Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Saturday 26 September 2015

Burl reviews It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. (2007)

Well hey-and-hey-howdy, it’s Burl here, reporting on a marvelous art film made by a young actor – well, a young actor and his friend! I’m talking about the second picture in Crispin Glover’s It Trilogy, It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. Of course we all know Glover as an actor in pictures like Friday the 13th part 4 and Rubin & Ed! This picture was made by Glover and a fellow called David Brothers, and they shot it in Salt Lake City around about 2001! Ha ha, it wasn’t finished and released until 2007 though, but that’s low-budget filmmaking for you! I, Burl, can relate!
It was directed by Glover and Brothers, but the story comes, according to an opening title, “From the mind of Steven C. Stewart!” Steven C. Stewart is, or was, a man in his early sixties extremely debilitated by cerebral palsy! A terrible illness! So everything was difficult or impossible for Steven, and speaking was an especial bugaboo! But he managed to write a script and act it out, even if his line readings aren’t always intelligible! A singular man, by all accounts!
In the opening scenes, Steven plays himself in the situation he’d been some years earlier: trapped not just within his body, but in an institution he hated! He falls out of his chair and is replaced there by a burly, completely unemotional attendant! But we are then cast into a gaudy crime drama, of which Steven, under the name Paul, is the central character! He embarks on a romance with a Fassbinder actress – one’s first clue that all will not go swimmingly – and displays an especial interest in long, straight hair!
When the lady refuses to marry him, he can take it, so far as we can gather! But when she muses about cutting her long hair, Paul can abide no more! He wraps his suddenly burly arm around the lady’s neck and administers the fatal chokehold that will become his signature move! Next he’s hanging out with the lady’s daughter, and she too is marked for a chokehold!
For Paul is embarking on a killing spree! He starts out like Walter Paisley from A Bucket of Blood – a picture I was strongly reminded of while watching this one – as a kind of likable nebbish, and progresses quickly to a maniacal slaughter fiend! And, ha ha, Paul sure puts the “sex” in “sexagenarian!” Long-haired ladies are constantly falling in love with him, and frequently having intercourse with him, and then they go and mention their hair and Paul crooks that ol’ murderin’ arm! He’s forced to deal out a few punchings and a brutal wheelchair-over-the-throat murder too! (All of this was extra-oddball for me, because Steven/Paul resembled with remarkable precision my neighbour Fred! Ha ha, dead ringers, really, though Fred hasn't got CP and is not, to my knowledge, a strangle-killer!)
Of course nobody ever suspects Paul, because how could a man with severe cerebral palsy be responsible for this carnage! We’re seeing it and even we don’t quite buy it! Ha ha, I don’t want to tell you the end, but it works very well at providing an emotional arc-completion to the film! In fact the whole movie, as occasionally oddball and pervy as it gets, and as mildly confusing when Paul is sleeping with and killing ladies we’ve only just met but he seems familiar with already, is executed with a strange and compelling charm, and a meaning! For we’re not just watching a story, we’re watching a man’s dark fantasies put on screen, and the man himself being given a most unlikely chance to act them out! It’s really something to see, quite frankly!
The picture was shot on gaudy colour 16mm, one of my favourite formats! Other than the nursing home seen at the beginning and end, all of it was shot on beautifully fakey sets, and the acting is variable and stylized! Glover’s father Bruce Glover, Mr. Wint himself from Diamonds Are Forever, plays a sleazy ex-husband, and he acts in such a way as to imply he took the whole thing as kind of a joke! But it still sort of works!
It’s a truly unusual picture, and possibly not for everyone! But I thought it was a marvelous accomplishment, and I’ve been thinking about it frequently since I saw it! Ha ha, it made me want to see the other two in the trilogy, though the third installment was still pending at this writing! But in the meantime I’d like to give It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. three belly-bandages!

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Burl reviews Mission Impossible III! (2006)

Burl here, and please take note that this review will not self-destruct in five seconds, or ever, I hope! Ha ha! Anyway, it’s one of the Mission Impossible pictures I’m talking about today, and that’s a series of movies I appreciate, even if I haven’t seen them all (and even if I don’t remember a thing about 2, even though I saw it in the theatre)! They’re very slightly old-fashioned, like the Bond movies; all the globetrotting spy stuff I guess; and even if the difference between them and any other blockhead franchise is slight, it also must be critical! Whatever that fine line is, I’m firmly on one side of it! I’d go see one of these, but, ha ha, you'd never catch me at a Transformers picture! I mean, by garr, I have standards!
With all that out of the way, I’ll tell you that I’m reviewing Mission Impossible III, which I had never seen previously! The name J.J. Abrams didn’t mean anything to me, as I’m not a TV man, and I still get him confused with the other one, Joss Whedon! I know one of them did Super 8 and a new Star Wars and the other does super-hero pictures like The Avengers!
Anyway, it was J.J. Abrams made this one, and as a series of action scenes, it’s not bad! But it’s not very memorable either! Ha ha, I recall that Tom "Jack Reacher" Cruise’s spy character, Ethan Hunt, is now merely a teacher instead of an active agent, and he’s married to a lady he can’t stop grinning broadly at (Michelle Monaghan from Due Date), and hosts parties for guests who also receive his constant thousand-watt grin – and surely some of the extras found it creepy – and all of this he does under the fake identity of a humble traffic-tally man!
I also remember that a lady gets a little bomb in her brain, and that the bad guy behind it all is played pretty effectively by Philip Seymour Hoffman, the fellow who made and appeared in Jack Goes Boating! But g*sh darn it if I can recall what the kerfuffling is about! Hoffman’s character is some kind of international arms dealer, and he wants to do something… was it blow up the world? I can’t recall, ha ha, and remember, I just saw this picture a short while ago!
Anyway, there’s an exciting helicopter chase, and Hoffman is hung out the bottom of a jet plane, and then there’s a great deal of destruction on a bridge when Hoffman is freed from imprisonment by his gangster buddies! Ha ha, that’s a pretty thrilling scene too, I guess! It suffers a bit from that jumpy camerawork and unbalanced fluorescent look we saw so much of in the mid-oughts, and it really works hard to achieve some kind of gravity! But, ha ha, always remember that this is a movie in which people can appear to be completely different and specific human beings by the simple application of a rubber mask!
Just about any plot twist is easily achievable by the application of a completely convincing rubber mask, and so that’s exactly what we get: just about any plot twist! I must admit that Tom Cruise is perfectly good in his role when he's meant to be an actionman, but in those scenes at the beginning of the picture, when he’s supposed to be a normal human hosting a party, he’s just so weird! He goes around spouting traffic statistics, reading people’s lips and grinning like an absolute lunatic! No wonder he’s happy, after some rote protestations, to get back in the action and square off with Hoffman! (Ha ha, to reach any parity, the final fight between the two requires Cruise to become ridiculously impaired by various injuries as well as by the bomb that’s been implanted in his brain now!)
There's an entertaining supporting cast (Simon Pegg from Paul, Laurence Fishburne from Death Wish II, Eddie Marsan from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and more) Ha ha, I’ll have to see the two newer entries of this series, because the word is they’re better than this one! Mission Impossible III was acceptable popcorntainment, but nothing more, and I award it one and a half rubber masks!

Sunday 20 September 2015

Burl reviews Rolling Thunder! (1977)

Burl here, presenting a write-up concerning the revenge drama Rolling Thunder! This is a picture beloved by many, and I myself, having seen it before, years ago, remembered it fondly! Five years before John Rambo got himself lost in the B.C. mountains, here is the Vietnam veteran movie that actually drew first blood, ha ha!
William “The Dark” Devane plays Major Charles Rane, who commanded troops in ‘Nam and then ended up a POW for almost ten years! He returns Stateside with his fellow prisoner, a wreck played by Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive! Of course everything has changed for The Major: his infant son has grown into a boy, his wife has taken up with another fellow; a cop, a decent enough guy, but one who calls his stepson “runt!” On the upside, The Major attracts the attentions of a local POW groupie (Linda Haynes from Human Experiments) and is gifted, by a local car dealership or chamber of commerce, a golden dollar for every day he was imprisoned! Further on the downside, his cask of gold attracts the attentions of a foul violence gang who kill his family and grind off The Major’s hand in a garbarator!
The leader of this terrible violence gang is none other than James Best, a terrific actor whom we all know from The Killer Shrews and of course, his role as Roscoe P. Coltrane! Q-Q-Q indeed! Luke Askew from The Beast Within is in the gang too, and a couple of other fellows besides! Dabney Coleman from Cloak & Dagger takes on the small role as The Major’s Army shrink, but nothing this braindoctor can say will take away The Major’s thirst for blood vengeance or the silver hook he now sports for a hand! Ha ha! The Major enlists his buddy Tommy Lee Jones to help, and it’s kind of touching: Tommy Lee asks no questions, but simply says “I’ll get my gear!” Of course it’s because he wants to help The Major, but also because he can’t adjust to and just plain hates his Stateside life, ha ha! And one sympathizes with him completely whenever his family is shown!
The picture was directed by John “Best Seller” Flynn, and is probably the movie on which his reputation for no-nonsense action-drama largely is based! Because, ha ha, it’s pretty good! Having a Paul Schrader/Heywood Gould script doesn’t hurt of course, and the photography by Jordan “Blade Runner” Cronenweth is ideal for the picture, and the cast is pretty darn strong! The final scenes, which recall those of Taxi Driver in their “man’s gotta do” brutality, are particularly memorable! (Those expecting wall-to-wall blood action will probably consider the picture too much of a drama for their tastes, but that’s their loss! I think when I saw it as a teenager, I was a little underwhelmed, but I feel differently now!)
It’s a simple picture, and from that comes its strength! It actually fits into a microgenre I like: movies that were given the green light on the basis of their exploitable elements, but are actually artistic works of serious purpose! And yet they fulfill their genre requirements nicely! Ha ha, I can’t think of other examples right off the top of my mind, but there are plenty – maybe Cockfighter is another one!
Anyway, it’s a movie of well-oiled craftsmanship, and it delivers the goods! It’s not brilliant, but it’s a very fine low-budgeter, and William Devane going from this to The Dark in less than two years impresses me with his range! I find him an interesting-looking fellow, like the half-simian Kennedy brother they kept in the White House attic! In any event, I’m going to give Rolling Thunder three pairs of mirrored sunglasses!

Monday 14 September 2015

Burl reviews The Evil! (1978)

And a-BOO, it’s Burl, here to review a haunted house picture! Ha ha, this is the type of horror picture perhaps – perhaps – most likely to actually give me chills! I’ll tell you, when a subgenre can boast movies like The Haunting and The Uninvited and Legend of Hell House, and even The Changeling and Burnt Offerings and The Amityville Horror, you’ve got to admit it has a certain power! It works on me, anyway!
The Evil is another of those kind of movies, a low-budget iteration, sort of silly at times, but still occasionally effective! Richard Crenna from Summer Rental stars as CJ, a dedicated rationalist, a therapist by profession, who decides to start some kind of clinic in the biggest, creepiest mansion he can find! And I’ve got to give the filmmakers a great deal of credit here: they found themselves a top-flight location for their purposes! Ha ha, the house – it’s so huge, is it even a house? – is a sprawling estate with plenty of creepity potential, along with an appealingly eerie backstory!
CJ’s ex-student and great buddy is played by Andrew Prine, well-known from Grizzly and many other genre works! He looks a bit like a handsome Frankenstein Monster in this movie, ha ha, and ends up circular-sawing off half of his hand! But that doesn’t actually seem to bother him as much as it would have bothered me! Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself! CJ’s ladyfriend is a sensitive type, and so sees the shade of the house’s original owner beckoning at her and pointing emphatically at his oversized special secret diary! It of course contains a vital clue on what to do… about The Evil! Ha ha!
The house, having already incinerated its requisite muttering caretaker, first locks in then sets about terrorizing, batting around and fatally boo!-ing the team assembled to tidy up the old pile! Some are electrocuted, others savaged by a hound or sucked into a mire! (Ha ha, shades of Amityville 1992: It’s About Time!) The house evidently enjoys clacking its shutters, and this it does a number of times as the characters try to figure out what’s going on! Finally CJ remembers about a creepy iron door he unearthed in the basement and removed the key of! Down into the sulfurous pit they go, only to find… Victor Buono!
Ha ha, you got that right! Buono, sporting an ice-cream suit, sits on a throne and insults, belittles and gives Excedrin Headache #9 to Crenna! But the mystical key with which the nefarious Buono can be locked back into his pit also serves as a weapon in the right hands! Ha ha, I had to laugh at the little coda, where the two final escapees emerge from the house after their ordeal, get into their car as fast as they can and peel away! That’s what anyone would do of course, but it just looked funny to see it enacted so purely!
It’s not a bad little picture, in the end, but not that terrific either, and opinions vary greatly on the effectiveness of the Buono segment! For some it completely deflates whatever atmosphere the previous seventy minutes managed to gin up; for others it’s a camp masterstroke that sets the movie apart from such contemporaries as, say, The Nesting or A Name For Evil! It may go either way for you, or it may go both ways, which is sort of how I feel! It drains the movie of its tension, sure, but at the same time individuates it!
I liked the picture less this time around than on my previous viewing many years ago, but I’m still not unfond of it! The cast is fine, the house is grand and there are some eerie moments, if not enough of them! (The same scriptwriter’s Superstition was a more effective take on similar material, as I recall!) On balance I think The Evil has just barely earned two circular saws! Ha ha!

Burl reviews On the Edge of Crazy! (2007)

Hi, Burl here to review a movie I’ll characterize as “not very well-known!” It’s a romantic comedy shot almost a decade ago in a small town somewhere, and it’s called On the Edge of Crazy! Ha ha, and how did it fall into ol’ Burl’s hands? It’s too long a tale to tell! But you can watch it tonight if you wish, for it is available on the Internet!
The picture’s tagline truly says it all! Indeed, all they wished for was a quiet romantic evening, and double indeed, instead all they received was the exact opposite! Ha ha, the picture tells the story of a doughy fellow named Leland Leonard who has trouble in the dating department! His mushmouthed narration brings us to the present moment: he has thus far in his young life dated only weirdos and harpies, and hopes to someday find a normal lady he can love! He meets a cheery young lass called Beverly, and eventually manages to make a date with her! But their evening falls into chaos as Leonard’s brother, a would-be wrestler; and a beret-wearing individual, ostensibly a pornoo-movie director, with an unplaceable, ever-shifting accent; and a particularly unpleasant ex-girlfriend; and other such parties, invade their townhouse and make romance impossible!
Thus does the plot, or “plot,” unfold! Ha ha, I guess the atmosphere being striven for is the one-thing-after-another chaos of After Hours or other such pictures, but the situations are a bit too contrived for that to be brought off; and the humour alternately ham-handed or obvious! Some of the gags do come off well though, and when that’s the case it almost always arises from the more felicitous performances!
This is an amateur production, so I’m not going to complain too much about performance issues, ha ha! But it must be said that the director, Ryan Souter, probably would have been better off casting someone other than himself in the lead! He makes a game effort, but can overcome neither his physical unsuitability for the character, nor the essential passivity of his role, nor the fact that his mind was obviously more on his directing than his acting! On the other hand, the fellow who plays his hen-pecked buddy is really quite good, and a number of the other performances give some nice moments!
But the direction upon which Mr. Souter was lavishing the bulk of his attentions is pretty uninspired, I must say! Certainly I understand his position: keeping control of such an enterprise is, or in the moment at least feels like, a feat in itself! But the movie is bereft of any style or interesting flourish that might give it some individuality! It’s too bad, because with a little more pep and gumption, this might have stood out a little bit!
It tries to be weird, but the weirdness is mostly of the off-putting variety; and the picture is laid over with an outdated, juvenile men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus sensibility! Actually, even worse, the men are from Earth, supposedly, while the women are from Beta Centauri or some such far-flung alien place! Ha ha! It’s trying to be When Harry Met Sally, but comes off more as When Harry Met Bzwai-9!
There’s not too much more to say about such a picture! I myself watched it on DVD, but as I say, it appears to be available for viewing online if you’re so inclined! And by all means, if you have a taste for backyard comedy or the sincere efforts of amateurs, you might find some genuine enjoyment! I will say that I appreciated it a great deal more than many slick and professional rom-coms I’ve seen! I’m going to give On the Edge of Crazy a robust one and a half wrestling capes!

Thursday 10 September 2015

Burl reviews The Rescuers! (1977)

Good day, it’s Burl here with another Disney picture to tell you about! Ha ha, this one, The Rescuers, isn’t quite in the Disney Classic category alongside Dumbo – no, it came along during a period in which the company was maybe floundering creatively a little bit! Old Walt was ten years in the cryonic chamber at this point, and the House of Mouse was putting out things like Pete’s Dragon and Candleshoe and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo! It’s not that those are bad pictures, but they’re no Superdad, ha ha!
Anyway, along with the Herbie picture, The Rescuers was their big summer release of 1977, and I can only imagine that both were swallowed whole by Star Wars, ha ha! But if The Rescuers did poorly at the box office, it was probably just as much because, speaking frankly for a moment, it’s not all that great! The narrative is pretty baggy, the characters thin, the songs unmemorable and the action repetitive! It occasionally looks nice though, and I’ll try to list some of its other attributes as well!
We open with a sad little girl, Penny, tossing a message-in-a-bottle off an old riverboat! This note is found by an international society of mice dedicated to helping people in trouble! A novel enough concept, certainly, but it seems like almost any of this society’s other adventures would surely be more exciting than the one we are to be given!
This is kind of a running theme! The mouse agents chosen to rescue Penny from her dilemma are Bernard, a stammering janitor-mouse voiced by Bob “Catch 22” Newhart, and Miss Bianca, the Hungarian delegate, played by Eva Gabor! Both do a fine enough job, but one feels that any other two agents might have been picked instead, and they would be at least as good or better!
And what is Penny’s dilemma? Ha ha, well, she has quite a few! She’s a poor orphan girl, and except for an elderly cat is apparently friendless, and on top of that she gets kidnapped by nasty fortune hunters who need a person of small stature to go down a slime pit to search for a legendary diamond! Geraldine Fitzgerald voices the principal antagonist, Madame Medusa, who, despite Miss Fitzgerald’s admirable hamming, is nothing but an inferior copy of Cruela De Vil! Her secret lair is not an old family mansion but a decrepit riverboat, and she keeps a pair of alligators as pets! (The gators don’t talk, which is odd considering almost every other kind of animal can in this picture!) Altogether, it’s another case where the backstory of how Medusa and her droopy-dog henchman Mr. Snoops began their odd partnership, and how they became aware of the huge pirate diamond they’re searching for, might well have been more compelling than the far end of the tale we're being shown!
Bernard and Miss Bianca’s love story works about as well as you’d expect it to between those two actors, and between those two characters! Familiar voices are present and accounted for in, and helpful to, most of the other characters, like John “Herbie Rides Again” McIntire as Rufus, and perennial hayseed Pat Buttram as the corn likker-drinkin’ swamp rat Luke! While it has moments of charm and humour, and best of all a queer swamp-Gothic weirdness, it’s unquestionably a minor work, and some extra labouring over the story would have been much appreciated! I give The Rescuers one and a half proto sea-doos!

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Burl reviews The House of Seven Corpses! (1973)

At a very slow shamble, it’s Burl, looming out of the darkness! I’ve got a zombie picture to tell you about, but it’s not just any zombie picture! It’s a one-zombie movie, and I’ve always kind of liked those, because, as in that first segment of Creepshow, it indicates a zombie with purpose and direction! The purpose is always revenge, the direction is toward one terrified victim or another, and the speed is always slow-w-w!
So it is with The House of Seven Corpses, a moldy oldie with more old than mold! Ha ha, it’s your basic early-to-mid 70s PG-rated low-budget horror picture, colourful, a little tempera-paint gore, filled with yelling and desperately lacking pep! But it has a cast you want to watch, let me tell you! John Ireland from Gunslinger and Satan’s Cheerleaders plays a highly irritable film director, who, without ever really ceasing to yell, or at least bark, or at his very nicest merely sneer with bitter sarcasm, is attempting to make a lttle horror picture absolutely filled to the brim with mumbo-jumbo and hocus-pocus!
Eric is this director’s name, and his (mature) star is none other than Faith Domergue from It Came From Beneath the Sea! They’re all shooting a horror movie in a big Utah mansion caretaken by John Carradine, well-known from The Boogey Man and Sunset Cove and The Sentinel and a thousand other pictures! (Though, amazingly, not Without Warning!) The house once belonged to the Beals, evidently a kill-crazy family who were so busy murdering one another that one wonders how they ever got around to procreating! Ha ha!
The principal from Three O’ Clock High is the mature male lead in the movie-within-a-movie, and from all the film-business sniping with which the first hour is well-supplied, it’s clear they were going for a kind of All About Eve cutting showbiz badinage thing! It doesn’t quite make it, I’m afraid, and this stretch gets a bit tiresome! Eric yells at people, a bearded crew member seems to be doing every job on the set, Carradine shakes his head a lot and finally a zombie pops up out of the ground and begins killing everyone! Ha ha, took a while, fellows!
Of course it begins with the same sort of obvious fake-out as F/X and every other movie about movies, but it tries to end with a twist too! Ha ha, I think! Actually I’m not sure what was going on – were the zombie and the chip-cheery blonde guy really one and the same? Was there some sort of transference, or was it merely as case of possession? Sorry, I’m not sure if that’s giving away the ending or not, because I don’t know if I’m completely making up that ending!
For a movie like this, it doesn’t actually matter! What does matter are the incidentals, like the for-once reasonable amount of Carradine we get! Ha ha, John Carradine is an actor I always enjoy watching, and he has a fair amount to do here! He even gets a pretty stiff neck twist given him by the zombie! There are a few eerie moments here and there, a couple of entertaining moviemaking in-jokes, and a whaleload of silliness! I wish it had more pep and more atmosphere, and maybe a little less yelling; perhaps the thing to do is pair it with something like The House on Skull Mountain, which might make it come off better, ha ha! In the end I can’t in good conscience give The House of Seven Corpses seven corpses, but I can present it with at least a corpse and a half!

Saturday 5 September 2015

Burl reviews F/X! (1986)

Incredibly, it’s Burl, here to review you a movie all about trick effects! It’s one of those 80s workhorse pictures – movies that came in and did their job efficiently and without complaint, but were in no sense classics! I’m thinking Remo Williams here, you know, Iceman! Stuff like that! Sure, Dreamscape! Anyway, that should give you a pretty good idea of what we’re talking about here, quality-wise!
But there are personal feelings wrapped up in this one too: I consider it a Movie of Shame! Ha ha, that’s not as serious as it sounds! But I was a young lad when this came out, ready to start thinking about the ladies! I bussed downtown to see a movie all by myself one winter’s night, and by chance met up with my good friend Matthew along the way! He was keeping company with two girls from our grade, whom I knew only slightly! (Matthew was a slight lad whose later coming out surprised no one, yet he always did very well with the ladies in junior high!) They were going to see Down and Out in Beverly Hills, which was playing at a theatre very nearby, and invited me to go along with them! With visions of the tempting stills printed in Fangoria magazine, I firmly said “No, I’m going to see F/X,” and, on thinking back, fancied that, at the moment of my principled rebuffal, I saw one of the young ladies pull a downcast look! In fact, she was no doubt simply stifling a sneeze! Whatever the case, I regretted for a long time after that that I didn’t go along with them! Why, I simply should have out of friendliness! (Actually, all of us probably should have just gone to see Hannah And Her Sisters! Ha ha!)
Well, if you’re Burl, that is the character of your regrets! But I watched the picture again the other day (still never have seen Down and Out in Beverly Hills) and it holds up as being exactly the sort of blandly competent action-suspense picture it always was! It begins with a scene in a restaurant where everybody gets machine-gunned, but, ha ha, it’s just a movie within the movie, and everybody was just acting, and the special blood-squib trick effects were done by Rollie, the trick-effects man everybody’s talking about! Ha ha, he’s played by Bryan Brown from Tai-Pan, and his ladyfriend is played by Diane Venora, a fine actor whom we recall from Wolfen!
Well, events escalate, Diane exits stage right, and is quickly replaced by the imposing form of Brian “Best Seller” Dennehy! It’s all got to do with weasely Cliff de Young, fresh from pictures like Protocol and Secret Admirer, who recruits Rollie for a very special task, which then goes all kapooniak and Rollie is on the run! Ha ha, and he’s driving a big gaudy van with "F/X" painted across the side in huge, bright faux-graffito! Way to keep a low profile, Rollie!
All sorts of familiar faces join in the action! We’ve got Jerry Orbach from Someone To Watch Over Me, Joe Grifasi from Brewster’s Millions, Trey Wilson from Drive-In and even Tom Noonan from The Monster Squad: these last two playing dogged assassin agents! The climax of the picture is in many ways familiar from all sorts of 80s lite-adventure movies: it’s a bunch of creeping around the bad guy’s mansion! But instead of shooting people, Rollie puts together a bunch of fatal trick effects to bamboozle and brutally eliminate his enemies!
So, was it worth giving up what I’d have cherished as an impromptu movie date at Down and Out in Beverly Hills? Ha ha, well I do remember enjoying it then, but now, with the lost date water over the dam, I can see it more clearly: a decent if silly entertainment, a little overstuffed with unnecessary scenes, suspenseful only in parts and then slightly, but engaging throughout nevertheless! I give F/X two unconvincing hobo outfits, ha ha!

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Burl reviews Summer of '42! (1971)

Ha ha, Burl here, still playing summer catch-up! (No, not Summer Catch, a movie I resent more every time I think about it! Ha ha, whatever score I gave that thing, it wasn’t low enough!) What I mean by that is I’ve got a summer movie to review for you, one that I watched in bits and pieces over the whole of this now-past summer! That’s not a way I usually watch movies, but in this case, for a picture that fits into the summerlong subgenre as neatly as this one does (ha ha, it’s even in the title!), it seemed not inappropriate! ("Summerlong" movies are ones that take place over an entire summer, in case you were wondering!)
The picture in question is Summer of ’42, a middlebrow drama from longer ago now than the period it was dramatizing was long ago from the movie’s release date, if you follow me! And I’ll give Summer of ’42 this accolade right off the hop: it absolutely nails the period details, at least as near as I can tell, since I wasn’t around back then! To ol’ Burl, it feels unquestionably authentic!
And here is another back-pat I’d like to hand the movie: This is without a doubt one of the great beach-town pictures I’ve seen, with more windswept dunes, scrub growth, crashing waves and half-buried fences than may be found in any number of other films in which such entities might reasonably be expected! Ha ha, why, it gives Jaws a run for its money in those departments, and that’s saying something!
With all that presented, I’ll get to the meat of the matter! Summer of ’42, as written by Herman Raucher, tells the clearly autobiographical story of Hermie, a New York lad vacationing in those wartime days on Nantucket Island! (They don’t call it Nantucket Island in the film, but that’s where the real story apparently happened, ha ha, though the movie was filmed in California, and looks it!) Hermie has a couple of pals, Oscy and Benji, and this diminutive-suffixed trio spend their days and evenings sweating in the grip of adolescent hormones, walking funny as a result, and along the way providing a pretty fair template for the Lemon Popsicle gang and their ilk! When push comes to shove, Benji can’t hack it and simply disappears; the important business of purchasing prophylactics and squiring girls to the movies (they go see Now, Voyager, I believe!), and thence to nighttime beach blankets, is left to Hermie and Oscy!
Oscy scores, but Hermie messes up, because his mind is fixed on the pretty young bride who lives in the fantastic beach house down the road! Ha ha, he acts like a real schmuck around her, and that’s no lie! She seems a bit like a Stepford Wife prototype given early retirement, but is friendly enough, and Hermie progresses from carrying her groceries to hauling boxes up a ladder to arriving one night when she’s just learned her husband, fighting in Europe, has fallen in battle; has become terribly d*unk; and is willing to self-hypnotize herself into deflowering Hermie! Ha ha, and Hermie never says a word after that, as far as we know, not even to his good pal Oscy! (He was saving it for the screenplay he would later write, I guess! Ha ha!)
Ha ha, I’ve liked a couple of Robert Mulligan pictures, like To Kill A Mockingbird and The Other, but despite a nice slowbones camera style, this one is a bit of a pettipoint! Of course it’s got a plinking-piano score from Michel Legrand; this was surely ordained! And let me tell you, they must have had the fog filters at level four for every shot in the picture! Robert Surtees, the cinematographer, was a pretty talented guy, but this measure of gauziness seems a bit much! Well, I guess it and all the rest of the syrup worked, ha ha, for it attracted audiences like flies! Oh, it was a mighty big hit!
But why? Several scenes, the condom-buying scene in particular, run on well past any reasonable length! It’s not that they’re boring or slow, but more a case of diminishing returns! Hermie travels beyond the realm of nervous juvenile here: he becomes a shaking, sweating, stammering wreck barely able to compose a sentence or stand upright, and a little of this goes a long way! I guess it’s interesting to see a yearning, lyrical account of behavior the older lady would be arrested and shamed for today, but really, the movie isn’t even as daring as it thought itself in 1971, I don’t think! And why the R rating? Ha ha, I sure can't figure it!
Jennifer “Scanners” O’Neill, who plays the lady, is as mentioned a bit robotic, but the kids are all good actors (though I think Benjie was really only playing himself!), as are the few adults in the picture, and I liked that we never saw Hermie’s parents, or anyone else’s parents for that matter! I wasn’t doing the movie much justice by watching it in chunks, I will admit, but nevertheless I can’t bring myself to award Summer of ’42 any more than one and a half strawberry cones with, uh, sprinkles!

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Burl reviews Phantom of the Mall! (1989)

Booga-booga me with a spoon, it’s Burl! Yes, ha ha, I’m here with a review of a 1980s mall picture for you, and you know what that means! Valley Girls! Well, ha ha, not really, since they were seven or eight years passé by the time this picture was made, but you can be sure their successors are present and accounted for in this mall!
As you can surely tell from the title, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge is a Phantom of the Opera update, and I’m pretty sure it’s set in the same mall as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Chopping Mall, and it looks awfully like that mall they used in Commando too! Ha ha, maybe it’s just that all 1980s California malls look the same to me!
I won’t give you the plot in much detail, because, ha ha, that would waste all of our valuable time! Be it known, however, that a young lady who takes a job in a new mall has many flashbacks to the times a year ago when she was keeping company with her true love, Eric! But then, ha ha, a horrible housefire kills Eric’s family and purportedly him, although not really because he’s now got a puttyface and is stalking the back rooms and ductworks of the new mall – the very same new mall within which his one-time inamorata is employed!
Well, from then on it’s killings! The victims are mostly security guards to begin with, so nobody really notices! Ken Foree, back in a mall again a decade after Dawn of the Dead, is the only one sharp enough to be aware of a sudden decline in the mall’s heretofore robust population of perverts, peeping toms and general scumbags! Somehow, even when the mall owner’s astonishingly delinquency-prone son is trapped screaming all the way up to the top of an escalator where his neck is snapped like a cannoli, nobody sees a thing!
Our young protagonist has several pals, the goofiest being Pauly Shore, the comic actor best known for his role in that pregnancy drama For Keeps! She also has many enemies, principally the killer arsonist who originally set Eric’s house on fire – he’s played (I believe) by Gregory Scott Cummins, the star of Action U.S.A.! And Tom Fridley from Jason Lives plays the aforementioned mall owner’s son, who was so nasty he reminded me of the customer who enrages Dick Miller at the beginning of Starhops! And then there’s the town mayor, a role essayed by Morgan Fairchild from Deadly Illusion – we don’t know if she’s friend or foe for most of the movie, but, giving it away here for just a second, she’s foe! So naturally she gets tossed off a balcony and impaled on some kind of pointy sculpture! Ha ha! It’s just like what happens to that lady in Mausoleum!
When he’s not murderizing people, Eric is listening to “Our Song,” the tune he and his young ladyfriend unaccountably loved, and which is the most horrible song imaginable! It gets played and replayed until your ears want to fly south, and frankly it’s probably the real reason Eric went homicidally banana-monster! I have to say, that terrible song really lets the movie down!
Otherwise, for one of these things it’s not half bad! It’s not great either, of course: it’s never scary or suspenseful, and the romance part, a critical element to any phantom picture, falls flat! On the other hand, it gives us a lot of nasty characters to boo and their murders to cheer; and there are a few Special Makeup Effects here and there, including Eric’s puttyface; and I liked that it really created a feeling of community within the mall, even if it’s a dysfunctional community populated entirely by jerks and airheads!
On balance it’s a generally enjoyable friton-bleu, though hardly essential! I was glad to have finally had the chance to see it! I’m going to give Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge two exploding eyeballs! Ha ha!