May 22, 2009

headline-fletch.jpgI feel about the same about Fletch as I do Stripes. Which is funny, cause I know a lot of people love Fletch a lot more than Stripes, but it is of that time period. And if you are a fan of that era of comedy, when was the last time you sat down to watch something like Beverly Hills Cop? Cause that shit hasn’t aged well at all. Most of the great comedies of the 80’s revolve around an SNL vet trying their best to make less-than material work, to sometimes staggering results. Unless there’s an actual director, like John Landis, who can craft the jokes. I think Stripes works best of all these three mentioned movies, because Ivan Reitman, for better or worse, is an actually comedy director, and so he knows his punchlines. That’s not to denigrate from Micahel Richie, who directed the wonderful Smile, and The Candidate. But it’s a different thing.

Actually, it works to the film’s benefit because Fletch is really a mystery with a comic lead, much like the Thin Man films of yore. The story is that reporter Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher (Chevy Chase, in one of his last good roles) is hired by rich man Alan Stanwyck (Tim Matheson) to murder him. Fletch can see there’s something fishy going on, but his paper wants him to continue investigating the drugs on the beach story he’s got going. But the one story leads him to the other. Fletch benefits most from getting close to Stanwyck’s wife Gail (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson).

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Basically, Fletch/Chase dons a bunch of disguises and fake personalities and runs across a bunch of different people he tries to con. It’s a good set up, but too often Fletch seems out of control, and the fun is seeing him right himself. Though he does so, sometimes the moments of genuine panic in him nearly getting caught are a bit too thick, or maybe some of those jokes just aren’t that funny. This though is the best Chevy Chase film, if Caddyshack and Spies Like Us are too much of ensemble pieces to truly be called his. He can deliver a one-liner or a non-sequitur like nobody’s business, and does so with great aplomb here. Too bad the only person who’s used him all that well over the last ten years is Norm McDonald in Dirty Work.

Norm: You bet against Rocky in Rocky III?

Chase: Hindsight is 20/20 my friend.

Still one of my favorite line readings of Chase’s. I think though that Chase works better with a group than solo because he is an asshole. It comes across in what he’s doing, so it’s hard to care about him, but as a part of a film, that works fine. In comparison to Bill Murray, who always had a painfully obvious heart under all that sacrcasm. Or maybe that’s just my reading. Anyway, Fletch is great.

The film is widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS 5.1 HD, and it looks and sounds great. Everything from the previous SE is here: you get a 27 minute retrospective with everyone except Chase, Geena Davis and George Wendt. If you want to see Larry “Flash” Jenkins or M. Emmett Walsh, they’re here. Also included is a featurette about the disguises (5 min), everyone’s favorite Fletch moments (3 min), and the trailer. The transfer is miles better though.

Spy Game Blu-ray.jpgSpy Game came around in 2001, when Ridley Scott was getting a rebirth for doing both Gladiator and Hannibal. Arguably, one of those pictures is good, and Ridley spent much of the 90’s making bad movies like White Squall and G.I. Jane. Haivng seen Spy Game before Black Hawk Down, the case could be made that Tony’s craftsman-like attitude towards filmmaking, while never giving the world a Alien or Blade Runner, had shown Tony to be the better director in the long run. But something happened to Ridley in the interim, and he’s been on a tear, with some great films in the last couple years, while Tony made a passion play out of Domino.

But when you watch Spy Game, you see such immaculate craftsmanship it’s hard not to see Tony as one of the great B movie directors of the day.

Robert Redford stars as Nathan Muir, who is at his last day at Langley. Brad Pitt costars as Tom Bishop, who has just been caught by the Chinese. Muir is concerned, and gets called in for questioning by his superiors. As he lays out their relationship, Muir does his best to get Bishop out of the situation. His story (which must have cribbed a bit from The Usual Suspects) is used as a distraction to keep himself in the game long enough to try and come up with a solution.

Spy Game is all about plate spinning, and Scott spins with the best of them, while the material manages to be relatively intelligent. With two strong performances by its leads (who must have had fun working together again), watching this film is like taking a ride in a Cadillac: smooth. And the more time goes by, the more the film seems like a great programmer.

Universal’s Blu-ray is a rehash of the 2002 SE, but now the film is in 1080p and 5.1 DTS HD. There’s two commentaries, one with Tony Scott, the other with producers Douglas Wick and Marc Abrahams, and since the film was released in November of 2001, there’s some 9/11 talk. There’s nine deleted and extended scenes (20 min.), a script to storyboard bit (2 min.), and a text supplement. The feature comes with a branching bonusview segment called “Clandestine ops.” This allows you to select an icon on screen to see interview footage in the midst of the picture. Wasn’t crazy about this feature at all.

Inside Man Blu-ray.jpgInside Man is the sort of film that Spike Lee would make if he were interested in being Tony Scott. Instead, he crafted a solid mainstream film for everyone.

Clive Owen stars as Dalton Ross, a bank robber with an odd sense of justice and plan. He kidnaps people at a bank, but the plan doesn’t become obvious until the end. The cops are headed up by Detective Keith Fraizer (Denzel Washington), who becomes the point of contact for the terrorists. He works with Capt. John Darius (Willem Dafoe) and Det. Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor). It turns out the bank is owned by Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), and he hires Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to be his go-between as Case has some sensitive material in the bank.

The film cuts between the before and after, the investigation of the surviving witnesses, and the event as it unfolds. As written by Russell Gerwitz, the central conceit is so strong that it carries the film through. It’s a smartly written piece, but then Spike brings it to life by understanding New York. The corners of the film are filled with character, with moments, with things that make the film sing. It’s funky-funny, and lee never misses a beat to add flourishes of performance. He shows off here and there, but it’s a well modulated film with great performances and smart scripting. It’s everything you could want from a film like this.

Universal presents the film widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS HD. Spike does a commentary here, and it’s the same one from SD, but he seems engaged. There’s deleted/extended scenes (17 min.), a making of (10 min.) and Washington and Lee talking about how this is their fourth film together (10 min.). Too bad this doesn’t have a trailer.

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