Kino Lorber highlights the weirder side of showbiz with ‘MAN ON THE MOON’, the forgotten ’80s prank war ‘FX’

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James Cole Clay // Film Critic

MAN ON THE MOON

Rated R, 118 minutes
Directed by: Milos Forman
Starring: Jim Carrey, Danny Devito, Paul Giamatti, Courtney Love

Milos Forman’s MAN ON THE MOON is the height of Jim Carrey’s work as a dramatic performer. He is honing his physical skills into a version of himself that, in my estimation, isn’t paralleled with anything else he’d do in his career. Taking on the role of Andy Kaufman for Carrey was an all-encompassing task that, much like Kaufman, fractured relationships and caused his mental health to dive. This is all chronicled in the Netflix documentary JIM AND ANDY; it’s a rare look and worth your time. 

With MAN ON THE MOON, Forman, Carrey, and brilliant screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski created a film that puts the audience inside the mind of Kaufman while performing. Kaufman’s unhinged humor was more performance art than stand-up comedy, and he truly revolutionized the medium while Carrey was trying to do the same for his career. 

The film is mainly successful staging the set of Kaufman’s hit sitcom TAXI, recreating his wrestling matches with Jerry Lawler and understanding the man’s problematic behaviors. 

MAN ON THE MOON isn’t perfect, and the final act gets a bit too hokum, yet Forman and the creative team have so much affection for Kaufman it damn near punctures the screen. 

Special features: Coming with a commentary by the film’s screenwriters Alexander & Karaszewski moderated by film historian Howard S. Berger provides true insight into the creative process and historical context. This disc is attempting to —and successfully, I may add— put Andy Kaufman into a modern context for audiences. There would be no JACKASS, BILLY ON THE STREET, or I THINK YOU SHOULD LEAVE without Kaufman. The guy was a revolutionary presence, and this film’s special features section nails it beautifully. 

Grade: A-

FX/FX2 Double Feature

Rated R, 108 minutes
Directed by: Robert Mandell
Starring: Bryan Brown, Bryan Dennehy

FX is weird; it premiered in 1986 at the top of the American box office with a Hollywood attempting to make another movie star out of a rugged Australian in Bryan Brown(ALONG CAME POLLY) after Paul Hogan became a worldwide hit following CROCODILE DUNDEE. It’s all the wrong lessons Hollywood learns from a gigantic hit but got to give FX credit for its ludicrous premise and commitment to its high concept. 

Brown was starring alongside Brian Dennehy (TOMMY BOY) as a special effects artist for the movie business who’s hired to stage an assassination using his tricks of the trade. But, of course, the hit goes wrong, and Brown is on the run from a gaggle of gangsters led by Lumiere the Candle himself, Jerry Orbach. The film directed by Robert Mandell amounts to essentially being about a man booby-trapping set-pieces to play pranks on the mafia. 

The returns are diminishing, but 36 years ago, this concept wasn’t such a bad idea, with practical effects being at their peak within the industry. The casting of Bryan Brown…not as defensible. 

FX2: Not Screened

Special Features: The features are a bit light, but lest we forget the importance of preserving these films in blu ray amber. While most modern film fans hardly know the FX franchise, Kino’s curation molds a special place for making movies that the American public knew for a fortnight and showcasing them in a new package, with snappy artwork while offering the proper context for the film itself. 

The discs include an on-camera interview with Robert Mandell and standard behind-the-scenes features. It’s pretty unremarkable, but there’s never been any other film with the alchemy of FX. 

Grade: B-

REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS

Rated PG-13, 118 minutes
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Fred Ward, Wilford Brimley, Joel Grey

Speaking of being preserved in amber, 1985’s REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS one of the hilarious appearances by Wilford Brimley in a mid-budget action film of the era. The man stone-faced with a soup strainer mustache for the ages looks like he’s been 60 years old for the better part of the 20th century. His effortless commitment to sitting at a desk and griping at the film’s star Fred Ward (TREMORS) off and on for 120 minutes is transcendent. 

The film itself is just okay, if not morally reprehensible, having Joel Grey (CABARET), a caucasian actor, being put in Asian makeup as Remo Williams’s strange sensei. The film directed by Guy Hamilton (GOLDFINGER) has some elements going for it. The politics of the picture are unhinged, and a few of the action set pieces involving climbing the scaffolding around the Statue of Liberty is genuinely compelling. The issue with REMO WILLIAMS as a film and as a character is it didn’t have the juice to compare to its contemporaries. 

Cannon films were killing it (quite literally) on the low-budget side of things, while Stallone and Schwarzenegger were crushing it at the box office. REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS overly long and just can’t compare with other films of the era. The only thing genuinely going for it is originality, and it can’t even accomplish that well. 

Special features: Apparently, everyone creatively involved with REMO WILLIAMS was available to talk about this film. The features are stacked and encompass the parts of the film that work quite well, namely the score and the training style employed within the film. Taking a deeper look at the film in the feature CREATED, THE DESTROYER gives more backstory to the character known from the book series Destroyer.

Other highlights include Secrets of Sinanju: Training Remo Williams and Assassin’s Tune: Composing Remo Williams, which has a memorable score. 

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.