Saturday, November 30, 2013

Out to Sea (1997)

Lemmon and Matthau Movie #4 

Synopsis: It’s Felix and Oscar on the Love Boat, dancing badly with Barney Miller, Mr. Data, and Blanche from The Golden Girls

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, the big screen’s original ‘odd couple’, star in this riotously funny high-seas adventure.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) There’s “no such thing as too late – that’s why they invented death.” 2) The best response to a manager who declares: “I’ve got my eye on you” is “you’re not so bad yourself... heh heh heh.” 

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to see Data get laid... with Blanche! 

Really?:  1) You know – I’m pretty sure racetrack employees won’t “cover” you “just this one time” if you don’t have the cash to pay for your bet. 2) Wow... it’s amazing how Charlie (Matthau) can fake an injury and essentially fuck off from his job for what – nearly the entire movie? 3) I’m about 99% certain that if my brother-in-law tricked me into working on a cruise ship under false pretences, I would promptly: a) not go along with the charade, b) fly home at the ship’s first port of call, and c) never speak to the slippery bastard again. 

Rating: Out to Sea is an ok, but not great screwball comedy. The plot is incredibly contrived and the laughs are quite sporadic. That said, Matthau exudes a likeable roguish charm, and Brent Spiner does a fantastic job of portraying the slimy Gil Godwin. Out to Sea has a remarkable cast (including Donald O’Connor!), and it does have its moments of goofy hilarity. Check it out if you're in the mood for some light-but-forgettable fun. 6/10 stars.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Odd Couple II (1998)

Lemmon and Matthau Movie #3

Synopsis: Ever wanted to see Felix and Oscar reunite 30 years later, trek across the American Southwest and run afoul of bikers, exploding cars, crop-dusters, and short-fused law enforcement officials? Um... me neither. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “It’s a comedy celebration as Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reunite to reprise their roles as Felix and Oscar in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple II.” 

What Did I Learn?: Reading and peeing are two entirely different things. 

Really?: 1) So wait – Felix punches the car, which somehow causes it to roll backwards into a ditch and burst into flames? Gee.. the rental car doesn’t appear to be on a slope, and did Oscar somehow leave it in “Neutral” when he parked? It’s a nice sight gag, but the scene makes no sense. 2) I realize Herb Edelman (best remembered as Dorothy’s no-good husband Stan on The Golden Girls) was dead by the time this movie was made, but couldn’t Neil Simon have found a way to either include, or tell us what happened to Vinnie, Roy, Speed and Murray the cop from the first movie? 3) I had a bit of trouble believing LeRoy and JayJay would: a) hijack a bus, and b) take Felix and Oscar as hostages simply because they danced with their wives the previous evening. 4) Hold on - the boys reunite because Felix's daughter is getting married? This sounds suspiciously like the 1993 made for TV movie!

Rating: The Odd Couple II isn’t quite a bad movie, but it’s a big disappointment as a sequel to the 1968 classic. While the original was essentially an adaptation of Neil Simon’s stage play (right down to not showing the fourth wall of Oscar’s apartment), OCII – also written by Simon - is entirely plot-driven, and the plot is incredibly contrived, and not terribly funny most of the time. I guess you can't keep lightning in a jar, and open it three decades later. 6/10 stars.

The Odd Couple (1968)

Lemmon and Matthau Movie #2  (Please click the links to read my other reviews of Neil Simon comedies – also featuring Walter Matthau – California Suite and I Oughta Be in Pictures) 

Synopsis: Crying, constant cooking, compulsive cleaning, cloying concern, crummy communications complicates kooky cohabitation. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Neil Simon has a special genius for finding the great hilarity in ordinary people doing everyday things. Like two divorced men who decide to share a New York apartment.” 

What Did I Learn?: When a plate of linguine is thrown against a wall, it instantly becomes “garbage.” 

You Might Like This Movie If: You never once watched this TV series... or this TV series.... or this TV series... or this made-for TV reunion movie.

Really?: 1) Wow... it certainly takes Oscar a long time to fix those drinks, doesn’t it? 2) So... Felix couldn’t have simply taken that meatloaf out of the oven, and served it at room temperature instead of burning it to a crisp? Come on... 

Rating: As you can tell from my other reviews, I’m not a big Neil Simon fan, but wow – The Odd Couple is a funny, cleverly-written, and all-too believable comedy featuring Lemmon an d Matthau at the top of their game (although I must admit that I’ll always think of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman as Felix and Oscar). I enjoyed this film, but my only complaint is that Simon’s script never grows beyond light comedy; there are no touching dramatic moments between Felix and Oscar such as those John Hughes created for Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes,Trains and Automobiles, and neither man really learns anything about himself, or why their marriages failed (although Oscar half-heartedly asks his guests not to make too much of a mess at the end). Still, highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK (1992)

JFK Assassination Movie #3 (Yes, some idiot marked up the VHS jacket with a magic marker)

Lemmon/Matthau Movie #1 (They’re both in this film, although they don’t have any scenes together

Synopsis: Ordinary Joe becomes increasingly deranged by annoying America’s Deep State. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket:’I hope people everywhere will see this movie and make up their own minds. JFK is our alternative myth to the Warren Commission myth, an opportunity for people to rethink history. I hope they become more aware of how politics are played out and how kings are killed. And I hope the film inspires them to be politically active, determined to shape a better future, to improve upon the past. These are my fondest wishes. – OLIVER STONE, DIRECTOR OF JFK.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) Somehow, America’s 35th President was murdered by both the military-industrial complex AND an ultra-right-wing gay cabal in New Orleans. 2) The organizing principle for any society is war. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You know this is all a work of fiction, and nothing like this could ever happen in real life. Nope.

Really?: Considering this film is based entirely on a conspiracy theory, I could go a bit nuts in this section. I will say that according to Willie O’Keefe’s version of events, the entire thing was plotted out (including the need for a patsy) right in front of Oswald at a party in New Orleans in the summer of 1963. That seems kind of unlikely. Oh – and the proposed motive for the hit: that Kennedy wanted to take American troops out of Vietnam, sounds like bullshit from everything I’ve read about the man. 

Rating: I have very mixed feelings about Oliver Stone’s JFK. On the one hand, it’s an extremely compelling presentation of the JFK assassination conspiracy theory, and Kevin Costner does a masterful job near the end of the film when he outlines the details of it in his summation to the jury. Leaving aside the questionable alternative history presented in JFK, the film has some problems, however. The script is frequently awful – real people just don’t sound the way Stone writes dialogue, John Candy looks like he stepped out of an SCTV sketch, and the recurring pattern – Garrison becomes engrossed in his work, forgets a play date with his kids, and then gets yelled at by his long-suffering wife – gets tiresome fast. 6.5/10 stars.

Seven Days in May (1964)

JFK Assassination Movie #2

Synopsis: Dashing Marine officer foils military takeover of America by, um... drinking a lot of martinis, snitching on his boss, romancing the General's ex-mistress and stealing a pile of steamy love letters? Creepy! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “It happens with startling swiftness and violence. An armed cadre seizes state control. Fortunately, a coup d’etat can’t happen here. Or can it?” 

What Did I Learn?:You can't gear a country's economy for war for 20 years, then suddenly slam on the brakes and expect the whole transition to go like grease through a goose.”

Really?: 1) Hold on – the President suspects there’s a secret military base somewhere outside of El Paso, and he sends a United States Senator from Georgia (and a drunk, to boot!) to single-handedly play Private Eye? 2) The coup would make a lot of sense if the plotters were to assassinate the President, thereby promoting the Vice President, but the plan is to apparently put a charismatic Air Force General in the Oval Office. Um...  how would America’s allies react? Would there be riots and protests in the streets? Funny how everyone assumes that American conservatives would basically go along with a blatantly obvious subversion of American democracy. 

Rating: Written by Rod Serling (best remembered for the Twilight Zone) and directed by John Frankenheimer, Seven Days in May is an interesting period film from the early 1960s - a time when the opinions of many American liberals towards conservatives were informed by Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Lancaster, Douglas and March are all quite good, and the final confrontation between Gen. Scott and President Lyman is memorable. Still, after a great opening, the film tends to drag in the second half; Jiggs (Douglas) never appears to be in any danger (he even disappears for about 30 minutes!), the scenes between Jiggs and Ellie (Ava Gardner) seem tacked-on and pointless, and the coup plotters don’t get a sense the President is on to them until the very end. For a film about an impending military takeover of America, Seven Days in May lacks some necessary dramatic tension. 6.5/10 stars.