Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Movie Reviews 406 – Private Parts (1972)

September 14, 2019

If you were looking for a review of the Howard Stern biopic, you’re not going to find that here. The Private Parts we’ll be discussing here are quite different, though equally disturbing. Here, we’ll be indulging in director Paul Bartel’s Private Parts (so to speak). While he will forever be closer associated as the director of low brow classics Eating Raoul and Death Race 2000, Private Parts was Bartel’s first feature and shows some of the blemishes due to inexperience. But the film does entertain if you are looking for the niche it fills. Filmed in and around Manhattan’s seedy 42nd Street at the height of it’s sleez era, this rather tame slasher horror delivers more on eccentricity than any scare or comedy it intended.

Cheryl (Ayn Ruymen), a young runaway living with her best friend Judy in Los Angeles has an argument after being caught peeping on Judy and her boyfriend doing the horizontal. With nowhere else to go she heads to the Big Apple where her aunt Martha (Lucille Benson) owns a dilapidated hotel a stones throw from the dingy Peepshows, Adult magazine shops and other sordid dens of sin. Martha only reluctantly agrees to let Cheryl stay, but makes clear her distaste for any wanton lifestyles.

Cheryl encounters some of the eccentric boarders but takes a particular shine to George (John Ventantonio) a photographer loner, the one person her aunt has warned her to stay away from.

As she settles in to her new digs Cheryl continually hears questions about Alice, a former resident who suddenly disappeared. But it’s her developing womanhood that fills her mind and the enigmatic George becomes a lustfull obsession. Instead of being shocked and outraged when she finds peepholes in her room and shower, she purposely poses for her concealed audience.

An electrified key only discovered when Martha’s pet rat accidentally triggers it opens up a new world to Cheryl, those looking for Alice, and a few other mysterious disappearances. But those are nothing compared to be one big secret shared by Martha and George.

While the performances are nothing to write home about, it’s the sheer weirdness that captivates audiences here. Aunt Martha’s penchant to go to funerals – mostly for people she never knew. George’s inflated sex-doll which he fillls with water and to which he has tacked on a picture of Cheryl’s face which he cuddles to sleep. The old eccentric lady walking the halls and the priest who wears the collar by day but transforms in the sadomasochistic, leather bound homosexual by night.

Produced by Gene Corman, the brother of legendary B-movie producer/director Roger Corman, this film doesn’t get as much exposure as it should. While I can’t say it’s “must see” material no matter which genre peaks your interest, as a historical cult curiosity it is still worth a watch.



Movie Reviews 399 – Night of the Creeps (1986)

July 5, 2019

Nostalgic cinematic moments are usually times when one rewatches old favorite films to relive fond memories or at least now fondly remembered regardless of what we felt during that first viewing. As I had never watched Night of the Creeps until this week I had no such expectations and yet this film managed to make me feel right at home and it was like revisiting an old friend.

While this was marketed (more on that later) as a zombie movie long before the zombie mania of recent years, it is only so in the barest sense. What it is is a cross between a cheesy alien invasion and a high school coming of age story tied in by a cryogenically frozen “patient zero” corpsicle.

The invasion (of sorts) begins in 1959 as a rogue alien ejects a cylinder above Earth as he is chased by his equally diminutive pudgy looking alien companions. The forces unleashed by the contents results in the brutal slaying of a young couple whooping it up at a secluded lovers’ lane.

Now, thirty years later, two outcast buddies Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and J.C (Steve Marshall) are frat pledges and their hazing challenge has them breaking into the secure basement lab of the local morgue where they accidentally unfreeze the body of a teen, a victim of that night long ago. But unbeknownst to the boys they have unleashed the slithering worm-like invaders that were dormant in the body. Soon people are behaving oddly and cadavers are piling up everywhere and it is up to the boys and former cop Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), who happened to be on duty that night thirty years ago, to save humanity all while Chris tries to charm the lovely Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow) a girl he deems out of his league into going to the prom with him.

This film oozes more than the wriggling crawlers which can be seen coming out of heads and orifices. The characters are solidly built up from Atkins’ trench coat and his signature ‘49 Merc to daring to impart J.C. with a physical affliction that has him walking on forearm crutches. In case you haven’t noticed yet (shame on you!) all the character names (Romero! Cameron! Cronenberg!) are homages to great cult directors and if you’re vigilant you’ll pick on other references to films like Jaws, Dead Alive and Plan 9 from Outer Space to name just a few. But more importantly as silly as some of the plot gets there are a number of genuine poignant moments that elevates this film above the din of other films in this category.

IF you can lay your hands on the director’s cut DVD I highly recommend checking out the extra features from which contains interesting recollections and reunions from the stars and writer-director Fred Dekker as well as commentary from one of the producers. The one common thread through all these interviews is how the studio bungled the marketing which resulted in the release being a flop. More unfortunate is how that sting ended up being particularly damaging to Dekker’s career which explains his lack of directorial efforts in the years that followed. A crime if there ever was one if you ask me.

Movie Reviews 382 – Super (2010)

March 2, 2019

The year 2010 was the year Mark Millar’s graphic novel Kick-Ass was adapted to the big screen to much acclaim, a story featuring a vigilante superhero roaming the streets with a teen female sidekick. It was indeed a ‘kick-ass’ film that I’ve enjoyed watching several times. But that same year Super, a lower budget film directed by James Gunn which also featured a middle aged costumed vigilante who adopts a young girl as a sidekick was released with much less fanfare.

I’m always game for these type of movies and have had Super sitting on my shelves for some time now but did not really pay attention to what was on the cover other than noting the prominent red costumed figure. Had I noticed the cast I would have watched it a lot sooner, seeing that Rainn Wilson (of The Office fame) plays the part of the vigilante Crimson Bolt and Ellen Page is cast as his sidekick Boltie.

Frank Darbo (Wilson) is down in the dumps because his alcoholic wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) whom he long ago sobered up has left him for Jacques (Kevin Bacon) a small time neighborhood kingpin – and fried egg aficionado – who now has her hopped on booze and drugs and working in a strip club. He gets inspired to become a vigilante after seeing an episode of a christian TV show featuring The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) and experiencing his own cathartic delusional meeting with God. Before you know it he has stitched up a threadbare costume and begun roaming the streets at night armed with nothing more than a monkey wrench eagerly seeking out criminals, mostly without luck.

But his draped deeds – like bludgeoning a movie patron who dares to cut in line – start making the news and the headlines are especially noted by Libby (Page) the clerk who runs his local comic shop (LCS to us geeks). After taking a bullet from Jacques and his boys (including Michael Rooker) Frank is forced to seek refuge and reveal his true identity to Libby who is not only thrilled to learn the truth but she soon carves out her own suit and basically forces Frank to bring her along once he has recovered.

Deep down, Frank’s ultimate goal is to rescue his ex, but he not only has to put up with Boltie’s hormonal horniness which is only eclipsed by her thirst for violence, but also a cop hot on his trail (William Katt who not coincidentally played the starring role of short lived The Greatest American Hero TV series).

Using a non-linear storytelling style and some comic page inspired formatting with the occasional word or thought balloon, this moral introspection comedy tries to fit a lot into one film. You have the abundant religious undertones, the debate over vigilantism, the multi-facet relationships and all that is packaged by over-the-top quirky characters. Some of it works and some of it is a bit of a stretch but as a comedy it does deliver a lot of fun when in that mode. These are not the best performances from what I consider an all-star cast but if you just want a little fun it should fit the bill.

Super is not super by any stretch. On the Kick-Ass scale I’d call it more like a little bitch slap.


January Movie Marathon – 2019 Edition

February 1, 2019

My annual tradition of cramming in (at least) 31 movie viewings during the month of January continued this year. It was a closer call getting in the required viewing (only one film over the target this time) mainly due to all that excess snow this year having me out shoveling instead of watching. Here’s a brief review of what I watched this year.

1) Anatomy of a Murder (1959) – Jimmy Stewart plays the small town lawyer hired to defend what is supposed to be an ‘open and shut’ murder case. Dealing with the evidence and facts isn’t as hard as dealing with the accused’s lovely wife. If all that wasn’t odd enough, consider that this is a comedy by director Otto Preminger.

2) Comic Book Confidential (1988) – A great documentary featuring the radical independent comic creators of the time. Lots of legendary creators (Crumb, Miller, Pekar,  Kurtzman, Eisner) with other not so familiar names. The best part is MAD’s Bill Gaines reminiscing about the pre-code EC days.

3) The Day the Fish Came Out (1967) – (see full review here)

4) Lifeboat (1944) – Only Alfred Hitchcock can get away with an entire movie set on a lifeboat adrift at sea after a Nazi U-boat attack. Of course he also manages to throw in a murder. Dazzling portrayal of the self centered journalist by Tallulah Bankhead (dahling!). It’s Hitch. It’s great.

5) Rock ‘n’ Roll Frankenstein (1999) – Greedy record producer decides he can make the greatest Rock star ever by piecing together the parts of legendary dead artists. The plot sounds a lot better than it is.

6) The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – Will Smith plays the ‘down on his luck’ portable bone-density scanner salesman who earns a shot as a stockbroker intern, but has to live on the streets with his son in order to possibly get the job. The usual Smith goody-goody, “live your dreams” stuff.

7) Columbo: Double Exposure (1973) – Hey I’m slowly going through all the Columbo TV movies! Columbo nabs murderer Robert Culp, a motivational researcher, by using the same subliminal image video technique he learned from the perpetrator himself.

8) The Children (2008) – Not as frolicky fun as “Girls Gone Wild” but this horror is basically “Kids Gone Wild”. Lots of bad shooting choices makes one wonder where this movie is going for most of it (not in a good way) and the payoff just isn’t there at the end.

9) Lords of Dogtown (2005) – Docudrama capturing the birth of the competitive skateboarding scene on the beaches of Venice California in the mid 70’s. Don’t let the subject matter deter you if you’re not into that scene. Between all the Ollies and Halfpipes, this one packs a punch. Gnarly!

10) This Gun for Hire (1942) – One of the few Veronica Lake – Hollywood’s peek-a-boo girl – films I’ve seen. Not Film Noir at it’s finest to say the least. Lake is embroiled in a murder mystery centered on a chemical formula and WW2 traitors.

11) The Head (1959) – (see full review here)

12) Dead Poets Society (1989) – Robin Williams is the marquee star but this movie is clearly about the young boys in his class at an Ivy League seeding school who learn to “Seize the Day” against all odds. Carpe Diem!

13) 12 Days of Terror (2004) – Drama depicting the summer of 1916 New Jersey shark attacks that supposedly were and inspiration for Peter Benchley to write Jaws. Enough of a bite to watch, but it is a TV movie so keep those expectations in line.

14) Ice Station Zebra (1968) – The cold war goes frigid when a crucial satellite component ends up in the frozen Arctic and both the East and the West race towards Ice Station Zebra to recover it. The good guys can only get there by submarine but, as expected, not everyone on board are who they appear to be.

15) Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) – This fourth installment in the series of movies in which the story of household spooks activities are conveyed purely via the video feeds of home monitoring systems is the one where they ‘Jumped the Shark’. Really nothing new here despite it being something of a sequel to PA3.

16) Witness for the Prosecution (1957) – (see full review here)

17) Billy Elliot (2000) – Little Billy discovers that his interests lay not in the proud boxing tradition of his family, but in ballet, much to the chagrin of his father who is in the midst of England’s notorious coal miners strike just trying to keep the family together.

18) The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) – What is the secret of Santa Vittoria? Millions of bottles of wine. Anthony Quinn is the bumbling, reluctant mayor of the little Italian town who must hide their horde from the encroaching Nazis during WWII.

19) The Giant Behemoth (1959) – Even Britain was getting in on the Giant Monster kick of the 1950’s. While they did not use rear-projection footage of pet lizards and the stop motion animatronic was not much better.

20) 13 Going on 30 (2004) – Jennifer Garner plays the girl/woman who wakes up one day to discover that she has gone from a pubescent teen to a grown woman overnight. Honestly Tom Hanks did it better in Big in the 80’s.

21) Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964) – Goofy Godzilla goodness in which Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra (larval form as the original Moth died in the previous movie) take on the new bad boy on the block King Ghidorah. In preparation for the return of Ghidorah in this year’s May release of Godzilla: King of the Monsters

22) House of Strangers (1949) – Edward G. Robinson plays the family patriarch who works all his life to build a successful local bank but his overbearing ways has taken a toll on his family, the and nearly costs his favored and most devoted son everything.

23) Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965) – This was the first of two Dr Who films made by Amicus which starred the great Peter Cushing and the world’s first chance to see Daleks in color. Who and crew take the TARDIS on its first voyage to a far future post-apocalyptic Earth where the last few remaining Daleks are still fighting the handful of humans.

24) The Bodyguard from Beijing (1994) – Your typical “feds have to bodyguard a witness to a mob murder” plot where Jet Li is the all-business master protector and Christy Chung is the beautiful, rich, overbearing damsel he has to keep alive. And of course at the end they are in love.

25) The Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman (1971) – (see full review here)

26) The Jerk (1979) –  Steve Martin’s first feature film where he took his brash, daring stand-up comedy and came up with a dimwitted man on a rags-to-riches-to-rags journey to find himself. I still get a kick of him discovering his ‘special purpose’. Silly but still funny.

27) Hellboy (2004) – I hear that there will be another Hellboy movie coming out this year. But without Ron Perlman, John Hurt, or director Guillermo del Toro. No chance in Hell it’s as good as this original.

28) Born to Kill (1947) – Film Noir great Lawrence Tierney in a movie in which the title says it all. He’s a lowly con man who wants it all and doesn’t blink an eye snuffing out anyone who crosses him or just rubs him the wrong way.

29) Black Snake Moan (2006) – Odd film in which a weathered black man (Samuel Jackson) takes in a battered promiscuous young white woman (Christina Ricci) to get both her and himself back on the right track of life.  (I hope to have a full review in the coming days.)

30) Timecop (1994) – Jean Claude Van Damme at his barely comprehensible thespian best. Which isn’t a whole lot. Well at least it’s a Science Fiction time travel story which JCVD mumbles through.

31) The Right Stuff (1983) – I decided to revisit this movie about the original Mercury astronauts on the 50th anniversary of the tragic Apollo 1 fire. Great film but if you have a chance read Tom Wolfe’s book that was the source for the script

32) The Spirit of St-Louis (1957) – I started with Jimmy Stewart and it was only fitting that I ended this month long blitz with another of his films. Aside from the fact that Stewart was nearly twice the age playing Charles Lindbergh, the story of the first solo transatlantic flight remains a classic.



Movie Reviews 377 – Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

January 19, 2019

Charles Laughton has always been a favorite actor of mine and I consider his portrayal of the relentless barrister in Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution as his best role.  But with such a stellar supporting cast that includes Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power and Laughton’s wife Elsa Lanchester director Billy Wilder was sure to have a hit on his hands the moment he said “Action!”

Returning to office from a recent hospitalization due to a heart attack scare Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Laughton) is being coddled by his torturous personal nurse (Lanchester) and doctors orders instruct him to stay away from any trying cases when he is presented with the odd situation of a lowly inventor (Power) being accused of murder. He fully intends to follow his medical orders as he tries to squirrel away cigars and booze from those hoping he represent the accused when the man’s very wife (Dietrich) gives the most lethargic and unconvincing alibi imaginable.

Now piqued, Robarts takes on the case and by picking apart the prosecution seems to sway the court with the help of some last minute ‘evidence’ . But his keen senses tell him that something wrong which turns out to be an understatement. Contrary to how courtroom dramas usually proceed, the verdict is not the end of the story but in a way the beginning.

This film clicks on many levels. The mystery is suspenseful not only from the point of view of whether the accused is really guilty – although the pendulum certainly begins to sway in one direction – but also the evident inconsistency in the wife’s lack of faith in her own husband. And in this one aspect the final revelation is as shocking as the truth to the murder allegation. More surprisingly, (well perhaps not as much given that this was directed by the great Billy Wilder ) this movie has some of the funniest, butting banter between Laughton and Lanchester regarding his health which begins with the very first scene to a surprising coup de grâce last line in the film.

There is some additional welcome comedy from an elderly cleaning lady (Una O’Connor) and other courtroom antics but the film is not all fun. The underlying story is built upon post war anti-German sentiment among the ruins of a bombed out Berlin tavern and the supposed murder is that of an charming innocent wealthy widow.

Known for it’s astonishing ending, one held in such high regard it warranted secrecy during filming (common today but extraordinary at the time) some have remarked that that secrecy may have even cost Dietrich an Oscar. While it did not win any Oscars it was heavily nominated at numerous ceremonies that year, so really something of a hidden gem for those focused on wins alone.

I was tempted to seek out Christie’s original version but apparently the source material was just a short story and this screened adaptation had a lot of it’s ‘meat’ added. Given the talents involved I suspect that the additions are what made this film so great.

Movie Reviews 375 – The Day the Fish Came Out (1967)

January 5, 2019

I’ve always had a taste for the offbeat and camp movies (if you haven’t noticed) and The Day the Fish Came Out, probably one you’ve never heard of before, has always been one of my favorites. For some strange reason this was one of those films that my local TV station, CFCF-12 Montreal used to play over and over when I was a kid. But honestly, I was hooked the first time.

Part of the eccentricity lays not in just the plot itself, but the genre and setting. Believe it or not this is a Greek production of a science fiction comedy that skirts a doomsday scenario of all things . Written, directed and produced by Michael Cacoyannis (of Zorba the Greek fame) it was loosely based – and I do mean loosely – on the real life accidental dropping of hydrogen bombs on a Spanish island, the so called Palomares incident, just a year earlier. Cacoyannis took that concept, changed the island to Karos Greece, threw in lots of bikinis and made it colorful beyond belief.

The military trackers of a mission note the radar disappearance of a plane whose precarious cargo consists of two bombs and a particularly radioactive large metal container simply codenamed “Q”. When it becomes evident that the plane is lost a team a recovery team is sent to the island posing as real estate developers who want to build a hotel, despite the obvious barren landscape. Meanwhile the plane pilot and navigator (Colin Blakely and Tom Courtenay) are left scrambling and hiding with nothing but their skivvies, without any way to communicate with command. To make matters worse, “Q” is found by a peasant goat herder intent on cracking open the box dreaming of what must surely be riches within.

But the fun really starts when the locals start promoting the island and foreign touring groups, believing it to be the next hot-spot vacation destination, start sending tourists in droves to Karos. The leader of the covert military team (Sam Wanamaker) now has the added headache of keeping the tanned and toned tourists from interfering the mission to find Q.  Especially troublesome is the vivacious Electra (Candice Bergen, who was a model long before she was an actress) who has her eyes on one particular able seaman (Ian Ogilvy) who is soon ordered to keep her occupied.

Despite many flaws this movie still works on so many levels. There is the clash of cultures, the nutty characters such as a torturous dentist, the bumbling plane crew at each others nerves and scurrying like hobos throughout the film, the determination of the goat herder to try ever more powerful tools and techniques to open the container, and the frantic locals doing everything to try to cash in on the tourist trade. The backdrop transforms from a mundane archaic town to a rainbow painted settlement. The tourists that take over are a futuristic looking collection of Warhol-esque models that would look at home on a 60’s Parisian catwalk. You really have to see the outlandish garments to believe them. And when they party to a catchy heavy beat tune they flail their arms while shouting “Cooah-Cooah!” like giant multi colored birds in heat.

Perhaps the greatest appeal is how deftly the story navigates the boundary between comedy and  sombre drama. As the silliness in town gets weirder by the minute, the movie switches over to the desperation of a father sweating with every attempt to relieve the misery of his family. Title kind of gives away the ending which begs the question of whether this is really a comedy or a thinly veiled socio-politico commentary. Either way, you will be entertained.


Movie Reviews 354 – Rat (2000)

July 20, 2018

I’ve always loved a good rat movie. Already as a young kid I was captivated by the original trailers for the movies Willard and it’s sequel Ben and could not wait to watch them – which took years and the advent of cable TV. Then there was Of Unknown Origin which I stumbled upon only a few years ago and Rats: Night of Terror which was an even more recent rodent revelation. But those are all horror movies and when it comes to lighter family fair the likes of Stuart Little and the animation Ratatouille, the 2000 Irish comedy Rat stands out as an oddity that fits somewhere in between conventional films.

When Hubert (Pete Postlethwaite) the Guiness beer loving father of a dysfunctional family comes home from the local pub late one night and transforms in a scrubbly white rat, the entire family find themselves in a predicament that even wife Conchita’s (Imelda Staunton) know-it-all brother Matt (Frank Kelly) is at a loss as to solve. But when intrepid freelance reporter Phelim (David Wilmot) manages to get Conchita’s attention – and a little piece of her heart- with the promise of a book and dreams of a follow up film – the family embarks on an adventure that includes an excursion to the local pub, noisy neighbors and some very odd choices trying to take care of poor Hubert.

At least they decided not to kill him at the protestations of daughter Marietta (Kerry Condon) who seems to be the only one who really cares about Hubert. The suggestion to kill Hubert comes from son Pius, destined to join the clergy no less, and the one who raises the suggestion of euthanasia with Hubert’s every errant move.

The burning question posed by the movie is “Who are the real vermin?” and it certainly isn’t Hubert. This comedy and sometimes thinly disguised promotional piece for Guiness (it is Ireland after all) contains some fairly hilarious moments and a few good running gags but there are a few dry spots as well. Fans of Staunton who deservingly got an Oscar nomination for Vera Drake will revel in her range as she clearly steals the show. Well except for some of the live action and animatronic rat sequences provided by the “Muppet” Jim Henson company.

So is it a film worth watching? I find the film is much like the Guiness beer it espouses. It’s an acquired taste. And just like a fine Guiness it is one I myself am fond off.  If you happen to have the DVD check out the “live rat auditions” provided as a special feature. I’m not kidding.

Full disclosure, I had a Guinness while writing this review but I swear I was not unduly influenced.


Movie Reviews 353 – Infestation (2009)

July 13, 2018

Last week we endured a sweltering heat wave and to take my mind off that I sheltered myself into my nice and cool basement and watched Infestation so that my worries could switch from anxiety of global warming to global swarming. This post apocalyptic bug invasion movie does not start out in the traditional manner. Instead of taking a linear storytelling approach we begin with the camera panning over an office environment where cobwebs are strung across desks and walls and then cocooned bodies are revealed strewn across the floor. And then one of the bodies twitches…

As flashbacks we learn that Cooper (Chris Marquette) is a young undisciplined office goofball working in a telemarketing firm – largely thanks to his dad (Ray Wise) – whose lax work ethics and office hijinxs had caught up to him. It was just as he was getting fired that a high pitched sound had everyone blackout. Inexplicably awaking while others cocooned lay dormant, Cooper soon frees up some of his colleagues while running into a few giant, man-sized beetles still scurrying around the office. With communications all down, everyone else within the city encased and with wasp-like bugs plucking people off the streets, Cooper becomes the de-facto leader with a plan to head out to his father’s house and the safety of the Cold War era bomb shelter there.

The group includes an assortment from the firm as well as others who were in the area at the time of the blackout including Sara (Brooke Nevin), one of Cooper’s old highschool colleagues and the daughter of Cooper’s boss, who was plucked into the sky by one of the wasp creatures. While stopping over a few homes of family of those in the group they discern the fate of those unlucky enough to be stung by the bugs and also come across a vast mound structure the bugs are building. And when Sara decides to go there in the hopes of finding her mom, Cooper rallies the gang to help out.

Ray Wise steals the show as the Alpha, take charge, half nuts father while Cooper finally shows some backbone, standing up to Ray (sorta) and bravely faces the bugs to help Sara. The horror comedy is pure CGI, some of it decent, some of it ‘cookie cutter’, but the film does give new meaning to the term “spider-man”.

While I kind of enjoyed it, this movie is not for everyone. A lot is just not explained and not investigated by the survivors. They do find out one quirk about the bugs but in the end the tired thread of a group having to ‘go across town’ is just too predictable.

What really degrades the film to substandard fare is the idiotic and infuriating non-closure ending. While I suspect that a sequel was in mind which may account for part of it I’d say that even that excuse only goes so far and you have to deliver some sort of ending. In this case the final credits start rolling mid action and leaves viewers agape.

There are better bug movies and better horror comedies than this one. Watch it only if you find yourself in a bug infested post-apocalyptic situation and don’t have your copy of Alien Apocalypse handy.

Movie Reviews 348 – Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)

June 9, 2018

When a single mom decides it’s high time she went on a solo outback vacation her kids thought that they would be in party mode while she’s gone.This was especially true for the eldest, Sue Ellen (Christina Applegate), about to leave high school and trying to figure out what path to follow in life. But just as mom is about to leave the kids get the shock of their lives when a surprise geriatric babysitter arrives to spoil their plans. Bad goes to worse the minute mom departs when the babysitter takes the gloves off and turns into a drill sergeant ordering the kids to chores with Nazi efficiency while she lounges.

But when the babysitter suddenly dies of a heart attack the kids are faced with a tough decision. Not wanting to dash their mother’s one chance at a well earned respite – not to mention their own plans for unsupervised fun – they creatively, but respectfully dispose of the sitter’s body. And in doing so inadvertently also tossed out the funds for food and entertainment their mom left behind.

When Sue Ellen realises the family’s penniless status she accepts the notion that she will have to find a job and believes it to be a minor setback figuring that she would easy find a cushy position in a firm that will take advantage of her fashion savvy. But reality soon sets in. After a short stint slopping swill at “Clown Dog” where she meets Gus (John Getz), another entrepreneurial kid working his way through college, her hopes are raised when she spots an ad for receptionist at a garment company. But through a series of white lies she unexpectedly ends up being the administrative assistant to Rose (Joanna Cassidy) who runs the division. This does not sit well with the current hostile and suspicious receptionist Carolyn that was pegged to get the job (Jayne Brook).

It quickly becomes a balancing act that includes creative ways to get her job done, stave off Rose’s boyfriend, keeping Carolyn at bay while developing her relationship with Gus. To make matters worse, Sue Ellen has been dipping into petty cash to keep the family afloat only to learn that her siblings have also discovered ‘petty cash’ while slacking at the few duties she has given them. All these complications come to an intersection when a clothing line fails to sell and Sue Ellen tries to save Rose, the company, and the family at an event she stages in her own home … only to have mom come home early.

Given all the talent (that includes future Scream Queen Danielle Harris and future X-Filer David Duchovny) and a decent story one could assume that this would be one of the better comedies of the era. But coming as a cross between Weekend at Bernie’s and Working Girl, with a coming-of-age premise for good measure it underperforms pretty much in every category. The comedy is mostly flat as are most of the characters. The title is misleading in that the death of the sitter is dealt with rather swiftly and is only tangentially tied in with the events that follow. Even for a comedy there is so little plausibility in all the schemes that it manages to detract and distract.

This movie has pulse as that of the dead babysitter. And you can tell that to mom.


Movie Reviews 342 – The Blues Brothers (1980)

April 26, 2018

At the peak of their popularity in the late 1970’s, The original Saturday Night Live cast had a number of favorite, recurring skits one being John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd‘s Blues Brothers duet of dark sunglass wearing, black suited blues singers. As funny as their hopping, bopping antics made us laugh, it was immediately evident that these guys could really sing. A victim of its own success, the ‘Not Ready For Prime Time Players’ soon began leaving the show for more lucrative movie roles and The Blues Brothers was one of the earliest and more successful of such big screen spinoffs.

Like many SNL fans who flocked to the movie theaters to capture the duo, I only went with the sole goal of watching a funny movie. But given the lineup of talent that included such luminaries as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway singing his signature Minnie the Moocher, John Lee Hooker and the Godfather of Soul himself James Brown, the music was clearly the essence of the film.

The plot begins muted enough with Elwood (Aykroyd) picking up just released Jake (Belushi) from famed Joliet prison. Declaring “There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses” their first stop is to make a promised visit to Sister Mary Stigmata (a.k.a. The Penguin), a nun who formerly taught the boys and who now finds herself in desperate need of funds to keep her orphanage running. Vowing to help, the boys decide to reunite their former band to raise the money.

As they visit their former mates on their “Mission from God” they are repeatedly attacked by a weapon toting woman (Carrie Fisher), stumble across bumbling Nazis and are pursued by cops in one of the greatest mall car chases ever to be captured on celluloid. The jokes and gags are fun but the impromptu performances by the aforementioned artists are just as enduring. At times the comedy and music collide to perfection such as when James Brown is a preacher putting on a performance that literally has his congregation flipping through the air or when the band soothes blues hating rednecks by resorting to the Rawhide TV theme song while protected from projectile beer bottles being hurled at them by chicken wire fencing.

Directed by John Landis the film was a huge success and I suspect that the music had as much to do with that as the comedy. I enjoyed the music so much that I bought the soundtrack CD before I ever got a copy of the film. Telling as I have only bought two others movie soundtracks in my life.

Watch it for the comedy, but revel in the music.