Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Burl reviews The Secret of My Success! (1987)

Hi, it’s Burl here with a secret – ha ha, The Secret of My Success, that is! Yes, I’ve finally taken the leap and watched this Reagan-era Yuppie office-tower comedy, in which I previously had very little interest! I didn’t suddenly develop an interest, we should note; it was more that an opportunity to watch the picture came along, and I took it!
There were many boardroom comedies made in the 80s, as befits the business-friendly attitudes of the decade! We had Big Business, Head Office, Beer, and a few others as I recall, none of which I ever bothered to watch! Ha ha, I guess it’s just not my genre! But as Roger Ebert and others have pointed out, The Secret of My Success belongs equally to the same category as the glossy Universal boardroom comedies of the 1960s, which usually featured Tony Randall! Ha ha, this picture is a Universal product as well, so I guess it makes sense!
Michael J. Fox, perhaps best known from Teen Wolf, plays Brantley Foster, a corn-fed youth with a business degree from the local cow college! He leaves the farm for New York, where he has a genuinely soul-wrenching time of it – unexpected tribulation in a breezy genre like this, ha ha – until one day he convinces his hard-bitten third uncle twice removed, a nasty capitalist played by Richard Jordan of Dune and The Mean Season, to hire him on in the mail room of the vast company he runs! But after he espies a junior executive Princess Di simulacrum essayed by Helen Slater from Ruthless People, Brantley decides he’s got to move up in the company! He takes over an empty corner office and, through a deft  combination of memo-sending and rapid changes of clothing, assumes the role of Carleton Wisecracker, the newest grey flannel suit in the building! Ha ha!
What follows are mild variations on sex farce routines, with Carlton/Brantley beginning an affair with the boss’s lady-wife and constantly changing his clothes in the office or the elevator, while also trying to evade his tough mail room boss (played by Christopher Murney from Maximum Overdrive)!  Brantley/Carlton has a mail room pal played by John Pankow from To Live and Die in L.A., and, though I spent the entire movie waiting for him to appear, we do eventually get a touch of Fred Gwynne! There are also about a million montage sequences set to the worst songs the decade had to offer! I mean really awful, stinky songs, of which 'Walking on Sunshine' is probably the best, which should tell you something!
Montages aside, it’s entertaining enough in a mindless 80s way, and Fox, while asked to do plenty of the smirky, cocksure, ain’t-I-a-stinker fiddlefaddle typical of the young male leads of that decade, maintains his Edmonton charm! It’s a harmless movie precisely because the fulsome support it gives to its desperate ladderclimbing hero, and its prostrate fealty to the executive class (bad apple Jordan aside), are so outrageously transparent! Nothing unexpected either happens or doesn't happen in this picture, and whether or not that sounds like a recommendation depends on you! Ha ha, I give The Secret of My Success one and a half bodybuilder poses!

Monday 30 May 2016

Burl reviews Alien 3! (1992)

This is rumour control, ha ha: here are the facts! Yes, it’s Burl, here to review the first feature from David “Gone Girl” Fincher: Alien 3! I saw this one in the movie theater of course, and remember thinking that it was a curiously grubby affair, and a decided, even egregious, change from the thrills we well recall from Aliens! I watched it again more recently, and it’s still a rusty barnacle, ha ha!
Sigourney Weaver of Ghostbusters returns once again as Ripley, who awakes after a crash landing to find that both Newt, the little girl she spent the entire previous picture rescuing, and Hicks, her good Marine friend, have been unceremoniously killed by the impact! She’s not exactly back home though: she’s stuck on a prison planet, or at least the remains of a prison planet, where only a small fraction of the prisoners have been left behind at their own request! Ha ha, this was a Troubled Production that went through a number of iterations before the Fincher version came out, and back when the movie was supposed to be a Vincent Ward picture, it was a gang of space monks living on a planet made entirely of wood! Ha ha, I’d sure like to have seen that version!
So we have prisoners instead of monks, but they’re a highly religious bunch who’ve taken vows of celibacy, so we’ve essentially got monks anyway! Charles S. Dutton from Mimic is one of them, as are Paul McGann and Ralph Brown from Withnail and I; Charles Dance from For Your Eyes Only is the resident doctor, and Brian Glover from An American Werewolf in London and Jabberwocky plays the warden! The alien shows up too of course, having reborn himself from a dog, so he’s more doggy-shaped than in previous installments! Ha ha!
Of course he puts a biting on the various prisoners, who are pretty resentful of Ripley for bringing it to their world! Naturally Lance Henrikson from Pumpkinhead and The Horror Show appears playing the human model for the android he achieved his fame with in Aliens (the human version is just another slimy executive of that nasty troublemaking corporation, it turns out), and there’s a climax that echoes not just that of Revelations 19, but of Terminator 2 as well! Ha ha!
The picture certainly looks good, all brassy and dirty and grim thanks to the camerawork of Alex “The Keep” Thomson; the acting, too, is strong, with Glover a particular highlight; and there’s are occasionally moments that recall the terrific original! But it’s not as atmospheric as it would like to think it is, and the narrative is a real sauce! Plus, I find it curiously forgettable somehow: I remember seeing it, but not that much what actually happens in it! Ha ha, it’s not scary either! So I’m going to give Alien 3 two instances of rumour control!

Thursday 26 May 2016

Burl reviews The Serpent and the Rainbow! (1988)

Good day, it’s Burl! How did you sleep last night? Ha ha, you dreamt of me, and of the grave – I know, because I was there! No, not really, I’m just doing some of the scary lines spoken by the villain in The Serpent and the Rainbow! To me he’s always been an unusually effective villain, at least until he transforms into Freddy Krueger near the end! We should recall that Krueger-like faces pop up in so many Wes Craven pictures – this, the Nightmare movies, Deadly Friend, Shocker, probably others – that one assumes he carried a terrible childhood memory of burn wards, along the line of Griffin Dunne’s trauma in After Hours!
Anyway, The Serpent and the Rainbow is quite simply one of Wes’ best! Bill Pullman from Ruthless People and Spaceballs plays a scientist who’s on the trail of a marvelous anesthetic, which he suspects might be the same thing used by voo-doo doctors as a zombification powder! He makes his way to Haiti, which had at that time only recently rid itself of Baby Doc Duvalier and was still in the grip of poverty and desperation, with, as we now know, worse yet to come! Craven’s portrayal of the country is surprisingly gritty and earthbound; it seemed to me at the time almost documentary in its realism! Ha ha, but what did I know: now I can see that, while leagues ahead of most 1980s horror in its attempt to ground its terrors, the picture is still in many ways pretty cartoonish!
Despite not being quite right for the role, which is itself pretty unbelievable, Cathy Tyson from Mona Lisa gives a solid performance as the pretty lady doctor who serves as Pullman’s guide through the brutal politics and strange witchdoctory of Haiti! Even better is Zakes Mokae, known from his appearance in The Island, who plays the evil houngan, who heads up the secret police on the side! Ha ha, altogether a dangerous individual, and the ever-snarling Mokae oozes forth every bit of threat innate to this excellent character, and bathes in it! Ha ha, he’s terrific! We’re also lucky to have Paul Winfield, from The Horror at 37,000 Feet, Damnation Alley, The Terminator and Blue City, in the cast, and Brent Jennings from Fear City and Michael Gough from Top Secret as well! Ha ha, I also liked the guy who played the reanimated hoodoo victim in the graveyard – the secret hero of the picture if you ask me!
The hallucination and dream sequences, Wes’ specialty of course, can occasionally be silly (the long arms! the angry chair!) or over-familiar, but they can be pretty compelling too; and the special effects required to pull off these sequences are for the most part excellent! Ha ha, poor Pullman is really put through the ringer in this one, and there’s one part in particular that’ll have the menfolk crossing their legs for days! It’s still a pretty unique horror picture, and one that has aged very well, even if it has still never really found its audience! I give The Serpent and the Rainbow three prune-faced brides!

Sunday 15 May 2016

Burl reviews Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Burl here everybody, spiraling back to the year 1980, when disco dancing was on everybody’s mind and the curiosities of the 1970s – pet rocks, roller coasters, disaster movies and Evel Knievel – were quickly losing their lustre! The last big Irwin Allen disaster picture, When Time Ran Out, came out that year, and so did Caddyshack, Airplane and The Empire Strikes Back; but all of these had been out in theaters for some time by the dates upon which the story of Everybody Wants Some!! is purported to take place (August 28, 29, 30), so the characters have probably already seen those movies, especially the Yoda picture! Ha ha! But they meander about so much that we would hardly be surprised if their peregrinations took them to the cinema, and the camera stayed with them in something approaching real time!
Yes, Everybody Wants Some!!, the newest effort from Richard Linklater, is a “spiritual sequel,” apparently, to the great Dazed & Confused! Ha ha, as a fan of that picture, I certainly was happy to rush out and see this new one, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint! It doesn’t match the standard set by Dazed & Confused, mind you, or even the remarkable Slacker; but few films could!
Instead of high school and junior high school students running around on the last day of school, we’ve got college students on the last weekend before the first day of school! Our everyman quasi-protagonist is Jake, who carts around a box of records as he meets his new roomies in a university baseball house! Ha ha, I didn’t know they had those either – I certainly don’t recall hearing of such accommodations in my happy college days! I don’t even know if my school had a baseball team, ha ha!
But apparently they are real, because that’s where Linklater lived when he went to college! And these houses were full of hyper-competitive guys wearing moustaches, whose judgment skills have not quite caught up to their expansive senses of self-worth! But of course lessons are learned and characters are built, a little tiny bit anyway, over the course of the weekend descried in this picture! Some of the characters are more appealing than others, and though they're all nominally members of the same social caste, which is to say jocks of high standing, within that group there are all manner of sub-types and stratification! Ha ha, there's even a stoner!
Now speaking of that, I saw this movie under pretty optimal circumstances: in the movie palace with a couple of buddies, a dose of wig-tightener and a smuggled-in king can! Ha ha! And, watching under these conditions, what really struck me about the movie was the fair play it employs with its characters: no one, not even the preening superjocks or the maniacal, violence-prone jerk, is all bad, and nobody else, even the wide-eyed naïf representing the writer-director, is all nice! Everyone gets their chance at being a dick or a Decent Dan, ha ha, and the movie is better for it! We get to see these adaptable lads at a country bar, a punk show, an art school party and even, briefly, on the baseball diamond!
It was altogether a hugely enjoyable experience at the movies, I must say, but only time and further viewings will tell whether this is a movie with staying power! I do look forward to those future viewings, however, and in the meantime give Everybody Wants Some!! three and a half duck-feet necklaces! Ha ha!

Thursday 5 May 2016

Burl reviews C.H.U.D.! (1984)

Hi, Burl here with a review! Ha ha, I’m still playing catch-up, so I’m going to review movies as though the chuds were on my tail! Yes, it’s true, I watched C.H.U.D. again recently, and was reminded of the times I watched it as an adolescent and appreciated the mid-low-level New York horror rung on which it sat – lower rungs of course being occupied by movies like Basket Case and Street Trash and Troma films, and the higher by, oh, I guess The Sentinel and stuff like that! Rosemary’s Baby would be at the peak of this ramshackle pyramid I’m attempting to describe!
What I’m talking about are not only budgetary considerations, but a level of street grime that renders the horror sort of realistic in a Big Apple sort of a way! C.H.U.D., which largely takes place among the street people and soup kitchens of the city, as well as beneath it in the sewers, achieves a very tangible level of grot, which is probably its most valuable asset!
It’s a story of monsters, ha ha! These entities, with their lighbulb eyes and obvious halitosis, lurk in the sewers, tragic mutations created thanks to the radioactive waste stored beneath the streets, which renders ordinary subterranean hoboes chudlike! Above grade we find a photographer played by John Heard from Too Scared to Scream and Heaven Help Us, and an activist for social justice played by Daniel Stern from Get Crazy and It’s My Turn, and a cop called Bosch, played by Christopher Curry from F/X! There’s also the terrific Kim Greist, from Brazil and Manhunter, as the photographer’s ladyfriend!
There’s an almost Jaws-like quality to the relationships between the trio of males! Heard is our Roy Scheider, gaping around at the strange new waters he’s navigating; Stern, the hippie street preacher, takes the part of the sharp, likeable younger man, bearded and iconoclastic; and Curry is the blustering captain! Dotting the film also are such familiar faces as John Bedford “Trading Places” Lloyd, Frankie ”Maximum Overdrive” Faison and Jon “Miller’s Crossing” Polito! Ha ha, even John “Matinee” Goodman shows up at the very end, only to become chud-chow pretty quick!
But the real stars of the picture are the piranha-mouthed chuds! They don’t actually spend much time on screen, these old boys, and it might have been nice to spend a little more time with them! At the same moment, while I’m strangely fond of the creatures, I don’t blame the director for trying to cut around them!
A little more pep in the direction, and in general, would have been nice, and the atmosphere is undeniably one of actors slumming; but this is in many ways a superior iteration of the 80s rubber monster genre, close kin to The Outing, Rawhead Rex, The Kindred and Pumpkinhead! I’m going to give C.H.U.D. two half-bums!