Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Thursday 19 December 2019

Burl reviews Friday the 13th part 3! (1982)

Hi-hi-hi, ha-ha-ha! It’s Burl, here to review yet another entry in the ever-present saga of Jason and the pokings, the choppings, and the novelty killings! This is the third one, the 3-D one of course, and not much loved, I think! As with the Star Trek movies, this series suffers a bit from Odd Sequel Out syndrome, where the even numbered entries are more beloved than the odds! So, admitting the possibility of predjudice with that syndrome in mind, this installment has always seemed to me a bit of a valley between Part 2 and Part 4! But, ha ha, it’s certainly better than Part 5!
After replaying the climax of its predecessor, as though viewers required a detailed reminder of exactly what occurred in the previous film so they could progress through the new narrative without fear of bafflement, we meet the most miserable storekeeper couple in the world: a shrewish scold of a wife, and the fishfood-eating droopy-dog husband who, by his childish behavior, makes it impossible for her to operate any other way! There’s a bit of not-bad cat-and-mouse with the laundry hanging on the lines, and then these doughty citizens are sliced and poked! Then, finally, it’s on to the main body of the picture!
Dana Kimmell from Sweet Sixteen plays the weedy main girl, who has suffered through an earlier Jason attack but survived it somehow! Jason’s need to complete any task once begun means he’ll soon be after her and her terrible friends as they spend the weekend in a remote country house! Her boyfriend, who knows of her traumas, jumps out and scares her anyway, and then acts like a complete prig the rest of the time, at least until his head is squished and his eyeball shoots out into the audience, ha ha!
(Yes, you’re not allowed to forget the movies was shot in 3-D for long! Not just body parts and sharp tools are thrust into the lens, but baseball bats, yo-yos, juggling balls, joints, and dudes sitting on toilets, of which last this picture has no deficiency!)
Only slightly more tolerable than the boyfriend is Shelley, the tubby jokester of the gang! His inappropriate and ill-timed japes fill much of the picture’s running time or so it seems! There’s a stoner couple, with the man an eerie simulacrum of Tommy Chong! There’s a likeable Latina, and a blandly sexy couple unremarkable except that they always want to have sex with each other, and, in the rare moments when not talking about, preparing to, or actually making love, the fellow juggles and handwalks! Ha ha, your handwalking days are over, you showoff! And then there are special guests: a small motorcycle gang which takes a disliking to Shelley, and later makes the scene to get mild revenge on him for one of his earlier merry jests! All fall before Jason like wheat before the thresh, ha ha!
The sets in this movie fascinate me for some reason! They seem not to have been quite finished; there’s a stagebound unreality that makes it seem like a Lars von Trier warehouse experiment, with the sets just lines painted on the floor! The store at the beginning and the main house in which most of the murderin’ takes place look to be made of sheets of varnished plywood that have been leaned up against each other like an amateur’s house of cards! Ha ha, and the movie itself fascinates me a little! For me it's the one with the most mystique attached to it, which stems from the time a friend’s younger brother went to see it as part of a birthday party outing! This ten year-old’s retelling of the story and breathless descriptions of the murder scenes were more successful in selling the movie than the advertising was! (Though Jason’s knife poking through that curtain is a creepy image, at least to me!)
But the movie really isn’t very good! The direction is off and on, and the camera and lighting needs of 3-D make it sort of strange-looking, and the script tries to gin up drama with pranks and self-abnegation! It’s the only one of the Friday the 13th movies shot at a 2.35:1 ratio, and I like that; and there are some fun Special Makeup Effects; and there are some scenes where Jason is scary; and it’s of interest to historians of this sort of thing in that it’s the picture in which Jason acquires his famous hockey mask, stolen from Shelley no less! But that’s not much to hang a hat on, and so in the end I can give Friday the 13th part 3 only one backup fuel tank!

Tuesday 10 December 2019

Burl reviews Playtime! (1967)

Allez-vite la twist, c’est Burl! Ha ha, I’m here to review what’s probably one of my most favourite comedies, Jaques Tati’s crazy-crazy Playtime! This is a real humdinger, a spectacle of a show, and I first saw it many years ago in a film class, on a reasonably large screen! And the bigger the screen, the better with this one! I know it got a bit of a revival a few years ago, but I’d like to see this one grace the big screens again, alongside other revival staples like Gremlins and Ghostbusters!
But hélas, I fear that will never be, because Playtime was a big fat old bomb when first it was released! It’s sad but true, and perhaps the fact that it has absolutely no plot had something to do with this flame-out! But Playtime has no need of a plot, ha ha! All it needs is gags and plenty of time for them to play out, and that it has, three times filled and running over!
Our non-story is set in Paris, or at least in an artificial modernist Paris constructed somewhere on the outskirts: the area is full of American tourists being shepherded here and there by a legion of minders; the only glimpses of Paris landmarks we see are reflections in glass doors: an Eiffel Tower here, a Sacré-Coeur there! Among the tourists are old ladies, a pretty young woman called Barbara, who serves more or less as our main character, and a loudmouthed drunk who wants to buy everybody drinks! There is also Tati playing his famous Chaplin-esque character M. Hulot!
Oh, I’m fond of Hulot! He’s one of the most genuine naïfs in cinema, even as he looks like an everyday late middle-aged white guy! He’s a bit rumpled, which means he stands out sharply in the steely world of Tati’s fake Paris, but so do all the other lookalike Hulots with which Tati has generously sprinkled his film! Ha ha, I guess he was getting a little tired of the character, but for us, a little more of the genuine article would not have gone amiss!
Ha ha, and so many great gags, many stemming from everyday items acting as agents to undermine the modern way of life they represent! The chairs in the waiting room, the long hallway, the door at the restaurant, the roundabout outside, and my favourite, the labyrinth of cubicles and the woman in the turning booth! Ha ha, you’ll know that one when you see it! And the subtleties sometimes are beautiful! Think about “Slam Your Doors In Golden Silence,” ha ha - most filmmakers try to get a laugh by adding a sound effect, while Tati is one of the few who can achieve hilarity by taking one out!
It’s a movie that demands, and equally rewards, multiple viewings! It seems designed to require multiple viewings, in fact: it’s impossible to watch the picture without occasionally feeling that you’re completely missing a good joke! And you probably are! New gags reveal themselves with each fresh look; it’s incredible - you can perhaps see in this a diabolical salesmanship on Tati's part: make three times the box office just based on everybody going back to look for the jokes they missed the first or second times! 
Ha ha, if you need a laugh about our crazy modern world, this is the movie to watch! Its observations have only become more relevant in the years since it was made, even as the world itself seems to have gotten uglier! Sure, without proper characters or plot, it can be somethingt of an alienating experience; you never get closer to understanding the characters than to feel a basic human empathy for their various plights! But ultimately you still walk away with a greater understanding of what it means to be human! I give Playtime three and a half shouting security panels!

Sunday 8 December 2019

Burl reviews The Hudsucker Proxy! (1994)

Hi! My name’s Burl with my hair in a curl! I write the reviews that make you unfurl! Ha ha! I realize that doesn’t make any sense - no, I don’t even have curly hair! - but I’m trying to usher you all into the spirit of today’s review, which is for the Coen Brothers’ big-budget curio The Hudsucker Proxy!
Ha ha, it’s one of those movies a studio spent a lot of money on, but which is so out of the current of popular moviedom that you can’t imagine it ever making a penny at the box office! I certainly went to see it, you can bet your nellie, but the weekend it opened, March 11, 1994, Guarding Tess and Lightning Jack also opened, and both of those skunked Hudsucker, if you can believe it! But who remembers those pictures? Ha ha, nobody!
The story is laid in December of 1958, but its heart is further back, in the 30s! Inspiration is taken from screwball comedies and newspaper pictures with fast-talkin’ dames, and Frank Capra hovers over the production like a portly man in an angel costume, dispensing some It Happened One Night here and some Meet John Doe there!
Tim Robbins, the well-known presence from Tapeheads and Fraternity Vacation, plays Norville Barnes, fresh off the bus from Muncie and ready to conquer the New York City business world! And ha ha, there’s no bigger business on the street than Hudsucker Industries! He starts in the mail room, of course, where everybody starts; meanwhile, to the consternation of the Board of Directors, Hudsucker prexy Waring Hudsucker takes a dive out of the 44th floor boardroom window - 45th floor if you count the mezzanine!
For reasons, the board must find a dim-witted proxy to take over for the prexy until the close of the year, and naturally they find Norville, and events unfold from there! Cynical newshound Amy Archer, played with a Hepburn accent by Jennifer Jason Leigh from Grandview U.S.A., gets involved, as does the Hudsucker second-in-command perfectly essayed by disaster king Paul Newman, from When Time Ran Out and The Towering Inferno! Sure sure, ha ha! Charles Durning from Stick plays old Waring Hudsucker, who returns from the grave in angel form; John Mahoney from The Manhattan Project is Amy’s blustery editor; none other than Bruce Campbell from Army of Darkness plays her snap-brim co-worker; and Bill Cobbs from Trading Places manfully wrestles with the picture’s weakest conceit, the Wise Old Black Janitor Who Can Stop Time If Need Be!
Much of the picture turns on Norville’s great brainwave: the hula hoop, which he has drawn out as a circle to show off to people! “Would an imbecile come up with this?” he demands! Ha ha! The picture has a centerpiece sequence in which the newly released plaything languishes on shelves until an amazing kid picks one up and starts doing tricks! Hula hoop madness sweeps the nation, but still the story brings us, like Meet John Doe, to the ledge of a building at midnight!
The picture is filled with verbal and visual invention, and with game actors who give off the artificial dialogue with joyful aplomb! It’s all very artificial, of course, which creates a distance between the viewer and the narrative, but it’s also a snap-brimmed good time! It’s not one of the Coen’s strongest works, but it was still a lot better than most of what got released in 1994, ha ha! Yes, it’s better than Clifford! I give The Hudsucker Proxy three extruded plastic dinguses!

Saturday 7 December 2019

Burl reviews The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb! (1964)

All for the love of bandages, it’s Burl! Ha ha, clomp, clomp, yes, I’m reviewing a walking mummy picture today, a Hammer walking mummy picture to be more precise! To be more precise still, it’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb! Ha ha, I don’t think I’ve reviewed many Hammer pictures for you, but ol’ Burl’s a longtime Hammer cheerleader! I even gave a lecture on their doings once at a special illegal restaurant!
Now, this was hardly the only walking mummy movie the company made, but I don’t think they made many! It begins, as all walking mummy movies must, in Egypt, at an excavation made by Europeans who feel it’s their right to dig stuff up and cart it all back to their own country! Ha ha, the mere suggestion that maybe these colonialists should keep their mitts off is met with bewilderment, scoffing and supercilious anger! So of course it takes a curse to sort things out!
This takes effect back in England, where our Egyptologists - Annette Dubois, her fiancé Ronald Howard, and dyspeptic old Sir Giles, plus an all-too American promoter-type fellow - meet a mysterious aristocrat-with-a-secret called Adam Beauchamp, who insinuates himself into the group and most especially into the heart of young Annette! Soon we hear the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet, ha ha, and there are several genuinely frightful sequences featuring the attack of the walking mummy! He even stomps one fellow’s head, as walking mummies frequently seem to do! (I particularly recall one such happenstance in Dawn of the Mummy, which of course was part of the Great Walking Mummy Revival of the early 1980s, along with The Awakening and Time Walker!)
Something you will notice as you watch the picture is that none of the principals are played by the usual Hammer stars - no Cushing, no Lee, not even an Andrew Kier or an Ollie Reed or a Barbara Shelley or an Ingrid Pitt! We are reassured that it is indeed a Hammer film when we see Michael Ripper, whom we remember from X the Unknown, in brownface as a victim-to-be, ha ha! The lead actors, in fact, are almost all people who’d never been in a Hammer film before, and were never in one after! Ha ha, curious!
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb has its spooky moments, as noted, and the walking mummy itself is pretty creepy! It’s a mildly enjoyable picture on the whole, but there’s really not a lot to it, and it breaks no new ground in the walking mummy genre! To accuse it of lacking pep might be to ignore a fault endemic to the form, so I’ll just say, ha ha, that The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb is a minor work, but not the worst walking mummy picture to amble around the pike! I give it one and a half enchanted amulets!

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Burl reviews McBain! (1991)

With a blast of action, it’s Burl, reviewing for you a movie that was apparently made within the exceedingly narrow window in which Christopher Walken was considered a potential action hero! (I don’t really count The Dogs of War as an action movie; more a drama with some action in it!) Ha ha, this one is called McBain, and it comes to us from action-uncle James Glickenhaus, the fellow who made that seamy picture The Exterminator and slightly less seamy efforts like The Protector and Shakedown!
Now of course I hear you saying “Ha ha! McBain! How does Ranier Wolfcastle do in the picture? Is he a good actor?” Well, not so fast! This is a different McBain entirely, with, as mentioned, Christopher Walken as the titular star! And the assumption that he’s not really action-hero material is borne up in the picture’s opening moments, which find McBain in a thunderdome in Vietnam having the tar beaten out of him! The timely arrival of some other soldiers saves McBain from his fate, and, when McBain asks Santos, the leader of the patrol that saved him, how he can ever properly thank him, Santos rips a hundred dollar bill in half, gives it to McB, and says “Ha ha, if the other half of this bill ever finds its way to you, then you will know it is time to repay me!”
Well, nineteen years later, McBain is working the same job Edward James Olmos did in Wolfen: welding at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge! Santos, meanwhile, is the leader of a group of Columbian rebels seeking to take down corrupt El Presidente, and when the revolution fails and Santos is killed, his girlfriend Maria Conchita Alonso comes climbing up to hand McBain the other half of the C note! McBain doesn’t hesitate: he rounds up the old gang from ‘Nam and, after some marvelous business in New York, they head down and take over Columbia! Ha ha!
The marvelous stuff in New York involves their attempts to raise money for the trip! First they break into a low-level drugs den and kill people left and right! Luis Guzman, well known from Innocent Blood, is in charge, and when he sees the mercenaries have shot most of his men, he delivers a righteously shame-inducing speech to an abashed McBain and his gang! They find a much richer gangster, hang him off a building and pretend to be rogue Mossad agents until he agrees to give them money! Ha ha, Walken playing a steelworker-turned-mercenary playing a tough Israeli is a thing to behold, all right!
Chick Vennera, who had been involved in this kind of thing before in High Risk, does a good job as Santos! It’s a shame when he’s shot in the head by El Presidente, who, by the by, is played by Victor Argo from Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai! None other than the always-likeable Steve James from Avenging Force, and the less-likable but no less fantastic Michael Ironside from Watchers and Total Recall, are members of the buddy gang, along with Thomas G. Waites from The Thing; and Jay Patterson from D.O.A. plays the one who’s a doctor, and who miraculously saves a gravely injured girl in the third act! And we know female lead Maria Conchita Alonso from her work in Extreme Prejudice!
But after all this, is McBain a good movie! Ha ha, no, not really, but, against the odds and in contrast to most of Glickenhaus’s other pictures, it’s a strangely good-natured one! Ha ha, you’ve got the child being saved, and the fact that, though hundreds of people are killed, all of the mercenaries make it through happy and unscathed!
On the other hand, the movie’s politics are so demented as to be unreadable; and it's replete with the sort of stupidity that takes you out of the drama and leaves you scratching your head! Take, for example, the scene when McBain and his crew are buzzing down to Columbia in a twin-engine prop plane and are suddenly joined by a Columbian fighter jet! After the old “Sorry, our radio's busted” trick, McBain, in the co-pilot’s seat, pulls a gun, shoots it past his pilot’s head, through the window without breaking it, across to the fighter jet, through that cowling without breaking it, and into the pilot’s head! Ha ha, talk about a magic bullet!
I think by now I’ve said enough about McBain! It’s got lots of explosions but it’s rarely exciting, and somehow, though it’s called McBain, Walken’s character barely seems to be the lead! I give McBain one and a half bamboo thunderdomes!

Sunday 1 December 2019

Burl reviews Tulips! (1981)

Ha ha to everybody, and again I say ha ha! It’s Burl, and I’m here to review a picture by the name of Tulips! Now, in response to this you’ll surely say “Tulips? Ha ha, nope, never heard of Tulips!” And there’s no reason you should have heard of it, so don’t worry! It’s an obscure Canadian tax shelter production that looks to have been more troubled than most, given that it had at least three different directors, working under the umbrella pseudonym of “Stan Ferris!” Ha ha!
The picture stars the rosy, bearded lips of Gabe Kaplan, which fleshy proboscises you may recall from Fastbreak! They play the rosy, bearded lips of Leland Irving, a tuba player and introvert whom we are informed is a genius, though little evidence of this is seen! His brother, played by the King of Kensington himself, Al Waxman, whom you’ll remember from his grisly inflations in Spasms, is constantly giving him advice on how to get out and meet people! After the hair plugs he endures at his brother’s instruction net him only ridicule, Leland decides to kill himself! His attempts are repeatedly foiled, so he hires an effete hit man called Mr. Avocado, played by Henry Gibson from Nashville and Innerspace, to do the job for him!
Meanwhile, kooky waitress Rutanya, played by Bernadette Peters, who is well known from Vigilante Force, The Jerk and of course Heartbeeps, quits her job and is rejected by her married-man boyfriend, and so falls into a similarly suicidal funk! Ha ha, God save us from kooks and kookiness! Of course the two characters meet and fall in love, and many allegedly hilarious things ensue, and then Leland remembers he’s to be assassinated and that puts a pall on the romance! It all ends with a confusion in which Leland plants a bomb in Mr. Avocado’s car, but then Rutanya ends up inside the car as she tries to plead for Leland’s life! The car blows up, apparently incinerating both Rutanya and Avocado, and a devastated Leland crawls into the gutter and swallows a bottle of pills! Ha ha!
Of course there’s a happy ending in which Rutanya turns out to have jumped out of the car at the last moment, and Leland’s pills don’t actually kill him! But my goodness, even with that, it’s one of the least funny movies ever made! I’ve never found suicidal depression especially uproarious, but if there’s dark humour to be mined from such situations, this picture never strikes a vein! The funniest thing in the whole affair is Leland’s tuba playing, and that’s not any funnier than any tuba playing is!
Like Taking Lives, the movie takes place in an undisguised Montreal, but absolutely no special use is made of this location! The cast has some talented people in it, notably Bernadette Peters, and she’s the only one who seems to be trying! Ha ha, Kaplan must walk that fine actor’s line between depressive and disinterested, and though I feel he was probably committed to the role, he doesn’t really sell it! The spark that is supposed to exist between the two leads is pretty damp, too! And Henry Gibson, so nicely if arbitrarily evil in The ‘burbs, mostly just lurks here! Ha ha, he lurks outside of windows, on bridges and across streets, lurk, lurk, lurk!
If you’re wondering what the title means, “tulips” is some sort of code word Gibson uses to indicate he’s ready to start his program of assassination! It doesn’t make any more sense than anything else, and nor is it funnier than anything else! And nothing else is very funny at all! I give Tulips half a hair plug, which is among my very lowest ratings!

Burl reviews The Nightmare Before Christmas! (1993)

Ha ha, ho ho ho and booga booga too, it’s Burl! Yes, I’ve just come from a special screening of the animated picture The Nightmare Before Christmas, with a full orchestra playing the Danny Elfman score, so perhaps this review will be slightly skewed by this charming and unusual movie-going experience! Or perhaps not; it’s hard to say! All I know is that it was y first time seeing this picture in any scenario, so my impression will always be that its standout quality was the music!
And this of course is hardly fair to the animation, which is stellar! The story I found less compelling, but that’s okay! It all takes place in the magical world of holidays: each special calendar day, it turns out, has its own little world, which is responsible for that particular holiday! Ha ha, I guess it’s a stretch to call Halloween a “holiday,” because, after all, it’s not exactly holy, and more crucially, your boss doesn’t give you the day off of work!
But anyway, in Halloweentown, a lanky fellow called Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King, the fellow evidently most responsible for coming up with their annual scary Halloween gambits! Everyone loves Jack, ha ha, but he himself falls prey to a vague but powerful misgiving, a feeling that there must be more to life than Halloween! And so there is: he comes across a forest glen where trees are marked, restroom-style, with the symbols of different holidays, and the trees prove to be doors! After a brief sojourn in Christmastown, Jack is charmed by the concept and resolves to bring Yuletide joy to Halloweentown!
Jack’s specific plan is a little half-baked, but he ends up masterminding the kidnapping of Santa Claus, whom he imagines to be a towering half-man, half-lobster with snapping claws and crushing mandibles! This turns out to be a misapprehension, ha ha!
Anyway, by the time Christmas comes and Jack is riding a coffin-sled pulled by skeleton reindeer, he’s given cause to regret his rash embrace of someone else’s holiday, and Santa certainly upbraids him for the attempt! Ha ha, perhaps Jack would have been better off appropriating Casimir Pulaski Day! Christmas is saved in the end, and the main bad guy, some sort of boogen living in the basement, is revealed as being made of bugs!
There are Tim Burton design touches everywhere to be found, which would surely have felt fresher back in 1993! Ha ha, Christmastown is sort of boring and boilerplate; you can tell his heart is in Halloween! The movie itself was directed by Henry Selick, who later did a fine job with Coraline and other creepy animations! Jack is given voice in song by Elfman himself, which occasionally gives the thing the flavor of a feature-length Oingo Boingo video; his speaking voice, less frequently heard, comes from Chris Sarandon, well-known from Fright Night! Catherine O’Hara from The Paper provides the female voices, and William Hickey from The Sentinel is a nasty duck-lipped scientist!
I enjoyed watching the picture, but having missed out on it all these years, I can’t see it becoming a holiday perennial for me! Maybe there were just too many songs! But there’s lots to admire, and the live orchestral accompaniment was a lot of fun, so I’m giving The Nightmare Before Christmas two and a half shrunken heads!