Gremlins: "Don't expose him to bright light. Don't ever get him wet. And don't ever, ever feed him after midnight." This sage advice is ignored midway through Gremlins, with devastating results. This comic Joe Dante effort is set in a Norman Rockwell-esque small town at Christmastime. Seeking a unique gift for his son an erstwhile inventor (Hoyt Axton) purchases a cute, fuzzy little "Mogwai" from a Chinatown shopkeeper's (Keye Luke) grandson (John Louie), who dispenses the above-mentioned warning before closing the deal. Meanwhile, young bank clerk Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) must suffer such antagonists as rich-bitch Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) and priggish Gerald (Judge Reinhold) while pursuing his romance with Kate (Phoebe Cates). These and a variety of other plot strands are tied together when the lovable mogwai (named Gizmo) is exposed to bright light and gotten wet. In short order, the town is invaded by nasty, predatory Gremlins, who lay waste to everything in sight as Billy and Kate try to contain the destruction. Like most of Joe Dante's works, Gremlins is chock-full of significant cameo appearances: in this instance, such pop-culture icons as Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Chuck Jones, Scott Brady, Harry Carey Jr., Steven Spielberg (the film's executive producer) and even Robby the Robot all show up briefly on screen. Gremlins 2: The New Batch: Where the original Gremlins was a horror film spiked with comedy, Gremlins 2: The New Batch is essentially a black comedy, with a couple of horrifying touches. As the film starts, the fantastical trinket shop in Chinatown, which sold the Mogwai in the first film, is demolished by a crazed multi-media businessman called Daniel Clamp (John Glover). The heroes from the first movie, Billy (Zach Galligan) and Kate (Phoebe Cates), happen to work for Clamp in his huge high-rise. They find the Mogwai within Clamp's building, but not before he has accidentally spawned legions of mischievous, lizard-like Gremlins. Soon, the Gremlins are wreaking havoc throughout the building. In the original film, their misdeeds were violent, but here they're also goofy and satirical. Director Joe Dante has filled the film with quick verbal and visual jokes, which, for many, makes Gremlins 2: The New Batch a satire and inversion of the typical horror film. The Goonies: Leonard Maltin wasn't alone when he noticed similarities between Goonies and the 1934 Our Gang comedy Mama's Little Pirate. Adapted by Chris Columbus from a story by Steven Spielberg, the film follows a group of misfit kids (including such second-generation Hollywoodites as Josh Brolin and Sean Astin) as they search for buried treasure in a subterranean cavern. Here they cross the path of lady criminal Mama Fratelli (Anne Ramsey) and her outlaw brood. Fortunately, the kids manage to befriend Fratelli's hideously deformed (but soft-hearted) son (John Matuszak), who comes to their rescue. The Spielberg influence is most pronounced in the film's prologue and epilogue, when the viewer is advised that the film's real villains are a group of "Evil Land Developers." The musical score makes excellent use of Max Steiner's main theme from The Adventures of Don Juan, not to mention contributions by the likes of Richard Marx and Cyndi Lauper.
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