It’s a Science Experiment

Back to the Future Part III was shot back-to-back with Back to the Future Part II. Even though a sequel was never planned, Robert Zemeckis gave us 2 sequels for the price of one. Back to the Future Part III stands out because it’s technically a western. Which can be a little jarring for a trilogy mostly set in modern time periods, but you have to remember that this is a time travel series. They could very easily see the signing of the Declaration of Independence or witness the birth of Christ if they wanted to. Traveling to the old west makes sense since it’s when America was first formed. Back to the Future Part II ended with the DeLorean being struck by lightning with Doc inside it. The DeLorean vanished, but Doc was sent to 1885, leaving Marty with only one way to get back to the future. There was even a short teaser for the next movie at the end of it. As I’ve explained before, Back to the Future Part III was likely the first movie in the trilogy that I was aware of. My parents had it on VHS and I watched it after I watched the first movie. Needless to say I was hopelessly confused. I had no idea why Marty was still in 1955 or why there was a hoverboard in the movie. I know my parents meant well, but I’ll never do that again…

Marty encounters Indians

Back to the Future Part III picks up right where Back to the Future Part II left off. Marty now needs help from the 1955 Doc to find the DeLorean that’s been buried by Doc in 1885 so that Marty can go back to the future. That’s the plan, until Marty discovers that Doc was shot by an outlaw named Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Biff’s descendant) back in 1885. Now the plan is to rescue Doc and bring him back to the future as well. So Marty travels to the year September 2, 1885. Where he sticks out even more with his colorful cowboy outfit and modern day mannerisms. He also runs into his great ancestors Seamus and Maggie McFly. Played by Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson once again in duel performances. Thomas F. Wilson is of course the one playing Mad Dog. Making this the only Back to the Future movie without Biff as the villain. Biff, Jennifer, and Marty’s family only make a very brief appearance at the end. Most of the action takes place in the old west. With Doc and Marty now dealing with the problem of getting the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour. Since gasoline isn’t on the market yet, the only solution is to have a locomotive push it, and to get the engine hot enough for it to go really fast. Meanwhile Doc has a love story of his own with a school teacher named Clara Clayton played by Mary Steenburgen. Who was meant to die in a ravine until Doc rescued her. As you can see, Back to the Future Part III shares a lot more similarities with the first movie. Which is what makes it a stronger sequel. They return to a focused story, the power of love theme, and a pressing need to get back to the future. Although every Back to the Future movie has moments that are imitated. Something they do on purpose because history repeats itself. There’s also things from the second movie that pay off in the third. Like Marty being called a chicken (yella in the third) or Doc wanting the DeLorean destroyed. Since time travel is too much of a burden. You might not know how to feel about Back to the Future Part III being set in the old west, but it’s one of the best sci-fi westerns there is. It brings the Back to the Future trilogy to a close in the best way possible way. “Your future is whatever you make of it.”

Doc and Marty pose for a photograph

Preceded by: Back to the Future Part II

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I Need to Borrow Your Hoverboard

Back to the Future Part II is a sequel nobody thought they would ever get. Back to the Future ends with Marty reuniting with his girlfriend Jennifer, about to take his new truck to the lake. Until Doc interrupts them, claiming he needs to take them back to the future. Then it ends with the iconic shot of the DeLorean flying in the air and traveling in time. Robert Zemeckis never planned to make a sequel. Needless to say he was faced with many obstacles that made a sequel more difficult than it should have been. It might surprise you to know that Back to the Future Part II was actually the third movie I saw in the trilogy. My parents told me not to watch it, because they didn’t like the movie very much. So I saw it on the trilogy pack I mentioned and I guess I can see why. Back to the Future Part II is far different then the first and third movie. While they focused on the power of love, the sequel is more focused on adventure, and time travel hijinks. Three distinctly different timelines are visited. The future date of 2015, a dystopian 1985, and back to 1955 again. Making the movie feel sort of like a mixed bag. However in recent years, Back to the Future Part II has received a renewed interest, because the future is now the present…

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Marty borrows a hoverboard

Back to the Future Part II picks up right where Back to the Future left off. Only the scene had to be reshot, because the actress playing Jennifer was replaced by Elizabeth Shue. The first problem with the movie is that some actors didn’t return for the sequels. I love Elizabeth Shue, but I much prefer the original actress. Crispin Glover was also replaced and his lack of presence is felt throughout. After Doc, Marty, and Jennifer go back to the future, they arrive at the date October 21, 2015. In a future that has flying cars, hoverboards, power laces, hydrating pizza, Jaws 19, video phones, scenery windows, self walking dog walkers, resizable jackets, the Cubs winning the World Series, and much much more. When this date became a reality everyone was hoping for this future. Surprisingly, some of it isn’t too far off. The Cubs win was only a year off and unnecessary sequels are a thing, but I’m sorry, these “hoverboards” are a ripoff. Like Doc said, something has to be done about Marty and Jennifer’s kids. Which involves a ripple effect that ruins the McFly family. Even though it doesn’t make much sense to change a future that hasn’t happened yet. One of the more memorable aspects of Back to the Future Part II is its use of duel performances. Michael J. Fox plays Marty, an older Marty, his son Marty Jr., and even his daughter Marlene. While Thomas F. Wilson plays Biff, an older Biff, and his grandson Griff. Speaking of Biff, he’s the biggest problem with the sequel. In the first movie Biff is just your average school bully. In the sequel Biff takes a 2015 sports almanac (that Marty was originally gonna use), steals the DeLorean, gives the almanac to his younger self, becomes a billionaire, murders George McFly, marries Lorraine (who he gave implants to), and rules a dystopian Hill Valley. As my parents told me before I watched it, there’s just too much Biff in the movie. So Doc and Marty now have to travel back to 1955 on the date Marty went back to the future, avoid being seen, and retrieve the almanac from Biff. I will give them props for recreating scenes from the first movie (especially without showing George’s face). Even if they are off a little with inflections and line delivery. In the end, Back to the Future Part II is a necessary piece of the puzzle. It may not know what to focus on, but at least it gave us a future worth hoping for.

Doc brings Marty and Jennifer back to the future

Preceded by: Back to the Future & Followed by: Back to the Future Part III

The Power of Love ⭐

Back to the Future is my all time favorite science fiction movie. Although it wasn’t always on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list. I originally had a very different movie in its place. A movie I loved, but didn’t feel needed to be on my list. The only movie I could think of to put in its place was also my favorite 80’s movie. Which is of course Back to the Future, that I put in my number seven slot. How I discovered Back to the Future in the first place is a bit of an all over the place story. I’m fairly certain I discovered it was part of a trilogy before I could think it was just a standalone movie. My parents had the third movie on VHS and I was curious about it. So my mom told me about the first movie. Like most kids, I imagined it differently then what it actually was. I don’t know why, but I originally pictured it as some kind of mad scientist story. I finally saw Back to the Future when it came on TV and I watched it with my mom (which if you know the movie, can be a bit awkward) and brother. Taking no time at all, I became a huge fan of Back to the Future. Watching it anytime it came on and eventually buying a trilogy pack on DVD. Now its almost become an annual tradition for me to see the trilogy every year…

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Doc (left) and Marty (right) experience time travel

Back to the Future is all about time travel. It takes place in the year 1985, in the town Hill Valley, and follows the exploits of Marty McFly. A teenager who loves skateboarding, rock n’ roll music, and his girlfriend Jennifer. His family is a mess and his principal thinks he’s a slacker. With no explanation, Marty is friends with Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown. A scientist who works on all sorts of inventions. Like an atomatic dog feeder (for his dog Einstein) or an enormous amplifier, but his biggest accomplishment is inventing time travel. By inventing the Flux Capacitor (which makes time travel possible), loading plutonium to charge 1.21 gigawatts of energy, and making the time machine out of a DeLorean. “If you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?” Which makes the DeLorean the first ever time machine on wheels. After a deadly run in with terrorists, Marty unknowingly travels 30 years in the past to the date November 5, 1955. Where a young Doc and Marty need to figure out a way to get him back to the future. Unfortunately Marty runs into several snags that make it exceedingly difficult. Apart from sticking out like a sore thumb, Marty needs to bring the DeLorean to 1.21 gigawatts, and since plutonium is hard to come by, it requires a bolt of lightning. Which they know will arrive at a precise time when lighting hits their towns clock tower. As if that wasn’t hard enough, Marty’s biggest problem is with his parents. Who he accidentally prevented from meeting and falling in love with each other. Now Marty’s mother Lorraine has fallen in love with him and his father George is too much of a pushover to do anything about it. Meaning Marty can be erased from existence. The movie’s biggest antagonist would be the bully Biff. Who constantly bullies George and harrasses Lorraine. With Marty’s help, he can bring his parents together and travel back to the future all on the same night. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite science fiction movie…

The Delorean travels in time

Back to the Future is not just a great science fiction film. It’s a great teen movie, 80’s movie, time travel movie, and even comedy movie. Back to the Future is the kind of movie everybody loves no matter what. I can watch it several times and always be on the edge of my seat hoping Marty makes it to the future. Michael J. Fox is truly the only actor who can pull off Marty McFly. It’s a good thing Eric Stoltz, the original actor cast, didn’t continue to play him. I’m sure he would have been ok, but Michael J. Fox was born to play Marty. Just like Christopher Lloyd was born to play Doc Brown. His wide eyed eccentricities make Doc one of the most beloved movie scientists of all time. Back to the Future takes full advantage of its time travel aspect. The 50’s is the perfect time for a teenager from the 80’s to travel to. Since teen culture was at the forefront of both. All the time period jokes are hilarious. Weather Marty is inventing a skateboard or giving Chuck Berry inspiration for “Johnny B. Goode.” There’s also a lot of information and small details that pay off nicely. But it’s Robert Zemeckis sense of wonder and enjoyment that makes Back to the Future particularly easy to watch. Can you believe several film studios rejected it? Some studios thought it wasn’t edgy enough. Since so many 80’s teen movies were R rated at the time. They wanted it to be more risqué. While Disney ironically thought it was too risqué already. Since the movie involves a mother falling in love with her son. It’s a little creepy, but it’s not like Lorraine knows Marty is her son. It’s actually more funny than anything. Back to the Future is filled with iconic moments. The first time you see the DeLorean is like being a kid again. Of course it helped boost car sales. Anytime the DeLorean travels in time is epic. By flashing beams of light, disappearing, and leaving a trail of burning tire tracks. There’s also anything involving the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance. George punching out Biff always gives me chills, Marty playing “Johnny B. Goode” is timeless, and his parents kiss is perfect. In the end, Back to the Future is relatable to anyone, because our parents are more like us then we realize. When Marty travels back to the future, he also ends up making Doc’s, his parent’s, and his sibling’s lives better. By giving them exactly what they needed. All it took was time travel and the power of love.

Marty plays Johnny B. Goode

Followed by: Back to the Future Part II

House Arrest

Disturbia came right at the height of Shia Labeouf’s career. Making the movie stand out as one of his more noteworthy roles. In case it wasn’t a little obvious, Disturbia is inspired by Rear Window. It’s not a remake, because it takes place in modern day suburbia, has a young cast, and plays out more as a horror movie then a mystery movie. But that didn’t keep the movie from being sued for copyright infringement. Disturbia is about a teenager named Kale under house arrest for attacking his teacher (because he brought up his dad who recently died in a car accident). If he tries to leave his property, he gets thrown in jail. The only thing he can do is hang out with his friend, try to kill time, and of course watch people with a pair of binoculars. That’s how he meets the new girl on his block. Together they eventually suspect that one of their neighbors is actually a serial killer. That’s why Disturbia feels more like a horror movie. Since it is set in modern day, they do make use of modern technology like video cameras and phones. The only reason Kale doesn’t just play video games or watch TV is because his mom took away those privileges. Disturbia is surprisingly entertaining and suspenseful. I guess it pays to make a Hitchcock remake without actually using the name.

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Kale looks out the window

They Saw too Much!

Rear Window is easily one of the absolute greatest filmmaking achievements of all time. Something only famed director Alfred Hitchcock can pull off. What makes Rear Window especially good (aside from its 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes) is how the movie is filmed. Rear Window takes place entirely in one location. Like most great Hitchcock movies, the main character is hindered in some way. A photographer named Jeff is confined to a wheelchair and stuck in his apartment complex. Since it’s in the middle of a heat wave everybody has their windows open. The only thing Jeff can doing is watch his neighbors and try to be entertained by their lives. He even gives them nicknames. Voyeurism is probably something we’re all guilty of. We can’t help but be fascinated by the lives of others. This is of course a common Hitchcock misdirection. As the true suspense comes when Jeff suspects one of his neighbor’s murdered his wife. Being confined to a wheelchair, he can’t do anything other then send his girlfriend over to investigate and helplessly watch the whole thing play out. The always terrific Jimmy Stewart plays Jeff and future Princess Grace Kelly plays his socialite girlfriend. Being blonde, she was a favorite of Hitchcock. Rear Window is shot entirely in Jeff’s apartment. Everything the neighbors do is from a distance. Which is something no other movie did at the time. Putting Hitchcock in a unique position as a director. That’s why Rear Window holds up very well today, as people are always looking out windows.

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Jeff looks out the window

Triple Axel

I, Tonya was just as hard to avoid as I assume the scandal was when it first happened back in 1994. It was as if the attack happened all over again. Literally every news channel did a story about it in response to the movie. My initial thoughts were skepticism, because Margot Robbie has Hollywood good looks, and this was her first Oscar Bait performance. I warmed up to the idea when I saw the first trailer. I didn’t exactly know about Tonya Harding’s past when I was younger. My first exposure to her was on a show called truTV presents: World’s Dumbest… Where she was a regular celebrity host. It wasn’t until later that I found out about her controversial past. Tonya Harding is a figure skater famous for being the first American woman to successfully perform a triple axel in a competition. If you know figure skating, that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do. Everything was going well for her until rival skater Nancy Kerrigan came into the mix. Leading to the attack that ended up destroying Tonya Harding’s career. I, Tonya is actually more fun than it could have been, because it takes a Goodfellas approach by utilizing fourth wall breaks. Margot Robbie completely transformed into Harding and Sebastian Stan is unrecognisable as her ex-husband, but Allison Janney is the one who steals the show (and all the awards) as Tonya’s estranged mother. I, Tonya is the best figure skating movie I’ve ever seen.

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Tonya Harding completes the Triple Axel

Booze, Broads, and Bullets

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For came out almost a decade after the first Sin City. Making a sequel seem somewhat pointless at this point, but Frank Miller has written many Sin City comics. So he could choose between any number of them. The only problem is that there’s a reason they weren’t adapted in the first movie. Like the first movie, I can only talk about each story separately.

“Just Another Saturday Night” – The first mini story involves Marv killing a bunch of frat boys, because they were messing with homeless people. It doesn’t really add anything and I think it’s only in the movie to give Marv more screen time.

“A Dame to Kill For” – The second story is what the movie is named for. It takes place in the past where Dwight (now played by Josh Brolin) runs into his former lover Ava Lord played by Eva Green. She’s the best part of the movie. Her character is a manipulative temptress who uses her sexulaity as a weapon. The prostitutes also make a brief appearance. This is easily the most memorable storyline. I think that’s why it’s the movie’s title.

“The Long Bad Night (Part I & II)” – The first major story is mostly the third story. It involves a new guy in Basin City who never loses at poker. This new guy named Johnny, is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. For me it’s the least memorable story in the movie. Which might have something to do with this being an original storyline. Not even it being a two parter or featuring Christopher Lloyd is enough to make it stand out.

“Nancy’s Last Dance” – The fourth and final story takes place after Hartigan’s death. Nancy is now a hard drinking mess who’s lost her passion for stripping. So she takes revenge on her capture’s father Senator Roark. Unlike anything else in the movie, this story actually feels like a direct sequel. Even if it is a by the numbers revenge story.

In conclusion, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For feels like something you can take or leave. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller do manage to recapture the look of Sin City, but it sort of felt watered down by comparison. I found it to be less uncomfortable to watch, even if it is violent. Which is a problem if they were trying to be just as gritty as the first movie. My biggest take away was how similar it is to another Frank Miller sequel that came out in the same year. Both 300: Rise of an Empire and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For feature Eva Green as an often naked villainess who turns out to be the best thing about each movie. Both movies even ended up with the same Rotten Tomatoes percentage (43%). Sin City: A Dame to Kill For just doesn’t really add much must see material to the Sin City franchise.

Dwight crosses paths with Ava

Preceded by: Sin City

Black and White and Red All Over

Sin City is one of the darkest comic book movies ever put to screen. Well it’s technically a graphic novel, but you get what I mean. The story is dark and so is its use of black and white. With color in only a few key areas. Just like the graphic novel it’s based on. Which is why there’s the occasional black and white silhouette. It was done this way because the author Frank Miller, was also the co-director of the movie (along with Robert Rodriguez). He wanted Sin City to look as much like his comic as possible. Something he pulls off flawlessly. Sin City takes place in Basin City. Focusing on four different interconnected stories that I can only talk about separately.

“The Customer is Always Right (Part I & II)” – The first and last story involves a Salesman offering a Customer a cigarette. Both segments are brief, but they do set up and close off the movie’s tone the way they’re supposed to.

“The Hard Goodbye” – The second major story is the one that features Marv. Arguably the face of the entire Sin City series. He’s an unappealing man in love with a one-night stand, Goldie, who was just murdered. So he (along with Goldie’s twin sister Wendy) takes revenge on the city in hopes of finding her killer. Who ends up being a silent cannibal unfortunately named Kevin. He’s played by Elijah Wood, the most unlikely actor you can think of. While Mickey Rourke plays the physically imposing Marv with extensive makeup that makes him look more like the comic. This story is brutal, but it does stand out more than any of them. It’s also the most R rated as it has the most blood and nudity.

“The Big Fat Kill” – The third major story is also the most morally grey one. It involves a regular guy getting caught in a war between prostitutes and mercenaries. Which leads to the guy, Dwight, disposing of a body. I say it’s morally grey because one of the supposedly “good” prostitutes uses a swastika shuriken. It’s really hard to know who to root for. Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen have good chemistry though. This story also sadly features 2 actors who passed away less than 10 years after the movie’s release, Brittney Murphy and Michael Clarke Duncan. Most of the action is in this short, but it’s probably the least memorable major story in the movie.

“That Yellow Bastard (Part I & II)” – The first major story which plays out in most of the climax, is about an aging police detective named Hartigan who rescues a girl from an evil child killer. It deals with heavy topics like rape, loss of innocence, and corruption. The second part of the story takes place in the present when the girl, Nancy, is now an exotic dancer and still in danger of her capture. Who now has deformed features and yellow skin. This story stands out because it features Jessica Alba as a cowgirl stripper. Which is what most people remember the movie for. While Bruce Willis plays the gritty detective well. It’s difficult to sit through, but at least the right people get punished.

In conclusion, Sin City is unlike anything you’ve seen before from a comic adaptation. Even if going the extra mile to make a movie look like its source material isn’t new. Sin City undoubtedly made it popular again. By utilizing green screen techniques, make up, and filters. Giving us the movie’s final result. With a bunch of notable actors playing a part. I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it when I first saw the trailer. Still, Sin City is uncomfortably violent in a Tarantino/Rodriguez way and visually impressive in a Frank Miller way.

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The customer looks out over Basin City

Followed by: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Pillow Fight

The Myth of the American Sleepover is like many great teenage coming-of-age movies. In how it takes a laid back realistic approach to how young people think and act. The movie focuses on four young people in particular. A girl trying to fit in and impress a guy. A guy searching for a blonde that he saw at a store. A girl experiencing problems with the guy she’s dating. And a guy trying to decide between twins he’s falling in love with. Meanwhile everyone else is throwing separate sleepovers. The main reason I saw this film (that you’ve probably never heard of) is because it’s David Robert Mitchell’s first movie. The guy who directed my favorite horror movie It Follows. Since I loved that so much I figured I’d check out what came before. I’m reviewing it today because his third movie was pushed back from this date. The Myth of the American Sleepover takes cues from other teen movies like Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti. With a little John Hughes thrown in for good measure. I also noticed some personal motifs that Mitchell seems to like using. Young people, artistic shots, swimming pools, Detroit, and no adults. David Robert Mitchell really does have the makings of a great filmmaker here. The Myth of the American Sleepover won’t be remembered, but it does accomplish its job nevertheless.

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Maggie (left) bikes with her friend (right)

I Look like Scott

Starman is neither a DC comics superhero, nor a song written by David Bowie. Starman is actually a 1984 science fiction film directed by John Carpenter and starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. Like many movies I’ve never heard of, my mom was the one who introduced me to Starman. It’s about a recently widowed woman who encounters an alien that assumes the form of her late husband Scott. I know that may sound creepy, but it’s actually really heartfelt. Jeff Bridges actually plays the alien (known as Starman) in an innocent manner. In the way that he doesn’t understand Earth customs like driving or eating. He also possess alien powers, including the ability to bring living creatures back to life. Which sounds similar to E.T. (see that review here), but trust me it’s different. Most of the focus is on the unconventional romance between the leads. The ending makes it seem like there should have been some kind of follow up, but nothing, not even a remake, was ever made. Even though Starman has a very smart alien story to tell. So if you’ve never seen or heard of Starman, I would highly recommend seeing it.

The Starman lights the way