ABC Film Challenge – 80s – Z – Above the Law (1988)

Above the Law is under Z because of the villain Zagon.

Director: Andrew Davis

Writer: Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett, Andrew Davis (Screenplay) Andrew Davis, Steven Seagal (Story)

Starring: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Henry Silva, Ron Dean, Daniel Faraldo, Sharon Stone

 

Plot: A former Special Operations Vietnam vet works as a Chicago cop, and uncovers C.I.A. wrongdoing.


Tagline – He was a covert agent trained in Vietnam. He has a master 6th degree black belt in Aikido… and family in the Mafia. He’s a cop with an attitude. 

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Typical Seagal Action

 

Story: Above the Law starts when retired special operations solider turned cop Nico (Seagal) starts investigating his latest case with his partner Jacks (Grier). The case sees him tracking down a drug dealer which as is Nico’s way, sees him going above the law with how he handles his dealings.

When Nico get told to walk away from the case, it leads to him going against the rules once again, making him a target for the real criminal Zagon (Silva) that starts by targeting his personal life.

 

Thoughts on Above the Law

 

Characters – Nico Toscani travelled the world to learn martial arts, joined the special operations unit in Vietnam before returning to be Chicago to be a cop. His methods go against the normal for any cop and his family is the most important thin in his life, if you mess with them he will come for you. Jacks is the partner of Nico, she does try to guide him to stay within the law, even if she knows he is right with his actions. Kurt Zagon is the criminal mastermind, he has all the small town criminals in his pocket and isn’t happen when somebody starts causing him problems in his business. Sara is the wife of Nico that supports him and is the one person he will protect without a second thought.

PerformancesSteven Seagal is always going to be known for his action films, he is easy to watch with his style and this is one of his better ones before it became too routine for him. Pam Grier is a performer that we wish we could have seen more of because she does bring her supporting performance to life. Henry Silva is the much needed villain of the piece that does above the law with his action. Sharon Stone doesn’t get that much time on camra if we are honest, making it hard to judge her performance.

StoryThe story follows a harden cop that will do anything to get the criminals being forced to go against the law to make sure they are off the street even though his latest case will put a target on his back. This story does show us how a cop can walk into a bigger conspiracy going on which will see him needing to find a way out of the trouble he has stumbled into. Being a Seven Seagal movie, it clearly doesn’t need a very deep story which this one doesn’t offer in any way.

Action/Crime/MysteryThe action in this film is here to give Seagal an chance to show off his fighting skills which is all it needs to really, this one does feel like one of the smoother ones though. The criminal world our cop enters shows how criminals can operate both sides of the law. The mystery is around whether Nico can solve the crime before it is too late.

SettingsThe film is set in Chicago which is one of the easy go to locations for any police drama.


Scene of the Movie –
The four on one stand off.

That Moment That Annoyed Me This isn’t the deepest story.

Final ThoughtsThis is one of the early typical Seagal movies, we know the action is going to work for his style without being anything that we haven’t seen before.

 

Overall: Easy action.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – 80s Movies – F- Frantic (1988) Movie Review

Director: Roman Polanski

Writer: Roman Polanski, Gerard Brach (Screenplay)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Betty Buckley, Emmanuelle Seigner, Djiby Soumare, Dominique Virton, Gerard Klein

Plot: In a hotel room in Paris, a doctor comes out of the shower and finds that his wife has disappeared. He soon finds himself caught up in a world of intrigue, espionage, gangsters, drugs and murder.


Tagline – They’ve taken his wife. Now he’s taking action.

Runtime: 2 Hours

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Slow Burning Thriller

Story: Frantic starts when Dr Richard Walker (Ford) and his wife Sondra (Buckley) arrive in Paris for a business trip, only while Richard was in the shower, Sondra disappears, which leads to Richard going in search on the streets of Paris for his wife.

As Richard tries to learn about the truth about what happened to Sondra, he meets a local woman Michelle (Seigner) whose suitcase the couple accidentally take back to the hotel, could she have the answer or is there something bigger going on in Paris.

Thoughts on Frantic

Characters – Dr Richard Walker believes he is in Paris for a conference and holiday with his wife, only for her to disappear and him needing to search the streets of Paris for answer to a mystery he never expected to be involved in. Sondra is the missing wife, we only really see how the two are tighter more than anything, before she goes missing. Michelle is the local woman whose suitcase gets mixed up, she helps Richard get to the bottom of everything, despite being involved in a much bigger criminal world.

PerformancesHarrison Ford is mostly the only good thing about this movie, he does have the everyday man about him as he is struggle to learn the truth. Emmanuelle Seigner is strong, while the rest of the cast just doesn’t get enough time to do that much.

StoryThe story here follows an American whose wife goes missing in Paris and must try and learn the truth before it is too late, only to find himself in the middle of a much bigger conspiracy going on. This is a story that doesn’t seem to really get going despite having an idea of what it wants to tell us, it shows us just how out a place a tourist could be when a family member goes missing and helpless they might well be when looking for help. We do seem to get plenty of ideas of where the story could go, only it ends up just going at a snails pace.

Crime/MysteryThe crime side of the film shows the world that Richard is thrown into and how he doesn’t know who to trust, which does help the mystery, only it doesn’t seem come to any level where it could be filled with peril.

SettingsParis does make for a lovely backdrop for the film, though we don’t seem to hit enough of the iconic locations.


Scene of the Movie – Rooftop sneaking.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – It is just slow.

Final Thoughts This is a slow thriller that just doesn’t get going despite having Harrison Ford in the leading role.

Overall: Just doesn’t get going.

Die Hard (1988) Movie Review

Director: John McTiernan

Writer: Jeb Stuart, Steven E de Souza (Screenplay) Roderick Thorp (Novel)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, De’voreaux White, William Atherton, Alexander Godunov

Plot: An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.


Tagline – He’s the only chance anyone has got.

Runtime: 2 Hour 12 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Absolute Classic

Story: Die Hard starts when John McClane (Willis) heads to LA to spend Christmas with his wife Holly (Bedelia) during a work party at the Nakatomi Plaza, this is one last chance to hopeful rekindle their marriage.

The party takes a turn for the worst when Hans Gruber (Rickman) and his highly trained team crash the party, holding the guests hostage, only John gets away unseen, John hides in the building trying to lower the odds to save the guests including Holly from the terrorist that simply won’t stop.

Thoughts on Die Hard

Characters – John McClane is a New York police officer that is spending Christmas in LA with his wife, trying to save his marriage, he isn’t the guy that goes to business parties, but he gets his chance to shine when the terrorists take over the building, he shows his ability to evolve to the situation to stay ahead of the terrorists. Hans Gruber is the leader of the terrorists who have taken of Nakatomi Plaza, they are in control of the hostages, with their plan in motion, he sees McClane as a pain, rather than a problem expecting his men to be able to solve the situation, he always has a plan for the different situations he could be expecting. Holly is John’s wife who works in the building, she becomes the leader of the hostages not revealing her identity to the terrorists.

PerformancesBruce Willis is fantastic in the leading role, it was the role which made him a superstar as he gives us one of the most iconic figures in cinema history. Alan Rickman on his debut in film is truly brilliant too, bringing one of the most iconic villains in film history too. The rest of the cast do bring us characters we will remember through the film, which is something most action films struggle with.

StoryThe story here follows a cop that finds himself needing to overcome the odds to rescue a large group of hostages from a group of terrorists. This story keeps everything simple with the terrorists having their plan, the cop having to think on his feet and the supporting characters given enough development to make us care about what is happening. This story is great to watch because of the fact it doesn’t make anything more complicated than it needs to be and become one that nearly everybody knows.

ActionThe action is filled with shoot outs, explosions and fights, everything you would to see in this style of film.

SettingsThe film keeps all the action in the tower, it keeps everything feeling contained which only adds to the hunt for McClane by the terrorists.


Scene of the Movie – Welcome to the party Pal.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Nothing.

Final Thoughts This is easily one of the greatest action films of all time, it brings us two of the biggest icons in film history and will leave forever in the memories of the audience.

Overall: Classic.

Pumpkinhead (1988)

Director: Stan Winston

Writer: Mark Patrick Carducci, Gary Gerani (Screenplay) Mark Patrick Carducci, Stan Winston, Richard Weinman (Story)

Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D’Aquino, Kimberly Ross, Joel Hoffman, Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Florence Schauffler

 

Plot: After a tragic accident, a man conjures up a towering, vengeful demon called Pumpkinhead to destroy a group of unsuspecting teenagers.


Tagline – The Demon of Revenge.

Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Fun 80’s Slasher

 

Story: Pumpkinhead starts when small town shopkeeper Ed Harley’s (Henriksen) young son is killed in an accident involving reckless motor cross riders, Joel (D’Aquino), Chris (East), Kim (Ross), Steve (Hoffman), Tracy (Bain) and Maggie (Remsen), with the one that caused the accident Joel running from the scene.

Desiring vengeance for his son’s death, Ed turns to the known witch Haggis (Schauffler) who offers him a chance to bring a demon called Pumpkinhead to life and destroy the teenagers that killed his son.

 

Thoughts on Pumpkinhead

 

Characters – Ed Harley is a hardworking shop keeper and single father, he gets on well with the community and enjoys the quiet life. His life is turned upside down when his son is killed in an accident, which pushes him to turn to the dark arts to avenge his son’s death, only he didn’t plan for what would be expected from him. Chris is one of the teenagers that wants to do the right thing after the accident, much like the rest of the teenagers they all blend into one, except for the one that caused the accident, who only wants to look after himself.

PerformancesLance Henriksen is the star of the film, he is easily the best performer as his character goes through the biggest trauma and shows the desperation for revenge and regret for his decision. When it comes to the rest of the cast, they are performed to the level most slasher films reached.

StoryThe story here follows a man that will do anything to get vengeance for his son’s death, which sees him summon the evil Pumpkinhead to kill the people that took his son, he soon learns the errors of his choice and must figure out how to stop the killing machine. For a monster creature feature slasher this is a simple story, we don’t get twists, we don’t need much character development as we are more interested in seeing the effects being used. It is nice have a story that remains simple in the horror genre at times too.

Fantasy/HorrorThe fantasy elements of this film comes from the figure of Pumpkinhead that gets summoned to do revenge for people that believe they have been wronged, which plays hand in hand with the horror side of the film which is slasher elements which show just how deadly this figure will be.

SettingsThe film is set in a small town where we don’t have many people with the ones living their knowing each other and anyone coming from the outside being frowned upon.

Special EffectsThe effects are the highlight of the film, Stan Winston was known for his ability to create some of the most memorable creatures in film history and with him directing he brings us another terrifying creation.


Scene of the Movie –
The first imagine of Pumpkinhead.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The teenagers are stupid for how they acted for the accident to happen in the first place.

Final ThoughtsThis is a slasher that can be enjoyed by the horror community, it offers everything needed to just let us enjoy ourselves without challenging us like other horrors.

 

Overall: Simple, effective and fun horror.

Rating

 

 

Scrooged (1988)

Director: Richard Donner

Writer: Mitch Glazer, Michael O’Donoghue (Screenplay) Charles Dickens (Novel)

Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwait

 

Plot: A selfish, cynical T.V. executive is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.

Tagline – The spirits will move you in odd and hysterical ways.
Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Nice Reimagining of Christmas Carol

 

Story: Scrooged starts as we meet TV executive Frank Cross (Murray) who is preparing the Christmas line up with his own live production of Scrooge. He puts pressure on his assistant Grace, fires staff who go against him in Eliot (Goldthwait) and pushes the boundaries of television.

When Frank gets visited by his former boss Lew Hayward (Forsythe) he gets an encounter from beyond the grave that warns him he will get a visit from three ghosts over the next day to show him his past, present and future.

 

Thoughts on Scrooged

 

Characters – Frank Cross is the ruthless TV executive that sees Christmas as a chance to prove his value by getting the highest ratings, when he pushes people to far he gets a visit from three ghosts that show him the errors of his way, but can he change. Frank is one of the first characters in a Scrooge role that he is going on the same trip, so he doesn’t believe it on the same levels. Claire is the former love that Frank let go for his own career, she was the only person that could get through his selfish ways in the past.

PerformancesThis film is a Bill Murray vehicle, it was designed for his comic timing and quick wit as a stand-alone performer which is something he hasn’t done much previously. It is strange because I am not the biggest fan of his comedy, but in this role, I enjoyed his performance that is filled with arrogance to make us hate his character while also being able to sympathise with him. The rest of the cast work well for the film that show us how Murray can get the best out of many different talents.

StoryThe story is a different take on the classic Christmas Carol, first the film shows characters who know the story, so they know where the ghosts are taking them, which is different and refreshing to see. I can see the traditionalist not enjoying this version, but let’s be honest how many times can you tell the same story? the problems I do have with the film is that we don’t get the full impact of what the supporting characters of the story get enough time see their impact on the story, in the way they were originally designed.

Comedy/Fantasy/RomanceThe comedy comes from Bill Murray, it only comes around him which can give and take from the bigger picture too often, the fantasy and romance both suffer in the same feint.

SettingsThe film is mostly set inside the TV studio showing how Frank sees the characters and the production going on and how he treats them.

Special EffectsWhile the effects are not used very often, but when they do they all work very well for the film.


Scene of the Movie –
Final Speech.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The dramatic moments are lacking the punch needed.

Final ThoughtsIf you want to see a different version of the Christmas Carol, this works because it brings us into a world where the book exists.

 

Overall: Nice little Christmas Film.

Rating