Film Review: The Goonies (1985)

Release Date: June 7th, 1985
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey, Mary Ellen Trainor

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you realize? The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Troy’s bucket.” – Mikey

Cyndi Lauper sang that the “Goonies ‘r’ good enough” and frankly, I have to agree with her.

This is a perfect movie for kids… and adults, really. It’s fun, funny, full of adventure, danger, treasure, good feelings, friendship, imagination, wonderment and a bit of swashbuckling.

On top of that, every single person in the cast is absolutely perfect, top to bottom. This was just a special movie where everything seemed to go right, especially in regards to the actors chosen for each specific role.

On one side, you have the kids and their hulk-like ally Sloth. On the other side, you have the Fratelli crime family.

Every kid in this is great and they had spectacular chemistry. You believed that they were all friends and it was impossible not to root for them. With the Fratellis, you had another group that worked damn well together. Honestly, as a kid I kind of wanted a Fratelli spinoff movie. Sadly, Anne Ramsey died a few years after this but I’ve always wanted to see Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano come together as gangster brothers again.

Apart from the casting, you had a wonderful script penned by Chris Columbus from a story written by Steven Spielberg. With Richard Donner directing, it’s kind of hard to imagine this failing, even before seeing the picture.

It’s very rare that I come across someone that hasn’t seen the film. It’s reputation precedes it and for good reason. It has stood the test of time and it’s not something that loses steam the more you watch it. In fact, at least for me, it’s a film that I appreciate more with every viewing. It’s hard to peg as to why that is but man, it’s a film that just brings you to a special place; it’s magical and it is full of optimism when most entertainment, at least in modern times, is pretty nihilistic.

The Goonies gives one hope because it is exactly what entertainment needs to be, pleasant and enjoyable escapism that leaves you with a positive feeling despite whatever crap your day threw at you.

It’s perfectly paced, there isn’t a dull moment and every frame of the film… hell, every line spoken, has a purpose and has real meaning behind it.

The Goonies also benefits from its stupendous score by Dave Grusin, a guy who isn’t as well known as John Williams, James Horner or Alan Silvestri but was still able to create a theme and a score that was good enough to rival the best work of those three great film composers.

For what it is, The Goonies is absolutely perfect. If you don’t like it, you probably aren’t human or at least don’t have a heart.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The Monster Squad, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Explorers.

Film Review: Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

Also known as: Makaitoshi Shinjuku (original title), Monster City (UK), Hell City Shinjuku (alternative title)
Release Date: October 25th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Written by: Kaori Okamura
Based on: Makaitoshi Shinjuku by Hideyuki Kikuchi

Japan Home Video (JHV), Video Art Co., Madhouse, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Men anger the gods with their pride, and in order to punish them, the gods looked on as Pandora opened her box letting chaos loose. And now here in Monster City, mythology will become reality. ” – Mephisto

I never knew that this was done by the same director that did Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. I guess I should have figured that out due to a similar visual style, especially in regards to the visual effects and flair.

The first time that I saw this was on the Sci-Fi Channel, late at night, in the late ’90s. Seeing it for the first time, I was immediately sucked in by the opening scene, which still, all these years later, looks so absolutely fucking pristine and perfect that it still gives me chills.

Sadly, the movie itself is far from perfect as a total body of work but the strengths far outweigh the negatives and its those strengths that bring me back to this movie every couple of years.

The story isn’t great and the character development is weak but this is such a cool looking anime that it’s hard to turn away.

love the art, the tone, the style and how it all creates a dreary and mystical atmosphere.

I guess my biggest gripe about the film is that the English voice acting isn’t good. While it’s not terrible, it lacks emotion and the characters’ accents are strange. I guess the girl is British aristocracy and the little roller skate dude is Mexican? I would assume that all the characters are Japanese but the voice acting really throws you off.

The real highpoint outside of style, is the action sequences. They are all well done, fluid and exciting. But with that, everything else that happens is sort of boring. There’s a lot of walking and talking and most of it seems like a waste of time, as you’re just waiting for more action or some other creepy demonic encounter.

Demon City Shinjuku has a lot going right for it though. It certainly needed to be fine tuned more and I guess I can blame the poor voice acting on the fact that English audiences hadn’t fully embraced anime when this came out. But, as I said, the positives keep this above water and it’s just a cool flick.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Wicked City, Vampire Hunter D and Ninja Scroll.

Film Review: Action Jackson (1988)

Release Date: February 12th, 1988
Directed by: Craig R. Baxley
Written by: Robert Reneau
Music by: Herbie Hancock, Michael Kamen
Cast: Carl Weathers, Craig T. Nelson, Vanity, Sharon Stone, Thomas F. Wilson, Robert Davi, Bill Duke, Jack Thibeau, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Al Leong, Sonny Landham, Mary Ellen Trainor

Lorimar Film Entertainment, Silver Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[turning a flamethrower on a bad guy] How do you like your ribs?” – Action Jackson

This was a film that was supposed to be the first in a franchise. That never happened and that could be due to the film being critically panned and for it being absolutely ridiculous and the type of cheese that induces a wee bit of cringe. But I still dig the hell out of Carl Weathers in this and it was cool seeing him step out from behind more famous action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But this also was born from Weathers’ involvement in the Schwarzenegger starring Predator, as he and producer Joel Silver loved blaxploitation flicks. Silver told Weathers to come up with something and its that idea that became the basis for this film.

The plot is pretty simple, Jericho “Action” Jackson is a no nonsense cop that loves the ladies and hates yuppie scum that kills and destroys for their own selfish, greedy means. In this film, the scum is played by Coach star Craig T. Nelson. And we even get to see Coach do some kung fu trickery.

Similar to a Bond film and other films with macho gun wielding heroes, there are two hot chicks. In this we get a very young Sharon Stone, just before she reached superstardom, as well as Vanity, who was super popular at the time due to her relationship with Prince. We also get boobage from both, which from my perspective, is a strong plus.

But this film is also like a who’s who of cool character actors from the era. We get Bill Duke, De’Voreaux White, Miguel Nunez, Robert Davi, Thomas F. Wilson, Sonny Landham, Chino “Fats” Williams and ’80s action star/stuntman Al Leong.

Add in a sweet score by Herbie Hancock and you’ve just got a cool motion picture.

Overall, this is an action heavy film but it was the ’80s and all we really wanted back then was good, high octane, power fantasy escapism. You know, back in the day before that stuff was frowned upon and deemed as toxic masculinity, politically incorrect and insensitive. You know, back when people were happier and most of us got along regardless of political or social affiliation.

I really do enjoy the action in this and while it can be an ’80s cheeseball extravaganza in parts, who really gives a shit? Action Jackson actually drives a Ferrari-like supercar into Coach’s mansion, up the stairs and then smashes it through his bedroom door for the big final fight. Is that dumb? Of course it is! But that’s the appeal, people!

I can’t say that this has aged well but it might not have aged well in its current year. It’s noticeably more corny than similar films but I do like the humor, its lightheartedness and its insanity.

Action Jackson isn’t an ’80s action magnum opus by any means but it was a pretty enthralling and amusing flick with Carl Weathers being a badass, Craig T. Nelson being an evil shithead and lots of other actors that were at the height of cool at the time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Cobra, Lethal Weapon, The Last Dragon, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Firewalker and Hurricane Smith.

Film Review: Akira (1988)

Release Date: July 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Katsuhiro Otomo
Written by: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto
Based on: Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
Music by: Shoji Yamashiro

Akira Committee Company Ltd., Akira Studio, TMS Entertainment, Toho Co. Ltd., 124 Minutes

Review:

“Look at what they abandoned in their panic, they were afraid! They were too scared, so they hid it away from the public. They forgot all shame and honor, cast off the civilization and science we had created, and shut the lid of the Pandora’s Box they themselves had opened.” – Colonel Shikishima

This wasn’t the first Japanese animated film that I saw but it was the first one to have a lasting impact on me. In fact, this is the one anime film that I have seen more than any of the others, as it is damn near perfect and the older it gets, the better it ages. Plus, it really got me into what was then called “Japanimation” before Americans started properly calling it anime.

Akira really opened the floodgates for me. Even though I was already a fan of Robotech, Voltron and Star Blazers, I didn’t really know that they were Japanese properties retrofitted for American kids. But after seeing Akira, I started renting or buying almost every anime I could find. Many were bad but many were also good. It was a rabbit hole I really enjoyed going down, especially from the early to mid-’90s.

But what makes this film the best of the lot, at least from its era, is that it has a solid story, truly embraces the cyberpunk aesthetic and was just too damn cool to turn away from.

Now I might not of understood the film as a kid but I didn’t care. In my mind, this was the best animation I had ever seen and it made the American cartoons I enjoyed look drab by comparison. Also, being that it was animated, I could watch it without my parents suspecting that it might not just be some regular Saturday morning action cartoon. And that was cool because this was so adult and I hadn’t experienced that in anything animated up until this point.

Through adult eyes, I still can’t turn away. This picture is absolutely beautiful and Katsuhiro Otomo did a stupendous job in adapting his stellar manga into an animated movie. Granted, I wish that he would’ve gone on to continue to adapt the manga series, as this film doesn’t give you the rest of the lengthy story.

But as a standalone film and a self contained story, this works well, even if it opens a Pandora’s box by the end and leaves you with a lot of questions as to what the future holds for those living in this world.

It’s also a film that is good in both the subtitled and dubbed versions. While I typically prefer subs, the English language dub is better than most.

But the sound and the music really take this picture to another level. Sound was used to great effect through simple effects and audio cues that still sound cool and otherworldly regardless of how many times I’ve watched this film.

If someone where to ask which single anime is the best to show people to see if they’re into the style, Akira would be my answer. But I’m also a fan of cyberpunk sci-fi, neo-noir and youth gang movies.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the Akira manga series, as well as Katsuhiro Otomo’s other manga series. Additionally, Ghost In the Shell.

Film Review: House (1985)

Also known as: House: Ding Dong, You’re Dead (video title)
Release Date: December 6th, 1985 (Victoria, Texas premiere)
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Ethan Wiley, Fred Dekker
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz

New World Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, it’s great to have a new neighbor. Woman lived here before you was nuts. Biggest bitch under the sun. Just a senile old hag really. Wouldn’t be surprised if someone just got fed up and offed her. Know what I mean?” – Harold, “She was my aunt.” – Roger, “Heart of gold though. Just uh, a saint really. And uh such a beautiful woman, for her age.” – Harold

I never liked this movie. In fact, I remember not being alone in that based off of what other people said about both House films when I was a kid. But in the last few years, I’ve heard people talk it up like it’s a classic or a hidden gem. Being that I hadn’t watched it since the mid-’80s, I wondered if I had missed something as a kid. Was it maybe too adult for my eight year-old sensibilities?

The short answer is “no”.

I still think that this is a pretty bad movie. The main reason is because it is dreadfully dull.

This is like a family friendly horror movie of the worst caliber. It’s like a terrible episode of Amazing Stories and then it’s even worse than that.

The story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it’s really just a total fucking mess and it is hard to care about any of the characters because you can’t take any of this seriously enough to connect to anything.

Sure, this has some good comedic actors with William Katt, George Wendt and Richard Moll. Their talents are mostly wasted though. Katt is a wee bit charming but he’s too goofy and thus, it’s hard to sympathize with his turmoil. Wendt has some funny lines but he’s not in the film all that much and he’s sort of just on the sidelines. Moll wasn’t used in a comedic way at all and it’s such a departure from the Moll audiences would have been used to due to his time on Night Court. In fact, I wonder why the cast him in the first place.

The special effects are pretty hokey, even for 1985. Although, I was impressed by some of the matte painting work.

In the end, I still think this movie sucks. I’ll probably watch the second one in order to review it but I’m not enthused about it.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other films that Italy merged into a series of unrelated pictures called La Casa.

Film Review: Arcadia of My Youth (1982)

Also known as: Space Pirate Captain Harlock: Arcadia of My Youth (English title), Vengeance of the Space Pirate (US dubbed version)
Release Date: 1982 (Japan)
Directed by: Tomoharu Katsumata
Written by: Leiji Matsumoto, Yoichi Onaka
Based on: Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Toshiyuki Kimori

Toei Animation, 130 Minutes, 101 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“At the end of their lives, all men look back and think that their youth was Arcadia.” – title card

I never really knew who Leiji Matsumoto was. As a kid, I loved Star Blazers though and I had heard of Captain Harlock but I never knew that they were associated. Had I known that, I probably would’ve watched this film when it came Stateside.

Now, I’m trying to rectify the injustice of not watching Matsumoto’s other work. So I started here, as this was free for Prime members and because I’ve always been intrigued by Captain Harlock, even though I’ve never seen any of his shows or films.

Maybe I should have watched the earlier anime series first but this does serve as a prequel to it, as well as a prequel to one of Matsumoto’s other creations, Galaxy Express 999.

This is a space opera at its core but that was Matsumoto’s modus operandi and he was able to craft fantastic tales within the genre. Arcadia is no different and ultimately, this made me want to watch the earlier Harlock series.

The thing that really works and makes this so compelling is the tone and the atmosphere. Visually, it’s both dark and fantastical.

The opening scene with Harlock in his biplane being confronted by the spirit of a witch that haunts the Owen Stanley Mountains of New Guinea is pretty breathtaking and lures you in like you’re being pulled by a powerful phantom’s grip. And maybe that’s the witch coming through and having an effect on the audience. Point being, the opening is so well crafted that it made me a fan of this picture from the get-go.

Everything that follows is also pretty fascinating. This is a story with a lot of drama but most importantly, high adventure.

The hero is cool, most of the other characters are great but most importantly, the design of the ships, vehicles and the universe they inhabit is imaginative and stunning.

The audio is presented in mono and I’m not sure if a remastered stereo version exists but the mono sound kind of adds to the atmosphere. Granted, that could also be nostalgia triggering in my brain, as it gave me the same experience I had watching old VHS tapes of Star Blazers and Voltron.

If anything, this feature film sold me on the franchise and further strengthened my appreciation for Matsumoto.

I’m not sure where my odyssey through Matsumoto’s oeuvre will take me next but watching the original Captain Harlock series, as well as the Galaxy Express 999 stuff is a must.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

Film Review: Munchies (1987)

Release Date: March, 1987
Directed by: Bettina Hirsch
Written by: Lance Smith
Music by: Ernest Troost
Cast: Harvey Korman, Charlie Stratton, Nadine Van der Velde, Robert Picardo, Wendy Schaal, Paul Bartel, Frank Welker (voice)

New Concorde, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Head for the hills… Mamma!” – Munchie

Out of all the Gremlins ripoffs not titled Critters, this one was my favorite, as a kid. However, it faded into obscurity quickly, in spite of its sequels, and it wasn’t a movie I could revisit until recently, as it popped up on Shout! Factory’s streaming service.

Unbeknownst to me in 1987, this is a Roger Corman production. So I guess I was a fan of the guy’s work even before I was aware of him.

Now this is a crude, cheap and absurd ’80s picture. It’s definitely schlock but it’s entertaining schlock that still, for some reason, hits the right notes for me. And I wouldn’t necessarily call it nostalgia, as it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I didn’t remember anything about the plot or the characters.

But I do like the characters, especially the acting work of Harvey Korman who played the dimwitted scientist Simon Watterman but more importantly, also played his rich, scumbag brother Cecil. The Cecil character was an ’80s southern yuppie caricature that was so bizarre and unique that he is the most interesting thing in the movie. While Korman has lots of comedy experience working in multiple Mel Brooks movies, as well as being on The Carol Burnett Show, he commits to the bit so spectacularly that I was absolutely buying what he was selling in this dumb, illogical film.

The rest of the characters were fairly normal but I did like Cecil’s stoner stepson.

As far as the special effects go, they’re nothing to write home about but this is better than the worst of the worst when it comes to other Gremlins wannabes. Although, these cheap puppets can’t hold a candle to the monsters from Critters or Ghoulies.

I fully understand that the vast majority of the human race would hate this movie. But for those who love ’80s schlock, crude humor and just want mindless entertainment, you’ll probably find something worthwhile in this flick.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other extremely low budget Gremlins ripoffs.