Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 - The Highlights (EHeroFlareNeos)

With 2018 upon us, we here at Trophy Unlocked would like to take a look back at the best and the most disappointing movies and video games of 2017. This year we got a lot of quality entertainment, perhaps more than last year, though that didn't stop a few duds from popping up. In no particular order, here are the highlights of the year, a subjective list of what to check out and what to avoid. As usual, however, we are limited by our own time and money, so if you don't see something you think should be on this list, that is likely a reason why.

Top Movies of 2017



Admittedly, this barely qualifies for the list considering it’s mainly a nostalgia movie. However, for a childhood Yu-Gi-Oh! fan, the latest film in the franchise, penned by Kazuki Takahashi himself, is an absolute ride from start to finish. The animation never falters and the increased focus on Seto Kaiba was actually a nice change of pace. The main villain, Aigami, might not have the same presence as other villains like Bakura or Marik, and the internal logic behind Dimension Dueling doesn’t make the most sense, but that did nothing to take away from my enjoyment of the story. Watching this movie is like hanging out with old friends, which can be a good feeling to have from time to time.



This movie is easily one of the more emotional ones of the year. The setup, though somewhat reminiscent of films like The Lake House and Freaky Friday, gives way to a compelling “Boy Meets Girl” story with equally compelling characters and an engaging plot with a few smart twists at just the right moments. Your Name. also has some of the best traditional animation out there and a soundtrack that kicks in at the most impactful moments. If you only see one anime film from this year, this is the one to see.



After a string of notoriously awful movies, the DCEU managed to finally get one good entry in the form of Wonder Woman. The film, directed by Patty Jenkins, features great acting, particularly by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, good action and a more compelling plot than its predecessors. If you only ever see one DCEU film, make it this one.



Logan stood out for a number of reasons. It takes Wolverine and places him within a slightly futuristic noir framework, a relatively rare R-rating (meaning children shouldn’t watch) allows the story to use the character without pulling any punches and the movie is able to use a very dark take on a popular character without feeling overly bleak or joyless. The characters are very well-written, backed by very powerful acting, particularly from Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen, and the plot moves along at a balanced and engaging pace. If you decide to view on it on home video, make sure to also view Logan Noir, a black-and-white version which contributes very well to the noir atmosphere (though it is otherwise unchanged).



Wonderstruck is one of the more interesting films to come out this year. Thanks in part to a screenplay by Brian Selznick, the author of the original novel, the movie is a mostly faithful adaptation that makes some respectable changes that would allow the story to work better on film. What makes it really stand out, however, is that it focuses on two protagonists separated by time whose stories eventually intersect. One is shown in the style of a black-and-white silent movie while the other is more or less in the style of a 1970s movie. Although the movie spends a little too long establishing 1970s New York at one point, the story and characters are very compelling and the way the stories intersect is quite a surprise. A good film to check out for those who are looking for something a little different with a unique presentation or fans of Brian Selznick’s work.



After two previous attempts, the MCU finally does a Thor movie right. Thor: Ragnarok is in many ways the opposite of the first two, as it contains more humor and makes use of a generally brighter color palette and more variety in the setting than just Asgard and Earth (aka Midgard). Along with Chris Hemsworth’s great performance as Thor, we also get more character development for Bruce Banner/Hulk and an interesting villain, Hela. As one of the better films in Phase 3 of the MCU, Thor: Ragnarok is one entry not to miss.

Top Video Games of 2017

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard


Although I hadn’t really played any of the Resident Evil games, I was aware that the series had been in decline with Resident Evil 5 and 6, which took the action elements of Resident Evil 4 a bit too far. Cue Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, which returns to the series’ survival horror roots in a big way, placing the action in first-person and telling a very personal story in a smaller, more intimate environment. The new story and gameplay direction presented by Resident Evil 7 creates a persistent and somewhat more realistically frightening atmosphere that is able to pull the player in and not let go. While it remains to be seen how the franchise will continue form here, this is a great foundation to build upon and is perfect for both fans and newcomers.



As someone who had absolutely next to no knowledge of Persona, let alone Shin Megami Tensei, I had an absolute blast playing Persona 5. While the story may feel uneven at times, the gameplay is a huge step forward for turn-based RPGs, especially in terms of speed, and the world is highly immersive thanks to surprisingly interesting social simulation elements. Combine that with a unique sense of style, an acid-jazz soundtrack that won’t quit and some memorable characters and you have a game that rightfully earns a spot on this list.

Cuphead


Cuphead stands out from the competition due to its unique visual style. A labor of love by Studio MDHR, all of Cuphead’s assets and every single frame was hand-drawn, hand-painted and animated using the same techniques as a 1930s Fleischer cartoon. Additionally, the game has a 1930s Jazz soundtrack recorded in a similar fashion. The sheer amount of dedication to developing Cuphead paid off, as the stunning visuals are married with a challenging run and gun gameplay style that makes taking down each boss feel incredibly satisfying. Easily a game that lives up to the hype and one that shouldn’t be missed.

South Park: The Fractured but Whole


South Park Digital Studios’ follow-up to The Stick of Truth is a remarkable improvement over its predecessor. On the story side, in spite of feeling a bit muddy as it goes on, the jokes just keep coming one after another and pretty much all manage to hit their mark. The South Park style of humor and political commentary is ever-present and feels right at home with its setting. The idea of using the kids’ superhero personas is taken full advantage of in the gameplay, which features an evolution of the combat system where instead of a traditional turn-based system, it now involves one where field position and the range of each ability actually matters. It may be kind of easy overall and the idea of a “perfect team” is a very real thing, but the game is still consistently fun all the way through.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins


Ubisoft’s latest entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise has proven that taking a year off between installments was worth it. The more open ancient Egypt setting feels fresh and the gameplay, though in some ways familiar, feels different and unlike any other game in the franchise. The story feels uneven at times, but goes very well with the setting and is able to immerse the player in a rather fascinating time in history, complete with opportunities to learn more about ancient Egyptian culture. If taking time off allows the series to gain a breath of fresh air, then I wouldn’t mind if two-year gaps between installments become the norm.

Super Mario Odyssey


When I bought a Nintendo Switch for some future releases, I also got a copy of Super Mario Odyssey to have something to play on it in the meantime. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be really fun. The plot is very simple, Mario has to stop Bowser from marrying Peach, but the gameplay strikes the right balance of simple and difficult. There’s always something new for the player right to the end and the boss battles take full advantage of the different mechanics at play. From my own limited experience, Super Mario Odyssey felt like a modern and natural extension of Super Mario 64, which seems like a pretty good foundation. If you need something to go with your Switch, this is a good game to start with.

Top Disappointments of 2017



The latest installment in the Sharknado franchise is an absolutely unenjoyable mess. It manages to be almost soullessly bad as the nonsensical plotline, lower-tier celebrity cameos and overabundance of increasingly terrible special effects make it perfectly clear that Sharknado has outstayed its welcome. When a Sharknado movie of all things is capable of jumping the shark, you know something’s truly wrong.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)


While Ghost in the Shell (1995) is fondly remembered as an artistic masterpiece which helped spawn a well-loved and influential franchise, the same will likely never be said of the recent live-action remake. Pre-release nontroversy aside, Ghost in the Shell (2017) falls very short of its main influence by managing to near-faithfully execute the visual identity of the franchise, but without the same heart that would allow it to feel like Ghost in the Shell. On top of this, it decides to try and recreate memorable scenes from the original animated film, but without any of the original motivation that made those scenes so iconic. If you have interest in Ghost in the Shell (2017), you’re better off watching the 1995 original and the subsequent Stand Alone Complex anime.



Illumination’s latest entry in the Despicable Me franchise was definitely a disappointment. While it may be an improvement over Minions, itself a very low bar, the story features an overstuffed plot backed by a premise normally reserved for the creatively bankrupt. Not even Trey Parker’s legitimately enjoyable performance as Balthazar Bratt is enough to redeem the overall quality of the movie. Perhaps it’s time for Illumination to reconsider the direction of the franchise, considering they still haven’t been able to recapture the spark that made the original Despicable Me work so well.




While Wonder Woman gave the DCEU its first real winner, the follow-up in Justice League nearly erased a lot of the goodwill the franchise had. There were plenty of issues, from a cast assembled too early to an uninteresting villain and slow-moving plotline that had me looking at my watch a few times too many. It’s obvious Warner Bros. needed the team-up to happen before the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, but this might have turned out better if audiences actually had time to get used to each member of the team before putting them together. Justice League may be one of the better DCEU movies, but when compared to Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, is that really saying much?

2017 - The Highlights (Tetris_King)

With another year drawing to a close, it is once again time to reflect on what we did and did not like about it. As with last year, a large number of new movies were watched and a good amount of new games were played, resulting in a rather lengthy list I found difficult to trim down. Much like last year, due to the high volume of movies from this year that I actually enjoyed, I have split my top movies of the year between live-action and animation. As per usual, the lists below are presented in no particular order, with links to reviews on the blog where applicable.

Top Live-Action Movies of 2017



After a few missteps while struggling to keep up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it looks like the DC Extended Universe may finally be headed in the right direction. Wonder Woman succeeds where it predecessors failed, providing an enjoyable experience with an overall more light-hearted tone and a hero you actually want to root for. With a sequel set for release in a couple years, hopefully the DCEU can live up to what Wonder Woman has to offer.



Beginning from this movie, the Transformers Live-Action Film Series is set to become its own Cinematic Universe. Having been hyped enough to attend a special early screening, I found myself enjoying the film in spite of its flaws (more on that below). While the movie has a lot of plot in it, the well-placed humor and world-building (including borrowing elements from the “Aligned” continuity) kept my interest throughout. If the upcoming Bumblebee: The Movie, to be directed by Laika alumni Travis Knight, is any good, then the new Cinematic Universe might turn out well in the end.



Another R-rated X-Men movie produced after the success of Deadpool, Logan puts the spotlight on Wolverine once again, this time taking place in a future without mutants as he winds up protecting both an out-of-control Charles Xavier and a small child with mutant powers similar to his own as they make their way to a supposed mutant sanctuary. Logan manages to both tell a well-written mature story and make itself accessible to newcomers, meaning you do not need to have seen any of the previous X-Men movies to follow along. In short, Logan is a mature comic book movie done right, as well as a great movie on its own merits. The black-and-white version, Logan Noir (included with the Blu-ray), is also worth a viewing, since, though telling the same story, it offers a much different experience.



Having enjoyed Hugo, I was intrigued to find out another Brian Selznick book was being adapted, to the point where I bought the book at the signing I was at and read it shortly thereafter. The movie, written by Selznick, is not only a streamlined, faithful adaptation of the book, it also tells a rather engaging story that makes it an enjoyable movie in its own right (though it does drag a little bit in one spot). It doesn’t have the same tone or style as Hugo, however I loved Wonderstruck all the same.



The Thor movies have never been the strongest movies in the MCU for me, and so this newest entry caught me by surprise. Not only is this movie highly entertaining to watch, I would honestly consider it one of the best movies of Phase 3 so far. It breathes new life into the Thor sub-series by not taking itself entirely seriously, with moments of genuine humor found all throughout the movie as well as some new development on the Hulk. Only time will tell if this new take on the God of Thunder will carry over into the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.



Following up on The Force Awakens, this movie picks up where it left off and provides a lot more insight into Rey and Kylo Ren. As with Transformers: The Last Knight, a lot of events transpire in this movie, some of which could arguably have been shortened a little, however I found the story engaging and found myself overall enjoying it. It’s not exactly the best Star Wars movie one could hope for, however it is worth watching, especially if you want to see the late Carrie Fisher play Princess Leia one last time.

Top Animated Movies of 2017



As a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan, I was already looking forward to this movie upon learning details at a Comic-Con panel featuring creator Kazuki Takahashi himself. Taking place after the end of the original manga, the movie introduces a new villain, Aigami, while placing the spotlight on Seto Kaiba and his growing ambitions to defeat the Pharaoh in a Duel. The movie is animated spectacularly and gives some good character development to both Yugi and Kaiba as they head towards their future goals, plus it was actually nice to hear the English voice actors reprise their roles once more. Aigami is also given some good development for a movie-exclusive character, which is more than I can say for Anubis from the Pyramid of Light movie, though even as a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan I couldn’t quite understand how Dimension Dueling, Aigami’s preferred method, worked exactly. Still, the movie is highly entertaining for existing fans of the series and is worth a look.



My interest in this movie came from hearing how successful and highly praised this boy-meets-girl story was in its native Japan, and so I took the chance to view it as part of a limited theatrical run. I could see where the praise was coming from, as I got emotionally invested in both the plot and characters. I don’t want to give anything away, though I would consider Your Name. a must-see anime film.



This movie’s premise is rather interesting, telling the story of someone investigating renowned artist Vincent van Gogh’s final days and getting multiple viewpoints on how his death played out. While the story is very engaging, the main draw is the movie’s animation style, being animated entirely using 65,000+ paintings that emulate van Gogh’s particular painting style to amazing effect. This, combined with imagery and characters inspired by the subjects of van Gogh’s paintings, creates a very immersive world that you’ll want to visit again.

Top Games of 2017



Little Nightmares is a horror game that’s very effective at building up and maintaining an atmosphere throughout. While not the type of horror you can find in Resident Evil 7, this game goes more for the psychological, and the overall design and aesthetic contribute to this expertly well to create a very unnerving experience. With a string of DLC and a comic book currently being rolled out, this is an experience I’d gladly revisit once it’s all been made available.

Puyo Puyo Tetris


In a rather unexpected crossover, the Puyo Puyo and Tetris puzzle game series have come together for the first time, delivering normal Puyo Puyo and Tetris gameplay in addition to a number of other game modes (including a mode that combines the two games together). The music and sound design are also good, as is a surprisingly entertaining story mode featuring Puyo Puyo characters meeting a new set of characters representing Tetris. Though I had more fun with the Tetris segments due to personal skill level, I did find myself getting the hang of Puyo Puyo’s gameplay over time, which helped me get more into the other game modes. This is a great game for puzzle fans, especially for those who enjoy Tetris and/or Puyo Puyo.



Having never played any of the Crash Bandicoot games prior to this collection (unless the cameo in Skylanders: Imaginators counts), I found myself really enjoying it. Though difficult, the three games in this collection have a world and characters that keep you wanting more even in the face of failure, especially in regards to the first installment. With intricately remade graphics, great voice acting and a catchy soundtrack that doesn’t stop, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the perfect starting point for any new Crash Bandicoot fan.

Cuphead


Before this game was released, I was hyped up by the art direction alone, taking inspiration from 1930’s cartoons and being animated entirely by hand. The game itself has a very strong difficulty curve, however beating a boss to get their Soul Contract is very satisfying and makes you want to go back for more. The visuals capture the 1930’s aesthetic very faithfully, which, along with the gameplay, make the game’s lengthy development cycle worth it. Regardless of whether you're in it for the gameplay, the animation is something that would make me recommend it to those who are fans of this particular style or possibly even animation students looking to study said style.

Top Disappointments of 2017



In spite of my praise for this movie above, I recognize the movie has some issues. Aside from any plot holes (one being Bumblebee’s new ability to Iron Giant himself back together to sell more toys), the movie has an overabundance of story, including a whole Suicide Squad-style sequence that ultimately goes nowhere, and so things could have easily been cut to shorten the run time. There’s also admittedly an overabundance of new characters, most of which don’t even have toys to sell, and the short screen time for many of them makes it a little difficult to care. Regardless, the next two films, one of which centers on Bumblebee, have a chance to rectify where this one went wrong.



After the disappointment of Minions, Illumination had the opportunity to steer the Despicable Me franchise back on track. Unfortunately, while somewhat better than Minions, this movie suffers from an overabundance of sub-plots, leaving not much room for development for either characters or story and lowering my expectations for a teased fourth installment. The only real saving grace of the movie is Trey Parker as the entertaining villain Balthazar Bratt, and even then, his performance alone could not salvage it.



The Sharknado series began as a funny joke, however that joke has probably more than run its course. While it may have been able to sustain itself for 3 movies and pushed it a bit with 4, the fifth annual installment, Global Swarming, fails to really capture the same enjoyment, relying more heavily on B-list cameos, plot contrivances, shoe-horned references and ripping off better movies to keep swimming. Though the ending teases the inevitable Sharknado 6, it seems like it may be time for this shark to finally stop swimming.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)


I’ll admit my experience with Ghost in the Shell lies mainly within the 1995 animated feature and the Stand Alone Complex (SAC) anime series, however I actually enjoyed those unlike this movie. Casting controversies aside, the 2017 movie manages to capture the look of Ghost in the Shell, though I can’t say the same about the feel. It does take some scenes from the 1995 movie almost wholesale to try and ground it within that setting (while also borrowing elements from SAC), however it can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be a remake or tell an original story, overall just falling short of its real potential. If you’re looking to have a good time with Ghost in the Shell, you may as well just stick with the 1995 movie instead.



After Wonder Woman pushed the DCEU in the right direction, Justice League feels more like a step back. Odd villain choice aside, the movie attempts to emulate the MCU’s The Avengers without understanding exactly what made it work so well, establishing a team before many of the individual members rather than the other way around. There is some humor in places and the movie is overall a major step up from Batman v Superman, however that isn’t saying much and it overall wasn’t as fun as the movie it was trying to copy. The upcoming Aquaman movie has some promise to turn things back around, hopefully borrowing more from Wonder Woman rather than this film.

Honorable Mentions

The Hitman’s Bodyguard


Though a bit of a sleeper movie, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is one that I found rather enjoyable. The main draw though is that it co-stars both Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, each essentially playing a version of their most famous characters (Wade Wilson/Deadpool and Nick Fury, respectively); the two of them have surprisingly good chemistry together, their characters being good foils for each other. It’s not likely the two will share a movie like this again (pending company merger notwithstanding), though in any case it’s still worth a viewing.



Another game in the recent 3D platformer revival boom, what attracted me to this particular title was, in addition to the art direction, the ability to manipulate time to solve puzzles. Though it has some shortcomings (including some technical issues), the game is actually pretty enjoyable and I found the approach to puzzle-solving interesting. While not perfect, the game presents enough potential for a follow-up title, though whether the developer will tap into this potential remains to be seen.

Rime


While I was once again captivated by the art direction, what interested me was the idea of exploring an island and solving puzzles (though it presents itself in a more linear, story-focused fashion). The puzzles can get a little difficult, however this did not stop me as I wanted to get through it and discover what the island was all about. These puzzles, coupled with a powerful ending (plus one of the best tutorials I have ever seen), make Rime definitely worth a look.

2017 - The Highlights (lionsroar)

Films watched for the first time and reviewed in 2017

Note: Since Trophy Unlocked has to pay for most of the movies we see in the theaters and for most of the films we watch at home, we don’t have the scope of a newspaper reviewer. We don’t see everything that’s out, so our ratings of films are based on what we decide to spend our money on.


Top 5 Best Films of the year:

In No Particular Order:




Wonder Woman

Finally the DCEU gets one right. Wonder Woman establishes Gal Gadot as the best thing in this comic book-based universe. Gadot is not only beautiful but also atheletic, strong and with a real screen presence. It's too bad that she alone is not enough to save this franchise which seems almost doomed from the start.



Hidden Figures

Well-done biographical film that rather than one person concentrates on the fate of three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) -- who worked in virtual obscurity during the Mercury missions which launched the US manned space program.



Logan

Not all comic-book films are made solely for the fan base. In what maybe a victory lap for his portrayal as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman co-stars with Patrick Stewart as  Charles Xavier / Professor X: in a story that takes place in the future. Now an older man, Wolverine must cope with old age while fighting to save a young girl Laura (Dafne Keen) from the evil Transigen corporation that made her. Also available as Logan - Noir, the same film but in black and white. This presentation tones down the blood, but also makes this feel what is, the kind of movie that they don't make anymore.



Loving Vincent

After his suicide, the postmaster of Saint-Rémy, Joseph Roulin (Chris Dowd), discovers a letter that the late artist had sent to his brother and sends his son, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), to find Theo, not realizing the brother is also dead. Armand develops a fascination with the late artist and spends an extended time trying to find out the truth about Van Gogh's death.  A fascinating story told exclusively through the use of paintings in the artist's style.




Wonderstruck

The stories of two deaf young people separated by 50 years are interwoven in this film based on the novel of the same name by Brian Selznick. Each must go on their own journey of discovery, which takes both to New York City and eventually to each other. Heartwarming story with good acting make this one to watch.

Best Classic Movie Reviewed:


Key Largo (1948)

It's very hard to go wrong with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson,  Lionel Barrymore, and Claire Trevor. Deported gangster tries to make a comeback during a hurricane that hits the Florida Keys. Post-war gangster film with a solid cast directed by John Huston. Honarable mentions: King Kong (1933) and The Lady Vanishes (1938).


Disappointments of the Year:

In No Particular Order:



Justice League

Is it really a disappointment when you sort of expect it to not be very good? I go hoping for better, but come out resigned to know that it is. Having killed his greatest ally, Batman has to put together a team of others with superpowers, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg and Wonder Woman to fight an exterrestrial with an Oedipal complex who is out to cleanse the Earth. But things are going well for the team until they manage to resurrect the fallen Superman.





Spider-Man Homecoming

Sony doesn't seem to know what to do with Spider-Man other than reboot the franchise and each time with diminishing returns. On its third try, Spider-Man is really Spider-Young Adult, which is the literary genre the film mimics when telling the story. Does the super-hero film have to be so high school? While I like the actor playing the title role, I can't wait for him and the series to grow up.


Despicable Me 3

Third time is not the charm with Despicable Me. Seems that they've gone to the well one time too many and now its really running dry. Too many storylines for this animated film to juggle. And, frankly, the Minions are a little over-exposed and getting a little old, sort of like bananas that have  been out too long.



Kingsman: The Golden Circle

I remember really looking forward to the new Kingsman film. The original seemed to be so interesting and fun. The premise of a secret British secret service was too quickly disposed of in my opinion. Now strapped to an American version, which sadly is so stereotypical as to be embarrassing. Can Americans ever be depicted not wearing cowboy hats as our native dress? The film tries too hard for its own good.



Started off the year watching one of last year's Best Picture nominees. Restrained science fiction, read that low on its reliance on special effects, the film features some pretty good acting from its leads. Still, the film goes one step too far and loses out when it makes time seem too circular. 

Worst Classic Film Reviewed this Year:



Detour (1945)

Don't believe the hype that this is one of the great film noirs. Low-budget feature includes the worst of the genre with a plot based almost solely on the protagonist making the worst decision possible in any situation and an over-reliance on coincidence. To top it off, the acting is wooden.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Stubs - Twins (1988)


Twins (1988) Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Kelly Preston, Chloe Webb, Bonnie Bartlett, Tony Jay. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Screenplay by William Davies, Timothy Harris, William Osborne, Herschel Weingrod. Produced by Ivan Reitman. Run Time: 107 minutes.  USA. Color. Comedy, Crime

By 1988, Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the world’s top action heroes. The Austrian-born bodybuilder turned actor had his big breakthrough as the title character in Conan the Barbarian (1982). He would go on to a string of films including Conan the Destroyer (1984); The Terminator (1984); Red Sonja (1985); Commando (1985); Raw Deal (1986); The Running Man (1987); Predator (1987); and Red Heat (1988).

Perhaps as unlikely as Schwarzenegger’s stardom might seem, was Danny DeVito, a four-foot ten-inch actor from Neptune Township, New Jersey. Best known for his role as Louie De Palma on the television show Taxi (1978-1983), Devito had also appeared in films, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975); Terms of Endearment (1983); Romancing the Stone (1984); The Jewel of the Nile (1985); Ruthless People (1986); Tin Men (1987) and Throw Momma from the Train (1987) to name a few.

The idea of matching these total opposites was the brainchild of Ivan Reitman, a Slovakian-born director and producer of such films as National Lampoon's Animal House (1978); Meatballs (1979); Stripes (1981) and Ghostbusters (1984).

Twins is the story of mismatched fraternal twins separated at birth. Julius Benedict (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Vincent Benedict (Danny DeVito) were born as part of a secret U.S. government project to develop a perfect child. A single woman, Mary Ann Benedict (Heather Graham) was fertilized by a mix of sperm from six distinguished men, who were either brilliant or athletic. But the experiment went awry and the embryo split in two, resulting in two not so equal boys.

Twins at birth and quickly separated.

One, Julius has been whisked away and raised on a tropical island by Professor Werner where he’s learned science, literature and multiple languages as he assists with the doctor’s research. He also developed muscles to spare.

On his 35th birthday, Julius is informed by Werner that Vincent exists. Excited that he has a brother, and thinking he is like him, Julius can’t wait and rows himself to the nearest island with an airport for a flight to the U.S.

He goes to the orphanage and quickly learns that his brother is not like him at all. Not only did Vincent start the only fire they’d ever had at the orphanage, but he also was kicked out after having had sex with one of the nuns. Vincent’s file is empty, but the Mother Superior (Frances Bay) tells Julius that Vincent is most likely in jail.

And that’s where Julius finds him. Vincent, a small-time crook, has been arrested for unpaid parking tickets. But Vincent doesn’t believe Julius at first but he lets Julius bail him out and get his car released. But that’s where Vincent leaves Julius.

Julius (Arnold Schwarzenegger) saves his twin brother
 Vincent (Danny DeVito) from a loan shark enforcer.

Julius, though, is undeterred and follows Vincent to his place of business, an office where he runs a shady operation by an aware Secretary (Elizabeth Kaitan). But after she’s gone, Vincent is visited by Morris Klane (David Efron), a loan shark enforcer intent on making Vincent pay for being behind on his loan. Julius arrives just in time to save Vincent’s life and subdues Klane. Now Vincent likes Julius and brings him into his inner circle.

Julius helps his brother by unwittingly helping to steal a car.

He uses Julius, who is quite naïve about the real world, to help him steal a car from a garage at the airport. Vincent has a contact, Al Greco (David Caruso), who lets him know that an expensive late-model Cadillac Sedan de Ville has been left. Vincent needs the money he can get for selling the car to a chop shop to help pay off his loans. Telling Julius that he’s there to pick up a car for a friend that’s going to be auctioned to help children, Vincent innocently breaks in, since the keys weren’t left like they were supposed to be. When the car alarm goes off, Julius lifts the car to the right angle to turn it off and then drives Vincent’s car out, his first time to ever drive a car.

Vincent introduces Julius to his girlfriend Linda (Chloe Webb) and her much hotter sister Marnie (Kelly Preston).

Using car phones, Vincent calls Julius and instructs him to stop at a grocery store. Pulling into the parking lot, Julius manages to get the car up onto two wheels before parking. In the store, Vincent runs into his long-suffering girlfriend Linda Mason (Chloe Webb) and her sister Marnie (Kelly Preston). Marnie dislikes Vincent but is taken by muscle-bound Julius.

Over a microwave dinner at home, Vincent shows Julius a document he stole from the orphanage, showing that their mother was alive when he entered the orphanage, but believing that she abandoned him, Vincent has no interest in finding her.

Julius finds one of their possible fathers, Granger (Hugh O'Brien), at an address he had for their mother.

Later, jogging to the address on the document for their mother, Julius finds instead that one of their six fathers Granger (Hugh O’Brien) lives there. He directs Julius to Professor Mitchell Traven (Nehemiah Persoff) at the White Sands lab where the experiment took place.

Meanwhile, Vincent steals a late-model Cadillac Sedan de Ville from airport parking for his chop shop contact. While driving, he plays a cassette tape that is in the player and learns that he has a prototype fuel injector in the trunk that was to be delivered to an industrialist, Beetroot McKinley (Trey Wilson), in Houston. When Vincent calls pretending to be the deliveryman, trying to sweeten, he finds out that the deal is worth five million dollars. Vincent is headed to Houston.

However, the real deliveryman, a mercenary known as Mr. Webster (Marshall Bell), starts looking for Vincent. Webster doesn’t like anyone to have seen his face, so he offs his original employers and Al at the parking garage. Webster pursues Vincent.

Finding out that Vincent is going to Texas, Julius decides that he will go right by Traven’s lab, so he invites himself along on the trip. Then Linda and Marnie arrive with a belated birthday cake for the twins. Linda insists to go along and Marnie wants to go if Julius is going.

Professor Mitchell Traven (Nehemiah Persoff) initially lies to the boys.

When they get to New Mexico, Traven originally lies to the boys, but when Julius gets mad and knocks down the door, Traven changes his tune. He tells them that their mother is alive and living in an art colony outside of Santa Fe.

Finally, with matching outfits, Vincent and Julius are indistinguishable.

Before they leave town, Vincent gets Julius something better than shorts and a t-shirt to wear. They end up in matching outfits, but they are still easily told apart.

The Klane brothers catch up to them, but it doesn't end well.

En route, they stop at a nightclub. On stage is a band which includes Nicolette Larson as the singer and Jeff Beck on guitar. There the Klane brothers, who are already walking wounded after their own encounter with Webster, try again to collect their money from Vincent. And once again, they don’t account for Julius.

Julius is a changed man after one night with Marnie.

That night, while Linda and Vincent get better acquainted, Marnie seeks refuge in Julius’ motel room. Julius starts out on the floor but Marnie joins him and the 35-year-old virgin is no more.

The brothers come to an art colony looking for their mother.

The next morning, they end up at the art colony, where a painter informs them that their mother had died. She leads them back out of the complex and they leave, not realizing that the painter, was, in fact, their mother, Mary Ann (Bonnie Bartlett), who doesn’t believe their story, believing instead that her child died at birth.

Their mother, Mary Ann (Bonnie Bartlett), doesn't believe their story.

When they stop on the road, Vincent decides that the others would be in danger, so he leaves them at the gas station and drives off to Houston. But, of course, Julius has to take chase, catching the first plane he can. In Houston, Julius co-opts a stereotypical Texan car, with longhorns on the grill. He uses his twin ESP, something they haven’t had until now, to find Vincent.

The original deliveryman, Mr. Webster (Marshall Bell), is waiting in Houston.

Vincent is, meanwhile, on his way to make the delivery to McKinley, who gives him the $5 million for the prototype. But moments later, Webster kills McKinley and demands the money from Vincent. Julius arrives in time to thwart Webster and let Vincent escape, but he returns and agrees to give the money to Webster to save his brother’s life.

Julius saves Vincent who, in turn, returns to save him, but Webster decides to kill them both.

But Webster doesn’t like to let people live who have seen his face and decides to kill them. But Julius outsmarts him and buries Webster under a long and heavy chain, apparently killing him.

Mr. Webster is about to get it good.

Fast forward and Vincent has returned the prototype to the rightful owner as well as the $4 million he was paid. Using that money as well as a reward, the brothers start a consulting firm.

At the art colony, Mary Ann is shown a newspaper story about the twins and then suddenly believes they are her sons. She visits Traven and is violent with him for concealing the truth from her.
Next, she tracks her sons down at their workplace and the family is reunited.

At the end, the family is reunited, the boys are married and both couples have twins.

The film ends with Mary Ann with Professor Werner on an outing with her sons and their wives, the Mason sisters. Both couples have had their own sets of twins.

Released on December 9, 1988, Twins would receive mixed to negative reviews on its way to making $216.6 million at the box-office. The film was enough of a success to warrant a reunion of its main stars in Junior (1994) another comedy directed by Reitman.

Schwarzenegger shows that he’s a more versatile actor, but comedy is really not his calling. Twins is sort of like a Saturday Night Live sketch that gets stretched out to a full-length movie. The initial premise is funny, Schwarzenegger and DeVito as twins, but it is the stretching it out to full-length film where the stretch marks show.

The subplot with the stolen prototype helps make this premise feature length, but the twin ESP seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s not supposed to be a location finder as it is sometimes used here. And if it was truly as strong as the film makes it out to be, then Julius and Vincent would have realized the other existed before now. I’m not saying twins, especially identical, might not have something like ESP, but it’s not something that can be turned on like a light switch. You either have it or you don’t.

The characters do go through changes, no more so that DeVito’s Vincent who not only discovers the strength of family but eventually thrives in it. His cynical approach to the sudden appearance of Julius seems somewhat genuine, as would most anyone if someone like Schwarzenegger showed up at your doorstep claiming to be your long lost never-knew-you-existed sibling.

This is not to say there are not some funny moments, but there are also several murders by a psychopath which seem like an odd element for what is supposed to be a laugh-out-loud comedy. It can be done, I’m thinking Keanu (2016), but it is still a risk that doesn’t always pay off.

While there are some funny moments in Twins, the film has not aged all that well. There is an 80’s vibe to the film, including a rather forgettable theme song, that scream that this is a film from another time. If you’re a die-hard fan of Schwarzenegger’s or DeVito’s, then you will want to see Twins. Otherwise, this may not be the film for you.

If you like Twins, then you might also like Powers Squared, a comic book about college-age twins who were granted awesome powers when they were young. Written by the writers of Trophy Unlocked and available at ComiXology.