Film Review: Demon Knight (1995)

Also known as: Tales From the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight (complete title)
Release Date: January 13th, 1995
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by: Mark Bishop, Ethan Reiff, Cyrus Voris
Music by: Edward Shearmur
Cast: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett, Brenda Bakke, C. C. H. Pounder, Thomas Haden Church, Dick Miller, John Schuck, Gary Farmer, Charles Fleischer, Chasey Lain, Traci Bingham, John Larroquette (cameo), John Kassir

EC Comics, Universal Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Fuck this cowboy shit! You fucking ho-dunk, po-dunk, well then there motherfuckers! All you had to do was give me the goddamn key! Then we could get on with our lives. [cuts his hand to make new creatures] Alright… this house is hereby… condemned…” – The Collector

As a horror loving kid in the ’80s, I used to watch the shit out of HBO’s Tales From the Crypt. So when the show ended but they turned to producing movies, I was saddened but also kind of stoked.

I saw Demon Knight when it first came out in my local theater and I even got a copy of it on VHS when it was released later that year. It has been a really long time since I’ve seen it, however. Actually, the last time I saw it was when I still had a working VCR. Seeing it now, I forgot how absolutely insane and fun this movie was.

The film is directed by Ernest Dickerson, who started his career doing the cinematography in Spike Lee’s earliest films. Before directing this, he was in the director’s chair for Juice and Surviving the Game, two films I really liked as a teen and still enjoy today. Dickerson was a young, up and coming filmmaker when he got this gig. I feel like his work on Demon Knight enriched his oeuvre.

It didn’t hurt that Dickerson had an all-star cast in this thing. The two top roles went to William Sadler and Billy Zane. To be frank, this is still my favorite role that Zane has ever played. The film is rounded out by Jada Pinkett, Thomas Haden Church, C. C. H. Pounder, Dick Miller, Brenda Bakke and Roger Rabbit himself, Charles Fleischer. As a huge Dick Miller fanboy, I love him in this and he got his just desserts, at this point in his long career, as he gets to star opposite of a horde of big breasted naked ladies in his final scene.

This is a film that pulls no punches and just goes for it and that’s why it works so well, has held up nicely and is infinitely more fun and entertaining than 99 percent of modern horror. The demons are cool, Zane is cool, Sadler is cool, Dick Miller is Dick f’n Miller and this is just a bonkers movie in the greatest regard. In a lot of ways, Dickerson out Joe Dante’d Joe Dante.

I’m glad that I revisited this, which also has got me enthused about revisiting that other Tales From the Crypt movie, Bordello of Blood.

Film Review: Mimic (1997)

Also known as: Judas (working title), Mutant (Poland), Métamorphose (French Canadian)
Release Date: August 22nd, 1997
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Matthew Robbins, Guillermo del Toro
Based on: Mimic by Donald A. Wollheim
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Giancarlo Giannini, Alexander Goodwin, F. Murray Abraham, Charles S. Dutton, Norman Reedus, Doug Jones

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 106 Minutes

Review:

“Evolution has a way of keeping things alive.” – Dr. Gates

I haven’t seen Mimic since it first came out on VHS back in like 1998. I rented it once, watched it while drunk with friends and didn’t remember much other than it being visually creepy and having a lot of gross bug stuff.

hate cockroaches. I can deal with spiders, snakes and rabies raging raccoons but roaches are my sworn enemy. They’re gross, carry disease and well, they look like roaches. So I’ve never been big on bug horror, other than The Fly remake because that was some incredible otherworldly shit, visually. And to be honest, it just isn’t the fact that I hate roaches, which makes me not like bug horror, but it is the fact that most of these movies are pretty drab and just rely on the gross bits.

Plus, my mind always mixed this film up with Relic, which was another horror film that came out at the same time that dealt with some creature in the dark and had a five letter title that ended in “-ic”.

Mimic has the benefit of being directed by Guillermo del Toro and not too long after he did another bug-themed horror film with his breakout picture Cronos. And while this is a pretty pedestrian horror film it does have a fantastic atmosphere provided by del Toro. Watching this now, I got to take in a lot of shots that were very breathtaking and gave this an artistic feel that a film like this isn’t typically deserving of. That early shot where we see the children’s hospital, as the camera starts high and gradually sweeps towards ground level looked like something straight out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

This film also has a pretty strong cast but unfortunately, none of them are used that well. Mira Sorvino’s bug scientist is the most interesting person but she’s about the only character you’ll care for in this film, which boasts the talented lineup of Sorvino, Josh Brolin, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Giannini, Charles S. Dutton, Norman Reedus and Jeremy Northam. It also features del Toro regular Doug Jones, as one of the bug creatures.

Mimic is pretty forgettable but it spawned some direct-to-video sequels. I really have no interest in watching this as a series but I’ll probably eventually work my way through those followups.

I have only rated this as high as it is because it had good atmosphere and style to it and it wasn’t awful. It could have had a better script, better characters and been more engaging but it’s a product of its time and not too dissimilar from slightly above average horror pictures from the late ’90s.

Film Review: The ‘Young Guns’ Film Series (1988-1990)

Young Guns was kind of a big deal when it came out in 1988. It had hip young stars and it was a western in a decade where they weren’t too popular. It was like a gritty, Brat Packy action flick that saw our heroes face off against one of the greatest western villains of all-time, Jack Palance.

And then there was a sequel, which brought in some other young stars on the rise.

Since it has been awhile since I’ve seen these two movies, I felt like it was time to revisit them.

Young Guns (1988):

Release Date: August 12th, 1988
Directed by: Christopher Cain
Written by: John Fusco
Music by: Anthony Marinelli, Brian Banks
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terry O’Quinn, Jack Palance, Terence Stamp

Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, Peppin. I see you got Charley Crawford down there with you.” – Billy the Kid, “Yeah, that’s right, Bonney. We got a whole…” – Peppin, [Bonney goes to the window and shoots Charley Crawford] “Hey, Peppin. Charley Crawford’s not with you anymore.” – Billy the Kid

While I still enjoyed this movie, so many years after I had seen it last, it isn’t a film that has aged well. Still, it has a lot of high adrenaline moments and a great young cast of up and coming talented actors. It just feels very ’80s and kind of hokey, at points.

Emilio Estevez is the star of the picture but he is surrounded by Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips, who would also join him in the sequel, as well as his brother Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko. There is also Jack Palance as the villain, Terence Stamp as the mentor and John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn, as an ally of sorts.

It is cool seeing these guys come together for a real balls to the wall adventure but the writing was pretty weak. This chapter in Billy the Kid’s life was interesting to see on screen but the movie does take some liberties, albeit not as many as its sequel.

Estevez is really enjoyable as William H. Bonney and he made the historical figure cool, even if he was a killer and not a very good person. He embraced the role, ran with it and gave it a lot of energy that someone else probably wouldn’t have been able to muster. At least not quite the same way Estevez did. Plus, I always like seeing him act with his brother. Sadly, Sheen doesn’t last too long and obviously didn’t return for the sequel after meeting his demise in this one.

Problems aside, Young Guns is still entertaining and a really fun movie. This one is considered the superior of the two but I actually like Young Guns II a hair bit more.

Young Guns II (1990):

Release Date: August 1st, 1990
Directed by: Geoff Murphy
Written by: John Fusco
Music by: Alan Silvestri, Jon Bon Jovie
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, William Peterson, Alan Ruck, Balthazar Getty, James Coburn, Jenny Wright, Robert Knepper, Viggo Mortensen, Tracey Walter, Bradley Whitford,

Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Yoohoo. I’ll make you famous!” – Billy the Kid

Young Guns II was a good sequel to the first. It’s far from a perfect film and has its share of issues but it feels consistent with its predecessor and I liked the additions to the cast in this one. And then there is the sexy bare ass scene with Jenny Wright that really got me excited when I was an 11 year-old in the movie theater seeing her majestic bum on a thirty foot screen. It was one of those special moments in life where you truly believe that God is real and he’s your best friend.

The soundtrack by Jon Bon Jovi makes the film feel dated but the instrumental versions of his pop rock song are still enjoyable and give the film an extra level of hipness that the previous picture didn’t have.

I really like the addition of Christian Slater here and he is my favorite character in this film series. I also liked seeing Alan Ruck and Balthazar Getty join the gang. Another plus for me was seeing Bradley Whitford get a small but important role, as I always liked him, even if I only knew him as being a dirtbag in several ’80s teen comedies. Whitford would go on to have a pretty nice career where he could show off his acting prowess much more effectively than his earlier roles.

While the big finale in the first film was bigger than anything that happens in this one, this film has a grittier feel to it, which I liked. I also liked that it told the Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett story, even if it took some big liberties.

The film also entertains the Brushy Bill Roberts story, where an old man back in the ’40s claimed that he was Billy the Kid and that he actually wasn’t killed by Garrett in 1881. Emilio Estevez also plays the older Bill, where Whitford plays the guy interviewing him.

Both films have some scatterbrained writing but that doesn’t make them hard to follow and not enjoyable. This chapter is more disjointed than the first but its positives give it an edge, in my opinion. The returning cast seemed more in tune with their roles and Slater was fun to watch.

Film Review: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Also known as: Chucky 3: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 3 (Germany)
Release Date: August 30th, 1991
Directed by: Jack Bender
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Cory Lerios, John D’Andrea
Cast: Justin Whalin, Perrey Reeves, Jeremy Sylvers, Brad Dourif, Andrew Robinson

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t fuck with the Chuck.” – Chucky

While there is a very slight variance in overall quality of the original Child’s Play trilogy of films, all three are pretty damn consistent and each has it’s own vibe. Plus, the sequels don’t just feel like rehashes of the original.

The thing that sets this one apart is that Andy is now 16 and enrolled in a military school, drastically changing the setting and opening the plot up for a myriad of new directions.

Chucky is resurrected because what is a Child’s Play movie without Chuck? He tracks down Andy to his military school but not before murdering the crap out of the CEO of the toy company that produces Good Guy Dolls.

However, Chucky meets the young boy Tyler. He realizes that he can tell Tyler his secret and take over his body instead of Andy’s. Although, Chucky still wants to murder Andy for being a total pain in the ass in the first two movies. So what we get here, is teenage Andy in a race against Chucky in an effort to save young Tyler’s soul.

This film gets really dark but the early Chucky movies showcased terror and dread over the humor that would take over the franchise after this film. There is a grisly garbage truck murder, some other really good kills and the big awesome moment where the teenagers playing war games don’t realize that Chucky switched out their paint rounds with real ammunition. We then get a great final encounter with Chucky in a carnival spookhouse.

I just love how dark and brooding this film seems. Sure, the first two films were also quite dark but this one just ups the ante atmospherically and it works. Plus, Brad Dourif just feels more at home in his Chucky role. His one liners are great but they don’t distract from the proceedings.

Film Review: Rocky V (1990)

Release Date: November 16th, 1990
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Music by: Bill Conti
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Tommy Morrison, Richard Gant, Kevin Connolly, Tony Burton, Burgess Meredith (cameo), Carl Weathers (archive footage), Dolph Lundgren (archive footage),

United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Now, like your Mark Twain once said, ‘Virtue has never been as respectable as money.'” – George Washington Duke

I have never gotten the level of hatred that people have for Rocky V. Is it the best in the series? No. But I also don’t think that from a quality standpoint, it is anywhere below the later sequels III and IV. It actually has a great and important story and examines some areas of a boxer’s life and boxing as a sport that were probably long overdue in being explored in this long running film series. There is one big negative but I’ll get to that.

First, the film deals with Rocky Balboa getting brain damage after his bout with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. It also deals with how athletes are often times taken advantage of by financial crooks, as we see Paulie give power of attorney to their accountant, who lost all their money in a failed scheme. Additionally, we get to see the crookedness of high profile boxing promoters with the character of George Washington Duke, who was an obvious caricature of Don King, who exploited several young boxers that he “owned” for his own personal monetary gain. Lastly, the film deals with a boxer and his relationship with his family and also with his personal struggles when his career is over. Rocky V is a film with a lot of layers, all of which I found to be interesting.

And that’s the thing. You could say that there is too much going on in Rocky V from a narrative aspect but I like that the film addresses these issues, shows them play out naturally and doesn’t have to spell everything out for the audience or beat them over the head with each issue. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the challenges as they appear and to understand that ultimately, Rocky has always had what he needs most and that the solution is simply embracing the love in your life.

Rocky V may be cheesy at points but aren’t most of the Rocky films to some degree? Balboa is a good hearted guy always ready to crack a bad joke and those characteristics have sort of become larger than Balboa in the films themselves. Plus, by the time you get into the later films, Paulie just adds in his own sense of humor that keeps the later sequels grounded in lightheartedness even with serious subject matter.

This film also brings the original creative team of the first Rocky back together. John G. Avildsen returns to direct, Bill Conti is back on the music and ultimately, it works well to recreate the poor area of Philadelphia that Rocky, Adrian and Paulie rose out of but now have to return to. The addition of Burgess Meredith, even as a ghostly cameo, is a nice nod to the first film and brings things full circle, which was good considering that this was the last film in the series for sixteen years.

The big negative I mentioned before is Tommy Morrision, who played the boxer Tommy Gunn. The character starts as Rocky’s protege but decays into a puppet for the sinister George Washington Duke and thus, becomes Rocky’s big opponent at the end. The problem with Morrison is that he is a real boxer and not an actor. Rocky films work better with actors as the rivals. Imagine if Apollo Creed was played by George Foreman or Larry Holmes, it just wouldn’t have worked as well. Also, I felt the same way about Antonio Tarver in the sixth film and Tony Bellew in Creed. None of these guys had the impact of Apollo, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. Plus, Morrison’s line delivery was really painful at times.

While people knock the street fight at the end of the film, I’m fine with it. We’ve seen Rocky in the ring more than a half dozen times. Seeing him take it to the streets and embracing his roots against a jacked up farm boy was kind of cool.

I think that Rocky V came out in a time when the franchise sort of ran its course. It was the fifth film in 14 years. Plus, there was solid competition when it came out, so it didn’t perform well. Critics weren’t crazy about it but they aren’t crazy about most movies. I think people shit on Rocky V because it’s fun to shit on something that everyone hates. But I think it is more about following the crowd and not really about the movie. People just parrot each other’s sentiment and comments without much actual thought of their own but that’s why we always end up with shitty presidential candidates. But I’ll stop there and not go on some political rant.

Film Review: Child’s Play 2 (1990)

Also known as: Chucky 2: El Muñeco Diabólico (Mexico), Chucky 2 – Die Mörderpuppe ist zurück (Germany), Brinquedo Assassino 2 (Brazil)
Release Date: November 9th, 1990
Directed by: John Lafia
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Christine Elise, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham, Grace Zabriskie, Beth Grant, Catherine Hicks (archive footage)

Universal Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Surprise! Did you miss me, Andy? I sure missed you. I told you. We were gonna be friends to the end. And now, it’s time to play… I’ve got a new game, sport: It’s called “Hide the Soul”. And guess what? You’re it!” – Chucky

Child’s Play 2 is my favorite film in the Chucky franchise. While the first is probably considered the superior film in quality, this is the one that I think is the perfect Chucky movie and back in the day, this chapter resonated with me the most. So let me get into why.

To start, we know who and what Chucky is. In this film, he comes back to life and just goes for it. No waiting, no building of suspense for 45 minutes, just pure unadulterated Chucky, ready to kill anyone standing between him and his “best friend” Andy (Alex Vincent). And why? Because he needs young Andy’s body before his soul is permanently trapped in his doll form.

The true highlight of this film though, is the big grand finale in the Good Guy Doll toy factory. We get to see our surviving heroes run through mazes of dolls that look like Chucky. We get to see the heroes crawl through industrial machinery and try to outwit the pint-sized plastic killer. We also get to see Chucky get run through the ringer like never before and really, he’s never got his ass kicked quite like this again. Andy and his older foster sister Kyle (Christine Elise) make a formidable duo. I’m actually really glad that they are now both back in the franchise, two and a half decades later.

As a guy that has seen a shit ton of horror movies, the finale in Child’s Play 2 is one of the best final battles I’ve ever seen in the horror genre. Although, the county fair showdown in Child’s Play 3 is also pretty damn good.

I also like the casting in this film. The foster parents were Jenny Agutter, who I adored in An American Werewolf In London and Logan’s Run, and Gerrit Graham, who always makes me smile, even when he’s sort of just a snarky douche. I loved him in TerrorVision and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, as well as his multiple appearances in the Star Trek franchise. Then you have Beth Grant, who is always perfect, in a small role as an elementary school teacher that gets in Chucky’s way.

Child’s Play 2 is the peak of the original trilogy of films for me, back before the franchise got a lot more comedic with 1998’s Bride of Chucky. It’s a perfect Child’s Play film and has Chucky at his brutal best where he still gets in some funny one-liners without the film being overtly funny and still having a good amount of actual terror in it. And there is just something about that Chucky-Andy relationship that almost makes the Andy films feel like the only ones that actually matter.

Film Review: Batman & Robin (1997)

Release Date: June 12th, 1997 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Akiva Goldsman
Based on: Batman by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, John Glover, Elle Macpherson, Vivica A. Fox, Jesse Ventura, Nicky Katt

Warner Bros., 125 Minutes

Review:

“If revenge is a dish best served cold, then put on your Sunday finest. It’s time to feast!” – Mr. Freeze

When I recently reviewed Batman Forever, I was really harsh on it. I also said that it is a worse movie than this one, which is considered one of the worst movies ever made. Watching these two films, back to back, after all these years, I still feel that way. This is the superior film of the two dreadful Joel Schumacher Batman pictures.

What makes this stand well above Batman Forever, for me, is the thing that most people like to trash about this picture: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze. Sorry, I just love puns and Mr. Freeze’s awful and cheesy puns still make me smile. Sure, I’d prefer a more serious Batman film than this festival of hokey camp but if Schumacher insists on destroying something I love, I can at least appreciate Schwarzenegger’s performance for what it is, a beacon of utter hilarity in a sea of horribleness. And really, Schwarzenegger’s Freeze is the best of the Schumacher Batman villains. The Riddler and Two-Face were just more insane versions of the Joker, Poison Ivy was terrible and Bane just made me want to cry.

Speaking of Ivy and Bane, this film’s other villains, one would have to be somewhat excited at the prospect of Uma Thurman playing Ivy. However, she gets completely Schumachered up and is a shell of the great character she should be. In fact, she’s not Poison Ivy at all, she’s a wacko scientist reborn as a plant that emulates over the top starlets of a bygone Hollywood era.

Now Bane, he’s even less Bane than Ivy is Ivy. In the comics, Bane is an intelligent and strong foil for Batman, a true equal with more strength and the advantage of not being bogged down by good guy morals. Here, he is a dumb hulking brute that spends more time dressed like Dick Tracy in a lucha libre mask than actually doing anything useful. Fuck Bane. Fuck Schumacher.

The film is also full of the Bat-nipples, Bat-butt and Bat-crotch shots made famous in Batman Forever but since they introduced Batgirl here, we also get a gratuitous Bat-boobies shot when she first throws on her costume. Schumacher likes his sexy Bat-bits being front and center in these more “family friendly” films.

We also get more of Elliot Goldenthal’s awful Batman theme except it is even louder and more unrelenting in this picture than it was in Batman Forever. It literally never stops. Sure, it may have the volume dropped a bit here and there but it is just two hours of violent horns blowing right up your ass. By the time you get to the final shot of the movie where Batman, Robin and Batgirl run towards the screen with the theme blaring louder than ever, you want to scream, “Oh my god! Fucking enough already!!!”

This film isn’t as ugly as Batman Forever but make no mistake, it is still really friggin’ ugly. It’s like some random person walked up to Joel Schumacher and asked, “How are your Batman films going to look?” And he realized he hadn’t thought about it yet but since he was buying black light posters for his niece at Spencer Gifts, he pointed to the poster rack and hissed, “Just like thiiiiiissssss!”

Other than Schwarzenegger trying his damnedest to be fun here, there is nothing in this film that is worthwhile. I could get into the lousy script, how George Clooney was like a fish out of water, the horrendous wire work in the action sequences and about 900 dozen other things but this movie is a massive failure. Still… not as bad as Batman Forever, which wasn’t even mildly fun or entertaining. Schwarzenegger saved this movie from itself, even if it still turned out worse than a sawdust enema.

So it should go without saying that this needs to be put through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (passed easily).”