Sunday, June 20, 2021

Junesploitation 2021 Day 20: Musicals!


  1. I'm going for broke here, folks. Things might get hairy, wish me luck. :-(

    Joshua Logan's PAINT YOUR WAGON (1969, PLUTO) for the first time.

    A $20 million movie adaptation ($146 million in 2021 dollars) by a well-regarded veteran director of film musicals (who never worked again) and an Oscar-winning screenwriter ("Network's" Paddy Chayefsky) of a 1951 Broadway play that never even earned Tony Award nominations, "Paint Your Wagon" is a fascinating, deeply flawed but not-horrendous last hurrah of the once-popular big-budget Hollywood musical. This set-in-1850-California western focuses on the heavily-implied ménage à trois arrangement between old timey gold prospector Ben Runsom (Lee Marvin), his younger 'Pardner' (Clint Eastwood) and a sold-at-auction Mormon sister wife (Jean Seberg) that crosses their path in the men only mining town of 'No Name.' Ben's jealousy at everyone in town gawking at Elizabeth eventually forces the town to legalize prostitution and drinking, which brings an economic boom that diminishes the gold prospects for the original settlers. Since Elizabeth is dead set on not moving, Ben and 'Pardner' (who isn't named until the very end) try one final 'get rich quick' scheme before dissolving their partnership. And since an enormous amount of resources were spent making the gigantic western town set (populated by an equally large number of extras), the filmmakers and the studio make sure they got their money's worth by making the destruction of 'No Name' the centerpiece of a convoluted, meant-to-be-funny final act orgy of destruction. You could have fooled me about this being a comedy from the lack of anything funny about it besides its behind-the-scenes shenanigans.

    The "Heaven's Gate" of its era (it took the success of "The Godfather" to get Paramount back on its feet), "Paint Your Wagon" almost broke me. I barely made it through "In the Heights'" punishing 2.5 hrs. running time at the IMAX, and this notorious 1969 flop is 15 minutes shy of 3 hrs. With lengthy commercial breaks every 5-7 minutes on Pluto it took me nearly 4 hours (8PM to a few minutes after midnight) to watch from start to finish. The things I do for my fellow F-heads. :-P There's so much wrong with "PYW," but let's give Lee Marvin his due for pulling the miraculous feat of looking like the biggest badass in town next to Clint Eastwood. Drunk through most of the shoot and not able to carry a tune to save his life (he comes the closest during "Wand'rin' Star," and that's because Lee's whispering the words), Marvin is a charismatic one-man force of nature. Marvin and Eastwood didn't have to sing (Jane Seberg's singing voice was wisely dubbed), so my respect to these professionals for trying. They're as awful as you'd expect Harry Callahan and the Sarge from "Dirty Dozen" to sound, but it's not "American Idol"-audition levels of bad.

    Offering little spectacle (no dancing or great group sing-alongs, just a big western set with lots of extras waving cowboy hats as far as the camera sees) until the very end, bland-to-average Broadway tunes, two leading men who can't sing or dance, a stone-faced leading lady and a small regiment of old-school supporting thesps (Ray Walston, Tom Ligon, Benny Baker, Alan Baxter, etc.) in the background, "Paint Your Wagon" requires an enormous time commitment and forgiveness of its flaws to appreciate its handful of pleasures. Worth seeing just to marvel at Lee Marvin's drunken acting, to imagine what Eastwood/Seberg were doing when cameras weren't rolling, and to see a studio do with real-sized buildings what Spielberg did with miniatures a decade later in "1941." 2.5 RENDITIONS OF 'LA MARSEILLAISE' WITH CHINESE INSTRUMENTS (out of 5).

    1. A few of the songs have stayed with me (Wand'ring Star, I Talk To The Trees, and They Call The Wind Mariah), but the film itself is very forgettable. As you state, J.M., Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin are not the best actors to cast for a musical.

    2. Lee and Clint tried, God bless them, but NO! 🥵😱

  2. Herbert Ross' FOOTLOOSE (1984, Hulu) for the first time.

    Turns out I've been hearing the music from "Footloose" in the background of my life (at department stores, visiting friends, riding on someone's car, etc.) without really knowing it. Surprised back in 1984 Kevin Bacon's Ren from Chicago didn't bump into "Karate Kid's" Daniel LaRusso from New Jersey as their mothers drove these trouble-adapting-to-new-places "teenagers" to new Western places. While LaRusso dealt with L.A. bullies and a new father figure, stuck-in-Utah Ren had to do with a rebellious preacher's daughter (Lori Singer's Ariel) and likable meathead Willard (thin, baby-faced Chris Penn) breaking into him that the small town they live in doesn't tolerate dancing, drinking, etc. Despite some altercations with the locals (playing chicken with farm tractors), Ren stands firm trying to bring dancing back to his new hometown. Aside from town prejudices, Ariel's father (an excellent John Lithgow) is the biggest obstacle standing between Ren moping and a Senior Prom dance-a-thon for the ages.

    Now this is my type of musical. Except for Kevin Bacon's dancing double going 'loco' inside that empty warehouse trying to outdo Irene Cara's routine in "Flashdance," nobody breaks into singing/dancing routines. Music is in the background, danced to, as part of a montage, at the very end, etc. As a big "Reservoir Dogs" fan, seeing Chris Penn learn to dance on-camera might be the biggest, dorkiest smile I've ever flashed at the TV screen all month long. :-D Even better, Reverend Shaw and his wife (Dianne Wiest, whose two or three scenes later in the film shine bright) are portrayed as flawed-but-not-one-dimensional parents who actually think and talk their way through conflicts with the kids. It might have the most Hollywood of Hollywood endings with young people coming out on top (more about this down below), but "Footloose" won me over when it treated what could have been a stock adult villain into someone I can relate to. Because we all know from experience there's nothing harder in life than say to someone you love and/or care about 'I'm sorry, I was wrong.' 4 TOWN BULLIES BEATEN TO A PULP BY NICE GUY EDDIE AND SEBASTIAN SHAW (out of 5).

  3. SUPER XUXA CONTRA O BAIXO ASTRAL ["SUPER XUXA VERSUS LOW MOOD DEVIL"] (1988, YouTube --in Portuguese with English subtitles--) for the first time.

    For generations of Brazilian children and many Latin American kids who grew up in the 1990's, Brazil's multilingual singing/dancing/TV hosting personality Xuxa (still going strong at 58) is like a warm comfort blanket of perpetual childhood nostalgia. I've seen Xuxa's anthem "Ilariê" (shown here in English from her failed early 90's USA TV show) bring middle-aged men to tears, just one of dozens of songs Xuxa made chart-topping hits throughout the decades. Back in 1988, two years after her uber-popular Brazil children's show premiered, Xuxa starred in an action/fantasy musical that out-grossed most Hollywood films in Brazil at the time. Basic plot: Xuxa's "dog" Xuxo (a distant relative of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog) is kidnapped by a sewer-dwelling monster (Guilherme Karam) upset that Xuxa's attempts to make the children happy by painting colorful drawings over graffiti-covered walls will derail his efforts to turn the people of Brazil (before moving on to the rest of the world) more mean and destructive to one another. "Power Rangers" reject sidekicks Titica and Morcegão assist Baixo Astral in carrying out his deeds, forcing Xuxa to jump through her television screen and into alternate universes populated by sentient worms, turtles with human faces and a crystal giving her the power to fly. Will Xuxa save Xuxo? Can the kids be made happy and positive again? And why the fuck am I watching a "Xuxa" movie at 4AM? :-P

    It takes until Xuxa (whose projected innocence and borderline-Aryan beauty compensate for her non-acting performance) reaches the talking crystal on a cloud surrounded by giggling flowers around the 50 min. mark for the movie to become good. And by good I mean the songs become a little more catchy, the special effects upgrade from early 80's MTV to late 80's Michael Jackson-music-video-on-a-shoestring decent (including Xuxa wearing MJ-patterned clothing) and the in-your-face advertisements more prominent and shameless. No song here is as catchy as "Ilariê" (which has been stuck in my brain since forever despite me never seeing Xuxa's TV show), but the complete immersion into the set-pieces and self-contained songs make for a dated, somewhat interesting and sporadically-amusing time capsule. Strictly for the Xuxa fanboy, AKA neither you or me. 2 1-LITER COCA-COLA GLASS CONTAINERS INSIDE BAIXO ASTRAL'S REFRIGERATOR (out of 5).

  4. Tom Gustafson's WERE THE WORLD MINE (2008, Hulu) for the first time. Also streaming with commercials on Roku Channel.

    A loose adaptation of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" transplanted to a testosterone-raging, borderline-homophobic all-boys school, "Were the World Mine" takes a long time to rev things up. Until then we suffer through bland songs and 'meh' fantasy sequences (nothing terrible, just average ones that reveal the production's very small budget) from the mind of Timothy (Tanner Cohen, HBO's "Looking"), a bullied gay teenager having family acceptance issues with his working mom, his best (non-gay) friends, etc. A theater teacher pushes onto Timothy that he should audition for a role in the annual Shakespeare play that the school's rugby players (coached by a raging a-hole of a male pig) are forced to participate in as part of the school requirements. Reluctant at first, Timothy lands the lead role of Puck and sets out to create fairy costumes and decorations. But a particular reading of the text-within-the-text of "AMND" inspires Timothy to create a potion whose effects on regular (heterosexual) folk could land him the rugby captain (Nathaniel David Becker's Jonathon) that was previously mean to him.

    Shakespeare to actors is like all-you-can-eat buffets for fat people (sorry, but it's true). "Were the World Mine's" final 40+ minutes are fun as hell as previously hostile-to-gay male and female characters become the opposite of what they were playing before. This happens often in big studio movies, but here you can feel the mostly-unknown actors digging the chance to sing the text from Shakespeare as rock music, soliloquies, pretend-bad acting, etc. There's a mix between original "AMND" text and new lyrics during songs, but you'll hardly notice it (I couldn't tell you which is what). Though unrated "Were the World Mine" would be a light 'R' at best (no overt sexuality besides young buff dudes on each other's arms) except for the homophobic slurs. I wish I could rate it higher for all the hilarious role-reversal shenanigans (especially with Coach Driskill), but the quality of the musical numbers never takes off and the ambiguous ending is just shy of okay. But hey, another Pride Month catch. :-) 3 JARS OF NORA FAY COSMETICS CREAM (out of 5).


    Still the only Scottish zombie apocalypse, high school musical ever made to date. But director John McPhail is in pre-production for a Lady MacBeth musical adaptation, so there's hope. Cross your fingers? :-P

    I wasn't planning on reviewing a fifth musical today, but I cannot express in words how mentally exhausting the viewings of "Paint Your Wagon" and the Xuxa movie left my fragile mind. "Footloose" was a big pick-me lift, but that was mostly from Lithgow's character rather than the non-Chris Penn musical segments. Guess I'm saying Musical! Day was mostly a dud, I was down in the dumps and needed a serious case of the lift-me ups. And nothing gets me more pumped to face a hot weekend in NYC without a working AC than seeing dreams-to-travel-far Anna (Ella Hunt, Apple TV+'s "Dickinson"), best-friend-zoned John (Malcom Cummings), parent-and-girlfriend-dumped Steph (Sarah Swire), so-disgustingly-cute-they're-adorable Chris and Lisa (Christopher Leveaux and Marli Siu) and asshole-turned-ass-kicking-hero Nick (Ben Wiggins) cut loose with a school cafeteria rendition of "Hollywood Ending." A movie musical song so catchy, uplifting and enjoyable that also never fails to make me cry when it comes back at the very end, when not everyone who sang it at the start is physically present for an encore (though they're all present in the survivor's minds, and mine). :'( 5 GREEN CHRISTMAS TREE SWEATERS WITH EMBROIDED LIGHTS (out of 5).

  6. THE BAND WAGON (1953, dir. Vincente Minnelli)

    “A show that is really a show
    Sends you out with a kind of a glow.
    And you say as you go on your way, That’s Entertainment.”

    A big Technicolor production from MGM, the king of the musical during Hollywood’s studio era. The Band Wagon bears all the hallmarks of a peak MGM production: stars, impressive song and dance numbers, colorful sets, and skillful direction. It is in the tradition of musicals about staging a theatrical musical. The great Fred Astaire plays an aging song-and-dance entertainer seeking a new direction in his career. He gets hired to appear in a new Broadway musical and things look promising. When the musical goes from silly entertainment to being an adaptation of Faust, the situation goes downhill for everyone involved. This being an American musical from the 1950s, the happy ending will come. Astaire was partnered with Cyd Charisse, a dancer who would become a musical genre icon herself. Their dance parody of film noir, Girl Hunt, is one of the great sequences in the history of musicals. Minnelli is among the top directors in the genre and created one of his career highlights with The Band Wagon. If musicals are your thing, this is one you should watch. This was my first watch of it.

    ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS (1986, dir. Julien Temple)

    An absolutely messy musical that somewhat won me over with its energy. There is so much that does not work here, particularly the loose plot tying all of its themes and events together. Set in 1958 but drenched in 1980s style, the main story is about the relationship between a young photographer and an aspiring fashion designer. Interspersed between those scenes are sections about the rise of the teenager, rock-and-roll, and the racial tensions in the Notting Hill neighborhood between the Afro-Caribbean community and working-class whites. Everything culminates with a very stylized depiction of the Notting Hill race riot that happened at the end of the summer of 1958. The visuals are the best part of the film, filled with color and a featuring a lot of camera movement. The sets are impressive as well. Toward the end, I stopped worrying about the plot and let the images take me along. An interesting failure in some ways.

    1. Here are some suggestions for those who are not familiar with the genre:

      42ND STREET (1932) - An amusingly racy pre-code production
      GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933) - A subversive Depression-era film
      THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) - One cinema's most enduring works
      TOP HAT (1935) - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had chemistry
      ON THE TOWN (1949) - Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Ann Miller in a WWII story.
      GUYS AND DOLLS (1955)- Maybe Marlon Brando was not the best casting decision, but this is a solid production.
      MY FAIR LADY (1964) - One of the best scores for a musical

    2. HBO Max has you covered for Musicals today. Most of the movies Casual Listener mentioned plus a few more ("Singing in the Rain") are streaming there.


  7. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

    Dir: Frank Oz

    Both the Theatrical and Director's Cuts

    A remake that improves on the original film in almost every way. Howard Ashman's screenplay and songs mix with the eclectic cast and the creature effects for Audrey II still hold up. Rick Moranis' performance is the glue that holds the whole thing together with an inherent likability and pitifulness.

    Theatrical Cut or the Director's? I'll just say that if I only saw the DC when I was a kid, I would have liked it but would never have wanted to see it again.

    TC > DC

    Sorry, purists.

    1. Off with Shannon Briggs' head! Throw his ass into the pyre! :-P

    2. I think I agree. The DC ending is fun in a punk rock, burn-it-down kind of way, but the theatrical version probably makes for a more satisfying story overall.

    3. I love this movie! I think you’re right. The TC works better as a film. It’s fun to have the DC available though. (And the DC ending absolutely works on stage)

  8. Lost Horizon (1973, dir. Charles Jarrott)

    What should I have expected watching a film infamous for being one of the worst musicals of the 70s (Is ‘The Apple’ the worst-worst)? This musical adaptation of James Hilton’s classic novel about finding Shanri-La features music by Burt Bacharach and a cast of international film stars including John Gielgud, Michael York, Liv Ullman, Charles Boyer and Olivia Hussey.

    I’m left with so many questions: Why is this a musical? Why are all the Asians in this perfect utopia mute servants to the white people? Why is a character named ‘Chang’ played by John Gielgud? Why are the Peter Finch musical numbers played as songs in his head, instead being sung aloud? Did it have to be 2 ½ hours long?

    None of the songs are memorable, the characters are flat and there’s an unforgivable white savior aspect about the whole Shangri-La, a secret city led by conspicuously geriatric white guys with a messianic vision of being the world’s last hope. And did I mention the music sucks?

    I could never say it better than Woody Allen: “If I could live my life over again I wouldn't change a thing...except for seeing the musical version of Lost Horizon“.

  9. Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008, dir. Darren Lynn Bousman)

    A post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror rock opera about a sinister company that offers organ replacement surgeries, but if you're late with your payments, they'll come and take the organs back! At least, that's what I thought it was gonna be. Turns out the story's more interested in the company's owner's family and figuring out who should inherit the company, plus a young girl and her father who we learn have ties to the aforementioned patriarch.

    The soundtrack is a mixed bag, there are a few instant bangers here, but also some songs that feel clunky more than anything to me. The highly stylized look risks getting old fast, but kinda works with the kind of heightened style of the story. Paul Sorvino is great as the snarling villain and it's slightly disconcerting to see Anthony Stewart Head in any other role than Giles.

  10. HAMLET IN ROCK (2007)
    They turned Shakespeare’s Hamlet into a rock opera, because of course they did. The gimmick is that all the lyrics are taken 100 percent from Shakespeare’s text, merely rearranged into songs. Everyone involved in this clearly put all their heart and passion into it, but I fear that both Shakespeare fans and heavy metal fans will look on this as a joke. The weird Chronicles of Riddick-style costumes don’t help, either. This is an interesting thought experiment, but kind of tedious to watch.

    30 days of Chinese fantasy movies, day 20
    Of course I had to watch a mermaid-themed one. A mermaid comes to the human world, makes friends with some college girls, and eventually finds love with (get this) a prince! This is bubblegum pop cutesiness at its most bubblegum pop cutesy. I’m unclear on what the “Campus Love Story” franchise is, but the thumbnail for part 1 has a T-rex on it, so I guess it goes places.

  11. Head (1968)

    It feels somewhat disingenuous to call this a musical, but I’m running with it. It’s barely even a movie, it’s more a series of disconnected sketches (though sketches feels like a fairly strong word for what this is, that word implies structure, the scenes here feel somewhat too ephemeral to even be called sketches) and musical numbers featuring The Monkees, who are a very ingratiating bunch of dudes.

    Written by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson (!) it’s all very trippy and very late-60s and while normally this sort of randomness isn’t my bag I couldn’t help falling in love with it. The (non-Liverpudlian) lads are so darn likable and show that they know exactly their place in the pop music firmament (I really appreciate the song in which they refer to themselves as a manufactured image with no philosophies), it made me want to revisit their tv show which I haven’t seen since I was a kid. Bonus Junesploitation points for a cameo by Rafelson, Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper in full Easy Rider mode.

  12. Heavy Trip (Hevi reissu) (2018, dir. Juuso Laatio & Jukka Vidgren)

    A comedy about a struggling death metal band from a small northern Finnish town trying to get to a heavy metal festival in Norway. On the way they contend with a stuck-up pop singer, spring a replacement drummer from a mental institution, rob a grave, meet some Vikings, and almost spark an armed conflict between the two countries.

    The comedy is hit-and-miss and the basic story's not exactly original, but the hits outweigh the misses for me and the story works. Plus the music, performed by members of the Finnish band Mors Subita, isn't bad.

  13. The Apple (1980)

    That sure is some space cocaine they have in 1994.

  14. Grease 2 (1982)

    I wanted to go see In the Heights at the Music Box, but the times didn't work with the Father's Day plans. Instead, I watched Grease 2, which I had heard some people say they like more than the original. I am apparently not one of those people.

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  16. Voyage of the Rock Aliens(1984) Dir: Jack Fargo

    Aliens come to earth in search of Rock and Roll in this musical parody of B movies. Leather jackets, flock of seagull inspired haircuts, surprise boobs in a PG film, fire hydrants peeing on a dog, Ruth Gordan as a sheriff, Michael Berryman with a chainsaw and a lake monster created by toxic waste! This movie has everything(™Bill Hader™)!

    After we watch a Jermaine Jackson music video the ship robot determines the music is coming from Earth. So off to Earth the aliens go. Played by the band Rema and actor Tom Nolan end up in the town of Speelburg. A town run by a lip syncing Craig Schaefer and his rock band "the Pack"(played by Johnny and the Mustangs). Pia Zadora is Craigs girlfriend and just wants to sing with the band but Craig isn't having it. After falling in love with Pia at first sight, Nolan and the aliens form a band to impress her. Pia ends up leaving Shaefer and singing with the aliens. Other stuff happens. and songs are sung.

    The main problem with the movie is the songs. They aren't offensively bad , or offensively bland. They are just instantly forgettable. With most of the songs sounding like they were written by the bands for their album and thrown in the movie to fill time.

    Being a comedy there are a few funny jokes in this. Escaped mental patient Michael Berrymore gets what I think is the funniest scene as he and his intended victim bond over proving the Joe Bob Briggs 'chainsaws are a terrible weapon' argument. Gordan also has a few good laughs in her hunt for the aliens. Most unintentionally funny scene is the Jermaine Jackson and Pia music video at the beginning of the film.
    Its on Prime.

  17. In the Heights (2021)

    First time back in a theater since February of 2020 (seeing Birds of Prey)!!!

    While I liked this, especially the big dance numbers, I didn't love it. And I don't want to immediately buy the soundtrack and listen on repeat until I know every word to every song.

  18. Victor/Victoria (1982, dir. Blake Edwards)

    I love this movie. It just strolls along with the charm of Julie Andrews and Robert Preston and Henry Mancini’s slinky music. The whole thing sort of unwinds at a pleasantly languid pace peppered with great dialogue and old school gags. (“Kill him but mustn’t kiss him!”)

    The Le Jazz Hot sequence alone makes the movie a winner.

    1. It's on my shortlist. Glad to hear it's good.

  19. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

    This is one of the most perfect movie musicals. It makes me so happy.

  20. IN THE HEIGHTS (2021, John M. Chu)

    This is definitely a musical. I didn't connect with much of it but a lot of talented people made it.

    1. Anthony Ramos will be the biggest legacy "In the Heights" leaves behind. That dude has future star written all over his performance, and hopefully Hollywood takes notice. 🤩😎

  21. The Muppet Movie(1979) Dir: James Frowley

    “Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending. We've done just what we set out to do. Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers and you.”

    ― Jim Henson

  22. Finian's Rainbow (1968, dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

    Mostly insufferable, but at times: delightful. Based on the stage play from the '40's, stars Fred Astaire (pushing 70, but still at the top of his game) and Petula Clark in a bizarre fanciful story featuring leprechauns, a pot of gold, tobacco share-cropping and problematic race-relations. There is a large-scale dance sequence near the beginning led by Astaire that is pure movie magic. The rest, I kinda hated. Recommended only for Astaire completionists, or those curious about Coppola's early work.

  23. GREASE (1978, dir. Randal Kleiser)

    My love for John Travolta is the only thing that got me through this.

  24. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) - 7/10 British-obsessed camp counselors

  25. Across the Universe(2007) Dir: Julie Taymor

    Drink a bunch of cough syrup and put on any Beatles tribute album. Then put any movie or miniseries released in the late 80's about the 1960's. Mute the tv every once in awhile. Same thing.

  26. Guava Island (2019) - Starting Donald Glover, Rhianna, Nonso Anozie and Letitia Wright, and directed by Hiro Murai, this was darker and more grounded than I expected. It turns out that was exactly what I was in the mood for. Fans of Atlanta should enjoy this and the added context it gave to songs like "This is America" and "Feels Like Summer".

    1. Never heard of it before and now I'm super interested.

  27. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

    I gotta tell you, it takes a lot of balls to tell a story like this (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist).

    I've known the music for a long time, but it took me many years to catch up on the movie. And like I always expected, I loved it. It's an unapologetically weird and earnest work of an artist with a singular vision which they execute with confidence and panache. And it's got some real bangers, too. Still wish I could see it on stage someday, I bet the show rocks on stage.

    (I didn't even connect the dots with the Pride Month when planning to see it today, but it's an added bonus, I guess.)

    1. Yeah, l don't go looking for LGBTQ content either. It just naturally falls on my lap based on my strict streaming criteria of FREE or bust! 😉🌈

  28. Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)
    Directed by James Fargo

    I have now watched this film, but I found no answers, only more questions. Why is there not an episode of Paul Scheer’s podcast How Did This Get Made? about this film? Who was Pia Zadora screwing to get the film made? How bad were Ruth Gordon’s finances that her participation was required? Did no one involved in the film’s production stop in the middle of a scene, and scream, “stop! This is horrible”? If they did, why didn’t everyone listen? How much did they have to pay Michael Berryman to class this up? Could Craig Sheffer look any more coked up? How much cocaine was used in the making of this film? Who told these people they could dance, sing, or make movies? Did everyone involved think this would advance their careers? Or just help them make their mortgage, child support or cocaine bills that month? Did the sheer amount of hairspray used in this production contribute to ozone depletion, and eventually to our current climate crisis? The horror…the horror…

  29. Pennies from Heaven

    For the exact same reasons why I find Pennies from Heaven to be a success, I can see why it failed at the box office.

    Pennies from Heaven was Steve Martin’s first dramatic role in a film. After watching the original BBC miniseries, he was convinced that it was the greatest thing he’d ever seen. So learned how to tap dance and chose the film to follow up The Jerk.

    He’d later tell Rolling Stone, “I’m disappointed that it didn’t open as a blockbuster and I don’t know what’s to blame, other than it’s me and not a comedy. I must say that the people who get the movie, in general, have been wise and intelligent; the people who don’t get it are ignorant scum.”

    He also told the Chicago Tribune “Everything I had done until that time had been wildly successful so that the commercial failure of the film caught me by surprise.”

    But yeah. He also would tell the BBC at one point that you don’t follow up The Jerk with this movie.

    During the Great Depression, Chicago sheet-music salesman Arthur Parker (Martin) struggles in his business and in his marriage to Joan (Jessica Harper*), who refuses to give him any money to start his own business. His dream is to live in the world of the songs that he writes, which leads him to wander for a while. During this time, he meets a schoolteacher named Eileen (Bernadette Peters) and falls in love with her, but he soon returns to his wife.

    The affair has led to a pregnancy and Eileen loses her job. After an abortion, she becomes Lulu, a lady of the night in the employee of a pimp named Tom (Christopher Walken). Yet when they find each other again, Arthur and Lulu remember their love and run away after destroying his store.

    It all falls apart when a girl is assaulted and killed, with Arthur suspected and his wife telling the police that he’s perverted. He’s arrested and goes to death row, but his fantasy life takes over, as he sings “Pennies from Heaven” on the gallows. The film closes with him telling Lulu, “We couldn’t have gone through all that without a happy ending. Songs ain’t like that, are they?”

    At one point in the film, Arthur and Eileen go to see the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie Follow the Fleet and then become part of the movie and dance through “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” In Astaire, The Biography, Fred Astaire would say, “I have never spent two more miserable hours in my life. Every scene was cheap and vulgar… it makes you cry it’s so distasteful.” However, it has been reported that he liked Walken’s dancing.

    Director Herbert Ross recovered from this movie bombing and made Footloose, The Secret of My Success, Steel Magnolia, Boys on the Side and many more films. Dennis Potter, who wrote the BBC series and this film, would go on to write Gorky Park and The Singing Detective.

    You know who was a fan of this movie? Anton LaVey. It appears on the Church of Satan film list and Dr. LaVey went on record saying, “The sets and the characters were 100% authentic.”

    *Do you think Ms. Harper ever thinks to herself, “Between Suspiria, Phantom of the Paradise and Shock Treatment, do you think that I can maybe not be in a cult musical movie and maybe something that could get me rich?”

  30. In the Heights (2021)

    It was ok I guess. None of the songs really stuck with me and what conflict there is in the story maybe gets resolved a little too easily and conveniently. Well made though.

    1. Cool re-use of "Spider-Man" movie tech for that one dancing sequence, though. 😎👍

  31. Voyage Of The Rock Aliens (1984)

    I picked this one after seeing Munkee's review above. Really zany. Really goofy. The highs are so high and the lows so low, but in a pretty fun way.

  32. Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

    It was ok. I was left mostly wishing I had watched the original, which was a childhood favourite.

  33. Battle for Milkquarious (2009 - Tom Kuntz)
    This was made to advertise milk... this is at least what I've read about it. It is only 22 minutes long, full of catchy songs, a great Joe Hursley as the lead character, full of heart, very funny, and you can see it for free on YouTube. Just watch it, please.

    4 out of 4 gallons of milk.