Film Review: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Release Date: December 19th, 1986
Directed by: Frank Oz
Written by: Howard Ashman
Based on: Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman, The Little Shop of Horrors by Roger Corman, Charles B. Griffith 
Music by: Miles Goodman (score), Alan Menken (songs)
Cast: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, James Belushi, John Candy, Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, Levi Stubbs (voice), Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Michelle Weeks, Vincent Wong

The Geffen Company, 94 Minutes, 102 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“Does this look “inanimate” to you, punk? If I can move and I can talk, who’s to say I can’t do anything I want?” – Audrey II

I used to watch this quite a lot when I was a kid. It was always on cable and I liked everyone in it, so when channel surfing in the late ’80s, I often times stopped when this was on.

Oddly enough, I haven’t seen it since the ’80s but I’ve always meant to go back and revisit it, especially since I love the original Roger Corman film and revisit that one every five years or so.

This version of the story was actually an adaptation of the off-Broadway musical, which was inspired by the Corman film from 1960. I’ve never seen the musical on-stage and there are some story differences but it’s something I’d like to see, even if it’s just on television, assuming there’s a version I can watch.

Anyway, back to this film.

This will always hold a nice spot in my heart because it features two I guys I really enjoy, especially when together, Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. This also sprinkles in Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, John Candy and Christopher Guest. Needless to say, it’s chock full of great ’80s comedic talent.

I also dig the hell out of Ellen Greene and Vincent Gardenia, who rounded out the cast nicely and played their parts perfectly.

The real gem of this picture, though, is the monster, Audrey II. The monster evolves into a massive, talking, man-eating venus flytrap. Audrey II is actually an alien trying to kickoff a full alien invasion but to do so, he needs to grow and to do that, he needs human blood.

What makes the monster so cool is two things, the first of which is the voice acting of Levi Stubbs, the lead vocalist of the Four Tops. Stubbs was stupendous and he made Audrey II one of the coolest villains in ’80s cinema.

The second thing is the practical effects, animatronics and puppeteering that brought the giant plant to life. This isn’t some CGI bullshit that takes you out of the movie, this is a real, physical beast that was live and on the set, interacting with the actors on film. The character just looks great, moves great and it’s incredibly easy to suspend disbelief and get caught up in this bonkers movie.

The real cherry on top of it all is the music. It’s great and I say that as someone that usually turns away from musicals because it’s the one genre that doesn’t really resonate with me. For me to care about a musical, it’s got to work on a level beyond that and attract me to it with some sort of cool twist. This picture does that well and I honestly don’t simply see it as a musical.

In the end, I’m glad that I finally revisited Little Shop of Horrors and it somewhat exceeded the expectations my memory had for it.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the original film, as well as other comedies featuring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin and John Candy.

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: Ratboy (1986)

Release Date: October 17th, 1986
Directed by: Sondra Locke
Written by: Rob Thompson
Music by: Lennie Niehaus
Cast: Sondra Locke, Sharon Baird, Robert Townsend, Christopher Hewett, Larry Hankin, Sydney Lassick, Gerrit Graham, Louie Anderson, Billie Bird, John Witherspoon, Gary Riley, Courtney Gains, M.C. Gainey, Jon Lovitz, Bill Maher

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 104 Minutes

Review:

After seeing the trailer and checking out the critical consensus on this film, I thought that I might still enjoy it due to how weird it looked. But honestly, it was kind of hard to get through and the novelty of it wore off really quick. But hey, the French liked it.

This was Sondra Locke’s directorial debut and man, it was a complete misfire. So much so, that she never really bounced back from it and only had four total directing credits to her name, one of which was a television movie. She also got nominated for a Razzie for her performance in this, although she lost out to Madonna’s performance in Who’s That Girl?

I had read that this was made as a sort of allegory to her long relationship with Clint Eastwood, which was dissolving at the time. She saw herself as victimized and exploited and for whatever reason, this script spoke to her. I’m not entirely sure if she saw herself as the Ratboy character and Clint Eastwood as her character but this vapid Taylor Swift moment seems pretty petty and immature.

Locke also had Eastwood’s production company produce the film, so maybe that was her final “fuck you” to the guy.

Anyway, apart from Rick Baker’s solid effects used to create the Ratboy character, there is next to nothing about this film that is impressive. Hell, it even has a great cast with several talented character actors but they can’t come close to saving this, as it’s a complete dud from top-to-bottom. Granted, I do like Gerrit Graham in everything and I did enjoy him here, even if the film felt like a waste of his time.

This is just slow, drab, predictable and boring as fuck. There are a few amusing bits like the scene with John Witherspoon trying to hustle Ratboy but these moments are far and few between and it’s not worth sitting through the whole, dull picture to pull out the good bits. Besides, the clip is probably on YouTube.

I had hoped that there would be something worthwhile in this. Other than the few things I already mentioned, there isn’t.

The end.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: I honestly don’t know, as it’s so bizarre and unique.

Film Review: The Golden Child (1986)

Release Date: December 12th, 1986
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Dennis Feldman
Music by: Michel Colombier, John Barry
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Charlotte Lewis, Charles Dance, J. L. Reate, Victor Wong, James Hong, Randall “Tex” Cobb, Tiger Chung Lee, Pons Maar, Frank Welker (voice)

Eddie Murphy Productions, Industrial Light & Magic, Paramount Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Only a man whose heart is pure can wield the knife, and only a man whose ass is narrow can get down these steps. And if mine’s is such an ass, then I shall have it.” – Chandler Jarrell

Well, this didn’t age well.

The Golden Child is one of those movies you used to love when you were a kid but seeing it decades later leads to disappointment, as it doesn’t live up to your memories.

Now that’s not to say that this is a crappy movie, it’s just an overly hokey one that feels immensely outdated where the jokes don’t land in the same way they once did and for the most part, you’re just kind of waiting for it to wrap up.

Sure, Eddie Murphy is enjoyable in the film and I also always dig Charles Dance playing a villain but the story and its pacing were really sloppy.

This was a movie that did a lot of weird shit just to do weird shit. Frankly, I’m not sure why the villain’s henchmen were so goofy. I mean you have a guy that looks like a monkey for no real reason. Just save on some money and cut those facial prosthetic effects out of the film unless they serve some sort of narrative purpose other than creating a quick, bizarre gag that fizzled out almost immediately but then had to be stretched over the duration of the film. I’m also not sure why Randall “Tex” Cobb had to wear weird forehead prosthetics either.

Additionally, even though the effects work was handled by Industrial Light & Magic, the company born out of Star Wars, they aren’t very good, even for the time. I remember, even as a kid, I wasn’t all that impressed with the demon fight at the end. The flaws are also made more apparent by how the effects shots are all obscured by the immense glare of the sun or fake fog that exists in effects shots but then it’s absent when a shot cuts quickly to Eddie Murphy. But I can excuse it, as ILM was really experimenting with a lot of different special effects tech in an effort to get where they did by the time Jurassic Park rolled around seven years later.

In the end, this is a film that only really works because of Eddie Murphy’s charm. It’s strange and somewhat of a mess but if you have the nostalgia bug for this flick, it’ll probably still play okay. For those who have no memories or feelings about this movie, you might want to skip it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Eddie Murphy comedies from the ’80s and early ’90s.

Film Review: Lucas (1986)

Release Date: March 28th, 1986
Directed by: David Seltzer
Written by: David Seltzer
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen, Kerri Green, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Winona Ryder, Tom Hodges, Guy Boyd, Jeremy Piven, Garrett M. Brown

Twentieth Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t ever make me quit, ever!” – Lucas

In the ’80s, coming of age teen movies, whether they be drama, comedy or both, were a dime a dozen. And while I can’t consider Lucas to be one of the better ones, it still has real heart and it’s damn near impossible to not feel for the kid, as he experiences his first heartbreak when the girl he loves, also his best friend, falls for the cool guy that is like a big brother to him.

I think that the story is something everyone can relate to regardless of gender or situation. At some point, we’ve all had to deal with heartbreak for the first time. And since this movie actually tells that story pretty well, it’s a pretty worthwhile picture.

Corey Haim was really young in this and it was only his second starring role. He showed great promise as a young actor, as did the rest of the cast, who also made this sort of hokey picture into a real human, emotional drama.

This is a strange film in that it does sort of get buried by its outdated ’80s cheese but the important stuff still gets through to the audience in an effective way.

There are certainly a dozen or more ’80s teen movies I’d recommend over this one but if you’ve seen the cream of the crop and never watched this one, it’s definitely worth your 100 minutes.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age high school movies of the ’80s.

Film Review: Mr. Boogedy (1986)

Release Date: April 20th, 1986
Directed by: Oz Scott
Written by: Michael Janover
Music by: John Addison
Cast: Richard Masur, Mimi Kennedy, Benjamin Gregory, David Faustino, Kristy Swanson, John Astin, Katherine Kelly Lang

Walt Disney Television, ABC, 46 Minutes

Review:

“Ah, did anybody leave a weird green light on in that room?” – Carleton Davis

I remember watching this when it was on television for the first time. Now I mostly remember the sequel, as it was twice as long and had a bigger finale but this was a cool “horror” film that I liked as a young kid. It also didn’t terrify my mum.

This was really made as an episode of The Magical World of Disney, which was a pretty cool anthology television series that used to air on Sunday nights in the ’80s (and probably earlier).

Each episode was usually a short, hour long story. Sometimes they’d be like full-length TV movies, as Mr. Boogedy‘s sequel would be.

I liked this because it featured two actors I liked, Richard Masur and John Astin. It also introduced me to Kristy Swanson, who I (and every boy my age) started crushing on pretty hard.

This is a basic boogeyman story but the origin and background of the character were kind of interesting. However, you don’t get to see the monster until the very end and only for a few minutes. Plus, he’s kind of a careless idiot that destroys himself by sucking off his own cloak with a vacuum he’s using to terrorize a kid.

This is decently written but it’s nothing great. I like how they developed the character, even if it was quick. Honestly, this did feel a bit rushed, not in how it was produced but in the pacing of the story. Granted, 46 minutes isn’t a lot of time and this could have been a richer, better experience if they had make this one twice as long.

I guess I’ll see how the sequel stands up when I review it in a few weeks.

This is goofy, family friendly fun but it comes across as really outdated and will probably only be worthwhile to those with the nostalgia bug.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel and other episodes of The Magical World of Disney.

Film Review: Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Nelson Shin
Written by: Ron Friedman
Based on: The Transformers by Hasbro, Takara
Music by: Vince DiCola
Cast: Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Orson Welles, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Scatman Crothers, John Moschitta Jr., Michael Bell, Casey Kasem, Chris Latta, Clive Revill

Toei Animation, Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions, Hasbro, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Megatron must be stopped… no matter the cost.” – Optimus Prime

I’ve been meaning to revisit this for awhile, as I’ve also wanted to review the television series seasons after the movie. However, my DVD was missing and I just found it under my DVD shelf. It could’ve been there for years.

Anyway, having dusted this off, the 20th Anniversary Edition, I fired it up and gave it a watch. Man, it’s been too long and it doesn’t matter that I have nearly every line of dialogue still memorized, because every time I see this, it still feels like the first time.

I love this movie and it’s definitely the better film between it and Hasbro’s other major motion picture: G.I. Joe: The Movie. This was also the only one to get a theatrical release, as the backlash this film received, as well as it under performing, made them re-think their strategy.

However, the backlash and criticism was stupid and I wrote about it here.

Beyond that, it doesn’t matter that the franchise’s primary hero was killed off in the first act of the film. In fact, it gave this film much more weight than an episode of the cartoon could have. It also paved the way for a new line of toys and characters, which is really what this franchise was designed for.

For fans of the animated show, this movie was larger than life. It took these beloved characters and their universe and threw them up on the big screen and gave audiences a story that was worth that larger piece of real estate.

Now the plot isn’t perfect and the film has a few pacing issues but the pros far outweigh the cons and Transformers has never been cooler than it was with this movie.

The animation is done in the same style as the television show except it’s much better and the film looks stupendous. Honestly, it still looks great and it has held up really well, even with modern CGI and computer programs doing most of the heavy lifting.

Transformers: The Movie still feels like a living, breathing work of art. It’s an animated film of the highest caliber from an era that was stuffed full of so much fantastic pop culture shit.

That being said, there wasn’t an animated film that I appreciated and enjoyed as much as this one when I saw it. Looking at it now, I still feel the same way, other than a handful of Japanese animes that I discovered later.

Sure, this is no Akira but for something produced by an American company, it’s light years ahead of its domestic competition. Hell, I even prefer it over the best Disney movies of the ’80s.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the original Transformers television series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Film Review: Highlander (1986)

Also known as: Dark Knight (working title)
Release Date: January, 1986 (France – Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Written by: George Widen, Peter Bellwood, Larry Ferguson
Music by: Michael Kamen, Queen
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, Sean Connery, Jon Polito

Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, Davis-Panzer Productions, Highlander Productions Limited, 116 Minutes, 110 Minutes (theatrical cut)

Review:

“[repeated line by Ramirez, The Kurgan and Connor MacLeod] There can be only one!”

Any movie that starts with a Fabulous Freebirds wrestling match has got to be good. As far as I know, though, this is the only movie to do that. I should also point out that Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell and Sam Fatu were featured in that match too.

The excitement doesn’t end with the awesome opening though, as it gets right into the action, as we see the title character enter the parking garage of the arena to fight another immortal swordsman in what is one of the coolest opening sequences of this film’s era.

Also, Queen made a lot of original songs for this film’s soundtrack and they are all mostly classics, at least to ’80s film buffs and lovers of Queen.

Highlander is a unique movie. It’s also really damn cool and despite this spawning a pretty big franchise with a half dozen movies and multiple television series, none of them have been able to capture the same sort of magic that this motion picture did.

The film also has a superb villain in it, as the very tall and intimidating Clancy Brown plays The Kurgan, a mad knight who is also immortal and on the quest to be the only one left in existence. Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod and Sean Connery’s Ramirez form a bond in an effort to help destroy The Kurgan, as he is the most dangerous threat to all.

Big portions of the film focus on Ramirez training MacLeod in an effort to prepare him for the oncoming storm that is The Kurgan. The whole point of all of this, though, is that these immortals are destined to fight and kill each other until there is only one left, who then wins “The Prize”.

What’s really neat about this film and all the others, is that it spans over multiple centuries, as the immortals are all very old. Lambert’s MacLeod is young by Ramirez and The Kurgan’s standards but there is something about him that the other immortals respect and fear and ultimately, I think they all understand how he is instrumental in preventing The Kurgan from winning this centuries long tournament.

Now this movie can be a bit slow, here and there, and honestly, it could’ve benefited from some fine tuning but it’s not boring and it tells a really good, intriguing story. But based off of how this ends, it should have truly been the end of the series. It didn’t need sequels and because of that, the sequels are all sort of in their own weird continuity. I stopped trying to make sense out of the Highlander franchise years ago and just view this film as the only one necessary and the complete story. That doesn’t mean that I’m not planning on revisiting and reviewing those lesser films in the future.

I just really like this movie a lot and, unfortunately, it was milked to death in future projects and the greatness of what this is was completely diluted by what became a very mediocre franchise.

Looking at this on its own, however, Highlander is a fantastic action fantasy flick that spans centuries, has a stupendous villain and an incredible mentor-type. While Lambert is the real lead, he is the weakest of the three core male characters. But it doesn’t in any way wreck the movie and he’s convincing as this badass Scottish warrior.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the Highlander film series and television series.

Film Review: One Crazy Summer (1986)

Also known as: Greetings from Nantucket (working title)
Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Savage Steve Holland
Written by: Savage Steve Holland
Music by: Cory Lerios
Cast: John Cusack, Demi Moore, Curtis Armstrong, Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray, William Hickey, Joe Flaherty, Mark Metcalf, John Matuszak, Kimberly Foster, Matt Mulhern, Tom Villard, Jeremy Piven, Rich Hall, Taylor Negron, Billie Bird

A&M Films, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

“[Reading the obituaries] “Hey, Hoops, you ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?” – George Calamari

One thing that makes this film so damn fun to watch is that it was chock full of a lot of talent from the time.

While it stars John Cusack and Demi Moore, it boasts great comedic and character actors like Bobcat Goldthwait, Curtis Armstrong, Joel Murray, William Hickey, Joe Flaherty, Taylor Negron, Rich Hall and Billie Bird. It also features big man John Matuszak a.k.a. Sloth from The Goonies and a very young Jeremy Piven.

This is a really goofy and surreal film but I don’t feel like it gets too lost in its zaniness. It does stay pretty well grounded and just works as a great ensemble comedy that is very much a product of its time. While that might mean that it hasn’t aged well to some, I still found it to be energetic, charming and goofy while still being an entertaining and mostly mindless pleasure.

The story focuses on a summer vacation to Nantucket for two buddies that recently graduated high school. One falls for a musician girl and there is a romantic subplot there but it isn’t heavy handed or really even the centerpiece of the movie’s plot. Most of the film is a series of gags with an overall story that connects everything and gives the characters more of a purpose and an objective towards the end.

Additionally, the film’s director is an animator and he incorporates his animations into the film. I found that stuff to be pretty cool and it just fit the film well. In fact, it really sets the tone from the opening credits, as it then slides the viewer into live action. The director, Savage Steve Holland would go on to create Eek! The Cat.

My favorite part of the film was the bit where Bobcat Goldthwait got stuck in a rubber Godzilla suit and accidentally crashed a party, which also saw him stomp across a miniature real estate model of a residential community. Granted, I’m a massive Godzilla fan, love Bobcat and this was at the height of his awesomeness.

One Crazy Summer is silly but it is enjoyable silly. I still like it quite a bit and it’s a good flick to cheer you up on a gloomy day.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies of the ’80s.

Film Review: SolarBabies (1986)

Also known as: Solarfighters, Solar Warriors (alternative titles)
Release Date: November 26th, 1986
Directed by: Alan Johnson
Written by: Walon Green, Douglas Anthony Metrov
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Richard Jordan, Jami Gertz, Jason Patric, Lukas Haas, James Le Gros, Claude Brooks, Peter DeLuise, Peter Kowanko, Adrian Pasdar, Sarah Douglas, Charles Durning, Frank Converse, Terrence Mann, Alexei Sayle, Bruce Payne, Willoguhby Gray

Brooksfilms, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes

Review:

“It’s an odd name for a skateball team, don’t you think? “Solarbabies.” Too soft, not menacing enough. Why do you suppose they chose it?” – Grock, “They don’t seem to need anything more menacing, do they? They always seem to win.” – The Warden

Researching this movie for this review, I discovered that Mel Brooks was the executive producer on this. Somehow I must’ve always missed that. Then again, I hadn’t seen this since the early ’90s when it would pop up on TV from time to time.

I used to really like this movie, despite its overabundance of flaws. Seeing it now, I’d say it’s less palatable than it was when it was more current, however, it’s still got charm and a really likable cast of young people, most of whom would go on to have memorable careers.

The film follows a group of teens and a younger kid that escape from a dystopian juvenile prison. They also befriend an alien orb that exhibits some special powers. The majority of the film deals with these kids being on the run from the fascist military group that is led by Richard Jordan, who I most remember as the obsessed Sandman that hunted Michael York in 1976’s Logan’s Run. I’ve always liked him since that film and seeing him in a similar role, albeit with an army at his disposal, is pretty enjoyable. This also features Sarah Douglas, as a secondary villain.

The special effects are pretty underwhelming, even for the time, but some things did hold up well. I love the matte painting work used for the landscapes and the effects sequence where the teen’s hand dissolves into bone and ash looks really damn cool.

The film’s score is a mixed bag but more on the negative end of the spectrum. It’s mostly just cheesy synth tracks that are repetitive and pounding. There’s a pop track or two, which livens things up but the music drags the film down quite a bit due to just how generic and basic it is.

One thing I do like is that this has a very spaghetti western vibe to it. Since it is mostly filmed in Spain, it really reflects the look of those deserts. It actually fits well within the slew of Spanish and Italian Mad Max ripoffs from the decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually used some of the same props and set pieces from some of those films, due to the similar dystopian atmosphere.

While this has a 4.8 out of 10 on IMDb, it’s a better movie than that. I understand why the general public would look down on it and rate it as below average but it’s got character, it’s got heart and it’s got a rare youthful energy that is missing from similar post-apocalyptic films of the era.

Plus, it’s got Alexei Sayle from The Young Ones in it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other cheesy ’80s sci-fi movies.