1993 / Director. Robert Klane.
Review by Jarret Ghan.
In the summer of 1989, a strange curiosity was unleashed on American audiences, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S. A tongue-in-cheek black comedy about two New Yorkers, Richard (Jonathon Silverman) & Larry (Andrew McCarthy) who are invited to their boss Bernie Lomax’s (Terry Kiser) beach-house in The Hamptons after uncovering a major embezzling racket at the financial institution in which they work. The only hitch once they get there is that Bernie is dead but that won’t stop our protagonists from having the weekend of their lives. However to do so they just need to make everyone else around them believe that Bernie is still the life of the party, which consequently includes his killer. It’s easily one of the darker comedies to come out of the late eighties, helmed by Ted Kotcheff (First Blood, Wake In Fright) and penned by screenwriter Robert Klane (The Man With One Red Shoe, Walk Like A Man), it by right seemingly shouldn’t exist but thankfully does.
Fast-forward four years later, Tristar Pictures makes the bizarre decision to green-light a sequel. Clearly it’s not uncommon to want to cash in and capitalise on a successful film but that’s the thing ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ was only a moderate box office hit and it had released four years prior. With that said how much more life could a studio drain from a film predominately about a dead guy puppeteered by two hapless blokes?
The answer, WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S 2. Screenwriter Robert Klane returns to not only author the sequel but gets the gig as director. Another unusual decision given Klane only had one other feature-film directing credit to his name, the 1978 Donna Summer vehicle ‘Thank God It’s Friday’, a disco extravaganza.
Set literally a day or two later after the events of the first film, we open with Richard & Larry having to identify Bernie’s body at the New York City Morgue. Almost immediately after the pair are dismissed from their jobs at the accountancy firm, under suspicion they had been involved in the embezzling scam. With a mere two week’s severance pay, Larry is quick to take personal retribution by using Bernie’s credits cards (that he obtained from the morgue) for lavish dinners and gifts. It isn’t long before Larry wants to up the ante and convinces Richard to help him claim a couple million Bernie has tied up in secret offshore accounts. Trouble is they’re not the only ones after Bernie’s fortune, two goons for hire have strict instructions and a curse upon them by a Voodoo Priestess to do find it too. They seem to have a little more luck at first by resurrecting Bernie’s body through a botched voodoo ritual though shortly after soon lose him in the subways of New York City. It isn’t long before Richard & Larry gain control of Bernie, pack him in a suitcase and take him to the United States Virgin Islands to track down the money. As if the two cursed thugs weren’t enough of a foil for our boys and their corpse, throw in Barry Bostwick’s character Arthur Hummel, a hard-nosed internal investigator convinced that pair were in cahoots with Bernie, who will stop at nothing to get his men.
The animated opening sequence truly sets the tone for the film, this time around it isn’t the borderline screwball come black comedy of the first, this one is a total farce. Sadly one that lacks sufficient laughs to make it anywhere near as memorable as the first film and may only appeal to people who haven't seen the original or are that big diehards of the first that they have wondered what came of Richard & Larry post the events of WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S.
Personally being one of the latter, I picked up on some interesting plot holes between the two films:
1) Where’s Gwen (Catherine Mary Stewart), Richard’s squeeze from the first film, at the close of the previous film she was on the beach wrapped around Richard. Now she was nowhere to be seen, heard or even mentioned in the slightest despite being set a day or two afterward.
2) How are we to believe that Larry’s a virgin given that it was pretty clear he was engaging in a little intercourse with a lady in the original?
Now, Mr Klane, suspension of disbelief is one thing but rewriting the Bernie mythology is another!
Normally when critiquing a film I’d be inclined to discuss some of the technical aspects behind the picture but let’s face it, it’s ‘Weekend At Bernie’s 2’. Instead I’m going to give five reasons you must see one of my guiltiest of cinematic pleasures (five that you won’t read in any other review):
1) A corpse that reanimates at the drop of a musical beat and shuffles about in a very nineties b-boy fashion with matching attire.
2) Hilarious yet bizarre implied beastility scene in an adult cinema with a chicken.
3) Wildly inappropriate “Oh my God. Look at the tits on that one” line from Larry.
4) Loads of ADR by over-the-top Jersey Shore sounding voice actors for incidental characters for no real good reason.
5) A ridiculous Bernie goes parasailing sequence in slow motion with stock footage and a giant rubber shark.
WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S is living proof that placing a dead body near a large body of water is neither a successful ongoing formula for hilarity nor box office glory. So while it shouldn't exist but for defiance of all practicality does, it commands your viewing possibly while you’re getting a decent buzz on.
1987 / Director. Brian Hannant.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I LOVE the Australian film industry but with all due respect... Australian audiences SUCK. I often hear people berate Australian films. They usually complain that we only make artsy-fartsy films... and yet there is an entire sub-group of countless Aussie genre flicks that have fallen into obscurity. Director Mark Hartley made a passionate attempt to bring some of these movies to people's attention in his brilliant documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD... and companies like Umbrella Entertainment released as many on DVD as they could (and still do)... but there are so many more. THE TIME GUARDIAN is one of them. The film is a sci-fi adventure, which spans thousands of years. It tells the story of a city, which travels through time. Believed to be Earth's only survivors the city hops through time in a desperate attempt to elude a vicious race of cyborgs. Tom Burlinson and Carrie Fisher star as two soldiers tasked with finding a place to resettle the city. They travel back to 1988 and find themselves in the middle of outback Australia where they enlist the help of a young archaeologist. This is a high concept film, which boasts an impressive design that rivalled its Hollywood counterparts. The story is divided between a typical 1988 Aussie landscape and a futuristic industrial cityscape of 4039 and while the Australian portions of the movie lack a lot of luster, the amazing set design and overall aesthetic of the future world is a feast for the eyes. I think it holds up really well, even in today's standards. As with many local genre films from that era, THE TIME GUARDIAN imported American talent to help broaden its audience. Dean Stockwell and Carrie Fisher are great additions to the film and help widen its appeal. The action is great and the vision was daring for its time. Sadly, as with so many great Aussie genre films, the audience didn't take to it and it has become one of those forgotten classics. I watched it again last night and caught myself smiling like a giddy school boy. This is the type of cinematic world that I live for and I need movies like THE TIME GUARDIAN in my life.
The entire film is currently available for FREE (legally) on a new website called Viewlorium. CLICK HERE to watch THE TIME GUARDIAN in full (and check out what else they have on offer).
2014 / Director. Stephen Sommers.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I had zero expectations going into ODD THOMAS and it surprised the hell out of me. Perhaps I would have responded to it differently had I watched it alone... but I had the whole family with me and I ended up having a total blast. We laughed out loud, the kids shit themselves and the girls cried. Based on a novel by Dean Koontz, the story borrows heavily from Robert Zemeckis's THE FRIGHTENERS as a young guy is the only person in town with the ability to see dead folk. With the local sheriff clued in to his gift, the two of them take advantage of his sixth sense by preventing murders. When a swarm of death wraiths begin to smother the town, it becomes clear that something horrendous is about to happen and hundreds of lives are going to be taken. And there lies the basis for this quirky, comical and sinister teen movie. As our lead character begins to unravel the mystery he is faced with death at every turn. From hilarious neighbourly ghosts to terrifying demons. I have never been a big fan of Dean Koontz, nor have I had a lot of time for Stephen Sommers (although I have dug a couple of his films) but the two of them have come together to produce a really cool comedy horror. The story is great. The script is strong and the characters are likeable and Willem Dafoe's presence lifts ODD THOMAS above the usual supernatural teen drivel. With our kids old enough to cope with rotting corpses, severed limbs and mass murder (LOL) we enjoyed this as a family movie and I thought that it was jam packed with charm. Check it out and see what you think. There's also an hilarious cameo from Arnold Vosloo that had me laughing louder than everyone else.
1995 / Director. Jeff Burr.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I used to watch NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW a lot on VHS. Back in the late 90s it was fairly well received but easily forgotten. With a shameless title that deceptively identifies with DARK KNIGHT OF THE SCARECROW it tells the story of a demonic scarecrow, which is brought to life by an ancient curse and terrorises a small rural community. On the surface it's a generic slasher film but to a keener eye there is artistic merit and some genuinely awesome horror moments. With a proud R rating, the film is graphic and violent with each kill being well realised and executed (excuse the pun). The cast is also impressive, being made up of actors who would later go onto become respectable, award winning stars. John Hawkes, Bruce Glover and Stephen Root all feature in predominant roles and bring a welcome legacy to the movie, which I think has appreciated over time. The scarecrow itself could be a lot more frightening in its appearance, however it remains creepy enough and blazes a gruesome trail. The movie is very nasty. Director Jeff Burr is one of the most underrated and under utilised horror directors I know of. His films are unmistakable and I love them. NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW is a stronger movie now than it was in 95 and It has become something of a cult classic in my eyes... and the blu-ray looks amazing too.
2014 / Director / Jason Bateman.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
BAD WORDS is wrong for all of the right reason. It is offensive, puerile and mean spirited. It is riddled with racist, sexist and immoral behaviour. And it is hilarious! There is no doubt that people are going to be upset with this obscure and, in many ways, subversive comedy and I suppose there's weight to their disapproval. I chose to see it as something refreshing. I thought it to be a welcome breath of fresh air in an atmosphere that is choked with political correctness. Jason Bateman plays an arrogant arsehole who enters a national spelling bee tour by finding a loop hole in the rules. Causing outrage amongst the parent body and the tournament organisers, Bateman cruises through the competition without a care in the world as he sabotages fellow contestants (all children) along the way. Of course it is apparent that he has his reasons for doing so and we suspect that there is an element of sincerity to his mission. The film does fall at the finish line with a fairly substandard resolution but this is a movie that is more about the journey. It's about all of the stupid, funny and morally questionable shit that happens along the way. Jason Bateman was born to play characters like this and he relishes every line. He also directed the film and you can sense his devious elation throughout the entire film. The cast is good. A script is tight and the racism isn't actually racism. BAD WORDS is a devious and cunning little film that backs itself up and is unashamed. All comedies rely in the right atmosphere when watching them and everything was in place for me this time. I think this is one of the best comedies I have seen this year. Loved the shit out of it.
1983 / Director. Lloyd Kaufman. Michael Herz.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
In the late 70s and early 80s, before they forged a reputation for violent schlock horror movies, Troma got their start with a series of sex comedies. This was an era where raunchy comedies were dominating cinema screens and teens couldn't get enough of them. The Troma brand of sex-com was more of the screwball variety and the best of them, in my opinion, was STUCK ON YOU! The movie's premise has a husband and wife going through a palimony proceedings in the family court and in an attempt at mediation the presiding judge asks them to recount their relationship. The result is a weird, wild and slapstick romp that's full of sketches covering all things from Adam & Eve, Atilla The Hun, Napoleon and King Arthur... don't ask me how these things relate... just see it. The film is something to behold. In a sordid mix of Mel Brooks's HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1 and THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE Troma made a comedy that was ahead of its time, under-appreciated and actually quite genius. The comedy is well written and while most of the jokes are blatant and gratuitous, there's an equal measure of subtlety that will elude a lot of people. I revisit this fantastic cult comedy every few years and it resonates more each time. STUCK ON YOU is cram-packed full of boobs, farts, chickens and great one liners (the "hunting at Woolworths" gag is a beauty). This is early Troma gold and if you love farcical comedies then definitely check it out. Troma released the entire film, along with many others, on their YouTube channel. You can watch the whole movie below.
2013 / Director. Matthew Victor Pastor.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
I write most of my reviews within an hour of watching the films. Writing is often my way to process what I have just seen and you can read my thoughts as they unfold. Doing this is not so easy with a film like MADE IN AUSTRALIA. I need time to let this film sink in. I need to comprehend what I have just seen. It was made by a Melbourne filmmaker named Matthew Victor Pastor and he also stars as himself. It tells a semi-autobiographical story in a strange and curious way. In fact the story is more of a thought process of its own. Using an unconventional narrative Pastor recounts various relationships in his life, which have all imprinted on his psyche. His examination of these affairs is existential and his method explores different facets of surrealism. There are moments when he talks directly into the camera and then there are strange and beautiful fantasies. Not only has Pastor thought outside of the box to produce this beautiful piece of work but he has attempted to look back inside through every nook and cranny. The result is an impressive debut feature film that is challenging, confronting and passionate. Sincerity flows out of Pastor's character as he reaches into a deep place to evoke a raw and emotional performance. The rest of his cast are exceptional too, with several of the actresses pushing themselves to incredibly vulnerable places. Technically the film seems immaculate. The cinematography is strong and controlled, with varying styles being exploited depending on the locations. Shot in both Melbourne and Hong Kong the film also has an international appeal and feels bigger than what it is. Pastor is clearly a director with filmmaking in his blood. MADE IN AUSTRALIA is a film made by a man who has a lot to say and has a resolute ambition to say it on screen. I hope you will all have a chance to see this film and perhaps, like myself, you will need to see it more than once. I am still reflecting on it. Still working it all out. This film sticks.
2014 / Director. Terry Gilliam.
Reviewed by Glenn Cochrane.
Like most good Terry Gilliam films THE ZERO THEOREM will fuck with your mind. Capping off his self-imposed "Dystopian Trilogy" (following BRAZIL and 12 MONKEYS) this new film proves that looks can be deceiving. With an incredible set design blended seamlessly against a digitally composed background the film could easily be mistaken for one of his most ambitious productions yet... however it is to the contrary. THE ZERO THEOREM is actually one of his most modest films with almost the entire story being shot on one sound-stage and Christoph Waltz commanding 100% of the screen time. The story tells of an introverted man who is overwhelmed and fearful of the modern world he lives in. With commercial advertising, social networking and handheld devices tearing away at the fabric of human existence he finds himself ostracised from the world and couped up in the surreal isolation of his disheveled cathedral home. When his employer grants his requests to work from home he is assigned to The Zero Theorem, a high tech computer program designed to unravel the meaning of life. In true Gilliam fashion the film showcases an assortment of bizarre characters, all of which are comical and cartoonish. Exactly what the film means is entirely on the onus of the viewer. Whether or not that is a cop-out is up for debate. Is the ambiguity of the story an excuse for Gilliam to flaunt his unique quirkiness or is there a deep meaning to be found? Whichever the case might be THE ZERO THEOREM is a feast for the eyes. With a knock-out performance from Christoph Waltz and flawless support from David Thewlis, Melanie Theirry and Lucas Hedges Gilliam has made a return to past sensibilities and crafted a film that assaults our senses. The aesthetic of the film is comical, yet the overall tone of the story feels deeply depressing. Every character throughout the film is happy and colourful and yet Christolph Waltz's character is in the depths of despair. Why is he so miserable? Surely the modern world around him abounds with luxury and connectivity. Why does he feel so disconnected when everyone elses lives are to the contrary? This film is definitely a reflection of our own society and it is absolutely a critical observation of where we've come to. The magic of THE ZERO THEOREM is that a thinking mind will not be satisfied with one viewing and it deserves to be seen several times over. Wonderful.
2014 / Director. Dru Brown.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
With a provocative name like THE SUICIDE THEORY and little knowledge of its story, I had no idea what to expect from this new independent Australian feature film. Suspecting something gratuitous and/or deeply disturbing I was surprised and relieved to be confronted with a unique and original film, which was dramatic and comical in equal measure.
It tells the story of two men who are both dealing with unimaginable grief. One of them (Steven) has harnessed his darkness by becoming a gun-for-hire while the other man (Percival) is desperately suicidal. Percival believes himself to be cursed when no method of suicide actually works and so he employs Steven to kill him. The two men form an unlikely bond when Steven's attempts to kill Percival all fail.
The story is complex and to reveal any more would be to ruin it for you. So good is this film that I uncomfortably held in one of the biggest pisses I've ever had to take. I kept waiting for a moment to quickly duck out but the film was so gripping that I couldn't leave. Every beat seemed important and to have left the cinema, even for a moment, would have ruined the film.
I am struggling to find any criticisms with THE SUICIDE THEORY aside from the fact that the title may be off putting to many people... however it is a very appropriate title. Director Dru Brown has crafted an amazing looking film with rock-solid performances from every single player. Leo Cain and Steve Mouzakis are fantastic as the two leads and their on screen chemistry is undeniable. Both deliver sincere and outstanding performances.
The script is good too and moves from beat to beat