Club Paradise (1986, directed by Harold Ramis)


I think I was nine or ten years old when I first saw Club Paradise on HBO.  I remember thinking it was pretty funny.

I recently rewatched Club Paradise and I discovered that ten year old me had terrible taste in movies.

Robin Williams plays Jack Moniker, a Chicago fireman who gets blown out of a building while rescuing a dog.  Living off of his disability payments, he retires to the island of St. Nicholas, which is basically Jamaica but with less weed.  Jack and reggae musician Ernest Reed (Jimmy Cliff) open up their own Club Med-style resort, Club Paradise.  Jack doesn’t know much about the resort business but he does know how to put together a good brochure.  Almost the entire cast of SCTV shows up at Club Paradise, looking for a tropical vacation.  Things quickly go wrong because Jack doesn’t know how to run a resort and there’s also an evil developer (played by Brian Doyle-Murray) who wants Club Paradise to fail so that he can get the land.

Club Paradise has got a huge and impressive cast, the majority of whom probably signed on because they were looking forward to a paid Caribbean vacation.  Peter O’Toole plays the British-appointed governor of St. Nicholas.  Twiggy plays Jack’s girlfriend.  Joanna Cassidy plays a reporter and Adolph Caesar is cast in the role of St. Nicolas’s corrupt prime minister.  Because the film was directed by Harold Ramis, it is full of Ramis’s co-stars from SCTV.  Andrea Martin tries to get her husband to enjoy the islands as much as she’s enjoying them.  Joe Flaherty is the crazed pilot who flies people to the resort.  Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy play two nerdy friends who are both named Barry and who are only interested in scoring weed, getting laid, and working on their tan.  Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy playing nerds?  It’s a shock, I know.

There’s enough funny people in Club Paradise to ensure that there are a few isolated laughs.  Not surprisingly, the movie comes to life whenever Moranis and Levy are onscreen.  (If I had to guess, I imagine they were the reason why ten year-old me liked this movie so much.)  Needless to say, Jimmy Cliff also provides a killer soundtrack.  But Club Paradise ultimately doesn’t work because the script is too disjointed and it feels more like an uneven collection of skits than an actual film.  It’s impossible to tell whether we’re supposed to think of Club Paradise as being the worst resort ever or if we’re supposed to be worried that the bad guys will shut it down.  For a movie like this, you need a strong central presence to hold things together.  Unfortunately, Robin Williams’s style of comedy is too aggressive for the role of Jack.  The role was originally written for Bill Murray and it shows.  Most of Jack’s lines sound like things you would expect Bill Murray to say in his trademark laid back fashion and it is easy to imagine Murray redeeming some of Club Paradise‘s weaker scenes simply by attitude alone.  Instead, Robin Williams is so frantic that you never buy he could be happy living a laid back life on a Caribbean island.  As played by Williams, Jack often comes across as being unreasonably angry at everyone staying at Club Paradise and it’s hard to care whether or not he manages to save his resort or not.

Club Paradise was a bomb at the box office.  Harry Shearer, who was originally credited with working on the screenplay, hated the movie so much that he requested his name be removed from the credits.  (Instead, credit is given to Edward Roboto.)  As a result of the film’s failure, it would be 7 years before Harold Ramis would get to direct another movie.  Fortunately, that movie was Groundhog Day and this time, Ramis was able to get Bill Murray.

Music Video of the Day: Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr. (1984, dir. Ivan Reitman)


I wish the literal video for this was still up. Oh, well.

All these years later, I still don’t have any idea why she goes into that house. I guess we are supposed to believe she lives there with these two kids that miss their cue?

These other kids nail it.

Despite finding lists of all the celebrities in this video, I have no idea who this guy is that Ray Parker Jr. becomes for this bit.

I also wonder why she didn’t see him while turning away from the moving table to go to the window.

In the window is footage of the movie that has aged horribly. Parker Jr. is blue screened in there for this famous shot.

He ain’t afraid of no ghost. A lawsuit on the other the hand, that’s a different matter. I hope this music video doesn’t remind me of a Huey Lewis & The News video as well.

Now Ray Parker Jr. stands creepily outside of her window.

This is looking familiar.

Chevy Chase can call Ghostbusters if he has a ghost problem…

but what about if he gets stuck in Benji again?

Who can he call then?

I knew this looked familiar.

Do You Believe In Love by Huey Lewis & The News (1982)


Do You Believe In Love by Huey Lewis & The News (1982)

I’m sure it’s a coincidence. I just find it humorous to see that considering the lawsuit saying that this song ripped off, to one extent or another, the Huey Lewis & The News song I Want A New Drug. The scene above is from the video that helped kick off their career on MTV and set the tone for their future videos since it was such a success despite being ridiculous. Is the riff in You Crack Me Up…

sound like the same riff from Johnny And Mary by Robert Palmer?

Or is it just me?

What a feeling. Thanks for making that one easy, Irene Cara.

Something tells me that Cindy Harrell was hired by someone who saw the movie Model Behavior (1982), which she was in.


Model Behavior (1982, dir. Bud Gardner)


Model Behavior (1982, dir. Bud Gardner)

From what I’ve read, they just showed up on the set of a movie Candy was shooting to try and get him to make this cameo appearance.

Ray Parker Jr. rising from the top of the stairs like he’s Michael Myers come to kill her. Why?

Or at least scare her. It’s probably a reference to Gozer.

Melissa Gilbert. I have no idea what she’s doing here. I’ve only seen an episode or two of Little House On The Prairie, so I guess there could have been some episodes with ghosts. Some of these cameos feel like they happened because the celebrities were involved with NBC.

Speaking of cameos I can’t explain, it’s former baseball player Ollie Brown.

Boundaries!

I do like that for the majority of the shot it looks like she should be falling over but isn’t.

More people that Parker can summon for some reason.

Don’t worry about them.

Pose for the featured image of this post.

Thank you.

Jeffrey Tambor.

Is it 555-5555…

or 555-2368 as you showed earlier?

George Wendt apparently got in trouble with the Screen Actors Guild for his appearance in this video. I’ll link to the article with that information at the end.

Senator Al Franken.

Now we get a series of confusing cameos.

Danny DeVito. I think this is only the second music video he has ever been in. The other one was for the song Billy Ocean did for The Jewel Of The Nile (1985).

Carly Simon for some reason. She would go on to do the theme song to Working Girl (1988) with Sigourney Weaver. Maybe they were friends. I don’t know.

Umm…one more thing. Have you tried calling the Ghostbusters? No clue as to why Peter Falk is here.

The breakdancing was improvised. So was Parker Jr. pushing Bill Murray around.

I think Teri Garr has one of the best cameos.

Don’t swallow that cigarette, Chevy.

Fun fact: In European and other non-US markets, the “no” sign was flipped.

If you want to read some more information about the video, then follow this link over to ScreenCrush where they have a write-up on the video with information from people who worked on the video.

According to mvdbase, Ivan Reitman directed, Keith Williams wrote the script, Jeff Abelson produced it, Daniel Pearl shot it, and Peter Lippman was the production manager.

If you ever get a chance to watch the literal music video for this, then do so. I doubt it will surface again though seeing as this music video almost didn’t get an official release because of the issues surrounding all the cameos.

Enjoy!

Summer Fun with Bill Murray in MEATBALLS (Paramount 1979)


cracked rear viewer

Summer is finally here, so what better way to celebrate than with a summer movie starring Bill Murray!  Bill had joined the cast of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in 1979 (back when it was actually funny) and quickly became a fan favorite with his smarmy, snarky persona and silly characterizations. After the film success of John Belushi, it was only natural for Hollywood to come calling, right? Wrong, bucko… it was Canada that lured Bill for his first starring vehicle, the oh-so-70’s teen comedy MEATBALLS! Yeah, you heard right, ’twas the Great White North that plucked Bill away from being “Live from New York” to a location shoot at good ol’ Camp White Pines in the wilds of Ontario.

Bill’s fellow ‘Second City’ alumnus Harold Ramis (or as he was called in SCTV’s credits, ‘Ha-Harold Ramis’!) was a cowriter of the screenplay, beginning a long string of movie collaborations between the two (STRIPES, CADDYSHACK,  GHOSTBUSTERS I…

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Until Dogs and Cats Live Together, Your Childhood Will Survive: Ghostbusters (1984, directed by Ivan Reitman)


Harold-Ramis-Actor-300x300I always wanted to be Egon Spengler.

I can not remember how old I was when I first saw the original Ghostbusters but I know I was young enough that “Gatekeeper” and “Keymaster” went over my head.  But I do remember that Ghostbusters was one of my favorite movies from the first time I saw it and that Egon Spengler (played by the much missed Harold Ramis) was always my favorite character.

I know that, for most people, Peter Venkmen (Bill Murray) is their favorite.  It is true that Peter got the best lines and Sigourney Weaver.  But I always wanted to be Egon.  Egon was the one who knew everything.  He knew how to track down and capture ghosts.  He knew that the only way to defeat Gozer was to cross streams.  No matter what happened, Egon was never surprised or scared.  Egon always knew what to do.  Egon did not get Sigourney Weaver but he did get Annie Potts.

Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz never gets as much attention as either Peter or Egon, even though, without Aykroyd, there never would have been a Ghostbusters.  Aykroyd originally envisioned Ghostbusters as being a sci-fi epic that would be a vehicle for him and John Belushi.  After Belushi died, Aykroyd and Harold Ramis rewrote the script and scaled back the story.  Bill Murray took the role that would have been played by Belushi and the famous ghost, Slimer, was created as a tribute to their fallen friend.

As for Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore, his role was much larger in the original script.  But with each rewrite, Winston’s role got smaller and Peter’s role got larger.  Winston’s role is still important because he is the ghostbuster who stands in for the audience.  He is not a skeptic like Peter but he’s not a true believer like Ray and Egon.  Winston just wants a steady paycheck.

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I remember loving the original Ghostbusters when I was a kid but a new Ghostbusters is being released today and I have read that some people think that it is going to destroy my childhood.  Since the lovely Lisa Marie Bowman and I are planning on seeing the new Ghostbusters tonight, we rewatched the original on Wednesday.  In case my childhood was on the verge of being destroyed, I needed to enjoy it one final time.

32 years after it was first released, the original Ghostbusters holds up well.  With the exception of Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the special effects are no longer special but the script is still full of laugh out loud moments, from the opening with Bill Murray testing students for ESP to Rick Moranis asking random New Yorkers if they were the Gatekeeper to “It’s true … this man has no dick” to “when someone ask you if you are a god, you say yes!”  Even the song is still catchy.

As I watched the original Ghostbusters, I realized that my childhood was not in danger of being destroyed.  I hope the remake is good but even if it is terrible, the original Ghostbusters will always be there and it will always be too good to be forgotten.  The original Ghostbusters was both smart and funny enough to survive  a bad sequel, which Lisa and I made the mistake of watching after we finished the original and about which we swore to never speak again.  Ghostbusters will survive a remake.  If the remake is bad, it can be placed in storage with Ghostbusters 2, The Phantom Menace, X-Men: Apocalypse, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, Batman and Robin, and every other ill-conceived remake, reboot, and sequel of the past 50 years.  If the remake is good, it will be continuing a fine legacy of comedy.  If a new audience enjoys the remake as much as we enjoyed the original, who are any of us to begrudge them that pleasure?

Whether the remake is good or bad, I’m not worried.

My childhood is going to be fine and so is everyone else’s.

Or, at least, it will be until dogs and cats start to live together…

Ghostbusters_cover

No Safe Space: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon (2015, directed by Douglas Tirola)


Drunk_Stoned_Brilliant_Dead_PosterThe documentary Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead pays tribute to National Lampoon.  Founded in 1970, National Lampoon was published for 28 years and, at the height of its popularity, its sensibility redefined American comedy.  When it came to National Lampoon, nothing was sacred and nothing was off-limits.  The success of National Lampoon led to a stage show called Lemmings and The National Lampoon Radio Hour, which featured everyone from John Belushi and Bill Murray to Chevy Chase and Harold Ramis.  Michael O’Donoghue, famed for his impersonations of celebrities having needless inserted into their eyes, went from writing for the Lampoon to serving as Saturday Night Live‘s first head writer.  National Lampoon’s Animal House, Vacation, and Caddyshack are three of the most influential film comedies ever made.  Everyone from P.J. O’Rourke to John Hughes to The Simpsons‘ Al Jean got their start at National Lampoon.

As influential as it was, National Lampoon is a magazine that would not be able to exist today’s world.  Just looking at the cover of most issues of National Lampoon would reduce today’s special little snowflakes to the point of hysteria.  In Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, National Lampoon‘s publisher claims that the Lampoon ultimately ceased publication because the religious right threatened to boycott any company that advertised in the magazine.  Today, it would be the “safe space” crowd complaining that the magazine did not come with proper trigger warnings.  Lena Dunham would look at one issue and go into a rage spiral.  Salon would publish a hundred hand-wringing think pieces about how National Lampoon was the worst thing since Ted Cruz.  Colleges would ban it and religious groups would still burn it.  National Lampoon was a magazine that went out of its way to be offensive to both the left and the right but, as editor-in-chief Tony Hendra puts it, the job of satire is to make those in power feel uncomfortable.  By poking fun at everything and challenging its readers, National Lampoon exposed the absurdity behind both the country’s prejudices and some of its most sacred beliefs.

Kennedy VW Ad

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead follows the National Lampoon from its founding to its ignominious end.  Along with interviews with Lampoon alumni, it also features archival footage of both Lemmings and The Radio Show, providing glimpses of  Christopher Guest, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Harold Ramis before they became famous.  There are also interviews with celebrity admirers of the Lampoon who talk about how the magazine inspired their own work.  It makes sense that Judd Apatow was interviewed and Kevin Bacon made his screen debut in Animal House but what was Billy Bob Thornton doing there?

Unfortunately, drunk, stoned, brilliant, and dead describes some of the most important and talented figures in the Lampoon‘s history.  The documentary especially focuses on Doug Kenney, the Lampoon’s co-founder.  Everyone interviewed agrees that Kenney was a comedic genius who was also often emotionally troubled and who would vanish for months on end.  After the initial critical failure of Caddyshack, Kenney disappeared in Hawaii.  His body was later discovered at the bottom of the cliff.  Did Kenney jump or did he slip or, as director John Landis suggests, was he murdered by a drug dealer?  Nobody seems to know but Kenney’s ghost haunts the documentary.  This collection of very funny people get very serious when it comes time to talk about Kenney’s death.  Even Chevy Chase briefly redeems himself after years of bad publicity when he gets choked up.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is tribute to both a magazine and a bygone era.  See it before it gets banned.

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Boobs, Music, and Sci-Fi: Heavy Metal (1981, directed by Gerald Potterton)


Heavy MetalI think I was twelve when I first saw Heavy Metal.  It came on HBO one night and I loved it.  So did all of my friends.  Can you blame us?  It had everything that a twelve year-old boy (especially a 12 year-old boy who was more than a little on the nerdy side) could want out of a movie: boobs, loud music, and sci-fi violence.  It was a tour of our secret fantasies.  The fact that it was animated made it all the better.  Animated films were not supposed to feature stuff like this.  When my friends and I watched Heavy Metal, we felt like we were getting away with something.

Based on stories from the adults-only Heavy Metal Magazine, Heavy Metal was divided into 8 separate segments:

Soft Landing (directed by Jimmy T. Murakami and John Bruno, written by Dan O’Bannon)

Heavy Metal opens brilliantly with a Corvette being released from a space shuttle and then flying down to Earth, surviving reentry without a scratch.  Who, after watching this, has not wanted a Space Corvette of his very own?

Grimaldi (directed by Harold Whitaker)

On Earth, a terrified young girl listens a glowing green meteorite called the Loc-Nar tells her that it is the source of all evil in the universe.  This sets up the rest of the film, which is made up of stories that the Loc-Nar tells about its influence.  The Loc-Nar is the film’s MacGuffin and, seen today, one of Heavy Metal’s biggest problems is that it has to find a way to force the Loc-Nar into every story, even if it meant sacrificing any sort of consistency about what the Loc-Nar was capable of doing.  Even when I was twelve, I realized that the Loc-Nar was not really that important.

Harry Canyon (directed by Pino Van Lamsweerde, written by Daniel Goldberg)

In this neo-noir tale, futuristic cabby Harry Canyon (voiced by Richard Romanus) is enlisted to help an unnamed girl (voiced by Susan Roman) to find the Loc-Nar.  Slow and predictable, Harry Canyon does feature the voice of John Candy as a police sergeant who attempts to charge Harry for police work.

den_1268427864Den (directed by Jack Stokes, written by Richard Corben)

Nerdy teenager David (voiced by John Candy) finds a piece of the Loc-Nar and is transported to the world of Neverwhere, where he is transformed into Den, a muscular, bald warrior.  As Den, David gets to live out the fantasies of Heavy Metal‘s target audience.  On his new planet, Den rescues an Earth woman from being sacrificed, overthrows an evil queen and a sorcerer, and gets laid.  A lot.  Den is the best segment in Heavy Metal, largely because of the endearing contrast between the action onscreen and John Candy’s enthusiastic narration.

Captain Sternn (directed by Paul Sebella and Julian Harris, written by Bernie Wrightson)

heavy-metal_captain-sternOn a space station orbiting the Earth, Captain Lincoln F. Sternn is on trail for a countless number of offenses.  Though guilty, Captain Sternn expects to be acquitted because he has bribed the prosecution’s star witness, Hanover Fiste.  However, Hanover is holding the Loc-Nar in his hand and it causes him to tell the truth about Captain Sternn and eventually turn into a bloodthirsty giant. Captain Sternn saves the day by tricking Hanover into getting sucked out of an air lock.

Captain Sternn was a reoccurring character in Heavy Metal Magazine and his segment is one of the best.  Eugene Levy voices Captain Sternn while Joe Flaherty voices his lawyer and Dean Wormer himself, John Vernon, is the prosecutor.  Even National Lampoon co-founder Douglas Kenney provided a voice.

 B-17 (directed by Barrie Nelson, written by Dan O’Bannon)

After the Loc-Nar enters Earth’s atmosphere, it crashes into a bullet-riddled World War II bomber, causing the dead crewmen within to reanimate as zombies.  Scored to Don Felder’s Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride), B-17 is one of the shorter segments and its dark and moody animation holds up extremely well.

So Beautiful and So Dangerous (directed by John Halas, written by Angus McKie)

Nubile Pentagon secretary Gloria is beamed aboard a spaceship that looks like a giant smiley face.  While she has sex with the ship’s robot captain, the two crew members (voiced by Harold Ramis and Eugene Levy) pour out a long line of cocaine and shout “Nosedive!” before snorting up every flake.  So Beautiful and So Dangerous is so juvenile and so ridiculous that it is actually all kinds of awesome.

Taarna

SacrificedIn the film’s final and most famous segment, Taarna, the blond warrior was featured on Heavy Metal‘s poster, rides a pterodactyl across a volcanic planet, killing barbarians, and finally confronting the Loc-Nar.  She sacrifices herself to defeat the Loc-Nar but no worries!  We return to Earth where, for some reason, the Loc-Nar explodes and the girl from the beginning of the film is revealed to be Taarna reborn.  She even gets to fly away on her pterodactyl.  Taarna was really great when I was twelve but today, it is impossible to watch it without flashing back to the Major Boobage episode of South Park.

Much like Taarna, Heavy Metal seems pretty silly when I watch it today.  But when I was twelve, it was the greatest thing ever.

Taarna_Heavy_Metal

 

In Praise of Stripes’ Sergeant Hulka


HulkaIn the army comedy Stripes, we never learn Sgt. Hulka’s first name but we do learn to never call him “sir.”  As Hulka himself puts it, “You don’t say sir to me, I’m a sergeant, I work for a living!”

It’s true.  Sgt. Hulka never stops working.  He’s the toughest drill sergeant this side of R. Lee Ermey and he’s going to turn this latest raw batch of recruits into a worthy collection of soldiers.  When he tells you to move, you’ll move fast.  When he tells you to jump, you’re going to ask, “How high!?”  And make no mistake. He don’t care where you come from, he don’t care what color you are, he don’t care how smart you are, he don’t care how dumb you are, ’cause he’s gonna teach every last one of you how to eat, sleep, walk, talk, shoot, shit like a United States soldier. Understand!?

I have lost track of how many times I have watched Stripes.  It’s one of my favorite comedies, a movie that can be quoted in almost every situation.  (“Lighten up, Francis.”)  Not only does it star Bill Murray and Harold Ramis at their anarchistic best but it also features everyone from John Candy to Judge Reinhold to John Larroquette.  Sean Young and P.J. Soles make for two of the sexiest MPs in military history.  But, for me, the best thing about Stripes is Sgt. Hulka and the man who played him.

Ironically, considering that he was famous for being a pot-smoking wild man who hung out with fellow anti-establishment rebels like Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Sam Peckinpah, Warren Oates played his share of no-nonsense military men.  (Oates actually had experience, having served in the Marines before becoming an actor.)  Of all the army roles that Warren Oates played, Sgt. Hulka is the best remembered.

And why not?  His performance in Stripes is a master class of good film acting.  Watch him as he does a stone-faced double take at the latest bit of insubordination from Murray and Ramis.  Watch the way he grins as he barks out his tough drill sergeant dialogue, hinting that Sgt. Hulka understands and has come to accept the lunacy of army life.  Originally, Hulka was supposed to be killed halfway through Stripes but both Warren Oates and his performance proved to be so popular with the film’s cast and crew that Hulka was given a reprieve.

Warren Oates and Bill MurrayIn Stripes, Sgt. Hulka accomplishes something that few other film characters have done.  He gets one over on Bill Murray.  After spending almost all of basic training dealing with John Winger (Bill Murray) and his bad attitude, Hulka confronts Winger in the latrine.  Hulka tells Winger that he’s concerned with “discipline and duty and honor and courage” and that Winger “ain’t got none of it!”  Hulka dares Winger to take a swing at him.  When Winger does it, Hulka floors him with one punch.

This is the only dramatic scene in Stripes.  It was so dramatic that nervous Columbia studio execs asked director Ivan Reitman to cut it.  Wisely, Reitman did not listen to them and the latrine scene is one of the best in the film.  When John eventually emerges as enough of a leader that he is able to invade Czechoslovakia in an armor-plated RV, we all know that it goes back to getting punched in the latrine.

(This was also the first “serious” scene that Bill Murray ever appeared in.  His subsequent work in films like Rushmore, Lost in Translation, and St. Vincent can all be linked back to that tense confrontation he played with Warren Oates.)

At the end of Stripes, Sgt. Hulka retires from the army and opens up a chain a Hulkaburger restaurants.  Here’s hoping that Sgt. Hulka had a happy retirement.  He earned it.

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