Tuesday, May 31, 2016

S.O.B. (1981)

Synopsis: Blake Edwards directs Julie Andrews in a not-terribly-funny look at narcissistic rich people who are unable to cope with the complexities of their fabulous, Southern California lives. Oh wait – that’s the Synopsis for “10” and That’s Life

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Blake Edwards, the director of “10” and the Pink Panther comedies, takes us behind the scenes of Hollywood in this wild, vitriolic attack on the culture merchants of our time.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) Nobody knows if Batman is a transvestite or not. 2) A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. A disreputable doctor is a quack. 3) A sneeze is expiratory, not excremental.

Really?: Wow....take a drink every time Felix Farmer (the late, great Richard Mulligan) screams like a lunatic. I had a hard time believing he would get as far as he does in terms of buying back his awful film and then reshooting it. 

Rating: S.O.B. features a very impressive cast (Robert Preston is hilarious as the sleazy-but-likeable Dr. Finegarten) and some genuinely funny moments, but I have to give it something of a mixed review. The movie is chock-full of loud, and highly unlikeable characters (See: “Synopsis” and “Really?”), and the action really starts to drag near the end. Moreover, the humour in Edwards’ scathing Hollywood satire is a little too obvious, crude and mean-spirited for my taste; S.O.B. would have benefited from a somewhat subtler approach, such as the one Robert Altman used for The Player. 6.5/10 stars.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Gang Related (1997)

This would have been perfect for my tribute to bad cops! Oh, and for my salute to Tupac

Synopsis: Corrupt cops clip criminal, confiscate cocaine, catch crazy kook, court catastrophe! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Two killers are hiding where no one will ever find them... behind their badges!” 

What Did I Learn?:1) You can NEVER lose your sense of humor. Without that, you've got NOTHING. 2) The only difference between a witness and a liar is this: One knows what he's doing at all times; the other has no clue.

You Might Like This Movie If: you enjoy watching bad cops in action.

Really?: 1) Would anyone really call somebody a “lousy bag of used kitty litter?” That sounds written, and not authentic to me. 2) So, out of all the homeless winos they could have framed for the murder, Divinci and Rodriguez choose a former surgeon who comes from a filthy-rich family? That sounds a little contrived. 3) And why would Divinci and Rodriguez use a gun that was impounded in the LAPD evidence room for an important case in order to murder a drug dealer? Aren’t there about a zillion guns floating around in Los Angeles? 

Rating: Tupac Shakur and James Belushi share some great buddy chemistry in Gang Related, a so-so thriller that wound up being Tupac’s last screen performance. The film works for an evening’s entertainment, but for obvious reasons, none of the characters are particularly likeable, and it starts to drag once the focus shifts away from the two corrupt cops and James Earl Jones enters in the second act. 6/10 stars.

Hot Stuff (1979)

Synopsis: Hmm....lowbrow humour, car crashes, cartoonish fight scenes, Dom Deluise and Jerry Reed. I guess it’s basically a Burt Reynolds movie without Burt Reynolds! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This is fast-paced and hilarious excitement based on an unbelievable but true incident: cops who set up a fencing operation to catch thieves!” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, machine guns are completely useless firearms. I mean, several villains shoot off about 80,000 rounds at our heroes and ever come close to hitting anyone. [Oh wait – I think I learned that lesson from Where Eagles Dare] 

You Might Like This Movie If: You're in the mood for some hot stuff! [Warning: this Youtube video is painful to watch.]
Really?: 1) So, wait....everyone warns Ernie and Doug that operating a pawnshop will only enrage the local Mafia, the gangsters eventually show up, and then they’re completely unthreatening? That’s a bit of a letdown. And then the other criminals beat up the gangsters, even though Ernie just told them he’s a cop and they’re all under arrest? I’m not buying that scene. 2) Funny how Ramon Savadera (Luis Avalos) was cut out of the VHS jacket credits, not to mention the caricature illustration, even though the pawnshop is a four-person, not a three-person operation. 

Rating: Hot Stuff is an enjoyable, but highly forgettable fluffy comedy that starts out quite well when a unit of burglary unit detectives decide to take over a local pawnshop, but takes a very wrong turn in the second act and becomes a much dumber film. Meh. 6/10 stars.

Dutch (1991)

Synopsis: John Hughes writes and produces a heartwarming tale of two antagonistic men who bond during a series of misadventures as they race across the American heartland to make it back to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Wait – wasn’t that the Synopsis for Planes, Trains and Automobiles?!?! 1991

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A hilarious battle of wills between a working class guy and an upper-class kid!” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) Nothing burps better than bacon. 2) You can’t beat a Ford for good brakes. 3) Working class is not bad – a solid economy needs hand workers. 4) Fireworks are illegal in Illinois. 

Really?: 1) I realize Doyle (Ethan Randall) is a snobbish, obnoxious, and generally unpleasant human being, but he’s also a kid. Isn’t there something seriously wrong with a movie when you want to see a grown man knock the crap out of somebody much smaller? 2) Take a drink every time Dutch (Ed O’Neill) is physically abused. 3) Wait – wouldn’t Dutch face jail time, or a lawsuit, or some sort of consequences for punching Reed in the forehead? 

Rating: I vaguely remember liking Dutch when I saw it on the big screen in 1991, so I was hoping for a pleasant evening of good-natured John Hughes comedy. Sadly, Dutch was NOT one of Hughes’ better films. O’Neill does his best with the occasionally-funny script, but the whole thing seemed a little too derivative (see: “Synopsis”), and far too mean-spirited (See: “Really?”) for my taste, and I could have done without the heavy-handed class warfare angle. Jeez, didn’t Hughes know any decent rich people? 6/10 stars.

On the Waterfront (1954)

Synopsis: Brando mumbles his way to an Oscar.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Marlon Brando, Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint star in the timeless, Academy Award-winning film about a dockside worker and ex-prizefighter who heroically goes up against his corrupt labor leaders to expose the union’s criminal practices.” 

What Did I Learn?: Snitching is the right thing to do. 

Really?: Until I saw this movie, I had no idea that taxi drivers were allowed to cover the rear windows of their cabs with venetian blinds. 

Rating: On the Waterfront feels a little dated in places, but one can still sympathize with Brando’s magnificent portrayal of a simple and disillusioned man who struggles with his conscience to do the right thing. Brando’s performance is unforgettable, but there’s actually a lot of star power in On the Waterfront, including Malden as a crusading priest, and Rod Steiger as Terry’s gangster brother who does his best to keep his younger sibling out of trouble. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.