Ha ha!

You certainly never know what movie he'll review next!

Monday, 20 January 2020

Burl reviews Parasite! (2019)

Ha ha and ham rolls, it’s Burl, here to review a picture called Parasite! Now, I know just what you’re going to say: “Ha ha, Burl, haven’t you already reviewed Parasite?" No, friends, that was Parasite! This new one is Parasite, and it’s not even about a slimy and rapacious creature, unless that’s how you choose to describe capitalism, and if you do I for one won’t argue!
Of course, Bong Joon-ho already made his literal slimy and rapacious creature movie, The Host, and the funny thing is that you could transpose its title with that of Parasite and it would all make just as much sense as it currently does! Parasite concerns a chronically unemployed family of four, the Kims, who live in a cramped, stink bug-ridden basement apartment, who come across an opportunity to take jobs with a rich family who live in an opulent, modernist house up on a hill! Ha ha, first the son, then the daughter become tutors to the rich Park family’s children; then the Kim father and mother get jobs respectively as the driver and housekeeper to the Parks, with the wealthy family totally unaware that all their new employees are related! The scam seems to be working beautifully until one rainy night…
Ha ha! Well, I’d best not go on with my plot description, because this is a movie best viewed without a thorough awareness of the whole story! There are surprises to come in the second half, and thanks to these the picture in many ways reminded me of Us, which I enjoyed but never did review for you good people! Both movies are parables of inequity at the same time as they are literal, if outlandish, stories of inequity!
But Parasite is the more confidently made and technically accomplished picture, ha ha! It’s mise-en-scene is frequently worthy of Hitchcock, and the acting across the board is superb! Plus it’s very funny, and at the same time contains shots here and there that wouldn’t be out of place in the very scariest of horror pictures; and eventually it even gets a little gory! It’s a terrific movie, and continues South Korea’s tradition of punching above its weight, cinematically!
There’s talk of turning the movie into a TV series, and if that happens my plan is to completely ignore it the way I do most other TV! I’m quite happy with the one self-contained movie, thank you very much! I’m pleased to give Parasite three and a half rotisserie chickens!

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Burl reviews The Rise of Skywalker! (2019)

Ha ha and may the Force be with us all! Yes, it’s Burl, here to review the new Star Wars picture, The Rise of Skywalker! Now, I’m very sorry to be reviewing this one, as there is hardly a shortage of other reviews of it floating around I’m sure, and ol’ Burl’s opinion is about as necessary to the conversation as buttocks on a bug! Still, I saw it, so I figure I might as well review it! Ha ha!
I’ll say right at the start that the most striking thing about my viewing of the picture was just the sort of manufactured nostalgia the Disney people are I suppose counting on! It so happens that I saw the movie in the very same (though much changed) movie theatre in which I saw the original 1977 Star Wars with my father! This time around I was again with my father, and also this time with my son, who is about the same age as I was when I saw the first one! Ha ha! So there we have roughly the same sort of circular, multigenerational progression pattern as we see in the films themselves, and that gave me a brief, synthetically warm feeling about the old cockles!
And the movie itself? Ha ha! On the way in my son wondered  in what sort of deadly space orb the Resistance fighters would blow up this time, and I don’t wonder at his eight year-old’s cynicism! We were both surprised to find that an orb is not blown up at the climax; rather, a series of towers and starships! But otherwise things played out in the way you’d expect a reunion concert from some old favourite hit band might, with all the old hits recycled and special guests wheeled out like Hannibal Lecter on his pushcart!
Why, the old Colt .45 himself, Lando Calrissian - still played with great suavité by Billy Dee Williams from Fear City and Deadly Illusion and Number One With A Bullet - appears, and gets to mack on the ladies, even Leia, sort of! There are other Special Guest Stars too, like Wedge, and what looks to be the son of Porkins (equally ill-fated, I'm afraid), and also a Jawa shouting “Boutini!” (Ha ha, we still don’t know what that means, do we?) For a while I thought we might get a cameo from The All-Consuming Sarlacc, or maybe his brother, but it never happened!
Still, the new cast - including John Boyega from Attack the Block, Oscar Isaac from Inside Llewyn Davis, and Adam Driver from The Dead Don't Die - continues to perform with energy and aplomb (though I lost count of how many times the action stopped for tears to roll down Daisy Ridley’s cheek), and director J. J. Abrams, returning to the galaxy far, far away from The Force Awakens a few years ago, keeps things moving at a frantic, sometimes too-frantic, pace! Ha ha, I wish he’d do a movie like Super 8 again! Both as a film and as a nostalgia generating machine, I enjoyed that one quite a bit! In the case of this new movie, sure, I liked hanging out with Chewie and enjoyed Luke’s appearance as a hologram, and C3-PO was not too annoying this time around! (Chewie, when shown naked without his bandolier, looks more like Bigfoot than ever!) And Emperor Bolpatine, ugly as an old pike, is still played in Creep Factor 5 by Ian MacDiarmid, and can still shoot lightning from his fingers! Quite a bit of it, actually!
In the end I preferred the last entry, which is to say The Last Jedi! Ha ha, it’s strange to see how this latest trilogy is shaping up like the first trilogy did, with the middle installment somehow the most complex and interesting of the three! Rogue One is still the best of the new pictures in terms of creating a palpable, lived-in universe, though! Few of the worlds seen in the other ones, including the endless, boring desert planets, feel like real places in which societies might have developed!
With its (too) many cute creatures and pointless new cute robot, its slavish devotion to ironing out complexity, and its desperate, machine-tooled, get-the-band-back-together mentality, this new picture has clearly been Disneyfied to within an inch of its life, and despite a welcome appearance from Richard E. Grant of How To Get Ahead in Advertising, I can’t bring myself to award The Rise of Skywalker more than one and a half collapsing outfits!

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Burl reviews Careful! (1992)

Ha ha, and don’t put too much pepper on it! Yes, it’s Burl, here to review a movie I’ve liked for many years: Guy Maddin’s mountain picture Careful! This was Maddin’s third picture, I believe, and they say it was filmed on the great, flat plains of Manitoba, Canada! But I can’t believe that, because the movie patently takes place in the mountains! Ha ha!
It’s an odd movie, and delightfully so! We’re in the town of Tolzbad, a mountain town whose inhabitants are constantly, morbidly, appropriately, afraid of being swept away by an avalanche! Of course they also fear falling off of cliffs, and so everybody at all times behaves with the greatest restraint and propriety! In a word, they are careful!
Two brothers, Johann and Grigorss, are our heroes, sort of! Johann has a bit of a crush on his mother, sorry to say, and in such a repressed society as this, such feelings can only lead to a mouth-searing and some chocolate-sauce gore! A pair of sisters are also having trouble with incest, and this family too must lose a few members before things can be set aright on the mountain once again! In fact I’m not really sure things ever are set aright, but that’s the upper regions for you, ha ha! The thin air and tendency toward inbreeding makes the people a little bit stupid! Just have a look at Cliffhanger and you’ll see what I mean!
I don’t want to tell you how it ends, but practically everybody dies, ha ha! So it’s a tragedy, but it’s a very funny one, with deliberately crude special effects and wildly coloured cinematography! A few scenes are so overexposed that they hurt the eye, and I’m not one hundred percent sure that was the effect Maddin was going for, but who knows! And a few performances are a little flatter than I’m sure was intended; but on the other hand most of the actors are right on the mark! Vic Cowie, in the role of Herr Trotta, the libidinous papa, was especially strong!
I’ve not seen many of the mountain pictures that inspired this movie - things like Leni Riefenstahl’s The Blue Light, for instance, or the work of Dr. Arnold Fanck - but I can imagine them, and Careful appears to be a sincere and loving tribute to those great eruptions of Teutonic repress-o-passion! It’s packed with imaginative details and vivid sequences of high melodrama! Literally high, ha ha, because it’s mountains, and perhaps the makers of the picture were a little bit high too! It’s a florid work, and one I can cheerfully recommend! I give Careful three and a half condor eggs!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Burl reviews The Meg! (2018)

Hello chums, it’s Burl, here to review a monster shark picture of recent vintage, The Meg! Ha ha, I have a friend who went out with a girl called Meg for a while, but I believe it ended badly, so I’m sure he never went to see this picture! Now that I’ve seen it, though, I can tell him that it’s not actually very scary at all, and that it has nothing whatever to do with his old flame Meg or her two monster dogs!
No, The Meg is a milquetoast assemblage of parts taken from other water-creature pictures! From Jaws we have an entire scene lifted: a boat, hooked onto the shark, is pulled backward and the winch boom is wrenched free and nearly crushes somebody! Ha ha, I was waiting for Robert Shaw to cry “She’s givin’ way!” Plus we have a child riding an inflatable who is in danger of a chomping, and a swimming dog named Pippin (not Pippet, as in Jaws); but unlike the Spielberg picture, both of these knock-offs survive the enormous icthyo’s depredations!
Plus, nicked from Jaws: The Revenge we have a scene with a banana boat pursued by the beast; from Deep Blue Sea we get a super-rich capitalistic shark enthusiast who catches an unexpected chomp, plus a bald black man who constantly expresses a desire to be somewhere other than where the shark is; and much of the first half of the picture is full of moments borrowed from the underwater epics of 1989: pictures like DeepStar Six, Leviathan and The Abyss! There are even references to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou shoveled in there!
Much thought seems to have been put into the big shark’s origin, and why there would be a limited number of them! Underwater explorers have developed the theory that the bottom of the Mariana Trench is actually just a layer of cold water, below which is a whole other undersea world, populated by waterbugs, giant squids, megalodons and the like! Ha ha, it doesn’t make any scientific sense of course, but it was nice that they tried! A submarine complex populated by the kind of pan-global gang of professional misfits you find in movies funded by pan-global interests and intended for pan-global audiences runs into trouble when they unwittingly draw the toothy menace up from its usual habitat! Slapheaded action hero Jason Statham, well known from Ghosts of Mars, is called in initially to rescue the survivors of the Mariana expedition, but ultimately he must battle the beast with his fists and steely glare!
It’s all very slickly and internationally carried off, and so eager not to disturb that there’s hardly any sense of menace or suspense to be found in the thing at all! One fact I could hardly believe: there are three, count them three, scenes in which helicopters hover above the giant shark, and not once does it leap from the water to pull a copter down! I’m not sure if that counts as a victory or a defeat for the viewer, an omission or a triumph of thwarted expectations for the picture, but the fact that one assumes it will happen any time a helicopter rotor is heard tells you what kind of movie we’re dealing with! Ha ha!
It’s calculated and silly and harmless and airy, and possesses no virtues aside from briefly expressing disgust at the human tendency toward thoughtless destruction! Not nearly enough people are chewed up, and that the monster never trolls through the crowded beaches sucking up people like a whale feasting on krill counts as a major debit! I give The Meg one single severed arm, which is the only bit of gruesomeness this bland picture deigns to offer!

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Burl reviews Crime Wave! (1985)

The top! Few reviewers ever reach it, but here am I, Burl, with a review of the movie Crime Wave for you! Ha ha! Now, mind you, this is not Sam Raimi’s sophomore picture, which I believe in any case is called Crimewave, but rather an earlier, cheaper, and even more eccentric picture made in Winnipeg, Canada, over several years in the mid-1980s by a fellow called John Paizs!
Even though the movie got its widest release on a VHS tape for which it was retitled The Big Crimewave, and indeed that was the tape that I watched, be assured that the movie is indeed simply called Crimewave! The picture tells the tale of a struggling screenwriter who specializes in “color crime” movies; or, rather, he specializes in the beginnings and the endings of “color crime” movies, and the boring stuff in the middle is what he’s unable to write! So much of the picture depicts the different beginnings and endings he comes up with, and the rest is about his struggle to fill in the gap between!
So if you like struggling-screenwriter pictures, Crimewave has got that covered! Our struggling screenwriter is called Steven Penney, and he’s played by none other than Paizs himself! He gets called “a quiet man” by his tweenage chum, and this is because he doesn’t utter a single word throughout the picture! No, not even when he meets the psychotic script doctor, Dr. Jolly, who’s played in a show-stoppingly demented performance by Neil Lawrie from Mob Story!
It’s a little like an Edgar Ulmer picture, specifically one of the weirder ones, Strange Illusion for instance, but with a dash of gore, nudity, weirdness and swearing thrown in! Ha ha, it was clearly done on a penny-poor budget, and is the more impressive for that! Plenty of imagination is ladled atop the story, and the occasional bum performance or sour mash on the screenplay is a small bird to pay for the many pleasures the picture offers! It’s got laffs: that you can bank upon, and real laffs in a motion picture are nothing to ka-choo at these days!
I’m very fond of this odd little movie, which sits awkwardly at on the bench at the side of the gym during the grade seven dance along with fellow weirdos Big Meat Eater, Lobster Man from Mars, and, sure, Sam Raimi's Crimewave! (Ha ha, The Human Mule wasn’t even allowed into the dance: the principal said she smelled whiskey on his breath!) I give Crime Wave three Greatest American Hero costumes!

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Burl reviews Friday the 13th part 3! (1982)

Hi-hi-hi, ha-ha-ha! It’s Burl, here to review yet another entry in the ever-present saga of Jason and the pokings, the choppings, and the novelty killings! This is the third one, the 3-D one of course, and not much loved, I think! As with the Star Trek movies, this series suffers a bit from Odd Sequel Out syndrome, where the even numbered entries are more beloved than the odds! So, admitting the possibility of predjudice with that syndrome in mind, this installment has always seemed to me a bit of a valley between Part 2 and Part 4! But, ha ha, it’s certainly better than Part 5!
After replaying the climax of its predecessor, as though viewers required a detailed reminder of exactly what occurred in the previous film so they could progress through the new narrative without fear of bafflement, we meet the most miserable storekeeper couple in the world: a shrewish scold of a wife, and the fishfood-eating droopy-dog husband who, by his childish behavior, makes it impossible for her to operate any other way! There’s a bit of not-bad cat-and-mouse with the laundry hanging on the lines, and then these doughty citizens are sliced and poked! Then, finally, it’s on to the main body of the picture!
Dana Kimmell from Sweet Sixteen plays the weedy main girl, who has suffered through an earlier Jason attack but survived it somehow! Jason’s need to complete any task once begun means he’ll soon be after her and her terrible friends as they spend the weekend in a remote country house! Her boyfriend, who knows of her traumas, jumps out and scares her anyway, and then acts like a complete prig the rest of the time, at least until his head is squished and his eyeball shoots out into the audience, ha ha!
(Yes, you’re not allowed to forget the movies was shot in 3-D for long! Not just body parts and sharp tools are thrust into the lens, but baseball bats, yo-yos, juggling balls, joints, and dudes sitting on toilets, of which last this picture has no deficiency!)
Only slightly more tolerable than the boyfriend is Shelley, the tubby jokester of the gang! His inappropriate and ill-timed japes fill much of the picture’s running time or so it seems! There’s a stoner couple, with the man an eerie simulacrum of Tommy Chong! There’s a likeable Latina, and a blandly sexy couple unremarkable except that they always want to have sex with each other, and, in the rare moments when not talking about, preparing to, or actually making love, the fellow juggles and handwalks! Ha ha, your handwalking days are over, you showoff! And then there are special guests: a small motorcycle gang which takes a disliking to Shelley, and later makes the scene to get mild revenge on him for one of his earlier merry jests! All fall before Jason like wheat before the thresh, ha ha!
The sets in this movie fascinate me for some reason! They seem not to have been quite finished; there’s a stagebound unreality that makes it seem like a Lars von Trier warehouse experiment, with the sets just lines painted on the floor! The store at the beginning and the main house in which most of the murderin’ takes place look to be made of sheets of varnished plywood that have been leaned up against each other like an amateur’s house of cards! Ha ha, and the movie itself fascinates me a little! For me it's the one with the most mystique attached to it, which stems from the time a friend’s younger brother went to see it as part of a birthday party outing! This ten year-old’s retelling of the story and breathless descriptions of the murder scenes were more successful in selling the movie than the advertising was! (Though Jason’s knife poking through that curtain is a creepy image, at least to me!)
But the movie really isn’t very good! The direction is off and on, and the camera and lighting needs of 3-D make it sort of strange-looking, and the script tries to gin up drama with pranks and self-abnegation! It’s the only one of the Friday the 13th movies shot at a 2.35:1 ratio, and I like that; and there are some fun Special Makeup Effects; and there are some scenes where Jason is scary; and it’s of interest to historians of this sort of thing in that it’s the picture in which Jason acquires his famous hockey mask, stolen from Shelley no less! But that’s not much to hang a hat on, and so in the end I can give Friday the 13th part 3 only one backup fuel tank!

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Burl reviews Playtime! (1967)

Allez-vite la twist, c’est Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review what’s probably one of my most favourite comedies, Jaques Tati’s crazy-crazy Playtime! This is a real humdinger, a spectacle of a show, and I first saw it many years ago in a film class, on a reasonably large screen! And the bigger the screen, the better with this one! I know it got a bit of a revival a few years ago, but I’d like to see this one grace the big screens again, alongside other revival staples like Gremlins and Ghostbusters!
But hélas, I fear that will never be, because Playtime was a big fat old bomb when first it was released! It’s sad but true, and perhaps the fact that it has absolutely no plot had something to do with this flame-out! But Playtime has no need of a plot, ha ha! All it needs is gags and plenty of time for them to play out, and that it has, three times filled and running over!
Our non-story is set in Paris, or at least in an artificial modernist Paris constructed somewhere on the outskirts: the area is full of American tourists being shepherded here and there by a legion of minders; the only glimpses of Paris landmarks we see are reflections in glass doors: an Eiffel Tower here, a Sacré-Coeur there! Among the tourists are old ladies, a pretty young woman called Barbara, who serves more or less as our main character, and a loudmouthed drunk who wants to buy everybody drinks! There is also Tati playing his famous Chaplin-esque character M. Hulot!
Oh, I’m fond of Hulot! He’s one of the most genuine naïfs in cinema, even as he looks like an everyday late middle-aged white guy! He’s a bit rumpled, which means he stands out sharply in the steely world of Tati’s fake Paris, but so do all the other lookalike Hulots with which Tati has generously sprinkled his film! Ha ha, I guess he was getting a little tired of the character, but for us, a little more of the genuine article would not have gone amiss!
Ha ha, and so many great gags, many stemming from everyday items acting as agents to undermine the modern way of life they represent! The chairs in the waiting room, the long hallway, the door at the restaurant, the roundabout outside, and my favourite, the labyrinth of cubicles and the woman in the turning booth! Ha ha, you’ll know that one when you see it! And the subtleties sometimes are beautiful! Think about “Slam Your Doors In Golden Silence,” ha ha - most filmmakers try to get a laugh by adding a sound effect, while Tati is one of the few who can achieve hilarity by taking one out!
It’s a movie that demands, and equally rewards, multiple viewings! It seems designed to require multiple viewings, in fact: it’s impossible to watch the picture without occasionally feeling that you’re completely missing a good joke! And you probably are! New gags reveal themselves with each fresh look; it’s incredible - you can perhaps see in this a diabolical salesmanship on Tati's part: make three times the box office just based on everybody going back to look for the jokes they missed the first or second times! 
Ha ha, if you need a laugh about our crazy modern world, this is the movie to watch! Its observations have only become more relevant in the years since it was made, even as the world itself seems to have gotten uglier! Sure, without proper characters or plot, it can be somethingt of an alienating experience; you never get closer to understanding the characters than to feel a basic human empathy for their various plights! But ultimately you still walk away with a greater understanding of what it means to be human! I give Playtime three and a half shouting security panels!

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Burl reviews The Hudsucker Proxy! (1994)

Hi! My name’s Burl with my hair in a curl! I write the reviews that make you unfurl! Ha ha! I realize that doesn’t make any sense - no, I don’t even have curly hair! - but I’m trying to usher you all into the spirit of today’s review, which is for the Coen Brothers’ big-budget curio The Hudsucker Proxy!
Ha ha, it’s one of those movies a studio spent a lot of money on, but which is so out of the current of popular moviedom that you can’t imagine it ever making a penny at the box office! I certainly went to see it, you can bet your nellie, but the weekend it opened, March 11, 1994, Guarding Tess and Lightning Jack also opened, and both of those skunked Hudsucker, if you can believe it! But who remembers those pictures? Ha ha, nobody!
The story is laid in December of 1958, but its heart is further back, in the 30s! Inspiration is taken from screwball comedies and newspaper pictures with fast-talkin’ dames, and Frank Capra hovers over the production like a portly man in an angel costume, dispensing some It Happened One Night here and some Meet John Doe there!
Tim Robbins, the well-known presence from Tapeheads and Fraternity Vacation, plays Norville Barnes, fresh off the bus from Muncie and ready to conquer the New York City business world! And ha ha, there’s no bigger business on the street than Hudsucker Industries! He starts in the mail room, of course, where everybody starts; meanwhile, to the consternation of the Board of Directors, Hudsucker prexy Waring Hudsucker takes a dive out of the 44th floor boardroom window - 45th floor if you count the mezzanine!
For reasons, the board must find a dim-witted proxy to take over for the prexy until the close of the year, and naturally they find Norville, and events unfold from there! Cynical newshound Amy Archer, played with a Hepburn accent by Jennifer Jason Leigh from Grandview U.S.A., gets involved, as does the Hudsucker second-in-command perfectly essayed by disaster king Paul Newman, from When Time Ran Out and The Towering Inferno! Sure sure, ha ha! Charles Durning from Stick plays old Waring Hudsucker, who returns from the grave in angel form; John Mahoney from The Manhattan Project is Amy’s blustery editor; none other than Ash from the Evil Dead pictures plays her snap-brim co-worker; and Bill Cobbs from Trading Places manfully wrestles with the picture’s weakest conceit, the Wise Old Black Janitor Who Can Stop Time If Need Be!
Much of the picture turns on Norville’s great brainwave: the hula hoop, which he has drawn out as a circle to show off to people! “Would an imbecile come up with this?” he demands! Ha ha! The picture has a centerpiece sequence in which the newly released plaything languishes on shelves until an amazing kid picks one up and starts doing tricks! Hula hoop madness sweeps the nation, but still the story brings us, like Meet John Doe, to the ledge of a building at midnight!
The picture is filled with verbal and visual invention, and with game actors who give off the artificial dialogue with joyful aplomb! It’s all very artificial, of course, which creates a distance between the viewer and the narrative, but it’s also a snap-brimmed good time! It’s not one of the Coen’s strongest works, but it was still a lot better than most of what got released in 1994, ha ha! Yes, it’s better than Clifford! I give The Hudsucker Proxy three extruded plastic dinguses!

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Burl reviews The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb! (1964)

All for the love of bandages, it’s Burl! Ha ha, clomp, clomp, yes, I’m reviewing a walking mummy picture today, a Hammer walking mummy picture to be more precise! To be more precise still, it’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb! Ha ha, I don’t think I’ve reviewed many Hammer pictures for you, but ol’ Burl’s a longtime Hammer cheerleader! I even gave a lecture on their doings once at a special illegal restaurant!
Now, this was hardly the only walking mummy movie the company made, but I don’t think they made many! It begins, as all walking mummy movies must, in Egypt, at an excavation made by Europeans who feel it’s their right to dig stuff up and cart it all back to their own country! Ha ha, the mere suggestion that maybe these colonialists should keep their mitts off is met with bewilderment, scoffing and supercilious anger! So of course it takes a curse to sort things out!
This takes effect back in England, where our Egyptologists - Annette Dubois, her fiancé Ronald Howard, and dyspeptic old Sir Giles, plus an all-too American promoter-type fellow - meet a mysterious aristocrat-with-a-secret called Adam Beauchamp, who insinuates himself into the group and most especially into the heart of young Annette! Soon we hear the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet, ha ha, and there are several genuinely frightful sequences featuring the attack of the walking mummy! He even stomps one fellow’s head, as walking mummies frequently seem to do! (I particularly recall one such happenstance in Dawn of the Mummy, which of course was part of the Great Walking Mummy Revival of the early 1980s, along with The Awakening and Time Walker!)
Something you will notice as you watch the picture is that none of the principals are played by the usual Hammer stars - no Cushing, no Lee, not even an Andrew Kier or an Ollie Reed or a Barbara Shelley or an Ingrid Pitt! We are reassured that it is indeed a Hammer film when we see Michael Ripper, whom we remember from X the Unknown, in brownface as a victim-to-be, ha ha! The lead actors, in fact, are almost all people who’d never been in a Hammer film before, and were never in one after! Ha ha, curious!
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb has its spooky moments, as noted, and the walking mummy itself is pretty creepy! It’s a mildly enjoyable picture on the whole, but there’s really not a lot to it, and it breaks no new ground in the walking mummy genre! To accuse it of lacking pep might be to ignore a fault endemic to the form, so I’ll just say, ha ha, that The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is a minor work, but not the worst walking mummy picture to amble around the pike! I give it one and a half enchanted amulets!

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Burl reviews McBain! (1991)

With a blast of action, it’s Burl, reviewing for you a movie that was apparently made within the exceedingly narrow window in which Christopher Walken was considered a potential action hero! (I don’t really count The Dogs of War as an action movie; more a drama with some action in it!) Ha ha, this one is called McBain, and it comes to us from action-uncle James Glickenhaus, the fellow who made that seamy picture The Exterminator and slightly less seamy efforts like The Protector and Shakedown!
Now of course I hear you saying “Ha ha! McBain! How does Ranier Wolfcastle do in the picture? Is he a good actor?” Well, not so fast! This is a different McBain entirely, with, as mentioned, Christopher Walken as the titular star! And the assumption that he’s not really action-hero material is borne up in the picture’s opening moments, which find McBain in a thunderdome in Vietnam having the tar beaten out of him! The timely arrival of some other soldiers saves McBain from his fate, and, when McBain asks Santos, the leader of the patrol that saved him, how he can ever properly thank him, Santos rips a hundred dollar bill in half, gives it to McB, and says “Ha ha, if the other half of this bill ever finds its way to you, then you will know it is time to repay me!”
Well, nineteen years later, McBain is working the same job Edward James Olmos did in Wolfen: welding at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge! Santos, meanwhile, is the leader of a group of Columbian rebels seeking to take down corrupt El Presidente, and when the revolution fails and Santos is killed, his girlfriend Maria Conchita Alonso comes climbing up to hand McBain the other half of the C note! McBain doesn’t hesitate: he rounds up the old gang from ‘Nam and, after some marvelous business in New York, they head down and take over Columbia! Ha ha!
The marvelous stuff in New York involves their attempts to raise money for the trip! First they break into a low-level drugs den and kill people left and right! Luis Guzman, well known from Innocent Blood, is in charge, and when he sees the mercenaries have shot most of his men, he delivers a righteously shame-inducing speech to an abashed McBain and his gang! They find a much richer gangster, hang him off a building and pretend to be rogue Mossad agents until he agrees to give them money! Ha ha, Walken playing a steelworker-turned-mercenary playing a tough Israeli is a thing to behold, all right!
Chick Vennera, who had been involved in this kind of thing before in High Risk, does a good job as Santos! It’s a shame when he’s shot in the head by El Presidente, who, by the by, is played by Victor Argo from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai! None other than the always-likeable Steve James from Avenging Force, and the less-likable but no less fantastic Michael Ironside from Watchers and Total Recall, are members of the buddy gang, along with Thomas G. Waites from The Thing, and Jay Patterson from D.O.A. plays the one who’s a doctor, and who miraculously saves a gravely injured girl in the third act! And we know female lead Maria Conchita Alonso from her work in Extreme Prejudice!
But after all this, is McBain a good movie! Ha ha, no, not really, but, against the odds and in contrast to most of Glickenhaus’s other pictures, it’s a strangely good-natured one! Ha ha, you’ve got the child being saved, and the fact that, though hundreds of people are killed, all of the mercenaries make it through happy and unscathed!
On the other hand, the movie’s politics are so demented as to be unreadable; and it's replete with the sort of stupidity that takes you out of the drama and leaves you scratching your head! Take, for example, the scene when McBain and his crew are buzzing down to Columbia in a twin-engine prop plane and are suddenly joined by a Columbian fighter jet! After the old “Sorry, our radio's busted” trick, McBain, in the co-pilot’s seat, pulls a gun, shoots it past his pilot’s head, through the window without breaking it, across to the fighter jet, through that cowling without breaking it, and into the pilot’s head! Ha ha, talk about a magic bullet!
I think by now I’ve said enough about McBain! It’s got lots of explosions but it’s rarely exciting, and somehow, though it’s called McBain, Walken’s character barely seems to be the lead! I give McBain one and a half bamboo thunderdomes!