Film Review: The Punisher (1989)

Release Date: October 5th, 1989 (Germany)
Directed by: Mark Goldblatt
Written by: Boaz Yakin
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Dennis Dreith
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori

Marvel Entertainment, New World Pictures, 89 Minutes, 76 Minutes (heavily cut), 98 Minutes (workprint version)

Review:

“If you’re guilty, you’re dead.” – Frank Castle

While I know that this isn’t as good as the 2004 Punisher movie, this is still my favorite film of the lot and Dolph Lundgren really embodied the version of Frank Castle that I envisioned as a kid in the late ’80s, just discovering Punisher comics.

I loved the fuck out of this movie when I saw it in 1990, once it hit video store shelves in my area. I would’ve loved to have seen it in the theater but I lived in a small town with small theaters that played it safe, didn’t take risks and have now mostly been replaced with better theaters offering more variety… and alcohol.

Dolph Lundgren is just fucking perfect in this and nothing else about the film really matters. Sure, I like Louis Gossett Jr. but he’s kind of a non-event in the picture, as is everyone else, except the mob boss turned vigilante that helps the Punisher fight ninjas in an effort to rescue his kidnapped son.

This wasn’t made by Cannon, it was in fact made by New World, but it has that Cannon vibe to it albeit with an even cheaper budget. Still, its a solid mix of gritty, ’80s action, a badass hero and more ammo wasted than an Argentinian coup.

One sequence that really stands out is where we get to see the Punisher battle a hoard of machine gun ninjas in a decrepit carnival funhouse. Granted, I also loved the big finale that saw our hero and the mobster douche machine gun the crap out of ninjas.

All in all, this is just a badass flick with uber amounts of testosterone, one of the best, most physically intimidating action stars of all-time and it feels true to the source material. It’s certainly better than everything that came after that Thomas Jane Punisher movie. 

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel live-action films pre-MCU.

Film Review: Tummy Trouble (1989)

Also known as: Roger Rabbit: Tummy Trouble (alternative title)
Release Date: June 23rd, 1989
Directed by: Rob Minkoff, Frank Marshall (live-action part)
Written by: Kevin Harkey, Bill Kopp, Rob Minkoff, Mark Kausler, Patrick A. Ventura
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Lou Hirsch, April Winchell, Corey Burton, Richard Williams

Amblin Entertainment, Silver Screen Partners IV, Walt Disney Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, 7 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ve learned my lesson! I’m a reformed rabbit, a better bunny, a happy hare.” – Roger Rabbit

After the immense success that was 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Disney didn’t waste any time in producing their first Roger Rabbit theatrical short. This one, Tummy Trouble, originally played before Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in the summer of 1989.

While Roger Rabbit didn’t exist before 1988, the character was an homage to the animated shorts of yesteryear, as it channeled the work of other golden age animated shorts by studios like Warner Bros., Disney and Paramount.

With this, Disney took the instantly beloved and bankable character and gave him a legitimate short of his own.

The story sees Roger babysitting Baby Herman, who ends up swallowing his rattle. This prompts Roger to take Herman to the ER only to find himself in a zany, slapstick adventure akin to the work it’s an homage to.

Honestly, this is fantastic. For what it is, it’s damn solid and even if it didn’t bring theatrical animated shorts back to the level of prominence they once had, it did temporarily reinvigorate and re-popularize the medium and concept.

The animation is incredibly good and it’s quality can really be seen in the motion of the action, as well as the colors and how dynamic they are.

I wish Disney had really stuck to their guns and gave us more than three of these in the theater. Every Disney film could have had one of these shorts but they only saved them for just a few films.

Now I know that producing just this short took nine months but Disney could’ve had multiple teams working on putting out a few per year. I think this would’ve really helped their live-action films in that era perform better and it would’ve only grown Roger Rabbit’s popularity. Hell, it could’ve led to a second feature film.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Roger Rabbit shorts, as well as the full-length Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Film Review: Troop Beverly Hills (1989)

Also known as: Be Prepared (working title)
Release Date: March 24th, 1989
Directed by: Jeff Kanew
Written by: Pamela Norris, Margaret Grieco Oberman, Ava Ostern Fries
Music by: Randy Edelman
Cast: Shelley Long, Craig T. Nelson, Betty Thomas, Mary Gross, Stephanie Beacham, Karen Kopins, Jenny Lewis, Emily Schulman, Carla Gugino, Kellie Martin, Tasha Scott, Ami Foster, Audra Lindley, Tori Spelling, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (cameo), Frankie Avalon (cameo), Dr. Joyce Brothers (cameo), Robin Leach (cameo), Cheech Marin (cameo), Ted McGinley (cameo), Pia Zadora (cameo) 

Fries Entertainment, Weintraub Entertainment Group, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Her recommendations for a campsite were totally unsuitable. There were no outlets. And there was dirt, and bugs, and… and it rains there. So anyway, we’ve found a place that’s much more us: the Beverly Hills Hotel.” – Phyllis Nefler

Troop Beverly Hills is the most Shelley Long movie ever made.

What I mean by that is that the film really showcases all of her strengths without even giving her the opportunity to possibly show any flaws. But I’ve always liked Shelley Long and this is the one film, above all others, that made me enjoy her most. And that’s not to take away from her greatest role of all-time, as Diane on Cheers. But as far as film goes, I would call this one her best.

The biggest reason is that she is the star of this picture and while I don’t think that it was written with her specifically in mind, she takes on the material like it’s hers, jumps in the deep end of the pool without a care in the world and gives the audience her great wit and electric charm. It’s impossible not to like her in this, despite her starting out in the film as a super rich housewife addicted to shopping and with no other real ambitions in life. Long makes it work.

I also love that Craig T. Nelson essentially just plays Craig T. Nelson and thus, allows Long to shine as the focal point of the picture. I don’t know if it was intentional or not but Nelson plays this without ego and is only there to help give Long’s character depth and ultimately, he gives her a secondary goal, which is to rekindle their failing marriage.

When I was a kid, I loved this movie. I didn’t care that it was about a bunch of girls in a scout troop. It was relatable to most kids and since I was a boy that was into scouting, I dug that this sort of existed in that world. Plus, all the young girls in this were solid, fun characters that didn’t just need adult guidance and life experience but they also served to be emotional support for Shelley Long and her own issues.

Also, as a kid, I liked the adult parts of the story, as it did a good job of making its point.

That point is that we can’t just coast through life regardless of how easy it may be for some of us. We’ve got to get off our asses, find what makes us happy and work towards it. We all need a purpose.

Troop Beverly Hills teaches its audience that you have to work through your issues, try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone. And while the movie probably doesn’t need to be looked at that deeply, these things are there and it makes it a better movie because of them.

This isn’t a throwaway mindless comedy. Some probably see it that way but it’s positive, kind of uplifting and it has a lighthearted charm that goes beyond just Shelley Long’s performance.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even and Ladybugs.

Film Review: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Also known as: Tetsuo (original title), The Ironman (alternative English title)
Release Date: June, 1989 (Italy – Fantafestival)
Directed by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Written by: Shinya Tsukamoto
Music by: Chu Ishikawa
Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shinya Tsukamoto

Japan Home Video, K2 Spirit, Kaijyu Theater, 67 Minutes (cut down version), 69 Minutes, 77 Minutes (extended cut)

Review:

“Together, we can turn this fucking world to rust!” – Metals Fetishist

While there are some things I appreciate about this film, I actually hate it quite a bit.

It’s an absolute clusterfuck and while that’s what it set out to be, that doesn’t mean that putting the idea on celluloid is a good one.

This film looks like an industrial band’s music video from the late ’80s. And I’m not talking about a good industrial band on a major label, I’m talking about an unsigned band of college kids that have little to no talent that “borrowed” some film equipment for the weekend.

In fact, my only real experience in seeing any part of this film was when clips would be playing on screens in goth clubs in the late ’90s and early ’00s. In that setting with goth rock and industrial blaring through the club, it worked. As a film, not so much and in fact, not at all.

The only thing in this film I can really give props to is some of the special effects. While they’re not mind blowing by any stretch of the imagination, they are at least effective. The drill penis is a scary appendage no matter what side of it you’re on.

Apart from that, this is a shrill, spastic and seizure inducing fever dream. It’s really hard to watch and to digest, as none of it makes a lick of sense and it’s insane just for the hell of it because, you know… it’s fuckin’ art, maaan…

This is pretentious crap that gives films like Eraserhead some actual merit because at least there was something competent in that picture that allowed its director to grow into something better and more refined. Granted, I can’t say whether or not Shinya Tsukamoto actually got better, as I have no urge to delve deeper into his oeuvre after this unwatchable skull fuck.

If you have ever wanted to stare straight into the twitching eye of insanity while loaded up on a cocktail of uppers and hallucinogenics, than this might be your movie. But if it is, stay the fuck away from me, please.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: industrial music videos by bands that never got signed, as well as Japanese surrealist gore flicks.

Film Review: UHF (1989)

Also known as: The Vidiot From UHF (working title)
Release Date: May 26th, 1989
Directed by: Jay Levey
Written by: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Jay Levey
Music by: John Du Prez, “Weird Al” Yankovic
Cast: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards, David Bowe, Victoria Jackson, Fran Drescher, Billy Barty, Gedde Watanabe, Emo Philips (cameo)

Cinecorp SAC, Imaginary Entertainment, Orion Pictures, 97 Minutes, 150 Minutes (rough cut)

Review:

“Oh, Joel Miller, you’ve just found the marble in the oatmeal. You’re a lucky, lucky, lucky little boy. ‘Cause you know why? You get to drink from… the FIRE HOOOOOSE!” – Stanley Spadowski

This was one of those movies I used to put on when I was an adolescent because it was pretty mindless, really fun and it featured a guy who I wish had made more movies: “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Known primarily for making parody pop tunes, Yankovic is a pretty talented guy all around and the fact that he wrote and starred in this “loser gets lucky” flick is impressive. Sure, this is a vanity project but Yankovic didn’t just phone in his performance and rely on a big studio to do all the work and foot the bill.

Now I can understand that this won’t be a film that most people will enjoy, especially in 2020, but it truly displays and showcases the guy’s immense creativity. This also feels like a practice run of what could have been if he continued to make motion pictures. In the long run, he’d just need to refine them a bit more and tell a more cohesive story.

That’s not to say that the story is hard to follow, it isn’t, but the film plays like a series of gags and skits with a really simple narrative just there to try and give them a larger purpose. And that’s fine for what this is.

UHF isn’t just a straight forward, ’80s comedy; it also features music videos by Yankovic, worked into the film through dreams and daydreams. His character here is a real dreamer and he spends a lot of time existing within the fantasy of his own head. Luckily, a lot of that is able to get out and into the real world, as he has to use his creativity to run his uncle’s failing UHF television station.

Over time, the station becomes a big hit, as Yankovic and his group of close friends are able to build something pretty remarkable.

Speaking of his friends, they are made up by a really good cast that includes a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards, a pre-The Nanny Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty and David Bowe.

I think that Yankovic fans will definitely dig the film. Others, maybe not so much. But this is still a lighthearted, positive film that has some hysterical moments. Granted, some of these gags wouldn’t fly today in our overly sensitive and easily offended modern society.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other loser gets lucky comedies: Brewster’s Millions, Chairman of the Board, Tapeheads, Freddy Got Fingered, The Pest, etc.

Film Review: Heathers (1989)

Also known as: Fatal Game, Lethal Attraction, Westerberg High (working titles)
Release Date: January, 1989 (Sundance)
Directed by: Michael Lehmann
Written by: Daniel Waters
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford, Glenn Shadix, Renee Estevez

Cinemarque Entertainment, New World Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Mother Teresa?” – Heather Chandler

When I saw this around 1990, when it hit VHS for the first time, I was pretty blown away by it. I was also eleven years-old and this was some pretty heavy stuff. But by that point, I already saw Christian Slater and Winona Ryder as two of the coolest young actors in Hollywood.

I probably watched Heathers a half dozen times in my youth but it’s now been decades since I’ve revisited it.

Seeing it with pretty fresh eyes, I think the film has aged really well and it is still effective, even if it was made as a sort of “fuck you” to the overly positive and cliche high school movies of the ’80s, specifically the John Hughes ones.

I can’t quite say that this is as good as my memory’s impression of it but I definitely enjoyed it and thought that it was a really well executed black comedy about teen angst in a decade that tried to gloss over some of the real issues young people faced at the time. But it is also a critique on the young yuppie lifestyle that was promoted in lots of the teen films of the era.

That’s not to say that this film was an original concept. These ideas have been explored before its existence but Heathers does it so well that it is the one film people seem to remember the most when it comes to expressing these ideas.

The first act of the film is damn near perfection. However, the second act is a bit of a slog and it seems to lose some of its momentum.

As an adult, you also see Winona Ryder’s character much differently. Where I found her relatable in my youth, you kind of see that she’s pretty much just an evil asshole like her boyfriend. She could’ve gone to the cops, she could’ve stopped him pretty early on in the story. However, she goes along for the ride and somehow turns out to be the hero in the end. Additionally, a lot of the moral dilemmas weren’t things I really dwelled on as much at eleven years-old when watching an edgy movie that felt cool.

The finale was decent but I feel like the climax sort of doesn’t live up to the amount of chaos this picture tried to build up. However, I don’t know how keen ’80s audiences would’ve been on a film that blows up a school with all the kids still inside.

Heathers is really good though, despite my more adult take on it, thirty-ish years later. It resonated with its fans for a reason and even if it bombed in the theater, it definitely deserves the cult status it quickly achieved after it came out on VHS and the word spread. 

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: things that ripped it off like Jawbreaker and Mean Girls.

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Also known as: Nightmare Vacation 3 (UK, Germany)
Release Date: August 4th, 1989 (limited)
Directed by: Michael A. Simpson
Written by: Fritz Gordon
Based on: characters by Robert Hiltzik
Music by: James Oliverio
Cast: Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Mark Oliver, Michael J. Pollard

Double Helix Films, 80 Minutes, 84 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“Good thing you’re dead ’cause in a couple of years your breasts would have been sagging something terrible!” – Angela

Since I recently watched Sleepaway Camp II, I thought that I’d follow that up with a viewing and review of the third movie in the series.

Honestly, this one is pretty much just more of the same and it’s fairly consistent to the one before it. My only really gripe about it is that the kills aren’t as creative as they were in the previous installment.

Now there are a few good kills like the lawnmower one but most of them are pretty basic and repetitive. Usually, we see Angela just beat someone to death with a flimsy branch and then follow that up with a stab or a fire.

Pamela Springsteen is really the glue of these two films, as she’s simply entertaining and commits to the bit so well. Even though these are far from the best slashers or horror comedies out there, I could’ve easily watched her return a few more times to do the same schtick. She’s just funny and has a lot of charm, even when she’s brutally murdering someone.

I liked that this movie brought in Michael J. Pollard, as I’ve always liked the guy. He’s mostly a character actor that most people might recognize from Scrooged or Bonnie & Clyde but he always comes off as enjoyable and likable. In this film, however, he plays a scummy pedophile summer camp owner. While his character is weirdly played up for laughs, he handles the controversial material pretty well and you enjoy seeing him get what was coming to him.

Overall, this is a goofy, violent picture that actually doesn’t push the gore as hard as I had hoped for a late ’80s slasher picture but it’s still amusing, entertaining and it kept me distracted from the pandemic that has taken over the world in 2020.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Sleepaway Camp films, as well as the Friday the 13th film series and The Burning.

Film Review: Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

Also known as: Gojira vs. Biorante (original Japanese title), Godzilla 1990 (South Korea)
Release Date: December 16th, 1989 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuki Ōmori
Written by: Kazuki Ōmori, Shinichirō Kobayashi
Music by: Koichi Sugiyama
Cast: Kunihiko Mitamura, Yoshiko Tanaka, Masanobu Takashima, Megumi Odaka, Toru Minegishi, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Yoshiko Kuga, Ryunosuke Kaneda, Kōji Takahashi

Toho Co. Ltd., 104 Minutes, 83 Minutes (VHS screener cut)

Review:

“Godzilla and Biollante aren’t monsters. It’s the unscrupulous scientists who create them that are monsters.” – Dr. Shiragami

This is the hardest of all Godzilla movies to track down if you didn’t actually buy the VHS, DVD or Blu-ray when they came out. It’s been out of print for years and if you want a copy, you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for it. Luckily, I had a hook up because I was too poor to buy this way back when it came out and as much as I love the movie, I’m not going to pay nearly $100 for a copy now.

Anyway, we never got a real sequel to Godzilla vs. Hedorah due to Toho hating it when it came out in 1971. However, this is a sort of spiritual sequel to it in that it pits Godzilla against another environmental threat… or in this case, a biological one.

After the lukewarm reception to The Return of Godzilla and the complete failure of the United States’ King Kong Lives, Toho was really cautious about rushing out another kaiju sequel. Although, the success of The Little Shop of Horrors remake got their attention and I’d have to assume that the plant monster designed for this film was somewhat inspired by the plant monster from that picture.

Although, Toho did hold a writing contest to see if fans could come up with a great Godzilla story worth telling. So I’m not sure how much of this came from fan input or from Toho’s writers trying to emulate The Little Shop of Horrors.

Needless to say, the studio was looking for a new kind of threat for Godzilla to fight and they wanted something fresh that was born out of science run amok. Where Godzilla was born out of man experimenting with atomic energy, Biollante was born out of man experimenting with biological engineering.

The end result is one of the coolest kaiju ever created, as well as one of the greatest threats Godzilla ever faced. Additionally, the monster, like Hedorah before her, had different stages of evolution throughout the movie. This would also go on to start a trend that saw Godzilla fight monsters that would evolve into more dangerous versions of themselves as movies progressed.

Godzilla vs. Biollante is one of my favorite films in the Heisei era and honestly, one of my favorite, overall. It just looks fantastic, I love the monsters and the effects and this boasts some of the best kaiju on kaiju violence in the franchise. Between the early fight where Godzilla fights Biollante in her flower form to the big, grand finale, everything in regards to the kaiju action is tremendous!

I also really like the story, I thought the actors were better than average for these sort of pictures and this movie has pretty solid cinematography for something from the tokusatsu genre.

Plus, this movie just has an epic feel to it that builds off of the spectacle of its predecessor in a great way.

This is one of the best looking and most interesting chapters in the long running franchise.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Heisei era Godzilla films, as well as Godzilla vs. Hedorah.

Film Review: Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Release Date: July 5th, 1989 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Jeffrey Boam, Shane Black, Warren Murphy
Music by: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton, David Sanborn
Cast: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Joss Ackland, Derrick O’Connor, Patsy Kensit, Darlene Love, Traci Wolfe, Steve Kahan, Mary Ellen Trainor, Jenette Goldstein, Dean Norris, Kenneth Tigar

Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., 114 Minutes, 108 Minutes (cut), 118 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

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

This is my favorite Lethal Weapon movie and in fact, it’s pretty close to perfect on every level.

While most people probably see the first film as the best, I enjoy this one slightly more because it builds off of that foundation and makes it better. Also, this is the film that added in Joe Pesci, who had an amazing dynamic with Gibson and Glover and made this power duo a superpowered trio.

I also prefer the criminal plot in this movie and it takes more of a front seat, as the first film was primarily about dealing with Riggs’ personal problems and overcoming them.

That’s not to say that Riggs’ emotions don’t get the better of him in this film, they do, but the story and the context as to why are much more apparent and the tragedy that befalls his character actually happens in front of your eyes in this chapter. It makes more of an emotional impact on the viewer and because of what he’s already overcome, you understand his drive in the third act of the film and you root for him, and Murtaugh, in a way that you didn’t in the first picture.

Additionally, the villains are fucking superb. Joss Ackland is at his all-time best in this movie as the villainous, racist, South African diplomat, hiding behind legal red tape. I also like Derrick O’Connor as the top henchman. He isn’t quite on Busey’s level from the first movie but he is much better than the standard henchman from most action films of a similar style.

Overall, Lethal Weapon 2 takes the formula that was already established and perfects it. It adds to the series without taking anything away while having a swifter pace that doesn’t leave room for unnecessary filler. The characters are developed more in this chapter and all that is done organically as the story progresses. This is a finely written motion picture that understands the balance it needs between the action genre, comedy, drama and character building. It masters this in ways that other similar films have struggled.

There isn’t a bad thing I can say about the movie, really. It’s just awesome, top to bottom. It has everything I want in a Lethal Weapon movie and none of the stuff I don’t.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Lethal Weapon films, as well as most ’80s buddy action movies.

Film Review: Future Force (1989)

Also known as: C.O.P.S. (Sweden)
Release Date: November 9th, 1989
Directed by: David A. Prior
Written by: David A. Prior
Music by: Mark Mancina, Steve McClintock
Cast: David Carradine, Anna Rapagna, Robert Tessier, William Zipp, D.C. Douglas, Kimberly Casey

Action International Pictures (AIP), Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, 84 Minutes

Review:

“David Harris? I’m John Tucker, Civilian Operated Police. You have committed a crime and are presumed guilty. You have a right to die. If you choose to relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest and imprisoned. I haven’t got all night.” – Tucker

This movie is nowhere near as badass as its poster implies.

Also, for a David A. Prior action flick, this one is pretty goddamned dull.

I like Prior films like Deadly Prey and The Final Sanction. Even though they are over the top action films full of cheese, violence and men with more testicles than just a pair apiece, Future Force doesn’t quite bring the same level of badass, insane intensity.

Although there is a pretty sweet and bizarre scene where Carraidne’s cyborg glove starts flying around trying to knockout the baddie.

The film was also kind of a letdown when I saw it as a kid because the police force in this movie is called C.O.P.S., so my little mind in 1989 thought this might be a live action C.O.P.S., you know, that cool cartoon that came on after school in the afternoons. But no, it has no association and rightfully so, as this is one big ass glass of suck.

Hell, I can’t believe that Carradine followed up Bird On A Wire with this, as Bird should’ve brought his career back up into the mainstream. He was a solid f’n villain in that and then six months later, he’s doing this movie?! I can only assume that he got paid in video arcade tokens because that’s not real money and he was high on coke and thought it was actual gold. I hope the studio at least sent pizza to his trailer. Wait… who am I kidding? He probably had a wheelbarrow.

Anyway, this is boring, uneventful, Carradine looks bored and out of shape and it’s one of Prior’s worst films, which if you’ve seen his movies, is a really, really low bar.

There is a RiffTrax version of this you can watch though, if you feel compelled to do so.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel Future Zone, as well as other action schlock with David Carradine from the mid-’70s through the ’90s.