This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Tall Guy (1989)

"Great! Two people...on their own...in the middle of the afternoon...and not tired."
"Ideal circumstances for Scabble."
-Kate Lemmon & Dexter King



Jeff Goldblum has played many interesting roles during his career. Probably his most famous are the scientists he played in The Fly (1986) and Jurassic Park (1993). In between those two classics, though, Goldblum portrayed the title character/narrator of this British romantic comedy.
He plays an American actor named Dexter King, who has made a living for himself in England playing second banana to acclaimed but egotistical stage actor Ron Anderson (Rowan Atkinson). In addition to having a boss who loves only himself (and shouts down anyone who so much as talks without his permission), Dexter has an unsuccessful track record when it comes to romance. The only person he can vent to is his nymphomaniac landlady, Carmen (Geraldine James).
One day, Dexter contracts hay fever and, upon going to the doctor, instantly falls for a nurse named Kate Lemmon (Emma Thompson). This prompts him to ignore his fear of getting shots so he can talk to her. After some initial shyness, he finally asks Kate out, & she accepts.
Their first time sleeping together is probably the funniest sex scene ever filmed as the couple roll around so much, they knock many things in Kate's room down onto them. Their fun also leads to Dexter missing out on one of his scheduled evening shows, which, in turn, gives Ron a reason to fire him. By this point, though, Dexter's new positive outlook prompts him and Kate to simply retaliate by painting a mustache on Ron's picture which hangs outside his theater.
Dexter eventually finds work again by playing the lead in a musical version of The Elephant Man, which is simply titled Elephant! During production, though, he jeopardizes his relationship with Kate when he succumbs to the advances of a married costar, who says she's been a fan of his from his work with Ron.
Kate's best moment is when she puts the pieces together of this little get-together on the musical's opening night. Her clues are simply the way Dexter and the other woman react to each other, rather than the usual comedy cliches of finding a love letter or seeing an incriminating picture. With that, Kate promptly leaves him, sending Dexter back into his depressed state even though he now has a degree of artistic respectability under his belt.
His depression turns to anger, however, when, on the eve of another performance, Dexter sees on TV that Ron is dating Kate. He implusively leaves before the curtain rises and goes to confront Ron in another funny scene. Needless to say, Dexter & Kate make up soon afterward.
This was the first filmed screenplay written by Richard Curtis, who would later gain fame as the writer of such comedy classics as Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Notting Hill (1999), and Bridget Jones's Diary (2001).
Although the ending was basically inevitable, the movie has plenty of funny moments. Goldblum is perfect in the lead and displays sweet chemistry with Thompson, who made this film shortly before becoming a star (& an Oscar winner) with Howard's End (1992). Atkinson is also appropriately unlikable in what is basically a 'straight man' role for him, far from his character Bean (coincidentally, Curtis wrote the script for the 1997 Bean movie, as well).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

"Gesundheit"
-Lt. Zachary Garber



As unfortunate as this sounds, if anyone knows about this film today, it's only because of the surprisingly dull remake it received in 2009. The original, though, has everything the remake desperately lacks: genuine thrills, interesting characters, a script that remains faithful to the John Godey novel of the same name, & plot twists that don't make the viewer ask "WTF?" The only thing the remake had for it was the star power of Denzel Washington & John Travolta in the leads, which is why it was quite surprising that that film proved as lousy an idea as the remakes to The Omen (2006) or The Fog (2005). Like The Wild Geese (1978), this is a film that really couldn't be made in the same way today because a good amount of the running time is set establishing characters and settings before any shocks come at the viewer. Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) is with the NYC Transit Police, which looks after the city's subway system. His day starts out on an unenviable note when he's assigned to give a tour to members of the Japanese transit authority, whom Garber mistakenly assumes don't understand English. That's when the title train is suddenly hijacked by four armed men. These men identify themselves with code names, specifically names of colors. The leader of the quartet is the crafty Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw). His confederates are former train engineer Mr. Green (Martin Balsam), the obiedient Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman), and the trigger-happy former Mafia hit man, Mr. Grey (Hector Elizondo). Once they disconnect the head car from the rest of the train, they announce their demands to the command center: $1 million is to be delivered to them in one hour, or one hostage a minute dies. Garber and Blue then spend much of the film's screen time bantering with each other as the former tries to squeeze as much time out as possible to save the hostages. What makes this film interesting, though, is that both men spend almost as much time contending with the difficulty of their own people. Garber has to deal with the indifference of control room operator Frank Correll (Dick O'Neill), while Blue's patience is tested by Grey's insubordination (which Blue satisfactorily resolves at the film's climax). Eventually, Grey and Brown are killed before Blue and Garber briefly meet face-to-face after Blue is about to kill one of his hostages who was, in fact, an undercover policeman. This single scene with Matthau & Shaw shows two great pros at work, as does the final scene when Garber tracks down Green. Another plus to the film is David Shire's musical score, which sets up the excitement from the title sequence on, much like Keith Emerson's music for Nighthawks (1981). What's even worse than the remake, though, was the this film's director, Joseph Sargent, despite great credits such as this film as his first, Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), has become known in recent years as the director of the dreadful Jaws: The Revenge (1987).