DVD Review: I Love the 80s – The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

Hey all…

Growing up as a child in the 1980s, Leslie Nielsen was a comedy genius. With signature roles in such classic comedies as Airplane! and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, he will forever echo in my brain with such lines as “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.” and “Can I interest you in a night cap? / No, thank you. I don’t wear them.”

So when Paramount started re-releasing classic 80s movies on DVD, I had to revisit The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!. What’s amazing to me is how much of the film still works after 21 years. The Zucker brothers and Leslie Nielsen were a combo made in slapstick heaven and most of the film aged really well.

[rating:3/4]

For those of you who don’t know the movie, The Naked Gun is the story of Lieutenant Frank Drebbin (Nielsen) as he tries to stop a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the United States. Drebin is a klutz who somehow manages to stay alive and save the day, regardless of how much madness and mayhem he causes along the way.

The movie stars Nielsen as Drebin, Priscilla Presley as Jane Spencer, Ricardo Montalban as Vincent Ludwig, and George Kennedy as Captain Ed Hocken. Even “Weird Al” Yankovic, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Dick Vitale, Dick Enberg, Jim Palmer, and many many others make appearances as themselves.

The Zucker brothers relied on sight gags and one-liners to create a parody of all the police movies and television shows of the era.

Some of the lines in the movie still make me break into giggles, such as “Nice Beaver. / Thanks, I just had it stuffed.” as the stuffed and mounted beaver is passed down the stairs or ” It’s true what they say: Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like eating a spoonful of Drano; sure, it’ll clean you out, but it’ll leave you hollow inside.” Many of the lines from the movie found their way into everyday conversation for me in college (yes, I was and am still a geek), so there are many fun memories attached to the film for me.

I have to admit I was worried a bit in spots. For example, the opening sequence, with Khadafi, Khomeini, Gorbachev, Idi Amin and other terrorist leaders of the time still works, but it dates the movie quickly. These days it would be Kim Jong-Il, Osama Bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, and who knows who else sitting around the table. So it’s not too far off.

But overall, I thought the movie held up remarkably well. Seeing Ricardo Montalban alive and smiling as only he could do was great. And O.J. Simpson was in the film, back when he was funny and before the whole “glove” incident. Who knew he’d cause so much trouble over the next 20 years?

Even now, I still have to give this movie three out of four stars. It’s a classic!

If you like slapstick, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! is a must have for your movie collection. Watch as Lt. Frank Drebin stumbles his way through a case and giggle yourself silly. I know I did!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and the other Naked Gun films at Amazon!

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Movie Review: Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Hey there…

Had a chance to watch Charlie Wilson’s War last night. I avoided it at the theater when it was released because I wrongly assumed it was “just another Iraq or war-themed movie.” Boy was I wrong.

Charlie Wilson’s War is based on a book of the same name written by George Crile, documenting the involvement of Congressman Charlie Wilson in the first covert war in Afghanistan when we helped the Afghans get rid of the Russians invading from the north. Charlie Wilson, a Democratic Congressman from Texas and a man of many appetites, was urged by his friend and romantic interest Joanne Herring to help the plight of the Mujahadeen. Wilson began working with Gust Avrakotos, a maverick CIA agent, to get the Afghan Mujahadeen the weapons they needed to repel the Russians.

[rating:4/4]

The plan involved getting Russian-made weapons to the Afghans as to avoid any unnecessary attention and an unwanted war between the Russians and the United States. To get these weapons, parties in Pakistan, Israel, and Egypt worked together to not only get the Afghans the weapons, but get them the training to use them.

Eventually the Mujahadeen were successful in kicking the Russians out of their country. But when Wilson went back to Congress to get a minute amount of what had been given to support the covert war to fund the building of schools in the war-ravaged Afghanistan, it was denied. As such, it laid the groundwork for the Taliban and pro-terrorist forces to begin to gather in number.

If Congress had listened to Wilson and given the money for the schools, would we be in the same situation we’re in today?

The movie was written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Mike Nicholls. The cast was out of this world…

  • Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson
  • Amy Adams as Bonnie Bach, Wilson’s Administrative Assistant
  • Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos
  • Emily Blunt as Jane Liddle
  • Ned Beatty as Doc Long

And what got me was how timely this movie was. In a time when we had US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was helpful to see how we got there. How did Afghanistan become the place where people would hail Osama Bin Laden as a hero? We now reap the seeds sown during this conflict in the 1980s.

Crile, Sorkin, and Nichols approached this movie with humor, but also with the gravitas that the situation needed it. It was expertly directed and the pacing was tremendous. Never once was I tempted to pause it and come back to it later, as I am so wont to do with movies today.

And Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks worked extremely well together. It’s great to see actors of that caliber doing something this important.

I think that Where in the World is Osama bin Laden and Charlie Wilson’s War should be required viewing by high schoolers so they understand how we screwed up the world they live in.

This was an excellent movie. I give it a sold 4 out of 4 stars and would urge you to see it if you haven’t already.

Until next time,

–Fitz

p.s. If you’d like to pick up the movie or the book, click the images below:

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Poverty and Hollywood…

Hi all…

Until recently, I had never really given poverty much thought. But with Blogger Action Day coming up, it’s made me think about it some.

If you go back as far as the silent movies with Charlie Chaplin, one of his best loved characters was the Tramp. He never had enough to eat and lived in hard times. But many people were facing hard times back then, so it was good to see a character you could identify with and see the humor in things.

Poverty in movies today isn’t quite as easy to see. There are a few movies here and there focusing on poverty or hardship growing up, but the blockbuster makes more money, so we see more of those from the big studios. Documentaries don’t make money (unless your name is Spurlock). And so it seems to have fallen out of the public eye.

I know I’m guilty of avoiding documentaries where I am not entertained. I go to the movie to enjoy myself, not to be educated or guilted into feeling bad. It doesn’t take much to make me feel bad at the movies. I’m a sentimental fool. And yet it’s interesting how often you see poverty slipped into even modern blockbusters.

Babylon A.D. starts in a war-torn area of Russia. People are trying to sell guns to get money for food.

Death Race is set in a world where the economy has crashed, everyone is fighting over jobs, and too many people are put in jail because they have to fight to survive.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden focused on finding Bin Laden, but showed us some of the hardship facing people living in Afghanistan. They had to buy tents on the black market.

Even in the background of The Incredible Hulk, you got to see the poverty and crowded conditions in South America where Bruce Banner was hiding.

So though we’re not seeing “movies about poverty” from Hollywood, the writers and directors are showing us slices of the world that includes poverty. They may not talk about how to solve it. But it’s there.

It’s just sad that these “powerful” people in Hollywood can’t see their way to directing some of their resources to raising awareness of the problem as a way to help solve it.

Can you imagine if Warner Brothers Pictures took part of the $900+ million dollars raised so far by The Dark Knight and [gasp] donated it to a worthy cause?

What would happen if every studio, for one year, decided to donate 10% of the income generated by all their movies? Think about the millions of dollars that would go to worthy charities.

But the odds of that happening are slim. Movie making is a business. Giving away profits is something the little fish do for publicity, not the big fish. But it does pose an interesting what if…

So the next time you watch a movie at the theater, keep an eye out for the signs of poverty. It’s there somewhere.

–Fitz

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