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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Gremlins (1984)

The Nerds decide to tackle Gremlins! Are their takes all wet? And yes, aside from a horror comedy classic, this is a Christmas movie!

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different classic from the Nerdosphere.  This week Dave and Patrick begin their holiday film reviews with that classi Christmas Horror-Comedy Gremlins!

The Flick:  Gremlins

What’s it About:  Billy Peltzer receives an exotic pet called a Mogwi from his father for Christmas.  Although adorably cute the Mogwi comes with three vital rules that must always be followed.  When Billy breaks these rules, he unleashes destructive creatures called gremlins on his unsuspecting community.  It’s up to Billy, his girlfriend Kate, and his Mogwi Gizmo to stop them.

Metacritic Score: 74

 

The Nerds’ Take on Gremlins (1984):

Patrick: For the month of December the Bandwagon has agreed to review some holiday flicks, but of course we aren’t going to tackle twaddle like It’s a Wonderful Life.  No sir, we are nerds and so will review sour kind of movies.  Up this week is the classic Steven Spielberg production Gremlins.

Young Billy Peltzer is given a unique creature called a Mogwi as a gift by his father for Christmas.  Purchased in Chinatown, the Mogwi, named Gizmo, comes with three very specific rules.  First, don’t expose them to sunlight.  Two, don’t ever get them wet.  And third never, under any circumstance, feed them after midnight.  Unfortunately, Billy accidently gets Gizmo wet and quickly learns that Mogwi multiply in water creating more Mogwi.  And while Gizmo is a sweet, fun loving creature, the new Mogwi have something sinister in mind.  They trick Billy into feeding them after midnight.  This causes the new Mogwi to transform into evil little monsters called Gremlins.  These Gremlins proceed to wreak havoc all over town and it is up to Billy, Gizmo, and Billy’s girlfriend Kate to stop them.

Here’s the thing I love about Gremlins: it manages to be both genuinely funny and genuinely scary.  Chris Columbus (future director of child friendly films like Harry Potter 1 and 2) wrote the screenplay and blends the comedy with some truly dark elements found in horror films very, very well.  The sequence where the audience is first introduced to the gremlins is quite suspenseful and at times terrifying.  Billy’s mom is alone in her home being stalked by these hidden creatures.  There is no sound in the scene and it creates an atmosphere of impending doom as you wait for an inevitable jump scare.  These tense moments are followed up again as Billy and Gizmo chase lead gremlin Stripe to an empty YMCA.  Again there is no music just classic bum in the night noises to keep the audience on edge.  Director Joe Dante, along with Columbus, easily could have kept this mood throughout the film.

But they don’t.  As the film progresses things start to get more than a little silly.  Strip manages to jump into a swimming pool and create hundreds of these gremlins to run rampant all over this small town.  Many of them invade a bar and here the audience is given it’s first taste of the various personalities these creatures can carry.  There are break dancers, flashers, poker players, and even one wielding a goofy puppet.  Many of the gremlins are played up for laughs even as they cause mayhem.  When the gremlins all break into a movie theater to watch Disney’s Snow White it makes for one truly funny little scene.

The cast of Gremlins is solid with the biggest name of the bunch being a tossup between Phoebe Cates as Kate, or a young Corey Feldman as neighbor kid Pete.  Zach Galligan does relatively well as Billy, but his performance isn’t particularly memorable.  The real stars of the movie, of course, are Gizmo and the gremlins.  For 1984 the puppetry and animatronics are top notch, although it is clear much more time and attention was given to Gizmo over the gremlins.  This makes total sense given the number of puppets involved.  The puppetry would hit a whole different level in Gremlins 2, but that is a review for a different day.

For this review, Gremlins, should be regarded as a fun little horror-comedy that was great for its time.  The effects haven’t aged particularly well, but hey it was 1984.  The film has some scary moments and may be a bit intense for younger viewers, but the silliness can offset the scary.  My eight year old son jumped a little, but was driven from the room and found the gremlins goofy.  So, if you’re looking for something a little different during this run of holiday specials, Gremlins certainly fits the bill.  An enjoyable film and worth the time to watch.

Patrick’s Rating: 3.75/5

Dave: Last week, the BWN Nerd Review unofficially began its tour of Holiday movie classics with Planes, Trains & Automobiles. This week, we officially enter the Christmas season by reviewing 1984’s Gremlins. Gremlins tells the story of Randall Peltzer, a less-than-successful inventor who ventures into a store in Chinatown in an unnamed city, on Christmas Eve. While there, he encounters a furry, Furby-like, creature known as a mogwai. Randall wants to buy the mogwai for his son but the elderly store-owner won’t sell it because owning a mogwai carries a great deal of responsibility. The younger grandson, however, is not so discerning and gladly accepts the $200. As he gives the mogwai to Randall, he informs him of three very crucial rules regarding the creature: (1) Keep him out of bright light, especially sunlight; (2) Never get him wet or even give him water to drink; and (3) Never feed him after midnight. With rules like that, what can go wrong, right?

If you answered everything, you are correct. Randall’s son Billy loves his new pet and names him Gizmo. Gizmo is just the cutest thing there is. Think Baby Yoda (or Grogu now if you want to be technical about it) levels of cute some 35 years earlier. When water is accidentally spilled on Gizmo though, we find out that when mogwais get wet, they spontaneously emit furry clones from their bodies. The clones, however, have a much more mischievous air about them and the leader, Stripe, soon outsmarts Billy into feeding them after midnight. This triggers a metamorphosis in the mogwai. They evolve from adorable furry creatures to dragon-like, highly-dangerous, and rather homicidal beings, known as gremlins. Stripe is able to elude an early attempt at capture and leaps into a swimming pool at the local YMCA setting off a chain of events that is equal parts hilarious and horrifying.

Make no mistake: The only thing Christmassy about Gremlins is that it takes place during Christmas. It is a textbook example of a black/dark comedy. The gremlins themselves seem very much like Muppets gone terribly wrong. They are enormously funny and full of mischief. They are driven by an insatiable need for food, especially those of the sweeter variety.  The scene where they take over Dorry’s Tavern is particularly memorable. But the gremlins also have a much darker side to them and have zero qualms about killing someone purely for the sake of killing. Gizmo, meanwhile, never changes and ends up in a heroic role as he ends up saving Billy at a point where things look rather bleak.

The movie is an enormous amount of fun. It has its disturbing moments, to be sure, and it came out at a time before a PG-13 rating existed. But, compared to modern standards or just about anything anyone sees on You Tube on a daily basis, it is rather tame. The gremlins are clearly the stars of the movie, but the humans are quite good as well. Zach Galligan played Billy and does just fine in this role. Phoebe Cates plays Kate, Billy’s love interest. Up until this movie, she had been best known for an iconic scene in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Yeah, you know the one…. don’t act like you don’t. But in Gremlins, Cates showed she was more than a pretty face as she delivered a solid performance, particularly when she describes the nightmarish reason she hates Christmas. Polly Holliday is fantastic as the vile and detestable Mrs. Deagle. But, those performances aside, it is the personality injected into the gremlins that makes the movie memorable, and this is particularly true during the climactic final battle between Stripe and Billy.

Gremlins is one of those rare movies that can make you laugh and cringe at the same time. The special effects do not hold up so well by modern standards as the gremlins look a bit too plastic. But in 1984, they were definitely disturbing creations. Gizmo, on the other hand, has a timeless quality to him and anyone watching The Mandalorian will easily see the influence of this movie on that series. The movie is not without its problems though. The main one is that the rules do not make much sense. How exactly does an organic life form, especially one as complex as a mogwai, survive without being able to drink water, but can survive by drinking beer, which is predominantly water? And the feeding after midnight thing…. midnight comes every night. At what time of the day does it then become safe to feed them again? And what exactly is a mogwai? Where do they come from? There was a sequel, but it really did not explain much as far as these issues were concerned.

All that aside though, the movie was a commercial success and most critics loved it. It got a bad rap from parents who were not expecting the violence that was depicted. But for most everyone else, the movie was enormous amounts of fun mixed in with some darker moments. Is it a Christmas Classic? No. But it is still a damn good movie and a classic in its own right. This is another one Big Dave highly recommends.

Dave’s Rating: 4/5

 

Overall Nerds Rating on Gremlins (1984):  3.8/5


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Bandwagon Nerds

Bandwagon Nerds #62 – WandaVision is Here!

The Nerds review the debut of WandaVision, discuss some casting news in the MCU, and break down Netflix’s announcement to release one new movie a week for 2021

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Bandwagon Nerds #62 - WandaVision is Here!

WandaVision debuted this week on Disney Plus and the Nerds are excited and have tons of questions.  Patrick, Dave and PC Tunney try and decipher what is happening with Wanda, find MCU Eater Eggs, and who is pulling all of the strings?  A couple of casting tidbits have the Nerds intrigued although one rumor may not be all it’s cracked up to be.  The Ray Fisher/DC story finds another twist.  And the nerds react to Netflix’s announcement that they will release one movie a week in 2021.  Finally, the Nerds recognize two icon celebrating birthdays.

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About Bandwagon Nerds

Join Patrick O’Dowd, David Ungar, and a rotating cast of guests as they keep everyone up on all things nerd, and maybe add some new nerds along the way. It’s the Bandwagon Nerds Podcast!

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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies! (2018)

The Nerds start sliding back in the timeline again as we see them tackle Teen Titans Go! To the Movies! Have we hit a weird timeline where Patrick isn’t the German judge? Whaaat?!

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different classic from the Nerdosphere.  This week Dave and Patrick review DC animated film Teen Titans Go! To the Movies!

The Flick:  Teen Titans Go! To the Movies!

What’s it About:  Robin of the Teen Titans desperately wants to star in his very own super hero movie, but no director will cast him.  That is, until one director offers him the chance to achieve his dream.  But at what cost?

Metacritic Score: 69

The Nerds’ Take on Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018):

Dave Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is so much fun. That is my overriding opinion of this week’s installment of the Nerds’ Review. It takes a popular corner of the DC Universe and delivers an animated special that is equal parts a comedy and a musical, with just enough of a positive message to make it somewhat of a learning experience, all while never losing the slap stick nature of what makes the Teen Titans Go! franchise so beloved.

Essentially, the movie is mostly about Robin and his quest for achieving a level of stature, in his own mind anyway. Robin no longer wants to be known only as a sidekick and feels the only way to accomplish this is if a movie is made about him and his Teen Titan teammates. Most of the other, more established super-heroes, such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, etc., all feel the Teen Titans are nothing more than goofsters, not to be taken seriously and certainly not worthy of having a whole movie made about them. Determined to prove them wrong, Robin sets out on a quest to convince super-hero movie director, Jade Wilson, to make a movie about them. Along the way, he tries a plethora of ideas to accomplish this goal. He first seeks out an arch-nemesis, who ends up being Slade, aka Deathstroke, who is never actually called Deathstroke in the movie but is hilariously referred to as Deadpool. The Titans travel back in time to rewrite super-hero origin stories, but this does not work out so well. After setting things right, a huge showdown with Slade convinces Jade to make the Teen Titans movie after all. But the Titans soon reveal their immaturity and Jade dumps them, but still wants to make the Robin movie. Robin turns his back on his friends all so he can see his movie made, which is the only way he feels he will amount to anything other than a joke. Naturally, Jade is not who she says she is and this creates the conflict that brings us to the concluding moments of the movie.

There is so much about this movie that, as I said earlier, is just fun. True, the humor is quite adolescent at times. Then again, it is supposed to be when one considers the primary audience. After all, fart jokes and pooping in a prop toilet on a movie set are pretty funny for the demographic the movie was designed to reach. But there is more clever humor to be found as well and some of the best parts of the movie are when DC pokes fun at itself, including a great scene between Batman and Superman asking each other what the other’s mother’s name is and Green Lantern lamenting the disaster that was the Ryan Reynolds led movie. Particularly fantastic are the cameos by none other than Marvel head honcho, Stan Lee (prior to his passing), who knowingly makes a cameo in a DC movie because, hey, he loved cameos. There is also a mention by the Titans of raiding the set of Spider-Man for more food. It is all great stuff as most of us in the know know that the “competition” between DC and Marvel, for decades, has been quite friendly, to say the least.

The voice casting is superb, with the highlights being Will Arnet as Slade, Kristen Bell as Jade Wilson, Nicolas Cage as Superman, and all of the regulars from the Teen Titans Go! Series. Lost amidst all the fun is also a lesson that is being taught about the power of friendship, about team work, and that it is more important how you see yourself than how others around you might perceive you. The musical numbers are good and will put a smile on your face. There are subtle nods here and there to the actual Teen Titans comic, especially the involvement of Deathstroke, who has a, shall we say, complicated relationship with the Teen Titans. In fact, only the most jaded of persons will watch this movie and not come out thoroughly entertained. If you are looking for a very light, and immensely fun, super-hero-based movie, then give Teen Titans Go! To The Movies a try.

Dave’s Rating: 3.75/5

Patrick:  Michael Bolton voices a singing white tiger, Stan Lee makes a cameo in a DC movie, and the Teen Titans murder a young Aquaman(temporarily).  This is but a taste of the antics you will get when you check out Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.  A film spinoff of the popular Cartoon Network show, Teen Titans Go! To the Movie is a delightful parody superhero films that both children and adults will enjoy.

The movie begin with the Teen Titans (Robin, Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Raven) attempting to gain access to the premiere of the next big budget Batman movie.  During the coming attractions Robin hopes to learn the next major superhero will be about him.  Unfortunately, Robin learns that everyone from Alfred from Batman’s utility belt will be in a movie, but he will not.  The other Titans endeavor to help Robin achieve his dream by going with him to Hollywood.  There Robin meets director Jade Wilson who tell Robin he needs more to be a lead in a superhero movie, like a nemesis.  Enter Slade, a supervillain the Titans thwart earlier in the movie as he tries to steal a crystal.  Robin and the gang realize a nemesis like Slade could be just what Robin needs to get the superhero movie lead he has always dreamed of.

The plot of Teen Titan Go! To The Movies is fun enough, but the writing takes the film to a whole ne level.  Aaron Horvath parodies everything under the sun.  Eighties movies? Parodied.  Super Hero Movies?  Parodied. Stan Lee cameos?  Parodied.  And it is all very smartly done.  There is a particularly memorable montage poking fun at tragic origin stories where the Titans travel in time to prevent heroes from ever becoming heroes. The hole montage left me gasping for air.  I don’t want to spoil too much, but Superman’s baby booty is involved.  There’s even a Back to the Future parody within the Superhero origin parody.  It really is cleverly done.  Then there is the veritable who’s who of DC cameos.  From the Atom to Swamp Thing all the way to the little known Challengers of the Unknown, the entire DC Universe seems to make an appearance.

The voice cast is anchored by the Teen Titans Go! Cast from the series.  Scott Menville carries the load voicing Robin.  Will Arnett and Kristen Bell provide the other primary voice work as Slade and Jade Wilson.  Both are terrific, but Arnett really steals the show.  The cameos are not limited to the animated appearances, however.  Patton Oswald, Nicholas Cage, Stan Lee, and, as I mentioned in my open, Michael Bolton all lend their voice talents to various characters.

Teen Titan Go! To the Movies really is a fun time.  Adults can enjoy the smart writing laced with some nifty doses of nostalgia.  Kids will love the antics of their favorite small screen heroes on the big screen.  You won’t walk away from this one disappointed

Patrick’s Rating: 4.63/5.0

 

Overall Nerds’ Rating for Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018): 4.19/5.0


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