Ghoulies (1985)

Starring Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan, Michael Des Barres, Jack Nance, Peter Risch, Tamara de Treaux, Scott Thomson

Directed by Luca Bercovici

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


Ghoulies… where do I begin? Uncle Jasper suggested that I continue in the 1980s “Little Monster” horror genre with this and I willingly agreed. I thought I was doomed. How can a movie with a poster of a Ghoulie (would that be Ghouly?) popping up out of a toilet with the tagline of “They’ll get you in the end!” possibly be any good? I am happy to report that the film is as awful as I suspected, but it is equally hilarious. This is by far one of my favorite B-horror comedies. Ghoulies is pure delinquent fun of the highest order.

This is an ’80s movie through and through, and lest you forget, it contains many things only present in films of this decade. Things such as a house party where someone starts breakdancing, dudes wearing sweater vests, and a guy looking over his sunglasses at stuff. It brings me back to my youth when the Big League Chew was plentiful and absolutely no one was cooler or more badass than Mr. T. Anyway, Ghoulies! The title is a bit of a misdirection as the Ghoulies are present, but not the main focus of the film. They aren’t even the main villain, but they are definitely the main source of enjoyment. This works to the film’s advantage because it takes on a different formula than the tired, typical horror movie structure where the Ghoulies might chase people around and kill them one-by-one. Instead, we are treated to a warlock summoning Ghoulies to hang out with him and laugh at the camera. I’m getting ahead of myself again though.

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A Fork in the Road (2009)

Starring Jaime King, Josh Cooke, Missi Pyle, Daniel Roebuck, Silas Weir Mitchell, Rick Overton, William Russ

Directed by Jim Kouf

Expectations: Low. The trailer looked awful, but I gave it a shot.


I took a chance on this movie. I watched the trailer for it a long time ago, probably a year back, and thought it looked horrible. It was obviously shot on video and from what I remember of the trailer there were a lot of people yelling at each other. I generally would have written this movie off immediately as a Coen Bros. rip-off but when I saw it on Netflix Instant and I was in a forgiving mood, I decided to give it a go and put all of my preconceived notions aside. Surprisingly, I’m not sorry that I did.

A young child hangs out of a car window, playing with a fork. He drops said fork and where does it land? Well, dear readers, it lands in the road. Along comes a police cruiser transporting the convict Will Carson. It hits the fork in the road, flips and Will makes his escape. He hides out in a barn and notices some suspicious behavior at the house across the way. A woman drags a man’s body out of the house and struggles to put him into the trunk of a car. From here, as you can probably guess, hijinks ensue.

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Mini-Review: Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon (1982)

Fela Kuti: Music is the Weapon [Musique au poing] (1982)

Starring Fela Kuti

Directed by Jean-Jacques Flori & Stéphane Tchalgadjieff

Expectations: Very High. I love Fela Kuti.


Fela Kuti is one of my favorite musical artists. He created the Afrobeat genre and sound together with his band the Africa ’70 (and later the Egypt ’80). He seems to have entered more of the mainstream consciousness with the recent success of the Broadway musical Fela!, but the real heart of his music lies in Nigeria and the political struggles he faced there.

This film features a couple of live performances from Fela and the band, none of them full songs, but enough to allow you to get a sense of his personal style on-stage. The film also covers a history of Fela and his music, covering his trip to America where he met Black Panthers who inspired him to become more political in his own country. The problem is, if you know much of anything about Fela and his music, this documentary doesn’t offer much that you haven’t already heard. It’s not that big of a problem though, as any Fela fan will enjoy the live performances and the extensive interviews with Fela himself.

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Expectations: High. I adore Kubrick and I’d only seen this once before.


Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite directors, but this film has always been something of an enigma to me. I only saw it once, about 10 years ago or so, and at the time I enjoyed it but I just didn’t think it was as amazing as everyone else seemed to think it was. It had been built up as one of the great screen comedies, but for me it didn’t deliver at that level. I got the satire, but it’s more of a slight smile throughout kind of movie, instead of a raucous laughter kind of movie. I was really into Billy Wilder comedies at the time so I guess subconsciously I went in expecting something in that vein. This time around, obviously, I knew what I was getting myself into. That helped quite a bit and my second viewing of Dr. Strangelove was a much more pleasant experience.

The plot follows three separate but connected stories. There’s the story of Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) who orders his planes to commence “Wing Attack Plan R.” There’s also the story of the B-52 Bomber crew on their run towards their target inside Communist Russia. Finally, we have the War Room, where the President and many top advisors, including Gen. Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) argue the fate of the world. The plots are skillfully intertwined and perfectly play off of one another. Sterling Hayden is fantastic and reminds me a lot of Clint Eastwood in this cigar-chompin’ role. I’ve always felt that he is one of the great actors that doesn’t get enough credit these days and his performance in Dr. Strangelove is one of his best.

Continue reading Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) →

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Starring Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Avery Schreiber, Dave Chappelle, Tracey Ullman

Directed by Mel Brooks

Expectations: Moderate. I love Mel Brooks but his later period stuff generally leaves me a bit wanting.


I wanted to like this movie, I really did. I decided to watch it because I have no interest in the new Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe version, but I thought it might be fun to get on the Robin Hood train anyway. At a base level I did like it, but that just isn’t enough these days. I didn’t expect this to be anything great, but my past experience with Mel Brooks left open the door of hope and I took the plunge.

If you’ve seen any other filmed version of Robin Hood you know the basic story here. Specifically, if you’ve seen Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves you know pretty much the exact story. I happen to have seen that film dozens of times while I was growing up so I know it well. I recently re-watched it about a year ago, so it’s still fresh in my mind. That film didn’t hold up very well, and neither does the parody version. There’s definitely some great jokes here, but for every one of those, there’s five okay jokes to go with it. You’re left with a film that starts out pretty good, but never rises above the source material.

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Shaolin Intruders (1983)

Shaolin Intruders [三闯少林] (1983)
AKA Battle for Shaolin

Starring Yee Tung-Sing (Derek Yee), Jason Pai Piao, Liu Yu-Po, Phillip Ko, Chan Shen, Ku Feng, Lee Hoi Sang

Directed by Tang Chia

Expectations: High. Love Shaw Bros. films and this came highly recommended.


I watched this movie because my friend and colleague, Uncle Jasper, recommended this as a Shaw Brothers movie that featured some of the best fight choreography he had ever seen. As a huge fan of such things, I had to see for myself what he spoke of. Uncle Jasper was not pulling a fast one. This is hands-down, one of the best Shaw Brothers movies I’ve ever seen.

Directed by Tang Chia, longtime fight choreographer at Shaw Bros., the film exudes kung-fu energy. The opening titles run over a group of Shaolin monks going through their training exercises. There is a fight scene towards the end of the opening credits where all the monks use wooden benches as their weapons. It was so well choreographed and exciting to watch, a fantastic fight sequence, and we’re still in the opening credits! Director Tang Chia was fight choreographer on countless other Shaw pictures. His credits list goes on for days, culminating in his three directorial efforts: Shaolin Prince, Shaolin Intruders, and Opium and the Kung-Fu Master. If the other two are anything close to the awesomeness that is Shaolin Intruders, then they are also among the best the Shaw Studio has to offer.

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Broken Embraces (2009)

Broken Embraces [Los abrazos rotos] (2009)

Starring Penélope Cruz, Blanca Portillo, Lluís Homar, Lola Dueñas, Ángela Molina, Rossy de Palma

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Expectations: Very high.


Pedro Almodovar is quickly becoming one of my favorite writer/directors. This is the third film I’ve seen from him and he continues to amaze me. There is a power in his words and images that is hard to find in modern cinema. The story of Broken Embraces deals primarily with a retired film director (Lluís Homar) who has gone blind. The film also flashes back 14 years to the character of Lena (Penelope Cruz), a secretary for a wealthy businessman who aspires to be an actress. The film unfolds at a slow but interesting pace, gradually intertwining the two stories with skill.

The acting all around is excellent with Penelope Cruz and Lluís Homar leading the charge. The characters they play feel like real people, full of emotions and desire. The film jumps around in time a lot, but thanks to the wonderful performances this is never a problem. The acting reflects the subtle passage of time and you can quickly grasp where the character is at the current moment in relation to what you know of the character prior. This kind of free time structure can so easily work against a film, but Almodovar plays it with skill and it helps him tell a more interesting story.

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