Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie (2016)


I don’t hate Donald Trump, particularly, although his stated views are repellent and I think he’d be the worst President the USA ever had (although, we’d be one step closer to “Idiocracy”, and getting “Ow, My Groin” on TV). He’s been allowed to succeed through his father’s wealth and a system that rewards him – he’s more like a dog who steals a steak. He’s just being a dog, it’s our job to make sure the steak isn’t in a spot where he could take it. Or train him better. I don’t know, this is a stupid analogy now I think of it. I hate the system.


If you’ve been on the internet recently, you may have seen something about this. It being linked to by some news site, or your comedy nerd friend telling you about it. Funny Or Die decided to make a 50 minute long parody / TV version of Donald Trump’s 1980s book “The Art Of The Deal”, part of the genre – awful businessman reveals how awful he is and how easy it is to make money if you’ve got the system stacked in your favour – that mercifully hasn’t fully invaded our shores yet. Anyway, even though they’ve been pretty much solely devoted to short sketches to this point, FOD just took the same number of ideas and jokes you’d get in a three minute sketch, and made something which lasts 50 minutes.


Johnny Depp does a hell of a job as Trump, unrecognisable under make up, and there’s a ton of internet-comedy-famous names too – Jack McBrayer Kristen Schaal, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Michaela Watkins, Alfred Molina and Stephen Merchant (well, Molina is a serious-ish actor who’s suddenly decided to make weird comedy shows). The “film” follows a chapter outline, as Trump explains to the kid who stole his book and snuck into his office about his rules of business. I realise I’m recapping the outline of a comedy sketch. I’m sorry.


The framing device is Ron Howard, who tells the story of how Trump wrote, produced, directed and starred in his own TV movie but it was bumped for an NFL game and never shown – he found a copy at a yard sale and wrestled an old lady for it. But you just said it was never shown?


It’s more to be admired for sheer bloody-mindedness than it is laughed at, I think. Perhaps the joke is that it’s a 50 minute sketch, and we’re all fools for watching it? The problem is both that it’s not funny, and that it doesn’t even stick terribly well to its own premise. It’s supposed to be a movie completely controlled by Trump, but it shows him at times in a very negative light. Why would he tell the world he couldn’t poop, for example? Then, the idea is even further hammered into the ground with the post-credits bit where Howard says “that was terrible, wasn’t it?” and takes the tape out and throws it in the bin. If you hate it, why are you showing it?


Several other reviewers have praised it for a similarity to “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace”, which is perhaps the only real laugh of all. Darkplace is ten times the show this was, every episode was five times as many jokes in half the time, with real care and craft put into it (and hilarious performances from everyone involved). This was just expecting you to laugh at people you’ve seen in other, funnier things, merely because they’re wearing stupid wigs.


Perhaps this would be funnier if I was American, and was living with the idea of a Donald Trump presidency. I wonder if Americans would think the Comic Strip movie “Strike!” was all that funny, an ocean divorced from the background? But as an outsider with an American wife who’s horrified at what’s going on, I…still didn’t like it. An idea to be commended for its strangeness, but not particularly enjoyed. Directed by Drunk History’s Jeremy Konner and written by a guy who used to edit “The Onion” (a comedy paper / site that told you a joke in a headline, then beat the joke into the ground for five paragraphs), I wish all that assembled talent could have done something a bit better.


Rating: thumbs down


Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

Best? Come on!

Best? Come on!

Every bad review you’ve ever read about this is true. For some reason, I never watched it when it came out, despite being a huge fan of the first four movies (and able to sort of tolerate the fifth); but boy oh boy, this is the absolute pits. Incomprehensible, ugly, stupid, and pointless are about the nicest things I can find to say about “Freddy’s Dead”, but I’ll try and write something entertaining anyway (and there’s a shedload of fun trivia too, which might liven things up a bit).

No attempt is made to put this movie in the same timeline as the rest of the series, should that sort of thing interest you. Alice survived parts 4 and 5, and then actress Lisa Wilcox left the series for good (smart girl, Lisa) so they just decided…I’m not sure what they decided. Anyway, if we can trust any of the information this movie gives us, Springwood “ten years in the future” is a desolate wasteland where every child and teenager but one has been killed.

I’m going to stop right there for a second. What? How is this town not the most famous place in the world? Every child? But I can’t stop too long as I’ll lose momentum and this review will just be me, sat in a corner sobbing. So, that one remaining kid takes part in the least funny, least scary, least coherent dream sequence in the history of this series, as Freddy tortures him (at one point, doing a shockingly bad riff on “The Wizard Of Oz”) before throwing him out of the dream – illustrated by a sort of breaking glass effect – and into a whole different town, telling him to “fetch”. What? Best get used to Freddy not being limited to dreams any more, too, as he can just manipulate reality now. I think. It’s honestly difficult to tell.


The kid in question, John Doe, is found wandering the streets with amnesia, and is taken to a sort of children’s refuge / psychiatric hospital, where Lisa “sister of Billy” Zane and Yaphet Kotto are working. Rather than treat John like you would any deeply disturbed kid, she believes his dream stories about Freddy Krueger because she’s had them herself, and decides to drive with him back to Springwood – in the centre’s van, along with three stowaways (one of whom is Breckin Meyer, making his movie debut and actually being the right age, unlike the 30-year-old-looking “teenagers” in the van with him). The movie gives them zero character, so I won’t bother learning or writing their names.

So the bulk of the movie is these five pretty rotten actors wandering around Springwood, which doesn’t resemble a town as much as it does a Freddy Krueger Theme Park. Making cameos around this time are Roseanne and Tom Arnold as two crazy parents, wondering why their child is missing; and Johnny Depp (billed in the credits as “Oprah Noodlemantra”) doing a PSA on TV. Freddy kills a few of them, before we figure out that one of the remaining people is his child, and he needs them in order to…nope. I got nothin’.

This is a real scene in this movie

This is a real scene in this movie

The timeline is almost deliberately confusing. Towards the end of the movie, Zane manages to get inside Freddy’s mind and we get what amounts to the first real backstory for the character. Dressed in 1950s gear, we see him as a man in his early 40s, with a wife and kid. That he was a FATHER, a matter of public record, was never mentioned at any point in the series, and it makes his desire to take over the foetus of Lisa in part 5 completely pointless. This movie is set in 2001, or 1999 (definitely “10 years in the future”, either from the year the film was released or of the previous movie), and if we’re very generous and say that the flashback was the mid-60s, it still makes his kid at least 40 years old, and given the person playing that kid was 27 at the time, it doesn’t really hold up (and also means the red herring about one of the teenagers maybe being Krueger Jr isn’t much of a red herring). There’s also the whole thing of how Krueger, seen to be violent and withdrawn as a child, was able to hold it together enough to have a family while slaughtering children, which seems a touch on the unlikely side.

You might get the occasional whiff of unoriginality from “Freddy’s Dead” – which is because it plunders ideas from its predecessors like it was going out of fashion. You get the “dream warrior” stuff from part 3, the kid stuff from part 5, and the “driving weirdness” bit from part 4, among many many others. Unfortunately, they didn’t bother ripping off any of the kills from those movies, giving us instead unfunny, unscary death scenes which were so bad I wondered if someone was playing a joke on us. The scene where Freddy puts one of the kids inside a “Super Mario Brothers” ripoff and then “plays” the character is just awful, and can’t even keep its own continuity in place – sometimes Freddy is controlling the kid, sometimes the kid’s Dad.


Director Rachel Talalay now works in TV (including several recent “Doctor Who” episodes), and this was her first movie. She, rather oddly, turned down two different scripts, choosing the guy who’d written the unbearably bad part 5 (giving it a polish herself). Those two scripts? Multi-Oscar winner and all-round good guy Peter Jackson wrote one, where Freddy was old and weak, and kids would have drug-fuelled “dream parties” where they’d go and beat him up. That is a great idea! Then, indie film legend Michael Almereyda wrote one which features “Dream Cops”, and tied the action to the rest of the series, which honestly sounds a bit complicated but is oh-so-much better than what they ended up with.

It turns out, Freddy hasn’t been haunting kids’ dreams because he represents the guilt and fear of the parents of Elm Street; he was actually given the power by three ancient Dream Demons at the moment of his death – which is sort of a bummer, as he probably should have asked them to not tie him to one town.  If anyone remembers part 5, and how he was supposed to represent the Dark Portal to dreams, or whatever, then you know more about this series than the people who made it.

But this isn’t the only reason! His kid was taken away from him in 1966 (according to the blackboard in the movie) and he decided to wreak his revenge on other peoples’ children – even though the film itself tells us he’d been killing long before this. Is this special secret double revenge?


It does seem like New Line were genuine about this being the end for the character, with no fake-out Freddy’s-still-around non-ending, and “RIP” appearing on screen along with Freddy’s face. Of course, it made a profit, and art is a very distant second to money when it comes to movies, so we got “New Nightmare” three years later (which, to be fair, doesn’t feature Freddy as part of its actual “real” cast) and then “Freddy vs. Jason” in 2001. This actually makes it the least bad of all the slasher films and their “movies after the one with final in the title” crimes.

I don’t think I can say enough bad things about this. Part 5, miserable as it was, at least had some sort of reason to exist as an Elm Street movie – this manages to be terrible from beginning to end and substitutes “wacky” (in the worst possible sense of the word) events for plot. It was awful, and I’m genuinely sad I watched it.

Rating: thumbs down

Endless Bummer: Private Resort (1985)

I think a few filmmakers in the 1980s realised that, as long as they had some nudity every ten minutes or so, they could do whatever the hell they liked, and this has led to some interesting movies as part of our “Endless Bummer” feature. I don’t want to say “good”, because that could be seen as praising the rampant sexism, homophobia, racism and just plain sociopathy on display, but a few of these movies have been almost a pleasant surprise.


Such is the case with “Private Resort”, on the surface a boob-and-bad-joke delivery system, but really structured like a classic English farce, with all the hijinks that entails. And it’s pretty relentless, too – some of the setpieces go on for ages, where someone will enter a room, then our heroes try to sneak his drunk girlfriend out the other door, then he comes back out of the room so they have to drop her behind a sofa, pretend to hiccup when she does, then avoid the psychotic hotel security manager…it can leave you feeling pretty breathless at times.


Of course, this film is much better remembered (when it’s remembered at all) for its star Johnny Depp (and to a lesser extent, the top-billed Rob Morrow). Depp had made his debut in “A Nightmare On Elm Street” the year before, and this wouldn’t have clued anyone in to the A-lister he was to become, springboarding from 1987’s “21 Jump Street”. Before then, he bummed around in short films, TV movies and this, and on its own it’s sort of fun seeing Depp as a mega-horndog in his early 20s.


So yes, it’s a farce, with a heavy slapstick element. Two guys (Depp and Morrow) go to a beach resort for a long weekend, and in doing so get themselves involved with a bunch of oddball characters. There’s Hector Elizondo as jewel thief “The Maestro” and his moll; the ludicrously angry head of hotel security and the German hotel barber; older horndog Andrew “Dice” Clay, just going by Andrew Clay at the time; the waitress who Morrow falls in love with and her evil supervisor; and the Grandma with the very expensive diamond necklace, who for some reason has brought her granddaughters along on a beach resort weekend – one of whom is the female equivalent of Depp, the other a religious nut (following the teachings of Baba Rama Yana). These people combine and bounce off each other in every farcical way possible – there’s misunderstandings about sex, identity, attempts at infidelity, the theft of the diamond, romance with the typical roadblocks, and an extended sequence where Depp and Morrow have to run away from two guys trying to kill them.


I think there’s such a thing as “too horny”. Depp and Morrow arrive at the resort and, almost immediately, their eyes are out on stalks as they see the bikini-clad lovelies all around them. Are there no women where they’re from? They don’t seem shy or hideous-looking, so it’s quite odd. There’s also such a thing as authority figures being too authoritative, too – everyone who works at the hotel seems angry to an almost psychopathic level. While Morrow romances the waitress, her supervisor (who has designs on her himself) assaults him, and it leads to a fairly substantial brawl. I’d have phoned the police right then and there, but when the head of security has a gun and fires it at guests, I suppose all bets are off.


Now for the traditional “wow, I can’t believe they did that then” bit. Aside from a bit of mild anti-Japanese racism, the main offender is fat people jokes. I’ll admit, as a larger fellow myself, I have a bias, but it’s still really bad. The one woman at the entire resort who’s overweight pulls someone trying to help her out of the pool, in (and, of course, shows no shame in doing so); then at the end, in the middle of a firefight, she uses the lack of any other people at her table to eat all their food. Ah, the hilarity! I’ll give an assist to Depp’s suggestion of using Quaaludes to “loosen a woman’s inhibitions”, and not as, you may know it, a pretty famous date-rape drug.


Last-time director (he was much better known as an editor) George Bowers and long-time TV writer Gordon Mitchell lay the ridiculousness on thick and fast. You’ll find a maid trying to clean rooms in the middle of the night as not even the tenth least likely thing to happen in this movie; and, of course, there’s the classic of all men being irresistibly attracted to a man in fully-clothed drag (when the entire resort is full of hotties).


Depp and Morrow are apparently ashamed of this movie, in the same way that George Clooney is ashamed of “Return Of The Killer Tomatoes”. But that’s rubbish, I think! Depp ought to be more ashamed of just about everything he’s done in the last five years, and Morrow ought to be pleased he was top-billed in his debut. Okay, it’s not the greatest movie ever made, and it’s not even the greatest mid-80s beach resort  movie ever made, but it’s fun, relentless with the farce, nice and short and features almost complete nudity from both male stars to go along with the parade of boobs. All told, not a terrible effort.


Rating: thumbs up


The Lone Ranger (2013)


Directed by: Gore Verbinski

I’ve long been curious about ‘The Lone Ranger’ after it featured in Quentin Tarantino’s list of the Top 10 Films of 2013 and yesterday I finally got around to watching it. When I heard Tarantino’s endorsement, it seemed to go against the critical tide which dampened the film’s fire. Either Tarantino had lost touch with modern cinema, or he had a point that ‘The Lone Ranger’ was actually worth a watch. Jerry Bruckheimer believed that the film would be rediscovered as an underrated masterpiece. He described it as a “brave, wonderful film”.

I have vague memories of watching repeats of the black and white TV version of ‘The Lone Ranger’ but couldn’t remember much about it other than that ‘The Lone Ranger’ was a superhero version of the traditional western cowboy good guy. The Lone Ranger was Batman, and Tonto was his Robin. What I’m trying to say here is that the Lone Ranger was the lead. In Verbinski’s version Johnny Depp is given the starring role as Tonto with Armie Hammer his sidekick. It doesn’t really fit, and the duo form a double team which is equivalent to Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in the ‘Shanghai Noon’ / ‘Shanghai Nights’ films.

Critics rounded hard on the film after it’s release, and it performed poorly at the box office. Now the dust has settled well over a year later I can pick at the carcass of the movie like a vulture. There are several problems with ‘The Lone Ranger’, for one its running length comes in at a bloated two and a half hours. The film begins with a young boy dressed as the Lone Ranger who wanders through a Wild West exhibition at a local fair. He comes across a display of an elderly Native American who tells him the story of ‘The Lone Ranger’. Cutting out all of the scenes involving the kid and the elderly Tonto would’ve saved about twenty minutes. They are agonizingly, painstakingly dull, and though aiming for sentimentality it adds nothing to the story.

What works is the opening. John Reid, a lawyer is returning home by train. Also on board is Tonto and notorious cannibalistic outlaw Butch Cavendish who is returning to Texas to be executed. The train is set upon by Cavendish’s gang, who free Butch, and quickly escape the from the Texas Rangers led by John’s brother Dan. The Reid brothers pursue Cavendish’s gang into the canyons but they are ambushed, after watching his brother die John is left for dead. John is found by Tonto, and both are fuelled by a desire for vengeance and justice. At this point the film is tight; action packed and hooks you in.

That should be enough for the movie to succeed, but no, there is complications galore as too much is packed into the movie. Side plots involving Dan’s widow, who has always loved John, a General Custer lookalike who is slaughtering the ‘savages’ who have allegedly broken a peace treaty, and a power hungry Railroad Tycoon played by Tom Wilkinson. Too much happens in the middle of the film, and it sacrifices the need to build up Hammer’s character who is crudely underdeveloped. Hammer has proven he could be an able right hand man, his turn in ‘J.Edgar’ for example is superb, but I felt there needed to be a bit more emphasis on how the meek pacifist lawyer managed to develop a set of balls and take on all the bad guys.

Depp is Depp, you’ve seen Tonto’s mannerisms and movements in Captain Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka and The Mad Hatter. I suppose the problem is that traditionally Tonto is the sidekick; giving him top billing doesn’t particularly work. But Depp is the star so really you have to build the film around him. In an ideal world they’d have made a film called ‘Tonto’, which began with Tonto’s family getting killed by the rogue silver miners, and follows him on his quest for revenge, leading to his meeting with John Reid which culminates in establishing the main villain Butch Cavendish. Then you’d make a second film called ‘The Lone Ranger’ which would centre on the pursuit of Cavendish and if the franchise succeeded you’d go for film number three ‘The Adventures of The Lone Ranger and Tonto’.

‘The Lone Ranger’ isn’t terrible, and it isn’t an underrated misunderstood gem that will be adored in years to come. It’s ok, and that’s about it.


The Lone Ranger on IMDB

Nick of Time (1995)


Directed by: John Badham

‘Nick of Time’ killed John Badham’s career as a Hollywood director. It wasn’t his last film, that honour fell to a film that starred Jason Patric film about Art forgery called ‘Incognito’, released the same year as Patric’s leading man aspirations died with ‘Speed II: Cruise Control’ (somehow Patric conspired to display less on screen charisma than Keanu Reeves). Badham made some bad choices, but he surpassed many people’s expectations by directing a disco movie starring John Travolta, an early eighties movie about computer hacking, and a film about a police helicopter pilot who suffers from post-traumatic sense disorder. Most of those ideas sounded bad on paper, yet somehow they were critically well received and smashed it at the box office.

It seemed there was a preoccupation in the nineties with trying to move cinema forwards, by looking backwards. ‘Nick of Time’ takes place in real time, inspired by classics from the fifties such as ‘High Noon’ and ’12 Angry Men’. The difference in this film is that it opens with a farfetched kidnapping involving a driveling accountant and his young daughter and the action mostly takes place within a soulless gigantic hotel with a surprisingly limited amount of rouge carpeted conference rooms. Everything screams dull.

Johnny Depp plays the accountant Gene Watson, and he plays it dry. Depp works best as a charismatic lead, or when mimicking Hunter S. Thompson, playing an everyman figure doesn’t feel comfortable, and Depp’s uncomfortable performance reflects that. Watson and his daughter Lynn arrive in LA by train. Lynn looks out of the window and sees vagabonds duking it out trackside as their train pulls in. When they wander into the station an annoyance on skates buzzes around, this bozo tries to take Lynn’s teddy bear. Yes, all the petty crooks in LA want is cuddly toys.

This is witnessed by Mr Smith (Christopher Walken) and Ms. Jones (Liz from Nip/Tuck) who seem to be plotting some kind of abduction, surveying the train station for their target. They see Watson and his daughter as perfect for their master plan. They wander over to the father and daughter, flash a police badge and somehow manage to bundle them both into a van. Ms. Jones and Lynn sit in the back; Mr Smith and Watson sit in the front. Watson is told by Mr Smith that unless he kills somebody for him his daughter will be killed. Watson is given a gun, some bullets and a manila envelope containing a picture of the person he must kill. He’s then given a time limit and a venue where this person is to be found, which is the Bonaventure Hotel.

Watson’s target is Governor Grant, a friendly faced politician who happens to be holding her campaign speeches at the hotel. Trying to get help appears impossible for Watson, as Mr Smith tracks his every move, waiting in every corner, following him to the toilet. The man can’t even shit himself in peace. Watson discovers something is amiss, and realizes that shooting Grant is actually easy, because it seems everyone around the campaign wants her to die. It’s a conspiracy dagnabbit!

You could compare this film to ‘Phone Booth’ in that an average pen pusher gets thrown into a situation way beyond his capabilities. Despite there being appears more at stake here, in the sense that Watson is on a suicide mission and his daughter’s, and indeed the Governer’s life is on the line there appears a distinct lack of urgency and throughout the film the supposedly sinister Mr Smith, a man very much on a deadline, is extremely generous with his time.


Nick of Time on IMDB
Buy Nick Of Time [DVD] [1996]