Film Review: Spaceballs (1987)

Also known as: Planet Moron (working title), Spaceballs: The Video (video box title), Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (Germany)
Release Date: June 24th, 1987
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Written by: Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham, Thomas Meehan
Music by: John Morris
Cast: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner, Joan Rivers (voice), Michael Winslow, John Hurt (cameo), Jim J. Bullock, Ronny Graham, Leslie Bevis, Rudy De Luca, Dom DeLuise (voice), Stephen Tobolowsky, Robert Prescott, Rick Ducommun, Tim Russ, Tony Cox

Brooksfilms, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 96 Minutes

Review:

“What’s the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?” – Dark Helmet

I’ve been on a Mel Brooks kick, as of late. I’ve also been irritated with modern Star Wars shit. So I figured I’d go back and revisit Spaceballs, as it is a much better Star Wars movie than anything we’ve gotten in the last few years.

Well, it isn’t really a Star Wars film, it is a parody of the Original Trilogy, as well as some other sci-fi franchises like Star TrekAliens and Planet of the Apes, but it feels more consistent with the things I love about Star Wars than anything Disney has done, except for Rogue One.

Mel Brooks was the master of parody and he arguably lost his touch after this film but he was still on his A-game when he crafted this.

The thing that this film really has going for it is the cast. Brooks was perfect as always but it was cool seeing him ham it up with Rick Moranis and the inclusion of John Candy was great. Bill Pullman really stood front and center and carried the picture on his back. And that’s not to take anything away from the comedic actors, again, they were superb. Pullman had a certain panache and command of the screen when he was center stage and he’s really the star of the picture.

I also liked Daphne Zuniga as the princess and Joan Rivers as the voice of her robot sidekick, essentially a female C-3PO. You also have a lot of cameos and small parts for other well-known comedians and Brooks regulars, all of whom leave their mark.

This movie is hysterical if you love Brooks, Candy and Moranis. It’s certainly ’80s mainstream humor and it does feel a bit dated but it is a comedy classic in the same vein and style of Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

Plus, if you are a fan of the massive sci-fi franchises of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, then you’ll enjoy this even more.

This is a solid example of how to do a parody film, which in this day and age, seems like a lost art.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the Mel Brooks classics: Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

Film Review: StageFright (1987)

Also known as: Deliria (original title), Aquarius, Bloody Bird, Sound Stage Massacre, Stage Fright (alternate spelling)
Release Date: January, 1987 (Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival – France)
Directed by: Michele Soavi
Written by: George Eastman (as Lew Cooper), Sheila Goldberg
Music by: Simon Boswell, Guido Anelli, Stefano Mainetti
Cast: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Mary Sellers, Robert Gligorov, Jo Ann Smith, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Martin Philips, Piero Vida, Michele Soavi

DMV Distribuzione, Filmirage, Artists Entertainment Group, 86 Minutes

Review:

“In case it slipped your mind, this show opens in just one week from now, and as you can see, those people up there literally stink.” – Peter

StageFright was the directorial breakout of Michele Soavi, who had spent a good amount of time working with giallo maestros Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava before getting behind the camera for this picture.

If you love slasher films or Italian giallo, this film is a good f’n time. You should absolutely love this and frankly, this is pretty high up on any list for either of those genres, as far as I’m concerned.

90 percent of this film takes place on and around a sound stage, as the potential victims of the killer are locked in after rehearsing their upcoming play. The play is about a guy that went psycho, dressed up like an owl in a suit and went on a killing spree. However, now someone is picking off the director, the producer and the cast and that someone dons the costume of the killer.

I love the slasher in this movie. The owl mask is just really cool and chilling. The use of flying feathers and blood throughout the film is also fantastic and really adds a lot to the mystique of the killer.

Like a typical giallo style film, this one uses a lot of vivid colorful lighting, heavy shadows and makes the viewer rely on their imagination a bit, as things are often times obscured and your mind has to fill in the blanks. This actually helps build the tension and the creep factor.

The acting isn’t superb and the dubbing is goofy at times but most of the chicks are hot, most of the violence is presented more artistically than an American slasher flick and this has a magical and surreal quality to it.

Man, I f’n love this movie. It’s certainly not a perfect film but if you love this style and want something more imaginative than just a run of the mill slasher picture, than this should satisfy.

Lastly, I love the music in this and I’m probably going to have to track down the soundtrack on vinyl.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other giallo and slasher flicks of the time: OperaPhenomenaPiecesTenebre, A Blade In the Dark and The New York Ripper.

Film Review: Star Force: Fugitive Alien II (1987)

Release Date: 1987 (US home video)
Directed by: Minoru Kanaya, Kiyosumi Kuzakawa
Written by: Keiichi Abe, Bunzo Wakatsuki
Based on: Star Wolf by Tsuburaya Productions
Music by: Norio Maeda
Cast: Tatsuya Azuma, Jô Shishido, Miyuki Tanigawa

Tsuburaya Productions, Sandy Frank Enterprises, 75 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not going to be easy, getting into this place.” – Rocky

Like it’s predecessor, Fugitive Alien, this film was made by splicing together episodes of the Japanese tokusatsu television show Star Wolf. And also like its predecessor, this was f’n terrible. Luckily for us, this one was also featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I think the consensus is that the first movie edit of this is the better of the two. I think this one has the edge though, simply because of the climax, which features a spaceship dogfight that is definitely a complete ripoff of the trench run scene from Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope. It is also a trench run that happens in daylight, which made it visually interesting.

That being said, I can’t realistically praise the special effects. They are exactly what you would expect from a ’70s tokusatsu show. And while Tsuburaya was really good at making miniatures, at the time, it can’t match the production value or the quality of something you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster.

The dubbing in this is cheesy as hell, the narration is bad and I’m pretty sure that the story being told in this English translated abomination is nothing like the original story that was found in the episodes used for this film edit.

The Star Wolf show itself had several stylistic nods to the Ultraman shows that Tsuburaya is most famous for but it lacked one key thing: giant monsters to fight.

This isn’t worth anyone’s time really, unless you’re a glutton for punishment: Japanese style. But it does make for a good episode of MST3K.

And I guess I’ll just put the entire episode of MST3K below, as there isn’t a trailer for this anywhere.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: Other tokusatsu shows chopped up into feature length films: Fugitive AlienTime of the ApesMighty Jack and Super Robot Mach Baron.

Film Review: Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise (1987)

Release Date: July 10th, 1987
Directed by: Joe Roth
Written by: Dan Guntzelman, Steve Marshall
Based on: characters by Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Steve Zacharias, Jeff Buhai
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerald V. Casale
Cast: Robert Carradine, Timothy Busfield, Andrew Cassese, Curtis Armstrong, Larry B. Scott, Donald Gibb, James Cromwell, Anthony Edwards, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Bradley Whitford, Ed Lauter, James Hong

Interscope Communications, 20th Century Fox, 89 Minutes

Review:

“There could be a nuclear war; there’d be nothing left but cockroaches and nerds.” – Roger

I wouldn’t say that this is a better movie than its predecessor but for some reason, I enjoy Nerds II more than I enjoy Nerds I. That could also be because of the fact that I was briefly on the set of this film when they were shooting the scenes at the front exterior of the hotel, which was the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale, which wasn’t too far from my father’s house back then.

Another benefit of this movie is that it doesn’t feature any creepy behavior from the nerds. As I discussed in my review of the previous film, Louis raped a girl, filmed and broadcasted an entire girls’ dorm in their private moments and even hid in a girl’s shower to see her naked.

This film was also PG-13 and not R, so that probably had a lot to do with the lack of boobies and rape behavior. But being that this was PG-13 made it just a stoner comedy and not a teen sex comedy. However, by 1987, teen sex comedies had sort of run their course.

The plot for this film isn’t to dissimilar from its predecessor. The nerds have to rise to the challenges put in front of them by the jocks and the cool kids. The Alpha Betas return to be the villains but this is a new group where Ogre is the only returning member from the previous movie. The new group is lead by quintessential ’80s dickhead Bradley Whitford. I call him a “dickhead” but that was what he played a lot back then. He’s grown to become a pretty accomplished actor but I still remember him most fondly for his roles like the one here, Adventures In Babysitting and Billy Madison. He was superb in Get Out and I am really looking forward to seeing him in next year’s Godzilla sequel.

Most of the key nerds return for this film except for Brian Tochi. Also, Anthony Edwards wasn’t a fan of the script and even though he is in this, his role was significantly reduced to being a glorified cameo in a few scenes. Ted McGinley and John Goodman aren’t in this either, which kind of sucked but Whitford really carried the ball and ran with it.

We also get the addition of Courtney Thorne-Smith but she doesn’t have a lot to do other to to pine over Louis but nothing happens between them and Louis is still with Betty, the girl he raped into a relationship in the first movie. Louis and Betty are married by the time Nerds III rolled around.

So the main difference between this movie and Nerds I is that it is set in a “tropical paradise”: Fort Lauderdale. Also, the nerds are holed up in a really shitty hotel that has a boisterous Cuban lady and the legendary James Hong as a sort of zen master for Booger’s gross antics. Also, Ogre becomes a nerd by the end of the film. I actually kind of liked this bit, as Ogre doesn’t really fit in with the jocks, other than being used for his muscle power and intimidation.

Based off of the reviews and ratings I’ve seen for this film, it’s not as beloved as the original. But in all honesty, it’s not that bad if you are a fan of the first one.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The original Revenge of the Nerds but the sequels after this one get pretty terrible.

Film Review: R.O.T.O.R. (1987)

Also known as: Blue Steel (alternate title), P.O.T.O.P. (Russia), Robo Police (Japan)
Release Date: October, 1987 (MIFED – Italy)
Directed by: Cullen Blaine
Written by: Cullen Blaine, Budd Lewis
Music by: David Adam Newman
Cast: Margaret Trigg, Richard Gesswein, Jayne Smith

Imperial Entertainment, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Let me tell you something, mister. You fire me and I’ll make more noise than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin, brother.” – Coldyron

Thank god that there’s a RiffTrax version of this film, otherwise it would have been impossible for me to get through without having to put myself into a shit hammered stupor.

It’s baffling how bad this Robocop wannabe is. Sure, this may have gone into production before Robocop but it is basically a really, really poor ripoff of that film’s premise. But cyborgs were all the rage in the ’80s and at least this robot cop was more T-800 than Alex Murphy. Because as much as I love Robocop, killer robots are more exciting to watch. Well, unless it is this killer robot who just looks like a background character from CHiPS.

So this “robocop” is created by an evil coporation. Sound familiar? He is sent into the field but he is a cold blooded killing machine. The hero is a blonde mulleted California cowboy type and he used to work on the R.O.T.O.R. project but was fired because the evil corporation didn’t like that the guy wasn’t pure evil like them. So there is action, people getting merked by Joe Robot and fabulous ’80s action stud hair.

There is also a horrendously bad series of stop motion animations of the robot skeleton apparently showing off its martial arts moves but it looks like something from a Kraftwerk music video.

This is also full of ’80s action movie cheese but not the good kind of cheese. It’s more like expired cottage cheese that someone dumped raisins into instead of a nice sharp cheddar.

It should go without saying that the acting is abysmal and that the writing is a clusterfuck of biblical proportions. The direction and cinematography aren’t any better and in fact, the RiffTrax guys made a joke about how you’re supposed to use lighting in your movie.

R.O.T.O.R. most definitely has to go through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 7 Stool: Watery, no solid pieces. Entirely Liquid.”

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: Deadly PreyGymkataRaw Force and Hands of Steel but this is probably worse than all of those films.

Film Review: Hollywood Cop (1987)

Also known as: California Cops (Germany, Hungary), O Polícia de Hollywood (Portugal)
Release Date: September 22nd, 1987 (West Germany video premiere)
Directed by: Amir Shervan
Written by: Amir Shervan
Music by: Elton Ahi
Cast: James Mitchum, Cameron Mitchell, David Goss

Peacock Films, 101 Minutes

Review:

“You know what you’ve done for me? The commissioner’s on my ass. I get gas. Every day ends with a Tums festival! Right now, because of you I gotta go to the bathroom.” – Capt. Bonano

Amir Shervan made five films in the United States before retiring, this was the first of those five films. The others were the universally panned yet beloved Samurai Cop, as well as the lesser known films Killing American StyleYoung Rebels and Gypsy. I’ve seen all of these except for Gypsy.

Out of the four pictures I’ve seen, this is the worst one. Still, it was enjoyable and certainly watchable if you are into films that are so bad that they are a delight. Especially from the ’80s, as that decade’s cheese had a way of making bad things taste great.

This film also feels like a proto-Samurai Cop. It’s like the practice run for that film. It has the cool and likable badass cop with an amusing black partner, an angry and hilarious police captain, a pretty blonde woman in trouble, a blonde cop that the hero inappropriately flirts with, vile gangsters and a Los Angeles setting. All it’s missing is the samurai element and bad wigs. This does have the added bonus of a kid that loves goats and dogs but finds himself kidnapped by the gangsters because his deadbeat dad disappeared with their money. But I liked this kid’s scenes. Also, this film has lots of boobies in it.

Props to that kid though, as he got his ass kicked a lot in this movie. And he was like the damn Dog Whisperer, as he tamed a killer attack dog and made it his protector. Well, until the dog got merked like this was a John Wick movie.

With so much going for it, the film still falls flat. Compared to those other American films by Shervan, this one just has a lot of drawn out boring moments. It just isn’t as refined and quick paced as the other films. But after seeing this, it is hard to imagine those other, better films existing if it weren’t for this coming first. This was a template that Shervan was able to add to and build off of going forward.

Well, I’m 80 percent of my way through Shervan’s American pictures. So I guess I had better check out Gypsy in the near future.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Amir Shervan’s other American films: Samurai CopKilling American StyleYoung Rebels and I’m assuming Gypsy.

Film Review: Adventures In Babysitting (1987)

Also known as: A Night on the Town (Australia)
Release Date: June 19th, 1987 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: David Simkins
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Keith Coogan, Anthony Rapp, Maia Brewton, Penelope Ann Miller, Bradley Whitford, Calvin Levels, George Newbern, Vincent D’Onofrio, Albert Collins (cameo)

Rose Productions, Silver Screen Partners III, Touchstone Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t fuck with the Lords of Hell!” – Gang Leader, “[Chris picks up the knife and shoves it in the gang leader’s face] Don’t fuck with the babysitter!” – Chris

Adventures In Babysitting was one of those movies I watched a heck of a lot as a kid in the ’80s. It was just a cool movie and being that I was around the same age as the youngest kid in the film, who was also a massive Thor fan, it was easy to relate to the characters. Plus, my family are all originally from Chicago and I used to go up there all the time in my youth. I love that city and this really captures it in a very ’80s way, which was also how I first experienced Chicago.

I think the real glue of this picture is Elisabeth Shue. She was perfect as the lead and believable in the situations she found herself in. I guess the studio wanted Molly Ringwald or Valerie Bertinelli but Shue landed the role and I can’t quite see how this movie would work the same way with those other actresses. The character of Chris felt very much like Shue.

The kids in the film were also well cast. You had Keith Coogan and Anthony Rapp, both at the beginning of their careers, and Maia Brewton, who was solid and the most fun and energetic character in the movie. I also love all the bits Penelope Ann Miller did at the bus station, even though she was on her own and separated from the other kids throughout the vast majority of the picture. And even though he’s only in two scenes, Bradley Whitford played his ’80s douchebag role to perfection in this.

The premise sees these kids go into Chicago to pick up Chris’ friend, who has run away from home and is stranded at an inner city bus station. On their way into downtown Chicago, they blow out their tire. They get saved by a nice tow truck driver but then things go absolutely nuts and the kids get mixed up with an auto theft ring ran by some shady dudes. The rest of the film sees them running through Chicago, dodging the gangsters and constantly getting into wild situations. It almost plays like an urban Goonies without treasure. Additionally, the end has the kids racing home to beat the parents in a similar fashion to Ferris Beuller but without the cool musical montage of Ferris running through people’s yards and houses.

This was also the first film directed by Chris Columbus, who had written some very successful films before landing this gig.

Like all ’80s teen films, this is certainly dated. However, it hasn’t lost its charm or any of the excitement. It has held up really well and isn’t just good when seen through nostalgic eyes, it is just a film that works and is still a blast.

Plus, it had a friggin’ awesome movie poster in a time when there were still friggin’ awesome movie posters.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: For an Elisabeth Shue pairing, watch The Karate Kid. For Keith Coogan and a babysitting theme, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. If you want to see more of Bradley Whitford being an ’80s prick, Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise.