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The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
Frustrating, awkward, annoying and cynically fascinating.
Charles Grodin is no stranger to playing dorks, dweebs, creeps or nerds. In fact he did it so often that many of us are lead to believe he truly is the character he has portrayed so many times. We all know this tale too well. A young salesman meets a nice Jewish girl in a bar and marries her. When off to their honeymoon to Miami, he discovers that she is perpetually annoying and irritating from eating Egg salad sandwiches, talking during intercourse and stubborn about his pleas for her to put on sunscreen. Enter the Flirty Cybil Shepard and all plans go to hell. I understand that much of comedy is rooted in pain and discomfort and Neil Simon understood this very well. But The Heartbreak Kid is a plot that is so aggravating and cringe-worthy that at times we really don't see the humor. Each character becomes a cliché. Jeannie Berlin's performance is admirable, but the Stereotypical Yenta is taken to its most annoying extreme. You wonder if the writer had a deep seated hatred for new York girls. Charles Grodin is far too annoying and wimpy to even relate too. When he lies to Lila in the Hotel room, trying to cover up his escapades, it's just too implausible for anyone to take seriously. It was moments like that that made this movie frustrating. Lila gets hurt, dumped and cast by the wayside. Cybil Shepard becomes the symbol of female perfection to Grodin. And the final 40 minutes is about how he pursues her shamelessly despite her father's disdain for him. I'm not sure why women would find this humorous in the least, because it casts a very negative light on their intelligence, integrity and value. I guess a guy can see the surface humor in Grodin's actions, but if you think about how truly pitiful and reckless his actions are, there's no humor at all. It's a sad tale about a man with shabby and selfish desires and the consequences of his actions. This is not comedy. This is tragedy.
It's a big misfire.
Spectre is certainly not the best 007 film and I don't think it's Daniel Craig's fault entirely. He's just being the same 007 as he has in the three previous 007 films, bland, glum and brooding. So why did this film fail to capture the reason why 007 movies were once so fun? Mendes is good at orchestrating stunning cinematography, camera angles and such. But why does the whole 2.5 hours of film seem to drag on and on? My assertion to this flop is that everyone involved is misused. The characters' roles are either too brief, too underdeveloped or just poorly conceived. Lea Sedoux, although beautiful, is just too boring to watch. Bloefeld is too effeminate and odd to be taken seriously. That whole scene where he is torturing Bond is just goofy and insipid. Bloefeld just isn't sinister our cunning enough to engender much fear or awe. And what about Monica Bellucci? She was the best addition to this film and she's completely wasted. Her eight minutes of screen time are the best minutes of this movie and her role ends way too briefly. Her coy allure sets a stunning backdrop to the cold and desolate funeral procession. The chemistry between her and Craig is palpable and far more interesting than the, bland as goatmilk, Sedoux.
It's a shame they couldn't combine all the good aspects of this movie and construct something exciting. The result was a wasted opportunity.
The Landlord (1970)
Exploring Race relations post MLK Assassination
I came upon this movie after just seeing someone post it on a blog a few days ago. I had never heard of it, but according to the trailer it sure looked like a comedy. And it was to an extent, I should say a Black Comedy. Thanks to the smart and adroit direction of Hal Ashby, The Landlord is pretty funny considering the uneven and misappropriated dialogue. We must consider the authors of this story who happen to be African American. I know if it were written by White authors the bias would be pretty different. Nevertheless, it seems genuine if not entirely plausible. Elgar is a confused rich kid in his late 20's who has an ambivalent and dysfunctional relationship with his family. Eager to leave the nest and prove himself, he sets out to buy a Brownstone in the middle of a slum near park Slope, New York. When he arrives as the new landlord and very wet behind the ears, he instantly realizes he gets more than what he bargained for: a group of Black tenants who owe back rent for two months or more. The group is a somewhat Mottley Cruw that doesn't seem to take a liking to him at first, but sense that he's easy prey, because he's young, polite and inexperienced. Things are somewhat comical watching him interact, like a fish out of water, and trying to fit in. His initial intention is to evict the tenants systematically so he can renovaye the slum house into a chic bachelor pad. But his plans fall by the wayside as he gets immersed in his duties as a landlord, neighbor and even acquaintance. The story loses its humorous tone after midway and turns serious and frightening. Later there are brief moments of sad humor and pathos. Elgar gets one of the Black tenants pregnant, falls in love with a Mulatto woman he met at a Night club and struggles with this odd situation he has put himself into. Even though he openly shuns his family and their wishes, he can't quite handle the consequences of his choices. Ultimately, the story is a fairly sad study on young male naivety and a lesson in culture clashes.
Lee Grant is terrific as his cloying and snooty mother. Jeff Bridges shows warmth and capability in an early role. Lou Gossett is interesting as the irate cuckold who wishes to be every other ethnicity but Black. Diana Sands is very good in a role that requires strain, humility and shame.
The direction of Hal Ashby is what engineers this frantic fable. He intersperses fantasy sequences and dialogue nuances to illustrate a point. Not all of them work, but they help the continuity of the experience. Not bad for a first outing as a director.
The Comedian (2016)
Not Funny enough to be enjoyable!
To understand the poor reviews surrounding this movie is to understand the recent political screeds of Robert DeNiro. After having made a vile attempt to punch Donald Trump along with other controversial opinions it is no wonder that playing an aging insult- comic with a bad temper will further diminish his waning popularity.
DeNiro plays a comedic has-been, Jackie Burke, who has reached an all time dry spell. Playing in sleazy Comic clubs and trying to eek out a living with the aid of his long suffering manager (Edie Falco) desperately tries revive his washed up career, but is treated with abuse. He's resentful that he can't get a decent break after she painstakingly tries to save him from his own destructive habits. Jackie is not an admirable guy. He's actually quite repulsive. However, he still has cache as known comic with fans of his old TV sitcom and other fellow comedians. What's interesting about this story is that it's plausible to see people idolizing someone who is renowned for being obscene, offensive and ribald. I know comedy is an ugly business that attracts unpleasant and caustic people. And we know that often times hostility and anger underlie comedians. There's also an unnecessary love-connection to the plot that doesn't help the story, but rather makes him appear as just a dirty old man who hooks up with a gal 30 years his junior. Sure, he is supposed to be a pig, but it doesn't help his character. Both him and the odd Leslie Mann look tawdry and unlikable. It's a movie that will make you feel uncomfortable while treating its audience with disdain. The performances are actually pretty good. DeNiro is not a natural comedian and it shows here. But he manages to struggle through the repugnance of his character and hit all the notes of comedic timing. Most of the jokes aren't funny at all. DeVito, Keitel are very good despite thanklessness of their characters. Their are numerous cameos featured from Billy Crystal, Charles Grodin, Richard Belxer, Cloris Leachman et al. Brett Butler appears early in the film for less than a minute and is seen no more.
The Comedian is pretty dreadful and will most likely make you feel depressed and offended. The world of Comedy looks disgusting. Almost everything in The Comedian is offensive and uncomfortable. There's one think I know. It definitely cured any bug in me to ever aspire to be a Stand-up comedian. The movie's main problem lies in its failure to adhere to one theme. Is it a love story about two unlikable people? Is it a character study of sleazy entertainer? I'm not sure if the writers really agreed on anything but to all agree that they should each get their fair amount of dialogue in the script. But The Comedian isn't funny enough to enjoy, the main character is too unlikable to appreciate and the plot is not introspective enough to be interesting. Therefore, it's bound to please nobody. Moreover, I don't think elderly people would be so amused and accepting by a brash and vulgar comic who takes the liberty of offending them in the worst possible way.
Lousy execution of a Sherlock Holmes' spoof
After having never heard of this movie until I scrolled through the filmography of Gene Wilder did I come upon this forgotten film. Being that this featured the noticeable talents of performers from yesteryear : Wilder, Kahn, Feldman, DeLuise and McKern, I was expecting some interesting curios that are a reminder of 1970's comedic and cinematic styles that have faded from the fabric of our culture. After his colossal success with Mel Brooks on Young Frankenstein, Gene Wilder takes a crap shoot at his directorial and writing debut to bring us this boring spoof from his childhood passion of Sherlock Holmes. The result was a hodgepodge of the antics and shticks he frequented from song and dance numbers, frantic hollering and lunacy which proved more successful when he teamed with Brooks. Here, Gene is alone and doesn't fare as well. The jokes fall flat. The typically funny Marty Feldman has a superfluous role as Sigerson Holmes" sidekick. Poor Marty Feldman again is exploited for his Graves disease deformity. Madeline Kahn's beauty and operatic achievements shine, but the disjointed script doesn't allow her character to expand. The song and dance numbers such as the Kangaroo Hop are cringe-worthy and actually made me ill. Gene Wilder is Gene Wilder and doesn't possess any of the famed talents of his sleuth brother. Dom DeLuise is pretty funny as a zany opera star with a silly toupee. I also noticed Leo McKern, the dour, ugly and intimidating man from the Omen movies. His comedic skills are a bit off so his performance is barely tolerable.
The true core of the movie's mediocrity lies in its script and the film's title. Sigerson Holmes' is not as smart as his older brother and we don't get to see him delve into any capers that reveal investigative talent which makes the acclaimed sleuth so thrilling. Sigerson is also not stupid. So the title doesn't even work paradoxically. We don't get to see Sherlock aside from his brief part in the beginning and his 15 second talking shadow near the end. It's really a disappointment for those who crave detective stories, because the caper plot is so threadbare. The comedy gets muddled in hokey song routines that aren't funny at all. Thus, this project was bound to please no one. And watching Wilder and Kahn break into song together looked tawdry and was embarrassing.
I'm Mad as hell and Overacting can sometimes help a movie!
In the US during the Post Watergate-Vietnam War era it seemed like much of our culture was coming apart at the fringes. If not it was definitely revealed in Television. Network may the the first movie to ever take a scathing crack at the corruption of Media mavens in TV Stations, but the theme as implicated here extends to corruption of shareholders, media moguls and the powers that be that control and manipulate them.
Howard Biel, played by the legendary Peter Finch, is a washed up News anchor who has been informed his position will be terminated due to ongoing low viewer ratings. He shares an evening with an old buddy, Max Shumacher, a powerful executive from the UBS station. Together they lament the bygone glory days of TV and how they're lives have changed. Hopelessly depressed from anger and exhaustion, Howard Biel decides to announce on air to the public that he will commit suicide. The ratings practically skyrocket overnight. Mr. Biel revitalizes his waning charisma for all the wrong reasons. This is recognized by an ambitious new Program developer, Diane Christensen (Faye Dunaway). She sees this as a golden opportunity to lift UBS out of its rut and to boost ratings again. This is basically what the movie is about, written by Paddy Chayevsky. TV media will shamelessly exploit any person(s), entity or idea just for the sake of improving its stock value. Sensationalism is good whether it's negative or not. She sells her idea to the station's President, FRANK Hackett (Robert Duvall). At first Hackett, Shumacher and the other execs are appalled by lukewarm on the idea, but they later realize that any news is good news as long as it boosts ratings. This is an intelligent film that captures the essence of corporate survival with all of its backbiting, wanton ambition and calculating cruelty where people's jobs are measured in accordance with what they can bring to the financial tables. Faye Dunaway is stunning in a role she was born to play. She exhibits all the qualities of ambitious vixen: cold, calculating, gorgeous and ruthless. William Holden gives an Oscar Worthy performance as the ill-fated executive who is torn between staying with his wife and having an affair with the manipulative Christensen. Peter Finch gives a bravura performance with admirable emotional range. He was awarded the Oscar for best actor posthumously due to his untimely death just weeks before the Academy Award shoe in 1977. Each of the main characters has a moment where they display a histrionic tirade including Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty, despite his brief screen time. Lofty speeches with moralistic underpinnings are frequent throughout the plot. It's as if you are watching a Shakespeare or Ibsen play. It may be a feel a bit over the top, but it's done well and the plot never lags.
Black comedies had their inception in the 1970's and I think this may be due to our country's growing cynicism and deteriorating faith in the system. But whatever the cause may be, Sidney Lumet's direction and Chayefsky's screenplay get it right for the most part. It is also true to say this film was prescient in its dismal view on society; we see many exploitative forms of entertainment today that are similar in principle as the ones shown in Network. Although this movie uses hyperbole the concept is credible. I am incredulous to the notion that a Program would collude with a Terrorist group for the sake of boosting ratings. I'm certain that couldn't fly for it would be too problematic in our country where law and order would have to intervene.
After 40 years Network is still relevant and can be extrapolated to how we view TV today which can make us so mad that we can't take it anymore!
A Reflection of Fear (1972)
Clint had some weird taste in women.
I was never a Sondra Locke fan. In fact, like many others, she will always be remembered as Clint Eastwood's long time fling. From what I gathered from a few movies I have seen her in (mainly Malpaso Productions) is that she was always this strange and odd actress that had a very off-putting demeanor and attitude. Pale, fragile and appearing like a waif in almost everything, in this mystery thriller, she is given the role she was born to play. She's a schizophrenic teenager who has been sheltered by her mother all her life. She hears voices and is always frantic about her imaginary relationships with her stuffed animals and dolls. We understand early on that this is an extremely disturbed individual. Her mother keeps a tight lid on her whereabouts, actions and her whole life which pretty much takes place on the household estate.
In comes her estranged father and fiancée played by Robert Shaw and Sally Kellerman. He tries to mend a relationship he never had while asking the mother for a divorce in the most frank, blunt and unemotional way I have ever seen in a movie.
I will not give away the climax for it's quite predictable, but in this case we want to see how it gets there. Save your time, because this is a slow paced mystery with lethargic acting, elliptic dialogue and a lead character who never seems to break out of that zombie like gaze while uttering poetic lines with that lilting voice. Sondra Locke is definitely unique, She can look beautiful, putrid, sickly, freakish and sometimes too nubile to be taken seriously. Robert Shaw gets caught between the jealousy of his fiancée and his daughter which limits his already stiff and anal performance.
Reflections of Fear takes too long to tell us what happens what we already knew all along.
Yea sure, the BeeGees are better than the band that wrote the album.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a movie that embodies everything hideous, gaudy, inane, silly, bizarre and banal about the latter half of the 1970's. Where else can you see a decrepit octogenarian (George Burns) sing a really bad cover of "Fixing a Hole" with his frog voice and flat intonation? I could describe the sound of his voice as dirty water gurgling down a rusty drainpipe, but that may not be vivid enough. Where else can you see a revivalist band of brothers dressed in effeminate costumes posing as colorfully dressed sailors? Where else can we get a plot, or numerous subplots for that matter, all in one sophomoric land waste of celluloid? Well folks, it happened in this cringe inducing picture. Indeed. But I must not dismiss the edification of my assessment just yet. Something is amiss when we normally castigate movies like this: the well intended, the offbeat, the misguided and the noble attempts to combine that which is lovable and popular into our own creative soup. A rehash of ideas you may call it. or even lofty aspirations for those who thought they knew better.
Peter Frampton had recently earned staggering success from a record selling album while his costars, The BeeGees, shared equal success with their Saturday Night Fever album. The Beatles were still very popular even they they had been disbanded for nearly a decade. So the Hollywood mavens and the Record companies put their Acid/Cocaine induced heads together and created this travesty. Well, I guess you had to be there to understand and appreciate it.
People who were born after 1978, specifically Generation Y and millenials wouldn't understand the creation of a movie like this like I would. Having been born in 1968 and having seen a massive convergence of styles, pop culture and the departure from old fashioned norms was still very new. Today, it's not only hip to depart from tradition, it's a ubiquitous endemic. And so my friends, SPLHCL ferments in the annals of cinema history as an enormous blunder and embarrassment to those who were involved. Strangely enough, The Beatles weren't, in any way, involved with this production.
The Norseman (1978)
A Turgid Mess that is not even enjoyably bad.
The historical position that Viking Norsemen had contact with Inuits or Algonquins from the fringes of Northeast America is debatable if not highly improbable. But according to some Viking sagas there are unreliable literary claims that this happened. Based on the AI production of The Norseman this takes the historical claim to wildly preposterous levels. I did a little research after I saw this dreadful film and discovered that all they had correct were a couple of historical names and the god they worshiped (Onid) accurate.
As for the movie itself we see poorly choreographed battles sketches with clumsy jump cuts, edits and inappropriate usage of slow motion. Now I read some of the other reviews and some are quite scathing and hilarious. Teeing off on a bad movie can be fun some of you did a good job of promoting mockery and satire. Oh, but only if this movie was a satire it would be forgivable. But it's not, unfortunately. The Norseman is a 1970's B-Movie that looks more like a 1950's B- Movie with all of its cut rate production values, bad costumes, wooden acting, grandiose score and redundant tone. The problem here is that it's even worse than your average 1950's period movie.
Listening to Vikings talk with southern accents while uttering archaic dialogue is obviously just a case of bad acting and the inability to capture the proper mood for a period film. As such, the result here is just bizarre. Lee Majors plays the lead commander (Thorvald) and can't seem to shed his normal persona of a Good Old boy. Now I'll try to be kind about Lee. I have nothing against the guy personally and I don't think he is a bottom rate actor, but he looks so out of place in this type of role. And i couldn't quite figure out his outfit which looked like a hodgepodge of historical costume anachronisms. His helmet and facial guard looked like a cheaply designed helm of a Roman legionnaire. His face mask looked more like a Lone ranger eye mask. The rest of his outfit looked like a poorly tailored S&M fetish outfit.
And don't forget that ex-NFL Lineman, Deacon Jones, has a non- speaking role as the Black Viking who was enslaved by the Norsemen during a raid on the African Coast. Alright, I understand that the vikings did at one time venture by the coast of Africa, followed by the Roman victory over the Vikings and Visigoths, but the likelihood is highly improbable. I guess it was part of the 1970's social equanimity conscious that influenced this film to incorporate a Black actor.
The rest of the cast doesn't bode too well either. The Native Indians are shown as screeching savages. The Viking hoard are adorned with their goofy furs, Horned helmets ( I heard this was inaccurate) and swords. Susie Coehlle offers some eye candy as a young Native woman who befriends the Norsemen to help them find their captive family members.
After reading the reviews i was hoping to discover that if the movie is so universally perceived as crappy then it must be worth laughing at. But it wasn't for me. It was just boring and nauseating to the point that I wanted everyone, especially the Norsemen players, to be slain by the Indians.
Welcome Back, Kotter (1975)
As bad as it was, it still holds a reserve in my memory.
WBC was one of those 70's shows that was only viewed by my siblings and I when there was nothing better on. There are many things to loathe about this show: Corny jokes, slow moving plot, tiresome characters and a very drab inner city school backdrop that looked like your typical living nightmare for any teacher. School sucks enough as it is, so why would anyone want to subject themselves to watching it on TV for entertainment? I understand that comedy is often rooted in pain and that is where we derive comedy in general. But Welcome Back, Kotter brings the expression "Painful to watch" in a whole new level. It was also very negative in how it treated people. We weren't watching anything realistic here, just a very contrived and sophomoric representation of reality. And the results are uninspiring.
I will say that it is memorable for a couple of reasons. First, it catapulted the career of John Travolta. Gabe Kaplan was a likable guy who seemed to skate through this depiction of a high school teacher who has good intentions while having a bug to be an amateur comedian. Some people harshly criticize the fifth Sweathog from the south during the final season. I actually thought he brought some fun originality to this progressively stale and weary Motley Crew.
But where I derive meaning from this lousy program was the message in the theme song. The idea of a man returning to his Alma Mater as a teacher is both depressing yet endearing. The hopeless feeling one gets when they abandoned their dreams only to be annoyed and aggravated by an unpleasant and immature group of punks is not really a great recipe for fun.