Buddy films almost always have two clashing personalities at the core. Butch and Sundance, Woody and Buzz, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Thelma and Louise — more often than not it’s the Hardass and the Free Spirit, or the Mentor and the Newcomer, or the Brainiac and the Simpleton. But as far as the casting goes you can usually say cool: those two guys will be great together. Newman and Redford is a more obvious pairing than Hanks and Allen, but the latter’s not strange enough to raise any eyebrows.
But Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen? That’s not an immediate sell as a buddy-comedy duo, is it? Each of them is legendary, but in a different fashion. Gleason is a comedic entertainer at heart, delivering highly effective drama in smaller portions in The Hustler and a handful of other notables; McQueen, meanwhile, would build his career on strong silent types even in his lesser-known dramas, from The Sand Pebbles to The Getaway. He would rarely do comedy, and Gleason would rarely share the limelight in any of his comedic films (not intentionally, of course; he just stole the show pretty much every time). So perhaps a Gleason/McQueen team-up isn’t inherently strange until you consider that a) it’s a comedy with the duo sharing top billing, b) it’s fairly dramatic at times in a satirical Catch-22 sort of way (more on that in a minute), and c) McQueen is the loopy goofball and Gleason is the knowing-smile know-it-all. That said, the most important consideration is d) Soldier in the Rain is highly underrated.
Continue reading Soldier in the Rain (1963)
- David Lynch stated that season 3 of Twin Peaks may still be “up in the air” despite some series regulars already signing on. We wait with bated breath.
- Meanwhile, The X-Files‘ limited season seems to be getting closer to a green light at Fox. Don’t expect any more than ten episodes, though, since David Duchovny claims everyone is “too old.” I think Gillian Anderson would beg to differ!
- Bridge of Spies will be the first of 27 Steven Spielberg films not to feature a John Williams score. This time the honor goes to Thomas Newman, though Williams will return for The BFG.
- Annapurna Pictures, champion of compelling artistic cinema, has filled out Ana Lily Armipour’s mysterious The Bad Batch with some fascinating names: Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Jason Momoa, and Diego Luna.
Continue reading Film & TV News: March 23
Despite dealing largely with dramatic cinema, Peter Weir had the good fortune of working with two of the most gifted American comedians of this (or any) era. He drew out a defining performance from the late Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, casting him as Professor John Keating not for the simple unconventionality of Williams in a “serious” role but more likely because Williams could convey passion in a way most actors of “serious” roles rarely can. Likewise, even though The Truman Show is pretty damn funny at times, Jim Carrey’s career in comedy matters little for his role as Truman Burbank — he’s perfect for it for another reason.
I didn’t always think so. On first pass Truman seemed to have more tragedy in him than the actor was able (or willing) to provide, especially considering that Carrey’s Joel Barish from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fought a similarly paranoid crusade and through it became a beautiful tragic hero for our modern age. In this retrospective light Truman seemed caught in the middle between Carrey the affable goof and Carrey the tragic everyman.
Continue reading The Truman Show (1998)
Chris Pratt dominated 2014. From reprising his role as the lovable Andy Dwyer on the hit comedy Parks and Recreation to his starring roles in blockbuster smashes The LEGO Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, which will garner the attention of this review, he seemed to be everywhere you looked. While I assert that Pratt was at his best in Guardians, his attempts at seriousness in various parts of the film felt a bit like he was trying too hard. But, his first scene in the film was absolutely brilliant, as he gets a little funky and sings into a space rat as though it were a microphone. This scene sets the stage for the tone of the remainder of the film: a collection of comical ridiculousness that you simply can’t take your eyes off of.
Guardians is a borderline Star Wars spoof, while at the same time paying all due respect to it. The genius of the film is found in the clever dialogue that evidences this point. One scene that comes to mind in particular is the one in which all the guardians decide to fight together against Ronan, all standing up to somehow state their dedication to the cause. Bradley Cooper’s hilarious Rocket comments, “Great. Now we’re all standing. A bunch of jackasses standing in a circle.” While the mocking of the cliché trope that is standing up to display emphasis is something I found to be tremendously clever, I also recognized the themes, such as devoting oneself to a just cause regardless of the dangers attached to doing so, that are so similar to those of the original Star Wars trilogy. Thus, Guardians is a sort of revitalized Star Wars reboot that stresses humor over drama but nevertheless paints a potent emotional portrait when it needs to, despite Pratt’s overacting at times. In addition, the film resolves itself in an incredibly familiar way. A band of outlaws come together to save the galaxy and are rewarded with impunity and heralded as heroes by the galactic authorities. Sounds a lot like A New Hope to me. To take it one step further, I honestly wouldn’t have been disappointed had this film instead been titled Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
Continue reading Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Seeing Tyler Perry in a mostly-dramatic role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl last week prompted a visit to 2012’s Alex Cross, the most recent big screen incarnation of James Patterson’s famous detective previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Appearances to the contrary, Alex Cross ended up being more of a comedy than a drama after all.
Perry’s brilliant Detective Cross faces off against Matthew Fox’s bonkers serial killer known as “Picasso” after the former foils the latter’s assassination attempt and the latter retaliates by killing the former’s wife. The latter realizes his nemesis is The Guy From Madea and uses the opportunity to hone his stand-up routine by exchanging some truly side-splitting dialogue. The game of cat and mouse comes more to resemble a game of mouse and cheese, and the former and the latter eventually decide to duke it out in an abandoned building because cliché. Edward Burns is also in this movie, as is Jean Reno.
Are you excited yet? Well just wait until you witness that final fight scene, whoo boy. Keep in mind that we see Picasso manhandle an impossibly jacked MMA fighter with ease early on in the film and beat the ever-lovin’ out of pretty much everyone else along the way, only to lose in a half-assed scuffle with Madea when his fighting skills actually matter. And you know that cliché moment in 95% of movie fight scenes where the hero seems beaten and is bent over, breathing heavily as blood drips dramatically onto the floor, only to suddenly surge up again with a wicked punch that knocks the bad guy out and gets the music going again? There’s a moment like that, but it isn’t a punch. It’s a kick. It’s in slow motion. The buildup and everything is there and the dude kicks his freaking nemesis in the groin in slow motion. Make sure you’re not drinking Cristal when you watch this scene because you will spit it out laughing and that would be such a waste.
Continue reading Alex Cross (2012)