Author Archives: Bill Leon
The other day, I paid about 17 dollars (shipping and handling included) for a live concert VHS tape of Prince & The Revolution performing in 1985, a concert where they perform every track from the Purple Rain ‘soundtrack’ album. Purple Rain makes my dick ROCK. HARD. I am a Prince fan BECAUSE of Purple Rain (the album) and I didn’t actually get around to seeing the film until years later. For those years, and even years before I discovered the musical mastery of the Purple Rain album, elements of this film had been built up for me by pop culture; the ‘obsession’ with Morris Day & The Time from Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and the Prince Chappelle’s Show Sketch ‘Charlie Murphy True Hollywood Stories’. Over time I have certainly come to love this film Purple Rain and I will certainly attempt to convey why I enjoy it so much… but I’d also like to attempt to overlook my bias and find something to offer up a critical opinion of.
One thing I don’t want to do is end up reviewing the album… so I will just get the music of the film out of the way up front. Every single track on the ‘soundtrack’ album is perfect. From start to finish the music of this film is emotional, melodic, well composed… a god damn masterpiece. I think this sums it up perfectly. Aside from the songs Prince performs himself in the film, you’ve also got Morris Day & The Time, whose music was composed and performed entirely by Prince. There are one or two other songs in the film that aren’t worth bringing up, and aside from Apollonia Six’s ridiculously dull “Sex Shooter,” all the other tracks are in the background. The two songs Morris Day & The Time perform in this film are the now legendary funk numbers “Jungle Love” and “The Bird”. The music of The Time isn’t all that different from what Prince’s earlier solo stuff sounds like, but with Morris Day as the vibrant, life of the party singer, these tracks have their own flair.
The staged performances in this film are all great. With the exception of the aforementioned Apollonia Six “Sex Shooter” song, every performance on stage by The Revolution or The Time is a serious ton of fun. Prince is captivating on stage and brings the most emotional intensity of his career to a lot of these performances. Morris Day is a flamboyant show off and an electrifying frontman. I don’t know much about the shooting of these performances but for the most part, they feel very organic and at times when the songs take over, you’re pretty much watching a concert movie until that particular song is over… Concert movie…
We’ll get to that one eventually…
The plot of the movie is about as cliché as it gets. There’s a happening night club and two bands competing for the greater glory. The Revolution vs. The Time. A girl named Apollonia enters the picture, who at first fancies our protagonist but quickly gets swept up by the promises made by Morris Day of making her a star. Apollonia is a very vapid, boring character- and a cliché all her own. The girl, who got lost on the wrong side of the tracks, comes to the club looking for work. There she meets Prince and falls in love with him… until Morris Day steps into the picture. While dealing with this love triangle, Prince also has to handle his physically abusive father, his bandmates that are sick of him hogging the spotlight, and songwriting, as well as the grouchy club owner who tells him “Your music makes sense to no one but yourself”. It is so riddled with clichés that any vanity this movie has, any arrogance the film itself exudes… it is safe to say it is so silly that it’s immediately deflated.
Prince and Morris Day are ridiculous in totally opposite directions. I genuinely find both of their performances entertaining. For the most part, Prince delivers his dialogue in an almost monotone way, but there are little moments where he just messes with people and it’s hysterical. There’s the famous ‘Lake Minnetonka’ scene and multiple scenes where he patronizes bandmates Wendy & Lisa- one in particular involving a puppet. And then there’s Morris Day. If Prince’s music isn’t your thing, Morris Day’s performance is worth sitting through this movie. He’s the ultimate flamboyant, over-the-top, rock-n-roll villain. Every scene he’s in is delightful-Wait until you see how he deals with women he doesn’t want to talk to. With his ‘black man servant’ Jerome, the two of them have some hysterical moments throughout. They even do a knock-off of an Abbott and Costello gag.
Next thing ya know, they’ll be askin’ to use his motorcycle.
How does Prince live with his parents but have fully tailored suits… and a fancy motorcycle… and well, all the extravagant things he owns in this movie? Not to mention his hair… It’s kind of a mute point, but the reason Prince lives with his parents in this movie is so they can hammer in this anti-domestic violence message. Prince’s Dad beats his mom and then later, Prince hits Apollonia in a blind rage. He stops and has that “What have I done?” moment and… it’s as grating and forcibly sentimental as it gets. Fortunately all this leads into the mega hit “When Doves Cry” and its inclusion in the film is… slightly disappointing when you realize that it’s not going to get a badass on stage performance like all the other songs… but it’s “When Doves Cry”-It’s a fucking masterpiece. It’d be like making Pink Floyd’s The Wall without “Hey You”… wait a minute… they did that…
… Also Prince’s dad in this movie is played by the bad guy from Half Baked. That’s just distracting.
I wanna talk to Samson!
Everything about Purple Rain on the surface is superficial- the clothes, the excess, the club… but underneath that surface, there’s an unmatched emotional intensity that Prince brings to the performances of every single one of his songs. To me, this movie captures the glam of the early 80s perfectly while creating so many Rock-N-Roll clichés we’ve come to know. A true classic that takes itself so seriously at times, you can’t help but laugh at its own self-absorbed melodrama… and the ‘soundtrack’ album is one of the best albums of the 1980s.
If you can’t get down with that, maybe you’re just too demanding. Maybe you’re just like your father, too bold. Maybe you’re just like your mother… you’re never satisfied.
Take a Drink: for every song by The Revolution or The Time.
Take a Drink: anytime Prince or Morris Day make bird-like noises.
Take a Drink: when Morris Day makes you laugh.
Take a Drink: when Prince says ‘motherfucker’.
Do a Shot: when you see how Morris Day and Jerome “take care” of a woman bothering them.
Do a Shot: for one of the final 3 songs, either “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U” or “Baby, I’m A Star”
Ralph Bakshi’s drive to break ground and create these crazy cartoons is something that makes everything he touches pretty great in some way, shape or form. Having said that, all of his movies have their flaws, whether they be production inflicted, monetary problems, or I heard when making Cool World he punched Frank Mancuso, Jr. (For those of you who are unfamiliar, this guy is the son of at the time Paramount Studios head Frank Mancuso, Sr.) in the face. Now that’s just a great Ralph Bakshi story.
So what they get drunk? So what they smoke weed? They’re just having fun, they don’t care who sees… well I saw… something. It wasn’t really a movie but, I saw it. Mac and Devin Go to High School has got to be hands down the worst attempt at pot humor in a movie I have ever seen in my life. Despite the fact this is a straight to DVD release, I think its safe to say that this is the worst ‘stoner film’ in existence… seriously. It’s that bad.
From what I’ve gathered, this film lead to the soundtrack and not vice versa. Followers of popular music probably know the title of this film from its soundtrack which contains one of the biggest hits worldwide for Wiz Khalifa, “Young, Wild & Free”. Any Wiz or Snoop Dogg fan that has any interest whatsoever in this movie; I’m advising you right now that this will be a very spoiler heavy review. Snoop Dogg plays Mac, a high school delinquent who’s been held back something like 15 times. Wiz Khalifa plays Devin, a bookish intelligent young student and the school’s Valedictorian with an overbearing girlfriend thats barely in the movie. Despite being such an unlikely duo, the two quickly become friends to convenience the plot, and Mac wants to bang the a substitute chemistry teacher who doesn’t date students THEREFORE he must finally graduate high school. Got all that?
Enjoying a bad movie and enjoying a bad comedy are different appreciations. There are some things in this movie that are likeable. Snoop Dogg is genuinely funny at times and unintentionally funny at others. Every once in awhile when the movie turns into a music video at random, some of the songs are admittedly not bad. “Talent Show” is a catchy track, despite Wiz Khalifa’s laughable ‘freestyle’ creation of the song which precedes it. “Young, Wild & Free” has grown on me although I wouldn’t recommend the Wiz Khalifa haters to tread these waters. I don’t see this movie converting any haters into new fans. Speaking of Wiz…
These two are the stars of this movie… if you can’t get over that, I suggest you turn back now.
Wiz Khalifa is pretty bad in this. I know he’s a rapper and not an actor, but that’s kind of the point. Admittedly, I don’t know that much about Wiz Khalifa but in this movie, his delivery of 99% of his lines is just atrocious. Snoop Dogg is more believable as a 15 year high school senior. I will say this, though, I think if Wiz Khalifa tried to act, and had a good director advising him, he could transition to acting if he really wanted to… but I doubt that will happen.
The pot element of this movie is off the charts. If you told someone this was supposed to be a spoof of stoner films, they might believe you. It opens with a fucking talking joint voiced by Mystikal. YES. THAT Mystikal. And its name is Slow Burn… Jesus Christ. Everyone at their school is obsessed with weed. They’re obsessed with weed that they use weed as an alternate fuel source for a chemistry project… If you smoke weed find any of this as stupid as I did watching, you may experience the same sentiment, “I never thought I could ever appreciate How High as much as I do right now…”
And then this happened in a montage… for some reason.
Andy Milonakis is in this, I almost forgot. Because handicapped people are funny…? I didn’t really get what the fuck he was doing in this movie… and he shotguns some weed through a girl farting smoke out of her ass… so that fucking happened… Is that what his character was intended for…?
So Snoop Dogg wants to bang the substitute chemistry teacher who won’t date him until he graduates… and her name is Ms. Huck… Ms. Fuck. Get it? She pairs Mac and Devin up as chemistry partners and the ‘weird villainous white guy’ of the movie is also interested in Ms. Huck. Mac gets Devin high with pot cookies or something and 34 and a half minutes later (the movie’s time, not mine), he’s freestyling about how much weed he buys and smokes… okay? How the fuck does that make sense?
Its almost insulting how unfunny this is. Not that its got anyone credible behind it to be anything but mildly annoyed in the grand scheme, the outrageousness of some of the gags and the occasionally above average soundtrack are enough to keep it afloat as an enjoyably terrible comedy movie.
There’s seriously a talking joint in this movie voiced by “Shake That Ass” Mystikal.
Clumsily directed, horrendously written, and without a doubt the worst weed comedy I’ve seen in quite some time, Mac & Devin Go to High School makes Bio-Dome look like The Big Lebowski. So what’s the best cure for a bad weed movie? BOOZE!
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time weed is consumed.
Take a Drink: when Slow Burn (the talking joint) is on screen.
Take a Drink: when they fuck with the audio (You’ll know what I mean when it happens.)
Take a Drink: when Snoop Dogg makes you laugh unintentionally
Take a Shot: when Andy Milonakis shotguns weed out of a girl’s ass
Take a Shot: when the movie turns into a music video.
Heavy Metal is an animated film released in 1981 with a seriously bitchin’ soundtrack… and that’s actually about it. The movie is based on a comic book magazine I’ve never read and adapts (most of) its stories from the comics. I’ll be here all day if I have to actually talk about what happens in the movie.
To try to sum it up, there are 6 segments within the film; bookended by a green alien smoky ball of energy who loosely ties into the segments, explaining the segments to a frightened young girl whose astronaut father was killed by the energy ball… but little to nothing is explained. Apparently the energy ball is called the Loc-Nar. The movie opens with a flying car in space which never appears again. It’s a god damn mess as far as the story goes and it’s an anthology film so really don’t even worry about it. There’s a reason this movie has a cult following… lots of reasons actually. Anyone that has MST3k style movie riffing sessions needs to put Heavy Metal at the top of their list of movies. That’s where this movie really shines the brightest.
The soundtrack is fucking great; Cheap Trick, Devo, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult just to name a few. I have to also mention the epic title track “Heavy Metal” by Sammy Hagar. It seems like that’s this film’s biggest legacy but there’s more to it than just the incredible soundtrack. The drawing style is sort of sketchy; it’s nothing special but it’s charming and distinct. It may turn some people off but I have a feeling I can’t be the only person out there that appreciates the look of the film. Backgrounds are pretty well done, there’s some pretty creative character/object design going on here and oh, there was something else.
There’s naked ladies in this cartoon.
It’s pretty laughable how often the women in this movie get naked; or for that matter what reasons. It happens a lot. As far as the actual stories/segments of the movie, hands down my favorite is the first story that’s told, Harry Canyon. It’s a film noir tale in the future about a New York cab driver who gets mixed up in the affairs of a scientist’s daughter and some gangsters. It’s well done enough in my opinion, I think Harry’s a pretty likeable character; he doesn’t get enough screen time to really be called a developed character but no one in this movie get enough to screen time to do that. For my money, that’s the best sequence.
Heavy Metal very quickly into the second of its tales, titled Den, runs out of steam. An archetypical nerdy teenager is thrown into a fantasy world and becomes a big buff bald man voiced by John Candy. This is pretty bare bones and there’s no rock song accompanying it. While probably the weakest segment of the film, it is still very riffable. Next up is Captain Sternn, a decent segment albeit a little short for my tastes. A cocky space captain who looks like Superman stands trial for, and I quote, “12 counts of murder in the first degree, 14 counts of armed theft of Federation property, 22 counts of piracy in high space, 18 counts of fraud, 37 counts of rape… and one moving violation.”
He pleads not guilty and has a witness he bribed come forward. His witness, holding the Loc-Nar (that green energy ball from before), begins causing him to tell the truth and quickly turn on the accused. He becomes a big angry hulk monster and chases Sternn through the space station until it just kind of ends when Captain Sternn is cornered and pays him the money… and then releases a trap door, ejecting him and the Loc-Nar. This one starts out strong but it just kind of ends without any real resolution. I would’ve liked it a lot more if it had been longer and more fleshed out.
The animation in this movie can range from above average to laughable at times. Sometimes things can look choppy, depending on the spot, but the animation is just as all over the place as anything else in the film. There’s some more stuff using clipart, the car in the beginning and later on in the film when a ship hurtles through space. I like the clipart segments but it’d been done before in the intro to The Grateful Dead Movie and even I think on Sesame Street before that. Nothing in here is really terrible and I won’t call it bad animation, its just kind of lacking in certain areas of the film. Despite the fact that they hit snags every now and again, and I imagine budgetary issues, it still manages to be awesome. The look is classic 80′s animation.
Little to nothing is explained as far as the overall film goes, what little there is loosely tying each indivual segment together. The only thing that really ties it together is the Loc-Nar and the way it all comes full circle at the end. It is held together with mostly little bits of dialogue here and there but even if you know the details of the story, there are still plot holes galore. It’s not exactly the best example of an anthology film in a sense of oneness. The Loc Nar, when it is making things happen in the stories, is just doing things at random and seemingly has no limit to what it can or can’t do. A lot of the time, though, you’ll just find yourself saying things like, “Aw man, weren’t those fighter pilot zombies friggin’ awesome?”
The film’s final segment, Taarna, really tries to wrap everything up, suggesting the Loc-Nar are a barbaric alien race. Some people probably claim this is the film’s finest hour. I like the Taarna segment, but for me some of the earlier segments pack a bit more of a punch. But the Taarna segment is still good. Action fantasy, sci-fi, breast filled, and did I mention Taarna’s bird creature? The Taarna character is mute but her flying… bird… creature… it makes the most hilarious shrieking noise. It sounds like a human being; one of the most hilarious moments of the film. But when the bird is shot down… thats when it truly becomes hysterical.
It’s astounding how funny this bird sounds.
So the Loc-Nar is defeated, and the Loc-Nar terrorizing the young girl in the prologue/epilogue is destroyed. The bird comes back to life somehow and whisks the girl away… and her hair changes color because… Taarna’s spirit is inside her… I don’t know. It just happens.
It’s not really something you should go into looking for logic or consistency but those who know how to use Heavy Metal properly will get a lot out of it. This movie desperately needs a rifftrax and the best way to watch is with some friends and a couple cold ones.
Unlike say, the Ralph Bakshi musical anthology film American Pop, released the same year oddly enough, Heavy Metal isn’t meant to be a showcase for the music. Heavy Metal is meant to be out of this world, show animated naked ladies, science fiction, and fantasy, and then showcase its music. In that order. And on that level, it kind of does succeed. The music may be the best thing about this film, but it’s not the only great thing about this film. It’s got a ton of flaws, which help make it such a riffable film and a great one to put on with a group and have some drinks with.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every song on the soundtrack. Drink again when you catch yourself tapping your foot.
Take a Drink: for every set of boobs and/or naked chick. Drink again if you question what the motive behind getting naked was.
Drink for major boobage.
Take a Drink: every time someone is double crossed.
Take a Drink: every time you recognize John Candy, Eugene Levy or Harold Ramis. (One for every different character you can recognize them as)
Do a Shot: if you spot the USS Enterprise
Do a Shot: when Taarna’s bird creature dies
If you don’t know what Space Jam is, I’m willing to bet it’s because you’re either really young or really old. I say this because I personally don’t know of anyone who is unaware of this movie’s existence. A few noteworthy things I’d like to get out of the way; Space Jam was the first theatrical film to exclusively feature the Looney Tunes with 100% all new animation. (Older readers may recall the slew of compilation film releases peppered throughout the 80’s.) Something most people probably already know about this film; it grew out of a very successful ad campaign teaming Michael Jordan with popular Looney Tunes characters. This is where the skepticism begins.
The Nike commercial I took this screenshot from actually ends with this shot and Bugs saying to Michael Jordan, “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
I was 7 years old when this movie came out. I was the target demographic for this movie. Did I see it? Of course. Did I love it? Of course. Would I have cared that this movie sprouted from successful commercials? Fuck no. (Not that I’d have been aware of that sort of thing.) It was a movie that teamed Michael Jordan with the Looney Tunes. How could any kid in the 90’s not be sold on this? I enjoyed the movie when I was a lot younger. A lot of people seem to have a fondness for Space Jam but 16 years later, how well does it really hold up?
I think the highest praise I can give to this movie is that the animated parts of the film look pretty good. It’s nothing exceedingly well done or groundbreaking enough to really call it “GREAT animation,” and some of the live action integration is less than seamless, but the colors are bright and lively, the characters move with fluidity and have a certain bouncy squashable quality to them. This is probably in part due to animation director Bruce W. Smith, who would go on to create The Proud Family cartoon. The backgrounds are good but nothing stands out as being particularly memorable. Michael Jordan, in this movie, is charismatic and generally likeable if you don’t expect to see a real performance from him. And that leads me to…
This will just be a point on general laziness in this movie. Michael Jordan’s performance is just kinda lazy, even when he’s supposed to be getting mad in a scene he rises just above monotone. He never quite rises above that level of commercial acting that brought him to this point. Michael Jordan has enough charm on screen for me to overlook this for the most part, but then we have the script. Oh boy is this is a lazy script. I wouldn’t say any one thing in this script is god awful, it’s just… the premise is completely ridiculous and feels very ‘last second’ to the point where it hurts the overall flow of the story. If you don’t know the premise, I’ll try to sum it up as fast as I can…
An amusement park in outer space needs an attraction that will make them money, the owner of the amusement park in outer space, played by Danny DeVito, sits on a TV remote by accident which turns on 50 classic Looney Tunes cartoons all at once and decides to send his minions to force the Looney Tunes to be said new attraction, the minions (nerdlucks… yeah they’re fucking called nerdlucks) are tricked into thinking they have to give the Looney Tunes a chance to defend themselves, and so because the nerdlucks are very short, they decide to challenge them at basketball.
The nerdlucks learn what basketball is; learn what the NBA is, and decide to steal the ‘talent’ of, at the time, NBA superstars Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Muggsy Bogues, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley… because they just have the ability to do that apparently… that’s something aliens can just do now, and they use their stolen talents to bulk up and play the Looney Tunes at a basketball game. Also this movie makes a complete joke out of Jordan’s baseball career… essentially saying the events of Space Jam are what lead him back to basketball. This whole movie feels rushed as far as the script goes; they try to work in these self aware moments, like at one point the NBA players who lost their talent go to see a fortune teller who runs down the plot of the movie. The NBA players of course dismiss it as ridiculous nonsense. Just because you acknowledge that you know the plot is weak doesn’t make it any less flimsy.
The jokes… the good jokes that may actually make you laugh… those are pretty few and far between. They rely on a lot of the old Looney Tunes gags that we’ve seen before just done with bad timing. When they don’t seem to have a better idea of how to execute a joke or a gag or what have you. It can be charming sometimes, but mostly I just felt like they were relying on 40-50 year old jokes that we’ve seen before… and when they’re not relying on the old Looney Tunes shtick… the new material, for the most part, falls on its face.
Daffy Duck as we knew him is dead.
The Looney Tunes are just not funny in this. It doesn’t help to hear some truly great voice actors doing these shitty jokes either.
I cannot tell you how much I cringe when I hear Billy West doing the “Buggin” rap from the soundtrack. All these voice actors are doing good recreations of the voices of these memorable characters… and they have very little to work with. I think any real charm that comes from the Looney Tunes themselves is that they have these great voice actors providing their voices. The shtick from the old cartoons can work in moderation but it seems like whenever they’re in doubt, that’s a go to. When they do try to do more modern comedy, it just doesn’t work.
Nothing is ever taken to ‘out of character’ levels but they do ride the line a few times. And then we have Lola Bunny… I guess the main reason behind adding Lola to the cast was to try to pull a larger female demographic… and the sad part about it is I think it worked.
There’s only one thing fully developed about Lola-AND IT’S NOT HER CHARACTER! *Ba-Dum-TISS!*
This movie feels rushed. I don’t think there’s any better evidence of that then the actual finale of the film, the basketball game. Most of it is hit and miss gags that go nowhere until at one point it’s discovered that the Monstars stole the talent from the NBA players, and then Wayne Knight’s character; did I forget to mention he’s in this? Anyway, Wayne Knight’s character is flattened like a pancake and blown up like a balloon… and is deflated with a fart. HA HA. (To be fair, everything preceding the fart makes me laugh. It looks dated, it looks cheesy, and above all it looks stupid.)
Whether this is actually funny or ironically funny is completely up to you.
The movie’s big laugh out loud moment comes from when Michael Jordan realizes he too can squash or stretch his body. So he goes for the game winning dunk, is stopped short by the Monstars, and, I kid you not, stretches his arm all the way to the hoop to make the game winning basket.
It’s quite a sight.
If you’re not familiar with Space Jam already, I’d suggest avoiding it. It doesn’t hold up well, the jokes that were actually funny at the time are dated for the most part, anything comedy wise worth looking at is probably taken from a classic Looney Tunes short that would inherently be funnier and much more clever than this film. Having said that, if you grew up with Space Jam, it’s not the worst nostalgic 90’s family film you could revisit. I like this movie in some capacity; it can be charming but it does have a lot of flaws and it hasn’t aged well.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: when you hear a classic Looney Tunes catch phrase. “What’s up, Doc?” “Sufferin’ Succotash!” “You’re Despicable” etc.
Take a Drink: when you recognize a joke/gag from the golden age of Looney Tunes cartoons.
Take a Drink: whenever people in the movie just write off supernatural/other worldly occurrences. (E.G. Michael Jordan is sucked down a golf hole so Larry Bird and Bill Murray just casually say, “I hope he’s gonna be alright.”)
Take a Drink: when you feel like Michael Jordan’s about to start plugging something in the middle of a scene.
Take a Shot: when something is actually plugged in the middle of a scene.
Take a Shot: for either Wayne Knight being blown up like a balloon or Michael Jordan’s stretching arm.