Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

Quick Movie Reviews: Masters of the Universe (1987)

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I thought Masters of the Universe would be lame enough to be kind of fun, and I was almost right. It has a distinctly Howard the Duck flavor, meaning that it was doomed from the beginning to be an epic flop.

First of all, the cartoon ran from ’83 to ’85, and the movie didn’t come out until ’87, so most of the kids who liked the cartoon had moved on to something that wasn’t about a pink-shirted prince who, when thrusting his “power sword” in the air and chanting “I have the power,” turned into a half naked he-man who rode a tiger. Second, the movie has almost nothing to do with the cartoon. Third, despite a relatively big budget ($22,000,000; Aliens was made for $18,500,000) that went primarily towards some cool sets by Moebius and some passable effects, Masters of the Universe is unwaveringly asinine.

Frank Langella as Skeletor is really the only high point, although Dolph Lundgren’s hair is pretty awesome. Courteney Cox has zero charisma (sinus supremus!) in her first feature film role, and it took me the entire movie to figure out that her love interest, played by Robert Duncan McNeill, was Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager.

(Poster images via and Sci-Fi Movie Posters)

Quick Movie Reviews: Thrashin’ (1986)

By the time I started my freshman year of high school in 1986, I was a skater. I liked lots of other stuff too, and I’m not sure I fit the part all that well, but being a skater is what defined me in the territorial adolescent hierarchy. Thrashin’ was released the summer before school started. I must have seen it. It was the first feature film about skateboarding, many of the best skaters of the day made an appearance, and it starred Josh Brolin (Brand) from The Goonies. So why don’t I remember it?

Probably because it was a great big pile of shit. And as rotten as I thought it was this time around, I would have found it much more offensive in ’86. The movie is a Karate Kid clone in terms of plot, but lacks completely the heart and competent performances of the earlier film. Brolin’s character, Cory, moves to Dogtown to stay with his (white) skater friends and train for the big downhill event. He falls for the pretty blonde girl, whose brother, Tommy, is the leader of The Daggers, a nasty skate gang (made up mostly of minorities). Cory gets it on with the slutty blonde and incurs the wrath of Tommy. A skateboarding “joust” is arranged in which Cory and Tommy swing fluffy balls at each other while moving at speeds approaching 5 mph. Eventually the two face off in the big downhill race, etc., etc.

I concede the importance of Thrashin’ historically, and it’s fun to see the skaters of the day pulling off the tricks of the day, but the movie is clearly a cynical Hollywood exploitation of what it saw as a passing fad. We had a word for the kind of people who pulled shit like this: posers.

The scene below marks the first appearance of The Daggers. It’s all you need to see.

Quick Movie Reviews: Foxes (1980)

It’s easy to forget just how fucking good an actor Jodie Foster was at such a young age. Foxes is about four valley girls trying to live it up as teenagers while at the same time being forced to fend for themselves in an adult world populated mostly by thugs, predators, and deadbeat parents. There is very little plot, and Foster, who is sort of the mother hen of the crew without being a buzzkill, essentially carries the movie on her 18-year-old shoulders. The promotional posters were hokey, as you can see above, but the movie, the directorial debut of Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Jacob’s Ladder), is nervy and raw.

The film also features Cherie Currie of The Runaways (as a drugged-out runaway, no less) and Scott Baio, who is surprisingly charming as a skateboarding nice guy who befriends Foster’s character. The girls move from one party to the next, smoke a lot of cigarettes, drink a lot of beer, get busted, pull each other out of the fire, move into their own apartment, and generally deal with the tragedy of an unjustly abbreviated childhood. The evocation of the era and the place (the San Fernando Valley, Hollywood) is almost mystical.

I’d never heard of Foxes, and found it only because I was looking for another film that came out at the same time called Little Darlings (1980). Movies that treat teenagers seriously are rare, and this one is a classic that deserves to be better known.

Quick Movie Reviews: Red Sonja (1985)

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The good news is that Brigitte Nielsen is really tall and looks pretty good when she’s swinging a sword. The bad news is everything else that happens in this movie.

Sonja must destroy an evil green orb before Queen Gedren, who killed Sonja’s family because Sonja wouldn’t let her (Gedren) get in her (Sonja’s) pants, can harness the power of the orb to dominate the universe. Along for the ride are the barbarian who wants to get in Sonja’s pants (Arnold), the annoying child prince who knows Karate (your prayer for him to die a grisly death will be rejected), and the prince’s fat servant who beats people up with a thighbone.

A distinctly un-fun entry in the Conan the Barbarian rip-off sweepstakes.

(Poster image via

Quick Movie Reviews: Enter the Ninja (1981)

One of the reasons I love this movie so much is that, if some blatantly uncoordinated 40-year-old white guy can become a ninja, then so can I. The white guy is called Cole, and he is so bad-ass that he has only the one name. Quick, is it his first name or his last name? Too late. You’ve been decapitated by his katana.

After acing ninja school in Japan, Cole heads to the Philippines to visit an old Army buddy, an alcoholic degenerate who can’t get it up for his hot wife. (There’s actually an awkward conversation about him not being able to get it up for his hot wife.) Guess who doesn’t have a problem getting it up for his army buddy’s hot wife? Too late. You’ve been punctured by Cole’s turgid katana.

Anyway, the army buddy needs Cole’s help to stop the evil businessman, Venarius (played by Christopher George in possibly the worst performance ever caught on tape), who wants the army buddy’s land, etc., etc. But the force is too strong with Cole, so Venarius recruits Cole’s nemesis from ninja school, Hasegawa (one name only, thank you), who hates  Cole’s guts because he (Cole) is so white and uncoordinated and has this ludicrous mustache but somehow became a ninja anyway. There’s a big fight at the end. Guess who wins? Too late.

You may now watch the trailer and Venarius’ death scene. And remember, lumbering white ninjas, “Always be strong enough to avoid bitterness, and use your strength to help the least fortunate.”

(Poster via

Quick Movie Reviews: The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

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Thanks to the success of Conan the Barbarian and D&D, a huge number of knock-off sword-and-sorcery flicks were released in the ’80s, bless them all. The Sword and the Sorcerer, directed by schlock-artist Albert Pyun and featuring Lee “Matt Houston” Horsley as the barbarian who wields the infamous three-pronged sword, is one of the best.

The story is unimportant. When it’s not directly ripping off Conan, it makes little sense and is poorly told. I’ll just mention that there’s a heart-getting-ripped-out-of-chest-from-twenty-feet-away scene, a scantily-clad goddess (seriously, she’s hot), a slimy demon played by “Bull” from Night Court, killer atmosphere (everything looks and feels dirty, bloody, and anarchic), a grisly crucifixion from which our hero escapes by a highly unlikely method, and some great one-liners and sexual innuendos.

But let’s talk about the sword and why it’s the coolest weapon in the genre. Yes, geekholes, even cooler than the machine-gun crossbow in Hawk the Slayer (1981). I told you that it has three blades, which is indisputably awesome, but I didn’t tell you that it shoots those blades through the air with deadly accuracy. How it does so I don’t know. How it’s so accurate I don’t know. Who cares? Watch this movie. And watch the magic sword in action below.

UPDATE (3/12/12): Apparently stuntman John Hale (Jack Tyree) died during the filming of The Sword and the Sorcererafter he leaped from a 24-metre cliff and hit the ground… away from a cushioning air bag.” A lighting tech’s firsthand account of the stunt can be found here. I remember thinking this fall looked pretty goddamn realistic in the film, and I’m horrified at the possibility that the filmmakers left the scene in the movie.

(Poster images via




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