Film Review: Madhouse (1990)

Release Date: February 16th, 1990
Directed by: Tom Ropelewski
Written by: Tom Ropelewski
Music by: David Newman
Cast: John Larroquette, Kirstie Alley, Alison La Placa, John Diehl, Jessica Lundy, Bradley Gregg, Dennis Miller, Robert Ginty, Wayne Tippit

Boy of the Year, Orion Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t worry about me having dinner, I’ll just lick the crumbs off my filthy sheets!” – Beatrice

This isn’t one of the best comedies of its time period but I enjoyed the hell out of it as a kid and even now, in 2019, I still found the movie to be pretty endearing and charming. But I also know that my opinion is unique, in that most people have forgot about Madhouse and those who haven’t don’t have fond memories of it.

For me, this film works on the strength of its leads: John Larroquette and Kirstie Alley. The two of them had incredible chemistry, felt absolutely believable as a couple and they committed to the absurdity of the film with tremendous gusto.

The comedy style here is pretty typical of the time. It throws two normal people into a very abnormal situation while littering the proceedings with mostly crude and simple humor. But it works because of the charisma of the main cast and most of the supporting players.

I really enjoyed John Diehl, whose murder on Miami Vice still upsets me, and his overbearing wife played by Jessica Lundy. Alison La Placa was also great and we get Dennis Miller in a very minor (and his first) role.

The story follows a yuppie couple who get surprise house guests that are a total pain in the ass. However, as the film progresses, they get more and more house guests and no one will leave. Eventually, their new home has turned into a community of almost a dozen weirdos that push the couple to their breaking point.

What I love about this film is how we see Larroquette and Alley slowly break down and slip into madness. I thought the pacing of the film, in this regard, was perfect.

Also, there is a cat subplot that is a parody of Pet Sematary, which came out a year earlier. It sees the cat die, again and again, but it always comes back to create more chaos. You even get to see the cat die from a cocaine overdose.

This is a simple, fun comedy. But that’s what I like about it.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other outrageous late ’80s/early ’90s comedies.

Retro Relapse: In Defense of Sarcasm

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

I’ve read a few things recently online and in books that have spoke about sarcasm in a negative light. It has been painted as mean-spirited and a low brow form of humor – a quick attempt at a humorous response more often than not used in an effort to shield an emotional blow or to indirectly or passive aggressively pick fun at someone. While I get and understand the point these authors are trying to make, I don’t necessarily agree with it.

One of the books I read is about the subject of “manliness”. It’s author feels that a “man” shouldn’t use this sort of comedic device. Well, I think sarcasm is fine when there is a proper need for it and if it isn’t the only humor discipline that a manly wordsmith employs.

You see, the problem with sarcasm is that it has evolved – poorly. Sarcasm was once a witty and often times intellectually vast form of humor. Only some really smart and clever motherfuckers could use its power and get their audiences’ panties to drop. Anyone could say something funny but it took a lot of thought for someone to drop some really sarcastic pipe bomb.

It wasn’t as common back in the day and that is probably why it has become a comedic discipline that was almost an art form.

I think that the oldest form of sarcasm that I have experienced was expressed from many of the old badass comedic legends of yesteryear. Watching a lot of the old greats with my granmum throughout my childhood gave me a pretty solid understanding of their form, their timing and their delivery – not to mention pure wit.

Two things that really come to mind are the old Dean Martin roasts, which were a thousand times more classy and intelligent than the roasts today, and the old school game shows that always had funny celebrity contestants. One celeb contestant that immediately comes to mind is Charles Nelson Reilly.

Throughout the years however, as can be seen in the evolution of ludeness, crassness and dick jokes galore in modern celebrity roasts and just general mainstream comedy, the utter genius and hilarity of thought provoking comedy gold is pretty much non-existent. And not just through sarcasm but all comedic fronts; being mean and nasty in general is thunderously applauded.

There is still intelligent comedy but even shows like ‘Parks & Recreation’, ‘Party Down’ and ‘Arrested Development’ fall victim to the overabundance of the dense and obtuse witless vulgarness of our modern culture. Comedy in general now is just atrocious and sad. And unfortunately this just bleeds over into the masses. The class clown today is usually just a bully with a laugh track comprised of thirty other students.

You see, it’s a problem when the key to what we find funniest is poking fun at others or just laughing about penises and ass noises. Have we really become that dumb and unrefined? I’m guilty of this too – most of us are and in ways those things can be funny but in our superfast intellectually lethargic culture, they have been put on a pedestal. It’s like we don’t want to think too hard anymore in this Google and Wikipedia-filled world and so we cheer a cheap pop over real genius. We don’t have time to mentally decipher real genius apparently. As a culture, that is what I find frightening.

So no, I don’t see sarcasm as a thing men shouldn’t practice, I just see a form of comedy that has been bastardized by our overwhelming acceptance of low brow culture in general. Luckily there are still a few good comics out there practicing their craft. I mean, there is a reason I watch Dylan Moran over that shitbird shill who calls himself “Carlos Mencia”. There is also a reason why I generally gravitate towards British television over American. The question really is, what are we missing in America that these other countries aren’t? Why does Britain not overwhelmingly accept intellectually void entertainment but we do? Shit to think about, I guess.

As my cousin Cameron once stated, “Sarcasm, it is a tool of ingeniousy!” He was brilliant at 12 years-old.. before the accident (puberty).

Film Review: Troll 2 (1990)

Also known as: Goblins, Trolls (working titles), Troll II (video box title), Monster Valley (Spain, Chile alternate title), The Return of Troll (Netherlands)
Release Date: October 3rd, 1990 (Germany)
Directed by: Claudio Fragasso
Written by: Claudio Fragasso, Rossella Drudi
Music by: Carlo Maria Cordio
Cast: Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie McFarland, Deborah Reed, Jason Wright, Darren Ewing, Jason Steadman

Filmirage, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Nilbog! It’s goblin spelled backwards! This is their kingdom!” – Joshua

It’s no secret that Troll 2 is a bad movie. With that, it has a pretty large cult following. Many people, however, don’t seem to understand that this is also intended to be a comedy and it seems like it is pretty self-aware. I think a lot of people hate it without understanding it and the intent of its creators.

Personally, I think that Troll 2 accomplishes what it set out to do and exceeds what its intent was. I also think that it wouldn’t have grown into a weird phenomena if audiences didn’t initially misinterpret that intent and thought that this was a serious attempt at low budget horror.

What’s funny about the film, is that the script was written by a husband and wife team and it started out as the wife expressing her anger over all of her friends becoming vegetarians. I think she definitely found a very creative outlet with a lot of good tongue and cheek humor to exorcise that frustration. As a devout carnivore, I understand and empathize with her pain.

Everything about this movie is bad in the text book sense.

The special effects, all of which are mostly practical, physical effects, are bottom of the barrel schlock. But that stuff works within the context of this movie.

Also, the acting is literally laughably bad and I’m not misusing “literally” when I say that. I think some of the poor line delivery was definitely intentional. I’m not saying that their is hidden genius at work but I think that some of the scenes and specific moments give away that this was meant to play out the way it did. But honestly, I don’t know how the actors weren’t ruining takes by laughing out loud. But maybe they were.

The plot is weird, nuts and so far out there that there is no point in trying to take it seriously. You’ve got a crazy witch lady with a troll army that transforms into town folk, who feed you green goo that transforms you into a plant and then another type of green goo so that the trolls can devour your remains. Also, this film has supernatural popcorn and moles in the shape of cloverleafs.

Troll 2 is a much better experience than I thought it would be. I actually put off watching it for years but once I finally did, for the first time a while back, I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Yes, it is still a bad movie regardless of it intending to be and I can’t give it a great rating. However, it is an entertaining watch for those of us who love being entertained by bad movies. In a lot of ways this is to fantasy horror what Tommy Wiseau’s The Room was to romantic drama.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: ’80s little critter films like CrittersMunchies and Ghoulies.

TV Review: Dungeons & Dragons (1983-1985)

Original Run: September 17th, 1983 – December 7th, 1985
Created by: Kevin Paul Coates, Dennis Marks, Takashi, Mark Evanier
Directed by: Bob Richardson, Karl Geurs
Written by: various
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast: Willie Aames, Don Most, Katie Leigh, Adam Rich, Tonia Gayle Smith, Teddy Field III, Sidney Miller, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Bob Holt

Toei Animation, Marvel Productions, Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Corporation, TSR, CBS, New World Television, 27 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I used to watch the shit out of this cartoon when I was really young. It was one of my favorite Saturday morning treats. However, I haven’t seen it since at least the early ’90s.

But like most animated series that were productions involving Japan’s Toei studio and Marvel, it was top quality stuff for its time and it has aged really well.

Sure, it’s hokey and goofy like kid’s cartoons are but it has a real charm about it and that charm is still effective.

I love the character designs of the show, especially in regards to the villain Venger and the five headed dragon, Tiamat. Also, Venger was voiced by Peter Cullen, best known as the voice of Optimus Prime while Tiamat was voiced by Frank Welker, best known as Megatron.

The show followed six Earth kids, their little unicorn named Uni and the impish Dungeon Master. The Earth kids were magically transported to the Dungeons & Dragons dimension through a theme park ride. I know, it sounds ridiculous but you didn’t care about stupid details or coherent plot when you were five years-old. Frankly, I don’t care about it now because the show works for what it is: a kid’s magical adventure.

Unfortunately, the show never had a proper ending and the kids never actually made it home within the episodes produced. I guess it can be assumed that they eventually saw their parents again but hopefully that happened before they were in their forties.

Anyway, this is still a really cool show. I even showed a few episodes to my nephew and he dug it with his discriminatory 2019 standards.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s fantasy cartoons like Masters of the Universe, Captain N the Gamemaster, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries, ThundercatsSilverhawks, etc.

Film Review: Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)

Also known as: Howling III (original title), Wolfmen (Germany)
Release Date: May 15th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Philippe Mora
Written by: Gary Brandner, Philippe Mora
Based on: The Howling III: Echoes by Gary Brandner
Music by: Allan Zavod
Cast: Barry Otto, Imogen Annesley, Leigh Biolos, Ralph Cotterill

Bancannia Holdings Pty. Ltd., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 98 Minutes

Review:

“You know this movie’s about pop culture? In the 60s, Andy Warhol showed us how Pop could be high art. That everything is high art. That’s what this is all about. For example, in your first scene you’ll be gang raped by four monsters.” – Jack Citron

I remember seeing one of the later Howling sequels when I was a kid. I think it was part IV or V. I also remember it being absolute shit. While part II is also crap, it is very endearing, has Christopher Lee in it, Sybil Danning’s breasts and also boasts great music from Babel.

So I have never seen this one but I’ve been intrigued by it for years, because it features werewolves that are marsupials. I don’t know why that would intrigue me but it sounded so batshit crazy that it might work in some way.

It doesn’t work. In fact, this is a movie that hurt my head and I felt like I was in physical and mental pain trying to get to the end.

The werewolves here are Australian and unlike our American (or European) werewolves, they are descended from extinct marsupial thylacines a.k.a. Tasmanian tigers. So they have stomach pouches for their babies, as well as tiger striped asses. Seriously, I’m not making this up.

Anyway, a werewolf girl escapes into normal Sydney society, falls in love, gets preggers and then a strobelight at a party makes here wolf out. The dumb guy that loves her, follows her back into the Outback to have a werewolf family in the wilderness. A government agency gets involved, experiments on werewolves and shit hits the fan.

There is one really cool and really bizarre scene where a ballerina doing a spin starts wolfing out and then eats a male ballerina on stage in front of people. Also, the werewolf nuns are equal parts freaky and stupid.

Howling III is far from a decent movie. It’s really damn bad with bad camerawork, shrill sound and lowest common denominator practical effects.

This made me not want to watch the other sequels but I still probably will because I torture myself just to review all of the terrible cinematic shit on God’s green Earth.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Howling sequels.

Film Review: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

Also known as: Grounded, Teenie Weenies, The Big Backyard (working titles)
Release Date: June 23rd, 1989
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Ed Naha, Tom Schulman, Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Rick Moranis, Matt Frewer, Marcia Strassman, Kristine Sutherland, Thomas Wilson Brown, Jared Rushton, Amy O’Neill, Robert Oliveri, Mark L. Taylor, Kimmy Robertson, Frank Welker (voice)

Walt Disney Pictures, Silver Screen Partners III, Buena Vista Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Nick, I’ve got six hours to get home, get big and get to the mall. Now get moving.” – Amy Szalinski

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that one of the writers of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is Brian Yuzna, the guy behind Re-Animator and its sequels, as well as From Beyond and Society. In fact, this film came out in the same year as the over the top and insane Society. Talk about two extremes.

Anyway, this family classic was one of many reasons as to why the summer of ’89 is probably the best summer for movies of all-time. I loved this as a kid and it has held up pretty well.

Some of the effects look a bit dated, as this came out just before the CGI boom that came with Jurassic Park in 1993, but the use of green screen and stop motion effects pretty much comes off without a hitch and these special effects are top of the line for 1989. Disney crafted an incredible world for this movie and all the physical sets still look fabulous by 2019 standards.

The movie is also kind of timeless and the humor still works. This isn’t a film that’s chock full of ’80s cliches. Okay, maybe the clothes the kids wear are very ’80s but this is written in a way that the jokes and humor aren’t as dated as other films from the time.

Additionally, all the kid actors are pretty solid, as are the parents. The parents of course get top billing in this movie but the bulk of the film is focused on the children and their adventure, trying to get home from the other side of their backyard. Of course there are several challenges that stand in the kids way, which just makes this adventure a lot of fun and actually provides a good amount of real tension.

Rick Moranis is as good as he always is but the real scene stealer was Matt Frewer, who owned the character of Russ Sr. Frewer can do drama and comedy well but here he was so committed to the bit that he was the biggest bright spot in the film.

I’m glad that I revisited this and I’ve just realized that it’s approaching its thirtieth anniversary. Man, I can’t believe it’s been that long since the epic summer of ’89.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the sequels but each one gets worse and worse, as well as other late ’80s family sci-fi movies like *batteries not included and Cocoon.

Film Review: Annie Hall (1977)

Also known as: It Had to be Jew, Anhedonia (working titles)
Release Date: March 27th, 1977 (Filmex)
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Music by: various
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Janet Margolin, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst, Dick Cavett, John Glover, Mark Lenard, Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D’Angelo, Tracey Walter, Sigourney Weaver, Truman Capote

Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions, Rollins-Joffe Productions, United Artists, 93 Minutes

Review:

“[referring to California] It’s so clean out here.” – Annie Hall, “That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.” – Alvy Singer

I’m not what you would call a big Woody Allen fan but I do find a lot of his films to be amusing. This is one of them and this is also probably my favorite out of the Allen pictures that I’ve seen.

While I’ve seen all of the famous scenes from Annie Hall time and time again in documentaries and shows about movies, I’ve never seen this film in its entirety and in the proper sequence with all of the narrative context. In some ways, this film is actually kind of genius in how refreshing, original and authentic it feels. But I also didn’t know, until now, that this was sort of autobiographical in regards to Allen and Diane Keaton’s real romantic relationship a few years before this movie.

What makes this work so well is the natural chemistry between Allen and Keaton. But even then, Allen had solid chemistry in his scenes with Shelley Duvall and Carol Kane. It’s hard to say that he’s a great actor when he’s essentially just playing himself but his natural charm works wonders in this picture and it gives a certain life to scenes that may have felt dry if played by someone else.

Diane Keaton was lovable and fun in the picture and I think she is the real glue of the film, even more so than Allen. The reason being is that she just radiates a glow that encapsulates anyone on the screen with her. You clearly see the woman that Woody Allen is legitimately infatuated with.

From a narrative standpoint, this is Allen writing what he knows most intimately. But even then, I don’t think that this authentic tale would have had the magic without the performances in the film. This is lightyears better than a standard romantic comedy but I feel like that’s because the main players felt very at home with the material and they took this very seriously, where most romantic comedies tend to by cheesy and lacking depth in the performances of their actors.

Allen certainly knows how to direct and it is very apparent here. He gets the most out of everyone on screen, including himself. It’s easy to write about your life but it’s difficult to make something so genuine.

In the end, this is a fun, cute, lighthearted picture that presents romance and comedy in a unique way that is very much Woody Allen. He’s had similar films but nothing that hits the right notes in quite the same way.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other early Woody Allen films.