Michael_Pilkington

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Reviews

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
(1991)

Though overlong, 'Terminator 2' is a fun, action-packed thrill ride
Arnold Schwarzenegger is back. This time he's a heroic Terminator re-programmed to stop the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a more advanced cyborg (made entirely of shape-shifting liquid metal) sent to kill a teen (Edward Furlong, film debut), future leader of the human resistance. In a battle between good Terminator and bad Terminator, who will win? And can judgment day be prevented?

James Cameron is back as director and co-writer. He overloads this film with enough action, car chases, explosions and eye-popping (but expensive and Oscar-winning) special effects to satisfy any sci-fi or action fan. There's no reason to call this film boring.

Once again, Schwarzenegger is at his best as the friendly robot. Instead of killing, he maims or scares anyone who gets in his way. At one point, he shoots a guard in the leg and says "He'll live." Patrick is menacing as the T-1000 not fazed by bullets and can morph into anything or anyone he comes in contact with.

Linda Hamilton also returns as Sarah Connor. She's the teen's mom and former victim of the Terminator (from the first film). She's very convincing as a tough, caring mother, and not wimpy as she was from the first film.

Though overlong, "Terminator 2" is a fun, action-packed thrill ride.

My evaluation: *** out of ****

The Terminator
(1984)

James Cameron's fast-paced, action-packed 'Terminator' delivers the goods
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a 21st century cyborg sent to L.A. to assassinate an innocent woman (Linda Hamilton), unknowingly destined to give birth to a revolutionary. A soldier from the future (Michael Biehn) is also sent in and is assigned to protect the woman and destroy the unstoppable killing machine. Who will prevail? Man or machine?

In spite of tight budget, co-writer/director James Cameron's ("Titanic") film is loaded with non-stop action, quick pacing, above-average effects. Schwarzenegger is convincing as the merciless cyborg and his memorable line ("I'll be back") still remains a classic. One of the most effective sci-fi action films in cinematic history.

My evaluation: ***½ out of ****

Eight Crazy Nights
(2002)

'Tis the season to be gross
Adam Sandler's animated tale has a thirty-three-year-old troublemaker (voiced by Sandler) wreaking havoc during the eight days of Hanukah. After getting in trouble with the law, he is given two choices: go to jail or perform community service, working as assistant referee for youth basketball league with the team's eccentric coach (also voiced by Sandler). He chooses the latter (whether he likes it or not) and goes out of his way to humiliate the coach at every chance he gets. Can the coach make this slacker change his ways?

Sandler caters to his fans with his crude, gross-out humor and excrement jokes. Some funny, and some plain stupid. Some of the songs are hilarious, including Sandler's revised Hanukah song. For those expecting a family-oriented holiday film can look elsewhere.

My evaluation: ** out of ****

The Warriors
(1979)

Walter Hill's stylish 'Warriors' packs a punch
During a gang summit in the Bronx, a rival gang leader (Roger Hill) is shot and killed. A Coney Island gang is wrongfully accused of the crime and find themselves on the run from other gangs and cops as they race back to their turf. Will they make it back in one piece?

Walter Hill's ("48 Hrs.") stylish tale about gang warfare packs a punch (even by today's standards). Upon release, the film sparked controversy and was accused of encouraging gang violence. After one look, it's not brutal, graphic or unpleasant. It's an exciting, fast-paced, action-packed, non-bloody tale that sends a message with conviction. Most of the gangs portrayed are too cartoonish to be menacing, but yet they are unique in more ways than one. Credit should also be given to Andrew Laszlo's photography. A cult classic. "Can you dig it?"

My evaluation: *** out of ****.

Deranged
(1974)

Blossom turns in a good performance as crazed middle-aged farmer, but 'Deranged' is quite slow and uneven
A year later after his mother passes away, a crazed middle-aged farmer (Robert Blossom) digs up her body and begins to robs graves of recently deceased corpses and killing young women in order to preserve her skin and body parts.

This film is inspired by the true events of serial killer Ed Gein, alongside "Psycho" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Just like the latter, this film was shot on a very low budget, giving it a gritty, documentary-like feel. Speaking of documentary, a narrator turns up from time to time to relay information of the story as it continues to unfold. Blossom turns in a good performance as the farmer-turned-killer, but the film is quite slow and uneven with most of the suspense thrown into the wind. Tom Savini is responsible for the cheap-looking special effects.

My evaluation: ** out of ****

Motel Hell
(1980)

Preposterous horror-comedy that fails as both horror and comedy
Farmer Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun) is famous for his smoked meats that he markets from his roadside motel. With the help of his obnoxious, chubby sister (Nancy Parsons), they kidnap unsuspecting travelers, bury them in their garden with their vocal cords cut (so they can't scream) and fatten them up for their famous smoked meats. "It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters."

In spite of flawed acting, Calhoun and Parsons have fun as the crazed siblings. The rest of the cast fails to carry this film. Director Kevin Conway drops the ball on this preposterous horror-comedy that fails as both horror and comedy. The chainsaw-fighting finale is uninspiring and pointless. Whose idea was it for Calhoun to wear a pig's head for that scene anyway? Not funny. Wolfman Jack as a corrupt evangelist and John Ratzenberger (before TV's "Cheers") as one of the unlucky victims appears briefly.

My evaluation: * out of ****

Gacy
(2003)

Despite Holton's decent performance as 'Gacy,' dull writing, directing and pacing sinks this boring film
Based on true story, this film focuses on the life of serial killer John Wayne Gacy (Mark Holton). He was a model citizen, a successful businessman, a family man and occasional clown for children at a hospital, until something motivated him to sodomize and murder thirty young boys and dispose of them in the crawlspace underneath his house.

Despite Holton's decent performance as the infamous serial killer, dull writing, directing and pacing sinks this boring film. More detail on Gacy would've helped, but instead we get obligatory shots of maggots over dead bodies. Gross! If you really want to learn about serial killers like Gacy read about it on the Internet or check out a book at the library; you'll be much better off.

My evaluation: NO STARS

Eaten Alive
(1976)

Hooper's mediocre 'Eaten Alive' suffers from poor script and inept pacing, but Robert Englund's offbeat performance is film's only asset
A crazed proprietor (Neville Brand) runs a motel located in the swampy Louisiana bayou where he keeps a pet crocodile in front of the place. For some reason, he murders unsuspecting guests with a scythe and feeds them to the always-hungry animal.

Tobe Hooper's follow-up to his cult hit "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is surprisingly disappointing, lacking suspense and atmosphere that worked in the last film. In addition, the film suffers from poor script, inept pacing and unconvincing characters. Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund's offbeat performance as a sex-crazed hillbilly with his opening memorable line ("My name is Buck and I'm ready to f---!") is the film's only asset, but it's not enough to overcome these faults. Marilyn Burns ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") also stars a hapless victim (again).

Also known as "Horror Hotel," "Horror Hotel Massacre," and "Death Trap."

My evaluation: *½ out of ****

Piranha
(1978)

Offbeat, cheesy "Jaws" spoof/rip-off has bite
After accidentally releasing a large school of genetically altered species of piranha into a stream, the deadly fish find their way to children's summer camp and tourist resort. It's up to an insurance investigator (Heather Menzies) and a drunken recluse (Bradford Dillman) to prevent the hungry piranhas from chowing down on children and vacationers, with the help of a scientist (Kevin McCarthy) who has been breeding the piranhas in secret.

Producer Roger Corman responds to the success of Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" with this spoof/rip-off (and makes no apologies about it). While "Jaws" was frightening, this film went for scares, campy humor, cheesiness and cheap special effects. Best viewed with a few beers. Corman should be commended for boosting the careers of director Joe Dante ("Gremlins", "Looney Tunes: Back in Action") and screenwriter John Sayles ("Lone Star"). Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, and Barbara Steele also star. Followed by "Piranha II: The Spawning" and remade in 1995. My evaluation: *** out of ****.

Kaboom!
(1981)

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad bomber game
Do you think you can outlast the bomber? Yeah? Well, prove it. Armed with only three buckets of water (using the paddle controller), the object is to catch every bomb that the frowning mad bomber throws at you. If you miss one bomb, every bomb will explode and the bomber will taunt you with his grin and you will lose one bucket. For every successful wave of bombs caught, the bomber will move faster and drop more bombs. This pattern continues until you lose all three buckets, thus ending the game and putting a smile back on the bomber's face.

Upon release of this game for the Atari 2600, Atari had a hit on their hands. Aside from it being just a pattern game, this is a highly addictive and challenging video game. The graphics and sound are excellent. The facial expressions of the bomber and sounds of the lit fuses on bombs and explosions are dead on. The controls (being the paddle controller) work well with this game. Very rare for a game made for the Atari 2600.

My evaluation: 10 out of 10

Kill Bill: Vol. 2
(2004)

Tarantino's 'Vol. 2' has more story and character development, but less action than Vol. 1
Picking up exactly where Vol. 1 left off, The Bride (Uma Thurman) continues her violent quest for revenge as she tracks down and dispatches two remaining colleagues (Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen) before her final showdown with Bill (David Carradine). This time they're ready for her, but The Bride will not go down without a fight.

Fans of Quentin Tarantino are in for a surprise with this installment. Vol. 2 has more story (mostly told in flashbacks) and character development, but less action than Vol. 1. For those expecting to see excessive blood and gore will be disappointed, but there are a few swordfights (one of them followed by a graphic eye-gouging scene). Carradine's performance as Bill is his best bad-guy role since "Lone Wolf McQuade." My evaluation: *** out of ****.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1
(2003)

Tarantino's revenge tale is stupid, silly, trashy, and bloody but entertaining
On the day of her wedding, a former assassin (Uma Thurman) is shot and left for dead by her colleagues (Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen, Julie Dreyfuss) and boss, the unseen Bill (David Carradine). Four years later, she wakes up from a coma and seeks revenge on the assassins responsible, leaving behind a trail of dead bodies.

Originally released as one full-length film (but split in two by order of Miramax), Quentin Tarantino's revenge tale is a salute to spaghetti westerns, martial arts films and 70's action films. After a six-year break, Tarantino has not lost his style. He still knows how to make mindless, bloody films. Although it's stupid, silly, trashy and bloody, it's entertaining. More to follow in Vol. 2. My evaluation: *** out of ****.

Superstarlet A.D.
(2000)

Beautiful women with guns and vintage undergarments run amok in offbeat 'Superstarlet A.D.'
After a devastating holocaust in the lost city of Femphis, men have evolved into primitives and women have become physically beautiful, armed with heavy artillery, sporting vintage undergarments and carrying film reels of their grandmothers' striptease films over their backs. They have formed gangs on the basis of hair color (blonde, brunette, and redhead) and are at war with each other. Why can't they all just get along?

Offbeat post-apocalyptic romp (from Troma) boasts some style and humor as well as beautiful women, but writer/director John Michael McCarthy doesn't know what to do with the women. With most of the film shot in black and white, how can you tell a brunette from a redhead?

My evaluation: ** out of ****

Le lac des morts vivants
(1981)

Euro zombie film is so bad that it's... bad
In a small village in France during WWII, German solders are killed off by French Resistance and dumped into the lake. Several years later, they come back from their watery grave as green-faced zombies killing off locals, most of them being nubile women who prefer skinny dipping in the lake.

Jean Rollin's cheap Euro zombie film is so bad that it's... bad. This one has it all: awful makeup effects, dull acting and writing, stupid plot, bad dubbing and gratuitous nudity. If you're looking for a zombie film with those qualities, go for it. If you're looking for a straightforward zombie film with campy humor and gore, look elsewhere.

My evaluation: NO STARS

Zombi 2
(1979)

Fulci responds to the success of "Dawn of the Dead" with this inane, gory 'Zombie' tale
A woman's (Tisa Farrow) search for her missing father leads to a tropical island, with a journalist (Ian McCulloch) and vacationing couple (Al Cliver, Auretta Gay) along for the ride. Once on the island, they find it inhabited by hungry zombies and a crazed doctor (Richard Johnson) who is conducting experiments on the dead with use of voodoo, only to accidentally revive hordes of corpses in the process. Soon the zombies are devouring the living. Can they be stopped?

Italian director Lucio Fulci responds to the success of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" (a.k.a. "Zombi" in Italy) with this inane, gory zombie tale (a.k.a. "Zombi 2" in Italy). Made mostly for gorehounds and zombie fans, but can they cope with the total boredom of wooden performances, bad writing and directing, and zombie-like pacing? With these faults, it does boast some decent (though, mostly stomach churning) special effects and almost laughable underwater fight between zombie and shark.

My evaluation: * out of ****

Day of the Dead
(1985)

Above average special effects saves Romero's final - and surprisingly disappointing - chapter in the 'Dead' trilogy
As zombies roam around Florida, scientists and military personnel hide in an underground bunker. The scientists are only interested in studying and controlling the undead, but the military wants to destroy them. And the zombies are hungry and eventually find their way inside to feast on the living.

George Romero's third and final chapter in his "Dead" trilogy is surprisingly disappointing, due to third rate performances, weak plot and slow pacing. (And the zombies move faster than this film.) The only saving grace is Tom Savini's above average special effects. My evaluation: ** out of ****.

Dawn of the Dead
(1978)

Satire, humor, social commentary and gory effects dominates Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead'
George Romero's follow-up to "Night of the Living Dead" has zombies roaming around the city of Philadelphia and two SWAT team members (Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger) and two TV station workers (David Emge, Gaylen Ross) flee in a helicopter to a deserted shopping mall in Pennsylvania to seek refuge. All is well until a militant motorcycle gang crashes in, leaving the door open for more zombies.

Considered the best in the "Dead" trilogy, this middle installment relies on satire, humor, blood and gore, social commentary and Tom Savini's gory effects. Savini also appears as the leader of the motorcycle gang. Look for Romero in a cameo. Remade in 2004. My evaluation: ***½ out of ****.

May
(2002)

Sick, twisted (and slow moving) "Frankenstein" clone
A reclusive young woman named May (Angela Bettis) with a troubled childhood and a doll as her only friend decides to search for someone to call a friend. She takes up with a filmmaker (Jeremy Sisto), but the relationship is short lived after he realizes that she's too strange for his liking. She then hooks up with a lesbian colleague (Anna Faris) and gets blown off as well. With each rejection, May snaps and goes on a murder spree. She even tries to make a friend of her own. with various body parts.

Bettis ("Girl, Interrupted") is over the top, but is not enough to overcome uninteresting story. This sick, twisted and slow moving "Frankenstein" clone fails to build any suspense. My evaluation: * out of ****.

Revenge of the Cheerleaders
(1976)

Not even David Hasselhoff's early role is reason enough to see unfunny, gross-out 'Revenge of the Cheerleaders'
The cheerleaders of Aloha High tries to put the kibosh on a forced merger with their school and its rival Lincoln High. Their plans include spiking cafeteria food with drugs, locker room orgies, and a secret weapon for winning the big basketball game.

This teen comedy has something in common with "The Swinging Cheerleaders": it tries too hard to be funny, but can't with gross-out humor. David Hasselhoff (TV's Knight Rider and Baywatch), in his early role as a jock named Boner, can't save this one. At one point, he actually gets naked. Rainbeaux Smith ("The Swinging Cheerleaders") also stars. My evaluation: * out of ****.

The Swinging Cheerleaders
(1974)

Too many subplots, amateurish performances and writing ruin'Swinging Cheerleaders'
A feminist reporter (Jo Johnston) who wants to write an exposé on how cheerleading degrades women decides to infiltrate the cheerleading squad. Once accepted, she realizes that the cheerleaders aren't bad and finds out that the football games are rigged. She also falls for the team's quarterback (Ron Hajek), and this does not sit well with his girlfriend - the head cheerleader (Colleen Camp).

Semi follow-up to 1973's "The Cheerleaders" is a disappointment. Too many subplots, amateurish performances and writing ruin this loser. Directed by Jack Hill ("Coffy," "Foxy Brown"). My evaluation: * out of ****.

The Cheerleaders
(1973)

Heavy-handed, amateurish 'Cheerleaders' is good for a few laughs
After joining a local high school's cheerleading squad, a teenage girl (Stephanie Fondue) vows to lose her virginity to the right guy, but all her good-hearted attempts backfire. Meanwhile, her fellow cheerleaders come up with a plan to help their high school's football team to victory: sleep with the opposing team on the night before their most important game so that the opposition will be too worn out to play.

Suffering from heavy-handed script and incredibly amateurish performances, this silly teen sexploitation romp is good for a few laughs and dishes plenty of T&A to satisfy any jaded fan. My evaluation: ** out of ****.

Valley Girl
(1983)

Totally tubular 80's teen comedy (fer shure)
In the tradition of "Romeo and Juliet," a punker named Randy (Nicholas Cage) begins a relationship with shallow teenage girl named Julie (Deborah Foreman), but peer pressure from her equally shallow friends forces her to break up and go back to her ex-boyfriend (Michael Bowen). Randy refuses to take this lying down and tries to get Julie back. Will he succeed?

Fine performances by Cage, Foreman, Frederick Forrest and Colleen Camp (as Julie's hippie parents), sensitive directing by Martha Coolidge, and totally tubular soundtrack by Modern English, The Plimsouls, and Men at Work (to name a few) makes this fun sleeper one of the best 80's teen comedies (fer shure).

My evaluation: *** out of ****

A Christmas Story
(1983)

A near-perfect 'Christmas Story'
Based on the short stories of humorist Jean Shepherd (who also narrates), a nine-year-old boy (Peter Billingsley) wants a genuine Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action Air Rifle for Christmas, much to the disapproval of his parents (Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin). Will he get his most desired present?

Great performances by Billingsley and McGavin, non-stop humor and director/co-writer Bob Clark's ("Porky's") attention to detail highlights this near-perfect holiday film that deserves to be a Christmastime classic like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Merry Christmas. My evaluation: ***½ out of ****.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
(1986)

Dennis Hopper's wooden performance, unfunny attempts at dark humor nearly kill rushed, mediocre 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' sequel
Dennis Hopper stars as an ex-Texas Ranger seeking revenge on the murderous chainsaw-wielding family responsible for murdering members of his family from the previous installment. Meanwhile, a radio deejay (Caroline Williams) recorded one of their grisly murders and played it on the air only to upset Cook (Jim Siedow, the only returning actor from the original), Chop Top (Bill Moseley), and Leatherface (Bill Johnson).

Tobe Hooper is back as director, but unfortunately the sequel is rushed and (surprisingly) mediocre. Instead of keeping the eerie atmosphere and suspense that worked in the original, he throws in touches of dark humor that barely works. The crazed family is no longer scary, but rather obnoxious and annoying. Hopper must have needed the money for his wooden performance. His chainsaw battle with Leatherface is lame. Tom Savini provided the cheesy gory effects. My evaluation: *½ out of ****.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
(1974)

Tobe Hooper's 'Massacre' is both disturbing and horrifying
After their grandfather's grave has been desecrated, two siblings (Marilyn Burns, Paul A. Partain) and their friends travel to a cemetery in Texas to investigate, but their van runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere. While looking for gas, they stumble upon a house that's inhabited by a cannibalistic family, including a chainsaw-wielding maniac named Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen). One by one, the teens are tortured and butchered.

Loosely based on the true crimes of murderer Ed Gein, writer/director Tobe Hooper's ("Poltergeist") low-budget tale is both disturbing and horrifying. It's also very hard to watch. As the film progresses, the terror grows and grows until the final reel. There's hardly any blood and certainly no gore, just plain terror. Most of the performances are second rate, but who cares? Just see it for the terror and suspense. A must-see for horror fans. Followed by three weak sequels and remade in 2003. My evaluation: *** out of ****.

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