Author Archives: Mike Bobbitt
This is the band Gwar’s first attempt at making a full length movie. It clocks in at 60 minutes and strings together videos from their America Must Be Destroyed album. The story is inspired by a real life incident. In real life, Gwar’s singer Dave Brockie was arrested in North Carolina for obscenity because he was accused of having a three foot long penis on stage. Gwar argued that it wasn’t a penis, it was their prop The Cuttlefish of Cthulhu. It does have eyes and fins after all!
Phallus in Wonderland was nominated for a Grammy, but the band unfortunately lost to Annie Lennox. The Grammy association didn’t want the band showing up in costume, but they found a way around that. I can’t remember the exact story, but I think they showed up in tuxedos from the waist up, but costume from the waist down and neck up.
This is far from a perfect movie, but for the minimal budget, it’s inspired. There is a lot of use of green screen, miniatures and very intricate set design in parts. It does unfortunately come off looking like a ransom note of special effects largely. I feel like they got new toys and went overboard using them. Some of the editing is sloppy too. There are a lot of really unnecessary cutaways and too many moments where things drag and could use and edit. Also, some of the stage props just don’t look that great close up on a television screen.
The beauty of this movie is the details. There are little things like bassist Beefcake the Mighty blowing his nose into a chain mail handkerchief or the nods to the Running Man. The judge in the real case against Brockie was named Dick Boner…that’s a detail that made it into this fictional version.
The high point for me is my buddy Don Drakulich who plays their manager Sleazy P. Martini. Over twenty years later I still think about some of his lines and line readings. This is still a decent enough first time movie collaboration between the two camps of Gwar. There were the musicians and the visual artists. Things get considerably better their next time out with the movie Skulhed Face.
I still recommend seeing this. It’s a part of music history. It’s inspiring to see what people can accomplish on a tiny budget. The songs still hold up too.
Staring tomorrow I’m going to do 28 days of documentaries. Ambitiously, I’m going to do them alphabetically, with the exception of the 8th and the 12th, where I’ll discuss films that have the number 8 and 12 in them. So tomorrow, I touching documentary about time travel.
Jennifer Aniston has been nominated for five awards for her role in Cake and won one. Unfortunately, she’s hardly the best part of the movie. If there were fairness in the world, then actress Adriana Barraza who plays Aniston’s put upon, yet faithful housekeeper Silvana would have gotten all those nominations. She’s the real star of this movie.
She played one of the people helping with the curse in Drag Me To Hell and also had a stand out performance in the ensemble movie Babel. Barraza is a star. And in the case of Cake, she’s THE star. Aniston’s character has one note and plays it over and over and over again for two hours. Granted, Barraza’s character doesn’t have much growth either. She does get one scene where she snaps, but after that it’s back to her regular daily grind. That’s a fault in the script though, not in her acting. Aniston always seems like a sitcom actress pretending to be a movie star.
William H. Macy shows up for about a grand total of one minute. I feel like in that minute we learn more about Macy’s character than we do with two hours with Aniston. Macy has chops. He knows how to play understated. Action star Sam Worthington shows a shitload of depth too. He plays a guy whose wife committed suicide and he’s trying his best to keep it together. On the surface he seems laid back and easy going, but you can almost hear everything boiling underneath the surface. But Jennifer Aniston gets the accolades.
Oops, you know what? I forgot that Aniston wears fake scares in the movie to “ugly her up”. I take back what I wrote earlier. Obviously she should have gotten many more nominations including an Oscar. What was a I thinking?
Speaking of awards, tomorrow the movie that got my old friends nominated for a Grammy!
Is The Interview the most important movie ever made? Far from it? Is it garbage? Nope.
I want to preface this with the fact that I went into this movie wanting to hate it. I even took notes on everything in the first act that were bugging me. I was prepared to just make this an entry called Top Ten Reasons Why The Interview Sucks. I will say this though. The first act is pretty bad. This is how my list was going to go.
1. It seems like James Franco is improvising his entire part…poorly. The writing team of Sterling, Rogen and Goldberg know what they’re doing. Trust them.
2. This relationship is unbelievable. Why would Rogen’s character and Franco’s character be that close? The Dave Skylark character is just a dick.
3. Holy shit James Franco, Eminem is out acting you. Stop playing it so broad! And stop smiling constantly and inappropriately in every scene. You’re supposed to be a great actor.
4. This editing it really awkward. Why do you keep cutting away from people in mid-sentence to show Franco’s stupid smiling face?
Then by the second act, things got better. Lizzy Caplan shows up and there’s finally someone onscreen to represent my annoyance with Franco. Randall Park as Kim Jong Un is really solid. He’s also pretty great in Five Year Engagement. I ended up believing the relationship between Kim and Skylark. The fact that they’re both self centered idiots makes it reasonable that they’d hit it off. They both come off as stars who are simultaneously star fuckers.
The third act is really good. Diana Bang as Sook really gets a chance to let her comedy chops show. The visual effects are super well done too.
With anyone other than Franco in the lead, I think this could have been a movie that was really noteworthy for something other than the controversy around it. Matt Dillon was allegedly the first choice for Rogen. Too bad they didn’t get him.
And I don’t want to come off as a James Franco hater. I don’t think he’s done anything recently that’s been good. I think he’s bought into his own hype too much, but there’s no denying how capable he was in things like Freaks and Geeks, In the Valley of Elah and 187 Hours. Maybe he has the Leslie Nielson curse. Someone told him he’s funny and now he hams it up too much.
The Interview is currently streaming for free on Netflix and worth the price. Tomorrow, when you surround yourself with talented people you can apparently reap the rewards.
Tom Waits was in Wristcutters playing a character named Kneller. He shows up here as a scientist who makes non-lethal weapons named Heller.
I discovered today there’s a bit of a mystery behind the Mystery Men. Some people think that director Kinka Usher is actually an alias for Tim Burton. This rumor is fueled by Tom Waits says in his biography “Lowside of the Road” that Burton directed it. There’s even an article online where someone who worked on the movie claimed that Burton used the alias because all the characters in the movies have aliases. Some of the hints that people point to are Jack Skellington’s face above the Casanova Frankenstein place. Although, I looked for it and didn’t see it. They also point to the casting of Paul Reubens as a trademark of Burton. Then does that mean that Tim Burton also secretly directed Blow and the two Smurfs movies? Reubens is in those. The biggest argument that Usher is an alias is the fact that he only directed one movie. Mystery Men. Garth Jennings only directed two movies. Son of Rambow and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe before returning to music videos. Allegedly Ben Stiller and Greg Kinnear didn’t get along on the set of Mystery Men (even though they only have two scenes together). Maybe that was enough to make Kinka Usher go back to making television commercials. Oh yeah, did I not mention that? Kinka Usher is an award winning commercial director. Oh yeah, and he has his own website for his company House of Usher Films. There’s good money in directing commercials.
The reality of Mystery Men is that it’s a really fun movie. I think the reason it got the comparison to Tim Burton is because the world of the Mystery Men is as fleshed out as the world in Tim Burton’s Batman movies. Mystery Men, like Batman is based on a comic. They’re actually a team featured in the Flaming Carrot comics, which are super good. If you like the indie feel of stuff like The Tick, then you’d probably dig The Flaming Carrot as well. The production design of Mystery Men is really, really good. Kirk M. Petruccelli did it, and he has a bunch of comic book movies under his belt. The cast is really good too. Greg Kinnear plays Captain Amazing, the world’s favorite superhero. He’s put himself out of business, so he hatches a plan to get his old nemesis Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush) out of the mental institution so he can put him away and get a little heat again. Things go south and it’s up to the Mystery Men to save the day. The Mystery Men are Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller at his best), The Shoveler (the always great William H. Macy), Blue Raja (Hank Azaria doing a voice, which is what we love him for on The Simpsons), The Bowler (perfectly played by Janeane Garofalo), Spleen (the aforementioned Paul Reubens), Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell) and the Sphinx (Wes Studi). That’s a really strong cast. There’s also a shit ton of cameos too like Artie Lang, Dane Cook, CeeLo, Ricky Jay, Dana Gould, Doug Jones (out of make up) and even Michael Bay.
In a time where every third movie in the theaters these days is a superhero movie, it was really nice to go back and watch are really great take on the genre. The real mystery of Mystery Men is why wasn’t it a bigger hit.
Tomorrow…a bigger hit.
The best part of Book of Eli is watching it a second time to see if there are any “cheats” along the way concerning the revelation at the end. There aren’t any that I caught.
Book of Eli is like the Cormac McCarthy’s The Road if done by Akira Kurosawa. That may be the nerdiest sentence I’ve ever typed. It’s a post apocalyptic world and Eli (Denzel Washington) is trying to get a book across the country. Along the way he meets up with an outstanding cast of characters played by people like Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman and of course Tom Waits.
The action scenes in this movie a really great. I’m not Mr. Action-Guy, but I’ve watched some of these scenes over and over again. Even more amazing is that Denzel did all of his own fighting.
This movie shares a lot in common with Calvary, that I wrote about earlier this month. Yes, there are religious undertones, but they are hardly heavy handed or preachy. And both of these stories are about one man who relies on his faith to guide him on his journey.
I don’t actually own Book of Eli, but I think I’m going to put it on my Amazon wishlist right now. I’ve seen it a couple times and would love to revisit it again.
Tomorrow…how about one more Tom Waits. What will it be?
I am crazy about Martin McDonagh’s work. He’s a hugely successful playwright who has dipped into movies twice now with the perfect In Bruges and more recently Seven Psychopaths. I’ve now read all of McDonagh’s plays and they’re all really amazing. I’m sure they’re even better than I know, but most of them take place in Ireland and touch on the politics and culture there, that I’m sure a lot of it goes over my head. The one thing that’s consistent in his work is that even the smallest detail always pays off later.
I feel like my biggest problem with Seven Psychopaths was that there was no way it could live up to my expectations. I like this movie a lot, but I don’t love it. Like McDonagh’s play The Pillowman, this features stories within the story. Unlike Pillowman, I kind of was more interested in those stories than the main story. The cast here is great. Really super actors. I just didn’t get invested in them as much as I did the two hitmen in In Bruges.
Christopher Walken is the stand out here. I’m not sure if it’s Walken’s ability that makes it seem like a role was written specifically for him or if in this case this role was written for him. Walken starred in McDonagh’s play A Behanding in Spokane. When I read that at the beginning of the playbook, I couldn’t not hear Walken’s voice in my head.
The ending of this movie is really good too. I don’t want to not sell anyone on this. Like I said, I really like this movie. I own this movie. I just don’t love this movie like I love In Bruges…which has been my favorite non-Star Wars movie for awhile now.
Tom Waits shows up too as one of the titular seven psychopaths. I didn’t want you to think I forgot that I’m doing Tom Waits movies for a couple days. Tomorrow, another one.
This is one of my all time favorite movies. I’m guessing it falls somewhere in my top twenty.
Zia (Patrick Fugit) cuts his wrists and ends up in some sort of purgatory. He describes it as, “it’s like our world, only worse.” He befriends Eugene played by Shea Whigham and the set off on a road trip looking for Zia’s girlfriend who has also killed herself. Along the way, they meet Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon).
The story isn’t groundbreaking. It’s the old, the right one was there all along trope. What makes this movie one of my favorites is that it’s weird, but it feels lived in weird. I but into the mythology of this world. It’s made up of bizarre inhabitants.
Eugene is a nod to Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hutz. In fact, their song “Through the Roof” is used heavily in the film. Shea Whigham is a tremendous actor who never really repeats himself. This is one of my favorite roles of his. He’s the more put together brother in Silver Linings Playbook and the less successful brother in Boardwalk Empire. While great in those two things, I think Whigham really shines in his indie work like Wristcutters, All the Real Girls and Barry Munday. He’s a wonderful actor.
Tom Waits plays Kneller, a mystical weirdo Tom Waits type. I feel like Tom Waits is probably doing okay financially and only picks roles that pique his interest. Maybe for the next few days we’ll stick with Tom Waits films. This is one of those roles where I feel like Kneller is who I imagine Tom Waits is in real life…just a guy who knows a little bit more than the rest of us.
Parker Lewis Can’t Lose costar Abraham Benrubi has a small role in this too. He’s just one of those people too where if he’s in a project, that’s a pretty good indication that the project is good.
Parks and Rec’s own Ron Swanson, the delightful Nick Offerman plays a quirky cop. It’s a small part, but it’s a great part. The cast is full of great character actors like Mary Pat Gleeson, John Hawkes, Irwin Keyes and Mark Boone Junior.
There are a lot of life lessons in this movie too. It’s ultimately an uplifting story about suicide. For me, life is like the world in this film. If you look at the greater picture, it can be kind of bleak. But if you pay attention to the details, you’ll see the details are marvelous.
Let’s jump on the Tom Waits train and talk about another one of his tomorrow.
I don’t like the Jackass movies. They seem like a bunch of guys I would hate to be around. I just don’t get it. I know that’s on me too. It’s just not the kind of thing I ever found funny. Sure, I had friends that would do asinine stunts like lighting their farts on fire, but that was never me.
I saw Bad Grandpa in the theater for one reason only. I was on the road in Indianapolis doing comedy. The day before I saw 12 Years a Slave and I desperately needed something to get me back in the mood to tell jokes. Bad Grandpa was playing at the dollar theater. I had low expectations.
Bad Grandpa surprised me. It became one of my favorite movies of 2013. The pranks are hugely effective and very funny. But what really made the movie work for me is that I genuinely found myself caring for the characters. Johnny Knoxville plays the lecherous title character and Jackson Nicoll plays his grandson. I think casting a real kid instead of someone who just looks super young like Andy Milonakis is what gave this movie its heart. I bought this movie the day it came out on DVD and you can tell in all the behind the scenes features that everyone on the crew really loved this kid.
Bad Grandpa walks the line of super crude and incredibly touching really well.
Tomorrow: One of the stars of Bad Grandpa shows up again…nope, I’m not going to write about the Dukes of Hazard movie.
My high school best friend John Caldwell always hated that I leaned more towards the sillier things. I preferred Gwar over Morbid Angel or Deicide. And I liked Army of Darkness and Evil Dead 2 more than the original. So I was surprised that I liked this Evil Dead remake so much.
If you don’t know, Sam Raimi who made the original Evil Dead didn’t have a lot of interest in horror movies. He just knew that there was a better chance of turning a profit with a low budget horror movie as opposed to anything else. Horror movies have a built in market. People see horror movies based on genre as opposed to who’s in them. The first Evil Dead has Raimi’s visual touches with its innovative shots and sequences, but it doesn’t have any of his trademark humor.
This remake is pretty humorless as well. It’s downright brutal! The beautiful thing about it’s brutality is that it looks largely, if not entirely visually instead of using computer generated gore. It’s the first movie in a long time that I had to turn away from. My girlfriend and I saw it in the theater. She’s a huge horror movie fan. I remember she was pressing herself so hard against me that I thought we were going to conjoin.
Writer/director Fede Alvarez doesn’t so much remake the original Evil Dead as much as he pays homage to it. Clearly he’s a master craftsmen. Suburgatory’s Jane Levy fills the Bruce Campbell shoes while making the role of the survivor distinctly her own. She’s great in it! Watching the behind the scenes features on the Bluray show that she seems to have a great time on set too.
I wanted to wait to cover horror movies in October, but this was a nice way to come down after yesterday’s truly horrifying Ewok movie. Tomorrow: More practical effects and fake nuts.
There’s something about the way Return of the Jedi is shot that makes the Ewoks seem not so creepy. Watching Ewoks shot by cinematographer John Korty as opposed to Return of the Jedi’s Alan Hume is a world of difference. Or maybe it’s not the shots. Maybe it’s the camera or the costumes. I know there were stunt versions of the costumes made for the Stormtroopers, which were more durable, but not great for close ups. Maybe there were stunt versions of the Ewok costumes too and they used those for this movie. Either way, the Ewoks look like Teddy Bears with Teeth! Have you ever Googled “Teddy Bear with Teeth”? It’s disturbing. This is the least nightmare inducing image and it’s still pretty messed up!
Oh…and one of the things that got Warwick Davis the part of Wicket, the lead Ewok in Jedi (and this monstrosity) is that he was good as sticking his tongue through the mouth hole of the Ewok costume. Gross! Can you imagine licking strange teeth?
I tried watching the second half of Caravan of Courage without my glasses to make it a little easier. That didn’t help much either.
Older brother looks a little like Mark Hamill and he’s given the pretty huge task of carrying this movie. I can’t imagine that was easy. Can you imagine running around the woods of Northern California with a bunch of sentient Teddy Bears with giant chompers?
Tomorrow, something almost as creepy.
I’ve been a big fan of James Gunn’s work since his debut Tromeo and Juliet. In fact, I was such a fan of that movie that I own Jane Jensen’s (Juliet) music album. There’s a certain amount of both humor and heartache in a lot of Gunn’s work, but those two things don’t come together as well as they do in Super. Super came out around the same time as Kick Ass and as a short hand description, let me just say that it’s a much better version of that story. Super is truly great.
So needless to say I was crazy excited to find out that Super 8 was coming out. Somehow Super 2 through 7 flew under my radar and I was having an impossible time finding any information about them online, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to find out what was new in the world of the Crimson Bolt.
Um…he’s not even mentioned in Super 8. That was really jarring. I had a really hard time getting past that. When I realized that Super 8 is set in the late 70s, I thought maybe it was actually a prequel to Super, kind of like how Temple of Doom is actually a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Maybe there would be foreshadowing to show that one of the kids grows up to become the Crimson Bolt. Nope. Not at all. In fact, about half way through there’s a giant alien. You’d have thought that if the Crimson Bolt fought a giant alien as a kid, first, he’d have mentioned that to Aerosmith’s daughter and then maybe she wouldn’t have left him…and more importantly, he’d be able to kick Footloose’s ass with no problem. Super 8 ends up being a terrible origin story.
I’m not in love with Super 8, but I’m not going to blame that on being distracted by all these unanswered questions because fortunately Super 8 really likes to hammer the same points over and over again. In case I forgot that the main kid’s mom died, I’m reminded in one way or another pretty much every five minutes.
I just went to imdb to look up more information about Super 8 and discovered this actually is not a prequel or a sequel to Super at all. Maybe it’s a prequel to Cloverfield? Either way, it’s a J.J. Abrams movie and on the off chance I get a chance to have anything to do with any of the upcoming Star Wars movies I just want to say that I think this movie and everything else J.J. Abrams has done, including his work as the sound effects guy on the 1982 movie Nightbeast.
Tomorrow, let’s just get the inevitable over with and start writing about the Star Wars movies! But I’m not going to start where you think.
Jaws 3D is not the movie it should have been. There was a pitch to make the third Jaws movie a parody of the Jaws franchise. The movie we should have gotten was going to be called “National Lampoons: Jaws 3: People 0″. And this was back when the National Lampoon branding stood for something and wasn’t just a thing they sold to comedies as a marketing tool. This movie could have been brilliant. Remember too, this was also the era of the Airplane movies (which while the second isn’t nearly as good as the first, is still better than 110% of spoofs and parodies made today). The story was going to be meta comedy about Hollywood’s penchant to make sequels. It was going to be a sequel about making a sequel.
Maybe the biggest reason that Jaws 3D is not Jaws 3: People 0 is because Steven Spielberg threatened to walk away from his relationship with Universal if they made it. Universal is Spielberg’s home. He’d sneak into the park all the time as a kid. He must have really gotten butt hurt over the failure of 1941. Maybe when studio executives found out that they were going to be the villains, just like ultimately it’s the bureaucrats of the town of Amity who are the villains in the original Jaws, they got butt hurt and nixed the idea. Either way, Jaws 3: People 0 never happened and instead we got the horror masterpiece that is Jaws 3D.
Jaws 3D follows the character of Mike Brody, Sheriff Brody’s son. Somewhere between 1975 and 1983 he contracts a strange aging disease. Instead of aging a mere 8 years like everyone else did between those years, Mike Brody ages at least 18 years! Either all of his coworkers at Sea World don’t know or they’re too scared to mention it. I feel like they’re too scared to mention it and are possibly worried they too might catch his rapid aging disease because they fail to notice a giant shark entering the park and wreaking havoc until it’s too late.
Even scarier than the rapid aging of Mike Brody is the fact that he has very early onset Alzheimer’s. He doesn’t even remember that giant sharks have already terrorized his family twice! I don’t know about you, but if my family was terrorized by a giant shark once, it’s probably something I wouldn’t forget for quite sometime and my memory is terrible. If only Mike Brody had all his faculties he probably could have remembered at least two ways to kill giant sharks. Luckily he finds a third way, blows up a shark and everyone lives happily ever after…with the exception of Mike Brody who with that accelerated aging probably only lived twenty human years at most. But that’s okay because 20 human years is equal to about 80 dog years and Mike Brody years.
Tomorrow, I misunderstand another sequel! Oh boy! Let’s run this joke into the ground again!
The same creative team behind the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise made The Lone Ranger. Pirates became a huge money making machine, while The Lone Ranger was a flop. I’m going to try to figure out why.
Both movies feature Johnny Depp playing over-the-top cartoonish characters. Both feature too long convoluted plots with so many double crosses and subplots that it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening. Both feature huge set pieces filled with thrilling action. Both are set in eras or are genres not known for being commercial hits. Both feature adventure, supernatural elements and a sprinkling of humor throughout.
By the way, I really liked this movie. I even liked the 1981 which was such an epic flop that the lead actor never acted again. I had action figures from the 1981 version.
Is there a curse on the Lone Ranger story? Maybe a long time ago (after the successful serials my dad grew up with, but before the 1981 flop) some Comanche medicine man cursed the story of Tonto hanging out with the white man, while the other white men are busily stealing America from its original people? Well, this story touches on that…slightly.
So why did this version flop almost as badly as the 1981 version? What’s different about it that the film makers had in the Pirates movies?
The Lone Ranger doesn’t have a strong female lead. Helena Bonham Carter is the closest thing to a strong female in this. She’s really only one of two females in this movie unless we count the old lady who looks like she has cherry pie filling on her cheek. The only other female in any sort of pivotal role is the Lone Ranger’s sister-in-law who gets rescued a lot. Helena plays a bad ass prostitute with an artificial gun leg like Rose McGowan in Planet Terror. She got her gun leg because she was victimized by a dude. That’s pretty much her entire back story. She shoots her gun leg twice. That’s about the extent of the cool stuff she does in the movie. She’s definitely not an equal to the swashbuckling Keira Knightley.
Armie Hammer is no Orlando Bloom either. Hammer doesn’t have Bloom’s joie de vivre*. Bloom can carry a movie. He’s the straight man to Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Hammer, at times, is as cartoonish and buffoonish as Depp’s Tonto. He’s not our avatar into this world.
Maybe it’s white guilt that kept us from getting behind The Lone Ranger. I think maybe sometimes some of us feel guilty when we’re reminded of our western expansion across this country. This movie opened to the same box office as it did in Hungary…we have about thirty times as many people living in the United States as they have in Hungary. My guess is history classes don’t gloss over Americans fucking over the Native Americans like we did….not all that long ago. Maybe that, coupled with the fact that the movie stars Johnny Depp in “red face” was just too much. I remember Hollywood casting Latinos and Caucasians as Native Americans being a point of ridicule. I thought we moved past that. I guess not…as long as it’s Johnny Depp.
Finally, maybe it’s the bookends of the movie that made it hard to audiences to feel invested. The story is told by an elderly Tonto to a young boy at an exhibit where Tonto is portraying “The Noble Savage”. Maybe that extra level of disconnect made audiences feel too removed from the story. I had a bit in my act where I wanted to talk about a creepy cousin. After trial and error, I found that the best way to make the audiences go along with this bit was if it was actually a bit about me telling the story to another person. If I removed the audience from the story one degree, they felt safe enough to go along with the story. Maybe that same mechanic backfired here.
I don’t know if it’s because my expectations were super low, but in spite of everything I’ve mentioned, I liked The Lone Ranger quite a bit. I didn’t think Depp’s portrayal of Tonto was as bad as I remember reviews making it out to be. I liked the action more than any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies which I found hard to follow since that action almost exclusively seems to happen at night between two nearly identical ships. I would have liked to have seen more Helena Bonham Carter. Her character was horribly underused. William Fichtner was unrecognizable and really good as the villain Bruce Cavendish. I guess my endorsement is that The Lone Ranger isn’t the big pile of horseshit you may think it is.
Tomorrow, we’re going to need an even bigger boat…again!
* I know I probably used “joie de vivre” wrong, but you know what I mean.
Why don’t they make movies like Summer School anymore? There has been talk of trying to do a remake, but so far that talk hasn’t turned into anything. Summer School is a movie I really connected to as a kid, probably because I was a year younger than all of the characters in the movie. They were the cool kids I hoped to be next year.
Gym Teacher Freddy Shoop (Mark Harmon) gets stuck teaching a group of high school misfits Remedial English during summer school in a Carl Reiner directed comedy.
Summer School is one of those rare 80s movies that doesn’t have any horrible drama attached to it. No one in the cast went on to a tabloid story filled with infamy. I didn’t even realize until rewatching this that Carl Reiner was at the helm. First time screenwriter Jeff Franklin wrote the script…and while he didn’t go on to write any other notable films, he did at least create or co-create Full House and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. There are elements in the script that you’d never see in a movie today…or at least a movie today would never handle these elements so matter-of-factly. Horror junkie misfits Dave and Chainsaw are teenage alcoholics. They’re day drinking. They’re referring to drinking and driving. They’re never facing any consequences. In fact, they don’t even get a slap on the wrist from the judge, when the Shoop is arrested for claiming the vodka they’re drinking on the beach is his. The only thing the judge does is take away Dave’s fake ID. There’s a whole story line about a 16 year old student who moves in with Shoop because she has a crush on him. His colleague basically just tells him to be careful with her emotions. Granted, it’s a non-sexual relationship, but still, that would never fly today.
Summer School takes place in a fantasy world where there are no repercussions for illegal and questionable activity and a high school vice principal can force his teachers to work. It’s silly, but it does take a realistic turn at the end. The misfit students fuck around for most of the summer and wait to get their shit together at the last moment. This isn’t a story telling you that you can accomplish everything if you want it enough. Nope. Only a couple of the students end up passing their test at the end of the class. But all the students do improve. That’s the strength of the movie for me. It says that fucking around is fun, but ultimately you’re only going to succeed to the degree that’s equal to the effort you make. I love that all the students don’t miraculously become geniuses because their surfer goof gym teacher finds a way to connect with them. Nope, he connects with them and they start to get better…marginally.
Where Breakfast Club breaks down the hierarchy and cast system of high school (and the real world) Summer School imagines a world where everyone gets along. The nerd hangs out with the stoners who hang out with the jock who hangs out with the hippy who hangs out with the foreign exchange student….it’s a world where everyone is equal. My experience was that real life was somewhere in between.
Summer School is allegedly streaming on Netflix right now. If you somehow missed it, check it out. It’s a nice companion piece to Breakfast Club. As a kid, I wanted to hang out with Chainsaw and Dave so badly. Somehow it was completely missed on me that they were anything other than a couple of nerds who loved horror movies.
Tomorrow Johnny Depp plays an over the top role that’s hard to connect with because of it’s aggressively cartoonish nature.
I probably saw this 1979 movie on television during the height of Star Wars and Indiana Jones popularity. Han Solo was my guy. Before discovering what a cranky old bastard Harrison Ford is, I watched every single one of his movies. I also really had a huge fondness for Gene Wilder. I’m not sure where I discovered him. Probably Blazing Saddles. He’s a comic genius and kind of seems like he’d be a great guy in real life too.
They team up in this buddy picture about a Rabbi who travels to New York and then has to make the trek across the country to San Francisco to meet his bride and start being a Rabbi. I’m positive my verbiage in that last sentence was awkward at best. Early on, Wilder’s Avram is jumped by outlaws. A curious outlaw bank robber Tommy (Ford) takes a liking to Avram and agrees to help him across the country.
The Frisco Kid and Fiddler on the Roof were my two insights into Jewish culture. Like Ford, I was intrigued. I think Tommy serves as my way in where he asks Avram questions along the way that I had. It’s a funny film at moments. It’s probably the closest thing to a comedy that Harrison Ford has done. And before you say, “Wait a second Mike. Are you forgetting Six Days and Seven Nights?” No I’m not. But I’m trying.*
This is a really nice buddy picture road movie. I like it enough to where I own it on DVD even. Check it out. It’s one of those fairly obscure gems that I think is worth finding especially if you like buddy films, Wilder or Ford.
Tomorrow I had back home to LA. Let’s take a look at one of the first really “California” movie I remember seeing as a kid.
* I actually remember kind of liking Six Days and Seven Nights. I just wanted to make that joke.