Film Review: The Woman In Red (1984)

Also known as: Boys Will Be Boys (working title)
Release Date: August 15th, 1984
Directed by: Gene Wilder
Written by: Gene Wilder, Yves Robert, Jean-Loup Dabadie
Based on: Pardon Mon Affaire (or An Elephant Can Be Extremely Deceptive) by Yves Robert
Music by: John Morris, Stevie Wonder
Cast: Gene Wilder, Charles Grodin, Joseph Bologna, Judith Ivey, Michael Huddleston, Kelly LeBrock, Gilda Radner, Michael Zorek, Thom Mathews (uncredited)

Orion Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Now listen here, Teddy Bear. Four weeks ago, I met a cute, available, old-fashioned guy who liked horse riding. In one month you got married, you had two daughters and you can’t ride a horse to save your life!” – Charlotte

This is a remake of a French film from the ’70s that I have never seen. Although, I’ve seen this a few times but it’s been years.

I liked it as a kid because it featured Kelly LeBrock, who I was crushing on hard because of Weird Science. As an adult, I love Gene Wilder in everything and revisiting this came with extra things to enjoy that were no longer overshadowed by LeBrock’s incredible beauty.

The Woman In Red was also written and directed by Wilder and also featured his real life wife, the legendary Gilda Radner. Additionally, we get Charles Grodin, whose blind guy prank in the restaurant is still one of the funniest comedy scenes in history.

While this film deals with some clunky storytelling and some clunky editing, it’s still a fun, lighthearted movie that suspiciously paints Gene Wilder, as some sort of heartthrob. But then, many of his films did and I think that’s part of their charm. Plus, if humor is indeed the way to a woman’s heart, I guess there aren’t many better at that than Wilder.

It’s still funny seeing him successfully woo a woman of Kelly LeBrock’s stature but that’s also part of the humor. The scene between the two on horses, as well as their bedroom scene, is hilarious to watch not just from the humorous banter but also because of the physical differences between LeBrock’s supermodel hotness and Wilder’s small size, as well as his awkward, bumbling antics.

Gilda Radner really stands out in this too, in a supporting role. Initially, she thinks that Wilder is trying to woo her and with that, we get a whole subplot about her getting revenge on him each time they cross paths.

All in all, The Woman In Red is just goofy and charming in that patented Gene Wilder way. It’s not a comedy classic or anything but it’s goofy and entertaining and really, that’s all it needs to be.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comedies with Gene Wilder.

Film Review: Return of the Living Dead, Part II (1988)

Release Date: January 8th, 1988 (premiere)
Directed by: Ken Wiederhorn
Written by: Ken Wiederhorn
Music by: J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Michael Kentworthy, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook, James Karen, Thom Matthews, Phil Bruns, Suzanne Snyder, Thor Van Lingen, Jason Hogan, Mitch Pileggi

Greenfox Productions, Lorimar Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“I feel like we’ve been here before. You… Me… Them!” – Joey

I think that this movie gets unfairly shitted on, simply because it is not the pinnacle of perfection that its predecessor was. That being said, this is still a damn enjoyable zombie comedy and seeing James Karen and Thom Matthews return, as new but similar characters, was pretty awesome.

While this film took some minor missteps that kept it from being as iconic as the first movie, it’s still one of the more fun horror pictures of the ’80s.

This picks up shortly after the events of the first film, as we see the zombie-creating Trioxin accidentally released on a new town. Zombies rise from the grave, infest the town and try to eat all the brains they can possibly stomach.

We follow a group of survivors, as they try to find a way out of town but ultimately get trapped by a military blockade and thus, have to fight the undead in an effort to survive the night. Of course, many of them don’t survive. However, unlike the first film, which had a much better ending, some characters do make it out unscathed.

Apart from the fairly optimistic ending, the film made a few other mistakes.

First of all, this just isn’t punk rock enough. That’s the element that really made the first picture so fucking cool. The characters were punk rock dipshits and it was fun seeing them try to make it out alive but ultimately, fail.

Secondly, the film’s score is really generic and weak compared to the tunes of the first movie, which just ties it back to the film not being punk rock enough.

Thirdly, the setting isn’t as gritty and interesting. The film takes place in a suburban neighborhood that is still under construction. It reminds me a lot of the neighborhoods from E.T. and Poltergeist but it’s unfinished, which just means that it was probably cheap and easy to shoot there at night.

Fourthly, the film doesn’t feature Linnea Quigley as Trash. I need my Trash! Or just Linnea Quigley. She could’ve played another role.

In the end, the characters were all good and the story was decent enough. I thought that the big finale was actually well done, other than the town not getting nuked. It should’ve been nuked.

If you are a fan of the original and you haven’t seen this, it’s definitely worth a watch. Don’t expect the same level of greatness but it’s still a good compliment to the first flick that builds off of it nicely.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Return of the Living Dead, as well as other zombie comedies.

Film Review: Alien From L.A. (1988)

Also known as: Wanda, Odeon (alternative TV titles)
Release Date: February 26th, 1988
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Written by: Regina Davis, Albert Pyun, Debra Ricci
Music by: Jim Andron, Simon LeGassick, Anthony Riparetti, James Saad
Cast: Kathy Ireland, William R. Moses, Richard Haines, Don Michael Paul, Thom Mathews, Deep Roy

Golan-Globus Productions, Cannon Films, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Bitchin’ left hook, Crassus!” – Wanda Saknussemm

Albert Pyun directed a lot of schlock but he directed a lot of wonderful schlock like The Sword and the Sorcerer (his debut), Cyborg, Captain America (1990), Kickboxer 2, Arcade and a slew of others. While his films won’t resonate with most audiences, schlock lovers would probably bask in Pyun’s schlock-y glory.

Alien From L.A. is a special film, though, even for Pyun. It’s a vanity project for Kathy Ireland. She had no real experience acting but she was at the height of her modeling career, was the top Sports Illustrated swimsuit model of the time and the movie was probably greenlit just so Cannon Films’ top dogs Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus could meet one of the hottest women on the planet.

The story is about an L.A. girl that goes to Africa, after she gets a letter saying that her father died from falling into a bottomless pit. She goes to the site of his fall and falls into the pit as well. However, it isn’t bottomless and what we get is an extremely loose adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth. So Kathy Ireland, in this situation, is actually the alien to a subterranean society – so I guess the weird title makes some sense.

While the acting is terrible and the script is even worse, the film isn’t all bad but as stated earlier, you’ve got to have a palate for schlock and in this case, overly cheesy schlock.

Kathy Ireland is certainly likable, for the most part. However, her soft cutesy voice can get grating at times and I’m not sure why they had her talk like this the whole movie. I think they thought it would make her less attractive, just like they thought her glasses, until they were destroyed, would make her an ugly nerd. No, it’s Kathy f’n Ireland in her prime, nothing is going to make her unattractive.

Ultimately, this is a film that would have withered away and been forgotten years ago. However, it was immortalized after being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. At the time, it was fairly current and cool to see on the show because of how modern it was when compared to the Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon and Coleman Francis movies that played much more frequently.

While I love Cannon Films, this doesn’t fit with their branding, as they were mostly known for their over the top ’80s action films that starred two guys named Chuck, one named Jean-Claude, a Dudikoff, a Kosugi and an infinite supply of ninjas and bullets.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s celebrity vanity movies and it’s sequel 1989’s version of Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Film Review: The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Release Date: August 16th, 1985
Directed by: Dan O’Bannon
Written by: John Russo, Rudy Ricci, Russell Streiner, Dan O’Bannon
Music by: Matt Clifford, Francis Haines
Cast: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Linnea Quigley

Hemdale Film Corporation, A Greenberg Brothers Partnership, Orion Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Listen, there’s a bunch of people from the cemetery who are stark, staring, mad, and they’ll kill you and eat you if they catch you. It’s like a disease. It’s like rabies, only faster, a lot faster. That’s why you’ve got to come and get us out of here now… right now!” – Burt Wilson

There are very few movies as awesome as The Return of the Living Dead. It is, hands down, the greatest zombie comedy ever put to celluloid… sorry, Shaun of the Dead. It is also balls to the wall insane from beginning to end while being full of punk teens, great older actors and the best zombie hoard in the history of motion pictures.

Like Dawn of the Dead, which was George A. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead, this film is also a sequel (in a way), as John A. Russo was the other half of the creative duo that gave birth to that original film back in 1968.

The Return of the Living Dead is an alternate continuity to Romero’s Living Dead universe, though. In fact, the original film is mentioned in this picture, as it is a movie that exists within this alternate timeline. However, the movie is referenced and casually dismissed as a Hollywood version of the “real story”. This film continues off of that original story, which is established in a conversation between two of the characters very early on.

The reason for the split continuities, is that Romero and Russo had creative differences over the property. Romero even went as far as to send Russo a cease and desist order over this film, which effected the marketing but ultimately, didn’t stop the film from being released and spawning its own sequels.

Romero purists will probably hate me for saying this but this is my favorite Living Dead film. It is also my favorite zombie picture. I wouldn’t say that it is the greatest, as far as overall artistry is concerned, but it is the one that I watch the most and have the largest amount of appreciation for. The film is just fucking cool and that is really an understatement.

Initially, Russo wrote a Return of the Living Dead novel and shopped it around Hollywood to be adapted. At one point, Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1 & 2Poltergeist, The Funhouse) was slated to direct the film but that fell through. Ultimately, what we got was this, which is better than what the Hooper film probably would have been.

In this film, we quickly learn that zombies don’t die by destroying their brains. The zombies can be dismembered, have their heads knocked off and still keep coming. They’re essentially impossible to kill. At one point, they cremate a pile of animated zombie parts. However, the smoke from the crematorium goes up into the clouds, which rain onto the graveyard, reanimating the dead. There really isn’t an effective way to kill the zombies, which makes the threat in this film, infinitely worse. Not to mention the fact that they move with speed and want to eat human brains.

I know that they don’t give out Oscars for pictures like these but James Karen put on a performance that was legendary. He was a hilarious and useless doofus that accidentally set the zombie threat free. All he did from that point forward was freak out and whine but he did it with such believable gusto that it is impossible not to be captivated by his absurd character and to love the scenes that he’s in.

We also get Miguel A. Núñez Jr. in my favorite role that he ever played. He’s a punk rocker that kind of acts like a damsel in distress but it works. Linnea Quigley also shows up, gets butt naked and dances on a tomb because this is the kind of stuff she was best known for. It is also her most memorable role, in my opinion. Don Calfa, probably best known as the killer in Weekend At Bernie’s is the guy who works at the crematorium and he’s also fantastic in this. Clu Gulager is perfect as the no nonsense older alpha male lead; Thom Mathews, one of the Tommy Jarvises in the Friday the 13th film series, pulls his weight too.

This film, for what it is, is absolutely perfect, which is why I have to give it the highest score possible. I used to love watching this when it rotated in and out of Joe Bob Briggs’ MonsterVision on TNT back in the 90s but nothing beats watching the unedited non-television version. How else are you going to see the beautiful gore and Ms. Quigley’s glorious breasties? Her bum is quite exceptional too, for the record.

The Return of the Living Dead could make a case for being the coolest movie of all-time. It probably isn’t for everyone but for kids who grew up watching horror in the 80s, this thing is a friggin’ masterpiece.

Plus, it features music from The Cramps, who were the most perfect band to feature in this film. It was tailor made for their tunes.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part II – The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy (1984-1986)

Friday the 13th, Part IV – The Final Chapter (1984):

Release Date: April 13th, 1984
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Written by: Barney Cohen, Bruce Hidemi Sakow
Based on: characters by Victor Miller, Ron Kurz, Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Kimberly Beck, Peter Barton, Corey Feldman, E. Erich Anderson, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Barbara Howard, Lawrence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Judie Aronson, Camilla More, Carey More

Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

This film is the start of The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy. Reason being, all three films (IV-VI) feature the character of Tommy Jarvis at different ages, battling Jason Voorhees. Well, Part V doesn’t, as he battles a lame copycat killer.

In this film, Tommy is a small boy, played by Corey Feldman when he was still a cute kid. In fact, this is the best thing Corey Feldman ever did, even though the original The Lost Boys was pretty awesome and I am a fan of License to Drive for some odd reason.

The film also stars one of my favorite actors, Crispin Glover – most famous for playing George McFly in the original Back to the Future.

In this installment, Jason kills a house full of horny teens and decides to move on to the neighbor’s house where a young Tommy Jarvis lives with his older sister and mother. Tommy and his family also have the protection of Rob Dier, who is the brother of one of Jason’s victims from the second film. Rob has returned to Crystal Lake to destroy Jason. Considering there are like eight more films after this one, we know how that turns out for him.

I find this film to be better than the three before it. While the first is the most unique and the template of the series, The Final Chapter is more refined, fluid and engaging. It also features Crispin Glover’s dance scene, which is the best dance scene in film history.

This is the first film where Jason really feels like the Jason everyone is used to. And for a long time it was my favorite film in the series but upon re-watching these again, was upstaged a bit by Part VI – Jason Lives.

Although this film’s bizarre and intense ending is still my favorite in the series.

Rating: 8/10

Friday the 13th, Part V – A New Beginning (1985):

Release Date: March 22nd, 1985
Directed by: Danny Steinmann
Written by: Martin Kitrosser, David Cohen, Danny Steinmann
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Melanie Kinnaman, John Shepherd, Shavar Ross, Richard Young, Marco St. John, Juliette Cummins, Carol Locatell, Vernon Washington, John Robert Dixon, Jerry Pavlon, Caskey Swaim, Mark Venturini, Anthony Barrile, Dominick Brascia, Tiffany Helm, Richard Lineback, Corey Feldman, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr.

Paramount Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

Tommy Jarvis is back! But Jason isn’t.

That doesn’t make this a bad film even though fans of the series seem to hate this installment. Sure, the killer is Roy. Who the fuck is Roy? No one cares. What is Roy’s motivation? Still, no one cares. The point is, there is a psycho in a hockey mask murdering teens and other people who seemingly don’t fit the Jason Voorhees victim profile.

Tommy is older, he is slightly mad and somehow a master of judo, which he somehow forgets about when the sixth film rolls around a year later. He has visions of Jason and when the copycat killer springs up, it makes Tommy have to face those demons.

The film features a few scenes with Miguel A. Núñez, Jr, an actor I love in just about everything. In horror, he has been in the first Return of the Living Dead and Leprechaun 4: In Space. He is probably most known for being the star of the somewhat awesome, mostly awful Juwanna Man. The film also features a young Shavar Ross a.k.a. Dudley from Diff’rent Strokes and Vernon Washington, who played Otis in The Last Starfighter.

The film also features the second greatest dance scene in movie history when Violet the goth girl is putting her stellar 80s moves to the tune of Pseudo Echo’s “His Eyes”. She dies violently immediately afterwards, as Fake Jason apparently wasn’t impressed.

There is also the crazy backwoods redneck mom and her dufus son. They are over the top and entertaining. And strangely, the actors had great chemistry being the comedic distraction in a film about murdering teenagers.

This isn’t as bad as many say it is. It isn’t even the worst film in the series. It is the low point of this trilogy of films but it is still an entertaining and worthwhile bridge between the two best installments of the series.

Rating: 6/10

Friday the 13th, Part VI – Jason Lives (1986):

Release Date: August 1st, 1986
Directed by: Tom McLoughlin
Written by: Tom McLoughlin
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Thom Mathews, Jennifer Cooke, David Kagen, Renée Jones, Kerry Noonan, Darcy DeMoss, Tom Fridley, Ron Palillo

Paramount Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

Tommy is back, again! But this time, so is Jason!

Wait, is that Horseshack?! Yes, it is!

This film starts with the oldest version of Tommy Jarvis we will see in the series, fresh out of the psych ward. He is healed but needs to make sure Jason is actually destroyed before he can move on with his life. He brings Horseshack from Welcome Back, Kotter with him to dig up Jason’s grave and burn the body. Except he inadvertently causes Jason to resurrect and for the first time, we know that Jason is some sort of supernatural zombie demon.

This film is the start of Jason looking truly undead and a lot less like just a human with a facial abnormality.

Where The Final Chapter was a more refined version of the formula, Jason Lives shocks new life (literally) into the franchise, and is even more refined. In short, this is the best film in the series. Pretty crazy, I know, considering that this is the fifth sequel to the groundbreaking original.

This is the best Jason has ever been before Kane Hodder took over the roll for the four films following this one. He looked truly predatory in his movement and felt like an unbeatable zombie hulk. The resurrection scene is actually the coolest scene in the entire series and showed Jason at his absolute best.

Thom Mathews (also great in the first and second Return of the Living Dead) is perfect as the aged and more experienced Tommy Jarvis. He feels like a bad ass, even though he is missing his ninja skills from the previous film.

Jason Lives also looks the best visually. I don’t know if it was just the talent of the director, the cinematographer or the person lighting the set and setting the tone but it just looks perfect.

While I adore the fourth film, this one here, is the cream of the crop for me. This is the perfect Friday the 13th film in every way. It has everything you want and nothing that you don’t.

Rating: 9/10