1980s

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

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I’m not really a horror fan. I don’t dislike the genre, but it’s generally not my thing. It doesn’t help that a staple of horror movies for the last several decades has been non-stop gore, as though that’s all it takes to scare people.

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Killer Klowns isn’t a typical horror movie. It’s more of a horror comedy, and seems like it may have been inspired by Gremlins, like many horror movies of the ’80s. But instead of being more literal with any attempts at mimicking Gremlins’ success, by just having tiny little monsters (Critters, Ghoulies, etc.), Killer Klowns has a combination of the humor and originality which made Gremlins such a classic.

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The idea behind the monsters is that they’re aliens stopping on Earth for food, and were probably the inspiration for clowns. We know all this because these are the uneducated guesses made by the characters. Okay, I won’t question that.

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There’s a plot here besides just killer aliens that have to be stopped, with a love triangle and stuff. But it’s basically just screen filler between the parts with the clowns (Or is it klowns? Do they actually call them that in the movie?). Fortunately, clowns make up like 90% of the movie.

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There’s not much gore in the movie. The only example I can recall is a quick shot of a guy getting his head punched off. And he has it coming, managing to make one of the mass-murdering, man-eating clowns look sympathetic. For a moment.

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What I find charming about this movie is how original it is. Not the premise of killer clowns, but the ideas used throughout the film. From balloon animals that track scents, to shadow puppets that eat people, to deadly cream pies, the clowns put a lot of effort into killing people. They’re far more entertaining to watch than someone like Jason Voorhees.

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And that’s what makes this an enjoyable film like Gremlins. It’s not about scares. It’s not about gore. It’s about having fun. And killing people.

The NeverEnding Story II

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The sequel to the classic film The NeverEnding Story, this movie seems much like the original. At least on the surface. Unfortunately, the different style soon becomes apparent.

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The original film only covered about half of the novel it was based on, so a sequel makes sense. It’s like The Godfather. And I’m sure there are a number of similarities between The Godfather Part III and The NeverEnding Story III.

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The sequel once again focuses on the character Bastian. Differing in many ways from the novel, II is about him reading the book again, this time getting sucked inside. So he can save it from emptiness. I’m not really sure. The plot was too advanced for me to follow.

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The story is dumb. Just very, very dumb. So you’ll like it more as a kid. It’s not so much dumb, perhaps, as it is “I don’t understand the logic of the characters.” And the moral of the story is about overcoming your fears so you can make the swim team, I guess. That’s something to think over.

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No one from the original returned for this movie, except for Thomas Hill as the bookstore owner, who can magically make his store disappear whenever he wants in this movie. It’s interesting to note that the director is George Miller.

No, George T. Miller. The guy who did a movie about a dolphin falling in love with a dog.

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This movie is odd at times. There’s one scene where Bastian ends up in some random unexplained place, where he proceeds to talk to a man made of either mud or feces, a woman who always plays a harp and needs to sing every line because why not, and a woman (seen here in her second scene, because they needed to bring her back), whose only purpose is to stand there in front of a blowing fan.

Okay.

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Due to being on a budget, the movie relies more on matte painting backgrounds than the blue screen effects seen in the first. It’s obviously not as good, but I think it’s still aged surprisingly well. But that’s just my opinion.

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Regardless of special effects, the sequel lacks the charm and quality of storytelling found in the original film. It’s worth a watch if you enjoyed the original, or you’re just looking for the kind of old fantasy movies they don’t really make today. It was panned by critics at the time of its release, probably more harshly than it deserved. I mean it’s still better than the third movie.

 

Also, the movie had a commercial in Japan where a bunch of people sing along to the theme song. It is incredible. Just incredible.

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Willow

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If you ever wanted to watch a version of The Hobbit with half an hour’s worth of songs taken out, check out Willow. Directed by Ron Howard and written by George Lucas, this is guaranteed to be a fun, entertaining movie. As long as you forget stuff like The Grinch and The Phantom Menace.

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The antagonist of the movie, Queen Bavmorda, is trying to kill a newborn baby, prophesied to bring her downfall. Somehow. It’s never really explained, (and you might want to skip to the next paragraph because SPOILERS) and the queen dies at the end of the movie without the baby really doing anything. So some fucking prophecy. Unless it was supposed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy by making her paranoid to the point of becoming self-destructive. In which case, impressive work by that prophet..

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A midwife manages to smuggle the baby out, and the child’s found by Willow. He’s played by Warwick Davis, who I was ecstatic to find upon writing this article, is in fact NOT dead. Sometimes death reports have a happy internet hoax ending. Oddly enough, though Willow is a father of two, Warwick Davis was only around 17 at the time of filming.

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Willow embarks on a Lord of the Rings sort of quest. Except he’s transporting a baby instead of a ring. And he’s not throwing it into a volcano. Though that would be pretty rad to see. Also, he gets abandoned by his companions fairly quickly, and is left with no one to rely on for help but a selfish yet charismatic and likeable scoundrel.

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Yeah, it was clearly the same guy behind Star Wars. Lucas shows he knows how to write lovable roguish bastards, not just with Han Solo but also Mad Martigan. Played by Val Kilmer, the mercenary regularly steals the show when onscreen.

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There are also two companions to the main characters, little imps or whatever that talk in French Canadian accents. They don’t really do much, other than distract from the action whenever the cameraman feels the need to show them running back and forth doing nothing for half a minute. I guess they’re supposed to be comic relief.

One of them, the one with the rat head for a hat, is played by Kevin Pollock. I know this is going to be hard to believe, seeing how it’s Kevin Pollock with a French Canadian accent, but he’s actually not funny. Instead, it’s more likely to lead you to gouge out your eyeballs and asphyxiate yourself with your own intestines. So, you know, Jar Jar shouldn’t have been that unexpected.

Also, he tries to fuck a cat.

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The action sequences are fun and fast paced, with sword fights, stunts, and excellent special effects, such as a two headed monstrosity which Willow accidentally transforms a troll into. According to Ron Howard, he modeled its face after his brother Clint. So good news if you were hoping for a Clint Howard cameo.

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The movie didn’t do as well as expected, so any chance of a sequel was scrapped. However, George Lucas later wrote three novels with Chris Claremont, which continued the film’s story. Willow also has a few video games, and a comic book mini-series by Marvel.

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Willow’s a fun and enjoyable movie, with a lot of the same charm seen in the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s not a slog like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies can be at times, maintaining an enjoyable pace the whole way through. The characters (except for one or two of them…) are entertaining, and the variety of action sequences will make for an exciting watch. It’s a great adventure film, the kind you unfortunately don’t see much of these days.

Dragon Slayer

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Probably one of the darkest things that Disney has been involved in. There’s little beauty in the world of Dragonslayer. There are no adventurous knights to save the people. No fairies or elves. The only magical creatures in the film are eating all the women in the surrounding area. And the ending is a bit of a downer, with a sort of “fuck the system” message to it.

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Like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gremlins, it’s also somewhat violent for a PG rated film, due to the lack of a PG-13 rating at the time. Nothing explicit, until the scene where one dead woman’s foot is chewed off by a baby dragon.

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The story involves a familiar problem. A dragon is tormenting a kingdom, so the villagers try to appease it by sacrificing virgin women to the creature. Because prostitutes taste terrible.

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Valerian (who, for some reason, no one can tell is a woman until the main character sees her bathing), decides to request help from the last known sorcerer, in order to kill the dragon. When the sorcerer dies, his apprentice Galen decides to take up the quest. Then other stuff happens.

Screenshot (177)The dragon itself is an incredible product of 1980s special effects, and one of the highlights of the movie. Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin has described it as “the best dragon ever shown on film.” It’s a great example of what can be accomplished when you don’t rely on CGI.

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Maybe I read too much into it, but it definitely feels like there’s an anti-religion message in this movie. Ian McDiarmid (Q from Star Trek) plays a priest, whose only purpose is to be roasted alive for what feels like half a minute. His replacement later takes credit for everything in the end, in what feels like sine sort of commentary on organized religion. I’m a little surprised there were no complaints about this at the time of its release, considering how much religious groups called Dungeons and Dragons stuff satanic in the ’80s.

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Galen, played by Peter MacNicol (known for Ghost Busters 2) apparently hates this movie. Which seems strange, seeing how it’s perhaps his only starring (and first) role. In case that discourages you, Guillermo del Toro loves it, and I think his opinion on movies is more important.

The Sword and the Sorceror

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Probably the best movie about a guy who’s on a fantastical adventure so he can have sex with a princess. That’s it. That’s his goal. Yeah, I suppose he grows to care about the fate of the kingdom and avenging his father or whatever. But it’s mostly to get laid.

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The movie begins with the death of King Richard at the hands of the power-hungry King Cromwell.

Cromwell resurrected Xusia, an evil sorcerer whose help he needed to kill King Richard.

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Only he realized later that he probably didn’t need Xusia’s help and tries to kill him. He probably could’ve saved himself some trouble by making that decision earlier.

And if you can’t tell, that’s Richard Moll, or Bull from Night Court.

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Years later, King Richard’s son Talon has become the leader of a group of mercenaries (including the bald guy from Murphy Brown). He accepts a mission from Princess Alana to rescue her captured brother Prince Mikah, because in doing so he’ll get laid.

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Also, he’s got a sword made up of 3 blades, two of which can be shot out as a projectile. Yeah, it’s pretty weird, but still cool.

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There’s a lot of action in the movie, with Talon facing hoards of generic evil soldiers. It’s not terribly original stuff, but it doesn’t have to be.

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It’s a fun movie, which fans of stuff like Conan the Barbarian will enjoy. It’s got swords. It’s got sorcerers. It’s got dungeons. It’s got dragons.

Okay, three out of four.

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An interesting thing to note is that it says in the credits to expect the upcoming Tales of an Ancient Empire. Which came out 18 years later. I guess it’s the Duke Nukem Forever of movies.