After the sad passing of gifted comedienne and actor Robin Williams in 2014, I think it’s taken me until now to watch one of his movies again. Yet having sat through this, everything I loved about him came flooding back. He certainly was one of the most likeable and versatile presences in anything he appeared in and this 1991 fantasy-drama is no exception.
Directed by master visionary Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys) this has Jeff Bridges as a shock-jock radio DJ who’s outspoken show inadvertently leads to a shooting in a local restaurant. Disgraced, Bridges falls on hard times and stumbles upon the plight of local ‘bum’ Perry (Williams) who comes to Bridges’ aid after some youths attack him. However, Perry isn’t playing with a full deck and believes the Holy Grail is held in some wealthy tycoon’s house in the middle of New York.
This is quite mad-cap stuff with Gilliam at full tilt delivering fantastical yet captivating imagery (grand central station turning into a ballroom) and filling the movie with a wealth of oddball creations. Yet this is also a story of redemption and salvation and Williams delivers a laugh-out-loud zany performance that’s also filled to the brim with heart. Bridges is also on fine form (with hints of ‘the dude’ prior to The Big Lebowski) and goes on a real character journey.
At times Gilliam’s direction and emphasis of the weird and bizarre gets a bit ‘much’ and takes a little bit of adjustment to fully appreciate. However at its core the movie is equal parts magical, heart-breaking and feel-good making for a genuine cult classic.
The Blu-ray release from the U.K. division of Criterion boasts a pleasingly crisp and vibrant image. Although mostly filmed in a subdued style, various details make it look more expensive than its low budget origins, helped I’m guessing by Gilliam’s unique eye. A noticeable shimmer does rears it’s head now and then though. The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is also clear and effective-enough, if not particularly showy. Extras consist of several worthwhile featurettes, although none new for this release. A highlight though is Terry Gilliam’s commentary from the 90’s. There’s also a poster-like booklet with its own write ups on the movie. Solid treatment for a still very unique and enjoyable movie.
Toby and Jake, two brothers join forces to commit a series of robberies on the same branch of banks foreclosing on their family’s land, in the wake of their mother’s death. Along the way the robbers attract the attention of a world-weary, near-retirement Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges).
I’ve always been a fan of bank robbery movies, crooks on the run etc. and this confident and eye-catching thriller certainty appealed. Add to this Jeff Bridges, one of my all time favourites and we have a recipe for success, right? Well with a trio of solid turns this fun escapade thriller certainly entertained. Ben Foster, one of those actors you know from several movies but may not know his name plays Jake, the more unhinged of the brothers whilst Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine is the more kindly Toby, estranged from his kids but trying to seek out a better future for them … yeah by robbing banks. Despite first impressions, he’s no angel either (but damn do women swoon after him!). For the most part this ticks all the necessary boxes; a likable due of criminals, a seasoned, wise-cracking Ranger and the backdrop of the Texas outback complete with sun-drenched vistas and oddball locales (the steak lady). I was especially surprised by the often fun banter between the brothers and the Ranger and his partner which made for more human characters than I was expecting. Oh and how many Breaking Bad actors can you spot?
However, I did get a feeling of déjà vu whilst watching this, which is no bad thing really … but the movie is clearly a homage to such movies like Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, which only caused the plot to get predictable rather quickly. It also doesn’t help that Bridge’s increasing inability to form easy-to-understand dialogue rears it’s head often making each scene he’s in a little distracting. Thankfully Pine & Foster are on brilliant form with Foster especially stealing the show with perfect, bad-boy elder brother charisma throughout.
It may not do anything all that clever, perhaps wearing it’s cliches with honour. Despite such things though, I still had a ball with this and reckon you might also.
Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, will know I’m a die hard fan of sibling directors Joel & Ethan Coen. Bar a couple of minor misteps (Intolerable Cruelty, and to a lesser extent, A Simple Man), they generally deliver interesting and very well made pieces of cinema. In this ambitious re-make / adaptation of the classic John Wayne movie and the book by Charles Portis, they bring to the screen the story of 14 year old Mattie Ross, a girl seeking the man who killed her father. Hot off the train and new in town, she hires a washed up Marshal (Jeff Bridges) and soon convinces him to help her find the man she seeks.
Apart from its unique look, I don’t really remember the 80s TRON all that much, so I was kind of stepping into this one blind, with only the very cool looking trailer as any real insight. This has newcomer Garrett Hedlund as the rebellious Sam Flynn, share holder of a Microsoft-like corporation that was founded by Sam’s father (Jeff Bridges). Yet one fateful night when Sam is only seven, Bridges’ Kevin Flynn vanishes and no word is heard from him until Sam receives a pager message from dad’s old arcade. Turns out Bridges has been trapped in a computer-created world for all this time, and it’s not long before Sam comes to rescue him.
The super hero / comic-book movie just doesn’t seem to fail these days, what with The Dark Knight & Hellboy 2 hitting hard this summer. So we must not forget the first out the blockbuster-cannon, that much celebrated but painfully ignored hero Iron Man, a Marvel Comics stalwart for several decades.
Casting one of my favourite actors, Robert Downey Jr as billionaire weapons developer Tony Stark was my first bet that this was going to rock, and I wasn’t wrong – Downey Jr is every bit the likable, suave, charismatic lead, and although the origin story that is par the course for a super hero franchise is a little thin, and the climactic battle all too brief (with a deja vu Transformers-style); in between we get some priceless moments of comedy, stylish, feel-good action and plenty of personality (mostly from Downey Jr) that just makes for a guaranteed ‘fun’ two hours.
Jeff Bridges (another fave) is excellent as Tony’s business partner, and a surprisingly sexy Gwyneth Paltrow is on hand as Tony’s ever-faithful secretary / assistant where thankfully we don’t go the love-interest route. So much of this movie plays against genre conventions that it just feels fresh and exciting from the start – and I think this is going to become a great franchise. Roll on Iron Man 2!
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