Back to the Future Part II (1989)


Better to Devote Myself to Study the Other Great Mystery of the Universe: Women!

Because I cannot simply watch one, I follow my previous review with it’s sequel.  I compulsively feel the need to watch Back to the Future at least once per year and, once I have watched the first movie, I cannot keep myself from watching the entire series.  This movie took a pretty big hit critically, jumping down on Rotten Tomatoes from the 97% of Back to the Future to 64% for Part 2.  Have the mighty fallen?  We shall see in my review of Back to the Future Part 2, again written by Bob Gale, again directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring mostly the same cast of Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson, Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, Joe Flaherty, Jeffrey Weissman, James Tolkan, Flea, Billy Zane, Jason Scott Lee, Darlene Vogel, Elijah Wood, and footage of Crispin Glover.

At the end of the first movie, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is reunited with his girlfriend, Jennifer (Elisabeth Shue), just in time to have their party crashed by Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), having just returned from the future.  The Doc throws Marty and Jennifer into the time-travelling DeLorean, telling them that they have to go Back to the Future to do something about their kids.  The worry, of course, is that Marty and Jennifer’s kids have turned into assholes, but it’s much worse than that.  They travel from October 26th, 1985 to October 21st, 2015.  Jennifer starts asking too many questions, forcing the Doc to knock her out, but he’s nicer than me so he uses a sleep-inducing device instead of the brick I would’ve chosen.  Doc explains to Marty that the grandson of Marty’s nemesis, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), a cybernetically-enhanced bully named Griff, gets Marty’s son involved in something that gets Marty Jr. imprisoned for 15 years, which leads to Marlene, Marty’s daughter, trying to break Marty Jr. out of jail, getting her incarcerated.  Marty must pose as his son and say no to Griff, but Marty gets goaded into a fight because Griff calls him a chicken.  Thankfully, Marty uses a hovering skateboard to run away from Griff, causing them to smash into City Hall, getting them arrested and saving Marty Jr.  Marty finds a book called Gray’s Sports Almanac in an antique store and decides he should buy it and use it to make a few bucks.  Doc is not pleased about this, but gets distracted when they see that Jennifer, who they left in an alley, has been found by the police and is getting transported back to the house where she and Marty live in 2015.  Doc and Marty need to go save her because she might see her future self and there’s no telling what that could cause.  They head off to save her, throwing away the almanac as they leave, but it’s picked up by the much older Biff.  As Doc goes to save Jennifer and Marty wanders off, Biff gets into the DeLorean and drives off, reappearing shortly after in a great deal of pain.  Doc gets Jennifer and the three head back to 1985, but things are different now.  Somehow, Biff is now rich and powerful and has turned Hill Valley to haven for gambling and other bad behaviors.  Even worse than that, George McFly (sometimes Jeffrey Weissman and sometimes footage of Crispin Glover) was murdered, Lorraine McFly (Lea Thompson) is now married to Biff, and the Doc Brown of this time was committed to a mental institute.  Marty and the Doc desperately need to figure out what’s gone wrong and fix it, or be doomed to this version of 1985.

I cannot figure out how this movie gets rated lower than the first one.  At least not drastically lower as it has been rated.  I love this movie almost as much as I love the original.  It’s still a fantastic story, it still has lots of action and comedy, but not as much focus on romance for this one, and I could think of a couple of minor logic loopholes.  I also like that this movie gets a lot darker than the previous movie, mainly when we get back to 1985, find out that not only is Lorraine married to the McFly family nemesis, but that George was murdered by Biff.  I liked this dark turn for the series.  It gets us more involved in the story.  I also like how their return to 1955 lets them use the same footage from the first movie, but also shows us different angles of those scenes (like when Marty was playing guitar on stage) and scenes that we never saw in the first movie (like Biff harassing Lorraine after she picked up her dress from the store).  Of course, I thought about a logic loophole that was originally pointed out in the movie itself.  When they go back to 1985, Doc explains that they can’t go into the future to stop Biff from taking the DeLorean because they would be going into the future of this version of 1985.  But if that was the case, once Biff had given the almanac to the younger version of himself then it would have altered the timeline and he’d have been unable to go back to the version of 2015 that Doc and Marty were in.  In the movie’s defense, I have seen the movie many many times and didn’t think about that until this very viewing, so apparently who cares?  Plus, the concept of not being able to go the the proper 2015 from that timeline makes sense and the movie would’ve stopped right there with my idea included.  Another thing I thought about for this one was that they could’ve completely dodged the bullet of having to save Jennifer if Marty had just gone up to the police, let them identify him as her husband, had them make a comment about how young he looks for his age too, and they would’ve left Jennifer with him.  They seemed to forget to explain why Biff was in such pain when he got back from 1955.  He basically died by a dumpster and never really told us why.  I think I remember seeing something about it from deleted scenes, but it was a pretty big oversight on their part.  They do the thing about history repeating itself a couple more times here.  The biggest one was the skateboard chase from the first movie turning into a spectacular hoverboard chase.  The makeup effects are still very good at aging their cast in this movie, except for the ones on Elisabeth Shue for some reason.  I didn’t find her makeup convincing.

Because this movie goes into the future, it creates a danger that I’ve discussed in other movies set in the future.  You sometimes set loftier goals for the future than we can accomplish.  We still have three years from the time of writing this review, but there’s a lot to do in that time.  Power laces is something we can put on our Nike’s right now, but I don’t know who would want to spend the money it would probably cost to purchase those shoes.  Flying cars and hoverboards is a bit loftier in the goal department, and I’m not sure we’ll be ready as a culture technologically or as drivers.  Most people are bad enough drivers on the ground, I can’t imagine putting them in the sky.  I’m sure we can get rid of doorknobs right now, but I don’t know if I feel like it’s necessary to push my thumb to doors to save myself the trouble of turning a knob.  The biggest and most impossible thing is up to Steven Spielberg.  He’s got 15 more Jaws movies to make in only three years!  And you know if he rushes them out that quickly, they will mostly be much worse than even Jaws 4 was.

The performances don’t really change in quality here.  They’re still amazing.  Michael J. Fox is still fantastic, still does comedy and action superbly, but also has a little more emotional scenes to work with, but he still pulls it off fantastically.  Christopher Lloyd is still fantastic, and still does a mostly comedic performance in this movie.  Claudia Wells looked a lot different in this movie for some reason.  Oh wait, she was replaced.  Wells couldn’t do the sequels because her mother was diagnosed with cancer, so she was replaced with Elisabeth Shue.  Shue did a great job as Jennifer, but I still missed Wells.  Fox had a certain chemistry with Wells that he didn’t really have as much of with Shue, and I missed it.  But Shue still did great.  Speaking of replacements, Crispin Glover apparently asked for too much money (more, I heard, than Fox and Lloyd got paid) and was not in these movies.  I liked Glover in the first movie, but it’d be ridiculous to assume he’d get THAT much money.  And it actually worked out to be a better story that George McFly was murdered.  Also, he didn’t have anything resembling a big part in the movie, but most people don’t know that Elijah Wood pops up in this movie.  He’s one of the little kids playing the video game in the diner in 2015.  I just like to point that out, especially with how big he is today.  Jason Scott Lee (from Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), Billy Zane, and Flea also have small parts in this movie.

I don’t know the reasons that some people bag on this movie as being so drastically worse than the original.  The original movie was amazing, and this one was too.  It’s not so bad to be slightly less amazing than something that’s so great.  I love the story and especially how it got dark in the middle, there’s still a great deal of comedy and action, and the performances have remained fantastic.  There were a couple of minor logic problems, but nothing that kept me from enjoying it.  This movie also gave me a quote that I still like using today, though it’s not an easy one to find an appropriate place for.  But I like to yell “MACFRY!!” like Marty’s boss, Fujitsu-san, did, usually out of nowhere and for no reason whatsoever.  But I like saying it.  Either way, you have to watch the entire series.  Maybe slightly worse than the original, but still amazing.  Back to the Future Part 2 gets “He’s got a few short circuits in his bionic implants” out of “Shark still looks fake.”

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Back to the Future (1985)


You Tryin’ to Tell Me that You Built a Time Machine … Out of a DeLorean?

I cannot go very long in my life without watching today’s movie, and subsequently it’s two sequels. Though the first one came out in 1985, they still hold up as some of my favorite movies – and possibly my favorite trilogy – of all time. I know that sort of spoils the review, but I don’t care. I cannot even act like it’s a possibility that I don’t like these movies. And so, without further ado, let’s get into my review of Back to the Future, written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, directed by Robert Zemeckis, and starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, Wendie Jo Sperber, Marc McClure, James Tolkan, and Billy Zane.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is a regular high school slacker. Before school one day, he goes to the house of his friend, scientist Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd), to blow up his giant speaker. He gets a call from the Doc as he’s leaving, asking him to come to the Twin Pines Mall the next morning. He meets up with his girlfriend, Jennifer (Claudia Wells), with whom he talks about their plans for the weekend, but upon returning home, Marty’s plans are dashed by the fact that the car he was to pick up Jennifer in has been totaled. He goes inside to find the culprit, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), bullying Marty’s father, George (Crispin Glover), into taking responsibility for the accident. Marty’s mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), comes home later and bores the family with the story of how she met their father when her father hit him with a car, and how later they fell in love when they kissed at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Marty goes to see Doc at the intended time and finds out that the Doc has created a time machine out of a DeLorean, one that is powered by Plutonium that the Doc stole from Libyan terrorists. Their meeting is interrupted by the Libyans, who shoot down the Doc. Marty panics and jumps into the DeLorean. In the ensuing chase, Marty speeds up to 88 mph and is transported back in time from October 26th, 1985 to November 5th, 1955. While here, he runs into a younger version of his father trying to spy on an undressing girl, when George falls into the street and into the path of a car. Marty shoves George out of danger, but gets hit by the car himself. He wakes up in the room of Lorraine Baines, later Lorraine Baines McFly and Marty’s mother. Marty leaves and finds the Doc from 1955 and convinces him to help get him back to 1985, but there’s a problem: Marty inadvertently kept his parents from meeting, which would put a damper on his plans of being born one day. Marty has to set things straight while still figuring out how he can get himself back to the future.

This is a fantastic movie as well as being the fantastic beginning to a fantastic trilogy. I think I love everything about this movie. The story is great and well thought out, jumping back and forth in time with scarcely a logic loophole to be found. It pulls off some great, suspenseful action scenes, it lands a great love story, and throws in a great deal of comedy as well. There are a good amount of action scenes in the movie, from the chase with the Libyan terrorists to the race against the clock to get George and Lorraine together and get Marty back in time to catch a lightning bolt, but to me, the best action scene is when George wins Lorraine on his own. Marty was trying to engineer a fight between himself and George to get George to impress Lorraine, but when Biff intervened, George had to decide between fight or flight to basically keep Lorraine from being raped by Biff, and he made the right choice on his own, ending with him knocking Biff out with one punch and getting the girl. That scene still gives me goosebumps, even though I know the movie so well at this point I could practically recite it. I think what keeps me interested in this movie is looking for the hidden things that they throw into the movie to show the results of time travel. The biggest and most obvious one was that the name of the Twin Pines Mall was changed to Lone Pine Mall, because Marty drove over one of the pines when escaping from the farmer’s house in 1955. In the part with the Libyans, the Doc uses a six-shooter because, as he says in Part 2, he’s “always wanted to visit the old west.” Granted, they didn’t know there would be a sequel or a part three when making this movie, but they used it. The same could be said for when the Doc says that he can go forward in time and find out who wins the next couple of World Series games, which leads to the Sports Almanac in Part 2. There’s also a little Harold Lloyd figure hanging from a clock in the beginning of the movie, foreshadowing the Doc hanging from the clock in the end of the movie. I love finding these things in movies, and a movie with time travel in it opens it up for this stuff. Another thing they do a lot in these movies is showing how history repeats itself. The conversation between grown up Biff and George is exactly like the conversation between younger Biff and George, exchanging reports for work with homework. Marty and George even sit with their hand on their head in the same way when in the diner, helping us jump on board to them being related. You see a lot more of this stuff in Part 2 though. If I was going to point out something I thought was off about the story of this movie, it would be that it’s never explained how a high school kid is such good friends with a 60 something year old scientist. I thought of an explanation though: that the Doc became friends with the McFly family because he knew Marty would be around one day, and he had already been introduced to Lorraine so he had an in.

Graphically, the movie holds up almost entirely. There was one part in the movie where the DeLorean disappears, leaving those awesome fire trails going beneath Marty and the Doc, where you can see that the lighting on Lloyd and Fox doesn’t really match up and they were probably green-screened in, but who gives a shit? This movie is amazing. And the DeLorean itself is awesome. I know for a fact that if I was of driving age when this movie came out, I would definitely have tried to get a DeLorean. I don’t know how sales in DeLorean’s didn’t jump up drastically because of this movie, which I assume they didn’t because that company isn’t still around. I also read online that the creator of the DeLorean, John DeLorean (which is his real name even though it sounds like I made it up and didn’t try very hard to do so), sent Zemeckis a fan letter because of this movie. And why wouldn’t he? They made this car one of the most famous vehicles in history! All of the other graphics hold up nicely too. The recreation of Hill Valley in both 1985 and 1955 was fantastic. Everything looked similar and seemed to have a story to tell about how it had changed over the years. 1955 really captured what I think 1955 would be like. In fact, this movie probably stands as the example in my brain of what 1955 was like since I have no other information about it. I also think the music still holds up from this movie. Yeah, the Huey Lewis music is basically two songs used in different ways throughout the movie, and they’re clearly 80’s music, but I still like ’em. They use Mr. Sandman and Earth Angel once they get to 1955, which set the mood for the 50’s well. Then you throw in some awesome Johnny B. Goode at the end, but kind of make me like the song less because I had no idea that Chuck Berry just stole that song from Marty. Bad form, Chuck! The best stuff in the movie is the orchestral themes used. A lot of the orchestral stuff is two or three songs reused, but they change them up to fit the emotion of the scene. Plus, they’re amazing.

The performances in this movie are sublime. I will pretty much love every single person associated with this movie forever. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd especially. Michael J. Fox was so good in this movie. He played it for comedy most of the time and pulled it off fantastically. He had just as many action scenes, which he pulled off equally as well. He didn’t have too many emotional things to pull of here, though. He did a fantastic job of being very uncomfortable with what was going on when his mom was coming on to him. This performance makes it acceptable that a mother is coming on to her son because she’s not aware of it and he’s very uncomfortable with it. Christopher Lloyd was also fantastic as the eccentric Doc Brown. He was mostly played for comedy and exposition, but he was a super interesting character with fantastic personality. My favorite part about him was all the funny entrances he got to do, like when we first see him in 1955 with that giant device on his head. His wide-eyed expression was amazing. I’m pretty sure I fell in love with Lea Thompson because of this movie, and that still goes on today. She was so hot in 1955. I’d take a crack at that, even today and even though she’s 20 years my senior. Crispin Glover was as strange a character as he usually does, but still oddly appealing somehow. The best part about Thompson and Glover was how drastically their performances changed for the same character in different eras. Original 1985 versions of them are much older and downtrodden, somewhat beaten up by life but still sticking together, back in the past they were youthful, and Thompson was very cute and awkward, though not nearly as much as Glover, and in new 1985 at the end, they were older, but much more happy with each other and life. Thomas F. Wilson plays such a good antagonist in these movies that I would have a nagging hatred of him in the back of my mind, no matter how nice he might be in real life. He towers over almost everyone in the movie, has a semi-constant sneer on his face, but is also really stupid and cannot deliver cliche’s correctly. All of these people are amazing.

The reviews for the next few days were not intended to surprise anybody. I just need to watch these movies at least once per year, but I have never gotten bored of them, and I cannot foresee that ever happening. These movies are amazing. Great story, fantastic performances, comedy, action and romance all rolled into one story, and the graphics and music to make them work even better. I don’t know how you could have gone through your life without having seen these movies yet, but if you somehow have, you need to watch them right now. If you’ve already seen them, you should watch them again and remember how awesome they are. Back to the Future gets “My density has brought me to you” out of “History is gonna change.”

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Alice in Wonderland (2010)


You’ve lost your muchness.

I had no time to do my review of the 6 Star Wars movies today, so I dipped back into my DVD collection and routed out Alice in Wonderland. Not the animated one, the Tim Burton one. I decided to do this movie in case my friend Loni had lost interest in my reviews. You put Johnny Depp on the end of a hook and Loni will bite every time. So lets get into this here movie. This version of Alice in Wonderland stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas X 2, as well as the voices of Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor, Christopher Lee, and Stephen Fry.

I shouldn’t have to tell you too much about this movie. Who doesn’t know the story of Alice in Wonderland? This doesn’t just remake the classic Disney animation with wacky scenery though. It mashes up two of the classic Lewis Carroll novels: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it’s sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Now 19-year-old Alice (Mia Wasikowska), is an eccentric girl who has been set up for marriage behind her back. When the proposal comes, she jets. She sees a white rabbit in a waistcoat and follows him into a hole, falling down into Underland. Here she meets Nivens McTwisp the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen), Mallymkun the Dormouse (voiced by Barbara Windsor), Absolem the Caterpillar (voiced by Alan Rickman), and twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (both Matt Lucas). They tell her she’s the only one that can slay the Jabberwocky and save Underland. She’s not thrilled. Then, the conversation is interrupted by the Red Queen’s army, including the Bandersnatch and the Knave of Hearts, Ilosovic Stayne (Crispin Glover). Iracebeth of Crims, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter with a giant head), is not happy at the return of Alice because she’s come back to slay her beloved Jabber-baby-wocky and she’s looking to separate some heads from some shoulders. Alice escapes and soon comes to meet the Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry). He takes her to meet the March Hare and brings about the moment Loni had been checking her watch and waiting for, the introduction of the Mad Hatter, Tarrant Hightopp (Johnny Depp). Together with the Mad Hatter, Alice makes her way towards the Red Queen to find the Vorpal Sword, then off to meet Mirana of Marmoreal, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), to try to get her reelected as Queen of Underland. And, yes, I did look up all of their full names because they were wacky and I wanted them written in my review.

So the story doesn’t really require very much commentary. Of course it’s great. It’s Alice in Wonderland. This movie can’t really take much credit for that. I absolutely refuse to read without a weapon of some sort pointed at me, so I have no idea how closely they stuck to the source material. I don’t much care either. The movie was interesting all the way through so, much as the Harry Potter series, I don’t care if it’s nothing like the book at all. I’m not sure if it was a choice by Burton or if it was in the books, but parts of this seemed pretty dark for a movie aimed more towards kids. The Bandersnatch get’s it’s eye ripped out, there’s a bird that get’s stabbed in the eye and then gets it’s head crushed by a rock, and there’s a river full of decapitated heads. Hey kids, you wanna watch Alice in Wonderland? No, the one that will give you nightmares. Well then you probably should’ve eaten all of your vegetables at dinner. Now get in here and watch the movie!

As with most Tim Burton movies – and also Guillermo Del Toro movies – the story takes a major backseat to the visual effects. I’m pretty sure both of those guys are probably insane to be able to come up with some of the visuals they use. And it’s okay that they’re crazy because I can just enjoy the visuals of their movies without having to deal with them personally. The movie was in 3D in theaters, but I’m pretty sure no one made me sit through that gimmicky bullshit, and I certainly didn’t watch it like that at home. The landscapes were all rich with imagination; whether it was the lush, colorful forest area or the ruined town, all of it was a pleasure to look at. Some of the visual effects they went with were interesting but occasionally poorly done. I’m talking mainly about the morphing of the people. Tweedledee and Tweedledum were CG fat boys with Matt Lucas’ face plastered on there. The Red Queen had HBC’s head made gargantuan on a tiny body and Cripin Glover was made slightly more tall and lanky than he really is. These effects usually worked but I felt like, on occasion, it looked weird to the point where I noticed it and that’s not a good thing. But it was few and far between. Alice’s size was in a fairly constant state of flux in the movie because of a potion and a cake. This worked well through the movie, but that must’ve been one flexible dress. Also, the Jabberwocky is freaking metal. I wanna make an album and put that guy on the cover.

The performances in the movie were mostly wacky but all pretty good. Anne Hathaway was the stand out for me. Not just because she’s smokin’ hot and I want to make babies in her, but her portrayal of the White Queen was pretty freaking funny as well. She’s got a darkness to her that she’s always suppressing and compensating by going over the top with the prim and proper. Just the way she walked made me laugh. I don’t really know what to make of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter though. It was good and interesting, but totally wacky. There were parts where you could really connect with him on an emotional level over the tragedy that befell his town and drove him to madness, but then he’d break into a Scottish brogue out of nowhere. And that Futterwhacken thing? Yeah, I could’ve done without that. I also could’ve done without the scene where Johnny said it in a way that made me think he was talking about regular whackin’ … of the penis … vigorously … HBC’s Red Queen was pretty funny as well. She was like a child given power and murderous intent. The funniest characters were Matt Lucas’ Tweedle twins. I liked their crazy way of making words.

All in all, this is still a good movie. There were parts that lost me, either in wacky performances or slightly askew VFX, but the rest of the visuals kept me pretty riveted throughout. The biggest thing holding this movie back is that it refused to tell me how a raven is like a writing desk. I NEED TO KNOW, DAMNIT!! …sorry. I give this movie “You’re almost Alice” out of “Um.”

And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.