"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Comedy/Laffs’ Category

Night on Earth

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

“Like Popeye says, ‘I yam what I yam,’ right?”

 

On May 1, 1992, Fine Line Features released Jim Jarmusch’s NIGHT ON EARTH on a mere 40 screens. By comparison, LEAVING NORMAL was released to 362 screens on the same day, and nobody ever heard of that one. But this was a well marketed limited release – I knew NIGHT ON EARTH existed, and in fact went to see it on one of those 40 screens, specifically the one that was upstairs at Seattle’s Harvard Exit Theatre (1968-2015).

This is Jarmusch’s fifth film. It’s possible I’d seen STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DOWN BY LAW already, but I suspect I rented them after seeing this. (I know I’d never heard of PERMANENT VACATION and saw MYSTERY TRAIN later.) So I may not have realized that by his standards it was kind of commercial: in Winona Ryder (who had BEETLEJUICE, HEATHERS and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS under her belt and was about to do BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA) he had his biggest movie star to date, and despite its simplicity it sure seems to have a bigger budget than his previous films, since it’s filmed on location in four different countries. (read the rest of this shit…)

Leaving Normal

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

“I didn’t choose any of this, you know? This chose me.”

Friday, May 1st, 1992 was day 3 of the L.A. riots. The day Rodney King said “Can we all get along?” President George H.W. Bush invoked the Insurrection Act, so California Army National Guard and federal troops were activated under the newly formed Joint Task Force Los Angeles. In L.A. and San Francisco, NBA and MLB games were moved or postponed. Van Halen, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and the WWF all cancelled events. Tension and shock spread across the country.

But also some people went to see movies. Mostly BASIC INSTINCT, which was still #1 in its seventh week. And a very small number of people must’ve went to see LEAVING NORMAL, a perfectly sweet little comedy-drama about white women. Maybe it wasn’t the best time for it. It was not a big enough release to make it onto the box office charts, and I honestly don’t remember ever hearing of it before researching this series. But if I’m gonna do Weird Summer I better cover a movie about leaving normal.

Actually it’s about a young woman named Marianne (Meg Tilly, PSYCHO II) and an older bar waitress named Darly (Christine Lahti, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS) deciding to leave a small, boring town called Normal. But I think we all get the implication. (read the rest of this shit…)

Boris and Natasha

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

BORIS AND NATASHA, a.k.a. BORIS AND NATASHA: THE MOVIE, went straight to Showtime, but I’m counting it as a Weird Summer movie because it first aired on April 17, 1992, and presumably kept playing in subsequent months. And yes, it’s a live action movie centered on the villainous spy characters from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which is a pretty weird idea.

That beloved Jay Ward cartoon was 30+ years in the past at the time, but still showing in reruns. I know I watched it in the ‘80s. I remember having a t-shirt with Rocky and Bullwinkle parodying the ENDLESS SUMMER poster, even though I didn’t know what that was. It was a great show, so I’m not complaining, but my parents’ generation gave us their nostalgia as hand-me-downs, and we took it. I had Gumby shirts too. I never got Showtime, though, so I never saw BORIS AND NATASHA: THE MOVIE, and couldn’t exactly picture how you’d make a movie about them.

Actually it’s not a terrible comedy premise: what if Boris and Natasha were given a mission where they had to pretend to defect to the U.S., but then they started to like being American? This isn’t as common anymore, but they used to make these movies based on old TV shows but with some high concept way to set it in the modern world. They did it for DRAGNET and after this THE BRADY BUNCH and FAT ALBERT and much later 21 JUMP STREET. CONEHEADS was another one that actually has a premise pretty similar to this one.

Wait – isn’t that kind of what The Americans is about too? Is The Americans a remake of BORIS AND NATASHA: THE MOVIE? (read the rest of this shit…)

Delicatessen

Friday, May 13th, 2022

“Just like you said, the wind’s shifting. Everyone’s gonna get it.”


At the 65th Academy Awards, the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar went to a French film – the historical drama INDOCHINE. I’m sure it was great, but people like me didn’t know to pay attention to movies like that. We paid attention to the French film that we heard was really cool looking and darkly funny and had something to do with cannibalism. That was DELICATESSEN, the feature debut of directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro, which Miramax released in the U.S. on April 3, 1992, a year after it came out in France.

I don’t know how many screens it played on, because it didn’t make enough to show up on the box office charts, but I think it traveled around for a while. I remember seeing ads for it at the arthouse theaters – it was a much discussed cult movie of its time. Since this is maybe the most interesting of the April releases that kept playing into the summer it seemed like the best way to kick off this 1992 – Weird Summer series. (read the rest of this shit…)

Street Trash

Friday, April 29th, 2022

I was thinking about STREET TRASH (1987) after I revisited the TOXIC AVENGER series a couple months back. I had seen the movie as a teen and all I really remembered was a part where some dude is taking a piss and his dick gets ripped off and a bunch of guys play keep away with it. Of course, any movie would be proud to have a memorable scene like that, and most filmmakers would tip their hat to it, just out of professionalism. But it is widely known that TOXIC AVENGER director Lloyd Kaufman hates STREET TRASH and the people behind it. I heard him grumble about it at a book signing, and he refers to it sometimes in his books, without really going into specifics. People ask him about it in interviews, but he’ll just make a joke. The best explanation seems to be that he thinks it’s a rip off of the Troma style. Also, there was apparently some incident involving its “little shit” director Jim Muro on an episode of The Morton Downey, Jr. Show.

It definitely traffics in a similar in-your-face repulsiveness/taboo-violating to the Troma movies. It takes place among a community of homeless alcoholics in Brooklyn and uncomfortably blurs the line between offensive caricature and (very mildly) sympathetic portrayal. I can’t think of a character in the movie that’s not intentionally repellent, but the movie at least recognizes that they’re up against a cruel and unjust world. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

I’m going to start this review nice and then get all my complaints out and then be nice again. THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT is a fun movie with the irresistible gimmick that it stars Nic Cage as himself (or, I guess, “Nick Cage,” according to the credits). It’s pretty funny and kind of sweet, it allows him to refer to his “nouveau shamanic acting” process a couple times, references some of his movies, even has a de-aged and sometimes mega version of himself as his invisible spirit guide, “Nicky.” It’s a nice mainstream acknowledgment of what used to be a somewhat fringe opinion: that Nic Cage is brilliant and awesome, whether as an action star, as a work-a-day b-movie headliner, or as an eccentric weirdo.

The plot involves Cage at a low point because he’s been rejected for a role he wants really bad (directed by David Gordon Green, who wrote the foreword to Seagalogy, which means I’m two degrees from Nic Cage), he’s running out of money, and his daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION) and ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan, GAME NIGHT) are fed up with him. So he agrees to accept an offer to attend a rich dude’s birthday party in Mallorca for a million dollars. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sunset

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

We’re all sad that Bruce Willis has retired, and more than that to have confirmation of his long rumored cognitive issues. He’s still there, and unable to say goodbye. It’s crushing.

The upside is how nice it’s been to have everyone on the same page again and celebrating his great career and all the happiness he’s brought us over the years. That made me want to watch something of his I’d never seen before – thanks for the recommendations, everyone. I decided to check out Blake Edwards’ SUNSET (1988), since it’s from that period when Moonlighting was still on the air, and I truly believed Bruce represented the maximum coolness potential for a human being. The earlier Edwards/Willis joint BLIND DATE has a terrible reputation, but I liked it, so SUNSET seemed worth a try. (read the rest of this shit…)

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

It’s hard not to think of EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE as some kind of miracle movie. I had no idea it was something I needed, or something that anyone would think to make, until a couple months ago when the trailer came out. It stars Michelle Yeoh in her best ever English language role, a very layered character who gets to be funny and goofy and troubled and kind of an asshole but totally lovable and yes, she also does some kung fu. It co-stars Ke Huy Quan, who we knew as a child star in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and THE GOONIES, but who hasn’t been in a movie in almost 20 years, making a triumphant return in surely his best part ever (and he also gets to fight).

It would be worth celebrating just for putting those two actors together, even if it didn’t entirely work. But this thing is much more advanced than that. Written and directed by “Daniels” (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, of SWISS ARMY MAN and various music videos), it’s a very original movie, but if I had to give it a short hand description based on other people’s work I’d go with “if Michel Gondry made THE MATRIX.” Or if that scares you, substitute Stephen Chow. It uses a convoluted sci-fi gimmick as a vehicle for some absurd humor, artfully hand-crafted imagery and outlandish action, which all weaves together to explore ideas about life and relationships and family and happiness. That title is no lie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

After the one-two punch of THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II and THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE in 1989, the live action Toxic Avenger sat out the entire 1990s. He missed grunge, the rise and fall of Death Row Records, Hypercolor shirts, everything. During that time Lloyd Kaufman oversaw The Toxic Crusaders cartoon, went to court with New Line Cinema, and directed three non-Toxic movies: SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. (1990), TROMEO AND JULIET (1996) and TERROR FIRMER (1998).

By now Troma had become some sort of institution, with a younger generation working for them for little or no pay because they grew up on the movies. It was also a harder time to create humor more tasteless than what was popular. Kids had seen Tom Green pretend to hump a dead moose on cable, the whole world had been charmed by Cameron Diaz with semen in her hair, and Jackass started airing a month before CITIZEN TOXIE came out. In 1996 Troma had given a limited release to a 1993 indie called ALFRED PACKER: THE MUSICAL (retitled CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL) by young filmmakers Trey Parker & Matt Stone. The following year, Parker & Stone’s South Park started on Comedy Central and became a pop culture phenomenon. It was during South Park season 4, while the two Troma-boys-made-big were being canonized as the edgy provocateurs and envelope-pushing satirists of their era, that the fourth TOXIC AVENGER movie finally hit the screen. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

“I don’t have a life. I have a half life!”


I’ve discussed in the previous TOXIC AVENGER reviews how I watched THE TOXIC AVENGER and THE TOXIC AVENGER PART II over and over again in my teenage years and that they helped form my weirdo sensibilities. I remember that all very vividly. The part I did not remember is that THE TOXIC AVENGER PART III: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF TOXIE came out the same year as part II! It doesn’t seem that close together in my memories. I guess time passes slower in the mind of a high schooler.

I did not like this one as much, so I didn’t watch it as many times, and all I remembered was thinking it was funny that he gets to fight and kill the Devil. Many of our great franchises such as ROCKY and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS have not yet been able to face off with Satan. Toxie already got to do it in part III. Good for him. (read the rest of this shit…)