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Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

laodedweapon1There was a time in my 46 year life that the name National Lampoon meant hilarious comedy. I was first introduced to the name as a small lad while watching National Lampoon’s Animal House.   Boy that was a great movie for an 8 year old.   So many breasts so little, little time, but, I digress.  The National Lampoon name gave us such classics as the above mentioned Animal House, Vacation, and Christmas Vacation.  Now that seems like a 100 years ago because over the last 20+ years the name is associated with garbage.  I saw the beginning of the demise of the name in a large movie theater in 1993 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  I remember it because in a movie theater that could seat 250 people there was myself, and two other people, in the entire theater.  The name of that movie was National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1.

The movie is a parody of the first two Lethal Weapon movies as well as a host of other successful films of the late 80’s early 90’s.  Detectives Colt, played by Emilio Estevez (Bobby,) and Luger, played by Samuel L. Jackson (Iron Man 2,) are looking for the killer of Luger’s former partner York, played briefly by Whoopi Goldberg (Sister Act,) and how its connected with the distribution of Cocaine by selling Wilderness Girl Cookies.

Thanks to wonderful comedic spoof movies such as Airplane and, more importantly, The Naked Gun franchise, in the 80’s, spoof movies became a part of the comedic movie landscape.  Unfortunately almost all of them suck.  But that didn’t keep people from making them.  The problem is that the spoof movies all suffered from the same thing in that they largely ignored the story and instead used a constant barrage of one time gags that weren’t even related to the film’s story but had more to do with pop culture of the time.  The reason why Airplane, The Naked Gun, Hot Shots, and two of the Scary Movies, are funny is that the story is the driving force of the comedy and the gags that are written into it are overblown examples of the movies they are spoofing.

The problem for Loaded Weapon 1 is that most of the films gags are all based on other movies of the era and even though they are blown out of proportion that don’t add to the humor of the film.  The gags that were spoofing the movies Silence of the Lambs and Basic Instinct didn’t really work.  Although I will say that the interrogation scene that was from Basic Instinct was somewhat humorous because of the “gratuitous beaver shot” in which they movie showed a stuff beaver was somewhat cleaver.  Nowhere near as cleaver as the “Nice Beaver” gag in The Naked Gun, but it did cause me to giggle when I saw the film, which is few and far between.  The writing is the weak link in the film.  Too many of the pop culture references, while they may look good on paper, just don’t work.  Besides the above mentioned movie references there is a scene where the Colt and Luger are in a hotel looking for their informant and they move up the stairs where they see gunfire.  When they get to the second floor they see a motorcycle policeman with his cycle, shooting at someone.  This isn’t any ordinary motorcycle cop but Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello from the 70’s and 80’s TV show C.H.i.P.S. (unfortunately being remade into a movie coming out this year for some reason.)  While I would assume many of us would get the joke by this time it is 10 years after the TV show was canceled and nowhere near funny enough.

The actors were a mix bag of both funny and unfunny.  While I am a fan of both Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson, neither of them really seemed to have any comedic timing in the film but then again it could be because they didn’t have anything funny to say.  It was almost as if they were both the straight men and the rest of the cast got to have all the fun.  Since a certain amount of over acting needs to take place, the main villain of the film, General Mortars, played by William Shatner (Star Trek,)is perfectly cast because no man overacts like Shatner and has a great time doing it.  General Mortars henchman Mr. Jigsaw, played by Tim Curry (Clue,) is also enjoyable in the film.  I will admit that the one actress I wanted to see in this film is a horrible actress but a gorgeous super model…of the 1980’s.  Her name is Kathy Ireland and she is very hot…for the 1980’s.  She is horrible in the film but wonderful to look at.

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If you want to watch the film, you watch for the Shatner over acting, the fun work of Tim Curry and the plethora of cameo’s from many comedians of the day (and one gorgeous actress named Denise Richards who is in a very short scene with Dennis Leary.)  This movie is a portent of all of the bad spoof movies to come in the late 1990’s and 2000’s and also the beginning of the end of the name of National Lampoon being synonymous with comedy.  It did make a brief showing in Van Wilder, but thankfully now has been put to bed.  Lastly I will say that I forgot how bad this movie was and was thinking about buying it online because as I am getting older I am having a serious nostalgia bug as well as today a real bug because the idiot M.I.T. at work got me sick.  Fortunately I only rented it because something told me this was not worth buying.  I was right in that it is not worth buying but it is also not worth renting, ever.

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bonfireBoy I must have really done something to Benn to make me watch this film. I mean sure I asked him to do an essay on the Cinema de Stephen Segal, but he never did it.  And I didn’t make him because that is a hell that no one should have to deal with.  But then makes me watch this film, and when I text him and say that he finally has shown me a Tom Hanks movie worse than Joe Versus the Volcano, he laughs and says, yeah I watched and knew it was bad.  Well then why the hell make me watch it then?  Ok, so you just wait until I find something terrible for you to watch, Mr. Farrell.

Sherman McCoy, played by Tom Hanks (Nothing In Common,) is a Wall Street Bond trader who is also married with a kid.  Sherman also has a mistress Maria Ruskin, played by Melanie Griffith (Working Girl,) accidentally runs over a black teenager in the South Bronx while driving his car while in the car.  This sets off a chain of events that causes his life to unravel under the scrutiny of a minister, a district attorney running for mayor, an assistant district attorney trying to score points with his boss, and a down on his luck reporter, named Peter Fallow, played by Bruce Willis (Sin City,) looking for a story.  As Fallow starts to uncover the facts he begins to realize that Sherman is being railroaded by everyone and looks to help him out.

So to begin with we have to talk about the elephant in the room.  What in God’s name is Melanie Griffith doing in this movie?  Better yet, who the hell cast her to act in this film?  Her Southern accent is absolutely atrocious.  She hasn’t got a great voice to begin with because it seems like to me her regular voice is barely above a whisper.  Then you add an uneven and almost unpracticed sounding accent and every time she is on screen I am hating every second of it.  I know at this point in time she was coming off her Academy Award nomination for Working Girl, but that clearly was an anomaly on a otherwise unspectacular career and even Benn said in his review of Working Girl, click here to read it, she wasn’t all that good.  There is only one reason why, in my eyes, she was cast for this role and it can be seen in this picture here.

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While I was watching Tom Hanks in this film I was thinking of his performance in the movie The Man with the One Red Shoe.  For large parts of the film Hanks was playing this part very stiff and by the look in his eyes he wasn’t enjoying participating in this film.  There was nothing to like about his character in the film.  He is cheating on his wife and he is an arrogant tool.  So it’s hard to feel sorry for him when he discovers that everyone has decided to either betray him or frame him or use his situation for political gain.   And I really want to cheer for him because he is Tom Hanks!  Plus the writing was poor in this film, for many reasons, but one of the big ones is that it fails in showing how Hanks’s character Sherman has become estranged from his parents.  We get one back handed compliment from his wife Judy, played by Kim Cattrall (Crossroads,) about how he isn’t his dad, and we get one lunch at the beginning that shows that his father, played by Donald Moffit (Clear and Present Danger,) and his mother are concerned about him.  So this makes one of the final scenes anti-climatic when Sherman’s dad shows up in his empty apartment to tell him he loves him and supports him.  It would have been great if we had seen that they were angry with each other but that wasn’t the case so the reconciliation seemed unnecessary and pointless other than to feel good about the moment.   I will say that because it was Tom Hanks I was at least a little bit happier, so it did work, but only because I like Tom Hanks.

The other main star in this film, Bruce Willis, is also playing an unlikeable character.  He is a drunk and he writes the article based the lies of the people who have the agenda against Sherman.  So when he suddenly realizes the truth that Maria was the one driving, not Sherman, and he is helping to destroy an innocent man, it seems a little out of character for him and also self-serving.  In fact the whole point of the film is to show how one man can fall but still have everything and how a man can come from nothing and have everything, but still have nothing.  Bruce Willis also played the character of Peter Fallow in the same way he played his character on the TV show Moonlighting with one difference in that unlike the character of David Addison on the TV show, Peter Fallon has no “character” what so ever.  He is just a robotic reporter who is unable to convey emotion.

Like the three main characters, the rest of the cast, save one person, are all horrible people and impossible to cheer for in any capacity.  They are all crooked and corrupt and are just not good people and therefore I don’t care about them.  Now I am guessing that this is the point of the movie, as is I would guess the point of the book that it is based on.  The book was written during the 80’s where all the supposed evil in the country was centered in Wall Street and the people who worked in it.  So why a make a movie where you have to try and make one of these likeable?  I don’t get it.  But I did say there was one character who was likeable and that was the Judge in the Brooklyn court, Judge Leonard White, played by Morgan Freeman (Batman Begins.)  He is the one that is constantly yelling at all those who are corrupted and putting them in order, especially at Sherman’s trial.  He has a great speech about telling everyone to be decent.  Of course to me, the only other actor in this movie that has the credibility that Tom Hanks does would be Morgan Freeman.  He is an amazing actor and he had the only decent character in this movie.

This movie has no real redeeming quality because it has no one that you really want to cheer for as a hero.  Then you throw in the incredibly annoying voice and bad acting ability of Melanie Griffith and you have a recipe for disaster.  For some odd reason I remember the hype surrounding this movie back in 1990 before it came out and then the horrid reviews and box office failure of it.  I didn’t see it because of all that and now that I have seen it part of me wants to see some harm befall Benn Farrell.  It’ll pass because I don’t want it to happen, but making me watch movies like this makes me want to think it.

 

 

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nothingincommonThis movie to me was a prelude to how great Tom Hanks could be as an actor. This movie is also one of my favorite movies ever because no matter how many times I watch it I get so caught up in the film that I can’t focus on anything else, like write a review.  This film got me on a personal level because of the relationship I had with my father and even more so now that my father is gone.  Despite that I still argue that this is one of Hanks best performances he has had and in my list of Top Five Favorite Tom Hanks films this film is in the Top 5.

David Basner, played by Tom Hanks (The Man with One Red Shoe,) is a single, newly promoted executive in a successful Chicago advertising agency.  In an effort to gain a possible partnership in the agency he is trying bring in a new client, an airline, to the agency.  Before he can get started he gets a phone call from his estranged father Max, played by Jackie Gleason (Smokey and the Bandit,) who tells David that his mom, Lorraine, played by Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront,) has left him.  David begins to endure the worst time of his life as he tries to understand what happened to his parents, helping the both, dealing with the new client’s daughter Cheryl Ann, played by Sela Ward (Independence Day: Resurgence,) who is an executive with the new client, and leaning on his friend and ex high school girlfriend Donna, played by Bess Armstrong, (Jaws 3-D,) for support.

To me this is the first movie that Tom Hanks shows his ability to be a great dramatic actor.  In his scenes with Jackie Gleason he does a great job of portraying a low level form of dislike for the man as well as a begrudging love.  He also does a great job in showing his frustration with having to try and be a caring son to his separated parents and not have it affect his work, which it definitely does.  But not only is he able to show his dramatic chops in this film but he is able to make the funny scenes in this comedy drama very funny.  I don’t know if it was writing or improvisation but his quick wit was on display when he is sparing with his fellow employees as well as with the owner of the airline.   Hanks also makes this character very likeable.  I enjoy watching him in every scene and I am cheering for him when he sleeps with the airline stewardess as well as Cheryl Ann.  I also want to see him get back together with Donna as well.  And because I am cheering for him I feel his pain as he struggles with accepting the separation of his parents and especially the difficulty in his relationship with his dad.  I believe that this is easily his best performance in the 1980’s which includes the movie Big and is a great indicator of his future success in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

The other actor who was amazing in this film, and mind you I think all were great, was Jackie Gleason.  His portrayal of Max was amazing as he showed a man that is in some ways not a likeable man but in many ways a sympathetic man.  To me his character represented the ending of the single income household from the 40’s and 50’s in that the woman stayed home to raise the kids and the men worked.  That kind of man could still love his wife and family but have affairs and justify it.  He also made sure that he worked hard enough and long enough to make sure his family was never wanting for more.  He also was the kind of man who didn’t complain about illness and wasn’t likely to change either.  All of these traits were clashing with the men of the 1980’s who were a little bit more in touch with their feelings.  This dynamic plays out constantly in this movie with Max and David’s relationship.  Max never tells David he loves him, but David knows he does.  The amazing part of Jackie Gleason’s performance is that by this time in his life he was literally dying.  He was suffering from 4 different forms of cancer and was actually retired when director Garry Marshall asked him to come do this film.  He was able to get Gleason to do it because he told him if he didn’t then his last film would have been Smokey and the Bandit 3 and trust me that is not a good thing.

Eva Marie Saint did a nice job as David’s mother.  She had two great scenes when she tells David that she knew his father was cheating on her during their marriage and that everyone knew it and that she was embarrassed to admit it to him.  This was the catalyst for a bad confrontation between David and Max.  The other scene is when Max is in the hospital and she is there to initially check up on him and it devolves into yet another fight about their relationship and what he didn’t do.  The only thing she did that was annoying to me, and its small but it gets me every time I watch this film, is when she has cleaned her old apartment that she shared with Max and stocked it for him before he gets home from the hospital.  She gives David the keys and tells him she is never coming back.  She then turns and walks towards the door and gives both sides of the room a look and then shakes her head and walks out of the room forever.  The head shake is more of a good buy and good riddance shake and it just bothers me.  I get it, I know why she did it, but it still bothers me.

The entire supporting cast was great as well.  Loved Bess Armstrong as Donna Martin and am somewhat surprised that the only other big movie she was ever in was Jaws 3-D.  That is some kind of miscarriage of justice.  Sela Ward was also great as Cheryl Ann Wayne, the 80’s female power broker and a great counter to David’s borderline childish empowerment in the work force. The other main supporting cast that were noticeable were the airline owner Andrew Woolridge, played by Barry Corbin (Wargames,) the owner of the ad agency Charlie Gargis, played by Hector Elizondo (Pretty Woman,) and Roger the director, played by John  Kapelos (The Breakfast Club.)  Both Roger and Charlie play a part in helping David’s relationship with Max although in different ways.  Roger admits to David that he hasn’t spoken to his dad in years right after David talks about the huge fight he had with Max.  But the best part is when David just had blown up at Mr. Woolridge and was fired by Cheryl Wayne from the account and Charlie comes in to see how David is doing.  David has learned that Max has to go into surgery that he may not survive.  Charlie explains to David about his failings with dealing with his own fathers illness and how in the end Charlie’s father didn’t recognize him.  Both of these events pointed David into first saving his relationship with his dad and then staying with him during and after the surgery.  They were great small moments that lead to great big moments.

I can go on and on but its safe to say that I am a big fan of the film.  I am sure my love of the film blinds me from some of the negatives but I don’t care.  For me this film also hits home with the relationship I had with my father both the good and the bad times during my life.  I can say without a doubt that I wish I could have been there in the end but I can also say that I was glad that I had a great relationship with in the end and in that aspect have no regrets.  Which I think is the point of this story as well.

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dragnetI have a friend named Reed who is kind of a tool but also one of the most decent humans on the planet. When it comes to movies he and I disagree on a lot of things.  For example I enjoy movies made after 1980 and in general he believes cinema died after it.   One thing that I do that drives him nuts is when I say things like, “That movie is awful, but fun to watch so it’s good.” An example would but Hot Tub Time Machine.  I mention this because back when I saw this film in the 80’s I would have said the same thing about Dragnet, awful but fun to watch so it’s good.  I haven’t seen this movie since I sold my VHS copy of this to a pawn shop sometime in the 90’s, I decided to buy the three pack DVD set of Tom Hanks 80’s comedies on Amazon that included this film Dragnet, The Money Pit (which I already had so now I have 2, who wants one?,) and The ‘Burbs.  I bought it because it’s cheap and this month is our dedication to movies with the great Tom Hanks in them.  Well now that I am older and a little bit more grown up I have watched this film again and I no longer believe that it’s fun to watch so it’s mostly just bad now, which is sad.

Dragnet is a remake/homage to the 1950’s and 60’s classic TV show starring Jack Webb.  In the movie, his nephew Sargent Friday, played by Dan Aykroyd (Pearl Harbor,) and his new partner Pep Streebek, played by Tom Hanks (The Money Pit,) are investigating a string of robberies where the culprits leave calling card with the name PAGAN on it.  As they continue to investigate Friday and Streebek discover that the PAGAN group is not only interested in stealing cars but a far more nefarious goal that includes leaders of the religious community and the police department.

This movie doesn’t work because of its one main gag and that is it tries to satire a TV show that was silly to 1980’s audience but was treated as a serious police drama back in the 1950’s.  The writers of the movie, which include Aykroyd, took all of the mannerism of Jack Web as Joe Friday one step too far.  This can be seen when Aykroyd, as Friday, would do odd things like point to the obvious door in the building or repeat out loud what can easily be read or when reading off a law that was broken Friday would list all of the numbers with points.  But not just say Penal code 136.4 but Penal Code 145.876.2.4.1. Basically even though it seems that the TV show is ripe for mocking, the direction they went in this film was wrong.  You can’t treat the old TV show with awe and respect and turn around and mock it at the same time.

The only reason this movie is funny at all is because of Hanks.  He is the wise cracking funny man to Aykroyd’s straight man Friday.  There are many scenes that he makes tolerable and the best way to describe him in this film would be if you take his character from the movie Bachelor Party and turned him into a cop who is a smart guy who likes to have a good time that is witty and has great timing in delivering the comedy.  This movie also, in some way, was the beginning of the end as Dan Aykroyd being a bankable comedic actor. After this film he was in no real successful comedy that he was the star in.  He had some mild success in The Great Outdoors but that’s it.  He did much better in drama’s such as Driving Miss Daisy, and Chaplin.  This, too me, is kind of sad because he very much wanted this movie to succeed because he was a big fan of the TV show and it was a dream of his to make this movie.  But while his heart was willing his acting and writing made it impossible to like this film.

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The ending is something that I used to love as a kid but now I look at it and ask myself what the hell was I thinking?  After the police had showed up to stop the mass gassing of the soft core porn owner, Jerry Caesar, played by Dabney Coleman (Wargames,) the mastermind of the whole plan, Reverend Whirley, played by Christopher Plummer (Syriana,) had escaped with his hostage and Friday’s love interest Connie Swail, played by Alexandra Paul (Christine,) and had made it to the airport and flew off in a private jet just as Friday and Streebek arrive.  So it looks like the reverend will make it to Mexico as the plane is flying south in daylight when he looks over and sees an F-15 fighter plane that belongs to the LAPD and Friday is sitting in the back looking at Whirley, shaking his head and pointing down as the old school Dragnet them plays in the background.  Now as a kid I loved this scenes just because I thought it was awesome that they had an F-15 and that they would blow them out of the sky if he didn’t land.  What can I say?  I was a dumb kid who loved the military.  But now I think why would Whirley concede and land at the airport because he should have known that as long as the hostage was in the airplane there is no way they would shoot it down.  Plus the reverend had escaped late at night/early morning but in the dark.  Los Angeles isn’t that far from Mexico so it seems odd that it was bright daylight when the F-15 caught up to the leer jet.  How is possible that he is not in Mexico at this point which would make him free?  I guess I should suspend my disbelief but Im old now at it gets harder and harder.

This is not a good movie.  Of all of the Tom Hanks films, I only have Joe Versus the Volcano as the film that has Hanks in it that is worse than Dragnet.  Although I hate A League of their Own so much that I would say it’s close to this one.  The movie didn’t work and is sad on many levels.  I will say I was nice to see Harry Morgan in the film reprising his role for the TV show, even in a minor capacity.  Rarely will I ever say that Reed is right when it comes to movies, however this is the one rare time he is right.  This is bad.  I would say skip this but there is no chance that this movie would come up on cable TV of any kind.  Unless they do a bad 80’s comedy marathon but why would they do that?

P.S.  I almost forgot, during the end credits you get to hear Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd rap to a 80’s rap song about the movie.  That may be the one reason to watch this movie just so you can hear that.

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moneypitWell my friend Benn Farrell decided that the theme for November 2016 movies will be the movies of one of the best American actors of my generation, Tom Hanks. The great thing about Hanks is that before he was a great dramatic actor, he was the one of the 80’s funniest comedic actors.  One of his funnier movies in the 80’s was the classic The Money Pit where he and actress Shelly Long take on a house.

Walter Fielding, played by Tom Hanks (Sully,) is a lawyer who has been screwed over by his own father, who is also a lawyer, when his dad steals money from all of their joint clients and runs off to Brazil.  He is forced to live with his longtime girlfriend Anna, played by Shelley Long (The Brady Bunch Movie,) and that place they are living is at her ex-husbands downtown New York Apartment.  Unfortunately, Max, played by Alexander Godunov (Die Hard,) is coming back from Europe and they have to get out.  They decide to take a chance on a house in the suburbs that is cheaper than it should be.  Soon they find out that everything that is could be wrong with the house is wrong with the house and both Walter and Anna have to deal with the house and the contractors fixing the house and Anna’s ex-husband while they are waiting for the house to get fixed and keep their relationship together.

This movie reminds me of how awesome Tom Hanks is as a comedic actor.  His physical comedy with regards to what happens to the house as he starts fixing it causes me to giggle.  Especially when he rings the doorbell and it shocks him and when he hits his hand with the hammer his face is priceless both times.  Also he has one of the best movie laughs in history.  It happens when Walter and Anna are pouring water into the bathtub and the tub falls through the floor of the second story bathroom and hits the ground floor.  It is absolutely hilarious.  His comedic timing is perfect between himself and Shelley Long during the big fight scene.  They are being verbally abusive to each other and its amazing watching him not miss a beat in the entire confrontation.  No big surprise, he is the star of the show.

But I would be remiss not to mention two other characters in the film that helped make it a great funny show, the house and the contractors.  The house is a wonderful nemesis to Walter and Anna.  It is wonderful in helping test their relationship.  It slowly builds from when the front door falls off, to when the staircase collapses, to the fireplace and on and on.  It is really fun to see how the house comically destroys the two. The best scene with the house is the chain reaction scene which is somewhat synonymous with their relationship.  I also mentioned the contractors as the other character in this film and I specifically mention the group as a single character.  The owners of the company are a bunch of brothers named Shirk and we only see them once individually but they are all fun to watch but Art Shirk, played by Joe Mantegna (Godfather III,) is the best.  He hits on Anna and constantly makes sexual innuendos about carpentry.  But he was just the start.  Look at the contractors and you will see a motley crew of individuals you would expect to see at a carnival.  Walther’s interaction with them is enjoyable to watch every time the scene switches to the house.  These two characters help make the movie funnier.

I also want to mention the character Max played by Alexander Godunov.  Godunov played the role of the egotistical conductor very nice.  He constantly is begging Anna to come back to him but also shows how self-centered he is and showing why she left him in the first place.  He is also is the tipping point in the relationship between Walter and Anna by tricking Anna into thinking she cheated on Walter with him while he was out of town.  I enjoyed Godunov in this film.  I remember him more as the main henchman in the movie Die Hard and was once a talented dancer but his personal demons were too much and he committed suicide a few years after Die Hard.  So its nice to have him in this film in a role that is different than his Die Hard film.

I have failed to have mention Shelly Long in this film and I need to do so because I do not want to sound like her role was insignificant.  However, while I find that she did nothing bad at all in the film she stood out to me in no particular way.  She was the perfect foil to Tom Hanks as the romantic lead.  She reminded me of her role in the long running 80’s TV show Cheers.  She was funny and charming with a little fight in her.  But the fact that she doesn’t stand out almost bothers me.  She left Cheers for a movie career and this is almost the highlight of her film career.  As much as I love this movie, that’s not good.  For what its worth she is entertaining in this film.

This is one of those great 80’s comedies that remind me of my childhood because its silly, pointless and funny.  It also goes to show how awesome Tom Hanks was as a comedic actor in the 80’s and it makes me wonder why he really hasn’t done one now.  But then again there aren’t a lot of great comedies being made in today’s cinema so maybe that’s why.  If you haven’t seen this film please watch it and prepare to chuckle.

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mrsmithThose of you who know me know that even though I run the accounting department where I work, I actually have a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Since my movie cohort Benn Farrell and I decided to make October reviews theme Presidential movies in honor of this horrendous Presidential election, I decided my Classic Movie Review would be a movie that many of my High School teachers and college Professors of Political Science told me to see, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  I can see why a Political Science teacher would want someone to see this movie because even though it is extremely dated it does have some relative points to make even in today’s political landscape.

Jefferson Smith, played by Jimmy Stewart (It’s a Wonderful Life,) is the leader of a rural outdoor boys organization in a unnamed American state when he is appointed by the Governor to be one of the two US Senator of his state when the sitting Senator dies.  What Smith doesn’t know is that a local businessman named Jim Taylor, played by Edward Arnold (Meet John Doe,) has bribed the Governor and the other sitting Senator, Joseph Paine, played by Claude Rains (Casablanca,) to propose a bill in the US Senate that includes money to build a dam that is profitable to Taylor and Smith was sent to Washington to be an unknowing supporter of the bill by just doing what Paine tells him.  However, Paine, Taylor and the Governor weren’t planning for is Smith’s assistant Saunders, played by Jean Arthur (Shane,) who was the original Senators assistant, to fall for his innocence and his wholesome beliefs of what the country stands for, and tells Smith exactly what is going on.  When Smith tries to tell his fellow Senators what is going on, Paine turns on him and tries to get Smith kicked out of the Senate.  Smith must try to not only save his job but also convince the Senate that he is telling the truth and Paine is lying about the dam.

So my biggest problem with the movie is the story and the unnecessary…oh how do I say it…filmmaking choices by legendary director Frank Capra.  I’ll start by explaining the last half of the previous sentence.  When I mean filmmaking choices I mean the style that was in use during this time in that there is a scene in the film that is puts together a montage of location scenes to set the mood of the moment or the character of the individual or the theme of the movie.  In this movie we have a scene just like this.  The story sets up this scene earlier by showing our dear Mr. Smith at a rally where he shows how patriotic he is, how he believes in the purity of the Constitution, and his naivety at how this process works.   Later we see him arrive at a train station in Washington DC and his handler quickly loses him.  There is great consternation about where he has gone and what has happened to him.  Well never fear movie watchers as Frank Capra takes us on the journey with Mr. Smith.  What the viewer gets is about 3 minutes and 18 seconds I think (I wrote it down but lost the paper,) of a montage of Washington DC landmarks with a heavy emphasis on the Lincoln Memorial.  Wow.  Just Wow.  I know that this movie was made in 1939 and most of the country could not just get in the car and take the family on a trip to DC.  It was the depression after all.  But however long this montage is it is too much. I feel that this montage also tries to show how patriotic the film is supposed to be but I already get that feeling from the title of the movie and the first 15 minutes.  This is a minor issue but it leads into the biggest drawback of the movie which is the unfulfilling ending.  The ending, spoiler alert…as if you were going to watch this, has Mr. Smith going on a marathon filibuster in the Senate to keep the vote from happening on whether or not to kick him out of the Senate.   He is trying to convince the Senate that the bill that is to be voted on is a fraudulent one that needs to be stopped.  As Smith becomes fatigued he is able to finally get Senator Paine to admit that everything Smith has been saying is right.  The rest of the Senate has gotten out of their seats to charge at Paine who is acting crazy while Smith has passed out from exhaustion at this point.  Do we get to see what happens? Do we get to see Taylor crushed and arrested?  Do we see the aftermath of the confession and Paine sent away and Smith Vindicated?  Do we see get to see Saunders and Smith give each other that big Hollywood hug and kiss that happens at the end of these movies?  Nope.  Paine goes looney on the Senate floor, he is rushed, Smith is carried out with a smiling Saunders looking from above, fade to black, then end.  Now here is where my two issues combine.  Maybe, just maybe, if we had only a 30 second patriotic montage at the beginning, we can take those 2+ minutes and put them at the end of the film, to see what happens.  But no, let’s give us a 3 minute montage of DC and leave us wondering what happens at the end.  Don’t like it.

The acting is superb in the film with Stewart leading the way.  He has the deer in head lights look of innocence anyway so its not hard for him to be a naïve country boy in the big city.  But his big filibuster speech is pretty amazing.  He also works well with leading lady Jean Arthur who herself has a pretty funny scene where she is drunk off her ass in a bar.  However I will say that I just don’t buy that these two, Smith and Saunders, would fall in love with each other that fast.  But it’s Hollywood and we need a love story in our movies.

As much as I bagged on the story earlier above, it is also very good for a few reasons.  The writer, and maybe director, did a great job of keeping this political movie non-political.  What I mean by that is that we don’t know from what state Smith comes from.  We don’t know the political affiliations of the good or bad guys in the film.  If a remake of this movie is made today I would bet you my next 10 paychecks that the corrupted members were Republicans and the good and honest politicians were Democrats.  Hollywood has changed a lot in 80 years.  The reason that this movie is a timeless classic is the issues in this movie are not dated and could work today.  Oh sure the main story of the building of dam by a corrupt businessman would have to change but the story itself is what remains the same.  Change the dam with Benghazi or email servers or bankrupt hotels and you have yourself a movie take from today’s absolutely horrible headlines.  The only problem for this movie I see is that it would be very difficult to find a non-partisan naïve individual who just believes in the founding fathers and the Constitution to play the part of Smith in this day and age.  Most of one party wants to get rid of the damn thing (Progressives…I’m speaking to you.  Yes you.)  I also will say that despite the ending that I complain about, the story keeps me involved and I want to see how it ends.

I can see why my political science professors and teachers wanted me to see this film.  It is a good film on how the politics of this country, both good and bad, work.  If you decide to see this film realize that it is dated and most of it is shot in a style that is like putting a camera inside a playhouse and watching a theater production of Mr. Smith goes to Washington but that is just the era in which this movie is made.  I can say that this is the first Jimmy Stewart movie I have watched where he was the star and I can see why he is considered an amazing actor for his generation.  I need to see more of his films.

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elvisI had no idea what to expect when I started watching this film.  I had seen very little about it other than it popping up on my Amazon Prime membership account.  Since Benn and I decided to do political themed movies this month in honor of the disgrace that this Presidential election brings and the fact that I hate most modern political movies because they are so biased in the story that I can’t suspend disbelief long enough to judge a film, this movie seemed like a relatively harmless one to watch.  I was right in that it was relatively harmless and fairly entertaining in this concise film about the famous meeting between the two.

In December 1970 Elvis Presley, played by Michael Shannon (Man of Steel,) decided that his country needs him so he hand writes a letter to President Nixon, played by Kevin Spacey (Recount,) and flies out to Washington DC to hand deliver the note to the north gate.  Two of Nixon’s staff members, Egil Krogh, played by Colin Hanks (The House Bunny,) and Dwight Chapin, played by Evan Peters (X-Men: Apocalypse,) try to convince President Nixon to take advantage of the situation politically to garner votes.  At the end of their meeting the two take a picture that is the most sought after picture in the National Archives.

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A movie like this depends on the two men playing these iconic figures and I would say that both hit it out of the park.  The first thing I loved about this film is Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Nixon.  He was hilariously funny as Nixon.  My impression of Nixon is one who is serious, no-nonsense, and somewhat of an asshole.  Spacey keeps the asshole and the no-nonsense, but his delivery is quick and it seems like he made the effort to give Nixon a humorous side.  It was fun to watch him do Nixon in body and voice which confirms to me that he is an amazing actor and, to a certain degree, under appreciated.

Michael Shannon’s performance surprised me because I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it turned out to be.  At first I had an issue that his voice wasn’t exactly as I expected it to be for Elvis but as the movie went on I warmed to the part.  What really amazed me was the depth that he gave Elvis considering the speed of the film.  He had two scenes that really gave us a small picture into Elvis’s personality.  The first one was when he was describing to his friend Jerry, played by Alex Pettyfer, (Magic Mike,) why Elvis needed him to stay with him. Elvis says, “See the difference between me and you Jerry is, see when you walk into a room, everybody sees Jerry, right?  When I walk into a room…everyone remembers their first kiss with one of my songs playing in the background, maybe they remember the time their girlfriend split up with them when she saw Blue Hawaii.  But they never see me.  They never see that boy from Memphis Tennessee.  He is buried Jerry, buried so deep, under gold jewelry and money, flash bulbs and makeup, screaming fans.  I don’t even know if I know who he is anymore.  But you do.  You know ‘em…the real Elvis.”  Shannon does an excellent job of delivering this wonderful line.  It was some emotion that I just wasn’t expecting in the film.  The second scene that I loved Shannon in was again when he showed emotion when he was practicing introducing himself to the President and he talked about how he had a twin that was still born and what his mother must have been going through during the delivery.  Amazing stuff.  It was also comforting to know that I am not the only one who tends to practice what he says before having a conversation.

I would also like to commend to other performers that I have already mentioned, Colin Hanks and Alex Pettyfer.  Hanks was fun in the scenes where he was trying to convince Nixon to see Elvis as well as his interaction between his character and Elvis when inside the White House.  There is a scene where Hanks as Krough is explaining the rules to Elvis and two of them are that on the table there is a Dr. Pepper and some M & M’s and he explains to Elvis not to touch them because they are the President’s drink and candy.  Within a few minutes after introduction Elvis has sat down next to the coffee table picked up the Dr. Pepper and asks for a bottle opener while eating a few M&M’s all while Krough is staring in disbelief.  The other character that was good to watch was Jerry played by Pettyfer.  He had a larger role and was probably the only real supporting role in the film.  His character had once worked for Elvis but left him, on good terms, to move to California to make it on his own away from Elvis with his girlfriend.  But Elvis, as the scene I pointed out above, still needed Jerry and it was hilarious but also touching how Jerry and Elvis interacted together.  Jerry was constantly getting Elvis out of trouble or getting him in to places he was denied.  The best example is when Jerry asks Krough and Chapin if Nixon has any daughters and Krough says he does.  The next scene is in the White House where Nixon gets a phone call from his daughter screaming to get a picture and an autograph from Elvis.  This was the funniest of many times they used this ploy to get Elvis into and out of different situations.  Besides this you can also see the turmoil that Jerry is going through because he wants to stay with Elvis but he knows he must move on and grow as a person.  It was a nice tiny subplot to the main story.

The screenwriters Joey and Hanala Sagal did a great job of writing a quick witted and funny movie.  The amazing thing is that they are able to make a 36-hour period in which the film takes place seem both quick but full in terms of story.  What was enjoyable to watch was the many different actions and reactions to various people that met Elvis in this day.  But possibly the best stuff was the interaction between Elvis and Nixon which is amazing considering that Elvis is introduced to Nixon with a full 45 minutes left in the movie.  But it was fast and entertaining and I had no clue it was that long when I was watching it for the first time.

This was a surprisingly entertaining film and if you want to watch good actors working a good script excellently then watch this film.  I will say that when I watch any political film I am always worried that the left wing biased Hollywood will show itself.  However, I can say that this was not the case.  Even though Nixon was written and was acted as if he was a buffoon it was not at all rude or obvious.  I didn’t see any left wing nonsense in this film.  So if you want to know a possible history of the famous picture then enjoy this film.

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