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Monday, January 31, 2011

Father of the Bride (released in 1991) - Starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Father of the Bride is a Musical Comedy movie starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Martin Short in the pivotal roles. This is a remake of the 1950 movie which had the same name and is directed by Charles Shyer. This feel good movie has inspired many Hallmark Commercials and is considered as the epitome of good peerless fun.
Steve Martin stars as George Banks, a neurotic upmarket Shoe entrepreneur who lives a pretty grand life in the suburbs with his family. His happy family consists of Wife-Nina, Daughter-Annie and Son (Matty). George's idyllic life is shattered when Annie announces her plans to get married to Bryan Mackenzie whom she has known only for few months. Bryan belongs to a well-to- do family in Bel-Air and plans a wedding in 3 months. George considers it a sacrilege to rush in to the wedding but has to agree because of Annie's insistence. Slowly his neurosis and tension about the suitability of Bryan drives George totally insane. The final straw which breaks the camels back come from Franck, a crazy weird wedding planner with a claustrophobic accent who informs him the cost of the wedding i.e 250 dollars per head. George wows to sabotage Bryan and save his Annie and his money.
Nina, the mother of the bride to be becomes super excited and soon delves in with Franck matching ribbons and choosing dresses. She fails to recognize the emotional agony George is going through as the D-day nears by. One of the most hilarious scenes is the one where George, Nina and Annie look through the wedding planners catalog and George goes bananas looking at the cakes, ribbons, flowers and venues. Frank in his customary drawl makes his point sidestepping all the objections to get himself the ultimate expensive wedding.



George cannot bear the fact that Annie will soon be gone from his life. He considers her his little girl whom Bryan is trying to steal. Soon he goes snooping all over Bryan's place looking for clues to get the wedding canceled. But as his snooping succeeds he faces the undeniable fact that Annie, his little girl has grown up and can build a life on her own. He understands that he will never come home to see her in the kitchen with her pajamas and socks. This realization makes him bring about a reconciliation with Bryan and the wedding goes full steam ahead.
In the most touching moments, George sees Annie as she is, a woman ready to take on life on her own. In fact she is the one who steadies George during the long walk on the aisle to give away the bride. George lets go off Annie and looks forward to an empty nest with Nina.
Father of the Bride is one of the most successful movies of the the year and was rightfully the critics favorite. It is number 92 on Bravo's “100 funniest movies of all times”. A great movie for the family it has a great sound track which inspires the senses. Steve Martin as usual gives a great comic performance, but the surprise package is Diane Keaton who flawlessly portrays the level headed Nina. So get ready with all your tissues to enjoy this movie about a father growing up to let go off his beautiful daughter.

Father of the Bride (released in 1991) - Starring Steve Martin, Diane Keaton, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (released in 1988) - a comedy starring greats such as Michael Caine and Steve Martin

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels stars Michael Caine, Steve Martin and Glenne Headley in the lead roles. Directed by Frank Oz this comedy film is loosely adapted from the 1964 movie, Bed Time Story.
Lawrence Jamieson is a suave con artist who preys on wealthy women on the French Riviera under the benevolent protection of the inspector Andre, who takes a cut from the spoils. But soon their trade suffers loses due to the activities of another con called The Jackal. Lawrence assumes another small time crook Freddy to be The Jackal and offers to tutor him. Freddy soon finds himself as the sidekick who does not achieve anything from the con. Soon irritated by Lawrence's behavior Freddy plans to strike out on his own and Lawrence proposes the wager. Lawrence informs him that the town was too small to hold both of them and thus the first one to con 50000 dollars off their victim would get the opportunity to stay and Freddy agrees to the wager.
Fredy and Lawrence zero in on Janet Colgate, an airhead heiress. Freddy disguises himself as a paraplegic sailor on a wheel chair who desperately needs 50000 dollars for his treatment. Janet falls for this line and assures him of that amount. Lawrence enters the plot as the psychiatrist who can provide this wonder cure. Soon begins the game of one one-upmanship between Freddy and Lawrence to get one up on Janet's sympathies.



I find these to be one of the real comic tracks of all times, the scenes of the cure. You have the uptight Lawrence playing the psychiatrist who almost tortures Freddy who tries hard to swallow the pain. Its hard keep yourself from laughing hard as Lawrence stamps and prods and hits the supposedly unfeeling legs of Freddy. Anytime you feel low just go to these priceless scenes to give you the instant upliftment.
Lawrence discovers that Janet is not wealthy and she in-fact has to pool all her resources to pay for the treatment. Impressed by her good heart, the gallant Lawrence calls of the bet. Freddy cheekily agrees and wagers a change. He proposes that whoever manages to bed Janet first will remain in the town and Lawrence reluctantly agrees to it. Freddy then manipulates some English sailors to capture Lawrence and goes to Janet and informs her about the miracle cure of love. But Lawrence frees himself from the sailors, and informs them of Freddy's intentions and they capture Freddy for their unruly party. Freddy again reaches Janet and they kiss and undress to make love. Lawrence accepts his defeat with grace and waits for Freddy in his house, but is soon confronted by the tearful Janet who informs him that Freddy had robbed her of 50000 dollars. A gallant Lawrence gives her the money and puts her on the plane and informs Andre who soon captures Freddy. As Lawrence admonishes Fredy of his behavior, he is informed by the raving ranting Freddy that they have been taken by a ride by Janet who is really the Jackal intent on conning them.
As they assess their loss at Lawrence's villa, Janet makes in an appearance as Paula the Realtor, leading a pack of wealthy retirees and they all join hands to find new prey. This movie is one of the funniest movies of the century, sure to lift you mood. All the three actors blow the socks of your feet with their flawless performances and are the favorite of the critics. The audience also gave them their thumbs up as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels became one of the highest grosser of 1988.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (released in 1988) - a comedy starring greats such as Michael Caine and Steve Martin

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Three Amigos (released in 1986) - A musical comedy starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short

Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Micheal Short star in this Musical comedy of 1986 and is directed by John Landis. The movie is co-scripted by Steve Martin who provides the ultimate comic touch, the real “Steve Martin” touch.
The movie opens with a raid in Santo Poco, a small village in Mexico by the Ruthless bandit El Guapo and his men. Carmen the daughter of the village head prays for a hero to save them and on one of her visits to the church sees the American silent movie featuring the three Amigos. Taking them to be real super heroes, she sends a telegram for help. But the clerk at the telegraph office whittles down her message as she does not have enough to pay.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms and Ned Neerlander star as the three Amigos in the movie series. They demand a price hike from the studio head who fires them for their temerity and evict them from their houses. Down in luck and out in the streets they receive Carmen's telegram and mistaking her appeal as an invitation for making a movie with El Guapo, they break in to the studios costume room, steal the costumes and flee across the border to Mexico.



They reach a “cantina” near the village and are mistaken as associates of a sharp shooting German Pilot who has wreaked havoc at the bar. I really like this sequence when the three amigos actually belt out the song “my Little Buttercup” to the mean scraggy crowd at the bar. Its hard to keep a straight face through out the sequences and I wonder how the actors did it. They are found by the German and in the mix up that follows they are put up at the best houses and are flown to the village. Carmen soon arrives to bring them home. At the village they are feted and treated and soon some minor bandits arrive to get their protection money. Mistaking them to be talent scouts, the Amigos put up a show which scares the wits out of the bandits and they ride away. The ecstatic villagers celebrate and keep them in style.
El Guapo swears to find the Amigos and kill them by morning and rides into the village. As the truth dawns, the Amigo's are scared witless and beg forgiveness from El Guapo. El Guapo punishes the villagers and loots them, as the Amigos leave in disgrace. He kidnaps Carmen and intends to make her his bride to punish her for her involvement. As the Amigos trudge their way back home, Ned reminds them that they have none waiting for them. He exhorts them to go back and at least try to save Carmen and be real heroes. After many disagreements they come together to find Guapo's hide out and soon follow the German plane which delivers ammunition for the gang. Amidst the celebrations of the bandits wedding the Amigos sneak in to the hideout only to be caught. The German Pilot gets in to a shooting match with Ned and he wins to give them enough time to escape. As the Amigos reach the village they exhorts the villagers to fight the evil bandit. El Guapo in his last raid is brought down by the combined might and the Amigos ride in the the sun set as real heroes.
This movie was well received by critics and audience alike and is well crafted. I feel the funny quotient diminishes as the movie progresses, but still is eminently watchable.

Three Amigos (released in 1986) - A musical comedy starring Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All of Me (released in 1984) - a fantasy comedy starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin

This romantic comedy stars Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin along with Victoria Tennant in the lead roles. This film is based on the book “Me Too” by Edwin Davis. Directed by Carl Reiner, All Of Me is considered to be one of the best works of Steve Martin.
Martin plays Roger Cobb, an upmarket New York attorney who moon lights as a Jazz Musician. He has a well to do law practice and is dating his boss's daughter. Roger wants more out of his life but his girlfriend and his boss keep him on a tight leash. His uneventful life changes when he is summoned to an eccentric, spoilt millionairess, Edwina Cutwater's house. Edwina is terminally ill and requests Roger to make her last will and testament.
Edwina plans to transfer her spirit on to the youthful body of Terry, her stableman's daughter with the help of Prahka Lakha, an eastern swami who specializes in tantra. But all the planning fails as Roger comes during the transference ceremony and Edwina ends up in Roger's body. So with two spirits vying for control, Roger on the left and Edwina on the right, a laugh riot ensues.



With two crazy ditsy spirits in one body things become complicated, it is definitely hilarious to watch Roger and Edwina trying to walk out the body, Edwina trying to control the courtroom when Roger's spirit sleeps, when Roger is with his abrasive girlfriend and the most hilarious one is Roger trying to relieve himself in the mens bath room. These scenes are vintage Steve Martin and needs to be kept alive for future generations to come.
As Edwina and Roger fight for control, Roger's life go downhill. He looses his job and his girl friend leaves him. With that comes a sense of liberation and he is free to be the Jazz musician he wants to be. Soon a truce is signed and slowly Edwina also finds that she likes him. This “like” turns to love, but things get murkier as Terry the waif turns out to be Terry the gold digger. Never believing the soul transference business Terry soon tries to usurp Edwina's fortune and it is up to the split up duo to put an end to her evil designs.
Roger unmasks Terry's intentions and faced with the prospect of jail, Terry decides to move in to a near by horse's body and enables Edwina to get in to hers. Roger and Edwina get married to enjoy her limitless fortune for days to come.
This movie was a box office success and opened to rave reviews. The performances are top notch and Steve Martin outstrips all actors by a mile. Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin were nominated for the Golden Globes for her role as Edwina Cutwater and Roger Cobb. Steve Also won the best actor award from the National society of film critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. The humor may be little far fetched towards the end, but the split personality scenes itself make the movie worth while.

All of Me (released in 1984) - a fantasy comedy starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Roxanne (released in 1987) - a comedy in a small town, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah

Roxanne, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah in the lead was released in 1987. This comedy is adapted from the verse play Cyrano de Bergerac by the French Author Edmond Rostand. The screen play was written by Steve Martin and is directed by Fred Shepisi.
Napoleon had once famously remarked that he preferred men with long noses, but CD Bales the Fire chief of Pacific North west would beg to differ. Steve Martin stars as Bales, the acrobatic do gooder fire chief who has a humongous nose. This fleshy accessory on his face makes his life miserable and his love life bitter. Bales is very sensitive about his nose matters and people who know him never mention this twitchy subject. The object of his affection is Roxanne, an astronomer, beautiful as a star she watches. Roxanne is in love with Chris, a dim witted fireman whom Bales cannot stand.
But the gallant Bales does not come in between Roxanne's love and suppresses his feelings. His only outlet being the poems he writes which he allows Chris to submit before his lady love as his own. Another person in this loop is Dixie, Bale's sister who keeps this secret. Life moves on with Roxanne watching comets, and Bale's trying to move on with his life with another woman.



Roxanne soon finds herself dumped by Chris, who falls for another woman in another town. He leaves town after writing her a long letter. Dixie tells her the truth about the poems and a devastated Roxanne confronts Bales. She accuses him of leading her on with a doomed relationship with an incompatible guy. A cornered Bales hits back telling Roxanne, that her quest for a perfect handsome guy was the root cause for her condition. As they argue and part but somewhere a spark is lit. In the end they discover the true love for each other and are soon engaged. Roxanne tells her besotted lover that his long nose gives him character and now would consider a flat nose too bland and boring. As the nosy angst ends for C.D. Bales, curtain draws on this happy ending.
Steve Martin was widely appreciated for his role as CD Bales and this won him a Golden Globe nomination for the Best Actor. He also won the National Society of Film Critics Award, Writers Guild of America Award and Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Actor. This delightful romantic comedy also finds its place among Bravo's “100 funniest movies of the century”. Steve Martin who essays the role of CD Bales pays homage to the original by taking the name of Cyreno de Bergerac (CD) and considered this as a watershed movie of his career.
This movie has many slapstick comedy moments which tickles your funny bone. Just do not go looking for high brow satire for you will be sorely disappointed. Enjoy the show and see the funny nosy man win his love and I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Roxanne (released in 1987) - a comedy in a small town, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Man with Two Brains (released in 1983) - A comedy film starring Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner

This American comic caper stars Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner and is directed by Carl Reiner. The story is about the adventures of a brain surgeon with a gold digger wife.
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr is a widowed brain Surgeon worth millions known for his pioneering cranial screw top surgery. Dolores Benedict is the femme fatale who sends her latest husband to the grave through her evil machinations. The two meet when Micheal saves Dolores's life and the inevitable follows. Dolores ensnares him in her love and the two get married.
Michael after the wedding discovers that his wife is a gold digging slut and a nagging hag. He soon gets frustrated by Dolores frigidness and is tormented by the fact that their marriage becomes a sham. Michael becomes friends with mad scientist Dr. Alfred Necessiter who has developed a method to store brains alive in a jar filled with liquids. With all this mad nerds, an elevator killer who kills women by injecting window cleaner completes the story.
Michael in one of his visits to Necessiter falls in love with a brain of Anne Uumellmahaye stored in the lab. He discuses with the doctor the means of bringing Anne a body. So brainstorming sessions throw up suggestions like transplanting the brain to a barrel or to a gorilla. All these suggestions are shot down as sex would be a great stumbling block. At last the doctor suggests transplanting Anne to a recently deceased female using Micheal's cranial screw top surgery. So begins the quest for the female.



Meanwhile a jealous Dolores finds out about the romance between the Brain and Michael and attempts to kill Anne. Michael is totally enraged and throws her out of his money and life. He immediately resolves to make a kill for Anne and finds that he is unable to do it. He even tries to kill to pass on the blame to the Elevator killer and still returns empty handed. On one such occasion he returns to find Dolores Killed by the serial killer and he rushes to the lab with her body. The police pursue them, but Micheal and Necessiter successfully transplant Anne brain to bring her alive. Micheal but is electrocuted during the chase and falls in to a coma. When he awakes after six month he is overjoyed with the new Dolores who unfortunately has a overeating disorder. But in-spite of the weighty issues Micheal and Anne live happily ever after.
This movie was considered one of the best comedies of the century by Today magazine. The high point of the movie is its engaging pace and the crackling one liners. Steve Martin as usual is in top form with his over the edge, neurotic doctor act and Kathleen Turner turns the heat on with her scheming vamp portrayal. Everything right from the names to the serial killer is covered with the thick coat of comedy, so much that clutching your stomach due to uncontrollable mirth is the only thing left to do. If you have had a tiring day and need to rest those brains, get in to the brain surgery room with Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr.

The Man with Two Brains (released in 1983) - A comedy film starring Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (released in 1982) - A homage to the film noir concept, starring Steve Martin

If you take scenes from the pulp detective movies of the 1940's and 50's and create a story based on those, you would get “Dead men don't wear plaid”. Directed by Carl Reiner, this 1982 musical comedy stars Steve Martin and Rachel Ward. The many characters are original actors from yesteryear films like the Exterminator, The killers, Big sleep etc. The footages used involve actors like Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Alan Ladd, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant etc. The editor Bud Collins does deserve credit for linking the yesteryear classics with the current footage.
When John Hayward, noted Scientist and cheese maker dies, his daughter Juliet hires the famous detective Rigby to investigate his death. Rigby has his own psychological demons, as he flows in to a rage on hearing the word cleaning lady as his father had run away with one. He almost throttles one in Juliet's house. This one gem of a scene itself is a warning enough for the laughs that may follow. On the crime scene Rigby finds a list named as friends of Carlota and Enemies of Carlotta, and an autographed picture of singer Kitty Collins. Rigby is shot but Juliet saves him by sucking out the bullet (yes thats what happens). Rigby follows Kitty Collins (Ava gardener from killers) who leaves her brooch with the information of Enemies of Carlotta (EOC) in the soup. From Juliet's uncle Sam who had been entrusted with a dollar bill he gets information of Friends of Carlotta (FOC). Soon Rigby is entrenched in a game of deceit and trouble, but with the help of Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart in his masterpiece The Big Sleep) he manages to outwit them all and solves the puzzle.



He finds the scientist father and Juliet in a remote island with their butler who introduces himself as field Marshall Wilfried Von Kluck. John Hayward has invented a cheese whose mold could corrode even the metals and the regrouping Neo Nazis were planning to sink American vessels using this mold. So the FOC were all Nazi Agents and before John could call in the FBI he is abducted and his death faked. So after a lot of hilarious moments the bad guys are vanquished with their hideout.
This movie pays homage to the countless masterpieces of the 40's and 50's and each of those movie scenes are perfectly interlaced with the film. Steve Martin is his usual brilliant self and one can treat this movie as a big laugh riot. He performs with his dead pan comic face which is just amazing. One of my favorite scene is Steve making Java for the hapless Alan Ladd (from movie Sleepless). You feel the giggle forming to a big guffaw with the continuous pouring of coffee and ends with the sucking out of the bullet by Juliet, splendid comedy !
This movie released to full fledged critical and box office acclaim. It may not be a land mark movie like Citizen Kane, but in the annals of movie making it will stand out as a crowd favorite.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (released in 1982) - A homage to the film noir concept, starring Steve Martin

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pennies from Heaven (released in 1981) - A musical film starring Steve Martin

Pennies from Heaven is a 1981 Holly wood musical adapted from the BBC drama series of the the same name by Dennis Porter. Porter was nominated for the Oscar for the “best adapted Screenplay category” eventually loosing to the acclaimed “Golden Pond”. Directed by Herbert Ross it stars Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters in the title roles.
This depression era story is about Arthur Parker, a music sheet salesman who is down in the dumps with his relationships and finances. His relationship with his wife hits rock bottom as she frigidly resists his sexual advances. Frustrated by her lack of interest he moves out to sell his music. Joan, Arthur's wife is also un-supportive of his venture to open his own record store. Arthur leaves home threatening never to return.
That fateful day he meets Eileen, a plain school teacher with whom he falls in love at first sight. Eileen leaves with out paying any attention but becomes interested when he follows her to the farm. Soon Arthur and Eileen are engaged in a relationship and he lies to her about his wife. He plays on Eileen's sympathies for a sexual relationship. But soon Arthur returns home to Joan leaving her stranded. Joan and Arthur try to make their marriage work but are frustrated about their different outlook about relationships. Arthur and Eileen on the other hand are sexually compatible with Eileen enjoying his fantasies. Joan reluctantly finances his record store venture, but even that business languishes as customers are scarce. Eileen meanwhile gets pregnant and is fired from her job. She never finds Arthur as all his addresses turns out to be a fake one.



A desperate Eileen is forced to have an abortion and soon is drawn in to prostitution by a pimp, Tom. Arthur and Joan come to terms with their incompatibility and Arthur seeks out Eileen. He finds her as a prostitute and proposition her. Soon they decide to run away to start life anew. But as luck could have it Arthur is framed for the murder of a blind girl whom he helps across a bridge and Eileen runs out on him. Arthur is sentenced to the gallows where he sings out the song “Pennies from Heaven” to underscore the shortness of life. The audience is treated to a dream ending where Arthur and Eileen wind up together.
This movie was a box office disaster even though critical acclaim was more forth coming. The elaborate song and dance routine's sort of bored the audience in-spite of credible acting performances. Steve Martin as a music salesman was appreciated, but the audiences could never accept him in a serious role especially after the success of the comic caper like “Jerk”. It was nominated for 3 Academy awards and Golden Globes. Bernadette Peters won the golden Globe for her portrayal of Eileen. The song and dance numbers are still popular and are lip synced. But still the film lacks a soul to make the audience feel an empathy for the poor sexually starved characters.
I would never recommend watching this movie, better depression era saga's are made for movie lovers.

Pennies from Heaven (released in 1981) - A musical film starring Steve Martin

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eyes wide shut (released in 1999) - A drama movie, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this drama is adapted from the 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story), which was written by Arthur Schnitzler. This was Kubrick's last movie and is an intense film starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Bill and Alice Hartford are an up-market couple who seem to have a perfect marriage. Bill is a successful doctor and is invited to his superior's mansion for a party. Here the couple successfully resist attempts to seduce them and reach home. Back at home, Alice casually mentions her urges for having an affair, especially when she has a passionate glance from a handsome sailor. This sends Bill in to fits of jealousy and he storms out in to the night. A late night phone call from a patient helps him to meet Marion, the daughter of the patient, who implores him to take her as his own wife. Bill with his head full of demons aimlessly walks in the street and bumps in to an acquaintance Nick at the Jazz Club. Here he cleverly wiggles out information about a party in Long Island Mansion which has a select invitee list. He also gets Nick to reveal the password for entry. After acquiring the venetian mask and costume Bill reaches the mansion for the party.
At the party Bill observes bizarre orgies being conducted on the participants. The women are made to stand in the circle and are disrobed by the master of ceremonies wearing a red mask. Each women then move forward and randomly choose the men. Bill is chosen by a model who warns him to get out of the place as he was in danger. Bill does not pay heed to her and wanders around the place where orgies are taking place in all the rooms. He is soon caught and unmasked. The man in the red mask warns him against talking about the orgies to anyone and throws him out in to the night.



Bill reaches home to Alice, who again tearfully tells him about her nightmares about having sex with other men while he is watching. A distraught Bill sets out next morning to check out the events of the night. He soon finds a sinister plot to keep him away from the truth. He finds Nick beaten up and kidnapped and the model he helped to revive in Ziegler's place murdered. He reaches Ziegler to get some answers and is warned again for his life. Ziegler tells him that the orgies involved powerful men of the society and unmasking them would invite their wrath. He also informs him that the dead model was the girl who warned him at the party.
Bill reaches home tired and frightened only to find Alice sleeping with the mask. He breaks down and tells her about his journey. Both make love and reconcile to give their relationship another chance.
Eyes wide Shut was also Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's last movie together. This movie opened to mixed reviews. Some critics found the dream like movie very alluring and many others find it one of Kubrick's lesser efforts. The box office reaction was unremarkable and many parts of America gave it an R rating. Controversies about using Bhagavat Gita Shlokas in Orgy scenes also dogged the DVD versions.
A typical art house cinema, it is strictly for film institute students who can appreciate the nuances of a Kubrick movie which gives forth the dream like state.

Eyes wide shut (released in 1999) - A drama movie, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Jerk (released in 1979) - a comedy film, Steve Martin's first starring role in a movie

This all out American comedy directed by Carl Steiner stars Steve Martin in the title role. It also stars Bernadette Peters, Jackie Mason and Emmett Walsh.
The movie follows Navin R. Johnson, the white son of poor African American Sharecroppers who feels faint suspicion about himself being adopted. All his black family members can belt out the blues while Navin cannot sing even for a penny. But he discovers his hidden talents of dance when he hears Roger Wolfe Kahn Orchestra Song called "Crazy Rhythm" on the radio and he hitch hikes to St. Louis to better himself. While at the boarding house he is awakened by a dog whom he assumes is trying to save him from the fire. He wakes up the entire hotel and is berated by the irate guests when it turns out to be a hoax. One of the guests name the dog shithead and the name is adopted by Navin throughout the movie.
Navin finds himself a job at a gas station and is thrilled to find himself listed on the phone book. But a psychopath, randomly picking up a name from the phone book zeroes on him to be his next victim. Navin oblivious of the danger is busy with his life and inventions. He tries to fix the slippery glasses of a customer using a nose break and a handle, and pleased with his effort the customer promises him a royalty if his invention turns out to be a success.



Meanwhile the assassin pursues Navin who is forced to run away from the gas station. He enrolls himself in a traveling circus where he meets the stunt women Patty Bernstein with whom he has sexual relations. Soon he finds the woman of his dreams in Marie Peters and both fall in love. But Marie realizes love sustains only with money and leaves him due to his financial insecurity.
As luck could have it, his glasses invention becomes a runaway success and is called “Optigrab” in the market. The royalties make Navin a wealthy man and he buys a huge mansion with his profits. He finds and marries Marie and lives an extravagant lifestyle. But one of the customers file a law suit against his invention as it makes him cross eyed and soon 10 million others follow. Navin is soon bankrupt and is forced on the streets with his remote, a paddle ball game and some matches. He leaves Marie to wander about in the streets. Marie contacts his family who in turn have become wealthy by careful investments of Navin's money sent to them. They pick him from the streets and take him to his now renovated old house. Navin realizes the wonder of family and all of them sing the blues away in perfect sync.
This rags to riches story was one of the greatest hits of the year and is considered as one of the best comedies of the century. It is recognized as one of the 100 best comic films by the American Film Institute and is also considered as the best performances by Steve Martin.
This is a Steve Martin movie all the way with the funny man presiding over all the frames and getting the best one liners. But it has tender moments and delivers a impassioned lookout for racism. It is really a feel good moment when Steve strikes out against “Iron-Mcginty” for calling African American's derogatory words. His relationships with both the women he meets is hilarious and sometimes tender. A nice movie to get the blues to energize you.

The Jerk (released in 1979) - a comedy film, Steve Martin's first starring role in a movie

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (released in 1978) - A flop musical movie

If you like utter confusion along with Beatle lyrics sung by the Bee Gees, then this film is entirely for you. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is an American musical film released in 1978. This movie was initially a Broadway show directed by Tim O'Horgan and has twenty sound tracks from the Beatles which act as the dialogue. Only George Burns has actual spoken lines which serves for the narration. The Sound-tracks include the Beatle albums 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and 1969's Abbey Road.
In the land called “heartland” lived Sgt. Pepper who with his music and band singlehandedly wins the World War one and returns home a hero to be immortalized on the top of of a wind vane in the town center. Pepper grows old and inevitably dies and his band is scattered. Cut to the present, Sgt. Pepper's grandson Billy wearing white overalls with his name emblazoned on it reforms the band and declares himself the new Sgt. Pepper. His new band has the Henderson brothers and they take Heartland by storm. They sing the Beatles number's so provocatively that you suspect the towns peoples sanity. The Mayor declares them the new phenomena and opens the town for them.



Anyways the new “it” boys are lured to Los Angeles where they go ga-ga over money, machines and women. In the mean time an unnamed villain gives his henchman Mr. Mustard a carte-blanche to destroy the innocence of Heartland. So Mr. Mustard plans to replace the pristine fields and the quaint town with gambling arcades and fast food restaurants. The villain also directs him to steal the original instruments of Sgt. Pepper and sell it to another bunch of bad guys, played by Steve Martin and Aerosmith. In the view of such debauchery and destruction, Billy's girl friend Strawberry fields set out in search for the saviors to Los Angeles.
As Billy and Co return Mr. Mustard gets nasty. Billy is electrocuted and is in a comatose state and even the sad songs from Strawberry Fields does not zap him to life. Then horror of horrors Strawberry is killed accidentally by Aerosmith. All this sadness brings the Sgt. Pepper weather vane to life (played by Beatles collaborator Billy Preston) and he zaps everything back to normal. Then all the bands sing “we are the world" with Tina Turner.
This movie has been a very odd wacky production which runs haywire. It started as a 1974 Broadway show, whose producer Robert Stigwood, determined to make a movie knocked out a script with all the Beatles songs. The end result was a patchwork story interspersed with songs pushing the audiences in to hysteria. Even critical acclaim was denied mercifully with majority of them pillorying the direction and script.
I for one thing would never recommend watching the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie even on a really good day. Even the most wackiest simpleton would never understand the motives for making this movie.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (released in 1978) - A flop musical movie

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (released in 1931) - starring Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Jean Hersholt and Alan Hale

This movie is an adaptation from a racy novel of the same name from David Graham Phillips. Directed by Cedric Gibbons, this early sound film has Greta Garbo and Clarke Gable in the pivotal roles.
Helga is raised by her uncle Ohlin on his farm and has to contend with a grim treacherous life as she was born out of wedlock. Ohlin plans to wed his illegitimate niece to a monstrous Mondstrum whom Helga hates. On the day of a storm Ohlin persuades Mondstrum to stay the night at the farm and he attempts to molest Helga. Fighting off his advances she runs out in to the storm, never to go back. After wandering around she hides herself on a barn and survives the storm. She is soon discovered by Rodney Spencer, an engineer who had the barn for a weekend. Having nowhere to go Helga stays with Rodney and they soon develop a liking for each other. A relationship blossoms and the lovey-dovey pair soon set a date for the wedding.
Rodney has to move out urgently on business and he promises to be back as soon as possible. Meanwhile Mondstrum and Ohlin track Helga down and she flees to save herself from their clutches. She is not able to leave any forwarding messages for Rodney and finds a hideout with a moving carnival. She christens herself as Susan Lennox and work as a dancer/ acrobat for the carnival whose boss, Burlingham has a shady reputation as a womanizer. Rodney meanwhile tracks her down and becomes livid when he comes to know about the “terms of employment”. He leaves in anger after telling her about the consequences she would face.



Susan leaves the carnival and for self preservation and survival becomes the mistress of a driven Mike Kelly who nurses political ambitions. She lives a life of luxury albeit “a kept one”. But by the quirk of fate she meets Rodney whose career has nosedived because of his drinking binges. She realizes that her feelings for him has never changed and clandestinely invites him over for a party. Rodney harboring anger and hate has heated exchanges with her before storming out embarrassing Susan in front of others.
Stricken Susan leaves the comfortable position of a “well kept woman” and tries to track down Rodney. She also meets Ian Keith, a decent honorable man who falls in love with her and proposes to her. He does not care about her checkered past and wants her present for himself. But on finding Rodney, she is momentarily torn between the pure selfless love of Keith and anger in Rodney. But she realizes that her love for Rodney is far greater and both of them reconcile to give a life together another chance.
This movie is a Greta Garbo vehicle who through her star power and acting prowess breathes life in to the role which is handicapped by a weak script. The movie has long gap of silences which bores the viewer. Apart from this the sizzling chemistry between Clark Gable and Garbo lifts the mundane proceedings to another level. This is in-spite of their mutual dislike for each other and is a hallmark of their professionalism. A romantic drama for a rainy day.

Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (released in 1931) - starring Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Jean Hersholt and Alan Hale

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wild Orchids (released in 1929) - starring Greta Garbo, Lewis Stone and Nils Asther

A love triangle of passion and adultery amidst the exotic location of the Javanese tea plantations. This movie was directed by Sidney Franklin and stared Greta Garbo as the passionate, frustrated wife opposite Lewis stone and Nils Asther. This movie was Garbo's seventh silent movie and 15th in her career. It also featured Swedish actor Nils Asther with whom she would star another movie in the same year.
John and Lillie Sterling are a married couple who sail to Java to explore investing options in the Javanese Tea market. John is a workaholic and very neglectful and this hurts his passionate and romantic wife. Aboard the ship, Lillie chances upon an act of violence, where a man severely manhandles his servant for a minor transgressions. This man is Prince de Gace who is enamored by this mysterious and live wire of a woman. He contrives a plan to reach the wife through the husband and develops John Sterlings acquaintance with his vast knowledge about the Tea market.
John is suitably impressed by the Prince and introduces him to his wife. Lillie recognizes the Prince, as the man who was cruel to his servant and does not encourage his attentions. This inflames his passions and the Prince pursues her more. He invites John to stay at his estate ostensibly to develop more understanding about the market and proceeds to woo Lillie. She tries to confide in her husband, but he turns a deaf ear to her entreaties. Lillie in desperation offers to accompany her husband in his professional investigations.



But John refuses her offer and leaves the plantation on his projects. The Prince intensifies his efforts and forces him upon her for a kiss. Lillie, confused about her emotions, embraces and kisses him back. John returns at this moment and the Prince sends Lillie to her room and substitutes a servant girl in his arms. But John suspicions are confirmed when he finds Lillie's earrings. An enraged John plots revenge for his humiliation.
He proposes a Tiger hunt with the Prince and before embarking on the hunt he empties the bullets from the gun. The prince realizes that his gun is empty while shooting a large man eater. He tries to flee when he finds that he would have to combat John, with a fully loaded gun. As the tiger pounces upon him John fires and the Prince gets hurt. Disgusted at his own behavior John plans to leave for America, alone. But Lillie, realizing the John's worth compared to the Casanova in Java reaffirms her love for him.
This silent movie has an amazing sound track with background noises of animals, birds, crowded streets, traffic and the eerie jungle all well laid out. This romantic drama was one of the monster hits of that year with superb performances from Greta Garbo, Nils Asther and Lewis Stone. Garbo as the younger wife of a staid 50's something man who is drawn to the excitement which the Prince offers is simply superb. Catch this movie if you can.

Wild Orchids (released in 1929) - starring Greta Garbo, Lewis Stone and Nils Asther

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Single Standard (released in 1929) - starring Greta Garbo, Nils Asther, and Johnny Mack Brown

This movie starts with the premise that “Men always have done as they pleased and women have done as men pleased”. This ultimate Garbo silent movie features her as a free thinking, independent mesmerizing d├ębutante. This MGM vehicle was directed by John. S. Robertson starring Nils Asther and Johnny Mack Brown along with Garbo. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Adela Rogers St. John.
Arden Stuart, a wealthy socialite is disgusted by the Victorian practices among her circle where men do as they pleased behind their wife's back and another set of rules for the fairer sex. She feels a “single Standard should apply for both the sexes" and takes steps not to fall in to that trap. To start with she goes all alone for a night drive with her chauffeur and woos him. This ends in a tragedy as the chauffeur commits suicide when he is fired.
At a chance visit to a gallery, Arden meets Packy Canon who is an ex-prize fighter turned painter. His charisma, good looks and bohemian life style floors Arden and they sail away for a blissful holiday in his yacht “All Alone”. They may be prude for todays Internet generation for this blissful interlude includes no sex, only sun bathing and hand holding on the deck of the yacht. But still Arden is subjected to vicious gossip as she returns home. Soon Packy feels the need to go to Paris and around the world to fulfill his artistic aspirations. He insists on dropping Arden home before jetting off. Arden recognizing the need for his independence is heart broken. But she does not stop him.



At home her childhood friend from her social circle again asks for her hand in marriage. Tommy is a wealthy man but staid and prudish who loves her deeply. He says that her past and all the yacht sojourn would not matter if she accepts the proposal. He even accepts the fact that her heart is with passionate Packy and would return to him if called. So on the rebound Arden marries him and also has a beautiful son whom she adores. Life goes on in a routine with not much of excitement to rock the boat. But the yacht returns with Packy who realizes his mistake and has come to claim Arden. Arden is soon torn between excitement and her love for her son.
Tommy soon confronts Packy with the gun and offers to stage a hunting accident to free Arden to marry him to prevent a jolt to his son. He begs Packy not to sully the relationship for the time being. Meanwhile Arden feels her passion is soon out weighed by her maternal feelings and opts for tommy instead. She comes to know Tommy's hunting exercises and stops him. They watch as Packy sails down the ocean and vow to relearn their relationship.
This movie was one of Garbo's last silent movies and was one of the top box office earners. Garbo as usual outshines everybody with her acting prowess and bewitching eyes. But Nils Asther and Johnny Brown hold on their own, but still Garbo owns her movies. Another trivia that may amuse is that slacks was first worn by Garbo in this movie and a new trend was started for all independent women. Good movie for all those romantics out there.

The Single Standard (released in 1929) - starring Greta Garbo, Nils Asther, and Johnny Mack Brown

Monday, January 3, 2011

Inspiration (released in 1931) - Starring Greta Garbo, Robert Montgomery, Lewis Stone, Marjorie Rambeau and Judith Vosselli

This movie solely rest on the able shoulders of Greta Garbo with everything, the weak script, low chemistry, insipid acting and tiring story fading in to nothingness. Garbo illuminates each and every scene.
This movie directed by Clarence Brown, stars Greta Garbo as the older women falling for a younger man played by Robert Montgomery. This is the only movie in which Garbo acted with Robert Montgomery. Directed by Garbo's favorite director Clarence Brown, this movie is a modernized version of Alphonse Daudet's novel, Sappho.
Yvonne is a worldly wise model in Paris who has gone through all the vices the world can offer. She goes through her lovers to keep her life in Paris, smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and lives life of a gay abandon. At a party he chances upon Andre a small time engineer keeping life afloat and falls in love with him. She leaves her society and all her lovers to live her life with him. But Andre is aghast at her past and Yvonne moves out to give him some space. But soon she returns to start life again and this time a jealous Andre leaves her heart broken. She descends in to poverty and is a pale shadow of her older self.



Both Yvonne and Andre cross paths with each other again and this time he decides to stay put with her. He tries to tell her about a respectable marriage he has contracted and Yvonne begs him to be with her. He also mentions about a great project he has achieved which means traveling abroad. But sensing her desperation Andre chooses his love over his career. He decides to stay with her and buys an estate to keep Yvonne in Paris.
Yvonne slowly realizes the chains she is putting him in. So as he lies sleeping in the couch she writes a letter about her love for him and his need to get on his life and career with out her. She keeps the letter next to him and leaves the place.
This movie was pilloried by all the critics for poor script, and bad acting. It is said that Garbo never liked the character she played and was never pleased with the dialogues. After this movie she had serious differences with the director Clarence Brown and stopped working in his movies. Apart from Garbo's screen presence, the only saving grace of this movie is the art direction. There is one scene where Garbo rejected by her lover, walks aimlessly through the streets of Paris and come to rest at a seedy restaurant. The lighting and the mood brings out the vulnerable woman in her. The lighting and camera angles compliments Garbo in every way and lifts a mundane movie to the next level.
Well nothing much can be said about the other characters because it is just Garbo all the way. Just see it for her sake.

Inspiration (released in 1931) - Starring Greta Garbo, Robert Montgomery, Lewis Stone, Marjorie Rambeau and Judith Vosselli

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Queen Christina (released in 1933) - Starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith and Lewis Stone

This movie is loosely based on the life and times of the Swedish queen Christina. It was an American precode film staring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert and is directed by Edward Mamoulian.
After her father King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden is killed in battle, six year old Christina enters the throne. She accepts the throne as a king of Sweden and is guided by chancellor Oxenstierna. Although in her younger days she support the war efforts, she soon estranges herself from the courtiers by denouncing the war effort. She tells everybody her decision to negotiate peace for her people. Chancellor Oxenstierna exhorts her to marry the war hero prince Palatine Charles Gustavus and do her royal duty of producing an heir. But Christina refuses to marry without love. She flirts with Count Magnus, her handsome treasury secretary. Magnus is ambitious and jealously guards her affections. Soon tiring out of Magnus's possessive nature Christina rides out disguised as a man to the countryside.
Here she encounters an overturned carriage of the Spanish ambassador, Antonio and she helps them to move the carriage. Antonio takes her to be a country man and coolly murmurs his thanks and rides off. But they meet again at the inn and still mistaking her for a man, Antonio engages her in a lively discussion.



Amused by her intelligence and wit Antonio offers to share his room and Christina accepts. But in the confines of the room Christina reveals her true self and Antonio takes her in to his arms. Soon the lovers spend a gay weekend at the inn immersed in themselves and Antonio returns to court after promising his return to the inn.
Christina also returns to court and is confronted by a jealous Magnus. But she rebuffs him and dresses herself as an angel for the presentation ceremony by the Spanish Ambassador. Antonio is surprised to see her as the queen and accuses her of playing with his emotions. But he presents her with his kings portrait and a marriage proposal which she accepts. She spends time with Antonio which enrages Magnus. He spreads rumors of her scandalous conduct and is confronted by an angry mob. After ordering Antonio back to Spain she confronts Magnus and dismisses him off her affections.
She calls on Oxenstierna to confer about her future and informs the heart broken court of her decision to abdicate. She installs another king and plans to meet Antonio at their inn. But Magnus challenges Antonio to a duel and fatally wounds him by treachery. When Christina reaches him, Antonio dies in her arms. Even in her grief Christina realizes that she had found love and resolves to sail to Spain to see her beloveds castle by the sea.
This movie had won the Mussolini cup at he Venice film festival and marks Greta Garbo's return to cinema after a eighteen month long hiatus. The film was well received by all the contemporary film critics. The highlight of the film is its direction where light and shadow is used to create each frame, a work of art. The last scene of Christina returning home is one of the most beautiful movie frames in the history of cinema. Even though a fictionalized account, this movie is a well made film with believable characters.

Queen Christina (released in 1933) - Starring Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith and Lewis Stone