THE BIRDCAGE (1996)

Directed By Mike Nichols 
Written By: Elaine May 
Based on An Earlier Screenplay By: Francis Veber, Edouard Molinaro, Marcello Danon & Jean Poiret
Based in the play La Cage Aux Folles by: Jean Poiret
Cinematography: Enrique Lubezki
Editor: Arthur Schmidt 

Cast: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Christine Baranski, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, Tom McGowan, Grant Heslov, Kirby Mitchell, Ann Cusack, Trina McGee-Davis

A gay cabaret owner and his drag queen companion agree to put up a false straight front so that their son can introduce them to his fiancée’s right-wing moralistic parents.


this film at the time was a little daring or a bit of a gamble for a mainstream audience. Though it was also self-assured because of the popular cast. Though behind the scenes you had a bunch of heavy hitters. Who managed to raise the bar on a familiar tale and still knock it out of the park. 

Which shockingly had some actors playing against type. Where we have a fun yet more restrained Robin Williams while playing more of a funny conservative grouch. Seeing gene hackman in drag is certainly different and new.

The film also tries to put in some satire of the political culture at the time and while camping up gay culture at least offers a glimpse inside of it and offers representation.

This film also is really the big screen introduction of Nathan Lane as Albert the drag queen lover who has been practically a mother to robin Williams son in the film. Playing a role that was abandoned by Steve Martin last minute due to scheduling problems. Thilough broadway star Nathan lane took it and made it a star-making Role.

Hank Azaria also makes his presence felt in his supporting role as the couples maid, assistant and cook. Who is also part of the slapstick laughs later in the film.

This is one of those films that came around at the right place and right time. As the film and play was already a hit In France and waiting for an American remake for years that never got made which might have been out of fear in the 1989’s to portray a gay relationship. non chalantly with mainstream big name actors. So that when it did come along the culture was a bit more relaxed and if made today might not even bat too many eyelashes.

Luckily it is still hilarious to watch even on this day and age. Even when the Jokes are a little more obvious they still make you laugh. As there is wit on display as well as physical comedy and just plain old slapstick in the third act.

Out of the cast if anyone is flat It’s the young couple looking to get married played by Claista Flockhart and Dan Futterman though in a film filled with flamboyant and over the top characters you need some to be more quiet and seemingly normal to even it out a little. though they come off a little dull and Futterman Looks way older than Flockhart 

While the film is a laugh riot from beginning to the end it also has character moments that come off more serious and dramatic. As even after the so called Macho lesson the scene where lane tries to act like a straight male in a suit is a thing of beauty and partial pain.

You can feel its theatrical roots throughout it truly strongly in The theirs act where everything comes to a head. What truly is amazing is that while it was dating at its time it plays off so cute that now it feels like a more modern comedic classic that the whole family can enjoy. Even if there are times when it feels overloaded with stereotypes. 

It is so styled yet feels so haywire. That while it might seem like it is filling turbulence it’s always smooth sailing. 

Though there is an overwhelming comedic quality with heart and care that had me going to see it in theaters more than once or twice. 

Grade: A-

BOWFINGER (1999)

Directed By: Frank Oz
Written By: Steve Martin 
Cinematography: Ueli Steiger 
Editor: Richard Pearson 

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, Robert Downey Jr., Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Terence Stamp, Claude Brooks, Marisol Nichols, Phill Lewis, John Cho

When a desperate movie producer fails to get a major star for his bargain basement film, he decides to shoot the film secretly around him.


This might be a letdown considering the two comedic stars at its center finally teaming up to make a film together you would expect something funnier and better.

Though pretty much the film has a good premise a terrible follow-through and jokes. As it tries to be a Hollywood satire.  Where it seems too hard to be wacky above all else. Even though it seems a little more personal for Steve Martin who wrote the script and also takes aim at satirizing Scientology and also having some humor over it seems a past relationship.

Now the film wasn’t written originally for Eddie Murphy to co-star. As it was written for a big-name star. It was never intended to be a big-name comedic star. Eddie Murphy walks away with the film in a dual role that obviously he had to have input in because he creates a memorable comedic character as the Hollywood Star he also plays look-alike Jiff and kind of stunt double.  as well as spoofing Hollywood’s spoiled paranoid star as Kit Ramsey but that role feels a bit more familiar. 

Eddie Murphy does manage to create two totally different comedic characters and make them believable. 

Truthfully this movie felt crushing to me when I first watched it. As it stars two of my favorite living stand-Up comedians written by one of them and the film still falls apart.

This film is a satire on Hollywood. Though It’s not as sharp as Martin’s precious satire on Los Angeles L.A. STORY. Though that felt like a romance and love letter compared to this film which seems more to make fun of everything and everybody. As this is more silly than witty.

Though the film is certainly ahead of Its time with some of its ideas especially when it comes to the aspect of improv. Though after a while the film feels too silly for Its Own Good. 

If this film was made in the 1980’s it would be just ok and meant more like a classic. Getting a pass just for who starred in it. But made in the Savvy 1990s. It almost plays like a throwback.

There are moments that are original and funny but they are too few and far in between. If this movie had starred anyone else it would be forgettable and much easier for me to let go of it, but coming from such great talents. It was such a huge letdown.

Heather Graham is unresistable as the sexy actress co-star who Steve martin’s director character is also sleeping with and he is disturbed to find he might not be the only one. Based on her ambition and knowledge of his ex-girlfriends this seems his attempt to trivialize that relationship and maybe that person.

Robert Downey Jr. is in the movie he plays a small but pivotal role that really has no meat to it, but this was one of his first jobs post-rehab.

What is also a letdown is the movie within the movie they seem to be filming is so terrible. Even with a star, it looks like it would be bad, but again that might be the film making fun of not only itself but all-star-driven vehicles. Where no matter how bad it might be they will be funded and there will be an audience for them.

I didn’t see the movie in theaters but I did buy the DVD without seeing it first. Because I was so sure it was going to be a knockout. It is one of my least-watched purchases. 

Though strangely over the years I have warmed a little bit to it. It’s still bad, but at least it is watchable more to me now. Hopefully, you feel the same way. 

Grade: D

ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993)

Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld 
Written By: Paul Rudnick 
Characters Created By: Charles Addams 
Cinematography By: Donald Peterman 
Editor: Jim Miller & Arthur Schmidt 
Music By: Marc Shaiman 

Cast: Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christina Ricci, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, David Krumholtz, Carol Kane, Jimmy Workman, Christine Baranski, Peter MacNicol, Mercedes McNab, Sam McMurray, Dana Ivey, Nathan Lane, Harriet Sansom Harris, Charles Busch, Peter Graves, Cynthia Nixon, David Hyde Pierce, Monet Mazur

On any day of the week, you could expect a newborn baby to be nurtured and loved by his older sister. Except, of course, if it’s Wednesday. Pubert is the latest addition to the Addams family and, to prevent sibling rivalry escalating to fratricide, Wednesday and Pugsley are shipped off to summer camp and a nanny is hired. Debby Jellinsky is great with wrinkling baldies, which makes her the perfect nanny for Pubert and the unlikely wife of Uncle Fester. The question is…”Is she grave-digging or gold-digging?”


This is an underrated film. One of the rare sequels that excel over it’s original. Though here they seem to have more room to explore the world that the characters live in, but also the culture clashes.

The first film seemed to try to be more loyal to the fans of the television show. While trying to set a tone. Here the film is allowed to have its own personality, the actors also seemed more relaxed, laid back, and energetic. making the characters their own and not so much an imitation. Everyone seems to have found their groove.

Directed with flair and an intricate style that is assured.

The cast is superb. This I believe was the great Raul Julia’s final good role definitely better than M. Bison in the film STREET FIGHTER.

Christina Ricci deserved a best-supporting actress nomination for her work here. She steals the film. She makes Wednesday three dimensional, sadistic and quite witty.

This is also the first time I remember a Peter MacNicol performance and the prey time I remember seeing Christine Baranski as an actress.

The Addams family always struck me as strange of course the ultimate goths, by what were they? At least with THE MUNSTERS, you knew who or what they were supposed to be even though they came off as normal just happen to be monsters in appearance. With the Addams other than a cousin, it and thing and maybe lurch the butler, who appeared to be a zombie. The others appeared normal just macabre. I mean if you had I guess Fester was a mad scientist, Grandma was a witch Morticia dressed like a vampire, but could also be seen as a witch who just never cast spells. But Gomez was always a question mark. All you knew about him was that he was wealthy and energetic. More like a game show host mixed with a use car salesman and mortician.

because of films like these being so successful, it had the trend of films being made of old television shows and cartoons. This worked as it garnered a new generation of fans. While not being so far removed in years from the shows Initial popularity that there was still a sizable audience for it. Mistakes films like SPEED RACER made (while that film also had more of a cult following)

This film is a clever mixture of dark comedy, surrealism, slapstick, and satire. This is one of the films that made me realize why I truly embraced dark humor.

The only problem I have ever had with the first two Addams Family films is that the theme song for the updates was always tied into whatever pop star was popular at the time tieing in their hit songs style to fit the theme. Hence for this film whoop the Addams family there it is by tag team. Who’s hot the previous year was whoop there it is. This seemed to be common for tent pole franchise movies at the time. I still have frightening memories of the music video from hammer and the original movie theme the Addams family. Done in a more upbeat dancing style of music.

Michael Jackson was signed on to write and perform a song for the film’s soundtrack and to promote it with a video. Although he was able to finish the song, contractual difficulties coupled with the child molestation allegations made against Jackson resulted in the song being dropped from the soundtrack, and the video was never filmed. The song, “Is It Scary,” was later included on Jackson’s 1997 ‘Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix’ album and was also used in his short film Ghosts.

This film does everything right by bringing the Addams out more and exposing them to the public in daily life. Mixing with regular everyday citizens. Making it more of a culture clash comedy. That reaches it’s highlights at the Wednesday and Pugsley being forced to summer camp. (A genius idea) That ends with a classic comic set-piece celebrating thanksgiving.

Adding more than just makeup to the character, Morticia Addams is always lit separately from everyone else in a scene. Her lighting always consists of one beam of light across her eyes that gradually fades outward to add to her grim look.

The film reaches more comedy apex with the scenes involving Joan Cusack as a nanny out to seduce Fester. She is her regular brilliant comedic self as the homicidal gold digger.

When Fester announces his engagement, Morticia makes an overt reference to the ring worn by Debbie being the same one in which Fester’s grandmother was buried. Debbie slyly whips out a shovel, adding a literal component to her character’s “golddigger” status.

Carol Kane, who plays Grandmama, is almost a year younger than Anjelica Huston, who plays her daughter, Morticia Addams.

The reborn baby Pubert doesn’t work but needs to be there for Cusack’s character to enter the picture.

Some of the jokes are more of the moment and seem to make a stab more pop culture at the time. That brings a nostalgic feeling for those who remember the times. Though might be lost on others.

I can’t help but love this film and I really think it is a dark comedy the family can enjoy and have fun with. I remember seeing this film twice I. Theaters and even knowing all that would happen. This film still made me enjoy it as much as the first time.

Grade: B+

THE REF (1994)

theref

 

Directed By: Ted Demme
Story By: Marie Weiss
Written By: Richard LaGravenese & Marie Weiss
Cinematography By: Adam Kimmel
Editor: Jeffery Wolf

Cast: Denis Leary, Judy Davis, Kevin Spacey, Christine Baranski, Glynis Johns, B.D. Wong, Raymond J. Barry, J.K. Simmons, Vincent Pastore

an unfortunate cat burglar, who is abandonded by his partner in the middle of a heist, and is forced to take an irritating Connecticut couple hostage. He soon finds that he took more than he bargained for when the couple’s blackmailing son and despicable in-laws step into the picture. Before long they’re driving him nuts with their petty bickering and family problems. The only way for him to survive is to be their referee and resolve their differences, before he can be nabbed by the police.

Continue reading “THE REF (1994)”