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Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Review


Very Good
I realize, right from the start, that absolutely nothing I say about Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is going to sway you at all, one way or another, about whether or not to see the film.

Nevertheless, I'm going to comment, mainly out of habit.

Continue reading: Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Review

Airplane! Review


Essential
If Airplane! isn't the funniest English-language movie ever made, it could at least get into some spirited comedy fisticuffs with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda, or Wayne's World for the title. It might win, too. The first non-sketch film from the team of Zucker (David), Abrahams, and Zucker (Jerry) established the joke-a-minute-spoof subgenre, frequented by various iterations of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (not to mention several imitators); this means it gets credit for The Naked Gun, but also the blame for Scary Movie 2.

But Airplane! doesn't reign just by calling firsties. Or rather, it does - because it hit the bull's eye so dead-center that there wasn't much room left for other arrows. It purportedly spoofs the airplane-based disaster movies so popular at the time of its 1980 release, but much of the main plot (a scarred war pilot must attempt to land a passenger jet during a storm when the crew falls ill) and even some specific scene are lifted from the little-known 1957 B-movie Zero Hour (unseen by me); it simultaneously satirizes one particularly obscure film, '70s disaster films, and every bad B-movie you've ever seen.

Continue reading: Airplane! Review

The Transformers: The Movie Review


Weak
By any sane criteria, The Transformers is a terrible, terrible movie. It has some of the worst feature film animation ever passed off on audiences anywhere, and its plot (Autobots vs. Decepticons by way of a planet-munching giant robot called Unicron) is as threadbare as anything Saturday morning has ever delivered.

But The Transformers has earned a cult following, for a couple of reasons. First it's the only Transformers-themed movie ever made. In case you weren't a kid in the '80s, Transformers were immensely popular toys that could change from some common item (usually a truck or a plane) into a robot. With lasers. Cartoons followed, then the movie.

Continue reading: The Transformers: The Movie Review

To Be Or Not To Be (1942) Review


Excellent
Decades before Roberto Benigni was romanticizing the Holocaust and Mel Brooks was supposedly courting Nazi controversy on Broadway, Ernst Lubitsch made To Be or Not to Be, a tart little comedy about the Nazi invasion of Poland which, a few glitches aside, was all the more daring for having been made during the war itself, when its outcome was hardly certain. Unfortunately, Brooks remade the film in his own manner some 40 years afterward, substituting most of Lubitsch's wit with his brand of shtick - not as awful as it could have been, but definitely not a patch on the original.

To Be or Not to Be opens in 1939 on the eve of war, with a Warsaw theater troupe rehearsing a satire called Gestapo, which has been ordered shut down by the government, for fear of offending Hitler. The troupe's stars are Maria and Joseph Tura - a self-absorbed flirt and a preening ham who wouldn't know acting if it smacked him in the face - who couldn't be less interested in the outside world, until it comes crashing in. Maria (Carole Lombard, all smoky elegance) is carrying on an affair with handsome pilot Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack, shockingly fresh-faced and clear-voiced), while Joseph (a nimbly verbal Jack Benny) seems almost more perturbed by the fact that Sobinski walks out on his Hamlet soliloquy every night than the fact that he's doing so to meet backstage with Maria.

Continue reading: To Be Or Not To Be (1942) Review

House Of Bamboo Review


OK
The limits of the lengths to which dazzling camerawork and curled-lip noir bluster can make up for thoroughly ham-fisted dialogue are tested in Sam Fuller's 1955 gangster picture, House of Bamboo. It's the familiar tradeoff with Fuller's scripts (though here he was working off one mostly written by Harry Kleiner): They're hard-boiled as all hell, but given just the slightest mistake in mood or pacing, the whole can seem so ridiculous as to be laughable. This film never quite gets to the laughable point, but by the end it's not far off.

As the first American feature to be shot in Japan after WWII (its home-grown film industry had been trucking right along since not long after the peace treaty was signed), House of Bamboo makes the most out of its setting, and its spell-binding Cinemascope compositions make up most of the reasons to see it. The film opens on a supply train puffing across a snowy landscape that's hijacked by a gang of thieves who are more than happy to garrote the Japanese and U.S. guards on board before making off with the loot, .50-caliber machine guns. It's a sharply executed piece of work and ends with a hammer blow: achingly beautiful Mount Fuji, as shot between the boots of a dead soldier.

Continue reading: House Of Bamboo Review

The High And The Mighty Review


Good
In 1954, zipping off to Hawaii by plane must have been a far different experience than any of us can imagine today. The experience was so terrifying -- at least according to The High and the Mighty, a best-selling book in its era -- that the captain had to come out and talk to each passenger personally to explain that they weren't going to crash and die. And that's just after takeoff, before the plane has any problems!

Newcomers to this story may see John Wayne in a military uniform and an airplane on the cover of this DVD (with a title that evokes the air force) and assume, understandably, that they're going to be watching another military drama. Not so: Wayne's Dan Roman is a commercial pilot, and he's working the Honolulu-San Francisco route years after surviving a crash that killed everyone in his family except himself. (Also in the cockpit is Robert Stack, playing the role he would ape years later in Airplane!)

Continue reading: The High And The Mighty Review

Airplane! Review


Essential
If Airplane! isn't the funniest English-language movie ever made, it could at least get into some spirited comedy fisticuffs with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, A Fish Called Wanda, or Wayne's World for the title. It might win, too. The first non-sketch film from the team of Zucker (David), Abrahams, and Zucker (Jerry) established the joke-a-minute-spoof subgenre, frequented by various iterations of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker team (not to mention several imitators); this means it gets credit for The Naked Gun, but also the blame for Scary Movie 2.

But Airplane! doesn't reign just by calling firsties. Or rather, it does - because it hit the bull's eye so dead-center that there wasn't much room left for other arrows. It purportedly spoofs the airplane-based disaster movies so popular at the time of its 1980 release, but much of the main plot (a scarred war pilot must attempt to land a passenger jet during a storm when the crew falls ill) and even some specific scene are lifted from the little-known 1957 B-movie Zero Hour (unseen by me); it simultaneously satirizes one particularly obscure film, '70s disaster films, and every bad B-movie you've ever seen.

Continue reading: Airplane! Review

Written On The Wind Review


Weak
It's all-star soaps in Douglas Sirk's brilliantly saccharine Written on the Wind, with show-stealer Dorothy Malone (way too old for the part) playing a sex-crazed gal trying to wreak havoc among her blueblood family and friends. This all shakes down (after considerable effort at setting up the loony players) as to an accusation of infidelity when Malone suggest her brother's (Robert Stack) goody-goody best friend (RockHudson) knocked up Stack's wife (Lauren Bacall) -- because Stack is sterile! Yoiks. In the end it's all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Review


Very Good
I realize, right from the start, that absolutely nothing I say about Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is going to sway you at all, one way or another, about whether or not to see the film.

Nevertheless, I'm going to comment, mainly out of habit.

Continue reading: Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Review

Recess: School's Out Review


Weak

The bad guy in "Recess: School's Out" is a megalomaniacal ex-elementary school principal determined to do away with summer vacations by altering the orbit of the Moon so there's no more summer.

Voiced by James Woods -- one of Hollywood's greatest scenery-chewers -- this rakish, oily antagonist is by far the most amusing thing about this latest in a seemingly endless glut of cheaply animated TV 'toons cashing in on the purchase power of kids.

Such movies are not concerned with style, creativity or entertainment value for anyone of a discerning age. They don't even bother aspiring to be a "Toy Story," a "Pokemon") and rarely much more than just expanded episodes of the show that spawned them, blown up to 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Continue reading: Recess: School's Out Review

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Robert Stack Movies

Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Movie Review

Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Movie Review

I realize, right from the start, that absolutely nothing I say about Beavis and Butt-Head...

To Be or Not to Be (1942) Movie Review

To Be or Not to Be (1942) Movie Review

Decades before Roberto Benigni was romanticizing the Holocaust and Mel Brooks was supposedly courting Nazi...

House of Bamboo Movie Review

House of Bamboo Movie Review

The limits of the lengths to which dazzling camerawork and curled-lip noir bluster can make...

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Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Movie Review

Beavis And Butt-Head Do America Movie Review

I realize, right from the start, that absolutely nothing I say about Beavis and Butt-Head...

Recess: School's Out Movie Review

Recess: School's Out Movie Review

The bad guy in "Recess: School's Out" is a megalomaniacal ex-elementary school principal determined to...

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