The Rainmaker (1997)

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I sit here with this poor suffering kid and I swear revenge. Struggling new attorney Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) resorts to working for a shady lawyer Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke), where he meets paralegal Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito). He has a couple of clients including Colleen ‘Miss Birdie’ Birdson (Teresa Wright) whose millions turn out to be a bust but at least she has a garage apartment he can rent instead of living in his car. When the insurance company of Dot Black (Mary Kay Place) refuses her dying son coverage, Baylor and Shifflet team up to fight the corrupt corporation, taking on its callous lawyer Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight). Meanwhile, Baylor becomes involved with Kelly Riker (Claire Danes), an abused wife, whose husband (Andrew Shue) complicates matters when he confronts Baylor…  Director Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Herr do a fine job of making a very well balanced adaptation of John Grisham’s bestseller, with a nice portion of (occasionally gallows) humour to oppose the sometimes shocking domestic violence. There’s an exceptional cast doing some very convincing roleplay here. It’s a pleasure to see Rourke as the smoothly corrupt Stone, with his first scene referencing Rumble Fish (which he starred in for Coppola years earlier) by virtue of a well-placed aquarium. Damon is fine as the naif who has to grow up and take responsibility for people of all ages and persuasions and the relationship with DeVito is very well drawn. There are no real dramatic surprises, just a well made film but Virginia Madsen has an excellent part in the film’s last courtroom sequence and Place is fantastic as the mother who wants justice for her sick son. The wonderful Teresa Wright made her final screen appearance here.

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Wild Oats (2016)

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Shirley MacLaine is the beloved retired schoolteacher whose husband dies and her insecure unhappily married fusspot daughter Demi Moore (looking about 30 – sheesh!) brings a realtor to the funeral to assess her home for post-mortem sale. MacLaine insists upon staying there and is mistakenly sent a life insurance cheque for $5 million instead of $50,000.  Best friend Jessica Lange encourages her to make off with it and the pair of them embark on the adventure of a lifetime – fetching up in the Canary Islands where they enjoy very different romances. Divorced Billy Connolly hits on MacLaine but all is not what it seems when she wins nearly half a million euros on blackjack and a US insurance investigator turns up to ask about the unfathomably large cheque, encouraging her to bribe him and bolt while Connolly disappears. Is he a conman?! Meanwhile Lange gets involved with a younger man with a Mrs Robinson fixation. Back in the US, another company rep, the wonderfully sentimental Howard Hesseman, pairs off with Moore to bring Mom back home and face justice. It all winds up in a shootout at a winery with the island’s biggest gangster. You have to be there! For armchair tourists – this looks gorgeous and the ladies are quite the heroines. The gray dollar audience is being well catered for. This is better than assisted living! Directed by Andy Tennant from a screenplay by Gary Kanew and Claudia Myers.

The Las Vegas Story (1952)

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RKO made several film noirs and into the 1950s a few have them had Vincent Price smarming about uttering deathlessly smart lines. Here he’s a high roller called Lloyd Rollins married to singer Linda (Jane Russell) and when they hit Vegas they hit trouble. He wants to pawn her fabulous necklace for chips, she runs into former lover, cop Lt. Dave Andrews (Victor Mature) and there’s an insurance man on their trail over some deals back in Boston… Hoagy Carmichael is the piano man to Linda’s sultry songs, Leigh Harline provides the soundtrack and in typical RKO fashion it all ends up in a fantastic chase over the desert with a helicopter. Clever, fun entertainment, but what a pity the fabulous settings were shot in monochrome. Directed by Robert Stevenson.

To Catch a Thief (1954)

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Always regarded as a lesser Hitchcock, this really came alive when I saw a decent dvd transfer, with sparkling seas and diamonds, brilliant aerial photography of the South of France and of course the beautiful Kelly and Grant, both simply stunning to watch. The witty screenplay by John Michael Hayes, adapting from local adoptee David Dodge’s novel, glides over some unnecessary plot elements, highlights both stars’ finer points and blesses everyone concerned with some delightful double entendres. Watching this one is reminded of true glamour and how fleeting it is in reality. Sensational. You can read about the three legendary collaborations between Hitchcock and Kelly in my essay Alfred Hitchcock & Grace Kelly on Offscreen:  http://offscreen.com/view/hitchcock-kelly.