Film Review: Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Also known as: Majo no takkyûbin (original Japanese title, lit. Witch’s Special Express Delivery) 
Release Date: July 29th, 1989 (Japan)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Based on: Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Japanese Language: Minami Takayama, Rei Sakuma, Keiko Toda, Kappei Yamaguchi, Koichi Yamadera; English Language: Kirsten Dunst, Phil Hartman, Tress MacNeille, Janeane Garofalo, Matthew Lawrence, Debbie Reynolds, Edie McClurg, Pamela Segall, Lewis Arquette

Kiki’s Delivery Service Production Committee, Nibariki, Nippon Television Network, Studio Ghibli, Toei, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly. Now I’m trying to look inside myself and find out how I did it.” – Kiki

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a pretty cute movie. Well, not as cute as My Neighbor Totoro but that film is on a different level of cuteness.

Here, we meet a teenage witch that goes off into the world to train as a witch but also has to survive and thus, gets a delivery job for a baker that also lets her live upstairs.

Ultimately, this is a sweet coming of age story where the character is full of doubt and lacks confidence but has to find those things within herself and does.

If you don’t love the character of Kiki, you’re probably not a human being. Also, her cat Jiji is the perfect feline sidekick. I loved the hell out of him, especially in the English language dub where he’s voiced by Phil Hartman, sadly in one of his last roles.

The American voice cast in this is great all around, though. While I typically watch anime with subtitles because of their history of shitty dubs, the second generation English dubbings of the Studio Ghibli films are top notch and it’s this one that really solidified it for me.

Overall, this is a great feel good movie that should appeal to all ages but especially kids closing in on their teenage years.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

Release Date: February 9th, 1989 (Barcelona premiere)
Directed by: Ted Kotcheff
Written by: Robert Klane
Music by: Andy Summers
Cast: Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser, Catherine Mary Stewart, Don Calfa

Gladden Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 97 Minutes

Review:

“What kind of a host invites you to his house for the weekend and dies on you?” – Larry Wilson

When this movie came out, I fucking loved the shit out of it. I never quite understood why but over the years, I still find myself revisiting it every so often because it’s just good, hilarious escapism. It also still amazes me how committed Terry Kiser was at playing a dead guy.

Also, Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman are great in this and they have such natural chemistry that one would have to assume that they were good friends in real life or had become good friends while making this movie. It’s their camaraderie and charm as a duo that also salvaged the very weak sequel.

For those who have never seen this, the story follows two young corporate guys that find a very questionable accounting error and bring it to their boss’ attention in an effort to finally move up the corporate ladder. However, that boss is the one committing fraud, so he invites the duo to his beach mansion in an effort to have them killed. However, the boss’ mobster friend decides to have his hitman kill the boss instead. When the duo arrives at the house, they discover their dead boss but ultimately decide to pretend that he’s alive so they can enjoy the weekend before calling the cops. This confuses the hitman and ultimately puts the target on the duo’s back as well.

The story has noir vibes but I wouldn’t really put it in that genre, as this is really just a goofy buddy comedy and focuses more on their antics with the dead guy than the crime and murder part of the story. Granted, there is still a big showdown with the hitman, that plays well and is really funny in a juvenile, slapstick sort of way.

The film also features Catherine Mary Stewart, a favorite actress of mine since I saw her in The Last Starfighter and Night of the Comet. She plays a love interest for Jonathan Silverman but I thought she was underutilized and really put on the backburner for most of the movie. But she does get to be involved in the finale where the hitman shows up at the house with his two new targets still inside.

Even though this movie feels very ’80s, it’s weirdly timeless in that it could take place anywhere. The gags, as goofy as they are, just work and a lot of that is because of how greatly Terry Kiser embraced the role of playing a dead guy out on adventures.

I can’t say that this is as good of a movie as I thought it was when I was eleven years-old but I still enjoy it enough to throw it on every few years.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: The War of the Roses (1989)

Release Date: December 4th, 1989 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Written by: Michael J. Leeson
Based on: The War of the Roses by Warren Adler
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sagebrecht, Dan Castellaneta, Sean Astin, G.D. Spradlin, Roy Brocksmith

Regency International Pictures, Gracie Films, Twentieth Century Fox, 116 Minutes

Review:

“I think you owe me a solid reason. I worked my ass off for you and the kids to have a nice life and you owe me a reason that makes sense. I want to hear it.” – Oliver Rose, “Because. When I watch you eat. When I see you asleep. When I look at you lately, I just want to smash your face in.” – Barbara Rose

When this came out, I remember my mum rushing out to see it based off of her love of Romancing the Stone and to a lesser extent, The Jewel of the Nile. I then remember her coming home upset because it didn’t have a happy ending and in fact, had a really dark, tragic one. While my mum was a fan of comedy and romance pictures, she was never too keen on black comedy or dark humor in general.

I had never seen this one until now. Sure, I had seen scenes and knew how it would end but I was always kind of disappointed that in the final act of the Douglas-Turner-DeVito trilogy we didn’t get another fun adventure movie akin to their previous films together. I’m still kind of bummed we never got a third Romancing the Stone film but Turner wasn’t happy with The Jewel of the Nile and most people saw it as a big step down.

Anyway, this certainly isn’t a bad film and I find it more palatable than my mum did. But I’ve also always loved dark humor because I was a teenage male in the ’90s and everyone was an edgy boi in love with edgy shit. Also, watching Turner start to go off the deep end in this reminded me a lot of another one of her movies I love: Serial Mom.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this. It’s hard watching this married couple fall apart, though. Also, by the end of the story, neither of them are good people. They just become obsessed with trying to hurt one another and its a game of escalating one-upmanship that ends in their demise.

Some of this really stung because the performances were so good and after the setup and their backstory, it’s hard watching things fall apart and to the extreme extent that they do. I also think that in my mind, as it’s still fresh, and in many people’s minds, we were still in love with the couple we got in their two other movies.

Danny DeVito was just kind of there to be the eyes and ears of the audience, observing and ultimately reporting and telling the story to a client in his office. DeVito starts out as this sort of sleazy lawyer but evolves, as the tale rolls on.

In the end, this isn’t the way I wanted to see this creative partnership between these three great talents end but for decades, this was it. At least Kathleen Turner popped up as Michael Douglas’ ex-wife in his show The Kominsky Method, which I’ve heard is good. I’ll probably give it a watch down the road. Danny DeVito appeared on the show, as well.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Stepfather 2: Make Room For Daddy (1989)

Also known as: Stepfather II (original title)
Release Date: November 3rd, 1989
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Written by: John Auerbach
Music by: Jim Manzie
Cast: Terry O’Quinn, Meg Foster, Caroline Williams, Jonathan Brandis

Millimeter Films, Part II Productions, ITC Productions, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Haven’t I been like a father to that boy? I even had sex with you for Chrissake!” – Gene Clifford

Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but it’s still a good, slasher-y, black comedy. And while this isn’t really comedy, Terry O’Quinn is just so damn entertaining and kind of goofy as the murderous stepfather.

I think the thing that really makes this chapter in the trilogy of films stand out on its own is the rest of the cast.

First, you have Meg Foster, who I always appreciated in They Live and Masters of the Universe. You’ve also got Caroline Williams, who I will always associate with Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, my favorite film in that series. Lastly, you’ve got a really young Jonathan Brandis just before he’d go on to do The NeverEnding Story II and a slew of other movies.

The four main actors in this all play off of each other really well. I especially liked the tension between O’Quinn and Williams, as she continued to put him on the defensive by investigating who he really was.

Brandis was really impressive, as he was still really young but he wasn’t annoying and carried his own alongside the rest of the cast.

For the most part, this movie repeats the beats of the first one but even if it’s a bit derivative, O’Quinn hams it up and makes it interesting. Also, when he turns psycho on a dime, it’s convincing.

There is a third movie that came out a few years later, which O’Quinn didn’t return for. I’m not super enthused about checking it out because of that but I may still give it a watch to review it in the near future.

Rating: 6.5/10

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.