John Candy

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Splash Review

Very Good
For me, watching Ron Howard's Splash is like paging through an old high school yearbook. Look how young everyone is! Oh, the potential they had! What a great time that was! Most of the major talent in Splash did better projects later on, but the movie is a fun reminder of where everyone started and ended up.

Tom Hanks, showing early signs of that everyman charm, plays Allen Bauer, a single New Yorker consumed by his job and coming off a bad breakup. Driven by alcohol and a lingering childhood memory of encountering a young mermaid on Cape Cod, Allen takes a cab to Massachusetts. The trip turns out to be a bust: He nearly drowns and loses his wallet.

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Spaceballs Review

True story: Before I turned 18, I had seen Spaceballs far more times than I had seen Star Wars. Since then, innate geekiness caught up with me and Star Wars eclipsed it. But when I was ten, my loyalties were with the Mel Brooks parody; the Schwartz was with me.

I don't doubt this is the case for many fans of the best Brooks films--how many kids of the seventies saw Blazing Saddles before laying eyes on a real western, or Young Frankenstein before the bride of same? I point this out to place Spaceballs with those other, more acknowledged Brooks classics.

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Brewster's Millions Review

A guilty pleasure from my childhood, Brewster's Millions is based on an ancient novel. In fact, it's at least the fifth adaptation of the old novel by the same name -- only the spending money is more and more each time.

What money is that? Oh, just $30 million, left to Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) by his sole relative. The catch? The real inheritance is $300 million -- and if Monty wants it, he has to spend the $30 million in 30 days, and at the end of that time he can't have any assets to show for it. Oh, and he can't tell anyone what's going on, either.

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Heavy Metal Review

Very Good
There wasn't a more seditious movie you could watch as a kid growing up in the 1980s than Heavy Metal, a film that not only relished in its sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but was animated, too. The collection of a handful of hand-drawn sci-fi vignettes are loosely connected by an evil, glowing green ball which tells its story (huh?) to a young girl it soon plans to kill. Some of the stories are funny. Some are gruesome. Some look cool. Some are drawn terribly. All of it amounts to a graphic, guilty pleasure that features a soundtrack from the era's biggest rock groups. And, uh, Stevie Nicks. Anyone from the era will love it, while everyone else simply won't get it at all.

Stripes Review

This sloppy but popular comedy stands just behind Bill Murray's best movies -- Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation -- in quality, but stands with them in establishing the film comedy as we now know it: irony-soaked, lowbrow, and funny. As late as the mid-'70s, too many film comedies were earnest, cute throwbacks without a single real laugh. (Thank God for Mel Brooks, who made the only consistently funny comedies of the decade.) Supposedly hilarious films like Shampoo and The Goodbye Girl (or insert another '70s comedy here... I'm having trouble remembering any of them) now seem naïve and lame -- all the more so for trying to be trendy and sophisticated. Such films tried harder to please the critics than the crowds, not by being highbrow but by being frothy.

All that was dead the moment Bill Murray threw the candy bar in the pool in Caddyshack. Critics hated Caddyshack, and called Saturday Night Live skits "mean-spirited," but for everyone else, it was finally OK to be crude, clever, offensive -- and funny. Subsequent films like Stripes, often featuring one or more cast members from SNL (Murray, et al.) or Second City TV (Harold Ramis, John Candy), set the mold. The formula hasn't needed much tweaking since then, either; the successful comedies of recent years (There's Something About Mary, American Pie, etc.) owe everything to them.

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Little Shop Of Horrors Review

Little Shop of Horrors is a curiously detached musical comedy based on the popular 1980's off-Broadway play about a man-eating plant from outer space. Not exactly a thought provoking subject, although some of the movie works; it's just too bad even more of it does not. I saw the play, and even performed in an amateur version. Throughout the movie, I was singing along with some of the musical numbers, but found myself standing outside of the story. Maybe that's because this is about a man-eating plant from outer space. I hold nothing against movies about man-eating plants from outer space, but this one doesn't know how to handle such.

The movie is a solid adaptation; beyond some alterations at the end after test audiences complained (they should have complained even more), the movie is very similar to the play. Most of the songs remain intact, and the cast is full of energy and zest. The special effects fill an important niche. So why does so much of Little Shop of Horrors feel distant and wearisome?

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles Review

In 1987 John Hughes took a huge risk. The man who had spent three years profiling the lives of teenagers did the unthinkable: He wrote and directed two movies featuring adults: She's Having a Baby and Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

She's Having a Baby is a pleasant comedy, but PTA is an absolute gem and one of the 1980s' most overlooked movies, a mixture of human drama and dizzying goofiness that qualifies it for timeless status. I should know. A co-worker and I continually quote lines from this 17-year-old movie. At this point we could audition for a remake.

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The Blues Brothers Review

The Blues Brothers has been re-released on DVD for its 25th anniversary. You've probably seen it countless times between its 1980 release and repeat airings on TV, so you know the basics. Still, here are 25 reminders why you have to see it again.

1) The music is great, coming from a legendary line-up of soul and blues artists: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles, whose performance of "Shake a Tail Feather" will get you dancing with the horde of extras onscreen.

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Cool Runnings Review

Remember the second miracle on ice, the Jamaican bobsled team? Well after the international joke wore off (I seem to remember seeing a t-shirt or two during college) there was the movie Cool Runnings, which dramatizes the tumultuous road to the Olympics (which did everything in its power to keep the team out) and their thrilling last place finish. Of course, this isn't a movie about winning. It's about winning not being everything; it's almost the anti-sports movie. While the film is cute and charming, it isn't without its copious cliches. All in all, it's pretty much as expected.
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