Film Review: Enemy Mine (1985)

Release Date: December 12th, 1985 (Germany)
Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen
Written by: Edward Khmara
Based on: Enemy Mine by Barry B. Longyear
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., Bumper Robinosn, Brion James

Kings Road Entertainment, SLM Production Group, Twentieth Century Fox, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Uncle, what did my parent look like?” – Zammis, “Your parent looked like… my friend.” – Davidge

Enemy Mine was about ten years old when I discovered it late at night on cable. I probably saw it on TNT’s MonsterVision with Joe Bob Briggs, the greatest TV movie host of all-time. I immediately fell in love with the movie and watched it every time I came across it on television. Once I bought the DVD, years later, I recognized the cover art and realized it was something I used to see at video stores in my childhood. I probably never rented it in the ’80s because I didn’t know what it was and I probably assumed it was sub B-level schlock.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love the film even more and even though it has gained a cult following in spite of its awful theatrical performance, there are still a lot of people, even fans of ’80s science fiction, that haven’t heard of or seen the movie.

The plot is about two enemy pilots that are marooned on a planet together after a dogfight. One is a human, the other is an alien. Over the course of the story, they have to get past their mutual distrust of one another and learn to work together in order to survive. The film takes a drastic turn at the end of the second act, as the alien pilot dies while giving birth. The human then has to raise and protect the alien child, which becomes much more difficult when human scavengers show up and abduct the alien kid, forcing it to work in the mines with other enslaved aliens.

At first glance, this isn’t a movie that you expect will be an emotional journey. On the surface, it looks like it’ll be a non-comedic version of the Odd Couple in space. However, it tugs at the heart strings pretty hard and it’s impossible not to fall in love with both pilots, their bond and then, the child that comes into the life of Davidge, the human in the story. By the time the evil humans show up, you’re fully invested into these characters and the abduction of little Zammis is a real punch to the gut.

All in all, this is a fine motion picture. Being directed by Wolfgang Petersen, fresh off of The NeverEnding Story, this film has a similar style in its fantastical setting. It’s also made even more beautiful with the spectacular matte paintings used to create the sky and outer space. The whole film feels as if it takes place in a living painting.

I think that the practical effects are also amazing, especially in regards to the alien makeup and the dangerous sand creature that keeps trying to make the pilots its lunch.

Enemy Mine has found its audience over the decades since its release but even then, I don’t think that enough people know about it or have given it a shot. It’s one of the top sci-fi films in a decade that was littered with them. Plus, very few have ever been as emotional or had as much heart as this one.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: ’80s science fiction films.

Film Review: Rambo (2008)

Also known as: Rambo IV (unofficial title), Rambo IV: End of Peace, Rambo IV: In the Serpent’s Eye, Rambo IV: Pearl of the Cobra, Rambo: To Hell and Back, John Rambo, Rambo: First Blood Part IV (working titles)
Release Date: January 23rd, 2008 (Kuwait)
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Art Monterastelli, Sylvester Stallone
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang, Rey Gellegos, Jake La Botz, Maung Maung Khin, Ken Howard

Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company, Millennium Films, 92 Minutes, 99 Minutes (extended), 80 Minutes (heavily cut)

Review:

“You know what you are… what you’re made of. War is in your blood. Don’t fight it. You didn’t kill for your country. You killed for yourself. God’s never gonna make that go away. When you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing.” – John Rambo

This was a film that I never knew I wanted until I saw the trailer for it back in 2007. But after the success of Stallone’s return as Rocky Balboa in Rocky Balboa, a decades late Rambo sequel felt like a natural follow up, creatively speaking.

I assumed the Rambo character, like Rocky, was long gone. I figured that someone would eventually just do a shitty remake. But no, we got this, a legit sequel and one of the most intense action films of its decade.

Rambo is super violent, supremely extreme and it doesn’t just feel like a throwback to ’80s action movies, it feels like a fucking throwback to ’70s gore porn exploitation! I’m not even sure what Stallone or the other executives were thinking but this movie was like a big “fuck you” to the Hollywood status quo, who ruined action and horror by forcing every genre filmmaker to keep their art neutered for PG-13 audiences.

This is the best Rambo movie since the original: First Blood. It, like the other films, has a message and a point to it, as it draws attention to just how shitty the decades long genocide was in Burma. It’s unapologetic in how it displays the sadistic nature of the fascist dictatorship and its treatment of its citizens. Since the movie, things have improved in Burma (actually officially called Myanmar).

In fact, the film was banned there by the government. However, it was eventually disturbed via bootlegs by the resistance, hoping to use it as anti-military propaganda. It also went on to inspire the people in the country, who adopted some of the film’s most notable lines in their battle cries. Learning of all this, Stallone said, “That, to me, is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had in film.”

I point that out because some people have wondered as to whether or not things in Burma were as bad as the movie portrayed. Also, it shows that Hollywood can make a difference and inspire change when it addresses real world problems and doesn’t get fixated on faux bourgeois identity politics or being overly fixated on trashing the other end of the political spectrum most of them subscribe to.

The film’s story is pretty simple: a group of missionaries charter Rambo’s boat in Thailand. They want to go up the river into Burma to deliver aid to the people there. Rambo reluctantly agrees. The missionaries eventually get captured and Rambo goes back to Burma with a group of mercenaries to bring war to some of the worst humans on the planet.

If you thought that previous Rambo films were too violent, then you might want to skip this film. This is insanely violent but when the villains are as evil as they are in this movie, it feels gratifying to see them literally blasted to bloody chunks.

Also, Stallone feels completely at home in the John Rambo character; like no time has passed and he’s been living in Rambo’s head for twenty years, waiting to get out. For die hard fans of the film series, this more than makes up for a twenty year gap between the third film and this one.

It’s a short, quick and badass motion picture. It’s also one of the best that Stallone, himself, has directed.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.

Film Review: Secret Agent Super Dragon (1966)

Also known as: New York Calling Superdragon (informal English title)
Release Date: February 17th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Giorgio Ferroni (as Calvin Jackson Padget)
Written by: Giorgio Ferroni (as Calvin Jackson Padget), Remigio Del Grosso, Bill Coleman, Mike Mitchell
Music by: Benedetto Ghiglia
Cast: Ray Danton, Marisa Mell

Films Borderie, Fono Roma, Gloria-Film GmbH, 95 Minutes

Review:

Secret Agent Super Dragon is just one of several attempts of the Italians trying to capitalize off of the James Bond phenomena. It’s a film that fails in just about every way but luckily for us, it was so bad that it was showcased on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

This is one of those films that is unintentionally funny. It’s not officially a comedy but some of the stuff in it is so ridiculous that it plays like parody in parts.

The story is flimsy but that could also be due to a bad English language dub. But films like this get a lot lost in translation so it’s hard to say if there are actual details left out and if the really atrocious dialogue is just a really atrocious translation.

Still, the movie looks bad. It’s poorly shot, badly lit and shows no signs of competent cinematography. While one could claim it’s at least stylish, I could claim that it’s just due to the time and the country it was made in and that whatever style there is, is just a byproduct of it trying to mimic a James Bond picture.

Apart from its lack of technical and artistic merits, the film is just a dreadful bore to get through. It’s only really worth checking out on MST3K.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other terrible ’60s wannabe Bond movies of which there are many.

Documentary Review: Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen (2004)

Release Date: September 4th, 2004 (Germany)
Directed by: Michael Palm
Written by: Michael Palm
Cast: Edgar G. Ulmer (voice, archive footage), Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Ann Savage, John Saxon, William Schallert, Arianne Ulmer, Tom Weaver, Wim Wenders

Edgar G. Ulmer Preservation Corporation, Mischief Films, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), 77 Minutes

Review:

While I was perusing the offerings on the Criterion Channel, I came across this documentary about filmmaker, Edgar G. Ulmer.

This guy made magic in three of my favorite genres: horror, science fiction and film-noir. I believe that this documentary may actually be included on the Criterion Collection version of Detour.

What’s neat about it is that it features interviews and conversations with a lot of well known directors and actors that worked with or were influenced by Ulmer’s work behind the camera.

This also features his daughter who gives more intimate details on Ulmer, his life, her life as his daughter, as well as talking about her time in front of the camera with her father directing.

I really liked the conversation here between Joe Dante and John Landis. I also enjoyed the parts with John Saxon, Ann Savage, Roger Corman and Wim Wenders.

This was just a solid piece of work that really went through the man’s career with insight from some of the people who were there and others who had their own unique insight.

I couldn’t find a trailer for the documentary, so I put a trailer for Detour below, as it is my favorite Edgar G. Ulmer picture.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about horror, sci-fi and noir filmmakers.

Documentary Review: Moebius Redux: A Life In Pictures (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Germany, France)
Directed by: Hasko Baumann
Written by: Hasko Baumann
Music by: Aaa
Cast: Jean Giraud (Moebius), H.R. Giger, Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Dan O’Bannon, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal

Arte France, Avanti Media, Morag Loves Company, 68 Minutes

Review:

I’ve admired Moebius’ artwork for years. However, I sadly didn’t know much about the man until this documentary.

Sure, I knew that he was an artist’s artist and that he has been praised longer than I’ve been alive but I never delved beyond just his art. But I guess that’s my crime and I missed out on not knowing more about Jean Giraud, the man behind the pseudonym.

This short film interviews a lot of iconic people from Alejandro Jodorowsky to Stan Lee to H.R. Giger to Jim Lee to Mike Mignola and they all give their two cents on Moebius and the impact of his work on the comic book and film mediums, as well as his influence on their own work.

Most importantly though, this spends a lot of time with Giraud, as he gives his story, in his own words. He talks about his influences and how Moebius evolved over time, working in the western genre and then sci-fi, fantasy and other styles that come with their own sets of tropes.

This was just a cool documentary about a guy that’s cooler than most people.

Moebius is an extremely talented artist and on top of that, his life is compelling and fascinating.

I’d say that this is definitely a must see for those who love the comic book medium and intriguing creatives with a hell of a lot of passion and imagination.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other comic artist documentaries. I’ve reviewed a ton of them here, already.

Film Review: Contamination (1980)

Also known as: Contamination – Alien arriva sulla Terra (Italy), Alien Contamination (US cut version title), Toxic Spawn (US video title)
Release Date: August 2nd, 1980 (Italy)
Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
Written by: Luigi Cozzi
Music by: Goblin
Cast: Ian McCulloch, Louise Marleau, Marino Mase, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn

Alex Cinematografica, Barthonia Film, Lisa-Film, Cannon Films, 95 Minutes, 84 Minutes (cut version)

Review:

“Help! Let me out! There’s an egg!” – Colonel Stella Holmes

In Italy, at least back in the ’70s and ’80s, filmmakers didn’t give a crap about copyrights. So this was made as a “sequel” to Ridley Scott’s Alien, even though the only similarity it shares with that film is aliens. But these aliens are pretty much just slimy pods that look like inside out kiwis.

Overall, this isn’t a very good movie but for a 1980 horror picture from Italy, it fits that style and is actually better than a lot of the similar riffraff.

Luigi Cozzi wrote and directed this and it is one of his better films. I thought that the story was decent and I was at least engaged by it. There weren’t many dull moments and even if the aliens were bizarre and hokey, the film had an atmosphere that worked and made them haunting.

I think a lot of what makes this film work is the soundtrack by Goblin. I believe the band had a different lineup than when they worked on the Suspiria soundtrack but they still provide surrealist noise that sometimes has a melody but mostly just sets the tone, generating a sort of uneasiness in the viewer.

My favorite thing about this movie is the special effects. They’re practical, they’re cheap but when bodies start bursting from exposure to alien pods, it all comes off really damn good and it has stood the test of time. That opening scene where the scientists in hazmat suits are exploding all over the place is still effective.

Contamination is Italian horror schlock but it’s entertaining Italian horror schlock with a good amount of fun, explosive gore; the type of gore I like most because it’s not there to gross you out, it’s just there to shock you and catch you by surprise.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Luigi Cozzi horror films, as well as movies by Lucio Fulci and Lamberto Bava.

Film Review: The Beastmaster (1982)

Also known as: Invasión Junk (Argentina), Dar l’invincible (France), El señor de las bestias (Spain)
Release Date: August 16th, 1982 (US limited)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Based on: The Beast Master by Andre Norton
Music by: Lee Holdridge
Cast: Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, Rip Torn, John Amos

Beastmaster N.V., ECTA Filmproduktion, GmbH & Co., K.G., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t move. The beast is fierce. But if we show no fear, we might escape.” – Dar

I used to love the hell out of this film when I was a little kid. It could because it was the first time I remember seeing boobies in a movie and that my parents seemed oblivious to this having boobies and lots of violence and therefore, never making me turn it off when I put it on. But then again, they were usually walking around the house doing adult things.

Anyway, I still like to revisit this movie every few years. It had been awhile seen I’d seen it this time though, maybe five years or more. But I wanted to work my way through all of The Beastmaster films since I haven’t reviewed them yet.

This is absolutely the best film in the series and I’d say that it’s the second best sword and sorcery film after the original Conan the Barbarian, which also came out in 1982.

I think that a lot of this film’s awesomeness can be attributed to it being written and directed by Don Coscarelli, the man behind the Phantasm film series, Bubba Ho-Tep and John Dies at the End. It has a very dark fantasy vibe that isn’t too dissimilar from his Phantasm series. And there are parts of this film that feel like actual horror, like the scenes with the winged demon vampire creatures that captured people within their wings and devoured them, turning them into a dripping acidic goo. Also, there is children sacrifice and all types of other hardcore shit thrown in.

The film also has a pretty layered narrative. It’s a straightforward movie where the hero is born, the hero loses the life he knows due to a tyrant, the hero grows up and then takes the tyrant down. But there are multiple villains in the movie: Rip Torn as an evil religious cult leader and a big brutish warrior with one of the coolest helmets in movie history. Plus, there are other evil abominations thrown in at certain points.

For those that might not know, Dar, the Beastmaster, has the power of befriending animals and using them as allies in his war against evil. It’s a cool concept and even though the idea comes from the book this is based on, which is really all they took from the book, it gives this story an edge over other sword and sorcery movies. Now it isn’t better than the first Conan but it is, at times, more entertaining.

I really enjoy Marc Singer in this. I also liked Tanya Roberts, here, but she was always a favorite of mine when I was a kid, between this film and A View to a Kill. Also, she’s the best thing about Tourist Trap. I think the real highlights for me though, are seeing John Amos being a total buff badass in this, as well as Rip Torn embracing his character’s evil insanity. All of the performances are better than what’s typical within this genre.

The movie has good cinematography and the shots are framed quite well. I especially like the scene where Dar faces off with the evil helmeted dark knight amongst the flames. It was well lit, well captured and the use of contrast in this sequence was well done.

Decades have come and gone since this film came out but like Coscarelli’s other motion pictures, it has survived the test of time and it is still a lot of fun to watch.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other sword and sorcery movies of the time, most notably the Conan films. It’s also fun to watch with its sequels but this is much better than them.