Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 30 April 2014

Burl reviews Paradise Motel! (1985)

Hi, it’s Burl here, checking into the Paradise Motel! Ha ha, what? Well, that’s the name of both the movie I’m reviewing for you today and the motel in which much of the action takes place!
Some people might confuse this production with Pink Motel, but don’t be fooled! This is the one which features tall ginger Gary “Free Ride” Hershberger as Sam, the fellow whose dad owns the motel! And I’ll tell you something about Gary Hershberger – they say he and Jason Lively once went into a room together, and only one of them came out but nobody knows which one of them it was! Ha ha! And still to this day they don’t know!
Anyway, Sam is the lonely new kid in school, because his parents just bought the motel! He meets the local Good Time Charlie, a slickster by the name of Mick, who is from the start what I would call a real gambelpooty! But he becomes more interested in Sam when he learns about the motel and the unoccupied honeymoon suite; and very quickly poor Sam is begged, bribed and practically bushwhacked into a situation not unlike Jack Lemmon’s in The Apartment, with Mick as an even slimier Fred MacMurray!
Sam has romantic yearnings of his own, for the lovely Laura in particular, but for the nonce must settle for lying in his bed and listening to Mick and his buddies score with their various girlfriends! Ha ha! He also must suffer the humiliation of driving around in a Peptol-Bismol pink station wagon with a reclining hula dancer effigy on top! Needless to say, Sam is pretty downcast most of the time, though he has faked-up fun with his false bros now and again! Ha ha!
Things come to a low-key climax after he comes to realize the sort of fellow Mick really is – not Styles from Teen Wolf, not even Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but a real and irredeemable slimeball! So Sam bops him on the nose and then a misunderstanding involving the tough coach unravels on Mick, and finally Laura, foolishly smitten with Mick, sees the light too and turns towards Sam!
So it’s your basic misunderstanding-based teen comedy, though the central confusion – that is, the fact that Laura is Mick’s girlfriend – is absurdly thin and unlikely, based as it in on the habit of both Mick and Laura happening to never say each other’s names when they’re with Sam, and nobody else in the school happening to mention their relationship over a period of months!
Other than that, it’s not a bad picture as these things go! Hershberger is an affable presence and an okay actor, and the guy who plays Mick is perfectly cast! And there’s a perpetually horny kid, of the sort memorably played by Billy “Hospital Massacre” Jacoby in Just One of the Guys, here competently essayed by Jeffrey Jay “Secret Admirer” Cohen! Ha ha, he gets himself and Sam in trouble due to some cockamamie theory or other!
Because it’s got a general competence reminiscent of The Malibu Bikini Shop, and a couple of weird bits (always a plus, ha ha!) and some okay performances, like from Sam’s dad and from Sam himself, and because it doesn’t try too hard, to the point where I’m not certain it tries at all, I’m going to award Paradise Motel two bikini adjustments!

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Burl reviews Spaghetti Western! (1975)

Rrrrrr-a-t-a-t-a, it’s Burl! And you know, I’ve got another movie review for you, ha ha! This is a review of, yes, a spaghetti western, but it’s a spaghetti western by the name of Spaghetti Western! It’s also known as Cry Onion I believe, perhaps better known as that in fact, and I seem to recall the video box with that title from a long time ago! I never knew what the heck it was, though!
Ha ha, I sure know now! It’s a crazy movie starring none other than Franco Nero, well known for his appearances in The Visitor, Die Hard 2 and Django Unchained, and also from some Italian movies! Here he plays Onion, an onion-eating ex-gunfighter turned sodbuster with a wavering Jimmy Stewart voice who travels in a cart full of onions pulled by a horse wearing a straw hat! He plans on being an onion farmer and arrives in Paradise City ready to take up that noble profession!
But sad to say that Superoil, a petroleum concern headed by Mr. Lamb (Martin “Psycho” Balsam sporting a fake Robert Mitchum voice and a mechanical hand, which I suppose you’d call a touch of steampunk if you were that way inclined) has overrun the area with badmen who’ve bullied and killed the land out from under the farmers and citizens! Onion quickly becomes Mr. Lamb’s bête noir, and the next thing you know he’s battling dozens of henchmen at a time, beaning them with onions, spraying onion spooge in their eyes and razzle-dazzling them Pixie and Dixie style with onion-juggling tricks! Ha ha! He also knocks people out with his murderous onion breath and has trained his horse to bedevil enemies with face-melting bumfarts!
Onion allies himself with Pulitzer, a newspaperman played by Sterling “The Long Goodbye” Hayden, and his lovely daughter, whom he falls in love with on sight, complete with animated hearts! There are also a couple of kids who help him out, and the older of them has been dubbed with an adult’s voice while the younger remains mute – but he speaks at the end in the voice of an elderly Jewish cantor! And then there’s a horse-bike chase; three rats wearing tribute hats (a Chaplin bowler, a Keaton porkpie and, I think, Harry Langdon’s straw boater); lots of crazy slapstick; a dirtbike gang in football attire, or at least an Italian simulacrum of same; and of course onions, onions, always onions!
In the end, after a final fight in which Mr. Lamb is defeated despite the magical extension-punches of his golden hand, Onion puts the deposed oilman to work harvesting onions! Ha ha, it’s the most fitting punishment! And I’ll tell you, it was great to see a movie with such a scornful attitude toward oil and oil companies! It was like Thunder Bay turned inside-out! The oil company is evil, full stop, and once the people have chased them away, they blow up the forced-perspective oil derricks, plug up the wells and go back to raising crops! Ha ha, very satisfying!
This is a crazy picture, and pretty funny in many parts! It’s got lots of dumb parts, don’t get me wrong – it often seems made up mostly of dumb parts actually! But it’s so weird, and the dubbing particularly is so crazy, that I enjoyed it! Just make sure you see the dubbed version, ha ha! Anyway, I give Spaghetti Western three very special Dick Butkus cameos!

Monday 28 April 2014

Burl reviews Track 29! (1988)

Choo choo, it’s Burl! Yes, ha ha, it’s me again, here with a review of a Nicolas Roeg movie! I know what you’re saying: isn’t this the fellow who photographed Roger Corman’s Masque of the Red Death? Ha ha, what’s he doing directing a picture? Well he’s directed plenty of pictures actually, beginning with the time he worked with Donald Cammell on Performance!
This movie, like so many of his movies, features his wife Theresa Russell, well-known for her role in Black Widow! The picture is called Track 29, and I do believe I saw it at a film festival screening back when it was first released! I thought it was a strange picture then, and I feel the same way now that I’ve had another look at it!
Russell stars as Linda, the wife of model train railroadist and part-time geriatric therapist Henry Henry, played of course by Christopher “Buckaroo Banzai” Lloyd! It’s not a happy marriage, frankly! Well, along comes a strange young Englishman played by Gary Oldman from Sid & Nancy! He catches a ride from tattooed trucker Leon Rippy, who you’d think would be staying away from trucks after Maximum Overdrive, and spends a crazy day with Linda, wherein it turns out he might exist or he might not!
In the meantime Henry Henry catches some brutal glove-spankings from his nurse, Sandra Bernhard – an actress well-known for her part in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird – and some heat from his boss, Seymour “Eye of the Tiger” Cassel! There are plenty of flashbacks, some odd happenings, a truck crashing through a house, a train set destroyed and a bloody nude knife-poking with plenty of spurting blood, and any or all of this may or may not be imaginary!
It’s all not just strange but willfully strange, and therein lies the problem, maybe! It’s a bit too forced, ha ha, and seems the more so when you realize it was all filmed in the same general location as Blue Velvet, a far superior weird picture! The psychology behind all these cornfabulations is pretty dime-book, and none of it is terribly persuasive as recognizable human behaviour!
It’s another effort from moptop George Harrison’s HandMade Films, which made some good pictures like Time Bandits, Mona Lisa and Withnail & I, but also quite a few mandrakes like Shanghai Surprise, How To Get Ahead in Advertising and this one! You’ve got to give them some credit though – they were risktakers who made a pretty good go of it for a while, and left behind some fine, unusual pictures! Ha ha!
But Track 29 just isn’t one of their better ones! It’s hairbrained, which is odd considering the talent involved! Oldman’s performance is goofy and Russell’s is just plain bad! Lloyd is pretty good though, especially in a rousing model train speech scene he gives near the end! Altogether I think the thing to do is shout “woo woo!” and give Track 29 one and a half gurning old men!

Sunday 27 April 2014

Burl reviews The First Deadly Sin! (1980)

Ha ha, hello all you trilbies, it’s Burl here! I’m presenting to you today a review of a Frank Sinatra picture – his last major acting role, in fact, and his last altogether if you choose to forget Cannonball Run II and that episode of Magnum!
The movie’s called The First Deadly Sin, and it’s as close as we’ll ever get to a Frank Sinatra slasher picture! Apparently Roman Polanski was supposed to direct it, but he had a few legal and ethical problems and had to flee America! So the job was given to the natural alternate, the plumber-to-be Brian G. Hutton, who had made some war pictures in the 1960s and, as an actor, had one of the starring roles in Carnival Rock! Ha ha!
Anyway, Ol’ Blue Eyes stars as a New York City police detective nearing retirement, and he gets the idea that a crazyman is murdering people across the five boroughs with a pointy hammer! Ha ha, in a refreshing twist, the killer appears to be targeting middle-aged men rather than ladies! It’s kind of nice to not have to watch a bunch of ladies get the chop for once, I have to say!
But nobody believes Frank, least of all his mean old boss, Anthony “The Dead Zone” Zerbe! He gathers around him a small cohort of allies nonetheless: wry coroner James “Them!” Whitmore; an eccentric armories curator delightfully played (in his final performance) by Martin “Marnie” Gabel; and the wife of one of the victims, played by husky-voiced Brenda “Death Weekend” Vaccaro! This little community is one of the picture’s small pleasures!
And it’s something The Chairman of the Board needs, because otherwise he’d be pretty lonely! His wife, Faye Dunaway, who is of course known for her roles in The Towering Inferno and The Eyes of Laura Mars, is terribly ill, and in the hospital having operations! The situation is clearly dire, because not once through the entire picture does Ms. Dunaway ever get out of her hospital bed! And through it all The Voice must continue his pursuit of the man responsible for this reign of brutal bonkings!
The investigation leads Frank to a building at which Joe “Maniac” Spinell is the doorman! Ah ha, I thought, because the movie was already reminding me of Too Scared To Scream, another New York slasher/procedural, which as you’ll recall had a doorman suspected as its killer! But no, the hammer-killer here is played by David “Rawhead Rex” Dukes, and he’s a looneytune who likes to sit in his bath and blubber when he’s not out killing! (His scenes made me start thinking of Fear City for some reason, though he carries no nun-chak-as!)
Well, I was sort of expecting a boring movie when I put this on, and it’s true, you can’t call it lightning-paced! It’s lacking much of the style Polanski would have brought to it, or maybe Brian DePalma or someone like that (though it does have the same fog filters that were used in Dressed to Kill), and there’s an uncinematic flatness to the whole thing! On the other hand, Sinatra gives a notably excellent performance, and it has plenty of fine actors lurking in the margins – aside from those mentioned, we even see Bruce “Die Hard” Willis in his first ever appearance, as a man simply walking through a door!
It’s also reasonably affecting, and it has a thoroughgoing New Yorkiness that’s a treasure to watch nowadays! It’s a Christmas picture, so if you’re like me and prefer to watch your Christmas pictures around Christmas, beware! But I’m glad I watched it now anyway, because as unexciting and dour as it was, I enjoyed it! I’m going to give The First Deadly Sin two and a half Honeybunch books!

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Burl reviews How To Get Ahead in Advertising! (1989)

What ho, it’s Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to tell you about Bruce Robinson’s second picture, How To Get Ahead in Advertising! His first movie, Withnail & I, is one of my very favourites, and so I was excited to see this one back when it first came out!
I can’t remember what I thought of it back then, though the fact that I never watched it again, at least not until the other day, makes me suspect I didn’t hold it in quite as high esteem as Withnail! But at the same time, I certainly can’t recall disliking it! I guess it was just a small potato, medium done!
Well, I watched it again, and I can confidently state right off the top that it still doesn’t hold a candle to Withnail & I, but then again what film could? The return of Richard E. Grant as another hyper-verbal, spleen-venting tirade machine suggests Robinson was actively looking to make something comparable to his debut, but here, instead of drawing from his real life, as he had for Withnail, he drew from his personal set of concerns, and he sets them out almost as a series of lectures delivered by Grant’s ad man character, Dennis Bagley!
The rants Bagley expectorates, on the theme of the horribleness of modern life, particularly as it relates to advertising and the acceptance of same by the populace, are funny, acerbic of course, and not unpersuasive (though I was in agreement with the general drift beforehand, ha ha), but are also pretty on the nose! They’re more or less what you would expect from a movie whose title is a pretty base pun!
And why is the title a pun, you ask? Well, ha ha, it’s because Bagley, under terrible professional stress from his inability to craft the right campaign for a new pimple cream, develops a huge boil on his neck which ultimately grows a face, a moustache and a Daily Mail-reading personality! Ha ha, it grows and grows, gives a few speeches of its own, drives the already unstable-seeming Bagley much further around the bend, and ultimately inflates to the dimensions of a proper head while reducing Bagley’s own head to the size of a boil! Yikes!
So here we are, with a satire of something that hardly needed satirizing, a message those who need most would never listen to, and a movie that seems to be at least 99 and 44/100ths shouting! Grant’s performance is, I must say, rather astonishing, and there’s no shortage of jolly bile in which to take pleasure! There are also a few rubbery but perfectly acceptable trick effects relating to the talking boil, and Rachel Ward, well-known from pictures like Night School, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and The Final Terror, is good in the role of Bagley's wife! There's also an appearance by The Reptile herself, Jacqueline Pearce! Ha ha! But in the end it seems more an exercise, and an exorcism, ha ha, than it does a movie, one with proper characters and sensical motivations!
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the picture! But I think the script needed a little more work before going to camera, and that if Robinson – no screenwriting slouch, ha ha – had only taken the time, he could have delivered his message with much greater effectiveness, and made another great movie in the bargain! I’m going to just sit here and give How To Get Ahead in Advertising two toilet chickens!

Friday 18 April 2014

Burl reviews Xtro! (1983)

Hi xenomorphs, ha ha, it’s Burl, here to review a bizarre pulp favourite from Blighty! Ha ha, this one’s called Xtro, and it’s one odd soda cracker! I can only guess that it got the green light after E.T. was so popular and someone hit on the tag line “Some extra-terrestrials aren’t friendly!”
But it’s a closer cousin to the Alien-inspired goo-movies that were numerous at the time, pictures like Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World and Horror Planet! It also has elements of Shoot the Moon, which is to say that it contains both goo and high dishwater drama!
Ha ha, it all starts with a happy family at the country house! Mum takes off to do some errands, leaving little Tony playing sticks with his dad Sam! Suddenly, pchew! the sky turns black and Sam is sucked up into the blinding light! Then, three years later, Mum has a new fellow, an American fashion photographer, not as bad a guy as Trent from The Way Way Back, sure, but none too charming either! Tony has nightmares of when Dad was whisked away, but everybody else believes he simply took a runner! There’s also a comely French au pere played by Maryam d’Abo from The Living Daylights, with a boyfriend played by David Cardy from The Keep!
A goochy lizard man appears, makes savage love to a lady, and hey presto, Sam is reborn! He sets about reintegrating himself into the family, to the photographer’s dismay, and thence, because he’s now more alien than man, transforming young Tony into a half-alien as well, using the old cosmic hickey technique! Then, quite naturally, Tony gains the power to bring his toys to life, and this leads to midget clowns and six-foot G.I. Joes and terrified neighbours and au peres transformed into egg-laying machines, and other weird mayhem, and eventually Sam sheds his human skin to become a steely-skinned metalman and takes his beloved son up into the stars! There’s a finale which might have been a dream or might have been a hastily-conceived replacement for the original ending!
Ha ha, this is a weird one all right, and if you’re going to watch it, I recommend doing so late at night when your mind is a little weird anyway! (Avoid the sequels, however, ha ha!) I recall really enjoying this when it was originally released on video – I felt, in fact, that I’d made a very special discovery, and was proud to pass it along to my similarly horror-loving friends! I enjoyed it a lot less this time around, however! It’s a bit disreputable and somewhat tawdry, but it’s short (just over 80 minutes!) and frequently bizarre! I think I’ll give it one and a half wiggly hammers, but those of you who enjoy freaky trash ought to check it out anyway! Ha ha!

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Burl reviews Maximum Overdrive! (1986)

Vroom vroom, it’s Burl, revving up with a review of that movie Stephen King directed himself, Maximum Overdrive! Yes, that’s the one where the trucks and other random machines become sentient and get up to mischief!
All the hubbub is thanks to a comet, just like in Night of the Living Dead! The phenomenon is meant to be worldwide, but King gives us only a small corner of North Carolina! The automated havoc begins with a nifty scene on a drawbridge, which is almost certainly the high point of the movie as far as King’s untutored staging and camera direction are concerned!
From there, after a dalliance at a children’s baseball game wherein a coach is ker-thumped by flying soda cans and a steamroller makes an impression on one luckless player, we repair to the Dixie Boy Truck Stop, where ex-con grillman Emilio “Repo Man” Estevez is doing psychobattle with the crooked truck stop owner, Pat Hingle (well known for his appearances in Brewster’s Millions and The Quick and the Dead)! The truck stop fills with other characters, mainly truck drivers, some newlyweds, a bible salesman and a sexy lady, and we soon have a siege situation on our hands, with trucks circling menacingly outside like something out of Wagon Train! And you know, they just keep on wagon training!
There’s a fair bit of mayhem on tap, but little of it makes any impact, since as a director Stephen King makes a very good horror novelist! Ha ha, he’s unable to wring much tension or excitement out of the proceedings, even though he had a pretty big budget and lots of trucks to blow up! Unfortunately, perhaps due to the giant piles of Columbian Marching Powder that were placed liberally around the set, nobody, not even George Romero, who must have visited during the shoot, was able to help the Beardsman of Bangor figure things out!
Unfortunately, too, King was not in one of his statelier modes when he wrote this script! It’s got a few bon mots, but often seems to go out of its way to be as dumb and scatological as it can be, and the actors, particularly the female lead, aren’t really up to it! There are some pleasingly familiar faces (or voices) in the cast, like Yeardley Smith from Heaven Help Us, Frankie Faison from The Money Pit and Giancarlo Esposito from Do The Right Thing, and Estevez and Hingle are perfectly good, but the fact is King’s dialogue mostly ought to have stayed on the page!
I remember seeing this one in a movie theater in a suburb of Seattle, Washington! I was excited to see it, and didn’t even mind that it was in the wrong order – I saw the second half first and the first half second! Ha ha, I don’t suppose it mattered much! Anyway, I do recall feeling that the movie was better than I’d expected it to be, but my more recent viewing laid bare that initial impression as bunkum and honeydew! It’s really not very good at all, though it offers regular bursts of entertainment, and of course a stirring score by AC/DC! Ha ha, I give Maximum Overdrive one and a half Roger Miller-fixated ice cream trucks!

Monday 14 April 2014

Burl reviews SuperManChu! (1973)

Ah! it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I have another review of a kung-fu spectacular for you! This one is called SuperManChu, and it’s so similar to another picture I watched recently, Blind Fist of Bruce, that I’m already having trouble telling the two apart! I hope that doesn’t seem culturally insensitive, ha ha! Please recall that I’m in no way an expert on the kung-fu pictures, but I’m trying to educate myself by watching those films reputed by all to be the best! Thus, SuperManChu!
It’s got a pretty simple story! A criminal mob led by a pencil-moustache happens by a family-owned restaurant, orders some food and then molests and kills everyone! They leave just as the son, SuperManChu, is arriving home! Ha ha, he finds the corpses of his family and swears violence revenge!
SuperManChu, an expert knifesman, finds the gang just as a suave stranger arrives in town! The stranger fights the gang, then joins them, but it’s all a ruse because he’s an undercover cop sent to arrest the pencil-moustache! Ha ha, sorry for the spoiler! Anyway, it’s a situation very like those found in John Woo pictures, where two strangers, maybe not quite on the same side of the law, are forced, despite their oil-and-water personalities, to team up against a common enemy!
Of course there are fights and more fights, and nearly everyone comes to a sticky end, and because the version I watched was not letterboxed it was once again a case of watching limbs flailing in and out of an otherwise empty screen! Ha ha, this version wasn’t even pan-and-scan, because there was no panning and no scanning, and during the fight the characters would frequently move off one side of the screen or the other, creating a sort of Garfield-Minus-Garfield effect that was kind of neat!
Well, SuperManChu and the cop eventually team up, after a fashion, and it all ends up with a double fight at Whirlwind Beach! Ha ha, where else? And the tide was out at Whirlwind Beach that day, really out!

As for the kung-fu, there are a number of terrific little moves and a marvelous variation in the methods! The cop likes to throw coins at people, and he never seems to run out, though his slim-fit suits would hardly seem to have room for much pocket change! And he ends up using a swish-rope in novel fashion too! SuperManChu sticks mainly to his knives, though he’s handy with fists and feet too! He’s a pretty humourless guy, understandably enough, and is frequently dressed in black! The cop is a little more easy-going! Ha ha, they make an okay team!
It was a pretty enjoyable picture, not great, but engaging! The presentation was lacking, but that wasn’t the movie’s fault! Anyway, I tend to think of these VHS viewings as the closest we can get nowadays to a real grindhouse experience! It’s a question of reframing: the frustrations of the screening itself are no longer odd smells, lumpy seats and drugs-crazed maniacs, but poor transfers, stubby frames and muddy sound! Anyway, I’m going to give SuperManChu two stolen swords!

Burl reviews The Way Way Back! (2013)

Hi crooners, it’s Burl, here to review a coming-of-age picture! Ha ha, there are plenty of movies just like this one, and I guess there always will be, because I suppose just about every adult is someone who has come of age in some fashion or another some time in their lives, and it’s a pretty irresistible subject for anyone with a hankering to write or make movies! I even have an idea of my own for such a picture, ha ha! I think I’ll call mine The Clapper-Loader! Sounds good, doesn’t it!
This particular one is called The Way Way Back, and in some ways it might just as well be Meatballs with the names and locations changed! You see, ha ha, there’s a painfully shy young fellow spending time against his will in a summertime location where everybody else seems to be having more fun than him, and an adult wiseacre, who is nominally in charge of an establishment and takes every opportunity to make jokes using its P.A. system, takes it upon himself to befriend and help out the youngster, even while being asked by his own prospective ladyfriend to just please grow up a little!
Ha ha, that could be a description of Meatballs, but it’s The Way Way Back I’m talking about! Fourteen year-old Duncan is a taciturn lad, and seems possibly somewhere on the more operational end of the autism scale! I don’t think he’s supposed to be, though! His divorced mom, Toni “Fright Night” Collette, has a pretty nasty new boyfriend, Trent, but Trent, a horrorshow of emotional bullying and passive-aggressive manipulation, has one single positive quality: he owns a New England beach house! And so that’s where Duncan finds himself stuck for the summer, surrounded by snooty girls, overbearing neighbor ladies, weird little kids and perpetually drunken or hungover adults!
Luckily he finds the local waterpark, where Trent’s polar opposite, Owen, is the manager! Owen, an affable sort, is in his own way as weirdly aggressive as Trent, though! Every word he says is part of some kind of joke routine, and so he’s less a character than a walking gag generator! It’s a good thing Sam Rockwell is playing him and not, say, David Spade, because that would be doubly intolerable! In fact most of the performers are pretty strong; even Steve Carrell as Trent, who has to be a dick in absolutely every scene, manages to create a recognizably human persona!
Ha ha, it’s pretty obvious this movie was meant to take place in the 80s sometime, but they just didn’t have the money to recreate the period! The lengths they go to in order to recall that era are almost painful, though – certainly a bit embarrassing! The title refers to the very back seat they used to make in station wagons, and since that particular accessory is long gone, Trent must suddenly become the sort of character who would lovingly maintain a vintage station wagon, and pack all the luggage on top of instead of in the back so the picture can live up to its title! And the waterpark must be described in the dialogue as a place frozen in time since 1983! And Duncan must listen to REO Speedwagon for no good reason, ha ha! And so on!
There are a few strong scenes and performances here and there, but the picture is so rote, so predictable, so derivative and so formulaic that all its good points become regrettable ones, as they might have been in the service of a better movie if only these filmmakers hadn’t chained themselves so inflexibly to a concept they hadn’t the means to pull off! It does manage a sort of 80s flavor, which is to its credit, and it's very nicely photographed by John “In The Line of Fire” Bailey, but on the whole it makes you wish you were watching Meatballs instead! I give The Way Way Back one and a half contrivances!

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Burl reviews Blind Fist of Bruce! (1979)

Ha-ya ha-ya, it’s Bruce! I mean of course that it’s me, Burl, ha ha! Yes, I’m here to review a kung-fu picture for you! It’s Blind Fist of Bruce, one of the many examples of Bruceploitation, in which guys named Bruce (Bruce Li in this case) do some fights and jumps and battle grunts just like, but not as compellingly or personably as, the original Dragon!
I’m not an expert on the martial arts pictures, that’s for sure, so you’ll have to bear with me a bit here! I know enough to be familiar with this particular plot, though; namely that it begins with a wealthy, callow and, let’s be frank here, kind of dumb young man who runs a bank and fancies himself its great protector due to his stunning martial arts skills!
But his skills are illusory, as all his moves have been taught to him by a pair of obvious conmen who make up kung-fu styles on the spot based on whatever animals happen to be passing by! This young numbskull is silly enough to swallow it, and the conmen bolster his fantasy with the occasional staged robbery attempt, which the banker apparently foils!
Soon enough a genuine gang of toughs descend upon the town and the banker’s self-deception is obliterated! He gets repeatedly beaten, and all his worldly possessions are claimed by the gang! He finally sees the light with respect to the conmen, and they quickly join the gang themselves!
The devastated banker finds refuge with a local busker, an elderly blind man who would cause the Beatles great shame if they ever saw him, for he is the true mop-top! It does genuinely appear that he has taken the handle off a mop and simply placed the bushy part on his head, ha ha!
Eventually this crusty old blind man is revealed as a master kung-fu artist, and he teaches the banker enough that he is able to, ha ha, mop the floor with his enemies! But they call in a ringer: the giant bad-ass known as Tiger, who used to be a student of the old blind busker, and in fact is responsible for blinding him in the first place! So now it’s time for an epic battle and a sudden ending!
Ha ha, I’m not sure how this stacks up against others of its type, but I found the crude character arc and the balletic athleticism of the fight sequences fairly entertaining! The goofball humour of the early scenes was painless enough, I suppose, and the dubbing added some extra, more genuine laughs! Unfortunately the copy I watched was full-screen, so very often I was watching an area of empty space with fists and feet flying into it from the edges!
It’s not a standout effort, but it had a certain momentum, and of course you want to see the good guy learn his skills and see the bad guys pay for their misdeeds! It’s always nice to see their reactions when they realize this fellow can actually do some damage! Ha ha, I’m going to give The Blind Fist of Bruce two martial arts pushcarts!

Sunday 6 April 2014

Burl reviews The Grand Budapest Hotel! (2014)

Ho ho, it’s Burl here, reviewing a new Wes “Moonrise Kingdom” Anderson picture, The Grand Budapest Hotel! I was really looking forward to this one, because its particular milieu, which is to say Central Europe between the wars, is a time and place which fascinates me and always has! Ha ha, such rich and marbled tales have come out of this twenty-year period: curdled fairy tales arising from a new era of fatalism!
Evidently Anderson feels the same way, because he’s plunged into this storied environment with the enthusiasm of Steve Zissou exploring a sea cavern! Ha ha, like some other stories I know and love, specifically Roald Dahl’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” The Grand Budapest Hotel contains stories within stories, each of them reaching farther back in time! (Ha ha, I suspect this movie to have been influenced as much by Dahl as it was by Stefan Zweig and Bruno Schultz!)
The core story, told by F. Murray “Inside Llewyn Davis” Abraham to Jude “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” Law, concerns the legendary, perfumed concierge of the titular hotel, M. Gustave H,. played by Ralph “Skyfall” Fiennes! He takes on a protégé, young lobby boy Zero, and is promptly accused of the murder of an old lady, one of the many old ladies with whom he dallies! Soon he’s on the run, and a veritable galaxy of characters are either chasing him (the old lady’s savage, greedy son, Adrien “Midnight in Paris” Brody, his murderous factotum Willem “Streets of Fire” Dafoe, and a policeman played by Edward “Fight Club” Norton) or helping him (young Saoirese “How To Catch A Monster” Ronan, a baker’s assistant; Jeff “Into the Night” Goldblum, a lawyer; Mathieu “Cosmopolis” Amalric, a butler; Harvey “Mean Streets” Keitel, a prisoner; and Bill “Meatballs” Murray, another concierge and a member of The Society of the Crossed Keys)!
A curious thing about many of these actors is that almost all of them have worked for David Cronenberg at one time or another! Ha ha, I found that curious and amusing! At any rate, the picture is fast-paced and madcap and as overstuffed as a goochie-cake! It may lack the immediate engagement invited by some other Wes Anderson pictures, but there sure is a lot to look at! Ha ha, I liked the (ostensibly) old-style trick effects, straight out of Guy Maddin’s great picture Careful or even Ernst Lubitsch’s Eternal Love, both mountain movie like this one; the funicular train (which didn’t get enough screen time if you ask me!); the sudden moments of violence or gore; the performances; and the great scene with all the concierges calling one another!
Altogether a fine and entertaining night out at the movies, and I’m certainly going to see this one again, just to catch all the details and gags I must have missed the first time around! I’m going to give The Grand Budapest Hotel three and a half severed fingers!

Friday 4 April 2014

Burl reviews The Lost Continent! (1968)

Ha ha! I reviewed this twice by accident! Here are both reviews, starting with Review 1:

Que pasa, es Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review a real samolean of a motion picture, the 1968 Hammer Films quandary The Lost Continent! This is such an oddball movie that I’m not sure how to even begin talking about it, ha ha!
Probably the best place to begin is the theme song, which sounds like a parody version of what a theme song to a movie like this would be! It’s a louche, loungy number, sung in a confessional tone that suggests we all, at one time or another, have found ourselves trapped on a lost continent! Not metaphorically, either, ha ha!
Anyway, it’s a great way to start off this picture! It’s a boat film and also, like Casablanca and Wages of Fear, a motley-gang-of-stateless-fugitives picture, two microgenres I’m fond of! The boat, leaving Africa and bound for Caracas, is captained by grumpy Eric Porter, well-known from Hands of the Ripper, and all of its passengers have voluminous backstories that would take too long to detail here! Suffice it to say they’re all desperate, and many of them are outright criminals!
Well, turns out the boat is carrying a bunch of explosives which blow up on contact with water, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a hole in the side of the boat and a hurricane coming just as they’re about to enter the mysterious Sargasso Sea! Naturally there’s a mutiny – the crew is led by the great Michael “The Reptile” Ripper, who really ought to have played the bartender instead so he could get more screen time, ha ha – and after some fighting and action and a damp night in a lifeboat, our captain, the passengers and a few loyal crew find themselves back on the ship, but trapped in voracious, man-eating seaweed, which is apparently the continent of the title!
And of course that brings us to the true heart of this picture: monster attacks! Ha ha, the seaweed is bad enough, but then up pops a giant octopus creature, which grabs and gobbles up a weird moustacheman; and then we have a giant crab creature with the most grotesque chitter-chatter mouth you could ever imagine! It grabs an unfortunate guy in its claws, then fights a giant scorpion! And of course we have the band of Spanish conquistadors, ruled by a teenager and a guy in a funny hat, who toss their enemies into a pit that contains nothing but a horrible chomping mouth, sort of a mini-Sarlacc! All of these beasties were created by Robert Mattey, who, having made the squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and who would go on to make the shark in Jaws, knows a bit about seamonster creation!
The conquistadors and all the other people stuck on this floating seaweed patch used shoulder-balloons to walk around without getting sucked down, and I must say that’s every bit as absurd-looking as it sounds! But in a picture as absurd as this, it fits in nicely!
I like a good goofnugget from time to time, and this one fit the bill! So what if it’s silly, so what if it has a little more soap opera than I would like, and seems stuck in the weeds as much as the freighter it’s set upon! Ha ha, it’s still a more adult version of those Doug McClure fantasy pictures that came along a decade later, and that counts for a lot in old Burl’s crazy book! I enjoyed this picture, and would like to give The Lost Continent two and a half shoulder balloons!
Now here's Review 2!


By all the seaweed, it’s Burl, here to tell you about a strange movie of swampy proportions! It’s a Hammer picture, but you’ll look in vain for Dracula or the Frankenstein! No, the creatures here are of a more fanciful nature, and we don’t find them in the mountains of Carpathia or the castles of old Austria! No, we find those bizarre monsters on… The Lost Continent!

Now the first thing we should clarify here is that we’re not talking about a continent, but more of a small atoll connected by a huge floating patch of carnivorous seaweed! Ha ha! Now, with that out of the way, here’s the story - and it’s a pretty simple one! We’re aboard a small ship of fools, which flees a North African port on its way to Venezuela! Everyone on board has a solid reason for not wanting to be in Africa any more, as they’re a collection of unfortunates, ne’er-do-wells, dipsomaniacs and complainers!

Eric Porter from Hands of the Ripper is Captain Lansen, desperate to keep his old tub afloat; the most prominent passenger, meanwhile, is played in a key of sad regret by Hildegard Knef from Fedora! The rest of the passengers and crew are a collection of famous British film faces, including Suzanna Leigh from The Deadly Bees and Lust for a Vampire as an oversexed heiress; Nigel Stock from The Great Escape and Young Sherlock Holmes as the doctor/father she hates; Tony Beckley from Revenge of the Pink Panther and When A Stranger Calls as the perpetual drinker who sobers up and does a 360-degree personality change; James Cossins from The Horror of Frankenstein and The Man With the Golden Gun as the chief engineer; and of course Hammer staple Michael Ripper from The Reptile and Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and so many others!

For quite a while this motley gang sails, argues, drinks, fights, and loves, but the discovery of dozens of barrels of high explosive triggered by contact with water causes some consternation, and the lifeboat flight of most of the crew! Then the boat is mired in seaweed and the captain and his passengers become aware that a strange civilization of conquistadors, led by a teenager called El Supremo, who is in turn controlled by a guy in KKK headwear, want to take their supplies and feed them to monsters!

Yes, monsters! After the interminable soap-opera lead-up, the last half hour of the picture is all biting seaweed and Aiiii, scungelli! A creature that seems to be all mouth lives in the conquistador’s bilge; a tentacle beast steals away a creepy moustacheman; and the insufferably chipper bartender finally loses his jollity when he’s grabbed by a large biting crab! Ha ha! I have to say, these disgusting monsters really captured my heart, and they were built by none other than Robert A. Mattey, who went on from this experience to build the equally convincing shark in Jaws!

Ha ha, this is a weird movie, and seems a bore here and there, but redeems itself with the monster parade of the last third! The acting is earnest, the theme song ridiculous and wonderful (it would fit well on a mix tape with the song from The Green Slime), and the photography is colourful and lurid, if frequently too reliant on clouds of bilious fog for its atmosphere! I declare The Lost Continent a bad film that’s very much worth watching, and I award it two shoulder balloons!