Film Review: Toy Soldiers (1991)

Release Date: April 26th, 1991
Directed by: Daniel Petrie Jr.
Written by: David Koepp, Daniel Petrie Jr.
Based on: Toy Soldiers by William P. Kennedy
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan, Andrew Divoff, Denholm Elliot, Lou Gossett Jr., George Perez, T.E. Russell, Shawn Phelan, R. Lee Ermey, Jerry Orbach (uncredited)

Island World, TriStar Pictures, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Great, the school gets taken over by terrorists and I’m still on pots and pans.” – William “Billy” Tepper

I thought this movie was pretty badass when I was twelve years-old. I mean, it’s still okay but it hasn’t stood the test of time very well. Plus, I think at twelve, I still believed that being a real G.I. Joe was an obtainable life goal.

Toy Soldiers like Red Dawn, Iron Eagle and The Rescue before it, sees its teen stars pick up arms to take down some corrupt, evil motherfuckers.

In the case of this film, the teens’ military school is taken over by a Colombian drug cartel because the cartel’s leader’s daddy is being held captive by the United States government. The reason he chose the school was because the son of one of the U.S. government officials is enrolled there. However, he was pulled out of the academy just before the evil shitheads arrived. So the bad guys already suck before the ball really gets rolling.

Anyway, we see a pretty solid cast of Sean Astin, Keith Coogan and Wil Wheaton (before he totally sucked) work with their other buddies in an effort to stop the drug cartel and take their school back.

The adult officials in the movie are also pretty solid, as they’re played by Louis Gossett Jr. Denholm Elliot and R. Lee Ermey.

Seeing this now, almost thirty years later, all the film’s extra excess of cheese is very apparent. Sure, I noticed it when I was a pre-teen but having just come out of the ’80s, cheesiness was still at the forefront of American pop culture. So was patriotism and kicking foreign ass, as we had just won the Cold War, conquered mainstream communism and were embroiled in the first Gulf War. Also, for kids my age, we had guys like Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan preaching to us about the awesomeness of Americana. Don’t talk to me about Slaughter becoming an Iraqi sympathizer because that wasn’t real, you imagined it.

So the movie is still enjoyable in spite of its goofiness and its awkward stars trying so hard to be tough guys. It’s hard to buy into, especially when you see little Willy Wheaton shooting a machine gun on the steps of the school, only to be gunned down in an effort to give this meaningless movie more meaning.

As mindless entertainment goes, you could watch much worse. This is a pretty forgettable film but it had some good young actors for its time. I only wish it would’ve been retooled into a Pauly Shore movie because that would’ve taken it to a whole other level.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other teen soldier movies like Red Dawn, Iron Eagle and The Rescue.

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: Iron Eagle (1986)

Release Date: January 17th, 1986
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Written by: Kevin Alyn Elders, Sidney J. Furie
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Louis Gossett Jr., Jason Gedrick, David Suchet, Larry B. Scott, Caroline Lagerfelt, Tim Thomerson, Shawnee Smith, Melora Hardin, Lance LeGault, Jerry Levine, Robbie Rist, Michael Bowen

Delphi Films, Falcon’s Flight, TriStar Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

“I wonder what a Cessna looks like splattered all over those rocks?” – Packer

This doesn’t survive on nostalgia points for me. Honestly, I didn’t even like this film as a kid. I mean, I enjoyed the last half hour, as that’s where the action comes in but everything leading up to that was really damn boring.

Seeing this now, and it has been at least thirty years, I was surprised that I wasn’t pulled into it a bit more as it features two teen actors from the time that I really liked: Larry B. Scott and Jerry Levine.

But the real problem with this movie is that it’s too damn long. I mean, this is nearly two full hours and only the last half hour is actually somewhat enjoyable. And to be honest, they could’ve lobbed 30 to 40 minutes off of this thing and no one would’ve noticed.

Additionally, even though the actual mission at the end is fairly fun, it’s full of flaws and errors that are distracting.

The main thing that sticks out is the editing. There are multiple moments in the movie where the video loop behind the pilots’ heads resets. So you’re looking at closeups of pilots in the cockpit talking and the background goes from a clouded sky to a quick jump of clear sky.

Plus, there are mistakes in how the action is edited that don’t make sense from a logistic and physics standpoint.

I think the thing that may irritate more than the shoddy editing is the models used for the planes, as every time one explodes, it is obviously a miniature and made of wood. Fighter jets don’t splinter like a balsa wood chair in a Chaplin movie. But I get it, it’s the ’80s, CGI didn’t exist like it does now and the film had a modest budget. But no one could call in a favor to one of the guys that worked on model making for the Star Wars or Star Trek films?

The acting is pretty bad too. And even though Louis Gossett Jr. has shown that he has chops, I think that it is this movie that actually wrecked his career. He went from An Officer and a Gentleman to this? But hey, at least it allowed him to have his own franchise, which he would then have to rely on over the course of three shitty sequels.

Seeing Iron Eagle now, I don’t hate it. It just would have been much better with a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and a bit more refinement in the film’s action packed climax.

I’m going to completely ignore the fact that the plot is stupid because this is the ’80s and it was escapism for kids, trying to capitalize off of the popularity of movies like Red Dawn. But in case you don’t know what the plot is, it’s about a decorated Colonel that helps a teenager steal an Air Force fighter plane to attack an enemy country in an effort to save the kid’s dad. Let that marinate for a minute.

So if I ever do watch this again, I’ll just skip to the finale and ignore the plot details.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: probably its subpar sequels and other ’80s and ’90s teens movies that throw kids into war or combat like Red Dawn, The Rescue and Toy Soldiers.

Film Review: Jaws 3-D (1983)

Also known as: Jaws 3, Jaws III
Release Date: July 22nd, 1983
Directed by: Joe Alves
Written by: Carl Gottlieb, Richard Matheson
Based on: characters by Peter Benchley
Music by: Alan Parker
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Bess Armstrong, Simon MacCorkindale, Louis Gossett Jr., Lea Thompson

Alan Landsburg Productions, MCA Theatricals, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Overman was killed inside the park. The baby was caught inside the park. Its mother is inside the park.” – Kathryn Morgan

With the success of Jaws and Jaws 2, it was probably just a matter of time before Universal decided to milk the shark once again. Unfortunately, they gave us this awful and dreadful picture that really has no redeeming qualities about it whatsoever other than finding enjoyment in just how bad the special effects are.

Noticeably gone is the amazing music of John Williams. The score to this movie is pretty atrocious. But that’s not even the worst thing about it.

Now I like Dennis Quaid, Lea Thompson and Louis Gossett Jr. but they are about the only positive things in this train wreck. Even then, this is far from their best performances and they really just dialed it in anyway.

This is also the shark’s worst performance out of four movies. The mother shark in this is twice the size of the previous versions and she moves so slow, she isn’t even threatening. It’s as if someone is behind her, pushing her at infant crawling speed. Somehow she is still quick enough to chomp the bejesus out of human meatbags that either have to be frozen in suspended animation or high on angeldust to the point where they don’t even realize that a shark the size of a city bus is slowly ambushing them.

Jaws 3-D, as the title implies, relies heavily on the 3D gimmick. That being said, the movie is littered with a ton of shots that were made specifically for that purpose. The shots look hokey and plain stupid when seen in a 2D format, which is how the vast majority of people have seen this picture, after its initial release over thirty years ago. Also, for 1983 standards, the special effects are absolutely horrible. Compare this to some of the bigger budget films of the day and this looks dated when put next to them. In fact, I’ve seen better visual effects in films that predate this by two decades. If you turned this film into a drinking game where you take a shot every time there is an awful visual effect, you’d just find yourself chugging from the bottle and might actually need a whole case of liquor just for yourself.

This movie is stupid, its horrible and it is an embarrassment to Universal Studios. It is a slap in the face of the masterpiece that Steven Spielberg created. It doesn’t even look like a sequel, it looks like one of the many Jaws ripoffs that came out in the late 70s and into the early 80s. Hell, this makes Piranha (which I love, by the way) look like a Kubrickian masterpiece.

And how in the friggin’ hell was Richard Matheson involved in this?

Does this deserve to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Oh, you bet your dandy ass it does! So what we have here is a “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Rating: 2.5/10