Showing posts from August, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Cap and Gown Affair”

Oh. It’s this episode. Yippee.

I’ve already named my all-time least favorite episode—that’d be “The Jingle Bell Affair”, and I still feel pretty confident about that decision—but this one gives it some competition for the title. There are episodes that are more nonsensical, there are episodes that are duller, there are episodes that are sloppier, there are episodes that are more offensive, but this one… well, it’s a little bit of all of the above. Let’s wade in.
Under heavy security, Mr. Waverly is chauffeured across New York while Illya and Napoleon, in separate cars, relay information to each other about his progress. The car carrying Waverly drives over a manhole, which explodes, engulfing the car in a ball of fire. Illya and Napoleon crouch beside Waverly’s body, which is sprawled across the pavement, lifeless.
Eh, Waverly’s fine—the body was only a mannequin, used in an attempt to lure THRUSH, which has been hell-bent on assassinating Waverly, out into the open. Napoleon urges …

Friday Roundup

I have more or less recovered from our vacation, I think, so let’s do a roundup.

I touched on this in my vacation travelogue, but I’ll elaborate a bit more here: During the Seattle leg of our trip, my sister Ingrid and I visited Durandy’s acclaimed Duran Duran archive. Durandy was a gracious host, and the trip was a heck of a lot of fun. As of this month, he’s got a brand-new book out, The Music Between Us: Concert Ads of Duran Duran, which is available from Amazon; if you’re looking to purchase it, you may want to go ahead and contact Durandy directly through his website, because I’m sure he’d be more than happy to personally inscribe it for you. Pictured above is an earlier edition of this book, which Durandy sent to me back in January—he’d had a few copies printed up early to present directly to the band members during their tour late last year, and in a very cool move, he passed an extra one along to me after he first contacted me about Duranalyzing his first book. I don’t know h…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Come With Me To The Casbah Affair”

Hey, it’s a tawdry little sex farce, U.N.C.L.E.-style!

In Algiers, Illya arrives at a bistro to meet with a THRUSH underling named Pierrot La Mouche (Pat Harrington, Jr., once again), who wants to sell him a book of top-secret codes swiped from his boss, Colonel Hamid (Jacques Aubuchon). Meanwhile, Hamid receives a coded message from his superiors at THRUSH Central. Upon discovering the theft of the codebook, Hamid bursts into the bistro and ambushes Illya and Pierrot before they can complete their transaction. Pierrot escapes with the codes, but Illya is knocked unconscious. Because a gigantic earthenware crock of olive oil falls from the ceiling and cracks apart over his head. It’s zany! This is a season three episode, could you guess? The zaniness is high in season three. This episode is chock full of madcap shenanigans.
Napoleon visits Illya in the hospital, where he’s recovering from his olive oil-related injuries. “It’s too bad they didn’t put you in a cast. I could’ve autograp…

Travelogue: Tacoma, Leavenworth, Spokane, Seattle

Tuesday, August 9th We leave New York in the wee hours of the morning, catching a shuttle from Grand Central Station to Newark. The first leg of our trip gets us as far as Los Angeles. We’re flying Virgin America, which means we have a layover in the Worst Terminal At LAX™. If you fly out of Los Angeles with any frequency, you know which one I mean; if not, Google “Virgin America terminal LAX” and settle in for some horror stories. It’s dreary and cramped and overstuffed with travelers, and the food options are limited to Starbucks, Burger King, and an overpriced and semi-awful fish restaurant. We’re here for a while, so we go to the fish restaurant, because it’s the only place where we can sit in relative peace. We order salads and glasses of indifferent wine. Tab with tip: $120. This will be the most expensive meal of our entire vacation, and that will include the time Ingrid picks up the check for a leisurely dinner in Spokane, with multiple rounds of drinks, at a sit-down restaura…

The Monster Squad

Originally published at Forces of Geek
The featherweight plot of 1987’s The Monster Squad involves a gaggle of suburban kids who fend off an invasion from Dracula and his coterie of creature-feature staples. Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy… even the Creature from the Black Lagoon puts in an appearance. Hey, why not? It’s that kind of film. It’s also a rip-roaring good time.
The titular squad is headed up by Sean (Andre Gower), an imaginative and personable kid who broadcasts his extracurricular interests with his “STEPHEN KING RULES” T-shirt and holds monster-centric club meetings in his tree house. Notable among Sean’s acolytes are his toddler sister Phoebe (adorable Ashley Bank) and local bad-boy Rudy (Ryan Lambert), who chain-smokes and dresses like he’s auditioning to play Danny Zuko in a local production of Grease; naturally, the other kids regard him with a mixture of fear and awe (Phoebe: “I heard he killed his dad!”).

The Last Starfighter

Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek
The Last Starfighter features an absolutely brilliant and irresistible hook: Aliens use arcade games to recruit Earthlings to fight in an intergalactic battle against a tyrannical oppressor. This is nothing shy of genius. It also goes a long way toward explaining why this agreeable but otherwise unremarkable little film has been remembered with such fondness by so many viewers since its 1984 release.
Teenaged Alex (Lance Guest) lives with his overworked single mom (Barbara Bosson) and his odious younger brother in a trailer park somewhere in the desert. Alex considers his existence unsatisfactory in many ways, but don’t be too quick to pity him: He’s comforted by his smoking-hot and boundlessly supportive girlfriend, Maggie, who is played by the awesome Catherine Mary Stewart; it’s to The Last Starfighter’s detriment that Maggie is never allowed to run amuck with an assault rifle, a la Stewart’s zombie-fighting heroine in the cult classic


Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek
Somewhere beneath Gotcha!’s layers of misogyny and xenophobia, hiding under the tedious pacing and repetitive scenes, there’s a sleek, exciting Cold War-era spy thriller yearning to breathe free.
Released in 1985 and directed by Revenge of the Nerds’ Jeff Kanew, Gotcha! centers around Jonathan Moore (Anthony Edwards), a UCLA student and aspiring veterinarian. He’s got his work cut out for him, as UCLA doesn’t offer a veterinary science degree, but let’s not quibble about the small stuff—Gotcha!’s problems are bigger and broader than Jonathan’s chosen career path. In any case, the sole point of this veterinarian business is to establish that one of Jonathan’s professors keeps a gun loaded with animal tranquilizers in his classroom; as Chekhov might say, the tranquilizer gun introduced in the first act will almost certainly be used to take down a ruthless KGB agent in the third.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek
Isn’t it awful when nostalgia betrays you? When something you remember from your distant past as being fun and delightful turns out to be neither of those things? Such is the case with Girls Just Want To Have Fun.
See, I liked this movie when it first came out, back in 1985. Granted, I was eleven at the time, and I also really liked Weird Science, so obviously I had some taste issues. When I watched it again, 25 years down the road, my expectations were modest. I didn’t expect brilliance. Let’s be honest: It’s an entire movie based on a Cyndi Lauper song. There are limits to how good it’s going to be. Even so, I wanted it to be better.


Originally published in 2010 at Forces of Geek

The opening sequence of Alan Johnson’s 1986 film Solarbabies is really pretty good: In the middle of a desert at night, two teams of teenaged warriors in face masks and protective gear square off across an athletic court: the noble Solarbabies versus the treacherous Scorpions. A violent, no-holds-barred game of something called skateball—an unholy blend of lacrosse and field hockey played on roller-skates—ensues. The game is disrupted by the arrival of the E-Police, a brutal force led by the sadistic Strictor Grock (Richard Jordan), head of the excellently-named Maiming Squad. The kids frantically wheel away to safety, with the authorities in hot pursuit. This is a promising start.
Alas, nothing else in Solarbabies can be classified as “really pretty good.”

Night of the Comet

Originally posted in 2010 at Forces of Geek
Christmas, 1984: A comet is scheduled to pass close to the Earth. Across the world, people await its arrival. In Los Angeles, the streets teem with revelers, caught in the grip of comet-mania. When it comes, the comet turns the skies red with poisonous dust. It obliterates most of the world’s population instantly, transforming everyone into sad little piles of red powder. Those who don’t die become… well, they’re not true zombies exactly, any more than the crazed, virus-infected Londoners in 28 Days Later were zombies, but let’s face it: Night of the Comet, written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, is a zombie film. And a damn fine zombie film it is, too.

Dance ‘Til Dawn

Originally posted in 2010 at Forces of Geek
Dance ‘Til Dawn is a 1988 NBC made-for-television movie featuring a slew of familiar TV faces, all slotted into a simple tale of wish fulfillment on the night of the high school prom. Yes, it’s a prom movie. An eighties prom movie, no less. This generates certain expectations.
Consult your prom-movie checklist: Snobby popular girl gets her comeuppance? Check. Underdog gets elected prom queen? Check. Unlikely couplings? Check. Riotous after-party? Check.

Tuff Turf

Originally posted in 2010 at Forces of Geek.
Tuff Turf should be much worse than it is. Let’s start with the title: Tuff Turf? Really? Gee, that’s sort of… lame. Let’s move on to the premise: A rebellious preppy battles a tough Los Angeles gang. While that description alone is enough to win my cheese-loving heart, I would not be so bold as to assume such a film would be, like, good.
You know what? It’s good. No, really. Or if “good” is too strong, it’s at least executed with competence, enthusiasm, and a fair amount of panache from all concerned parties.

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

So I skipped the Friday round-up last week, and Man From U.N.C.L.E. was posted on a Sunday instead of on Tuesday. The world's gone mad! You know why?

Yup. I'm on vacation. For the next nine days, in lieu of fresh content, there will be recycled content--specifically, a bunch of my old reviews of cheeseball 1980s movies, which were posted over at Forces of Geek in 2010; FoG has revamped the site extensively and my reviews no longer exist there, so I'm moving them over here. First on the list for tomorrow is 1985's Tuff Turf, starring James Spader and Robert Downey, Jr. Have you seen that one? It's amazing. I own the soundtrack on vinyl and the movie tie-in novelization.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Monks of St. Thomas Affair”

Illya and Napoleon drive around at night. From the passenger seat, Napoleon chows down on a hotdog with something less than unbridled enthusiasm. The following conversation ensues, and it’s so brilliant and wonderful that instead of summarizing it, I’m going to transcribe it for your reading pleasure, word for glorious word:
ILLYA: How is it? NAPOLEON: (scrunches up his beautiful face in distaste) Very inferior mustard. ILLYA: Perhaps I should have stopped at the taco stand. NAPOLEON: Twenty minutes ago, I’m sitting on the terrace of a lovely restaurant overlooking the East River… ILLYA: Yes, there’s a very nice view from there. I’ve seen it. NAPOLEON: Violins are playing. Opposite me, in a black dress that leaves little to the imagination, is a perfectly gorgeous creature…. ILLYA: Yeah. Wanda. I’ve seen her, too. (shrugs in indifference) She’s all right. NAPOLEON: Stop interrupting. The wine steward has just filled my glass with an exquisite Beaujolais, Maison des Saint Bourrée, 194…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Thor Affair”

This episode inexplicably kicks off with some random footage of Illya and Napoleon on a train, which is shamelessly recycled from “The Adriatic Express Affair” and haphazardly shoehorned into the opening teaser even though it makes zero sense in context. We haven’t even reached the front credits, and it’s already abundantly clear everyone involved with the creation of this episode is going to be phoning it in. You know what? It doesn’t matter. Even with a paper-thin, underwritten, overly-padded plot, this episode, which comes from somewhere in the middle of season three, still manages to be mostly delightful.
Illya and Napoleon are doing a half-assed job of providing security for Dr. Fazir Nahdi (Harry Davis), the Gandhi-like president of an unspecified South Asian country. As Nahdi gives a triumphant speech announcing that all the world’s leaders have agreed to attend a conference to discuss nuclear disarmament, a sniper lurking atop a nearby building aims a rifle at him. Luckily fo…