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Lost in Space (1998)
A film that really should have had a sequel...
Lost in Space, based on the beloved 60's sci-fi series of the same name, was the first film to knock Titanic off the top spot, ending that film's long reign at the box office. Starring Matt LeBlanc, hot off the hit sitcom Friends, and boasting a terrific ensemble cast that includes Heather Graham and a scene-stealing Gary Oldman, Lost in Space is a fun, special effects-laden adventure romp with wholesome family values.
It follows the Robinson family, shot off into space to find a planet suitable for the inhabitants of Earth to relocate to. However, a dastardly stowaway, Doctor Zachary Smith (played by Gary Oldman, gleefully channeling series original Jonathan Harris)and a malevolent Robot, send the Robinsons and their wise-cracking pilot Major Don West (Matt LeBlanc) off course - and ultimately Lost in Space. There's plenty of gung-ho action and arresting visuals. And more importantly, the characters are engaging and their plight enjoyable. It's such a shame that a sequel never materialized. The relationship set-up for Dr. Smith, Will Robinson and the Robot, was expertly crafted. And you get the sense that this is only the start of the adventure for the crew of the Jupiter 2.
It's Fantasia but not as you remember it...
Fans of The NeverEnding Story are likely to be disappointed by this third installment which differs completely from it's predecessors in turns of characterization and tone. Whilst the first sequel may not have lived up to some expectations, it did at least contain that same sense of wonder and fantastical charm that enriched the original. This third entry abandons our awe in favor of gags and goofs.
Bastian this time around is played by Jason James Richter of 'Free Willy' fame. His father has remarried and he has subsequently acquired a teenage step-sister. It's not long before Bastian and his extended family are caught up in Fantasia, his land of imagination. Particularly when a group of comical high school bullies, led by Jack Black, steal The NeverEnding Story book and create havoc in both Fantasia and our world.
The creature design this time is by the Jim Henson workshop. Sadly, their renditions of the inhabitants of Fantasia and indeed their personalities are inconsistent with the previous entries. For example, Falkor is reduced from being a noble and brave luck-dragon to a whiny and cowardly puppy dog. And this is what hurts the film the most. To the younger viewer it will be a mildly amusing affair, but to those who have followed the film series, it will appear to be a complete deviation that will have you aching for the Fantasia of old.
The actors all turn in good performances but you feel they would all be best served by a more earnest script that employed plot lines from Michael Ende's novel. Still, it's far superior to the live action television series that would later follow.
Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves! (1997)
It's best to skip this entry...
In 1989 Disney scored a surprise box office smash with 'Honey, I Shrunk The Kids', a fun adventure for all the family that placed a handful of miniaturised kids in a perilous and amusing thrill ride that showcased some truly amazing special effects. It's success led to a sequel in 1992, 'Honey, I Blew Up The Kid', a joyous effects-heavy romp about a rampaging over-sized toddler that although not quite on par with it's predecessor was nonetheless frenetic and entertaining. Then in 1997 came 'Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves', a direct-to-video sequel. By this point only Rick Moranis as wacky inventor Wayne Szalinski remained onboard. Marcia Strassman as his wife Diane is replaced by Eve Gordon and Bug Hall takes over the role of their young son Adam (their other kids Amy and Nick are mentioned but not seen). 'Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves' pales considerably in comparison to the other two entries. It seems overall to be very pedestrian with woefully inferior effects and a dumbed down script. The budget is shrunken dramatically and it seems to solely target the very youngest audience with it's heavy handed life lessons. Even Rick Moranis appears bored by the proceedings, turning in an adequate but tired performance. It's a shame that a series that had started out on a high had to end with a bargain basement clunker. It's probably best to skip this entry and re-watch the other two 'Honey' films instead.
The endearing Freeling family return to do battle against the supernatural in Brian Gibson's absoloutely brilliant sequel
Four years after their house in Cuesta Verde, California was consumed by a violent explosion of supernatural activity, the Freeling family returned to the big screen in 1986's 'Poltergeist II : The Other Side' - and so did the nightmarish wrath of the undead. Brian Gibson's hit sequel finds the luckless Freelings - Steve ( Craig T. Nelson ), his wife Diane ( JoBeth Williams ), their young son Robbie ( Oliver Robins ) and little Carol Anne ( Heather O'Rourke ), living in Phoenix, Arizona with Gramma Jess ( Geraldine Fitzgerald ), Diane's clairvoyant mother.
When Gramma Jess passes away, the troublesome spooks strike, this time in the form of a religious cult led by a maniacal preacher named Reverend Henry Kane ( Julian Beck ). Having made their contact via Carol Anne's toy telephone, they will stop at nothing to reclaim their 'angel'. Fortunately, psychic Tangina Barrons ( Zelda Rubinstein ) and Indian shaman Taylor ( Will Sampson ) offer a helping hand to the family, the two having unearthed the bodies of Rev. Kane and his followers at a dig where the Freeling house once stood, below the old cemetery.
'Poltergeist II : The Other Side' is an absoloutely brilliant fright fest that I highly recommend. It works a whole lot better than other sequels because it builds upon incidents from the the first movie and allows it's characters to grow. The Freelings remain a very likable screen family and the rest of the ensemble cast are great too. Julian Beck for one gives a wonderfully fire-and-brimstone performance as Rev. Kane and tragic young actress Heather O'Rourke as Carol Anne is a really sweet kid. Once again the special effects, provided by Boss Films and some based on H.R. Giger designs, are absoloutely stunning, breathing incredible life into such wondrously creepy creations as the memorable Vomit Creature and The Beast and Jerry Goldsmith's score too is simply amazing.
Troll 2 (1990)
Something of a cult movie, ' Troll 2 ' makes perfect late night viewing.
A sequel in name only, ' Troll 2 ' has nothing at all to do with John Carl Beuchler's 1986 fantasy flick. It has none of the same cast of characters, is shot on a minimal budget and infact features goblins and not trolls, Joe D'Amato's emphasis here on horror and not fantasy. But is it really all that bad?
Well the goblins may not be too convincing and the acting variable ( young Michael Stephenson the best of the bunch ) but it has an intriguing premise ( the disguised vegatarian goblins of Nilbog feed food to human visitors that render them edible ) and enough unintentional humour to keep the B-movie fan happy.
' Troll 2 ' may not win any awards for excellence it does have it's fans and has emerged of late as something of a cult movie, perfect for a late night's viewing.
A truly hilarious fantasy comedy that can be enjoyed time and time again.
" Boys have got it made ", or so reckons ' Willy Milly's ' Milly Niceman ( Pamela Segall ), a budding young astronomer whose life is dramatically changed thanks to an ancient spell and a rare solar eclipse. For Milly's deepest darkest desire is granted, enabling her to experience life as a boy and with all the correct equipment to do it! But Milly soon discovers that being ' Willy ' doesn't neccesarily mean that life gets any easier, especially when she comes up against the high school bully!
Based on a story by Alan Friedman, Paul Schneider's offbeat ' Willy Milly ' is a truly hilarious fantasy comedy, one of those rare movies that can be enjoyed time and time again. Sharply scripted and impeccably acted, Segall delights in the lead role and she is offered terrific support by the likes of Patty Duke and John Glover as the Niceman parents and the lovely Mary Tanner as her dumbfounded best friend Stephanie.
Alien from L.A. (1988)
A fun adventure romp for non-too serious fans of the genre.
The fanciful tale of a young girl's descent into the underground world of Atlantis, ' Alien From L.A. ', Albert Pyun's homage to Jules Verne's ' Journey To The Center Of The Earth ', is a engaging piece of sci-fi whimsy that makes the most of it's minimal budget.
Kathy Ireland as squeaky voiced teen Wanda makes a delightfully offbeat heroine, plummeted towards the centre of the earth whilst searching for her explorer-adventurer father in Africa, missing and presumed dead. The underground world of Atlantis that she stumbles upon is realized as a rather intriguing punk domain with many unusual quirks - non-welcoming to visitors of the surface world.
Nowhere near as bad as it has been suggested, ' Alien From L.A. ' remains a fun adventure romp for non-too serious fans of the genre. Interestingly the characters and visuals of the movie were re-hashed to complete the latter half of Rusty Lemorande's own ' Journey To The Center Of The Earth ', released in the same year. Although ' Journey... ' actually pre-dates ' Alien... ' ( production having begun around 1986 ), it was apparently beseiged by financial problems and Pyun was later called in to make the movie his own. This has given people the false impression that ' Journey... ' is a sequel to ' Alien... ' when it is not.
' Journey... ' is a fun science-fiction fantasy adventure aimed squarely at teens.
Rusty Lemorande's ' Journey To The Center Of The Earth ' should not be regarded as a sequel to Albert Pyun's ' Alien From L.A. '. Although released in the same year as that movie ( 1988 ) and utilizing some of the same sets and characters, Lemorande's ' Journey... ' actually pre-dates it, production having begun around 1986. Unfortunately, financial problems apparently halted filming and Pyun was later brought in to make the movie his own, the latter half of the story altered to tie-in with the release of ' Alien.. '.
Loosely based on Jules Verne's classic novel and aimed squarely at a teen audience, ' Journey... ' is a fun science-fiction fantasy adventure that has a likeable young british nanny named Crystina ( Nicola Cowper ) plummet to the center of the earth whilst exploring the volcanic landscape of Hawaii with two young american boys, Richard ( Paul Carafotes ) and Bryan ( Ilan Mitchell-Smith of ' Weird Science ' ).
The first half of the movie belongs to Lemorande and concerns Crystina's arrival in Hawaii and her eventual descent into the center of the earth. The latter half belongs to Pyun and has Crystina wander into ' Alien From L.A.'s ' punk underground world of Atlantis. The first half is the most interesting and showcases some truly amazing special effects. The latter half is less so and is somewhat slapdash in comparison.
I would hope that one day ' Journey... ' will get a release in it's original cut. For snippets of Lemorande's original vision, very different from the final cut and edited into the movie as dream sequences, has Crystina and Richard captured by underground trolls and rescued by comic book fan Bryan! Who knows, maybe an alternate version of the movie will eventually see the light of day on a special edition DVD? It would certainly make interesting viewing.
He's My Girl (1987)
T.K. Carter's impeccable comic timing and Gabrielle Beaumont's snappy direction make this movie a joy to watch.
One for 80's nostalgists, ' He's My Girl ' is terrific fun, a screwball comedy with colourful characters and a great rock soundtrack. T.K. Carter is a blast as Reggie, the manager of would-be rock star Bryan Peters ( David Hallyday ), who dons drag to accompany his client on a prize-winning trip to Los Angeles, courtesy of a popular music TV show. As butch femme Regina, Reggie hopes to make Bryan's dream of stardom come true - but he hadn't counted on falling in love or the lecherous advances of the TV station manager!
Carter's impeccable comic timing and Gabrielle Beaumont's snappy direction make the movie a joy to watch. Musician Hallyday gets to belt out a few cool rock tracks and even Jennifer Tilly pops up in an early role as Bryan's sculptress girlfriend.
Funny Money (1983)
A slick crime caper that has the winning team of Gregg Henry and Elizabeth Daily as opportunist credit card thieves
Personally I love the edgy ' Funny Money ' and regard it as a somewhat forgotten 80's gem. In turn violent and amusing, James Kenelm Clarke's ' Funny Money ' is a slick crime caper that has the winning team of Gregg Henry and Elizabeth Daily as opportunist credit card thieves.
Shot in London, England, americans Henry and Daily portray Ben Turtle and Cass, guests at the Londonderry Hotel who together hatch a plan to systematically rip people off, making purchases on their stolen credit cards. Needless to say, things don't exactly run smoothly - and they soon wind up in a whole heap of trouble!
Gregg Henry delivers a terrific performance as tortured soul Ben and Elizabeth Daily as Cass ( who of course would later voice Tommy Pickles in ' Rugrats ' and Buttercup in ' The Powerpuff Girls ' ) makes a wonderfully sassy partner in crime. Fans of the genre will be pleasantly surprised.