(On Cable TV, December 2018) Well huh. Turns out that Marlon Brando was a trend setter on his way up, playing characters with raw honesty in the 1950s, and also on his way down, anticipating the whole self-parody of people such as Robert de Niro with 1990’s The Freshman. The references are not accidental—The Freshman features Brando as a mob boss in a film that has characters (including a film teacher) obsessing over The Godfather. It’s intentional, and it does work relatively well at times: Brando doesn’t look as if he’s having any fun whatsoever, but the characters grimacing around him look as if they do. Matthew Broderick stars as a hapless Midwesterner going to NYC to study film, and is immediately robbed upon arrival. We later discover it’s all a big scheme, but never mind the details. The Freshman is merely fine as a comedy: It doesn’t have big laughs, it does’nt build to an amazing climax, but it does the job of entertaining and that’s that. Director Andrew Bergman keeps things moving in the same direction, Penelope Ann Miller makes for a cute love interest and the focus on animals means some visual comedy as well. I don’t think that The Freshman has any staying power beyond seeing Brando poking fun at himself, even in a very restrained way. But it’ll do if you haven’t seen it yet.
(In French, On TV, November 2018) Nicholas Cage and Las Vegas make for an interesting coupling ((he’s apparently now a resident of the city), especially given how each one of the movies in which they come together are so different. Leaving Las Vegas is a depressing tragedy, Con Air is a brash action spectacular, and Honeymoon in Vegas is an offbeat romantic comedy featuring no less than a troupe of parachuting Elvises (Elvii?) at the climax. Writer/director Andrew Bergman certainly seems to have fun in setting up the film’s premise, as a couple (Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker) travels to Vegas to be married, only to run into an Indecent Proposal-like situation in which a rich man (James Caan) offers to erase the protagonist’s gambling debts in exchange for a weekend with his soon-to-be wife. (Indecent Proposal was released in 1993, although the original novel predates Honeymoon in Vegas.) There’s some plot weirdness about Parker looking like the rich man’s dead wife, but never mind the justifications: Much of the film’s fun is in seeing Cage’s character chasing his wife, only to come back in style by jumping out of an airplane with a bunch of Elvis impersonators. As they say—what goes on in Vegas … warrants a movie. The result is a frothy funny film, not particularly deep at all, but offbeat and likable enough to be worth an unpresuming look. Cage is surprisingly fun as a romantic hero, and the Honeymoon in Vegas itself offers an interesting contrast to his other Vegas movies. Still, it may work best as a chaser for Leaving Las Vegas.