Running Scared


Street Date 12/12/23;
Kino Lorber;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R.’

Stars Billy Crystal, Gregory Hines, Steven Bauer, Darlanne Fluegel, Joe Pantoliano, Dan Hedaya, Jimmy Smits, Jon Gries, Tracy Reed, Larry Hankin, Don Calfa, John DiSanti.

Long before cellular technology became a boulder in the shoes of moviegoers everywhere, many a sweet moment in the dark was splintered by a running commentary track courtesy of two jabbering schmucks seated three rows behind. Disgusting as the thought may be, on rare occasions, audience participation can be more entertaining than the dialog you paid to hear. Such was the case the night in 1986 Running Scared premiered at Chicago’s Plaza Theatre, the type of cinder block triplex one may expect to find waiting for them on their arrival in hell. “That ain’t snow,” came a voice over-by-dere in the back row. “That’s f@#kin’ soap suds!” “Looks more like Ivory snow,” heckled another dissatisfied customer. This was before CGI ruled the world, when special effects technicians were forced to think outside the laptop box. Alas, you can fool some of the Chicagoans all of the time, and all of the Chicagoans some of the time, but you can not fool any Chicagoan any time as far as blizzards are concerned. The snow lathered and laughter grew, in some cases drowning out the dialogue.

At any moment one half expected the film’s stars, Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, to do a slippery-footed faceplant. It would have been more satisfying than anything screenwriters Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston whipped together. The evening proved to be a perverse celebration of everything that’s wrong with going to the movies, an anomalous moment in time when the moviegoing experience proved to be more substantial than the picture itself. It also acted as a reminder of just how long movie comedy had been on a coarsening downslide. As much as I worship at the altar of Blazing Saddles, rather than inspiring a generation of filmmakers to sharpen their satirical skills, it led to the unleashing of more farts than a silo full of Lipton California chip-dip. Running Scared sprinted in the direction of another cop/buddy picture, 48 Hrs., before changing course and limping toward the box office comfort of budget-burning demolition derby comedy.

This wasn’t Billy Crystal’s founding feature. That defining moment came in 1977 with the release of Rabbit Test, Joan Rivers’ one and only spin in the director’s chair. (The reason a sophomore outing wasn’t in the cards became blindingly clear long before the first cue mark.) Crystal starred as television’s first openly gay character on “Soap,” so playing the world’s first pregnant man in River’s big screen sitcom felt like a cute switch at the time. According to IMDb, Running Scared was written with Gene Hackman and Paul Newman in mind before director Peter Hyams made the decision to go with a younger, less familiar, more cost-efficient duo. With meaty roles in Deal of the Century and The Cotton Club to his credit, Hines was the more box office friendly of the two. Rather than sweat an original story, DeVore and Huston reheated the old chestnut about two career cops who put off their retirement just long enough to crack one more case.

Much of the film’s humor wasn’t on the page, with the screenwriter’s banking on the chemistry of the two leads to keep things afloat. Crystal cut his teeth on improvisational television and it shows in every frame. The star’s “set up/punchline” exchanges sound anything but relaxed and conversant. When it comes to tapping into character logic, Hyams’ direction is as genuine as the soap bubble snow. While mixing it up a basketball court with a gang of neighborhood thugs, our heroes spot the bad guy (Jimmy Smits) and his No. 1 gunsel (Joe Pantoliano) parking a brand new Mercedes in the seemingly unsafe neighborhood. What kind of a cop, let alone an actor playing one, would risk drawing attention to themselves by pointing fingers and staring in the direction of the town’s drug kingpin? The scene ends with Crystal in Joey Pants’ apartment informing the dribbling thugs below of a suitcase in their possession containing $50,000. They walk Pantoliano down a flight of stairs to find the angry horde waiting at the bottom. The two detectives smile and light up a couple of cigars, but how do they get past the thugs? They pray that Hyams has the good sense to call “cut” and move on to the next scene, no explanation necessary.

Special features include an audio commentary by Peter Hyams, a Making-of featurette, outtakes, and the original trailer.


Monsters at Work


Not rated.
Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Ben Feldman, Mindy Kaling, Henry Winkler, Lucas Neff, Alanna Ubach, Bonnie Hunt, Curtis Armstrong, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson, Stephen Stanton, John Ratzenberger.

The “Monsters at Work” animated series streaming on Disney+ is a delightful continuation of the franchise that started with Pixar’s 2001 film Monsters, Inc.

The film focused on a world of monsters and a power plant that harnessed the screams of children to power the city. Two of the monsters, Mike and Sulley (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) eventually learn that the laughter of children is 10 times more powerful than screams.

“Monsters at Work” serves as a sequel to the film, showing how the power plant transitioned from scream power to laugh power. It also cleverly weaves together bits of world-building not only from the original film, but also its 2013 prequel, Monsters University, which focused on Mike and Sulley’s time in college.

While the show does continue the adventures of Mike and Sulley, the focus is primarily on a different department of the power plant, the Monsters Incorporated Facilities Team (MIFT), which is tasked with the maintenance of the equipment used to collect the power.

The main character is Tyler Tuskmon (voiced by Ben Feldman), who just graduated from Monsters U. and was recruited to join the Monsters, Inc. scare team just before the events of the first film. On his first day he learns of the transition to laugh power, but being a scarer and not very funny, he is assigned to the MIFT team.

Meanwhile, Mike takes charge of recruiting a new team of “jokesters” to replace the scarers who are now obsolete, and begins teaching comedy classes, which Tyler attends as he yearns to move out of the MIFT basement.

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The 10-episode first season details Tyler’s adventures with his fellow MIFT employees, which occasionally intersect with Mike and Sulley’s attempts to keep the plant afloat using laugh power. The show actually takes place during the epilogue of the first film, so it could be considered a bit of a sidequel as well.

Episodes two through nine also include a brief “Mike’s Comedy Class” vignette that gives the show a chance for more gags.

The series ties in well with established “Monsters” lore while making its own worthwhile contributions to the canon, which should entertain kids and make any fan of the franchise happy.

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‘Here Today’ Headed to Digital July 20, Disc Aug. 3 From Sony

The comedic drama Here Today, starring Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish, will head to digital July 20, and to DVD and Blu-ray Disc Aug. 3, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In the film, when veteran comedy writer Charlie Burnz (Crystal) meets New York singer Emma Payge (Haddish), they form an unlikely yet hilarious and touching friendship that kicks the generation gap aside and redefines the meaning of love and trust.

Inspired by the short story “The Prize” by Alan Zweibel, Here Today is directed by Crystal and also stars Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti, Louisa Krause, Anna Deavere Smith and Nyambi Nyambi.

Special features include audio commentary with Crystal, Haddish and writer Alan Zweibel and interviews with filmmakers and cast.

Shout! Factory Sets Home Release Dates for ‘Standing Up, Falling Down’

Shout! Factory has set a March 31 home release date for Standing Up, Falling Down, a comedy film directed by Matt Ratner and written by Peter Hoare.

Starring Billy Crystal, Ben Schwartz, and Eloise Mumford, the film premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and will be available to home audiences on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and digital on demand.

After years of chasing his stand-up comedy dream in Los Angeles, 34-year-old Scott (Schwartz) crashes and burns. Left with little money and a failed career, he has no choice but to regroup and return to his parent’s house in Long Island. Trying to figure out what to do next, he pines after his ex (Mumford), a successful photographer who had since married a former mutual friend. During a night out at the bar, he meets an eccentric dermatologist (Crystal) who, having regrets of his own, helps Scott find the courage to face his failures.

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Bonus features include the theatrical trailer, audio commentary with director Ratner and stars  Crystal and Schwartz, and a three-part look at the making of Standing Up, Falling Down.

Shout! Factory Celebrating 30th Anniversary of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ With Special-Edition Blu-ray Jan. 8

Shout! Factory will release a 30th anniversary collector’s edition of the iconic romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally on Blu-ray Jan. 8.

The release features a new transfer restored from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, and includes a new bonus interview with director Rob Reiner and star Billy Crystal.

The Blu-ray is being released through the Shout Select imprint, which focuses on special editions of classic and cult-favorite films.

The film stars Crystal and Meg Ryan as buddies who deal with the question of whether sex will ruin a perfect friendship between a man and a woman. The cast also includes Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby.

The When Harry Met Sally: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray also includes legacy bonus content from earlier Blu-rays such as a Reiner audio commentary; a commentary with Reiner, Crystal and screenwriter Nora Ephron; the “How Harry Met Sally” Documentary; deleted scenes; a Harry Connick Jr. music video; the theatrical trailer; and additional vintage featurettes.