Juwanna Mann

Juwanna Mann. Morgan Creek Productions 2002.

Before watching the movie:

Were there more movies about men posing as women/women posing as men in the early 2000s, or does it just seem that way because that era was a cultural experiment in irreverence and boundary breaking that did not combine well?

What I would expect from a man posing as a woman to play women’s pro basketball is finding that the grandstanding style of men’s pro basketball doesn’t work in the much more technique-focused women’s league, but since he’s the protagonist of an early 2000s comedy, I’m sure his loose cannon showboating will instead be played as suddenly making women’s basketball relevant.

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Soul Plane

Soul Plane. Boz Productions 2004.

Before watching the movie:

While I’ve seen occasional mentions of the title here and there, I don’t remember this movie being a new release. I’m sure that’s because I wasn’t the target demographic and they didn’t advertise anywhere I was paying attention.

As an adult-oriented “urban comedy” from the early 2000s, this will probably not have aged well, and apparently it wasn’t well-received at the time.

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The Toxic Avenger

The Toxic Avenger.
Troma Entertainment 1984.

Before watching the movie:

I hadn’t heard of this movie until I stumbled across it on a streaming platform, but apparently it has a cult following. It’s from about 20 years later than I initially thought, but I also thought it was played straighter. This is going for satire, not camp.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the grotesque deformity the accident that gave him his super powers came from is a specific take-that to all of the superheroes and villains that got their start from chemical or nuclear accidents and end up looking amazing, or at most with a cool scar on the face, completely unlike most things that suddenly and dramatically change a human body in reality.

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Earth Girls are Easy

Earth Girls are Easy.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group 1988.

Before watching the movie

How did I never know, or at least never have it sink in, that Jeff Goldblum is in this? Jim Carrey playing a weird alien, okay. Jeff Goldblum playing a weird alien, the potential to really let him run wild with it has massively piqued my interest.

I stayed away from this movie for a long time because I was expecting a raunchy comedy that hasn’t aged well. But now I find that it was inspired by a song by and co-written by Julie Brown, of songs like “Cause I’m A Blonde” and “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun”, so it has the potential to at least not be tasteless in the way I was expecting. It’s still over 30 years old.

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Eight on the Lam

Eight on the Lam.
Hope Enterprises 1967

Before watching the movie:

I keep thinking of this as a large-cast bank heist movie and it isn’t. That’s probably because I keep connecting it to Bank Shot, and it doesn’t really have much in common with that movie.

The cast is pretty exciting though. Hope, Winters, and Diller all together might be an interesting mixture.

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The First Wives Club

Before watching the movie:

The First Wives Club.
Paramount Pictures 1996.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure what to expect, but this sounds like a scheming revenge story, which is interesting to see Goldie Hawn in. Midler and Keaton, I can easily picture them scheming, but Goldie Hawn seems to be known for more innocent roles.

This seems to have been popular enough to get a TV remake, but nobody really talks about it past a basic log line, so it’s hard to have preconceptions.

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What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
The Mirisch Company 1966.

Before watching the movie:

The two keywords that got me interested are “Blake Edwards” and “James Coburn”. There are quite a lot of WWII farces around by now, and I’m certainly no stranger to them, but a Blake Edwards farce sounds highly promising, and I’ve enjoyed James Coburn in comedies from the time as well.

From what I’ve seen, I’m not sure the title has much to do with how the story is told, unless all of the summaries I’ve read completely ignore a framing device. The unreliable narrator aspect shown on this poster is a good starting point for what I’d want to do with a story with a title like that, but I don’t expect to see it in the movie.

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Failure to Launch

Failure to Launch.
Paramount Pictures 2005.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve seen this poster everywhere, but the movie doesn’t seem to actually get talked about much. I don’t even remember seeing trailers for it when it was in theaters.

The parents of a late bloomer hire a relationship expert for their son and no doubt they end up together in a very familiar romantic comedy progression. I wonder if there’s a bit of a Pygmalion element to the plot as well.

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Good Burger

Good Burger. Paramount Pictures 1997.

Before watching the movie:

I always thought this was the movie of a series, but it turns out that this is the expansion of a recurring sketch from All That. Keenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were Keenan And Kel on a completely different (eponymous) show, and Keenan’s character in this movie was not in the All That sketches. All of this just goes to demonstrate that while lots of kids my age were watching All That and Keenan and Kel, I didn’t have Nickelodeon.

Movies of my Yesterdays: The Rescuers Down Under

While not as embedded in the landscape of my media childhood as Lady and the Tramp or The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under was always there as far as I can recall. I associate a very youthful spirit of adventure with it that I think predates the time in my adolescence when I was defining my own tastes for what seemed like the first time, the “hit me at the right time” years.

While the original The Rescuers probably more deserves the appreciation of a mature reviewer, I don’t have the same fondness for it. The two movies came from different eras of Disney animation and have a very different look and feel. The first came from the time of The Fox And The Hound and 101 Dalmatians, but it’s almost as obscure as The Black Cauldron and hits a lot more of the same notes. Sensibilities had changed at Disney in the time between the two Rescuers movies and the latter is part of the upward trend moving toward the Disney Renaissance.

The Rescuers Down Under. Walt Disney Pictures 1990.

Cody, a very American sounding Australian boy, is a friend to the animals of the Outback, and rescues a giant Golden Eagle from a poacher’s trap. She gives him one of her golden feathers as a keepsake, and then on his way home, Cody finds a mouse tied up as what turns out to be bait in a trap sat by ruthless poacher MacLeach. MacLeach finds the golden feather and realizes that Cody knows where the last Golden Eagle is, so he kidnaps him in order to try to get him to divulge the location of the bounty. The rescued mouse reports Cody’s peril to the Rescue Aid Society, and soon Bernard and Bianca are on their way through the Outback to him with Australian Jake as their guide.

Where the first was likely modeled after a pulp adventure novel, this feels more like an action adventure movie. It has modern pacing sensibilities, but I think the first is stronger in that as I recall, Bernard and Bianca spend most of the story trying to find a way to get Penny out of her situation, this one doesn’t have them get to Cody until the climax. There’s not much for them to do but ride more Australian animals across the landscape while Jake tries to flirt with Miss Bianca and Bernard tries to find a moment to propose to her. It’s a comic relief subplot, but moreso Wilbur and the hospital mice fixing his back with extreme force.

Two things make this movie feel epically sized: the music and the sweeping three dimensional camera moves. Disney shopped out many backgrounds to Pixar, and while sometimes they’re obviously very primitive CG by today’s standards (I’ve seen previsualization renders more convincing than the city skyscrapers and cars), they do bring to life the camera perspectives and the Outback. People talk a lot about the clock gears in The Great Mouse Detective and the Ballroom in Beauty and the Beast, but I think this is the best demonstration of what cel animation can do with CGI backgrounds as a tool in the kit.

If this had Ashman/Menken songs, it would be 20 minutes longer, but it would also be at least at the level of the actual Renaissance Disney movies. The plot structure makes a lot of the returning or pseudo-returning (Wilbur is allegedly Orville’s brother despite how very different they are aside from being airline albatrosses) characters redundant, but it’s a fantastic adventure for the whole family, and it should be remembered as fondly as Disney’s biggest hits of the 90s.