Film Review: The Living Daylights (1987)

Release Date: June 29th, 1987 (London premiere)
Directed by: John Glen
Written by: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson
Based on: characters by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Art Malik, Jeroen Krabbé, John Rhys-Davies, Robert Brown, Desmond Llewelyn, Caroline Bliss

Eon Productions, United International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 131 Minutes

Review:

“Believe me, my interest in her is purely professional.” – James Bond

I tend to go against the grain. I usually say things about movies or other pop culture stuff that leaves people baffled. For instance, Timothy Dalton is my favorite James Bond. Yes, he is. And yes, I loved every other actor that played the character and especially have a soft spot for the Connery and Moore chapters in the franchise but Dalton was and always will be my James Bond.

Maybe my love for Dalton is because he was the current Bond when I really got into James Bond movies. The Living Daylights was the first Bond film that I saw in the theater and as a kid, a year later, I was on the set of Licence to Kill in the Florida Keys. I didn’t get to meet Dalton but I got to see him standing around, as James Bond in the flesh.

Unfortunately, due to lawsuits in the early 1990s, Timothy Dalton only got to play James Bond twice: in 1987’s The Living Daylights and in 1989’s superb Licence to Kill. This film is my least favorite of the two but I still thoroughly enjoy it.

The thing that brings this chapter in the Bond franchise down a notch or two, is that it still carries over some of the cheesiness from the Roger Moore era. While that stuff worked for Moore, it really wasn’t a beneficial approach to Dalton’s style as the character. And frankly, it feels as if the movie was written with Roger Moore in mind, before Dalton was cast as the British super spy.

However, some of the hokey bits are still amusing, like the cello case sled scene, for instance.

Another weak point with this film though, is the villains. While I like Joe Don Baker and always have, he just doesn’t feel like a Bond villain. He plays more like a one-off baddie from a show like Magnum P.I. and doesn’t truly feel like someone worthy of Bond’s attention like members of SPECTRE, Francisco Scaramanga, Franz Sanchez, Raoul Silva, Alec Trevelyan, Hugo Draz or hell, even Max Zorin. At least Baker would get a second go in the series when he appeared in two of the Pierce Brosnan films a decade later: Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies.

I did enjoy Maryam d’Abo as the Bond girl in this film. She was a departure from the overly glamorous women of previous movies. Not to say that she wasn’t beautiful and classy but she played a musician, a real artist type. She was cute and sexy but not a supermodel out trying to marry a rock star. She was also sweet and innocent, even though the first time you encounter her, she’s wielding a sniper rifle.

We also get the great John Rhys-Davies in this and I kind of wish that his character would have returned to the series later on. I feel as if he would have been an ally to Bond again, had Timothy Dalton’s run as the character lasted longer than two films. But the man got to team up with James Bond and Indiana Jones in his career, not to mention being a pivotal member of the Fellowship in the The Lord of the Rings movies.

The Living Daylights is a better than average James Bond outing, enhanced by the charm and gravitas that is Timothy Dalton. Plus, the followup to this film would be one of the best in the entire series. The Living Daylights was a good introduction to a really good Bond that we unfortunately didn’t get to see much more of.

Film Review: Blood Rage (1987)

Also known as: Nightmare at Shadow Woods, Slasher (alternate titles)
Release Date: May 1st, 1987
Directed by: John Grissmer
Written by: Bruce Rubin
Music by: Richard Einhorn
Cast: Louise Lasser, Mark Soper

Film Limited Partnership, 82 Minutes

Review:

“That’s not cranberry sauce…” – Todd

This was a slasher film made in the late 80s in and around Jacksonville, Florida. Strangely, even being a big slasher fan and a Floridian, this movie has eluded me until recently. In my defense, it wasn’t like it was highly successful or made a lot of waves. It apparently didn’t matter that I was in video stores on a daily basis in the 80s and 90s and even worked in one because I just never came across this. It wasn’t until I found this streaming for free for Prime members on Amazon that I knew it existed.

Now this is far from a great slasher film but it certainly stands well above the bottom of the barrel. I went into this expecting something that would be total shit. The film actually hooked me with its opening, which saw a young boy violently murder a teenager at a drive-in movie theater and then pin it on his twin brother.

The story picks up a decade later and we find out that the killer brother has been on the loose the whole time and the innocent brother has been in a mental hospital. The innocent brother escapes, however, so the killer brother takes that opportunity to start killing again, as he can frame it on the escaped mental patient.

Most of this film takes place at an apartment complex called Shadow Woods. In fact, even though I live on the other side of the state, the setting feels like every apartment complex I went to as a kid in 1980s Florida.

The film barely had any real acting talent other than the twins’ mother, who was played by Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman‘s Louise Lasser. Mark Soper pulled double duty as the twins Todd (the real killer) and Terry (the innocent nice one).

There was an obvious lack of budget with this film but the special effects and gore were still well handled and executed nicely. This is a really violent slasher picture with lots of dismemberment, split skulls, decapitations and just about anything else you can think of.

The music in this movie was really cool too. It was an electric 80s horror soundtrack in a similar vein as John Carpenter’s scores but a bit more poppy when it got going.

Blood Rage is a film I was impressed by. I wasn’t looking forward to firing it up but you don’t find diamonds in the rough by being timid. It exceeded my weak expectations and gave me hope that there are still long lost gems out there waiting to be discovered.

Film Review: The Gate (1987)

Release Date: May 15th, 1987
Directed by: Tibor Takacs
Written by: Michael Nankin
Music by: Michael Hoenig, J. Peter Robinson
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp, Christa Denton

Alliance Entertainment, New Century Vista Film Company, 85 Minutes

Review:

“We accidentally summoned demons who used to rule the universe to come and take over the world.” – Terry Chandler

I used to love this film as a kid. Granted, I haven’t seen it since the mid-90s but I always thought it was pretty cool and it introduced the world to Stephen Dorff when he was still just a child.

It hasn’t aged well, not that that is a bad thing, the film just feels very B-movie 80s (maybe C-movie) and the special effects are a mixed bag.

Primarily, the demons in the film are created using stop-motion animation. It doesn’t look bad but it does looks dated now. Truthfully though, these effects were executed really well for the time and in some scenes, it does come off as real and it still works. However, scenes like where the giant demon bursts up into the house look like some old school Ray Harryhausen effects but they still look cool, at least for Harryhausen fans.

The story itself is interesting. In a nutshell, a couple kids accidentally open a gateway to Hell in their backyard thanks to a Satanic rock and roll record. The rest of the film is them fighting off the demons while trying to shut the gate, once and for all.

The problem I have with the film now, which apparently didn’t bother me as a kid or a teen, is that the pacing is really damn slow. Half the film is a build up to the demons actually showing up and that doesn’t happen until your midway through the film. Then everything seems a bit rushed from that point forward.

While the monster content of the film is pretty awesome and the action plays well, the ending is weird and really nonsensical. But I didn’t care about that sort of stuff so much when I was younger and a lot of 80s horror filmmakers focused on the cool shit and not so much on whether or not the movies made a lot of sense.

The Gate probably won’t wow audiences today and it is lacking the sort of 80s childhood nostalgic vibe that exists in pictures like The Monster Squad and Stand by Me.

Film Review: Rage of Honor (1987)

Release Date: February 27th, 1987
Directed by: Gordon Hessler
Written by: Robert Short, Wallace C. Bennett
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani
Cast: Sho Kosugi, Lewis Van Bergen, Robin Evans, Richard Wiley, Ulises Dumont, Gerry Gibson

Transworld Entertainment, 98 Minutes

Review:

When I was a kid, I thought Sho Kosugi was the baddest man alive. Maybe he was but I’ve never seen him take a punch from Mike Tyson. Regardless, he was the quintessential ninja actor of the 1980s, which is a big friggin’ deal as ninjas are friggin’ the best thing ever and the 1980s was like the friggin’ best decade ever!

Granted, I was eight when this movie showed up on video store shelves and I didn’t have the life experience to recognize true greatness. Then again, maybe life hadn’t shat on my chest yet so I wasn’t a pissy overly critical film viewer.

This is not Sho Kosugi’s best film but it is still a damn good time and he is the star of it and it is a good compliment to his other starring pictures, Revenge of the Ninja and Pray For Death.

Unlike those two other movies, this one doesn’t have any of his kids in it, which is kind of a disappointment. Kosugi’s sons were fun to watch and having a kid in those films made my mum think that these uber violent ninja epics were family friendly.

The action is pretty great but when a Kosugi movie is choreographed by Kosugi, you get to see the master himself, as he intends to be seen, as the baddest ninja actor of all-time.

The film also reunites him with director Gordon Hessler. The two worked together on Pray For Death. Their styles mesh well together and if Kosugi isn’t working with Sam Firstenberg, I’d rather him work with Hessler.

Rage of Honor is a fun time if you are a fan of 80s ninja action, which you should be.

Film Review: Dragnet (1987)

Release Date: June 26th, 1987
Directed by: Tom Mankiewicz
Written by: Dan Aykroyd, Alan Zweibel, Tom Mankiewicz
Based on: Dragnet by Jack Webb
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Tom Hanks, Christopher Plummer, Harry Morgan, Alexandra Paul, Dabney Coleman, Elizabeth Ashley, Jack O’Halloran, Kathleen Freeman

Universal Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Now let me tell you something, Streebeck. There are two things that clearly differentiate the human species from animals. One, we use cutlery. Two, we’re capable of controlling our sexual urges. Now, you might be an exception, but don’t drag me down into your private Hell.” – Friday

Man, I used to really love this movie as a kid. But it is a totally different film when you watch it several years later without the mind of a nine year-old in the 1980s.

Sure, Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks are both great and when put together, they are still pretty great. Unfortunately, the overall humor and the gags in this just don’t work as well in a world thirty years after the film came out.

When this was written, it was supposed to be juvenile and goofy and it still is but I don’t understand what Aykroyd was trying to accomplish. As a kid, I knew what Dragnet was but I wasn’t too interested in old black and white shows that my mum would watch on Nick At Nite in the 80s. This was supposed to bring the franchise to the next generation but it could have just been a buddy cop comedy and didn’t need to carry the Dragnet banner. I can only assume that Aykroyd was a massive fan of the original show.

While I did still enjoy the experience of this movie, it is probably because of nostalgia. It doesn’t come close to being anywhere near the level of Aykroyd’s Ghostbusters or The Blues Brothers and it also doesn’t come close to Hanks’ Big or Splash. It sort of just exists as this film where we got to see Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks come together with a little Dabney Coleman thrown in for extra laughs.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an awful film it is just a pretty basic one albeit amusing and endearing for fans of 80s comedies.

I did like the villain group P.A.G.A.N., even if my really religious mum thought it was Satanic and bizarre. The whole scene with the big P.A.G.A.N. ritual was really cool and one of the highlights of the movie.

Another highlight was the inclusion of Harry Morgan in this, as I did grown to become a fan of the original Dragnet, which he was a big part of.

I don’t think that Dragnet is going to be a film that will live on for generations. In fact, most people have forgotten about it or don’t know it exists. It really only works if you are a fan of the people in it and can watch a mostly mindless 80s comedy and enjoy it for what it is.

Film Review: Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)

Release Date: 1987
Directed by: Peter George
Written by: Jon Ayre
Music by: Jon McCallum
Cast: Gail Neely, Barry Brenner, Robert Harden, Tom Demenkoff

The Institute, Troma Entertainment, 83 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“I am the Fuhrer of the beach!” – Adolf

As I’ve been watching through a lot of old school Troma films the last week or so, I have become reacquainted with Surf Nazis Must Die.

This film is shitty, even for Troma’s standard. It had a few things about it that felt somewhat commendable but never really developed into anything worthwhile.

The cinematography wasn’t as inventive and fine-tuned as the other well-known Troma pictures and for the most part, it doesn’t really seem to fit the same visual style that their other films had in this era.

Surf Nazis Must Die is more low budget looking than normal and the gore is severely toned down and a lot less gratuitous than say The Toxic Avenger or Class of Nuke ‘Em High. At the same time, it wasn’t produced by Troma, it was just distributed by them.

The premise is ridiculous, as it should be but I really couldn’t get invested in it. I really didn’t care, truthfully.

The thing is, the title of the film makes it seem like a bad ass post-grindhouse grind house film. I love films where Nazis are villains and I loved the old surf film era of the 60s. What seemed like a Tromaville parody of those two things, was just a mishmash of shit that quickly hit the floor.

So does this Troma picture get to go through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer? Oh, yeah! As “Macho Man” Randy Savage would say. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Film Review: Batteries Not Included (1987)

Also stylized as: *batteries not included
Also known as: Miracle On 8th Street (international)
Release Date: December 18th, 1987
Directed by: Matthew Robbins
Written by: Mick Garris, Brad Bird, Matthew Robbins, Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson
Music by: James Horner
Cast: Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Frank McRae, Elizabeth Pena, Dennis Boutsikaris, Michael Carmine, Wendy Schaal

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

“The quickest way to end a miracle is to ask it why it is… or what it wants.” – Frank Riley

Batteries Not Included sort of came and went in the theater. At least, I wasn’t really aware of it until it popped up on HBO about a year later. Once I saw it though, I was captivated and would try to catch it every time it was playing on television. It is one of those movies I loved as a kid but hadn’t really seen since. So when I came across it on Netflix, I wanted to see how it played, thirty years later.

The film was actually intended to be an episode of Steve Spielberg’s awesome television show Amazing Stories. Spielberg liked the story so much that he wanted to have it expanded into a feature film. Also, this was Brad Bird’s first time writing for a theatrical release. He would go on to write and direct the beloved animated films The Iron GiantThe Incredibles and Ratatouille.

The movie tells the story of the residents of a rundown building in New York City. The area is being torn down and the residents forced out by thugs hired by developers who intend to build modern massive skyscrapers. The thugs go around destroying the resident’s homes and property. Two tiny alien spaceships show up and start fixing everything. The little spaceships are actually alien lifeforms that take junk and appliances and use them to repair and enhance themselves. They even give birth to three baby alien ships in the film.

The movie is really about miracles and how when you are pushed to your limit and all seems hopeless, sometimes things can happen to pick you back up. Batteries Not Included is about not losing hope and it is also about family and friends and turning to those around you who are good people. It’s interesting that it takes non-human lifeforms to bring the humans in the story together.

For 1987, the special effects are fantastic. The movie still looks stellar today and it held up really nicely.

The cast were all really good but the bulk of the picture rests on the shoulders of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy (just a few years before her big Academy Award win for Driving Miss Daisy). It’s kind of nice revisiting pictures like this and Cocoon, as they feature elderly actors as the main characters. It is something that you don’t see very often anymore, at least not in major studio sci-fi releases. But the 80s were a magical time for film.

I was happy that I revisited this, so many years later, because I wasn’t disappointed, as I often times am with movies I once loved as a kid. It was actually just as I remembered it without any extra romantic flourish added to it from my memory.

Batteries Not Included is sort of forgotten today and it wasn’t a big hit in its day, anyway. It is a movie that probably deserves more recognition than it got, though. It just looks good, plays good and most importantly, feels good.