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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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My Name is Bruce (2007)—and I don’t mean Bruce Lee.

The second film in our series is “My Name Is Bruce,” the 2007 comedy-horror-spoof-film, directed, co-produced and starring the “B” (or C+ if you listen to some people) movie great Bruce Campbell.  As you know we just took a look at Army of Darkness (by far my favorite Campbell film); this time around we are discussing a movie about Bruce Campbell playing Bruce Campbell.  Unlike unintentional actors who are not really acting on screen, like when Chazz Palminteri plays Chazz Palminteri in every film, Campbell parades his status as cult B-movie genre megastar and makes a film that pokes fun at his acting career.  My guess is that most Hollywood “stars” have too big of an ego to make something with this sort of self-deprecating humor in it.

 

In his film, Campbell exaggerates all possible perceptions of what life is like being Bruce Campbell.  Portraying himself as a gone to hell, ruined by the devil’s nectar, divorced, making wretched sequels to already awful movies and living a trailer with an alcoholic dog, being Bruce means at best you are a proud loser barely maintaining a toehold on the “C” list of celebrity parties.

 

Somehow believing that Bruce is the hero he portrays in movies, Jeff, a fan and the sole surviving member of a group of Goth-like teens attacked by an ancient oriental evil demon that protects the souls of dead Chinese and bean curd, decides to kidnap Bruce and take him to his small town in the Heartland.  There, Bruce erroneously assumes his agent has set the stage for his birthday present (which was actually a hooker) by setting him up for yet another horror film shot in reality-style with an all-amateur cast.

 

Bruce is a little slow on the uptake in realizing that this Midwest jerk water burg of Gold Lick is under actual peril from an ancient, white-bearded God of War set on avenging the lives of 100 “Chinaman” workers lost in a mining disaster 100 years earlier.  Nevertheless, Jeff has sold him as the town’s savior, and like in Army of Darkness, takes up a “Hail to the King Baby” lifestyle.

 

After visiting Goldlick’s gun shop, Bruce and many amateur-actor citizens of Goldlick follow Bruce to take on Guan-Di, which Bruce thinks is just part of the movie.  When he finds out that it’s a real demon, he gets the hell out of Dodge, disappointing his female love interest Kelly and upsetting Jeff as well as the entire town of Goldlick.  When Bruce returns to his trailer home, he finds that everyone, including his junkie dog, hates him.  He has a restraining order placed upon him by his ex-wife, Cheryl who also wants more alimony, and finds that his “surprise birthday present” from Mills was just a singing prostitute.  Bruce is then called by Jeff, who informs him that he’s going to take on Guan-Di alone in spite of Bruce’s embarrassing retreat.

 

The hooker takes Bruce back to Goldlick, where he is treated with contempt but is determined to rescue Jeff.  He drives to the old cemetery where they planted dynamite at the mausoleum and try to lure Guan-Di inside with a cardboard cut-out of Bruce, which Guan-Di doesn’t fall for.  Displaying his machismo, Bruce decides to sacrifice himself using bean curd to luring Guan-Di and the dynamite is blown up.  He emerges from the debris alive, and hangs the medallion back on the mausoleum wall soothing the spirit.  Guan-Di then also comes back to life, and at the very last minute, it turns out the whole story was a movie being screened by the principals at the studio.  Bruce argues with Ted Raimi about the timeworn ending and turns it into a “happy ending,” which involves Bruce and Kelly married, living in a nice house, white picket fence and their son, Jeff, who is accepted into Harvard.  After the movie ends, Bruce asks, “What could be a better ending than that?” after which Guan-Di appears and attacks Bruce.

 

I must admit I was a little surprised with this film, I didn’t know what to expect—there are not too many movies where one satirizes one’s own career.  Fans of Bruce Campbell and the genera he represents I am sure were delighted by this film.  Though I am generally not a “B” horror movie fan (I enjoy many other “B” movie types) this film was not a cheap horror at all; instead it was a unique (and funny) look through the lens of the world of cheap horror movies.  It was better than I thought it would be and it needs to be watched more than once before catching all of the hidden humor; and anyone looking to kill a couple hours could do much worse than watching My Name is Bruce.  I will say this, while researching this review I looked at Bruce Campbell’s filmography and I would be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that all but the most elite actors would give their right arm for the professional opportunities he has had.  Not bad for someone relegated to the seedy underworld of “B” horror movies—according to the site Celebrity Net Worth his is estimated at six million—I don’t know about you but that is a hell of a lot more than me.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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This Movie is like an old friend–“Real Men” Jim Belushi and John Ritter.

Real Men (1987) starring John Ritter and Jim Belushi is an unknown quantity to many.  The movie didn’t do anything in the theaters, and get at best very infrequent airings on cable movie channels, but is has become a sort of cult classic (yes I agree that term is overused).  I normally reject movies with severe logic deficiencies—even comedies but Real Men has a special place in the comedy section of my DVD collection.  A movie like Real Men for many people is actually quite difficult to like.  Some might say it falls in the same class as “Hudson Hawk,” a different spoof that is as much vilified by its critics as it is glorified by its fans.  As for me and many of my friends, Real Men was an absolutely hilarious experience.

Belushi plays a womanizing super CIA agent who has to take Ritter, a less than average suburbanite, across the country to give aliens a glass of water in exchange for “the good package” or “the big gun.”  On the trip they have so many completely eccentric situations happening to them that I couldn’t help but be entertained.  Today the “zany” adventures of many so-called comedies are so strained that they are beyond being “not funny” and reach into the realm of annoying.  However Real Men has such an air of informality about it, that the films outlandish circumstances were seamless and even got this hardened cynic to suspend belief and laugh until there were tears in my eyes.

This one is definitely a rose, but a tough one to find.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2009 in Movie Reviews

 

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