Street of No Return (1989)

streetofnoreturn_8Starring Keith Carradine, Valentina Vargas, Bill Duke, Andréa Ferréol, Bernard Fresson, Marc de Jonge, Rebecca Potok, Jacques Martial, Sérgio Godinho, António Rosário, Dominique Hulin, Gordon Heath, Joe Abdo

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Low.

twostar


Street of No Return is Sam Fuller’s final theatrical film, but unfortunately, in terms of quality, it’s closer to Thieves After Dark than his previous work. But where Thieves After Dark is just plain bad, there are shreds of potential throughout Street of No Return. The story itself isn’t half bad, but what sinks the film from being the exciting, pulpy revenge story that it’s trying to be is that it’s edited like an arthouse film. In A Third Face, Sam Fuller relates that after he turned in the finished film to his producer, Jacques Bral, Bral then spent the next year completely re-editing the film however he saw fit. Who’s to say how Fuller’s cut would’ve differed, but in its released state it’s fair to say that Street of No Return is something of a shambles. Perhaps this has something to do with there being 13 credited people for editing, along with Sam Fuller as “Editing Supervisor.” Sheesh!

I don’t mind a film that obscures its story, allowing it to slowly unfold over the course of the film, but for a film like this with such a straightforward story it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The film opens with an incredibly striking shot of a man getting struck in the face with a hammer, the first hit in a massive race riot on the city streets. Across the way, a wild-haired homeless drunk (Keith Carradine) stares at the liquor store on the other side of the riot. His desire for hooch is strong, but he’s not stupid. He waits until everyone’s cleared out.

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Stephen reviews: Cybernetics Guardian (1989)

cyberneticsguardian_1Cybernetics Guardian [聖獣機サイガード Seijuki Cyguard (Holy Beast Cyguard)] (1989)

Starring Takeshi Kusao, Hiromi Tsuru, Hirotaka Suzukoi, Kiyoshi Kawakubo, Shozo Iizuka, Tessho Genda, Wakyo Sogabe, Yusaku Okura

Directed by Koichi Ohata


This is just a short little action romp. It’s not a very special anime, but then it isn’t trying to be one. It has a very B-movie feel to it. The creators basically threw a bunch of cool stuff into a pot and mixed it up hoping for something awesome. The story is pretty minimal, but still manages to be convoluted thanks to all the random ideas they used.

A robot test pilot named John gets his big trial run sabotaged by Adler, a jealous scientist who wants his own projects to succeed instead. Then some random demon worshipers show up and kidnap John. They do some bizarre black magic science experiment and turn John into the robot avatar of their evil god. Demon John goes on a rampage across town, which only convinces Adler to hate the guy even more. Meanwhile, John’s hot scientist girlfriend tries to fix everything, and the cops run around getting ripped apart by the monster.

The film operates solely on the premise that demons, giant robots, explosions, and hard rock are cool. The plot is nothing more than the mortar that holds those bricks together. It’s not really all that well put together either. Obviously the character development is pretty shallow, but the action scenes don’t have a lot of visceral impact to them either. The film gets by because the creators were right: giant demon robots blowing stuff up to a rock soundtrack is in fact pretty damn cool.

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Meet the Feebles (1989)

meet_the_feebles_poster_02Starring Danny Mulheron, Donna Akersten, Stuart Devenie, Mark Hadlow, Ross Jolly, Brian Sergent, Peter Vere-Jones, Mark Wright, Jay Snowfield, Doug Wren

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: Moderately high. I expect to like this more this time.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


Meet the Feebles is a film chock full of wild & crazy stuff to talk about, but the sheer amount of wild & crazy stuff is also what makes it so hard to find where to start. Meet the Feebles is a film out of deep, deep left field and it takes a certain type of soul to enjoy it. You’ve got to be pretty warped, and I’m actually pretty proud to say that I enjoy it more and more every time I see it. This is also the first film where Peter Jackson and special FX wizard Richard Taylor worked together, forging a collaborative bond that continues to this day on the Hobbit films. And speaking of The Hobbit, the guy that played the dwarf Dori, Mark Hadlow, was the voice of Heidi the Hippo, Wobert Robert and Barry the Bulldog all these years back!

But what is Meet the Feebles about? That’s a hard question to answer. Its plot is loose and episodic, telling the story of an entire performing company’s downfall as opposed to just focusing on a couple of its characters. There is something of a hero, and a couple of villains, but mostly it moves seamlessly and quickly through its characters to tell the overall story of the day’s rehearsal leading up to the live Feebles Variety Hour. Oh, and they’re all puppets except for the big characters which are played by people in suits.

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The Punisher (1989)

the_punisher_1989Starring Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbé, Kim Miyori, Bryan Marshall, Nancy Everhard, Barry Otto, Brian Rooney, Zoshka Mizak, Kenji Yamaki, Hirofumi Kanayama

Directed by Mark Goldblatt

Expectations: High.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


For the action movie fan, no decade delivers quite like the 1980s. Sometime in the ’90s, the fun withered away and died in a forgotten corner of Hollywood as filmmakers and audiences alike chose so-called realism over fun. But The Punisher is an exemplary ’80s action film, exhibiting everything the genre was well known for, and delivering nothing but fun throughout its entire runtime. It entertains consistently and completely, and when the credits rolled, a sense of testosterone-fueled accomplishment washed over me. I had made it out alive, through a sea of foul-mouthed mafiosos and a gauntlet of nameless foes with hidden knives, all without leaving my couch.

As you might expect, the story here is not the strong suit or the focus of the film. Frank Castle’s family was murdered by some asshole mobsters, so he took to the sewer to hone his skills. The past five years he’s racked up hundreds of kills, exacting his revenge his way, and making the city’s criminals’ lives miserable. Because this is a review, you also might expect me to cite why this threadbare story is the reason The Punisher is a failed movie, or some other such pretentious bullshit, but instead I offer the following hypothesis.

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Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)
AKA Piranha Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Jungle Heat

Starring Shannon Tweed, Bill Maher, Karen M. Waldron, Adrienne Barbeau, Brett Stimely, Barry Primus, Jim McKrell, Paul Ross, Vicky Varner, Alan David Gelman

Directed by J.F. Lawton (as J.D. Athens)

Expectations: Low, but I hope it lives up to the comedy of its name.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


With a name like Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, you pretty much know what you’re getting. The film delivers everything it promises except the death, but that’s ok because there’s always the ever-present threat just looming around the corner. What I didn’t expect was a satire of political and pop culture of the late ’80s, or a comedy remake of Apocalypse Now with elements of Indiana Jones and 2001 thrown in for good measure. It’s a wild concoction to be sure, and one that only a select crowd will be able to enjoy.

Feminism professor Shannon Tweed is recruited by a couple of Army men to venture into the uncharted avocado jungle that covers a good portion of California’s east side. Her mission is to find out what happened to Dr. Kurtz, a noted feminist author and thinker who was sent into the jungle to make contact with the Piranha tribe of cannibal women and stop them from killing and eating anyone who comes to pick an avocado. Why is this important, you ask? Well these days the avocado isn’t such a big deal, but in 1989 the world hinged on avocados, and with a shortage in America, the Soviet Union was quickly broadening the avocado gap.

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Batman (1989)

Starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter, Lee Wallace, William Hootkins

Directed by Tim Burton

Expectations: High. This was THE movie when I was a kid.


Like Alien, Tim Burton’s Batman is a film I saw a lot as a kid. I will be unable to truly critique it objectively, but I’ll do my best to make the review something more than an adult reminiscing about his faded childhood years. I haven’t seen this one in many years, as I’ve always been somewhat afraid to do so, fearing that its ability to completely enthrall me would be lost. This is definitely not the case, though, as Batman continues to be a solid piece of superhero cinema. This isn’t the gritty world of Christopher Nolan, nor is it the wholly comic style of Adam West’s era, instead it is something of a middle-ground between them both. It works like a charm, and still remains one of film’s best examples of the superhero genre. Superman may have kicked off the genre in earnest, but Batman took that shit to the next level. I was a tender 8-year-old boy when I walked into the local cinema to view Batman for the first time, and I emerged with a new outlook on the world. The comics that I loved so dearly were up on the big screen; it was a glorious thing to watch two great loves of mine join forces. Tim Burton’s Batman has its share of flaws and missed opportunities, but it was the perfect film of my youth.

Watching the film today, I instantly noticed what was so great — and refreshing — about Batman. Where every first film in a series nowadays spends most of its time devoted to the character’s origin story, Batman just jumps into Batman being Batman right from the first scene. As Vicki Vale becomes more interested in Batman and Bruce Wayne, she eventually explores his past and some of the moments that made Wayne become Batman are revealed. Burton doesn’t spend too much time on these; Batman’s origin is nothing more than another of the film’s running sub-plots to be explored in the down moments. If only another superhero movie would have the balls to do something like this. As I write this the newest Spider-Man film has just been released. We’ve had three Spider-Man movies over the course of the last 10 years or so, not to mention 50 years of comics and general mainstream awareness of the character. But yet we are still faced with a Spider-Man movie that insists on re-telling the origin story. This is a big reason why I don’t care to see it in the slightest. Maybe I’ll come around to the sequel after all the bullshit is done.

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Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

Starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Catherine Mary Stewart, Terry Kiser, Don Calfa, Catherine Parks, Eloise DeJoria, Gregory Salata, Louis Giambalvo, Ted Kotcheff, Margaret Hall

Directed by Ted Kotcheff

Expectations: I have the expectation that this is gonna be one hell of a weekend at Bernie’s! He always throws the best parties!

On the general scale:

On the “People Pretending a Corpse is Still Alive” scale:


When I started Silver Emulsion, I knew one day I’d get here. It was inevitable that I’d review Weekend at Bernie’s, and now having seen it again, I’m finding it hard to know how to go about actually reviewing it. I’ve only seen this once before, around the time it originally dropped on VHS, so I must have been about eight or nine years old. I found its uproarious, black humor intoxicating, with two horny, bumbling dorks doing their best to drag a dead man around as if he were alive. I loved it. I also loved The Three Stooges at the time, and watching this now I was able to see the parallels between the two. And just for the record, Bernie’s corpse is a better replacement for Curly than Shemp.

Weekend at Bernie’s is the other 1989 film set in New York during the sweltering summer heat. Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman work for an insurance firm and over the sticky, roof-melting hot of the weekend, they discover some clear insurance fraud on the company’s books. Come Monday morning they prance down to Bernie Lomax’s office, in hopes of big praise and even bigger rewards. He thanks the boys for finding this “error” and invites them to a weekend at his place… oh I can’t resist, a weekend at Bernie’s! But when they arrive ready for a getaway filled with booze, woman and excitement, they find Bernie slumped over in his office chair.

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