Ha ha!

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

Friday, 31 July 2015

Burl reviews Inside Out! (2015)



Ha ha, Burl in the house, here to review a children’s cartoon! Yes, I went to see Inside Out, which is the newest children’s cartoon from the people who brought us Toy Story so long ago! And indeed I attended this chidren’s cartoon with a child, and he seemed to enjoy himself; but you know what? I enjoyed it too! Ha ha!
It’s a colourful tale, set largely inside the head of an eleven year-old girl called Riley! Her mind is depicted as a control room staffed by five somewhat arbitrarily-chosen emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger! (Is disgust an emotion, or would it be classified more as a reaction? Who can say!) True to her name, the girl is living a pretty stress-free life, which explains why Joy is far an away the dominant force in the control room! But of course things go awry: a move from her home in Minnesota to the rollercoaster streets of San Francisco precipitates an emotional crisis that has the emotions in a flurry!
To make matters worse, Joy and Sadness are whisked away to some other part of the brain, and spend much of the movie trying to get back to the control room with the help of Bing Bong, once Riley’s imaginary friend, now forgotten but still roaming the corridors of the young girl’s mind! Ha ha, Bing Bong grew to become my favourite character in the movie, with his ultimate moment almost causing ol’ Burl’s eyes to get a tad misty! Well, that’s being a dad for you I guess! You become a real willoughby!
The picture is all about the bittersweet experience of growing up of course, as all these Pixar movies seem to be! Well, that’s okay, ha ha, it’s a rich subject! It’s been pointed out that this particular movie is only watchable because Riley has no real problems – if we were within the mind of a child in the horrific circumstances in which far too many of them live, it would be a desperate horrorshow! Of course Pixar could not make that movie and expect to turn a profit, ha ha, so as a result, even if the reasons are perfectly explicable, the picture seems a bit of a dodge!
It’s entertaining enough, though! The real-life segments are less so, even if the kindly parents are played by familiar actors Diane “Streets of Fire” Lane and Kyle “Dune” MacLaughlan! The brain interiors are the real heart of the picture, and it’s never less than engaging during these bits! Perhaps things are a little simplistic, and perhaps the movie trips over its own (ha ha) interior logic now and again, but remember, it’s a child’s cartoon!
And if a child’s cartoon is what you want, you could do far, far, far worse than this! It’s colourful, compelling and clever, contains a vocal cameo from Frank “American Werewolf in London” Oz, and the main character plays hockey! Ha ha, an unexpected plus! I give Inside Out three goofball islands!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Burl reviews Hiding Out! (1987)



Hi-hi-hiding out, it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I’m here to review Hiding Out, one of those many 1980s high school pictures! I didn’t ever bother seeing this one back in the day, most likely because I felt I knew exactly how it would play out in almost every detail! Well, I was almost right – there are a few minor surprises here, but not many!
The concept is pure 80s! Ha ha, a stockbroker, played by Jon Cryer from Due Date and Heads, outfitted with a fake pencil-beard, finds himself in trouble when the feds want him and two of his stockbroker buddies to testify against a shady client! When hit men perform a shooting on one of the buddies (ha ha, it’s Ned Eisenberg from The Burning and Moving Violations), Cryer is placed in witness protection, and when that goes sour he shaves his beard, insults his hair and, ha ha, “hides out”as a student in his younger cousin’s high school!
Whether or not this is a convincing development is wholly beside the point, ha ha! The point is supposed to be the laughs, such as when poor Max (as he’s named himself, after glancing at a can of Maxwell House) must hide from his aunt under a pile of his fifteen year-old cousin’s dirty laundry! Ha ha… ha? Actually that was one of the bigger laughs! There are others too, and a few unexpected elements as well! For instance, a young lady in the school falls for Max due to his relative maturity and poise, and the BMOC she throws over in Max’s favour (a character played by Tim Quill from Staying Together and Next of Kin), turns out not to be the typical 80s high school baddie, but a decent fellow who can easily be talked down from a fight!
Unusually for a stockbroker in the 1980s, Max has no respect for disgraced prexy Richard Milhous Nixon, and when a gruesome old bat of a teacher (played by Nancy Fish from Exorcist III) mounts a gravel-voiced defence of that scoundrel, Max insists on telling the truth of the matter! It’s a gratifying and mildly unexpected scene! On the other hand, there are many irritating scenes of the young cousin (Jackie “The Prey” Coogan’s grandson Keith) trying to learn how to drive from uptight instructor Richard “Ghost Dog” Portnow! These scenes were for me like the “stepping on a rake” gag in The Simpsons, only the accumulation never got any funnier!
It’s a movie of virtually no substance, which seems to be wasting its potential gags as a matter of pride! Jon Cryer’s performance is not bad, however, and the ending I expected, in which the nearly thirty year-old stockbroker gives up the girlfriend half his age to the fundamentally decent boyfriend she had before he came along, did not materialize! That’s in the movie’s favour I guess, even if it’s a bit creepy! The thriller bits of the film were not particularly thrilling, but there again the picture defied my expectations simply by it having more such bits than I expected, and a steeper body count!
In the end we’re talking about a highly inessential bit of 80s flobatussin, which I recall espying on the shelves year after year as I toiled at my video store labours, and completely ignoring! If not for my stated pledge to review all the movies, I likely would have continued to ignore it! Now that I’ve seen it, I give Hiding Out one and a half student elections!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Burl reviews Staying Together! (1989)



Hi, Burl here to review a movie that doesn’t get talked about as much as it once did, and that was never much at all! Ha ha! The movie’s called Staying Together, and it’s a familydrama-slash-familycomedy that was directed by the interesting and well-known performer Lee “Visiting Hours” Grant!
She herself is interesting, but the movie, regrettably, is about as interesting as its title! Still, ol’ Burl is a positive sort of fellow who always likes to find the good in these things, so that is just what I shall attempt to do! It’s a picture about three brothers whose parents own and operate a small-town chicken restaurant! Ha ha, buck-buck-buck!
Dermot “Stoker” Mulroney, Tim Quill from Hiding Out and Next of Kin, and Sean Astin of The Goonies star as the brothers! Their dad is Jim Haynie of The Fog, and their mom is the lady from Close Encounters! Ha ha! One of them is in love with Daphne Zuniga from The Initiation, and another is making l*ve to Rizzo! Or maybe that was the same one – ha ha, I wasn’t always clear who was who in the picture!
The main conflict comes when Dad decides he’s had enough of cluck and sells off the restaurant! Ha ha, he neglects to tell his sons about this beforehand, and one of them in particular is upset about this! He storms off, ha ha, and the movie goes on! I wonder if it would be telling too much to say that someone dies and the remaining family is brought back together in the aftermath? Ha ha, probably! Anyway all that does happen, and also the littlest brother is kind of a l*sh; and eventually Levon Helm shows up! Ha ha, one of my all-time favourite drummers!
Well, I guess this is a “life goes on” sort of movie, really just documenting the things that go on to the McWhatever Brothers as they grow and mature and c. and c.! It ends on the happy note most appropriate to as laid-back a tale as this! Ha ha, I was watching the picture in pleasant circumstances, so perhaps I was more willing to buy into that particular vibe than I might have been otherwise, or you might be! Ha ha, so take what I say with a pepperpill!
Well, while it was on I felt it was a bit of a soap opera, competently made but no better, and not a movie likely to live long in my memory! All of that is true, and yet, against all the odds, I kind of enjoyed it! As I say, my circumstances contributed a great deal to that, so you may just find it a plodding little family-life drama featuring a bunch of jerks! And, make no McSteak™, these three brothers are for the most part jerks! The shout and carry on and overreact and fight! But sometimes their fighting turns to wrestling, so ha ha, everything’s fine! You know the sort of movie I’m talking about!
This obscure little drama has its good points (including photography from the amusingly named Dick Bush, ha ha), and I can’t say I hated watching it! I give Staying Together one and a half chicken restaurant demolitions! Ha ha!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Burl reviews The Editor! (2014)



Well hello, it’s Burl here, with a review of a neo-giallo called The Editor! Ha ha, here we have a movie clearly made by fellows who’ve watched a lot of movies, and while that’s a common enough situation, these particular fellows have made something oddball and loonytune enough to be interesting! Not wholly successful, mind you, but interesting and compelling!
There are tributes to the obvious suspects, namely Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, and also to filmmakers you might not expect, like for instance David Cronenberg! Yes, they squeeze a breathing Beta tape in there, and while this might cause a few readers to exclaim “Beta?!?,” please note that the mere presence of this wheezing cassette, whichever format it might have been, is as incongruous as it might sound! Ha ha!
Because, yes, again, this is a tribute to the giallo form; but its brief is broad enough to include the crazy supernatural aspects found in the more fanciful works of Argento, Fulci, Bava, so forth! So within its putative story, that of Rey, a wooden-fingered film editor (at one time one of the greats, but now working for an abusive producer on schlock pictures) who is caught in the middle of a series of murders at his studio while in production on yet another nonsensical, violent drama, we get increasingly bizarre instances of quasi-Surrealist pingo-pango, with characters disappearing into netherworlds, or surviving clearly fatal injuries, or maybe never existing at all! Ha ha! And of course there is a never-ending series of call-outs to giallos both great and not-so-great! Ha ha! While at least we don’t have any killers talking in Donald Duck voices,  I do have a feeling the idea was considered!
The picture, which was made on a pretty tight budget I’m sure, looks pretty good, and the music, which includes a contribution from Goblin’s own Claudio Simonetti, is effective enough, and the acting, particularly that of Rey and of his devoted assistant, is surprisingly strong; and we do get a cameo appearance from the great Udo Kier; but, speaking critically for just a moment, I do think the editing is one of the picture’s weakest points, ironically enough! Scenes end abruptly, transitions are awkward, and nothing holds together as well as it should, even for a parody-pastiche like this!
Moreover, the picture lacks the formal elegance one may reasonably expect from one of the better giallos! There are many scenes of spectacular (though frequently rubbery) gore, but nothing which earnes the name of “setpiece;” whereas something by Argento is composed almost entirely of setpieces! Think of the killer’s demise in Deep Red! Here the murderer is dispatched by, I think, fire – ha ha, big deal!
There’s a lot of slapping of ladies in the movie, which is played for laughs but sat a bit ill with me! Far better are the moustaches, which seem real, and are perhaps in the end the most genuine things the picture has to offer! Though I don’t doubt for a moment that the lads of Astron-6, who made the movie (and who brought us the great Cool Guys), have a true, deep and heartfelt love of the genre they’re playing fiddlesticks with here! Anyone with a similar admiration will find a lot to enjoy in The Editor, and I give the picture two Steenbecks and a hearty tousle on the top of the head! Ha ha!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Burl reviews Return to Boggy Creek! (1977)



Hi, Burl here with a bigfoot picture to review for you! There are a lot of bigfoot pictures out there of course, and many of them are – ha ha, how do I put this delicately – not very good! And yet most of them have their coterie of devoted fans! Ha ha, except this one, Return to Boggy Creek! Absolutely nobody likes this one!
As a bigfoot completest, I knew this was a movie I’d have to watch sooner or later! I was always kind of dreading it though, for every review takes care to mention how Return to Boggy Creek is a) a kiddie movie, and b) a mind-crushingly boring one! Yikes! And in the bargain, it’s not actually a part of the Boggy Creek series of movies, even though it shares a location (the swampy “bottoms” of Louisiana) with those movies, and a star (Miss Dawn Wells) with the work of original Boggy Creek auteur Charles Pierce!
The story places us in the middle of a swamp, where three kids, Evvie Joe, John Paul and mute little T-Fish, are pulling cod from the creek like nobody’s business! Turns out it’s part of a weekly competition, and at the fish market later that day the kids give a hearty ha-ha to their nearest competitor, Bruno! Bruno is played by someone who is at once the worst and the greatest actor in the movie, and his line readings are one of the picture’s great pleasures! It makes me sad that all the other reviews of this movie, even that of my pal Bleeding Skull, characterize Bruno as simply bad! He’s so, so much more, ha ha!
As in that fine bigfoot picture Creature From Black Lake, there are also two grumpy old coots, who spend much of the film telling stories, making up the mysterious “catfish kool-ade” the kids use as bait, or getting bonked on the head! They also spend many minutes worrying about something called “Big Bay Ti,” who is the local apeman creature, and whom one of the elderlies blames for the death of his son, who was also Evvie Joe and John Paul’s father! A portly big-city shutterbug who becomes obsessed with photographing Big Bay Ti convinces Bruno to take him deep down the Boggy Creek just as a hurricane is about to hit, and for some mysterious reason the kids, previously characterized as sensible, decide to follow along!
The rest of the film takes place during the hurricane, which means a constant wash of double-exposed wind and rain over the image! Bruno and the shutterbug are clobbered by lightning and falling branches, and then they and the kids are all saved by Big Bay Ti, who also conveniently provides proof that he didn’t kill the dad after all! Then there’s a happy ending and Big Bay Ti disappears off into the swamplands! Ha ha!
Well, there’s plenty of swampy atmosphere here, though not as authentic as we find in genuine backwoods productions like Terror in the Swamp! T-Fish has a wide array of hilarious scared faces, busting out a new one whenever the monster shows up; and there’s also some pretty nice swamp photography in the picture! On the other hand there are plenty of longueurs, a marvelously literal song that outstays its welcome, and not nearly enough Big Bay Ti action! But I’ll tell you this: I’m not sorry I watched the movie! I enjoyed its unhurried pace and its country-fried jocularity, and if you’re in the mood to hang out with some rural kids and their bigfoot pal, you may feel the same! I give Return to Boggy Creek two bottles of catfish kool-ade!  

Friday, 17 July 2015

Burl reviews Cloak & Dagger! (1984)



Hi everybody, Burl here, finally! Yes, I’ve been away, but I do mean to keep reviewing movies for you, ha ha! And I have one for you now, a kiddie adventure from the mid-80s called Cloak & Dagger! That’s the one with Henry Thomas, who’s still today, maybe even to his own family, known as The Kid From E.T.; and the picture also features a double helping of Dab! Yes, that’s Dabney Coleman, famed for his role in Dragnet!
The picture is a would-be Hitchcockian adventure retooled for kids, and the premise is that a little nerd boy, Davey Osborne, is so wrapped up in his fantasy world (one part D&D, two parts James Bond) that he has an ever-present imaginary buddy called Jack Flack, who advises him on strategy when things get hairy! Jack Flack is of course played by Dabney Coleman in a beret!
Naturally his widower dad disapproves, and who do you think plays the dad? Why, it’s Dabney again, ha ha! Meanwhile the adventure commences, with the McGuffin being some kind of microchip planted in an Atari cartridge (which everyone except Jack Flack refers to as a “tape” for some reason), disguised of course as the very game with which young Davey is obsessed, which, again of course, is called Cloak & Dagger! (Ha ha, I smell a failed tie-in!) Naturally nobody believes Davey for even a minute, due to his history of fantasy-based storytelling! Davey is pursued by Michael “Manhattan” Murphy and a duo of off-the-rack thugs, who are later joined by an old couple, one of whom is, shall we say, ha ha, digitally challenged, through a series of locations no doubt approved by the San Antonio Board of Tourism! Ha ha!
The ending seems less tailored to dads than to kids though, ha ha! Davey sees the brutality and futility of someone like Jack Flack is, and completely unnecessary too, since Davey has a real hero living right in the house with him: his dad! Yay, dads! Ha ha, the opening logo says Universal Pictures, but the picture seems more to have been financed by a consortium made up of Atari, the City of San Antonio and the National Council of Average-Guy Dads!
Having the old couple played by pros like John McIntire, from Psycho and Herbie Rides Again, and Jeanette Nolan, from The Manitou, should in theory result in the sort of delightful, eccentric frissons provided by Dame May Whitty in The Lady Vanishes, but somehow it does not! (It does briefly provide the picture with a mildly Joe Dante vibe, however: a good thing!)
But the attempts at suspense and action are generally flat and boring and bad! This is incredible to me, as the director is Richard Franklin, who made Road Games, a  corker as I recall; Psycho II, which I’ve always been fond of! I even enjoyed Link, at least a little bit! And Franklin met Hitch and was a lifelong student and fan, and I can’t imagine what happened here! Maybe it was just too hard to make a night picture like this with not one but two kids! (Davey has a little girl friend, played by Christine “Sword and the Sorcerer” Nigra, who shares in his adventure; he also has the requisite adult nerd friend, who is played by none other than William “Smokey Bites the Dust” Forsythe!) Even the daytime scenes are lame, like Davey’s debarkation from a slow-moving little boat almost too wide for the stream it’s floating in! Ha ha, Hitch would have told San Antonio where to go and relocated the whole thing to Niagara Falls so he could shoot that scene at the crest of the Horseshoe Cascade!
I guess the movie is for gamers, or ex-gamers, neither of which I am! I was never even sure if the game Cloak & Dagger was a sort of role-playing game, what with its many-sided dice and painted lead figures, or a video game, or some amalgam of the two! I give Cloak & Dagger one incredibly large nerd die! Two such dice appear in the picture, but I only give the movie one! Sorry, Cloak & Dagger, ha ha!