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Night Court 2023

A while back we talked about the truly perplexing reboot of Mad About You… available only if you were using a specific cable carrier. I watched the whole thing, and while did kind of like Abbey Quinn as Paul Riser’s daughter, the reboot all around was disappointing. Jamie had turned from a quirky but high maintenance girl to a completely unlikable virago. And Paul Riser, as he always did, was just kind of going with the flow.

And you know, that’s the thing about sitcoms and sitcom revivals. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sitcom that actually gets an ending,And you know, that’s the thing about sitcoms and sitcom revivals. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sitcom that actually gets an ending, There are certain things that you are going to try and do with that ending. You wanna make sure everybody knows that the characters go on, but that they’re in a good place. You want to feel not only like this chapter of their life is wrapped up neatly, but that they’re gonna be OK going forward. You want them in a good place. The problem is, when you bring them back, you immediately have to create some drama and some tension, and that means taking them out of that good place and putting them back into conflict. Ultimately, most of these reboots like Mad About You just make me sad.

Night Court Didn’t make me sad. It made me angry.

Let me take a moment here to establish some of my bonafides. You seem, Night Court is very possibly my favorite sitcom of all time. not just growing up, not just doesn’t adult, but for all time. All 9 seasons… even the early ones with the cast shake ups. Harry Anderson in particular was someone I connected with. He is not the reason that I wear hats, but hes very likely one of the reasons that I still wear them… He’s not the reason that I learned the magic. But he certainly kept my interest in it longer than I would have had it… and contributed to me going back to it when I was in college. He had a sort of dark humor and a love of old things and Halloween and the macabre. It’s just a character that affected me deeply. Not just him though, the show itself. The outrageous slapstick comedy really appealed to me. I’ve always been drawn to outrageous and witty comedy. Fast talking, clever dialog, that sets up absurdity without sinking into the scatological. Night Court was perfect for this. It was more cartoonish and outrageous than a lot of its contemporaries like Cheers Or Wings or even Seinfeld. And yet, it managed an interesting trick. We would go from this outrageous comedy and then drive right into some drama in the middle of the second act. Some people used to criticize it as getting Preachy. Those people have obviously never watched an episode of modern star trek. If it was heavy handed at all, It was due to time constraints. We had to get our laughs, get into the serious stuff and get out in 24 minutes. Nevertheless, I never felt bashed over the head with THE MESSAGE the way that I do in a lot of modern entertainment. It was probably there, but it was just usually a heart warming note. One or two lines. It’s a tear jerking moment. An instant where we got to be serious and talk some real talk instead of just constant gags. It’s a tough balance to pull off, and yet Night Court managed it week after week. It never sacrificed the humor, and it never sacrificed the drama. All of this is what made it such a great show, it’s why it’s so fondly remembered.

The Night Court reboot is nothing like its predecessor. It’s not just that it’s totally diffrent, it’s absolutely missing all of it’s heart. And you know, even that might be tolerable if it wasn’t just so poorly done. It’s not just a bad reboot, it’s not even a good sitcom.

I don’t know who John Larroquette is playing, but it’s not Dan Fielding. Of course, there’s no way you can get away with and oversexed greedy white man character like this in modern entertainment, but this neutered version is just utterly unrecognizable. We discovered him in semi-retirement after his wife died, as a processor, sneaking around and Hitting people with subpoenas or lawsuits that they’ve been dodging. Perfect work for the grumpy old curmudgeon. But that’s not Dan. Dan being married in the 1st place seems utterly absurd to me (Unless she was a sugar mama – and he speaks too tenderly about her for that to be the case). And him showing up in a mediocre apartment, doing a crummy job, Remember what I said about wanting wanting to feel like a character is gonna be alright? They didn’t do a great job of that at the end of that court, but even so, this unravels any hope that you would feel for that.And by placing him in the defense slot,We robbed him of the mean spirited, colorful descriptions he would have for the defendants. We lose a lot of his attitude and Snark. The truth is, the Dan Fielding I imagine as an older man, he would be like Hugh Hefner. Even on the television show Dan was chasing women well into his mid to late fifties, I could see him still doing it at 70, just with less success. Perhaps even with a certain amount of perplextion at why it doesn’t work anymore. The wit would still be razor sharp, an insult artist on the order of Don Rickels. A couple decades worth of schmoozing and scamming and hustling, Dan would have money. money and style. Dan always wore the best suits and had perfectly coiffed hair. He never looked like a plaid hobo. Indeed, while John Larroquette is giving this performance in Night Court 2023 his all, I get the impression that he just doesn’t know how to play Dan now. He doesn’t understand what to do with this neutered version of the character… because it’s not the same person.

I think you could forgive a lot of that though if we had a great supporting cast. And that was the thing about Night Court. Every person there was a character, every person there was a Talent. I followed Harry Anderson from Night Court over to Dave’s world. the only reason that I even know who Dave Barry is! I followed John Larroquette a cat over to his own show, and then over to McBride. I would make sure I had a front row seat any time one of the cast would show up on another show, Charles Robinson had some really great cameos here and there on shows like House, Fresh Prince and NCIS.

Unfortunately, for the most part, these characters are all cardboard cut outs. Melissa Rauch, who was arguably one of my favorite characters on the big Bang theory, is just flat and boring in this serious. Even setting aside the obligatory the woman has to be in charge trope because, modern day politics. Even setting it aside, she’s just not good in the role. They’ve tacked on the conceit that she’s Harry Stone’s daughter, but it doesn’t mean anything. She doesn’t act like him or feel like him or seem related to him in any way other than using it as an excuse to mention his name at least once per episode. There aren’t photos of Harry Anderson around (unless you squint at the wall outside the courtroom with the list of judges), but they sure do feel the need to invoke Harry Stone as as often as possible to remind you that this is still supposed to be Night Court. I haven’t forgotten. In fact, they’ve recreated the sets in spectacular fashion. It’s dead on… just a few old years older. I feel like I’m walking right back into my childhood home, feel the problem is it’s filled with strangers.

Lucretia, the comedian playing the bailiff Gurgs (I thought it was “Gert” And that would have made more sense), is trying. She’s doing a smart thing, and that she’s trying to combine both the characters of Bull and Roz into one composite. The problem is that can’t work. You need one person to be the goofball and one person to be the straight man. It’s roles that Richard Moll and Marsha Warfield fell into easily, with Marcia generally being the heavy, Though it wasn’t unusual to see those roles flip from time to time to time to give her a chance to have some good gags herself. I think they’re doing poor Lucretia a disservice by not giving her somebody to bounce off against. Perhaps an older, more experienced bailiff who could be the straight man to her funny, silly antics.

The district attorney Olivia, played by India de Beaufort, is actually fairly good. She reminds me a great deal of the defense attorney Liz Williams (played by Paula Kelly) from the first season. She also had a sort of hard edge to her, competence with the ability to make you laugh. The problem is, she’s not nearly as funny as Larroquette was in that role, and she is not given much to do. Like the others she’s a caricature. And no one’s more a character than our poor court clerk… hes practically a nonentity.

It’s all just bad. I watched 3 episodes of this backed back, and I laughed a grand total of two times. You can make all the excuses you want about it being their 1st season, and trying to work out the kinks and the chemistry of the new cast. But the thing is, even the 1st season of Night Court (with a very different cast) was fun. It was good. It hit the ground running with some interesting relationships. Believe me, I’m very familiar with the 1st season. Not only was it always included in the reruns (so those episodes would come up a couple times a year), but it was one of the few seasons of the show to actually get A DVD release that was sold at retail. Everything else got print on demand if It got a release it all. There was a while there where the show wasn’t rerunning anywhere I could get it, and that box set that was my only copy. So when I say that season one is still good, and better than this, It’s not just the rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Even more frustrating, is that this should have been good. The formula was already set. You had at least one of the original characters coming  Back. Richard Moll and Marsha Warfield are also both still alive, I would have loved to have seen Warfield return to the role, but now as a much older woman, giving us the dynamic that we used to get from Selma or Flo… the bailiffs that proceeded her. I’d like to have seen Dan fielding show up AS DAN FIELDING. Let’s get crazy and offensive, and dare To risk the ire of the woke. Don’t just make Melissa Rauch a squeaky voice do gooder, give her some flaws, some obsessions and some goofiness (seriously. You’ve cast an actress who made her name playing a quirky, nerdy character. You put her in a role previously occupied by a quirky, nerdy character. And she’s going OUT OF HER WAY TO NOT PLAY IT QUIRKY OR NERDY to break away from that typecasting. This is so self defeating it hurts). You could have done this. You could have made this work.   Instead, we’re getting reheated leftovers. A vanity project vehicle for Rauch, and a bitter disappointment. I’m sorry Night Court. You deserved better. Rest in peace.

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506

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

506

Sleepaway Camp 2 : Unhappy Campers

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Sleepaway Camp franchise

I’ve long heard Hellraiser fans lament the fact that in Hellraiser 3, the character of Pinhead kind of got changed from a surreal judge and turned into a flat-out slasher. Moreover, they always talk about how Freddy gets more jokey in the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, and how the whole series starts to get watered down.

I shake my head and tell them “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

sleepaway-camp-iiSleepaway Camp 2 has very little to do thematically or aesthetically with the original. There’s no mystery or intrigue going on here, this is a straight up slasher film designed to maximize boobs and blood. It’s a perfectly predictable formula and barely feels like it’s got any connection to the previous film at all. Even Felssa Rose is absent from the title role. It was such a different reading of the character, that when she auditioned it didn’t quite work for producers. Just as well, as shed been planning to attend college around that time anyhow.

Counselors from camp Rolling Hills telling scary stories around the fireplace, but one of them comes up says you know I know the story about this one girl from the camp about 60 miles from here… And begins to tell the story of Angela Baker. Good recap in 30 seconds of that film, which sets us up nicely in the mythology and continuity. The story ends with Angela being released, advance of this film.
Of course it’s easy to tell where she’s going to come in, she’s already in sconce at camp Rolling Hills as a counselor, with a habit of “sending bad campers home.” Like any good slasher, we get our first  kill within the first five minutes.

imagesAngela’s portrayed as a stuffy, prissy counselor, the sort of one who is obsessed with rules and wants nothing more than to just exist here in the camp. She explaines away her first victem’s disappearance as happy to send her home because she was behaving inappropriate, trying to seduce every boy in the camp!

It’s mostly older campers that we’re seeing here, 18-year-olds who are old enough to provide the requisite nudity and keep the censors from getting too uptight about having too many dead children in the film.

She attracts the attention of one of the other counselors, a bigger guy with a glorious images1golden mullet who is trying to get to know her, but she’s mysteriously distant! Over at the pool, teenagers are on the make, while in the woods, Angela secretly stalks looking for evil doers. She finds a couple of girls getting drunk and stoned, and we definitely know who’s going to get “sent home” next. Pam Springsteen is definitely trying something here, delivering straight faced and campy lines as she torches the bad girl alive. It’s definitely her and take on the character in an attempt to emulate the one-liners you see from other cinematic killers of the era such as Freddy Kruger, but it does come up a little goofy.

index11That night, Angela is off to a camp counseler meeting, we have to get some camp shenanigans in with a panty raid and the boys generally terrorizing the girls in a fun and flirty way. Angela comes back and is furious, putting on the wicked witch of the west attitude. She insists, she’s just trying to keep everyone safe, because she knows what happens at Camp when things get… out of hand. The girls of course decide to take revenge and raid the boys cabin. It’s actually a fun case of turnabout, but only angers Angela further. Time to send another camper home! This is why you should never flash the boys at summer camp.

The next morning at breakfast, Golden Mullet mentions that there’s some things that have gone missing. Things like 50 feet of rope, an electric drill, and the battery to his car. It’s a great bit of atmosphere, played for laughs but setting up where Angela’s getting the materials for her murders. Outside, one of the other counselors seeks out Angela for advice, because she’s shy and Angela used to be shy… but now you can’t get her to shut up. It’s clunky but a nice backhanded connection to the original film.

Soon enough though, we’re back to camp shenanigans to pad out the time between murders, this time arts and crafts. Of course the boys are painting a hockey mask… indexAlthough to be fair it’s more like the mask from Bloody Murder than it is Friday the 13th. It comes into play later on that evening, as the boys use that and an homemade Freddy glove to prank the girls at a campfire, but guess who gets a hold of that Freddy glove? Once Angela dispatches the first boy with his own glove, she turns her attentions to our faux Jason. This time she shows up wearing the other boys face as a mask and wielding a chainsaw! It may be the high point of the film, a great homage to the other horror classics of the time and clocking in right about halfway through. It also justifies the image they use for the movie poster… though curiously enough, that’s not actually ammo Springsteen she was unavailable that day so they used an entirely different model named Connie Craig.

Elsewhere, a couple of campers are getting it on, so it’s time for Angela to go back to work! Sadly, the chainsaw is out of gas and Angela looks so annoyed as her prey gets away.

As we roll into the third act, Golden Mullet starts noticing too many people missing, and for her part, Angela is beginning to spiral out of control, killing one girl just because she talks too much, and another to protect her cover. The dormitory is almost empty, just index121Angela and one other girl now, our final girl who figures out Angela’s secret as she remembers the folk tales from the opening of the film.

Angela gets fired because she is “sending too many people home”. Meanwhile, final girl and her boyfriend discover Angela’s secret cache… ashed she’s been storing her victims in… remember this is a slasher, and we’ve got to hit the tropes! Soon enough, our final girl will then get captured, escape, find a knife and fight for her life! But first, here comes Golden Mullet to the rescue, just in time! Just in time for a face full of battery acid that is…

When our final girl falls down a cliff, Angela just assumes she’s dead and it’s back to the camp to kill everybody else. But as night falls, the final girl wakes up in time to make it to the road and try and hitch a ride away from this nightmare. Just her luck, the first car to come along is Angela, making her escape from the cam! Cut to black and an appropriate 1988 rock song.

This is as fun as any 80’s slasher. It’s creative kills with buckets of blood and a general sense of fun to it. Even though it never quite feels like it’s part of the Sleepaway Camp story, they still try their best to connect back to it and remind us that Angela is the same person as that little girl from 1980. Pamela Springsteen does her best to make the rle her own, a wise move knowing that as soon as Sleepaway Camp two wrapped, she be headed right over to Sleepaway Camp three, shot back to back.

Marry Me

Yeah, I know. Some regular readers to this blog will be spitting out their morning coffee in shock. What on Earth am I doing reviewing a Jennifer Lopez movie? Even more importantly, What am I doing liking it!? Well sometimes over the weekend, the wife gets a hold of the TV. What can you do? Welcome as she threw on one of her ubiquitous rom com… a wedding one no less, And rather than head back to the library for a game of pool, I decided to watch it with her.

One of the first things that caught my eye was some of the talent. Owen Wilson can be really good when hes given the right roles. The trick is to let him lean into the earnest average guy thing he does so well, without letting him tip over into the awe shucks so naive it’s stupid persona that he too frequently find himself in. Sarah Silverman was right there on screen with him as well. Like Wilson, she’s hit or miss for me. I enjoy her when she’s playing somebody who’s a genuinely bad person that you still want to be around. As long as it’s not trying to normalize or justify her behavior, the baby voice saying horrible things schtick actually works well. I’m not nearly as familiar with John Bradley, but hes playing a Nick Frost type, so I’m pretty well drawn in. As long as we ignore the fact that it’s directed by the same person who did She Hulk, we’ll be fine.

Jennifer Lopez is about to get married to Bastion… a Latino singer, one of those guys straight out of the early 2000s Ricky Martin mold. But just before she goes on for their wedding concert, she discovers he’s been cheating on her and picks a random person out of the audience to marry insted… that would be Owen Wilson, carrying a sign that his lesbian best friend unloaded on him while she swooned. We get a nice fish out of water story for both Lopez and Wilson, the superstar singer, and the simple math teacher. Lopez is basically playing herself, and we get a lot of music through this film. That’s actually a really good thing… playing into her strengths and actually giving me some new appreciation for her talent. The chemistry between Lopez and Wilson builds and there’s plenty of fun moments, Definitely enough charm and laughter to keep the guys who are going to see this with their girlfriends engaged.

At the end of the day, it’s well done, fun and a little bit heartwarming with some genuinely good music. I couldn’t be more surprised at how much I liked it. It’s not the sort of thing that I’m going to run out and get A DVD of…. indeed, I can’t really see us ever watching it again. But for a nice date night movie, you could do worse.

The Apocalypse

Apocalypse starts off with campers watching a shooting star. Well, it’s not just a shooting star, it’s not just a little meteor, it’s the end of the world! Teeny fiery meteors falling from the sky, killing people individually with the smaller ones, and smashing houses with the bigger ones, until finally one large enough to destroy a city vaporizers Monterey.

They’re messing with the radios as well, and disrupting atmosphere.
Because of this pollen meteor, all eyes are in the sky… The one that fell already was as big as a house. And the one that’s following it in four days is as big as the size of Texas… An extinction starter.

We are introduced to A park ranger and his estranged wife, who’re trying to get to their daughter and her college friends down in LA. But right now they have got bigger worry… Toxic ash and a landslide near their home, And a tornado near their daughters. Even stranger, people are vanishing.

I don’t see any real story here. The film just drifts from scene to scene with the disaster as the background rather than being the main thrust.
It’s a very talky movie, with some strange religious overtones. Not specifically Christian… But more, someone who maybe thinks they know what Christianity is from watching Hallmark movies and UP TV? Considering the Asylum makes terrible horror and sci-fi movies, trust them to mess up religious one too huh?

Ultimately, It serves as a good example of how boring a rural disaster movie can be. That’s really more the province of urban films. Buildings collapsing, cars crashing, fire and smoke in… The end of the world! This is just a tornado here and there superimposed on the background. A sinkhole… CG cracks in the street. People huddling in the wreckage, but no real spectacular destruction. Even when L.A. gets flooded by title waves… It’s quick and terrible CGI. Oh, and everyone dies at the end when the big one hits.

I really don’t know who this movie is for. I’m not a disaster movie fan, so OK, maybe that’s part of my problem, but it’s not for the horror fans. And if you were going to make a movie for Christian audience, you’ve got to actually get the theology right. And the theology in this thing is all over the place…(People don’t get raptured here and there just as they die….or suddenly believe.. I know of no beliefe like that. Even the mid-trib folks don’t go there) I don’t really feel like this was made by believers, but rather by somebody who saw the Left Behind films and thought they’d take a crack at it.

Part of me really wants to give Jones a bit of a pass, because it’s his first film. I think you’d be more likely to get that pass from me if it weren’t for these so severely botched theology in here and the pandering attempt at a religious movie when you obviously knew nothing of their beliefs. This thing is just bad. Pass. Skip. Runaway. Avoid at all costs.

Hack!

indexFormer Wonder Years star (and current Hallmark/Lifetime movie darling) Danica McKellar stars in Hack as a bookworm who just kind of fades in to the background of her local college. It makes her perfect as an envoy for a pair of psychopathic fans who use her to lure a class of film students out of their private island under the guise of  an extra credit project. Once there, the film students, who are all pretty much horror stereotypes are slaughtered one by one until we come up to an ending that will leave you shaking your head.

In a lot of ways, hack is a very meta film. However it doesn’t wear it’s heart on its sleeve, and it still manages to take it self seriously enough that you never feel like it’s about to develop into parody… though it skirts the edge and comes danger close a few times.

In the end, Hack is a great celebration of horror tropes and more than a little bit of bloody fun.

554

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

554

Assistant (Dirty Work)

Assistant is a strange film, unlike anything Louisa Warren has done. What makes it stranger is that it’s her first directorial attempt, and while I can see some of her DNA in it, it’s not the sort of horror or  fantastic storytelling I usually associate with her.

It’s a story of a young woman who is trying to break into the fashion industry, and lands a job as a personal shopper for a new author. She quickly finds herself sinking into an S&M world of degradation and depravity. The film Effortlessly glides from the Devil wears Prada into Fifty Shades of Grey, into full on Eyes Wide Shut territory.

This is where things are a little unusual. Warren’s films never seem to have any nudity. There’s been sex in a lot of them, but it’s not generally designed me really titillating. Rather, it’s perfunctory and design to underscore a plot point. This film however, is definitely designed to be a erotic, particularly from a woman’s point of view. We have slow long shots over chiseled abs and statuesque features, with just a hint of 5 o’clock shadow. The truth is, it is central to this plot, even as the domination and sexuality goes more extreme.

Nevertheless, there’s also a feeling like the actual act isn’t dwelt upon. The imagery is, but It’s more about pretty pictures than the actual schtupping. It’s uncomfortable.

The film lacks the budget of a film like Sliver, to make it classy and respectful. Nevertheless, it never quite sinks to the level of porn. But the cheap lingerie and flat lighting does make it feel trashy. On the other hand, that may well be the intent. We spent a lot of time focusing on the eroticism. The film is built around that, but nevertheless, the third act still goes a little crazy. Pushing a crime of passion, and culminating in a climax that was predictable, is more than proficiently pulled off. There’s some intriguing machinations that play out, elevating this to more than just late night Cinemax fare.

I’m glad that I found this last. It goes by the name Dirty Work as well as Assistant, and I had a hard time locating it until it finally popped up on Tubi. The fact that there is a more recent film also called Assistant, didn’t help any. It’s a sort of movie I probably would’ve turned off very early on and never sought out this director again, but finding it at the end of my film reviews, it becomes an interesting juxtaposition of what Warren would do as she progressed as a filmmaker in her career. I can’t say its a recommend, unless you’re genuinely interested in where Louisa Warren came from as a director.

 

 

504

essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and Friday

504

The House That Would Not Die

boxhhindexI had my suspicions about The House That Would Not Die from the word go considering it’s a Aaron Spelling production, and I feel a twinge of apprehension as I realize this is a television movie. Still Barbara Stanwyck is a good sign, and she’s playing opposite Kitty Winn as her niece Sarah . This young actress would go on to have parts in not only The Exorcist, but The Omen and The Exorcist 2 as well! It’s enough of a pedegree for me, so I hunker down and prepare to soldier through.

The film opens with us flying us through an old house with all the furniture covered while eerie music plays in the background. Through the window we can see the new owners pull up in a car, but it feels like you’re being watched.

The next door neighbor shows up and everybody seems astonished when they meet him. He seems friendly enough, and yet his obsession with the house is a little strange… Not to mention insisting they join him for dinner next-door that night.

All the neighborhood shows up and insists that they should have a seance in the new house. This, amid strange dreams and the purchase of a weird old painting from the junk shop that jumped off the wall and into the fire, start to ease us away from the whle soap opera feel the film and into some slightly more suspenseful elements. It’s still has all of the burnt soft camera lenses that we’re so used to from CBS TV movies in the 70s, as well index2as the powder blue tones of Paul Lynds television home.

Barbara Stanwyck‘s in for a good bit of abuse in this movie, getting attacked not only by the next-door neighbor, but also her niece as the spirits of the house possess both of them. As the film progresses, Sarah slips deeper and deeper into her possession, speaking in a different voice and acting strangely. The possessions gone far enough that even once they clean the house, Sarah still carries spirits with her, and the family must resort to an exorcism if they are ever to live in peace again. What happens though, if the exorcism fails? Ghosts in the house forever battle against each other through their human agents?

Like most television movies, it’s competent but not scary. It’s very much a product of its time, and have some interesting ideas, but ultimately fails to satisfy me. It seems like a very strange inclusion with the set, totally very different, while thematically some more. If you’re a fan of TV movies, you may enjoy this, otherwise I’d say skip this one.