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Monthly Archives: May 2013

It’s been awhile since we here at JPFmovies have run a tribute. Let’s take a look at long time comic Steve Martin. In the first of three films: They say two heads are better than one, but are they? The Man With Two Brains, starring Steve Martin & Kathleen Turner (1983).

It is 1983, Steve Martin had just made Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (directed by Carl Reiner–   don’t worry we will get to that one) and the he again teams up with Reiner to make The Man With Two Brains.  Before making the Reiner movies, Martin already had a solid reputation as an American comic.  Contrary to popular belief, he was never a cast member of Saturday Night Live, rather he guest-hosted the show 15 times.  On the show, Martin popularized the air quotes gesture using four fingers to make double quote marks in the air to symbolize the questioning the veracity of some statement in a droll way.  Moreover, Martin and Dan Aykroyd played “Georgi” and “Yortuk” the Festrunk Brothers, a couple of inept Czechoslovak would-be playboys popularizing the phrase I am a couple of “Wild and Crazy Guys.”  Since it was the old days, Martin really earned his fame through his albums (much like Richard Pryor) several went platinum and “Wild and Crazy Guy” topped out at number 2 on the American Billboard Charts.

Recently Martin (at age 67) became the father of a baby girl naming her ‘Conquistador’ to “Avoid Those Weird Hollywood Names.” On Letterman Martin said the name made a “statement,” I agree it sure does.  I believe his most recent movie “The Big Year” was released in 2011.  Despite Martin’s genius (he is also an accomplished author, tv & film writer—authoring for instance The Jerk) he has made some pretty dreadful films.  Sargent Bilko, the Pink Panther—both one and two-as well as Cheaper by the Dozen—again one and two—simply were not good movies (in my opinion of course).  Martin is also an avid art collector owning works by artists  Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper just to name a few.  In 2006, he sold Hopper’s famous Hotel Window (1955) at Sotheby’s for $26.8 million.  Those are some big names for big bucks.

Now on to the film.

 

The Man with Two Brains features Steve Martin (until then) some would say at his zany best.  Playing Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, he is a smug but brilliant surgeon, and is being interviewed by some prestigious journal.  As a surgeon, Hfuhruhurr pioneered a radical medical technique the proverbial cranial screw-job method.   Hfuhruhurr—a name gag that runs through the entire film—is still grief-stricken over death of his wife Rebecca.  While driving and being interviewed Martin hits the hot Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner) with his car and naturally he’s the only man on the planet who can (and does) save her life.

 

Dolores is an ardent gold-digger. Recently cut out of her most recent victim’s will, she’s on the prowl for a new chump and, from a hospital bed, Hfuhruhurr is the best prospect. After some finger-sucking, Hfuhruhurr is caught in the gorgeous, sexy and deadly black widow’s web.  However Dolores is just a tease, denying Hfuhruhurr consummation of their marriage while happily playing with the gardener. Naturally stressed by her sexual manipulation, Hfuhruhurr goes on a honeymoon to Austria.

Austria turns out to be a very bizarre place.  The elevator doesn’t hit the bottom floor, so Hfuhruhurr has to climb out halfway down.  There’s also a mysterious Elevator Killer (Merv Griffin) that kills people before they reach the top floor.  There’s a secret laboratory located in an average looking condominium on the outside, but inside is a classic European mad scientist castle.  There, behind paper thin walls a Dr. Necessiter (David Warner) is conducting the weirdest experiments ever by keeping several live brains in jars though their bodies are dead.

 

Hfuhruhurr is in heaven and develops a telepathic connection with brain number 21 Ann Uumellmahaye (not credited Sissy Spacek).  Hfuhruhurr literally dumps Dolores into a pile of crap making a “citizen’s divorce.” Unfortunately Uumellmahaye’s brain is deteriorating fast, Necessiter and has only been able to transfer people into apes to which Hfuhruhurr famously replies “I can’t fuck a gorilla.”

Thanks to the elevator killer, who uses Windex to murder his victims, Hfuhruhurr and Necessiter manage to get Uumellmahaye into Dolores’s body who turns the sexy femme fatale into a blimp because she is a compulsive eater, he loves her for who she is not what she looks like.  Presumably, after he agonizes while carrying her over the threshold, they live happily ever after.

The Man With Two Brains is not a bad film.  It manages to maintain the running gags throughout the movie.  The comedy is amusing rather than doubled over funny as this is a lighter comedy.  Turner does a magnificent job of playing the proverbial black widow; her lines are both hysterical and infuriating.  She could not have done a better job.  If you were following Martin’s trail of films you would see that he is becoming more comfortable on camera making The Man With Two Brains a pleasant movie.

 

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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After further review, I have reconsidered my review of IRIS it is just too big a task for now. That said, I recently came across an HBO film “Too Big to Fail” (2011) its review was not too big for me to fail and neither did the film.

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s non-fiction book Too Big to Fail was turned into an HBO film that chronicles the 2008 financial meltdown and how the  (then) U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (William Hurt) and his staff try to contain the avalanche of financial evils arising during the period between August 2008 to October 3, 2008.  These problems eventually lead to the massive Wall Street bail out (at the tax payers’ expense of course) known as TARP.  The TARP bailout gave one of my personal heroes, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the opportunity to cross-examine Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about where our 700 billion dollars went.  Her cross-examination was so effective that it caused Geithner to practically have an aneurysm in the hallways of Congress with some profanity to boot (you can see it on YouTube).

Anyways back to the film.  The first problem we see is Dick Fuld (James Woods), the CEO of Lehman Brothers, one of the oldest and established investment banks in the world, is desperately looking fresh capital, but he has no takers because Lehman is over exposed to “toxic” housing assets while the Treasury is opposed to offering any sort of bailout as they recently did for Bear Stearns.  As rumors of Lehman’s financial problems grow, Paulson attempts to arrange a private sector solution with both Bank of America and Barclay’s Bank of England looking at Lehman’s “good” assets.  Bank of America pulls back from the deal and instead chooses to purchase Merrill Lynch.  Barclay’s is prepared to accept the terms of the merger, but British banking regulators refuse to approve the deal.  Paulson directs the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission to tell Fuld to declare bankruptcy before the market opens in Asia the next day.  With that, many of the other banks stopped giving out loans to other banks fearing that they would not be able to pay them back.  This froze the credit markets.  No one was able to get capital for the fear of the economy collapsing.  The Lehman bankruptcy had more blowback than expected.

Paulson had a bigger problem that he was not aware of, AIG, the world’s largest insurer was going to run out of cash and begins to collapse.

Paulson’s team realizes that if AIG is allowed to fail, its entire insurance portfolio will default and the entire financial industry will suffer massive losses.  The Treasury takes over AIG.  Ben Bernanke (Paul Giamatti), Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, argues that the status quo is unsustainable and that the Congress must pass legislation to authorize any continued intervention by the Fed or the Treasury.

Paulson’s plan is to buy the “toxic” assets from the banks.  Direct capital injection is considered and rejected.  Timothy Geithner (Billy Crudup), President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, realizes that the market cannot wait for Congressional action and attempts to arrange mergers between consumer banks and investment banks, but this proves flawed.  Paulson receives a call from Jeffrey Immelt (Tom Tammi) of General Electric who tells him that GE is unable to finance its daily operations.  Paulson then realizes the crisis has now spread to Main Street.  In real life, AIG had been struggling since the middle of 2007.  Paulson and Geithner of course had some inkling of the problems at the world’s largest insurer but they didn’t prepare for it.

Bernanke and Paulson lobby Congress, with Bernanke emphasizing that a lack of credit turned the Wall Street Crash of 1929 into the Great Depression, and that if Congress fails to act that the fallout will be far worse.  A stunned room full of elected officials begins to ask how this could happen.  Paulson’s response is that we can rewind the tape later, but we need this legislation now or there will be no economy to fix.  The legislation looks likely to pass, but is thwarted when John McCain suspends his campaign for president to join the negotiations.

Paulson, after being told by one of his staff several times, finally decides that the only way to get credit flowing again is direct capital injections into the banks.  Paulson gathers the CEO’s of the 9 largest banks into a room without telling them why.  He lays out the plan for the capital injections into the banks, but when he is met with resistance,   Paulson brings in Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair Sheila Bair and in no uncertain terms says that if they don’t agree “they will find out that they are not as well capitalized” as they thought they were clearly threatening FDIC audits.  Paulson informs the participating banks that they will be receiving mandatory capital injections and they must use this money to get credit moving again.  The banks agree, but Paulson balks at putting additional restrictions on how the funds are to be used.  Paulson’s Treasury deputy for public affairs (Cynthia Nixon) sums things up nicely when she states that the we can’t put more restrictions on the money we are giving to the very people who caused the crisis because then they may not take it.  Bernanke and Paulson grimly state that they hope the banks will use the funds as intended.

An epilogue reveals that although markets did stabilize and the banks repaid their Troubled Asset Relief Program funds, credit standards continued to tighten resulting in rising unemployment and foreclosures.  As bank mergers continued in the wake of the crisis, these banks became even larger and at the time of the film, 10 financial institutions held 77% of all U.S. banking assets and have been declared too big to fail.

Of course, this rings true because the government drove awful bargains.  In the aftermath of the greatest credit bubble in history, it protected creditors at almost every turn.  The government gave the banks money but didn’t get voting rights and didn’t prevent the banks from using the money to pay dividends or bonuses.  They wrote what was essentially a blank check.  In real life, Warren Buffett got much better terms when he invested in Goldman Sachs.

The cast of this film was filled with familiar faces, William Hurt, Matthew Modine, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Shalhoub, Bill Pullman and James Woods as well as others.  Hurt does an excellent job playing the Secretary of the Treasury.  Hurt embodied the theme of the movie; that is, the duality of being heroes and incompetent at the same time.  On the surface they seem to be showered with glorious accolades, but upon closer look you clearly see that they are getting credit for solving a crisis they helped create.  Anyone interest at all in finance or economics should take a look at this HBO film.  I know it is no Game of Thrones, but you will just have to deal with it.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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Iris I & II and the spin-off Athena Goddess of War (2009-2013)

As many of you know, I recently reviewed the Korean series City Hunter and used it as an example of how Asian TV has far outpaced American “entertainment” churned out by the networks. Well here is the coup de grâce for this year: Iris I & II and the spin off Athena Goddess of War. We are going to take a look at all of these espionage themed shows and may even get the opinions of Emma and Sally since Athena Goddess of War has plenty of “Girl Power.”

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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