Thursday, May 27, 2010

“I'm gonna die on a toilet, aren't I?”

Lethal Weapon was a big hit, so 1989 brought a sequel, the aptly named Lethal Weapon 2. I’ve got nothing else to add here so let’s get to the Director’s Cut.

So Riggs & Murtaugh start off in a car chase that ends in a crash and the discovery that the perp’s car was full of South African Krugerrands (coins illegal in the US at the time). After some mysterious threats to the Murtaugh family, the team end up running witness protection to a federal witness who’s going to rat out a South African drug smuggling ring hiding behind the consulate in Los Angeles, (remember, this was during Apartheid). Buddy cop antics ensue.

Sergeant Roger Murtaugh: Danny Glover seems to get the bulk of the character development in this movie, what with having his family threatened by bad guys. Again. Except its worse this time, since they break into his home several times and they’re eeeeeeeviiiiillll South African racists. Still, by the end of the movie, Murtagh proves himself to be quite the badass with his revolver.

Sergeant Martin Riggs: Mel Gibson is starting to heal from the loss of his wife, but then he finds out that one of the South Africans is a hired killer and was responsible for Riggs’ wife’s death in an “accident” that was meant for him. I’m not sure if that’s a plot hole or not, but whatever. He wants to get some vengeance for that.

Leo Getz: Joe Pesci turns in an interesting performance as a weasely, foul-mouthed white collar criminal who’s first on the list for the smugglers to wipe off since he’s going to testify. He becomes an unwanted sidekick for our heroes with some funny bits.

Arjen Rudd: Joss Ackland (who’s deep bass voice has been in a lot of movies and tv shows) is the smug and corrupt South African minister of diplomatic affairs for the LA Consulate, and DAMN he is a real bastard who waves around his diplomatic immunity like it was a sparkler on the Fourth of July. Only, he wouldn’t do that because he’s not American and… Okay, simile over.

Pieter Vorstedt: Derrick O’Connor is Rudd’s right hand man, and a real bastard himself. He’s the guy who killed Riggs’ wife.

Rika van den Haas: Patsy Kensit is Rudd’s blonde bombshell secretary who is the only not-evil South African in the film. She doesn’t agree with Rudd’s stances and doesn’t know he’s a drug smuggler. She also draws Riggs’ attention because, well, she’s hot. The relationship doesn’t really end well.

Director Richard Donner & cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt again and visually we get a lot more of what the first movie established. Car chases, gunfights, occasional helicopter stuff and explosions (and various combinations thereof). Not very deep, but its well shot and fun to watch, so mission accomplished.

Shane Black & Warren Murphy on Story, Jeffrey Boam on Screenplay. The story is…a bit odd to say the least. First, it paints a significantly unflattering light on all white South Africans as either moustache-twirling villains or clueless/powerless to do anything. Look, Apartheid was an awful, awful system, but the lack of subtlety about it here is…not so much surprising as it is disappointing. The villains are pretty weak in this film compared to the last one, which is a shame, considering the character development done with Riggs & Murtaugh. It feels a bit like a very dark (and things do get surprisingly dark at points) R rated after school special in its message.

Still, the movie has some very bright spots, like the absolutely hilarious-yet-tense toilet bomb scene.

Michael Kamen & Eric Clapton joined by David Sanborn. The music is fine in general and includes quite a few songs by the Skyliners among other things.

Lethal Weapon 2 is an entertaining ride, but its also somewhat weighed down by trying to make some serious social commentary on institutional racism in South Africa and this isn’t the right kind of movie for that kind of effort. I mean, its got a toilet bomb for crying out loud! Not quite as recommended as the first, but it does continue the adventures of Riggs & Murtaugh, and that’s always a fun time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

“Now we question him. You know why we question him? Because I got him in the leg. I didn't shoot him full of holes or try to jump off a building with him.”

Remember how I was late to the Die Hard party? Same thing for Lethal Weapon, which is curious, because it involves director Richard Donner and writer Shane Black, both of whom have contributed to my considerable cinematic enjoyment over the last year. Let’s hope that hot streak continues with 1987’s Lethal Weapon, Director’s Cut.

So, it’s the holidays in LA, and a topless woman hopped up on cocaine falls to her death from an apartment building. MERRY CHRISTMAS! Turns out she was the daughter of a fairly influential army veteran who’s got a friend on the LAPD. That cop, a 20 year veteran who likes to play by the book happens to be assigned a new partner, a younger, suicidally reckless widower with a mullet. Together, they start investigating the death and discover that it might not have been a suicide after all. Can these two cops with opposite personalities learn how to become buddies? Well, yes, obviously. It’s a buddy cop movie.

Sergeant Martin Riggs: Mel Gibson is in full-on damaged goods mode as a cop on the edge with nothing to lose. Served in Vietnam, then joined the LAPD, he was a good cop until his wife died in a car accident a few years back. Now he lives in a trailer by the ocean with his dog and hires prostitutes to sit at home and watch The Three Stooges with him because he’s lonely. He’s also a gun-toting badass that’s been labeled a “Lethal Weapon” (DUN DUN DUN) by police psychologists.

Sergeant Roger Murtaugh: Danny Glover is a cop who’s a family man and 20 year veteran of the force and gets a new partner assigned to him on his 50th birthday. Guess who that is? Murtaugh is the voice of reason, by-the-book, slightly old fashioned half of the partnership. He also served in Vietnam.

Michael Hunsacker: Tom Atkins (who was the sheriff in the mostly lackluster My Bloody Valentine 3-D) is an old military buddy of Murtaugh’s. It’s also his daughter who fell out of the window at the beginning of the movie. He knows a bit more than he lets on.

General Peter McAllister: Mitchell Ryan is our Villain. The commander of a special forces unit called “Shadow Company” he decided to take his team rogue and go into cocaine smuggling business.

Mr. Joshua: Gary Busey is McAllister’s right hand henchman, and described as an albino (though not really). He’s, uh, got a pretty high pain tolerance. That’s about it as far as character development.

Richard Donner and cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt deliver an impressive looking action movie. Yes, its very much an 80s cop movie, but its got quite a few memorable sequences, particularly the early scenes of Riggs behaving insane in the tour of duty (like taking out a sniper with a handgun and taking the quick way down with a ledge jumper).

Shane Black on script duty, and things work great. It's got great character development for the leads. The villains are kind of…there but they are suitably hateable. There’s a lot of wit involved and you really get to like the characters.

Original music by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton, so it's quite good. There’s also quite a few Christmas songs like “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Lethal Weapon is a legitimately good time. Nothing particularly earthshaking, but it’s an effective character-driven buddy cop action movie. On par with Die Hard.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

“I'll torture you so slowly, you'll think it's a career.”

I’ve noticed that Bruce Willis has been popping up a lot here at RMWC over the course of the past year. That’s not a bad thing, of course, since he’s been in quite a few successful films over the years.

1991’s Hudson Hawk is not one of them. Let’s explore!

So our hero gets out of jail after ten years with every intention of going straight and leaving cat burglary behind. And he wants a cappuccino. Unfortunately, it seems like everybody in the world wants to blackmail him into stealing several of Leonardo Da Vinci’s artifacts. What follows, in no particular order, are crooked CIA agents, the Mob, some insane corporate types, the Vatican and a device that can turn lead to gold, which on paper sounds much less insane than it actually is.

Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins: Bruce Willis is our Hero, a guy down on his luck who just can’t seem to get away from his old life. He’s likable enough, though this movie is definitely more in line with his earlier comedy roles than his later badass roles.

Tommy “Five-Tone” Messina: Danny Aiello plays Eddie’s buddy, contact on the outside and partner in crime. He and Eddie synch up a heist not by setting watches, but by singing show tunes. I’m not 100% sure about this, but I’m leaning more toward “amusing” than “stupid.”

Sister Anna Baragli: Andie MacDowell plays a nun working for a secret branch of the Vatican that sort of falls for Eddie, even though he’s trying to steal some of the Church’s treasures (and you know, the whole vow of celibacy thing). Things get a little weird between them.

George Kaplan: James Coburn is the CIA chief who blackmails Hawk into stealing art pieces for a device that can alchemically transmute lead to gold. That’s a sentence I never expected to write. Coburn leers like a champ in this though, so that’s good.

Snickers, Butterfinger, Almond Joy & Kit Kat: Don Harvey, Andrew Bryniarski, Lorraine Toussaint & David Caruso (yes, THAT David Caruso) are Kaplan’s candy bar code named agents. They don’t really have much in the way of personality aside from a few lines. Well, except for Caruso’s Kit Kat, who actually gets the most amusing schtick by having all of his “dialogue” written on little cards he hands to people. A fact I’m sure leaves you a little….speechless.


Darwin & Minerva Mayflower: Richard E. Grant & Sandra Bernhard are the craziest things in the movie, which is saying a lot. They are straight up card carrying villains that want to take over the world by saturating the gold market. Or something like that.

Alfred the Butler: Donald Burton is the Mayflowers’ butler who also happens to be really, really good at killing people with a blade concealed in his sleeves. He’s the badass of the film.

Cesar & Antony Mario: Frank Stallone (yeah, THAT one) & Carmine Zozorra are two brothers who run a local crime family and are the first ones to blackmail Eddie into doing their dirty work.

Michael Lehmann competently directed the film and there is no shortage of memorable scenes/visual gags. A highway chase with Willis rolling along on a stretcher, the heist synched up with “Swingin’ On A Star,” and the insane and improbably storming of “Da Vinci’s Castle” at the end of the movie. It moves quickly, but if anything, there’s TOO much stuff going on in the movie and that ends up dragging it out.

Bruce Willis & Robert Kraft on story and Steven E. deSouza & Daniel Waters on screenplay. The movie bombed because it’s a nonsensical farce that was marketed as a normal action film. Yes there’s action, but the majority of the movie is quirky dialogue and Eddie trying to outwit a bunch of psychopathic characters that would really like to see him dead. Not all of the jokes hit. Okay, a lot of jokes miss the mark, but there’s something kind of charming about the madcap cartoonishness of the plot & characters.

Original music by Michael Kamen (which is always good) and Robert Kraft. There’s Bing Crosby’s “Swinging On A Star” in a memorable sequence and a couple other songs thrown in for good measure.

It’s a weird, weird, weird, weird movie. I mean, a WEIRD movie. While I wouldn’t go out on a limb calling it a great movie or anything, I was consistently entertained by it and waiting to see what new insanity the film would throw at me. In some ways, the experience reminds me of Road House or The Last Dragon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

“This sword has been in my family for five generations. It has never known defeat. Until now.”

Who’s up for a little whimsy? I know I sure could go for some right about now. I’d say a 1985 Fantasy/Romance/ADVENTURE! directed by Richard Donner is just the ticket. Let’s get some Ladyhawke up in this mofo!

So, its Medieval Europe, in a region called Aquila (which is in Italy) a petty thief escapes the gallows (and prison) and runs afoul of a mysterious, black-clad knight who is on a grim quest to undo a curse and kill the wicked bishop of Aquila, who’s cursed the knight and his lady fair to be “always together, eternally apart.” By day, she’s a hawk, by night, he’s a wolf. Needless to say, it’s an awkward relationship. ADVENTURE! ensues.

Phillipe Gaston, “The Mouse:” Matthew Broderick is our main character, a weasely (well, mousey) little thief who’s somehow managed to piss off the evil Bishop so much that he’s slated for execution. Escaping through the sewers, he finds himself hunted by the Bishop’s men, but gets rescued by Etienne and becomes his reluctant sidekick and quite important to getting the curse undone. He also makes it a habit of talking to God about his problems when no other characters are looking.

Etienne Navarre: Rutger Hauer is stone cold badass in this film. Seriously. He’s a French(ish) knight who was the former captain of the Aquila guard who fell in love with a noblewoman, which pissed off the Bishop and now he’s cursed. Turns into a wolf at night, and it’s a testament to Hauer’s intensity that he’s more badass in human form. He will kill his way through an country full of goons for love if he has to.

Isabeau d’Anjou: Michelle Pheiffer is beautiful as the love of Etienne’s life. She’s the more vulnerable of the two, but ends up using Phillipe as a way of getting messages to and from Etienne. A big chunk of the movie is spent during the day, so Isabeu is a hawk for most of the movie.

Father Imperius the Monk: Leo McKern (TV’s Horace Rumpole of the Bailey) plays the recluse who was once Isabeu’s confessor at court, until he accidentally let the Bishop know of her romance with Etienne. Shamed by this, he comes through in a moment of crisis and figures out a possible way to undo the curse.

The Bishop of Aquila: John Wood is a big jerk in this. First, he’s a tyrant who rules with an iron fist. Second, he’s pretty much tossed his vows out the window to obsessively pursue a woman who hates him. Third, he’s apparently resorted to sorcery and/or the Devil to put a curse on the two lovers. Like I said, a big ol’ jerk.

Marquet: Ken Hutchinson plays the Bishop’s guard captain. He’s reasonably competent-ish but Etienne was the captain before him, and boy does that leave a chip on Marquet’s shoulder.

Cezar: Alfred Molina (yep, that one) in a small role as an assassin/hunter who’s hired to hunt down the big black wolf form of Etienne.

Richard Donner in the director’s chair and some truly excellent cinematography by Vittorio Storaro means that we get lots and lots of ADVENTURE! Some of the early action scenes are a bit clunky (and for some reason Etienne has a “double-barreled” crossbow), but by and large the action is entertaining, the effects have largely aged well and the whole thing is put together well. The movie does go a little bit long, but by that point you’re already invested in the characters and are committed to the end.

Edward Khmara, Michael Thomas, Tom Mankiewicz & David Webb Peoples, which is a lot of people on one script, but by and large things go well. The occasional anachronistic phrases pop up and at times Phillipe gets a tad annoying with his monologues, but overall, the story goes for a largely optimistic High Fantasy/Legendary feel but in the context of Medieval History. Which is a nice change of pace from the extra grimy, gloomy and cynical feel that pervades most medieval movies from the last twenty years.

Original music by Andrew Powell, and, well, it’s the weak link of the movie. There’s a lot of synthesizer stuff that overshadows the orchestral touches, and its not very good. Jarringly not good.

Ladyhawke is actually a lot of fun and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. Sure its more about the power of love than it is about throwing swords into people’s chests, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for an ol’ softie like me. Recommended.

Next time, we get a hawk of a different, uh, plumage.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

“You using the whole fist, Doc?”

*Some shopkeeping notes: The schedule isn't quite ready to be back to Mon, Wed, Fri. But fear not, I'm going to try a Tues, Thurs updating schedule to slowly increase content. So, uh, yippy-skippy and all that.*

I have to admit I’ve never watched the 1985 Chevy Chase comedy Fletch before. Not sure how it happened, but there you go. The good news is that I’ve watched it now.

So, our Hero, Fletch, is an investigative journalist in LA who uses disguises to achieve deep cover to find stories that he publishes under the alias “Jane Doe.” While he’s pretending to be a homeless drug addict to investigate a smuggling operation, he gets approached by a millionaire with an interesting proposition. The millionaire, dying of cancer, wants Fletch to murder him in a week’s time so that his wife can collect on the life insurance. Then things get weird with Fletch donning various disguises to try and figure out what’s going on in a solid parody of hard-boiled detective stories. Hilarity ensues.

Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher: Chevy Chase is our deadpan hero. He’s got a fantastically successful column, but doesn’t really enjoy the glory since its written under a pseudonym, he’s constantly being hounded by his ex wife’s lawyer for money, so yeah, he’s a pretty flawed character. Guy’s also obsessed to Jack Nicholson levels with the LA Lakers. The comedy involves Chase doing what he does best, straightfaced delivery of off-center dialogue and general bullshitting. Fairly badass.

Alan Stanwyk: Tim Matheson is the rich guy who wants Fletch to murder him. Now, since Fletch isn’t actually a homeless drug addict, the reporter starts snooping around and finds that Stanwyck’s NOT actually terminally ill.

Gail Stanwyk: Dana Wheeler-Nicholson is Stanwyck’s wife and someone that Fletch becomes VERY interested in investigating closely. Preferably between the sheets.

Chief Jerry Karlin: Joe Don Baker plays a corrupt cop who’s got a station of ne’er-do-well police working for him.

There’s also George Wendt (Norm from Cheers), Kenneth Mars (from several Mel Brooks films) and Geena Davis in smaller roles, among other people.

Directed by Michael Ritchie, the movie looks fine but isn’t amazing or anything. Mostly, the visuals serve to get Chevy Chase from one scene to another where he can be all funny and stuff. The makeup effects that were used on him for his various disguises range from nothing special to pretty damn good, depending on the character he’s playing.

Based on a novel by Gregory McDonald and adapted for the screen by Andrew Bergman (who worked on Blazing Saddles and, uh, Striptease) the plot could very easily work in the hard boiled detective or film noir genres. In fact, part of the comedy is that the plot and most of the characters are treating the movie that way while Fletch spends the entire time snarking his way through and completely wrecking that illusion of seriousness.

Original score by Harold (the guy who wrote “Axel F” for Beverly Hills Cop) Faltermeyer. He wrote the theme song for the movie, “Bit By Bit” and there are some other very 80s songs throughout the movie.

You know, I was pleasantly surprised with Fletch. It wasn’t as “knee-slappin’ hee-haw’in” funny as I thought it would be, but its incredibly clever and much better plotted than I expected. It’s a solid comedy.

And no, I don’t think there’s a need to track down the 1989 sequel Fletch Lives.

That's...actually an awful trailer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

“Ahhh, finally, a man worth killing.”

Well this is going to be weird. Its definitely high time for another King Arthur movie. Yay! Except this time around its one from the 2000s that purports to demystify the myths from the facts. Boo! Well, regardless, since I’ve got a mania where I end up buying Arthurian films regardless of their overall quality, we might as well sit down with 2004’s King Arthur, the Director’s Cut!

We start off with blah blah blah Roman Britain, blah blah blah, Sarmatian cavalry stationed in Britain even though Rome itself is really half-assing its support of the floundering colony. Turns out the Romans there are having trouble with the Saxons as well as the Woads…waitaminute. The Romano-British are having trouble with a flowering plant most famous for the indigo dyes it can be used to make? True story of King Arthur my ass. If you want to have local tribes that don’t bow to the Romans, you can call them Celts, or more accurately Picts. Well, anyway its 467 AD and Rome needs to consolidate its…Wait. Rome withdrew from Britain around 410 AD. You know what, fuck you movie for insulting my intelligence. Okay, so its neither a fantastical take on the legend or a historical take. Good to know. Excuse me while I turn my medievalist’s brain off.

So the soldiers get sent on one last mission before being given their release papers. They have to go up into *shudder* “Woad” territory to evacuate a Roman Villa because-- Wait. That makes no fucking sense. WHY WOULD YOU BUILD A ROMAN VILLA OUTSIDE OF ROMAN TERRITORY???

Anyway, we get some blah blah blah about how Arthur is a Romano-Britain (which is actually rather likely) who’s commander of a group of Sarmatian cavalrymen (look, the term “Knight” didn’t come about until later if we’re playing the historicity card) who are generally grumpy since their term of service is ending and most want to go home. And then there’s fighting. Yay, swords! And Keira Knightly in little more than leather straps. Yay T&A!

Arthur/Artorius: Clive Owen is a Roman Britain who was a big fan of Pelagius, a fairly obscure 5th century ascetic and heretic who died around 440 (not necessarily under shadowy circumstances), a full ten years before Arthur was to have met him. Anyway…., Owen’s Arthur is actually pretty cool, stupid plot notwithstanding. He’s an idealist, and merciful in his command who has the absolute loyalty of his men (no matter how much the movie makes them bitch about it). He believes in Rome the ideal, but he’s also got the stones to back up his vision but he‘s also conflicted. And you know, Owen makes a pretty damn good Arthur, so there you go: badass of the film.

Lancelot: Ioan Gruffudd is Arthur’s number 2, a Sarmatian who’s extremely grumpy. I mean, that’s his dominant character trait. He’s grumpy about everything. Oh, and he’s vaguely pagan, which I suppose would be acceptable since he’s supposed to be from a tribe of steppe horsemen. Oh, and he fights with two swords, because that’s a practical fighting style for a horseman.

Tristram: Mads Mikkelsen is the most “barbarian” looking of the horsemen. He’s actually really good in the role, just underutilized a lot and with not a whole lot of characterization. He’s a falconer, is apparently the scout of the squad, seems to sort of, kind of have a death wish and fights with a curved blade which gives him a cool looking two handed “katana-esque” fighting style but isn’t all that practical for a horseman. Also, there is no Isolde, so that’s automatic points off.

Gawain: Joel Edgerton (who was the young Uncle Owen in the Star Wars prequels though I can’t blame you for forgetting). Gawain’s all right. He’s got long hair, seems pretty laid back about most everything and is a trooper who’s got Arthur’s back. He’s not Arthur’s cousin, which sucks, but its clear the writer had a cursory knowledge of Gawain and the Green Knight because he’s got green-ish armor and uses a handaxe, which…is actually a very practical weapon for a horseman.

Galahad: Hugh Dancy is probably the least defined member of the team. He’s the young one who doesn’t like fighting. And that’s about it. And he’s sort of an archer. Definitely not the “Warrior of Justice and Purity” that Galahad is synonymous with.

Bors: Ray Winstone is actually pretty damn awesome here as one of the team’s “big guys.” He’s an old soldier and pretty much planning on settling down with his woman and 11 or so illegitimate children. Big, boisterous and jolly, he also happens to fight with two funky daggers because THAT’S a practical weapon for a horseman.

Dagonet: Ray Stevenson is the other big guy on the team. Doesn’t talk much, always has Arthur’s back and is treated like Bors’ little brother. He’s also the first one to die in the film, but he does get a pretty badass death scene. He uses a very big axe because that’s a practical for a-- You know what, never mind.

Guinevere: Keira Knightley is a Pictish woman rescued by Arthur during the “last mission.” She’s okay, I guess, despite being yet another preachy action girl shoehorned into a historical movie. I guess I’d complain more, but she just looks so damn good doing it.

Merlin: Stephen Dillane is the creepy Celtic mystic who more or less rules the “Woads.” Arthur hates him because years ago his mother was killed in a raid led by Merlin. Merlin’s is not actually a wizard in this movie, so all the crazy looks he gives here are, well, just crazy looks that make him simply a creepy dude in the woods.

Cerdic: Stellan Skarsgård is our Saxon villain. A very, very, very obvious villain. Murderous, psychotic and racist against the Britons (which is hilarious, since the Saxons settled permanently in Britain and forever changed both the language and demography), he’d be on the level of moustache-twirling cartoon if it weren’t for just how laid back he is about it. He’s a barbarian warlord who’s possessed by ennui, which is both hilarious and awesome, and Skarsgård seems to be having a lot of fun with it.

Cynric: Til Schweiger is Cerdic’s son and second in command. He’s there to get yelled at a lot by dad and glower.

Bishop Germannus: Ivano Marescotti is the Roman bishop sent to the island to serve Arthur & his men their discharge papers (which…why would the Empire send a bishop to do such a menial task??). He’s just kind of a jerk.

Antoine Fuqua (who directed Training Day, which I’ve heard good things about) brings some interesting things to the table. The movie is certainly well shot and the battle scenes are legitimately interesting to watch. It definitely looks good. Pacing is a definite issue though, and I don’t just mean that as a comment on the director’s cut (never seen the theatrical version and from what I’ve read, that’s for the best).

David Franzoni (who worked on the entertaining but historical clusterfuck Gladiator) is the sole scripter here and… there’s a lot wrong with it. I mean, why do these “Sarmatian knights” have names like Lancelot (French in origin) or Gawain (which is British)? Why do the Saxons have crossbows? Trebuchets? “WOADS?” Why is the Pope considered the highest authority in the Western Roman Empire? The Senate and the Emperor (however useless he may have been) were still the authorities. The Pope was still only considered Bishop of Rome. And speaking of Rome, it was sacked in 410 by the Goths and the capital of the Western Empire (and the Emperor) moved to the more defensible Ravenna. I mean, is it really all that hard to check this stuff in Wikipedia? Or a book? I mean…FUCK! So much of this story doesn’t make any goddamn sense. And if it sounds like I’m being overly critical of the script when I might let other movies slide, well, I am. You can’t have the marketing campaign be all like “based on the TRUE story of King Arthur” and have so many goddamn glaring GLARBHHHGUYAJGHKJHASFKJHKLJHASFDLK:LIUO*&

About the only really interesting thing done with the characters is that the Lancelot/Arthur/Guinevere love triangle is downplayed.

Hans Zimmer’s music is a totally serviceable score for the film that rises to very solid percussive beats during the action scenes. Its solid, but not something that really can stand alongside the true greats of film music.

Right, so I’ve really ragged on King Arthur here quite a bit. Do I hate it? Surprisingly no. Franzoni’s script is pretty damn bad, but the movie looks good, the battles entertain and the cast largely manages to elevate the mediocre material they’re dealing with. I mean, its way more entertaining than First Knight. I just kind of wish every single period film like this of the last ten years didn’t try to ape Braveheart so much.

And by no means is this the worst Arthurian movie I’ve seen…

Thursday, May 06, 2010

“For those of you just joining us, today we're teaching poodles how to fly.”

This one’s just a shameless excuse to look at one of the formative movies of my youth. 1989’s UHF is not a complicated movie. It’s a vehicle for novelty/parody songster “Weird Al” Yankovic, and its really not a surprise that it tanked at the box office and became a cult classic on video.

Well, our hero is a well-meaning nice guy who’s a constant daydreamer. This gets him fired from most jobs that require an attention span. However, when his uncle wins a terrible local TV station in a game of poker, our guy ends up being given control of the station and after a few teething problems, local channel U-62 gets some wildly popular shows and draws the irate attention of the big, bad network affiliate station. Yeah, its not deep at all, but hilarity still ensues.

George Newman: “Weird Al” Yankovic plays pretty much himself (or at least his public persona) of a likable goofball with an insane imagination and a penchant for amusingly lyric-ed parody songs.

Teri: Victoria Jackson (who was on SNL for a while) plays George’s long suffering girlfriend. That’s…about all I can think of to say about the character. Uhhh, she works in a dentist’s office?

Bob: David Bowe (not David Bowie) is George’s best friend and the resident voice of reason.

R.J. Fletcher: Kevin McCarthy chews through scenery like that Asian guy in those hot dog eating contests they show on ESPN every year. He’s our villain, the guy who runs Channel 8, the local network affiliate, with an iron fist. Hilariously dictatorial, the guy’s just an asshole.

Stanley Spadowski: Michael Richards (yep, TV’s Kramer) is the dim-witted janitor of U-62 who gets a TV show when George goes through a brief mental breakdown. The show turns out to be the highest rated show in town and signals the reversal of U-62’s fortunes.

Pamela Finkelstein: Fran Drescher (yep, that one) is the station’s secretary who gets promoted to reporter for U-62.

Philo: Anthony Geary is the station’s engineer and resident mad scientist. He also gets a show, appropriately about science.

Noodles MacIntosh: Legendary little person actor Billy Barty is one of the cameramen for U-62.

Uncle Harvey & Aunt Esther: Stanley Brock & Sue Ane Langdon are George’s relatives who give him control of the station. Harvey’s a sleaze who ends up owing money to a dangerous “Big Louie” which prompts a telethon to save the station.

Kuni: Gedde Watanabe is George’s neighbor who runs a martial arts dojo. He ALSO gets a show, and it is hilarious.

Raul Hernandez: Trinidad Silva (who sadly died in a car accident before all of his scenes were filmed) is the film’s badass. Not just because of the tragic nature of his death, but also because the two segments that he’s in are easily the funniest for their sheer insanity. "Raul’s Wild Kingdom" is one of the greatest gags this movie has to offer.

Directed by Jay Levey, the film is competently shot and there’s a lot of visual comedy thrown around. There’s the occasional cartoonish elements and a lot of dream sequences that parody other films (Indiana Jones, Rambo, etc). Sure its not Oscar-worthy, but it gets the job done clearly and efficiently, and that’s not a bad thing.

Written by Al Yankovic and Jay Levey, the movie is just plain goofy. Dialogue is amusing, the characters, while not necessarily complex, work well together, and the real strength of the film are the dream sequences and snippets of U-62’s off kilter programming. You get stuff like “Wheel of Fish,” “Celebrity Mud Wrestling” and “Conan the Librarian.”

Original music by John Du Prez, which is fine, but the real musical stuff that stands out is what you get from “Weird Al” and his band. Most notably the parody of Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing,” “Beverly Hillbillies” which is also, oddly enough, one of the least comically goofy segments of the entire movie.

Look. I know UHF is a goofy, goofy movie. I still love the pluperfect hell out of it unapologetically. Totally recommended for a good, honest laugh.