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Get Smart, Again! (1989)
'Nude Bomb' vs. 'Get Smart, Again!'
'The Nude Bomb' might be the worst TV reunion movie ever, and 'Get Smart, Again!' might be the best.
'Get Smart, Again!' is genuinely funny, and has a storyline that actually works on its own. The writers, director, and producer of 'Get Smart, Again!' realized they had to create a funny, well-written script before filming ever started -- and they did.
Too many reunion movies assume that nostalgia for the old show will be enough to satisfy fans. But it isn't enough. 'Get Smart, Again!' is as well-written as many episodes of the old show. And it was great to see virtually the entire surviving cast -- Adams, Feldon, Bernie Kopell, and the actors who played Larrabee and Agent 13. Plus, the choice of Harold Gould to play the villain was inspired, since he'd played a villain in an episode of the original show.
Excellent made-for-TV movie -- as I say, maybe the best TV reunion ever.
George Burns Comedy Week (1985)
Hilarious Series: Fresh, Inventive, Clever
This was a terrific comedy anthology series that aired on CBS in 1985. Every week, it was something different. It was a half-hour show, with each episode shot like a movie, without a laugh track.
Two episodes stand out. In one, a town has fallen on hard times. To get money from the federal government, the townspeople fake an earthquake. I can't do it justice, but the idea, and its execution, were absolutely hilarious.
In another one, a guy moves into a neighborhood. He meets the other husbands in the neighborhood, and they talk him into going on a weekend outing with them. Turns out, these bland, middle-class suburban husbands moonlight as Central American mercenaries. They take the new guy to Central America as they hunt for a war criminal. But the funny part is, they never change their "middle-class suburbanite" demeanor. They're firing grenades into a military strongman's compound, while they carry on a conversation about the best way to battle crabgrass.
These were two of the funniest TV programs I've ever seen. I would love it if this show came out on DVD. Unfortunately, I doubt many people would buy it. The show wasn't on the air that long, and I doubt most people remember it.
Date Movie (2006)
Burn The Negative
Quite possibly the worst movie I've ever seen, in more than 30 years of viewing movies. As many have pointed out, this movie does little more than re-create scenes from other movies. I expect SOME original material in a comedy. Endless copying of OTHER movies just doesn't cut it -- especially when you ADD nothing witty or satirical to the reference.
To make matters worse, 'Date Movie' is also peppered with the most juvenile, witless "gross-out" humor I've seen in a long time. (SOME MIGHT CONSIDER THIS A SPOILER) The liposuction scene, ANYTHING with the cat, etc. When I saw this movie, the audience was doing more groaning than laughing.
Any comedy -- even a low-grade "satire" like this -- still needs a coherent, logical storyline and some three-dimensional characters. This is just a bunch of repeated scenes from other movies with some junior high school-level gross-out humor thrown in. This thing barely ran an hour!
This genre has been on the decline for a while, thanks to the 'Scary Movie' series and stuff like 'Not Another Teen Movie.' As far as I'm concerned, 'Date Movie' is the last nail in the coffin.
Why did Alyson Hannigan do this?
First Family (1980)
Great Cast, Lousy Script
This had the potential to be a great movie. The cast is first rate, Buck Henry CAN write a good script (though he didn't do it here), and the basic idea is sound. But the storyline is bad. (Even a comedy has to have a interesting plot that makes sense.) And the script is weak, with too many unfunny scenes and jokes. That's really the bottom line: this movie just isn't funny. It's a shame, because this is a first-rate cast. Bob Newhart is one of my all-time favorite comedians. Madeline Kahn, Gilda Radner, Richard Benjamin, Fred Willard, Harvey Korman, and the rest deserve better than bathroom jokes. Newhart is the best thing in the movie. He's actually quite believable as the president of the United States. Usually, fictional presidents are played by the same type of actors: Hal Holbrook, Gregory Peck, etc. The mild-mannered Newhart is a nice change of pace. I wish someone had really written a solid, funny script for him. With the right material, either in a movie or a sitcom, Newhart could be a very funny fictional president. I hate to keep belaboring the point, but this movie was bad when it came out of the typewriter. Bad script equals bad movie. Still, I don't hate watching it, because of Bob Newhart. As I watch it, I keep imagining the better movie that COULD have been.
Path to War (2002)
Great Movie, With One Flaw
"Path To War" is a fascinating, mesmerizing movie with a terrific script, a great director, and marvelous acting all around. To me, it only has one flaw. I never quite believe Michael Gambon as LBJ. I'm sure he's a fine actor. It's always tough for an actor to play a real person whose real voice and mannerisms are so familiar to us. (And who's more familiar than a president of the United States?) But for whatever reason, Gambon just never convinces me. His effort to capture LBJ's Texas accent doesn't work. Simply put, he just doesn't sound like Lyndon Johnson. Gambon's effort at a Southern/Western-type accent ends up sounding unlike any accent I've ever heard. It doesn't sound natural. Even Gambon seems uncomfortable at times. There are even times when I can't understand what Gambon is saying! I had to rewind my tape a time or two just to understand some dialogue. Next, he's not physically imposing enough to play Lyndon Johnson. In most roles, I would say that an actor's height is unimportant. But LBJ used his size (he was 6'3") to intimidate his aides and his political colleagues. It's an important part of Johnson's personality. And Gambon doesn't capture that. In short, it just didn't feel like Lyndon Baines Johnson. I know it seems like I'm dumping on Michael Gambon. That's not my intent. He seems like an excellent actor who was simply miscast. I'll say it again: it's hard to play a real president. Those are big shoes to fill. I didn't buy Anthony Hopkins as Richard Nixon or Gary Sinise as Harry Truman. I still enjoyed the movie, because everything else about it was terrific. It had a fantastic, literate script and wonderful performances from Alec Baldwin and Donald Sutherland. I just wish the LBJ character had been more convincing.
Much Better Than Its Reputation
I admit it -- I like "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo." And I don't consider myself a fan of lowbrow TV. I hate stuff like "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Baywatch," and I don't watch wrestling. "Lobo" was the show critics loved to hate when it was on the air. And since then, the word "Lobo" itself has become synonymous with bad TV.
But it's not a bad show. First, the cast had a genuine chemistry. Claude Akins and Mills Watson had a terrific rapport. If they had been on any other show, critics would have praised them as a terrific comic team. They really clicked. (On any other show, Watson would have become a superstar.) The rest of the cast was solid, and the show had good guest stars, including Pat Paulsen, Sid Caesar, and Larry Storch.
And while it wasn't Shakespeare, the writing was much better than the critics would have you believe. Unlike "The Dukes of Hazzard," the show did have different story lines. It wasn't the same show every week, like the Dukes. (And it didn't have anywhere near as many chases as the Dukes.)
I believe that the "Dukes" connection is the main reason critics hated the show. "Lobo" came along at the same time as the Dukes, it was also set in the South, it also had car chases, and it also had scantily-clad women. It was easy to dismiss "Lobo" as a Dukes clone because of some similarities on the surface.
But look closer, and you'll see the two shows were very different. "Lobo" had better scripts, better performances, better production values, etc.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying "Lobo" is a great show; I'm not suggesting it didn't have problems. There were too many car crashes. The show's writing could have been sharper. It should have made more of an attempt to SATIRIZE police shows. And the move to Atlanta in the second season was a mistake. It was much better in Orly County.
But it's not junk, as some critics would have you believe. It's better than most of the stuff on TV today. And I'll say it again: Akins and Watson were a terrific team.
And the first season theme song -- sung by Frankie Laine -- was fantastic. I'd love to hear it on a TV theme song CD.
Another Great Show Cancelled Too Soon
"Lateline" was a well-written, wonderfully-acted sitcom that assumed the audience had a brain. And unlike just about every OTHER sitcom on TV, "Lateline" was about more than just sex. For those reasons, it didn't last.
I guess the thing that really made the difference was the show's tone. It had funny situations and dialogue, not one-liners. That separated it from everything else on TV. The cast was fantastic: Al Franken, Robert Foxworth, Miguel Ferrer, and the gorgeous Megyn Price. They all acted and sounded like REAL PEOPLE, not sitcom characters shouting jokes. The show had a laid-back tone sorely missing on TV today.
If you didn't already know, "Lateline" was a spoof of network TV journalism. I work in TV news myself, and I can tell you: In addition to being funny, it's easily the most realistic depiction of journalism I've ever seen on a TV sitcom. ("Murphy Brown" isn't even CLOSE to getting it right.)
Fantastic show! NBC was crazy to cancel it. The network should have slipped it into its "Must See TV" Thursday lineup, and it would have run for years. Why does junk like "Suddenly Susan" last for years, while "Lateline" gets the shaft?
Please, TV Land and/or Comedy Central: rerun "Lateline"!
Funny, Unique Show
CBS's decision to cancel "Thanks" says a lot about the sad state of modern-day network television. This show at least attempted to be different. Unlike almost every other sitcom on TV, "Thanks" wasn't set in New York, wasn't about a bunch of whiney twentysomethings, and wasn't just a collection of tired sex jokes. "Thanks" probably never had a chance. It wasn't the kind of show a focus group would have approved. Maybe it wasn't the best show of all time, maybe it was imperfect, but at least it tried to bring a fresh kind of comedy to network TV. It was different. It didn't try to be the umpteenth "Friends" clone. It deserved a longer run, in part because it dared to be original. "Thanks" lasted five or six episodes. "Suddenly Susan" ran for years. That's modern television in a nutshell.
The Good Life (1994)
Good Thing I'm Union!
Absolutely hilarious sitcom! It had a fresh, distinctive comic tone, unlike anything else on the air before or since. The acting was great, the writing was crisp, and the situations and characters were unique. And above all, it wasn't just another sex-sex-sex sitcom, like every OTHER show on TV. So naturally, it was misinterpreted by critics, ignored by audiences, and only lasted a few months.
Caponera and Carey had a fantastic chemistry. If the show had lasted, we'd be talking about them as one of TV's great teams. Eve Gordon was hot(and funny) as Caponera's wife. The whole cast was good. They had a fantastic rapport.
"The Good Life" ran two or three months, tops. It's just another example of NBC squandering a good show while they keep garbage on the air for years. "The Good Life" and a wonderful Al Franken sitcom called "Lateline" got the shaft while junk like "Suddenly Susan" ran for years. What a way to run a railroad!
One fast anecdote: in one episode, Monty Hoffman's character Tommy is playing ping-pong when the boss walks through the office. Instead of scrambling to get back to work, Tommy just shrugs and says "Good thing I'm union!" I still use that line.
Where can we get this gem on tape? I'd buy every episode offered without hesitation.
She's Great; The Show Isn't
I'm writing this after seeing the second episode of the show. It was much better than the pilot, though almost anything would be. In a nutshell, Chenoweth is wonderful. She's beautiful, talented, and full of life. When she's on screen, the show is tolerable. Without her, it's dead.
I have to ask this question: do we really need ANOTHER show set in New York City? I have nothing against New York, and there's nothing wrong with having a FEW shows set in the Big Apple. (Indeed, "Seinfeld" and "All in the Family" were great shows that SHOULD have been set in New York.)
But enough already! It seems like NBC can't do a sitcom set anywhere BUT New York! There's a whole COUNTRY out here, guys. Would it kill you to do a show in Peoria, Paducah, or Pocatello, Idaho? America doesn't stop at the Hudson River.
Back to "Kristin": keep Chenoweth and lose the office setting. Jon Tenney doesn't add a thing. In episode two, the scene with Kristin at her church was by far the best scene. Play up the "innocent Oklahoma girl tries to break into show business" angle.
The pilot was bad. The second episode was better. I'm rooting for this show to improve each week. Kristin Chenoweth deserves a good show. She could be a TV superstar if a network can fashion a quality show around her.
Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)
Funny Movie; Its Critics Miss The Point
I'm a fan of this movie. I went to see it in 1999 because I like looking at Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards, but I was stunned when it turned out to be a sharp, smart, dark satire of not only beauty pageants, but also small-town American life. The movie is filled with bright performances and clever one-liners and scenes. I'll confess: not everything works. But it has more laughs than just about any other movie I've seen in the last two or three years.
I'm baffled by the hatred some people have for this movie. And I'm amused by the criticisms of the performances. Some of the people who've criticized the Minnesota accents aren't from the Midwest. I'm from the South. I'll criticize bad Southern accents when I hear them, but I'm not an expert on a good Minnesota dialect. Are DDG's critics? If a real, authentic, bona fide Minnesotan tells me the movie's accents are lousy, I'll believe it.
I am a Christian person. Many critics of DDG, including some who have commented here, seem to think this is an anti-Christian movie. I don't see it that way. I disagree with their assessment of the scene with Denise Richards singing to a Christ doll on a cross. To me, the moviemakers are satirizing people who publicly pat themselves on the back for their religious beliefs. In effect, Denise Richards' character is saying "Look at me -- I'm a Superchristian!" Funny movie. I give it three stars out of four.
High School High (1996)
Not Great, But Still Worth Seeing
Yes, I'll grant you this movie is less than perfect. The storyline doesn't always make sense. Not every joke works, but the movie's batting average is high enough to justify seeing it. And it's funnier to me than every Adam Sandler/David Spade/Chris Farley movie I've ever seen, in part because the three of them are nothing but annoying. Jon Lovitz, on the other, is a likable everyman you can root for. He carries the movie. Lovitz is an underrated comedian who always makes the material seem better than it is. His delivery and timing help make this movie enjoyable. And of course, Tia Carrere is absolutely gorgeous.
I'm not saying "High School High" is a classic. But I was amused by it. Like any Zucker production, the gags come fast and furious. They don't all work, but enough hit the target to make it worth seeing.
He & She (1967)
Fantastic Show Ahead Of Its Time
Someone should rerun "He & She" on a regular basis (are you listening, TV Land?) because it's one of the true underrated gems in TV sitcom history. The cast and the writing are all first-rate, and it's one of the few sitcoms of the '60s to be filmed in front of a live studio audience, which means there's no annoying laugh track. It really is a forerunner of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Cheers", and perhaps it came along too soon. But it's a witty, intelligent show that tried to do something different. I've caught a few episodes of it here and there. (TV Land used to run an occasional episode every once in a while, usually part of a "box set" of shows with a common theme.) "He & She" deserves to be seen again.
Boston Common (1996)
Underrated Show That Wears Well Over Time
"Boston Common" was a good show, but never one of my favorites. But in the years since NBC canceled it, TV in general has gone from bad to worse, and now "Boston Common" looks fantastic compared to current shows. At least it has an original premise; when you think about it, there really haven't been that many shows set on a college campus. The cast was good, the writing was clever, and the show offered something new. I wasn't a huge fan at the time, but I now I realize that good shows are so rare, we need to hang on to them when they come along.
As Usual, Stone Gets Some Facts Wrong
Oliver Stone is a brilliant filmmaker from a technical point of view. Visually, "Nixon" is always stunning and never boring, even with a three-hour run time. He attempts to make new film footage look 40, 50, or even 60 years old at various points in the movie, and he succeeds. And that's not easy. Many directors try it and fail. Stone goes the extra mile to make a movie LOOK convincing, and he deserves points for that. And of course, the acting is spectacular. Anthony Hopkins is one of the finest actors of our time, and he does a spectacular job playing Nixon. Joan Allen IS Pat Nixon. J.T. Walsh, James Woods, Bob Hoskins, Powers Boothe, Mary Steenburgen, and the other actors are fantastic, as you would expect. The problem? As usual, Stone doesn't let the facts get in the way of his story. There are just too many moments in this movie that don't ring true, either because they PROBABLY didn't happen, or because we KNOW they didn't happen. Let's not even go into Stone's usual conspiratorial claptrap. In Stone's world, everyone from the CIA to Howdy Doody was mixed up in the Kennedy assassination. Suffice it to say we get a healthy dose of this nonsense in "Nixon", all of it unsupported by anything remotely resembling evidence. But since I knew this was an Oliver Stone movie, I knew going in that I was going to have to tolerate his usual shtick. But there OTHER things -- other points of history -- that are a little off. First, the movie claims Nixon entered the 1968 presidential contest only after LBJ's withdrawal in March of that year. Ridiculous. Nixon had been running for some time by that point. In fact, Nixon planned to run in '68 as early as '64. He even thought of running in '64, but concluded that LBJ was unbeatable. He campaigned hard for Republicans in the midterm election of '66, stored up a lot of favors, and used those favors when he ran in '68. In fact, by the time LBJ withdrew in late March, the New Hampshire primary had already taken place. And Nixon won it. So there's no way he could have entered the race AFTER LBJ withdrew. Next, the movie implies that Robert Kennedy was well on his way to winning the Democratic nomination in '68, but his assassination stopped it. (And of course, Stone implies that the Great Conspiracy Machine caused RFK's death.) Most political observers at the time believed that Vice President Hubert Humphrey was the likely Democratic nominee, even without RFK's assassination. In the last edition BEFORE the shooting, U.S. News & World Report predicted Humphrey's nomination. The reason? Delegates. In those days, there were fewer primaries, and they had a smaller impact. Most convention delegates were chosen by other means: state conventions, caucuses, etc. Labor unions, Democratic officeholders, and party regulars really controlled the nomination process, and those people preferred Humphrey. Even Ted Sorensen, an aide to RFK in '68, admits that Kennedy just wouldn't have had the delegates to win the nomination.
(While we're on the subject of the 1968 campaign, I'm a little disappointed that Stone didn't devote more time to the Nixon-Humphrey-Wallace contest of the fall. It really is one of the most interesting elections in American history, given the closeness of the race, the issues at stake, and the personalities of the three men. What's more, it was a race in which Nixon saw a 15-point lead evaporate in six weeks, and a race in which Nixon's questionable dealings with the South Vietnamese may have altered the peace process, thus preventing Humphrey from winning. There could have been a Nixon scandal of Watergate proportions EVEN BEFORE Nixon was president.) Next, the movie claims Nixon refused to contest the close 1960 election between Nixon and Kennedy. That's debatable. According to a recent Newsweek, printed after the close Bush-Gore election, Nixon actually did contest the results in ten close states. The recounts lasted into December, but did not change the outcome anywhere. There are other things, but given this limited space, I won't go into them. But there's something about this movie that disturbed me more than any single factual error. Simply put, I'm leery of any movie that puts fictional dialogue into real people's mouths. There are scenes with Richard and Pat Nixon alone together, talking about their marriage and their feelings for one another. I'm not comfortable SPECULATING about what they MIGHT have said. We'll never know. Pat Nixon said some hurtful things to her husband in this movie. How do we know she ever really did that? I'm not a fan of the real Nixon. He did things in his political career that hurt a lot of people. He questioned the loyalty of a lot of good people -- Truman, Stevenson, Acheson, etc. He was only slightly more subtle than Joe McCarthy. His dirty tricks were an insult to every American voter. He got what he deserved in 1974. But even Nixon doesn't deserve the portrait of him painted by Oliver Stone. In this movie, he does things he didn't do in real life and says things he never really said. Stone plays too fast and loose with the facts to be taken seriously as a historian. It's a shame, because the man is a brilliant moviemaker. It's the content that bothers me.
Hilarious From Beginning To End
It's the best Pink Panther movie by far, and one of the few movies I've ever seen that successfully parodies the then-current occupant of the White House. An actor named Dick Crockett is great playing Gerald Ford, the president when this movie came out. Movies generally never mention the current president, let alone show an actor playing him, perhaps out of concern that it would "date" the movie. But Blake Edwards did it anyway, with great results. Granted, this isn't the most important element of the movie, but it's a nice touch that deserves to be mentioned.
Cold Turkey (1971)
Hilarious, Underrated Satire
Fantastic movie comedy -- easily one of the best satires of American life ever put on film. Norman Lear wrote and directed this gem just before moving on to "All In The Family". "Cold Turkey" and "All In The Family" are his two greatest creations. It begins with the script. It's funny from beginning to end. The script has clever dialogue, inventive ideas, an eye for detail. I can't do it justice. Just see the movie. The cast includes many of my all-time favorites, including Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Tom Poston, Barnard Hughes, and Jean Stapleton. You'll see a lot of people you recognize from other movies and sitcoms of the 1970s, including many who turned up on "All In The Family" and other Lear shows. "Cold Turkey" is also the best movie showcase for possibly the greatest comedy team of all time. Bob & Ray are brilliant satirizing newscasters of the time, like Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Paul Harvey, and Hugh Downs. If you're not a Bob & Ray fan, hopefully this movie will make you one. Randy Newman's soundtrack is terrific. If it ever came out on a CD, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. And it helps that the movie, which is set in a small Iowa town, was actually filmed in a small Iowa town, rather than some Hollywood backlot. It gives the movie a feeling of authenticity. This movie should have been on the AFI 100 Best Comedies list. See it.
Robert Kennedy and His Times (1985)
Oversimplified Look At A Complex Man & His Complex Times
I'm a Democrat, but I have mixed opinions about Robert Kennedy. He had many good qualities (like his opposition to the Vietnam War, and his support for civil rights) but he had some less-than-impressive traits, too (such as the long delay in his conversion to the civil rights movement). And I think this movie glossed over the bad, over-emphasized the good, and left us with an inaccurate picture of RFK as some kind of saint. No one is as perfect as Robert Kennedy appears in this miniseries. In this movie, Kennedy's opponents are always wrong, while Kennedy's always right. Real life isn't like that. I know that in any movie based on real events, you have to condense things and cut a few corners here and there. But this movie condenses too much, and treats complex people and issues as if they were black and white. I'll give the movie credit for one thing: any movie that gets people interested in history has some merit. If you watched "Robert Kennedy & His Times" and it inspired you to pick up a good history book, it was worthwhile. At least in the book, you'll get the full story.