Tag Archives: Movies

BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Airplane! (1980)

Seriously, you can’t be reviewing a movie this old, BQB.

Yes, I am…and don’t call me Shirley.

A review? What is it? It’s a summary and commentary of a feature film, but that’s not important right now.

This is one of those movies that a child of the 1980s knows by heart. Growing up, even well into the 90s and early 2000s, it was on TV all the time. You’d catch bits and pieces of it and have a good laugh. It really is a silly masterpiece, the likes of which had never been seen before, and will undoubtedly ever be seen again. Many have tried, but the team of the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams were a one of a kind trio. They went on to more success with Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun series as well as the Top Gun parody Hot Shots. Others would go on to try parody movies that would only fizzle. A number of parody flicks released in the 2000s by lesser talents were so God awful that the parody genre pretty much died out in that decade.

What is a parody? Take an established film and give it a mocking re-write. Throw in as much mocking as you can about other movies and or subjects as you can. The uninitiated may not be aware that Airplane is itself, a parody of the 1957 film Zero Hour! That film’s legit plot was about ex-WWII pilot Ted Stryker, called upon to make a split second decision that got a lot of his fellow pilots killed. Years later, he is torn apart and wracked by guilt, unable to function, often fired from several jobs. His wife, Ellen, an airline stewardess, dumps him with a note, saying she will start a new life in a new city her airline job will deliver her to. Ted buys a ticket and hops aboard, hoping to beg her for one last chance. The crew and pilots get sick from food poisoning. Ted is the only one who has flown and must land the plane. He does so while being talked down by an ex air force colleague who hates his guts over his war mistake. In the end, Ted lands the plane, is redeemed, loved by his wife and can move on to a happier life.

Airplane! is literally that same movie, except with lots of shenanigans and silliness. In fact, I believe the rights to Zero Hour! were bought just so ZAZ could make a silly re-do for Paramount.

Don’t call me Shirley. I take my coffee black like my men. Jim never orders a second cup of coffee at home. Stewardess, I speak jive. The list of hilarious jokes goes on and on. So memorable. So quotable. And yet, sitting down and watching it from beginning to end, I hadn’t done that in a long time. Even the lesser known jokes and bits are pretty hysterical. It is a laugh riot.

And it brought back memories. Sigh. Oh, as a little kid I really loved comedy and hoped maybe I’d be a comedian one day. I worshipped ZAZ, between Airplane and the Naked Gun, to the point where I tracked down a copy of their first foray, the lesser known Kentucky Fried Movie. Not their best, but they were just getting started. Basically just a series of dumb sketches tied together.

Eh, but I grew up. Went the so-called practical route. I say so-called because the practical route was supposed to be easier yet nothing in life is easy so the older I get, the more I wonder if it all just isn’t a crap shoot and if it’s hard to make a living as a ditch digger or an accountant or a bus driver or a teacher or a cop or a pharmacist or a podiatrist or what have you then you might as well do what you love and try to find a job in the silly movie game.

But that ship has long sailed. At least I have my silly blog.

Cue the obligatory, “Oh, this movie would never be made today in these woke times” rant.

Nope, it wouldn’t. First, there are naked gratuitous titties. In one scene where the passengers flip out and run around the plane going nuts, a woman runs by for a close up of her jiggly bosoms. Harvey Weinstein’s evil doings put an end to that. Harvey was a sex fiend for 30 years so now every director in Tinsel Town is afraid to ask an actress to take her top off. You’ll never see a set of nude sweater puppets on film ever again. Thanks Harvey. Jackass.

Second, there’s the funny scene when the woman flips out. Starts shouting, “I gotta get outta here!” One person slaps her. The next shakes her. Suddenly, there’s a long line of people brandishing weapons waiting for their turn to torture her. I never really saw this as a joke about abusing women. ZAZ pokes fun at movie tropes throughout this flick, and here they are mocking the movie trope where someone freaks out, so another person slaps them or shakes them and yells at them to calm down. I mean, seriously, is that really the best move? Someone is cracking under pressure, I don’t think smacking them would really help. It’s like no one who ever wrote a movie thought that if a person is flipping out, maybe you ought to put your arm around them and say, “There, there. It’ll all be OK.” But no. Every character in movie world is somehow trained to see a person suffering a panic attack and sock them in the jaw like they’re a wannabe Sugar Ray Leonard.

There’s the sick little girl who makes funny faces, near death because the stewardess playing a song to cheer her up on the guitar keeps accidentally slapping out her IV whenever she moves the guitar around. That would be seen as ableist hate speech now.

Don’t even get me started on the scene where Ted joins the peace corps, visits a tribe in Africa, hands them a basketball and the tribesmen start dribbling and dunking with the skill of the best NBA players.

Stewardess, do you have any light reading? How about this one page leaflet? Famous Jewish Sports Legends.

The Jive guys speaking Jive like it is a foreign language with subtitles.

Sigh. Jokes that would never make the cut today. I suppose we can debate whether or not that’s a good thing. As I watch the film, I get the sense that here is an airplane full of people of all different races, colors, creeds, religions, backgrounds, ages. They all came together to survive a doomed flight, and the ZAZ team made fun of everyone, not in an attempt to be mean, but maybe just maybe in the sense that if we can learn to laugh with (and not at) each other, then maybe we can learn to get along.

Gotta be honest though. When I was a kid, I just thought the pilot asking the boy if he’d ever seen gladiator movies was just a strange, silly man. Today as an adult I realize, yeah the joke is that the pilot is a sex pervert attempting to “groom” the boy. Sigh. Parents, keep your kids away from adult men who like gladiator movies.

Bonus points that the film took known Hollywood tough guys like Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen and Peter Graves and got them to basically do their same tough guy schtick, but while delivering silly lines in their tough guy style. Leslie Nielsen, long a serious actor, would go on to a longer second act as a comic actor due to this film.

Double bonus points for Julie Haggerty. She really is the perfect combination of beautiful and sweet. Maybe it’s just the character she is playing, yet deep down every man wants a wife who is beautiful yet kind. Often times in our society, the beautiful don’t have any reason to be kind. Eh, then again, there are a lot of mean ugly people too.

At any rate, there’s a scene where Ted (Robert Hayes) is in the hospital after the war and he does a spit take. Julie just sort of takes a gallon of spit to her face, shakes her hands and cringes like she expected it (not that she knew the spit was coming as an actress but that her character knew this was what Ted was like so knew the spit was coming) and just goes right on talking. Hard to explain. You just have to watch it.

BTW, I can’t count the number of times when I or another kid I knew growing up would pretend to have hard time drinking a glass of water and be like, “Ha ha! I have a drinking problem!”

STATUS: Worthy of the highest shelf! I can’t go on long enough about how great this film is and how it inspired me as a kid, even inspires me today. We will never see its like again, not just because the ZAZ team thought they could never top it, and not because of how many wannabes tried and failed, but alas, these jokes are out of style.

Surely, we can debate long and hard over whether that’s a good thing…and don’t call me Shirley.

Catch it on HBOMax.

SIDENOTE: Woke problems aside, there’s also the issue of audiences being less willing to suspend disbelief and less appreciative of good humor. So many of the jokes are just word play. The running joke is someone says something, the other says what is it, the first gives a definition but that’s not important now.

Stewardess – there’s a problem in the cockpit.

Ted – The cockpit? What is it?

Stewardess – its the little room at the front of the plane where the pilots sit, but that’s not important now.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Misery (1990)

Caca doody poopy, 3.5 readers.

Caca doody poopy, indeed.

BQB here with a review of this horror classic.

I was flipping through HBO Max’s selections the other day and this one popped up. James Caan, who passed this year, is the star, so I figured I was overdue for a re-watch. I hadn’t seen it since a kid.

The plot? Famed horror novelist Stephen King brings to life his worst nightmare, likely with a douse of parody of his most bothersome fans. We’re not talking about the typical fan who asks for an autograph. We’re talking about the nutjobs who live, breathe and think about their favorite author’s writings so much that they a) lose their minds and b) believe they have the right to dictate what the other does with their favorite characters.

Case in point. New York City based novelist Paul Sheldon has become rich and famous from a series of romance novels about the character Misery Chastain. In an early scene with his agent, played by Lauren Bacall, yes she of Casablanca fame, Paul laments that he feels the Misery series is schlock, and though he’s grateful it gave him a name and a fortune, he intends to write one last book where Misery is killed off so he can move on to write novels that would be less commercially successful but more critically acclaimed to show off his brilliance.

Off he heads to Colorado, where his longtime practice is to hole himself up in a countryside hotel away from the world and focus his writing. When his new novel is done, he sets out on the long drive back to NYC, only to accidentally run his car off the road during a snowstorm.

Local Nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) happens upon the wreck and carries Paul to safety. He awakes days later, confined to a bed in Annie’s house. His legs are broken, leaving him to either stay in bed or move about in a wheelchair.

At first, Annie seems a godsend. How lucky was Paul that a nurse found him and fixed him up? She comes across as a fan of his books, but merely of the starstruck variety. Yes, of course I’d be happy to answer all your questions about my books, Annie, and sure you can read my new manuscript. You saved my life, after all.

Alas, what starts as a series of little white fibs turns into boldface lies as Paul realizes that Annie has no real intention of ever letting him go and that due to his immobile condition, he is dependent on a wack job if he wishes to keep living. The first day or two, “the roads are still covered with snow and the phone lines are down so the hospital is unreachable and no one can send an ambulance” is believable but when she’s still singing the same old song and dance weeks later, Paul knows something is up.

From there it is a game of cat and mouse. Paul contrives schemes to take Annie out only to be foiled. Annie tortures and punishes Paul until she eventually drops the pretense of snowy roads and downed phone lines and just openly admits he is her prisoner and she will never allow him to leave. Old newspaper clippings indicate she has been suspected of, yet never convicted by, local law enforcement of all sorts of evil doings in the past.

Everything culminates in a final showdown over Paul’s new book. Psycho fan Annie is uber pissed when she learns that Paul has killed Misery off and orders a re-write, pronto. Paul declines at first, but eventually sees a re-write as the distraction he just might need to lull Annie into a false sense of security so he can strike.

All in all, I have to assume that Stephen King has had his share of psycho fans in his day, people who enjoyed his books but got way too personal and creepy about it. This was his way at poking fun at them, as well as the jerk fans who aren’t so crazed that they’d kidnap him or anything but they feel like they have a right to boss him around about his creative decisions, tell him to write this, don’t write that, freak out over his decisions, etc.

This was a boon for both actors. James Caan saw great success with his role as Sonny in the Godfather, but his career waned in the 80s before this film helped him resurface. Somehow, he straddles the line between coming across as an intellectual type capable of literally prowess and the rough and tumble type who has no compunction about bashing his captor over the head if that’s what it takes to escape.

Meanwhile, Kathy Bates, a relative unknown at the time (and I hate to admit it but obviously not the typical Hollywood hottie actress Tinsel Town is known for rallying around) soared to super stardom in the 90s, all thanks to Stephen King’s creation of a psycho nurse who loves reading romance novels but gets depressed that she’ll never have a life as exciting as the characters she reads about, so takes out her frustrations with a double life of murder and mayhem, all the while maintaining the persona of a nice lady who refuses to say naughty words. Murderous fits of rage are fine but naughty words? Never.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. A 32 old film that holds up to modern woke standards. Nothing really stood out to me as violating today’s rules of wokery. If anything, it is exceedingly woke for casting a woman as a psycho murderer and being strong enough to get plenty of licks in during gruesome fight scenes with a man who once played a notorious mobster. So yeah, one might say this film was ahead of its time.

SIDENOTE: Dude, seriously. We often laugh at today’s superhero movies where the tiny five foot tall, 90 pound waif-like starlet taps a 300 pound brute with her pinky finger and he goes flying, but when you watch this, there are scenes where Annie comes at Paul like a football linebacker high on crack, PCP and bath salts. There is a legit sense of fear and danger, a distinct possibility that Paul might be overcome in the fight and end up beaten to a pulp by a female.

Hmm. How can I put this delicately? Hollywood, if you want believable fight scenes where women look like they are actually kicking a man’s ass (instead of just requiring us to believe they are defying the laws of physics), hire larger women to fill these butt kicking roles. Somewhere out there, a large woman was robbed of the Black Widow role by Scarlett Johanson.

DOUBLE SIDENOTE: I watched this as a kid and thought it was scary, you know, because it is about a crazy woman who holds a man hostage and beats him and tortures him. Today, I found it scary because I am now so old that Kathy Bates’s Annie looks young to me. That’s less of a complaint about this film than it is about Father Time, though.

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Movie Review – Barbarian (2022)

Barbarism and Detroit, but I repeat myself! Zing!

BQB here with a review of what may be the year’s best horror film.

Generally, I’m not a big horror movie fan. I have enough horror going on in my own life to invite more.

However, once in awhile there’s one that gets good buzz and you watch it and discover it is crafted well enough with enough mystery and intrigue that you have to tell the 3.5 readers of your blog about it.

So let me tell you about it, 3.5 readers.

Actually, I can’t tell you much. Like many horror movies, there’s a house with a scary basement. When a visitor makes the dumb decision to venture into said scary basement, even scarier things happen. If I were to tell you what scary things are lurking down there, it would give the whole movie away.

However, most horror movies aren’t just about the monsters, killers, or creatures that kill with reckless abandon. They are allegories for something deeper. Halloween was about an America where it was becoming less safe to leave your doors unlocked. Scream was about 1990s angsty teenagers with no purpose finding evil purpose in murder. Saw in a macabre way was about appreciating life, and if you’d be willing to murder others if trapped in a sadistic puzzle box just to save your precious life, then why don’t you, you know, do the good things every day to preserve your life like eating your veggies and working out and making good decisions for yourself and those you love?

Here, the twin horrors are “toxic masculinity” and the urban decay that allows bad things to go unnoticed by the police and government.

Georgina Campbell stars as Tess Marshall, a documentary researcher who has rented an Air BNB while in town for a job interview. Alas, the property has been double booked, for when she arrives, she finds the house already occupied by Keith (Bill Skarsgard). Amplifying how women have to worry more than men about certain situations, Tess finds herself having to make the difficult choice between going back out into a dangerous neighborhood or staying in the same house as a complete stranger.

Blah, blah, blah, shenanigans ensue and as it turns out, there are stranger, worse doings afoot in the basement. Justin Long rounds out the cast as AJ, a pervy Hollywood director and the rare horror movie victim you might actually cheer for when he gets got.

STATUS: Shelfworthy, but just remember, you might want to go into this one on an empty stomach. Catch it on HBO MAX.

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Movie Review – The Good Nurse (2022)

When nursing goes wrong. Terribly wrong.

BQB here with what may be Netflix’s first Oscar contender of the year.

Based on a true story, this movie tells the story of Nurse Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain) a nurse with a heart who always calls her patients by first name and goes out of her way to help them.

Alas, she’s in need of help herself. Speaking of hearts, she has a condition with hers that requires a heart transplant. She shouldn’t even be working. She should be at home resting and seeking treatment but she needs to be on the job four more months until her health insurance kicks in.

Thus, when Nurse Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) starts working at her hospital, he’s like a godsend. Charlie helps Amy carry her workload, and even pitches in helping her raise her two daughters as a single mom. He asks for nothing in return, even the relationship itself seems platonic as he doesn’t seek any nookie or anything.

When detectives start poking around the suspicious death of one of Charlie’s patients, they unravel threads that lead to a more sinister tale. Charlie has a habit of being passed around like a bad penny from hospital to hospital. The hospital administrators always suspect foul play, but can never prove it, so they fire him on some pretense (paperwork violation, for example) send him on his way and then Charlie becomes the next hospital’s problem.

In short, Charlie is subtly killing his patients. Putting drugs in their IVs that induce death, but because many of these patients are in a bad state already, their deaths end up looking natural. One of these hospitals could have taken the lawsuit and put Charlie in jail early but instead they just choose to cover up. The problem is the hospitals don’t communicate and Charlie just takes his show down the road.

When the detectives seek Amy’s help in getting the goods on Charlie, she can hardly believe her BFF has a dark side, but she does the right thing at great personal cost, putting her health and job on the line.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Charlie is the first villain, though it is confounding as we are never given a reason as to why he murders other than maybe he is mad about his ex wife so takes it out on his patients. Eddie Redmayne excels in this part as a seemingly, at least on the surface, average Joe. He isn’t playing a historic figure or alien or wizard as he often does. Chastain is typical Chastain. She may be the healthiest looking heart transplant patient around, and sometimes they have her huff and puff and keel over to remind you amidst all the running around she is doing that she is sick.

The second villain is the hospital system. Cover, deflect and deny at all costs rather than take a financial hit but in so doing, take a killer nurse out of the system. Cullen was convicted of 28 counts of murder but there are suspicions he may have killed up to 400. He could have been stopped earlier.

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Movie Review – Amsterdam (2022)

Mystery! Intrigue! A star studded cast!

BQB here with a review of Amsterdam.

I saw this movie last night and was shocked to read the reviews today. The critics hate it, calling it the worst movie of the year thus far, a hot, meandering, chaotic mess. Strange, because I walked out of it thinking it was the first Oscar contender of the year. I found it charming, part-mystery and part-comedy that gave me some of the first legitimate laughs in a movie theater in…I can’t even remember.

How could I, your humble blog host and the professional movie watchers be so divergent in our view? Hold that thought. I’ll speculate on it later.

In 1910’s France, toward the end of World War I, misfits Dr. Burt Berendson (Christian Bale), Harold Woodman (John David Washington) and Valerie Voze (Margot Robbie), meet and become fast friends. Valerie is an art-loving nurse who treats Burt and Harold for their war wounds, while they defend her from local French folk disgusted by her penchant for digging shrapnel (metal scraps) from soldiers and forging it into art.

After peace breaks out in Europe, the trio take a detour on their way home to America, finding peace and acceptance in Amsterdam, a sweet sense of bliss they never found in their homeland of the United States. Each has their own personal war waiting for them at home. Burt is half-Jewish, half-Catholic and (SPOILER ALERT) as he laments in a line that had me slapping my knee, openly guffawing, “I think my in-laws sent me to war to get rid of me.” He is estranged from his wife, who defers to her high society parents and their open hatred of her husband, who they consider to be of a low pedigree.

Valerie is a free spirit who lives for creating masterpieces through the brush and photography. In other words, she’s at risk for being stamped “crazy” with a crazy stamp on her forehead and treated that way, free-spirited women being considered bonkers at the time.

Harold is the most level-headed of the trio, but he’s black, and well, we all know the history of how black people were treated in the early 1900s.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. The trio eventually closes their Amsterdam vacation and return to the states, where they go their separate ways, yet they forever see their time in Amsterdam as a state of mind, a yearning to just be themselves without guilt, remorse, or trying to please all the unpleasable people in their lives.

Flash forward to the 1930s. Harold is now a lawyer, fighting for the civil rights of African Americans, poor veterans, and downtrodden folk at large. Burt does this in his own way, starting a practice where he treats the less fortunate who are scoffed at elsewhere and charging little. The dynamic duo come together at the behest of Liz Meekins (Taylor Swift) to investigate the untimely demise of their old Army general, who his daughter theorizes was the victim of foul play.

And so, down the rabbit hole of mystery the friends go, searching for clues and unraveling a far flung, worldwide conspiracy involving fascism, dictators, ornithology scandals, a wacko hitman, and well, if I tick off the other boxes, I’d give the rest of the story away.

Christian Bale, who rivals Daniel Day Lewis in his ability to transform into someone else, does it again here. His character, Burt, is a doctor of the people with a heavy Brooklyn accent. He laments his lot in life, feeling like he can do no right in the eyes of his family, yet soldiers on anyway, caring his injured fellow veterans. He is partly the comic relief and partly the heart of the movie, inventing new drugs, which he argues, the world needs but the medical community is unwilling to develop. He may be right, but he constantly falls flat on his face mid-sentence, the result of being his own test subject. The glass eye he received to replace the one lost in the war is forever popping out only to be found again. I almost want to say the character is reminiscent of Seinfeld’s Kramer, if Kramer had a medical license.

John David Washington excels as the straight man, the brains of the bunch who keeps the trio focused on the case and away from devolving into too much tomfoolery. It’s clear his character would have gone further in life had he not been born in such an openly racist time, yet he refuses to be defined or denigrated by those who dislike him simply because of the color of his skin.

Robbie is a delight, her smile can really warm up a movie theater. She’s not crazy, but suffers the false allegations of craziness with a stiff upper lip.

Who are the stars? Literally everyone. Anya Taylor Joy. Mike Myers. Michael Shannon. Timothy Olyphant. Rami Malek. Chris Rock. Robert DeNiro. That’s all I could think of in one sitting. There are more. It’s as if everyone in Hollywood stopped by the set to get their five minutes in this flick.

Which brings me back to the start of this review. Everyone in Tinsel Town apparently believed in this flick enough to be in it, so why did the critics give it ye olde raspberry?

Admittedly, the plot is convoluted and meandering. As often happens in so many mysteries, the characters pull a thread that leads to another thread, that sometimes leads to four or five separate threads. At some point, you the audience member are left to decide whether you want to whip out a pen and jot notes, maybe even a flow chart on the back of your popcorn bag, or if you just want to shrug your shoulders and assume the writers know what they’re doing and you can look up any questions you were stumped on online later.

It has a lot of heart. The friendship between the three main characters is very sweet. Three people who were not accepted at home find acceptance abroad. I wonder if early 1900s Amsterdam really was that much of an accepting place, or if it was just a matter of the trio going to a new place where no one knew their past and this allowed them to reinvent themselves. There is a romance between Harold and Valerie, but it’s genuine, not tawdry. There’s no titillating sex scene, rather you can tell they legitimately enjoy each other’s company, and by extension, the company of their BFF Burt. Relationships built on sex, money, social standing etc., never last. In life, you’re lucky if you find maybe a handful of friends who accept you as you are, warts and all, and love you all the more for it.

Strangely, unconditional love is the message of the movie. Love the veterans who fought for their country only to be disposed of like garbage when the time came for the country they fought for to pay for their medical bills. Love the African Americans who are just looking for their piece of the pie. Love the women who want to be free-spirited and don’t drug them up under false allegations of being a crazy dame. Love the schmucks who don’t seem to fit in anywhere but who keep showing up anyway, even when their glass eyes fall out.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. The critics are wrong here. This film is a throwback to Oscar winners of the past, large, ambitious, far-flung historic pieces. Comedy ensues, though most of the jokes shine a light on the mistreatment the downtrodden faced during a terrible time in history where if you weren’t a rich white man then society just treated you as being in the way. Admittedly, you could take away the mystery as it basically just serves as a framework for so many actors to meet and riff of one another, but then again, aren’t most films about the search for the elusive MacGuffin? I would like to see Hollywood make more movies like this, though I fear the critics have grown so accustomed to the streaming bologna sandwich schlock served up by streaming services that they have no idea what to do when a steak of a film like this is set before them.

Answer: Devour it, then burp in satisfied glory.

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Movie Review – The Munsters (2022)

Is it so bad it’s good or is it so good it’s bad?

You decide. BQB here with Rob Zombie’s modern take on the monster family classic.

This movie is unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s an almost 2-hour long sitcom episode. Hacky, 1960s-esque jokes, puns and quips abound. Suddenly, I appreciate the concept of the laugh track, that old trick of piping in canned laughter (or in studio audience laughter) to let us know which lines are intended to be funny and which are meant to be serious. Humor, after all, is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps the ear of the listener.

It reminds me of Elvira, or any of a plethora of old timey monster movie shows where the flick would be interspersed between commercials as well as a wacky, poorly produced host dumping on the movie while dealing with creatures of his or her own.

Ultimately, I have no idea what to make of it. Part of me loves it, because if it’s one thing I always complain about, it’s when reboots completely ignore the source material. This one practically worships the original, to the point where I wonder if the writers and producers of the original fell into a time warp and served as Rob Zombie’s consultants. Sure, the Munsters could have just been shoved into modern times, forced to deal with any number of pop cultural happenings and political trends with a few celebrities stopping by for a silly cameo. Then again, the Addams Family has done that again and again.

Part of me hates it because the joke a minute pace in which all pithy remarks seem like they fell straight out of a book entitled “The Undead Dad’s Joke Book.” We’re talking humor that isn’t just on the nose, but way up, such that you can see the boogers and all. Why would I hate this? Because darn it, that’s the kind of humor I use in my poorly sold books, leaving me to wonder if I’m no better than the lesser (or more-er, depending on your POV) of America’s top two sitcom based freaky families.

The plot? (Yes, there is one.) Mad scientist Dr. Henry Augustus Wolfgang (Richard Blake) and his flunky Floop (Jorge Garcia) seek to bring dead flesh to life in the form of their very own Frankenstein-esque monster. The doc seeks the brain of recently deceased super genius, Shelley von Rathbone, but alas, the incompetent Floop swipes the brain of Shelley’s dimwitted, poorly reviewed, hacky stand-up comic brother Schecky, who quite coincidentally, died the same day, leaving both bodies at rest in the same funeral parlor.

The result is, well, you know him, you love him – Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips), who uses the late Schecky’s brain to become a more popular entertainer than Schecky ever was. He sings. He dances. He jokes. He becomes the toast of Transylvania, where this tale takes place. He even captures the undead heart of vampiress, Lilly (Sheri Moon Zombie), who lives a hum-drum life in the castle of her schticky father, The Count (Daniel Roebuck.)

The good news? Herman and Lilly fall madly in love and get married. The bad news? Dimwitted Herman is tricked by his new wolfman brother-in-law Lester (Tomas Boykin) into signing the castle over to evil fortune teller Zoya (Catherine Schell), all part of a revenge plot as Zoya is one of the Count’s many ex-wives who claims the fanged one done her wrong.

It all culminates in the spooky family moving to America and I assume Netflix and Zombie will be collaborating to bring us more Munster flicks in the future, perhaps with a furry bundle of joy on the way. We know The Count better as Grandpa, after all.

I gotta be honest. I’ve never been a big horror fan and have never been a Rob Zombie film fan, as he really does lean into the genre. The occasional scary movie? Fine. But scary movies with blood and gore and frights so twisted you want to poop your pants? Hey, it’s a free country, and anyone else can feel free to have at it, but I’ll pass.

But RZ got me on this one and I wonder if maybe Rob grew up on a steady diet of such sitcom schlock as he handles it with love, or whatever qualifies as love in a world where a Frankenstein can marry a vampire and produce a werewolf baby.

Kudos to the cast. They walk a fine line between doing an impression of the original cast. Jeff Phillips provides a voice of his own while still delivering homages to the late, great Fred Gwynne. Meanwhile, Sherri Moon Zombie (isn’t that kinda cool when you create a fictional last name and your wife takes your fictional last name?) deviates from Yvone De Carlo’s femme fatale style Lilly and gives us a sickeningly sweet Lilly, undead and evil yet somewhat naive, kind and lovable, like the vampire girl next door you’d want to introduce to your mother if you weren’t sure she’d bite her.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. I’m still shaking my head, not sure what to make of it, but I’ll give it this. By giving us more of what it was, it stands out in a crowd of everything that currently is.

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Classic Movie Review – The Jerk (1979)

Always remember these three important rules of life, 3.5 readers:

#1 – Don’t trust Whitey.

#2 – The Lord loves a working man.

#3 – See a doctor and get rid of it.

BQB here with a review of this classic comedy of Steve Martin’s most hilarious film.

NOTE: This is a review for people who have seen the movie. Ergo, if you want no SPOILERS, look away. Go watch then come back.

I saw this movie on a list of films that couldn’t be remade today. I instantly remembered how much it made me laugh back in the day and had to rewatch it again. I’m not sure what that list was talking about because I would argue this is a rare comedy that has stood the test of time, 43 years in fact.

The premise? Steve Martin, in his first major film role, plays Navin Johnson, the white son of African American sharecroppers in Mississippi. He loves his family and they love him, but on one fateful birthday, he, to his shock, discovers that he is white (yes, even though he is well into his thirties.)

Navin’s mother explains that the family adopted him when he was left on their doorstep as a baby and raised him as one of their own. Realizing that he isn’t getting younger, Navin decides he must venture forth from the family homestead and out into the world, seeking to find fame and fortune of his very own.

From there, the flick is a string of skits and gags, all surrounding Navin’s adventure into the great unknown, with cameos by various stars of the day helping or hindering him as the case may be.

Back in the day, Roger Ebert gave this film 2 stars. You can read that review here:


Now, here’s the thing. I admire Ebert because he built a great career doing what I love, namely, watching and picking apart movies. He’s the Mike Tyson of movie critics. So far be it from me to criticize him, but I think he got this one wrong.

As Ebert argues, comedy is subjective (so if he didn’t find it funny then I suppose in his view he wasn’t wrong). He goes on to explain there is funny for the sake of funny and situational funny. He goes on to say sometimes a character wears a funny hat and that’s the joke and sometimes there’s a silly situation that requires the character to wear a funny hat. The latter, according to Ebert, is way funnier.

Thus, to our veteran critic, Martin is all hat and no cattle, just a doofus doing doofusy things. Truly, he did and one might say he’s a pioneer of screwball comedy, making silly faces long before Jim Carrey.

However, what I believe Ebert missed is this film is one great big allegory for the fallout that occurs when youthful (or even not so youthful), naive optimism crashes into cold, hard reality. Forget Dr. Seus’s “Oh, the Places You Will Go!” Every high school graduate should get a copy of The Jerk.

Think about it. The high school grad thinks they’ve got the world by the horns when they head off to college. They think they know everything. Then they encounter the lousy roommate, the demanding professor, the first boss who dresses them down over a mistake. The student loan payments are due and the job interviews are going nowhere. I did all this studying to be a barista? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Compare this with Navin’s mistake filled journey. Navin is full of uninformed assumptions that blow up in his face due to his lack of experience. Navin thinks he’ll easily hitchhike across the USA, only to stand in front of his family’s home all day, well into the night. Navin gets a job at a gas station and thinks he’s hoodwinked a crook by tying said fraudster’s car to a church, only for the ne’er-do-well to take off down the drown dragging half the church, guests at a wedding still inside, behind him.

Navin is overjoyed when he is listed in the phone book, only for a homicidal maniac to pick his name at random and go on a murderous rampage against him. Navin joins a carnival, meets Patty the slovenly, over-sexed motorbiked stuntwoman and assumes he has found a ticket to free, no strings attached sex, only to discover that Patty is so attached she’s willing to commit violence to keep him.

The Navester comes on too strong with love interest Marie and she bolts. He invents the opti-grab grip eyeglass attachment that makes him a billionaire, only to be bankrupted by a lawsuit from irate customers when the product makes them go cross-eyed.

Bottomline – In life, mistakes are guaranteed. You think you won’t make them, but it’s not a matter of if you’ll make them but when. You’ll make assumptions. You’ll make decisions. Your actions will blow up in your face. You can fall apart and give up, or you can learn from your mistakes, vow not to repeat them and do better.

Had Navin not been such a dum-dum, he might have seen many lessons in his mistakes. He should have walked out to a main road to hitchhike, or heck, earned some money to buy a bus ticket. He should have left to crook to the cops. Not all publicity is good. Don’t have sex with someone you don’t want to commit to lest you hurt their feelings. If you sell a product, make sure you test it first.

Yes, wide-eyed, unbridled optism will surely always crash against the hard wall of reality, but all you can do is pick yourself up, dust yourself off, figure out what you did wrong and not do it again.

In the end, the only lesson Navin learned is home is where the heart is. Sometimes, the greatness we seek is right in our own backyard, coming to us in the form of the people who love us the most, that we love in return. When Navin hits Skid Row, it’s his sharecropper family who find him, clean him up, and bring him back to the place he thrived the most, and an ending credit scene where he dances while his family sings shows us he couldn’t be happier.

Two cringeworthy things that don’t fit today’s modern wokeness. 1 Is when a group of mafiosos use the N word, Navin defends his family’s honor in perhaps the funniest bit of the film when he says, “Sir, you are talking to an n-word!” then magically channels the spirit of a kung-fu warrior as he kicks the asses of all the racist single handed (with the exception of Iron Balls McGinty.)

I would argue this joke gets a pass due to context. Navin loves his family so much. His love for them is the sweetest part of the movie and perhaps the most redeeming quality of an otherwise dimwitted dullard. The n word is only used to pave the way for a bit in which a man who loves his family kung-fus a bunch of racists into thinking twice about saying such nasty slurs. But ok, context is a dead concept when it comes to humor now, so this joke doesn’t hold up.

Second, the family at the end sings “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” a song that references slavery days. All are so happy as the family sings and plays instruments while Navin dances joyously to celebrate his return home for good. In context, one might remember that in slavery times, slaves sang such songs to keep their spirits up when forced against their will to do punishing labor. In 1979, there were no slaves alive but it is possible that Navin’s father, given the time period, might have, as a child, known an old person or two who lived with slavery times or even was a slave. I assume the point of the film was the family is singing a song that was passed down through the generations of their family though yeah, it surely would have been better if the family had sung a happier, less racially charged song.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. When I was a kid, I just thought Steve Martin was a doofus doing doofy things in this film. As an adult, I see it as a silly growing up tale, teaching young as well as old that whenever they take on a new encounter, they will inevitably make mistakes, fall on their face, have to pick themselves up and try, try again. In the end, the only real losers are those who keep making the same mistake over and over.

I do think this is a rare old comedy that holds up in modern times, save for two scenes that don’t keep with modern woke standards. I’m not saying “give it a pass” but if you consider context and intent, the scenes were meant to show a white man who loves his black family so much, more than anything in the world, and ultimately it is this love that is the best part of him.

Bonus points for a cameo by Jackie Mason who plays Navin’s first boss, the gas station owner. As a kid, I was a fan of all kinds of comedy and wonder if I was the only kid who would repeat Mason’s Yiddishisms. I dare say the man did more to popularize the use of words like oy vey, fakakta, and schmuck than anyone.

Double bonus points for Steve Martin. So many comedians rise up the ladder as anyone does in any profession. They get a small part here or there, many a medium sized role that leads to a big break. Martin had already been a popular SNL host and a comedian who sold out shows in major venues. He also wrote for Smothers Brothers. So by the time this, his first movie, came around, he was a veritable PHD in funny holder. Even though Martin was a Great Bambino level comic by the time this film came along, it is still rare for a comedian to knock their first movie out of the park.

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Movie Review – Beast (2022)

Roar, 3.5 readers. Very roar, indeed.

BQB here with a review of this stinkburger.

I think we have a contender for the Razzie Award for Worst Film of 2022. When I first saw the trailer, I wanted to like it. The premise is pretty simple yet scary. A father takes his young daughters on a photo safari of remote African wilderness. Alas, various problems ensue and the family ends up stuck in an immobile car, about to become lion chow if they venture too far outside for too long. In other words, it’s Cujo but with a lion instead of a rabid dog.

The film has a lot when it comes to special effects. Flicks are using CGI animals more and more, the good news being that real animals no longer have to be treated like furry, feathery clowns for our amusement. (They never did but that’s a longer convo.) The downside is that filmmakers need to learn to use restraint when it comes to having CGI animals do ridiculous things a real animal would never do. While I understand that every film requires a certain suspension of disbelief, an early scene where two CGI enormous adult lions hug and romp with Sharlto Copley, embracing him like friendly housecats rather than rip him to shreds is absurd.

The problem is there is very little plot to back the film up. What little plot there is, is very contrived and not enough to flesh out the film’s short run time of 90 minutes. Essentially, Idris Elba plays Dr. Nate Samuels, a medical doctor whose wife Amahle recently died after a period of estrangement between the couple.

Nate brings his daughters Meredith and Norah (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries) on a trip to their mother’s homeland, hoping to find, I don’t know. Spiritual enlightenment. Reconnection with their lost matriarch. A chance to get away from it all. Typical movie brat Meredith treats her old man like garbage, blaming her father for quote unquote “not being there” in typical fashion of a young person who hasn’t been knocked around by the world enough times to realize that expectations never quite match up to reality and bottomline, if Mom didn’t want Dad to be there, then he couldn’t have been there. The reason for the separation is never given other than a vague idea that the couple wasn’t getting along.

The Samuels family’s tour guide of Africa is Martin Battles, played by none other than white South African actor Sharlto Copley. There’s a bit of irony in this casting choice. Given today’s uber woke world, one can’t help but scratch their head at the idea of a white man acting as the protector of a black family during their trip to Africa. However, Copley has been an actor and filmmaker for years, much of his work devoted to a love of the land he grew up in and ultimately, putting issues of race aside, the Samuels family are a bunch of city slickers from New York while Battles is an expert when it comes to African wildlife, having put in years of helping to conserve native species.

In other words, one might look at the premise through a different type of woke lens, that being race doesn’t automatically make one an expert in one subject or another. The Samuels are New Yorkers who know little of the Savannah, but Dr. Samuels is a practiced medicine man called upon to save lives at various parts in the film. Battles is white, but grew up in the area and through experience, learned all about fighting poachers, speaking native languages, keeping one step ahead of hungry lions.

But yeah, I get why viewers of African descent might roll their eyes at that early scene where the lions hug and romp with Sharlto as if he’s a modern-day White Lion King, Tamer and Friend to all African Wildlife he surveys.

At any rate, once the crappy plot is out of the way, the Samuels must survive the attack of a lion on the prowl for revenge after his pride is shot by poachers. An even earlier scene tells us this is no ordinary lion as it slashes through a pack of poachers with a vengeance. There’s one strange part where one poacher gets caught in a snag wire only to become lion food and I can only assume the idea is that he was hoisted on his own petard, i.e. he forgot where his pals laid the wire. Yeah, not gonna lie for a minute I had to pause it, scratch my head and think, “Did that lion lay that trip wire?”

If you can suspend, and I mean really suspend disbelief, then this flick is a nice brief diversion. I wouldn’t bother renting it. Wait for streaming. Though there are some scary scenes, there are also eyerolling scenes where Idris Elba somehow magically uses, I don’t know, father’s love strength to kick the ass of this killer cat rather than become lion food, as we all would, because it is a damn lion.

STATUS: Not shelf-worthy. With a little more flushing out of the plot, this might have been better. I’m not sure if Elba had to be in this movie or if it was just a payday, but he’s too good for such drek. Frankly, Copley is too good for this drek. Even the young actresses playing the daughters were too good for this drek. Dang it, even the CGI lion was too good for this drek.

SIDENOTE: I think the nuclear proliferation of streaming services is turning films into drek. When I saw this trailer, I immediately predicted it would be drek because I had a hunch the filmmakers wouldn’t take it seriously but rather, would throw together a haphazard plot then make the movie largely dependent on some scares courtesy of a CGI lion. One of the girls wears a Jurassic Park shirt, perhaps a tribute to another film where kids ran and hid from CGI beasts, but at least there was some substance, some intrigue to the madness. In other words, give us more. Maybe the family gets tricked into entering the lion reserve or something. I don’t know. Ultimately, streaming media = Hollywood feels the need to churn out the schlock at a rapid pace and the substance is lost. There were good actors and actresses here. There were good special effects here. It just needed a better script, and perhaps more time and money to back that script up.

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Classic Movie Review – North by Northwest (1959)

Intrigue! Espionage! A killer crop duster! BQB here with a review of this classic Hitchcock film.

I’ll admit I’m no expert when it comes to classic cinema. However, from what I have seen, I have to assume that this film must have been a stunner when it came out. It seems way ahead of its time and likely inspired a whole generation of baby boomer action film directors. Without it, you would have never had flicks like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, etc.

The plot? A case of mistaken identity leads to the cross-country trip from hell for Madison Avenue publicist (Mad Man) Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant.) When poor Roger, twice divorced from wives who found his lifestyle rather dull, raises hand to flag down a bellhop while lunching at a ritzy hotel with work associates, henchmen in the employ of dastardly Cold War info broker Phillip Vandamme (James Mason) mistakenly believe Roger answered to a page for the elusive “Mr. Kaplan,” a CIA spy they believe is hot on Vandamme’s trail, ready to undo his villainy at any moment.

From there on, it’s a whirlwind ride that takes Roger to Long Island, the United Nations and aboard a train bound for Chicago, all culminating in an epic battle on the face of Mount Rushmore with Thornhill fighting evildoers atop the stoney faces of the ex-presidents themselves.

Along the way, he befriends Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint, who I believe may very well be the last star of this film to still be alive), a fellow traveler with some intrigue of her own.

All the while, goons lead by head goon Leonard (Martin Landau in one of his creepier roles) are always in hot pursuit.

For a 1950s film, there are scenes that are broad, epic and sweeping. Well-choreographed extras moving to and fro in the background make you really believe you are in Manhattan, or a train station, or at the UN and so on. The fight scene on Mount Rushmore must have made a few 1950s film techs think that Hitchock was out of his mind.

Don’t even get me started on the iconic crop-duster scene. Look away if you don’t want a SPOILER, but in one scene, Roger is lured to an open field, wide swathes of farmland everywhere. As he waits for promised help that never arrives, a seemingly harmless biplane sprays crops off in the distance. Slowly it gets closer and closer until it opens fire on our heroic adman, making several passes until it crashes into a conveniently located fuel truck in a magnificent fiery explosion. Was this one of the first of its kind on film? Better film historians than I can tell you but it has to rank high on the list of early spectacular film wrecks.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Psycho and The Birds are often thought of as Hitchcock’s most memorable works, but an argument might be made that this is his best picture. There are some bits that don’t quite stand the test of time, namely that a 26-year-old hottie swoons for a 50-something man though I suppose we have to remember that in that time, young women were taught that marrying a rich old dude was the path to success. To my surprise, there is a lot of out and open sexual talk in this film, which likely scandalized moviegoers of the day. I suppose later films that actually showed sex wouldn’t have happened without films like this talking about it.

SIDENOTE: Yes, I suppose there is plenty of room for debate as to whether films laden with sex and violence are a good thing. This one is tame by modern standards, though films like it arguably began to wedge the door open. Whether or not Hitchcock would approve of modern flicks is anyone’s guess.

DOUBLE SIDENOTE: There is a classic goof in the Mount Rushmore visitor center scene. A little kid at a table, apparently aware that a blank gunshot fired by Saint’s character, was about to go off, plugs his ears way ahead of time. Apparently, no one who cutting the final film noticed or cared or they didn’t want to go to the trouble of reshooting the scene.

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Movie Review – Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

More Thor, 3.5 readers. More Thor indeed.

BQB here with a review of Marvel’s latest.

I fear we might be in the Jump the Shark phase of the most expensive television show ever created, that being the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man is dead. Captain America is old and Hulk? Well, he could never sustain a movie on his own.

Like Paul McCartney, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is left to perform solo without the trio of mates who made up the fab four. However, if you’d like a brief Guardians of the Galaxy flyby followed by a team-up with a Lady Thor, Valkyrie and a rock man, then this movie might be up your alley.

Christian Bale stars as Gorr the God Butcher, and to Bale’s credit he really is one of few actors who can completely transform himself into a virtually unrecognizable new person. Gorr and his daughter, Love, the last of an ancient race, seek help from their God Rapu, only to be mocked. Angered when Rapu refuses to help his dying child, Gorr claims the necrosword, slays Rapu then goes on a killing spree across the otherworldly realms, slashing his way through many a god from ancient mythical folklore.

Meanwhile, Thor is hot off a streak of saving various worlds from villainy with the help of his new BFFs, the G of the G when Gorr attacks New Asgard a little refugee town on Earth, home to the children of many a god who perished in Old Asgard during Thor: Ragnarok.

When Gorr kidnaps the Asgardian kiddies in the hopes of drawing Thor into a trap, Thor teams up with other friends Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and Jane Foster, now Lady Thor, having sought out the power of the hammer of Thor in the hopes of curing a fatal illness only to become a Thor herself.

I’m not sure how the Thor movies turned into a joke every 5 seconds laugh fest but I suppose they were always semi-intended to be a parody of ancient religion. Screaming goats, a bloated Zeus played by Russell Crowe, Thor’s clothes getting blasted off only for women to feint at the sight of his studly bod are just some of the many goofy happenings.

It’s funny and fun. On the other hand, it feels stitched together at times. Gorr is the most interesting character and arguably, has a justifiable grievance, having lived a pious life only to be mocked by a God he worshipped in his time of need. We see very little of him until the end. The Guardians are fun but it feels like they as well as other MCU characters have cameos limited to whatever the actors could do in a very quick time frame to scoop up a quick payday.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy but like the recent Dr. Strange, I’m at the point where I don’t rush out to the theater anymore to watch these flicks. Rather, I just wait until they are on Disney Plus now.

OK I’ll give my rant. I’m not a huge fan of the trend where every male hero gets vaginized. I turn on a Hawkeye series only to see it’s mostly about Hawkeye training a lady apprentice to become a lady arrow shooter. Lame in theory but fun in practice.

Meanwhile, She-Hulk is more interesting than any stand alone male Hulk movie.

And though I balked at the previews, when I saw the movie I felt like, yeah, I can see how Jane would try to use her scientific mind to locate and harness the power of her ex’s hammer to gain newfound strength in a dark time.

So, to give props to Disney, it’s all done in interesting, watchable ways. And Marvel as well as DC always had a habit of just creating female versions of their superheroes when they ran out of ideas for their male heroes.

But I guess my complaint is that there seems to be a trend toward pushing women to become manly, as if being a woman is somehow a bad thing and women will never be whole unless they turn into dudes.

In other words, there’s a part where Jane corrects Gorr, telling him she’s not Lady Thor. She’s either Mighty Thor or Dr. Jane Foster and I just wonder, couldn’t she have just grabbed Mjolnir and become her own new hero? But then I guess anything but Natalie Portman in a Thor suit wouldn’t have sold tickets.

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