Film Review: Twins (1988)

Also known as: The Experiment (working title), Twiins (alternative spelling)
Release Date: December 8th, 1988 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: William Davies, Timothy Harris, William Osborne, Herschel Weingrod
Music by: George Delerue, Randy Edelman
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Kelly Preston, Chloe Webb, Bonnie Bartlett, David Caruso, Marshall Bell, Maury Chaykin, Tony Jay, Frances Bay, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jason Reitman, Catherine Reitman, Heather Graham

Universal Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“My name is Julius and I am your twin brother.” – Julius Benedict, “Oh, obviously! The moment I sat down I thought I was looking into a mirror.” – Vincent Benedict

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the absolute top of the action film world, he decided to be in a comedy. At first, that may have seemed crazy. But the end result was this great picture that in my opinion, is a true comedy classic of its era.

Granted, this also had Danny DeVito in it, who never disappoints, and it was directed by Ivan Reitman, who was a great comedy director at his creative peak.

I think this film has actually aged really well too. Sure, it’s definitely a product of the ’80s but it is still a very human story that is carried by the charisma and chemistry of its two stars.

Schwarzenegger and DeVito just felt like a natural pair and even if they aren’t really brothers and don’t look the part, as that’s part of the gag, they just clicked and their connection and relationship felt truly genuine. And maybe Schwarzenegger doesn’t get enough credit as an actor but this allowed him to show his range and he did stupendously well in the role. It’s damn near impossible not to love him in this. And even if DeVito is a shithead for most of the film, you understand why he’s broken and I find it hard not to sympathize with his character and sort of grow into loving him as well.

At its core, this is just a feel good movie and it came out in a time where family dynamics were changing. I think that for a lot of people, it gave them hope that even if their upbringing might not have been the ideal, cookie cutter situation, that maybe, in some way, they could find the people in their life that would become family.

It’s really hard to peg but this is just a film that resonated with me at an early age and it still does. I don’t really think that has to do with nostalgia and for me, at least, it has to do with how good this is top to bottom from the characters, the story and their emotional journey.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Ivan Reitman comedies.

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 2 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: February 28th, 1988
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Renée Estevez

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes

Review:

“Easy. I’ve got great recommendations from doctors, psychiatrists, even clergymen. I did my time. Two years of therapy, electroshock, was on every pill you ever heard of, plus an operation. I’m completely cured. If I wasn’t they wouldn’t have let me out. How do you know so much about me?” – Angela

Over the years, I’ve noticed that fans of the original Sleepaway Camp are split on whether or not they like this almost parody sequel. It’s certainly goofy, somewhat bizarre and it isn’t in the same league as its predecessor but it has charm to it while being amusing and giving its audience some unique and creative kills.

Unfortunately, Felissa Rose does not return to the role of Angela in this one, but that may have been for the best due to the tone and comedy approach of this installment. And even though Rose will always be the Angela, I thought that Pamela Springsteen was great in the role, especially for how hammy she played it with nothing less than pure enthusiasm and spirit. Seriously, I enjoyed her so much in this that I’m actually excited to check out its direct sequel.

Side note: Felissa Rose would return to play Angela again, years later, in a more serious installment.

Anyway, this was a pretty cheesy and enjoyable picture. And by “cheesy” I mean cheesy in the best way possible.

The film is stuffed full of great kill sequences, I especially liked two of them.

The first is the one where Angela is literally bludgeoning and stuffing a camper into an outdoor toilet.

The other is the one that parodies the top slasher franchises of the era, as it has homages to A Nightmare On Elm Street, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre all in the same scene.

I mostly dug the rest of the cast as well, as they all played archetypes well, especially the buff, jock counselor with the ’80s power mullet.

Now I can’t quite call this a classic like its predecessor but it’s definitely a film that should be rotated into a horror/comedy marathon. Especially during these troubling COVID-19 times, where most of us are stuck at home.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.

Film Review: The Dead Pool (1988)

Also known as: Dirty Harry in The Dead Pool (poster title), Dirty Harry 5 (alternative title)
Release Date: July 13th, 1988
Directed by: Buddy Van Horn
Written by: Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, Sandy Shaw
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink 
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Jim Carrey, Marc Alaimo, Justin Whalin, Guns N’ Roses (cameo)

Malpaso Productions, Warner Bros., 91 Minutes

Review:

“Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.” – ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan

This is it, the fifth and final Dirty Harry movie. It’s also the one that most people seem to like the least. However, I like it a tad bit more than the fourth film, Sudden Impact.

While far from great, I like this movie because it features an interesting plot, even if it’s not executed greatly. Also, the car chase scene with the remote control bomb car blew my mind, as a kid, and I still love the hell out of that whole sequence 32 years later.

Clint Eastwood is still great as Dirty Harry and this movie feels like it fits better within the series, as a whole, where the previous movie took him out of San Francisco and made him do cop work while essentially on vacation.

I like his energy, here, and at this point, the character is really just an extension of Eastwood and he can coast through this thing on auto pilot and still nail it.

This movie also benefits from having a young but capable Liam Neeson, alongside Patricia Clarkson and a very young and not so comedic Jim Carrey. I really dig the hell out of Carrey in this and even if his performance isn’t anything close to perfect, he did show that he was capable of acting beyond the requirements of his earlier comedic roles.

This film is short and sweet, just being around ninety minutes and not over two hours like the drawn out chore that was Sudden Impact. It’s action packed, moves briskly and doesn’t waste time on trying to make a more complex plot. These films don’t need to be that, they just need to kick ass, take names and then kick more ass.

I feel like the ’80s Dirty Harry pictures can’t really compete with the solid ’70s ones. However, this is still a better than decent ’80s action flick that knew how to get to the point while amassing a respectable body count in the process.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

Film Review: Return of the Living Dead, Part II (1988)

Release Date: January 8th, 1988 (premiere)
Directed by: Ken Wiederhorn
Written by: Ken Wiederhorn
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Michael Kentworthy, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Phil Bruns, Suzanne Snyder, Thor Van Lingen, Jason Hogan, Mitch Pileggi

Greenfox Productions, Lorimar Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Joey

I think that this movie gets unfairly shitted on, simply because it is not the pinnacle of perfection that its predecessor was. That being said, this is still a damn enjoyable zombie comedy and seeing James Karen and Thom Matthews return, as new but similar characters, was pretty awesome.

While this film took some minor missteps that kept it from being as iconic as the first movie, it’s still one of the more fun horror pictures of the ’80s.

This picks up shortly after the events of the first film, as we see the zombie-creating Trioxin accidentally released on a new town. Zombies rise from the grave, infest the town and try to eat all the brains they can possibly stomach.

We follow a group of survivors, as they try to find a way out of town but ultimately get trapped by a military blockade and thus, have to fight the undead in an effort to survive the night. Of course, many of them don’t survive. However, unlike the first film, which had a much better ending, some characters do make it out unscathed.

Apart from the fairly optimistic ending, the film made a few other mistakes.

First of all, this just isn’t punk rock enough. That’s the element that really made the first picture so fucking cool. The characters were punk rock dipshits and it was fun seeing them try to make it out alive but ultimately, fail.

Secondly, the film’s score is really generic and weak compared to the tunes of the first movie, which just ties it back to the film not being punk rock enough.

Thirdly, the setting isn’t as gritty and interesting. The film takes place in a suburban neighborhood that is still under construction. It reminds me a lot of the neighborhoods from E.T. and Poltergeist but it’s unfinished, which just means that it was probably cheap and easy to shoot there at night.

Fourthly, the film doesn’t feature Linnea Quigley as Trash. I need my Trash! Or just Linnea Quigley. She could’ve played another role.

In the end, the characters were all good and the story was decent enough. I thought that the big finale was actually well done, other than the town not getting nuked. It should’ve been nuked.

If you are a fan of the original and you haven’t seen this, it’s definitely worth a watch. Don’t expect the same level of greatness but it’s still a good compliment to the first flick that builds off of it nicely.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Return of the Living Dead, as well as other zombie comedies.

Film Review: They Live (1988)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s They Live (complete title)
Release Date: November 4th, 1988
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter (as Frank Armitage)
Based on: Eight O’Clock In the Morning by Ray Nelson
Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George “Buck” Flower, Raymond St. Jacques, Peter Jason, Sy Richardson, Susan Blanchard, Norman Alden, Jason Robards III, John Carpenter (voice – uncredited), Al Leong (uncredited)

Alive Films, Larry Franco Productions, Universal Pictures, Carolco Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” – Nada

I remember wanting to see this in the theater so damn badly but no one would take me because I was nine years-old and my family was being really lame about it. To make up for that, I rented the hell out of this when my local video store got their copies in. In fact, I eventually dubbed a copy because that was the benefit of having two VCRs in the ’80s and ’90s. I think I still have it buried in one of my many boxes of old VHS tapes that I haven’t been able to play for fifteen years.

Anyway, They Live is a spectacular film.

While it’s not John Carpenter’s best, it’s pretty high up on the list and it is my favorite film to star wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Considering that this also has Keith David in it, there’s almost too much testosterone and gravitas that I don’t know how the celluloid didn’t melt from the masculine heat.

The story is pretty simple: “Rowdy” Roddy Piper shows up in town, tries to earn some honest money and work towards the American dream but soon finds out that the world is completely fucked because it’s been taken over by aliens hiding in plain sight. How does he discover this truth? With special sunglasses. Seriously, what the fuck is there not to like about this picture?

Also, this has, hands down, the greatest one-on-one brawl in the entire history of Western cinema. A fight so epic and so perfect that its choreography was stolen for the infamous “Cripple Fight” episode of South Park.

The film also features Meg Foster and her eyes that can melt steel, Buck Flower playing not just a hobo, Carpenter regular Peter Jason, as well as blaxploitation veteran Raymond St. Jacques, the cool Sy Richardson and an uncredited bit part for the greatest motion picture henchman of all-time, Al Leong.

As is usually the case with most Carpenter films, this one benefits greatly from his score. It’s brooding, sets the perfect tone and just has the right kind of vibe to enchant your mind and pull you into this cool and crazy film.

I also like the physical atmosphere in general and how Carpenter used daytime and nighttime as a sort of narrative tool, drawing allusions to the seen world and the unseen world in this story. I also liked how the special sunglasses displayed reality in black and white while the visible world was in full color. I’m not sure if that was decided upon in the initial draft of this story or if it was a convenience in pulling off certain effects that still worked and added another layer of duality.

They Live is just solid, all around. It’s one of those movies I can watch anytime and it’s just cool as hell.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other John Carpenter films of the ’80s.

Film Review: Crocodile Dundee II (1988)

Release Date: May 20th, 1988 (Australia)
Directed by: John Cornell
Written by: Paul Hogan, Brett Hogan
Music by: Peter Best
Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon, Hechter Ubarry, Juan Fernandez, Charles S. Dutton, Kenneth Welsh, Stephen Root, Steve Rackman, Gerry Skilton, Susie Essman, Colin Quinn, Luis Guzman, Tatyana Ali

Rimfire Films, Paramount Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“What did you do last night?” – Mick Dundee, “We didn’t do nothing. We was here all night.” – Punk, “That’s what you call cool, is it? Well, tomorrow, if someone asks you the same question, you can say: “We didn’t do nothing.” Or you can say: “We went out to Long Island to help this lunatic storm a fortress!” At the very least you can come watch me get my head blown off.” – Mick Dundee

The consensus from critics and from filmgoers is that Crocodile Dundee II is a weak attempt at a sequel that was just made to cash in on its far superior predecessor. Well, the consensus is wrong, as this is the superior film for many reasons, all of which I’ll outline here.

To start, this film knows exactly what it is where the first one couldn’t decide if it was a romantic comedy, an action movie or just a series of comedic bits about a fish out of water.

Crocodile Dundee II is an action comedy. Sure, it taps into the fish out of water stuff but this has a much more cohesive story and it stays on its rails much better. It also goes back into the romance plot but it’s sort of just there to accent the proceedings and to give the stakes depth and meaning, as the love interest is abducted by the villains.

Secondly, Paul Hogan is much more comfortable in the role of Mick Dundee. Not that he wasn’t great in the first movie but in this one, everything comes off as much more natural and it’s as if he really is the character. In fact, when I was a kid, I just kind of assumed this is who he really was and he was just some dude from the Outback that was charismatic enough to get a big break in movies.

Similar to that, Linda Kozlowski is also better in this picture. She seems like she’s come a long way since the first movie, which came out just two years before this one. Her chemistry with Hogan is better and more natural and she’s grown a lot as a character just in being with him and learning from him. She’s kind of a badass in this chapter of the series and where Dundee doesn’t really take the danger seriously, she’s the voice of reason that understands the trouble that they’re in and the monsters that they’re dealing with. All that being said, she has this trait that makes Mick Dundee stronger and more driven and their dynamic in this movie is just really cool to see and far exceeds the awkwardness of their first film together.

This movie is also more action heavy. I love the raid on the drug kingpin’s mansion fortress in the New York City portion of the movie. However, the third and final act that takes place in Australia is really what makes this movie so damn enjoyable. Seeing Dundee use his home field advantage against the drug cartel that is hunting him is clever, fun and showcases all the best aspects of this great and iconic hero.

I think that people mostly have a fond viewpoint of this film now but I remember it getting a lot of hate, back in the day. Or maybe the third film was so bad that by comparison it made this one look better to the haters.

Whatever the case, I’ve always considered this movie to be the best in the franchise. It utilizes the characters much better, has a more cohesive story and also represents the spirit of the franchise in a way that the others just don’t seem to.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Crocodile Dundee movies, as well as other films starring Paul Hogan.

Film Review: Outlaw of Gor (1988)

Also known as: Gor II (US), Outlaw (English TV title)
Release Date: December, 1988 (Germany)
Directed by: John Cardos
Written by: Peter Welbeck, Rick Marx
Based on: Outlaw of Gor by John Norman
Music by: Pino Donaggio
Cast: Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Jack Palance, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier

Breton Film Productions, Cannon International, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Get out of here, you disgusting worm!” – Queen Lara

I’ve never seen the first Gor movie but when something is as wonderfully bad as this is, you don’t really need a bunch of context to enjoy the cheese.

Besides, I had seen this years ago when it was showcased in the fifth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it now, as well.

Sure, it’s going to get a low rating but it’s a bad movie. I will be fairly kind to it, however, as it is chock full of sword and sorcery and science fiction cheesiness that makes it hard to believe that this wasn’t actually an Italian Conan ripoff, which were in abundance in the ’80s.

This is actually an American film and it was even distributed by Cannon Films. However, it did hit European markets first and starred a lot of European actors.

This also has Jack Palance in it and it immediately made me think of Hawk the Slayer, another ’80s sword and sorcery flick that featured Palance as its main antagonist.

The plot is really strange as it sees a normal dude in the normal world end up on another planet where he is basically a warrior king. He also takes along his annoying, doofus friend.

Apart from that, this is a wobbly plot full of ’80s fantasy tropes, sword and sorcery action but mostly forgettable scenes.

Overall, this is nowhere near the upper echelon of ’80s sword and sorcery movies but it also isn’t at the bottom of the barrel. It’s lower than average but still engaging and enjoyable if you’re into these sort of things.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: the first Gor movie, as well as other really low budget sword and sorcery flicks.