Film Review: Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

Also known as: Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie (UK promotional title)
Release Date: December 8th, 2000
Directed by: Courtney Solomon
Written by: Carroll Cartwright, Topper Lilien
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Justin Caine Burnett
Cast: Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne, Jeremy Irons, Tom Baker

Silver Pictures, Sweetpea Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 107 Minutes

Review:

“I got a new name for “dumb”: “Ridley”! This is the Ridleyest thing I’ve ever heard!” – Snails

I never wanted to see this. When I saw the trailer over twenty years ago, I knew for a fact that this would bomb, be an embarrassment and that we’d possibly never get another Dungeons & Dragons film because of its shittiness.

Let me be clear, I wasn’t cheering for its failure because I’d definitely love a good D&D movie that features some of the most famous monsters and better represents the game but I knew this movie wasn’t that.

Granted, it does form a team of heroes that are all different with unique skills. So it at least tried to create a good party of diverse character types. However, other than that, it failed in just about every other way. Also, the party didn’t really get used in the story correctly or all that effectively.

The worst thing about this movie is the special effects. The CGI is some of the worst I’ve ever seen from this era. It’s worse than Sci-Fi Channel TV movies and considering that New Line Cinema, the same studio, released the first Lord of the Rings movie just a year later, makes this picture a complete embarrassment.

Even if smaller indie studios made this and New Line just distributed it, it’s still baffling to me. If their thought was to use this to whet the public’s palate for the upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy, that was an awful decision.

Beyond the atrocious CGI, the acting in this is also terrible. There are fairly talented people in the movie but none of them really tried except for Jeremy Irons, who was the best thing in this movie, as far as acting goes.

Some of the sets were actually cool. I liked the labyrinth that Justin Whalin’s character had to try and survive. It was about the only enjoyable sequence in the entire film, though.

Dungeons & Dragons was just a fucking mess. It had annoying, unlikable characters. As well as, an overabundance of unnecessary silliness that helped make it miss its mark completely.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really bad video game film adaptations.

Film Review: Pump Up the Volume (1990)

Release Date: August 22nd, 1990
Directed by: Allan Moyle
Written by: Allan Moyle
Music by: Cliff Martinez, various
Cast: Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Scott Paulin, Ellen Greene, Mimi Kennedy, Ahmet Zappa, Seth Green

SC Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Do you ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely fucked up?” – Mark

Yes, Mark… I do.

Although, it’s infinitely more fucked up than it was in 1990 and that year seems like a much, much better time to be alive than 2021. However, I get the sentiment now, as I did back then and a lot of what was wrong then, gave birth to the extreme bullshit we have to live with now.

Wow! Jesus! I went on a tangent there. Let me stick to reviewing the film and not go too deeply down the dark, hopeless 2020s rabbit hole.

Pump Up the Volume was a favorite film of mine for a few years after it came out. Granted, I had just entered middle school in 1990 and wasn’t quite the age of a high schooler when this came out but it did have a fairly profound influence on me, as did many other coming-of-age Generation-X flicks of the era.

In 1990, we were exiting the opulent “everything is fine” 1980s and entering into the peak Gen-X decade, which brought grunge and a cultural edginess to the table where PC culture was vehemently shunned by the youth, unlike the complete 180 we’ve got in the 2020s. But there I go again, trashing this dumb decade.

Anyway, Christian Slater’s Mark was kind of a stand-in for the average person in this movie’s audience. He was awkward, unsure about himself, had a hard time expressing his thoughts face-to-face but discovered his voice through his creativity and anonymity. And what he expressed was a lot of the thoughts and sentiments of his generation, going into a seemingly bleak and potentially pointless future where what’s been mapped out for you might not be what’s best for you.

Most importantly, the film shows that teen angst and the insecurity about moving into adulthood isn’t just a generational issue. But hey, at least back then, the kids questioned the state and mainstream society’s narratives and attempts at control.

All that being said, this might be a difficult movie for new and modern fans to connect with. I think it defines my generation pretty well for its time but some of the movie may be seen as too farfetched or cheesy through modern eyes. And honestly, some of Mark’s rants may seem childish and immature but that doesn’t mean that they’re not genuine and a reflection of what kids were thinking at the time.

Pump Up the Volume is a weird time capsule into the minds of Gen-Xers being pushed into adulthood by their Baby Boomer parents who grew up with very different priorities and values. This encapsulates that generational clash quite well and I say that as someone who lived through these things and had similar issues with parents and authority. Despite their best interests, I knew that what was best for them was not necessarily what was best for me.

I’ll probably always love this movie because of all the points I just outlined, even if, yes, it does come off as a bit cheesy and dated in many regards. Still, its heart and soul comes across as pure and Christian Slater absolutely gives one of his best performances.

Side note: I still adore the hell out of Samantha Mathis in this.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other more serious coming of age movies from the Gen-X era.

Film Review: Porky’s Revenge! (1985)

Also known as: Porky’s 3: Revenge (working title)
Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Directed by: James Komack
Written by: Ziggy Steinberg
Based on: characters by Bob Clark
Music by: Dave Edmunds
Cast: Dan Monahan, Wyatt Knight, Tony Ganios, Mark Herrier, Kaki Hunter, Scott Colomby, Nancy Parsons, Chuck Mitchell

Melvin Simon Productions, Astral Bellevue Pathé, SLM Production Group, 20th Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Miss Balbricker, with all due respect. That’s your opinion.” – Billy, “They all had boners!” – Beulah Balbricker, “Mr. Carter, I will not stand here and be accused of having a boner!” – Wendy Williams

For most people, this is probably the worst Porky’s movie out of the original trilogy. For me, I like it a bit more than the second one, which just chugged along on the fumes of the first movie while forcing in some drama class plot that wasn’t all that interesting. Although, I did love seeing the KKK get made asses out of in that movie.

This one just seems a bit fresher. Sure, it’s also chugging along on fumes but it just works better for me, as it finds its center again and that center is the series’ greatest villain: Porky himself.

Also, the ensemble cast just seems better in this movie. Their chemistry has evolved naturally, they seem like legit chums in real life and it transcends the film. I don’t know if they all legitimately liked each other in real life but it feels as if they did by this film and not like they’re just playing generic characters and tropes in a run of the mill teen sex comedy.

The movie is also a nice, organic ending to the film series, as it sees the characters graduate high school, leaving behind this part of their lives to venture off into the unknown future where everyone’s paths will most likely diverge.

This is still the same type of film that we got with the previous two but it weirdly feels like a proper sendoff and tribute to these characters who I didn’t feel any sort of emotional attachment to until this movie.

Granted, it also doesn’t leave me wanting more, it’s just interesting and kind of neat that it wrapped up the series in a way that made me see it as something more than just a pointless sex joke that ran on for too long.

Porky’s Revenge isn’t a great film and none of them are, really. However, it’s a fitting end to a series that was just about coming of age raunchiness. And honestly, it’s actually better than I expected it to be.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Porky’s movies, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.

Film Review: Porky’s II: The Next Day (1983)

Release Date: June 24th, 1983
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Roger Swaybill, Alan Ormsby, Bob Clark
Music by: Carl Zittrer
Cast: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight, Roger Wilson, Cyril O’Reilly, Tony Ganios, Kaki Hunter, Scott Colomby, Nancy Parsons, Art Hindle

Astral Bellevue Pathé, Melvin Simon Productions, 20th Century Fox, 98 Minutes

Review:

“My tit! You broke my tit! I’m gonna sue you!” – Wendy

While I’m not a massive fan of the first Porky’sPorky’s II: The Next Day is a big step down from the overall quality of the previous picture.

Still, I do like the characters and this is an amusing and fairly funny screwball teen sex comedy. It’s certainly better than most of the Porky’s imitators but the plot seems pretty weak, making me feel like this was rushed out really damn quickly to capitalize off of the surprising and immense success of its predecessor.

That’s fine, honestly, as in motion pictures, you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot and the Porky’s iron was just that.

I just wasn’t a fan of the drama class subplot, even though it laid the groundwork for pitting these raunchy, horny, high school kids against a racist reverend and the Ku Klux Klan. Yes, you read that right. They’ve moved on from a fat brothel owning asshole to taking on the fucking KKK. Since everyone hates the KKK, we’re definitely going to cheer these kids on.

This is a strange sequel and it tries to recapture the magic of the first but this proves that you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. Sure, it may have caught some static electricity from the air but this is tame and redundant when compared to the first flick.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Porky’s movies, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.

Film Review: Porky’s (1981)

Release Date: November 13th, 1981 (Columbia, SC)
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Bob Clark
Music by: Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Cast: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight, Roger Wilson, Cyril O’Reilly, Tony Ganios, Kaki Hunter, Kim Cattrall, Nancy Parsons, Scott Colomby, Boyd Gaines, Doug McGrath, Susan Clark, Art Hindle, Wayne Maunder, Alex Karras, Chuck Mitchell

Astral Bellevue Pathé, Melvin Simon Productions, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Look’s like I’m gonna make a man out of you yet, boy.” – Mr. Cavanaugh, “A man? If being a man means being what you are, I’d rather be queer.” – Tim

Somehow, this low budget Canadian teen sex comedy became the fifth highest grossing movie of 1982. With that surprising success came two mediocre sequels and a slew of other teen sex comedy movies that tried to replicate the Porky’s formula with poor-to-moderate success.

Porky’s is a strange film for me in that I don’t hold it in as high regard as some people but I also feel personally connected to it, as my father lived close to the high school and other iconic spots in the film series. And even though this takes place in the ’50s, I had been to these same places in the ’80s and not much was different.

I like the movie but it’s not something I revisit very often, as there are other teen comedies I prefer much more than this. Sure, this one takes the cake in raunchiness and it just dives right into the subject of teen sex but those things don’t make it a good movie. What works most of all is that you generally like the core characters and over the course of three films, they actually come to mean something to the viewer.

Still, this really is lowest common denominator, gross out, perverted humor. I’m not really saying that’s bad but the jokes and gags are predictable and there’s just an overabundance of it at every turn.

Additionally, this movie could never be made today, as everything… and I mean everything is offensive in the 2020s. Comedy is deader than my dog Chipper, who was hit by a car in 1984. See, most people may be thinking, “WTF, dude! That’s not funny! That’s fucked up!” And I’d just point and go, “See what I mean?!” Truthfully, Chipper wasn’t hit by a car, she was ran over by a lawnmower but I didn’t want my example to be too over the top.

Anyway, Porky’s is still fun if you’re not a sour cunt looking for things to cancel under every rock. It’s most definitely a product of its time and I can get why people that were born after it came out might not enjoy it and may find it off putting but every generation after mine is primarily comprised of pansies and tattle tales. 

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other screwball ’80s teen sex comedies.

Film Review: American Psycho (2000)

Release Date: January 21st, 2000 (Sundance)
Directed by: Mary Harron
Written by: Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner
Based on: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Music by: John Cale
Cast: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Josh Lucas, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Bill Sage, Chloe Sevigny, Cara Seymour, Justin Theroux, Guinevere Turner, Reg E. Cathey, Reese Witherspoon, Krista Sutton

Am Psycho Productions, Edward R. Pressman Film, Lions Gate Films, 101 Minutes

Review:

“I like to dissect girls. Did you know I’m utterly insane?” – Patrick Bateman

I used to dig the hell out of this movie back when it was still fairly new. But I was also in my early twenties and just coming out of the edgy boi ’90s. Also, I hadn’t read the book before I saw the film.

Having now read the book, this motion picture adaptation is a real disappointment. I guess the book was so edgy and gruesome that a lot of it had to be left out but honestly, why make the movie at all then?

Now I am a fan of the acting in this, which is really solid from top-to-bottom, and this helped solidify Christian Bale as one of my favorite actors of the ’00s. I especially liked Willem Dafoe in this, as he worked well being only one of two characters grounded in any sort of reality.

While this movie is bizarre and I imagine still entertaining on a first viewing, for me, it doesn’t hold up tremendously well. It kind of reminds me of David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune, in that it’s a collection of scenes from bigger, richer source material. Source material that needs to be read and understood to actually get the full effect of the story.

However, I guess, if one hasn’t read the book, they don’t really know what they’re missing, as was the case with myself back in 2000. And at least this is less complex than Dune.

The overall narrative of the film seems like it’s spotty and full of holes, though. You never really get to know anyone in the film but since they’re all superficial and inauthentic, seen through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, I guess it doesn’t break the picture. This really just feels like random scenes strung together and since it’s not clear what’s reality and what’s not, it works in its own weird way. The problem I have with it, though, is that it could’ve worked much better, as it did in the original novel.

It’s been years since I’ve seen this and it sucks that it didn’t live up to my memories of it but the bits I really like are still great when you cut them out of the larger body of work and just see them as scenes.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other movies based on Bret Easton Ellis novels: The Rules of Attraction and Less Than Zero.

Film Review: Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

Also known as: Silent Hill 2 (working title), Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (poster title)
Release Date: October 25th, 2012 (Hong Kong, Russia, Ukraine)
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Written by: Michael J. Bassett
Based on: Silent Hill 3 by Konami
Music by: Jeff Danna, Akira Yamaoka
Cast: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan, Malcolm McDowell, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell, Heather Marks

Silent Hill 2 DCP Inc., Konami, Dynamic Effects Canada, Davis-Films, 95 Minutes

Review:

“The darkness is coming. It’s safer to be inside.” – Dahlia

Utter shit.

That’s what this movie is.

I don’t know if the six year hiatus is what caused this to be such an atrocious follow-up to the first Silent Hill movie but man, this was fucking terrible.

It tries to naturally follow the plot of the first movie, which loosely adapted the first two Silent Hill video games, by loosely adapting the third game. However, it gets a hell of a lot wrong and apparently the writer/director didn’t pay close attention to the first movie, as several things contradict and retcon it.

The story is garbage and frankly, it makes little to no sense if it actually exists in the same universe as the previous movie. That first film’s rules no longer apply and this is a sequel that just makes shit up as it goes along and does whatever it wants for plot convenience. It’s lazily crafted in every way and it derailed this from becoming a film franchise built on top of the video game franchise.

This movie also stars very capable actors but in this, they all give their worst performances.

Additionally, the special effects are CGI heavy and the movie looks a lot cheaper than the successful first one. Usually, this means that a studio will spend more money. However, this looks like a mediocre fan film made by first year film students.

I don’t know what else to say. There’s not a single good thing about this movie and everything that could’ve gone wrong, apparently did.

I’m sorry your agent talked you into this, Mr. McDowell.

Fuck this movie.

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: it’s far superior predecessor. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.

Film Review: Silent Hill (2006)

Also known as: Centralia (fake working title), Terror en Silent Hill (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela)
Release Date: April 20th, 2006 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Christophe Gans
Written by: Roger Avery, Christophe Gans, Nicolas Boukhrief
Based on: Silent Hill by Konami
Music by: Akira Yamaoka, Jeff Danna
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, Jodelle Ferland

Silent Hill DCP Inc., Davis-Films, TriStar Pictures, 125 Minutes, 132 Minutes (Special Edition Blu-ray, Canada only)

Review:

“When you’re hurt and scared for so long, the fear and pain turn to hate and the hate starts to change the world.” – Dark Alessa

When this came out, it was the film that seemed like it bucked the trend of video game movies being shit, as far as adaptations and overall quality goes.

The Resident Evil films were their own thing and before them we had the Street Fighter movie, Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon. I would say that the film that actually bucked the trend first, though, was 1995’s Mortal Kombat. However, Silent Hill is a much better film than that one and it works without having knowledge or appreciation of its video game series before seeing it.

In fact, I know several people that saw this film first, which then served as a gateway into the games due to the effect this movie had on them.

I used to watch this quite a bit after I bought it on DVD when it was first released that way. It’s probably been a dozen years since I’ve seen it but my fondness for it was still really strong and I wanted to revisit it. I also want to playthrough some of the earlier games too, which I might in the very near future.

Seeing this now was kind of cool because I was separated enough from it to see it with somewhat fresh eyes. I definitely see the flaws in it more than I did in 2006 but that could also be due to me not being as obsessed with the franchise as I was back then. Subpar sequels in both video games and film took the wind out of this once great property’s sails.

The film adapts elements of the stories from the first two games and sort of merges them while also doing its own thing. So it’s familiar enough for fans to immediately recognize but also takes some interesting turns that allow it to breathe and evolve in a different way.

I like the film’s story quite a lot, even if it does change some key things. Those things don’t break the film as its own body of work, though.

My biggest gripe about the film is the dialogue. It’s not terrible but there are some weird lines and some weird delivery, here and there. I’m not sure if that’s due to a language barrier due to the director, who also co-wrote the film, being French. I don’t know enough about him outside of his finished films that I’ve seen, which aren’t many.

However, the child actress delivers some lines with weird inflections on certain syllables that sound unnatural and a bit off. I don’t necessarily blame her, I blame the direction and the takes that were chosen to be used in the final film.

Overall, she did well essentially playing two different characters that were polar opposites of each other: one being good and innocent and the other being the absolute embodiment of evil. The requirements of her role aren’t easy for most adult actors and she did rather well considering her age and experience.

Moving on, some of the CGI effects look a little dated but for the most part, the film still looks great. There are just a few shots that look kind of weird.

The film as a whole looks incredible, however. Gans has a stupendous eye and from a visual standpoint, he captured the tone and aesthetic of the video game series phenomenally well. I am still really impressed by the scenes where the purgatory world dissolves into the Hell world.

Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of the ending but it fits well within the framework of what Silent Hill is. I guess there is a part of me that wanted something more optimistic but the ambiguous and strange ending leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. Also, that’s not a bad thing, some of my favorite movies do that but after the literal hell that the characters went through, it felt like more of a reward was needed.

I liked the cult aspect of the story and I definitely loved their end. As violent and incredibly fucked up as the climax was, it was also satisfying as hell after learning who these people really were. This movie doesn’t simply provide you with sympathy for the Devil, it makes you root for him… or in this case, her.

The last thing I want to mention is the music. The film recycles the score and iconic songs from the video game series. That might not work in the case of most film adaptations but it really amplified the effect of the film and its brooding, disturbing atmosphere. I think that I appreciated it even more now, as I kind of forgot how good the games’ music was.

Silent Hill is, hands down, one of the best horror movies in its decade, which was unfortunately a terrible decade for horror. But I think it would’ve been just as great in earlier decades, regardless of the higher quality of the genre.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: it’s absolutely shitty sequel, I guess. But more importantly, the video game series. Specifically, the first three games.

Book Review: ‘Drawing Heat’ by Jim Freedman

I’ve read a lot of books this year about the days of the old school wrestling territories. While this one wasn’t by any means the best, it did have some of the most interesting stuff in it, especially considering the time in which it was written and published.

In a lot of ways, this reminded me of The Fall Guys, as it peeks behind the curtain and exposes certain secrets of the wrestling business.

The true story that is covered here, sees the author initially start out to write about a small wrestling promotion through the eyes of a fan. However, as he interviews more people and becomes familiar with them, he ends up working for the promotion.

What he didn’t know when he started writing this, is that he was chronicling the demise of a small local Canadian wrestling promotion, which eventually got swallowed up by a large corporation that was taking over the industry and becoming a multi-national company.

While just about every wrestling territory had the same demise as this one, it’s really interesting seeing it told from the perspective of the small company while it was happening.

Beyond that, this book also has several subplots due to the wacky things that weaved in and out of this company during its final days.

The most interesting and fucked up story in the book is about the company’s wrestling bear, a beloved living mascot, that killed the girlfriend of its trainer.

All in all, this wasn’t great but for those with an interest in the subject, it’s got a lot of meat to chew through, most of it pretty good.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other books on the history of the old school territory wrestling business, as well as biographies on the personalities who lived it.

Film Review: If Looks Could Kill (1991)

Also known as: Teen Agent (UK, Denmark, Japanese English title)
Release Date: March 9th, 1991 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: William Dear
Written by: Darren Star, Fred Dekker
Music by: David Foster
Cast: Richard Grieco, Linda Hunt, Roger Rees, Robin Bartlett, Gabrielle Anwar, Roger Daltrey

Warner Bros., 88 Minutes

Review:

“I knew I should have taken Spanish.” – Michael Corben

I can understand why this film wasn’t a big hit in theaters but I never understood why it didn’t catch on once it came out on video. It’s one of those films that should’ve been a cult classic because it’s just a ton of fun and Richard Grieco was immensely talented, especially in this sort of production.

Sadly, this flopped hard and Richard Grieco didn’t become the superstar that many thought he was destined to become coming off of 21 Jump Street and his own spinoff series Booker. I liked both those shows, liked Grieco and was pretty stoked when this was coming out, as I also loved goofy teen comedies, loser rising to the occasion stories and spy flicks.

This seemed like a perfect formula for my twelve year-old self in 1991 and fuck it, it totally was! I loved it and copied the VHS tape that I rented. I’d then go on to watch it quite a bit but since then, it’s been lost to time and sort of just faded away and pretty quickly.

I found myself thinking about it, recently, so I looked to see if there was a DVD release and there was. When I looked some time ago, it hadn’t yet been released in that format. So I bought it and threw it in the DVD player the same day it arrived.

What I was most happy about was that this held up really well. I mean, it definitely feels like a product of its time but it wasn’t an awful movie that I simply liked because I was a twelve year-old idiot. The main reason is because Grieco has charisma, charm and he just comes across as cool, which is something lost in most modern films.

This is the epitome of mindless, fun escapism and it was a hell of a lot of fun escaping into it in 2020, a year that almost all of us would love to forget.

Beyond Grieco, I loved the women in this, especially Linda Hunt and Robin Bartlett. Both of them really got to ham it up and they appeared like they were having a real blast making this movie. Hell, Linda Hunt is an Academy Award winner and she still performed in this “low brow” comedy with gusto and real passion.

This also looked like it cost a pretty penny to make, as the special effects and stunts were top notch stuff, especially for the time. Now this wasn’t James Bond level but it obviously had a budget much higher than your typical teen comedy flick.

I also learned that this was written by Fred Dekker in the ’80s with the intention of it being a starring vehicle for Anthony Michael Hall, capitalizing off of his fame from multiple John Hughes movies. I’m sure that would’ve been a pretty awesome film too but I’m really happy with how this turned out, regardless.

It sucks that this wasn’t a big kickoff to Richard Grieco’s film career but he’s got nothing to be ashamed of, as this is a film I’ve loved for decades and was really happy revisiting nearly thirty years later.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other goofy teen movies from the late ’80s and early ’90s.