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Joy of Sex (1984)
Alan, would you light my Bunsen burner?
This film's low rating is not surprising, exactly, but it deserves better. Granted, it has suffered on several levels, from being tied to a title of a book that it had nothing to do with, to John Belushi's death prior to filming. All of this is unfortunate, as a lot of people go into this film expecting something that it was never meant to be. Plus, as someone noted, the poor editing certainly doesn't help.
All that aside, what we're left with is a pretty decent 80's teen comedy along the lines of Better Off Dead, Weird Science and The Last American Virgin. Though not as classic as the above titles, it shares a lot of the same elements, and has plenty to offer to fans of the genre: some great lines, some genuinely funny scenes, a flashback to that 80's American high school experience that's embarrassingly perceptive enough to still ring true, and the great underrated Michelle Meyrink.
It is seriously overdue for DVD release.
Growing Down in Brooklyn (2000)
Slice - Of - Brooklyn
While somewhat amateurish and predictable (especially the abrupt ending), this obscure indie shines as a little slice of 1970's Brooklyn. The plot involves four teenage friends who run afoul of some local mobsters, but the main thing is the atmosphere. Filmed on the streets of Midwood and actually inside some of those old houses, "Growing Down In Brooklyn" is grittier and more realistic than some of the films about Italian-American youth from Brooklyn that were actually made in the 1970's. Few could live up to the Tony Manero stereotype perpetuated to the world courtesy of "Saturday Night Fever", for example, but here in Brooklyn, everybody knew some neighborhood kids just like these. Even some local characters and longtime residents have cameos in the film, adding to the "time machine" feel. If you were growing up in Midwood during the 1970's, it would all be instantly recognizable. Just for that, the film is worth watching.
Parlor, Bedroom and Bath (1931)
slow to catch on, but worth it
Buster talks! Seeing this 1931 talkie was somewhat of a shock. Sure, Buster stuck around long enough to make plenty of great sound films, but this one is early enough to still have the ambiance of a silent comedy, which it occasionally lapses into. Hearing Buster talk here was almost an unexpected surprise. The film does start off slow with too much time devoted to setting up the plot. However, once the characters arrive in the hotel, the comic action is non-stop. Buster is great, as always, but Charlotte Greenwood almost steals the show as Polly. A great early comedienne, unjustly forgotten and underrated. This film is actually a re-make of an earlier silent, which I would love to track down for comparison.
Every Girl Should Have One (1978)
Worth a look despite its many faults.
This is a pretty dumb, dated flick that's full of cliches. A stupid, implausable who-done-it, an obligatory car chase, lack of originality on every level and so on. Nevertheless, it features some inspired performances that make watching it worthwhile. Hanna Dean in particular is hilarious as a wisecracking maid and Zsa Zsa Gabor has some great lines. Worth a look despite its many faults, though definitely not a film to watch more than once.
Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
There are two reasons to see this film - if you like teen movies of the 90's, and if you like teen movies of the 80's. Sure, this flick fits right in with contemporary stuff like American Pie, but the folks who made it have definitely studied their Brat Pack classics. The scene in the bathroom with Seth Green and Lauren Ambrose is straight out of Sixteen Candles, and all the little peripheral characters may as well have just walked off the set of Say Anything. Nothing new under the sun. The jocks and cheerleaders are just as vacuous, the nerds are just as geeky, the freshmen are still trying to act like Brooklyn B-boys, and the good guy still gets the girl. But somehow, the formula still works, and a few well-acted characters (Ambrose, especially) make it worth watching.
The Twelve Chairs (1970)
Expect the worst
"Hope for the best, expect the worst", as the title song goes, is exactly how I felt when I picked up my copy. Having read the original Russian novel and being a fan of Mel Brooks, I was curious how the two would come together. I was rather apprehensive, knowing how Russian literature usually suffers in translation, but hopeful that Brooks would somehow make something of it anyway. The film disappoints on both counts - there's precious little of the original in it, and Brooks isn't at his best here either. Moody is actually OK as Vorobyaninov, but the casting of Langella as Bender is just plain wrong, as he cannot possibly convey the depth and subtlety of the original character. Langella alone is enough to kill this film for anyone familiar with the book. None of the uproarious humor of the novel is anywhere to be found, while the few semi-funny visual gags are merely typical Brooks slapstick and have nothing to do with the source material. And even those aren't among Brooks' best. However, having expected the worst, I wasn't exactly disappointed. An OK little comedy, if you don't expect too much. If you want more, read the book.
It's easy to take Grease apart for all its many faults, but it isn't the kind of film that should ever be taken seriously. At this point in time it's a classic, so any kind of revisionism is beyond the point. Just turn off your brain and enjoy it. It's stupid, but it's fun.
My favorite in the film was always Betty Rizzo (Stockard Channing) and her song, "There are worst things I could do". It has the exact right amount of shallow teenage profundity to ring true and is really endearing. Hers was probably the only character in the film that was slightly more than two-dimensional. As for Travolta, I disliked him then and couldn't care less now.
Best of Big Busty (1986)
This one is mostly for historians. Grainy footage of early 80's girls strutting and jiggling. That's about it. Don't expect any hardcore action. My favorie is Candye Kane, who went on to be a cult blues singer. She almost makes this junk worthwile.
No Limit (1931)
charming little comedy still brings laughs
In this early talkie, Clara Bow plays a movie usherette who who gets to babysit a Park Avenue apartment that turns out to be an illegal gambling den. Clara is wonderful as always, despite all the emotional stress on the set that is occasionally noticeable on screen. There's a lot of inside humor for Clara buffs in this film - for example, the scene where she gambles with what she thinks are 50 cent chips that are actually worth $100 apiece. History buffs will also appreciate the images of the New York City subway in the opening scenes. In fact, No Limit does for the El what It did for Coney Island. The story itself is lightweight fluff, of course, but it is very nicely done and the film can still make you laugh out loud. Well worth watching.
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
Read the book!
The Michael Pare films are flawed. The John Cafferty music is too much Springsteen and not enough 50's. The sequel was a bad joke. None of this matters. "Eddie and the Cruisers" by P.F. Kluge is probably the best novel ever written about rock'n'roll, and even though it lost a lot in translation to the big screen, the magic is still there. If you like the movie, you simply owe it to yourself to read the book. Then you'll really understand.
One creepy mystery: aside from a couple of minor TV appearances many years later, Helen Schneider ("Joanne Carlino") never made another film after this one. Whatever happened to her? Did she also "pull a Rimbaud"?