Tag Archives: Danny DeVito

The Set of 400: #282 – My Favorite Grapevine

Today! Because you have violated my farging rights –

Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Directed by Amy Heckerling

Starring Michael Keaton (x2), Marilu Henner, Joe Piscopo, Danny DeVito (x3), Maureen Stapleton, Griffin Dunne, Peter Boyle (x2), Ron Carey, Ray Walston (x2), Dick Butkis, Dom DeLuise (x2), Richard Dimitri, Glynnis O’Connor, Alan Hale Jr., Carl Gottlieb (x2), Bob Eubanks, Jack Nance, Chuck Hicks, James Coco, Joe Flaherty (x3), Vincent Schiavelli (x2)

This zany gangster movie parody from the mid-’80s was another heavy rotation film in my house growing up, again for reasons I simply can’t explain. Before I knew him as Beetlejuice or Batman, Michael Keaton was Johnny Kelly, brother of D.A. Tommy Kelly, who morphs into good-natured mob figure Johnny Dangerously, the man whose last name is an adverb. And while the movie may not totally hold up as the years wear on, it still has a ton of great one-liners, and a load of terrifically funny performances, no matter your opinion of Joe Piscopo.

From equally good-natured mob boss Jocko Dundee (Peter Boyle) to psychotic mob hitman Danny Vermin (Piscopo!) to The Pope (Dom DeLuise), yes, the movie is a bit all over the place. Essentially a Mel Brooks style parody of the ’30s mobster/cop brothers film Manhattan Melodrama, Dangerously throws a ton of gags at you, with varying success, but with this many pro comedians on hand, more land than they probably have any business of doing. And yet, amidst all the Marilu Henners (as the lounge singer moll Lil) and Maureen Stapletons (as the Kelly brothers long suffering Ma), the movie is probably best remembered (if it’s remembered?) for the extreme Italian gangster stereotype character of Roman Moronie (played by Richard Dimitri), who hilariously mangles English curse words into “you fargin’ icehole” and “som-a-nom-batches,” and later gets deported to Sweden, despite not being from there.

“Say your prayers, icehole”

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The Set of 400: #310 – My Favorite Weaponized Slim Whitman Tune

Today! Because if the Martians land, they’re going to need a place to stay, just like everybody else –

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Directed by Tim Burton

Starring Jack Nicholson (x2), Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito (x2), Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox (x2), Martin Short, Rod Steiger, Lukas Haas, Tom Jones, Jim Brown, Natalie Portman (x3), Lisa Marie, Sylvia Sidney, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Jack Black (x3), Joe Don Baker (x2), Ray J, Christina Applegate, Barbet Schroeder (x2), Willie Garson (x2), Rance Howard (x3), O-Lan Jones, Brian Haley

I know some people were really turned off by Tim Burton’s trading card adaptation global invasion sci-fi comedy, but I really dug it in that epic winter of 1996. Ah, ’96! This is already the sixth movie from that landmark, okay-ish year for films! Coming a few months after Independence Day, I guess everyone really wanted a wild action comedy of international destruction, but Tim Burton is not that director. He can give you quirky odd-ballery, but as for fight scenes or action sequences, well, look at that track record. His Batman movies are far more mood and atmosphere than slam-bang thrills. Sleepy Hollow – better, I guess, what with Ray Park as the Headless Horseman, but the staging didn’t vastly improve. Planet of the Apes – come on. So really, anyone wanting more out of Mars Attacks! was probably kidding themselves a bit too much.

What you get is a pretty fun, funny, throwback spoof of cheesy alien flicks, which quickly devolves into a cheesy alien flick itself, blurring that parody line until it basically disappears. I was really amped for this film come my senior year of high school – figure, you’ve got Nicholson playing wacky duel roles, in a roundabout nod to Dr. Strangelove’s end-of-the-world grapplings, as the president and a huckster casino owner, plus it reunited him with his Batman director, never mind the all-star cast reminiscent of ’70s disaster films, including a James Bond, a Teen Wolf, Foxy Brown, Ed Grimley, and the Penguin.

Never mind Carrie Bradshaw’s terrific work as this dog

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The Set of 400: #375 – My Favorite Romance Novelist Heroine

Today! Because I have been through every one-horse shithole for a 200 mile radius –

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Starring Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas (x2), Danny DeVito, Holland Taylor, Zack Norman, Mary Ellen Trainor, Manuel Ojeda, Alfonso Arau

Two months before the release of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Fox made a sexy, whimsical attempt to eat Paramount’s lunch with this modern day jungle adventure. Set very much in the vein of the action archaeologist, Douglas’ Jack helps Turner’s romance novelist Joan track down her kidnapped sister in South America, and in the course of it they find treasure, get shot at a bunch, get kinky, get high, and repeatedly get the better of an in-pursuit, opportunist Danny DeVito. It’s a rip roaring yarn that I probably should not have been allowed to watch as often as I did as a child. But like the rest of America, we couldn’t wait for new Indiana Jones adventures, so this had to fit the bill! And it did!

The cast is so solid together that they’d reunite for the direct sequel Jewel of the Nile (also pretty good) and spiritual sequel War of the Roses (come to think of it, also good). And with this, his third film, a great run of Robert Zemeckis movies kicked off, as for the next fifteen years he’d win Oscars and direct gigantic box office hits every two or three years. Hell, even with his uneven sojourn into strictly motion-capture animation in the ’00s, he didn’t really have a disappointing film at the box office until The Walk in 2015. Nice track record! You’re welcome for me not looking too close at Death Becomes Her‘s numbers, or mentioning Allied at all! Continue reading

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