Movie Review: The Golden Child (1986)

Action, Comedy, fantasy, Horror Comedy, Movie Reviews

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Chinese mysticism isn’t a prominent theme in mainstream movies; in fact it isn’t a very common theme in western movies as a whole; but in 1986 2 were released within 5 months of each other.  The first, released in July, was John Carpenter’s cult classic Big Trouble In Little China, a kung-fu neo-western that failed to make a splash at the box office and would be considered a huge commercial flop, making back a mere 11 million from a 25 million dollar budget.  The second was The Golden Child, released in December, starring Eddie Murphy riding a wave of success after Beverly Hills Cop (1984) became a huge worldwide hit.  The Golden Child, unlike Big Trouble In Little China, was a moderate box office success; but throughout the years it would become forgotten by most while Carpenter’s film would go on to become a cult classic that’s still finding audiences to this day.  Comparisons between both movies are inescapable: they share as much similarities as they do differences, with actors James Hong, Peter Kwong and Victor Wong appearing in each of them.  Furthermore, Carpenter was even attached to direct The Golden Child, but would go on to jump ship from Paramount to 20th Century Fox and speed up production on Big Trouble and beat it to release.  It would seem like both companies were in competition with each other and these movies were the product of their rivalry.  Regardless of what they have in common, I think they’re both unique in their own right.

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The original script for The Golden Child, penned by Species (1995) writer Dennis Feldman was originally supposed to be a darker movie, starring Mel Gibson as the lead.  But due to Gibson’s unavailability, Eddie Murphy was given the part and the script was rewritten to suit his comedic sensibilities. He would be joined by Charles Dance and Charlotte Lewis, who would play his Devilish nemesis and love interest respectively.

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The plot is simple: Eddie Murphy plays Chandler Jarrell, a private detective who specializes in finding missing children.  After the disappearance of The Golden Child – a young monk boy with special magical abilities who was kidnapped by an evil sorcerer – Chandler is the only one who can save him. Chandler was sought out because he’s The Chosen One; at first he thinks it’s all ridiculous, of course – but as the investigation advances he learns that supernatural forces are real and only he can put a stop to the wicked Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance) and his minions.

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Reviews weren’t kind to The Golden Child upon its release and it currently holds a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, suggesting that the majority of critics are joyless morons.  However, in a positive review, Roger Ebert praised it for being, ”entertaining from beginning to end.”  That sums it up perfectly; The Golden Child won’t have you laughing at loud, but its charm is infectious and it’s so well paced and entertaining you’ll never feel bored. It may not be a particularly ”funny” movie, but it’s a fun one – and it has endless rewatch value, much like its cousin Big Trouble In Little China.

The special effects are dated by modern standards, but that just adds to its charm.  They represent a passage of time and era of film that never fails to give me a huge cheesy grin.  The 80’s was the pinnacle for action, adventure, comedy, fantasy and horror for me.  If it was for you too then it doesn’t get more 80’s than this; from the music to the costumes, the action sequences and humour – this is a blast.

The Golden Child isn’t perfect; comparisons to Big Trouble are inevitable and it doesn’t come close to matching Carpenter’s classic in awesomeness; but that doesn’t mean it’s not a gem in its own right.  Do yourself a favour and give it a chance.  7/10.

Directed By:

Michael Ritchie

Written By:

Dennis Feldman

Starring:

Eddie Murphy, Charles Dance, Charlotte Lewis, J.L. Reate

Genre:

Action, Fantasy, Comedy, Horror

Running Time:

94 min

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Movie Review: Lost River (2014)

drama, fantasy, Movie Review

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Ryan Gosling has forged quite the career from marching to the beat of his own drum; his acting roles are picked based on what interests him as opposed to coasting on his looks and charms all the way to the bank, and now, with his first directorial feature, he’s created a bamboozling piece of arthouse cinema in the vein of his mentor Nicolas Refn, and idols like David Lynch, Dario Argento and Gaspar Noe.  Film buffs are sure to have a ball playing spot the influence; Gosling proudly wears Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive on his sleeve, through the lens of Only God Forgives.  Like his acting roles, this isn’t concerned about pleasing the mainstream; in fact, judging by its Cannes reaction and Rotten Tomatoes score it isn’t pleasing anybody.  Critics are writing it off as a collage of influences on a canvas with no originality of its own; and while it is a collage of influences, to write it off as nothing more is lazy journalism.  Whilst displaying images reminiscent of its idols, it contains enough of its own symbolism and messages to warrant some respect in regards to its originality.

Gosling tackles issues like small town life, poverty, bullying, family, coming of age, and the environment in his first outing; Christina Hendricks plays the mother who goes to desperate lengths to support her family, leading her into a dark underworld overseen by Ben Mendelsohn’s Dave, a sleazy Luciferian-like scumbag with a fondness for karaoke.  Saoirse Ronan plays Rat, the young love interest of Bones (Iain De Caestecker), who spend their time ducking bullies led by the appropriately named Bully, played by Doctor Who himself, Matt Smith, in  career best performance thus far.  Their town is decaying as a result of the economic crisis, and the setting makes for a desolate urban fairytale.

Water plays an important part in Lost River; in a town where water is hard to come by, all the characters still seem to be drowning in one way or another.  Social commentary is playfully used to suggest that industrial and commercial growth has replaced reservoirs to the point nobody knows what they are any more, despite being necessary in order to survive.

Lost River does come off as a love letter to avant-garde cinema Gosling is inspired by, but to dismiss it as only that is unfair; although viewed through the lens of Refn, with the imagery of Lynch, Mallick, Noe and Argento splashed across the screen throughout, this urban fairytale has strong characters and enough moral, societal and self-empowering messages to stand on its own 2 legs.  Overall, it’s a visually striking treat that could suck you in based on that alone, but Gosling is a director with a voice who shows great promise, even if he does need a little confidence to speak louder without his influences whispering in his ear.  7/10

Written & Directed By:

Ryan Gosling

Starring:

Christina Hendricks, Ben Mendelsohn, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith

Genre:

Fantasy, Drama

Running Time:

95 mins

Movie Review: Highway To Hell (1991)

fantasy, Horror, Horror Comedy, Movie Review

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The legend of Orepheus and Eurydice in Greek mythology is about a man who enters the underworld to reclaim his wife from the clutches of Hades, after her unfortunate death on their wedding day to a vipers sting as she danced in the meadow with her bridesmaids.  The movie Highway To Hell is about a bride-to-be (played by the luscious Kristy Swanson) who gets kidnapped and taken to Hell by Hell Cop as her husband-to-be (Chad Lowe) pursues.  Guess which one I prefer?

Rachel and Charlie are young lovers who take a desert back road on their way to Vegas, where they plan to marry before the night is out.  On the way they stop for gas, where the old attendant begs them to turn back, but when they refuse, he warns them not to fall asleep between 2 Joshua trees further up the road.  Of course, they fall asleep and a demonic police officer appears, kidnaps Rachel and takes her to Hell.  Charlie returns to the gas station immediately where the attendant informs him he only has 24 hours to enter Hell and get her back or else they’ll be trapped there for eternity.  Armed with a special car and a gun, he travels the highway into Hell and proceeds to get his woman back, while running into various hurdles on the way.

Hell itself is a vast desert highway with biker gangs, bad service diners, horny demons, obnoxious cooks, strip clubs and road service providers who like to insult stranded drivers down the phone.  It mirrors some of the real worlds most common everyday complaints; abusive police officers, busy traffic, poor restaurant service and obnoxious telephone workers are just a few of the real world lows represented in Hell to great comedic effect.  Furthermore, there’s a great nod to the old phrase, ”the path to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Highway To Hell was written by Brian Helgeland, whose previous writing credits included A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988) and 976-Evil (1988).  He would then go on to have writing credits on classics like L.A. Confidential (1997), Man On Fire (2004) and Mystic River (2003).  The director Ate de Jong directed the cult classic Drop Dead Fred (1991), before going on to mainly Dutch films after Highway To Hell.

I love this movie with all my heart: it’s a fun, smart, campy, romantic, action-packed adventure that jizzes imagination all over the screen.  This is a popcorn classic that’ll bring you a lot of mindless entertainment and joy on a dark, wet night or bright Summer’s eve as the sun is about to set.  I give this a… 10/10 

Directed By:

Ate de Jong

Written By:

Brian Helgeland

Starring:

Kristy Swanson, Chad Lowe, Patrick Bergin

Genre:

Horror, Comedy, Fantasy

Running Time:

94 min

Movie Review: Digging Up The Marrow (2014)

Comedy, fantasy, Horror, Movie Reviews

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The daydreamer in every horror fanatic has fantasized about the existence of monsters at some point in their life: Harry Potter fans have spent hours in their imaginations strolling the halls of Hogwarts and horror fans have stared into cemeteries hoping for gateways to Midian; or ventured into the woods hoping to bump into a werewolf or man eating yeti.  To us, the existence of monsters is akin to a child’s hope that Santa Claus is out there somewhere, fighting Iraqi soldiers.  Adam Green’s latest feature – his first since 2010’s Hatchet II – is the product of a lifelong horror fan who’s always hoped monsters exist deep down, despite adult logic telling him otherwise.  On top of that, Digging Up The Marrow is a love letter to horror and its die hard fans; conveyed in the style of a mildly self-deprecating mockumentary.

Digging Up The Marrow stars Adam Green and his real life cinematographer, Will Barratt; playing themselves as they make a documentary about monster make-up.  It features an array of cameos from fellow actors, directors and artists discussing monster effects as if it were a real documentary.  However, after a meeting with a crazy fan named Dekker (Ray Wise) – an ex-detective who claims to have proof of the existence of monsters – Adam and Will embark join him on a mission to capture them on film.  To Adam and Will, Dekker is just an old loony who makes for entertaining subject matter, but they soon realize he might not be so crazy after all.

Adam Green – much like his friend and oft-collaborator Joe Lynch – has a loyal fan base because he’s a fans director, who engages with us regularly; so to play himself in a role is a great way to give us more of the man we crave like hotcakes.  I myself am a huge Adam Green fan: as a filmmaker he caters to my tastes and as a person he’s genuine and funny shares my enthusiasm and passion for horror, so to see that portrayed in an on-screen role was fun and fresh.

Casting Ray Wise in a faux-documentary isn’t going to win points for authenticity, but it breaks the scoreboard in terms of pure entertainment: he effortlessly oscillates between chewing scenery, exercising his comedic chops and dramatic intensity, just like any bonkers monster believer should.  It’s a role where Wise gets to showcase the spectrum of his acting abilities and I can’t think of any other actor who could have played this part better; or even on par.

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For all I love Adam Green, I found Digging Up The Marrow to be a pleasant surprise: in an age of horror where pseudo-documentaries and found footage films take up a large, unwanted space; Adam Green has managed to mash them to produce yet another outstanding entry to his body of work.

Digging Up The Marrow is another hit for Adam Green that is unlike his other projects: he continues to prove himself as a champion of modern horror with fresh takes on tired genres and innovative work which puts him ahead of the curve.  This is bound to please horror fans by resonating with them as a love letter to the genre, as well as a piece of fresh storytelling.  I can’t recommend this one enough.  8/10

Written & Directed By:

Adam Green

Starring:

Adam Green, Ray Wise, Will Barratt

Genre:

Horror, Comedy, Fantasy

Running Time:

98 min