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Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: Top Dog

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

sdcc tn_topdogIn the K-9 review I mentioned that it competed with TURNER & HOOCH for King of the Human/Dog Buddy Cop Movies. But TURNER & HOOCH takes place in the fictional northern California town of Cypress Beach, so who gives a shit? Nobody.

For the true San Diego/cop/dog experience outside of K-9 you gotta got to 1995’s TOP DOG, where Chuck Norris plays Lieutenant Jake Wilder, a San Diego police detective actually assigned a dog named Reno as his partner. I don’t know if this is K-9 fan fiction and the SDPD is supposed to be building off of the precedent of Jerry Lee, or if K-9 exists as a movie within this universe and it inspired them to do this for PR purposes. But the point is this is in the top two San Diego dog cop comedies of the 20th century. Just my two cents.

The filmatists seem to aim for the same basic approach as K-9 – jokes peppered through a serious action movie. The villains are white supremacists shown making hateful speeches (though thankfully light on racial slurs), they are mostly not played as bumbling buffoons. But there’s cheesy, happy music by George S. Clinton (MORTAL KOMBAT), the jokes are broader than K-9, the action is cornier and the look is shoddy. On the positive side there are more explosions, kicks and jumping stunts. All these things can be explained by who the director is: Chuck’s brother Aaron Norris (DELTA FORCE II). (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: K-9

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

tn_k-9sdccK-9 is a weird type of action-comedy that only existed in the ’80s. James Belushi plays own-rules-playing San Diego narcotics detective Mike Dooley, who sneakily borrows a K-9 patrol dog off the books for an unauthorized raid, and then treats the dog as his partner, talking to him as if he’s a human in a regular non-dog-related cop movie. And the dog, Jerry Lee (introducing Jerry Lee as himself according to the credits, which is a lie because the dog was named Rando and got totally fucked over because dogs aren’t SAG), will sometimes make human gestures like covering his face with his paws in embarrassment or making a little arf sound that resembles a human sigh.

It’s humor that often seems more for kids than adults, yet every single other aspect of the movie – the car chases, the bar fight, the shootouts, the angry chief, the arrogant, swimming-pool-lounging drug lord villain (Kevin Tighe, ROAD HOUSE), the relationship problems caused by his occupation, the dramatic score, etc. – is 100% standard issue PG-13 (when that was edgy) action movie. And I don’t mean as a parody, mimicking the style to get laughs from absurdity. They’re just making a movie how movies were made back then. It wasn’t weird at the time. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Ghostbusters (2016)

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

tn_ghostbusters16GHOSTBUSTERS was a popular movie in 1984 and we still remember it and it has a good logo and it’s 2016 so obviously there’s a remake. Luckily they chose director Paul Feig, who has gotten big laughs with BRIDESMAIDS, THE HEAT and SPY, and he brought along past collaborators Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, plus current SNL cast members Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to bust open those ghosts and devour their delicious green centers or whatever it is that ghostbusters do.

Like in the original, the ghosts and the quasi-science of busting are pretty much presented with a straight face. I guess come to think of it it’s the ABBOT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN method. For this one it’s all digital FX, from what I can tell, but that works well for these glowing, floating, rotting, transforming, transparent entities. It’s kind of a retro Haunted Mansion type of ghost I guess, not the type you’d expect to see in a James Wan movie or something like that.

Then within this story (scripted by Feig with co-writer Katie Dippold) of some unorthodox scientists starting a ghost extermination business and uncovering a plot to summon evil spirits to New York City there is comedic riffing. The jokes come at a much faster rate than the original, so even in the scare-based opening scene there are some big laugh lines. I think this is a wise approach since they’re not working with a new concept this time around. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Monday, July 18th, 2016

summer2016originstn_ghostbustersGHOSTBUSTERS (1984) is the story of three male scientists – Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray – who live and work in New York City and specialize in studying the supernatural. They lose their grant at the college just because the uptight higher ups notice that they are bringing great shame and humiliation upon the institution by wasting everyone’s time and money on an area of study that is not real. And that’s without even knowing that Murray (WILD THINGS) doesn’t totally believe in it and spends his days doing fake telepathy tests just to hit on women.

So they decide to lease a beat up old fire station and start a scrappy new business that treats exorcism like pest control and advertises on TV and what not. Lucky for them they are correct, it turns out ghosts are real and there are a couple actual hauntings going on in the city. A female client (Sigourney Weaver, ABDUCTION) comes to their male offices with a huge case: her refrigerator is a portal to a ghost dimension or some shit and she and her neighbor (Rick Moranis, STREETS OF FIRE) get possessed and an ancient Sumerian god named Gozer (Slavitz Jovan, KNIGHT OF CUPS) appears on top of the building and they have to shoot lasers at it, etc. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Meet the Hollowheads

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

tn_hollowheadsYou know what they say about people who work in movies as some job other than director: they really want to direct. It happens to actors, it happens to writers, it happens to Mel Gibson’s hairdresser who directed PAPARAZZI. It also happens to special effects makeup artists. Tom Savini directed the quite good NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake. Stan Winston directed PUMPKINHEAD and A GNOME NAMED GNORM and Michael Jackson’s GHOSTS. John Carl Buechler directed TROLL and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII and a bunch of other stuff. Kevin Yagher (partially) directed HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE. Of all these, the weirdest is the one that Tom Burman did, MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS.

Maybe Burman isn’t as well known as some of those other guys. In recent years his work has been on hospital-set TV shows – Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Chicago Hope, Nip/Tuck. Good work if you can get it. But he’s been in the business since the ’70s, creating the titular heads of THE THING WITH TWO HEADS, doing makeup for FROGS, THE BOY WHO CRIED WEREWOLF, THE FOOD OF THE GODS, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and the Wookiees in The Star Wars Holiday Special. His work spans from classic gore moments (MY BLOODY VALENTINE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, HALLOWEEN III) to werewolves (TEEN WOLF) to fantasy (SCROOGED) to action movies (DIE HARD 2, THE LAST ACTION HERO, CON AIR). He worked on Sloth in THE GOONIES, the monster in HOWARD THE DUCK and the Supreme Leader in CAPTAIN EO.

But in the late ’80s he decided to make his own movie to exercise and showcase the skills of The Burman Studios, the company he ran with his sons Barney and Rob. I remember it was on the cover of Fangoria under the title LIFE ON THE EDGE, and that might be the only reason I was aware of it. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Mermaid

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

tn_mermaidMERMAID is the story of a dumb but not intentionally evil super-super-rich businessman playboy named Liu Xuan (Deng Chao, DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME), a sort of Pretty Decent Gatsby with lots of shiny suits, a John Waters mustache, whole teams of security guards, lackeys and sexy dancers kissing his ass at all times. He has a weakness for the ladies, giving the time of day to every female from his seductive business partner Ruolan (Zhang Yuqi, CJ7) to a youngster in a sloppy mermaid costume who gets suplexed by security after crashing his pool party to give him her phone number.

One thing he doesn’t know: the fake mermaid Shan (Lin Yun) is actually a real mermaid sent to assassinate him to avenge his sonar devices massacring and trapping a society of merpeople in the Green Gulf wildlife reserve that he recently purchased for billions of dollars. But they kinda fall for each other. It’s like THE LITTLE MERMAID if it took place in the modern day and Ariel was trying to kill Prince Eric.

It’s directed and co-written by Stephen Chow, but he’s not in it as an actor and it’s not a martial arts movie. It is, however, full of his kinetic Looney Tunes style slapstick action. Hopefully the people who have a problem with wire tricks and digital FX assists already saw SHAOLIN SOCCER and KUNG FU HUSTLE and know to stay far away from Chow. This is a movie with a skateboarding mermaid, an out of control jetpack, a half man/half octopus who’s often hanging upside down or crawling around on the ceiling, a mermaid matriarch who splashes water into animated shapes to tell stories. And of course some cartoon violence, including poisoned sea urchin throwing stars. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Deadpool

Monday, February 29th, 2016

tn_deadpoolDEADPOOL is a smart-ass, hard-R super hero revenge movie for the 14 year old boy in every man, woman and child. The feature directing debut of FX artist Tim Miller (who designed the opening credits for Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) has show-offy digital camera moves, fourth-wall-breaking narration, meta and self-referential humor, frequent jokes about dildos and other things going up butts, gun fetishism, jerking off, juvenile homophobic name-calling like “cockgobbler,” and is convinced that it’s hilarious to know the names of different gross sex acts and talk about doing them with old ladies. Sounds exactly like a Neveldine/Taylor style headache. But I really enjoyed it.

I saw commenters here predicting I would hate DEADPOOL like I did KICK-ASS. I understand the comparison, but here’s why I think it’s different: it has a different personality. Both are trying to push buttons with foul-mouthed costumed characters going overboard with the violence and seeming real proud of themselves for it, but to me KICK-ASS seems like it’s trying to shock and outrage some hypothetical prudes and squares that would never watch the movie anyway, while DEADPOOL seems like it’s trying to win everybody over with its obnoxious charm. There are tons of childish jokes in the movie that didn’t make me laugh, but they felt less like jokes failing and more like me smiling and shaking my head at a dipshit friend trying to make me uncomfortable to amuse himself. And the X-Men seem to feel kind of the same. He’s basically a bad guy but they keep going easy on him because they want him to be a good guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Big Short

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

tn_bigshortbestpictureDo you remember the Will Ferrell movie THE OTHER GUYS, how the end credits were a big animated info graphic about the banking crisis? It connected to the scheme by the villains in the movie but seemed jarringly serious at the end of a cop movie parody from the director of ANCHORMAN where Ferrell carries a wooden gun, has an evil pimp alter ego and has a chief played by Michael Keaton who quotes TLC all the time and works a second job at Bed Bath & Beyond. That’s why it’s not completely out of the blue that its director Adam McKay has made his first non-comedy, THE BIG SHORT, which has been nominated for many awards including Oscars for best picture, director and adapted screenplay. This is not the classic funny-man-yearning-for-respectability-with-corny-Oscar-bait-movie gambit. This is a rage that’s been fighting to get out.

Based on the non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Moneyball author Michael Lewis, the movie tells the stories of several small-timers and outsiders in the financial world who had the foresight to see that the housing market was built on fraud and was destined to collapse. They figured out a way to basically bet against the banks, who gladly accepted the offers because they believed their own lies. They thought these people were crazy and giving them free money. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Radioland Murders

Monday, February 8th, 2016

tn_radiolandlucasminusstarwarsRADIOLAND MURDERS is a retro comedy, a madcap murder mystery taking place in 1939 as a Chicago radio station has a gala live broadcast performed in front of an audience and a room full of big shot affiliates waiting to be impressed. There’s a big band and actors doing adventure shows and commercials while the writers, directors and sound engineers scramble to have something on the air after the boss just tossed out all of their scripts. Meanwhile, writer Roger (Brian Benben, I COME IN PEACE) is pathetically trying to woo back his wife Penny (Mary Stuart Masterson, GARDENS OF STONE), who thinks he cheated on her. It was a misunderstanding, but he’s too much of a doofus to make her understand.

And then he becomes the #1 suspect when people in the station start turning up dead. So he has to avoid the police, solve the mystery, convince his wife and finish some scripts. Kind of a rough day for him.

The DVD cover brags about an “All star cast!,” which is stretching it, but the huge ensemble cast does include an impressive lineup of character actors, some of them better known now than they were then. You also got Ned Beatty, Brion James (BLADE RUNNER, 48 HOURS), Michael Lerner (MANIAC COP 2), Michael McKean, Jeffrey Tambor, Stephen Tobolowsky, Christopher Lloyd, Larry Miller (FOODFIGHT!), Corbin Bernsen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dylan Baker, Robert Klein and Harvey Korman (The Star Wars Holiday Special). Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins of the AMERICAN GRAFFITI saga show up together. Since there’s sort of a variety show going on at the center of it there are appearances by Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, Joey Lawrence (as a dreamy crooner) and even Billy Barty (WILLOW). Also Gary Anthony Williams, the voice of Uncle Ruckus on The Boondocks, made his first movie appearance. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Ricki and the Flash

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

tn_rickiBefore we get back into the Lucas-Minus-Star-Wars series I wanted to play a little catch up. Here’s one of my favorite movies of last year, and I bet most of you haven’t considered seeing it.

In RICKI AND THE FLASH Meryl Streep (BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY) plays the broke-ass leader of a California bar band who’s on an unlikely mission to Indianapolis to cheer up her daughter Julie (Streep’s real daughter Mamie Gummer), because her husband left her. One thing is, Ricki abandoned the family years ago to follow her rock and/or roll dream, and they never forgave her for it and rarely talk to her. But Julie’s gotten so bad that her dad Pete (Kevin Kline) gets desperate enough to break that emergency glass. It’s a fish-out-of-water story where the fish has no money and has to stay in your guest room and you don’t want her there but you try to be polite and also you have to pay for her cab.

Ricki is a rare and precious thing, a lead role for an actress – an older actress, even – that gets to be complex and flawed and also funny (not to mention sing and play guitar!). She’s a strong personality and also a mess and possibly racist and hates Obama and also it turns out she knows how to be a good mother and friend. I mean, now she does, but where the hell was she before? With this cause healing, or only increase resentment? Streep, not surprisingly, goes to town with the role and seems to be having a great time. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.