Play the Game

The Dead Pool has nothing to do with Deadpool. It’s actually the last installment in the long-running Dirty Harry franchise. Clint Eastwood is too old to make more, but he was happy to return 5 years after Sudden Impact. This time Magnum Force stunt coordinator Buddy Van Horn is the director. It certainly feels that way, since The Dead Pool is the silliest film yet. Even the catchphrases, like the one about opinions being like a**holes, are a little silly. Inspector Harry Callahan is old, but he’s more famous than ever when he puts away a violent crime lord.

Callahan deals with the press including the morally grey, romantically interested journalist Samantha Walker. A young Patricia Clarkson plays the part along with early roles for Liam Neeson and even Jim Carrey. Neeson is British horror movie director Peter Swan who starts the titular dead pool of celebrities including Callahan. Carrey has done an Eastwood impression many times, but it’s still jarring to see him in one of his films. Johnny Squares is a rocker who OD’s in a dead pool inspired murder.

Other celebrities die while Callahan continues to stop petty crimes and other criminals. Inspector Al Quan is his latest unlucky Asian partner who unsurprisingly knows kung fu. The Dead Pool feels a bit disconnected with no role for Albert Popwell or gratuitous nude scenes. It’s violent, but in an over-the-top way. The murderer ends up being an obsessed horror fan who uses a remote controlled toy car to kill Callahan. I shouldn’t be surprised that a harpoon gun finishes the job in the end. The Dead Pool has an easy hour and a half runtime, but it failed to give Dirty Harry a proper send off.

5. The Dead Pool

Dirty Harry takes aim

Preceded by: Sudden Impact

Go Ahead, Make My Day

Sudden Impact left an impact four movies into the franchise. Even in the 80’s, Dirty Harry managed to become fresh again. Even though Inspector Harry Callahan stops a diner robbery similar to the first movie, his latest catchphrase “Go ahead, make my day” is just as, if not more iconic than the original. I never realized the line came so late in the franchise. Although The Enforcer was meant to be the end of a trilogy, Clint Eastwood returned with more creative control. Sudden Impact is the only sequel directed by Eastwood himself. Which is probably why it feels more atmospheric and well-shot.

That being said, Sudden Impact is too dark even for Dirty Harry. It’s more like a “rape revenge” film with Sondra Locke playing the victim of a brutal assault on her and her sister. Locke was a longtime collaborator and romantic partner of Eastwood who feels more like the star of the movie. Despite Locke’s advancing age, Jennifer Spencer is a young artist who kills her assailants one by one. There’s an unmistakable divide between her story and Harry. Callahan is taking out crime bosses, sinking cars, and engaging in bus chases.

He leaves San Francisco for San Paulo in order to investigate the murders. There are no partners unless you count his bulldog. Albert Popwell returns as a much more helpful weapons supplier. Callahan is mostly ignorant of Spencer as the killer when they have a love affair. Her assailants are all nasty individuals who get what they deserve. Graphic violence is expected along with one random nude scene. Although the plot is uncomfortably realistic, Callahan still has to kill the final bad guy on top of a roller coaster. Sudden Impact is messy, but it made my day.

4. Sudden Impact

Dirty Harry takes aim

Preceded by: The Enforcer & Followed by: The Dead Pool

Well, Do Ya… Punk?

The Enforcer reinforces the appeal of Dirty Harry. This time the story was written by two amateur fans of the franchise. Which is probably why it feels like just another installment. The Enforcer is shorter than Magnum Force since Clint Eastwood was adamant about keeping the focus on action. He fully intended to direct the sequel himself, but the job went to his trusted assistant director James Fargo instead. This time Inspector Harry Callahan fights a group of militants known as the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force. The Enforcer is very 70’s with the hippies as villains.

Just like before, Callahan gets in hot water with his superiors after using excessive force in a liquor store robbery. Harry’s latest unlucky partner is given a lot more importance. Female Inspector Kate Moore is brought on board to shake up the police force. Tyne Daly holds her own alongside Eastwood as an eager partner and possible love interest. Callahan continues to break the rules by enlisting help from another militant group led by Mustapha. Other actors have returned, but Albert Popwell has now played three very different characters.

The People’s Revolutionary Strike Force are just as violent as other antagonists with their leader Bobby Maxwell being particularly unhinged. Violence is expected, but nudity feels more like an obligation at this point. Set pieces are even bigger with the Mayor being kidnapped and held for ransom at Alcatraz. When Callahan is temporarily suspended, he takes the law into his own hands once again. Only this time it’s a rocket launcher instead of his .44 Magnum that does the job. The Enforcer should be enough to keep fans satisfied.

3. The Enforcer

Dirty Harry takes aim

Preceded by: Magnum Force & Followed by: Sudden Impact

Do I Feel Lucky?

Magnum Force fires on all cylinders. The Dirty Harry franchise went the Bond route of giving each sequel a unique title. Magnum Force refers to a force of bad guys that Inspector Harry Callahan has to deal with. Magnum refers to his signature .44 Magnum with a reference to the iconic line in the opening credits. Former Clint Eastwood TV & movie collaborator Ted Post became the new director, but the former was a lot more controlling than he was before. The idea for the sequel came from a scrapped pitch for the first movie that Eastwood decided to rework.

Callahan investigates a literal cop killer delivering vigilante justice to unsuspecting criminals. Proving that Dirty Harry isn’t as anti-law as people think he is. Magnum Force is significantly more violent and filled with a lot more nudity. There are mass shootings at a pool party and a particularly disturbing scene where a prostitute is killed by a pimp using drain cleaner. The pimp is played by a returning Albert Popwell. Callahan has a good partnership with equally unlucky black Inspector Early Smith.

Magnum Force is the longest instalment with a lot of focus on Harry’s personal life. We see his friendships and love life with a random Asian girl. There’s also time for an entire shooting competition. Most of it works because the action is so much bigger. Callahan twarts a store robbery, but a plane hijacking as well. He deals with a bomb and Hal Holbrook as his superior who isn’t as clean as he appears. Callahan faces more than one “dirty cop” in a thrilling climactic motorcycle chase. Magnum Force knows its limitations, but makes it work anyway.

2. Magnum Force

Dirty Harry takes aim

Preceded by: Dirty Harry & Followed by: The Enforcer

.44 Magnum

Dirty Harry gave us the original loose-cannon cop who plays by his own rules. 1971 was a big year for gritty police procedurals. While The French Connection won Best Picture and Shaft won Best Original Song, Dirty Harry didn’t receive a single Oscar nomination. Even though it’s an undoubtable action movie classic, the idea of a morally ambiguous “dirty cop” protagonist was controversial at the time. Inspector Harry Callahan is the most iconic role of Clint Eastwood’s career, after the Man with No Name. A cop was a natural progression from a cowboy, but the role wasn’t always meant for Eastwood. Everyone from John Wayne to Frank Sinatra were considered for the part.

Many actors and directors turned down Dirty Harry due to its content. Director Don Siegel brought a dirty realism to San Francisco and Eastwood brought his signature scowl to Callahan. Dirty Harry is full of intense violence and naked women. Harry stands out not as a “dirty cop,” but as the cop who does all the dirty jobs. He frequently disobeys orders and shoots to kill. One of the most iconic scenes in movie history is Callahan casually stopping a bank robbery with his .44 Magnum and asking a criminal played by Albert Popwell, “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya… punk?”

Dirty Harry is assigned hispanic rookie officer Chico Gonzalez who gets in over his head when faced with a dangerous psychopath. The ‘Scorpio’ killer is a sharpshooter based on the Zodiac Killer. Newcomer Andy Robinson is both pathetic and disturbing in the role. Despite killing a kidnapped girl, the law fails to keep ‘Scorpio’ behind bars. Leading Callahan to take the law into his own hands after he hijacks a school bus full of children. The intense confrontation ends with a clever, much more angry callback to Harry’s infamous ultimatum. Dirty Harry throws away the badge and all the rules that come with making a great action flick.

1. Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry takes aim

Followed by: Magnum Force

Nobody Wants a Reboot!

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers isn’t the reboot I was expecting. Chip ‘n’ Dale are a classic Disney chipmunk duo who have been around since 1943. I’ve seen many of their shorts, but I never really watched the Disney Afternoon show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Like most 80’s cartoons, the show was formulaic, but fun. Although intended to be an Alvin and the Chipmunks style CGI reboot of the Rescue Rangers, the movie ended up going a very different route. The usually raunchy creative team behind The Lonely Island decided to make Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers the closest thing to a Who Framed Roger Rabbit sequel we’re ever gonna get. The opening is like a mockumentary with Chip ‘n Dale as actors who starred in Rescue Rangers before it got cancelled. Leading to Chip becoming a boring insurance agent and Dale trying to shed his comic relief image. I didn’t quite understand John Mulaney and Andy Samberg voicing Chip ‘n Dale, but their original squeaky voices are used as a joke.

The movie is very meta with a live-action world populated by more than just traditionally animated characters. Now there’s computer animation, claymation, puppetry, motion capture, and so many other unexpected forms of animation. When they grow apart, Dale receives “CGI surgery” and Chip stays the same. It’s bizarre seeing two different animation styles at the same time, but it gets weirder. Like Roger Rabbit, the movie includes more than just Disney characters in the background. Warner Bros, Nickelodeon, My Little Pony, and even DreamWorks characters are shown respect. Though it does feel wrong to see South Park and Beavis and Butt-Head characters acknowledged in a kids movie. Though not at the same level as Roger Rabbit, the movie does have a bit of an edge. The most hilariously unexpected inclusion is Ugly Sonic. Which is literally the ugly original version of Sonic trying desperately to make a comeback. Of course other non-animated facets of pop culture are acknowledged.

Chip ‘n Dale are brought back together when their old friend Monterey Jack has trouble with his cheese addiction. Tress MacNeille returns to voice Gadget, but Monty has Eric Bana as a convincing soundalike. Turns out Gadget ended up with Zipper and they’re left out of most of the movie. Instead Kiki Layne plays a human police officer named Steckler who helps the duo in investigating Monty’s disappearance. J. K. Simmons voices the claymation Captain Putty who doubts their abilities. After a trip to the Uncanny Valley, a Swedish Chef inspired muppet takes Chip ‘n Dale to meet the villain of the movie. It feels wrong, but the villain is actually a very bitter grown up Peter Pan voiced by Will Arnett named Sweet Pete. He intends to kidnapped animated characters, alter their appearance, and place them in low rent bootleg movies. Sweet Pete is joined by a Coca-Cola polar bear and Seth Rogen as a motion capture dwarf with lifeless eyes. Though the climax does bring back series antagonist Fat Cat in a very unusual way. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers could’ve been another IP crazy mess, but it does have heart thanks to the duo mending their friendship.

Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers

Chip ‘n’ Dale work together

The Master Emerald

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 gave fans exactly what they wanted. The first movie was fast paced fun, but it still needed to take aspects of the Sega franchise slow. Sonic and Dr. Robotnik were introduced, but not the rest of his supporting cast of animal companions. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is based on the video game of the same name. Along with parts of the third game. I’m still not a hardcore fan, but I did get excited seeing Tails in the mid-credits scene for Sonic the Hedgehog. In the second game, Miles “Tails” Prower is a genius two-tailed fox who can fly and teams up with Sonic. Ben Schwartz was a suitable celebrity voice for Sonic, but voice actress Colleen O’Shaughnessey reprises her role from the games and shows. It’s a little distracting, but I’m sure Tails was a late edition to the first movie. Making me wonder if there was ever an ugly version of Tails. Another promising fan favorite was Knuckles the Echidna.

Knuckles is an honor bound warrior with super strong spiked fists. The only previous reference to him were the Echidna tribe that took out Sonic’s owl mentor Longclaw. Although several tough celebrities would’ve fit, Idris Elba was a perfect choice. Knuckles is a major scene stealer thanks to his self-serious misunderstanding of Earth customs. Despite his dislike of sequels, Jim Carrey returns as a more video game accurate Dr. Robotnik. Sonic still calls him Eggman, but it’s mostly his long bushy mustache and bald head that’s accurate. Hopefully a fat suit comes later if Carrey doesn’t retire from acting. Robotnik leaves the mushroom planet with Knuckles’ help and they form an alliance that will obviously end in betrayal. Sonic tries to be a superhero, but he’s too reckless. The rest of the original human cast returns even though it feels like a completely different movie. After some fatherly advice, James Marsden’s Tom and Tika Sumpter’s Maddie head to Hawaii for her sister’s wedding. Maddie’s sister Rachel was funny before, but it feels like too much attention is given to her and her fiancรฉe Randall.

Later it turns out he’s part of the video game accurate military organization G.U.N. Which is headed by the weird Olive Garden commander from the first movie. Robotnik’s creepily obsessive assistant Agent Stone and Green Hills deputy Wade are also give more attention. Yet Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still heavily steeped in video game mythology. Turns out Tails tracked Sonic to Earth in order to help him in his fight against Robotnik and Knuckles. They’re all searching for the wish granting Master Emerald formed from the 7 Chaos Emeralds. On their way, Sonic and Tails bond in a dance battle and Knuckles joins them when betrayed. The action is just as energizing, but it’s still so surreal to see a live-action Robotnik mech fighting the Sonic trio on the big screen. Just as surprising is seeing Sonic go Super Saiyan Sonic. After eating a chilli dog, Sonic gives up that power, but gains allies in the process. Like before, hardcore fans will appreciate the mid-credits scene introducing Shadow the Hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 may be a not so fast 2 hours long, but it blurs the line between video game and movie.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic teams up with Tails and Knuckles

Preceded by: Sonic the Hedgehog

Gotta Go Fast!

Sonic the Hedgehog cracked the video game movie code. Sega has always been in competition with Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog was created in Japan to be the Super Mario Bros. of their video game company. Sonic became just as iconic with his superspeed and cool demeanor. I’ve played the side-scrolling original, but my brother is the one who played more games and watched all the animated shows. Sonic became so popular that a live-action movie couldn’t come fast enough. The 90’s would’ve been too soon, but the movie didn’t become a reality until 2020. Though I wouldn’t call myself a superfan, even I knew how awful the original design looked. The initial trailer featured a truly ugly Sonic with freaky humanoid legs, small eyes, white hands, and awkward proportions. Rather than ignore the immense fan criticism, Paramount actually delayed the movie just to re-animated the lead character. It’s a good thing Valentine’s Day 2020 was pre-Pandemic, because the change made Sonic the Hedgehog the best video game movie made at the time.

It’s a low bar, but I wasn’t really a fan of Detective Pikachu. The key was actually treating the lore with respect. Even memes are acknowledged. Sonic is high energy and fun-loving thanks to Ben Schwartz. Although he never had an owl mentor named Longclaw in the games, incorporating the golden rings into the story was a clever idea. Sonic uses the rings to portal to various locations. Most of his time is spent alone in Green Hills, Montana. Normally I hate the fish out of water angle in movies like this, but this was a rare time where I actually liked the original human characters. James Marsden is bizarrely typecast as a CGI animal’s human sidekick. Tom Wachowski is a small town sheriff who dreams of bigger and better things in Los Angeles. Tom is married to veterinarian Maddie played by Tika Sumpter. Most of her time is spent with her disapproving sister Rachel and niece Jojo. Sonic longs for friendship, but he inadvertently draws attention by causing an EMP. So the U.S. Government calls in his longtime archenemy Dr. Robotnik.

Jim Carrey seemed miscast, because Eggman is literally egg shaped with a bald head and long bushy mustache. Yet somehow Robotnik ended up being Carrey’s funniest role in a long time. He’s having a blast pressing buttons and dancing to “Where Evil Grows.” He plays off his lowly coffee brewing assistant Agent Stone well, but I think there’s too much of a rivalry between him and Tom. When Sonic loses his rings, the superfast hedgehog takes a slow-moving road trip with Tom to recover them. Along the way recreating the Quicksilver scene from Days of Future Past at a diner and quickly dispatching of Robotnik’s drones on the road. Callbacks include Sonic eating a chilli dog, getting his signature red shoes, and calling Robotnik Eggman because of his egg shaped drones. The climax is a fast paced race between Sonic and Robotnik using his quill to increase his speed. In the end, the power of friendship wins the day. After an out of nowhere Olive Garden tie-in and a pixelated credits sequence, Robotnik is revealed on a mushroom planet with his video game accurate design. Followed by a fan pleasing appearance of Tails (more on him later). Sonic the Hedgehog learned from it’s mistakes before even being released.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic goes fast

Followed by: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Rescuing the Joan

The Jewel of the Nile couldn’t keep the adventure going. Lacking the charm that made Romancing the Stone so enjoyable. Since Robert Zemeckis was busy directing Back to the Future in 1985, Lewis Teague had to take over. The Jewel of the Nile was plagued with problems from the start. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were forced to return, and Turner hated the script. Douglas had to do rewrites, footage was lost, crewmembers died, and the new setting was unbearably hot.

The Jewel of the Nile now takes place in the desert. It’s just not the same as the jungle. Jack T. Colton and Joan Wilder are still together on the yacht that he bought at the end of the first movie. Of course they have relationship problems which brings us back to square one. Joan gets kidnapped by an Arab ruler named Omar under the guise of writing his life story. When he turns out to be a terrorist, Jack must rescue her with unlikely help from Ralph.

Aside from Holland Taylor as Joan’s publisher, Danny DeVito is sort of redeemed as the smuggler. It’s in the desert that the titular “Jewel of the Nile” is revealed to be a person. A holy man played by entertainer Avner the Eccentric. Aside from a grounded airplane attack, the sequel doesn’t do much to stand out. The Billy Ocean song “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going” is the best thing to come out of it. Since The Crimson Eagle or Racing the Monsoon were cancelled, The War of the Roses is the closest thing to third installment. The Jewel of the Nile doesn’t shine nearly as bright.

The Jewel of the Nile

Jack and Joan in an African village

Preceded by: Romancing the Stone

Uncaged

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is the role Nicolas Cage was born to play… himself! I’ve seen a majority of Cage’s most iconic roles. His crazy over-the-top style of acting makes him a one of a kind celebrity. I don’t usually see comedies in theaters, but Massive Talent looked too hilarious to ignore. Nic Cage struggles to get major movie roles, has a strained relationship with his fictional wife & daughter, and deals with an obnoxious younger version of himself named Nicky.

He considers retirement, but accepts a mysterious $1 million offer to come to the birthday party of a Spanish billionaire. The very popular Pedro Pascal is the only fellow actor I buy as original character Javi. Neil Patrick Harris feels too much like himself playing Cage’s agent. I also don’t buy comedians Tiffany Haddish or Ike Barinholtz as CIA agents. Cage is recruited to take out Javi when he’s revealed to be a potential arms dealer, but he can’t bring himself to kill him. Their funniest moment involves them taking acid and creating their own action movie in their heads.

Nic and Javi share an infectious bond over great movies like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Paddington 2. Of course the biggest draw is every reference made to Cage’s entire filmography. References are made to Moonstruck, The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, and other more obscure films. Like AdaptationMassive Talent goes completely off the rails by the end. Although I think there’s too much profanity, violence is mostly played for laughs. There are car chases, gun fights, and 2 kidnaped daughters to rescue. Though it could’ve worked with other celebrities, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is pure Nicolas Cage.

Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent

Nic Cage and Javi make a run for it