Tag Archives: travel

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Don’t trust these guys.

Freddy (Steve Martin) is a small-time con able to trick women into paying for his meals and sometimes even into their beds, but he is nothing compared to Lawrence (Michael Caine). This is a man that lives in luxury all from money that he has duped from rich women. Freddy decides to team up with Lawrence to learn his craft. The two work together for a while with Freddy playing Lawrence’s crazy younger brother, but the two have a falling out and end up becoming rivals instead. They meet Janey Colgate (Glenne Headley) the supposed daughter of a rich soap manufacturer and compete to see who can con her out of $50,000.

This version is far superior to Bedtime Story, which was reviewed yesterday. The pace is snappier and gets into the scenario more quickly. The scenes are consistently amusing and everything is handled at a slick level. The women aren’t all portrayed as naïve idiots like in the first and in certain cases they are just as corrupt and greedy as the two men. The music is bouncy and playful and helps propel the movie along.

Although both films were shot along the French Rivera this one does a better job of capturing the sunny and exotic locale. When Freddy visits Lawrence at his mansion and looks out at his exquisite seaside view and says ‘I want this’ I felt like saying ‘I want it too’.

I wasn’t sure Martin could top Marlon Brando’s performance from the first film, which was the only thing good about it, but he does. It took a little adjusting at first, but Martin takes the reins and in his usual style makes the part his own. His best segment is when he is in jail and can’t remember Lawrence’s name, which makes terrific use of his improvisational skills. The part where he asks to go to the bathroom is a little bit gross, but funny as well.

Caine is excellent is his part and gives the role more panache than David Niven did in the first one. He even puts on an effective German accent during the segment where he pretends to be a famous German psychiatrist. Believe it or not the parts of Freddy and Lawrence were originally intended for Mick Jagger and David Bowie.

Headley is good in her role as well. She has an attractive quality about her that is distinct and natural and avoids the plastic Hollywood starlet image. Her voice borders on being a little nasally, which could have become annoying, but with this type of part it works.

The best thing about this version though is the twist ending, which helps to maintain the slick level throughout the entire duration of the story. In the first version the ending was highly contrived and unimaginative as well as going against the personalities of the characters. Here it hits-the-mark and works as a nice payoff to the rest of the film.

The only critical comment I have about the movie is that it goes on a bit too long. 110 minutes is too extended a runtime for light comedy.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 14, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Frank Oz

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

Stingray (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: This car goes fast.

This film is being reviewed by request. It is the story of two young men named Al and Elmo (Christophe Mitchum, Les Lannon) who purchase a red corvette unaware that there are bags of cocaine stashed in the back put there by some criminals on the run. Eventually they find out about it, but are then chased by the bad guys who will stop at nothing to get it back.

I’m not sure if Retrohound, who is the one who requested that this be reviewed, really likes this movie, or simply has some nostalgic connections to it. Either way I found it to be poor at all levels. It starts out as a gritty southern tinged action drama and it might of worked had it stayed that way, but then it devolves into slapstick comedy and becomes a pointless mess. The humor is corny and borrows every cliché from every 70’s good ole boy car chase flick until it is mind numbing. Any tension or interest in the plot is sucked out. The music during the chase sequences sounds too much like it were made for a cartoon, or kiddie flick and sophistication wise that is where this production is at. This is the type of film that gives yahoo action comedies, which already on the bottom of the cinematic genre totem pole, a bad name.

The two leads are bland and cardboard. Christopher Mitchum, who is the son of Robert Mitchum and looks almost exactly like him except his eyes aren’t as squinty, is terrible. His acting ability wouldn’t even pass in a high school play and it is obvious that he managed to sneak into starring in B-movies based on his name and connections than on any talent. I also thought it was really dumb how the two boys pick up a sexy hitchhiker halfway through. The part is played by Sondra Theodore a former Playboy Playmate and all she does is sit there looking pretty without saying hardly anything, which carries the concept of eye candy too much to the extreme. The character is never given any name and she is billed simply as ‘The Girl’ during the end credits, which is pretty much all she is and although this was her film debut it is no surprise that her career did not last much longer after this.

I did enjoy Sherry Jackson as the vulgar and tenacious Abigail Bratowski who will do whatever it takes to get the drugs back and won’t be intimated by any man. With the exception of William Watson who plays fellow bad guys Lonnigan she seems to be the only one here that can act and the only reason I gave this film one point. She is also involved in the film’s one memorable moment when she lights an obnoxious guy’s crotch on fire. Her handling of a giant bulldozer is impressive as well.

Normally it is the stunt work that gives these otherwise low-grade flicks any merit, but I didn’t see anything here that hasn’t been shown a half dozen times in other car chase movies. The only exciting moment for me was when a camera was hooked up to the sides of the cars and you could view the chase at almost highway level as they streaked across the winding country roads at incredible speeds.

I liked that it was filmed on-location in St. Louis. A variety of interesting locales is chosen including a woodsy area for the motorbike chase as well as back alleyways featuring a lot of rundown brick buildings. The best is the final segment taking place on an old bridge overlooking the Mississippi. Great use is made of the bridge’s rusted, shadowy architecture and one also gets a great view of St Louis’s 1970’s skyline.

The opening credits, which glows in rhythm to a roaring engine is kind of cool, but otherwise I was unable to get into this movie at any point and really couldn’t believe how vapid and uninspired it was. A 101 minute runtime is much, much too long for something with such a paper thin plot. The only thing this film succeeds at is become increasingly more annoying as it goes along and it is too stupid to be even passably entertaining.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: September 28, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Taylor

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, YouTube

Lost in America (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Living in a winnebago.

            David Howard (Albert Brooks) becomes upset when he doesn’t get his expected promotion and decides the corporate life isn’t for him and that he and his wife Linda (Julie Hagerty) will drop-out by liquidating all of their assets, buying a Winnebago, and roaming the countryside as free-spirits. Things go horribly wrong right from the start when, in a fit of gambling fever, Linda loses their entire savings at the roulette wheel. This forces David and Linda to desperately look for jobs in the first small town they come to.

The concept is fantastic. Who hasn’t dreamed of doing this at one time or another? Reportedly top executives who saw the film admitted having these very same fantasies at some point. In many ways this film is perfect testament to the 80’s where everything seemed to backtrack to the materialism and conformity of past eras and the idealism of the 60’s became lost. Writer-director Brooks plays it in a realistic and believable way with just enough subtle comedy to bring out the absurdity in each situation, which is what makes it fun.  Had the characters been over-the-top it wouldn’t have worked.

The dry, cynical wit that is Brooks’s signature is in full swing here. It may be an acquired taste to some, but it is distinct and hilarious for those that enjoy it. Some of the best moments include David’s funny rant when he tells off his boss and demands that the company give back the eight years he invested into it and won’t leave until it does. There are amusing conversations between David and the casino owner (Gary Marshall in an excellent cameo) where he begs him to give back the money Linda lost as well as his visit to an employment agency. The couple’s argument at the Hoover Dam is another highlight as is his lecture to Linda about the ‘nest egg’ concept. However, the funniest scene that had me literally laughing out of my seat was when David takes a job as a crossing guard for $5.50 an hour and some ten-year-old boys start to mock him. Even the little things, like when David tells a hotel clerk that they did not make reservations because they have ‘dropped-out of society’ and ‘just living for the moment’ is funny when done with Brooks’s impeccable deadpan delivery.

Julie Hagerty is so ingrained in my mind for her appearance in the cult-classic Airplane that I had a hard time adjusting to her here. Initially, when she is shown in the corporate setting and acting as a serious, responsible adult, I felt it didn’t work because I kept expecting her to say, especially with that high-pitched voice of hers, something dippy and spacey like her character in Airplane always did. However, when she gambles away their savings by incessantly screaming out the number twenty-two she is hilarious and when David lectures her afterwards and she looks up at him with that blank, blue-eyed, deer-in-headlights stare, she is perfect and the casting astute.

The opening sequence is probably the only part that doesn’t work. Having a taped audio interview between talk show host Larry King and film critic Rex Reed played over the opening credits is certainly novel, but David’s prolonged, whiny conversation with Linda while in bed is annoying.  A scene involving a conversation between Linda and a co-worker could have been cut. There is also the fact that everything goes downhill too quickly making the viewer feel almost cheated. It would have been nice to have seen them living the hippie lifestyle for a while and then have the problems begin gradually. There could’ve been a lot of great comedy had it been played straight without the irony of the money problem. Either way it’s entertaining, but brief. Hearing the entire rendition of ‘New York, New York’ by Frank Sinatra is worth the price as is the sight of seeing a giant Winnebago driving up a busy, downtown Manhattan street.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 15, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated R (For a Couple of ‘F-Bombs’)

Director: Albert Brooks

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video