Film Review: Munchies (1987)

Release Date: March, 1987
Directed by: Bettina Hirsch
Written by: Lance Smith
Music by: Ernest Troost
Cast: Harvey Korman, Charlie Stratton, Nadine Van der Velde, Robert Picardo, Wendy Schaal, Paul Bartel, Frank Welker (voice)

New Concorde, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Head for the hills… Mamma!” – Munchie

Out of all the Gremlins ripoffs not titled Critters, this one was my favorite, as a kid. However, it faded into obscurity quickly, in spite of its sequels, and it wasn’t a movie I could revisit until recently, as it popped up on Shout! Factory’s streaming service.

Unbeknownst to me in 1987, this is a Roger Corman production. So I guess I was a fan of the guy’s work even before I was aware of him.

Now this is a crude, cheap and absurd ’80s picture. It’s definitely schlock but it’s entertaining schlock that still, for some reason, hits the right notes for me. And I wouldn’t necessarily call it nostalgia, as it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I didn’t remember anything about the plot or the characters.

But I do like the characters, especially the acting work of Harvey Korman who played the dimwitted scientist Simon Watterman but more importantly, also played his rich, scumbag brother Cecil. The Cecil character was an ’80s southern yuppie caricature that was so bizarre and unique that he is the most interesting thing in the movie. While Korman has lots of comedy experience working in multiple Mel Brooks movies, as well as being on The Carol Burnett Show, he commits to the bit so spectacularly that I was absolutely buying what he was selling in this dumb, illogical film.

The rest of the characters were fairly normal but I did like Cecil’s stoner stepson.

As far as the special effects go, they’re nothing to write home about but this is better than the worst of the worst when it comes to other Gremlins wannabes. Although, these cheap puppets can’t hold a candle to the monsters from Critters or Ghoulies.

I fully understand that the vast majority of the human race would hate this movie. But for those who love ’80s schlock, crude humor and just want mindless entertainment, you’ll probably find something worthwhile in this flick.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other extremely low budget Gremlins ripoffs.

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: 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: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (2012-2013)

Release Date: September 25th, 2012 (Part I) and January 29th, 2013 (Part II)
Directed by: Jay Oliva
Written by: Bob Goodman
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson
Music by: Christopher Drake
Cast: Peter Weller, Ariel Winter, David Selby, Wade Williams, Michael Emerson, Mark Valley, Paget Brewster, Grey DeLisle, Michael McKean, Bruce Timm, Frank Welker, Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Tara Strong

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 76 Minutes (Part I), 76 Minutes (Part II), 148 Minutes (Deluxe Edition)

Review:

“You don’t get it, son. This isn’t a mud hole. It’s an operating table. And I’m the surgeon.” – Batman

When I see that there is a new DC Comics animated adaptation of a famous comic book story coming out, I usually don’t get too excited. The reason being, most of them take tremendous liberties and just sort of do their own thing, ignoring the story they’re “based” on and making the whole thing nothing more than a bullshit marketing scheme to sell more Blu-rays.

I guess that’s why I was pleasantly surprised by this film, a true adaptation that really captured the spirit of Frank Miller’s most famous Batman story.

I put off watching this for a very long time and I only gave it a shot because a friend of mine that actually reads comics told me it was definitely worth my time. He wasn’t wrong.

This film does a fine job of capturing the magic of Miller’s story and it also has some solid homages to the imagery of the famous comic.

I guess my biggest gripe is that even though the animation is really good, it sort of just looks like the other DC Comics animated features. DC has a specific style to its animated films and this falls in line with it. For what this project is and what it represents, I fell as if the art should have been closer to the style and tone of the actual comic. This took a big step forward from a narrative standpoint but the visual style really should have been unique, grittier and more in line with Frank Miller’s art.

I also wasn’t crazy about the length of this but that’s really my own problem, as I start to tune out when watching animation for too long. I don’t really know how this could have been edited down and because it adapts a very rich story in a really great way, I’d leave it alone. It fills the time well and there really isn’t a dull moment.

The voice actors were all superb. Peter Weller was perfect as an old Batman and Ariel Winter, who had to have been really young when this was made, was very convincing as the Carrie Kelley version of Robin.

I’ve watched a lot of DC Comics animated stuff since the ’90s and this is certainly in the upper echelon of the things they’ve put out.

If you love The Dark Knight Returns in comic book form, this shouldn’t disappoint.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other recent DC animated Batman and Justice League films.

 

TV Review: X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men (1989)

Original Run: 1989 (first-run syndication, 1 episode)
Created by: Lee Gunther, Margaret Loesch
Directed by: Ray Lee
Written by: Larry Parr
Based on: The Uncanny X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Robert J. Walsh
Cast: Michael Bell, Earl Boen, Andi Chapman, Pat Fraley, Ron Gans, Dan Gilvezan, Alan Oppenheimer, Patrick Pinney, Neil Ross, Susan Silo, Kath Soucie, John Stephenson, Alexandra Stoddart, Frank Welker, Stan Lee (narrator)

Marvel Productions, New World Television, Toei Animation, Baker and Taylor Entertainment, Metrolight Studios, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, 1 Episode, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Pryde of the X-Men was a pilot for a proposed X-Men animated series in the late ’80s. As far as I know, only one episode was ever produced.

The episode appeared on television in 1989 but I never got to see it until the VHS was available to rent in my local video store.

While the failure of this pilot eventually led to the development of the spectacular X-Men: The Animated Series in 1992, it’s hard to say which version of an X-Men cartoon would have been better because this pilot was damn good.

Also, the great X-Men arcade game from the ’90s was modeled after this cartoon and not the better known 1992 one.

I loved the style of this, as it was very similar to the early seasons of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers. All three of these shows were made by Marvel and Toei. The animation is basically done in the same style and this show even uses some of the same voice talent that were featured in G.I. Joe and Transformers.

This show, at least this one episode, is centered around the arrival of Kitty Pryde to the X-Mansion. The X-Men team here consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Dazzler. Lockheed, the dragon, is introduced in this too.

The episode also features the villains Magneto, Emma Frost, Juggernaut, Pyro and the Blob.

Pryde of the X-Men hits all the right notes and is a really cool experience if you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and had a love for X-Men and the other Marvel/Toei animated shows. Man, I really wish this would’ve at least gotten a full season run because this setup was well done and left me wanting more.

I’m glad that we got the 1992 animated series but this could have been good and maybe even great. We’ll never know but this show certainly started off on the right foot.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: X-Men: The Animated Series, as well as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers.

Film Review: Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Also known as: Elvira (Philippines English title)
Release Date: September 30th, 1988
Directed by: James Signorelli
Written by: Sam Egan, John Paragon, Cassandra Peterson
Music by: James B. Campbell
Cast: Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), W. Morgan Sheppard, Daniel Greene, Jeff Conaway, Susan Kellerman, Edie McClurg, Kurt Fuller, Frank Welker (voice)

NBC Productions, New World Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Please, I don’t think we need to resort to name calling. I think what Calvin is trying to say is that this Elvira is a person of easy virtue, a purveyor of pulchritude, a one-woman Sodom and Gomorrah, if you will. A slimy, slithering succubus, a concubine, a street walker, a tramp, a slut, a cheap whore!” – Chastity Pariah

This film hasn’t aged well. But I used to love it as a kid. And really, I think this only works if you’re already a pretty big fan of Elvira. If that’s the case, you should definitely give this a watch.

It kind of has a similar vibe to the Pee-Wee and Ernest movies from the ’80s. It’s a cheaply made comedy based on a fictional character that was super popular at the time. I liked the trend of these types of pop icons getting to try out film as a new vehicle for their careers, even if Ernest was the only one that achieved real cinematic longevity.

Lumping this in with those other films, it’s the best of them all after the original Pee-Wee movie, 1985’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. But that was also directed by Tim Burton in a time when the guy could do no wrong.

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark does a good job with the pieces it had though. Cassandra Peterson is truly a comedy master. She owns the Elvira character, delivers her lines like a champ and is willing to really put herself out there to let Elvira flourish. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Peterson and how she performs her craft. She absolutely was the best horror host of all-time and could perform at a level that other horror hosts couldn’t. That may be a controversial statement to some but I stick by it.

This movie was a great vehicle for her because she got to spend 90 minutes, hamming it up in her unique style, uninterrupted by bad movies and commercial breaks. I wouldn’t call this the highpoint of her career, as she has continued on for decades, but it is the one body of work that best showcases her talent in the most complete way.

I thought the story was decent, the acting didn’t really matter and you just sort of have to roll with this and enjoy it for what it is.

Edie McClurg was perfect as the small town busybody trying to make Elvira’s life hell. I’ve loved McClurg in so many different things but I liked that she wasn’t just a small character in this.

This film is goofy, funny as hell and it’s hard to feel down if this is on the TV. But it won’t be for everyone, not that it needs to be. Elvira fans should be pretty satisfied with it, though.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other oddball comedies of unique people stranded in podunk communities: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and Son In Law.

Film Review: Mortal Kombat (1995)

Release Date: July 13th, 1995 (Argentina, Israel)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Kevin Droney
Based on: Mortal Kombat by Midway Games
Music by: George S. Clinton, various
Cast: Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, Christopher Lambert, Peter, Jason, Frank Welker (voice)

Threshhold Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Challenging Goro eh? You weren’t supposed to fight him now. Are you that eager to die?” – Shang Tsung

This is the epitome of poorly aged films.

But let’s be honest, Mortal Kombat was never a great film or even a very good one. People that still seem to love it, do so because of nostalgia. Either that or they just have incredibly poor taste. I’m someone that watches a lot of bad movies because I’ll review just about anything but I found this picture to be almost unwatchable in 2018.

I loved the Mortal Kombat game when it first came out but I’ll be honest, this movie didn’t do much for me, even if I threw quarters into the arcade game like a pervert at a Times Square peep show in the ’70s.

While this didn’t initially seem as bad as the Street Fighter movie that came out a year earlier, I feel that Street Fighter is just so cheesy in the right ways that I actually enjoy it more and would watch it again. As far as Mortal Kombat, I don’t want to see this film again, ever.

Granted, I’ll watch the sequel because I’ve never actually seen it and I heard that it’s so bad that you have to see it to believe it. The thing is, I would have liked this movie better if it was as terrible as what people say about the sequel. This is just mundane and a cornucopia of terrible ’90s cliches.

I have always liked Bridgette Wilson though. I wish she’d still make movies but since marrying Pete Sampras circa 2000, she hasn’t done much. Actually, her most recent credit is ten years-old now. She was one of my ’90s crushes though, so I’ve always got a soft spot for her, even though she’s mostly been in pretty mediocre movies.

As much as I like Christopher Lambert, but really only because of the original Highlander, he’s fucking awful in this. Raiden’s lines are atrocious but that’s not Lambert’s fault, this script is a hot mess. And frankly, he doesn’t do a fucking thing in this film except look more like Gandalf the White than the actual Raiden character.

I don’t understand why Johnny Cage is the one that kills Goro. Cage is a lame ass character and always has been. Although, using him to do the spot with the dick punch was pretty solid.

The worst thing about this film, however, is the ridiculous special effects. I guess Goro looked good for the time and for the limited budget this had but all the magic shit was beyond terrible. The scenes with Scorpion were laughably bad, even for 1995. Then you had the animated demon dragon things that looked like they were ripped out of a 3D PC game from 1991. Also, there is incredibly obvious green screen work. The scene where Shang Tsung sucks the soul out of a warrior and into his own eye literally made me laugh out loud like a drunken hyena.

I think that the main reason that this film didn’t work for me is that it tried to be a real live action adaptation of the game. Certain things work in a game that won’t work in a live action movie. For instance, Liu Kang’s special kick came off as forced and cringy.

In 1995, I wanted this to be good. I kind of figured out, from the trailer, that it wouldn’t be. So I went into the film with low expectations. It’s a good thing I did.

I should also point out that the soundtrack was fucking stupid but honestly, I could go on about that for 1000 words and I don’t want to pull that Band-aid off. I just remember walking by the Taekwondo gym in the mall around 1996 and seeing toddlers flailing around throwing sloppy kicks to the theme song at full blast. That’s the moment where I knew I didn’t want kids.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre but mostly crappy movies based off of fighting games: Mortal Kombat: AnnihilationStreet FighterStreet Fighter: The Legend of Chun-LiTekken and Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge.