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Hot Shots! (film)

Jim Abrahams (Airplane!) directs this Top Gun parody starring Charlie Sheen, Cary Elwes, Lloyd Bridges, Jon Cryer, Kevin Dunn, and Valeria Golino. This was made back in the days when parody films were actually smart and clever, before it devolved into shit like Epic Movie and Vampires Suck. You have to respect the source material if you’re going to make a funny parody. You can’t just slap scenes and gags together to lengthen the film’s running time.

Hot Shots! actually has a plot. Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) is a top Navy pilot with some daddy issues. He’s a natural pilot but is self-destructive, something that his therapist/love interest (Valeria Golino) tries to help him with. Cary Elwes plays a rival pilot feuding with Topper. His future Two and a Half Men co-star Jon Cryer also plays a fellow pilot and Kristy Swanson walks around in a bra, which is nice.

Even though this is a parody, it’s still a pretty solid film. It has a real plot, the characters actually develop, and the end result is an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Compare that to the 2% and 4% rating for Epic Movie and Vampires Suck. There is a joke or a gag every few seconds and most of them are hysterical. But there is also continuity to the jokes. When Lloyd Bridges spits pudding on Kevin Dunn’s face, the pudding stays on his face until he wipes it away. There is a Chihuahua that has the unfortunate habit of getting sat on. The funniest jokes are reoccurring ones.

Charlie Sheen carries the picture. He’s kind of like a younger Leslie Nielsen: they are both comedic actors, but they aren’t really comedians. They both have a deadpan delivery while doing the absurd. Hot Shots! isn’t as funny as Airplane!, but that’s a tough act to follow.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Glory

Glory is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal US Army unit made up of black soldiers. And Hollywood is racist, so Matthew Broderick plays the main character. Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) directs and Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Cary Elwes costar in one of the better movies set during the US Civil War.

Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Ferris Bueller) is the son of abolitionists and is currently fighting in the Civil War for the Union Army. He gets injured in a battle and goes home to Boston where he gets promoted to Colonel and assumes control over the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He recruits his friend Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) to be his second-in-command. He’s also white. The first black guy who joins them is Thomas (Andre Braugher), a childhood friend of Cabot and Shaw’s.

A bunch of men join the unit for a chance to fight, to prove themselves both honorable and equal. Denzel Washington plays Trip, an escaped slave with a chip on his shoulder for understandable reasons. Jihmi Kennedy plays Jupiter Sharts, a free black man who seems naïve and innocent compared to Trip. Morgan Freeman plays Rawlins, who plays the wise old mentor figure who can still kick some ass.

Shaw’s tasked with getting the 54th into fighting shape, something that’s not easy to do. The men train and bond and establish their characters and relationships. They have to fight for boots, rifles, and uniforms. The men work hard and improve, but it becomes clear that they aren’t likely to see any action on account of all the racism.

Shaw blackmails his commanding officers and gets his men to the front lines. They win a small skirmish in South Carolina. And Shaw volunteers the 54th to lead a suicide assault on Fort Wagner. Not to ruin anything, but they pretty much all die. It was a suicide assault after all.

Robert Shaw was a real guy. He really did command the 54th infantry. The movie has to include him. But Shaw is a shitty main character. He is kind of racist but not really. He’s kind of a coward but not really. He just kind of stands around and occasionally does something to advance the plot, but he seems to just be plodding along. All of the good scenes are about Trip, Rawlins, Thomas, and Jupiter. They are the heart of the movie. A movie about a black army unit should focus on the black army unit.

Morgan Freeman is always good, and this movie is no exception. But Denzel Washington steals the show. Trip is a great character. The scene where he gets whipped for desertion is hard to watch, but you can’t turn away. You feel his pain.

The battle scenes are explosive, violent, bloody, and realistic. Edward Zwick knows how to balance out riveting action sequences with quieter and more reflective scenes. This is a great movie, it’s a classic. You watch it and you want to learn more about the 54th. Those brave soldiers fought with courage and honor and deserve to be remembered. They should be the focus of the film, not their white leader.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Twister (film, not the awesome game)

Twister was the first Hollywood movie released on DVD. That alone is reason enough to watch this movie. Jan de Bont (Speed) directs Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in Twister. They play a couple of storm chasers who track down tornadoes. For science.

Helen Hunt plays Jo, a meteorologist with a traumatic tornado-ridden past. Bill Paxton plays Bill Harding, her husband who shows up seeking her signature to finalize their divorce so he can marry his bitch girlfriend Melissa (Jami Gertz). Bill and Jo used to partners, both on the field and in the sack, but now Bill is out of the tornado chasing game. Jo has developed a tornado researching device based on Bill’s designs that they codenamed DOROTHY. Bill and Melissa tag along with Jo and her team of storm chasers as they attempt to launch DOROTHY before a rival team of storm chasers launch their own rip-off version of DOROTHY and steal all the credit.

Cary Elwes plays the rival storm chaser, Jonas Miller. He has a corporate sponsorship. He is like Team X-Bladz and Jo’s side is like Team Pup ‘N Suds. And if you don’t get that reference I feel sorry for you. Jonas swoops in and tries to take all the good twisters, but he doesn’t understand them like Jo or Bill. Cary Elwes has a ridiculous accent in this movie. I can’t tell if he’s trying to be Southern or Midwestern, but c’mon, you’re Cary Elwes and we know you are English and we want to hear your English accent. You don’t see Hugh Grant trying to talk like an American.

Bill is trying to move on with his life with Melissa, but he can’t escape the fact that storm chasing is in his blood. And so he returns to his old ways, and starts to go on the hunt for the chance to release DOROTHY into a tornado so that they can use science to develop an early warning system. With each new and more powerful tornado he experiences, he becomes closer to Jo and more distant to Melissa.

By the time the final and most powerful tornado shows up, a motherfucking F5, Bill and Jo are fully reconciled and Melissa can fuck off. Bill and Jo manage to deploy DOROTHY and tornadoes will never again plagued mankind. Happy endings rule.

This is a weird blockbuster. It has a bunch of actors that you recognize, but none of them are really movie stars. Bill Paxton is famous, but he’s not Brad Pitt. Helen Hunt was really big for a while but she faded away. You recognize Cary Elwes from the Princess Bride, Alan Ruck from Ferris Bueller, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. You might even recognize Jeremy Davies (Daniel Faraday from Lost). But most of the actors aren’t that big. The special effects were cutting edge at the time, but they look dated now. Flying cows just aren’t that impressive anymore.

Twister is an action film, but sometimes it seems like a horror movie. Especially how the tornadoes seem to stalk Jo. She can’t escape them. They killed her father and they keep coming after her. It’s pretty suspicious how each one of the twisters becomes more violent. First it’s a weak F1 which escalates into an F2, and then there’s and F2, and later an F3. Then an F4 almost wipes out Jo and her group and tries to kill her aunt. And then an F5 forms and heads straight for her and almost kills her, mirroring the F5 that killed her dad. Nature is a bitch and it hates Helen Hunt.

Watching this movie now is a trip. This movie came out in 1996 and you forget about how there was no technology back then. They storm chasers communicate by radio, not by iPhone or Droids. They have archaic computers and software to simulate weather patterns, not with iPads or knockoff tablets. Alan Ruck’s whole character could be replaced by Tom Tom or any standard GPS.

I feel like everyone has seen this movie. You almost had to. But it’s not that good. It’s really dated, it doesn’t hold up. It’s a decent story of man versus nature, but I always thought that man versus bad man with a gun is a better story.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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The Princess Bride

Rob Reiner’s directorial fairy tale masterpiece. A grandfather reads The Princess Bride by William Goldman to his sick grandson, and the film jumps into a rich fantasy world with swordsmen, pirates, giants, Rodents Of Unusual Size, six fingered men, and true love. Definitely fantasy.

The story follows a young farmhand named Westley (Cary Elwes) who loves the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright). He goes out to seek his fortune so he can marry her, but shit happens along the way. She gets engaged to Prince Humperdinck, and Westley gets kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Life throws you curveballs I guess.

A trio of criminals kidnaps Buttercup. They are lead by the short and wannabe clever Vizzini (Wallace Shawn); the noble Spanish swordsman who is avenging his father’s death, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin); and a gentle giant named Fezzik (Andre the Awesome Giant). A mysterious man in black is hot in pursuit. He turns out to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, and eventually frees Buttercup. She hates him for killing Westley, but in a twist worthy of an M. Night Shyamalan, it turns out it is Westley! Hooray, he didn’t die.

They can’t be together though, because Buttercup is still engaged to Humperdinck. Humperdinck has a hidden agenda. He wants to kill Buttercup and frame a rival nation for her death so he can go to war. He has Westley imprisoned and tortured.

A bunch of stuff happens and eventually Inigo Montoya and Fezzik ally themselves with Westley and they storm the castle, free Buttercup, avenge their fathers, defeat the evil Humperdinck and escape on horses.

This is a great movie. Guys like it. Girls like it. Kids like it. Really old, decrepit people like it. It’s a movie you can watch with your family or your friends. It brings people together. Simply a timeless film. Hollywood, I am begging you, don’t ever do a remake or a prequel or unnecessary sequel. Let good movies stay good.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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