Saturday, May 31, 2014

Against All Odds (1984)

Jeff Bridges Film Fest Movie #16 

Synopsis: Ever wanted to see Out of the Past remade with faster sports cars and steamier sex scenes? This is your movie. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Dark passions explode in this steamy, sinister love story starring Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges. Terry Brogan (Bridges), a cynical ex-football star, is hired to find Jessie Wyler (Ward), the runaway mistress of a ruthless LA nightclub owner, Jake Wise (James Woods)... Packed with riveting excitement and vivid sensuality, Against All Odds grabs you and never lets you go.” 

What Did I Learn?: If you’re a public figure, it’s difficult to balance protecting the environment with betting on football games. 

Really?: 1) Wait just a minute... Caxton controls Wise, and yet he did nothing when Mrs. Wyler – his wife – strongly objected to Wise dating Jessie? WTF? 2) Um.... what was the point of that car chase? I mean, I guess it demonstrated that Jake has balls the size of grapefruits, and he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to win, but reckless driving along a busy highway is a great way to end up in jail. 3) So, um... how old is Jessie, exactly? Bridges was 34 when this movie was made, and I’m guessing Woods was in his mid-thirties, as well. The film ends with Jessie under her mother’s thumb, so... this is a bit creepy. 

Rating: Against All Odds is a very loose remake of Out of the Past, and it works on its own terms as a suspense thriller. Bridges and Woods portray surprisingly complex characters, the film boasts a lot of beautiful location shots of Mexico and Century City, the musical score is impressive (interestingly, we don't hear the Phil Collins title song until the final credits), and things really start to heat up in the third act. My only complaint is there’s too much extra plot about land deals and crooked politicians that’s a bit superfluous to the story. 8/10 stars.

The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

Jeff Bridges Film Fest Movie #15

Synopsis: Brother, can you spare a... dame

[Sound of crickets chirping] 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In the last 15 years Jack Baker (Jeff Bridges) and Frank Baker (Beau Bridges) have played every hotel and cocktail lounge they could book. But lately business has been off and they decide to hire Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer), a chain-smoking, hard-talking beauty with a terrific voice.” 

What Did I Learn?: The song “Feelings” is a lot like parsley. Take it away, and nobody will notice the difference. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You know there's nothing original in Hollywood anymore.
Really?: So wait – the Baker brothers have performed together for a good 15 years, and in all of that time, Jack (Jeff Bridges) never once told Frank (Beau Bridges) that he didn’t like to be addressed as “little brother”?

Rating: Filled with great music, The Fabulous Baker Boys is a sometimes-funny, occasionally-poignant character-driven drama about sibling rivalry, and finding the courage to take a chance. Pfeiffer is incredibly sexy as the jaded Susie, while Jeff and Beau are perfectly cast as the bickering brothers. Oh – watch for Jennifer Tilly as a waitress and wannabe singer. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Fisher King (1991)

Jeff Bridges Film Fest Movie #14

Synopsis: Ever wanted to see Howard Stern walk through the movie Excalibur during a weird acid flashback? This comes close... 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer and Mercedes Ruehl star in Terry Gilliam’s must-see comic masterpiece. Williams is Parry, a homeless history professor who lives in a fantasy world of castles, Red Knights and damsels in distress. Bridges co-stars as Jack, New York’s #1 shock dee-jay, whose off-hand arrogance triggers a tragedy which ruins his career. Penniless and without prospects, Jack finds himself plucked from disaster by the most improbably of saviours... Parry.” 

What Did I Learn?: There's three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer.

Really?: 1) The Fisher King is a very strange modern fantasy movie, so it might not be entirely fair to judge it on this basis. That said, take a drink every time somebody starts screaming for no good reason. 2) So wait – why would a couple of toughs save Jack from an attempted suicide just so they can, um... burn him alive for no good reason? WTF? 

Rating: I have to give The Fisher King a somewhat mixed review. Like Terry Gilliam’s other films, it is highly imaginative, there are a lot of stunning visuals, and Mercedes Ruehl is wonderful as Jack’s long-suffering girlfriend (Bridges is also quite good, but I had a hard time believing his character development near the end). Unfortunately, the plot becomes increasingly difficult to swallow, many of the jokes fall flat (Bridges has a few good lines near the end, though) Williams is a bit wacky and manic for my taste, and too many scenes descend into pointless screaming matches. 6.5/10 stars.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Jeff Bridges Film Fest Movie #13

Synopsis: The Dude abides. He also bowls, steals a rug, bangs an attractive-but-creepy heiress, and gets a good buddy killed. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “the Dude. One cool guy. Who one day comes home to find two thugs have broken in and ruined his favourite carpet – the one that made the room ‘hang together.’ Thing is, they did it because he’s got the exact same name as one of the richest men in town, Lebowski.” 

What Did I Learn?: 1) Nobody fucks with the Jesus. 2) Firearms have no place in a bowling alley. 

Really?: The Big Lebowski isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously, but I had a bit of trouble believing a peace-love-and-great-dope ex-hippie like The Dude would ever hang out with a militaristic whackjob like Walter (John Goodman). But then, bowling has a way of bringing people together. 

Rating: The Big Lebowski is funny, cleverly-written, packed with stars, and it's one of the Coen Brothers' better films, a list that includes Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men (I wasn't that crazy about Raising Arizona or The Hudsucker Proxy). Bridges delivers an outstanding performance as the loveable-but-lazy Dude, but Goodman steals nearly every scene as the bombastic Walter. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Texasville (1990)

Jeff Bridges Film Fest Movie #12

Synopsis: This is just like The Last Picture Show, except it’s a comedy, it’s filmed in glorious colour, everyone’s a lot older, Jeff Bridges – not Timothy Bottoms – plays the protagonist, and.... actually, it’s almost nothing like The Last Picture Show.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Welcome to Texasville. Hang on to your hat. And your spouse.” 

What Did I Learn?: Cybill Shepherd is a bad actress. Then again, I should have remembered that from The Lady Vanishes

Really?: 1) Everyone’s incredibly blasé about all the pre-marital, and extra-marital affairs going on, aren’t they? Do rich people really behave this way in real life? 2) Wow – take a drink every time the gang goes out for breakfast. 

Rating: Texasville never really looks or feels like a true sequel to The Last Picture Show (see: “Synopsis”); it’s a nice little movie with a few good moments, but Bottoms, Cloris Leachman and Eileen Brennan are wasted in meaningless roles – it’s the basically the Jeff-and-Cybill-Show -  and the whole thing seems a bit lighthearted-but-aimless. 7/10 stars.