Friday, October 31, 2014

Cape Fear (1991)

Halloween Movie #3 (This would have been perfect for my salute to Robert De Niro earlier this month). Please click the links to read my Halloween-themed reviews from 2011, 2012 and 2013. 

Synopsis: Southern-fried Travis Bickle gets out of the slammer and goes-a-killin’. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Master filmmaker Martin Scorsese brings heart-pounding suspense to one of the most acclaimed thrillers of all time. Fourteen years after being imprisoned, vicious psychopath Max Cady (Robert De Niro) emerges with a single-minded mission: to seek revenge on his attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte). 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, psychotic lunatics really enjoyed John Ritter’s performance in Problem Child. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You really want to see the movie that spawned both a wonderful episode of The Simpsons AND one of the coolest pro-wrestling villains ever - Waylon Mercy!
Really?: 1) I realize Cady knows exactly how to push Danielle’s buttons, but I had a LOT of trouble believing a 15-year old girl would find a 40-something creep attractive. 2) So, Cady rapes and mutilates Lori in order to scare the shit out of Sam, and maybe drive a wedge between him and his wife? Ok, but how can he be sure Lori won’t press charges against him? That’s a BIG risk. 3) Holy shit, who is Cady – Rasputin’s illegitimate grandchild? The man is brutally beaten with iron bars, and somehow manages to get up and fight off his attackers? Or he’s horribly burned, jumps into a river during a horrible storm, and somehow gets back into the houseboat to once again terrorize the Bowdens? Come on….

Rating: I have to give Cape Fear something of a mixed review. The film certainly contains its share of thrills and chills, De Niro is at the top of his game as the thoroughly evil Cady, and Cape Fear boasts a VERY impressive cast, including Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Martin Balsam from the original. Thing is, I’m not sure why Scorsese felt the need to remake the 1962 classic; Cady’s big scene with Lori (Iliana Douglas) is nearly unwatchable, and the plot quickly gets stuck in a tedious pattern: Sam tries to get the better of Cady; Cady proves he’s a lot smarter and tougher than Sam thinks, and the whole thing backfires. Repeat. 6.5/10 stars.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Batman vs Dracula (2005)

Halloween Movie #2

Synopsis: Come on, it’s called Batman vs Dracula – what do you think this movie is all about? 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Gotham City sleeps under the cover of darkness while two legendary bats take flight. One is turning the city into an army of vampires while the other does everything he can to stop the mayhem.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, in addition to his crime-fighting duties, management of Wayne Industries, and cover of billionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne/Batman is also a highly talented immunobiologist. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You firmly believe that pitting Batman against Dracula is a radically innovative idea. Oh, wait.... [Sorry, the Youtube pickin's were slim today, and I couldn't find scenes of Batman facing off against you-know-who in the classic Superfriends episode "Attack of the Vampire"]
Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” 2) So, um…why was Dracula buried in Gotham City in the first place? I’m pretty sure that was never explained. And wait – he has a big cross on his gravestone, but it doesn’t matter, because he only uses the underground tunnels? Excuse me? 3) Hold on – how do these vampires feed? I guess it’s nice and PG-rated that Dracula never once kills anyone – he’s just creating new vampires, but aren’t they hungry? Doesn’t somebody have to get iced, sooner or later? 

Rating: Remember Batman, The Animated Series, and just how awesome it was? Well, Batman vs. Dracula isn’t a continuation of that show. Instead, this film is actually an 84-minute spin-off from the far-inferior reboot titled The Batman. But I digress – Batman vs. Dracula is terrible because the animation stinks, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense (see: “Really?” and “What Did I Learn?”), and – this really galls me – neither the Joker nor the Penguin are treated respectfully by the script. I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars. 

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Sure – take a drink any time you encounter a plot hole, or either the Penguin or the Joker act completely out of character.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Cable Guy (1996)

George Segal Film Fest Movie #4

Halloween Movie #1 

Synopsis: Deranged lunatic enters the life of a nice guy, and um…. fixes his damaged relationship, hires him a hooker, offers his friendship, provides free cable and a home entertainment centre, and… wait, how is Jim Carrey the villain, exactly? 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Jim Carrey is Chip Douglas, cable installer. Raised on television sitcoms, he wants life to look just like My Three Sons. And when he meets single-guy Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick), he sees his chance for some serious male bonding.” 

What Did I Learn?: Medieval Times isn’t  terribly authentic. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You'll watch anything - and I mean anything - that involves a cable guy. [No, I'm not linking to a porn site!]
Really?: 1) So wait… Chip was basically raised as a couch potato, and yet he’s somehow athletic enough to play a game of “prison rules” basketball? 2) I had a hard time believing Medieval Times would ever allow a couple of patrons to not only hit each other with bladed weapons, but participate in an actual joust. 3) I’ve seen a lot of friendships die on the vine, and none of them ever ended with a “breakup” speech. Couldn’t Steven have just given Chip the old “sorry dude, but I gotta work” routine a few times until he got the hint? 4) There’s absolutely no way Steven would sit through a family get-together with Chip in attendance after his brief stay in the county lock-up. 5) I realize Ben Stiller directed this film, and originally wanted to star in it, but those scenes of him as the Sweet brothers seem a bit unnecessary. 

Rating: I have to admit that I’ve never been a big Jim Carrey fan – or at the very least, I've never enjoyed his manic-energy performances, and this is a prime example. The Cable Guy isn’t a bad film, but it often looks as though Carrey and Broderick are performing in two completely different movies (the funniest line for me is actually a throwaway moment: Broderick mentioning to Janeane Garofalo that it’s odd Medieval Times offers Pepsi, but not utensils), and the story stops making sense somewhere in the second act. 6/10 stars.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Flirting With Disaster (1996)

George Segal Film Fest Movie #3 (Ok, I realize George Segal is barely in the next couple of films – I’m just trying to get through my backlog of movie reviews!) 

Synopsis: Hmm… Ben Stiller stumbles from one awkward scene to another with newly-acquired relatives. Oh wait – it’s basically Meet The Parents without Robert De Niro! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This sexy all-star comedy was cheered by critics and audiences nationwide! In a quest to find his biological parents, Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller) – joined by his wife (Patricia Arquette) and a sexy adoption counselor (Tea Loni) – embarks on a cross-country search for his ‘roots’.” [Whoa…somebody has “sexy” on the brain!]

What Did I Learn?: If some reprobate offers to teach you how to drive a big-rig truck, don't take him up on it.


Really?: 1) Yeah…I realize Mel has a bit of a thing for Tina, but after that first major fuck-up, I had a bit of a hard time believing he would trust her to do anything. Oh, and why are those two ATF dudes hanging around? 2) Gee, take a drink every time Mel and Nancy (Patricia Arquette) get into a big fight. 

Rating: I wanted to like Flirting With Disaster a bit more than I did. The movie has a great cast, and a few funny moments, but I’ve never been a huge fan of awkward-moments comedy; a number of scenes caused me to cringe rather than laugh, and the constant bickering between Stiller and Arquette gets old pretty quickly. 6/10 stars.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lost and Found (1979)

George Segal Film Fest Movie #2 (Yup: somebody wrote: "4.99" in yellow pencil-crayon on the VHS jacket)

Incidentally, this movie has a minor character named "John Schuster" - that is AWESOME! 

Synopsis: Hmm… George Segal, Glenda Jackson and Paul Sorvino…. Hey, it’s just like A Touch of Class - with a low budget, a crappy script and a whole lot of Canadian B-movie actors. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Adam Watson (George Segal) has come to a French ski resort to recover from the recent death of his wife. Tricia Brittenham (Glenda Jackson) has come to get over an unexpected divorce. He an American English professor and she a British film secretary.” [Um…what’s a “film secretary?”]

What Did I Learn?: John Candy did a really shitty French accent. 

You Might Like This Movie If: you occasionally visit the Lost-and-Found.

Really?: 1) Isn’t Adam a bit old to be serving as a non-tenured prof at a not-so-prestigious university? 2) Early on, Tricia takes out a restraining order against Adam – basically, he faces jail time if he comes within ten feet of her. What happened to that plot point? Come to think of it, how could either of them afford to stay at a ski chalet for well over a month in order to heal from their injuries? Wouldn’t each of them have simply gone home, injured? 3) How long was Adam in that car, breathing carbon monoxide? I had a hard time believing he could be revived after Tricia drove all the way to the airport, and then home. 

Rating: I wanted to like Lost and Found, and it actually starts out fairly well when Adam and Tricia exchange insults – and worse - at the ski chalet. Sadly, the story quickly runs out of juice in the second act when they embark on a whirlwind romance, and the remaining story focuses on Adam’s tedious quest for tenure at Not-UofT. From that point on, we’re treated to a whole lot of bad comedy and more than a few pointless screaming matches. Check it out if you want to see John Candy and Martin Short in small, before-they-were-famous roles, and to take a look at the University of Toronto in the late 1970s. Lost and Found is reminiscent of more than a few forgettable made-in-Canada films from that period: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, Crossover, and The Silent Partner. I cannot recommend this movie. 4.5/10 stars. 

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time a shouting match breaks out.