Film Review: Wall Street (1987)

Release Date: December 11th, 1987
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Written by: Oliver Stone, Stanley Weiser
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah, Martin Sheen, Hal Holbrook, Terence Stamp, John C. McGinley, James Karen, Sean Young, James Spader, Saul Rubinek, Sylvia Miles

Amercent Films, American Entertainment Partners, Twentieth Century Fox, 126 Minutes

Review:

“Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.” – Lou Mannheim

I wrote pretty extensively on this film several years ago for a politics and economics site that I used to run. That article also made it into one of the books I published. That article was called Gordon Gekko, the Hero?

I won’t spend too much time rambling on about the morality, themes and messages within this film, as that lengthy article already does. This is a movie review, so I’ll focus on the things that make it great beyond just the story and my interpretation of its core characters and their real motivations.

To start, this is hands down one of my favorite Oliver Stone movies. It may, in fact, be my favorite but it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen Platoon and JFK.

This is also one of Charlie Sheen’s best performances and he held his own and wasn’t overshadowed by the stupendous cast around him, especially Michael Douglas, one of the greatest actors of his generation.

I did find Daryl Hannah to be kind of weak, though. I don’t necessarily blame her for that, as her character barely got time to develop or to allow you to care for her. I feel as if she was more than a predatory gold-digging shark but that’s pretty much all we got to see from her.

Additionally, I felt like Sean Young was really underutilized and honestly, the women just seemed like they were put on the backburner. Also, this wasn’t really their story but it felt like their efforts were a bit wasted for what they potentially could’ve brought to the film.

Anyway, the story is solid but the pacing can drag a bit, here and there, and I think that’s the main reason why I don’t see this as more of a masterpiece. That’s not to say it’s dull but a lot of scenes felt like padding, as if Stone wanted to hit a two hour mark on the running time.

The film is also full of so many great character actors in smaller roles and it’s sort of like a who’s who of cool ’80s dudes that were in everything. I especially liked James Karen and Hal Holbrook in this. John C. McGinley also stole the show in the scenes he was in.

Being an Oliver Stone picture, one should expect this to be technically sound and beautiful and it is. Wall Street doesn’t disappoint and it features some stellar cinematography and a few iconic shots that have been burned into my memory since I first watched this picture as a kid in the late ’80s.

Also, the music is perfect from the film’s score by Stewart Copeland and the pop music tracks sprinkled throughout. It’s been so long since I’ve last seen this that I forgot how much I loved that motorcycle sequence to Brian Eno’s “Mea Culpa”.

All in all, this is still a fantastic motion picture where just about everything goes right. There are those few minor flaws but they hardly detract from how great this movie is, as a whole.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel, as well as Boiler RoomThe Wolf of Wall Street and Rogue Trader.

Film Review: The Mutilator (1984)

Also known as: Fall Break (alternative title)
Release Date: August, 1984 (Wilmington, North Carolina premiere)
Directed by: Buddy Cooper, John S. Douglass
Written by: Buddy Cooper
Music by: Michael Minard
Cast: Matt Mitler, Bill Hitchcock, Ruth Martinez, Connie Rogers, Morey Lampley, Frances Raines

OK Productions, Ocean King Releasing, 86 Minutes

Review:

“So my philosophy is, let’s have some beer.” – Ralph

Growing up in the ’80s and early ’90s, nothing quite made Halloween feel like Halloween more than a low budget, formulaic slasher flick. Luckily, there are so many that I still come across that I haven’t seen, this being one of them.

The Mutilator, also known as Fall Break, is actually better than I thought it could be and it also reminds me of another great, lesser-known slasher, Blood Rage.

The story is simple, a young kid accidentally killed his mother and it drove his father insane. Years later, the kid is now a teen and he takes his friends to his family’s old beach house to clear it out. Unbeknownst to the kid and his friends, its a trap by the crazy father, who is fell bent on killing everyone in and around the house. Unfortunately for the teens, this North Carolina beach house is on an island in a small seasonal community where all the other residents are away.

This has the two main ingredients that every slasher film needs: violence and titties. There could’ve been more titties but the overall experience is pretty damn good and you can relish in the pretty decent kills and well executed special effects.

The real highlight for me was the scene at the end where the father is split in half by a car slamming him into a cinder block wall. Immediately after that, the father, who is literally in two separate pieces, snaps back to life for a split second and uses his big ass battleaxe to chop off half of a cop’s leg with ease. It’s crazy but it’s great and it left me with a smile, ending the film with a good gory exclamation point.

I liked the setting a lot and it just made the film more interesting. This could also be because I was born and raised in a small coastal community.

Overall, this is kind of cookie cutter and predictable but that’s the slasher genre’s modus operandi. It’s the little things in this that are different that set it apart from more mundane slasher flicks.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other slasher films of the ’80s, especially the very similar Blood Rage.

Film Review: Dolls (1987)

Also known as: Ghost… Dolls! (Thailand), Bonecos Assassinos (Portugal), Bonecas Macabras (Brazil)
Release Date: March, 1987 (Los Angeles International Film Festival)
Directed by: Stuart Gordon
Written by: Ed Naha
Music by: Fuzzbee Morse, Victor Spiegel
Cast: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, Cassie Stuart, Bunty Bailey, Carrie Lorraine

Taryn Productions Inc., Empire Pictures, 77 Minutes

Review:

“And they remember you, Ralph. Toys are very loyal, and that is a fact.” – Gabriel

I originally saw this years ago and then a few more times on VHS when I was a teenager. It’s been a really long time, though, and it’s one of those movies that I enjoyed but hardly remember. I also didn’t realize, until more recently, that it was directed by Stuart Gordon and produced by Brian Yuzna, the guys behind Re-Animator and a slew of other mindfuck horror pictures.

What stood out the most to me, seeing this with pretty fresh eyes, is how damn good the special effects were. Considering this was made for very little money by a production company I’ve never even heard of (and I’m a massive ’80s film buff), the practical special effects were absolutely impressive.

However, I guess the level of craftsmanship in regards to the effects should be somewhat expected, as these guys did so much with so little in Re-Animator and From Beyond. The effects here are very different, though, as they had to create tiny dolls and have them interact with full-sized humans.

I’m assuming that they relied on stop-motion animation, some animatronic and puppetry work, as well as having some actors in costume or partial costumes to create the doll effects.

Beyond that, the story is pretty hokey and the acting isn’t anything to write home about but the film is still very enjoyable because the spectacle of it is really entertaining and as I’ve already said, technically impressive.

While I can’t consider this a classic or even near the top of Gordon or Yuzna’s best, it’s still a hell of an accomplishment that worked out satisfactorily. It’s just a goofy, fun flick with a lot of creativity put to good use and executed well.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other doll-centric horror films of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: April Fool’s Day (1986)

Also known as: Horror Party (Germany)
Release Date: March 28th, 1986
Directed by: Fred Walton
Written by: Danilo Bach
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Jay Baker, Deborah Foreman, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Griffin O’Neal, Leah King Pinsent, Clayton Rohner, Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson

YCTM, Hometown Films, Paramount Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“[watching Kit and Rob through binoculars] Respectable young Quaker couple returning from a quiet afternoon of nonviolent sex.” – Chaz

I have never seen April Fool’s Day until now and that has a lot to do with the twist ending being spoiled for me at a young age by friends who were annoyed by it. While I have seen some clips and scenes over the years, this is my first time checking out the total package, as it was intended to be viewed.

Overall, this wasn’t bad but it’s really just a paint-by-numbers slasher flick with a unique ending.

If you’ve never seen the film and don’t want the ending spoiled, you might want to skip reading.

Anyway, the title sort of does give the ending away, as once we reach the climax of the film and the last two surviving teens are faced with the killer, it’s revealed that everything in the film was just a big, elaborate April Fool’s Day prank.

This upset a lot of people and others that weren’t as upset just wrote this off as dumb. I’m actually fine with it now that I’ve seen the movie, as it’s an original take on the genre, which was already exhausted to death by 1986, and because it was effective at being a decent slasher flick before the big reveal.

Plus, the ending makes it stand out in a sea of slasher clones and without it, no one would still talk about this film. While some said it killed the genre, that’s bullshit. Slashers kept being pumped out for years and in fact, they still exist today and often times have little resurgences even though Scream actually broke kayfabe on this subgenre of horror.

April Fool’s Day is a mediocre slasher movie but at least it tried something different. I get why altering the formula may be upsetting to some but it’s not like there aren’t about three-thousand other slasher pictures out there.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s slasher flicks.

Film Review: Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

Also known as: Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle (VHS title)
Release Date: March 20th, 1987
Directed by: Robert Townsend
Written by: Keenan Ivory Wayans, Robert Townsend, Dom Irrera (uncredited)
Music by: Udi Harpaz
Cast: The Hollywood Platers (Robert Townsend, Anne-Marie Johnson, Craigus R. Johnson, Helen Martin, Starletta DuPois, David McKnight, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Lou B. Washington, Brad Sanders, John Witherspoon, Eugene Robert Glazer, Lisa Mende, Dom Irrera, Damon Wayans, Kim Wayans, Rusty Cundieff, Steve James)

Conquering Unicorn, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 78 Minutes, 81 Minutes (Ontario cut)

Review:

“There’s always work at the post office.” – Bobby Taylor

Man, I hadn’t seen this movie in a few decades. I think the last time I watched it was when I was a teen in the ’90s working at a video store. It sort of washed away with time but it was on the Criterion Channel for about a month, so I figured I’d revisit it before it vanished.

Robert Townsend is a talented guy and he was one of my favorite comedians and entertainers in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I loved his short-lived sketch comedy show on Fox, as well as his superhero film Meteor Man. However, this is probably the best thing he’s made.

Sure, this was his directorial debut and he would go on to have a lengthy, fruitful career but there’s just something superb and honest about this movie. Plus, it displays his, as well as Keenan Ivory Wayans’, immense creativity and great sense of humor.

This film almost feels like an anthology, as it is primarily a series of skits and sequences. However, there is a main story that ties everything together. The presentation style of it feels a lot like Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF. It also feels very ’80s but that kind of just adds to the charm of it, looking at it all these years later.

Hollywood Shuffle is a parody and commentary on how black talent was being used and exploited in Hollywood. It was a tongue-in-cheek, humorous critique on how Hollywood viewed blacks but told from the black perspective. Strangely, thirty-three years later, a lot of what’s here still rings true.

While I feel like there have been definite strides since 1987, Hollywood is still a cesspool of assholes and deluded dipshits that only make changes when decades of white guilt pushes them into thoughtless platitudes and declarations that don’t actually fix the system and only expose it being out of touch, pompous and so high on its own farts that it needs to wear a helmet to walk down the hall.

Anyway, enough with the imbeciles running the system, Hollywood Shuffle just justifiably puts them on blast and does so quite well. It just sucks that seeing this, all these years later, only kind of reinforces the points that are cleverly made in the film. Sure, Hollywood thinks its doing better now but so does the heroin junkie that woke up next to some spare change in the dumpster behind Del Taco.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the early films of Robert Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans.

Film Review: Hack-O-Lantern (1988)

Also known as: Death Mask (alternative international title), Halloween Night (US alternative title), The Damning (UK)
Release Date: March 25th, 1988 (UK)
Directed by: Jag Mundhra
Written by: Dave Eisenstark (as Burford Hauser), Carla Robinson
Music by: Greg Haggard (as Gregory T. Haggard)
Cast: Hy Pyke, Gregory Scott Cummins, Carla B., Katina Garner

Spencer Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

This weird ass movie is a combination of being abysmally bad and kind of entertaining, when not mulled down by the really dull parts. The abysmally bad parts kind of win out, though.

Hack-O-Lantern is a Halloween-themed horror movie directed by an Indian guy that doesn’t seem to know much about Halloween. Also, he is relying on tropes and themes that were kind of played out by the time this was released. It’s like the guy watched Halloween nearly a decade earlier and said, “Let’s do that but crazy! Very, very crazy!”

The film is about an old grandpa that runs a Satanic cult while also featuring a slasher, who goes around killing teens. There’s also some weird rock and roll band subplot that sees music videos just kind of randomly appear out of nowhere. I guess it’s not even really a subplot. This is just an amalgamation of bonkers ass shit that makes little to no sense.

I only watched this because it was featured on The Last Drive-In. I can’t call it the worst movie featured on there, as it was at the very least, amusing in spite of its massive flaws.

I don’t think that I’ll ever watch this again or even recommend it but I didn’t hate it, so that’s something.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other Halloween-themed horror movies.

Film Review: Videodrome (1983)

Release Date: February 4th, 1983
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Les Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman

Filmplan International, Guardian Trust Company, Canadian Film Development Corporation, Universal Pictures, 87 Minutes, 89 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.” – Brian O’Blivion

Some movies can be batshit crazy but then there are a select few that go beyond that. Videodrome is one of these films, as it is a complete and absolute mindfuck.

This is also a David Cronenberg film from his early days, so intense, disturbing body horror should be expected and in that regard, this movie does not disappoint and it boasts some incredible special effects even though the film had a fairly scant budget.

Overall, this and The Fly are just about tied for being my favorite Cronenberg film. However, this one takes a slight edge, simply because its contents have stuck with me more over the years. At an early age, it penetrated my psyche and it’s roamed around in my head ever since. Maybe I have one of those Videodrome caused brain tumors and it’s just been growing very slowly for decades?

Anyway, the plot of the film follows a television producer who is always on the hunt for fucked up content to air on his cable channel. This was made during the early days of cable and like the early days of the Internet, shit was like the Wild West. This also takes place in Canada, so I’m not sure what restrictions they had, as they weren’t under the rule of the FCC like cable channels in the United States.

On his quest to find fucked up content, the exec is introduced to a show called Videodrome. The show is devoid of plot and doesn’t seem to have much purpose other than being torture porn for some sickos that want to watch captive people go through horrific physical pain.

We do find out that there is a big conspiracy afoot and that the creators behind the show have a sinister agenda. It is up to this exec to try and stop them but his exposure to the show creates strange changes in his mind and body. It’s hard to decipher what is real and what is a hallucination and ultimately, it is never really clear and it makes the movie one hell of a crazy ride.

The linchpin that holds all of this together is James Woods, who plays the exec. His performance is convincing, authentic and so believable that you don’t find yourself questioning the insane developments within the film. You just go along with him on his personal, unique trip through sensory hell.

Cronenberg did a stupendous job in creating a world that feels both foreign and familiar. But beyond that, the mastery of the special effects he employed and dreamed up is uncanny and impressive. The melting, morphing television scene is still one of the greatest effects sequences I’ve ever seen on film. Even knowing as much as I do about practical effects, it’s a moment that still baffles me and I almost don’t want to know the magic trick.

Videodrome is a classic and a real gem of its era. It achieved cult status and deservedly so. However, I feel like it’s now being lost to the sands of time, as younger generations don’t seem to care about anything predating the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The world is currently in a sad state in regards to mainstream art and this film just reminds me of a time when filmmakers overcame challenges, didn’t give a fuck about the censors or the Hollywood system and just made whatever the fuck they wanted to make.

Videodrome makes me yearn for a long overdue filmmaking renaissance.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other David Cronenberg films of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Parenthood (1989)

Release Date: July 31st, 1989 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel, Ron Howard
Music by: Randy Newman
Cast: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen, Keanu Reeves, Martha Plimpton, Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Hulce, Jason Robards, Harley Jane Kozak, Eileen Ryan, Helen Shaw, Jasen Fisher, Paul Linke, Alisan Porter, Ivyann Schwann, Zachary La Voy, Alex Burrall, Charmin Lee, Dennis Dugan

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

“It sounds like a boy Garry’s age needs a man around the house.” – Helen, “Well, it depends on the man. I had a man around. He used to wake me up every morning by flicking lit cigarettes at my head. He’d say, “Hey, asshole, get up and make me breakfast.” You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, or drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish! But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.” – Tod

Man, this movie is great.

There are a lot of large family comedies that have been made over the years but for whatever reason, this is the one that hits all the right notes for me.

That’s probably due to when it came out and how old I was then, as well as how incredibly superb the cast is. All of them are loveable in their own way, even the shitty black sheep son that only comes around when he’s in serious trouble.

The thing is, anytime that Steve Martin and Rick Moranis get together, the results are pretty satisfying. However, when you add in Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen, Tom Hulce, Jason Robards, Keanu Reeves, Martha Plimpton and a young Joaquin Phoenix, it maximizes the overall positive impact and gives you so much great talent to enjoy.

What makes this movie so perfect is that it features so many people but each one of them gets a fairly equal amount of time to let their story be told. In fact, the multiple plot threads are really well-balanced and when they merge, at times, it all flows pretty smoothly. Writing big ensemble stories like this can be a real challenge but the writers succeeded and Ron Howard, who directed this, had great material to work with.

I think a lot of credit also has to go to the editor, who kept this thing moving at a good pace and who handled the transition between plot threads pretty seamlessly.

Ultimately, though, this is a picture with a lot of heart and I feel like most people can find it relatable. Even if you don’t have all of these character types in your own family, I think we all have at least a few. Furthermore, these character tropes are all pretty timeless and even if this has that ’80s movie vibe to it, it’s still kind of timeless.

Additionally, the movie is well-acted from top-to-bottom, including the kid actors.

Parenthood is one of the best movies of its type. Personally, it’s my favorite but I’m also a big fan of all the key players in the film. And frankly, I can watch it just about anytime and it’ll lift my spirits even if I’m in a funk.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other family-centric comedies but this one takes the cake.

Film Review: Picasso Trigger (1988)

Release Date: February, 1988
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Gary Stockdale
Cast: Steve Bond, Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, Harold Diamond, John Aprea, Roberta Vasquez, Guich Koock

Andy Sidaris Company, Malibu Bay Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Give ’em a lei, blow ’em away.” – Clayton

Picasso Trigger is the third of the twelve films in Andy Sidaris’ Triple B Series. Like all of the other movies in the series, it features hot chicks, often times naked, as well as tough, cool dudes, lots of guns, lots of explosions and a fun, goofy spy thriller plot that is one part James Bond, two parts Charlie’s Angels and ten parts awesome.

This one features some returning actors playing returning characters. I was definitely glad to see Harold Diamond back, as he is one of my favorite actors in these sort of films.

If I’m being honest, the plots to these films don’t really matter and you don’t really need it to get in the way of the overall spectacle.

I liked this almost as much as the previous film but I’d have to say it’s a slight step down. I think that one took the edge because it had a few awesome bazooka scenes. Although, this one features a dude getting blown to pieces by an exploding boomerang thrown by a hot chick.

Picasso Trigger is pretty much more of the same but honestly, when the same is pretty damn enjoyable, what’s not to like? Plus, each movie gives us new babes and more creative action sequences.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the other 11 films in the Triple B Series by Andy Sidaris, as well as the American films of Amir Shervan.

Film Review: Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)

Release Date: March, 1987
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Kevin Klinger, Gary Stockdale
Cast: Ronn Moss, Dona Speir, Harold Diamond, Hope-Marie Carlton, Cynthia Brimhall, Rodrigo Obregon

Malibu Bay Films, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Look at you two… Every shot, a postcard! I’m gonna give you the best seat in the house!” – Ashley

As much as I enjoyed Malibu Express, I assumed all the other movies in Andy Sidaris’ Triple B Series would taper off in quality. Well, I’m glad to say that this one is slightly better than its predecessor.

I think a lot of that has to do with this one embracing its comedic elements even more and being pretty over-the-top with the more bonkers shit.

It also helps that this film features Harold Diamond, who was always enjoyable in the movies he did with a similar cult action director, Amir Shervan.

While you could write this off as more of the same, I liked the buddy-action approach, as well as dumping in more Playboy Playmates and sexiness.

That being said, this did look a bit cheaper than the film before it. That doesn’t necessarily make it worse in that regard, it just made it so that the special effects people had to get more creative and they certainly did and succeeded. But you also have to suspend disbelief when the one dude is using a bazooka pretty recklessly but that just makes this picture more fun and absurd, in a great way.

This is absolutely a cheesy action movie but it’s also supposed to be. It felt like Sidaris was self-aware after making just one film and he took advantage of that, giving us a flick that didn’t try to pretend it was something better than it was. It knew its limitations but turned them into amusing strengths.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other 11 films in the Triple B Series by Andy Sidaris, as well as the American films of Amir Shervan.