Movie Review – The Slugger's Wife

The Slugger’s Wife (1985)
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Hal Ashby

I truly despise this movie. It makes it hard not to dislike Hal Ashby entirely because it is so against everything he made at his peak in the 1980s. The characters are vapid and unlikeable. The story is terrible. I am still trying to make sense of how we ended up here. It’s honestly even more flabbergasting than anything we’ve seen before from Ashby. It is at complete odds with the moral sense the director brought to his early films and is absolute dreck.

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Movie Review – Lookin' to Get Out

Lookin’ To Get Out (1982)
Written by Jon Voight
Directed by Hal Ashby

For some reason, in the 1980s, Hal Ashby made three crime films and a pilot for a failed crime series. I have no idea why he was given this material or why he would be attracted to it. Throughout his 1970s work Ashby reflected a deeply anti-authoritarian theme, particularly toward law enforcement. That’s not to say these movies a pro-police, they traffic in annoying criminal cliches and don’t necessarily give their roguish protagonists anything interesting or unique to do.

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Movie Review – Neighbors

Neighbors (1981)
Written by Larry Gelbart
Directed by John G. Avildsen

Animal House and The Blues Brothers are probably the only films John Belushi was in that a large number of people agree were good pictures. Neighbors is a movie that held a consensus as a complete disaster. This was the final film Belushi would star in, dying from a drug overdose, a combination of heroin and cocaine. When you look at the final product and Belushi in it, there’s a lot to like, but so many elements fail hard. Part of the film’s inability to find success in the box office lies in the fact that it’s an art-house picture, not a mainstream comedy. But when your two big names are Belushi and Dan Akroyd, and it’s 1981, you are going to try and sell this as a comedy for the crowds.

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Movie Review – Second-Hand Hearts

Second-Hand Hearts (1981)
Written by Charles Eastman
Directed by Hal Ashby

Second-Hand Hearts represents what might be the most baffling decline in a director’s output that I have ever seen. The blame for this disaster of the film is spread out based on online conjecture, ranging from Ashby’s developing cocaine habit to studio interference in the final project to the two lead actors refusing to take any direction. Second-Hand Hearts is a second attempt to capture the quirky love story of Harold & Maude that fails spectacularly and embarrassingly. In fact, the film was so bad it disappeared from circulation, never receiving a home video release and only becoming available in 2013 as produce on-demand DVD from Warner Brothers’ archive program.

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Movie Review – The Million Dollar Duck

The Million Dollar Duck (1971)
Written by Ted Key & Roswell Rogers
Directed by Vincent McEveety

This was the first film that critic Gene Siskel walked out on. He would only do that with two subsequent movies (1980’s Maniac and 1996’s Black Sheep). The story is a stock Disney script for the time, one of the gimmick comedies, not rising much above a Disney Channel original movie. The production quality is at the television level as well. By the midway mark of the film, I was checking out, despite trying to stay engaged from the outset. There are only so many gags you can do with this plot before it wears out its welcome.

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Movie Review – Greener Grass

Greener Grass (2019)
Written and Directed by Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe

In the 21st century, there has been an influx of a new kind of anti-comedy with the work of comedians like Tim & Eric being one of many beginning touchpoints. This is humor that blends social satire and grotesque imagery, not intending to demean some other figure but often as a way for the artist to examine their own anxieties and insecurities. Much like how David Lynch explores his fears of parenthood in Eraserhead, so too do these films and television programs feature creators wanting to jump headfirst into neuroses. Greener Grass is two women’s look at a particular type of femininity and way of life that they have intense fears about.

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Movie Review – Shampoo

Shampoo (1975)
Written by Robert Towne & Warren Beatty
Directed by Hal Ashby

By the time February 1975 rolled around, Nixon had been a former president for six months. The aftermath of the Watergate scandal was the death of much of the optimism of the 1960s, a nation splintered and mistrustful of people in power. The United States was driven to a Constitutional crisis with the Supreme Court being defied by then-President Nixon. Some people wanted to move on, get to the next thing, and forget about the wounds. Others wanted to perform an autopsy of the past decade, trying to figure out how we went from the hippie movement of the late 1960s to a ravaged industrial hellscape of the mid-1970s.

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