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JPFmovies goes to the land down under for our next review: Rake (2010-2018)

Rake is about love, madness, addiction, and the law–in short, it is about modern life.  How can you go wrong with series premises like that?  You can’t!  Rake is an Australian television program.  It stars Richard Roxburgh as rake Cleaver Greene, a dazzling but self-destructive Sydney criminal law barrister, defending typically guilty clients.  Outside of the courtroom, Cleaver Greene is immature, reckless and self-destructive.  Inside of the courtroom, he is pretty much the same, but his reckless courtroom antics help his indefensible clients escape justice.  During his free time, Cleaver wastes away the hours at a local brothel with his favorite girl, Melissa Patridge, if that is her real name as well as doing a cornucopia of drugs from cocaine to booze to marijuana.  Although his trouble with the opposite sex is fairly evident, his gambling addiction is far worse and usually ends with him being beaten by Col Mancusi a petty criminal.

Due to his gambling, Cleaver faces his own day in court, as he pairs off against his rival, Harry, Sorry, David Potter (Matt Day). The pair not only fight over Cleaver’s tax records, but also Melissa. Cleaver relies on his ex-wife, Wendy Greene (Carline Brazier), for advice from time to time, which also leads to complications. Things get a little crazy, when they discover their son, Fuzz Greene (Keegan Joyce), is having a questionable affair.

 

Of course, Cleaver gets into relationship trouble of his own, when he slips up and winds up in bed with Barney’s wife, Scarlet (Danielle Cormack). Despite attempts to keep the affair secret, it eventually emerges and could potentially ruin things between Cleaver and Barney.  Rake also straddles the high/low cultural divide.  Cleaver frequently quotes Yeats, is a fan of Balzac, but remains distinctly Australian, with sayings like “Christ on a bike” or “Fuck me Sideways.” And in one Cleaver even tells a priest: “I could out-Nietzsche you at five paces.”

With his many flaws, and blunt, dismissive outlook, Cleaver Greene joins a long list of charismatic television anti-heroes likes Tony Soprano or Saul Goodman.

Although his morals are questionable, close friends and colleagues still rely on Cleaver. Underneath it all, he seems to generally try to do the right thing, although it usually ends badly.

Rake is definitely a hilarious show that is packed with plenty of drama and a tad bit emotion every once in a while. Throughout the entire first season, all of the performances were excellent and each of the characters, despite all of their flaws, are somewhat likable. Still, it is Richard Roxburgh, who leads the way and manages to keep everything funny, but realistic, inside and outside of the courtroom.

All of the supporting characters help to enhance the show significantly. Russell Dykstra and Matt Day do an excellent job helping to balance out Cleaver’s crazy antics. While the show is meant to be funny, it takes a fun approach to exposing some of the hypocrisies of society. Don’t be surprised, if you find yourself nodding in agreement, with some of the political statements in Rake.  All in all, the show is tremendously clever, sufficiently hilarious and definitely worth the watch.

If you have access to Netflix, watch the Australian version of the series the JPFmovies staff was uniform in its admiration for this original series.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2018 in cheesy television, Movie Reviews

 

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A stain on the golden age of the 1980s: T.V.’s Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982-1983) and SJ weighs in on it too.

Welcome back to JPFmovies. Yeah, it’s been a while, but we’re back and ready to review.  The JPFmovies staff was going through the DVD collection and found a 1980’s series still in the cellophane called: Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982-1983).  It ran for one season and was lucky to get that.  It is such a cheap rip-off of the hit movie Raiders of the Lost Arc, it is laughable.  Tales of the Gold Monkey ran 22 episodes and unbelievably won a Prime Time Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction for a series.  And we say unbelievably because this is one of those “works of art” that is so bad it crosses the spectrum and becomes good even and if they’re lucky a cult classic.  One has to ask: what was the JPFmovies acquisition staff thinking when it invested in these DVDs?

Tales of the Gold Monkey was one of creator Donald P. Bellisario’s projects– the famed 1980s TV producer known for shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Magnum, P.I., Airwolf, and Quantum Leap.  How can someone who produced Magnum P.I. and Air Wolf turn out something as bad as Tales of the Gold Monkey?  Let’s stop pointing fingers and get down to business.

The show is set in 1938 in the South Pacific on an island called Bora Gora (a cheap rip-off of Bora Bora).  The main character supposedly is an ex-Flying Tigers pilot, but the Flying Tigers operated from 1941–1942—so I guess the show was three years early on that angle.  The creators couldn’t even get that right.  Then there is the main character, Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins) dressed as Indiana Jones who owns an air cargo delivery service, he flies a red and white Grumman Goose called Cutter’s Goose.  The side kick is an alcoholic mechanic named Corky (Jeff MacKay) and possibly is the most annoying side kick ever.  And of course, there’s the T.V. staple Jack Russell Terrier with one eye and an eye patch, who barks once for “no” and twice for “yes”—the dog even advises Jake on how to play poker.  Are you kidding me?

I have to tell you, we here at JPFmovies love to watch a pilot but this pilot was agonizing to get through the full hour and ½.  This flimsy cast of characters was so obviously stolen from numerous good movies like Casablanca, Indiana Jones and more.  To make matters worse these chumps are supposedly tied up in espionage, what is arguably the worst espionage plot we’ve ever seen, and on top of that they are on the hunt for a giant gold monkey.  The monkey they do find, however, is made of brass but in a scintillating ending the viewer discovers that there actually is a giant gold monkey; due to neglect, however, it is covered in vegetation and is hidden from the world.  Cheesy espionage plots, cardboard characters and what is obviously copyright infringement is what the rest of the episodes consist of.  As you can see from the clips, Tales of the Gold Monkey was spared a dog’s death because it was canceled after its first season.  We can only imagine the torture the viewer would have to go through to watch additional seasons of this lousy excuse for the golden age of 80s T.V.

SJ Bonus!  That’s right folks, long time consultant SJ had the opportunity to watch these gems with the JPFmovies staff and here were some of her thoughts:

“Oh my god how many times are we going to see that stock footage?”

“That is a guy in a monkey suit?”

“Someone should take that dog away from him.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“These women are stupid!”

“What is that guy waving his arm around for?”  Note. See Clip where guy gets bit by cobra.

“Is he wearing a plastic samurai battle helmet?  Oh my god I think he is!”

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2018 in cheesy television

 

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Some Funny Audio Posts ETC…

Listen to these Val.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

Hello JPFmovie fans I know we are a little late in paying tribute to the late Elvis Presley 40th anniversary of his death on August 16, 1977. We wanted to wait until all of the gushing died down before we paid our respects to the King. We’re going to look at one of his lesser known films Roustabout (1964). Who knew you could make a musical about a carnival worker that actually turned out to be one of his bestselling albums?

On August 16th, 2017, people lined up to have their bags probed and prodded by security officers to get inside the barrier near the mansion for the annual vigil honoring the King, who died of a heart attack Aug. 16, 1977.  Elvis Presley is still one of the most revered entertainers even 40 years after his death.  Putting aside how he died, as a young man he had a remarkable career and only when the temptations often put in front of celebrities got the better of him did we lose one of the finest performers of all time.

 

Roustabout was Elvis’s 16th movie made in 1964 by Paramount pictures.  The film’s soundtrack was one of the King’s most successful reaching number one on the Billboard Album Chart.  Despite the soundtrack’s success, this film remains one of his lesser known productions.  Co-starring in the film is the legendary Barbara Stanwyck, who needs no introduction.  Stanwck’s long career spanned over 90 films and in 1944 the government listed her as the nation’s highest-paid woman, earning $400,000.  She received four Academy Award nominations and in 1982 was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for her contributions to the acting industry.  She was nominated five times for Emmy Awards, winning three of them, and she received four Golden Globe nominations, winning one. She received Life Achievement Awards from the American Film Institute, the Screen Actors Guild and the Los Angles Film Critics Association.

 

Legend has it Elvis made this movie so he could work with Stanwyck and, as is typical of many of his films, other cast members appeared in subsequent roles of the King’s future films including “Paradise, Hawaiian Style,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “It Happened At The World’s Fair,” “Viva Las Vegas,” (previously reviewed), “Kissin’ Cousins” and “Girl Happy.”  So, the film has a sort of a duality to it, its musical score reaching number one on the Billboard charts yet reviled by the critics as clichéd and formulaic– which is true.  But enough of that, let’s take a look at the movie.

As with many of the King’s movies the plot is relatively simple: Musician Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) is fired from a gig at a teahouse after brawling with several college. After a night in jail, Charlie hits the road on his Honda 305 Superhawk motorcycle. He spots Cathy Lean (Joan Freeman) driving with her father Joe (Leif Erickson) and their employer, Maggie Morgan (Barbara Stanwyck).  When Charlie tries to become friendly with Cathy, Joe forces him off the road and the bike is wrecked after crashing into a wooden fence.

 

Maggie offers him a place to stay and a job with her struggling traveling carnival while the bike is being repaired. Charlie becomes a “carnie,” a “roustabout.” Maggie recognizes his musical talents and promotes him to feature attraction.  His act soon draws large crowds.  Off stage, Charlie romances Cathy, which creates animosity with Joe.  After the two men repeatedly clash and Charlie is accused of holding back a customer’s lost wallet that Joe was accused of stealing, Charlie leaves to star in the much better financed show of rival carnival producer Harry Carver (Pat Buttram).

Once again, he is a great success. However, when Charlie learns that Maggie is facing bankruptcy, he returns to her carnival.  In the musical finale, he is happily reunited with Cathy.  In the carnival saved from bankruptcy.

 

When members of the JPFmovies crew visited Graceland, we went to the Elvis DVD gift shop and asked to purchase a copy of the DVD version of Roustabout.  Incredibly, the store did not carry the film.  We couldn’t believe our ears, here we are at the King’s headquarters and we couldn’t by a copy of his 16th movie, you’re killing me!  We made fun of that store manager for at least 20 minutes and asked if there were any other Elvis movies they didn’t have in stock.  He offered to order it for us and pay the shipping costs; however, we turn down this “generous” the offer of the Presley Empire knowing we could acquire the DVD from other sources probably at a much lower price.  What kind of operation focused on one performer does not carry all of his movies for sale?  Graceland is geared to making money, but when asked to purchase one of his films they didn’t have it?  Are you kidding?

Leaving all that aside, Roustabout remains one of the JPFmovie team’s best liked films, because it involves such a strange plot, a bad boy going good while working as a carnival worker?  Obviously, this film was not written by a brain trust, yet it is worthy of watching.  So, if you want to honor the King’s memory, Roustabout is a good choice to watch.

 

We still miss you Elvis and you are still the King.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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JPFmovies looks at another Japanese T.V. Series Hanzawa Naoki (2013) A/K/A Stick it to the corporate man!

We here at JPFmovies had to follow “Scum” lawyers with another Japanese 10-episode series: Hanzawa Naoki where one of Japan’s most popular actors Masato Sakai, tells the tale of a salary man at a bank who tells “the man” where he stick it.  This show was the most-watched series in Japan with a 42.2 share of the audience, now that’s a lot of viewers.  Let’s both discuss the show as well as ponder why it was so popular.

There are really 2 story arcs.  First is the Osaka arc, where Hanzawa becomes Chief of Loans Division at the Osaka Nishi branch.  He is forced by his branch manager to make a bad 500 million yen loan based on “window dressing” (i.e. false financial statements) to a steel company. Shortly after making the loan, the steel company goes bankrupt and its president Mitsuru Higashida along with the 500 million yen disappears.  Of course, the branch manager shifts the blame to Hanzawa and orders him to recover the loan amount.  Little do we know that the branch manager and the president of the steel company are in it together.  Hanzawa finds out that the two are old classmates and begins investigating from there.  Fighting his own bank and the Japanese Bureau of Taxation, Hanzawa does recover the money and threatens to expose those involved through the media.  However, out of pity, Hanzawa instead leverages this knowledge into promotions for him and his buddies to the Bank’s headquarters in Tokyo.

Tokyo story arc.  Hanzawa is in charge of investigating a hotel that borrowed 20 billion yen from his Tokyo Chuo Bank.  Previously, the hotel suffered a loss of 12 billion yen and, with a Financial Services Agency audit coming up, the bank has exposure of about 150 billion yen should the hotel be labelled bankrupt.  Hanzawa discovers that Director Ohwada was working behind the scenes to provide the loan to the hotel despite substantial evidence showing that the hotel could not pay it back.  A friend of Hanzawa’s, who works at Tamiya Electric, discovers that Ohwada was also behind an indirect loan to Laffite, a fashion company owned by Ohwada’s wife.  Hanzawa puts this evidence against Ohwada in front of a board of directors meeting leading to the “demise” of Director Ohwada.  Seeking personal revenge for his father’s death, Hanzawa forced Ohwada to kneel down before him and apologize for his actions in front of all the board members despite his supervisor and the Chairman’s disapproval.  During the final scene, Chairman Nakanowatari is seen giving Ohwada a small demotion to board member while Hanzawa is “exiled” from the bank to Tokyo Central Securities.  Even though Hanzawa “won” the battles for his bank, he really lost by being put out to pasture.

While this is exciting stuff, why did this series get almost half of Japan’s entire television watching audience?  We here at JPFmovies had to do some digging and some thinking to come up with a plausible explanation.  Our theory is that Hanzawa literally doesn’t bow to authority, instead he stands his ground and even pushes back.  Apparently, the corporate culture in Japan is about 180 degrees from what we here in west experience.  The reason you don’t see westerners in Japanese companies isn’t because Japanese companies are racist: It’s because Japanese companies are crazy.  In addition to crazy overtime and devoting your entire existence to the company, you have to put up with jerks like Hanzawa’s bosses.

Japanese companies are very traditional and work on a hierarchy system.  Rank is not based on merit, but on seniority.  That’s why Japanese people tend to work at one company their entire life and most Japanese CEOs are over 60–you’re just not going to move up unless you stay there forever.  So, when Hanzawa tells his bosses where they can stick it (i.e. he is breaking the rules) every Japanese salaryman is jonesing to do the same thing—and there are a lot of Japanese salarymen.  Imagine each one cheering for our protagonist Hanzawa at every turn when he gets things done and shoves it in the face of his superiors.

As we noted earlier this series was arguably the highest rated series in Japanese history—and after looking watching the episodes again through the eye of a Japanese salary man, it is easy to see why.  Hanzawa does what probably every Japanese salary man wants to do (and has probably wanted to do for years) but the interesting twist at the end is when our hero both saves the bank and roots out corruption is exiled like any other failure, which, rumor has it leaves the door open for another 10-episode series.  If you are at all interested in Japanese business culture, a great story, and want to see somebody stand up to authority by getting the job done not curing what the consequences are, the show was tailor-made for you.  Or, if you simply want to watch a good Japanese drama the show was also tailor-made for you.  In either event, if you get a chance to watch it we recommended highly.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

We here at JPFmovies had the pleasure of getting a first-hand entertainment perspective from an expatriate who splits time between the US and Japan. It was a very interesting conversation and, as a tribute to our mutual love of Japanese media, let’s take a look at a series known as Bengoshi no Kuzu, loosely translated as Scum of Lawyers (2006).

As anyone who follows the JPFmovies site knows, we have a certain affinity for Asian entertainment, firmly believing that Hollywood has lost its creativity and sold out to the lowest common denominator of film viewers. Whereas over the past couple years we’ve seen what’s been known as “riding the Korean wave,” referring to the fine entertainment coming out of South Korea as well as Japan and Hong Kong—Asia’s contributions to what has become, in our opinion, a superior form of entertainment.  We firmly intend to express the downfall of Hollywood Cinema as we know it at the 2018 Raspberry Awards, where we will vote on the worst movies made by Hollywood in numerous categories. But more on that later. Let’s get to the show.

 

Like many Japanese TV shows and films, Bengoshi no Kuzu is based on a manga.  What sets this drama, or should we say comedy drama, about the practice of law apart from your typical series glorifying the legal profession (which in reality is a grind), is that in the Scum of Lawyers, the main character will do just about anything if it means he can win.  This guy is a high school drop-out, lover of money, booze, and women, and has a rude demeanor and a vulgar mouth.  He has a totally different perspective on the law, and more importantly justice, in that he believes that lawyers aren’t on the side of justice, the law isn’t meant to punish people, it’s meant to save them! At least, that’s this guy’s secret motto. This back-alley lawyer seems to know all the scams and has to take on the firm’s new associate, who works his way through a number of cases, which proves that the scum bag attorney’s theory is right in the end.  By ferreting out these cons, that both plaintiffs and defendants are trying to use the legal system for, he opens his naïve associate’s eyes as to what Justice can really mean.

It is especially interesting to watch him go up against blue chip law firms while picking his nose in their conference rooms, only to expose his opponent’s client’s veiled attempt to somehow cheat the system and, more importantly, his client.  Perhaps what makes this scum bag lawyer’s intuition so keen is that he is in fact a (or at least a reformed) con artist who hasn’t left many of his bad habits behind him: he loves gambling, money, women, booze, and pretty much any other vice you can think, of he’s got his finger in it.  Being able to understand the scammer’s mind obviously gives him the edge he needs to win cases.  He practically falls asleep in court while waiting to cross-examine his opponent because he has already figured out what their devious, self-serving testimony is going to be and has a plan to expose it.  And during about half of his meetings with clients or opposing counsel, he is as hung over as a sailor back from shore leave.

See the following clip for an example of the scum lawyer figuring out his own client’s deception in order to get a novel she wrote published, which was plagiarized by an actress/model because his client was “attractive.”  It was a very sophisticated plot indeed—but con artists think alike.

The show, however is not only about him. The senior partner of the firm is a children’s and human rights advocate who gives the firm a veneer of respectability, and there is the competent hard-working experienced female attorney that our young associate often looks to for guidance while he is stuck in these moral quagmires that the scum bag has got them into.

There are also some support staff who allow selective sexual harassment and generally add to the humor of the show.  The show ran for about 12 episodes and all of them were good.  If you get a chance, watch Scum of Lawyers. It is a nice change of pace from your typical legal drama.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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