Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bedazzled (1967)

Dudley Moore Movie #1 Please click the links to read my reviews of Parallel Lives, Santa Claus: The Movie, and Holy Moses.

Synopsis: Impulsive young man sells his soul to Old Scratch in exchange for worldly fame and fortune. Wait, it’s basically Angel Heart, minus the incest and kinky voodoo sex. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Stanley (Moore) is a hapless short-order cook who is hopelessly in love with a  waitress named Margaret (Eleanor Bron) – although she barely knows he’s alive. Enter George Spiggot (Peter Cook), a.k.a. Satan, who grants Stanley seven wishes in order to win Margaret over, but his efforts are hilariously hampered by the Seven Deadly Sins – including the insatiable Lilian Lust (Raquel Welch)!”

What Did I Learn?: God isn’t very nice. (Wait, I think already learned that from The Ten Commandments)

Really?: 1) Hey wait – doesn’t the Devil actually say: “no obligation” when he grants Stanley his wish of a raspberry freeze? Doesn’t that disqualify it from becoming one of his seven wishes? 2) Funny how Stanley keeps making wishes right up until the end. I’m pretty sure most people would stop after Wish #2 or #3 after it became clear that Satan is either unwilling or incapable of delivering on anything. 

Rating: The original Bedazzled is a little contrived (see: “What Did I Learn”), and quite dated by today’s standards, but it’s also much better than its remake (the best parts of the Fraser-Hurley version came from this film), and it’s a delight to see the legendary comedy duo of Moore and Cook exchange witty repartee. Check it out if it's ever on television. 7.5/10 stars.

Bedazzled (2000)

Synopsis: It’s a bit like the 1967 version of Bedazzled, only louder and dumber. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The Devil’s never been so hot – or hilarious! Brendan Fraser is a hapless, love-starved computer technician who falls prey to sinfully sexy Elizabeth Hurley when he agrees to sell her his soul in exchange for seven wishes. But the sly Princess of Darkness has more than a few tricks up her… sleeve.” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, there’s absolutely no point in selling one’s soul to Satan because you won’t receive anything of any value for it. 

Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” Seriously, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for Satan to make his/her customers happy? Wouldn’t that lead to word-of-mouth business? 2) So, was there a clause in the contract that explicitly bans wishing for more wishes, or wishing to declare the contract null and void? Funny how nobody ever addresses this possible loophole. 3) Elliot (Fraser) must really like Alison, because the Devil is a whole lot hotter and more interesting. Just sayin'.

Rating: Elizabeth Hurley delivers a sultry, and incredibly likeable performance as a female Lucifer (which is why I’m giving it a lukewarm recommendation), but Bedazzled has a couple of key problems: Brendan Fraser wildly overacts, and his character is initially so awkwardly obnoxious that it’s hard to sympathize with him, and the script isn’t terribly clever or funny; we get the punchline of each wish almost immediately, so much of the movie’s action consists of Fraser yelling and screaming. 5.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Synopsis: Robert Downey Jr. mugs his way through charming, yet highly contrived film noir-buddy-action- comedy. 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “They say love and money don’t mix, but you can’t blame Harry Lockhart for trying. He’s been whisked from a life of petty crime to Hollywood, where he’ll audition for the role of a movie detective and be tutored for the part by a private eye.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) If you’re going to hold somebody at gunpoint, please stand at least five feet away so they don’t attempt to disarm you. 2) If you look up “idiot” in the dictionary, you will find a definition of the word idiot. 3) “Ike, Mike and Mustard” is a fairly obscure reference. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You really want to solve a murder case.
Really?: 1) So, Harry works as a burglar and thief in New York City. Funny how those talents are never once used to advance the plot in this movie. 2) I realize Harmony’s dad was a child-abusing pedophile in his youth, but it’s still disturbing to see an old man on a respirator getting slapped around. 3) So wait – Dexter invited Harmony to his party – based solely upon seeing her on the evening news – and he also unknowingly invited her sister? That’s a coinky-dink. 

Rating: The plot of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a little implausible (see: “Really?), but the film crackles with clever humour and crisp dialogue. Moreover, Downey is superb as the scuzzy-but-likely Harry Lockhart, and he shares some genuine chemistry with Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Animal (2005)

Synopsis: Hmm…Ving Rhames beats the crap out of other men in prison, meets a guru, gets out of the big house, and tries to talk his son out of following in his footsteps. Wow – it’s basically South Central (or He Got Game) meets Undisputed

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “His name…infamous. His reputation…. Ruthless. But when James ‘Animal’ Allen (Ving Rhames) is locked up in a maximum security prison, he meets a revolutionary (Jim Brown) who changes his life. Now a reformed man, James is released only to find his own son (Terrence Howard) has assumed a life of crime and violence.” 

What Did I Learn?: If you really want to whack a fellow prison inmate, don’t ask the crime boss for permission, first. Just push the guy down a flight of stairs and make it look like an accident. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You figure it must be a biography of this guy

Really?: 1) Funny how the young Darius looks absolutely nothing like either of his parents. 2) So wait – evidence emerges that James might have been wrongly convicted by crooked cops, yet he still has to spend a few more months in jail, and then see a parole officer after he’s released? 3) Imagine my surprise to discover that the “Willie Lynch” letter that’s quoted, and referenced over and over again in this film was most likely a forgery that was created long after the 18th century had passed. As you may remember from my review of Nostradamus, I’m not crazy about movies that knowingly play fast and loose with historical facts.

Rating: Animal is a powerful, and surprisingly moving low-budget drama that features a good performance from Rhames, and an outstanding one from Howard. Unfortunately, Animal’s cinematography and overall production values are sub-par, the script doesn’t make sense in places (see: “Really?”), and the story itself isn’t terribly original (see: “Synopsis”). 5.5/10 stars.