Film Review: Evilspeak (1981)

Also known as: Evilspeaks (alternative title)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1981 (Japan)
Directed by: Eric Weston
Written by: Eric Weston, Joseph Garofalo
Music by: Roger Kellaway
Cast: Clint Howard, R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Richard Moll

Leisure Investment Company, Coronet Films, Moreno Films, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes, 92 Minutes (R-rated cut)

Review:

“I command you, Prince of Evil, heed my call. Give life to the instruments of my retribution.” – Stanley Coopersmith

Evilspeak is a cool movie that capitalized on two things that had people worried in the early ’80s: the “Satanic panic” the media and parents groups were raging about, as well as the emergence of personal computers and what such a jump in technology could mean for the common folk.

This also stars a very young Clint Howard, playing a teen in a military school that decides to use his computer to summon the devil in an effort to conquer his bullies.

It’s also neat seeing the bully being played by a young Don Stark, who is probably most famous for being the doofus neighbor to Red Foreman on That ’70s Show.

The movie also features legendary, badass character actor R.G. Armstrong, as well as Richard Moll, before he’d go on to greater heights as Bull on the ’80s sitcom Night Court. There’s also Lenny Montana, a former professional wrestler that was most known for playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather and another sitcom star, Haywood Nelson, who was already known for his role as Dwayne on What’s Happening!! and later, What’s Happening Now!!

Man, I dig the hell out of this movie. It’s not just because I love the cast, it’s because this is just a time capsule into a really cool era for horror cinema. Also, it’s not a slasher flick or haunted house movie. Frankly, it’s pretty unique, at least for its time.

Granted, it’s concept would be ripped off and reimagined in several other films but this is the first film I know of where a personal computer was used to create a black mass and call forth the Devil.

Clint Howard really shines here because even if he succumbs to evil and a fucked up revenge plot, you still sympathize with him, as he just has this sort of soft, sad, endearing quality as this character, Stanley. His life sucks, it’s tough as hell and his bully is a real piece of shit. That being said, what the bully does to Stanley’s puppy is unforgivable and as a viewer, you want Stanley to literally raise hell.

I thought that the special effects in this were also pretty great. The big finale was well shot and employed some cool techniques, as a levitating, demonically possessed Stanley unleashes his newfound power on the assholes who tormented him.

Beyond that, I also thought the locations, sets and general visual tone were perfect. The film’s score wasn’t too bad either.

Evilspeak is one of those early ’80s horror movies that seems like it’s mostly forgotten today. However, it’s concept has lived on in countless other things throughout pop culture.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other “Satanic panic” movies of the ’80s, as well as Brainscan, The Gate II: Trespassers, Lawnmower Man and 976-EVIL.

TV Review: Spider-Man (1994-1998)

Original Run: November 19th, 1994 – January 31st, 1998
Created by: John Semper, Bob Richardson, Avi Arad, Stan Lee
Directed by: Bob Richardson
Written by: John Semper, various
Based on: Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Kussa Mahchi, Jeremy Sweet, Shuki Levy, Joe Perry, Shuki Levy, Kussa Mahchi, Udi Harpaz
Cast: Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ed Asner, Jennifer Hale, Roscoe Lee Brown, Mark Hamill, Hank Azaria, Joseph Campanella, Martin Landau, Richard Moll, Don Stark, Dawnn Lewis, Majel Barrett, David Warner, Earl Boen

New World Entertainment Films, Genesis Entertainment, Marvel Enterprises, Fox, 65 Episodes, 23 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

After the success of the early ’90s X-Men cartoon on Fox, it was natural for the network to ask for more Marvel properties to adapt for their Saturday morning audience. The Spider-Man series was the longest running and most successful of these animated spinoffs.

While the X-Men show still stands as my favorite of these animated Marvel series, Spider-Man is a very, very close second and nearly as good.

The stories are generally well written and even if they have to take some liberties and alter the plots from the comics. This was due to time constraints and by trying to wedge in the debut of Venom really early in the series, which changes the overall timeline of events in Spider-Man’s life, greatly. Also, the showrunners probably wanted to get as many villains added into the mix, early on, so that each new episode felt fresh.

Spider-Man has a massive rogues gallery and this show utilized the core villains really damn well.

The tone of the cartoon is pretty perfect. Sure, there are cheesy and hokey bits in every episode because this is a kid’s cartoon but it does stay pretty true to the tone and style of the source material. Most importantly, it’s true to the characters and the writers obviously knew the Spider-Man mythos well.

I love this show and it’s still fun to have minimarathons of episodes. Honestly, to me, it’s one of the highlights of Disney+.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other animated Marvel television series from the ’90s.

Film Review: John Carter (2012)

Also known as: John Carter of Mars, A Princess of Mars, Barsoom (working titles)
Release Date: February 22nd, 2012 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Written by: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon
Based on: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Willem Dafoe, Don Stark, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Haden Church, David Schwimmer, Jon Favreau

Walt Disney Pictures, 132 Minutes

Review:

“Did I not tell you he could jump!” – Tars Tarkas

I got to be honest, I didn’t think I’d get much out of this film but I was pleasantly surprised.

I never planned to watch it but I recently started reading Dynamite Entertainment’s comic book adaptations of the Barsoom stuff (titled Warlord of Mars) and I wanted to see how similar the comic book version of A Princess of Mars was to this film, a live action version of the same story.

They were pretty close, for the most part. Having never read the novel though, I’m not sure which is closer to the source material. I’d assume the comic though, as Disney loves to put their own stamp on their adaptations.

This is an action packed, epic adventure story. It’s grand in scale, is a hell of a lot of fun and is basically a swashbuckling romp on Mars. It’s like if you merged Disney’s Prince of Persia and Pirates of the Caribbean movies together and then threw them into outer space.

This was also one of the most expensive movies ever made but completely flopped at the box office and has become one of Disney’s biggest failures. The sad thing is that it wasn’t shit and the film did a fantastic job of world building: setting up future sequels. Honestly, having seen this now, I wish it would have evolved into a franchise.

I thought that Taylor Kitsch was convincing as John Carter and his chemistry with Lynn Collins’ Dejah Thoris was pretty good. But I actually preferred his relationship with his badass Martian dog, Woola. I smiled every time this cosmic canine was on the screen.

Plus, the Michael Giacchino score is superb. I loved the themes in this picture.

My only real complaint about the movie is that I didn’t like some of the character design. I’m not sure how true to the books the look of the Martians was but I preferred the bulkier, heavyset versions in the comics, as opposed to these skinny ones in the film. Still, the actors that played the Martians (primarily Willem Dafoe) did a solid job.

Additionally, the CGI was questionable in the quality of the characters. The special effects work great for the ships, vehicles, landscapes and architecture but the living, breathing characters felt artificial. And that’s kind of baffling considering the immense budget of this top tier motion picture.

None of the flaws are enough to distract you though. The total package is good and I enjoyed it enough to not want to nitpick the shit out of certain things that don’t wreck the film.

I hope that this being a massive flop won’t deter future filmmakers from taking on the Barsoom material. John Carter is a worthy enough character to live on in various forms forever. I just hope that someone can eventually make something that the people want to see because the Barsoom mythos is rich and deserving of further adaptations.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s Prince of Persia and Pirates of the Caribbean movies, as well as the first two Brendan Fraser Mummy films and Aquaman.