Movie Review: WALK HARD The Dewey Cox Story

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Walk Hard The Dewy Cox Story movie poster
Columbia
2007
R

“This is crazy, Dewey. Ain’t nobody gonna wanna listen to music like this. You’re standing there, playing as fast as you can, singing like some sort of punk!”

  • One of the most iconic figures in rock history, Dewey Cox had it all: the women (over 400 served), the friends (Elvis, The Beatles), and the rock n’ roll lifestyle (a close and personal relationship with every pill and powder known to man). But most of all, he had the music that transformed a dimwitted country boy into the greatest American rock star who never lived.

Something seems to have happened to the satirical comedy movie genre. Some time in the turn of the 21st Century, somehow the comedy movies that were spoofing other areas of pop culture were getting lazy, going more the zany route than actually well-crafted tongue-in-cheek spoof. Take, for instance, the classic Airplane!, and compare that to the likes of Epic Movie. Yeah, see the difference? Now, I’m not saying that every spoof comedy movie made in the 80s and 90s was comedy gold; but even the worst ones from that era (*cough* Spy Hard *cough*) had more meat to them than a lot of these dime-a-dozen blockbuster spoof movies nowadays.

Excuse me a minute, while I yell at the squirrels to get of muh lawn, dagnabit.

Anyway, all old man bellyachin’ aside (I just said “bellyachin'”…yep, I’m officially old now), I will say that not every spoof comedy movie made after 1999 is crap. Take, for instance, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. This is a movie that was made some time after the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line, that stared Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter, respectively. But, rather than just spoof Johnny Cash’s early life, Walk Hard also includes some hilarious shots at the history of rock n’ roll, blues and country music pop culture in America all together.

We begin the story with a young Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly!) accidentally cutting his brother Nate in half in 1946. The trauma takes his sense of smell, but then he discovers that he has an affinity for the blues. Later, he preforms a song at his school talent show, which results in his father kicking him out of the house for playing “that Devil music”. So he leaves with his 12-year-old girlfriend (I should maybe point out that Dewey’s 14 at this time, although that may not lower the squick factor much), marry and have a baby. While working as a singer in a nightclub, he catches the ear of a record exec, who has him record a couple of tunes: a rockabilly rendition of “That’s Amore” (it doesn’t do well), and what would become his signature song, “Walk Hard”. The later song becomes an instant hit–literally, like in 35 minutes of its recording–and next thing you know, Dewey finds himself a rock n’ roll idol, and next thing you know he’s caught up in the lifestyle, trying drugs and sleeping around on his wife. Then his mother dies while dancing to one of Dewey’s records, which causes him to start using cocaine, and this is about the time when he meets choir-girl Darlene Madison (Jenna Fischer!), who he records several hit records with while falling madly in love with. So they get married…only, remember he’s still married to his first wife? Yeah, that doesn’t end well, and then he’s jailed for drug possession. After his stint in prison, Darlene returns to him, they move to Berkeley during the counterculture movement, takes LSD with the Beatles, then becomes obsessed with recording his masterpiece. The band leaves him due to his growing erratic and abusive behavior, and Darlene then leaves him for Glen Campbell (ouch). After some more rehab and a visit from the ghost of his brother, Dewey now hosts a variety show in the 70s, manages to reconnect with his estranged father in the most bizarre way possible, he gets a visit from one of his many illegitimate children, which causes him to want to reconnect with family again, regains his sense of smell, and then reconnects with and remarries Darlene. Again. Suddenly he’s popular with the young kids again due to rapper Lil’ Nutzzak sampling “Walk Hard” for his song. He gets a lifetime achievement award, reunites with his band, and finally composes his masterpiece song. And then he died three minutes after that. The end.

Overall, as a pop music history junkie, who loves watching documentaries about music and bands whether or not I like them*, Walk Hard was a great send-up of rock n’ roll biopics and documentaries all together. John C. Reilly once again proves his comedy chops as the lead. Taken as a comedy itself, it’s pretty over-the-top but still rather funny. I would say that Walk Hard is up there with comedies like the immortal UHF and Spaceballs. Recommended.

[*my favorite one being the VH1 Behind The Music episode of Oasis…not because I like their music (I don’t), or found the history all that interesting, but for the fact that, even though the brothers spoke English, they still had to have English subtitles to be understood]

Movie Review: MANBORG

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manborg
Astron-6
2011
NR

“To the death, please!”

  • The armies of Hell have taken over the Earth, and all that stands in the way of the villainous Count Draculon and humanity’s total extinction is a motley crew of misfits led by the mighty MANBORG: a warrior that’s half-man, half machine, but all hero. Once a young soldier killed during first war against Hell, Manborg reawakens in the future, rebuilt as a walking weapon and mankind’s last hope. Struggling to learn the secret of his origins, Manborg unwittingly befriends a post-apocalyptic Australian punker, a knife wielding vixen, and a kung-fu master, before finally squaring off against Count Draculon in a desperate and bloody bid to take back the Earth!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, various intergalactic species reading this document, I give you now my new favorite deliberately cheesy awesome sci-fi movie I’ve had the pleasure of stumbling across recently: Manborg.

Originally released in 2011, I am shocked and appalled that I had not heard of this movie until just the past couple of years. Shocked and appalled, I say. Why have I never been told about this movie until now? And why is it, whenever I bring it up with anyone else that I know loves movies like this, they’ve never heard of it, either? I’m slipping at my game, here. Not good.

Anyway, the story itself should lead you to give this a watch: in the future metropolis of Mega-Death City, a soldier that’s fighting against the evil Count Draculon and his army of Nazi vampires is killed, but then made into the titular Manborg and joins resistance fighters and put in post-apocalyptic gladiatorial fights where things go boom. If that description didn’t have you salivating, how about the fact that the filming style seems to be aping the technique used on the first arcade edition of the Mortal Combat video game? Or that, while this is made to be deliberately cheap-looking and cheesy, this actually has some bite to it? Or how about, it’s only 70 minutes long? And free to stream on Amazon Prime?

Whatever. Manborg is brilliant. Watch it. Have fun doing so. This is a command from your Uncle NecRo.

Movie Review: MYSTERY MEN

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mystery men
Universal
1999
PG-13

“Why am I doing this again?”
“When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you will dead off your foes with a balanced attack.”
“And why am I wearing the watermelon on my feet?”
“I don’t remember telling you to do that.”

  • When Captain Amazing, Champion City’s legendary superhero, falls into the hands of the evil madman Casanova Frankenstein and his disco-dancing henchmen, there’s suddenly a chance for the aspiring superheroes to show what they can do. They’re the Mystery Men…a ragtag team of superhero wannabes featuring: Mr. Furious, whose power comes from his boundless rage; The Shoveler, a father who shovels “better than anyone”; The Blue Raja, a fork-flinging mama’s boy; The Bowler, who fights crime with the help of her father’s skull; The Spleen, whose power is pure flatulence; Invisible Boy, who’s only invisible when no one’s watching; and The Sphinx, a cliche-spewing philosopher.

Nowadays, deconstructing superheros is kind of old hat. Movies like The Incredibles, Super, Megamind, and of course The Watchmen have us looking at superheroes in a humanizing light. It’s second nature now to want to get Superman on a psychiatric couch, rather than marvel at his feats of…well, superhero-ing. Yeah, that’s the best I can come up with before coffee.

Anyway, there was a period not too long ago, when movies deconstructing superheroes weren’t all that numerous. There were a handful, yes, but some would say that they were ahead of their time. 1999’s Mystery Men falls into that category.

Based on side characters created in Flaming Carrot Comics, the Mystery Men consist of blue-collar, B-list superheroes with questionable powers banding together to fight EVIL! Well, okay, more to the point, stumble about and fail upwards. The movie follows the standard Evil Threatens To Overtake City > Main Hero Gets Taken Out > Bunch Of Other Heroes Band Together > Training Montage With Legacy Mentor > Overcoming Personal Obstacles > Saving The Day kind of structure that’s familiar with any story involving superhero team-ups.

I recall watching this movie in the second-run theater I frequent in Omaha back in 1999. I was amused, but not really that impressed. The heroes here are quite inventive with their powers; I especially dug on The Bowler, mainly because she was played by Janeane Garofalo, and she carried around a clear bowling ball with a human skull embedded inside it. I was in love. That said, I think that the major downfall for this movie was the facts that 1) it was based on a really obscure comic book that not too many people have heard of, even within hardcore comic book fandom, and 2) this was still only a couple of years removed from the foul stench that was the Batman & Robin movie. Sure, 1998’s Blade was a step in the right direction, but we were still a year away from 2000’s X-Men, when we could love comic book superhero movies again.

Overall: While it’s a decent enough movie, Mystery Men doesn’t really warrant another rental watch. I might leave it on the channel it’s playing on if I happen to come across it on cable or something, but the chances of that happening in this internet age is slim to none. Otherwise, it’s worth at least one watch some weekend afternoon if you have nothing better to do.

Movie Review: The MUPPETS MOST WANTED

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muppets most wanted
Disney
2014
PG

“I don’t believe it! They’ve managed the impossible! What an achievement! Bravo! Bravo!”
“What, you mean you actually like this show now?”
“No, they’ve made the show even worse!”

  • Muppets Most Wanted takes the entire gang on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper headed by Constantine–the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit–and his dastardly sidekick Dominic “Number Two” Badguy.

The sequel to 2011’s The Muppets was the one that I couldn’t watch in the theater when it was first released, mostly due to that nasty period in my life that I’m sure everybody is sick of reading about by now. As such, I didn’t get around to watching Muppets Most Wanted until it was released later that year on home video. I believe it was actually Thanksgiving Day that year when I watched it. Bittersweet time, this was.

Anyway, with this sequel, we didn’t get the return of co-writer and human co-star of The Muppets Jason Segel, because he felt he accomplished what he set out to do with the 2011 movie: Make a kick-butt old-school Muppet movie. Which he did. But, my all-time favorite Muppet movie growing up (and even now) wasn’t the 1979 original classic, but the 1981 sequel, The Great Muppet Caper. And if you’re going to make a kick-butt Muppet movie, you’re gonna have to make a kick-butt Muppet caper as a follow-up. And with Muppets Most Wanted, we have that follow-up.

With Muppets Most Wanted, we find the stars of The Muppets coming off of their triumphant comeback from the previous film, only to experience the Sophomore Slump with what to do next. Enter a guy named Dominic Badguy (that’s pronounced “badjee”, because it’s “French”), who convinces them to go on a European tour, with him as their tour manager. Meanwhile, a criminal mastermind named Constantine, who is a dead-ringer for Kermit the Frog (except for a tell-tale mole), manages to escape the Siberian Gulag he was held prisoner at, where we find out [SPOILERS] that Dominic Badguy was working for Constantine, and they have plans that involve getting Kermit thrown into the Gulag in Constantine’s place, and then the two go on a museum robbing spree using the Muppets’ Euro tour as a patsy. Wacky hijinks does ensue.

Personally, I kinda feel bad for not catching this in the theaters when it original was released. Muppets Most Wanted was just as good as the previous movie, and works as a great heist satire in and of itself. This really is The Great Muppet Caper 2.0, with the difference being I can’t recall any songs as memorable as the “Hey A Movie!” song (starring everybody, and me) and “Happiness Hotel”. Ricky Gervasis and Tina Fey were both great as the two main human stars in this flick, and the jokes and comedy beats land frequently, keeping the chuckles and belly laughs coming. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Muppet movie without the cameos, and Muppets Most Wanted is chock full of ’em. It makes for a fun game of Celebrity Bingo, if you’re so inclined.

Overall: Muppets Most Wanted was a great sequel to The Muppets. It boggles my mind to think that there hasn’t been another Muppet sequel since then. Regardless, though, this comes highly recommended.

Movie Review: The MUPPETS

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muppets
Disney
2011
PG

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were reciting some sort of important plot point.”
“I hope so. Otherwise, I would’ve bored half the audience half to death.”
“You mean half the audience is still alive?”

  • While on vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary, and friend Mary uncover the diabolical plot of a greedy oil millionaire to destroy the Muppet Theater. Now, the Muppet-loving trio must reunite Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and their friends to stage the greatest Muppet telethon ever and save their beloved theater.

I remember the Great Muppet Dry Spell of the Aughts. The last theatrically-released Muppet movie was 1999’s Muppets From Space, and that one was…not good. It was better than the direct-to-video and television specials that were being released at the time; however, I remember watching that in one of Omaha’s Second-Run theaters at the time, when the price was still hovering around $1.50 a ticket, and thinking I may have been overcharged for the movie. Between the years of 2000 to 2010, we got a couple of televised Christmas specials, a broadcast of the Muppets’ take on The Wizard of Oz, and a direct-to-video prequel movie of sorts, as well as a web series featuring Statler and Waldorf, so it’s not like we were completely bereft of Muppet goodness. It’s just that, there hadn’t been an original theatrical movie since The Muppets Take Manhattan in 1984, let alone a good, fun movie since 1996’s Muppet Treasure Island.

Then, in 2008, it was announced by Disney that they were set to produce the first original Muppet movie in decades, and it was going to be helmed by a couple of uber-Muppet fanboys to boot. Things were looking up. Then word came out that it was going to be an old-school Muppet story, involving the entire gang of favorites, as well as some new characters, with a story that involved the gang being brought back together to help resurrect the Muppet Theater. I couldn’t wait. Then the film was finally released in 2011, and I went to see it with Boz-Man.

Sure, I may be just not getting around to pounding out a review of the movie. Don’t let that colour your impression of what the movie may be like. I’m just weird about getting reviews on stuff out, because I’m not paid to do ’em. However, as a Muppet movie, I have to give my own overly-enthusiastic two thumbs up on The Muppets.

Yes, The Muppets is very much a classic Muppet movie. Yes, I did laugh out loud at various, many points, sometimes with tears streaming down my face. Yes, this captures what made The Muppet Show essentially lightning in a bottle, and yet manages to do its own thing rather than rely on just nostalgia. And with maybe the exception of the “Me Party” segment, most of the musical numbers manages to hit the right places.

Overall: I never had the chance to watch the first two Muppet movies in the theater back in the day (or if I did, I was too young to remember doing so); watching The Muppets in the theater with other Muppet fans was one of the most memorable theater experiences I’ve had. This is something I still rewatch frequently. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: YOUNG EINSTEIN

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young einstein
Warner Bros.
1988
PG

“Just a moment, Marie, I’m having an idea.”

  • Young Einstein tells the hilarious tall tale of a once-upon-a-time guy with a right-now attitude. His name: Albert Einstein. His hair: Jumpstarted by a cyclotron. His hobby: surfing. His accomplishments: anew way to put the bubbles in beer (also known as the E=mc2 atomic energy theory) and the one invention that saves the world from being nuked to a crisp: rock ‘n’ roll.

One of the drawbacks advantages of being a middle-aged Gen-Xer, I happen to remember some of the wackier aspects of pop culture in the 1980s that a lot of you have only been able to read or watch documentaries about. Like, for instance, there was a period in the later part of the 80s where, for some unfathomable reason, the country went ga-ga over everything Australian. It didn’t matter if technically things may have been more from Tasmania, New Guinea, or even New Zealand; if it had the accent, it was given its own movie, television show, or series of commercials with something that had nothing to do with Australia to begin with. The two Crocodile Dundee movies, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (which, to think about it, was probably the catalyst for the craze at the time), The Man From Snowy River, The Rescuers Down Under. Energizer batteries had a commercial pre-dating that damned toy drum rabbit featuring a brash Aussie guy named Jacko. Fosters began their famous “Australian for beer” ad campaign, even though the beer itself is not made in Australia. I could go on, but sufficed to say, due to that period in the 80s, we’re still seeing the fallout of fake cliche’s said in really bad Australian accents to this day.

One of the Australian celebrities that tried to break big in America during this time was one Yahoo Serious, a filmmaker with a look that rivaled Tim Burton in the trademarked weirdness, and that always went the DIY route when doing his movies; meaning, he was the writer, director, producer and actor in all three movies that he’s made so far. It’s also said that he wrote and produced the musical scores for at least a couple of those. I wouldn’t be surprised that he also headed the Craft catering table, as well.

Young Einstein is technically Serious’ second movie, with his first movie more of an obscure independent film called Coaltown that isn’t even listed in the IMDB page. But, that’s really just pointlessly useless information at this point. Young Einstein was his first nationally released movie, and from the looks of things, probably his only nationally-released movie. Which may have to do with the fact that, back when Young Einstein was released, it went completely over everyone’s heads here in the States.

First of all, we have a movie that essentially pointed and laughed at the concept of “historical accuracy” all together, which is fine. It’s a screwball comedy. I get that. I liked this movie fine when I got around to watching it a few years after it was finally released on home video. I was in the psychiatric ward back when it first hit the theaters in the first week of August of 1989, so I only had the word of a fellow inmate patient describing the movie to me to go on at the time. This is a movie that leans heavily on the Monty Python’s Flying Circus style of humor, something my brain seems hardwired to understand since I can remember. Of course, I seem to fall squarely in the minority when it comes to my enjoyment of certain films, this one especially.

Overall: It would be a shame to see Young Einstein slip into oblivion as a forgotten comedy movie. This still manages to get laughs out of me whenever I stumble upon it. Which is a rare thing. A recommended watch, if there ever was one.

Movie Review: DR. STRANGELOVE

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dr strangelove
Columbia Pictures
1964
PG

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.”

  • Convinced the Commies want to pollute America’s “precious body fluids”, a crazed general orders a nuclear air strike on the U.S.S.R. As his aide, Captain Mandrake, scrambles to unlock a recall code to prevent the bombing, the U.S. President calls a drunken Soviet Premier on the hotline claiming the proposed attack is all a silly mistake, while the President’s adviser Dr. Strangelove verifies the existence of a dreaded Doomsday Machine–a retaliatory device designed by the Soviets to end the human race once and for all!

One of the more infuriating excuses I’ve heard people use to justify not knowing history is “that was before I was born.” the easiest way to demonstrate that you’re a willfully ignorant douchenozzle is to throw that excuse out when discussing things like classic movies:
“So, you like smartly made and politically subversive dark comedy satires? What do you think of Dr. Strangelove?”
“I haven’t seen it. That was from before I was born.”
“How do you think and breathe at the same time?”
…and then the date pretty much ends there. But, I digress.

Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb is perhaps my favorite Stanley Kubrick film. And that’s saying a lot, as I count myself as one of those guys who considers Kubrick to have been a mad genius in every genre he’s dabbled in. And no, I don’t count A.I.: Artificial Intelligence as one of his movies.

Anyway, I consider Dr. Strangelove to be his best movie so far (I’m still working through all of his films, it might be dethroned at a later time…though it’s doubtful). The main reason is because this is a biting satire about the Cold War, released during the height of the actual conflict. The Cuba Missile Crisis was still fresh in the minds of Americans, and here comes a movie that satirizes the general fear and paranoia running rampant at the time. Not that things were better during the 80s, mind.

Anyway, Dr. Strangelove was very, very loosely based on a novel titled Red Alert, in that Kubrick took a straight-forward thriller and turned it into a black comedy. Makes, sense, as paranoia can make anyone do absurdly comical things in hindsight. The story involves a General that orders a nuclear air strike on the U.S.S.R. (what you Millennials refer to as “Russia”), despite the Pentagon having nothing to do with is, because of his fears of fluoridation in the water supply. This in turn leads to a mad dash by the President and the Pentagon to try and stop the potential Mutually Assured Destruction that this posits, which includes the Soviet ambassador and former Nazi scientific adviser Dr. Strangelove. Wackiness ensues while everyone can’t seem to get past their own paranoia-driven ambitions and presumptions, meanwhile the bomber gets closer and closer to its intended target.

If you have yet to watch Dr. Strangelove because it’s either one of those “old movies” made before your time, or because it’s in black and white, or a combination of both…well, get over yourself. Seriously, tell that false sense of superiority to bugger off, and watch this movie right now. I am not kidding; stop reading this review, and rent it off of whatever streaming site you use, watch it, then get back here to finish up. I can wait.

There. Don’t you feel better? I’m going to take your silence as an enthusiastic, “YES!”

First off, there’s the fact that George C. Scott himself never wanted to play his part as the over-the-top wacky character the movie portrays; that was Kubrick’s intention, Scott and he were at odds about it, so Kubrick just told Scott to play it like that as a dress rehearsal, and secretly filmed him like that for the real parts of the movie. Then we have comedy legend Peter Sellers playing not only the titular Dr. Strangelove, but also the President and a British exchange officer that’s held hostage by the General that ordered the initial air strike. There’s also Western legend Slim Pickens and future voice of Darth Vader James Earl Jones as two of the bomber’s crew members. The script manages to strike the perfect balance between subtle satire and absurdist humor with a smattering of slapstick, as well as Kubrick’s trademark ultra-perfectionist cinematography. Over 50 years later, and this movie still holds up brilliantly, and is even more pointed in this modern political climate.

Overall: Yeah, if you haven’t seen it (even now, after being told earlier to do so), rectify that oversight. Even if you don’t “get it” the first time, keep watching it until you do. And I know what you’re thinking, and no: I am not a “Boomer”. I’m Gen X. Idiot.

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