While most people know Frank Oz for his peerless work as a puppeteer in bringing Yoda, Fozzie, and a host of other characters to life, during the 1980’s and 1990’s he was also one of the best comedy directors in Hollywood. One of his gems is probably my favorite comedy from the 1980’s: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. In the film, an American con man (Steve Martin) encroaches on the territory of a sophisticated scammer (Michael Caine) in a town on the French Riviera. Deciding he can’t get rid of his competition, the two team-up in a series of scams in which Caine seduces rich women, brings them to the point of marriage…..and then brings them home for dinner to meet Martin playing his role of Caine’s brother, Ruprecht, who is…..special. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s essential viewing, and for Star Wars fans, a rare chance to see Ian McDiarmid in a non-Emperor Palpatine role.
*photo property of MGM
Trading Places took place during Eddie Murphy’s solid run as the King of Comedy in the 1980’s. Murphy owned pretty much the entire decade, from probably saving Saturday Night Live as part of the second cast of the beginning of the decade through hit after hit after hit. It wasn’t until the 1990’s began that Murphy’s film’s began to bomb horribly (Vampire in Brooklyn, anyone?) until The Nutty Professor halted the carnage, but within five years he was back to making bombs, and has never come close to capturing the promise of his early career. Friday’s Mr. Church looked promising, but early reviews are dismal, so for classic Murphy, we’ll have to stick with gems like Trading Places. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: Trading Places (1983) “Trading Orange Juice Futures”
Warning: graphic violence in the above clip; be advised.
If you’re going to get a person to play a heroic captain in Hollywood, you have to call Tom Hanks first, and then if he passes on it other people can take it. Hanks is the captain. Be it in space (Apollo 13), on the sea (Captain Phillips), or in the air (this Friday’s Sully), you want Hanks captaining your Hollywood version of a real emergency. In Captain Phillips, Hanks played Captain Richard Phillips of the MV Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates. It was the first act of piracy against a United States ship in over 200 years. Director Paul Greengrass is in United 93 mode here, not Bourne mode, and takes a documentary approach to the events as they culminate in Phillips in the ship’s lifeboat with the Somali pirates, who are facing the US Navy. As snipers try to get a shot on the pirates without hitting Phillips, the captain, who has kept a stolid reserve throughout the ordeal, begins to crack. The struggle with the pirates in the lifeboat, both mental and physical, is masterfully portrayed by Hanks and fellow Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi. When the situation ends and Phillips finally releases that control; the emotion pouring forth is so genuine and so moving…it’s a scene to put in his portfolio with the best of his career. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: Captain Phillips (2013) “Taking the Shot”
With Will Smith atop the box office in a summer blockbuster again in Suicide Squad, it’s almost hard to remember that he started as a rapper. Will Smith’s “Fresh Prince” persona was given a sitcom by NBC in 1990 in which he essentially played himself, taken in by rich relatives in Bel-Air, CA, after he started getting into trouble living with his mother in Philadelphia. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air exploded into popularity because Will Smith wasn’t just a rapper who could act a little, he was and remains a charisma bomb capable of both amazing comic timing and tear-jerking dramatic depths.
Nowhere in the series is this more on display during the fourth season, when Will’s absentee father (played by the great Ben Vereen) shows up suddenly in Will’s life after having missed most of it. Will gets excited, bonds with his father who wants to take him on a trip, all the while under the skeptical gaze of his uncle (the late James Avery). Sure enough, Will’s father tries to make an unnoticed exit again, but this time he faces the wrath of Uncle Phil and his son, who after he leaves gives one of the best, most heartbreaking rants in TV history.
We are now two days away from the fifth entry in the Bourne series: Jason Bourne. The film marks the return of Matt Damon to the title role and director of films two and three: Paul Greengrass. Most likely, this will be the last Damon Bourne film. We’re looking at the first three entries in the series in this column leading up to the film (because really why submit yourself to The Bourne Legacy?). Two weeks ago, we looked at The Bourne Identity, last week we looked at The Bourne Supremacy, and this week we look at the last film to feature Damon & Greengrass: 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) *Hand Towel Throwdown*