finds out he is cancer-free.

The older gentlemen want their friend, Bernie, to join them, but he refuses, thinking it unnatural. In a sad scene, when he finds his wife, Rose, who had been suffering from severe dementia, has passed away, he rushes her to the pool, begging her to wake up, but it is too late for her.

Jack discovers his passengers are really aliens when he decides to be a creep and spies on the attractive Kitty through the keyhole while she's getting undressed. Kitty has a knack for knowing when someone is spying on her (this is the first of two times when she sense someone peeping at her). Instead of seeing a naked woman, Jack sees a glowing alien. Now this movie won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and if you watch this movie in this day and age, they look pretty bad (hence my "really?!" exclamation). I suppose for 1985 they were a cinematic achievement. Jack is freaked out at first, naturally, but decides to help the aliens with their mission when they tell him they're going to get their friends back with or without his help and that they can just hire another person with a boat. He must really need that money! We see him in a later scene reading a book called "The Complete Book of Extraterrestrial Encounters". The aliens never seen concerned when humans figure out who they really are. This happens again when the three gentlemen are swimming in the pool, then hide in a closet when they see the house guests have returned early. They take off their human forms and this is the second time when Kitty (as an alien) senses someone looking at them through the closet. It's just too bad she doesn't have this extra sense when she's in her human form. While the older gentlemen do tell the police about what they saw, they don't believe them and Walter tells them that he won't press charges against the trespassing senior citizens and laughs off the crazy story. The pool-dwelling senior citizens soon become friends with the aliens and we get another montage (with a very '80s-sounding song called "Gravity") of them playing cards together and the senior citizens grooving at the dance floor at clubs. Art even shows off by break dancing.

Everything comes to a horrible halt when other residents at Sunny Shores hear about this magical pool from Bernie and soon it is overcrowded with senior citizens who are taking out the cocoons (now covering every floor inch of the pool) and abusing them in the process. It's a pretty horrible scene. (Horrible in the way they're treating the cocoons; not the way it was shot). Because of all the people in the pool at once, they have sucked all the life force out of the cocoons and the aliens have died.

Since they now have room on their spaceship due to the cocoons not being able to make the trip back, Walter offers all the residents of Sunny Shores to join them to come back with him and Kitty (and the two other aliens whose names I don't even remember because they're really not important characters) to Antarea, a planet where you never grow old and you never die. All of them are quick to accept except for Bernie who opts to stay and live out his last days on good old Earth. I'm sure the staff of Sunny Shores will be delighted when they find out they no longer have a job since the retirement home is now empty. Ben doesn't tell his daughter because he knows she won't believe him and think he's crazy, but he does tell his grandson. I have a hard time believing any grandparents would leave their grandchildren behind, knowing they'll never see them again just for a chance of immortality. I feel given the choice of living forever, but never being able to see your loved ones again or spending your last days on earth surrounded by loves one, most people would choose the latter. Sure, Ben would be with his wife and his friends from Sunny Shores, but we did see him spending a lot of time with David in the movie, so he obviously had a bond with his grandson. And it's not like Ben or Mary (or any of their friends) were knocking on death's door even though they were old.

But they decide to be selfish and leave their family and get on the spaceship. Seriously, would you go to another planet? You don't know what you're going to find when you get there. All these old people may be getting scammed! They're too naive! And even if where they were going did provide immortality, who would want to live forever? I feel like that would be more of a curse than a blessing. As I was watching this, I couldn't help but think of that whole Heaven's Gate cult fiasco. Do you remember this? It happened in 1997. All of these people were in a cult and followed this crazy old man named Marshall Applewhite who had 38 other followers kill themselves by drinking poisonous Kool-Aid so they could reach a spaceship following the comet, Hale-Bop. One detail I remember was that they were all wearing Nike shoes. It was so weird. I'm surprised they haven't made a movie about this yet. The voyage to outer space in Cocoon isn't as dark since they don't kill themselves, but they do all seem to be brainwashed by the idea of immortality.

They were on a boat in the middle of the ocean when the spaceship beamed them up. The authorities thought they were capsized and drowned and there's a funeral for all of them. Even though they are told they will never return to Earth, they do in the 1988 sequel called Cocoon: The Return. Way to make their journey anti-climatic! I saw it 12 years ago, but I don't remember anything about it. Ron Howard must have gotten angry letters about Ben and Mary leaving their grandson behind, because when they come back to Earth, they opt not to return to Antarea and live out the rest of their days with their family. (I read the summary on Wikipedia).

Whenever Jack was helping the Antareans collect the cocoons from the ocean or any other time they were out in the ocean, they were always surrounded by dolphins. Obviously the life force attracted them. Or maybe dolphins just hang out with people in Florida; IDK! I have to tell you my amazing dolphin story. It only lasted for about five seconds, but I love telling this story. About four years ago I was in Destin, Florida with my brother and his wife and we were on a boat and this dolphin poked his head out of the water right next to our boat. Of course I didn't have my camera ready so I couldn't snap a pic! But he was so close to us, I could have reached out and petted him, but I didn't because I respect nature and I didn't want to get my hand bitten off. Even though they look very friendly, they are still wild animals! We did see a lot of dolphins and I got plenty of videos and pics of them, but we never saw one poke its head out of the water again.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Buckmans v. Bravermans

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Weist, Rick Moranis, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix, Jason Robards, Keanu Reeves
Released: August 2, 1989

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actress - Dianne Weist (lost to Brenda Fricker for My Left Foot)
Best Song - "I Love To See You Smile" by Randy Newman (lost to The Little Mermaid for "Under the Sea" by Alan Menken and Howard Shore)

Earlier this year, I watched all five seasons of the TV show Parenthood which is based on this movie. I haven't seen this movie in a very long time that I didn't remember anything about it to compare it to the TV series. I'm pretty sure the last time I saw this movie was when I was a kid so I probably found it really boring because it's mostly about grown ups and their problems...oh, sure, there are kids with their problems, but I'm sure I found that boring too! I find the TV series to be far superior. Of course, they had five seasons to tell different stories and the characters could all have bonding moments with each other. In the movie, they only have less than two hours and you only see the relationships between husbands and wives or mothers and children; you don't really see the relationships between the grown up siblings like the TV show did so well.

It was fun to compare the movie characters with their TV counterparts. So let's compare the Buckmans (from the movie) to the Bravermans (from the TV show)! Gil (Steve Martin) and his wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen) are the counterparts to Peter Krause's Adam and Monica Potter's Kristina. While in the movie, this family is the main focus, the TV show had enough time to spend on all the families. The main difference are the kids. Gil and Karen's oldest is a nine-year-old boy, Kevin who has "emotional problems" and needs to attend a different school to get the attention he needs as well as go to therapy. Max, from the TV show, is obviously his counterpart and has been diagnosed with Asperger's. While Max has an older sister, Kevin is the oldest and has two younger siblings, Taylor and Justin who are just there to be annoying and bad child actors. Just like in the TV show, the Buckmans are avid baseball fans and Gil wants Kevin to play on the Little League team even though his son doesn't like it. While watching a game, Gil has a daydream where Kevin is the valedictorian at his college graduation and says, "I'm the happiest, confident, most well-adjusted person in this world. And I owe it all to my dad." That daydream quickly changes, however, after Kevin has dropped the ball and loses the game and everyone is heckling him. He tells his dad, "You made me play second base!" and Gil has another daydream where Kevin is shooting a gun at college students from a bell tower and yells the same line. Yeah, I don't think the studio would be able to get away with a scene like that in this day and age! Perhaps a little too dark. Just like Christina got pregnant in the TV show, Karen also becomes pregnant. When she tells Gil the big news, he's not very excited because he's just quit his job (because they gave a promotion to someone who had been there less years than he had), and worries about money and finances, but in the end everything turns out fine.

Young Wa-keen Feenix!
Then we have the single mother family. Helen Buckman (Dianne Weist) is the sister to Gil. She is divorced and has two teen kids: a sixteen year old daughter named Julie (Martha Plimpton) and a son named Gary (played by a VERY young Joaquin Phoenix...he must have been 13 or 14. In fact, he was so young, he's not credited as Joaquin, but rather by Leaf Phoenix, which I guess was a childhood nickname...thank God he changed it back!) Obviously the TV counterpart of this family is the one with Lauren Graham and Mae Whitman and the boy. I call 2016 the Year of Lauren Graham because not only did I watch Parenthood, but I also watched all of Gilmore Girls and I'm super excited for the revival coming on Netflix in November. Super, super excited! By the way, have you ever noticed that LG's character in Gilmore Girls (who also has the same initials as her portrayer) dated her daughter's high school teacher and LG's character in Parenthood dated her daughter's high school teacher? Anyway, back to the review. Julie moves out of the house with her boyfriend, Todd (Keanu Reeves) and they get married much to Helen's dismay. This was probably my favorite of the family dynamics just because there were so many funny moments. Julie and Todd takes some x-rated photos and when they go to get them after they've been developed, Julie realizes the photos she has are her mothers and her mother has the scandalous photos. You couldn't do a scene like that now since nobody ever gets their photos developed anymore since everything is digital! They get into a huge fight and Julie threatens to move out and Helen tells her if she does that, then she can never step foot in their house again. Once Julie has all her stuff packed and is heading for the door, Helen says, "I'm here if you need me! Call me if you need anything!" After Julie gets into a fight with Todd, she moves back in until Todd comes back and apologizes and they get back together again. There's a funny scene where Todd asks Helen, "Where's my wife?" and Helen tells him, "She's still at school....she has cheerleading practice." That just made me laugh out loud...or LOL as the kids say! (Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention they get married?) The movie father of this family is much more of a douchbag than his TV counterpart. At least in the TV show, he attempted to get to know his kids, but the one in the movie has his own new family and doesn't want anything to do with his kids. There's a sad scene when Gary calls his dad and asks if he can stay with him for a few months, but is denied permission so he breaks into his dental office where he works and vandalizes everything. When Helen finds a porno videotape in a sack he's always carrying around (and disguised with a Back to the Future cover), she understands her son needs a man in his life to help answer any questions he has. She asks him if he wants to talk to his Uncle Gil about anything (after she asks him if she can answer any questions he might have) but he doesn't want to. Finally she gets Todd, probably the last person she wants talking to her son. There's a really funny exchange where Todd tells her that Gary got his first boner and asks her, "Do you know what that is?" and she replies, "If memory servers." It's a bit of a running joke that it's been a long time since Helen has any action.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if Nathan (Rick Moranis) or his wife, Susan (Harley may remember her as Jeff Daniel's wife in Arachnophobia) was the Buckman siblings, but after some research, I found out that Susan is the Buckman. I knew this family was the movie counterpart to Julia and Joel. They also have a young daughter, Patty, who is very bright and they teach new things to. Nathan is way more annoying than Joel, though. In fact, I never found Joel to be annoying. Julia was a lot more like Nathan than she is like the more easy going Susan who wants a divorce from Nathan because he is too focused on making sure their daughter is superior than all the other children her age (and he looks down on all his nephews and nieces because they're not as smart as his daughter). Susan wants to have more children, but Nathan says they needs to focus on Patty. She tells him she's leaving him, but he wins her back when he serenades her in front of the middle school class she teaches. There's a scene where Patty is at her cousin's birthday party and Gil is showing all the little kids the thumb trick where it looks like his thumb is being separated (ha, I remember when my friend's dad showed me that and I was completely amazed). I thought for sure Patty was going to tell him how he really did the trick, but instead she screams and runs away. I thought this girl was suppose to be super smart?

Larry (Tom Hulce)'s TV counterpart is Dax Shepard's Crosby. He's a bit of a free spirit and introduces his family to his son, Cool, who's black. The TV show makes a lot more sense where Joy Brant shows up and introduces Crosby to the son he never knew he had. Here, he just shows up with the kid, who's at least five and says he met his mother who was an exotic dancer and had a one-night stand with her. We never see or hear from the mother. Larry gets into some money problems with gambling and has to get help from his father (Jason Robards). Speaking of the parents, while Papa Buckman has a good amount of scenes, their mother is hardly in the movie so they utilized Bonnie Bedelia in the TV show much more better!

The movie ends at the hospital and we see a woman giving birth, though they don't show who it is. We are suppose to think it's either Karen or Julie, who has announced she and Todd are expecting a child. When the woman and her baby are about to be revealed, the camera pans to all the family members. When you see Karen holding a baby, you think it's Julie, but then you see her standing next to Todd holding a baby. That's when you realize the only person you haven't seen yet is Helen and the man who comes out to announce that the baby is a girl is the man she's dating who is also Gary's biology teacher. It was kind of jarring to see they were having a baby since they had only been on one date, but whatever. I felt like they just did it to surprise the audience because I sure as hell wasn't expecting that. I wished it had just been Julie having the baby and we would have seen a nice moment between her and her mother, but instead they had to go for the surprise ending even though I feel like Helen was too old to be having children by then.

So I think the TV show is much more superior, but like I said, they did have five years of story telling to better flesh out the characters and story lines and I guess the show wouldn't exist without the movie. I do think the kid actors from the TV show are much, MUCH better than the kid actors in the movie. I did wonder why it took so long for them to make a TV show based on the movie because it seemed so perfect for a television series. The movie was released in 1989 and the show didn't start until 2010. Well, imagine my surprise when I found out there was a Parenthood TV show before the one we all know and love with Lauren Graham and Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia and Monica Potter and Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen and Joy Bryant and Peter Krause and Mae Whitman and Ray Romano and Michael B. Jordan (okay, I won't list the entire cast!) and all the others we love. This show came out in 1990 and aired for one season on NBC. (Which also aired the 2010 version...I guess enough time had passed! Or maybe NBC has the rights to it). Instead of giving new names to the characters like they do in the updated version, all of them have the same names, but are just played by different actors (though a couple of the kids came back to play the same's not like they'll be cast in anything else!) Imagine my surprise when I found out Leonardo DiCaprio played Gary. Of course, this was before he was famous so nobody cared. And since they didn't care, they didn't watch. I'm old enough to remember 1990, but I DO NOT remember this Parenthood TV show at all! I didn't know who Leonardo DiCaprio was until 1996. MAYBE 1995...I don't remember, but I definitely didn't know who he was in 1990! I guess the show had decent reviews, but was cancelled because of low is the case when shows are cancelled.

Here is the opening credits of the 1990 TV show. I think the song they use is the same one that is used in the movie. It is sung by Randy Newman and it sounds exactly (to my ears, anyway) like the song he sang for Toy Story.  Also, I had no idea Thora Birch (who played the daughter of the Steve Martin Character) was the Cher of her younger years as she only goes by "Thora". Hilarious. What ever happened to Thora Birch? Last time I saw her she played Kevin Spacey's daughter in American Beauty and that's been a long time now!

And because I love it so much, here are the opening credits for the 2010 TV show. I like this song much better before they changed it for the last two seasons...I don't even remember what that song was called or how it went, but I like this one much better:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cop Buddies

Lethal Weapon
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darelene Love
Released March 6, 1987

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound (lost to The Last Emperor

Lethal Weapon 2
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love
Released: July 7, 1989

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

Lethal Weapon 3
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Rene Russo, Joe Pesci, Stuart Wilson, Darlene Love
Released: May 15, 1992

Lethal Weapon 4
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li, Darlene Love
Released: July 10, 1998

I had never seen the Lethal Weapon series until just recently when I discovered they were all on Netflix Instant, but I know they were a big part of '80s and '90s action films. Besides being action films, the only thing I knew about them was that they starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and the oft-quoted line, "I'm too old for this sh*t!" is uttered by Danny Glover.

Glover and Gibson are Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs (notice how they have opposite initials!) When we first meet Murtaugh, it is his 50th birthday (although Danny Glover was 40 when he filmed this...I would be a little insulted if I were him!) He's married to a woman named Trish (Darlene Love - I mostly know her as a singer) and has three children: a teenage daughter named Rianne and a younger son and daughter, Nick and Carrie, who are probably 12 and 9, if I had to guess. I checked IMDb to see if all three kids are played by the same actors throughout the series and they are. In the first movie, Rianne plays a big role. Murtaugh is not very happy when he finds he has a new partner as he would rather work alone. He's partnered with Riggs, who's in his thirties. When we first meet him, we find out his wife died in a car accident and that he's suicidal. We see an early scene of him pointing a gun to his head, but this was a pretty anti-climatic scene for me knowing that there are three other Lethal Weapon movies and they all star Mel Gibson (and Danny Glover as well, so we know Murtaugh's never in any real danger either!) I thought maybe he would be interrupted by a phone call or the knock door, but he decides he can't go through with it.

It does take awhile before we actually see Murtaugh and Riggs meet (this is the origin story, after all!) and there is a funny scene where we see Riggs working on his own. He's working undercover and wants these drug dealers, who also work at a Christmas tree farm, to sell him all their cocaine and asks them how much. They tell him it will cost him "a hundred", but they'll throw in a tree for free. He pulls out his wallet and starts counting twenties and one of the guys slams his hand over the money and Riggs says, "Hey, man, I'm losing count" and the guys says, " One hundred THOUSAND dollars!" Riggs says that he has a better idea; that he'll "take the whole stash off their hands for free and that they can go to jail" and shows them his badge. Oh, yeah, I'm sure those guys think that's a much better deal!

Naturally, Murtaugh and Riggs don't care for each other when they first start working together, but that will change over the course of the series. They are investigating the death of a young woman who they thought committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of a high-rise. However, an autopsy report says that she had been poisoned before she jumped, so she would have died regardless. I don't know why they assumed she committed suicide because she was so jacked up on drugs, I just figured she was impaired and didn't know what she was doing when she jumped. The case is personal for Murtaugh because the girl was the daughter of a man he knew, Michael Hunsaker (Tom Atkins) when he was serving in Vietnam.

That's the main storyline, but there's also other unrelated police work they attend to, such as trying to stop a man from jumping off a building. They decide to send the suicidal cop up to the roof to stop him, for some reason. Riggs tricks the guy and handcuffs him to himself and tells him if he jumps, then he'll be taking a police officer with him and will also be committing murder. While all this was going on, there was a big air mattress being blown up below them. Riggs and the other guy had to have seen that, but when Riggs tells him they might as well jump, the guy starts freaking out and they both land on the mattress. Later that day, Riggs and Murtaugh get a tip about a man who may have sold the dead girl the drugs and Riggs ends up killing him after the guy pulls out a gun. Murtaugh yells at him and asks him if he kills everybody he meets which doesn't make any sense because this is the only guy Riggs has far! (Murtaugh was a little more than upset about the suicidal guy, but he didn't die!) There's also another scene where they're at the shooting rage and both are trying to prove they are a better shot than the other. Murtaugh shoots a bullet through the head of the target, then Riggs takes a target and moves it as far back as it can go and ends up shooting a smiley face on the target's face.

Murtaugh and Riggs find out that Hunsaker's daughter was killed by these guys he was working with. He was laundering money for their heroin smuggling operation called Shadow Company, but wanted out. It was run be a retired general, McAllister (Mitchell Ryan) and Mr. Joshua (everyone's favorite Apprentice, Gary Busey). As Hunsaker is telling Murtaugh about this, he is killed by Mr. Joshua who takes him out from a helicopter and Riggs runs after the helicopter and starts shooting it...does he really think that's going to work? Not surprisingly, Mr. Joshua gets away.

Rianne, the teen daughter of Murtaugh, gets kidnapped by the bad men. There's a big showdown in the desert and a lot of the bad men's henchmen are killed and Rianne manages to escape, but they capture her again along with Riggs and Murtaugh who are both tortured until Riggs escapes and rescues Murtaugh and Rianne and kills some more bad guys. Mr. Joshua has escaped and goes to Murtaugh's house (because every single bad guy in all these movies all know where Murtaugh lives...he really should have moved!) to kidnap the other members of the Murtaugh family, but they've all been taken to safety before he can do that. Riggs and Murtaugh end up driving a car through the house (and Murtaugh's house is going to get completely destroyed during the course of this series! Again, he really should have moved!) There's a big fight between Riggs and Mr. Joshua and Mr. Joshua is caught and being put in handcuffs but not before he tries to get the gun of the police officer, so Riggs shoots and kills him.

There was a small subplot in which Rianne has a crush on Riggs which was a little creepy since she's a teenager and he's in his thirties, but they quickly nix that in the following movies as he becomes like a cool uncle to Murtaugh's kids.

Seriously, what is this monstrosity? 
This movie is so ridiculously outdated and not in the fun way. You should have seen the "mobile" phone Danny Glover uses. In fact, I found a photo so you can see it! The saxophone solos just scream' 80s. There's even a scene where a man comes in Murtaugh's office and starts going off about "the '80s man" and how "guys in the '80s aren't tough, they're sensitive and show their emotions around women." It was just so cringeworthy and out of date. And don't get me started on Mel Gibson's awful mullet, but I guess only Riggs could pull it off.

This movie was the first screenplay written by Shane Black (who also wrote the screenplay for the last movie I reviewed, The Long Kiss Goodnight) who went on to become a hot commodity for action movie screenplays. I just assumed he wrote the screenplays for the other Lethal Weapon movies, but he's just credited for creating the characters and coming up with the story for the second movie.

In Lethal Weapon 2, which came out two years after the first, we are introduced to a few new characters, including new villains. They are trying to take down these South African drug lords who are hiding behind diplomatic immunity.

Murtaugh and Riggs are assigned with the task of "baby-sitting" a man named Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) who has been placed under protective custody and they need to watch him until he testifies. When they arrive at the hotel Leo is staying at, they meet a squirrelly little annoying man. He introduces himself as, "Whatever you need, Leo Getz. You get it?" He also says, "Okay, okay, okay" a lot. He's a very annoying character, but you kind of learn to love him as he's also in the following two movies (and, honestly, there really is no reason for him to be in those movies!) The bad guys have found out where Leo is and one of them, pretending to be part of the hotel staff as he brings in the room service, pulls out a gun, but Riggs attacks him and he, the bad guy, and Leo all go out the window....they are very lucky there was a pool to fall into because they were seven floors up...that fall would have killed them all if not for the pool to break their fall, and even that has to hurt hitting water from that far up! I loved it when Murtaugh gets there and Riggs says, "Why didn't you follow us down?" and Murtaugh goes, "We were seven floors up!" I don't blame him...I wouldn't jump out that window! Needless to say, the bad guy gets away.

They ask Leo what he did for that guy to want to kill them all like that and think he must have murdered someone. This surprised me because I would think they would already know why he's in protective custody, but I guess not. Leo tells them, "All I did was launder a half billion dollars in drug money, okay?" Dang, this guy needs to partner with Walter White...think of all the money those two could have made together...although I'm 100 percent certain Heisenberg would have killed Leo! I'm sure Saul Goodman would have loved to take him on as a client! Unsurprisingly, the bad guys who want to kill Leo are also the same bad guys from South Africa who Riggs and Murtaugh are trying to capture.

Riggs finds out that one of the men from South Africa was responsible for his wife's death...yeah, I'm just as surprised as you are. He has a short-lived romance with a woman who is the secretary of the bad guy (and doesn't believe in his politics), but the writers obviously thought they could find somebody better for him as she is quickly killed off by the bad guys. And this happens after she and Riggs are hiding under his trailer home after the bad guys hover over them with a helicopter and shoot at them. This happens while they are sleeping, but luckily Rigg's collie, Sam, barks and warns them to get out!

To be honest, this was my least favorite of the Lethal Weapon movies. Probably the most memorable scene is when Riggs and the other officers haven't heard from Murtaugh in awhile, so Riggs goes to his house to investigate and finds Murtaugh is on the toilet and he can't get off because he's discovered a bomb. He tells Riggs he doesn't want anyone knowing about this and the next scene shows hundreds of people outside his house. With all these guys from the bomb squad, you think they would be able to disarm the bomb, but no, all they do is put a heavy vest on Murtaugh (and Riggs who is going to stay with him) and tell them to dive into the tub. You think they would also give them helmets, but no. I think this is also the first scene of many where they argue when they're counting down to three, if they go ON 3, or AFTER they say 3. (You know, I've had that internal argument many times with myself). The bomb explodes and the toilet goes flying out the window. It was a pretty funny scene.

Lethal Weapon 3 came out three years later. We are now in the '90s! Murtaugh is about to retire soon and is keeping a countdown of when he will finally get to hang up his uniform for good. This one begins with an exciting action scene: Riggs and Murtaugh are trying to stop a car bomb parked in the parking lot of an office building. It's Riggs' idea to diffuse the bomb, but Murtaugh, the voice of reason, smartly says they should wait for the bomb squad to get there. Yes, Murtaugh, GREAT idea! Riggs thinks he can handle it, however when he cuts the wire he thinks will stop it, the timer just speeds up really fast. It really makes no sense for him to put Murtaugh in danger. Riggs has become pretty close to the Murtaugh family; he would never want to leave Trish and those three kids without a father. The two book it out of there and the entire building blows up. Luckily, this happened in the middle of the night, so nobody (that we know of!) was in the building.

Because of this incident, the two are demoted to just giving out tickets to civilians and just being on street patrol. While on duty, they see an armored van being stolen and pursue it. After a high-speed chase where one of the guys goes headfirst through the windshield of the van, Riggs tells him, "You have the right to remain unconscious. Anything you say, ain't got to be much." By the way, Riggs is from Australia, right? Because I detect some Aussie accent in his voice. They find out the man is in cahoots with a former police officer named Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) who is selling smuggled guns. Riggs and Murtaugh are back in the field to work this assignment along with an officer from internal affairs, Lorna (Rene Russo) and a romance blossoms between her and Riggs.

There's a scene where Riggs and Lorna check out a lead, only to find the place that is housing the illegal firearms is being guarded by a seemingly viscous Rottweiler. Riggs, being a dog person, decides to try to make friends with the second the dog is growling at him, the next Riggs is feeding him dog treats and rubbing his belly! The dog also decides to leave and join Riggs and Lorna after they infiltrate the place. Speaking of dogs, I didn't even see Sam the collie in this movie.

They find out there are some cop killers on the loose and there's a special kind of bullet than can penetrate a bullet proof vest. It turns out one of these cop killers is none other than one of Nick's friends (the teenaged son of Murtaugh). Nick hasn't seen much of Daryl lately because he dropped out of school. A couple days later, Riggs notices a drug deal taking place and points his gun and badge at them and tells them to show their hands, but one guy starts shooting at him and as he hides behind a building, a couple of the kids drive away. A couple other kids run away and one kids hides in a latrine. Murtaugh comes to help Riggs and tells the kid to come out with his hands up, but the kid opens the door a crack and starts shooting at them. Murtaugh shoots back and ends up killing the kid...and finds out it was Daryl. He's very torn up about this and when he attends the funeral and goes to tell Daryl's parents how sorry he is, Daryl's mom only slaps him. Um, what the hell? He had to kill your son or else he would have died...and your son tried to kill a police officer. Great offspring you have there, woman. But of course she blames Murtaugh for her son's death and for her son having an illegal weapon.

Leo is back, annoying as ever, and for some reason, with platinum hair. He helps Riggs and Murtaugh by identifying Jack Travis for them at an hockey game because he did business with him. There is really no reason for him to be in this movie. He's also trying to sell the Murtaugh's house for them...since when did Leo become a realtor?

There's this scene towards the end where Riggs, Murtaugh, Lorna, and some 22 year old kid brand new to the force are on a shoot out with the bad guys...well, guess which of those four characters I just named ends up getting shot and killed? And the kid just turned 22 that day! Also, on the day of his supposed retirement, Murtaugh decides he doesn't want to retire. If I were his wife, I would be so angry. I'd be like, You've been a police officer for the last however many years and nothing has ever happened to you, so let's not push our luck and just retire now! But of course she and the rest of the Murtaugh family are very supportive of his decision and tell him the city will be a safer place since he's a police officer. I was wondering, before I saw this scene, if he would come out of his retirement for the fourth movie.

The longest gap is between the third and fourth (aka the final as I doubt there will be any others at this point!) movie with six years between them. I was prepared to absolutely hate Lethal Weapon 4 because whenever I listen to movie podcasts and the Lethal Weapon series comes up, everyone always talks about how much they despise that one. Perhaps since I had such low expectations, I didn't think it was that bad. It wasn't a masterpiece, but none of them are.

As we met Leo in the second movie and Lorna in the third movie, we meet yet another new character in the latest installment. Chris Rock plays Lee Butters, a new cop on their force. (And yes, every time they referred to him as "Butters", I thought of the South Park character!) He is married to Rianne and she is pregnant with his child, but Murtaugh doesn't even know any of this. (Apparently nobody told him because he would flip out if his daughter was married to a police officer, but doesn't he have the right to know?!) He does find out his daughter is pregnant in the very first scene when he and Riggs are trying to stop a guy in a flame-retardant suit setting fire to everything in his path. They are hiding behind their car and Riggs tells Murtaugh he needs to be safe because Rianne is pregnant, then Murtaugh, in return, tells Riggs HE needs to be safe because Lorna, now Riggs' girlfriend, is pregnant. Don't ask my why Riggs knew about Rianne and Murtaugh knew about Lorna before the other one knew. I guess they were both sworn to secrecy. I thought the fire-starter guy was going to be pivotal to the story of Lethal Weapon 4, but once Murtaugh distracts the guy by flapping his arms like a chicken in his boxer shorts (okay, maybe I can understand why people think this movie has jumped the shark!), Riggs shoots the guy's fuel tank and he goes flying into a gas station and explodes so obviously that was the last we saw of him!

The real plot of this movie is they discover a large boat with many Chinese immigrants who are involved in a smuggling ring led by a man named Ku (Jet Li). The immigrants are being brought to L.A. to be slaves. Murtaugh takes in a family of immigrants and lets them stay at his home. They are captured and taken by the bad guys who tie up Murtaugh, Riggs, Lorna, Trish, and Rianne and then proceed to set Murtaugh's house on fire (seriously, he should have bought a new house ages ago!), but luckily a young boy hiding in the house is unable to untie them from their restraints. There's something involving counterfeit money. Leo is back and he's a private detective so he helps the others hunt down the bad guys. As great as Joe Pesci is, there really is no reason for him to be in this movie just as there was no reason for him to be in the third movie. Yes, there is a funny dynamic between him and our two leading characters, but for the most part he's just there to be the comedic relief...which we don't really need in a movie like this since it's already a comedy. At least Leo no longer has his weird platinum hair! And I will admit I did feel bad for him when he told Riggs his story about his pet frog from childhood, Froggie, his only friend in the world who he accidentally killed when he ran over him with his bike...awww!

There are some great action scenes in this one, including one where Riggs and Ku are fighting inside a mobile home with one side covered in plastic so everyone driving around them can see them. There are also many scenes that don't need to be there. One is when Riggs, Murtaugh, and Butters try to talk to a bad guy who is at the dentist and put him on laughing gas and soon they are all on laughing gas and making jokes. This scene is only here to placate the audience as well as the scenes we have of Leo and Butters having stupid arguments so we can see Joe Pesci and Chris Rock going back and fourth. Amusing, but not relevant.

The movie ends with Riggs becoming a father and Murtaugh becoming a coincidental those two babies were born on the same day! They all take a family photo and everyone is happy. There is a finality to the credits with photo book snapshots from all the movies. There is no way they would ever make another one because Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are quite literally too old for this sh*t!