Friday, December 30, 2011

She's the One (1996)

Yeesh – that is one beat-up VHS clamshell package!

Synopsis: Bluecollar bozos bang (impossibly) beautiful broads.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Mickey (Edward Burns), a free-spirited New York cabbie and Francis (Mike McGlone) a materialistic Wall Street stockbroker, are extremely competitive and confused about women as a result of their father’s (John Mahoney) influence. Though they disagree about everything, they have one thing in common: Mickey’s ex-fiancee Heather (Cameron Diaz) is Francis’s secret lover. Though both brothers have beautiful wives (Maxine Bahns and Jennifer Aniston), Heather triggers their longtime sibling rivalry with uproarious and unexpected results.”

What Did I Learn?: Driving a New York cab is a great way to meet hot chicks who want to know all about your sex life.

Really?: Come on, who in their right mind would ever cheat on Jennifer Aniston? Oh wait...never mind.

Rating: She’s the One is a nice little follow-up movie to The Brothers McMullen, also created by Ed Burns. The film offers some solid performances (Mahoney, aka “Frasier’s Dad” is great as a macho, advice-dispensing goof who suddenly discovers his own relationship problems) and more than a few laughs. 8/10 stars.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Get Shorty (1995)

Synopsis: Loveable Italian-American with mob ties takes entertainment industry by storm! (Oops, that's the synopsis for The Ratings Game, also featuring Danny De Vito)

What Did I Learn?: Even a minivan can suddenly become the envy of Hollywood if you pretend that it’s cool to own one.

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to learn how to look scary.

Really?: 1) Travolta beats up James Gandolfini (aka Tony Soprano)? I don’t think so. 2) What was the point of having Nicki know Chili from Brooklyn? Nothing emerged from that recognition. 3) Harry’s decision to call Ray Bones struck me as an implausible plot device to get Ray out to California.

Rating: Get Shorty isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but Travolta is a charming rogue, Hackman is a lovable sleaze, and the film works as a good-natured satire of Hollywood. 7.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Krull (1983)

Synopsis: Blow-dried Prince opens a can of whoop-ass on invading alien army with bladed Frisbee.

What Did I Learn?: If you’re a king, and your planet has been invaded by some bad dudes with superior technology, you MIGHT want to at least temporarily vacate that big, white castle of yours. Who knows – they could attack on the night of your daughter’s wedding.

You Might Like This Movie If: This TV show spoke to you as a kid.

Really?: How did the gang suddenly obtain horses? And where did the flying horses come from? And why did they climb up the dark fortress when they could have used those flying horses? And why did the Slayers always wind up fighting the good guys with swords when they could have simply fired lasers at them? And how did the Princess know that her hubby had the power to shoot fire from his hands when he had no idea, and...

Rating: Krull is a cheesy, clichéd, badly-written, low-budget sword-and-sorcery rip-off from the early 1980s (Liam Neeson mostly looks embarrassed, and probably did it for the paycheque). Watch this film strictly for laughs. 3.5/10 stars.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Man on Fire (2004)

Synopsis: Alcoholic assassin finds redemption for his sins through the love of a young child. Once she’s kidnapped however, it’s CREASY GETS GREASY!

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington ignites a masterpiece of mayhem in this ‘powerful’ (LOS ANGELES TIMES) action-thriller. Hard-drinking, burned out CIA operative John Creasy (Washington) has given up on life – until his old friend Rayburn (Oscar winner Christopher Walken) gets him a job as bodyguard to nine-year old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning). Bit by bit, Creasy begins to reclaim his soul, but when Pita is kidnapped, Creasy’s fiery rage is released and he will stop at nothing to save her.”

What Did I Learn?: When a movie hero buys rocket-propelled grenades(!!) during an out-for-revenge weapons purchase, there’s a very good chance he’s going to use them at some point.

Really?: 1) Creasy gets shot full of holes, and yet he’s back on the street (still bleeding!) within a fairly short period of time. 2) Creasy shoots a dude at point-blank range in a car and doesn’t get a drop of blood on his clothing. 3) Would any bodyguard really agree to trade away his own life, especially if there’s a very good chance he’s going to experience excruciating torture before death?

Rating: Man on Fire is a depressing, and rather unpleasant action thriller. 6/10 stars.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Christmas Movie #6

Synopsis: Nice guy with squawky voice faces financial scandal; guardian angel turns that frown upside down with a hellish hallucination.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “No one is born to be a failure. No one is poor who has friends. Simple thoughts that were the inspiration for one of the richest, most uplifting, most beloved American films ever made.”

What Did I Learn?: Bedford Falls (aka “Potterville”) would have been a lot more fun had George Bailey never been born.

Really?: 1) So wait, Mr. Potter pocketed eight grand and got away with almost sending George Bailey to jail? That doesn’t sound right. 2) I have to think that George and Ellen would have noticed the dance floor retracting – everyone else did

Rating: It’s a Wonderful Life is a bit dated and corny at times, but it’s also a touching holiday classic and well worth viewing. Still, Mr. Potter deserved some sort of comeuppance at the end, and I have to wonder if the film really needed to be 160 minutes in length. Couldn’t Frank Capra have clipped out the World War II footage? 8/10 stars.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Die Hard (1988)

Christmas Movie # 5 (well, it’s sort of a Christmas movie...)

Synopsis: Bruce Willis smirks his way through two hours of gunfire and explosions.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “High above the city of LA, a team of terrorists has seized a building, taken hostages, and declared war. But one man has managed to escape off-duty cop. He’s alone...tired...and the only chance anyone has.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Christmas decorations and packing tape can come in handy during a terrorist invasion. 2) Dropping a body out of a 30-story window is an effective means of getting a policeman’s attention.

Really?: I had a little trouble believing that a police sergeant would continuously ridicule his Deputy Chief, or that Powell and McClane would have so many warm, heart-to-heart walkie-talkie chats over a police frequency.

Rating: Die Hard is one of the finest action thrillers ever made. Bruce Willis plays a tough guy, not a superhero (he bleeds, and some of those scenes in the elevator shafts are truly suspenseful), Alan Rickman is a worthy adversary, and the tension builds up into a thrilling finale. Aside from a few implausible scenes, the film’s only flaw is that it’s populated by a few too many boneheadedly stupid and obnoxious characters for my taste. 8.5/10 stars.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Santa With Muscles (1996)

Christmas Movie #4

Synopsis: Selfish musclehead finds redemption for his sins by beating the crap out of people and saving an orphanage that consists of three kids.

What Did I Learn?: Giant candy canes aren’t much help when you’re involved in hand-to-hand combat with the Hulkster.

Really?: 1) When the cops want you to pull over, it’s not advisable to fire paintballs at their windshields and attempt to outrun them when you’re driving a Hummer. 2) Wouldn’t you remember living in an orphanage when you were a kid? 3) If I had just seen a piezo-electric crystal explode after falling on the floor, I don't think I'd attempt to use another one as a sword. 4) Oh, what's the use...? 

Rating: Santa With Muscles isn’t quite as God-awful as American Commandos, but that’s only because it doesn’t contain a ten-minute film loop, and I wouldn’t watch any part of this movie again. The plot and dialogue are laughably bad, and you can’t help yourself from feeling sorry for Garrett Morris and Ed Begley Jr for appearing in this turd, but there a couple of funny lines (“look out – he’s got a candy cane!”), so I’ll give it a slightly-better-than-horrible rating. 1.5/10 stars.

Christmas Vacation (1989)

Christmas Movie #3

Synopsis: The Griswold clan enjoys the “hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.”

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “It’s Christmastime for the Griswolds. A season for giving, for Yuletide carols, for Christmas tree lights glowing brightly...hey, wait, this one’s not glowing. It’s on fire!”

What Did I Learn?: Emptying an RV’s septic tank into a storm sewer can present later problems for smokers.

You Might Like This Movie If: You enjoy a good flip out.

Really?: 1) Early on in the movie, I had a little trouble believing that Clark would drive underneath a lumber-hauling big rig truck without first looking out his side window. 2) The Griswolds seem to break a lot of windows, and Clark even pokes a big hole in his son’s bedroom ceiling, yet the house never gets cold, and that damage is just shrugged off.

Rating: Christmas Vacation is a worthy sequel to the original National Lampoon’s Vacation (European Vacation and Vegas Vacation, not so much), and both Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are in fine form. Even though the film clocks in at 97 minutes, there are a few superfluous scenes (Clark in the attic, or Clark making one Freudian slip after another in front of the hot salesgirl) that don’t add much. 8/10 stars.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Christmas Movie #2

Synopsis: Jaded mom and daughter learn to believe a kindly old man can solve all of their problems.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This year, Macy’s has hired the perfect department store Santa (Edmund Gwenn): he has an abundant belly, a snowy beard, twinkly eyes, and he claims his name is Kris Kringle! Despite his popularity, Kringle’s boss (Maureen O’Hara) is sceptical, and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) believes that Santa is a myth. But when Kris is declared insane and put on trial, Susan and her mother begin to question their lack of faith, as it becomes clear that there is something special about this ‘Santa’”.

What Did I Learn?: Santa can always count on the cynicism and raw political posturing of judges and other elected officials to keep him out of the loony bin.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that Santa Claus is just the guy to stand up to the over-commercialization of Christmas.

Really?: Maureen O’Hara’s character is surprisingly ok with the idea of her daughter hanging out with the nice man in the next apartment, but then, 1947 was a more innocent time. Parents hadn’t yet become convinced there are pedophiles lurking on every street corner.

Rating: Ed Gwenn provides a magical performance (I’d say he deserved his Best Supporting Actor Oscar), although most of the other actors come across as rigid and overly formal, and the dialogue often doesn’t sound like real speech. Miracle on 34th Street is a nice, heartwarming movie, but it does have a 1947 feel to it. 7.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Family Man (2000)

Hey all you Schuster at the Movies fans, it’s four days until Christmas, so I figured it’s the perfect occasion to review a few holiday-inspired films. Yule love’em!

Synopsis: It’s Mr. Destiny at Christmas time! No wait, it’s really It’s a Wonderful Life, and Mr. Potter wakes up as George Bailey!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Jack Campbell (Academy Award winner Nicholas Cage) is a single, wealthy Wall Street trader living the high life in New York City. All that magically changes one morning when he wakes up in a suburban New Jersey bedroom with a wife (Téa Leoni) he never married and two kids he never had – the life he would have led if he had made different choices as a younger man.”

What Did I Learn?: Unless you want to suddenly find yourself in some alternate reality where you wake up in a pool of dog drool every morning, never do a good deed for anyone.

Really?: 1) Jack seems a bit slow on the draw at times. Mid-way through the movie, he notices some award on his shelf and says: “I was in London in 1988”...later, he finds his old airline ticket stub and says: “I flew back the next day.” Well, duh!! Wouldn’t any normal human being have figured out the alternate timeline lickity-split? 2) Jack gets an opportunity to cheat on his wife, and he asks his best friend to provide the lady's address and phone number? Couldn't he have found that out himself?

Rating: The Family Man is a nice, family Christmas movie. Ok, it’s a little contrived and a total rip-off of Mr. Destiny, but well worth watching. 7.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Synopsis: Broke and desperate meets batshit crazy.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, an aging silent film queen, and William Holden as the struggling writer who is held in thrall by her madness, created two of the screen’s most memorable characters in Sunset Boulevard.”

What Did I Learn?: If you run into somebody with a tenuous grip on reality who happens to be carrying a firearm, it’s a really good idea to be super-nice to them.

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to understand the origins of this skit.

Really?: How did those goons from the collection agency know that dude’s car was stashed in Norma’s garage? The obvious answer would be that Norma and Max tipped them off to prevent him from leaving, but that should have been revealed in the script.

Rating: Gloria Swanson is a little over the top, and I had a bit of trouble believing William Holden's character would stick around as long as he does, but Sunset Boulevard is a well-written and incredibly engaging film. Far ahead of its time. 8.5/10 stars.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

American Commandos (1984)

Synopsis: It’s equal parts Death Wish, Rambo and dog turds.  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Dean Mitchell (Christopher Mitchum), an ex-Green Beret, accidentally kills a dope pusher. When word hits the street, a ruthless gang of junkies raids Mitchell’s home – they kill his son and rape his wife. The police have no clues but Mitchell stalks down the junkies one by one and kills them. The Federal Government has been watching Mitchell - they realize he is the perfect man for their secret mission in the Far East. Mitchell rounds up his old Vietnam platoon and together they return to Vietnam - this time for a different battle - a war on drugs!"

What Did I Learn?: Christopher Mitchum can’t act.

You Might Like This Movie If: won’t like this movie. (Warning: not work-friendly viewing)

Really?: I don’t know where to begin – nothing in this movie is remotely believable...the Asian drug lord is an old buddy of the commando team? Believe it or not, there’s a film loop near the end of the movie, so about ten minutes of footage is repeated. (And it wasn’t just my copy – comments left on make it clear somebody did some atrocious post-production editing).

Rating: American Commandos is truly one of the worst pieces of cinematic crap I’ve ever seen. 1/10 stars.

Wayne's World (1992)

Synopsis: Taken from the movie: “It’s two chimps on a davenport in somebody’s basement.”

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In the tradition of The Ten Commandments, Lawrence of Arabia and Gandhi comes a sweeping screen epic bursting with spectacle and drama...NOT!”

What Did I Learn?: Police brutality is funny when the victim is some smarmy producer who looks like Rob Lowe.

Really?: 1) So, Wayne gets to bang Tia Carrere as Lara Flynn-Boyle chases him around like a puppy dog? That's believable...NOT! 2) Somebody thought this videogame would sell like hotcakes.

Rating: Wayne’s World is basically a 95-minute Saturday Night Live skit. It has a few funny moments (I liked the Scooby Doo ending), but the over-used catchphrases get tiresome (“No Way! Way!”) while Wayne and Garth never once transcend their SNL personas to become real, authentic characters. How do they financially support themselves? They live in their parents’ basements, but the audience never gets to meet the Algars or the Campbells. Lame. 6/10 stars.

Raw Deal (1986)

Synopsis: ‘Roided-up Austrian oaf  is just the guy to bring down the Chicago mob.  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The windy city is about to be blown away....Arnold Schwarzenegger is Mark Kaminski, a former FBI agent forced to resign from the bureau due to excessive violence. Now he’s a small town sheriff trying to solve the murder of his friend, Harry Shannon’s son by the Chicago mafia family, Petrovita.”

What Did I Learn?: It’s not a good idea to drink and bake at the same time.

You Might Like This Movie If: You thought Wiseguy was somehow a little too realistic.

Really?: 1) The feds recruit some musclehead with a German accent to infiltrate the Italian Mafia? 2) Did our hero’s wife know that her husband faked his own death in order to do some undercover work?

Rating: Raw Deal is not one of Ahhhhhnold’s better movies. 5/10 stars.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Up In Smoke (1978)

Synopsis: Loveable potheads are pursued by the world’s dumbest cops.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “There’s nothing straight about this movie. But here’s the dope anyway: Cheech and Chong make their film debut in this riotous rock’n’roll comedy, bringing with them the same madness, lifestyles and sketches that sold over 10 million records in the early ‘70s.”

What Did I Learn?: Young girls don’t want to get into a car with a license plate which reads: “MUF DVR”.

Really?: 1) What happened to Chong’s Volkswagen Beetle? It obviously fell apart near the beginning of the movie (speaking of which, Chong was WAY too old to be a rich kid who could potentially be sent to military school), and there was never ever mention of it afterwards. 2) It seemed a little out-of-character when Cheech appeared to know that Arabs don't live in Turkey.

Rating: I can’t say that Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke is a particularly good movie (it's mostly a series of disjointed misadventures), but it does have some moments of hilarity, and I’ll admit that I’m biased: I watched this film on many occasions as a kid, and it’s still a fave (watch for a great performance from Christopher Joy as Curtis – funny stuff). 8/10 stars.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Splendido Secrets (1991)

While the main focus of Schuster at the Movies will continue to be full-length feature films, a number of friends have asked me to occasionally review an unusual video or two. Here’s a fun blast from the past...

Synopsis: Pompous marketing puke and eleven publicity-hungry chefs hawk ready-made pizza crust.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Dave Nichol and eleven of Toronto’s most prominent and creative chefs show how to prepare fantastic recipes using the President’s Choice (TM) Splendido Italian-style flatbread.”

What Did I Learn?: According to Dave Nichol, if your friends don’t take you to Grano (restaurant at Yonge and Davisville), you should seriously re-think the friendship.

You Might Like This Movie If: You enjoyed watching William Shatner being stalked by a giant penguin, and figure a 30-minute Loblaws commercial would be even more fun.

Really?: I had a little trouble believing that any self-respecting fine-dining restaurant would ever use a store-bought pizza crust.

Rating: Splendido Secrets provides some interesting pizza recipes, but was tough to sit through 30 minutes of Dave Nichol pontificating (“no trip to Toronto is complete without a visit to...”, “just once in your life, you should...”) about everything. 5/10 stars.

NO reference

The Big Sleep (1978)

Synopsis: Wisecracking gumshoe turns down bribes and sex in order to continue his work on a case long after he’s been paid by the client.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “ROBERT MITCHUM is back as the legendary private investigator, Philip Marlowe. This adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s classic hard-boiled detective mystery features an all-star cast, including: RICHARD BOONE, JOAN COLLINS, SIR JOHN MILLS, JAMES STEWART, OLIVER REED.”

What Did I Learn?: Young, attractive women love to throw themselves at 60-something private investigators.

Really?: 1) Marlowe drives a Mercedes Benz? 2) How did General Sternwood (Jimmy Stewart) have one daughter with an American accent and another who sounds British?

Rating: Mitchum provides a top-notch performance as Philip Marlowe, but The Big Sleep (set in 1970s London) is a slow-moving, and only mildly-entertaining follow-up to the far superior Farewell My Lovely (set in 1940s Los Angeles). In spite of an impressive cast, the movie meanders and doesn’t really get going until near the end. 6.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Shipping News (2001)

Synopsis: Emotional basket case comes home and uncovers a deep, dark secret every 20 minutes or so.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “After tragedy strikes, Quoyle (Kevin Spacey) moves with his daughter from upstate New York to his ancestral home in a small Newfoundland fishing village. With a job at the local newspaper and a developing romance with a woman (Julianne Moore) who lives with her own demons, Quoyle is transformed by this place of magic, beauty and hardship.”

What Did I Learn?: Using the word “Hitler” in a headline is an effective way to sell newspapers.

Really?: 1) I had a little trouble believing Quoyle and his daughter would stay in the rickety, and leaking family house any longer than one night. 2) The local pub plays “I’se the bye”; I realize it’s an old, Newfoundland folk favourite, and The Great Big Sea recorded a cover of it, but wasn’t that song choice a bit obvious?

Rating: Filmed on location in Newfoundland, The Shipping News is a haunting, inspirational and occasionally funny film featuring a number of strong performances and a lesson or two about small-town journalism. 9/10 stars.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Force 10 From Navarone (1979)

I wanted to review this movie in November during my blog’s Run-Up-to-Remembrance Day WWII theme, but I was only able to acquire a copy a few days ago. Please click the links to read my reviews of The Guns of Navarone (Force 10 is a sequel, made 18 years after the original, and not featuring any of the original stars), and The Sea Wolves, which also starred Gregory Peck and David Niven.
Synopsis: This time, they gotta blow up a bridge! And a dam! And...oh, just put your brain on pause and watch Harrison Ford and Robert Shaw bicker with each other.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The original guns of Navarone were silenced by an elite international team of commandos whose daring mission made screen history in Carl Foreman’s breathtaking 1961 thriller The Guns of Navarone. But the game isn’t over yet. The survivors must now destroy a heavily-guarded bridge that could link the advancing Nazi forces with their Italian Fascist counterparts and cut off the Allied drive for victory.”

What Did I Learn?: Force 10 had nothing to do with Navarone.

Really?: 1) Why did the Germans need that bridge when they had a huge dam with a roadway just upriver? 2) Carl Weathers’ character had an awfully bad attitude for a Sargeant. 3) Seriously – an Allied commando team has to steal an Allied plane, and even get into a fistfight with military police officers to keep the mission a secret? 4) In The Guns of Navarone, Mallory could speak “German like a German”, while Miller hated war; suddenly, Mallory is unilingual and Miller is more of a goofball.

Rating: Force 10 From Navarone is an enjoyable WWII action film featuring a post-Star Wars, pre-Indiana Jones Harrison Ford as a grumpy American colonel. That said, it does suffer from a credibility gap at times, and it’s sad that neither Gregory Peck nor David Niven signed on to play the characters they portrayed in The Guns of Navarone. It’s a fun movie, but you can’t take it too seriously. 6.5/10 stars.

Monday, December 12, 2011

RKO 281 (2000)

Please click the link to read my review of Citizen Kane the very first Schuster at the Movies blog entry.

Synopsis: Precocious boy genius delights in poking a sleeping dragon.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “New from Executive Producers Tony Scott (Enemy of the State) and Ridley Scott (Thelma and Louise) RKO #281 – the working title for “Citizen Kane” has been called the greatest movie of all time.”

What Did I Learn?: Throwing violent, furniture-throwing temper tantrums at the studio head is the only way to get your movie made and distributed.

Really?: It's hard to fill in this section, as RKO is basically a true story. I have to wonder, though, if James Cromwell based his performance of William Randolph Hearst on the real man, or on this guy. The similarities are striking at times.

Rating: The story behind the making of Citizen Kane was as fascinating as the movie itself, and RKO 281 tells it well. This isn’t a simple case of good guys and bad guys; Orson Welles could be a real jerk to those around him, while Hearst had some valid reasons to be upset at his portrayal. 8/10 stars.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Crossing the Bridge (1992)

Synopsis: Violent hothead, sensitive scribe and fading football hero put their love for Canadian strip joints to good use.  

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Through thick and thin, Mort, Tim and Danny were friends. Now they’re putting everything on the line with a dangerous drug-smuggling venture promising high-stakes consequences. The trio’s about to leave their fun, carefree days behind to face a moment of truth.”

What Did I Learn?: Hiding dope in the spare tire of your car was a fresh and original idea back in 1975.

You Might Like This Movie If: Crossing the US-Canada border makes you feel nostalgic. (Warning: terrible music. You might want to mute this one)

Really?: 1) I had a bit of trouble believing that the protagonist’s mom and uncle would somehow blame him for their elderly friend’s heart attack. 2) Sneaking into your ex-girlfriend’s dorm room in the middle of the night generally leads to a visit from the cops, not sex.

Rating: Crossing the Bridge is a fun, occasionally funny film about three Detroit guys who are a few years out of high school, and not really doing much with their lives. They get a chance to make a big score, and – do they take it? With a couple of exceptions, the dialogue and the situations seem real and believable. Well worth watching. 8/10 stars.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Detroit Rock City (1999)

Synopsis: KISS concert brings out the worst in four wannabe rockers.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “It’s 1978: bell-bottoms, day-glo, lava lamps and rock-n-roll define the generation. What’s a high-school rock band from Cleveland got on their mind? Getting out and hitting the city: DETROIT ROCK CITY!” 

What Did I Learn?: Disco fans were huge assholes.

Really?: Where do I begin? Sex in a confessional booth? Shannon Tweed pays an underage boy for sex in her car? A kid is attacked by dogs, and he somehow not only befriends them but uses them to rescue both his mom’s stolen Volvo and a kidnapped girl?

Rating: KISS fans might not like this review, but Detroit Rock City isn’t worth two hours of your time. The movie is set in the past, but it’s about as authentically nostalgic as That ‘70s Show, and it’s really aimed at the teenager market. The four heroes aren’t very nice, while their antagonists (parents, a hall monitor, a gang of toughs in a convenience store, a couple of ginos in a gold Trans-Am, etc...) are just cartoonishly nasty. 5/10 stars.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

Synopsis: Irreverent sketch comics tramp around the British countryside with coconuts and low-budget costumes.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “932 AD. King Arthur persuades Sir Bedevere, Sir Lancelot the Brave, Sir Galahad the Pure, Sir Robin the-Not-Quite-So-Brave and Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Film to join him in their fellowship of the Round Table; their first goal is Camelot, but God appears in the skies and directs them to seek the Holy Grail.”

What Did I Learn?: When you’re King, it’s a good idea to know something about birds.

Really?: How does one critique a Monty Python film for being unrealistic? Ok, I’m not sure I believed the scene when Galahad blurted out the wrong answer when he was asked for his favourite colour at the Bridge of Death.

Rating: Monty Python and Holy Grail is 90 minutes of silly fun, although it tends to drag in places and (like many Python sketches) ends rather abruptly. Still, you have to love the movie’s theme music: dum-da-dum-da-da-da-dum,da-dum-da-dum-da-da-da-dum! 8/10 stars.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Excalibur (1981)

Synopsis: How Arthur got his groove back...

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table receives its most impressive screen treatment in Excalibur, from visionary moviemaker John Boorman (Deliverance, The Emerald Forest).

What Did I Learn?: King Arthur and the land are one, so...England bit the dust when Mordred shoved a spear into his guts?

Really?: 1) I can only imagine that a suit of plate-mail armour would be heavy, cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear, yet the knights spend nearly the entire movie decked out in the stuff. Heck, Arthur’s dad, Uther, even bangs a chick when he’s fully plated up. 2) Didn’t Britain have archery in Arthurian times? 3) Did Arthur encounter a boa constrictor in Merlin’s camp?

Rating: While it’s cheesy in places, and a long way from being even remotely historically accurate, Excalibur is timeless fun. Nicol Williamson is outstanding as Merlin, and you can’t help yourself from smiling as the knights ride into battle with Carl Orff’s O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana) in the background. 8/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fierce Creatures (1997)

Synopsis: It’s a Fish Called Wanda...and a Lemur called Rollo...and a Tiger called Bill...and a Monkey called Anita...

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese, Michael Palin and Academy Award – winner Kevin Kline – the stars of the smash hit A Fish Called Wanda – return for another hysterically funny farce.”

What Did I Learn?: You don’t need firearms to round up a runaway anteater.

You Might Like This Movie If: You enjoy watching John Cleese and Michael Palin argue over animals. (It's not quite what you think...)

Really?: The gang was able to type out that new will pretty quickly after Rod McCain bit the dust.

Rating: Fierce Creatures has its moments of hilarity, but it doesn’t really get going until the last half hour or so. The rest of the movie sort-of meanders. Cleese does a few too many Freudian slips, Palin is just irritating as a zookeeper who can’t shut up, while Curtis and Kline keep walking in on Cleese whenever it looks as though he’s in a midst of enjoying a huge orgy. Interestingly, Kline’s and Cleese’s characters are stuck in ‘tweener’ (a pro-wrestling term meaning between ‘heel’ and ‘babyface’) status most of that time, so the audience has no idea if they should be cheered or booed. Fierce Creatures isn’t a bad film, but the script could have used a re-write, and it’s not nearly as funny as Wanda. 7/10 stars.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Synopsis: The wacky misadventures of an uptight barrister, a beguiling vixen, a stuttering animal lover and a loveable, psychotic lunatic.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The culture clash between the English and Americans is demonstrated hilariously in this offbeat romantic caper, written by Monty Python’s John Cleese and directed by veteran Brit Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob).”

What Did I Learn?: Aristotle wasn’t Belgian, the London Underground isn’t a political group, and the central teaching of Buddhism isn’t ‘every man for himself.’

You Might Like This Movie If: You never, ever watch this introduction. (Seriously, somebody ought to tell John Cleese he isn't funny when he tries too hard).

Really?: 1) Michael Palin murders a little, old lady and her yappy dogs and he’s still considered to be one of the good guys? 2) Does any church provide funerals for pets?

Rating: Jamie Lee Curtis is charmingly sexy, Cleese is in fine form, Palin is irritating (the stuttering jokes get old, fast), but Kevin Kline steals the movie with a bravura performance as Otto (“don’t call me stupid!”). Funny stuff. 8.5/10 stars.

Beautiful Girls (1996)

Synopsis: Unsuccessful pianist with commitment issues goes home to hang out with the local yokels.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “An all-star cast sparks this captivating comedy about a group of old friends whose 10-year high school reunion creates some hilariously unexpected surprises.”

What Did I Learn?: A woman probably won’t get terribly excited if you present her with a “champagne” (i.e. brown) diamond engagement ring.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’re in the mood to hear Rosie O’Donnell deliver a feminist rant (which contains a lot of many respects her monologue is the flip side of this).

Really?: Every grown man in a rural pub knows the words to “Sweet Caroline”? I don't think so...

Rating: Beautiful Girls is a well-written, good natured and surprisingly touching little comedy. 8/10 stars.