Police Academy (1984) [review]

Our taste in humour may have changed over the years since this was released, but the jokes in this film still find a way of being funny, some will make you laugh, some will make you smile, some may make you groan with how we’ve evolved since this originally hit the big screen.

This is not a film that tries to be high art, but will take you on a hour and a half of pure fun as a handful of misfits find themselves either wanting to be in the police force or are given the choice to apply or going to jail. Which leads to pushing the boundaries of where they find themselves.

But that doesn’t matter; this is all about the misfortune of not only the cadets, but those already in the police force. We may not like some of the people training the new recruits and therefore we enjoy their misery of having to put up with what they see as the unlikely police officers who could be upholding the law.

This is a film of blundering characters you will enjoy due the fact that they’re not really up to the job and, in a way; you want to see them succeed. Although there are a couple of new recruits who you hope will fall flat on the faces. This is a movie which you don’t need to think too much about, the story is simple, the jokes are fun and the characters are a pleasure to watch as they stubble through the fourteen weeks of training, if they’re the ones being trained or those training.

You may wonder how some of those in the position of training rose to their rank in the police force as they seem so unlikely, but there really is no reason to… Maybe invent your own back story in how they managed to do so.

Maybe a underlying message in this film is that the idea of the police are recruiting from all walks of life, planting the seed that if you put your mind to it, you can succeed no matter where you come from. This is a nice sentiment; even if I am over think it in such a film as this. This is a joy to watch for the laughs, it’s not a deep and meaningful of a film… you will enjoy this for the lack of seriousness there is.

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Solaris (2002) [review]

As I’ve never read the novel I cannot compare the film with the book. The 1972 film I would recommend checking out along with this version of the story. But for now I will limit my comment to this film. This is an excellent experience which deserves praise for all that is and isn’t known.

The film presumes that the audience is smart and can figure out what is going on, we’re never offered some meaningless dialog for the sake of filling the silence. There are scenes where nothing or very little is said by any of the characters, we watch the characters and their none verbal reactions to moments. This may seem simple, but the filmmakers offered us the chance to think about what is going on… in a slow moving film which asks questions we may have never considered before, where we stand, what our philosophy on life is, what it is to be human and if we believe in an afterlife or life on other planets.

Do not expect to be told how to think or feel… although I’m sure you could argue that the score could push you in directions of how to feel, but it is a score which is beautiful rather than trying to influence the viewer in any way on how we should react to the moment or the characters.

There is a minimalist feel to the film, as we have less dialog, a score which seems understated and performances which are slow and lingering, all of which leads us to ponder what it is that is going on. We know as much as the characters do and, we consider the significance and therefore look for many possibilities for why we should care.

Never does it feel like we’re being talked down to, as the characters go through a situation which seems unexplainable. This is a film which I’ve come back to many times, raising different thoughts, theories and emotions to what I think the possibilities could be. I will not tell you there is a right or wrong way to react to any of what is on offer.

In returning to this many times over the years as I like what it has to offer and I recommend you check it out and find your own answers. It is a film which you will talk to your friends about, what it means and I’m sure there will be many ways in which it can be interpreted. It is a film which requires you to switch your brain on.

Red Eye (2005) [review]

With the success of the “Scream” films, Wes Craven went on to direct this horror thriller, which is a less entertaining than his previous films. This is too glossy and safe for anybody to actually care about the characters and why any of them should survive, this is a film which is cashing in on Wes Craven’s name, rather than being a great story.

While there is some entertainment to this, it is mostly due to the fact that this depends on the audience being young and not having seen that many horror or thriller films previous to this. The characters seem to lack any personality and we know how they’re going to react and therefore we don’t really care if they merely go through the motions.

This is not a film that benefits from knowing less about the characters; the situation or the background of why certain people want others out of the picture. We don’t know why in any depth of why the villains want certain characters taken out.  We don’t know their position on which party they belong to or why they feel the need to take out Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia).

But this film is partly saved by the idea of Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) being stuck in one place for the majority of the film. Being stuck in a confined space has been a great way to build tension for many a film, and this has some of what made those other films much more enjoyable.

We never really get the feeling that anybody is really in danger, but, I’m guessing that in the times this was released, tensions on a plane was supposed to make us viewers have the events of recent history in the back of our mind, and therefore feel for, not only the main characters of the film, but those who don’t know what is happening on the flight they’re on.

The logic of the film, that none of the other passengers see certain actions or doesn’t hear the conversation between the two main characters is another aspect that decreases the tension. We wonder how such an over the top movement or comment goes unnoticed… but I guess the writers hoped we wouldn’t notice this, presuming the audience they were aiming for would not consider such elements.

I do like that the female lead is somebody who is a everyday person with a normal job who is a strong female… maybe a reason Wes Craven decided to direct. Although, her moments of being smart, are not that intelligent, merely there to push the story along, maybe I’m hoping or expecting too much from these characters.

This is a film you will enjoy if you let the idiotic simplicity go and just go with the flow and acknowledge that this is not a horror aimed at an older audience. Although I do wish that filmmakers would realise children are smarter and tougher than they are given credit for.

The Return of Swamp Thing (1989) [review]

The film tries to be funnier than the first, but the jokes feels too obvious and dumb to be anything but groan worthy. The dialog is so simple that you may wonder if those who were writing it were capable of doing so. The film seems to be more interested in looking at people in tight cloths or wearing very little at all… just enough to be able to get a lower rating and bigger audience, which is one of the downfalls of the film.

The idea for Swamp Thing returning feels very flimsy, while acknowledging the ending of the previous film, offers a quick and lousy explanation of how certain characters could possibly return. The director, Jim Wynorski doesn’t seem to know or care what the actors do on screen; therefore the acting seems half hearted and barely watchable without the viewer at least having a smirk on their face. . There are moments which look like the actors are waiting for the director to call action, Which the editing could have helped and a second or two could have been cut and the scenes would look better.

It could be said that this film is entertaining for all the wrong reasons, as everything about this seems half hearted. I would say that this has the feeling of a film company rushing this into production after the popularity of the first, but this was released years after the original.

There’s a feeling that this forgets most of what happened in the first film, almost giving it a standalone feel,  as if somebody involved didn’t really want to be making a sequel to somebody else’s film. Maybe making this film so they could get the money to make their own.

This is a short film at just under an hour and a half, which is one of the positives about this… maybe it’s one of the reasons scenes were not cut any shorter, there’s only so much they could remove from what we have here, before it was too short. This is an good example of some films not needing a sequel, no matter how good or popular the original was.

With all that I’ve said already, this is not a terrible film, but it could have been so much better in the right hands. It is entertaining and fun; just don’t expect too much and you will enjoy this no brainer of a film, which you will probably forget shortly after you’ve watched it.

Swamp Thing (1982) [review]

I’m sure there will be fans of the comics who will compare this film to the source materiel and find reason to judge what we have here, and how close it sticks to the original creation. But as somebody who has never read the comics I cannot go any further than comment on the film.

This is a film which is entertaining for many reasons, for one, it feels as if it is trying to work with the fun of what I presume the comics are, never trying to take itself seriously. Another being that it does have some of Wes Craven’s humour and a certain amount of his thoughtfulness, to a lesser degree than those of us who are fans of his work.

This is not a film which tries to shock or scare you with violence or blood and gore, but take you on a fun ride in the middle of nowhere, where something like a man becoming part plant due to his enemy’s greed and arrogance can occur. Then there is the local wild life which can and will take a chance on eating anybody it can get its jaws on.

Like many of Wes Craven’s films we do get a strong and smart female lead in Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau), something which I’ve always liked about his work. While this may be a film which begins with an intelligent scientist Alec Holland (Ray Wise) it soon becomes an action/adventure film with quick moments of basic philosophy.

The film does not bog us down with too much information, only offering quick throw away comments of science; presuming we know the basics. The majority of the film is on the good versus evil and why one man will go so far to get what he wants… which is the formula.

The film also has its moments of commenting on the world, the science which Alec is working on is to stop world hunger, which is done in a manner to remind us that many of us have it better than others, but it does not guilt us into thinking about that which we may not normally consider.

There is also a great score by Harry Manfredini which gives the film more atmosphere to an already enjoyable film. If you get the chance, check it out and be entertained for an hour and a half. It may not be Wes Craven’s best film, but it is certainly one which you will enjoy.

New Port South (2001) [review]

The easiest things to do here would be to compare James Hughes to his dad John Hughes, but that wouldn’t give us much or tell you anything about this film. If you are a John Hughes fan, do not watch this with the expectations of this being his type of atmosphere. Some of the subject matter may be similar… in that is a story focusing on teens, but that is the only similarity to a John Hughes’ film.

This film is good; placing us in a situation of knowing as much about what is going on as the characters when we first meet them. One of the students coming up against what he believes the teachers are trying to do in restricting the pupils’ freedoms of speech and what they can believe in.

The teachers you would expect to be people we should dislike… and to a point we do, but nothing is that black and white, as the story unravels; we see both sides of the argument, we find out the truth along with the characters as to what is going on and why people are acting and reacting as they do. And as one the characters comments, it is a situation of people needing something to believe in.

This is a film about standing for what the characters believe in, even when we or they don’t know exactly why, but they/we need to try and make the point and stand for something. Here we have characters that have opinions and they are dealt with in different ways. This film questions the notion of how things can be perceived and how some of it can be twisted to fit an ideology.

This also takes a look at the idea of who will willing go out of their way to make their point, how, if anything, people have to lose along the way and what they have to gain from fighting their opponent. What we have here raises questions and lets the audience answer them for themselves how it fits with our own conscious, it does not force its opinions on us and leaves us to side with those we connect with, finding ourselves seeing where each character is coming from and why they react the way they do.

Some of the characters we may not like, but there are moments which we cannot completely disagree with them, which I feel is one of the great points of the film. Think for yourself and question that which you don’t understand or disagree with, do not presume to know all or force your beliefs on others.

House Party 2 (1991) [review]

As you may expect this does suffer from the usual problem of being a lesser film than its predecessor, although that does not mean it is a bad film, it does have many good points. It’s as entertaining as it continues the lives of those we liked so much from the previous film, while introducing some new faces which are just as important and likeable as those we already know.

This time around the character are at collage and they are adjusting to a more mature way of life, raising new ideas such as the power of knowledge and the life it can create for those with it. Along with the theory that just because something is different, doesn’t mean that it is better. Then we are offered what it is to be an individual, knowing your own mind and standing for what you believe in.

Although this film may be a little more in our face about the themes it offers us than the previous film did with what it had to say, it is great to see that a film such as this does not only want to entertain you, but remind you what it is to exist, while reminding those of us who are the age of the characters that there is more to life than just having fun. As we have to become more responsible for ourselves and those around us, we have deal with more than the good in our lives and work for what we want.

Once again, this may be over thinking it, but this is something I very much like about this film, it is one of the reasons I have come back to watching this and the original. As I’ve become older, the point of view has changed and my appreciation for characters is one of seeing the older generation is coming from.

The music is very much of the time, but still makes me sing along and reminds me of a time which sometimes feels a long time ago. This is the kind of film, like the original, which deserves more credit than I feel it has been given over the years, it is a film which is something that should be checked out and enjoyed for whatever level of you find worthy of your time.

I have enjoyed this more times than I could tell you and I’ll probably enjoy it a few more. For those who have never seen this, check it out… for those of us who watched it when it came out, and remind yourself of how much of a gem this and the original are.