Listen to these Val.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When deciding what film to review next, the editorial board here at JPFmovies decided to follow our 1980s Brat Pack lead of the Breakfast Club with a far darker movie involving sex, money, drug abuse and well . . . It is a bit telling that Robert Downey Jr., was one of the stars of this film given his recurring substance abuse problems—After five years of substance abuse, arrests, rehab, and relapses, Downey, while incarcerated, had to be released from prison during the day to finish a film he was in the middle of making. He claims (and since 2001 there has been no evidence to the contrary) to have left his substance abuse problems behind. We here at JPFmovies sincerely hope he has beaten those demons down and out of his life. Well, enough of that, let’s get to the film.
The cast of Less than Zero were part of the 1980s “Brat Pack”; however, this is hardly your typical Brat Pack film. It is much darker, grittier and tragic than any John Hughes film (i.e. Pretty in Pink and the like). Very loosely based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name (note he was also author of American Psycho), Easton Ellis himself wasn’t too happy with this film at first, but he mentions that it has grown on him over the years. The book was much darker. Andrew McCarthy’s character “Clay,” as we shall see, was altered the most. In the book, Clay’s behavior was not as cut and dry as in the film. In the novel, Clay is a user as well, plus he is bisexual. The studio decided to eliminate both perspectives because they needed a character that audiences could sympathize with, and, in the book, Clay wasn’t the all American he is portrayed as in the film. Naturally, the studio went and changed Clay around to appease teenage Andrew McCarthy fans.
The film that was shot was far edgier than what ended up on screen. It was ultimately taken away from its director, denying Marek Kanievska the final cut. This is textbook behavior for a studio that gets nervous about selling a film with an edgy subject manner. Chicken shits! As anyone who follows JPFmovies knows, this is one of our biggest pet peeves, and we firmly believe that such a lack of courage is one of the main factors that has led to the collapse of American cinema.
The story begins with three rich, happy, wide-eyed teenagers graduating from high school. Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) is skipping college and starting “Tone Deaf Records,” a label financed by his wealthy father; Blair (Jami Gertz) is foregoing college to pursue a modeling career; and Clay (Andrew McCarthy) is heading out east to an unnamed ivy league school. The movie essentially takes place when Clay comes home for Christmas break. Upon Clay’s return, he finds that his high school girlfriend, Blair, has become addicted to cocaine and has been having sex with his high school best friend, Julian. Julian, whose life has really taken a turn for the worse, after his startup record company falls apart, has become a drug addict, cut off by his family for stealing to support his habit and reduced to homelessness. Julian is also being hassled by his dealer, an old classmate named Rip (James Spader), for a debt of $50,000 that he owes to him.
Clay’s relationship with Blair rekindles and Julian’s behavior becomes more unstable. His addiction is worsening and, since he does not have the money to pay off his debt, Rip forces him to become a male prostitute to work off the debt. After suffering through a night of withdrawal and hiding from Rip, Julian decides to quit and begs his father (Nicholas Pryor) to help him. He then tells Rip his plans for sobriety, which Rip does not believe; Rip forces Julian back into doing drugs and hooking. Clay finds Julian and rescues him; after a violent confrontation with Rip and his henchmen, Clay, Julian and Blair all escape in Clay’s awesome Corvette and they begin the long drive through the desert so Julian can attempt to achieve sobriety once and for all. However, the damage has already been done; the next morning Julian dies from heart failure in the car.
After Julian’s funeral, Clay and Blair are sitting on a cemetery bench reminiscing about him. Clay then tells Blair he is going back east and wants her to go with him, to which she agrees. We see the snapshot of the three of them at graduation—the last time all three of them were ever happy together. In our opinion, Blair is the worst actor in the film.
Less Than Zero is a wonderfully strange movie. It’s a beautiful looking film about some very ugly things. It deals with issues of drug abuse and empty lifestyles while the acting is so well done, the takes and compositions so great to look at. But for every beautiful scene in the film there is an equally dark nihilistic shot where we watch Julian experience the deep suffering that serious drug addiction can lead to: homelessness, desperation, lies and eventually the ultimate self-destruction: death.
When you watch this film, and we here at JPFmovies recommend that you do, be ready for a film with characters that you probably won’t like very much, selfish characters only looking out for their own personal satisfactions, especially given the evolution of the careers of these familiar faces we see today.