Film Review: Tango & Cash (1989)

Release Date: December 22nd, 1989
Directed by: Andrei Konchalovsky, Peter MacDonald (uncredited), Albert Magnoli (uncredited), Stuart Baird (uncredited)
Written by: Randy Feldman, Jeffrey Boam (rewrites)
Music by: Harold Faltermeyer
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Jack Palance, Teri Hatcher, Brion James, Geoffrey Lewis, Eddie Bunker, James Hong, Marc Alaimo, Michael J. Pollard, Robert Z’Dar, Lewis Arquette, Roy Brocksmith, Clint Howard

The Guber-Peters Company, Warner Bros., 101 Minutes

Review:

I used to really like Tango & Cash when I was in fifth and sixth grade. I hadn’t really seen it since then. Having seen it now, though, I can state that this movie did not age well. It probably wasn’t very good, even for 1989 standards, but it is incredibly cheesy and hokey but not in any way that is endearing.

Sure, I love Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell but the two of them deserved a better vehicle for a team-up movie. The plot was weak and a big chunk of the movie was spent in prison, where Stallone just escaped from in his previous film, also from 1989, Lock Up. However, Stallone was also entering a bad period for his career, as this film was followed up by Rocky V (most people hate it, I don’t), Oliver and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

At least we got to see these two in the same film again in 2017 with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, even though they didn’t share any scenes together. But I did find it strange that Russell was not in any Expendables picture.

The film also gives us the legendary Jack Palance, Brion James (a fantastic 80s villain player), James Hong (most beloved as Lo Pan from Big Trouble In Little China, another Kurt Russell film), Marc Alaimo (another great villain character actor and Gul Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Robert Z’Dar (the Maniac Cop himself), as well as a young Teri Hatcher, the always weird Clint Howard and Michael J. Pollard, a guy I’ve always enjoyed in his small roles.

However, even with all the great people in this film, it is still a total dud. Maybe that has something to do with script rewrites. Maybe it is because this film went through four directors. Yes… four!

Whatever the reasons, Tango & Cash is a film that is much less than the some of its pretty great parts. It is really disappointing, actually. It could have worked, it should have worked but it was a total bust in every way.

Yes, there are some fun moments in the film but nowhere near enough to make this thing worth anyone’s time. It isn’t necessarily horrible but it shows how bad the “buddy cop” formula can be, if everything in the movie misses its mark.

Does it deserve to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? I’d say that it does but just barely. So what we have here is a Type 1 stool, which is defined as “Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).”

Film Review: Cyborg (1989)

Release Date: April 7th, 1989
Directed by: Albert Pyun
Written by: Kitty Chalmers, Daniel Hubbard-Smith
Music by: Lalo Schifrin, Kevin Bassinson
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Deborah Richter, Vincent Klyn, Dayle Haddon

Cannon Film Distributors, 82 Minutes

Review:

In the late 1980s, I was a big Jean-Claude Van Damme fan like every red blooded American boy. However, I really hated Cyborg when I saw it and I was endlessly reminded of my dislike for it once it started appearing on cable almost weekly for a span of several years. Out of Van Damme’s early stuff, it just completely missed the mark, even if it did have several cool things that could have made it good.

However, seeing it now, a few decades later, I no longer hate it. In fact, I found most of it to be fairly enjoyable, even if it is incredibly cheesy, full of atrocious acting and looks very dated.

To start, it was put out by Cannon Films, who were responsible for dozens of exciting balls-to-the-wall 80s action flicks. It also starred their new up and coming star, Jean-Claude Van Damme. It had a sci-fi setting and was like an American East Coast Mad Max minus the cool vehicles. This would have been much better with cool vehicles. However, this was a good mixture of good elements to make something great. The film lacks in most regards though and it obviously didn’t have cool cars because it was made for the same cost as a case of discount domestic beer, a couple Koozies and a bag of Ruffles.

Most of the fight choreography is pretty good for what this is. Van Damme has the uncanny ability to throw kicks that don’t just look elegant but seem to look powerful as well. He’s always had a grace with his movements that most likely comes from his dancing background but because of this, he just always looks fantastic when he has to pull off that big roundhouse kick to the face.

Cyborg doesn’t have great cinematography. However, there are a few shots that do look amazing and hold up well today. Most notably, the scene where a thug walks into a dark sewer corridor, looks up, and there is Van Damme, above his head, doing the splits while holding a nasty looking dagger. The lighting, the panning and the overall shot was just beautifully done and certainly stands out among the rather drab cinematography.

One thing that significantly hurts this picture is the music. The score sounds like some toddler slamming away on a small Casio keyboard with his sippy cup. The score is so bad that you never get used to it and it sticks out like a sore thumb through every major action sequence.

Cyborg could have been a much better movie, it had some things that worked, but ultimately it was like it was out to sabotage itself. For some reason, there are two sequels to this, neither of which star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Maybe I will watch them someday if I really want to torture myself.

Documentary Review: Document of the Dead (2012)

Release Date: November 13th, 2012
Directed by: Roy Frumkes
Music by: Rick Ulfik

Synapse Films, 66 Minutes (1979 cut), 85 Minutes (1989 cut), 102 Minutes (2012 cut)

Review:

Document of the Dead is a documentary that has been released at three different times, as it has been updated and expanded throughout the years.

Initially, it was about the making of Goerge A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. Since then, it has looked behind the scenes at some of his other films, as well as checked in with the man and those close to him from 1978 up through 2006.

It is a sort of disjointed documentary, as the additions are very apparent in a way that distracts from the narrative. Also, the documentary jumps around a lot. It is entertaining and informative but it is a mess too.

I am reviewing the 2012 version, the final one released, so I can’t really say if the earlier versions, especially the 1979 original version, were more coherent. Anyway, it is the 1979 material that is the most compelling anyway.

Some of the cool things in this are seeing Tom Savini put the makeup on the Dawn of the Dead zombies, as well as his stunt work. Also, just seeing the behind the scenes stuff is cool, especially on an old school movie like this where DVD extras were still twenty years away.

Document of the Dead, while not a great documentary, is still a cool look into the world of Romero from a filmmaking point-of-view. For fans of Romero’s Dead series, it is certainly worth checking out.

Film Review: Young Rebels (1989)

Release Date: November 1989
Directed by: Amir Shervan
Written by: Amir Shervan
Music by: Alan DerMarderosian
Cast: John Greene, Tadashi Yamashita, Robert Z’Dar, Aldo Ray, Joselito Rescober

Rex Films, Cinema Epoch, 93 Minutes

Review:

Amir Shervan created magic, probably unintentionally, when he made Samurai Cop. Another one of his films, Killing American Style, was perfect for all the wrong reasons. As I am working through as much of his filmography as I can, I have gotten to Young Rebels. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the awesomeness of the aforementioned motion pictures.

This doesn’t mean it is bad. Well, it is bad but it is fantastic bad. But not as fantastic bad as the others.

In this movie, a guy owes some mobsters some money. He gets his bad ass brother involved. The deadbeat non-payer gets murdered. Brother then gets really angry and with his friends, decides it’s time to take the mobsters down.

The style and tone of the film is really consistent with Shervan’s Killing American Style. It also features Robert Z’Dar, which is always a plus. Now the movie is humorous but not as much as the later released and way more famous Samurai Cop.

If you are a fan of other Shervan flicks, you will probably enjoy this one enough to give it a watch. It just doesn’t have the magic of the other Shervan pictures I’ve seen before this.

I’m hoping the few that I still have to watch are closer to Killing American Style and Samurai Cop. So far, I’ve been happy with his pictures, even if this one was a bit weak by comparison.

*Unfortunately, there isn’t even a trailer for this online. This is the best I could find to give you a taste of the movie.

 

Film Review: ‘The Fly’ Remake Film Series (1986-1989)

This weekend I had some free time, I decided to spend it re-watching the 80s remakes of The Fly film series. While I love the originals, the remakes are much darker, a lot less cheesy (well, mostly) and pretty terrifying. Let me get into each film on its own.

The Fly (1986):

Release Date: August 15th, 1986
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Brooksfilms, SLM Production Group, 20th Century Fox, 96 Minutes

Review:

Let me start by saying that 1986’s The Fly is my favorite Jeff Goldblum film after his small part in Life Aquatic.. and his big roles in the Jurassic Park and Independence Day films. It is also my second favorite film directed by David Cronenberg: Videodrome being the first.

The film succeeds in every way, in that it creates a sense of dread unlike almost anything else seen at the time, other than other Cronenberg films.

Cronenberg was the master of “body horror” – frightening films that toy with the viewers mind by showing disturbing and grotesque changes happening to the human body. He succeeded with this formula in Videodrome, Scanners and The Brood but this film really ups the ante and brings his series of bodily horror films full circle.

The special effects are amazing for being done on a pretty modest budget but then again, this was the magic of practical effects in the 1980s: before studios relied too heavily on CGI, regardless if its quality.

The acting is great and the dynamic between Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum transcends the screen, which may be due to the fact that they were on the verge of getting married in real life, which they did, after this film. It is this dynamic that really makes this film and Jeff Goldblum owns the role of tragic scientist Seth Brundle.

The story, the action and the whole visual feel of this film makes it nearly perfect. It is a real treat for a special effects junkie and is one of the greatest horror films of its era, if not all-time. There is little to nothing in the modern era’s horror genre that can come close to matching this film.

The Fly II (1989):

Release Date: February 10th, 1989
Directed by: Chris Walas
Written by: Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, Frank Darabont
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, Harley Cross, John Getz

Brooksfilms, 20th Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

This film gets a pretty bad rap.

No, it isn’t as good as the film it followed but for the time and as its own thing, it is still pretty good.

Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga might not have had the chemistry of Goldblum and Davis but they had a nice relationship that was believable and they were still characters you cared about it.

Additionally, this film wasn’t just a rehash of the original. There were some new interesting elements that made this stand on its own.

To start, Stoltz was the son of Brundle, who at five-years-old, had grown to the size of someone in their early twenties. He was infected with the fly DNA of his father and was thus, raised in seclusion by the evil corporation that funded his father’s projects in the first film.

One thing leads to another, Stoltz becomes the new fly creature and chaos ensues.

The Fly gets a lot more screen time in this film and the special effects are still pretty outstanding and practical. The scene of the security guard’s face melting off as he screams is still stellar by today’s standards. The creature effects are well done and the horrific look of the final monster in the film is still stomach-churning, 25-plus years later.

The Fly II is not the great film that The Fly is and it fails when compared to it. As its own film, it is still a mark above the standard horror fare of the day, despite the 4.9 on IMdB and the 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Film Review: Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (1989)

Release Date: March 1989
Directed by: Charles B. Griffith
Written by: Charles B. Griffith, Lane Smith
Music by: David M. Rubin
Cast: Mel Welles, Robert Jayne, David Carradine, Lana Clarkson, Sid Haig

Concorde Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

After the experience of the first Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, which came to me via the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I had to also sit through the second film because for some reason, someone thought it deserved a sequel.

Both films are very similar and also pretty different, Mainly, the first movie feels a bit more creative. The second film feels better directed and more coherent but also kind of lazy. The main difference between the productions of the two films is that this one was done solely by America where the first film was a co-production between the US and Argentina.

The cast is a bit better in this one too. Well, mainly just because David Carradine and Sid Haig are in it. Carradine fills in for the Bo Svenson role but he does seem bored. Sid Haig is decent as the villain but at least he commits to his roles despite how bad the production is.

Overall, even though I trashed the first movie quite a bit, it gets the edge when you compare these two duds. Sure, the special effects and costumes were laughably bad but it still had more creativity and was just more imaginative, even if the script was a mess.

On a positive note, there isn’t a third sequel… that I know of.

 

Film Review: ‘The Toxic Avenger’ Film Series (1984-2000)

Few films are as bizarre and gore-filled as those within The Toxic Avenger series. Other than other pictures made by Troma, I can’t really think of anything else that compares. And since I’m starting to rewatch the films in my Troma collection, I figured I’d start with those movies starring Toxie, their company’s mascot and first big star.

The Toxic Avenger (1984):

Release Date: May 1984 (New York City theatrical release)
Directed by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Joe Ritter
Music by: Mark Hoffman, Dean Summers, Christopher Burke
Cast: Mitch Cohen, Mark Torgl, Andree Maranda, Pat Ryan Jr.

Troma Entertainment, 79 Minutes

Review:

The first film is the best by far. Now I am in no way calling this a Kubrickian masterpiece but for what the filmmakers (Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz) were able to create with the extremely limited resources they had, this was pretty amazing.

The film was violent, silly, comedic, bad ass and charming: a weird combination that was sewn together like some fucked up Frankenstein tapestry.

Retrospectively, the formula worked beautifully and gives the film a respectable level of ingenuity, originality and even intelligence. Yes, intelligence. And what I mean by that, is that Troma was like South Park before South Park, in that it was offensive, over the top, ridiculous and out for shock value. But underneath all of that, Troma films, at their best, carried a brilliant political or social message. Troma paved the way for others like them in this regard and The Toxic Avenger is their magnum opus, still to this day.

The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989):

Release Date: February 24th, 1989
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Gay Partington Terry
Music by: Barrie Guard
Cast: Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, John Altamura, Rick Collins, Rikiya Yasuoka, Tsutomu Sekine, Mayako Katsuragi

Troma Entertainment, Lorimar, 96 Minutes, 103 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

This film was the immediate start of the decline of The Toxic Avenger franchise. It was nowhere near as good as the original and overall, it was a huge step down.

I know it is hard to step down from the bottom of the barrel, but even though the filmmakers joke about their films being shit, the first one in this series was awesome, as I stated above.

This film, was not awesome. It had some awesome bits but all in all, it took the acceptable ridiculousness of the first movie and magnified it even further. It didn’t need to be magnified.

The new girl playing Toxie’s girlfriend was insanely annoying but luckily she had minimal screen time due to this film taking Toxie to Japan for the majority of the story. In fact, the Japanese trip is actually what made this film somewhat unique and fun. Some of the fights were greatly done but other than the action parts, this was hard to watch.

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989):

Release Date: November 24th, 1989
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Music by: Christopher De Marco
Cast: Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, John Altamura, Rick Collins, Lisa Gaye, Jessica Dublin, Michael Kaplan

Troma Entertainment, 102 Minutes

Review:

And then… it got even worse.

The Last Temptation of Toxie sees our hero basically fighting the Devil. It is horrible.

Where the first film is fantastic and the second film had some endearing moments, this film loses all of that and gives us a noisy and stomach-churning mess that was hard to sit through.

The awfulness of the film was enhanced by the constant screaming of Toxie’s girlfriend. Never have I hated a character more, which sucks because the actress that played her in the first film did a great job of making her lovable and cute. This actress made her the worst human being I have ever seen on or off the screen.

I’ve really tried to like this film but I just can’t. All the magic that worked in the original is gone. Maybe it’s because the second film and this film were shot back-to-back and the filmmakers ran out of juice. I don’t know.

You know how some films are so bad that they become great? Well, this isn’t one of those films. There’s nothing redeeming about it and it is kind of depressing considering the high note that was the start of this series.

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV: (2000):

Release Date: October 8th, 2000 (Sitges premiere)
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Gabriel Friedman
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz, Patrick Cassidy, Trent Haaga, Gabriel Friedman
Music by: Wes Nagy
Cast: David Mattey, Clyde Lewis, Heidi Sjursen, Paul Kyrmse, Joe Fleishaker, Debbie Rochon, Ron Jeremy

Troma Entertainment, 109 Minutes

Review:

Then there is the final film. After an 11 year break, the filmmakers had sufficient time to charge their creative batteries and return to the series with something great and compelling, ending the series on a high note: redeeming itself from the previous two outings. Did they succeed?

Yes and no.

This film was the best since the original but it still wasn’t on that level.

The inclusion of Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD was kind of awesome but that was really the biggest high point.

The plot was interesting, as it put Toxie in an alternate universe and an evil doppelgänger in his universe. Granted, it is a formula that has been used to death but it still gave this series something different.

There were cameos galore but nothing incredibly noteworthy. The fight scenes were decent, the gore was probably at its highest level in the series and at least Toxie’s girl was less annoying. Granted, she was still annoying. And while there is nothing respectable about these films from a high society standpoint, the constant retard jokes and use of people shitting themselves was way overdone and pretty senseless, even for a film that at its core is senseless.

I don’t dislike the movie, I just don’t have much urge to ever watch it again. As for the original film in The Toxic Avenger series, I could watch that again and again.

By the way, it is worth mentioning that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn got his start with Troma and he worked on this film. As a thank you, he gave Lloyd Kaufman a cameo in the first Guardians movie.