Category: movie reviews

Quarantine Movie Review: The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again

You know, things went so well showing my kids The Apple Dumpling Gang that everyone was on board for the sequel. Don Knotts! Tim Conway! What more of a reason do you need than that? I mean, the first movie was so straightforward. If there were even an alley oop moment in the history of family movies, making a sequel to Dumpling should have been it.

They didn’t just fail to slam dunk this movie. They failed on pretty much every level of “how to make a passable film.” I mean, there were a few parts in the 88 minutes that were diverting, but I’ve seen Mystery Science Theater movies that made more sense than this film. What in the world went wrong?

First up, they decided to jettison the three kids from the first movie completely, choosing (it seemed) to rely wholly on the talents of Knotts and Conway. Except instead of just having Knotts and Conway do stupid pratfalls for 88 minutes, they decided to embroil them in a plot that is more complex than most modern day Mission Impossible movies. Allow me to try to explain. (I’d warn you that these are spoilers, but really, if you end up watching the movie, you’ll thank me for giving you the general gist ahead of time, just so you can keep track.)

The film takes place on the frontier. A US fort has been having continual raids of their supplies by (they believe) Native Americans. The commander orders his second in command to get to the bottom of things. His second in command is also engaged to his daughter, who arrives in the same town Knotts and Conway come to in the beginning. She’s picked up by a Random Army Guy, who slinks around looking generally suspicious and fraternizes with equally suspicious characters.

Knotts and Conway manage to accidentally be the suspects of another bank robbery, but in the course of the robbery, they (also accidentally) disarm the famous lawman who tries to stop them. They become folk heroes instantly, but then try to give the money they accidentally stole back, in the process accidentally injuring the lawman again. They flee the town with the law in hot pursuit. In order to get away, they hide in the same wagon the Random Army Guy is picking up the commander’s daughter in. They accidentally drink a whole ton of champagne (long story) and end up falling asleep in the wagon. When it arrives at the fort, they’re discovered and . . . immediately enlisted in the army, because the army’s down on troops. (Native American raids, remember?)

Except the army quickly discovers there’s no greater destructive force in the world than Knotts and Conway, so they’re demoted to the kitchen, where they’re entrusted to get things ready for the engagement party that’s going to be thrown for the commander’s daughter. The Famous Lawman shows up in the middle of the party and (long story short), Knotts and Conway succeed in burning the entire fort to the ground. But not before Random Army Guy can flee the scene, abducting the Commander’s Daughter in the process.

Famous Lawman goes crazy and tries to start shooting Knotts and Conway, who naturally can’t be shot. They go to prison, where they discover another prisoner is actually using the prison as a hideout from which to stage raids on the army supply shipments. He decides Knotts and Conway (who accidentally came on him while he was monologuing about his plans) should come with, because they managed to get the drop on Famous Lawman.

Meanwhile, Random Army Guy takes the Commander’s Daughter to a random cabin the woods, where Random Matronly Figure reassures the daughter that Random Army Guy actually loves her. The daughter is disgusted, but intrigued. Because love.

Knotts and Conway run away from the Big Evil Dude, managing in the process to dress themselves first in drag and then as Native American women, because there was no stereotype they were afraid of using back in the 1979. They finally successfully run away and get on a train, which just so happens to have the Commander’s Daughter on it, as well as the latest batch of army supplies.

In a reveal that startles no one, the Second in Command Army Guy turns out to be bad, and the Random Army Guy is actually good, and they all fight on the train until the war party shows up and starts firing on the train. Except apparently the Native Americans are just there because they’re pissed off that Knotts and Conway swindled them out of some blankets. (Hyuk hyuk.)

Knotts and Conway manage to accidentally save the day, and . . . the end?

Did you follow that? I didn’t, and I’m the one who just tried to write it. I have to hand it to the movie, though. They did blow a fair number of things up, and they actually burned a fort down, which was pretty thrilling in a non-CGI way you typically don’t get these days. But other than that? The movie made absolutely no sense, and there were only one or two times that Knotts and Conway were actually able to do their slapstick humor.

Bottom line: avoid this movie. I gave it a 2/10, and only because there were a few genuine laughs in there. Even being stuck in quarantine can’t make this movie watchable.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Quarantine Movie Review: The Apple Dumpling Gang

I still have a subscription to Disney+. and it’s still getting regular use by my kids. MC loves being able to watch as much Frozen as her eyes can handle, and I found her doing a Cinderella marathon yesterday. (Actually watching (and enjoying!) the two direct-to-video sequels. I hope she grows out of it . . .) Daniela, meanwhile, is working her way through all the Marvel movies, and Tomas is doing the same with The Clone Wars.

I decided that the time had come for them to stop treading water at the top of the Disney catalog, however. One of the best things about Disney+ (in my book) is the fact that I have all these movies I grew up with, ready to inflict on my family at the drop of a hat. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes, they’re not nearly as good as I remembered. But there’s always something to talk about at least.

This time, I decided to show them The Apple Dumpling Gang, a movie I watched multiple times growing up. I remembered thinking it was hilarious, and I told my family as much. They eyed me with skepticism. “Really hilarious, or just ‘you used to think it was hilarious’?” Denisa asked.

“We won’t know until we’ve watched it.” (I’ve learned not to make promises I can’t keep.) “Worst case scenario, we turn it off after a half hour.”

The agreed to go along for the ride, and in the end, the whole family thoroughly enjoyed some good, clean, rated G family fun. The plot is fairly straightforward: a gambler “inherits” three children by accident and doesn’t know what to do with them. Hilarity ensues, mainly due to the herculean efforts of Don Knotts and Tim Conway, who play two bungling highway robbers who have aspirations of infamy. They get into a number of physical comedy routines which are just flat out hilarious. The whole movie is worth watching for those two alone. Great stuff.

The rest of it? Entertaining for sure. It made me reflect how easy it is to get an audience to root for your character. Make them likable and then put them in situations that are dangerous or tense. It doesn’t matter that you know those kids are being idiots for going around an abandoned mine. You know they wouldn’t know that, and so you’re really concerned what might happen.

Are the special effects good? Not at all. Is the acting solid? Not really. But it’s not that kind of movie. It’s a light throwback to an earlier time, and I still had a lot of fun with it. 7/10, but worth the time to show it to your kids. (If I’m lucky, MC will decide to watch The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again instead of Aladdin 2 . . .)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Quarantine Movie Review: The Walk

A few nights ago, the kids wanted to switch things up a bit for our evening activities. Tomas was keen on watching a movie in 3D, and the other kids seconded the motion, so I looked through the blurays I’d bought to find something that might work for everyone, including MC. I finally settled on The Walk, a movie I’d heard great things about (especially for 3D) a couple of years ago. I’d bought the film back then, but we had yet to crack it open.

No time like quarantine to correct that, right?

It was a fantastic film, based on the real life effort of a man to tightrope walk between the Twin Towers back in the 70s, before they’d both opened to the public. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Contact), it was a total blast, and I can definitely recommend it for a 3D experience. (On a big screen, at least. It was super on my 105″ set up. If you have something smaller, it wouldn’t be as good. This is one where bigger is definitely better. It would have been incredible in theaters.)

Part of that is because a lot of the drive of the movie comes from the tense scenes where he’s preparing for his tightrope walk. Because of course, this wasn’t something he was allowed to do legally. He had to break into the buildings, get his gear to the roof, set it up under the cover of darkness, and then traipse out there before anyone could stop him. That doesn’t sound too incredibly difficult until you think of the details. You can’t just string a rope up between those towers. Not if you want it to bear your weight. You need a hefty steel cable for that, and it needs proper support. So he had to enlist accomplices and make quite the heist plan to get it all done.

Every time the camera would pan down from those towers, and you saw the ground way below, my palms would get sweaty. It wasn’t necessarily a fun movie to sit through, but it was definitely entertaining. (Diminished only somewhat by the constant reminder in the back of my head of the ultimate fate of those two towers . . .)

If you’re looking for something to really get your mind off our current mess, I can definitely recommend this movie. It’s on Amazon Prime to rent for $3. I give it a 9/10.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Quarantine Movie Review: Titanic

True story: up until last night, I had never seen Titanic. Obviously I had picked up a lot about the movie over the years, but it came out when I was on my mission. It was all over the place then. Even in the small city where I was serving in Germany, I heard Celine Dion belting out from practically every store front. Often enough that I had “My Heart Will Go On” memorized, despite the fact missionaries weren’t allowed to listen to pop music.

Titanic was everywhere.

When I got back from my mission, I never really got around to watching the movie, simply because I figured I already knew what happened in it, and it was really long. (By that logic, I should never have watched any of the LOTR movies, though. Right?) It just became one of those holes in my pop culture knowledge, and I was at peace with that, for the most part. Then, about two years ago, I bought the movie in 3D, thinking that would be a fun way to watch it. Then I forgot I bought it on disc until I found it for the next Christmas, and then I wrapped it and forgot we owned it at all, because I never unwrapped it.

Clearly it wasn’t high on my to do list.

However, there’s no time like a current disaster to watch a classic disaster movie, right? Right. So Denisa and I popped on our 3D glasses and went back to 1912 over the past few nights. Now that I’ve watched it, I’m very glad I did. For one thing, it was eerie to see the connections between the way they recognized a disaster was coming in the movie, and the way we’ve recognized a disaster is here in the present day. All the same reactions are played out on the screen. (I’m just hoping we haven’t passed the “the ship is going to sink no matter what” stage of the virus.)

It was also great to watch how Cameron used the historical facts of the event as an asset to his movie instead of a liability. He leads out right in the beginning with the shipwreck. He even gives a general overview of how it sank. Then we go back in time and meet some of the characters and get to like them, so that when the disaster happens, it means something. And because we know what happens and the order it happens, all that scientific description at the beginning becomes much more ominous when you see it played out in real life. Superb.

I know some people had said the movie was overrated. 11 Oscars, tons of money, and it wasn’t worth the hype. I disagree. I thought the effects were incredible (especially in 3D), the story engaging, the acting well done (though not as strong as the rest of the movie), but the way it made history come alive was fantastic. Really, my one complaint about it was the way they threw in nudity for no particularly good reason. It’s not a movie I feel like I can watch with my family because of that, and I don’t think it made it a stronger movie with its inclusion. (I had somehow thought it was just a brief flash of nudity in the movie. I was wrong. Not that it’s there for a ton of time, but still.)

Interestingly, my one real interaction with the film previous to this was on my mission, when a young woman in the branch asked me to draw her a picture of Leonardo and Kate. I happily complied, not having any idea the role drawing played in the movie. I don’t think I would have done that if I’d seen the movie. Not that there was anything salacious about it, but it definitely would have felt much more awkward had I known. (Yay for ignorance!)

Anyway. The country isn’t sinking at least, and we don’t have to worry about hypothermia any time soon, so if you’re looking for an “at least it isn’t that bad” sort of an escape, go ahead and give Titanic another shot. 9/10

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Cult Classic Movie Review: Strange Brew

Look, people. We’re stuck at home for the next who knows how long. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so over the weekend, I hit the emergency button. I’d had it with all the doom and gloom, and I wanted to introduce my family to what has to be the most absurd Hamlet adaptation ever filmed.

I’m speaking, of course, of Strange Brew.

In a perfect world, this review would not be necessary, because everyone would already be aware of Strange Brew. In fact, I feel a little sheepish even writing this, because a big part of me wonders if the majority of you aren’t just rolling your eyes. “Strange Brew,” you’re saying. “What does he think we’ve done with our lives? Lived in a cave?” But considering the movie is something like 37 years old at this point, I’m thinking a significant number of you might not have just not seen Strange Brew. You don’t even know it exists.

Let me set the stage: two Canadian brothers decide to get free beer by taking a bottle of beer with a mouse in it to the Elsinore beer factory, claiming they bought it that way in the store. There, they discover something fishy’s afoot: the owner of the beer company died, and his wife married his brother soon after. Hilarity ensues.

There’s not really a way to encapsulate the true majesty of a movie about two brothers who just want to drink beer, and lots of it. It sounds inane, and it is. But it’s inanity raised to an art form. Rick Moranis(!) and Dave Thomas are perfection. They don’t just star in the movie. They wrote the movie. They didn’t just write the movie. They directed the movie. Talk about true auteurs. They even got Max von Sydow to play the villain.

If you haven’t heard of this movie before, don’t feel too bad. My first experience with it was going to a midnight movie showing of it at BYU my freshman year. My friends swore it was hilarious. I went along for the ride. They attended in full Bob & Doug costume: huge overcoats, knit hats, and t-shirts. It was a blast.

I was extremely pleased to see just how well the movie’s held up since then. It’s been a while since I watched it, and my expectations weren’t incredibly high. They were blown away, however. Zany fun throughout, with great one liners, and a plot that you keep thinking can’t get any more insane, until it does.

If you’ve never seen the movie before, and you’re up for some mindless fun that will really take your mind off the present blah, this is definitely worth the time. If you have seen it before, but it’s been a while, I encourage you to watch it again. My whole family loved it, except for MC, who thought it was too scary. So maybe . . . 10 and up? Assuming you’re okay with a movie that shows two people drinking beer almost constantly. 9/10

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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