Ha ha!

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

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Burl reviews Best Seller! (1987)



Ha ha and chickenpox, it’s Burl, here to review a face-off between two pretty interesting actors, James “Night Moves” Woods and Brian Dennehy, fresh off of The Belly of an Architect and F/X! It’s kind of a wonder that I’ve never seen this before recently, considering that I like both those guys, as well as screenwriter Larry “half of Deadly Illusion” Cohen and director John “Rolling Thunder” Flynn!
The movie’s called Best Seller, and it has a very Cohenian premise: an ex-cop bookwriter, probably based on Joseph Wambaugh, is looking for his next big book subject, and along comes a weasel-faced killer who wants to spill the beans about his life as a trigger man and, more specifically about the work he does for a certain shady businessman! Naturally the businessman is not happy about this
The picture suffers from taking the lack of trust that should be strictly a first-act conflict and making it the driver of the entire second act as well! Sure, Dennehy might reasonably demand a little proof of Woods’s intentions and truthfulness, but after a while, you know, move on! Ha ha, at least from a narrative point of view, that’s the way to go! Having Dennehy continually refuse to take Woods at his word leads to an extended feeling of stasis and repetition!
We are treated to staging and mise en scène that frequently make it seem as though the two leads are on a romantic date, ha ha! If this was a directorial decision, I applaud it! Seeing two tough guy actors lying across a frilly bed having an earnest discussion is a real spectacle, and distinctly novel – I’m trying to imagine, say, Robert Ryan and Bob Mitchum doing the same thing, but, ha ha, cannot!
It’s just as much a squib movie as Fatal Beauty, which is nice and very 1980s! The supporting cast, featuring Paul Shenar from Scarface and Victoria Tennant from All Of Me, is disappointingly unmemorable, but this picture is all about its principals, and of course Woods and Dennehy are top-flight as always!
This picture got plenty of acclaim when it came out, as I recall, but doesn’t quite live up to it in retrospect! Ha ha, perhaps at the time it seemed a lot fresher! At any rate, it’s still a very decent B picture, tough and amusing (though undercut by one of the worst musical scores ever heard), and I’m going to give Best Seller two Richard Nixon masks!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Burl reviews Mad Max: Fury Road! (2015)



Brrrumm, brrrumm, it’s Burl, here to review a nitro-burning automotive action picture, that new picture from the eminence gris of funny car calamity, George “The Witches of Eastwick” Miller! Of course I’m talking about his newest Mad Max picture, Mad Max: Fury Road! Ha ha, that’s right!
I can’t tell you how pleased I am that Miller is the one directing this, and, ha ha, not some television commercials director! It’s been quite a while since that old bushie boy took on the crashing cars, the eruptions of flesh and metal, the high-octane mayhem; but on the evidence he seems over the past thirty years to have been thinking of nothing else! In any case, Miller and his similarly superannuated cinematographer, John Seale, have certainly delivered a movie with no shortage of pep!
Tom Hardy is our new Max, taking over from the unpleasant crazyman who had the part before, and he’s perfectly good in the role, even if he never seems to have suffered as much abuse as we see him undergo, and as is implied! He also suffers from visions of past traumas, and this is a device which I for one could have easily done without! Ha ha!
Charlize Theron, well-known from Prometheus, is the picture’s alternate protagonist, a short-haired lady truck driver with a mission to steal away five beauty-ladies from the skull-masked bad guy Immortan Joe, who by the way is played by the old Toecutter himself, ha ha! She wants to take these ladies to The Green Place, which is not in fact the neighbourhood plant store, but rather the same imaginary patch of Shangri-La people in these post-apocalyptic movies are always searching for!
But Immortan Joe, tubby and pustulated in the classic Baron Harkonnen style, will not stand for this insubordination! He seems a reasonable man, but draws the line at lady-stealing! So the chase is on, and soon a crazy cavalcade of conveyances is hurtling across the Namibian desert! It’s very like Mad Max II, aka The Road Warrior, since everyone is after the same gosh-darn big rig! (Ha ha, in that sense it’s as much a trucker picture as White Line Fever or even High-Ballin’!)
Of course there are crazy stunts galore, which were apparently mostly filmed without the usual CGI enhancements; but any verisimilitude this process lends was undermined by the usual claptrap 3-D at the screening I attended! Ha ha, sure, stuff was flying around a bit, but I think they ought to just leave these movies flat! If I were to see this picture in the cinema again, it would be the flat version hands down!
I hear you asking, ha ha, Burl, but is the movie any good? Well, sure! It’s exciting and exceedingly well done in every department, and it’s great to have that marvelous desert car-crash sensibility at work again! I’m an unabashed fan of all three previous Mad Max movies, and this one fits nicely into the series! As spectacular as it is – ha ha, they didn’t spare the samoleans on this one! – I still prefer the more modest Road Warrior! But if you like goofy names and car crashes, this picture should be in your top four picks! I’m going to give Mad Max: Fury Road three chapped lips!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Burl reviews White Line Fever! (1975)



Hi, Burl here, putting the hammer down and roaring back to life! Ha ha, Carrol Jo Hummer! Yes, good buddies, that’s the name of the main character in White Line Fever, and I like it so much, and it gets repeated so much in the movie, that I just have to say ha ha and repeat once more, Carrol Jo Hummer! Of course Carrol Jo Hummer is played by good old Jan Michael Vincent, whom we know well from pictures like Enemy Territory and Shadow of the Hawk!
Well, White Line Fever is not so much a trucking movie as it is a trucker’s movie! The distinction is important! Most trucker pictures are workingman films, or purport to be, but this one actually walks the walk that it talks! It’s about as pro-union a picture as you’ll find outside of Matewan, and that’s a fine thing as far as old Burl is concerned! You see, Carrol Jo Hummer (ha ha!) is an independent trucker, and he’s trying to get out from under the heavy thumb of the corrupt and greedy company that wants to control all the trucking in the state of Arizona!
Kay Lenz, from Moving Violation, plays Carrol Jo’s long-suffering wife, and here I really mean suffering! Ha ha, she really gets the short end of the stick here, and no mistake! But she sticks by Carrol Jo, at least until she’s beaten so badly that she becomes insensate and unable to either stick by or not stick by any man in particular!
The movie features some excellent character actors, like R. G. Armstrong, the kindly doctor in The Beast Within, and L. Q. Jones, who was the sheriff in that very same picture! Ha ha, old L.Q. sure plays a good bad guy! Sam Laws from Get Crazy is here, as is the excellent Slim “The Howling” Pickens! But of course the finest actor we find in this movie, which is saying a lot, is the great Dick Miller, from The Long Ride Home and so many other pictures, who here plays a friendly, good-hearted, squirrel hunting jacket-wearing trucker named Birdie!
The picture has a strange, only-in-the-70s ending, wherein the bad guys are not really vanquished in any substantive way; though Carrol Jo performs a symbolic gesture which puts him in the hospital, but wins him the acclaim of an Arizona crowd, including Dick Miller, who’s sitting on a wall wearing his best squirrel-hunting jacket! Ha ha! But aside from L.Q. Jones, who catches a punching, the bad guys responsible for all the pain and suffering undergone by Mr. and Mrs. Carrol Jo remain unpunished!
But that makes it a more interesting movie by many leagues! Ha ha, with its unusual approach to trucker cinema, its pro-union bona fides and its cast of marvelous faces, White Line Fever is an enjoyable little exercise in long-haul filmmaking! Ha ha, sure, it’s a bit dumb here and there, but I’m going to give White Line Fever two and a half Glass Houses!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Burl reviews Fatal Beauty! (1987)



Ha ha, the funny thing is, other than The Color Purple, which I haven’t seen since 1985 or whenever, and The Player and I guess Girl, Interrupted, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one single Whoopi Goldberg movie before! Ha ha, and don’t scream “Ha ha, Ghost!” at me, ha ha, because I’ve never seen it! But now I’ve seen Fatal Beauty, which is when Whoopi teamed up with Tom Holland, who wrote The Beast Within and directed Fright Night!
It’s pretty 1987, ha ha, but if you’ve ever wanted to see Whoopi and Jennifer “Night Moves” Warren have a punch-up, this is where you want to dock your boat! If your fondest wish involves Charles “The Thing” Hallahan as a nasty cop and John P. “Avenging Force” Ryan as the angry police captain who gives Whoopi h*ck, steer your buffalo here! If you’ve ever desired to see Whoopi m*ke l*ve with Sam “Road House” Elliott, however, you’re out of luck, since, so the story goes, gutless studio executives excised the scene after apparently bigoted test audiences were ruffled by the inte*racial aspect! This doesn’t just look goofy from our slightly-more-racially-enlightened times, it was goofy then too!
Ah well! The movie’s a pretty straightforward 80s cop thriller, with the businessman-drug dealer, the henchmen, so forth, the umbrella hair, the bloody squibs! Ha ha, this is a squib movie, all right! Whoopi is the sort of cop who frequently has to go undercover as a ridiculous caricature of a pr*statute, and she’s after the dealers of a deadly new mind-drug called, ha ha, “Fatal Beauty,” which of course is stenciled across each little baggie of the stuff! But beware, because one sniff of “Fatal Beauty” brings on a case of the terminal jim-jams!
Whoopi’s partner is a stylish and laconic Hispanic fellow, who gets wounded but thankfully not killed in the process of the investigation! I say thankfully because he was probably my favourite character in the movie! Another enjoyable character is the main henchman, who actually seems more like the principal bad guy; he’s played by Brad “Dune” Dourif! And Whoopi, whom I’ve been calling ‘Whoopi” because that’s a fun word to type and to think about, is named “Rita Rizzoli” for some reason! Ha ha, I suspect it’s because the part was originally intended for someone like, I don’t know, Mad*nna! That’s pure speculation on my part, but remember, Beverly Hills Cop was originally a Sly Stallone vehicle! Ha ha!
One thing that sets the movie aside from most of its contemporary genre-mates (and the only thing, really) is that putative love interest Sam Elliott starts out as one of the bad guy’s henchmen, in fact his chief henchman! Elliott seems to turn up everywhere Whoopi goes, helping her out of scrapes or just observing her as she razzle-dazzles perps with her manic improv skills!
Whoopi is okay in the movie! She gets a very sad backstory and delivers it well! But the rest of this thing, and I’m agreeing with the portly critic Roger Ebert here, is very paint-by-numbers, the more so in retrospect! As mentioned it’s very, very 1980s, with the remonstrating ghost of Nancy Reagan seeming to hover overhead at all times; but it also looks ahead slightly to the even more generic cop movies of the 90s, which, ha ha, is not a compliment! I watched the whole thing though, and that, in my current state of finding it difficult to watch a whole movie, much less review it, is a sort of compliment I suppose! It’s the best I can muster anyway! I give Fatal Beauty one pair of hand glasses!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Burl reviews It Follows! (2014)



Burl here! Ha ha, do you know Garfield Without Garfield? Well, if you can imagine a sort of Freddy Without Freddy, you’d have something very like this most Eighties-style hocus-pocus picture, It Follows! It comes from the director of The Myth of the American Sleepover, and shares with that film a fondness for abandoned concrete structures and aimless youth! It wears its influences pretty squarely on its shoulders, and is at times overly committed to its bit, but the picture is in general scary and very well done! Ha ha!
The story is pretty simple, even if the implications are not! It turns out there’s a sort of ghostly virus that gets passed on by interc*urse! Ha ha, once you’ve got it, you will be stalked by a phantom only you can see, a person walking through a crowd straight at you, looking like a stranger or someone you know, “whatever helps it get closer to you,” one character explains, though remaining undelineated is how looking like a ghoulish giant moron or a wall-eyed freak child would help it get closer! An unlucky young lady comes afoul of this baneful curse, and she and her Scooby-gang engage in research, screaming and running, and monumentally poor decision-making! Ha ha, Endut! Hoch Hech!
Now, the Halloween influence is quite strong, which the movie cheerfully admits by virtually recreating that 1978 picture’s schoolroom scene! And the picture owes a lot to A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the J-horror style, and also, it seemed to me, to Phantasm! But it chooses smartly from all these pictures, and if it’s something of a cinematic collage, like so many other films of recent years, it’s a marvelously-done one! And I’m a fellow who appreciates the art form of collage very much!
I also appreciate when horror movies take the time to be scary! This one does, and it’s a pleasure to watch! The photography is generally nice: parts of Detroit look as bombed-out and decrepit as they did in Only Lovers Left Alive, though the digital photography is occasionally a little too evident! Ha ha! The characters make some pretty boneheaded decisions throughout the picture, I do have to say, and there is some ineffective staging near the end; and one must admit that the score frequently over-eggs its synth-80s pudding!
But it’s a fine picture with some pleasant eccentricities and a bold style! It’s a real pleasure to watch, frankly, and I’m glad to have caught it in a movie theatre with an audience! It’ll pop up at a few festivals yet, so keep an eye out and watch it if you get the chance! I liked It Follows and am pleased to award it three and a half seashell readers!