Saturday, December 29, 2012

Miami Connection

To call this a “gem” of any kind (newly discovered, hidden, etc.) is a serious understatement.  This is a masterpiece.  And I say that with total sincerity.  I mean I think The Last Emperor is one of the best films I’ve ever seen and so is Miami Connection.

It belongs in the pantheon of cinematic experiences right next to others like Gone With the Pope, Troll 2 and Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in Connecticut (1992)

Alright, let’s talk about the remake now.  They actually changed up the story quite a bit.  The Elizabeth character (Dyan Cannon (Deathtrap, Heaven Can Wait)) is updated to a celebrity TV chef.  And of course she also has to pretend to have a family and farm in Connecticut in order to deceive some people.  In reality she can’t cook, she’s a city girl, single, etc.  For this one they combined the fake husband and editor characters into one person, Alex (Tony Curtis (The Great Race, Some Like It Hot)).  He’s the producer of the cooking show that Elizabeth is on.  The owner of the network, who doesn’t know Elizabeth can’t cook, really only comes in at the end and he’s played by Richard “Shaft” Roundtree.  Interesting choice.  Lastly, the war hero character this time is some mountain man type guy, Jones (Kris Kristofferson (Blade, Fire Down Below)), that goes to rescue a boy in a snowstorm but gets caught in it himself.  They get stranded for like a week or something and when they’re finally found Jones is the country’s biggest sensation.  There are also a couple of other new insignificant characters thrown in for good measure.

I think they made the plot a little less confusing for the remake but it’s still a goddamn mess.  And they actually made the whole deception thing have even less consequences than in the original.  For instance, for 90% of the movie Jones is the only one that thinks Elizabeth is a real cook and has a family ‘n shit.  I kept forgetting that he didn’t know too because practically everyone is in on the joke this time.  It’s only at the end when we find out that the head of the network doesn’t know either.  Oh, and I guess the rest of the world is in the dark too.

But seriously folks, the film sets up that Jones doesn’t even know who the fuck Elizabeth is.  He’s only going to meet her and make a guest appearance on her show because he’s getting paid.  When Jones went out to rescue the boy his cabin burned down.  He needs the money to rebuild it.  He couldn’t give a shit if Elizabeth is a real cook or not.  This plot is overly complicated and weak to begin with but if the one character that’s supposed to care doesn’t care then you’ve got a real problem on your hands.  At least in the original the war hero is a fan of Elizabeth’s and has read all of her articles.  

And is it really that shocking that a TV chef gets help from folks behind the scenes to make their shit look good and tasty?  I mean, you can’t cook a whole turkey in a half hour.  Just use common sense.  I’m not saying all celebrity chefs don’t know how to cook.  In fact if that kinda complete fake bullshit was going on I think it’s over by now and the people you see on TV are the real deal.  However, what I’m trying to say is that it’s not all them preparing the food.  For TV purposes they’re more the presenters and explainers.  I think these TV chefs can actually cook in real life though.  Again, I don’t think anyone’s an outright fraud like Elizabeth. 

So just like the original the entire plot to deceive didn’t need to happen at all.  Jones doesn’t give a shit when everything’s revealed and the head of the network should definitely know better about TV cooking shows (and also just like the original in the end he doesn’t care that Elizabeth can’t cook and offers to double her salary). 

The bottom line is: why go through all of this trouble to convince one stranger you’re the real deal?  Just tell him you really can’t cook, that you make it up for TV and then shoot the fucking show.  I think the man can handle it.  He was trapped outside in a fucking snowstorm for a week.

Moving on, in the trailer for this one the narrator says “from director Arnold Schwarzenegger”.  Now, the obvious first thought is “he’s not really a director”.  Right.  But it goes further than that.  It’s not like he even produces either (Last Action Hero and The 6th Day are his only credits in that area).  He’s almost exclusively an actor.  Most people don’t seem to get that excited when an actor, even a well-known actor, tries their hand at directing.  So the fact that Schwarzenegger is in the director’s chair isn’t a big selling point I don’t think (I’m not counting someone like myself though because not only was I not the target audience for this thing but also because I wouldn’t be able to pass up anything Arnie directed).  The trailer should’ve just gone with “from Arnold Schwarzenegger”.  That makes a little more sense to me.

The second thing you’re thinking is “why would Arnie helm a romantic comedy Christmas movie?  He should’ve directed an action picture.”  You know what though?  I think Christmas in Connecticut fits perfectly.  Arnie is a very corny guy in real life.  He’s always cracking jokes and acting pretty smug.  I think he genuinely likes doing action movies but I also think it was something he kinda fell into.  It’s because of the way he looks, sounds and carries himself that made him so perfect for playing macho motherfuckers with attitude and style.  I have a theory that Arnie’s résumé would be mostly filled with films like Kindergarten Cop, Junior and Jingle All the Way if he looked like an average Joe type guy.  But he was smart enough to realize that beating up scumbags, killing dudes and rattling off one liners suited him extremely well on screen.  I’m not saying he wanted to be a comedian at any point in his career.  Like I said, he knew better.  But what I’m getting at is that Arnie really treasures cornball shit like Christmas in Connecticut (1945).  It influences his sense of humor and what he thinks makes for a good story.  I mean, Twins.

So in turn the remake is even cheesier and probably worse overall than the original.  The whole thing is louder and snappier.  I guess that’s how Arnie likes his shit.  Every once in a while there’ll be an awkward edit, scene transition or camera angle.  Also, there’s at least one really bad instance of slapstick humor.  And the snowy outdoor set is just too fake looking to ignore.  I guess it’s worth mentioning that they recreated some scenes from the original like the flapjack flipping scene, the baby bathing scene and the sleigh ride scene towards the end…if you care. 

Now I know this is going to sound contradictory but the weird thing is I found the remake easier to sit through.  It moves quicker and Tony Curtis steals the show.  He’s really fucking brash and obnoxious but he’s also pretty funny as the soulless TV producer.  The only other standout character was the guy who directs the TV show at the end.  He goes ballistic because absolutely everything goes wrong.  Everyone else is so bland and forgettable.  

And I guess that’s about it.  Both of the Christmases in Connecticuts movies are pretty terrible.  I wouldn’t see either of them if I were you.  If you’re looking for an old fashioned type of Christmas flick check out Holiday Inn or even Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is pretty good if you haven’t seen it.  If you want something different to spice up the holiday season The Last Temptation of Christ is awesome and the old standby Silent Night, DeadlyNight is great too.  Merry fucking Christmas. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

We still have a little while to go but what the hell, Merry Christmas!  May all ye blessed and joyful blah blah blah.  Alright enough of that.

I thought it would be fun to check out the only full length picture Arnold Schwarzenegger ever directed, a TV movie remake of Christmas in Connecticut done in 1992.  But to better understand where Arnie’s coming from I figured I ought to see the original first.  So here a goes.

The plot for the 1945 one is a goddamn disaster.  I tried over and over to explain it in writing but I just couldn’t do it.  I started to confuse even myself.  I then tried to draw a diagram but that didn’t work out either.  So I’ll make it overly simplistic for you guys.  Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity)) is a food writer that pretends to know how to cook and lies about having a family and a farm in Connecticut.  The trick is she must manifest this deception in real life in order to save the job of her editor.  I left out so much shit but that’s the main idea.

And it’s a pretty bad movie.  There are so many plot holes and just weird behavior.  I mean it’s like I just said, Elizabeth and company pretend to have the farm, the family and all that stuff to help rescue some poor bastard’s job.  The guy’s only in the movie for maybe five minutes too so you don’t build a strong connection with him.  But I’ll tell ya, he’s got some damn good friends that are willing to stick their necks out for him.  What’s bizarrely missing from the plot is that Elizabeth’s job isn’t on the line.  Remember, she’s the main character here.  She’s just willing to take the hit.  Almost immediately when she’s put in this tough spot she’s ready to give it all up and marry some dude that she doesn’t love.  What the fuck?

Then there’s the Alexander Yardley character (Sydney Greenstreet (Casablanca)).  He’s the owner of the magazine that runs Elizabeth’s articles and he’s such a fucking asshole.  He doesn’t know she’s a fake and invites himself over to spend Christmas with her made up family in Connecticut.  That’s kinda rude right there, but later Yardley tells Elizabeth’s bogus husband that if they have a baby it will boost circulation.  How horrible is that?  This guy wants these two to have a kid so he can make some more money.  And not only that but Yardley insists that Elizabeth cook Christmas dinner even though Elizabeth came up with the, actually pretty good, excuse that it’s fucking Christmas and she wants a day off.  I mean the whole idea is that she can’t cook in the first place but who the fuck would tell their host “no, you’re gonna cook my meals because I want it that way”.  This guy is terrible.

Also I think the fake husband character, Sloan (who is also the person Elizabeth agrees to marry for real), is made out to be a bad guy but I don’t really see it.  He doesn’t treat her that badly.  Like he doesn’t beat her or fuckin’ yell at her all the time or some shit.  Sloan’s a bit stiff and a penny pincher but a bad person?  I don’t think so. 

Although it’s really strange that Sloan feels the need to marry Elizabeth as soon as humanly possible.  He and Elizabeth sneak around trying to get it done during the whole deception in Connecticut scheme.  Why?  What’s the fucking rush?  Just do it the day after Christmas or something when the guests you’re trying to scam have left and you don’t have to worry about them.

This was a very frustrating movie to watch.  As of this writing it has a 7.2 on IMDB.  I don’t get it.  It’s not that fun or entertaining.  The whole thing is so convoluted and contrived.  The filmmakers tried so fucking hard to create a wacky situation but there’s no reason for any of it.  Elizabeth’s articles are incredibly popular so I don’t think Yardley is gonna have a problem with it all being made up.  In fact at the end of the picture when the sham is revealed he totally doesn’t give a fuck.  He’s even willing to double her salary. 

There’s also this war hero character, Jones (doubling as the true love interest), that Elizabeth also needs to fool for some very forced reason.  But just like Yardley he doesn’t seem to care when the truth is exposed.  Jones is actually happy because it means Elizabeth isn’t really married and he can shack up with her. 

So in the end it turned out all of this shit had no consequences.  Fuck this movie.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

Apocalypse Now is probably the second best Vietnam picture I’ve seen so far (I still think Eastern Condors takes the cake but just to let you know they’re very different takes on the topic).  And it pains me that I have to knock Full Metal Jacket down to third but c’est la vie, right? 

Anyway, the making of Apocalypse Now is just as interesting as the actual film itself.  I don’t know if every one of Coppola’s films had a real rough shoot (because Dracula(1992) had plenty of production problems) but this seemed like a nightmare to make.  It took him sixteen months to shoot the goddamn thing and another couple of years to edit it.  Coppola took over the reins from George Lucas who was initially going to direct it (yeah, you read that right) and after shooting began he even replaced leading man Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen.  Plus he had to deal with a typhoon, the Pilipino government, Marlon Brando threatening to drop out of the movie, Martin Sheen having a heart attack which put him out of action for a couple of weeks, filming inane dialogue and other nonsense for the ending that he had no idea how to put together and was sure was not going to work at all and a million other things.  It’s pretty amazing that the film turned out so well.  It’s just like with Dracula where you don’t see or feel any of the problems in the final product.

I highly recommend both Apocalypse Now and Hearts of Darkness.  One is a trippy journey through the minds of several people trying to figure out what the fuck Vietnam was all about to the real men who were in it and the other is Apocalypse Now.  But watch the actual picture first before you see the making of.  Use your head.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012


“He prefers major highways, see he likes to speed. With fall coming, he'll stick pretty much to the western/southwestern states. He has a sixth sense for hick towns with speed traps and manages to avoid them. He loves tunnels, drive through restaurants. He hates drawbridges, will go miles out of his way to avoid one. Used to stop for repairs too, but he's gotten pretty good at taking care of that himself. He can patch a punctured lung just as easily as a flat tire.”

This is pretty much a must see.  I mean it’s like 75 mins.  You can spare it.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.