Mr. Deeds

Mr. Deeds.
Happy Madison Productions 2002.

Before watching the movie:

I have the impression that this might be the last “good” Adam Sandler movie before he got lost making movies nobody wanted. I also felt like the title was a little disconnected from the kind of movies Sandler makes, and the character’s name being “Longfellow Deeds” really seemed removed from anything from the time. So I’m not surprised to learn that this is a remake of a movie from the 30s.

The comedy probably comes from putting the “regular guy” in the bizarre world of the mega rich, and especially because it’s a modernization of a much older story, I’m not sure there will be room for the kind of humor that Sandler’s worst movies over-rely on.

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Wag the Dog

Wag the Dog. Baltimore Pictures 1997.

Before watching the movie:

I haven’t been able to laugh at the presidency in years. At least, not as the product of something other than a mixture of horror, anger, and embarrassment. Washington/the Federal Government lately hasn’t been a source of cynical guffaws. But things have changed and there’s room to be relieved and somewhat relaxed again. For the foreseeable future, we’re returning to, at worst, garden variety corruption and only casual imperialism.

This movie came to me in a presidential-themed movie collection that I found when looking for a disk-based replacement to an old VHS copy of Dave, a favorite I’m looking forward to returning to soon, and could get a Movies of My Yesterdays if “soon” is not all that soon.

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Yesterday’s Movies needs to get away

There’s a lot of tension around here right now and we could all use a break.

Road to Bali: Ah, a couple of comedy buddies in a beautiful place, colonializing it up on very fake sets. Hm. That didn’t help.

Captain Ron: Are we sure this guy really knows what he’s doing? Maybe let’s book a cruise next time.

The Poseidon Adventure: Oh… nevermind then. Maybe a virtual vacation would be less of a nightmare.

Total Recall: …

The Ghoul

The Ghoul.
Gaumont British Pictures 1933.

Before watching the movie:

It never really seemed consistent to me what kind of supernatural entity a ghoul is. I kind of settled on a subtype of ghost that’s more corporeal than a spectre. I looked up the definition and it wasn’t very helpful. “A monstrous humanoid associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh” is broad enough to include zombies, only this is from pre-Islamic Arabia instead of from Haitian Vodou.

In this movie, Boris Karloff comes back from the dead to get revenge on those who wronged him, but I don’t think he eats flesh, just strangles or snaps necks or something. I expect a lot of overwrought tension that comes off as corny today.

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The Old Dark House (1963)

The Old Dark House.
Columbia Pictures 1963.

Before watching the movie:

I learned of this movie from a preshow for some spooky movie at a theater where they play classic videos along the theme of the movie during seating. A horror comedy starring… Tom Poston? The quirky old neighbor on like a dozen 80s/90s sitcoms? In a slasher comedy of errors? Well, why not? For one thing, apparently this is a remake nobody asked for, but I’m not burdened by the expectations of the 1932 movie, so I’ll probably enjoy it more than it was enjoyed at the time.

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Fright Night

Fright Night. Vistar Films 1985.

Before watching the movie:

I somehow got the sense that there’s a whole blend of spooky stuff going on in this movie to the point that it might be an anthology movie or at least have an episodic progression. Turns out it’s just “there’s a vampire next door”. I guess the broad title comes from the horror show that the main character likes to watch that he eventually recruits the host from after nobody else believes him.

I’ve also gotten the impression this is really campy in just the right way, but it doesn’t seem to actually be considered a comedy, so I think I probably know what kind of tone to expect, but I thought this was a completely different movie until earlier today.

After watching the movie:

Charley Brewster is obsessed with two things: the late night horror movie show Fright Night, hosted by Peter Vincent the former star of cheesy vampire movies, and getting his girlfriend of over a year Amy to do more than kiss with him. He notices a coffin being carried into the basement of the house next door, and the next day sees a woman entering that house, and later sees the neighbor in the window brandish fangs and begin to bite her. Charley sees her appear on the news the next day as the second killing in town that week. After a failed attempt to get the police to intervene, Charley realizes he’s tipped his hand and now the vampire, “Jerry”, will be coming for him. Charley tries to solicit Peter Vincent’s help, but Vincent dismisses him too. Concerned with Charley’s obsession, Amy and their friend “Evil” Ed pay Vincent to help them prove to Charley that Jerry isn’t a vampire, but Vincent gets spooked off when, after Jerry passes the staged tests, Vincent sees that Jerry has no reflection in a mirror.

The first half of the movie seems very disconnected from the title, since Vincent only appears on TV and Charley is completely alone in his knowledge of Jerry’s secret. Even though this isn’t much more than 90 minutes, it felt like it was an hour of Charley alone and then an hour of Charley with his friends and Vincent. Eventually it comes to the point where it feels like it’s been building to make the title meaningful, but for a long time, it seemed like an afterthought title.

When I read that the horror host’s name was “Peter Vincent”, my immediate thought was that he would be a legally distinct echo of Vincent Price, but Roddy McDowall completely removed any impression of Price from my mind. He has an entirely different take on playing a former B-horror hero.

Jerry Dandridge seems to be an early step in modernizing vampire depictions. There’s a visible line running from him to the characters in Interview with The Vampire to the Twilight vampires. He’s aggressively normal, at least until his illusion slips. Charismatic in a modern sensibility. And they do take advantage of the R rating to demonstrate his seductive abilities. But I don’t think there’s any name that strikes less of a “vampire” chord than “Jerry Dandridge”.

This is just a little short of the true classic quality, but I can definitely see its merit as a cult classic, and it’s not surprising there’s an extensive franchise underneath it. The charm is there, there’s an inventiveness (or reinventiveness) to it, but it doesn’t quite have the polish it could have.

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion.
Walt Disney Pictures 2003.

Before watching the movie:

I’m pretty sure this was greenlit on the success of the first Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. That there were no sequels or further “movies based on Disneyland attractions” projects (until Tomorrowland much much later) to my knowledge suggests it did not do as well as they hoped.

I didn’t even realize that Wallace Shawn is in this. I just knew there’s Eddie Murphy, and a house full of ghosts. Presumably there are some important ghosts.

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The Creation of the Humanoids

The Creation of the Humanoids.
Genie Productions 1962.

Before watching the movie:

The log line that I read said something about robots putting humans in immortal synthetic bodies so they don’t go extinct, which sounds nice of them and I don’t see how this gets spun as a horror movie.

A little more in-depth description refers to humans getting entirely too dependent on the robots and factions trying to keep the robots from becoming “too human” and taking over, which sounds like the kind of allegory that robots as a science fiction concept were invented from.

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Funny Money

Funny Money. Thinkfactory Media 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I had an impression that Chevy Chase completely disappeared from whenever he left the Vacation movies in the 90s until the late 00s, when he suddenly resurfaced in Zoom, a Tim Allen vehicle about a retired superhero, and on Community. Apparently what he was actually doing at the time was starring in German/Romanian adaptations of British plays. An American company was also involved, but I sure don’t recall any significant American release.

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