Ha ha!

You just never know what he'll review next!

Friday 23 September 2022

Burl reviews Judge Dredd! (1995)


Ha ha, Burl here, and I AM THE LUAWRH! What does that mean? Well, you’ll simply have to read my review of this mid-90s futuristic action spectacular to find out! Ha ha, I’ll clear it up for you now, actually: the picture in question is Judge Dredd, and “luawrh” is the closest approximation I can make to the word “law” as pronounced by the picture’s star, the pebble-mouthed Sylvester Stallone!


Now this is the first filmed version of the story, not the 2012 version Dredd, which was grim and dark and 3D, and unfolded mostly, as I recall, in slow motion! Of course the Judge was a comic book character before he was anything, and I still remember the nerdrage that greeted the news that Stallone’s character would be – gasp! – removing his helmet in the course of the film! Ha ha, can you imagine! As someone who never read the comics, I didn’t care either way, but when I saw the picture (and reviewed it professionally, for that was back in my professional movie reviewing days), I realized that in fact it would have been better had he kept the thing on as much as possible!


There were quite a few wrong decisions made in the production of this movie, ha ha, and hiring Stallone to play the part might have been the Original Sin from which all subsequent malarkey sprang! We remember him as John Rambo in pictures like First Blood and Last Blood, and so having him play an emotionless dispenser of justice would seem logical; but like many stars at this level of celebrity, he evidently wanted to humanize himself as much as possible and demanded that extra comedy be inserted into the movie! Thus we get Rob Schneider from Wild Cherry playing a little hanger-onner called Fergie, and providing plenty of comedy annoyance all along the way! Fergie eventually has a small impact on the narrative, but mostly he seems to be there just to give Stallone the comedy foil he so desired!


The setting is the future society in which Judges roam the streets and serve as (naturally) judge, but also jury and frequently executioner! This fascistic situation has apparently come as a sudden surprise to some, particularly an investigative journalist played by Mitchell Ryan from Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, who is doing an exposé on the repressiveness of the system he and everybody else have lived in for decades and apparently never noticed before! When the journalist is murdered, Dredd is blamed, and he, along with his little sidekick, are stranded in the great wasteland outside of the giant Mega City, where they have to deal with blowing Fuller's earth, stacked tobacco filters, and cannibal mutants!


Former Judge Rico, played by Armand Assante from Prophecy, was the actual killer of course! He, in cahoots with Jurgen Prochnow from Dune and The Keep, playing Judge Griffin, are apparently trying to make this society even more repressive and fascistic, and there’s something about clones too! Dredd’s allies include Judge Hershey, played by Diane Lane from Streets of Fire and Indian Summer, and of course Chief Justice Fargo, whose noble brow could only be that of the great Max Von Sydow from Strange Brew and Dreamscape!


Some of the other performers include Johanna Miles from Bug as Judge MacGruder; Joan Chen from The Hunted as the evil clone-doctor Ilsa; with the warden of the prison Judge Rico escapes from played by Maurice Roëves, and, just as in Outland, he doesn’t last long before suffering a bloody demise, ha ha! There’s a solid cast here, but the most thrilling performer is a giant menacing robot that appears in the final act, and the trick effects that bring this automaton to life are impressive indeed! But he’s defeated too easily, and by Rob Schneider yet!


My final judgment is that Judge Dredd is a pretty terrible movie that doesn’t live up to the promise of the concept or the character! The script is bad, the politics uncommitted, the action scenes unexciting, the staging poor (why are those bursts of flame coming from that direction, anyway?), and there’s a real by-committee feel to the whole enterprise! The trick effects are good though, and it’s clear they spent some coin on this thing! Too bad it’s not very good, ha ha! I give Judge Dredd one and a half bursts of flame!

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Burl reviews Xanadu! (1980)


Wrapped in swirling ribbons of pastel neon, it’s Burl, here to review a curious quilici that was, and could only have been, released in the bizarre transitional year of 1980! I was among those few who saw this goofnugget on the big screen, for it played my local cinema in the days when I would walk down the block and see whatever happened to be playing on a given Saturday afternoon! Other such pictures included In Search of Noah’s Ark, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, On the Right Track, and Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot! However, the item I’m going to try describing for you now is called Xanadu!


Being from the temporal-cultural crossroads of summer 1980, this is naturally a disco picture, but equally naturally, not only a disco picture! Like Roller Boogie, it’s a roller skating movie too, but it looks forward into the coming decade by virtue of a certain sort of feather-haired weirdness! Ha ha, I think it was doing its best to predict what the fashions and fads of the 1980s would look like, and because it was trying so hard, its guesses were bizarre and strange and not very accurate! The timelessness it sought ended up dating it precisely, ha ha!


The late Olivia Newton-John, whom we recall from Grease and from Two of a Kind, is in the picture, but she’s not really the main character! In fact, she’s not much of a character at all, ha ha! It's really the story of a blockheaded painterman played by Michael Beck from The Warriors and Megaforce who works in a strange factory environment in which he and other artists, including Friendly Fred McCarren from The Boogens and Class Reunion, reproduce album covers onto large canvases for some reason! They’re overseen by a nasty boss called Simpson, who does his best to crush any lingering artistic ambition his stable of industrial daubers might still possess!


Strolling the beach one day, Beck meets up with Gene Kelly, the legendary footstomper from Summer Stock, Singin’ in the Rain, and of course Viva Knievel! Then he’s knocked down by a rollerskating Newton-John and becomes instantly smitten, and thereafter he keeps alternately running into either Kelly or Newton-John and develops friendships with them both! Kelly turns out to be a retired musician who is also, conveniently enough, fabulously rich, and harbours dreams of opening the nightclub to end all nightclubs; and Newton-John, it turns out, is actually Terpsichore, one of the nine muses of Greek legend!


All of this comes together, sort of, when Kelly and Beck team up to create Xanadu, where disco and 50s-era rock are melded together into one goofball farrago that resembles not a whit what 80s culture would actually turn out to be! The last half hour is mostly dancing around, and there’s some impressive hoofstomping, but it’s mostly just a cavalcade of synthetic pageantry that adds up to nothing more than vaguely annoyed bafflement!


I know a lot of people like this movie, but I’m not entirely sure why! To me it fits right in with dire musical oddities like Can’t Stop the Music, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and The Apple, and, funny as they may be, we must admit that none of those are very good! Xanadu largely squanders the talents of its cast (though I believe it was Kelly’s own desire not to do much dancing) along with whatever fantasy-romantic promise its mythology-based concept had, and that’s tough to fully forgive whatever ancillary charms the movie may (or may not) possess! In the end I can only give Xanadu one single animated pastel-neon ribbon!