Imagine That

Imagine That. Nickelodeon Movies 2009.

Before watching the movie:

Eddie Murphy’s work since the late 90s has a reputation for not being good, at least when it comes to his live-action vehicles or possibly anything other than the Shrek franchise. If anyone liked The Nutty Professor, nobody really cared for what came after, including the two sequels. Eddie Murphy stopped being funny on screen around the time Will Smith became a movie star somehow.

This movie is a Nickelodeon production, so it’s clearly aimed directly at children and families, but other than children-oriented movies getting ignored, I don’t see anything that would indicate why it’s not considered a Good Eddie Murphy Movie. I don’t see any warning signs yet.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Limelight Entertainment 1990.

Before watching the movie:

I am broadly aware of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, but I was never all that into it. I briefly thought I was going to watch the cartoon series, but I was given a parental directive to choose one violent show between TMNT and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and I chose the latter. Then a few weeks later I abruptly decided the whole premise of MMPR was silly and dropped it.

Apparently there’s a well-known easter egg that in one telling of the Turtles’ origin story, the radioactive ooze that made them was also involved in making Daredevil. That’s pretty neat. That will not be relevant to this movie.

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Mad Money

Mad Money. Millennium Films 2008.

Before watching the movie:

I barely remember this title floating around back in 2008, and I’m not sure if I remember it as a movie or just as the quirky stock trading show. I think I’ve also conflated it a little bit with Moneyball, which it has no connection with aside from the word “money”.

This looks like a movie that’s a little ahead of its time. Regrettably, the industry didn’t seem to have a foothold for women-led comedies until Bridesmaids. This all-women heist comedy didn’t make much of a splash, but ten years later Ocean’s Eight did very well doing basically the same thing.

I try not to read critical responses before watching the movie, but I skimmed a little to try to see if I just missed it somehow and along with a lot of general negativity, I saw a very charming comment from Roger Ebert about how “some girls will like it, the men not so much”. Which sounds like internet comment sections about every women-led movie even today. If the execution was bad, the execution was bad, but I wonder how much was just moviegoers in 2008 not getting it.

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Cinderfella

Cinderfella Paramount Pictures 1960.

Before watching the movie:

It seems a natural fit that a comedian who often plays meek nice guys would eventually land in a genderbent fairytale. If Jerry Lewis has a specialty in stories, it may well be nebbish men’s wish fulfilment fantasies, and few stories are more wish fulfilment than Cinderella.

In an era where we’re taking our traditionally white male role model character roles and trying to be conscious about putting more women and people of color there, it may seem a little backward to turn one of the canon fairytale princesses into Jerry Lewis, but I think the reason I’m not too discomforted by it is that Cinderella is a pretty classical feminine role type, and it’s not a position one would expect to find a fictional man who is the protagonist in. So it’s an underutilized permutation that stands exploring in media.

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Julie and Julia

Julie and Julia.
Easy There Tiger Productions 2009.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve always been aware of Julia Child as an important figure in cooking, but I’ve only known of her indirectly. Of the PBS Digital Studios remixes, the Julia Child video was the only one I didn’t have my own experience with the source material of.

I actually watched the Academy Awards presentations for a few years, and I remember that this was one of those years. I had the impression this was about a direct mentorship or friendship, but apparently what happens is that a blogger challenges herself to cook every recipe in Childs’s book. But over the course of the movie we also learn Childs’s own story, so maybe I’ll finally understand why she made an impact on so many people that seems to go beyond writing a popular book and presenting a cooking show.

Also how have I been reviewing movies for ten years and this is the first time I’ve tagged Meryl Streep?

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The Cat from Outer Space

The Cat From Outer Space.
Walt Disney Pictures 1978.

Before watching the movie:

In the 60s and 70s, Disney’s live action movies department came up with some pretty outlandish ideas. Some of them are cartoon ideas, but done in live action, some are just… did they throw darts at a board or something?

This is an adventure about an extraterrestrial cat. There’s some humans trying to help the stranded alien cat get home and some other humans trying to steal the cat’s technology, and I don’t really know much more than that, which I learned only minutes ago.

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Movies of My Yesterdays: UHF

As I grew up, I eventually discovered my parents’ music collection, and among it, my father’s Weird Al CDs (and eventually the Doctor Demento cassettes and tape recordings of Weird Al vinyl albums). I considered myself a fan of Al Yankovic, but eventually I learned that there was a lot more than just the self-titled album, Even Worse, and Alapalooza. But I think I was in high school before I found UHF.

UHF. Cinecorp 1989.

While I usually came to these kinds of things through library catalog raids, I distinctly remember my favorite high school teacher showing this movie on a slack day, and a lot of the most iconic parts of the movie were definitely new to me at the time, so except for possibly passing some of the more random elements while channel surfing and not knowing what it was, I’m confident in saying that my teacher playing it in class was the first time I saw this movie, although I don’t think we finished it then (a common theme among movies played at school, considering a class period is a little less than an hour and a movie is at least 75 minutes). I eventually saw it on DVD, the menus of which are how I first encountered Al’s updated (hair down, no mustache, no glasses) look that was probably old, old news by then.

As recall, the plot is probably the most forgettable part of the movie, though it’s clearly constructed as a means to let Al’s comedic ideas and abilities (and those of his writing partner) play. Al’s character George comes into control of a tiny local TV station and builds it into the area’s most must-watch TV through just having weird ideas nobody in the TV industry would have, a sure threat to the big network that wants him out of competition for their ratings.

There’s more story and fewer sketches than I remember. Stanley is shown at the beginning to be a daydreamer, but that’s not carried through most of the movie. The cutaways are almost entirely station ads once the story gets going until the big Rambo parody daydream at the end. The Beverly Hillbillies music video could be argued to be continuing his flights of fantasy, but it’s framed as a dream instead of a daydream, and it’s so different from the imagination sequences that it just seems awkwardly shoved in.

I’m not sure if RJ Reynolds seems like a parody of someone specific in broadcasting or if Kevin McCarthy is just that much of a presence in his own right. He feels like the most noteworthy actor in a movie with Weird Al, Kramer, and The Nanny despite the fact that I had to look up his name. He seems like a Leslie Nielson type whose serious appearance is usually played for comedy.

It’s unfortunate that this movie didn’t do well enough to let Al continue to make movies in the 90s. He’s only in the last few years been able to take the time to pursue comic acting alongside his music career as he reached the end of his album contract. This is at least as good as a classic National Lampoon or Airplane!-type movie, and he seems like he could’ve done more. I should probably look up AlTV, which sounds somewhere between talk show parody and actual talk show, but more in this vein would have been on another level.