Film Review: Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Release Date: June 8th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Sylvio Tabet
Written by: Jim Wynorski, R.J. Robertson, Sylvio Tabet, Ken Hauser, Doug Miles
Based on: The Beast Master by Andre Norton, characters by Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Marc Singer, Kari Wuhrer, Sarah Douglas, Wings Hauser, James Avery, Robert Z’Dar, Michael Berryman

Les Films 21, Republic Pictures, New Line Cinema, 107 Minutes

Review:

“He who defies Arklon, shall be destroyed… by Arklon!” – Arklon

This is such a shitty movie but it is a wonderfully entertaining shitty movie.

Where the original Beastmaster is truly a sword and sorcery classic, this film is pretty much just a “fish out of water” comedy with some sword and sorcery elements.

I’m not sure what the filmmakers were thinking with this. It wasn’t like they rushed out a sloppy sequel because this came nine years after the original. But it is very cheaply made and it completely lacks the superior craftsmanship of the previous film’s director, Don Coscarelli.

What saves this film, at least in my eyes, is the over the top performances of its cast. Marc Singer is dry when compared to his cast mates but he’s still enjoyable as Dar and I’ll always be a fan of his version of the character.

However, Singer is pretty much overshadowed by the energetic cuteness of Kari Wuhrer in one of her earliest film performances. He’s also usurped by the charismatic Wings Hauser, as his evil brother Arklon. Plus, you have Sarah Douglas as a sorceress and she’s always fantastic. But the real scene stealer is James Avery, who isn’t in this as much as the other actors but you’re always locked on him when we walks on screen. Avery is used as comedic relief and he’s a master of that but I can’t discount the fact that this entire movie really is comedy.

This lacks the edge and darkness of its predecessor and if I’m being honest, I would have preferred a proper sequel. However, I still like this strange movie for all of its batshittery. It’s a very smudged up gem but it’s still a gem. But you also have to be the right sort of film fan for this movie to click for you. The average person isn’t going to find much value in the picture and that’s fine. All this shit is subjective, anyway.

Beastmaster II already had its work cut out for it, as the first film casts a big shadow. But all things considered, this is bizarre and unique enough to justify its existence and at least it wasn’t just a rehash of the previous movie.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other sword and sorcery movies of the time, most notably the Conan films. It’s also fun to watch with the other films within its own series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 4 – Overkill with Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 26 Minutes

Review:

Revisiting this video series from my childhood has been a lot of fun. In fact, this episode is a real highlight in this series, even if it only clocks in at a scant 26 minutes. But unlike me in the early ’90s, you don’t need to spend half of your allowance on this episode just to see it, as these are all streaming on YouTube for free… assuming they don’t get pulled down, at some point.

The first two episodes in this series were interviews with comic book legends Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld, this brings both of them back in an effort to create a new character, as dictated to them by Stan Lee.

What’s funny about this, is that this character named Overkill eventually showed up under the name Overt-Kill in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn about a year later. I’m assuming the name alteration, change of color scheme and some artistic tweaking saved McFarlane and Liefeld from any legal shenanigans, as Stan Lee did come up with the name and had some other creative input.

Anyway, this was really fun to watch, especially for me, as I was an aspiring comic book artist the first time I saw this. Todd, Rob and Stan talked through the process and I learned a lot from their insight here and I think any aspiring comic book artist would find this just as useful as I did back in 1991.

This is just a really engaging and fun video series. I’m still glad that Stan Lee did this way back in the day and even if it feels dated, the knowledge gained from these episodes isn’t.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 3 – Spotlight on Sergio Aragonés (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Sergio Aragonés

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 51 Minutes

Review:

This is one of The Comic Book Greats videos that I didn’t own. When I was twelve, I didn’t know much about Sergio Aragonés. However, as I got older and learned who he was, I found out that I had enjoyed his work from Mad Magazine and his long running Marvel comic book series, Groo the Wanderer.

So this was the first time that I checked out this episode. I’m glad I did, though, as Aragonés was very personable and you could see that he and Stan lee were very fond of each other.

Aragonés is more of a cartoonist than the typical comic book artist of the time. He talks about his style and how life led him down the path that saw him eventually work for Mad and Marvel.

He also talked about growing up and moving from Spain to France to Mexico and then the United States. Stan joked around about how many languages Aragonés knew and how he can be difficult to understand in all of them. They exchanged some fun old school ribbing.

The highlight of the Aragonés interview is when Sergio went to the drawing table and created several pieces with almost lightning fast speed.

This was a fun installment and I enjoyed it more than I expected. Aragonés is a unique talent, skilled in his style and it was cool seeing someone outside of the more popular Marvel creators or better known legends get his own episode in this series.

But as Stan Lee said in the beginning, Sergio Aragonés is the guy he really wanted to interview for this series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

 

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 2 – Spotlight on Rob Liefeld (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Rob Liefeld

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 40 Minutes

Review:

Since I really liked revisiting the first episode in this series, which featured Todd McFarlane, I definitely felt the urge to revisit this one with Rob Liefeld. Besides, I’m trying to work my way through all of these, as there were many I hadn’t seen back in the early ’90s and the ones I own, haven’t been played in years because PlayStations doesn’t play VHS tapes.

This one is like the previous one in that it is hosted by Stan Lee and he interviews a single comic book pro: Rob Liefeld.

Liefeld talks about what inspired him to get into comics and the really unorthodox story at how he got his foot in the door, which seemed really easy compared to the stories of other pros.

This also gives a good rundown of his art style, his creations and also his earliest work on DC Comics’ Hawk & Dove, as well as Marvel’s The New Mutants and X-Force titles.

While Rob would go on to help found Image Comics a year later, along with McFarlane and others, there isn’t any mention or allusion to that here. Well, other than Rob drawing Diehard, who would become a character in Youngblood. I think that more Image stuff does come up in later videos, however, as Stan Lee has a few of the other Image creators in later episodes and Liefeld and McFarlane also return in one of the 1992 video releases.

I love revisiting these, thus far. I hope the other installments continue to be as engaging. Especially, since some of the later episodes feature some old school legends.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 1 – Spotlight on Todd McFarlane (1991)

Released: 1991
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Todd McFarlane

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 50 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t have all of these VHS tapes when I was a kid but I did have a lot of them. Luckily for me, and all of you, these are on YouTube. I’ve wanted to revisit these for ages but I haven’t had a working VCR since the Bush II administration.

I was going to review the series as a whole. However, after watching the first episode, which featured Stan Lee interviewing Todd McFarlane, I felt that each episode probably deserves its own review.

This was great to see, twenty-seven years later, as I’m no longer twelve and I had a much greater appreciation of this now than I did back then.

First of all, it was fantastic seeing Stan Lee, still with some youthful vigor, interviewing Todd McFarlane and discussing art techniques and the history of the business, as well as Todd’s career.

It’s pretty clear that Todd would have been a great teacher, as he shows the how and why he employs the techniques he does. For those wanting to get into drawing comics, this is a pretty valuable tool and I’m assuming the other episodes in this series are too. That’s actually why I bought a half dozen of these back in the early ’90s.

All in all, I liked hearing Todd and Stan share stories of the comic industry. Watching them shoot the shit for an hour was a lot of fun.

McFarlane is one of the all-time greats and what makes this even more interesting, is that it came out when he was transitioning away from Marvel and Spider-Man and just gearing up to establish Image Comics and his greatest creation, Spawn.

I really enjoyed this episode and I hope the others live up to the precedent set with this first one.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Film Review: Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go to College (1991)

Also known as: Ghoulies Go to College (video title), Ghoulies III (France)
Release Date: August 19th, 1991 (Germany)
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Brent Olson
Based on: characters by Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy
Music by: Michael Lloyd, Reg Powell
Cast: Evan MacKenzie, Kevin McCarthy, Eva LaRue, John R. Johnston, Patrick Labyorteaux, Billy Morrissette, Hope Marie Carlton, Jason Scott Lee, Matthew Lillard, Marcia Wallace, Dan Shor, Kane Hodder (uncredited), Richard Kind (voice)

Lightning Pictures, Taurus Entertainment Company, Vestron Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

The Ghoulies movies only work for a certain type of film aficionado. I know that these are bad movies but for fans of horror, comedy, practical effects and the right kind of ’80s and ’90s cheese, these movies just seem to hit all the right notes.

I haven’t seen this chapter in the franchise since it came out on video in 1991. It sort of disappeared and was out of print for a really long time. I believe you can get it on DVD now but I checked it out on Amazon Video.

I was surprised to discover that I actually liked this one better than the original. However, it’s a tad bit lower on the scale than Ghoulies II, which stands as my favorite in the series. But what’s most amazing is that over the first three films, this series pretty much maintained its status quo quite well.

This came out when there were a slew of college comedies. Maybe it was at the end of that era, which peaked in the ’80s, but it fits nice and snugly in the college sex comedy subgenre.

The Ghoulies themselves are larger in this movie but not as big as whatever the hell those troll things were in the fourth film. They also talk in this one. Strangely, Richard Kind provided the voice for one of these creatures.

Another neat addition to the series is that they actually make the toilet matter in this one. Some people incorrectly remember the Ghoulies as little monsters that come up through the toilet because of the imagery used in the previous movies’ posters and because there was one toilet scene in each of those films. This is the first movie where the toilet is more central to the plot, as it’s their portal into our world.

Apart from Richard Kind, who I mentioned earlier, this also has some other notable actors. It is the first film appearance of Matthew Lillard and also features another well-knwon ’90s actor, Jason Scott Lee. Marcia Wallace, most known for sitcom and comedy work and for providing the voice of Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons, appears in this as well. It’s also worth mentioning that Kane Hodder appears too, although he is uncredited and used for the stunt where the janitor is riding in the mop bucket.

This is a really enjoyable, mindless horror film. The jokes and the absurdity work. The terrible and hokey soundtrack is perfect in its own way. Frankly, I can’t say anything bad about this really, without having to peer intently through a more academic lens. But this isn’t a movie that deserves the same kind of examination as a Kubrick or Fellini film. Just enjoy it for what it is and what it is, is a fuck ton of fun.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: The other three Ghoulies films, the Munchies films, Hobgoblins and Sorority Babes In the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Film Review: House Party 2 (1991)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1991
Directed by: Doug McHenry, George Jackson
Written by: Daryl G. Nickens, Rusty Cundieff
Based on: characters by Reginald Hudlin
Music by: Vassal Benford
Cast: Kid ‘n Play (Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin), Full Force (“Paul Anthony” George, Lucien “Bowlegged Lou” George Jr., Brian “B-Fine” George), Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Kamron, Iman, Louie Louie, Queen Latifah, George Stanford Brown, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Ralph Tresvant, Tony Burton, Helen Martin, Whoopi Goldberg (cameo), Groove B. Chill (Gene “Groove” Allen, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell) (cameo), Robin Harris (archive footage)

New Line Cinema, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Man, that Kid would forget his dick if it wasn’t screwed on tight.” – Play

House Party was a favorite film of mine when I was around middle school age. At the time, I though this film, the first sequel, was also really damn good and in some regards, I liked it better than the first movie even though I consider the first one to be a better film.

This chapter in the film series takes Kid ‘n Play and pushes them into new territory. This is still a coming of age story but now we see Kid go to college and Play have to adapt to things changing around him. Ultimately, this is about growing up and learning to take on adult responsibilities.

Full Force is also back to be the great thorn in the sides of Kid ‘n Play that they were in the first movie. Luckily, they don’t try to burn everyone alive in this film. That was a little dark and bizarre in the first movie.

We also see Tisha Campbell and Martin Lawrence return and this is before they would both go on to star on the sitcom Martin, not too long after this. Robin Harris unfortunately passed away between films and he only appears in this through archive footage from the first movie. Still, it is nice seeing him in it and knowing that his spirit is still a strong presence in Kid’s life.

The film’s new setting adds in some new characters. There is Jamal, played by Kamron from the rap group Young Black Teenagers (they were all white kids, actually), as well as Zora, who was played by Queen Latifah, just as she was breaking out into becoming a big star. Iman and Louie Louie appear as the villains of the story. We also get Tony Burton (of Rocky fame), as a mentor character to kid. Whoopi Goldberg has a cameo too.

The story sees Kid get screwed over by Play and one of his schemes. He loses his college money and the film leads to Kid ‘n Play throwing a big pajama party at the college in order to raise money for Kid’s tuition. It’s not the best plot but this is a college comedy from the early ’90s and you have to suspend disbelief. The film is still funny, effective and ultimately, carries a good message and does so with heart.

Besides, the film is full of rappers and new jack swing artists of the time. Music is a driving force within the picture and it really captures the magic of the time.

House Party 2 isn’t House Party 1 but it brings us back to these characters that we fell in love with and is still amusing, lighthearted and pretty satisfying.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: House Party 1 and 3, as well as the other Kid ‘n Play film Class Act.