Tag Archives: Michael Caine

The Set of 400: #6 – My Favorite Magic Trick

Today! Because sometimes you turn to a man you don’t fully understand –

The Dark Knight (2008)

Directed by Christopher Nolan (x4)

Starring Christian Bale (x2), Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman (x5), Michael Caine (x7), Morgan Freeman (x5), Eric Roberts, Melinda McGraw, Anthony Michael Hall, Michael Jai White, Tiny Lister (x3), William Fichter, Cillian Murphy (x3), David Dastmalchian, Ron Dean (x2), Chin Han, Nestor Carbonell (x2), Monique Gabriela Curnen, Keith Kupferer

If you had told me after Batman Begins that the Christopher Nolan films would eclipse the Burton ones in my personal evaluation, I would’ve said you’d gone goofy (because that’s an actual phrase I’m likely to use, rest assured). But this quickly became my prime example of the first movie in a series functioning more as a prequel than an original film. To even classify The Dark Knight as a sequel would mean to ascribe more qualities and value to Begins than it deserves. I know some people love it, and it’s fine, I guess, but only once The Dark Knight burst into existence. Otherwise, it’s just sort of sepia douchebaggery and table setting and Katie Holmes.

Meh

But the stars also aligned just right for Dark Knight in a lot of personal respects, too. As I’ve frequently mentioned, I moved to Chicago in June of 2008, and we’d just begun our first box office pool (I had Iron Man, which opened to kick off May), so movies were very much at the forefront of everything that year. It didn’t hurt that it was an extraordinarily big summer for films – what with Indiana Jones 4, the beginning of the MCU, Wall-E, Tropic Thunder, The Incredible Hulk, and the first Joker feature in nearly thirty years (plus, er, Speed Racer). But above all else – The Dark Knight is the most Chicago of movies, with virtually every outdoor scene filmed here in the big town. While they avoid showing the full skyline, or the Wrigley building, it’s so obviously Chicago as to be impossible to hide. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #34 – My Favorite Origami Paris

Today! Because you’re waiting for a train, a train that’ll take you far away –

Inception (2010)

Directed by Christopher Nolan (x3)

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (x6), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (x3), Ellen Page, Tom Hardy (x2), Marion Cotillard (x3), Michael Caine (x6), Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy (x2), Tom Berenger, Pete Postlethwaite (x2), Lukas Haas (x3), Dileep Rao

The two greatest summer moviegoing spectacles of the last twenty years both came from the same director, within two years of each other. And this was the second – a head-trippy, effects masterpiece tackling concepts of love, loyalty, aging, and family, and high powered explosives, crashing trains, and weightless fisticuffs. Inception is so spectacularly high concept that it doesn’t seem like much would’ve needed to happen to derail this film into nonsense and self-parody, but in the capable hands of Christopher Nolan – the greatest popcorn movie director this side of Spielberg – it delivers marvelously.

I realize denigrating Nolan as a “popcorn” director is hugely unfair, but even Spielberg eventually got the retroactive credit he deserved for his crowd pleasing efforts (once he made dour war pictures and the like, because apparently that’s the path one needs to take for respect). No doubt in the next 8 to 10 years Nolan will make the somber, awards-sweeping masterpiece that’ll have to be mentioned alongside his Batman movies and Memento and Inception – hell, it was almost Dunkirk – but for now we can content ourselves with the knowledge that we’re living through one of the greatest stretches of cinematic bombast from a hugely talented auteur in history. And as great as his other films are, will he ever manage to creatively top Inception? Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #139 – My Favorite Reckoning

Today! Because I was his friend. And it will be a very long time before someone inspires us the way he did. I believed in Harvey Dent –

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Directed by Christopher Nolan (x2)

Starring Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman (x4), Michael Caine (x5), Morgan Freeman (x2), Marion Cotillard, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Aidan Gillen, Liam Neeson (x3), Juno Temple, William Devane (x2), Cillian Murphy, Tom Conti, Alon Aboutboul, Nestor Carbonell, Thomas Lennon (x4), Joey King

I think it’s safe to say that, even with The Avengers that summer, The Dark Knight Rises was the most anticipated movie of 2012. Just go by the sheer numbers – there had never been a sequel to a movie that grossed as much as The Dark Knight at that point, so financially, expectations were all over the place. TDK had more than doubled Batman Begins at the box office, but upon Heath Ledger’s death whatever had been planned for TDKR went out the window. It was like season three of The Sopranos – everyone was excited to see where it would go, even if the original gameplan had to be scrapped on the fly. The first trailers were cool, and like TDK they premiered the opening IMAX sequences months early, before…Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol maybe? Something in the winter of 2011. And it was awesome, with all its “Tell me about Bane! Why does he where the mask?” coming from the man who would be Littlefinger.

Bad judge of the opposition!

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The Set of 400: #140 – My Favorite Missing Contact Lens

Today! Because I’ve forgotten the sardines! No, I haven’t. I haven’t forgotten the sardines. I remembered the sardines. Well, what a surprise, I guess I’ll just go into the kitchen and fix some more sardines to celebrate –

Noises Off (1992)

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Starring Michael Caine (x4), Carol Burnett, John Ritter (x2), Marilu Henner (x2), Christopher Reeve (x3), Nicollette Sheridan, Mark Linn-Baker, Denholm Elliott, Julie Hagerty (x2)

You want stagey? I’ll give you stagey! One of the funniest plays of all time made for a very funny, star-studded film in its own right, that doesn’t bother trying to break away from the theater at all in Noises Off. Movies about plays! Or really in this case, a movie about a play within a play, which is the perfect rabbit hole for this guy. I’m not sure how popular this movie ever became, and I know how popular modern theater is to the world at large, so it’s possible you aren’t overly familiar with Noises Off? I’m yet to see it performed on stage – the set is a massive pain in the ass – but this movie used to air on your WPIX and WWOR all the time at the sweet spot in my television viewing history – ’93, ’94, ’95 – and so exposure to Noises Off was very high.

Madcap theatering!

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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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