Monday, December 21st, 2020
CAMPFIRE TALES is a very low budget horror anthology released in 1991. After directors William Cooke and Paul Talbot graduated from college in 1987 they decided to build a film around “The Hook,” a short they’d made in their senior year 16mm class. The stories are very simplistic – unusually light on gimmicks and ironic twists for this type of material – and the filmmaking is not what would traditionally be considered “good.” But being made by beginners with no money gives it that scrappy underdog charm where you’re excited for anything they kind of pull off, and since it was made by young people in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s there’s some relatability and nostalgia for somebody like me who may or may not have come of age around that time.
“The Hook” is set on Halloween, but there’s another story that’s about Christmas, which is what brought me to it. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: anthology, Christmas, Christmas horror, Gunnar Hansen, Halloween, Paul Talbot, pirates, William Cooke
Posted in Horror, Reviews | 12 Comments »
Monday, June 8th, 2020
June 7, 1985
I have long held a stance on THE GOONIES that was highly controversial: I found it annoying. I don’t think I’m alone on that anymore, but it used to get me into trouble because of how many people of a particular age group hold that movie as a sacred relic of childhood.
For most of my writing career I’ve had a policy of being ambiguous about my age, because I wanted to seem like a crusty old man, regardless of how little that seemed to fit with the particular things I was knowledgeable about. As I get closer to being authentically old and crusty I’m starting to be more lax about that, so at last the truth can be told: I am exactly the right age to have grown up loving this movie. In fact, I did grow up loving this movie. And I’ll even go you one further: I saw it twice in one day. My mom took me and my friends to see it on my birthday, and since there wasn’t room in the car for my siblings, she brought them to see it later in the day, and I went that time too.
But when I saw it again as an adult I learned something disappointing: those fucking goonies never fucking shut up! This despite one character putting their hand over another character’s mouth to shut them up being a major motif. It’s a movie starring a group of pre-teen boys, and though they’re not quite as naturalistic as the kids in E.T. (which I think they were deliberately modeled after) they do have an accurate 12-year-old-boy energy, which means they’re constantly joking and giggling and bickering and yelling over each other and telling each other to be quiet. I was less patient with them than my mom must’ve been with my carload of friends, so for years after that viewing I would say that GOONIES feels like being tricked into chaperoning somebody else’s kids at Chuck E. Cheese. I didn’t remember that Martha Plimpton’s slightly older character actually sums up the movie well when she says something similar: “I feel like I’m babysitting except I’m not getting paid.”
Fast forward to today. The futuristic year of 2020. That figurative trip to Chuck E. Cheese was considerably longer ago than the double-screening birthday party had been at that time. Since then I’ve learned things. I’ve been through things. My tastes have changed. The world has turned more goonie. I was kind of excited to see it again and find out if I still hated it. I had no idea if I would. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: adventure, Amblin, Anne Ramsey, Chris Columbus, Corey Feldman, Dave Grusin, Jeff Cohen, Joe Pantoliano, John Matuszak, Jonathan Ke Quan, Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Mary Ellen Trainor, pirates, Richard Donner, Robert Davi, Sean Astin, Steve Antin, Steven Spielberg, Summer of 1985
Posted in Family, Reviews | 52 Comments »
Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
It took me nearly a quarter of a century to get around to giving CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995) a shot. Certified by the Guinness Book as the biggest financial bomb of all time, it got poor reviews, bankrupted Carolco Pictures (FIRST BLOOD, T2) before it even came out, diverted director Renny Harlin (following DIE HARD 2 and CLIFFHANGER) from the A-list and failed to create momentum for its revolutionary notion of giving a woman the lead role and top billing on a big budget summer adventure.
But I had reason to be suspicious of its reputation. Many of Harlin’s ‘90s movies, particularly his also-starring-Geena-Davis followup THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, deserve more credit than they got at the time. And there’s definitely precedent for mob mentality panning of movies that have been heavily covered as over budget, out of control productions. This had the additional gossip-bait of the star and director being married to each other, causing mean-spirited speculation that one was only hired because of the other one’s clout. (For example, an informative 1996 Independent article about what went wrong manages to refer to them as “Renny Harlin and his demanding wife.”) On top of all that, you know how it is with what I call the Old Timey Adventure genre. They almost always lose money, even when they’re great. That’s just how it is. (read the rest of this shit…)
Tags: Carolco Pictures, Frank Langella, Geena Davis, George Murcell, Harris Yulin, John Debney, Mario Kassar, Matthew Modine, old timey adventure, Patrick Malahide, pirates, Renny Harlin, Stan Shaw, Vic Armstrong
Posted in Action, Reviews | 24 Comments »