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Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

The Stuff

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

June 14, 1985

“Are you eatin it? Or is it eatin you?”

I have a hard time putting my finger on the exact tone of THE STUFF. Its entire subject and premise clearly satirize consumerism, fads and greedy corporations making money from unhealthy products. The opening scene is laugh out loud funny, and definitely a parody of THE BLOB. The score by Anthony Guefen (DEADLY EYES) is often comically overblown for the scenes it accompanies, and sounds like library music. The characters often say and do odd things in the manner of accidentally funny low budget movies, but we know from his other work that writer/director Larry Cohen knows what he’s doing. Still, it doesn’t come across to me like a spoof, like it’s deadpan in order to be funnier. It seems more like yeah, we know this is a goofy idea, but we’re treating it seriously, just go with it.

I don’t feel like I quite understand its intentions. But that’s okay. Whatever they were going for, they came up with something unique.

“The Stuff” is the name a marketing firm comes up with for a white foam that an old man finds bubbling out of the ground. People like to joke about the guy in THE BLOB poking the meteorite with a stick, but this guy goes swiftly from “what is this weird substance?” to “hmm, let me taste it.” And it’s so delicious it just turns into snack time for him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fletch

Monday, June 1st, 2020

May 31, 1985

I hadn’t seen FLETCH since the VHS days, and remembered nothing about it. Back then I didn’t know it was based on a book, but this time I had the book, having picked it up from a laundry room book exchange shelf two moves ago. Our building manager had pretty good taste – lots of Elmore Leonard.

The novel is from 1975 and written by Gregory Mcdonald, whose books also inspired the 1972 movie RUNNING SCARED and Johnny Depp’s never-released-in-the-U.S. directorial debut THE BRAVE. It was followed by ten more Fletch novels, if you include the two about his son. It’s a mystery about newspaper reporter I.M. Fletcher, who’s been undercover hanging out with junkies on a beach, working on a story about the drug problem there, when he’s approached by a rich guy named Alan Stanwyk, who offers to pay him $50,000 to come to his house on a certain day and shoot him. Says he has cancer, wants to die before it gets painful, but doesn’t want to commit suicide so his wife can get the life insurance money. He’s got this whole plan for a drifter like Fletch to kill him and get away. Even has a plane booked to fly him out of the country.

Fletch continues with his drug investigation while also investigating Stanwyk’s story. Through various trickery he manufactures reasons to speak on the phone or in person with Stanwyk’s wife, doctor, business associates, etc. He’ll do anything from call his parents pretending to be an insurance investigator to walking right up to his wife claiming to be an old Air Force friend who met her at their wedding. He does that while pretending to be a guest at her dad’s tennis club, picking a name off of a locker and ordering screwdrivers on their tab. The more he digs in the more questions he has and the less he understands what this guy is up to. Until, of course, he figures it out. (read the rest of this shit…)

Brewster’s Millions

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

May 22, 1985

On the same Wednesday that RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II was released, Walter Hill followed up HARD TIMES, THE DRIVER, THE WARRIORS, THE LONG RIDERS, SOUTHERN COMFORT, 48 HRS. and STREETS OF FIRE with a new movie produced by Lawrence Gordon (ROLLING THUNDER, PREDATOR, DIE HARD) and Joel Silver (COMMANDO, LETHAL WEAPON, ROAD HOUSE) and starring the great Richard Pryor (THE MACK, HIT!). But it was a pretty dumb PG-rated comedy that doesn’t really take full advantage of either of their skills, other than Pryor’s general likability.

Pryor plays Monty Brewster, pitcher for the minor league baseball team the Hackensack Bulls. He and his best friend/catcher Spike Nolan (John Candy, THE SILENT PARTNER) try to be big fish in a small pond, hitting on baseball groupies at a bar after the game, but even there they’re medium-sized, overshadowed by a manlier player from the away team (Grand L. Bush, DIE HARD, LICENCE TO KILL, STREET FIGHTER). Which leads to a bar brawl, the most Walter Hill part of the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Summer of 1985 intro + Gotcha!

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Technically summer doesn’t start for more than a month. But it’s beginning to feel like summertime – a time to sit back and unwind. The sun has been coming out, people have been wearing shorts, barbecues are probly happening in states that will have new Covid-19 outbreaks in 2-3 weeks, and it could even be argued that the hardcore dance is getting a little bit out of control.

One major thing is missing: the summer movie season. We were expecting to have NO TIME TO DIE, A QUIET PLACE PART II, BLACK WIDOW, WONDER WOMAN 1984, CANDYMAN, TOP GUN: MAVERICK, the GHOSTBUSTERS thing, THE FRENCH DISPATCH, arguably MORBIUS. And F9 would’ve been coming out Friday! Can you believe that? TENET and MULAN are still planned for release in July, but I’m skeptical. It’s up in the air how many theaters will be reopened by then, or especially how many people will feel safe enough to go to them.

It’s not something I ever considered before. Watching a zombie movie or a Godzilla or something, I never thought, “Oh shit, there were probly huge blockbuster movies that had to be postponed because of that!” Come to think of it in OMEGA MAN he had to watch WOODSTOCK, which was about a year old. He didn’t get to see DIRTY HARRY, SHAFT, BILLY JACK or ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES. They probly never came out in that world.

This strange reality of The Year Without a Summer Movie Season has me even more anxious to throw myself into a retrospective series. I think I got as much or more out of my 1989 revisit last year and ’98 the year before that than I did watching new movies in theaters. A good retrospective series feels like a type of time travel to me. There’s definitely a nostalgia, a reconjuring of excitement I may have forgotten from however old I was at the time in question. But also I’m watching more movies than I probly did back then, all in order of when they came out, giving more thought to the context, being able to see that era with the hindsight of history and the perspective of an adult. It’s always fun to discover things I didn’t realize back then, or didn’t experience, or to respond to things differently. (read the rest of this shit…)

After Hours

Friday, April 24th, 2020

“I just wanted to leave my apartment, maybe meet a nice girl. And now I’ve got to die for it!”

AFTER HOURS is Martin Scorsese’s take on the “staying up all night and a bunch of crazy shit happens” movie (see also INTO THE NIGHT, MIRACLE MILE, EDMOND). This one follows Paul (Griffin Dunne), a young word-processing drone who lives alone in a small apartment in New York City. After a boring day at work he goes to a cafe to re-read what he says is his favorite book, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. A woman named Marcy (Rosanna Arquette, same year as SILVERADO) is by herself at a nearby table, notices what he’s reading and says “I love that book.” He doesn’t even hear her at first. But she starts trying to quote it.

Suddenly she moves to his table to get him to look at the weird cashier (Rocco Sisto, INNOCENT BLOOD, ERASER, THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT), who seems to be practicing dance moves. She’s about to leave but they have a short, weird conversation that includes 1) telling him she’s staying with her friend Kiki Bridges and 2) giving him Kiki’s phone number so he can inquire about her sculptures of bagels and cream cheese. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Wizard

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Ever since 1989 I have been curious what the deal is with this “THE WIZARD” Nintendosploitation movie starring Fred Savage. But back then I was pretty busy having Batmania, so I remember I said “I better wait for Shout Factory to release a remastered 2-disc collector’s edition Blu-Ray.” And now that day has come.

The movie opens with Jimmy (Luke Edwards, I KNOW MY FIRST NAME IS STEVEN, NEWSIES, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE, JEEPERS CREEPERS 2), a seemingly autistic boy, walking along a desert highway. He must’ve been walking for a while, because there’s a small plane looking for him. When a cop comes and gets him, all the poor kid will say is “California.”

His motives are mysterious, but we’re told he’s been horribly traumatized, so it must have something to do with that. That doesn’t make his jerky stepdad (Sam McMurray, C.H.U.D., STONE COLD, CLASS ACT) any more patient with his wandering, so he decides to put Jimmy in what everyone keeps referring to as “a home.” That especially pisses off Jimmy’s brother or half-brother or whatever, Corey (Savage, director of DADDY DAY CAMP), who lives with his older brother Nick (Christian Slater, HE WAS A QUIET MAN) and drunk loser dad (Beau Bridges, MAX PAYNE). (read the rest of this shit…)

Charlie’s Angels

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

CHARLIE’S ANGELS (2019) continues the concept of the original Charlie’s Angels tv series and previous movies: some guy named Charlie (now the voice of Robert Clotworthy, who was in both WHO’S THAT GIRL and HE’S MY GIRL in 1987) who you only hear over a speaker runs The Townsend Agency, which originally was a private detective agency but now seems to be an international spy organization? Its agents are all beautiful, glamorous women who are martial artists, masters of disguise, etc.

Since their helper “Bosley” has been played by many different actors throughout the franchise, this one explains that “Bosley” is a rank, like General, and we meet Bosleys played by Patrick Stewart (GUNMEN), Djimon Hounsou (ELEPHANT WHITE) and Elizabeth Banks (SLITHER), the latter of whom also directed and wrote the screenplay (story by Evan Spiliotopoulos [BATTLE FOR TERRA] and David Auburn [Tony and Pulitzer winner for the 2000 play Proof]. They bring together wild American Angel Sabina (Kristen Stewart, PANIC ROOM) and former MI-6 Angel Jane (Ella Balinska) to protect engineer Elena (Naomi Scott, Jasmine from live action ALADDIN, Pink Ranger from POWER RANGERS movie). Having created a vaguely defined clean energy device called Calisto for her employer, Elena has gone whistleblower after learning that it can be used to give people strokes, and now some tattooed hipster assassin asshole named Hodak (Jonathan Tucker, who played Boon, the last guy Raylan killed on Justified) is trying to kill her. (read the rest of this shit…)

In Fabric

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

IN FABRIC is a unique little movie – a horror film that’s not exactly serious, but not adverse to making its absurd premise work; a comedy too, but dry as freshly folded laundry. It’s primarily an exercise in style, a period piece exalting the golden era of Italian horror with its slender beauties and very good retro score – more proggy than the synthy stuff everybody is doing now – by somebody called “Cavern of Anti-Matter.” It fetishizes retail fashion, taking place in and around the women’s department at a ritzy London department store, frequently featuring montages of (and a nightmare about) catalog models, having its characters repeatedly make small talk about “the sales,” and whether each other found anything good to buy. And of course mannequins. Lots of mannequins the look like people and people that look like mannequins.

And it’s about a killer dress. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tiger On Beat

Monday, February 10th, 2020

TIGER ON BEAT is a 1988 Chow Yun Fat cop movie that’s not an untouchable masterpiece like HARD BOILED, but a goofy ‘80s time capsule sort of in the tradition of Hollywood buddy cop action comedies of the era. It opens and closes with an appropriately cheesy hard rock theme song.
Chow’s character Francis Li is that type of cop we’re supposed to be charmed by for his careless attitude (until he gets serious about a case) and his relentless hitting on every woman he meets.

We first meet him in bed with a woman, their ankles handcuffed together, when her husband gets home. Somehow he convinces the husband that he’s a good samaritan doing CPR on her as a favor to him while he goes out drinking. Because he’s this smooth-talking, crazy-lying guy I thought for a minute it was gonna be his BEVERLY HILLS COP. There’s even a pretty great synth tune, but unfortunately it doesn’t turn out to be as prevalent in the movie as “Axel F. Theme” was. (read the rest of this shit…)

Jojo Rabbit

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

Shortly after Taika Waititi’s JOJO RABBIT was nominated for best picture I started to see people cast aspersions. Before that I had mostly heard that it was only okay. And that was kind of what I expected, because I first knew Waititi from WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, and that’s one of those movies that I saw and thought was pretty funny but when five years passed and people were still talking about it like it was the first time they fell in love I couldn’t relate.

That was a stupid thing to get hung up on. Since then Waititi had become better known for injecting the THOR series with life, color and humor, and more importantly he’d made THE HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE. I loved that movie, and JOJO is in a similar vein: a funny, clever story with deep emotions bubbling up from beneath its quirky surface. Which admittedly feels weird to say, because it’s about, uh, Nazi Germany.

Johannes (Roman Griffin Davis, his first movie) and his friend Yorki (Archie Yates, UNTITLED HOME ALONE REBOOT) are enthusiastic participants at a sort of MOONRISE-KINGDOM-looking Hitler Youth summer camp. They’re big nerds taking great pride in learning all the normal boy scout camping shit, and they look like they could be in a live action Peanuts movie, but they’ve also been convinced it’s their patriotic duty to spout all the nonsense they’ve been taught about Nazis being the good guys and Jews being monsters. (read the rest of this shit…)