Film Review: Ninja Academy (1989)

Release Date: August 17th, 1989 (UK, video)
Directed by: Nico Mastorakis
Written by: Jonathan D. Gift
Music by: Jerry Grant
Cast: Will Egan, Gerald Okamura, Kelly Randall

Omega Entertainment, 88 Minutes

Review:

“[his only line, after punching a ninja] That’s one dumb son of a bitch.” – The Mime

This is one of those movies that I used to catch on one of the premium cable channels, late at night, when I was like twelve. I thought it was funny enough to watch multiple times when I was that young but I also loved the Police Academy movies and all the other “Academy” films that came out trying to emulate it’s style and success.

While this isn’t as good as the first four or five Police Academy movies, it is at least better than the worst one.

That being said, this involves two rival ninja schools. One is run by an asshole American and has competent ninjas, the other is run by a virtuous Japanese master and his daughter with a new crew of ninjas that are all fish out of water, tripping over their own feet.

As these things go, the bumbling newbs are a joke but they have to band together and overcome the real challenge that awaits them. Eventually, there is a big ninja academy showdown and the losers have to rise to the occasion and become the winners. We’ve all seen a version of this story a hundred times… or, at least, I have.

Anyway, each of the main characters has some sort of gimmick or personality trait that makes them basic archetypes. There’s the cool guy, the cool girl, the slutty girl, the gun nut, the nerd, a fucking mime and a few others. Man, I loved the fucking ninja mime and the the war veteran, gun nut, who was actually a coward… until he wasn’t.

Overall, this is a bad movie and a dumb movie and the vast majority of modern filmgoers will probably hate it. I don’t… but I also really liked these sort of movies way back and it’s definitely not the worst of them.

Although, the fight choreography is beyond atrocious.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Fletch Lives (1989)

Also known as: Fletch Saved (working title)
Release Date: March 17th, 1989
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Leon Capetanos
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Chevy Chase, Hal Holbrook, Julianne Phillips, R. Lee Ermey, Richard Libertini, Cleavon Little, Randall “Tex” Cobb, George Wyner, Geoffrey Lewis, Richard Belzer, Phil Hartman

Cornelius Productions, Vincent Pictures, Universal Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. I am not a big man.” – Fletch

I was surprised that I liked this film as much as I did.

The reason being, I remember people trashing it pretty heavily when it came out. While I used to see pieces of it on television over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in its entirety in one viewing. But people did always say that this was a pretty shitty sequel and not on the level of the original.

Well, it’s not as good as Fletch but Fletch Lives is still a pretty funny movie that’s tailormade for Chevy Chase’s strengths. So while I have a much higher opinion of this movie than the majority, I feel like maybe I should defend it, as I feel like it probably deserves that.

I think that the new setting of the film actually helps it and makes it fresh. I liked seeing Fletch go to the bayou to expose some seedy shit. I also liked how they used it to emphasize the cultural clash between an L.A. investigative reporter and the Cajun folk, ranging from the good Southerners to the outright racist pieces of shit. I also loved the televangelical angle and R. Lee Ermey’s role as the megachurch pastor.

Beyond Ermey, I also enjoyed the great Hal Holbrook playing a crooked Cajun millionaire.

Additionally, I liked the chemistry between Chase and the film’s leading lady, Julianne Phillips.

Chase also had solid camaraderie with Cleavon Little. Seeing those two comedic icons come together is a real treat regardless of the perceived quality of the film.

This installment of the series relies more on Chase wearing funny costumes while “undercover”. I really like these sequences, though, and I like seeing Chase play odd characters.

Overall, Fletch Lives is pretty solid and I say that as a guy who was never a big Chase fan. However, I do really enjoy him as this character and I honestly think it’s his best.

Sadly, we never did get that third Fletch picture and I’m pretty sure the ship has sailed on that.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: Shocker (1989)

Also known as: Shocker: No More Mr. Nice Guy (alternative title)
Release Date: October 27th, 1989
Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Wes Craven
Music by: William Goldstein
Cast: Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, Cami Cooper, Mitch Pileggi, Ted Raimi, Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Kane Roberts, Dr. Timothy Leary, Jessica Craven, John Tesh

Alive Films, Carolco Pictures, Universal Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“We can’t go killing people just to get Pinker out of their bodies.” – Jonathan Parker

As I’ve stated in other reviews, I’m really not a big fan of Wes Craven outside of A Nightmare On Elm Street. He was always in the same conversations with John Carpenter but his body of work is weak sauce in comparison, regardless of Elm Street being one of the best horror films of the decade.

Shocker is no different and because I’m not super keen on Craven, I had actually never seen it until now. In fact, I remember seeing the trailer for it when I was ten years-old and thinking it looked stupid as hell.

While I don’t mean to sound overly harsh, that’s kind of how I felt about a lot of Craven’s stuff when trailers would drop.

This movie was a total clusterfuck, It tried to do way too much with its story and didn’t really let anything settle into place before throwing more layers of papier-mâché onto the still wet pieces beneath.

At first its a slasher movie, then it becomes some weird ass shit where the killer travels through TVs, electricity, infrared waves and satellite dishes while the killer also travels in and out of other people’s bodies, so that you’re always guessing who the killer could be. So basically, there’s three concepts all wedged into one movie and Craven never really seems to fully commit to any of it.

Not to mention, the main kid that the killer wants to kill has some sort of psychic connection to the killer. Why? Who the fuck knows, man?!

The only real positive about the film is Mitch Pileggi, who plays the killer. Most people remember him for playing Skinner on The X-Files. It’s cool seeing him in this role, as his character is so over the top and batshit crazy that it’s a huge contrast to the character he’s become most famous for. Plus, I’ve always liked the hell out of Pileggi and this is worth a watch if you feel the same way. Without him, this movie would’ve been the worst in Craven’s filmography. He, at least, makes it palatable to a point.

Rating: 4/10

Film Review: Things (1989)

Release Date: September, 1989
Directed by: Andrew Jordan
Written by: Andrew Jordan, Barry J. Gillis
Music by: Jack Procher
Cast: Barry J. Gillis, Amber Lynn, Bruce Roach, Doug Bunston, Jan W. Pachul, Patricia Sadler

Exosphere Motion Pictures, Left Field Productions, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Next time I bring you with me I’m leaving you at home.” – Don Drake

Every time that I think I may have discovered the worst film ever made, something else falls out of the sewer pipes and right into my lap. This time, it came courtesy of Joe Bob Briggs on his show The Last Drive-In.

Those of you who have been around Talking Pulp for awhile, probably know about my lifelong respect and admiration for Joe Bob Briggs. Hell, years back, I wrote a piece called Joe Bob Briggs – A Texan of Exquisite Taste and a Man Who Influenced a Generation.

So this epic betrayal really hit me like a kangaroo punch to the gonads. Sure, my good friend Joe Bob has shown me some really shitty movies over the decades I’ve been watching his various shows on various networks but nothing was even close to being quite this bad.

This was shown on what Joe Bob was calling “VHS Night” and it was paired with Sledgehammer, another VHS horror relic that was filmed on video, as opposed to traditional film. As rough as that film was to get through, this one really elevated Sledgehammer and by comparison, made it look like the Citizen Kane of primitive video horror.

Nothing in this film makes sense, the characters aren’t likable or relatable and everything that could go wrong from a production standpoint… did!

Well, at least the movie featured porn star Amber Lynn. However, even that was handled abysmally bad, as she stays fully clothed in all her scenes and just reads fake news reports off of a cue card that makes her look away from the camera and off to the side.

Normally, I’d be happy to see these guys use practical effects but even the creatures in this movie were terrible. They were basically large plastic ants with sharp teeth glued to their poorly crafted mouths.

Even with the added commentary of Joe Bob, Darcy and special guest Chris Jericho, this movie was incredibly hard to get through.

In the end, I’ve now seen it and I never have to watch it again.

As for Joe Bob, this whole ordeal reminds me of the time my Uncle Denny told me he had WrestleMania tickets but instead, took me to some outlaw wrestling mud show in what I can only assume was the same violent, fantastical, redneck Florida town where Two Thousand Maniacs! took place.

Rating: 0/10
Pairs well with: other horror films shot on video. Also, dental surgery without painkillers.

Film Review: Gunhed (1989)

Also known as: Ganheddo (original Japanese title), Robot War (Germany), Killer Tank (Philippines)
Release Date: July 22nd, 1989 (Japan)
Directed by: Masato Harada
Written by: Masato Harada, James Bannon
Music by: Toshiyuki Honda
Cast: Masahiro Takashima, Brenda Bakke, Yujin Harada, Kaori Mizushima

3D, Bandai Entertainment Inc., Graphical Corporation Crowd Inc., Nippon Sunrise, Kadokawa, Imagica, Toho Co. Ltd., 100 Minutes

Review:

Gunhed is a movie that I’ve wanted to watch since first seeing a trailer for it on a VHS tape I rented in the early ’90s. None of my local video stores ended up getting a copy and once I got a job at one of those stores, I wasn’t able to order it because, by then, it was out of print.

It also never saw print in the US after that, as far as I know. I would’ve bought it on DVD but I never came across one.

However, I finally stumbled across this streaming on an old movie archive site. So without hesitation, I figured I should watch it while I had the opportunity because who knows how long it could last there before being pulled down.

Gunhed not only piqued my interest with its trailer about thirty years ago but I had heard James Cameron mention that it was a favorite movie of his. Being that he was once one of my favorite directors, especially in the era that this film came out in, made me want to check it out even more.

Sadly, it didn’t live up to my expectations but looking at it through rose-colored glasses for three decades probably didn’t do it any favors.

That being said, I did still like it and thought it was a cool flick with pretty solid special effects, considering the budget and the era in which it was made. 

I mostly liked the characters but I was distracted by how bad the dubbing was in the version that I watched. Honestly, it might have not been perfectly synched due to it being uploaded in mediocre quality.

The film is also a bit slow, at times. However, the big action sequences do pay off and if you dig cyberpunk shit, you’ll probably enjoy the high points of this movie.

This was cool and interesting enough that it probably could’ve been adapted into a manga series or an anime film or show. Then again, there are already a lot of cyberpunk options in those mediums. Plus, super tanks and mecha are a dime a dozen in late ’80s/early ’90s Japanese fiction.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other cyberpunk films from the ’80s and ’90s, specifically those from Japan whether live-action or anime.

Film Review: Christmas Vacation (1989)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (complete title)
Release Date: November 30th, 1989 (Australia)
Directed by: Jeremiah S. Chechik
Written by: John Hughes
Based on: characters by John Hughes
Music by: Angelo Badalamenti
Cast: Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph, Diane Ladd, E.G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Miriam Flynn, William Hickey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nicholas Guest, Brian Doyle-Murray, Sam McMurray

National Lampoon, Hughes Entertainment, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes

Review:

Worse? How could things get any worse? Take a look around here, Ellen. We’re at the threshold of hell.” – Clark Griswold

I know that this is many people’s favorite Christmas movie but I also don’t trust people who say this. Seriously, this is the most beloved thing that you have to revisit every December? This?

Honestly, out of the Vacation films, I think that this one is, by far, the worst. It just doesn’t appeal to me and it’s full of really unlikable characters that are selfish and stupid.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been a Chevy Chase fan and think he’s rarely funny. He just makes dumb faces and fucks up all the time. But I guess dumb people need a dumb “comedian” to make them cackle.

The one thing working against this film is that it breaks the framework of what these movies should be, which is a vacation that takes the family on a trip. Here, they just host a bunch of unlikable assholes in their own home on a street that looks like it’s a festive matte painting, static and devoid of any real life.

Half the movie deals with Chase trying to get Christmas lights to work. This would’ve been fine as a one or two scene gag but it’s like half of the f’n film. The other half is him failing at everything else while also pissing off his ungrateful family and terrorizing Elaine from Seinfeld and her effeminate, yuppie, bitch boy husband.

I also hate the theme of this movie, which gets stuck in my head for weeks if I even hear a few notes.

Kids I always hated, always wanted to watch this movie. I was always like, “Let’s watch Scrooged or Gremlins or Die Hard!” And they’d be like, “This is my house! We watch Chebby Chabe! So funny!” These kids always had the shittiest Nintendo games too.

Anyway, I have to sort of grin it and bear it whenever this movie is on around the holidays, as my family tends to watch everything Christmas-y on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But then I usually pick that time to go outside and escape loud kids and drunk aunts, as I stare blankly at the lake pondering about how humans evolved from lake slime over millions of years and somehow, one of them evolved into Chevy Chase. It’s one of the cosmos’ greatest mysteries.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Vacation movies, as well as other National Lampoon films.

Film Review: She’s Out of Control (1989)

Also known as: Daddy’s Little Girl (working title)
Release Date: April 14th, 1989
Directed by: Stan Dragoti
Written by: Seth Winston, Michael J. Nathanson
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Tony Danza, Catherine Hicks, Ami Dolenz, Laura Mooney, Wallace Shawn, Derek McGrath, Lance Wilson-White, Dana Ashbrook, Matthew Perry, Dick O’Neil, Dustin Diamond, Oliver Muirhead, Todd Bridges, Robbie Rist

Weintraub Entertainment Group, Upstart Productions, Columbia Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, wow. Yale, perfect. At last, perfect. Home by 11, perfect. I, uh… wait a minute. Chapter 52. He’s too perfect!” – Doug Simpson

I kind of wish that this movie would’ve at least been a moderate hit, as it would’ve helped transition Tony Danza from a television megastar to a real player in motion pictures. I love Danza and I think he could’ve had a pretty solid comedic film career had he had the right projects to be a part of.

Now I’m not saying that this was a bad project, I actually like it and always have. However, I feel like this movie’s lack of success at the box office prematurely sealed Danza’s fate in the realm of being a comedic force in film.

This is an amusing movie and I like a lot of the people in it but the script did feel a bit weak and the jokes and gags weren’t all that memorable. I guess the reason I like it though is the general premise and because Danza felt perfect in the role of a single father dealing with his teen daughter first discovering boys.

Additionally, I thought Ami Dolenz was really good as the daughter and I always wished she had done more mainstream pictures instead of being one of the early ’90s queens of direct-to-VHS flicks.

I also enjoyed Dana Ashbrook and Matthew Perry in this as two different boyfriends of Dolenz’s character. I also got enjoyment out of Catherine Hicks’ performances, as well as Wallace Shawn, who plays the seedy radio show host that gets in Danza’s ear, pushing him down a parenting path that drives a wedge between himself and his daughter.

Overall, though, this is a goofy, amusing, lighthearted picture. It’s charming escapism and a pretty decent and fun way to waste an hour and a half.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s teen comedies and Tony Danza’s hit television show, Who’s the Boss?

Film Review: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

Release Date: May 12th, 1989
Directed by: Arthur Hiller
Written by: Earl Barret, Arne Sultan, Eliot Wald, Andrew Kurtzman, Gene Wilder, Marvin Worth
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Joan Severance, Kevin Spacey, Alan North, Anthony Zerbe, Zach Grenier

TriStar Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Today I threatened to shoot a naked woman with my erection.” – Dave

I love Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. I especially love when they team up.

Starting with one of the latter team up films may seem weird but this was actually the first one I saw. I also got to experience it in the theater and its the first time my mum took me to a movie with boobies in it, so I had to try and dodge her hand as she attempted to shield my eyes from the mesmerizing and perfect Joan Severance.

While this is far from a great film and not close to the best of either man’s career, their chemistry is infectious and they’re so great at the buddy formula that there’s just something endearing about this and it’s a movie with genuine heart and soul in it.

Pryor plays a blind man and Wilder plays a deaf man. That is the setup for nearly all the jokes in the movie but even if that sounds like it’d get old really fast, they come up with several clever gags that work throughout the film and the formula doesn’t get as tired as one would expect. Also, it kind of draws awareness to the limitations of those handicaps even though it’s using them for humor. A film like this would probably be shunned in our current PC climate but in 1989, we still knew how to laugh and also understood that sometimes that’s an effective way of dealing with difficult and uncomfortable things.

Not having seen this in years, I forgot that it had Kevin Spacey in it, as well as character actors Anthony Zerbe and Zach Grenier. Joan Severance steals all the scenes she’s in, though, and I was always kind of surprised that her career didn’t take off after this, Bird On A Wire and No Holds Barred. Well, okay… I can see why no one views No Holds Barred as anything other than a cheesy, vanity film for a professional wrestler that essentially just played himself.

In this film, a man is murdered and a careless mistake makes the two stars the prime suspects. Heck, the only suspects. They have to work together to escape the police, clear their names and take down the bad guys. Most importantly, they find true friendship and as corny as this film can get in certain moments, this is where the heart really comes in.

You could tell that these guys loved each other in real life and many of their conversations felt organic and natural even if they usually centered around their characters’ disabilities.

I definitely like this movie more than most people but it’s great escapism, carries a good, positive message and it’s hard not to feel better about life once the credits roll. 

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other comedies with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.

Film Review: Savage Beach (1989)

Release Date: October, 1989
Directed by: Andy Sidaris
Written by: Andy Sidaris
Music by: Gary Stockdale
Cast: Dona Speir, Hope Marie Carlton, John Aprea, Bruce Penhall, Al Leong, James Lew, Andy Sedaris (uncredited)

Malibu Bay Films, 92 Minutes

Review:

“The cancer clutches ever tighter at my heart.” – Admiral Kenji Inada

This is the fourth movie in the twelve film Triple B Series by director, Andy Sidaris. While I enjoyed the first three quite a bit, by this point, I feel like these movies are losing steam.

Savage Beach is just more of the same but it also lacks the energy and charming amusement that made the first three films so enjoyable.

Now I still like this picture for the most part but it has more working against it than for it and it’s the first movie in the series to feel that way to me.

This is simply a movie about taking scantily clad (and sometimes naked) hot chicks, giving them guns and giving them stuff to shoot at or blow up.

We’re reunited with the same female duo that has been featured in the previous two movies but without the film’s trailer pointing that out, I either wouldn’t have noticed or cared. These movies are full of so many generic Playmate types that they all just blend together in my brain.

Overall, this is lacking in action when compared to the earlier movies and it all seems a bit pointless.

If I’m being honest, as much as I like Malibu Express and Hard Ticket to Hawaii, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get through all twelve of these films when I’m only at the fourth one and it feels extremely derivative and kind of boring, even with boobs and explosions.

Rating: 4.75/10
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: Deadly Games (1989)

Also known as: 36.15 code Père Noël (original French title), Game Over, Dial Code Santa Claus
Release Date: March 18th, 1989 (France – Laon Film Festival of Youth and Children’s Films)
Directed by: René Manzor
Written by: René Manzor
Music by: Jean-Félix Lalanne
Cast: Alain Lalanne, Louis Ducreux, Brigitte Fossey, Stéphane Legros, Patrick Floersheim, François-Éric Gendron

L.M. Productions, Deal, Garance,, 87 Minutes

Review:

If you already thought that French movies were weird, this one will only solidify that assessment.

Man, this is some seriously bonkers shit but at the same time, I really liked it for the most part, as it featured a Home Alone-esque plot, written and shot before Home Alone, actually, which sees a kid have to protect himself and his diabetic, nearly blind grandfather from a home invader. All the while, this kid uses gadgets and traps to try and evade this sinister Christmas intruder.

Now there are some major differences from Home Alone. For one, this is really fucking dark and definitely not a kids’ movie despite premiering at a film festival for children’s flicks. Also, this isn’t about a goofy duo of holiday burglars, the invader in this film is a derelict hobo with a Santa obsession that murders those in his way and sets off to a country mansion to play a deadly game with a young boy.

The movie is strange in that French way that’s hard to describe but it’s something I notice in a lot of French horror and it has to do with the storytelling and its lack of any sort of logic. You see the kid get the psycho Santa killer in a real pickle, multiple times, but for some nonsensical reason, he doesn’t finish him off. One example of this is when he and his grandpa are in the car and the killer Santa is in front of them. The grandpa tells the kid to essentially “Gun it!” and the kid goes, “I can’t he’s in front of the car!” Yeah, no shit French kid, that’s why you run him the fuck down! Watch more American movies!

Also, somehow it seems like the killer Santa knows the house better than the kid that lives in it and he can only appear in certain places at certain moments if he has the power of teleportation.

Maybe I’m being an asshole and nitpicking but multiple things like that happen in the film and then the kid is super clever but then an idiot too, as he’s always leaving himself open for the killer to get to him. This makes me think that maybe French people just aren’t logical, tactical thinkers which may explain a lot.

What I love most about this movie is how imaginative it is. The house is simply fucking cool and impressive. The sets are great and the hidden toy room is just someplace you want to see in real life, even as an adult.

Overall, this is a strange ass movie that will leave you scratching your head a lot. However, it’s also incredibly unique and definitely a very different experience than any other movie I’ve ever seen, which at this point, has been thousands.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other weird, nonsensical French horror, I guess.