Film Review: The Wraith (1986)

Also known as: Turbocop (Mexico), Interceptor (Germany)
Release Date: October, 1986 (Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Mike Marvin
Written by: Mike Marvin
Music by: Michael Hoenig, J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Charlies Sheen, Nick Cassavetes, Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid, Clint Howard, Griffin O’Neal

New Century Entertainment Corporation, Alliance Entertainment, Turbo Productions, 93 Minutes

Review:

“You listen to me, you son-of-a-bitch! There’s a kid out there usin’ his car to kill people, not that it’s such a big deal since it seems to be your gang he’s got it in for… so, if you guys try to take the law into your own hands, and that killer turns up dead, I’m gonna see you all sniffin’ cyanide in the Arizona gas chamber.” – Sheriff Loomis

This is one of those movies that used to come on late at night on cable, usually with an introduction by Joe Bob Briggs via TNT’s MonsterVision. I always got glued to the set whenever it was on though, as there is just something so surreal and bizarre about it.

The plot is basically the same as The Crow, except the dead guy looking for revenge isn’t an invincible goth dude with a pet bird. Instead, he’s Charlie Sheen and he has the ability to turn into a ghost car. But then, that’s kind of confusing because he ends up giving the car to his little brother at the end, as he goes off into the sunset on his motorcycle with Audrey from Twin Peaks.

Anyway, Tucson is overrun by a gang of race car thugs. They bully people into racing them, cheat to win and then take their car. Charlie Sheen in his previous, less dreamy form, was murdered by the gang because he was having sex with Audrey from Twin Peaks, who the gang leader is obsessed over.

Sheen comes back, turns into a ghost car a.k.a. a Dodge M4S Interceptor and kills the gang members, one at a time, in races that end with them usually being blown to bits. Although, their bodies remain intact with their eyes looking like they’ve been burnt out. I guess Ghost Car Charlie sucks their souls out through their eyes or something. Honestly, it’s not really clear.

The film also stars Nick Cassavetes, son of John, as the gang leader, Clint Howard, as a a guy that looks like a ginger Beavis with glasses, and Randy Quaid, as the no nonsense sheriff that ain’t got time for all this supernatural shit. But the sheriff doesn’t really care about solving the case, as the ghost car is killing off the scumbags of Tucson.

I can’t particularly call this a good film and really, it’ll resonate with a certain type of movie fan. Mostly, fans of ’80s schlock with a sci-fi and supernatural bent. Really, this is a common late night cable movie of the late ’80s and ’90s, so if that’s your thing, you should enjoy this.

There’s not much plot to muck up the insanity and surrealness, which in these type of movies is a real plus. We don’t need all this wacky shit explained, just serve it to us in mass amounts and let us feast.

I can’t say that this is a movie that helped anyone’s career but I certainly don’t think that it hurt anyone’s either. It’s a hearty helping of ham with a dopey but fun script, executed as well as it could be with ’80s special effects and a tight budget.

Plus, it’s got a lot of solid car action.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The Crow, which may have somewhat ripped this story off.

Film Review: Kitten With a Whip (1964)

Release Date: November 4th, 1964 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Douglas Heyes
Written by: Douglas Heyes, Whit Masterson
Music by: William Loose, Henry Mancini, Carl W. Stalling
Cast: Ann-Margret, John Forsythe, Ann Doran

Universal Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Why, David, I thought I’d never find you in ladies’ underwear.” – Saleslady

Kitten With a Whip was a movie made to bank off of the popularity of rising star Ann-Margret. However, it’s a pretty terrible film that feels like it was rushed out to strike while the iron was hot. Luckily for Ann-Margret, her career had some staying power, she wasn’t a flash in the pan and she’d go on to be in much better films.

As bad as this was though, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it got riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Plus, it fits nicely with a lot of the other B-movie teen and beatnik flicks that they played a lot.

The story is about a politician (John Forsythe), whose wife is out of town. One night he comes home to discover Ann-Margret’s Jody hiding out. Jody gives some sob story and convinces the sad sap to help her out.

Soon after, juvenile delinquents show up and make his life a living hell, as his nice house becomes a beatnik party bunker. The politician is afraid of scandal, so he puts up with it. Also, at one point, Jody tells him that she’ll accuse him of rape if he gets the cops. Eventually, the beatnik punks get violent and the politician and Jody flee to Mexico with the delinquents on their tail.

Honestly, the plot is a bit nuts but it does tap into some film-noir tropes while clearly trying to be more like the youth movies of the day.

This isn’t particularly well made, despite having good stars and being made by Universal.

Ultimately, this did showcase Ann-Marget’s dramatic side where her previous films were musicals. So in some way, I’m sure this helped her career more than it hurt it.

This is pretty forgettable though.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: other Ann-Margret movies or other beatnik films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: High School Big Shot (1959)

Also known as: The Young Sinners (UK)
Release Date: June 21st, 1959 (Fargo premiere)
Directed by: Joel Rapp
Written by: Joel Rapp
Music by: Gerald Fried
Cast: Tom Pittman, Virginia Aldridge, Howard Veit, Malcolm Atterbury

Sparta Productions, Filmgroup, 70 Minutes

Review:

“I am a thief, not a crook.” – Harry March

Mystery Science Theater 3000 used to feature a bunch of juvenile delinquent and beatnik movies from the late ’50s and early ’60s. This one probably takes the cake as being the worst though. Well, maybe not the worst but certainly the one that has the least impact.

It’s just not that interesting and frankly, we’ve seen these stories before and done much better in films that are still pretty terrible films.

Surprisingly, this was financed by Roger Corman, a master of schlock, but by comparison, this film makes Corman schlock look like ’70s Coppola.

Also, the film borrows heavily from Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. In some ways, I guess this film is kind of noir but it lacks any sort of visual style to make it look like anything other than some film school reject’s guerrilla project.

The plot revolves around a teen with an alcoholic father. The teen gets used by the hot girl in school to help her cheat. He obliges but gets caught and destroys his academic future. After overhearing the plans for a drug deal at the docks, he decides to steal the one million dollars being held in a safe there. The idiot teen boasts to the hot girl but she obviously has backstabbing plans of her own.

Where noir has twists and turns and surprises, this is a predictable dud with a predictable ending and honestly, it mostly feels like the film is a total waste of time.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other awful beatnik and juvenile delinquent movies from the time.

Film Review: Iron Eagle (1986)

Release Date: January 17th, 1986
Directed by: Sidney J. Furie
Written by: Kevin Alyn Elders, Sidney J. Furie
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Louis Gossett Jr., Jason Gedrick, David Suchet, Larry B. Scott, Caroline Lagerfelt, Tim Thomerson, Shawnee Smith, Melora Hardin, Lance LeGault, Jerry Levine, Robbie Rist, Michael Bowen

Delphi Films, Falcon’s Flight, TriStar Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

“I wonder what a Cessna looks like splattered all over those rocks?” – Packer

This doesn’t survive on nostalgia points for me. Honestly, I didn’t even like this film as a kid. I mean, I enjoyed the last half hour, as that’s where the action comes in but everything leading up to that was really damn boring.

Seeing this now, and it has been at least thirty years, I was surprised that I wasn’t pulled into it a bit more as it features two teen actors from the time that I really liked: Larry B. Scott and Jerry Levine.

But the real problem with this movie is that it’s too damn long. I mean, this is nearly two full hours and only the last half hour is actually somewhat enjoyable. And to be honest, they could’ve lobbed 30 to 40 minutes off of this thing and no one would’ve noticed.

Additionally, even though the actual mission at the end is fairly fun, it’s full of flaws and errors that are distracting.

The main thing that sticks out is the editing. There are multiple moments in the movie where the video loop behind the pilots’ heads resets. So you’re looking at closeups of pilots in the cockpit talking and the background goes from a clouded sky to a quick jump of clear sky.

Plus, there are mistakes in how the action is edited that don’t make sense from a logistic and physics standpoint.

I think the thing that may irritate more than the shoddy editing is the models used for the planes, as every time one explodes, it is obviously a miniature and made of wood. Fighter jets don’t splinter like a balsa wood chair in a Chaplin movie. But I get it, it’s the ’80s, CGI didn’t exist like it does now and the film had a modest budget. But no one could call in a favor to one of the guys that worked on model making for the Star Wars or Star Trek films?

The acting is pretty bad too. And even though Louis Gossett Jr. has shown that he has chops, I think that it is this movie that actually wrecked his career. He went from An Officer and a Gentleman to this? But hey, at least it allowed him to have his own franchise, which he would then have to rely on over the course of three shitty sequels.

Seeing Iron Eagle now, I don’t hate it. It just would have been much better with a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and a bit more refinement in the film’s action packed climax.

I’m going to completely ignore the fact that the plot is stupid because this is the ’80s and it was escapism for kids, trying to capitalize off of the popularity of movies like Red Dawn. But in case you don’t know what the plot is, it’s about a decorated Colonel that helps a teenager steal an Air Force fighter plane to attack an enemy country in an effort to save the kid’s dad. Let that marinate for a minute.

So if I ever do watch this again, I’ll just skip to the finale and ignore the plot details.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: probably its subpar sequels and other ’80s and ’90s teens movies that throw kids into war or combat like Red Dawn, The Rescue and Toy Soldiers.

Film Review: The Goonies (1985)

Release Date: June 7th, 1985
Directed by: Richard Donner
Written by: Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg
Music by: Dave Grusin
Cast: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey, Mary Ellen Trainor

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t you realize? The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what’s right for them. Because it’s their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it’s our time. It’s our time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Troy’s bucket.” – Mikey

Cyndi Lauper sang that the “Goonies ‘r’ good enough” and frankly, I have to agree with her.

This is a perfect movie for kids… and adults, really. It’s fun, funny, full of adventure, danger, treasure, good feelings, friendship, imagination, wonderment and a bit of swashbuckling.

On top of that, every single person in the cast is absolutely perfect, top to bottom. This was just a special movie where everything seemed to go right, especially in regards to the actors chosen for each specific role.

On one side, you have the kids and their hulk-like ally Sloth. On the other side, you have the Fratelli crime family.

Every kid in this is great and they had spectacular chemistry. You believed that they were all friends and it was impossible not to root for them. With the Fratellis, you had another group that worked damn well together. Honestly, as a kid I kind of wanted a Fratelli spinoff movie. Sadly, Anne Ramsey died a few years after this but I’ve always wanted to see Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano come together as gangster brothers again.

Apart from the casting, you had a wonderful script penned by Chris Columbus from a story written by Steven Spielberg. With Richard Donner directing, it’s kind of hard to imagine this failing, even before seeing the picture.

It’s very rare that I come across someone that hasn’t seen the film. It’s reputation precedes it and for good reason. It has stood the test of time and it’s not something that loses steam the more you watch it. In fact, at least for me, it’s a film that I appreciate more with every viewing. It’s hard to peg as to why that is but man, it’s a film that just brings you to a special place; it’s magical and it is full of optimism when most entertainment, at least in modern times, is pretty nihilistic.

The Goonies gives one hope because it is exactly what entertainment needs to be, pleasant and enjoyable escapism that leaves you with a positive feeling despite whatever crap your day threw at you.

It’s perfectly paced, there isn’t a dull moment and every frame of the film… hell, every line spoken, has a purpose and has real meaning behind it.

The Goonies also benefits from its stupendous score by Dave Grusin, a guy who isn’t as well known as John Williams, James Horner or Alan Silvestri but was still able to create a theme and a score that was good enough to rival the best work of those three great film composers.

For what it is, The Goonies is absolutely perfect. If you don’t like it, you probably aren’t human or at least don’t have a heart.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The Monster Squad, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Explorers.

Film Review: Rescue Me (1992)

Also known as: Street Hunter (alternative title), The Infernal Venture (Belgium)
Release Date: September 11th, 1992 (Germany)
Directed by: Arthur Allan Seidelman
Written by: Michael Snyder
Music by: Joel Hirschhorn, Al Kasha, David Waters
Cast: Michael Dudikoff, Stephen Dorff, Ami Dolenz, Peter DeLuise, William Lucking, Dee Wallace, Liz Torres

Cannon Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Now you kissed a girl, kid – the rest is all downhill.” – Daniel ‘Mac’ MacDonald

What happens when you take a teenage Deacon Frost, team him up with the American Ninja and have them hunt down dumb kidnappers that took Tony Danza’s daughter from She’s Out of Control? You get this movie.

But you also get Peter DeLuise as one of the bumbling criminals, as well as Dee Wallace as the always concerned but always aloof mom.

That being said, I love the cast and it actually shocks me that I didn’t know of this film’s existence until fairly recently.

Additionally, this was put out by Cannon Films, which explains the lead role for Michael Dudikoff. But this was also put out by Cannon very late in the company’s lifespan. And this shows, as it lacks the high octane magic that was always present in their ’80s films that featured any sort of action.

Still, this was enjoyable and it actually surprised me as it had real heart and charm.

Sure, it’s a dumb movie with a bad script, baffling decisions by the characters and it’s so over the top that it’s not believable even for a comedy. However, you do end up liking these characters and find yourself cheering for them. Well, Stephen Dorff’s Fraser and Dudikoff’s Mac. Ami Dolenz just plays a selfish rich girl that goes on to prove that she’s a dumb and shitty person.

The story follows Dorff’s Fraser, a high school photographer that pines over Dolenz’s Ginny. He witnesses a crime going down, Ginny ends up in the middle of it along with Mac. Ginny is taken hostage and Fraser wants to go save her. So he teams up with Mac and they go from Nebraska to Los Angeles in search of Ginny and a bit of revenge.

At it’s core, this is a coming of age story about young love, first crushes, first kisses and learning to accept that your first love is probably just going to break your heart. I like that this film didn’t go for the cookie cutter ending where the nerd saves the cheerleader and they live happily ever after. The fact that Fraser actually grows up through this experience and realizes he doesn’t need Ginny is actually refreshing.

Dorff was pretty damn good, even at this age. But the film is really carried by the chemistry and the friendship of Dorff and Dudikoff’s characters. I really liked Dudikoff in this and while I prefer him being a straight up action star, he got to really show his human side and his acting ability more here than he did in any American Ninja movie or Avenging Force.

What was also best about this leading duo is that they looked like they enjoyed being in this movie and that they actually clicked well together off screen. In retrospect, it must have been cool for the young Dorff to work opposite an ’80s action star and for Dudikoff it must have been satisfying working with a kid that had chops and a pretty bright future.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s road trip movies.

Film Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death (True)² (1998)

Release Date: 1998 (Japan premiere)
Directed by: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Written by: Hideaki Anno
Based on: Shin Seiki Evangerion by Hideaki Anno
Music by: Shirō Sagisu

Gainax, Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Movic, Production I.G/ING, Toei, 67 Minutes

Review:

“Shinji, this is your home now.” – Misato Katsuragi

This, the last of the three Evangelion offerings on Netflix, is a bit confusing.

This is the second re-edit of part of the Death & Rebirth animated film. And if Evangelion isn’t confusing enough, this is sort of just a few of the episodes mashed together.

I don’t know, this whole franchise is a real clusterfuck. I guess just watch the show and be annoyed by its Patrick Duffy in the shower ending. And if you want a better ending, they made one but I wouldn’t say it’s better unless you like Shinji screaming like a bitch for an hour and a half straight.

But I’ve said all this in previous Evangelion reviews.

So back to this.

In a nutshell, this was a complete waste of time.

That is all.

Just stick to the show and dip out before the last two episodes. Then just make up whatever ending you want in your head because it will probably be better.

But seriously, the show was pretty great until they totally shit the bed.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: all things Evangelion, as well as all things Robotech or Macross and Knights of Sidonia.