Film Review: Halloween II (1981)

Release Date: October 30th, 1981
Directed by: Rick Rosenthal
Written by: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Charles Cyphers, Lance Guest

De Laurentiis Entertainment, Debra Hill Productions, Universal Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“He was my patient for fifteen years. He became an obsession with me until I realized that there was nothing within him, neither conscious nor reason that was… even remotely human. An hour ago I stood up and fired six shots into him and then he just got up and walked away. I am talking about the real possibility that he is still out there!” – Dr. Loomis

Picking up immediately where the first film left off, Halloween II is a perfect continuation of Halloween, In fact, although I am in the minority, I like it a bit better than the first, even though they are both pretty much on par, as far as quality.

In this film, Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode is carted off to the hospital after she has been stabbed by Michael Myers in the previous film. She is sedated and put into immediate danger because of that. Lance Guest a.k.a. the Last Starfighter a.k.a. the last guy to kill Jaws is a paramedic that develops a crush on her and vows to keep her safe.

Donald Pleasence returns as Dr. Sam Loomis and he is still on the hunt for Myers and has pretty much gone batshit crazy, at this point. I love Loomis’ insanity in this, even though he is supposed to be a psychologist and there is no way the cops would let this crazed madman run around town on Halloween with a loaded gun, which does actually lead to a teen being killed (in the most awesome way possible) and Loomis still packing heat.

The hospital setting is a good twist on the story and it takes it out of the typical suburban setting that slasher films always seem to take place in, if not at a summer camp. Besides, the place was practically empty (not sure why but who cares?) and it allowed the staff to do that sex stuff that always gets characters snuffed out in a proper slasher pic.

Michael Myers went on to show that he is even more indestructible than the ending of the first film implied. It also expanded the cool Halloween mythos, which I like in the original film series even if a lot of fans prefer the completely random seeming killing spree of this film’s predecessor. It is also really damn cool that this is literally the same night as the first movie.

Curtis is heralded as a scream queen and one of the best and she certainly gets her screams in here. She is more of a damsel in distress, once again, but at least in her later appearances in the film series, even though those films are shit, she grew some iron balls and took on Michael head on.

This film doesn’t build suspense as well as the first but it ups the gore quite a bit, which isn’t a bad thing in these types of pictures. The gore level certainly isn’t something that just takes over the film and makes it a pointless blood feast. Everything still works in this outing.

While Jamie Lee Curtis would leave the franchise for 17 years after this chapter, it was a good use of her character and helped develop where things would go when Michael Myers would return in Halloween IV. He skipped out on Halloween III because that film, an awesome picture, was its own unrelated story.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Halloween films.

Film Review: Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Release Date: July 17th, 1987
Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Written by: Michael de Guzman
Based on: characters by Peter Benchley
Music by: Michael Small
Cast: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Karen Young, Michael Caine, Melvin Van Peebles

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Roar!” – Shark

Jaws: The Revenge isn’t just considered the worst Jaws film by fans, it is also considered one of the worst films ever made. Well, I guess I stray from the pack because I think that Jaws 3-D is much worse. Not to say that this isn’t also a hefty pillowcase full of donkey dung.

The premise for this film is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, I don’t know how the script was written with a straight face.

In this chapter, the final one for the series, the killer shark apparently has psychic powers and the ability to teleport. Apparently, Ellen Brody also shares a psychic link with the shark. I’m being totally serious.

Even though it isn’t explicitly stated, the shark is on a revenge quest where it can travel literally anywhere in an effort to specifically hunt down and kill members of the Brody family. How does it know who they are and where they are? Why does it want revenge? Is it just assumed that it is the offspring of one of the three sharks killed in the previous movies? How does it travel from New England to the Bahamas in a day? How does Ellen Brody have memories of events she never personally witnessed and how does she sense when the shark is around? Why is she so sure it is picking off the family on a personal revenge quest? Apparently, before this movie, Sheriff Brody died of a heart attack due to fear of the shark. Yet he stood up to two sharks like a total bad ass in previous movies. Was he psychically killed by the shark?

Jaws: The Revenge is a weird friggin’ movie when you start to analyze the crap out of it. That alone makes it infinitely more interesting than Jaws 3-D. Also, this is a Christmas movie, at least the first act, so it gets an edge there.

You also have the Last Starfighter himself, Lance Guest. Unfortunately, Mario Van Peebles gives a horrible performance as a Jamaican with a bad Jamaican accent. But props to him, as he did this two decades before Kofi Kingston showed up in the WWE. Anyway, the badness that is Van Peebles is at least offset by the awesomeness that is Michael Caine’s Hoagie, a pilot named after a fantastic sandwich.

One big positive, is that this film became the premise of the Jaws video game on Nintendo. In retrospect, it isn’t a fantastic game but when I was about ten years-old, I played the shit out of it. Who didn’t want to jump in a tiny yellow submarine and try to kill the giant shark while collecting crabs dropped from Hoagie’s plane? Frankly, I don’t know why Hoagie just didn’t give me the crabs before I went out to sea. I also don’t remember why collecting crabs was important. Anyway, back to this awful movie and not the awesome game.

Jaws: The Revenge is just about as bad as everyone says it is but at least it isn’t littered with horribly dated 3D effects like Jaws 3-D. Also, some of the action bits are better than those from the previous movies. I thought that the scene in the sunken ship was well done and certainly better than anything in the third movie.

The finale is also much better than the third film, even if thirty years later, I don’t understand the whole point about the strobe light causing the shark pain. Maybe it was a psychic strobe light or imbued with the power of a Bahamian warlock. I’m not really sure.

And even though everyone bitches about it, I don’t mind the shark having a roar. That’s way more plausible than psychic powers and teleportation.

Rating: 4.25/10

Film Review: The Last Starfighter (1984)

Release Date: July 13th, 1984
Directed by: Nick Castle
Written by: Jonathan R. Betuel
Music by: Craig Safan
Cast: Lance Guest, Dan O’Herlihy, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Preston, Norman Snow, Vernon Washington, Marc Alaimo, Wil Wheaton, Suzanne Snyder

Lorimar Productions, Universal Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Things change. Always do. You’ll get your chance! Important thing is, when it comes, you’ve got to grab with both hands, and hold on tight!” – Otis

The Last Starfighter might not be as remembered as Star Wars and it may have been very strongly inspired by it, as most sci-fi films from the 80s were, but there is something pure and endearing about it that somehow stands the test of time. Frankly, it’s a fantastic picture and it still looks beautiful, even if its special effects are comprised of very early CGI animation.

The film is lighthearted and downright hokey, at times, but it doesn’t fell like that outdated bad sort of 80s cheesiness. It has charm and heart and there really isn’t even a character in this film that isn’t likable. Well, except for the pretty gross bounty hunter Zando-Zan. But hell, even the villains are likable to a degree.

While Star Wars was every boy’s whole world back in the time of my childhood, I can honestly say that I watched The Last Starfighter more often. It was a shorter movie than any of the Star Wars episodes and it told its story and was done. It felt complete, even if it did leave things open for a sequel that never came but should have. It was also just a good straightforward movie without a lot of extra plot and characters beyond what it needed to tell its story. You weren’t distracted by vague references to other worlds and new and strange characters walking into frame every thirty seconds. I’m not saying that those are bad things but The Last Starfighter just focuses on the task at hand and doesn’t try to universe build in order to sell books, comics and toys.

Lance Guest was a really good choice to play our hero, Alex Rogan. He felt like every all-American teenager from a tiny town that just wants to live a much larger life. Catherine Mary Stewart was a perfect compliment to Guest, as the two just had a real chemistry and made you want to root for them to make it and to have a great future.

Dan O’Herlihy was well-hidden as the alien co-pilot Grig. However, his voice is very distinct and I always knew he was the old man that ran OCP in the Robocop movies and the evil Irish madman that wanted his Halloween masks to melt the heads of children in Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Robert Preston was the real scene stealer, though. Every time he is on screen, he commands the attention of the audience and the other actors around him. He had a very strong charisma and likability.

The themes by Craig Safan created one of my favorite film scores of the 1980s. The main theme for The Last Starfighter still holds up well today and every time I hear it, nothing but fond memories and emotions return.

The special effects are made with CGI animation but it is a much more primitive style of animation than what audiences would come to see just a few years later. While the animation is clean, it has a unique and otherworldly look to it that still feels majestic. Even if it looks dated, it still compliments the film and it still works.

The Last Starfighter was fairly popular and has a big cult following. People like Seth Rogen and Steven Spielberg tried for years to buy the rights to it, in an effort to carry on the franchise into the future. However, Jonathan R. Betuel, the writer and creator, will not allow anyone to touch it. Honestly, that’s kind of bad ass.

It isn’t a perfect movie but it still feels perfect to me. It probably deserves more recognition than it has but those who know it, love it.

Rating: 9/10