Sunday, April 26, 2015

Update

Sorry for the recent lack of content.  Updates will resume shortly.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Get Shorty (1995)

With the fantastic series Justified ending a brilliant six year run this month, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the adaptations of Elmore Leonard's work.  Leonard was a genius at writing darkly comic crime novels full of snappy dialogue, crazy situations and memorable characters.  For some reason, most of the adaptations of his work have not gone as well as one would prefer, due to many of the usual reasons films don't work.  Sometimes its the studio, sometimes its the script, sometimes its something else entirely.

We'll begin with the film that kicked off the real trend of good Leonard adaptations.  Before 1995,there were a few good ones but for the most part, his work had been relegated to one-off TV movies.  In 1995, however, he blasted back to prominence with this genuinely funny, entertaining comedy.

Get Shorty stars John Travolta as Chili Palmer, a loan shark who is in the middle of a petty feud with Ray Barboni (Dennis Farina) who he ends up working for.  Palmer tracks the owner of a dry cleaners who owes some money to Vegas and while he's there, he's also sent to get some money out of a B-movie producer in Hollywood.  Being a movie buff, Chili becomes enamored with the film business and the ensuing comedy is both a sly satire of the business and a perfect adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel.

Travolta is top notch here, right in the middle of his 1994 comeback, cool and funny but also sort of tough which is perfect for the character.  Hackman is equally funny as the sort of dumb, utterly full of crap film producer and Rene Russo is fun as Karen, an actress Chili falls for.  The rest of the cast is fun too.  Dennis Farina is quite funny as Barboni, as is Delroy Lindo as a thug looking to get into the film, business as well and Danny DeVito is great as an utterly ridiculous actor.  You can tell he, along with everybody else in the movie (there are so many good character actors in this thing that to name them all would stretch this review to an unreasonable length) is having a blast.

Barry Sonnenfeld does a fine job directing things and as noted, the cast is great but what really sells the film is the script.  Scott Frank stays true to the original novel, using the dialogue and letting it have that little flair Leonard always puts into his work.  It's just plain fun and one of the best Leonard adaptations out there.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When Nature Calls (1985)

I'm not the hugest Troma fan out there, truth be told most of their stuff bores me to tears (shock comedy tends to have this effect on me though I do kind of like the first two Toxic Avenger films) but every now and then you will find a good one.  When Nature Calls is a clever spoof of wilderness adventures in the same vein as Airplane! and The Naked Gun.  Really no actors of note except for early parts for David Strathairn and Gates McFadden of Star Trek: TNG.  She's in the second of three fake trailers that run before the movie, the other two being a Scorsese parody and a gangster film called Baby Bullets where the lead is an infant and against all odds, this ends up being pretty damn funny.

The second trailer is a visual gag involving a new gimmicks called Blind-O-Vision and the theater gags continue throughout the movie as well.  The plot is as bare bones as it can get (and in this case that's a major plus) as a typical New York family called the Van Waspishes decides they've had it with the big city and decide to live in the woods.  The usual stuff one would expect occurs with wild animals, the aforementioned David Strathairn as a friendly Indian, tons of gags that come at you a mile a minute and just an overall sense of gleeful silliness.

Charles Kaufman, brother of Troma head Lloyd wrote and directed this one and he has a nice deft touch here, firing the gags at the viewer as fast as possible so that they hit, you either laugh or don't and then there's another gag up for consideration.  It's not quite as smooth as the more notable spoofs I mentioned earlier and pretty crass in parts, but it's still pretty damn hysterical in places.  If you can find it, give it a look.  It's well worth your time.

About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.