Geriatric Death Wish

DATELINE: Don’t Call Him Dirty Harry!

what's it all about, Alfie?  Dirty Alfie?

When you take a premise to the British producers, you will have something better than the original American version.

So, when someone floated the idea of a British vigilante going after bad guys that the police cannot catch, you end up with Harry Brown, outdoing Charles Bronson or Bruce Willis in Death Wish.

This thriller is about an octogenarian who takes on teenage hoodlums single-handedly. Now, there are a raft of British movie stars who could come out of retirement to play such a role (Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Tom Courtney, etc.). However, this one is delightful because the man of the gun is a version of Dirty Harry, Michael Caine.

As far as the teenage bad guys, they seem motiveless and simply evil for their own pleasure, which could likely be true enough.

Michael Caine is driven to draw on his heroic soldier roots from Belfast’s conflicts. He notes that the enemy in that British conflict actually stood for something they believed in. These drug-infested youth are just nasty for their own sake.

You throw in some highly inept British police that are typified by Emily Mortimer as an all-business detective, and you have the need for an aging hero to try to chase kids down the mean streets.

Caine’s righteous anger simmers and you believe this retired gentleman can draw upon something from his past when he goes rogue. We need to see a tough guy without mercy who is 80.

Obviously, the world of movies and the old stars still has a draw—and the aging boomer generation still loves its Alfie and 60s spy. We know what it’s all about: showing that age has not slowed down heroic feelings.

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Michael Caine: My Generation is Not Yours

DATELINE: Swinging 60s?

Michael Caine Only Blowing Off the Doors?

Michael Caine, one of the great film stars, and under-rated actors since the 1960s, produces and presents a documentary that gives intriguing insight into the London influence of the 1960s.

That was the time of swinging London, Carnaby Street, and the Beatles. It was also when Caine first struck pay-dirt in his movie career.

Caine knows enough to start the documentary with his famous line from the Italian Job about blowing the bloody doors off the car, famously parodied in The Trip and The Trip to Spain by Coogan and Brydon.

You will see a few TV clips of his early performances, and he tells how he chose the name Caine for his career (based on an old Humphrey Bogart movie playing nearby when he was selecting). All this early detail is marvelous.

He even notes that he was a few years older than the group of Cockney stars that rose up in music, film, photography, and fashion. But he was there.

With ingenious clips of young Caine riding up in an elevator, and the old man stepping out, you have his memories coming out: he recalls going to a trendy dance club where every Beatle and every Rolling Stone was dancing; he figured this was the place to be.

Michael Caine converses with Roger Daltrey, Donovan, Joan Collins, Twiggy, Paul McCartney, and Marianne Faithfull, about the days when they were young. He is right there for most of this, but in the final segments, when drugs and LSD take hold, he is not really a participant.

As he points out, he kept his head. It is why he is still making movies fifty years later. He was far beyond London by the late 1960s and the drug scene there. It is alien to him.

The insights are fun and enlightening in his chats with those who transcended their Cockney roots. There is also a soundtrack of great 60s music from Kinks, Beatles, Stones, and Animals.

 

 

Tripping Again with Coogan & Brydon

 DATELINE: Another Sequel, not Deja Vu

 tripping

No, you didn’t read this movie review last week here.

What more can you ask?  Beautiful scenery, lovely music, and witty conversation. Yes, those two British actors (one with 2 Oscar nominations) are back to delight us.

We have skipped the second trip to Italy for now and cut to the chase with Trip to Spain. These two marvelous performers can hit the road and still hit their marks. This is another followup to their British series, The Trip, condensed and made into a feature film. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis movie, despite what the New York Times claims.

They seem to make the films every three or four years, which is just about right. They are reality-based, as the stars play themselves, notable thespians and comedians on a journalistic journey for the New York Times as food critics, or culture commentators.

With each stop at a breathtaking locale, Steve Coogan foams at the mouth with his erudite knowledge. Heaven help you if you know more or have enough. Rob Brydon can match him every mile, and that makes them chemically compatible.

Each morsel is back-lit with some of the funniest conversations this side of reality. Coogan notes how sorry he feels for anyone who thinks this stuff is not scripted and fully ad-libbed. It’s likely a circle within a square is outlined and the two drop in their witticisms.

However, the impressions make all the difference over the meals. When they argue over who does the best Mick Jagger impression as he plays Hamlet, you have moments that will knock fans of Noel Coward into the aisle.

Coogan remains prickly, but Brydon manages to break him up several times this trip, which may not have been planned.

If Coogan reminds us of ourselves, then we have had a bittersweet lesson. Sheer delight awaits the viewer.

 

 

 

Coward’s Italian Job, Mad Dogs & Englishmen

 DATELINE:  Sir Noël

Caine & Coward Caine & Coward Comedy!

Noël Coward and Benny Hill? In the same movie?

Our attention has been caught big-time in this 1969 crime caper movie, a genre all the rage in the 1960s, with epitome The Italian Job. Forget the recent remake.

As if pairing those Benny and Noël was enough, you add in Rossano Brazzi and Raf Vallone as the genuine Italians—and Michael Caine as the British mastermind of a robbery in Turin, Italy, of gold bullion being driven through its narrow streets.

The film is lusciously produced with all those magnificent scenes of the historic Italian city and the gorgeous Italian Alps with its twisty roads. You can figure on car chases that will outdo all those hills in San Francisco.

As with classics like this, the actual production is less impressive. The stars seem self-contained in their roles. Indeed, there are no scenes with Brazzi and his fellow stars at all. The closest Benny Hill comes to Noël Coward is standing 50 feet away on a mole hill at a funeral.

The glue is a boyish and charming Michael Caine, so young that when he meets Noël Coward in a lavatory, you almost feel it is salacious.

Waspy Coward is a mob kingpin, believe it or don’t, who has bribed enough people to move in and out of his British prison cell with aplomb you’d expect from a sophisticated star. He runs everything with an iron fist in a dainty velvet glove.

Technology, alas, is ancient here. Good heavens, Benny Hill plays a computer nerd running around with a ten-inch reel of programming. Communication is also primitive with 16mm film as the preferred mode to send text messages. Yet, the charm is delightful and timeless.

Once the cars start piling up, you have a traffic jam for the pre-Euro-dollar ages.

 

Mandela & De Klerk Teaches US Hard Lesson

DATELINE:  A Timely Movie from 20 Years Ago

mandela

With racial tension once again dominating the United States and with a president defending white supremacists as “many fine people,” we felt it was time to take a look at a 20-year old movie called Mandela & De Klerk.

Somehow, in our blithe ignorance, we missed this small film in 1997 when Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine took on the roles of the title. We doubt today’s self-righteous and self-leftists are even able to sit down and watch a thoughtful movie.

After 27 years in jail in a society based on racial divisions, Nelson Mandela’s movement to end apartheid flourished with millions of African people pitted against a minority of white people.

With the emergence of a reasonable and man of moral scruples in F.W. De Klerk came the détente and building of a relationship built on racial equality, if not a stronger tolerance.

To have two superstars come to play the roles gives the newsreel based footage something more intimate and human. The film was made on location in South Africa, and the actors are clearly well-chosen for their parts in delineating how race riots can be quelled by good men in temperate mode.

We usually eschew preachy movies, or overtly political allegories—but this film now seems more apt than ever for another country that has too long taken on a holier-than-thou attitude in the world.

Neo-Nazis, crypto-Nazis, and their ilk, have come to hate the loss of “white” culture in a world where inevitably the American nation will be dominated by minorities when people of color become the American majority within 50 years, or less.

It may be time to wake up and smell the coffee, whether you are alt-right, or alt-left, or just alt-of-this-world.

Clever Conundrums Beating the Detective in You

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

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OUR GANG: Branagh, Law, Caine, &  Pinter

We took in Sleuth again, not the Joe Mankiewicz film with Michael Caine, but the update by Kenneth Branagh with Michael Caine.

In an essential two-character entertaining play, Caine had the distinction of playing the younger role in the 1970s and the older role in 2007. He also had the dubious honor to costar with Margo Channing, perhaps the only actor to do that since 1950. Yes, she plays Andrew Wyke’s wife in the earlier version.

In the update, the role goes uncredited, but she may be the key to the mystery. Is she or isn’t she in on the double cross? As a matter of fact, after watching the film for perhaps the fourth time since it was released, we are still unsure who has been double-crossed by whom.

We do know there are losers among the characters, but the real winner is the audience. Branagh’s update includes all the technological marvels that a millionaire writer can put into his playpen house. Caine’s Wyke has an elaborate security system with cameras that nearly are as invasive as his wit.

Jude Law gives what must be his seminal performance as Milo Tindle, the hairdresser—or is he an actor? Is he really sleeping with Wyke’s wife or Wyke himself?

Caine’s diabolical character is a gameplayer with any number of propositions, not the least of which is to put the make on his wife’s lover. Whether Tindle is a bisexual gigolo or just a chameleon who loses more than he bargains for remains hidden between the witty lines of dialogue.

From the get-go, the glass of Scotch is waiting for Tindle, already poured even after Caine asks him what he wants to drink. From the opening volley, we knew we were in deep.

We leave it to Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot fans to observe and to resolve the mystery. Indeed, we dare them.

What an enthralling mental exercise, featuring Anthony Shaffer’s brilliant play and Harold Pinter’s more brilliant screenplay. Pinter also has a cameo as an actor in one of Wyke’s mystery books that have been adapted for the screen.

It’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Absolutely delicious.

 

We Don’t See The Point of Now You See Me

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

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                                          Cute Trick: Dave Franco

We hate to review movies we hate. This big budget noisy film seemed to be an opiate for the masses. It’s purportedly about magicians too smart for their own good who take on the FBI with the motive of making them look bad and some unbelievable revenge served cold.

You would think the FBI could do that without any extra help.

A motley crew of actors and characterizations are thrown together by an unseen power to rob banks and give money to their poor Las Vegas audiences.

Each magician is unlikeable and capable of some unearthly feats that could never be accomplished by magic shows without budgets bigger than the Homeland Security has, but this is a movie. The magic is all special effects. The plot is a sieve.

Woody Harrelson usually has more interesting roles at his disposal, and Jesse Eisenberg plays a fast-talking charmer. They were better together fighting zombies last year. Dave Franco is cuter than ever.

Other familiar faces permeate the proceedings, raising this to the level of a movie demanding a sequel. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Mark Ruffalo, seem lately to be happy to be players in movies where roles are glorified cameos.

This movie is billed as a crime thriller, but it is an excuse to string together two hours of pointless overplotted activities, but all the stars made a hefty paycheck. Mission: Impossible on TV did it better. What’s the real magic and genuine robbery: taking the moviegoers’ hard earned money and giving them an empty experience?

Put aside any thoughts of a truly amusing bad movie like Houdini with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. This will sit like a bad meal in your stomach. We warned you we didn’t want to review this eye-rolling picture, but misdirection fools magic audiences.

Ossurworld presents several books of movie insights, including ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED and MOVIE MASHUP!  His movie reviews are collected and presented on Amazon.com for your e-book reader.