TROOP BEVERLY HILLS (1988)

Lets talk about this masterpiece. Chances are, you’ve already seen it, loved it and think about it  and stumbled on this post. If so, then lets chat about what’s possibly the finest film ever made. At least the best ever made about being a Girl Scout in Beverly Hills.

If you don’t know what its about, well all you need to know is that Shelley Long IS Phyllis Neffler, a soon to be divorcee living in Beverly Hills, who takes over her daughters Wilderness Girls troop and teaches them what its really like to survive life. You know who really gets the life lesson here? Phyllis Neffler. And she does it in glorious 80s style.

So instead of going through characters and themes of this movie, lets talk about the important lessons we learned from this movie.

1.  Always look on the positive side of things.

Its hard to get Phyllis down. Her husband is leaving her and has forced a mirror in her face of what her life is REALLY about. Despite it being harsh news, she takes it like a champ and decides to challenge herself doing something she’s never done before.  Hello, Wilderness Girls!

2.   Money isn’t everything, but friends and family are.

Something about these kids brings this out. Phyllis’ social life is a bit of a mystery. She has her Joan Collins-esque friend…

…who’s fabulous in her own way, but what kind of support does she really have? Hello, Wilderness Girls! Where would she be without them? Like in my life, there’s this woman named Marilyn in the finance department who sends out emails saying we need to cut back on Office Depot orders but she’s not realizing that if you have friends in other departments, they can make orders for you.

3.  You can take anything and make it glamorous.

I hate camping. I’ve never been, but I can tell you now – nothing about it appeals to me. So when I see the way Phyllis Neffler camps, sign me up. She made fondue and took the girls to the Beverly Hills Hotel. Seriously, SIGN ME UP.

4.   If you’re unsure of anything in life, then make it your own.

Phyllis took a drab Wilderness Girls dress and turned it into MAGIC.

The structuring of that jacket isn’t what makes it magic. Its the fact that she saw something she didn’t like and did something about it. I hate khaki, but she makes a strong case for it. Marilyn from Finance likes to send out excel spreadsheet templates that make no sense. You take those templates and give her a pie chart. Shuts them up everytime.

5.  There is no enemy too great that you can’t take on.

Meet the Red Feathers. Sure, Tori Spelling is a member, but the important thing to consider is that every enemy has a weakness. There’s was also the one thing getting them ahead, which was their “Kill or be Killed” attitude. Maybe it works in the here and now, but it will catch up with you when you leave your mother in a ditch with a broken ankle.

6.  How to sell cookies.

Instead of going to door to door, make the market come to you. Stake out Jane Fonda’s Workout gym chains or coordinate a fabulous pool party at your house. Everyone likes cookies – including Marilyn from finance who takes the boxes in the breakroom home with her every week.

And never underestimate the power of working the crowd with a heart pumping choreographed number:

7.   If you don’t like how people make you earn their approval, then make your own merit badges.

Maybe you’ll never be in a situation where you have to learn how to make a campfire or bind a wound. Thats because that’s not crucial to your environment. That’s when Phyllis stepped it up and had her girls learn truly useful things like how to appraise jewelry and how to be active in your community.

Those are some fabulous patches.

8.  You can’t “win” him back. You can only make yourself attractive for the world.

Man, Freddy. This guy made all of his money with Phyllis at his side and then traded her in for a younger and hotter real estate agent. If your goals of self improvement involve winning a man back, then you’re doing it wrong. Win yourself back. If he’s a real man, he’ll see what he’s missing.

9.  Never let the bullies get you down.

Despite the emotional beat down Velda gave Phyllis, it never stopped her from offering her a smile and a cappucino. Velda never came around, but it didn’t matter in the end. Phyllis got to be the poster woman for Wilderness leadership and Velda settled back for a career in customer service. That’s how the universe works sometimes.

Also never get married in Reno. Because reasons.

10. Dress for the person you are, not the person that others want you to be.
Look, I take a stand against wearing sweatpants to work (although Marilyn in Finance feels differently as she has given up on life altogether), but other than that, every day is your own occassion and dress for whatever comes your way. 

I don’t know how one would sit in this either but does it really matter?

Is it culturally insensitive when you’re teaching the value of turquoise to all cultures?

Bet you don’t give up on gardening as quickly if you’re wearing this.

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ENTOURAGE: The Movie (2015)

I’m breaking rules with this post. For one, this is a brand new, big studio film that came out just this summer. Two, its not available to be streamed on Netflix, HBOGo, YouTube or Amazon Prime. We actually paid to rent this through iTunes with my friend, Beth.  Here’s the thing – I started this site with the purpose of finding terrible movies that you might not know existed which are readily available for watching at the click of the Enter button. This movie fulfills all of these quotas:

1) Its a terrible movie. The Rotten Tomatoes reader does not lie.
2)You can now pay to rent it on iTunes and Amazon. Give it a month or two and it will be available on HBOGo.
3) This movie made $32 million over its entire run. Chances are, you might not have known about it.

To prepare for watching this movie, I watched the entire series run of Entourage. Not all at once, mind you, but over the course of a few months. So if you’ve seen the series or even just an episode or two (lets face it, that’s all you need to get the gist is there’s these four really entitled guys who hang out in L.A., have sort of brushes with risk and then end up better than when they started (which was pretty good to begin with.)

WARNING: Aspiring actors, do not try to model your life after Vincent Chase’s. This will never happen to you. This didn’t even happen to Mark Wahlberg.

The poster says it all. Dream big and live larger. I went into this expecting a big first world fantasy.  I was not disappointed.

BAM! Right away we’re thrown onto a awesome yacht party where there’s lots of women and money being tossed around like yesterday’s newspapers.  Some of these women….not even wearing bikini tops.

Okay, Entourage. Not what I would dream big about but since you’re so much smarter than me, how can I live bigger?

MARK CUBAN?

Again, I have never fantasized about hanging out with Mark Cuban with bottles of tequila and cigars, but if I’m supposed to envy these guys and want their life, I guess I’ll throw out all those dreams of a great career and my very own space pony.

I’ll say this for Mark Cuban. He was in two movies this year – this and Sharknado 3, which is more than Nicholas Cage can say.

There’s a guy in a arm sling living his best life right now with two hot babes who want nothing more than to party the day away.  This movie is for guys with minor arm injuries everywhere.

These guys have problems too, you know? Its not all yacht parties and women throwing themselves at them. At the end of the day, they have money to make, other women to hit on, and prestigious movies about DJs of the future battling SWAT teams.

I wish I were making that up, but this is Vincent’s vanity project. He’s a DJ and he throws yellow liquid in the air, people drink it and can fight riot teams with it and his jamming beats.  You guys, this movie’s going to be HUGE.

If only they can get the rest of the funding for it. Its made and its amazing, but they need money for…something.

Never fear. When in doubt, bring in the big guns. Or just Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osmet carrying thick Texas accents and an affinity for plaid shirts. They’re on board. Its a meeting that goes really really well and it seems like all is well.

OR IS IT?

Haley Joel Osmet comes to Vincent’s party and hits on the Blurred Lines girl, but what are the odds that Vincent’s dating her? (hint: pretty darn good). So, because this is Entourage, he makes Ari cut Johnny Drama’s part from DJs in Love, which is heartwrenching because Johnny just knows that awards season is his this year. And because this is Entourage, he hasn’t earned it. HE DESERVES IT.

The other thing about this movie is there’s about a million subplots happening.

Okay, maybe not a million. But its got to be in the hundreds.  One of them is Turtle stalks Ronda Rousey, future star of the Road House reboot. Stalking celebrities always gets you what you want.  Including a Uber ride directly to their house.

Sure, she made him fight for the right to date her, which he loses. I can’t tell you how that subplot ends because it really didn’t go anywhere. I’m assuming everything was fine and it was none of our business.

Oh, and then there’s the cameos.  Sure, you can dream big, but are famous people popping in and out?

Like, Jessica Alba!

Mark Wahlberg! How’s he involved with this, again?

Was there a focus group that said, “Movies are better when there’s lots of meetings in them”? Because the makers of Entourage must have found that post it note crumpled up somewhere and said, “Guys, we’ve got an idea on how to make this movie much longer!”

Seriously, every ten minutes, there’s a meeting happening or about to happen.  Its like talking to my boss.

Remember that whole on again, off again relationship Eric had with Sloane? I kind of remembered. Mostly I was surprised that I remembered the one female character in this show where we actually knew her name. But here she is, and she’s pregnant and while they’ve broken up again, she still offers to have sex with him. Sure he hooks up with other women at least once a day, but that’s just the way every guy lives. Sure, some of them fake pregnancy and STDs, but at the end of the day, its only the women who are crazy.  Sloane included. She’s the one being unreasonable. I think.

Welp, its been ten minutes. I really wish there was another meeting Ari was setting up.

YES.  Meetings!

What does Ari have to do to get Vincent Chase’s cinematic manifesto, DJs Keep on Spinnin’ seen to the hungry audiences are demanding it?

Perhaps have another meeting?

Let’s do it!

There’s other subplots running around. Johnny Drama got a tape of him jerking off to go viral. And it was during a casting sessions too! Thanks TMZ.

Seriously, thank TMZ. In true Entourage fashion, this is only a stepping stone up in his career. Sure, people laugh, but its not like he’ll stop getting jobs. After all, Vincent will always hire him for anything.

Here’s another subplot. Ari has anger issues and they’re at a therapist to talk about it. Ari takes a phone call, doesn’t apply anything he learns and still wins the movie.

Meeting time!

Here’s the thing – Haley Joel Osmet’s still pretty steamed about that whole Blurred Lines girl thing and he’s still not budging.

So they call another meeting where Haley Joel Osmet would feel more comfortable. In a hotel room, with two naked ladies doing things I won’t describe here. But it works. DJs, DJs, DJs is finally going to be distributed thanks to a multi-million dollar investment from these guys.

Dreaming big and living large. That’s what its all about.

Also, Lloyd’s getting married and wants Ari to walk him down the aisle. Because that’s a normal request you make to a boss.

Eric’s baby daughter  is born and they name her Ryan Murphy because I’m assuming the creator of Glee won a bet with Mark Wahlberg.

Is this still part of that living large and dreaming big? Because I am! I finally am!

In the end, the movie’s a huge hit and sweeps all the Golden Globes because that’s what awards voters are hungry for. And Johnny Drama wins a Golden Globe! This is exactly what would happen if a movie about a sci fi DJ went head to head with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, and then WON.

This on the other hand was a movie about meetings and carefully put together ensembles. I think we all learned a little something about living large.

Wait, Tom Brady and Kelsey Grammer were in this?

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FUNNY FARM (1988)

Once upon a time there was no one funnier on this Earth than Chevy Chase.  Feel free to disagree with me, but when you look at his work on Saturday Night Live, Vacation, Caddyshack, etc., he shaped what a lot of people find funny. 

Strictly speaking from my limited point of view.  Maybe you’re slamming your fist into the desk reading this going, “Dammit, Carrot Top was waaaaay funnier.”

To each his own then.

This movie was nothing but empty promises. Not only was it not particularly funny, but at no point is anyone ever on a farm.  Just because you have geese who occasionally break into your place, does not make it a farm.

The premise this movie gives is that Chevy Chase is a sports writer who moves his wife to the country so he can write a novel and get his wife pregnant – not necessarily in that order. They settle into a house in a small town that seems idyllic, BUT YOU GUYS, ITS NOT. That’s where the funny comes in, get it?

Chevy’s character is goofy and affable and not flexible but he pretends to be. His wife is…well, she’s his wife. She reacts appropriately to things.  When he makes a joke, she laughs.  When they look around the house, she smiles.

When she enjoys a banana, we’re given a whole scene to let that happen.

Chevy Chase is someone that you know he’s going to go off the rails at anytime…

Like when he realizes his wife has eaten the last banana.

We’re introduced to all the crazy characters who contribute to Chevy’s steady descent into madness, which has possibly affected modern day Chevy Chase, but results of that theory are still pending.  There’s a crazy mailman who throws mail, a lazy sheriff who’s role in the town I really wasn’t sure about.  Also, there’s this lady…

She’s the town operator and if you want to make a call, you have to have a payphone in your house, where you feed it five cents. If you don’t, she won’t put through the call.  Does this make any sense? Nope. Does the movie’s heroes ever solve this problem or does it shrug and expect us to laugh along? Do we need to ask?

Its one of many things that make no sense and that the screenwriters felt didn’t really deserve a point, just something to say, “Hey, isn’t this crazy?”  There’s a dead body in the house and the town wants to charge our heroes a fee to bury it. Why? Well, its not really explained, but our heroes go along with it. Because that makes comedy?

Seriously, asking for a friend.

 They get a dog. Because that’s a great formula for comedy. He can’t hear or see anything, so the producers had a laugh about that.

The story takes an interesting twist.  Chevy gives Mrs. Chevy the first chapter of his book to read and she hates it. Like, HATES it, hates it.  She cries and its awkward and didn’t think it was funny (perhaps our hero was the author of this movie?)  He tries to take it well, but its eating him alive.  The darkness consumes us all.

To make things worse, not only is the lack of his wife’s approval crippling his mental wellbeing, but she wrote a book on the sly – a kid’s book about a squirrel and it’s getting published. He’s supportive in that he allows her to live in the house, but you get the feeling that this might be the 80s answer to In Cold Blood.

What happens next might surprise you, that is if you walked into a movie expecting a realistic character arc. Chevy Chase loses his mind and becomes obsessed with his own failures at life.

The movie reaches its tipping point, when his publisher stops into town (do publishers really do long distance stop ins? Anyone we can ask for a point of reference?) He’s greeted with Heart of Darkness style Chevy:

…as he’s trying to murder the local mailman.  The publisher ignores this behavior and passes it off as “artistic genius” and says, “Hey, where’s that book you promised us?”  Chevy’s response is hand him his wife’s recent manuscript (possible titles are  Boys and Squirrels, Squirrel with the Dragon Tattoo or Squirrel, Interrupted). Publisher takes it, says good day.

Wife does catch on to the ruse as the publisher can’t wait to send Squirrel on Fire to the presses on Chevy Chase’s name and demands a divorce.  So the baby prospects also get put to a halt.

If they’re going to get a divorce, they have to sell the house and go their separate ways. In any other situation, the couple would sell the house cheap or apply to be on one of those renovation shows on HGTV, just to get away from each other (see also, The Money Pit)

Instead, they go to a Town Hall, and bribe the townspeople to act like a Norman Rockwell painting to help sell the town. Weirdly, everybody’s into it.

This begs the question – no one put up these shenanigans when our heroes bought this house, the house and scenery did the job for them. But, to answer these questions, we would be watching a much better movie starring other people. So, moving on.

A couple comes and looks at the house, has no problem finding the place and automatically falls in love. Our heroes are told, “Tomorrow morning, expect an offer.”

Our heroes could easily smile and say, “Thanks, that’s great,” but no. Instead, they respond with, “You should spend the night and find out why we hate this house.” (Blogger’s paraphrase, not a direct movie quote.)

Oh, is everything going better than expected? Time to quit while you’re ahead.

Our heroes could have saved boatloads of cash by just letting the prospective owners go to a hotel for the night. Also, if you’re not growing crops or raising livestock, then stop calling your property a farm.

In a move that surprises no one on this side of the screen, one of the townspeople goes off the rails and assaults Chevy Chase.  Everyone laughs except for the prospective house buyers, but they’re weirdly still into buying this house.

The next morning, the house buyers have their checkbook out, they’re ready to make a deal, but something in this overly complicated and unnecessary ruse has made our heroes rethink everything and it turns out that not only do they love the house and the town, they’re just in love with each other.

Wife apologizes for overreacting when her husband tried to steal her work and pass it off as his own, sending the fight for equality and dignity for women back about a hundred years.

She’ll keep writing her Squirrel, You Know Its True saga and Chevy’s going to settle for being the towns sports writer, covering the one softball game they have in the summer.  Not the emotional powerpunch ending of Cop and a Half, really more like a shrug from the writer and director alike.

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A Star is Born (1976)

You may find this post controversial and I’ve made my peace with it.  Some view this film as a classic and some hold it proudly in their Barbra Streisand shrine.  However, I recently viewed this film and felt the need to post about it as there were just way too many elements that couldn’t be ignored.

Fact: this is the THIRD remake of this story (a fourth is slowly rolling around in development. You can read about it here).

Fact: this is the first movie I’ve blogged about on this site that’s both a Oscar and a Golden Globe winner for the song “Evergreen”.

Fact: I have long since made fun of the lyrics to the song “Evergreen” without realizing it was a) from this movie and b) a Barbra Streisand song.  You can’t sing a lyric that compares love to a easy chair and not expect me to mock it.

So we meet John Howard Norman, a big rock star who’s late to everything, drinks a lot and has Gary Busey personally shove cocaine up his nose.

No one in this movie ever calls him just “John”.  Its always “John Howard” or “John Howard Norman”. This may have been because the filmmakers felt that no one would accept a hero named John, leading to theater attendees storming out of the theaters in protest.

Fact: John Howard Norman never sings a whole complete song. He starts songs, then always interrupts and we as an audience have no idea why people even bother going to his shows to begin with.

Here’s what someone should have prepared me for. No one knows how to wear shirts in this movie.  Shirts are really more of a suggestion or an opinion.  So as a result, they’re maybe buttoned or worn halfway or in this case, Kris Kristofferson just forwent the shirt entirely and skipped to the vest.  To each his own, I suppose.

After an evening of kind of singing parts of two songs, he leaves his own show and goes to a club where we’re introduced to Barbra Streisand aka “Esther Hoffman”.

She’s in a singing group that call themselves “The Oreos.”  The less said about this, the better.

So they’re singing, and Barbra is being Barbra.  However, every romance movie needs a “meet cute” and we get with this moment…

“John Howard Norman” (I guess we’ll follow the movie’s instructions to always call him this) gets into a shouting match with some bar customers and Barbra gets ticked and confronts him about it. 

Now, lets put this situation in “real life” shall we?  In movie life, Barbra sings at a club and she hears a drunk guy shouting and getting drunker. She confronts him, he’s charmed by it, chases her down and begs to date her.  She kind of plays coy and allows him to bring a pizza to her house at 7am the next day.

In “real life”, Barbra would have finished her set, gone backstage, complained with the rest of The Oreos (sigh). Had “John Howard Norman” come slurring her way, a bouncer would have steered him to his car and he would have woken up ten hours later not remembering anything.  Roll credits!

But they have breakfast and are super cutesy about eating pizza and him guzzling down a whiskey and a few more beers for breakfast, so he invites her to come to his show.

Another show where he starts a song, mumbles through it, then goes and finds Barbra…

…sings from a vantage point where no one can see him…

…takes a fan’s motorcycle (which begs the question, do people still bring a motorcycle inside arenas? Also, where can I get the “I’m Spoiled Rotten” shirt?)

…and this inevitably happens…

…where you know, everyone’s going to have to file back out and spend three hours in their cars wondering what on earth they just saw.

Meanwhile, “John Howard Norman” gets put in an ambulance, everyone takes off, leaving Barbra stranded at a arena.

In “real life”, Esther Hoffman would have been angry and annoyed, spent hundreds of dollars on an Uber getting back to her house and written an interesting op-ed piece to Rolling Stone on what a tool John Howard Norman is.

Instead, she finds it cute that he stalked her at a studio and follows him home to his house where they make sweet music together…

…and then sweet, sweet love.

So many beer cans in this scene.

Naturally, he brings her into the studio and she sings whole and complete songs, which blows everyone away. He realizes that she is a unicorn and they make glorious creative plans.

He does yet another show, where he starts to sing a song and people are into it, but he stops barely into the first chorus and goes, “Hey guys, you paid to see me, but you’ll be fine letting my girlfriend of two days taking over, right?”

So Barbra comes out in an outfit that makes her look like she’s about to do everyone’s taxes and performs two whole songs.  Turns out the crowd loves it when you come out and do a song that has a beginning, middle and end. They go nuts and officially, “a star is born.”

Roll credits.

In the frenzy of the show, Barbra proposes to “John Howard Norman”. JHN gives her a very solid reason why this is a terrible decision. Namely that he’s an awful person who’s life is a total mess. Never mind, she knows what she wants and thats that.

The movie clearly has very little to do between now and JHN’s inevitable death (spoiler alert) so it does that thing that only bad movies do…there’s a montage. And it has everything that a ’70s love montage needs…

 Picture perfect moments in the middle of nowhere. This is always followed by sex in the most uncomfortable setting imaginable.

Being silly in the middle of nowhere.  This movie was made by Warner Bros who also holds the rights to Superman which I guess makes this scene okay.

Wearing Indian blankets as if that counts as clothes.  (Fact: It does not)

Enjoying your ’70s house with more rugs.

Maybe one of you fakes your death?

And at the end of a long day of holding each other and staring into each other’s eyes, you recline on pillows that vaguely look like Swastikas.

At some point, you have to come back to reality.  After all, Esther is a big star now (sure, its been a week maybe) and JHN is dealing with the fact that his career is over. Now this movie gets it into gear.

People are really digging her. She’s up for a Grammy! She shows up to her shows! She finishes songs! She wears shirts!

Speaking of which, she wins a Grammy for Best Female Vocal. She insists JHN go up with her, despite the fact that he almost didn’t make it and that he’s super trashed.  No, no, no, she drags him up there where he slurs something about art, all while Tony Orlando and Rita Coolidge seem horrified.

And, this movie dares to wave its codependency flag again, when Esther goes to calm down in the bathroom and is followed by JHN.

He makes another really good case for why this marriage isn’t going to work out, but she won’t have it.

This movie is begging for the opening credits to Intervention to come on at any moment.  I would have fully welcomed it.

During a photo shoot, he tells her that she’ll have to tour on her own.  She’s horrified.

He doesn’t show up for things when she needs him to, but instead of processing the links between addiction and unhealthy relationships, she puts on more drapey clothes and wonders why as she literally stares at empty glass vessels that used to hold alcohol.

While she’s gone however, a sexy journalist breaks into their home and begs for an interview with Esther.  She’ll do anything.

ANYTHING.

And he obliges.

Of course they’re caught.  The journalist gets huffy and walks out, while Esther thinks things over and has this reaction to the whole situation…

Frankly, at this point, I won’t blame his addiction, I’ll just blame the ’70s. Neither of them are clearly ever going to learn anything at this point.

So the universe takes over. He gets up early, drinks a lot of beer and has a fatal accident.

And Esther gives the performance of a lifetime where she cries and hopes he’s looking down on her.  I’d cry too, but then I remembered he was a reckless and selfish alcoholic who possessed really bad judgement.  The good news is that she got a career out of it and the rest of The Oreos had to find another white lady to lead them.

PERFORMANCE OF A LIFETIME.

Should you care to delve deeper into this, you can watch this movie on Amazon, HBO GO or in physical disc form from Netflix.

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