5 Buddy Films You Must See

13 05 2011

Buddy films have been chosen as the next entry in the “5 Films You Must See” series.  What constitutes a buddy film?  Well, really nothing other than the story revolves around two or more really good friends, with their friendship being a major motivator of the plot.  My girlfriend wanted me to add in that my list below is distinctly guy buddy films and, honestly, it is.  What I would consider a girl buddy film would most likely fall under “chick flick” for me, of which, I doubt I will create a list for, though I did strongly consider including Thelma and Louise.

Copyright 1996 Independent Pictures

5. Swingers dir. Doug Liman (1996) – This movie is absolutely hilarious and was the star-making roles that really started off the careers of Vince Vaughn, John Favreau and Ron Livingston.  Favreau plays Mike(y), a down-on-his-luck comedian, who recently moved to Los Angeles from New York, ending a six year relationship with his girlfriend.  Mike can’t get his ex out of his head and refuses to get back in the game.  His friends, Trent (Vaughn), Rob (Livingston) and Sue (Patrick Van Horn), try to get him to loosen up and let her go.  Much of the film is the different buddies interacting or gambling in Las Vegas, going to clubs or trying to cheer Mike up.  The dialog in the film is so sharp, however, that the easy flowing plot really doesn’t matter.  Accompanied by an upbeat jazz score, this is 1990s comedy at its best.  Also, after a first viewing, don’t be surprised to find yourself referring to everything as “money” in your personal life.  I’ve seen this film at least 10 times and it never gets old – definitely a must see!

Copyright 1987 Handmade Films

4. Withnail and I dir. Bruce Robinson (1987) –  This seminal British comedy is one of my personal favorites on this list, though I love them all.  A semi-autobiographical film from writer/director Robinson, this film follows the lives of Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and I (Paul McGann) in 1969 London town.  Living in a small, rundown apartment, the two out-of-work actors spend their days drinking, doing drugs and going on weekend benders.  For a change of pace, the two take up Withnail’s flamboyantly gay uncle, Monty (Richard Griffiths) on a trip to his country cottage.  Thinking it will be a relaxing getaway to the country, the two find it to be anything but.  They have a hard time getting food, it is cold and raining and the cottage itself is in shambles.  Unexpectedly, Monty shows up at the cottage in the middle of the night and begins hitting on Paul McGann’s character during their stay because Withnail told Monty he was closeted.  In the end, the relaxing getaway turns out to be anything but and challenges the relationship between the two protagonists.  Having had a period myself where I spent many nights in the bar and out of work, this is a very relatable film for me and, coincidentally, I have a friend that is very reminiscent of Withnail who was a frequent drinking buddy.  Watching this film always makes me nostalgic about that time in my life; though it wasn’t productive, it was a lot of fun.  Everything about this film works: the writing is great, the direction is precise and the acting is brilliant by all involved.  Like Swingers, this film will also give you many quotable lines to use in daily life.  Scrubbers!!!

Copyright 1980 Universal Pictures

3. The Blues Brothers dir. John Landis (1980) – I’m sure most of you have probably seen this film at some point in your lives.  Starting out as a Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, the feature film version is the definitive story of Jake and Elwood Blues.  When Jake (Belushi) gets out of a three year stint in prison, him and his brother Elwood (Aykroyd) visit the Roman Catholic orphanage where they grew up.  They find that the orphanage will close unless $5,000 of property taxes are collected within 11 days.  The brothers decide they should get their old Rhythm and Blues band back together to help the church with benefit concerts.  Being on a “mission from God”, the two set out recruiting all the old musicians.  Over the course of the film, they run into all sorts of precarious situations with the police, a crazy ex-girlfriend, rowdy country bars and other situations.  Guest appearances by many famous musicians including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker and Chaka Chan, among others, appear throughout.  The final chase scene is probably one of the biggest chases and car pile ups committed to film.  This film is infinitely entertaining and has so many great scenes and musical numbers that it easily ranks as one of the best movies from an SNL skit beginning.

Copyright 1969

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid dir. George Roy Hill (1969) – This is a perfectly formatted buddy film because almost everything revolves around the friendship of the two main characters, Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford).  The leaders of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, the whole film follows the two and their gang going through successful and unsuccessful robberies of trains and banks.  As a side story is the relationship between Sundance and school teacher Etta Place (Katherine Ross).  Going from one robbery to the next, the two eventually find themselves cornered by the Bolivian calvary and the film ends with on of the most memorable and climatic endings of the 1960s.

Copyright 1959 Ashton Productions

1. Some Like it Hot dir. Billy Wilder (1959) – Billy Wilder constantly ranks as one of my favorite filmmakers.  If you look at a list of his credits, you will be astounded by the many classic films that were made under his helm.  This one is probably my favorite comedy of his.  It revolves around two struggling musicians, Jerry (Jack Lemmon) and Joe (Tony Curtis), who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  The leader of the gang who authorized the massacre, “Spats” Colombo (George Raft in a role parodying his former roles in 1930s and 1940s gangster dramas), see the two of them at the scene of the crime and they run for their lives.  They join an all-female band heading to Florida in disguise as Josephine and Daphne.  The all-female band is lead by bandleader “Sugar” Kane (Marilyn Monroe).  Joe falls for her deeply and tries to romance her in yet another disguise as a wealthy businessman with Cary Grant-like mannerisms, all the while keeping up the female disguise as Josephine when needed to not blow his cover.  When the gangsters show up to Florida at the hotel the band is playing, the disguises become harder and harder to keep up.  The final scenes of the film are filled with hilarious chases and mishaps and the final line of the film, “Well, nobody’s perfect” has become one of cinema’s most famous closing lines.


How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) Review

26 04 2011

Copyright 1989 Handmade Films

★ ★ ★

Withnail and I possibly ranks in my top 10 favorite comedies of all-time and definitely in my top 20; this film is the movie writer/director Bruce Robinson made after Withnail and I.  As much as I wanted to absolutely love this movie, I just couldn’t.  It’s not bad, but it’s not nearly the caliber of film his debut effort was.

The film stars Richard E. Grant (from Withnail) as advertising executive Denis Bagley.  In working to come up with a good campaign for a pimple cream, he develops a boil on his shoulder that grows into having a mind and personality of it’s own.  The boil is presented like a devil on the shoulder, whereas Bagley himself begins to develop into the angelic counterpart who begins to have deeply rooted concerns in the wrongdoings of his career.  Eventually, the boil takes over and his head shrinks to the size of a boil, allowing the dark side to take over completely.

Obviously, this film is quite surreal and deeply rooted in dark comedy as well.  It’s also a plain out attack, quite heavy handedly at times, on the advertising industry.  I have agree with some of the points the film makes, but it definitely gets preachy at times for a movie that is supposed to be labeled as entertainment.  As for the story structure, it’s pretty loose.  There are some amazingly funny scenes within the film, but as a whole, it feels disjointed in many ways.

Richard E. Grant, as always, does a great job in the excessively neurotic role as Bagley.  I’ve not seen Grant in much other than this film and Withnail and I, but he definitely has a penchant for playing eccentric characters.  The only other primary character in the film is his wife, who is played by Rachel Ward; she does an acceptable job in the role as a concerned houeswife dealing with her husband’s bizarre eccentricities and rants.

I don’t want to mislead completely, this isn’t a bad film.  However, if you come to this after watching Withnail and I and expect the same level of greatness, then you will be let down.  You have to watch this as a stand alone film and not try to make any comparisons to Robinson’s previous work.  In my opinion, the film is worth watching for Grant’s performance, some of the well-written comedic scenes and, if you hate advertisers, then some of the apocalyptic rants on the evils of advertising.

Anticipated Release: The Rum Diary

30 03 2011

Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp in "The Rum Diary." Copyright 2011 GK Films, Infinitum Nihil and Film Engine.

It was revealed yesterday that writer/director Bruce Robinson’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary will be released theatrically through FilmDirect.  The film, which stars Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckart and Amber Heard, is set for an October 28, 2011 release date.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about seeing this film.  For those of you who are unaware of who Bruce Robinson is, he directed the seminal British comedy classic Withnail and I (one of my favorite comedies of all-time).  Following the success of Withnail and I in 1986, he has only directed two other pictures: How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Jennifer Eight. This is his first release as a writer/director since 1992 and, even though his two latest films weren’t as well-received, this new project has some amazing source material and a great cast to accompany.

The Rum Diary, the book, was written by acclaimed gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in the early 1960s (though unpublished until 1998).  It was his second novel following the still unpublished Prince Jellyfish. Like many books by a young writer (Thompson was 22 at the time of writing), it is a semi-autobiographical piece dealing with his time in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1960.

According to the press release from New York yesterday, the story “…tells the increasingly unhinged story of itinerant journalist Paul Kemp (Depp). Tired of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of late Eisenhower-era America, Kemp travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local San Juan newspaper run by the downtrodden editor Lotterman (Jenkins). Adopting the rum-soaked lifestyle of the late ‘50s version of Hemingway’s “The Lost Generation,” Paul soon becomes entangled with a very attractive American woman, Chenault (Heard) and her fiancée Sanderson (Eckhart), a businessman involved in shady property development deals.  It is within this world that Kemp ultimately discovers his true voice as a writer and integrity as a man.”

Now, as with any film, there is a possibility that there could be a let down, but this film seems to have some pretty amazing things going for it and I can’t wait until it comes out.  Bruce Robinson adapting a Hunter S. Thompson film starring Johnny Depp  – that just sounds like magic on screen to me.

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