Monday, August 5, 2019

Dead Heat (2002)

Synopsis: It’s basically two hours of Kiefer Sutherland lashing out at anyone who tries to help him out of his alcohol-driven pity-party, with some horse racing thrown in for good measure. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “All bets are off.” 
What Did I Learn?: If you’re ever thinking about getting into the horse-racing business, you would be well-advised to remember that it’s not such a hot idea to hire a jockey who has a gambling problem. 
Really?: How can Pally (Sutherland) punch out his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, and not wind up in jail? 2) Pally loses his badge when he suffers a heart attack pursuing a bad guy who runs off the police department’s buy money. I thought for sure he might encounter this thug during his dealings with Frank Finnegan and avenge this wrong, but it never happens. 3) Why are Sutherland and Anthony LaPaglia wearing dark suits and ties on the VHS box? I don’t remember any of them dressed in business attire at any point in this movie. 
Rating: I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by Dead Heat – Kiefer Sutherland’s last film before he starred in the television series 24. This low-budget film is a bit clichéd in place (how many times have we seen the unemployed-cop-gets-drunk-and-plays-with-his-firearm trope?) and slow to start, but it quickly picks up when Pally’s half-brother Ray (LaPaglia) enters the picture and involves him in a questionable venture. The film’s humour, and the buddy chemistry between LaPaglia and Sutherland elevate what might otherwise have been a humdrum crime drama. 8/10 stars. 

Last Rites (1988)

Synopsis: Personable priest protects pretty, powerless, perfidious putana. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A streetwise priest defies the Mafia.” [Oops - I guess I neglected to remove a small yellow dot sticker from the jacket before I used the scanner]
What Did I Learn?: St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is so dreadfully understaffed that it’s apparently extremely easy for a priest to hide an attractive woman inside the building for several days. 
Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” 2) Last Rites is chock full of plot holes and stunning leaps of logic. I can’t possibly list all of them, but here are a few that stood out: a) it’s not made clear that Michael (Berrenger) is related to Zena and Don Carlo until we’re well into the movie; b) it’s an incredible coinkydink that Angela (Daphne Zuniga) would confess her sins to him without knowing ahead of time that he’s related to the crime family that’s trying to put a bullet in her head; and c) I had trouble believing a priest – even one who knows he has an enemy who wants to kill him – could work with a hit-woman in order to arrange a murder.  
Rating: Roger Ebert called Last Rites the worst film of 1988; I wouldn’t go quite that far – I think the film features some nice cinematography, and I liked Berrenger’s earnest portrayal of a flawed priest who tries to do the right thing (on the other hand, Zuniga’s Mexican accent is atrocious – which is strange, considering her father hailed from Guatemala), but the script is so ridiculously contrived and downright unbelievable (see: “What Did I Learn?” and “Really?”) that I simply can’t recommend this movie. 3/10 stars. 
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time you’re pretty sure any of these people do something that’s wildly out of character. 

This is My Life (1992)

Synopsis: Hilarity ensues when self-centred comedienne abandons her precocious brats for weeks at a time. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Before the tour, before the talk shows, she was our mom.” 
What Did I Learn?: JD Salinger may or may not have a telephone, but everyone on the planet is nevertheless only two phone calls away from him. 
Really?: 1) Ok, I have to wonder…how does Erica have enough money to pay a private investigator to find her dad, and how can the dude take her case when she’s obviously a teenager? 2) Gee…Dan Aykroyd doesn’t have much of a part in this film, does he? When he isn’t staring at Dottie like a love-struck teenager, he takes a lot of undeserved abuse from Erica and never seems to react. 3) So, Aunt Harriet kicks the bucket, Dottie’s very first thought is to sell the beloved home she inherits (thereby displacing both of her daughters), and nobody seems to mind. 4) Erica’s and Opal’s journey to visit their estranged father is one of the better scenes in this film, but I had a great deal of trouble believing they wouldn’t simply call him first, or that they would seriously believe he would object to Dottie getting married again. 5) Gee…I guess Erica didn’t really like her goofy new boyfriend. Yet another unresolved subplot. 6) See: "You Might Like this Movie If."
Rating: This is My Life isn’t quite a bad movie – I liked Mathis’ performance, and it’s clear that writer/director Nora Ephron does her heartfelt best to address the conflict between Dottie’s ambition and her love for Opal and Erica, but it really falls flat, mostly because the script veers uneasily between treacly melodrama and a mediocre sitcom, and any time I heard Julie Kavner’s voice I immediately thought of Marge Simpson. Oh, and I have to deduct an entire half-star for an atrocious, fingernails-on-the-blackboard soundtrack from Carly Simon. 5.5/10 stars. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Everybody Wins (1990)

Synopsis: Intrepid private investigator assists woman who claims there’s a massive conspiracy in a small town involving cops and elected officials, and NOTHING. EVER. HAPPENS. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Debra Winger and Nick Nolte sizzle in ‘Everybody Wins’, a fever-pitched mystery thriller about murder, conspiracy and seduction.” [To be honest, I’m more intrigued by the “diamond in the rough” sticker on box. I have a feeling somebody at Orion Home Video watched this film, realized it’s a complete turkey, and felt some sort of warning was in order]
What Did I Learn?: 1) According to Tom O’Toole (Nick Nolte), a ball-bearing company can’t have a homosexual vice president. 2) If you’re transporting a star witness to have his extremely valuable testimony deposed, don’t take separate vehicles. Just don’t. 
Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” #2. Seriously, did Jerry commit suicide, or was he completely out of his gourd when he drove his motorcycle into a head-on collision? When you realize the audience is given no indications that Jerry is/was suicidal, and he was in fact building a church for his motorcycle-driving buddies (don’t get me started on that!), this scene makes no sense. 2) THAT’s the ending!?!? An innocent Felix is released from prison, but the people who put him there face no punishment? Why does Judge Murdoch refrain from pursuing the case further? Is he on the take? How far does the conspiracy go? What is the extent of Angela’s (Debra Winger) insanity? Did Charlie rig the case against Felix because Jerry could blow the lid off the conspiracy, or to protect Angela?
Rating: I had read a few less-than-stellar reviews of Everybody Wins before I popped it into my still-functioning VHS player earlier this week, but even that didn’t prepare me for the sheer awfulness of this film. Nolte and Winger do their best with the material and deliver decent performances, but they’re stuck in a story that doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Everybody Wins presents itself as crime thriller, yet it’s strangely devoid of intrigue or suspense or even basic story development. I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars 
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: I doubt it, but take a drink any time Angela acts batshit crazy, or you firmly believe Tom should say “fuck this” and go back to working for insurance companies (i.e. earning paycheques). 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

In the Weeds (2000)

I could have used this for my tribute to Molly Ringwald in 2012. Please click the links to read my reviews of two other restaurant-related films: Dinner Rush and Big Night. 
Synopsis: Hilarity ensues when underachieving waiters in their early-30s deliver food to obnoxious customers.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “More sexy comedy fun from Miramax Home Entertainment!” 

What Did I Learn?: If you haven’t hit the big time in the entertainment industry by your late 20s, and you’re still working a dead-end job to pay the bills, it’s time to make some major career decisions. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You know that waiting tables isn't easy. 
Really?: 1) I had a hard time believing the belligerent chef could somehow stay gainfully employed at this restaurant, considering he openly refers to Simon (the owner, played by Eric Bogosian) as a “pussy” and barely lifts a finger to ensure Simon’s meal with an investor goes off without a hitch. (And Simon somehow blames the wait staff, rather than the kitchen staff when his food is late?)  2) So, what is Chloe (Ringwald) actually doing with her life, aside from waiting tables and taking crap from Simon? I assume her claims of a giant inheritance were smack-talk for the table of divorced men. Why is the chef so nasty, and why is Becky banging him when she apparently has a boyfriend? Why is Simon such a jerk, and why is he trying to sell the restaurant? For a film that doesn’t have much of a plot, it’s strange that it introduces so many characters without ever bothering to develop them, and it doesn’t provide that much insight into the lives of the people we meet.
Rating: In the Weeds has a few credibility and character-development issues (see: “Really?”), but it’s otherwise an enjoyable, compelling and surprisingly endearing drama about  a group of people who really need some career guidance. 7/10 stars. 


Synopsis: It’s a lot like The Truman Show…turned into a contrived and mediocre romantic sitcom by Ron Howard, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Superbly directed by Ron Howard and featuring a stellar cast including, Elizabeth Hurley, Sally Kirkland, Martin Landau, Ellen DeGeneres, Rob Reiner and Dennis Hopper, EDtv is an outrageous look at instant fame, overnight success, and sharing your life with a few million of your closest friends." 
What Did I Learn?: 1) You put *anyone* on television sixteen hours a day, and sooner or later they’re going to fall off a table and land on a cat. 2) If you’re over thirty and your job requires you to wear a name tag, you screwed up your life.
Really?: 1) So, wait…Ed signed a contract that doesn’t allow him to exit the show? And he can be held in breach of contract if he stops “living a normal life?” (I have no idea how anyone could make that case in court, or why the network apparently doesn’t care if its dirty laundry gets aired in public). And the network can get away with harassing the rest of Ed’s family because they signed waivers, yet they aren’t getting paid for their trouble? I realize Ed isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, and it’s possible he signed this document without the advice of counsel, but is any of this even remotely legal? 2) I can’t believe Howard cast his former Happy Days co-star Don Most (best remembered as Ralph Malph) and didn’t give him a single funny line of dialogue. 
Rating: EDtv is a sometimes-funny, albeit fluffy and forgettable film that’s never entirely sure if it wants to be a romantic comedy or a scathing satire of the television industry. While I liked the chemistry between McConaughey, Jenna Elfman and Woody Harrelson (who pretty much steals the first third of the film as Ed’s ne’er-do-well brother before he essentially disappears), EDtv doesn’t have anything clever or interesting to say about the reality television format, and it drags in the third act. 6/10 stars. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Miami Blues (1990)

Synopsis: Miami’s least competent cop pursues city’s most fortuitous criminal…who happens to be dating its dumbest hooker. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Real badge. Real gun. Fake cop.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) It takes balls of steel to rip off a gang of drug dealers when you’re armed only with an Uzi-shaped squirt gun. 2) The first thing they teach in hooker classes is not to ask the client so many fucking personal questions. 3) Married people are a team: they work together and they get rich. 
Really?: 1) See: “Really?” #1. Seriously, Freddie (Baldwin) has to be the most reckless crook I’ve ever seen in a film; and he takes huge risks for what – purses and suitcases? You would think he might eventually set his eyes on bigger targets or become more of a con artist. 2) See: “Synopsis.” How does Freddie somehow manage to always be in the right place at the right time when a crime is occurring? Come to think of it, why does he focus mostly on ripping off drug dealers and other criminals? (Not entirely, of course, which limits his likeability to the audience). Freddie is the protagonist, but we never learn much about his motivations. 3) So, wait…. Freddie beats the snot out of a detective, takes his gun, badge and handcuffs, and the cops don’t make much of an effort to find him? And Freddie actually sticks around Miami?
Rating: Miami Blues is an ok thriller that wears out its welcome somewhere in its second act as Freddie becomes an increasingly unsympathetic protagonist; Baldwin does his best with the material, but he was miscast as the manically-impulsive Freddie, and it shows. As I watched this film, I kept wondering why Sgt. Moseby (the talented, yet tragically underrated Fred Ward) wasn’t given more screen time, and wasn’t turned into a worthier adversary for Freddie because Moseby seems like an interesting character and Ward does a nice job of portraying him. 6/10 stars.  

Stealing Home (1988)

Yes, that is one beat-up clamshell package! 
Synopsis: Washed-up ballplayer wallows in nostalgia before he *ahem* dumps his ex-girlfriend one last time.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A story - and stars - to steal your heart.” 
What Did I Learn?: Small-town Americans don’t really care if you bang on their front door super-early in the morning. 
Really?: 1) I swear: if I ever have to hear this film’s schmaltzy sax-heavy musical score by David Foster again, I’m going to hurt somebody. 2) I’m curious: when do the events of this film actually take place? We’re treated to late 1950s – early 1960s cars and music in the flashback sequences, but Billy suggests he left home 14 years earlier, which would be the mid-1970s. 3) So, let’s see…. Jodie Foster gets second billing on the VHS box, yet she never shares a scene with Harmon and she’s on-screen for maybe 20-30 minutes. 4) Um…why did Katie (Foster) kill herself? We’re told she wasn’t happy in her second marriage, but that’s awfully vague, and the audience never gets a sense from the flashbacks that she’s prone to depression or suicidal tendencies. 5) Holy shit, what a lackluster ending… back to that pointless “you slept with my prom date” bullshit. 
Rating: I vaguely remember Stealing Home from the time it aired on the First Choice movie channel back in the very late 1980s, so I picked up a copy more out of curiosity than any other reason. I wish I hadn’t; Stealing Home is meandering, clichéd and confused mess that never goes anywhere, does a terrible job of developing its characters, and swings wildly in tone from bittersweet nostalgic drama to low-key comedy and back again.  I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars. 
Would it work for a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time the film gets bogged down in a sub-plot that doesn’t advance the story. 

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Synopsis: It’s a bit like American Graffiti meets Fast Times at Ridgemont High….except most of the characters are violent, narcissistic, dope-smoking sadists. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "It was the last day of school in 1976. A time they'd never forget... if only they could remember!"
What Did I Learn?: 1)The older you do get the more rules they're gonna try to get you to follow. You just gotta keep livin' man. 2) Apparently, George and Martha Washington smoked a lot of dope. Oh, and George was in a cult, and the cult was into aliens. 3) There’s always one senior who has to be the bad ass. 4) When you read about Hemingway and those guys, no one ever talks about who won, just that they got into a brawl. 5) The Fourth of July is a celebration of slave-owning, aristocratic white males who didn’t want to pay their taxes. 6) Dollar bills are green, and they have a lot of spooky shit going on. 7) I’m very glad I didn’t go to high school in Texas during the mid-1970s. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You know how it feels to be dazed and confused. 
Really?: 1) Holy shit, did high school students seriously subject the graduating Grade 8s to public beatings and other fraternity-style hazing humiliations in mid-1970s Texas? I understand this sort of thing actually took place in some communities (so I’m not calling bullshit on the film), but I’m shocked that nobody was ever seriously hurt, and the town didn’t seem to care. 2) I’m curious: why didn’t the kids simply plan on throwing their end-of-school-year “beer bust” in the woods in the first place? Why the dicey plan to use Pickton’s place, which would have left him with a giant mess to clean up? 
Rating: I wasn’t crazy about Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused when I first viewed it in the mid-1990s (probably because there isn’t much of a plot to follow, there are a few too many characters and it’s tough to tell some of them apart), but it has grown on me upon subsequent viewings; it’s a funny, and sometimes poignant look back at a familiar, yet profoundly different time in American society. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Waydowntown (2000)

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “They placed a month’s salary on The Bet. Today is Day 24. Four people, no exit, one hour for lunch.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) If you’re thinking about committing suicide by jumping out one of those office tower windows, you should fill a 2-litre pop bottle with marbles and heave it at the glass in order to make a hole. 2) A really nice vase at Birks could run you about $3000. 
Really?: 1) Don’t these people have any real work to do? 2) So, is there some reason Tom’s shirt and tie keep changing? The events in this film take place during a single lunch hour and early afternoon. 
Rating: I hadn’t seen Waydowntown since a buddy brought it to a get-together of friends in the early 2000s; at the time, I thought the film didn’t make much sense, and wasn’t particularly funny or clever, so it’s amazing what a second viewing of a film can accomplish. Waydowntown is a low-budget, but highly imaginative dark satire on urban lifestyles and the mores of office culture. Check it out. 8/10 stars.   

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Snake Eater III... His Law (1992)

Synopsis: It’s the fight you’ve all been waiting for: Lorenzo Lamas as “Soldier” Kelly takes on “Bam Bam Bigelow”….and they never even exchange a punch. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The SnakeEater gets justice….at whatever cost.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Outlaw bikers stick out in a small town like balls on a greyhound [I love that line!] 2) Parents, if your young and attractive daughter ever decides to base her Master’s thesis on her observations of living with a motorcycle gang, you might want to put your foot down. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You're a Bam Bam Bigelow completist. 
Really?: 1) Snake Eater III isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, so maybe I overlook certain questions such as how Soldier managed to get released from the insane asylum, or why he’s still on the police force even though he has a nasty habit of torturing/killing suspects, or why the police force does such a half-assed job of investigating serious crimes, or just how many blows to the head can this guy take, but come on – Bam Bam Bigelow makes a cameo appearance as a villain, and we never get to see him fight anyone? (see: “Synopsis”). Soldier points a shotgun at his head and then shoots him in the foot? 2) Speaking of Bigelow, why couldn’t Soldier simply take him out with a high-powered rifle? Why the elaborate death trap involving urine and electrocution? 3) Wait, we don’t actually meet any members of the motorcycle gang until the movie is almost one-third finished? 
Rating: Snake Eater III is a cheesy, occasionally-funny, but completely unnecessary sequel to the low-budget Snake Eater franchise. 4.5/10 stars
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: Hell yes! Take a drink any time Soldier gets into a fight that does nothing to advance the plot. 

Snake Eater II: the Drug Buster (1989)

Synopsis: Drug kingpin learns an important lesson the hard way: deliberately killing off your customers by poisoning the cocaine you sell may encourage a homicidal lunatic to exact some payback. 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “SnakeEater is about to clean up the streets. No matter how dirty he has to get.” [So, wait…is the protagonist nicknamed “Soldier” or “SnakeEater”? And is it “SnakeEater” or “Snake Eater?”]
What Did I Learn?: Apparently, it’s extremely easy to break into and out of a New York hospital for the criminally insane. 
You Might Like This Movie If: you've always wanted to find out if "shit stinks." [Just quoting, folks] 
Really?: 1) See: “Synopsis” and “What did I Learn?” Seriously, I can understand some low-level street dealer lacing his product with rat poison because he’s super-cheap, but why would the leader of a criminal organization enact such a policy? And why would he keep cartons of the poison in his mansion, conveniently above his sealed-off panic room? 2) Wait, we learned at the end of Snake Eater that Soldier busted Torchy (Ron Pallilo, best remembered as Horshack, from Welcome Back Kotter), yet this fact is never mentioned or touched upon even though the two of them are locked in the same asylum. 3) So, Dr. Pierce (Michelle Scarabelli) clearly likes Soldier enough to help him fool the state’s psychiatric examiner (who we don’t get to meet, even though the examination is billed as a big deal early on), they share some on-screen heat, and then…this budding romance doesn’t get a chance to develop. 4) “Speedboat?” Haha!! 5) Hold on – one of Soldier’s fellow patients is a computer expert who created a virus that wiped out his employer’s major project, and his skills are never once used? 6) It’s strange – except for a couple of minutes near the end when he’s held at gunpoint, Solder never seems to be in any real danger, so there isn’t much tension. 
Rating: I have vague recollections of watching Snake Eater II in 1990/91 when my family subscribed to pay-TV, so this film provided a sense of nostalgia when I sat down and saw it again for the first time almost 30 years. I can’t say that Snake Eater II is a great film by any stretch of the imagination, and it certainly suffers from some serious credibility issues (see: “Synopsis,” “What Did I Learn?” and “Really?”), but the film never takes itself too seriously, and it’s better than its predecessor….which isn’t saying much. 5/10 stars. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Snake Eater (1989)

Dang – I could have used this film, as well as Snake Eater III for my Terrible Biker Movie theme last month! 
Synopsis: Just imagine Stone Cold meets First Blood, except Rambo ices the inbred hillbillies from Deliverance instead of sheriff’s deputies and Lorenzo Lamas doesn’t have Stallone’s acting range. 
What Did I Learn?: Rural America is teeming with murderous, psychopathic martial arts experts, good ole boys, and tooth-collecting bikers, and the place is best avoided altogether. 
Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” Holy cow…where do I begin with this movie? I could deconstruct dozens of head-scratching moments, but maybe I’ll ask a few questions….2) who are these incest-loving yokels, and why do they feel the need to brutally murder outsiders? This is never explained. 3) Why does this movie end with an extremely anti-climactic sequence of Soldier (Lamas) catching a would-be arsonist (Ron Pallilo, best remembered as Arnold Horshack on Welcome Back Kotter) on a stakeout? 4) Why wouldn’t the hillbillies take “The Kid” (a grown-up and very attractive Josie Bell) back to their hideout, if they’re rape-happy weirdos? 5) How do Soldier’s pants and boots suddenly reappear when the gangsters enter his shithole apartment – and dude isn’t all that angry at Soldier for banging his girlfriend! 6) How much punishment can Soldier take? Assuming he doesn’t have a concussion from getting knocked out by the villains the night before his assault on their compound, he gets his foot caught in a bear trap and even takes a bullet, but he’s still able to engage in hand-to-hand combat. 
Rating: Wow… Snake Eater is one of the most atrocious action movies I’ve ever seen. The writing, special effects, stunts, and sets are all God-awful, but the acting is just laughably bad; I mean, the murderous hillbillies reminded me of a Kids in the Hall sketch, while Lamas himself just mugs his way from one implausible fight scene to another. Much like The Room, this film is so bad it’s almost hilarious, so check it out if you’re feeling masochistic. 3/10 stars.  
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: Hell yes! Take a drink any time one of Soldier’s wisecracks fall flat. 

Bridge to Nowhere (2009)

Synopsis: It’s a bit like a very low-budget remake of Scarface… starring the Backstreet Boys. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: 
What Did I Learn?: Drug dealers aren’t that keen on giving out volume discounts. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You figure it must be a nice little travelogue
Really?: 1) So, Ving Rhames is in this movie for what – 20 minutes of screen time, and he gets top billing? 2) Funny how Nate (Rhames) warns the boys about some of the troubles associated with pimping hookers (ex. Not receiving all of the cash afterwards, Johns who decide not to pay, STDs, etc…) and they encounter none of these issues during their meteoric rise. 3) Sure….appoint the goofiest, wimpiest and least-threatening member of the gang to protect the girls when they go out on calls. 4) I can understand Brian (Ben Crowley) reluctantly going along with killing his murdering his old pal Eddie (who is in jail, and getting ready to sing like a canary), but why would he feel the need to bump off Darick and Chris? All they want to do is leave the business before Eddie tells the cops what they want to hear. 5) Hmm….Nate informs Brian that the mob will soon start to tax his enterprise by significantly raising the price of the drugs he purchases, and this plot point is never addressed again. 
Rating: Bridge to Nowhere is a slow-moving, predictable, badly-written, poorly-acted, and ultimately disappointing crime drama that features some nice shots of Pittsburgh and a few interesting scenes (I enjoyed watching Nate’s first encounter with the four goofballs), but not much else. I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars. 
Would it Work for a Bad Movie Night?: No, but take a drink any time you realize you don’t give a flying crap what happens to the four main characters. 

Blue Thunder (1983)

Synopsis: It’s basically Airwolf without the awesome theme music.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Roy Schneider stars in this intense action thriller as a courageous police officer-pilot battling government fanatics planning to misuse an experimental attack helicopter.” 
What Did I Learn?: “JAFO” stands for Just Another Fucking Observer. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You really want to see the mediocre movie that inspired the mediocre TV series which featured a young, and completely miscast Dana Carvey
Really?: 1) Gee, those heat-seeking missiles seem to take a LONG time to hit their targets, don’t they? 2) Doesn’t Murphy (Roy Scheider) ever sleep? Are we supposed to believe that he pulled an entire shift in his helicopter and then fought with his girlfriend at home, trespassed around the grounds of the McNeely residence, and then checked out Blue Thunder all in the course of one night? 2a) So, wait – Murphy is suspended from active duty, yet his boss nevertheless calls him in to inspect Blue Thunder at what – 5AM, after he pulled a night shift? 3) I’m curious – why doesn’t Murphy land Blue Thunder the minute he knows that Kate (Candy Clark) has delivered the tape to the TV station? Isn’t he simply making himself a target – and potentially endangering civilians – at that point? 4) Even if he’s exposing some major-league corruption, I had a hard time believing a veteran cop would fire a helicopter gunship cannon at police helicopters, patrol cars, or an F-16! (And how in the world is he able to inflict non-fatal injuries on those poor cops/pilots?) 5) Ok, I realize Murphy’s boss, Captain Braddock (Warren Oates) is a bit of a cover-my-ass kind of guy, but holy shit, does it ever occur to Murphy to tell him about the tape, or the conversation he overheard? If not Braddock, does Murphy trust anyone else in the police department? He’s a cop, for crying out loud! 6) Let me see…. Murphy is asked to test pilot Blue Thunder by the very people who committed the murder he’s investigating? And on a whim, he looks up Cochrane (Malcolm MacDowell) on the database, follows him, and manages to record a conversation that incriminates everyone involved? Coinky-dinks! 7) Why would Blue Thunder’s engineers place the super-sensitive microphones between the helicopter’s engines and rotors? How could it possibly pick up any ground-level noises? 8) Hold on…..Cochrane decides to murder Murphy and Lymangood (is that a real name) by removing a cotter pin and loosening a bolt on their helicopter just because Lymangood doesn’t like the guy, and Murphy doesn’t actually know anything?  9) So, just how screwed-up is Murphy? At one point we see him paralyzed by a Vietnam flashback, so I have to wonder why he’s still on the police force. 
Rating: Blue Thunder is a rather ho-hum thriller that’s fine for an evening’s entertainment, but it suffers from a script that doesn’t make a lot of sense (the movie was originally conceived as the story of a Vietnam vet police chopper pilot who goes nuts during a patrol, and later re-jigged as a government conspiracy flick) and a second act that really drags. 5.5/10 stars.  

Friday, May 31, 2019

Street Hawk (1985)

Terrible Biker Movie #4
Synopsis: Tough cop is injured by the guy who murdered his partner, so he seeks justice with the help of a shadowy government-affiliated organization and a futuristic vehicle….oh my God, it’s Knight Rider with only two wheels!! 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The Ultimate High-Tech Crimefighter” 
What Did I Learn?: Public relations for a major police force is such an easy, demand-free job that one can simply nip out of the office for hours at a time without any fear of getting fired or reprimanded. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You really want to re-live the 1980s. 
Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” Speaking of which, it’s funny how Jesse (Rex Smith) is transferred to the police department’s PR department, and he never uses the media to assist in an investigation. 2) So, Jesse’s attractive boss is pissed about him skipping out of the office during business hours, so her solution is to take him out to dinner to break the ice? 3) Wow, it’s a good thing Jesse only takes the Street Hawk out on nearly-empty streets, because I can’t imagine it would be easy to steer, let alone stop when it takes it up to 300 miles per hour! 4) Wait, Jesse has his knee completely fixed, thanks to some cutting-edge secret technology, yet he still has to pretend to be injured and use a cane when he’s at work? That can’t be a realistic long-term strategy. 5) We see that Norman (Joe Reglbuto) has a boss. Who is this guy? Who do he and Norman work for? How are they bankrolling this project? 
Rating: It’s strange – Street Hawk looks like the kind of TV show I might have watched, or at least checked out in 1985, yet I have no recollection of it, even after viewing the pilot episode. And I can see why this series never made an impact: the pilot can best be described as unoriginal and formulaic, poorly-written, badly-acted, and loaded with less-than-spectacular special effects (See: “Synopsis,” “What Did I Learn?” and “Really?”) Still, I’ll give it an extra star for an awesome musical score by Tangerine Dream. 4/10 stars.  

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)

Terrible Biker Movie #3

Synopsis: Biker-and-cowboy-caricatures drive recklessly, bang supermodels, take down a drug-dealing bank(!) and otherwise ooze plenty of toxic masculinity. [Just to be clear: I use the term “toxic masculinity” facetiously] 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “When the going gets tough… the tough take the law into their own hands.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) It’s better to be dead and cool than alive and uncool. 2) Never chase buses or women, you’ll always be left behind. 3) It only takes a couple of scumbags to stink up a convenience store. 4) The older the bull, the stiffer the horn. 5) Guns are meant to be shot, not thrown. 
Oh, and the five rules for shooting a game of pool:

Lesson #1: Always shoot with a cigarette in your mouth; 
Lesson #2: Always know the table before you shoot; 
Lesson #3: Make sure you chalk that stick REAL GOOD before each shot; 
Lesson #4: Never make a bet if you can’t pay the debt; 
Lesson #5: If you lose, make sure you stand up straight and tall. 
You Might Like This Movie If: See: "What Did I Learn?"
Really?: Haha – where do I even start? 1) First of all, aside from Marlboro’s girlfriend, where are the cops? Daniel Baldwin and his Kevlar-wearing goons murder a bunch of people (including an airport baggage handler on the tarmac!), and fire off automatic weapons in public, yet we never so much as hear a siren. And wouldn’t Baldwin retrieve the bodies of his fallen comrades, at least to prevent a police investigation? 1b) Come to think of it, could Harley and Marlboro possibly hide out in the baggage compartment of a jet with a corpse and a kidnapped baggage handler, fly to Las Vegas, and then escape into the city without encountering the cops, or airport security? 2) See: “Synopsis.” Seriously, isn’t running a bank a fairly difficult job? How would Wilder have the time, or the criminal expertise to oversee a drug empire? 3) So, Marlboro steals a motorcycle belonging to his lady’s new fiancé, and even gets to meet the dude later in the film, yet nobody even mentions the theft and there are no consequences? 4) Call me a lazy slob, but I’m pretty sure I would require medical attention after getting shot in the arm twice; I don’t think I would be physically up for a final showdown with a drug lord. 5) I have to admit that I’m a little fuzzy on the revenge plan…. Harley and Marlboro want to kill Wilder, but return the stolen money to renew a lease on the bar, even though none of their friends are alive to operate it? Am I getting that right? 
Rating: Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is a trashy, foul-mouthed and excessively violent early-1990s reimagining of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s not a very good movie, but HDatMM never takes itself too seriously, its script includes some enjoyable one-liners and pseudo-philosophical musings, and I’ll admit that I like the chemistry between Rourke and Johnson, even though the two of them hated each other during filming, and they apparently won’t work with each other even today. 6.5/10 stars. Yes, I know I’m being overly generous. In the spirit of Bad Movie Night: take a drink any time Baldwin or his goons can’t seem to hit either Harley or Marlboro even though they’re firing machine guns.  

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Stone Cold (1991)

Terrible Biker Movie #2
Synopsis: ‘Roided-up muscle freak infiltrates, and then single-handedly destroys scary cult led by charismatic leader….sorry, that’s the Synopsis for Conan the Barbarian. Um… tough cop goes, deep, deep undercover and winds up getting somebody killed….no, that’s Donnie Brasco. Um… B-list action hero rides a motorcycle and wastes a small army of….no, that’s The Delta Force. Ok, biker gang gets its comeuppance. No, that’s A Bronx Tale and Every Which Way but Loose
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “When it comes to non-stop action, STONE COLD is red hot!”
What Did I Learn?: Brian Bosworth looks a lot like a grown-up version of Bam-Bam Rubble. 
You Might Like This Movie If: You're looking for new recipes
Really?: Let’s start from the beginning… 1) Can the FBI really extend a cop’s suspension from three weeks to six months? 2) If Joe has busted more bikers in Alabama than any other police officer, why in the world would the FBI recruit him for a dangerous undercover mission in neighbouring Mississippi? Wouldn’t somebody recognize him? 3) So, why is the Brotherhood murdering religious figures in the first place? And the group hangs Nazi flags and uses Nazi imagery, yet nobody says or does anything particularly racist? Are they neo-Nazis, or is all of this for show? 4a) Hold on – two state troopers are found murdered with a clear death threat against a gubernatorial candidate, and the law enforcement community doesn’t raid the Brotherhood compound, search every inch of it for evidence and beat the crap out of the bikers until somebody talks? 4b) And wouldn’t the FBI immediately ask Joe if he knows anything about these murders, or make them the top priority of the investigation? 5) Wait, the bikers murder a (presumably) made man, yet the local Mafia are entirely willing to negotiate a drug deal with Chains? 6) I’m curious – what did Chains think would happen after he and his buddies took over the Mississippi state house and murdered a bunch of people in a clear act of domestic terrorism? Couldn’t he have simply put a bullet in Whipperton’s head in a dark alleyway? 7) Hmm… the villain aims a gun at the unarmed hero in the final scenes, yet he’s quickly dispatched by the hero’s not-terribly-heroic pal. Didn’t we see that in Die Hard? 8) Nice mullet, Brian. 
Rating: Stone Cold is one bad movie. Its script is non-sensical, poorly-developed and clichéd (see: “Really?”), Bosworth has zero acting skills, and the audience isn’t given any reasons to care about any of these characters. I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars. 
Would it Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Bad Movie Nights were made for movies like Stone Cold. Take a drink any time Bosworth appears shirtless for no apparent reason or a character is introduced and never developed further.

Beyond the Law (1993)

Terrible Biker Movie #1 [Yes, CA$H Converters seriously wanted $7 for a copy of this film]
Synopsis: Hot-headed cop who was physically abused in childhood infiltrates biker gang because…. Come to think of it, Charlie’s motives are never made terribly clear.  
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Charlie Sheen is a fearless cop, who goes undercover in order to infiltrate a notoriously vicious motorcycle gang, in this film based on a true story.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Being tired is a lot better than being dead, man. 2) The Pythons are a “sissy ass” biker club. 3) Nobody lives forever. 4) Charlie Sheen does a horrible French accent….which may explain why he wasn’t chosen to play Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther remake. 5) It is easy to go down in to hell; night and day the gates of dark death stand wide; but to climb back up again, to retrace one's steps to the open air, there lies the problem, the difficult task (Ok, that’s from The Aeneid) 6) Would any self-respecting biker accept the nickname of “Oatmeal?” How did he acquire that monicker? Does he eat a lot of fibre? 
Really?: 1) Charlie Sheen as a badass biker….okaaaaaaay. 2) Hold on… Dan starts his motorcycle inside his apartment, drives it out of the building, and leaves his front door wide open? What is this, a scene from Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie?!? 3) Hmm….I seem to remember Virgil using red spray-paint on part for Dan’s motorcycle, but the finished product is entirely black with blue highlights. 4) Speaking of Virgil, I didn’t exactly buy his character…. he fixes motorcycles for biker gangs, yet he claims that he really, really wants to be a cop, so Dan trusts him implicitly? Wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be a retired cop/DEA agent who teaches Dan the ropes about bikers and going undercover? Did anyone do that before Dan begins his new assignment? 
Rating: Beyond the Law is not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination – the script is clichéd, and suffers from some credibility issues (see: “Synopsis”, “What Did I Learn?” and “Really?”), but it exceeded my admittedly low expectations only because Sheen does his best with the material (even though he was miscast) and the narrative – which is based upon the true undercover work of the real Dan Saxon – is somewhat compelling. I’ll give Beyond the Law a barely-passing grade. 5.5/10 stars.