Tag Archives: Rob Reiner

Halls of Anger (1970)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: High school student integration.

Quincy Davis (Calvin Lockhart) is a respected educator who’s asked to transfer to a predominantly black school where it will be his duty to welcome in white students into the mix. Things do not go smoothly and Davis finds himself at the center of many heated confrontations as the black students resent the new white kids and try to make life miserable for them hoping that they will eventually give up and leave.

The film starts out interestingly enough and I found myself caught up in the plight of these students, both black and white, and wondering how they were eventually going to learn to get along. So many films from that period dealt with the opposite angle by examining the difficulties of black kids integrating into a white school making this reverse perspective a refreshing change of pace by showing how racism and hate can come from both ends.

Unfortunately not a lot happens. The film’s poster conveys the idea of rioting in the halls and physical altercations, but those things prove to be quite mild. There is one brief segment where a group of black girls gang up on a white woman (Patricia Stich) inside a locker room and strip off her clothes in an effort to see if she is ‘blonde all over’, but that is about it.

In fact the only interesting aspect to the film was the behind-the-scenes discord and how the filmmakers didn’t really practice what they preached onscreen. According to an August 1970 Life magazine article the black extras where paid only $13.20 a day while the whites got $29.15. The dressing rooms were segregated and director Paul Bogart proved indifferent towards the black performer’s concerns by refusing to hear out any of their complaints with regards to the script.

The only point to watching the movie is to see young stars-to-be in some early roles. I especially got a kick out of Rob Reiner with a full head of hair and no mustache and seeing Ed Asner as a Phy Ed. teacher who tries very ineffectually to break up a fight. Jeff Bridges is also on tap as one of the white students and he should’ve been made the star as his performance is quite effective and it would’ve been a stronger film had he been given the most screen time.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 29, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 36 Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Paul Bogart

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R (MGM Limited Edition Collection), Amazon Video

Enter Laughing (1967)

enter laughing

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Acting is his dream.

Loosely based on writer/director Carl Reiner’s experiences as a fledgling actor trying to work his way up into the business circa 1938. The story centers on David Kolowitz (Reni Santoni) who works as an apprentice at a machine repair shop, but dreams of one day making a living as a stage actor. He gets his break when he auditions for a part in a low budget stage production run by an aging, alcoholic actor named Harrison Marlowe (Jose Ferrer). Marlowe is not impressed with David’s acting ability, which is marginal at best, but at the insistence of his daughter Angela (Elaine May), who thinks David is ‘cute’, he decides to give him a try under the condition that David must pay them to perform in it and also must come up with his own costume.

Although this was a big success on Broadway as a film is has not aged well and is quite bland. The story is better suited as an episode for a sitcom and stretching out such a thin one-dimensional plot to an almost two-hour runtime becomes quite boring particularly with its plodding pace and direction. The only time it ever gets even mildly funny is during David’s audition scene, but even this ultimately falls flat particularly with the idea that David would be dumb enough to think that words in a script that are in parenthesis would be part of the dialogue and not a stage direction. You would think someone who has spent his entire life dreaming of being ‘the next Ronald Coleman’, who was a big movie star during the ‘30s, would know how a basic script is constructed and therefore this attempt at humor fails.

Santoni, in his first major film role, is terrific and despite being of Hispanic heritage, which Reiner is not, still manages to resemble Carl quite well during Reiner’s younger years. However, the character is too painfully naïve and dumb as he clumsily walks himself into messy situations long after the viewer, or anyone else with some common sense, would clearly see the obvious red flags.

Janet Margolin is beautiful playing David’s girlfriend Wanda and her presence gets an ‘A’ simply for her attractive face alone, but the romantic scenes do nothing but bog this already slow moving film down even further. Also, having David be so oblivious to her insecurities about him working with an attractive leading lady onstage makes him seem insensitive and not funny as intended.

Elaine May is good and so is Jack Gilford as David’s boss at the repair shop. It’s also fun seeing Carl’s real-life son, Rob Reiner, who later became famous for playing Mike Stivic on ‘All in the Family, making his film debut as a nerdy, would-be actor, but overall the film is dated and contrived.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: February 25, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Carl Reiner

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

The Princess Bride (1987)

princess bride 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Grandson likes bedtime story.

Based on the 1973 William Goldman novel, who also wrote the screenplay, a grandfather (Peter Falk) arrives to read to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) a fairytale. Initially the grandson is more interested in playing video games, but soon finds himself enraptured with the story despite his initial reluctance. The tale involves a country girl named Buttercup (Robin Wright) who falls in love with a farmhand named Westley (Cary Elwes). When Buttercup mistakenly thinks that Westley has been killed by some pirates she agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) only to end up getting kidnapped before her wedding and saved by Westley who was never dead to begin with. The two then must fight off the evil Prince who still insists on marry Buttercup and doing away with Westley.

The film, which was directed by Rob Reiner and produced by his former ‘All in the Family’ creator Norman Lear, is engaging from beginning to end and filled with endlessly funny dialogue and exciting adventures that remain pleasantly amusing throughout. My favorite moment is seeing a completely unrecognizable Billy Crystal hamming it up as an old man magician who tries to revive Westley while sounding like a comedian from vaudeville.

The special effects are impressive especially the shot showing Buttercup’s three kidnappers climbing a rope up a steep mountain while being followed close behind by Westley. To me though the best part is when Westley gets attacked by what appears to be a giant rodent that, with the exception of his fake looking fur, looks amazingly real and not like a stuntman in a body suit or a computerized image.

The performers are well cast with my favorite being former wrestler Andre the Giant who steals it despite having no acting experience and at times difficulty enunciating his words. The only negative is Christopher Guest as a six fingered man who supposedly attacked the Mandy Patinkin character when he was a child, but now that Patinkin has grown he faces Guest again even though Guest looks to be practically his same age and not someone who should be significantly older.

The story is basic and lacks the grandiose and dark quality that many of the classic Grimm fairytales possess. The banter between the grandson and Grandfather is fun and I wished it had cut back-and-forth between the two and the story more often than it does. The context is simple and straight forward and its ‘message’ of teaching kids to learn to enjoy reading is a bit too obvious, but overall as non-think escapism it scores a bullseye and through the years has managed to acquire a strong cult following.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 25, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Rob Reiner

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

 

The Jerk (1979)

the jerk

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: This is stupidly brilliant.

This is the type of film that looks like it was done by people that were stoned and meant for audiences that were equally stoned. The ‘story’ runs like it was conceived by someone who couldn’t come up with a real plot so they did this instead. The whole thing is as simple and mindless as the character it depicts with no real correlation to anything. Everything is thrown in haphazardly and at times looks like nothing but a very desperate and strained attempt for a laugh. This is coupled by a performance by Steve Martin that is very one-dimensional and even amateurish. He behaves like one of those annoying class clowns looking for attention and yet despite all this it still manages to be funny sometimes really, really funny.

This is a definite precursor to Dumb and Dumber and others like it and in many ways this is still the best as it completely stretches the stupidity axiom. It tests the audience’s perceptions on what is tolerable and logical. This doesn’t just have a couple of guys who are weird everybody and everything is weird. The humor works totally outside of the box. It gets you to laugh at things you didn’t think you would and also gets you to see things differently. It creates a warped world that for the first hour is consistent and fun, but by the second hour it begins to struggle and ultimately overreaches.

Martin’s ‘air head’ routine doesn’t seem too original since he had been using it previously in his stand-up acts and comedy guest stints. His character is too dumb and naive to be believable and there is never any explanation for it. He manages to give his performance a certain endearing quality, which is the only thing that saves it. The opening segment has him growing up a white boy amongst a poor black family, which borders dangerously close to being racist and stereotypical.

There is a good supporting cast, but they seem wasted and many of them only have a few lines. Bernadette Peters, as his love interest, really doesn’t add much however Jackie Mason is pretty good as Martin’s boss at a gas station. Maurice Evans is also fun as Martin’s butler and has an amusing way of responding to his wife’s sudden death. Rob Reiner, the director’s son, appears in a cameo as a truck driver who gives Martin a lift ‘up to the end of the fence.’

Overall this is pretty goofy stuff, but only for those who are in the right frame of mind for it. It’s a simple, scattershot formula that produces some genuine laughs.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 14, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Carl Reiner

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, HDDVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video