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, 1 Episodes, 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.

Film Review: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

Release Date: December 6th, 1991
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Written by: Nicholas Meyer, Denny Martin Flinn, Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Kim Cattrall, David Warner, Christopher Plummer, Iman, Brock Peters, Kurtwood Smith, Mark Lenard, Grace Lee Whitney, John Schuck, Rosanna DeSoto, Christian Slater, Michael Dorn, Todd Bryant, René Auberjonois

Paramount Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Captain’s log, stardate 9522.6: I’ve never trusted Klingons, and I never will. I could never forgive them for the death of my boy. It seems to me our mission to escort the Chancellor of the Klingon High Council to a peace summit is problematic at best. Spock says this could be an historic occasion, and I’d like to believe him, but how on earth can history get past people like me?” – Captain James T. Kirk

Something has to be said for the quality that Nicholas Meyer brings to a Star Trek movie, whether as a director or a writer. He directed two of the very best films with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and this one. He also was involved in the writing of my personal favorite film in the franchise, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

While most fans consider The Wrath of Khan to be the very best, this chapter in the franchise is equal to it. Again, I like The Voyage Home the best overall but Khan and this film are very, very close seconds.

Where Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was almost the death of the franchise on the big screen, this was a breath of fresh air and a proper swan song for the original Enterprise crew, as it was the last time they would all be together. It also sort of closes a major chapter in Trek lore, as the Federation and the Klingons, after decades of conflict, agree to try their hand at peace.

It is that attempt at making peace between the two governments that brings out the worst in some of the characters in this film. People on both sides of the coin don’t want to trust each other and some of them conspire to kill the opportunity for peace. In fact, this is more of a political thriller and a conspiracy movie than just some fantastical sci-fi adventure.

Following a diplomatic dinner between the Enterprise crew and the Klingon Chancellor, the Klingon ship is attacked and the Chancellor assassinated. Everything is set up to look like Captain Kirk orchestrated the attack. As he and McCoy are framed for the assassination, they are sentenced to hard labor on a Klingon prison planet. All the while, Spock heads up an investigation on the Enterprise itself, in an effort to solve this mystery, save his friends and to win the trust of the Klingon Empire and bring forth much needed peace.

The Undiscovered Country isn’t just a great Star Trek movie, it is a great political thriller. It feels real and gritty, even if it takes place in outer space of the future. The experience of the cast really shines through here. Spock takes charge of things on the Enterprise and its really the first and only time we see him truly step into the role of leader. Nimoy knocks it out of the park and his chemistry with the other Vulcan on board, played by Kim Cattrall, was incredible.

We also get to see Sulu as a star ship captain and not only that, he is the captain of the Excelsior, a ship he greatly admired in Star Trek III and Star Trek IV. Seeing Sulu get his moment to shine in the captain’s chair was fantastic for those of us who have been fans of this series for decades.

Another highlight was Christopher Plummer as the Klingon villain General Chang. Plummer is the greatest villain in the film series after Khan from Star Trek II. While I loved Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge in Star Trek III, Chang is the best Klingon commander in the franchise. He’s a character I’d love to read more about, assuming he’s got a novel out there.

The Undiscovered Country is Star Trek at its best. It stands well above any of the modern films, as well as The Next Generation movies that would follow for a dozen years after it.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Star Trek‘s IIIII and IV.

Film Review: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Also known as: Chucky 3: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 3 (Germany)
Release Date: August 30th, 1991
Directed by: Jack Bender
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Cory Lerios, John D’Andrea
Cast: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Brad Dourif, Andrew Robinson

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t fuck with the Chuck.” – Chucky

While there is a very slight variance in overall quality of the original Child’s Play trilogy of films, all three are pretty damn consistent and each has it’s own vibe. Plus, the sequels don’t just feel like rehashes of the original.

The thing that sets this one apart is that Andy is now 16 and enrolled in a military school, drastically changing the setting and opening the plot up for a myriad of new directions.

Chucky is resurrected because what is a Child’s Play movie without Chuck? He tracks down Andy to his military school but not before murdering the crap out of the CEO of the toy company that produces Good Guy Dolls.

However, Chucky meets the young boy Tyler. He realizes that he can tell Tyler his secret and take over his body instead of Andy’s. Although, Chucky still wants to murder Andy for being a total pain in the ass in the first two movies. So what we get here, is teenage Andy in a race against Chucky in an effort to save young Tyler’s soul.

This film gets really dark but the early Chucky movies showcased terror and dread over the humor that would take over the franchise after this film. There is a grisly garbage truck murder, some other really good kills and the big awesome moment where the teenagers playing war games don’t realize that Chucky switched out their paint rounds with real ammunition. We then get a great final encounter with Chucky in a carnival spookhouse.

I just love how dark and brooding this film seems. Sure, the first two films were also quite dark but this one just ups the ante atmospherically and it works. Plus, Brad Dourif just feels more at home in his Chucky role. His one liners are great but they don’t distract from the proceedings.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Anything with Chucky in it.

Film Review: Godzilla Vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Also known as: Gojira tai Kingu Gidora (original Japanese title)
Release Date: December 14th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuki Ōmori
Written by: Kazuki Ōmori
Music by: Akira Ifukube
Cast: Kōsuke Toyohara, Anna Nakagawa, Megumi Odaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Akiji Kobayashi, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Robert Scott Field

Toho, 103 Minutes, 88 Minutes (Chinese cut)

Review:

“You say that you feel Godzilla?” – Kenichiro Terasawa, “Yes whenever I close my eyes, I see him as clearly as if he was walking right in front of me.” – Miki Saegusa

While I wanted to revisit Godzilla Vs. Biollante before revisiting this picture, that movie is a hard one to track down nowadays. This is the direct sequel to it and the third film in the Heisei era of Godzilla movies. I’ll have to circle back to it though when I can find it streaming or if it is ever re-released on Blu-ray in the States.

This film sort of re-imagines the iconic kaiju monster and top Godzilla villain King Ghidorah. In this version, he is a monster created by evil humans from the future, as opposed to just being an alien that showed up one day and was later controlled by an evil alien race. In this, he evolved from three cute little creatures called Dorats. While most fans of the series hate the Dorats for being cute little monsters, I always kind of liked them, even if I’m not a fan of the way in which Ghidorah comes to be in this era of the Godzilla franchise.

The plot is about how these future Earthlings go back in time in an effort to stop Godzilla from ever existing but they are actually trying to get Godzilla out of the way for King Ghidorah. Once Ghidorah is established, he can destroy Japan and prevent it from becoming its future empire. There’s a lot of over the top “Japan is the greatest” propaganda in the movie but I loved it since just about every American action film wants to paint the United States as the savior of the universe.

The film gives us one of the coolest kaiju monster variants of all-time when the big final battle brings in Mecha-King Ghidorah. This plot point would also lead to a future sequel, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, which would come out just after the next film in the series, Godzilla vs. Mothra.

It is interesting to see how much gore is in this movie. There are several shots of kaiju getting assaulted in really violent ways. There are kaiju chunks blown off, kaiju blood and just a lot of brutality that wasn’t really seen in the original Shōwa era.

The film also has incredibly hokey effects. While that can and should be expected in any Japanese Godzilla movie that came out before 2016, some of the effects here are pretty good and some aren’t. There’s a large inconsistency with the quality of effects from scene to scene and from this and other Godzilla films from around the same time. While I’m okay with bad effects in these sort of pictures, the inconsistencies make them more noticeable.

Speaking of hokiness, the evil android character and everything about him and how his character worked on screen was terrible. The scene of him running like the Flash was cringe worthy and the fact that he is a future android with a head full of CDs was baffling. The Japanese are at the forefront of technology and CDs weren’t really something that they should envision to be inside of an android from 200-plus years into the future.

The time travel element was a big part of the story, as was the UFO that the Futurians arrived to present Earth in. The filmmakers sort of hammed it up and put what is assumed to be Steven Spielberg’s father in a scene, as well as a display in the time traveling ship that looks an awful like the one in the DeLorean of the Back to the Future movies. I did enjoy these little Easter eggs though.

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah really takes some time before it gets going and it isn’t the best of its era but it is still packed of with some solid kaiju action, once Godzilla and King Ghidorah show up in the same place. I also liked the added mecha element to the film, which was a throwback to those ’70s films featuring Mechagodzilla and in some regard, that late ’60s King Kong picture with Mechani-Kong.

This is a fun and interesting picture within the Godzilla franchise. Far from perfect but also far from being a throwaway chapter.

Rating: 7/10

 

Film Review: Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)

Release Date: June 7th, 1991
Directed by: Stephen Herek
Written by: Neil Landau, Tara Ison
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Christina Applegate, Joanna Cassidy, Keith Coogan, John Getz, Josh Charles, David Duchovny, Kimmy Robertson, Danielle Harris

HBO Pictures, Outlaw Productions, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes

Review:

“I’m right on top of that Rose.” – Sue Ellen “Swell” Crandell

I had the rare opportunity of revisiting this film on the big screen. Okay, not in a theater per se, but on a large silver sheet stretched between two large trees at my friend’s makeshift movie theater in his backyard in the woods.

This was a pretty good vehicle for Christina Applegate, who was huge at the time for playing the slutty teenage daughter of Al Bundy on Fox’s television hit Married… with Children. This was Applegate’s attempt at breaking out and as being seen as someone other than a slutty daughter on a sitcom.

Here, she plays a much smarter and resourceful character and this is ultimately, a coming of age story. Applegate shines, as does the rest of the young cast, who had great chemistry and felt like actual siblings.

I’ve always liked Keith Coogan but Kenny is my favorite role he’s ever played. Also, horror icon Danielle Harris, pretty fresh off of Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, plays the youngest sister of the five children here. We also get to see Joanna Cassidy, David Duchovny and Kimmy Robertson in supporting roles.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead is a comedy where you have to suspend some disbelief because the premise sees a babysitter die, the kids stuff her into a trunk and drop her body off at a cemetery – this way they can have their summer to themselves. This really is kind of a black comedy at its core, even if the darkness is buried in colorful teen comedy candy.

I can’t honestly say that this is a great film but I still love it to this day and, at least for me, it’s had some staying power. Maybe I was always attracted to it because of it’s dark narrative underbelly. But I think that the real reason this film has stuck with me for over a quarter of a century is that everyone in it works so well together. Plus, Christina Applegate is kind of a badass in this and it forever changed how I perceived her.

This is a film that was underappreciated and underrated at the time it came out. Most people have probably forgotten about it, all these years later. But for some reason, I still pop it into the DVD player every few years.

Rating: 7.5/10