Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Sunday 22 March 2015

Burl reviews When Harry Met Sally! (1989)

Ha ha, potato po-tah-to, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review  one of the godfathers of the modern romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally! Ha ha, movies don’t get any middlier than this, but I have a slight fondness for it based on Burl’s own personal experiences surrounding a theatrical viewing of the picture! Plus it fits into a microgenre I don’t exactly like, but that intrigues me: Movies That Take Place At Different Times Of Year And So Were Probably Difficult To Schedule! Funny Farm is one of those as I recall as of course is Alan Alda’s cardigan-wearing The Four Seasons! Ha ha!
An added bonus in this genre is, of course, when the seasons are distinct and well-used and the holidays are given prominence! Yes, ha ha, in When Harry Met Sally you get your summer, your leaf-dropping fall, your Christmas scenes and New Year climax! In between you get comedic misanthropy, bonding over classic films, some repetitiveness, a few laffs and a fair bit of gurning! The conclusion is a’foregone, of course, ha ha!
There’s a sense of character progression as the two characters, who initially seem like caricatures, edge toward, though still keep a ways from, the corral wherein the real people graze! We know the plot of course: Harry and Sally drive from Chicago to New York not having known each other previously, fail to get along, and over the next decade and change become friends, then lovmakers, then enemies, and ultimately spouses! Ha ha, pretty rote, though it was mildly fresher back then, probably!
I’m a wild fan of neither Billy “Running Scared” Crystal nor Meg “Innerspace” Ryan, though I certainly have nothing against them! Here they seem a bit shticky, ha ha, but have good moments throughout! Rob Reiner had some successes under his belt, like Stand By Me and The Princess Bride and that sort of thing, plus Spinal Tap; this, I guess, continued it as far as he was concerned! I’ve never seen the military courtroom one, so don’t ask me anything about it, ha ha! Nor can I explain why Reiner suddenly seemed to stop being able to make this sort of picture after a certain point!
I don’t guess there’s a lot left to say about this picture! I’m no expert in the development of the romantic comedy, but as I’ve mentioned, I think this can reasonably claim to be an important part of it! Anything that gets held up as an exemplar of its genre has some standing, I suppose! I give When Harry Met Sally two and a half baby fish mouths!

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Burl reviews Goin' Down the Road! (1970)

Lock up yer daughters, it’s Burl here, reviewin’ and a laughin’ ha ha! I’ve got a startling new movie review today, namely of that fine picture Goin’ Down the Road, the movie that bestrode the top of the Best Canadian Movies Ever charts for years and years, and may bestride it yet for all Burl knows, ha ha!
I recently had the chance to watch the picture in the company of its director, Mr. Don Shebib, who of course also graced us with the exemplary Rip-Off and the better-than-you’d-think sequel/companion film to this one, Down the Road Again, which I recently reviewed for you! Shebib, a very friendly fellow, seemed of the opinion that his sequel was a better movie than this one, but while I can see why he might say such a thing, it’s patently untrue, ha ha! The original might be a little rough around the edges, but it’s a far superior picture!
If you haven’t seen the picture, you must at least have seen the spectacular SCTV version of it, ha ha! (And if you haven’t seen that either, by garr, YouTube that old boy post-haste!) The plot of the movie is simplicity itself, of course: Pete and Joey, two hoseheads from Nova Scotia, hop in their beater convertible (complete with amateur flamejob and bluenoser slogan) and head for Toronto! Ha ha, to quote an unknown genius, “Better things wuz what they want, so off they go to Hogtown, Ont.!”
Well, they don’t quite fit in with Toronto’s café society, ha ha! No, these old boys quickly find themselves hauling glass at the bottling plant, and then quick as you please they’re back out the door again! Romance is in the air of course, and then a bungled Loblaws heist when things get really desperate! Pete convinces Joey to commit a rather heinous act, and off the two bozos go, down the road again!
Ha ha, this is a picture filled with really marvelous acting! Doug McGrath, that old familiar face from Black Christmas and Porky’s and Ghosts of Mars, plays Pete, whose thoughtful face looks like a stony glare! The late Paul Bradley is great as Joey, and Jayne Eastwood plays his waitress/paramour, and she’s excellent too, and you get to see her bum! Ha ha! And then there’s just all the little details and the fly-on-the-wall mise en scène, and the fine folky musical score and the gritty cinematography from Richard “Watchers” Leiterman! Ha ha, it’s all so great!

Well, it’s a fine picture, if a little bit of a bummer now and again! But you get great little moments, like when the boys go to the A&A record store on Yonge, or when they find, to their absolute delight, a maritime singer in one of the local bars, or when Pete becomes a pin monkey! Ha ha, I’m going to give Goin’ Down the Road three and a half stubbies, but you’ll see a heck of a lot more of ‘em than that in the movie!

Monday 16 March 2015

Burl reviews Single White Female! (1992)

Ha ha and boogaloo bread, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here with another movie review, and this one comes to us from the summer of 1992! I’m not sure what I was doing in the summer of 1992, but I remember what the movies were doing: showing us example after example of how people we should be able to trust – nannies, roommates, stepdaughters, cops – are actually kill maniacs likely to stop at nothing to acquire whatever it is their psychological deficiency demands they have! Ha ha, this important message was delivered that year in pictures like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Poison Ivy, Unlawful Entry and this movie, Single White Female!
Now, I never cared much for this genre, and, outside of its 1987 godfather, Fatal Attraction, I never saw any examples of same in the theatre, or even on video! But because I’ve always enjoyed the work of Barbet Schroeder, who directed this (as well as Barfly, More and, crucially, La Maitresse), and because the VHS was just sitting around in my basement, I recently thought I’d give it a shot! Ha ha, and why the heck not!
Well, we all know the story, I guess! Allie, a young lady, whose job appears to be designing some kind of fashion software, has a contretemps with her gentleman friend and finds herself in need of a roommate! She advertises for same and soon takes on the mousy Hedra! But as Allie, contrary to her promises, creeps towards a rapprochement with her faithless swain, Hedra, who is secretly cuckoo-bananas, objects to being pushed aside and told to move out! Ha ha, I think she has a quite reasonable grievance, myself!
Well, soon an adorable puppy takes a header out a twelfth-story window! Ha ha, he seems to have been brought on the scene for just this purpose, both within the story and for the writer’s own narrative needs! (This might have been the catalyst for my friend Sean’s vow to boycott any movie where they needlessly kill a dog!) Soon there are more bodies falling to the floor, but only a few of them, for this would style itself no slasher movie, despite its later being labeled one in many critical notices! (One of the bodies even gets up later to tell the tale!)
But, while silly and a little mean to puppies, Single White Female has nice photography from Suspiria cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, and fine performances from the leading ladies, Bridget Fonda from Frankenstein Unbound and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is probably best known for her role in Grandview U.S.A.! We also get more nuance than is usual: as I mentioned, Hedra can’t be blamed for complaining about Allie’s jerkish behavior, and her character is easy to pity, even after she starts delivering high-heel pokings to the eye and such! The tables are turned in the stalking scenes as well, and, as in Death Proof, it is the crazy maniac who gets scared and pleading!
Now, Single White Female is hardly the greatest thing since French toast! It may have the virtues already mentioned, it may boast an effective suspense moment or two, it may feature a Ken "It Came From Beneath the Sea" Tobey cameo, and it may provide a shoe in the eye! But it’s still just another one of those cuckoo-in-the-nest pictures, as silly as that implies, and overlong in the bargain! By garr, this cycle of pictures seem very much of their era – early stirrings of pre-millennial anxiety or something, maybe! Ha ha! Anyway, they never did much for me, so I’m giving Single White Female one and a half screwdrivers on a chain!

Thursday 5 March 2015

Burl reviews Jungle Heat! (1983)

The jungle ferns slowly part, and peering through… it’s Burl! Ha ha, hope I didn’t scare you! Today I thought I might review a jungle movie for you! It’s generally known by the highly generic title of Jungle Heat, which makes it sound like one of those flying bamboo sliver pictures like P.O.W.: The Escape or something!
But no, it’s a weird little genre mashup, evidently modeled on The African Queen, that was originally called Dance of the Dwarves – a much better title if you ask me, even if it’s complete nonsense! Ha ha! For there are no terpsichorean homunculi in the picture, just an uptight lady, a dipsomaniacal helicopter pilot, a wandering witch doctor and a bunch of lizard people! Ha ha! That makes it sound like a pretty exciting movie, doesn’t it! With those ingredients, you must be saying to yourself, ha ha, how could it fail!
Well, you know I don’t like to be overly critical in my little reviews, ha ha, but I do have to say that the picture does not live up to the promise of its components! The beginning augurs well, however, or appears to: a man escapes from prison and runs into the jungle, but suffers the indignity of having his face ripped off! Ha ha! Then we meet the uptight lady scientist, played by Deborah Raffin from The Sentinel, as she meets up with the sweaty, unshorn helicopter pilot, a role essayed by a sweaty, unshorn Peter “Spasms” Fonda!
John Amos from Die Hard 2 pops in now and again as a random witch doctor, but the overwhelming bulk of the picture is scene after scene of the two main characters bickering! It’s true that Fonda is a truly heroic souse, always drinking straight from his beloved square-shaped booze bottles like Uncle Red in Silver Bullet! But it’s equally true that the lady doctor is an intolerable scold! In short, spending so much time with these people is not enjoyable, and it’s a great relief when the lizard people finally show up!
Ha ha, but before that, we have a scene in which the doc shoots all of Fonda’s bottles so he can drink no longer! Fonda’s enforced program of sobriety comes to a climax when he literally kicks the bottle, if you can believe that! On top of this, the movie features more talk of Mazola cooking oil than might be expected from what is ostensibly an action/comedy/romance/horror picture! Even some of the characters get tired of the constant Mazola talk! “I spit on your mother’s Mazola! Ptoo!” says one exasperated bandito!
The creatures, when they appear, look like miniature Godzillas running around, or some humanoids from the deep that wandered off course! It’s mostly too murky to tell, but I think that the special makeup effects were not too bad, and it’s unfortunate that they were so blandly presented! On the up side, the bickering is not performed badly by Raffin and Fonda, and there are some amusing moments scattered throughout!
Too bad about the longueurs, ha ha! Still, I’m feeling generous, maybe because I have a soft spot for multi-genre movies like this! (Raw Force is another such picture, in case you’re interested!) I’m going to give Jungle Heat one and a half cans of Mazola!

Monday 2 March 2015

Burl reviews It Came From Hollywood! (1982)

Well, can you even believe it! Here was I, Burl, visiting the Value Village with a few friends some weeks ago when I come across a VHS copy of It Came From Hollywood! Yes, that’s another one of those That’s Entertainment-style clipshows, like Terror in the Aisles or even Famous T&A; but this is one I remember watching more than once with my pals a way long time ago!
What I don’t remember is why we’d have watched this more than once! Ha ha, I guess it was the plentiful clips and the comedy guest stars! Yes, instead of, say, spookmeisters like Donald Pleasance, Cameron Mitchell or Elvira, here we have a bevy of chortlesmiths, including Dan “The Great Outdoors” Aykroyd, John “The Silent Partner” Candy, Gilda “Haunted Honeymoon” Radner, and Cheech and Chong, the well-known stoners from After Hours! These entities appear in weakly-written sketches, but save stronger material for their sardonic voiceover jibes! Some of these are funny, ha ha, but the sketches almost never are!
Oh sure, Gilda Radner plays her little girl character Emily for some of it, but as talented as she was, I never cared much for that little girl! (Still, Emily provides the best moment of the movie, a voiceover bit I thought was gutbustingly uproarious when I was young, and still think is pretty amusing!) Aykroyd does a bit that presages his role in Dragnet! And there’s a tender moment between Aykroyd and Candy during the Ed Wood tribute section! But, while I hate to sound overly critical, mostly these sketches just waste everybody’s time!
As for the clips, most of the usual suspects show up: Wood’s work, The Giant Claw, The Creeping Terror, Robot Monster, Reefer Madness! Ha ha, these are all bad pictures! But then we get The War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man and other fine pictures! What are these doing here? It’s kind of nice to see them, though – they’re little islands in a swampy sea of trash, which might without respite become unbearable before the picture’s 80 minute running time is up! So maybe that’s the purpose of including good movies in there, ha ha! I can’t quite say!
Anyway, it’s a clip show, pretty well edited and possibly the slickest of the 80s bunch of them! (Only Terror in the Aisles gives it a run there!) The inclusion of good movies is off-putting whatever the motive, and whatever the psycho-emotional dangers of not doing so! And, the natural charms of their enactors notwithstanding, those sketches are a heavy debit! Altogether I’m going to have to give It Came From Hollywood one and a half little pals!

Sunday 1 March 2015

Burl reviews Stereo! (1969)

Ha ha, the motion picture case under study this meridian unit is a sixty-two minute celluloid aggregation presented in a ratio of approximately 1:1.85 and projected at 24.17 frames per second! The title is simply Stereo, and it represents the earliest attempt at a feature-length, or anyway nearly feature-length, picture by David Cronenberg! Ha ha, he’s the director best known for Fast Company, which this film does not resemble!
Well, ha ha, I’m not sure I can summarize the plot of Stereo for you! It’s not a plot-based picture! But it takes place in some Canada of the future, in which, we are asked to accept, a “Canadian Academy of Erotic Enquiry” has been established! This cerebral future time is characterized by the appearance of psychics into the population pool! The psychics have all been rounded up so that someone called Dr. Luther Stringfellow can perform sexual experiments on them! Meanwhile, a fellow in a black cape strides about and makes fish faces at everything he sees! Ha ha! A few different voices sort of explain for us what’s going on, and we hazily recognize that there are concerns with the sexy-psychic program, but ultimately, we learn, so much information has been taken in through the experiments that it will take months to analyze it all and figure everything out! Ha ha, no kidding!
It’s virtually a silent film, with only the sporadic and impenetrable narration to engage our ears! Cronenberg manages some striking black and white images, such as the upside-down silhouette lady and many fine architecture-based compositions! Then there are scenes where men kiss men and ladies, ladies! Ha ha! It gives the picture a modern feel, and, given the times in which it was made, marks an early instance of Cronenberg reaching out very deliberately to push buttons! Ha ha, that’s why he’s great!
Stereo is juvenilia for certain, but worth a look! It might drive you a bit crazy, but you’ll be the better person for watching it, I think! It comes across as parody sometimes, but it’s chock full of intriguisms in the same was as, say, Waking Life or something! But of course they’re delivered in a rather underbaked way! It’s a grad student film and no mistake, ha ha! In the wrong mood you’ll find it something of a ponderosa, but still, I give Stereo two hearty helicopter landings!