"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

Bullet Train

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

David Leitch’s BULLET TRAIN has plenty going for it. It has a strong ensemble of actors playing colorful characters, like a quippy modernized Murder on the Orient Express, except in this one everybody’s trying to murder each other and/or escape, it’s not so much of a whodunit. It’s a fun idea, it looks good, the action scenes are really well executed, with the actors really putting in the work, as we’ve come to expect from 87North (formerly 87Eleven) productions.

But to me the movie is a disappointment. For the last year or two I knew it was the big 87North movie with the crazy-good cast headed up by Brad Pitt fighting each other on a train, and I just took it for granted it was gonna be top of the line. On the surface it is – it’s colorful, has a sense of style, and mostly avoids that everything-is-green-screen feeling of so many modern movies. It even has a good soundtrack of (until Rare Earth on the end credits) non-obvious songs, from Shuggie Otis to Pussy Riot to a really strong use of “Holding Out For a Hero.” Strong because it’s not the original Bonnie Tyler version from FOOTLOOSE, but a Japanese cover made by Miki Asakura in 1984 as the theme for a show called School Wars (now remixed with some MORTAL KOMBAT-y dance music flourishes). (read the rest of this shit…)

Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation

Monday, August 8th, 2022

“They’re nerds. With their advanced knowledge of computers they can get any information they want!”


REVENGE OF THE NERDS is about as ‘80s of a movie as could exist. Raunchy sex comedy, fraternities, evil preppies, cartoonish nerd characters, gay stereotypes, Asian stereotypes, things that are now recognized as sex crimes played as fun hijinks, a part where they rap very badly. Those things weren’t entirely washed away by the new decade, but they became less common. You weren’t really gonna see many movies like that on the big screen anymore.

But that didn’t stop those vengeance hungry nerds from seeking further retribution on network television! I don’t remember being aware of this at the time, but REVENGE OF THE NERDS III: THE NEXT GENERATION aired at 8 pm July 13, 1992 on Fox. According to tvtango.com it rated lower than its competition: repeats of FBI: The Untold Stories, Evening Shade and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Also its last half hour overlapped with coverage of the first day of the Democratic National Convention.

The director is Roland Mesa, who had only previously directed an interview with Tim Burton about EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and only followed with a 1994 episode of Tales from the Crypt that was the first credit for Ethan Suplee. But it has the same writers as the theatrical movies, Steve Zacharias & Jeff Buhai. Guardians of the REVENGE OF THE NERDS saga. (read the rest of this shit…)

A League of Their Own

Thursday, July 28th, 2022

A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (which opened against BOOMERANG on July 1, 1992) is a very nice and pleasing mainstream period sports comedy-drama from director Penny Marshall (JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH). It’s a fictionalized version of one of those true life historical events you hear about and think “Yep, that’s a movie” because it reads so much like a high concept movie pitch: during WWII, when so many American men were sent to fight overseas, some enterprising baseball executives started the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to keep the sport in the public eye. Though they endured all manner of sexist indignities (like being forced to wear skirts and pretend to fit various feminine stereotypes) they also were good at what they did and took their shot to show it off.

Geena Davis (FLETCH) and Lori Petty (CADILLAC MAN) star as Dottie Hinson and Kit Keller, small town Oregon sisters who run a dairy and play catcher and pitcher on a softball team. One day a scout named Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz*, THREE AMIGOS) attends a game and wants Dottie to try out for the A.A.G.P.B.L. She’s happy with her life and uninterested, but agrees to go if he’ll give Kit a shot too. (read the rest of this shit…)

Boomerang

Monday, July 25th, 2022

On Wednesday, July 1st, 1992 – one day after Prince and the New Power Generation released “Sexy MF,” the first single from their symbol album – Eddie Murphy played a Sexy MF in the romantic comedy BOOMERANG. It’s the sophomore movie for HOUSE PARTY director Reginald Hudlin, but it’s written by Murphy’s COMING TO AMERICA scribes Barry W. Blaustein & David Sheffield (POLICE ACADEMY 2: THEIR FIRST ASSIGNMENT), based on an idea by Murphy.

Murphy plays Marcus Graham, hot shit New York advertising executive, who is welcomed to his office like everyone’s best friend or personal hero. He’s also the type of guy who checks out every female ass he crosses paths with, smiles and flatters his way into dates, and then immediately moves on to the next woman. “Once I hit it I lose interest, but that ain’t my fault!” he swears.

He’s definitely an asshole, but Murphy plays him with enough charm to balance some of that out. For example there’s a scene where director Nelson (Geoffrey Holder, ANNIE) excitedly presents a commercial with ridiculously suggestive shots of a model fellating a banana. Marcus tells him some parts to cut out but laughs and jokes around and just shows an appreciation for Nelson’s eccentricity. It’s not the usual thing where the successful boss guy has to be mean. Everybody loves him. (Of course, negative reviews interpreted this as Murphy having an ego. Once you’re as successful as him you get called out for playing cool guys.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Dual

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

DUAL is the latest from writer/director Riley Stearns, which came to disc this week. I checked it out because I really Iiked his last one, THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE, which stars Jesse Eisenberg as a “35 year old dog owner” who takes up karate after being assaulted, but is not remotely the movie I’d picture when hearing that description. At the end of my review I wrote, “I really like the feel he has here – a barren, generic town, people who speak oddly, an undercurrent of danger as this strange black comedy kind of turns into a thriller. It’s very unique.”

That sounds quite a bit like this one too, despite entirely different subject matter. DUAL is about clones and is set in a casually dystopian near future (or present?), so it’s technically a sci-fi movie, but it feels like it could be the same world as the previous one. It’s got the same sort of deadpan strangeness, plainness and bone-dry, bleak humor. There’s even some combat training that takes place in a room that might as well be one of the dojos in that movie. I wondered if Stearns ever considered using Allesandro Nivola’s asshole sensei character as the trainer, then I read that Eisenberg was announced as a cast member at one point, so maybe it would’ve been him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sister Act

Friday, June 24th, 2022

SISTER ACT was released on May 29, 1992 and is of course the Golden Globe nominated feel-good fish-out-of-water comedy smash hit starring Whoopi Goldberg (last seen in THE PLAYER) as a lounge singer who witnesses a murder is put into witness protection pretending to be a nun in a convent and then ends up leading and reworking their choir. It’s not the type of movie I usually review, and I don’t really know how to dig as deep into it as I do on some of these, but I want to write about it if only to make this point: this, the most mainstream middle-of-the-road normal movie in this summer of ’92 retrospective so far, has kind of the same story as the (no pun intended) most alienating one, ALIEN 3, which came out the week before.

Think about it. Deloris is trying to escape from an unpleasant situation (dating mobster Vince LaRocca [Harvey Keitel in the same year as RESERVOIR DOGS and BAD LIEUTENANT]) when catastrophe forces her to seek shelter and live primitively within a tight knit community of same-gendered (female in this case) devout Christians. She’s made to look like them (wearing a nun’s habit rather than having her head shaven) and is unwelcome to some, particularly the person in charge (the Reverend Mother [Maggie Smith between HOOK and THE SECRET GARDEN] rather than the warden). But she ends up using her unique skills to lead them all in accomplishing the seemingly impossible (in this case making their choir sing well rather than killing a xenomorph without weapons). (read the rest of this shit…)

Rubin & Ed

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

“It’s gonna get weird now, isn’t it?”


I know I’m way behind on this summer retrospective, still doing May releases well into June, but some new information and my perfection-ish-ism have forced me to skip back a little bit. It turns out there was another lowbrow comedy released in May (approximately May 15th) but in a limited enough capacity that it didn’t show up on any of the lists I used for research. Unlike ENCINO MAN this is one that I did see – more than once – after it came out on video, and it’s a better representation of what I personally was into at the time. But I can’t argue whether it’s better or worse than ENCINO MAN. That is for each individual patron of the arts to decide for themselves. What’s relevant here is that it’s very on brand for Weird Summer. Arguably too much so. (read the rest of this shit…)

Encino Man

Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

“We found him. We can do whatever we want with him.”


ENCINO MAN is I guess a landmark in 1990s American cinema because it introduced “the Pauly Shore movie.” Then in his mid-twenties, Shore was the son of The Comedy Store owners Sammy and Mitzi Shore, so he had started doing standup and hanging out with Sam Kinison as a teenager, developing his surfer dude/stoner/Valley Boy persona “The Weasel” – one of those characters who has a certain way of talking and catalog of slang and catch phrases that seem to be beloved by somebody somewhere, but to those of us who came in late it’s unclear whether you had to be there to get it or if there even was a joke in the first place.

He had been in a few movies, including 18 AGAIN! and PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC’S REVENGE, but his big break was in 1989 when he became an MTV VJ, in character. A year later they gave him his own very popular show called Totally Pauly. When ENCINO MAN was in development at Disney, the head of Hollywood Records got Jeffrey Katzenberg to watch Totally Pauly and then put Shore in the movie. He didn’t want to play the caveman, so the filmmakers worked with him to rewrite the protagonist’s best friend character to be a weird guy who says “nugs” and “weez” and stuff in such a way that it’s clear that it must be funny. (read the rest of this shit…)

Night on Earth

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

“Like Popeye says, ‘I yam what I yam,’ right?”

 

On May 1, 1992, Fine Line Features released Jim Jarmusch’s NIGHT ON EARTH on a mere 40 screens. By comparison, LEAVING NORMAL was released to 362 screens on the same day, and nobody ever heard of that one. But this was a well marketed limited release – I knew NIGHT ON EARTH existed, and in fact went to see it on one of those 40 screens, specifically the one that was upstairs at Seattle’s Harvard Exit Theatre (1968-2015).

This is Jarmusch’s fifth film. It’s possible I’d seen STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DOWN BY LAW already, but I suspect I rented them after seeing this. (I know I’d never heard of PERMANENT VACATION and saw MYSTERY TRAIN later.) So I may not have realized that by his standards it was kind of commercial: in Winona Ryder (who had BEETLEJUICE, HEATHERS and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS under her belt and was about to do BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA) he had his biggest movie star to date, and despite its simplicity it sure seems to have a bigger budget than his previous films, since it’s filmed on location in four different countries. (read the rest of this shit…)

Leaving Normal

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

“I didn’t choose any of this, you know? This chose me.”

Friday, May 1st, 1992 was day 3 of the L.A. riots. The day Rodney King said “Can we all get along?” President George H.W. Bush invoked the Insurrection Act, so California Army National Guard and federal troops were activated under the newly formed Joint Task Force Los Angeles. In L.A. and San Francisco, NBA and MLB games were moved or postponed. Van Halen, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and the WWF all cancelled events. Tension and shock spread across the country.

But also some people went to see movies. Mostly BASIC INSTINCT, which was still #1 in its seventh week. And a very small number of people must’ve went to see LEAVING NORMAL, a perfectly sweet little comedy-drama about white women. Maybe it wasn’t the best time for it. It was not a big enough release to make it onto the box office charts, and I honestly don’t remember ever hearing of it before researching this series. But if I’m gonna do Weird Summer I better cover a movie about leaving normal.

Actually it’s about a young woman named Marianne (Meg Tilly, PSYCHO II) and an older bar waitress named Darly (Christine Lahti, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS) deciding to leave a small, boring town called Normal. But I think we all get the implication. (read the rest of this shit…)