Four Weddings and a Funeral

four_weddings_and_a_funeral_ver2 (1)★★★

Charles (Hugh Grant) and Scarlett (Charlotte Coleman) are late for a wedding. They quickly change into their outfits and speed off in a mini-car. They are integral members of the entourage. Best man and Maid of honor. But later at the altar, in the final moments, they realize they have forgotten the wedding rings.

In the after party, their friends are introduced. There is Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas), who speaks without caution. Matthew(John Hannah) and Gareth(Simon Callow), who are a couple. And Gerald(Rowan Atkinson), who is training for the priesthood. Lots of drinks are poured. Big plans for a sleepover are discussed. Until Charles lays eyes on Carrie (Andie MacDowell), the woman with a big black hat.

Charles decides to follow Carrie to her motel. The attraction is mutual and after many small talks and deep stares, they sleep together. It’s clear that Carrie is in love. But Charles seems a bit confused with his feelings.

Hugh Grant plays Charles as irresponsible in both action and words. Apprehension is drawn by what he might say in conversations. And it’s complicated considering that he has dated many women who constantly appear in weddings he attends.

This brings about attitudes towards marriage. Characters have different definitions. One explains that couples marry to end embarrassing pauses in their conversations; an icebreaker to end the lack of conversation in their relationship. Another is more optimistic and describes that it’s all about finding the right person.

But Charles is affected by Carrie. Past lovers reveal that he isn’t one for commitment. And it leads to lots of funny dialogue, like when Charles is on the spot at a wedding table occupied by ex-girlfriends. Grant uses his understated tone of sarcasm effectively. From comedy to romance to sentimental, the film handles these shifts quite well. It’s directed by Mike Newell, written by Richard Curtis and is equally funny as it is sweet.

Dr. Dolittle

dr_dolittle★★★

On a front yard, John and his dog speak to one another. His father witnesses them but can’t hear the dog.  It appears that John is gifted. His dad naturally thinks otherwise.

His father asks the school principal to speak with John, hoping to heal his “condition”. It doesn’t work. Then a priest tries an exorcism. And it affects John deeply that he resolves to never again speak with animals.

Many years later he grows up to become a doctor (Eddie Murphy). But the ability is still there. After nearly running over a dog on the road, John hears it say “watch it you bonehead!”. Then when he attends an outdoor lunch with coworkers, pigeons begin asking him for food. And at home, his daughter’s hamster starts speaking. Then word gets around the animal community, and every species from an owl, raccoon, skunk, and even rats start visiting him for medical care.

The film has a clear message about ‘being who you are’. It concerns not only Johns self-acceptance as a unique animal doctor, but also his daughter who feels weird about caring for a large egg.  Together they find happiness in the care they are giving.

As expected, much of the humor is visual. The special effects allow creatures jaws to move according to how they speak. The voices include those of Chris Rock as a boisterous guinea pig, and Ellen De Generous as a dog. There is a depressed tiger too voiced by Albert Brooks and visualized with splendid computer imagery. And this could be be the only movie where a doctor is seen giving CPR to a rat.

This is a good humored movie directed by Betty Thomas. It also stars Kristen Wilson, Kyla Pratt, Raven-Symoné as the wife and daughters of John. But the main part is Eddie Murphy as a man who feels plagued by speaking with animals, and later finds his true self as their dedicated doctor.

Born Yesterday

born_yesterday_ver2★★1/2

It doesn’t take long to know Harry’s way. Walking towards a limousine, he restrains his personal assistant from speaking. Then from inside the limo, he screams angrily at Billie to get down their private jet.

Billie is his kind, beautiful girlfriend. But it later appears that she isn’t educated in politics, which is Harry’s field.  He considers her a liability. Should Billie be interviewed about Harry’s shady businesses, she may tell the truth.

This brings in Paul, a reputable news reporter who has gained the favorable eye of Harry. He asks Paul to train Billie. To teach her formal language and manners. To educate her enough so she can handle social events. So Paul teaches her and Billie learns well. And then it happens. Paul falls in love with her.

There is an appeal about Billie’s character. She speaks with an open heart. It gives her charm and also a sense of humor. But by being with Harry, she is sad. Her spirits are oppressed.

Through Billie’s experiences, satirical points are being made. Though not in a mean spirit, Politicians are referred to as pretenders who don’t know about the rules they implement. Billie manages them well like in one scene, she orchestrates a musical number at the dining table. To the melody of ‘12 days of Christmas’, they sing about the Ammendments to the constitution.

Don Johnson and John Goodman are good as Paul and Harry. But it is Melanie Griffith as Billie who draws attention. She gives a controlled performance. The film, however, does not have enough laughs to recommend as a comedy. Goodman is not funny while he is mean. And Don Johnson is given a limited role. Their story plays out as more of a romance. Directed by Luis Mandoki and written Garson Kanin and Douglas McGrath, Born Yesterday is entertaining if expectations are tempered.

Get Shorty

get_shorty

★★★1/2

Chili’s jacket has gone missing. After describing it to the restaurant manager, he is informed that another man has taken it.  So he goes to a hotel, knocks on a door, sees the man and hits him on the nose. 

It turns out that Chili (John Travolta) is a loan shark. And the man, whom he hurt, is his future boss named Ray Bones. Understandably, Ray resents Chili and eventually sends him out on an assignment. He must recover $15,000 debt from a fraudster named Leo (David Paymer). And based on conversations with Leo’s wife, it seems that Leo has committed insurance fraud, faking his death in an airplane crash and heading to Las Vegas with $300,00.

This fascinates Chili in an unusual way. Because he loves movies, he is inspired to produce a movie about Leo’s story. He approaches a movie producer named Harry(Gene Hackman), from whom he must also collect a debt, and proposes the storyline. Harry is intrigued but fearful because he doesn’t have enough production funds. And this isn’t considering money that he already owes to a gangster (Delroy Lindo), who has problems of his own regarding money at an airport locker. But Chili isn’t bothered. He thinks up a plan where they can safely create the movie regardless of any trouble.

The film carries witty dialogue. Much of it is done by Chili who smooth talks his way. He’s a slick worker with decorum. The rest are given their own qualities like the grumpy Ray Bones (Dennis Farina), the incompetent Harry, and an inept bodyguard(James Gandolfini). They all surround the central story which is about a man’s plan to create a movie.

Apart from performances, it satirically presents a film industry financed by gangsters. An operation where money is loaned and lives are at risk if unpaid. In the meantime, famous actors like Martin Weir(Danny DeVito) and Karen Flores(Rene Russo) audition for roles despite these troubles. Get Shorty is primarily a dark comedy directed by Barry Sonnenfeld from a screenplay by Scott Frank. It’s based on a novel of the same name by Elmore Leonard. It’s got entertaining dialogue and fun in its narrative turns.

 

As Good as It Gets

as_good_as_it_gets

★★★

Melvin can be very mean.  When he isn’t verbally harming others, he is capable of deplorable acts. In the opening scene, he gets uncomfortable with a puppy and secretly places it in a trash bin. 

But Melvin also exhibits behavior that could be beyond his control. The number of times he locks the door. His stockpile of soap bars. And in public, he prefers to stand far from people.    

Then two incidents happen. His next door neighbor Simon is physically assaulted after waking into a robbery. And a waitress named Carol resigns from her job. Melvin falls into uncomfortable circumstances. He has lost the waitress who serves him breakfast. And Simon would like Melvin to babysit his puppy; the same dog Melvin placed into the trash bin earlier. So begins an unlikely relationship.

The story deals with transformation, mainly Melvin’s.  He’s an interesting character. Tactless could be a first impression. This is considering his comments on Carol’s asthmatic son and Simon for being Gay.  Then when they get upset with him, he gets surprised. Yet he is capable of stunning kindness. He gives soup to the hospitalized Simon and a complement for Carol that softens her.

Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt elevate the film’s charm. The former plays Melvin who slowly gains a fresh perspective towards humanity. And Hunt as Carol displays inspiring tolerance. Greg Kinnear as Simon is forgiving. He has a friend named Frank played by Cuba Gooding Jr. Their characters vibrate with personalities. Written and directed by James L. Brooks, and partly written by Mark Andrus, the movie is an unusual comedy that is funny and touching.