Thursday, July 26, 2018

The 'Burbs (1989)

Tom Hanks Quadruple Feature #5 (Ok, I guess five is one too many for a quadruple feature, but I stumbled upon this at my local Salvation Army store, and I had to pick it up) 
Synopsis: Hilarity ensues when bored middle-class homeowners criminally harass a family that’s introverted and a little bit different. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Tom Hanks portrays suburbanite Ray Peterson, whose plans for a peaceful vacation are disturbed by a creepy new family on the block, in this outrageous suspense-comedy directed by Joe Dante.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Suburbanites are just not going to take it anymore. 2) A sardine on a pretzel makes a pretty awful hors d'oeuvre. 
Really?: 1) So, the Klopecs are secretly axe murderers with incriminating evidence in their basement… isn’t it a little odd that they would call the cops when they discover the neighbours have broken inside? 2) So….nobody ever cleans up the garbage on the street? 
Rating: I have to admit that I’ve always had a place in my heart for The Burbs - maybe because I grew up in an exurban town in the GTA and I can identify with Ray Peterson, and maybe because it’s a very laid-back horror-comedy that never takes itself too seriously, and delivers some solid laughs - the scene when everybody grabs bags of trash out of the garbage truck is unforgettable.I liked the chemistry between Hanks and the Carrie Fisher (who doesn’t have a lot to do, but is quite good as Ray’s long-suffering wife), but Rick Ducommun and Bruce Dern are awesome as the Peterson’s completely insane neighbours - they steal the movie. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

The Money Pit (1986)

Tom Hanks Quadruple Feature #4 
Synopsis: It’s basically an hour of Tom Hanks and Shelley Long making funny faces while their home collapses around them, followed by 20-30 minutes of the two of them screaming at each other. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: For everyone who’s ever been deeply in Love or deeply in Debt. [Not sure why they capitalized “Love” and “Debt.]
What Did I Learn?: 1) Apparently, Tom Hanks can fit his entire fist inside his mouth. 2) Mozart is dead. 3) Nobody laughs at Montgomery Shrapp. 4) The basis of real estate is to capitalize on  another human being’s misfortune. 5) “Two weeks” is the standard answer whenever contractors are asked how long it will take to finish a particularly large and complex job. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You've always wanted to see a house fall apart
Really?: Holy shit, this movie introduces a whole bunch of wacky characters and odd subplots (Benny, the spoiled child actor who lends Walter the 200 grand; the “Cheap Girls” transvestite singing band; Jack the overweight realtor with a heart condition; Walter’s father in Brazil, etc…) and does nothing to develop or resolve any of them. What do they add? 
Rating: The Money Pit is an enjoyable, but fluffy and forgettable 1980s comedy featuring Hanks when he was still in his funny period, and a post-Cheers Long. The film features some funny lines (“do they test missiles around here?” Is my favourite) and a great slapstick sequence, but it takes a surprisingly long time to get started, and there are far too many loose ends and unnecessary characters for my taste. 7/10 stars.

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Tom Hanks Quadruple Feature #3 (My apologies - I meant to finish this mini-tribute to Tom Hanks last month, but I got a little side-tracked with other matters) Oh, and please click the links to read my reviews of two other movies that deal with the war in Afghanistan: The Living Daylights and Rambo III
Synopsis: Hard-drinking, and surprisingly liberal good-ole-boy Texan politician single-handedly solves America’s biggest foreign policy crisis of the early 1980s…and creates an entirely new one for the following century. 2007
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Based on the outrageous true story.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re told you have character flaws by a man who hanged his predecessor in a military coup. 2) They don’t serve whisky in rehab. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You know the Soviet Union made a big strategic blunder when it spent years bogged down in Afghanistan, and...oh, wait
Really?: 1) See: “Synopsis.” Seriously, I realize Charlie Wilson’s War is a biopic that highlights Wilson’s rather important role in getting arms and supplies to the Afghan resistance, but holy shit, the only reference to Ronald Reagan is near the end, to suggest the Gipper didn’t know what was going on. I had a hard time believing Wilson and the CIA could do their thing without *some* involvement from the rest of the Executive Branch. 2) You know, I don't think screenwriter Aaron Sorkin ever provides a credible reason for Wilson's deep interest in helping out the rebels. 
Rating: I wanted to like Charlie Wilson’s War a bit more than I did. The film is amusing at times, Hanks brings a roguish charm to the title role, and I liked his exchanges with Hoffman’s character. The big problem is that there’s no antagonist for Wilson, and he never encounters a roadblock he can’t handle, so there isn’t really any tension - just a lot of meetings; people ask him to get more money for the Afghan rebels, he succeeds, and the cycle repeats. Moreover, we know there’s no possibility of a serious romance between Wilson and Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), so their flirting seems tacked-on and pointless. 6.5/10 stars.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

One Way Out (2002)

Happy Canada Day! Please click the links to check out my reviews of a few other Canadian (or at least made-in-Canada) movies. 
Synopsis: Jim Belushi portrays a dirty cop with a gambling addiction who tries to stage the perfect crime, and…. Oh wait, that’s the synopsis for Gang Related
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “In Every Cop There Is A Crime”
What Did I Learn?: Jason Bateman isn’t a very good actor. (Ok, I think I learned that by watching The Hogan Family) 
Really?: 1) What are the odds that Harry would be asked to assist in the murder of Evans (Guylaine St.-Onge) the night after the two of them met, and even enjoyed some hot sex in her car? 2) Um…Harry’s big plan to assist John is to have him kill his wife in the house they share, make him the prime suspect, but not give the cops quite enough evidence? How about making it look like a carjacking or a botched robbery in another part of town, and giving John an alibi? 3) So, John wants to double-cross Harry by setting him up for the murder of Evans? Doesn’t it ever occur to him that Harry might sing like a canary if he figures he has nothing to lose? Isn’t mutual silence a much better option? 
Rating: One Way Out isn’t quite a bad movie, but it is a low-budget made-in-Canada crime thriller that comes perilously close to becoming one, thanks to a script that doesn’t make a lot of sense and a less-than-stellar performance from Bateman. 5.5/10 stars.