Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Sunday 31 March 2013

Burl reviews Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight! (1995)

Well, a very good day to you, and ha ha, hello! It’s Burl here with a movie review! I wanted to tell you about the big-screen version of the Tales From the Crypt TV show, known as Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight! Just to clarify, this is neither the old Amicus omnibus picture from the 1970s – that was the one with the scary Santa terrorizing Joan Collins, ha ha – nor the other TFtC picture, Bordello of Blood! I’ve never seen Bordello of Blood, mainly because I can hardly stand that man who’s in it, the obnoxious Dennis Miller!
Demon Knight does feature an actor named Miller, but by startling contrast he’s my very favourite actor, Dick Miller! He’s about as far from Dennis Miller as you can get, ha ha! And he gets one of his meatiest roles in this one, playing the seedy drunkard Uncle Willy! Dick has plenty of screen time plus a complicated trick effects death scene! Wow, you don’t see that very often!
I saw this one at the movie palace when it was first released, but watched it again very recently! But I still am having a little trouble actually recalling the plot of the thing! There’s something about William Sadler (whom you will recall from his bad guy roles in Die Hard 2 and Hard to Kill, ha ha) being in possession of some kind of magical item which is coveted by a demonic personality embodied by none other than Billy Zane!
Sadler takes refuge in some kind of hotel filled with various sorts of riff-raff played by entertaining actors! It quickly becomes a siege situation, in which everything from zombies to possession to severed limbs comes into play! Ha ha, Zane or his devilish minions take out the character actors one by one in gruesome and EC Comics-style ways! John Schuck, for instance, playing a sheriff, gets punched right through the head, yowch!
It’s not a very scary movie, but it’s stylish in a 1990s kind of way, and fast-paced and energetic, and it contains one of the most generous helpings of Dick Miller to be found outside the works of Roger “A Bucket of Blood” Corman or Joe “Matinee” Dante! For that reason alone it’s a movie experience to be reckoned with! The other actors are pretty good too, and Zane is particularly rib-tickling, or at least tries to be! He’s not bad, frankly! I’m going to go ahead and award Demon Knight two and a half sets of cunningly-placed antlers!

Saturday 30 March 2013

Burl reviews The Myth of the American Sleepover! (2010)

Hello, hello, it’s Burl reviewing on you again! I thought I’d give you the lowdown on one of these independently produced regional pictures today, one called The Myth of the American Sleepover! That’s a sort of a grand title for a picture like this, but I guess it’s as good as anything else! Maybe they could have called it Eagle Class or Journey to Frenchman’s Drop or Three Times That Night, but they didn’t!
I’m glad they put the word “myth” in the title, actually, because otherwise I’d have thought that hey, maybe it’s true that teenagers across America attend mass sleepovers on the last day of summer, that it was some sort of national tradition I’d never heard about up here north of the border! Ha ha! But I suspect the big sleepover theme is just meant as a dramatic device to get all our characters in the places and situations the writer-director wanted them in!
I won’t tell you the plot, because there isn’t one! It’s a picture very much in the tradition of American Graffiti and Dazed & Confused – so much so that it almost felt like one of those unofficial remakes, the same way Stoker felt like a remake of Shadow of a Doubt! It’s not a patch on those pictures, but I’ll say this right now: it’s not bad either!
It’s laid (as they used to say in Variety) in a Detroit suburb, and there are all sorts of different young folks preparing for various sleepovers at different houses! You get the blond girl with piercings, the young guy who talks a good game but in fact has never kissed a girl, the running girl who looks like a young Scarlett Johansson and ends up getting punched by another girl, and quite a few others! There’s also a satellite plot involving a college-age guy driving to a sleepover to talk to some twins!
That gives you some idea of what’s going on! It’s all pretty mellow, I must say – the punching I mentioned earlier is pretty much the single point of high drama! I don’t mind the mellowness, because I’m a mellow sort of guy myself, and also I understand the impulse behind it! After all, ha ha, I tried to make a similarly mellow picture once myself!
I must say, though, it’s hard to watch the movie and not think of those other, better movies it apes! As in American Graffiti, one of the plot threads has a young fellow chasing all night after a seemingly unattainable blonde! As in Dazed & Confused, there is a larger party in a communal area which pulls people away from the sleepovers, and the whole movie is woven with a sense of tribal ritual! None of this is necessarily bad, of course, but it does tend to undercut the movie’s own cinematic individuality while pulling you out of the situation and mood it’s working so hard to create!
It’s also one of those indie films in which everyone seems to have been heavily dosed with barbiturates! I’m not sure who decided this was some kind of shortcut to Grand Artistic Truth, but that style never really works for ol’ Burl! I did like that no one had cell phones or knew about the Internet – one of the guy sleepovers, for instance, has the fellows sitting around watching a horror movie containing boobs, just like my friends and I used to do! So there was plenty of good stuff in there, and I have to admit, I’m always game for a hangin’ around picture! I give The Myth of the American Sleepover two and a half scenes from Mothra!

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Burl reviews Jaws of Death! (1977)

Blub blub, hello, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review a movie about terrifying underwater killers of death, one of the many pictures that swirled about in the wake of the mighty Jaws! The best of these by common agreement was Piranha, though ha ha, a stubborn minority will champion Tentacles! At any rate, this one is about orcas – but it’s not Orca, ha ha, it’s Jaws of Death!
And it’s probably not even the Jaws of Death you’re thinking of! That one was a most studious impersonation of the Spielberg picture, whereas this one only probably got made because of it! Otherwise it’s got absolutely nothing in common with Jaws except the presence of huge, toothy marine creatures and four letters of the title!
Jim and Erich are two young go-getters, very 1970s fellows, who are obsessed with proving their theories about the killer whale! Their field experiments seem to consist exclusively of playing synthesized whale cries from a keyboard sampler and out through underwater speakers! They meet up with another research party led by the avuncular slaphead Stan Waterman, a famed submariner, cinematographer and adventurer! The two teams join up and try to find the whales, while periodically a narrator pops out of the bushes, holding a microphone and looking like a member of Team Zissou, to tell us how frustrated everyone is! (The narrator, by the way, is played by Arthur "Monster on the Campus" Franz!)
Then there’s a climax: The whales appear and Jim kayaks out to them; but a mini-sub spooks the mammals and Jim is capsized! Will the mini-sub reach him in time? No, he flounders around in the chilly water and sinks out of sight! It looks like Jim’s a goner – but wait, a killer whale surfaces beneath him and guides the dazed researcher back to his craft! No, far from delivering death at any point in the movie, all these creatures do is save a life! So those of you hoping for a killer killer whale movie will have to go crawling back to Mr. Dino de Laurentiis, just like you always do! Ha ha!
Some would say that not much happens in this movie, and to those people I can only echo the hilariously Zen sea captain, who only appears in one scene and counsels “Patience, patience!” Ha ha, the fellows in this movie do plenty! Jim and Erich visit Stan’s boat, then later Stan visits Jim and Erich’s boat! They talk about how exciting it would be to see some orcas! They wrestle octopi quite a lot! They torment giant sea stars and chase fish around either by swimming after them or chasing them in the mini-sub!
It’s nicely photographed by James “The Wild Life” Glennon, and I really liked the horror movie score they used to try making us feel some kind of suspense about the mellow goings-on! This is one of those movies like Malibu Beach, where there’s no discernable narrative motion, and you just sit back and watch people do things and talk about doing them! But unlike Malibu Beach there’s an absolute dearth of ladies – you'll find more pulchritude in The Thing, ha ha!
I enjoyed this picture, and even though it never convinces as a documentary, which I think it’s pretending to be, it’s actually something better, some sort of mutant hybrid picture like that movie Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot! I give Jaws of Death two and a half forehead wrinkles out of a possible ten million on Stan Waterman’s brow alone!

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Burl reviews Mag Wheels! (1978)

Hi, Burl here! You know, one of my all-time favourite pictures is Malibu Beach, and I’ll tell you why: you don’t watch Malibu Beach, you live it, or at least you live in it for a while! It brings you into its world more than any other movie I can think of; and if its world isn’t terribly exciting or eventful, well, ha ha, might as well go for a Coke! It’s a time machine full of attractive people, alluring locations, bad-but-good clothes and terrible music; but it’s a temporary time machine whose process of return is sudden, vicious and unsympathetic! When the movie’s over, that’s it – you’re back in your own chilly, cynical, elderly and mid-continental world! It’s devastating and horrible every single time!
An emotional corrective may possibly be found in Mag Wheels, however – the dark cousin to Malibu Beach, released in the same year, 1978! (The Pom Pom Girls has some real similarities too!) The movie begins as so many of these movies do: with a group of bronzed California striplings cavorting in the surf with their girlfriends! It rapidly becomes apparent, however, that in marked contrast to the reasonably likeable ciphers of Malibu Beach, the teens here have no particular personality traits beyond being total jerks! The only remotely tolerable character is Anita, the new girl in town, and she turns out to be a spineless sap with no free will and a victim complex!
It is this dynamic – the perpetual victim loosed in a beachy jungle of rapacious soda jerks – that powers the film, along with an escalating rivalry between boogie van-driving dudes and custom pick-up-driving chicks! Anita, subjected to the predatory wooings of van-driving jock Steve, is caught in the middle! There are van-vs.-truck races, pillow fights and riverbank parties, and finally Steve’s highly irritable girlfriend Donna realizes she’s got a perky, if oblivious, romantic rival! A nefarious plan is hatched, ha ha! Donna sets up a drug deal, narcs on it and has Steve busted, and then blames Anita for the whole thing! There’s a Road Warrior-style chase, and Anita and Jill, the tough leader of the truck girls, are nearly revenge-raped by all the van jerks! The trucker girls ride to the rescue, and luckily one of them is Asian, so is naturally able to kung-fu kick the would-be rapists into submission and cowardly flight!
There’s a big climax with a suspenseful “drag out” between the trucks and the vans! Desperate to stop the contest, which she’s been informed is all her fault for almost getting herself raped, Anita drives her father’s station wagon over a cliff like some kind of Thelma or Louise in training! This seems, on first blush, a tactical misfire, but it has the desired effect! Steve jumps from his van, scrabbles down the hill and drags Anita out of the smashed vehicle! He cradles her lolling head in his arms, then shouts “She’s alive!” to the worried fun-truckers above! They cheer, and the film freezes on a shot of a dazed and injured-looking Anita as the theme song plays and the credits roll!
It’s full of a Sartrean hell’s worth of jerky people, ha ha, but Mag Wheels has some real charms! It seems to take place in a world entirely made up of customized cars (explicable by the presence of The King of the Kustomizers, George Barris, as one of the film’s producers); the rivalry between the trucks and the vans is a nice touch, and the drag-out makes for a refreshing variation on the standard chicken race! On the other hand, the behaviour of many of the characters is totally inexplicable, especially that of our lead, Anita! Working as a waitress at “The Boogie Bowl,” she’s sexually assaulted by her boss, and yet returns to work the next day without complaint! She’s constantly accused of things she hasn’t done, yet never stands up for herself! She’s attacked by Steve and his van goons, but doesn’t even think of going to the police, then later defends the clearly irredeemable Steve as “not that bad!”
Sure, the world was a different place then, with a moral code that, from a 21st century perspective, seems almost alien! Even taking this into account, Steve’s moronic cruelty and Anita’s willingness to take it make for a decidedly frustrating viewing experience! Only Jill, the tough girl, helps leaven it to a tolerable height, with her insistence that Steve’s behaviour is unforgivable and he must be killed; or, in lighter moments, with lines like “I’m Jill. Fly me!” Ha ha, it’s all a bit bewildering, but I’m nevertheless willing to award Mag Wheels two Buckalews!

Burl reviews Killing Them Softly! (2012)

Hi, Burl here to review the movie I watched on the plane! It was called Killing Them Softly, a new picture from the director of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford! Like that picture, this one features a gun-toting Brad Pitt (well-known for his role in The Tree of Life), but this movie is a lot shorter and is trying more to be a punchy little genre movie than an artsy, beautiful meditation on Western myth and legend!
The Jesse James picture was a goody, so I was looking forward to seeing this one! It starts off with a couple of rat-like low-lives being engaged to rob a poker game run by Ray Liotta! Ha ha, one of these guys is Australian and the other isn’t! Anyway, the logic is that nobody will suspect them of being the robbers; they’ll suspect Ray Liotta, since he had earlier robbed his own poker game on the logic that nobody would suspect him!
But this time around nobody really suspects Ray Liotta because they don’t believe he’d be dumb enough to do it twice! Nevertheless, the robbery negatively impacts the local criminal economy, and Pitt, whom we also know from Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood, is sent ‘round to sort things out! Over all of this we hear news reports of the declining days of the G.W. Bush presidency and the 2008 election – speeches from Obama and Bush litter the soundtrack, reminding us that criminal enterprise is just another American business and is the capitalist system in microcosm, or possibly that the American political system is an inflated and barely disguised criminal enterprise in itself!
I have no argument with any of that, ha ha, but these are all points the Godfather movies made forty years ago! That obviousness is matched by that of the song selections heard on the movie’s soundtrack: when the death-dealing Pitt is introduced, we get the umpteenth appearance of Johnny Cash singing “The Man Comes Around,” and as the hangdog Australian is shooting up, what else but the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” pops up on the soundtrack! Ha ha, pretty clever choice!
But there’s lots to admire about the picture! It’s filled with solid actors doing their thing, and there’s no whiff of Tarantino or Guy Ritchie in there, despite it being a picture about criminals talking voluminously and occasionally acting with extreme violence! The card game robbery is a suspenseful pip, and Ray Liotta, who is not given a very good time of it in this movie, gets a memorably spectacular final scene! The movie looks great (though not as great as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford!), and almost as much care was lavished on the sound effects as in Stoker!
It certainly passed the time on the plane, though I felt a little self-conscious during the incredibly violent Ray Liotta punch-up scene, and I’m prepared to give Killing Them Softly two and three-quarter dishwashing gloves!

Saturday 16 March 2013

Burl reviews Stoker! (2013)

For the love of cinnamon, it’s Burl! Ha ha, I have a new movie to review today, and it comes from the director of that peculiar picture Oldboy! This new one is an American picture though, and it’s called Stoker! It’s a strange and creepy movie, dripping with atmosphere but maybe not totally successful! Still, it’s memorable in its way!
The Stoker family live in a big white house somewhere just outside of town, and they’re made up of a mother, a father and eighteen year-old India! But dad is totaled in a violent motoring accident, and the next thing you know his little brother Charlie shows up! Charlie is pretty menacing, and because they call him Uncle Charlie, I started to think that maybe this was a remake of that fine Hitchcock picture from years ago, Shadow of a Doubt! It turns out that it was inspired by that movie, but isn’t intended as a remake!
Charlie’s menacement is subtle at first, but after a while we realize he is full-on bonkers, and there are flashbacks of various types which explain all this a bit! Old ladies seem to be particular favourites of his, victim-wise, but he’s not all that picky in the end! The Stoker home quickly acquires a hothouse atmosphere, and if there isn’t actually Virginia creeper drooping off the gables, there certainly might as well be!
I won’t go into the particulars of the story much more than this – there aren’t a whole lot of twists and turns, but as other reviewers before me have stated, it’s more of an atmosphere piece that benefits from a lack of specific foreknowledge on the part of its audiences! There are some surprising cast members in the picture too, aside from the central trio! Film person Harmony Korine appears as an art teacher, and there is also a special appearance from Ralph Brown, well-known from his role as Danny in that great picture Withnail & I, as, of all things, a Southern sheriff! Ha ha, I think Ralph Brown might well be the British Elias Koteas – that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it!
The movie also looks very nice, and is highly stylish! The young lady, India Stoker, is very pretty indeed, and Uncle Charlie is a handsome fellow! Altogether it’s an unusual movie of the sort you wouldn’t expect to be made in these days of sequels, remakes, franchises and adaptations! It suggests a lot more than it spells out, which is a very nice change! For that reason alone it’s very welcome, and it pulls off some pretty unique effects!
I was hoping for a little more labyrinthine craziness, I do admit, and there are some loose ends and overwrought sequences which count as non-enhancing flaws! It’s generally a work of quality, however, and I give Stoker three blood-soaked honeybees!

Friday 15 March 2013

Burl reviews 8½! (1963)

Ciao, ho ho, is Burl! Yes, I’ve seen a lot of classic movies in my day, but one that always eluded my gaze was Fellini’s ! I don’t know why, because it’s right up my street, but I guess everybody has some gap somewhere in their film education! There are people, as I understand it, who still have never seen John Frankenheimer’s Prophecy, for example! Ha ha!
I’ve seen plenty of Fellini pictures of course, including once a marvelous 35mm cinema screening of Casanova! But this picture has to be one of his best! Most of you will know the story: Marcello Mastroianni plays a famous film director named Guido who is preparing a new picture! However, he doesn’t really know what it’s going to be about, and the project is falling apart around him even as his life, particularly his rom*ntic life, is falling apart too! Try as he might to direct all the ladies in his life, their previous tractability has waned along with Guido’s powers of influence!
The story is built from dreams, flashbacks, real life and scenes in which real life collides with movie scenes and probably dreams, fantasies and flashbacks as well! The brilliant staging and beautiful black and white photography keep it all looking good and moving swiftly, and the overall impression is of kaleidoscopic chaos, a groovy disintegration, a headlong loss of control arrested only when the director finally gives up on conventional attempts to regain command and instead marshals his powers of filmmaking!
Ha ha, Guido can really be a not-so-nice guy, but he’s still sympathetic and makes for a grand hero! The flashbacks explain a lot, and in particular a great sequence involving a hefty dancer named Saragina! Nino Rota’s score really works here, and the beachside rhumba is altogether a beautiful piece of filmmaking! All the ladies are very impressive, and I was gladdened to see Barbara Steele, famed from her appearances in Shivers and Piranha, show up as a raven-haired non-Italian!
Most of the last part of the picture takes place around a huge half-built structure that is supposed to be a spaceship set for Guido’s movie! But soon every single person in his life shows up there, and of course there’s a clown parade as well! Ha ha, there has to be a clown parade! It must have been difficult to schedule these scenes – usually in a movie with a large cast, you don’t have everybody in there at once! Those would have been some pretty long call sheets, ha ha!
Well, this is a picture that lived up to my long-germinating expectations of it! It may well be the Fellini picture I like the best (that I’ve seen, haven’t seen them all yet!), and that’s saying something! It’s a True Tale of Filmmaking, and a funny and enjoyable picture! I give three ½ clown parades and an extra half of a pair of sunglasses!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Burl reviews Dreamscape! (1984)

Ha ha, don’t say haw, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review a movie for you! It’s a picture from the 80s in which dreams are invaded! No, it’s not Brainstorm! It’s got government heavies chasing around a psychic person in the hopes of using their amazing powers for nefarious purposes! Ha ha, no, it’s not Firestarter! It’s a picture that stars Dennis Quaid and one that also takes two real words and mashes them together into one made-up word for its title! No, it’s not Innerspace! Give up? That’s right, it’s Dreamscape!

I saw this one in the movie theater, but it’s been many years since then! I’d forgotten what a fine cast this picture has! Dennis Quaid is the lead actor, doing the same cocky smarm bit we see in Innerspace! His leading lady is Kate Capshaw, who thankfully doesn’t scream, wail and moan here nearly as much as she does in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! It’s the supporting cast who really bring this movie up to snuff though! We get Max von Sydow, famed from his role in Hour of the Wolf, plus Christopher Plummer who is well known from The Silent Partner, plus George Wendt from Fletch and No Small Affair, and that all-time magical leprechaun bad guy, David Patrick Kelly of Commando renown! And then of course there’s Eddie Albert as the President! Ha ha, what a gang!
Quaid is a psychic who can move marbles and pick horses, and old Max is the brain professor who wants to draw him back into research and prodding! He’s figured out a way to pop psychics into other people’s dreams, where they can stand in the corner and say howdy or help out if it gets scary! Max and Kate Capshaw hope to use the process to help out the afflicted, like a moustache man who fears wifely infidelity, and a little boy who fears a snakeman! But meanwhile old Chris Plummer has other ideas, the old smoothie! Ha ha, not you too, Fukuda!

The trick effects are variable in quality, it must be said! When Dennis Quaid and a steelworker are dangling precariously from a girder, it’s great! When David Patrick Kelly becomes a snakeman, it’s still great, but fake as a moose! Ha ha, they used Replacement Animation to do this trick effect, and you can see the process pictured above! It looks a little wonky, I guess!

The movie’s not very suspenseful or scary, it has probably the worst score Maurice Jarre ever did, and it’s often silly, but it’s still a pretty enjoyable picture! I think this is thanks to the committed and talented actors, in particular von Sydow and Plummer! Those two fellows really know how to Take It To The Limit, ha ha! Anyway, Dreamscape is a great example of Mid-Budget Sci-Fi Pulp Preposterousness (a category that contains movies like The Philadelphia Experiment and Deep Star Six, ha ha!), and I give it two and a half Armageddon zombies!

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Burl reviews Snowbeast! (1977)

It’s Bur-r-r-r-r-l! Yes, I’m here to review a winter picture, a TV movie called Snowbeast that spooked me royally when I saw it as a youngster! It was hyped for weeks in commericals, or so it seemed, and I knew I had to see it! Ha ha, I actually sat and watched it as my parents fiercely debated the wisdom of allowing me to do so in the next room! I thought it was a pretty great movie, better even than This House Possessed!
I watched it again recently, and I still think it’s pretty great, ha ha! Maybe that means I haven’t grown up in all the ways I should, but I prefer to think that I was simply able to recognize quality when I saw it, even at such a young age! I remember that it was broadcast in the summer, which made its snowy winter setting all the chillier somehow! Because winter can kill you on its own, never mind the bigfoots!
There’s a great bigfoot here, a shaggy white-furred guy who looks remarkably similar to the intentionally fake Bigfoot in Shriek of the Mutilated, ha ha! To tell you the truth, after all these years I didn’t think he’d still be scary – yeti totally was, ha ha! He rips off faces and grabs people by their heads and just mutilates as fast as he can! He’s the worst-tempered bigfoot in movies, with the exception of the one in Night of the Demon, of course!
As has been noted many times, the movie plays like one of those kiddie re-creation movies, not of Raiders of the Lost Ark this time, but of Jaws! Trade the ocean for a ski mountain, and sim sallah bim! Once again, three guys are after a monster who’s cutting into a seasonal community’s tourist trade; this time there’s a lady along too, calling to mind Jaws: The Revenge! (And there’s a love triangle, which brings to mind the original Peter Benchley book!) We have the grandson of the ski lodge owner, the deflated ex-Olympian ski guy who’s asking him for a job, and the skier’s wife, who loves them both! Add Hoss-voiced Sheriff Paraday to the mix, and you have the Yeti’s greatest nemeses!
It’s not just a movie for sasquatch lovers – fans underwhelming of ski footage have plenty to cheer about too! The theory I developed watching all this ski footage was that it was included so that different stations could cut more or less of it out to fit it into their commercial schedules without interfering in the plot! And one of the movie’s greatest assets: Sylvia Sidney, the smoker’s voice queen, as Carrie Rill, the matriarch owner of the lodge! I feel really bad for her when the Winter Carnival is interrupted by the rampaging beast, and the Winter Princess’s crown is trampled before it can even be bestowed!
There’s some fine thespian action here aside from old Sylvia – Bo Hopkins, the towering Man of Blond, is great as the depressed ski champ! He gets a fantastic redemption arc! The sheriff, played by Clint Walker after all, is fine too, and really gives it his all when he first meets up with the creature!
It could use a few more attacks and a little more footage of the creature and less of skiing! There are a few eerie shots of the bigfoot moving through the trees, but I guess they didn’t think it looked too good, so you really get only one or two glimpses of it! It’s still a scary movie, though! I give it three fades to red!

Saturday 2 March 2013

Burl reviews The Annihilators! (1985)

Budda-budda-budda, it’s Burl here, with more action cinema for you! Ha ha, today’s movie is called The Annihilators, and it’s a little action goof-up from the producer of The Boogens! This one wasn’t shot in Utah, though – I think it was made in Atlanta, Georgia! That’s where it’s set, anyway!
It’s a little bit like The A-Team and many other such entertainments! A squad of Vietnam veterans pull together in the modern world to help out (or in this case, avenge) a buddy! It seems that the squad’s life was saved by Joe, who was then shot and put into a wheelchair for life! And then later, in Atlanta, Joe has become a shopkeeper in a downtrodden neighbourhood, where he becomes a victim of the vicious Roy Boy and his gang! Ha ha, Roy Boy!
Squad Leader Christopher Stone, well-known for his roles in The Howling and Cujo, assembles his old team: crazy man Gerrit Graham, of Phantom of the Paradise and Class Reunion; Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Boom-Boom Washington himself; and another fellow, whom they find living in a junkyard, and who likes to take a drink! Together they take up residence in the besieged neighborhood and ally themselves with the local merchants who’ve been squirming under Roy Boy’s pitiless thumb!
It’s a bit like a horizontal version of Enemy Territory in a lot of ways! The bad guys are pretty hissable, though Roy Boy himself is kind of silly! First of all his name is Roy Boy; secondly actor Paul Koslo, who was an effective bad guy in Mr. Majestyk, you’ll recall, plays him like someone doing an impersonation of Martin Short doing an impersonation of a crazy 80s bad guy! Ha ha! It’s pretty entertaining, I will certainly admit!
And you do feel for these poor neighborhood people, and it’s nice to see them standing up for themselves, pouring hot oil on bad guys, bopping them with planks and so forth! Ha ha, a scene in which Boom-Boom saves a crabby neighbor from a big bald bad guy by flipping a throwing star into the back of his head is oddly sweet and tender!
And it’s a pretty violent picture, as I suppose it should be! Lots of people get clobbered, poked, riddled with bullets or exploded! The characters themselves aren’t very compelling – the only real arc is given to the dipsomaniac, who finds true love and throws away the bottle! Gerrit Graham is the most interesting character, and gets the best lines, and it’s pretty disappointing when circumstances lead to his sudden, swift exit from the picture!
For a low-budget action picture made by Utahans, it’s not too bad! It’s like a paint-by-numbers picture half-decently executed by a child you’d have expected to just smear the paint all over it! I give The Annihilators two trips down Hogan’s Alley, whatever that is!

Friday 1 March 2013

Burl reviews Hard To Kill! (1990)

Ha ha, it’s Burl to talk about that rascal Steven Seagal! There’s something sort of nasty and unlikeable about that guy and the persona he’s crafted over the years, don’t you think, despite the environmentalism and Zen? Doing his show where he patrols for illegal immigrants really just sort of confirmed it for ol’ Burl! And yet I’m kind of fascinated with his early movie work, back when they were still playing in movie theaters for at least a little while before assembling on the video shelves!
It’s hard to choose which is the absolute most typical Seagal film of that era, Hard To Kill or Marked For Death! They each have the three-word titles, after all, though it might be argued that they lack the environmental angle of On Deadly Ground and Fire Down Below and are therefore not true reflections of the man! Well, whatever! Ha ha, I’m going to go with Marked For Death as the most typical, but I’m still reviewing Hard To Kill for you today!
The story was actually all laid out on the poster as I recall! Seagal is Mason Storm, a rectilinear cop who manages to record the dirty goods on slimy politician Bill Sadler, fresh from his bad-guy role in Die Hard 2! Ha ha, then he and his family are attacked by masked, gun-toting marauders and apparently killed! But Storm is not killed, merely knocked into a seven-year coma! His survival is kept secret by a cop friend who is, both temperamentally and facially, rather canine! Ha ha, he’s like a big, floppy, friendly dog, and it’s sad because you know in a movie like this he’s probably going to get it! (I can’t actually remember right now if he does or not, even though I just saw the movie the other night!)
Storm wakes up with a hilarious beard that made me say ha ha, and finds himself in the care of a sexy nurse, Kelly Le Brock from Weird Science! Of course he can’t move much, but when an assassin comes for him, he rows his gurney to safety using a mop! Pretty soon he’s fighting fit again, and ready to take his revenge! Well, there’s some limb-twisting chop-socky and some gunplay, though not all that much of either, and eventually the trail leads to Sadler’s mansion, where there is a climax and of course a famous reference to the blood bank!
Well, critically speaking there’s not much to say! The movie is dumb and often dull, but compelling in the way such movies can sometimes be! Seagal pays lip service to the Eastern mysticism he frequently cites as his inspiration, but he doesn’t get goofy enough with it as in movies like The Glimmer Man! And it’s not as gory as Marked For Death, which is disappointing – it’s amazing how much a little tomato paste can liven up a movie like this!
It’s slick, sleepy action, a product of its precise time and star and no other, and for that, and in spite of its many faults and few identifiable virtues, I give Hard To Kill one and a half Oscar night celebrations!