PythosCheetah

PythosCheetah

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2 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 0 replies · +2 points

Verdict:

So yeah, looked back on as an adult, I can see how the movie has a bit of a tone issue, and how some of the horror elements had to be toned down to make this into a family-friendly movie. However, there’s still a lot to like about the movie. Certainly enough to where it deserves a place alongside Hocus Pocus as a cult Halloween movie.

Nostalgia: A-
Rewatch: B+

Stray Thoughts:

-It’s clear that the creatures themselves weren’t all that they studied about the classic Universal movies when making Monster Squad. In the original Bela Lugosi Dracula, Dracula’s castle was populated by armadillos (native to North America) instead of rats, and hyenas instead of wolves. Sure enough, in the first scene of Monster Squad, Dracula wakes up from his crypt in Transylvania and two armadillos go running off in the background.

-This is yet another movie with a couple of significant Star Trek connections. Duncan Regehr (Dracula) was Shakaar on DS9, and the main character’s dad, Stephen Macht, was also on the show in the three-parter that opened season two.

-The reveal that the “scary German guy” that all of the neighborhood kids are afraid of, and whom they reluctantly turn to for help, is actually a concentration camp survivor is not done particularly subtly. However, given how young I was when I first saw this, I’m not sure I actually understood the implications of the number on his arm for some time.

-“Wolfman’s got nards!”

2 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 1 reply · +2 points

That isn’t to say, of course, that I don’t appreciate the humor or writing. I actually find the dialogue and interactions between the various Squad members to be very believable, and quite true to how 12-year-olds might have actually acted in the mid-late 80s (I’d like to say that I know that from experience, but I was only five years old when this movie came out). Of course, that also means that there’s a current of true-to-the-period casual homophobia in some of their insults to each other. Also, the sole PoC in the movie (which is doubly glaring given that it’s obviously set somewhere in the American South) is the skeptic cop who doesn’t take anything that’s going on seriously, and gets blown up to start the “shit gets real” finale.

Finally, I want to take a moment to praise the design and portrayal of the various monsters in the movie. While the style of werewolf used isn’t my favorite – I never felt that the Universal Wolf Man read as a “wolf” all that much without any sort of actual muzzle – the makeup itself and the transformation sequences are quite well done, if a little short. The movie’s Frankenstein (which they accurately identify as being the name of his creator, not the monster, and then go ahead and use for him anyway) evokes the classic Boris Karloff makeup while being updated for then-modern techniques. And the version of the Creature From the Black Lagoon makeup created for this movie is perhaps the best fishman creature makeup pre-Shape of Water. While the lead villain, Dracula, is saddled with a fairly cheesy costume taken right out of the Bela Lugosi movies, Duncan Regehr gives it his all, bringing a subdued, quiet menace to every scene. He’s actually one of my favorite portrayals of Dracula in any movie.

2 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 2 replies · +2 points

Nostalgia:

I grew up watching this movie. I don’t consciously recall seeing the original Universal horror movies until I was in college, so this was almost certainly my cinematic introduction to Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man and others. In recent years, my family has embraced The Monster Squad in the way that a lot of millennials have Hocus Pocus. We watch it every Halloween after trick or treating ends.

Review:

Continuing with this unplanned series of mid-80s “kids in serious danger” movie reviews, we have The Monster Squad. This one is nestled right in the “cult classic” zone, neither as widely beloved as The Goonies or little-known as Cloak & Dagger. It’s actually very heavily inspired by The Goonies, from the mix of personalities in the club to the life-threatening dangers they have to face along the way. Mary Ellen Trainor (the mom in The Goonies) even plays the mother of the main character here. However, I think that the supernatural plot differentiates it sufficiently enough for the film to stand apart from its influences.

Speaking of influences, the movie leans very hard on a familiarity with monster movies in general and the Universal horror pictures of the 30s-50s in particular, while also being a PG-13 movie marketed at a demographic much younger than the average horror aficionado. This leads to an odd unevenness of tone, where the movie veers wildly from comedy to horror and back again. It contains both graphic sequences where characters get blown up with dynamite, and a scene where one of the kids kicks the Wolf Man in the groin and is surprised that he’s “got nards!” However, I think that this shifting of tone makes a little more sense when you realize that the movie was an early script by Shane Black, whose Lethal Weapon pulled off the same thing much more successfully earlier the same year. Many of his scripts, such as Iron Man 3, The Nice Guys and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, display a similar mix of serious action and humorous banter. It’s just that this one involves kids, so I feel that there was an inclination for him to go with what he perceived as a more “juvenile” sense of humor, which only serves to heighten the clash in tones.

2 days ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 3 replies · +1 points



The Monster Squad (1987)
Dir. by Fred Dekker

Starring Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr and Tom Noonan

Plot:

A club of monster movie-obsessed pre-teens learns that monsters are real when Dracula comes to their town, accompanied by the other Universal horror monsters, in search of a mystical amulet that will give him the power to permanently upset the balance between good and evil.

[youtube TeZs0B0mjXY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeZs0B0mjXY youtube]

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 0 replies · +1 points

Verdict:

So yeah, I was quite surprised by this one. It was way darker and more violent than I’d remembered, and actually had a fair bit to say about real world violence and its relationship to movie-bred fantasies. I’d wager it’s one that not a lot of people have heard of, so I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Nostalgia: B-
Rewatch: B+

Stray Thoughts:

-Okay, that review turned out a lot more essay-ish than I’d intended, so these thoughts might be a little longer than usual to fit in anything that I left out.

-I thought Henry Thomas was quite good in this film. His friend, Kim (played by Christina Nigra), however, not so much. I like how she’s written, as she clearly doesn’t have time for Davey’s spy shit from the beginning, and even after being successfully rescued is willing to keep tabs on him via walkie talkie. However, I found the performance itself to be pretty flat and lifeless overall.

-The movie makes great use of San Antonio landmarks, becoming a virtual travelogue of the city. There are major set-pieces at the Alamo, River Walk, Japanese Sunken Garden and Tower Life building.

-It was a little odd seeing William Forsythe, best known for playing gangster villains, in the role of Morris, the ill-fated computer and D&D geek who runs Davey’s Cloak & Dagger tabletop RPG.

-Yes, I know that it’s the 1980s, the middle of summer and Davey’s father is a single parent. I still found it odd that no one at all remarked on a pre-teen kid running all over downtown San Antonio on his own, even before he started being chased by guys with guns.

-I typed "Jack Black" more than once while writing up this review. Now that would be a different movie entirely.

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 1 reply · +1 points

The screenplay displays a deep distrust of adults, even more so than Henry Thomas’s previous movie E.T. Throughout the film, every adult and authority figure that Davey turns to brushes him off. When he reports the initial murder to the building’s security, they decide he’s been playing a prank when they can’t find the body. It’s implied that his mother had recently died, and that both his father and the police think that he’s acting out as a coping mechanism. His friend and GM, the clerk at the local game store, gets shot by the bad guys as soon as Davey leaves the building. And all of the people he approaches while on the run laugh at him, with the exception of a nice elderly couple – who turn out to be the real villains of the film, the spies who were paying the mercenaries to steal the documents in the first place. They drug him, affably talk about killing him after the deal where he can hear them, and later take him as a hostage at the airport and attempt to commandeer a flight out of the country. Even Jack Flack, as he’s “dying”, tells Davey that he was “always on his own.” This might be one of the darkest “kid’s” movies I can remember seeing in a while.

In the end, Jack Flack, who represents the idealized dream father figure as a replacement for Davey’s distant, workaholic real father, dies and fades away. He is killed not by the bullets of the enemy, but by Davey’s own realization that spy adventures have real-life consequences, and that he can’t treat life as a game anymore. Shortly thereafter, when Davey is held hostage at the airport, his father both figuratively and literally becomes the hero that he’d imagined for himself, volunteering to go in alone undercover and using the name “Jack Flack” to identify himself to his son. The elder Osborne transforms into the action hero in truth, escaping from the fiery destruction of the plane and walking back to his son in a perfect 80s image of the badass hero illuminated by the flames of his exploits. Davey has survived a real adventure with a fake hero, and earned the real one.

[Cont.]

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 2 replies · +1 points

Nostalgia:

I remember watching this movie a lot when I was a kid, and remembered a lot of the San Antonio-based set pieces. However, I haven’t seen it in at least twenty years, and there were good portions of the movie (such as the kid next door who becomes a hostage, and then later is his “girl in the chair”) that I’d forgotten about entirely.

Review:

Wasn’t I just talking last review about the willingness of 80s movies to place their teen and pre-teen protagonists in real danger? This movie sees The Goonies with its hardened criminals and pirate booby traps and says “Hold my beer.” Over the course of one two-day period, Henry Thomas’s character, Davey Osborne, witnesses a murder, has his house broken into by armed thugs, gets chased halfway across the city by spies who are willing to shoot at him in broad daylight, has to negotiate a hostage exchange, gets locked in a car trunk with a dead body, escapes, gets kidnapped and locked in the trunk again, steals the car and tries to drive it away while being shot at, and gets taken hostage again, this time while there’s a bomb about to go off in an airport. That’d be a pretty good adventure checklist for a Bond movie, and Davey is only 11.

The movie is also quite willing to engage with the difference between Davey’s spy fantasies and real-life. His imaginary friend, Jack Flack (played by the same actor who plays his single father, Dabney Coleman), initially seems a figure of fun and youthful innocence, a spy figure in the mode of Roger Moore’s lighter take on the Bond character. However, as the movie progresses, and the stakes start getting higher, Flack reveals a ruthless, pragmatic side, constantly pushing Davey to take more risks and morally-ambiguous actions. It starts small, with him urging Davey to shoplift an identical video game to the spy-doctored one so he can use the fake during the hostage negotiation. By the end of the movie, he’s talking down to Davey for not wanting to “play” at being a spy anymore, and eventually goads him into committing an outright murder. Sure, he could definitely claim it was in self-defense, as the villain had been trying to kill him all day long, but Davey is the one who picks up the gun and pulls the trigger himself.

[Cont.]

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 3 replies · +1 points



Cloak & Dagger (1984)
Dir. by Richard Franklin

Starring Henry Thomas, Dabney Coleman and Michael Murphy

Plot:

A kid obsessed with secret agent tabletop RPGs and video games finds himself in a real spy adventure when a murdered government agent gives him classified documents disguised as a video game just before dying. Chased by spies and mercenaries, he eludes capture with the help of his imaginary friend: his James Bond-like RPG character, the superspy Jack Flack.

[No trailer, as I wasn't able to find one]

1 week ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 9 replies · +2 points

The Nostalgia Rewatch

2 weeks ago @ http://markspoils.blog... - Double Shenanigans · 1 reply · +3 points

Okay, I've leveled up to the point that I need to do my first group dungeon to progress with the story. How do I go about adding you as a friend in-game?