Film Review: Spacehunter: Adventures In the Forbidden Zone (1983)

Also known as: Adventures In the Creep Zone (working title), Spacehunter (short title)
Release Date: May 20th, 1983
Directed by: Lamont Johnson
Written by: David Preston, Edith Rey, Daniel Goldberg, Len Blum, Stewart Harding, Jean LaFluer
Music by: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, Michael Ironside, Andrea Marcovicci

Delphi I Productions, Zone Productions, Columbia Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I lied, nobody goes free! Chemist, prepare the Fusion Tube!” – Overdog

For those of you that always wanted to see Molly Ringwald in a cyberpunk, almost comedy, space western, this is your movie!

For the rest of us, this is a forgettable relic lost to the sands of time but regardless of that, it’s still an enjoyable, mindless movie that’s sort of fun if you like ’80s sci-fi cheese and visually cool practical special effects.

I didn’t even know about this film until I stumbled across it while working in a video store. I fired it up in the store and thought it was pretty cool. I ended up taking it home and giving it a proper watch and found myself intrigued over the sets, the style and the more complicated effects like the villain’s body harness and cyborg appendages.

I also really loved the matte paintings and how well-crafted the larger world was for a film that had a pretty small budget.

In a lot of ways, this has a Mad Max vibe to it, as well, in its use of post-apocalyptic motor vehicles, as well as the characters’ style of dress.

Michael Ironside was the best part about the film, as his Overdog character was just a site to behold whenever he came onscreen. His costume was incredible and Ironside seemed to be really enjoying the role, hamming it up to the nth degree and putting in a performance that I can only assume eventually led to his villain role in the much more modern but very retro Turbo Kid.

Overall, there are much worse ways to spend 90 minutes. If you’re into campy sci-fi from the best decade for campy movies, you’ll probably like this weird, obscure flick.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other campy and cool sci-fi films of the ’80s like The Ice Pirates, Cherry 2000, Battle Beyond the Stars, etc.

TV Review: The Mandalorian (2019- )

Original Run: November 12th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jon Favreau
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Star Wars by George Lucas
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Nick Nolte (voice), Taika Waititi (voice), Gina Carano, Ming-Na Wen, Mark Boone Junior, Bill Burr, Clancy Brown, Natalia Tena, Richard Ayoade (voice), Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Jason Sudeikis

Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Studios, Disney+, 8 Episodes (so far), 31-46 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While I haven’t been too happy with Disney’s handling of Star Wars, this was still one of the television shows that I was anticipating the most.

I assumed that after the Boba Fett movie was cancelled, following the lackluster performance of Solo, that this show would end up taking some of that planned film’s ideas, reworking them into a new character and story. I’m not a hundred percent sure that’s what they did but this feels close to what Boba Fett could’ve been.

The first few episodes of this show were mostly okay but they didn’t blow me away, if I’m being honest. However, it did feel good to have someone seemingly taking Star Wars seriously once again, which I didn’t feel was the case since Rogue One, the only Disney Star Wars film I actually liked.

The middle few episodes were low points but everything really started to pickup with episode six. Episodes seven and eight were then quite awesome and they brought everything that happened over the course of the season together in a way that justified the episodes that felt more like filler than part of the larger story.

Season one of The Mandalorian was more about world building and introducing the audience to these new characters. In that regard, it succeeds greatly. But ultimately, it feels like the first act of a much larger story and not necessarily its own self-contained arc.

In any event, I’m more excited for season two than I was season one and I hope that the momentum continues to build and that this stays on the right trajectory, especially after the terrible sequel films just concluded, leaving most people with a really bad taste in their mouth. I still haven’t seen The Rise of Skywalker and I’m really not that enthused about taking time out of my schedule to go see it in theaters.

I used to be a massive Star Wars fan: massive. But until this show mostly impressed me, this gigantic force in my life was dwindling away. Granted, The Mandalorian alone isn’t enough to bring me back and, at this point, I don’t think I’ll ever have a love for Star Wars like I once did.

But so far, so good. Don’t fuck this up.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: any Mandalorian heavy Star Wars Expanded Universe books, comics and video games.

Film Review: Future Force (1989)

Also known as: C.O.P.S. (Sweden)
Release Date: November 9th, 1989
Directed by: David A. Prior
Written by: David A. Prior
Music by: Mark Mancina, Steve McClintock
Cast: David Carradine, Anna Rapagna, Robert Tessier, William Zipp, D.C. Douglas, Kimberly Casey

Action International Pictures (AIP), Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings Corporation, 84 Minutes

Review:

“David Harris? I’m John Tucker, Civilian Operated Police. You have committed a crime and are presumed guilty. You have a right to die. If you choose to relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest and imprisoned. I haven’t got all night.” – Tucker

This movie is nowhere near as badass as its poster implies.

Also, for a David A. Prior action flick, this one is pretty goddamned dull.

I like Prior films like Deadly Prey and The Final Sanction. Even though they are over the top action films full of cheese, violence and men with more testicles than just a pair apiece, Future Force doesn’t quite bring the same level of badass, insane intensity.

Although there is a pretty sweet and bizarre scene where Carraidne’s cyborg glove starts flying around trying to knockout the baddie.

The film was also kind of a letdown when I saw it as a kid because the police force in this movie is called C.O.P.S., so my little mind in 1989 thought this might be a live action C.O.P.S., you know, that cool cartoon that came on after school in the afternoons. But no, it has no association and rightfully so, as this is one big ass glass of suck.

Hell, I can’t believe that Carradine followed up Bird On A Wire with this, as Bird should’ve brought his career back up into the mainstream. He was a solid f’n villain in that and then six months later, he’s doing this movie?! I can only assume that he got paid in video arcade tokens because that’s not real money and he was high on coke and thought it was actual gold. I hope the studio at least sent pizza to his trailer. Wait… who am I kidding? He probably had a wheelbarrow.

Anyway, this is boring, uneventful, Carradine looks bored and out of shape and it’s one of Prior’s worst films, which if you’ve seen his movies, is a really, really low bar.

There is a RiffTrax version of this you can watch though, if you feel compelled to do so.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel Future Zone, as well as other action schlock with David Carradine from the mid-’70s through the ’90s.

Film Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

Release Date: July 31st, 2017 (Museum of Modern Art premiere)
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Written by: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen, Nikolaj Arcel
Based on: The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Cast: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kranz, Abbey Lee, Jackie Earle Haley

MRC, Imagine Entertainment, Weed Road, Columbia Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You can’t stop what’s coming. Death always wins.” – Man In Black

Idris Elba is a bad ass. Matthew McConaughey is a bad ass. Both men are also super smooth, great actors and the apple of many people’s eye. Then you have Abbey Lee, a woman I just can’t help but be mesmerized by, even if she is just emotionless window dressing in a scene. Throw in the always perfectly sinister Jackie Earle Haley and you’ve got my attention.

Unfortunately, only one word can really describe this film and that is “mundane”.

The Dark Tower was a gigantic missed opportunity. Here, you have a massive and lush universe created by Stephen King over the course of nine books. While I am not a big fan of King, I’ve heard for years that these books are some of his best work and they have become the stories that seem to be the most beloved. From what I understand, this movie was not based specifically on any one of the books but was instead a sort of sequel to them.

The film initially started out with promise but as the picture rolled on, it got worse and worse. In fact, there were some absolutely horrible creative decisions made on several levels of this film, especially if it was going the PG-13 route in an effort to capture the widest audience possible.

I don’t really know anything about the director but the execution was terrible. The acting was mostly good but suffered from the direction and often times, McConaughey’s lines came out pretty wooden. At this point, in his storied career, McConaughey is never really an issue in a movie. I have to put the blame on the director, who apparently wanted McConaughey’s Man In Black to be so cold that he was absolutely emotionless in his line delivery.

The movie introduced a lot of ideas and concepts to filmgoing audiences that might not be familiar with the books but it barely scratches the surface with any of it. There is all this cool shit happening but you never really understand or grasp any of it. The mythos needed to be better established and explained.

The whole film is setup in order to lead to the big final confrontation between the Gunslinger and the Man In Black, something I am assuming literary fans have been waiting for. What we get in the big finale is friggin’ dog shit. Just imagine a wizard versus a gun happy cowboy. The cowboy goes ape shit, blasting off dozens upon dozens of rounds and trick shots until the wizard finally gets duped and shot through the heart. Up until that point, the wizard is using rubble and glass to block shots and even catching bullets in the chaos. It just comes off as hokey and stupid and McConaughey looked baffled by the whole thing as he was doing it. Although, Idris Elba looked like a mastodon of a man as he blasted off hundreds of shots while looking stoic and cool.

I think, based off of the ending, that the film anticipates sequels. I’ll be shocked if that happens because this was a silly and disappointing train wreck.

Rating: 4.5/10

Film Serial Review: The Phantom Empire (1935)

Release Date: February 23rd, 1935 (first chapter)
Directed by: Otto Brower, B. Reeves Eason
Written by: Wallace MacDonald, Gerald Geraghty, Hy Freedman, Maurice Geraghty
Music by: Hugo Riesenfeld
Cast: Gene Autry, Frankie Darro, Betsy King Ross, Dorothy Christy, Wheeler Oakman

Mascot Pictures, 245 Minutes total (12 episodes)

Review:

Marketed as “The most astounding serial ever made!”, The Phantom Empire is quite a bizarre piece of work even for serials. It combines the western, science fiction and musical genres, which was pretty risky, at the time. It also was the first starring role for Gene Autry, who was the quintessential singing cowboy.

Regardless of it being a strange mixture of genres and singing, The Phantom Empire was a successful serial for Mascot Pictures and Gene Autry, who would go on to be a pretty big star.

The story sees Gene Autry playing himself as a singing cowboy who runs a dude ranch where he also does radio broadcasts. The place is called Radio Ranch. Autry’s sidekicks, Frankie and Betsy lead the Junior Thunder Riders, a club featuring kids who dress like knights and ride around on horses. Gene, Frankie and Betsy are kidnapped by the real Thunder Riders, who come from a highly advanced subterranean empire called Murania. Above the surface, a group of criminals plans to rob Murania of its radium, while under the surface a group of revolutionaries plots to overthrow Murania’s evil queen Tika.

The genre mixing alone isn’t the weirdest thing about this picture. As the plot unfolds it gets stranger and stranger.

While this isn’t the best looking serial, it was fairly well shot for its time. It isn’t as exciting as the odd premise would make you hope but it is still a pretty entertaining experience.

Gene Autry was a love him or hate him kind of guy. I was never really a fan of the singing cowboy thing but this serial provides so much else outside of that popular gimmick that it isn’t bogged down by it.

The Phantom Empire is unique and it is a noteworthy body of work in film history due to giving Gene Autry a stage to prosper and for taking some risks that paid off and paved the way for creativity in future serials.

Rating: 6/10