Review films of the 1980s here! - Page 16 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
Forum Jump: 
 165Likes
Reply
 
Thread Tools
post #451 of 459 Old 06-03-2019, 12:35 PM
One-Man Content Creator
 
wmcclain's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 24,545
Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4644 Post(s)
Liked: 4494
Conan the Destroyer (1984), directed by Richard Fleischer.

I remember feeling let down by this sequel to Conan the Barbarian (1982). We get a semi-comic magic quest adventure that seems cheap and unworthy. What to do? Not every movie can be an origin story and the original had its own problems in tone and plot, but it also had a surprising depth of emotion and glimpses of mythical power in its storytelling.

A PG sequel to an R original always seems like a bad idea. PG13 came in shortly after; that might have been a more accurate rating. But swapping humor for seriousness is a bad trade, in my view.

Give credit to the cast: all are willing to do both the action and the comedy sides. Tracey Walter gets the clown burden; I think his bits could have been better written.

I miss Sandahl Bergman but the women we do have make the most of their roles. "Evil Queen" is kind of a thankless job -- and a small one here -- but Sarah Douglas gives her some life. Olivia d'Abo is both fetching and funny as the loosely-clad magic Virgin Princess. "Knowing" playing "innocent" is great fan service.

Grace Jones is the truly remarkable cast member: muscular and proudly just-about-naked, a fierce warrior woman. The character is easy to lampoon but hard to perform. I knew someone who did DJ work in Chicago who had met a lot of celebrities and he said Jones was one of the most charismatic people he had ever met. David Bowie was another.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: I love him but he seems to be coasting. To be fair the script doesn't require anything else from him.

Genre fans are hard to please. We want more of the same and then complain that it is the same thing over and over. In this case I would have been happy with more of the same. Still: I'll watch this from time to time.

Basil Poledouris conducts his own score, reusing the music from the previous film, slightly reorchestrated. I love the music but hearing it here I think: that was a better scene in the other film.

Photographed by the great Jack Cardiff -- Black Narcissus (1947), The African Queen (1951), Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951).

Filmed in Mexico rather than Spain this time. They make good use of the mountains, plains and forests. Again, they seem hard on the horses and camel.

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
Tack, ChromeJob and Ben23 like this.

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | 1990s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
Unofficial OPPO FAQS: UDP-203 | BDP-103 | BDP-93 | BDP-83 | BDP-80    
wmcclain is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #452 of 459 Old 06-27-2019, 07:40 AM
One-Man Content Creator
 
wmcclain's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 24,545
Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4644 Post(s)
Liked: 4494
Personal Best (1982), written, produced and directed by Robert Towne.

Women's track and field is the subject and this is a lovely presentation of the sweat and endurance of a team training for the Olympics, using actual events and the real athletes.

The foreground story is the relationship between Mariel Hemingway (age 21) and Patrice Donnelly, 11 years older. Young love is intense and disruptive, but also temporary. Someone is always hurt.

Hemingway trained for months and she plausibly belongs with the team. It helps that her character starts timidly ("no speed, no guts", says the coach), acquiring confidence with time. Hemingway had not been acting for very long and her natural style might seem amateurish in other films, but it works here.

They were fortunate to have Patrice Donnelly, an athlete of amazing grace, and rather good in her first acting role. To be blunt: not all actresses can be convincing lesbians, but she's got it.

Scott Glenn is the coach, a colossal jerk but getting his athletes where they need to go.

The film has a split personality of sorts: although a celebration of women's athletics it also features full nudity and many shots of lithe women's bodies. The director was unapologetic: bodies in motion -- particularly slow motion -- are sensuous. (The right bodies with a good photographer, I might add). In a notorious segment, the slow-motion camera isolates on a series of women's crotches as they go over backwards in the high jump.

A bit of male nudity, too. He said the movie convention of people wearing underwear when they get out of bed after sex is ridiculous.

This was Robert Towne's first film as director. He was a renowned screenwriter, known for The Last Detail (1973), Chinatown (1974) and Shampoo (1975) among others, and he was an uncredited script-doctor for a huge list of other famous films. It is odd that his own script for this film seems a bit slack to me. It is a good story and is well presented, but maybe the non-actors in the cast and use of real competitions impeded the dramatic flow.

As it turned out, the US boycotted the 1980 Olympics. This is used in the film, but almost in passing. You would expect more dramatic trauma from the team. On the good side: the actual athletes were then available to be in the film.

Available on DVD with a commentary track by the director, Scott Glenn and Kenny Moore, another first-time acting athlete who plays the second love interest.



-Bill

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | 1990s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
Unofficial OPPO FAQS: UDP-203 | BDP-103 | BDP-93 | BDP-83 | BDP-80    
wmcclain is offline  
post #453 of 459 Old 08-01-2019, 04:01 PM
One-Man Content Creator
 
wmcclain's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 24,545
Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4644 Post(s)
Liked: 4494
Predator (1987), directed by John McTiernan.

Quote:
When I was little, we found a man. He looked like -- like, butchered. The old woman in the village crossed themselves and whispered crazy things, strange things. El Diablo cazador trofeo de los hombres. Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins... and sometimes much, much worse. El cazador trofeo de los hombres means "the demon who makes trophies of men".

-- Anna
Human hunters go on safari and take trophies. Why shouldn't aliens do the same, taking the whole planet as their preserve? Paying special attention to the top predators they find there.

Critical reviews were mixed on this one but it soon found an audience and has since been loved as one of the best science fiction action films, powered by sweat and testosterone. After a troubled history on home video the UHD corrects the previous image quality errors.

With a rewatch the writing and editing are impressive. Elements that please fans:

  • That is some dense jungle.
  • The choppers suggest Apocalypse Now (1979), journeying into the Heart of Darkness.
  • We have the first-time pleasure of figuring out the alien, what it is doing and how it remains invisible...
  • ...when it occurs to us that some of those jungle sounds we have been hearing -- the weird bone-chattering -- is something worse than we imagined.
  • Our squad has the subliminal intuition that they are watched and followed. Billy, fingering his medicine bag: "There's something in those trees", but he can't see it.
  • The assault on the enemy camp is overblown action excitement with the rebel soldiers merely targets to kill in inventive ways. A place for the action hero quips.
  • When we hear the alien playing back the voices we just know they will be used for a trap... but does that actually happen?
  • We see the elegant pattern: the rebels are bad but our guys are badder, but -- oh, no -- the alien is worse. Further: it is drawn to our people because they are badder.
  • Clearing the jungle with non-stop machine-gun fire is an audacious scene. (The director said it was meant to be a spoof on firearms porn, but I note he has a lot of shooting in his films).
  • It becomes a The Lost Patrol (1934) story as they are picked off one by one.
  • The captive Anna knows what is going on and Billy delivers shamanistic insights: "There's something out there waiting for us and it ain't no man. We're all gonna die".
  • It could have ended with the last man standing's escape, but we have a whole other act when Arnold fights back.
  • In his last moments the alien must be thinking: "Better nuke this guy; it's the only way to be sure".

Other, more pedantic notes:

  • Not to take anything from RG Armstrong (the General), but some faces just become too familiar. I remember thinking the same thing about Ned Beatty and Barbara Hershey in other films.
  • You can't actually carry around the "Old Painless" Minigun. It takes a weightlifter just to hold it and they omit the hundred pounds of batteries needed to operate it. The barrel rotation is slowed down for film use but even then all the ammo would be fired in a few seconds.
  • Poor scorpion (real), poor pig (fake).
  • Fluorescent green blood: how convenient!
  • The alien's medical tools are chromed just like ours. (They are actually veterinarian instruments).
  • Is it my imagination, or do we get to hear the soundtrack through the alien's distorted audio gear? Sort of jungle drumming.
  • Two future governors.
  • Hawkins (big glasses, first to die) is played by Shane Black who has since had success as a screenwriter and director. I've enjoyed his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and The Nice Guys (2016).
  • Is that a Lady Bic razor?
  • When it gets to 1-on-1 Arnold does a vast amount of building and weapons making in one day.
  • In the alien's final moments the playback of Billy's laughter turns maniacal.

Big score by Alan Silvestri. Photographed by Donald McAlpine (Breaker Morant (1980), Tempest (1982), Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994)).

Creature effects by Stan Winston, who was brought in when they couldn't make the original effects work.

The director's commentary track rambles a bit but also gives good information on the production. He says casting Carl Weathers was essential, giving Schwarzenegger an experienced actor to play against and learn from. McTiernan rewrote the character to redeem him from being a simple "evil CIA man".

Available on Blu-ray and UHD. My thumbnails are from the UHD and the color saturation of the images is not right, a limitation of the software used to get the screenshots.



-Bill
Tack and RUR like this.

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | 1990s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
Unofficial OPPO FAQS: UDP-203 | BDP-103 | BDP-93 | BDP-83 | BDP-80    

Last edited by wmcclain; 08-01-2019 at 04:31 PM.
wmcclain is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #454 of 459 Old 08-02-2019, 06:34 PM
AVS Forum Special Member
 
ChromeJob's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: N. Carolina
Posts: 4,874
Mentioned: 23 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2088 Post(s)
Liked: 1095
One of those amazing, happy accidents when so many things went wrong, huge challenges, but they had so much creativity and passion, it succeeds. The director has had a few of those, then... legal problems. Pity.

IIRC, the jungle isn't really THAT dense, or it wouldn't photograph well.

Glad they fixed the UHD, but the accompanying DVD is the flawed, over DNR'ed "Ultimate Hunter Edition" travesty that everyone hates. I haven't sought out the last "good" BD release, have the last good DVD release and use the UHE for extras (which were remastered, thankfully). Those who don't know complain about the graininess, but the film stock and the location filming conditions are what gave it that appearance. I think it adds to a verite quality and a super high quality production would've lacked.

Many of the stories from the stars are so good, they're worth rewatching. Bunch of really good natured, mutually respectful macho men.

IMHO it's one of those great examples of a superficially corny action film, but written and executed so well to be a high quality classic. When I saw it on release in Houston, I stumbled out of the theater in amazement, and saw it again a week later to see if my impressions were correct.

I clink my beer glass against yours on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. Highly underrated. (And what happened with "The Predator," Shane?) Martin McDonagh's In Bruges and The Guard have the same zesty, memorable quality.

When I saw it, I swore that upon seeing the alien unmasked (with obscene mandibles) our hero says, "You unearthly mother f***er." It was the best line of the decade I thought, a climax to the growing realization that his adversary is not just super high-tech, but clearly not of this earth. Only later with remastered soundtrack was it made clear he just says, "You're one ugly mother f***er." Darn, not nearly as good. Darn Arnold's heavily accented English.
wmcclain likes this.

"Exceedingly odd," said the butler.
Are you new to the forum? Please read forum FAQs and stickies. Like posts that help you. RTFM, always.
A: Yamaha RX-V775; Chromecast Audio; iPod Classic, Touch. Bose 401 mains, 301 Series III surrounds, Yamaha NS-C444 center, Hsu VTF-2 Mk4.
V: Panasonic DMP-BDT215, Yamaha DVD-S550. Apple TV 4gen. Chromecast 1gen, Samsung UN40ES6150.

Last edited by ChromeJob; 08-02-2019 at 06:40 PM.
ChromeJob is offline  
post #455 of 459 Old 08-26-2019, 04:42 AM
One-Man Content Creator
 
wmcclain's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 24,545
Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4644 Post(s)
Liked: 4494
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Heavy Metal (1981), directed by Gerald Potterton and others.

A fairly bold animated anthology targeted at the young male fantasy/swords and sorcery audience. Abundant violence, large breasted naked women, real fantasy sex and a generally goofy perspective on the whole thing. The hand-drawn art is not as photo-real as today's efforts, but reflects the vision of the creators as adapted from their printed work. It has enough variety to make the whole mix fun.

I think some people misunderstand the title: it doesn't refer to the music (which is mostly common pop/rock) but to the magazine of the same name. I read it from time to time back then but it was too brutal and sexually perverse for me.

I'd forgotten some of the segments. The loosely connected major stories are:

Harry Canyon: Hardboiled cab driver. Luc Besson must have fallen asleep watching this while writing The Fifth Element.

Den: Nerdy kid ("It all started when I found the green meteorite") is transformed into a heroically endowed warrior on a strange world.

Captain Sternn: Silly courtroom comedy.

B-17: Eerie tale of a zombie bomber crew.

So Beautiful and So Dangerous: Stoner aliens and robot sex with an Earth woman.

Taarna: This one's different. It's fully one third of the whole film, has a more developed story and uses an orchestral score by Elmer Bernstein. The mute female warrior is respectable, not just a babe. She wears dominatrix leather goods (when wearing anything at all) and would kick the butt of any comic book nerd who crossed her. Strangely enough, this gives her a fan base. The animation was based on early motion capture from a human model.

Available on Blu-ray. Nudity and passion scenes.
Additional thoughts and I've added thumbnails.

I only occasionally read Heavy Metal magazine when it was new. It seemed unpleasantly perverse and I didn't get the humor segments, probably meant for a younger audience. The film music was recognizable but not very important to me.

And yet my movie going gang and I saw it several times in the theater. Why? We were desperate for works of the imagination, anything that would break out of the familiar grooves and inspire a sense of wonder. They did that here: it might be lurid, often comical R-rated sex and violence fantasy for adolescent males, but still -- the artists cut loose and went where they wanted to go.

I look askance at the contemporary superhero films with their numbing Big Beat Down climaxes, but perhaps they feed the same need in young people today. I hope so.

I saw something new this time, a scene transition in the epic fantasy Taarna:



Notes:

  • The framing story is pretty weak: the Loc-Nar, a glowing green sphere and node of pure evil which exists throughout time and space. In the original conception Taarna was the framing story.
  • Again I have to note the overlap of hardboiled Harry Canyon and The Fifth Element (1997).
  • The animation in Den looked very "French" to me this time, particularly like Fantastic Planet (1973), but there is no overlap in crew between the two films. Den illustrator Robert Balser also did Yellow Submarine (1968).

Available on Blu-ray. An alternate rough-cut of sketches and storyboards has a valuable commentary track. The amount of work that goes into something like this is boggling.



-Bill
ChromeJob likes this.

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | 1990s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
Unofficial OPPO FAQS: UDP-203 | BDP-103 | BDP-93 | BDP-83 | BDP-80    

Last edited by wmcclain; 08-26-2019 at 03:20 PM.
wmcclain is offline  
post #456 of 459 Old 10-01-2019, 07:18 AM
One-Man Content Creator
 
wmcclain's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 24,545
Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4644 Post(s)
Liked: 4494
Rawhead Rex (1986), directed by George Pavlou.

An Irish farmer is determined to remove an ancient and strangely purposeful looking stone pillar from his field. Lightning strikes it and we find what it was holding down: a bloodthirsty terror everyone was trying to forget, now loose and ravaging the community.

By strange coincidence, an American scholar researching the survival of pagan religion is vacationing in the area with his family. He'll collect a lot of material. And lose one the kids, which is rare in this sort of film. Minimal sexploitation, also rare.

This is close to the cheeziness boundary past which I don't bother to review, which is not to say such films are not enjoyable, just that I don't have anything to say.

We get to see the monster, which is good, but the rubber mask with glowing red eyes hurts the story, almost spoofing the genre. The score is overly dramatic 1980s synthesizer and the magical forces special effects are rudimentary. The plot apart from the creature feature elements is just padding.

Filmed in Ireland. The director says they lost a huge amount of their funding when a backer pulled the plug during production.

I review it because (1) it's on Blu-ray, (2) it's in that genre of British folk-horror like The Wicker Man (1973) and The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) (also about digging up evil in a farm field), and (3) Clive Barker, who wrote the screenplay from his short story. He hated the film, although the director says he shot what was on the page with the actors and budget he had.

Early in Barker's career I had a limited edition of his Books of Blood: black hardcover with a plain red jacket, Scream Press? It combined the volumes published separately. Did that get away from me? Probably worth something now.

Anyway, it was a new thing: a book I had to put down several times. Horror themes I had never thought of before. I circulated it among a set of friends and they were all similarly dazed.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino with a grainy image. The commentary track is an interview with the director. Both men claim to be happy with the results.

There has been talk of a remake but now I hear Barker is going to reboot Hellraiser instead.



-Bill
Josh Z, ADU, ChromeJob and 1 others like this.

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | 1990s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
Unofficial OPPO FAQS: UDP-203 | BDP-103 | BDP-93 | BDP-83 | BDP-80    
wmcclain is offline  
post #457 of 459 Old Today, 06:59 AM
One-Man Content Creator
 
wmcclain's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 24,545
Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4644 Post(s)
Liked: 4494
Gothic (1986), directed by Ken Russell.

It's a great concept based on a true story: on a dark and stormy night in 1816, Lord Byron hosts a party at his villa on Lake Geneva. Mary Shelley conceives of Frankenstein and John Polidori The Vampyre, the first dark vampire romance in English.

Ken Russell -- unavoidably -- blows this out into an extravagantly decadent rampage which one reviewer described as "Five Go Mad on Laudanum". The time continuum may be slightly disrupted: we seem to be confusing Regency literary characters with late century Decadents and 1960s free love artists. His approach is both intense and intensely stupid, but whether that makes it a bad film: I just can't say. It's meant to be something of a spoof but there isn't much of way of comic moments.

It does have a heart: haunted characters making up ghost stories, projecting their fears and desires into literature.

It's been years since I last saw it and I know the actors better now, which makes me like it more: Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Natasha Richardson, Timothy Spall. Sands made particularly good use of a hyper-aesthetic persona in those days, as in A Room with a View (1985), Siesta (1987), and Impromptu (1991).

This was Natasha Richardson's first feature film and she seems honestly shocked by the production, which is good because she can represent the audience. As Mary Shelley this is her story.

The setup was used before in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) where in a preface Elsa Lanchester is Mary Shelley telling the story. She is later also the "Bride". Other films that feature that night: Haunted Summer (1988), Rowing with the Wind (1988), Mary Shelley (2017). I haven't seen any of them as of this writing.

What was that evening really like? Somewhere between the staid drawing room conception of older literary adaptations and Russell's wacko imagining, I presume. They had opium and were an "advanced" artistic set, but did they really have orgies? Did Percy Shelley swill down drugs by the jug and dance naked on the roof during an electric storm? Did they dabble in seances and the necromantic arts?

The servants put up with a lot. No wonder tourists on the other side of the lake watch the house through telescopes.

Laudanum -- opium dissolved in alcohol -- was popular in the nineteenth as a pain killer and recreational drug. It is still available by prescription.

Score by Thomas Dolby (a stage name of Thomas Morgan Robertson, who is not Thomas, son of inventor Dr Ray Dolby).

Available on Blu-ray. Two commentary tracks:

The first is an excited conversation with Russell's last wife. She says he enjoyed modern horror films and this one was influenced by Halloween (1978), The Fly (1986) and Scream (1996), the last of which is not possible unless he had a time machine. Errors like that make me wonder about the accuracy of the rest of the commentary.

The second is a 36m interview with the composer, followed by some isolated score.



-Bill
ChromeJob likes this.

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier | 1980s | 1990s | Combined reviews: Strange Picture Scroll
Unofficial OPPO FAQS: UDP-203 | BDP-103 | BDP-93 | BDP-83 | BDP-80    
wmcclain is offline  
post #458 of 459 Old Today, 08:32 AM
RUR
Innocent Bystander
 
RUR's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Beershorn
Posts: 3,093
Mentioned: 18 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 656 Post(s)
Liked: 605
Bill, your excellent reviews are good not only for discovering movies I'd like to see, but also for movies I shall avoid like the plague.
wmcclain likes this.
RUR is offline  
post #459 of 459 Old Today, 08:59 AM
AVS Forum Addicted Member
 
Josh Z's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Planet Boston, source of the spice, Melange.
Posts: 25,057
Mentioned: 32 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4288 Post(s)
Liked: 3284
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The first is an excited conversation with Russell's last wife. She says he enjoyed modern horror films and this one was influenced by Halloween (1978), The Fly (1986) and Scream (1996), the last of which is not possible unless he had a time machine. Errors like that make me wonder about the accuracy of the rest of the commentary.

Perhaps she confused the title with Scream and Scream Again?

Josh Z
Home Theater Writer/Editor, High-Def Digest

My opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employers.
Josh Z is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Reply Movies, Concerts, and Music Discussion

Tags
An American Werewolf In London Full Moon Edition Blu Ray , Big Trouble In Little China Blu Ray , Blu Ray Movies , Flash Gordon Blu Ray , Indiana Jones The Complete Adventures Blu Ray , inferno , Reviews , Romancing The Stone Blu Ray , The Jewel Of The Nile Blu Ray

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off