A Cure for the Summertime Blues? (Summer Rental, 1985)

Summer_Rental_PosterSummer Rental follows the story of Air Traffic Controller Jack Chester who is forced by his boss to take a vacation. He and his family are set up with a beach side rental.  Jack quickly finds himself at odds with the rich and self important locals and strikes up a friendship with bar owner Scully. This friendship leads to the family and Scully entering a boating competition against the biggest rich jerk in town (played with proper arrogance by Richard Crenna).

Summer Rental is a fun film, but largely carried by the charm of John Candy.  He is a well meaning hapless guy here, finding himself bumbling through misadventures. The film’s most memorable running joke is Vicki, a young woman wanting opinions on her breast implants and how uncomfortable it makes Jack and other guys. And the gag does work okay.  While Candy carries the heavy load, it would be unfair to ignore the rest of the cast.  Rip Torn especially is entertaining in the role of Scully, the bar owner, ship captain who may have committed to the pirate captain role a bit too much.

Summer Rental is light but enjoyable fare, edged up a bit by the presence of Candy.

Rise of a Zero (Hercules, 1997)

Hercules_Disney_PosterThe gods of Olympus are celebrating the birth of the son of Zeus and Hera (um…slight change from myth, Disney cannot be seen as endorsing extramarital god flings) Hercules.  Everybody seems happy except brother Hades. Hades attempts to turn Hercules mortal…but is only half successful, forcing Zeus to allow his son to be raised on earth by a poor couple of peasants. Hades is unaware that his plan was unsuccessful, mislead by his minions Pain and Panic, and believes Hercules is dead.

But years later, Hercules is a clumsy young man, who seems to cause trouble anywhere he goes, due to not being able to properly judge his own strength. He seeks the help of satyr Phil to train to become a true hero. Along the way he falls for “bad girl” Meg, who turns out to be a pawn of Hades. He is shocked to discover that Hercules is alive and sets out to get rid of Hercules and Zeus at the same time.

Frankly, James Woods is the best thing here. His Hades is a darkly comic jerk who is quite  bit of fun. The films tone and honor are kind of all over the place, and not particular effective (especially the whole mocking of “branding”, which rings kind of hollow as critical humor goes).

I really like the character design of the film.  The art style is unique from previous Disney animated features. Ultimately, we are left with a light film that is kind of a mess in it’s execution.

It is not something I plan to do often, but this essay from Lindsey Ellis on the film hits pretty much everything I like and dislike about the film.  And is more entertaining than my ramblings.

Manimal Part 1 (The Beastmaster, 1982)

beastmaster_poster.jpgThe early eighties brought us a lot of sword and sorcery type films. Don Coscarelli followed up his crazy 1978 horror film Phantasm with this more straightforward (but still odd) fantasy film.

Evil wizard Maax is trying to avert a prophecy of his death at the hands of Zed’s, the king, son.  Zed has declared he should be put to death upon learning he desires to sacrifice children to the god Ar.  Using a servant witch, Dar is stolen from the womb and transferred to a cow.  A local peasant happens upon the witch before she can sacrifice the newborn.  Saving the child, he raises the boy as his own.

Dar is raised to be skilled with a sword and also discovers the ability to interact with animals via a psychic link. A group of barbarians ransacks his village, killing his family. Dar plans to seek revenge.  On his way, he befriends several animals, including a couple of ferrets and a hawk.  He finally saves a panther from the barbarians. After a struggle, he happens upon two slavegirls and is smitten by one named Kiri.  He becomes determined to free her and end the cruelty of Maax and his cult of Ar.

The Beastmaster has achieved a minor cult status, in large part for being a huge staple of cable TV for much of the 80’s. A lot of the acting falls into…well…stiff (Tanya Roberts) or scenery chewing (Rip Torn). The effects are pretty good, with some unique looking monsters. There are some odd choices (the witches have the faces of monstrous hags, but the bodies of voluptuous models). On the other hand, there are some cool looking humanoid bat creatures.

This is a fun film, really, made memorable by the interaction of Dar and the various animal friends.  While not great, it is pretty light-hearted entertainment.

 

 

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