action, comedy, movie, movie review, sports

Flashback Review: June 16th, 2014 Movie – The Cannonball Run

the cannonball run

I feel a little sad watching this movie right now, seeing as how Burt Reynolds has just recently passed away. However, this was actually the first Burt Reynolds movie I remember seeing as a kid so a happy memory kind of balances it out. Anyways, I remember seeing The Cannonball Run as a kid but I didn’t learn until years later that it was actually based on real events. That actually made it more fun for me to watch this movie a few years ago and just as fun to rewatch it today.

The plot: Two girls, Jill Rivers and Marcie Thatcher, are speeding down the highway in a black Lamborghini Countach, taunting a highway patrol officer that is trying to catch them before they cross the state lines. Meanwhile, J.J. McClure and his friend Victor Prinzim are discussing the upcoming Cannonball Run as J.J. works on getting their car ready. When Victor mentions “Him”. J.J. hits his head on the car’s trunk, then tells Victor he doesn’t want to see “Him”, or even talk about “Him”. Later, as they are test driving the car, they come across a police road block and swerve to avoid it but end up crashing their car. As the cops go to check on the drivers, Victor, wearing a cape and mask, emerges from the car and tells the cop that he is Captain Chaos and J.J. is his companion Kato. Later, J.J. and Victor are trying to come up with a new idea for a car to drive when they get into a boating accident and as they are being driven to the hospital in an ambulance, they realize that they can get away with speeding if they are in an ambulance. Elsewhere,¬†Morris Fenderbaum is going to place a bet on himself winning the Cannonball Run and as the bookie laughs at him, Morris points out his driver, former Formula One racer Jamie Blake. Other competitors entering the Cannonball Run are Jill and Marcie, the two girls driving the Lamborghini, Seymour Goldfarb Jr., heir to the Goldfarb Girdles fortune who has begun to identify himself as actor Roger Moore from the James Bond films, Jackie Chan and Micheal Hui, two Japanese racers who are driving a high tech car filled with computerized controls, a Middle-Eastern Shiekh who wants to race against the infidels of America, and Terry and Mel, two good ol’ boys who want to race. Terry and Mel inadvertently crash their car into a pool while trying to avoid a police car and as they are re-tuning their engine, they inadvertently ruin an environmental meeting that Arthur J. Foyt is speaking at. Vowing to stop the Cannonballers from having their race, Foyt is talking with Pamela Glover, a photographer who was at the meeting because she loves trees, when two more Cannonballers, Mad Dog and Batman, crash into the front lobby and knock him out but J.J. and Victor arrive, disguised as Ambulance drivers, show up and revive him. Later, Foyt and Pamela are at the hotel bar when he realizes that most of the people there are Cannonballers and goes to make plans to stop them. Meanwhile, J.J. and Victor are discussing how to get a doctor and a patient to ride in the ambulance with them to complete their disguise. When they notice Jill and Marcie sitting at a table, they approach them about being their patient but are surprised to learn that they are Cannonballers as well. As J.J. turns away, he notices Pamela and goes to talk to her but as they are talking, he is interrupted by Victor and Pamela leaves the table. The next night, the Cannonballers are told the rules of the race, receiving a time card that they punch as they leave the hotel and must punch in at the finish line. Whoever has the fastest time wins the race. As the Cannonballers are all leaving, J.J. asks Victor where the doctor is and when Victor tells him that the doctor got sick, J.J. sends him out to get one. Meanwhile, Foyt and Pamela are watching the cars leave and trying to get all of their license plates but after Mad Dog drives through the woods as a short cut, he decides to try and stop the race now. Victor tells J.J. he has found a doctor but when J.J. opens the door, he is shocked at the appearance of Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing but is upset that they don’t have a patient. However, a little ways down the road, the see Pamela and Foyt in need of assistance and when they pull over, they grab Pamela but drive off before Foyt can get in the ambulance. As they make their way down the road, Pamela is upset about being kidnapped but Van Helsing gives her some laughing gas just as they are pulled over by police. J.J. tells the police that they are taking the Senator’s wife to UCLA Medical Center, and Van Helsing explains that her condition prevents her from flying and that they can’t even go to Denver because it is too high. As all of the Cannonballers make their way to L.A., they all use various means to try and get out of getting busted by the cops; such as Jill and Marcie using their sex appeal to get the cops to not write them tickets while Jackie and Michael turn off their headlights and use infrared to drive at night and not be seen. J.J. and Victor are still driving when Jamie and Morris, disguised as priests, pull up next to them and offer to bless them and their occupants. J.J. knows they are fakes but Victor falls for their trick and pulls over and as Jamie goes to bless them, especially Pamela, Morris lets the air out of one of their tires. J.J. and Victor fix the tire and get back on the road and as they stop for gas further down the road, J.J. sees Jamie and Morris coming and he alerts a nearby cop that they are disguised as priests and had flashed their patient earlier, causing them to be held up. Foyt is continuing his quest to stop the Cannonballers and has a roadblock set up to grab them but J.J. uses the CB in the ambulance to radio a flatbed truck in front of them and they are able to get past the roadblock under the truck and as they do so, Victor works on their transmission while J.J. and Pamela talk and get closer to each other. The race continues, with the Cannonballers encountering the police more and more, until they are stopped by road construction in the California desert. J.J., Victor, Pamela, Van Helsing, Jamie, Morris, Jill, Marcie, Mad Dog, Batman, Jackie, Michael, Seymour (with his latest girl) are waiting for the road to open up when Brad and Shakey Finch, disguised as a honeymoon couple on a motorcycle, pull up. Suddenly, a biker gang shows up and starts harassing Brad and Shakey and when Victor, dressed as Captain Chaos, rushes out and starts fighting the bikers, the other Cannonballers join in the fray. As the fighting continues, the construction crew lets Jamie know that the road is open and all of the Cannonballers race back to their cars. Victor had taken off his mask when he got back in the ambulance and as the ambulance falls behind the other cars, J.J. chastises him for it but Victor dons the Captain Chaos garb again and begins easily passing the other racers. When they reach the pier, Everyone starts racing to the clock and J.J. hands Captain Chaos their card, then tackles the other racers, leaving Captain Chaos and Marcie as the only runners. Captain Chaos is in the lead and about to win but when he hears a woman scream that her baby is drowning, he hesitates briefly before dashing off to rescue the baby, which turned out to be her dog. Marcie wins the race and as J.J. and approaches Captain Chaos, he chastises Victor and says that he cost them the race. He then rips off the mask and cape and tells Victor that he never wants to see Captain Chaos again but Victor says he doesn’t care, quickly donning a new cape and mask and says that he wanted to be Captain U.S.A. anyways, causing J.J. and the others to start laughing. As the Cannonballers celebrate, Foyt arrives and starts berating them for what they did on the highway. Seymour offers him a cigar and tells him to use the lighter in his car, as it is rigged as a button for an ejector seat but when nothing happens, Seymour tries it himself and ends up being launched into the bay.

The Cannonball Run was panned by more recent critics, currently holding a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of them felt that the movie felt like nothing more than Burt Reynolds hanging out with some of his pals and cracking inside jokes with each other. Director Hal Needham and writer Brock Yates were actual competitors in the real Cannonball Race, which Yates had created, and the ambulance used in the film was their actual car from the last race. It had been kept in storage for several years and after the movie, it was given to a church charity to auction off. The movie was a box office success, earning $72.1 million off of an $18 million budget and would spawn 1 official sequel and 1 unofficial sequel.

Yet another time where I have to disagree with the critics because I thought that this was a pretty funny movie. The acting was good, with Burt Reynolds (J.J.) and Dom DeLuise (Victor) making for a great comedy team, as did Dean Martin (Jamie) and Sammy Davis Jr. (Morris), while all of the other actors were pretty good as well. I personally thought that Roger Moore’s character of Seymour acting like Roger Moore as James Bond was really funny, especially all of the subtle nods to James Bond that were in the movie, such as the Aston Martin that he is driving as well as the rotating cast of girls he has in the car with him. The main plot of the movie was honestly a little boring, with the idea of a coast to coast race being a little too straight forward. Adding the various bits of comedy to it definitely made it more entertaining in my opinion. The comedy in the movie kind of went the gauntlet of styles. Most of it was play on words while they also had situational, like Jill and Marcie showing cleavage to get out of speeding tickets until they get pulled over by a female officer, and slap stick, which Dom Deluise usually got the brunt of. One of those classic 80’s comedies that sometimes gets overlooked but is worth watching if you get the chance.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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horror, movie, movie review, sci-fi

December 20th, 2017 Movie – Swamp Thing

swamp thing

Just when you think you are done with the superhero genre, you find yourself pulled right back in. Today I find myself watching the first of two movies featuring Swamp Thing, a hero I always felt was underrated and deserved a little more attention. I remember first seeing this movie on TV years ago when I was a kid, almost at the same time that I had seen him in comics. My memory of the movie was admittedly a little hazy (I was 8 when I saw it) so I decided to pick it up on DVD a few years ago to refresh my memory, and because I was buying some other superhero movies at the time. So let’s see how my memory is revitalized with today’s movie, Swamp Thing.

The plot: Government Agents Alice Cable and Charlie fly out to the swamps of Louisiana where government scientist Alec Holland is working on a secret project. After taking a boat through the swamp to Holland’s lab, they are greeted by Harry Ritter, the project supervisor, who asks what brings Charlie there and Charlie says they are there to bring Holland back to Washington as there is word that Anton Arcane is aware of the project. Alice and Harry both are surprised, as they believed Arcane is dead, and after Ritter shows Alice into the lab, he goes with Charlie to discuss the Arcane situation. Alice meets Holland and his sister Linda and after a brief introduction, Holland takes Alice out into the swamp to help her check out a damaged sensor. After discovering that the sensor has been cut, they head back to the lab, only for Ritter to chastise Alice for taking Holland out of the lab. When Alice mentions the cut sensor, Ritter says the agent Alice is replacing was working on it before he was bit by a gator so he probably didn’t finish repairing it, then storms off. Charlie asks them if they saw one of the men out in the swamp and Holland and Alice both say no, unaware that the man had been killed by some mercenaries making their way to the lab. When an explosion is heard in the lab, Holland, Alice, Charlie, and some of the other agents head inside to find that the latest serum Linda had fashioned from Holland’s work has some explosive capabilities. After Charlie and the agents leave, Holland shows Alice what he is working on, combining plant and animal DNA in order to make plants that will be able to grow anywhere as a means to help end world hunger. As they are running the latest formula through the electron microscope, Holland notices some fronds growing on the floor where Linda had dropped the formula. He shows them to Alice and kisses her in excitement before calling Linda in and has Alice go get Ritter and Charlie and bring them in. Alice goes to find them but when she enters the command hut, she sees Charlie collapsing, seemingly dead, on the video monitors just before she is attacked by Ferret, the mercenaries leader. Alice manages to get away and kill another mercenary but is captured and forced to unlock the lab before being knocked unconscious. The mercenaries quickly grab both of the Hollands and Ritter enters the room, revealing himself to actually be Arcane in disguise. When Linda tries to run, Arcane shoots her and threatens to shoot Holland as well if he doesn’t cooperate. Holland grabs the container with the formula but when Ferret punches him, he falls and the contents explode around him. Holland is covered in flames and runs out of the lab and dives into the water, which continues to explode as the formula reacts to the water. Meanwhile, Alice had regained consciousness and hides Holland’s notebook that Linda was carrying and tries to escape but is captured as the mercenaries are disposing of all of the bodies. Ferret and two other mercenaries take her out into a boat and attempt to drown her but she is rescued by Holland, who has transformed into a monstrous plant/human hybrid known as Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing takes out two of the mercenaries, with a third being killed by friendly fire, and Ferret and Bruno, the last two mercenaries, quickly leave. Meanwhile, Arcane is going over the notebooks that were recovered from Holland’s lab and realizes that one of them is missing when he receives a call from Ferret. Heading out to meet them, Arcane is told about what happened and when he learns that they let Alice get away, he yells at them to find her. Alice makes her way to a gas station and contacts her home office to try and get in touch with Ritter, unaware that he is really Arcane. After telling him where she is and that she hid the last notebook, Arcane orders his men to head to the gas station to get there. As Alice talks to Jude, the young boy that runs the gas station, they see the mercenaries arrive and Alice has Jude hide while she leads them away. When they try to run her over, Swamp Thing stops them and rescues her but she is frightened of him and asks him to leave, so the dejected Swamp Thing heads back into the swamp. Swamp Thing heads back to the lab and finds Linda’s locket, which Bruno had hung on one of the fronds in the lab, and weeps over his sister’s death. Meanwhile, Jude takes Alice to get a change of clothes and Alice asks him to take her back to the lab but when she gets there, she sees Swamp Thing attempting to mix some chemicals but when the containers continuously shatter, he gets enraged and breaks the table and Alice quickly grabs the notebook from it’s hiding place and takes off. Ferret and the mercenaries spot them and chase after them but when they see Swamp Thing, they turn their attention on him and attempt to kill him with grenades but he is able to fend them off and either kill or chase off the mercenaries. Alice has Jude let her off so she can go help Swamp Thing, telling Jude to get the notebook to somewhere safe but Jude is knocked unconscious and Alice is captured by Ferret and taken to Arcane’s boat. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing finds Jude and uses his abilities to heal him and Jude hands him the notebook and asks that he help Alice. On board Arcane’s boat, Bruno goes to get Arcane but while he is gone, Alice knocks Ferret into the water and then dives in and starts swimming to shore, with Ferret chasing after her. When Alice reaches shore, she encounters Swamp Thing and starts to run but he calls out to her, making her pause. Ferret attacks him and cuts off his arm, which angers Swamp Thing and he ends up crushing Ferret’s head in his remaining hand, causing Alice to faint. When she comes too, she finds Swamp Thing resting against a tree watching her and he hands her some orchids. As he speaks, Alice realizes Swamp Thing is Holland and apologizes for her reactions but they soon end up captured by Arcane and his men. Back at his mansion, Arcane hosts a dinner party for his men but Bruno was secretly given the formula and ends up mutating into a dwarfish creature. Arcane goes to question Swamp Thing about what happened, threatening to kill Alice if he doesn’t answer and Swamp Thing tells him that the formula only amplified what was already in the person. Arcane leaves the dungeon and decides to drink the formula himself, which transforms him into a monstrous, beastial creature. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing uses the sunlight to regrow his severed arm and frees himself and then Alice. When they hear the destruction being cause upstairs, Bruno, who was left down there with them, shows them a way out of the mansion, then distracts Arcane while they make their escape. Arcane chases after them and begins fighting with Swamp Thing and during the course of the fight, Alice is stabbed with Arcane’s sword. An enraged Swamp Thing knocks Arcane out, then uses his abilities to heal Alice before renewing his fight with Arcane and finally kills him. Swamp Thing starts to head back into the swamp and Alice asks him to come back and continue his work, offering to help him, but Swamp Thing tells her she has to tell the authorities their story, then leaves as Jude shows up to escort Alice out of the swamp.

Swamp Thing met with mixed to positive reviews, holding a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Unabashedly campy — often to its detriment — Swamp Thing is not without its charms, among them Adrienne Barbeau as the damsel in distress.” Dick Durock was originally just supposed to be used as a stuntman but was forced to become Swamp Thing full time due to the differences between him and Ray Wise when they were in the Swamp Thing makeup. The movie ended up spawning a movie sequel as well as two TV shows; a sci-fi drama series and a short lived cartoon series.

This was a bit boring at times, but it is fun in a cheesy sort of way. The acting was fairly good, with Ray Wise (Holland), Adrienne Barbeau (Alice), and Louis Jourdan (Arcane) did pretty good in their roles. I was honestly a little unimpressed with Dick Durock in his role, as he seemed somewhat stilted in some of his mannerisms and speech but I really want to chalk that up to his not being used to being an actor, as he was supposed to just be the stunt-man. The story was good but I do know there were some differences between this and the comics, particularly regarding Holland’s love interest. The special effects were honestly on the cheap side but with a budget of $2.5 million, the crew did a great job with what they had. Still, the suit for Swamp Thing looked pretty bad, but not as bad as the one for the Arcane beast, as the face itself looked like it was nothing more than a giant paper mache head attached to the body. I’m surprised anyone could see through that thing. Wow, I think I almost talked myself into downgrading this movie somewhat. In any case, it’s not a cinematic masterpiece but there are definitely worse superhero movies out there.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

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