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Fletch Review


Good
If you were in junior high or high school when Fletch came out, the movie holds enormous nostalgia value, particularly if you also happened to live in L.A. at the time (like me). Fletch revealed the L.A. that its denizens knew well -- the grungy beaches, the sun-cracked streets, the drab apartment buildings. Fletch's Lakers fetish, and the offices of the Los Angeles Times-like newspaper where he worked completed the L.A. milieu that audiences here immediately hooked into. What's more, we got Chevy Chase at his wise-ass best, in a crime caper tailored to the Beverly Hills Cop crowd (of which I was an admiring member), and thrumming with Harold Faltermeyer on the soundtrack. Sure, Faltermeyer's synthesizers sound supremely cheesy today, but this was the '80s, man. And nothing speaks the '80s like Faltermeyer's Casio keyboards, tuneful yet pulsing with that moneyed urban vibe; I think of it as the safe, consumer-friendly edge of high '80s decadence.

On first viewing (the movie's opening weekend), I admit I didn't get all of Fletch's jokes, but found myself pleasantly amused. Twenty-two years later, I get all the jokes, but I remain only pleasantly amused, nothing more, nothing less. This is a comfort movie -- smart and sassy enough to make good company, but a notch short of brilliant.

Continue reading: Fletch Review

Young Frankenstein Review


Essential
Mel Brooks was just about at the top of his game back in 1974, when he directed both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Young Frankenstein tells the tale of an heir (Gene Wilder) of the original Frank, who inherits his creepy castle (shot in the original castle from the first Frankenstein movie) and starts work anew on his ancestor's experiments. Of course, this is courtesy of Mel Brooks, and it's perfectly parodied -- probably the best horror spoof ever made and a far cry ahead of Brooks' later Dracula: Dead and Loving It gag. Wilder and Peter Boyle (as the monster) are hysterical, but it's Teri Garr who steals the show as Frankenstein's buxom and considerably vapid assistant. The special edition DVD is especially recommended -- with a handful of outtakes and deleted scenes (though none are nearly as funny as what made the final cut).

The Little Mermaid Review


Good
DIsney's animation team looked just about washed up (no pun intended) before The Little Mermaid hit theaters in 1989. Before The Little Mermaid, we had "classics" like The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver & Company. Afterwards, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King. The Little Mermaid was a turning point, reviving Disney's animation studio by grossing almost $110 million at the box office. It was also the last hand-painted Disney film, and the first to use computer animation.

That said, The Little Mermaid is not that great of a movie. The story is simplistic to an extreme, and the animation is extremely crude, a rush job that looks better if you aren't wearing your glasses. But thanks to a spunky heroine with a clamshell brassiere, a menacing villain, singing animals, and some calypso-inspired tunes, The Little Mermaid was a hit with kids and adults. It's certainly not brain food, but give this fish the credit its due: Turning around Disney.

Continue reading: The Little Mermaid Review

The Producers (1968) Review


Extraordinary
Mel Brooks' directorial debut occurred in 1968. It was his gift to the world. And, you might ask, what was his gift originally titled? Springtime for Hitler. Springtime for Hitler, re-titled The Producers (probably for reasons of political correctness, which the film appears not to give a damn about), was a movie about two theatre producers who take it upon themselves to make a fortune off of a flop.

This unlikely scam features the seduction of old ladies for financing, the purchasing of a script titled: "Springtime for Hitler: A Musical Romp with Adolf and Eva", the hiring of the worst director and actor possible, and, of course, setting it all to music.

Continue reading: The Producers (1968) Review

Young Frankenstein Review


Essential
Mel Brooks was just about at the top of his game back in 1974, when he directed both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Young Frankenstein tells the tale of an heir (Gene Wilder) of the original Frank, who inherits his creepy castle (shot in the original castle from the first Frankenstein movie) and starts work anew on his ancestor's experiments. Of course, this is courtesy of Mel Brooks, and it's perfectly parodied -- probably the best horror spoof ever made and a far cry ahead of Brooks' later Dracula: Dead and Loving It gag. Wilder and Peter Boyle (as the monster) are hysterical, but it's Teri Garr who steals the show as Frankenstein's buxom and considerably vapid assistant. The special edition DVD is especially recommended -- with a handful of outtakes and deleted scenes (though none are nearly as funny as what made the final cut).

The Parallax View Review


Good
Stylish yet devilishly confusing, this film has Warren Beatty as an investigative reporter trying to hunt down a conspiracy that begins with the death of a congressman and continues with the deaths of his reporter friends that are snooping into the affair. Beatty uncovers a company behind it all called the Parallax Corporation (think Scientology meets The Manchurian Candidate), which may be a kind of temp agency for assassins. Naturally, he applies for membership, getting in far deeper than he ever realized. Dreamily designed and archly retro, I had to watch bits and pieces three or four times just to put it all together.

Continue reading: The Parallax View Review

The Little Mermaid Review


Good
DIsney's animation team looked just about washed up (no pun intended) before The Little Mermaid hit theaters in 1989. Before The Little Mermaid, we had "classics" like The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver & Company. Afterwards, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King. The Little Mermaid was a turning point, reviving Disney's animation studio by grossing almost $110 million at the box office. It was also the last hand-painted Disney film, and the first to use computer animation.

That said, The Little Mermaid is not that great of a movie. The story is simplistic to an extreme, and the animation is extremely crude, a rush job that looks better if you aren't wearing your glasses. But thanks to a spunky heroine with a clamshell brassiere, a menacing villain, singing animals, and some calypso-inspired tunes, The Little Mermaid was a hit with kids and adults. It's certainly not brain food, but give this fish the credit its due: Turning around Disney.

Continue reading: The Little Mermaid Review

The Producers Review


Extraordinary
Mel Brooks' directorial debut occurred in 1968. It was his gift to the world. And, you might ask, what was his gift originally titled? Springtime for Hitler. Springtime for Hitler, re-titled The Producers (probably for reasons of political correctness, which the film appears not to give a damn about), was a movie about two theatre producers who take it upon themselves to make a fortune off of a flop.

This unlikely scam features the seduction of old ladies for financing, the purchasing of a script titled: "Springtime for Hitler: A Musical Romp with Adolf and Eva", the hiring of the worst director and actor possible, and, of course, setting it all to music.

Continue reading: The Producers Review

Night Moves Review


Grim
Hey, I loved Chinatown too. A year after Roman Polanski made his masterpiece, Arthur Penn came along and shat out this dreck in a sad attempt to quickly knock off what made Chinatown great.

We pick up the story with Los Angeles detective Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman), a P.I. who's hired by a wealthy woman to track down her runaway daughter (Melanie Griffith in her first speaking part and already taking off her clothes), who's run off to the Florida Keys. Almost at random, a secondary plot develops, involving a murderous movie stunt coordinator. Meanwhile, Harry's wife is cheating on him, and Harry confronts the guy on at least two different occasions.

Continue reading: Night Moves Review

Kenneth Mars

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