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, clich├ęd 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.