Guilty As Charged (1991, directed by Sam Irvin)


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Kalin (Rod Steiger) is a crazy old religious fanatic who is rich enough to own a meatpacking plant and hire goons to work for him.  Underneath the meatpacking plant, he has a secret prison and an electric chair that he uses to electrocute people who he feels have escaped justice.  Helping out Kalin is a crazy preacher, played by Isaac Hayes (!), who waxes philosophically about how much he loves the smell of burning flesh.

While Kalin and the gang are executing people below ground, parole officer Kimberly (Heather Graham) is above ground and wondering why so many ex-cons are mysteriously vanishing.  Kimberly is worried that someone may be executing them but then she gets distracted by a politician named Stanford (Lyman Ward).  Stanford wants Kimberly to work on his campaign because she looks like Heather Graham and he’s a sleazy politico.

Meanwhile, a man named Hamilton (Michael Beach) has escaped from prison.  Hamilton claims that he was framed for a murder that he didn’t commit but no one is willing to believe him.  However, Hamilton is telling the truth and the murder was actually committed by Stanford!  The only people who know that Stanford is the murderer are Stanford, his wife (Lauren Hutton!!), and his maid (Zelda Rubinstein!!!).

It all leads to one question: How did all of these talented people all end up in this crappy film!?

The strange thing about Guilty As Charged is that, even though the film is centered around the death penalty, the film itself doesn’t seem to have any opinion on the issue.  Kalin and his followers are crazy religious fanatics who claim that they’re doing God’s work by executing people and Hamilton is an innocent man who has been marked for death so you would think that the movie is against the death penalty.  But then, in a twist that makes no sense, Kalin reveals that he knows that Hamilton is innocent and he’s only using him to get to Stanford and suddenly, the film is for the death penalty.  Kimberly is worried that someone is targeting ex-cons but, by the end of the movie, she’s targeting ex-cons herself even though nothing’s happened that should have made her change her mind.

Guilty as Charged is technically a comedy, though most of the jokes are too thuddingly obvious to provoke even the slightest of a smile.  Hayes wins some laughs, just because he seems like he’s having fun.  Rod Steiger bellows as if he’s getting paid by the decibel and doesn’t seem to be having any fun at all.  Guilty as Charged isn’t funny and it’s not thought-provoking but at least it’s got Isaac Hayes.

A Movie a Day #280: Mikey (1992, directed by Dennis Dimister)


Dumb.  Just dumb.

Mikey (Brian Bonsall) is a little boy who kills people.  Over the course of this movie, he kills eight people.  He gets away with it because everyone that he meets is extremely stupid.  When his teacher notices that Mikey is drawing pictures based on his previous murders, no one thinks anything of it.  When she sees that Mikey is now pushing thumbtacks into his arm, no one is too concerned.  When the principal goes looking for Mikey, he takes a gun which he then leaves unattended on the kitchen counter.  When Mikey tells his teacher that he wants her to teach him “how to die,” everyone figures out that something’s wrong with Mikey but, by then, it’s too late.

For a few years, Mikey had a strong cult following because of the killer kid theme and a few scenes of Josie Bissett in a hot tub.  But it really is a dumb movie and Brian Bonsall gave a lousy performance as Mikey.  Bonsall has a good psycho stare going but whenever he has to speak, he is so wooden that it is impossible to take him seriously.  It takes a good deal of stupidity for an adult to get murdered by a ten-year old and this movie proves it.

A Movie A Day #26: The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991, directed by Sidney J. Furie)


After a toxic chemical spill, Beverly Hills is evacuated.  While its citizens wait in a hotel, their mansions and valuables are guarded by the police and agents of the EPA.  Or so they think.  It turns out that the chemical spill was faked and that both the police and the government agents are in on it.  While the town’s deserted, they’re going to rob everyone blind.  The scheme’s mastermind is Bat Masterson (Robert Davi), the owner of L.A. Rams.  What Masterson doesn’t realize is that one citizen of Beverly Hills stayed behind, his own quarterback, Boomer Hayes (Ken Wahl).  Teaming up with Ed Kelvin (Matt Frewer), the last honest cop in town, Boomer sets out to protect Beverly Hills.

It’s just a dumb as it sounds.  In fact, of the many Die Hard ripoffs that came out in the late 80s and the early 90s, The Taking of Beverly Hills is probably the dumbest, which also makes it one of the most entertaining.  Boomer, who has an impressive mullet, can only speak in football analogies, constantly assuring Ed that it’s only the first down and that they can turn things around after halftime.  When Boomer gets serious, he says, “It’s time to play offense.”  One of the stranger things about The Taking of Beverly Hills is that, unlike working class hero John McClane, Boomer is not an outsider.  He’s in Beverly Hills because he’s rich.  The Taking of Beverly Hills is basically about one rich guy trying to keep another rich guy from robbing a bunch of other rich people.  It’s Die Hard if Hart Bochner had been the hero instead of Bruce Willis.

Keep an eye out for Lee Ving, lead singer of Fear, playing one of the corrupt cops and an uncredited Pamela Anderson cast as a cheerleader.  And keep your ears open for songs like Epic by Faith No More because their presence on the soundtrack (and the associated rights issue) is the reason was this stupidly entertaining movie will probably never get a DVD/Blu-ray release in the United States.

It has been released in Germany, where it was retitled Boomer after the lead character.

It has been released in Germany, where it was retitled Boomer after the lead character.

 

Horror Film Review: Sleepwalkers (dir by Mick Garris)


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So, last night, I was looking for something to watch and I came across Sleepwalkers, a horror film from 1992.  And you know what?  I could sit here and I could get all snarky about Sleepwalkers and I could be hypercritical and all that other stuff.  It’s tempting because the film was written by Stephen King and Stephen King has had so much success that it’s easy to be overly critical of anything he’s involved with.

But I’m not going to do that.  Or, at least, that’s not my main objective with this review.  No, with this review, I want to pay tribute to cat named Clovis.

You see, there are several humans and humanoids in Sleepwalkers.  The film is about two energy vampires — Charles (Brian Krause) and his mother Mary (Alice Krige) — who have an icky incestuous relationship and who need to suck energy from virgins in order to survive.  Charles, who appears to be a teenager, has selected Tanya (Madchen Amick) as his latest target.  Tanya has loving parents (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett, who also played Ferris Bueller‘s parents) and there’s also a creepy English teacher (Glenn Shadix) who tries to blackmail Charles and ends up losing a hand as a result.  There’s several police officers, one of whom is killed when a corncob is driven into his spine.  And Steven King appears in an awkward cameo, along with Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper.

That’s right — there’s a lot of people in this movie but none of them made as big an impression as Sparks, the talented little kitty who plays Clovis.  Seriously, check Clovis out!

You see, there’s only one thing that can kill Charles and Mary and that’s the scratch of a cat.  From the minute that Charles and Mary move into their latest home, cats start to gather outside the house, meowing and just waiting for their chance to pounce.  And, when it comes time for the cats to finally make their movie, who is their leader?

CLOVIS!

After Charles kills Clovis’s owner, Clovis gathers every other cat around and we watch as, in slow motion, they run through the streets of the town.  That’s right — whatever else you may want to say about Sleepwalkers, this is a movie where cats finally get to kick some ass.

And who is the main ass kicker?

Little Clovis, of course!

At the end of the film, Tanya might not have many people left in her life but she’s got Clovis and, because of that, you know that everything’s going to be okay.

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As for the rest of Sleepwalkers … well, it’s watchable but it still really doesn’t make a huge impression.  And, to be honest, that really is the fault of the script.  It’s hard to know who (out of the humans) you’re supposed to care about.  Charles and Mary are pure evil and Charles has a really bad habit of speaking in lame one liners.  Tanya, meanwhile, is well-played by Madchen Amick but, as written, she’s a bit of a nonentity.  There is one fun scene when Tanya dances but then again, you have to wonder why movies, regardless of when they were made, always insist on making teenagers dance to songs that were written decades before they were born.

Fortunately, the film has Clovis.  Not only does he save the day but he saves the movie as well!

GO CLOVIS!

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Back to School #42: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (dir by John Hughes)


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Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. — Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

While I was rewatching the 1986 John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for this review, I found myself thinking about all of the days (or, to be more precise about it, half-days) that I took off back when I was in high school.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like school.  Though I certainly didn’t truly appreciate it at the time, I actually had a pretty good time in high school.  I had an interesting and diverse group of friends.  I had lots of drama and lots of comedy.  I got good grades as long as it wasn’t a Math class.  (Drama, History, and English were always my best subjects.)  My teachers liked me.  But, at the same time, I couldn’t help but resent being required to go to school.  I do not like being told that I have to do something.

So, I would skip on occasion.  For some reason, it always seemed like my favorite classes were early in the day.  So, I’d go to school, enjoy myself up until lunch, and then me and a few friends would casually walk out of the building and we would be free!  There was a Target just a few blocks down the street from our high school and sometimes we’d go down there and spend a few hours shoplifting makeup.  Eventually, we did get caught by a big scary security guy who threatened to call our parents, made us return everything that we had hidden in our purses and bras, and then told us that we were never to step foot in that Target ever again.  And you know what?  In all the years since, I have yet to step back inside of that Target.

Interestingly enough, with all of the times that we skipped school, the worst thing that ever happened to me or any of my friends is that we got banned from Target.  We all still graduated, most of us still went to college, and, as far as I know, none of us have ever been arrested for a major crime.  None of us ever regretted missing any of the classes that we skipped.  For all the talk of how skipping school was the same thing as throwing away your future, it really was not that big of a deal.

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I think that’s one reason why, despite being nearly 30 years ago, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a film that continues to speak to audiences.  It’s a film that celebrates the fact that sometimes, you just have to take a day off and embrace life.  Technically, Ferris, Cameron (Alan Ruck), and Sloane (Mia Sara) may be breaking the law by skipping school and you could even argue that they’ve stolen Cameron’s dad’s car.

But, who cares?

You know who probably had perfect attendance in high school?  Principal Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) and seriously, who wants to grow up to be like that douchebag?

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Whenever I do watch Ferris Bueller (and I’ve seen it more times than I can remember because seriously, I freaking love this movie!), I always find myself wishing that real-life could be as much fun as the movies.  As much as I may have enjoyed skipping school and shoplifting, it’s nothing compared to everything that Ferris does during his day off!  Ferris goes to a baseball game!  He takes his friends to a fancy restaurant!  He goes to an art museum!  (And, much like Sloane, my heart swoons at this point because I would have loved to have known a guy who would skip school so he could specifically go to the museum.)  Perhaps most importantly, he encourages his best friend Cameron to actually have a good time and enjoy himself.

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In Susannah Gora’s book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, an entire chapter is devoted to the making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and, to be honest, it’s actually makes for rather melancholy reading.  Ferris Bueller was the last teen film that John Hughes directed and the book suggests that a lot of this was due to the fact that Hughes didn’t have as good a time making the film as audiences would later have watching it.  In the book, Mia Sara speculates that Hughes never bonded with the cast of Ferris Bueller in the same way that he did with the casts of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.

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And indeed, it’s hard to imagine either Ferris Bueller or Matthew Broderick popping up in either one of those two films.  Ferris is far too confident to relate to the angst-driven worlds of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, or Pretty in Pink.  True, he doesn’t have a car and his sister (Jennifer Grey) resents him but otherwise, Ferris’s life is pretty much care-free.  Not only does he live in a beautiful house but he’s also already come up with a definitive philosophy for how he wants to live his life.  You look at Ferris and you know that he probably grew up to be one of those people who ended up working on Wall Street and nearly bankrupted the country but you don’t care.  He’s too likable.

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His best friend, Cameron, is far more angsty but even his overwhelming depression doesn’t seem like it would be at home in any of Hughes’s other films.  If Cameron was a member of the Breakfast Club, he’d probably just sit in the back of the library and zone out.  Regardless of how much Judd Nelson taunted him, Cameron would stay in his shell.  If Cameron was in Sixteen Candles, it’s doubtful he would have been invited to the party at Jake Ryan’s house in the first place.  His depression is too overwhelming and his angst feels too real for him to safely appear in any film other than this one.  As a character, Cameron could only appear in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off because only Ferris Bueller would be capable getting Cameron to leave his bedroom.  On the one hand, the film may seem like a well-made but standard teen comedy where a lovable rebel defeats a hateful authority figure.  But, with repeat viewings, it becomes obvious that Ferris Bueller is truly about the battle for Cameron’s damaged soul.

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There’s a prominent theory out there that the entire film is supposed to be Cameron’s daydream and that Ferris either doesn’t exist or he’s just a popular student who Cameron has fantasized to be his best friend.  I can understand the theory because Cameron really is the heart of the movie.  At the same time, I hope it’s not true because, if this is all a fantasy, then that means that Sloane never said, “He’s going to marry me,” while running back home.  And that would be heart-breaking because I love that moment!

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may have John Hughes final teen film as a director (he would go on to write and produce Some Kind of Wonderful) but at least he went out on a true high note.

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