Film Review: Robot Carnival (1987)

Release Date: July 21st, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Hidetoshi Oomori, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Written by: Hiroyuki Kitazume, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mao Lamdo, Takashi Nakamura, Yasuomi Umetsu
Music by: Joe Hisaishi, Isaku Fujita, Masahisa Takeichi

A.P.P.P., Studio 4°C, Diskotek Media, Streamline Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

Robot Carnival is a pretty neat and interesting picture.

The film is an anime anthology where everything in it has the theme of robots. It also has a steampunk and cyberpunk aesthetic throughout the picture. Another interesting thing about it is that most of the film is actually silent in regards to dialogue.

The biggest thing that made me want to check this out, however, is that it features a story by Katsuhiro Otomo before he worked on the film adaptation of his megahit manga Akira.

Otomo’s contribution to this film is the opening and ending scenes. Both are fairly short but they act as the bookends to all the short stories in-between. These segments also feature a massive city structure on treads, rolling over the countryside. It’s actually pretty damn clear, once seeing this, that the Otomo segments were the inspiration behind the novels and film adaptation of Mortal Engines.

All the other stories are pretty cool and unique. It’s honestly a mixed bag, really, but it is cool seeing all of this as a larger body of work where its segments have a nice variance in art style and narrative structure.

This is a pretty chill and kind of relaxing anime to sit through. Each film is straightforward and just a neat, simple concept that has been realized and presented in all its glory. While everything has its own feel to it, the picture, as a whole, has a pretty consistent vibe.

I wouldn’t categorize this as a classic but I can see why many have held this in pretty high regard. I see it as more of a sampler of what many of these creators were capable of before they went off to make their own, larger features.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk and steampunk anime of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Film Review: Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)

Release Date: May 20th, 1987
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Larry Ferguson, Warren Skaaren, Eddie Murphy, Robert D. Wachs
Based on: characters by Danilo Bach, Daniel Petrie Jr.
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox, Jurgen Prochnow, Brigitte Nielsen, Allen Garfield, Dean Stockwell, Paul Reiser, Gilbert R. Hill, Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Ridgely, Hugh Hefner, Chris Rock, Robert Pastorelli, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Tom Bower

Eddie Murphy Productions, Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“[to Rosewood and Taggart] “If you get your head out of your ass long enough”? “Kiss my ass”? You’re gettin’ more and more like me every day. Next thing you know you’re gonna have Afros… big dicks and all!” – Axel Foley

Let me start this review by saying that the first movie is a better film. However, I always enjoy watching this one more, despite its total lack of a Bronson Pinchot cameo. But I’ll explain why I like it more, as I continue on.

To start, this chapter in the franchise takes things to another level in nearly every regard.

All the characters are better here and it almost felt like the first film was there to get them comfortable in their roles before they really gelled as an ensemble. I absolutely love the chemistry between Foley, Rosewood and Taggart. They just know each other so well and they compliment one another perfectly.

I also love how these characters have evolved. Axel is still pretty reckless but he’s more mature and just comes across as a much better and more gifted detective. Rosewood has essentially become this franchise’s Eugene Tackleberry and because it’s Judge Reinhold, it makes that all the more better and funnier. Taggart has warmed up to Foley a lot more and now there is a level of respect and true friendship between them. Even though Ronny Cox is barely in this, as he spends most of the film in a coma, it’s great seeing him get to share scenes with the other guys once he’s recovered.

Additionally, I really like Brigitte Nielsen in this, which I would consider her best role after Red Sonja. But it’s like this role was specifically written for her and it highlights her strengths without exposing her weaknesses. She’s just a badass with a unique look and you actually see her as a legitimate, dangerous threat. She’s cold, calculating and just about perfect.

The other villains feel weak by comparison and without Nielsen being added to their roster, they don’t hold a candle to how solid Steven Berkoff and Jonathan Banks were in the first movie. But I should also point out that I liked Dean Stockwell in this as an evil shithead, even if he was underutilized for his talent level.

The criminal scheme in the movie starts out with a bang but as it becomes clearer, it is kind of underwhelming. But it’s also secondary to the comedic momentum of the film.

That being said, when the action happens, it’s really f’n good. The movie feels more chaotic with bigger vehicle chases, bigger shootouts, bigger weapons and having the ante upped in nearly every regard in the action sequences.

Frankly, I love this movie and the first two in the franchise are classics. The third (and final) film, not so much. But I’ll get to that one in the very near future.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Beverly Hills Cop movies, as well as the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon films.

Film Review: Lethal Weapon (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Shane Black
Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Mitchell Ryan, Tom Atkins, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Ed O’Ross, Al Leong, Jack Thibeau, Renée Estevez (uncredited – Director’s Cut)

Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes, 117 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“I’m too old for this shit!” – Roger Murtaugh

Since there have been rumblings, once again, about Lethal Weapon 5, I was reminded that I haven’t really watched the original film in quite awhile. So, since I have the DVD box set, I figured that I’d give them all a rewatch and a review.

I actually forgot how dark this first film was in regards to Martin Riggs’ depression and suicidal thoughts. Sure, I remember that part of the story but I see a lot more layers with it now, as an adult that has dealt with depression his entire life and many of the experiences and thoughts that come with it. I can also relate to the loss and grief that Riggs felt over his wife’s death, as I lost someone very close to me, which had me in a similar head space for a few years.

As a kid and a teen, I don’t think I understood the real depth of Riggs’ despair and I also didn’t fully understand how this is a movie about a broken man finding something to live for and that he is essentially adopted by a family that grows to love him as one of their own. And honestly, I’m not sure if Shane Black’s script meant to take it that deep but Mel Gibson and Danny Glover add so much to their roles and this story, emotionally, that lesser actors couldn’t have achieved this on quite the same level with this much human emotion.

That being said, the film is really about a man emerging from absolute darkness and finding his way in the world again. And while this isn’t the main plot thread of the sequels, it helped to establish the bond between Riggs and Murtaugh so well, that the emotions and connections in this film created such a strong foundation that it made the camaraderie in the sequels natural and frankly, easy.

The movie is an action comedy, despite the really heavy emotional stuff, and within that, it has a great balance between the darker stuff and its lighthearted playfulness. It’s also full of badass action and just makes me wish that Hollywood could still make pictures like this that are this good.

Action comedies in the modern era just don’t hit the right notes. You can’t compare any of those Kevin Hart buddy action comedies to the Lethal Weapon films and that’s not a knock against the talented Hart, I think it is just a product of the times we live in and their contrast to what the 1980s (and ’90s) were.

A lot of the credit has to go to Richard Donner, who was on his A-game as a director in the ’80s, as well as producer Joel Silver, a man that was involved with some of the most iconic films of all-time, especially in this era and the action genre.

But it all really comes back to the greatness that is the pairing of Gibson and Glover. They’re bond and their banter is absolute perfection. You buy into what they’re selling and they feel like they’re your friends too. On top of that, Glover’s family is great and they make the scenes they share with the two leads pretty special.

While the actual plot dealing with the crime element in the film is a bit thin, it’s still interesting and it also brings in great performances from Gary Busey, Tom Atkins and the grossly underappreciated Mitchell Ryan. I also love seeing and hearing Al Leong actually speak in this beyond just being a voiceless henchman.

On top of all that, the action sequences are superb, the stunts are fantastic and this is a movie that still packs a punch and is just as exciting as it was over thirty years ago.

Lethal Weapon is a stupendous film. It has the greatest tandem in buddy cop movie history and it has aged tremendously well.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s buddy action movies.

Film Review: Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987)

Also known as: Deathstalker II (original title)
Release Date: September 12th, 1987 (Japan)
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Neil Ruttenberg, Jim Wynorski
Music by: Chuck Cirino
Cast: John Terlesky, Monique Gabrielle, John LaZar, Toni Naples, Maria Socas

Aries Films International, New Horizons Pictures, Concorde Pictures, 85 Minutes

Review:

“You have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch the prince of thieves.” – Deathstalker, “It is early in the morning!” – Princess Evie

I’ve already reviewed the first and third Deathstalker movies because watching these in order doesn’t really matter. Each film seems to have its own tone, a totally different actor in the lead role and they’re mostly total crap.

However, this one is actually kind of enjoyable.

I think that this chapter is the most palatable because it is actually a lighthearted comedy mixed with sword and sorcery and glorious boobs. It has a charm that the other movies don’t and frankly, the two leads in this are more charismatic than the leads in any of the other films.

That could also be due to the fact that I’ve been crushing hard on Monique Gabrielle ever since I saw her in The Return of Swamp Thing, as a kid. Finding out later that she was a Penthouse Pet was a pretty stellar discovery in my teen years.

Like the other films, this one was made by Roger Corman’s studio but he didn’t direct it. Instead, he hired Jim Wynorski, who had just come off of directing the cult classic horror/sci-fi/comedy, Chopping Mall. I think that his style was beneficial to this picture and how it was presented as a more amusing movie than its predecessor.

The story is pretty cookie cutter stuff for cheap Conan knockoffs but it has some unique bits. For one, we are treated to an intergender wrestling match in an actual ring around the midpoint of the film. Also, it doesn’t try to emulate and ripoff Conan as much as the first film and works as its own thing in a similar setting.

The special effects are pretty cheap but everything still looks okay for what this is. It certainly looks better than the European sword and sorcery movies of the era. In fact, it feels similar in visual tone to the first Beastmaster. Sure, it lacks Beastmaster‘s hard edge but it utilizes the night in the same way, keeping things kind of small scale, production-wise, without exposing too many of its budgetary flaws.

All praise aside, this is still a cheap movie, as Roger Corman associated productions go. But out of the Deathstalker pictures, I’d say that it looks the best and uses its budget pretty well.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Deathstalker films and other very low budget barbarian movies.

Film Review: Bates Motel (1987)

Release Date: July 5th, 1987 (TV)
Directed by: Richard Rothstein
Written by: Richard Rothstein
Based on: Psycho by Robert Bloch
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Bud Cort, Lori Petty, Moses Gunn, Gregg Henry, Khrystyne Haje, Jason Bateman, Kerrie Keane, Robert Picardo, Buck Flower, Carmen Filpi

Universal Television, NBC, 90 Minutes

Review:

“[referring to the urn] Oh that’s not saki, that’s Norman.” – Alex West

Let me start off by saying that this television movie is terrible. However, I still kind of dug it and felt that it had some good seeds planted in what could have been a solid television series had this feature length pilot been picked up by NBC and developed into a full series. Granted, it needed some time and experimentation to find its footing but I think it could’ve gotten there.

The main thing I liked about this was the top three members of the cast: Bud Cort, Lori Petty and Moses Gunn.

Also, it was a really cool take and reinvention of the Psycho film franchise that could have stood on its own, given enough time to grow and find its groove.

What hurts this pilot “movie” the most is its editing and pacing. It’s clearly a mish mash of two episodes that don’t work when wedged together. On their own, they probably would’ve been fine but it ruins the three act structure and narrative flow.

I guess this is how it had to be presented though, as the show wasn’t picked up by NBC but they probably wanted to make their money back, so they stitched it together and sold it as a “movie of the week” release. Which, probably worked out, as Psycho fever was pretty strong in the ’80s once Anthony Perkins turned the classic film into a four movie franchise starting with 1983’s Psycho II.

I have always liked Bud Cort and I always thought Lori Petty was just a really cool chick. This didn’t change my opinion of either actor and I enjoyed their scenes and thought they had a fun chemistry.

In the end, this really is a dud but it is still worth a watch for those who love the Psycho franchise and haven’t seen it. It’s pretty rare and mostly forgotten but it is on YouTube, at least for the moment. Although, that version is a crappy VHS rip. I still found it watchable but I also have a high tolerance for thirty-plus year old VHS tapes.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: the ’80s Psycho sequels and anthology horror/sci-fi television shows of the era.

Film Review: Creepshow 2 (1987)

Also known as: Dead and Undead: Creepshow 2 (alternative title)
Release Date: May 1st, 1987
Directed by: Michael Gornick
Written by: George A. Romero, Lucille Fletcher (uncredited)
Based on: stories by Stephen King
Music by: Les Reed, Rick Wakeman
Cast: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Tom Savini, Frank Salsedo, Holt McCallany, Don Harvey, Will Sampson, Paul Satterfield, Jeremy Green, Daniel Beer, Page Hannah, Tom Wright, Stephen King (cameo)

New World Pictures, Laurel Entertainment Inc., 92 Minutes, 85 Minutes (UK video)

Review:

“Ooooh, mucho ecological, Poncho! Mucho ecological!” – Deke

While this doesn’t get as much fanfare as the original movie, I like it just as much if not slightly better.

Something about these stories just stuck with me.

To start, the first story about the wooden Indian is fantastic and my second favorite of all the Creepshow tales. It’s surprisingly well acted and chilling and by the time the wooden Indian comes to life, you’re so ready to watch the scumbags get murdered in horrible ways.

I’ve got to especially give props to Holt McCallany for playing the shitty, sadistic gang leader. The guy has had a good career but he showed he had real acting chops here, in only his second role, as he was so good at making you hate him. While the script is written to obviously make you dislike him, McCallany took it to a deeper more convincing level.

I also loved the dynamic between George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour.

But most importantly, the effects of the wooden Indian were spectacular. Especially for the era and the small budget that this film had.

The second story is the one Creepshow tale that has stuck with me the most over the years and it actually creeped me out as a kid. It’s about these party teens trapped on a raft in the middle of a lake, as a sludge monster is waiting to devour them. Once the creature gets ahold of its human victims, it literally digests them alive as they scream in pain and horror, dissolving before your eyes.

This sequence does a great job of building tension and terror with very little.

I think that it stuck with me the most because I grew up in and around the Everglades. So as I kid, I used to swim in swamp rivers and lakes fairly regularly. And while I wasn’t afraid of alligators or snakes, I was always on the look out for some sort of demon sludge in the water that might show any sign of sentience.

The last story is my least favorite but it is still damn enjoyable.

A woman accidentally kills a hitchiker and then her entire trip is comprised of the ghostly, zombie-like hitchhiker haunting her at every turn. It’s a simple setup with a simple story but it’s still entertaining and I love the practical effects used in this sequence.

Overall, Creepshow 2 is better than I remembered and it probably deserves as much respect and admiration as the original film.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: everything else under the Creepshow banner, as well as other horror anthologies from the same era like Twilight Zone: The Movie and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie.

Film Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2 (1987)

Release Date: April 10th, 1987
Directed by: Lee Harry
Written by: Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle, Dennis Patterson, Lawrence Appelbaum
Music by: Michael Armstrong
Cast: Eric Freeman, James L. Newman, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jean Miller, Lilyan Chauvin (archive footage), Robert Brian Wilson (archive footage), Linnea Quigley (archive footage)

Silent Night Releasing Corporation, 88 Minutes

Review:

“[about to shoot a man carrying a garbage can] Gaaarbaaage daaay!” – Ricky Caldwell

While I enjoyed Silent Night, Deadly Night, I’ve never seen the sequels except for the fifth one that stars Mickey Rourke as the creator of killer Christmas toys.

Seeing this one now, I was surprised to discover that I like it more than its predecessor. While the first third-to-half of this film is bogged down by flashbacks of the original movie, once this becomes its own story, focused on the younger brother of the original killer, the film becomes pretty awesome.

Frankly, you can probably just start with this film as everything important from the first movie is shown in this chapter and honestly, you’re not missing much from the scenes that were omitted.

While this movie has been panned for years because of how bonkers and absurd it can seem at face value, I absolutely love the performance of Eric Freeman as the killer younger brother. His performance is over the top but that just adds to the insanity and tone of the film, which honestly, would’ve been kind of drab without his intensity. He makes the picture work and if I dare be so bold, he saves it from just being a rehash of shit we’ve already seen.

The whole sequence surrounding the infamous “garbage daaay!” moment is schlock of the highest caliber. From the moment he kills his girlfriend’s ex, his girlfriend, the cop and then goes on a gun toting killing spree that ends in a damn good car stunt, we’re treated to one of the most entertaining, bizarre and unintentionally stupendous cinema moments of ’80s horror.

While the average person would find this movie off-putting and stupid, I found it to be a true hidden gem that hits the right notes, perfectly, for those of us that like hearty helpings of ’80s horror schlock. Plus, it’s a Christmas movie.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: it’s predecessor, but then again, that whole movie is basically re-told in the first half of this film. So I guess the sequels, which all veer off in their own weird directions.