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Living in Captivity (1998– )
Not that I'm bitter or anything
24 January 2001
The concept of this show was great - three couples of different ethnic backgrounds living together in a nondenominational suburb. Some of the episodes were hysterical! The one I remember best was when Will (Matthew Letscher) proposed his hand in marriage to Becca (Melinda McGraw). However, since Becca wanted a Jewish wedding, Will had to convert, but "What about my...shmeckel?" Shelly Berman guest starred as the mohel. It is too bad the series got cancelled, but what do you expect in a society where humour is equated with potentially offensive material, leaving only the drek that fills most of the available prime time airtime? Exactly.
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Find the Idiot in the Police Lineup
16 December 2000
This is the story of Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte), a Parisian who organizes a monthly idiot dinner. Whoever brings the biggest idiot to the dinner wins the prize! On this occasion, he decides to bring Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret), an eccentric goof who builds monuments out of matchsticks as his hobby. Without giving away much of the plot, at the end of the movie, audiences are left wondering which one is actually the bigger idiot. Between the slapstick, the dialogue, and the Abbott and Costello references (remember Marlene Sasoeur?), I laughed nearly nonstop throughout the whole movie! Just don't drink a king size soft drink before watching...
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The Golden Girls (1985–1992)
Dorothy was actually older than Sophia...
16 December 2000
Picture it. Miami. 1985. A middle aged schoolteacher named Dorothy Zbornak (Beatrice Arthur) has recently ended her 38-year marriage. Meanwhile, her elderly mother named Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), who recently suffered a stroke, recently became homeless after her nursing home burned down. Together with Rose Nylund (Betty White), they move in with Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan), and the rest is history. Dorothy played the straight woman to Rose's good natured ditziness, Blanche's nymphomania, and Sophia's old world wisdom. With four older women as its key performers, The Golden Girls could get away with being one of the dirtiest comedies ever aired on prime time television. Not many writers from other series would have had the gaul to incorporate "slut," "shmuck," and various references to sexuality and homosexuality into the script. It was also one of the funniest. Besides the one-liners (ie. "A toilet in front of the television? It's an old lady's dream!"), the friendly hostility expressed by the characters, especially Sophia, was all the more reason to watch. Other noteworthy characters included Dorothy's ex-husband Stan (Herb Edelman), the priest Uncle Angelo (Bill Dana), and Burt Reynolds as himself ("If I'm not, I must be wearing the wrong underwear"). And who could forget Rose's St. Olaf stories...
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5/10
I Liked It. Well, EXCUUUUUUUSE ME!
16 December 2000
Am I the only one who liked this movie? After hearing nothing but bad press about it for years, I finally went out and saw it. I thought it was one of the most fun flicks I'd seen in years. All the characters were named after Beatles songs! Starring Billy Shears (Peter Frampton) and the Hendersons (the Bee Gees) "were all there" as well, "Sgt. Pepper" featured Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina) as Billy's leading lady, and Mr. Mustard (Frank Howerd) was "such a mean old man." Let's not forget Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (Dianne Steinberg), the Sun King (Alice Cooper), and Sgt. Pepper played by an old Beatles protege (Billy Preston). The movie also depicted countless cover versions of Beatles songs, including Earth Wind & Fire's "Got to Get You Into My Life." As the narrator, Mr. Kite (George Burns) even covered "Fixin' a Hole." Critics of the movie should be so critical"when they're 64," let alone 82! Sure, the plot wasn't worthy of a Kubrick screenplay, but what could be more accurate than explaining how corporatism is anathema to the fun of music, and how profound an impact the Beatles had on later artists. Look for Dame Edna (Barry Humphries) in one of the many crowd scenes. I have one final case for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." It had one of my favourite comedians (Steve Martin) singing one of my favourite Beatles songs (Maxwell's Silver Hammer). I'm picking out a thermos for this movie!
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Taxi (1978–1983)
Tank'yaverrymuch!
16 December 2000
The seventies featured several groundbreaking sitcoms. One of those was "Taxi," perhaps one of the first major serials which focused exclusively on the work environment - in this case, the Sunshine Cab Company in New York - rather than on the family. Perhaps the most vital cast member was Louie DiPalma (Danny DeVito), the fiendish yet lovable curmudgeon who owned the company. Each remaining character had a unique love-hate relationship with Louie, and their own story to tell, all of which contributed to each week's plot. Other characters included Alex Rieger (Judd Hirsch), aspiring actor Bobby Wheeler (Jeff Conaway), ex-boxer Tony Banta (Tony Danza), divorced mother of two Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner), and designated oddball Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd). And, of course, there was Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman), the affable mechanic of an indeterminate ethnic origin, whose dialogue may be translated into "This will make you laugh" in any language. One can only imagine how hilarious episodes featuring Kaufman as Tony Clifton might have been. When one considers what roles some of the cast members have played since, one can see that there was a lot of talent on this show. It also served as the lynchpin for subsequent television sitcoms, including "Cheers" and "Frasier".
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One Ringy Dingy, Two Ringy Dingy
16 December 2000
"Laugh-In" was a solid mix of one liners, sight gags, and other forms of sketch comedy. Designed to be a satire of its times, "Laugh-In" is probably better remembered for its catch phrases, including "Sock it to me," "Very interesting," and "Here come da judge, here come da judge." And let's not forget The Groaning Wall. The variety series was hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, and launched the careers of Goldie Hawn, Richard Dawson, and Steve Martin. After six years on the air, "Laugh-In" bowed out of the prime time spotlight. Now if only Some Newer Latenight variety show had the same common sense to quit while it was ahead.
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9/10
Woody's Back, Baby!
14 December 2000
Ray Winkler (Woody Allen) is looking to get rich quick. So he decides to build a tunnel to break into a bank, but not before asking his wife Frenchy (Tracy Ullmann) to open a cookie shop as a front. Typically, Winkler's plan falters, but the cookies are a smashing success. So much so, that they become wealthy overnight. Will high society accept these latter day Kramdens, and how will affluence change their lives? In a movie full of classic lines, perhaps the top banana belongs to David (Hugh Grant). As a veiled illusion to Oscar Wilde, he comments on owning "a picture of himself in his closet that keeps on getting younger." Despite playing along an all-star cast including Jon Lovitz and Michael Rappaport, the only memorable supporting performer was May (Elaine May). If film critics were judge Allen's movies for what they are, rather than for who wrote and directed them, they would be in for a pleasant surprise with "Small Time Crooks." It is perhaps the Woody Allen's best movie since "Radio Days."
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City Slickers (1991)
Hey Curly! Wanna buy a pair of gloves?
14 December 2000
This is one of my favourite movies. On his 39th birthday, Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) realizes that he hates his life. His job doesn't interest him, he thinks his kids don't admire him, and he's dreading an upcoming family vacation to Florida. As a present, his friends Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) and Phil Berkowitz (Daniel Stern) decide to take him on a two-week cattle drive in New Mexico and Colorado. Ed, meanwhile, is at odds with his wife over the prospect of having children, while Phil's marriage is in jeopardy after his wife learns that he committed adultery. On the drive, however, Mitch learns from Curly (Jack Palance), an intimidating old cowboy who leads the trip, what the most important thing in life is, and that he'll find out what it is when the time is right. City Slickers serves as a commentary on about three lifelong friends, whose midlife crises suddenly pale in contrast to cattle driving, baseball, and the days of "Mitchy the Kid." Some of the more memorable lines from the movie include "Yes, that's right. We're black AND we're dentists!" and also "Hey Curly, killed anyone today? Day ain't over yet." For the record, Billy Crystal says "Hello-o" seven times in the movie. Some of his costars include Patricia Wettig, Helen Slater, Josh Mostel, and especially Norman. Finally, in watching City Slickers, baseball fans everywhere will now have memorized "who played 3rd base for Pittsburgh in 1960." Don Hoak!
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Annie Hall (1977)
10/10
If movies were beers, this would be "Finster Light!"
14 December 2000
A few years back at a birthday party for my grandmother, I noticed that there was one other large party in the restaurant. While they were quiet with proper etiquette and table manners, we were animated and boistrous with a minimum of two arguments per 15 minutes. I turned to my mother and said "It's just like the Halls and the Singers." You can tell that Annie Hall was one of Woody Allen's older movies based on the character he plays. As Alvy Singer, Allen plays a short neurotic Jewish New Yorker who is obsessed with death. "Sun's bad for you. Everything your parents say is good for you is bad for you. Sun, milk, red meat, college..." By contrast, Diane Keaton plays the title character, a pretentious WASP who is obsessed with life and her favourite expression is "La-de-dah." Oh yeah, she just happens to be Allen's girlfriend. The movie serves as an introspective commentary on the evolution of a relationship, and how Alvy Singer perceives his rapport with Annie Hall. For instance, is her family truly a clan on anti-Semites, or is that just how Alvy envisions them? The movie costars Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, and Paul Simon, with a guest appearance by Marshall McLuhan as himself. One can see that it had a profound affect on the postmodern entertainment industry, as many aspects of the relationship between George and Susan on Seinfeld can be traced back to Annie Hall.
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Rematch of "the Pig" and "the Human Vacuum Cleaner"
13 December 2000
Thirty years later, although he may have moved to Sarasota, met new friends, and started serving homemade Mexican casseroles instead of his trademark brown sandwiches, Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) is still the same bumbling, lovable, sportswriting shloch. One day during his poker game, Oscar gets a phone call from his son Bruce (Jay Silverman) in California with the news that he is getting married. Jubilation quickly becomes agony for Oscar, upon learning that the future Mrs. Madison(Lisa Waltz)'s father is none other than Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon)! Their reunion in the Los Angeles airport gets off to an auspicious beginning when the goof in the Hawaiian shirt carrying the "1927 cardboard luggage" injures his dapper ex-roommate who is allergic to both perfume and aftershave. And so they are off to the wedding in San Molina by way of Laughland. Or are they? After all, once Felix learns that Oscar threw away the directions and lost his luggage, he finds himself stranded in the middle of nowhere with him. In writing The Odd Couple II, Neil Simon describes loneliness through a hysterical plot in a manner that is uniquely his own. Besides the two veteran funnymen, Richard Riehle, Christine Baranski, and Jean Smart are excellent in their supporting roles. Unless you've seen the original Odd Couple movie you might not understand all the jokes, but if you have, you're in for a wild ride.
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Juxtaposition of Characters
13 December 2000
After spending six months in Rome, Annie (Kimberly Williams) has some exciting news to tell her parents George (Steve Martin) and Nina (Diane Keaton). She's getting married. What might create joy for most fathers generates anguish for George. He still envisions his daughter as a little girl, and cannot believe that she is grown up. What does this say about him, and about his stage in life? As the big date approaches, we learn that Annie is an obnoxious little twit, while the wedding coordinator Franck Eggelhoffer (Martin Short) provides a dose of hilarity with every aspect of planning. And let's not forget about his assistant, Howard Weinstein (B. D. Wong)! For readers familiar with planning weddings, this movie can be summarized in one sentence. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse...
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Alice (1976–1985)
This is the reason why I use an alias...
13 December 2000
All right! All right already! I admit it! I used to watch this show because I had a crush on Linda Lavin as a kid! There, the world knows it now! Satisfied!? Now, I watch the reruns because I think the show provides humour that is light and clean and that doesn't make you think too much. Based on the movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," Alice Hyatt (Lavin) plays a broke, recently widowed mother of Tommy (Philip McKeon). Her car broke down in Phoenix en route to Hollywood, leaving her stranded in Phoenix. Working for Mel (Vic Tayback) the penurious tubby tyrannical proprietor of Mel's Diner, she befriends fellow waitresses Vera (Beth Howland), an innocent simpleton, and Flo (Polly Holliday), a high octane nymphomaniac whose homespun Texas manner provides the perfect foil for the street tough, New Jersey-bred "new girl in town." Flo is an even better foil for Mel, and never hesitates to retort him with some valuable advice..."Kiss my grits!" The show definitely had a split personality: funny until 1980 when Flo left, and then it went straight downhill for the next five years. Cameo players such as Andy (Pat Crenshaw), Travis (Tom Mahoney), and Henry (Marvin Kaplan) were valuable to the show, as were George Burns, Telly Savalas, Art Carney, and Martha Raye. Equally memorable were some of the one-liners, including "Can you read lips? [Raspberry!]," "Don't be rational when I'm hysterical," and "If we get out of this alive, I'm going to kill you!" One of my favourite episodes revolved around an ex-gangster wanted by the FBI and the mob, coupled with a whiny truckdriver whose rig full of peaches broke down outside the diner. Not the basis of a James Joyce or a Henry Roth novel, but entertaining nonetheless. At least the early episodes were.
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Rain Man (1988)
One of Hoffman's Best Roles Ever!
11 December 2000
As the movie opens, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a 26 year old egotistical, mercenary, matierialistic, spoiled, rich kid trying to hide his past as a Los Angeles businessman. While driving to Palm Springs, Charlie learns that his father Sanford died at his home in Cincinnati. Since his mother had died when Charlie was three, Charlie expected to receive a lavish home and millions of dollars as the sole survivor. Rather, he learned that his father left him his prize rosebushes. What happened to the money? It was lent to his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). A brother he never knew he had. Charlie then kidnapped Raymond from his institutionalized existence and take him back to Los Angeles in an attempt to use him for his money. Along the way, Hoffman performs an excellent portrayal of an autistics savant - an innocent foil to Cruise's ruthless yuppie character. The plot is both heartwarming and tearjerking, but is not without its humourous moments. As the Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 1988, "Rain Man" could easily win an award for outstanding movie of the eighties. Yeah.
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Eight Years in Space...Or Is It?
26 September 2000
It was during the spring of 1995, while on vacation in Fort Lauderdale, that I read an eerie headline in the Sun-Sentinel. An elderly woman was dying of cancer, and she proclaimed that she wished to see her son one last time. What makes the story eerie is that her son disappeared from the Fort Lauderdale area in 1978, just like David Scott Freeman in "Flight of the Navigator". On the morning of July 5, 1978, Helen and Bill Freeman (Veronica Cartwright and Cliff DeYoung) awoke to learn that their son David (Joey Cramer) was missing. Eight years later, in 1986, he returned, not having aged a minute. Meanwhile, a flying saucer from the planet Phelan has landed on earth. It was later determined that all of its starcharts and artificial intelligence have escaped into David's brain. A team of NASA scientists led by Dr. Faraday (Howard Hesseman) is determined to research the connection between the alien ship and the time travelling David. Will David remain a lab rat for the rest of his life, or will he escape to freedom? There's only one way to find out, and that is by watching the movie. Perhaps there are several themes to this movie. Many families have lived with the tragedy of missing their children, and retrieving them is an arduous and time consuming task that often goes unfulfilled. It can also be seen as a story of alienation someone mired in 1978 may face if he were to suddenly awake in 1986. During those eight years, as David learned, his family moved and aged, Jimmy Carter was voted out of office, "Starsky and Hutch" went off the air, four new kinds of Coca-Cola hit the shelves, some girls began to dye their hair purple, and an all-male group named Twisted Sister replaced the Bee Gees as the most popular band of the time. Take note of the cameo appearances of Sarah Jessica Parker as NASA assistant Carolyn McAdams, and of Paul Reubens as the voice of Max. To answer your question, Chad Perman, Joey Cramer is alive and well and living in Vancouver. Having visited South Florida several times, I can add one last message of the movie. It really does feel like eight years when you travel up the I-95 instead of taking the Turnpike!
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Split Personality: '79 Kids vs. '00 Adults
23 September 2000
Suppose there really were a generational war between the kids and the adults. Whose side would you take? This rhetorical question pops into my mind every time I think back on "You Can't Do That on Television." As a child, I found the skits and dialogues of this show to be amusing, because they represented what many of us thought. For instance, on one episode, two elementary school students rejoice at the idea of not having to watch three hours of Shakespeare, only to learn that they're going to see five hours of opera! Twenty years later, many of those same children are working as restaurant cooks like Barth, driving a bus like Snake Eyes, or trying to manage a bunch of unruly kids like Ross. Some of us even hate kids. Some of us even like Shakespeare. Therefore, much of the show's irony would be lost on us. Moreover, it didn't take a high school sophomore, let alone a rocket scientist, to figure out how the cast members were showered or slimed after saying "water" or "I don't know," respectively. In short, kids spend so much time trying to embetter their world, that by the time they accomplish their goal, they are adults. Now if only they made a sequel of this show where Moose, Lisa, Alasdair, and the rest of the gang triumphed over the boss, the taxman, and the in-laws each week...
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Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!
23 August 2000
Here's some unsolicited advice for anyone who's dead tired after a day of hard work and who wants to be entertained without having to think too much. "The Replacements" worked for me! Sure, the plot and motifs were predictable, some of the jokes were overdone, and Keanu Reeves as quarterback Shane Falco was as wooden as Pinocchio's stunt double, but the key word here is "entertaining." Much of the enjoyable parts of the movie came from the replacement players and their antics. For instance, Jon Favreau was hysterical as an ex-cop who charged at everything red...a far cry from his role as Eric the Clown on "Seinfeld." Gene Hackman and Jack Warden played their roles well as the respective owner and coach of the Washington Sentinels, but both their roles left you asking "Where have I seen this before?" The same could be said about Brooke Langton, but I'm sure most men watching the movie would have no qualms about seeing her on a repeated basis.
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When Hitch Met Mitch
20 August 2000
Larry Donner (Billy Crystal) is an English professor struggling writer - at the outset of the movie, he has trouble finishing the first sentence of his novel - who is absent minded, feeble bellied, and recently divorced. When he sees his wife Margaret (Kate Mulgrew) appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss her book, one which he accuses her of plagiarizing off his life story, he becomes incensed enough to yell "I hate her! I wish she was dead!" in front of a large crowd, including some of his students. One of them is the diminutive, dim witted, irritating, yet clever Owen Lift (Danny DeVito). Owen lives at home with his Momma (Anne Ramsey), a woman so shrill and demanding, he has often considered matricide. After Owen watches an Alfred Hitchcock movie when prospective assailants decide to "criss-cross," thereby extinguishing any evidence of motives in their murders, he ponders whether to do the same thing with Larry. A Hitchcock thriller this movie is not, as is demonstrated by the lack of suspense as the plot progresses. It is, regardless, an enjoyable movie. Billy Crystal, as always, injects some memorable jokes and one-liners (ie. "He does his book signings at Toys R' Us"), while Danny DeVito's placid yet jabbering manner is as hysterical as it was as Louie DiPalma on "Taxi." Certain minor characters add comic relief as well. One of Larry's students (Raye Birk) presents his proposed coffee table book entitled "100 Women I'd Like to Schtupp," or something along those lines. DeVito even manages to get his father in law, Philip Perlman, into the script. "Throw Momma From the Train" also previews two rising stars: before he became famous, Branford Marsalis played a jazz musician in this movie, while Margaret's status on Oprah Winfrey's book club occurred long before her it grew to rival the Book of the Month Club. In conclusion, well, I'm having trouble finishing this sentence so I'll just say that "a writer writes - all the time!"
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See it next Wednesday!
20 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
The day Jake Blues (John Belushi) is released from prison, he and his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) learn that their boyhood orphanage in Calumet City, Illinois is about to be closed after failing to pay their property taxes. After a visit with the Penguin (Kathleen Freeman) and Curtis (Cab Calloway), and a vision in church on Jake's behalf, they decide to get the band back together in an attempt to save the orphanage. Can they do it? It's going to be a difficult task for the Blues Brothers, considering that most of the band members have moved on with their lives. Furthermore, shortly after Jake's release from prison, both Blues Brothers find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Along the way, they attract the entire Chicago Police force, Illinois Nazis, the Good Ole Boys, and Jake's estranged fiancee (Carrie Fisher) as nemeses. If you've ever experienced a wild car ride through through the streets of Chicago, or even if you haven't, see this movie. You'll know what it's like. Besides the double sided plot of saving the orphanage as well as their behinds, the Blues Brothers play alongside a quite impressive cast of characters. It's almost a pop culture "Chronicle of the 20th Century" in this movie! Besides the Brothers, the Hi-De-Ho Man, and Princess Leia, there's an all-star cast of musicians including James Brown, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Steve Cropper and Donald Duck Dunn, backup musicians for Sam & Dave, and in non-singing roles, Steve Lawrence and Joe Walsh. Then there's Frank Oz ("The Muppet Show"), John Candy (SNL), Henry Gibson ("Laugh-In"), Twiggy, Rosie Shuster (Frank's daughter and Lorne Michaels' ex), Pee-Wee Herman (Pee-Wee Herman!), and if that's not all, Stephen Spielberg plays a cameo role. Even director John Landis makes an appearance in the Blues Brothers. So for homework, watch the comedy, concert, and cop chase that is "The Blues Brothers," and see if they say "See you next Wednesday," the trademark line in all John Landis movies. If you hear it, you, too, may be on a mission...
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A Great Player, a Great Man, A Great Movie!
15 August 2000
As was the case with Walter Kephart of the August 12th review, I am a member of two of the three groups he said would enjoy this movie. "The Life and Times" falls into the trap of most biographies, as there was little suspense to the plot, but it was one of the more entertaining and enjoyable movies I've seen lately. It served as a reminder that, in an age of million dollar athletes and cynical fans, there have been superstars with character. Hank Greenberg could not have picked a more difficult time this century to evolve as a Jewish athlete than during the depression-era 1930's. At a time when Nazism rose in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, in the city of Henry Ford and Father Coughlin, Hank Greenberg persevered, overcoming anti-Semitic prejudice to lead his Detroit Tigers to four American League pennants and two World Championships, all the while putting together some of the better offensive statistics in baseball. He was also loyal to his religion and his country, as was demonstrated by not playing on Yom Kippur and sacrificing five years of his playing career to serve in the United States Army during the Second World War. The other forms of media used by Aviva Kempner, including movie clips such as "Gentleman's Agreement," Mandy Patinkin's Yiddish rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and interviews with people ranging from Alan Dershowitz to Al Rosen to the late Walter Matthau all helped illustrate the Hank Greenberg story. A Toronto Star columnist considered "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" to be the one must-see movie for the summer of 2000. It is definitely worth the price of admission, certainly moreso than nine out of ten movies playing these days.
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Twas Enough to Make Terrence and Philip's Aunts Jealous
13 August 2000
"South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut" provides an introspective commentary on the postmodern state of popular culture. Some of the jokes may be crude - take the title, for instance - but many are sophisticated enough to be funny nevertheless. The plot revolved around a "Terrence and Philip" movie. Parker and Stone employ irony when Cartman says that "the animation is soooo crappy," but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Canadian South Park afficionados may remember that when the show was first broadcast, some people were so offended, that the time slot got kicked back from 9:30 to 12:00 midnight. So what would happen if an X-rated movie featuring a couple of Canadian dolts singing vulgar songs about uncles were to make the return trip across the American border? Without giving away too much of the plot, and with sincere apologies to Frank Sinatra, send in the troops. The "Terrence and Philip" movie is, in fact, a commentary on how political correctness has purged most sorts of cerebral comedy from television and movies, that all that remains is lowbrow humour revolving around bodily functions. Parker and Stone also take pot shots at other contemporary icons (the Saddam Hussein bit is a riot!), and having studied French history, I found the "Vive la resistance!" angle one of the funniest of the movie. Now let's talk about the music in the movie. I tend to find most musicals to be irritating, even the Woody Allen one from a few years back, but I like this musical - maybe because it makes fun of musicals! Besides the song about the uncle, you've got "It's Easy, MMMKay," "Kyle's Mom is a..." and, of course "Blame Canada." Oddly enough, shortly after "Blame Canada" lost at the Oscars to a Phil Collins tune, Parker and Stone lampooned Phil Collins in a recent episode which also involved Ritalin and an unorthodox teenage rock group. How do I know that this movie had an impact on society? It's easy, MMMKay. After our national anthem, what do you suppose the most popular song was at the recent Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill? That's right. "Blame Canada"!
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Klumps+Plot=Shmaltz+Dirt
13 August 2000
What they should have called this movie was "Let's take the funniest parts of the first Nutty Professor, do them to death, and fill in the rest of the movie with...," I think you get the idea. Unlike the 1996 edition of The Nutty Professor, I did not find the Klumps funny in the sequel. Rather, they were crude and silly. The plot was very unoriginal - except for the fact that Janet Jackson played the leading lady in this one rather than Jada Pinkett, it almost mirrored the first one. And the jokes? Also rude, crude, and disgusting. Now let me get this perfectly clear. I am not a prude. I like dirty jokes, but they have to be good jokes, which these ones were not. Perhaps the funniest line, I thought, was the one which Buddy Love compares the taste of some red punch to Mogen David wine. Do I have anything good to say about the movie? Yes. Freda Payne played a great cameo, and I also enjoyed the excerpt of "Cape Fear" with Gregory Peck. I think I'll pass on the next Nutty Professor sequel should they write another one.
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Get Shorty (1995)
10/10
Where's my money? Where's my @#$*ing money?
3 August 2000
Based on the best selling novel by Elmore Leonard, "Get Shorty" is a movie about Hollywood society, about the underworld, but most of all, it is a movie about movies. It parodies several facets of the motion picture industry from the B-horror movies produced by Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), to the Hollywood star who is dwarfed by the size of his ego, in this case Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), to the underlying mob connections to the industry. Every character contributes to the plot in a significant way, including Zimm, Chili Palmer (John Travolta), and Karen Flores (Rene Russo). Which brings us to Ray Barboni (Dennis Farina). The jive talking, wise cracking, smooth operating tough guy from Miami is a ruthless gangster who is out to get Chili, but you can't help but like his character. Some of his lines are among the best in the movie - after punching a woman in the face, he says "I want us to be friends, and both you and I know that friends...don't hit each other" - and the scene of him sitting on the toilet when the phone rings is, in my opinion, easily the most powerful in "Get Shorty." Also keep an eye on the subplots involving Yayo, Momo, Bear, and Bull, not to mention the cameo appearances by Harvey Keitel, Bette Midler, and Miguel Sandoval. It may take a couple times of watching the movie to figure out exactly what is going on, but that also means more opportunities to watch Ray Barboni torment his chauffeur about "the smog being the reason for the beautiful sunsets."
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Silent Movie (1976)
Mel must have washed his hands before the movie...
17 June 2000
No, you don't need special effects, profanity, or 9:30/8:30 central subject matter to produce a successful movie. Just ask Mel Brooks. He did it with "The Silent Movie"! The movie parodied everything from Henny Youngman's one liners to "The Wizard of Oz," as Beth DiLeo pointed out, to some of Mel's earlier films. After all, it is about producers. In a departure from the cameo roles in many of his movies, Brooks stars as the movie mogul Mel Funn. Along with Marty Eggs (ne Feldman) and Dom Bell (ne DeLuise), they attempt to produce a silent movie to avoid a takeover by the evil corporation of Engulf & Devour. After successfully signing the likes of James Caan, Burt Reynolds, Anne Bancroft, and Barry Levinson to contracts, they try to do the same with Marcel Marceau. His reaction - "NO!" - was the only line of the movie, and perhaps the only one period during the legendary mime's career. This led to one of the funniest 'lines' of the movie: "What did he say?" / "I don't know. I don't speak French." Brooks film fans have probably noticed that the theme from "The Silent Movie" is similar to "Jews in Space" from "The History of the World," and the title track from "Men in Tights." As is the case of many of Brooks' movies, if you like one, you will probably like them all, and this one definitely fits that category.
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10/10
"P.O. I'm Workin' for Mel Brooks!"
17 June 2000
Mel Brooks and his usual cast of characters (Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, et al) are at it again in "Blazing Saddles." Korman plays Hedley Lamarr, a corrupt politician who is determined to acquire a tract of land occupied by a western town. To ease his plot, he dispatches a black sheriff named Bart (Cleavon Little) to oversee the rule of law in 'the village of the Johnsons.' To find out what happens from there, see the movie. Some of the gags in the movie are so funny, you might almost forget about the plot. These include the Camptown Ladies scene, Mel Brooks as a Yiddish Indian, and, of course the part where they're eating beans around a campfire. Songs are always an integral part of Brooks comedies, and this one is no different; included in the film are "The Theme From Blazing Saddles," "The Ballad of Lili von Schtupp," and "The French Mistake." For the record, Schtupp is a western seductress played by Madeline Kahn. Also take note of ex-Detroit Lion Alex Karras' performance as Mongo. Rent "Blazing Saddles" when you get the chance, or "...you'll be surprised YOU'RE doing the French mistake. Voila!"
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All in the Family (1971–1979)
Archie's Bunker of Craziness at 704 Hauser Street
10 June 2000
To paraphrase Archie Bunker's presidential hero, let me make this perfectly clear. "All in the Family" is the undisputed KING of the sitcoms! Norman Lear's piece de resistance was a trailblazer among situation comedies when it first aired; viewers who were tired of lame shows featuring lovey-dovey, unrealistic families could finally watch a half hour of 'real life' on the prime time dial. The genius behind "All in the Family" was that its serious message of intergenerational civil warfare in the United States was presented in a comical manner. What blue collar worker who stood for law, order, and establishment couldn't empathize with Archie's (Carroll O'Connor) contempt of a son in law like Mike "Meat Head" Stivic (Rob Reiner)? Not only was he of a different ethnicity and religion, but his beliefs reflected attitudes far too liberal for Archie's tolerance. Caught in the middle was Archie's scatterbrained "Dingbat" but logical pragmatist wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), and their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers). Anything and everything controversial in the 1970's was fair game as a topic for each weekly show. Who can forget the episode when Archie went to retrieve Mike from a protest because Edith worried about the Meat Head getting arrested, only for him to wind up arrested? Or when Archie was stuck in an elevator with an expecting Puerto Rican couple and a conservative black businessman? Even their dialogues can be memorable. In one episode, Archie argued that he didn't have the luxury that minorities got years later in that he "...never had nobody fight for [his] job." Edith's retort? "No, his uncle got it for him." Ironically, "Those Were the Days," the theme song for "All in the Family," is a nostalgic ballad for the thirties, one of the most difficult decades in recent history. "All in the Family" was one of the only comedies where the most memorable character was the straight man. Or as Sammy Davis Jr. put it, Archie Bunker was "the whitest guy I know." "All in the Family" is certainly a breath of fresh air in the present day, when political correctness has drained popular culture of most examples of tasteful humour.
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