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.  

Monday, May 20, 2019

Off the Black (2006)

Synopsis: Trouble-making young punk with mopey pop bonds with a new father figure….the grumpy old town drunk. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Would you let this man be your father?”
What Did I Learn?: If I ever decide to umpire little league baseball, I’ll remember that it’s a really good idea to give the local kids all of the close-call decisions. 
Really?: 1) So, how does Ray (Nick Nolte) know Debra (Rosemarie DeWitt), why is she in this movie, and why is she apparently interested in Dave (Trevor Morgan) even though she’s older than him and far more literate? I get the feeling she was added because the studio didn’t want Ray and Dave’s friendship to look vaguely homoerotic. 2) Mr. Tibbel’s (Timothy Hutton) wife left him a year-and-a-half ago, yet he’s still an emotional cripple and we’re told he often doesn’t go into work. Um… is money an issue for this family? He does he manage to keep his job and somehow put food on the table every week? 3) Hold on, why is Ray such a man of mystery to his classmates? They have his mailing address, for crying out loud – didn’t any of them consider paying him a visit? 
Rating: Off the Black is a very low-key character-driven drama that features a relatable performance from Trevor Morgan and a great one from Nolte. The plot is a bit contrived – I suspect Ray would almost certainly inform Mr. Tibbel about Dave’s vandalism in lieu of calling the cops, but Off the Black is also warm, poignant, and I liked its message about the importance of facing life’s challenges without self-pity. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars. 

Casino Jack (2010)

Synopsis: Kevin Spacey plays a viciously aggressive, lying and completely amoral douchebag who… no, wait, that’s the Synopsis for Swimming with Sharks….and Horrible Bosses….and Glengarry Glen Ross….and House of Cards…and The Big Kahuna (sort of). 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Honour. Integrity. Principles. Everything is negotiable.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) Washington is like Hollywood, only with uglier faces. 2) Jack Abramoff loves the movies and works out every day. 3) Mediocrity is where most people live. 
Really?: Casino Jack is based upon a true story (the script even uses real names!) so I want to tread carefully in this section, but man… Abramoff and Scanlon (Barry Pepper) are so aggressive and obnoxious in this film I had a hard time believing they could somehow become Washington super-lobbyists. 
Rating: Casino Jack is an interesting film that more-or-less works both as a savage satire of the George W. Bush-era Republican Party, and as a crime thriller even though neither Abramoff nor his protégé are come close to being likeable, and the script tries to bite off more than it can chew; for example, we’re told near the end that Abramoff had developed some ties to the Putin government in Russia, but this is never explored or developed. Oh, and I have to give special kudos to Jon Lovitz for a spirited performance as Adam Kidan; I howled with laughter when I watched the scene where he’s stabbed numerous times by a ballpoint pen. 7/10 stars. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Married to It (1991)

Synopsis: Three troubled couples form a near-instant bond, proving once again that New Yorkers are the friendliest people on Earth! 
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Life’s funny. And with good friends, you can even laugh about it.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) New York City parents (and step-parents) with demanding jobs nevertheless take committee assignments at their kids’ school very, very seriously, and wouldn’t even dream of blowing off a scheduled meeting on a weeknight.  2) Kids, don’t EVER invite your dad into your History class to talk about his experiences at Woodstock. (Ok, this advice was a little more appropriate for 1991 than it is for 2019). 
You Might Like This Movie If: you know that marriage complicates everything
Really?: 1) See: "Synopsis". Seriously, it’s not that easy to form close new friendships in adulthood, and these folks – who come from very different socio-economic backgrounds - become BFFs in no time flat. 2) See: “What Did I Learn?” Come to think of it, these people hold what – three meetings/dinner parties, and they never get around to discussing decorations for the big 1960s-themed musical. 3) It’s amusing when X, Y and Z go dumpster-diving for furniture and wind up hauling off an old door that’s to be used a desk, but come on – doesn’t New York City have an ample supply of Goodwill and Salvation Army stores? 3) Holy shit, Leo owns his company that does business overseas – doesn’t he have the money to hire professional movers? Doesn’t he have any other male friends besides Chuck and John? 4) It’s nice that Chuck and Sol are able to figure out who set Chuck up on insider trading charges, but where did they find the proof they needed to get the charges dismissed? 5) Speaking of Sol, I totally understand why Chuck needs a lawyer who isn't super-expensive and belives in his innocence, but is it really a good idea to hire somebody who (presumably) doesn't have experience with complicated financial crimes cases? 
Rating: Married to It is  nice little ensemble drama that suffers from a couple of serious problems: the dialogue sounds written, rather than authentic, and I had a bit of trouble believing these people would see each other more than once, let alone quickly develop strong friendships (see: “Synopsis,” “What Did I Learn?” and “Really?”) Still, I wanted to believe in the film’s central premise, and it’s strangely likeable in spite of its credibility issues. Moreover, I have to give Married to It an extra half-star to recognize a powerful scene where Chuck and Nina seriously discuss their problems. 6.5/10 stars. 

California Split (1974)

Gambling Addiction Movie #4 (Dang - I meant to post this review last month!) 
Synopsis: Elliott Gould stars as one-half of a hell-raising duo in a Robert Altman….no, that’s the Synopsis for M*A*S*H. Um…George Segal is a likeable, middle-class dude who has fallen on hard times and really needs to get some dough. Nope, that’s Fun with Dick and Jane. Um… two guys meet, gamble, and wind up deeply in debt…no, that’s The Music of Chance. 
Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “A jackpot of a comedy about two compulsive gamblers.” 
What Did I Learn?: 1) You don’t throw oranges on an escalator! 2) Dumbo flew. 3) Everybody’s named Barbara. 4) The tongue of a great blue whale weighs more than a full-grown African elephant (ok, this last one is probably bullshit).
Really?: 1) So, Charlie (Gould) is somehow able to hustle a bunch of much-younger kids on the basketball court even though he drinks like a fish and looks completely out of shape? 2) Does Bill (Segal) work with the world’s dumbest bookie? How can Sparkie continue to front him money when it’s painfully obvious Bill is too irresponsible to pay him back? And what are the consequences for failing to repay? Bill never seems terribly worried about getting his legs broken. 
Rating: I’ve always had mixed feelings about Robert Altman’s work as a director, but he certainly hit the right notes with California Split. The film itself is funny and presents an easy-going charm even when it provides a warning to the audience about the dangers of compulsive gambling. Segal and Gould share a noticeable chemistry and manage to elevate a good script into a classic character-driven comedy drama. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.