Dark Angel (1990) (aka I Come in Peace)

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"Good cop. Bad alien. Big trouble."

Directed by Craig R. Baxley
Starring Dolph Lundgren

   An alien lands on earth and steals a whole bunch of heroine. Then he goes round ODing people and harvesting their endorphins, to take back to his world and sell as the ultimate drug. He is pursued by an alien cop, and by Earth cop Jack Kane (Lundgren) and his ever-so-slightly dodgy FBI partner. That's more or less it for plot.

What's wrong with it?

    Dark Angel is Men in Black Lite. It's pretty low on ideas, and more than a little sloppy in execution. Much of it is confusing, and many of the characters don't have much to do. in particular the love interest coroner barely shows up for half the film, then gets in on the final chase/fight sequence, only to do bugger all. The fights are fairly duff, mostly involving aliens firing big guns at each other and stuff exploding behind people. Also, the alien drug dealer's funky heroine injector/endorphin extractor gauntlet just isn't cool enough to bear showing us the same sequence four or five times.

What's right with it?

    Not much really, although from the studio's point of view it was probably fairly cheap to make.

How bad is it really?

    It doesn't stink; it's just really dull.

Best bit?

    Dodgy FBI partner tries to remove the spinny disc that just keeps killing from the speaker magnet, at which point it zips around the room and breaks stuff. It's pretty naff, but probably one of the better scenes.

What's up with...?


Production Values - Second - or maybe third - string. It's all fairly cheap, with even the space guns being all muzzle flare and things exploding, but not too obtrusively naff. 13

Dialogue and Performances - So-so. I mean, not stinky, but nothing particularly distinguished. Kudos for the fact that even the one-line extras do seem able to deliver a sentence with a little feeling. 12

Plot and Execution - Flimsy. Good alien, bad alien; good cop, dodgy cop. Obtrusive non-sex love interest. The yuppy drug dealer who just gets ignored in amongst all the alien stuff, despite the fact that he killed the lead character's partner. There are a lot of threads in Dark Angel, most of which don't get much airtime, or have many links to the rest of the story. 16

Randomness - Aside from the oscillating plot elements, there isn't too much randomness. 8

Waste of Potential - There have definitely been better alien criminal running amok on the earth films made, but there have also been worse. 13

Overall 62%


Babes in Toyland (1986)

Directed by Clive Donner
Starring Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves

    Lisa Piper (Barrymore) helps her mother look after her siblings, and has to be very grown up. When she gets zapped into Toyland, and meets Jack-be-Nimble (Reeves), and other such Mother Goose characters, she has to learn how to be a child again before she can save the magic kingdom from Jack's evil uncle Barnaby Barnacle.
    Or something like that anyway. Since the film appears unsure whether Barnacle is really trying to marry Jack's beloved Mary Contrary, evict Mary's widowed mother from her shoe (Mother Hubbard), take over the cookie factory that Jack inherited from his father, or destroy Toyland with an army of cookie-fed trolls, it's a little hard to tell.

What's wrong with it?

    Well, for starters it's a musical, but none of the principals can sing. It's also set in one of those candyfloss-pink Toylands that make you want to throw up even before the saccharine sentiment plays its hand. The costumes border on the trippy, with Barnaby Barnacle in this weird crow feather ensemble, and an army of trolls that look like Corporal Jones from Dad's Army in his famous tree disguise. To be fair, it is a kids film, but even for that it's a sloppy, short-attention-span effort.

What's right with it?

    Not a lot really. It's barely even endearing. It is kind of interesting to see Drew Barrymore as a cute little moppet, still on barely a bottle of hard liquor a day, and Keanu Reeves back in his floppy-haired, Bill & Ted days.

Best bit

    Barnaby Barnacle angrily declaring: "Alright! No more subtlety!" (or words to that effect) raised about the only laugh in the thing.

What's up with...?

    It's a musical comedy, set in Toyland; I'd go mad trying to fit everything in here. Still, I will ask why you would ward off evil by singing a cutesy little song about Cincinnati.


Production Values - There are almost none. It's all big plushy rabbit costumes, teddy bears with nightsticks and silly outfits, and the Corporal Jones troll outfits. The set design is also sub-optimal, and the lighting makes Toyland look like a pretty dingy place to live. 17

Dialogue and Performances - Dire. Lots of preachy stuff about learning to play and be a proper child, spoken without interest by actors who in many cases ought to know better. It's not so actively nauseating as it could be, but it's pretty insipid stuff. 14

Plot and Execution - The plot takes up about 15 minutes of the film, and everything else is padding. The direction also lacks sparkle, and in most cases the background characters just mill around without co-ordination. 18

Randomness - Nothing in this film makes much sense. It's just all too weird for true randomness. 13

Waste of Potential - I'd need to run it by an actual child to make sure, but I'm pretty certain that even as a kids film, this does not cut the mustard. More could have been made of the material. 12

Overall 74%


Fright Night Part II (1989)

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Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Traci Lind and Julie Carmen

    After the events of the original Fright Night, Charlie Brewster (Ragsdale) has been in intensive therapy, and no longer believes in vampires - in part because of his new relationship with ultra-rationalist psych major, Alex (Lind). Peter Vincent (McDowall) on the other hand, still believes, and lives in an apartment bedecked with crucifixes and other paraphernalia from his movie career.
    When Charlie begins to have recurring dreams of slinky stalker vampiress Nadine (Carmen), he questions his newfound rationalism, but eventually is convinced that said vampiress is merely a performance artist. In fact, she turns out to be the sister of the vampire that Charlie and Peter killed in the original Fright Night, out for revenge and tacky erotica. She reveals her plan to Vincent, whom no-one believes of course, and he is hospitalised for trying to stake the vamp on live television after she takes over his show.
    Finally convinced of the existence of vampires, Alex springs Vincent, and together they rescue Charlie. The three of them then kill the vamp and her brood in a variety of exciting ways, including a holy-water bug wand, wrapping in an altar cloth, and the old mirror and sunlight routine.

What's wrong with it?

    The whole 'are they vampires or am I nuts' routine is reprised - sans imagination - from the original, as are such plot elements as the initially sceptical girlfriend and the best friend being turned into a vampire; except that this time the best friend is barely introduced before he goes bye-bye.
    The vast majority of the cast are only so-so at best, and Julie Carmen is pretty wooden and charmless as the supposedly stunning vampiress. Nadine and her coven are also so very, very eighties that it hurts; the hair alone is enough to turn the stomach.

What's right with it?

    Roddy McDowall excels as the quavering thespian forced to get his act together and become the fearless vampire killer he always portrayed, although one can not help feeling that they really should have got Peter Cushing for both movies, as that's who the character plainly is. ... is also quite good as the well-dressed, entomologically-inclined bug-eater.
    William Ragsdale is given little to work with, and the skilled light-entertainment actor is pretty much at sea trying to do obsession, horror and blood-craving, but he does get a spirited defence of Dracula's literary merits to his credit.
    Brian Thompson also gives off his usual huge mother-fucker charisma as the hulking, entomologically-precise bug-eater.

How bad is it really?

    It's basically very dull, being little more than a retread of the original with a couple of extra goons, a chick in the lead role and some soft-core neck-licking. As with so many films, it fails to either provide quality entertainment, or to be bad enough to provide some good belly-laughs.

Best Bit

    Undeniably, the tooling up scene, where Vincent passes Alex piece after piece of vampire-killing gear, reminiscing misty-eyed over the schlock movie he used each item in.

What's up with...?


Production values - kind of minimalist for a vampire movie, and seriously dated, but not too bad for all that. 8

Dialogue and performances - adequate to good, but pretty lifeless all around. The problem - save in the case of Julie Carmen - seems to be lack of interest more than lack of talent. 14

Plot and execution - the plot is basically a rehash of the original, with a couple of not-terribly-twisty twists. It is laid out in a singularly dull and lifeless fashion, and the action sequences are so limply directed as to generate not the slightest shred of tension. 17

Randomness - aside from the 'make-up' excuse, and the usual pick'n'mix selection of vampire strengths and weaknesses, the film's randomness rating is not unacceptably high. 7

Waste of potential - Fright Night was a perfectly good little vampire comedy. A little dated, sure, but not too bad for all that. Even given the law of diminishing returns, something with a little more vitality than this damp squib might reasonably be expected. 15

Overall 61%