Film Review: Serial Mom (1994)

Release Date: April 13th, 1994
Directed by: John Waters
Written by: John Waters
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterson, Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard, Mink Stole, Mary Jo Catlett, Justin Whalin, Traci Lords, Suzanne Somers, Joan Rivers (cameo), L7, John Waters (voice)

Polar Entertainment Corporation, Savoy Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“If ever there was a time to go on record against the death penalty, wasn’t it that night? Capital punishment is already the law in the state of Maryland. So what are we waiting for, fellow Christians? Let’s just do it.” – Father Boyce

It’s been years since I’ve seen this but man, it was really refreshing seeing it again for probably the first time since it came out on video back in the mid-’90s.

I forgot how fantastic this movie was. But then it’s a John Waters film and his style of humor mostly works for me. And his ’80s and ’90s movies were a bit more palatable for mainstream audiences.

While Kathleen Turner is a damn fine actress, I don’t think she ever had a better time than she did making this movie. I mean, she looks like she is having a blast in every single scene. She commits to the bit wholeheartedly and gave us a stupendous and iconic performance in this film.

Granted, this wasn’t a big hit and is sort of a cult movie but that also kind of makes this cooler, as not a lot of people know about it and the few I brought it up to don’t even remember its existence. Although, I’m not sure how this went down the memory hole, as it’s an entertaining romp full of cold blooded murder and a solid critique on the celebrity status of serial killers in American culture.

It also peers beyond the facade of mainstream Americana. While this was a pretty common trope in the movies of the time, when it works, it works and Waters has a certain panache that others can’t match or attempt to replicate.

I love that this takes place in the ’90s but has a strong ’50s sitcom feel to it. But Waters was a master of channeling nostalgia from that era.

While Turner is the absolute centerpiece of this film and owns every scene, the rest of the cast is outstanding as well. Especially her family, played by Sam Waterson, Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard.

My only complaint about the film is that sometimes characters’ motivations are confusing. Like how Turner’s family supports her and wants her to get off from the six murders she’s being tried for but then are immediately fearful when she gets away with it and is coming home.

Also, the ending was just sort of okay and predictable.

Additionally, the first two-thirds of the movie are perfection. But things slow to a crawl and become less interesting once the trial starts.

Still, this was a motion picture that I was really happy to revisit. And ultimately, it made me realize that I need to go back and work my way through John Waters filmography again.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: pretty much anything by John Waters.

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: 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.

Documentary Review: Crumb (1994)

Release Date: September 10th, 1994 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
Music by: David Boeddinghaus
Cast: Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Charles Crumb, Jack Harrington

Sony Pictures Classics, 120 Minutes

Review:

Robert Crumb is a pretty intriguing guy. He’s one of the greatest cartoonists of his generation and he made several iconic comic strips that will go on to outlive him. The man is such a unique character that he can carry this documentary on his own.

And I guess that’s a pretty good thing as this film just sort of follows him around on average days. It doesn’t really go too much into his work and his impact, it kind of just assumes that you already know who he is. Some important career things are mentioned and discussed a bit but this really is more or less “a day in the life of…” than a retrospective or biographical work.

But that’s kind of a problem for me.

You see, I know who Robert Crumb is, I am familiar with his more famous work but this film should have had a lot more about why this guy is important, as I feel like the layperson might not pick up on it. They may just see this and go, “Oh, that guy is good at making art caricatures and stuff” and then not really appreciate the context of what’s happening on screen and why Crumb is a pretty important cultural figure.

This is enjoyable but for something lacking context and narrative depth, it’s too long. There just isn’t enough meat, even though director Terry Zwigoff is feeding you a pretty large meal.

I need more protein and less filler, thank you.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Comic Book ConfidentialIn Search of Steve Ditko and other older comic book documentaries.

Film Review: Ghoulies IV (1994)

Also known as: Ghoulies 4 (Germany)
Release Date: August 17th, 1994
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Mark Sevi
Based on: characters by Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy
Music by: Chuck Cirino
Cast: Peter Liapis, Barbara Alyn Woods, Stacie Randall, Raquel Krelle, Bobby Di Cicco, Tony Cox, Arturo Gil

Cinetel Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[after shooting an armed robber] Clean up on aisle 4.” – Jonathan Graves

Ghoulies IV isn’t really a Ghoulies movie if you take into account that there aren’t any actual Ghoulies in the picture.

Instead, we get two troll characters that don’t really have much to do with the overall plot and pretty much just crack bad jokes and break the fourth wall. It’s like Deadpool stole their whole shtick.

Now this is related directly to the first film because the main character is the same. However, Jonathan Graves (again, played by Peter Liapis) is no longer some twenty-something warlock. He is now a detective for some strange reason. He also tries to act like Sly Stallone’s Cobra character but is really unconvincing.

Graves’ ex-occultist girlfriend from Hell comes back to steal some magic gem from his necklace. She’s trying to resurrect some dime store Satan guy and nothing is really ever that clear in this movie. It’s crazy shenanigans, has no Ghoulies and is pretty boring, overall.

This is the worst of the Ghoulies films by a landslide. All of the other ones had things that made them enjoyable and entertaining. This one lacks all of that but it also isn’t so horrible that it’s unwatchable. But you don’t need to see it, even if you like the first three movies.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: The other three Ghoulies films, the Munchies films, Hobgoblins and Sorority Babes In the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Film Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Also known as: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (full title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1994 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Written by: Anne Rice
Based on: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Stephen Rea

Geffen Pictures, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes

Review:

“The world changes, we do not, there lies the irony that finally kills us.” – Armand

In the ’90s and early ’00s, I watched this film a lot. But I had seen it so many times that I actually haven’t seen it now for at least a decade. But that time off from it made me appreciate it even more.

This is the best vampire motion picture of the 1990s. It is pretty damn close to being a masterpiece. It is a beautiful adaptation of a book that really has become a literary classic, at this point. And it’s great to see that Anne Rice penned this script, as no one knows these characters better than she does.

There are a few minute changes from the book. The stuff with Louis’ wife was omitted and the character of Armand has a different appearance from the literary version. However, these minor alterations don’t matter within the context of this film. Had it actually gotten sequels (and it should have) the Armand thing might of been a bit problematic but I’m still okay with Antonio Banderas in the role for this one-off outing.

Anyway, Neil Jordan did a superb job directing this. He had just come off of The Crying Game, a film that earned him two Academy Award nominations for direction and script, and also had some experience with supernatural gore after his work on the barely remembered film The Company of Wolves. Both of those experiences would serve him well in this film, which had supernatural gore and also tapped into very light homo-eroticism between a few characters.

One thing that really stands out is the film’s score by Elliot Goldenthal. It has the makings of a great classical composition mixed with some very powerful and energetic flourishes that help accentuate the scenes in ways that a less capable score wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. The music also flows with the picture, it’s not distracting or in the way, it just exists to set the tone appropriately and really, that’s all a film score needs to do. But the craftsmanship of these classical tunes is what sets this film apart and gives it such a grandiose feel. There are just few scores that can make this sort of emotional and narrative impact in modern film.

The acting in this is also possibly the best you will see in any vampire movie. Tom Cruise, at first glance, just doesn’t seem to fit the role of Lestat but he was absolute perfection and this is still my favorite performance of his. This was also where I first noticed Brad Pitt. This is where his career was really born, in my opinion, as this was a turning point for him and his exceptional abilities. I could use those same words for Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas, as well. Both of them made such an impact in this that it really helped to set them off towards bigger and better things going forward.

Something else that stands out is the special effects handled by Stan Winston and his team. Most notably, the scene where Lestat is withering away to a corpse on the floor. That moment was masterfully crafted and has held up exceptionally well. It looks better than the vast majority of CGI effects that would have been used to achieve this today. Also, the amazing looking ash remains of Claudia and Madeleine were made by Winston and based off of photographs of victims from Hiroshima.

Interview with a Vampire is a perfect storm. It’s a film where everything, at every level, went right for the production. While there are some other good vampire films from the 1990s, this one takes the cake for me. It’s stellar from start to finish and it’s still an incredibly satisfying experience even after seeing it well over a dozen times.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Bram Stoker’s DraculaNear Dark and The Lost Boys.

Film Review: Stargate (1994)

Release Date: October 28th, 1994
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Erick Avari, John Diehl, French Stewart, Richard Kind, Djimon Hounsou

Centropolis Film Productions, Carolco Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Give my regards to King Tut, asshole.” – Colonel Jonathan “Jack” O’Neil

This is the first time that I have watched Stargate since the movie theater in 1994. I was a sophomore in high school when it came out and while I wasn’t blown away by it, at the time, I still thought it was a fun blockbuster that probably should have been a summer movie.

I think that other people had a much stronger impression of it than I did, as it would go on to spawn three sequel television series: Stargate SG-1Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, as well as two other movies related to the TV shows: Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum. Not to mention a web series, an animated series and lots of books and comics.

Because of how big this franchise has gotten and because I do enjoy Roland Emmerich’s work before 1998’s Godzilla, I figured I’d give this a watch again with the possibility of me finally giving the television shows a shot in the near future (assuming I can stream them for free somewhere).

Stargate was really enjoyable. While it does feel a bit dated, it’s a solid ’90s sci-fi action flick. It had a decent story that was interesting and really set the stage for something that needed to be much larger than this self-contained film. I guess it’s a good thing for the hardcore fans of this movie that it was expanded out into other forms of media.

Kurt Russell is a true man’s man and James Spader is always great to watch. Seeing them come together and having a big contrast in personalities here was a lot of fun. Spader didn’t play his typical role and was pretty much just a very brave scientist that often times jumped into the water without checking for sharks. Russell usually had to pull Spader’s ass out of trouble but it was a treat to watch.

I loved how this gives a sci-fi explanation for ancient Egyptian culture and the Egyptian styled aliens were just badass. The backstory was pretty simple but awesome and I really liked how this was just a simple tale with a lot of emphasis on action.

Emmerich did a great job of writing this alongside Dean Devlin. But his eye for style and his execution of action, while he sat behind the camera, was terrific. I really wish that Emmerich’s mojo didn’t get sucked out of him after Independence Day.

I also really enjoyed the film’s score. It was heavy handed but in the right way and frankly, I miss powerful scores like this in my blockbusters.

This is just a rollercoaster ride of a bunch of guys having fun in an alien desert, fighting stylish aliens with cool technology. What’s not to love? There’s even a bit of a love story but I was too captivated by the testosterone and the Egyptians with lasers to care about that.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Independence DayThe Mummy and the various Stargate TV shows and related films.