Year 8, Day 24 - 1/24/16 - Movie #2,225
BEFORE: Here's a rundown of how my Sunday went - I really picked the worst time to double-up on James Garner films. 9 am I was up, by 10 we were out shoveling - first the legally required stuff, the front steps and the sidewalk. Fought with the neighbors who insist on dumping snow back into the street, which is illegal and dangerous. By 11 we needed a break, so back inside for hot chocolate/coffee, and I watched the first hour of "Maverick" while I ate liverwurst sandwiches and chips. Went out to find a newspaper around 1, which wasn't easy, yelled at more people along the way who were also dumping snow in the street, and then back on shoveling detail for another 2 hours. I got halfway through the wall of snow and ice that the plow placed in front of our driveway, plus the back porch, then I had to call it quits. Back inside to watch the 2nd half of "Maverick", then I noticed the neighbor's sidewalk path had been obliterated by an ice wall created by another plow. The neighbors are away in China (as we correctly guessed) so their daughter was struggling to create a new sidewalk path through a wall of icy, clumpy snow, so I put the boots, sweater and jacket back on and put in a final half-hour to help her out. I'm now thoroughly exhausted, but the neighbors have cleared snow from our common walk so many times, usually before I'm even awake, I figured I at least owed them one, so we cleared their front steps earlier in the day, and helped their daughter clear their sidewalk again in the early evening. Now I just need a really hot shower, some Icy Hot, and for someone to deliver us some Japanese food. Which they can do, now that our front walk and steps are clear.
James Garner carries over for the 5th film, and this will also bring the (mostly) Western (and part Latin + South American) week to an end.
THE PLOT: Bret Maverick, needing money for a poker tournament, faces various comic mishaps and challenges, including a charming woman thief.
AFTER: In the interest of fairness, I should really try to separate my enjoyment of a film (or the lack thereof) from the mood I'm in due to my daily tasks - it's not the movie's fault, after all, if I'm tired and cranky from shoveling snow. Because this is a mostly fun film - in some cases it might even be too much of a fun film, with all the in-jokes and cameos and in-jokes about cameos. (A certain co-star of Mel Gibson's, from the "Lethal Weapon" films, has a cameo as a masked bank robber, and not only do he and Gibson share a moment where they seem like they recognize each other as such, the bank robber leaves the bank claiming to be "getting too old for this shit!"
Most of this film follows a pattern similar to that seen last night in "Support Your Local Gunfighter", with the main character continually earning money and then losing it, either through theft or gambling. Here the game in question is poker instead of roulette, but the idea is the same. Bret Maverick is constantly 3 or 4 grand short of having the $25,000 needed to enter a poker tournament where the top prize is a half million, and he spends much of the film taking place in various schemes to raise the money, none of which seem to fully work.
Meanwhile, this trip through the Old West reveals that nearly everything is part of some con game - his enemies and even his friends are all trafficking in various deceptions, from a banker who always seems to be broke to a Native American who puts on fake war parties for European tourists. Karma seems to play a part here, because Maverick doesn't get the required fee until after helping a group of nuns and orphans get their stolen money back from a different set of fake Indians.
Maverick forms an uneasy alliance with a female poker player who's something of a con artist herself, and a respected lawman who seems to be traveling the same direction, and in fact turns up as the judge of the poker tournament. Right up until the end, there are plans within schemes within bigger plans, and if you like reversals (where a character on the bottom comes out on top, or vice versa), man, there are plenty of them. (James Garner plays the older Marshal Zane Cooper, but as I pointed out the other day, he was the original Bret Maverick on TV, so symbolically this represents a passing of the torch to a younger action star.)
There are also a ton of other cameos, especially during the poker tournament. A lot of them were famous Western stars, or country music artists - you have to figure any of the 20 players in the tournament who get a serious close-up turns out to be somebody, even if it's not a famous person it's probably a screenwriter or a producer or something.
Also starring Mel Gibson (last seen in "Tequila Sunrise"), Jodie Foster (last seen in "Elysium"), Alfred Molina (last heard in "The Prophet"), Graham Greene (last seen in "Winter's Tale"), James Coburn (last seen in "Charade"), Geoffrey Lewis (last seen in "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot"), Margot Kidder (last seen in "Some Kind of Hero"), Paul L. Smith, Dub Taylor (also carrying over from "Support Your Local Gunfighter"), Max Perlich, with cameos from Dan Hedaya (last seen in "Clueless"), Denver Pyle (last seen in "The Great Race"), Clint Black, Danny Glover (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), Corey Feldman (last seen in "Gremlins"), Vince Gill, Waylon Jennings, Kathy Mattea, Reba McEntire, John Fogerty, Don Stark (last seen in "John Carter"), Doug McClure, Michael Paul Chan (last seen in "Masked and Anonymous"), Bert Remsen, William Marshall.
RATING: 6 out of 10 poker tells