Film Review: Death Wish 3 (1985)

Also known as: Death Wish III (working title)
Release Date: November 1st, 1985
Directed by: Michael Winner
Written by: Don Jakoby (as Michael Edmonds)
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: Jimmy Page, Mike Moran
Cast: Charles Bronson, Deborah Raffin, Ed Lauter, Martin Balsam, Gavan O’Herlihy, Alex Winter, Marina Sirtis, Barbie Wilde

Golan-Globus Productions, The Cannon Group, 88 Minutes

Review:

“It’s like killing roaches – you have to kill ’em all. Otherwise, what’s the use?” – Paul Kersey

Some people are going to wonder why I gave this film a really high rating and why I place it above the original. Well, I can’t give it a 15 out of 10 for just the last twenty minutes, so when I average everything out, the big climax pulls the rating up to a 9 out of 10.

Why?

Because the violent, explosive finale of this motion picture is the best big action sequence in the history of American filmmaking. It’s incredible, it’s badass and it force feeds you so much testosterone that some people have sprouted extra testicles.

As a total body of work, this isn’t a better movie than the first one. But the massive action-filled crescendo of a one man army against a city infested with human cockroaches is the stuff of legend! In fact, for fans of action movies, especially from the ’80s and made by Cannon Films, this is an absolute treat and a pillar of perfection for the genre.

Additionally, this chapter in the franchise has a great ensemble that works well with the great Charles Bronson. You’ve got Ed Lauter as the dickhead cop that allows Bronson to go Bronson on New York City, Martin Balsam as a tough old guy who has done some fine movies in his day, Barbie Wilde who was once a Cenobite, Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Alex Winter from the Bill & Ted movies and Lost Boys, as well as the always underappreciated Gavan O’Herlihy as the shitball, scumbag gang leader.

This is one of those movies where guns only run out of ammo if it suits the plot. Bronson literally shoots the damn machine gun for what feels like an eternity. Then when that actually runs out of ammo, his pistols are seemingly powered by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas cheat codes. Plus, he uses an impractical but insane .475 Wildey Magnum. It’s like he’s got fucking Megatron in his hand! Scratch that, it’s like he’s got a handheld fucking battleship! The developers of the video game series Doom need to rename “God Mode” to “Bronson Mode”.

The film then ends with Bronson running into his apartment to finally reload, after twenty minutes of turning New York City into a carnage filled lead mine. He is then ambushed by Gavan O’Herlihy wielding a gun. But what’s Bronson do? He shoots him, in his own living room with a fucking bazooka! And he stands there after the walls explode into the street, completely unscathed while the corpse of the shitball, scumbag gang leader burns in the street below, covered in the rubble of what used to be Bronson’s apartment.

I remember watching this as a kid and thinking that it was the most epic thing I had ever seen in an action movie. I wasn’t wrong. But sadly, nothing has come along since and lived up to this movie’s stupendous finale. Sure, there are a lot of incredible, high octane action pictures, especially from Cannon Films, but this one took the cake and no one else has ever been able to get a slice.

Death Wish 3 needs more recognition for its greatness. I think it’s dismissed because it’s the third film in a long running series. The first one is beloved but everything after it doesn’t get the same sort of adoration. I mean, I can understand that in regards to parts 4 and 5, but 2 and 3, especially 3, deserve to be shown on a large screen in the center of every town for the rest of eternity.

If you consider yourself an action movie fan and you’ve never experienced the third act of Death Wish 3, you’re an absolute fucking fraud.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise (1987)

Release Date: July 10th, 1987
Directed by: Joe Roth
Written by: Dan Guntzelman, Steve Marshall
Based on: characters by Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores, Steve Zacharias, Jeff Buhai
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh, Gerald V. Casale
Cast: Robert Carradine, Timothy Busfield, Andrew Cassese, Curtis Armstrong, Larry B. Scott, Donald Gibb, James Cromwell, Anthony Edwards, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Bradley Whitford, Ed Lauter, James Hong

Interscope Communications, 20th Century Fox, 89 Minutes

Review:

“There could be a nuclear war; there’d be nothing left but cockroaches and nerds.” – Roger

I wouldn’t say that this is a better movie than its predecessor but for some reason, I enjoy Nerds II more than I enjoy Nerds I. That could also be because of the fact that I was briefly on the set of this film when they were shooting the scenes at the front exterior of the hotel, which was the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale, which wasn’t too far from my father’s house back then.

Another benefit of this movie is that it doesn’t feature any creepy behavior from the nerds. As I discussed in my review of the previous film, Louis raped a girl, filmed and broadcasted an entire girls’ dorm in their private moments and even hid in a girl’s shower to see her naked.

This film was also PG-13 and not R, so that probably had a lot to do with the lack of boobies and rape behavior. But being that this was PG-13 made it just a stoner comedy and not a teen sex comedy. However, by 1987, teen sex comedies had sort of run their course.

The plot for this film isn’t to dissimilar from its predecessor. The nerds have to rise to the challenges put in front of them by the jocks and the cool kids. The Alpha Betas return to be the villains but this is a new group where Ogre is the only returning member from the previous movie. The new group is lead by quintessential ’80s dickhead Bradley Whitford. I call him a “dickhead” but that was what he played a lot back then. He’s grown to become a pretty accomplished actor but I still remember him most fondly for his roles like the one here, Adventures In Babysitting and Billy Madison. He was superb in Get Out and I am really looking forward to seeing him in next year’s Godzilla sequel.

Most of the key nerds return for this film except for Brian Tochi. Also, Anthony Edwards wasn’t a fan of the script and even though he is in this, his role was significantly reduced to being a glorified cameo in a few scenes. Ted McGinley and John Goodman aren’t in this either, which kind of sucked but Whitford really carried the ball and ran with it.

We also get the addition of Courtney Thorne-Smith but she doesn’t have a lot to do other to to pine over Louis but nothing happens between them and Louis is still with Betty, the girl he raped into a relationship in the first movie. Louis and Betty are married by the time Nerds III rolled around.

So the main difference between this movie and Nerds I is that it is set in a “tropical paradise”: Fort Lauderdale. Also, the nerds are holed up in a really shitty hotel that has a boisterous Cuban lady and the legendary James Hong as a sort of zen master for Booger’s gross antics. Also, Ogre becomes a nerd by the end of the film. I actually kind of liked this bit, as Ogre doesn’t really fit in with the jocks, other than being used for his muscle power and intimidation.

Based off of the reviews and ratings I’ve seen for this film, it’s not as beloved as the original. But in all honesty, it’s not that bad if you are a fan of the first one.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The original Revenge of the Nerds but the sequels after this one get pretty terrible.

Film Review: Family Plot (1976)

Also known as: Alfred Hitchcock’s 53rd Film, Deceit, Deception, Missing Heir (working titles)
Release Date: March 21st, 1976 (Filmex)
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Ernest Lehman
Based on: The Rainbird Pattern by Victor Canning
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris, William Devane, Ed Lauter

Universal Pictures, 121 Minutes

Review:

“[to Fran] We’re gonna have to kill these two ourselves.” – Arthur Adamson

Family Plot has the distinction of being Alfred Hitchcock’s last film. It also proves that even in old age, the director was a true auteur that never lost his mojo. This is an engaging and entertaining motion picture that while it isn’t Hitchcock’s best, probably deserves more recognition than it has gotten over the years.

The plot is about one giant misunderstanding. Unfortunately for the nice duo, it becomes a big mess, as the other duo locked in this cat and mouse game aren’t nice people and in fact are pretty evil and dangerous.

Barbara Harris plays a fake psychic that swindles rich old ladies out of their money. She partners up with a crafty cab driver played by Bruce Dern. The two of them are given a job that will reward them with $10,000 upon completion. That job is to find a long lost heir to a family fortune and return him to the fold. What they don’t know is that this heir is a career criminal and conman. The conman thinks that he is being pursued by the duo because of something heinous from his past. The heir is teamed up with a often times reluctant accomplice played by Karen Black. The film becomes a chase where the mostly good guys keep finding themselves in over their heads and the bad guys are running in fear of what these do-gooders may have on them.

The plot is well structured and executed marvelously for the most part. My only real complaint about the film is that it seems a bit too drawn out. Hitchcock loved a two hour-plus running time and frankly, this could have been 100 minutes and been just as good.

I loved seeing a younger Ed Lauter in the movie and with Bruce Dern and Karen Black, this just has a really cool cast. The fact that these actors also got to work with Hitchcock is kind of impressive. Not because they aren’t capable, they certainly are, but because it’s a teaming of great talents from different generations.

Speaking of which, it was also really neat that John Williams got to score a Hitchcock picture. Two different artists that defined two different generations in very different ways came together and made something that worked to benefit both parties. Williams score here isn’t anywhere as well known as those that he’d do for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg but it enhanced the overall experience of Hitchcock’s Family Plot and gave it some life it might not have had with a less capable composer.

I really enjoyed Family Plot. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it exceeded any expectations I could have had, even if I knew more about it before diving in.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: A lot of Alfred Hitchcock’s later work from the late ’60s into the ’70s.

Film Review: Real Genius (1985)

Release Date: August 7th, 1985
Directed by: Martha Coolidge
Written by: Neal Israel, Pat Proft, Peter Torokvei
Music by: Thomas Newman, The Textones
Cast: Val Kilmer, Gabe Jarret, Michelle Meyrink, William Atherton, Robert Prescott, Jon Gries, Ed Lauter, Patti D’Arbanville

Delphi III Productions, TriStar Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“This? This is ice. This is what happens to water when it gets too cold. This? This is Kent. This is what happens to people when they get too sexually frustrated.” – Chris Knight

Real Genius is one of those comfort movies from my youth. I loved this film when I was a kid but I was always really into tech stuff and my love for G.I. Joe and sci-fi had me really interested in military weapons science. Although, the kids in this film didn’t know that they are building a superweapon until it was too late.

Val Kilmer, who was the “king of cool” for quite some time between the ’80s and ’90s, felt authentic in his role as Chris Knight, a super genius that was a bit burnt out and just wanted to party and enjoy life. Gabe Jarret was also really good as Mitch, the younger super genius that came to the college at fifteen and roomed with Chris. The rest of the kids also felt real and all of them played their roles to perfection.

William Atherton, quintessential ’80s adult super villain, was up to his old tricks as the authoritative and vindictive heel to the heroes. He was a celebrity scientist with a hit show who was using the university as a means to get super smart kids to create a killer laser for the U.S. military. Atherton’s Professor Hathaway was the Joker to Kilmer’s Batman. Wait… Kilmer would eventually be Batman. Whoa! Imagine an Atherton Joker. And hell, what if Mitch became the Riddler? Okay, I’m distracted… sorry. But now I can’t get the thought of Michelle Meyrink as Catwoman out of my head. Or the Asian kid being Mr. Freeze because he freezes stuff. And Lazlo could be Two-Face… mainly because he’s tall. And well, Kent could be Scarecrow because he’s a jerk and a total pussy. Damn it! Get back on topic!

Anyway, Real Genius is a film that’s a hell of a lot of fun and has a good solid message.

It’s about kids fighting authority and a system they really don’t want to be a part of. A system that exploits them for their talents. And it is a cool movie because the kids fight back and outwit the adults that think they’re smarter than the geniuses they tried to dupe. Ultimately, this is a coming of age movie that deals with the youth’s inability to trust a scary adult world that existed before them and corrupted their parents.

Real Genius is much more than a standard ’80s teen comedy. It is well written with lots of talented young actors that play their parts convincingly. Val Kilmer has done a lot in his long career but this is still my favorite role that he’s ever played.

Can we maybe get a sequel featuring an old, even more burnt out Chris Knight living in Mitch’s basement where Mitch has to deal with “cool uncle” Chris teaching his kids how to have fun because Mitch grew up to be even lamer and more uptight? And Kent could be the district manager over a dozen Radio Barns that are closing down because we live in an Amazon world. And Lazlo could be like a hybrid of Mark Cuban and Bill Gates. I should really just write pointless sequels for a living, I’ve got a lot of unrefined and ambitious ideas, y’all.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: WarGamesD.A.R.Y.L.Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science.

Film Review: Gleaming the Cube (1989)

Also known as: A Brother’s Justice, Skate or Die (alternate titles), Downtown Hero (Denmark), Skate Rider (France), California Skate (Italy)
Release Date: January 13th, 1989
Directed by: Graeme Clifford
Written by: Michael Tolkin
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Richard Herd, Le Tuan, Min Luong, Ed Lauter, Tony Hawk

Gladden Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I guess we all do unexpected things sometimes, don’t we?” – Brian Kelly

This is one of those ’80s films I’m not totally nostalgic for. I did see it back then and liked it but I never really revisited it beyond the early ’90s. Truthfully, it didn’t have the lasting power, even though it had some dope skateboarding stunts.

Gleaming the Cube is very much an ’80s teen drama in the most derivative and cliche way possible. It stars Christian Slater but it doesn’t measure up to any of his better films from the era: HeathersPump Up the VolumeThe Legend of Billie Jean, etc.

The story sees a young skater trying to solve the mystery of his adopted Vietnamese brother’s death, which at first was made to look like a suicide. It’s a coming of age story where a slacker kid must grow up and face the cruelty of adulthood while working with the cops and his gang of skater friends, one of which is skating legend Tony Hawk.

It’s a decent movie but it is forgettable. It doesn’t have anything to really make it stand out. While the skateboarding element was cool, it wasn’t anything new in teen movies by the time 1989 rolled around. In fact, it kind of hurts the film, as it feels like it should be categorized with other teen extreme sports schlock like BMX BanditsRad or Brat Patrol. While those were movies about BMX bikes, the narrative and style is still pretty consistent.

Slater still displayed some good acting chops for his age and I’m sure this only helped him get to where he needed to be, as he entered the ’90s, where he rose to being a much bigger star for awhile.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Cujo (1983)

Release Date: August 12th, 1983
Directed by: Lewis Teague
Written by: Don Carlos Dunaway, Lauren Currier
Based on: Cujo by Stephen King
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh-Kelly, Danny Pintauro, Ed Lauter, Christopher Stone

Taft Entertainment, Sunn Classic Pictures, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

“Fuck you, dog.” – Donna Trenton

Let me start by saying that I am not a big Stephen King fan. There are some things he’s done that I’ve liked but in all honesty, I’ve usually liked the film versions of his work better. Yes, even the shitty films. In the case of Cujo however, I think I dislike both equally.

This film sucks, plain and simple. But it isn’t like a normal vacuum suck, it is more like the pierced edge of a space station suck where everyone on board is going to get sucked through the dime-sized hole and shit out into space like human spaghetti.

Basically, there’s this unfaithful wife with her son and her piece of shit car. After spending too much time character-building bad characters no one will ever care about, the piece of shit car breaks down in front of a rabies-afflicted St. Bernard. The last half of the film is mom and kid crying in their vehicle as Cujo the rabid St. Bernard barks incessantly and slobbers all over the windows.

The kid (played by Jonathan from Who’s the Boss) is a giant bitch for such a little guy. He’s also so damn annoying with his crying and whining. I cheered for the dog when it gave him rabies, because at least it shut the kid up. In fact, I started cheering for the dog the whole rest of the movie because the mom was so stupid, she deserved to be eaten.

And yes, I know she is played by Dee Wallace and that Dee Wallace is a horror icon but I don’t care. Everything about Cujo sucks. She should’ve known better than to have signed on to this mess.

This film couldn’t have stunk worse, even if the victims were trapped in an outhouse instead of a car.

I don’t really have much else to say because I want to move on with my life now and pretend that this film doesn’t exist even though, for some reason, some idiots like to bring it up as some sort of classic. It’s not a classic. It’s a pile of crap, plain and simple.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other Stephen King films of the ’70s and ’80s: Maximum OverdriveSalem’s LotCarrieSilver Bullet, etc.

Film Review: Raw Deal (1986)

Release Date: June 6th, 1986
Directed by: John Irvin
Written by: Gary DeVore, Norman Wexler, Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati
Music by: Tom Bahler, Chris Boardman, Albhy Galuten
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harrold, Darren McGavin, Sam Wanamaker, Paul Shenar, Steven Hill, Ed Lauter, Robert Davi

Famous Films, International Film Corporation, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, Embassy Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“He molested, murdered and mutilated her.” – Mark Kaminsky

This is an old school Schwarzenegger film that I had never seen until now. Actually, it is probably the only Schwarzenegger film I have never seen. Although I have seen a few clips here and there over the years like the scene with his awesome line, “You should not drink and bake.”

Anyway, Raw Deal is sort of a raw deal. It isn’t a good picture by any stretch of the imagination. There is one amazing scene where Schwarzenegger blows up a massive oil refinery but that short sequence was the entire budget of the picture, one would have to assume.

Also, he looks good in that he wears a nice suit and puffs a large cigar for most of the movie. He’s essentially the Austrian James Bond with extra muscles and not a lot to do.

The movie feels cheap and it is cheap. The quality of the film is a big step down from where Schwarzenegger was at this point in his career. The cinematography is ugly, the quality of the film and camera work is shitty and the script is awful apart from a couple funny Arnold lines.

The film also has Robert Davi and Ed Lauter in it, which is cool but not cool enough to make the film anything other than a less-than-mediocre action film.

Raw Deal is no Terminator or Commando or Conan. It is like a script that Chuck Norris said “no” to even though he made around 1700 films in the 1980s.

So, I hate to do this to Arnie but I have to run Raw Deal through the Cinespiria Shitometer. So, what we have here is a “Type 3 Stool: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface.”