Skip to main content

Mr Wiggly’s been on bread and water for five years.


Bird on a Wire
(1990)

Journeyman director John Badham is still going, it’s just that he’s been confined to the small screen where his invisible style is ideally suited. Bird forms the second installment of an unofficial action-comedy trilogy (with Stakeout and The Hard Way). Because he’s one of those invisible, “shoot it quick, get it done” hands, most folks probably aren’t aware of who directed Bird, they just know it’s the one that teams up Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn.

Which is fair enough, frankly, as that’s about all it has going for it. Not a team-up that should be underestimated, as they have fantastic chemistry (and you wouldn’t know that Goldie’s almost a decade Mel’s senior). But really, there’s so little else going for his lazy, by-the-numbers escapade of a con in witness protection who goes on the run with his former girlfriend when the men he testified against set on his trail.

Mediocrity is no barrier to success, of course. I admit that when I first saw the film I thought it was an agreeable, if forgettable, time-passer. But the decades have been less than kind to what is a thoroughly ‘80s movie in all but release date; it came out in the summer of 1990. And was a surprise hit, nestling comfortably in the top ten movies that season while Gibson’s more expensive Air America flopped. But Badham was on a winning streak in the ‘80s. It would be more remembered if he weren’t so damn anonymous; Blue Thunder, War Games, Short Circuit, the aforementioned Stakeout. Bird is run-of-the-mill even by his standards, however. There’s so little effort put into the action scenes, all predictable slow-mo and close-ups of the stars - who are clearly nowhere near the second unit. He rouses himself slightly for the zoo finale, but by then its too late.

Mel’s in “mullet Riggs” mode as Rick Jarmin, except that he ties the back of it in a very silly ponytail. He’s sleepwalking through the role, although a few of the gags (which are mostly terrible) have his fingerprints on them (the opening bit with the dummy legs is just his kind of thing, also getting punched in the face Three Stooges style). Credit to him, though, he remembers to diligently act “shot in the butt” for most of the movie. And he perks up a bit when it comes to a spot of mincing as a gay hairdresser, a sequence that can only fuel the general view of the actor as one of boundless intolerance. But he’s clearly having a hoot with Goldie (playing Marianne Graves), who’s clearly having a hoot with him. It only takes a moment of her infectious laughter to be reminded of how adorable she is (and what a consummate comedienne). Her body double’s arse is in excellent shape too.

The supporting cast (that should be villains really, as hardly anyone else gets a look in) are poorly served. Bill Duke and David Carradine are only memorable in so much as they have presence as actors. Stephen Tobolowsky fares better in so much as this is the most unlikely role you’re likely to see him in; can you imagine Ned Ryerson beating up Martin Riggs? Well, here’s your chance to see it happen.

Hans Zimmer contributes a particularly lousy ‘80s action movie score, which is appropriate icing on an insubstantial cake. I’m not sure whether I should be disturbed or not, but I knew exactly the bits in the movie that were used in the trailer. Since they’re mostly the best bits, you can save yourself the trouble of watching the whole movie and check it out below.

**



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I don’t need to be held together, I’m fine just floating through space like Andy.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)
Or, to give it its full subtitle, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – The Story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton. Carrey’s in a contradictory place just now, on the one hand espousing his commitment to a spiritual path and enlightened/ing state, on the other being sued in respect of his ex-girlfriend’s suicide and accompanying allegations regarding his behaviour. That behaviour – in a professional context – and his place of consciousness are the focus of Jim & Andy, and an oft-repeated mantra (great for motivational speeches) that “I learned that you can fail at what you don’t love, so you may as well do what you love. There’s really no choice to be made”. The results are consequently necessarily contradictory, but always fascinating.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

No, by the sky demon! I say no!

Doctor Who The Pirate Planet
I doubt Pennant Roberts, popular as he undoubtedly was with the cast, was anyone’s idea of a great Doctor Who director. Introduced to the show by Philip Hinchliffe – a rare less-than-sterling move – he made a classic story on paper (The Face of Evil) just pretty good, and proceeded to translate Robert Holmes’ satirical The Sun Makers merely functionally. When he returned to the show during the ‘80s, he was responsible for two entirely notorious productions, in qualitative terms. But The Pirate Planet is the story where his slipshod, rickety, make-do approach actually works… most of the time (look at the surviving footage of Shada, where there are long passages of straight narrative, and it’s evident Roberts wasn’t such a good fit). Douglas Adams script is so packed, both with plot and humour, that its energy is inbuilt; there’s no need to rely on a craftsman to imbue tension or pace. There is a caveat, of course: if your idea of Doctor Who requires a straig…

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

This place sure isn’t like that one in Austria.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Brawl in Cell Block 99 is most definitely cut from the same cloth as writer-director-co-composer Craig S Zahler’s previous flick Bone Tomahawk: an inexorable, slow-burn suspenser that works equally well as a character drama. That is, when it isn’t revelling in sporadic bursts of ultraviolence, including a finale in a close-quartered pit of hell. If there’s nothing quite as repellent as that scene in Bone Tomahawk, it’s never less than evident that this self-professedchild of Fangoria” loves his grue. He also appears to have a predilection for, to use his own phraseology, less politically correct content.

We’re not in a prophecy… We’re in a stolen Toyota Corolla.

Bright (2017)
(SPOILERS) Is Bright shite? The lion’s share of the critics would have you believe so, including a quick-on-the-trigger Variety, which gave it one of the few good reviews but then pronounced it DOA in order to announce their intention for Will Smith to run for the Oval Office (I’m sure he’ll take it under advisement). I don’t really see how the movie can’t end up as a “success”; most people who have Netflix will at least be curious about an all-new $90m movie with a (waning, but only because he’s keeps making bad choices) major box office star. As to whether it’s any good, Bright’s about on a level with most of director David Ayer’s movies, in that it’s fast, flashy and fitfully entertaining, but also very muddled, mixed-up and, no matter how much cash is thrown at it, still resembles the kind of thing that usually ends up straight to video (making Netflix his ideal home).

This is how we do action in Uganda.

Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
Uganda’s first action movie”, Who Killed Captain Alex? is a cheerfully ultra-low budget, wholly amateur picture made by Nabwana Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey. It’s the kind of thing you and your mates would make and (rightly) expect no one else to ever watch (aside from a few hundred hits on YouTube). But stick a frequently hilarious running commentary over the top from VJ (video joker) Emme, and it this home-ish move takes on something approaching the spoofy quality of What’s Up Tiger Lilly?

Nothing in the world can stop me now!

This is not going to go the way you think!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
(SPOILERS) The most interesting aspect of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, particularly given the iron fist Lucasfilm has wielded over the spinoffs, is how long a leash Rian Johnson has been granted to tear apart the phonier, Original Trilogy-lite aspects of The Force Awakens. The resulting problem is that the areas where he’s evidently inspired are very good (almost anything Force related, basically), but there are consequently substantial subplots that simply don’t work, required as they are to pay lip service to characters or elements he feels have nowhere to go. The positives undoubtedly tip the balance significantly in The Last Jedi’s favour, but they also mean it hasn’t a hope of attaining the all-round status of IV and V (still the out-of-reach grail for the franchise, quality-wise). Which is a shame, as thematically, this has far more going on, handled with far greater acumen, than anything in the interim.