Tag Archives: Michael Caine

The Set of 400: #180 – My Favorite Freedonia Shout-Out

Today! Because what if there is no God and you only go around once and that’s it. Well, don’t you wanna be part of the experience?

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Directed by Woody Allen (x5)

Starring Mia Farrow (x4), Michael Caine (x3), Barbara Hershey, Woody Allen (x4), Diane Wiest (x2), Max Von Sydow (x2), Carrie Fisher (x3), Maureen O’Sullivan, Lloyd Nolan, Daniel Stern (x2), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lewis Black, Julie Kavner (x2), J.T. Walsh (x5), John Turturro (x2), Richard Jenkins (x3), Fred Melamed (x2), Joanna Gleason, Sam Waterston (x2), Tony Roberts (x2)

With one of the best casts ever assembled, Hannah and Her Sisters in a lot of ways is the perfect Woody Allen movie. He made better ones, and he made funnier ones, but this is the rare hybrid between family drama and neurotic comedy, neatly packaged together as one film. Really, there are two plots running alongside each other, knitted together by featuring the extended family of sisters Hannah (Farrow), Holly (Wiest), and Lee (Hershey). Being a Woody Allen film, the B plot is entirely him – as Hannah’s writer ex-husband Mickey, going through a mid-life crisis where he may be dying of a brain tumor (this is the funny half!). The A plot features Hannah’s current husband – Michael Caine’s Elliot – in his escalating disenchantment with their marriage and his lust for sister-in-law Lee. Even this breakdown isn’t entirely fair, as they split time on these stories pretty evenly, plus a good amount of time spent on Wiest’s hilarious Holly, but the Elliot/Lee/Hannah portion does occupy with the emotional center of things.

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The Set of 400: #188 – My Favorite Misplaced Jelly Beans

Today! Because mother always taught me – “Never eat singing food” –

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Directed by Brian Henson (x2)

Starring Michael Caine (x2), Steve Whitmire (x3), Frank Oz (x4), Dave Goelz (x3), Jerry Nelson (x3), David Rudman, Jessica Fox, Steven Mackintosh, Meredith Braun, Louise Gold (x2), Karen Prell

Some critics and fans choice as the best Muppet film, Christmas Carol holds a number of interesting distinctions, not just in Henson Company lore but also in filmed versions of the Dickens novel. Come along on this trivia journey! Much has been made of the fact that this was the first major Muppet production after Jim Henson’s death in 1990, but this was also the first project without Richard Hunt – another of the core five puppeteers who performed virtually all the characters – who was ailing and died in early ’92. Because of this, many of their characters do not appear or have significantly scaled down roles, such as Rowlf, Scooter, Janice, and Dr. Teeth. It would be many years before they would recast these parts. The exceptions, of course, were Steve Whitmire taking over Kermit – an obviously necessity – and Dave Goelz and Jerry Nelson playing Statler & Waldorf (here, the Marley brothers), having been performed by Hunt (since The Muppet Show) and Henson (since The Muppet Show pilot, Sex and Violence). Partly by design, but also by casting, this was the first Muppet project of any substantial size that did not feature Kermit as the lead – you can make a case to say he’s fourth as Cratchit, after Caine’s Scrooge, Gonzo as Dickens, and Rizzo, helping out the narration. This set-up, with Gonzo as the main Muppet figure, would carry through the rest of the films in the ’90s.

Gonzo does make a terrific Chuck Dickens

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The Set of 400: #220 – My Favorite Business Card

Today! Because if it hadn’t been for my flawless footwork, I’d be standing here a dead man today –

Without a Clue (1988)

Directed by Thom Eberhardt

Starring Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley (x3), Jeffrey Jones (x2), Paul Freeman, Lysette Anthony (x2), Nigel Davenport, Peter Cook (x2), Pat Keen, Matthew Sim, George Sweeney, Harold Innocent

The best Sherlock Holmes comedy ever made, Without a Clue operates under the idea that Ben Kingsley’s Watson is the true mastermind detective, having hired an actor to portray his literary creation, worried that his criminal hunting pastime might be frowned upon by his medical superiors. Michael Caine’s Reginald Kincaid is a womanizing drunk who only barely manages to keep it together enough to don the deerstalker and parrot Watson’s information back to Scotland Yard and the adoring public. The story begins with them years into this deception, their relationship fraying badly from Kincaid’s lackadaisical character upkeep and Watson’s frustration with hiding his genius.

Kingsley is better known and regarded for his dramas, but his comedy work is routinely excellent, including another role on this list, as the supposed Mandarin in #265 Iron Man 3. Opposite Caine doing his best egomaniac boob actor, they sell this premise, even as it leaps into high-stakes Holmesian mystery, battling their legendary adversary Moriarty (a very effective Paul Freeman). Terrifically funny supporting turns come from Jeffrey Jones’ clueless Lestrade, Nigel Davenport’s Lord Smithwick, and the always great Beyond the Fringe alum Peter Cook.

“A-maaaaaa-zing!”

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