Film Review: Weird Science (1985)

Release Date: August 2nd, 1985
Directed by: John Hughes
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchel-Smith, Kelly LeBrock, Bill Paxton, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Rusler, Suzanne Snyder, Judie Aronson, Vernon Wells, Michael Berryman, Wallace Langham (as Wally Ward)

Silver Pictures, Hughes Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?” – Lisa

This was one of those films that I used to watch constantly when I was a kid. I loved this picture and, at the time, it was one of the coolest movies I had ever seen.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen it but I still really enjoyed it, even if it’s much harder for me to suspend disbelief as much as this film requires. But it doesn’t really need to make sense if you just surrender yourself over to the absurdity of it.

However, it has not aged well and it almost feels like a relic from the ’80s in a bad way. Also, out of John Hughes’ four big teen movies of that decade, I’d have to consider this one the worst, even though it was once my favorite.

The story is just absolutely bonkers and doesn’t make a lick of logical sense but the spectacle of it makes it entertaining.

My main problem isn’t that two teens make a girl using “science” it’s just how half-assed and convenient the whole process seemed. As a kid, you don’t think about this shit. However, as an adult, you do and if most people are like me, your brain will get more literal thinking with age. That’s not really going to bode well for this film’s longevity, as its audience has grown up and moved on. Well, maybe not those that are so addicted to nostalgia that they have to continually live vicariously through the past.

It probably sounds like I’m shitting on the movie and I don’t mean to. It’s fine for what it is and for its era, especially considering the age of its audience at the time. But even seeing this now, it’s hard not to like these characters, even if their journey seems kind of pointless and they don’t seem to actually learn anything important other than boners can make a man brave.

Kelly LeBrock is great in this and honestly, she’s the glue that keeps this movie from falling apart. But, as an adult, you start to see her character through a new lens and her story is pretty tragic and incredibly fucked up.

Here we have a supremely intelligent woman that was created by two horny teenagers that take her for granted, use her and then dump her less than 48 hours later, leaving her to wander the Earth with her magic powers and no real human connection with anyone. Sure, she’s Einstein level intelligent with beauty and personality but this sounds like the origin of a horror monster. And maybe, just maybe… there’s some sequel potential there. Just send me a check, I’ll see myself out and go straight to the bank, Universal.

Anyway, this is a fun, dumb movie that might not work as well in 2020, as it did in 1985, but it still probably deserves the beloved status it’s built up over the years. Despite my new take on it, I’ll still probably revisit it once in a while. But that’s also because it’s hard for me to sometimes resist the nostalgia bug even though I can see it for what it is.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s John Hughes movies, as well as ’80s and ’90s teen comedies.

Film Review: Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)

Also known as: Roxy (Sweden, France)
Release Date: October 12th, 1990
Directed by: Jim Abrahams
Written by: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Music by: Melissa Etheridge, Thomas Newman
Cast: Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels, Laila Robins, Dinah Manoff, Thomas Wilson Brown, Frances Fisher, Graham Beckel, Stephen Tobolowsky, Carla Gugino, Beth Grant

Incorporated Television Company, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Starting tomorrow there will be hourly tours of Roxy Carmichael’s birthplace. You’ll see where Roxy slept and where she ate during her wonder years. You’ll also see pictures of her beloved dog, Bonkers.” – Louise, “She loved that dog. She used to ride it. It was a big dog.” – Town Person

I remember seeing the VHS box for this at the video store, constantly. However, I never knew anything about the film and therefore, never rented it. Since I came across it streaming on HBO, I figured I could kill an hour and a half and check it out. Besides, I typically enjoy old school Winona Ryder.

Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael is a film with a lot of problems but none of them are really that bad. Also, none of these problems come from Winona Ryder, who is front and center in most of the movie’s scenes.

The film showcases how great of an actress Ryder is, even though she’s surrounded by a movie that really seems to miss its mark in nearly every other regard. For fans of Ryder, this is definitely worth watching just to see her performance, as an awkward kid that can’t seem to find her place in the world. And while that’s hardly an original concept, Ryder does wonders with the weak and derivative material. You can’t help not liking her and actually caring about her journey through this story and that’s most certainly due to her skill and not the humdrum script.

This feels like a picture that should have been better and needed to be but it’s far from terrible and I wouldn’t call it forgettable. We’ve just all seen this story a dozen times over. But at least the plot was fairly interesting in that revolves around a small town preparing for the return of a local girl that grew into a massive music star. In the case of Winona Ryder’s Dinky, she believes that this celebrity is her biological mother.

Adding more layers to the plot, we’re given Jeff Daniels’ character, who was the former lover of the star and the father of the baby she left behind when she bolted from town to live out her rock star dreams.

Additionally, we get to see the lives of other townsfolk and how this star’s return effects them on their own personal levels.

There’s a bit of a twist to the ending but it’s nothing shocking and frankly, it’s fairly predictable. 

In the end, we’re left with a pretty mediocre movie that was lucky enough to get a great performance out of its lead.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age teen movies from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Comic Review: Earthbound: Between Two Breaths On Earth

Published: 2019
Written by: Narwhal
Art by: Narwhal

Narwhal Books, 148 Pages

Review:

I’ve backed a lot of crowdfunded comics over the last few years but this was one that I didn’t initially support. But after hearing a lot of praise for it, I figured I’d grab a copy after the initial batch had already been sold and sent out.

For the most part, this was pretty enjoyable and it’s hard not to be impressed with anyone who writes and does the art for their own creation.

While the story didn’t fully connect with me, I didn’t find it boring and actually thought it was interesting and I could see why so many people were fans of it.

Granted, this is the first of two parts and I don’t want to be too harsh as the overall narrative is still incomplete. But as its own standalone release, it builds up without a real satisfying payoff.

Additionally, the art is competent but it’s not my cup of tea. I did really like the coloring, however, and it gave this a very unique aesthetic that enriched the total experience.

I guess my biggest takeaway from this is that it is a good start but it needs more refinement. That should come with time, as long as Narwhal, this trade paperback’s creator, keeps plugging away at his craft.

It does leave me fairly enthusiastic about whatever else he could do in the future.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other recent indie sci-fi comics like Downcast, Gods & Gears, Eden, Exilium, and Feast or Famine.

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: Heathers (1989)

Also known as: Fatal Game, Lethal Attraction, Westerberg High (working titles)
Release Date: January, 1989 (Sundance)
Directed by: Michael Lehmann
Written by: Daniel Waters
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford, Glenn Shadix, Renee Estevez

Cinemarque Entertainment, New World Pictures, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Mother Teresa?” – Heather Chandler

When I saw this around 1990, when it hit VHS for the first time, I was pretty blown away by it. I was also eleven years-old and this was some pretty heavy stuff. But by that point, I already saw Christian Slater and Winona Ryder as two of the coolest young actors in Hollywood.

I probably watched Heathers a half dozen times in my youth but it’s now been decades since I’ve revisited it.

Seeing it with pretty fresh eyes, I think the film has aged really well and it is still effective, even if it was made as a sort of “fuck you” to the overly positive and cliche high school movies of the ’80s, specifically the John Hughes ones.

I can’t quite say that this is as good as my memory’s impression of it but I definitely enjoyed it and thought that it was a really well executed black comedy about teen angst in a decade that tried to gloss over some of the real issues young people faced at the time. But it is also a critique on the young yuppie lifestyle that was promoted in lots of the teen films of the era.

That’s not to say that this film was an original concept. These ideas have been explored before its existence but Heathers does it so well that it is the one film people seem to remember the most when it comes to expressing these ideas.

The first act of the film is damn near perfection. However, the second act is a bit of a slog and it seems to lose some of its momentum.

As an adult, you also see Winona Ryder’s character much differently. Where I found her relatable in my youth, you kind of see that she’s pretty much just an evil asshole like her boyfriend. She could’ve gone to the cops, she could’ve stopped him pretty early on in the story. However, she goes along for the ride and somehow turns out to be the hero in the end. Additionally, a lot of the moral dilemmas weren’t things I really dwelled on as much at eleven years-old when watching an edgy movie that felt cool.

The finale was decent but I feel like the climax sort of doesn’t live up to the amount of chaos this picture tried to build up. However, I don’t know how keen ’80s audiences would’ve been on a film that blows up a school with all the kids still inside.

Heathers is really good though, despite my more adult take on it, thirty-ish years later. It resonated with its fans for a reason and even if it bombed in the theater, it definitely deserves the cult status it quickly achieved after it came out on VHS and the word spread. 

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: things that ripped it off like Jawbreaker and Mean Girls.

Film Review: Prom Night (1980)

Also known as: Bloody Midnight (Netherlands)
Release Date: July 18th, 1980
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Written by: William Gray, Robert Guza Jr.
Music by: Paul Zaza, Carl Zittrer
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen

Guardian Trust Company, Prom Night Productions, Simcom Limited, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Killer’s coming! Killer’s gonna get you!” – Young Wendy

I don’t know why there are a slew of slasher fans that seem to hold this in high regard. Is it because it’s got Jamie Lee Curtis in it? Because she was also in Terror Train around the same time and that was kinda shit too. Granted, I enjoyed Terror Train more than this disco train wreck.

Weirdly, this also has Leslie Nielsen in it in a non-comedic role as the high school principal. But honestly, he’s barely in it.

Anyway, this is a pretty uninspiring slasher flick that’s fairly devoid of imagination or anything remotely cool. I mean, the only thing I kind of liked was the simple mask of the slasher but that’s mainly because it was a bit sparkly for some reason and that looked cool during the scenes at the disco themed prom.

Also, the decapitation that saw the prom king’s head land in the middle of the light-up dance floor was kind of cool too. But honestly, that’s all this film’s got.

The plot is about a group of kids that bully a young girl and accidentally push her out of a window, killing her. They get away with it for awhile but there is a person who witnessed the incident and that’s the same person who puts on the mask and starts slicing teens on prom night, years later.

It’s not a wholly original plot, well maybe it was for 1980, as slasher flicks were still kind of new and just gaining in popularity. But regardless of that, it’s still pretty fucking pedestrian and some basic bitch shit.

My biggest problem with the movie though has to do with the pacing. It’s slow as absolute fuck and the good stuff doesn’t start happening until the very end. What that leaves us with is an hour of high school teen drama and shenanigans that isn’t very interesting and that is acted out by a cast of people that didn’t get any real work after this. Well, except for Curtis, who honestly just looks bored in this. I feel ya, babe.

Now this film would go on to inspire a much better sequel that had a cool supernatural twist to it. And I’ve already reviewed that one, since it was featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs a year or so ago. Just go watch that one.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other late ’70s/early ’80s slasher movies.

Film Review: One Crazy Summer (1986)

Also known as: Greetings from Nantucket (working title)
Release Date: August 8th, 1986
Directed by: Savage Steve Holland
Written by: Savage Steve Holland
Music by: Cory Lerios
Cast: John Cusack, Demi Moore, Curtis Armstrong, Bobcat Goldthwait, Joel Murray, William Hickey, Joe Flaherty, Mark Metcalf, John Matuszak, Kimberly Foster, Matt Mulhern, Tom Villard, Jeremy Piven, Rich Hall, Taylor Negron, Billie Bird

A&M Films, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

“[Reading the obituaries] “Hey, Hoops, you ever notice how people die in alphabetical order?” – George Calamari

One thing that makes this film so damn fun to watch is that it was chock full of a lot of talent from the time.

While it stars John Cusack and Demi Moore, it boasts great comedic and character actors like Bobcat Goldthwait, Curtis Armstrong, Joel Murray, William Hickey, Joe Flaherty, Taylor Negron, Rich Hall and Billie Bird. It also features big man John Matuszak a.k.a. Sloth from The Goonies and a very young Jeremy Piven.

This is a really goofy and surreal film but I don’t feel like it gets too lost in its zaniness. It does stay pretty well grounded and just works as a great ensemble comedy that is very much a product of its time. While that might mean that it hasn’t aged well to some, I still found it to be energetic, charming and goofy while still being an entertaining and mostly mindless pleasure.

The story focuses on a summer vacation to Nantucket for two buddies that recently graduated high school. One falls for a musician girl and there is a romantic subplot there but it isn’t heavy handed or really even the centerpiece of the movie’s plot. Most of the film is a series of gags with an overall story that connects everything and gives the characters more of a purpose and an objective towards the end.

Additionally, the film’s director is an animator and he incorporates his animations into the film. I found that stuff to be pretty cool and it just fit the film well. In fact, it really sets the tone from the opening credits, as it then slides the viewer into live action. The director, Savage Steve Holland would go on to create Eek! The Cat.

My favorite part of the film was the bit where Bobcat Goldthwait got stuck in a rubber Godzilla suit and accidentally crashed a party, which also saw him stomp across a miniature real estate model of a residential community. Granted, I’m a massive Godzilla fan, love Bobcat and this was at the height of his awesomeness.

One Crazy Summer is silly but it is enjoyable silly. I still like it quite a bit and it’s a good flick to cheer you up on a gloomy day.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies of the ’80s.

Film Review: Just One of the Guys (1985)

Also known as: I Was a Teenage Boy (working title)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Lisa Gottlieb
Written by: Dennis Feldman, Jeff Franklin
Music by: Tom Scott
Cast: Joyce Hyser, Clayton Rohner, Billy Jacoby, Toni Hudson, William Zabka, Leigh McCloskey, Sherilyn Fenn, Arye Gross, Robert Fieldsteel, Stuart Charno, Kenneth Tigar

Summa Entertainment Group, Triton, Columbia Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

“Budmeister, are you okay?” – Terry, “No, Terry, I’m not. Mom and Dad come home Monday. I’ve had two weeks of total freedom. The closest that I’ve come to sex was a girl who took her top off to seduce my sister. What’s wrong with me?” – Buddy

This used to be one of those movies that was good to watch on a rainy weekend. Plus, it was on cable TV all the time in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s goofy but charming and it’s also kind of endearing because of how ridiculous the premise and the execution is while having actors fully committed to the bit.

I really liked Joyce Hyser in this and it’s actually strange to me that this didn’t lead to a lot more work, as she’s pretty good dramatically, as well as comedically. She was also believable and you just liked her and rooted for her, even if it wasn’t entirely clear what the hell was going on from scene-to-scene. You just had her trying to play a teenage boy to prove a point to the teacher that didn’t take her journalistic prowess seriously because she’s a girl. It’s really awkward and quirky but it’s supposed to be.

William Zabka is also in this, showing that he was pretty much Hollywood’s go-to guy for high school/college bullies. In fact, I consider this to be the second part of an unofficial trilogy of films I call the Zabka Trilogy. The other two films being 1984’s The Karate Kid and 1986’s Back to School. Needless to say, he was just good playing a jerk and he’s definitely on his A-game here, as Greg, the popular douche that wears weightlifting gloves and jacks up lunch tables causing nerds to lose their lunches to the cafeteria floor.

The film also features a young Sherilyn Fenn before she’d go on to enchant males of all ages in Twin Peaks.

Another interesting tidbit is that one of the writers on this was Jeff Franklin. For those who don’t recognize his name, he was the creative mind behind Full House and was also a writer on 1987’s Summer School. He also wrote scripts early in his career for The Bad News Bears TV show, as well as Laverne & Shirley and the Tom Hanks starring Bosom Buddies, which may have inspired the story for this film to some degree, due to similarities.

Ultimately, this isn’t a must-see film but it’s still funny, amusing and lighthearted. You can just sit back, kick up your feet and enjoy the ’80s nostalgia and well-aged cheese.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other goofy ’80s teen comedies.

Comic Review: Everglade Angels

Published: February, 2020
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Blake Northcott
Art by: John Upchurch

Northworld Publishing, 48 Pages

Review:

I backed this campaign on Indiegogo several months back and I was really excited to finally get my copy of the graphic novel.

For one, I love slasher movies. I also live and grew up on the edge of the Florida Everglades. So combining those two things is a win/win for me.

Additionally, this was written by Scott Lobdell, a writer I’ve liked for years, and Blake Northcott, a mutual follower on Twitter, who has a great personality, a solid perspective on how to manage her social media, and most importantly, a stupendous track record.

That being said, I really liked this quite a bit.

The characters were all cool and well developed in the minimal space they had to live and breathe. I also liked the backstory for the villains.

The art is also really good and for a crowdfunded book, this truly is in the upper echelon of comics I’ve seen. It’s actually better than most of the mainstream comics coming out in 2020. I especially like the colors and overall visual aesthetic of the book.

There’s not much else I can say without spoiling too much and I’d rather people go out and pick this up, assuming they still can somewhere.

I’m not sure if any follow ups are planned but I’d probably support a sequel.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror/slasher comics. It really reminded me of Hack/Slash stories.

Film Review: SolarBabies (1986)

Also known as: Solarfighters, Solar Warriors (alternative titles)
Release Date: November 26th, 1986
Directed by: Alan Johnson
Written by: Walon Green, Douglas Anthony Metrov
Music by: Maurice Jarre
Cast: Richard Jordan, Jami Gertz, Jason Patric, Lukas Haas, James Le Gros, Claude Brooks, Peter DeLuise, Peter Kowanko, Adrian Pasdar, Sarah Douglas, Charles Durning, Frank Converse, Terrence Mann, Alexei Sayle, Bruce Payne, Willoguhby Gray

Brooksfilms, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes

Review:

“It’s an odd name for a skateball team, don’t you think? “Solarbabies.” Too soft, not menacing enough. Why do you suppose they chose it?” – Grock, “They don’t seem to need anything more menacing, do they? They always seem to win.” – The Warden

Researching this movie for this review, I discovered that Mel Brooks was the executive producer on this. Somehow I must’ve always missed that. Then again, I hadn’t seen this since the early ’90s when it would pop up on TV from time to time.

I used to really like this movie, despite its overabundance of flaws. Seeing it now, I’d say it’s less palatable than it was when it was more current, however, it’s still got charm and a really likable cast of young people, most of whom would go on to have memorable careers.

The film follows a group of teens and a younger kid that escape from a dystopian juvenile prison. They also befriend an alien orb that exhibits some special powers. The majority of the film deals with these kids being on the run from the fascist military group that is led by Richard Jordan, who I most remember as the obsessed Sandman that hunted Michael York in 1976’s Logan’s Run. I’ve always liked him since that film and seeing him in a similar role, albeit with an army at his disposal, is pretty enjoyable. This also features Sarah Douglas, as a secondary villain.

The special effects are pretty underwhelming, even for the time, but some things did hold up well. I love the matte painting work used for the landscapes and the effects sequence where the teen’s hand dissolves into bone and ash looks really damn cool.

The film’s score is a mixed bag but more on the negative end of the spectrum. It’s mostly just cheesy synth tracks that are repetitive and pounding. There’s a pop track or two, which livens things up but the music drags the film down quite a bit due to just how generic and basic it is.

One thing I do like is that this has a very spaghetti western vibe to it. Since it is mostly filmed in Spain, it really reflects the look of those deserts. It actually fits well within the slew of Spanish and Italian Mad Max ripoffs from the decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if they actually used some of the same props and set pieces from some of those films, due to the similar dystopian atmosphere.

While this has a 4.8 out of 10 on IMDb, it’s a better movie than that. I understand why the general public would look down on it and rate it as below average but it’s got character, it’s got heart and it’s got a rare youthful energy that is missing from similar post-apocalyptic films of the era.

Plus, it’s got Alexei Sayle from The Young Ones in it.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other cheesy ’80s sci-fi movies.