Monday, December 5, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (12/4)

I have my final exams coming up this week so I'll keep this post a bit shorter than usual. This week I saw seven movies. One is a true classic, one is a true stinker and the rest are somewhere in between!

The Maltese Falcon
Somehow I had never seen this film before even though I love Casablanca which also has Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. Like in that film, the supporting cast here is fantastic and just as great as the leading actors. The story is good but it is the characters, dialogue, and acting that make this film great. The Maltese Falcon is important to film history, but it still holds up extremely well. The movie is always entertaining and it is easy to see why this film has made its mark on popular culture. The Maltese Falcon truly is the stuff dreams are made of!

Three Amigos!
Last week I saw The Blues Brothers so here is another John Landis comedy. I actually liked this one a bit better and at the moment it is my favorite Landis comedy. The basic plot of actors being confused for the people they portray has been done before and since. For similar movies I still prefer Galaxy Quest but liked this one more than Tropic Thunder. Although the movie meanders at points (the singing cowboy parody parts for instance, especially since these are silent film actors and that fad happened later) it is consistently funny and there are few movies that have made me laugh as much as this one did.

Coming to America
Since I have liked pretty much every John Landis movie I have seen so far (Into the Night was mediocre and its hard to judge his work on Twilight Zone: The Movie because of the infamous helicopter accident and the fact that its an anthology film) I plan on eventually seeing all his 70s and 80s movies. It seems that Landis came down with John Carpenter syndrome and couldn't make a good film after the 80s ended.
The plot of Coming to America is that Prince Akeem defies his arranged marriage to find a woman who will arouse his intellect as well as his loins, to paraphrase a line from the movie. Akeem and his servant travel to Queens, NY disguised as poor goat herders to find Akeem's true love. While this basic story has been done many times before, Coming to America puts a new spin on the material and does its own thing. Prince Akeem may be Eddie Murphy's finest film role. Like Landis, Murphy also lost it after the 80s ended. Arsenio Hall, James Earl Jones, and John Amos steal every scene they are in. There are also early roles from Samuel L. Jackson and Louie Anderson. Murphy and Hall play several roles throughout the movie, including the hilarious barbers. Coming to America is quite funny, but it also has heart and makes you care about the characters.

Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)
I just realized that I saw two movies with America in the title this week, I didn't plan on that, I swear!
As a fan of the Beavis and Butthead TV show (and the brand new episodes!) I had been meaning to see this movie for quite some time now. Besides Mike Judge who voices the titular characters (as well as several others), Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Robert Stack, and Cloris Leachman round out the cast. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is pretty short as it clocks in at 81 minutes and there is some filler.
If you like the show you will enjoy the movie, but Beavis and Butthead still works better in small doses as a TV series. Beavis and Butthead don't get the chance to mock any music videos which make sense for the movie, but was a bit disappointing as it was always a major part of the show. It doesn't matter too much as these two dumb metal heads will always make me laugh.

Pretty in Pink
Although I liked every John Hughes movie I had seen so far, I didn't care for this one. To be fair Pretty in Pink was only written by Hughes and he didn't direct it. However, it is usually considered one of "his" films since he wrote it specifically for Molly Ringwald. I knew this movie probably wouldn't be my cup of tea coming into it, but was surprised that I didn't like any of the characters. Part of this may have been because there was some confusion during production as Robert Downey, Jr. was almost cast as Duckie which would have been pretty different. I won't go into spoilers, but the ending was also changed at the last minute. The plot is your basic poor girl falls in love with rich guy story and doesn't really bring anything new to the table. The movie is competently made and held my interest, but I'd say it is Hughes weakest movie (scripted or directed) that I have seen thus far. Harry Dean Stanton put in a solid performance as Ringwald's jobless single father and I enjoyed James Spader's role as a rich jerk who looks way too old to be in high school.

Identity (2003)
Identity is a creepy atmospheric thriller with some nice acting performances by John Cusack and Ray Liotta. It is hard to discuss this film further without spoilers so I'll just say that I liked the way it progressed even though I wasn't blown away or thought it should not have gone that direction like some people did. I was impressed with the directing by James Mangold who also made Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line, and 3:10 to Yuma so I'll have to check out some of his other films when I get the chance.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972)
Bad movies come in all forms and genres. This piece of crap is a terrible Christmas movie and a bad kids movie. Bad children's films often get a pass as people say "but it was only made for kids!" as some sort of excuse for a bad movie that is usually incredibly dumbed down. I have seen some awful Christmas movies before like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Santa Claus (1959) but this one takes the cake.
This excuse for a movie starts out with Santa's elves then switches to Santa on his sleigh stuck in the sand at the beach. There is no explanation given for what happened to his reindeer or how the sleigh got stuck there. A bunch of children find out about this (I don't know how) and bring different kinds of animals, including a guy in a gorilla suit, to pull the sleigh but nothing works. Somehow Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn observe all that goes on with Santa and the children even though they are fictional characters and the movie takes place in the present day real world. Since the kids can't get the sleigh out of the sand, Santa tells the children a story. This is when the movie suddenly turns into another movie about Thumbelina from the same production company. We even see the opening credits for that movie as Santa begins to "tell" the story! And the worst part is that the Thumbelina movie has its own framing story since its being told at an amusement park called Pirates World.
So to summarize, what essentially happens is that Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn eavesdrop on Santa telling kids a story about some people going to an amusement park who go into a room and hear a story about Thumbelina on a loudspeaker. Yes folks, that is how bad this movie is. The Thumbelina story is just as bad as the Santa story, except much creepier thanks to the animal costumes which are pure nightmare fuel. After the Thumbelina story ends, a bunny driving an old fashioned fire engine comes by and Santa hitches a ride with the bunny as the kids wave goodbye to him. Santa just leaves his sleigh on the beach and despite the title there is never any connection between this bunny and ice cream. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is one of the worst movies ever made and despite my description I don't think I can do justice as to how bad this garbage really is. I can't believe people actually paid money to see this movie in theaters as it is 96 minutes of hell unleashed upon the Earth. Luckily I saw the RiffTrax version from Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy of MST3K fame which hilariously mocked the movie. Check out a sample here if you think you can stand it!
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny deserves a 0/10, but I do my scoring system on a 1-10 scale to sync up with my votes on IMDB.

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