War of the Roses

     War of the Roses – “Oliver, my father used to say that a man can never outdo a woman when it comes to love and revenge.”  What a deliciously, evil black comedy by Danny DeVito based on the novel by Warren Adler.  A lesser known hit from the late 80’s brings Michael Douglas, whose acting usually leaves me unimpressed, and Kathleen Turner into war with each other as they go through a divorce.  Some great acting and some twisted scenes keep you wondering…what’s next?  And, some great philosophical one liners that every man should pay attention too is delivered by Danny DeVito.  Rated 81% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this movie’s a steal.

Plot – Gavin (Danny DeVito) is a divorce attorney with an unnamed client in his office (yes, that’s Dan Castellaneta..aka Homer Simpson).  Before proceeding to filing for divorce, he tells him the story of the Rose’s.  As Gavin begins, we see Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) at an art auction where he meets Barbara (Kathleen Turner).  After a romantic afternoon, they end up spending the night together.  They get married, have kids, and their lives take off.  They get richer and finally get a house that Kathleen has been after for years.  As Oliver works and tries to impress his bosses as a top lawyer, Barbare builds their home.  But, once completed, Barbara loses happiness in her life and grows contempt.  When Oliver is rushed to the hospital for a suspected heart attack (which is really a hiatal hernia), he writes a personal note to her.  However, she doesn’t show to pick him up and he’s upset.  Finally, she tells him he she doesn’t love him anymore and wants a divorce.  Oliver is floored.  In their divorce negotiation, Barbara wants the house because of her efforts.  But, she showed Oliver’s “dying note” and it is used against him, he vows she will never get it.  The war is on and they go to amazing efforts to spite each other.  Gavin, who had been helping Oliver, now suggests he let her have it and get it over with.  Oliver fires him and takes matters into his own hands.  The war hilariously escalates to a pinnacle of bitterness, but once real harm is possible, things back down a bit….But, that doesn’t mean the war is over…..

Commentary –  This film is one of my personal favorites.  I can’t say this is the best film ever, but the creativity of evilness is just something I enjoy.  DeVito is excellent as the friend lawyer that is much wiser as he tells the Rose’s story.  Michael Douglas does a great job as the victim as well as throwing some bitter attacks as well.  Kathleen Turner brilliantly plays on your sympathies and then unleashes her supremely evil attacks on her husband.  Maybe watching Michael Douglas suffer is what I enjoy most.  Frankly, this movie will make you wonder what your husband or wife is planning to do to you.  But, you’ll also be laughing at how they bring them about.  There are a couple of questionable scenes that might be too much for young children, but they are brief.  It’s a “black comedy”.  The more evil they are to each other, the more humorous the film gets.

Trivia – The first assembled cut of the film was 3 hours and 4 minutes before cutting it down to 1 hour and 56 minutes.  Cher was also considered for the role of Barbara Rose.  Frankly, Turner and Douglas had an uncanny chemistry on film from working together on other films.  In the final scene (which I won’t spoil), our favorite actors were in a rather compromising position…So, DeVito pretended to break for lunch leaving them in their precarious situation.  You can only imagine how they felt.

*** Just click the images to check out “War of the Roses” at Amazon.com ***


Groundhog Day

     Groundhog Day – “If you gotta shoot, aim high.  I don’t wanna hit the groundhog.”  As Feb 2nd is just around the corner, it reminds me of one of the best romantic comedies made.  It’s brilliant, clever, touching, romantic, and most of all…also funny.  The best part is that it is not too cheesy with the sappy, romance stuff.  It’s more realistic in that he makes monumental mistakes over and over and over again.  The comedy is perfectly intigrated into the story and keeps you entertained as Phil (Bill Murray) learns about himself and others around him.  This is a movie you’ll watch over and over again….pun intended.  Rated 96% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this is a guaranteed winner.  In 2006, the movie was accepted into the US Nation Film Registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Plot – A self-centered & sour weatherman, Phil (Bill Murray), the producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and goofy cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) head to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration.  Phil is tired of this ritual and just wants to get out, but a blizzard shuts down the roads and they’re forced to stay.  But, Phil wakes up the next day and…well, it’s Groundhog Day again.  He’s confused and originally freaked, but as the day keeps repeating, he starts taking advantage of the situation.  First he starts by hedonistically abusing town members and tries to get closer to Rita, but this continually fails.  Growing more despondent and bitter, he tries to end it by killing the dreaded groundhog and including himself in various ways.  But, he wakes up the next day as good as new.  He talks to Rita who challenges him to improve himself.  He begins improving himself by learning the people, helping them, and then by improving himself as a person.  He finally is able to romance Rita for 1 kiss and convinces her to stay the evening to see what happens…..

Commentary – How the story is portrayed is the brilliance of the film.  It’s realistic in how one might react in that circumstance and that Phil doesn’t magically become some “good person” just because he is tormented.  He doesn’t get to win easily or suddenly become brilliant.  As Phil describes in the movie, you can plan the perfect day, but “it just takes an awful lot of work.”  And, the best part of the film is that the viewer is never let in on what caused it, what stops it, or how long this situation continues for Phil.  To do so would have destroyed the film by having people focus on what caused the situation rather than the story of Phil’s development into a “good person”.  NOT telling you is the brilliance in the film.  But, that doesn’t mean some hints are not in the film.

Trivia – An early draft of the script provided a reason for Phil’s situation.  An ex-lover places a voodoo spell on him to teach him a lesson.  Bill Murray was actually bitten by the groundhog twice during filming….probably felt some tension for what Phil’s character was trying to do to him.  Harold Ramis (director) originally considered Tom Hanks for the lead role, but felt that Hanks was too “nice” for the character.

** Just click the images to check out “Groundhog Day” at Amazon.com. **


     Bridesmaids – “It’s the first time I’ve seen you look ugly, and that makes me happy!”  This movie was different as the girls get down and dirty.  I had heard the raves about it and how they ‘show the boys how to do it’.  Well, this movie isn’t for children.  The comedy is harsh and the language is brutal, but there is some real funny stuff here.  In no way should it be considered intellectual.  It’s basically a 2 hour cat fight.  There were times I was laughing hard at the jokes.  At other times, I could tell there was “girl humor” that I wasn’t quite getting.  “Guy humor” and “girl humor” is just different and I think women would get the jokes and probably enjoy them.  As a guy, it just didn’t register; however, there’s plenty of jokes the guys will get.  There were some slow parts and it gradually trails into the standard “chick flick” ending.  But, this is still a movie worth watching.  This movie was rated 90% at Rotten Tomatoes and 3.5 stars at Amazon with most complaints being their own “expectations” after hearing the hype.

Plot – Annie (Kristen Wiig) is asked to be maid of honor by Lillian (Mya Rudolph).  Lillian & Annie were childhood friends, but now she’s marrying into wealth and has new friends.  Annie, whose life is in the dumps, just can’t relate to these people.  At the engagement party, she meets the other bridesmaids…Rita, Becca, Megan, and Helen.  Helen (Rose Byrne) & Annie immediately form a rivalry that takes this film to some of its high points.  On the way home, Annie is pulled over by a cop, Officer Rhodes, for busted tail lights and they flirt.  Later, the girls meet for a luncheon and choosing the dresses, which is hilarious, and Annie suggests a bachelorette party at a childhood home, but Helen turns it into a Vegas romp.  On the plane, Annie fears flying and Helen gives her a pill to calm her.  But, it turns her insane and Annie’s out of control.  The plane lands to kick them off and it’s a bus ride home.  Lillian tells Annie she’s having Helen take over.  On the way home, she runs into officer Rhodes and they start an affair.  But, Annie bails when Rhodes comes on too strong.  So, she goes to the bridal shower and Helen has stolen Annie’s original ideas and she flips.  To make matters worse, on the way home, she has a wreck and Rhodes is the officer.  They fight and Annie’s life keeps getting worse.  Annie is visited by Megan (Melissa McCarthy) and given some “tough love”.  So, she starts trying to repair her life and takes some unusual steps.  On the wedding day, Helen shows up and tells Annie that Lillian is missing and they search for her reluctently dragging Rhodes in…Finally, Lillian’s found and many wounds are healed with hilarious and touching results.

Commentary – Watching the cat fight between Helen and Annie was excellent.  Some of the language is over done for shock factor, but there is plenty of good comedy through out the film.  The slow parts in the beginning are the set up to the pending war to come and women should enjoy a film with comedy from their point of view instead of the standard “guy humor” in films.  I do not say this is the funniest of all time, but it is a great movie to watch.  Do not expect “class” from these “ladies”.

Trivia – Melissa McCarthy (Megan) and Ben Falcone (Air Marshall Jon) are real life husband & wife.  Stars Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Nancy Carell, and Melanie Hutsell have all appeared on Saturday Night Live.  And finally, this is the highest grossing R-rated female comedy of all-time edging out Sex in the City.

** Just click the images to check out “Bridesmaids” at Amazon.com **

Top Secret

     Top Secret – “(Hillary) It’s a German name.  It means ‘she whose bossoms defy gravity’.”  Top Secret is an absolutely great movie over-shadowed by the greatness of its predecessor.  This comedy was a follow up movie by the makers of Airplane.  Unfortunately, Airplane was so great that it made many viewers not appreciate this film.  However, don’t let that keep you from enjoying it.  It is in the same comedy stylings and they bombard you constantly with jokes.  Even when it is in a lull of the action, there is usually a joke going on in the background.  It’s a silly, immature, and mindless movie, but it is hilarious and a fun 90 minutes.  I believe you’ll want to enjoy this film many times.  In fact, you’ll have to watch it several times to get all the jokes.  Rated 76% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this is a little gem worth looking into.

Plot – As with Airplane, the plot is somewhat irrelevent and an avenue for the jokes.  But, here goes.  Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is an American rock singer invited to East Germany to appear at a cultural festival.  Along the way, he rubs the German authorities the wrong way who strangely act like Nazi Germans.  Meanwhile, we see Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) meeting a French Underground spy, but as the authorities catch up, she runs into a restaurant that Nick is present in.  Seeing her nervous, he claims she’s with him and they get involved.  She is part of the French Underground trying to save her father who is a brilliant scientist kidnapped by the Germans to build a powerful mine.  They join the French Underground and finally locate him in a prison.  They raid the prison, help him to escape, and flee Germany.

Commentary –  This is a completely underrated film.  Seriously, who doesn’t think a cow in rubber boots is funny?   The spoof of the Germans is hilarious and Val Kilmer’s Elvis/Beach Boys/Little Richard musical parodies will keep you entertained.  Considering this was his first feature film, his comedic timing was excellent, as well as his singing.  As stated, it’s silly at times and it’s subtle at times, but it’s funny from beginning to end.

Trivia –  The musical numbers in the film were actually recorded by Val Kilmer and released on the soundtrack under his character’s name.  When Val Kilmer is in prison, you can see a picture of Cher hanging on the wall.  Kilmer was dating Cher during that time.  The “German” spoken throughout the film is essentially gibberish.  However, some scenes contain Yiddish statements that are rather insulting.

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

    Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein – “What we need is young blood…and brains.”  A classic horror spoof from the greatest comedy team in history.  Rated 91% at Rotten Tomatoes and a full 5 stars at Amazon.com, this movie is a freightful funfest from start to finish.  Abbott & Costello meet all of the classic Universal movie monsters from Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange), Dracula (Bela Legosi), The Wolf Man (Lon Cheney Jr), and The Invisible Man (voiced by Vincent Price) in this tale.  This is a well put together story and is probably top 5 of all the boys movies.  In 2001, it was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress film registry.  It’s silly and spooky, which they found very adaptable to their comedy stylings.  So, in the Halloween season of monsters and ghosts, this movie is a fun ride.

Plot – Chick Young (Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Costello) work at a railway baggage office.  The beautiful Sandra Mornay (Lenore Aubert) appears as Wilbur’s girlfriend.  Larry Talbot (Cheney Jr/Wolf Man) calls from London telling Wilbur not to deliver 2 crates to a local house of horrors.  Before he’s able to explain, the moon in London rises and Talbot turns into the Wolf Man.  Wilbur doesn’t understand him and hangs up.  McDougal, the owner of the crates, shows up and wants delivery, but Wilbur’s errors cause him to want delivery to the store to inspect any damage.  That night, Wilbur & Chick deliver the crates and Wilbur discovers the monsters.  Dracula hypnotizes Wilbur and they escape.  McDougal accuses the boys of stealing them and has them thrown in jail.  A beautiful lady bails them out.  They think it’s Sandra, but it’s Joan Raymond (Jane Randolph) an insurance inspector looking for the “exhibits”.  She pretends to love Wilbur hoping he will lead her to them.  Meanwhile, Talbot arrives in America and asks Chick & Wilbur to help him find Dracula and destroy the monster, but the boys are suspicious of him.  That night, Wilbur, Chick, & Joan go to a castle to pick up Sandra and go to a masquerade ball.  Sandra is really an evil surgeon working with Dracula and wants Wilbur’s brain for the monster.  He was supposed to be alone.  She then discovers Joan’s identity and calls off the surgery. Dracula will not allow it and forces her to the party so that he can take care of Joan.  Going to the party, they meet Talbot and Talbot identifies Dracula.  Dracula mind controls Wilbur and the girls and takes them back to the castle.  Talbot turns into the Wolf Man nearly killing McDougal, but he accuses Chick and both are now running from the mob.  The next night, they get to the castle in the nick of time as they are starting to operate.  Being night again, Talbot turns into the Wolf Man.  Now, all the monsters are in full battle and an epic chase scene ensues.

Commentary – This movie is packed with action and comedy from beginning to end.  You will not get bored watching this movie.  The original classic monsters are fun to watch.  And, Costello’s is famous for his fright sequences, so pitting him against the greatest monsters in history is a no brainer.  This is the movie that actually got me to purchase an Abbott & Costello movie collection and discovered that they made many excellent films.  Give them a try and you are likely to become as big a fan as I am.  While the links go to just this movie, I highly recommend the Abbott & Costello movie collections…particularly volumes 1-3.

Trivia – The original name of the film was The Brain of Frankenstein, but was changed to indicate it was a comedy film.  Glenn Strange (the monster) found Costello so funny that he could not maintain his stoic expression and many retakes were necessary throughout the film.  They approached Boris Karloff, the original Frankenstein monster, to reprise his role, but he refused considering it an insult to horror films.  Therefore, Glenn Strange, who had played the monster in 2 earlier films, took the role.  Finally, this is the only movie that Bela Legosi reprised his role as Dracula.  It is ironic that this iconic character was only played twice by Legosi and his face is still the standard for what Dracula should be and how he should act.

** Just click the images to check out “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” at Amazon.com. **

Young Frankenstein

     Young Frankenstein – “LIFE, DO YOU HEAR ME?  GIVE MY CREATION…LIFE!!!!”  Young Frankenstein is a brilliant comedy from Mel Brooks and ranks near the top of any top comedy movie list.  Being near Halloween, this spoof of one the most famous movie monsters is the best for some spooky, light-hearted fun.  Mel Brooks is known for some silly humor, and there are some here, but they are better woven into the movie and fit better with the characters.  Rated 94% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this is a guaranteed hit.  Gene Wilder is excellent in the role of Dr Frankenstein’s (sorry, that’s Fronkensteen) brilliant decendant who takes up his grandfather’s work.  A young Teri Garr as Inga, the lab assistant, is wonderful eye candy and delivers some of the funniest lines.  And no one can forget Marty Feldman as Igor (eye-gore), the crazy-eyed servant.

Plot – The plot basics don’t do justice to the film’s comedy, but I’ll lay it out.  Frankensein (Wilder) is a respected lecturist at an American medical school when approached about his grandfather’s passing.  His students question him about his grandfather, but he tries to distance himself from it, even to the point of pronouncing his name as “Fronkensteen”.  He reluctantly travels to Transylvania where he meets Igor & Inga.  Strange noises are heard at the castle and he’s lured to the medical library and finds his grandfather’s notes.  Studying them, he realizes that “IT COULD WORK!!!”.  Similar to the real Frankenstein movie, he gathers parts and creates his monster.  Igor steals the wrong brain after breaking the good one.  The monster (Peter Boyle) is now alive and acting weird and violent, but Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), the castle housekeeper, sets him free.  The monster is lost in the countryside and meets a blind man (Gene Hackman), who tries to befriend him to no success.  He meets a little girl and plays flowers and teeter totter with hilarious endings.  Frankenstein finally catches him and tries to teach him how to act.  He thinks he’s got it and even puts on a vaudeville show for the masses.  Unfortunately, due to a stage spark, the monster becomes enraged and the villagers capture him.  Due to teasing, the monster breaks his chains and escapes.  He comes across Frankenstein’s fiance (Madeline Kahn), who is visiting, and introduces her to “monster loving”.  The monster makes it back to the castle lured by the haunting violin playing.  The villagers are now after him.  Frankenstein attempts a fluid transfer to ease the monster’s brain, but the villagers break in too soon.  About to lynch Frankenstein, the monster awakes displaying new reasoning ability saving his creator.

Commentary – This is a brilliant comedy film filled with stars.  Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Peter Boyle, Gene Hackman, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman, and others.  The comedy is in the classic Mel Brooks style, but this film might be his best.  In 2003, the film was inducted into the national film registry of the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.  And, Wilder is at his best and no movie does his hair justice like this film.  There’s not enough room on this blog to go into everything in this film….The best way to describe it is simply….”GREAT”!!!

Trivia – Young Frankenstein was lucky to be able to utilize many of the same props and lab equipment from the original Frankenstein movie.  This adds to the continuity of the film to the original.  Many of the jokes were ad-libbed such as Marty Feldman moving his hump from one side to the other until someone noticed it…then it was added to the film.  Interestingly, the rock band Aerosmith saw Young Frankenstein in 1974.  It inspired Steven Tyler to pen one of the band’s greatest hits, “Walk This Way”, after one of the jokes in the film.

** Just click the images to check out “Young Frankenstein” at Amazon.com **

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

     The Ghost & Mr. Chicken – “It was terrible.  It was just terrible.  I’ll never get over it as long as I live.”  An outstanding film from the 1960’s and safe for the whole family.  Movies like this one tend to get forgotten over time which is a shame due to how great the film truly is.  This is a movie that steps back to a time when you could watch a “scary” movie without fear of traumatizing your kids.  This scary comedy showcases the talents of Don Knotts, who gained fame as Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show.  Stepping out with his popularity, he brings that same energy and stylings to this movie.  For a fun spook house movie that your entire family can enjoy, this one’s for you.  Underrated by Rotten Tomatoes at 67%, but Amazon.com viewers provide a 4.5 stars showing that the “experts” got it wrong again.

Plot – Luther Heggs (Don Knotts) is a typesetter at the local paper and is anxious to be a reporter.  One night while driving, he thinks he sees a murder outside a supposedly haunted house.  He rushes to the police station in shock and, as he relays the story to the cops and the newspaper reporter, the “victim” walks in…..apparently, his wife was adjusting her husband’s ways.  Heggs is now mocked by those around him except for a lady named Alma that Heggs has a crush on.  The legend of the Simmons House is that Mr. Simmons killed his wife and then jumped to his death 20 years earlier and you can still hear his ghost play his beloved organ.  To increase newspaper sales, Heggs is assigned to spend the night in the house on the 20th anniversary.  The ghostly happenings scares Heggs out of his mind.  He writes about his experiences shocking the town.  Nicholas Simmons, owner and nephew of the deceased, wants to destroy the mansion and sues Heggs.  Making him the fool in court, everyone goes to the house to see what goes on there….nothing happens.  After people leave, suddenly, the organ plays and we now find out why.  Nicholas Simmons appears with Alma in his clutches.  With fast action and using his entire body as a weapon, Heggs saves the day and wins the girl.

Commentary – If you like the Andy Griffith show, then you’ll love this film.  Although some of styling and comments are very 1960’s, the movie is spooky and funny.  It’s also clean and family oriented and can be watched by everyone in the family with that classic charm.  None of the scenes are over-the-top as in most movies and there is no bad language to fear.  Loving Halloween and scary movies like I do, sometimes it’s good to watch a spooky movie that doesn’t carry the intensity and gore of horror films, but stays with the same spooky theme.  Besides, you can’t go wrong with Don Knotts for a good time.

Trivia – Andy Griffith and other regular actors from The Andy Griffith Show were very good friends.  Andy suggested to Knotts about expanding the stoy featured in “The Haunted House” episode as a premise for the movie.  In addition, many of the Andy Griffith Show actors were featured or had cameo appearances in the film as well.  The “Simmons Mansion” is now the home of Gabriel Soris on the tv show, Desperate Housewives.  Finally, the car that Heggs drives in the movie is a Ford Edsel, which was a short-lived failure of a car.

**  Just click the images to check out “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” at Amazon.com **