(On Cable TV, April 2018) Gene Wilder was a fantastic comedian, and his presence elevated many of the otherwise unremarkable movies he starred in. Stir Crazy is, on many levels, a rather average film—two down-on-their-luck protagonists being jailed on some spurious charges and working their way out of there. But throw in Wilder and Richard Prior in the lead roles and the film becomes much better than it feels on paper. Never mind the plot and how it ends up with prisoners entering a mechanical bull riding competition (!) when there’s Wilder’s character going in solitary confinement and emerging as serene as a man having come in touch with himself can be. Those moments, far more than the forgettable plot, are what sticks in mind after watching Stir Crazy. There is some similarity in tone here with the original The Longest Yard—kind of an underdogs-and-outlaws-are-cool outlook to unify otherwise very different films. Otherwise, there really isn’t much here to stick in mind, as pleasant as the film can be.
(Third viewing, On Cable TV, June 2017) Aw, yes, Superman III. I know what the reviewers say, and yet you will never be able to convince me that it’s a movie that I should not enjoy. Keep in mind that I didn’t have cable TV when I was a kid … but one of my aunts did, and I was amazed, while visiting back in 1984, to see Superman III show up on a TV screen years before it would be broadcast on network channels. Also keep in mind that Superman III spends a lot of time talking about computers, something that fascinated me then and still interests me now. Never mind that it’s a comedy with seriously dumb ideas about technology: it’s still a lovely time capsule about how people saw computing as magic back then. Then there are the sequences: Superman turning evil and going full-shmuck! Superman fighting himself in a junk yard, wow! Superman going against a supercomputer with a vat of acid! Nine-year-old me was amazed back then, and forty-one-year old me is still charmed right now by the whole thing. I’ll acknowledge that the film is deeply flawed. Putting Richard Prior in the movie is good for an atypical hacker character, but the various attempts to force comedy out of the film (the ski jump scene and the videogame being the worst) often seem jarringly out of place. The Superman-versus-Superman stuff is still quite good, though, the return-to-Smallville subplot works well, and I enjoyed the funhouse depiction of magical computers far more than I thought. While Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor is sorely missed, I did not mind at all Lois Lane’s amusing cameo—and rather liked Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang. Christopher Reeves, as usual, is near-perfect as both Clark Kent and Superman. Heck, I even liked the opening slapstick credit sequence. In other words, you may argue forever that Superman III is a bad movie and I won’t dispute the point much. But it’s a bad movie that I like a lot, and there’s no disputing that either.