Saturday, December 31, 2016

The War of the Roses (1989)

Synopsis: It’s basically 117 minutes of Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglass throwing glass figurines at each other as Danny DeVito smugly moves the story along. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again. This is not that movie.” 

What Did I Learn?: Nobody wants to hear your cutesy-poo story about how you bought the perfect set of crystal wine goblets while vacationing in Paris. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You figure it must be about gardening.
Really?: Hold on... a number of characters mention Oliver’s (Douglas) role in preparing for a Senate confirmation hearing and then....nothing. We never see a minute of the proceedings, even though Oliver is clearly becoming unglued, and a nationally-televised meltdown might have made an entertaining scene. 

Rating: I wanted to like The War of the Roses, but wow.... it never should have been made in the first place. While I don’t mind a good black comedy now and then (Death Becomes Her, is a good example), this film is far too mean-spirited for my taste, and even worse, it isn’t very funny (unless your idea of humour is watching Douglass get socked in the nuts, and then take a tumble down the stairs for the 15th time). I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars. 

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time Oliver and Barbara stop behaving like rational human beings.

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

Synopsis: It’s the eagerly-anticipated, albeit extremely contrived, unfunny, uninspired, confused, poorly-written, and slapped-together sequel to Romancing the Stone

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A far bigger production than ROMANCING THE STONE, this vast operation organized by producer/co-star MICHAEL DOUGLAS put together an impressive team of filmmakers representing 16 different nationalities. Even the scope of locations was extraordinary – shooting took place across three continents – North America, Africa and Europe.” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently “al Jewelhara” is Arabic for “the Jewel.” (Funny, I thought Jewel was derived from old Anglo-French). Oh, I also learned that nearly everyone in North Africa (south of Egypt) speaks English.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’re a huge Billy Ocean fan. 

Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” 2) So, Joan (Kathleen Turner) admits she read an extremely unflattering Time magazine story about Omar, yet she agrees to get on his private jet and visit his country, knowing he’s a ruthless dictator? And wait – he wants a flattering biography, so he enlists a romance novelist with no background in biographical writing under false pretenses? Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for him to actually hire a hack writer, and pay the guy to write the story Omar wants? 3) Wait – Ralph (Danny DeVito) is about ready to shoot Jack (Michael Douglas), yet he’s prevented from doing so, and then he somehow manages to tag along for the adventure? How did that happen? 4) So, does Omar need Al Jewelhara alive, or does he want to kill him? This isn’t exactly made clear. 5) Hold on – Joan and Jewelhara manage to escape from Omar’s heavily-guarded palace, and somehow Jack and Ralph are standing directly below the duo when they’re ready to descend to street level? That’s quite a coincidence. 6) Ok, I’m giving up, now. 

Rating: I hadn’t seen The Jewel of the Nile since it was first released in 1985, so I had forgotten just how incredibly awful it really is (See: “Synopsis,” “What Did I Learn?,” and “Really?). The movie has a lot of problems, but the biggest is that unlike Romancing, it takes itself far too seriously, and is nearly devoid of charm or genuine humour. I’ll give Jewel a few stars because I liked the interactions between Turner, Douglas and DeVito, and it has some impressive pyrotechnics, but I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars.  

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Absolutely! Take a drink any time Danny DeVito wildly overacts.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Synopsis: Danielle Steele somehow wanders into the first 15 minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “MICHAEL DOUGLAS and KATHLEEN TURNER have the adventure of their lives in this hugely successful romantic caper co-starring DANNY DEVITO.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) The Doobie Brothers broke up at some point before 1984. 2) There are two ways to die...slow, like a snail, or fast, like a shooting star. (I would also accept “quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than the molasses in January.”)

You Might Like This Movie If: You'll watch any early-1980s Indiana Jones rip-off.

Really?: Romancing the Stone never takes itself too seriously, so I don’t want to sound overly critical, but I have to ask: 1) who buried the stone inside a cheesy ceramic piggy bank, and how long was it actually in the ground?, 2) and wouldn’t a wealthy Colombian drug baron maintain good relations with the local cops? Wouldn't they at least knock on his door before shooting at his pickup truck? 

Rating: Romancing the Stone is a charming, funny, and thoroughly enjoyable Robert-Zemeckis-directed action-comedy. Check it out if you’re in the mood for some pure escapism. 8/10 stars.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)

Synopsis: It’s basically The Big Sleep, or The Maltese Falcon featuring scantily-clad women, explosions, and X-rated wisecracks from a foul-mouthed Fonzie. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “He’s on the money, off the record, and over the top. FORD FAIRLANE Rock’N’Roll Detective.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) If you’re ever holding an adversary prisoner, and he urges you to throw away your pistol and fight him “mana-a-mano,” don’t. Just don’t. 2) Masturbating with a cheese grater is “slightly amusing, but mostly painful.” 3) Ford Fairlane is so amazing, he has his own toll-free number: 1-800-UNBELIEVABLE. 4) Ford Fairlane apparently fucked Clint Eastwood. 

Really?: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, so I can overlook Ford (Andrew Dice Clay) basically stumbling on to every clue without even trying, and the koala bear coming back from the dead, but I had a bit of trouble believing: a) his long-suffering girlfriend/receptionist Jazz(Lauren Holly in a nice performance) would stay with him as long as she has, or b) a milkshake that includes a shot of alcohol is somehow every bit as flammable as gasoline. 

Rating: I have to give The Adventures of Ford Fairlane a bit of a mixed review. While the story is ridiculously contrived, and doesn’t make a lot of sense (see: “Really?” and “What Did I Learn?”), the Diceman delivers some pretty funny zingers, and the film is a lot of fun if you can put your brain on “pause” for a couple of hours, and if you don’t have a politically-correct sense of humour. Oh, and watch for Robert (Freddy Krueger) Englund as a whacked-out British hit man. He’s a scream. 7/10 stars.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Working Girl (1988)

Synopsis: Smart, sexy secretary sidelines smug, statuesque superior, seduces sociable suitor, seals satisfying settlement.  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “For anyone’s who’s ever won. For anyone who’s ever lost. And for anyone who’s still in there trying.” [WTF?]

What Did I Learn?: 1) “Never burn bridges. Today's junior prick, tomorrow's senior partner!” 2) “You don’t get ahead in this world by calling your boss a pimp.” 3) Apparently, the key to succeeding on Wall Street is to crash weddings and other high-powered social events, claim some sort of long-forgotten friendship with a VIP, and then launch into a business spiel. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You'll watch Melanie Griffith in anything.

Really?: 1) Hold on, Melanie Griffith is the fucking protagonist, and she gets third billing in this movie behind the villain (Sigourney Weaver), and the romantic interest (Harrison Ford), who doesn’t even appear in the first half hour? Who negotiated that deal? Did Griffith have the world’s worst Hollywood agent at the time? 2) Katherine (Weaver) is taller than Tess, and according to Tess, Katherine has a “bony ass,” yet Tess can somehow raid Katherine’s wardrobe, and everything fits like a glove? 3) Tess catches her boyfriend Mick (Alec Baldwin) banging another girl, and yet she agrees to slow-dance with him several days later at a wedding? This does not ring true. 

Rating: Working Girl is a highly-contrived (see: “What Did I Learn?” and “Really?”), but otherwise enjoyable late-1980s comedy with a great cast (Kevin Spacey, Nora Dunn, Olympia Dukakis and Joan Cusack appear in supporting roles) and a great performance from Weaver as Tess’ evil-yet-insecure boss. I'm not a huge Melanie Griffith fan, but she's very likeable in this film, and it's hard not to root for her character. 7/10 stars.