Monday, December 31, 2012

The Limey (1999)

Revenge Movie #3

Synopsis: Slimy limey flushes California turds.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “British ex-con Wilson (Terence Stamp) arrives in Los Angeles to investigate the mystery of his daughter’s ‘accidental’ death. His prime suspect, the wealthy, heavily guarded, music promoter Terry Valentine (Peter Fonda), is no easy target.

What Did I Learn?: 1) “The Sixties” were really just 1966, and a bit of early 1967. 2) If you need a crude, but effective comeback, the words: “I’d tell you to blow it out your ass, but my dick’s in the way” will probably suffice.

Really?: 1) I had a bit of trouble believing Eduardo and Elaine (Luis Guzman and Lesley Ann Warren) would continue to help Wilson when it becomes obvious he’s in town to kill people. 2) So wait – all that Valentine had to do was explain the situation to Wilson? 3) Hold on – did Wilson bust out of jail in England to avenge his daughter’s murder in LA? And I’m a bit surprised the DEA agents didn’t fingerprint him after the failed assassination attempt.

Rating: The Limey is definitely the best of the three ‘revenge’-themed movies I have reviewed; Stamp is quite good as the single-minded, but dangerous Brit, but Peter Fonda provides an outstanding performance as the creepy-yet-charming, record-promoter-turned-drug-kingpin, Terry Valentine – he nails the part. The film has a few too many flashbacks for my taste, but it’s an entertaining hour and a half, and well worth watching. 8/10 stars.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Revenge (1990)

Revenge Movie #2 (Wow, you don’t get more revenge-themed than a movie called “Revenge”!)

Synopsis: Men think with their dicks, Example # 689,968,746,006.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Kevin Costner stars as Jay Cochrane, a former fighter pilot who finds himself irresistibly drawn to the beautiful wife of an old friend.  Anthony Quinn (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, GUNS OF NAVARONE), in a powerful performance, co-stars as the husband who reacts with uncontrollable rage to the double betrayal.”

What Did I Learn?: In Mexico, even the good cops are murderous vigilantes who frequent local bordellos.

Really?: 1) Jay can fly airplanes – funny how that never becomes a useful skill in this movie. 2) After beating his ex-friend senseless and forcing his wife to become a prostitute, I had a hard time believing Tibey would still wear the leather jacket that Jay gave him. 3) Not many men would beg the forgiveness of the dude who ordered him to be beaten within an inch of his life. 4) Funny how the “Texan” dies after an unexplained injury, conveniently leaving a horse trailer and car to Jay. 5) So wait – Jay could probably bang any woman he wants in Tibey’s area of Mexico, so what does he do? He bangs his wife, never suspecting their phone calls might be tapped, or that Tibey’s right-hand man (who hates Jay) might be out to get him. 6) Assuming this movie is set in 1990, when it was released, and Jay had just spent 12 years in the Navy, that means he would have joined in 1978 or so – how did he fight the Viet Cong? 7) See What Did I Learn?

Rating: If you enjoy watching Kevin Costner knife Mexican gangsters in the washroom, Revenge is your movie. While the film has some memorable moments (Madeleine Stowe is extremely sexy, and Anthony Quinn delivers a great performance), the script is incredibly contrived and not terribly plausible in places, and the ending is a real downer. Revenge is a borderline bad movie, but I’ll give it a passing grade. 5.5/10 stars.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shiner (2000)

Revenge Movie #1 (Now that Christmas is over, I figured it’s time to do a three-movie tribute to one of mankind’s oldest desires – a little bit of payback).

Synopsis: World’s most gullible boxing promoter solves mysterious murder by beating the crap out of anyone he suspects is even remotely involved.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Michael Caine stars as Billy ‘Shiner’ Simpson, an East End boxing promoter with big ideas. Putting his own son Eddie ‘Golden Boy’ up against the American champion, he has gambled everything on the outcome. When Eddie loses and then is brutally murdered Shiner’s world disintegrates. Distraught, Billy begins a frantic search for the killer, but his past is catching up with him, and so are the police.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, you can sweet-talk the police into postponing their plans to arrest you by insisting: a) you didn’t do it, and b) tonight’s event is really, really important.

Really?: 1) Apparently, London is awash in firearms – everyone seems to have one. 2) There are many, many examples in this movie of people not acting the way they would in real-life. If a man with a gun orders you to get back into your car, for instance, the chances are pretty good that you’re going to scurry away lickity-split – you won’t have to wait for him to fire a shot into the air. More importantly, why would a jaded boxing promoter (a man who is presumably more of a realist than Henry Kissinger) bet everything on his son defeating the American light-heavyweight champion?

Rating: Shiner isn’t quite a bad movie, but it it’s not a good one, either. Caine’s character isn’t even remotely likeable (he threatens to kill a henchman’s unborn child, for crying out loud!), even after his son is murdered and he’s devastated by the news. While the first half of the film has some comic moments, and provides an interesting take on the boxing world, the second half is essentially Get Carter, with a couple of hired goons thrown in. 5.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Barfly Barbera (this is too funny)

In a recent review of Barfly, I wrote that Mickey Rourke’s impression of Charles Bukowski sounds like a drunken game show host.

My old buddy Mike offered a small correction: Rourke actually sounds a lot more like a drunken version of the not-so-beloved Snagglepuss character from those old Hanna Barbera cartoons.

Judge for yourself:

Heavens to Murgatroid...another round, for all my frien-n-n-n-n-nds!

A Christmas Carol/Scrooge (1951)

Christmas Movie #11 (Merry Belated Christmas, and Happy Boxing Day!) Please click the links to read my reviews of It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard, Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Family Man. Oh – and here’s some news. My review of Hulk Hogan’s stinkeroo, Santa With Muscles has received a grand total of 135 pageviews – that’s a record for this blog!

Synopsis: Hard-working, job-creating captain of industry undergoes home invasion and forced indoctrination by otherworldly Bolsheviks.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Old Ebeneezer Scrooge, the meanest miser in London, overworks and underpays his humble clerk, Bob Cratchit, whose little son, Tiny Tim, is crippled and may soon die. One Christmas Eve, Scrooge has a dreadful nightmare. He is visited by three ghosts who change his life forever.”

What Did I Learn?: If you don’t want your sketchy housekeeper to sell your bed curtains after you croak, itemize your possessions and leave a will.

Really?: 1) The turkey that Scrooge sends to the Cratchits isn’t nearly as big as we’re led to believe. 2) I have no idea what the Victorian job market was like, but did Bob Cratchit ever consider leaving Scrooge’s employ to work for somebody else? 3) Is it just me, or do the Cratchits seem psychotically happy on Christmas Day?

Rating: The 1951 version of A Christmas Carol is the gold standard for retellings of the Dickens classic. Alastair Sim provides a masterful performance as the grumpy old miser with a heart of gold – and you can’t help yourself from smiling as he finally discovers the joy he’s been missing for so many years. A Christmas Carol is a bit hokey in places, and the special effects are now a bit dated, but it’s well worth watching on Christmas Eve. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Trailer Park Boys Christmas Special (2004)

Christmas Movie #10 (Click the link to read my review of The Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to LiquorDay).

Synopsis: Canada’s most incompetent criminals frustrate failed authority figure’s desire for a couple of Christmastime drinky-poos.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “in this prequel to the hit series Trailer Park Boys, it’s 1997 and Sunnyvale Trailer Park is getting ready for the holiday season. Julian’s got a great idea to make money this Christmas, Ricky gets confused between God and Santa, and Bubbles tries to get the Boys together for an annual Christmas bonfire.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Jail is awesome; 2) Santa Claus isn’t God; 3) Christmas is for getting drunk and stoned with the ones you love.

Really?: The Trailer Park Boys isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, so I guess I can overlook the big jailhouse party, the priest who admits that he’s high during Midnight Mass, or the fact that Randy doesn’t wear shirts, even in the winter, but why are the characters interviewed, documentary-style? I thought the filmmakers started following Julian and Ricky at the beginning of Season One, which takes place several years in the future.

Rating: Made in 2004, The Trailer Park Boys Christmas Special dates back to a time when the show was still funny (don’t get me started on the later seasons...) As usual, Ricky (Robb Wells) is a hoot, especially when he matches wits with Lahey, or as he gradually destroys his 1975 Chrysler New Yorker with one accident after another. While I’m not a fan of “very special episodes”, the Bubbles sub-plot is actually quite touching. 8/10 stars.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Scrooged (1988)

Christmas Movie #9 (By the way: back in January, when I reviewed Nostradamus, I jokingly suggested you might like that film if you strongly suspected there wouldn't be a blog entry on December 22. Well, I'm happy to report the end of the Mayan calendar came and went, the world seems pretty much intact, and I’m still blogging)

Synopsis: Selfish network exec atones for his sins by ruining live TV broadcast.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “High-spirited high jinks on Christmas Eve put Frank Cross (Bill Murray) in a ghostly time warp in this hilarious take-off of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Cross, who has made the meteoric rise from the depths of the mailroom to TV network president, is mean, nasty, uncaring, unforgiving and has a sadistic sense of humour – perfect qualities for a modern-day Scrooge.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) No matter how hard you try, you can’t punch out the Ghost of Christmas Present. 2) Towels and chopped veal are pretty crappy gifts.

Really?: 1) As the personal secretary to a big network honcho, wouldn’t Grace (Alfre Woodard) be able to afford something a bit nicer than a housing project apartment in Harlem? This carryover from A Christmas Carol doesn’t exactly ring true. 2) So, Eliot Laudermilk goes from network strategist to alcoholic, homeless bum in what – a day? 3) A LIVE TV broadcast? Oh, come on...

Rating: I’m a big Bill Murray fan, and there’s no doubt he delivers a top-notch, tour-de-force performance in Scrooged. That said, the movie starts with a lot of energy and creativity (I love the Lee Majors “The Night the Reindeer Died” opening skit), turns strangely dark, and ends with a highly uncreative and insincere forced sing-a-long to a bad song; I guess Richard Donner needed an ending, and that was the best he could envision. Moreover, the Scrooge redemption story doesn’t work that well when it’s peppered with smug one-liners throughout. Scrooged is an ok, but not great Christmas film. 6.5/10 stars.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Night They Saved Christmas (1984)

Christmas Movie #8

Synopsis: Santa Claus helps out Big Oil.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “When an aspiring young geologist is offered a job at a firm near the North Pole, he uproots his family to bring them there – unaware that the effects of his new job will destroy the North Pole, and Santa Claus. With the help of Santa’s head elf, the family is taken on a fantastical roller coaster ride through the ice wonderland... only minutes away from the destruction of Santa’s paradise.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, Santa really hates “Jingle Bells”.

Really?: 1) So, is Santa’s home in the North Pole itself (which I’m pretty sure is just really cold ocean), or somewhere on the Nunavut coast? And why is there day and night, when that area of the world would be in perpetual darkness at Christmas? And I’m also pretty sure there aren’t many comfortable homes up there, and that you can’t wear light winter clothing, as the characters do. 2) Why does Santa inform them there’s a huge oil deposit at Site A? Why isn’t he concerned about despoiling the Arctic environment and wildlife? 3) Funny how Santa never actually does anything to prevent the destruction of his home besides taking dude’s wife and kids to North Pole City for a magical experience. I was expecting Santa to defuse the explosives, and it never happens. 4) Dude’s boss is a mean old man a la Ebenezer Scrooge; instead of focusing on the kids, wouldn’t it have been far more effective (and interesting) to have shown him the true meaning of Christmas?

Rating: The legendary Art Carney does his best with The Night They Saved Christmas, but the script is atrocious, the special effects and matte painting backgrounds are bargain-basement quality, and most of the other performances are loud, phony or just plain God-awful (I can understand the child actors being bad, but American Graffiti’s Paul LeMat? He and Jaclyn Smith have zero, and I mean zero chemistry). I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars.

Would it Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: Only if you play a game of: “take a drink every time one of the little brats screams.”


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Ref (1994)

Christmas Movie #7

Synopsis: Acute case of Stockholm Syndrome turns impromptu hostage-taking into foul-mouthed couples therapy.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “MTV’s Denis Leary stars in one of the year’s most outrageous and highly acclaimed comedy hits. Leary plays an unfortunate cat burglar who becomes trapped in a fate worse than jail when he takes a bickering couple (Kevin Spacey – Consenting Adults, Judy Davis – Husbands and Wives) and their annoying relatives hostage. Before long, they’re driving him nuts, and the line between who is whose hostage begins to blur.”

What Did I Learn?: A whole lot about the life of St. Lucia...oh, and that nobody particularly wants to wear a candle-laden wreath on their head as they sit down for Christmas dinner.

Really?: 1) Couldn’t Lloyd (Spacey) have come up with a better lie than to attempt to pass off Gus (Leary) as “Dr. Wong”? 2) Can police officers in the US conduct house-to-house searches without the owner’s consent? 3) Wasn’t it pretty obvious mid-way that Gus wasn’t going to shoot anyone? 4) Not too many people befriend the guy who sticks a gun in their back and orders them around.

Rating: While it’s highly contrived, and the sub-plot about the blackmailing kid is a bit superfluous, The Ref is a funny, and strangely charming film featuring great chemistry between Leary, Spacey and Judy Davis. 7.5/10 stars.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Christmas Movie #6

Synopsis: Bullied young boy dreams of owning a firearm.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The Christmas spirit soars to live in this hilarious holiday gem. With sly and gentle satire, this delightful film paints a ‘jaunty Rockwell-like portrait of Middle America... all at once amusing, provoking and heartwarming. (The Hollywood Reporter).”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Apparently, Palmolive tastes a whole lot better than Lifebuoy soap. 2) If somebody “triple-dog dares” you to do something incredibly stupid, the best reply is: “go fuck yourself”.

Really?: 1) I had a bit of trouble believing Ralphie’s mom would allow a stocking-hosed leg lamp to be placed in the middle of her living room window.2) Would an aunt really give a pink bunny suit to a little boy? And would a department store Santa really deliver a boot to the face of that same boy with hundreds of eyewitnesses nearby?

Rating: A Christmas Story is a warm and funny holiday film, told from a child’s perspective sometime in the 1940s. It’s very difficult to knock A Christmas Story, but my only complaint would be that it doesn’t entirely know what sort of film it wants to be: a zany comedy aimed at kids (the neighbour’s dogs running through the house, Ralphie’s frequent daydream sequences, etc...) or a nostalgic comedy-drama for folks who grew up in that era – it often tries to be both, and that combination doesn’t always work. Since the film is narrated by an older Ralphie, I would I have liked to see a bit more introspection, commentary about the times, and information about what happened to the on-screen characters; that said, such an approach probably would have made A Christmas Story a much different movie. 8.5/10 stars.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

White Christmas (1954)

Christmas Movie #5

Synopsis: To paraphrase Clark W. Griswold, “it’s the hap, hap, happiest Christmas when Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.”

Blurb From the VHS Jacket:White Christmas is a treasury of Irving Berlin classics, among them ‘Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep’, ‘Sisters’, ‘Blue Skies’, and the beloved holiday song, ‘White Christmas.’”

What Did I Learn?: Every single episode of Three’s Company was based on a moment in this film when the Innkeeper’s receptionist overhears bits and pieces of Bing’s telephone conversation, and comes to a completely wrong-headed conclusion.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that Bing Crosby is a cool, all-around great guy.

Really?:  1) In the opening War in Europe scene, the soldiers are wearing the cleanest uniforms this side of the costume department. 2) Bing and Danny do a number in drag – yeesh. Oh, and how many times does the audience have to hear that fucking “Sisters” song? 3) Bing and Danny do a minstrel show...a MINSTREL SHOW. 3) So wait – the receptionist makes a wrong-headed assumption, and yet later she’s clearly in on the plan to keep the General away from the TV set. Something doesn’t compute. 4) I have to wonder: where in the world did all of Wallace and Davis’ backup dancers, stage hands, musicians, etc stay in Vermont? There’s no way that inn had even nearly enough rooms for that travelling circus. 5) Gee, who wouldn’t willingly give up their Christmas plans with family in order to put on a military uniform, trek up to Vermont, and honour the guy responsible for their post-traumatic stress disorder?

Rating: White Christmas is generally considered a holiday classic, but I found it tedious, overly long, and just plain stupid in places. Even as a musical, White Christmas isn’t terribly entertaining; many of the songs are less than inspired (“What can you do with a general?”, being a prime example), and we hear some of them over and over again until it just isn’t funny. I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars.

Would it Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: Nope

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Christmas Gift (1986)

Christmas Movie #4

Synopsis: John Denver saves the world’s most gullible town.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “George Billings is a successful New York City architect. One year ago, at Christmastime, his beloved wife died. So now the usually joyous season is a time of painful memories for George and his seven-year-old daughter Alexandra. To make matters worse, George’s boss, Mr. Renfield, sends him on a business trip to look over a small Colorado town for a possible real estate development.”

What Did I Learn?: Land developers are evil, and every town should remain exactly the way it is right now.

Really?: 1) It’s funny how George suddenly changes his opinion about urban development; mid-way through, he argues Georgetown will wither and die, just like his home in Nebraska, if it doesn’t develop. Later, he believes his boss’ plans will destroy the town. 2) Wait – everyone in town believes in Santa Claus because there’s a legend he appeared 100 years ago, and HE NEVER MAKES AN APPEARANCE IN THIS MOVIE? That’s like making vampire movie without a vampire. 3) John Denver breaks into song, just as he’s tucking his daughter into bed. If the director, Michael Pressman, wanted to include an original ditty, how about playing it over a video montage? 4) Wouldn’t anyone in town stand to benefit from a whole bunch of new condos and ski chalets being built nearby?

Rating: Made-for-TV movies can be decidedly hit or miss. While The Gathering is a great little film, The Christmas Gift is schmaltzy, simplistic, difficult to believe, and rather unsatisfying. Give this Rocky Mountain High a pass and watch John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, instead.  I cannot recommend this movie. 5/10 stars.

Would it Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: Not really


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Fantasia (1940)

Christmas Movie #3 (Ok, Fantasia isn’t really a Christmas movie per se, but it was re-released every year around Christmastime when I was a kid, so I guess it sort-of counts)

Synopsis: It’s the big Walt Disney LSD trip.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Walt Disney’s most celebrated, most acclaimed and most requested film is finally here...FANTASIA!”

What Did I Learn?: Based on a recent screening with friends, men think the dancing mushrooms look like dancing mushrooms, women think they resemble gyrating penises.  

Really?: 1) Considering he had no trouble removing all of that excess water with a little hocus-pocus, I’m surprised the sorcerer gets as angry as he does at Mickey. 2) So wait – bare-breasted female centaurs? Hippos dancing with alligators? Mountain tops thatturn into Satanic figures? What the fuck is this movie?

Rating: Fantasia is one weird, trippy film. Set to several pieces of classical music, the movie consists of animated images and short stories without dialogue. While Fantasia is  highly imaginative, and it features beautiful artwork, the viewer is often left wondering: “what in the world am I watching?” My recommendation would be to screen it without sound for a social gathering, put on some Pink Floyd and fire up a joint or two. 8/10 stars.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Gathering (1977)

Christmas Movie #2

Synopsis: Lou Grant wants one last tree-trimming before he croaks.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Adam is a man whose time is running out and for whom life has saved the very best for last. Ed Asner and Maureen Stapleton star in this poignant Emmy Award-winning Christmas special that has already become a seasonal classic.”

What Did I Learn?: According to the Adam Thornton: “that whole New England winter feeling has gone to plastic pine trees, electronic music, smog and black slush.”

Really?: 1) For a guy who’s about to kick the bucket within three months, Thornton (Asner) never shows any symptoms of being ill. Come to think of it, his doctor never actually states the illness. 2) It’s funny Kate (Maureen Stapleton) never seems the slightest bit angry at Adam, even though he stormed out of the family home years earlier and left her there, alone.

Rating: The Gathering is a heartwarming, and very bittersweet Christmas film featuring fine performances from Asner and Stapleton. While it was made for TV, and the production values aren’t the best, it is well worth watching around this time of year and the film richly deserved its Emmy. My one complaint is that the dialogue often sounds “written”, instead of authentic speech. 8.5/10 stars.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jingle All the Way (1996)

Christmas Movie #1 Please click the links to read my reviews of The Ice Harvest, and Friday After Next (both films take place at Christmastime). On December 25, I will re-post the links to the Holiday movies I reviewed last year.
Synopsis: Muscle-headed oaf attempts to further spoil an already petulant child.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in this hilarious holiday comedy as a father desperate to buy that must-have Christmas toy during a frantic last-minute shopping spree on Christmas eve.”
What Did I Learn?: 1) Sinbad frequently confuses being loud with being funny. 2) If you don’t spend enough time with your kid, you can make up for it by buying him a popular toy.
Really?: 1) Once again, Arnie plays a Mid-Western American with a WASP-y name (“Howard Langston”) and there’s absolutely no explanation for why he has a thick-as-molasses Austrian accent. 2) Of all the Christmas movies they could have ripped off, why did they choose Santa With Muscles? 3) He. Punches. A. Reindeer. 4) Allowing a bomb to explode in the hands of a police officer might have been in bad taste. 5) So wait – a parade float character is given a working jet pack? 6) So, is Myron (Sinbad) a comical character, a villain, or what, exactly? While I can see him maybe being obsessed with getting a Turboman doll for his son, I had a very hard time believing he wouldn’t immediately shift his priorities to saving Jamie’s life when the two of them are suspended from a multi-story building. 7) What’s with all the dwarf-tossing?
Rating: While Jingle All the Way has a few amusing lines (I love it when the late, great Phil Hartman says to Arnie: “you can’t bench-press your way out of this one”, or when Arnie yells: “PUT THAT COOKIE DOWN! NOW”), it’s mostly an unfunny, mean-spirited and unpleasant “satire” of crazed shopping that nevertheless revels in materialism, and doesn’t even attempt to challenge the commercialization of Christmas. Frankly, I expected more from a comedy that features Hartman, and that reunites Ahhnold with his Red Heat co-star Jim Belushi. And the final sequence involving a working jet-pack in the Santa Claus parade is so over-the-top that it becomes impossible to suspend one’s sense of disbelief. I cannot recommend this movie. 5/10 stars.
Would it Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT: A gang of 12-year olds might enjoy Jingle All the Way for a sleepover, but adults? Not so much…

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tuff Turf (1985)

Synopsis: It’s a Brat Pack version of West Side Story without all the singin’ and the dancin’. [Ok, I stole that line from an episode of Newhart].

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In the shadows of Hollywood’s bright lights lies the dark and violent underside of Los Angeles – TUFF TURF – the mean streets where Nick Hauser (Paul Mones, ‘Streets of Fire’ and ‘Warriors’) his girlfriend Frankie (Kim Richards, ‘Assault on Precinct 13’) and his gang, the Tuffs, reign supreme. That is, until Morgan Hiller (James Spader, ‘Endless Love’) moves to town.”

What Did I Learn?: Mystery solved: It was Robert Downey Jr. who let the dogs out!!

Really?: 1) I’m pretty sure the film’s all-white street gang(!) would last about 15 seconds in any confrontation with actual criminals. 2) The movie’s action sequences, such as the gang stealing Spader’s bike in the school parking lot, or Kim Richards jumping from table to table and doing cartwheels in a nightclub, are so terribly timed and choreographed they defy description. 3) Not that many teens would hit on the girlfriend of the local gang leader, let along foil a mugging.

Rating: Tuff Turf is a cheesy, nearly forgotten teen exploitation flick featuring pre-LessThan Zero performances from Spader and Downey. While Kim Richards is fun to watch (especially when she’s oozing sexuality on the dance floor), the script is atrocious, and the film consists of terrible scene after terrible scene. Tuff Turf is a Tough Turd to appreciate. 4.5/10 stars.

Would it Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: My guests howled with laughter last Saturday night, so most definitely yes.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Paternity (1981)

Synopsis: Burt Reynolds is a high-powered corporate executive who wants a son. Beverly D’Angelo is a cute waitress who needs money to go to Paris, so she agrees to act as a surrogate mom. He’s a little anal-retentive, she’s a little kooky, and... Take a wild fucking guess how this ends up...

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Burt Reynolds brings his magnetism and charm to the role of a would-be bachelor father in this sophisticated comedy. The problem: at 44, having lived a life of swinging singledom and wanting it to stay that way. Reynolds also wants a piece of immortality. He wants a child. The solution? A surrogate mother. No strings, no commitments.”

What Did I Learn?: Burt Reynolds is at his best when he’s driving muscle cars away from angry sheriffs...he’s not so great playing sensitive yuppies.

Really?: 1) I realize this movie was made in 1981, a time long before child molesters were suspected of lurking in every alleyway, but some of the scenes of Burt befriending strange kids in the park are a little creepy. 2) So, is Burt some sort of fussy, anal-retentive weirdo, or a ladies’ man who can’t settle down? For some reason, his character is presented as a combination of both, and it doesn’t work. 3) “Sophisticated Comedy”? Oh, come on...

Rating: Paternity is a terrible film – even the opening credits, featuring the cries of several babies, are unwatchable. Burt and Beverly do their best with the material, but it isn’t terribly funny, and – even worse – the script is sooooooooo incredibly predictable. You know D’Angelo is going to accept Burt’s offer (leaving him free to proposition a number of women and get slapped, earlier on), you know they’re going to bicker, you know she’s going to leave him and he’ll realize he really loves her, blah blah blah... I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars.

Would it Work for a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: No way, Jose.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ironweed (1987)

Dang – this would have been perfect for my tribute to “addiction” movies.

Synopsis: It’s basically Barfly without the comedy.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “It’s winter, 1938 in Albany, New York. The soup kitchens and flophouses are overflowing with homeless street people seeking food and refuge from the unforgiving cold. Francis Phelan (NICHOLSON) wanders the streets, back in his hometown after 22 years, an aimless vagabond ready to confront the family he abandoned long ago. While sharing his whiskey with longtime ‘pal’ Helen (STREEP) Francis reveals the dark secrets of his past, the painful memories from which he once tried to escape... but now must reconcile.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) If you’re coming home for the first time after abandoning your family 22 years earlier, it’s a nice idea to put on a clean shirt and bring a turkey. 2) Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) had a nice singing voice – who knew?

You Might Like This Movie If: You enjoy watching drunken celebrities.

Really?: I realize Francis feels out of place in the family home, but I had a little trouble believing he would choose to return to sleeping outside and scrounging for food and booze when it’s obvious his ex-wife wants him to come in from the cold.

Rating: Ironweed is a powerful – albeit extremely depressing – film. I’m not a big Jack Nicholson fan, but he and Meryl Streep deliver outstanding performances; the scene of Francis visiting the grave of the infant son he accidentally killed years earlier is one I won’t forget any time soon. With a running time of 143 minutes, however, the movie is far too long, and it could have used both a tighter focus and an editing job. Interestingly, while the movie takes place during the last years of the Great Depression, Francis and Helen aren’t exactly what politicians call the “deserving poor” – they’re alcoholics, and it’s strongly implied that Francis could probably get his life together if he gives up on the booze. 8.5/10 stars.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Pacific Heights (1990)

Synopsis: For landlords, it’s The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street all rolled into one.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “MICHAEL KEATON, MELANIE GRIFFITH and MATTHEW MODINE keep the adrenaline pumping in JOHN SCHLESINGER’S  chilling psychological thriller about two homeowners up against a pathological tenant.”

What Did I Learn?: Even when he’s not playing Batman, any character played by Michael Keaton can apparently withstand any number of savage beatings. Oh wait – I already learned that from One Good Cop.

Really?: 1) See “What Did I Learn?” 2) Funny how Drake (Matthew Modine) manages to find himself underneath Carter’s (Keaton) floorboards just as he discusses his nefarious plot to take the house – and he still can’t figure out what Carter’s up to. 3) How does Carter suddenly wind up with Drake’s personal financial information?

Rating: Pacific Heights is a terrible film. Comedies make you laugh; horror films scare the crap out of you, and a good drama can leave you in tears. For the first hour, Pacific Heights will only get you angry; the storyline repeats itself over and over: sicko tenant Carter (Keaton) does something awful, hotheaded landlord (and useless twat) Drake beats him up, and Carter wins a victory when the cops show up. While Keaton delivers a great performance, and his eventual comeuppance is satisfying, I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars.

Would it Work for a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: Not really.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Barfly (1987)

To all my frien-n-n-n-n-nds....another movie review!
(Dang – this would have been perfect for my tribute to “addiction” movies.)

Synopsis: Heartwarming tale of two lonely people brought together by a shared pastime.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Henry and Wanda aren’t exactly husband and wife. They’re wedded to their bar stools. But they do like being with each other – and the noiresque comedy Barfly captures their giddy, gin-soaked attempts to make a go of life on the skids.”

What Did I Learn?: If you’re a chronic alcoholic, it’s a good idea to eat something before you pick your 18th fistfight against the macho asshole bartender.

Really?: So wait...I can understand Tully wanting to purchase Henry’s story for her magazine, but why in the world would she offer to put him up in a multi-million dollar guest house a la Magnum PI, when it’s obvious he’s a self-destructive, violent, alcoholic scumbag? And he refuses the offer? Oh, come on...really?

Rating: Barfly is scuzzy with a capital S – fleabag apartments, dingy bars, hookers who should have retired decades earlier, and professional drunks. Written by Charles Bukowski, Barfly has some clever and genuinely funny moments, although there isn’t much of a story and the characters are anything but likeable. Oh – and Mickey Rourke tries to do a Bukowski impression and sounds like an alcoholic game show host. 7/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grosse Point Blank (1997)

John Cusack Film Fest Movie #14

Synopsis: Contract killer with a heart of gold reconnects with long-lost love as he prepares to whack her dad.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Here’s the killer comedy hit that’s loaded with outrageous fun! For Martin Blank (John Cusack – Con Air), a hit man stuck in a career rut, attending his 10-year high school reunion is about the last thing he’s in the mood for! But when the prospects of rekindling an old flame (Minnie Driver – Sleepers) and pulling off one final job convince him to go, things are looking up...that is, until Martin’s arch rival (Dan Aykroyd) shows up aiming to blow the competition away!”

What Did I Learn?: A TV set makes a pretty good weapon in close-quarters combat.

Really?: Grosse Point Blank is a strange, dark comedy that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but: 1) I had a great deal of trouble believing Martin’s old buddy Paul (Jeremy Piven) would assist him in carrying a corpse downstairs for incineration in the high school boiler instead of calling the cops. 2) I suspect that driving a BMW would be a career-limiting move for a real estate agent in the Detroit suburbs... 3) Funny how everyone – including old teachers - can identify Martin on first sight, ten years after graduation.

Rating: Grosse Point Blank is a funny and clever comedy with a kick-ass 1980s soundtrack. The film has many great moments (I loved Martin’s interaction with his intimidated psychiatrist, and the scene of him reducing his high school bully to tears), but my one complaint – and it’s a big one – is that I didn’t “buy” Cusack’s character. Martin Blank is supposed to be a “morally flexible” killer, and we see him murder people, yet he most often seems like a down-to-Earth, decent guy – far more so than his character in The Grifters, for instance. I realize Blank has to be likeable to the audience, but the character doesn't quite work: it’s a bit like imagining Michael J. Fox in the role of a street gang leader. 8/10 stars.