Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Burl reviews The Long Goodbye! (1973)


With a scratch of the match it’s Burl, here to review a hard-boiled detective story in shaggy 70s garb! Of course there are movies like The Late Show, and I’ve already reviewed The Big Fix, Klute, and the great Night Moves, but all must bow to the king daddy of Me Decade noir revamps, The Long Goodbye!

Ha ha, this is a long-time favourite of mine, with the only turn-off being the running theme of domestic violence against ladies! It’s not as though the movie endorses this, but it’s hard to watch sometimes! Given that, it’s amazing how delightful the movie nevertheless is in telling the story of how the scales fall from Philip Marlowe’s eyes and he finally ceases to be the most passive detective in film history! Ha ha, and at the end of the picture, after Marlowe has finally asserted himself and taken direct action, he’s so delighted with himself that he dances a merry jig!

Back to the start, however: Elliott Gould from The Silent Partner is Marlowe, who lives in a scrumptious tower building near the Hollywood Bowl and has a gang of topless candle-dipping yoga hippies for neighbours! The opening fifteen minutes of the movie are devoted to Marlowe’s efforts to feed his cat, because that’s just the sort of picture this picture is! Soon his buddy Terry Lennox, played by the famous horsehidesman and inventor of Big League Chew, Jim Bouton, appears at Marlowe’s doorstep and requests a ride to Mexico, which Marlowe grants! And thus begins his troubles!

Nina Van Pallandt from The Sword and the Sorcerer and the fantastic Cutter's Way plays Eileen Wade, who calls on Marlowe to find her husband Roger, played by Sterling Hayden from Dr. Strangelove doing John Huston playing Ernest Hemingway! Hayden is terrific as the blustering beachside author, and Marlowe quickly locates him at a clinic run by Dr. Verringer, a role essayed by Henry Gibson from Innerspace and Tulips at his near-slimiest! All this would seem to have as much relation to the main narrative as Marlowe’s troubles with his cat, and this turns out to be the case, in that it has plenty to do with it! Ha ha!

Marlowe also has troubles with a vicious gangster called Marty Augustine, and when you want someone to play an unpredictably brutal crime lord, who better than the director of On Golden Pond, Mark Rydell? The picture also features little appearances by the likes of David Arkin from Cannonball, David Carradine, whom we recall from Armed Response, Rutanya Alda from The Stuff, Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator, and George Wyner from Fletch! And then of course there’s the security guard who does impressions: a marvelous creation indeed!

It’s one of the most Los Angeles movies ever made, and I guess that’s really saying something! It’s also, I suppose, one of the most Robert Altman movies ever made, though not necessarily the Robert Altmaniest! (M*A*S*H or McCabe & Mrs. Miller or Nashville or even Short Cuts might take that prize!) And finally it's one of the most 1970s movies ever made, ha ha, which is another feather in its cap so far as I'm concerned! It undoes the detective genre, subjecting its gumshoe to a series of indignities, inconveniences, and downright punishments, all the while underlining how decent a fellow he is at heart! But, ha ha, he’ll only be pushed so far, though that limit is a lot farther than a Marlowe played by, say, Bogart would accept!

Quite frankly I think that if I made a list of my top twenty movies, this would be on it! It has a singular atmosphere, note-perfect performances, great and understated cinematography, and a theme song that plays over and over again, on radios, in supermarkets, or by the efforts of a Mexican marching band! It’s a very special motion picture, and if you haven’t seen it, I thoroughly recommend it, with the caveat that it contains some very unpleasant violence against women! I give The Long Goodbye four Walter Brennan impressions!

Burl reviews The Prophecy! (1995)


Ha ha, now please listen friends as I read to you a passage from the Book of Burl, Chapter 19, Verse 95! Yes, I’m reviewing a religious thriller for you today, hot on the heels of The Omen, and here we have a film that has caused no small amount of title confusion in its day, which I may have witnessed first-hand in my days as a video store clerk! But there are no mutant bears in this picture, for it is not Prophecy but the Dimension Pictures extravaganza The Prophecy! I remember seeing it in the movie theatre, where, as is my habit, I developed a fondness for it out of all proportion to the movie’s worth, ha ha! But I’ve never seen any of the many sequels, so I can’t have liked it that much! I watched it again just recently, and even absent the extra layer of delight provided by the big-screen experience, the picture rolled out a jelly-like layer of enjoyment!

Our protagonist is Thomas Daggett, a would-be priest who suffers a sudden de-faithifying just as he’s taking his vows, and the next thing you know it’s years later and he’s become an iron-nosed cop! Daggett is played by Elias Koteas from Crash and Collateral Damage, and soon his old pal Some Kind of Wonderful, which is to say Eric Stoltz from The Wild Life and The Fly II, turns up playing the sort of angel who, like Harry Dean Stanton in One Magic Christmas, might easily be mistaken for a hobo! Stoltz’s character Simon is on the lookout for the soul of the nastiest man on earth, which he hopes to save from the movie’s real bad guy, the angel Gabriel! Gabriel is of course played by Christopher Walken, who did the religious thriller thing in The Sentinel and is of course also famous for playing McBain! Walken here has perhaps the worst hairstyling he’s ever had in a picture, and that’s saying a considerable lot, ha ha, especially if you've seen The Dead Zone!

The nastiest man on earth turns out to be some old army man who lives in a dry dusty Arizona desert town! Except he doesn’t live there, he’s dead, ha ha, and even though he’s dead they needed an actor for the role! So they got Patrick McAllister, who hadn’t acted since he played an expectant father in It’s Alive, but that’s fine because all he has to do is lie there in his uniform and get kissed by the film’s other male stars! Virginia Madsen from Dune and Slam Dance plays the friendly teacher of the little girl who is used by Stoltz as a storage vessel for the black and corrupted soul of the army man, which makes her feel sick and occasionally discourse about cutting the heads off of China-men! Yikes!

Meanwhile Walken, in the company of the whiniest Igor-type assistant ever, tracks the girl down to the little town! Daggett has arrived there too, and so the back half of the picture is a game of cat and mouse between Daggett, who wants to protect the girl, and Walken, who wants to tear her apart to get the soul! Why does anyone want this horrible old man’s soul at all? Ha ha, I was never really sure! But things become complicated when Lucifer, played by Viggo Mortenson from A Dangerous Method, appears and threatens everybody with baroque punishments!

So many people and angels are arrayed against Gabriel that the film takes on the feel of a novelty chess tournament with one guy playing against a whole crowd! Walken’s performance is certainly entertaining, and the movie itself is the right sort of hokum to serve as a decorative showcase for it! It’s the only movie directed by the guy who wrote Highlander, and as such aspires to a more complicated mythology than it can afford!

Ha ha, I like the low-tech way the angels have of appearing in a scene - I’d have expected some bad 90s morphing effect and light-show kerfuffle, but instead they just suddenly rush in from outside the frame! Or else they’re already waiting in a room, perched on the back of a chair as is their custom! (Of course there are plenty of 90s era trick effects at other points in the picture and once Mortensen explodes into birds!) You know, it’s always reminded me of another 90’s Dimension horror picture, Phantoms, with which it shares murky storytelling, a cinematographer, and a curiously star-studded cast!

It’s got a bit of gory stuff and it’s entertaining nonsense that doesn’t overstay its welcome, but it very much has that “worked over to a fault by the Weinsteins” feel to it, and that’s never been a good thing, and still less now! The Prophecy is okay, but not good enough to make me want to watch more of them! I give it (generously, I think) two boxed faces!

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Burl reviews Tilbury! (1987)


Hèi hèi, it’s Bürl, here to review some Icelandic cinema! Actually this may have been more of a TV movie, ha ha, but I’m not completely certain! If it was, then Icelandic TV was more permissive than the North American variety, because this picture contains a little bit of nudity, some bloody violence, and some salty language! It also contains a strange mythology, but then what Icelandic tale does not! The picture tells the tale of a tilburi, and it’s called Tilbury!

Now, as I mentioned, there are plenty of odd tales in Icelandic mythology - ha ha, I myself have written a film treatment concerning the strange saga of the Necro-Pants, and I hope one day that one can be committed to film! This particular myth holds that a woman who wants more butter in her life can conjure up an imp called a tilburi, which requires that she hold a rib bone wrapped in wool between her breasts and douse it in communion wine, along with some other witchy acts! Then the goblin will appear and steal the milk from livestock at neighbouring farms, and when it returns will spit out a hideous green butter “of unusual consistency,” according to the movie’s opening narration! Then of course it desires to suck blood from a teat which grows out of the woman’s thigh!

That’s the myth in its broadest strokes, though what’s missing is an explanation of why anyone would want butter that badly! Perhaps I’m not properly appreciating the level of privation on Icelandic farms, but surely there must be more desirable commodities than butter! At any rate, the story is set at the opening of the war, in the spring and summer of 1940, when the little island nation is overrun by British soldiers on the lookout for Germans! A goonybird pastor’s son called Audun, who scarfs down dairy products as quickly as his slavering jaws can consume them, goes to Reykjavík in search of a bigger swimming pool in which to practice his distinctive leaping stroke, and also is asked to keep an eye on Gudrún, a young lady from the town whose father is worried about her in the free-living environs of the capitol!

And so he should be, because Gudrún has conjured a tilburi! He takes the form of Major Tilbury, a big-nosed British officer, who rides around in a sidecar and distributes Cadbury chocolate to the children! Ha ha! From there the tale darkens considerably, as everyone dances to the “Let’s All Go To The Lobby” intermission song and Major Tilbury begins to show off his butter-redistribution skills as well as his Freddy Krueger fingernails!

At times the picture seems like one of the early gentle comedies of Bill Forsyth, at others more like a piece of filmed experimental theatre a la Futz! At still other moments it’s downright horrific; in fact this hour-long TV drama manages more affrights in its scant running time than the entire Friday the 13th film series! It makes plain the otherness of the creature, and its seperateness from the Icelandic population, by equating it with the British and American soldiers who have overwhelmed the country; and the more so by making the tilburi an officer rather than an enlisted man! By the end an American Tilbury has showed up, and he distributes Hershey chocolate instead of Cadbury!

I enjoyed this curious photoplay, and I recommend it to all! It’s not a lavish piece of cinema, but it’s a highly effective one, and has that great Icelandic sense of humour without diluting any of the scariness! I give Tilbury three basement Nazis!

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Burl reviews Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday! (1993)


Hello all you toast pops, it’s Burl with a review of what may not have been the final Friday - ha ha, another duplicitous subtitle! - but will be the final Friday the 13th movie review by me, since I think I’ve reviewed every other one of them already, even that terrible remake-boot from a decade ago! This picture is called Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, and of course it was not the final one, since there was still Jason X to come and of course Freddy Vs. Jason, which I don’t count as an entry in either series, or as a movie at all really!

This picture was the first F13 made after Paramount Pictures finished out their run with the disastrous Jason Takes Manhattan, then handed the series over to New Line Cinema, a.k.a. The House That Freddy Built! Anything New Line decided to do with it had to be an improvement, and what they decided was to ape one of their own earlier productions, The Hidden, and make it so the evil and literal heart of Jason could hop orally from body to body, just as The Hidden’s bug-alien did!

The beginning is pretty clever: a situation that seems specially designed to attract a Jason attack turns out to be just that, and the would-be victim is an FBI agent with a battalion of snipers backing her up! Jason is fired upon and finally blown to flinders, and his bits and pieces end up in the federal morgue! There a luckless coroner is hypnotized by the beating heart, and once he disgustingly scarfs it down, he becomes possessed by the murderous spirit of the Crystal Lake fiend and sets about finding some campers to kill!

Meanwhile, there are characters! I know what you’re saying: why do there always have to be characters! Ha ha! Here we stray into territory already staked out by the lesser Halloween pictures: it’s all about family, it seems, and several of the personages we meet here are Voorheeses! A helpful bounty hunter played by Steven Williams from House supplies plenty of goofy exposition, though how he has come by all this information we never find out! Our hero is a glasses nerd who is blamed for several of Jason’s crimes, and so cops, including a sheriff played by Billy Green Bush from Critters, who’s usually terrific but is here a nonentity, are chasing him down! The glasses nerd’s ex-girlfriend is a Voorhees, and so, ipso facto, is their baby!

Yes, a baby figures in, just as in Halloween 6! It’s a real cute one too, but thankfully is not placed in too much jeopardy! By the time hands come reaching out of the ground to drag Jason to hell (at least the main title is not a lie, ha ha), the baby has been rendered safe, and instead of the intimation that it will one day take up the mantle of its demented great-uncle, the finale is lumbered with a punchline that sets up the battle between Jason and a certain stripe-sweatered cash cow that would take place nearly a decade later!

I saw this picture in the theatre, as I recall, and I believe at the same cinema and with the same girl as I saw Children of the Corn II! Ha ha, it’s amazing what I subjected people to back then! Still, it’s hardly the worst of the Friday the 13th pictures: it contains a few recognizably human moments along with the gnarly gore, and there’s mild imagination on display here and there! It’s not just pokings, you see: an unpleasant diner owner played by Rusty Schwimmer of Sleepwalkers, for example, catches an elbow to the mouth, which results in an amusing and largely bloodless Special Makeup Effect making it look like she just ate the world’s sourest lemon! Ha ha! And there’s a pretty horrific meltdown too!

But a lot of it simply refuses to make sense, or to cohere in any way! One of the great virtues of the series is its simplicity: a killer stalks the night and kills campers! When they try to complicate matters it only messes things up and shows off the profound stupidity of the whole enterprise! That happens with Jason X and it certainly happens here! I’m going to give Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday one and a half Jasonburgers!

Friday 13 August 2021

Burl reviews Jason X! (2001)


Hi, it’s Burl reporting… from space! Yes, it’s Friday the 13th, and therefore time to review another Friday the 13th picture; and this is one I went to see at the theatre on a date with my then-new girlfriend who later married me anyway! Ha ha! It’s not a good picture, but it was a fun date anyway, because after all, who doesn’t want to see Jason in space! Of course only one picture fits that description, and it’s called Jason X!

Was it a good idea to send Jason into space? I can see the reasoning: ever since the original Friday the 13th, he’s been skulking around the same summer camp, more or less: at the camp in part 2 and part 6; around nearby homes in part 3, part 4 and part 7; at a local halfway house in part 5 (and that wasn’t Jason anyway); and of course by part 8 they became hysterically desperate to find something different for the goochy-faced madman to do, so they put him on a boat bound for Vancouver! Ha ha! So where else was there for him to go but space?

The picture begins in the Crystal Lake Research Facility, where Jason is being held in chains and being prepared for cryogenic freezing! In charge is an evil doctor played by none other than the director of Scanners, Fast Company, and so many more, David Cronenberg! Ha ha! I guess he was doing it as a favour for his buddy, trick effectsman Jim Isaac, who directed the picture (and who had earlier made The Horror Show)! Anyway, Cronenberg performs his silly lines with the requisite seriousness, then, when Jason escapes, tries to run away but suffers a flying impalement!

Jason ends up getting cryogenically frozen anyway, just like Walt Disney, and so does the science lady who’s been studying the masked killer since he was captured! Four hundred years later a spaceship visiting the now uninhabitable Earth retrieves the pair and revives them! As the ship is populated by a gang of students and their venal professor (played by Jonathan Potts from Body Count, ha ha!), the picture then becomes a spacebound retelling of part 8, with a revived Jason applying some futuristic killing methods (a face-freezing-and-smashing scene is perhaps the most memorable) as well as garden-variety pokings to the students and the crew!

There are some very 2001-era trick visual effects, by which I mean they’re not up to the standards set by the movie 2001 back in 1968, ha ha! The ship itself is very much the type that feels more like a studio in Toronto than an actual working craft, and there’s a distinctly Canadian feel to the whole production - yet another echo of the dire Jason Takes Manhattan! This maple leaf feeling is amplified by the presence of Potts and Cronenberg, as well as a cameo from Robert Silverman, whom we know from so many Cronenberg movies and also from his appearance as Mr. Sykes in Prom Night!

There are clever moments, like the use of the holodeck to recreate Jason’s usual campsite environment and thereby distract him! There’s a lady robot and some nanotechnology, and for whatever reason Jason is turned into a super robot version of himself! The whole is a dog’s breakfast of fan-fiction level ideas afflicted with the usual lack of affrights, though it’s all as slickly produced as any Friday the 13th picture ever was! It was mildly fun to see it on the big screen, and though it’s bad, some pleasures remain, and so Jason X gets a rating of one and a half nanobots from me! Ha ha, and have a happy Friday the 13th, everybody!

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Burl reviews The Omen! (1976)


With a devilish boo, it’s Burl, presenting to you a review of one of the big blood and thunder horror pictures of the 1970s! You know this species of movie: usually the title starts with the word The, and frequently the theme is supernatural, often demonic! The Exorcist is the king daddy of these, but pictures as varied as The Car, The Sentinel, The Changeling, The Legacy, and The Pyx might be included as well! And among the most popular of such films is today’s entry, The Omen!

We all know the story! Gregory Peck from The Guns of Navarone plays Robert Thorn, introduced making a fateful decision that he spends the rest of the movie, and the rest of his life for that matter, paying for! Informed that his newborn son has died in childbirth, he is convinced by a hairy priest that he should accept instead another child born at the same time, and never tell his wife, played by Lee Remick from Telefon, about this switcheroo! Of course you and I know who this changeling really is, but it takes quite a while for old Bob Thorn to clue in, ha ha! A number of people try to tell him, and his wife just knows that something is wrong, and of course accidental deaths of varying elaborateness are in store for them all!

Because that’s the real currency of the Omen movies, isn’t it? The central gimmick, that the devil’s child is reborn into a position of privilege that will allow him to ascend to the highest ranks of power in the world, well, we all know first-hand what that’s like, don’t we! But the real audience attraction in the movie is the Rube Goldberg death scenes, of which this picture has only a few, but they were effective enough to indicate the most profitable path for the producers to follow with future installments!

Morgan himself, David Warner from Nightwing and The Island gets the best of them, when a window pane flies off a truck and knocks his melon off! Ha ha! Patrick Troughton from Jason and the Argonauts plays a mumbly priest who tries to tell Thorn what’s going on, but only manages to deliver a little information before he’s transfixed by a church spear! (Ha ha, why is a church participating in these killings, anyway? Logic does not always abound here!) Billie Whitelaw from Night Watch is the sinister nanny, and they have to go all the way to the desert to met Leo McKern from The Day the Earth Caught Fire, in order to learn the method by which Satan’s spawn must be dispatched!

The pictures taken by Warner’s photographer character, in which the subject is overlaid by a sinister shadow indicating how they will later perish, are properly creepy, but they make less and less sense the more you think about them! So does the whole movie, in fact: if the devil can set up these gimmick deaths at any time, then how do any of the characters survive as long as they do? Of course, by the end just about every character has met their doom, so maybe the internal logic is sounder than I think! At any rate, it’s still a solid and effective big-budget thriller, with fine photography from Gil Taylor and a highly motivational score from the great Jerry Goldsmith, and a generally sound craftsmanship in all departments!

It’s silly and manipulative, and often seems more an exercise than a film, but it does the job and delivers what it promises! I can do no less than give The Omen two and a half angry baboons!

Friday 6 August 2021

Burl reviews Return to Macon County! (1975)


Yee-haw and hee haw, it’s Burl, here with some Southern-fried action-drama! Today we Return to Macon County, which is odd as I’ve never been to Macon County, either physically or by watching the picture to which this is a sort-of sequel, Macon County Line! So, ha ha, if I’ve never been there, how can I return, but return I did simply by watching Return to Macon County!

The picture, which is set in the summer of 1958, wastes no time in introducing us to the main characters: a pair of itinerant gearheads traveling to California to become auto racing stars in their self-modified lemon-yellow Chevy! And, ha ha, this duo looks somehow familiar, though younger than the versions we’re acquainted with: it’s Nick Nolte from Extreme Prejudice playing Bo, the driver, and Don Johnson from Dead-Bang, as well as novelty appearances in Machete and Django Unchained, as Harley, the mechanic!

Clever with autos they may be, but general-issue geniuses these two fellows are not! They stop in Macon County, which is their first mistake, and following this comes a whole series of subsequent mistakes, big and small! Their principal error is in hooking up with a waitress called Junell, played by Robin Mattson from Candy Stripe Nurses and Phantom of the Paradise, who is cute and cheerful but soon proves also to be completely insane! Ha ha, and she has a gun too, which is not a useful combination!

They soon make enemies: first a greaser gang whom Harley has beaten in a drag race, and who, instead of paying off Harley’s winnings, simply beat him up; and then, after Junell has secured the cash winnings from the gang at gunpoint, they irritate a cop, who instantly goes completely mad himself and declares a blood vengeance on the lads! Thanks to a scary performance by TV actor Robert Vilarho, the cop seems a formidable antagonist, even if his dogged pursuit of Bo and Harley fails to make much sense!

Junell pulls her gun a few more times, which gets them all into even more trouble, and soon she’s babbling about rabbits flattened on the highway being scraped up and used as Frisbees! Ha ha, this is recalled and used as some sort of metaphor in the film’s final scene, but that, too, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense! Neither does Bo’s troubled infatuation with Junell, though the punchfight between the friends, once they realize the depth of the trouble they’re in, certainly does make sense! Each of these dopes deserves a walloping, with the other being just the man to deliver it!

One expects a full and drama-filled breakdown from Junell before the end of the picture, and perhaps a climactic institutionalization, but that seeming inevitability never happens! Instead we get a fatal case of mistaken identity between the vengeance-crazed cop and the nasty greasers, followed by the complete psychotic dislocation of the lawman! Ha ha!

Return to Macon County was part of a rich tapestry of low-budget cornpone action dramas in the 70s: stuff like Redneck County and Eat My Dust and Smokey Bites the Dust, and so many more! I guess these things played well on the drive-in circuit, ha ha! With its stars-to-be and its willingness to go dark, it stands out slightly from the crowd; but like so many of its brethren, it frequently threatens to get dull! That it never quite follows through on this may be more a function of my own mood when watching it than the movie’s own innate pep, but it can’t be denied that the picture is competently made by writer-director Richard Compton, whose work I’m otherwise unfamiliar with!

I suppose one of these days I ought to see the original Macon Count Line, which was auteured by Jethro his own self, but I guess I’m in no real hurry! Meantime I’m going to give Return to Macon County two exploding gumball machines!

Burl reviews Big Ass Spider! (2013)


Ha ha and cobwebs, it’s Burl, here with a review of a big bug picture that keeps one antenna on the late-model Roger Corman DinoCrocoCentiSharknado school of filmmaking, and the other on slightly more serious-minded numbers like Tarantula and Them!! Sprinkle this concoction perhaps too liberally with Aliens, ha ha, and you’ve got Big Ass Spider!!

Our hero is a husky, good-natured exterminator called Alex, played by Greg Grunberg from Mission Impossible III! After an encounter with an old fruitcake (played by the ubiquitous horrorslady Lin Shaye) in which he suffers a brown recluse bite, Alex heads to the hospital for treatment, where, with admirable narrative economy a big, though not yet big ass, spider emerges from a mistakenly-delivered corpse! Ha ha, of course it’s the result of some kind of Army experiment, and the military is soon on the scene, led by a colonel or a major or whatever played by Ray Wise from RoboCop!

A fashion scientist played by Patrick Bachau from A View to a Kill is tagging along, making dire pronouncements about the exponential growth rate of the enormous eight-legger, which in the meantime is traveling around the hospital melting the faces of elderly patients and growing ever larger! Alex and the hospital security guard who has become his new sidekick are hot on its cribellum as the arachnid breaks out of the hospital, legs it to a park, and begins munching on picnicking families, beach volleyball girls, and Lloyd Kaufman of Troma!

The picture moves along quickly until a very Aliens climax at the top of a building, where the spidey has cocooned a number of people, including the army lady Alex has a crush on, and laid soon-to-hatch eggs all around the place! Some jet planes provide a bit of King Kong action, and Alex finishes things off at street level with a well-placed bazooka shot! Somewhere in there a groan-worthy cover of the Pixies’ great song “Where Is My Mind” fits in too, and there’s a jokey look-to-the-skies ending involving some mention of an enormous cockroach! Ha ha!

Well, right off the top I ought to say that the picture is a lot less dire than it might have been! I like big bug pictures, but it’s the old ones I really dig, from Them! right down to Beginning of the End and its ilk! New ones, with their inevitable surfeit of poor digital trick effects, do tend to leave me cold! But though there is just such a surfeit in this picture too, which occasionally annoys, there are a few impressive practical effects also, and so the movie ends up punching just a little bit above its weight!

And even though his character’s constant, desperate quest for a date is a little pathetic, Grunberg’s performance is likeable and intelligent, and that goes a long way in helping the movie! The security guard sidekick is good too, in his limited way, and Wise is always a welcome face! It’s a silly picture, at times a stupid one, very frequently derivative, and never scary or terribly exciting; but like its portly hero it has a good heart, and that goes a long mile with ol’ Burl! It has pep too, which is of critical importance! Ha ha, I don’t mind giving Big Ass Spider! one and a half spinnerets and a blue ribbon for effort!

Burl reviews One Crazy Summer! (1986)


Hello gumchewers, and all the best of the summer to you! Today I thought I’d review an airy little goofnut from thirty-five summers past! It’s a picture I saw on video with my pals a-way back when, and we probably watched it because we were fans of the director-star combo’s previous work, Better Off Dead! This picture runs a distinct second place to that minor 80s comedy gem, and it goes by the name of One Crazy Summer!

The director in question is Savage Steve Holland, who, like Tim Burton, came from the world of animation and so liked to include little bits of cartoon or stop motion in his live-action features! The star of the picture is John Cusack from Tapeheads and Con Air, but in reality he’s only the star because he was the most high-profile performer when this was made; in fact, despite being the audience-identification character, he’s more a part of an ensemble! Inasmuch as he has an identity at all, the character is defined as a high school graduate known inexplicably as Hoops, whose fondest hope is to find romance and be admitted to a college of the fine arts!

His pal Sweet Calamari, played by one of Bill Murray’s brothers (but not, I think, the one who was in Moving Violations), ushers him to Nantucket Island for the summer! On the way there they encounter struggling songstress Cassandra, played by Demi Moore from Parasite, who is on the run from a motorcycle gang headed by the guy from Goonies! That particular back story is one that remains unexplored, ha ha, as do many others, but this is not a drum-tight narrative we’re dealing with here!

On Nantucket, numerous other personages emerge! There are the Stork brothers, Egg and Clay, played by Bobcat Goldthwait and Tom Villard respectively; and then we have perhaps the most appealing character in the picture, the peace-loving Ack Ack, essayed by Curtis Armstrong, whose father is a warmongering general played by Joe Flaherty from Club Paradise! There are of course bad guys: a family of developers called the Beckersteds, whose goal is to take over a house which Cassandra has inherited and replace it with a soulless condo complex! These nogoodniks are frat bro Teddy, played by Matt Mulhern from Extreme Prejudice and Junior; a dad played by one of the jerk bros from Animal House; and there are sidekicks essayed by the likes of Jeremy Piven from Edge of Tomorrow! Old William Hickey, from Tales From the Darkside: The Movie and suchlike, is the wheelchair-bound but non-evil patriarch of the clan!

All these elements come together in the most obvious and primitive of ways: Hoops falls for Cassandra and he and his band of weirdos must triumph over the Beckersteds, and, as in another summer picture from the era, Summer Rental, it all comes down to a regatta, for which the heroes must employ a watercraft previously considered thoroughly unseaworthy!

It’s all very uncomplicated but good-natured, and the pleasures, when they come, come not from the main plot or cast, but from the material on the margins, which are supplied with gags as though Sergio Aragones had a hand in the script! That would be fine if the gags were funnier, but the laffs, unfortunately, are rather sporadic! The movie’s not without charm though, and it also contains weirdness, and these two qualities are valuable indeed! Bobcat Goldthwait goes so far into his usual 80s persona that he seems deranged, but his performance doesn’t grate the way you might expect, or at least not as consistently as you might expect! Ha ha! There’s a bright and sunny summer atmosphere, and the seaside charm of the Nantucket location occasionally shows through, and of course there are plenty of Jaws references! Though it’s no classic, and not even close, I found my recent re-viewing of this picture enjoyable, and so I give One Crazy Summer two man-eating dolphins!