Movie #103: Airplane! (1980)

Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker

Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Peter Graves, and Lorna Patterson

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Ted Striker (Hays) has an extreme fear of flying following his experience as a fighter pilot.  When his girlfriend Elaine (Hagerty), a flight attendant, dumps him, he follows her onto her next flight in hopes of winning her back.  Unfortunately, the fish served on the flight poisons most of the crew and many of the passengers and Striker must land the plane.  Assisted by Dr. Rumack (Neilsen), a fellow passenger, ground-controller McCroskey (Bridges) and Kramer (Stack), his commanding officer during the war, Striker is able to land the plane and save everyone.

Following a string of successful disaster movies in the 1970s, the genre had reached a point where there were very few stories left to be told.  Parodying disaster movies seemed like the next logical step, and Airplane! does a great job of poking fun at every cliché imaginable.  Additionally, it gave rise to the parody film.  Though these types of films have completely sucked for the last decade (thank you Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer), there was a time when spoof movies were actually worth watching.

airplanehaysRobert Hays does great at Ted Striker.  It’s unfortunate that he really hasn’t been in anything else that’s noteworthy, though he was in Sharknado 2:The Second One.  As with many of the performances in Airplane!, he acts completely normal throughout and the wild and crazy dialogue he has is hilarious and is funnier because he says things in a matter-of-fact way.

airplaneneilsen This film also marked a transition in Leslie Neilsen’s acting career.  He would go on to do The Naked Gun trilogy, among many others.  He became synonymous with this type of movie, and I think his acting is spot on.  In fact, the script and matter-of-fact attitude that many of the supporting cast had throughout the film made for some of the biggest laughs.  Specifically, when someone would ask, “What is that?” the reply would be an explanation having nothing to do with the story, something the person would point out at the end of the explanation.

Greatest End Credits scene. "Well, I'll give him another twenty minutes, but that's it!"

Greatest End Credits scene. “Well, I’ll give him another twenty minutes, but that’s it!”

Airplane! is the type of film that’s funny every time you watch it.  The way the jokes blend in with the story seamlessly adds to the hilarity of this movie.  Airplane! was followed up with numerous spoof movies such as The Naked Gun and Hot Shots! series.  Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker do a great job of capturing the essence of the disaster movie and poking fun at it.  Leslie Neilsen, Lloyd Bridges, and Robert Stack provide strong supporting performances along with Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty.  This is definitely a film I’d recommend seeing at least once.  This is the way a spoof movie should be done.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

TMNT (2007)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I am reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.

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Some time after defeating the Shredder and their trip back in time to feudal Japan, the turtles have gone their separate ways: Leonardo is training in Central America to be a better leader, Michelangelo runs his own kids party company, Donatello works as an IT specialist, and Raphael fights crime as the vigilante Nightwatcher.

tmntturtlesaprilcaseyApril O’Neil and Casey Jones are dating, and April has left her job as a news reporter to run her own consulting company.  She’s been hired by Max Winters to track down four statues.  As Leonardo returns, the turtles discover a cosmic event that happens every 3000 years, and Winters, the fifth general cursed to live forever, is trying to set things right.

After the disaster that was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, it would be fourteen years before another film was released.  In that time, there were a few television programs with the turtles, but for the most part the franchise had faded from its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s.  When I originally heard that they were making this movie back in 2007, I was highly skeptical.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film when it came out.  Though it’s certainly not the greatest film of the franchise, it was a small step up from Turtles III.  The switch to full CGI for this film works given the cost and return of using live action animatronics like the original films.  However, the complete CGI use made this film feel more like a glorified TV episode, maybe a 3 or 4 episode mini series.

One of the things that made the original films great was the character interaction and snarky wit.  This film missed that by a wide margin.  If there was one thing Turtles III did better than TMNT, this was it.  Some of the character interactions such as Casey and April in the Turtle Van seemed more fit for TV rather than a movie.  I don’t want to call it too juvenile since that age and under are the target audience, but that balance of being juvenile and witty to older audiences just wasn’t there.

Plus most of the funny dialogue was given to Michelangelo and Donatello, a pair of comedians, but it could have been spread out with the rest of the cast.  Splinter has a couple of funny lines, but overall it just didn’t stack up.

tmntsplinterleo Mako voiced Splinter in this movie, which ended up being his last as he died before the film was completed.  While it was nice to see him back in a more fatherly mentoring form instead of the useless semi-comedian he was in Turtles III, he seemed both dark and cold for most of the film.  Perhaps this was another problem with the movie in general as a lot of superhero type films have gone the route of the darker, gritty tone (thank you Christopher Nolan).  The turtles are competent ninjas, but they are fun at their core.

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The turtles are moving forward with their lives.  Having defeated the Shredder and keeping the city pretty safe, it makes sense for the turtles to be in a rut at this point.  Unfortunately for the replacement villains, Winters and the four generals, run into the same problem Walker had in Turtles III: they’re not the Shredder.

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Though I was initially impressed with this film, TMNT has lost some of its appeal for me in the sense that it seems more suited for TV than the big screen.  The jokes are semi-funny at times, but nowhere near the original trilogy.  I’d recommend this for Turtles diehards, and suggest going in with very low expectations.

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I am reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.  I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.

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“Would somebody please tell me what the heck is going on around here?

“Well, relax, April. It’s just your, uh, ordinary time travel equal-mass-displacement kind of thing.”

With Shredder and The Foot defeated, New York City is safe once again thanks to the turtles.  Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael spend their time practicing their ninja skills, but Raph grows weary of it since they have no enemy to fight.  April O’Neil (Paige Turco), who is about to leave for vacation, has picked up some antiques for the guys to keep them entertained.  One of the items is an ancient Japanese scepter she’s gotten for Splinter.  It has the ability to switch people of the same weight in time.  The scepter is activated, whisking away April to feudal Japan, and replacing her with Kenshin (Henry Hayashi), a prince from that time.

Naturally, the turtles go back and face new villains: Walker (Stuart Wilson), an opportunistic Brit who does business with Lord Norinaga (Sab Shimono), Kenshin’s father.  Aiding the rebels, among them Kenshin’s mate Mitsu (Vivian Wu), the turtles try to end the civil war and bring April back to the present day.

Growing up I always thought this movie was entertaining and fun.  As time has gone on, though, the reality that this film does a lot of things wrong, ultimately being the last turtles film from New Line Cinema, have become very apparent.

Having killed Shredder at the end of Secret of the Ooze, the turtles have no real enemy to worry about.  The city is safe, and they’re left twiddling their thumbs and continually practicing their skills.

tmnt3walkerThe replacement villains just don’t match up with Shredder and the Foot Clan.  Though I don’t know what else they could have done with Shredder had he lived, I would imagine it would’ve been better than Walker, his bumbling sidekick Niles, and Lord Norinaga.

This was the first turtles movie that didn’t use Jim Henson’s Creature Shop for the animatronics, and it definitely shows.  The mouth movement with the turtles’ dialog wasn’t great in the first two films, but here it’s so far off it’s just plain sad.  Most of the time it’s not even close.

tmnt3caseyThis film brought back Casey Jones.  Though I prefer his character over Keno from Secret of the Ooze, here he’s used in a more comical surface-level character in Turtles III.  One of the things I enjoyed most about him in the original film was the depth and interconnectedness he had with both the turtles, April, and Splinter.  It was interesting, though, how they incorporated Elias Koteas into ancient Japan as Whit.

Unfortunately Casey, along with the rest of the cast, is reduced to juvenile comic relief.  As much as I was disappointed with how they used Casey, Splinter’s surface level role was more disappointing.  Whereas he provided depth, historical context, and fatherly insight in the first two films, here he’s just another comic.  Paige Turco returned as April O’Neil.  As with many other aspects of the film franchise, I thought she gave a much better performance in Secret of the Ooze.  Her character had a bigger part in the previous films, but here she’s somewhat a voice of reason for the turtles, but primarily used in a more comedic way.

One of the only redeeming qualities in this film is the development of the turtles as they try to get back to present day New York City.  They did move Raphael’s character forward in his relationship with Yoshi, Mitsu’s son.  Seeing Yoshi’s temper and watching as Raphael moves from student to teacher was interesting and overall well done.

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As a film in general, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III was very disappointing, and it’s understandable why it was 14 years before another turtles movie, animated at that, was made.  By trading in-depth and a strong enemy like Shredder and his clan, the turtles franchise gave up some of the things that made the first two films great, and instead rely too heavily on comedy, comedy, comedy.  There was no balance of the serious sprinkled with the comedy.  It’s definitely geared towards a younger audience, but even at that it still wasn’t that great.  I’ll probably watch it again at some point, but that’s more because I’m a fan of the early franchise.

My Rating: 1 out of 5 stars.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I’ll be revisiting my childhood and reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.  I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.

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Following the events of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie, the turtles and Splinter are living in April O’Neil’s apartment, much to her dislike.  Meanwhile, Shredder has survived and begins plotting his revenge.  April does an investigative report on TGRI, the company responsible for the ooze that mutated the Turtles and Splinter 15 years ago.  Shredder gets his hands on the last canister of ooze and uses it to create two new mutants, Tokka and Rahzar.

Growing up, this was the turtles movie I watched the most.  Probably because the first film had some profanities, hence my parents preferring that I watch this one.  The Secret of the Ooze takes some of the elements that made the first film great and either turned it to formula filmmaking or expanded and extended it.

turtles2tgriI enjoyed how they explored more of the turtles origins.  Though it’s explored much more extensively in the first film, the subject matter in this one kept it fresh and engaging without being too repetitive.

Some of the elements of this film were basically copy-and-paste from the first film: Raphael getting captured, Leo and Raphael’s back and forth, Mikey’s constant one-liners and bad puns.  There’s

Though I think this film is pretty close to the first film quality-wise, there are a few differences that give the first film the edge in my book.

tmnt2kenoCasey Jones is replaced by Keno, a less impressive, younger human counterpart for the turtles.  Don’t get me wrong, Ernie Reyes Jr. did a serviceable job as Keno.  His fight sequences were impressive, however, it’s hard to replace a character who played as essential of a role as Casey Jones did in the first film.  At times Reyes’ acting was more irritating than entertaining.  The martial arts elements were definitely more his strength.  The back and forth between Casey and April would have been nice to keep.

tmnt2pizzaPaige Turco replaced Judith Hoag as April.O’Neil.  Watching these films back-to-back was nice because I could see the two distinctive styles each actress brought to the role.  April had a more central role in the first film, offering observations on the turtles state while they were on the farm.  Here she’s another friend and messenger to the turtles from Shredder.  Turco does well with the smaller role her character has in this film.  The more helpful assistance for the turtles comes from Professor Jordan Perry (David Warner), a scientist for TGRI who is very familiar with the ooze.

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Tokka and Rahzar helped in keeping the battles between the turtles and Shredder fresh.  The filmmakers avoided the same old “we fight you, you fight us” back and forth by introducing these characters.  It also kept the story fresh by incorporating the ooze and helping the enemy evolve.  I’m a bit surprised that they chose Tokka and Rahzar over say, BeBop and Rocksteady.  Either way, it worked.

tmnt2supershredder

It’s a Super Shredder!

  Shredder’s motivation in this film isn’t to build an empire, rather, plain and simple revenge.  He had less face time in this film, probably because Tokka and Rahzar were the primary villains the turtles had to face.  Still, it’s good that they evolved his character instead of recycling the same old storylines.

 

 

"A true Ninja is a master of himself and his environment: so don't forget, WE'RE TURTLES!"

“A true Ninja is a master of himself and his environment: so don’t forget, WE’RE TURTLES!”

Following the successful live-action film from the previous year, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze does a good job of keeping the story fresh and entertaining.  They do a good job of developing more of the turtles origins and evolving their confrontations with the enemy.  Though some of the casting and character changes hurt the film, it’s still very entertaining and enjoyable for me to watch nearly 25 years later.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

NINJA RAP!

NINJA RAP!

With regards to the new film:

Another thing I am concerned about with the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie is Shredder.  His original story has been left behind, or perhaps adapted to today’s world.  Either way, I’m skeptical about how his character is going to do.  I like William Fichtner as an actor, but I’m not sure he’s cut out for this kind of role.  He’s made a living being a strong secondary character, and I just don’t know if he’s got what it takes for a role like this.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie (1990)

In anticipation for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie set to release August 7, 2014, I’ll be revisiting my childhood and reviewing the four previous Ninja Turtles movies.  I’m incredibly skeptical about this new film, and will probably write some previewing commentary based on what I know of the new film.

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“For 15 years now, we have lived here. Before that time, I was a pet of my master Yoshi. When we were forced to come to New York, I found myself for the first time without a home, wandering thew sewers, scavaging for whatever I could find. And then, one day, I came upon a shattered glass jar and four baby turtles.  The little ones were crawling into a strange glowing ooze from a broken canister nearby. I gathered them up in an old coffee can and when I awoke the next morning, I received a shock. For they had doubled in size. I, too, was growing. Particularly in intellect. I was amazed by how intelligent they seemed.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, based on the popular Nintendo video game and cartoon series, brings to life four mutated turtles and a mutated rat who have lived in the New York City sewers for fifteen years following exposure to radioactive ooze.  Splinter, the rat, is the father figure and mentor to Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael, and he has taught them the ninja fighting style and way of life.  They fight The Foot, an organized crime family targeting teenage men and causing all sorts of criminal problems for the city.

I’ll do my best to be impartial, but since this is probably one of my favorite movies from my childhood, that’s probably not going to happen.

Making a movie like this work is very difficult.  Since it was made in 1990, CGI was still in its infancy, so puppeteer effects are used in bringing the turtles to live action.  A problem with this was the mouth movements with dialogue.  It’s forgivable because a movie like this is targeted towards kids, but I can’t overlook it.  The puppeteer crew does an admirable job in bringing the turtles to life.

Each turtles represents an element in team chemistry.  Leonardo is the leader, Michaelangelo is the comic relief, Donatello is the intellectual who is also socially awkward, and Raphael is the angry loner in the group.

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“Wise men say, ‘Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for a late pizza.'”

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” Yeah? Well, you act like a JERK sometimes, you know that? And this attitude of yours isn’t helping anything.”

Something I enjoy about this movie, besides the fact that I can quote it almost verbatim, is the various relationships the movie showcases.  Though the characters roles become oversimplified in later films, here it’s interesting to see the balance and conflict as it plays out between the various characters.  The back-and-forth between Leonardo’s calm leadership with Raphael’s temper, Raphael’s and Casey Jones’ (Elias Koteas) anger issues, Casey and April O’Neil’s (Judith Hoag) back-and-forth, and Splinter and Shredder’s history, among others, provided some great lines and contrasting personalities.  They’re all entertaining, and none of them overpowers all the others in dominating the storyline.

I also like how the film takes a step back in assessing what is going on.  April’s reflection out on the farm helps sort the various layers of conflict and circumstance.  Splinter does fantastic as a voice of reason and demonstrates the fatherly elements both with the turtles and with Danny Pennington (Michael Turney).

 

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“A Jose Canseco bat? Tell me, you didn’t pay money for this?”

At its core, this movie is fun.  The scene when Raphael and Casey Jones meet for the first time is incredibly funny, and I like how they develop a mutual respect for one another.  Each of the fight scenes is complemented by a good amount of bad clichés, most coming from Michaelangelo, others coming from Donatello.

Side note: Sam Rockwell played the gang leader.

Side note: Sam Rockwell played the gang leader.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles works as a film adaptation for the popular television and video game series.  Since the formulas haven’t been set just yet with the film series, this film balances comedy with storytelling and developing the various characters history and relationship with one another.  Of all the films, this one is probably my favorite, and though I can quote most of the movie, I still enjoy watching it every time.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

With regards to the new film:

One of my fears with the new film has to do with casting Megan Fox as April O’Neil.  Judith Hoag, and Paige Turco in the second and third film, are both strong characters who roll with the punches and handle themselves professionally.  Megan Fox is eye candy, and nothing more.  I think it’s very telling that she had no dialogue in the first trailer for the film, and she has a very limited role in the extended trailer.  We’ll see, but like I said, this is one of a few things I have serious doubts about with the upcoming film.

The Artist (2011)

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Penelope Ann Miller

Academy Awards (2012):

Best Picture: Thomas Langmann

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Jean Dujardin

Best Achievement in Directing: Michel Hazanavicius

Best Achievement in Costume Design: Mark Bridges

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: Ludovic Bource

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Berenice Bejo

Best Writing, Original Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius

Best Achievement in Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman

Best Achievement in Film Editing: Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould

Best Achievement in Film Editing: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius

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The Artist follows the careers of George Valentin (Dujardin) and Peppy Miller (Bejo) from 1927 through 1932.  Valentin, a champion of the silent film era, sees his star fall while Miller becomes the big star with the invention of the ‘talkie.’

Filmed as a black-and-white silent film, The Artist is both unoriginal and distinctly unique at the same time.  Michel Hazanavicius has made one of the only silent films since the silent film era.  I feel like this would be the result if Singin’ in the Rain and A Star is Born had a child.  It deals with the transition from silent to sound films, and also maps the rise of a young actress alongside the fall of a legendary actor of his time.  Though it very well could have come out of the silent film era, the fact that it was released in 2011 makes it unique as a significant contrast to virtually everything that’s made these days.

I’ve always been skeptical, and a bit puzzled as to why this film had such critical acclaim.

I get it now.

The story is a bit predictable and cliché, but Hazanavicius has created a story that’s engaging and entertaining.  Though it was frustrating at times when I couldn’t read the actors and actresses lips, Hazanavicius gives the audience enough to get the basic gist of the plot.  Two strong leading performances also help make this an entertaining film.

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Both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo turn in fantastic performances.  Though neither has had very much exposure to American audiences (Bejo was in A Knight’s Tale), they more than hold their own in a unique to 2011 type of film.  Without being able to be heard, the body language and facial expressions play a much more central role in showing how their characters are coping with the changes that go on throughout the film.  George is dismissive of the talkie, sure of himself that silent films would always be on top, and falls deeper into depression and despair as his fame fades.  Peppy embraces the new era of filmmaking, but still cares for George in a truly genuine way.  Each was rightfully nominated for an acting Oscar, Dujardin winning for Best Actor.

John Goodman works well as the blustering studio executive who is at the mercy of his stars at times, but still willing to assert his authority.  James Cromwell also does well as George and later Peppy’s chauffeur.  He brings that older wise person element to the film.  It’s also noteworthy that Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange and Sprint commercials with James Earl Jones, among others) had a small part as The Butler, a fellow actor/extra that Peppy meets on her first day.

The only thing that really bothered me about The Artist was that it seemed to drag at times.  The first 45 minutes or so seemed like 2 hours.  Sometimes there are movies that I have to watch in phases, but usually that’s only if it’s 3 and a half hours long or longer.  Though I didn’t take any breaks with this one, it sure felt like I would need it.  Maybe it’s because the only sound for most of the film came from background music.

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The Artist is a film I’ve always had my doubts about.  A silent, black and white film in 2011 with as much critical acclaim and commercial success as this one had just didn’t make sense.  Michel Hazanavicius pays wonderful tribute to the silent film era with a true gem that could have easily come straight out of the time period.  Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo work well together on screen and bring this film to life.  While it’s not one I’m going to go out and buy tomorrow, it’s one I would definitely recommend watching at least once.  I may even watch it again in the near future.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Movie #94: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Director: Jay Roach

Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Faviana Udenio, and Will Ferrell

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“Au contraire baby, you can’t resist me.”

1967, Dr. Evil (Myers) goes into a cryogenic freeze to escape his arch nemesis and British Secret Agent Austin Powers (also Myers) hoping to return later and fulfill his plans for world domination.  Powers also goes into a cryogenic freeze to be thawed once Dr. Evil returns.  Fast forward to 1997 in a world that is nothing like the one from 30 years ago.  Powers, with the help of Vanessa Kensington (Hurley), the daughter of his former partner Mrs. Kensington (Rogers), acclimates to the 90s where free love and widespread drug use are no longer the norm.

Although I had decided to review films that have won Best Picture Academy Awards, I just needed something light-hearted where I could more or less shut my brain off, hence watching and reviewing Austin Powers.  This film was moderately successful in its theatrical release, and only gained a widespread cult following after it had been released on home video.

Short, sweet, impactful, and to the point, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery does a wonderful job of giving the audience member a hilarious release from reality while poking fun at spy movies.

Oh who am I kidding?  This movie is full of great one-liners, many from Powers, and it’s just fun.  It’s been years since I had seen it, but it’s funny enough to remain entertaining.  I’ve seen this one and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and I just feel like from this to that one it was beginning to become more formulaic and Goldmember just seemed like it was taking that further and had become tedious.   This film does great at being unapologetic and irreverent with its humor, and at the same time not going far enough to alienate major demographics.  While I wouldn’t recommend this for younger audience, the humor still has wide-ranging potential with audiences.

This film was released in a time when Mike Myers was still funny and hadn’t gotten stale, boring and predictable.  Like a few other comedic actors in the 90s (Adam Sandler, David Spade, etc.), Myers was still funny, and he does a great job in this film as both the hero and the villain.

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This whole movie is just fun.  Dr. Evil pokes fun at the classic spy villains in an over-the-top way that’s funny without being annoying.  The addition of Mini Me in the second film was funny, but again, I feel like it probably became tedious and boring by Goldmember.  That’s merely my speculation though since I hadn’t seen, and probably won’t see, the movie.

austinpowersferrell austinpowerselizabethhurleyThis was one of the first films for both Will Ferrell and Elizabeth Hurley.  Ferrell had made a name for himself on Saturday Night Live, and Hurley was both a model and at the time was High Grant’s girlfriend.  Vanessa Kensington is probably Hurley’s most famous film role, and she complements Myers 60s mentality as the quintessential 90s woman (until she has too much wine and falls for Powers of course).  Despite his limited screen time Ferrell’s performance is one of the most memorable and hilarious in the film.

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Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery is entertaining, funny, and enjoyable.  Mike Myers was still relevant, and does a great job as the charismatic over-the-top Austin Powers and Dr. Evil and complements a great supporting cast.  The humor may be more juvenile, but it’s fun as a comedic release.  I do recommend it, it’s funny and hilarious.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.