Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flick of The Day: Submarine

Director Richard Ayoade makes his feature début with today's flick of the day, Submarine. Ayoade is perhaps best known for his starring role in The IT Crowd. It is a delight to report that he is a far better director then an actor. His debut shows a lightness of touch and a style all of its own with hints of early Wes Anderson.
Submarine is a journey into the mind of 15 year old Swansea teenager Oliver Tate who despite a winning smile and a smart mind with a keen interest in literature, is shocked to find out that he is not the most popular guy in school. The film is told in three parts with an epilogue and a prologue, very much in the style of the novel upon which it is based, a 2008 work of the same name by Joe Dunthorne. Like all teenagers, Oliver is secretive and self aware. He spies on his parents and matter of factly informs the audience that his parents haven't had sex in 7 months. His parents, wonderfully played by Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor are going to a rough patch. His father, a marine biologist is permanently depressed and his mother dissatisfied. Entering into this equation is the ever brilliant Paddy Considine. He was Hawkins first love and is now back in town as a new age self help guru who un-ironically spouts banalities about light and colours being the most important thing in the universe. Oliver has two main goals from then on, to stop his mother from having an affair with Considine and to convince his new girlfriend, Jordana Bevan to sleep with him. Jordana is played by Yasmin Paige who is a real find. She lights up the screen with a wicked intensity.
The Wes Anderson comparisons are not without foundation, there is a similarity of visual style but also a warm heart at the centre of all of the comedy. There is obvious love for all of the characters and nobody gets hurt too badly in all the romantic interludes. The film is very funny with some great one liners. As Jordana arrives at Oliver's house for their first encounter, she opens with the deadpan line:

"Thanks for living up a hill"

Possessed of a great ending and a fitting soundtrack, this film is well worth seeking out and marks Richard Ayoade as a talent for the future. I look forward to his next film.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flick of The Day: The Killing Fields

Films with a political undercurrent are difficult to pull off. For one, the viewer can become irritated by the feeling they are being preached to and rally against the underlying message of the film. There are some subjects that are above politics however, that get to the very heart of the human condition. The tale told in Roland Joffe's The Killing Fields is one such subject. It tells the tale not just of the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge and their inhuman regime in Cambodia but also a much simpler tale, that of the friendship between two journalists, an American Sydney Schanberg and a Cambodian Dith Pran.
I first read of the brutal atrocities committed under the auspices of the Khmer Rouge's Year Zero campaign in Cambodia many years ago in an article in The Irish Times. My initial reaction was incredulity that something like this could be allowed to happen in the modern world. Where was the force of international opinion that should have intervened to save Cambodia and its people? Of course, as the years go by you come to accept that genocide occurs far too often in this world and that the international community is so often selective in its determination to intervene on behalf of the oppresssed. To Cambodia, you can add Rwanda 1994, Bosnia 1992 and Sudan 2010 as a list of bloody genocides where the world stood by and watched until it was too late. You could add innumerable others.
The film opens in 1973 in Phnom Penh as New York Times journalist Schanberg, played with steely determination by Sam Waterston is covering the ongoing conflict in Cambodia with his interpreter Dith Pran, a wonderful Oscar winning performance from Haing Ngor. They cover the ongoing secret war being perpetrated by Richard Nixon's administration and the various atrocities it leads to. The film the moves forward to 1975, to the American pull-out and the ensuing mayhem it created. Schanberg arranges for Pran's family to be evacuated but pressurises Pran to stay and help him cover the final days of the war. Of course, as it turned out all involved had underestimated the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. When they take Phnom Penh, they instigate their brutal policy of Year Zero, of forced migration to the countryside, of labour camps, of murder, of torture, of the systematic removal of all intellectuals. Initially the pair take cover in the French Embassy with all of the foreign journalists however eventually they are evacuated including Schanberg, leaving Pran behind. The remainder of the film tells the story of Pran's experiences under Pol Pot's regime and a guilty Schanberg's attempts to find his friend.


"We must be like the ox and have no thought, except for the Party. No laugh, but for the Uncle. People starve, but we must not grow food. We must honour the comrade children, whose minds are not corrupted by the past."


The film is at times deeply moving and the images of the killing fields will live with you long after the film has ended. Having visited Cambodia I can attest at first hand the emotional power of a site like the killing fields, even today. The film is at times hard to watch but it is worth it, the emotional payoff comes as Pran struggles to freedom as the Khmer Rouge fall from power. The film ends on 9th October 1979 as Schanberg and Pran are reunited.
This is a film that should be seen by as wide an audience as possible, not just so that the Cambodian conflict is not forgotten. That is reason enough however on its own it is a very finely made film. Chris Menges cinematography captures both the horror and the beauty of Cambodia. The film never preaches, you never feel as if an issue or point of view is being shoved down your throat. The facts are presented and you are left to draw your own conclusions as to the how and why. It is undoubtedly the case that the actions of the Nixon administration in secretly bombing Cambodia for year after year contributed to the rise of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge. However, it must also be said that the international community was once again remiss in doing very little to stop the horror. It took an invading Vietnamese Army to finally remove the Khmer Rouge from power.
If the film has any message, it is the strength of human friendship and maybe that is what should be taken from this tale. Watch it.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flick of The Day: Hannah and Her Sisters

Another day, another Woody Allen movie. Last week we looked at Allen's masterpiece Manhattan, his last film of the 1970's. A decade which defined his career and his work in the 1980's was much more sombre in tone and influenced by European directors like Ingmar Bergman. This is not to say that the work was any less entertaining or well made. Some highlights of this period include Radio Days and today's film Hannah and Her Sisters
Hannah and Her Sisters is concerned with the lives and loves of a set of New York bohemians and artistics. The film opens with a Thanksgiving dinner where we are introduced to the main characters. Hannah, ably played by Mia Farrow is an actress, her husband Elliott, in an Oscar winning performance by Michael Caine, lusts after her sister Lee, played by Barbara Hershey who is living with arrogant artist Max Von Sydow. Allen himself appears as a neurotic (Can he play otherwise?) television producer who spends the film convinced he is going to die and ends up dating Hannah's other sister, the eminently irritating Holly, another actress.
The sisters meet on a weekly basis to discuss the week's events, what is most interesting is what they don't tell each other. At various points in the film, they each say how close they are to each other but then lie or misrepresent their lives to each other. The film takes place over the course of three Thanksgiving parties. At the first, all are contented. The second is a time of unhappiness and the third and final party takes place after everything has been resolved. 
The film still has that trademark Woody Allen dialogue and it still sparkles as much as ever but this is perhaps his most complex and rewarding film. There is a great depth to the drama and the relationships of the characters. Indeed, the scope of the film and its tale is almost novelistic. There is a considerable story arc here and as a viewer, there is much to enjoy.

[after learning Mickey is infertile] 
Hannah: Could you have ruined yourself somehow? 
Mickey: How could I ruin myself? 
Hannah: I don't know. Excessive masturbation? 
Mickey: You gonna start knockin' my hobbies?

While none of the characters are particularly endearing and indeed some of them at times grate, they are always compelling. Michael Caine deserves kudos for playing against type as a self centred egotist.

What if there is no God and you only go around once and that's it. Well, ya know, don't you wanna be part of the experience? You know, what the hell it's not all a drag. And I'm thinking to myself, Jeez, I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And after who knows, I mean maybe there is something, nobody really knows. I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have. And then I started to sit back, and I actually began to enjoy myself.

Another fine piece of film-making from Allen, well worth your time and putting the effort in for there is much to enjoy in this character study. It is so much more then a comedy. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Flick of The Day: Alien

Science Fiction is a genre which I brings out some of the best and worst of modern cinema. On the one hand, it has attracted some of the best storytellers working in cinema over the past thirty years and yet it is the genre, along with horror most given over to the kind of low budget trash that populates bargain basement shelves in video stores the world over. However, when well done, there is no genre so exciting and mind expanding. From the dawn of cinema in films like Metropolis to modern classics like Blade Runner, it has enriched the viewer. Today's film is another such classic, Ridley Scott's Alien.
In space, no one can hear see you scream, so went the classic tag-line upon its release in 1979. It was the Jaws of alien films and its effect can still be seen in cinema today. The combination of science fiction and horror made it an instant classic. The story opens with the waking of the crew of the Nostromo from deep sleep while on their way home from a mission for The Company. It quickly becomes apparent that the crew have been awoken early to answer a distress call from a nearby planet. Upon descending to the planet, it is obvious all is not as it seems with a strange ship emitting the signal. Kane played by John Hurt goes in for a closer look, coming across a nest of eggs. One of the aliens attaches itself to him and he is brought back on board. He initially recovers but soon the crew is in a fight for their lives aboard.
The crew is a fine ensemble cast. Sigourney Weaver is Ripley, the second in command and a fiery personality who will fight to the end. Yaphet Kotto is Parker the ship's Chief Engineer. Ian Holm is Ash, the Science Officer and Tom Skerritt is Captain Dallas. All excel in their roles, helping to build the tension on the ship as events rapidly go awry. All of the characters are easily identifiable and this helps the film immensely. They are all average workers not adventurers. They are there for a wage not exploration. This leads the audience to care what happens to them, their attention is invested in them and as the plot unravels and the scares mount, this matters a great deal. It is something that is so often overlooked in thrillers and genre cinema in general. People have to identify and like the characters or else what is the point?
The film is a tour de force throughout, however particular praise must go to the design and look of the film by the artist H.R Giger. Giger designed all of the alien aspects of the film, giving them an organic and bio-mechanical appearance in sharp contrast to the industrial look of the Nostromo.
Above all this film has the tension and shocks to carry it though and it is at times terrifying. It's an enjoyable kind of terror though, like a roller-coaster ride. Weaver gives a career defining performance as Ripley. She is steely and determined and you would bet your money early on as her being the only survivor. 

Ripley: Ash, that transmission... Mother's deciphered part of it. It doesn't look like an S.O.S. 
Ash: What is it, then? 
Ripley: Well, I... it looks like a warning.

As is often the way with success in Hollywood, the film spawned a series of increasingly dire sequels and prequels, reaching irrelevance by the time the Alien Vs Predator reboot finally killed it off. There is a talk of another film, reuniting Weaver and Ridley Scott so perhaps there is life in the old dog yet. This is one of the scariest pieces of sci-fi to come out of Hollywood and is well worth your time. If the trailer below doesn't sell you, nothing will.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Flick of The Day: The Long, Hot Summer

A very fine adaptation of some of William Faulkner's short stories, The Long, Hot Summer is a tale of deceit and redemption played out in the baking heat of a Mississippi Summer. It is perhaps the best adaptation of Faulkner's work because it doesn't stick too rigidly to any one source. It is primarily based on The Hamlet but omits certain characters and generally runs smoother, all to the benefit of the film.
Starring Paul Newman as Ben Quick, an entrepreneurial young man haunted by the shadow of his father's past as a barn-burner, something which was apparently quite the no-no in the deep south, he roams from town to town looking for work until he is run off when a barn catches fire. Pitching up in the town of Frenchman's Bend, he quickly becomes involved with the family that control all of the local commerce, the Varners, led by their overbearing patriarch, Will Varner. Will is played wondrously over the top by Orson Welles, chewing through scenery like a rampaging bull elephant. Will has two heirs,Clara played by Joanne Woodward a schoolteacher he is attempting to coerce into marriage and a weak willed son called Jody who he belittles and undercuts at every turn. Will comes to see Ben as the son he wished he had, admiring his determination to better himself and not allow his family name drag him down. Before long, he attempts to bring Ben and Clara together in matrimony, much to Clara's opposition. Clara would prefer a match with Alan, a local Momma's Boy, who surely but for the censor, would be the homosexual the script hints at. Of course before long, Ben's past catches up with him but not before he has usurped Jody as a son in the heart of Will Varner.
The film is best remembered for the incendiary performance of Paul Newman, giving the character of Ben Quick a brooding intensity that is suited to the steamy atmosphere created by the stifling weather and Orson Welles overbearing patriarch. Indeed some of the best exchanges in the film are between Ben Quick and Will Varner, both actors at the top of their games.

Ben: If you're scared of me, mister, why don't you just come right out and say so? 
Will Varner: Sir, why should I be scared of you? 
Ben: 'Cause I got a reputation for being a dangerous man. 
Will Varner: You're a young dangerous man. I'm an old one. I guess you don't know who I am. I better introduce myself. I'm the big landowner, chief moneylender in these parts. I'm commissioner of elections, veterinarian, own a store and a cotton gin and a grist mill and a blacksmith shop... and it's considered unlucky for a man to do his trading or gin his cotton or grind his meal or shoe his stock anywhere else. Now that's who I am. 
Ben: You talk a lot. 
Will Varner: Well, yes I do, sir. I'm done talking to you, except for passing you on this piece of information. I built me a new jail in my courthouse this year, and if during the course of your stay, something, anything at all should just happen to catch fire, I think you ought to know that in my jail, we never heard of the words habeas corpus. You rot.

It helps that the film is so beautifully shot, with the Mississippi countryside in full bloom a site to behold. The director Martin Ritt was blacklisted for much of the 1950s and this film marked a return to the mainstream leading to a string of successful collaborations with Newman including Hud.
Joanne Woodward also stands out as Clara, giving the role a depth that the writing doesn't. Most of the female characters are underwritten though, but then this is the deep south so maybe its intentional? Either way this is a superb film, one of the best of the decade. Beautifully shot and anchored by two stunning central performances from Newman and Welles, this film elevates melodrama to grandiose family epic. Well worth a look.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flick of The Day: Sneakers

spyIt is strange how often film's can be of their time, existing only in the zeitgeist and seeming out of date very quickly. Some things age very well, comedies like Laurel & Hardy and Some Like It Hot are as funny today as they ever were while others age unfavourably, particularly anything involving technology unless there is a deeper message. Today's film is a high tech thriller from 1992, Sneakers, that has aged well for precisely this reason. It raises questions about the effect of technological advance on how we live rather then focusing on it.
Possessed of a cast to die for and a great script, director Phil Alden Robinson makes good use of both. The cast reads like a who's who of some of the best talent of the last forty years; Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Ben Kingsley, David Strathairn, River Phoenix and Dan Aykroyd. The film opens with a prologue on a snowy University campus in December 1969. Two students are hacking into bank accounts and making illegal wire transfers from the likes of Richard Nixon to the likes of committee for the legalisation of marijuana. One of them, Martin played by Redford goes for Pizza while the other Cosmo, played Kingsley waits. The police come, Martin escapes while Cosmo is caught and sent to prison. Fast forward to now and Martin runs a private security contractor with his partners ably played by Poitier, Strathairn, Phoenix and Aykroyd.  He is approached by government agents who are aware of his true past and offer to clean his record if he obtains a little black box from a mathematician called Gunther Janik. Of course nothing is as it seems and the box turns out to be a very valuable piece of equipment that can break any code and any encryption.
The film raises some interesting questions about how much we as a society rely on computers and their encryption to manage our everyday lives. As Ben Kingsley's character puts it:

"There's a war out there, old friend. A world war. And it's not about who's got the most bullets. It's about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think... it's all about the information! "

This is as relevant if not more relevant today as it was then. With each passing day we become more reliant on technology. Almost all governmental records in relation to taxation, income, marriage are computerised with no paper record. The question the film poses is what if these records weren't as safe as we thought them. If anything could be accessed, what might the consequences be? 

"Pollution. Crime. Drugs, poverty, disease, hunger, despair - we throw GOBS of money at them and problems only get worse. Why is that? Because money's most powerful ability is to allow bad people to continue doing bad things at the expense of those who don't have it."

The film is a thriller at heart though and it delivers on this front. The attempt to steal the black box back from Cosmo is a highlight with some wonderfully tense moments to keep you involved. Perhaps the film's strongest suit is it ensemble cast. All of the main performers are likeable and Ben Kingsley is devilish as the bad guy with a twisted ideology. The interplay between the team is excellent with some funny sparring matches between Dan Aykroyd's conspiracy theorist and Sidney Poitier's ex-CIA agent.
In summary, this is a memorable film with an interesting story driven by some excellent performances. The film is greater then the sum of its parts and is rounded off nicely with a good ending. There is something enjoyable about the bad guys losing out at the expense of the good guys. Well worth a look.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flick of The Day: Boyz 'N The Hood

Yesterday we looked at a tale of life in the Irish ganglands, Between The Canals. Today, we look at somewhere much more associated with gang violence and its effects, South Central Los Angeles and director John Singleton's debut film about the trials and tribulations of 3 young black males growing up on the streets of South Central. 
Groundbreaking on its release in 1991, Boyz N The Hood was one of the first films to document the exploding levels of gang violence in the inner city ghettoes of America in the late '80s and early '90s. Following in the footsteps of Spike Lee's seminal Do The Right Thing, Singleton explores the lives of three young men from when they meet as children in 1984 to adulthood in the early '90s. Tre Styles, played by Cuba Gooding Jr as an adult in a performance that makes you wonder how he ended up making films like Boat Trip and Snow Dogs. We meet him as smart mouth child who can't stay out of trouble and so his mother forces him to move in with his father Furious, the incomparable Laurence Fishburne. Furious is a strong father figure, something lacking in the lives of Tre's two best friends Doughboy and his brother Ricky. This becomes evident early on and sets the tone for the rest of their lives. The film then moves forward 7 years. Doughboy is played by Ice Cube, in a performance of surprising depth. 
It becomes obvious early on that the course of the character's lives are unlikely to change and the message that is drilled home is that the lack of a father figure leads to the kind of dissolution and drug abuse that pervades not just American cities but ghettoes the world over. Tre is a good student headed for College, Ricky is an up and coming football star and Doughboy is a drug dealer and gangster. The film manages to convey what its like to live in South Central with the frequent sound of not too distant gunfire and the constant menace of gang violence. As the friends sit on their stoop and pass the day, they are always watching the passing cars and pedestrians, always on the edge.
If the film suffers from anything it is from too many ideas. It tries to sandwich all the troubles and strife of black inner city life in the early '90s. At one point, Laurence Fishburne discusses at length the problems of gentrification in urban areas. He often seems to be stuck as the character who has to raise all of these issues from racial bias in standardised testing to the perils of teen pregnancy. That said, it doesn't feel too forced and the film overall looks and feels realistic with the dialogue true to life in particular. 

Tre Styles: I get a discount on clothes, and shit. You like? 
Doughboy: Nigga, you look like you selling rocks! 
Chris: Yo, Tre' you be slinging that shit? 
Tre Styles: No, I don't sell that shit! 
Doughboy: You couldn't anyway! Pops will kick yo' ass! You know I'm out the pen. I'm gon' keep my ass out this time.

Overall, this is a fine film, that doesn't lose anything by being issue driven like so many films that come across as overtly preachy.  In Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr and Laurence Fishburne are three excellent performances, that drive the film forward. The message of the film is a good one too, if only people would take it to heart. Well worth a look.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Flick of The Day: Between The Canals

The seamier side of Dublin is rarely delved too deep into on the cinema screen, and if it is, it is with a decidedly jaundiced view. The bad guys are never that bad (see Perrier's Bounty), the junkies are happy go lucky addicts (see Adam & Paul) and the ghetto can be escaped with a good heart and a song (see The Commitments). Sure, not everyone in north inner city Dublin is living on the margins of society, but there are those who are. Far too many. These are the kind of people that populate Between The Canals, a day in the life of 3 young small time criminals in Dublin. The day in question is St Patrick's Day.
Liam is the smartest of the trio has had enough of small time drug dealing and thieving. He wants to build a live for himself and his girlfriend. His two pals Dot and Scratchcard don't share his view and in Dot's case at least want to get deeper in to the life. Dot is the kind of dangerous psycho you pray you don't meet on a Dart or late night bus. Always desperate for a fight, he has the ability to get the boys into real trouble. The boys pass the day getting into and out of scrapes including crossing local boss Chambers, played with real menace by musician Damien Dempsey. Will Liam manage to escape or will he get dragged into a life of crime and will Dot survive the day, these are the questions at the heart of the plot.
The best thing that can be said about this film is that it feels real, it feels like a Dublin I know all too well. So often portrayed as a sleek urbania populated by people with middle class people with mid-Atlantic accents, this is Dublin how it is. Then inner city, particularly around Talbot St and Sheriff St, where this film is shot, has a horrendous drug problem. The 3 main characters are the kind of eminently dislikeable scumbags that you put up with on a daily basis. That's not to say that this film is too po faced, there is a lot of humour in their antics without in any way glamorising it.
Overall, the film is compelling and truthful but not compelling enough to get around the fact that the characters just aren't that worthy of your attention because lets face it, they're thugs. There is no glamour in thuggery, no upside to drug dealing, no bonus to being a junkie. The film is well made and well acted however and it is fresh to see somebody not attempt to place a sheen where there isn't one. I look forward to the director's next feature.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flick of The Day: Manhattan

Opening with a classic and often imitated montage of black and white street scenes of New York City set to George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, this is Woody Allen's masterpiece, an homage to the city he loves, Manhattan. The film is both an ode to the city and an indictment of the almost permanent dissatisfaction of its denizens.
Woody Allen plays Isaac Davis, another variation on the same literate, New York sophisticate that populate nearly all of his films of this era. This one is a dissatisfied TV comedy writer. As per the usual, he is in a relationship with a girl half his age who is in thrall to his mind, Tracy,a 17 year old played wonderfully by Mariel Hemingway. His ex-wife, a cold lesbian played by Meryl Streep is out to destroy him by writing a book about their marriage.  Diane Keaton plays a female version of Isaac, literate, opinionated and never satisfied. At the heart of the tale is Isaac's neuroses and his inability to commit to Tracy, always hinting at a breakup and moving on to Keaton's Mary. He eventually comes to his senses but is it too late?
The film is peppered with some very fine witty dialogue, some of Allen's best work. Some of the funniest lines are the knowing laughs at the expense of Allen and his contemporaries. You know the type of Manhattanite more concerned without how something looks then how it is. There is one great exchange at a cocktail party.

Isaac Davis: Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey? Y'know, I read this in the newspaper. We should go down there, get some guys together, y'know, get some bricks and baseball bats and really explain things to them. 
Party Guest: There is this devastating satirical piece on that on the Op Ed page of the Times, it is devastating. 
Isaac Davis: Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.

Ultimately though the best reason to see the film is that it is an ode to a city, explaining why Allen loves it and why it is at the heart of almost all of his canon of work until very recently. The story of the intertwining relationships is overlaid onto this and there is as much poignancy to all their unhappiness as there is humour. The character feel well drawn, all having a depth to their angst. They are not just clichés of urban professionals with too much time on their hands to engage in navel gazing.
The film is beautiful to look at, the black and white cinematography a triumph, harking back to the city as it was during the jazz age. The opening sequence is one of the great achievements in modern cinema and this film is rightly considered as one of Allen's best. It is strange that upon completion Allen asked United Artists not to release it and even went as far as offering to do another film for free. He has never spoken about why he disliked it. Perhaps it was too close to the bone. 

Isaac Davis: Why is life worth living? It's a very good question. Um... Well, There are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. uh... Like what... okay... um... For me, uh... ooh... I would say... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... uh... um... and Wilie Mays... and um... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony... and um... Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues... um... Swedish movies, naturally... Sentimental Education by Flaubert... uh... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra... um... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne... uh... the crabs at Sam Wo's... uh... Tracy's face...

In summary, this is a classic film that all should see. Coming off the success of Annie Hall, this film placed Woody Allen in the pantheon of great writer/directors. It has a wonderful style all of its own combined with a knowing wit of the lives of New Yorkers, this combined with Gordon Willis beautiful cinematography make it an unmissable treat.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flick of The Day: The Secret of My Success

Released at the height of his fame in 1987, The Secret of My Success is another vehicle to display the talents of Michael J. Fox. Fox stars as Brantley Foster, a recent college graduate from a small town in Kansas who heads to New York City to seek his fortune. The film is another in a long line of country-boy-comes-good-in-the-city film's.
Upon his arrival in New York, Brantley finds that his job is gone and his apartment is a rat infested hole. Undaunted, a determined Brantley seeks a meeting with an Uncle via marriage who is a high powered executive, eventually convincing him to give Brantley a job in the mail room. In the kind of capitalistic fantasy game so beloved of the 1980's , Brantley manages to begin impersonating an executive at the company while holding down his mail room job, all in an attempt to woo an another exec, Christy Wills while being pursued by the man-eater wife of his Uncle. The films moves even further into the realm of fantasy with it's comic book ending in which Brantley and Aunt attempt to wrest control of the company from his Uncle.
This film catches Michael J. Fox on a roll, fresh from the success of Back to the Future and Teen Wolf and it shows. His natural charisma and likeability carry a film that is packed with stock characters and clichés. Almost immediately after arriving in New York, he is dodging bullets and squalor, with the addition of a Woody Allen style avuncular Jewish writer and this could be an episode of The Simpsons. That said, the film is not without its charms, in particular a good heart at its core. The supporting characters may be stock but this means that there is a truth to them. The hard working career women, the mail room slob, the frustrated corporate housewife. The film is also very much of its time, with numerous montage sequences of Brantley's struggles in the city set to uplifting power ballads. 
So the film is corny but charming. An enjoyable way to pass a rainy day and that is something that could not be said for a whole host of the film's produced on an annual basis by Hollywood. It's funny, and doesn't hang around long enough to become irritating. Michael J. Fox is always watchable and given his much publicised struggles with Parkinson's disease, he has very much taken a step away from acting. This film captures a moment in time when he was the biggest star in the world. As such, this film is well worth a look.

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