Film Review: Madhouse (1990)

Release Date: February 16th, 1990
Directed by: Tom Ropelewski
Written by: Tom Ropelewski
Music by: David Newman
Cast: John Larroquette, Kirstie Alley, Alison La Placa, John Diehl, Jessica Lundy, Bradley Gregg, Dennis Miller, Robert Ginty, Wayne Tippit

Boy of the Year, Orion Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t worry about me having dinner, I’ll just lick the crumbs off my filthy sheets!” – Beatrice

This isn’t one of the best comedies of its time period but I enjoyed the hell out of it as a kid and even now, in 2019, I still found the movie to be pretty endearing and charming. But I also know that my opinion is unique, in that most people have forgot about Madhouse and those who haven’t don’t have fond memories of it.

For me, this film works on the strength of its leads: John Larroquette and Kirstie Alley. The two of them had incredible chemistry, felt absolutely believable as a couple and they committed to the absurdity of the film with tremendous gusto.

The comedy style here is pretty typical of the time. It throws two normal people into a very abnormal situation while littering the proceedings with mostly crude and simple humor. But it works because of the charisma of the main cast and most of the supporting players.

I really enjoyed John Diehl, whose murder on Miami Vice still upsets me, and his overbearing wife played by Jessica Lundy. Alison La Placa was also great and we get Dennis Miller in a very minor (and his first) role.

The story follows a yuppie couple who get surprise house guests that are a total pain in the ass. However, as the film progresses, they get more and more house guests and no one will leave. Eventually, their new home has turned into a community of almost a dozen weirdos that push the couple to their breaking point.

What I love about this film is how we see Larroquette and Alley slowly break down and slip into madness. I thought the pacing of the film, in this regard, was perfect.

Also, there is a cat subplot that is a parody of Pet Sematary, which came out a year earlier. It sees the cat die, again and again, but it always comes back to create more chaos. You even get to see the cat die from a cocaine overdose.

This is a simple, fun comedy. But that’s what I like about it.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other outrageous late ’80s/early ’90s comedies.

Retro Relapse: In Defense of Sarcasm

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

I’ve read a few things recently online and in books that have spoke about sarcasm in a negative light. It has been painted as mean-spirited and a low brow form of humor – a quick attempt at a humorous response more often than not used in an effort to shield an emotional blow or to indirectly or passive aggressively pick fun at someone. While I get and understand the point these authors are trying to make, I don’t necessarily agree with it.

One of the books I read is about the subject of “manliness”. It’s author feels that a “man” shouldn’t use this sort of comedic device. Well, I think sarcasm is fine when there is a proper need for it and if it isn’t the only humor discipline that a manly wordsmith employs.

You see, the problem with sarcasm is that it has evolved – poorly. Sarcasm was once a witty and often times intellectually vast form of humor. Only some really smart and clever motherfuckers could use its power and get their audiences’ panties to drop. Anyone could say something funny but it took a lot of thought for someone to drop some really sarcastic pipe bomb.

It wasn’t as common back in the day and that is probably why it has become a comedic discipline that was almost an art form.

I think that the oldest form of sarcasm that I have experienced was expressed from many of the old badass comedic legends of yesteryear. Watching a lot of the old greats with my granmum throughout my childhood gave me a pretty solid understanding of their form, their timing and their delivery – not to mention pure wit.

Two things that really come to mind are the old Dean Martin roasts, which were a thousand times more classy and intelligent than the roasts today, and the old school game shows that always had funny celebrity contestants. One celeb contestant that immediately comes to mind is Charles Nelson Reilly.

Throughout the years however, as can be seen in the evolution of ludeness, crassness and dick jokes galore in modern celebrity roasts and just general mainstream comedy, the utter genius and hilarity of thought provoking comedy gold is pretty much non-existent. And not just through sarcasm but all comedic fronts; being mean and nasty in general is thunderously applauded.

There is still intelligent comedy but even shows like ‘Parks & Recreation’, ‘Party Down’ and ‘Arrested Development’ fall victim to the overabundance of the dense and obtuse witless vulgarness of our modern culture. Comedy in general now is just atrocious and sad. And unfortunately this just bleeds over into the masses. The class clown today is usually just a bully with a laugh track comprised of thirty other students.

You see, it’s a problem when the key to what we find funniest is poking fun at others or just laughing about penises and ass noises. Have we really become that dumb and unrefined? I’m guilty of this too – most of us are and in ways those things can be funny but in our superfast intellectually lethargic culture, they have been put on a pedestal. It’s like we don’t want to think too hard anymore in this Google and Wikipedia-filled world and so we cheer a cheap pop over real genius. We don’t have time to mentally decipher real genius apparently. As a culture, that is what I find frightening.

So no, I don’t see sarcasm as a thing men shouldn’t practice, I just see a form of comedy that has been bastardized by our overwhelming acceptance of low brow culture in general. Luckily there are still a few good comics out there practicing their craft. I mean, there is a reason I watch Dylan Moran over that shitbird shill who calls himself “Carlos Mencia”. There is also a reason why I generally gravitate towards British television over American. The question really is, what are we missing in America that these other countries aren’t? Why does Britain not overwhelmingly accept intellectually void entertainment but we do? Shit to think about, I guess.

As my cousin Cameron once stated, “Sarcasm, it is a tool of ingeniousy!” He was brilliant at 12 years-old.. before the accident (puberty).

Comic Review: New Mutants, Vol. 2: Necrosha

Published: September 8th, 2010
Written by: Zeb Wells
Art by: Niko Henrichon, Diogenes Neves, Paul Davidson, Alvaro Lopez, David Lopez

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t super big into the volume before this one. That could also be due to me not really liking the Legion character, who had a major presence in that book.

This volume finds its footing a bit more and I enjoyed both stories that were collected here.

I like this team, overall, and their dynamic. There are interesting twists to the story but the first half of this collection ties into a crossover event where some of the context is lost, due to this not featuring the parts of the story that weren’t specifically published as New Mutants issues. Also, this volume leads into the big Second Coming event.

Regardless of this being tied to and setting up other stories, I like the chemistry within the group and how the characters are written and how they’re evolving here. In fact, I assumed I’d give up after this volume but I think I’ll give the third one a read too.

I’m a big New Mutants fan and always have been. I just haven’t been very satisfied with their comics since the original run in the ’80s and early ’90s. Zeb Wells’ run seems to be carving out its place in the larger mythos though.

Plus, I dig the art.

All in all, not a bad book, better than most New Mutants collections after the original run and I’m at least interested in sticking with it beyond this chapter in the series.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the volume before this story, as well as most New Mutants stories featuring some of the key original members.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

Release Date: January 30th, 2004 (Canada)
Directed by: Brett Sullivan
Written by: Megan Martin
Based on: characters by Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Kurt Swinghammer
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Tatiana Maslany, Eric Johnson, Janet Kidder, Brendan Fletcher

Copperheart Entertainment, Lionsgate, 94 Minutes

Review:

“So this is home, huh, Ghost?… Kind of has the Manson family charm.” – Tyler

I guess this isn’t as beloved as the original film but I actually enjoy this one more.

It’s not bogged down by puberty issues or teen drama, it’s just a straight up horror movie with a really good, dark twist to the story.

The main stars from the first film return but this is focused on Emily Perkins’ Bridgette, as Katharine Isabelle’s Ginger is still dead and just haunts Bridgette as her conscience in the form of a ghost. The rest of the cast is made up of people that work in or are patients of an asylum.

When this story starts, Bridgette is still infected with werewolf blood as the cure from the first movie doesn’t really work. So Bridgette is basically an addict, taking the faulty cure in an effort to prevent the werewolf blood from fully taking over her. But as time goes on, her body becomes more and more immune to her medicine. In the asylum, her “drugs” are taken away from her, so its only a matter of time before she becomes a monster.

I like the setting and vibe of this film more than the original. It felt raw, grittier and it exists to scare its audience, as opposed to using the horror film medium as an analogy for girl’s getting their period.

Plus, I thought that the effects here were better and the film obscured the monster for the most part, as opposed to a big reveal that didn’t payoff due to the cheapness of the budget.

Additionally, I liked the concept of turning Bridgette into a junkie, still possessed by her sister’s overbearing spirit while also throwing in another werewolf and another type of monster altogether.

Ginger Snaps 2 is not a great film but it’s a better horror movie than the first one and it doesn’t beat around the bush. It gives you horror violence from the outset and you actually feel organic danger in this chapter of the trilogy.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Ginger Snaps movies.

Film Review: Contamination (1980)

Also known as: Contamination – Alien arriva sulla Terra (Italy), Alien Contamination (US cut version title), Toxic Spawn (US video title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 1980 (Italy)
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
Written by: Luigi Cozzi
Music by: Goblin
Cast: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn

Alex Cinematografica, Barthonia Film, Lisa-Film, Cannon Films, 95 Minutes, 84 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“Help! Let me out! There’s an egg!” – Colonel Stella Holmes

In Italy, at least back in the ’70s and ’80s, filmmakers didn’t give a crap about copyrights. So this was made as a “sequel” to Ridley Scott’s Alien, even though the only similarity it shares with that film is aliens. But these aliens are pretty much just slimy pods that look like inside out kiwis.

Overall, this isn’t a very good movie but for a 1980 horror picture from Italy, it fits that style and is actually better than a lot of the similar riffraff.

Luigi Cozzi wrote and directed this and it is one of his better films. I thought that the story was decent and I was at least engaged by it. There weren’t many dull moments and even if the aliens were bizarre and hokey, the film had an atmosphere that worked and made them haunting.

I think a lot of what makes this film work is the soundtrack by Goblin. I believe the band had a different lineup than when they worked on the Suspiria soundtrack but they still provide surrealist noise that sometimes has a melody but mostly just sets the tone, generating a sort of uneasiness in the viewer.

My favorite thing about this movie is the special effects. They’re practical, they’re cheap but when bodies start bursting from exposure to alien pods, it all comes off really damn good and it has stood the test of time. That opening scene where the scientists in hazmat suits are exploding all over the place is still effective.

Contamination is Italian horror schlock but it’s entertaining Italian horror schlock with a good amount of fun, explosive gore; the type of gore I like most because it’s not there to gross you out, it’s just there to shock you and catch you by surprise.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Luigi Cozzi horror films, as well as movies by Lucio Fulci and Lamberto Bava.

Documentary Review: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Release Date: January 25th, 2015 (Sundance)
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Written by: Alex Gibney
Based on: Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
Music by: Will Bates
Cast: Alex Gibney (narrator), Lawrence Wright, Mark Rathburn, Mike Rinder, Jason Beghe, Paul Haggis

HBO Documentary Films, Jigsaw Productions, Sky Atlantic, 119 Minutes

Review:

After recently watching the first season of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, I wanted to see something that delved more into Scientology in regards to their actual beliefs, their attraction to celebrities and all the other factors that I felt weren’t touched on enough in Leah’s show, as it focuses mainly on the personal stories of former Scientologists.

This documentary put out by HBO really provided me with the material that I was looking for. Also, this predates Leah’s show by a year or so, so maybe that’s why she didn’t rehash a lot of this stuff.

While this, like all documentaries, has an agenda, this doesn’t feel like it is trying to hammer you in the face with its condemnation of Scientology. Sure, it exposes it, reveals its twisted inner workings and allows those who were involved in it to speak out, but it’s presented in a good and clear way that sort of just lets the facts speak for themselves.

I found this to be informative and pretty engaging. It’s an entertaining film with a lot to absorb but it’s important with documentaries to not take everything at face value. But the more I look into Scientology, the more I find common threads and consistency within all its the criticism.

This was well produced, well organized and definitely worth a watch for anyone interested in the subject matter.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath