Of all the dreaded addictions the human race has ever introduced to itself, the act of betting could perhaps be one of the most popular and obsessive. Let’s face it, it’s still legal (in most states), and it doesn’t endanger your life like smoking and drinking allegedly do. On a slightly-similar-but-entirely-unrelated note, Cinema Libre Studios have released two catalogue titles to Blu-ray recently — both of which involve men who have their own unique betting experiences to relate to us all.
The first title, Waiting For Dublin (2007), tells of a World War II pilot named Lt. Mike Clarke (Andrew Keegan). On the eve of his deployment to Europe to fight the Germans, Mike manages to make a very silly and drunken bet with a Chicago local. The wage is a simple one for a man going to war: Lt. Clarke and his English co-pilot Twickers (Hugh O’Conor) must shoot down five enemy fighters before the end of the war. Unfortunately, what Mike doesn’t realize is that the man he made the bet with is the nephew of the one and only Al Capone himself!
As the end of WW2 nears, Mike and Twickers find themselves stranded in Ireland (which is a neutral territory — something your history teachers never told us) after their aeroplane runs dangerously low on fuel. The lads back at HQ tell them to just sit back and wait for the war to end (seeing how it’s almost over and all), but, unfortunately, they’re one downed plane shy of their quota. Our heroes aren’t the only enlisted men that have been left high and dry in the remote Irish countryside: an isolated, AWOL German pilot (Jenne Decleir) is also in the area.
Hounded by the thought of what will inevitably occur to him should he not fulfill his end of the dangerous bargain, Mike starts trying to figure out a way to “down” the German’s aircraft. But, between the fact that Twickers can’t fly (due to a minor injury), Mike is forced to enlist the help of the yokel locals. Matters grow increasingly worse once Mike starts to fall for a beautiful young Irish lass (Jade Yourell) and an officer from the SS (Guido De Craine) is sent in to assassinate the absconded German pilot.
Although it’s a minor feat at best, Waiting For Dublin emerged for me as an enjoyable comedy. The film’s cast appear to be having a good time, and the movie embodies a very lighthearted spirit throughout, never taking itself all-too-seriously; it’s rather akin to many of the classic comedies of yesteryear. It even won two Best Feature Awards at the 2007 Moondance International Film Festival.
Speaking of Film Festivals, Cinema Libre’s other new Blu-ray release, Richard Martini’s quirky 1996 mockumentary Cannes Man, takes place entirely at that pretentiously-prestigious gathering of moviemaking folk known as the Cannes Film Festival. The story once again involves a bet: Sy Lerner (the great Seymour Cassel), an aging showman (and shyster) of a film producer, makes a wager with a fellow member of the film industry that he can take any old schmuck off the street and turn him into Hollywood’s next big screenwriter. Since he’s notoriously cheap, Sy intends to accomplish this task by doing nothing more than bullshitting the inflated egos of Tinseltown’s best and brightest.
His patsy? A dimwitted LA cab driver named Frank Rhinoslavsky (Francesco Quinn), who scored a free ticket to Cannes by agreeing to deliver some goods to Troma Films. Right of the bat, Sy anglicizes Frank’s last name to “Rhino” and starts by whispering about a magnificent new script entitled Cannes Man (pronounced “Con Man”) to a few folks. Almost overnight, word gets around about the new script, and everyone — from producers to directors to actors — wants in on the action.
Basically, Cannes Man is nothing more than a great big “in-joke” of the film industry. Among the many celebrities (past and present) that pop up in order to get in on the feature-length gag are Johnny Depp, Jim Jarmusch, John Malkovich, James Brolin, Dennis Hopper, Robert Evans, Jon Cryer, Treat Williams, Frank Whaley, Peter Gallagher, Lara Flynn Boyle, Chris Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollack, Bryan Singer, and even legendary b-movie producer extraordinaire Menahem Golan.
Naturally, if you’re not into the subtleties of a Hollywood “in-joke” movie, Cannes Man will probably bore you shitless. However, should you have an understanding of how things work in the famed land of filmmaking (even a relatively remote one should suffice: you just have to remember that everyone in Hollywood is self-important!), then Cannes Man can be quite funny at times. That said, though, the production is far from perfect. While the dialogue tends to be rather witty in some cases, the movie simply tries too hard to be more than it really is. It’s nowhere near as grand as This Is Spinal Tap…but then, it’s nowhere near as forgettable as CB4, either.
Cinema Libre’s High-Def presentations of both Waiting For Dublin and Cannes Man are a bit of a bet in their own right. Waiting For Dublin sports a fairly-nice 1080i 1.85:1 transfer overall. Colors, contrast, and detail are set at “medium-well” at best, and the film is pretty-much devoid of any grain. Cannes Man, on the other hand, will have HD purists wondering what the hell they’ve been duped into buying. The film is extremely grainy — a byproduct of low-budget film stock and an attempt by filmmakers to make the movie look as “documentary-ish” as possible — and the 1080i 1.78:1 transfer hardly warrants a Blu-ray release.
Sound-wise, Waiting For Dublin sports a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that appears to be nothing more than a renamed 2.0 Stereo mix. It suffices, but only from the front. Cannes Man features a DTS-HD 2.0 mix that also makes little-to-no use of those rear speaker thingies. And, while you’d think that would be OK with such a talky flick, I found the mix to be so low that I had to really crank up the volume. I also found the fact that there are no subtitle options available with either title to be rather frustrating, but not as annoying as the lack of any special features: both releases boot up with a few trailers for other Cinema Libre flicks and the jump straight to the feature film. A generic menu is included on each movie.
The bottom line: I understand them wanting to release some catalogue titles to Blu-ray. I do. Alas, Cinema Libre’s issues of Waiting For Dublin and Cannes Man are a bit questionable (particularly the latter title).
Hell, maybe it was all part of a bet…