April Fool’s Day (1986)

Released: March 28, 1986. Directed by: Fred Walton. Starring: Amy Steel, Deborah Foreman, Ken Olandt. Runtime: 1h 29min.

April Fool’s Day is a 1980’s slasher only notable for its ability to put a spin on a basic story.

Muffy (Deborah Foreman) has invited eight of her college friends to a weekend getaway on April Fool’s weekend to her family island. These people are kind-of weird in the first place to make April Fool’s Day a weekend celebration.

There are nine main characters for the getaway and that’s a lot of characters when the usual getaway vacation slasher has five or six characters so it doesn’t get crowded.

Kit (Amy Steel) is the main blonde goody-two-shoes character who wants to go to convent school and is dating Rob (Ken Olandt). Chaz (Clayton Rohner) carries around a camera a lot to videotape things for some reason and he’s with the blonde Nikki (Deborah Goodrich).

Skip (Griffin O’Neal) is simply characterized as Muffy’s cousin. Harvey (Jay Baker) is super preppy and wants to be called Hal but no one ever calls him that. There’s so much characterization to go around to everyone that a bookworm named Nan (Leah Pinsent) feels like a useless character, and the majority of them feel one-dimensional.

The comic relief comes from Thomas F. Wilson (Biff in the Back to the Future trilogy) who plays Arch, and he has some of the funniest moments as the ladies man. He’s the only actor I recognized in this. He and Deborah Foreman give the most memorable performances as Arch and Muffy, respectively.

The acting when they’re asked to be scared – mostly just Amy Steel and Ken Olandt – is bad, and Olandt’s screaming is almost annoying as the crickets that are constantly chirping. The general chemistry of the whole cast is good, and Chaz and Arch have some of the funniest moments together.

The comedy is better done than the horror itself – because it’s never actually scary, even as far as slasher films go. The setup at the beginning is good and some of the April Fool’s pranks are childish but most of them are funny.

When the killing begins, the fun stops because all of the kills actually suck because they show the bare minimum of the kills, removing a lot of the violence and it makes it really disappointing to me as a horror fan. Half of the kills literally happen off-screen and when someone wound up dead I wondered if I had missed something.

In that way it definitely sets itself apart from other slashers but it’s one of the reasons it’s not a good movie for horror fans, and a lot of it isn’t entertaining. When they don’t show the bit of what makes a horror movie successful – the kills – it feels a lot like when someone tells a story that ends with “you just had to be there.”

It’s a competent mystery because the story is developed somewhat well and there’s characters that just start acting strange.

It gears up to an interesting ending that filled in plot holes and some of the film’s major faults, and made it feel like an exercise in making an ending first and then just thinking up everything else in between. It makes it feel all a bit pointless.

It also would have been great if it were scary. April Fool’s Day is unique in the way that the comedy of the beginning is the best part even though it’s not billed as a comedy, and everything goes downhill when the killing comes, because that’s supposed to be the fun part of horror.

Score: 40/100

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Pumpkinhead (1988)

PumpkinheadReleased: January 13, 1989. Directed by: Stan Winston. Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D’Aquino. Runtime: 86 min.

The title might make this seem like a destined Halloween classic. It’s a bit unfortunate that the revenge demon is only called Pumpkinhead because the remains of it are buried in a pumpkin patch. The practical effects of the demon are impressive, and it’s just about the only thing worth raving about with this film. It’s a decent little mash-up of classic horror sub-genres: Revenge and Dead Teenagers.

Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) is a loving father who runs a grocery store in a small town, where kids like to tease each other about a local urban legend; Pumpkinhead. It turns out, the local legend is real – and most of the locals know to stay in the house, and not interfere because the revenge demon has to run its course. When Harley’s kid is killed by a few vacationing teenagers going on a camping trip, he finds the help of an eerie witch (another thing to rave about, her decent make-up), who conjures up Pumpkinhead to take revenge on the teens who killed his kid.

Harley has a change of heart and tries to help the teens, but the demon can’t exactly be called off. He has to take matters into his own hands and intervene. Twisted occurrences happen when he’s actually on the loose, and it’s an okay set-up for the franchise; but since this has such a lacklustre cast and a mediocre story, I don’t feel the need to watch the others. There’s enough decent entertainment here for a viewing, but I doubt it will become a horror film staple any time soon.

Score63/100

Going Overboard (1989)

Going OverboardReleased: May 12, 1989. Directed by: Valerie Breiman. Starring: Adam Sandler, Burt Young, Billy Zane. Runtime: 99 min.

At least Adam Sandler and director Valerie Breiman had the right idea with this one. I’m assuming they thought, “Hey… If we make a bad movie to start both of our careers, the worst movie of ours will be our first – so the only way we can go is up!” This is undoubtedly the worst movie of Sandler’s career. This is probably the worst comedy ever made, and the worst movie ever made; rivaling the likes of “Scary Movie 5” and “Miss March.”

It’s a grueling experience that follows Schecky Moskowitz (Sandler), a struggling comedian,  who takes a menial job aboard a cruise ship in hopes of breaking out into cruise ship comedy. (Is Schecky Moskowitz not the most Jewish name ever thought of?)

Apparently, the only thing worse than Sandler writing his own jokes is having others write them for him. Sandler’s Moskowitz is better than the cruise ship’s actual comedian, Dickie Diamond (Scott LaRose), but that doesn’t mean either are funny. Sandler is just a bit less of a dick than Dickie. If you giggled at that lame joke; that’s already one more laugh than the movie itself.

When the movie might actually be funny, it falls flat on its low-budget face. Milton Berle shows up briefly as himself, but even he cannot enliven the experience. It is mostly a fault of the filmmakers – because of their bad writing and because whenever Berle speaks, assuming everything he says is a true knee-slapper, a laugh track sounds. Apparently we’re supposed to laugh, but it won’t get even a smirk out of most. He tells Schecky that the power of laughter is the most important thing in the world. It comes into play later, but in a predictable way. There are no jokes at play, so not even a then-unknown 1989 Billy Bob Thorton can be funny.

The humour is idiotic, because it’s just completely unfunny. There’s a gag of this dirty-looking rocker called Croaker (Adam Rifkin, director of “Detroit Rock City“), equipped with a dirty moustache and braces who gets all the girls. It’s not funny because the look of him, and the things he says, upsets my stomach. And apparently an already unbearable movie isn’t complete until there’s a crappy ’80s music video. It is all completely random and this film makes me want to jump overboard.

People who think they are funny keep being told that they’re funny, but they are not. Some of the jokes have Sandler answering some questions, and then a series of supermodels begin to answer that same question. One of the questions he answers is “If he had one million dollars.” This is one of the supermodels’ replies, and bear with me: “I’d buy all the acne cream in the world so I can go around popping people’s zits. Mmmm. Pus.” (Did you just barf in your mouth a little, too?)

The plot becomes dumber and dumber. Somehow a military general (Burt Young) rented this video tape Schecky made (the movie we the audience are watching, or being tortured by) and pops it in, and later in, an Australian beauty pageant winner says he is smelly. He sends a few inept terrorists to kill her, and they show up later in the movie… on the boat Schecky is on… Somehow… And the General still gets to watch it all happen… Because maybe he’s… in a different dimension?… Or?… It simply defies all logic.

This is a pre-Saturday Night Live Sandler, where he makes funny faces he’ll later be known for, but he’s just incoherently dumb here. I guess he didn’t know better though. Everyone is incoherently dumb here. The whole movie is just a complete and utter train-wreck. The tedious humour in the film is R-rated because of its vulgarity, but the montages of girls in bikinis that the film is so obsessed with feels PG-rated. At one point in the film, Sandler says, with his eyes crossed, “Okay, before we get to that point in the story, here’s a montage of beautiful ladies.”

Since these “filmmakers” are obsessed with beautiful women but won’t bother to show any kind-of nudity, there’s something odd going on. Anyone who’s ever seen a National Lampoon movie should know that one or two pair of breasts will win over thirteen year-old males.

This is a complete waste of time, and I know that because, in my notes, I wrote the word ‘torture’ six times, and many other un-nice things. The first three uses of the word torture were used in the first 40 minutes, and there was still nearly an hour left at that point. This feature is an endurance test. I somehow made it through it all. Somehow. But hell, if one can make it through this, they can watch just about any bad movie. But I’d rather be shot by the inept terrorists’ obviously fake guns than ever watch this again.

Apparently this film was made because, as Schecky irritatingly tells his camera crew at the beginning, “This is a loosely thrown together story that we are making because we have access to this big boat and a lot of hot super models.” This is one of the many times he breaks the fourth wall and talks to the camera crew/director. It proceeds to have no plot, no direction, bad acting, a ludicrous story, and just a whole lot of random crap. Crap crap crap. I just have to say: If Sandler has a video camera, don’t let him near a cruise ship. Bad things happen when he’s on a cruise ship…

Score0/100

Die Hard (1988)

die hardReleased: July 15, 1988Director: John McTiernanStars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie BedeliaRuntime: 131 min.

This is what great action is all about: Bruce Willis as John McLane, terrorists, and Christmas time. It really brings the family together, doesn’t it?

John McClane, officer of the NYPD, tries to save wife Holly Gennaro and several others, taken hostage by German terrorist Hans Gruber during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
This is seriously one of the greatest action films ever made, and generally a great experience. It has fantastic action sequences, hilarious and iconic one-liners, and some great characters.

John McLane is probably one of my favourite action heroes, and I only saw this for the first time a few weeks ago. He’s clever, macho, and he kicks some serious terrorist ass. Alan Rickman is in one of his best roles (Gruber and Severus Snape of Harry Potter go head to head for me), and his debut film role. It is one of the most impressive debut performances as one of the greatest terrorist masterminds; Gruber is cunning, often funny, and overall pretty intimidating. It is so well done when Gruber just comes on screen and doesn’t even say anything for ten minutes or so. It makes a great mystery out of his character. In this guy’s presence, I wouldn’t challenge him…
There are a few bad characters, though. They’re sort-of important to the film, but they’re just irritating. Paul Gleason’s Dwayne Robinson was absolutely stupid, but Gleason does play a good dumbass. And the FBI agents were just silly. They all do seem necessary for the plot development, though.

The thriller is taut and extremely fresh, and there’s never a dull moment. One really wants John McLane to come out of there alive, but we all want the bullets to fly and explosions to wreak havoc. It’s suspenseful and an eerie thought of being the only person who could save a building of people. Well, McLane does have Sergeant Allen Powell on the outside talking to him. However, it’s nowhere near the same as being in there with those crazy men. This is one of the attributes that makes McLane’s bravery and courage to never give up so damn admirable. This, folks, is what a practically perfect action film looks like.

Score98/100

Deliverance (1972)

Deliverance

Released: July 30, 1972Director: John BoormanStars: Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned BeattyRuntime: 110 minReview written on: November 14, 2012.

What if your river-rafting trip turned into a ride to hell like this one does?

Intent on seeing the Cahulawassee River before it’s turned into one huge lake, outdoor fanatic Lewis Medlock takes his friends on a river-rafting trip they’ll never forget into the dangerous American back-country.

The character of Lewis is great because he is threatening, and nature-savvy. Ed is also a great character because he’s pretty timid, and his story is of trying to overcome the odd dangers that face him, and getting over those damn shakes.

Finally, after seeing this I understand whenever someone references Deliverance. There’s some very dark scenes here and there, and the pacing is great. Near the beginning, one might want something to happen. There’s many memorable scenes like the opening comedic voice-over to that banjo duel between Drew and that little kid; it gets more enjoyable as it goes along. This is a film that knows how to be both fun (which is evident in the banjo scene), disturbing (expressed in the rape scene in the woods [it shouldn’t be considered a spoiler, this movie is almost 41 years old]), and thrilling. The characters are great and the acting is great. I really enjoy the story, too. This is a great river-rafting adventure that make the water seem quite, quite dangerous.

Score80/100

Grease (1978)

Grease

Released: June 16, 1978Director: Randal KleiserStars: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard ChanningRuntime: 110 min.

Over the summer, good girl Sandy and greaser Danny have a great summer romance. When the school season comes back in session, Sandy has moved to the same school as Danny, Rydell High (if there was a drinking game for everytime they say the school name, you’d be plastered within the first fifteen minutes). She joins the crew called ‘The Pink Ladies,’ a female group of girls who wear all pink. Danny’s in a group called the T-Birds. When Sandy sees that Danny isn’t the same sweetheart that she fell in love with over the course of the summer, their chances to rekindle their romance doesn’t seem so likely.

Grease is a stylish musical based in 1950’s California that has an above average romance story and great catchy tunes.
The actors in this are good, especially Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta.

The songs make you want to do a little jig, and you can sing along to them endlessly.

While it is great, it isn’t perfect, because it is a bit lengthy for a musical. Also, the actors are in their 20’s and are playing high school students. Because of this, there’s a sort of lack of realism.
Though, it does use its fairly simple plot of young love to its advantage. The message that it offers is not to be fake and just be yourself (well, at least that’s how I interpret it).

It’s all sure to put a smile on your face and just give you a great feeling after it’s all over with, you’ll be singing the songs days after watching, especially if you really enjoyed the film.
It really leaves a wonderful lasting expression, it is entertaining and sure is charming. For a musical, it really is worth checking out.

Score80/100

A quick review of A Christmas Story (1983)

A Christmas StoryReleased: November 18, 1983Director: Bob ClarkStars: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavinRuntime: 94 min.

A Christmas Story is a refreshingly simple tale for the holidays.

All Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants for the holidays is a Red Ryder B.B. Gun. He must convince his parents, his teacher, and even Santa Claus that it is the perfect Christmas gift for children in the 1940s.

There’s awesome comedy and this offers some real sweet nostalgia, we all remember a time where we really wanted a Christmas gift, and no one would get it for us. This is just one of the most memorable Christmas stories of just one of those times. Ralphie’s a kid with a wicked imagination, who probably won’t poke his eye out with the freaking thing – but his glasses might get broken in the process. It also teaches us the pleasant feeling of getting what we so desire.

Score100/100