John Dies at the End (2013)

johndiesattheendStarring Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Fabianne Therese, Jonny Weston, Jimmy Wong

Directed by Don Coscarelli

Expectations: High. It’s been too long since Coscarelli had a movie.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


I’m very conflicted in my feelings about John Dies at the End. On one hand, I didn’t really like it at all. I lost track of what was going on about an hour into it, and I was never able to remedy that. It’s also a dark comedy, but I largely found it unfunny. But on the other hand, it’s a cornucopia of insane, wild ideas, impressively brought to life by Don Coscarelli, a truly original filmmaker if there ever was one. This makes John Dies at the End at hard film to talk about or rate, as my feelings are very much all over the place.

… Just like the movie. I could attempt to recount the basis of the plot if I understood it enough to, but I’m really at a loss here. There’s so much playing with reality and time, with one character talking on the phone to another in an alternate dimension, while a different version of the guy calling is sitting right in front of the character receiving the call. In any case (and this isn’t really where the film begins), David Wong is at his friend John’s band’s show, and he meets a Jamaican guy who expands his mind. The film also expands from there, and for those able to keep up and find humor in its wild shifts, you’ve likely found a new favorite movie. I can see a cult springing up around this one in the coming years. It didn’t exactly work for me overall, but I was still able to extract a fair amount of entertainment and interest out of the wild shit that played out before me. There are a couple of moments involving a dog, for instance, that are pure, unhinged gold.

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Men at Work (1990)

Starring Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Leslie Hope, Keith David, Dean Cameron, John Getz, Hawk Wolinski, John Lavachielli, Geoffrey Blake, Cameron Dye

Directed by Emilio Estevez

Expectations: Super low.


While watching Weekend at Bernie’s, my girlfriend commented that the film made her think of Men at Work, and that she would like to see it again. I had never seen it, so I quickly acquired it for review. Now having seen it, I can clearly see why Weekend at Bernie’s brought it to mind. For a good portion of the film, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen and Keith David are carrying around a dead man. And in one scene, they even pretend he’s alive and move his limbs for him to fool someone! As the two films came out in close proximity to each other (about a year separated them), I have to imagine Men at Work was in production long before Bernie’s dropped, but I can imagine Estevez’s despair at the success of the “other movie that features a couple of schlubs carting around a dead man.” I’m sure he thought he had the corner on that darkly comic market when he was crafting this script.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Men at Work is about two garbage men who get unknowingly mixed up in a web of illegal dumping and must “take out the trash,” where the trash is a greedy business owner dumping chemicals into the ocean. When said asshole kills the one man with evidence against him, instead of entrusting the disposal of the body to two fantastic assassins, he gives the job to a couple of ’80s nincompoops that bungle the job accordingly. That’s not our heroes, though, they’re the guys that find the body in the morning while collecting the trash. Thing is, due to some strange circumstances they know who the guy is, and don’t wish to reveal his death to the police.

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The Weekend at Bernie’s Post-Mortem!

This weekend at Bernie’s has been life altering, and life affirming. I’ve learned a lot about myself through Bernie and the way he perseveres even after death. His passing was a tragedy; Bernie had so much more living to do! Bernie’s legacy won’t be his Porsche golf cart, or the many lines of cocaine he snorted, it’ll be the way he took life’s lemons and made them into lemonade. So next time you feel like the world’s against you, think of Bernie. When your boss gives you hell at work for no reason, think of Bernie. When you just can’t get up in the morning, think of Bernie. He didn’t let anything stand in the way of his good time, and neither should you.

And who knows, if God is kind and the stars align, maybe one day at the big conga line in the sky, we’ll all get to meet Bernie and tie our shoelaces to his ankles and parade him around for old time’s sake. Bernie’s just the kind of guy to nod his head agreeably and place his arm around your shoulder, no questions asked.

I only had one link submitted for the weekend, and even though it’s seemingly an obvious attempt to pack as many keywords into one post as possible, I just can’t pass on linking something that starts with the sentence: “When your kid enjoys a Happy Meal because it comes with a car from Cars he or she is actually eating the movie.”

This has been The Weekend at Bernie’s, and I hope you had a good time (and enjoyed the “snazzy” decorations). Look for another special event later on in the summer that will cool off your hot days with some Ice. Until that time, it’s back to the regularly scheduled reviews.

Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993)

Starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Terry Kiser, Troy Byer Bailey, Barry Bostwick, Tom Wright, Steve James, Novella Nelson

Directed by Robert Klane

Expectations: Seen it before, but I don’t remember anything about this one. Bernie’s a stiff from moment one, so this should be non-stop corpse-draggin’ fun, right?

On the general scale:

On the “People Pretending a Corpse is Still Alive” scale:


[Editor's Note: One quick thing before I kick this one off: there will be massive spoilers. I'm just not able to do it justice without performing the full autopsy on Bernie's rotting corpse. So be warned!]

In yesterday’s review of Weekend at Bernie’s, I called it a singular and unique film. The same can be said of Weekend at Bernie’s II, as it goes in a completely different direction than its predecessor while still exploring plot lines introduced in the original. After a strange animated intro sequence that plays up the kid-friendly aspects of this tale of the not-so-recently deceased Bernie, the film begins in the coroner’s office. Bernie has been turned in and locked away, and our heroes can finally get on with their lives without Bernie always hanging around. Wait, what? How are we supposed to have all the wild fun of the original now? I was hoping for a film filled with dead Bernie, but apparently that wasn’t meant to be. That being said, when Weekend at Bernie’s II is funny, it’s incredibly absurd and in certain cases it even rivals the original. The only problem is that these moments are so few and far between that most of the film is spent yawning and wishing Bernie would enter frame.

Before I go any further I have to make note of the film’s rating, as it is baffling me. I generally don’t pay attention to these things, but for whatever reason I had noticed that the original was PG-13, and the sequel was only PG. I thought, “Damn, so it’s gonna be tamer and more kid-friendly, huh?” I resigned myself to it, but to my surprise this is most likely the first and last PG movie to feature a main character yelling “Blow me!” to one of his co-workers, quick frontal female nudity and other assorted adult situations. If this came out at PG nowadays, the conservative Christian groups would tear down the local AMC, with burning effigies of Bernie littering the sidewalk.

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Weekend at Bernie’s (1989)

Starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Catherine Mary Stewart, Terry Kiser, Don Calfa, Catherine Parks, Eloise DeJoria, Gregory Salata, Louis Giambalvo, Ted Kotcheff, Margaret Hall

Directed by Ted Kotcheff

Expectations: I have the expectation that this is gonna be one hell of a weekend at Bernie’s! He always throws the best parties!

On the general scale:

On the “People Pretending a Corpse is Still Alive” scale:


When I started Silver Emulsion, I knew one day I’d get here. It was inevitable that I’d review Weekend at Bernie’s, and now having seen it again, I’m finding it hard to know how to go about actually reviewing it. I’ve only seen this once before, around the time it originally dropped on VHS, so I must have been about eight or nine years old. I found its uproarious, black humor intoxicating, with two horny, bumbling dorks doing their best to drag a dead man around as if he were alive. I loved it. I also loved The Three Stooges at the time, and watching this now I was able to see the parallels between the two. And just for the record, Bernie’s corpse is a better replacement for Curly than Shemp.

Weekend at Bernie’s is the other 1989 film set in New York during the sweltering summer heat. Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman work for an insurance firm and over the sticky, roof-melting hot of the weekend, they discover some clear insurance fraud on the company’s books. Come Monday morning they prance down to Bernie Lomax’s office, in hopes of big praise and even bigger rewards. He thanks the boys for finding this “error” and invites them to a weekend at his place… oh I can’t resist, a weekend at Bernie’s! But when they arrive ready for a getaway filled with booze, woman and excitement, they find Bernie slumped over in his office chair.

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Throw Momma From the Train (1987)

Starring Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal, Kim Greist, Anne Ramsey, Kate Mulgrew, Branford Marsalis, Rob Reiner, Bruce Kirby, Joey DePinto, Annie Ross

Directed by Danny DeVito

Expectations: Low. One of those 80s movies I’ve never seen that could go either way.


Throw Momma From the Train has a lot of interesting aspects, but in the end they don’t add up to a wholly satisfying movie. As with all 80s films, some of this is pleasantly explained away with the “only in the 80s” mantra, but to dismiss all of the film’s faults with this argument would far too forgiving. To focus solely on the faults would also be a mistake, as the film does do a good job of entertaining. I don’t know, it’s a weird one for sure, and some of my strange feelings can be traced back to my knowledge of the film prior to watching it.

This is one of those 80s movies I never saw back in the day, but I heard and saw a lot about it upon its release. Between regular trips down the video store aisles to Anne Ramsey’s Oscar nomination, this film was seemingly everywhere in my young world. I remember my parents refusing to watch it (or maybe it was refusing to let me watch it), but there was something about that video box (and the whole forbidden fruit mentality that arose because of their restriction) that made me want to watch the film. Enjoying Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito helps too. Flash forward twenty-five years and I have finally realized this dream of youth. That mysterious film with the two guys sitting on the train tracks is no longer in the gigantic “To Watch” pile of my mind.

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American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho (2000)

Starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, Chloë Sevigny, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Cara Seymour, Samantha Mathis

Directed by Mary Harron

Expectations: Moderate.


American Psycho is a tough movie to categorize. It’s not really a horror movie, or a drama, or a dark comedy, but it exhibits many traits of all three genres. It makes for an interesting movie to say the least, but unfortunately it’s a bit soulless so it ends up being less than it could be. The soulless nature of the film is a reflection of its main character though, and perfectly portrays the 1980s culture of narcissism and the “dog eat dog” mentality of corporate America. This element is arguably a great strength, despite my personal dislike of it, and helps director Mary Harron do exactly what she sets out to do when making the film.

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