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Archive for September, 2013

Tom Logan (Robert Redford) is a successful prosecuting attorney, who is about to promoted to DA.  However, antagonistic defence lawyer Laura Kelly (Debra Winger) asks him to help her on a case involving Chelsea Deardon (Darryl Hannah), a young woman who has been accused of stealing a valuable piece of art.  As Tom and Laura delve further into the case, they discover that it involves fraud and murder….and Tom’s chances of making DA are looking slimmer and slimmer…

When this film was released, it opened to mixed reviews.  Neither Redford nor Winger were happy with it, and at times it does seem as though it doesn’t know whether it’s a frothy romantic comedy, or a semi-serious legal thriller.  There are also some fairly obvious plot inconsistencies.

Despite this, I really enjoyed the film…it has a definite charm, and certainly made me laugh.  Whether it’s true that Redford and Winger did not get on off-screen or not (as has been rumoured), they do have chemistry together, and bounced off each other well.  There were some lovely scenes – the scene where both Tom and Laura, both in their own homes, are unable to sleep, was one of my favourite parts.  Most of the supporting cast – including Terence Stamp as a shady art dealer, and Brian Dennehy as a police officer with his own agenda – were great too, although Darryl Hannah was practically catatonic.  I imagine she was picked for the role at least partly for her looks, and in other films she has been great, but she was the definite weak link in the cast for this.

Still, as mentioned earlier, despite all the obvious flaws of this film, I liked it a lot.  It’s a good watch if you want something amusing and not too demanding, and I would definitely see it again.  I can imagine that people might find it annoying, for legitimate reasons, but for some reason, it worked for me.

(Interestingly, this film started out as a documentary about the legal wrangling over the estate of artist Mark Rothko.  Somewhere along the line, it took a very different turn!)

Year of release: 1986

Director: Ivan Reitman

Producers: Ivan Reitman, Michael C. Gross, Joe Medjuck, Arne Glimcher, Sheldon Kahn

Writers: Ivan Reitman, Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr

Main cast: Robert Redford, Debra Winger, Darryl Hannah, Terence Stamp, Brian Dennehy

 

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Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau team up again for this comedy about two longtime neighbours, who end up falling for the same woman, when she moves into their street.  Ariel (Ann-Margret) is flighty, flirty and gorgeous, and before long, John Gustavson (Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Matthau) are competing for her affections, and playing dirty tricks on each other.

Some actors just gel together, and Lemmon and Matthau bounce off each other perfectly – just like in their younger days – as ‘frenemies’.  There are a lot of genuinely laugh-out-loud moments too, as John and Max constantly try to one-up each other.

More surprising are the moments of pathos – all three of the main leads are lonely to some extent, and looking for something new in their life.  Lemmon plays vulnerable to a tee, and Matthau also elicits sympathy with his familiar hang-dog expression and the sense that for him, life is passing too quickly. Ann-Margret looks beautiful, and is perfectly cast as the woman who brings a spark back into their lives.

Burgess Meredith is wonderful in a supporting role as John’s father, who at the age of 94, lives life with gleeful abandon, and Darryl Hannah and Kevin Pollack are both great in their roles as John’s daughter and Max’s son (who are also obviously attracted to one another).

As the film is set from Thanksgiving to Christmas, it would be a perfect holiday movie, one to appeal to all ages, and is sure to provide plenty of belly laughs.  Highly recommended.

Year of release: 1993

Director: Donald Petrie

Producers: Dan Kolsrud, Richard C. Berman, John Davis, Darlene K. Chan, Kathy Sarreal

Writer: Mark Steven Johnson

Main cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ossie Davis, Darryl Hannah, Kevin Pollack

 

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Rob Lowe is a name familiar to anyone who grew up in the 80s.  He became a huge star, was a member of the ‘Brat Pack’ and graced bedroom walls everywhere.  In the late 80s and 90s, his career took something of a nosedive, but since his work on The West Wing, there has been something of a resurgence.  I remember all the fan-worship of Lowe, and after seeing him speaking at the Hay Festival when this book came out, I looked forward to reading it, and getting his own perspective on his career.

It’s an entertaining story, told in an engaging and warm voice.  He describes his childhood, with a loving but turbulent homelife, and his early ambition to become an actor.  His stories about his early days in the industry were my favourite parts of the book – the account of making The Outsiders, as one of a group of soon-to-be-household-names, including Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze and Emilio Estevez – was particularly interesting (his descriptions of co-stars Swayze and Cruise were affectionate and very witty).

Lowe does a good job of portraying how a young and naive young man can get caught up in the Hollywood machine and lifestyle, and how inevitably, that lifestyle led to his fall from grace in spectacular fashion in 1988, with the sex-tape scandal.  He glosses over the scandal and fallout somewhat, but I can’t really blame him for that – he acknowledges it and moves on.

The book is packed with little anecdotes about some of the famous people he met (Cary Grant, Liza Minnelli amongst others, and these before he even got into acting himself), which are entertaining.

What comes through most is Lowe’s love for his wife and family, and his passion for his work.  I accept that there was a fair amount left out of the book; nonetheless, it’s an entertaining and enjoyable memoir, which I liked a lot and would recommend to fans of Lowe, or anyone with an interest in film-making.

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As the title of the act might suggest, Three Phantoms consists of three men who have all played the West End as the lead role in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical, Phantom of the Opera.  With backing singers, including Rebecca Caine, who has not only played Christine Daae in Phantom, but who also played the original Cosette in Les Miserables, they perform a series of songs from many different musicals.  In between numbers, they share jokes with the audience, and anecdotes about their time playing the Phantom.

The Phantoms who were performing when I saw the show were Matthew Cammelle, Stephen John Davis and Glyn Kerslake (it’s not always the same three Phantoms for every tour), and the whole thing was staged by Earl Carpenter, who I was lucky enough to see playing the Phantom himself, earlier this year.

Starting with Invocation and Instructions to the Audience from The Frogs, was a nice touch because it really helped get the audience relaxed and ready not only for some beautiful singing, but also for a lot of fun.  Other songs included Dont’ Stop Believin’, by Journey; Unchained Melody, from Ghost; I Could Have Danced All Night, from My Fair Lady; Big Girls Don’t Cry, from Jersey Boys; a selection of songs from Les Miserables – including a stunning acapella version of I Dreamed A Dream, which brought tears to my eyes – and a selection of songs from other musical adaptations of Phantom, as well as a wonderful rendition of Music of the Night.

Annette Yeo, Mandy Watsham Dunstall and Alistair Barron sang beautifully with the Phantoms, and each had their own moment in the spotlight, with Alistair coming in for some merciless teasing from them!  Musical accompaniment was provided by a single pianist and a single cellist, who were on stage throughout, and the staging itself was beautifully done.

Overall, for fans of musical theatre, this show is a must – a hugely enjoyable afternoon or evening out.  I will definitely be booking to see the Three Phantoms again in the future.

(The Three Phantoms website can be found here.)

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This is a fascinating book about risk, the probability of risk in given situations, and how humans react to the idea of risk.  It takes as it’s basis three characters: Norm, a man who is average in every sense of the word, and calculates risk according to the statistics; Prudence, who worries incessantly and excessively about everything – for her, the worst case scenario is also the likeliest; and Kelvin, who is arrogant and irresponsible and seems happy to take risks in all aspects of his life.  These characters are placed in different settings, as the book explores the statistical chance of something bad happening, in relation to the public perception of risk.  For example, scary headlines that declare things like ‘Eating such-and-such every day leads to a 20% increase in your likelihood of getting cancer.’  Scary indeed, but the book shows what that 20% risk actually works out at.

The book is written in easy to understand language, and is often amusing.  It acknowledges that it’s all very well saying there’s a one in a million chance of a specific something bad happening, but that’s little comfort to the person that is that one in a million.  Nonetheless, I found it oddly reassuring to be able to understand why certain situations are so scary, yet when looked at objectively, they actually pose little real danger.

It explains how probability is calculated (and discusses the reliability – or not – of the numbers), and is full of interesting anecdotes.  All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable book, on a fascinating subject.  Recommended.

(The Norm Chronicles website can be found here.)

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