Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Friday 31 January 2014

Burl reviews The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman! (1970)

El lobo fantastic, it’s Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review another effort from Paul Naschy, the Iberian Chaney Jr., who of course also starred in House of Psychotic Women! This picture is called The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman (though I saw it under the title Blood Moon), and it’s one of the many movies in which old Naschy plays his tragic continuing character Count Waldemar Daninsky!
Having evidently been “killed” in the previous installment of the Daninsky saga, this picture opens with old Waldemar on a slab as a haughty coroner digs out the silver bullets from his chest! Ha ha, this proves an unwise gambit, as Waldemar soon sprouts a shaggy growth on his face and puts a biting on the coroner and his pal! Then the bulky lycanthrope moves into a large house in the country, the sort avoided by sensible villagers, especially around Walpurgis Night!
Ah yes, Walpurgis Night! It sits on the opposite side of the calendar as Halloween, but it’s apparently just as spooky, as Waldemar emphasizes to the two nubile young ladies who show up at his castle after they suffer car trouble while hunting for the resting place of a notorious witch! Waldemar is looking for the very same witch, so everyone gets along splendidly! Ha ha, one of the ladies even falls in love with Waldemar!
But of course there are complications! The witch is also a hemogobbler, and she’s resurrected easily enough when one of the ladies cuts herself over the grave! Isn’t that always the way, ha ha! Then for a while we get alternating werewolf and vampire attacks, some of them pretty bloody but not memorably so! The vampiress is often shown approaching her victims in slow motion and this produces a genuinely eerie effect – I think it’s more successful here than it was in those Blind Dead pictures, and this picture came first!
But for the most part it’s a pretty talky picture, and you have to wait a long time for the promised monster mash! The climax, when it comes, is a bit of a disappointment! Waldemar spends the whole picture worrying and warning about the horrors of Walpurgis Night, but not a whole lot seems to happen on that fateful evening! Nothing more out of the ordinary than has already been occurring, anyway!
So that’s too bad, but the matted werewolf makeup and Naschy’s committed performance from beneath it will certainly keep you interested! There are pretty ladies and spooky scenes, and a monster battle with a foamy disintegration at the end – ha ha, what more do you want! I’m going to give The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman two painted-on widow’s peaks!

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Burl reviews The Paper! (1994)

Extry, extry, it’s Burl, here to review a newspaper picture for you! Ha ha, yes, newspaper pictures are another subgenre I’ve always liked, and this one, Ron Howard’s The Paper, might well be the last contemporary broadsheet film that was ever or ever will be made! So that’s why I watched it – though it knew it not at the time, it’s a little piece of history!
It’s got a bit of an ensemble feel to it, ha ha, and also comes off like a workplace sit-com! The main character is Henry, played by well-known funnyman Michael “Gung Ho” Keaton, and he’s the editor of a tabloid paper in New York! Yes, it’s the type of paper that uses words like “straphanger,” “torso” and “slayfest” in the headlines, just the sort David Letterman warned us about! Somehow Glenn Close is working with him, carrying herself like she’s Anna Wintour, and the whole enterprise is bossed by good old Robert Duvall, famed for his role in Jack Reacher!
There’s a bother involving two businessmen murdered in Brooklyn, and the two innocent black kids who are scapegoated for the crime! Henry gets information hinting at their inculpability even as his paper is preparing to crucify the kids in the court of public opinion, ha ha! Then it’s a Race Against Time, as the proof must be confirmed before the true story can be run, and all the while various minidramas are popping like fireworks around the main plot!
The picture’s value lies in its magnificent temporal placement, which locates it as probably the most modern newspaper story that ever will be made! Just a couple of years before the Internet really became a thing, this is a movie where a truck drives past and hurls out a stack of the morning paper to chipper newsboys, like Sweet Smell of Success, or The Speed Reporter for that matter! Ha ha, it’s marvelous! And The Net would come out less than a year later! I found it an altogether wonderful period piece, except for the boring domestic stuff!
There are plenty of ringers and a few dingers in the supporting cast! Randy Quaid from The Wild Life and Christmas Vacation plays the most eccentric of the newspaper staff – he fires a gun in the office and receives only a mild reprimand – and familiar faces like Jack "D.O.A." Kehoe, Lynne “Streets of Fire” Thigpen, Jack “Inside Llewyn Davis” O’Connell, and of course Clint “Ticks” Howard and Howard pére, Rance, known for his bit part in Innerspace! The newspaper is of course owned by Jason Robards, enjoying a promotion from his All The President’s Men days! And Henry’s very pregnant wife is played by Marisa “The Toxic Avenger” Tomei, who in real life, I understand, loves traffic cones!
Ha ha, it got a few accolades on its release, but I found it rather cartoonish! Many of the situations and characters are stock, and it has a real Hollywood feel to it, without the grit of a true-blue newspaper movie, as I reckon them at least! Ha ha, but it’s professionally done, with some good moments sprinkled here and there; but mostly it’s the sort of thing that I suspect would play better today as a salty-tongued TV show! I give The Paper one and a half punchups in the print shop!

Sunday 26 January 2014

Burl reviews Lassiter! (1984)

Hut hut, it’s Burl! That’s right – Burl talking! I’m here to review a picture that’s long been forgotten and swept into the dustbin, and that picture is called Lassiter! Ring any bells? Ha ha, I thought not!
You might be more familiar with the picture’s star, Tom Selleck, who of course is well known for his roles in Terminal Island and Midway, and, of course, High Road to China! He stars as Lassiter, of course, who is a jewel thief living in pre-war London for reasons of his own! Lassiter seems to have a pretty good life: he creeps around in the houses of the rich, plunders their valuables and then goes home to his taxi dancer girlfriend, Jane Seymour – Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman herself!
But then suddenly an extremely angry Bob Hoskins shows up in the company of a meek FBI man (played by Joe Regalbuto from The Sword and the Sorcerer) and demands that Lassiter must steal diamonds from the Nazis! Ha ha, Lassiter doesn’t want to, but they pressure him pretty hard! The rest of the picture involves Lassiter refusing this offer he can’t refuse, and planning the job, and then figuring out how he can get away from the nasty Hoskins, who actually presents more of a threat than the Germans!
It’s June of 1939 in this scenario, so the war is a couple of months away from being on in earnest! I guess then it makes sense that the Nazis would never seem particularly threatening, but on the other hand they make such attempts to create nasty antagonists – the sadistic dragon-lady played by Lauren “Malone” Hutton, and a brutal henchman essayed by none other than Dim from A Clockwork Orange – that the failure is particularly notable, and egregious!
For most of its running time, the picture seems to be completely twist-free, with everyone expressing their motivations and intentions with complete honesty! Ha ha, thankfully the last act features a bit of double-dealing, but it’s too little and too late I’m afraid!
Selleck and his period-inappropriate moustache engage in a few lite-action scenes, but they’re never very exciting, and are scored with completely the wrong sort of music! Sure, the tootling jazz music may be of the time, but it drains the picture of any suspense or excitement in might otherwise have managed! Ha ha, why not use, say, the sort of music that you’d have found in the crime movies of 1939? A much better choice!
The picture had a medium-decent budget, and some talented people behind the camera! But it’s not the lavish style-fest the poster implies, and is often a little bland in its execution! The director (a nice guy – ha ha, I worked with him once!) mostly does TV, and that shows here, I think, even if he does try to spice things up with a little nudity and kinkiness! Ha ha, and the Nazi dragon lady bit is so ludicrously overdone as to be ha-ha-halarious!
The thing that might have saved the picture, even in the absence of style, suspense and complex plotting, would have been a performance of Cary Grant-level charisma from Selleck! But, sadly, he’s pretty boring here! He manages to deliver a few lines pretty well (“Why, has my hair turned white?”), but there’s no pep to his performance, and very little to the film itself either! I give Lassiter one and a half end credits theme songs by Taco!

Friday 24 January 2014

Burl reviews D.O.A.! (1988)

Hi, it’s Burl here again! I’m reviewing a picture I saw in the theatre back when it was released in the spring of 1988, and I’ve got to tell you, ha ha, I have no idea why I would have bothered! There are a few pictures in this category, like I Love You To Death, The Presidio, Gung Ho, Hook, Howard the Duck, Stanley & Iris, Green Card and Volunteers! All of these I saw on their original runs in the theatre, and why would I have decided on these and ponied up my hard-earned samoleans for them? Ha ha, who knows! Probably because of ladies!
The particular picture I’m talking about is D.O.A., a remake of a fine Edmund O’Brien picture from the 50s! The only reason I can think of for going is that I felt like seeing something on the big screen, and my only alternatives at that time were movies like Switching Channels, Moving, Vice Versa and Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach! Bleah, ha ha!
D.O.A. features the grand reunion of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan from Innerspace! Ha ha, Quaid plays Dexter Cornell, a professor of literature at some unnamed college, and he’s the same sort of guy we saw in ‘Salem’s Lot: the once-promising writer with three acclaimed if uncommercial books to his credit, who along the way has lost his muse! But he has another stock character in his orbit, the young student with a yet-unpublished book of unparalleled genius!
But the student plummets from the top of the building, and soon D.O.A. plays its only decent card: the gimmick of the protagonist being poisoned and trying to find his own murderer before the slow-but-not-slow-enough-acting toxin finishes him for good! Then his ex-wife is fatally bonked on the head, and before you know it, two cops played by Brion “Blade Runner” James and Jack “The Wild Life” Kehoe are on his case, calling him a dirty, no-good murdering so-and-so!
Then there’s a bunch of crazy malarkey involving Charlotte Rampling and her family troubles, and this ties in with the dead student, but – and I don’t want to spoil anything here, but – it actually has nothing to do with anything, and the bewilderment of all the characters when they realize this is actually pretty funny! Meanwhile Daniel Stern, well-known from Get Crazy, plays a character who seems to have little narrative function, and, ha ha, you know what that means!
Where does Meg Ryan fit into all this? She plays another superfluous character, a person so ephemerally unnecessary to the plot that she must be superglued to the hero in order to keep her around! Ha ha, I guess she was supposed to be an audience surrogate, or maybe just another red herring, but since she was America’s Sweetheart at the time, nobody would have thought she might be the culprit!
The picture was made by the people who brought us Max Headroom, a show I never watched! They also made Super Mario Bros., a video game picture I’ve never seen; and after this, evidently, they hung it up! On the evidence of this picture they clearly fancied themselves stylists, but I have to call bushwa on that, ha ha! They’re remaking a film noir, so we get lots of venetian blind shadows (the sort where you can practically see the shadows of the C stands holding them up as well) and people sweating a lot and constantly talking about how hot it is even though it’s Christmas!
In sum, this is not a very good picture! Why did I see it in the theatre? Ha ha, the real question is why did I watch it again! I give D.O.A. one nail gun that somehow fires like an AK-47!

Monday 20 January 2014

Burl reviews The Last Stand! (2013)

Ach, ach, it’s Burl, here to review some geezer action! This is The Last Stand, one of these new Arnold Schwarzenegger pictures! Arnold, of course, is famous from pictures like Total Recall and Junior, and now of course he’s appearing in movies like this, where he looks like what he wishes he would look like as the fifth head on Mount Rushmore if it was carved out of a big jerky slab and appended to the mountain by means of a rebar substructure! Ha ha!
As he has so many times before, he plays an Austrian fellow with a curiously un-Austrian name! This time he’s Ray Owens, a bordertown sheriff who becomes convinced that a big-time Mexican drugs lord in a superfast car is racing his way in a bid to cross the frontier by a hastily-erected bridge! This criminal is busted out of Forest “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” Whittaker’s custody by an elaborate, ridiculous plan, and from then on it’s ai-yai-yai-yai reeba-reeba time!
Ray Owens is of course no ordinary small-town sheriff, but an ex-big city cop with a story to tell! Ha ha, it would have been more interesting, I think, if he’d been just as inexperienced as his deputies, but managed to best the drugs lord anyway! In other ways the picture tries to undercut the action movie clichés Schwarzenegger himself did so much to cement in his earlier pictures! When one unlucky deputy fatally catches some lead, for instance, the ropey muscleman takes him in his arms and cries with unrestrained grief! Naturally there are also a number of Old Guy jokes, of the sort we find in those Expendables and RED pictures!
In the meantime there’s plenty, and I do mean plenty, of scenes involving the fast car, and probably at least a dozen snap-zooms into the gearshift as the drugs lord punches it into some stratospheric high speed! There’s a little bit of plot business involving a turncoat Fed, but not nearly as much is made of this as I expected! It all leads to a curiously, but pleasingly, unspectacular final punchfight on the jerry-built bridge! And the most curious thing of all is that the drugs lord isn’t even killed at the end, merely hurt a lot and taken into custody! I liked that, I must say! Of course there are plenty of underlings, particularly Peter “The Big Lebowski” Stormare, who do fall to the roughest of justice, so audience bloodlust is sated in plenty!
I would like to pay a quick tribute to the supporting cast! There’s Whitaker and Stormare of course, but you also get Luis Guzman as a deputy and a very special cameo from Harry Dean “The Long Ride Home” Stanton, who comes to a pretty sticky end, ha ha! It's a great bunch of fellows, and they really help make this an entertaining bouffant of a picture!
The picture is the North American debut of Kim Jee-Woon, the fellow who made I Saw the Devil, and I find it an interesting comparison to Stoker, which of course is the North American debut of Kim’s fellow countryman, Chan-wook Park! Ha ha, you’d be hard pressed to find two more different pictures! Of course that’s because they’re very different directors, but these are two pictures from Asian directors with baroque styles each releasing their first big Hollywood pictures within a few months of one another, so you can see why they invite comparison! Ha ha! But I’m not going to follow through by revealing which one I think is the better movie, except to say that I enjoyed The Last Stand on its own modest merits, and I’m going to give it two flying Dean Stantons!

Friday 17 January 2014

Burl reviews Gotcha! (1985)

Ha ha, gotcha, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review this goofnugget from the 1980s, which I pretty well ignored from the day of its release until just very recently, when I sat down to watch it on VHS cassette! I’ve ignored it all these years, sure, but I’ve also secretly wondered: is this picture any good? It comes from the director of Eddie Macon's Run, so it could go either way!
Well I’ll tell you: it’s not completely terrible! I mean, ha ha, it’s not tremendously good either, or even much good, but it was a little better than I thought it would be! It has a few small laffs here and there, some authentic location photography, and a bad guy who looks like a German version of Kurtwood Smith from Robocop!
The story begins with the king nerd himself, Anthony Edwards, known for his work in Pet Sematary II and The Sure Thing, playing a campus paintball game with his buddies at his California university! Ha ha, pretty nerdy all right, and I’m not sure how well such a game would go over today with the campus police! (Ha ha, same deal with Final Exam, if you’ve ever seen that fine picture!)
Despite resistance from his parents, played by Alex Rocco from Stick and TV actress Marla Adams, a young, naïve and virginal Anthony heads to Paris with his pal, played by Nick Corri from A Nightmare on Elm Street! Soon Anthony meets the girl of his dreams, a heavily accented Linda Fiorentino, known for her roles in After Hours and The Moderns!
As with the dire Target, much of the movie was shot rather dully on location in Paris and Berlin, but for the most part could have been filmed anywhere! The exception is some decent use made of the Spandau Citadel, but otherwise the various alleyways and gated checkpoints look pretty backlot!
Of course Anthony gets caught up in some kind of vague Cold War-era espionage thing (the import or even contents of the McGuffin film roll is never even revealed, ha ha), and loses his love-cherry to Linda, but the mild surprise is that it doesn’t happen in that specific order! Not so surprising is the moment late in the film where Fiorentino finally drops her fake accent, ha ha! You wait the whole picture for that moment, because it’s so manifestly in the cards! She actually doesn’t to a terrible job of it, but it’s a well-used plot convention in pictures like this, and therein lies the obviousness!
Like pre-wall-fall Berlin, this movie is divided into partitions! The thriller aspects of the picture are the least convincing, and the romance is not much better, but the comedy is at least fitfully amusing! The checkpoints between these districts are apparently nigh impassable, though, and the movie flips around between them like a bored late-night channel surfer!
It’s all pretty contrived and predictable, but there was some ineffable quality I enjoyed about it! Its lightheartedness, maybe! Anyway, Gotcha! is not the worst quindilla on the block, and I give it two followings!

Thursday 16 January 2014

Burl reviews When Worlds Collide! (1951)

Good day, it’s Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to tell you all about the end of the world, George Pal-style! Pal is the pal who brought us The War of the Worlds, but this picture, When Worlds Collide, is an earlier and much more comprehensive tale of planetary destruction!
Right from the start this stood out from other 1950s sci-fi spectaculars, because the hero is not a scientist, nor even particularly a brain wizard! He’s a simple courier, a pilot whose job is transporting mysterious black boxes from one place to another and not asking any questions! This time, through a minor subterfuge, he finds out what he’s carrying, and he isn’t too pleased about it! Ha ha, it’s astronomical proof that the earth will within months be completely destroyed by a hurtling space-star!
The plot thickens from there! The scientists who’ve figured all this out get laughed at by the UN and some other scientists, and so they hook up with some millionaires and commence to building a spacecraft which will, everyone hopes, take them safely to a planet hurtling along in the star’s orbit! Ha ha, then there’s a gentlemanly romantic triangle right out of It Came From Beneath the Sea, and there’s lots of hand-wringing from our beak-nosed hero about whether he should go along on the spacecraft ride!
I do admit I quite liked that aspect – that he’s not really qualified to go along on the ride, and knows it, and genuinely wishes to demur from the trip for selfless reasons! Of course when he’s presented with a legitimate, if fictional, scenario in which his presence has value, he’s pretty quick to claim his seat, ha ha!
And then there’s the nasty millionaire, whose job is to be as one-note cynical as the scientists are one-note humanitarians! The resulting debates are pretty basic, but still more nuanced than I for one am used to seeing in 50s sci-fi! Less nuanced are the two score candidates for space-salvation: all of them are as lily-white as you could imagine! There’s some talk of other countries building their own spaceships, but still, a little diversity would have been pretty cool!
Still, we have nice trick effects, glorious Technicolor, and fine paintings and designs from Chesley Bonestell, whose art has graced everything from The War of the Worlds to Shellac records! The picture moves at a pretty good clip and really does feature plenty of destruction! The world really does end at the end of it, and though the handful of survivors indeed do make it to the unbelievably habitable planet, it’s still pretty grim to think of everybody else on earth perishing in earthquake, fire and flood! Yikes!
It’s a fine disaster picture, and I was glad to finally catch up with it! I give When Worlds Collide three rail-riding spaceships!

Friday 10 January 2014

Burl reviews Action U.S.A.! (1988)

Ha ha, sorry about your house! It’s Burl here once again, with an action picture that is just a little too self-aware to qualify as Ridiculous Action (see Deadly Prey for a true example!), so it sits off somewhere within shouting distance of the Andy Sidaris movies, but with only a fraction of that oeuvre’s devotion to the female form!
This one is called Action U.S.A., and I’d never heard of it before the other day, when I scored a hockey bag full of VHS tapes from a pawn shop having a big giveaway! I dropped this one in the bag knowing nothing about it, then read a few reviews of it, all of which promised a rare treat: an octane-fuelled dynamo of a picture exploding with frantic action!
Well, ol’ Burl licked his lips and dived right in! Ha ha, location: Texas! A Good Old Boy named Billy Ray has stolen the mob’s diamonds again, and Don Supremo Cameron Mitchell, famed from his appearances in Gorilla At Large and Without Warning, is not happy about it! Meanwhile Billy Ray heads home to make sweet love to Carmen, his girlfriend! No sooner has the silver-tongued thugpoke watched Carmen take off her shirt and said “Those are lookin’ good,” when two sneering thugs grab him and hang him by his feet out of a helicopter for about two hours, then drop him in a lake! Finally they shoot him, and that’s when Clay and Panama, our Lethal Weapon-like heroes, appear on the scene, and then the chase is on!
Ha ha, Clay and Panama! Clay wears a leather jacket and looks like a normal guy in most shots, but from certain angles he resembles Mac from Mac and Me! Panama, meanwhile, is a nerdier version of Carl Weathers! Both of them exhibit a surprising amount of intelligence and charm for characters in a picture like this!
While the photoplay was not quite the unstoppable rocketsled of mayhem and twisted metal I had been led to expect, it was close enough for horseradishes! The initial thugs are blown up or crashcarted, and two new ones take their place, along with the fearsome Drago, a duster-sporting hitman played by Ross “Armed Response” Hagen! And his response is most certainly armed! There’s plenty of fireballs and flying bullets and bodies of guys proving themselves to one another hurtling through barroom walls and off bridge abutments!
And who is the granite-faced FBI boss? Why it’s Lonnie “Lucky Man” Johnson himself, William Smith, whom we know from pictures as diverse as Fast Company, Eye of the Tiger and Maniac Cop! Ha ha, great casting all around! Aside from the leads and the old ringers, the rest of the cast is made up of stuntmen, the demographic for and by whom this picture was made! Sometimes when stuntmen make a picture you get a Cannonball Run or a Hooper, sometimes you get an Action Jackson, and sometimes you luck into an Action U.S.A.!
It’s a picture well aware of its own excess, and it contains a few welcome dashes of weirdness; but it’s not a goofy wink-and-nod satire, which is very refreshing! Any doubt as to the picture’s bedrock sincerity must be laid to rest by the heartfelt thanks in the end credits to the Brazos Motel, Waco, Texas, where the cast and crew stayed! That must have been quite a party! Ha ha, I give Action U.S.A. two and a half babbling old gas jockeys!

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Burl reviews Caddyshack! (1980)

Fore! Ha ha, no, it’s just Burl here with a golf movie for you! Yes, quite naturally it’s Caddyshack – no Tin Cup here, ha ha! (Although if I’m going to review all the movies, I guess I’ll have to see that one eventually!) You might be saying “Ha ha, Burl, is this another one of the 80s comedies you’ve never seen before?” I say no, it’s not – in fact I’ve seen Caddyshack many times before!
But I recently acquired a copy on VHS, so I thought I’d give it another look! It’s a pretty good test tape to use when you want to show off your system, or just give it a workout! Ha ha! And of course it has those marvelous gopher trick effects, where he dances to that terrific Kenny Loggins song! The last four words of that sentence, by the way, are reserved exclusively for ‘Theme From Caddyshack (I’m Alright)!”
The picture’s about golf, and features four separate comedy-men doing less a quartet of characters sharing a coherent story than a bunch of routines at an ad-hoc variety show with a vaguely sporting background! Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy “Funny Farm” Chase, Ted Knight and Bill “Ghostbusters” Murray mostly orbit around one another, doing their thing (nouveau-riche oaf; playboy smoothy; uptight snob and drooling halfwit, respectively) and only occasionally interacting with one another in scenes which mostly seem made up and improved on the spot just to provide that interaction!
So it’s not a plot-heavy picture, ha ha! What plot there is comes from the Meatballs school of dramaturgy: a younger lad required the guidance of the older comedy gents around him! This time the kid is older and not as drippy, and it’s Chase who offers him council, not Murray! In the meantime there’s a clash of values between Dangerfield, who’s so gauche he’s droit, and Knight, who does the uptight patrician-gone-sour thing better than just about anyone!
Chevy Chase is meant to be a rich man and a superior golf player, but there’s not much more to him! Murray tells a great, extemporized story about the Dalai Lama and otherwise chases the animatronic gopher! There’s an Irish waitress and (I think?) two individual rich blondes! Or they might have been the same person – I’m just not sure! Ha ha!
It’s ramshackle and the seams sure do show, but it’s a funny picture with a good heart, and there’s a reason it’s lasted as a favourite for as long as it has! I’ve never seen the sequel, but I understand it to be dire, even though it was directed by Allan “Get Crazy” Arkush! Caddyshack is a breezy and untroubled concoction, and I give it three free bowls of soup!

Burl reviews Sightseers! (2012)

Eh wot? wot? Cor, it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, it’s me here with a review of a British picture for you, and a rather new one it is too! It’s a picture called Sightseers, a murder-comedy from the fellow who made the excellent Kill List! That one made me feel so bad I didn’t even review it for you, though I may yet make an attempt! But of course, his newer picture is a delightful laff-massacre, ha ha!
It’s not actually that delightful, because it trades heavily in not just bloody murder, but also the kind of social friction and awkwardness this director and many of his countryfellows, seem to revel in! There’s a nasty, dingy edge to it all too, a sort of repeated eye-poking that might, in less skilled hands, seem rather juvenile!
None of these things are necessarily criticisms, ha ha! It’s more a matter of taste, really! I’ll fill you in on the story: a plane-Jane named Tina is setting off with her boyfriend of three months, the bald-n-bearded Chris, on a camper vacation of Blighty tourist traps! The early scenes of the picture involve Tina and her old mum, who for my money is the best and funniest actor in the picture! There was more of her than I’d have expected, but I still wished there was even more!
The bulk of the story is Chris getting into little contretempses with people, then killing them, because after all he’s a homicidal maniac! The bulk of the jokes are how blandly Tina reacts to this, and the arc of the story is that she comes to enjoy the killing, and eventually proves much more devoted to it than Chris! Just about everyone they encounter, in the meantime, becomes their victim!
All of this is filmed in high style, though not in a garish Natural Born Killers sort of way! It reminded me of a more kill-crazed version of Prince Avalanche – largely a two-hander, simply shot for the most part, punctuated by beautifully composed shots of natural beauty! Ben Wheatley – the director, that is – is able to work up a really unique bad-time tone in his pictures, and though this one isn’t as accomplished on any level as Kill List was (though it’s funnier than Kill List, ha ha!), it’s still pretty recognizable as the same fellow’s work! I’m looking forward to seeing his next one, A Field in England!
Sightseers isn’t exactly the greatest thing since micturée, but it’s well done and amusing – and of course, it’s a recreational vehicle picture, which gets it extra points from ol’ Burl! (That barely helped out Alien Predators, though, ha ha!) I’m going to give Sightseers two big pencils!

Sunday 5 January 2014

Burl reviews Ruthless People! (1986)


Ha ha and hello! It’s Burl here with yet another comedy from the 80s, like Armed and Dangerous or Funny Farm! Now, usually I watch these things because I’ve never seen them before, but in the case of Ruthless People, I couldn’t remember whether or not I’d ever watched it! Much of it seemed familiar, but that may simply have been because, well, much of it is familiar! Ha ha!
It’s one of those comedies where the laffs are meant to come from how horrible everyone is! The most horrible of the people here is Danny “The Van” DeVito, a rich clothing magnate who stole his most profitable idea from meek, mousy Supergirl! Ha ha, in response, Supergirl and her husband, Judge “Beverly Hills Cop” Reinhold, kidnap DeVito’s wife Bette Midler; but of course DeVito hates her and was planning to kill her anyway, so he looks on the kidnapping as a gift!
The picture settles into a cycle of misunderstanding which repeats itself and makes the movie seem much longer than it is! DeVito’s girlfriend, played by Anita Morris from Blue City, believes the kidnapping is a ruse and DeVito has gone through with the killing, which her own secret boyfriend, Bill Pullman of The Serpent and the Rainbow, witnesses, or at least thinks he does! Pullman’s character is the classic movie dum-dum, ha ha, and many of the jokes revolve around this!
The rest, as I say, revolve around DeVito’s amorality and Midler’s viciousness! For some reason during her kidnapping she embarks on a program of self-improvement, and eventually finds herself in league with Supergirl and the Judge! Art J. Evans, who plays a cop in every movie except when he played a st*ner in Class Reunion, plays a cop! He’s hot on various ever-mutating trails which lead, so he thinks, to a variety of crimes! William “The Island” Schilling meanwhile plays the chief of police, and Cheshire-grinned Gary Riley, known for The Wild Life and Stand By Me, plays a Heavy Metal Kid!
For a while the picture maintains a certain plausibility, of the type you might find in a twisty film noir! Soon, though, dopey plot developments – the police chief, the maniac – scupper any scrap of realism, and the movie pretty well goes out the window! It has a silly action-y climax, like all 80s comedies did, and then there’s a happy ending in which the sympathetic characters walk off down a beach into, more or less, the sunset!
This picture made itself a bit of a reputation on release because of the salty language and other R-rated shenanigans! That sets it apart, sort of, from the other movies like it, but nowadays, with foul tongues flapping all across movie and television screens, that mildly novel aspect is lost! There are some witty bits, and the performances are just fine all around, but there’s not much you can really point at and say “Ha ha, now this is why you should watch Ruthless People!” It’s streets ahead of something like Protocol, but that’s not saying much! So ol’ Burl is going to point at it and say “Ha ha, I give Ruthless People one and a half bedroom killers!"

Burl reviews Ticks! (1993)

Buggy-wuggy, it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I’m here to review a bug movie, and a pretty slimy one it is too! The picture is called Ticks, and although it comes from the director of Amityville 1992: It’s About Time, it contains no appearance from the great Dick Miller!
But it most certainly contains ticks! The story is pretty unimaginative: a group of city youth are transported for vaguely therapeutic purposes to a broken-down Jason-style summer camp in the wilderness! Meanwhile, Clint “The Paper” Howard is using special steroids to grow pot, and these produce gloopy things that break open to release giant wood ticks! There are almost as many of these gloopy things in the picture as there are ticks, ha ha!
Meanwhile extra trouble is caused by a separate group of “cash croppers,” a drooling, moss-toothed über-redneck and his plummy, ascot-wearing partner! The latter looks like a low-rent Gary Busey, but turned out to be Richard “The Premonition” Lynch’s brother! There’s lots of highly ignorable character interplay, and then many scenes of slime and gloop and tickbites!
Ha ha, the head of the camp or socio-therapy program or whatever it is, is played by the fellow from Newhart! No, not Bob Newhart, not Larry or Darryl or Darryl, but the other one, the bosom buddy! And the main kid is the junior Woody from Radio Days, Seth Green! Otherwise the cast is mainly unknowns or relatives of more famous people!
At this point in the great and ever-evolving history of low-budget sci-fi/horror pictures, things were pretty dire! There was not a lot of high-quality material showing up at that time, and the idea that Ticks, a mediocre picture at best, is one of the high points, bears this opinion up!
On the other hand, the picture appeared at the end of an era, trick effects-wise! Ha ha, if it had been made a year or two later, those bugs probably would have been computer-made, would have looked no better than a packet of honeycrunch corn, and consequently there would be little to no reason to watch it today! But for those of us who love little rubber monsters and blood and slime, it works pretty well, because they did a fine job with those tick effects! Ha ha!
A lot of the footage – anything involving Clint Howard, for instance – was shot after the bulk of the movie was made, and it does indeed have a pasted-on feel! But thanks to these shots we get a lot of extra goop and more of the goop sacs too! Ha ha, and that certainly helps!
I can’t suggest this is a very good picture overall, though, and boy do its defects in craft show when you’ve just watched Aliens, with which it shares a scene involving people in a room menaced by a skittering crablike creature! In Aliens it’s scary and suspenseful, and in Ticks, well, it’s not! Ha ha! I give Ticks one and a half flit combs!

Saturday 4 January 2014

Burl reviews Jurassic Park III! (2001)


Growl snarl munch, it’s Burl! I’m here to review another in the DVD Threequel series, which is to say third movies in a franchise which I’ve never seen and am only catching up with because I own the DVD multipacks which contain them! Poltergeist III was one of these, and one of these days I suppose I’ll watch Robocop III as well!
This one is of course Jurassic Park III, which Steven Spielberg did not direct! He turned the reins over to former trick effects man Joe Johnston, and in all sorts of ways you can really tell! Gone are the slow-building dinosaur approach suspense scenes, in which their arrival is presaged by little ripples in a cup of water! This time around there’s an ingested cell phone that could have been used for that purpose, but Johnston muffs it! There’s also a scene which copycats the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which Indy’s friends, believing him to have gone over a cliff, gather at the edge to look down, while Indy himself strolls up unseen and peers over to see what they’re looking at! Ha ha, the version here involves Sam “In the Mouth of Madness” Neill, and it’s done in such a perfunctory way that it barely registers as the rip-off scene it intends to be! Ha ha!
The story begins with a parasailing mishap similar to the one in Club Paradise! A teenage boy crashes on Dinosaur Island, and his divorced parents, William H. “Fargo” Macy and Téa Leoni engage the reluctant Dr. Neill and his youthful assistant to help look for him! Along for the ride is Michael Jeter from The Money Pit and Drop Zone, and various other mercenary types; none of them last long! Ha ha, dino chow! Anyway, there’s a lot of pointless deception and equally pointless revelation packed into the 90 minute production, and a good dose of ‘saurus action!
That’s the great benefit of this picture, relative to the others in the series at least: it’s nasty and short in the best Hobbsian tradition! It’s also extremely predictable, and in that sense feels more like a theme ride than a movie! But it’s pleasantly tropical, which is why I watched it – it’s pretty cold ‘round these parts, and sometimes a few palm fronds are just what the paleontologist ordered, ha ha!
There’s not much else to say about the picture, really! The cast is above average for this sort of thing, the kid is not as annoying as he might have been, and the trick effects are unsurprisingly excellent! It’s a decent, forgettable popcorn muncher, and I’ll give Jurassic Park III two stinky cell phones!

Friday 3 January 2014

Burl reviews Aliens! (1986)

Hi, it’s Burl – look into my eye! Ha ha, yes, that’s right, I’m here to review the second movie of all the Alien movies for you, James Cameron’s monster-action picture Aliens! I remember being pretty excited when this one came out in the summer of 1986, and boy was I not disappointed! That was a pretty good summer all around, Hollywood movie-wise, because as I recall there was also The Fly, Stand By Me, Maximum Overdrive, Friday the 13th part 6, Night of the Creeps and Manhunter! (Of course, that year also brought us Blue City, Poltergeist II and The Money Pit, so it wasn’t all sweet honey gold!)
Aliens was easily one of the most entertaining movies that year for me! Ripley was a terrific character, perfectly suited to Sigourney “Cabin in the Woods” Weaver! (Ha ha, any relation to Doodles Weaver, I wonder?) But it still makes no sense to me that she would go back to the planet for any reason whatsoever, or that the company would want her to go! Maybe their intention was simply that she be killed on the trip so she couldn’t spread alien stories on Earth, but if so, ha ha, that seems a ridiculously elaborate assassination setup!
There’s a pretty steady build-up – even steadier in the director’s cut version I watched this time around – and then the second half erupts into what seems a series of never ending climaxes! There are aliens everywhere, with the same fondness for ductwork displayed by their late brother in the first film! (But since the little girl, Newt, has survived by hiding in the ductwork, one assumes that at this particular space colony there is simply enough ductwork to go around!) It’s hard to begrudge Bill “Weird Science” Paxton his panic and very vocal dismay with the situation, because Cameron lays on the worse-and-worse with skill!
Great cast for the most part, too! I always appreciated Newt, but never really liked her – something about her voice, I think! Not the actress’s fault though, because she did a fine job! Michael Biehn is okay, but kind of a non-presence – I never thought he was a good actor until The Abyss, in which he sports a moustache and orbits around Planet Ham without ever quite alighting on it! Robotic Lance Henrikson has an appealingly gentle mien, and the space marines in general show off plenty of pep!
The trick effects, particularly the monster effects, are marvelous! And you just can’t beat that big exosuit forklift thing! The planet looks a bit tabletop now and again, and I could have handled a little more Ridley Scott atmosphere, because this picture so stylistically different from its forbear as to be nearly decoupled from it! Maybe that was Cameron’s intent, and I suppose that, as a career stratagem, it worked out for him pretty well!
It’s a terrific popcorn picture, and it works hard to give everyone their money’s worth! It also made for a great double feature with The Fly later that summer, which I went to see even though I’d seen both movies already! For fond recollections and good times, and a score that sounds like Wolfen (but I say ha ha, why not!), I give Aliens three cameo appearances by Jones!