Thursday, March 21, 2013

Weekend at Bernie's (1989)

Tell me if this has happened to you before! You go to your boss' house in the Hampton's to party, and then he dies, and you try to cover up the fact by hauling his corpse around like he's alive! And then you're quickly found out, arrested, then charged for desecration of a corpse, jailed, and fined several thousand dollars...Yeah, real life does tend to go in a different direction than Movie Land! Case in point, the 1989 comedy Weekend at Bernie's...

Weekend at Bernie's opens with Richard (Johnathan Silverman) and Larry (Andrew McCarthy), two office workers at an insurance firm, heading to work-which sucks for them because of the massive heatwave the city's going through.

While trying (and failing) to cool off on the roof, Richard finds an insurance error-Four insurance policies were made out to the same deceased person, all after he died (or something like that, insurance isn't really my strong point). The two, thinking they'll be heroes once they report a two-million dollar error to the higher-ups, decide to talk to their boss, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) about it.

Meanwhile, Richard plucks up enough courage (which still isn't enough) to ask coworker Gwen (Catherine Mary Stewart)-who he has a crush on-out.

Richard and Larry report the error to Bernie, who, unbeknowenst to the duo, is behind the 'error', which is really an insurance scam. Bernie tries to dissuade the two, saying there's a mistake, and there is no error. When confirmed otherwise, Bernie pretends to be proud of the two, and tells them to not tell of their findings to anyone, and he offers them the opportunity to stay at his house in the Hampton Islands for the weekend.

Later that night, Bernie talks with his mob associates, and tells mob boss Vito (Louis Giambalvo) to get someone to kill Lary and Richard, and frame them for the insurance policy scam ("That way, we don't even have to change the books!"). He tells Vito orchestrate it to look like a murder-suicide job, which he accepts, but the moment Bernie leaves (along with Tina (Catherine Parks), Vito's girlfriend, who Bernie is secretly having an affair with), Vito tells hitman Paulie (Don Calfa) to forget that job and instead kill Lomax.

That night, Richard goes on his date with Gwen, which goes well until the end of the night, when it gets botched.

The next day, Richard and Larry head off to the Hamptons via ferry and arrive at Bernie's house-Trouble is, he's dead...

The two realize that Bernie is dead, but they decide not to call the police in-case they might suspect the two had something to do with Bernie's death. Then, before they can do anything else, the house fills up with guests over for a party, and they all assume Bernie is alive.

Among the partygoers is Gwen, whose arrival makes sure that Richard doesn't want to call the police for a while. They both join the party, and Bernie's body eventually ends up falling down onto the beach, where the tides drag it away.

Later that night, as Larry has some fun at the party, Richard talks with Gwen on the beach, and as the two are about to get physical, Bernie's body washes up along the shore next to them (Bernie Lomax-Still cockblocking people even when he's dead, right up there with Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Part IV!), causing Richard to quickly get Gwen away before she sees the body.

Richard and Larry keep the charade up through to the next day, then eventually the find out that Bernie was murdered, and thanks to a recorded phone call of Bernie, they think that his murderer is also after them. And elsewhere on the island is Paulie, who's growing unhinged at constantly seeing Bernie alive...

Weekend at Bernie's is a fun comedy. It isn't groundbreakingly hilarious, but it's a funny watch all the same.

The acting is all fine. Andrew McCarthy and Johnathan Silverman are very good, and Terry Kiser is good in the few minutes of screentime he has alive. Don Calfa (Ernie from Return of the Living Dead) is also fun as hitman Paulie.

Among loads of other funny scenes, there's scenes like the burglar at that start, and the part where Richard and Larry catch the ferry to the island! That latter one was one of my favourite moments from the film!

As morbid and stupid as the scene when Vito's girlfriend Tina sleeps with corpse-Bernie is (this movie is kinda fucked-up!), it's still a funny scene, and it leads to a hilarious line from Andrew McCarthy-"I get yelled at when I just lay there!".

Aside from Silverman and McCarthy's performances, one of my favourite things about Weekend at Bernie's is the fun reggae theme! "Ohooh yeah, some like it hot! Some like it cold! Some never know..."

Probably Weekend's biggest problem is that it isn't a black comedy. Despite the morbid plot of hauling your boss' corpse around and pretending he's alive, given the way people behave, as well as the tone of the film, it doesn't come across much as a black comedy at all, but pretty regular. This doesn't affect the movie too much, but it's still distracting.

Another problem is that until Richard and Larry find out that the hitman isn't going to kill them if Bernie's around (so they think), their reason for hauling Bernie's corpse around like he's alive is pretty flimsy.

So, to finish, Weekend at Bernie's isn't a fantastic film by any means, but it's still a lot of fun, and I definitely recommend it!

The real burning question though is...Why the hell was there a Weekend at Bernie's 2? Richard and Larry steal Bernie's body from the morgue using voodoo magic so they can find buried treasure?! Mobsters get turned into goats?! Magical voodoo gypsies?! Mystical conga line music that reanimates Bernie every time he hears it, and sends him in the direction of the treasure?! Whaaaa?!...

Harry Brown (2009)

God, this is a movie I took WAY too long to see! I missed it in theatres, and when it came out on DVD, I wasn't willing to fork out thirty to fifty bucks for a single freakin' movie, so I waited. Waited, and promptly forgot Harry Brown ever existed!..Yeah, I suck, big time!

Harry Brown is a 2009 British vigilante film starring Michael Caine as Harry Brown (damn lazy title!), a pensioner living in a squalid neighbourhood infested by brutal gang violence. After the violent murder of his best friend, Harry decides to take the law into his own hands...

After a couple of handheld-camera scenes of gang violence, the movie opens with Harry Brown (Caine) going to the hospital to see his wife Cath, who's severely ill. Sometime later that night, Harry gets a call from the hospital, telling him that his wife has died.

Harry talks with Leonard Atwell (David Bradley), his best (and likely only) friend, in a bar, and Atwell tells Harry how frightened he is, showing Harry a bayonet he's carrying for protection against the gangs in the area. A shocked Harry tells Atwell to not use it, and to go to the police, but Atwell has already tried that to no avail.

The next day, two police...err...police-people, DI Alice Frampton (Emily Mortimer) and DS Terry Hickock (Charlie Creed Miles) come to Harry's flat to inform him that OH YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Atwell was assaulted and died OFFSCREEN?! *seethe*.

The police arrest a local teen gang who they suspect to be (and are) behind Atwell's murder, namely Noel (Ben 'Plan B' Drew), the gang's violent leader.

The police interrogate Noel and associates, to no avail (the only thing they get told other than 'no comment' is crude insults). Later, Harry is drinking the night away at the bar, and when he leaves, a junkie tries to assault him, and in self-defense, Harry stabs the man with his own knife.

A shaken Harry goes home and cleans up, disposing of his bloodied jacket. The next day, DI Frampton visits Harry, and tells him that the police have found out that Atwell owned the weapon that killed him. She leaves after Harry goes off at her for the police's inaction at the crime in the area.

Later, Harry goes into the seedier side of town and visits a gremlin-looking dealer (who's also one hell of a user). Harry is there to buy a gun. Eventually, Harry attacks the two psychos, killing them, and he burns their house/pot farm down.

The next night, Harry follows one of Noel's gang, with intent to squeeze information out of him. And with a riot brewing, thanks to the police operation Bluejay, everything starts coming to a head...

And what a head it comes to! Seriously! Harry would have done good to call Paul Kersey over to help clean the streets up!...

Harry Brown, while compared to Gran Torino a lot, really has a lot more in common with Death Wish. Specifically Death Wish 3, which this movie is practically a straight remake of. I mean straight in that this movie is Death Wish 3 if it was realistic!

One thing that was definitely good about Harry Brown was how it didn't paint the police as incompetent morons, but rather people with sometimes-tough jobs. And police action is what instigates the huge finale of the film.

Speaking of, Harry Brown has an awesome climax! It's all great stuff!

The plot is great stuff too! The movie is very well-written, and I have almost no problem with it whatsoever.

The acting is all flawless! From Michael Caine's fantastic performance, to everyone playing the gang members, to the seedy drug/weapon dealers, to the police, namely Charlie Creed Miles and Emily Mortimer (I spent the whole movie trying to remember what I knew this actress from, and then it hit me! She was the supposedly brittle-boned girlfriend of Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock Season 1!).

There are only three problems I had with Harry Brown. The first, and biggest is Leonard Atwell's lack of a death scene! There's not even any lead-up to his death! The police just arrive at Harry's flat to tell him what happened.

As for my other two problems, there's the title-Why the hell is the movie called Harry Brown, anyway?! That's a nothing title! How about Death Wish VI, or The Underpass Vigilante, or...anything that isn't just the name of the main character!

The other is the song that plays over the ending credits. Pop (or whatever genre that song was) has NO PLACE over the end credits of a dark and seedy vigilante film! It's really distracting to hear it blasting away after the movie's denoument!

So, in closing, Harry Brown is a FANTASTIC film, and I abolutely recommend it!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Revenge of the Stolen Stars (1986)

Journey with me, back to a time when Ulli Lommel could actually make movies, with Revenge of the Stolen Stars!...

Revenge of the Stolen Stars is an adventure/comedy/horror about Gene McBride, a guy trying to find and retrieve three mystical gems in order to remove his family curse.

This sure is an obscure film! There are barely any reviews for it online, and what ones there are (i.e. a lone comment on the movie's trailer on youtube, and a review on the movie's IMDb page...the only review) call this movie one of the worst movies ever made! Uh-huh...Dudes, this is SOOOO not one of the worst films ever made! I don't even think it's bad! If you guys want to watch some REAL worst movies ever made, then I'd be happy to direct you to some other films! Ever hear of Night of Horror?!...

The movie opens with an Orson Welles lookalike (James Marshall) who overacts like he has a gun trained on him. He is talking with a man and woman (Barry Hickey and Suzanna Love), about their recent adventure, and he decides to relate their story to the audience.

"It all began a very short while ago in the tropical paradise of Sindenau, the least-spoiled-that is, the most neglected-island of the South China seas. It is said even God only visits when the rent is due. And the rent was indeed due on the little patch of Sindenau attended by one Donald McBride"

While Kelly Scanlon (Love) and Max Stern (Ulli Lommel), Donald McBride's secretary and attorney, respectively, talk downstairs with Lupe Rivera (Kitty O'Shea) and Alex von Bentz (Andy Lyon), two insurance agents (I guesss, the movie never goes into detail), McBride (Klaus Kinski) is arguing with Malu (Eugene Choy), an associate who McBride thinks has stolen one of his six-star rubies. McBride pulls a gun, and the two men shoot/stab each-other to death.

A little while later, Gene McBride (Hickey), a regular joe in LA, recieves a letter from Sindenau informing him of his father's death. He goes to the Sindenau consulate, and talks with the Orson Welles lookalike (yep, he's never named), who gives him a visa and tells him that Max Stern has already paid for a flight over for Gene. Gene heads off to the airport as the Consul guy narrates some more-"Picture an excited young man on his first real adventure. Horribly unprepared as it turned out, but then, it's not a proper adventure if you're thoroughly ready for it, is it!"

After arriving in Sindenau, Gene arrives at the McBride villa (which is adorned with what look like christmas lights...for some reason) and meets up with the house's staff, which includes housekeeper/butler Alfred, and Suki the maid.

Later, after a mysterious insect scare in the shower, Gene is told about the McBride family curse by Kelly.

Not knowing that Gene's room has been bugged by Lupe and Alex, Max reads McBride's will to Gene. Among other things, Gene has inherited the McBide family ruby mine-a mine where six-star rubies (a rare type) are occasionally found, and given to the local villagers by law. Gene is also shown a mysterious sacred burial chamber in his room.

Later that night, some plants come into Gene's room and try to strangle him...

The next day, Gene goes up to McBride's study, where he died, and is shocked to see McBride in the room, as a ghost. McBride apologizes for the curse, and tells Gene that the only way to lift it is to retrieve the three six-star rubies that McBride stole from the Barahgi-a native tribe-and return them. He says that he gave two of the rubies to a Shale Maron (which, like me, you'll most likely mishear to be Shelly Marone), and a Prince Kali, respectively. As for the third, McBride doesn't know where it is, as he thinks Malu stole it.

As Gene and Kelly go to see the Barahgi (with Kelly not believing Gene's ghost story), Suki cleans Gene's room, including the sacred room. And then the film turns into a horror for the next few minutes.

Really, if I was a dead magician-spirit thingy, and people were forbidden to enter my burial chamber, and someone came in to dust the place, I'd be pretty grateful, not murderous...

After some convincing, the villagers send Gene and Kelly (yes, I DO see the joke there! That's as bad as naming characters Crash and Byrne!) to locate three six-star rubies that were stolen from the tribe by McBride and Malu.
A weird thing about this scene is when at one point, Gene speaks, but it's obviously dubbed. I guess the script was originally different in that part, and was revised by dubbing.

Gene and Kelly set off on their journey to get the rubies back from Shale Maron, a madam whose murderous ways "cut deeply into her repeat business", and the "evil, and frankly kinky" Prince Kali...

Revenge of the Stolen Stars is largely a fun movie, albeit with some problems. One weird thing is the genre switches. This is an adventure/kinda-comedy, but the film veers into horror a few times, especially with the climax. I guess Ulli Lommel, who predominately makes horror films, must have really wanted some creepy stuff to happen.

The acting is mostly decent. Barry Hickey and Suzanna Love are good, as are Ulli Lommel, and others. The actors playing Prince Kali and Alex however, are pretty awful! There are a couple of other bad actors here and there, but there are mostly good actors all round.

As for the Consul, who doubles as the narrator, He's a bit of both. While I'm still not entirely sure that James Marshall can act, his narration is frequently hilarious, thanks to his delivery of his lines (as well as the funny dialogue), and he laughs like a maniac, all the time! It kinda sucks that his narration pretty much disappears halfway through the movie.

While the actor playing Alex is unimaginably awful, Alex and Lupe still make for a fun duo.

It's hard to see in that screenshot-Yes, Alex is still holding the monocle to his eye, despite the massive mask!

Among other things, the film's use of lighting and shadows is done really well in parts

The film had a pretty tumultuous shooting. For one, the crew were allowed to film at a house free of charge until the owner apparently suddenly demanded ten large. Another was the insanity-ball that was Klaus Kinski! Rather than have me explain it, here's a link to an interview with Ulli where he talks about it*.

*Speaking of, why did Kinski's scenes take two/three days to shoot?! He has less than five minutes of screentime!

Also, one scene is filmed in several different places, and it shows! In said scene, when Klaus Kinski and Suzanna Love talk, it's very obvious that they're not in the same room together.

Onto the film's negatives, the plot does get a bit forced during the Prince Kali segment-His guards just happen to pick the time of the arrival of Gene and Kelly to take action against Kali's abuse of his magic?! Really?! It's also pretty stupid that after getting Kali's ruby, Gene and Kelly, who don't know where the third ruby is, think that the Barahgi will be happy with just two rubies. It'd make more sense for the two to investigate Malu, who supposedly had it last. This slightly works in the long run, since it's revealed soon after-back at the villa-who really stole the ruby, but it stills feels forced and stupid. Also, the finale feels partly anticlimactic-Gene and Kelly would have been killed by the main villain if the curse didn't just happen to kill the villain at that moment.

Another problem is Suki's death scene. She's attacked by insects until she dies, but we never see any insects (minus one she grabs), so it's a tough sell to believe that insects are stinging her-especially since most of the 'insects' don't cause any wounds. Really, the only thing that shows Suki is being attacked by insects other than a little bit of fake blood on the actress' arm is the sound effects.

Also, the kinda annoying main theme is repeated several times throughout the movie.

One very small, but still annoying thing about the movie is the VHS/DVD cover-Instead of actually having stuff from the movie, and looking cool and interesting, the cover is only a profile picture of Klaus Kinski! That's it!

The biggest problem I have with Revenge of the Stolen Stars is it's running time. At just shy of 80 minutes, the movie feels too short-I wish it was longer. It's still a pretty fun adventure movie though, even if it does forget what genre it's supposed to be every now and then...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Not This Time, Nayland Smith's Two Year Anniversary!

Here we are again, at another anniversary for Not This Time, Nayland Smith, and (*sigh*) I forgot AGAIN! haha! But hey, it was only a week ago, so I'm still on time with this post.

So, this blogging year's highlights were:

...Reviewing the entirety of obscure 50's TV series The Adventures of Fu Manchu! (and unfortunately, those are some of my least viewed posts. *sigh*)...

...Watching and reviewing three super-crazy surrealist films, Possession, and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, and Goodbye, 20th Century...

...Watched and reviewed several Bollywood horror ripoffs, such as Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street Mk. 1 (Khooni Murdaa) and 2 (Mahakaal), and Bollywood Pumpkinhead!...

...Reviewed a Joe D'Amato film for the first time, with Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, a film that would be super boring if not for two things-1, I've seen films FAR more boring than this! (*coughcough*tinkertailorsoldierspy*coughcough*), and 2, its inclusion of porn! Hey, it made the first hour bearable, warts and all! haha!...

...Watched and reviewed the surprisingly great sequels to Dracula 2000, Ascension and Legacy!...

...I wached and reviewed The Gods Must Be Crazy 3, 4, and 5, which do exist, and can get pretty insane!...

...I participated in the Camp and Cult blogathon, organised by Stacia of She Blogged By Night, and reviewed a bunch of films, from Arch Hall Jr., to Bruno Mattei, to Australian horror, etc...

...I participated in Annie Walls' May Monster Madness, and watched plenty of kooky films!...

...And speaking of kooky, I watched/reviewed crazy filmark films involving hopping vampires, Freddy Krueger ripoffs, and Robocop! (Counter Destroyer and Devil Dynamite), and Raw Force, a super sleazy Love Boat type movie about kung fu zombies, among other things!...

...I participated in Jenny Krueger(of Memoirs of a Scream Queen)'s Legacy: His Name was Jason blogathon, and I did a triple review of Friday the 13 parts II to IV...

...I reviewed more Pierre Kirby films!...

..I watched/reviewed some goofy and cool 80's films like Neon Maniacs (and had another post about that film's cool tunes!) and Raiders of the Magic Ivory!...

...I became a fan of 1930's/40's era comedian El Brendel, and reviewed some of his films...

...I started to do 31 reviews for Halloween-One post for each day of October, but lack of internet for a week, as well as steadily worsening procrastination ruined that plan five days in...

...And much, much more! Again, thanks to all my readers, and here's to another year!...