(nl) wrote: Spanglish is directed and written by James L. Brooks, and it stars Adam Sandler, Paz Vega, Ta Leoni, and Cloris Leachman in a dramedy about a poor single mother named Flor, (Paz Vega) and she went to America with her daughter to have a better life and get jobs there. She managed to get a job as a nanny for a family of 5 and start to form a bit of a bond with them. I was very much looking forward to it as it has James L. Brooks as the director and writer, and it has Adam Sandler in it without it having Happy Madison Productions involved with it. Spanglish managed to live up to my expectations and is a great film. Adam Sandler is great in playing the drama moments while also giving some funny stuff when it's needed to be funny. I haven't seen Paz Vega in much films, so this is one her first films that I've seen her in, and she's not that bad in this one. It has some clever writing by James L. Brooks, and I care about the characters that was developed. The plot can be a bit too sitcommy at times, but the way that it deals with problems that I don't usually see in a dramedy is actually well done, and I was still interested about where it was going. James L. Brooks's heart is in the right place with this film, and while Spanglish isn't in the full extent of it, it was willing to show at least most of it and was trying to be a great film, in which it succeed on it.
(nl) wrote: Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The Empire Strikes Back. The Godfather, Part II. Each of these films is a member of an elite brotherhood of movie sequels, films that stood head-and-shoulders above their predecessors to become classics in their own right. There are few franchises that can claim a sequel that outdoes the original in every single way; and in their hallowed ranks, only ONE film series can make such a boast about a direct-to-video release. This is history. This is legend. This is Maniac Cop 2.Written and directed once again by William Lustig, Maniac Cop 2 is the best action-horror film you've probably never heard of. Full of elaborate stunt sequences, superb early-nineties make-up effects, and just a dollop of gratuitous nudity, this film is a significant improvement over the first movie in every major category-- it's creepier, it's more exciting, and the plot progresses naturally from the first film while taking the situation to the next level. Why Maniac Cop 2 was relegated to home video is beyond me; the film's production quality (including cinematography that doesn't look like a holdover from the seventies) is certainly up to snuff for the kind of stuff that was in the multiplex at the time. But alas, the movie only received a direct-to-video release, and even now it's tough to find a good copy on DVD (every release is in full frame, but I don't think it was actually shot that way). Despite that, it's developed a small but dedicated cult following, and with good reason: this movie has every staple of a classic cult genre movie, from chainsaws to car chases to Bruce-freaking-Campbell himself (unfortunately, the movie's biggest misstep is that it kills off Bruce's character in the first ten minutes). And to top it all off, Maniac Cop 2 does the franchise a serious favor by turning its villain, Matt Cordell, into a misunderstood, even sympathetic monster out for revenge-- one that looks way better than he did before, as actor Robert Z'Dar now sports an iconic make-up that aesthetically puts the character in the same league as Freddy or Jason.The film starts the way most 80s-era sequels do: with a recap of the climax of the previous film, in which Officers Jack Forrest and Teresa Mallory confronted Matt Cordell on the docks, culminating in him driving a police van off the pier and into the water. Neither Forrest nor Mallory believe that Cordell is actually dead, but the department wants to keep a lid on their story to save face, and ignore their warnings. Sure enough, they're right; Cordell tracks both of them down and kills them off within the first twenty minutes, leaving us with two new leads: Detective Sean McKinney, a loner cop with a disdain for authority and a pet peeve about psychologists, and Susan Riley, a police psychologist who was counseling Mallory, and who sees firsthand the kind of damage that Cordell can do. The two buddy-cop their way through the story, trying to figure out what set Cordell down his path of destruction; at the same time, Cordell falls in with Steven Turkell, a small-time serial killer with a penchant for strangling strippers, and the two become an odd couple in their own right (Cordell even moves in with Turkell-- I'm not even joking). When Turkell is tracked down and arrested, however, Cordell goes on the rampage, slaughtering his way through the central precinct to rescue his new B.F.F., and, backed by an army of freed prisoners, the two hatch a plan to break out every convict in Sing-Sing-- capturing Susan Riley along the way and holding her as a hostage. If it sounds like this plot is kind of all over the place, it is... but that just kind of adds to the movie's charm. The new lead in the film, Robert Davi, is as much of a genre staple as Bruce Campbell, but he lacks a lot of the former's charisma on-screen, coming across as a little too hard-boiled to relate to (he actually spends a lot of his screen time in a fedora and trench coat); still, his grizzled Detective McKinney makes for a serviceable and sympathetic hero. Also serviceable, though seriously lacking in personality, is Claudia Christian in the role of Susan Riley. She's an empathetic presence in the film, I suppose, and her lack of experience in the field makes her an effective foil for the world-weary McKinney, but there just doesn't seem to be much going on with her character. But like most horror sequels, this film belongs to the monster, not the men, and Robert Z'Dar's Matt Cordell truly blossoms as a villain in this film-- establishing a more specific M.O. (kill the innocent, protect the guilty), giving him a concrete motivation (if a somewhat illogical one) and a set of goals, and even developing his personality (insofar as it's possible to develop the personality of a brain-damaged, near-mute murder-machine). This is done mainly through his unlikely friendship with shaggy-haired psychotic roommate Steve Turkell, played by Leo Rossi (whom you might know as the foul-mouthed prankster Budd from Halloween II). Turkell is a manic blabbermouth who latches onto Cordell the moment they meet, often acting as a mouthpiece for the silent juggernaut. The two develop a surprising rapport fairly quickly, which actually engenders some sympathy from the audience-- after all, even though one's a sleazy, murderous degenerate, and the other's an undead abomination, they're both clearly quite lonely, so their friendship is actually pretty heartwarming... in a bizarre sort of way. Laurene Landon is back from the last film (for the first act, at least) as Teresa Mallory, the vice cop who knows Cordell is still alive, and for such a short performance, oh, boy, does she make an impression-- her delivery somehow manages to be both melodramatic and emotionless at the same time (and it doesn't help that she gets the worst lines in the film, such as this little gem: when asked why it mattered who they saw on the pier in the last film, she shrieks "Because you can't kill the dead!"). Finally, Bruce Campbell returns as well in the role of Jack Forrest, and... well, he only has two scenes (and a flashback, which is the highlight of his appearance in the film), but he still managed to get second billing on the box. Take that as you will.This script is a perfect example of poor story structure. The plot only really kicks in about halfway through the film, and before that, it's only a series of random killings and a completely unnecessary switch-over from one set of protagonists to another (something they did in the last film, too...). The dialogue is clunky and awkward, filled with clichs and non sequiturs (can someone please tell me what the "Two Dead Boys" rhyme has to do with anything?), and the story is resolved way too easily, with a hackneyed message tacked on about corruption and the system being the cause of everything. What ultimately saves this movie, however, is the execution. B-movie director William Lustig knows how to wring every ounce of quality from his limited budget, giving us a visually engaging film with phenomenal cinematography and significantly improved make-up effects. But the highlight of the film, without a doubt, is the stunt work. Car chases, shoot-outs, fire stunts-- this movie has all of them, and they're all the more impressive when you realize that the film only had a $4 million budget to work with, and that all of the stunts were performed for real, in camera. The action is well-shot and clear (for these were the days before shaky-cam), and the editing is smooth and effective at building tension. Basically, this is as good as exploitation cinema gets.Maniac Cop 2 isn't exactly the pinnacle of the cinematic art form. It's a shameless B-movie filled with sleazy characters, gratuitous nudity, and graphic violence, all set against the backdrop of New York City at its scummiest. But in terms of those B-movies, this is definitely the cream of the crop. Loaded with atmosphere and action spectacle, and featuring a unique and memorable movie villain, Maniac Cop 2 is an endlessly watchable film that stands proudly as a follow-up far superior to its drab, slow-paced predecessor. It may not be The Dark Knight or Godfather II, but it's earned its place in the pantheon of exceptional sequels... direct-to-video or not.