Tag Archives: James Brown

The Blues Brothers (1980, John Landis)

I wonder if Cab Calloway got upset he only got half a music video in The Blues Brothers while Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin both got full ones. While these interludes are completely out of place and break up the “flow” of the film, they’re at least somewhat competent. One can see what director Landis is doing. When he’s doing one of his big demolition sequences, it’s unclear. There’s never any realism, so one’s apparently just supposed to rejoice in the illusion of property damage.

The film opens with a lovely aerial sequence moving through the Chicago morning. For the first third of Brothers, Landis and his cinematographer Stephen M. Katz do wonderful work. The rest isn’t bad so much as pointless–the movie gets so stupid there’s nothing good to shoot.

The problem’s the script. Landis and Dan Aykroyd write terrible expository conversations, which Aykroyd and John Belushi can barely deliver without laughing (it’s good someone had a nice time, I suppose). But their costars? Charles and Franklin’s cameos are painful as neither can act. Of course, Landis can’t even direct Carrie Fisher into a good performance so it’s hard to blame any of the actors.

There are a handful of good performances–Calloway’s okay, Charlies Napier and Steven Williams both do well, as do Henry Gibson and John Candy.

Kathleen Freeman is awful.

As for the band… Alan Rubin is good. Murphy Dunne is awful. The rest fail to make an impression.

Brothers is tedious, pointless and inane.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Landis; written by Dan Aykroyd and Landis; director of photography, Stephen M. Katz; edited by George Fosley Jr.; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Robert K. Weiss; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring John Belushi (‘Joliet’ Jake Blues), Dan Aykroyd (Elwood Blues), James Brown (Reverend Cleophus James), Cab Calloway (Curtis), Ray Charles (Ray), Aretha Franklin (Mrs. Murphy), Steve Cropper (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper), Donald Dunn (Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn), Murphy Dunne (Murphy ‘Murph’ Dunne), Willie Hall (Willie ‘Too Big’ Hall), Tom Malone (Tom ‘Bones’ Malone), Lou Marini (‘Blue Lou’ Marini), Matt Murphy (Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy), Alan Rubin (Alan ‘Mr. Fabulous’ Rubin), Carrie Fisher (Mystery Woman), Henry Gibson (Head Nazi), John Candy (Burton Mercer), Kathleen Freeman (Sister Mary Stigmata), Steve Lawrence (Maury Sline), Twiggy (Chic Lady), Frank Oz (Corrections Officer), Jeff Morris (Bob), Charles Napier (Tucker McElroy), Steven Williams (Trooper Mount) and Armand Cerami (Trooper Daniel).


RELATED


THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) / BLUES BROTHERS 2000 (1998).

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Blues Brothers 2000 (1998, John Landis)

I found something good to say about Blues Brothers 2000. The end credits are seven minutes. The only good thing about this movie is it ending any sooner.

2000 is truly one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, particularly because it’s not even amusing in its badness. If it was amusingly bad, it would have something going for it. But Dan Aykroyd, who starts the movie with what seems to be a Russian accent before going into his terrible version of a Chicago one, takes it all very seriously. Watching John Goodman play second fiddle to Aykroyd is depressing, but probably not as depressing as watching Joe Morton inexplicably playing Cab Calloway’s character from the first one’s son. Because they needed a black costar this time?

As for Landis, his direction is atrocious. It’s clear from the opening whatever technical proficiency Landis had for the first one is gone for this one. If it were anyone but he and Aykroyd, one might think of 2000‘s scenes similar to the original as paltry knock-offs instead of informed homages. Ever single thing in the movie flops though. It’s incredible. The only good performance is probably Shann Johnson.

Landis can’t even direct a fun James Brown performance in this one. It’s constantly getting worse and even more boring. There aren’t any comedy gags in it.

While the cast is terrible overall (especially little Blues J. Evan Bonifant), Erykah Badu and Paul Shaffer give the worst performances.

2000‘s indescribably abysmal.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by John Landis; written by Dan Aykroyd and Landis; director of photography, David Herrington; edited by Dale Beldin; music by Paul Shaffer; production designer, Bill Brodie; produced by Aykroyd, Leslie Belzberg and Landis; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Dan Aykroyd (Elwood Blues), John Goodman (Mighty Mack McTeer), Joe Morton (Cabel Chamberlain), J. Evan Bonifant (Buster), Steve Cropper (Steve ‘The Colonel’ Cropper), Donald Dunn (Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn), Murphy Dunne (Murph), Willie Hall (Willie Hall), Tom Malone (‘Bones’ Malone), Lou Marini (‘Blue Lou’ Marini), Matt Murphy (Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy), Alan Rubin (‘Mr. Fabulous’), Aretha Franklin (Mrs. Murphy), James Brown (Cleophus James), B.B. King (Malvern Gasperon), Nia Peeples (Lt. Elizondo), Kathleen Freeman (Mother Mary Stigmata), Sam Moore (Reverend Morris), Wilson Pickett (Mr. Pickett), Frank Oz (Warden), Eddie Floyd (Ed), Jonny Lang (Custodian), Steve Lawrence (Maury Sline), Junior Wells (Junior Wells), Lonnie Brooks (Lonnie Brooks), Jeff Morris (Bob), Shann Johnson (Matara), Darrell Hammond (Robertson) and Erykah Badu (Queen Mousette).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) / BLUES BROTHERS 2000 (1998).

Rocky IV (1985, Sylvester Stallone)

I rarely worry about how I’m going to get 250 words about a film. Rocky IV probably features 251 words of dialogue. Well, closer to 251 than not, anyway.

Really, what is there to say about this one? Stallone directs it poorly? Stallone substitutes montages and music videos for actual narrative content? It’s a ludicrous proposition from the opening credits, which directly involve the film’s eventual content of the U.S. versus the U.S.S.R. in the boxing ring–except it’s a narrative development, not something the film opens with. So, even though it looks cool (did they use hot air balloons for the boxing gloves) for a while, it’s nonsensical. It’s a reference to something the film’s characters don’t even know about yet, but the viewer would from the theatrical trailer… so it’s titles just for the viewer, which is rather goofy… but Stallone knows (or knew) his audience. They didn’t think.

It’s strange also because of the disjointedness. The beginning is this whole picture about Rocky’s boring eighties lifestyle with cars and robots and Carl Weathers thinking he’s getting old, then it turns into the east versus west thing. The montages don’t start until after Weathers dies.

However, none of that paragraph is to say the opening is good–well acted, directed or written–it’s just a solid narrative. Unlike the rest of the picture, which is a forty-five minute music video with some digressions.

Lots of people enjoy watching Rocky IV, regardless of its quality.

I do not.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone; director of photography, Bill Butler; edited by John W. Wheeler and Don Zimmerman; music by Vince DiCola; production designer, Bill Kenney; produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian), Burt Young (Paulie), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Brigitte Nielsen (Ludmilla Vobet Drago), Tony Burton (Duke), Michael Pataki (Nicoli Koloff), Dolph Lundgren (Captain Ivan Drago) and James Brown as the Godfather of Soul.


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Chain Lightning (1950, Stuart Heisler)

Both critically and popularly, Chain Lightning gets classified as one of Bogart’s lesser, late 1940s films. While the film certainly is a star vehicle for Bogart, it’s only “lesser” if one compares it to Bogart’s stellar films (basically, the ones everyone remembers). On its own, Chain Lightning is far from perfect, but it’s a fine film. Director Stuart Heisler can direct some good scenes–since the film’s about a test pilot, there’s a lot of Bogart-only scenes, which Heisler handles (he has trouble when it’s a group scene). The special effects are quite good and they’re another thing Heisler incorporates well. I was about to say he didn’t do the romance scenes right, but there’s one scene between Bogart and Eleanor Parker where I can say I’ve never seen the shots before or since, so he does good on that aspect too.

The problems with Chain Lightning come from its lack of prestige. It’s about a test pilot, Bogart’s the only “star,” as Parker probably wouldn’t become a star for another year or two. (Apparently, Chain Lightning’s release was even held up for a year). The film’s got some really dynamic character relationships–between Bogart and Parker (he abandoned her in Europe during the war when he went home for no reason other than laziness), between Parker and Bogart’s rival Richard Whorf, and between Bogart and Whorf. Except none of the relationships are standard–Whorf, for instance, thinks the world of Bogart’s pilot, while never doubting Parker will choose him (even though, obviously, the audience knows different). Bogart gets to come across as petty and mercenary, to degrees I don’t think I’ve ever seen him go before (even in Casablanca, which is probably the best comparison). It’s just too short.

At ninety-five minutes, with multiple special effects sequences and a five or six year present action (some takes place during the war, then in 1950… sorry, 1949), it’s way too short. There’s not enough fat on the script to pad out the film, so it’s just the one straight gesture and the writers can’t quite make it work without hokey voiceovers and narration. For some of it, most of it in the middle, actually, I kept thinking it was so much better than I remembered it being (then the final act came around). Still, it’s certainly not a bad or even mediocre film. It has a lot going for it.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Stuart Heisler; written by Liam O’Brien and Vincent B. Evans, from a story by Lester Cole; director of photography, Ernest Haller; edited by Thomas Reilly; music by David Buttolph; produced by Anthony Veiller; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Humphrey Bogart (Matt Brennan), Eleanor Parker (Jo Holloway), Raymond Massey (Leland Willis), Richard Whorf (Carl Troxall), James Brown (Major Hinkle), Roy Roberts (Gen. Hewitt), Morris Ankrum (Ed Bostwick), Fay Baker (Mrs. Willis) and Fred E. Sherman (Jeb Farley).


RELATED


THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 1: DREAM FACTORY.