action, comedy, movie, movie review, sports

Flashback Review: June 17th, 2014 Movie – Cannonball Run II

cannonball run 2

Yes, I know I am late with this one. Unfortunately, I had a long day at work yesterday and had started to watch the movie when I was asked to help on a service call that night in exchange for not having to go in today, which I accepted. Anyways, today’s movie is one of the numerous sequels that had come out in the 80’s. I remember seeing Cannonball Run II as a kid, and thinking it was really funny. After rewatching it, I realized that I was mixing parts of The Cannonball Run with this movie in my memory, which was kind of disappointing. Now let’s go through and sort out my memories.

The plot: One year after losing the Cannonball Run, Sheik Abdul ben Falafel is chastised by his father for bringing shame to their family, as they are known for having the fastest of everything. The king orders him to go back to America and win the Cannonball Run this year but when the Sheik says there isn’t a Cannonball Run this year, the king tells him to just buy one. In America, Jill Rivers and Marcie Thatcher are still racing along the highways in a Lamborghini, this time it starts off as white but after dodging a couple of cops, they have a construction crew spray off the white paint to reveal the car is actually red and continue heading on the highway towards the start of the Cannonball. Meanwhile, J.J. McClure and Victor Prinzim are working as stuntmen and Victor is set to act as a human bomb, with J.J. convincing him that everything will be fine but if he is scared, he can always have “Him” do the stunt. J.J. walks off but as he hears the newscaster talking about how famous Victor will be for pulling off the stunt, he decides to take Victor’s place, only to find Victor has changed into Captain Chaos. After convincing Captain Chaos to let him do the stunt, J.J. goes through with it but the bomb drops early and skips across the parking lot, through a Winnebago and a jet, before finally crashing through the target, the net, and into the hay behind them. Victor rushes over with the paramedics and as J.J. exits the bomb, Victor says they can do that 10 times a day and be billionaires quickly, then starts ripping up the Sheik’s invitation to the Cannonball but J.J. chastises him for the idea. As some of the other former Cannonballers head out to California to start the race, Morris Fenderbaum owes $30,000 to Don Don, the son of Mafia Kingpin Don Canneloni. Don Don’s men head to the hotel and confront Fenderbaum and JAmie King about the money and Fenderbaum tells them that they are in the Cannonball Run and the prize is $1 million. As the mobsters question who would sponsor such a race, the Sheik walks in and sees Fenderbaum and Jamie and greets them. Fenderbaum tries to point out the men with guns but the Sheik sees the men’s shoes and gives them a pile of cash, telling them to buy a shoe store to get some better shoes. Meanwhile, Don Don is visited by Hymie Kaplan, another gangster who is friends with Don Canneloni. Hymie is there to collect the money that Don Don owes him, which totals over $9 million, but Don Don doesn’t have that much money on him so Hymie tells him he has until tomorrow to get the money. As the race is getting ready to start, Mel and his cousin Tony head to their Uncle Cal’s auto dealership to get a car. He tells them that he will let them use his promotional limousine so long as they take his orangutan with them, which acts as the limo’s driver. Meanwhile, J.J. and Victor are at a diner talking about what they would do with the prize money when they are approached by Betty and Veronica, two women who are dressed as nuns as part of “The Sound Of Music” show that they are part of but have grown tired of working the small time and decided to try and latch onto them, thinking they are rich. Victor believes the ladies are really nuns and agrees to let them sit with them and they talk briefly before Betty and Veronica leave. At the race’s starting line, J.J. and Victor show up dressed as an Army General and Private respectively, driving a souped up car from a military motor pool. They are approached by Betty and Veronica, who ask them for a lift to New York and Victor convinces J.J. to let them come. As they head to the car, they run into Fenderbaum and Jamie, who are dressed as cops, and after taunting J.J. and Victor, they tell the nuns that their disguise won’t work, as they tried it last year as priests, but J.J. tells them that they are real nuns. The Sheik gives a speech and then starts the race and Victor, changing into Captain Chaos, tells J.J. he will get him the win, then tells Betty to sit up front with him and let Veronica sit with J.J. in the back. As the race commences, Don Don tells his men to kidnap the Shiek so they can use him to get the money he owes Hymie and they attempt to kidnap him during the race, first using a car with pincers to grab onto the Sheik’s bumper and then using a helicopter with a magnet underneath it, but both attempts fail. Meanwhile, J.J. and Victor both find themselves attracted to Veronica and Betty respectively, while both “nuns” have been somewhat flirting with the men, but as Victor asks about their order again, Betty says it has been a long day and they should get some sleep now, pulling up a curtain between the front and back seats. The next day, they are pulled over and the sheriff doesn’t seem to buy the story J.J. and Victor are telling him. When the sheriff’s nephew, Pvt. Homer Lyle, shows up on his 3-day leave, J.J. tell him he is being drafted to drive their car to Connecticut and Lyle agrees. The sheriff wants to call it in but as he heads to his car, Betty and Veronica lean out the window and tell the sheriff that their mission is very important and he believes them. The sheriff offers them an escort to the county line and as they are getting in their cars, J.J. tells him to look out for two men dressed as cops driving a Corvette, telling him that they are Commies, and the sheriff puts the word out, but Fenderbaum and Jamie have a police scanner in their car and realize J.J. is trying to set them up again. They manage to cause the police chasing them to crash, then catch up to J.J.’s car and make them spin out. While Jill and Marcie continue burning out their cars and swindling people out of their sports cars, Mel and Tony take turns driving the car but when the orangutan ends up in the back with Tony and starts acting up, Tony goes up front with Mel, saying it is safer, leaving the orangutan to actually drive the car. Team Mitsubishi, the giant Arnold and his mechanic Jackie, stop at an open fruit/vegetable market, where Jackie proceeds to beat up the bikers that are harassing the owners. When the owners’ daughter invites Jackie to dinner, Jackie starts to accept but Arnold grabs him and says they have a race to finish. Elsewhere, J.J.’s group stop for gas and food and Betty and Veronica take the time to change out of their nun costumes, much to the surprise of J.J., Victor, and Homer. Realizing that they were played, J.J. smirks and tells Veronica to get in the car, where they proceed to start kissing, and a short while later they leave Homer on the side of the road, thanking him for his service. Jill and Marcie’s second car breaks down and when the tow truck operator keeps staring at them instead of the car, they end up taking his tow truck when he tells them the engine in it, and the driver as well. As more hijinks with the Cannonballers occur, Don Don’s men manage to capture the Sheik and take him to the Pinto Ranch. When the Cannonballers find out, Fenderbaum is forced to admit that they owe the Canneloni family money but suggests they go see the King for help. They head back to Las Vegas, where they meet with Frank Sinantra, and after explaining the situation to him, he helps them come up with a way to get into the ranch. J.J., Victor, and Fenderbaum disguise themselves as belly dancers, with Jamie as their agent, and they pass themselves off as a dance act. After the act, as Don Don is giving them contracts, Hymie enters and demands his money. Don Don hands him the $1 million prize money that the Sheik had, then tells Don Don he wants the rest in the morning. J.J., Victor, and Fenderbaum manage to get the money from Hymie and after meeting back with Jamie, they go to find the Sheik, only to find him being pampered by some of the women at the ranch. Hymie’s men capture them but the other Cannonballers crash through the doors and a fight breaks out. When the dust settles, all of Don Don’s and Hymie’s men are beaten but the Sheik tells everyone that he is now partners with Don Don, as he has decided to purchase the Pinto Ranch. When Hymie reminds Don Don about the money he owes him, Don Don speaks with the Sheik, who gives him $18 million. The Sheik then tells everyone that he is doubling the prize money and everyone gets back in their cars to finish the race, with Frank Sinatra deciding to join in. When the race finishes, the Sheik loses again and as his father berates him, he says that it is Doctor Van Helsing’s fault for injecting something in him for his ulcer. When his father says he has one last chance, with another Cannonball set to take place the next day, the Sheik tells his father he can’t lose, as he hired the winner of the race to be his co-driver. He then introduces his father to the winner, which turns out to be the orangutan, who proceeds to kiss the King.

Cannonball Run II met with poor results from the critics, currently holding a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, the critics felt that the movie was uninspired and the laughter felt forced. With the appearance of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Shirley MacLaine, many people feel that it is the last feature film of the Rat Pack, as this was Sinatra’s and Martin’s last film. Cannonball Run II barely made a profit, earning $28 million off of an estimated $20 million budget and when a third movie was announced, Jamie Farr was the only person to reprise his role in it.

Yeh, this was rather disappointing of a sequel. The acting was ok but a lot of the interactions felt a little forced, even with the pairings of Burt Reynolds (J.J.) and Dom DeLuise (Victor) and Dean Martin (Jamie) and Sammy Davis Jr. (Fenderbaum). The story was incredibly weak, both with the premise for the new race and the side plot with Don Don and Hymie. The comedy felt like it was just a rehash of everything from the first movie but all of the timing for the jokes felt off and watered down in some cases. This really is a bad attempt to copy off the success of the first film.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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Flashback Review: June 16th, 2014 Movie – The Cannonball Run

the cannonball run

I feel a little sad watching this movie right now, seeing as how Burt Reynolds has just recently passed away. However, this was actually the first Burt Reynolds movie I remember seeing as a kid so a happy memory kind of balances it out. Anyways, I remember seeing The Cannonball Run as a kid but I didn’t learn until years later that it was actually based on real events. That actually made it more fun for me to watch this movie a few years ago and just as fun to rewatch it today.

The plot: Two girls, Jill Rivers and Marcie Thatcher, are speeding down the highway in a black Lamborghini Countach, taunting a highway patrol officer that is trying to catch them before they cross the state lines. Meanwhile, J.J. McClure and his friend Victor Prinzim are discussing the upcoming Cannonball Run as J.J. works on getting their car ready. When Victor mentions “Him”. J.J. hits his head on the car’s trunk, then tells Victor he doesn’t want to see “Him”, or even talk about “Him”. Later, as they are test driving the car, they come across a police road block and swerve to avoid it but end up crashing their car. As the cops go to check on the drivers, Victor, wearing a cape and mask, emerges from the car and tells the cop that he is Captain Chaos and J.J. is his companion Kato. Later, J.J. and Victor are trying to come up with a new idea for a car to drive when they get into a boating accident and as they are being driven to the hospital in an ambulance, they realize that they can get away with speeding if they are in an ambulance. Elsewhere, Morris Fenderbaum is going to place a bet on himself winning the Cannonball Run and as the bookie laughs at him, Morris points out his driver, former Formula One racer Jamie Blake. Other competitors entering the Cannonball Run are Jill and Marcie, the two girls driving the Lamborghini, Seymour Goldfarb Jr., heir to the Goldfarb Girdles fortune who has begun to identify himself as actor Roger Moore from the James Bond films, Jackie Chan and Micheal Hui, two Japanese racers who are driving a high tech car filled with computerized controls, a Middle-Eastern Shiekh who wants to race against the infidels of America, and Terry and Mel, two good ol’ boys who want to race. Terry and Mel inadvertently crash their car into a pool while trying to avoid a police car and as they are re-tuning their engine, they inadvertently ruin an environmental meeting that Arthur J. Foyt is speaking at. Vowing to stop the Cannonballers from having their race, Foyt is talking with Pamela Glover, a photographer who was at the meeting because she loves trees, when two more Cannonballers, Mad Dog and Batman, crash into the front lobby and knock him out but J.J. and Victor arrive, disguised as Ambulance drivers, show up and revive him. Later, Foyt and Pamela are at the hotel bar when he realizes that most of the people there are Cannonballers and goes to make plans to stop them. Meanwhile, J.J. and Victor are discussing how to get a doctor and a patient to ride in the ambulance with them to complete their disguise. When they notice Jill and Marcie sitting at a table, they approach them about being their patient but are surprised to learn that they are Cannonballers as well. As J.J. turns away, he notices Pamela and goes to talk to her but as they are talking, he is interrupted by Victor and Pamela leaves the table. The next night, the Cannonballers are told the rules of the race, receiving a time card that they punch as they leave the hotel and must punch in at the finish line. Whoever has the fastest time wins the race. As the Cannonballers are all leaving, J.J. asks Victor where the doctor is and when Victor tells him that the doctor got sick, J.J. sends him out to get one. Meanwhile, Foyt and Pamela are watching the cars leave and trying to get all of their license plates but after Mad Dog drives through the woods as a short cut, he decides to try and stop the race now. Victor tells J.J. he has found a doctor but when J.J. opens the door, he is shocked at the appearance of Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing but is upset that they don’t have a patient. However, a little ways down the road, the see Pamela and Foyt in need of assistance and when they pull over, they grab Pamela but drive off before Foyt can get in the ambulance. As they make their way down the road, Pamela is upset about being kidnapped but Van Helsing gives her some laughing gas just as they are pulled over by police. J.J. tells the police that they are taking the Senator’s wife to UCLA Medical Center, and Van Helsing explains that her condition prevents her from flying and that they can’t even go to Denver because it is too high. As all of the Cannonballers make their way to L.A., they all use various means to try and get out of getting busted by the cops; such as Jill and Marcie using their sex appeal to get the cops to not write them tickets while Jackie and Michael turn off their headlights and use infrared to drive at night and not be seen. J.J. and Victor are still driving when Jamie and Morris, disguised as priests, pull up next to them and offer to bless them and their occupants. J.J. knows they are fakes but Victor falls for their trick and pulls over and as Jamie goes to bless them, especially Pamela, Morris lets the air out of one of their tires. J.J. and Victor fix the tire and get back on the road and as they stop for gas further down the road, J.J. sees Jamie and Morris coming and he alerts a nearby cop that they are disguised as priests and had flashed their patient earlier, causing them to be held up. Foyt is continuing his quest to stop the Cannonballers and has a roadblock set up to grab them but J.J. uses the CB in the ambulance to radio a flatbed truck in front of them and they are able to get past the roadblock under the truck and as they do so, Victor works on their transmission while J.J. and Pamela talk and get closer to each other. The race continues, with the Cannonballers encountering the police more and more, until they are stopped by road construction in the California desert. J.J., Victor, Pamela, Van Helsing, Jamie, Morris, Jill, Marcie, Mad Dog, Batman, Jackie, Michael, Seymour (with his latest girl) are waiting for the road to open up when Brad and Shakey Finch, disguised as a honeymoon couple on a motorcycle, pull up. Suddenly, a biker gang shows up and starts harassing Brad and Shakey and when Victor, dressed as Captain Chaos, rushes out and starts fighting the bikers, the other Cannonballers join in the fray. As the fighting continues, the construction crew lets Jamie know that the road is open and all of the Cannonballers race back to their cars. Victor had taken off his mask when he got back in the ambulance and as the ambulance falls behind the other cars, J.J. chastises him for it but Victor dons the Captain Chaos garb again and begins easily passing the other racers. When they reach the pier, Everyone starts racing to the clock and J.J. hands Captain Chaos their card, then tackles the other racers, leaving Captain Chaos and Marcie as the only runners. Captain Chaos is in the lead and about to win but when he hears a woman scream that her baby is drowning, he hesitates briefly before dashing off to rescue the baby, which turned out to be her dog. Marcie wins the race and as J.J. and approaches Captain Chaos, he chastises Victor and says that he cost them the race. He then rips off the mask and cape and tells Victor that he never wants to see Captain Chaos again but Victor says he doesn’t care, quickly donning a new cape and mask and says that he wanted to be Captain U.S.A. anyways, causing J.J. and the others to start laughing. As the Cannonballers celebrate, Foyt arrives and starts berating them for what they did on the highway. Seymour offers him a cigar and tells him to use the lighter in his car, as it is rigged as a button for an ejector seat but when nothing happens, Seymour tries it himself and ends up being launched into the bay.

The Cannonball Run was panned by more recent critics, currently holding a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of them felt that the movie felt like nothing more than Burt Reynolds hanging out with some of his pals and cracking inside jokes with each other. Director Hal Needham and writer Brock Yates were actual competitors in the real Cannonball Race, which Yates had created, and the ambulance used in the film was their actual car from the last race. It had been kept in storage for several years and after the movie, it was given to a church charity to auction off. The movie was a box office success, earning $72.1 million off of an $18 million budget and would spawn 1 official sequel and 1 unofficial sequel.

Yet another time where I have to disagree with the critics because I thought that this was a pretty funny movie. The acting was good, with Burt Reynolds (J.J.) and Dom DeLuise (Victor) making for a great comedy team, as did Dean Martin (Jamie) and Sammy Davis Jr. (Morris), while all of the other actors were pretty good as well. I personally thought that Roger Moore’s character of Seymour acting like Roger Moore as James Bond was really funny, especially all of the subtle nods to James Bond that were in the movie, such as the Aston Martin that he is driving as well as the rotating cast of girls he has in the car with him. The main plot of the movie was honestly a little boring, with the idea of a coast to coast race being a little too straight forward. Adding the various bits of comedy to it definitely made it more entertaining in my opinion. The comedy in the movie kind of went the gauntlet of styles. Most of it was play on words while they also had situational, like Jill and Marcie showing cleavage to get out of speeding tickets until they get pulled over by a female officer, and slap stick, which Dom Deluise usually got the brunt of. One of those classic 80’s comedies that sometimes gets overlooked but is worth watching if you get the chance.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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comedy, movie, movie review, western

Flashback Review: May 15th, 2014 Movie – Blazing Saddles

blazing saddles

Ahh, one of my favorite westerns of all time. I remember the first time I saw this movie years ago as a kid and I will admit that I did not get many of the jokes. However, the farting scene for some reason stuck in my head and made me laugh. Now I would have the chance to watch this many times since then and as I got older, I was able to understand more of the jokes which made this movie even funnier. Now I had this movie on DVD but it was one of the movies my ex-wife had bought so when she left and took her DVD’s with her, I made sure to pick up my own copy of Blazing Saddles as soon as I could.

The plot: In the Old West of 1874, a group of workers are busy laying down a new rail line but the workers aren’t too fond of the overly racist crew giving them orders. When the foreman, Taggart, sends two black workers, Bart and Charlie, ahead as there were reports of quicksand in the area. Bart and Charlie drive a hand cart down the line and end up stuck in quicksand and when they call out for help, Taggart and his assistant use a rope to save the hand cart, leaving Bart and Charlie to fend for themselves. As they manage to crawl to safety, Taggart figures out where they will need to re-route the railroad line and orders his assistant to send a telegram with the information but Bart grabs a shovel and hits him in the head. At the office of Attorney General Hedley Lamarr, Taggart is telling him of the new route through the town of Rock Ridge and Hedley decides to take advantage of the situation to try and grab the land for himself so he will be rich. When he tries to figure out a way to get rid of the townsfolk, Taggart says he and his men can ride through town, beating and raping everyone in town, and Hedley agrees to let him do it. When he notices Taggart is injured, Taggart tells him about Bart and Hedley speaks to the executioner and squeezes Bart in to be hanged on Monday. Taggart and his men do just as they say and the townsfolk hold a meeting to figure out what they should do. Roused by the gibberish of Gabby Johnson, they decide to stay in town and wire the governor to send them a new sheriff. At the Governor’s office, Governor Lepetomane is going over the days business and when his assistant hands him a telegram from Round Rock asking for a sheriff, he assigns Hedley to send them a sheriff. Not wanting to hinder his plan by sending someone competent, Hedley notices Bart in line to be executed and comes up with an idea. Sparing Bart, Hedley takes him to see the governor, who is shocked at Hedley’s suggestion but Hedley says that by being the first man to hire a black sheriff, Lepetomane would become famous and could manage to swing a cabinet position. Geared up for his new job, Bart heads out to Rock Ridge and the townsfolk start to give him a warm welcome until they realize what color his skin is. When Bart starts to read the notice from Lepetomane about his appointment, the townsfolk all pull guns out and point them at him and he is forced to pull out his own gun and hold himself hostage in order to fool the people into letting him get into the sheriff’s office alive. As the day passes and Bart gets settled in, the drunk in one of the cells starts moving and Bart introduces himself. As he helps the drunk out, the man introduces himself as Jim a gunslinger once known as “the Waco Kid”, and the two share a brief history of each other. Meanwhile, Taggart and his men learn about the new sheriff, but not his identity, and decide to send Mongo, a large, dim-witted brute, to kill him. The next day, Bart heads out to make the rounds, trying to win the town over, but is disheartened by their constant insults. When Mongo rides into town and starts beating up the people in the saloon, Bart heads out there to deal with him, using a box of exploding candy to knock Mondo unconscious. Later, Taggart is with Hedley saying he doesn’t know how Mongo failed to kill the sheriff and Hedley decides to use a different tactic to beat Bart. Back in Rock Ridge, the townfolks start to warm up to Bart, though they try to keep it secret from everyone else, and Jim decides to take him to see Lily Von Shtupp perform. Unknown to him, Hedley has approached Lili, whom he has used before to seduce people, and has told her to seduce and leave Bart in order to reduce him to an emotional wreck. After her performance, Bart is given a note to see Lili back stage and he ends up staying the night with her but the next day, it is revealed that Lili is the one that has become enamored with him and tries to get him to stay with her. When Bart returns to the sheriff’s office, Jim tells him that a telegram came ordering Mongo to be released per Hedley’s orders. Bart wakes up Mongo, he easily breaks the chains holding him, and tells him he is free to go but Mongo doesn’t want to leave, as he likes Bart since he is the first person to beat him in a fair fight. Bart and Jim asks Mongo if he knows why Hedley is interested in Rock Ridge and Mongo says it has to do with the “choo-choo”. Bart and Jim head to where the railroad tracks are being laid out and Charlie and the others are happy to see Bart is still alive but are shocked when he tells them that he is the sheriff of Rock Ridge, as Charlie tells him that the railroad is going through the town. When Taggart and some of his men show up and try to kill Bart, Jim quickly shoots their guns out of their hands and they are forced to run away. Hedley and Taggart tie up Lili to question her about what went wrong and when she says that Hedley will need an army to beat Bart and Hedley decides to do just that. In Rock Ridge, the townsfolk learn about the army recruitment and want to leave town but Bart convinces them to give him 24 hours to find a way out of this. Sneaking in to where Hedley is interviewing people, Bart and Jim disguise themselves as a pair of KKK members but when Bart’s skin tone is revealed, they are forced to run. Sneaking into the railroad camp, Bart and Jim tell Charlie to get all of the workers and gather supplies, then meet him outside of town. At the meeting place, Bart explains to the townsfolk that they are going to build an exact replica of the town in order to fool Taggart and his army, with the railroad workers helping in exchange for some land to call their own. The townsfolk don’t want to at first but realizing they have no choice if they want to survive, they agree. In the morning, the decoy is finished but they realize that they forgot to include people so Bart, Jim, and Mongo go to stall Taggart’s army while they quickly build some people. With the decoys finished, everyone watches as Taggert’s men head into the fake town. Bart goes to blow up the town but the detonator fails so he has Jim shoot the dynamite to set them off. With Taggart’s men disoriented by the explosions, Bart leads the townsfolk to fight with the ruffians as the camera pans up to show them in a Hollywood sound stage. On another stage, a musical number is being filmed when the fight breaks through the wall of their set. As the director yells at the men, Taggart punches him and the men in the musical join in the fight. The fight spills into the studio cafeteria, where people start throwing pies at each other. Hedley happens to be at the cafeteria and when he sees what is going on, he quickly ducks out of the building, though not without getting hit by a pie himself. Hailing a cab, Hedley heads to a theater and goes to watch a movie, only to see Bart riding up to the theater on the screen. Hedley tries to leave but Bart confronts him and after Hedley tricks him into dropping his gun, Bart manages to avoid getting shot and kills Hedley. Jim comes up and congratulates Bart on killing Hedley, and the two decide to get tickets to see how the movie ends. In the movie, Bart is leaving the town, much to the townsfolk’s dismay as they have grown to love Bart, but Bart says that With Hedley dead, the town has become boring and doesn’t really need a sheriff anymore. As Bart leaves town, Jim decides to go with him and the two ride off for a ways until the meet up with a limousine and hop inside and are driven away into the sunset.

Blazing Saddles met with mixed reviews initially but has since come to receive high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Daring, provocative, and laugh-out-loud funny, Blazing Saddles is a gleefully vulgar spoof of Westerns that marks a high point in Mel Brooks’ storied career.” CBS and Warner Brothers would produce a TV series titled Black Bart as a means to keep the broadcast rights for Blazing Saddles and any future sequels but the episodes were never aired (aside from the pilot that starred Louis Gossett Jr.) and when management changed within Warner Brothers, the plans for a sequel were dropped and the unaired show was canceled, though 4, 6-episode seasons had been filmed. The movie was a smash hit at the box office, earning $119.6 million off of a $2.6 million budget and would receive three Academy Award nominations. Widely considered to be one of the greatest comedies of all time, the movie would end up selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2006.

Let’s not mince words here, there is some racist humor in this movie but it is still an incredibly funny movie to watch. The acting was great, with Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder doing great jobs as Sheriff Bart and Jim respectively. I also thought that Harvey Korman was fantastic as Hedley Lamarr while Slim Pickens was great as Taggart. The story had a deeper meaning beyond the comedy, using satire to highlight the issue of racism that existed in the past and how it was “overlooked” when Hollywood made movies about the Old West. Yes, Mel Brooks was pretty blunt with the racism but that was to prove his point and actually did help with some of the comedy. The comedy was Mel Brooks usual blend of quick wit, play on words, and slapstick that worked to almost pure perfection in this movie. It may seem dated and is definitely crude but this is still a great comedy and one worth watching.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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adventure, comedy, movie, movie review, sci-fi

October 21st, 2017 Movie – Spaceballs

spaceballs

There is no better way to start a Saturday than with some laughs. Ok, there might be one or two better ways but starting with a laugh does make the rest of the day seem better. Now this right here happens to be one of, if not my absolute favorite, Mel Brooks movie. I think part of that is because it was the first one of his movies I ever saw in theaters. The other part is the subject that it parodies, Star Wars. Either way, it took quite a while before I ended up buying this movie on DVD. Not entirely sure why but I did decide to rectify that decision as soon as I could. So let’s have some laughs with today’s movie, Spaceballs.

The plot: The evil Spaceballs have squandered all of the clean air on their planet and come up with a plan to steal all of the air from the nearby planet Druidia. Dark Helmet, on board the massive starship Spaceball One, arrives at Druidia with the intention of kidnapping the Princess Vespa when she leaves for her honeymoon and ransoming her for the combination to Druidia’s air shield. On Druidia, Vespa doesn’t want to marry Prince Valium but King Roland says she has too; as he is the last prince and she must marry someone of noble blood. After walking down the aisle, Vespa races past the altar and heads to her car and leaves Druidia, taking Dot Matrix, her droid-of-honor, with her. On planet Spaceball, President Skroob denies reports about that planet’s limited air supply when he gets word that Helmet has spotted Princess Vespa. Skroob heads to the control room, choosing to walk after a transporter accident put his head on backwards, and after seeing Vespa’s position on the radar, orders Helmet to continue with the plan. Spaceball One begins firing on Vespa’s Mercedes and Vespa calls her father for help, while Helmet chastises the gunner and learns that he is surrounded by assholes. Roland contacts a mercenary called Lone Starr and his sidekick Barf, a Mog (half-man, half-dog), and begs them to save Vespa, offering them anything. Lone Starr asks for $1 million space bucks, which he needs to payback the notorious gangster Pizza the Hutt, and Roland agrees. Lone Starr and Barf locate Vespa, who has been caught in Spaceball One’s magna-beam, and they jam Spaceball One’s radar so they can approach the Mercedes undetected. Barf then climbs down a ladder to get Vespa and Dot but Vespa refuses to leave her matched luggage and so Barf is forced to carry it onto their Winnebago and they fly off just as the Mercedes is brought aboard Spaceball One. In the hangar, Helmet approaches the Mercedes only to find it empty and when the radar technician says the radar is repaired and they picked up a Winnebago, Helmet realizes that Lone Starr had saved her. The Spaceballs give chase and when Lone Starr tries to get away by going to light speed, Helmet orders Colonel Sandurz to go to “ludicrous speed”, which causes them to overshoot Lone Starr and when Sandurz pulls the emergency brake, Helmet goes flying into a control panel. Meanwhile, Lone Starr and Barf drop their Winnebago out of light speed only to find that the used up all of their fuel and are forced to crash onto the desert moon of Vega. Lone Starr and Vespa, who had been arguing over the intercom during their escape, finally come face to face and, after a brief hesitation, begin arguing again until Barf reminds them that Helmet will be coming back to look for them. Lone Starr says they should take only what they need to survive but Vespa insists they take all of her luggage. As Lone Starr and Barf carry the bulk of her bags, they stop and open up the giant trunk they are carrying to find a giant hair dryer inside and after arguing with Vespa about it, leaves it in the sand, as he and Barf pick up the now lighter trunk and continue carrying it. Back on Spaceball One, Dark Helmet and Sandurz can’t find any sign of Lone Starr or the others on their scanners so Sandurz tells a crew member to get a copy of Spaceballs. Helmet voices his confusion to Sandurz, as they are in the middle of filming it, but Sanderz tells him it is the latest in home video marketing. They watch the tape fast forwarding through everything that has already happened and, after a confusing moment where they are watching what is being filmed right that second, they soon find out where Lone Starr and Vespa are. On Vega, the group is camping for the night and Lone Starr and Vespa are talking about why Vespa ran from her wedding and the mystery surrounding Lone Starr’s parents, as his only clue is the medallion around his neck. As they get closer, the two are about to kiss when Dot Matrix’s “Virgin Alarm” goes off and she quickly breaks them apart. The next day, the group continues moving through the desert and end up passing out from dehydration (or lack of oil in Dot’s case) but they are rescued by the Dinks, a race of hooded desert dwellers, and taken to their home, the Temple of Yogurt, the Everlasting Know-It-All. Yogurt explains that he is the guardian of the Schwartz, while he and the Dinks sell Spacsballs merchandise from his temple. Later, Yogurt takes a look at Lone Starr’s medallion and is able to read the inscription but tells Lone Starr he can’t reveal what it says until the proper time. He then trains Lone Starr in using the Schwartz, having him lift up the giant statue, which Lone Starr succeeds in doing but then accidentally drops it on Barf’s foot. Outside, Helmet and Sandurz have their men combing the desert, literally, when Helmet senses the presence of the Schwartz. Sandurz locates the temple doorway and Helmet is upset to see the sign of Yogurt on the door, telling Sandurz that Yogurt has the upside of the Schwartz while he has the down side. Unable to go inside, Helmet disguises himself as King Roland and calls out to Vespa. Vespa runs out to her father only to find that it is really Helmet and both Vespa and Dot are captured. Yogurt gives Lone Starr some gas so he and Barf can go after them and as they say goodbye, he gives Lone Starr the Ring of the Schwartz and a fortune cookie, telling him to open it before he eats it. Meanwhile, Helmet takes Vespa to Spaceball City, where he contacts King Roland and threatens to have plastic surgery performed on Vespa to give her back her old nose unless Roland gives them the combination to the air shield. When Vespa faints, Roland agrees to give them the combination and once he does, Helmet comments on how “1,2,3,4,5” is the combination an idiot would use for his luggage. Skroob shows up and after hearing the combination, which he says is the same as his luggage, he orders Spaceball One prepped to leave and tells them to change the combination on his luggage. Lone Starr and Barf arrive at Spaceball City and knock out some guards so they can steal their uniforms and sneak inside. Once inside, they locate the Vespa and Dot but run into some more guards and are forced to fight their way out. As they run for it, the Spaceballs believe they have them captured but ended up capturing their stunt doubles instead. Outside, the group heads for the Winnebago only to have one of the Spaceballs fuse the lock with an errant blast. Lone Starr gives Vespa the gun while he works with Barf on getting the door open and Vespa quickly shoots the remaining guards after they singe her hair with a laser blast. They head to Druidia to find that Spaceball One has transformed into a giant robot maid and is using a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the air from Druidia. Lone Starr uses the Schwartz to flip the vacuum’s switch to reverse the air flow, restoring the air to Druidia, then flies inside the robot’s head to search for a self destruct button. After locating it, he heads outside to activate it, knocking out the guards along the way, but before he can press the button, he is confronted by Helmet. The two use their Schwartz rings to fashion lightsabers and begin fighting, with Helmet killing a cameraman and the two of them getting their Schwartz’s twisted, Helmet manages to trick Lone Starr and steal the ring then throw it down the drain. As Lone Starr dodges the blasts from Helmet’s ring, he is contacted telepathically by Yogurt, who tells him the ring was a fake and the Schwartz is within him. Lone Starr uses the Schwartz to grab a  mirror and uses it to reflect Helmet’s blast into Helmet’s groin, causing him to stumble back in pain and accidentally press the self destruct button. As the self destruct countsdown, Lone Starr races back to the Winnebago and they race out of there just before it explodes, while Helmet, Skroob, and Sandurz end up trapped on the robot after everyone else uses all of the escape pods and they are blasted into space inside the head. The group cheers over the robot’s destruction and head down towards Druidia and as they are landing, Lone Starr and Barf see a news report that Pizza the Hutt is dead and Barf gets excited at the thought of keeping all of the money. Landing at the palace, Roland is happy to see his daughter back and shows her that Valium is there waiting for her as well, which upsets Lone Starr and he quickly leaves with Barf. The two head to a Space fueling station and as they refuel, head into the diner to get some food but when a xenomorph bursts out of the chest of a nearby space traveler, then starts singing “Hello, My Baby” (ala Michigan J. Frog), they quickly leave. Barf complains about being hungry so Lone Starr gives him the fortune cookie Yogurt gave him but when Barf opens it, the image of Yogurt appears. Yogurt tells Lone Starr that the medallion is a royal birth certificate, making him a prince, then tells him to use the special fuel in the glove compartment in order to make it back to Druidia in time to stop Vespa from marrying Valium. Meanwhile, Vespa is upset that Lone Starr took the money and left but when Roland tells her he only took $248 dollars for “lunch, gas, and tolls”, she realizes that Lone Starr loved her. Just as the minister asks her if she takes Valium as her husband, Lone Starr and Barf appears and when she learns that Lone Starr is a prince, she shoves Valium aside and agrees to marry Lone Starr. The two are wed and fly off in the Winnebago while on a distant planet, the robot maid’s head and arm land on a remote beach, where two Chimpanzees from the Planet Of The Apes witness the three Spaceballs climbing out of her nose and one of them remarks, “Oh, shit. There goes the planet.”

Spaceballs met with mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, several critics enjoyed the movie but felt it was a far cry from some of Brook’s earlier works. Mel Brooks got George Lucas’ permission to parody any and all things Star Wars related on the condition that no merchandise be produced for the movie. George Lucas did love the script and had his special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic, help with making the film, had the Millennium Falcon appear in a cameo at the diner, and also allowed Brooks to use an unused escape pod clip from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $38.1 million off of a $22.7 million budget but received even more success when it hit home video, becoming one of Mel Brooks most popular movies.

This is such a funny, and quotable, movie to watch. The acting was really good, with Rick Moranis (Helmet), Bill Pullman (Lone Starr), John Candy (Barf), and Mel Brooks (Skroob/Yogurt) all doing great jobs in their roles. The story was well written and did a good job of parodying Star Wars, while also ripping briefly on Star Trek, Transformers, and Planet Of The Apes as well. I have to admit that, after learning about the deal Brooks and Lucas made about no merchandising from the film being produced, it makes that whole merchandising scene with Yogurt that much funnier (side note, I loved how the “Spaceballs coloring book and lunch box” were actually a Transformers coloring book and lunch box with a Spaceballs sticker slapped on them (also, I totally had that Transformers lunch box as a kid)). I will admit, some of the comedic timing and pacing didn’t seem as good as his previous movies but there were still a lot of laughs to be had, with the pairing of Candy and Pullman, as well as Moranis with George Wyner (Sandurz) and Brooks (Skroob) making for most of the laughs involved. A really funny movie that has me geared up for some movies coming down the road.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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