Ha ha!

You certainly never know what movie he'll review next!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Burl reviews C.H.U.D.! (1984)



Hi, Burl here with a review! Ha ha, I’m still playing catch-up, so I’m going to review movies as though the chuds were on my tail! Yes, it’s true, I watched C.H.U.D. again recently, and was reminded of the times I watched it as an adolescent and appreciated the mid-low-level New York horror rung on which it sat – lower rungs of course being occupied by movies like Basket Case and Street Trash and Troma films, and the higher by, oh, I guess The Sentinel and stuff like that! Rosemary’s Baby would be at the peak of this ramshackle pyramid I’m attempting to describe!
What I’m talking about are not only budgetary considerations, but a level of street grime that renders the horror sort of realistic in a Big Apple sort of a way! C.H.U.D., which largely takes place among the street people and soup kitchens of the city, as well as beneath it in the sewers, achieves a very tangible level of grot, which is probably its most valuable asset!
It’s a story of monsters, ha ha! These entities, with their lighbulb eyes and obvious halitosis, lurk in the sewers, tragic mutations created thanks to the radioactive waste stored beneath the streets, which renders ordinary subterranean hoboes chudlike! Above grade we find a photographer played by John Heard from Too Scared to Scream and Heaven Help Us, and an activist for social justice played by Daniel Stern from Get Crazy and It’s My Turn, and a cop called Bosch, played by Christopher Curry from F/X! There’s also the terrific Kim Greist, from Brazil and Manhunter, as the photographer’s ladyfriend!
There’s an almost Jaws-like quality to the relationships between the trio of males! Heard is our Roy Scheider, gaping around at the strange new waters he’s navigating; Stern, the hippie street preacher, takes the part of the sharp, likeable younger man, bearded and iconoclastic; and Curry is the blustering captain! Dotting the film also are such familiar faces as John Bedford “Trading Places” Lloyd, Frankie ”Maximum Overdrive” Faison and Jon “Miller’s Crossing” Polito! Ha ha, even John “Matinee” Goodman shows up at the very end, only to become chud-chow pretty quick!
But the real stars of the picture are the piranha-mouthed chuds! They don’t actually spend much time on screen, these old boys, and it might have been nice to spend a little more time with them! At the same moment, while I’m strangely fond of the creatures, I don’t blame the director for trying to cut around them!
A little more pep in the direction, and in general, would have been nice, and the atmosphere is undeniably one of actors slumming; but this is in many ways a superior iteration of the 80s rubber monster genre, close kin to The Outing, Rawhead Rex, The Kindred and Pumpkinhead! I’m going to give C.H.U.D. two half-bums!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Burl reviews Hush! (2016)



Ha ha, quiet everybody, it’s Burl, here to review a new-style slasher picture called Hush! It’s a bit more refined than your typical 80s-era hack-‘em-up, but shares some real similarities! Ha ha, for example, both this picture and Friday the 13th part 4 feature corkscrew deaths, ha ha; but in contrast to the Jason movie, this picture really skimps on the spaz-dancing!
The situation here is that a lady novelist with hearing issues is living alone in a house out in the woods, with only her fluffy white cat (who seems marked for death from the outset) and a pair of neighbours, with whom she is friends, and her indecision as to how she should end her latest thriller!
All of this is interrupted by brutal murder and mayhem! First to go is the neighbor lady, and her demise demonstrates the mean-spiritedness of this particular slasher-murderer! He wears a mask at first, the usual creepy featureless mask that we’ve seen in pictures like this since Halloween, but he removes it soon enough to reveal a face in need of a shave, ha ha! And with his crossbow and set a’ steak knives he clearly means business! Still, of course, our deaf lady Maddie is not going to take all this lying down, and, as in Misery, she will use everything in her writer’s toolkit to defeat the bearded menace! (But unlike in Misery, that will not include actual items in the toolkit, such as a typewriter, ha ha!)
The movie is not badly done, and there are some solid suspense scenes! Of course her hearing impairment is a factor, but not as much so as I’d thought it would be, and the incorporation of new technologies is not as clumsily done as in most modern horror pictures! There’s nothing really stellar here; no new ground broken; and while clearly that wasn’t the intention it might have been nice of the movie to give us a little something to remember it by! It’s the kind of movie that invites the application of the word “exercise,” like something that would be pulled off by the more talented students in the film school if their end-of-semester assignment was to demonstrate rote suspense! As such I will award Hush two unexpectedly hale and hardy pussycats! Ha ha!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Burl reviews Raw Deal! (1986)



Ha ha, it’s Burl here, neither drinking nor baking, but trying to play catch-up on all the reviews I haven’t written lately! For example, it’s now time to look at a slightly oddball Arnie picture that I rewatched some weeks ago and should have reviewed back then, but didn’t! Anyway, better late than never, ha ha! Today’s picture, Raw Deal, hasn’t survived in the cultural memory banks as well as other Arnies of the era, like Commando or Predator, and perhaps the reason for this is that it’s so resolutely unmemorable, seemingly by design!
But all these attempts to be a normal action-drama upend the narrative and make Raw Deal one of the stranger pictures Arnie made in the 80s! For one thing, he’s given a scene of domestic drama to play, and it comes off more like a skit from Saturday Night Live! Ha ha, that’s the one where his drunken, resentful wife throws a cake at him, and he advises her not to drink and bake!
Ha ha, she’s drunken and resentful because Arnie, who used to be an FBI agent, was forced to resign and become a smalltown sheriff in a place where everybody only talks about agriculture! The scene ends tenderly, with Arnie carrying his passed-out wife to bed and then sipping on a whiskey; but when Arnie’s friend Hyarri comes knocking with tales of Chicago gagsters who must be stopped, the muscleman doesn’t hesitate to fake his own death-by-megaexplosion and take on a new identity in order to embed himself in the Windy City underworld!
From then on he assumes the persona of Florida sharpie “Joseph P. Brenner,” eager to work for badman Patrovita, of the Chicago mafia! Ha ha, perhaps to make up for the fact that, as played by Sam Wanamaker, Patrovita is not a particularly memorable villain, there is a tripartite hierarchy within the mob gang: Patrovita; his right-hand man Rocca (played by Paul “The End of August” Shenar), and Rocca’s right-hand man Max, as essayed by Robert Davi from Wild Thing! Schwarzenegger sports an expensive lifestyle suit and pulls a bit of a Yojimbo, pitting the Patrovita gang against a rival enterprise! He meanwhile keeps in touch with Hyarri (played by Darren McGavin from Hangar 18) and embarks on a chaste romance with a lady gambler played by Kathryn Harrold from Into the Night! A couple of actors from Lassiter, Ed Lauter and Joe Regalbuto, figure in to all this as well! Ha ha!
Anyway, there’s some action and plenty of gunfire, and a scene in a transvestite bar, but on the whole it seems meant as a step up on the classiness scale for Schwarzenegger: an action-drama rather than the pure action pictures he’d theretofore made his stock-in-trade! They hired a real director for the thing (John Irvin, who brought us Ghost Story) and a big deal crew (Alex “The Keep” Thomson was the cinematographer; Anne V. “In the Line of Fire” Coates the editor)! But, though it has a few good bits of dialogue and some durable if unexciting performances, it’s also rarely exciting or thrilling or funny, features an intolerable musical score and is generally unmemorable! In those ways, and also with the Chicago setting, it reminded me strongly of Next of Kin, ha ha! I give Raw Deal one and a half guys from the dress shop!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Burl reviews The Towering Inferno! (1974)



Snap, crackle, pop, it’s Burl, here to review that most burnt sienna of movies, The Towering Inferno! Ha ha, I saw this on TV a number of times as a kid, and though it was no Snowbeast or Curse of King Tut’s Tomb or This House Possessed, it was and is an artifact of the time with powerfully Proustian capabilities!
Of course there was no mistaking this for the TV movie it sometimes seems, for whatever reason, desperate to imitate! Ha ha, it sometimes seems like the world’s longest episode of Emergency! (That was at one time my favourite show, by the way! Still like it!) The production values are obviously, even to a kid, much larger than any TV production, and the cast of high prestige! It was the presence of Fred “Ghost Story” Astaire that most impressed me when I was young, because, thanks to my mother’s specific thespian enthusiasms, which she seems to have inherited unchanged from he own mother, I imagined that Astaire (along with Bette Davis) must be the biggest star in the history of the world!
Of course I also knew of Paul Newman and William Holden: they were after all the stars of When Time Ran Out, the subsequent Irwin Allen disaster extravaganza we all know and admire! And Steve McQueen was from The Blob, don’t forget! Faye Dunaway from The First Deadly Sin; Richard Chamberlain from Bells; Robert Vaughn from Starship Invasions; Don Gordon from The Beast Within; and Cluny Brown herself, Jennifer Jones: all of these and more were familiar and impressive faces! Ha ha: as anyone who talks about this movie says, what a cast!
The soapy stuff bogs it down a bit, as it must – as seems to be its job, ha ha! But the fire scenes are impressive, and the celebrity deaths, which frequently seem random (particularly incidents featuring Jones and, separately, Vaughn) have a certain impact! You won’t soon forget the rather blundersome demise of Wagner, who boasts of his fleet feet, then catches afire immediately he attempts to run through a burning room! It’s all rather horrific, I must say!
But the fire is eventually put out by way of enormous water tanks conveniently placed on the roof of the building, and this plan, it seems, ought maybe to have been thought of earlier! No matter! The firefighting tactics used in the picture seem fairly realistic, not just because of all the fireman advisors listed in the credits, but because they’re so frequently unspectacular! They spray water at fires, sure, they do that a lot; but they also trudge up endless stairs and wait for things to happen! McQueen, of course, gets to keep his cool throughout, and gets a chance to lecture Newman, and extract from him a plea for help! Ha ha, no wonder old Steve asked specifically, or rather demanded, to play the part of the fire chief! And then he demanded that another big star be given the architect role, so he could be filmed talking down to them! Ha ha, McQueen, you rascally Machiavellian!
Anyway, it’s a quality picture and its extreme datedness is mostly superficial! It pushes all the buttons it means to with expert fish-stick fingers, but is nevertheless a movie I look back on every year of late around the Academy Awards, as reassuring proof that fundamentally cheeseball pictures collecting Oscar nominations is not a new phenomenon! I give The Towering Inferno two and a half breeches buoys!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Burl reviews No Man's Land! (1987)



Hi, it’s Burl, reviewing this picture as quickly as possible! Ha ha, I’ve got a number of movies queued up and ready for review, but this one, which I watched just last night, bounded to the head of the pack simply because if I don’t do it now, I’ll forget everything about the movie and won’t be able to tell you a thing except that, despite the fact that it features two actors who would famously do the loop-de-loo later in life, it’s totally forgettable!
And it most certainly is that! I was working in a video store when this one came out, and recall seeing bits and pieces of it on the video store TV! My impression was that it was one of those high-style 80s movies like Less Than Zero or To Live and Die in L.A., where the pastel clothes and the neon lights and the swimming pools and blinding white walls overwhelm just about everything else in the movie! (I’ve never seen Less Than Zero, but I quite like the Friedkin picture, just for the record! Ha ha!)
No Man’s Land turned out not to be that! Well, there are a few moments of 80s style, and those were the moments that had conned me so many years before, I guess! But mostly it’s pretty flat, like a TV movie, which makes sense because it comes from a mostly-TV director! (They say TV shows are more stylish now, but ha ha, I wouldn’t know!) There’s not much suspense in the suspense scenes, if indeed there were any suspense scenes, and the car chases were determinedly unthrilling!
I guess ultimately it’s a people picture! We follow a young rookie cop played by D.B. Sweeney from Eight Men Out as he’s recruited by Lieutenant Randy Quaid from The Wild Life and The Paper to investigate a Beverly Hills-based Porsche-theft ring! Quaid believes most fervently that trust-fund slickster Charlie Sheen, from Due Date, is the maestro behind not only the car thievery, but the murder of the previous undercover man assigned to the case! Ha ha, wasn’t he lucky to immediately find another young cop with an aptitude for repairing Porches!
Sweeney gets a mechanic job at the dealership owned by Bill Duke from Commando, but quickly becomes pals with Sheen, and quickly after that becomes sed*ced by Sheen’s party-boy lifestyle (though Sheen claims to “hate drugs” – ha ha, he can’t quite sell that line!) and his lovely if personality-free sister! Meanwhile, many, many Porches are stolen and driven around – ha ha, there seems to be hundreds of the things on every street! Of course it eventually all comes to a head, secrets are revealed, and then there’s gunfire, end of picture!
Now, I said this was a people picture, and as such the most interesting aspect about it is some of the relatively subtle characterizations, particularly where Sweeney is concerned! He doesn’t become a Sheen doppelgänger, which would be the easy way to go, but rather becomes his own, rougher sort of slickster! Sweeney doesn’t do a consistently great job of dramatizing the bifurcation he’s feeling, but, despite often seeming like a poor man’s Spader, he’s not bad! Sheen is not bad either, and a mini-gallery of character actors, including Quaid, Duke, M. Emmett Walsh from Blade Runner and Grandview U.S.A. (who gets a big credit at the beginning but disappointingly is in the movie for all of a minute near the end), Claude Earl Jones from Impulse and George Dzundza from Salem’s Lot (who was in No Mercy, No Man’s Land and No Way Out all in a row, ha ha), keep the acting generally strong! Only the sister lets the side down, I’m afraid!
It’s overlong and often dull, and could have used a great deal more style and pep! I’m likely to forget quite soon that I ever watched it, which is not a great sign! Whatever curiosity I developed about this picture back in my video store days is now satisfied, and I give No Man’s Land one crooked cop!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Burl reviews Beginning of the End! (1957)



Fss fss, it’s Burl here with another giant monster movie to review! This is one of the big bug pictures of the 1950s, but I’m not talking about one of the great ones, like Them! or even Tarantula! No, this is Beginning of the End, and while I’ve always kind of admired the apocalyptic promise of the title, the picture itself sits down on the lower rungs of the genre!
It comes from Mr. B.I.G. himself, Bert I. Gordon! We certainly know of his ways, ha ha! He liked to make things turn big and then rampage! Of course his filmography is more varied than people think – look at Necromancy or The Big Bet, or his mad bomber picture, The Mad Bomber! But mostly he liked big things on the rampage, much as Charles Band has a strange obsession with things that are but wee!
Now here we have a picture about giant grasshoppers ravaging the Midwest, and our hero is a government entomologist played with marvelous stolidity by Peter Graves from Number One With A Bullet! It seems that one night a young couple are nibbled right out of their L*vers’ Lane automobile, and then shortly after that it’s discovered that an entire town has been destroyed by fiends unknown! Graves and a lady reporter (poor, doomed Peggy Castle) get on the case, and with stunning rapidity Graves deduces that some grasshoppers must have eaten the growth hormone he and his deaf plant scientist buddy have developed in order to create giant melons! So, yes, it’s a pretty direct rip-off of Tarantula!
The deaf fellow is eaten up pretty quickly, and the scene is notable for the fact that the actor, on being confronted by the giant grasshoppers, wildly pantomimes fear but, because he’s deaf, is apparently unable to utter any sort of sound! Soon the Army is fighting the bugs too, but they get overmatched, and it’s back to the drawing board! By this point, of course, Morris Ankrum from Giant from the Unknown is involved! Soon the hoppers hit Chicago, a heckuva town, and it looks like there’s no other choice but to drop nuclear bombs on the ol’ Windy City! But wait! Graves has a crazy idea that just might work – play a grasshopper love song on a barge in the lake and let them all swim out to their doom! Ha ha!
Well, we all know about the special effects here! It’s actual grasshoppers crawling around on picture postcards of the Wrigley Building! But really, that’s not quite fair, because there are some trick effects that work perfectly well, and even manage to give the impression that facing down a giant grasshopper in real life would be terrifying! You know, in my high school science class I did a research project entitled “Do Grasshoppers Have Lips?” The conclusion I came to was definitely yes, they do, and ha ha, I can tell you that I wouldn’t like to see those lips smacking in my direction!
It’s a silly little picture of course, sitting in the mid-lower range of the Big Bug genre, but that’s a genre I like, so I had a fine time watching this one! I’m going to give it two polygraph machines!

Burl reviews Return of the Living Dead part II! (1988)



From beyond the other side of the computer screen, it’s Burl, here to review a zombie picture! Here’s another low-budgeter that I saw – snuck in to see, actually – at the theater, back when such things having a theatrical release was more common! The picture is Return of the Living Dead part II, and it’s the sequel to a picture I like very much! Ha ha, you guessed it, Return of the Living Dead! But is the sequel its equal? The short answer is ha, ha ha ha, ha ha no!
But it wasn’t as bad as I remembered, either! Usually I harbor an inordinate fondness for even junky pictures I managed to see in the movie theater while under age (Deadly Friend is another good example), but this one I felt was terrible even then! Moreover, I remembered it as being essentially gore-free: unpardonable in a zombie picture! Watching it now, it has a certain slickness which it wears well (the photography is courtesy of Robert “Inherent Vice” Elswit), and there are more gruesome moments and, yes, for lack of a better word “gore,” than I’d thought!
But, ha ha, it’s still pretty bad! It begins with a group of kids, two bullies and an everykid, who discover an Army barrel containing not just a zombie but the 2-4-5 Trioxin gas which creates them! The everykid, who’s being played by Michael Kenworthy from The Blob, is locked in a mausoleum while the bullies open the barrel and get themselves sprayed in the face by the chemical! Meanwhile two grave robbers, played by James Karen from Time Walker and Thom Matthews from Friday the 13th part 6, are roaming the same graveyard, and they too get  a few lungfulls of Trioxin!
Of course those two fellows were in the first picture, and here they are again, mystifyingly playing entirely different characters! Ha ha, of course they couldn’t have played the same characters, since they all got nuked at the end of the first installment! I guess this, rather than any attempt to maintain a standard of quality, what how they chose to bring a sense of continuity to the series! And again, they spend much of the movie dying and dead, and either not realizing that or not accepting it! They do an awful lot of wailing about it too, which gets old very quickly!
Suzanne Snyder from Weird Science is in the picture too, and a few other characters, and everyone is running around a tract home neighbourhood trying to elude the zombies, and later the Army, who, as they always like to do, have quarantined the town! There are some pretty good trick effects thrown in there, and one imagines a constantly stressed and exhausted makeup effects crew; but on the other hand there are lots of dumb gags! Some are, if unoriginal, at least acceptably dumb, like the severed hand giving the f*nger; others are so dumb as to cause wincing and shaking of the head, like the dancing Michael Jackson zombie!
It’s almost aggressively forgettable, which may be its greatest sin! Too bad, since it comes from the director of the most assuredly unforgettable King Frat! See that one when you get a chance! But know this: you may already have seen Return of the Living Dead part II and just don’t remember! Ha ha! I give it one and a half Army truck driver doobies!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Burl reviews Big Trouble in Little China! (1986)



Ha ha, this is ol’ Burl talking at you from the Pork Chop Express, here to tell whoever’s listening that John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China, the picture he made right after Starman, is still one of the most enjoyable movies the 1980s ever produced! And, ha ha for a guy like Burl that’s saying a lot! Yes, I remember going to see this one in the theater with my good pal Carnee! We watched it, then, as the lights came up and the end credits scrolled, Carnee and I just looked at one another and without a word settled back in our seats to wait for the next screening! Ha ha!
And guess what! Just the other day I saw it in the theatre once again! Ha ha, that’s right, it was screened along with a bunch of other elderly movies (including The Dark Crystal), and I was there! It was legitimately fun to see the gosh darn thing with an audience – a far bigger audience, I might add, than I saw in its original flop release! Ha ha! 
Of course it’s the story of hapless tough-truckin’ hombré Jack Burton, played by Kurt Russell from The Mean Season, who gets mixed up in the subterranean craziness of San Francisco’s Chinatown! Along with pals played by Dennis Dun and Victor Wong from Prince of Darkness, and an overly spunky gal played by Kim Cattrall from Porky’s, Jack sets forth to rescue a c*mely maiden with green eyes from the ancient cursed wizard Lo Pan, essayed by James Hong from Blade Runner! Ha ha, that was a plot rundown for any poor fools who haven’t seen this picture! Let me assure you, it’s worth it!
Now, this is a king-fu fantasy picture, and while it didn’t break any new ground with the fight scenes, and I’ve always thought they could stand to be more kinetic, they’re fun and well-done! With the exception of Kim Cattrall, who seems to be trying on a spunky 1930s screwball heroine persona (the better, perhaps, to snag a role as Indiana Jones's next girlfriend), the performances are perfect for the job! Special mention must be made of Russell, who walks the perfect line between the Duke and a dunce! Victor Wong is also a pure-d delight in the role of Egg Shen, tour bus driver, San Francisco Chinatown! Ha ha!
It’s a shame this picture failed at the box office! But on the other hand, maybe it’s not! Perhaps this is part of a select coterie of pictures, among whose number I might include The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Lifeforce and other big-budget goofnugget-supremes, which are terrific on their own and could only be injured by the existence of some lame attempt to recreate their particular magic in a sequel! I used to want someone to make Buckaroo Banzai vs. the World Crime League, but now I’m not so sure! Anyway, John Carpenter doesn’t have a great record of sequelizing his own stuff anyway – just look at Escape From L.A.! Even Halloween II’s no great shakes!
Well, this picture has its faults, but while I’m watching it I hardly notice them! That’s because it’s just so gosh darn marvelous an experience! It’s got pretty 80s trick effects from the gang who provided Ghostbusters with the same; it’s got laffs, action, and monsters; and it spends plenty of time knocking out the props from under its putative hero, who doesn’t actually do very much that’s particularly heroic! Ha ha, during the climax he shoots his gun at the ceiling and is knocked out by the falling masonry that results; so really the picture is pointing and laughing and kicking sand at the whole concept of the tough-guy hero, which is a-okay by ol’ Burl! This is a perennial good-time picture and a personal favourite, and I give Big Trouble in Little China three and a half six demon bags!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Burl reviews Innocent Blood! (1992)



Ya pastrami, it’s Burl, here to review a John Landis horror picture I’d somehow never before seen! Ha ha, I guess this movie, Innocent Blood, is really the only other full-length Landis horror movie besides An American Werewolf in London, and it’s kind of a mystery why I didn’t go see it back when it first came out in 1992! I was going to see lots of movies back then, mostly at the budget cinema, and as a horror-loving Landis fan it’s inexplicable that I gave it a pass! Just one of those things, I guess! Now that I think of it, I was living in another city at that time and probably didn’t have much disposable income! Not like now, ha ha, ha ha, ha!
Well, I’ve finally caught up to the picture! I’d always assumed it was a fairly lightweight mock-horror picture, without much, you’ll pardon the expression, bite, ha ha! But turned out to be stronger meat than I’d supposed, featuring plenty of n*dity and a decent helping of gore! Ha ha, a pleasant surprise!
It seems that a French vampiress is living in Pittsburgh for some reason (perhaps it’s  the same reason a British vampire is living in Detroit in Only Lovers Left Alive!), where she tries to live a low-key existence by preying exclusively on criminals! This backfires when she puts a non-fatal biting on good old Robert Loggia, whom we know from Psycho II and Armed and Dangerous and orange juice commercials; he’s a brutal capo who is at first totally confused to find himself a vampire, but eventually realizes it might just be a good way to conduct his business!
 Our pretty hemogobbler, wishing to rectify her mistake, hooks up with undercover cop Anthony LaPaglia, from Betsy’s Wedding, and chases after old Loggia! But Loggia puts a biting on several of his underlings, figuring that by such a strategy he’ll soon be the ruler of the underworld in more ways than one, ha ha! He first bites his lawyer, Don “Toy Story” Rickles, but this ends in Rickles’ spectacular demise in a hospital when the curtains are opened to let in the daylight! Linnea “Witchtrap” Quigley plays the screaming nurse!
There are plenty of director cameos of course, this being a Landis picture! We see Sam “The Quick and the Dead” Raimi (a better actor here than he was in Indian Summer, ha ha!), Dario “Opera” Argento, Michael “Fletch” Ritchie and Frank “The Dark Crystal” Oz! And there are plenty of other familiar faces: David Proval from Mean Streets and Vice Versa; Kim “The Club” Coates, Marshall “Stand By Me” Bell, Angela “F/X” Bassett, Luis “The Limey” Guzmán; and, in the role of the cowardly paparazzo, Tom “Creepshow” Savini! Everyone in the movie is watching other movies: vampire pictures of course, of both Universal and Hammer varieties, but also The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Phantom of the Rue Morgue (the clip used includes that great skylight gorilla jump, ha ha!) and even Strangers on a Train!
I was indeed gratified that the movie delivered the goods, along with many incidental pleasures! On the other hand, at nearly two hours in length it’s absurdly overstretched, and it feels it! There’s a great deal of dialogue and incident I would classify as “dumb,” though, ha ha, I hate to be so negative! And I can’t say that Anne Parillaud, the vampiress, is very effective in the role! But in the end the good stuff just barely outweighs the bad, and while it’s no classic, it’s an enjoyable time at the movies! Had I seen in in the theater back in 1992, I’d have probably liked it even better! I give Innocent Blood two trademark Landis wildcat roars!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Burl reviews The Dark Crystal! (1982)



Clik-clik-clik, it’s Burl, here to review a Muppeticious movie from the early 1980s! Ha ha, back around Christmas of 1982 I saw this picture in the theater with my little brother, and I seem to recall him literally hiding under his seat for a good part of it! The picture is The Dark Crystal, and I had a chance to see this one again in the theater again just recently, this time with my young son! He’s just four, but had no trouble with the scary scenes at all, and wait until I tell my brother about that! Ha ha!
The movie is all puppets all the time, except for a few location long shots where it’s people dressed up as puppets! But most of it is in the studio, in the muppety alien world designed by Brian Froud and ruled by the evil Skeksis, who are a bunch of ragged gooneybirds! Some distance away live their counterparts, the Mystics, a race of gentle bignoses who, ha ha, spend the best part of the movie trudging! And then we have the heroes, humanoid youths of the Gelfling race named Jen and Kira!
Jen, apparently a male Gelfling, is informed that his destiny involves a journey and something to do with a chunk of crystal, but the specifics of his mission remain maddeningly vague! He’s on his way to the Skeksis castle, to do he knows not what, and in constant pursuit are the huge beetle bugs that act as the Skeksis’ soldiers! He meets up with a squishfaced old wizardress named Aughra, whose resemblance to Yoda is surely coincidental despite her being performed by co-director Frank “An American Werewolf in London” Oz! Ha ha! Well, the nonsense plot eventually comes to a climax, and the crystal does its thing, whatever that is! Beams of light and so forth, ha ha!
Jim “Into the Night” Henson, the other co-director, brings a muppety goodness to the whole affair while not shying away from unpleasantness! There’s lots of ugly stuff in the picture, particularly when it comes to the Skeksis! There’s some felted silliness also, no question, but it’s got a gritty fantasy flavour that really works while the picture is running, but, at least for me, and apparently for my son, doesn’t encourage repeat viewings!
The look of the thing is the real draw, with its photography by the great Oswald Morris (his last film!) and the fantastic sets! Ha ha, Aughra’s laboratory, with its big spinning universe thing, is a particular delight! There are some fine voice talents too, like Billie Whitelaw from Night Watch and Hot Fuzz, Barry Dennen from The Shining and Trading Places, and, would you believe, none other than Thick Wilson from Sex With the Stars and Bullies! Ha ha, Thick Wilson!
The picture is an achievement, that’s for sure, but there’s something unappealing and unmemorable at the base of it! It’s sort of generic, I think, in a number of crucial ways! All these puppets and all this wonderful craftsmanship should have been in the service of a story that really pushed some boundaries! But it doesn’t! In the end, I’m going to give The Dark Crystal two toothy fuzzballs!