Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Wired" (1989)

I remember hearing about this one when it came out at the tail-end of the summer of 1989. Not only did it get major bollocking in the reviews (and even that's being polite about it), but also words from people like Dan Aykroyd, telling everyone not to touch it with a ten-foot pole. Indeed, I never saw it on cable, although I did see it sitting on shelves at video-rental places for a while, under a thick layer of dust. It really must be that bad then, eh?

Flash forward into the 2000's, and I'm a fan of The Shield. I would tape episodes being broadcast on Mondays at 1 AM on the CW channel, and then couldn't wait to get home from work to watch it and see what happened in this week's episode. As I began to get into the show, I wondered about main star Michael Chiklis, and wondered if he had been in anything before this. I looked up some info online, and while looking backward through his earlier work, Wired was buried in there. Okay, this search just got very, I got to find the damn thing!

Coincidentally, over at Half-Price Books, they were giving their old VHS tapes away for a dollar each, and while I was able to find some good gems to add to my own collection, there was a copy of this movie in one of the cardboard boxes. It went into the small bundle under my arm, and went home with me.

Wow. What a mess!

Sounds like the writers and director was going for a type of angle for the movie not unlike Richard Pryor's Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, but John Belushi's life story was cut and hacked to pieces, in the wrong (and very confusing) order, and certainly not very least not by the way the movie presents it. The other confusing aspect it is that not only do they trash Bob Woodward and his controversial biography in the movie, but they obviously use it as source material, and even use the title of it for the movie.

I know that Dan Aykroyd had convinced all the fellow SNL cast members to not have anything to do with this movie, so the producers were left with very little option to "invent" SNL-type skits for scenes from when the two of them were on the show. It's kind of odd how they have the Blues Brothers singing "634-5789", a song that they never did do at the time, but was in Blues Brothers 2000. There is also a rather amusing scene where the two of them are driving in the desert, and Dan wakes up John from a deep (and noisy) sleep, and he shouts and whines about them having driven past Las Vegas without stopping. If only they'd invented the idea of having small dashboard cameras installed in their car to catch the action as they drove, that would have been some funny stuff with just the two of them!

It's a total train-wreck, and a blundered opportunity to have told a good story, so until anyone ever gets around to making a proper bio-pic, this is all we have, and it's hard as hell to sit through.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Hot Stuff" (1979)

This one was on a lot throughout the early '80s. It's quaint and commonplace now, but the concept of closed-circuit surveillance video was new at the time, as was home-video equipment. That makes the movie a little antiquated now, but watching it now brings bak great memories of seeing video equipment at the small studio at the Group W building, and then the Hill-Top Pawn Shop, both on K Street.

A group of Florida cops go undercover, using an old run-down pawn shop as a front to buy stolen goods, but secretly video-taping the sleazy and shifty characters who come in. Alongside nutty guys selling chickens and teeny harmonicas, they also run into crooked cops, crazed gun dealers, and the local mobsters. Oh yeah, and the part everyone remembers: Dom DeLuise smoking a joint (offered by an elderly couple who remind me of the Howells from Gilligan's Island), collapsing in laughter, getting the munchies, and tearing into his partners' lunches outside. Even the dog biscuits!

The cast also includes Jerry Reed, Suzanne Pleshette, Ossie Davis, and Luis Avalos. Sad to say that they've all since passed away within recent years. Still, a fun, simple, good-time movie...the kind you just don't see anymore.

Friday, July 17, 2015

"The Hollywood Knights" (1980)

This one used to be on HBO a lot, back in the earlier half of the '80s. I had seen it before Porky's, and thought that it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. This was one of those movies I would stick into the VCR whenever I would invite a friend or two over to watch a movie. Instead of watching Police Academy or Ghostbusters as requested, this one would be slipped in instead. There would be some grumbling at first, but once it got going, with all the mooning, pranks and naked girls going on, there were no requests to turn it off!

It takes place on Halloween night, 1965, but sure has more of a '50s look to it, due to all of the classic cars throughout it. Indeed, it's definitely eye-candy for classic-car lovers. The place where it happens is Tubby's Drive-In, a drive-in burger joint that is set to be torn down after the night is over, to make place for an office complex, much to the delight of the high-rollers in the area.

The ringleader of the whole shebang is Newbomb Turk (Robert Wuhl), the lovable and obnoxious leader of the Knights, out to prank the yuppie homeowners, the local high school pep rally, and the two local dumb cops. For some reason, a subplot involving Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer was later stitched into the movie, giving it a romantic subplot, but seems completely out of place next to Newbomb's japes. How can anyone forget his riotous (and gaseous) rendition of "Volare" during the pep rally?

Fran Drescher is also in this. I still crack up at the part where Newbomb is about to crawl into the back of the car with her, but shoots off in his pants before he can get back there, and she crows "Turk! Did you come????" in that shrill and annoying voice of hers.

And then the two hapless (and incredibly dumb) cops played by Gailard Sartain (Bimbeau) and Sandy Helberg (Clark). Their antics are a riot, especially when they're the target of the Knights' pranks.

And what would a late-night comedy be without some crude and tasteless jokes? We have the one-armed violinist, and then the "spiked" punch...both of which lead to an elderly man shouting out "Dick!!!!!!" with every sentence.

Always a long-running favorite, though there was a blackout period when it disappeared from TV, wasn't on cable, and our videotape of it broke. But it finally made it back onto home video in 2000, and has been in the collection ever since. My Dad always loved it (always having made jokey references and quotes from it for eons), and I still thought of him when I loaded it into the VCR for the first time in some years.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Losin' It" (1983)

For some reason, this one always gets the shaft. Okay, so it's essentially a Porky's ripoff (with a gang of guys going to Tijuana to get laid, instead of some rowdy redneck honky-tonk), but to me, it's a hell of a lot better than Hot Chili or Hot Bubblegum or countless other early '80s raunchy teen comedies.

For me, Jackie Earle Haley was the star of this movie, as Dave. He had the best bits, the funniest lines, and...that sock. The scene at the pharmacy where he's trying to score some Spanish Fly, using pantomime and some really bad mock-Spanish is an absolute riot. I liked Shelley Long a lot then; too bad she just kind of faded away after a point. She was good in this. Tom Cruise...what can we say? He's there...not much else to say. But, of course, he's the only one who really scores.

One other scene worth mentioning has John Valby (aka "Doctor Dirty"), as a sleazy guy banging on the piano, singing really filthy songs about gangbangs to a drunken crowd. Kind of a lost art these days. The dirty songs, that is!

This was a personal favorite when I was in the third grade. It was a longtime staple on TBS for years afterward, although I couldn't bring myself to watch it after the censors got hold of it. I'm sure all the good stuff would be gone. But they loved to show the scene where Dave is shouting "We're going to be as crude as we want, as filthy as we want, and as gross as we want!". Choice words!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Strange Brew" (1983)

This is one that was shown one night in the summer of 1984. I had no knowledge of SCTV, never heard of Bob & Doug McKenzie, but I was in stitches over these two guys in winter clothing who were guzzling beers, scarfing donuts, and calling each other "hoser". Too funny!

These two guys try to scam a case of free beer from a local beer store, but somehow end up with jobs at the brewery, and outsmart (!) the evil Brewmeister Smith's plan to take over the world via a mind-control ingredient in the beer. Along the way, they guzzle down more beer and call each other "hoser". Beauty, eh?

I could never figure out the opening, though. They somehow have the budget to make a movie (and even an album, which is referenced to), but they're actually unemployed schmucks who live at home with their parents? Weird!

Seriously, though, this ended up being one of my favorites for years afterward. I was initially let down that there was never a sequel or follow-up, but how could this be topped or equaled? Even so, this was on cable a lot during the '80s, and was a fixture in the VCR. They connected well with Lynne Griffin, who played Pam Elsinore, and I thought she was a major cutie, as well as a great foil to the brothers' antics.

The scene where the guys drink the last few beers, and then pour the last one from the dog-dish into a glass has me in hysterics every time I see it. Mel Blanc was an unexpected but welcome voice in that scene, and also when he happily goes insane with laughter when he learns that the guys brought home a vanful of cases of Elsinore Beer.

Speaking of which, some people have always said that Bob and Doug didn't seem like brothers, but to me, they had it down to a "T". Having known plenty of kids who had brothers (or even just one), it was not uncommon for one of the kids--usually closer to my own age--to be the cool one, but his older brother would be the annoying know-it-all who thought he was the tough guy, but would piss and whine about being left out of the clubhouse, and would try to "narc" on us for that, or anything else he would lie about us to the parents, getting us in trouble in the process.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The "Amityville" trilogy

This one stretches back to the fall of 1980, when something came on, featuring the silhouette of a house that looked like a jack-o'-lantern.

Wow, what a strange one this was to me. I saw a guy get covered with flies, and then a scary voice whispering and then telling him to GET OUT!!! A toilet was flushed, and a bunch of black stuff came oozing out. Weird, oily stuff began running down the walls, dipping down the stairs in the process. And then the dad fell though the basement steps, landing in a hole filled with a black, oily substance that looked like tar.

Weird stuff to my four-year-old mind, yet I thought it was great. Prior to my teen years, I found a paperback copy of the book the movie was based on, and not only could I not put it down, I carried it around with me throughout my seventh-grade year. The movie wasn't shown on TV or cable very much at the time. It kind of had a reputation of being "dumb" and "not scary", but after a number of years, it became a cult favorite of many, and is now usually included on lists of "Greatest Horror Movies" or "Halloween/Haunted House Movies".

But I had seen a the two following sequels in the '80s when they came on cable. Amityville II: The Possession was truly frightening and disturbing to me when I first saw it. But, later on, I noticed that it was a weird rip-off of The Exorcist...the only things missing were the spinning head and green puke.

This one, however, was disappointing in the extreme. It's bad enough that it seemed like a rip-off of Poltergeist, but the 3-D effects were chintzy at best, and the movie really had no story to it. The poster art is laughable, and gives an idea of how tacky the whole idea was.

After a long gap, there were further "sequels", most of them centering around an evil object that came from "an old house in New York that was torn down"...a mirror, a clock, and even a dollhouse...I was waiting for one with either an evil sink-trap or a doorstop causing all the trouble. It might have made a better movie than that truly awful remake of the original 1979 one, done in 2005. The only reason I saw it was because the DVD boxed set of the original three movies included a free movie-ticket to see the new remake. The latter half of it seemed like a bad ripoff of The Shining, what with Ryan Reynolds going after his family with an axe. Another potentially good outlet for telling a creepy story was wasted.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

TV was never quite like this!

One Sunday morning in late 1987, as I was just waking up, Dad was raving about this movie that had been on at 3 in the morning, and he had gotten up in order to tape it. I guess he didn't know the concept of setting the timer in order for the VCR to do that for him. Oh well...what could this be???

After a curious prologue that spoofed 2001 (which I hadn't seen yet), it opened up with a hippie guy hoisting his thumb out on the freeway, only to be picked up by a nice-looking hippie chick. They go a few miles, but she comes on to him, pulls the car over, gets out and starts running...and the clothes begin to come off. He runs after her, pulling off his own clothes while running (and trying not to fall over), getting terribly excited, running out onto a road completely naked, and...I can't give the ending away, but let's say I hadn't laughed that hard in years!

Although that segment really didn't have much to do with the rest of the movie, I was intrigued by this one, despite the really low budget it was produced under. I saw a young Chevy Chase in a few segments, including one one of just his fingers, lampooning a Yellow Pages commercial. Then a lengthy segment with a couple of guys smuggling a huge amount of pot home in order to sell it, only to end up dumping some of it down the toilet, eating it, and getting the rest stolen from their place. Kind of a poor man's Cheech & Chong, but it was actually pretty funny.

I had seen the "Ramon & Sonja" segment from this on Night Flight, but didn't get to see the movie that it came from until the 10th grade, when we found the videotape at Tower Records in the "bargain" section. We got it home, put it in, and although it looked like it had been shot on video and transferred to film, with a budget of around $40 (and even that's being generous!), I liked a lot of what I was seeing.

The film's plot is set in 1985 (ten years in the future), and centers around a senatorial hearing, in which the Tunnel Vision channel's contents are being reviewed in order to see if it's obscene or not. Looking at it now, it's funny how they predict the viewing audience losing interest in their jobs, vegetating in front of their TV's, and watching this one channel the whole day.

There are many take-offs of TV commercials, newscasts, trailers for upcoming TV movies and programs. Some of them are pretty dumb, but the whole thing is just "so bad" that you can't help but just go along with it. And although it's supposed to be set ten years ahead of its time, there's a plethora of Nixon and Polish jokes throughout it, especially during one newscast, where Nixon is tracked down to be living in a crackhouse somewhere in Compton.

The selling point on VHS 9and later DVD) editions were appearances by Chevy Chase, John Candy, Laraine Newman, and Howard Hesseman, among others, but John Candy is only in it for a few frames! Literally! And not even a speaking role!
One of Dad's friends brought this one over, in a pile of other videotapes that he brought over and left here. I had never heard of this one, but since they were making comparisons to The Groove Tube on the cover, I had to see what it was.

This one is almost a direct sequel to Tunnel Vision, as it is directed by Bradley Swirnoff, one of its co-directors. This one has another flimsy plotline, where members of the President's cabinet are alerted by the contents of one particular TV station that is broadcasting offensive material. They then alert the President himself, who has no idea what's going on. Meanwhile, the viewing audience is getting more and more concerned and outraged by what they're seeing on their TV screens; indeed, some of the shows spark off fistfights and riots in the street!

There are some interesting moments on this one, which contains one of the strangest take-offs of Charlie's Angels that you'll ever see (starring three plus-sized ladies), and Kinky Friedman tooting up coke and hosting a kids' TV show, singing about picking boogers (the song "Ol' Ben Lucas" is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for weeks!). Lots of short clips for upcoming TV shows and movies, infomercials, vacation spots, and TV commercials aplenty. Some of them go by a little too fast to fully digest, but are well worth revisiting.

Finally, the President can no longer stand it, and presses The Big Button at the end, annihilating the US in the process. Problem solved!

I found this one down at Buzzard Video in the summer of 2004. Somehow, I knew this was connected to the other movies, and--sure enough--it was: Ira Miller directed this one, and he had been one of the writers on Tunnel Vision, as well as starring as Ramon in "Ramon & Sonja".

This one seemed to be lampooning movie-theater trailers and ads...just a long, never-ending string of them, one after the other, with no narrative.

There were some good ones to behold. The Ma & Pa Kettle take-off was pretty damned funny, even if I wasn't familiar with the real thing, and their foul-mouthed pig is an absolute laugh-riot. There's one of Billy Jack finding himself on his way to Oz (by way of getting bit by a rattlesnake), and the devastating closer, "Dark Town After Dark", a Cab Calloway soft-shoe number that has its roots from racial remarks made by a US senator, which cost him his job, but left us with this song to remember him by. I can't give away the chorus, as it's too funny, and--again--will be in your head for many weeks to come!

Bill Murray is the selling point of this one, being one of his first film roles, as a condemned prisoner, but is wearing some very heavy facial makeup, perhaps to hide his acne-pitted complexion. It looks as if an undertaker did the makeup job.