Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review

Movies that you love to watch over and over.

For the past year and and a half I, Adam Cook have devoted much time and effort into “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review!” My goal was to showcase movies that viewers may have forgotten about or attempt to showcase movies that people may think are bad, but are actually decent. I continue to thank you the readers for your continued support of the page. As this blog has progressed over time, it has helped me network with various individuals in the film industry. I happened to come across one that I’ve spent a good amount of time with. For the first time in “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review” I wanted to showcase an up and coming filmmaker.

Josh Stark is a filmmaker, writer, podcaster, content creator and above all, a horror movie fan. His love of horror gave him the concept of creating a movie that brings horror fans together. With that concept he created a new documentary entitled For The Love Of Horror, which will be arriving soon to Amazon, Amazon Prime, YouTube and for release on Blu Ray next year. The documentary features actors, actresses and filmmakers from the popular genre as well as some regular fans telling their stories of how they got into horror movies and what kind of impact it has had on them personally.

I had the chance to sit down with Josh. We talked about the new movie along with other projects he has coming up and how he got into the world of horror. Below is my exclusive interview with Josh Stark.

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Congratulations on the documentary! How was the experience making this documentary in comparison with your previous films? 

Thank you, Adam. The experience that I have had working on this documentary series has been nothing short of fantastic. All the support that I have gotten since it was announced and everyone involved. It’s really been a humbling experience.

 

What was the most memorable part of making this film?

Meeting all the actors, directors; sfx artists. I have meet some awesome people that have worked on  the original Halloween , the newer Halloween and everything in between.

 

What do you hope fans take away from seeing this film?

The documentary series will be in seasons and is going to be an ongoing show. Mainly what I am looking to do is shine a light on the horror community and give them a voice. A lot of people who don’t really watch horror movies  judge people who love the horror genre and I want to show everyone that we are just like them except we love creepy shit.

 

Let’s go back in time. What got you into film making? What were your earliest memories?

When I was a kid I would sneak in my dads bedroom where he had a huge VHS collection. And the top shelf is where he had the hardcore horror at. And one day I got a movie from the top shelf. That movie was Evil Dead 2 and the events I witnessed that day changed my life forever and made me want to become a filmmaker.

 

Do you remember the first horror movie you watched? Did you become an instant horror fan immediately?

Dracula 1934. That was the first horror movie I’ve ever watched.  That’s when I fell in love with film, but it wasn’t till Evil Dead 2 that I fell in love with horror.

 

What are your favorite horror movies?

Phantasam is my favorite horror movie.  I also love Fright Night as well as Pumpkinhead.

 

In addition to your films, you’ve also written for various publications. How did you get involved with writing? Did you write reviews? Columns?

I wrote reviews as well as columns. I have always loved writing. I would write from a very young age and make sequels to every movie I watched. Something very cool happened when I was 15 I wrote my first script called swine and it actually got noticed by a representative of Fangoria and they wanted to interview me for there magazine. I never followed through with it, but it was very cool.

 

You’ve started a new network called Braindead Network. Where did the concept come from? What kind of features can horror fans look for when visiting?

Braindead Network is a podcast network where horror podcast can come and be apart of a company where they get certain perks as well as get promotions and things of that nature. Also Braindead is making a switch to YouTube  as well so I can’t wait. Braindead Network started off as a podcast me and my wife made to talk about horror movies and then when we started getting attention people wanted to join. And then it became a network. We also liked the movie Braindead (Laughs).

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You’ve also been involved with podcasting. What was the first podcast you worked on? Can you talk more about your newest podcast, B-Movie Drive In?

Black Sunday Podcast was my very first podcast. Then the name changed to Braindead Podcast. And now it’s called B Movie Drive-In. And it is ran by Me and my two awesome co-host Zach and Andy. I couldn’t do it without them.

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What was the best advice you’ve received?

Growing up I never had much advice except give up and I will never make it. So believe it or not my best advice was all the negative stuff because now I have to prove them wrong.

 

What are your plans going forward?

I want to take over. I really just want people to see my work. I have a great imagination. My podcast is starting to gain  traction and I am working on a lot of projects.

 

Where can people find you to keep up on what you’re working on?

Everyone can follow me on:

Facebook:  at Josh Stark.

Instagram: Bible___Butcher

And they can follow our podcast on Spotify.

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Desperate_Measures1998

Desperate Measures

Release Date: January 30, 1998

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Director: Barbet Schroeder

Writer: David Klass

Starring: Michael Keaton, Andy Garcia, Brian Cox, Marcia Gay Harden, Erik King, Joseph Cross

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Recently I’ve come up with a list of actors/actresses that I love where I haven’t reviewed a movie they starred in for “Guilty Pleasure Cinema Review!” One of the names I had listed was Michael Keaton. I was shocked I haven’t done a movie of his. I’m a huge Michael Keaton fan. I still believe he was the best Batman. Not only that, but he’s an incredible actor who could play any part. He started his career in comedies then moved to dramas and suspense. Keaton’s hard work and determination would be rewarded in 2014 when he appeared in the movie “Birdman” in which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy/Drama and earned him his first Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor (Which he should’ve won. Screw the guy who played Stephen Hawking)! I came across a movie of his that appeared on streaming which I was highly fond of when it came out. It was a role a lot of people haven’t seen him play before. For this review, we’re going to look at the 1998 suspense flick “Desperate Measures!”

“Desperate Measures” stars Andy Garcia as San Francisco police officer Frank Connor who is in search for a bone morrow donor for his young son, Matt who suffers from leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant in order to live. After breaking into the FBI headquarters, he finds a donor using their database. The only match that is listed is a sociopathic serial killer named Peter McCabe (Keaton) who is serving a life sentence for several murders. Connor heads to the prison where McCabe is incarcerated pleading for him to help his son. McCabe initially refuses but has a change of heart as he sees this as an opportunity to escape. When McCabe is transferred to the hospital and is being prepped for the transplant, McCabe is unable to be sedated as he took a counteracting drug given to him by an inmate. He slips out of his restraints and attempts to escape from the hospital. Connor must track down McCabe and recapture him in time to do the transplant otherwise his son will die from his illness.

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Released at the beginning of 1998, “Desperate Measures” was met with mixed reviews. It made $13 million at the box office against a reported $50 million budget making it a flop. The movie did win an ALMA Award for Garcia for the category of “Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film in a Crossover Role.”  Unfortunately, Keaton didn’t receive any award nominations.

“Desperate Measures” isn’t anything groundbreaking or original, but it has enough to keep you focused. I’ve heard people call this movie a long chess game, a cat and mouse game and an old-fashioned car chase movie. It’s all of the above. It’s a predictable movie filled with some light tension, explosions and action sequences. The performances of Keaton and Garcia are the highlights of this film. They are perfectly matched and try to out smart each other to get ahead of the curve.

This isn’t the first time Keaton has played a sinister character. If you saw the movie “Pacific Heights,” you know what kind of a despicable criminal Keaton is in that movie. He’s essentially the same character from that movie but heightened. When you first see him in his prison cell, he is muscular and intimidating. Behind that brawn is a brain. The movie does a good job showing the audience McCabe’s planning of his escape, the methods he goes to for preparing his escape such as taking a drug to counter act sedatives prior to being put in anesthesia and improvising when things in the hospital don’t go as planned.

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Andy Garcia is in familiar territory playing an officer of the law. For what its worth his performance was spot on. You can see the emotion and determination play out in the film. He will do everything it takes to save his son at the risk of losing his job and it shows when he chases down McCabe. He doesn’t allow himself to be manipulated by McCabe but sometimes goes along with his demands in order to get one step closer to him.

The supporting cast is small but is enough to advance the story and the events taking place. Brian Cox plays police Captain Jeremiah Cassidy who thinks he has McCabe on a tight leash expect McCabe refuses to heel. He is just as determined to get him as Garcia is however, he is not concerned about keeping McCabe alive. Marcia Gay Harden plays Dr. Samantha Hawkins who is supposed to be doing the bone marrow transplant procedure but seems to become a nuisance for McCabe. Finally, we have Joseph Cross as Matthew Conner, the leukemia-stricken son of Frank Connor. You can’t expect much from child acting, but I thought he was fine in this role.

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“Desperate Measures” was directed by Barbet Schroeder, who is best known for directed the movies “Single White Female and “Reversal of Fortune,” in which he received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Director from the latter picture. He’s directed numerous suspense films, so this is familiar territory with him. This movie relies more on style than substance. The movie is supposed to take place in San Francisco, but if you read the trivia, they never shot the movie there. It was shot in Pittsburgh. I have to say I was impressed with that considering we see a few shots that are reminiscent of what you would see in that city so kudos to the location scouts. Working with a script that had a lot of holes and questionable scenarios, Schroeder did his level best to keep the audience engaged.

“Desperate Measures” can be currently streamed on Crackle. It is a free streaming service. Now would be the best time to check out this movie. It’s a movie that’s pretty unrealistic and unfeasible, however the character driven narrative and action help keep it from going off the deep end. If I had to rank this movie in a list of best Michael Keaton movies, it would fall just outside the top ten. In this case, it would be an honorable mention.

TRIVIA

  • The film is set in San Francisco, but was filmed in Pittsburgh. They used Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh, because it is a brick road like many of the roads in San Francisco. Also, the front of the hospital is One Mellon Bank Center located on Grant Street, the same building in the helicopter scene of Sudden Death (1995).
  • In addition to some of the scenes filmed in Pittsburgh, an elaborate set was constructed in a vacant hangar at what is now known as the San Bernardino International Airport, what used to be Norton Air Force Base. The prison and the hospital were three stories high, and were connected by the concourse seen in the movie.
  • Michael Bay was originally set to direct, but pulled out to do The Rock (1996).
  • Michael Keaton and Joseph Cross would appear together again in Jack Frost (1998).

 

AUDIO CLIPS

We’re Through Here

I Get The Opportunity To Kill Again

Counselors?

Little Demon

Uncle Pete

These Cigarettes Are Stale

Sorry I Can’t Get Up To Greet You Properly

Freedom From Cigarettes

I Need Some Help

They Told Me What An Asshole You Were

Are You Going To Forget Me?

Do You Have That Long?

Firefly

My Son Needs Medical Attention

My Official Resignation

Definitely Compatible

 

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UHF

GuiltyPleasureCinemaReview

 

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UHF

Release Date: July 21, 1989

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Jay Levey

Writers: ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic (Credited as Al Yankovic and Jay Levey

Starring: ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Victoria Jackson, Michael Richards, Kevin McCarthy, David Bowe

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic is a musical treasure. Throughout nearly forty years he’s entertained us with his hilariously creative parodies of pop songs. He is considered an original talent and is respected by his peers. He’s appeared not only on the small screen, but on the big screen. In 1989, ‘Weird Al;’ starred in his own movie titled “UHF!” Since it’s been thirty years since its release, I wanted to take a trip down memory lane and review this underrated and underappreciated comedy.

In “UHF” Al stars as George Newman, a fast food worker who constantly has imaginative dreams about movies with him in as the titular hero. After he and his friend Bob (David Bowe) are fired from their job, he is given the keys to a low budget television station that was won by his uncle Harvey, who won it in a poker game. George introduces himself to the head of the VHF station Channel 8 named RJ Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) who immediately threatens to call security on him. George and Bob get to work on original programming. The low viewership and lack of funds jeopardize the station being shut down. On top of that George is depressed over missing a birthday dinner with his girlfriend Terri (Victoria Jackson) whom breaks up with him over the phone. During a segment of “Uncle Nutzy’s Clubhouse,” George walks out of the show and asks his janitor, Stanley Spadowski  (Michael Richards) to take over. When Bob are George are at the bar, they see Stanley’s slapstick antics which makes the patrons and the kids in the audience laugh. Soon “Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse” becomes a hit children’s television show which not only produces high ratings but loads of dollars from sponsors. They eventually topple Channel 8 as the number one channel in town. However, their station becomes in jeopardy once again. After George’s Uncle Harvey loses a bet and owes his bookie $75,000, RJ offers to buy the station effectively putting Channel 62 out of business. George is given two days to match the offer. The race begins.

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“UHF” was released during a busy summer in 1989. Due to numerous blockbusters being released, it didn’t get much attention. Reviews were mixed to negative. However, since it’s released more people have given the movie a second chance and like it on the merits. This in turn has made “UHF” a cult classic.

I’m a huge ‘Weird Al’ fan and I admit; I couldn’t get into “UHF” the first time around which was back in the late 90s. I revisited the movie a few years back and it turns out I liked it the second time around. After a few more viewings it is a film full of wackiness, originality and humor only the weird one could provide.

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While ‘Weird Al’ may be the star and writer of this film, the supporting cast and writer/director Jay Levey, a longtime friend and collaborator of Al’s deserve as much credit for this entertaining picture. Each actor brings so much emotion and love to their characters. “UHF” has a great supporting cast led by Michael Richards as Stanley. Despite his passion as a janitor, he fills the role of a children’s television character with confidence and ease. He is instantly loved by parents and children with his funny antics and creating a safe playful environment. He had just started his role as Kramer on “Seinfeld” and wouldn’t not surprise me if he incorporated elements of Stanley into his most iconic character. Kevin McCarthy is a great bad guy as RJ Fletcher. As a big shot TV executive, all he cares about is staying on top and squashing the completion. When George becomes a threat to him, he pulls out all kind of dastardly tricks to slip him up. McCarthy is loathsome yet hilarious when some of his plans backfire. Victoria Jackson is the sweet wholeheartedly Terri. She puts up with George through his earlier failings and despite being separated doing a portion of the movie, she still has feelings for him and comes to his rescue.

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The jokes throughout the movie are clean and hilarious. Of course ‘Weird Al’ movie wouldn’t be complete without some parodies. There’s parodies are short, but don’t feel like filler. They are appropriately placed throughout the plot. The sequence where Al dreams of being in the Dire Straits music video “Money For Nothing” in the form of “The Beverly Hillbillies” complete with the same computer generated graphics as the original video would become the lead song off the soundtrack as well as music video played on MTV.

“UHF” is a rare gem of a movie. It continues to showcase ‘Weird Al’ as a great talent. It doesn’t need sexual jokes or foul language to be funny. It’s all in the concept, story and performances. It’s a piece of pop culture that will live on with each generation. And that’s something to get you to put on some polka shoes and rock out.

 

TRIVIA

  • The Spatula City billboard was purchased by the production and it was placed for the one shot it appears in, for ease of filming it was a billboard on a highway not frequented by many travelers. For this exact reason the billboard was not purchased after the rental period ran out, and the company did not remove the phony advertisement, it is reported that for months after the film finished shooting many travelers turned on the indicated exit and inquired about Spatula City, the ad was removed shortly afterwards when the company began receiving complaints.
  • According to ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Kevin McCarthy thoroughly enjoyed himself during this film and would often break out in laughter after finishing a take where his character was being especially nasty.
  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would not allow use of an exact likeness of the Academy Award statuette (“Oscar”) for filming, so a *similar* statuette was created which has Oscar’s hands covering his crotch.
  • According to ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, his line “Redrum! Redrum!” (an homage to the horror classic The Shining (1980) was not scripted and David Proval’s look of confusion was genuine.
  • Michael Richards improvised two scenes: where he tells the kids about his dream of being a bird and the Corn Flakes commercial where he finds a toy man.
  • In one scene, George Newman and Bob Speck discuss television lineups. One of the shows mentioned is “Volcano Worshipers Hour”. In high school, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic started a “Volcano Worshipers” club just to get in the yearbook.
  • During a VH-1 “Behind the Music” episode about ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Emo Philips shows an actual Screen Actors Guild residual check he earned for this film. It was for 30 cents. He stated proudly the check represented what being in this film did for his career.
  • Jennifer Tilly and Ellen DeGeneres both auditioned for the role of Teri Campbell, ultimately played by Victoria Jackson. DeGeneres was the first choice but never happened, for reasons unknown to ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

 

AUDIO CLIPS

Are You Daydreaming Again?

Grab Life By The Lips

It’s A Friendly Place

Like Working In A Fish Market

This Is A Business

Hey RJ

Look At Mr. Frying Pan

If You Were Traveling Through Outer Space

One Of My Favorite Cartoons

Life Is Like A Mop

Do I Still Get To Be Janitor?

George Leaves A Message For Terri

Badgers

New Friday Night Lineup

Town Talk Commercial

I Own This Place

I Love Anchovies

Redrum

Clifford

GuiltyPleasureCinemaReview

 

clifford_1994_movie

Clifford

Release Date: April 1, 1994

Genre: Comedy

Director: Paul Flaherty

Writers: William Porter (as Jay Dee Rock) & Steven Kampmann (as Bobby von Hayes)

Starring: Martin Short, Charles Grodin, Mary Steenburgen, Dabney Colman, Richard Kind

 

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

 Does anyone remember the move “Three Amigos” which was the 1986 comedy starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short? I had watched it recently after not having seen it in over twenty years. It featured three Saturday Night alums. While Steve Martin and Chevy Chase went on to be leading comedic stars on film, Martin short was left behind. Sure, he’s been a great supporting actor on film, but I couldn’t quite name a starring movie role for him. That is until I discovered a new streaming service (not going to mention name) and one of the first movies I see available to watch happened to be a movie that would play all the time on Comedy Central just as I was getting home from school. It’s been twenty-five years since this movie’s initial release, and this is one that is truly a “Guilty Pleasure Film” for me. For this review, we’re going back to 1994 with “Clifford!”

The film starts out in the future as Father Clifford Daniels catches a boy trying to leave the orphanage. He sits down with the boy to discuss his reasons for leaving which then Clifford breaks into a moment in his childhood. The flashback is where the movie picks up. Clifford is a ten-year-old boy (You guessed it. Short, a forty-something man at this time is playing a ten-year-old boy) who has severe ADHD (which is caused by a high sugar intake as you will see in various points of the movie)  and carries his recorder and his toy dinosaur named Stefan with him at all times. He is in an airplane with his parents going to Hawaii for a convention. After hearing that the plane is flying over Los Angeles, Clifford asks if the plane will be landing there so he can go to Dinosaur World, the theme park of his dreams. After finding out it’s not stopping, Clifford goes into the cockpit of the plane and shut down the engines to which the plane must land in Los Angeles. As a result of this, Clifford is banned from the flight. Worried that he’ll miss the convention, Clifford’s father (Richard Kind) calls up his estranged brother Martin (Charles Grodin) who lives in Los Angeles and asks if he would look at him. Martin, a big named architect who is going through his own problems such as finishing a massive train system for the city and trying to save his relationship with his fiance Sarah (Mary Steenburgen) who are at a stalemate over wanting children agrees to take Clifford into his home. And that’s when Martin’s world would be even turned more upside down.

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“Clifford” was actually shot in 1990 but didn’t get released in theaters until 1994. The reason was Orion, who produced the movie was on the verge of bankruptcy and they held off releasing several movies until they got their financials in order. The movie tanked at the box office and was universally panned by everyone, especially Roger Ebert who wrote, “The movie is so odd, it’s almost worth seeing just because we’ll never see anything like it again. I hope.”[1] and gave it a rare ½ star. Despite the overwhelming negative reviews, the movie has developed a cult status.

“Clifford” is indeed an odd dark comedy. I’m not sure what director Paul Flaherty or the writers were trying to accomplish with making this. It seems like they just told everyone let’s be as silly and weird as we can possibly be. I’m surprised Charles Grodin, a respectable actor stayed as long as he did, or he was completely oblivious to what was going on. The reasons that I do like “Clifford” not just because of the fact it was a movie that was played a lot during my childhood years. There are some things that I do enjoy about it, but then again, I enjoy obscure macabre comedy.
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Martin Short and Charles Grodin carry the weight of the movie. Short portrays Clifford very reminiscent of his most iconic characters on “SCTV,” which was the pointy hair Ed Grimley. Like a ten-year old, when Clifford doesn’t get his way, he behaves badly. He gets triggered that he pulls out Stefan as a kind of security blanket. Some of his actions are even criminal in today’s society. It’s not until the near end of the movie where he realizes why his family is tormented by him. Grodin is the calm authoritative figure who slowly breaks down when Clifford continues to get to the best of him. He develops his own madness and when he tries to find ways of disciplining him, it makes matters worse. It’s as if both of them are playing Chess against each other predicting on who will make the next move. The cast of the movie is very small. The only supporting actors to this movie are Mary Steenburgen as Sarah who desperately wants children and when she sees Clifford she becomes in awe of him and Dabney Coleman as Martin’s sleazy womanizing boss Ellis who looks to capture Sarah’s heart for himself.

As for the jokes, it’s a blend physical comedy with insanity due to Short’s actions and reactions. Short makes great use of his facial expressions to crack a laugh or two. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Clifford takes Stefan out of his pocket and puts it in the shower just as Steenburgen is in it. There’re other jokes such as Short putting Tabasco sauce in Grodin’s Bloody Mary, Clifford’s dancing skills when he has a house party at his uncle’s after tricking him that he was leaving for San Francisco.
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The movie ultimately failed due to its shear psychotic and emotional issues between the two lead characters. There are moments in the film which could be depicted as negligence, kidnapping and endangering the well-being of a child. Not to mention that when Clifford gets bad news he goes into this trance where he will do things such as eating everything in sight, demanding chocolate or creating something just out of nowhere as a way to get even. This movie would not be possible to make today.

So, if you’re daring enough to watch “Clifford,” you will be in for a comedic experience like no other. If you like madness mixed in with your comedy, then this movie will be right up your alley. My advice though is to not show this to any young children. They could learn some dastardly things watching Martin Short and his antics.

 

TRIVIA

  • Originally filmed in 1990.
  • Although planned for a 1991 release, Clifford became one of many films (including RoboCop 3 (1993)) produced by Orion and filmed years before its release date. The reason it was not released until 1994 was due to company Orion’s pending bankruptcy, and not because of bad press screenings, as some sources claim.
  • Charles Grodin and Mary Steenburgen were also a couple in the movie It Runs in the Family (1994).
  • Martin Short’s co-stars are usually standing on boxes and next to slightly oversize props.

 

AUDIO CLIPS

Dreams Of Your Days In The Circus

Haven’t You Heard Of The Word Sofa Bed?

Mrs. Extra Wide Load

Larry The Scary Rex

I You Clinton

Bestest Looking Wig

Get Me The Bunny

An Authority On Wigs

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

I  Don’t Want To Make This About Lighting

Leave The Dinosaur There

I’ll Get Him Later

Evil Little Monster

You Look Like Willie Nelson

Uncle Ten Most Wanted

 

The Substitute

GuiltyPleasureCinemaReview

96924920-5f01-4f0f-99c4-8f1c2dd7a0d3

The Substitute

Release Date: April 19, 1996

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Director: Robert Mandel

Writers: Roy Frumkes, Rocco Simonelli & Alan Ormsby

Starring: Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson, Diane Verona, Marc Anthony,  William Forsythe, Luis Guzman, Raymond Cruz

 

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Tom Berenger is an underappreciated actor in this reviewer’s opinion. Throughout his career he has played a diverse range of characters. Everyone will remember him as the sociopath sergeant in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam drama “Platoon,” which earned him an Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor. Others may remember him as Cleveland Indians catcher Jake Taylor in the baseball comedy “Major League.” Most recently he appeared in Christopher Nolan’s surreal blockbuster “Inception” as the adviser to Cillian Murphy’s character. He’s also appeared in movies that would launch into franchises such as “Sniper” and this movie that is about to be talked about, “The Substitute!”

In “The Substitute,” Berenger plays Jonathan Shale, a mercenary for hire. After a botched mission in Cuba, he returns home to Miami and to his fiance Jane Hetzko (Diane Verona) who is a history teacher at Columbus High School. During a walk on the beach Jane is attacked by someone which results in a broken knee. Jane believes he is connected to a street gang called the “Kings of Destruction” or KOD whose leader is Juan Lakas (Marc Anthony) a student in her class. Unbeknownst to Jane, Shale decides to go undercover as her substitute teacher to investigate Lacas. Using forged credentials, Shale heads to the school where he introduced himself to the principal, Claude Rolle (Ernie Hudson). From there he acts like a normal history teacher and a quick disciplinarian over the out of control classroom. As he digs deeper into the school he believes that the school is being used as a front for transporting drugs. He enlists his team which consists of Joey Six (Raymond Cruz), William Forsythe (Hollan), Rem (Luis Guzman) and Wellman (Richard Brooks) to track Lakas and his crew to find out where the drugs are going to and the players involved.

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Directed by Robert Mandel whose biggest directorial effort before this was the 1992 college drama “School Ties,” “The Subsitiute” is an action crime drama with some heart. It can be over dramatic at times, but there’s just the right amount of action to keep it from being boring. It’s a movie that is relatable what is going on in our school system. We have so many failing public schools that are run down and taken over by gangs. The kids that are in school have no interest in learning and don’t seem to care about their futures. The movie does a good job depicting the entitled misfits and those that actually want to learn.

Berenger commands the film throughout the run time. He knows the risks he is getting involved in when he goes undercover at the school. It could affect his career as well as his relationship with Jane if she were to find out. His first day on the job is awkward but once he gets the feel for the classroom is when his military expertise kicks.in. He takes no crap from the kids and gets their attention. As he spends time with his students and shares his experiences with them, the students develop a sense of respect for him. In turn, Shale becomes emotionally attached to them and feels a sense of duty to help get them in a positive mindset about their future.

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Ernie Hudson is great as the supporting character Rolle. He is the big cheese in the school and feels a little intimidated by Shale’s presence. He tries to fire him at first after an altercation with a couple students, but Shale is one step ahead of him when he tells him the teacher’s union rules. Rolle is used to the incivility of the school and when Shale brings order he is flabbergasted. The more Shale does for the students and the school, the more threatened Rolle feels when it comes to being in power. It’s a Chess match between the two individuals. There’s also a side to Rolle that is revealed in the movie which makes him a more loathsome character.

I was surprisingly impressed by Marc Anthony’s performance as Juan Lakas. This movie was before he became an international singing sensation. Lakas is a kid who is not to be taken lightly and as leader of the KOD, he gives fair warning to those who think they can size him up. After getting humiliated by Shale, he tries to take him out and realizes very quickly that he has met his match.

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Perhaps learning from “School Ties” Mandel makes sure in this film not to go too deep into the social matters of the film. He reminds the audience that this is an action film first and foremost. There are plenty of fights, gun battles, explosions and a Rio Bravo like climax that keeps you engaged. The were very few flaws I could find in this movie. The only disappointment about the movie was the abrupt ending. For those that have been following my reviews, you know I’m not a fan of abrupt endings. I felt they could’ve developed some end results of the movie such as an investigation into the school or a further review about the public-school system, gangs in schools or what happens to Shale after his work is completed.

The movie did fairly well at the box office to spawn several sequels (Berenger not being involved in any of them). It’s a cult film that has a much longer lasting impact than it should. As I’ve said, “The Substitute” is a generational movie. It gives you an inside window of one of the biggest educational issues facing the United States. The movie will give you a new outlook on things and perhaps make you feel appreciated for where you have come from and teaches you not to take things for granted.

 

TRIVIA:

  • The movie was shot during the summer months and kids enrolled in summer classes were extras in the film. Free Papa John’s pizza was served to anyone who would stay after school.
  • Tom Berenger’s character explains to the class he is teaching about his services and experiences in Vietnam. Berenger played a Sgt. (Barnes) in the Vietnam movie Platoon 10 years earlier.

 

AUDIO CLIPS

Doesn’t Constitute A Direct Threat

My Students Are Trying To Kill Me

Jon Janus Promotion

That Cereal Really Does Work

You’ll Go Drop A Grenade On Him

It’s Going To Get A Lot More Quiet In Here

What’s The KOD?

What’s Your Background?

Not Doing Their Homework

I’m The Warrior Chief

Corporal Punishment Is Not Allowed

Make Me Write I’m Sorry 10 Times On The Board

No Talking In The Library

Kind Of Hard When Your Whole Life Is A Covert Operation

You Are History

Joint Operation Between The CIA and PTA

Who Died?

 

Dirty Work

GuiltyPleasureCinemaReview

 

Poster

Dirty Work

Release Date: June 12, 1998

Genre: Comedy

Director: Bob Saget

Writers: Norm MacDonald, Frank Sebastiano & Fred Wolf

Starring: Norm MacDonald, Jack Warden, Artie Lange, Traylor Howard, Chevy Chase, Christopher McDonald

 

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Hello, readers! I’m back after a short break from writing the ‘Larry Cohen Tribute Special’ for the month of May. I want to thank all of you who took the time to read and comment on each of the movies I showcased. I put a lot of work into it and I hope you enjoyed reading them. It’s a great send off to a great filmmaker. Now that the special has concluded, I will be resuming doing reviews of more ‘Guilty Pleasure’ movies. I have a huge lineup of movies I plan on reviewing in the mere future including the ‘50th Review’ which should be coming up this summer (I will keep you posted on that detail).

For now, I wanted to kick off the post tribute special review with a little comedy. A comedy starring one of the more underrated comedians of the 90s. A man who got fired from Saturday Night Live because one of the executives at NBC claimed he was “not funny.” (on the contraire). I’m talking about Norm MacDonald. If you’re not familiar with Norm MacDonald, his comedy is brutally outspoken opinions that is delivered in a sarcastic monotone delivery. He was known on Saturday Night Live as the ‘Weekend Update’ anchor, who would start the beginning of the skit with, “Here’s the fake news!” (sound familiar?) MacDonald was known on Weekend Update for his constant bashing of Bill Clinton and O.J. Simpson. After being dismissed from SNL, he would go on to star in his first comedic outing, 1998’s “Dirty Work!”

In “Dirty Work” MacDonald plays Mitch Weaver, a down and out loser. After being fired from his fourteenth job in two months and his girlfriend kicking him out of their apartment, he goes to live with his best friend, Sam McKenna (Artie Lange) and his dad, whom they refer to as ‘Pops’ (Jack Warden). During a night watching television Pops has a heart attack and is in the hospital. The treating physician, Dr. Farthing (Chevy Chase) informs Mitch and Sam that Pops needs a heart transplant and needs $50,000 for the transplant. Mitch and Sam do various odd jobs to get the money. After an event at their jobs where they were paid by their co-workers to embarrass their boss, they start a revenge for hire business called “Dirty Work!” Their concept is for people to pay them to do their dirty work. With this new business they hope to raise the funds in time and save Pop’s life.

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Not only is this Norm MacDonald’s first leading role, this is the directorial debut of Bob Saget (yes, THAT Bob Saget). Together they create a movie that has plenty of sleazy jokes, cringeworthy moments and even a lightweight love story.  It’s an interesting concept by MacDonald which I’m sure came from the idea of wanting to give NBC the finger (this was made before MacDonald would be fired). It has a feel similar to “National Lampoon’s Animal House!”

MacDonald holds up good as the lead in this movie. He’s pretty much playing himself. He’s a smartass and seems to be the intelligent one when it came to the idea of the business and the methods on how to screw over the people they were hired to screw over. There are times in the movie where he is repeating the same jokes such as brining out a tape recorded and dictating a, ‘Note to Self’. You get the idea after a few of them. Some of the revenge schemes are bizarre in nature, but the purpose is to get rid of the nuisance that their client is paying them to do.

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The rest of the cast has some familiar faces. Legendary actor Jack Warden who plays Pops chews up the scenes he’s in with his twist of humor and dirty mind. Chevy Chase plays the aloof and gambling addict Dr. Farthing. When you hear about some of the things he’s gambled on, it makes you want to shrug your shoulders and raise your hands in disbelief. It’s one of the funnier roles for Chevy that I’ve seen in a very long time. Traylor Howard, best known for being in the sitcoms “Two Guys & A Girl AKA Two Guys, A Girl & A Pizza Place” and “Monk” plays Kathy who would become Mitch’s love interest after meeting in a bar. She finds him funny and witty but is not amused when his business starts getting noticed. Christopher McDonald, best known for playing Shooter McGavin in “Happy Gilmore” plays local real estate mogul Travis Cole who hires Mitch and Sam to get revenge on a rival. My favorite performances in the movie are the small special guest appearances from Chris Farley who plays Jimmy, a barfly that had his nose bitten off by a prostitute and in true Chris Farley fashion goes nuts when people bring that up to him and Don Rickles playing a movie theater manager who insults Lange’s weight and follows it up by insulting MacDonald’s “personality” (which was improvised brilliantly by Rickle). Look out for cameos from Gary Coleman, Adam Sandler and John Goodman as well.

The weakest performance by far is Artie Lange as Sam. He’s not very funny and seems to be concerned about the things Mitch is doing to gain money. Not only that, but his desperate attempt to get noticed by women is repetitive.  Norm would’ve benefitted more by having an experienced actor play his best friend.

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The comedy in the movie is a blend of physical jokes and MacDonald’s stand up puns. Some of the pranks range from being ingenious to just downright bizarre. Others are just plain mean like something a school bully would do to the kid her or she would be harassing. The majority of their jobs that they do for their clients are downright criminal although they seem to get away with it. This movie would not be made in today’s world. The movie clocks in at an hour and twenty-three minutes, which is pretty short for a comedy movie, but there’s no moment that seems to drag out.

There’s not much more I can say about this movie without spoiling it, but if you were a fan of the 90s “Saturday Night Live” or a fan of Norm MacDonald, I recommend “Dirty Work!” I give the film props for coming up with something that has never been done before, a revenge business comedy. It’s almost as if this movie is in its own category since there hasn’t been a revenge comedy in recent memory. And if you watch this movie and don’t enjoy it, then you can pay someone to do your dirty work on me!

 

 

TRIVIA

  • Chris Farley’s last film, but he wasn’t included in the credits.
  • This movie came out a few months after Norm MacDonald was fired from Saturday Night Live (1975). When it was out in theaters, none of the shows on NBC were allowed to advertise it.
  • Howard Stern was offered a cameo appearance as Satan, but turned it down. Adam Sandler ended up with the role.
  • In the scene where Mitch (Norm MacDonald) and Sam (Artie Lange) are getting berated by Mr. Hamilton (Don Rickles), Don Rickles started ad-libbing insults. At one point, Don Rickles started insulting Norm McDonald, and not his Mitch Weaver character. This, of course, didn’t make it into the film, but the “baby gorilla” line, directed towards Sam, was used.
  • According to Chevy Chase, he was impressed by the original script’s raunchy, R-rated, “over the top” tone (particularly a filmed, but ultimately cut, gag involving MacDonald and Lange delivering donuts that had been photographed around their genitals), and went so far as to tell MacDonald and Lange to not allow any changes. However, the studio insisted on a PG-13 rating, and re-scheduled the film’s release from February to June, where it fared poorly against blockbusters like Godzilla (1998). Unfortunately, no alternate scenes had been shot, and the dialogue could only be changed with the actor’s re-recording their lines. This may explain why some of the dialogue is dubbed in certain scenes.
  • Julia Sweeney plays Mitch’s deceased mother in a still photograph

 

AUDIO CLIPS

Don’t Take No Crap From Nobody

Didn’t Make It On Time

Sorry For Being A Creepy Old Man

Two Kinds Of People

If I Were A Betting Man

We Lied On Our Resumes

Don’t Mess Up

Revenge For Hire Business

Dead Hooker In The Trunk

There’s The Saigon Whore

Installment Plan

Note To Self

Ridiculous

Note To Self 2

In The Land Of Skunks

Remember When You Said This?

The Ambulance

GuiltyPleasureCinemaReview

 

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The Ambulance

Release Date: March 31, 1990

Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror

Director: Larry Cohen

Writer: Larry Cohen

Starring: Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones, Megan Gallagher, Red Buttons, Janine Turner

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

Sadly, we’ve reached the final movie review in the Larry Cohen Tribute Special. I want to thank all you readers out there for the support and spending time reading these reviews. If you’re a Larry Cohen fan, I hope I reviewed some of your favorites. If you’re not familiar with his work, hopefully I’ve given you enough for you to find one of his movies and watch it. For the last movie, we are going to look at Larry’s first feature film of the 90s. It’s a Mystery and Suspense film that has you at the edge of your seat. It’s also a movie where a vehicle is treated like a full-fledged character. The last movie in our Larry Cohen Tribute Special is 1990’s ‘The Ambulance!’

‘The Ambulance’ stars Eric Roberts as Joshua Baker, a comic book artist who is currently working on a project for none other than Marvel Comics (featuring a cameo from the late great Stan Lee) who meets a young woman on a New York City street named Cheryl (Janine Turner). Suddenly, Cheryl collapses on the street and within a matter of minutes, an ambulance arrives to take Cheryl to the hospital. Josh heads to the nearest hospital to check up on her. When he arrives at the front desk to find out what room Cheryl is in, the staff tell him that she was not admitted to the hospital. He then goes to another local hospital where they state she was not admitted here. Josh passes a sketch of Cheryl to people walking the streets hoping someone would recognize her and find out what happened to her. Cheryl’s roommate notices the picture and speaks with Josh. She takes him to what she believed to be Cheryl’s last location only for the same ambulance to arrive and kidnap her. Now Josh is convinced there is something going on with the ambulance and the people who are associated with it. After asking for help from the local police department, specifically Lt. Frank Spencer (James Earl Jones) who is not convinced of his story, Josh continues his investigation hoping to find Cheryl before it’s too late.

Larry Cohen came up with this concept after his own personal experience involving an ambulance. He talked about some of the horrors he dealt with when he was being driven to the hospital, which he says in his documentary ‘King Cohen.’ The experience made him think about medical services. Ambulances are supposed to pick up someone and rush them to the hospital. It’s a service where it means life or death for people. What if an ambulance went rogue and didn’t take the person to the nearest hospital? It’s a scary thought that Cohen tries to capitalize in this movie.

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The first thing that I noticed right away when watching this movie was the cinematography. Compared to Cohen’s grainy looking pictures of the 80s, the picture is bright sharp looking and relative to how movies were starting to look as the 90s began. Once again the movie takes place in New York City as it has been in the majority of Cohen’s films. You have scenes all over the city from the busy downtown to the rough outskirts and the shady areas. You see many sides of the city.

‘The Ambulance’ is a mystery/thriller, with Cohen throwing in his macabre sense of humor to not make it too dark. Like all his films Cohen rounds up an experience cast with Eric Roberts taking the lead role. I’m not familiar with a lot of Eric Roberts’ work, but he is someone I never thought of being a protagonist. He plays Joshua Baker as an arrogant smooth talking character who’s not afraid of going up to random women, in this case Cheryl to introduce himself and perhaps get to know them on a personal level. When Cheryl disappears, Roberts goes into detective mode trying to figure out what happened to her and tries to be the hero despite the fact he is trying to save someone he doesn’t know at all. His illustration skills come in handy with the investigation when he draws both Cheryl and the ambulance and gives it to not only the police but regular passerby’s hoping someone would recognize her and have information. Along the way, Baker comes across some unique and over the top partners to aid in his quest. James Earl Jones’ Lt. Spencer is boisterous and unconvinced of Baker’s story and has his own suspicions about him thinking that he may have something to do with Cheryl’s disappearance. Megan Gallagher plays Sandra Malloy, a spunky police officer who believes Baker’s story and uses her position of authority to find leads. Finally comic legend Red Buttons plays Elias Zacharai, who (you guess it) provides the comic relief of the movie. He meets Baker during a scene in a hospital room. Buttons’ provides his traditional zingers and one liners to help ease the tension of the movie. Lastly you have the antagonist of the movie played by soap opera legend Eric Braden who is behind the kidnapping of Cheryl. He is cunning, sadistic and has a purpose for Cheryl which is revealed in the film.

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We can’t forget the character of the ambulance itself. It’s an old ambulance, painted in red with a glowing green inside. It gives it a ghostly feel to it. The ambulance reminds me of the Stephen King novel turned John Carpenter movie ‘Christine’. Although it’s not a car that comes to life, but it is alive from the look and the people who are driving it. Whenever the ambulance appears on screen, you know something is about to go down and not for good intentions.

The movie is fast paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The movie teases the audience every time Josh stumbles upon a place that Cheryl is last scene thinking that she is there only for The Doctor and the ambulance to be one step ahead of him. Scenes like this keep your heart racing and you may let out a pounding on the table moment in some cases.

The movie is without its flaws. First was the climax. In my best attempt to avoid any spoilers all I can say is that the climax does not give Josh redeeming quality. It makes him look selfish at the end when things don’t go the way he had hope for. You’ve been cheering this guy on throughout the movie and then all of a sudden there’s a one eighty. I don’t know what Cohen was thinking with that. The other flaw I found was there was no real character development with the antagonist. You don’t know if he’s a real doctor, a mad scientist, a crazy man pretending to be a doctor or a doctor who had his medical license revoked. You don’t know his true name, his background. Given Cohen’ reputation as creating memorable and colorful characters it seems like he didn’t put in the work to develop the bad guy.

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‘The Ambulance’ is a non-stop thriller that not only gets your heart pounding, but gives you a chuckle or two. While the kidnapping story is nothing new, but giving the twist of medical personnel who are not all that they claim to be gives it a unique style that only Larry Cohen could come up with.

We now have reached the conclusion of the ‘Larry Cohen Tribute Special’. Hopefully you enjoyed these five reviews that I’ve presented. It’s the most ambitious work I’ve done since I’ve started this blog. Larry Cohen has been an inspiration to me and re-watching his films have given me a new desire to write some scripts that are original and creative. If I can convert one person into a Larry Cohen fan, then I have done my job. Hopefully you, the reader are that person.

Thank you for taking the time this month to check out these movies, readers!

TRIVIA
– The ambulance used is a 1973 Cadillac commercial chassis with coach work by Miller Meteor. It is a Lifeliner model with 54 inches of rear headroom. The actual movie car is now owned by a collector in California.

– The role of the villain was originally played by Wesley Addy. However Cohen was unhappy with his performance and recast the role with Eric Braeden

– John Travolta was originally considered for the lead role before Eric Roberts was cast.

– A young Jim Carrey was also considered for the role of Josh.

– Jamie Lee Curtis was originally considered for the role of Officer Malloy.

– Donald Trump made a small cameo in a deleted scene.

– First movie role for Nick Chinlund, best known for playing Billy Bedlam in the 90s action packed thriller ‘Con Air’.

 

AUDIO CLIPS

I Need To Be Left Alone

I Like Mine Healthy

Like To Touch Skin Wearing A Surgical Glove

Vernoica From Archie

They Always Turn Up

All You See Is The Uniform

Why Do I Always Get The Strange Ones?

What Are You In For?

Out Screwing Some Intern

Saying Thanks Is Cheap

You Know What’s In That Ambulance?

Kill Myself

Everybody Likes Me

He Looks Exactly Like Jughead

I Need Help

First I Write, Then I Rest

So Die