Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Thursday 16 May 2013

Burl reviews Looney Tunes: Back In Action! (2003)

NYAAAAAHHHHH, what’s up, pals? It’s me, Burl! I’d like to review a picture that I’ve just finally gotten around to watching, and that’s Joe Dante’s half-cartoon Looney Tunes: Back in Action! I’ve never been what you’d call a fan of half-cartoons, though I’ve seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Cool World and of course Evil Toons, which, like this picture, features the great Dick “Sorority Girl” Miller! (He could be the only actor to have ever starred in more than one of these half-cartoons, ha ha!) But I’ve never bothered with Space Jam, and probably never will!
Anyway, for whatever reason, I wasn’t the least bit interested in Looney Tunes: Back in Action when it came out, even though I was and am a big Joe Dante fan! Ha ha, after all, he made Piranha, The Howling, Explorers and Matinee, and has been known to sing the praises of Miller! It just seemed like a bit of Hollywood kids' nonsense! But I finally watched it, and thank goodness it was a lot more entertaining than I expected it would be!
That’s squarely because of Dante, I’d be willing to bet! Ha ha, he surely does bring along many of his cultural obsessions, and if you were to make a Venn diagram of Dante’s cultural obsessions and ol’ Burl’s, I think you’d find significant overlap there! Of course I’m not nearly the Warner Bros. cartoon fanatic he is, though I am a longtime and devoted casual consumer, so those aspects – the greater part of the movie, that is to say, ha ha – were not lost on me!
The story begins with tension between Daffy and Bugs, which has to be resolved at the executive level at Warner’s! Meanwhile, elsewhere on the lot, a lowly security guard wishes to become a stuntman, but fails miserably and upsets the actor he’s actually being played by, Brendan Fraser! Ha ha, the “real” Fraser is a mean man, and the security guard played by Fraser is a meek and humble stumblebum, who happens to be the son of the studio’s biggest action star, a James Bond type played by Pierce Brosnan who actually turns out to be a real superspy! He in turn is kidnapped by a psychotic nerd played by Steve Martin, and only Brendan Fraser, the “fake” one, not the “real” one, can save him!
Ha ha, are you following all this? Amid all this plot stuff, they do manage to shoehorn in the cartoon creations! Ha ha, there are plenty of jokes from these loveable characters, and just like in Roger Rabbit, there’s plenty of uproariousness mined from the collision of the physics of our world and that of the cartoon entities who operate by their own physical guidelines!
And then there’s Steve Martin, who gets generally frowned upon in the other reviews of this picture! But no frowning from ol’ Burl! No, his nasal performance, while slightly perplexing, is perfectly cartoonish, as befits the material! His wig is pretty great too! Ha ha, I like how he romances Mary Woronov! That’s a match made in some kind of crazy heaven!  
I know the movie didn’t turn out like Joe Dante wanted it to, and I firmly believe his version would have been much better! But there’s still plenty of entertainment here, a few laffs, and of course Dick Miller! That automatically makes it worth seeing, and I give this effort two Robot Monsters!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Burl reviews Into the Night! (1985)

The clock strikes twelve, and with a sudden ha ha, it’s Burl! I’m here to review an old favourite, a John “¡Three Amigos!” Landis picture called Into the Night! It was not one of his box-office hits, ha ha decidedly not, but it solidly targets one of ol’ Burl’s sweet spots, and that’s the Oddball Studio Picture!

I think you know what I mean! I’m talking about the sort of movie that has very little commercial appeal, and therefore seems an unlikely product of a system in which commercial appeal is the absolute, a-number one priority, with each potential production ruthlessly and scientifically vetted by many unforgiving parties for just that quality before it’s given the green light! And yet Into the Night must at some point have been given a green light, because it exists, but yet, ha ha, aside from a few pretty girls and a little gunplay, it possesses almost none of what we think of as commercially appealing elements!

The lead character is a sad sack insomniac named Ed Okin, played by Jeff Goldblum, ha ha, who discovers that his wife is having an affair! His response is to drive to the airport, where he plans to hop on a plane to Vegas for a wild weekend! Instead he meets a lady on the run played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and embarks on a nutty night of unlikely cameos! Actually, although I always think of this as a One Crazy Night picture like After Hours, it takes place over a night, a day, and I think another night!

Ha ha, and if you want director cameos, belly up! David “Fast Company” Cronenberg appears as a nasty executive; Jack “Tarantula” Arnold shows up walking his dog; Jonathan “Caged Heat” Demme is a cop; Amy “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” Heckerling is a waitress, and so forth! You even get people like the film’s cinematographer, Robert Paynter, and of course Art “Fright Night” Evans and Clu “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2” Gulager! And many, many more!

The movie’s not conventionally funny (though it has laffs!) or suspenseful or moving or exciting, ha ha! The narrative is slack, the characters fairly one-note and the style flat in the classic Landis manner! And yet I find this an enormously entertaining picture, with terrific rewatchability! I can’t really tell you why that is, even though I realize that’s meant to be the point of this movie review blog, ha ha! You’ll just have to trust ol’ Burl, who has certainly never led you astray before! But if pressed, I’d say the cast has a lot to do with it, and the grand nighttime tour of old Los Angeles this picture provides!

And I guess it’s just a movie I watched a lot as a youngster, believing it was sophisticated! Ha ha, that kind of thing sticks with you! Anyway, I’d like to recommend this picture to you, and give it three David Bowie mustaches!

Monday 13 May 2013

Burl reviews Jack Goes Boating! (2010)

Hi… Burl here… to review a movie… where the main character talks quite slowly! I’m talking about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating! I was curious to see what this picture was all about when I heard it existed, since PSH, as I’ll call him for brevity’s sake, tends to make interesting actorial choices, being in movies like Synecdoche New York and so forth! (Ha ha, I liked that picture, and was bewildered and delighted that it ever got made, but that’s a review for another day!)
In Jack Goes Boating, PSH plays Jack, a limousine driver who smokes a lot of weed and leads a sheltered life in which he speaks as infrequently as possible! He listens to reggaemusic and is always seeking out a positive jam! His best friend Clyde is a little more manic, an Hispanic fellow with a frightening-looking wife named Lucy! Clyde likes to help Jack out with his life’s goals, like learning to swim or finding love! These parts of the film are quite touching, and Clyde’s ingratiating smile – which reminded me of Robert Glaudini’s, the star of Parasite, who also, as it happens, wrote Jack Goes Boating, ha ha what a coincidence – makes it that much sweeter!
Soon Jack finds himself going on awkward, strange dates with another awkward, strange person, a co-worker of Lucy’s named Connie! After that it’s a story of how to best attract this lady, and the course of this nascent love runs remarkably smoothly for one of these movies! Only in the final act, where a drugs party breaks out, is the course of true love threatened! But, ha ha, not for long, thankfully!
There are happenstances throughout the picture, like a terrible occurrence that puts Connie in the hospital! It’s a strangely undramatic picture nonetheless, until the last act anyway! And then the drama kind of fizzes up, reduces, fizzes up again, reduces, and so on! It’s pretty realistic that way, ha ha, resulting in just the sort of stylized yet grounded atmosphere many independent drama movies are reaching for but can’t attain! Ha ha, well done PSH!
And of course it all ends with the boating scene promised by the title! I do have to say that I was mislead by the title and poster of the picture, which makes it look like a summer film concerned with summertime leisure activities! In fact it’s a winter picture with many scenes set during extremely cinematic snowstorms! That’s not a problem unless, like me, you prefer to watch your wintertime pictures in the winter (mixing them up, of course, with goodtime warm-weather concoctions); and even then it’s not what you’d call a big problem!
It’s an enjoyable slice-of-life picture, a little contrived maybe, and not particularly hard-hitting in any sense, but it ultimately manages to be just the positive jam its protagonist holds so dear! I’m going to give Jack Goes Boating three smoked toasts!

Sunday 5 May 2013

Burl reviews Bullies! (1986)

Biff bang boom it’s Burl, ha ha! I’ve got a review of a vengeance picture for you – and not just any vengeance, but, as in the delightful Rolling Vengeance, the vengeance we’re talking about here is purely Canadian vengeance! The picture is called Bullies, and whatever other faults it may possess, faulty advertising is not one of them, for the movie certainly contains no shortage of bullies! And nobody likes bullies, ha ha!
The bullies are a family of louts called the Cullens, who lord it over the other denizens of their small British Columbia ski resort town! They’re both rich and violent, though neither condition is properly explained! At the beginning of the picture, they use their big truck to run an elderly couple right off the road, and some time later, a city family who were related to the old couple (but don’t realize they were murdered) come to take over their shop and house!
The city family has problems of their own even before they arrive in this benighted hamlet! The mom has a teenage son, but has divorced his father and remarried a rather milquetoast individual! The stepdad and the son don’t really get along, and after the nasty Cullen family begin their campaign of cityfolk intimidation the gulf widens further, since the son believes his stepdad to simply be a wimp!
Naturally the son befriends a Wise Old Indian, and I thought for sure this character would either be killed or reappear at a critical moment in the climax! I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it turns out that neither happens – the Cullens burn up his totem poles and administer a savage punchdown, and he beats feet like any normal human would! I also thought maybe the craven townsfolk would rise up and help, but they don’t!
But you know who does help out, strangely enough? Thick Wilson! Ha ha, that’s right, the co-star of Sex With the Stars and Strange Brew appears as the town sheriff! He doesn’t want anything to do with policing the Cullens until the end of the picture, when he decides to heroically take a stand for about thirty seconds before they blast him to kingdom come! Ha ha, I’ll tell you, I sure wasn’t expecting Thick Wilson to appear! Plenty of other people maybe, but not Thick Wilson!
Anyway, the Cullens get really nasty before the movie’s over, stooping so low as to perform a rape on the mom! I really dislike those sorts of scenes in movies, but here at least it’s filmed as tastefully as it could be! Still pretty unsavory, though! That’s enough for the son, and he goes on a vengeance hunt, giving the Cullens a taste of their own nasty medicine! And the stepdad, who has been captured, helps out, proving he’s not the wimp everyone thought he was!
Ha ha, this is a violent picture, to be sure! There’s a nasty burnup, an impalement and some pokings! Naturally popguns come into play as well! But this is only the last part of the picture; the first hour or so is mainly a lot of chatter set against the mountains of B.C.! Paul “Humongous” Lynch, the director, is not as good at this sort of thing as his contemporary and countryman, William Fruet, who made a Canadian Vengeance picture called Baker County U.S.A.! (He also made Spasms, ha ha!) Nevertheless, Bullies is a little better than you might expect it to be, and the vengeance itself is pretty satisfying! I give it two hood antler racks!

Friday 3 May 2013

Burl reviews Parasite! (1981)

Hi, it’s Burl comin’ at ya! Ha ha, yes, I’m here with a review of a movie, and this one goes by the name of Parasite! It’s an early picture from the mind of the man with the miniature obsession, Charles Band, the auteur behind Head of the Family and so many others! In his day, Band was a sort of late-model Roger Corman, and though I’ve never cared much for his pictures, I admire the fellow nonetheless!
Parasite, in its theatrical release at least, was a 3-D picture, and Band later followed it up with another dimensional epic, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, which I’ll review for you if I can ever find a copy to watch! Ha ha, haven’t seen that one in years! Both of these were a part of the early-80s 3-D boom which brought us Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13th part 3, Silent Madness and Treasure of the Four Crowns, among others!
Parasite opens with a dream-flashback sequence which fools you into thinking it’s going to be a much more interesting picture than it actually is! A perpetually-sweaty scientist played by Robert Glaudini (the playwright who would later script Jack Goes Boating) has created a pair of parasites, which look like someone put a snake and Mayor McCheese into a telepod! A lab accident leads to one of them nestling inside his abdomen; he packs up the other in a thermos and hits the road! He drives a stolen ambulance through the desert and ends up in a little town called Joshua!
Joshua’s population consists of one elderly café proprietor; a gang of punks led by a featherhair named Reekus; a grumpy pump jockey; a farmer played by Demi Moore (later to become famous in No Small Affair and other films); and Miss Vivian Blaine, who plays an ex-showgirl innkeeper, and whom you might recall from the alien zombie picture The Dark!
It’s the future, apparently – 1992, ha ha! – so everyday things like gas pumps and coffee makers have little Plexiglas accoutrements stuck on them; but otherwise Joshua seems pretty resolutely stuck in the early 1980s! Glaudini flashes his ingratiating smile around town a bit, then sets up shop in Miss Vivian Blaine’s rooming house! After this there’s trouble involving the gang, a Lamborghini-driving bad guy, and, too infrequently, the parasites!
It would be great if there were more parasite attacks and much less dialogue like “Maybe a little rattlesnake tea will loosen your tongue a little!” It’s a very badly-directed production, but there are at least some comfortingly familiar faces in the cast! Rainbeaux Smith, from The Pom Pom Girls, Massacre at Central High and others, appears as a topless lady at the beginning of the picture, and we also get an appearance from Cherie Curie of The Runaways and Twilight Zone: The Movie! Reekus the gang leader is played by Luca Bercovici, who later directed the pretty terrible Gremlins rip-off Ghoulies!
The best thing about the picture is a sort of amorphous 80s quality you can’t pin down or properly explain, but only feel! The grainy, layered quality of the photography is appealing somehow, and the parade of objects or slimeballs launched into the camera make me wish I could see it in its original three dimensions! But it’s really a pretty terrible movie in the end: a plodding, repetitive, badly-written expansion on the dinner scene in Alien! I give Parasite one and a half pipe impalements!

Thursday 2 May 2013

Burl reviews Attack of the Killer Squirrel! (198?)

Hi, Burl here to review another of the strange home-made movies I found in a video store bin a decade ago, and am only getting around to watching now! This one is called Attack of the Killer Squirrel, and judging by the cars and clothing, it appears to have been made some time in the middle 1980s, likely somewhere in Ontario! (There's one more of these left to review, it should be said - and that one is probably the strangest of them all! Ha ha!)
This squirrel picture is similar to one of the other tapes I found, Attack of the Flesh Eating Tree!!, in that it depicts the unexpected aggression of a species previously considered harmless, but is different in many other key aspects! For instance, where the tree picture was shot on video, this one is a Super-8 production all the way! The filmmakers are clearly younger as well – of driving age, but only just! And these fellows had a bit more imagination than the tree filmmakers, though they still aren’t examples of protean cinematic genius as far as I can tell!
The picture begins with people being attacked by a renegade squirrel out in the woods! The little rodent manages to decapitate one of its victims, ha ha, so we get to see a mannequin head rolling around the forest floor! The victim, a policeman, collects his head and runs back to civilization, where he pops his head back on, dons an ascot, and teams up with a grizzled, curmudgeonly squirrel hunter named Quint! Ha ha, that’s where Attack of the Killer Squirrel follows the lead of Grizzly, Blades and Tentacles, and many other such univerbal titles, and becomes a rip-off/spoof of Jaws!
After more attacks and much hubbub involving a pair of craven, comic-relief constables, Quint and the policeman – who frequently removes his head or has it knocked off to humourous effect – drive out to an abandoned playground for a final encounter with the voracious little beast! The squirrel can fly at high speeds, so he’s truly a dangerous adversary! After the failure of a bazooka-like “secret weapon,” the pair must improvise a solution! They take a giant slingshot and fire the policeman’s head at the squirrel, and this flattens the rodent so that it may never kill again! The pair walk off into the sunset, exchanging murmured quips!
Ha ha, speaking of murmured quips, the soundtrack to this peculiar movie demands some attention! You’ve probably seen a few Robert Altman pictures and noted his technique of overlapping dialogue in a naturalistic way: Attack of the Killer Squirrel goes him one better by featuring a constant cacophony of utterances, some of which is intelligible and much of which is not! It’s as if you’re attending a cocktail party at which people are only talking about squirrels, but you have some water in your ears so you can’t properly hear what’s being said! Combined with the stutter and grain of Super-8, this bizarre post-dubbing produces an avant-garde, almost hypnotic effect!
It keeps you watching, I’ll say that much for it! It’s another production made by amateurs for fun, so ha ha, it would be unfair to heap a whole bunch of criticism and negative vibes on it! There’s some imagination here (the death of Robert Shaw in Jaws is recreated on a playground slide, for instance, though this Quint doesn't get eaten), some effort put into the trick effects, and some good-natured playfulness; and on top of all this it was actually shot on film, so I’m going to give Attack of the Killer Squirrel two visible squirrel propulsion wires!

Burl reviews Hollywood High! (1976)

Hi, Burl here to review a Teen Sex Comedy! Ha ha, I remember being thrilled driving past Hollywood High on my first visit to Los Angeles, which after all was the alma mater for movie stars from Judy Garland to Lon Chaney Jr. to Alan Hale Jr! And the whole concept of a “Hollywood High” seemed both unreal and deeply enviable to someone who’d suffered through three years at a boring old regular high school!
Was an even suntan or a wickedly-painted boogie van good for extra credit at Hollywood High? Ha ha, did the students go on field trips to the movie studios and the beach? This truly must have been a unique and exemplary place to get an education, and what better way to get the real story than to watch a movie called Hollywood High!
The movie began just like any old cheerleader or carhop movie, with four girls driving around in a convertible yammering inanities; and ha ha, I have to admit my heart sank a little! But I kept watching! Beer helped (real beer, not the water the characters in this movie drink!), as did the fact that the four ladies – Jan, Candy, Monica and an especially dumb one named Bebe – made their way immediately to the beach to splash around in the surf for minutes on end, clad in the teeny-weeniest string bikinis the mid-70s had to offer! They meet an irritating Mexican stoner stereotype named Frasier Mendoza, and together they all smoke some pot, in a scene with all the solemnity, but none of the consequences, of an After-School Special! Then everybody dances!
Eventually some boyfriends show up, and one of them is called “The Fenz,” and he spends a good deal of time saying “Ayyy!” and “Fenz needs another beer!” and “There can be only one Fenz!” The girls’ adventures involve trying to find a private place to make love with their fellas; orbiting about this stunted spine are encounters with a midget garage mechanic called Big Dick (shades of Malibu Hot Summer!) and a sassy old movie star named June East; classroom scenes with the über-flamboyant Greek History teacher Mr. Flowers or the horny French instructress Miss Crotch; a food fight; and multiple run-ins with a cop! When the cop’s interference becomes too much to bear, they spray him with whipping cream, stuff a banana in his mouth and pickles up his nose, and break a watermelon over his head! Then they pants him, and he turns out to be wearing garters and runs away in fast motion! Ha ha! After that, it’s back to June East’s mansion in the hills, where first The Fenz and then the rest of the boys are treated to a marathon session of geriatric lovemaking! The whole saga ends with the girls running around topless, then turning to the camera and saying, in succession, “This” “Is” “The” “End!”

Ha ha, but even with all of this going on, Hollywood High is a particularly dull and boring 70s Teen Sex Comedy, and it didn’t even provide much insight into what going to Hollywood High in that era was really like! It was the only movie ever directed by the late, legendary Patrick Wright, the actor so familiar from pictures like If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind! and Roller Boogie, so for that reason it has some real curiosity value! There’s also a sequel, which I might review for you some time soon! But for now, I’ll just have to give Hollywood High one hydraulic car lift!

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Burl reviews Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade! (1989)

Ha ha, yi-yi-yi-yi, it’s Burl! I’m here to review the third and should’ve-been-final Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade! This is the one that features a delightful performance from Sean Connery as Indiana Jones’s father, one of the most perfect pieces of casting (Scots accent notwithstanding) since Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl in Popeye!
The Indiana Jones movies are one of those series in which each entry is just a little bit (or, by the time you get to the Crystal Skull, a lot) worse than their predecessor! But all of them, or the first three anyway, qualify as robustly entertaining, if hocus-pocus filled, slabs of primo Hollywood entertainment! Ha ha, ever since I sat in the theatre and stared wide-eyed at the spiders and snakes and melting faces of the original chapter (while idly wondering how Indy could ride a submarine out into the middle of the ocean), I’ve been an unabashed fan of the series!
This installment is as propulsive and spectacular as any of them, while leaning even more on the hocus and the pocus and the soggy scenes of myth-swallowing! It’s all about the search for the Holy Grail, which you’d think would be slightly dangerous territory given the spectacular Monty Python treatment of the same subject just fifteen years earlier! But the Indy picture negotiates that obstacle simply by being very exciting and frequently funny! For a movie which features Nazis, book-burning and a cameo by Hitl*r, it really is quite amusing!
There are lots of glances back toward the other Indy pictures, like a reference to the Ark of the Covenant and a scene involving not snakes or bugs but rats! There are even references to future Spielberg pictures – for example, he does an early version of that gag from Schindler’s List in which a single bullet is used to kill several people standing in a row!
There’s a whole opening sequence in which River Phoenix, star of Stand By Me and Explorers, plays a young Indy, and demonstrates how he collected his chin scar, his fear of snakes, his taste for the whip and his signature headgear all in the same eventful day! Then the movie gives us a few relatively quiet scenes showing Indy in teaching mode and hanging out with Denholm Elliot – I was fond of these scenes in Lost Ark and felt their absence in Temple of Doom – and after that it’s off to the races!
There’s something very 1989 about this picture, as opposed to the staunch 1982ness of the first one, and for that reason alone Last Crusade stands as a lesser entry! The villains, too, are a little weak, even though one’s a N*zi! But I still can’t help but enjoy it, particularly when we get a wonderful zeppelin scene, or Connery says, apropos of his diary, “I should have shent it to the Marxsh Brothersh!"
For these delights and others, I award Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade two and a half Xshs marking the shpot!

Burl reviews Death Warrant! (1990)

Ding-bong-wao, it’s Burl, here to review you an action picture! This is one of those Jean Claude Van Damme movies, but an earlier one! Ha ha, he’s fairly young here, not an old and depressed robot like he was in Universal Soldier: Regeneration! He’s as vigorous a punchfighter as ever in this particular picture, which is known by the title Death Warrant!
This is one of The Muscles From Brussles’s leaner and meaner productions, clocking in at an even 90 minutes just like Commando! It also features a credit for Special Makeup Effects, which I always like to see in an action picture! And indeed there are a few Special Makeup Effects on view here, though in fact the movie wasn’t quite as violent as I expected it to be! That’s all right with ol’ Burl, since violence in pictures isn’t exactly my first priority!
In these earlier Van Damme movies it was always fun to see how they’d explain away his accent! Sometimes he was a French Foreign Legionnaire and sometimes a Cajun, and the logical allez-vite-la-twists reached a sort of apotheosis in Sudden Death, in which he sported an accent merely because, as a lad, his character had spent his summers in Quebec! Ha ha!
Here he plays a Mountie, which is pretty great, because near the beginning, when he’s going rogue in L.A. to catch the nefarious Sandman, a local policechief shouts “This is Los Angeles, ha ha, not Canada! We have procedures!” Ha ha, Rodney King will be glad to hear that, Mister Policechief!
Well, Van Damme ignores this and shoots the Sandman about a half a dozen times, then says “Ha ha, you’re under arrest!” A little while later, those very same Angelinos ask our intrepid Mountie to go undercover at the local prison, where inmates are being spiked through the back of the head! His job is to pretend to be a prisoner and find out who’s behind these brutal pokings!
He does this by immediately asking everyone in the prison who could be behind the brutal pokings, which doesn’t make him look like an undercover policeman at all, ha ha! And then, when the Sandman turns out somehow not to have died when Van Damme blasted him, and is transferred to the prison, the poor Mountie has a lot more trouble all of a sudden! Punchfights aplenty ensue!
There’s a not-bad supporting cast here! George Dickerson, the always-smiling actor from Blue Velvet, plays a character who turns out to be just the sort of fellow anyone who’s seen that film would expect him to be! Benson himself, Robert Guillaume, plays the Wise Old Black Lifer! The nasty head guard is played by Art La Fleur from Cobra and Zone Troopers! Naturally Al “Die Hard” Leong shows up! So it’s a pretty fun gallery of familiar faces!
It’s not a memorable picture, and the director, Deran Serafian, who made Alien Predators, and whose dad made Eye of the Tiger and also the great Vanishing Point, isn’t all that marvelous an action director! The punchfights are a little drab, despite the flashy lighting from DP Russell “Pet Sematary 2” Carpenter! Altogether, I’m going to give Death Warrant one and a half hilarious furnace jumpouts!