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

Film Review: Dudes (1987)

Release Date: September 18th, 1987 (Toronto Film Festival)
Directed by: Penelope Spheeris
Written by: Randall Jahnson
Music by: Charles Bernstein
Cast: Jon Cryer, Catherine Mary Stewart, Daniel Roebuck, Flea, Lee Ving, Glenn Withrow

Vista Organization, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Look, Milo, we’re talking about real life here, okay? Real life is not California. Real life is a shit sandwich and every day you gotta take another bite.” – Grant

Dudes is a pretty cool movie for its time. It sees three teenage punk rockers from Queens go cross-country in an effort to make it to California and hopefully a new, better future.

However, along the way, while camping out in the desert of Arizona, the three teens are attacked by a gang of vicious rednecks and one of the boys is murdered and their stuff is then stolen.

The two surviving teens find the local cops to be useless and ultimately, decide to take down this gang by themselves. Along comes the local tough, hot chick that teaches them how to actually shoot a gun properly.

Now maybe the premise sounds a bit wonky but the story works well within the world that this film creates for itself. Sure, the movie is a comedy but it’s still got a lot of real drama and heart to it. I also think that Jon Cryer was the perfect guy to handle what was needed for the lead role. He’s good at comedy, can handle serious stuff and he’s likable as hell and can give a convincing performance with the right material.

I also really enjoyed Daniel Roebuck as his large, punk rock sidekick. While Roebuck looks like the more imposing of the two, I like that this movie’s plot doesn’t just run with that and it gives us something more realistic where the big punk rocker is more of a gentle giant.

Catherine Mary Stewart was perfect as the local girl. I’ve always loved seeing her ever since I first watched The Last Starfighter, as a kid. Here, she reminds me a lot of her tough girl role in Night of the Comet, which is my favorite role she’s ever played.

Additionally, you have two real musicians in this. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays the friend who is murdered by the gang while Lee Ving of Fear is the leader of the scumbag gang. Both of these guys brought their A-game to the picture and showed they had legitimate acting chops.

Dudes really is a western movie at its core. Being that it takes place in what was modern times when it was made doesn’t really matter, as it follows the beats of that genre. Maybe there are other punk rock neo-westerns out there but I don’t think I’ve seen any others and it’s kind of a cool mix now that I’ve seen it come together.

All that being said, I dug this movie quite a bit. It was well cast, the story was decent but made better by the performances and it leaves you pretty satisfied at the end.

Rating: 6.75/10

Film Review: Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Also known as: Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear (original script title)
Release Date: December 4th, 1985
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Written by: Chris Columbus
Based on: characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Anthony Higgins, Sophie Ward, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Brian Oulton, Susan Fleetwood

Industrial Light & Magic, Amblin Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“A great detective relies on perception, intelligence, and imagination.” – Sherlock Holmes

It may sound strange since I’m a kid of the ’80s and a massive Spielberg fan from that era but I’ve never seen Young Sherlock Holmes.

Now I have seen clips of it over the years, due to its very early use of emerging CGI technology, which made this a very groundbreaking film in digital effects, even if it wasn’t a massive hit like Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus and Berry Levinson had hoped.

Honestly, it’s those effects that have cemented this motion picture as a relevant one for its time. Nothing else within it is all that memorable or significant. But that’s not to say it’s not good. It’s just be pretty forgettable without its great effects for the time in which it was produced.

I mostly liked this and I liked the kids in it and how they helped generate a sense of wonder, which is something Hollywood is completely unable to do in modern times. Still, this movie does drag in several spots and while I can buy the kids in these specific roles, they’re not that memorable except for Sophie Ward, who would go on to have an interesting career.

I liked the whole Egyptian cult that Sherlock and company were trying to expose and take down but if I’m being honest, a lot of that stuff felt like it was recycled from the Thugee cult stuff in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and that film came out only a year earlier and also involved Spielberg, as he directed it.

This also has a magical element to it and because it stars some proper British kids, there’s a particular vibe that I can best describe as proto-Harry Potter.

Young Sherlock Holmes isn’t a movie that I felt like I missed out on. As a kid, I would’ve certainly liked the effects heavy scenes like the stain glass knight but I probably would’ve been bored for 75 percent of the movie.

Rating: 6.25/10

Comic Review: The New Mutants – Classics, Vol. 7

Published: November 17th, 2016
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Bret Blevins, Sal Buscema, Alan Davis, Jackson Guice, Rick Leonardi, Kevin Nowlan

Marvel Comics, 229 Pages

Review:

This collection of New Mutants stories was kind of all over the place. Also, none of them really grabbed me like most of the previous arcs leading up to this point.

I guess, by now, the series had been running for quite awhile and where it once felt like it was always building towards something and had an idea of where it wanted and needed to go, most of this felt like aimless filler.

I can clearly see the series running out of steam and I guess this is why everything got reinvented and soft rebooted not too long after this and the massive Inferno crossover event, which completely changed the dynamic of the team and its mission.

Now this isn’t bad by any means, it’s just that each story feels somewhat random and they don’t support each other and the progression of a larger arc as well as previous volumes have.

I guess the highlight for me was where this focused on Magik, her power struggle with S’ym and how things were changing in the realm of Limbo. This sort of sets up things that would happen in the big Inferno story.

Apart from that, everything else was entertaining enough but none of it seemed to matter, based off of where these characters’ lives were going to go. I guess, none of this really sticks or is all that memorable.

The art in this volume was also a mixed bag. A lot of different artists contributed to this stretch of issues and honestly, that just sort of adds to none of this really being memorable or sticking.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Rumble Fish (1983)

Release Date: October 7th, 1983 (New York Film Festival)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: S. E. Hinton, Francis Ford Coppola
Based on: Rumble Fish by S. E. Hinton
Music by: Stewart Copeland
Cast: Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Vincent Spano, Diane Lane, Diana Scarwid, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Chris Penn, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, Sofia Coppola, S. E. Hinton (cameo)

Zoetrope Studios, Hotweather Films, Universal Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“No, your mother… is not crazy. And neither, contrary to popular belief, is your brother crazy. He’s merely miscast in a play. He was born in the wrong era, on the wrong side of the river… With the ability to be able to do anything that he wants to do and… findin’ nothin’ that he wants to do. I mean nothing.” – Father

Rumble Fish truly is the spiritual sequel to The Outsiders and was even released in the same year.

Francis Ford Coppola wrote this alongside S. E. Hinton, based off of her novel of the same name. She also wrote the young adult novel that Coppola adapted into The Outsiders.

This was thrown together pretty quickly and was worked on and developed while The Outsiders was still filming and while this was made much cheaper, shot in black and white and released through a different studio, the spirit of what made The Outsiders a truly special movie, also exists in this picture.

In some ways, due to the presentation and look of this picture, Rumble Fish is more majestic and magical. It also feels like it’s a story that takes place in the late ’50s or early ’60s but it features modern cars and other inventions that wouldn’t have been around in the same era as The Outsiders. It’s hard to peg exactly when this takes place but that just adds to the otherworldliness of it.

That being said, I love the use of black and white and the overall cinematography of this picture. It’s pretty high contrast and stylish and it reminds me of classic film-noir but sort of has the energy of one of those Japanese neo-noir pictures by Seijun Suzuki. And no, I wouldn’t consider this a neo-noir but it just shares a very similar visual presentation.

Coppola also brought back some of the actors from The Outsiders, primarily Matt Dillon and Diane Lane. However, the additions to the cast like Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper, Nicolas Cage, Chris Penn and Laurence Fishburne were all great. The cast is pretty packed with talent ala The Outsiders but I’m glad that it shuffled the deck somewhat and brought in some fresh faces, allowing this to stand on its own.

So while this shares similar themes to the other movie I keep mentioning, this has its own unique story that I found to be really interesting. It has different beats, moves at a more rapid pace and ultimately, has a very different but still tragic ending.

I’m kind of surprised that long-time fans of The Outsiders haven’t heard of or seen this movie. It’s a perfect companion piece to it and it hits you in a very similar way while not being a complete rehash of what you’ve already seen before.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: The Double 0 Kid (1992)

Release Date: 1992 (Italy)
Directed by: Duncan McLachlan
Written by: Steven Paul, Stuart Paul, Andrea Buck, Duncan McLachlan
Music by: Misha Segal
Cast: Corey Haim, Nicole Eggert, John Rhys-Davies, Brigitte Nielsen, Wallace Shawn, Karen Black, Seth Green

Crystal Sky Worldwide, Prism Entertainment Corporation, 95 Minutes

Review:

While I liked Corey Haim when I was a kid, he did make a fuck ton of dreck, as time went on. This is, hands down, one of his worst films that I’ve ever seen.

What’s surprising about it, though, is that this is loaded with a good amount of known actors, all of whom I like. But none of them were really able to carry this movie and salvage the abysmally bad script.

Alongside Haim, there’s Nicole Eggert, who I was crushing on in the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as John Rhys-Davies, Wallace Shawn, Brigitte Nielsen, Karen Black and Seth Green.

The story is about a really smart kid that dreams of being a spy. However, he basically plays the stoner trope without actually being a stoner because I guess this was made to be somewhat family friendly for the straight-to-video market.

It’s just terribly boring, terribly unfunny and is full of so many baffling, weird bits that you have to suspend disbelief to the point of breaking your brain or your television.

There’s some strange video game/virtual reality/simulator subplot that makes no fucking sense if you understand how those things work.

If this ever pops up as a suggestion on a streaming service, my only advice is to run… very fast.

Rating: 2/10

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.