A Movie A Day #341: Hot Pursuit (1987, directed by Steven Lisberger)


When high school student Dan Bartlett (John Cusack) is late arriving at the airport, he finds himself watching as the plane taking his girlfriend (Wendy Gazelle) and her parents (Monte Markham and Shelley Fabares) to the Caribbean takes off without him.  Dan catches the next available flight and tries to track down his girlfriend and her family.  Helping him out is a Ganja-smoking islander (Keith David) and a crusty sea captain (Robert Loggia).  Complicating matters is that Dan’s girlfriend has been kidnapped by pirates (Jerry Stiller and his son, Ben)!

John Cusack got his start appearing in dopey 80s teen comedies and Hot Pursuit shows why he eventually declared that he would never appear in another one.  Hot Pursuit relies on the idiot plot.  If everyone in the movie didn’t act like an idiot, there wouldn’t be much of a movie.  Cusack seems bored in his role, only waking up towards the end of the movie when he gets to pick up a machine gun and blow away the pirates’ hideout.  (Cusack even gets to do a Rambo-style yell while riddling the building with bullets.)  This was Ben Stiller’s film debut and he has a few funny scenes.  The movie probably would have worked better if Stiller and Cusack had switched roles.

One final note; Hot Pursuit was produced by Pierre David, who also produced several of David Cronenberg’s early films.  It’s probably not a coincidence that Wendy Gazzelle’s character is named Lori Cronenberg.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #16: Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

zoolander_2_poster

On October 14th, I recorded Zoolander 2 off of Epix.

A sequel to the 2001 cult hit, Zoolander 2 came out earlier this year and got absolutely terrible reviews and quickly vanished from theaters.  Watching the film last night, I could understand why it got such terrible reviews.  Zoolander 2 is not only a terrible movie but it’s also a rather bland one.  Somehow, the blandness is even more offensive than the badness.

Zoolander 2 opens with Justin Bieber getting assassinated and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) being forced to come out of retirement and discover why pop stars are being targeted.  And, of course, Zoolander can’t do it without the help of Hansel (Owen Wilson)!  Penelope Cruz is in the film as well, playing  Zoolander’s handler and essentially being wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone.

Oh!  And Will Ferrell returns as well.  Ferrell gives a performance that essentially shouts out to the world, “Fuck you, I’m Will Ferrell and no one is going to tell Will Ferrell to tone his shit down!”

Actually, I think everyone in the world is in Zoolander 2.  This is one of those films that is full of cameos from people who probably thought a silly comedy would be good for their image.  For instance, there’s a huge number of journalists who show up playing themselves.  Matt Lauer shows up and I get the feeling that we’re supposed to be happy about that.  There was a reason why people cheered when the sharks ate him in Sharknado 3.

You know who else shows up as himself?  Billy Zane!  And Billy Zane has exactly the right type of attitude for a film like this.  He shows up and he mocks the whole enterprise by giving the Billy Zaniest performance of Billy Zane’s career.  For that matter, Kiefer Sutherland also shows up as himself.  I’m not really sure what Kiefer was doing in the film but he makes sure to deliver all of his lines in that sexy growl of his.  Kiefer knows what we want to hear.

You may notice that I’m not talking about the plot of Zoolander 2.  That’s largely because I couldn’t follow the plot.  This is an incredibly complicated film but it’s not complicated in a funny way.  Instead, it’s complicated in a way that suggests that the film was made up on the spot.  It’s as if the cast said, “We’re all funny!  Just turn on the camera and we’ll make it work!”

The problem with Zoolander 2 is obvious.  The first film pretty much exhausted the comic possibilities of making a spy film about shallow and stupid models.  Don’t get me wrong — the first film did a good job but it’s not like it left any material untapped.  But I would ask you to indulge me as I imagine an alternate reality.

Consider this: Terrence Malick was reportedly a huge fun of Zoolander.

Let’s take just a minute to imagine a world in which Ben Stiller asked Terrence Malick to write and direct Zoolander 2.  And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Malick agreed!

Just think about it — 4 hours of Zoolander and Hansel staring up at the sky and thinking about nature.  “What is this thing that causes the heart of man to beat?” Zoolander asks.  “Are we nature or has nature become us?” Hansel replies.

That would have been a fun film!

Insomnia File No. 17: The Suburbans (dir by Donal Lardner Ward)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

sub

Last night, if you were still awake at 3:45 in the morning, you could have turned over to Starz and watched the 1999 comedy, The Suburbans!

And, in all probability, you would have fallen asleep before it was over.

This film tells the story of four guys who used to be in a band.  The name of the band was The Suburbans and, in 1980, they had a hit with a song called … wait … what the Hell was that song called?  See, this is an example of how slapdash The Suburbans was.  The whole point of the film is that they had a hit song but the movie goes off in some many different and random tangents that I can’t even remember what the name of this very important song was.  All I remember is that the song didn’t really sound like it would ever be a hit (no, not even in the 80s) and that the four guys really didn’t seem like they would ever be rock stars.

Anyway, The Suburbans only had that one hit and now, nearly twenty years later, all the band members are leading conventional lives in the suburbs.  Oddly, they all appear to live in the same suburb and they’re all still best friends.  Craig Bierko is the former lead guitarist, who is now a doctor of some sort.  Will Ferrell (yes, that Will Ferrell) is the former bass player who now works with computers.  Tony Guma is the overweight drummer who is at the center of a lot of scenes, presumably because Guma co-wrote the script.  Donal Lardner Ward is the former lead singer.  Along with starring in the film, Ward also directed it.  That might explain why, despite not being a very interesting character, everyone in the film is portrayed as being in love with him.

The Suburbans briefly reunite to play at Ferrell’s wedding.  A music executive (Jennifer Love Hewitt) happens to be at the wedding.  It turns out that she used to love The Suburbans and their one hit!  (The problem is that Jennifer Love Hewitt was only 20 when this film was made, which means that, when the Suburbans were famous, she would have only been a year old.)  She arranges for The Suburbans to reunite for a pay-per-view special and…

…and then a lot of stuff happens.  And I do mean a lot of stuff.  But what’s odd is none of that stuff adds up to anything.  Ward’s girlfriend (played by Amy Brenneman) is briefly threatened by Hewitt but, fear not — Donal Lardner Ward is the world’s greatest guy!  Occasionally, one member of the Suburbans might argue with another member of the Suburbans but fear not — they’re all great guys!

What’s funny is that, after spending 81 minutes with these characters and listening to their oppressively relentless quippy dialogue, you still don’t feel like you know a damn thing about any of them.  You never even find out how The Suburbans first got together or what inspired them to write their one hit in the first place.  Nor do you find out why they broke up.  They’re just sort of there and we’re supposed to care.

I guess I should mention that Ben and Jerry Stiller are both in the film.  They play Hewitt’s bosses and it’s painful to watch both of them.  Apparently, the director just said, “Ben, say something funny!” and the result was an endless scene of Ben Stiller saying whatever popped into his head.

(I should also probably mention that J.J. Abrams produced this movie.  Yes, that J.J. Abrams…)

If you track down the Suburbans on DVD, you’ll notice that the cover art is pretty much centered around Jennifer Love Hewitt and Will Ferrell.  What’s funny is that neither Hewitt nor Ferrel really get to do much in the movie.  (That said, Ferrell’s performance is enjoyably odd, even if it does feel totally out of the place.)  The entire movie is centered around Tony Guma and Donal Lardner Ward.  After all, they wrote and directed the damn thing.  So, I guess if you’re a Tony Guma fan, The Suburbans is the movie for you!

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger

Guilty Pleasure No. 29: On The Line (dir by Eric Bross)


OnTheLineposter

Last night, as I watched Dead 7, I could not help but think about the 2001 film, On The Line.  Don’t get me wrong, On The Line does not feature any zombies and there’s next to no violence.  However, much like Dead 7, it does feature quite a few boy banders.  In fact, with the exception of JC Chasez, every member of *NSYNC makes an appearance in On The Line.  Lance Bass stars in the movie.  Joey Fatone plays his best friend.  Finally, at the end of the film, in a scene that is so homophobic that it practically screams 2001, Justin Timberlake and Chris Kirkpatrick show up as a flamboyant makeup artist and an even more flamboyant hairstylist.

Lance plays Kevin, a shy and somewhat nerdy advertising exec who lives in Chicago.  Kevin falls in love easily but he’s always been too shy to have a serious relationship.  One day, Kevin is returning home from work on the train when he starts talking to Abbey (Emanuelle Chriqui).  It turns out that they both love the Chicago Cubs and Al Green!  (Oh my God!  Who would have guessed that two people living in Chicago would both love the local sports team!?)  It also turns out that both Kevin and Abbey can name all the Presidents in order!  Obviously, they are meant to be!  The universe arranged for them to both be on the train at the same time so that they can get married, have children, and discuss the presidency of Rutherford Hayes while watching the Cubs and listening to Al Green.

Unfortunately, despite being a single guy who has just totally hit it off with a single girl who is obviously attracted to him, Kevin forgets to get her phone number.  The movie explains this by saying that Kevin is shy but if he’s so shy that he can’t even give out his phone number then how did he ever find the courage to tell Abbey that he loves Al Green in the first place?

(Actually, Abbey isn’t really single but her fiancée is such a jerk that she might as well be.  Anyone who has ever seen a movie knows that Abbey is not meant to marry a guy who spends all of his time on the phone, yelling, “Sell!  Sell!”)

Of course, if Kevin had gotten her phone number, there wouldn’t have been a movie.  So, instead, he recruits his loser friends (including Joey Fatone) to help him track down Abbey.  He puts up flyers all over Chicago.  A story about him appears in the newspaper.  Soon, the entire city is obsessed with whether or not Kevin will find this girl that he talked to for ten minutes.  However, Abbey apparently never watches TV or reads the newspaper because somehow, she doesn’t know all of this is going on…

There’s an interesting subtext to On The Line.  Lance Bass himself produced the film.  Five years after On The Line flopped at the box office, Lance officially came out as gay (and, it must be said, that whenever Kevin talks to Abbey, he comes across less like a future lover and more like every girl’s ideal gay best friend).  Lance has said that he was still deeply closeted when he made On The Line and there are times when the film seems to be almost desperate to convince us of Kevin’s (and, by association, Lance’s) heterosexuality.  In this context, that end credits scene with Chris and Justin, limp-wristed and speaking in exaggerated falsetto, is even ickier.  “Gay?” the film says to be saying, “If there was a gay person in On The Line, would Justin Timberlake be playing a makeup artist?  Would Chris Kirkpatrick be willing to appear as a hairdresser named Angelo?”

On The Line is not a particularly good film and yet, oddly, it’s one that I always find myself watching whenever I come across it on cable.  Lance may be miscast and he’s obviously uncomfortable in the majority of his scenes but he’s also likable.  You never believe for a second that Kevin and Abbey will last as a couple but Lance seems like a nice guy and Emmanuelle Chriqui is so pretty that you’re happy that they at least got to go on a date or two before breaking up and never seeing each other again.  They’re both pretty and it’s fun to watch pretty people talk to each other, even if they do lack a certain romantic chemistry.  As well, though his character is pretty obnoxious, Joey Fatone is still always fun to watch.

On The Line is no Dead 7 but it’s still watchable in its own stupid way.  I would suggest, however, skipping the end credits

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan

Halloween Film Review: Highway to Hell (1991, directed by Ate de Jong)


Highway to HellHighway to Hell, a low-budget take on the legend of Orpheus, opens with a young couple, Charlie (Chad Lowe) and Rachel (Kristy Swanson), driving to Las Vegas so they can elope.  When they stop to get gas, Sam (Richard Farnsworth) warns them not to drive on the back roads at night.  Charlie ignores him and the couple continues to drive through the desert until they are suddenly pulled over by Sgt. Bedlam (C.J. Graham), a scarred and mostly silent demon who is also known as the Hellcop.  The Hellcop drags Rachel out of the car and then vanishes with her.  Charlie returns to the gas station, where Sam tells him that Rachel has been kidnapped to Hell and will become Satan’s latest wife.  After Sam gives him a shotgun and a car, Charlie heads into Hell to rescue Rachel.

Charlie discovers that Hell is even stranger than he was expecting.  The highways are full of VW bugs and motorcycle gangs.  Charlie passes a road crew made up of Andy Warhol look-alikes.  (In a clever touch, they also work for the Good Intentions Company.)  When Charlie stop to pick up a hitchhiker (played by Lita Ford), he is suddenly attacked by a crazed ice cream man.  Occasionally, a friendly mechanic (Patrick Bergin) shows up and helps Charlie out.  The mechanic’s first name is Beezle.  Did you already guess that his last name is Bub?

There are parts of Highway To Hell that do not work.  Chad Lowe seems lost as Charlie and Highway To Hell’s abrupt ending feels like it belongs in a totally different film.  But Highway to Hell has enough odd characters and weird moments to make it worth watching.  For instance, I liked the scene where the Hellcop stops off at a roadside diner that is full of zombies.  Anne Meara plays the counterwoman who won’t stop talking long enough to take anyone’s order.  (It is Hell, after all.)  Jerry Stiller shows up as another cop and, finally, Ben Stiller plays a short order cook who won’t stop yelling.  Ben Stiller actually plays two roles in this movie.  Later, he shows up as Atillia the Hun, eating breakfast with Hitler (Gilbert Gottfried!) and Cleopatra (Amy Stiller).  Hitler tries to convince them that he is actually a teenager named Bob and that he was sent to Hell accidentally.

Despite the film’s title, AC/DC is nowhere to be heard on the Highway to Hell soundtrack, which is obviously a missed opportunity.  In fact, with the exception of Lita Ford’s cameo, there is no metal to be found in Hell which seems strange considering that this movie was made in 1991.  Music aside, Highway to Hell is an entertaining journey into the underworld.

highway-to-hell

Insomnia File No. 2: Stag (dir by Gavin Wilding)


Stag

What’s an Insomnia File?  You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable?  This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were suffering from insomnia around 2:30 in the morning, you could have turned over to Flix and watched Stag, a dreary film from 1997!

And I know what you’re saying.  “Really, Lisa?  I could have watched a dreary film!  WHY DIDN’T SOMEBODY TELL ME!?”  Well, sorry.  Your loss.  Maybe next time you won’t be so quick to resist the call of insomnia…

Anyway, Stag eventually turns out to be pretty bad but it actually has a pretty good opening.  A bunch of rich guys get together in a big house and throw a bachelor party.  Whenever one of them first appears on screen, they get a freeze frame that tells us their name and gives us a few biographical facts.

For instance, one coke-snorting character is introduced as “Jon DiCapri: Soap opera star, spokesman for “Stars Against Drugs.”  A drunk guy begging for money is identified as “Timan Bernard: Accountant, Author of ‘Ethics in Business.'”  The pensive fellow standing by the window and a smoking a cigarette is “Daniel Kane: Gulf war veteran, post traumatic stress disorder,” while the guy running around in a wig and lingerie is “Ed Labenski: Contractor, church treasurer.”  My personal favorite of the introductions belonged to the guy with the neck tattoo and the terrible teeth.  We’re told that he’s “Pete Weber: Drug dealer, extortionist. Self employed.”

Of course, Pete Weber is also Andrew McCarthy, playing a character who is far removed from the world of Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire.  And Daniel Kane is actually Kevin Dillon, taking part in the type of misogynistic hi-jinks that would later be celebrated in Entourage.  Jon DiCapri is actually William McNamara, who will always be remembered for his memorable death scene in Dario Argento’s Opera.  As for Timan Bernard, he’s played by John Henson, who was the host of that terrible Wipeout show that was on the air forever despite the fact that nobody in the world would admit to watching it.

And they’re not the only ones at this bachelor party!  The bachelor himself is played by John Stockwell, the director of movies like CheatersCrazy/Beautiful and In The Blood.  His best friend is played by Mario Van Peebles.  Even distinguished character actor Ben Gazzarra is at this bachelor party!

As I said, the film starts out well enough, with the men all acting like idiots and pretty much confirming everything that I’ve always suspected about bachelor parties.  But then the strippers show up and there’s a highly improbable accident and soon there are two dead bodies bleeding out on the linoleum floor of John Stockwell’s house.  The rest of the movie is pretty much the men yelling at each other and arguing about what they should do.  Some fear going to jail.  Some want to frame someone else.  Some want to cover up the accident.  A few suggest calling the police but then Andrew McCarthy rips the landline phone out of the wall and, since this movie was made in the 90s, that is literally all he has to do to keep everyone from contacting the outside world.

Despite some decent performances, the film turned out to be pretty tedious.  That said, as I watched it, I found myself wondering how my girlfriends and I would have handled a similar situation.  What if we were throwing a bachelorette party and suddenly Magic Mike ended up lying in the middle of the floor with a broken neck?  To be honest, I get the feeling we’d probably handle it in roughly the same way as the characters in Stag.  We would just be a lot more passive aggressive about it.

“Oh my God, is that guy dead!?”

“I don’t know but that’s what I think Heather said.  But it’s all Amy’s fault and … Bitch, everyone says it’s your fault so unless everyone in the entire world is wrong … whatever, Amy.”

“Oh my God, what are we going to do with him?”

“I don’t know but Vanessa said that maybe we should say that he like never showed up at the party and then she said that Jen said that … oh my God, are those new earrings!?”

“Yeah, do you like them!?”

“They’re so pretty!  Anyway, Jen said that maybe you should like go bury him somewhere…”

“Oh my God, Jen said I should go bury him!?”

“Well, I didn’t hear for sure but Tina said that she heard Vanessa say that Jen said that you should go bury him…”

“That bitch!  I am so going to kick her ass!  Oh my God!”

But anyway, the body would eventually get buried.  Just not by me.

ANYWAY!  What was I talking about?

Right … Stag.

It’s not a very good movie.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. The Story of Mankind