December 31st, 2010

LOST IN AMERICA (1985) * ½

Albert Brooks gets passed over for a promotion and promptly tells his boss “Fuck you”.  Predictably, he gets fired.  He then convinces his wife (Airplane’s Julie Hagerty) to quit her job, liquidate their assets, and cruise around the country in a big ass Winnebago.  Their first stop is in Las Vegas for a second honeymoon, but their dreams get thrown out the window when Hagerty blows their nest egg at the roulette table.  Now the bickering couple has nothing to their names besides each other and a damned Winnebago.

 

I’m generally a big fan of Albert Brooks’ movies but this one is pretty much a disappointment.  The big problem (aside from being woefully low on laughs) is that both of our main characters just aren’t very likable.  I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near these people, let alone trapped in a Winnebago with them for two hours.  Brooks and Hagerty’s performances aren’t bad per se; it’s just that their character’s actions are pretty irritating.  Probably the best performance though comes from Garry Marshall as a stingy casino owner.

 

And a lot of the sitcomy situations are really hard to swallow.  Take Hagerty randomly becoming a reckless gambler for instance.  There are a couple of weird plot developments like this in the movie that just seems rather desperate and arbitrary.  What’s more, it runs against the grain of the more realistic relationship humor in the film.  Oh yeah, and the ending sucks too.  It’s definitely not Brooks’ finest hour.

 

AKA:  Relax.

IT CAME FROM THE THRIFT STORE: ARMED RESPONSE (1986) ***

David Carradine stars as a Nam vet who owns a bar with his crusty ex-cop father (Lee Van Cleef).  Carradine’s detective brother (Brent Huff) gets double crossed and killed by his partner (Ross Hagen) over a jade statue belonging to a yakuza boss (Mako).  When Mako kidnaps Carradine’s wife and child and kills his OTHER brother, David and Lee decide to dust off their machine guns and take out the trash.

 

Despite the spotty pacing, convoluted plot, and slow motion Nam flashbacks that only exist to pad the running time, I liked Armed Response a lot more than I thought I would.  The reason is because the cast is incredibly fun to watch.  I mean the flick is almost worth watching solely to see Van Cleef and Carradine playing father and son.  At first, it may seem a little goofy since they’re both older than Jesus’ gym teacher.  It actually makes a lot of sense though because Van Cleef was the Master Ninja on TV, so it’s completely possible that he fathered Caine from Kung Fu.

 

The supporting cast of villains is equally memorable.  Mako makes for a great yakuza boss, Hagen is appropriately greasy, and Dick Miller and Laurene Landon are pretty funny as Mako’s underlings who get ripped off.  We also get Michelle Bauer (who shows her tits) and Bobbie Bresee (who doesn’t) as strippers.  And B movie favorite Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa has an early role as one of Mako’s henchmen too.

 

Far and away the best performance comes from Michael Berryman as Mako’s right hand man.  He has a funny gimmick where he gives out fortune cookies to people right before he kills them.  The best part comes when one guy’s cookie says, “You can look forward to a bright future” right before his car blows up.

 



Perhaps the funniest thing about the flick is the video box.  It says “Explosive Action Thriller” in quotations on the bottom of the box, but the quote isn’t attributed to a particular critic or newspaper or anything.  It just says “Explosive Action Thriller”.  I’m sure the quote belongs to director Fred Olen Ray who said to the studio, “I want to make an ‘Explosive Action Thriller’ with David Carradine and Lee Van Cleef!”  I guess when no critics praised the film; they decided to put Ray’s quote on the box instead.

 

I wouldn’t necessarily call Armed Response an “Explosive Action Thriller”, because there are only a handful of explosions, the action is sparse, and it’s kinda low on thrills.  I would say it’s a heck of a lot of fun watching Carradine, Van Cleef, and Berryman though.  So maybe if there’s a DVD or Blu Ray re-release of the film, the studio can put, “A heck of a lot of fun”—The Video Vacuum on the box and it will be a little bit more accurate.

 

AKA:  Jade Jungle.

 

The next It Came from the Thrift Store flick is our third and final Carradine movie; Dune Warriors, directed by the great Cirio H. Santiago.

HOT RESORT (1985) *

A bunch of chuckleheads from New York get a job at a resort hotel for the summer where they constantly try to score with the female guests.  They also have to contend with an asshole preppie rowing team who continually harass them.  When our “heroes” are cast in a commercial alongside the annoying preppies, they use the opportunity to exact their revenge.

 

Hot Resort is a terrible 80’s slobs vs. snobs teen sex comedy.  The jokes are all thoroughly lame and the characters are annoying.  The acting is uniformly horrible too.  From the no-name leads to the has-been talent (like Frank Gorshin); everyone pretty much gets on your nerves from the get-go and stays there.  Even the usually reliable Bronson Pinchot is grating as Hell.  I don’t know who told him that doing a Juan Epstein impersonation for the whole flick was a good idea.  In my opinion, if the filmmakers wanted Robert Hegyes, they should’ve gotten Robert Hegyes.

 

Hot Resort is bad even by my impossibly low standards.  From the sucky script to the listless pacing, to the crappy direction (there are several visible boom mikes); everything about Hot Resort adds up to a useless waste of celluloid.  Sure, there are a couple of tits on display, but not nearly enough to warrant spending 90 minutes of your life on.