Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) review-just as bad as you remember

I honestly find no joy in dogpiling on a universally reviled piece of 90s media, mostly because there’s nothing really left for me to add after all this time.

Case in point: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) has been an industry laughing-stock ever since it was released and remains a stain on Sylvester Stallone’s illustrious career.

Not only did the film “win” three big Golden Raspberry awards, but critics across the board absolutely torn it apart, with Roger Ebert famously calling this action-comedy “one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen” twice in a single review.

Even Stallone holds nothing but contempt for this project. In 2006 interview with Ain’t It Cool News the actor pegged it as “maybe one of the worst films in the entire solar system” and that “a flatworm could write a better script.”

The movie-going public also remained largely ambivalent to this star-studded vehicle, since the film only regained 63% of its $45 million budget at the domestic box office (although it did go on to gross around $70 million thanks to international audiences).

But my guiding philosophy is that every famously bad movie is worth a revisit just in case I end up finding something worth recommending (check out my write-up of You Light Up My Life for proof of that).

However, in this instance I’m going to have to fall in line with the critical consensus, because Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot fucking sucks!

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The film’s plot follows Stallone’s tough-as-nails LAPD police sergeant Joseph Bomowski, whose world is turned upside down when he gets a visit from his overbearing, elderly mother Tutti (played by Estelle Getty from The Golden Girls).

When Tutti witnesses a murder on the streets of Los Angeles, Joe is forced to keep her around for a longer period of time and tolerate her excessive mothering as he tries to catch some illegal gun dealers.

Of course, the two eventually team up to nab the bad guys and to make sure the screenwriters have an excuse to shoehorn the movie’s title into a cringe-inducing line of dialogue.

Like Stallone pointed out in that 2006 interview, the film’s biggest offense is its script.

Even though the two leads have decent chemistry, the “overbearing mother-exasperated son” dynamic gets old quickly and doesn’t develop past something you would see in a two-minute SNL sketch.

You never get a real sense of where this familial dysfunction came from or why Joe has allowed it to continue well into his adult life. There’s some passing mention of Joe’s father dying when he was a kid, leaving Tutti all alone to raise him, but it’s not explored in any significant detail.

Beyond that, around 95% of the jokes land with a dull thud, since the screenwriters only find two things funny: Stallone getting embarrassed and Getty using harsh language occasionally.

For some reason, they also thought it was a good idea for this Golden Girl to quote lines from Dirty Harry and The Terminator, which is the comedy equivalent of your own mom tagging you in an outdated meme on Facebook.

Additionally, the screenwriters have a tough time keeping Getty’s character consistent in terms of her intelligence.

Despite the fact that Tutti showcases pretty impeccable crime detection ability, she still can’t grasp pretty basic stuff like how it’s not a good idea to wash your son’s service weapon in the sink.

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All these script writing problems culminate in the film’s finale, where (SPOILERS) the filmmakers expect us to take Tutti’s side and castigate Joe for being too uptight.

Even though the ending is meant to be heartwarming, I couldn’t help but think that none of their underlying problems were resolved and that Joe is going to turn into Norman Bates somewhere down the line.

If it seems like I’m spending way too much time analyzing this movie’s shallow script, it’s because Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot doesn’t bring anything else interesting to the table.

Not only is Roger Spottiswoode’s direction flat, but all of the side characters are boring carboard cutouts and the music seems like it was composed by a computer program set on “default.”

Admittedly, some of the stunts and practical effects are well done. There’s a particularly impressive scene during the film’s climax where Stallone drives a big-rig truck into an airplane propeller.

But those moments are few and far between and don’t make up for the rest of the movie being a total misfire.

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot also isn’t hilariously bad enough to be put in the same category as other famous 90s disasters like Cool As Ice (1991) or Batman and Robin (1997).

Say what you will about those latter two films, but at least the people behind them had a vision and managed to produce something that was entertaining in terms of how misguided it was.

This Stallone vehicle is pretty lifeless by comparison, since the filmmakers never take any risks and just rely on recycling a bunch of tired buddy-cop clichés instead.

So does Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot earn its status as one of the worst high-profile movies of that decade? Maybe.

But will I ever watch it again to gleefully gawk at the sheer level of incompetence that managed to make it on screen? Definitely not.

Verdict:

3/10

Corner store companion:

Glad garbage bags (because this movie is trash)

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Fun facts:

-Release date: Feb. 21, 1992

-Budget: $45,000,000

-Box office gross: $28,411,210 (US), $70, 611, 210 (worldwide)

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot officially “won” three Razzie Awards in 1993 for Worst Actor (Stallone), Worst Supporting Actor (Getty) and Worst Screenplay (Blake Snyder, William Osborne, William Davies).

-The 20th episode of The Simpsons’ 18 season is titled “Stop! Or My Dog Will Shoot” in reference to this film.

-Unexpected cameo: Ving Rhames plays one of the thugs that Stallone takes out in the opening scene of the movie.

-Director Roger Spottiswoode would recover from this giant flop by directing some much better action films in the future, including the 18th entry in the James Bond franchise Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

-Arnold Schwarzenegger famously tricked Stallone into starring in this film, feigning interest in the project in order to get his big screen rival to audition. Schwarzenegger confirmed this story during a recent interview with Jimmy Kimmel in October of this year.

Another Midnight Run (1994) review-Flagrant false advertising

You ever buy some frozen food based solely on the strength of the brand name or box art, and it turns out to be some bland, goopy piece of shit? That is what’s it’s like watching Another Midnight Run.

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This made-for-TV movie bills itself as an continuation of the original Midnight Run, a 1988 action-comedy that gained a lot of traction from critics at the time thanks to its potent mix of exciting car chases and sharp dialogue.

It also didn’t hurt that this original project starred Robert De Niro, who injected street-smart bounty hunter Jack Walsh with a lot of edge and gravitas, qualities that would have been neglected by a lesser actor.

However, pretty much all of those elements are missing from this 1994 pseudo-sequel, which retains the names of some of the principle characters from the 1988 original but none of its charm.

That being said, the film does at least mimic the basic structure of its predecessor, since it finds Walsh being hired by a bail bondsman (again) to transport a pair of criminals from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Of course, Walsh’s captors (married con artists played by Jeffrey Tambor and Cathy Moriarty) are always trying to give him the slip every step of the way and go into business for themselves.

But after that promising set-up, it doesn’t take long before the filmmakers reveal that they don’t have any new ideas and are content with poorly rehashing old elements from the original film.

Strike one against Another Midnight Run is the fact that they replaced Robert De Niro with Christopher McDonald in the role of Jack Walsh.

No offense to the future Shooter McGavin, but he leans way too much on buffoonish comedy to play a convincing world-weary bounty hunter and comes across like he’s playing a parody version of the character on Saturday Night Live.

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It also doesn’t help that the screenwriter makes him out to be a complete idiot, who is constantly outsmarted by his captors.

Sure, De Niro’s Jack Walsh was a screw-up as well, but he at least displayed a basic level of competence and quick thinking that helped him get out of sticky situations.

In Another Midnight Run, McDonald can barely tie his shoes without fucking up, let alone keep a pair of career con artists in check.

At one point, the married couple successfully distract their captor by convincing him that a nearby bar patron is giving him the bedroom eyes, which he completely falls for like horny 14-year old.

And without a likable protagonist to anchor the narrative, or any supporting performances on par with Charles Grodin from the 1988 original, the rest of the movie completely falls apart.

Strike two against the film is that it’s hampered by a restrictive TV budget, which means it can’t come close to replicating the intricately staged action sequences that made the original film so memorable.

All Another Midnight Run can offer up in terms of excitement are scenes of McDonald falling into some trash cans or mildly jogging through an airport.

While this downgrade is to be expected when a property makes the transition from film to television, Another Midnight Run doesn’t even have a good script or likable characters to fall back on.

All it can provide in exchange is lame comedy and annoying characters that you wish would just drive off a cliff so the movie could end.

The third and final strike that sends Another Midnight Run back to the figurative dugout is that it comes across as being a big pile of wasted potential.

A motivated director and screenwriter could have used this opportunity to think outside the box and expand on the Jack Walsh character.

Maybe they could have explored his past as a police officer in Chicago or shown us his first stint as a bounty hunter after resigning from the force. You know, typical origin story type stuff that people can’t get enough of.

Instead, the filmmakers decided to play it safe and replicate the basic structure of the original, albeit without any of sharp wit or fun that made it so successful six years ago.

I know most of this rundown is just me bitching about how this made-for-TV sequel pales in comparison to the original film, but the filmmakers definitely invite this criticism.

The only reason Universal greenlit this project in the first place (as well as the two other made-for-TV sequels released in the same year) is because they wanted to cash in on a recognizable name that was still worth something in the mid-90s.

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But rather than putting in the work to remind people why this property was valuable in the first place, all they did was slap the name Midnight Run onto an otherwise generic, low-energy road trip comedy and hope that nobody notices the difference.

And while the film did manage to siphon a couple chuckles out of me here and there, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being grifted by the same kind of con artists and trickster characters that make up two-thirds of the cast.

Verdict:

3/10

Corner store companion:

Blue Water Seafoods’ Pacific Pink Salmon (because it promises quality but delivers a sub-standard product instead)

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Fun facts:

-Original air date: Feb. 6, 1994.

Another Midnight Run was followed be another two made-for-TV sequels in the same year: Midnight Runaround and Midnight Run For Your Life. All three films were produced for Universal Television’s “Action Pack” block that aired from 1994 to 2001.

-While the “Action Pack” line produced a lot of duds, like Knight Rider 2020 and Cleopatra 2525, Universal also debuted some landmark 90s television under this umbrella. Not only did they introduce the world to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules through a series of TV movies, but the spin-off Xena: Warrior Princess proved to be even more popular and still has a cult following to this day.

The President’s Man (2000) review- Everybody gets old, even Chuck Norris

As a pop culture figurehead, Chuck Norris has left behind a very complex legacy.

Despite being lauded as an action movie heavyweight alongside Schwarzenegger and Stallone, the U.S. Air Force veteran turned actor never really got the chance to star in any classic films that have stood the test of time.

Instead, Norris wallowed in B-movie schlock throughout most of the 80s and 90s, riding off his reputation as a real life martial artist and fitness spokesperson to generate box office returns. Even Norris’ lead role in the TV show Walker, Texas Ranger, which ran for nine-ish seasons on CBS, is mostly enjoyed ironically today thanks to comedians like Conan O’Brien and Chris Elliot.

This strain of ironic appreciation was brought to a whole new level in 2005 with the popularization of “Chuck Norris Facts” on the Internet, which cemented the exaggerated power of his roundhouse kicks and facial hair for a whole new generation.

Even though these jokes are old hat in 2018, I think it’s safe to say that Norris was at least vaguely aware of his own vaunted reputation several years before these memes started to spread, since that’s the only way I can explain his ridiculous character in the 2000 TV movie The President’s Man.

In this film, Norris plays Joshua McCord, an American government operative who is such a badass that he’s called in to complete dangerous missions that even the Marines Corps can’t handle. Basically, he’s a combination of James Bond, Batman, and Solid Snake, with a dash of Bushido philosophy thrown in for extra seasoning.

When he’s not busy breaking necks for the good ol’ US of A, McCord also busies himself with playing chess, teaching philosophy at a Dedman College in Dallas, and other scholarly pursuits.

This diverse skill set is put on full display in the first 15 minutes of the film, when McCord is summoned from a Japanese tea ceremony to rescue the First Lady after she is held hostage by terrorists in Rio de Janeiro.

After this latest mission is complete, McCord begins to wonder if he’s getting too old to carry on the mantle of “the President’s Man” and begins to train a younger replacement to maintain his legacy and keep Americans safe from domestic and international threats.

Now, an ambitious director and screenwriter could have taken this premise and elevate the story above what one would expect from the star of Invasion U.S.A and Lone Wolf McQuade.

Similar to what Clint Eastwood tired to accomplish in Unforgiven and Gran Torino, The President’s Man could have easily turned this into a meaningful deconstruction of Norris’ legacy as an 80s and 90s action star and what that means for a whole new generation of film fans.

Unfortunately, since this is a TV movie made by Norris’ production company and co-directed by his youngest son, any promise that this premise might have had is flushed down the toilet in the first 20 minutes, when it becomes painfully obvious that this film was shot for cheap and pumped out as quickly as possible to satiate the Walker, Texas Ranger fanbase watching CBS.

This means that the film is littered with production shortcuts that exposes its status as a TV movie, such as stock sound effects, bad original music, sloppy fight choreography, a generous use of stock footage and sub par acting from a lot of the cast’s major players.

Even someone who is a big fan of Norris won’t really get what they’re looking for here, since he’s not really the main focus of the plot after the first 15 minutes.

By then the movie mostly follows his protégé Deke Slater (played by Dylan Neal), who is doing all the heavy lifting in terms of character development as he trains to become the next “President’s Man.”

As such, Norris is mostly saddled with a mentor role for the next hour, which means all he has to do is give stern looks, dish out fortune cookie wisdom and barely break a sweat during the few action sequences he takes part in.

And despite being in great shape for someone who is over 60, Norris’ age is big detriment to his status as a believable action hero in this movie, since it becomes blatantly obvious whenever a stunt double 20 years his junior takes over on screen.

It also doesn’t help that Neal is much more charismatic and likable that his mentor, who can’t even be bothered to raise his voice a few octave levels above normal once he confronts the man who killed his wife during the film’s climax.

With that being said, I’m still a sucker for these kinds of legacy-hero stories, where a grizzled veteran takes a cocky young upstart under his wing and molds him into a more responsible person who is willing to sacrifice his well-being for the greater good.

Even though this dynamic was done much better in films like The Mask of Zorro and Ant-Man, I still found myself charmed by Neal’s gradual transformation and his good-natured flirting with Norris’ daughter Que (Jennifer Tung), who also serves as his liaison to the President.

However, Norris himself still barely registers as a presence on screen, which is a shame since he is obviously written to serve as the glue that holds this entire film together.

Instead, it’s obvious that he’s only interested in showing up to collect a paycheque and maintain his almost decade long stranglehold on the CBS television landscape.

And while I do think that Norris has earned his place alongside the Schwarzeneggers and the Stallones in the pantheon of American action heroes, The President’s Man is not a good representation of why he earned that reputation in the first place.

Verdict:

4/10

Corner store companion:

Jack Link’s Original Beef Jerky (because it’s the manliest snack you’re likely to find, despite being bland and largely flavourless).

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Fun facts:

-Original air date: April 2, 2000 (on CBS).

-Budget: $2 million.

-Chuck Norris’ birth name is Carlos Ray Norris.

-Despite his reputation for dishing out white-hot death through the barrel of a gun, Norris only tallies one firearm related kill in this film. The rest of his fatalities are courtesy of neck breaks, throwing knives, and roundhouse kicks.

-Two years later, Norris would star in this film’s direct sequel The President’s Man: A Line in the Sand. While Tung returns as his daughter Que, Neal wouldn’t reprise his role and the character Deke Slater is played by actor Judson Mills, instead. The only other thing worth noting about this sequel is that it’s actually a lot more competently put together than the original, which makes it much less interesting to talk about.

-Between the original airing of The President’s Man in 2000 and today, Norris would only star in four more feature films. The rest of his film and TV credits roles throughout that time consist of the last two seasons of Walker, Texas Ranger and cameo appearances in movies like The Expendables 2 and Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

Castle Keep (1969) review-You got your Vietnam in my WWII movie

When I originally picked up a DVD titled “5 Classic War Films” for $4.99 I didn’t expect it to include a movie like Sydney Pollack’s Castle Keep.

Judged solely on the low price and the cheesy posters featured on the cover, I strapped myself in to watch some bottom-of-the-barrel, exploitative trash.

The hokey plot synopsis for this film specifically didn’t help matters either, since it centres around a rag-tag group of American soldiers tasked with defending a medieval castle full of priceless art pieces during the Battle of the Bulge.

However, while Castle Keep doesn’t attain “classic” status, as advertised, the filmmakers should be given credit for trying to inject some art house sensibilities into an otherwise formulaic war movie.

Within the first 20 minutes, the movie stomped my expectations into the ground by establishing a detached, laid-back tone that doesn’t initially seem to fit with other “man-on-a-mission” World War II epics of the time (think The Dirty Dozen).

Instead of getting down to business and showing the audience how the castle is being fortified for the on oncoming German assault, most of the first and second act features our main characters just farting around.

They drink, they smoke, they fuck (with several trips to a nearby brothel) and they carry on inane conversations that don’t really go anywhere. Mid-way through the movie one of the soldiers spouts off about how indestructible Volkswagen Beetles are, and that this particular model of car will inherit the earth after the war wipes out all human life.

Coupled together with a dream-like score that seems like it jumped right out of an old perfume commercial, and Castle Keep becomes a truly bizarre viewing experience, to the point where I even wondered if I put in the wrong DVD by mistake.

In the last 40 minutes the story does eventually turn into a more conventional direction, with plenty of explosions and gritted teeth that would satisfy even the most jaded action junky. However, this kind of action climax gets so exaggerated that it veers off into the direction of satire, especially when Germans soldiers start using fire trucks to mount the castle walls.

To be fair, most of these strange choices make sense if you put this film’s release in the right historical context.

By 1969 the United States had been escalating their involvement in the Vietnam War for over a decade, with no real end in sight. With that in mind, it’s understandable that Americans like director Sydney Pollack would have become disillusioned with traditional military heroics and decided to make a film about the tedium and pointlessness that’s involved in a protracted foreign conflict.

Actor Peter Faulk (who plays sergeant Rossi Baker) even reveals the filmmakers’ intentions at one point during the chaotic climax by blurting out “What the hell war is this?”

While the filmmakers should be applauded for this kind of ambition, Castle Keep is not without its problems.

Certain sections of the film suffer from poor ADR and sound mixing, to the point where you can’t even tell which character is supposed to be talking.

Because the movie adopts the look and feel of a waking dream, the middle part of the story really drags, something that could have been solved by chopping at least 20-30 minutes off the runtime.

And while the individual actors do a really good job with the material they’re given, it doesn’t stop them from being flat caricatures with no real depth. This usually what happens when characters are written to hammer home a theme rather than to tell a good story.

Overall, even though I think calling Castle Keep “pretentious” would be a bridge too far, I wouldn’t fault anybody else for using that label to describe it.

After all, the filmmakers are obviously much more concerned about waxing poetic on lofty topics like war, art, and sex rather than telling a good story with fleshed out characters, which definitely prevented me from engaging with the movie on an emotional level.

With that being said, Castle Keep did at least take me by surprise and give me something to think about once it was over. Hopefully this becomes a re-occurring theme throughout my adventures into the darker corners of Corner Store Cinema.

Verdict:

6/10

Corner store companion:

Skor butter toffee (because it looks fancy, but it’s still really just cheap candy on the inside)

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Fun facts:

-Release date: July 23, 1969

-Budget: $8 million (estimated)

-Box office gross: $1.8 (Canada/US)

-Two years after this film was released, Peter Faulk (one of the main supporting cast members) would go on to find great success by staring in the series Columbo. Faulk ended up playing the titular, unassuming detective in a grand total of 69 specials, with the final episode airing on Jan. 30, 2003.

-Mass murderer Ronald Defeo Jr. claimed that he was watching Castle Keep right before he shot his parents and four siblings to death in Amityville, New York on Nov. 13, 1974.

-While this film ultimately flopped, both critically and financially, director Sydney Pollack would bounce back with his next project They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, which landed him 10 Oscar nominations (including one for Best Director).

The Devil’s Own (1997) review-Sexy, terrorist Brad Pitt

One of my main objectives with this website is to showcase movies that have fallen through the cracks in a vast entertainment industry that’s been sent into overdrive thanks to the Internet.

Now, this doesn’t mean every film I review will be a hidden gem or a cinematic monstrosity on par with The Room. However, sometimes it means that the subject in question will be a solid outing with a few noticeable flaws that keep it from attaining greatest.

Enter Alan J. Pakula’s 1997 action-thriller The Devil’s Own, a film that received lukewarm reviews upon its initial release and very little retrospective fanfare in the subsequent 20+ years. Which is too bad, because the movie is quite well put together overall.

This is obvious from the first five minutes of the film, which features an intense Michael Mann quality shoot-out between IRA assassin Frankie McGuire (Brad Pitt) and members of the British Army on the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland. After McGuire survives this fire-fight by the skin of his teeth, he’s sent on a mission to New York City to acquire a bundle of Stinger Missiles that his terrorist brethren will use to rain hot, sweet death on even more government forces back home.

To complete his mission, McGuire takes refuge with unwitting police sergeant Tom O’Meara (Harrison Ford) and his family, who are eventually caught in the crossfire when this weapons deal gets more and more complicated.

(warning: trailer contains major spoilers)

Obviously, the movie’s biggest surface level draw is its star power, since its two leads were at the peak of their own career trajectories at the time of its release.

In 1997, Ford was in the middle of perfecting his mid-aged, reluctant everyman action hero shtick, while Pitt was just starting to prove himself as a “pretty boy actor” who doesn’t hesitate to take on edgier roles.

The pair also play-off each other really well on screen, hammering home the film’s underlining story about two Irishmen from different backgrounds and how their divergent upbringings colour their outlook on life.

If nothing else, it’s good movie to watch with your parents, since mom gets to ogle mid-90s Brad Pitt and dad gets a chance to live vicariously through Ford’s baby boomer grit.

However, this dynamic also highlights the movie’s biggest flaw.

Even though I’m far from an expert on conflict in Northern Ireland, I know that it’s a tricky, intricate subject that’s difficult to do justice on screen. This is especially true in the mid-90s, when tensions between the IRA and the British government were at a fever pitch.

The filmmakers of The Devils’ Own opted to side step this problem by downplaying the rougher edges of Brad Pitt’s character and portray him as a sexy freedom fighter instead. However, because of this, the film runs into problems with tonal consistency. One minute Pitt’s character is a ruthless killer who doesn’t hesitate to gun down government soldiers, and the next he’s shown to be a sweet, sensitive soul who gets down on one knee when he talks to small children.

While Pitt does his best with this material, the contrast between serious drama and romanticized fluff is still very jarring and hasn’t aged very well in a post-9/11 world.

Also, the less said about Pitt’s Irish accent the better.

Despite these hang-ups, the movie is still very well shot and paced, probably thanks in large part to veteran director Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice) being at the helm.

And while The Devils’ Own probably won’t change your life, it’s still a welcome two-hour distraction that does a great job of showcasing two Hollywood heavyweights in the prime of their respective careers.

Verdict:

7/10

Corner store companion:

Lucky Charms (for obvious reasons)

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Fun facts:

-Release date: March 26, 1997

-Budget: $86 million (estimated)

-Box office gross: $140,807,547 (worldwide)

-Unexpected cameo: Julia Stiles plays one of Ford’s teenage daughters (side note: this film was release theatrically two days before her 17th birthday)

-Musical highlight: “God be with you Ireland” by Dolores O’Riordan (plays over the opening credits)

-Shortly before her untimely death in August of 1997, Diana, Princess of Whales, took 15-year old Prince William and 12-year old Prince Harry to see this film. Diana was fiercely criticized in the media for taking her sons to see a rated-R movie that appears to glamorize the IRA.

The Devil’s Own serves as the final film of director Alan J. Pakula’s career before he passed away on November 19, 1998 at age 70.