Saturday, April 30, 2016

Money Kings / Vig (1998)

Hmm...Money Kings would have been perfect for a couple of themes I did a few years ago: gangster movies, and films dealing with addiction.

Synopsis: Peter Falk mugs his way through forgettable crime drama as the Bookie With a Heart of Gold.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “REVENGE HAS NO LIMITS.” 

What Did I Learn?: Even gangsters really enjoy a nice, cold, refreshing glass of apple cider.

You Might Like This Movie If: You'll watch Peter Falk in anything.

Really?: 1) See: "Synopsis". Seriously, I don't think real-life bookies are terribly warm or caring people. 2) Hmm...Freddie Prinze Jr. as a tough mobster. Not sure I see that one. 3) So, is Timothy Hutton the star of this film? Funny how Frankie's alcoholism and chronic gambling get him into so much trouble, yet these problems are never really addressed. Oh, and I had a great deal of trouble believing his wife, Mary Beth (Lauren Holly) would agree to sleep with Tony (Prinze) to cover his debts, or stay married to him.

Rating: While Money Kings features a surprisingly talented cast (which includes Tyne Daly, Frank Vincent and Colm Meaney), the film never transcends its by-the-numbers script, and Prinze is woefully miscast as Tony Cicero. 6/10 stars.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Hangover (2009)

Synopsis: Three guys who would never hang out with each other somehow share implausible bonding adventure. 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “They planned a Vegas bachelor party they would never forget. Now they really need to remember what exactly went down!” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) Julius Caesar did not live in Caesar’s Palace. 2) Memory loss is a side effect from taking roofies. 3) It’s not gambling when you know you’re going to win. 4) Haley’s Comet will next appear in the next 60 years, or something. 5) Indiana Jones wears a satchel. 6) Tigers love pepper and hate cinnamon. 

Really?: The Hangover isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, but I have to ask: if the guys ingested “roofies” instead of ecstasy with their drinks, wouldn’t they have probably simply passed out? What are the chances that all four of them could somehow stay awake all night and terrorize Las Vegas?

Rating: The Hangover is an often-sophomoric, and highly contrived film that's a little light on character development, but it is extremely funny from start to finish, and Zach Galfianakis steals the film with his portrayal of the batshit-crazy Alan. If you're in the mood for some lowbrow laughs, The Hangover is a fine choice. 8/10 stars.

The Dream Team (1989)

Synopsis: Harmless lunatics quickly regain their sanity when they’re suddenly given a taste of the outside world. Oh wait...that’s the synopsis for Crazy People. Um, ok... loveable misfits dodge Big Apple cops during madcap adventure. Oh, sorry – that’s the synopsis for Quick Change

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A chronic liar (Michael Keaton) finds himself on the loose in New York City with his fellow group therapy patients: Henry (Christopher Lloyd), a clean freak, Jack (Peter Boyle), a former advertising executive with a Christ complex and Albert (Stephen Furst), a near catatonic couch potato.” 

What Did I Learn?: It’s not a good idea to walk into a church and proclaim yourself to be Jesus Christ. Taking off your clothes while proclaiming your divinity is an even bigger no-no. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You really, really want to hear a certain song... at least three or four times! [Seriously, it's a delightful blast-from-the-past, but once would have been sufficient].

Really?: The Dream Team is a screwball comedy that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously (it’s nice to think that the only thing a group of mental patients needs to cure their problems is a murder mystery to solve), but I had a bit of trouble believing: a) none of the patients call the hospital when it becomes obvious Dr. Weitzman isn’t going to return (and they all leave the van!), b) the crooked cops wouldn’t be able to whack Weitzman at their convenience, considering the guys suddenly become fugitives from justice, and c) the dream team is given a tiny security detail even though the entire city believes they’re a gang of homicidal lunatics! Oh, and see: "You Might Like This Movie If."

Rating: The Dream Team is a highly-contrived (see: “Really?”), and overly-long late-1980s comedy that’s enjoyable if don’t analyze the plot too closely. Think of it as a unique opportunity to watch three great comic actors: Keaton, Lloyd and Boyle trade wisecracks. Oh, and watch for a pre-Sopranos Lorraine Bracco as Keaton’s long-suffering – and very attractive – girlfriend. 7/10 stars.

Cabin Boy (1994)

Synopsis: Bearded imbecile ruins Captains Courageous and The Iliad

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Get ready for over-the-top hilarity when comedy original Chris Elliott (Groundhog Day, Late Night With David Letterman) goes overboard in this hysterical high-seas misadventure that’s sure to keep everyone laughing!”

What Did I Learn?: Hollywood should never, ever give Chris Elliott creative control over another movie. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You firmly believe David Letterman should have pursued a career in the cinema. [Honestly, this is painful to watch]

Really?: Oh man, where do I begin? 

Rating: It’s strange – while I somehow remember liking this film when it was first released (I was a fan of Elliott’s highly creative Get a Life television show), I could barely sit through it this time. While a few scenes are so off-the-wall they’re actually sort-of amusing (I genuinely laughed when Nathaniel shouts “These pipes are clean!”), Cabin Boy is otherwise an atrocious excuse for a movie. The writing is terrible, the special effects are bargain-basement quality, and Elliott’s shtick gets old, fast. I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars. 

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Absolutely! Take a drink any time a member of the viewing party really, really wants to press the “Stop” button.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Blow Out (1981)

Salute to Surveillance Movie #4

Synopsis: Sleepy sound superstar saves submerged Sally, starts snooping, stings sinister slayer.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "While recording sound effects for film, Jack Terry (Travolta) accidentally records a blowout as he watches a speeding car plummet into a murky river. Jack dives in and saves a young woman, Sally (Nancy Allen), but the driver - a high-ranking political candidate - is dead. Jack is told to forget the whole incident."

What Did I Learn?: 1) "No one wants to know about conspiracy any more." 2) If you possess photographs or an audio recording that challenges the official narrative of a political assassination, burn the evidence and don't tell anyone!! 


Really?: 1) Wait - Jack is injured in a car crash, gets knocked out, and doesn't wake up until some time has passed (it's now nighttime), and yet Sally is not only still alive, but he's able to continue tracking her? 2) Hold on - I had a very hard time believing Jack was somehow able to create a synced audio-visual movie of the crash using still photos he clipped out of a magazine.

Rating: While Travolta and Allen share very little on-screen chemistry, and the script has a few credibility problems (see: "Really?") Blow Out is a solid suspense thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 8/10 stars.