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There are bad sequels and then there is Smokey & the Bandit II (1980).

We here at JPFmovies have consistently maintained that rarely is a sequel as good as the original.  Smokey & the Bandit II only adds to the mounting evidence proving this unfortunate fact.  Sure, once in a while you’ll get a sequel that is as good or better than its predecessor, however, never count on it, and certainly don’t count on it in this film.

We have already reviewed Smokey and the Bandit giving it high marks for Gleason’s outstanding portrayal of Sheriff Buford T Justice, Burt Reynold’s smart ass—even arrogant lines that don’t turn you off and of course, Sally Field as the frog.

While Gleason does the best he can to carry this film it sure isn’t enough.  In fact, I’m shocked that director Hal Needham who sold more Trans Ams than all the dealerships combined could put his name in such a pathetic movie.  Not only does most of the original cast appear in this film, but we also have the added “treat” of Dom DeLuise playing a gynecologist who takes care of an elephant.

Smokey and the Bandit II is a retread of the first film, while simultaneously completely ignoring it.  Here we have the same situation: a proposition by the Enos’s, Bandit and Cledus hauling a load in a short amount of time, Bandit also having the bride ride along shotgun, Justice and his son-in-law in hot pursuit, a Trans Am, and country music galore (including a brief appearance by the Staler Brothers).  Yet, the more it takes from the original masterpiece, the less it feels like a real movie.  This is a film made for either little children or idiots, with some of the most tired gags and dopiest schmaltz ever injected in a chase flick.

Now that you know how I really feel about this movie, let’s look a little deeper at this monstrosity.

Big Enos Burdett (Pat McCormick) is running for Governor of Texas against another candidate, John Coen (David Huddleston).  After a figurative and literal “mud and manure slinging” between the two, they are given a thorough tongue-lashing by the sitting governor.  While Burdett is leaving the office he overhears the governor yelling at an assistant to take responsibility for transporting a crate from Miami to the Republican Party convention in Dallas.  To try and win favoritism from the existing administration, he enlists the help of Bandit (Burt Reynolds) and Cledus (Jerry Reed) to carry out the task.

Cledus then attempts to convince the Bandit to “do it one last time.” Unfortunately, in the time since their previous challenge, the Bandit has split from his love interest Carrie aka “Frog” (Sally Field) and become an alcoholic.  In fact, little Enos correctly describes Bandit as being in the shit house.  Cledus is forced to seek the help of Frog to encourage the Bandit to sober up and regain his fitness, since Big Enos has raised the stakes of the game to $400,000, equal to $1,128,271 in today’s dollars.  Once again, Frog abandons her wedding to Buford T. Justice’s (Jackie Gleason) son Junior (Mike Henry) to help by getting a phone call (long-distance of course) just before she is about to take her vows.  She is initially persuaded more by the money than her love for Bandit.  She buys him a 1980 Turbo Trans Am named “Son of Trigger,” powered by the Turbo 301, by trading in Junior’s car.

Unbeknownst to them what’s in the crate is a large pregnant elephant that they are supposed to get from Miami to Dallas in a short period of time.  Of course, the mother elephant gives birth en route, causing a rift between Bandit and the rest of the team because he is obsessed with making the deadline.

Because Gleason is having problems catching Bandit he enlists the help of his two brothers (also played by him) to try and apprehend this scofflaw.  Justice lures the Bandit into a valley, with a line of Mounties (in red police cars) on one hill side, Texas Rangers, in white cars, on the other.  Bandit orders Cledus to continue delivering Charlotte to Dallas.  Cledus later returns, with a convoy of trucks to help destroy all of the police cars.  Charlotte and the doctor watch the action from afar.  After the mass destruction of police cars, only Buford, Gaylord, and Reginald come out relatively unscathed.  Bandit and Cledus escape the valley by driving across a bridge of tractor trailers.  As the Justices follow, a trailer pulls out resulting in their cars falling down and being destroyed. However, Buford’s car is still operable, though folded up in the middle and missing its doors and roof.  Justice and Junior are cut off by a farm tractor, and they drive off the road, hitting an embankment by a pond, throwing Junior into the pond.  When asked what he was thinking about, Buford simply says, “Retiring.”

The only decent thing about the scene is that a world-record automobile jump was captured on film during the “roundup sequence,” when stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker jumped a 1974 Dodge Monaco over 150 feet.  Hooker suffered compressed vertebra as a result of a hard landing.  He is one lucky guy.

Of course, Bandit finds himself again and he and the Frog sail off into the sunset– so to speak.

Smokey and the Bandit II is a movie that could only result at the end of a bender mixed with some sort of hallucinogen.  Attempts to be cute only lead to embarrassing corniness, in this egregiously annoying follow-up that has the same cast and character names, while no one plays the same person they were in the first film.  The final insulting wad is eventually shot in a ludicrous showdown between the cops and a bunch of renegade semis, and the only real loser is us, the unfortunate fans viewing it.  And unfortunately I remember seeing this movie in the theater so actually I had to pay for it.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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Rip Torn, Richard (“Shaft”) Roundtree, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds in “City Heat” (1984) or City Heat—better turn on the air conditioning to watch this one.

Since we are transitioning from our tribute to Burt Reynolds to Rip Torn, City Heat was the first movie that came to mind.  It has Reynolds and Torn as well as what looks on paper to be a strong supporting cast.  Until I watched this film again to write this review, I forgot just how bad this movie really is.

City Heat is a 1984  (purportedly) action-comedy film. Pairing Eastwood and Reynolds in a Prohibition-era action-comedy probably looked like a good idea at the time and it did make money in spite of itself (earning $38,300,000 at the box office on a $25,000,000 budget).

Set in Kansas City in 1933, a police lieutenant known simply by his last name, Speer (Eastwood), is acquainted with your template former cop turned private eye named Mike Murphy (Reynolds).  Of course Speer and Murphy served on the force together and were once good friends, but now can’t stand each other.  Oh, we are just setting this one up for some hilarious scenes with this original story line.  Be that as it may, these two chums have eyes for Murphy’s secretary Addy.  Addy loves both and (tries) to prove it when she kisses Murphy goodbye and then goes on a date with Speer.  Murphy, however,  has a new romantic interest in a  rich socialite type named Caroline Howley (Madeline Kahn).  Speer takes Addy to a boxing match on his date at which the mob boss Primo Pitt (Torn) is present. Murphy’s partner Dehl Swift (Richard “Shaft” Rountree) is also there and is sucking up to Pitt and his gang.  Swift has a briefcase that Pitt and his boys want—badly.

Without skipping a beat, Swift is shot by Pitt’s thugs who are there to get the case, but there’s nothing inside.  One of the goons throws Swift’s body out of the window and lands on the roof of Speer’s car.  As is required in all police-action-comedies, Murphy vows revenge on Pitt for killing his partner.  He asks Speer for assistance and they form a reluctant alliance.

After a lot of needless filler, final showdowns occur in a warehouse, where Speer “humorously” pulls out a weapon larger than Murphy’s, and in a brothel, where Murphy shows up in costume.  Again, this film category requires that the men again have become friends, at least until a casual remark leads to them stepping outside and bickering, face to face.

I can’t think of another cliché that could have been added to this movie, although I have been trying. If you can come up with one, please send it to me in a comment. After all, the film already contains such original subplots and devices as an about to be dead guy who is warned by his girlfriend ahead of time “Dehl, don’t do this,” a girlfriend who is kidnapped and held hostage by gangsters (in fact every woman in the movie is kidnapped by gangsters at some point), gangsters in search of “goods” that must be delivered in a suitcase, a P.I. who eats dinner every night in the same diner, the bathtub gin stored under the sink, a devoted secretary who never leaves her post even at night (as a sole proprietor myself I have to wonder how he pays her), Congressmen turning up in a brothel, gangsters who spend all their spare time playing poker, a henchman named “Lefty”…the list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Likewise, the running gags in City Heat come to a complete standstill. For example, it quickly stops being funny to hear Reynolds ask, after someone bursts in a door, “doesn’t anybody ever knock?”

This movie had problems both on and off the set.  Reynolds seriously injured his jaw, the morons at the marketing department opened “City Heat” against “Beverly Hills Cop,” and Eddie Murphy cleaned the clocks of both Eastwood and Reynolds.  Reynolds would never be a top star again. Adding insult to injury, the ad tag line “The Heat is On!” first used by “City Heat” was shifted to “Beverly Hills Cop” (and to Glen Fry’s song) when “City Heat” mercifully disappeared from theaters.

I’ll almost always take a good story over “stars” and if you ever needed proof that superstars aren’t as important as a good screenplay then look to City Heat.  Apparently Blake Edwards (Pink Panther Series) was set to direct this movie but got fired sometime during the filming because he couldn’t agree with the two stars on what this film’s end product should look like a/k/a “creative differences.” Maybe the loss of Edwards was a material factor in the abortion this film turned out to be, but whatever the reason it’s doubtful you’ll see Eastwood in a worse movie.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Here is our third and final installment of our tribute to Burt Reynolds: “Malone” (1987).

When looking at Malone I think it is important to put the film in the context of Reynolds’ career, by the mid ’80s his heyday was unfortunately over, and he ceased to be the superstar he once was.  Box office duds like Stick (1985) and Rent-a-Cop (1988), along with unfounded rumors that he had contracted AIDS (he was actually suffering from a joint ailment), were career cyanide.  The TV series Evening Shade provided Reynolds a brief pick-up and an Emmy, but when his marriage to Loni Anderson dissolved into an ugly, endless tabloid drama, Reynolds’ career (and product endorsement contracts) nosedived.  He made Malone right in the eye of this storm.

Now let’s get one with it.  Malone is a 1987 movie, starring Burt Reynolds and written by Christopher Frank and based on a novel by William P. Wingate.  In addition to Reynolds, Cliff Robertson and Lauren Hutton also play major roles.

Malone (Burt Reynolds) has been a “wet” operative for the CIA for many years, serving his country by performing assassinations.  He was tired of his job and wanted to get out of “the company” (as it is typically called) and live a “normal” life.  He is driving through the Pacific Northwest, looking for a place to settle down, when his much-cherished classic Mustang has transmission problems and breaks down outside the town of Comstock.  Reynolds manages to get to a small gas station and is treated like family by a Vietnam veteran, who owns the station, and his daughter.  They are suffering from the nefarious activities of the local big cheese (Cliff Robertson) to take over all the land in the city and turn it into to some quasi- Posse Comitatus haven for “patriots.”  By beating or killing some of the town’s hillbillies (in self-defense), Malone soon runs afoul of the town sheriff who is basically an employee of the developer.  By the end of the film, though, he eventually wins the Sherriff’s respect.  Starting with the most inept of the sinister henchmen, Malone is gradually drawn into the town drama until he achieves his final pyrotechnic victory and moves on—like Minfune’s Yojimbo or Eastwood’s man with no name.

Meanwhile, the CIA is none too pleased to hear of Malone’s intended retirement and sends a succession of hit-men after him to ensure that he divulges none of their dirty secrets.  Malone destroys the first two killers at some cost to his own well-being.  The next assassin turns out to be a woman who is susceptible to his charms.

As we know from Sharkey’s Machine, Reynolds is actually not a bad actor when he’s not trying to be “a good old boy” all the time.  Cliff Robertson goes eerily over the top while Lauren Hutton is beautiful, brave and loyal (and I would expect nothing less).  So what do we do with the formulaic movie clearly made by Reynolds because he needed the money?  There is nothing evidently wrong with the film—it doesn’t look low budget, everyone seems to play their parts and get their lines straight.  My advice to you is to enjoy it for what it is a damn good bad movie.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Sharkey’s Machine: Who could have guessed that the father from “Family Affair” could play a vice-cop?

Sharkey’s Machine was directed by Burt Reynolds, released in 1981 and remains the most successful box-office movie directed by Reynolds.  It has a cast that includes Vittorio Gassman, Brian Keith, Charles Durning, Earl Holliman, Rachel Ward, Bernie Casey, Henry Silva, and Richard Libertini.  While these names may not ring an immediate bell, once you see them on screen you will recognize their familiar faces.

Burt Reynolds plays an Atlanta narcotics officer named Tom Sharkey.  As the movie opens Sharkey is in the midst of an undercover drug deal but is interrupted by another plainclothes police detective who repeatedly calls out Sharkey’s name causing the drug dealer to panic and began shooting.  He vows not to be taken alive and as he is fleeing the scene he takes a woman hostage and ends up on a city bus.  As Sharkey and other officers move in shots are exchanged, leading to the death of the drug dealer and a civilian who was seriously wounded.  As a result of this deal gone bad, Sharkey is demoted to the Atlanta vice squad—considered the worst assignment in the police department.

While sitting in the basement to which the vice squad has been relegated, Sharkey and his partner discover a ring of high-priced prostitutes—to the tune of $1,000 per night (and that’s 1981 dollars).  Sharkey and the rest of his crew, now known as “the Machine,” follow up on the lead and began investigating this ring of high-priced hookers.  Their lead is a hooker named Domino (Rachel Ward) and Sharkey’s Machine begins 24-hour surveillance of her penthouse apartment.  Sharkey literally never leaves his post continuously watching and listening in on Domino’s life.  During their surveillance, Sharkey and Co., discover that Domino is having a relationship with Hotchkins, a candidate running for governor as well as the appearance of a mysterious crime kingpin known as Victor who also shows up at Domino’s apartment.  Victor has apparently been controlling Domino since she was a young girl, but now she wants out.  Victor agrees but forces her to have sex with him one last time.

The next day, Sharky witnesses (what appears to be) Dominoe get seriously blown away with a shotgun (that is “three inches under legal”) blast through her front door, killing and mutilating her face beyond recognition.  Sharky has privately developed feelings for her while watching her through binoculars and listening to her bugged conversations.  The killer is known as “Billy Score,” (Henry Silva who always plays a deranged bad guy) is a drug addict, and Victor’s (the mysterious crime boss) brother.  Victor controls Score but also the gubernatorial candidate  Hotchkins, who is in love with Domino but is blackmailed by Victor.

Surprisingly, Domino walks into her place and is told that her friend Tiffany used her apartment and was mistakenly blown away by Score.  Domino halfheartedly leaves with Sharky to be hidden away at his childhood home.  To make matters worse,  Sharkey’s friend and electronics expert Nosh informs him that the surveillance tapes are gone, begging the question who is the traitor within the department.  Nosh is subsequently killed by Score off-screen.  A furious Sharkey threatens Victor at his apartment in the Westin Peachtree Plaza and classically vows to bring him to justice.  Victor is stunned to be told by Sharky that Domino is still alive and can put him away.

Sharkey is then attacked and confronted by Smiley (a fellow officer) who cuts off two of Sharkey’s fingers while trying to extract Domino’s whereabouts.  Sharkey manages to attack and kill Smiley and escape.  Later, Sharkey and what is left of his machine take Domino to a Hotchkins political rally where  the candidate is placed under arrest.  Seeing their lives fall apart around them, Victor and Score become hostile and Score shoots and kills his brother.  Sharkey and his machine are right on the scene.  Score is pursued, but seems like a ghostly apparition appearing and vanishing, killing “Papa” (Brian Keith) and seriously wounding Arch (Bernie Casey).  Sharkey shoots Score, who falls through a window falling to his death.  Sharkey then returns to his childhood home, where Domino is now living.

Sharkey’s Machine is a vast departure from Burt’s typical late 1970’s-1980’s films (i.e. Smokey and the Bandit) and he does a damn good job of it.  Many people compare Sharkey’s Machine to Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies, but I disagree.  Sharkey’s Machine is grittier than the Dirty Harry series and has a better supporting cast.  While Dirty Harry has “bad guys,” they are not nearly as treacherous as the world of expensive prostitutes and ruthless pimps and drug lords.  Moreover, the 220 foot fall from the Hyatt Regency Hotel remains the highest free-fall stunt ever performed from a building for a commercially-released film.  The fall was performed by legendary stunt man Dar Robinson.

The problem that both the Dirty Harry series and Sharkey’s Machine face is that they both play on a tired theme:  police drama.  The cop-genre, though, has been with us since Hollywood started and will probably continue on ad infinitum.  Reynolds makes the best of things, though, making Sharkey’s Machine worthy of viewing.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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How can one properly review Smokey and the Bandit? I’m not sure but let’s try.

Smokey and the Bandit is a 1977 film starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, Pat McCormick, Paul Williams, and Mike Henry and except for Star Wars was the highest grossing film of 1977.  The film was so popular that Trans Am sales increased from 68,745 cars in 1977 to 117,108 by 1979 leading to the joke that director Hal Needham sold more cars than the entire Pontiac sales force combined.  I mean, for goodness’ sake, my younger brother has been looking for a “Smokey and the Bandit” 1977 Trans Am for years because of the movie.  Now that’s fan loyalty.

The movie starts with a couple of nouveau riche Texans named Big Enos Burdette and his son Little Enos looking for a truck driver to run 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana Texas to a rodeo in Georgia in 28 hours or less totaling 1324 miles.  As we know from the opening scene, however, selling or shipping liquor east of the Mississippi River was considered bootlegging and other truck drivers who had tried making this run before were arrested for violating federal and state laws.  Big and Little Enos search a local truck rodeo for the legendary Bo “Bandit” Darville (Burt Reynolds).  Big and Little Enos offer to pay the Bandit $80,000.00 to make the Coors run — a deal Bandit can’t turn down.

Bandit enlists his friend Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed) to drive the truck (with his dog “Fred”).  After demanding an advance from the Burdettes for a “speedy car,” the Bandit get the now infamous 1977 Black Pontiac Trans Am to run as the blocking vehicle to distract the authorities from the truck and its illegal cargo.

Bandit and Snowman pick up the beer in Texas with time to spare.  Bandit, however, picks up Carrie (Sally Field) who is wearing a wedding dress.  We come to find out that she jilted the groom (“Junior”) at the altar and that her would be father in law Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) is on the hunt to drag her back to town.  Since the Bandit has Carrie, Buford T. Justice now wants the Bandit.  The rest of the movie is Buford T. Justice in “hot pursuit” of the Bandit through several states and Bandit evading him and other authorities with his now famous Trans Am.

Yes, eventually Bandit and Snowman barely win the bet and are not captured by the law, but it is the journey, not the destination, that matters.

Yes, Burt Reynolds is great in this movie, making it one of his signature parts, but my thinking here is that Jackie Gleason puts on the best performance of the show.  He portrays the quintessential Texas law man perfectly embodying every stereotype possible throughout the film making one outrageous statement after the other.  Apparently, a significant portion of Gleason’s screen time was improvised, which only illustrates (at least to me) just how talented he was.  Mr. Gleason’s performance creates one of the greatest comic characters in film history and demonstrates that he was one of the greatest American comic actors of all time.  If by some perverted twist of fate you have not seen Smokey and the Bandit, watch it and I think you’ll agree with me. And if you don’t, you have no sense of humor.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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