Film Review: C.H.U.D. (1984)

Also known as: C.H.U.D. (Caníbales Humanoides Ululantes Demoníacos) (Spain), C.H.U.D. – Panik in Manhattan (Germany)
Release Date: August 31st, 1984
Directed by: Douglas Cheek
Written by: Parnell Hall, Shepard Abbott
Music by: Martin Cooper, David A. Hughes
Cast: Daniel Stern, John Heard, Christopher Curry, John Goodman, Graham Beckel, Jon Polito

C.H.U.D. Productions, New World Pictures, 88 Minutes, 96 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“Are you kidding? Your guy’s got a camera. Mine’s got a flamethrower.” – Captain Bosch

This was the first film featured on the full-time revival of Joe Bob Briggs on television. I’m talking about his show The Last Drive-In, which is now streaming weekly on Shudder.

But like Joe Bob, I’m apparently one of the few that isn’t too fond of this motion picture. It’s not really bad but it’s pretty damn dull for about 80 percent of its running time and there are so many better movies from the era. This is probably why I haven’t reviewed this yet, as I just didn’t have the urge to revisit this, even for review purposes.

In all honesty, I prefer the sequel more. Yes, it’s actually a worse movie but it’s batshit insane and pretty much a black comedy spunoff from the C.H.U.D. concept.

People have been asking me for my opinion on this movie for quite awhile, though. So I guess a review is overdue and if Joe Bob can sit through it again, I guess I can too.

It’s still dull as shit. But it does have several known stars in it to at least distract me from my boredom enough to get through this.

On the flip side of that though, I do like the scenes that feature the actual creature or some of the gore it’s responsible for. I also like the idea for the film, I just thought that this spent too much time boffining it up and not enough time spent on cool monsters eating dumb people.

The performances can be a bit over the top but not so much so that I’d call the acting bad. And at least the performances provide some energy where the story fails to do so.

It may sound like I’m a hater, I’m not. But I’m certainly not a lover of C.H.U.D. I understand that a lot of people have a nostalgic soft spot for the movie but it didn’t really resonate with me as a kid, even though I pretty much lived in ’80s video stores and loved the horror genre tremendously.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: it’s really bizarre sequel, as well as Street Trash and Neon Maniacs.

TV Review: Treme (2010-2013)

Original Run: April 11th, 2010 – December 29th, 2013
Created by: David Simon, Eric Overmyer
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: various, theme by John Boutté
Cast: Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Chris Coy, Kim Dickens, India Ennenga, John Goodman, Michiel Huisman, Melissa Leo, Lucia Micarelli, David Morse, Clarke Peters, Wendell Pierce, Jon Seda, Steve Zahn, Kermit Ruffins

Blown Deadline Productions, Warner Bros., HBO, 36 Episodes, 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

For my 100th TV review on Talking Pulp (formerly Cinespiria), I wanted to dip into the well and pull out an old review for one of my favortie shows of all-time. Something that I felt was completely underappreciated and overlooked by most.

*Written in 2015.

I may need to re-order my countdown of HBO shows (from an older blog), as after re-watching Treme and in its entirety for the first time, I would rank it among the top five HBO shows of all-time.

Created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer, the great minds behind HBO’s critically acclaimed series The Wire, this show takes us to New Orleans months after Hurricane Katrina and shows us in intimate detail how the people of that ravaged city rebuilt their town, their homes, their businesses and their lives.

Starting out in a place of despair in a city full of corruption and ignored by the world outside, Treme triumphs in that it displays an unrelenting human spirit, focusing on the underlying morality of many of the characters and teaching the important lessons of appreciating what you have, holding on to what’s dear to you and to always strive for the right things in life. The characters in this show hit the hardest times of their lives but find ways to persevere and triumph. Treme in it’s three and a half seasons has more heart, soul and more morality than shows that have been on for years longer. It is a bright positive light in a medium overrun with negativity and darkness.

The ensemble cast is perfect. From Steve Zahn to Khandi Alexander to Kim Dickens to Wendell Pierce to John Goodman to Rob Brown to Melissa Leo to David Morse to Lucia Micarelli to the amazing Clarke Peters and multiple fantastic cameos by New Orleans jazz legend Kermit Ruffins, there isn’t a character that you don’t fall in love with. I know that I am missing some people but each character has such a dynamic story that truly evolves over the course of the three and a half seasons this show was on. Not a single character is boring or useless. None of them get lost in the shuffle. It is a well-balanced television series that maintained its focus and quality – doing every character and every plot thread justice.

The element that brings everything together so well is the emphasis on representing New Orleans culture in its full glory. The music, the art, the food, the language and the parties are all there. The sense of community and love for they neighbor is there. Everything that truly is New Orleans is embraced on this show and it is the most accurate portrayal I have ever seen of the city and its people, who are usually portrayed as backdrops to action flicks or voodoo horror movies.

Treme is one of those shows, now having seen it in its complete form, that I will probably re-watch almost annually. There aren’t a lot of episodes and it can be binge watched in a week or two. And if you love New Orleans, this show will always deliver that feeling you get when wandering Frenchman Street at night looking for amazing music, amazing food and a great experience.

Also, it is streaming on Amazon Prime. So if you have a Prime account, you can watch this show in its entirety.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The Wire and the Spike Lee HBO documentaries about New Orleans: When the Levees Broke – A Requiem In Four Acts and If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise.

Film Review: Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

Release Date: July 20th, 1984 (limited)
Directed by: Jeff Kanew
Written by: Steve Zacharias, Jeff Buhai, Tim Metcalfe, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cast: Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Ted McGinley, Bernie Casey, Timothy Busfield, Andrew Cassese, Curtis Armstrong, Larry B. Scott, Brian Tochi, Julie Montgomery, Michelle Meyrink, Donald Gibb, James Cromwell, John Goodman, David Wohl

Interscope Communications, 20th Century Fox, 90 Minutes

Review:

“You know, when you were a baby in your crib, your father looked down at you, he had but one hope – ‘Someday, my son will grow to be a man.’ Well look at you now; you just got your asses whipped, by a bunch of goddamn nerds. Nerds! Well, if I was you, I’d do something about it. I would get up and redeem myself in the eyes of my father, my Maker, and my coach!” – Coach Harris

I probably haven’t watched this in ten years and I guess when I was a kid in the ’80s, this was a lot of laughs. It’s still got some funny moments but I’m not as nostalgic about it as I thought I would be. I know that some people consider this a classic ’80s comedy and while I guess it was popular enough and has sustained some of the popularity over the decades since its release, as they tease a remake every few years, it just doesn’t feel like a classic in the same way that GhostbustersPolice AcademyFast Times at Ridgemont High or even Real Genius does.

It is also a teen sex comedy, which were all the rage back then. This one is kind of light on the sex but you do get some solid nudity and sexual tomfoolery. However, some of it seems really weird when you watch it now but I’ll explain that in a minute.

The story is about these nerds that go to college and soon discover that they are nerds because somehow this never came up in their lives before. Sorry, but I find it hard to believe that these 18 year-old young men weren’t made fun of before they arrived at college, especially with how society in this film responds to them. Everyone hates nerds with extreme passion. Not just the jocks, mind you, but everyone.

So the jocks take the nerds dorms after they burn down their own frat house. The nerds try to make do with the situation but everyone rejects them and not just college kids but absolutely every single person they turn to. Even the fraternity they become a member of doesn’t want them and they only get their foot in the door due to a loophole in the fraternity’s own rule book.

Eventually the nerds win everyone over (except the jocks) but the extreme hatred of nerds is so outlandish and ridiculous that even though this is an over the top oddball comedy, none of this is remotely believable.

But the gags and the characters are still good and that’s what makes the film work. I love the ensemble and some of these characters are still great, three decades later. Lewis and Gilbert, the two main nerds are pretty boring but the supporting characters are lovable and fantastic.

Booger, played by the underappreciated Curtis Armstrong, is a rude and crude bastard but he’s hilarious. Timothy Busfield’s Poindexter is a one note character but he constantly hurts himself and screams like a nitwit. Larry B. Scott’s Lamar is a flamboyantly gay nerd and probably the first outlandish gay character I ever saw in a movie. I love Lamar and his friendship with the young Wormser is great, especially the bits where they do aerobics and dance together.

The real show stealers in this are the two main villains, actually. The main jock is played by Ted McGinley and it is the best role he’s done other than playing Jefferson D’Arcy on Married… with Children. You also have John Goodman as the drill sergeant like coach of the jocks. But I also have to point out how much I like Donald Gibb in this, as he plays the jocks’ muscle, a beefy bonehead named Ogre.

Now watching this thirty-plus years later, some parts of this movie are really fucked up. The nerds are actually terrible people and frankly, I kind of wanted the jocks to bash their heads in, even though they were shitheads too.

You see, the nerds invade the girls’ dorm and setup cameras everywhere in an effort to spy on them in their most private moments. This is played up for comedy, as I guess this sort of behavior was okay in the ’80s. Louis even hides in the shower of a girl to surprise her when she’s naked. Seriously, if some dude in a black hoodie was hiding in a girl’s shower in 2018, he’d probably get shot. Well, not on 2018 campuses where people hate guns and need safe spaces. Louis then ups his creep factor when he disguises himself as the girl’s boyfriend and has sex with her. M’kay… is this not rape? But the girl responds by falling in love with him. She probably won’t even care that Louis and his nerd buddies were watching her sleep in her panties for weeks.

Now I’m not really in an uproar about these things because this is a dumb ’80s teen sex comedy but watching those scenes is sort of cringy in 2018. But again, this is supposed to be a funny, stupid movie that plays best when you’re stoned on the couch with your friends spilling cheap beer on room temperature pizza that’s been sitting out for three days since your weekly Atari tournament.

Anyway, this is still a goofy movie that’s good at killing 90 minutes of your time. I don’t like this as much as Weird Science but hey, it’s got more tits in it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise but the sequels after that get pretty terrible.

Film Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Release Date: March 12th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Kurt Johnstad
Based on: The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, Sam Hart
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Bill Skarsgård

Denver and Delilah Productions, Closed on Mondays Entertainment, 87Eleven, Focus Features, 115 Minutes

Review:

Let me preface this review by stating that this has been one of the best summers for movies in a long time and honestly, I wasn’t expecting much apart from one or two films. But the thing that has really set this year apart is the smaller films, not the massive blockbusters. This film, along with the magnificent Baby Driver are two motion pictures that I will continue to enjoy for years to come. Both will eventually make it into my permanent library.

So based off of the preceding paragraph, it is safe to assume that I really liked Atomic Blonde. While I thought that I would like it and was excited for it, the film was just a great marriage of several things I love: fantastic action, energy, style and a fantastic soundtrack. Plus, I’ve always had a soft spot for Cold War period pieces, especially those set in the 1980s.

One really cool aspect of the film, is that it takes place in Berlin – starting a week before the fall of the Berlin Wall and leading up to it actually coming down. The film shows life on both sides of the wall and the cultural differences and shifts between all the people in this 1989 Berlin bubble. There is even a casual reference to David Hasselhoff arriving in Berlin. Do I need to remind anyone of his famous Berlin Wall performance, as that concrete beast came crumbling down?

Atomic Blonde is a spy espionage thriller but starring a woman, which just doesn’t happen enough with the genre. It isn’t a groundbreaking concept or anything but after decades of James Bond movies and their male dominated clones, a stylized and high octane version of the concept starring Charlize Theron was music to my soul.

Theron does not disappoint but has she ever? She is perfect as the agent sent to Berlin to battle brutish KGB agents while engaging in a playful cat and mouse game with the always fantastic James McAvoy. In fact, the chemistry between Theron and McAvoy is uncanny and I wish that they actually had more screen time together.

Theron also has fantastic chemistry with Sofia Boutella and I’m glad to see Boutella getting meatier roles because she was exceptional in this. Also, you get to see both women naked in this. Sorry, but that’s a high point for anyone crushing on Theron for years and anyone that is currently crushing on Boutella, as she works here way up to bigger things. Both actresses are stellar in this, boobage or not.

The film employs an 80s new wave soundtrack, for the most part. The music style is fitting, as this takes place in 1989. It is the selection of songs that is most impressive, however. From David Bowie’s “Cat People” to Depeche Mode’s “Behind the Wheel” to the incredibly effective use of George Michael’s “Father Figure”, the music is just on point. Even Marilyn Manson’s cover of Ministry’s “Stigmata” works its magic with the visual smorgasbord it’s synced to.

The choice not to use any music during the climactic final brawl was a good one. Despite the stylized nature of the film, it grounds this scene back into reality and showcases the grittiness of the situation. The fights are brutal, especially the last round of fisticuffs. It is an impressive sequence that not only showcases Theron’s athleticism and toughness but it proves how hard she is willing to work to create movie magic. I already respect her but her dedication to these scenes, in particular, brings that respect to a new level.

The director, David Leitch, has a background in stunts and it shows. He’s been the stunt coordinator or stunt actor in the Bourne movies, TRON: Legacy300V for Vendetta, the Matrix series, Fight Club, Blade and several others. He is also the director of the upcoming Deadpool sequel and proves, with this film, that he will be able to handle those duties. I’m actually really enthused about what else Leitch can give us behind the camera.

Atomic Blonde is fantastic. There really isn’t anything to complain about or to dislike. It was explosive and even the slower parts kept your attention, as it doesn’t waste any time on things not integral to the plot. I hope that this becomes a series as checking in with this character every few years could be a lot of fun.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Release Date: February 28th, 2017 (Odeon Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatnis
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly, Robert Taylor

Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

I guess I will forever have a personal connection to this film, as the cigar box that Samuel L. Jackson’s Col. Packard keeps his medals in, is one that I designed in 2004. Strange that a product I had a hand in creating a decade ago ended up in a film that takes place just after the Vietnam War.

Personal connection aside, it should be no surprise to anyone who regularly reads Cinespiria, that I am a massive fan of kaiju movies. So anything with giant monsters is always a treat, especially when it comes with a cast of actors as strong as those in Kong: Skull Island.

While I liked Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla from 2014, it lacked a certain spirit that the giant scaly kaiju always seemed to have in his Japanese films. Kong: Skull Island is also missing that spirit. While it feels like there is some heart put into the film, it was sacrificed for action and the current trend of making films as big and as loud as possible. It is also a CGI fest that doesn’t always work, as it sometimes looks spectacular and other times looks shoddy.

Kong is still a great conflicted character that you feel for, and I guess, to me, that is always the most important part of any Kong story. In this film, you learn that his family was killed by the giant reptiles that live under the island. You even have a scene where our heroes come across a graveyard where the bones of Kong’s parents are on display. You certainly care for the big hulking CGI ape, which is good at building the foundation for what the studio plans to do after this film. Ultimately, we will get to a Godzilla and King Kong showdown after the next solo Godzilla movie.

I thought it was great that this film is just shy of two hours. The Peter Jackson King Kong from 2005 was a tremendous bore at well over three hours and Hollywood has had this trend of making big blockbusters a lot longer than they need to be.

In regards to the story, the setup and the purpose for going to the island is well orchestrated. Once we get to the island however, things move too fast and are very disjointed. I feel like the reveal of Kong came too early. Maybe Legendary Pictures were trying to makeup for the lack of Godzilla in Godzilla but it was too much, too soon in this picture. Seeing Kong destroy a fleet of helicopters minutes after they arrive was surprising. While this Kong doesn’t follow the traditional storylines of its predecessors, Kong typically doesn’t really arrive until the halfway point of his films. Even in the first Toho Kong film from Japan, it was a good third of the way through the movie before the giant ape showed up to crush a giant octopus.

The cast, as great as the ensemble is, wasn’t that exciting to watch. It almost feels like a Marvel movie though, as it features four actors from the Avengers film franchise: Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), John C. Reilly (a small part in Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brie Larson (who has been cast to play Captain Marvel). None of the characters were written that well and they all seemed a bit lifeless. It was cool seeing Hiddleston get to be a macho bad ass but there was no real depth to who he was.

Kong: Skull Island was a bit of a disappointment. The first trailer looked really good and I had hoped that Legendary would have corrected some of the mistakes they made with Godzilla. In attempting to do so, they may have gone too far in the other direction, they need to find the balance. Frankly, for movies about giant monsters fighting, neither are as exciting as they should be.

Film Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Release Date: March 8th, 2016 (New York City Premiere)
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Written by: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

10_cloverfield_laneReview:

I finally got around to seeing this. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Cloverfield and I’m not keen on the found footage style of filmmaking. Considering that this wasn’t shot like that and that it was a different story entirely, I wanted to give it a shot. Plus, it had John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in it.

For the most part, this film takes place in one small location. It has to be a hard feat to create an engaging picture without the use of a broader environment. 10 Cloverfield Lane makes good use of its small space though. It was an entertaining movie and kept you captivated throughout.

The film only uses three actors, apart from a small scene with someone else appearing briefly. Overall, it is a very minimalist experience. But less is more with this movie, as the actors carrying the load are quite capable.

The story sees Winstead’s Michelle get into a bad car accident. She wakes up chained to a wall. Goodman’s Howard reveals himself and tells her that they are in a bunker, there is no help outside and that there was some sort of attack. Michelle fights back and doesn’t accept what Howard tells her, until she gets to the window to the outside and sees things for herself. John Gallagher, Jr. plays Emmett, an employee of Howard’s that also lives in the bunker. As time goes on, Howard becomes more and more unhinged and dangerous. Michelle and Emmett then conspire to get out of the bunker. The bulk of the film deals with getting outside and being free of Howard. However, once outside, things take a really strange twist, which is where this film becomes an extension of J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield brand.

I liked this picture for the most part. The real story is the conflict between the three people in the bunker; that is the real movie here. Once that part is resolved and the film goes outside, the real movie is over. What we get next is fifteen minutes of sci-fi craziness that just feels entirely out of place. This film spent 90 percent of its time being a really great thriller and then gives us 10 percent that is a totally different film. Sure, you anticipate something outside of the bunker but emotionally, that was secondary to the situation inside. For me, it just didn’t fit. And to someone who might not make the connection to Cloverfield, a film that is eight years older than this one and now kind of forgotten, they will probably be caught off guard. There just isn’t really a reason to go the route that they do with the ending. It feels cheap and stupid and the threats outside aren’t that cool looking to begin with.

10 Cloverfield Lane, despite finding itself in Bizarro World at the end, is still a solid movie. Goodman was fantastic and completely scary, Winstead put in some of her best acting to date and Gallagher was really likable as Emmett. It probably would have been a better film overall, had the emergence from the bunker been met with a far off scene of what was outside, as opposed to being immediately overwhelmed by it. The film nailed the “less is more” concept but then ignored it at the very end.

Film Review: Matinee (1993)

Release Date: January 29th, 1993 (USA)
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Charles S. Haas, Jerico Stone
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton, Omri Katz, Kellie Martin, Lisa Jakub, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, John Sayles

Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

matineeReview:

Joe Dante made a slew of really good and iconic pictures from the late 1970s into the early 1990s. Matinee is the one that I consider to be the end of that great era. Which I guess should tell you that I enjoy it.

The film takes place in Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The setting really adds a lot to the picture and gives it more meaning than it would’ve had otherwise. John Goodman’s Lawrence Woolsey sees the event as an opportunity to capitalize on people’s fears and worries, as he releases his newest atomic-themed sci-fi/horror film on the people closest to the looming threat of nuclear annihilation.

The subject matter is very dark but this is still a pretty light-hearted family film. The nuclear subtext however, is used to make a stark political and social statement very similar to how Toho Studios did it in the 1950s with Gojira (the original Godzilla). This is more than just a movie about old school monsters and sci-fi thrills and it has a lot of heart and charm as it tells its story. This very well could be Joe Dante at his absolute best.

John Goodman put on a stellar performance as Woolsey, a living legend among horror and science fiction aficionados. This film also came early in his theatrical career, when he still hadn’t evolved into the great actor he would become. This is from the same era as the disappointing Babe Ruth biopic The Babe, as well as the fairly shitty but amusing King Ralph. Although he did have the near-masterpiece Barton Fink on his résumé already. Plus, he was still in the middle of playing America’s favorite dad in the 90s, Dan Conner on Roseanne.

Goodman’s Woolsey was a big showman and master of theatrical gimmickry like William Castle (director of the original House On Haunted Hill and The Tingler). He rigs the movie theater with gadgets and other tricks, in an effort to make his film interactive with the audience. There are buzzers in the seats, special lighting effects, smoke and optical illusions that go off throughout the film’s duration.

The centerpiece of this motion picture, is the young cast. Mainly, the two brothers Gene and Dennis. Their father is shipped off to deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis and they are stuck in Key West with their mother, not knowing what the immediate future holds. The film also follows Gene’s friend Stan and his budding relationship with Sherry, all while dealing with her psycho ex-boyfriend.

The kid actors are great and the fact that they aren’t all that recognizable really is a benefit to the film. They feel like real kids in real situations, despite the absurdity of their situations at times. The kid cast kind of reminds me of the kids from The Sandlot. They are all really likable and relatable and they feel authentic in this period piece film.

I also have to mention that Joe Dante regulars Robert Picardo and Dick Miller knock it out of the park in this one. I only wish Miller’s part would’ve been bigger, considering his character’s backstory.

Matinee is a fantastic and really fun film. I wouldn’t call it my favorite Joe Dante movie but I would say that it might be his best.