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The Paragon of Comedy (1983)
Showcase for John Paragon's many talents
From the opening performance of an "improvised" medley of disparate musical styles, which was clearly rehearsed, it is obvious that John Paragon's talents were of no small measure. This variety special displays, sometimes rather garishly, his ability to sing in tune, dance like a professional, flip and cartwheel like a gymnast and time his jokes impeccably. Yes, he was quite impressive in each song and sketch, but I wasn't really drawn in... until he sang a song about breasts. It was so up-front with its content and so bouncy that it won me over. Seth MacFarlane most certainly took this song as inspiration for his Oscar song, "We Saw Your Boobs." I thought this special hit its stride during the second half, and I found myself laughing out loud a few times. "The Mating Game" parody with an ostensibly Japanese student was equal parts hilarious and offensive, and the sex education sketch with a skeevy, greasy instructor was just brilliant. Many of Mr. Paragon's Groundling pals were enlisted as support, including Paul Reubens, Cassandra Peterson, Tress MacNeille and the undervalued Edie McClurg. There are certainly some weak segments here, but one would need to be pretty sour to not be entertained. Rest in Peace, you gifted man...
Silent Madness (1984)
Jumps right in
"Silent Madness" wastes no time in getting to the action. The wrong psycho - I mean "mentally-disturbed individual" - is released from his treatment facility and goes on a killing spree. Only after a couple nameless victims are slashed do we get any sort of establishing exposition; not that I'm complaining. While the miscreant doctors responsible for the mishap busy themselves with covering it up, Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery) sets out to track the killer. There is some fun to be had along the way. The murders make good use of the 3-D gimmick and the gorgeous Katie Bull is mesmerizing in her beauty. Also deserving mention is Barry Salmon's eerie, perfectly suited musical score. For me, however, the real star of the movie is Virgil, played by Dennis Helfend. He turns in a wonderfully demented performance as one of the hospital orderlies tasked with corralling the killer. (Sadly, "Silent Madness" is listed as his final role. He apparently passed away in 1988 at the tragically young age of 49.)
Paul Hampton's used pickle
This film needed a little more time to bake. Some of the dialogue is weak. Case in point: Rollo Lynsky: "How about that pickle?" (Dr. St. Luc tosses him half-eaten pickle.) Rollo Lynsky: "It's used!" Some characters simply vanish, like the couple at the beginning of the movie (the Svibens); I thought they might return at the end, but after being introduced and appearing to be major characters, they just disappear. The acting also ranges from very good (Susan Petrie) to barely adequate (Paul Hampton, who resembles the love child of David Duchovny and Owen Wilson). Despite the imperfections, I found the film certainly watchable and even enjoyable at times. I'm not a big fan of Cronenberg's body horror, but any movie that features Lynn Lowry in various stages of undress is okay by me.
Il plenilunio delle vergini (1973)
Do you like Wagner?
Here's a suggestion: if you are cast as a German (or as two Germans, in this case), learn to correctly pronounce the name of one of the most famous Germans! This film starts off on the wrong foot when Mark Damon commits this unforgiveable blunder, which was the same mistake repeated by Bennie Robinson that marred an otherwise fine film called "Messiah of Evil." Obvious mispronunciations aside, "The Devil's Wedding Night" ends up being a pretty enjoyable fright flick, with our hero traipsing off to (naturally) Castle Dracula in Transylvania in order to track down the mythical Ring of the Nibelungen. Once there, he encounters not Count Dracula, but rather the castle's current inhabitant, La Countessa Dolingen de Vries (Rosalba Neri). She does indeed have the aforementioned ring, which she uses to summon village virgins so she can bathe in their blood, Bathory-style, to retain her youthful appearance. When you periodically turn into a bat, apparently you need help retaining your appearance. Lots of cool music, psychedelic visuals and nakedness ensue as our hero's twin brother races to the castle in order to, um, save him from an eternity of naked debauchery with the other vampires in Castle Dracula... Take your time, man, take your time!
FRING-tastic! Really goes for the GUS-to
Very good, heartfelt story. It arrives at an appropriate ending, even though Luke's CGI face, while well-done, kinda cheapens the whole thing. Where does the story go from here? Hopefully nowhere! This would be a perfect way to end the series.
The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)
Where's the fun?
The second of three "Cheerleaders" movies in an ersatz trilogy from the 1970s, "The Swinging Cheerleaders" boasts direction by B-movie legend Jack Hill. His other efforts, notably "Switchblade Sisters" and various blaxploitation flicks, offer serious-minded, sometimes hard-edged looks at American life in the seventies. "The Swinging Cheerleaders" follows in a similar vein. For whatever reason, Hill wrote the script under the alias "Jane Witherspoon," which I suppose makes any perceivable objectification of women somehow forgivable. He and co-writer David Kidd (writing as "Betty Conkin"), however, went out of their way to make this film less like its predecessor in that the titular cheerleaders are given personalities resembling actual human beings. Kate (Jo Johnston) sets out write an expose of cheerleader life as a dissertation for a college class. She changes her mind when she realizes not only are the cheerleaders unexpectedly sweet, but the football players are all a real swell bunch as well! To add insult to injury, it turns out her former love interest, Ron (Ian Sander), is a real slimeball who calls his friends over for a group assault of cheerleader Andrea (the sublime Cheryl Smith). Gee, I guess the "campus radical" (there's only ONE?! Isn't this the 1970s?!) isn't such a peace-loving idealist after all! I guess Hill and Kidd really didn't like hippies for some reason. Anyway, I found this film to be too heavy on plot and WAY too light on humor. In fact, "The Swinging Cheerleaders" simply isn't much fun (at least not until the last five or ten minutes). That isn't to say it is a bad movie, but it just isn't what one would expect from one with this title. 5 out of 10 stars
Night Train to Terror (1985)
As insane as you have heard it is
This film rightly deserves one out of ten stars, but in terms of entertainment it rates ten out of ten. I enjoyed every minute of it, but as a film it is just not good. Typically with anthologies, stories are adapted and filmed specifically for the anthology. With "Night Train to Terror," existing movies were edited (I use that word very loosely in the case of at least one of these stories) and then tied together by a new wrap-around story. The result is an incredibly fun, though entirely preposterous product. From the very beginning, with the all-singing, all-dancing revelers aboard the night train, I was rolling on the floor in conniptions. It was nearly impossible to take any of this seriously, though the final story involving a Nazi Svengali seemed downright poignant compared to the preceding insanity. The first story, "The Case of Harry Billings," was edited so poorly that almost none of it made sense. Alas, that only seemed to add to my enjoyment of it. The narration of the first segment also ripened this cheese to pure stinky perfection. One could not ask for more! Avoid at all costs if you are looking for family entertainment or anything resembling a good, serious film.
I had set my expectations too high for this
Having previously watched Bob Clark's and Alan Ormsby's other collaborative efforts, including "Black Christmas," "Dead of Night" and the delightful, aptly-named "Deranged," I was looking forward to "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things." Unfortunately, I found it disappointing. I don't mind low-budget filmmaking, but this one failed to rise above its budgetary constraints. From the Styrofoam headstones to the muffled voices throughout, this film sinks with its Florida-housed depths. I had also heard how laced with black humor this film was and, again, I found it lacking. In comparison, "Deranged" was filled with deliciously hysterical moments and I can watch that one again and again. I did, however, find this film pretty creepy. The ambient noises, the ever-reliable Carl Zittrer's musical score and the dark subject matter (Alan even reads directly from a Grimoire) all lend themselves well to overall spooky atmosphere. It takes a while for this one to get rolling and, ultimately, I found the payoff not really worth it. If you set your expectations much lower than the heights Clark and Ormsby achieved following "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things," then maybe you will not be too disappointed the way I was.
Street Trash (1987)
Wild, but lacks focus
Yeah, it's crude and disgusting, but somehow the tone is still light. That makes the movie an enjoyable experience for the most part. Everything is played as a comedy, even if it isn't terribly funny. I've watched the movie a couple times and will watch it at least a couple more. What is mildly irksome, however, is the film's lack of focus. The main plot, I guess, is about the Tenafly Viper wine, which I would imagine is akin to MD (Mogen David) 20/20. If you've ever tried 'Mad Dog 20/20,' you can pretty much guess the nature of this concoction. Unfortunately, the filmmakers apparently felt the need to include all the ideas they had for a movie, whether or not they fit into this particular one. Take, for example, the subplot with the doorman (James Lorinz) and the Black Suit. It begins as an excuse to introduce the Black Suit's date, an inebriated young lady who proceeds to get herself into a bit of a compromising situation with Fred and assorted other vagrants. It would have been fine to leave it there. Instead, the film veers into a couple other scenes involving the doorman and the Black Suit. It has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and adds nothing to the film except for extra time. Of course, the same can be said for the shoplifting scene involving Burt (Clarenze Jarmon) and the harassment scenes with Frank (played by Pat Ryan) and Wendy (Jane Arakawa). I just want to yell at the director, "Focus!" The movie would have benefited terrifically from a re-write or two, tightening the script and trimming some fat. Even though it is a meandering, convoluted affair, it is still a very like-able oddity. Worth checking out if you are weary of big-budget, slick productions.
The Redeemer: Son of Satan! (1978)
Good, unique film
I enjoyed much of "The Redeemer," even though I found several faults with it. I watch horror films more than any other genre and especially find seventies and eighties horror most to my liking. I was not familiar with this film until I recently found it for sale on the Code Red site. I took a chance and was not at all disappointed. Other reviews have summarized the plot, so I won't go into that here. I will merely state that the film certainly is different from other horror films in style and, for at least about half of it, substance.
What I found a little troublesome were a few scenes: one, the group of young people are trying to figure a way out of the school, when suddenly Jane (Nikki Barthen) is wandering around outside the school. How did she get there? If she got out, why couldn't the others get out? Two, after one of the group is killed by being set on fire, the scene immediately jumps to a scene of his friend sitting and telling the others about it. What happened to the guy who was set on fire? His friend just left him there? Why wouldn't he be a little more agitated telling his friends about it instead of calmly sitting there? It was very disjointed. Finally, Kirsten is also somehow outside the school and is confronted by the Redeemer wearing a Grim Reaper outfit. The scene ends with a freeze-frame of the Redeemer standing in front of Kirsten and she is suddenly back inside, telling the others about it. So, the Redeemer just left without doing anything? It's as though the director didn't know how to end the scene and just decided to freeze it.
These lazy scenes aside, I would recommend this movie to horror fans, especially those who dig seventies and eighties horror and don't mind a low budget film with a no-name cast.
God Told Me To (1976)
Andy Kaufman as an assassin? Definitely a cult title
Despite some bad acting and questionable editing, this certainly qualifies as a cult movie. As if the story, which turns the Christian religion on its head by updating it and tossing in an extraterrestrial angle for good measure, weren't enough to qualify it as an oddball treasure, it features the enigmatic Andy Kaufman in a small role as a police assassin. His scene is brief, but reminds me uncannily of the Joker/ mayoral assassination scene in "The Dark Knight." Anyway, not all of the story works, yet it needs to be seen in order to be appreciated for its "only in the seventies" allure. Check it out....
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
Not really "good" so much as "classic "
I recently watched this movie again after not having seen it for some twenty-odd years and I was somewhat disappointed. It wasn't as good as I had remembered it being. It wasn't bad, just not that great. Like many people, I first saw it back in the 80's when it first came out. I was in my early teens then and thought it was decent. Now in my forties, I have a much better appreciation for it when I watch it because I have two children of my own and I see much (perhaps a little too much) of myself in the Clark W. Griswold character. I laughed out loud several times at Chevy Chase's portrayal of Clark being "such a dad." I don't know whether or not he had children of his own prior to making this movie, but he really nailed the "typical dad" character. Also, Beverly D'Angelo is the perfect combination of sexy and motherly in her role, and Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron are also terrific in their roles. Randy Quaid, back in his more stable days, gives a rather sane performance as the inimitable Cousin Eddie. There are many outstanding supporting performances in this movie. Having written that, however, I must state that the movie plays out as episodic, like one childhood memory after another strung together. Also, the movie is often silly; it contains elements that would have better left as ideas. For instance, it doesn't really make sense that Clark's old car would be driven straight from him trading it in to being compacted within minutes. It makes for a fairly funny sight gag, but doesn't come across as something that would actually happen. When it comes to ratings, the movie really deserves no more than six out of ten; however, there are so many funny moments and Chevy Chase is so good as Clark, I bump up my rating to seven out of ten.
Draft Day (2014)
Slightly above-average film with limited appeal
As much as it pains me to write, this movie is not all that great. I bought the blu-ray disc because it had so much going for it: it is about the Cleveland Browns football organization; it entails a draftee from the Ohio State Buckeyes, and it was apparently the previously top un-filmed script on blcklst.com, a website for film scripts. Sounds really, really good paper, which is why I was left a little flat after watching it. I think there were a couple reasons for this. One, the movie isn't at all about the triumph of the Cleveland Browns on the football field. Rather, it is about a victory for the Browns in (as the title of the film would suggest) the NFL draft wars. Exciting stuff? Uh, no. Contrast that with "Major League," the beloved movie from 1989 about the Cleveland Indians baseball team. That movie, much to the delight of us Ohioans, culminated with Tribe victories on the baseball diamond. "Draft Day" ends as the new draftees get set to take the field with the rest of the Browns. This is somewhat akin to what "The Avengers" would have been like if the film had ended immediately after Nick Fury assembled the superhero team: a little anti-climactic, to say the least. Another reason "Draft Day" fails to generate much excitement is that the majority of the film is predicated on phone calls. Guys in Cleveland are talking to guys in Seattle, Kansas City, Madison and elsewhere. Who wants to watch guys doing business over the phone for two hours? Even though the filmmakers acknowledge this and did some innovative things with editing, it is just a bad way to forward the action of the movie. One more aspect of the movie I found a little hard to swallow was the enthusiasm the draft picks show for playing in Cleveland. I was more than a little incredulous: I mean, no one really wants to be a Cleveland Brown. We fans love the team, but let's be honest about that. No other fans deserve the moniker "die-hard" more than Cleveland Browns fans. The Browns haven't won a championship in fifty years and, for all we know, it likely won't for another fifty years. We hope for the best, but realistically cannot expect our Browns to attract a following outside Ohio. Despite the aforementioned infractions, I more or less enjoyed the movie. Because I live in a suburb of Columbus, where the Buckeyes play, and have been a fan of the Cleveland Browns since the days of Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome and Dave Logan, the appeal of this film was obvious. How can one really go wrong with a film about the Buckeyes and the Browns, has unprecedented access to the NFL and even features cameos by Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar? I recommend the film really only for die-hard Browns and Kevin Costner fans.
Movie Madness (1982)
"Stupid" is the word that kept coming to mind as I watched this travesty masquerading as a movie. Humor is subjective, so pertaining to that I will only state that I did not find this film funny at all. It wasn't that I found it offensive, simply unfunny.
This is a comedy anthology, consisting of three separate segments featuring all different actors. In the first story, "Growing Yourself," Peter Riegert plays a man who has everything: a well- paying job, a beautiful wife and a brood of decent children. He wants to grow as a person, so he tells his wife to leave him. Sound plausible? I didn't think so either. The ending is even worse, with the parents flipping a coin to see which parent gets to keep one of the couple's remaining two children. The best thing about this segment is Teresa Ganzel, a blast from Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show" past.
The second story is only slightly better, with Ann Dusenberry going to extreme lengths to exact revenge on the butter industry (don't ask) executives who wronged her. There were a couple jokes about having margarine in her veins or in her blood, which were the only remotely humorous things about this one.
The last segment features Robby Benson (remember him?) as an overly optimistic police officer in a precinct full of jaded, apathetic veteran officers. I give Mr. Benson credit for at least trying to carry this bad idea to fruition, but everyone else simply phones it in.
Unless you are dying to see Teresa Ganzel or Ann Dusenberry topless, or if you are genuinely a glutton for punishment, there is really no reason to watch this.
Cool effects, but absolutely nothing else. The story was too thin to carry it longer than a half hour, yet it runs 2.5 hours. There isn't one likable character (though John Malkovich and Ken Jeong are pretty funny in their brief appearances). Many characters are introduced late in movie, and then only because more bodies are needed to populate the screen. I'm not really certain who the intended audience is here. Hasbro produced the movie, ostensibly to keep the toys selling. Yet, the movie is clearly not for kids. Autobot violence is one thing, but there are scenes with guns that go too far. The language is also too strong for kids, with several s--t and even a couple f-bombs dropped in for bad measure. It is also much too silly to be taken seriously by adults. Despite a couple tearful attempts, there is no heart or soul to it. The direction is very inept and Bay seems to still be getting the hang of melding live-action with CG action. I suppose he will keep going until the toys stop selling.
Food Party (2009)
Back to the drawing board
I have watched six episodes of this show on IFC and found nothing about it to recommend. Even though it is supposed to be funny (I think), I didn't laugh once. The plots are very simplistic, which in itself is not detrimental. Yet, when the actors appear visibly anguished to be associated with the show, it does tend to detract from the experience of watching it. The sole person who seems to be enjoying it is Thu Tran, who, although energetic enough, lacks the acting ability and professionalism to pull off the feat of starring. She seems like a nice person and is quite lovely; however, she simply isn't funny and I have seen better acting in grade school plays. I realize it is her show, but if Greencard Productions is committed to the show, it should seriously consider replacing Tran with a person of talent.