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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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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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Let’s take a look at some great Femme Fatale flix—you know the attractive, seductive woman who will ultimately bring disaster to a man (or men) that becomes involved with her. Our first look: The Last Seduction (1994) staring Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, and Bill Pullman.

When the discussion of Femme Fatale films came up the first movie we here at JPFmovies immediately thought of was The Last Seduction.  Many of you probably never heard of it because even though Fiorentino’s performance generated talk of an Oscar nomination, she was deemed ineligible because the film was shown on HBO before it was released into the theaters.  October Films and ITC Entertainment sued the Academy, but were unable to make Fiorentino eligible for a nomination.  So, the film went right from HBO to DVD—what a waste.

To say The Last Seduction is a neo-noir erotic thriller doesn’t do the film justice.  It is an outstanding example modernizing the traditional stereotype of the deadly women of classic fim noir that were generally disliked, detested, and sometimes hated by patriarchal society.  Here the Director and Fiorentino bring some of the enduring cultural images of the femme fatale while bestowing her with modern, distinguishing characteristics.

 

The film opens with, Bridget Gregory (Fiorentino) pressuring and scolding the salesmen in some boiler-room telemarketing office in New York City selling worthless coins.  She knows how to use the hard sell, close deals, and manage men with fear and degradation.  She runs a tight and ruthless ship.  After work, she races to her apartment to see if an important deal her medical school husband made selling $700,000 worth of pharmaceutical grade cocaine to some street thugs paid off.  It did, the husband (Bill Pullman) had to stuff the 700K in his jacket on the way home, After Bridget makes some rude remark to her husband, he gives her a pretty good smack across the face which seems to set the wheels of this tale of deceit in motion.

While her husband is taking a shower, Bridge to use a phrase from the Steve Miller Band “go on take the money and run.”  Naturally her husband is upset but does not seemed too surprised.

 On her way to Chicago, Bridget stops in a small town called Beston to gas up. It’s in a nearby bar that we – and Bridget – meet the film’s third principal character, Mike Swale (played to naive, lustful perfection by Peter Berg). In the bar, Bridget’s order is ignored by the bartender, and, instantly attracted to her dark good looks, Mike Swale gallantly steps in to help. Bridget, however, is not interested. “Could you leave?  Please?” she asks. “Well, I haven’t finished charming you yet,” Mike responds, to which Bridget retorts: “You haven’t started.” Still endeavoring to win Bridget’s heart – or some part of her – Mike informs her that he’s “hung like a horse.”  Perhaps wishing only to amuse herself, perhaps with other, more far-reaching plans in mind, Bridget asks to see for herself, unzips his pants right in the bar, and then fires off a series of questions: how many lovers has he had? Have any been prostitutes? Does he have his own place? Does it have indoor plumbing? Before long, the two are in Mike’s apartment.  He is now under her spell.

As the movie progresses, an evil disorder dwells deep within Bridget. She seems to scorn men. She uses men to her advantage, catching them, conquering them, and bending them to her will. She values money, power, and independence over relationships. She enjoys humiliating men, deriding them as ‘eunuchs,’ ‘Neanderthals,’ ‘maggots,’ and ‘sex objects.’ A trace of revenge lurks in Bridget’s behavior towards the opposite sex.

Bridget continues to exhibit her psychopathic behavior, cunning and naked ambition.  As the film progresses we see that Bridget Gregory, is total bitch. Hot, genius smart, kinky and slinky. Feline and ruthless. Politically incorrect chain smoker. New York City telemarketer/con artist. Catty call floor conniver. Rough Rider floor boss. And I mean all of that as a compliment.

Interesting enough we try to find a linkable character in the film but no one comes to this dance with clean hands.

We could go on for pages but there will be no spoilers here.  You need to make the time watch The Last Seduction, you are getting the JPFmovie seal of approval that it is worth watching.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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