Film Review: Explorers (1985)

Release Date: July 12th, 1985
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Eric Luke
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Amanda Peterson, James Cromwell, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Meshach Taylor

Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“It’s asking for coordinates on x-, y- and z-axes to locate a point in space relative to its terminal. How did you dream this?” – Wolfgang Müller

The Explorers was one of my favorite movies in the mid-’80s. It kind of fit in with all those other kid adventure movies like E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Goonies and Monster Squad. These kid films did really well back then and they all sort of just tapped into something that films didn’t do as good before the decade. I guess that’s why Stranger Things and the modern It movie have built up solid fan bases off of the nostalgia for these sort of films and stories.

This movie is no different and it also came from the imagination of Joe Dante. Ultimately, this feels like a Spielberg film too but he wasn’t even involved but maybe Dante’s experience working with Spielberg on Gremlins, a year earlier, kept that magic mojo going.

The plot follows three boys and their attempt at building a spaceship. Yeah, it is really fantastical and unrealistic but the movie is more about imagination and childhood than the going to space bit. Granted, they do go to space and meet aliens but even then, this is still about youthful imagination, living your dreams no matter how ridiculous they may be and never losing hope in yourself. It’s a metaphor, y’all!

What makes this movie so fantastic is that you do see this through the eyes of children but you also see it through the eyes of an adult, in this case the super talented and underutilized Dick Miller. Miller’s character, an old man that once had dreams and aspirations similar to the kids, discovers what these kids are up to and when he witnesses them succeed, he is living vicariously through them and tapping into something he hasn’t felt in decades. It’s pretty f’n touching and Miller really conveyed the right emotions in playing this part. While Miller’s role in the movie isn’t very big, it’s central to the most pivotal message this film tries to communicate to its audience.

The special effects in this are really good and I loved the sets and the creature effects on the aliens, once these kids journeyed to their spaceship.

Spoiler alert, the aliens are friendly and as the film rolls on, you come to discover that they’re just kids to. So the Earth kids and the alien kids meet and you see that they’re not too dissimilar. The alien kids are also driven to go on adventures and discover the universe with childlike enthusiasm. Plus, Robert Picardo was awesome as the male alien, even if you couldn’t see him under the bulky costume.

I like watching this film as an adult because it keeps me grounded by making me remember the ideals and view of the universe I had when I was a kid. Watching this as an adult is similar to being in the shoes of the Dick Miller character.

This is one of Joe Dante’s best pictures.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Flight of the NavigatorE.T the Extra-TerrestrialD.A.R.Y.L., The Goonies, Monster Squad.

Film Review: Class Act (1992)

Release Date: June 5th, 1992
Directed by: Randall Miller
Written by: Cynthia Friedlob, John Semper, Michael Swerdlick, Richard Brenne, Wayne Allan Rice
Music by: Vassal Benford, Kid ‘n Play
Cast: Kid ‘n Play, Karyn Parsons, Thomas Mikal Ford, Rick Ducommun, Doug E. Doug, Meshach Taylor, Pauly Shore, Rhea Perlman, Lance Crouther

de Passe Entertainment, Warner Bros., 98 Minutes

Review:

“See, the way I look at it is if you gonna be Blade Brown, you gotta know where Blade Brown comes from, you know what I’m sayin’?” – Blade

I’m a big fan of the first two House Party movies with Kid ‘n Play. In fact, I watch them every couple of years because they’re lighthearted and fun, coming of age stories with two guys that are a great duo and also have solid chemistry and a lot of charisma. Plus, I owned their three albums.

It’s been quite some time since I have revisited Class Act, though. I wanted to see it again to compare it with the first two House Party pictures. Honestly, it’s a much better follow up to those films than what House Party 3 would be a couple of years later.

Also, this one has Pauly Shore in it too. It’s like a time capsule of early ’90s teen culture.

This story puts 30 year-olds Kid ‘n Play back in high school. Kid plays a genius and Play plays a thuggish, smart ass who must maintain good grades or get sent to jail. Yeah, it’s not the best setup in the world but these films have always borderlined on absurdity and slapstick humor. I can accept it within the context of what the House Party movies were. Besides, these films are about fun and not taking things too seriously.

So Kid ‘n Play find that their identities have been switched in their school’s records. This was actually caused by them, unbeknownst to them at the time. Kid has to go to the shitty classes while Play gets access to the super gifted section of the school. Play then threatens Kid to make sure he gets good grades, so he can avoid jail. In trade, Play agrees to help Kid with his lackluster physical education grade, as it could prevent Kid from going to a great college. Ultimately, the two opposites become good friends and learn a lot by being in each other’s shoes.

The film actually has a message but it is sort of lost in the craziness of the things that happen on screen. There is a school thug that has to be constantly dealt with, a drug kingpin and then the romance side of the equation where both guys will eventually have to explain their deception to the girls they fall in love with.

Then there is a whole side plot about Kid’s parents thinking he’s gay with Play.

Kid ‘n Play movies aren’t ever well acted affairs but they don’t need to be. Just as they can get by without stellar cinematography or an auteur director behind the camera. This one feels like it belongs alongside their two previous movies and it lives up to the standard that they set. Sadly, things go off the rails with House Party 3, after this picture.

Kid ‘n Play pictures are fun and goofy and always have some sort of positive outcome and a lesson learned by its lead characters. This one is no different.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Kid ‘n Play’s House Party trilogy.

Film Review: The Beast Within (1982)

Release Date: February 12th, 1982
Directed by: Philippe Mora
Written by: Tom Holland, Danilo Bach (uncredited)
Based on: The Beast Within by Edward Levy
Music by: Les Baxter
Cast: Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Don Gordon, R.G. Armstrong, Meshach Taylor, Logan Ramsey

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Oral sodomy?… Well, that’s why it’s a small town… Yeah, we’ll look into it. Thank you for calling.” – Sheriff Pool

The Beast Within is what happens when someone says, “You know what would be cool? A werewolf movie but instead of a wolf, the guy turns into a cicada!” I guess, just think about the Cronenberg remake of The Fly but nowhere near as good or as cool. And certainly not featuring an awesome level of Jeff Goldblum.

However, I do have to give the film props on one thing, the transformation scene at the end is absolutely friggin’ horrifying and a great use of practical effects. Also, it is really drawn out and doesn’t try to throw in quick cuts to hide its imperfections. It is a stellar sequence that was put together by the filmmakers and still holds up well.

Also, the film’s music was made by Les Baxter, who was a pioneer of exotica music and is mostly known for easy-listening tunes. His score here is a stark contrast to his norm. It is uneasy and chaotic but in a great way.

The film itself isn’t that bad, actually. The story is a bit slow and drawn out but at ninety minutes, I can’t really complain. At least I was entertained by R.G. Armstrong, a guy I’ve always liked, and Ronny Cox, most famous as the evil Dick Jones from Robocop.

The story starts with a woman being raped by a were-cicada. She gets pregnant, has a baby and her and Ronny Cox raise it as their own. When the kid grows to be a teenager, he starts to exhibit weird behavior. The kid is the son of the were-cicada and we discover a small town conspiracy to keep a wraps on this were-cicada stuff.

It’s a strange tale and incredibly dark and while it can actually get drab, at certain points in the film, the high points make up for it. It is just a movie suffering from multiple personality disorder. The pacing is bad, the narrative execution isn’t very good but most of the effects and scares are impressive.

The Beast Within is nowhere near as remembered as other horror films of its day but it should be respected and cherished for its practical effects, especially that awesome transformation scene that kicks off the big climax.

It also has a fantastic poster. And there is something truly unsettling about a woman getting knocked up by a bug.