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The Forbidden Dance (1990)
A poorly-conceived movie about a minor dance fad in which almost nothing makes sense
I saw this movie on one of my local cable channels with a cousin who was staying over at my house once around 1991 or so. I enjoyed watching it as I enjoyed watching just about everything when I was ten years old, but in retrospect, it is a poorly-shot, acted and written nonsensical mess about a dance craze that lasted for about five minutes that looked like it had been shot in two weeks (which, considering it was in theaters about six weeks after it was written, it probably was). This review contains spoilers so you'll know everything and avoid having to see it. Incidentially, if anybody wonders how I remember so much about this movie having only seen it once, I have a good memory (and believe me, I'd like to forget it).
The basic plot, what there is of it, involves Nisa, a Brazillian jungle Princess whose father sends her and the tribe's witch doctor, Joa, to Los Angeles to crusade against the multinational corporation, Petramco, which wants to burn down the rain forest (yes, the WHOLE rain forest). From here, however, the writers seemed like they either wanted the movie to be taken lighter than director Greydon Clark filmed it to be or had a few too many shots of hard liquor over the ten day span in which this was written. Joa is taken into custody, for what I'm not sure, and Nisa needs money to help her crusade, so she meets a kind maid, Carmen, who helps her get a job as a maid to an obnoxious, racist Beverly Hills family, the Andersons, a typical rich family, although like everything else here, how they make their living is never made clear.
There, she meets their son, Jason, who appears to have been written as a twenty-four or twenty-five year old and casted as a thirty-four year old. Jason and Nisa begin a romance within knowing each other for about two or three hours, which, considering Jason has no job and all he does is dance all night, is hard to swallow. Jason takes her to his favorite night spot and introduces her to his other racist friends. His ex-girlfriend Ashley shows up and from that point on, stalks them because she's an even bigger loser than Jason, so she loves him. Jason's parents lecture him about fraternizing with the new maid... Well, partially, but Mom's big issue was that this Brazillian hottie was wearing her dress when she went out with him and she doesn't want her perspiration soaking into the fabric. He gets angry and finds Nisa has left. He uncovers her later working at a brothel, which she not only accepts but remains untainted in when Jason comes to rescue her. Yeah, whatever. When the brothel's signature Heidi Fleiss and her black bodyguard discover her trying to leave, the bodyguard beats up Jason. Joa arrives after they let him out of jail. What is he, a witch doctor and a psychic? Nisa fills Jason in on the rain forest thing and they resolve to enter this TV dance contest which if they win, they will be able to speak and address this issue, which they do, despite the intervention of Petramco's hired gun, Benjamin Maxwell, and Ashley, whose father is some kind of partner of his (I don't remember entirely, I only remember it made no sense). The end.
Folks, take my word for it, this is one of the worst films I've ever seen. It takes such weird twists that in the end, nothing about it makes sense at all. It was written and filmed hurriedly and you can tell. But the thing is, considering the plot and script, if this movie had been made by an A-list director for about fifty million bucks, it still would have been godawful. Mostly because it has actors who seem like they've never acted before and preys on the most insulting racial stereotypes imaginable. Every white person is a bigot, every foreigner is naive, and most of the characters are not only bad people, they're also just plain stupid. But so's the movie, so who cares? The only way I can recommend this is if you gather a bunch of your buddies and a couple of six packs one rainy Friday night and have your very own Mystery Science Theater 3000. That way, it's fun to watch. On a casual viewing, you'll pass right by it, as well you should.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
A novel film for its' time, and marvelous entertainment
On the Special Edition DVD of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", one of the animators says he was talking to another animator in 1986, who told him, "This movie is two years away and I'm scared right now." The guy confessed he was too. And frankly, I don't blame them one bit, considering this was the first film to combine live action with animation, and in the eighties of all decades. One false move, this could have been worse than Plan Nine From Outer Space. Thankfully, they got Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg behind this, who know how to make good, quality (and hit) films, and I don't think they could have made a better movie.
Set in 1947 Hollywood, it deals with down-on-his-luck, hard-boiled private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins, who does a great job, despite the fact that his British accent comes through once in a while) who is assigned by cartoon studio executive R.K. Maroon, to investigate Jessica Rabbit, the wife of one of his stars, Roger Rabbit, who is allegedly having an affair with the owner of Toontown, where all the cartoon characters (brand new and classic Disney ones) live, Marvin Acme. Valiant reluctantly accepts it because when he was younger, he and his brother Teddy, who lived to work in Toontown and help toons out, were on a case there and a toon dropped a safe on Teddy's head, killing him and leaving Eddie with a hopeless lack of sense of humor. Later, Roger is accused of murdering Marvin Acme over jealousy, and is sought by the eccentric Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd, who follows one eccentric Zemeckis role, Doc Brown, with this one), who wants to put him in his special dip which kills toons. Convinced Maroon made a patsy out of him, Eddie helps Roger prove his innocence, and in the process, it turns out that it is Judge Doom who not only killed Acme, but is also the Toon who killed his brother.
Now, Roger Rabbit is none too bright, and anybody who's seen the movie can vouch for this, but he proclaims when he asks Eddie Valiant to help him that he could never hurt anybody, and that too, should be obvious to anybody who's ever seen the movie. I can remember seeing the movie when I was seven or eight in the theaters and saying, "I never saw a cartoon talk to a person before." Which I'm sure everybody else thought too. But I can't recommend it enough for kids or adults because kids will love the enduring, lovable Roger and adults will appreciate the marvels of the movie, which were impossible before it, as well as appreciate how much hard work went into it.
There was a book before this, Who Censored Roger Rabbit, in which they were comic strips not actors, it was set in present day and Roger and Jessica's marriage was fake like Bennifer. I also hear Roger wasn't as goofy in the book, so I prefer not to read it. Plus, he dies. Now, as lovable as Roger was in the film, if they'd killed him off in that, do you know how many angry parents would have written letters to the studio that they made their children cry? I love the movie, and that might ruin it for me.
Not bad. Not bad at all!
Being that 1. James Cameron had nothing to do with this picture and 2. I knew this movie was bound to turn the Terminator series into one big continuity error (which in many ways it already was), I went into the theater today expecting a disaster. Surprisingly though, the end result is pretty good.
My misgivings about a third Terminator film were, "Didn't James Cameron and William Wisher make it abundantly clear that they resolved it by the end of the last one?" But the new Arnold model explains that the actions at the end of the movie, "Only postponed Judgement Day. It is inevitable." Which explains it. The writing and directing on this film is not as solid as both of its' predecessors were, but they're not bad either. Only problem with Jonathan Mostow as a director was, if Ang Lee had taken this instead of The Hulk, he could have given it the darker Cameron-esque feel to it that it lacks with Mostow. But it is well-done with him.
People don't generally watch movies like the Terminator series for its' Oscar winning acting (and if they do, it's time to get off the reefer), but most of it is pretty good. The T-X is the most interesting Terminator villain, primarily because she is played by Kristanna Loken, whom I'm going to keep an eye on from now one because she's one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen. Nick Stahl, as John Connor, is a little less successful than Edward Furlong, but he's not bad. Only real disappointment was Claire Danes, because I just don't see her as John Connor's girlfriend.
I'm not going to point out the continuity errors on this, no spoilers, just errors pointed out:
1. When the Terminator, John and Kate come across Sarah Connor's "grave" it is marked: 1959-1997. In the Terminator, which is clearly and distinctly set in 1984, Sarah is nineteen. So she would have been born in 1955, not 1959. 2. This movie is set in 2003, but John Connor is said to be twenty-two. In T2, which was set in 1994, he was supposed to be ten, not thirteen, as said in this movie. Although to be fair, the actor playing young John was 13 at the time.
A few nitpicks, but nothing major. Good day.
The Nanny (1993)
Niles was the real star of this show
Fran Drescher is a talented commedienne and all, but the only reason I ever had any interest in this show was because of the sarcastic English butler Niles and his feud with the cold-hearted shrewish Miss Babcock whom he despised, as he delighted in reminding her she had no chance for romance with her partner Maxwell Sheffield. Niles should have been the focus of this show, because there wouldn't have been one without him.
The show really jumped the shark, however, during the last two or three episodes when he confessed that he was in love with Miss Babcock and impregnated, the married her. This loser spent five years as his arch rival and now they're getting married? I don't think so!
This shouldn't be that good, but it is
I would like to say that this movie hasn't got many reasons to be as good as it is, because it is a teen/twentysomething play on a formula that's kind of, or for lack of a better phrase truly, been done to death. Fatal Attraction movies, while occasionally pulling at least one different trick out of their hat, are always the same, that's why Michael Douglas is in 95% of them. However, it's extremely well made by director John Polson and well-acted by the young cast, particularly Traffic's Erika Christensen, who shines as Madison Bell, the obsessive swim fan of the title.
The story deals with Ben Cronin, a high school senior who's life is going pretty well, as the hero's usually is at the start of these pictures, he has a lot of good friends, he has a girlfriend Amy (Shiri Appleby) who is as sweet as apple pie, and he's on the way to a swimming scholarship to Stanford. However, all of that changes once he encounters Madison Bell, the seductive new girl in town. He only wants to be friends with her, but after they have a one night stand, she becomes more obsessive, stalking him, ruining every aspect of his life, and generally acting like a nuisance. I suppose I don't have to say that because that is pretty much how a Fatal Attraction picture works.
What makes this movie work is that it is well done, and it is as creepy as most FA clones need to be if they expect to work. Plus, the three leads are all very good, albeit this film belongs to Erika Christensen, who does a pretty good job of stealing the movie.
Surf Ninjas (1993)
I must get this off of my chest
I first saw this movie when I was twelve or thirteen in 1993 and I remember liking it quite a bit because I liked quite a few bad movies as a child. However, I now realize that without the Reyes' martial arts (my grandfather even remarked how great Ernie Sr.'s moves were when we saw it), this movie wouldn't even sell at Wal-Mart for $.99! However, I have one major problem with it that I cannot keep quiet about any longer:
Rob Schneider, widely known today as the annoying Xerox guy and Adam Sandler's monkey boy, played a character named Iggy in this and nothing he said or did had anything to do with the rest of the movie. I have no problem with Rob Schneider playing an annoying sidekick as that's what he does best, even though that's not saying a lot. Anyway, even the detractors of this movie (myself included) must admit that Ernie Reyes, Jr., who was even the executive producer, was the star of this show, and his father was as well. Ernie Jr. should have been the one who went on TV talk shows and done behind the scenes promos on this, because he was the star, but Rob Schneider did all this as if he were the star just because he was a medium-sized name and Ernie was not. In reality, he did not contribute to it at all, and he had no business in it in the first place, much less going on talk shows promoting it!
However, I am an email contact of Ernie's and I asked him once if it bothered him that Schneider did this, he said it was so long ago he didn't even remember. Well, Ernie, boy, do *I* remember! And I do not respect it at all, because the only talent Rob Schneider has is called Adam Sandler, which is also the reason he gets starring roles now!
The Cheap Detective (1978)
Hilarious, but not as funny as "Murder by Death"
Don't listen to the guy who said Murder by Death would have been a knock-off of this picture if it hadn't been made first (how could it be a knock-off, fella? They were both written by the same person!) Murder by Death is funnier, but this picture, a seperate Bogart parody whereas the former film was a takeoff on several detectives, is still really funny. The film deals with Peter Falk, who played a similar Sam Spade parody character in Murder by Death, as Lou Peckinpaw (say it out loud a few times), a detective in 1939 San Francisco who is so cheap, as per the title, that he takes five different cases simultaneously all connected and all with a certain Bogie-esque femme fetale attached to them. Murder by Death had more of a plot to it, but plots are often irrelevant in pictures like this, so moving on...
Don't also listen to the guy who said this movie would suck if not for Ann-Margaret. This movie is funny and I recommend it on a double-bill with Murder by Death.
Only complaint: I personally would have made the movie about Peter Sellers' Charlie Chan character, Sidney Wang, in the previous movie, as I thought he was funnier, but I know Neil Simon likes Bogart better and being that Sellers was the only guy around who could play anything you asked him to at all back then, I don't suppose he came cheap, so we can let that slide.
Abbott and Costello and the Monsters... Perfect Combination
Lou Costello did not want to make this picture, which deals with Count Dracula (a fitting swan song to the original and ultimate Count, Bela Lugosi) trying to put Lou's simple brain into the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange, no Boris Karloff, but not bad) and Lon Chaney, Jr.'s (brilliant) Wolf Man trying to warn Bud and Lou against him. And I don't care what kind of temper he had in real life, if he were standing beside me right now, I would tell him he was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!
The story goes like this: In 1943, Bud and Lou had finished shooting "It Ain't Hay" on the same day as Universal's "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" and considered doing a Broadway show with the monsters. Unfortunately, they could not spare the time, and a few years later, producer Robert Arthur pitched an idea teaming up Bud and Lou with the Monsters. When Lou read the script, he said, "I won't do this crap. My daughter could write something better than that." In truth, he was afraid of being upstaged by the creatures when if he'd been able to do the Broadway show, they could have done what they wanted with them. But finally, they offered him and Bud $50,000 each to do it and a classic was born.
Boris Karloff was offered the chance to appear in this picture but he turned it down fearing that the Monster would get parodied and he didn't want that. Fortunately, while this was the tack the original script would take (and I would have screamed blasphemy right alongside him if it did), the finished product has the creatures playing it straight, which is exactly what makes it work. The last hurrah for the Monsters and the best film (in terms of quality) that A&C made, whether they agreed or not.
Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)
Would be entertaining if not for Chaney and Naish
Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy both Lon Chaney, Jr. and J. Carrol Naish, but this (last film for both actors) is depressingly bad, all thanks to the fact that they are both extremely ill during this production, especially Chaney.
While not quite as bad as Ed Wood, Al Adamson had a special knack for making movies that didn't make much sense, and here he brings together Dr. Frankenstein (J. Carrol Naish), an extremely hammy Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) played by Adamson's stockbroker who looked like Jerry Seinfeld with Tom Hanks' old haircut and a goatee, hired only because John Carradine wanted too much money, Frankenstein's overly old and fat Mad Zombie Groton (A depressingly weak Chaney), showgirls (played by Adamson's wife Regina Carrol) and the remains of the Monster (7'4" tax accountant John Bloom), who looks like somebody glued a Jiffy Pop box to his face, in a plot that makes little sense by the end.
It's supposed to be a 70's drive-in homage to movies like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Universal's two "House of" pictures, but in the end, it just winds up desecrating the good name of said pictures and wasting the talents of the two guys in this picture who appeared in them. Part of the problem with it is Lon Chaney, Jr. Chaney was at one time a wonderful actor who brought great pathos to characters such as Lennie Small and Lawrence Talbot, but here he has lost his voice box due to cancer, is losing his hair, and is at least 300 pounds. It is depressing to see him end his career this way. What's worse, his character has a fight scene at the end that in real life, exhausted him so much he almost drowned in the tub that evening. I don't care if Chaney wanted to do it, if they cared about him, they would not have let him. J. Carrol Naish, while not wheelchair bound in real life as reported, was not looking too good in the picture either. If not for them, this movie would be quite entertaining on a "so-bad-its-good" level. As it is, I felt like sobbing looking at poor old Naish and Chaney, and even more so when I read Adamson's biography and the stories behind the scenes. So sad Adamson cared only of the almighty dollar.
Murder by Death (1976)
Neil Simon broadens his horizons... And it's hilarious!
Anyone familiar with Neil Simon knows that he usually strays away from movies and plays that take the Zucker Brothers/Mel Brooks approach and concentrates on finding the hilarity in ordinary people leading everyday lives, usually to hilarious affect, like in the original Odd Couple and the two "Suite" movies. "Murder by Death" is different, however, it is Neil Simon's attempt to poke fun at murder mysteries and broaden his horizons at the same time. It works extremely well in both cases.
Eccentric billionaire Lionel Twain (author Truman Capote, wisely cast considering he was just as eccentric as his character was made out to be) invites the five greatest living detectives to dinner and a murder, the winner's prize money being $1,000,000. These detectives are Sam Diamond (Peter Falk), Sidney Wang (a hilarious Peter Sellers), Inspector Perrier (James Coco), Dick Charleston (David Niven), aided by his wife Dora (Maggie Smith, who often made a good female choice whenever Simon had a British woman character), and Miss Jessica Marbles (The Bride of Frankenstein herself Elsa Lanchester). All of the actors playing these people are brilliant, and Neil Simon successfully conveys the mad genius of Twain, who is as murder mystery bad guys often are. A lot of critics complained that the mystery in the script made little sense, but this is without logic for two reasons: 1. Murder mysteries often make little sense, 2. Neil Simon was obviously fully aware of this and used his own nonsensical mystery as his own way to parody them, which is exactly what critics don't seem to understand, mysteries aren't supposed to make sense.
Find the DVD and check it out. Funny as hell.