Archive for the ‘John Landis’ Category

BEVERLY HILLS COP III is not as bad as anyone says it is.  That’s not to say it’s particularly great.  And maybe you shouldn’t listen to me anyway, because I saw it more than once in the theaters, and I can promise you that at the time I was as excited to see a new BEVERLY HILLS COP movie as most people my age would have been to see a new STAR WARS movie.  Most guys my age grew up wanting to be Han Solo.  I grew up wanting to be Axel Foley.  And a movie where Axel Foley investigates a murder at an amusement park?  Directed by John Landis (ANIMAL HOUSE, THE BLUES BROTHERS, SPIES LIKE US)?  Yeah, that’s a movie a sixteen-year-old Jon Abrams wants to see very much, thank you.

The first BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984, d. Martin Brest) is a pretty-much perfect Hollywood movie, a fish-out-of-water story with genuinely hysterical one-liners, an earworm of a main theme, a terrific supporting cast that includes Ronny Cox, John Ashton, Judge Reinhold, and the super-cute Lisa Eilbacher, at least two enjoyably-hissable villains (Steven Berkoff and Breaking Bad‘s Jonathan Banks), and a comedic supernova of a leading man in Eddie Murphy, on a streak that went from Saturday Night Live to 48 HRS. to TRADING PLACES to his concert film DELIRIOUS and then here, to the biggest box-office hit of 1984.

The second BEVERLY HILLS COP II recently got a bump in its critical esteem with the too-belated outpouring of respect for the work of its director, Tony Scott.  I’m a big Tony Scott fan, but not as much a fan of BEVERLY HILLS COP II.  It’s a few notes too aggressive for my tastes, with villains that aren’t as much fun to hate (Jürgen Prochnow, Brigitte Nielsen, Dean Stockwell, and Gilbert Gottfried) and a dark and depressing overcast that sees Ronny Cox’s Capt. Bogomil sidelined throughout the entire movie.  The first film had moments of real darkness and danger that made it work for me, but somehow it was upsetting to have a character I liked so much shot down and left by the side of the road like that.  It must be how nerds of a different variety feel about Hicks and Newt in ALIEN 3.

Of course, Ronny Cox didn’t even show up for BEVERLY HILLS COP III.  As he told the great Will Harris over at the Onion’s A.V. Club, the script (allegedly) wasn’t so hot.  John Ashton (Sgt. Taggart) didn’t show up either, reportedly unavailable due to scheduling.  Those two characters, Bogomil and Taggart, were the strongest foils to Eddie Murphy’s  Axel Foley character, and their grudgingly warming up to him is what gave the franchise almost all of its heart and soul.  Without them, something’s missing.  In BEVERLY HILLS COP III, Bogomil goes unmentioned and we’re told that Taggart retired and moved out of state.  Even the puppyish Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold’s character) is trying to act more serious and mature.  Rosewood has a new, gruff, mustachioed partner, Jon Flint, played by Hector Elizondo, but let’s face it, the only one happy about that replacement is Garry Marshall.   The third movie, even more than the second, feels like its genesis was motivated out of less than artistic reasons.

BAM Cinematek is playing BEVERLY HILLS COP III as part of their terrific “American Gagsters: Great Comedy Teams” film series.  I’m torn between applauding the left-field choice and wondering why they didn’t go with the more popular and frankly more successful pairings of Eddie Murphy and director John Landis — TRADING PLACES and COMING TO AMERICA.  Those two films were much bigger creative and critical successes, and along with 48 HRS. and the first BEVERLY HILLS COP, are the foundation of Eddie Murphy’s onscreen comedic persona.  Apparently, John Landis and Eddie Murphy had a serious falling-out after COMING TO AMERICA (my heart hurts just typing that), and BEVERLY HILLS COP III was their reunion.  It came at a time (1994) when Eddie’s fortunes were shifting a little — his movies continued to make money but among many of his fans, they weren’t nearly as universally beloved.  Maybe Eddie was trying to recapture some of the old magic by bringing Landis back.  It could have worked.

I’ve always wondered what the tipping point was with Eddie Murphy.  For a time, he could do no wrong.  Then I started hearing people bagging on his movies, and what a disappointment he’d become.  No one thinks he still isn’t, somewhere inside himself, the most incendiary and fucking funniest comedian on the planet, but plenty of people seem to think he’s given up.  I don’t see it that way, but venture off my page and look elsewhere on the internet — it gets scary out there.  I think I can argue my point with the clear evidence that there are plenty of bright spots in Eddie’s post-1980s output:  THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (obviously), DOCTOR DOOLITTLE (fuck you, I laughed), LIFE (hugely underrated), BOWFINGER (a little underrated, definitely underseen), DREAMGIRLS (all-the-awards-worthy), TOWER HEIST (his performance, not the movie, which is otherwise pretty lame).

But there was a definite shift in Eddie’s persona that happened between COMING TO AMERICA and BEVERLY HILLS COP III.  The wisecracking, authority-demolishing, devil-may-care Eddie started to get romantic.  In my opinion, this really kicked into gear with BOOMERANG, a movie some people still love a lot, though you’ll see early traces of it in COMING TO AMERICA and then in Eddie’s own directorial debut, HARLEM NIGHTS.  I don’t have a problem with that — why shouldn’t Eddie get some onscreen, same as any other movie hero? — and in fact film historian Donald Bogle raised a similar point about BEVERLY HILLS COP — exactly why isn’t Lisa Eilbacher a romantic interest for Eddie in that movie?  (Of course we all know the old, bad answer to that one.)  But when a comedy icon becomes a romantic lead, that requires some changes to his onscreen persona.  BOOMERANG Eddie Murphy is going to have to be a different guy in a lot of ways than 48 HRS. Eddie Murphy, or even GOLDEN CHILD Eddie Murphy.

In keeping with this line of thought, here’s one element of BEVERLY HILLS COP III that is actually underrated, and even better than the previous two installments:  Axel Foley gets a love interest, and she’s actually worthwhile, at least by 1990s big-budget comedy romantic interest standards.  Theresa Randle is an actress we don’t see much anymore, but she worked with Spike Lee and Abel Ferrara and had a role in both BAD BOYS movies.  She has a rather thankless role in BEVERLY HILLS COP III, as a park employee who helps Axel Foley out, and the romance doesn’t go too far, but at least it’s played by a capable actress who can suggest some subtext.

Eddie Murphy

Maybe I’m easy on BEVERLY HILLS COP III because of that reason, or because on BAM’s page they have a John Landis quote which makes it sound more promising than it ended up:  “I was attracted by the marvelous premise of a murder in Disneyland, a subversive idea. And I couldn’t resist the thought of creating a world of wonders, immersed in illusion.”  The second half of that quote is Landis overselling it a little, but the first half is a genuinely good reason to make a movie, especially for a gleeful cinematic anarchist like him.  There are a few factors why the final edit of the movie feels more toothless than it should — budgetary cuts, rumblings of creative differences — but there’s still stuff to enjoy. The director cameos.  The name of the main villain (“Ellis DeWald.” Say it! It’s fun!)  The orchestral reworking of the “Axel F” theme, by Chic’s Nile Rodgers.  The fact that so far, fingers crossed maybe, it’s the last time we’ve seen Eddie Murphy’s most iconic character  a movie screen.  You guys go hang out with Han Solo all you want.  I’d still rather hang out with this guy.

BEVERLY HILLS COP III plays tonight at BAM Rose Cinemas.

Find me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

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And we’re back!  Ready for round two.  Inspired again by my friend-in-movies at Rupert Pupkin Speaks, I’m re-presenting and reshuffling my top fifty movies of all time.  “Reshuffling” sounds a little more extreme than what I’ve done here — most of the titles remain the same, and the order isn’t much different.  But there’s a fair amount of new blood, and I’ve updated the links to any movies I’ve written about at length (those are bolded in red.) 

This list is absolutely subject to change, so keep watching this space, but while you’re at it, don’t forget to keep watching the skies.

1. THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY (1966).

2. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984).

3. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978).

4.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968).

5.  UNFORGIVEN (1992).

6.  KING KONG (1933).

7.  PREDATOR (1987).

8.  MANHUNTER (1986).

9.  BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986).

10.  MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976).

11.  John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982).

12.  HEAT (1995).

13.  FREAKS (1932).

14. JAWS (1975).

15.  Berry Gordy’s THE LAST DRAGON (1985).

16.  THE WILD BUNCH (1969).

17.  SHAFT (1971).

18.  BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984).

19.  THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966).

20.  SEA OF LOVE (1989).

21. RAISING ARIZONA (1987).

22.  EVIL DEAD 2 (1987).

23.  OUT OF SIGHT (1998).

24.  THE INSIDER (1999).

25.  ALLIGATOR (1980).

26.  COLLATERAL (2004).

27.  THE GREAT SILENCE (1968).

28.  AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).

29.  MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946).

30.  CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954).

31. PRIME CUT (1972).

32. WATERMELON MAN (1970).

33.  GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997).

34.  25th HOUR (2002).

35.  COFFY (1973).

36. QUICK CHANGE (1990).

37.  MAGNOLIA (1999).

38.  HANNIE CAULDER (1971).

39. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981).

40.  48 HRS. (1982).

41.  GOODFELLAS (1990).

42.  SHOGUN ASSASSIN (1980).

43.  PURPLE RAIN (1984).

44.  THE UNHOLY THREE (1925).

45.  TRUE GRIT (2010).

46.  THE PROFESSIONALS (1966).

47.  VIOLENT CITY aka THE FAMILY (1973).

48.  THE HIT (1984).

49.  EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE (1973).

50.  ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011).

50 1/2.  The five-minute skeleton swordfight in JASON & THE ARGONAUTS (1963).

______________________________________________

And that’s that…. for now.

For a little bit more all the time, find me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

I probably should be doing about 50 other things at this very moment, but I saw this great top-50 list today and was inspired it to immediately answer it.  I made my list very, very quickly, so in plenty of ways it’s the most honest form a list like this could ever arrive in.  While the numbering is fairly arbitrary (until the top five, where shit gets definite) and while the contents could easily change as soon as five minutes from now, this is still a fairly good representation of what a top fifty movies list from me should look like.  Anyway, let’s hit it.  Links where they fit.  I eagerly await any and all comments you might make!

50. Watermelon Man (1970).

49. Fletch (1985).

48. The Great Silence (1968).

47. Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954).

46. The Hit (1984).

45. Knightriders (1981).

44. The Night Of The Hunter (1955).

43. Of Unknown Origin (1983).

42. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973).

41. Prime Cut (1972).

40. Grosse Pointe Blank (1997).

39. Coffy (1973).

38. Trainspotting (1996).

37. In Bruges (2008).

36. Quick Change (1990).

35. Collateral (2004).

34. Out Of Sight (1998).

33. Halloween (1978).

32. Magnolia (1999).

31. Raising Arizona (1987).

30. Escape From New York (1981).

29. Shogun Assassin (1980).

28. Goodfellas (1990).

27. Purple Rain (1984).

26. True Grit (2010).

25. The Unholy Three (1925).

24. My Darling Clementine (1946).

23. The Insider (1999).

22. Alligator (1980).

21. Animal House (1978).

20. High Plains Drifter (1973).

19. Freaks (1932).

18. Beverly Hills Cop (1984).

17. An American Werewolf In London (1981).

 

16. Predator (1987).

 

15. Jaws (1975).

14. Shaft (1971).

13. Evil Dead 2 (1987).

 

12. The Wild Bunch (1969).

11. Manhunter (1986).

10. Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976).

9. Heat (1995).

8. King Kong (1933).

7. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).

6. Big Trouble In Little China (1986).

5. Unforgiven (1992).

4. Dawn Of The Dead (1978).

3. Ghostbusters (1984).

2. Once Upon A Time In The West (1968).

 

1. The Good The Bad & The Ugly (1966).

@jonnyabomb

The Blues Brothers is actually a very hard one to write about, for me anyway.  Writing about this movie is exactly like writing about music: It can be interesting to do, to a point, but eventually you really just need to listen to the song.  As much as I enjoy reading about and writing about movies, ultimately movies are made to be watched, and The Blues Brothers, maybe more than most, is easier watched than pontificated over.

Maybe it’s because, of all the comedies of the era, The Blues Brothers (arguably) comes the closest to pure cinema.  It’s about the music, the motion, the stunts, the spectacle, and the dancing, with frequent pitstops for jokes, both of the visual and the uttered variety.  There’s not a lot of wasted energy.  It’s an exuberant entertainment machine.

Also, while it may not necessarily be my favorite comedy of its era (though it’s up there), The Blues Brothers is one of the most unassailable.  It’s hard to think of a moment that doesn’t belong.  It’s hard to think of a single frame that could be changed.  You can’t fairly say that about some of the other classics.    Ghostbusters has that weird moment where Dan Aykroyd gets head from a ghost.  Animal House has the borderline-racist scene in the black night club (“Do you mind if we dance with your dates?”)  Caddyshack has that girl’s Irish accent (“No ya doon’t…!”)  The Blues Brothers has nothing like any of those.  It’s pretty damn determined, pretty damn thorough, pretty damn unstoppable.

Plenty has already been written about the music of The Blues Brothers.  It’s hard to say much new about it, but it’s also hard to understate its importance.  The Blues Brothers is a landmark film in the realm of American R&B and soul music.  It brought a renewed spotlight to crucial performers, some of whom were beginning to be forgotten at the time.  It rejuvenated the careers of James Brown, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin.  It features a show-stopping climactic performance by Cab Calloway, who also plays a major role.  It pauses briefly for an extended cameo by John Lee Hooker.  The Blues Brothers Band, which Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi fronted on-screen and off, was stocked with serious musicians, including Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, of Booker T. & The MG’s and literally hundreds of classic records on the Stax label.  This movie was an atomic bomb of taste-making.  I can hardly be the only scrawny runt from the suburbs whose record collection owes plenty to the fact that The Blues Brothers exists.  Music is one of the most immediate factors which can date a movie.  That’s not a problem The Blues Brothers has to worry about, probably ever.  This movie’s sound is evergreen.

Do I exaggerate?

That’s Chaka Khan in the front row of JB’s choir, by the way.  Not the first or the last notable face to flash by in a movie which also includes Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, Paul Reubens, John Candy, Henry Gibson, Kathleen Freeman (you’d know her when you saw her), Charles Napier (him too), Joe Walsh, Steven Spielberg, and Mr. T (he’s uncredited).  This movie’s IMDB page has you covered for your Trivia Night.

It’s a classic.  Let’s stop talking about it and go watch it again.

Anthology Film Archives will be screening The Blue Brothers in August, as part of its stellar Hollywood Musicals Of The 1980s film series.  (Read what I wrote about Streets Of Fire, Purple Rain, and The Muppet Movie!)  Also, a new Blu-Ray edition is landing in stores on Tuesday July 26th, in case you can’t make it to the theater.