Thursday, October 29, 2015

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Halloween Movie #1

Synopsis: It’s basically 104 minutes of Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman and Terri Garr screaming at each other in black and white. 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Mel Brooks’ monstrously crazy tribute to Mary Shelley’s classic pokes hilarious fun at just about every Frankenstein movie ever made.”  

What Did I Learn?: Hearts and kidneys are tinker toys compared with the central nervous system. 

Really?: I realize this is a Mel Brooks comedy, and that judging it on its overall credibility would be a fool’s errand, but still.... 1) When does this movie take place? Wouldn’t Transylvania be ruled either by Nazi Germany, or a Soviet-imposed Communist government? This is never made clear. 2) Come to think of it, how long has the castle been deserted, and how much time has passed since the previous Dr. Frankenstein (Fronkensteen’s great-grandfather) did his experiments? Why was he only recently informed? 3) So, Fronkensteen leaves behind his career and his fiancĂ© and travels across the world in his great-grandfather’s castle? What?!? I imagine he would take that trip for the sole reason of selling the old dump, but this is never once mentioned. 4) Funny how the film takes place in Transylvania (basically modern-day Romania), and yet everyone speaks English, and all of the signage is in English, too. 

Rating: Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein is widely considered to be a classic, and I really, really wanted to like this film, but I couldn’t. YF actually starts out fairly well, and it has a few funny moments (Wilder’s Fronkensteen, and Terri Garr’s Inga discovering the bookcase secret passage, for instance), but most of the humour is loud, crude and extremely obvious. Moreover, the movie really starts to drag by the end, and I couldn’t take all of the incessant shouting. I cannot recommend this movie. 4.5/10 stars. 

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Maybe – take a drink every time somebody becomes unnecessarily loud.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

Please click the link to read my review of Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, another film that featured Paul Reubens and Pee Wee Herman (although he certainly wasn't kid-friendly!) 

Synopsis: Creepy man-child in tight-fitting suit searches for World’s Ugliest Bicycle. [Interestingly, PWBA is based upon The Bicycle Thief but it actually reminded me of Corvette Summer]

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Call in the FBI! Alert the President! Advise all ships at sea and break out the Batphone! Pee-wee Herman’s bicycle, the ‘neatest’ bike in the world, is missing. It’s his most prized possession... and he’s just got to get it back.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) The Alamo doesn’t have a basement. 2) Mr. T pities the fools who don’t eat his cereal.  


Really?: 1) Ok, I realize you can’t really judge this movie on its overall credibility, but wait – Pee Wee buys a “boomerang bow-tie” and he never once uses it! 2) I have to ask: who was this movie's target audience? I mean, PWBA really isn't a film for kids, and how does one relate to the protagonist? 

Rating: I've watched Pee Wee's Big Adventure on a few occasions since it was released thirty years ago, and I'm still not entire sure what to think of it. Certain scenes, such as Pee Wee's encounter with the bikers, are quite funny, and the film ends with an impressive finale (I loved the movie-within-a-movie featuring James Brolin and Morgan Fairchild), but the rest is just plain weird, and Pee Wee himself becomes a little irritating by the end. 7.5/10 stars.

Monday, October 26, 2015

15 Minutes (2001)

Salute to Television Movie #5

This would have been perfect for my tribute to Robert De Niro awhile ago. 

Synopsis: Ever wanted to see De Niro sleepwalk his way through a by-the-numbers buddy cop movie with stereotypical Eurotrash villains and a pretentious “message” about tabloid television? This is your lucky day...

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Today, there are just three requirements for murder: the motive, the means... and the media. Robert De Niro and Edward Burns pack serious heat into this super-charged action thriller.” 

What Did I Learn?: I wouldn’t think that a shiny purple shirt would go with a brown-checked jacket, but De Niro somehow makes it work. 

Really?: 1) Strange how the movie is titled 15 Minutes, and it’s all about criminals trying to become infamous, yet nobody once references Andy Warhol’s famous quotation. 2) So, is Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammar) basically a decent bloke who sometimes has to be an asshole for the sake of his job, or a despicable human being? This is never made entirely clear, and I’d say his character is badly developed. 3) Hmm.... does Jordy Warsaw have any other arson cases to investigate? How does a Fire Marshall spend all of his time hanging around a homicide investigator after their one case together is pretty much taken out of his hands? 4) You know, I’m pretty sure that insanity pleas aren’t that easy to argue in court. 5) Wait, what’s the point of Jordy taking Oleg hostage and driving him to some deserted warehouse? Does he want to inflict some pain on the guy? And why does he show up when Oleg is taken from the courtroom just to yell some lame “what about the victims?” rhetoric? This is just bad writing. 

Rating: I wouldn’t say that 15 Minutes is a bad movie, but it comes perilously close to becoming one for a number of reasons (see: “Synopsis” and “Really?”). Check it out only if you’re a die-hard De Niro fan, and you want to see him spoof his own work in Taxi Driver (rehearsing lines in front of a mirror) and The King of Comedy (a celebrity who gets kidnapped, and then tied up by a couple of petty criminals). 5.5/10 stars.

Soapdish (1991)

Salute to Television Movie #4

Synopsis:’s a soap opera within a soap opera!! Wait, that was the Synopsis for Delirious.... and Tune in Tomorrow, come to think of it

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Sally Field leads an all-star cast in this sidesplittingly funny look at a scandal-ridden TV soap opera.” [Sidesplittingly?]

What Did I Learn?: 1) Actors don't like to play coma. They feel it limits their range. 2) Doing dinner theatre is horrible. 3) “Peppy” and “cheap” are better than “depressing” and “expensive.” 


Really?: 1) The movie ends with a live broadcast of The Sun Also Sets. Seriously – a live broadcast? 2) Couldn’t Celeste have found some way to inform Jeffrey of his relationship with Lori without making a fool of herself in front of both the entire cast, and the entertainment reporters. 

Rating: I wanted to like Soapdish a little more than I did. Sally Field and Kevin Kline share some wonderfully acidic exchanges, Robert Downey Jr. is good as a slimy TV exec, and Terri Hatcher is fun to watch in a before-they-were-famous role. Soapdish certainly has its moments, but the plot is far too contrived for it to be believed (see: “Really?”) , and its comedy really isn’t terrible insightful or clever – every scene seems to end with a big shouting match, and the whole thing struck me as a screenwriter’s fantasy of a soap opera set, rather than a real satire of the genre. Oh – watch for veteran TV producer Garry Marshall in a wonderfully funny cameo. 6/10 stars.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Quiz Show (1994)

Salute to Television Movie #3

Synopsis: It’s the most *AHEM* trivial scandal in American history!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “It’s an exciting look behind the scenes of the thrills and high-stakes competition of TV’s hottest big money game show!”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Marty won Best Picture in 1955. 2) “Bluffing” is a much nicer term than “lying.” 

Really?: So wait, Herbie Stempel (John Turturro) collected over 70 grand (1950s dollars!) in prize money, and we’re supposed to give a crap that he was ordered by the network to take a dive?  

Rating: Produced and directed by Robert Redford, Quiz Show is best described as an intelligently-written, but somewhat overrated period drama. Quite honestly, it’s tough to care one way or the other about the storyline (see: “Synopsis” and “Really?”), which eventually gets bogged down somewhere in the second act. 7/10 stars.