Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957)

Wyatt Earp Movie #3

Synopsis: It’s a bit like Tombstone...only sanitized.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Considered to be one of the best Western films ever made, Gunfight at the OK Corral explores the relationship between two of the West’s most celebrated legends – Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.”

What Did I Learn?: Back in the 1950s, movie audiences couldn’t understand what was going on unless their eardrums were repeatedly assaulted by cheesy, narrative ballads.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to see Douglas and Lancaster take on some “nasty boys”. [I own a copy of this film, and I’ll review it in good time].

Really?:  1) It’s a Western, and yet there isn’t so much as a speck of dust on anyone’s clothing, and all of the sets are amazingly clean. 2) Strangely, DeForest Kelley’s voice sounds almost nothing like Dr. McCoy’s, although there’s no indication he was dubbed over.

Rating: Gunfight at the OK Corral is an *ahem* ok Western, and Kirk Douglas does an excellent job of portraying the cynical and self-loathing Doc Holliday. While I consider myself a fan of both Douglas and Burt Lancaster, the film suffers from an awful, overpowering musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin and don’t get me started on Frankie Laine’s ballad. More importantly, this might be the least historically accurate Wyatt Earp movie I have reviewed, and it whitewashes many of the events: Wyatt Earp’s philandering (he doesn’t even HAVE a wife in this film, let alone a wife addicted to opium), the Earp family’s entrepreneurialism, the fact that several men at the OK Corral weren’t armed, etc... 7/10 stars.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wyatt Earp (1994)

Wyatt Earp Movie #2

Synopsis: It’s Kevin Costner’s finest performance since 3000 Miles to Graceland!

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: [No blurb!]

What Did I Learn?: The most effective policing method is the living shit out of disorderly drunks.

Really?: 1) Gene Hackman gets third billing, and yet he’s in this movie for what...ten minutes? 2) How does Earp’s dad get to Arkansas so quickly, when it’s obvious the family has re-settled to California?

Rating: It might not be entirely fair to compare Wyatt Earp with Tombstone, but they were released around the same time, and they cover many of the same events. Generally speaking, Wyatt Earp is a grander, and more powerful movie, and I preferred Costner’s cold-hearted Earp to Kurt Russell’s, although Tombstone has a much tighter plot, and a better idea of what it wishes to accomplish. That said, I have two major complaints about this film: a) at 190 minutes(!), Wyatt Earp is far too long, and b) we never get a chance to know any of the villains (Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo, Curly Bill, etc...), so their deaths don’t mean anything. Let’s just say this film could have been a lot better had most of the early years footage been cut. 7/10 stars.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tombstone (1993)

Wyatt Earp Movie #1

Synopsis: If you’ve ever wanted to see Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Jason Priestly, Powers Booth, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott sport huge, larger-than-life moustaches, this is your film.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A sizzling star-studded cast brings to life the legendary battle to deliver justice to TOMBSTONE!”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, when you and your men are pinned down by gunfire from two directions, your best course of action is to get up, start blasting and charge the enemy shooters, berserker-style.

Really?: 1) See “What Did I Learn?”. 2) So wait...Ike Clanton and the scummy sheriff throw away their red sashes (signifying they have abandoned the gang) and the good guys just let them go? What if they return, looking for revenge?

Rating: Tombstone is an enjoyable re-telling of the shootout at the OK Corral and its aftermath. Russell is good as the arch-realist Wyatt Earp, who at first wants to simply make some money after a long career as a lawman. Kilmer, however, steals the show as the courtly-but-very sick Doc Holliday. Tombstone is solid entertainment. 8.5/10 stars.

Lone Star (1996)

Synopsis: Twists, turns, tragedy test Texas town.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “John Sayles’ Lone Star begins as a riveting whodunit about the unsolved murder of a corrupt lawman. Soon it becomes much more.”

What Did I Learn?: Guys, if both your dad, and your girlfriend’s mom REALLY don’t want the two of you to date each other, and they get kinda funny when you ask why, there might be a good reason. That’s all I’m going to say...

You Might Like This Movie If: You love all things Lone Star and all things Texas.

Really?: the evil sheriff mysteriously disappears and nothing much happens afterward? I guess this raises the question of why somebody didn’t bump him off a bit earlier, considering he terrorized the county and killed people for years.

Rating: Lone Star is a well-written, and richly-textured drama about long-hidden secrets in a small Texas border community inhabited by Anglos, Mexicans, Indians and African-Americans. This film is a masterpiece on many levels, and highly recommended. 10/10 stars.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Back to the Future Movie #3 (Yes, I finally found a copy)

Synopsis: Robert Zemeckis runs out of ideas and makes a western.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “It’s action, laughs and romance in this grand finale to the blockbuster time-travel series.”

What Did I Learn?: Nobody ever bothers to look inside a cave or an old mine.

Really?: 1) Wouldn’t Doc Brown have known there’s no way a team of horses pulling a Delorean could reach 88 miles per hour? Didn’t he and Marty attempt that simply so the movie trailer could have a cool “Old West” scene? 2) It’s funny how neither Doc nor Marty considered the possibility of finding some oil and making their own gasoline. According to, petroleum products (including gasoline) existed back in 1885. 3) I’m pretty sure that attempting to outrun a bear is an extremely bad idea. 4)  I realize Doc and Marty couldn’t use the Delorean already in 1885 to return to the future, but couldn’t they have siphoned out the gas from its tank? 5) Funny how a train destroys the Delorean, and nobody seems to give a crap...why wouldn’t the conductor hit the brakes? And where are the cops and the paramedics, afterward?

Rating: I’ve always considered Back to the Future Part III to be the weakest film in the trilogy. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch, but while the original dealt with human relations (1980s teenager gets a chance to see his parents when they were his age) and the technobabble was presented as important but not central, and the second was a plot-driven romp through different historical periods and alternate time-lines, Part III is basically just a Universal Studios ride. The film is a pastiche of Western movie clich├ęs, along with formulaic scenes we’ve seen before: Doc Brown freaks out, Marty encounters Biff/Griff/Buford Tannen in a watering hole and escapes, the villain winds up in manure, yadda yadda yadda... 6.5/10 stars.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cheech and Chong's Next Movie (1980)

Please click the link to read my review of Up in Smoke. (By the way: these are the only Cheech and Chong films that I can watch...Nice Dreams, Still Smoking, The Corsican Brothers and the others are all pretty awful).  

Synopsis: Loveable potheads terrorize Pee Wee Herman.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “For more than ten years, Cheech and Chonge have been producing a unique style of humor for an army of loyal fans. Now Cheech and Chong are back in an all new riotous comedy that brings out the zaniness in this dynamic pair and takes them through a movie studio, a welfare office, a massage parlor, a police raid, the living room of a very rich family, a near-riot at the ‘Comedy House’, and finally into space!”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Responsibility is a heavy responsibility. 2) Cheech Marin is a terrible driver.

Really?: I could bring up the UFO and the “space coke”, but Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously. That said, I’ll simply say: 1) it’s awfully convenient that Donna shows up during Cheech’s dream as he’s yelling: “get out of here!” 2) Where did Cheech and Chong get all of that lowrider crap to transform the van? 3) Not that many comedians challenge members of the audience to come on stage and then walk away.

Rating: I can’t say that Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie is a good film - it doesn't even have a plot! - but it is very funny in places (I still love the opening scene). That said, it loses a bit of steam after the aging stoners visit their local welfare office. While it very likely deserves a lower grade, C&C’s Next Movie was a favourite of mine growing up, and I still find it strangely charming. 8/10 stars.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bullitt (1968)

Synopsis: Awesome late-1960s car chase through hilly-twisty-turny streets of San Francisco... with some other shit tacked on, too. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Steve McQueen stars as a cool cop in hot water.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Even if you need a drive, it’s a bad idea to take your girlfriend to the site of a murder investigation. 2) San Francisco is a great city for car chases. (Oh wait – I already learned that from Magnum Force, The Enforcer, and The Dead Pool).

You Might Like This Movie If: You’re in the mood for a San Francisco treat!

Really?: So wait – Bullitt pursues the two hitmen all over the city in a high-speed pursuit, and the criminals never so much as say a word to each other?

Rating: Bullitt is best remembered for an impressive Ford Mustang-Dodge Charger chase, which is still pretty cool, but the film as a whole is dated and dull. The storyline is pretty thin, none of the actors are given much to do, including Robert Duvall in an early role (Jacqueline Bisset is completely wasted, and delivers a God-awful speech after the aforementioned murder investigation scene), and the pacing is sluggish, with far too many looooooooooong shots. I kept thinking: “I know it’s a hospital – you don’t have to keep showing medical equipment!” Frankly, I didn’t give a crap by the end. I cannot recommend this movie. 5/10 stars.

Would it Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT: fast-forward to the chase.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Synopsis: Idealistic Army Rangers bring American way of life to war-torn Somalia...and help turn Mogadishu into downtown Detroit.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In 1993, an elite group of American Rangers and Delta Force soldiers are sent to capture a violent warlord whose corrupt regime has lead to the starvation of hundreds of thousands of Somalis. When the mission goes terribly wrong, the men find themselves outnumbered and literally fighting for their lives.”

What Did I Learn?: When a movie soldier advises a buddy to leave his canteen and night vision goggles behind because the mission is only going to take 30 minutes, there’s a very good chance it might last a bit longer than that.

You Might Like This Movie If: Deep down, you know that Rangers Lead the Way.

Really?: Does it really make a lot of sense to use a white guy in civilian clothing to spy on the enemy in East Africa?

Rating: Black Hawk Down is a very compelling and realistic account of America’s ill-fated intervention into Somalia in the early 1990s. All of the performances are quite good, and this film will certainly hold your interest for the full 144 minutes. That said, it’s sometimes hard to tell who’s who during the action sequences (which occasionally look like something from an Xbox shoot-em-up game) and the dialogue occasionally lapses into speechmaking. That said, Black Hawk Down is highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rules of Engagement (2000)

The attacks on US embassies in Egypt and Libya reminded me of this movie (for obvious reasons) and Black Hawk Down. Just to be clear, however: while Schuster at the Movies often takes an irreverent tone, the murders of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other Americans was a tragedy, and it is not my intention to disrespect these individuals, or to poke fun at recent events with this blog.

Please click the link to read my review of The Caine Mutiny.

Synopsis: Old Marine Corps buds rekindle friendship over fly-fishing, beer, and massacre of Yemeni protesters.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Colonel Terry Childers is a patriot and war hero. But when a peacekeeping mission he leads in Yemen goes terribly wrong, he finds himself facing a court martial. Accused of breaking the rules of engagement by killing unarmed civilians, Childers’ only hope of vindication rests with comrade-in-arms Hays Hodges, a military lawyer of questionable abilities. Together, they face the battle of their lives.”

What Did I Learn?: Don’t even think about trusting those pinstriped, cookie-pushing turds at the State Department.

Really?: 1) So wait...thirty marines fire into a crowd and not one of them sees a weapon, either as they’re shooting, or afterwards? I have an extremely hard time believing that. 2) Even the little girl (later seen on crutches) was shooting at the embassy? I’d have a lot more respect for this film if it honestly acknowledged that innocent people were hurt by Childers’ (Samuel L. Jackson) actions, but this is just bullshit. 3) Childers encounters left-wing protesters at the military base, but isn’t likely that talk radio and Fox News would whip up counter-protests, and he might even find himself an instant folk hero? 4) You would have to be an awfully cold bastard to (figuratively) stab the man who saved your life, and the lives of your wife and son. 5) For a guy who calls himself a “weak lawyer”, Hodges (Tommy Lee Jones) does a pretty good job in the courtroom. 6) Jackson and Jones are WAY too old for the Vietnam scenes. 7) The ending. I’m not going to reveal any spoilers, but...let’s just say that I was expecting a lot more.  

Rating: Rules of Engagement is an entertaining and well-acted film about a Marine Corps court-martial, with fine performances from Jones and Jackson, and a surprising number of cameos from a variety of stars. That said, the premise is rather contrived, the scene of the little girl shooting at the embassy pissed me off, and the ending is so lacklustre and lazy (it’s hard for me to describe without giving away the storyline) that I mumbled: “oh, come on” when the credits appeared. It’s an ok movie as long as you don’t take it too seriously. 6.5/10 stars.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)

Guess what – Schuster at the Movies is now one year old! Please click the links to read my September 16, 2011 reviews of Citizen Kane and Lethal Weapon.

Crocodile Dundee Movie #3

Synopsis: It’s Beverly Hills Croc!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “He’s wrestled crocodiles Down Under and fought crime in New York, but can Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee swim with the sharks in LA? Paul Hogan returns as Crocodile Dundee in this hilarious third installment of the beloved film series.”

What Did I Learn?: Stunning a rat with a chalkboard eraser will instantly make you the coolest kid in your class.

Really?: 1) Isn’t this whole ‘fish out of water’ concept getting a bit old by now? 2) Wait – how does Mick know how to talk to monkeys? There aren’t any in Australia! 3) So wait...Sue asks Mick where he learned so much about the criminal mind, and Mick later says the only time in his life he was ever afraid was when the villains had a gun to her head. Did Crocodile Dundee II ever occur, or is it not considered Crocodile Dundee canon?!?! 4) It’s funny how Croc keeps running into muggers and purse-snatchers, just like the first movie. 5) Waitaminute...several  characters in this flick poke fun at the crooked filmmakers for creating a bad movie and then following it up with even worse sequels – the third being the worst!

Rating: Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles is basically just a re-hash of Crocodile Dundee with a weak sub-plot involving art smuggling filmmakers tacked on. Paul Hogan seems like a pretty likeable guy, and there is one funny scene: Crockers and a buddy visit a drive-thru and cheerfully announce: “Good evening, Wendy!” The rest of the movie is unfunny, dull and forgettable, and one gets the distinct impression from all of the blatant product-placement that it was slapped together to make a quick buck. I cannot recommend this movie. 4.5/10 stars.

Would it Work for a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: Probably not.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Crocodile" Dundee II (1988)

Crocodile Dundee Movie #2 (Yeesh – the VHS jacket looks as though Crockers is about ready to carve up his lady!) I found a VHS copy of Crocodile Dundee II earlier this month. Please click the link to read my review of Crocodile Dundee.

Synopsis: Colombian cocaine cowboys kidnap Crocker’s consort & close companion.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Paul Hogan is definitely the funniest character who ever took a bite out of The Big Apple in ‘CROCODILE’ DUNDEE II. Just as the eccentric Australian is starting to adjust to life in New York City, Dundee and his beautiful girlfriend (Linda Kozlowski) are targeted for death by a gang of ruthless drug dealers. Dundee evens the odds by leading the big-city hoods into the treacherous Australian outback

What Did I Learn?: The “toughest street gang in New York City” is 30-something, multi-ethnic, hangs out in a clubhouse with giant neon displays, and enjoys listening to Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child” at every opportunity.

Really?: 1) See “What Did I Learn?”. 2) I realize Australia isn’t Colombia, but wouldn’t the drug growers be a little more at home in the bush than they appear to be? 3) Does the US Justice system allow material witnesses to essential flee the country before trial? 4) I had a bit of trouble believing a Colombian drug kingpin would be so charming to Sue, especially after she calls him a “grubby little parasite.”

Rating: I’m not a big fan of the Crocodile Dundee trilogy; the original is forgettable fluff – an hour’s worth of plot made longer with mostly dumb jokes and scenes of Crockers encountering random street thugs. Alas, Crocodile Dundee II doesn’t work well as either a comedy (because it’s not funny) or as an action-adventure because we know Dundee is a lot smarter/tougher than the Colombians, and he never appears to be in any real danger. Paul Hogan mostly mugs his way through this sequel while Linda Kozlowski doesn’t do much besides look concerned, and I have a funny feeling Charles Dutton doesn’t talk much about his performance as “bad, bad Leroy Brown”, the baddest stationary-selling mack-daddy in the Big Apple. 5.5/10 stars.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sideways (2005)

Synopsis: Hilarity ensues when depressed scribbler and manchild thespian consume a bathtub of Pinot Noir in rural California.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “In this intoxicating, intelligent comedy from acclaimed director Alexander Payne, a failed novelist (Paul Giamatti) and a washed-up actor (Thomas Haden Church) take a detour from the realities of mid-life crisis with a wine, women and laughter-filled road trip through California’s famed Central Coast.”  

What Did I Learn?: Don’t even think about asking a simple question about wine, or some oenophile snob will think you’re a “dumbass.”

Really?: 1) I realize Miles is depressed and doesn’t give a shit about life, but wouldn’t he still pick a better food pairing for his ’61 Cheval Blanc than a burger-and-fries combo? 2) Why would Miles’ ex-wife suggest it might be best if he doesn’t attend Jack’s wedding when he’s the fucking best man? 3) Does Miles seriously think his Mom isn’t going to notice there’s money missing from her secret stash? 4) I had a bit of trouble believing a shallow guy like Jack would show an interest in Cammi the waitress, especially after he refers to her as “two tons of fun”.

Rating: Sideways is a beautiful character-driven film featuring outstanding performances from Giamatti (even if he wasn’t that crazy about it, himself) and his three co-stars, an intelligent and moving script, and genuine laughs even though the movie is far from being a true comedy. Sideways is one of my all-time favourite films – Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Lady Vanishes (1979)

Synopsis: It’s like a bad Murder She Wrote – Moonlighting crossover set on a train in Nazi Germany.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "All aboard for 'THE LADY VANISHES', the Rank Organization's prestigious production of the romantic comedy-thriller, which not only boasts a truly star-studded cast but also possesses that indefinable quality which makes it a certain box office winner."

What Did I Learn?: It’s not a great idea to do a Hitler impression in a room full of Nazis.

Really?: 1) So...a couple of civilians armed with pistols can fight off a unit of German soldiers? 2) Why would the bad guys go to such elaborate lengths to convince Amanda (Cybill Shepherd) that Miss Froy (Angela Lansbury) was never on the train? Why not just tell her Miss Froy had to leave, unexpectedly? 3) How does the finger-mark of “Froy” get erased from the dining car window? 4) Gee...what are the odds of an empty package of Froy’s special tea hitting the window by Robert’s (Elliott Gould) head, and him actually noticing it for the brief second it’s there? 5) If somebody informed me they drugged my drink with a sleeping agent, I doubt that I would take the opportunity to climb outside the train to the next compartment.  

Rating: I’ve never seen the original Hitchcock version of The Lady Vanishes, but the 1979 remake is just plain awful. It starts out well, mind you, and the setup suggests a whodunit along the lines of Murder on the Orient Express. Instead, however, the viewer is treated to 99 minutes of Shepherd acting (to use that word in its broadest sense) nutso on a train. The plot is chock full of coincidences and implausible “Really?” moments, Shepherd is terrible, and Gould just seems out of place. I cannot recommend this movie. 5/10 stars

Would it Work For a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: No

Peter's Friends (1992)

Synopsis: It’s a next-generation Big Chill, where everyone is still self-absorbed and douchey, but British.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Peter (Stephen Fry) and his best friends met in college as members of a comedy troupe. Ten years later, he calls them all together to ring in 1992 at his newly inherited mansion.”

What Did I Learn?: Ladies, if the guy you like informs you he isn’t “in the vagina business” you may wish to keep searching.

Really?: Funny how a weekend getaway in the country can fix all of the deep-seated emotional problems of a couple dealing with the death of a child.

Rating: I’ve been a fan of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie ever since they starred in those wonderful Jeeves and Wooster productions two decades ago, and they certainly deliver some excellent entertainment in Peter’s Friends. The film has some funny moments (as well as an impressive '80s and '90s soundtrack), but it would be a stretch to call it a comedy. Instead, it’s a nice, human drama about old friends reconnecting to find they all have problems. Highly recommended. 8.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Dead Pool (1988)

Dirty Harry Movie #5

Synopsis: Clint Eastwood puts the “poo” in Dead Pool.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “What happens when you put criminal scum behind bars? You become famous, that’s what. TV people want sound bites for the evening news. Writers want your life story. And sleazoid creeps want you dead.”

What Did I Learn?: When you make a cop movie, it’s generally a good idea to allow the villain to appear a bit sooner than an hour into the picture.

Really?: 1) Apparently, San Francisco lost its entire African-American population after Sudden Impact, because – unlike all of the other Dirty Harry films - I don’t remember seeing any black characters in this movie. And it’s so politically correct that even the hoods who rob a restaurant in Chinatown are white. 2) Once again, you can’t hit anything with an Uzi sub-machinegun. 2a) Harry and Samantha are in a glass elevator – they’re sitting ducks, yet neither receive so much as a scratch, and Harry is even able to pick off the shooters with his .44. 2b) Ok, you’ve just fired a volley of machinegun fire into Harry’s car, causing it to flip on its side. The smart next move would be to keep shooting and get the gas tank to explode. Getting on top of the car and peering inside isn’t such a hot idea. 3) If Lou Genero is such a big shot mafia boss, wouldn’t he simply kill the musclehead prison inmate Harry uses to intimidate him? 4) Does Harry ever bother know...arrest anyone before he opens fire?

Rating: The Dead Pool is both an atrocious film and an unworthy ending to the Dirty Harry story. This movie has nearly all of the flaws of Sudden Impact (especially the Sledge Hammer-ish self-parody) along with laughably bad action sequences (don’t get me started on Harry driving away from a remote-controlled toy car bomb, or his use of a harpoon gun at the end), poor writing and cartoonish characters. Clint basically sleepwalks through this surprisingly low-budget turd, while Liam Neeson looks embarrassed to be on screen. Oh – and I had to listen to “Welcome to the Jungle” not once, but twice. Ugh. I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars.
Would it Work for a BAD MOVIE NIGHT?: Maybe... but it's not so outrageously awful that it's funny, so much as boring and dumb.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Sudden Impact (1983)

Dirty Harry Movie #4

Synopsis: Go ahead, make another pointless sequel.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “San Francisco homicide detective Harry Callahan doesn’t just stop crime; he stops it dead. In fact, he’s left so many cadavers around that his superiors, sensitive to outcries of ‘police brutality’, send him on assignment to San Paulo until things cool down. But wherever Harry goes, things just get hotter.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) Nobody puts ketchup on a hotdog. 2) Many things can happen to dogshit.

Really?: 1) So wait...a foul-mouthed lesbian helps her lowlife male friends rape a couple of young girls? That sounds terribly contrived. 2) does Harry know that Jennifer (Sondra Locke) and the bad guys are at the amusement park near the end of the movie? 3) Wow...the very minute Harry drives into San Paulo the bank gets robbed. What are the odds of that happening? 4) Gee...I guess you can’t hit anything with two Uzi sub-machineguns. 5) Oh man...Harry has two – count’em two – Molotov cocktails thrown into his car, and instead of...oh, I don’t know...stopping and running away from a likely explosion, he keeps driving, grabs one, and throws it at his attackers? 6) How many times is Harry attacked by thugs, only to be later chastised by a superior: “I’ve got the Mayor breathing down my neck, and this is your idea of a vacation?” 7) There’s a long camera shot of a unicorn horn on a merry-go-round during the final confrontation...any guesses as to how that horn is employed?

Rating: Sudden Impact is a weak entry in the Dirty Harry franchise, and a borderline BAD MOVIE for a few reasons: a) it gets increasingly difficult to sympathize with Jennifer’s lust for revenge (especially after she kills the hardware store owner), and b) sub-plots come and go – Harry is hunted down by the mob until they apparently lose interest mid-way through the movie after he picks off experienced hitmen like lint balls off his suit jacket. Sudden Impact’s biggest problem, though, is that it quickly descends into Sledge Hammer-ish self-parody; I’m sorry, but I simply couldn’t take seriously the scene of Harry returning to the diner after receiving a sickly-sweet cup of coffee. 5.5/10 stars.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Enforcer (1976)

Dirty Harry Movie #4

Synopsis: Plucky dame and grumpy killing machine strike up unlikeliest friendship since Richie Cunningham met the Fonz.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Clint Eastwood’s third go-round as Det. Harry Callahan matches him with a new partner, Tyne Daly as Inspector Kate Moore, who has two jobs: tracking down a band of armed-and-wacko terrorists – and winning Harry’s confidence.”

What Did I Learn?: Personnel is for assholes.

Really?: 1) I had a hard time believing Harry could simply drive an unmarked police car through a store window to bust a hostage-taking and not get fired, or face criminal charges. 2) So, if the terrorist plot is to kidnap the mayor and hold him for ransom, why did they bomb the men’s room in the police department? 3) The terrorists are hiding out in Alcatraz? Are we supposed to seriously believe that America’s most famous prison was simply abandoned after shutting its doors? 4) Wait – Harry and Kate Moore take on the terrorists all by themselves without calling in for some backup, while the authorities are completely willing to surrender to the terrorist demands? Come on....

Rating: The Enforcer is probably the most mainstream of the Dirty Harry films; there’s a lot more humour, a lot less right-wing social commentary, and the action scenes are well done - it's basically a 1970s Lethal Weapon. Eastwood and Daly share some on-screen chemistry (albeit non-romantic), and while the film is enjoyable, the final two-person assault on Alcatraz is a bit tough to believe. 7.5/10 stars.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Magnum Force (1973)

Dirty Harry Movie #3

Synopsis: One-man-killing-machine cop takes on police department vigilante death squad because... um.... why does Harry do that?

Blurb From the VHS Jacket:Magnum Force’s raw-edged action finds Harry taking on an unusual kind of criminal: the kind who carries a badge. Sharpshooting motorcycle policemen have turned vigilante.”

What Did I Learn?: You can get away with insulting your boss as long as you’re really, really good at what you do, and you volunteer for all the shit jobs.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to watch the opening credits that inspired the opening credits to ABC’s short-lived Sledge Hammer TV series.  

Really?: 1) I realize it’s 1973, but did hot chicks really approach strange men and ask: “what do I have to do to go to bed with you?” 2) Why would the bad cops put a timer on the bomb when it’s supposed to go off as soon as Harry opens his mailbox? 3) So wait...Harry’s plan to foil a hijacking is to pose as a pilot, taxi around the runway, hit the brakes and grab one of the hijacker’s guns? Come on... 4) Funny how all those crack-shot rookies never come close to hitting Harry when they shoot at him. 5) So, Sweet was “sacrificed” by the top villain for the greater good of the death squad? Instead of inserting all of those pointless sub-plots into the film (the hijacking, the pimp and his lady in the taxicab, etc...) how about showing the dynamics within the group? I doubt the other members would have been terribly happy about this decision. 6) The ending still smells like bullshit...the top villain gets the drop on Harry AFTER HE HAS KILLED THREE (bad) COPS and instead of shooting him, he wants to turn him in? Even if he believes no jury would believe Harry, he would still get to tell his story and the FBI would start investigating. No way this would happen. No way.

Rating: Magnum Force is a good, but not great sequel to Dirty Harry. While Harry usually goes into battle against gangsters, serial killers, armed hippies and the liberal justice system, this time he takes on the ‘extreme right’ (as well as gangsters and hijackers) in the form of a gang of vigilante cops. At 123 minutes, Magnum Force is a bit too long (it’s actually the longest film of the series) and it drags a bit by the end. 7/10 stars.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dirty Harry (1971)

Dirty Harry Movie #1

Synopsis: Trigger-happy lunatic terrorizes San Francisco...oh yeah, there’s a serial killer out there, too.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Harry Callahan is a tough, streetwise San Francisco cop whom they call Dirty Harry. In this classic film, you’ll see why.”

What Did I Learn?: When a movie character announces he has a degree in sociology, you can be pretty sure he’s going to receive a rude awakening about the “real world”.

Really?: 1) Wow...Harry recovers from that savage beating rather quickly! 2) Ok, I can understand how the evidence against Scorpio could be thrown out because Harry didn’t have a search warrant, but couldn’t the cops charge him with assaulting a police officer (when Harry delivers the ransom cash) and attempted murder when Scorpio shoots at Chico?

Rating: Dirty Harry might be a bit dated, but it’s an otherwise enjoyable, action-packed morality play about the US justice system in the early 1970s. Eastwood is cool under pressure, while Andrew Robinson (better known as Garak on Deep Space Nine) delivers a magnificent performance as the ultra-creepy Scorpio. Dirty Harry is fairly right-wing in its take on liberal judges and the need to put the rights of victims ahead of the rights of criminals; heck, at one point, Harry even tortures an injured Scorpio, and it’s tough to condemn his actions, considering it might be the only means of finding a 14-year old girl who’s about to suffocate. Whether you agree with the tough-on-crime/law-and-order approach or not, Dirty Harry is worth watching at least once. 8.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tightrope (1984)

Not a Dirty Harry Movie #2

Synopsis: Pervy Harry

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Two men, lured by the promise of kinky sex, prowl the steamy streets of New Orleans' French Quarter. One is a cop. The other is a killer. Clint Eastwood stars as Wes Block, a cop teetering on a Tightrope that separates the man he strives to be from the man he fears he is.”

What Did I Learn?: Telling a woman you would like to lick the sweat off her back will get you into her pants, every time.

Really?: 1) See “What Did I Learn?”. 2) What does Block have against calling for backup? Good Lord, the killer invades his home, and Block orders his daughters to hide in the closet, instead of...oh, I don’t know – CALLING THE COPS? Same thing when he discovers the killer is knocking off his girlfriend’s bodyguards; Does he report this to the police station? Noooooooo...he just speeds towards her house and hopes he makes it there in the nick of time. 3) So wait – Block busted the killer 11 years earlier? Wouldn’t he notice the guy’s name on list of Dixie Brewery employees? Isn’t it a stretch for him to follow a hunch, based on an old newspaper clipping? 4) If the killer is nursing a grudge against Block, why doesn’t he go after him and his family instead of wasting all that time killing prostitutes?

Rating: Tightrope is not one of Clint Eastwood’s better cop movies. It’s far too slow, there’s almost no action until near the end, the scenes of the prostitutes getting murdered are pointless and trashy, and Clint seems far too busy getting his knob polished to do any real detective work. And why cover the killers’s face with a series of masks if he’s a nobody to the audience? Since the movie deals with the duality between the killer’s desires and Block’s libido, I’m surprised nobody considered either making Eastwood the murderer, or at least letting the audience wonder if it might be him. Unfortunately, Tightrope is simply a forgettable, and by-the-numbers serial killer thriller. 6/10 stars.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Gauntlet (1977)

Not a Dirty Harry Movie #1 (as a longtime Clint Eastwood fan, I cringed when he delivered that weird, disjointed speech at the Republican National Convention a few nights ago. I wanted to remember Clint’s better moments, so I figured I would review his Dirty Harry films, and maybe also his post-spaghetti westerns in October or November. Clint doesn’t play Harry Callahan in either The Gauntlet, or in Tightrope, but he is an urban cop, so what the heck – let’s review them, anyway).   

Synopsis: Dirty Harry gets drunk, hijacks a bus, installs protective armour and becomes B.A. Baracus.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Phoenix cop Ben Shockley’s dream of breaking ‘the big case’ has faded over time. His assignment to escort from Las Vegas ‘a nothing witness for a nothing trial’ seems like another meaningless exercise. Until the fireworks start.”

What Did I Learn?: Ladies, if you want to stop a gang of crazed bikers from beating the crap out of your man, flash your tits.

Really?: 1) So, the Las Vegas cops can fire thousands of rounds into Mally’s (Sondra Locke) home – some of them inches away from Shockley’s head – and he never receives so much as a scratch? 2) Why don’t the tires on the bus deflate until right after the Phoenix cops stop shooting at the bus? And why didn’t somebody think of stopping the bus by shooting the tires? 3) So, nearly every cop in Phoenix stand around, impassively as the police commissioner clearly commits attempted murder, and then Mally not only blows him away, but she and Shockley walk off into the sunset together? 4) If the mob has contacts in both the Phoenix and Las Vegas police departments, I’m a bit surprised Shockley wouldn’t consider surrendering himself to the FBI and explaining his side of the story. 5) Why in the world would the mob provide gambling odds on a hit they’re about to perform? I can’t imagine Tony Soprano doing anything like that.

Rating: Clint Eastwood basically plays a slightly-dumber and much-drunker version of Dirty Harry in The Gauntlet. It’s more of a shoot-em-up/car-chase action thriller than a cop movie, and we see some genuine chemistry between then-real life couple Eastwood and Locke. The Gauntlet is an enjoyable romp through the desert, and a great popcorn movie, so long as you don’t ask too many hard questions about the plot, or the continuity between scenes. 7/10 stars.