Played

Funeral in BerlinM Funeral 1966

Theaters:  December 1966

Streaming:  August 2001

Rated:  NR

Runtime:  102 minutes

Genre:  Action – Classic – Drama – Mystery – Suspense – Thriller

els:  6.5/10

IMDB:  6.9/10

Amazon:  4.1/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  3.5/5

Metacritic Metascore:  NA/100

Metacritic User Score:  NA/10

Awards:

Directed by:  Guy Hamilton

Written by:  Evan Jones (screenplay), Len Deighton (book)

Music by:  Konrad Elfers

Cast:  Michael Caine, Paul Hubschmid, Oscar Homolka, Eva Renzi

Film Locations:  Germany, UK

Budget:  $

Worldwide Box Office:  $

Harry Palmer (Caine), an expendable British spy, is sent to East Germany to bring in  a Russian intelligence colonel, Stok, (Homolka) who is tired of his no-win job providing security for the Berlin Wall and wants to defect to the west. Palmer, a born cynic and an insolent one at that, doesn’t believe the Russian’s story, doesn’t accept that he is seduced, willingly, by a glamorous model, Steel, (Renzi) because of his charm and great looks, and he doesn’t trust his West German contact, Mr. Smooth and Rich, British agent Johnny Vulkan (Hubschmid).  With no good options Palmer just carries on and sees where his strolls at midnight take him.

Funeral in Berlin, written in 1964, is the 3rd spy novel in Len Deighton’s Unnamed Hero series and 2nd one that was made into a movie starring Caine. This book was preceded by The Ipcress File in 1962 and Horse Under Water in 1963.  The 4th book in series was Billion-Dollar Brain published in 1966.  All the books were made into movies except Horse Under Water which was scheduled to be the 4th movie with Caine but was canceled when Billion-Dollar Brain fared poorly with the critics and the box office.

Deighton, part of the popular triumvirate of British spy novelists along with Ian Fleming and John le Carré, wrote his first spy novel, The Ipcress File while living in Dordogne, France, an expat community of Brits, socialists and communists. All 3 not necessarily being the same person. The book was an instant success and it was quickly adapted into a movie of the same name in 1965 which also met with critical success.  His books were hailed for their realistic detail to bureaucratic bumbling and pettiness, germane to all large departments and agencies the world over.

Evan Jones, born to banana farmers in Jamaica, studied in Jamaica and the U.S., taught in the U.S., then moved to England to write for television and film.  Evan Jones loosely followed Deighton’s book when writing the screenplay.  In the book the defector is a Soviet scientist who has been granted approval to leave by the Russian security guru Colonel Stok.

Guy Hamilton, director of 4 James Bond movies, has a deserved reputation for injecting high-brow humor into his action movies and he does not let his viewers down with his, and Evan Jones’, interpretation of the Funeral in Berlin. The action is low-tech with tight scenes of suspense interspersed with Caine’s acerbic cracks at the establishment. Hamilton’s efforts are better than what Ken Russell accomplished in Billion-Dollar Brain but significantly inferior to Sid Furie’s The Ipcress File.

Michael Caine and Oscar Homolka are brilliant in the movie. They play off each others morbid sense of humor and dial the thriller down to a level of fun and games in a world of known mostly for deadly results.

The L.A. Times reported in 2007 that Howard Hughes in a codeine induced haze watched Funeral in Berlin, in the buff, 3 times in row.  Regardless of Hughes critique this is a good movie, not a great movie, but Michael Caine makes it fun to watch.

Unusual Detention

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle M Jumanji 2017

Theaters:  December 2017

Streaming:  March 2018

Rated:  PG-13

Runtime:  119 minutes

Genre:  Action – Adventure – Comedy – Drama – Family – Fantasy

els:  6.0/10

IMDB:  7.1/10

Amazon:  4.1/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  6.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.4/5

Metacritic Metascore:  58/100

Metacritic User Score:  6.7/10

Awards:

Directed by:  Jake Kasdan

Written by:  Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner; (screenplay), Chris Van Allsburg (book)

Music by:  Henry Jackman

Cast:  Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale

Film Locations:  Hawaii and Georgia, US

Budget:  $90,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $942,935,000

Four high school kids, serving detention for being high school kids, discover an old Nintendo-like video console in a school store-room, complete with a Jumanji game cassette.  They hook it up to a TV set and 4 avatars appear, with the kids naturally choosing the one opposite of their true personality. After the 4th avatar is chosen they are transported into the video game, assuming the bodies of their apotheosis.  Very quickly they discover that they can die in this fantasy land of make-believe. To survive and escape they must complete the task of returning a gigantic green jewel to the eye of a rock jaguar statue.  Thus begins the slap-dash adventure of evading charging rhinos, hippos, and a crazed motorcycle gang.

The movie is based on the 1981 children’s illustrated book by Chris Van Allsburg of the same name: Jumanji.  Preceding this 2017 movie was the well-received 1995 Jumanji movie starring Robin Williams.  Allsburg followed up his book with another, similar, illustrated children’s book: Zathura; which was made into the 2005 movie: Zathura starring Tim Robbins. The screenplay for this movie is entirely predictable, all adventure and mild comedy with no real plot twists or surprises.  The one and only time I was surprised came very early in the movie when a hippo charged the avatars.  After that scene everything played out as expected.

Jake Kasdan, director of the mostly forgettable comedies, Bad Teacher, Sex Tape, along with the tolerable Walk Hard, manages to make this movie blandly humorous and almost interesting. He certainly didn’t take any risks with this family movie with the exception of penis jokes, and he definitely could have given those a rest.

Dwayne Johnson provides the backbone for this movie and turns in a great performance depicting a fearful, nervous 16 year-old. Karen Gillan’s spastic rendition of a come-on was whimsically passable but Sandra Bullock did the spaz part better in the 2000 flick: Miss Congeniality.

This is a fun family movie.  It breaks no new ground but it does entertain for a few hours. It’s rumored that Kasdan, the screenplay team of Rosenberg and Pinkner, and the principal actors are all lined up for a sequel.  It may work but new writers may have given it better odds.

 

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