Posts Tagged: con artists
A light, comical film that is like a breath of fresh air in the stuffy world of cinema. This one never, ever takes itself to seriously…even with a tremendous cast of some of the finest actresses ever. Yet, it’s not laugh-out-loud funny…it’s a quiet, subtle film that keeps the audience smiling and guessing. Joan Plowright stars as the matriarch of a section of a town in Ireland known as Widow’s Peak, since all of the residents of the “section” are widows. Mia Farrow plays a woman who’s a bit out of her league among the widows but they include her anyway (we later find out why) and Natasha Richardson plays a wealthy American from England whose husband died and left her with money and a streak of viciousness. Plowright plays her air of superiority perfectly…she’s not too over-the-top but she’s just daft enough to make it seem convincing. Richardson is perfect…I honestly did not expect it when she did mean-spirited things…though I bought it just enough as the plot wants us to (since the surprise ending fits all of the pieces together). Mia Farrow, at first, seemed a little out of place to me as an Irish widow, but after watch a bit I totally forgot I was watching an American actress putting on an accent. The entire film is just a pleasure to watch…it’s funny when it needs to be and exciting at times. A true treasure!
This movie, forever known for the line “I don’t have to show you any stinking badges,” is more of a philosophical study on human nature than an action film. Yes, there is action and a certain sense of mystery, but the core of the film is a character study about materialism, morals and friendship. Don’t be alarmed…all of these things make it sound like a boring “educational” film, which it is most definitely not. Based on a novel by the elusive author B. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre lives up to its reputation as a true classic directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th Century (John Huston). Humphrey Bogart, who had already developed a working relationship with Huston with films like 1941’s The Maltese Falcon and Key Largo also from 1948, changed his clean-cut ladies man image to take on the role of a scruffy, indigent American Fred Dobbs trapped in Mexico. With a coincidental twist of fate, Dobbs meets up with Curtin, who is just as down on his luck, and an aged prospector (Huston’s father Walter) who tells the two younger men about his good old days gold mining. That’s when it really all begins…the three of them head out of town to hunt for gold. Whether they find some of not is soon irrelevant since once in the middle of nowhere Curtin’s and especially Dobbs’s greed and paranoia starts to take over. Walter Huston’s character, Howard, is the one constant in the film. He does not change since he already has experienced the highs and lows of prospecting and knows what not to do. Also, being the oldest, Howard has the least to lose or gain from finding gold. Put all of these characters and situations together and what you have is one great film filled with flawed, yet powerful people learning an equally powerful message. Don’t worry—this film is not preachy in its morality. It just depicts how easily greed can corrupt. A good film for everyone to watch but especially recent lottery winners!
Do you want to have some romantic, exciting fun? If so, check this one out! This is one clever, keeps-you-guessing remake, all while being a wild ride. After I watched this one and loved it, I checked out the original film. The 1968 version is less exciting, more confusing and basically, in my opinion, not as good. Now, usually, I would NEVER admit to liking a remake, but I’ll make an exception here since I thought the 1999 version is such a superior film. When I say “superior” I don’t mean in the same category of Oscar winners…I mean a fun, entertaining film that holds your attention to the final minute. The plot remains the same from the 1968 film…a very wealthy man needs some “variety” in his life so he begins to find ways to steal art. Enter a seductive insurance investigator who is determined to get to the bottom of the stolen painting mystery. The methods used to steal the painting are clever…yet believable. I didn’t walk away from this film rolling my eyes thinking that NEVER could happen. It all seemed at least probable…and very clever. Maybe I’m just naïve. But, regardless of that, this film is a truly enjoyable time at the movies.
The structure of Out of Sight is anything but conventional. There are more flashbacks here than in any movie I can think of. But, somehow, it works. It is not overly confusing. It is not disturbing to the plot. And the way director Steven Soderbergh compiles the shifts in time, it all makes perfect sense. The plot deals with a prison escapee Jack Foley (played by George Clooney) who meets a US Marshal (Jennifer Lopez) while escaping and after a clean getaway, cannot stop thinking about her…and vice versa. Jack continuously puts himself in situations where Karen, the Marshal, could take him in. But, Jack just cannot help himself. And neither can she. He calls her at home. She fantasizes about him. If they do get together, Karen knows that at the end of the day, he’s a wanted man and she’s a member of the US government. Just as Jack knows that if he takes the risk of seeing Karen, it could backfire and she could arrest him. Or it might not…. Regardless, these continual dilemmas make a very satisfying film…with equal elements of comedy, crime and the all-important romance.
For those of us who have fallen in love with Danny Ocean and his crew through the first installment, 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven and with the harder-to-love second in the series, Ocean’s Twelve (2004), this film is a must! Where Ocean’s Eleven was glitzy and stylish and Ocean’s Twelve was more convoluted and mysterious, this one is a mesh of the two. Admittedly, even the cast and crew says that Twelve did not live up to the high entertainment standards set by Eleven. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but I can say that Eleven and Twelve do seem like completely separate movies…both with different agendas. Thirteen was their way of rectifying the public dismay with Twelve so when it came to glitz and glamour and entertainment, they held absolutely nothing back. The plot (does plot really matter in these films?) revolves around Vegas developer Willie Bank (played with lots of zip by Al Pacino) who fleeces Reuben (Elliot Gould as one of the “eleven”) out of his share in Bank’s new casino. Enter the rest of the “eleven” to right Reuben’s wrong and get even with Bank. The plot, though, is overshadowed by good looking people, good looking sets, and snappy, witty dialogue that Eleven did with perfection. Apparently, this will be the last in the series, but who knows since, at the end of this one, there seemed to be the perfect entree for a number 14.
Where the first one was slick, this one is stylized. Where the first one was clever, this one is intellectual. Where the first one is glitz, this one is glamour. Basically, Ocean’s Twelve is for adults…not only for action movie-crazed adults but for adults who need more plot, structure, and development. The look of this film is almost a night and day difference from the first, mostly because there is no “Vegas” in the second film. (I use Vegas here as a noun because in the first film, Las Vegas became an entity onto itself by contributing highly to the slickness and glitziness of the first film.) Amsterdam, Rome, Naples…where the second film is set…lend to more of an old world sophistication that Vegas can’t touch. Vegas is a playground and looks the part. Europe is cultural and classic and looks that part. Director Steven Soderbergh does many of his same tricks with the camera here to try and pump up the pace and plot. But, again, taking Vegas out of the equation brings the movie out of the realm of the fantastic and into the world of the real. Concerning the plot in this second film…well even that seems to lack some of the “Vegas” feel to it. The first one seemed faster and filled with more vigor. Tricks happened right until the every end and the audience enjoyed the ride. The characters looked good and moved quick to keep up with the Vegas scene. In Europe, there seems to be a more laid-back feel to the characters. The film starts off with Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict character (who was the victim – if you can call him that – in the first film) giving each of Ocean’s men two weeks to return his money. Two weeks!!! They should all be running around frantic. But, they are not. They act like they have all the time in the world. Does the European setting have that much to do with the pace? Maybe or maybe Soderbergh just wanted to make a film that was more intellectual than eye candy. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE eye candy. But, I also like a good movie. Both of these are good films in their own unique ways, but keep in mind that one is more the kid in you and one is for your adult side trying to break through.
OK—I know. It’s not the BEST movie ever made. But, it’s just plain fun to watch…in more ways than one. It’s a highly entertaining action caper. You will not be bored at all during this one, trust me. Also, the entire cast is just a pleasure to look at (you can trust me on that one, too). Basically, it’s just two hours of good times and enjoyment. The plot revolves around ringleader George Clooney’s decision to rob three casinos owned by power-monger Andy Garcia. Clooney takes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould and six others along for the ride, including ex-wife Julia Roberts. Based on the 1960 Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack film of the same title, this 2001 movie takes little from the original other than the basic premise (casino theft), the number of players, and the name of the man in charge (Danny Ocean). By adding style, class, glitz, high-tech gizmos, and a lot of good looking people, this Ocean’s Eleven will certainly satisfy your craving for entertainment.
The Lady Eve is fun. After seeing Stanwyck in a variety of Femme Fatale roles, it’s highly enjoyable to see her back at her comic roots. And, boy does she shine here as the daughter of a con-artist who is trying to score one big grift. Henry Fonda is perfectly befuddled as her prey…I’ve never really seen Fonda in a comic role like this before and I haven’t seen him since in anything that can come close to topping this. Both actors are simply brilliant in this one. Basically, Fonda plays a wealthy, naive young man on a cruise heading up the Amazon so study his love of snakes. Enter Stanwyck and her father (played by the always-great Charles Coburn) to try and “lure” Fonda into a trap to milk him out of some of his millions. Classic Preston Sturges at his finest!