Tag Archives: 1990

Way late review: Quigley Down Under

Some actors are easy for me to believe in a historical setting while others are not. Tom Selleck falls in the hard to believe category. It’s no fault of his own. He’s not a bad actor but put him in a period piece where he’s a sharp shooting American cowboy, Matt Quigley, and I find it hard to believe him in that role. There is something about him that feels too modern for that time. Thus Quigley Down Under is a bit handicapped for me with Selleck in the lead role.

Matt Quigley answers Elliot Marston’s ad for a sharpshooter. Professor Snape…errr…Marston (Alan Rickman) is a rich Australian who says he needs someone who can pick off dingoes from great distances. Quigley eventually shows Martson in person just how good of a shooter he is. He hits a bucket three-fourths of a mile away several times until the bucket disappears in a dust cloud.

From the start we see that Quigley is a man of great honor. He teaches a gruff man a lesson when that man tries to shove aside an older couple to beat them onto the boat for Australia. Just minutes after getting off the boat, Quigley sees some men mistreating a woman and intercedes on her behalf. The tone of these first couple scenes has a light hearted, almost slapstick feel to it, which isn’t problematic until further into the story where the tone changes rapidly between light comedy and melodrama. Making matters worse is the character Crazy Cora (Laura San Giacomo) who is the woman Quigley valiantly steps in to protect. As one might deduce from the name, Crazy Cora is not quite right in the head. In the beginning she is played for laughs. The second half of the film she’s played for drama. It’s as if her whole purpose is to make crystal clear the tonal changes.

Quigley makes his way to Martson’s and learns that Marston has hired Quigley to kill aborigines, not dingoes, off his property. Quigley responds to this little twist by punching Marston through the wall, outside Marston’s home, not once but twice. Quigley is eventually overtaken and he and Cora are left to die in the dessert several days away from civilization. Except Quigley doesn’t go down without a fight and gets just enough energy to kill the two Marston henchmen. This leads to a very watchable tale of an odd couple (Quigley and Cora) fighting the odds and eventually seeking justice not just for themselves but the aborigines.

There may be some eye rolling moments and certainly some miscast characters, but it’s hard not to at least like Quigley Down Under.

 ★★★☆☆ 

This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

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Way late review: Rocky V

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Rocky: The Undisputed Collection

If Rocky IV needed to be made to save the world, as I so eloquently argued in my review, then Rocky V needs to be unmade, if not to save the world then to save some dignity for the Rocky franchise.

There is so much wrong with Rocky V. I learned recently that Sylvester Stallone had wanted his iconic character to die in this one. The studio fought him on it and won. Looking back, I have to believe Stallone is relieved he didn’t finish off the Italian Stallion in what turned out to be an awful movie.

From the start there are serious problems with the film. We’re supposed to be in a timeline that is just after the big match in the Soviet Union. Rocky returns home and his kid looks twice as old as he was when Rocky left. I’m not a mathematician, doctor, nor scientist but I’m pretty sure a few months away from home (maximum) will not cause a child to grow and age by multiple years. Also, I’m almost positive the Balboas return to a different home in Rocky V than the one they left on their trip from in the previous movie. Everything is off kilter from the start.

In addition to the miraculously aged kid, we get some new, terrible characters. There is Duke, a boxing promoter who I think is supposed to be Don King. He comes out early and annoys us with his boisterous talk during Rocky’s first press conference back in the US. Not content to annoy us only at the beginning, we get Duke all throughout, managing to irritate with the mere sound of his voice. By the end he had ramped up his antics to the point where I swore his teeth were going to pop out of his mouth as he over emoted every syllable. Not to be outdone, real life boxer, Tommy Morrison (Tommy “Machine” Gunn) does his best to steal the show with his mullet and dreadful acting. In the last scenes of the movie it’s as if there was a competition to see who could out scream the other – Duke or Tommy Gunn. In that competition there is no winner but there is definitely a loser – us, the viewers.

Back to the kid, Rocky Jr, played by Stallone’s real life son, Sage Stallone. Had it not been for the stiff competition from Duke and Tommy Gunn, Rocky’s son would win the award for most annoying performance. When a film goes out of its way to suspend the audience’s disbelief in order to introduces a kid who is suddenly much older than the previous one, that kid better give an awesome performance. Instead of awesome we get well below average. The character development of the son is such that we should feel empathy. Instead all we feel is an urge to hone our boxing skills on the whiny adolescent.

I can see how the premise of Rocky V probably seemed reasonable on paper. Rocky has taken too many beatings. He is no longer medically eligible to fight in the ring. His accountant swindled him out of all his money. Rocky returns to his old neighborhood in Philly. His only refuge is that he still owns Mick’s gym which he reopens to start training younger boxers. While running the gym Rocky meets a young, raw boxer who reminds Rocky of himself in Tommy Gunn. Rocky takes Tommy under his wing and has him winning fights in no time. Tommy eventually gets full of himself and sells Rocky out for fame and fortune. Teacher and pupil become at odds with one another. Not a terrible outline. And yet the details destroy this movie.

There was promise in Rocky V. If done right, it should have been the last movie, nicely capping off the series. It wasn’t done right and thankfully Stallone got to do another film in an attempt to redeem what was once an Oscar winning force.

 ★½☆☆☆ 

This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

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Way late review: Edward Scissorhands

Edward Scissorhands. The beginning of a long list of films directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. What is now becoming a bit tiring was not always so. It’s not hard to see why Burton’s knack for the odd and Depp’s desire to break free of the prison he perceived 21 Jump Street was becoming were a match made in heaven.

Scissorhands opens by painting a dark, isolated world that Edward (Johnny Depp), a boy left with scissors for hands due to his inventor dying before completing the job, lives in and the bright, uniform world where everyone else lives. It’s not long before a persistent, if not outright oblivious, mother and Avon sales lady (Dianne Wiest), Peg Boggs, comes to Edwards gothic castle of a home. Without much fear Peg decides to take Edward home with her and from there the fish out of water story begins.

Burton’s knack for creating an almost cartoon like world is on full display. Even though Edward is clearly an outcast he seems closer to “normal” than those occupying Burton’s portrayal of a typical suburb in the US of A. It’s not that the Boggs family or their neighbors are caricatures, it’s that they live in a reality that is all their own. When the neighbors see Peg driving Edward to her home, they all call one another desperate to see who this strange creature is. It’s not long before they all meet and Edward becomes the town’s landscaper and hair stylist. He shapes every plant possible into all sorts of objects – dinosaurs, teddy bears, people, etc. And the women all get original hairdos thanks to Edward’s fine work with the sheers.

All is good except Edward longs for real acceptance, not just appreciation of his usefulness. His heart is taken by Peg’s daughter, Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder), who has a jealous boyfriend, Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). Kim initially ignores Edward’s awkward pleasantries but as time goes on she sees that he’s a kind hearted guy who is imprisoned by his lack of hands. Jim notices this and gets Edward into trouble. Mr. Boggs and the neighborhood as a whole become suspicious of Edward as a result. Edward begins to realize that even if he does the right thing, he’ll likely never be accepted into the community. Meanwhile Kim’s appreciation for Edward grows greater.

Even though it is only 1 hour and 40 minutes, Scissorhands can feel a bit long in the second act. The story is a simple one and to stretch it beyond ninety minutes is, well, a stretch. Edward is close to a silent film star as he says very little which is fitting for him (especially in his predicament) until the story drags beyond its ability to hold interest. At that point we need the main character to do more than look pathetically in the camera.

Fortunately the last act is surprisingly good. When the world is a fairy tale with a pinch of reality, it can be hard to create tension and suspense, as everything can seem a bit off. The emotional connection with the characters can be hard to feel. The story can end without much oomph. But Burton makes magic happen and sees a story through to the end. He, Depp and the rest of the strong cast turn a simple tale into a mostly enchanting film.

 ★★★★☆ 

This post is part of my Way late reviews. Read more reviews here.

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