Film Review: Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Release Date: July 17th, 1987
Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Written by: Michael de Guzman
Based on: characters by Peter Benchley
Music by: Michael Small
Cast: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Karen Young, Michael Caine, Melvin Van Peebles

Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Roar!” – Shark

Jaws: The Revenge isn’t just considered the worst Jaws film by fans, it is also considered one of the worst films ever made. Well, I guess I stray from the pack because I think that Jaws 3-D is much worse. Not to say that this isn’t also a hefty pillowcase full of donkey dung.

The premise for this film is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, I don’t know how the script was written with a straight face.

In this chapter, the final one for the series, the killer shark apparently has psychic powers and the ability to teleport. Apparently, Ellen Brody also shares a psychic link with the shark. I’m being totally serious.

Even though it isn’t explicitly stated, the shark is on a revenge quest where it can travel literally anywhere in an effort to specifically hunt down and kill members of the Brody family. How does it know who they are and where they are? Why does it want revenge? Is it just assumed that it is the offspring of one of the three sharks killed in the previous movies? How does it travel from New England to the Bahamas in a day? How does Ellen Brody have memories of events she never personally witnessed and how does she sense when the shark is around? Why is she so sure it is picking off the family on a personal revenge quest? Apparently, before this movie, Sheriff Brody died of a heart attack due to fear of the shark. Yet he stood up to two sharks like a total bad ass in previous movies. Was he psychically killed by the shark?

Jaws: The Revenge is a weird friggin’ movie when you start to analyze the crap out of it. That alone makes it infinitely more interesting than Jaws 3-D. Also, this is a Christmas movie, at least the first act, so it gets an edge there.

You also have the Last Starfighter himself, Lance Guest. Unfortunately, Mario Van Peebles gives a horrible performance as a Jamaican with a bad Jamaican accent. But props to him, as he did this two decades before Kofi Kingston showed up in the WWE. Anyway, the badness that is Van Peebles is at least offset by the awesomeness that is Michael Caine’s Hoagie, a pilot named after a fantastic sandwich.

One big positive, is that this film became the premise of the Jaws video game on Nintendo. In retrospect, it isn’t a fantastic game but when I was about ten years-old, I played the shit out of it. Who didn’t want to jump in a tiny yellow submarine and try to kill the giant shark while collecting crabs dropped from Hoagie’s plane? Frankly, I don’t know why Hoagie just didn’t give me the crabs before I went out to sea. I also don’t remember why collecting crabs was important. Anyway, back to this awful movie and not the awesome game.

Jaws: The Revenge is just about as bad as everyone says it is but at least it isn’t littered with horribly dated 3D effects like Jaws 3-D. Also, some of the action bits are better than those from the previous movies. I thought that the scene in the sunken ship was well done and certainly better than anything in the third movie.

The finale is also much better than the third film, even if thirty years later, I don’t understand the whole point about the strobe light causing the shark pain. Maybe it was a psychic strobe light or imbued with the power of a Bahamian warlock. I’m not really sure.

And even though everyone bitches about it, I don’t mind the shark having a roar. That’s way more plausible than psychic powers and teleportation.

Film Review: The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966)

Release Date: November 3rd, 1966
Directed by: Rossano Brazzi
Written by: Paul Tripp
Music by: Bruno Nicolai
Cast: Rossano Brazzi, Paul Tripp

Childhood Productions Inc., 93 Minutes, 89 Minutes (US)

Review:

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is a movie I could have gone my entire life not knowing about and I would have been just fine. So thanks for bringing it to my attention Mystery Science Theater 3000.

In this Christmas picture, the story is at least fairly unique. Santa Claus is about to be evicted from the North Pole because he can’t pay his rent. Somehow he just doesn’t have a good agent, I guess. Anyway, the Scrooge McDuck landlord tells him that he can stay, rent free. The catch is that he can no longer give toys to children. And that is basically the whole movie. What will Santa do? Spoiler alert: he isn’t real.

This is an Italian production so I guess it’s a spaghetti Christmas picture. The dubbing isn’t awful but it has a grainy and dirty spaghetti western look to it while being set in a snowy European town. The cinematography isn’t pretty but it is passable, as this is an Italian thing made on what one would assume is a pretty tight budget.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t isn’t a Christmas classic by any means. You shouldn’t add it to your holiday film lineup. Even when it comes to bad and cheesy flicks about the Holidays, there are still so many better options. Although this does have to be lightyears ahead of Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas and Santa’s Slay with 90s wrestler and former WCW world champion Bill Goldberg.

Film Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Release Date: November 9th, 1984
Directed by: Charles E. Sellier Jr.
Written by: Michael Hickey, Paul Caimi
Music by: Perry Botkin
Cast: Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Robert Brian Wilson, Linnea Quigley

Slayride, TriStar Pictures, 79 Minutes (Theatrical), 85 Minutes (Unrated Cut)

silentnightdeadlynightReview:

Silent Night, Deadly Night isn’t the first slasher film to take place on Christmas. It also isn’t the first to have a killer with the name Billy. Black Christmas had all of that before this movie. Black Christmas is also a better film. But that doesn’t mean that Silent Night, Deadly Night isn’t a waste of time. It is actually pretty damn enjoyable.

As a young boy, Billy is told by his crazy grandfather that Santa Claus will punish those who are naughty. Later that night, his family is killed by a robber dressed as Santa. He then goes through the rest of his childhood in an orphanage where the Mother Superior punishes those who are naughty. Billy also has developed a great fear of Santa Claus. As an adult, he overcomes his fear when he becomes the Santa in a toy store. After witnessing some coworkers being “naughty” he decides to “punish” them. The rest of the film sees Billy, dressed as Santa, killing everyone he deems as “naughty”. He also just yells out “Punish!” and “Naughty!” as he kills his victims.

The film isn’t a classic but it is decent as a mid-80s slasher movie. None of the kills are all that fantastic and some of them are completely nonsensical. Also, his ability to separate the naughty from the nice is horrible and he pretty much kills those that make things more convenient for his reign of terror.

The acting is bad, the cinematography is inconsistent, the picture quality drastically changes from shot to shot and the special effects aren’t good at all. Furthermore, the filmmakers didn’t understand the basics of physics. There is a scene where Billy strangles a coworker with Christmas lights by holding him in the air with just one arm. Billy is not a hulking beast like Jason Voorhees, he is just some scrawny white dude. There are a few other physics faux pas but that one stood out the most.

Plus, there are scenes that just don’t make sense. For instance, a cop shoots a priest multiple times in the back because he’s dressed like Santa Claus. Then the cop, as well as the nuns and kids who witnessed it, just brush it off as the cop goes off to keep doing his job.

Silent Night, Deadly Night is strange. The main reason is because it isn’t a good movie but for some reason, I really like it. Maybe it is due to how flawed it is or maybe it is because I’d just like to see more horror Christmas films. Don’t watch the sequels though, they are complete shit with no redeeming qualities. And somehow, there are five of these movies.

Top 25 Christmas Movies of All-Time

scrooged-murray-poindexterBeing that this is a list on Cinespiria, we have to rank some pretty unorthodox Christmas movies. Besides, standard Christmas movies tend to get pretty boring with all their overly sentimental and cutesy bullshit. While some of those films appear below, many on the list do not fit the mold of pictures like It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle On 34th Street.

No, this is our list! A list that exemplifies the spirit of this site!

So without further ado, here is Cinespiria’s top twenty-five Christmas movies of all-time!

1. Gremlins (1984)
2. Black Christmas (1974)
3. Die Hard (1988)
4. Scrooged (1988)
5. Home Alone (1990)
6. Lethal Weapon (1987)
7. A Christmas Story (1983)
8. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
9. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
10. Trading Places (1983)
11. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
12. Batman Returns (1992)
13. Rocky IV (1985)
14. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
15. Krampus (2015)
16. In Bruges (2008)
17. Bad Santa (2003)
18. A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
19. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
20. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
21. 3 Godfathers (1948)
22. Less Than Zero (1987)
23. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
24. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
25. Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Film Review: The ‘Gremlins’ Series (1984-1990)

The Gremlins film series is proof that America wasn’t ruled by overprotective helicopter parents in the 80s. I’m glad I grew up in that era, as opposed to nowadays when a good old family film like Gremlins would be severely toned down and edited or have to be rated R and thus, not a family film.

I saw it in the theater with my parents. I was five. Yes, I saw people killed by little monsters and a bunch of horror violence but guess what? I loved it because I wasn’t coddled into being a complete wuss.

So let me discuss these films that, by today’s standards, should have destroyed me and turned me into a budding serial killer.

Gremlins (1984):

Release Date: June 8th, 1984
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Chris Columbus
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Polly Holiday, Frances Lee McCain, Dick Miller, Corey Feldman, Keye Luke, Jackie Joseph, Judge Reinhold, Glynn Turman, Jonathan Banks

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

gremlinsReview:

The first one is the best one. It is a classic and a “must view” film come Christmas time, even though it oddly came out in the summer months of 1984.

Gremlins is a prefect balance of comedy, horror and holiday cheer. It also is a perfect balance of cuteness and insanity and I’m not talking about the very young Corey Feldman in this picture.

The creature effects are top notch for their time and I would still rather watch these animatronic puppets than CGI any day. And one can’t not be impressed with how many Gremlins they actually put in some of these scenes. In the movie theater segment alone, it looks as if there are dozens of these creatures, all controlled and animated by some off-screen puppeteer.

The story is pretty basic and straightforward but most fairy tales are. But this is a dark and amusing fairy tale. The Gremlins, for being terrifying little monsters are hilarious. They joke around, act crazy and are lethal, even to each other. The fairy tale also has its rules that must be followed. Of course, the rules aren’t followed and that is why we end up with the glorious chaos that is this film.

Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates are perfect as the leads in this film and they had great chemistry, which also worked well in the sequel. In fact, unlike other boys my age, this is the film where I got a huge crush on Phoebe Cates, as opposed to Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Hoyt Axton was entertaining as the father character, a struggling inventor whose gadgets are the butt of several jokes in the films. Judge Reinhold and Dick Miller both show up for a bit as well.

This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid and it has aged well. It still exudes the magic I found in it as a five year-old in the theater. Yeah, it is cheesy and over the top but it has a grittiness to it that you will never get when this film is eventually remade.

Gremlins is great. It is some of Joe Dante’s best work as a director.

And the soundtrack is fantastically nuts.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990):

Release Date: June 15th, 1990
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Charles S. Haas, Chuck Jones
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith, Carl Stalling
Cast: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Christopher Lee, John Glover, Robert J. Prosky, Robert Picardo, Hulk Hogan, Paul Bartel

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

gremlins_2Review:

The New Batch is a pretty satisfactory sequel. I feel like they took too much time off between films but it still has a lot of the spirit of the original. It was also cool to see Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates return, as well as Dick Miller.

The film also has Christopher Lee in it, one of my favorite actors ever, as a mad scientist who does zany experiments on animals. His carelessness leads to the Gremlins acquiring some extraordinary abilities and a few bizarre abilities. The inclusion of Christopher Lee’s character ups the ante in this film, making the Gremlins more of a serious threat than they were in the first movie.

Also joining the cast are John Glover, as Daniel Clamp (a parody of Donald Trump in the 80s), Robert Picardo (a regular collaborator with Joe Dante) and Robert Prosky (as a late night horror movie show host dressed like a vampire). All three of these guys give superb performances, especially Glover.

Gremlins 2 isn’t as good of a film as the first but overall, it might be more fun. It is less dark but it is more campy. It has more Gremlin gags as opposed to a straightforward fluid story. The plot exists and there is a beginning and an end but the in-between stuff plays more like sketch comedy with a few plot points added in to keep it somewhat coherent.

This is a very different film than the first, which is refreshing. I probably wouldn’t want a rehash of what was done previously. This film did a great job of being its own thing while continuing the story on from the original.

I had always hoped for a third and final film but that ship has most likely sailed and Joe Dante isn’t the same director anymore.

Film Review: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Release Date: November 14th, 1964
Directed by: Nicholas Webster
Written by: Paul J. Jacobson, Glenville Mareth
Music by: Milton DeLugg
Cast: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Victor Stiles, Donna Conforti, Chris Month, Pia Zadora, Leila Martin, Charles Renn

Jalor Productions, Embassy Pictures, 81 Minutes

santa-claus-conquers-the-martiansReview:

Known for being a terrible movie, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians gets a bit of a bad rap, in my opinion. Now I am not stating that it is a good film, it is pretty awful, as far as the art of filmmaking goes. However, it has some heart to it and unlike most really bad films, it isn’t unwatchable. In fact, it is kind of enjoyable.

If Ed Wood had ever made a family holiday movie, it would’ve probably been pretty close to this. Maybe he’d have a mummy and a werewolf in it too. The thing is, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is an entertaining bad film in the same vein as Plan 9 From Outer Space.

As should be expected, the acting is bad. The direction isn’t good either. Also, the score is poorly done. Most of the parts intended to be funny, aren’t funny at all. Then there are the parts where Santa laughs boisterously and it spreads like a plague, causing everyone to laugh uncontrollably. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is just bizarre and makes little logical sense.

Additionally, the Martian costumes are ridiculous, the Martian robot looks worse than the robot costume I made from a cardboard box when I was five, actual special effects are nonexistent and the sets look like something from a preschool Christmas play. That being said, it still works. The film feels otherworldly in a good way. There is something about its simplicity that makes it endearing.

It should also be mentioned that the film features a very young Pia Zadora, as one of the Martian children. She is the only notable person in the film and she’s barely in it or recognizable.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is bad. Yet, I still feel compelled to watch it almost annually as the holidays approach. Then again, I love to torture myself with bad movies.

Film Review: Black Christmas (1974)

Also known as: Silent Night Evil Night, Stranger in the House
Release Date: October 11th, 1974 (Canada)
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: A. Roy Moore
Music by: Carl Zitter
Cast: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon

Film Funding Limited of Canada, Ambassador Films, Warner Bros., 98 Minutes

black_christmasReview:

Some people have referred to Black Christmas as the first slasher film. It is hard to say what the first one was, as people have varying opinions on what exactly makes a slasher. If you consider pictures like Halloween and Friday the 13th to be the true slasher formula, then Black Christmas would be their godfather. In fact, the similarities between Black Christmas and Halloween are undeniable. Also, When A Stranger Calls borrows a lot from this picture. Needless to say, Black Christmas was a highly influential film on the horror genre.

The film takes place in a sorority house over the Christmas holiday. The girls keep getting strange and perverse phone calls. As the story progresses, one girl is murdered in the attic. Then the housemother is killed when she discovers the body. The police start investigating the missing girl and suspect the phone calls are related. More girls die, more weird phone calls happen and it all comes to a big crescendo once it is revealed that the killer is making the calls from within the house.

Directed by Bob Clark, who would go on to make the beloved A Christmas Story and Porky’s, this movie was the best of his career. Granted, Clark also gave us those atrocious Baby Geniuses films. But Black Christmas is an exceptional piece of work.

There were a lot of really artistic shots and the overall cinematography was impressive. The film had the warmth and welcoming feel of Christmas, all while generating a real sense of terror. The famous shot of the killer’s eye at the end is still one of the best moments in horror history. Clark really knew what he was doing with this film and he executed it brilliantly. Not only does Black Christmas still stand up today, over forty years later, but it is better than any modern horror picture in recent memory.

It is also worth mentioning that the performances by Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder were outstanding. It is easy to see why Kidder went on to have a pretty good career through the 70s and 80s. Keir Dullea, Hussey’s possibly psychotic love interest, gives one of his most memorable performances since he was Dr. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then you have John Saxon, who came across as a much kinder and less drunk version of his detective character from the first and third A Nightmare On Elm Street movies. Also, you get to see a young Andrea Martin before she went on to become one of the stars in the great sketch comedy series SCTV.

Slasher pictures aren’t really known for being great pieces of filmmaking. However, Black Christmas really breaks that mold and it set a standard that was hard for others to measure up to.