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|36 reviews in total|
This is Graham Chapman's first solo film outside of his work
with Monty Python. He stars, produces, and co-wrote the script
with his only other frequent collaborator aside from John
Cleese, Bernard McKenna (who co-wrote several of TV's "Doctor in
the House" and "Yellowbeard" with Graham). It, unfortunately,
became a rather doomed project and the end result is pleasant if
not hilarious. The Odd Job man was originally to be played by
Who drummer Keith Moon, who had to drop out due to commitments
to the Who and because his drinking was quite out-of-control at
that point. The original director was injured before shotting
began and had to be replaced at the last moment. But, Chapman
pushed forward. Moon was replaced by comic David Jason, who had
appeared previously with Eric Idle, Terry Jones, & Michael Palin
on the pre-Python TV show "Do Not Adjust Your Set." The film
certainly not bad, but it's one-joke premise is stretched a
little thin: Arthur Harris (Chapman) is jilted by his wife and,
being too timid for suicide, hires an Odd Job man to kill him.
The wife, of course, returns and patches things up while Harris finds himself unable to reach the Odd job man out to kill him. Chapman's performance is suitably loony and energetic and the cast across the board is pretty good. But, somehow, it all seems lackluster. The film was never even given a theatrical release in the U.S. Too bad, because the film has it's moments and Graham, as all Python fans know, was a very funny, bizarre, intense performer and writer.
Considering the amount of talent in this film, it should have
been a classic. Unfortunately, it somehow falls short of it's
promise. Which isn't to say it isn't good, but there are many
low points as well as high ones. It is most significant for
being Graham Chapman's biggest solo venture outside of Monty
Python and, indeed, his over-the-top performance is one of the
film's treasures. The script was written by Chapman and his
frequent collaborator Bernard McKenna (who also co-wrote "The
Odd Job" and episodes of the "Doctor In the House" series with
Graham, as well as appearing in "Life of Brian") and by comedy
legend Peter Cook (best known for "Beyond the Fringe" & his team
with Dudley Moore). It also reunites Graham with old cohorts
Eric Idle and John Cleese (who, of course, are fellow Python-ites), and Marty Feldman (who did "At Last the 1948 Show"
with he & Cleese). Rounding out the cast are Cook, Mel
Brooks-films refugees Peter Boyle & Madeline Khan, Cheech &
Chong, James Mason, the "Young Ones'" Nigel Planer, and the
"Goon Show"'s Spike Milligan. What keeps the film from
greatness are the uninspired direction of Mel Damski, a dull
performance by Martin Hewitt, and the wildly divergent styles of
the different camps of comedy (Python, Mel Brooks-types, and
Cheech & Chong just don't MESH well). But, there ARE a great
many laughs to be had from
Primarily of historical interest, "Beer and Pretzels" is one of a handful of shorts made by Ted Healy and His Stooges for 20th Century Fox in the early '30s. Most of these shorts are difficult to find, but they are sometimes screened at oddball times on cable stations, like AMC, for instance. Of the ones I've seen, this is not one of the best, but it is by no means bad. Basically, the formula was this: take some musical numbers from Busby Berkeley films that got left on the cutting room floor and pad them out with comedy from Healy and His Stooges. His Stooges, of course, are comprised of Larry Fine, Moe Howard, and Curly Howard, who would later gain immortality and fame as the Three Stooges. But, though, they have plenty of screen time, the show belongs to Ted Healy. At the time, Healy was a huge vaudeville star but is virtually forgotten today (except as a footnote on the careers of the Three Stooges). He can best be described as a '30s Richard Belzer or Dennis Miller - acerbic and abusive, a domineering know-it-all who happens to have some charm and a nice tenor voice. Basically, his "boss" role was overtaken by Moe when the Stooges went solo. In the film, Healy & his Stooges play vaudevillians who are fired as the film opens. They soon find work as waiters in a posh nightclub and chaos ensues. Though their characters are by no means as defined as they would become, it's fascinating to see glimpses of Moe's pugnaciousness, Larry's wishy-washiness, and Curly's overgrown kid act.
People expecting an edge-of-your-seat thriller (which, judging from other reviews on this site, many were) will be profoundly disappointed. What "The Limey" gives us is a deep character study disguised as a revenge flick. The movie is not about drugs, murder, and mayhem, but outgrowing a lifestyle and having your past catch up to you. Steven Soderbergh, a great director, despite a few career missteps, takes some thin material and breathes life and weight into it. Visually stunning with a great cast (Stamp is irreplacable and one of my fav character actors, Luis Guzman from "Magnolia" & "Boogie Nights," comes off very well, too), this is a fine motion picture which elevates the original script tenfold.
The true spirit of Tenacious D is actually captured quite accurately in the other reviews on this site (well, the fanatical ones anyway). For the uninitiated, I'll try to clear things up. Tenacious D is composed of two guys, Jack Black & Kyle Gass, who have a two man band in which they both play acoustic guitar and sing (though Jack is the primary singer). They play some bizarre hybrid of heavy metal and folk. All their lyrics center around how they are truly the greatest band in the universe and have incredible, unfathomable sexual prowess. All of this is sung with 100%, almost hyper-conviction. This is, basically, the joke. I was never a big fan of them live, or their whole act in general (it's amusing and unquestionably original in presentation, but I feel it wears kinda thin fast). However, when Bob Odenkirk and David Cross (and their creative team) from "Mr. Show" got a hold of them for a group of shows for HBO, they transformed the concept into something even better. The show, which presents the two as two out-of-work oddballs who get into all sorts of screwy adventures in between gigs, is as hilarious and out-of-left-field as "Mr. Show" (which is saying something, as "Mr. Show" is the best comedy show of the last decade, easily). Each "adventure" is about fifteen minutes long, each containing a thematically-linked live song. The whole kit-and-kaboodle is bracketed by appearances by Jack & Kyle speaking as hosts directly to the TV audience, as Burns & Allen and Abbott & Costello used to do on their shows. All in all, the total effect is as if "The Abbott & Costello Show" has been updated for the '90s starring Tenacious D and adding music. Did I mention, it was really funny?
Anne Beatts, the only female editor of the National Lampoon in the '70s and an original writer for "Saturday Night Live," created the Nerds (Lisa & Todd) for Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, & Jane Curtin (as Mrs. Loopner). After leaving "SNL" after five years (in 1980), she took the nerds concept and extended it, creating "Square Pegs," a comedy about social misfits in high school. Sound familiar? That's right, "Freaks & Geeks" is NOT that original, it's merely an updating of this short-lived program. What also differentiates the two is that "Square Pegs" was more of a straight comedy, whereas "Freaks" is a "drama-dey" (an excuse for it to be not as funny as "Pegs"). Plus, "Pegs" gave us Sarah Jessica Parker playing a wallflower years before she would become known as an ingenue. The show wasn't brilliant, but it was pretty good and VERY '80s. The fact that "Freaks" is also set in the '80s is further proof of "Pegs" influence.
I was expecting a sort of "second coming of Cheech & Chong" from Dave Chappelle, one of the best stand-ups working today (and a scene stealer in such films as "The Nutty Professor"). Unfortunately, despite the presence of such hilarious performers as Jim Breuer and Harland Williams, "Half Baked" ends up being just that. Despite the obvious fact that such a comedy couldn't really tolerate a plot which took itself too seriously, it's pretty paper thin stuff. I can't help but wonder if some of the film's more subversive moments were left on the cutting room floor. Oh, well. There's still some GREAT lines in the film, most of them delivered by Chappelle (who, being the film's writer, also prooves he's no fool). Breuer, who - with his dropping eyelids - looks stoned no matter what condition he's in, is a perfect choice for the picture, but doesn't get to cut loose like he did on "Saturday Night Live." Williams, who practically walked off with "There's Something About Mary" during his one short scene, is the most endearing of the four leads and very funny, to boot. Guillermo Diaz doesn't fare quite as well, and the female lead is highly irrelevant to the overall film. But, I must give credit where credit is due: this movie has THE BEST LAST LINE IN CINEMA HISTORY.
As you can see from the other reviews on this site, "Magnolia" is receiving a pretty 50/50 "loved it/hated it" reaction. I'm on the side of loving it. There are two main factors which contribute to folks' reaction, both negatively and positively. First, some are frustrated by the fact that the individual stories do not meet up in the end, that they aren't linked together in one huge scene where every character and situation comes together for a nice, tidy resolution. To that, I would point out that the stories ARE all linked together - thematically. Each of the pieces share common emotions and themes. They are all of a piece, though it may not be apparent to those who have had their senses dulled by the same old, tired Robert McKee story structure and must be spoon-fed themes and messages. Second, many view the big incident at the climax (which I will not give away, though many have already figured it out thanks to several loose-lipped reviewers) as a cheap stunt which takes the place of a disciplined, structured resolution. Again, this incident is completely in line with the theme Anderson has set up... it's surrealism (though based on an actual incident) is a treat, a masterstroke, a gift to those who don't mind being blindsided by something wholly original coming out of left field (I wish I could elaborate without spoiling it for those who haven't seen the film). Despite dealing with very emotionally-charged subjects, P. T. A. refuses to manipulate his audience. Unfortunately, many who are used to being manipulated by most Hollywood junk feel they are seeing something dull onscreen in the absence of clear, dramatic signposts ("okay, time for everyone in the audience to cry now!"). And, best of all, Anderson consistently casts incredible actors who seldom get their proper due (like "Close Encounter's" & "A Christmas Story's" Melinda Dillon, "Laugh In!" & "The Blues Brothers" Henry Gibson, Michael Bowen, and P. T. A. vet Melora Walters) and writes parts for them which allow them to go for broke. Some accuse Anderson of being "addicted to excess," but I feel his films are bold and brimming with life. I'll take this film over "Notting Hill" (ugh) any day. People who are complacent in their little "feel good flick" worlds where everything is spelled out in big, bold letters will be utterly lost. This film SHOULD be nominated for several Oscars, though it's difficult to say who gives the best performance as it is such an ensemble piece. Yes, Cruise has one of best roles to date, but he is by no means the top draw here. "Hard Eight" and "Boogie Knights" alumni John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Julianne Moore, Walters, P. S. Hoffman, W. H. Macy, Luis Guzman, Alfred Molina, & Ricky Jay all tear it up, as do Anderson newcomers Jeremy Blackman, Jason Robards, Gibson, Bowen, and Dillon. One of the best films of the year, a worthy successor to P. T. A.'s previous works, and a film which will incite debate and discussion long after you've seen it.
"Mad Love" is not nearly as well known as other '30s horror classics, but certainly deserves to be! The director, Karl Freund, was one of early cinema's most innovative cinematographers, having worked with F. W. Murnau, James Whale, and others on such gems as "Frankenstein" and "The Last Laugh." The film presents Frances Drake as one of the most emotionally strong female characters to be featured in a '30s flick. Lorre gives one of his creepiest perfomances... it's great, high camp. Colin Clive (Dr. Henry Frankenstein himself!) lends strong support and the comic relief (annoying to some, not to me) is supplied by vaudeville great Ted Healy, the man who brought the Three Stooges together as his second bananas before they went solo. But the star of the show is Freund's direction - this is one of the most eerie, atmospheric films ever made. Sure, it's a bit over the top, but what '30s and '40s horror film isn't? A classic! Do yourself a favor and check it out.
As is evident from the many split decisions to be found on this site, "Neighbors" is not everyone's cup of tea. However, for those who have a taste for dark comedy, it is quite a good film. As has been stated numerous times, this film was a critical and box-office failure, and there were many tensions between Belushi and the director on set. Despite this turmoil, or maybe because of it, "Neighbors" has an authentically skewed, uncomfortable tone. This works in it's favor, however, considering the subject matter. As does the casting of Aykroyd and Belushi in the roles of tormentor and victim, respectively. This choice is probably most responsible for some's dislike of the film. Unfortunately, Belushi, near the end of his life, was being pigeon-holed as a crass, boorish "wild man" of comedy, mostly due to his turns in "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "1941." However, he was a fine comedic actor capable of great subtlety and fine nuance, which is why he consciously chose the role he did (the film was originally conceived with John in the role of Vic). This film and many scenes from his first year on "Saturday Night Live" grandly illustrate his range. Likewise, Dan Aykroyd was quite an intense performer back then - in many "SNL" scenes (again, mostly from the first year), Aykroyd paraded out a variety of high-strung bizarre characters which practically vibrated with energy... indeed, though he did not end up playing it, the role of "D-Day" in "Animal House" was conceived with Dan in mind. Here, he really gets to cut loose and, as always, his and John's interplay are priceless. Not to be overlooked is the incredibly hot Cathy Moriarty who, not to take away from her own formidable comedic prowess, was quite the piece of ass (she was also stunning in "Raging Bull"). This is by no means a perfect film, and it does slow in spots, but it is by no means the disaster many make it out to be. See for yourself... love it or hate it, at least admire it for trying to be different. Funny stuff!
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