Friday, June 24, 2022

Worth Mentioning - What's Reaper Moaning About?

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. 

Buddy cop comedy, Full Moon comedy, and the Green Hornet.

HOT FUZZ (2007)

In 2004, writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg made their big cinematic breakthrough with the horror comedy Shaun of the Dead, a movie that appealed directly to my heart by being a respectful tribute to George A. Romero's Dead movies. Three years later, Wright and Pegg followed that up with the action comedy Hot Fuzz, which was an even bigger success for them than Shaun of the Dead was. Being a fan of Shaun, I was hyped to check out Hot Fuzz... and at the time, I was kind of disappointed. I didn't like this movie nearly as much as Shaun. Its style and humor wasn't as appealing to me as Shaun had been. So even though I own a copy, I mostly wrote it off for fifteen years. Then I was asked to write a video about the movie for the Revisited series on the JoBlo Originals YouTube channel. And just like with A Fish Called Wanda and Romancing the Stone, I looked deeper into the movie than I had before, re-evaluated it, and was able to find a new appreciation for it. I still don't like Hot Fuzz even close to as much as I like Shaun of the Dead, but at least now I can say that I do like Hot Fuzz.

Pegg stars in this one as Nicholas Angel, a London police officer who is so good job at his job that he makes the other officers look bad. So he's promoted to Sergeant and shipped off to a small town in the country where nothing ever happens. Except there is something happening there. People in the town keep getting murdered, with their deaths made to look like accidents. The other cops don't believe Angel's claims of homicide, so he has to go rogue and solve this case on his own time - with the help of his partner, Danny Butterman. Played by Pegg's Shaun of the Dead co-star Nick Frost. Wright and Pegg were right, making a Pegg/Frost buddy cop movie was a great way to recapture the chemistry between the actors.

Butterman is fascinated by Angel because he's obsessed with cop action movies and Angel actually saw some action while he was working in London. This guy is like one of the heroes from the movies he watches! And now he has a chance to be friends with him! What Hot Fuzz truly is more than anything is a bromance movie, because Angel and Butterman to develop a terrific friendship over the course of the film.

There are good laughs to be had along the way (my favorite comedy moment is when David Bradley shows up as a character with an unintelligible way of speaking), and the action really breaks out in the last thirty minutes, where we get an extended shootout, a car chase, and some fisticuffs. The fact that Hot Fuzz waited so long to get to the action was one of the issues I had with it back in the day, along with the whole murder mystery aspect. I was hoping the villains would be more like something in a Lethal Weapon movie, drug smugglers or gun runners. Proper action movie baddies. Instead, it's closer to a Dirty Harry threat. Or The Wicker Man. (The Wicker Man star Edward Woodward even has a role.) Now I understand better what Wright and Pegg were doing with this movie and can take it on its own terms, enjoy it on based its own merits instead of dismissing it because it wasn't what I imagined it could have been.

I'd rather watch Shaun of the Dead, but Hot Fuzz is a good movie. And you get to watch former James Bond Timothy Dalton act like a slimeball. 

The video I wrote can be seen at THIS LINK.


I'm mentioning three movies together here because they're not exactly full movies on their own. When the pandemic first hit in 2020, Full Moon founder Charles Band knew things were going to get bad in the United States and needed to find a way for his company to continue producing content during lockdown. The answer he found was to take stock footage from older films and dub comedic dialogue over the original lines. Holding these goofy clip shows together is new footage of airhead friends Barbie (Cody Renee Cameron) and Kendra (Robin Sydney) trying to survive in lockdown and watching television.

The first movie in this trilogy is Corona Zombies, which takes place right at the beginning of lockdown, since it was shot right at the beginning of lockdown. The world has a new interest in cleanliness and toilet paper, and in the reality of this movie the virus causes people to turn into zombies. Through footage cobbled together from Hell of the Living Dead and Zombies vs. Strippers, we watch zombies rampage through locations - and learn that the outbreak originated from a bat soup canning factory in Wuhan, China.

Not long into the pandemic, the docu-series Tiger King was a huge hit for the Netflix streaming service. So Full Moon cashed in on that craze with the second movie, Barbie and Kendra Save the Tiger King. Footage from Terror in the Jungle and Luana is presented as being the story of a young Joe Exotic and his experience getting stranded in the Amazon jungle after a plane crash. The lines in these movies are occasionally amusing, but there is an element of absolute genius to Save the Tiger King. That bit of genius was the decision to have Leslie Jordan provide the voice of little Joe Exotic. Jordan is an amusing comedic performer in general, and to have the voice of this sixty-something year old man coming from the mouth of a small child is hilarious. Barbie and Kendra Save the Tiger King is actually better and more entertaining than either Terror in the Jungle or Luana are on their own.

An event from 2020 that wasn't as memorable as pandemic lockdown and Tiger King was the failed "raid" on Area 51 by citizens who wanted to get the information on alien lifeforms that's supposedly hidden there. So it's fitting that Barbie and Kendra Raid Area 51 is the least effective of the trilogy - and the shortest. While its predecessors were 60 to 69 minutes, Area 51 runs a mere 49 minutes. This installment was originally announced under the title Barbie and Kendra in Space Force, and the story is presented as if our heroines are watching a TV special on an alien / UFO event that leads to the creation of the U.S. Space Force. Footage from Space Thing and The Day Time Ended is cut together and dubbed over to tell the story of an alien's quest to become the Queen of Outer Space. 

The third film ends of a cliffhanger, with text on screen telling us it will be continued. So far there hasn't been another movie with Barbie and Kendra in the lead, but the characters do show up in Full Moon's Evil Bong 888.

THE GREEN HORNET (1966 - 1967)

The same year that producer William Dozier was bringing the DC Comics character Batman to screens big and small with a TV series and a tie-in feature film, he also produced a season of a show based on The Green Hornet, a hero who had first been introduced to the world through serialized radio dramas in the 1930s. The Green Hornet show has its similarities to Batman - we have a masked hero and his sidekick prowling the streets of a city in a souped-up vehicle (the Green Hornet's car is called the Black Beauty), busting criminals episode after episode. Like on Batman, Dozier himself provides some narration. But The Green Hornet has a very different tone than the other hero show. This one is more serious, much more down-to-earth. It feels a lot like the average TV crime show of the '60s and '70s. The good guys just happen to be wearing masks.

The Green Hornet himself is Britt Reid, owner of the newspaper The Daily Sentinel, played by Van Williams. The only people who know Britt is a crimefighting vigilante on the side are his secretary Lenore "Casey" Case (Wende Wagner), the local District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon (Walter Brooke), and his chauffeur Kato (Bruce Lee)... and Kato also puts on a mask and joins Britt on his Green Hornet adventures. Of course, since you have Bruce Lee performing his famous martial arts moves as Kato, this character takes some attention away from the titular hero during the fight scenes, and the directors learned quickly that his moves were something to showcase. There is a great episode that has a climactic showdown between Lee and Mako. The Green Hornet only lasted for one season of twenty-six episodes, but it was a breakthrough for Lee.

The Green Hornet is a fine show, but one of the problems with this character in general is that he never had an interesting rogues gallery. He doesn't have those flashy, memorable villains you want to see the hero go up against, like Batman has The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and on and on. The Green Hornet is always shown just bringing down regular criminals. Shady companies, bootleggers, and thieves. He puts a stop to insurance fraud. Not the most exciting stuff. The 1970s Amazing Spider-Man series fell short of its potential by leaving out all of the supervillains in Spider-Man's incredible rogues gallery and having him go up against regular criminals. But for The Green Hornet, that's just how the property is. The character has been around for ninety years and has had multiple comic book runs over the decades, so I'm sure some writers have attempted to give him a rogues gallery, but the characters haven't caught on with the public. Even when a Green Hornet movie was made in 2011, the villain was just another gangster. But despite all that, he does have some standout opponents on this show. Like the aforementioned Mako. Plus an arsonist in a fire resistant suit, a bunch of goofballs who claim to be space aliens, soldiers in a stolen tank, a villain who pretends to be the Green Hornet (complete with their own Black Beauty), and a serial killer called The Scarf (played by genre icon John Carradine), among others.

With running times of 22 to 25 minutes, episodes of The Green Hornet fly by really quickly, which isn't always to the show's benefit. The stories being told in these episodes could have been better if they were fleshed out over some extra time - The Green Hornet should have been an hour-long show instead of a half-hour show. Things have to progress so quickly in these episodes, they end up feeling kind of shallow. It also would have been nice to spend more time getting to know Britt and Kato. We don't know a whole lot about them by the time the season wraps up. We just know they're good at putting away bad guys.

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