Monday, March 31, 2014

Space Cowboys (2000)

Clint Eastwood Movie #12

Synopsis: Old farts prove to the young whipper-snappers they’re still pretty ripe.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Packed with an irresistible payload of heart, humour and heroics, Space Cowboys is all-systems go.”  

What Did I Learn?: Older, and even terminally-ill Americans deserve both our respect, and the chance to serve their country on the space shuttle... because they can be used for suicide missions.

You Might Like This Movie If: You love to see celebrities sent into space.

Really?: 1) So wait... the space shuttle just happens to also be named Daedalus? That’s a coinky-dink. 2) Hmmm... funny how the team’s appearance on the front page of USA Today is somehow considered to be a public relations disaster, and then they suddenly show up on The Tonight Show. How did that change of thinking occur? 3) I can see Corvin (Eastwood) and maybe Hawk (Tommy Lee Jones) getting sent into space, but it’s painfully obvious during the training scenes that Tank (James Garner) and O’Neill (Donald Sutherland) are completely out of shape, and have no business being part of the mission. 4) So, um... do astronauts ever formulate new missions, totally on the fly, when they’re in space?

Rating: I wanted to like Space Cowboys more than I did. While it’s fun to watch four talented actors share the screen together, the plot is formulaic and predictable (one of the cowboys is diagnosed with an incurable cancer – take a wild guess if he makes it home), and two of the characters aren’t well-defined: Sutherland’s O’Neill seems like a knockoff of Jones’ Hawk (both romance much-younger women at NASA, except that Hawk is a daredevil pilot, while O’Neill is a one-dimensional “babe magnet"), and Garner simply disappears into the woodwork. Space Cowboys is fine for a rainy afternoon, but it’s otherwise pretty “meh”. 6/10 stars.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

Clint Eastwood Movie #11

Synopsis: Hardened Armed Robber and Slippery Bullshit-Artist Thief

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A golden field of wheat waves serenely under a blue Montana sky. Inside a quaint wooden church, a congregation of just-plain-folk listens intently to its preacher. Then, just when you begin to wonder if you haven’t somehow wandered into a Norman Rockwell painting, a man steps through the door and begins spraying the pulpit with automatic pistol fire.”

What Did I Learn?: If a chick you threatens to yell “rape” if you don’t drive her home at 3AM, it’s not a good idea to call her bluff.

Really?: 1) Funny how we never hear again from the crazy dude with the rabbits, even though our heroes beat him up and steal his car. 2) You would think that Lightfoot might sooner or later refrain from annoying Leary (George Kennedy), or that Thunderbolt might give him a come-to-Jesus talk about it. 3) So wait – does Lightfoot actually kill Dunlop? Funny how the cops don’t seem terribly interested in the hit-and-run, Lightfoot isn’t wracked with guilt, and Leary isn’t terribly mad about it.

Rating: Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is a charming, and strangely laid-back heist picture that’s more light-hearted drama than thriller. While I liked Kennedy’s and Geoffrey Lewis’ characters, the best parts of T&L are the early scenes of Eastwood and Bridges getting to know each other. The film is a bit slow-moving, and the ending is a downer, but it's definitely worth checking out. 8.5/10 stars.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Clint Eastwood Movie #10

Synopsis: Clint Eastwood romances lonely Iowa housewife in the mid-1960s. They laugh; they cry; they share intimate moments, and... um... sooner or later, Clint is going to ice a bad guy, right? ... Right?!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “World-travelling National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid and Iowa housewife Francesca Johnson aren’t looking to turn their lives upside down. Each is at a point in life where expectations are behind them. Yet four days after meeting, they don’t want to lose the love they’ve found.”

What Did I Learn?: If, after years of searching, you finally meet your true solemate, and he/she presents you with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for true happiness, for love of God, DON’T TAKE IT! 

Really?: Wow... Francesca’s son is rather thick-headed, isn’t he?

Rating: The Bridges of Madison County is a beautiful, haunting, and incredibly moving drama featuring fine performances from both Eastwood and Meryl Streep. My only complaint would be that the present-day scenes with Annie Corley and Victor Slezak as Francesca’s now-adult children don’t exactly fit with the rest of the film, and seem to be taken from a TV movie-of-the-week. Still, Highly Recommended. 9/10 stars.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Escape From Alcatraz (1979)

Clint Eastwood Movie #9

Synopsis: It’s like the mirror-image of Where Eagles Dare:  Clint Eastwood spends his time and energy trying to break out of an impregnable fortress – and he never kills anyone.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Superstar Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel re-team for their fifth film in this fascinating account of the only three men ever to escape from the infamous maximum security prison at Alcatraz.”

What Did I Learn?: Prison employees are sadistic, arbitrary and capricious bastards, while convicts are warm, sensitive and caring individuals.

You Might Like This Movie If: you're in the mood to watch a great escape.

Really?: 1) Apparently, you can weld pieces of metal together with a handful of wooden matches. [I’m going to feel like an idiot if that is in fact the truth]. 2) Escape From Alcatraz is based upon a true story, so it’s hard to determine what’s real and what isn’t. I will say that the escape is awfully well-timed, considering the Warden wants to move Morris (Eastwood) to another cell, and Morris’ old buddy Wolf is suddenly out of solitary. 3) Hmm... the VHS jacket mentions that Morris was a bank robber, but that’s never brought up during the film. Come to think of it, aside from English, we never hear anyone’s pre-prison story. I think that’s a bit of an omission.

Rating: Escape From Alcatraz works as both a taut, edge-of-your-seat thriller, and as a look at life in the legendary prison just before it was shut down in the early 1960s. The film is pretty depressing until Morris and his crew start to work on their liberation plans, and then the tone changes considerably. Kudos to Patrick McGoohan for an impressive portrayal of the evil warden. 7.5/10 stars.

Friday, March 28, 2014

True Crime (1999)

Clint Eastwood Movie #8

Synopsis: An innocent man is about to be executed. So, after a police investigation, a trial, and God knows how many appeals, it’s up to a philandering, burnt-out, alcoholic journalist with a free afternoon to save the day.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “He’s a boozer, a skirt chaser, a careless father. You could create your own list of veteran reporter Steve Everett’s faults, but right now there isn’t time. At San Quentin, a Death Row prisoner is scheduled to die at midnight – a man Everett has suddenly realized is innocent.”

What Did I Learn?: Placing your young daughter in a baby carriage, and pushing it maniacally at top speed through the zoo is a perfect example of piss-poor parenting.

Really?: 1) See “Synopsis”. 2) I realize Kate Everett is played by Eastwood’s real-life daughter Francesca, but holy shit, Clint was about 70 when this film was released. It seems a little weird/creepy to see him raising a grade-school age daughter and hitting on a 23-year old co-worker at a bar.

Rating: True Crime is a slow-moving drama, but it builds to an edge-of-your-seat climax that will stay with you for a long time. Eastwood is good as the deeply-flawed-but-honourable reporter, and I loved his scenes with Denis Leary and James Woods (this blog’s favourite unlikeable guy). My only complaint with True Crime is that far too much time is spent observing Beechum (Isiah Washington) and his family cope with the impending execution; those scenes are hard to watch, and they don’t really advance the main story, which is Everett’s investigation. 7.5/10 stars.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Clint Eastwood Movie #7

Synopsis: Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton single-handedly wipe out the entire German army in Southern Bavaria.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The mission: to rescue an important American General from the hands of the German high command. The obstacle: the most inaccessible fortress in the world. The stakes: the very outcome of World War II.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, you can spray a bus with machine-gun fire about 60 or 70 times and never hit anyone.

You Might Like This Movie If: you figure it must be about a daring eagle.  

Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?”. 2) See: “Synopsis”. 3) Aside from “Broadsword to Danny Boy”, it’s amazing how Major Smith (Burton) never once uses coded language over the radio, and refers to people, places and targets matter-of-factly. 4) So... Smith is on a commando raid in Germany, and he still manages to get laid? Wow. 5) While I can totally see Clint Eastwood climbing the walls of a German castle, I have a funny feeling Burton would have trouble getting out of bed with a nasty hangover. 6) So... this whole operation was planned to test the loyalty of a few special agents? Wouldn’t it be much, much safer and simpler to pick them up in England, and interrogate them there? 7) Fuck it, I give up.

Rating: Where Eagles Dare starts out well – a team of Allied commandoes go deep, deep behind enemy lines on a top-secret mission, but everything soon starts to fall apart thanks to a dizzying array of ridiculous plot twists and completely unbelievable action sequences. Moreover, at 2 hours and 38 minutes, the film is far too long and it NEVER SEEMS TO END; after the second hour, I wanted to throw something at my TV set. This movie is ok for a rainy Sunday afternoon but it’s much more of a turkey than an eagle. 5.5/10 stars.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Eiger Sanction (1975)

Clint Eastwood Movie #6

Synopsis: Art-loving professional assassin is paid big bucks to climb a mountain and whack a Soviet agent... who was probably going to fall to his death, anyway.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this action thriller about international intrigue that takes place on the Swiss Alps.”

What Did I Learn?: If a cute airline stewardess is super-nice to you, agrees to share a cab after the flight, and then goes to your place for drinks and casual sex, you might want to check your wallet the next morning.

Really?: Hmm... for a government agent and a self-professed karate black belt, Mr. Pope kinda sucks in hand-to-hand combat, doesn’t he?

Rating: The Eiger Sanction is tad predictable at times (my Dad instantly guessed the identity of the second villain), but it’s otherwise an interesting and quite watchable 1970s adventure film. 7/10 stars.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Firefox (1982)

Clint Eastwood Movie #5

Synopsis: It’s a bit like that never-made prequel to Return of the Jedi when Darth Vader travels to Endor to obtain valuable Death Star technology from the Ewoks.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Firefox belongs to the Russians. To maintain the delicate balance of world power, the West must steal it. The right man for the job? Take a guess.”

What Did I Learn?: The right uniform, a bit of bluster, and some foreign cigarettes are all you need to get past a Russian military checkpoint.

You Might Like This Movie If: You stand in awe of Soviet technology. [This is one weird clip!]

Really?: 1) See “Synopsis”... ok, I realize this movie was released in 1982, when the USSR invested vast resources into its war-making capabilities, and the Soviets were quite skilled at buying or stealing valuable technology from the West, but seriously – a plane that’s capable of flying six times the speed of sound, invisible to radar, with a mind-controlled weapons system?. 2) I have to wonder: were all Western agents behind the Iron Curtain perfectly prepared to throw their lives away if they received those orders from London? 3) Hmm... wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to smuggle the dissident scientists out of the country than to somehow infiltrate a Soviet military base and steal a top-secret plane? 4) So wait...the First Secretary of the Soviet Union decides to personally communicate with Gant (Eastwood) – and he actually responds? Couldn’t that exchange be used as evidence, either in a trial, or for propaganda purposes? 5) Hold on – Gant is in the plane, surrounded by men with machine guns who order him to stop, and he somehow manages to take off, regardless?

Rating: The premise of Firefox is obviously rather dated (and somewhat laughable in 2014), but it’s still a suspenseful spy thriller and a ripping good yarn. The cloak-and-dagger scenes in Moscow are the best part of the film – they contain a genuine tension because unlike the superhuman James Bond, Gant is scared, bewildered, and must continually think on his feet. Unfortunately, the film loses a lot of that tension and suspense once Gant is airborne, and the action becomes special effects-driven; the third act could have used a re-write or two. 7/10 stars.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Rookie (1990)

Clint Eastwood Movie #4 (Ok, this one really belongs with Eastwood’s cop films)

Synopsis: Dirty Harry teams up with... "WINNING!"

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Packing years of experience and a .45 automatic, LA Detective Nick Pulovski figures he’s got all the help he needs. He’s also got all help he doesn’t need. His new partner is The Rookie.”

What Did I Learn?: Even a Lotus Esprit will look like a tacky piece of shit if you insist upon painting it electric lime green.

Really?: 1) So wait... Raul Julia and Sonia Braga are Germans? 2) Um... I’d love to know how Pulovski (Eastwood) would explain the specially-made, silver bullet found in Strom’s (Julia) head. 3) Hmm... Strom and his gang are completely surrounded by cops, and they let him exit simply because he has a gun to Pulovski’s head? Would that ever happen in real life? 4) Hmm... so, Pulovski manages to rescue himself right before Ackerman arrives at the chop shop? I guess Clint didn't want his character to be rescued.

Rating: The Rookie is a fairly formulaic buddy cop picture that isn't half-bad if you can overlook several "Really?" moments, and the fact that it's more of a Charlie Sheen vehicle than an Eastwood movie. Sheen and Eastwood trade some funny quips, it’s packed with cool stunts, the musical score is impressive (especially Kyle Eastwood's Red Zone) and it’s an enjoyable piece of fluff if you’re looking to put the old brain on “pause” for a couple of hours. 7/10 stars.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Play Misty For Me (1971)

Clint Eastwood Movie #3

Synopsis: If you firmly believe the only thing Fatal Attraction needed was a whole lot of 1970s jazz, this is your movie.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Clint Eastwood made his directorial debut in this contemporary thriller which has become one of the star’s most acclaimed and suspenseful features. As a popular California disc jockey, Clint repeatedly receives on-air phone requests to ‘play Misty for me’ from a sexy feminine voice.” [Wait – “Clint repeatedly receives...?” I’m pretty sure the character’s name is “Dave”]

What Did I Learn?: When you’re dealing with deranged psychos, it’s a good idea to know something about obscure poetry.

Really?: 1) Wait – why would Dave leave Evelyn behind in his house when he steps out for his big business meeting? Come to think of it, I had a hard time believing he would be as nice to her as he is, considering it’s painfully obvious she’s nuts. 2) Hold on – Dave knows that Evelyn is somewhere in his house, holding a knife, and he doesn’t grab a weapon of some kind? Gee – how about the dead cop’s .38? 

Rating: Play Misty for Me seems a bit dated at times, but it’s still a tense psycho-drama that features a lot of great jazz and an outstanding performance by Jessica Walter as the troubled Evelyn. The film’s biggest problem is that while it starts out well – Dave slowly gets a sense his new lover is a few tacos short of a combo plate – it loses a lot of momentum after Evelyn is temporarily jailed, and the plot becomes increasingly difficult to believe (see “Really?”). 7/10 stars.

Monday, March 17, 2014

City Heat (1984)

Clint Eastwood Movie #2 (Ok, maybe this belongs with Eastwood’s Dirty Harry-and-its-clones collection, considering he plays a cop and self-parodies his most famous role)

Synopsis: Clint squints and Burt smirks... lots of banter and explosions, but it never really works.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds keep the heat on high in City Heat, a fun and fireworks romp where the laughter never lets up and the pace never lets down.”

What Did I Learn?: If Clint Eastwood challenges you to a “fast game of Sleeper,” start running!

You Might Like This Movie If: You know there's a lot of heat in Kansas City!

Really?: Hmm... there are a number of “Really?” moments in this movie, but I have to wonder: 1) why is it necessary for Speer (Eastwood) to steal the rich guy’s tuxedo when he merely has to get past the dude on the roof, who Murphy (Reynolds) has already knocked out? 2) Oh – and did grown men really accuse each other of being “insecure” in 1933?

Rating: I wouldn’t classify City Heat as a bad movie, but it comes perilously close to being one for a number of reasons: the plot is a convoluted mess that doesn’t make a lot of sense, the film’s humour mostly falls flat, and for a film that’s set in 1933, City Heat never once looks or feels like a genuine period piece – it seems more of an excuse for Reynolds and Eastwood to trade quips on a soundstage. Still, the film has some good moments, Irene Cara (best remembered for singing “What a Feeling” from Flashdance) does a nice job with several jazz numbers, and the title song performed by Joe Williams is worth a half-star all on its own. 5.5/10 stars.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Honkytonk Man (1982)

Clint Eastwood Movie #1. Yes, I have already reviewed CE's Dirty Harry movies, his Westerns, and his Spaghetti Westerns, but I figured it was time to watch some of his other films where he doesn't play either a gunslinger or a cop. Please click the links to read my reviews of Heartbreak Ridge and Bronco Billy.

Synopsis: Coarse crooner Clint combats consumption, counsels kid Kyle, cruises cross-country. concludes career.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Red Stovall (Clint Eastwood) is a Depression-era rascal whose fire-in-the belly passion comes from the whisky he slugs and the dream he chases: singing at the Grang Ole Opry. He takes off on a drive from Oklahoma to audition in Nashville with nephew Whit (Clint’s son Kyle Eastwood) along to help keep the car on the road and Red on the straight and narrow.”

What Did I Learn?: If somebody asks if you need some help with your drinking, the best reply is: "no, I do quite well all by myself."

Really?: 1) So wait – Eastwood (the Director) apparently objected to a proposed scene of 14-year old Whit smoking a joint (instead, Whit merely gets high from contact fumes), and yet he was totally ok with Red taking Whit to a brothel to lose his virginity? 2) I realize this film takes place during the Depression, but come on - how far do the characters expect to travel with a 14-year old behind the wheel, and nobody has a driver's license?

Rating: Honkytonk Man is a bit slow-moving in places, and the ending is a bit of a downer, but Eastwood and Eastwood work well together, there's a lot of great music, and overall, it's a nice little film. 8/10 stars.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Presumed Innocent (1990)

Synopsis: Ever wanted to see Harrison Ford sport a bad haircut and continuously yell: “I didn’t do it!”? If so, this is your movie.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Rusty Sabich is an up-and-comer in the county prosecutor’s office. He’s intelligent, hard-working, dependable. And, just maybe, he’s also a murderer.”

What Did I Learn?: If you’ve just been accused of committing a murder, it’s a really bad idea to sarcastically reply: “you’re right.”

Really?: 1) I can understand Horgan (Brian Dennehy) getting angry with Sabich for letting him down, but I had a bit of a hard time believing a former DA would lie on the witness stand in order to help frame a former colleague. 2) So, is Rusty going to have any trouble getting a job? Can he and his wife afford all those legal bills? Funny how their finances are mentioned once, and then the subject is conveniently dropped.

Rating: Boasting an all-star cast, Presumed Innocent is a good little film that features excellent courtroom drama and spine-tingling suspense. My only complaints would be that it takes a long time to get going (i.e. somewhere in the second act), and far too much time is wasted on some pointless scenes featuring Greta Scacchi before her character is bumped off – I guess Alan J. Pakula figured it needed some spicy sex scenes? 8/10 stars.

Snow Day (2000)

Synopsis: B-list has-beens team up with precocious never-made-its to produce forgettable teenybopper revenge fantasy involving frozen precipitation.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “School’s out and fun’s in! Hot young stars team up with comic favourites Chevy Chase, Chris Elliott and Jean Smart for this kids-in-charge, adults-in-meltdown comedy...”

What Did I Learn?: I’m tempted to write: “anything can happen on a snow day,” since it’s repeated at least a dozen times, but no – I learned that if they really, really, really care about their kids, working moms should throw away their cellphones, and blow off their responsibilities, even if it means scrapping that very important conference call with Beijing that was planned months in advance!

Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” 2) I could comment on any number of weird plot twists, or characters behaving oddly, but I’ll just ask if it was necessary to film Chevy Chase sled down a hill? Wasn’t that already done – much better – in Christmas Vacation?

Rating: I realize I’m not part of the target audience for Snow Day – it’s clearly aimed at young teens and older children – but it has a lot of problems. Clocking in at 89 minutes, the movie is overloaded with superfluous characters and sub-plots, the kids are far too obnoxious to be even remotely likeable, and the scenes involving Chris Elliott holding one of them as a hostage is just plain creepy. Snow Day has a few good lines (my friend Anita and I howled when somebody said: “I can’t date a leg-jiggler!”), but that’s about it. Strangely enough, I found myself wishing Chevy Chase had more screen time. I cannot recommend this movie. 4/10 stars.

Would It Work For a Bad Movie Night?: Absolutely – Take a drink any time somebody repeats that “anything can happen” line.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Jaws (1975)

(I'm not doing a tribute to Richard Dreyfus, by the way - he just happened to star in both this movie and Night Falls on Manhattan)

Synopsis: Fish finds swimmers goes down...rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Steven Spielberg directed this classic film that became one of the most enduring action-adventure films of all time.”

What Did I Learn?: The ocean is a dangerous, terrifying place that’s best avoided altogether by humans. [Oh wait – I already learned that from The Perfect Storm]

You Might Like This Movie If: you never once watched an episode of Jabberjaw.

Really?: I suppose I could ask why a water-hating cop decided to take a job as sheriff on a small, New England island, but this is addressed in the movie. Instead, I have to wonder why nobody ever calls the Coast Guard, even though that organization is mentioned a few times. Why is the job of shark-hunting left to a land-lubbing policeman and a grizzled old salt?

Rating: Jaws is essentially two movies in one: the first half, when Brody and Hooper desperately attempt to convince the slimy Mayor he needs to close the beaches, and the second, when three very different men must set aside their differences to catch a surprisingly wily shark. The first hour is great, but the second – especially the interplay between Richard Dreyfus and Robert Shaw (whose recollection of the USS Indianapolis might be the film’s finest moment) is magnificent. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Night Falls on Manhattan (1996)

Dang – this also would have been perfect for my salute to bad cops! Since this is turning into a mini-tribute to Sidney Lumet, please click the links to read my reviews of The Verdict, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon.

Synopsis: Sidney Lumet directs a gritty film about a young, idealistic cop-turned-New York D.A. who uncovers police corruption... hey, waitaminute – this is basically Q&A!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Sean Casey (Andy Garcia) is just another idealistic assistant DA – until his prosecution of a cop-killing drug lord catapults him into the center of New York’s tempestuous political arena.”

What Did I Learn?: It’s a really bad idea to leave incriminating evidence – such as a phony search warrant – sitting in open sight on your kitchen table, even if you live alone.

Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” 2) So, um... Elihu Harrison, the asshole Assistant DA just disappears from the movie after he gets defeated in the election? I could have sworn the script was setting him up to be a villain. 3) I realize Sean becomes a big star after the Jordan Washington case, but I had a bit of trouble believing the (presumably Democratic) party would name him as its standard-bearer for DA when he clearly doesn’t have enough experience.

Rating: Night Falls on Manhattan is a bit contrived in places, and it’s surprisingly similar to Q&A in a number of ways, but it’s still an intelligent, enjoyable film that boasts several good performances, including a pre-Sopranos James Gandolfini as a likeable-but-crooked cop. 8/10 stars.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Q&A (1990)

Hmm.... this would have been perfect for my salute to bad cops!

Synopsis: Cop ices drug pusher. Later, we discover this was a bad thing.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “In streets burning with hatred, corruption and violence, there walks a powder keg with a short fuse called Brennan (Nick Nolte). When Brennan shoots a small-time crook in cold blood, he covers up the shooting as self-defense and Assistant D.A. Reilly (Timothy Hutton) is assigned to the investigation.”

What Did I Learn?: If a movie cop mentions that he has never once used his service revolver in his duties, there's a very good chance he'll later use it to save the day. [Oh wait - I think I already learned that from Die Hard]

Really?: So wait – Bobby Tex kicks a man in the face, right in front of his fiancĂ© (who isn’t involved in his drug business) and she doesn’t seem shocked or angry about it?

Rating: Generally speaking, I like Sidney Lumet's films, so it's no surprise that Q&A is a compelling, mature drama about police corruption in New York City that features a number of solid performances and well-acted scenes, especially from Assante as Bobby Tex, and Nolte as Brennan. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Three Kings (1999)

Hmm...  the VHS jacket mentions “four American soldiers” and yet the movie title is Three Kings. That ought to tell you something...

Synopsis: If you’ve ever wanted to see Kelly’s Heroes remade with scenes of heartbreaking and brutal violence, this is your movie.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Absurdly comic, highly kinetic, at times shockingly emotional, Three Kings begins when the Gulf War is over. Amid the partying and confusion, four American soldiers (George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube and Spike Jonze), determined to take home more than sand fleas, go off into the Iraqi desert to find millions in stolen Kuwaiti bullion.”

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, Eddie Murphy’s Party All the Time is “bad music.” [I disagree, by the way]

Really?: Same question I asked during Kelly’s Heroes: how exactly are they supposed to smuggle all of that gold back into the United States, and then how do they sell it?

Rating: Three Kings is an exciting, sometimes-funny, and often-disturbing war film, and one of the best-articulated examples of an argument we don’t hear much, anymore: George H. W. Bush should have finished the job in 1991 and marched on to Baghdad. The biggest problem with Three Kings is that while the movie starts out as escapist fun, it quickly turns into something much darker, and it’s chock full of scenes – torture, executions, etc – that are almost unbearable to watch. 6.5/10 stars.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Blood Simple (1984)

Coen Brothers Double Feature #2

Synopsis: Lady has questionable taste in guys; sleazy detective lies, pries, and spies; another scumbag dies; horny bartender isn’t very wise; and oh – there’s a surprise!

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “This critically acclaimed thriller set in rural Texas combines chilling suspense with offbeat humor to create an all-American version of the classic ‘film noir’.”

What Did I Learn?: 1a) There’s a very good chance that a swift kick to the nuts will cause a man to puke up his breakfast. 1b) Apparently, Dan Hedaya is quite good at spitting fake blood and vomit.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know there’s nothing simple about blood.

Really?: 1) Holy shit, don’t the cops ever respond to reports of gunfire? 2) I realize Ray thinks Abby shot Marty and he wants to help her stay out of jail, but burying a man alive? That's cold...wouldn’t he have conked the poor guy over the head or something, first?

Rating: Blood Simple is a bit slow-moving at times, but it’s an edgy, inventive, and quite compelling low-budget film. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

Monday, March 3, 2014

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Coen Brothers Double Feature #1

Synopsis: It’s a bit like The Getaway meets Lone Star meets The Terminator.

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Based on the novel by Pullitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy, and featuring an acclaimed cast led by Tommy Lee Jones, this gritty game of cat and mouse will take you tot he edge of your seat and beyond – right up to its heart-stopping final moment.”

What Did I Learn?: 1) If you’ve somehow escaped from a crime scene with $2 million, don’t even think about returning to do a good deed. 2) A canister of compressed gas is probably the most useful tool you’ll ever own.

Really?: I realize both Chigurh and the Mexicans use transponders to track the money, but how did they know to check out the town of Del Rio? And why wouldn’t Moss keep moving? Come to think of it, Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) has a fairly easy time tracking down Moss, himself.

Rating: No Country for Old Men might be the best film the Coen Brothers ever made – and that impressive list includes The Big Lebowski. The movie works as both an edge-of-your-seat adventure, and as a deeper study of character; while Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem deliver memorable performances (Anton Chigurh is one creepy hitman), I quite enjoyed Jones’ portrayal of the world-weary sheriff. It’s a shame the three of them don’t share any screen time together. Highly recommended. 10/10 stars.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunset Strip (2000)

Please click the links to read my reviews of the completely unrelated Sunset Boulevard and Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip.

Synopsis: If you’ve ever wanted to follow a small collection of music industry lowlifes around for an entire day in the early 1970s, this is your movie.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The boulevard of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.”

What Did I Learn?: If your rock band gets pelted with food and beverages, and subsequently booed off stage, there’s a very good chance you won’t be asked to play a second set, regardless of whether or not you have a promise from the club’s manager.

Really?: Wow – Zach has the world’s nicest landlord, doesn’t he?

Rating: Sunset Strip is a laid-back, humourous, character-driven drama about a struggling rocker, an ambitious costume designer, a colourblind photographer and a drunken songwriter doing their best to make it in Hollywood four decades ago. It’s an interesting film that manages to evoke a long-lost time and place as it entertains – check it out. 7.5/10 stars.