Friday, December 7, 2018

Worth Mentioning - Just Watch the Fun

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

'80s comedies, a hellish hero, and a look at how a sitcom went international.


Trading Places is a comedy from Animal House / The Blues Brothers / An American Werewolf in London director John Landis that stars Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd when they were in their prime, but the element of the film that overshadows all of its comedic moments is a pair of bare breasts, because those breasts happen to belong to Halloween heroine Jamie Lee Curtis. After remaining covered through the multiple low budget horror films she starred in during the early stages of her career, Curtis chose to do nudity in this major release. As Randy in Scream put it, she "didn't show her tits 'til she went legits". So Trading Places is known primarily for being the movie to watch if you want to see Jamie Lee Curtis's breasts. And it delivers on that promise. But if you want to see some fine comedy, it delivers that, too.

Scripted by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod, who would go on to write the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies Twins and Kindergarten Cop, the story kicks off with a bet made between two extremely wealthy old men, Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche as the Duke brothers Randolph and Mortimer. After witnessing a street hustler, Murphy as Billy Ray Valentine, get accused of assault and attempted robbery after simply bumping into their hoity toity employee Louis Winthorpe III (Aykroyd), Randolph wagers that these men could men could easily swap places - given encouragement in the right environment, Valentine could run their commodities brokerage just as well as Winthorpe does, and if Winthorpe had misfortune heaped upon him and was surrounded by the worst sort of people, he would likely turn to crime. The Dukes proceed to manipulate the world around Valentine and Winthorpe just to see if Randolph is right or wrong.

Curtis, who Landis had to fight for because she was so associated with horror at this point in her career, comes into the picture as Ophelia, a prostitute who takes Winthorpe in when he hits bottom.

The Dukes have done a terrible thing to Winthorpe and they intend to a terrible thing to Valentine, dropping him back onto the streets once they've proven their point with him, but while we wait for the old men to get their comeuppance it's entertaining to watch how their heartless experiment goes. We see their subjects transition into their new lives, and there are humorous lines and scenarios. The greatest joy of Trading Places is in watching Eddie Murphy at work in a time when he was so inherently funny that he could make nearly any line of dialogue a laugh line.

The film earns an R rating with the nudity and language, but with those things aside it plays like an old school heartwarmer. It's even set during the Christmas season; you could almost pair it with It's a Wonderful Life.

I'm not as familiar with Trading Places as I am with the other Landis films mentioned above, but I have seen it a few times, and my lesser familiarity is no reflection on its quality - it totally lives up to the previous three films on the director's filmography.


On the DVD release of the animated feature Hellboy: Blood and Iron, there's also an animated Hellboy short film that's an adaptation of a six-page Hellboy story that had been published in a 1996 comic book. Lasting just two and a half minutes, this short involves Hellboy travelling into the foggy Irish countryside to confront a murderous creature whose existence has been reported by a local priest.

That's all there is to it. Hellboy walks into the building this thing inhabits, he has a confrontation with the creature (which looks like a monkey wearing iron shoes) that last a few seconds, and the short wraps up.

It's insubstantial, but if you're a Ron Perlman Hellboy completist you'll want to check it out, because the lines Hellboy speaks in the short are delivered by Perlman.


A year after resurrecting slasher icon Jason Voorhees and adding an awesome entry to the Friday the 13th franchise with Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, writer/director Tom McLoughlin made the romantic comedy Date with an Angel, which didn't catch on as well as his F13 sequel did. Watching the film, you can see why. Even though the same brand of humor McLoughlin brought to Jason Lives is still present here and there are recognizable elements like having one of the female leads ripping around in a classic muscle car, for some reason Date with an Angel doesn't quite gel together like it should.

The idea at the core of its story is quite strange. Michael E. Knight plays Jim Sanders, a young man who is engaged to be married to the wealthy Patty Winston (Phoebe Cates)... and if things went according to plan, Jim wouldn't live to see his wedding day. As he'll come to find out later, he's dying from an undiagnosed brain tumor, for which the only symptoms are the headaches he's been having. An angel is sent to bring his soul to Heaven. But on her way to Earth, the angel gets clipped by a satellite in orbit around the planet and ends up plunging into the swimming pool of Jim's apartment complex, one of her wings broken.

The angel with a broken wing is played by Emmanuelle Béart, who would go on to be the female lead in the first Mission: Impossible movie. That's how I learned of this film's existence in the mid-'90s; I was watching M:I with my brother and sister-in-law, and my sister-in-law was familiar with Béart from this movie. So I looked up Date with an Angel, saw that it was directed by McLoughlin, and the next time it showed up on cable I made sure to watch it.

The angel isn't able to speak, only able to make strange sounds, but it's easy for Jim to understand exactly what she is. He decides to help her out and nurse her back to health in secret, which causes some major problems for him. There's a major misunderstanding with Patty, who becomes a shotgun-toting ball of rage when she thinks Jim is having an affair with this strange blonde she keeps spotting him with; Patty's father Ed Winston (David Dukes), who is Jim's boss at the cosmetics company he works for, wants the angel to replace Patty as the face of the company's marketing campaign; and Jim's three party animal buddies George, Don, and Rex (Phil Brock, Albert Macklin, and Peter Kowanko), who are so wild that they even crash a party wearing masks and carrying toy guns and grenades so they can pretend to kidnap Jim, set out on a relentless mission to capture the angel so they can profit off of her.

Part of the trouble with the movie is the odd, childish behavior of the angel and the weird squeaking sounds she makes. The character isn't appealing to me - I feel like an angel should have more depth and be a knowledgeable creature, not be like a timid child. At least I can relate to the love she develops for French fries. Also troublesome is the film's length - it's way too long at 105 minutes and drags its way to its overdue ending.

Date with an Angel seems like McLaughlin was trying to make his own '80s version of a Frank Capra movie, the movie just wasn't able to reach the Capra level. It's not a terrible movie, it's watchable despite the bloated running time, but it doesn't fully work.


The 1996 - 2005 television series Everybody Loves Raymond isn't a show I watched a whole lot of. Of its 210 episodes, I haven't set through more than a couple dozen, and the ones I actually paid attention to while they were on would be well below that. It's enjoyable, I just haven't made it a priority to watch it yet. So the documentary Exporting Raymond isn't one I would have chosen to watch - but my nephew happened to put it on Netflix one day, and I found myself watching and paying attention to it.

The documentary follows Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal as he heads to Moscow to work with the creative team that has been assembled to make a Russian version of Everybody Loves Raymond - a show that it developed under the working title Everybody Loves Kostya, but ended up being called The Voronins.

Rosenthal is a likeable guy, and I found it interesting to watch this "stranger in a strange land" try to overcome cultural differences and work with the Russian writers and director to try to translate the comedy of Raymond for the sensibilities of Russian audiences. Although the initial shows are based on scripts written for Raymond, this endeavor is not as simple as just translating the scripts from one language to another. It is a challenge for Rosenthal to get the Russian talent to understand this brand of humor.

If you're a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond, you might find Exporting Raymond to be even more interesting than I did, but as someone who just has a passing familiarity with the show, I was fascinated anyway.

It was especially interesting to watch this documentary already knowing the spoiler that The Voronins has been a huge hit in Russia; there has already been 21 seasons and more than 500 episodes (and somehow they've managed to fit all of this into a span of less than nine years). Russian viewers have gotten to see more than twice of The Voronins than American viewers got to see of Everybody Loves Raymond - and yet, there are times in Exporting Raymond when you'll wonder how it even got past the pilot, as not even the costume designer understands what the show is about.

No comments:

Post a Comment