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Until Now I’ve Never Heard of a Film Having a “Mild” Cult Following: My Blue Heaven (1990).

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I am one of the “mild” cult followers of this movie.  I remember watching this film’s review by the famed duo Siskel & Ebert who gave it a big old thumbs down let’s take a look:

I knew when I saw their review my only option was to see the film.  Generally whatever that dynamic duo gave a thumbs up too, the odds were better than 50/50 that I would go the other way.  Well, My Blue Heaven is an acquired taste.  For me and my band of merry men the more we watched it the more we appreciated it.  We often found ourselves quoting the movie in any number of social situations.  The film had a strong writer, Nora Ephron (who died in 2012 at the age of 71) the author of When Harry Met Sally and Julie & Julia and starred Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, and Joan Cusack.  All three are virtually legends in the comedy genre (whether you like them or not, one must concede their standing).

So what is it about this film that made arguably the two most famous film critics give it a thumbs down?  Well one said was merely an extension of Martin’s SNL wild and crazy guy routine.  Another reason was that Joan Cusack “wasn’t as funny as some of her other characters.”  Nonsense I say.  All three of the stars each have some great lines, but only if you don’t take the film (or yourself) too seriously.  Not only that, but we are treated to Fats Domino singing the theme song throughout the film.

One fact that those fools Siskel and Ebert left out is that the film was noted for its relationship to the movie Goodfellas, which was released one month after My Blue Heaven.  Both movies are based upon the life of the criminal Henry Hill, although the character is renamed to “Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Antonelli” in My Blue Heaven.  While Goodfellas was based upon the book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, the screenplay for My Blue Heaven was written by Pileggi’s wife, Nora Ephron, and much of the research for both works was done in the same sessions with Hill.

The film’s story line is relatively simple:  Vincent “Vinnie” Antonelli (Steve Martin) is a former mobster recently inducted into the Witness Protection Program with his wife, Linda.  The two are under the watchful eye of Barney Coopersmith (Rick Moranis).  Vinnie and Barney soon find common ground when both of their wives leave them due to their lifestyles.  When he succeeds in getting Vinnie to a suburb in California and a private house, Barney has one more problem: he must make sure the jovial and sometimes rascally Vinnie adheres to proper protocol until he testifies against other more powerful mobsters

Moranis gets Martin out of one jam after another with Cusack, so to repay him, Martin fixes Moranis up with her, perhaps the only person in California more uptight than he is.  Meanwhile, not unexpectedly, Martin has a profound influence on Moranis’ way of life, helping him loosen up and enjoy.  There are flaws here, scenes that don’t quite click and a temporary sluggishness that sets in somewhere in the final third.  But on the whole Ephron and director Herbert Ross (“Footloose”) keep things going with clever, inventive bits of business and a telltale romance between Moranis and Cusack.  For those into one-liner’s this is a movie that is perfect for you as there is a line from My Blue Heaven that can be used in a plethora of situations.

The film took in $23 million at the box office but was received coolly by most critics, with the New York Times calling it “a truly funny concept and a disappointment on the screen.”  However, years of repeats on cable television have, according to one critic “earned the film a mild cult following.”  What probably pissed off Siskel and Ebert is the fact Warner Bros. purposely kept critics around the country from seeing it before it opened.  That usually means the movie is a dog and the studio wants to avoid reviews for the all-important opening weekend.

The bottom line is that “My Blue Heaven” is a much needed farce with three of the best comic actors — Steve Martin, Joan Cusack and Rick Moranis — in good form.  Watch is a couple of times before you pass judgment on this film.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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A Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) a Movie that is as funny as Kentucky Fried Chicken is Delicious.

Anyone who has seen So I Married and Axe Murder remembers the father’s claim that Colonel Sanders put some mysterious chemicals in his chicken “so that you crave it fort-nightly.”  I could not agree more nor could agree more that A Kentucky Fried Movies is dollar for dollar one of the funniest movies even made (the film had a total budget of $650,000 and made millions).

A Kentucky Fried Movie consists of largely unconnected sketches that parody various film and TV genres.  The movie’s longest segment (and main feature) satirized an early, yet classic, kung-fu film: Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon; its title, A Fistful of Yen, refers to A Fistful of Dollars.  Parodies of disaster films (That’s Armageddon), blaxplotation (Cleopatra Schwartz) and softcore porn/women-in-prison films (Catholic High School Girls in Trouble) are presented as “Coming Attraction” trailers to the martial arts classic.  Many other sketches spoof TV commercials and programs, news broadcasts, and classroom educational films.  The city of Detroit and its high crime rate are a running gag portraying the city as a literal Hell-on-Earth; in “A Fistful of Yen,” the evil drug lord orders a captured CIA agent to be sent to Detroit, and the agent screams and begs to be killed or castrated instead of that.

“The popcorn you’re eating has been pissed in…film at eleven.”

—Kentucky Fried Movie’s TV anchor

What does this movie really mean to me?  Simple.  At some point in the early 1980’s, the clamps went down on American Studios and they lost their balls.  The American movie system began to bow to special interests and censor itself away from nudity, confrontation, and anything else that might slightly offend anyone.  Films that would have been seen as ‘for adults’ in the pre-ratings-happy 1970’s were suddenly not acceptable for release in the 1980’s, as studio executives clamored for the baby market and shied away from anything that might get mommy writing a letter to a sponsor.

Then came the 1990’s, where the studios claim that they’d reversed the trend, with “outlandish” comedians like Adam Sandler, Martin Lawrence and anyone else who ever lugged a cable on Saturday Night Live.  Oh how Sandler’s wacky Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore re-captured the truly satirical and gritty humor of Animal House or a Kentucky Fried movie—anyone comparing the two genres of films who would say these movies are in the same league is nothing short of a fool.  For those of us lucky enough to know what real guerilla comedy was all about, recall the outrageous humor that the Zuckers gave us back when there may have been rules, but no one paid attention or nobody cared, are now we are tortured with crap like The Waterboy and Deuce Bigelow that are somewhere along the level of animal shit on the comedic evolutionary scale.  Then, with 2000, came the evolution of a new, lower life form: Tom Green.  Fellow readers, we’re going backwards, and if you want to see the standard that we were at back when comedy that was pure, offensive and was freely given to those looking to take it, then The Kentucky Fried Movie is for you.  Whether you have to stay up late to watch it or get the DVD I suggest you do it, you will not waste 90 minutes of your life whereas watching “Deuce Bigelow” or “Beverly Hills Ninja” you will.

That is what I think anyways.  Your thoughts?

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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Next in our Rip Torn Series: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)—If Torn was not in this, you would be wise to dodge the film.

Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) is the owner of “Average Joe’s,” a small and financially disastrous gym with a handful of loyal but non paying members.  When the gym’s mortgage slips into default, the mortgage is purchased by his competitor White Goodman (Ben Stiller), a fitness “sage” and owner of the successful behemoth Globo-Gym across the way.  Average Joe’s has to raise $50,000 in thirty days to redeem the gym’s mortgage otherwise it will become an auxiliary parking garage for Globo-Gym. Attorney Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor (Stiller’s real Wife)) is working on the transaction for White who unsuccessfully attempts to charm her, and she instead develops a rapport with the Average Joe crowd while reviewing its financial records.

 

Average Joe’s employees Dwight (Chris Williams) and Owen (Joel David Moore) and members Steve “the Pirate” (Alan Tudyk), Justin (Justin Long), and Gordon (Stephen Root) initially try to raise the $50,000 with a carwash, but actually lose money in that endeavor.  Gordon reads in Obscure Sports Quarterly about the annual dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas with a $50,000 prize.  The Average Joe crowd bands together and to get a feel for the game, watch a 1950s-era training video narrated by dodgeball legend “Patches” O’Houlihan (in the 50’s film played by Hank Azaria).  Despite watching this black and white reel to reel instructional movie, Average Joe’s is whipped by a Girl Scout troop in the qualifying match, however, due to steroid use by the Scout team, Average Joe’s win by default.

 

Enter Rip Torn.  Aging and wheelchair-bound Patches (Rip Torn) approaches Peter and declares himself the new team coach.  Patches’ has a tough training regimen that includes throwing wrenches, dodging oncoming cars and consistently berating them with outrageous insults.  Kate demonstrates skill at the game and eventually joins the team and is branded a “lesbian” by Patched et al.

 

Patches unique training methods pay off as Average Joe’s manages to advance to the final round against Globo-Gym.  The night before the match, Patches is killed by a falling sign in the casino.  The untimely death is a heavy blow to the team and fear is in the air.  In a moment of weakness, White offers Peter $100,000 for the deed to Average Joe’s which Peter accepts and then tries to skip town. As fate would have it, Peter runs into Lance Armstrong at the airport—who has been following the tournament on ESPN’s 8 “The Ocho,” and expresses his hope that Peter & Co. beat Globo-Gym.  Peter confesses to Armstrong that he is quitting and Armstrong wishes him well and hopes that this incident does not haunt Peter for the rest of his life.  Peter decides to play but arrives too late as  Average Joe’s has already forfeited.  Gordon finds a loophole in the rules that can overturn the forfeiture by vote of the judges, and (thank you) Chuck Norris casts the tie-breaking vote to allow the team to play.

 

 

After a fierce game, Peter and White face off in a sudden death match to determine the winner. Inspired by a vision of Patches, Peter blindfolds himself and is able to dodge White’s throw and strike him, winning the championship and the prize money and  Peter opens youth dodgeball classes at Average Joe’s, while White becomes morbidly obese by drowning his sorrows in junk food.

 

Like I said in the title, without Torn as Patches, this movie would not be half as funny as it is.  There is no way I am going to sit here and tell you that this movie is for everybody and I’m sure many highbrow types will see it as a juvenile.  Cameos from Hasselhoff, Norris, Shatner and Lance Armstrong are all amusing and, just like Best in Show, commentators Gary Cole and Jason Bateman do great job as second rate sports analysts and have some great lines between them.

Rip Torn was the main reason I looked forward to this film, and after it was over my anticipation was vindicated.  If only this movie were about his character “Patches O’Houlihan,” then it would unquestionably deserve its large success.  Pretty much everything involving Patches works extremely well; and works for both the Hank Azaria and the Rip Torn versions of the character. In fact Torn has some of the greatest comedy and dialogue bits I have seen in some time. “No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste” or “You’ve got to grab it [Dodgeball] by its haunches and hump it into submission.”

While more original than most, you do know the ending before it happens, the savvy watcher evens knows most of the jokes and the dialog was probably written as a prequel to most of the comedies of the relatively recent past.  As I have said before, Hollywood ran out of ideas around the mid-Nineties and has to look to its successful past to get “new” material for the future by repackaging them for an unassuming public.  The worst part of my analysis is that most of the viewing public is ignorant of this scheme and seem to resign themselves to such a fate by not investigating older movies and truly comedic films that deserve their money and attention.  Which is what we here at JPFmovies are all about.

Despite my mixed review and general bitching, I do like this movie—mainly because of Rip Torn.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 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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Princessofpaperclips gets all pissed off about The Millionairess.

Fragments of a Self

A Review of Anthony Asquith’s Film The Millionairess

The stereotypes of women in this film are more dominant than its plot. The Millionairess, based on George Bernard Shaw’s play, starred Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers, and was released in Britain in 1960. Packed into a mere ninety minutes, Epifinia the protagonist appears in a variety of ubiquitous female roles: an object, a child, the wild woman, and an emotional, irrational wreck. At best, she is difficult to take seriously; at worse she is a capable woman, trying desperately to mask her intelligence. Kabir (Sellers) is largely a foil character, as the film largely revolves around Epifinia’s internal struggles.

“Long live the Millionairess” …Immediately we realize possessions define Epifinia, rather than defining her by character or accomplishments. Her identity depends upon her wealth; not even money she earned, but that bequeath to her by a man. At the reading of her father’s will, she is told her inheritance is contingent upon her obedience to his wishes. Even after his death, he has power over her.

The first glimpse we get into the erratic life of Epifania is outside of her apartment. The door ajar, Epifinia and Alastair, her husband, argue. He shouts she must “obey” him, because “I am your husband”.  Epifania resists dominance by throwing him out, followed by a plate, which barely misses his head. The room is trashed.  Her hair is in disarray, her dress is ripped nearly exposing her breast. The front of her skirt is torn, inches short of revealing her crotch. This creates a link between resisting male authority and hyper sexuality. In Sagamore’s office, she crawls across the floor like an animal with a broken chair leg in her fist, reinforcing this. There is a deliberate connection between her animalistic behavior and resistance to the dominant paradigm.
Portraits of her father and husband loom over Epifinia in the foyer. A voice echoes from the painting admonishing her for “disobeying me”. She kneels subserviently in front of the painting. Epifinia begs the painting for advice- insecure about her ability to make her own decisions, wanting someone to take care of her, as if she were a child. Her choice of clothing is bright, childlike, and ridiculous, making it impossible to view her as an adult and not as a decorative object.

Kabir pulls Epifania out of the river, bringing her to a fish smokers to change into dry clothes. She seeks attention, initially throwing her dress and later her undergarments at him, visibly frustrated when he ignores her. She tries to seduce him by feigning illness, insisting he check her pulse, shoulder and back while she removes more and more of her loosely draped coat. Throughout the film she attempts to use her sexuality to gain attention.

Occasionally, Epifania surprises the viewer by acting out of character. Her anger is aroused when the psychologist insults her father. She throws him to the ground and in the river. In addition to physical strength, she is also quite intelligent, spearheading an operation to build a clinic in Calcutta. When she takes on Kabir’s challenge to work for three months, she is analytic, pragmatic, and clear headed. If she is able to demonstrate this level of competency and clarity, we assume she is playing the ditz the remainder of the film. Sadly, we later learn that her motivation in building the clinic was to entice Kabir, hoping to gain his approval and increased physical proximity. Her business savvy at the pasta shop grows from a desire to win the affections of Kabir. None of this is prompted by an interest to create, strive, or succeed on her terms. The only time she makes a decision that addresses her own needs, is after Kabir rejects her. At that point she decides to establish a deliberate community of women, to will live out her days away from men.

It is interesting that Shaw inserts a character like Kabir as the object of Epifinia’s desire. He is selfless, altruistic and sincere in his role as humanitarian doctor. He ignores Epifinia’s coquettish behavior, scolding her for wasting his time. Kabir states her “sickness is beyond my skills”, calling her an “imaginary invalid” when she plays sick to gain attention.  He states his worldview as “being, not having”, telling Epifinia “power must come from within”, rather than from the possession of money and objects.
During the denouement, Kabir is told that Epifinia “will withdraw from the world at midnight”, which he interprets as an allusion to suicide. He swiftly enters, as Epifinia is ready to depart for her hermitage.  Kabir attempts to stop what he perceives as a suicide attempt, when she is really leaping into a boat from a ledge. At the last moment, Kabir proclaims his love for Epifinia and then they dance off…living “happily ever after”. Which is hard to believe, based on the storyline up until this point. I would find it hard for a man with Kabir’s values and sense of self to resign himself to the lack of such in Epifinia.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Yes We Look At Another Peter Sellers Masterpiece: The Party (1968)

Sellers plays an Indian film actor who somehow was signed up to do a lead part in a Hollywood production called Son of Gunga Din.  The Party (1968) opens as British Imperial forces c.1878 march through an Indian ravine; a wounded native deserter, Hrundi V. Bakshi (Sellers) climbs atop a ridge to bugle a charge. Since this is a set, the clumsy actor overdoes his role by not dying on cue.  Instead he keeps using his bugle again and again and again until his own compatriots turn on him and begin to fire to move the process along.  Later he ruins a shot where he kills an enemy guard by forgetting that he is still wearing his waterproof wristwatch even though the movie is set circa 1878.  Finally, he wrecks the one and only chance of filming the exploding fort with dynamite by tying his shoe on the detonator-plunger.

Sellers is then “blacklisted” by the studio head who mistakenly writes Hrundi V. Bakshi’s name on to the guest list of a dinner party he and his wife are throwing.  Sellers arrives at the party and quickly demonstrates the problems of inviting him.  His shoe is muddy so he tries to casually clean it off in a pool where the clean water rapidly turns black but the shoe floats away.  Using a tree to fish it out, the shoe ends up on a tray of canapés being served to the guests.

In the meantime the problems multiply during dinner when Sellers, the host and guests have to deal with a drunken waiter who serves Caesar salad using his bare hand instead of a utensil.  During the main course, Bakshi’s roast Cornish game hen accidentally catapults off his fork and becomes impaled on a guest’s tiara. He asks the drunken waiter to retrieve his meal and the drunk man complies, unaware that the woman’s wig has come off along with her tiara, as she obliviously engages in conversation.

Bakshi innocently creates more havoc through many awkward encounters with inanimate objects: the house’s bizarre electronic panel is a too-tempting toy causing various appliance to turn on and off as well as broadcasting his voice throughout the house and feeding the parrot with spilling seeds is best recalled with the catch-phrase “Birdie num-num.” Sellers is clearly a fish out of water as he tries to laugh at jokes, not hearing them completely but laughing anyway, or laughing at anecdotes that aren’t funny.  Everyone present compounds the evening’s disorder. The Party soon becomes a gaggle of career-hungry Hollywood fools preying on one another.

Edwards said the 63 page script for the Party was the shortest he ever worked with.  Normally this might be a sign that you are in for a  moronic movie (my guess is that many of today’s “blockbuster” action moviemakers would consider a 63 page script too long), but that is not the case.  The Party is a brilliant and outrageously funny movie that you should see without delay.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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