Jan. 3rd, 2013

innocent_man: (calvin)
Fletch was our first half of our annual New Years Double Feature. It's a detective comedy starring Chevy Chase, Tim Matheson, Joe Don Baker and (briefly) Geena Davis.

Fletch (Chase) is an investigative reporter trying to find the source behind the drug traffic on LA's beaches. In the course of his investigation, he's approached by a millionaire named Alan Stanwyk (Matheson), who, thinking Fletch is just a junkie, offers him 50 grand to kill him; Stanwyk claims to be dying of bone cancer. Fletch, knowing a set-up when he sees one but sensing a story, digs into Stanwyk's life and uncovers unsavory connections to the local police chief (Baker), the drug traffic, and Utah.

I've never read any of Gregory McDonald's Fletch novels (and holy crap, there are a bunch), but apparently the movie differs considerably from the book. McDonald still loved Chase's performance, though, and I have to say that this is before Chase kinda sold out so he's still fun to watch. There's some physical comedy, but mostly it's about Chase assuming different identities and taking on joke names to get what he wants, and playing off of people flawlessly to gain their trust. I didn't realize before what an accomplished con man Fletch is in this movie, but he's really good at saying just enough to get people talking and then shutting up and letting them talk.

Anyway, the movie is pretty understated. There's a car chase just so we get a little hit of action, there's implied sex (with Stanwyk's wife, played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), and some fun flirting with Fletch's office assistant, Larry (Davis). The movie flunks the Bechdel; the only time two women are even in the same scene is at the end when the widow Stanwyk (spoilers!) meets Larry, briefly, and I don't even think they talk to each other at all. But Ms. Stanwyk actually does have a bit of life and agency to her, right up until Fletch tells her the truth about her husband, at which point she wants to do something but winds up just doing what Fletch says. Can't win 'em all.

Fletch isn't really edgy, but it's got some fun moments and it's a good story, and it's a fun window into Chase's early career.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Fletch Lives
innocent_man: (abyssal)
Fletch Lives is, of course, the sequel to Fletch, though interestingly it's not based on one of the novels. It stars Chevy Chase, Hal Holbrook, Julianne Philips, R. Lee Emry, Randall Cobb and Cleavon Little.

Chase returns as Fletch, an investigative reporter for an LA paper. He gets fed up with his boss (Richard Libertini) jerking him around just about the time he inherits an 80-acre Louisiana plantation from his aunt, quits his job and moves down south. The first night there, he beds the executor of his aunt's estate (Patricia Kalember), and then wakes up to find her dead.

The investigation introduces him to a television minister (Emry) trying to buy up all the land in the area to expand his Bibleland amusement park, as well as said minister's daughter (Philips), as Girlfriend. I actually wish that they'd somehow kept Kalember as the love interest. Her character was, to me, more interesting and capable in the brief time we see her before she's fridged.

Fletch does his usual thing of putting on disguises and telling outlandish stories (claiming, while in a biker bar, to own Harley-Davidson, for instance), but unlike Fletch, here it's not as often about getting information as just letting Chase perform. In the first movie, he'd be just silly or offensive enough to get a rise out of someone, here he just kind of rambles in places. I dunno, sometimes it works, but for the most part they ditched the mystery and kept this comedic.

A standout: Cleavon Little (whom those of us with taste in movies know from Blazing Saddles) plays Fletch's occasional sidekick here, Calculus. He's kind of a caricature, but it's implied all the way along that he's much more than that...and lo, turns out he's an FBI agent investigating the same things Fletch is. All in all, the movie works, even if it's not quite as interesting as the original.

My grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Castle in the Sky
innocent_man: (darkling)
The Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Hayao Miazaki film, dubbed into American with Anna Paquin, James van der Beek, Cloris Leachman and Mandy Patinkin.

In a world with sky-pirates, floating fortresses and coal mining, a young boy named Pazu (van der Beek) catches a girl (Paquin) falling from the sky, slowly, with a glowing crystal around her neck. They make friends, and he reveals that he's looking for Laputa, the fabled floating civilization, kind of like Atlantis but covered in clouds rather than water. His father photographed Laputa once, but never made it there.

Turns out the girl, Sheeta, is the lost heiress to Laputa, but the government (led by an evil operative voiced by Mark Hamill) and some sky-pirates (led by Cloris Leachman as the pink-pigtailed, rough and rowdy matriarch) are all after her. Pazu and Sheeta eventually wind up hooking up with the pirates so they can continue on their way without endangering anyone, but of course everyone arrives at Laputa anyway, where it's revealed that Laputa used to dominate the world until their arms-race mentality doomed the whole civilization. Now their magitech is left for nothing but gardening, with huge, long-armed robots doing the upkeep.

It's a pretty classic Miazaki movie, absolutely beautiful to watch. I think that, story wise, it goes on a little longer than necessary and it's not anywhere near as tight as Spirited Away or even My Neighbor Totoro, but it's definitely worth having, and my kids liked it.

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: Elf

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