Friday, April 3, 2020

Rare Flix: Dudes (1987)

The downside to having a Genre-defying Film is that it isn't always easy to sell!  Today's Film is Dudes, a 1987 Comedy-Drama-Road Film-Western-Rock & Roll-Revenge-Coming of Age Film.  See what I mean?!?  This Film comes to us from Penelope Spheeris the previous Director of Documentaries like The Decline of Western Civilization and the future Director of Wayne's World!  Somewhere between those Films, she made one where Jon Cryer loves Punk Rock and has to learn to be a Cowboy.  Transitions aren't easy!  The story focuses on Cryer and his two friends as they go to California to start a new life.  The trip isn't completed- for reasons I'll get into- however and adventure ensues.  The Film is a pretty natural transition for Spheeris in one sense, since it features Flea and some other Musicians from the Punk Rock Scene in small to large roles.  It is weird to think of this very interesting Film with Jon Cryer and Superman IV being made so close together though.  Is this Film (which only got a Blu-Ray Release in 2017) worth remembering?  To find out, read on...
It is 1987 in New York (cue comment about awkward establishing shot) and three Punk Rock loving guys- Cryer, Daniel Roebuck and Flea) aren't happy.  Time for a change?
Using the latter's money, they try to drive cross-country to California.  Along the way, they stop and help out an Elvis Impersonator/Rodeo Clown.

I see no pay off to this coming down the line.
En route, however, they are accosted by a gang.  Led by a man 'named' Missoula (due to his tattoo), they are injured, broke and, oh yeah, one of them is dead.

Missoula is played by Lee Ving the Lead Singer of Fear, a band famous for 'slam dancing' on SNL in 1981 and a band represented via pin on Roebuck's jacket earlier.
With their friend's body missing and the boys being from New York City, the Cops don't believe them.

One wants to move on...
...but Cryer wants to man up and take revenge.  It's noble...to a point.
The other guy eventually comes around and they make an attempt, having caught up to them on the road.  It doesn't end well.
Meeting back up with a woman from earlier, the pair get some help.

While Cryer learns to open up (and shoot a gun properly), Roebuck...um, has visions of him being a Native American.  It's...interesting?
After some issues with finding them and a failed attempt to kill them, the pair end up in Prison.

Cops are killed and a shoot-out entails.  For some reason, I find the visual this shotgun blast (real or otherwise) hitting the wall to be funny.

It's like they shot a gas pellet!
Cryer eventually takes out one of the two bad guys and then shows mercy (after nearly killing him with a fall, to be fair).  Of course, they do the 'guy shoots at the hero and they can kill them anyways' bit.

A wounded Cryer sees the Cowboys he's witnessed in visions earlier and Flea is now with them.  Aw.  The End.
A good Film- at least when you consider how many kinds of Film it is.  It is a Road Movie.  It is a Buddy Comedy.  It is a Coming of Age Drama.  It is a Revenge Film.  It is a Western.  On paper, there is no way that this works.  In practice, I think it mostly does.  There is still a bit of a disconnect at certain points.  For instance, Cryer is having his moments of learning how to 'be a man,' while Roebuck is having his weird dream sequence.  I'm not sure that the two feel equally-earned.  The whole product is still quite enjoyable.  As a side part, the Film works as a really interesting time-capsule for Music and Style at the time.  Even considering that it focuses more on the Punk Rock/Hard Rock Scene, you can enjoy that part of it alot.  I think the Acting overall is what really holds this together.  Aside from Roebuck's moments of insanity, everyone feels 'real,' which isn't something you always get in these.  Cryer holds the Film together with his performance, so good on him.  Clearly the same care wasn't put into him as 'Lenny Luthor,' but I don't really blame him 100% for that.  Dudes was, for the longest time, a bit of lost Cult Classic.  Thanks to a fairly-recent Blu-Ray, that might change in the long run.  Because, remember, the more things change, the more they stay the same...
Next up, a 3-part look at some Kung-Fu Films from America.  With America's current obsession with Tigers, this seems like the best time.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Quick Review: Casino Royale

Even though the new Film has been delayed due to terrible circumstances, there's no reason not to look back anyhow.  Let's see how the current Bond's adventures began with...
Craig is here as Bond, although he looks different than I remember.  He also appears to be doing an American accent.

Anyhow, he's got to stop Le Chiffre and beat him at Baccarat. 
The French Agent- working for the Russians, since Communism- has to win the money that he owes to his backers or is he dead meat.

Mads looks less intimidating than I remember.
Bond and Felix...I mean, Clarence discuss the operation under the pretense of discussing the game.  Wait, Leiter is British.  My memory must be failing me.

Say what you will, but Jeffrey Wright disappears into these roles!
It is the time for the big game.  Hmm...these Act Break Title Cards are a bit intrusive, no.

Can Bond beat the villain (in cards)?
Of course, even if he wins, he won't get out unscathed.  Thankfully, his *ahem* 007s don't take any direct punishment here.

Weird- the Film is famous for this bit.  Oh well.
Can Bond defeat the evil Spymaster on his terms?  Can he save the girl?  Will he ever order a damn Martini (shaken, not stirred)?  To find out, watch the Film.
Oh and APRIL FOOLS!

Seriously, this is the original Bond Film...albeit made for TV.  In 1954, Ian Fleming was given the equivalent of around $10,000 today for the TV rights.  In this early time, nobody knew quite what TV was, so it was just Plays broadcast nationwide.  Climax's 3rd Episode featured this original Bond tale, beating the Broccoli Family to it by about a Decade.  Barry Nelson is our original Bond.  Peter Lorre is our original Bond Villain.  This is also the first major credit for the late Jerry Goldsmith, a man responsible for 4 Decades of Music, most notably on Star Trek.  There is a long-running Urban Legend that Lorre got up when he thought he was out of frame after his death scene- he didn't.

This is a neat, condensed version of the Story.  Bond is not quite who you expect.  He orders a Scotch and Water!  He's not British!  He's not that suave.

It is still a decent, underrated and forgotten adaptation.  It has limitations and pointless changes, but is good.  The version I found does have a weird issue with the visual fidelity suddenly dropping in Act III (see below).  I hope it's just a bad tape transfer.
A bit of a hidden gem.  Check it out, even if it is just as a curiosity piece.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Us (2019)

After a long delay, I might as well get back to these.

In the Film Us, the strange doubles seem to show up out of nowhere.
While our heroes recover, they see a News Reporter filming a group of them, when...
Yeah, bad idea.  You should probably...
Never mind.

You're dead, random Reporter.

I'm sure the Sound Guy and Camera Guy appreciate you being a dumbass and getting them killed with you.
The lesson: mind your surroundings.  Did Ra's Al Ghul teach you nothing!

Next time, an induction that is *arguably* ineligible.  That said, I decide and dead animals usually make it in.  See you then...

Monday, March 30, 2020

Quick Review: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

After missing it on the Roadshow Tour (a la Mom & Dad), I discovered it on Amazon Prime.  Was it worth the wait?
Almost 20 years after their last 'solo' adventure, things aren't going well for the pair.  Their plan to sell Pot goes awry.
They get even worse news as Saban Films has bought the Bluntman & Chronic Film Rights.

Amidst the Film joking about how familiar this is, they do have Jason Lee tell them about the Film and not Ben Affleck.

This also includes the subtle Stan Lee Tribute as well.
The pair plan to go to Hollywood, but run into some trouble along the way- naturally.  En route, they learn that Justice (from the last Film) is now a Weatherwoman...and had Jay's kid!
So the pair go off to Hollywood (California and not Florida, in a bit cut like 5x) with the Daughter and her friends, none of whom know the secret.

It is at this point that Film reaches a standstill.  Is it trying to be 'woke' Comedy-Drama or is it a Stoner Comedy with some Drama?  You decide (since he didn't). 
What is the new Film- titled Bluntman V Chronic, naturally- like?  Will they stop it?  Should they stop it?

Fun Side Note: there's a DTV Scooby-Doo Film that does this same thing- only with the Blue Falcon.  Weird, no?
Instead of a big Climax at the Movie Studio, they end up at Not ComicCon.  What final twists and turns will we see?

To find out, watch the Movie.  It's on Prime- as mentioned- but lots of other places too.
This Film is so META that I feel like I have to follow suit.  The Film has a strong enough story, even if it does get bogged down by a few diversions.  For instance, Matt Damon's Cameo as Loki was funny, but had zero impact on the Film's narrative.  Most of the other ones feel more connected.  For instance, the Ben Affleck part has a clear cause-and-effect role in the narrative.  The actual Story, as mentioned, is good.  It definitely sells you as one thing and clearly turns you another away.  All of the things you'd expect from an experienced Writer/Director are on display here.  Weirdly, some pay-offs- like the one about Edibles- were cut (but shown during the Credits).  Obviously, due to situations out of his control, Smith can't get everyone back.  I am surprised, however, that Alanis Morisette is mentioned twice, but not actually shown.  The absence of Randal is odd too, but he did *initially* turn down Clerks III, so that might be related.  Another note- Clerks II is still in-continuity, but we see Rosario Dawson playing a different Character- odd.  The biggest pro and con here is the issue with its tone.  It tries its best to be a fun Stoner Comedy, but also a Road Trip Movie and a Coming of Age Tale for Smith's actual Daughter.  Random extra note- Smith's real Daughter plays Jay's Daughter, while Jason Mewes' actual Daughter playes Ben Affleck's!  At its best, the Film can be fun, but then have emotional breaks to feel deeper than it appears.  At its worst, it has tonal whiplash and then jumps to a Cameo.  All of the Cameos and META gags are fun as a whole, if perhaps over done.  All in all, it worked for a longtime fan like me, but may not sell those who aren't already Smith fans.  One strong point- giving a nice role to David Dastmalchian!
A Film that is definitely funny and dramatic on its own.  That said, like 40% of the humor requires you to know very specific Pop Culture references.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Rare Flix: Fade to Black (1980)

A Film about a Film Buff who goes crazy and kills people?  This sure won't worry my friends and family.  This is Fade to Black, a 1980 Film about, well, what I just said.  It is about one guy who is clearly not well that just keeps getting piled on by life.  To be fair, some of that is his fault, as he's a complete weirdo and creep.  Even so, life seems to treat him like the donkey getting a tail pinned to him 9 times out of 10.  There are some notable Cast Members here including Tim Thomerson (in his pre-Trancers days) and our Lead is most notable for being in the 1990 TV Mini-Series Version of It.  In hindsight, maybe Pennywise was right to pick on him.  Oh and he was in Jake Speed, a Film that apparently only I've ever talked about since it came out in 1986.  Yea?  After the Comic Book version of The Joker hit it big, but before a The-less Joker got critical praise, this tale of a mentally-ill loner who dresses up to kill people was a thing.  It won no Oscars and got 1 Star out of 4 by Leonard Maltin, so I'm guessing the results were different.  To find out, read on...
Our Hero (of sorts) is Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher, who was ironically coming off of a Golden Globe Nomination himself) and he's obsessed with Films.

For the record, I don't watch my Films on 16MM and don't do the Voices, so I'm sane.  Right?
In an unrelated note, Thomerson is here as a Psychologist who keeps hanging around the Police Station (and later hooks up with this Detective).

I'm sure this won't tie together.
Eric falls for an Australian Model-would-be-Actress who looks like Marilyn Monroe.  It is pretty uncanny, even if it is only in the face.
She is somehow not creeped out by him doing an impersonation of The Creature From the Black Lagoon and agrees to see a Film with him.

She forgets though and he is dejected.  Aw.
Driven by his impotent rage, he kills his Aunt- who is actually his Mother- by pushing her down the stairs in her wheelchair just like a Cagney Film.

I guess you can blame Films- at least in part- for that murder.
The middle portion of the Film is him starting grudges with people and then killing them in a strange outfit.

He kills a Hooker- albeit by accident- who was mean to him while dressed up as Dracula.
Later, he dresses up as Hopalong Cassidy and kills a Co-Worker...who is Mickey Rourke.

RIP Mickey's original face.
He kills his old Boss- for rightly firing him for being terrible- by scaring him dressed as The Mummy.

Later still, he kills a Hollywood Producer- whom he randomly meets- dressed as a Gangster when he steals his idea.
After not factoring into the Plot for the entirety of the 2nd Act, Not Marilyn suddenly reappears and meets him as he's disguised as a Photographer.

Of course, his face isn't covered and she met him earlier, so is she playing along?
Oh well, she gets drugged, so I guess it's a moot point.
The Cops show up- after Thomerson does, mind you- and he eventually ends up on top of the famous Chinese Theater.

As an obsessed Cagney fan, he fittingly dies like the Actor did in White Heat.  In case you somehow don't know the famous bit, they play it as a parallel.  Good to know what you think of your audience, Film.

He dies.  The End.
A fairly-bleak, but interesting descent into madness.  The Plot is pretty simple.  I get that I'm supposed to feel bad for Eric here.  Thomerson literally says 'The kid was doomed from the start.'  That said, he's not exactly likable before he starts his killing spree.  He's weird.  He's mean.  Yes, he is picked on and doesn't deserve *everything* he gets.  It's a tricky thing to make a character like this and they don't quite nail it.  Granted- they do a better job than Return to Sleepaway Camp and their bully who is also bullied.  I do think that the situation could have been turned around for him, albeit not completely.  Even if he didn't kill his Mom/Aunt to start this, he wasn't going to be a well-balanced person.  I guess someone has to work for the Theater to deliver their Film Reels, right?  The performance by Christopher is...interesting.  It's all over the place and never quite seems to settle on a style.  In one Scene, he's manic and an asshole.  In another, he's lovelorn.  In another, he's depressed, but angry.  I get that he *could* be Bipolar (or Tripolar), but I don't get that vibe.  It just feels like an issue of an overzealous Actor and a Director who couldn't make up his mind.  There is some creativity in how he enacts his killing spree.  The deaths are varied and he dresses up in outfits ranging from Dracula to a Gangster to The Mummy.  The whole thing is kind of a glorious, endearing mess all around.  As a bonus, you have no doubt which Country made it...
Next up, I'll try to stay a bit lighter and in the '80s.  How much trouble can happen to a couple of Dudes?  Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Bob's Birthday Review: To Be Heroine (2018)

As the World doesn't quite seem to make sense right now, this seems like the perfect thing to talk about.

For Bob's Birthday, I'm covering a strange little Anime called To Be Heroine.  It is *technically* the Sequel Series to one called To Be Hero, but you can pretty much read a simple summary and get the whole thing.  It only connects to like 3 Characters, so no big loss.  The Story of this Show is weird.  I wish I could end right there, but I guess I'll keep going.  The Plot involves the typical Isekai Story- a normal person transported to another World- and our Heroine.  She has to team up with a strange baby man in a world full of them and, on top of that, your clothes turn into Summoned Creatures to battle for you.  It's Anime!  However, there is more to this 7-Part Series than that.  To find out how crazy this actually gets, read on...
Our Heroine- Futaba- is facing her Final Exams and issues with her one friend not taking things seriously enough.  Life is good?
She ends up in another World and ends up in a turf war between two talking babies.  I wish I was kidding.

As it turns out, her clothes can be turned into summoned creatures like Ninjas, Policemen and Electric Cat Monsters.  Rhyme and reason- who needs that stuff?!?
What's confusing at first when watching the Show is that the Intro seems to focus on these kids playing around...that aren't the current age of our Heroine and her friends.

Well, things start to get weird for a different reason as it becomes clear that they actually live in China (meaning i'm watching a Show with Double Subtitles) and it all relates to...an industrial accident?
After the first 3 Episodes, the Isekai stuff is toned down and/or completely removed.  In its place is a tale of corporate espionage, betrayal and a conspiracy right out of a Michael Crichton Novel.
Remember when this Show was about weird baby men?

Futaba remembers...and has no words for this strange tale now.
The connection to To Be Hero comes in the form of this guy, who is possessed by the baby man spirit from the other World...and is also the Father of one of the friends.

Some 'fun jokes' about a creepy old men professing his love to teenage girls- why not, Japan?
Can they uncover the conspiracy and save their Town?  Will the other World stuff pay off?  Will this confusing-ass Show be treated as 'emotional' by User Reviews?

To find out, stream this Show on Crunchyroll.  Just pay for Premium if you don't want to see 42 Ads for a company that makes miniatures for Shows you've never heard of.
 What a bizarre u-turn.  Which Show do you want to be?  Do you want to be the wacky Isekai Adventure of a girl dealing with baby men and summoning creatures?  Do you want to be a slice of life Show about some Teenagers?  Do you want to be a Drama about uncovering a corporate conspiracy?  Do you want to be a Drama about a Character or Characters dealing with Amnesia/Lost Memories?  If you answered 'yes' every time, you're the people behind this Show.  You also don't get how this thing works!  The disparate parts of the Show are interesting and/or fun in their own right.  My problem is that they don't really work well together or make that much sense.  This is the kind of Show that wants you to go 'Oh, that's clever' as you make it through.  "See- we showed the Soda as a gag in the Intro and now it's a Plot Point- praise us!"  No thanks.  The separate aspects of the Show just make for a confusing thing that tries to be silly in one moment, weepy in another and serious in yet another.  In one Episode, a baby man summons a ninja from a cloth.  In another Episode, a woman silently mourns the loss of a child in secret.  How are you the same Show?!?  To be fair, it all ties together at the end...but it still just doesn't work for me.  I'm reminded of a Match I reviewed for Let's Go to the Ring (cheap plug) from a 1999 Show.  It was made up of two very different parts- chaotic brawl and then a tag match- that I didn't like that much.  It was just so much worse when it couldn't just be a 10 minute brawl or a 10 minute Tag Match- it was 5 minutes of each.  On the plus side, this did manage to one-up my own family's motto...
The Show starts out as a weird, whimsical Anime...but turns into Erin Brokovich.  If this Tale was personal to its Author, good for them...I guess.