Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Friday 28 February 2014

Burl reviews Uncle Buck! (1989)

Hi, bananas! It’s Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review a John Hughes picture I’d never seen before! I thought, ha ha, since I’ve enjoyed many of his other works, like Weird Science and so on, so forth, I should give this one a look too! Plus it has John “Armed & Dangerous” Candy as the titular avunculus, so hey, why not!
The important thing in setting up a high concept late-80s comedy like this is establishing the situation, however unlikely it might be! We have a family, and a well-to-do one it is from the look of their giant house! Presumably they live in Shermer, the same Chicago suburb wherein dwell Ferris Bueller, the Breakfast Club gang, the lady from Sixteen Candles and so forth!
But, ha ha, they have a problem! More of an inconvenience, really! The spectacularly unphotogenic mother’s father is ill, and they must go to whatever Midwestern backwater he lives in to offer succor, and for some reason both parents must make this trip, and for some other reason the teenage daughter can’t be relied on to provide care for the two younger children (quite reasonable, actually); and for some other reason entirely, adequate care cannot be found! Enter Uncle Buck, who’s meant to be a family black sheep but in reality is a dogmatic moralist who might give the sternest Puritan a run for his money!
The teenage daughter is a grim specimen indeed: she’s perpetually angry for no particular reason, much like the sister in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and she’s rude to poor Uncle Buck and mean to her little brother, who’s played by the kid from those Home Alone pictures! Macauley Conklin is his name!
Meanwhile Uncle Buck has his own problems, which revolve around his ladyfriend, Amy “Streets of Fire” Madigan! Ha ha, when will this oversized manchild finally grow up? It’s the dynamic we see in so many 1980s comedy pictures! But here, as wonderful as John Candy is – and he has many great moments – he never really convinces as a dyspeptic layabout! Ha ha, he’s just too upright of a fellow!
There’s not much of a plot here, and few jokes that are funny, and not much that sticks in the memory! For the first half of the thing, such was its polytetrafluoroethylene character that I wasn’t sure whether or not I'd even seen it before! It turns out I had not! And now that I have, I think there remains only one or two Hughes-directed pictures I haven’t watched, and at least one of them concerns a little girl and a grumpy TV star! Ha ha, I won’t be rushing out to find that one, I don’t think!
The picture has a few endearing cameos, principally that of Mike Starr, well known from The Money Pit and Funny Farm, in the role of Pooter the Clown! But beyond that, a good heart, and a few funny bits, there’s not much to recommend it! I watched it more out of a sense of obligation, as well as the Everestian “because it was there!” (Ha ha, I got it as part of a bulk VHS pawn shop score!) So on balance, and after much serious consideration, I’m going to give Uncle Buck one and a half giant pancakes!

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Burl reviews Extreme Prejudice! (1987)

Budda-budda-budda, bang, bing pip-pip-pip twa-a-a-ang, it’s Burl! Ha ha, those firearm sounds signal that I have another popgun action picture to review for you today! The movie is called Extreme Prejudice, and it’s the age-old chestnut of two pals who grow apart, battle over a lady and end up on opposite sides of the law!
Nick Nolte plays Jack Benteen, which I suppose is meant to be a tough-guy name but sounds to me more like a mass-market unguent! His great friend-nemesis is, ha ha, “Cash Bailey,” played by Powers Booth! It’s great to have a guy with a name that isn’t a name played by another guy with a name that isn’t a name, ha ha! Anyway, Jack and Cash both like the same lady, Maria Conchita Alonso, whom we know from Fear City and The Running Man! Also, Jack is a Texas Ranger and Cash is a big-time dealer of mind drugs!
But there’s more! First we have Rip Torn, known for movies like Payday and Tropic of Cancer and Summer Rental, and for putting a punching on Norman Mailer, as Jack’s tough sheriff buddy; and then there’s also a mysterious gang of hard cases who are apparently government spooks on some kind of mission! It’s a real gallery of gumboots here: we have their leader, Michael “Total Recall” Ironside; we have Clancy Brown from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and Highlander; William Forsythe from The Substitute; Tiny Lister from Blue City and Armed & Dangerous, and others!
All of these fellows act out their tough-guy routines in the Texas desert There’s a bank robbery which is meant as cover activity for the paramilitary chums, and there’s plenty of gunfire and large holes being blasted in people! Ha ha, all this mayhem is orchestrated with great competence by Walter “Brewster’s Millions and Streets of Fire” Hill, who quite obviously watched The Wild Bunch the night before filming began on this baby! Why, he might even have watched it twice – just look at what Cash does to that scorpion!
This is one of those pictures which entertain reasonably well while they’re on, but fade from the memory very quickly afterward! It’s very professionally made, but if there’s anything worthy of note about it, it’s that cast! Nick Nolte is a growly old bear, of course, and old Powers plays a bad guy every bit as well as he does in Sudden Death, which is saying something! Ironside and his gang get lots of good moments too!
But in the end there’s just not much to it! If this is the sort of thing you want to watch, then this is the sort of thing you’ll want to watch, ha ha! It’s unexceptional 80s action, but it does have a very warm-weather desert atmosphere to it, so it makes for good winter viewing, especially in such a brutal winter as many of us are experiencing this year! So that gives it an extra nudge in my unique ratings system, and in the end I’m going to give Extreme Prejudice two unfortunate scorpions!

Burl reviews Pompeii! (2014)

Well met, stranger, it’s Burl, here to review a new sword & sandal spectacular, and a volcano picture to boot! Ha ha, I always enjoy a volcano picture, and if I can – as I did with Dante’s Peak and Volcano – I try to see them on the big screen! (Sadly, or perhaps happily, I had to settle for a VHS viewing of fine pictures like When Time Ran Out and Melody in Love!)
So that is why I recently found myself at a movie theater settling in to see Pompeii! Ha ha, I figured that, coming from the fellow who made Soldier and Event Horizon, it would be a very pulpy and at least moderately entertaining concoction, and I wasn’t far wrong! It features a story in which almost every single occurrence and plot turn – or ‘beat,’ to use the vernacular – is infallibly predictable; characters who do exactly what is expected of him or her; and a visual scheme, which is to say muddy and CGI-heavy 3D, that will surprise no one!
After a prologue in Britannia, the action moves to Italy, where the movie spends a good deal of time setting up the conflicts! We have our taciturn hero, Milo, a gladiator-slave, and his cage-mate Atticus, with whom he enjoys a relationship quite similar to that between Kirk Douglas and Woody Strode in Spartacus! There are cruel overseers and merchants, also straight from Spartacus, but without one ounce of the louche, epicene charm found in the performances of Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton!
We have the rich family, generally goodhearted folks played by Jared Harris from The Ward and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Carrie-Anne Moss from those Matrix pictures, and Emily Browning from Ghost Ship as Cassia, the daughter! And of course we have the nasty Romans, headed by Kiefer “Stand By Me” Sutherland! Ha ha, Kiefer has fallen for Cassia just as Laurence Olivier once fell for Jean Simmons, though he shows no indication of preferring oysters to snails or vice versa!
All of this trundles along for a while, with the occasional earth tremor or ominous tilt up to Vesuvius to remind us that this is, or will eventually become, a volcano picture! But for long stretches it feels like any old 1960s peplum, and that, I think, is the aspect I enjoyed the most! Ha ha, it felt like I’d gone back in time to a point at which one could go see Demetrius and the Gladiators or Hercules in the Haunted World at your local cinema!
Then the volcano pops and for the rest of the picture we have spewing ash and lava bombs and all manner of PG-13 destruction! Ha ha, there’s some thrills to be had here, but all the clich├ęs of historical spectacle, the constant, goofy anachronism and the rote romance conspire to keep us at arms’ length from everything, and preclude any real involvement in the drama!
I wish the picture was even sillier than it actually is, and that it was better able to transcend the restrictions of its PG rating, but it still fits pretty well into the “expensive B-picture pulp movie” category! Still, in the end it’s just not very good, and almost all the enjoyment I got out of it came from what I myself had brought in! I’m going to give Pompeii one and a half lava bombs, which is an infinitesimal fraction of the number we see in the movie! Ha ha!

Monday 24 February 2014

Burl reviews The Last Married Couple in America! (1980)

Ha ha, Burl here, with exciting news to report! I may have stumbled across the fount of my small, sporadic interest in middlebrow adult comedy-dramas from the late 1970s and early 80s! You know, It’s My Turn, Fastbreak and the like! Anyway, this one’s a doozy, and I remember seeing it on TV when I was young, and being strangely intrigued!
Partially this was simply because I was fascinated by Richard Benjamin, who looked, talked and acted just like a friend of my parents’, a guy named Bill! Nice fellow! Anyway, yes, Richard Benjamin, who of course directed The Money Pit and many others, is in this picture, and is easily the best thing in it or at least the funniest!
George Segal, well known from Stick, and Natalie Wood of Brainstorm take on the roles of Jeff and Mari, a married couple who play an extremely informal brand of foot-ball with their friends every week! Well, the foot-ball pals get whittled down as the other couples all split up or separate in some fashion, sometimes recoupling in unusual ways! Ha ha, and when Jeff and Mari start feeling like the last married couple in all of America, they start acting weird, like when George Segal has a one night stand with Rhoda!
In the meanwhile Richard Benjamin’s character Marv is getting a divorce, and poor Marv is unraveling his way through the c.1980 singles scene! Ha ha, the dialogue isn’t all that funny, but Benjamin's delivery does remarkable wonders! Less funny but not un-entertaining is Dom DeLuise, who plays a part-time plumber with, ha ha, other interests! And there are others, like Allan Arbus, known from The Christian Licorice Store, who is also something of an unlikely swinger, and Bob “The Big Bus” Dishy, and Pricilla Barnes from Lords of the Deep! Ha ha!
Ha ha, in spite of the script having been written by John Shaner, who played one of the layabout beatniks in the original A Bucket of Blood, it’s not very good! The picture starts off with sitcom-y, but still recognizably human, behavior, and then slides into a whole mess o’ unlikelihoods an’ proposterousnesses! The early part of the picture, where the couples are breaking up one-by-one style in what seems some manner of marital slasher scenario, is the most interesting and relevant part; but by the time Dom DeLuise has invaded the couple’s house to host a crazy swinger birthday party (ha ha, with the kids in the next room the whole time, it turns out!), nothing means nothing anymore, despite the compelling presence of a giant man-sized prostitute in a weird backless outfit!
I remember being very interested in Jeff and Mari’s plant-filled, open-concept SoCal house, and it was as good as ever, even with sculptress Mari’s blobby work-in-progress sitting in the middle of it! (Ha ha, she’s about as talented an artist as Walter Paisley!) And even if the picture as a whole has almost no relation to reality, it’s a pretty good time capsule of the era! But otherwise it’s a pretty bland concoction, although you can tell it tries to be, and believes itself to be, bold and daring! It seems more like one of those Rock-and-Doris pictures with all the charm hoovered out and smarmy, sniggering jokes stuffed in its place! But if the form interests you as much as it does me, you should go ahead and give it a watch; just be warned that it’s a pretty poor ungarian! I give The Last Married Couple in America one and a half fur coats with nothing on underneath!

Monday 17 February 2014

Burl reviews Truck Turner! (1974)

Ha ha, how ya doin’, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review another picture, and this one is a fine blaction drama by the name of Truck Turner! It’s a real rootin’ tootin’ shoot-em-up, made with conviction and a heck of a cast!
After getting such acclaim for his musical work on Shaft, I guess Isaac Hayes thought “The heck is Richard Roundtree anyway with that jive-ass candybar name and that elegant turkey talk! Ha ha, why is it not I up on screen!” To which no one said “Fool, you cray!”
I think Isaac’s debut film worked out perfectly well! He plays Truck, by reputation the toughest football-player-turned-bail-bondsman in town! He has a real hullaballoo on his hands, running after a terrible pimp he’s been sent to catch by none other than Dick The Long Ride Home” Miller, fighting some fools in a bar who end up with busted heads and broken jaws, road-racing to beat the band, and plenty of biffing and banging about! In the end he gets the pimp, but he has two all-new enemies: Harvard Blue, a pimp played by the great Yaphet Kotto, and a madame played by Uhura! (There are a few moments where you wonder “Ha ha, why was this woman not played by Pam Grier,” but they pass, and certainly Uhura – that is to say, Nichelle “The Supernaturals” Nichols – does a fine job in the role!
Anyway, there’s a lot more exploding squib action before, and during, the hospital-set climax and the poolside denouement! And it’s all managed very well by director Jonathan Kaplan, who made Over the Edge and of course Night Call Nurses! Ha ha, all sorts of other fine actors show up too, like Scatman “The Shining” Crothers, Sam “Get Crazy” Laws and of course Charles “The Fog” Cyphers as a miserable drunk! In the middle of all this thespian power stands Isaac Hayes, a man alone just doing his thing, and he does a marvelous job!
There are plenty of wonderful touches in the picture, both in the script and in the execution, and plenty of terrific action; and it’s altogether one of the finest photoplays in the entire Blaxploitation cycle! And on top of it all you get Dick Miller, which is always momentous! I don’t have a whole lot more to say about Truck Turner except that I give it three Fort Knoxes in panties, and urge you to see it post-haste! You’ll enjoy yourself, ha ha!

Monday 3 February 2014

Burl reviews Spring Break! (1983)

Hi, Burl here, in the company of some Lauderdale Ladies, to review for you one of the top beach pictures of the first half of 1983, Spring Break! Ha ha, like Spring Breakers, which I recently watched, this picture tells of four non-Floridians who arrive on the beaches of that strange and venerable state for the spring break week, and contains many shots of b*kini-clad ladies! But, ha ha, there the resemblance ends!
An odd thing about this picture is that it comes courtesy of Sean Cunningham, the director of Friday the 13th! It’s a remarkable change of pace, sure, but there are similarities as well, like the presence of so many young people, some dumb dialogue and unlikely situations, and of course the score by Harry Manfrancini! You can rest assured there are some screaming shock violins, ha ha!
Oh, you were hoping for a synopsis? Well, there are two nerds, Nelson and Adam, played by David Knell from Total Recall (can’t say I remember him in that, ha ha!) and Perry Lang from Teen Lust and Alligator, who arrive in Fort Lauderdale with the intention of having a good time! Nelson is on the lam from his nasty politician stepfather, played by Donald “Wolfen” Symington, so he’s a bit nervous! But it turns out the room they’ve booked has also been booked by O.T. Blastem and his pal Stu, a couple of New York sharpies! Ha ha, what a confusion!
But this is a movie on the mellow side, so the conflict is resolved with a minimum of hassle! Soon the four vacationers have formed a team, with O.T. and Stu helping their nerdly counterparts learn how to have a grand old time! There are little romances set a-brewing, and between these there are contests of various kinds, including bellyflop, teeny-bikini, banana-eating and wet T-shirt! (I’ll leave you to discover in which of these competitions a fellow named “Crazy Gut-Gut” takes part!) And the plot elements finally come to the fore when Nelson’s stepdad has his henchmen kidnap the lad and imprison him on the boat! Meanwhile the hotel, run by a kindly lady and staffed exclusively by a guy named Eesh (who was also in Fear City, which is why he looked familiar to me), is in danger of being bought out by that very same stepdad! A bit of a coincidence, but no biggie, man!
Of course, with the help of the spring break partycrew, some cream pies and a few Millers, everything works out! The hotel is saved and the stepdad’s life and career are ruined! This seems only just! Then everybody kisses and says goodbye – perhaps only until next year!
Ha ha, this is a pretty enjoyable picture in its way, and it certainly lives up to its own modest ambitions! The casting is about perfect, especially with the nerds – and I was astonished to see that one of the nerds, Adam I think, looked, walked and talked just like Bruce Allenby! Ha ha, it’s true! There are actually a few pretty good songs on the soundtrack, which was amazing (ha ha, NRBQ is always welcome!) and plenty of great 1980s stuff to look at!
I cannot, won’t and will not make a case that this is a top-flight picture, and there are probably even better 80s beach pictures out there! But when this one is right, it’s right, so I’m going to give Spring Break two and a half crazy gut-guts and a big bellyflop splash!

Sunday 2 February 2014

Burl reviews Spring Breakers! (2012)

Ah ha ha, it’s Burl, here to review a movie about some ladies! Yes, these ladies are headed down to Florida for spring break, but this isn’t Where The Girls Are, or even Where The Girls Are ’84! It’s not even Spring Break! No, the picture in question is called Spring Breakers, and it comes straight from the director of Gummo! Yes, that director is Harmony Korine, who of course appeared recently in Stoker!
I remember seeing Gummo at a film festival and really enjoying it! And naturally I’m a big fan of Spring Break, so I thought this combination of elements was a no-miss situation, ha ha!
The picture features many shots of bikini ladies and their male counterparts! There’s a lot of rambunctious shenanigans depicted, and then we get the beginnings of a story: four ladies attending a small-town college decide that a jaunt to Florida is simply a must! But, ha ha, their funding is substandard, so three of them do a violence crime, then it’s off to the Dangleberry State, bikinis packed!
Once there, it’s partytime! Ha ha, there are all sorts of montages that are maybe meant to look fun, or maybe meant to look boring while dressed in the raiment of fun; and if that latter option is the case, then well done Mr. Korine! The ladies get into some trouble with mind drugs, and the next thing you know they’ve been slapped in the pokey, skimpy bikinis and all!
Next thing you know, the ladies are bailed out by James Franco from Rise of the Planet of the Apes! He’s essentially playing himself in the picture, and I think his character may even have been named James Franco, which is frequently the case with this actor, I believe! James Franco here sports many ugly tattoos and a hideous silver grill, and he owns many firearms! The ladies have different tolerance levels for James Franco and his lifestyle, and first one leaves the scene, and then, after being shot in the arm, another one is on her way home! That leaves two ladies left for a most unlikely climax!
Ha ha, I really liked the idea that the ladies would leave at just the point they felt they’d had too much! It was certainly the most realistic aspect of the movie! Otherwise there’s not all that much to grasp on to, ha ha, in the picture! There’s lots of pretty ladies in itty-bitty teeny-weenie, though not polka-dot, bikinis, it is true, and plenty of stylish visuals thanks to the grand cinematography of Benoit Debie, and there’s an entertaining performance by the actor who played James Franco! I would probably have appreciated more what Harmony Korine was doing had I been familiar with the goody-two-shoes past credits of at least two of the young ladies, for whom this picture apparently represented a wholesale change of pace! So there’s a whole meditation on the parallels between American celebrity and American life running through the picture, I suppose, or something of that nature, but ol’ Burl hasn’t watched enough contemporary tween-age TV to pick up on it I guess! Ha ha!
So as a result, for me, Spring Breakers was spottily amusing, consistently nice to look at (ha ha!) and ultimately pretty empty! I’m going to give it two dollar sign hubcaps and a hearty ha ha, and off I go to watch the true granddaddy of the form, Spring Break!