1987 Movie Review: SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 2, 1987


Movie Review

Directed by Alexander Payne
Starring: Eric Freeman, James Newman
Review by Russell Hill


An evil, psychotic patient at a Mental Hospital tells a psychiatrist of his murderous past.


Having become an internet phenomenon due to the line “Garbage Day”, this was meant to be a film to scare its audience, chilling the bones to their very core. But instead of a non-stop scare-fest we are treated to what has to be one of the most outrageously funny movies ever released.

Due to Eric Freeman’s fantastic, over-the-top acting we see one of the most unintentional comedic performances this reviewer has seen for some time. Initially told in flashback, we first find Ricky in a mental hospital. A psychiatrist (James Newman) asks Ricky (Freeman) about his brother Billy. To cut a long story short, Ricky’s brother and he had witnessed both their mother and father’s murder at the hands of a man dressed as Santa Claus, as well as her being raped. Fast forward a few years and they find themselves in an orphanage being looked after by Nuns.

Some of the Nun’s are nice, but then there’s Mother Superior. The ultimate bitch in all cinema, she mentally tortures little Billy to the extreme that upon leaving the orphanage he is given a job; as a Department Store Father Christmas. Ultimately, Ricky goes a little crazy, and goes about killing anyone and everyone he sees as being “naughty” and must be “punished”. Thanks to his mental imbalance, he heads to the orphanage to finally see off Mother Superior, but instead is stopped just as his axe misses her. And all this in front of Ricky!

Onto Ricky, he is soon adopted by a young couple and soon leads a normal life. Suddenly his adopted father dies when he is a teenager and decides to go out on his own by landing a number of menial jobs. However, the years of mental torture at the hands of Mother Superior take their toll on poor ol’ Ricky. He too starts seeing people being “naughty”, and carries out punishment in a number of ways, whether it is strangulation or putting an electrical wire in their mouth’s and switching the voltage to its maximum. But the question remains; can Ricky be stopped before finishing the job started by his brother? Will Mother Superior ever be saved?

Only available to the UK on YouTube or if you have a spare £20 to spend on EBay, this was recommended by a workmate who said of the “Garbage Day” quote and since then it was on my list of movies which have to be seen and, boy, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

The makers were told to re-edit the original film, and then make a supposed sequel. As they discovered that making a completely new movie just by editing the original they realised they had to shoot some new footage but with a substantially low budget. Sometimes, even the filmmakers were paid such a low wage that negative memories are held who worked on the movie. But hey, if you ignore this lack of funds and concentrate on the film as a whole you are treated to such a great flick which is due to raise a smile. And the main reason for such cheer? The answer: Eric Freeman and his eyebrows.

Apparently hired because he looked more like a movie star than another actor who was a better talent, Freeman looks the part of a Hollywood tough guy but just fails on every level. As Stallone and Chuck Norris have both the looks and capability of looking the part of ripping a mans heart out whilst its still beating, Freeman looks as though he would find it impossible just to sneeze in your face. And those eyebrows! Whenever you seem him “threatening” someone, his eyebrows take off like an aeroplane and never seem to land back in one place. According to the production staff, they tried to track down Freeman when the film was recently released in order to do a commentary track. They soon discovered that he is untraceable and cannot be found anywhere. I do hope this guy is still around and not six feet under as it would be great for him to continue acting.

I guess to those who like more highbrow movies should avoid “Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2”. This is merely a cult movie which many love and even more hate. The sight of a murderous Santa Claus might not be their ideal cinematic representation, but for many this is downright laughable. Anyways, what is not to like? Over the top acting by Freeman, great shootouts and even a love story for the romantics in the crowd. For those reading this not from the USA and Canada, this movie will prove quite troublesome to track down. But then again, there’s always YouTube. Go on, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.


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1987 Movie Review: THE UNTOUCHABLES, 1987


Movie Reviews

Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro
Review by Mike Peters


Chicago-1930-Eliot Ness is an idealistic and ambitious Treasury officer new to the ranks of the corrupt Chicago Police Force. His goal of cleaning up the streets is thwarted by the presence of the larger than life gangster, Al Capone. Overcoming hardships and threats against his family, Eliot Ness rounds up a group of “Untouchables” (men who are unable to be corrupted) and decides to challenge the Mega Empire of Capone.


To some, The Untouchables may not be considered a “classic film”. I would disagree. Growing up, I became enamored by the visual sight of gangsters in film. They appealed to me for many reasons. The freedom and the power they achieved through their modes of conduct was always a road I wanted to travel on. Then I grew up. I realized that this would not be the life for me. The danger and violent nature needed to be a part of this sort of “group” was not who I was. I could never kill a man, nor beat a man to a bloody pulp for minimal reasons. No, the life of the gangster was not for me. But, it is still an entertaining world in which to inhabit for two hours.

The Untouchables arrived in 1987 and was directed by Brian De Palma. A director, well known for his controversial films, had been deemed violent, misogynistic and anti-social by many of his critics. Known for such films as Carrie (1976), Scarface (1983) and Body Double (1984), De Palma has never shied away from controversy. Arriving at a time when Hollywood was undergoing great change, De Palma rose through the ranks with other directors such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. Studios had lost control of their films for a brief period of time and it was the director who was allowed to have full control of his film. It was his vision, not a producers or studios, which gave the director an unbelievable sense of importance and power. This was good and bad in a sense. Some directors blew it through their egotistical ways while others managed to make a name for themselves and remain an important part of the industry. De Palma was the latter.

De Palma began making films that strived to push the limits of acceptable behavior deemed appropriate by society. Growing up the son of a surgeon, De Palma never shied away from the images of violence and blood. It was a natural part of life in his eyes and he strived to depict it in, as some would say, voyeuristic ways. However, many could not see that he was critiquing the images that he presented on screen. He understood that he had become a controversial figure and regularly poked fun at this classification.

Studios were afraid to work him. However, in 1986, he directed a film called Wise Guys. This film was not well received and quickly vanished from people’s minds. The film however proved that De Palma could be uncontroversial and as a result, he scored The Untouchables.

The Untouchables is an interesting film. It is largely a Hollywood manufactured production but it embodies so much more. Themes such as loyalty, corruption and perseverance are readily presented in a beautifully crafted film. The production design is immaculate in its recreation of 1930’s Chicago. The buildings and the streets are simplistic and very formal in their design which helps to create a sense of nostalgia of what it might have been like to live during this time.

The clothes, designed by Giorgio Armani, are perfect and help to define the characters in truly distinctive ways. Al Capone and his cronies all live an upper class life. Through their suits to Al Capone’s silk pajamas, these men are deemed with high regard because of their social and financial standings. In many De Palma films, he has been known to upend the iconographic modes of good and evil. For instance, Frank Nitti is always represented by his white suit. Typically white has been linked to wholesomeness and purity but here, it is defined as corrupt and a color to be avoided. The police force on the other hand is visualized through their extremely dark police uniforms. By wearing these, the corrupt officials blacken the very meaning of what these uniforms are supposed to represent. The fact that every color is deemed corrupt only helps the audience to understand that Chicago has very few straight arrow citizens. The fact that the four “untouchables”, Ness (Kevin Costner), Malone (Sean Connery), Stone (Andy Garcia) and Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) are all represented through individualistic clothing attire helps to represent their non-conformist (corrupt) ways. They do not wear a uniform but rather wear their street clothes which allow them to be characterized as a group that cannot be swayed by the corruptive nature of the city.

The story is very linear in its approach. The film moves along at a decent pace which helps to settle the audience into sort of a lull but then immediately, and out of the blue, explodes into extreme violence. Just because De Palma was deemed uncontroversial at this point did not mean that he would totally shed his old ways. When the violence strikes, it has an impact that is harsh and unrelenting. When a particular star of the film is murdered, the film is merciless in its depiction of brutality and anguish. De Palma sets the tone very early in the film through the use of violence. At the beginning of the film, one of Capone’s men attempts to force a bar/diner owner to buy alcohol from them. He refuses. The man leaves. Another man, dressed in white, leaves the bar as well but leaves his briefcase sitting on a stool. A little girl, who is in the diner, attempts to track down the man but as she reaches the door, the briefcase explodes, killing everyone in the diner. This scene emphasizes that during this time everyone was fair game to be killed, even children (this scene is also important to imply that everyone is capable of being murdered within this film). It attempts to identify the fact that this was a very dangerous time period in American society. If you didn’t comply, then you would have to face the penalties. This scene also helps to foreshadow a scene later on in the film involving a child.

There are some memorable scenes in this film. The first is a P.O.V. perspective shot through the eyes of a gangster breaking into Malone’s apartment. This P.O.V. shot also works as a long tracking shot which creates a sense of suspense and fear because the viewer has now taken on the identity of the assassin. As we track Malone through his apartment, tension increases causing a fear that this man, whom we have come to admire throughout the course of the film, is about to be killed. It is a brilliant use of camera work displayed by De Palma in this scene.

Perhaps the most famous part of the picture is the train station scene. Inspired by Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet silent film classic, Battleship Potemkin (1925), this scene is long and dragged out but manages to create an unbelievable sense of unease within the audience. While Ness and Stone are awaiting the arrival of the bookkeeper (who they need to apprehend), whom is being escorted out of town, the pacing slows to a crawl. We wait as Ness and Stone wait. There is no immediate rush into the action. We know that there will most likely be a violent confrontation but we must wait and thus the tension rises to an all new high. To make matters worse, a woman struggles to drag her baby carriage (with baby inside) up the stairs where this confrontation is likely to take place. I will not ruin it for those who have not seen it but this is a scene that is perhaps one of the greatest suspense sequences in film history.

The script by David Mamet is filled with suspense and tension and the actors help to bring his story to life. Sean Connery, in an Oscar winning performance, is magnificent as the over the hill Malone who still has a hunger within him to fight the fight. As well, Andy Garcia and Charles Martin Smith are well cast as new recruits to the “untouchables” team. Robert De Niro provides an interesting performance as well. He provides little nuances to his portrayal of Al Capone, like a smile or nod, which adds flavor to the character but in some instances he glides, knowingly and flamboyantly, over the top. The one problem with the casting is in Kevin Costner. When he is surrounded by the likes of Connery and De Niro, it is hard to accept him for who he is trying to be. I understand that his character wants to embody a sense of innocence and that he must learn how to achieve victory, but I felt he was weak for the role. He didn’t instill a fear within me throughout the course of the film. I enjoy him as an actor, just not in this film.

The Untouchables is a well made and crafted film. There are some slight problems with the film however. For instance, the editing is abrupt and distracting at times. Some scenes that should have had a few seconds of pause prior to edit are cut prematurely. But, these are small problems. This film attempts to encapsulate a time period while placing its’ own spin on the genre. The gangster film had all but disappeared from cinemas but, in my mind, this film helped to reestablish its’ roots (and as well make it a commercially viable genre once again). The film was one of my favorites as a child and still holds a special place within my heart. If one wants to witness the blending of a controversial figure like De Palma with the mainstream ideas of Hollywood, watch this film. You won’t be disappointed.

 the untouchables.jpg

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1987 Movie Review: WALLSTREET, 1987


Movie Reviews

Directed by Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen
Review by Mike Peters


In 1985, an ambitious young broker, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is lured into the illegal, lucrative world of corporate espionage when he is seduced by the power, status and financial wizardry of Wall Street legend Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas).


Janwillem Van De Weterling once said that: “greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough”. Greed is good according to Gordon Gekko. It is the template of society. Without greed, there would be no progression, no desire, no nothing.

Michael Douglas’s portrayal of Gordon Gekko is masterly. The slick and calculating financier who uses and abuses the people around him is perhaps one of the most vile and despicable characters in film history. However, for as much as the audience hates him, they can never take their eyes off of him. He controls the gaze and manipulates and twists the emotions of the people he is trying to convince. As he notes to Bud Fox, there are no friends in the business world: “If you want a friend, buy a dog”.

Gekko’s name has clearly been inspired by the insect that feeds off insects less powerful. Scaly and slithery, the gecko is a creature that is quite innocent from a physical perspective but is driven by a desire to live and survive in the jungles of the land from all adversaries. Gordon Gekko is exactly the same. He is not content with merely surviving in the jungles of the business world but rather is determined to destroy all of his competition with a vengeance. He is a greedy, self absorbed mongrel but people attach themselves to him as if they were moths to a flame. Bud Fox fits this analogy to a tee and is definitely burned by it.

The 1980s was a decade in search of an identity. The 1960s and 1970s had been tumultuous years for America and great change was thus needed in the 80s in order to instill some sort of defined leadership to appease society. When Ronald Reagan entered the White House in 1980, he demanded alterations in hopes of witnessing the revival of The United States of America. He pushed forward the prospect of individual freedom and the idea that the individual could accomplish anything on the strength of himself rather then through a reliance on government institutions. In connection with this, Reagan also wanted to reinvigorate the United States economy. As a result, the 1980s became more about the self rather then the country for many individuals. Driven by the idea that dreams could be accomplished through capitalistic practices, America became a self-absorbed culture of excess.

Bud Fox is a man driven by these very needs. A broker who frantically must sell himself to clients all day long finally begins to become disillusioned with his current status. At one point, he notes that he wonders when he will be on the other end of the line. Instead of selling, he wants to be buying. His desire is to be like Gordon Gekko. He is passionate and determined and after 40 days of constant harassment, Gekko finally agrees to see Fox. But he is in over his head from the get go. When he enters Gekko’s luxurious office (which is ten times the size of his apartment on the upper west side of New York), he stares in amazed wonderment. Gekko is such an imposing figure that he intimidates the young Fox. Being slightly coy with him, he demands that Bud tell him something worthwhile. He is playing and toying with him the entire time and is setting him up for the kill. That is until Fox surprises him with a tip. Gekko no longer feels the need to kill him off (figuratively) and cast him back out in the harsh world of bureaucratic business. Gekko understands that he can now use him and mold him into someone who can help him become even richer.

Fox is so enamored by the chance to alter his present situation of financial strain that he quickly is enveloped into the lecherous world of Gekko. Immediately, Fox begins to change both externally and internally. His suits become darker, his hair becomes slicker rather then frazzled, his ideals begin to change and arrogance begins to manifest itself from within (which has never been transparent before). In one instance, his desire to become someone has corrupted his ideals and has transformed him into the man Gekko wants him to be.

Oliver Stone provides an interesting sub-story at this point of the film. Fox’s father, Carl (Martin Sheen), is an honorable working class man who fixes airplanes. He is a morally centered man. He dreams that his son will make something of his life and desires the best for him. He truly cares for his son whereas Gekko merely uses him. In a sense, Carl Fox and Gordon Gekko are vying for the soul of Bud. He must choose between the ideals emphasized by the character traits of these two men. Bud’s desire has always been to become successful and rich and he is easily manipulated by the temptation of what Gekko has to offer him. Gekko not only blackens the soul of Bud but he also becomes a new father figure to him by lavishing gifts and women on him (which Carl never had the ability to do). Bud turns his back on his father because success has tainted him. Money has become his life; his new family. Wall Street is not a perfect film in any way. In fact, it is not one of Stone’s masterpieces. But it does capture a time period with magnificent clarity as a result of Oliver Stone’s ability to capture greed at its finest. With this being said, there are some elements that take away from the overall impact of the film. For instance, Darryl Hannah’s performance is forgettable, Sean Young’s turn as Gekko’s wife is small and unmentionable (she is barely in the film although I assume that this is the point-the business world and personal world do not mix and Gekko has clearly chosen the professional world as his family), the music is typical cheesy 80’s fare and the self reflecting dialogue by Fox is sometimes forced and illogical.

Though the story follows a familiar trajectory with rise, fall and redemption elements, there is still something truly intoxicating about the film. As we journey with Fox, we realize what he is becoming. He is no longer in control of his destiny. He has sold his soul to the devil in order to feel superficially happy. It is a morality tale that can speak to the likes of everyone. How much is too much? Is financial success the true meaning of happiness? Gekko is happy but he never truly lives in this film. He lives for the money but for nothing else. Is this the symbol of what life should be? Only you, the individual, can decide for yourself.


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1987 Movie Review: WITHNAIL AND I, 1987

Movie Reviews

Directed By Bruce Robinson

Starring Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths, Ralph Brown
Review by Christopher Upton


Two unemployed actors tire of their impoverished surroundings in London and head off to a cottage in the countryside for a weekend of heavy drinking, drug abuse and fresh air. However uninhabitable conditions and a home invading uncle with deviant intentions quickly destroy their plans. Based on the life of the director Bruce Robinson.


The art world is full of people completely convinced the only reason they aren’t famous is because of some horrifying conspiracy, Withnail is such a person. Bruce Robinson based the character on someone he shared a house with in the Sixties, and the film is a mostly autobiographical account of their time together. Withnail was notable for being the first acting job for Richard E. Grant, who captured the drunken spirit of the titular character impressively considering he is a teetotaller.

Trapped in the squalor of his London flat with his long suffering flatmate, the thespian in Withnail itches to get out as it struggles against his alcohol dependency and his, unfortunately all too obvious, lack of talent. Living from week to week, surviving on benefit, the two actors feel the weight of busy London crushing down on them.

The two of them decide on a break and convince Withnail’s equally deluded actor of an uncle to lend them his cottage, a chance to reacquaint themselves with nature in order to rejuvenate and come back fully charged and better than ever. The problem is that what they mainly reacquaint themselves with is pills and enormous amounts of alcohol. In a sense it has a slapstick feel to it, the two of them trying to gather fuel, barter with a local farmer and fend off a bull are sort of a re-imagining of Laurel & Hardy- if they’d had access to a selection of fine wines and a courser grasp of the English language.

Then Uncle Monty turns up and the weekend takes on a much more threatening tone for Paul McGann’s Marwood (though he is never referred to by name in the film, he’s just ‘I’) who has managed to snare the affections of the rotund ex-thespian, much to his horror. The rest of the time at the cottage is spent desperately avoiding flimsily disguised advances and, at the extreme end, avoiding a buggering. Try as they might, they never managed to tackle that storyline in those old silent shorts. Richard Griffiths manages to inject a feeling of deviant menace into every flirting gesture or comment he makes to Marwood, every word is so lascivious and over acted; also a great reference to why the character of Monty never captured his much desired fame.

Over the course of the weekend the two friends start to pull further and further apart, possibly because of Withnail offering up Marwood in exchange for the cottage, and what starts off as a vacation quickly becomes a goodbye note to their friendship. There’s a definite sadness in the way that Withnail is outgrown. You can tell that director, Bruce Robinson, had a real affection for his friend and Paul McGann manages to convey both frustration and adulation towards Withnail effectively.

Clearly, both characters have a similar problem and their chemical dependencies are more than likely what is holding them back. The thing that separates them, and what allows Marwood to move on, is his recognition of his situation. Withnail is stuck within a trap he created and is far too ingrained now to escape. The character is trapped as the world moves on around him, a sign of the times for many towards the end of the decade.



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1987 Movie Review: SPACEBALLS, 1987


Movie Reviews

Directed by Mel Brooks
Starring: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman, Daphne Zuniga
Review by Mark Engberg


Having squandered their own air supply, the inhabitants of Planet Spaceball kidnap a wealthy princess to rob her planet of its precious resources.



“Everybody got that?” Dark Helmet asks the audience after his chief-in-command Colonel Sandurz delivers the plot exposition to his fellow villains.

This late 80’s parody of science-fiction fanfare may have been tardy in satirizing the “Star Wars” empire that George Lucas built a decade earlier. In describing his prime target in making “Spaceballs”, Mel Brooks calls the sci-fi epic “the final frontier. It is the last genre I can destroy. So I am destroying it.”

Additionally, he has categorized this entry as “half wit, half physical, half disgusting, and sometimes beautiful. It’s my appreciation of the human event.”

While some critics have challenged Mr. Brooks’ timeliness in the sci-fi parody, this film has enjoyed a cult appreciation in terms of its clever writing and enjoyable characters. Another factor to appreciate: Apogee, Inc accomplished the special effects in this comedy in the dwindling days of pre-digital CGI. Like the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Agogee’s special effects team had to construct models with computerized motion control systems to give the flying Winnebago and endless Spaceball One the illusions of movement.

During these contemporary days of special effects design where anything and everything can be done with digital enhancement, it is refreshing to watch a master like Mel Brooks carve genuine comedy out of handcrafted science fiction.

Even though “Spaceballs” features lasers, spaceships, and alien make-up galore, Brooks never steps too far away from his fan base in delivering the pratfalls and one-liners that made the man a comic icon. He even gets a guy in a bear suit to get a cheap laugh in the third act.

The movie begins with a “Star Wars” scroll giving the audience a brief history of the Spaceballs universe. Under the hilarious leadership of President Skroob (Mel Brooks, hmm, I just realized the name is an anagram) the citizens of Planet Spaceball are forced to invade new worlds in order to steal their air supply.

Mimicking “Star Wars” to the last detail, Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) and Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) kidnap Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) in an effort to blackmail her father, King Roland (Brooks all-star for father figures, Dick Van Patten).

This is where Bill Pullman and John Candy come in, as Captain Lone Starr and his sidekick Barf, an allusion to Chewbacca in that he is half-man, half-dog. Candy is hysterical in his performance of the mawg, but the real winners of this role are the operators of Barf’s mechanical canine-like ears. Every time Barf appears to listen, his auto-receptive ears perk up like antennae. The effect is comic gold.

Like Han Solo, the character of Lone Starr is motivated by money. With perfect deadpan, Pullman says, “Barf, we’re not doing this for the spacebucks. We’re doing it for a shitload of spacebucks!”

The reason for the greed is that Lone Starr has a heavy debt to pay Pizza the Hut (voiced by the recently departed Dom DeLuise). And Pullman plays the character of Lone Starr with a humorous yet touching sentiment that would have made Harrison Ford proud. With a note of sadness, Lone Starr tells Vespa he hails from the Ford Galaxy. Those who do not remember the Ford Galxie 500 have come to assume that this joke is a reference to the actor who played Han Solo.

But there is more than enough of “Star Wars” reference to go around. Brooks even uses the famous Wilhelm scream as one of his Spaceball troops is shot in the ass by incoming laser fire.As a matter of fact, keep an eagle eye out for the Millennium Falcon parked next to Lone Starr’s Winnebago at the interstellar gas station.

This is not to say that George Lucas’ beloved saga of “Star Wars” is the sole target of Mr. Brooks’ parodying lightsabre. In “Spaceballs”, he references “The Wizard of Oz”, “Star Trek”, “Alien”, and even “Planet of the Apes”. Keep a sharp ear ready for that last one. That is the voice of Michael York playing the second ape on horseback.

Brooks definitely goes above and beyond his traditional self-reflective voice in this film. In ways like never before, the writer/director/producer/star lists his former Hollywood achievements as videotapes stored upon a futuristic spaceship.

“Instant cassettes,” says Col. Sandurz. “They’re out in stores before the movie is finished.”

In one of my favorite comedic sequences of all time, the villainous Spaceballs fast-forward through their own movie in order to discover the location of the good guys. After which, Dark Helmet and Sandurz engage in an Abbott and Costello routine of existential misunderstanding.

And the self-reflective filmmaking joke continues throughout the movie. Before teaching Lone Starr about the powers of the Schwartz, Yogurt (also played by Mr. Brooks) explains his profession upon his lonely planet.

“Merchandising,” says Yogurt. “Where the real money from the movie is made.” Yogurt then goes on to sell the audience item after item of Spaceballs merchandise, all of which is a joke. In fact, Mr. Lucas allowed Brooks to make “Spaceballs” on the condition that there would be no merchandising for this movie. This would, of course, account for the spotty nature of the “merchandise”. Notice that “Spaceballs: The Coloring Book” is nothing more than a Transformers illustration book (Twenty years before Michael Bay began ruining my beloved robotic heroes himself!)

There are many other individual items of “Spaceballs” to enjoy for the pure sake of silliness. John Candy wins the award for the best use of the middle finger (beating out Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix” and Jennifer Aniston in “Office Space”) after Lone Starr and Barf park the Winnebago in the Spaceball penal territory.

I am also a big fan of the great Stephen Tobolowsky’s short yet pleasing scene as an effeminate Captain of the Guards. He only has a couple of lines, but there is just something about his delivery that makes his character as memorable as Barf.

“Spectacular stunt, my friends, but all for not . . .” he lectures to his captives before realizing they are nothing more than stunt doubles.

The scene when Dark Helmet is caught playing with the Spaceballs action figures is also one of my favorite reactions in filmed comedy. According to cinema trivia, Moranis performed this scene impromptu after Brooks suddenly conjured up the premise on set. How they got the action figure so quickly is anyone’s guess.

And let’s not forget Joan Rivers as the voice of Dot Matrix, Princess Vespa’s personal assistant droid. Ironic, though, that the Joan Rivers of today currently resembles the physical appearance of the golden android.

A subtle shout is also made to fans of literary essays. When Spaceball One is revealed to be a gigantic transformer about to engage in “metamorphosis”, Dark Helmet prompts his officer: “Ready, Kafka?” Think about that one.

Final thought: Does the alien that bursts out of John Hurt’s stomach play a song that seems familiar to all who watched those classic Looney Tunes cartoons? It should. The song and top hat dance number is homage to “One Froggy Evening”. You know, the one where the frog grabs a cane and dances to “The Michigan Rag.”

SPACEBALLS, 1987.jpg

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1987 Movie Review: ROBOCOP, 1987


Robocop (1987)
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Classic Movie Review
Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith
by Mike Peters


After being murdered by a ruthless gang of criminals, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is resurrected as a crime-fighting cyborg named ‘Robocop’.


Albert Einstein once said that: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. It is a very true fact indeed that technology has become an unstoppable entity. It is ever-growing and constantly on the move. It has strived to make our lives easier but has managed to gain the reputation as a slave master. We, as society, have become enslaved to the very idea of technology. It has taken us over and has rendered us vulnerable to its’ utopian ideals. Some of have said that it has stripped us of what many hold dear to them; our humanity.

Robocop is a film that does much more than entertain. It strives to understand the relationship man has with technology/machine. The fact that Robocop is a man controlled by technology is a statement unto itself. Even the title of the film is a hybrid of two opposing factors; man and machine. After being systematically slaughtered, it is only through the power of technology that Murphy is allowed to live once again. However, as a result, technology has rendered him a thoughtless and emotional free being. He is mundane and computer like in his speech and his suit is highly symbolic of the cold/sterile and colorless world that technology represents.

The film, on the surface, is about his role as a crime fighter, striving to uphold the law no matter the cost. On a much deeper level however, the film is about his fight against the technology that now controls his body. Throughout the course of the film, Robocop attempts to retrieve some evidence of his once prevalent humanity. When he first became Robocop, all his memories and emotional content were erased, thus making him an invalid without the proper guidance of human beings. It is only through a relapse and his quest to regain his old self that the audience begins to realize that man cannot always control technology. It now has the ability to control us.

Robocop soon begins to act irrationally as he begins to have dreams, memories and thoughts (He is now beginning to retrieve some of the individual characteristics that made him human in the first place). The scientists governing him have no idea what has happened as they are no longer able to control him. In one telling scene near the end of the film, Robocop removes his mask and fights without it, revealing the face of Murphy. It is a very shocking sight since Murphy’s human face is fused with the mechanical properties of a machine. The very fact that he begins to speak, think and feel as a human once again during this sequence represents his quest to separate himself from the machine that is now in control of him.

Paul Verhoeven, in his second American film, presents an idea that technology can be understood as a major threat to our very own civilization. In the film, many scenes, in which Robocop or Ed-209 (Robocop’s nemesis) appear, strongly depicts the failures that technology is capable of. In one particular scene, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is presenting the new and improved machine crime fighter, Ed-209. In a demonstration, one of the business men present, is told to point a gun at Ed. He does so and the machine tells him to drop it. The man relinquishes the weapon but the machine continues to warn him. In the background, scientists scramble to fix the problem but it is too late. Ed-209 opens fire and massacres the man to death with automatic weapons. It is an undeniable statement that technology which cannot be controlled by man is capable of eventually decimating mankind to the point of extinction.

The film is very strongly-opinionated. It not only critiques technology but, as well, society, politics and commercialism. With that being said, the film is also a solid form of entertainment. It is a must see for action buffs. The film is very violent and unrelenting in it’s’ brutality but it does manage to tell a cohesive story while simultaneously critiquing many things. The next time one watches this film however, try to understand how undermining it truly is. There is a lot more going on then mere action filled sequences. It is a highly subversive piece of work and manages to illicit many reactions as a result.

*Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons. ~R. Buckminster Fuller


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1987 Movie Review: RAISING ARIZONA, 1987

Movie Reviews

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter
Review by Andrew Rowe


When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family’s quintupelets, their lives get more complicated than they anticipated.


10 minutes, that’s how long Raising Arizona rolls until the title card hits. If this sounds odd it is, but so is everything else about the Coen Brothers’ second film. As they’ve often done throughout their career, the brothers normally follow-up a serious film with a comedy. Fargo led to The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men led to Burn After Reading. With Raising Arizona the brothers had just come from the neo-noir Blood Simple, their first ever film. Where as that film dealt with deception and murder in the shadows of Texas, Raising Arizona basks in the sun with non-stop slapstick, silly fun.

Nicholas Cage stars as Hi, or H.I. if you’re talking to his friends. He’s a petty criminal who has a thing for robbing convenience stores with ammo-less guns. Because he doesn’t use armed weapons his jail sentences are always small in length, which allows for multiple visits. During these multiple visits he meets Ed, a policewoman played by Holly Hunter. Ed’s fiance leaves her, which opens up the door for Hi to reform and win her heart. This is when the Raising Arizona title card hits.

The unlikely couple moves into a trailer in the desert and realize they need something more in their life because they have too much love to give. After multiple attempts of conception, they learn that Ed is unable to bare children and due to Hi’s criminal record, unable to adopt. Devastated, hope arrives in the form of the ‘Arizona Quints’, 5 boys that are born to a locally famous unpainted furniture storeowner, Nathan Arizona.

Hi and Ed decide that abducting one of the boys for themselves is a good idea and do so. After welcoming the child into their home, Hi and Ed are greeted by two of Hi’s friends from prison, Gale and Evelle, John Goodman, and William Forsythe. The two inmates have broken out of prison because the institution no longer had anything to offer them. Against Ed’s wishes, the two fugitives stay at their home where they begin to influence Hi.

At this same time a heavily armed bounty hunter by the name of Leonard Smalls, “My friends call me Lenny… only I ain’t got no friends”, is on the hunt for the child. Blowing up bunny rabbits with grenades, Leonard is fear itself. Gale and Evelle eventually learn of the child’s actual identity and decide to turn him in for the reward money. Everyone collides on a strip in the middle of the desert highway that involves a bank robbery, gunfire, hand-to-hand combat, screeching tires, and a large explosion.

The script, written by the Coens possesses their trademark tongue-in-cheek dialogue as well as an explosive climax and slow burn denouement. No one writes stupid characters like the Coens do. These people that inhabit the film aren’t very bright, and it’s hard to believe anyone in the world could be of this level of intelligence, but the Coens draw you in, first making the world they live in real, then the characters, then the silly things they do. Besides the charming dialogue, there are so many ridiculous sight gags that you may not even catch them all the first time around.

Raising Arizona is arguably the craziest movie the Coen Brother’s have made in their three-decade career, and that’s saying a lot. The film acts as a live-action Saturday morning cartoon. Working for the second time with cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld who had shot their debut film Blood Simple, the visuals on screen are closer to a Dr. Seuss book than any of the current film adaptations. Using his trademark wide angles, everything remains in focus allowing the viewer to fully appreciate the immaculate Art Direction. The camera also moves with the action at the right time giving certain scenes a feeling that the camera is a character in the film, namely a chase scene through a house, and a fistfight between two characters.

The actors do a tremendous job of bringing these cartoon characters to life. John Goodman who would go on to work with the Coens several more times is perfect as Gale, the harder of the two brothers and number one bad influence on Hi. Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter have great comedic chemistry and give weight to characters that otherwise wouldn’t have much soul. Hi may just be a dummy, but he’s a dummy with a large heart that wants nothing more than for his Ed to be happy. He is like Bugs Bunny mixed with Wilde Coyote, he’ll get away from Elmer Fudd only to celebrate and have an anvil fall on his head. Randall “Tex” Cobb is a towering inferno on wheels, and makes lighting a match look almost as cool as Clint Eastwood.

It’s of course the Coens that bring it all together. The characters all seem real in this colorful world they’ve created. The slapstick is done wonderfully and gives you a nostalgic feeling of when these Buster Keaton-style comedies were king. It’s just a really fun movie that’ll have you laughing and shaking your head in tandem. This film is also the Coen’s most family friendly; it is almost Disney-like in some aspects.

The film’s innocence is something rarely seen in today’s crop of comedies as well as in the Coen’s filmography. It doesn’t feature as dark of humor or the violence that comes with most Coen Brothers’ films, but here that’s a good thing. The film is a great little gem that shouldn’t be missed.

raising arizona

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1987 Movie Review: THE PRINCESS BRIDE, 1987

Movie Reviews

Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring: Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Andre The Giant, Billy Crystal, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn

Review by Virginia De Witt


A young boy is home sick from school, when his grandfather arrives and begins to read to him from a story book. The tale of Buttercup and Westley, who live in the faraway land of Florin, then unfolds. They fall in love but are separated, and Buttercup believes Westley has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Years later, Buttercup, now betrothed to the villainous Prince Humperdinck, is kidnapped on the eve of her wedding. A mysterious man in black appears to do battle with the kidnappers and save Buttercup. Westley eventually reveals himself to Buttercup as the man in black, who has survived his encounter with the Dread Pirate Roberts, and together they set off to escape Humperdinck and his men, only to be caught and separated again. The Princess Bride, Buttercup and her true love, Westley, eventually endure many tests and trials before their ultimate and inevitable reunion.


This adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel of the same name, is as heavily indebted to the history of the movies as it is to the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, which its title and its core story are meant to evoke. William Goldman was a successful Hollywood screenwriter, e.g. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), when he wrote this children’s book and he, along with director, Rob Reiner, made it into a deeply affectionate tribute to the Saturday matinee idols of their youth, particularly to the swashbuckling films of Errol Flynn. It is a swiftly paced, beautifully shot and often funny adventure fantasy, that is aided greatly by its large cast, as well as Goldman’s imaginative writing.

The story itself is the proverbial roller coaster ride which never lags and features every familiar figure from the world of fairy tales, from giants to a wicked prince; a beautiful princess in waiting to a wizened old wizard. Goldman throws in a few inventions of his own along the way – in the Fire Swamp, for instance, where Buttercup and Westley hide from their pursuers, they must battle Rodents of Unusual Size, monsters which are fun to watch and which conjure up memories of cheap horror flicks. The film is memorably shot by Adrian Biddle who successfully evokes a technicolor story book landscape. Florin is a world unto itself of gauzy meadows and moonlit waters, and which features Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher standing in for the Cliffs of Insanity where the Man In Black first does battle with the three marauders who have kidnapped Buttercup.

The key to the film’s success, however, is its cast, which Rob Reiner has directed with a sure hand. This is especially true in the comedic interludes, which dominate the film except for the love story between Westley and Buttercup. Their story is always presented in iconic fairy tale terms, as when Westley earnestly declares to Buttercup on his return from his encounter with the Dread Pirate – “Death cannot stop true love. It can only delay it for awhile.” Cary Elwes as Westley, seems cast as much for his resemblance to the young Errol Flynn as for his acting ability, but he achieves the requisite romantic chemistry with Robin Wright’s Buttercup. She has a lovely natural honesty in the part that makes even the most shopworn of romantic cliches seem fresh.

Every other situation is played for laughs and Reiner is assisted by a group of wonderful comic actors. As a result, he manages to strike a winning balance between humor and romance. William Shawn as Vizzini, one of Buttercup’s inept kidnappers, is a scrappy little gnome of a bad guy, constantly in everyone’s face, arguing and complaining. Mandy Patinkin as Montoya, one of Vizzini’s partners in crime, who is seeking revenge for his father’s death, is like a figure out of comic opera, sporting a campy accent and dueling his way through the film. Chris Sarandon as the wicked Prince Humperdinck and Christopher Guest as Count Rugen, his equally repugnant co-conspirator, are perfect comic villains, always more silly than scary. Billy Crystal and Carol Kane have a wonderful cameo appearance at the climax of the film as Miracle Max and his wife, Valerie, an ancient bickering couple who live in a tree but kvetch like Borscht Belt comedians.

In the framing story, Peter Falk as the grandfather and Fred Savage as his grandson have a gently funny rapport. The intermittent return to them throughout the telling of Buttercup’s story is not intrusive as it might have been, as Reiner sets an appropriately light tone for this material. We’re never really in doubt about the outcome of the tale and therefore don’t resent a bit of meandering in its telling.

“The Princess Bride” is a re-imagining of the fairy tale, from the point of view of a writer and director saturated in the equally powerful world of classic adventure movies. Together, William Goldman and Rob Reiner, create a magical combination of fantasy, romance, comedy and action that has not dated in the least.


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1987 Movie Review: PREDATOR, 1987

Movie Reviews

Directed by: John Tiernan

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura
Review by Jarred Thomas


Dutch and a small group of commandos and sent by the CIA to a Central American Jungle, to rescue capture airmen from Guerillas. But it’s not the armed terrorists which are the problem. Something hidden in the jungle, something invisible to the naked eye, something not of this earth is the problem. As Dutch and his men had back to transport, they are slowly targeted one by one.


Y One of the best action movies of the 80’s and quite honestly of all times, Predator introduced us to an iconic monster with a penchant for hunting and killing its opponents for sport. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most popular action stars and at the prime of his career he was in action films where for the most part he dominated his enemies with explosive, guns, cars, and fist fighting, but now Arnold meets his match in the form of an alien being set out to kill him and his elite military friends.

Predator is an excellent action movie with a solid supporting cast dishing on campy one liners and B movie dialogue. But none of that really mattered. Audiences went to see someone get their head blown off, not to listen to philosophical Shakespearian talk. John Tiernan has done some engaging movies in the past and here he truly delivers with Arnold leading the cast.

An elite military force led by Dutch (Schwarzenegger) is being hunted down by some unknown predator who not only kills his prey but removes their skulls as a trophy. The Predator is equipped with vast amount of highly advanced weaponry that puts the military to shame and outmatched. Throughout the majority of the film the Predator remains cloaked in a disguise that allows him to blend into the background.

One by one he takes out the soldiers, one death more brutal than the last finally until finally its Arnold’s turn to take a crack at the superior warrior. What’s interesting about this film is that in only a short amount of time, the director is able to hint at a possible history for the Predator without having to go into specifics.

Anna, a prisoner of Dutch’s elite team, tells about past stories in which the jungle supposedly came to life and started killing then skinning its victims. It’s possible, or at least alluded to, that it was another Predator at a different time. While running from the creature, Dutch notices that the killer is only killing those who are armed, as if for sport.

The action scenes in particular are well handled. Most of it however consists of mowing down the jungle with their machine guns, shooting at an object they can’t see or hear. After the death of one of his comrades, Duke unleashes his rage on the jungle believing that the killer is present. It’s a great scene despite being over the top.

Clearly the director and actors are having with the film, and it shows making the viewing experience even more enjoyable. Predator is one of the best action films alongside Terminator, Terminator 2 and Total Recall, all of which star Arnold. If you’re looking for a good time with no insightful dialogue or in depth study on character relationships, just pure action with a solid cast, then Predator is the one you’re looking for.


PREDATOR, 1987.jpg

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1987 Movie Review: OVERBOARD, 1987

Movie Reviews

Directed by Garry Marshall

Starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Herrmann, Katherine Helmond, Roddy McDowall

Review by Russell Hill


Rich bitch Joanna hires country carpenter Dean to build a closet on her yacht. When the two don’t see eye-to-eye, Dean is left unpaid while Joanna sets sail. The following day, Joanna is fished out of the sea, after falling overboard, suffering from amnesia. Dean sees a neat way to regain the money she owes him… he tells her she’s his wife; that way Dean gets a free housekeeper and mother for his four kids.


First and foremost, I am not a huge fan of chick flicks. Heck I would even go as far to say that I despise the vast majority of these films. “Bridget Jones Diary” can stay far away from me but, over the years, I have come to like the odd film which is normally targeted at this market. I didn’t even know “Notting Hill” was one of these films, and thought “While You Were Sleeping” was a classic. “Overboard” was perhaps the first film I saw which could be seen as a chick flick that I actually enjoyed, with the reasons for this being numerous and heart felt.

Joanna Stayton (Hawn) is your typical yuppie who treats those who earn less than $1 million as muck. Stuck where to put her 2,000 or so pairs of shoes on her luxury cruise liner that she owns with husband Grant (Edward Hermann) she hires a handyman called Dean Proffitt (Russell) to build her a wardrobe. However, being the nasty person she is, Joanna takes a disliking to Dean and his uncouth manners and decides to push him off the boat and, literally, into the water.

Angry at what has just happened, Dean switches on the television at a local bar the next day to learn that during the night Joanna had been found off the coast by lifeguards with no Grant in sight and her memory gone. Dean sees an opportunity to get back the money he is owed by turning up by Joanna’s bedside and pretending to be her husband and saying that Joanna is not her real name, but is in fact Annie. The authorities fall for this as does Joanna, and is taken back to Dean’s ramshackle house in the country where she is tricked into looking after him and “their” four children who are about as clean as the house itself. Will Joanna ever leave? Or will she regain her memory and return to the life she once had?

On a personal level, this was the film which first exposed me to the music of Elvis Presley as one of the best scenes of the movie uses “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. But other than that, this movie does well on two points.

First, it makes you laugh. The genuine warmth between Hawn and Russell is touching and a relationship you can believe in. The interaction between the two is moving, and is blindingly obvious to see why they have been together in real life for so long. Hawn has always been a much underrated comic actress. Her leading role in the 1980 movie “Private Benjamin” was great, and her portrayal of spoiled Joanna was genius casting. Her naïve transformation from rags to riches is very amusing indeed, and it shows what an improvement she does with the dilapidated house she is forced to inherit along with the four children who, at first, look as though they had been taken from Dickensian London.

Russell too does very well here. His shabby appearance at first makes him seem like a cruel and unkind character, but over the course of the movie that appearance is changed permanently when he discovers what a wonderful person Joanna/Annie is when you take away the pearls and diamonds. I always find Russell’s acting career to be a bit of an oddity. Is he cast in a movie simply because the women can then drool over him? Or, is he to be taken as a serious actor? Here, in the role of Dean, he seems to act in the middle of these as he does show an Adonis body shot or two but also demonstrates what a fine actor he really is.

I admit that not many heterosexual men will appreciate this movie due to its romantic inklings, but if you take this element away you have a great movie full of humour and excellent acting by all involved.

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OVERBOARD, 1987.jpg

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