Problem Child

*Originally written in 2003

In 1990 we were blessed with one of the greatest comedies of all time. Problem Child came along just before the more sophisticated Home Alone blew all competition out of the way. Problem Child is nevertheless a film filled with great gags, brilliant acting from everyone, and a witty dark side which few directors can effectively balance. Unfortunately most people see it as nothing more than juvenile and it has become a fairly despised movie. While critics hated it and it seems that it hasn’t found a subsequent audience, it still generated an inferior sequel and spin-off TV series. For me, it will always be an all-time favourite, and even though I first saw it when I was seven or so and can see why it is so hated, I still find it hilarious.

Junior is an orphan. Abandoned by his parents, he did the rounds at various homes, never staying at one place for too long because he didn’t fit in or rather because he was as one character says – ‘wicked’. Junior finds himself at a Convent school where he soon starts trouble. The Administrator, Peabody (Gilbert Gottfried) knows that the Nuns want to get rid of him, and when he hears that a husband and wife who can’t have kids are looking for a child to adopt, he cons them into taking Junior – everyone’s happy. However, the family soon realise that Junior is no angel and want to get rid of him, but adopted father Ben sees that he is just a lonely kid who keeps getting shoved around. When Junior’s hero – a murderer named the Bow Tie Killer – murders his way out of prison, he pays Junior a visit, kidnapping Junior and his adoptive mother and sending Ben on a rescue mission.

The film has too many funny moments to mention – the opening montage with Junior growing up, the scenes with the nuns, the camping trip, the baseball game, and even small things like – ‘Look a giraffe!’… ‘Look a fist!’ make this film a comedy which deserves so much more respect than it will ever get. The dark side, the violence, these are neatly balanced by the fact that Junior just wants to be loved, and the film can be seen as an effective satire on the whole adoption process where children can often become numbers or forgotten in a system. John Ritter is perfectly cast as the father, Jack Warden is brilliant as old fashioned Big Ben, Amy Yasbek is good as the annoying Flo, and Michael Oliver puts in a stunning performance, stealing every scene he is in. Unfortunately he seems to have disappeared from the spotlight and never did much beyond the sequel. For all round laughs they do not come much better, and every kid should see this. When you grow up though, don’t hate it just because it seems childish and amateurish, love it as it should be loved.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Problem Child!

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Best Actor – 1973

Official Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford.

This is one of the few years in this category where I can’t argue against any of the choices. I mean, I won’t be picking Lemmon as winner but it’s still a terrific performance. Save The Tiger isn’t the best movie but it’s still a good find for anyone catching up on their 70s cinema and it’s difficult to picture anyone other than Lemmon in the role, thanks to his pathos and world weary everyman persona.

Even though Brando pissed off the Academy with his incident surrounding The Godfather win, he was nominated again 12 months later. Again, it’s difficult to argue against his brutal powerhouse showing in Las Tango In Paris. Nicholson continues his incredible 70s run with a film you feel doesn’t get enough attention now – The Last Detail runs the gamut from hilarious to tragic and Nicholson is alarmingly good. In the same boat is Al Pacino for Serpico – a good cop who is exposed to city wide corruption and tries to expose it all without getting cast out or hurt. Expect a lot of sudden shouts and energetic speeches, though his performance here is nowhere near top of the full Pacino volume scale as he reach later. Finally, another iconic performance by Redford in The Sting as a charming grifter who wants to learn and earn one big job, getting himself into trouble with cops and crooks along the way. Again you feel like Redford was made for the part.

My Winner: Al Pacino

My Nominations: Jack Lemmon. Marlon Brando. Jack Nicholson. Al Pacino. Robert Redford. Martin Sheen. Donald Sutherland. Harvey Keitel. Ryan O’Neal. Steve McQueen. Gene Hackman.

I copy all five official nominees over with the additional caveat that Pacino gets additional nomination for Scarecrow. He plays alongside Gene Hackman, who I also nominate – both are strong as drifters intent on starting a car wash. They meet on the road, strike up a friendship and decide upon the business venture but get into various scrapes along the way. It’s a classic cult road movie where we just watch the characters riff on each other and try to get on in the face of tragedy and hardship.

Hardship and tragedy are a common theme in the category this year – Donald Sutherland giving a convincing portrayal of grief and obsession in Don’t Look Now and Martin Sheen as the increasingly unstable, violent, and charismatic Kit in Badlands. Harvey Keitel tries to avoid violence and protect an increasingly unstable friend while hoping to be noticed by Mafia superiors – it’s a nice counter-balance to De Niro’s ‘not quite there yet’ performance. Steve McQueen gives one of his last great performances in Papillon as a wrongly convicted man planning escape from a tough prison – McQueen showing more than the mere ‘cool’ he was typically known for. Finally, a more lighter-hearted effort with Ryan O’Neal in Paper Moon. His real life daughter got the official plaudits, but O’Neal is rarely better as the con man who agrees to take an orphan to her auntie – their relationship works because it feels genuine and both show great charm.

My Winner: Al Pacino.

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1973!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1962

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: Carnival Of Souls (USA)

9: Lawrence Of Arabia (USA/UK)

8: To Kill A Mockingird (USA)

7: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (USA)

6: The Longest Day (USA)

5: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (USA)

4: Sanjuro (Japan)

3: Lolita (UK/USA)

2: Cape Fear (USA)

1: Dr No (UK)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Four (Including The Winner)

Police Academy 1 -7

*Reviews for each film originally written in 2003, but merged today into a single post because the reviews are pretty terrible.

Part 1

It may be dumb, not very original, pretty much all of its jokes are based around sex and toilet humour which was mostly insensitive then never mind now, it may have spawned 6 sequels so far, but it is still (for me) one of the funniest movies ever. Legendary (!) characters and timeless sketches ensure that, whether you love it or hate it, it has a major place in comedy movie history.

The Police force under Commandant Lassard decides to bring in a whole new batch of recruits, throwing all past criteria out of the window. Now ex-cons, scumbags, idiots, and men and women of all shapes, sizes and races can apply for a position in the police force by going through a rigorous training scheme. One man, Carey Mahoney, is constantly getting into trouble with the law, though his misdemeanors are small – more of an annoyance than a threat. He is ordered either to join the Police Academy, or be sent to prison. He reluctantly agrees to join, secretly planning to get thrown out immediately. He meets the slacker Jones on the way, a man with the enviable ability to recreate any noise imaginable – with nothing better to do, Jones signs up too. We meet the other recruits – Tackleberry, your typical flag waving NRA member. Hightower  – flower shop owner, almost 7 ft of pure muscle. Hooks, a timid young woman. Barbara, an overweight mummy’s boy. George Martin, who pretends he is Italian to ‘get the ladies’. Karen Thompson, Mahoney’s love interest, and Fackler, a clumsy nerd. Along with these come Copeland and Blankes, antagonists who soon suck up to the man who will be training them – Capt. Harris.

Harris wants the top job and believes that if he can show that Lassard’s plan is a failure, he will be promoted. To do this, he goes about destroying the Cadets’ spirits, trying to expose their weaknesses. However, when a riot breaks out the cadets show their true worth, and prove that they are good enough to become real cops. We also meet Sgt. Callahan, a female officer who likes the men… and Commissioner Reed the man Harris is trying to impress. All the Cadets redeem themselves, overcoming their personal flaws.

During the film each character has very funny moments, Jones with his noises, Mahoney with his tricks, Hooks with her voice, Tackleberry with his guns etc, highlights including The Blue Oyster Bar, the attempt to throw Barbara’s books out a window, and the podium – ‘SLIIIIIIDE!’ scene. Every actor puts in a good performance, the score is a classic, and the plot is merely there to allow the series of skits and vignettes to take place. It may be a no-brainer, but it is therefore perfect to watch with your mates. It is understandable why people would hate this film – I’m the first to admit it’s not big or clever, but it’s better than most critics claim and deserves more love. Some will not find this funny at all, some will, as with anything, but don’t judge it for its foolishness, just watch and laugh.

Part 2

The inane Cadets from the first film get their first assignment when a new gang begins terrorizing the city. Nobody can work out where the massive gang stems from, who their leader is, or where their base is situated, so it comes down to Mahoney to infiltrate the gang by becoming one of them. However, when Mahoney is uncovered by the gang as a cop, his life is in danger and he must rely on his comrades to rescue him. Because of Mauser’s conspiring, Capt Pete Lassard and the recruits have lost their jobs. The gang realise that saving their friend is more important than saving their jobs.

This film marks several changes in the series. Cmdt. Eric Lassard takes a back step and his brother takes over. Harris is replaced by Mauser, and along with him comes Proctor who becomes an instant favourite. Sweetchuck is also on the scene, setting up his consequent relationship with Zed, who here is the gang leader, and one of the best characters in the series. As well as this, Tackleberry falls in love with fellow cop and gun enthusiast Kirkland. We meet Kirkland’s odd family, ensuring many new laughs. As always, the old characters get up to their usual tricks – Jones making noises, and now imitating Bruce Lee, Hooks’s tiny voice, Mahoney’s charm, and Hightower’s strength. It is the new characters who make the most impact though – Zed played perfectly by Bobcat Goldthwait will get the most laughs and Proctor’s stupidity and grovelling becomes a humorous staple for the series. Aside from this, nothing much new happens, there are the same slapstick and sexual innuendo jokes, but that is not to say it is not funny. Again, many people will not find it funny, it is hardly a cinematic masterpiece or work of art, but it is an effective film which will get the laughs from those who love the series.

Part 3

Here we go again…I don’t care what anyone says, this is funny. Yes the series gets worse with each film, but any of the first 4 are better than any American Pie, or any teen comedy of your choosing. The characters have already been established, with Bobcat Goldthwaite as Zed, who is endlessly funny, and Mauser as the rival Cmndt returning from Part 2. The plot this time around sees two rival Police Academies; due to funding one must close, so a series of competitions are set up to see which is better. Mauser recruits Copeland and Banks from Lassard’s school as traitors to ensure that the other side wins, but Mahoney and crew eventually prove they are better. While these movies are not about plot, it’s nice to see some sort of progression in the lives and stories of the characters. Some would say they’re not about comedy either, or anything else, but as a kid, nothing made me laugh more than these films. And they still do. Jones makes loads of noises, Tackleberry watches his in laws punch each other, Mahoney makes his usual comments, but Zed and Procter are my favourites here. The Blue Oyster Bar is back, and other scenes which stick out for me are the arrival of Sweetchuck to the Academy and Zed singing to make a door fall. I see why people find these completely irritating, but I’m pissing myself thinking about them. Indeed, while I was reading some of the (mostly negative) reviews of this, where people were slagging off the parts they didn’t find funny, I was in stitches. May say something about me – but that’s something I’m not ashamed of.

Part 4

The last of the ‘good’ Police Academy movies, probably as Guttenberg left the cast after this one. This is my second favourite in the series after the original, the jokes come thick and fast in skit form, and they manage to have some semblance of a plot to hold it together. Faith in the Police force is low, crime is high, so a new ploy to solve both dilemmas is introduced – COP – Citizens On Patrol, which sees the police force opening its doors to the everyday citizen for training and the opportunity to work along side real Cops. The old gang are assigned to the job and go about trying to find recruits, while Harris and Proctor try to sabotage everything.

New recruits include Corrine Bohrer, a vastly under-used actress, who is excellent in the role, and outshines Sharon Stone, who plays a reporter. Bohrer falls for Zed, providing many comedy moments. Others include an old woman who has the same penchant for violence as Tackleberry, two skateboard punks, and House, a big guy Hightower used to babysit. When there is a prison break out, it’s up to Jones, Mahoney, and the COPs to apprehend the bad guys.

Many funny moments include – the ‘Yumma yumma yumma yumma yuuummma’ scene – The underwater biking scene, quickly followed by the Zed calling Harris ‘jerk’ moment. All the usual antics are back with each character doing, admittedly, the same jokes, but they are used better here than in the other films. The acting is all good, but it is obvious to see why many people hate this. However, this kind of humour will always be funnier to me than two men dressing up in women’s clothing and prancing about with Marilyn Monroe.

Part 5

For fans of the series, this is the point when it all began to go wrong. Mahoney and Zed jumped ship leaving two massive gaps in the cast, and their replacements are not good enough. Of the remaining cast, most seem bored with the formula, and only Proctor, Lassard and Harris seem to be putting in any effort. It is them who get most laughs. The plot sees the recruits flying to Miami as Lassard is retiring and they are holding a huge celebration for him. When Lassard accidentally takes a stash of diamonds with him, the crooks follow him trying to get their diamonds back before their boss kills them. They eventually kidnap Lassard (who thinks it is all part of the celebration), and the cops race to get him back, along with Lassard’s nephew Nick. Naturally Harris and Proctor are around to sabotage things.

As well as the notable loss of Bobcat and Guttenberg, we are missing Kirkland’s family, Sweetchuck, Fackler, and all the Citizens on Patrol except House. Tackleberry, Hightower, Jones, Hooks, and Callahan all seem tired and are only there to say a few lines and show once again their individual traits in decreasing comedic quality. Lassard, Proctor, and Harris get the best laughs and at least try with their performances. McCoy as Guttenberg’s replacement is weak, lacks charm and his stunts are not as funny. Everything becomes increasingly childish, and the whole film looks and feels like a series of short, badly thought out sketches. The bad guys have their moments, but there are a few moments worthy of parts 1-4. Part 6 would be slightly better, 7 would be rubbish, ensuring that they should have left it at 4. However, now that 8 has been announced, and with the recent resurgence of this kind of humour, it could be good. Tackleberry is gone though, and any entry would not be the same without him.

Part 6

This film does not deserve to be in the IMDB bottom 100. Part 7, probably, but this is an improvement over part 5, and a genuine attempt to get back to the origins of the series, that which made it so popular and funny. A trio of criminals are causing havoc in the city, stealing diamonds and outwitting the cops at every turn. It seems they are working for a criminal mastermind who plans to lower property prices for his own eventual gains. The cops along with Lassard, Harris and Proctor try to uncover the crooks and work out who the mastermind is.

This film has many more funny moments than 5 and 7, and the characters get a chance to fully exploit their individual traits, juxtaposed against the 3 criminals. Nick Lassard returns, but still he is no match for Mahoney. The three criminals are pretty good, and provide a few good moments. Once again it is Harris, Proctor and Lassard who shine, but the rest of the recruits seem more interested than they did in 5. Fackler returns to add some more humour, and overall the film is funny. Of course if you don’t like this sort of thing, there is little to recommend it. It is less childish than 5 and 7, there are better performances, and the plot is more linear, rather than seeming like a series of sketches. That said, most of the humour is slapstick, sight gags which have been done better before. However, fans of the series will enjoy it, and remember it is meant to be stupid, not meant to be a cinematic or artistic masterpiece. People reviewing this usually use it to let out all their venom as it is an easy scapegoat. Calm down and save your venom for part seven.

Part 7

Oh well. They go to Russia to help investigate a mafia boss who intends to take over the world with his brainwashing games or something. As a big fan of the series I may be biased, giving other entries higher scores than they may deserve, but this is one movie too many. Hightower and Hooks are gone, as are Nick and Proctor, leaving only a few of the originals. In comes Conners as another Mahoney clone who does okay, and Ron Perlman, a quality actor as the bad guy. For some reason Christopher Lee is also present, he adds some style, but does little. Claire Forlani adds some extreme beauty to the film, and she is pretty good, but clearly should not be making this kind of film. The comedy is wildly unfunny for the most part, mostly slapstick, and there are far too many unfunny noises on the soundtrack meaning we cringe throughout. The remaining actors all seem bored, and only Lassard and Harris get any chuckles. The only really funny moment I can remember is the fact that Lassard just walks into some Russian’s house and becomes part of their family. It is so stupid, yet typically Lassard that you can’t help but laugh. The rest of it is forgettable, and while the remaining characters once again show why they are there, what they do is just not funny. They should have stopped at 4. They definitely should have stopped at 6. Even so, I’m looking forward to 8.

I apologize and must have been several gallons out of my mind while writing these, but let us know in the comments what you think of Police Academy and the series in general!

Best Foreign Film – 1973

Official Nominations: Day For Night. The House On Chelouche Street. L’Invitation. The Pedestrian. Turkish Delight.

Day For Night saw Truffaut win his Oscar – it’s certainly accessible and one of his most popular films, dealing with the lives of a group of people struggling to make a film and filled with soap opera sentiment with love, secrets, sex, jealousy etc. It’s fine but there’s a better film here. We have another token Israeli nomination in The House On Chelouche Street (these films are incredibly difficult to find) which features a family living with loss and war on their doorstep – a mother trying to cope with grief, with her family growing up and whether or not she should remarry, a son joining a military force and falling in love – it’s one of those films. Nothing really happens in L’Invitation to warrant a nomination, while The Pedestrian sees Max Schell direct a film concerning a war criminal’s past catching up with them and being forced into a trial. My winner is of course going to be Turkish Delight – Paul Verhoeven’s first film of note, and one filled with sex and violence – something he would of course return to with increasing ferocity over the course of his career. Here it is almost tame, but all the more compelling in its realism – there isn’t much satire or fantasy here, just a portrait of a relationship hindered by mental illness and jealousy.

My Winner: Turkish Delight

My Nominations: Turkish Delight. Amarcord. Battles Without Honour And Humanity. Don’t Look Now. Live And Let Die. The Wicker Man

I’m only bringing my winner over to my category so that I have more space for some of the other greats this year. Amarcord gets nominated here – it would win the Oscar next year, Fellini at his most egotistical and self-deprecating getting a bunch of amateurs to tell a semi-real version of his youth. Does Live And Let Die really qualify as a foreign film? In my book it does, and as it is one of my favourite Bond films you’d better believe it’s getting nominated here. To be fair, the average cinema goer is going to want to watch this as a foreign movie over any number of Fellini or Kurosawa or whoever movies. Battles Without Honour And Humanity is Kinji Fukasaku’s first masterpiece – a brutal and damning depiction of Yakuza life over many years. It’s massively influential, at least in terms of Japanese Cinema, and it’s brilliant.

It’s back to The UK for my final two entries. Don’t Look Now actually, famously takes place mostly in Venice – the streets and canals taking on a sinister feel as Roeg’s mesmeric direction twists, confounds, and envelops. It’s one of the more unique horror movies ever – Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie have recently lost their daughter in a drowning accident, something which takes an expected mental toll. They take a trip to Venice and cope in different ways – Christie hangs with psychics and becomes withdrawn while Sutherland becomes obsessed with his work and various visions or appearances including a child in a red coat similar to how his daughter appeared. There’s some great editing here, and of course a shocking finale.

With arguably the most shocking finale of all, The Wicker Man is just as mesmeric and haunting, with a tonne of striking imagery and a bizarre, hypnotic tone which draws you in and keeps you in a haze. It goes without saying that you should see this before the Nic Cage abomination. It follows Edward Woodward as an upstanding, uptight, religious copper investigating the disappearance of a little girl on a Scottish Island called Summerisle. The island appears to be filled with hippy types and everybody either laughs of or hinders the investigation while engaging in various pagan acts which disturb Woodward’s Christian beliefs. I’d loved to have seen this at the time of release and you should try to go into it knowing as little about it as possible. Just know it’s one of the bets horror movies ever.

My Winner: The Wicker Man

Let us know which film you pick as the Best Foreign Film of 1973!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films of 1961

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: The Young Ones (UK)

9: Judgement At Nuremberg (USA)

8: One Eyed Jacks (USA)

7: The Day The Earth Caught Fire (UK)

6: Breakfast At Tiffany’s (USA)

5: The Innocents (UK)

4: One Hundred And One Dalmations (US)

3: The Hustler (US)

2: The Guns Of Navarone (UK/US)

1: Yojimbo (Japan)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Three