As has been noted before, I’m not a big fan of romantic comedies as a rule. In fact, it’s a genre where I can generally spot an unbearable experience from a mile off. But that doesn’t mean the genre is completely irredeemable… it just means that good examples are rarer.
But when you throw somebody like Steve Martin the mix, as director Arthur Hiller did with 1984′s The Lonely Guy, then there’s the potential to be one of the more entertaining films in the genre… and also to be that true rarity, a romantic comedy that one can enjoy while not on a date. Arguably, it’s even better for those who aren’t romantically involved at all… Continue reading →
“The Dark Ages. The land was divided and without a king. Out of those lost centuries rose a legend… of the sorcerer, Merlin… of the coming of a king… of the sword of power: Excalibur”
Fantasy, particularly high fantasy, is a genre that hasn’t always gotten a lot of respect from movie critics, or even from the public at large. In fairness to the detractors, it’s a genre that hasn’t always deserved a lot of respect. It’s doing better in recent years, thanks to The Lord of the Rings and other works showing that it can be a genre to be taken seriously, but for a long time the best one could hope for from a fantasy film was that it would be a fun, campy B-movie adventure. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but such things seldom acquire a fan base beyond people like yours truly.
But every so often there would be a film that, while not necessarily eschewing the camp and the strangeness of the fantasy worlds, exceeded its genre cousins in both quality and legacy. John Boorman’s Excalibur, released in 1981, is one such film. Continue reading →
A short while back, I confessed that I could only recall ever having watched one documentary feature, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. My fellow movie bloggers duly chastised me and suggested I remedy the situation. Being a relative novice to the genre of documentaries, and still mostly looking to be entertained rather than merely informed, I naturally gravitated to a documentary with a similar subject, Wolfgang Büld’s Women in Rock. Of course, as it falls short of feature length, I suppose I still have only seen one documentary feature, but I hope I still get credit for trying.
Women in Rock was produced in 1980, and is a companion piece to a pair of documentaries that Büld produced regarding the punk scene in England. This film, however, is set in Büld’s native West Germany, though most of the performers are British. The film opens and finishes with performances by German Nina Hagen, and features performances and brief interviews with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Girlschool, Mania D., and the Slits. Continue reading →
As I’ve noted before, I’m not a big fan of stoner comedies and other comedies that are entirely about people acting stupidly. There’s a tendency to go straight for vulgarity and to go to the extremes of low-brow humor. There’s nothing wrong with being a little low-brow (one of my favorite films is Three Amigos, after all), but a comedy about stupidity has to be written intelligently in order to be funny. All too often it’s easy to sacrifice the cleverness while reaching for a joke that’s basically just “Ha ha, this guy’s dumb.”
Still, I do like to give things a chance. So I thought I’d check out the elder statesmen of the stoner comedy, Cheech and Chong, in their film Nice Dreams. Besides being written by Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, and starring the duo as their usual same-named characters, it was also directed by Chong. It should therefore be about as Cheechy and Chongy as a Cheech and Chong film can get. Sadly, although I consider their record “Dave” to be tremendously funny, that wit is not on display here. Continue reading →
The Gods Must Be Crazy is an odd little comedy from 1980. Its U.S. release was delayed for several years, and since then it’s become something of a cult classic; praised highly in certain corners, unmentioned in others. After viewing it, it’s not hard to see how this came about; while it’s a funny film, and certainly different, it’s also a film that probably isn’t for everyone. Its sense of humor is fairly laid back, and low production values have a strong impact on the film.
The film is centered around an African Bushman called Xi, played by actual San tribe member N!xau. Xi’s people have been existing peacefully for generations, until by chance an item comes into their possession that is both very useful and — in a first for the tribe — apparently unique. Food, sticks for tools, and shelter have always been ubiquitous to them, easily shared. But for the first time they’re faced with something that is one-of-a-kind, at least as far as they are aware. Conflict breaks out, and Xi eventually decides that there is only one solution: take the evil thing away, and ensure it doesn’t come back by throwing it off the edge of the world, returning it to the gods that gave it to them. Continue reading →
“One for each other and all for one
The three brave amigos are we
Brother to brother and every one a brave amigo
Wherever they need us our destinies lead us
Amigos, we’re always together
Wherever we go we’re three brave amigos
And we’ll be amigos forever
We are the Three Amigos
We are the Three Aaaaamigos
We are the Three Aaaaaaaaaaaaa….”
Comedies generally have just one true star in the film, one comic lead. There are exceptions, particularly among comics that are friends, but generally if there’s more than one comedian involved, the second is in a smaller, supporting role — and is a smaller star as well. Comics can be a prickly bunch, as anybody who has read accounts of Saturday Night Live‘s cast squabbles knows, and it can be difficult to get them to share the spotlight equally — after all, any light that’s falling on the other guy isn’t falling on you. When it does work out, it’s almost always as a duo splitting time evenly. Pulling off the balancing act with three is a rarer trick. But as the title implies, the 1986 film ¡Three Amigos! is just such a film. In 1986, Steve Martin and Chevy Chase were both at the heights of their popularity, each capable of headlining a film. Martin Short’s movie career was just beginning, but he had become known for SCtv and Saturday Night Live, and would soon have the lead in a string of comedies. Continue reading →
Though I am a fan of both movies and science fiction, my experience with the Star Trek franchise has been rather intermittent. I caught the occasional episode of the original series (in syndication), The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine (and enough of Voyager to know not to), but I was never a regular follower of the series. And with the movies, I’ve seen them on a fairly haphazard basis, with no rhyme or reason to the order that I’ve seen them in. Thus, for quite a while I had seen the first and the fourth, Generations and First Contact, the reboot, and a few bits and pieces of the others but nevertheless having significant gaps. One of the most significant — arguably the biggest, from what fans have told me — is that until this week I had never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Series creator Gene Roddenberry was moved into an advisory position for this film, after the lackluster reception of the (frankly rather boring) first film. Nicholas Meyer took over as director, and crafted a film that’s a little less philosophical, but has more action to it, and an entertaining villain. Continue reading →
Robert E. Howard published the first Conan story in 1932. Fifty years later, the sword-and-sorcery epic would get its first film adaptation, directed by John Milius. While it was never on the level of Star Wars, the Conan franchise remained a part of pop culture — recognizable, if not necessarily top tier. An attempt to do a reboot was made in 2011, and failed, and now there is talk of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the first actor to play Conan, returning to the role for The Legend of Conan, focusing on the barbarian hero’s twilight years.
Having never seen the original Conan the Barbarian, I decided to take a look at Arnold’s first outing as the Cimmerian warrior. What I found is a movie that, while certainly cheesy, is also quite entertaining. Continue reading →
There are some movies where all you really need to know is the premise, and you know whether or not you want to watch it. Seldom films for all audiences, examples range from Transformers (giant robots do battle), to The Expendables (action stars get together for more action), to Yes Man (Jim Carrey has to do whatever people ask of him).
End of the Line is a comedy-drama with such a premise. Wilford Brimley steals a train. Either you’re on board for that, or you’re not. Continue reading →
Sometimes you know you want to see a movie because of the trailer, or good word of mouth. And sometimes it’s because you keep seeing little bits and pieces of it. I have to have seen small parts of Tango & Cash at least a dozen times while channel surfing, but it was always well into the movie. I’m the kind of person who hates watching a movie if it’s even ten minutes into it, so I never stopped to watch any more than a few seconds. But what I saw was enough to make me want to see the whole film.
Released in 1989, Tango & Cash is part of the “buddy cop” action-comedy subgenre that was so prevalent in the 1980s. Starring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, two of the most unabashedly fun action movie stars, it seemed to me like a film that was guaranteed to be a good time. Continue reading →