My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)



Directed by: Bob Balaban

The only reason I watched ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ because I thought about doing a bit on the early work of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman, credited in this movie minus the ‘Seymour’, plays a jock stooge. He gets a handful of lines and ends up receiving a fireman’s axe through his head. There aren’t many glimpses of the greatness to come; in fact, his performance is part of a film that I would describe as a mediocre disappointment.

‘My Boyfriend’s Back’, likely named after the popular sixties song from The Angels, is not appropriately titled because technically speaking, Missy McCloud, the love interest in this movie, is not actually in a relationship with the film’s undead hero Johnny when he is alive. So really the title really makes no sense.

Knowingly bad, ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ doesn’t take itself seriously; it’s almost like one of those campy Elvira films, minus the sassy innuendos. The film’s story goes something like this – Johnny is a senior in High School, he’s been pining over Missy McCloud for twelve years and one day dreams of getting with her, his main ambition is to take her to the prom. Blocking his path is Buck, Missy’s ex-boyfriend, played by ‘Lost’ star Matthew Fox. The second obstacle comes when Johnny and his friend decide to win over Missy by setting up a situation where Johnny stops a fake robbery at the convenience store where Missy works, proving himself to be a hero, who is willing to put his life on the line for her. Unfortunately for Johnny a real criminal decides to hold up the convenience store. Johnny takes a bullet during the robbery that was intended for Missy.

Johnny dies and comes back as a zombie. In most films there’d be this whole adjustment period where Johnny takes a while to come to terms with his undead state, but nobody really bats an eyelid, and life pretty much goes back to normal for him. The only familiar zombie trope is that he is susceptible to losing body parts. There are a few funny lines around these scenes, including one from Johnny’s Mom, who says “Are you hungry? There’s a lot of food leftover from your funeral”.

The films turns into a sweetish love story, as Missy, seemingly turned on by dead men falls head over heels for Johnny. The film meanders quite a bit from here, and becomes rather boring, ending with a predictable happy ever after finale.

‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ knows it’s not the greatest movie in the world, but it is a fun little afternoon time killer that doesn’t enrage the viewer. Andrew Lowery, who plays the lead Johnny, acted in a trilogy of teen movies in the early nineties. As well as this movie he also had roles in ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘School Ties’, he didn’t go on to much after that, which is a shame because he’s a charming presence. The trouble is the supporting cast are patchy, and underwritten. Buck the jock is not a constant thorn in Johnny’s side, the best friend character exists on the periphery and all the best lines come from Johnny’s unconditionally loving parents.

– RJW
4/10

My Boyfriend’s Back on IMDB

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Congo (1995)

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A trip to the cinema as a child in the late ‘80s/early 90’s was, fortunately, a frequent event for me; I remember stocking up on sweets from the corner shop and hiding them in my jacket to evade the ridiculous cinema prices, queuing at the ticket booth which always took forever and that excited walk to the screen where whatever cinematic marvel was waiting to thrill and engage me. When you’re young, everything is brilliant; every film I saw was the best thing ever and I had an insatiable thirst for more. Then, in the summer of 1995, along came Congo which made me realise that films could be disappointing.

It had to happen sometime but how could a jungle romp about evil gorillas be the film to kick-start a young boy’s critical bent? The ingredients for success are there; experienced big-game hunters, greedy baddies and…errr…a talking ape. We can start here I guess, yes Congo has a talking monkey, not talking with its vocal chords mind but by being equipped with a tech glove that synthesises a voice for her. Thus we are then treated to such fantastic dialogue as “Amy good gorilla” and “bad gorillas, go away”. The film focusses muchly on the relationship between her and her owner/tutor/guardian & all round good egg, Dr. Elliott (Dylan Walsh) and sags heavily because of this.

The second of the two major storylines revolves around Laura Linney, a good-at-heart scientist working for an incredibly shady organisation, being sent to the Congo to find Bruce Campbell and recover a precious gem that powers a laser gun. I know this all sounds like lots of fun and I also know I had you at ‘Bruce Campbell’ (I had me at ‘Bruce Campbell’) but, cult heroes aside, this is more tedious than dull. Why a conscientious type like Linney would be working for a company whose boss holds profit dearer than his own son doesn’t really make sense, especially considering they are at loggerheads about the direction of their work at least twice in the opening 10 minutes alone. Surely he would’ve fired her or at least not let her get into any position of rank.

Anyway, thinking about those minor details is as boring as the film so let’s have a look at the cast. Congo was put into production hot on the heels of Jurassic Park (1993) to cash in on Michael Crichton’s name whose book this was also based and, like JP, Congo has an interesting ensemble but, unlike JP, it’s entirely wasted. I’ve already mentioned Walsh and Linney in their leading roles so the remaining principal cast is headed by the premier silver screen smoker Ernie Hudson, sporting a sloppy English accent which disappears whenever he physically moves, Tim Curry being Tim Curry, Grant Heslov who is nothing more than an annoyance, John Hawkes in his breakthrough role as ‘Bob’, the guy who screams then dies, Joe Pantoliano as their airport pick-up and Delroy Lindo who seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself as a corrupt African official. Well, enjoying himself enough to ask not to be credited and who can blame him?

There is a bit of peril here and there along their journey; African guerrillas shoot at their plane, they get attacked by a hippo while crossing a river (it looks as bad as it sounds), Tim Curry does his customary eastern European accent then they arrive at their destination, the lost city of Zinj. It turns out King Solomon hid all his diamonds in Zinj (which is in a volcano) and bred evil gorillas to protect his bounty from looters and Tim Curry, this they at least succeed in as their final hurrah is bashing his head in. I had long stopped caring by this point but, for completion purposes, Linney and Ernie Hudson find a dead body prop which is dressed in Bruce Campbell’s clothes from earlier and luckily it has the precious stone gripped in its hand and, even luckier, the laser gun is right there too.

While Linney is faffing about trying to work the laser gun, Ernie Hudson is running low on ammo and Walsh falls into the gorilla pit, cue Amy to come to his rescue by talking with her special glove and basically weirding out the other gorillas. Oddly enough the volcano then erupts and the monkeys fall into a sea of lava while the humans leg it and outrun the eruption which suspiciously hasn’t covered any distance outside Zinj even though it erupted, ash cloud and all. Linney then shoots the laser gun at her company’s satellite knowing full well her boss’s values so would presumably have to go into hiding for the rest of her life.

A large quarrel that fans of Jurassic Park had was that the gorillas were people in rubbish suits, they look cute and fluffy apart from their twisted faces and they’re quite small. As for Amy, urgh, just urgh. Apparently CGI at this point was fine for scales and lizards but hair would’ve looked cartoonish so instead of cartoon monkeys we get ugly care bears. The action scenes are atrocious too, it’s all awkward slow-mo and close-ups, during this there’s a shot that looks as if a gorilla is rubbing Ernie Hudson’s face.

Director Frank Marshall was better serving up B-movie fare like Arachnophobia (1990) and Alive (1993) as the action-adventure genre proved to be too big an ask and promptly buried his directing career. In the right hands Congo could’ve been a resurrection of the jungle adventure film but, like its other heavily flora backdropped contemporary, The Phantom (1996), it veered off the beaten track and plummeted to its death from the rickety rope bridge of critical failure.

– Greg Foster

Congo on IMDB
Buy Congo – Dvd [1995]

Coldblooded (1995)

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Our mini-mid-90s thon ends with this, one of those oddball, self-consciously cool comedy thrillers which major studios seemed to be falling over themselves to make at the time, thanks to “Pulp Fiction”, “Clerks”, “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead” and the Weinsteins bringing the best of indie cinema to the mainstream. If you lived through the era, chances are you’ll have seen a ton of those films, with their wisecracking murderers, pop culture referencing dialogue and “cool” little quirks, but I lived through that era and had never heard of this one. So, what’s it like?

Jason Priestley, at the height of his “Beverly Hills 90210” TV stardom, is Cosmo, a mob bookie whose life is sitting by a phone to take bets, going home to his room in the basement of an old people’s home (told you it was quirky) and sleeping with Honey (Janeane Garofalo), a hooker with a heart. Well, not really a heart. “Affectless” is the best way to describe him, as he seems curiously un-human. He comes across as a bit…simple?…at times, but it’s more to do with his almost complete withdrawal from the world.

For some reason, his main boss, played by Robert Loggia in a role he’s probably done a thousand times before, promotes him to trainee hitman. Cosmo doesn’t seem thrilled by this, but his affectless personality means he puts up barely any resistance, and his mentor Steve (Peter Riegert) recognises a talent in the making – he’s a great shot and after a very small amount of worry over his first killing, adapts perfectly to the lifestyle and begins, sort of, to enjoy it.

Interspersed with his trips to yoga (which must be miracle work, given how much it helps him with his killing anxiety) and his budding romance with his instructor, played by Kimberley Williams-Paisley, he’s out and about killing people for his mob boss, and the “main” plot of the film rumbles along. Anyone who’s seen one of these films before knows there’s going to be double-crosses, unusual job requests and betrayals.

The director of this film is Wallace Wolodarsky, better known to most as one of the original producers and writers for The Simpsons. He’s worked on and off since then, including scripts for “The Rocker” and “Monsters vs. Aliens”, but aside from this and whoops-we-need-to-dress-as-women-to-go-to-college movie “Sorority Boys”, he’s not directed much, and nothing at all in the last decade. Which is a shame, because this film is, while not necessarily amazing, certainly the film of a director with something interesting to say.

I think there’s a good reason this film has remained under the radar, though. Priestley’s performance is very odd – he varies from a blank slate to educationally subnormal to some sort of autism to lovesick…I can sort of see what he’s going for, but I don’t think he nails it. It’s certainly an interesting choice for director and actor, but I can’t help but feel a few tweaks would have worked wonders. Garofalo, who looks set to have some sort of pivotal role, just departs halfway through, as if edited out. But Peter Riegert, as the grizzled veteran, is note-perfect, as is Loggia (but that’s no surprise).

There’s lots of lovely but unobtrusive camerawork in this, and the flat boring expanse of Anytown, USA is well captured, as are the curiously empty homes of Cosmo and Steve. Care has been taken making this film, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s much of anything. Cosmo’s arc is really shallow and there’s a feeling of unreality over all the proceedings that takes you too far out of it, like you expect everyone to wink to the camera after they’ve been murdered. I can’t help but feel I’m doing a poor job of explaining to you why this film is a fascinating failure, but it’s like somewhere down deep in the workings of the film, a little cog doesn’t quite fit, making everything else skewed.

I’d definitely recommend it though. It deserves talking of in the same conversation as those other 90s films, and while it’s not perfect, neither were they (for self-consciously trying to start its own cult, it’s several steps below “Things To Do In Denver…”, for example).

I couldn't find any screengrabs, so have this GIS for "cold blooded"

I couldn’t find any screengrabs, so have this GIS for “cold blooded”