Documentary Review: Funhouse (1997)

Release Date: 1997

Discovery Channel, 44 Minutes

Review:

I remember seeing this on the Discovery Channel when it was new. It always stuck with me and after becoming a fan of the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld, I wanted to try and track this down to revisit.

Sadly, there is no information about it online. There isn’t even an IMDb page. As I like to list the credits for everything I review, it sucks that I can’t give the proper people the credit they deserve for this cool little documentary that has stuck with me for 22 years.

Seeing it now, it was still a lot of fun and the real high point is where it showcases local, lesser known theme parks throughout the country. The two main ones that we get a peek at here are Bushkill Park and Kennywood, both from Pennsylvania.

What’s extra special about seeing this now, is that since this documentary, Bushkill Park has fallen into disrepair and doesn’t function as a full park anymore. There have been attempts at fixing it but the iconic rides of the past no longer function and have been wrecked by flooding and vandalism. But at the time of this documentary’s production, we got to see a lot of the old attractions in their mostly full glory.

This also goes into the technological advances that Universal Studios and Disney World were bringing into the theme park industry at the time. Some of the “new” rides featured here no longer exist or have evolved but this was a cool time capsule that looks into what was cutting edge in the ’90s.

If you like theme parks and their history, this is a fun watch. I put the whole documentary below and it even has the commercials left in, so its like a real ’90s TV time capsule.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld.

Film Review: Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996)

Also known as: Tremors 2 (informal title), Tremors 2: Aftershocks (video box title)
Release Date: April 9th, 1996
Directed by: S. S. Wilson
Written by: Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Christopher Gartin, Helen Shaver, Marcelo Tubert

Universal Pictures, Stampede Entertainment, MCA, 97 Minutes

Review:

“I am completely out of ammo. That’s never happened to me before.” – Burt Gummer

I was surprised as I watched this. The first half of the film I enjoyed more than the original Tremors. But things did go downhill about midway through, making this a weaker film overall.

That being said, this was still a worthwhile sequel and while it is missing Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Michael Gross just get more time to shine and frankly, their characters are better and more developed than Bacon’s was.

The first half of the film sees our Graboid hunting heroes go down to southern Mexico to fight a new infestation. They kick ass, have this whole killing Graboids game down but then things change. This is where the film takes a bad turn.

You see, the Graboids evolve over their life cycle. So we have a new threat in this movie. But it’s that threat that’s the problem, as the Graboids have now become Shriekers.

The problem I have with Shriekers is that they are smaller creatures that live above ground and are damn easy to kill with something as simple as a regular shotgun blast. I guess the threat is that there are a lot more of these than the Graboids but the fear factor in this film drops significantly.

You no longer have to worry about the Graboids pulling you through the Earth, chomping you and drowning you in dirt. Gone is the tension of wondering whether or not each footstep will be the death of a character. There’s no more tiptoeing around and having to develop a strategy to survive. Now it’s just run and gun like a round in Call of Duty.

But Fred Ward and Michael Gross still make the movie worth watching. I’m not saying that it isn’t fun, it certainly is. It just lacks the immense danger that the first film had, once these creatures evolve.

This is still mindless escapism and it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. And even if it lowered the ante, in some ways it is better than the first movie.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other films in the franchise, as well as any other killer animal movies.

Film Review: Tremors (1990)

Also known as: Land Sharks, Beneath Perfection, Dead Silence (working titles)
Release Date: January 19th, 1990
Directed by: Ron Underwood
Written by: Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson, Ron Underwood
Music by: Ernest Troost, Robert Folk (uncredited)
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Victor Wong, Bibi Besch

Stampede Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya you bastard!” – Burt Gummer

I know that Tremors somehow spawned a franchise that a lot of people seem to like. However, I’ve never been a big fan of it. In fact, I’ve only seen this film, the original, in its entirety. I’ve seen bits and pieces of others but never cared enough to watch them all the way through, even if Michael Gross’ Burt Gummer is damn entertaining.

So I’d say that this one is the best but I don’t really know. But I’d assume so, as it’s the only one to get a proper theatrical release and wasn’t just made for video, DVD or the SyFy Channel.

Also, this one has the best cast with Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Victor Wong, Reba McEntire and Bibi Besch all alongside Gross. Plus, Gross wasn’t the star of the series yet. He wouldn’t really become the centerpiece till the third film after Fred Ward dropped out following part two.

This movie is enjoyable. I mean, I love giant killer animal movies and even if these maneating sandworms aren’t the size of kaiju or the Shai Hulud from Dune, they’re cool creatures that, at the time, offered up a pretty cool and original threat for horror audiences.

There is just something terribly frightening about being swallowed alive through the ground you’re walking on. The victims in this film get sucked under in a way that isn’t too dissimilar to how the killer shark from Jaws pulled his victims underwater, chomp by chomp.

Overall, this is a well cast movie that allows its stars to ham it up. I was kind of sad to see Victor Wong go so early though, as I was hoping he’d have a bigger presence and get to kick some ass. But we get some solid Fred Ward material, which is always a plus for me as he’s been underutilized and underappreciated his entire career. Sure, that’s my opinion but it’s probably fact too.

For a 1990 film, the special effects are good, practical ones that exist in the real world. This isn’t chock full of CGI, which seemed to become the norm as the series rolled on into the future. This one was lucky enough to come out a few years before Jurassic Park changed the game with digital monster effects. But everything onscreen looks great. I also loved the first person point-of-view of the sandworms chasing their victims, even if it didn’t make sense because they hunted underground and blindly chomped at vibrations.

Tremors is a dumb but fun movie. It may have gotten flushed down the memory hole if it weren’t for all the sequels but it’s definitely mindless and entertaining enough to provide 96 minutes of amusing and lively escapism.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: all the other films in the franchise, as well as any other killer animal movies.

Film Review: Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)

Release Date: January 14th, 1994
Directed by: Allan A. Goldstein
Written by: Allan A. Goldstein, Michael Colleary
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: Terry Plumeri
Cast: Charles Bronson, Lesley-Anne Dowd, Michael Parks, Saul Rubinek, Ken Welsh, Robert Joy

21st Century Film Corporation, Trimark Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Let the law take these guys down. You know, sometimes the law works.” – Lt. Mickey King, “And sometimes it doesn’t! These people, they steal, they murder, they destroy people’s lives and they get away with it! They have alibis, money, lawyers, power. They have everything.” – Paul Kersey

This is the worst Death Wish movie. But that’s like saying that missionary is the worst sex position. Because frankly, you’re still having sex and that’s way better than not having sex.

Charles Bronson is back for the final time and this round, he gets to ham it up with Michael Parks, who makes a good final villain for the series.

This one is kind of bizarre though, in that it all takes place in and around the fashion industry. Bronson’s new girlfriend (and soon to be fiance a.k.a. dead) owns a fashion house but her ex-baby daddy is a piece of shit gangster that has his slimy hands in the business and is making her life hell.

Bronson’s Paul Kersey tries to fight back to save his new love and her daughter but this bad guy pretty much owns the town. So leaks in the district attorney’s office lead to tragedy and thus, intense revenge at the hands of Kersey.

Robert Joy also pops up in this, as probably the creepiest character he’s ever played. The scene where he’s dressed in drag, sneaks into the women’s restroom and then starts smashing Kersey’s fiance’s face repeatedly into a mirror is absolutely fucking brutal. And while I wouldn’t say that this is as violent as the Death Wish movies put out by Cannon, the moments of violence seem much more realistic and terrifying.

Despite a heaping pile of flaws, this is still damn enjoyable to Death Wish fans. It’s lacking that ’80s Cannon Films magic but Bronson, Parks and Joy all carry the picture. Additionally, Saul Rubinek brings something solid to the movie too.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990)

Also known as: America’s Red Army: Delta Force II, Delta Force II: Operation Crackdown, Spitfire: Delta Force II (working titles), Delta Force 2: Operation Stranglehold (Uruguay subtitled version), Comando Delta 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: May, 1990 (Cannes)
Directed by: Aaron Norris
Written by: Lee Reynolds
Based on: characters by James Bruner, Menahem Golan
Music by: Frederic Talgorn
Cast: Chuck Norris, Billy Drago, John P. Ryan, Paul Perri, Richard Jaeckel, Begona Plaza, Mateo Gomez, Hector Mercado, Mark Margolis

Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Films, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Take her to my bedroom – first give her a beautiful bath – get rid of the baby.” – Ramon Cota

This didn’t really need to be Delta Force 2. I mean, it’s got Chuck Norris and he’s kicking the shit out of stuff but he didn’t need to be the same character, he could’ve been any random Chuck Norris character or a new one and it wouldn’t have mattered. I guess Delta Force had some branding and name recognition built into it but this just feels so different than the original film.

But hey, it’s still a damn fine action picture that was put out by the maestros of ’80s action, Cannon Films. It hits the right notes, it has a good level of senseless violence and not only does it star Chuck Norris but it stars the always stupendous Billy Drago.

In fact, this is one of my favorite roles Drago has ever played. He is absolute perfection as the evil and slithery villain, Ramon Cota. Hell, Drago’s performance here should be considered an acting lesson on how to play sadistic drug lords. The dude can just convey so much with so little. He speaks with his face and his eyes in a way that the best actors in the world can’t.

It’s pretty damn sad that we lost Drago and his talent a few weeks ago. In fact, that’s why I watched this movie. I wanted to be reminded as to why I became a lifelong fan of his in the first place, as this movie was my first experience seeing him haunt the minds of heroes.

Now apart from Norris and Drago, we also get John P. Ryan as an American general who doesn’t care whose toes he steps on, Mark Margolis as a Colombian general in league with Drago’s Cota, as well as Hector Mercado as an undercover agent.

The cast is stacked full of manly men who are very capable of giving this sort of film life. And despite not having Lee Marvin, Bo Svenson, George Kennedy, Robert Forster, Robert Vaughn and Steve James, I enjoy this movie a wee bit more than its predecessor.

This came out towards the end of Cannon’s dominance over the action film genre but it still measures up to their other kickass pictures.

I can see why people consider the first one to be a better movie (and it probably is) but I just love Drago, Norris and how well they play off of each other in this. Norris needed a true villain and Drago was exactly that. He was the Joker to Norris’ Batman.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the first Delta Force, as well as the Missing In Action trilogy and other Chuck Norris films for Cannon.

Film Review: Tammy and the T-Rex (1994)

Also known as: Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex (Singapore)
Release Date: December 21st, 1994
Directed by: Stewart Raffill
Written by: Gary Brockette, Stewart Raffill
Music by: Jack Conrad, Tony Riparetti
Cast: Denise Richards, Theo Forsett, Paul Walker, Ellen Dubin, Terry Kiser, Buck Flower, Efren Ramirez

Greenline Productions, Platinic Films Inc., 82 Minutes, 88 Minutes (R-rated “gore” cut)

Review:

“Oh, Michael what have they done to you?” – Tammy

So I heard that there is an R-rated “gore cut” of this film being released later this year. I guess the version that was shown in Asia was much gorier but the US video release of the film is severely toned down.

Regardless, I wanted to check this film out in its regular US version, as it’s a cult classic but incredibly obscure. On a side note, for those who want to watch this, it is on YouTube, at the moment.

This is a goofy, over the top and ridiculous film. But it’s also a hell of a lot of fun and it works for what it is.

The average person would probably watch five minutes of this and turn it off, deeming it shit. But it’s that special kind of shit that if you stare at it long enough, it blasts you in the face with colorful, enjoyable and overwhelming insanity.

It’s endearing and charming in spite of its immense flaws. It will resonate with those of us who have a love for films like Mac and Me (the same director), The Room and Troll 2.

The premise is batshit crazy. A mad scientist played by Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s takes the brain of Paul Walker and puts it inside of a mechanical dinosaur. No, not a real dinosaur… but a mechanical one like the full scale animatronic T-Rex robots that you’d see in shopping malls or seasonal science attractions in the ’90s.

The film also stars Denise Richards, who in her prime, was the hottest girl I had ever seen. Especially, through my teenage eyes in the ’90s. Plus, she was really charming and sweet in this and it’s damn near impossible to not get pulled in by her. I also really enjoyed her gay friend in this, as he was f’n hilarious in every scene.

Tammy and the T-Rex is a film that is sort of perfect as a bad movie that’s so bad it’s great.

My only real complaint about it is the butchered editing. But I blame that on the complete exclusion of the gore that the film intended to show. So hopefully, the soon to be released “gore cut” fixes those issues. And honestly, the inclusion of the gore may take this film to the next level and vastly improve upon it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Stewart Raffill movies: Mac and Me, The Ice Pirates, etc.

TV Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996)

Original Run: October 4th, 1995 – March 27th, 1996
Created by: Hideaki Anno
Directed by: Hideaki Anno
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Based on: Shin Seiki Evangerion by Hideaki Anno
Music by: Shirō Sagisu

Gainax, Tatsunoko Production, TV Tokyo, 26 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wanted to revisit this and review it some time ago but I heard that Netflix was bringing it to their streaming service. Granted, at the time of that announcement, I didn’t know it’d be like another year.

Anyway, that’s probably how most people have seen this show now and I’ll say that I’m not super keen on the dubbing of the Netflix version. I like the original dubbing better, even if it’s been said that the new dub is more accurate. I just don’t like the voice work as much.

However, this is still a pretty good anime but is sadly undone by its bizarre ending that thankfully, got retconned later. Or that’s what I’ve been told anyway, as I haven’t seen the films that followed. But if you are really, really into this and don’t know what’s coming, expect a Patrick Duffy in the shower moment.

If you are a fan of stuff like RobotechAlita: Battle Angel and Ghost In the Shell, then this should be right up your alley. Even if you’re not a big anime or manga fan but like kaiju or tokusatsu shows and movies, you’ll still find something to connect to here.

I mostly like the characters, their dynamic and the insane world that they live in. However, Shinji can become grating with all this yelling, whining, emo storms and absolute immaturity. Sure, he’s a kid but my homies would’ve smacked me if I acted like he did 90 percent of the time.

What I love most is the creativity that went into the design of the giant monsters. They aren’t traditional kaiju like those in a Godzilla movie but are more akin to monsters from the most bizarre episodes of the many Ultraman, Super Sentai or Kamen Rider series.

This is also full of a lot of religious iconography, primarily of the Christian faith. I wouldn’t call this show Christian, by any means, but it does tap into elements of its symbolism.

At its core, this is a coming of age story that sees young kids forced into adult situations. In fact, they’re thrown into war against these giant creatures. Piloting giant mecha and having to always be on the go, instead of going to school and playing sports (or D&D), these teens have to be saviors of the world.

While for some, the animation may feel dated now. I still think it looks fantastic. But this also came out at the height of my anime watching when I was still a teen. I’ve heard that the films after really upped the ante, visually.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is definitely an anime series worth watching, if you haven’t yet. It might not connect with everyone but there is a reason why it has been held in the highest regard for over two decades. In the end, fans of anime should walk away with something highly worthwhile.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Ghost In the ShellMacross and Robotech related stuff, as well as Alita: Battle Angel.