Sunday, October 26, 2014

La Parisienne (1957)

Brigitte Laurier (Brigitte Bardot), daughter of the French President Alcide Laurier (André Luguet), has her eyes set on Michel Legrand (Henri Vidal), her father’s chief of staff. Of course, it wouldn't be seemly, not even in France, and he tries to avoid her whenever possible.

Besides, he has his hands full with his mistress, Monique Wilson (Madeleine Lebeau), who plans to divorce her husband so she can marry Michel.

That doesn't stop Brigitte; she redoubles her efforts and tantalizes him at every opportunity, flashing her considerable curvy assets at him. But at a weekend duck-hunting holiday, Michel meets up with a former mistress, politician Caroline d'Herblay (Claire Maurier).

Suspecting their dalliance, Caroline's husband (Noël Roquevert) follows her to Michel's room. But Brigette gets there first. That develops into an interesting confrontation. Catching Brigitte hiding in Michel's bed, President Laurier forces them to get married, which leads to a honeymoon. A rather uncomfortable one at first for Michel. But passionate urges win out, as they usually do.

After the honeymoon, Brigitte is unhappy, convinced that Michel is a Don Juan who will cheat on her, the first chance he gets.

At the gala state ball for visiting Queen Greta (Nadia Gray) and Prince Charles (Charles Boyer), an argument with Michel results in her setting her sights on Prince Charles. After all, two can play the same game.

And what a game it is: A lunch scene with Michel and Monique unexpectedly crashed by Brigitte, Bridgette spending time in a new jet plane with the prince, Michel thinking she's bluffing, the prince canceling out on his wife, the president and Michel listening to the queen's dedication speech, drinks at a quaint cottage bar where they encounter barman Fernand the Animal (Fernand Sardou), princely advice on adultery, a jealous rage ... and ...

Ahchoo!

La Parisienne is the film that launched Brigitte Bardot on her career as a French teenage goddess. She was so much like the sultry Marilyn Monroe; one can't stop watching her while she's on screen, which makes it difficult to read the subtitles. Miss Bardot had such wonderful ... er, assets.

Filmed on an estimated budget of $450,000, La Parisienne enjoyed worldwide receipts of $3 million.

Grade: B

Quotations I like from the film:

I can tell when you’re lying. You never could tell a lie to me.” – Michel Legrand (Henri Vidal)

"Love and sadness are always silent." – President Alcide Laurier (André Luguet)

"A man is as young as his admirers." – Brigitte Laurier (Brigitte Bardot)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hell Baby (2013)

Auspicious first scene: A very pregnant Vanessa (Leslie Bigg), wife of Jack Watson (Rob Corddry), leaks a pee when he picks her up to carry her across the threshold of their new New Orleans home.

Perhaps "new" is a misnomer. Their recently acquired domicile is old, rundown, overgrown with dried vines, and is referred to locally as the Maison de Sange (“House of Blood"). Their weird neighbor – F'resnel (Keegan-Michael Key) – fills them in on the house's recent history.

Strange things begin to happen: A weird ghoulish woman keeps popping up, Vanessa scrubs her fingers so hard that they bleed, Vanessa serves Jack paint thinner, a big bull mastiff starts hanging around, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Marshall (Michael Ian Black) is nailed to the wall and disemboweled.

Yep, she's possessed.

Meanwhile, in the Vatican City, elite exorcists Fathers Sebastian (Robert Ben Garant, the movie’s co-director), and Padrigo (Thomas Lennon, the movie’s other co-director), receive another assignment – get rid of the demon inside her. The exorcism scene, with the two fathers, F'resnel, Vanessa's sister Marjorie (Riki Lindhome) and two weird cops (Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel) – is entertaining, to say the least.

A broken lamp, a running joke throughout, makes the difference at the end.

Most of the film’s final minutes were improvised. The director/producers wanted the film to be pointless, and paid their cast very little. If that’s what they wanted, they succeeded. What a flop this was. With a budget of $2.5 million, its box office was a throat-slashing $8.785. Yep, eight thousand seven hundred eighty-five dollars.

This movie is so bad that it's actually kind of entertaining and funny in a stupid sort of way. The F'resnel character cracks me up. He's always popping up unexpectedly, scaring the bejesus out of Jack.

Grade: D+

Quotations I like from the film:

I think you're safer here than in any of the murder-free places we've ever lived at.” – Jack (Rob Corddry)

Never intervene when I am being tested by nature's creatures!” – Father Padrigo (Thomas Lennon)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jezebel (1938)

Jezebel opens in Antebellum (1852) New Orleans. Southern belle Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) upsets everyone when she arrives at her own party wearing her "horse clothes" instead of changing.

When her fiancé, banker Preston “Pres” Dillard (Henry Fonda), is tied up in a board meeting, she marches on over to rush him along. Everybody encourages him to treat her with a firm hand, including Dr. Livingstone (Donald Crisp) and Gen. Theopholus Bogardus (Henry O’Neill).

So she does it again. Apparently, there are Southern rules about that sort of thing, but as she's pretty much a spoiled brat, Julie wears a red dress to the Olympus Ball. Not only that, she tries to get an admirer, Buck Cantrell (George Brent), to take her to the ball. He demurs, for her own good. Pres himself acquiesces, apparently willing to let the whole thing play out.

Things get out of hand at the ball, and they find themselves dancing alone to the stares of all the guests. Next thing you know, he dumps her. Aunt Belle Massey (Fay Bainter) tries to help, but Julie refuses, and mopes around for a year until he returns to help Dr. Livingston deal with a looming breakout of yellow fever.

Julie's ecstatic, until Pres introduces her to his wife, Amy Bradford Dillard (Margaret Lindway). It's like to break her heart, but she refuses to give up. Her manipulations cause trouble. Lots of fatal trouble.

And that's when the Yellow Jack epidemic breaks out a-main. Compromises and sacrifices have to be made when it becomes necessary to care for a loved one.

Although it was rumored that Bette Davis was offered the lead role because she lost out for Scarlett O’Hara in 1939’s Gone with the Wind, it’s not true. Jezebel was filmed long before the role of Scarlett had been cast.

Jezebel is often referred to as a black-and-white version of Gone with the Wind. Miss Davis earned $650 a week for her work. Two familiar character actors – Eddie "Rochester" Anderson and Spring Byington – have small roles in the film.

Selected for preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress, Jezebel was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography and Best Music Scoring. Jezebel won two – Bette Davis for Best Actress, and Fay Bainter for Best Supporting Actress. Deserving. Very deserving, indeed.

I've seen a lot of Bette Davis' films, but this was quite a tour de force.

Grade: A-

Quotations I like from the film:

I'll make him live, I will. Whatever you might do, I can do more, 'cause I know how to fight better than you.” – Julie Marsden (Bette Davis)

I like my convictions undiluted, same as I do my bourbon.” – Buck Cantrell (George Brent)

"I'm thinking of a woman named Jezebel, who did evil in the sight of God." – Aunt Belle Massey (Fay Bainter)

'Movie Quotations' Change

The separate Sunday "Movie Quotations" posts have been discontinued. They are now included in the movie reviews.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Last Vegas (2013)

The last "old-fart road trip" movie I saw was Sideways (2004), with Paul Giamati and Thomas Hayden Church in a film about a road trip to California wine country.  Oh wait, maybe it was 2007's Wild Hogs, with John Travolta, William B. Macy, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence, as four middle-agers in need of a motorcycle adventure. Wait again – I forgot the Hangover series; but that was young farts, not old farts. Never mind.

Anyway, be that as we may, middle-age crisis, here we go again. Well, not exactly. Last Vegas is more about seniors than middle-agers. (Rats, the actors I thought were younger than me sure are getting old.)

First, we see what the guys are up to: Sam Harris (Kevin Kline) lives in a Florida retirement village, Air Force retiree Archibald "Archie" Clayton (Morgan Freeman) lives with his son in New Jersey, curmudgeon Patrick "Paddy" Connors (Robert De Niro) exists in Brooklyn, and Billy Gherson (Michael Douglas) is a successful entrepreneur living in Malibu.

While delivering a eulogy at a friend's funeral, Billy proposes to his 31-year-old girlfriend, Lisa (Bre Blair). The boys plan a bachelor party in Vegas. Sam's wife, Miriam (Joanna Gleason), sends him off with a condom and a Viagra pill. Archie lies to his son, Ezra (Michael Ealy) and sneaks off. They cajole and trick Paddy, who now hates Billy, to come along. Paddy is pissed at Billy for not attending his wife's funeral.

At Binion's, they meet lounge singer Diana Boyle (Mary Steenburgen), who politely turns down Sam's immediate offer to use his wife's going-away gift. Diana shows them around, Archie hits the blackjack table and wins a hundred grand, Sam hits on a cross-dresser and makes friends, the boys judge a bikini contest, and the casino upgrades them to a villa originally promised to rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (in a cameo appearance).

Billy and Diana visit the Neon Museum Boneyard. A-a-a-nd he kind of falls for her. But Paddy’s also taken a liking to her and invites her to a bachelor party. The others set up the biggest and wildest bachelor party this side of Las Vegas. Hey wait, they ARE in Las Vegas.

As the end of the film approaches, conscience wins out, family worries are consoled, history repeats itself, perceptions and memories change, unwanted favors are granted, apologies are given and accepted, old hurts are healed, and the 60+-year-old bottle of scotch is finally opened. Friends then, friends now, friends forever.

All five leads (Douglas, De Niro, Freeman, Kline and Steenburgen) have won Academy Awards. Jack Nicholson originally was set to play Billy, the role that starred Michael Douglas.

Last Vegas was a big success. Produced for $28 million, the film enjoyed a box office of $134.4 million. No wonder. It's hilarious! All the senior citizen sight and situation gags are familiar and funny (they touch so close to home, except for that hitting on a cross-dresser part).

Good movie. The story itself isn't very deep, but it's fun watching, and the leads click.

Grade: B+

Quotations I like from the film:

"I have a hemorrhoid that's almost 32." – Archibald "Archie" Clayton (Morgan Freeman)

Diana Boyle (Mary Steenburgen): "That's a generous offer. Are you good in bed, Sam?"
Sam Harris (Kevin Kline): "I don't remember."

"Here's to the first bachelor party I ever attended that could be covered by Medicare." – Diana Boyle (Mary Steenburgen)

Sexy Bachelorette Party Bride-to-Be: "Do you guys have drugs?"
Sam Harris (Kevin Kline): "Does Lipitor count?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Thousand Clowns (1965)

Twelve-year-old Nick (Barry Gordon) lives with his uncle, Murray Burns (Jason Robards), an unemployed television writer. They're always hanging around together, wandering around New York. One day, he springs a surprise: the Child Welfare Board is going to drop by and check out their living environment.

Albert Amundson (William Daniels) and Sandra Markowitz (Barbara Harris, in her film debut), Child Welfare Board investigators, drop by for their inspection and interview.

The illegitimate son of Murray's sister, Nick's wise beyond his years and has all the right answers to impress Sandra. For a while, anyway. Murray, not so much. And, Albert keeps ragging on Sandra; they happen to be engaged, and they bicker ... oh, how they bicker (you know how possessive and uptight bureaucratic men were in the '60s).

Sandra bawls her heart out to Murray after Albert leaves in a huff. They talk, lighten their hearts, go out for an adventure, and agree that they "probably love" each other. Albert returns the next day and tells Murray they're going to take custody of Nick, unless responsibility can be demonstrated very soon.

Now, Murray has a dilemma. In order to keep Nick with him, he needs a job; but he really doesn't want to work. He does, however have Sandra now. Well, maybe not.

His brother and agent, Arnold (Martin Balsam), hustles to help, setting up a couple of interviews. Murray's former employer, Leo Herman (Gene Saks), host of “Chuckles the Chipmunk,” pays him a visit to try and rehire him, grousing about how all the kids hate him because he doesn't have Murray writing the show any more.

Leo, Murray and Nick have a great conversation. And ... "I'm sorry."

A Thousand Clowns is adapted from Herb Gardner’s 1962 play of the same name. Recreating their stage roles are Jason Robards, Gene Saks, William Daniels and Barry Gordon.

Barry Gordon not only played Nick Burns, he is credited as Wilbur Malcome Burns / Theodore Burns / Raphael Sabatini / Dr. Morris Fishbein / Woodrow Burns / Chevrolet Burns / Big Sam Burns / Lefty Burns. Watch the movie. You'll see why.

A Thousand Clowns was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Martin Balsam, who won), Best Picture, Best Writing-Screenplay Based on Another Medium, and Best Music Scoring (there's a lot of walking and running around to honky-tonk piano music).

I rather enjoyed the cast, the clever characterizations and humorous dialog. I think you will too.

Grade: B

Quotations I like from the film:

“I just want him to stay with me until I can be sure he won't turn into Norman Nothing … I want him to know the subtle, sneaky, important reason why he was born a human being and not a chair.” – Murray Burns (Jason Robards)

“If things aren't funny then they're exactly what they are; and then they're like a long dental appointment.” – Murray Burns (Jason Robards)

Monday, October 13, 2014

'Movie Quotations' Change

Beginning today, the separate "Movie Quotations" Sunday posts are discontinued. But the quotations won't disappear; from now on, quotations will be included with the movies they appear in.