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You just never know what he'll review next!

Monday 25 April 2016

Burl reviews Hush! (2016)

Ha ha, quiet everybody, it’s Burl, here to review a new-style slasher picture called Hush! It’s a bit more refined than your typical 80s-era hack-‘em-up, but shares some real similarities! Ha ha, for example, both this picture and Friday the 13th part 4 feature corkscrew deaths, ha ha; but in contrast to the Jason movie, this picture really skimps on the spaz-dancing!
The situation here is that a lady novelist with hearing issues is living alone in a house out in the woods, with only her fluffy white cat (who seems marked for death from the outset) and a pair of neighbours, with whom she is friends, and her indecision as to how she should end her latest thriller!
All of this is interrupted by brutal murder and mayhem! First to go is the neighbor lady, and her demise demonstrates the mean-spiritedness of this particular slasher-murderer! He wears a mask at first, the usual creepy featureless mask that we’ve seen in pictures like this since Halloween, but he removes it soon enough to reveal a face in need of a shave, ha ha! And with his crossbow and set a’ steak knives he clearly means business! Still, of course, our deaf lady Maddie is not going to take all this lying down, and, as in Misery, she will use everything in her writer’s toolkit to defeat the bearded menace! (But unlike in Misery, that will not include actual items in the toolkit, such as a typewriter, ha ha!)
The movie is not badly done, and there are some solid suspense scenes! Of course her hearing impairment is a factor, but not as much so as I’d thought it would be, and the incorporation of new technologies is not as clumsily done as in most modern horror pictures! There’s nothing really stellar here; no new ground broken; and while clearly that wasn’t the intention it might have been nice of the movie to give us a little something to remember it by! It’s the kind of movie that invites the application of the word “exercise,” like something that would be pulled off by the more talented students in the film school if their end-of-semester assignment was to demonstrate rote suspense! As such I will award Hush two unexpectedly hale and hardy pussycats! Ha ha!

Saturday 23 April 2016

Burl reviews Raw Deal! (1986)

Ha ha, it’s Burl here, neither drinking nor baking, but trying to play catch-up on all the reviews I haven’t written lately! For example, it’s now time to look at a slightly oddball Arnie picture that I rewatched some weeks ago and should have reviewed back then, but didn’t! Anyway, better late than never, ha ha! Today’s picture, Raw Deal, hasn’t survived in the cultural memory banks as well as other Arnies of the era, like Commando or Predator, and perhaps the reason for this is that it’s so resolutely unmemorable, seemingly by design!
But all these attempts to be a normal action-drama upend the narrative and make Raw Deal one of the stranger pictures Arnie made in the 80s! For one thing, he’s given a scene of domestic drama to play, and it comes off more like a skit from Saturday Night Live! Ha ha, that’s the one where his drunken, resentful wife throws a cake at him, and he advises her not to drink and bake!
Ha ha, she’s drunken and resentful because Arnie, who used to be an FBI agent, was forced to resign and become a smalltown sheriff in a place where everybody only talks about agriculture! The scene ends tenderly, with Arnie carrying his passed-out wife to bed and then sipping on a whiskey; but when Arnie’s friend Hyarri comes knocking with tales of Chicago gagsters who must be stopped, the muscleman doesn’t hesitate to fake his own death-by-megaexplosion and take on a new identity in order to embed himself in the Windy City underworld!
From then on he assumes the persona of Florida sharpie “Joseph P. Brenner,” eager to work for badman Patrovita, of the Chicago mafia! Ha ha, perhaps to make up for the fact that, as played by Sam Wanamaker, Patrovita is not a particularly memorable villain, there is a tripartite hierarchy within the mob gang: Patrovita; his right-hand man Rocca (played by Paul “The End of August” Shenar), and Rocca’s right-hand man Max, as essayed by Robert Davi from Wild Thing! Schwarzenegger sports an expensive lifestyle suit and pulls a bit of a Yojimbo, pitting the Patrovita gang against a rival enterprise! He meanwhile keeps in touch with Hyarri (played by the terrific Darren McGavin from Hangar 18 and A Christmas Story) and embarks on a chaste romance with a lady gambler played by Kathryn Harrold from Into the Night! A couple of actors from Lassiter, Ed Lauter and Joe Regalbuto, figure in to all this as well! Ha ha!
Anyway, there’s some action and plenty of gunfire, and a scene in a transvestite bar, but on the whole it seems meant as a step up on the classiness scale for Schwarzenegger: an action-drama rather than the pure action pictures he’d theretofore made his stock-in-trade! They hired a real director for the thing (John Irvin, who brought us Ghost Story) and a big deal crew (Alex “The Keep” Thomson was the cinematographer; Anne V. “In the Line of Fire” Coates the editor)! But, though it has a few good bits of dialogue and some durable if unexciting performances, it’s also rarely exciting or thrilling or funny, features an intolerable musical score and is generally unmemorable! In those ways, and also with the Chicago setting, it reminded me strongly of Next of Kin, ha ha! I give Raw Deal one and a half guys from the dress shop!