Tag Archives: Cary Elwes

The Set of 400: #237 – My Favorite Poisonous Battle of Wits

Today! Because you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means –

The Princess Bride (1987)

Directed by Rob Reiner

Starring Cary Elwes (x5), Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon (x2), Wallace Shawn (x2), Billy Crystal, Carol Kane (x2), Peter Falk (x2), Fred Savage, Christopher Guest, Peter Cook, Mel Smith

As perfect a movie with as goofy a framing device as exists, The Princess Bride functions so well as a storybook fantasy, a love story, a swashbuckling, sword-fighting epic, and an out-and-out comedy that maybe the criticism could be that it does too much? Like, doesn’t this one movie seem like it could’ve been a great five season TV show, from, like, Starz? Maybe if it was written today it would be. But don’t give anyone the idea!

But yes, the sweeping tale of Wesley and Buttercup travels to distant lands, encounters monsters and giants and wizards, features much swordplay and vengeance, and is couched in our world, with Peter Falk’s grandfather reading the book to Fred Savage as he’s sick in bed. Why? I’m not totally sure. And I don’t know why it has always bothered me – it’s an intrinsic part of the movie, used to continually break up the action and mood with these cutaway scenes to 1980s Chicago to keep reestablishing the narrative. I know it’s a thing movies do, but I just don’t get why it’s here. Seriously, when you’re watching Princess Bride, are you anxiously awaiting the next smash back to Fred Savage’s “Kissing is yucky” nonsense?

At least he’s dedicated to the Monsters of the Midway. Bear down!

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The Set of 400: #276 – My Favorite Veal Piccata

Today! Because you have the whitest white part of the eyes I’ve ever seen. Do you floss?

Hot Shots! (1991)

Directed by Jim Abrahams

Starring Charlie Sheen, Valeria Golino, Jon Cryer, Cary Elwes (x4), Lloyd Bridges, Kevin Dunn, William O’Leary, Kristy Swanson, Bill Irwin (x2), Bruce A. Young, Ryan Stiles, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Heidi Swedberg, Don Lake

Indirectly responsible for foisting Two and a Half Men on the world, I imagine, Hot Shots! is a direct parody of Top Gun, plus a bunch of other movies mocked along the way. Abrahams spun off from his frequent collaborators the Zucker brothers to concoct this largely solid gagfest with Naked Gun/Police Academy writer Pat Proft, and while a little dated today – this movie being the height of Gulf War comedy – it’s still a pretty funny movie, all things considered.

As mentioned earlier, there aren’t a ton of opportunities to see Cary Elwes do zany comedy – despite this being what he does best, outside of smarmy villain roles – so couple that with Airplane! vet Lloyd Bridges, future Veep great Kevin Dunn, clowning genius Bill Irwin, improv maestro Ryan Stiles, and a weirdly suited for this type of comedy Valeria Golino, and Hot Shots! totally keeps the comedy rolling. I’ve mentioned before how franchise films blend together for me from when I was a kid, and Hot Shots! Part Deux is no exception. It’s more a Rambo thing, right? So that makes it a little easier to differentiate.

Yeah, I’d say that’s accurate

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The Set of 400: #350 – My Favorite Razor Licking

Today! Because I have crossed oceans of time to find you –

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Starring Gary Oldman (x2), Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes (x3), Richard E. Grant, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits, Monica Bellucci, Billy Campbell

As I think I’ve mentioned before, 1992 was basically the year I realized good movies existed. I enjoyed movies before then – and some turned out to remain decent afterward – but for whatever reason, I turn 13 and all of a sudden I’m looking for a different level of quality and artistic merit in my entertainments. All this after Batman Returns, though, so let’s keep my 1992 in perspective. I still didn’t really know what good was, I just now had a more serious pursuit of it. And one of the movies that had a definite impact on this quest was Coppola’s wildly over-directed Dracula.

Without much risk, I can definitively state that this was Coppola’s last even remotely good movie. Not that he’s been cranking them out – only five true features over the last 27 years – but it was as though this film took every last thing out of him. And it’s all on the screen – the frenetic editing, the sheets of blood, Anthony Hopkins going completely ape-shit, Keanu Reeves acting – it’s mayhem. Artistic mayhem, sure, but still so chaotic that just imagine if this was your whole exposure to the Dracula character. Like, no Bela Lugosi, no Christopher Lee, just this – how would this character have ever become popular? He’s this age-swapping, hyper-passionate monster who can’t pick a hairdo and go with it?

Seriously, what the hell was this about?

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The Set of 400: #351 – My Favorite Blue Pen

Today! Because the fact that my client has been ridden more than Seattle Slew is irrelevant –

Liar Liar (1997)

Directed by Tom Shadyac

Starring Jim Carrey, Maura Tierney, Cary Elwes (x2), Jennifer Tilly, Swoosie Kurtz, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb, Cheri Oteri, Justin Cooper, Anne Haney, Jason Bernard, Amanda Donohoe, Krista Allen (x2), Christopher Mayer

So look, I know ’90s era Jim Carrey comedies aren’t really holding up. Hell, for the most part they didn’t hold up a few months after they were released. I was never the world’s biggest Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber fan, but yeah, I liked them in ’94. Still, one movie that is basically as funny now as it was then is Liar Liar. Sure, it has all the wacky antics typical of the man’s work, but given the conceit of the film, it somehow doesn’t feel as over the top as, say, The Mask. And while it’s not my favorite of his pure comedies (see you on July 31st!), I still really enjoy Liar Liar.

A lawyer being forced to tell the truth? Classic American comeuppance! And the script is basically wall-to-wall awkward truth jokes, which I firmly believe could’ve been pulled off by almost any competent comedian. However, couple this already generically funny concept with Carrey, at the height of his fame and just down the hill a bit from his manic zenith, and you have a perfect vehicle for what he was doing in ’97. Ah, the summer of ’97! Have we talked about this before? I feel like we did (see #376’s Men in Black). I had just graduated from high school and the Clinton impeachment was still a good year away! That was some kind of year!

It was a simpler time of sex scandal fun!

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The Set of 400: #395 – My Favorite Medieval Malcolm X

Today! Because we didn’t land on Sherwood Forest, Sherwood Forest landed on us –

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

Directed by Mel Brooks

Starring Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Dave Chappelle, Roger Rees, Tracey Ullman, Amy Yasbeck, Mark Blankfield, Patrick Stewart, Mel Brooks, Isaac Hayes, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Robert Ridgely, Eric Allan Kramer, Megan Cavanagh, Matthew Porretta, Avery Schreiber, Clive Revill

While far from the best Mel Brooks outing, it is the last good movie he’d direct (in fairness, this was only followed by the thoroughly meh Dracula: Dead and Loving It), and it was on TV constantly in the early/mid nineties. But I’m not trying to make excuses for its inclusion here – there is a lot to like about Men in Tights. Cary Elwes was perfect for this sort of comedy – only really on display here and in Hot Shots! – and effortlessly carries the mayhem along. I also can never keep straight whether he appeared in Mel’s Dracula or Coppola’s Dracula that inspired it, so solid is he at both types of movies. Sure, it revels in the dated, Catskills-style jokes Mel would lean more and more into as the years wore on, but between Chappelle’s great early work here as Ahchoo, Tracey Ullman uglying it up as the witch Latrine, and Richard Lewis doing his best Richard Lewis impersonation as Prince Johnthere is plenty to enjoy. Does it have the laugh-out-loud highs of Mel’s early films? Not really, but it also pushes harder on parody, and really dials up the number of jokes per minute. So what if the success rate is 50/50? I still really enjoy Men in Tights. Continue reading

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