Friday, August 30, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 40
Career Opportunities (1991, dir. Bryan Gordon) Full disclosure: this is not a good movie. But it's badness fascinates me. This is a late-career effort from writer John Hughes (he did not direct), and at its best it rings of leftover scenes from his classic '80s teenager movies. At its worst, it's Home Alone in a Target store. Believe it or not, this movie was marketed as a spinoff to Home Alone in Germany. The title there was not Career Opportunities, it was Kevin's Cousin Alone in the Supermarket. I'm not kidding. The movie stars Frank Whaley in a movie-star experiment he very much does not pass but most of the problem is the character he is playing has to be one of the least sympathetic leads every put in a comedy. Career Opportunities is probably best known for being that Jennifer Connelly movie where she rides a mechanical horse in a white tank top. Seriously, grow up fellas (the scene is at 68 minutes in). She's a person with feelings (she also roller skates 58 minutes in...it's pretty cool).
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, dir. John Ford) Thanks to Jason who read my column about John Wayne and asked me if I'd seen this one. It caused me to bump it up in my Netflix queue and give it priority and I'm REALLY glad I did. John Ford directs Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, a pre-Spaghetti Lee Van Cleef, Lee Marvin and Denver Pyle (from the Dukes of Hazzard TV show) in a great little western that somehow manages to successfully balance action, drama and comedy. It's smartly filmed in black and white, which was a very deliberate choice for this director in 1962. One gets the impression that the idea was to keep the focus on the story, not on the landscape of the west. There's a lot to like here, particularly some fantastic performances from all involved, including the great character actors in the supporting roles. The comedy is wry and seems to come from little glances that you miss if you blink, rather than broad situations or jokes. Plus, there are lots of cowboys smoking pipes, so you know I'm in. The plot is a little predictable for a modern audience, but that shouldn't take anything away from this fantastically written and directed movie. I'm really glad to have seen it and I fully plan to seek it out for my own collection.
Blame It On Rio (1984, dir. Stanley Donen) Proof positive that even with all the pieces in place (Joseph Bologna and Michael Caine are accomplished comic actors, screenwriter Larry Gelbart wrote for Sid Caesar's Your Show Of Shows and television's M*A*S*H and authored A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and Tootsie, and Stanley Donen is responsible for many of the most delightful light comedies of the mid-twentieth century: Singing In The Rain, Charade, and the original Bedazzled) a romantic comedy is a difficult thing to pull off. What could go wrong? Perhaps we can blame this film's failure not on Rio, but on the strange, uncomfortable "ickiness" of its central conceit: two friends vacation in Rio, and one of them starts sleeping with the other's daughter. Comedy gold! and Yuck! This film reminds me of Billy Wilder's late period film Avanti!; that film too had all the makings of a lighter-than-air farce, but succumbs to the filmmakers being desperately out of date with the material. Both films are like watching two hours of a middle-aged, balding man with a bad comb-over and polyester pants trying to pick up twenty-somethings in a bar. Sadness follows. However, this film is perfect for Netflix Instant Streaming as it features copious nudity, and so you are free from nosy video store clerks keeping track of all the videos like this one you rent. Thanks, Adam.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011, dir. Brad Furman) Alright, alright. We live, friends, in a world where Matthew McConaughey has been on the ascendancy, although really, I've generally always liked his stuff. I don't find anything wrong with Sahara, or Frailty, or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (leave me alone), but he's definitely doing more interesting work. I missed The Lincoln Lawyer the first time around, but it's the starting point of his recent ascendant arc. The movie itself is a solid entry into the criminal lawyer subgenre, but McConaughey makes it better; he has that Denzel-level of charisma here that elevates fairly ordinary material.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985, dir. Guy Hamilton) Hey, remember a couple weeks ago when I suggested this was a movie that should have launched a franchise? Now you can see for yourself! It's been a while since I've seen it, so maybe it doesn't hold up. But the character is solid, Fred Ward is great in the part and it's a fun, '80s-style update of a James Bond adventure. Watch it and let me know if I'm crazy.