Film Review: Wildcats (1986)

Also known as: American Wildcats, First and Goal (alternative German titles)
Release Date: February 14th, 1986
Directed by: Michael Ritchie
Written by: Ezra Sacks
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Goldie Hawn, James Keach, Swoosie Kurtz, Robyn Lively, Brandy Gold, Jan Hooks, Bruce McGill, Nipsey Russell, Mykelti Williamson, Tab Thacker, Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Nick Corri, M. Emmet Walsh, LL Cool J, George Wyner, Ann Doran, Gloria Stuart

Hawn / Sylbert Movie Company, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

Review:

“Fuck you!” – Marvel, “Fuck you what?!” – Molly McGrath, “Fuck you… Coach McGrath.” – Marvel, “Better.” – Molly McGrath

I know that Wildcats isn’t the greatest football movie ever made but it’s always been my personal favorite and my favorite movie starring Goldie Hawn, who I thought was awesome in pretty much everything, back in the day.

This film also gave us Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, two actors I’ve thoroughly enjoyed over their decades long careers. In fact, they’d even work together again, multiple times. I kind of wish they’d still do stuff together on the regular. C’mon guys, can we get a Money Train 2 or White Men Can’t Walk?

Overall, this movie did more to sell football to me as a kid than my football fanatic uncles and growing up in Florida ever did, where high school and college football team allegiances were like religious cults.

I love that this movie takes a strong woman, dealing with real struggles as a single mother, and pushes her to the limit, where she overcomes all of her challenges and proves that she’s got what it takes.

I also like these stories where the right kind of mentor comes in and helps troubled kids that society has already given up on and pushes them towards a much better life. There were a lot of these types of films in the ’80s, many of them serious but also some of them funny.

This is one of the funny ones but that doesn’t make what Hawn’s Molly McGrath accomplishes any less impactful or important. And while real life often times leaves kids like these without the right sort of mentor or guidance, as a kid in similar situations, I always found encouragement in stories like this. This also might explain why some of my favorite movies growing up were Lean On Me, Stand and Deliver and Summer School, which many adults and critics just dismissed as a stupid stoner comedy. 

Now the story and sequence of events in this are far from perfect but the heart and soul in the picture really elevates it. You like these kids, you like all the characters except for the ones that are supposed to be shitty but in the end, the angry ex-husband sees the light and the scumbag rival coach gets what he deserves.

This is a feel good movie and even if some of it feels paint-by-numbers and formulaic, that doesn’t make it a bad or even a derivative movie. This has enough unique flourishes in it to make it stand out.

Plus, Goldie Hawn is just so damn likable and adorable but she’s also driven, strong and earns the respect of her players, her critics and the film’s audience. And she does it the hard way.

It’s also kind of sad that Hollywood seems incapable of telling these stories well, anymore.

Rating: 7.75/10

Film Review: The Benchwarmers (2006)

Release Date: April 7th, 2006
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Allen Covert, Nick Swardson
Music by: Waddy Wachtel
Cast: Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, Jon Lovitz, Craig Kilborn, Molly Sims, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Bill Romanowski, Reggie Jackson, Terry Crews, Dennis Dugan, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rachel Hunter, Doug Jones (voice), William Daniels (voice), James Earl Jones (voice)

Happy Madison Productions, Revolution Studios, 85 Minutes

Review:

“My wife is the only one who gets to twist these man titties.” – Gus

This is both a bad and a dumb movie. Still, I like the hell out of it because sometimes bad and dumb are just what you need to mindlessly escape from an increasingly shitty world.

Also, this is the type of movie that can’t be made today. When I say “type of movie” I mean “comedy”. We’re not allowed to laugh at things anymore because it could offend a small portion of the population who go through life like Howie in this movie. Although, Howie finally faced his fears and went outside where he made real friends and learned how to overcome his irrationality and begin to heal.

The Benchwarmers is the same sort of movies as Grandma’s Boy and, in fact, it’s made by some of the same people. Unlike Grandma’s Boy, though, this doesn’t focus on smoking dope and programming video games, it focuses on standing up to bullies and playing baseball.

While most of the characters in this are borderline ridiculous and way over the top, this is also the writers and actors poking fun at themselves for being nerds and non-jocks that probably just wanted to be able to hang with the dudes that picked on them growing up. This just takes the concept to the extreme because it’s easier to laugh at ourselves when it doesn’t hit super close to home.

This isn’t particularly well acted and many of the nerd tropes are way overdone to the point of cringe but in some way, it works for this movie. We really shouldn’t take this movie too seriously just like most of the things in our lives.

I get that a lot of people will hate this movie while watching it. But ask yourself this, “Are those people fun? Or are they just boring snobs thinking that they’re above a fart joke or shitty pun?” Basically, fuck those people.

Rating: 5.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard’

Well, I have reached the final book in this great looking Robert E. Howard collection by Del Ray. These Del Ray editions are my favorite Robert E. Howard collections, aesthetically, physically and in the way they’re organized and decorated with incredible art, giving the stories more life and some visual flourish that fits exceptionally well with Howard’s incredible and beautiful prose.

Since this book doesn’t focus on a specific character, a lot of the stories here are also in some of the other Del Ray volumes for Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane. Also, this shares a lot of stories with another similar book I reviewed about a year ago, The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard (see here), which tied many of Howard’s famous characters with the work of one of his best friends, horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.

All in all, this is really f’n solid and it’s just a good collection of Howard’s more horror-centric tales.

The thing with this installment is that some of the stories are recycled from other Howard collections. However, even though I had already read much of what’s here, I was still captivated enough by it to read those stories again in an effort to really embrace this volume for what its theme is.

Honestly, more than anything else, these various Del Ray collections just showed me how easy it is to revisit and re-read Howard’s short stories.

If you want to get into the man’s work, this is one of the books that is a good starting point. That is, unless you want to jump into a specific character first like Conan, Solomon Kane or Kull.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘The Best of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 2: Grim Lands’

I found this volume out of the two Best of Robert E. Howard anthologies to be the better one. I figured they’d blow their load in the first one but they really saved some good stories for this volume and there was more diversity in these tales from Howard’s most famous characters and the different genres he dabbled in.

This had great sword and sorcery tales, some swashbuckling, horror and a whole lot of action and adventure!

This book features solid stories with Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane. Each of those characters have a hefty amount of good material to pull from, though.

And sure, my preferences are subjective but the stories here are just ones that resonate with me more.

Also, these can be found elsewhere in other collections and even free online but if you really want to hold a thick, beefy book in your hand and enjoy some of Howard’s best work, this is certainly a good place to start.

Granted, I’d start with volume one but I’m OCD like that.

Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: Vice Versa: Chyna (2021)

Release Date: June 17th, 2021
Directed by: Marah Strauch, Erik Angra (segment director)
Written by: Marah Strauch
Music by: Ceiri Torjussen
Cast: Chyna, Mick Foley, Triple H, Kevin Nash, Drew Pinsky, various

Rock Skull, Rock Salt Releasing, Citizen Skull Productions, Vice, 90 Minutes

Review:

I’m not a big fan of Vice, overall. However, I really like Dark Side of the Ring quite a lot. I attribute that more to the showrunners and not the network, itself.

However, since they recently put out a documentary on Chyna, I figured I’d give it a watch, as their professional wrestling related content, thus far, has been exceptional.

While this didn’t captivate me on the same level of Dark Side of the Ring, it still pulled me in and held my attention. I think a lot of that has to do with Chyna’s story, though, as she lived an interesting but very sad and fucked up life. And I don’t say that lightly or to be disrespectful, it just is what it is and she was a nice person that deserved much more from life than her demons winning in the end.

This goes deep into her backstory before she entered the world of professional wrestling and it was cool finally getting to know her from that perspective.

Beyond that, it discusses her career and how it truly impacted the wrestling business. There are a lot of talking head interviews with several of her former co-workers and friends, as well as those she was most intimate with.

After the wrestling part of her life, things got really dark and I appreciate that this doesn’t gloss over it or try to play it down. This puts it all out there but at the same time, it lets Chyna talk about it and reveal why she did certain things and how having the rug pulled out from under her, professionally and romantically, really destroyed her spirit.

This starts to show you Chyna, in Japan as a teacher, where she started to get her life together and turn things around. However, after returning to the United States, probably too early, she picked up bad habits again and well, the rest is sadly history.

I always liked Chyna but I never felt like she had the right avenue to tell her story until now. Frankly, I like her even more and this is truly a heartbreaking and tragic story and it sucks that she couldn’t overcome the issues that plagued her for so long.

So this is a pretty depressing documentary but I think it’s also good in that it let her speak about this stuff and it also shows people who she was beyond the WWE’s glamor and glitz.

Rating: 7.25/10

Book Review: ‘Bruiser Brody’ by Emerson Murray

I know, I know… I’ve reviewed a ton of wrestler biographies over the last year or so. There’s just so many good ones and I especially want to read through everything put out by Crowbar Press, as those are generally on another level.

Bruiser Brody was also a guy who I loved. I heard the legendary tales about the guy but due to him being murdered while still at the height of his career, I didn’t get to actually see him perform until I became a wrestling tape trader in the ’90s.

Once I saw Brody, I realized that the hype was real and the guy had an infectious charisma and a ring presence that made nearly anyone facing him look like the victim of a savage beatdown.

Over the years, I amassed a pretty big library of Bruiser Brody footage from all over the United States, Puerto Rico and Japan, where he did some of his most amazing work. I’ve studied the guy for a few decades now and have read a lot of old articles about him. But I never felt like I knew enough about the actual man behind the persona, until now.

This book does a superb job in showing you Brody’s life from his childhood, his life in football and his life in wrestling up until the night where he was stabbed in the showers before a wrestling event in Puerto Rico.

The best part of this book is that we get to read a lot of Brody stories through the words of other wrestling legends that worked with the man, were his friends and traveled with him.

I also like that this book is loaded with photos. But even then, it’s not so loaded that there isn’t a lot to read here. This is a good-sized book and it really lets you get to know this legend that passed way before his time.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Thrashin’ (1986)

Release Date: May 11th, 1986 (Cannes)
Directed by: David Winters
Written by: Paul Brown, Alan Sacks
Music by: Barry Goldberg
Cast: Josh Brolin, Robert Rusler, Pamela Gidley, Chuck McCann, Brooke McCarter, Josh Richman, Brett Marx, David Wagner, Tony Alva, Mark Munski, Sherilyn Fenn, Rocky Giordani, Steve Whittaker, Per Welinder

Winters Hollywood Entertainment Holdings, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Thrashin’, it’s just an aggressive style of skating.” – Corey Webster

Whenever I watch this movie, I wonder if Josh Brolin still has his skateboarding skills. While I know that he didn’t do the hardest stuff in the film, the shots that do prove its him doing some of the moves are pretty good. He had to get more than just the basics down and the same goes for the rest of the core cast, who are actors and not competitive skaters.

I used to watch this movie a lot, alongside Rad, when I was elementary school age. My cousin was a competitive skater, BMXer and later, wakeboarder. He never got famous and he’s a doctor now but because of him, I grew up around these things. Sure, I attempted all of the above but I sucked at it and excelled more at martial arts, football and basketball.

Anyway, I probably haven’t seen this in a decade, the last time I had a working VCR. I’ve never owned the DVD or Blu-ray, assuming one exists, and only caught it this time around because it popped up on Prime.

Revisiting this was a lot of fun and I realized that it’s a much better movie than I realized. Sure, it’s chock full of ’80s cheese and clichés but that’s not a bad thing and it just enriches the world that these kids live in.

This also reminded me about how I used to think of this as a movie adaptation of the classic video game Skate or Die! While it isn’t that game brought to life, it kind of feels like it aesthetically and thematically. Hell, there’s even “Skate or Die” spray-painted on surfaces in multiple locations in this movie.

Also, a lot of the competitions in this feel like they were from the game. Specifically the jousting event, which sees the two skater rivals almost try and kill each other in skateboard combat.

For his age, Brolin was really outstanding and showed signs of the great actor he would become.

I also liked newcomer Pamela Gidley in this, a lot. She’d be in a few notable films over her career but ultimately, she didn’t reach the level I had hoped she would when I first saw her in this and felt my heart crushing hard.

Robert Rusler made a pretty convincing villain but even though he’s a very dangerous prick throughout the story, you can never really hate him because there’s still a good guy buried beneath the surface. His character sort of reminds me of the way I always saw Johnny in The Karate Kid. Sure, he’s an absolute asshole but you know there is some shit buried deep within him and when he meets his match, he is able to show respect to the dork that beat him.

I think that the action and the skating sequences in this are better than what one might expect going into this movie. This isn’t some dumb skater movie, there is a lot of heart in the picture and the stunts and tricks are top notch.

Additionally, I love the soundtrack but I was also a child of this era and a sucker for nostalgia.

Thrashin’ is one of those movies that may seem lost to time but for those of us who remember it, it’s still an enjoyable experience all these years later. It’s also one of the best movies of its type.

Rating: 7.5/10

Documentary Review: The British Bulldogs (1986)

Release Date: October 15th, 1986 (video)
Directed by: Vince McMahon
Written by: Steven B. Hecht, Vince McMahon
Cast: “Dynamite Kid” Tommy Billington, Davey Boy Smith, Lou Albano, Bret Hart, The Iron Sheik, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, various

World Wrestling Federation, Coliseum Video, 90 Minutes

Review:

I stumbled upon this on Peacock in the documentary section of their WWE content. I was pretty stoked to watch it, as The British Bulldogs were one of my all-time favorite tag teams and seeing a then-WWF documentary from 1986 seemed pretty cool.

Well, it’s not a documentary. While WWE become known for making great historical wrestling documentaries about past talent, this was produced before that era and thus, it’s a collection of Bulldogs matches with a few other segments mixed in.

This was still really neat to watch, though, as these guys were just solid f’n workers in the ring and they had an intensity that was kind of unmatched in the era until their greatest rivals came along, The Hart Foundation.

The content here is all enjoyable but it doesn’t feature their best stuff. This came out in the middle of their historic run, so WWF only had the first half of that run to pick matches from. There are some memorable matches thrown on this like their feud with The Dream Team (Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake before he was “The Barber”).

Half of this is singles matches, though. And that’s fine, as both the Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy can work on their own. However, I was hoping for a lot of their iconic tag team championship matches. I was also hoping for a lot more of their feud with The Hart Foundation but this came out when that feud was really getting started.

Still, if you also love The Bulldogs, this is definitely worth checking out to see them win those titles and to see them both wrestle in their primes.

Rating: 7/10

Documentary Review: Bruno (2018)

Release Date: April 20th, 2018
Cast: Bruno Sammartino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, various

WWE, 46 Minutes

Review:

This was thrown together and released onto WWE Network just a few days after Bruno Sammartino passed away in 2018.

However, instead of trying to release it as quickly as possible, I really wish that WWE would’ve spent the time to put together a good, feature length documentary on Bruno. Hell, if anyone deserved it, it’s this guy, a legitimate legend that really helped make the World-Wide Wrestling Federation, decades before it became today’s WWE. In fact, this guy was the Hulk Hogan before Hulk Hogan. He was the megastar of the company and really carried it on his back.

Bruno and Vince McMahon had a falling out in the late ’80s, though, and they never really patched things up until a few years before Bruno’s death when he finally accepted a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, after rejecting those offers for nearly two decades.

This documentary does go into Bruno’s life and his career but it mostly covers him coming back into the WWE fold and his reunion with Vince McMahon. It also features some neat backstage footage of Bruno and Arnold Schwarzenegger from the night of his Hall of Fame induction.

This was fairly decent but if I’m being honest, a legend like Bruno Sammartino deserved more and this just felt like it was slapped together to capitalize off of his death happening just a few days earlier.

Rating: 6/10