Comic Review: The New Mutants – Classics, Vol. 6

Published: November 3rd, 2016
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Arthur Adams, Alan Davis, Jackson Guice, Steve Purcell, Barry Windsor-Smith (cover)

Marvel Comics, 265 Pages

Review:

Man, this comic series is so damn good. I had a few reservations about revisiting it since my childhood (and in its entirety) but it hasn’t disappointed and for being Marvel’s “teen” comic in the ’80s, it still deals with some really heavy and adult subject matter.

This volume is no different and it keeps things moving forward swiftly, collects a few different story arcs and further develops these characters and their relationships quite superbly.

I think the thing that I liked most in this volume was the story with the Hellions, as you now see them more clearly, especially Thunderbird, who would later become Warpath on the X-Force and X-Men teams of the ’90s and beyond.

In that Hellions story, we really get to understand that only one of the kids is truly bad and the others are just teens going through their own growing pains. Teens that have more in common with the New Mutants team than differences. In the end, they’re all just kids, dealing with their own issues that just happen to belong to different schools of thought, figuratively and literally.

This collection also features another X-Men crossover story. This time it sees them have to outwit the villain, Mojo. We also have the second Legion story, where he goes off the rails and has to be reeled back in for the safety of himself and the others around him.

Chris Claremont truly put as much time and care into these characters and stories as he did the X-Men. This is just another solid string of stories, as all the X-Men books build towards the big Inferno crossover event, which happens immediately after the next volume of New Mutants comics.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.

Film Review: Evilspeak (1981)

Also known as: Evilspeaks (alternative title)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1981 (Japan)
Directed by: Eric Weston
Written by: Eric Weston, Joseph Garofalo
Music by: Roger Kellaway
Cast: Clint Howard, R. G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Haywood Nelson, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Richard Moll

Leisure Investment Company, Coronet Films, Moreno Films, Warner Bros., 97 Minutes, 92 Minutes (R-rated cut)

Review:

“I command you, Prince of Evil, heed my call. Give life to the instruments of my retribution.” – Stanley Coopersmith

Evilspeak is a cool movie that capitalized on two things that had people worried in the early ’80s: the “Satanic panic” the media and parents groups were raging about, as well as the emergence of personal computers and what such a jump in technology could mean for the common folk.

This also stars a very young Clint Howard, playing a teen in a military school that decides to use his computer to summon the devil in an effort to conquer his bullies.

It’s also neat seeing the bully being played by a young Don Stark, who is probably most famous for being the doofus neighbor to Red Foreman on That ’70s Show.

The movie also features legendary, badass character actor R.G. Armstrong, as well as Richard Moll, before he’d go on to greater heights as Bull on the ’80s sitcom Night Court. There’s also Lenny Montana, a former professional wrestler that was most known for playing Luca Brasi in The Godfather and another sitcom star, Haywood Nelson, who was already known for his role as Dwayne on What’s Happening!! and later, What’s Happening Now!!

Man, I dig the hell out of this movie. It’s not just because I love the cast, it’s because this is just a time capsule into a really cool era for horror cinema. Also, it’s not a slasher flick or haunted house movie. Frankly, it’s pretty unique, at least for its time.

Granted, it’s concept would be ripped off and reimagined in several other films but this is the first film I know of where a personal computer was used to create a black mass and call forth the Devil.

Clint Howard really shines here because even if he succumbs to evil and a fucked up revenge plot, you still sympathize with him, as he just has this sort of soft, sad, endearing quality as this character, Stanley. His life sucks, it’s tough as hell and his bully is a real piece of shit. That being said, what the bully does to Stanley’s puppy is unforgivable and as a viewer, you want Stanley to literally raise hell.

I thought that the special effects in this were also pretty great. The big finale was well shot and employed some cool techniques, as a levitating, demonically possessed Stanley unleashes his newfound power on the assholes who tormented him.

Beyond that, I also thought the locations, sets and general visual tone were perfect. The film’s score wasn’t too bad either.

Evilspeak is one of those early ’80s horror movies that seems like it’s mostly forgotten today. However, it’s concept has lived on in countless other things throughout pop culture.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other “Satanic panic” movies of the ’80s, as well as Brainscan, The Gate II: Trespassers, Lawnmower Man and 976-EVIL.

Film Review: Go (1999)

Also known as: Go! – Sex, Drugs & Rave’n’Roll (German VHS title), Life with Ronna (Welsh title)
Release Date: February 20th, 1999 (Miami International Film Festival)
Directed by: Doug Liman
Written by: John August
Music by: BT
Cast: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Timothy Olyphant, Desmond Askew, Taye Diggs, William Fichtner, J. E. Freeman, Jane Krakowski, Breckin Meyer, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, Manu Intiraymi, James Duvall, Melissa McCarthy

Saratoga Entertainment, Banner Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“You come here, out of the blue, asking for 20 hits. Just so happens 20 is the magic number where intent to sell becomes trafficking!” – Todd

When this came out, I had a lot of friends that talked about it and liked it quite a bit. I never got around to seeing it and it has been in my Starz queue since I first got Starz, years back.

As I’ve been trying to clear out the things in all my queues that have just been sitting there for eons, I was pretty excited to finally check this film out. And I guess I never knew that Doug Liman directed it, early in his career.

Overall, this is a pretty energetic picture. It’s also got several cool and likable characters, even if nearly all of them are committing crimes in the effort to pay back rent and have a good time.

There are three stories in this film that intertwine and they’re each broken out into roughly half hour segments with a bookend to introduce multiple characters and another bookend to closeout the story.

Out of the three stories, I was most engaged by the first one, which saw Sarah Polley basically become a one-time drug dealer because she needs money. Also, there is a rave later that night where she can go and try to make a hefty profit. However, when she accidentally fucks over the drug dealer, he comes for her, but not before she is hit by a speeding car and knocked down a hill.

The second story follows the kid that normally deals drugs. However, he isn’t around town because he’s headed to Vegas for an adventure with his buds. However, this also goes sideways and the friends have to escape a vengeful strip club bouncer and owner, after a debaucherous mishap that ended in a non-lethal shooting.

The third story deals with two gay actors who are secretly in love and how they get busted by a narcotics detective that decides to use them to entrap someone else in exchange for their freedom. This crosses over with the first plot thread, as Sarah Polley’s character is who they approach for drugs and it’s the event that sets her off on her path. What we find out here, though, is that these were the people in the car that hit her. So now they’ve got to try and clean up their mess.

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot and I won’t reveal the ending or how this all comes together in a big way. But it’s a movie with a lot of layers and solid actors playing these great, interesting characters.

Go is a better motion picture than I thought it would be, even with years of praise from friends in the back of my mind. Frankly, I should’ve watched it much sooner. Had I seen this back when it was current, it probably would’ve been a movie I watched a lot back in my youth.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other late ’90s dark teen dramas/comedies.

Comic Review: The New Mutants – Classics, Vol. 5

Published: September 8th, 2016
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Arthur Adams, Jackson Guice, Rick Leonardi, Keith Pollard, Mary Wilshire

Marvel Comics, 269 Pages

Review:

This follows the Demon Bear Saga, the first Legion story and the short arc just after that.

This volume in The New Mutants starts with a two-part annual issues crossover with The Uncanny X-Men. The story sees the two mutant teams swept away to Asgard for some trickery and shenanigans involving Loki, the Enchantress and Hela. Frog-Thor, the Warriors Three and Surtur also make appearances.

I really dug the Asgard story, though, and I finally know how Dani Moonstar became a Valkyrie because it was always a bit of a mystery to me, as one day she wasn’t and then one day she was. I had never read these annuals, so I wasn’t sure how it all went down and why.

After that, we get a story that involves The Beyonder, as well as one that sees Magneto take over the team in place of Professor X. That is the more interesting plot thread, as it sees Emma Frost with help from one of her Hellions, convince Magneto to let her take over the New Mutants training, essentially merging them with the Hellions.

While with the Hellions, the New Mutants form some bonds with the teens they’re used to fighting. For those who have read X-Force, it’s pretty apparent which Hellions member will eventually align with the New Mutants once Cable comes in to lead them into adulthood.

Overall, this is a damn good collection and the Asgard and Hellion stories are two of the best arcs I’ve read thus far in the series.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.

Film Review: Angus (1995)

Release Date: September 15th, 1995
Directed by: Patrick Read Johnson
Written by: Jill Gordon
Music by: David E. Russo
Cast: George C. Scott, Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, James Van Der Beek, Charlie Talbert, Kathy Bates, Kevin Connolly, Irvin Kershner

Atlas Entertainment, BBC, New Line Cinema, 87 Minutes

Review:

“As for what anybody else thinks, always remember these words and live by them: screw ’em!” – Grandpa

Angus had a pretty big impact on me when I saw it back in the late ’90s. I thought it was one of the best movies of the teen coming-of-age genre. Something about it felt more pure and realistic than the dozens of other films like it and having now seen it, a quarter of a century later, I’m really pleased to discover that not only has it held up but it’s still relevant and even better than similar movies that came after it.

I think that this movie flourished in that it used a cast of mostly unknown teens. Sure, it had Academy Award winners George C. Scott (who refused his Oscar for Patton) and Kathy Bates but they just sort of added legitimacy to the film and probably helped get it in front of audiences that might have otherwise missed it. Plus, they’re both damn good in it and even if their roles are smaller than the teens in the movie, they really have a profound effect on the overall story and Angus’ character arc and personal growth.

The story is about a smart but awkward fat kid who is voted homecoming king as a joke. However, it gives him the opportunity to at least have a dance with the girl he is crushing on, as well as allowing him stand up against the bullies trying to break him down.

It’s a pretty fresh take on the awkward kid trying to win over the popular love interest trope and it’s done remarkably well, which I think has to do with superb writing but also the great performances of the young cast. Frankly, there isn’t a weak link among them and the film’s title character, played by Charlie Talbert, is just great in every scene.

Talbert was a newcomer and this was his first professional credit. Still, this kid held his own sharing scenes with George C. Scott and Kathy Bates and it’s pretty damned impressive.

I think another thing that adds a lot to the picture is the music. The film is full of great tunes from ’90s alternative rock bands and even if it dates the movie, it still sets the tone and allows the viewer to sort of sink into this kid’s world.

Angus is something I should probably revisit more often. It’s absolutely one of the best motion pictures of its type and it’s still good with a message that will always be relevant.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other teen coming-of-age movies of the ’80s and ’90s.

Film Review: Masterminds (1997)

Also known as: Smart Alec (working title), Trouble Border (Japan – English title)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1997
Directed by: Roger Christian
Written by: Floyd Byars, Alex Siskin, Chris Black
Music by: Anthony Marinelli
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Vincent Kartheiser, Brenda Fricker, Brad Whitford, Matt Craven, Annabelle Gurwitch

Pacific Motion Pictures, Dunlevy Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Enjoy the show, Maloney.” – Ozzie

Man, oh, man… this movie started out really bad. However, I was really enjoying it by the third act and as goofy and stupid as it was, some of the performances were entertaining as hell, even if they were extremely over the top.

You really have to suspend disbelief with this movie, as thinking too hardly about plot details makes the whole thing fall apart.

Granted, it’s hard to dismiss some of the stuff that’s so blatantly stupid like a private school getting a multi-million dollar, high tech security package just to stop one troublemaking, prankster, hacker teen.

And don’t get me started on the actual hacking in the movie because like Hackers and Weird Science, the filmmakers, here, think that online security resembles some sort of adventure video game. But hey, I get it, we need exciting visuals and real hacking isn’t exciting to look at for the regular Joe.

The plot is basically “Die Hard in a private school” or more correctly, a ripoff of 1991’s Toy Soldiers but with only one teenage hero fighting terrorists. And I guess they’re not terrorists, as much as they are just Patrick Stewart and a gang of militarized thugs trying to extort the school’s president for money by holding the kids hostage.

As the plot rolls on, the kid fights back, using secret passageways and tricks to outwit the dimwitted militarized force. Eventually, he has his showdown with Patrick Stewart and we’re treated to an armored golf cart race through the catacombs under the school and nearby city.

Overall, the finale was pretty decent, even if the golf carts moved too slowly and the whole thing dragged on for too long.

Masterminds is a forgettable film, mainly because it recycled a formula that people had seen a few dozen times before it came out. But Stewart is enjoyable, as always, and it was weird seeing Pete Campbell from Mad Men play a skateboarding, douchey, hacker teen from the edgy boi ’90s. 

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Toy Soldiers and other Die Hard clones.

Film Review: The Wanderers (1979)

Release Date: July 4th, 1979
Directed by: Philip Kaufman
Written by: Rose Kaufman, Philip Kaufman
Based on: The Wanderers by Richard Price
Music by: various
Cast: Ken Wahl, John Friedrich, Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Jim Youngs, Tony Ganios, Alan Rosenberg, Dolph Sweet, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Price (cameo), Wayne Knight (uncredited)

Film Finance Group, Polyc International BV, Orion Pictures, Warner Bros., 112 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a shame to see kids beatin’ each other’s brains out, especially when there’s no financial advantage.” – Chubby Galasso

This movie’s been in my queue to watch and review for a really long time. I’m glad that I finally got around to it, though, as it’s pretty damn enjoyable. Especially, if you like teen gang movies that take place in the ’50s and ’60s.

The Wanderers kind of feels like one-part The Outsiders mixed with one-part The Warriors but then it meets somewhere in the middle.

Mostly, this is a dramatic, coming-of-age story that just happens to be set in the Bronx in 1963, which was overrun by youth gangs. It also reflects a time when America was just about to head to Vietnam and the civil rights movement was starting to make significant changes in American culture.

I liked most of the characters in this movie a lot, except for the one kid that was always causing all the problems for the gang because he was tiny and couldn’t shut his mouth. I had a friend like that in my high school crew and when he thought he could talk shit and then hide behind us, we let him get his ass kicked. That cured his short man’s syndrome really quick.

Anyway, I like that all of the gangs have unique identities and that many are segregated by race. It allows the story to show the racial tensions between the different groups of kids but ultimately, it shows many of them from various backgrounds, coming together to fight the biggest asshole gang of the bunch. Through that unity, the kids of different cultures gain each other’s respect and a broader sense of brotherhood.

All of the young people in this were really good. I was really impressed with Ken Wahl and Tony Ganios’ performances, as they’re the two that really stood out. Karen Allen also held her own and was as sweet and charming as always. I also thought that Toni Kalem was really good and your heart kind of breaks for her, witnessing what she goes through in this.

I also have to point to the incredibly intimidating performance of Dolph Sweet. As a kid of the ’80s and ’90s, I only really knew Sweet as the loving police chief father on the sitcom Gimme A Break. Here, he essentially plays a 1960s Tony Soprano. Honestly, he’s like a proto-Tony Soprano that gives such a powerful performance that I wouldn’t be surprised if James Gandolfini didn’t look at it and take some pointers. The scene with the bowling ball was an absolutely chilling but perfect sequence.

I like that this movie also included a side plot about a shady Marine recruiter that dupes a bunch of drunk youth into joining up, just as America is one the verge of war.

There are a lot of characters in this and they’re all pretty well-balanced. You mostly care about everyone and there are just so many good sequences that they all get their moment to shine in some way.

The Wanderers isn’t a film that people talk about today. It feels kind of lost to time. But I think that fans of The Outsiders, The Warriors, Rumble Fish, etc. will find a lot to love in this picture.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other youth gang movies of the ’50s through ’80s.

Film Review: Class of 1984 (1982)

Release Date: May 19th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: Mark Lester
Written by: Tom Holland, Mark Lester, John Saxton
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Perry King, Merrie Lynn Ross, Timothy Van Patten, Lisa Langlois, Stefan Arngrim, Michael Fox, Roddy McDowall

Guerilla High Productions, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Life… is pain. Pain… is everything. You… you will learn!” – Peter Stegman

What’s odd about my history with this film is that there isn’t any. Yes, I’ve known about it since it was fairly current but for whatever reason, I never got around to watching it, even though I knew it’s something I’d probably dig quite a bit.

Well, I’ve finally seen it and it’s pretty entertaining and a damn cool flick.

This uses a popular formula from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s a story about an educator trying to do his job to the best of his ability while the school is infested with violent degenerates. This may be the first movie of its type but this simple plot became a widely used trope in action flicks, drama movies and even comedies.

In this one, we’ve got Perry King as the star. And man, he’s simply awesome, as he tries to be the teacher the school needs but quickly learns that he’s going to have to push back against these inhuman teens that are willing to kill, rape and do hard drugs just for quick thrills. I’ve always liked the hell out of Perry King but this may be my favorite role he’s ever played.

We also get Roddy McDowall and Michael J. Fox in this, which both surprised me and delighted me. McDowall is in so many damn films, some great, some awful, but he always adds something wonderful to whatever production he finds himself in. Yes, even the bad ones. In this, he actually gives two of his greatest single scene performances of his lengthy career. McDowall is just dynamite in this and your heart breaks for him, seeing what he has to go through just trying to do his job in a school full of monsters.

Michael J. Fox’s role isn’t too big and this movie was made before he’d become a big star on the television series Family Ties. Still, for a young actor with little experience in front of the camera, he does pretty good in this.

The primary antagonist in this is played by Timothy Van Patten. I like that they actually gave his character depth, instead of just making him some basic shithead. You come to learn that he has real talent and is the best pianist in the entire school. However, in spite of his gift, he still chooses to make the music teacher’s life a living hell until he gets what’s coming to him.

The supporting cast in this is also really good and all of the characters leave an impression on you, which is impressive for a film like this, which could’ve easily just been exploitative schlock.

Class of 1984 is a better movie that it probably should have been. I think that has a lot to do with the casting but I’ve also got to point out that this was written by Tom Holland, who would go on to direct Fright NightChild’s Play and be involved in some other cult classics.

Additionally, this was directed by Mark Lester, who would go on to make Commando, Firestarter, Showdown In Little Tokyo and a semi-sequel to this movie with a sci-fi twist, Class of 1999.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other teacher/principal versus the school movies.

Film Review: Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)

Also known as: The Party (working title)
Release Date: June 12th, 1998
Directed by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Written by: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
Music by: David Kitay
Cast: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Charlie Korsmo, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Robert Jayne, Michelle Brookhurst, Chris Owen, Jason Segel, Clea Duvall, Jaime Pressly, Sean Patrick Thomas, Freddy Rodriguez, Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, Selma Blair, Sara Rue, Jenna Elfman (uncredited), Jerry O’Connell (uncredited), Melissa Joan Hart (uncredited), Breckin Meyer (uncredited), Jennifer Elise Cox (uncredited)

Tall Trees Productions, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 100 Minutes

Review:

“I don’t know about you, but I really believe that there’s one person out there, and for me it’s gotta be Amanda.” – Preston

I didn’t see this right when it came out, as it was a year after I had graduated high school and also because there were already dozens of similar movies that I had watched from the ’80s and ’90s, growing up.

I first saw this when it hit regular television but once I did, I thought it had a lot of heart while also having that heart in the right place. Sure, this is nothing new for the coming-of-age teen comedy subgenre but it’s hard not to like the main characters and their multiple story arcs.

Honestly, it also doesn’t hurt that this movie has a pretty stacked cast and even if most of these kids weren’t stars when this came out, they started to become them by the time I saw this.

The vast majority of the movie takes place in one location, a big ass house party. There are some school scenes early on but the bulk of the story takes place over one night.

To sum up the primary plot, the male lead has been in love with the female lead since his freshman year. But now that they’re graduating and the girl and her boyfriend split, this guy has one last chance to try and win her over.

Beyond that plot, the rest of the kids are dealing with the fact that high school is over and they have no idea what’s going to happen now that their lives are starting. The party is there as a way to blow off steam and distract them from the inevitable future but they all learn a lot about themselves over the course of the night.

There’s too many characters to feature for any great length and the two leads take up the bulk of the running time but each story is pretty enjoyable and endearing. I think there’s actually things that people can relate to with all of them, as they all share their own versions of doubt, insecurity and fear over what’s next.

Can’t Hardly Wait also feels a lot more like an ’80s teen movie than a ’90s one despite the music and fashion in the film. It just has that ’80s vibe to it and it’s easy to tell that the filmmakers were inspired by those movies and drawing from them.

That being said, this kind of feels like the last film of that subgenre of comedy. Sure, there were others after this but none of them are all that memorable, except for Not Another Teen Movie, which was a parody of this subgenre and kind of exposed all the tropes, making it hard to follow with another picture of this type.

In the end, the boy gets the girl and we leave these characters in a pretty positive way. Granted, the jock’s future isn’t all that promising but he went from dick to nice guy back to dick and well… karma is a bitch.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other teen comedies, specifically of the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: The New Mutants, Issues #32-34

Published: 1985
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Steve Leialoha, Glynis Wein

Marvel Comics, 69 Pages

Review:

I’m reviewing these three issues on their own, as they are wedged between two different collected editions of classic New Mutants stories. This happens immediately after the Demon Bear Saga and the Legion stuff, which I previously reviewed. The collected volume after this one will be reviewed in the near future.

This is a pretty cool trio of issues, though, and it splits the team up a bit, which gives us a really cool story centered around Magik and Dani, as they travel to the past and meet a descendant of Storm.

There’s just some cool Magik related occult stuff, which was always a highlight of the New Mutants for me, as she is my favorite character and a lot of that has to do with the dark shit that surrounds her.

The art style in this changed, as Bill Sienkiewicz left the series and Steve Leialoha took over. While I prefer Sienkiewicz, Leialoha was able to keep the aesthetic and vibe pretty close to what I had come to love over the Demon Bear and Legion stories.

Overall, this was an energetic and cool story that moves on from the New Mutants toughest challenges and opens the door to an uncertain future. This stretch of three issues wasn’t what I’d call filler but it was a bit of a breather and still a cool, fun, worthwhile story.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other New Mutants comics, as well as the other X-Men related titles from the ’80s.