Review: “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (Film)

Well, since I was still waiting for some DVDs to arrive, this review in my “1990s Films” series will be of an old favourite of mine that I’ve been meaning to review for a while.

I am, of course talking about a “so bad that it’s good” comedy horror monster movie from 1990 called “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”.

Although I must have referenced this film more times than I can remember (and have watched it at least four times), I haven’t actually reviewed it properly yet.

So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”. I should warn you that this review may contain SPOILERS and that the film itself contains some FLICKERING LIGHTS (although I don’t know if they’re intense enough to cause issues or not).

“Gremlins 2” takes place a couple of years after the events of the first “Gremlins” film (and you should really watch that film first). It begins in New York where an old shopkeeper in Chinatown is threatened by property developers.

He refuses to sell, but dies of old age six weeks later. The shop is demolished – and the old man’s pet Mogwai (a cute, fluffy creature called Gizmo) barely manages to escape alive, before he is suddenly kidnapped by a passing scientist.

Meanwhile, Billy and Kate (from the first film) are going to work at the Clamp Trade Centre – a giant futuristic office building run by a charismatic businessman called Daniel Clamp. After a series of random coincidences, Billy learns that Gizmo is being kept in a genetics research facility on another floor in the building. So, he decides to free Gizmo and hide him in his filing cabinet.

Filed under “G” for “glum”, of course….

After Billy’s boss Marla pressures him into going to dinner with her, Billy asks Kate to pick up Gizmo and take him home. Reluctantly, she agrees. But, before she can get to Billy’s office, a repairman accidentally splashes Gizmo with water whilst repairing a drinking fountain. The first rule with Mogwai is never to get them wet. When they get wet, they start reproducing at an alarmingly fast rate.

When Kate arrives, she accidentally picks up one of Gizmo’s offspring instead of him.

Meh. Close enough.

Of course, by the time Billy gets home and realises that the Mogwai isn’t Gizmo, it is already past midnight. After all, the second rule with Mogwai is that they mustn’t eat anything after midnight. If they do, they turn into…. Gremlins!

And hilarity ensues!

One of the first things that I will say about “Gremlins 2” is that it is an acquired taste. As I mentioned earlier, it is a film that is “so bad that it is good“. This film is silly, anarchic, nonsensical, childish, meta-fictional and …strange. And, yet, it’s still a really interesting film for so many reasons.

Whilst the first “Gremlins” film was a light-hearted “feel good” horror movie, the second one is much more of a zany creature-based comedy. The humour here is a bit hit-and-miss, and it is a film that manages to be both very sophisticated and patronisingly simplistic with it’s humour. Which is quite an achievement.

For example, there’s a well-hidden background joke here that I only spotted when going through the screenshots for this review. Unfortunately, it’s just…. two policemen in a doughnut shop. Haw haw haw!

Some of the film’s more subtle humour works really well, some of the humour is a bit too referential (although the reference to the “Santa Claus” monologue from the first film is genius!), some of the characters are hilarious, sometimes it can seem like the film is trying too hard to be funny, some of the humour just seems a bit stupid, some of the humour is a bit outdated (eg: a stereotypical Japanese tourist character), and some of it shouldn’t work but it somehow does:

Like when the anarchic Gremlins suddenly break into a lavish and well-choreographed musical number. Seriously, this is hilarious!

But, even most of the comedy elements that don’t work are still part of this film’s charm.

If I had to sum the film up in two words, they would be “endearingly annoying”. It is one of those strange films that will have you rolling your eyes and yearning for the credits to roll when you’re actually watching it, but it will leave you in a happily nostalgic mood after you’ve finished watching it. These rose-tinted memories will inevitably cause you to rewatch it every year or two. It’s adorably terrible, or reassuringly stupid or heartwarmingly awful.

“Endearingly annoying” is also a good description of Gizmo too.

Another reason why this film is “so bad that it’s good” is that some parts of it really haven’t aged well at all – or rather, they’re a reflection of a more innocent time.

For example, Daniel Clamp is clearly meant to be a parody of Donald Trump. This is somewhat jarring by modern standards because he’s portrayed as a foolish and cowardly- but ultimately nice, good and successful – character.

Pictured: Not the way that a modern satirist would depict a Trump-like character (the 90s really were a more innocent time *sigh*)

Plus, the futuristic Clamp Trade Centre building is almost certainly a reference to the World Trade Centre. Then there’s the fact that the film also includes a brief comedic scene involving an acid attack (at the time of writing, these types of attacks turned up in the news in Britain alarmingly regularly – and are anything but comedic!). Hulk Hogan even has a cheerfully enthusiastic cameo in this film too! This film really is a relic of a different age!

And, yes, this scene wouldn’t turn up in a comedy movie these days!

But, in other ways, this film’s age really works in it’s favour! Everything from the lighting, to the special effects, to the wardrobe department, to the set design etc… is so gloriously retro 🙂

Seriously, it’s a really fascinating stylised glimpse into a part of the past that is both vaguely familiar and extremely different at the same time. Not only that, the film also has a really stylised aesthetic that goes really well with the zany, cartoonish events of the story:

Seriously, set design and lighting were SO much better in the 1990s!

And just check out the amazing lighting in THIS scene too 🙂

And the set design/lighting design here almost looks a little bit like something from “Blade Runner” or “Robocop 2” 🙂

The characters in this film are a really interesting bunch too. Billy and Kate (played by Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates) are slightly more mature versions of their characters from the first film – with Billy being the cheerful and optimistic one, and Kate being a more cynical, practical realist and/or pessimist.

I also forgot to mention Mr. Futterman (Dick Miller) and Marla Bloodstone (Haviland Morris), who are brilliant characters too.

In addition to this, Christopher Lee plays an evil scientist and Robert Picardo plays an obnoxious manager too.

Yes, Christopher Lee AND Robert Picardo 🙂

The film’s pacing is both terrible and brilliant at the same time. The film is surprisingly slow to get started, and yet this contrasts well with the chaotic action in the later parts of the film.

Likewise, the film’s narrative can be a little bit random and disjointed, but this compliments the anarchic events of the film really well. Plus, at 102 minutes in length, it is almost a little bit on the bloated side of things – but it never feels too long after you’ve finished watching it (but the literal opposite is true when you’re actually watching it).

In terms of the special effects, they’re surprisingly good for a film released in 1990. The creature designs are fairly inventive, the animatronic/puppet-based effects are handled very well, there are some traditional animation-based effects (instead of clunky 90s CGI) and the gore effects in this film are also interesting too.

Since this is something of a family comedy film/ light-hearted monster movie, the gore has been replaced with some hilariously gross green slime, gunge and/or skeleton-based effects:

With this scene involving a gremlin and a shredder surpassing the gross hilariousness of the microwave scene from the first film.

And, yes, this is a “Wizard Of Oz” reference too. Since this film was made before the internet became widely-used, many of the references in it are really old and/or “obvious” ones.

And, yes, I LOVE these painted lights too! Old special effects rock!

In musical terms, this film is really good, containing a great mixture of classic 1980s/90s Hollywood orchestral music and other types of music such as thrash metal and show tunes.

All in all, “Gremlins 2” is so bad that it is good. There’s really no other way to describe this film. It is both amazing and terrible at the same time.

It is both a cringe-worthy relic and a piece of heartwarming retro nostalgia. It is a film that would never get made today – and this is both a good and a bad thing. It is a film that you’ll never forget! It is a film that will make you pray for the credits when you’re actually watching it, but you’ll want to watch it again after the credits eventually roll. It is a lot of things, but above all, it is unique. There is nothing else quite like this dreadful delight!

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get… both one and five simultaneously.

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Today’s Art (26th June 2018)

Well, although I was somewhat tired and uninspired when I made this digitally-edited painting, it turned out surprisingly well 🙂 Even so, it was originally supposed to be a more elaborate gothic painting, although I ended up adding a slightly generic cyberpunk background to it since I ran out of inspiration slightly.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“Horror Novels At Midnight” By C. A. Brown

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Retroactive” Webcomic Mini Series

Well, since my “Damania Retroactive” webcomic mini series finished recently, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of showing off the “work in progress” line art I scanned whilst making it (and apologies for the disruption to the scheduling of my “1990s films” review series that this post has caused).

Since this webcomic mini series was vaguely topical (I make these comics quite far in advance, so the time that the characters travel back to was actually the time I was making it), there were a surprising number of changes between the dialogue in the line art and in the finished comics.

This was mostly because I was influenced by events in the news at the time, or because I worried that parts of the dialogue might not sound emphatic enough or might sound too emphatic etc.. I also occasionally ended up rewriting parts of the dialogue and altering the characters’ expressions slightly too. Likewise, there were some fairly major changes to the second comic (even including changing the title of this comic from “Opinion” to “Time Troll” in the finished comic too).

As usual, you can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version of it.

“Damania Retroactive – Again (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive – Opinion (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive – Duplicity (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive – Double Derek (Again) (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive – Nostalgia (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive – Deus Ex Machina (Line Art)” By C. A. Brown

The Complete “Damania Retroactive” – All Six ‘Episodes’ Of The New Webcomic Mini Series By C. A. Brown

Well, in case you missed any of it, I thought that I’d collect all six comics from my “Damania Retroactive” webcomic mini series in one easy-to-read post. Links to lots of other comics featuring these characters can be found in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 segments of this page.

Surprisingly, I ended up making a narrative comic this time round (it’s been a few months since the last one of these). This was mostly because I was running out of enthusiasm/inspiration for self-contained comic updates. So, I thought that I’d make a time travel comic where Roz, Derek, Harvey and Rox travel back to the distant year of… 2017.

Although this mini series is self-contained, it is also something of a sequel to a few other narrative comics of mine. If you want to read up on the backstory, then read these mini series in this order: this one, then this one, then this one, then this one and then this one.

The initial inspirations for this mini series were some “post-modern” dialogue about the 19th century in a Christmas-themed episode of “Blackadder” and an episode of “Sliders” (called ‘Post-Traumatic Slide Syndrome’ where the main characters arrive in a very similar universe to their own).
Originally, this mini series was going to be a bit less “political”, but thanks to various shocking events in the news when I was preparing it (eg: the terrible far-right violence in America during August 2017) the mini series ended up being slightly more “left-wing” than I’d originally expected.

As usual, all six comic updates in this mini series are released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. You can also click on each comic update to see a larger version of it too.

“Damania Retroactive – Again” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive – Time Troll” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive – Duplicity” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive -Double Derek (again)” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive -Nostalgia” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Retroactive -Deus Ex Machina” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (25th June 2018)

Woo hoo! This is the sixth (and final) comic in my “Damania Retroactive” webcomic mini series. If you missed any of the story, I’ll post a full retrospective later tonight. In the meantime, you can check out lots of other comics here.

And, yes, given the amount of cynicism in the rest of the mini series, a happy “deus ex machina” ending seemed like a good idea. Hey, it worked in this TV show. And, yes, I decided to add the slightly clunky dialogue about passports to the third panel since, whilst planning the comic I suddenly thought “how the hell would they get through customs?“.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Retroactive -Deus Ex Machina” By C. A. Brown

What To Do When Unenthusiasm Strikes In The Middle Of A Painting

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take yet another look at the topic of artistic uninspiration. In particular, I’ll be looking at when you suddenly feel a total and utter lack of artistic enthusiasm during the middle of a drawing or a painting. Mostly because this happened to me the evening before I prepared this article.

At the time, the drawing/ painting I’d started making was going well. I’d planned to make a digitally-edited painting of a 1990s-style video rental shop and, at first, the line art was going well. But, parts of the picture started to be a bit less well-drawn than I’d hoped, my planned background just seemed far too complex (and there seemed to be no way to remove, reduce or simplify it).

Thanks to the hot weather, the fact that I was tired and the fact that the painting looked like it would guzzle up a lot of time, I suddenly realised that I had no enthusiasm for it whatsoever. Or, more accurately, I realised that there was no possible way that I was actually going to finish this painting. Sure, I made a few vague attempts at adding more detail, but the painting just felt like a total waste of time – even though it would have looked really cool.

This painting could have turned out well, but it was failing quickly and my levels of enthusiasm were running low.

So, I abandoned the painting and decided to do something that I felt that I could finish. In fact, I realised that the quickest and easiest type of art I could make would be a piece of digital art (since I could make it less detailed and because there was no additional drying time or editing time).

The interesting thing was, as soon as I switched to making something that I thought I could actually finish, I suddenly felt a lot more creative and enthusiastic again. In fact, I even tried out a few techniques I hadn’t really used before – here’s a preview of the finished piece:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full picture will be posted here on the 7th July.

So, the lesson here is that if you feel completely and utterly unenthusiastic when you are in the middle of making a painting, try to work out what is causing you to feel unenthusiastic.

Sometimes, this can be external factors (like the weather, your mood etc..) but, more often, it has to do with the painting that you are trying to make. Often, it is because the piece of art you are making isn’t filling you with enthusiasm. Sometimes, this can be because the idea behind it doesn’t interest you as much as you thought, but sometimes it can be because your planned idea is too complex, over-ambitious etc.. when compared to your current levels of enthusiasm.

Abandoning failing paintings halfway through making them is something that gets easier with practice, but it can still be a little difficult if you’ve already invested time and effort into said failed painting. But, if you’re genuinely filled with the heavy, miserable, futile feeling of “I’m not going to finish this!“, then it’s the only thing to do. But, make sure that you immediately start a much easier piece of art (that you feel you can finish) as soon as you do this.

Not only does starting an “easy” piece of art mean that you’ll stop those feelings of failure from festering and becoming worse (because you’re still making art. Not only that, but art that is easy to make look good), but it also means that you’ll feel more motivated because your new piece of art feels a lot easier and more successful in comparison to the painting that you just tried to make.

So, dropping what you’re doing and switching to something easier as soon as you realise that your current painting isn’t going to get finished is one of the best ways to deal with sudden moments of artistic unenthusiasm.

—————

Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art ( 24th June 2018)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the fifth (and penultimate) comic in “Damania Retroactive” – a webcomic mini series about time travel (it’ll hopefully be self-contained, but it is also a sequel to this mini series, then this one, then this one, then [sort of] this one and then this one). Yes, I’ve decided to go back to making narrative-based mini series again (in order to stay inspired).

And, this time, Harvey, Roz, Derek and Rox have travelled back to the distant year of… 2017. You can catch up on previous comics in this mini series here: Comic one, Comic two, Comic three, Comic four

But, yes, in case you haven’t read any of these comics before, Rox is something of a fan of the 1990s. In fact, she’s probably somewhat obssessed with it.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Retroactive -Nostalgia” By C. A. Brown