comedy, movie, movie review, musical

November 1st, 2018 Movie – The Producers (2005)

the producers 2005

You know, I never saw the original version of this movie. That is kind of a shame as I love Mel Brooks films but then again, if it is a musical, I might not have enjoyed it as much. Anyways, the 2000’s brought a bunch of Hollywood remakes to the big screen. This movie was one of those remakes but I honestly had no interest in seeing it. Unfortunately, Vudu decided that I needed to own this movie so let’s see if The Producers (2005) is any good.

The plot: [Long and exhausting day at work really has me drained so I am just copying the plot summary from Wikipedia. My apologies for the laziness]
Following the flop of theater musical Funny Boy (based on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet) (“Opening Night”), the show’s washed-up producer, Max Bialystock, hires the neurotic Leo Bloom as his accountant. While studying Max’s books, Leo notes that as a flop is expected to lose money, the IRS will not investigate the finances of failed productions. Leo jests that by selling an excess of shares and embezzling the funds, a flop could generate up to $2 million. Max asks for Leo’s help with the scheme, only for the latter to refuse (“We Can Do It”). Returning to his old accounting firm, Leo starts fantasizing about being a Broadway producer (“I Wanna Be a Producer”). Leo quits his job and forms “Bialystock & Bloom” with Max. Searching for the worst play ever written, the duo finds Springtime for Hitler, a musical written by an ex-Nazi named Franz Liebkind. Max and Leo, in order to acquire Franz’s rights to the musical, perform Hitler’s favorite song and swear the sacred “Siegfried Oath” to him (“Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop”). In order to ensure the play’s failure, Max and Leo meet failing, flamboyant director Roger De Bris and his assistant Carmen Ghia. Roger is reluctant to direct, but when Max and Leo suggest he could win a Tony Award, he agrees on the condition that the play be more “gay” (“Keep It Gay”). Back at their office, a Swedish woman named Ulla appears to audition. Although Leo points out that they have not started casting, Max hires her as their secretary until they audition her later (“When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It”). To gain backers to fund the musical, Max has dalliances with several elderly women (“Along Came Bialy”), allowing him to raise the $2 million. Leo laments about the dangers of sex distracting him from his work, and shares a kiss with Ulla (“That Face”). At auditions for the role of Hitler, Franz, angered at a performer’s rendition of a German song, storms the stage and performs it himself (“Haben Sie gehört das Deutsche Band?”). Based on the performance, Max hires Franz to play Hitler. On opening night, as the cast and crew prepare to go on stage, Leo wishes everyone good luck, to which everyone warns it is bad luck to say “good luck” on opening night, and that the correct phrase is to say “break a leg” (“You Never Say Good Luck on Opening Night”). Franz leaves to prepare and literally breaks his leg in a fall. Max enlists Roger to perform the role in his place, and Roger accepts. As the show opens, the audience is horrified at the first song (“Springtime for Hitler”), and people begin leaving out of disgust until Roger enters as Hitler. Roger, playing Hitler very flamboyantly, causes the audience to misinterpret the play as satire, resulting in the show becoming a smash. Terrified the IRS will learn of their crimes, a dispute breaks out between Max and Leo, but stops when Roger and Carmen come into the office to congratulate them. Furious at Roger for making the play successful, Max angrily confronts Roger for his actions, and even goes as far to physically torture Carmen when he tries to defend Roger. Franz then appears and attempts to shoot all four of them for breaking the Siegfried Oath by mocking Hitler, only to attract the police. As Max and Franz attempt to evade the police, Franz breaks his other leg. Arrested for his tax fraud, Max is imprisoned while Leo elopes with Ulla to Rio de Janeiro (“Betrayed”). About to be sentenced, Max is saved by Leo, who returns to defend him (“Til Him”). The judge, realizing Max and Leo are inseparable, sentences them both to five years at Sing Sing Prison with Franz. Writing and producing a new musical in prison (“Prisoners of Love”), Leo, Max, and Franz are pardoned by the governor for their work, allowing them to collaborate with Roger and Ulla and release Prisoners of Love. The play’s success means Max and Leo go on to become successful Broadway producers. In a post-credits scene, the cast sings “Goodbye!”, telling the audience to leave the theater.

The Producers (2005) met with mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Despite the rich source material, The Producers has a stale, stagy feel more suited to the theater than the big screen.” The phrase “It was shocking, outrageous, insulting… and I loved every minute of it!” from a supposed review of “Springtime for Hitler”, was a rewording of a review by Peter Sellers written about The Producers (1967).The movie was a box office flop, earning $38.1 million off of a $45 million budget.

Still not really a fan of musicals but I have to admit that this was pretty funny. The acting was good, with Nathan Lane (Max) and Matthew Broderick (Leo) had some fantastic chemistry together as well as some great comedic timing. Uma Thurman (Ulla), Will Ferrell (Franz), and Gary Beach (Roger) were also great in their roles. The story was interesting as it is basically an embezzlement scheme using theater as the way to earn the money. The singing and dancing numbers were well coordinated and I will admit that some of them were kind of catchy. I can’t say how it compares to the original but I do have more of a desire to watch it now. On it’s own, it is a funny movie but there are better musicals to watch.

Rating: 3 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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