Friday, December 28, 2018

Get Carter (2000)

This would have been perfect for my tribute to revenge-themed movies. 

Synopsis: Formulaic re-make of a Michael Caine classic…oh, sorry, that’s the Synopsis for The Italian Job. Um…. Cynical tough-guy visits strange town to investigate death of somebody close….no, that’s Beverly Hills Cop. Um….Stallone sleepwalks his way through less-than-inspired revenge thriller….no, that’s Avenging Angelo
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “The truth hurts.”
What Did I Learn?: 1) Revenge doesn’t work. 2) If you don’t take care of business, the business will take care of you. 3) Nobody likes the list guy. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You're really out to get Carter. 
Really?: 1) Holy shit, aren’t there any cops in Seattle? Carter beats Cyrus (Mickey Rourke) to death in front of several dozen witnesses, gets into at least two extreme car chases, and sneaks into a crime scene, and we never so much as see a squad car. 2) So, Carter’s mob employer in Vegas can’t spare him for even a few days? The original provided a convincing reason for Carter’s (Caine) strained relationship with his boss, but this one seems a bit contrived. 
Rating: Get Carter is a surprisingly dull reboot of the far-superior original film with the same title (which I'm aiming to review in 2019 if I can obtain a copy). I wanted to like the reboot, but it’s extremely slow-moving, and Stallone doesn’t give us many reasons to give a crap about his character. I can’t recommend this movie. 4/10 stars. 
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: Maybe - take a drink any time you find yourself asking: “where are the police?”

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales (2002)

Merry Christmas! 
Synopsis: It’s 18 minutes of a wishy-washy round-headed kid tolerating obnoxious and narcissistic peers and a delusional dog. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: "Ready, set, glow as the Peanuts Gang gets into the spirit of the season!" 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Jezebel was the evil wife of King Ahab in the Old Testament. 2) Linus is NOT Sally’s sweet babboo. 3) The Bible says nothing about giving Christmas presents, and you can’t bluff an old theologian. 4) It’s not a good idea to discuss Samantha Claus in grade school. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You're in the market for insurance.
Really?: Don’t these kids have parents? Why is it up to Sally to obtain a Christmas tree for the home? And how did that tree fall over entirely on its own just seconds after Sally’s antagonist sets that strangely coincidental condition? 
Rating: Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales was created as an add-on so TV stations could air A Charlie Brown Christmas uninterrupted by commercials during an hour-long block of time, and it feels like filler material; the voice-overs are awful, and there’s no story – just a series of vignettes that may have worked in comic strips but fall flat as animation. Check it out only if you’re a die-hard Peanuts fan. 5.5/10 stars.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Author! Author! (1982)

I could have used this for my tribute to Al Pacino in 2012. 
Synopsis: Awful! Awful! 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "When Al Pacino takes on Broadway, his kids take over his life." 
What Did I Learn?: Larry Kotzwinkle’s not a man, he’s a duck. 
Really?: 1) A few questions: what’s Ivan’s play all about, what’s the problem with the second act, and how did he fix it? I think the viewing audience deserves some answers. 2) Funny how Ivan is a playwright and Gloria is an ESL teacher – they’re New York intellectuals – and lots of other intellectuals like Norman Mailer are name-dropped repeatedly, yet nobody ever discusses literature, the arts or ideas. 3) So, big events in the Travalian household by making a big cake and throwing it at Ivan?! WTF? 4) Hold on, a couple of cops order Ivan to hand over his runaway stepdaughters, and he responds by running away with them and barricading themselves on the roof? I’m shocked he wasn’t charged with obstruction of justice, at the very least. 5) Hey, what happened to Ivan’s curly new haircut? 
Rating: Hoo-wee, Author! Author! is a bad film. I was expecting a light, character-driven drama with some comedic elements, but wound up watching Pacino behave like a loud New York version of Mr. Rogers with a bunch of precocious brats. Author! Author! veers uneasily from slapstick humour to Kramer vs. Kramer-style relationship drama – some of it works (I liked the scene near the end when Ivan tells off his selfish wife for abandoning a string of husbands and her kids), but much of it doesn’t. I can’t recommend this movie. 4/10 stars. 
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time Ivan, Morris (Bob Dishy) or Kreplich (Alan King) shout unnecessarily.

Puerto Vallarta Squeeze (2004)

Synopsis: Professional killer befriends bickering couple….no, that’s the Synopsis for The Matador. Um…  Run-of-the-mill road trip turns into harrowing adventure… no, that’s National Lampoon’s Vacation. Um…  Tough guy steals wormy dude’s girlfriend during trip to Mexico…no, that’s Against All Odds
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: "Danger lies beyond the border." 
What Did I Learn?: You can apparently purchase a caged ocelot in rural Mexico for the princely sum of $3000. 
Really?: 1) So, Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel get top billing in this film (even though Craig Wasson’s Danny is arguably the protagonist, but never mind that), and they don’t share a single scene together – just a phone call? 2) I realize Danny is bummed out about losing Maria, but isn’t he basically on the verge of getting evicted from his fleabag apartment? Why would he blow his entire wad of cash to free a caged wild cat? 3) Speaking of Danny, does anyone else think the film takes a wildly wrong turn at the mid-point when he loses about 80 IQ points and starts doing inexplicably dumb things like yell at Clayton in a crowded restaurant or speed down a Mexican road in a car filled with dead bodies? I was expecting him to man up, realize he loves Maria and get his shit together. 4) I had a bit of trouble believing the entire premise of the film… Danny thinks it might have been Clayton who shot those men in cold blood, but he agrees to drive him to the border anyway? And it’s nice that Clayton decides to let Danny and Maria live, but does he really need their car for his escape? If so, couldn’t he have stolen it without much effort? 
Rating: Puerto Vallarta Squeeze is a somewhat-enjoyable thriller that suffers from some major credibility issues (see: “Really?). I can’t quite declare it to be a bad movie, but it comes perilously close. 5.5/10 stars.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Big Red One (1980)

War Movie #3
Synopsis: Lee Marvin whips a bunch of raw recruits into a fighting unit during the Second World War….no, that’s the Synopsis for The Dirty Dozen. Ok, Mark Hammill portrays a young man who must take up arms against an evil dictatorship….no, that’s Star Wars. Um… four likeable young men bond over one last adventure before they enter the workforce….no, that’s Breaking Away
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “And that means The Big Red One may be one of the most immediate, most intense, truest war movie you’ve ever seen.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) The Kasserine Pass is a shit hole. 2) The Bangalore Torpedo would have to be the most impractical weapon ever created. 3) You know how you smoke out a sniper? You send a guy out in the open and see if he gets shot. 4) Killing insane people is bad for public relations. 
Really?: 1) Um….wasn’t Lee Marvin a little old to play an infantry sergeant? 2) I certainly understand Pvt. Vinci getting upset when a fellow soldier mocks his Italian heritage, but shoving a rifle into the guy’s mouth and threatening to fire? And the sergeant doesn’t say anything? 
Rating: I was never a big Lee Marvin fan until I watched The Big Red One about a decade ago and found myself impressed with his world-weary, and occasionally tender portrayal of a professional soldier who has seen too much killing. The story is episodic, and it’s clear in places that writer/director Samuel Fuller didn’t have a big budget at his disposal, but the film is meant to depict Fuller’s own experiences in the war, and it works; the audience gets to know these men, and we feel genuine concern when it looks as though the entire squad is about to get wiped out on D-Day. The Big Red One also includes an impressive performance from Hamill, and suggests that he could have gone on to bigger and better roles if he hadn’t been typecast as Luke you-know-who. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

M*A*S*H (1970)

War Movie #2 (My apologies - I meant to post my reviews of M*A*S*H and The Big Red One last month) 
Synopsis: Psychotic surgeons stitch servicemen, steal supplies, sing silly songs, smear superiors, sap soldierly spirit. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “One of the most acclaimed comedies, M*A*S*H focuses on three Korean War Army surgeons brilliantly brought to life by Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt and Elliott Gould.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Suicide is painless. 2) Informality is inconsistent with maximum efficiency in a military organization. 3) You can’t really savour a martini without an olive. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You're in the mood for conflict...and mash. 
Really?: Wait – these people are just a few miles away from a combat zone, and they’re somehow able to arrange a football game, complete with a flat, mown lawn, and professional lighting? Speaking of that strangely-inserted football game, why in the world would Major Houlihan (aka “Hotlips”) cheer for the 4077 team after they publicly (and cruelly) humiliated her on several occasions? 2) So, Hawkeye, Trapper and Duke can get away with physically abusing or psychologically torturing senior officers simply because they’re surgeons? Has anything like this ever happened in the US military?
Rating: I had never seen M*A*S*H (nor the long-running TV series that came shortly afterward) until recently, so I was unprepared for how dated, juvenile, unfunny ,and mean-spirited it may seem to contemporary viewers. Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John are two of the most obnoxious bullies to ever appear on the silver screen, and I’m shocked that audiences were asked to sympathize with them, let alone cheer them on when they humiliate, degrade, and even physically assault superior officers who have the gall to question them. Oh, and it's strange how a supposedly anti-war film actually has very little say about war, or its combatants. I cannot recommend this movie. 

Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Probably not, but take a drink any time Hawkeye, Duke or Trapper really deserve a punch in the mouth.