Blu-Ray Review: The In-Laws – Criterion Collection

Director: Arthur Hiller
Screenplay: Andrew Bergman
Starring: Peter Falk, Alan Arkin, Richard Libertini, Ed Begley Jr., James Hong, David Paymer
Country: USA
Running Time: 103 min
Year: 1979
BBFC Certificate: PG


This was a blind watch for me. I didn’t know anything about the film before the press release was sent. I’d heard of, but not seen, the remake and didn’t realise that was based on another film film anyway. Criterion can generally be trusted to release quality titles though and the cast was appealing, so I took a gamble which I’m happy to say paid off.

The In-Laws is a comedy about two father-in-laws to be; uptight Jewish dentist Sheldon Kornpett (Alan Arkin) and crazy Italian American criminal/government agent Vince Ricardo (Peter Falk). The film opens with a daring open air robbery of some federal reserve plates (stamps used to print money), which soon make their way into the hands of heist mastermind Vince, who rushes straight from the scene to have dinner with the parents of his son’s fiancée. Here, Vince’s wild mood changes and crazy stories about giant, baby-carrying flies don’t impress potential in-law Sheldon, who wants to call the wedding off. His daughter talks him out of it, but the next morning Vince shows up at Sheldon’s surgery asking for a favour. He wants him to break into his own safe and bring him the contents. Sheldon is somehow talked into it and from then on his life is thrown into a ridiculous spiral of chaos, taking the duo all the way to South America where Vince plans to sell the plates to a crazed general. Vince claims he’s a CIA agent and this is all part of an elaborate plan to bring the general down, but Sheldon (and the audience) aren’t convinced.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Princess Bride

Director: Rob Reiner
Screenplay: William Goldman
Based on a Novel by: William Goldman
Starring: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, André the Giant, Fred Savage, Peter Falk
Producers: Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinman
Country: USA
Running Time: 98 min
Year: 1987
BBFC Certificate: PG


In the 80’s (and just into 1990), director Rob Reiner had one of the greatest runs of films in the history of filmmaking (in my opinion at least). Being of the generation that experienced them pretty much first hand (on their VHS and first TV runs – I’m a little too young to have caught them on cinema), these were films that helped shape my love of film and still stand up incredibly well. This is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me will probably always be in my top 10-15 films of all time for sheer quality as well as pure enjoyment and nostalgia. Add When Harry Met Sally, Misery, the underrated The Sure Thing and this, The Princess Bride and you’ve got six ‘modern’ classics that all have a huge fanbase. A Few Good Men came next, which a lot of people love too, but for me it wasn’t on a par with those aforementioned titles.

After that, his films steadily declined in quality. I keep hoping for a comeback, but I’m not holding my breath. However, we still have those six greats to go back to time and again – their re-watchability being among many strong points. So that brings us to the well-loved The Princess Bride, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year with a new feature-packed Blu-Ray edition.

For those of you that haven’t seen The Princess Bride, before you march straight to the nearest shop to buy yourself a copy in shame, here’s a summary of the plot. We open on a young boy (Fred Savage of The Wonder Years fame) who is a bit poorly and bed-bound for the day. His grandfather (Peter Falk of Columbo and A Woman Under the Influence fame) hears of this and comes round to comfort the boy by reading him a story that his own father used to read when he was ill. The video-game loving youngster reluctantly allows this. The story that follows is of Buttercup (Robin Wright), a beautiful young woman whose true love Westley (Cary Elwes) is supposedly murdered at sea by the Dread Pirate Roberts. In her misery she does little to stop the cruel Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) from claiming her for his wife. Whilst awaiting the big day though, she is kidnapped by Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his assistants, the sword-master Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant). Hot on their trail however is a mysterious masked man who is revealed to be the Dread Pirate Roberts himself. Or could he be someone else entirely?

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Blu-Ray Review: A Woman Under the Influence

Director: John Cassavetes
Screenplay: John Cassavetes
Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands
Producer: Sam Shaw
Country: USA
Running Time: 147 min
Year: 1974
BBFC Certificate: 15

A kind of godfather of American independent cinema, John Cassavetes helped Stateside filmmakers break away from Hollywood and the big studios. Although he acted in a few big budget productions himself, winning acclaim for his role in The Dirty Dozen, these were only ever paychecks to bankroll his next directorial passion project. His films pioneered a raw, grittily realistic style that used elements of improvisation (although surprisingly his films are generally tightly scripted) to let his actors portray often broken and unlikeable characters. Being frequently quite long and dialogue-driven with little humour or excitement, Cassavetes’ films are hard to warm to, but his skill and importance to American filmmakers still today is undeniable.

The BFI are currently re-releasing a number of Cassavetes-directed titles on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD as part of their John Cassavetes Collection. The latest film to receive the high-definition treatment is probably his most well known and successful, A Woman Under the Influence. I took a look at the new disc, marking my second viewing of the film.

A Woman Under the Influence portrays the mental breakdown of Mabel (Gena Rowlands) and the resulting breakdown of her marriage with Nick (Peter Falk). Realising she is overly ‘nervous’ and that others view her as ‘peculiar’, Mabel tries her best to keep everyone happy and remain a good mother to her three children, but Nick’s temper and his mother’s distrust and hatred of her make it difficult for Mabel to stay mentally balanced. Nick loves his wife, but he is frustrated and frightened by her condition and doesn’t know how to deal with her ‘episodes’, so frequently blasts into fits of rage or tries to mask problems by inviting people around for parties, which only make Mabel more anxious. She eventually gets committed and Nick has to look after the children until her return. When Mabel does come back she seems to be a changed woman, but Nick’s poor handling of the situation brings everything back to the surface.

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Cinecast Episode 220 – A Distinct Lack of Lactation

Welcome to one of those very rare shows missing both Andrew, and any reviews of new films. In order to fill out a trio with Gamble & Halfyard, The Documentary Blog and Film Junk regular Jay Cheel joins the Cinecast once again, and despite lacking any new/theatrical reviews (want to talk Transformers? Go to the Mall), we still chug along for nearly 3.5 hours (fair warning folks!)

At the halfway mark of 2011, just past American Independence day, we have a Top 5 for you, a rather unusual one, to celebrate the recent christening of THE WATCH LIST, each of us gives the top 5 older films that we saw for the first time this year. It’s an eclectic mix of art and trash that keeps the ’round table’ format going
like a schizoid energizer bunny before arriving at DVD picks for this week. And that is it folks. If there is a Cinecast episode to find strange and unusual film recommendations we hope this is the one: We go from Bill Hicks to Mike Nichols to Alice Cooper and the director of Troll 2 to an elderly Japanese Judge Dredd to All The President’s Men and back around to Captain Ron. Stretch back and relax to the dulcet, soothing tones of people chatting about a lot of cinema.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_220.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Peter Falk: 1927 – 2011

He was in many many films and won lots of awards for his work in film and television. He was best known for playing the title character on NBC’s “Columbo.” I remember the show quite fondly but for some reason he sticks in my head most fondly as mob boss Max in 2001’s Made. “Because you lost my carpet cleaning van… and I don’t like you you cocksucker!”

So yes, the guy was pretty much always quirkily awesome (before quirk was a bad thing). We’ll miss that cross-eyed smirk and that hidden sense of cunning his characters always seemed to embody. Thanks for the happy years, sir. You will be missed!

What’s your favorite Peter Falk memory? Murder by Death?

Cinecast Episode 116 – Knowing is Half the Battle

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Episode 116:
We’re back with a little Knowing this week. A lot of Knowing actually. Then it’s on to some other tidbits of goodness, DVDs and Spike Jonze.
Huzzah!

Click the Audio Icon below to listen in:

Below the fold are the Show Notes…
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