Wednesday, March 27, 2013

8MM (1999)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #8

Synopsis: Hard-boiled private investigator discovers some people are just dying to get into porn!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Directed by Joel Schumacher (The Client, Batman Forever, A Time to Kill), this dramatic story follows one man's obsessive search for the truth about a six-year-old crime - and his ultimate discovery of the truth about himself."

What Did I Learn?: If you ever find what appears to be a snuff film in a deceased loved one’s collection of knick-knacks, throw it in the trash and don’t ask any questions.

You Might Like This Movie If: You've always wanted to see The Machine in action.

Really?: 1) Funny how the villains start shooting each other after Tom Welles (Cage) makes a flippant remark. Wouldn’t they most likely kill him and THEN settle the internal scores? 2) I think it’s a little unlikely that a sleazy porn producer would dare an angry detective to pull the trigger on him.

Rating: 8MM is a creepy, deeply disturbing, but incredibly compelling thriller. While the movie is mostly plot-driven and focuses on Welles’ investigation (alas, the talented Catherine Keener is stuck with a nothing role as Cage’s wife), we also witness his slow, moral degradation when he comes face to face with evil; a line in the film rings true: the devil doesn’t change, he changes you. 8MM is such a good film it almost absolves Joel Schumacher from his role in making those two atrocious Batman movies. 9/10 stars.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Snake Eyes (1998)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #7 (Dang – this would have been perfect for my tribute to Atlantic City earlier this year!)
Synopsis: Corrupt cop and implausibly-beautiful guidance systems expert save America from clean-cut, ultra-patriotic Naval officer.
Blurb From the VHS Jacket: From its sensational opening shot to its atmospheric final showdown, Snake Eyes seethes with inventiveness and suspense."
What Did I Learn?: Nobody wants to accept a blood-soaked $100 bill.
You Might Like This Movie If: You only have to hear the words: "Snake Eyes".
Really?: 1) Wow...a whole lot of illegal activity takes place in a building that’s crawling with cops and 14,000 trapped boxing fans. 2) So wait... the conspirators rig a world-championship boxing match in order to pull off an assassination? 3) Wouldn’t a woman covered in blood (and wearing white!) attract a bit more attention than she does? And it’s amazing how well she can get around, considering she’s nearly blind without her glasses. 4) Hmmm... if I were a double-agent Palestinian terrorist, I think I might be a wee bit suspicious if my handlers asked me to pull the trigger on the Secretary of Defense... just sayin’. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but this film has one of the most contrived, and impossibly well-timed endings I’ve ever seen.
Rating: Snake Eyes starts out well with a brilliantly-filmed opening sequence featuring Cage strutting into the boxing auditorium. Unfortunately, the movie starts to fall apart soon after the assassination scene as the storyline becomes increasingly difficult to believe. Cage and his co-stars deliver decent performances (and Carla Gugino is quite sexy!), but otherwise ‘meh’. 6/10 stars.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wild at Heart (1990)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #6 (Please click the links to read my reviews of two other David Lynch films: Blue Velvet and Lost Highway)

Synopsis:Imagine The Wizard of Oz starring white trash Dorothy and a violent, Elvis-loving weirdo.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona, Moonstruck) and Laura Dern (Mask, Blue Velvet) star as Sailor and Lula, two young lovers who are truly Wild at Heart... Will Sailor and Lula's dreams take them somewhere over the rainbow... or will they break down along the Yellow Brick Road?"

What Did I Learn?: 1) It isn’t a great idea to address an entire street gang with the words: “what do you faggots want?” 2) A snakeskin jacket symbolizes individuality and a belief in personal freedom.

Really?:Wild at Heart is a decidedly surreal David Lynch film, so it might not be entirely fair to judge it in these terms. That said, I had a hard time believing: a) nobody would clean up Lula’s puke in the motel room, b) she wouldn’t inform Sailor that Bobby Peru nearly raped her, and c) that Sailor would only receive six years in prison for taking part in an armed robbery in Texas(!), when he was already in violation of his parole, and two bank employees received shotgun blasts.

Rating:Jam-packed with overacting, scenes of brutal violence, so-bad-it’s-good dialogue, and some of the most bizarre bunch of fuckups this side of the Star Wars cantina, Wild at Heart is a weird, occasionally funny, rambunctious mess of a movie. If you like David Lynch’s work, you’ll probably love this film. I’m not exactly a fan, so let’s just say that I’m still not entire sure of what I watched the other night. 6.5/10 stars.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #5

Synopsis: Burnt-out paramedic discovers that patching-up near-dead junkies, gangbangers and heart attack victims at 5AM isn’t a bowl of cherries.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "From acclaimed director Martin Scorsese (Casino, Taxi Driver) comes one of his most compelling and unforgettable movies."

What Did I Learn?: A Vitamin B cocktail, followed by an amp of glucose and a drop of adrenaline makes for a nice pick-me-up, although it doesn’t compare to a beer.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that Public Enemy - and Duran Duran(!) -  were wrong, and it isn’t easy to be a paramedic.

Really?: 1) Um... I realize this movie takes place in the early 1990s, but I have to wonder: did ambulance drivers really drink gin as they cruised the city? Come to think of it, Frank and Marcus (Ving Rhames) flip an ambulance while en route to a call, and… do the cops ever arrive? Do Frank and Marcus face any disciplinary action? 2) Ok…maybe I can believe Griss doesn’t hit any arteries when he impales himself on a spiky fence, but why isn’t he isn’t screaming in agony by the time the paramedics arrive? 3) So wait, Frank can’t sleep and starts seeing ghosts of the people he couldn’t save? He must be a glutton for punishment to stick around in that gig.

Rating: Directed by Martin Scorsese, Bringing Out the Dead shares many similarities with Taxi Driver; the premise of both is in fact the same: a troubled man slowly loses his tenuous grip on reality as he cruises the streets of New York City in the wee hours of the morning. While Bringing Out the Dead is rich with off-beat characters and great scenes (Cage enjoys some great acting chemistry with his three paramedic partners: Rhames, Tom Sizemore, and John Goodman), and the cinematography is beautiful, it suffers from one major flaw: the storyline is static, and the film doesn’t really go anywhere. I realize Bringing Out the Dead is character-driven instead of plot-driven, but everything is left unresolved at the end, and Cage’s character doesn’t really develop so much as cope with his surroundings. It’s a good movie that could have been better. 8/10 stars.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Con Air (1997)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #4 (dang - this would have been perfect for the John Cusack film fest last year!)

Synopsis: Slippery, sociopathic scofflaws skyjack soaring slammer; sentenced soldier spoils strategy.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A prison parolee (Nicolas Cage) – on his way to freedom – faces impossible odds when the maximum security transport plane he’s on is skyjacked by the most vicious criminals in the country... let by the infamous murderer  Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich)!”

What Did I Learn?: Sunsets and newborn babies are beautiful. Muscle cars with license plates that read: “Azz Kickr” are “fucking spectacular”.

Really?: Oh God, where do I begin? Well, let’s start with the opening scenes: I had an extremely hard time believing a decorated Gulf War vet would somehow receive eight years in jail for killing a man in a fairly obvious case of self-defence. 2) Oh, and I had a harder time believing Cyrus wouldn’t allow the cons to rape the attractive female guard because… I don’t think he even gives a reason. 3) Does this movie take place in the late 1930s? I’m pretty sure the authorities could track that plane, even without its transponder, with the help of a certain technology called radar.

Rating: Con Air starts out well with a suspenseful set-up, but descends into a morass of explosions, completely implausible action sequences, atrocious dialogue and one-dimensional characters screaming at each other(the talented Colm Meany is wasted as an over-the-top-obnoxious DEA agent who owns a car that screams: “asshole”). Con Air’s biggest problem? There’s. Too. Much. Stuff. Too many roles; too many explosions, too many twists and turns, and it’s far too long – the final motorcycles-and-firetruck chase is simply gratuitous. 5.5/10 stars.

Raising Arizona (1987)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #3 (my apologies – new reviews are on the way!)

Synopsis: Hilarity ensues when childless hayseed couple um... snatches a baby?!?!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “NICOLAS CAGE, HOLLY HUNTER and JOHN GOODMAN star in Ethan and Joel Coen’s acclaimed screwball love story filled with mad chases, unexpected plot twists and wild pyrotechnics.”

What Did I Learn?: It’s not exactly a good idea to carry hand grenades on your leather jacket if you frequently engage in close-quarters hand-to-hand combat. 2) When your boss suggests swapping wives, your best response is to say: “we’ll think about it”, rather than to beat him senseless.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’re in the mood to raise an Arizona.

Really?: Raising Arizona is a slightly-surreal Coen Brothers comedy, and therefore isn’t meant to be taken too seriously, but come on… what’s with all the deep-South accents? This movie takes place in Arizona, not Georgia. 

Rating: Raising Arizona is an often-funny film featuring over-the-top performances from Cage and Hunter. It’s an entertaining comedy that nevertheless suffers from the same problem as WakingUp in Reno: since the characters are portrayed as southern-fried caricatures akin to Brent Spiner’s occasional appearances on Night Court, it’s difficult to either identify with them, or take them seriously. Raising Arizona certainly has its moments, but it’s not one of the Coen Brothers’ better movies. 7/10 stars.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #2 (this would have been perfect for my addiction-themed movie collection)

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I wanted to showcase an Irish-themed movie or two this year (this one doesn't qualify, although it certainly deals with drinking!), but I couldn’t find anything good. In the meantime, please click the links to read my reviews of The Snapper, The Brothers McMullen and The Commitments).
Synopsis: It’s like a really, really sad version of Arthur.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) is a career alcoholic who has hit rock bottom. Trashing all personal and professional ties to his LA existence, he sets off for the lights of Vegas on a mission: to drink himself to death. There he meets Sera (Shue), a beautiful, seen-it-all hooker ensnared in a destructive relationship with her pimp, Yuri (Julian Sands).

What Did I Learn?: When you’re drunk and obnoxious, people will pay you money to leave and never come back.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that drinking is bad news.

Really?: 1) Um...I’m pretty sure the ‘hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold’ is a Hollywood invention. And while I’m sure that sex trade workers sometimes do in fact fall in love, I had a LOT of trouble believing Sera would want to have anything to do with a stumbling-down-drunk alcoholic. 2) So, what was the point of including Yuri in this film? He’s gonzo after about 20 minutes 3) Could anyone drink as much as Ben does without, um...passing out repeatedly?

Rating: Leaving Las Vegas is one of those films that provokes one of two reactions: you either love it, or you hate it, and I’m pretty much in the latter category. Without a doubt, Cage and Shue deliver excellent performances as a couple of extremely troubled individuals. Moreover, the cinematography is beautiful, and the soundtrack features some nice, mellow jazz by Sting. I can see why it won an Oscar. And while I generally go for bittersweet, character-driven movies, it’s not easy to watch Leaving Las Vegas – it’s extremely depressing, and marred by a couple of problems: a) I didn’t really believe Sera would take Ben into her home, especially under the terms that she isn’t allowed to tell him not to drink, and b) Ben is just a self-destructive idiot, and the film never gives us any reasons to give a shit about him. I’m only sort-of recommending this one. 6.5/10 stars.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Moonstruck (1987)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #1 (Please click the links to read my reviews of The Family Man, Rumble Fish, The Thin Red Line, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Windtalkers).

Synopsis: It’s like The Godfather…except nobody gets whacked, and only Cupid does the shooting.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: "Fall under the delightful spell of Moonstruck, the mesmerizing romantic comedy from director Norman Jewison (Fiddler on the Roof) and Oscar winner John Patrick Shanley."

What Did I Learn?: There are three kinds of pipe: 1) “garbage”, 2) bronze, “which is pretty good, unless something goes wrong - and something always goes wrong,” and 3) copper, which costs money because it saves money.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ll watch anything that involves a warm-hearted, Italian-American family.

Really?: I had a bit of trouble believing Ronny would seem so blasé after hearing that his mother is on her deathbed, even if they are estranged. 2) It certainly is convenient when Johnny informs Loretta he can’t marry her right before she tells him she’s in love with his brother.

Rating: While it won three Oscars and many rave reviews, Moonstruck is a good-but-not-great movie featuring fine performances from Cher, Cage, and the supporting cast (some of the best scenes involve Olympia Dukakis enjoying dinner with a pre-Frasier John Mahoney). Moonstruck is certainly charming, but it isn’t funny enough to work as a comedy, and the ending is so cloying and pat that it’s tough to take the drama or the characters too seriously. Oh - and did it have to use Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore” not once, but twice? That damn song’s still running through my head! 7.5/10 stars.

Readership Numbers (2011-2013)

Ever since I started this blog in September of 2011, my primary goals have to been to provide a laugh or two, have fun, and (occasionally) introduce folks in my Facebook/linkedin circle of contacts to slightly-obscure films they might have missed.

I don’t make any money from Schuster at the Movies, and I’ve never been terribly concerned with expanding its readership to reach a mass audience. That said, provides some interesting numbers that I thought I would share.

In case you were curious, Schuster at the Movies received  66 pageviews yesterday, 1,346 last month, and 23,787 since it was started.

Most of the time, a review will receive somewhere between 10 and 20 pageviews: my last post, Bite the Bullet, for instance, is now up to a grand total of nine.

Then again, some posts have proven to be quite popular. My February 26 review of Fast Times at Ridgemont High is now up to 247 pageviews, and that number keeps rising.

Other popular posts include:

Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959, reviewed October 30, 2012): 120 pageviews (154 according to the “Posts” page on
A River Runs Through It (1992, reviewed April 20, 2012): 118 (173)
Fierce Creatures (1997, reviewed December 7, 2011): 118 (238)
Santa With Muscles (1996, reviewed December 23, 2011) 118 (188)
Goodfellas (1990, reviewed November 22, 2011): 94 (132)
Smokey and the Bandit (1977, reviewed March 4, 2012): 61 (99)
Angel Heart (1987, reviewed October 29, 2012): 61 (75)
Tombstone (1993, reviewed September 27, 2012): 61(134)
Blood In, Blood Out (1993, reviewed March 14, 2012): 56 (124)

I have no idea why these discrepancies between pages exist, or why certain other reviews (Harvey, for example, received 117 pageviews) are not included on the Stats Overview page at all. I share this information mostly for shits and giggles, and to offer a rough idea of my blog’s readership.

Oh – and I would like to offer all of my regular and not-so-regular readers a big Thank You.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bite the Bullet (1975)

Synopsis: It’s 132 minutes of Hackman, Bergen and Coburn um…horsing around.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In the tradition of many classic westerns, BITE THE BULLET is an exciting adventure featuring an all-star cast brought together to battle the trials of the rugged West in a gruelling 700-mile horse race!”

What Did I Learn?: 1) “A boy lookin' for a reputation is the most dangerous thing alive.” 2) “A cowboy dresses from the top down. The first thing on is his hat. And he undresses from the bottom up. Last thing off... hat.” 3) The West is violent and treacherous: “(e)very prairie dog hole is a gold mine, every molehill is a mountain, every creek is a river and everybody you meet is a liar.”

Really?: So, Clayton (Hackman) beats the crap out of Carbo (Jan Michael-Vincent) on two occasions, and the latter not only doesn’t seem to want any payback, he helps Clayton retrieve the missing horses? 2) I had a hard time believing Clayton could toss those sticks of dynamite at the bad guys with such power and precision, especially from the side-car of an early motorcycle.

Rating: Bite the Bullet is a nearly-forgotten Western from the mid-1970s. Its production values are a bit low-budget, and the ending is a little tough to swallow (see “Really?”), but the film features an impressive cast, an engaging storyline, several decent performances, beautiful cinematography in The White Sands National Monument, and a surprising animal rights message. All in all, Bite the Bullet is a fun little movie. 7.5/10 stars.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hoffa (1992)

Synopsis: Foul-mouthed union boss and slavishly-loyal sidekick have a really bad day in 1975.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Sweeping over four decades, screenwriter David Mamet’s unforgettable epic traces Hoffa’s turbulent career from 1935 when he first solicits over-worked, under-paid truck drivers like Bobby Ciaro (DANNY DEVITO) to join the fledgling International Brotherhood of Teamsters.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, Bobby Kennedy was a vindictive, tongue-tied, mealy-mouthed sleaze.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know there are some mysteries even Spock can’t solve.

Really?: 1) So wait – Hoffa gets Ciaro (De Vito) fired by blabbing some important information in front of everyone, and Ciaro becomes his trusted aide soon afterwards? It’s a nice plot point, but Ciaro is a fictional character, so this event never took place in real life. With this in mind, I have to wonder: who in their right mind would ever trust either Hoffa or the Teamsters after witnessing such callous indifference to a man’s livelihood? 2) Why in the world didn’t Hoffa or his gangster buddies destroy the hunting license that was used to sketch out the illegal use of union pension funds?

Rating: Hoffa is an entertaining, yet overly-long biopic on the career of infamous union boss You-Know-Who. Written by David Mamet, and featuring strong performances from De Vito and Nicholson (who, surprisingly – attempts to portray Jimmy Hoffa without playing a version of his cynical, eyebrow-raised movie persona) as well as top-notch production values, Hoffa misses its chance at greatness for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s told entirely from Jimmy Hoffa’s point-of-view (the character makes deals with the mob, and flies into volcanic rages, yet we’re supposed to sympathize with him), and 2) in spite of this, the film never really explains what made the union leader “tick”. Was it a genuine concern for working-class Americans? Personal ambition? Deep-seated resentments? Heck, we don’t even meet Hoffa’s wife until mid-way through the movie, during a union election speech. 7/10 stars.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Tailor of Panama (2001)

Not Quite a James Bond Movie... (please click the link to read my review of another John LeCarrė spy movie starring a former 007, The Russia House)

Synopsis: It’s like a Bond flick…except there aren’t any gadgets or action scenes, the chicks are all 40-something, and Bond’s a greedy, money-grubbing, lying bastard.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In this seductive spy thriller based on the best-selling novel by John LeCarré, Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine) delivers a dazzling performance as Harry Pendel, an ex-con turned tailor to the rich and infamous and married to smart and sexy Luisa (Jamie Lee Curtis – True Lies).”

What Did I Learn?: Jamie Lee Curtis looks pretty good topless.

You Might Like This Movie If: You get excited by the word: “Panama”.

Really?: Um...does Andy seriously think MI6 is going to let one of their agents walk away with $10 million of the CIA’s cash without extraditing him from Switzerland, or maybe even doing some wet work?

Rating: The Tailor of Panama is an entertaining, wryly humourous and highly cynical John LeCarré spy film featuring fine performances from both Rush and a 007-era Pierce Brosnan. Set in post-Noriega Panama City, The Tailor of Panama is a pretty good movie that’s marred by a less-than-satisfactory ending (Brosnan’s Andy Osnard is a charming rogue, but doesn’t he deserve at least some sort of comeuppance?) and a bit of a wasted role for Curtis. Still, it’s worth checking out. 8/10 stars.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Urban Cowboy (1980)

Synopsis: John Travolta portrays a dumb, abusive jerk who enjoys dancing, can’t hold a job and spends his time honing a useless talent…oh wait, that’s the synopsis for Saturday Night Fever!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “John Travolta is the Urban Cowboy, breakin’ hearts and bustin’ mechanical bulls in one of his most electrifying film roles.”

What Did I Learn?: It’s not a great idea to start the morning with several beers if your job involves climbing ladders.

You Might Like This Movie If: You think Italian-Americans from back East make the world’s best cowboys. [Warning: this is awful]

Really?: See What Did I Learn? 2) Seriously… Bud loses his shit and actually physically attacks Sissy (Debra Winger) because she’s better than him at riding a mechanical bull?

Rating: Urban Cowboy is an incredibly dull, pointless and distasteful movie – so much so that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the whole thing. The storyline is largely a rehash of Saturday Night Fever (or at least highly derivative of that superior film), the talented Scott Glenn plays a cartoonish villain, and the script gives us very few reasons to give a flying crap about either Bud or Sissy for the simple reason that Bud/Travolta is drunk and completely unlikeable, and she isn’t much better. If you enjoy country music (I’m not really a fan, but I appreciate a few songs) you’ll dig the soundtrack, but I cannot recommend this movie. 3/10 stars.

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Take a drink every time Travolta screams: “pick that shit up!” or “get me a beer!”


Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood (Non-Spaghetti) Western #5

Synopsis: Reformed gunslinger returns to commit murder and mayhem… but this time he’s doing it for the kids!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Big trouble is coming to Big Whiskey.”

What Did I Learn?: Ladies, it’s never a good idea to giggle when you glance at your boyfriend’s dick.

Really?: 1) So wait – Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) is the only black character in this movie and nobody once throws a racial slur his way, even when Little Bill horsewhips him? 2) I had a hard time believing Little Bill would provide a prisoner (even a relatively harmless one like Beauchamp) with a loaded pistol, or let alone encourage Beauchamp to hand it to English Bob.

Rating: Unforgiven is undoubtedly one of Clint Eastwood’s best films: the story is raw and powerful, the performances are quite good (Hackman shines as the sadistic-yet-not-quite-villainous sheriff Little Bill), and the ending is truly suspenseful. Moreover, I like Eastwood’s morally-ambiguous deconstruction of the Western myth (told through Munney’s conversations with Ned and the kid, and Little Bill’s lectures to Beauchamp) and his subtle digs at John Wayne's larger-than-life movie image. The film’s only flaws are that it’s very slow-moving, and incredibly bleak – by the end, the audience isn’t entirely sure what to think of William Munney, Little Bill, or any of the other characters. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Clint Eastwood (Non-Spaghetti) Western #4

Synopsis: Running away from your problems never looked more heroic.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “An outlaw in name. A hero in deed.”

What Did I Learn?: If a mangy dog stays by your side, even after you’ve spat chewed-up tobacco on his head numerous times, he’s a keeper. 2) Dyin’ ain’t much of a living.

Really?: I have to wonder: in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, didn’t the Union Army have better things to do than chase Wales around half the country? 2) I realize dude is supposed to be a hillbilly bounty hunter, but would anyone really say: “I got me the Josey Wales?” 3) It’s a cute scene, but I had a hard time believing Wales would swallow a mouthful of chewing tobacco.

Rating: While some people consider Unforgiven to be Clint Eastwood’s greatest non-spaghetti Western, The Outlaw Josey Wales is my personal favourite. The movie has everything: great performances (Chief Dan George especially stands out), action, adventure, humour, and even a life lesson or two. In spite of the action sequences, The Outlaw Josey Wales is also surprisingly character-driven: a Union raid on his family farm turns Wales into a cold-blooded guerilla fighter, and once the war ends, he learns to love and trust again when he becomes a father-figure to a motley collection of travellers who need his help. It’s a touching story, and highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pale Rider (1985)

Clint Eastwood (Non-Spaghetti) Western #3

Synopsis: It’s Heaven’s Gate meets High Plains Drifter meets Shane.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The world’s top box-office star is back in the saddle!”

What Did I Learn?: There’s nothing like a good piece of hickory. Oh, and Sacramento ain’t worth moose piss.

You Might Like This Movie If: You’ve always wanted to see Michael Moriarty (best remembered as D.A. Ben Stone from Law and Order) and Clint Eastwood work together.

Really?: 1) Um…why would Club (Richard Kiel, better remembered as Jaws in a couple of James Bond films) suddenly turn on his boss near the end? I realize the Preacher was nice to Club after striking him in the nuts(!) but really? 2) Hold on – Spider finds a massive gold-infused rock, and his first thought is to go into town without the Preacher’s protection, get blind-stinking drunk and then scream obscenities at LaHood’s headquarters? I realize it makes for a nice scene, but I had trouble believing a real tin-pan would behave that way, especially considering he knows that LaHood recently hired some killers. 3) So, nobody thought about dynamiting LaHood’s artificial dam until the Preacher does it near the end?

Rating: Pale Rider is a beautifully-filmed, and well-acted Western that’s set during the California gold rush. While I like this movie, and a number of performances stand out, the main problem with Pale Rider is that it’s VERY slow-moving, and not much actually happens until the end. Moreover, the Preacher always appears at just the right time and never seems to be in very much danger; Eastwood said in subsequent interviews that his character was a ghost or an avenging spirit, which is fine except that it sort-of lessens the tension if you get a sneaking suspicion the hero can’t die. 7.5/10 stars.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Joe Kidd (1972)

Clint Eastwood (Non-Spaghetti) Western #2

Synopsis: Clint Eastwood is caught between a rock and a hard place – so he shoots them both.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Joe Kidd, which concerns a land war in New Mexico at the turn of the century, marks Clint Eastwood at the top of his form as a Western hero.”

What Did I Learn?: It’s not a great idea to locate your saloon directly at the end of a railroad line.

Really?: 1) So, why doesn’t Lamarr (Don Stroud) simply kill Joe Kidd once Harlan fires him? Why do they still have to pussyfoot around each other – Kidd is a prisoner at this point in the film. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. 2) I had a bit of trouble believing Kidd could single-handedly strong-arm Chama – a man who hates the American legal system - and his band of revolutionaries into giving him up to the law. That scene’s a tad unconvincing. 3) So, Kidd has personal feuds against both Lamarr on Harlan’s team, and Ramon on Chama’s… funny how Lamarr is the first of Harlan’s men he kills, and Ramon is used as cannon fodder – I was expecting a bit more to develop from both. 4) So, is the asshole sheriff a crony of Harlan’s (Robert Duvall), or an independent actor? This is a bit unclear.

Rating: Joe Kidd is a mediocre Clint Eastwood Western set in the hills and pueblos of New Mexico. It’s surprising that a film that was written by Elmore Leonard – the guy who gave us Get Shorty – is in obvious need of a better script, or at least a major re-write. Still, kudos to Duvall for a very good performance as a truly evil son of a bitch. 6/10 stars.