Saturday, February 8, 2014

It Happened One Night

Year 6, Day 39 - 2/8/14 - Movie #1,638

BEFORE:  I was buying new boots yesterday, and after striking out at Famous Footwear (the boots they had in my size were Doc Martens, and I just couldn't buy lesbian boots) I had better luck finding manly boots at the KMart next door, but I almost boycotted the store after wondering, "Why does KMart mistreat their customers so badly, by playing "Mambo #5" while they're trying to pick out boots?"  I mean, we all agree it's the worst song ever, and people prefer to shop while in a good mood, so why would they play music that makes me want to trash the store?  I soldiered through and found a pair of size 13 boots, which is great because my wife reminded me that once you buy new boots, you almost guarantee that it won't snow again this winter.  It's sort of a reverse Groundhog Day thing.

The romance chain has been a big bust so far - all I've really learned is that fairies like messing with human love affairs, New York in the late 1800's was boring as hell, and that female reporters can't help sleeping with their bosses.  Oh, and news editors like to scream a lot.  Clark Gable carries over from "Love on the Run", so what will I learn tonight?

THE PLOT:  A spoiled heiress, running away from her family, is helped by a man who's actually a reporter looking for a story.

AFTER:  Oh, and I forgot that I learned that Clark Gable often played a bad person.  A cad, a bounder, someone who mistreats women, but a man who they also seem to go crazy for.  Ladies of the 1930's, you really need to work on your self-esteem.  You could do so much better, so why didn't you? 

There are so many things in common with "Love on the Run", I have to remind myself that I watched them in reverse order.  Last night's film was released two years later, and so it was probably thrown together to capitalize on the success of "It Happened One Night" - maybe that's why it felt sort of half-written.  Both films feature a runaway socialite bride, traveling with a reporter played by Clark Gable, who's surreptitiously filing details of their journey with his newspaper.  And in both cases, I bet you can guess what happens to this mismatched pair as they travel.  Jeez, in neither film the fact that this guy is turning his affair into a headline is enough to spoil the romance.  What gives, ladies?

And this was a popular film - both TCM and Jeopardy! reminded me this week that not only was this the Best Picture winner for 1934, it also was the first film to win the "Grand Slam" - Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay.  Plus it's considered the first "screwball comedy", so that's a whole genre sparked by its success.  Also, Friz Freleng once said that Bugs Bunny was based on the personality of a minor character here (Oscar Shapely), combined with the way that Clark Gable ate carrots in this film.

I liked the insights into the personality of the socialite, who's so sick of being told what to do and who to see and even who to marry, but she doesn't even know the proper way to dunk a doughnut, or not to cut in line for things.  She can't really survive in the world of the common people without help, but then sometimes they turned things around to make her the smart one, like in the famous hitchhiking scene.  And this was scandalous at the time, to show that much of a lady's leg on the screen.  Ah, the wonderful Hays Code years...

Also starring Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, with cameos from Alan Hale, Ward Bond.

RATING: 5 out of 10 bus tickets

Friday, February 7, 2014

Love on the Run

Year 6, Day 38 - 2/7/14 - Movie #1,637

BEFORE: Last night was my first beer dinner of 2014 - I had not been to one since September, but that's sort of expected as restaurants tend to get busy with the fall holidays, and beer dinners sort of get put on the back-burner.  But it was great to get back into the almost-monthly pattern with a Mardi Gras dinner (early, I know, but the brewery was based in New Orleans) that included lobster and andouille jambalaya, a porchetta muffaletta with provolone and olive salad, and a turducken nugget with sriracha maple syrup on a hoecake.  Oh, and beignets and banana pudding for dessert. Throw in 5 beers and a flaming Dr. Pepper shot, and you've got yourself a party.

Moving on from "His Girl Friday", and I swear I did not plan this, it's just another one of those things, a character actor named Billy Gilbert carries over.  He played the bumbling messenger from the Governor in last night's film, and tonight he plays a European waiter.  He's one of those guys who has a ton of credits because he could do a great reaction "take".  You can almost hear the casting director saying, "Get me that guy who can roll his eyes in that funny way!" 

THE PLOT:  A runaway bride and an undercover reporter get caught up in political intrigue as they lead a merry chase across Europe and uncover a spy plot.

AFTER:  This is another one of those screwball comedies that tries to throw everything into the mix - the thrill of being a reporter, international espionage, and a love story to boot.  But I think the problem comes when you try to do too many things, you're not concentrating on any ONE thing.  The couple falls in love merely because they've spent so much time together - I'm not really seeing what attracts him to her, or vice versa.  This reporter acts a lot like Cary Grant's character in "His Girl Friday" - he's a liar, a cheat, he knows a lot of questionable people, and he'll do or say anything or betray anyone for the sake of a story.

The spy plot is really sketchy here as well.  OK, we get that the Baron and Baroness are disreputable spies - but for whom?  They want the map, but why?  What is it a map of?  Do we ever find out?  How do you know this is a hot story for the newspapers if you don't know what their plan is?  They could be trying to corner the international cheese market for all I know, and the map gives the locations of the best cheese shops in Paris. This made the whole film seem sort of half-written.

If anything, the film reminds me of "Midnight Run", where an experienced slick bounty hunter is trying to get cross country with a clueless guy, and there's a rival bounty hunter who keeps getting misled and fooled along the way.  The rival reporter here falls for our star reporter's bull time and time again, to the point where I couldn't believe that anyone could be so foolish so many times in succession. 

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the newspaper is running the story of our heroes, even predicting that they'll fall in love while on the road together, and then when the news isn't coming fast enough, it of course means that the editor has to scream at everyone in the newsroom.  Either being a news editor in the 1930's was a tough gig, or they just motivated their staff by screaming at them all the time.

Also starring Clark Gable (last seen in "Gone With the Wind"), Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Reginald Owen, William Demarest (last seen in "Sullivan's Travels"), Donald Meek.

RATING: 4 out of 10 heads of cabbage

Thursday, February 6, 2014

His Girl Friday

Year 6, Day 37 - 2/6/14 - Movie #1,636

BEFORE: No direct actor linking tonight - I'm linking by theme, since both "Up Close and Personal" and this film feature a male news editor being (or having been) married to his young star reporter.  That's a pretty big commonality, I think.  Oh, I could suggest some lame link (Redford was in "Havana" with Richard Farnsworth, who was in "Gunga Din" with Cary Grant) but what's the point?  This year I'm allowing myself to link between themes to get the order I want.

Wait, I stand corrected.  Michelle Pfeiffer was also in "Amazon Women on the Moon" with Ralph Bellamy, who appears tonight.  So linking is back in play, but I sort of feel like I cheated.

THE PLOT:  A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Front Page" (Movie #1,254)

AFTER: This is a remake of "The Front Page", the 1931 film that is.  What I watched before was the 1974 remake of "The Front Page", so why watch this remake, with the same story?  Well, this one was directed by Howard Hawks and appears on the list of "1,001 Films You Should See Before You Die", and neither version of the story titled "The Front Page" is on that list.  So I need to see what it is about THIS version that makes it better than the others.

Essentially, the story is the same - an editor sends his star reporter (who's about to get married) to cover the story of a killer who's due to be executed, and confusion and hilarity ensue.  What's weird is that here the reporter is a woman, and in the 1974 remake, the reporter is played by Jack Lemmon.  I thought it was a little weird that a man would be named "Hildy", so in a way this makes more sense.  (It also adds a new twist to the relationship between Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau - were their characters closer than co-workers?)

The biggest problem I have with this film - and I realize this may result from being a staged play before being a film - is that it totally violates the rule about "Show, don't tell".  About 99% of the main action takes place off-screen, and we only learn about it when the reporters are calling in the story.  Because apparently nothing is as exciting as seeing people run across the room to pick up a phone.  This also makes this film very screamy, as everyone is yelling instructions and headlines to each other over the phone.

It's also a prime example of screwball comedy, with lots of slamming doors and running around.  Oh, and somebody jumps out of a window, but I don't think that was supposed to be funny.  Screwball comedies are also known for people talking really fast, like Katherine Hepburn tended to do.  I think they were trying to pack a lot of punchy dialogue into a film, but they now look like they were filmed at the wrong speed, like the old footage of Babe Ruth running around the bases, when at his size he was probably more of a lumberer.  (There's a reason he hit so many home runs - that fat tub would never, ever have beaten the throw to first base.)

My other theory is that people in the 1930's didn't live as long as we do today, generally speaking, so people had to talk really fast just so they could say everything they needed to say before they died, but that's just a theory, I wasn't there.

I did study some of the screwball comedies back in film school, like "Christmas in July" and "Miracle of Morgan's Creek", and I think I've determined where screwball genre fits into the history of comedy, which goes a little something like this:  (all conversations imagined by me)

Comedy, circa 1600's:

Audience: "Well met, Will Shakespeare!  Is thine new play a comedy, or a tragedy?"
Shakespeare: "Tis a comedy, for no one dieth in it."
Audience: "Huzzah!  Twill surely be a fine comedy, for thou hast defined the genre, and we are but simpletons."

Comedy, circa 1930's:

Audience: "Hey, mac, is this talking picture show a comedy?"
Hollywood: "Sure, buddy, because there's lots of shouting and people slapping each other."
Audience: "How is that a comedy?"
Hollywood: "Because they do it very quickly!"
Audience: "OK, since it's the Depression I guess this is as good as it gets..."

Comedy, circa 2000's:

Audience: "Hey, is this film funny?"
Hollywood: "Why, sure it is!  Katherine Heigl can't find a man to marry her, and Owen Wilson won't stop living on somebody's couch!  And this fake reviewer said it's hilarious!"
Audience: "Hey, this isn't funny.  You suck, Hollywood."

I'm leaving out a lot, of course.  Monty Python killed it in the 1970's, and then Ferris Bueller danced in front of a parade in the 1980's, and there was "Airplane" and "This is Spinal Tap" and "Anchorman", but you get the idea.  Mel Brooks, "Naked Gun" and Steve Martin, but you do your own research.  Personally, I don't see how "His Girl Friday" gets to be #67 on the top comedy films of all time.  Not when "A Fish Called Wanda" only makes it to #87, that film should be in the top 10!

You can also use the different versions of this story to take a look at the evolving battle of the sexes.  In the 1974 version Hildy (Jack Lemmon) ends up married, after filing the big story, he makes it to the train and love wins out.  In this version, Hildy does NOT marry her fiancé, and ends up back with her boss.  You know, the guy who mistreated her, divorced her, got her fiancé arrested twice, had her fiancé's mother almost killed, paid her in counterfeit money and then made her miss her wedding.  So, um, congratulations?  Again, things aren't looking good for romance this week.

NITPICK POINT: I still don't understand how phones worked back in the 1930's.  Many times people in the press room here picked up the receiver and yelled, "Operator, get me Duffy at the Post!" which seems to suggest that there was no direct dialing available.  But then just as often they would pick up the phones and just start talking - so was that a mistake, or was there some kind of always-open connection from the prison to the press room?

NITPICK POINT #2: What kind of a prison even HAS a press room?  I can see a press room at a football stadium, or at City Hall, but a prison?  How many executions was this state doing in a year, to justify all those desks and phones?  And what is it about an execution that absolutely HAS to be reported right away?  They hang the guy, and that's it, he's dead - drive over to the paper and type up the story.  Would 8 newspapers each keep a guy on staff to hang out at a prison, just on the off-chance there might be an escape someday?  Seems like a huge waste of money.

Also starring Cary Grant (last seen in "An Affair to Remember"), Rosalind Russell, Gene Lockhart, John Qualen, Helen Mack, Billy Gilbert.

RATING: 4 out of 10 fedoras

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Up Close and Personal

Year 6, Day 36 - 2/5/14 - Movie #1,635

BEFORE: Was out last night at a screening of the Oscar-nominated animated shorts, which was one of those "marketing to the marketers" events I mentioned last week.  This company called Shorts HD contacts the makers of the nominated films, plus the makers of a few also-rans, and licenses the films for a short theatrical run.  For many people like me, this is the best way to see them - plus they show them on iTunes for people not like me.  I don't usually get to see the Disney or Pixar shorts, because I don't go see the Disney or Pixar features in the theater, so this was my first time seeing "The Blue Umbrella" or "Get a Horse!".   My favorite among the nominees was probably "Mr Hublot", a stop-motion film about a guy with OCD who takes in a stray dog.  Since I'm quite OCD and I sometimes take in stray cats, it spoke to me.  "Room on the Broom" was also cute, and had a good message, but was too repetitive in the end.

However, watching shorts doesn't get me anywhere closer to my goal, whatever that is, so when I came home from drinks at the bar after, I still had to watch a feature.  Linking from "The Age of Innocence", Michelle Pfeiffer carries over again and completes a trifecta.

THE PLOT:  An ambitious young woman, determined to build a career in TV journalism, gets good advice from her first boss, and they fall in love.

AFTER: I felt semi-sure I had seen this one, because my ex was very into Redford, in an ironic way it turns out, and made me watch most of his films.  But this came out in 1996, the year we broke up, so I don't think we got around to this one.  For a while there films about reporters were huge, like "Broadcast News" and "The Paper" (on the list) and even fluff like "Switching Channels".  So this seems right in step with those, but with much less drama about the stories themselves.

This is more about the people working in the newsroom, and HOW they report the news, not what the news is.  (Yeah, kinda, but not really.)   I knew this was semi-based on the life of Jessica Savitch, who became a reporter back in the 1970's - only this moves her representative character firmly into the 1990's.  However, if you read up on the details of her life and relationship, you can see just how much Hollywood likes to shy away from the harsh realities of existence, smoothing away all troubles and sugar-coating whatever remains. 

This is another proponent of the "Fake it 'till you make it" philosophy, stating that it's OK if you lie about your credentials and experience, providing that doing so gets you into the job you were supposedly born to do.  Whatever happened to starting at the bottom and paying your dues?

Of course, Hollywood tells us once again that it helps to be a pretty girl - so who needs experience?  We should just hand everything over to the pretty people, whatever they want, right?  And if that takes too long, they should just sleep with their mentor/boss, because that's perfectly acceptable.  Give me a break - oh, wait, they love each other and fix each other's damaged psyches, so that's OK then.

The film is full of these little reporting "hints", shorthand phrases like "If it bleeds, it leads" or "We are only as good as the stories we tell" - but this in no way should be taken as a substitute for actual information about reporting.  Why is "Tally" a better news name than "Sally"?  Is it really that easy to report the weather?  Can you really survive a prison riot just by keeping your back to the wall?  So many questions, and so few answers...

Also starring Robert Redford (last seen in "The Candidate"), Stockard Channing (last seen in "Six Degrees of Separation"), Joe Mantegna (last seen in "Searching for Bobby Fischer'), Miguel Sandoval, James Rebhorn (last seen in "Guarding Tess"), Scott Bryce, Kate Nelligan, DeDee Pfeiffer.

RATING: 5 out of 10 cameramen

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Age of Innocence

Year 6, Day 35 - 2/4/14 - Movie #1,634

BEFORE: I just finished logging in all of the Super Bowl spots for work, and I have to say I'm not very impressed.  Too many spots that just punted it by using nature footage, stock montages and aerial shots, without any real storylines or surprises. (But at least there weren't as many fart jokes as there were last year.)  Considering the way the game turned out, I'm thinking that viewership really dropped off in the second half - so it's a good thing that companies didn't waste a lot of money buying up that air-time.

A last-minute addition tonight, TCM ran it today as part of their Oscar-related programming, and I couldn't deny the Michelle Pfeiffer + romance connection.  I know I said no additions between now and June, so this is going to push everything back a day in February, and I have to delete something (OK, move, not delete) so I'll still hit my target on April 24.  (Hmm, what is THAT?)

THE PLOT: Tale of 19th century New York high society in which a young lawyer falls in love with a woman separated from her husband, while he is engaged to the woman's cousin.

AFTER: Unfortunately, this was boring with a capital "B".  One review called this "Martin Scorsese's best" - best what?  Best at putting me to sleep?  Whatever thrill there may be found in an illicit romance, it sure wasn't depicted on the screen.  Congratulations on making a secret romance boring - it's supposed to be exciting!

I guess the depiction of 1870's NYC life is sort of interesting - people going to the opera, people going to fancy balls.  But that's about it, the rest was just people pining for each other or spreading gossip about each other.  No car chases, no shoot-outs? How can you even call this a Scorsese film, let alone his best? 

Film is a visual medium.  Do you know what doesn't work well in a visual medium?  Self-doubt, interior conflict and disillusionment.  These all have to be expressed through dialogue, which makes a film very talky-talky, or if not expressed, then it appears as if nothing is going on.

Plus, who is narrating?  I mean, I know what actress is narrating the film, but since she doesn't play a role, what's her connection to the on-screen action?  Is she supposed to be the author, the voice of God, or what?  This was quite confusing.

I gotta get out of this period-piece rut, it's just not working for me.  Maybe completing a Michelle Pfeiffer triple-play with something more modern will help. 

Also starring Daniel Day-Lewis (last seen in "Lincoln"), Winona Ryder (last heard in "Frankenweenie"), Geraldine Chaplin, Mary Beth Hurt, Jonathan Pryce (last seen in "The New World"), June Squibb, Miriam Margolyes, Michael Gough, with cameos from Thomas Gibson, Norman Lloyd, Robert Sean Leonard (last seen in "Tape") and the voice of Joanne Woodward (last seen in "The Long, Hot Summer").

RATING:  3 out of 10 miniature dogs

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

Year 6, Day 34 - 2/3/14 - Movie #1,633

BEFORE: Now that the Super Bowl is out of the way, we can talk seriously about romance, right?  Wait, what?  Winter Olympics?  Ah jeez, it's never a good time, is it?  You and your sports...  Well, I watched "Miracle" and "The Cutting Edge" last year, so I feel like I'm covered here.  Go on, enjoy the games, it's only relationship matters that will be discussed here.  Linking from "The Merchant of Venice", an actor named John Sessions carries over - must be some kind of Shakespeare specialist.

THE PLOT:  Shakespeare's intertwined love polygons begin to get complicated as lovers' lives are complicated by city law and feuding faerie royalty.

AFTER: And Shakespeare also inspired the great J. Geils Band song "Love Stinks", with the lyrics "You love her, and she loves him.  He loves somebody else, you just can't win."  That's the case here as Helena pursues Demetrius, but Demetrius loves only Hermia, and Hermia only has eyes for Lysander.  Which might be fine if the duke of Athens wasn't expecting Demetrius and Hermia to get married. 

But the king of the fairies, Oberon, has his servant, Puck, secure the liquid of a flower that works as a love potion - which screws up his wife, causing her to fall in love with a human actor, but this potion also fixes the love rectangle of the other humans, just causing Demetrius to do an about-face (fortunately Helena is the first person he sees when he wakes up) and then everything sort of works out for the two couples.

The background for this is the Duke's wedding (I think the Duke was Hermia's father, but I'm not sure) and the whole thing wraps up with a play-within-a-play performed at the wedding, which is the classic tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, two star-crossed lovers themselves.

As with last night's film, I found this very hard to follow, possibly because they insisted on maintaining the Shakespearean dialogue, and not changing it for modern-day ears.  What I found most helpful, besides having read this play in junior high, was calling up the plot summary on Wikipedia and sort of following along.  But this is another play that's often quoted, since it's the source of lines like, "The course of true love never did run smooth." and "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

There was an attempt to modernize the story by moving it from the 16th to the 19th Century, but they still all say "Greece" and "Athens", when the scenery looks nothing like Greece, it looks like Italy or Victorian England.  That was a little weird.  Also, everybody seems to ride bicycles, even into the forest, which doesn't seem like a good idea.

Last night's film featured cross-dressing, as Portia impersonated a male lawyer.  And tonight we've got a male actor in the play-within-a-play who's forced to play a female role.  Knowing that all lady parts during Shakespeare's time were played by men, this means there was a lot of transvestitism going around.  It makes me wonder what the Bard would be writing about today, if he were still alive and had the opportunity to throw same-sex relationships into the mix?  Would he shy away from the topic, or see it as a new vista of comic misunderstanding?

Also starring Kevin Kline (last seen in "The Big Chill"), Michelle Pfeiffer (last seen in "New Year's Eve"), Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale (last heard in "Pocahontas"), Rupert Everett (last seen in "Stage Beauty"), Stanley Tucci (last seen in "Jack the Giant Slayer"), David Strathairn, Dominic West (last heard in "Arthur Christmas"), Anna Friel, Sophie Marceau, Sam Rockwell (last seen in "Cowboys & Aliens"), Roger Rees (last seen in "The New World"), Bill Irwin (last seen in "Rachel Getting Married"), Max Wright, Bernard Hill.

RATING: 4 out of 10 wine jugs

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Merchant of Venice (2004)

Year 6, Day 33 - 2/2/14 - Movie #1,632

BEFORE: Welcome to a day full of extravagant hype, baseless predictions, and excessive media coverage.  Of course, I'm talking about Groundhog Day.  But maybe you're more into the sport, so that's fine if that's your thing.  Super Bowl Sunday is much more popular, because like most American holidays, it's all about eating.  Gee, I wonder why Kwanzaa never caught on - try making one of the pillars "Soul Food", and I'll celebrate that myself.  But I digress.

Linking from "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", Judi Dench was famously in "Shakespeare in Love" with Joseph Fiennes.

THE PLOT:  In 16th century Venice, when a merchant must default on a large loan from an abused Jewish moneylender for a friend with romantic ambitions, the bitterly vengeful creditor demands a gruesome payment instead.

AFTER:  I haven't watched as much Shakespeare as perhaps I should, except for that version of "Romeo + Juliet" with DiCaprio, but I am planning to record the Olivier versions of "Hamlet" and "Othello" during TCM's Oscar programming, so I'm taking steps to correct the situation.  Initially, this wasn't going to be part of the February romance chain, but adding a couple last-minute fantasy films pushed it in to January.  But after checking the basic plot, there are suitors and some wooing, so after reviewing the tape, the ref has decided to not issue a penalty.

The motif of racism carries over from last night's film also, with Shylock being the persecuted Jew - a note at the start of the film informs us that Jews were not allowed to have jobs in 16th Century Venice, which is why they relied on money-lending to make a profit - unlike Antonio, the titular merchant, who is famous for his no-interest loans to friends.  (This is the point of today's entry where I acknowledge that I COULD relate to recent events, but I have been asked not to.  You know what, just forget I said anything.)

The romance part comes about when Antonio's friend, Bassanio, needs money to woo the fair Portia.  Portia's late father set up a contest where any suitors have to choose between three caskets (boxes, not dead-person caskets) made of gold, silver and lead, and the first suitor to choose correctly will win her hand.  Unless he wants to trade what's inside the box for what's behind Door #2, and a shot at the "Big Deal of the Day".

The only guide to making the correct choice are the three cryptic messages over the caskets - but I think Bassanio just ignored those completely and just determined what he knew about the people who went before him.  You've got to figure that 1 out of 3 people would pick the right box, unless somehow there's a trick - maybe everyone's picking the gold and silver boxes, so lead is the right choice.  Unless everyone before him figured there was a trick, picked the lead box and lost - which would mean that the trick was that there was no trick.  Gah, this is maddening.

It's not much of a spoiler to say that Bassanio succeeds, and in so doing, marries into wealth - which makes that 3,000 ducat loan look like a great investment.  But the newlyweds have to hurry back to Venice to save Antonio, who's on the hook (literally) when the loan comes due.  Seems he lost most of his fleet due to a storm, and can't pay back the loan, which gives Shylock the right to remove a pound of his flesh.

So many great quotes and metaphors here - how many times have you heard of someone demanding a pound of flesh, or waiting for their ship to come in?  What about "All that glistens is not gold," referring to the caskets?  What about "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"  And of course, "The quality of mercy is not strained".

Bassanio has enough money to pay back the loan, but Shylock won't hear of it, demanding Antonio's flesh and turning down an offer of double or triple-payment.  So he's really got a grudge against Antonio, plus his daughter recently eloped with some Christian dude, so how is this not misplaced anger?   Portia saves the day by dressing as a man and claiming to be a legal expert, and her creative interpretations of Venetian law manage to turn the tables.

So, in essence, Shakespeare should get credit for creating both "Let's Make a Deal" and "Law & Order".

But unlike some Shakespeare plays where cross-dressing has a point beyond comic effect, I'm not sure what it brings to the table here.  Portia needed to cram for the legal exam, but why didn't they just get a real legal expert?  Yes, I see that it gives her the opportunity to test the love of her new husband, but maybe when his friend's life is on the line, you shouldn't play dress-up, you should hire a real lawyer.

Also starring Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons (last seen in "The Man in the Iron Mask"), Lynn Collins, Kris Marshall, Zuleikha Robinson

RATING: 4 out of 10 red hats