Documentary Spotlight: '30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story'

If You're an 80's Kid, Get Ready to Relive Your Childhood All Over Again

by robotGEEK

Somehow, in some way, I never knew this documentary existed until just a few weeks ago, when someone posted having just gotten the DVD in a Facebook group. I immediately jumped over to Amazon and ordered myself a copy. Being an 80's kid, and all around collector, I can honestly say that it was one of the most satisfying impulse purchases I've made in a long while.

In the 1980s a bunch of underground cartoonists parodied a popular doll. The resulting commercial product tapped into the international kid zeitgeist. That young generation felt that this product spoke to the revulsion they had for the corporate pop culture that was being fed to them.
This fascinating and highly enlightening documentary explores the birth of The Garbage Pail Kids, initially as a parody of Cabbage Patch Kids, which, as we all know, would ultimately bring big trouble for them (Topps Trading Cards), but also become one of the hottest, most sought after collectibles on the planet. Even today, 3 decades later, they're still hot sellers in every corner of the world, who's fanbase continues to grow.

In this doc, we get firsthand insight from the creators and artists themselves about their appeal in the first place, and their long-lasting success. What I found fascinating is how all of the artists were essentially undergound artists, who sadly didn't get much recognition as being those responsible for much of the cards success, but who've since gained infamy and massive recognition through a plethora of online communities dedicated solely to Garbage Pail Kids, the artists and fans.

Undergrouund artist John Pound was the initial artist who created the GPK's iconic look and style, and who is responsible for most of the legendary paintings in the initial series that kickstarted the franchise. He was soon followed by other artists such as Tom Bunk, James Warhola, Jay Lynch and a whole bunch more, but all keeping within that very specific style. One of the more fascinating things (to me anyway), is how each artist used a different medium back in the 80's (mostly acrylic and airbrush), and how that medium had changed with new artists and the times, yet some still kept that old-school way of producing them, despite the changing times.

It really seems that GPK's have only grown in popularity over the course of 30 years, with no signs of slowing down. The fact that you can now get so many items associated with the GPK brand, but not necessarily the cards is a testament to it's long-lasting popularity.

30 Years of Garbage comes packed with insight and entertainment in a full 2 hour running time, with a healthy dose of extras. Co-directed by Jeff Zapata, who worked his way up the ranks and eventually took over marketing, product development, creating, drawing, and art directing duties to become the creative director over at Topps in the 90's is also in front of the camera, giving some great insight and clarity into the company's transition into the 90's and beyond.

I think for me, one of the best sections in here was when it came time to discuss the dreaded GPK live action movie from 1987, at the height of that brand's fame. Oh man, it's a hoot! You get to hear firsthand from the actors who donned the terrible costumes, and even the films main star, Mackenzie Astin about their experiences making that now legendary cult classic, and their thoughts on it. Talk about a flashback to my childhood!

30 Years of Garbage: The Garbage Pail Kids Story is available from the official website and webstore HERE, and any number of online retailers.


80's Thriller Throwback: Sudden Impact

This 4th Entry Marks a Change of Pace for the Series, Delivering another Solid Winner

by robotGEEK

The Dirty Harry franchise has never been one of my favorites. I don't know why really. I've just never really gotten into them the way others have. But I do own the first 4 films as part of a cheap DVD set I picked up many, many years ago, because it still deserves to be in any action fan's collection. And I guess it's because of the fact that I actually own them that I find myself digging into them every 5 years or so, always hoping that maybe I'll connect with them more in some way this time around. Well, that day finally came. Let's dig in.

I'll admit, I didn't watch the first two; Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, because those are two I've seen more than any of the others and feel I know them pretty well already. I wanted to dig into the later films, most importantly, the 80's etries; Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool. But first I decided to hit the middle child, The Enforcer, and honestly, I loved it. I loved the slick direction courtesy of James Fargo, who at times made it look and feel like a western, and I loved the whole 70's vibe. I could go into a whole mini-review here on that particular one, but I'll save it for a later date. Let me just say that it was far more impressive than I expected it to be, and it was better than I remember. Which then led me to the follow up, Sudden Impact, the first and only Dirty Harry film that Clint Eastwood directed personally, which as I've grown to love Eastwood-directed films more and more lately, I was pretty excited to finally revisit.

Sudden Impact is somewhat of a departure for the franchise as it begins like most of the Dirty Harry films, but halfway through turns more into a thriller as Harry tracks down a serial killer. So unlike the other films in the franchise, where they play out like gritty detective action/thriller's, this one is like two different films split right down the middle, with the first half being a typical DH film, but once he's sent over to a small town to investigate a series of murders, it turns into a whole other film, and honestly, I fucking loved it. It's like the perfect marriage of two different genre's and it works splendidly. It also allows Eastwood to deliver some solid work behind the camera. To me, it feels like this is where Eastwood really found his "style", because it's a visually striking film. Actually, it may be the most visually impressive film in the entire series, which you really have to admire as each entry took on a different director. Speaking of which, it's probably the fact that Eastwood was in the director's chair this time around that Sandra Locke is even in this, and would mark the last time they would work together. After making a total of 6 films together, the studio demanded he stop casting her in his films as the general public was starting to grow fatigued from their constant collaborations together. I will say though that she was quite excellent in this, and of all their collaborations together, this is my favorite. Locke would go on to become a director herself, directing less than a handful of films in the 80's and 90's.

Sudden Impact is a first for a number of reasons. Though most assume the famous line "Go ahead, make my day" came from the first Dirty Harry film, it was actually this film (the 4th in the franchise) that the now legendary line, synonymous with all things Dirty Harry, came from. It was also the first time Harry didn't have a partner, and the first time he used a semi-automatic gun, rather than his famous revolver. As I mentioned before, it's the first and only DH film Eastwood directed himself, making it a much richer experience in my opinion. Sudden Impact ultimately became the highest grossing film in the franchise. Whether that is attributed to Eastwood's work behind the camera or not is up to debate. But I personally believe so. It could also be because it had been 7 years since the last Dirty Harry film, and fans in 1983 were eager for another one.

There were so many things I loved about this specific entry, but a lot of it really falls on it's time period of 1983. The film's very specific 80's aesthetic adds a heavy dose of 80's nostalgia into the fold, where everything from Harry's Members Only jackets to his totally retro Gargoyle's sunglasses (immortalized the following year in The Terminator) just make everything look so damn cool. 80's thrillers are arguably some of the best (my personal favorite), and Sudden Impact is another perfect example of why.

Sudden Impact, my personal favorite in the franchise, is also a pretty great 80's thriller in it's own right, going toe-to-toe with the best of them. It marks a lot of "firsts" for the franchise, as well as proving Clint Eastwood as a pretty excellent director, giving the series a significant boost in quality and craftsmanship. This would mark Eastwood's 10th film as a director, and he would only grow stronger as one of the most impressive directors in film history, eventually earning his first Oscar as Best Director for his classic western Unforgiven in 1992. Sudden Impact is an early example of his mastery behind the camera, and clearly one of his best films all around. If it's been a long while since you've seen it, it may be time for a revisit. It might surprise you.


Hereditary Spoiler-Free Film Review

First Time Feature Film Writer/Director Ari Aster Has Created One of the Creepiest Film Experiences I've Ever Had

by robotGEEK

I'll admit, the hype machine has been a bit over the top lately. It seems companies just freely say "the scariest movie ever", or "you won't be able to finish it because it's too scary". Most of the time it's just ignorant marketing and not true...at all. But Hereditary is different. Hereditary, a psychological horror film masquerading as an intense dysfunctional family drama, is legitimately one of the creepiest films I've ever seen. This is hands-down one of the most sophisticated and intensely unsettling films ever made. The razor sharp precision in everything from the slow buildup (it is intensely slow-burn), the incredible performances, the meticulously detail-oriented direction and sure-handed script all lend themselves to such an intense experience that you can't help but simmer on what you've seen for hours and hours afterwards. This is about as intense as any psychological horror film can possibly get, and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, there's no denying the expert craftsmanship involved and the lingering effects on your brain.

Is it the scariest film ever made? I don't know. What is? I've never seen a film that actually scared me. But there are a handful that I find genuinely disturbing and creep me out, like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Candyman and The Shining. Hereditary is one of those films. It's constant sense of dread presents itself in a slow-burn experience for the first half as you wonder if this is really a drama rather than a horror film. But trust me, if you can make it to the second half, the payoff is magnificent, because it really is two different films in one, split right down the middle in it's 2 hour running time. Once the second half kicks in, you won't know what hit you - as if the rug has just been pulled from right under you.

I've never seen the young actress Milly Shapiro before, who's displayed prominently on the marketing material, but she blew me away. There's just something eerie and unsettling about her every second she's on screen that I just could not take my eyes off of her. She's hypnotizing in a way that easily makes her one of the most unforgettable characters in a horror film in recent memory. I wouldn't be surprised if this role for her goes down in film history the same way that the character of Danny from The Shining did.

Personally speaking, this is the that rare occasion where the hype machine is justified here. I would definitely take advantage of seeing this in a dark theater. It makes a huge difference. Go see it! Support it so we can help more films like this get made.


90's Action Attack: Trespass (1992)

The Team Behind 'Tales From the Crypt' Deliver an Urban/Action/Caper That's Surprisingly Good in a Very 90's Way

by robotGEEK

My one and only memory of this Walter Hill classic was that I remember going to the theater to see this on Christmas Day back in 1992 by myself. This was a time when I made a habit of doing that, and while I'm sure I enjoyed it, for some reason I never took the time to revisit it. But I always had the idea to in the back of my mind, and when a friend was selling a bunch of VHS recently, I took the opportunity to grab this one.

When 2 city firefighters go searching for a hidden treasure in an abandoned building, they soon discover that they're caught in the middle of an urban turf war, and must figure out how to escape and stay alive.

Though it's been nearly 30 years since I've last seen it, I can honestly say I had great time with this one. It was also a reminder of a time when big name rappers began turning into actors in big budget films that hit theaters, regardless if they were good or not. That trend continued all throughout the 90's, most notably in a bunch of Seagal flicks and some low-budget horror films. It didn't last though. The few that actually did turn out to be decent actors continue to thrive today, like Ice-T and Ice Cube for example, who continue to work in film and TV as actors, even filmmakers themselves in Ice Cube's case. But that idea is nowhere near as prominent as it was in the 90's, where it seemed like every popular rapper tried their hands at acting. If anything, Trespass is a fun reminder of that very specific time when gangster rappers tried branching out into acting. But moving on.

Outside of this stellar cast, I was stoked mainly because of my man Walter Hill behind the directors chair. Ultimately, while it's a bit of a detour from his usual style and type of film, he did a pretty decent job. It's not on the same level of say, Red Heat, Extreme Prejudice or Another 38 Hrs., because he mixes that very gritty style up with a whole lot of handheld freestyle camerawork here, which I'm just not a fan of in general. Still, it retained enough of that very special Walter Hill flavor to keep me invested. And truth be told, this was around the time when Hill wasn't really displaying any specific style like he had all throughout the 80's. The 90's saw him experiment with varying different visual aesthetics, and straying more and more from what we had come to expect from him in the previous decade. For example, with Trespass, he mixes up his usual slick direction with some handheld camerawork. Some of it works alright, and some of it just looks and feels lazy. But the following year he went all out in epic form with Geronimo, giving the film a slick epic widescreen sheen that easily comes off as one of his best looking films to date. 2 years later he would go a little weirder with some experimental camerawork and tricks with Wild Bill (personally wasn't a fan). 1996 saw Hill return to form with the gritty, violent, bloody Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis, which also marked the last time we would get a film like that from him.

Directing issues aside, Trespass is really as strong as it is because of the excellent cast. Bill Paxton and William Sadler knock it out of the park in their respective roles, and the impressively large ensemble cast of character actors and rappers-turned-actors are just icing on the cake.

I think one of the things that surprises me the most about this is how nearly everyone involved with this is also responsible for HBO's Tales From the Crypt series. Trespass is written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, who also wrote and directed the Back to the Future trilogy. It's directed by Walter Hill, who along with Zemeckis and Gale, produced and created the series for HBO, as well as directed a number of classic episodes. Sadler starred in Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight, as well as 2 key episodes in the series. Bill Paxton starred in an episode titled "People Who Live in Brass Hearses". See? It's like the the whole TFtC family decided to get together and make an urban action film for the fun of it, and the result is a film that defied my expectations and ultimately ended up being a pretty fun urban/crime/action/thriller/caper, despite the urban angle, which I'm generally not much of a fan of in films.

While nothing groundbreaking, it's a serviceable and highly enjoyable caper that brings together a colorful band of actors and filmmakers in a very un-typical way, delivering a solid standout in the urban action genre.


90's Essentials: Mallrats (1994)

Kevin Smith's Sophomore Effort Was a Lot Better Than I Remember, and Reminds us of Why Malls Were Awesome

by robotGEEK

Much like most of you I'm sure, when Kevin Smith's Clerks was first released in 1994, I was an immediate fan. And I know I wasn't the only one as Smith immediately skyrocketed to fame as one of the most sought-after filmmakers on the planet, thanks to his witty clever dialogue and his almost guerrilla-style indie approach. I can't even tell you how many times I saw that film on good ol' VHS back in the day. So it's safe to say, Smith was a hot property, and we were all waiting impatiently for his next film, which would ultimately be Mallrats.

Personally speaking, Mallrats was a bit of a letdown for me when I first saw it in theaters. To me, it didn't feel like the type of film I was expecting from the guy who made Clerks. It felt too mainstream, too safe, and really......it was. Smith had the backing of a major studio for the first time, and the money to spend, which also meant he had to make the studio and their studio heads happy and like most filmmakers making a big budget film, he had to work within their perimeters of what type of film they wanted released under their brand. While there were some funny moments and a really great 90's soundtrack, I felt that the clever dialogue wasn't nearly as strong as it was in Clerks, or any other Kevin Smith film for that matter. So I just sort of forgot about it and moved on. But none of this soured my love or appreciation for Smith as a filmmaker, because I still saw all of his films when they were released, and oftentimes found myself revisiting most of them throughout the following years. But I never came back to Mallrats....until now.

When I saw that it had been added to Crackle's streaming site, I took it as an opportunity to revisit it, thinking maybe it would be better for me this time around. And boy am I glad I did, because that's exactly what happened. I loved it. I loved it so much that I saw it twice in the same week, which never happens to me. I had to introduce it to my wife, who also loved it and I now find myself wondering just what the hell was wrong with me in the first place. Why didn't I connect with it way back in 1994 when I was 24 years old? I wish I could say, but in any case, I'm glad I took the chance to revisit it because it's now become my favorite Kevin Smith film, and a true 90's essential.

Mallrats is pretty much every comic geek's dream. The constant comic book references, as well as Stan "The Man" Lee's legendary cameo make for some true nostalgic geekery. It's also fun watching a very young Ben Affleck be an asshole,which I'm sure some would argue probably wasn't that far from the truth during that time. There's also the small bit with Three's Company's Priscilla Barnes as a topless fortune teller. I mean, the film is loaded with a plethora of fun bits that oftentimes lead nowhere, but really make for a fun experience overall.

Then there's the whole "mall" angle. I think we can all agree that malls are becoming a thing of the past these days, with malls closing left and right as they just can't beat online shopping. What we get now are the outdoor storefront stripmalls, both small and large in it's place. And it's just not the same. But back in 1994, malls were the place to hang out with your friends, even if you didn't have any money to spend. You just went and spent literally the entire day just wandering around because without money, you had nothing better to do. And it got you out of the house, which I'm sure our parents really enjoyed. But one of this film's most endearing aspects is how it shows us what malls looked like back in the early 90's, all pastel colors and bright neon lights. Malls are becoming relics, and just speaking from personal experience, our crappy mall is about done and ready to close it's doors forever in my hometown. But this film was such a pleasant reminder of how awesome and fun malls used to be.

Watching Mallrats after 24 years was one of the most fun experiences I've had revisiting a film. Never a dull moment, filled to the brim with pop culture references, a killer 90's soundtrack, and a young, hip, fun cast make for a very fun time indeed. It's time I picked this up on a physical medium because it needs to be in my collection permanently.


Blu-Ray Review: Revenge of the Ninja (Kino Lorber)

Next to Sho Kosugi's 'Pray For Death', This May Very Well Be The Ultimate Ninja Film

by robotGEEK

As I enjoy my current love for 80's ninja flicks (which I've ignored for far too long), I took this opportunity to finally grab the Blu-Ray courtesy of Kino Lorber of one of my favorite ninja flicks of all time. Though it has been a good 3-4 years since I've last seen it, I remember it being cheesy as hell (always a good thing), and just very fun. Plus, you can never have enough Sho Kosugi. Being that he didn't really make that many films to begin with before retiring, it's always a good idea to revisit his classics, which honestly only get better and better with age. So let's dig in.

Written by James R. Silke (Ninja III, The Barbarians), and directed with gusto by the legendary, and Cannon regular, Sam Firstenberg (Breakin' 2, Ninja III, Avenging Force, American Ninja), Revenge of the Ninja may actually be my favorite ninja film. I know, I know. I just said that recently about Sho Kosugi's Pray for Death in that film's Blu-Ray review, but after having revisited this one, I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite now, as they both tap into that very niche "cheesy" angle that some of these ninja films seemed to miss. Of course all of that is completely unintentional, but captured so gloriously by Sam Firstenberg.

There's just so much to enjoy here. Sho Kosugi displays such an intense amount of showmanship, always going above and beyond to put on a show. His facial expressions alone make it enjoyable, but the film is littered with a fun cast of characters that leave you both dumbfounded and entertained. The weird Village People style "gang" Sho encounters in a playground is a perfect example of that. But it's everyone's fierce commitment and steadfast approach that drives the film forward in the most entertaining way. Everyone is 100% serious, yet the material is amateurish and oftentimes laughably silly, which makes for such a fun experience.

Just The Disc:
Presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, there's nothing really special about this release, other than how awesome the movie is in general. While the new 1080p HD transfer is nice, it's not mind-bogglingly impressive or anything. Still, to date, it's the best looking transfer we have of a pretty legendary film. Slight graininess (it was made in 1983 after all) can be found throughout, but only adds to it's charm. It's a pleasant reminder of a time when movies were actually shot on film. Most importantly though, the colors pop, and it's vivid early 80's color scheme add yet another layer of retro cool atmosphere to an already fantastic film.

The new DTS-HD master audio 2.0 is nice, but the lack of subtitles was a bit surprising to be honest. I did find myself having to really focus on the audio because of this, which depending on your audio setup, could actually be a bit of a bother, which is why subtitles are always nice to fall back on, which are lacking here.

Much like most of Kino's releases, there are virtually no extras, save for a trailer, commentary by director Sam Firstenberg and stunt coordinator Steven Lambert, and an intro by Firstenberg that lasts a total of 3 minutes and 16 seconds. A new interview with Sho Kosugi (who's always down for things like that) would have been nice, or even a short "Making Of". Kino really needs to start stepping up their game in the extras department.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea since it's unintentionally cheesy in the most epic way, but if you just give it a chance, you'll see that it's quite possibly one of the best ninja films ever made, in a way that makes you feel like a kid again. It's absurd in the most delightful way. When the insane fight sequences take center stage, it's astonishing how they literally just throw anything they can think of into them, with no attention or care taken to logic and common sense. But that's why it's such a blast!

Personally speaking, if you love 80's films, Bad Movie Night films, ninja films, Cannon Films, Sho Kosugi films, or just cheesy films, this is a Must-Own. No question. It deserves to be in your collection along with the best of them and if time is any indication, there's a very good reason why we're still discussing this film 35 years later. It's just fucking awesome.

Kino Lorber's Revenge of the Ninja Blu-Ray is available from any of your favorite online retailers.


Netflix Recommendation: 'Making Fun - The Story of Funko'

by robotGEEK

I'll admit right up front that I'm not a fan of the Funko Pop figures. While I've been collecting toys for over 30 years, and still do to this day, these just don't do anything for me. Yet, I know I'm in the minority here because these Pop figures are such a huge business now and they just keep growing and growing, with people just going absolutely crazy for anything and everything Funko Pop.

So when I saw this documentary land on Netflix, I was still interested in watching it because after all, I am a toy collector, and would probably enjoy the doc more than I do the toys, and I was right. Considering I'm not a fan of this toyline, I have to admit, this was a really fun and highly informative documentary on how Funko got their start (with bobbleheads believe it or not), and how they grew substantially over the years out of it's creator's garage into one of the leading toy companies on the planet, with no signs of slowing down.

One of the biggest surprises for me, besides learning of it's original inseption as a bobblehead maker, was the big name interviews found within where we hear firsthand from cult stars such as Elvira, Lou Ferrigno and Robert Englund (just to name a few), and their take on their respective characters toys. And you know, it was so pleasant to see not only the big name movie and music stars talk about these, but to see how passionate these creators, artists, company heads and employees all are about this. It really does come across like one giant happy family and makes the experience of watching this all the more endearing.

Making Fun: The Story of Funko is now currently streaming on Netflix.


90's Action Attack: Broken Arrow (1996)

John Woo's Sophomore Effort in the U.S. 
is Better Than You Might Remember

by robotGEEK

Broken Arrow just doesn't get the love it deserves as a pretty great action film. Released in 1996, this excellent actioner carries with it an importance in nearly everyone's career involved, most notably legendary Hong Kong director John Woo, who took the world by storm with such die-hard action classics such as A Better Tomorrow, The Killer and Hard Boiled. Jean-Claude Van Damme is credited for bringing Woo over to the states to direct Hard Target, easily one of JCVD's best films and an excellent action classic in it's own right. Woo would follow that up with this film 3 years later, followed by Face/Off (one of his best) in '97, and a few other U.S. productions, most notably Mission Impossible 2, before heading back to his native Hong Kong for good after the dismal reception of Paycheck.

Then there's Travolta. Having been released in '96, Broken Arrow found Travolta in a huge career resurgence after the breakout success of Pulp Fiction in 1994, and he was one of the biggest, most in demand actors in Hollywood again, and Travolta took full advantage of this newfound fame by releasing 3-4 films a year around this time. Broken Arrow would mark his first foray into the action genre, which he would continue the following year with the excellent Face/Off, collaborating once again with director John Woo. Christian Slater was in a good place here, with a career that saw no signs of fading at this point, and while this might be the first time seeing him jumping through the air shooting bad guys a la The Killer and Hard Boiled, he handled it like a pro.
But back to the film. I actually hadn't seen this in quite a few years, but had an itching to revisit it, and I'm so glad I did because it was a helluva lot of fun, and I walked away thinking "I wish John Woo would go back to making films like this again". I really do. While he doesn't mark the film with the same amount of awesome insanity found in Hard Target and Face/Off, it's still enough to make it look and feel like a classic John Woo film, even if the subject might seem a bit out of his range.

The constant "buildup" in here is probably what impressed me the most. It never fails to feel like it's constantly building up to something bigger in the next scene, and progresses into a full-on balls-to-the-walls action film as we move along, culminating to a kickass third act that delivers the action goods on an insane level. And I think that a lot of that, next to Woo himself, can be attributed to Speed screenwriter Graham Yost. Yost does a great job in building up the tension and threat level to fever pitch by the time we get to that third act, where all hell breaks loose aboard a train. Through the use of some impressive modelwork, and a Travolta dummy, the action takes center stage and closes out the film in a big way.

One of the best things about Broken Arrow, which sports an incredibly diverse cast of excellent actors by the way, is getting to see Travolta go full-on Nicolas Cage crazy in here. He starts off fairly tame, but you sense a cockiness immediately, before ultimately letting loose turning crazy in the same way he perfected the Nicolas Cage impression in Face/Off.

While not quite as effective or as great as the two of John Woo's other U.S. productions that bookend this one (Hard Target and Face/Off), there's still plenty to love here. One could argue that compared to those other two, it's a much simpler film, and in a sense it is, but it never fails to deliver the fun, action and excitement; not for a single minute. In fact, I think I'm going to upgrade my old DVD to Blu, which you can pickup really cheap these days.


80's Thriller Throwback: Gotcha! (1985)

Guess What? Gotcha! is not a comedy

by robotGEEK

Gotcha! is a film I vividly recall seeing on my local video store shelves quite often back in the 80's. Yet, as often as I would frequent those stores, I never actually rented this one. And I don't recall ever seeing it land on HBO or Cinemax back in the day either, which is how I normally would have seen it if I didn't rent it on VHS. But I've always been aware of this film, even if nothing about it necessarily stood out to me and actually made me want to rent it.

When I recently revisited the 90's Wesley Snipes "Die Hard on a plane" actioner Passenger 57, I decided to look up what the writer and director had also done, and discovered that Dan Gordon not only wrote Passenger 57, but also this little-mentioned 80's classic Gotcha!. I was intrigued enough by that odd little connection to Passenger 57 to finally seek this out, so let's dig in.

I have to be honest, this was quite the pleasant surprise for more reasons than one. For starters, I fully expected this to be an 80's comedy. But this is not an 80's comedy. While it does begin as one, it quickly morphs into a pretty great espionage thriller that, while not nearly as great or unique, reminded me a lot of the excellent Miracle Mile, another thriller starring Anthony Edwards. Yet that doesn't take away from the sheer enjoyment of this, because while it may not be all that original, it carefully hits all the right notes in delivering a solid Cat & Mouse thriller that takes us through the streets of France, East Germany and back home to the United States.

I think I half-expected this to be a comedy about paint ball games, which isn't all that difficult to believe since that is what it seemed to be advertised as.....to me anyway. But the reality is that this is a pretty effective thriller where our protagonist Jonathan (Anthony Edwards), goes to France on a school trip, where he meets a beautiful woman named Sasha (Linda Fiorintino), and the two seemingly fall mad in love. He then follows her to East Germany for a "job" she has to do, which involves picking up and delivering an item. They soon get separated in Germany and Jonathan is being hunted by a group of crazed German hitmen and he has no idea why. Once he discovers that, unbeknownst to him, Sasha has hidden a top secret roll of film in his backpack, his idealistic fantasy, and most importantly, his relationship with Sasha, begins to unravel and all may not be what it seems. When he returns to America, the hitmen are still hot on his trail, as well as the CIA, and Jonathan uses his paint ball game knowledge to help fend them off and uncover the truth.

The mounting tension, chase sequences, foreign locales and strong performances, most notably by Edwards and a gorgeous Linda Fiorintino, all elevate the material to something far more potent than you expect. Even when the film attempts a more light tone here and there, it's never too much to sway it from it's strong "thriller" vibe, and that's a good thing, because above all else, Gotcha!, believe it or not, is a surprisingly great espionage thriller.

I think one of the more surprising aspects of this is that it comes courtesy of Revenge of the Nerds director Jeff Kanew, who's mainly stuck to comedy in his career, having directed other comedy classics such as Tough Guys, Troop Beverly Hills and V.I. Warchowski. So the fact that he delivered this film in such a polished way in the chase-thriller genre kind of had me floored. Too bad he didn't continue to explore this genre more in his career.

I'm not saying this is one of the best thrillers ever made, but it damn sure is a helluva great one that delivers the goods consistently and keeps you invested throughout. The fact that it's a thriller at all and not a comedy like I assumed may be why I enjoyed it so much, but that doesn't mean it's not effective. Give it a shot, I think you'll be just as surprised as I was with how great it is.