Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recent movies - Withnail, How to Get Ahead, Cop Land, State of the Union

Boy, sorry for the "less than one per month" posting schedule.  I don't feel as bad, since my blogging friends are doing the same or worse, but I still have a little guilt.  On to movies.

Withnail and I (1987), How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) - (Both by the same writer and director; a spiritual pair, if you will.)  These had been in my queue for long enough where I couldn't remember why I'd put them there, but they were both Criterion releases at one point, and they were described as cult comedies, so that seems like enough of a reason.  Richard Grant is one crazy dude, and I'm surprised I haven't seen him in anything else.  Those eyes were made to play a manic misanthrope, so I'd bet director/writer Bruce Robinson wrote those parts with him in mind.

Withnail is about two actors (read: layabouts, good-for-nothings) who go on a horrible vacation in the country.  The plot is barely there; it's all about the characters.  Marwood (the titular "I") is played by Paul McGann, whom I recognized from his role in the excellent "Horatio Hornblower" miniseries.  Completely different character, so the revelation didn't hit me for a while.  More easily recognized is Richard Griffiths as Uncle Monty, now most well-known as Uncle Dursley from the Harry Potter movies.

Withnail didn't grab me like it has so many other people.  It's got a lot of funny lines that I could see people latching on to, though.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising had a similar effect on me.  This is the one where the ad exec's boil grows a face and starts talking to him.  Felt like a Gilliam movie, especially because it was coupled with some sort of anti-advertising message, though it didn't feel as simple as that.  Weird movie.

Cop Land (1997) - I don't know how this one flew under my radar for so long.  I remember seeing it for rent at the library years ago, but I never got around to picking it up, and it wasn't until my friend Hugh recommended it highly that I finally gave it a go.  Written and directed by James Mangold, Cop Land is about a local cop (Sly Stallone) who walks the beat in a Jersey neighborhood populated almost entirely with city cops (i.e. "Cop Land").  The city cops work in New York but live on this island.  They're also all corrupt.  Sly has wanted to be a city cop for years but has a health issue that prevents it.  So, he polices a city with no overt crime, and is not considered a "real" cop.

The cast list is very impressive.  Aside from Stallone, you've got Robert DeNiro as an Internal Affairs officer, Harvey Keitel as the leader of the city cops, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, and Michael Rappaport.  Plus, Janeane Garafalala for a few minutes.  Each cast member brings a lot to the movie, though DeNiro's actually not in it all that much, and Janeane's character doesn't have much to her.

The screenplay is very well-crafted, and I loved Stallone's hang-dog under-stated performance.  It made for a very sympathetic hero.

State of the Union (1948) - This might be my first Tracy & Hepburn movie.  Another Capra flick.  Loved it.  Great husband and wife story about a businessman (Tracy) hand-picked to run for a presidential bid by a ruthless newspaper owner (played by a young Angela Lansbury!).  He and his wife (Hepburn) are distant, and there are all sorts of rumors about he and Lansbury being an item.  It's more of the same great Capra sentimentalism, with some fun and surprising scenes thrown in (most memorably an aerial contest involving Tracy).  Watching Tracy and Hepburn together it was easy to see why they were considered such a great screen couple.  Both are superb actors, and they have a chemistry that comes off as completely genuine.

Side note: supposedly my grandfather Stamper was an extra in this, though we haven't been able to confirm which scene.


jeric2003 said...

I always liked Richard E. Grant and wished he were in more movies. He always sat well in period pieces (Dracula, Age of Innocence, Portrait of a Lady, Twelfth Night), which is probably why I'm so familiar with him since I watched tons of that stuff when I was younger.

For some reason, Spencer Tracy never really did it for me. I have always been able to acknowledge him as a good actor and admit that he and Hepburn were good together, but the combo somehow bothered me. I have this same problem with people like Barbara Stanwyck and Meryl Streep. They're all good and I usually like their movies, but somehow I don't love the actors. I've never heard of that movie though, and now I'm interested, especially with a young Lansbury in it. I always like seeing what she was like before she solved mysteries for a living. :)

jeric2003 said...

Also, thank you for posting!

Nobody said...

Your description of Cop Land made me interested until you wrote "Michael Rappaport." He is my own personal kryptonite; in fact I probably dislike him more than Jeri dislikes Denzel!

That aside, even though 3:10 to Yuma underwhelmed me, the wonderful surprise of Knight and Day is making me reconsider James Mangold. Admittedly, all of his movies are very glossy, and I'm not sure if his facility with multiple genres makes him a good hack like Gore Verbinski or just a bad hack like Brett Ratner.

Ryan said...

Ha! What drives your hatred of Rappaport? I get Jeri's dislike of Denzel, but ol' Rap doesn't do anything particularly offensive in Cop Land.

Nobody said...

Everything about him? His entire persona? I don't know if it's an affected schtick like Larry the Cable Guy or what, but I can't stand the way he talks or acts. His white gangsta attitude irritates me, the way he can't talk without moving his hands like Ali G, the way his head is thrown back all the time, the way he looks like he's rapping when he talks, the way he pronounces words... ugh.

The fact that he has his own sitcom is bad enough, but the fact that it is structured around interludes during which he addresses the camera is like squirting lemon juice in my eyes.