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Was Bill Murray Ever Funny?
If the first question is: was Bill Murray ever funny, then the second question has to be: has he ever starred in a movie in which he didn't molest a woman into submission. His wooing process always consists of badgering a woman until she yields and realizes he's the man for her.
In this movie it was particularly absurd. At first sight of the attractive and softly assertive female MP officer I knew what her eventual role would be. All professionalism and protocol went out the window under the hypnotic charm (read pestering bordering on sexual assault) of Bill Murray. It would be bearable if it were funny or cute but it was neither.
Absurdity was par for the course for this witless depiction of the Army. Bill Murray did his best impression of class clown which was more suited for a high school movie than a movie about adults in the Army. The rest of the actors may as well had been stage props because that's all they really amounted to.
If rampant idiocy and slapstick humor is your bag, then enjoy.
The Cannonball Run (1981)
The Cannonball Run is essentially the sequel to Cannonball. It's also the biggest waste of talent I've ever seen. With too many names to even mention here you're going to either be pleased as punch or bitterly disappointed. I think that after a certain number of stars you don't even have enough screen time for them all. It was a saturation of celebrities with a very weak script. Their only hope was that we'd be blinded by the glimmer of the stars so much that we couldn't see the skid mark of a movie it was.
Horsepower and Car Wrecks, the Theme of the 70's
David Carradine races again. His first race was in Death Race 2000 (1975). It was not too unlike this movie in that the racers were trying to get across the country in an anything goes race. The monumental difference is that in Death Race the race was wholly sanctioned and they aimed to kill people along the way for points. Check it out if you want to see Sylvester Stallone as a bad guy.
Cannonball is about an illegal cross country race starting in sunny California and ending in the streets of New York. There is a lot of horsepower and metal in this film which seemed to be a theme of the 70's (Gone in 60 Seconds, Smokey and the Bandit, Death Race 2000, Cannonball, etc.). The 70's was all about massive car pile ups and explosions too. Today we've replaced that with destruction of entire cities by either superpowered beings or large creatures. We've replaced one destruction porn with another.
Cannonball was OK. It was fine for looking at nice cars, some nice women, and some wreckage. There were occasional laughs but overall the product was mediocre. It wasn't a strong plot, it wasn't funny enough, and none of the characters stood out. Entertaining? Yes. Would I recommend it? No.
Scott Joplin (1977)
Another Hidden Genius
I love watching films about historical figures that have made positive and memorable contributions to the world. I especially like such films about figures I'd never heard of before. Even though this movie came out in 1977 I'd never heard of it or Scott Joplin for that matter. And what's so funny is that when the movie started I was thinking, "They're using the same music as The Sting." Little did I know that The Sting was using Scott Joplin's music.
Scott Joplin as a biopic was not as creative as the man himself. It was slow and even uninteresting at times. I'm happy to know of him and his work I just think this docudrama lacked something. I don't know if it needed more conflict, more drama, or just a more compelling figure--I just know it lacked something. I would never call it a bad movie and I'm still glad I watched it.
Dead & Buried (1981)
Mediocre Mystery Horror
Potter's Bluff is the Bermuda Triangle of America. People enter and never leave. Tourists and passers- through alike are killed by the people of Potter's Bluff. The question is why? Who kills their visitors and tourists? I won't spoil the movie by answering, but there was one man on the case: Sheriff Dan (James Farentino).
He wasn't the best investigator, but he was the only one Potter's Bluff had--hence, he was the only one we viewers had. It kinda sucks when you have limited resources. Slowly slowly, all the while people were being wantonly murdered, we frustratingly waited for Dan to figure things out. He eventually did and I hate to say that there was no real surprise. Just put Potter's Bluff on your list of places not to visit.
Disappointing is an Understatement
I don't know if they were going for artistic, eccentric, or just plain crazy. Whatever they were going for scary wasn't it. And whatever they were going for I didn't get it. The scenes were choppy, the dialog was mostly incoherent, and there was far too much yelling. I went to great lengths to watch this because of the imdb rating. To call it a disappointment is an understatement.
Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975)
Brings About Sadness and Anger
CE&M is a movie whose story is better than its performances. Cornbread is played by Keith Wilkes who later became Jamaal Wilkes the hall of fame basketball player. As to be expected, he wasn't very strong as an actor. He plays a basketball player, which is not acting.
Earl is played by Tierre Turner, a kid who looked no older than twelve. His part was small even though his name is in the title.
The "Me" in the title is Wilford Robinson (Laurence Fishburne). Sure, he's a great actor now, but he was just passable then.
I don't want to be remiss and forget to mention the veteran actors Bernie Casey, Moses Gunn, and Rosalind Cash. They were all good and lended some much needed credence to the movie.
As for the storyline, Cornbread is a young high school graduate who is going to college in the fall on a full scholarship for basketball. He is a good kid who eats, sleeps, and drinks basketball. He literally has no time for anything else he's so consumed with it. When he gets killed by the police in a case of mistaken identity it sparks outrage from the people and an equal and opposite stonewall stance from the police and the city.
It is a tragic story that squeezes the heart and puts fire in the belly. I like movies that can do that.
The movies I watch that can elicit strong reactions are either bad movies that are so bad I'm just upset, or good movies that put the viewer in the exact state they want them to be in. CE&M does just that in spite of the so-so acting.
Not Quite a Hit
When someone very close to him dies of a heroine overdose Nick Allen (Billy Dee Williams) seeks to make someone pay. His first stop was the street dealer that sold the drugs. While practicing his jabs and hooks on the drug dealer's face he had an epiphany: why not go to the source. Of course, that's not easy, so he had to put together a great plan and a team. The team was less than great, but it was all he could muster. Their destination: Marseilles, France.
The movie was a stretch but it was good at times. I liked the idea of the movie I just didn't like the execution. Assembling a group of very reluctant participants isn't the best way to assassinate big time drug dealers. But, that was the story line we were given and that's the route Nick took.
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Beauty Born From Tragedy
I know very little about Billie Holiday; she was well before my time. After now watching her story it is such a tragic and familiar tale. Change her name to Whitney Houston and make her contemporary and little is different between the two. Little is different between her story and that of countless other entertainers.
Billie was immensely talented, but she had her demons. This is a recurring theme in the entertainment industry. Diana did an exceptional job playing Billie Holiday. Pryor and Billie Dee were good as well, but Diana shined. It's too bad she had to play such a tragic role.
The Final Comedown (1972)
100% Socially Relevant for 1972 Los Angeles
My earliest memories of Billy Dee Williams were him as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back. At that time I knew him as a relaxed hair heart throb to many women of color. I never knew he had a film like this to his credit.
This movie is excellent and it was 100% socially relevant for 1972.
Billy Dee plays Johnny Johnson, a frustrated young Black man like so many others at that time. He was educated, angry, and being crushed under the weight of being young, educated and Black in America. He externalized all of that frustration and acted on that frustration and that's where the movie picks up: at the point of no return.
This movie is not for everyone, Black or White. This movie is an uncensored, no holds barred reflection of American society at that time. It's a perspective that was never seen on T.V. or heard on radio. It's a perspective that one would only get by entering the ghettos and projects of America. The dialog was heavy and the actions taken were costly, but such a thing was almost inevitable.
This movie had to be made just as it was because it is a chronicling of an era. Whether the names and the people were real is immaterial. What was real was the anger, the frustration, the repression, the oppression, and the natural bubbling over from all of that being mixed together. I'm glad this movie was made and that I had the opportunity to watch it.
Carter's Army (1970)
I Was Ready to Cut it Off
I was damn near ready to turn this movie off when I saw that "B" company, the Black Brigade, was a bunch of back alley fools shooting dice, drinking wine, and acting foolish. Did I mention that this was at an outpost in Europe during WWII? Oh, I forgot to mention that? Now you know. They were so uncouth and ignorant they couldn't behave like soldiers during the war. They looked like F Troop except dumber and lazier. Pretty much every negative stereotype that you'd have about a black soldier: too old, too fat, too scared, too dumb, too shiftless, too lazy, and overall incompetent.
A company of clowns. But, the blame wasn't entirely on them. They were ill-prepared from the start. They never went through basic training, never given duties other than manual labor, they were never even properly screened (one soldier was deaf and another was well over 270 pounds)! So, even though they were a company of clowns it was almost as if they were set up to be so.
Finally, they were given a captain and a mission. Their new captain was a white Georgian named Captain Carter (Hence the movie title Carter's Army). Their mission: take a dam and hold it for reinforcements.
Their captain was a racist to be sure, but he definitely had some valid complaints. He wasn't given soldiers he was given a circus. Nevertheless, he was responsible for taking this band of unprepared personnel on a suicide mission.
This movie wasn't a total waste though. It needed to be longer with more character development, but this is what we got. With actors like Richard Pryor, Billy Dee (sans mustache, lye, and relaxer), Glynn Turman, and Robert Hooks I was expecting something better. They were given so little to work with though. There was a slight redemption for the movie at the end, yet nothing enough to completely rescue this film. The movie plot was a noble one and I can only assume that intentions were good. Still, I think Glory did a lot better with the same concept.
Glad I Stumbled Upon This
A big corporation by the name of Con-Amalgamate is mining titanium on the third Jupiter moon named Io (eye oh). It's a large operation with a couple thousand workers, dependents and support. No one does a tour there more than a year, including the marshals. The newest marshal is O'Neil (Sean Connery). Most marshals just do their time and move on without making any waves. O'Neil, on the other hand, can't turn a blind eye to some strange occurrences when workers begin committing suicide in large numbers and bizarre manners.
I dug this movie. It was futuristic with a decent enough budget to make it look good. The setting was something akin to Alien. There was a bit of a claustrophobic feel to the movie with the workers almost living on top of one another in their indoor quarters. The plot was solid as well with the hint of conspiracy keeping Marshal O'Neil from getting at the truth. This movie was a nice find for a title I'd never heard of before.
Graduation Day (1981)
I've Seen a Lot Worse
The movie was bad, there's no denying that, but I've seen a whole lot worse. The editing was terrible and the acting was a minus, but I had no problem with the looney boyfriend killing the track and field team one-by-one.
I did have a problem with Anne Ramstead's character and the final showdown involving her and the killer.
Her character could not have been more useless. She added nothing to the overall plot, which made it all the more absurd that she was even in the finale fighting the killer.
As for her fight with the killer, the karate moves she used to fend off the killer were extra weak. Half of that is bad fight choreography and the other half is the fact she didn't look like she could punch her way out of a wet paper bag. Her strikes and kicks were most pathetic and she was prepped to block and strike well before her attacker made a move.
For a low budget horror this movie wasn't that bad. I don't know, maybe my senses were dulled when I was watching it but at times I even found it entertaining. But it still deserves the 4.9 it has.
The Hand (1981)
A Disembodied Hand Is Not Killing Me
If we were to be honest with each other then we can admit that the whole premise of a disembodied hand killing people is wholly absurd. I knew it, you knew it, we all knew it, but we were hoping that with people like Oliver Stone and Michael Caine being a part of the project it could be something worth watching.
I'll say this, they probably elevated it from raw sewage to sortable trash.
Jon Lansdale (Michael Caine) was a comic book artist that lost his right hand in a freak accident. Presumably, the anger and rage he was exhibiting at the time of losing his hand gave it the life it needed to act out Jon's anger.
I don't know about you but I'm not getting killed by a detached hand. I don't care if it's Hafthor's hand it's not happening. What does a hand weigh? One and a half, maybe two pounds? If that thing grabbed me, no matter how strong the grip, I'm winning that battle. A two pound hand with no leverage whatsoever can only hope to get itself around a throat and there's no need to go into all the reasons why that's ridiculous.
By the end of this movie I was thinking, "Poor Michael Caine." Were things that rough? I'm sure he balled up into the fetal position and cried after doing this movie. It's OK Mike, even the best of them have that one blight on their resume.
That Explains Katrina
In Louisiana in 1927 a man was killed by a mob in his hotel for trying to summon evil. 50-some-odd years later a woman who inherited the hotel wants to reopen it. The moment people begin working on it they start being killed in gruesome fashion. This Hilton Hotels off brand known as Seven Doors Hotel was appropriately named because it was built over one of the seven gates of Hell. I guess that explains Hurricane Katrina.
This movie was meh. The acting was nothing to write home about and the plot was a bit weak as well. What they lacked in every other department they tried to make up for in gory special effects. It was some good stuff considering the year this was made. Nothing you'd want to watch while eating lunch.
Could Have, but it Didn't
I gotta admit, I like Stallone and Billy Dee together. They made a great team. I kinda feel sorry for Rutger Hauer because I don't think I've seen him play anything other than a bad guy. But work is work.
In this cop movie Deke DaSilva (Stallone) and Matthew Fox (Williams) are promoted from playing street decoys and catching thieves and muggers to an anti-terrorism task force in New York. Interpol has very good reason to believe that Wulfgar (Hauer), international terrorist for hire, will strike in New York. He's to well known and risky to work with in Europe and he needs to do something to bolster his resume to make him desirable once again. He's a lone terrorist in this film simply trying to be relevant again.
We get chases, shootouts, and a final showdown in this battle of wits. I liked the movie because I liked Stallone and Williams. I could see how this same movie with different actors could've fallen flat. Could have, but it didn't.
1981 Wasn't the Right Time
I suppose it would have been of great benefit to have been more familiar with the King Arthur story. Honestly, I only know of some key names and the sword in the stone, beyond that I don't know anything.
Being that that is the case, I found myself hopelessly lost at times. The movie zoomed through the ages briefly stopping at key moments. Some of those stops were too brief to even feign a guess as to what was happening and why. Of course, today this movie would've been made into a trilogy. Maybe it was just made at the wrong time.
Excalibur rambled through its different acts with some gross overacting that may have been fit for a Shakespeare play but not a movie. In fact, a long theatrical play is what it was. From the actors to the set it all resembled a theatrical play. This epic tale didn't make it as an epic movie.
Cutter's Way (1981)
I Prefer Carlito's Way
This was one depressing, miserable, bleep-storm of a movie. What was a rote script of a wealthy man who commits a crime and gets away with it, was made worse instead of better by an unbearable character.
Alex Cutter (John Heard) was a most obnoxious individual who was perpetually drunk. He wasn't a funny drunk or an enlightened drunk, he was a disgusting, miserable, racist, incorrigible drunk. And when he was sober he wasn't much better. Oh, and did I forget to mention he was cripple? Yeah, he'd use that and his veteran card to avoid getting his face smashed in by the many people he offended.
Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges), friend of Cutter, is some Don Juan type character who witnessed a man dumping a body in the garbage in an alley late at night. He didn't get a clear view of who dumped the body but he is fairly certain that the perpetrator was J.J. Cord (Stephen Elliott), an oil magnate. When Richard mentions this to Cutter, Cutter makes it his sole mission to expose Cord.
The movie probably could've been good if I could stomach Cutter. Not that Richard was much better. There was this bizarre relationship between Richard, Cutter, and Cutter's wife, Maureen "Mo" Cutter (Lisa Eichhorn). Richard and Mo have some sort of thing going on, Cutter is somewhat aware but at the same time indifferent about it, and they all snipe at each other like bitter enemies. It does nothing to enhance the movie and only adds to the growing list of ugly characters.
John Heard seemed to be making a lousy attempt at an Oscar for his role as a more annoying Captain Dan from Forrest Gump. Bridges was barely present, and Eichhorn seemed equally impassive. I wasn't sure what I wanted from this movie after a while except for its conclusion.
One Zillion B.C.
This movie is a funny one to describe. A movie in which the language spoke was barely intelligible but it wasn't a foreign film nor were there subtitles, yet it was still funny.
The year is one zillion B.C. and Atouk (Ringo Starr) is trying to make moves on Lana (Barbara Bach) except Lana is property of Tonda (John Matuszak)--remember these are cavemen. All the effort Atouk exerts to lure/woo/steal Lana is consistently rebuffed whereas Tala (Shelley Long) is infatuated with Atouk. The difference between Tala and Lana: may three cup sizes.
This movie was good if it could tell a story and be interesting with little more than grunts for language. No one is going to win an Oscar for this movie that's for sure, but this movie was just for fun, so relax.
Doctor Sleep (2019)
I Don't Listen to Box Office Numbers
I read that Doctor Sleep was a bomb in the box office. Good thing I don't listen to critics and box office figures. I thoroughly enjoyed Doctor Sleep and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
Doctor Sleep is essentially a sequel to The Shining. I haven't looked this up at all but I would venture a guess that after Mary Poppins Returns, Doctor Sleep is the longest gap for a sequel in cinematic history.
The main character is Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), who was the little boy in The Shining. We're treated to some early footage, some a remake and some original, which establishes just who Danny is. This movie sheds some light on the occurrences in The Shining, and furthermore we learn that this "shining" is a gift, almost like a superpower. There are people/creatures that feed on this gift-- that manifests itself in the form of steam-- by inhaling it; so there is a little bit of Sleepwalkers in Doctor Sleep (gotta love how the Steven King stuff ties together).
The plot is cohesive and compelling. Plus, I was a fan of the little girl that starred opposite Ewan McGregor. Abra (Kyliegh Curran) was smart, bold, adorable, and powerful. You couldn't ask for better qualities. She was essentially a tiny superhero. The "Overlookers" or whatever they were called, desperately wanted Abra for her steam. They were led by a powerful woman named Rose (Rebecca Ferguson) and it was going to take a lot to fight her off.
The movie was intense with some good imagery and graphic effects. And, for us older folks, a few nostalgic throwbacks in there for old time's sake.
The Funhouse (1981)
It's Alive Grown Up
In this mentally defective horror movie four teens decide to spend the night inside a funhouse.
Most scary movies are propelled by utterly stupid characters, but I watch them anyway to watch natural selection in action. At least, even in bad scary movies (which are most of them), dumbassedness is rewarded with death.
This imbecilic horror in a litany of imbecilic horrors took over 45 minutes before anything of any significance happened; and the characters weren't beautiful enough or interesting enough to stare at for 45+ minutes.
Once the movie kicked into gear we saw an older version of the Its Alive baby and his carney father terrorizing four teens. Don't feel bad, they asked for it. Besides, that's what you watch for.
Barely Above Boring
With an all-star cast such as this movie had the failure is magnified. I don't blame the actors, I blame the script.
Daryll Deever (William Hurt) is present when a murder happens in the building he works in. He doesn't witness the murder but his friend, Aldo (James Woods), who has a motive, was present in the building at the time. Daryll uses his limited knowledge as an opportunity to get some one-on-one time with news reporter Antonia "Tony" Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver), whom he's infatuated with. Tony, wanting to get the scoop, entertained the propositions from Daryll, believing he knew more than he did (which was evidence that she was bad at her job).
This is where the movie stumbled for me.
Tony ended up giving a Hollywood Hello (aka sex) to Daryll and it was very baffling, especially since she was in a committed relationship. Because I didn't want to dismiss it as typical Hollywood sleaze thrown into the movie for kicks and grins, I was thinking there had to be an angle to it.
Was she unhappy with her current partner?
Was she showing her gratitude for him saving her life (he whisked her away from the Asian thugs that wanted to "ask her questions")?
Was she plain promiscuous?
Was she so committed to her career that she would sleep with a stranger for a story?
I don't know what the answer was and we never got one. In any case it was unscrupulous, but we were never given the impression that she was an unscrupulous person.
Her character seemed like a thinly veiled attempt to tie Daryll and her into a greater scandal-a scandal that was not that salacious. A news reporter sleeps with a stalker and an Israeli is killing in the name of rescuing his people. This movie was barley above boring.
Eyes of a Stranger (1981)
I Have Better Things to do
Well, I thought this movie could at least be entertaining. I wasn't looking for an intelligent thriller, just an entertaining thriller. It started pretty strong. A guy who made some "Black Christmas" and "When a Stranger Calls" type obscene phone calls followed it up with murder. He even lopped off a guy's head. The city of Miami had a real psychopath on their hands. Then, the heroine had an inkling that her neighbor was the murderer.
I was done after the news anchor turned amateur sleuth convinced herself that her neighbor was the killer. She was so convinced she connected him to rape and murder with the most tenuous proof. When she was bold enough and stupid enough to break into his apartment and then call him is when I was bold enough to turn it off. I have better things to do.
Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)
There was a movie called Fort Apache that came out in 1948 with John Wayne. The synopsis of that movie is:
An honorable and veteran war captain finds conflict when his regime is placed under the command of a young, glory hungry lieutenant colonel with no respect for the local Indian tribe.
Fort Apache the Bronx is a similar synopsis. Captain Connelly (Edward Asner) takes over the 41st precinct which is in shambles. Captain Connelly starts making waves in the community immediately in order to find a cop killer.
It's a rather straight forward movie dealing with complex problems. As was mentioned in the movie, unemployment is high, morale is low, which leads to high crime rates and high drug use. The police are hardly a panacea for those problems and this movie was a perfect example of that.
Murphy (Paul Newman) just wanted to do his time as a police officer and have his beer at the end of the day. He didn't see himself as a savior of the city. He didn't see high arrest rates as the solution. He was a part of a bad situation where there were no easy answers.
I like bold movies and this one was bold. There was little, if anything soft about this film. This movie had some shocking and riveting moments and like a good movie there was food for thought.
Let me exhale here for a bit. This movie was heavy. I could barely stand the weight of it, it was so heavy.
Let me get the accolades out of the way.
The script. Great. Cicely Tyson. Solid. Paul Winfield. Excellent. Larry B. Scott (whom I'd only known as Lamar in Revenge of the Nerds). Spectacular. He easily rivaled the performance of Timothy Hutton who won an Oscar for his role in Ordinary People.
This was a deep movie dealing with drug use in South Central Los Angeles. But it was more than that though wasn't it? At the forefront was a 13-year-old Benjie (Larry B. Scott) who's method of dealing with being fatherless was turning to hard drugs. There's little sadder than a kid strung out on drugs.
The backdrop to that was his mother's boyfriend, Butler (Paul Winfield), trying his best to fill the father void while constantly being rebuffed by Benjie. Sweets (Cicely Tyson), Benjie's mother, was trying desperately to maintain a relationship with her son as well as her partner Butler.
And behind all of that was an environment of social justice as Black folks in the ghetto struggled to carve a niche out for themselves while fighting drugs, crime, and the man.
All of these plot elements plus the magnificent performances made for an awesome movie. It is jarring most times, angering other times, and down right sad sometimes. The moments of levity are few and far in between. You'll beg for a happy ending while realizing that what brings happiness is relative.