Schwarzenegger Month: Batman & Robin

Ah, Batman & Robin, the movie that killed the Batman film franchise. I get it. After the Batman comic books took on a darker tone in the late ’80s, it was only natural that the new films that began with Tim Burton’s Batman would become more serious and less campy. Batman, his character and his fictional world, had changed. I also get what the director of this film, Joel Schumacher, was trying to do. He understood the character of Batman from a different era. When he chose to craft a Batman movie he chose to do so in the form of a costume ball. Bright colors, festive music, outrageous outfits — its participants are all out for a wonderful night on the town, and all seem to be in on the joke. This was the Batman from the comics, just not the right Batman comics. Continue readingSchwarzenegger Month: Batman & Robin”

Schwarzenegger Month: Hercules in New York

For no reason other than that I feel like it, I hereby declare this to be Arnold Schwarzenegger month at Missile Test. His Arnoldness has 54 acting credits to his name on IMDb. I’m going to watch a whole boatload of them and write some reviews. I’m looking forward to hours upon hours of explosions, gunfights, and rough accents. The first flick has only one of those, but it depends on which print a viewer manages to see. Continue readingSchwarzenegger Month: Hercules in New York”

October Horrorshow: Critters, or, Power of the Night!

I don’t think I’ve seen this movie since the late 1980s. That’s almost thirty years of depriving myself of big hair, a pack of unstoppable, ravenous fur balls that are more teeth than animal, and Power of the Night, the number one single by Johnny Steele. Oh yeah, this was the decade I grew up in, with all its foibles, bad fashion, and shit music. This was the decade that put Eric Clapton in pastels and convinced teenagers everywhere that synthesizers were an acceptable accouterment to rock music. And my God, Reagan was in the White House. No, no, no. If it weren’t for the amazing run of substandard cinema throughout the decade, I would want to have the entire time wiped clean from my memory. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Critters, or, Power of the Night!”

October Horrorshow, Spring Edition: Class of Nuke ‘Em High

Class of Nuke Em HighWhat a shitty movie. From Troma Entertainment, a production company well-versed in churning out b-movie fare (most famously the Toxic Avenger series of films and its spinoffs), Class of Nuke ‘Em High is self-aware schlock. From the opening scene to the end, the filmmakers never miss a chance to remind the viewer that what they are watching is not meant to be taken seriously. But the way they choose to draw attention to this fact, with overwrought characters and performances, only serves to make the film feel forced. It revels in cheapness, and this would be a good thing, if only they weren’t trying so hard. At every step of the film, Troma seeks to establish its brand, reveling in its ineptness at putting together something that is watchable.

The film has a strong beginning. After an opening shot purposefully evocative of Troma’s production logo, the scene shifts to the fictional town of Tromaville, New Jersey, where an accident at a nuclear power plant has leaked radioactive goo into the high school next door. A hapless student is exposed to the contaminant when he drinks from a water fountain before class, and his transformation from stereotypical 80s film nerd to smoking corpse is hilarious. But in that scene is a first glimpse of the film’s downfall. Most of the ensemble cast is present, and all exist, like the poor victim, as caricatures of the diverse collection of jocks, losers, horndogs, and punks that populate the banal visions of high school typical of so many films from the 50s to today. The problem is, there isn’t a straight man among the bunch to balance things out. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow, Spring Edition: Class of Nuke ‘Em High”

The Empty Balcony: Big Trouble in Little China

As I was watching John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China recently, I was struck by the familiarity of the material. I felt I had seen it before, but in some other context. Confined, mazelike, and windowless environments; various tricks and traps the heroes must overcome; goons, monsters, and the bosses that control them, etc. And there it is. Big Trouble in Little China plays like a videogame. Considering it was released in 1986, before videogames became complex enough to compare, does that mean John Carpenter was breaking new ground, that Big Trouble in Little China is ahead of its time? No. It just reaffirms that the pacing and storytelling of today’s videogames are derivative of cinema. There are plenty of other films from around the same time that are akin to videogames (Aliens, Commando, and Total Recall all come immediately to mind, among many others). Continue readingThe Empty Balcony: Big Trouble in Little China”