Mini-Review: Sid and Nancy (1986)

Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman, Debby Bishop, Andrew Schofield

Directed by Alex Cox

Expectations: Low.


I wasn’t expecting much going into this. I liked the film, but I found it a bit on the boring side. Gary Oldman is fantastic as Sid Vicious, the definite star of the show. That’s also part of the problem I had with the film though, as he outshines nearly every other actor in it. He seems to embody not just Vicious but the punk ethos itself, while the majority of the rest of the cast looks like they’re playing dress-up at punk rock school. I’m probably being a bit biased here, but I couldn’t get past it while watching the film. Chloe Webb is pretty good as Nancy but she does get pretty annoying. I suppose that was part of the point though, so I can’t complain too much.

The film showcases the relationship of Sid and Nancy and seeks to give Sex Pistol fans an insight into their world. I’m just okay with the Pistols (personally I’m much more into The Clash), and I was okay never knowing anything about them. Obviously that doesn’t make me the target audience here, but I still liked it well enough thanks to the wonderful Oldman performance. Many people involved with the Pistols, including Johnny Rotten, have spoken at length about how inaccurate the film is, that no one should watch it, etc. I don’t have a clue what is true or not, but regardless, it tells a believable version of the tale. For me the film was on the borderline of okay and good, I kept jumping back and forth between 2 and 2 1/2 stars, but ultimately I decided that as the days moved on after watching this, the images in my head did not. Watch it if you enjoy Gary Oldman and want to see his breakout performance. It was shot by Roger Deakins too, so it looks pretty nice.

As a side note to all the Oldman fans: I’d also recommend Stephen Frear’s Prick Up Your Ears. It’s a very good film from the same time frame featuring a great Oldman performance and also starring Alfred Molina.

Coincidentally, my colleague Dan the Man has also recently watched this one and has got some thoughts up. Go check out his take on it!

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.

Continue reading Ghoulies (1985) →

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.

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

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.

Continue reading Shaolin Intruders (1983) →

Critters (1986)

Starring Scott Grimes, Dee Wallace-Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Don Keith Opper, Billy Green Bush, Terrence Mann, Ethan Phillips, Billy Zane

Directed by Stephen Herek

Expectations: Fairly high. I’d wanted to see this since I was a little kid.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


I’ve seen parts of this over the years but had never seen it all the way through. I gave it a go, but this is definitely one that would be better with a bunch of friends. It’s a horror comedy and my sights were set a bit more towards gore-fest. The key flaw to my logic though is that I never bothered to notice that this was PG-13. That would have tempered my expectations quite a bit, instead of building them up over the last couple of decades.

Basically, the Critters (or Crites, if you want to get technical) make a daring escape from a prison asteroid, stealing a spaceship. A couple of shapeshifting bounty hunters head off in pursuit. The Crites land on Earth, rural Kansas to be exact. It’s been a long flight and their little Critter bellies are rumbling. From here it devolves into a slight clone of Hitchcock’s The Birds, if the birds were prison-breaking, meat-chomping little furballs from space. I loved the opening of the movie, even if it does focus on the family a little too much. As the film dragged on, my bloodlust raged. “When will the Crites start chomping the innocents?” I thought.

Continue reading Critters (1986) →

The Neverending Story (1984)

Starring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Thomas Hill

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

Expectations: High, this was one of my movies growing up.


Some movies should stay in your childhood. Today I found out that The Neverending Story is firmly in that category. I still enjoyed it, it just didn’t have the same power that it used to. The main character, a book-loving boy who reads The Neverending Story, reminds me of myself at that age so it’s obvious why I connected to it and enjoyed it back then. Unfortunately, viewing the film as an adult, there just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

Bastian runs away from some school bullies and finds refuge in an old, dusty bookstore. He acquires a copy of The Neverending Story from the man there and proceeds to his school’s attic to read the book. Reading is much more fun than a math test! He finds himself absorbed in the world of Fantasia and the quest of Atreyu to save the dying princess. For the most part, the film still holds up visually. The rock biter still looks fantastic and was still able to get an emotional response from me during his dialogue about not being able to save his friends. I was always touched by that moment and it’s still very powerful. The sphinx gate scene remains very exciting as well.

Continue reading The Neverending Story (1984) →

Mini-Review: Seasons (1987)

Narrated by William Shatner

Directed by Ben Shedd


An IMAX movie on the small screen is always going to be a downgrade, but sometimes the film is good enough to transcend the transition and remain entertaining. Seasons is one such film. It features beautiful nature sequences intermixed with human activities during each season. There’s also some killer vector graphics of the Sun and the Earth. You can’t go wrong with vector graphics in my opinion and these are top-notch. It also features a few sequences of time-lapse photography. William Shatner’s narration is perfect and matches the images well. The script might be a little over-the-top but who better to handle overly serious dialogue than Shatner? Also, the film only runs thirty minutes so it makes for a quick viewing.

All of these elements add up to a film that plays out similar to a narrated version of Koyaanisqatsi. Can’t say that I learned anything, but I was definitely entertained.

Check it out if you like both Shatner and the seasons, as I’ve heard a lot of negative feedback from people who don’t like Shatner.

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