Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Monday 29 August 2022

Burl reviews The Rosebud Beach Hotel! (1984)


Ha ha, it’s Burl – may I take your bags? Yes, today I have a review of a hotel picture for you, and this is a genre that can run from the trashily venerable, like Arthur Hailey’s Hotel, to the plain old trashy, like Mountaintop Motel Massacre! (A subset of the genre is the off-season hotel picture, and this would include Daughters of Darkness and of course The Shining!) This movie is none of those, however: instead, it’s an eighties comedy called The Rosebud Beach Hotel!


The plot is simple! A nervous nebbish called Elliot, played by bosom buddy Peter Scolari, whom we recall from Ticks, and who here stammers more than any three Hugh Grants, is invited to manage the failing beach hotel of the title! Colleen Camp from D.A.R.Y.L. and Track 29 is his foxy girlfriend Tracy, who at first appears to be the usual snooty, control-freak rich girl, but thankfully is something more! She takes it upon herself to co-manage the hotel with Elliot, unbeknownst to her swordsman father, King! King is played by none other than the magnificent Christopher Lee, whom we recall so well from Nothing But the Night and many other big roles!


Of course Elliot is being set up to fail by King, who has hired a professional arsonist called Matches to burn down the hotel! Ha ha, Matches, played by Hamilton Camp from No Small Affair and City Heat, takes his time getting things ready, so there’s plenty of time for Elliot and Tracy to meet and interact with the wacky employees and guests at the hotel, once the previous manager has gone; and this latter personage is a cameo appearance from Chuck McCann, whom we recall with pleasure from Herbie Rides Again and Cameron’s Closet!


The hotel features a pair of allegedly funny doormen, Leonard and Dennis, played by Jonathan Schmock from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and James Vallely from Some Kind of Wonderful, and two singing chambermaids played by the Currie sisters, Marie and Cherie! Ha ha, Cherie we remember from Parasite and other pictures, while Marie didn’t have much of a film career beyond this movie, I guess because she was too busy discovering radium, ha ha! Hank Garrett from The Sentinel and Johnny Dangerously plays Kramer, the basement-dwelling survivalist-custodian! Fran Drescher from UHF and The Big Picture and of course Spinal Tap is the local prostitute, who, along with her fellow working girls is recruited to the bellstaff, and Eddie Deezen from I Wanna Hold Your Hand is a freakout guest who claims to be a visiting alien! This claim is later proved correct, ha ha! Meanwhile, the torch man goes into paroxysms of orgasmic delight whenever he spies a flame, and becomes the unlikely object of Drescher’s lust!


The movie is a lighthearted frothcoction with a surprising amount of nudity and a professional cast apparently having fun! It’s a little disheartening to think that Christopher Lee did this and Howling II: Your Sister Is A Werewolf in the same year, but from our twenty-first century perspective we know that Lee and his dignity are invulnerable, and that in any case his career rebounded in fine style! And I like Cherie Curie and all – ha ha, I’ve met her, been to her house, and even directed her in a movie, and I enjoy The Runaways (the band; I haven’t seen the movie) – but the songs she and her sister sing in this movie are all just terrible, and they seem to go on forever! Sometimes they go on forever in conjunction with other things that are also going on forever, like an interminable scene of drunken seductive dancing, ha ha, so that part of the movie gets you down! On the other hand, The Rosebud Beach Hotel might be your only chance to see Fran Drescher and Eddie Deezen exchange dialogue!


It’s got a little more going on than the usual 80s sex comedy, with some good physical comedy from Scolari, a stranger-than-usual Deezen, and Lee doing his thing in his typically committed manner! I can’t say this is a good picture – it sure could use some pep and some extra laffs, and maybe a little bit of style – but as these things go it’s fairly painless! Ha ha, I’m going to give The Rosebud Beach Hotel one and a half exploding palm trees!

Friday 12 August 2022

Burl reviews Plan 9 from Outer Space! (1957)


Greetings, friends! I am Burl! We are all interested in movies - that is why you are here! And now, for the first time, based only on a recent VHS viewing experience and many previous viewings at home and at the cinema, I present to you a picture thought by many to be the worst film of all time! Ha ha, can your hearts stand the shocking facts about Plan 9 From Outer Space?


We’ve all seen it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably attended a midnight screening or two of it, complete with the hooting and the howling and the sweet drifts of herbal smoke! But is this really the worst movie ever made? Of course not, and anyone who thinks it is simply hasn’t seen very many movies! It may have been made without skill or craft or art or resources, but it was made with heart and passion, and that alone puts it out in front of its deadly-dull compatriots like Manos: The Hands of Fate, or soulless and mercenary stinkers like, say, Jaws: The Revenge!


The heart and passion in the picture came from Writer-Producer-Director Edward D. Wood Jr., who, though it might be thought impossible, declined still further from pictures like this into worse ones – by the end, he was doing oddball pornoo of which The Young Marrieds is the ultimate example! But, if the biographical picture Ed Wood and the terrific book it’s based on, Nightmare of Ecstasy, are to be believed, Wood insisted Plan 9 was his masterpiece: his final statement on the human condition and the alien and zombie problems that occasionally beset it!


Bela Lugosi, of whom we all are very fond from his appearances in pictures like Island of Lost Souls and the wonderful The Black Cat, appears in a few scraps of near home-movie footage Wood shot a short while before the drug-addled boogey-actor’s death! The main story features a stolid pilot, Jeff Trent, who, based on the set dressing, is flying around not in an airplane but in a shower stall! He’s played by Gregory Walcott from Jet Attack and The Sugarland Express, and he can hardly believe his eyes when a paper-plate saucer dips and bobs in the sky beside his flying shower stall!


Yes, ha ha, saucers, seen over Hollywood! Trent and his wife, who live beside a cemetery, are puzzling over the sighting when some new problems raise their heads – right out of their graves, ha ha! It seems the saucer aliens are using revivication guns to animate corpses, like the old man played unwittingly by Lugosi, and his buxom wife, essayed by the proto-Elvira known as Vampira! Soon enough these two attack and kill a giant policeman, Inspector Daniel Clay, who is of course played by the mighty Tor Johnson, and the next thing you know he’s been zombified too! A full-bird colonel played by Tom Keene from Dick Tracy’s Dilemma gets involved, and soon there are repeated visits to the old cemetery, where the alien spacecraft somehow hides in a spinney and looks like a round pie plate in long shots and like a concrete bunker when seen in close-up sitting on the ground!


It all comes down to a gang of fey extraterrestrials with a crazy plan that’s evidently supposed to save the Earth from the dastardly power of the solemenite bomb! Ha ha, you say solemenite, but just what is it? Well, it hardly matters! Nothing the aliens do or say makes any sense at all, and the human characters are all boneheads who use handguns to gesture with and to scratch their foreheads! The filmmaking incompetence is bone-deep in this picture – even routine accomplishments like framing an image properly are beyond Wood’s abilities!


But I guess that’s the fun of it! Some people no doubt watch the picture to feel superior, or to exercise their insecurity-based desire to snark and scoff, but there’s also a terrible fascination and a great deal of entertainment to be had from the experience! Wood, of course, gets kicked around a lot, but he made movies at least, and for that he’s got my admiration! Ha ha! While it really exists outside of any possible rating system, even one as abstract as my own, I’m going to give Plan 9 From Outer Space two battle-axe jerkins!

Thursday 11 August 2022

Burl reviews Who Has Seen the Wind! (1977)


From out on the windy prairie, it’s Burl, here to review some coming-of-age Canadian cinema! Ha ha, this is the sort of movie Canada did really well in the 1970s, and the wintery, Francophone version of it would be the excellent Mon Oncle Antoine! But films like this were not considered very cool while I was growing up – they were the sorts of things occasionally shown in classroom situations, movies to be endured rather than enjoyed! Ha ha, I remember a class outing to the cinema to see one called Mario! But it turns out that some of them, perhaps even most of them, possibly even all of them, are really good! Case in point: Who Has Seen the Wind!


This is exactly the kind of movie that, done wrong, would instantly become what my pal Evan calls “Canadian with a K!” Fortunately it was done right, ha ha! It’s all set on the plains of Saskatchewan in dust bowl times, and of the massive cast of characters, the one hewn closest to is a ten year-old boy called Brian O’Connel, played by Brian Painchaud in one of the best kid performances I’ve ever seen! Sadly, young Painchaud died aged only twenty, so whether he would have been a good adult actor too will always be unknown!


All the kids in the movie are really good! A very Sammy Snyders-esque youth, Douglas Junor, plays The Young Ben, a mostly silent lad with a blonde bowl cut; a figure of pathos and mystery for much of the picture! His father, The Ben, is played by the movie’s requisite superstar American import: none other than José Ferrer from The Sentinel and Dune! Ha ha, it’s amusing and unusual to see the cultured, Puerto Rico-born Ferrer playing a rough-hewn slab of prairie hardtack: the local brewer of illegal moonshine whose still blows up in the church basement and who keeps a caged owl both as a hard-won pet and as the movie’s principal figure of obvious symbolism! Who knows why the caged owl hoots, ha ha!


As you’ve probably figured out, the picture is a tapestry of life in this small Saskatchewan town, as seen largely but not exclusively from the perspective of Brian! The large number of characters, played by a large number of familiar Canadian actors, include a kindly school principal played by Thomas Hauff from Millennium and Bells; a nasty schoolteacher played by Patricia Hamilton, who later was the ill-fated Mabel in My Bloody Valentine; pious jerk Reverend Powelly, a vaguely Norman Fell-ish presence played by David Gardner, the detective from Prom Night; old bitch Mrs. Abercrombie, essayed by Charmion King from Shadow Dancing and Last Night; Dr. Svarich, the town sawbones, played by Cedric Smith, whom we recall as Gary “The Blacksmith” Black in Fast Company; and others, like a philosophy-disdaining shoe salesman, an unctuous barber/mayor, a Chinese family, and a bible-crazed prairie hobo who dwells in a sturdy piano box! And Les Carlson from Black Christmas and A Christmas Story appears just long enough to drive a cart and sing a scatological horse song!


Brian’s dad, town pharmacist Gerald O’Connel, is a nice guy played by The Rowdyman himself, Canadian icon Gordon Pinsent, known internationally from pictures like Blacula and The Thomas Crown Affair; and from the first moment we see him, buttoning up his shirt after a doctor’s examination, we know he’s doomed! “Is it true your dad turned yellow?” Brian’s friends are soon asking him! Brian’s mom is Chappelle Jaffe from Terminal Choice and The Dead Zone, and her big moment comes in facing down the nasty schoolteacher who punished Brian by making him hold his arms up for hours, until he faints!


The replacement schoolteacher, Ruth Thompson, is played by Helen Shaver from Starship Invasions, and she’s much more pleasant than the sadistic one lately booted from the position! But in a pattern established early in the film, nothing good can happen for Brian without something bad following it up! After his dad – kind, beloved, but not much use in discussions about feelings – dies, Brian goes to live with his salty-tongued Uncle Sean, a role for Gerard Parkes, who also played an uncle in Isabel and was a cop in Spasms! Sean’s hired limpy-man, Ab, is essayed by Hugh Webster from Rip-Off and Between Friends!


The movie seems to be about life and death; imprisonment of various kinds and the necessity and the means of escape; culpability, blame, and forgiveness! It’s a lot to fit into 103 minutes, especially when you consider the very many characters, the general eventfulness of the film, and the need for a climactic, near-disastrous windstorm! The picture is impressively put together, nice-looking, well-acted, understated, and real! The musical score is not bad, but it’s too bombastic, and too often tries to comment on the action in a film that everywhere else resists melodrama! A warning, however: this movie is not for gopher lovers! I give Who Has Seen the Wind three one-way train rides to the Mayo Clinic!

Wednesday 10 August 2022

Burl reviews Sully! (2016)


Heading for runway two-niner, it’s Burl, reporting birdstrike from the sky! Ha ha, it’s a real-life disaster movie – or is it? Those of us who remember watching the news in early 2009 remember that it wasn’t a disaster at all, but a heartening story of competence! Yes, it’s a picture from the man who reinvented himself as a chronicler of ripped-from-recent-headline stories, and this, as far as I can tell, is the best-regarded of them: by garr, it’s the fabulous story of Sully!

Yes, it’s Sully Sullenberger, Airport Pilot, and who better to essay him than Tom Hanks, the fellow we recall from Dragnet and Big and pictures like that! Why, Hanks already had the real-life-pilot-wrings-triumph-from-disaster angle covered in his portrayal of Jim Lovell of Apollo 13! Like Lovell, Sully keeps a calm head and is helped by his even-keeled co-workers, and from the oncoming rush of too-certain tragedy comes the joy of unexpected survival – a water landing from which the aviatrons emerge smiling!

You recall the story: in January of 2009, a flight takes off from La Guardia airport in New York, and instead of its intended destination, Charlotte, a capitol of one of the Carolinas I believe, the airplane is struck by passing birds and, bereft of thrust, is forced into the icy waters of the Hudson River! Injuries are minor and fatalities nil, and pilot Sully Sullenberger is hailed as a hero! But wait – the Red Cross blankets draped across the shoulders of the survivors are not the only wet ones in this story, because various authorities, especially those concerned about insurance costs and so forth with regards to the plane, ask whether Sully and his co-pilot could not have returned to the aerodrome even in their bird-crippled state! By the end of the picture it is revealed that the pilots did all the right things, and their reputations and hero status remain intact!

Aaron Eckhart from Olympus Has Fallen is the co-pilot of Mustache Air flight 1549, and he provides a stolid backup to Sully, a faithful wingman, someone for him to talk to! Laura Linney from Congo is the worried Mrs. Sully, whose scenes are all on the telephone and who doesn’t get to do anything but fret from a distance! Ha ha, it’s a bit of a nothing part, but Linney is a good actor and does what she can! And of course the picture is directed by Clint himself, who as a filmmaker has brought us many pictures: some of them very good, others more like Blood Work! And yes, as mentioned above, of his ripped-from-the-headlines pictures, which include one about the terrorists on the train to Paris and another about the security guard who was thought to have planted a bomb, Sully is the one people thought was pretty good!

Maybe that’s because Sully himself was such a readymade white middle-aged man hero, and therefore perfect to be played by Hanks! Hanks is good in the role, but there’s not all that much to the man aside from being a good and dedicated pilot who’s certain of the rightness of his actions aside from one or two moments of doubt! The picture is assembled in such a way as to break the actual crash and rescue into sections, one of them from the perspective of the La Guardia tower; and occasionally we are privy to the explosive visions with which Sully is occasionally assailed – snapshots of how the disaster might have unfolded if everything hadn’t gone exactly right in the aftermath of the birdstrike!

Like most Eastwood pictures, it’s a competent but unspectacular work! It certainly doesn’t wear out its welcome – at 93 minutes, including credits and explanatory titles, it qualifies as a miniature in the Eastwood oeuvre! It’s a fine piece of reportage, very basic in its themes and emotions, and carries nearly to a fault an abhorrence of nuance or complication! It’s no Unforgiven, ha ha, and it's no Sully Sullenberger: Airport Pilot either, but then what is! Still, I’m going to give Sully two and a half cries of “Heads down, stay down, brace, brace, brace!”