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Spies Like Us (1985)
another mediocre effort
Why John Landis is still thought of as a great director is beyond me. He made a few good movies, "Animal House," "Coming to America," and one great one, "Trading Places," and a whole bunch of shlock in between and since. "Spies Like Us" is a great example of what's wrong with movies today. It probably looked good on paper, a director who was a proven commodity, an actor fresh off a hit movie (Akyroyd in "Ghostbusters") and another (Chase) considered bankable at least. Unfortunately both actors are in desperate need of a Bill Murray to act as straight man to all their smug mugging. John Landis as a director gets worse with every outing after peaking with "Trading Places" where Akyroyd's patented anal-retentiveness played well off Eddie Murphy's con-man charm. A better script might have helped, but probably not much. Chase would go on to appear in "Three Amigos," another Landis dud, furthering the career of neither.
The Protector (1985)
This movie suffers from the fact that for years Hollywood had no clue as to how to package Jackie Chan for the masses. His low-budget Hong Kong movies were all fast-paced kinetic thrillers that highlight his amazing gymnastic skills and talent for light comedy. His early Hollywood films stuck him in the same movies that were being packaged for Stallone or Chuck Norris. There is nothing about Chan's character in this movie that requires the character to be Asian except for his being the star. In his Hong Kong films Chan is never dull, with the movies being one rapid-fire martial arts sequence after another, but "The Protector" is lifeless throughout. Danny Aiello isn't given much to work with either and the lacking chemistry between the two probably is more a result of the script and direction than how the two actors got on together. Both have been better in worse movies. The best thing about the movie is the Hong Kong settings. The worst part is the appalling way that Jackie Chan comes off so colorless and drab. It wouldn't be until the made-in-Canada "Rumble in the Bronx" that the west would finally figure out how to make a good Jackie Chan movie.
Horribly unfunny sitcom that pretty much ended McLean Stevenson's TV career. An on-their-way-down white family live next door to an up-and-coming Hispanic family. Crude racist humor seems even more crude when coming from the formerly cuddly and inoffensive Mac. As uncomfortable to watch as it was unfunny the show was only memorable for the beautiful Julie Carmen as the Hispanic daughter married to the white bigot's son. This show will probably never be seen again in our lifetime, for good reason.
The Last Dragon (1985)
This movie was way cool when it came out in 1985. It was part of the whole MTV generation thing, where movies had to have soundtracks with two or three killer MTV videos to hit it big. Unfortunately like most of the 80s it hasn't dated terribly well. The "special" effects used to produce the "glow" during the kung-fu scenes is laughably bad now. Still it's undeniably cute and a harmless entertainment. When the 80s becomes retro cool again this will probably be a big hit on DVD.
The Practice (1997)
different take on the law
"The Practice" is unique among lawyer shows focusing on the defense side of the table in that virtually all of their clients are guilty and they're defending them not because of any social injustice but because that's what defense attorneys do. In the early seasons Lindsey was on retainer to a drug lord and her character was almost predatory. It was refreshing to see attorneys who knew their clients were guilty as hell and spent their time trying to get evidence suppressed and ruthlessly attack witnesses (including a rape victim) to obtain reasonable doubt.
Unfortunately what was early on a fascinating drama of how the law is twisted and manipulated bogged down into a soap opera dreck where one character is being stalked and another character is on trial for murder and another is presented with some personal ethical dilemma. The writing over the last two seasons has gotten more idiotic and surreal with each new episode. With virtually the entire cast leaving the show, Kelly should fold his tent and disband "The Practice."
Follow-up to Andy Griffith's big hit in "No Time for Sergeants" moves the action to the Coast Guard and WW II. Though more of a serious role this movie is usually advertised as a comedy when it crops up on TV even though there is none of the broad farce from the earlier film. The title concerns Griffith's character's hair falling out and having an onion mixture applied to it to promote hair growth. All around unmemorable.
Species II (1998)
NASA spends billions to send a manned mission to Mars, which consists of three astronauts, only one of whom goes down to the surface, and apparently stays a whopping ten minutes before bringing back three samples in thermos flasks? Geez, at least Mission to Mars and Red Planet sent teams who expected to be there weeks if not months. And why did the Mars mission need to take a space shuttle with them? I won't even get started on the rest of the crap. Any movie that starts with this much bad science is a complete failure. 0 out of *****
Hello, Larry (1979)
only seemed to run forever
"Hello Larry" was part of Fred Silverman's attempt to ruin, er, resurrect NBC from the ratings doldrums. Amongst other great works he begat "Supertrain," "Turnabout," "Diffrent Strokes," and "Hello Larry." Despite it's abysmal badness, the show ran for two seasons simply because so many of the network's offerings bombed that they had nothing better to run, a fact that beleagured network execs cheerfully admitted to. While the show was lousy and never drew good ratings (despite often being paired with "Diffrent Strokes") Mac at least was a "name" actor and supposedly a proven commodity. Poor McLean Stevenson, so loveable as the boob Henry on "M*A*S*H" never again found material as good. Unfortunately unlike fiascoes like "In the Beginning," "Condo," or even "The McLean Stevenson Show," "Hello Larry" ran long enough for people to remember it as the series that wouldn't die, and poor Mac is now probably as well remembered for being trapped in TV purgatory there than he will be for "M*A*S*H."
Wild Wild West (1999)
This must have looked great on paper: a special effects-laden Will Smith 4th of July blockbuster based on a (by me anyway) fondly remembered 60s action TV show. Too bad they forgot to get a workable script before they started filming. Nothing works in this movie, nothing. What they ended up with was "Blazing Saddles" meets "Buck Rogers." This movie contains some of the most painful-to-watch racial/cripple jokes ever filmed. "South Park" seemed culturally enlightened and politically correct by comparison. And at the end Salma Hayek's character suddenly reveals that the missing scientist was not her father but her husband. What was up with that? Was that tacked on so she didn't have to choose between the black guy or the white guy? For that matter everything in this movie felt tacked on. But it's not trashy-bad enough to be entertaining either, just boring, unfunny, and crude. Total waste of time. * out of *****
In the Beginning (1978)
Painfully unfunny "religious" comedy pitting stuffed shirt conservative dopey dad, er, minister against liberal minded daughter, er, nun. McLean Stevenson had a brief run in this before being stuck in the hell that was "Hello Larry" for what seemed like forever. Network execs (CBS)actually had high hopes for "In the Beginning" before it aired. Priscilla Lopez was a Tony award winner on Broadway and McLean Stevenson was still only recently removed from his success on "M*A*S*H." Ironically as bad as it was this show was quickly axed while the arguably worse "Hello Larry" ran forever because network execs cheerfully admitted that as bad as it was they didn't have anything any better to run. For a network (NBC) whose flagship show at the time was "Diffrent Strokes" this was undoubtedly true.