Sunday, October 19, 2014

515. Ucho/The Ear (1970)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Karel Kachyna
Written By: Karel Kachyna, Jan Prochazka, Ladislav Winkelhofer
Main Cast: Radoslav Brzobohaty, Jirina Bohdalova


I have to be up at five o'clock in the morning and it's now nearly eleven at night. However, I just couldn't delay this review any longer. I actually finished this movie on Wednesday night, but catching a fairly nasty cold and purchasing a new flat screen TV kind of got in the way of the review. The cold's still kicking my butt, but the TV (and new blu ray!) are set up and I'm ready to write.

Chances are if you've heard of this movie, then you've also heart it compared to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - another film about a couple who do more bickering than cuddling. The difference here is that we're set in the Czech Republic and this movie has to do with a couple who suspect their under surveillance by their government. When Ludvik (Brzobahaty) and Anna (Bohdalova) return home from a night out a communist, political party, they first find that their keys are missing. When Ludvik climbs the gate, so that he can get into his house and let Anna in, Anna realizes that the gate is already unlocked. To further the peculiarities of the evening, when the two enter their domicile, they find that their power is out, despite the fact that just across the way, they can see that their neighbors still have lights. Later, they learn that their phone lines are also dead, but still they chalk it all up to other coincidences and surely explainable occurrences. Meanwhile, Anna hollers at Ludvik and hints that he's forgetting that today is a very special day (their anniversary). However, Ludvik has no time to make last minute anniversary plans, as he's busy piecing together the fact that his home may very well be under surveillance from his own communist brethren. He gets to work burning papers that may make "the ear" (big brother) suspicious, meanwhile batting away his wife who questions his every movement. However, when things get serious and scary, Anna and Ludvik's true feelings for one another are exposed.


I dug this movie, although I will say, I think there was a culture clash and I also think a lot of the political importance of all this went over my head. I hated the constant cutaways to the party earlier in the evening and just wished we could've stayed inside the apartment, in the dark, with Ludvik and Anna. Of course, I'm sure those cutaways were of utmost importance in trying to tell us (and the characters) why Ludvik may be under surveillance, however, I wasn't getting it. Why was he suspicious? And lets say he is under surveillance, what's the threat? Is it jail time or will they simply murder him for being a suspected traitor? As far as I could tell, it's never made clear ENOUGH why Ludvik suspects and if his suspicions are warranted, what he's afraid will happen to him. The film starts out just fine - a woman and man return home from a party and the woman can't find her keys. The man notices a car creeping in the distance and takes notice, before climbing the fence to break his way into their own home. Once inside, the two find that they are without power and phone and later, they begin to worry that they're being watched, listened to. I think if everything would've been kept more vague, instead of them TRYING to tell us why Ludvik was being monitored, it would've been a much easier watch.

Everything else was just fine though, in my opinion. The thrill and almost horror of it all. Being in the dark and worried that maybe there are microphones listening to your every comment, that people are lurking in your garden, peeping up through your windows. A hysterical wife that is both scared & looking to you for answers and irritated with you all at the same time. I loved how when it got real, the couple were fine. When their lives and the life of their son was threatened, it put everything in perspective and they held each other, while she cried and wondered what they'd do without him. I loved how that feeling passed and then returned toward the end of the film, while the two shared some time together on the balcony, watching daybreak. I thought it an incredibly sweet moment when Anna thought Ludvik had locked himself in a room and was in the process of committing suicide, that she did everything in her power, including climbing a ledge and breaking in through his window, to make sure he was okay. The film was not only a political statement, the ultimate middle finger to an oppressive government, but also a fine love story, a bittersweet one. Of course, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is the superior couple in peril film, but had they left the detailed reasoning of "the ear" out of this one, this one could've been one to rival it.

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't rate it high enough to get it to that upper echelon of ratings, but it was a fine film and one that I'd even thank THE BOOK for having me watch.


October 19, 2014  11:14pm

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

268. Beat the Devil (1953)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: Truman Capote, John Huston, from novel by James Helvick
Main Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollbrigida, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre


Some may recall from my "The Man from Laramie" review that I'd tried to start this one last week to no avail. The appearance of Bogart probably didn't do me any favors either, as I just don't care for the man and would gladly be done with his movies once and for all if it wasn't for my obsession with lists. Anyway, lets get on with it, shall we...

Even THE BOOK can't seem to recall the plot as it states that the film "has something to do with uranium rights in Africa". If the people who adored the movie enough to include it as one the 1001 muse see movies can't be bothered to remember what it's about, why the hell should I care? However, I'm too much of a perfectionist to gloss over the details of the plot and I'll do my best to recall them here. I will say I had a hard time settling into this one and thus, I found my mind wandering easily. Once Bogey and the crew started going off about uranium and a boat to Africa, I couldn't have possibly cared less about the outcome. Billy Dannreuther (Bogart - when the last name is said onscreen, it sounds like Dan Rather - which I found amusing) leads a motley crew of thieves and con-men as they plot to take a boat to Africa where a land rich in uranium deposits is going to be put up for auction. With this privileged information, they'll buy the land cheap and reap the benefits. Before they can set sail, however, they're informed of a problem with the boat which threatens to keep them docked for no more than two weeks, no less than a day. While waiting, Billy and his wife, Maria (Lollbrigida) meet Harry Chelm and his wife, Gwendolyn (Jones). The two basically act as swingers, taking all of ten minutes of screen time to swap partners, with Billy and Gwen falling in love and Maria having eyes for Mr. Chelm, who is obsessed with the fact that he can't find his hot water bottle. Eventually the crew DO set sail for Africa, but chaos ensues. I hate to be sassy, but if you want better details, you'll have to suffer through it yourself.

As per usual, lets start with what I liked about the movie and segue into what I didn't. I liked Edward Underdown and Robert then....the bad...

Everything else. The end...

Just kidding...

I DID indeed enjoy the efforts of both Robert Morley (who played one of Bogart's heathens) and Edward Underdown (who may have given me a new favorite word with his use of the term roustabout). They were both fine and honestly, too good for this huge pile of tripe. THE BOOK makes it sound like it was the collaboration of many great minds that earned this movie it's spot. Truman Capote on as the writer, Steven Sondheim as the "clap boy", Huston in the director's chair and Bogart starring and bankrolling seem to be the only reason this movie is recognized and therefore forced upon yours truly. I just don't find Bogart to be a good actor, does that make me a bad person? Trust me, I've tired my darndest! I wanted to like him in The Big Sleep and hell, I even went into my original viewing of Casablanca (so many years ago) wanting to come out of it a certified movie snob. However, it's just not in the cards for me and Bogey. I find him to be playing the exact same character each and every time he's onscreen. He's a tough guy, a rebel, no family, lots of friends. He always knows who to call in a favor to, he always gets the girl and dammit, he always makes me roll my eyes. I just don't like the guy. If my calculations are correct, I have one and only one movie left starring old Humph and it's "The African Queen" - which means, one last shot for Bogey to impress.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand - Beat the Devil. Like I said, I just couldn't settle in and in the end, this has to be considered one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time. I just couldn't wait for the end to come, so that I could shut it off and get back to watching The Simpsons. The plot was senseless and honestly, not enough meat & potatoes to even make for a worthy film. You know, you'd expect more from the collaboration of John Huston and Truman Capote. The supporting cast is the best thing about this movie, but the bad news is they're forced to play second fiddle to the Bogey. The women do fine jobs too, but seem to be in place more for eye candy than for their talents. I simply don't know what else to say, other than this was a complete loss for me and I'm glad to be done with it, review and all.

RATING: 1/10  I know that seems harsh, but even saying '2' seems too much to me. That's how much I disliked it. I will do my best to remember Robert Morley and Edward Underdown though.


October 14, 2014  5:25pm

Friday, October 10, 2014

705. The Right Stuff (1983)

Running Time: 193 minutes
Directed By: Philip Kaufman
Written By: Philip Kaufman, from book by Tom Wolfe
Main Cast: Sam Shepard, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Scott Glenn, Fred Ward
Click here to view the trailer


SOMEHOW I managed to tackle the first two days of my work week AND find the time to knock out a three plus hour movie in the process. Don't ask me how, but hopefully it's a sign that I'll be getting the lead out and picking up the pace on this project. Anyway, I was kind of dreading this epic, but it turned out to be not half bad...

The film begins at an air field in California where a pilot named Chuck Yeager (Shepard) spends his days chasing his wife on horseback (a game they play), chewing Beemans gum and being a damn good flyboy. Yeager, a Captain in the air force is offered the chance to break the sound barrier when ace pilot "Slick" refuses to do so without a grand payday. Up in the air, Yeager manages to break the sound barrier, defeating the "demon in the sky", as the legend goes and etching his name in history books forever. Flash forward to 1957, to the the height of the Russian space program and the launching of Sputnik. To compete with Russia and be the first country to "get a man up there", Eisenhower institutes the beginning of the American space program. After considering who these men will be to go into space, Eisenhower insists on pilots and since he's the POTUS, he gets his way. A couple of NASA goons (played by Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer of Simpsons fame) go to the air field in California (from earlier) to try and recruit some astronauts. Yeager is disqualified immediately because he doesn't have a college degree. After vigorous testing and a battery of physical examinations, seven men are chosen, including John Glenn (Harris), Gordon Cooper (Quaid), Gus Grissom (Ward) and Alan Shepard (Glenn). Together they're known as the Mercury Seven and some among them will be the first Americans in space.

Man, I'm really surprised at how much I liked this one, but honestly it was just so damn interesting. I kept finding myself with my phone in hand, asking myself "I wonder if that really happened?" or "Hmm let me look that up and get the full scoop". This movie was the equivalent of walking into your history class one day and finding out that today's the day you're going to learn about a cool piece of history, one that actually excites you. Not only did this movie make me want to learn more about the Mercury Seven (did you know that John Glenn is still alive, at 93 years old and later in life became a U.S. Senator?) but I also found myself doing Wikipedia searches for the Challenger explosion and wondering where I could get my hands on a copy of Apollo 13. It was the type of movie that really sparks your interest and because of that, it's hard not to give it good marks. I mean, at three plus hours long, this one COULD HAVE went downhill and fast, but it managed to stay afloat for it's entire duration and stay interesting throughout. Could it have benefited from having about forty or so minutes shaved off? Sure. The other thing about the movie that I found REALLY irritating is the fact that the first forty minutes deals with a character (by some accounts, the main character of the whole shebang), whom after that becomes irrelevant. Of course, I'm talking about Yeager. Did we just trudge through forty minutes of movie simply to say, "Okay, here's this guy who broke the sound barrier, a sort of precursor to the whole spacecraft thing."? It's like there's two movies going on here: the circumstances revolving around the breaking of the sound barrier and the whole Mercury Seven story. I would've much preferred an abridged version of the Yeager stuff (say, cut it down to twenty minutes) and then get me right into the space stuff.

What a cast, huh? And not like a blatantly obvious great cast, but rather like the pretty girl in school who wears glasses, but is smokin' hot when she takes them off. Who doesn't love Fred Ward? And I could as the same question about Jeff Goldblum and Lance Henriksen, two guys who have minor roles. Harry Shearer's in there too and while he did a fine job as NASA goon #1, I can't help but thing "The Simpsons" when I hear his voice. You also have a beautiful Barbara Hershey, a young and good looking Dennis Quiad (who somehow went on to a very forgettable career, despite showing up here full of piss & vinegar) and Scott Glenn, whom you may remember as Agent Crawford from The Silence of the Lambs. And, heck, that's not even mentioning Ed Harris or Sam Shepard who also turned in fine performances. It's kind of amazing to think that at one point in time, there was such admiration for these guys and how somewhere along the way we lost that. Do kids today still have that respect for certain occupations? I remember seeing videos/movies where kids would get autographs from pilots or astronauts, simply because that was their job and they were respected for it. Today, people could care less if you're a pilot or burger flipper.

Anyway, it's a fine film. Pace yourself going in and maybe don't expect TOO MUCH and I think you'll do fine with it. I had to break it up into three sittings, but mostly because of work and other priorities that came first. I could've easily gone cover to cover with this one and still been smiling at the end. It has SOME flaws and sure, I would've trimmed the fat in a few spots, but all in all, I think it's one that a lot of people will get a nice education out of and I think most, like me, will just find the whole thing fascinating. Of course, you have to remember I'm a lummox when it comes to history so, while I'd heard the name John Glenn before, I really didn't know any of this story. I'm even ashamed to admit that I didn't even know who Alan Shepard was (first American in space)!

RATING: 7/10  Good enough to edge it into '7' territory which makes it ripe for a TEN WORTH MENTIONING spot or possibly more if I sweeten on it between now and TOP 20 time.


October 10, 2014  10:38pm

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

649. All That Jazz (1979)

Running Time: 123 minutes
Directed By: Bob Fosse
Written By: Robert Alan Aurthur, Bob Fosse
Main Cast: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer, Ann Reinking, Erzsebet Foldi
Click here to view the trailer


This whole "do whatever you want" Tuesday deal that me and my wife struck up is really helping me to be a little more productive when it comes to the blog and the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. Once again, yesterday I managed to knock off two more movies and move two steps closer to the short term goal of having only 100 films remaining.

A FANTASTIC shot of Reinking and one that all movie lovers have probably seen, whether they've seen this movie or not. If I were her, I'd have a gigantic copy of this hanging in my home.

I was really excited to see this film, especially considering how much I took to Cabaret when I watched it a few years back for THE BOOK. I'd seen the iconic picture of the woman decked out in a black bowler hat, black sequined outfit and dark leggings and have always thought it a great shot. The film basically tells the tale of Fosse's life, as he chit chats with the Angel of Death (Lange) and is portrayed by a character named Joe Gideon (Scheider). At the film's core is Gideon's hair pulling efforts to produce the musical Chicago and one of the earlier scenes shows him casting for it. We also learn early on that Joe is a womanizer, a flirt, a cheater, a relationship failure, yet a good father, a perfectionist and a hard worker. We watch as he downs Dexedrine tablets to stave off exhaustion as well as pumping Vizine into his eyes and chugging Alka Seltzer, all to deal with the stress of show biz. He ignores chest pains, instead yelling at his dancers, telling them to "do it again!" and this time better! Joe's ex-wife, Audrey (Palmer) still collaborates with him as the two try to cooperate in raising their daughter Michelle (Foldi) together. His current girlfriend, Katie (Reinking) loves him despite his philandering heart. Meanwhile, the whole thing is intercut with scenes of a stand-up comedian, as Joe frantically tries to edit a film he made about the comic (mirroring Fosse's real life film, Lenny). According to THE BOOK the film is often compared to Fellini's 8 1/2, as it's a director basically telling his own story through film.


Boy, I really wanted to like this one and I DID!....except, not as much as I thought I would. Let's tackle the good stuff first and then we'll transition into the bad. First of all, who doesn't love Roy Scheider? Probably some of you, actually, but I really wouldn't know why! He's so good in everything I've seen him in and All That Jazz is no different. How hard must it have been to be portraying the man that is directing you! There had to be some pressure on Scheider there to get the performance just so, don't you think? Of course, when you're talking about Fosse, you're talking about choreography and this film is chock full of great dance sequences. My personal favorite had to be the big presentation in the middle where Gideon has his dancers show the producers of Chicago what they've come up with so far. The whole thing ends up turning into some orgiastic opera, but it's all done so classy! I actually think I was hypnotized by the numbers at one point, as I could actually see myself just gaping in awe of the choreography on display. Just a fantastic scene! I gushed about Scheider but really the entire cast was fine and I even found myself not totally hating the kid that played Gideon's daughter (I normally hate kid actors, but she wasn't awful).

Of course, the whole thing IS structured a lot like 8 1/2 and while I gave that film a decent review when I watched it for the blog, I've since gone back and tried to rewatch it to lesser success. That was an early review where I still may have been trying to kid myself into liking things that I really didn't have a taste for. My point is, is that I could've done without all the Angel of Death stuff and the big fantasy sequence at the end where Gideon basically dies in grand fashion, as only Bob Fosse could possibly imagine his own death. You see, I'm even willing to admit that it was all very Fosse, yet at the same time very much not for me. There were certain scenes where the film flew by, yet other times (like the last thirty minutes) where I'd had my fill and was just ready for the movie to end already. I will say that the whole thing was like one, overly long eulogy to his own self and that was unique enough to earn the movie a few brownie points and probably a permanent place in my cinematic memory bank - it's definitely not a movie that will wash off easy. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for the definitive Fosse then this is probably the one for you. However, if you want the one that's more accessible and easier to get into, then Cabaret is the movie for you, as I found it a whole lot more enjoyable than this, despite having less stunning dance numbers. The plot is more prevalent in Cabaret, while All That Jazz seems to be, at times, serving Fosse's own needs. Hey it's his death film, why not let the man have what he wants - I'm not complaining, just saying I had my issues with it.

RATING: 6.5/10  Can't go into '7' territory because that's a whole new ballgame, but it wasn't bad either. It's definitely the best thing I've seen in the past week, that's for sure.


October 8, 2014  8:28pm

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

391. O Pagador de Promessas/Keeper of Promises (1962)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Anselmo Duarte
Written By: Anselmo Duarte, from play by Alfredo Dias Gomes
Main Cast: Leonardo Villas, Gloria Menezes, Dionisio Azevedo, Norma Bengell, Geraldo Del Rey


It's Tuesday which means another day in my makeshift man cave while my wife does her own thing in the other room. So far today I've managed to tackle six episodes of The Simpsons and this movie, with hopes of doing another movie later. Let's get this review out of the way so I can make that goal.

The film opens with a man carrying a cross reminiscent of Jesus Christ, being followed by a woman whom we later learn is his wife. We learn that the man's name is Ze and that the reason he is carrying the cross has something to do with a promise he made to Saint Barbara. His destination: the church of Saint Barbara where he plans to carry the cross through the front door and fulfill his word. The whole promise thing came about when his donkey (also his best friend) fell ill and Ze's prayers weren't answered. He decided then to strike a deal with Saint Barbara, a deal that would see him carry a cross to her holy temple if only his donkey would recover. Soon after making the promise, the donkey makes a miraculous recovery and Ze decides to keep his promise. Once there, however, the priest of the church refuses to let Ze inside, stating that the deal he made was that of witchcraft and that Ze sees himself as a new Jesus Christ, which he won't condone. Ze refusing to leave the steps of the church until he is allowed entry, plants himself, while his wife is wooed by a Handsome stranger. Meanwhile the whole thing becomes a media circus, with different people preying on Ze, trying to benefit from the situation. A reporter sees his next big story, while a nearby restaurant owner sees the developing crowds as a business opportunity.


Let me start off by saying whoever wrote up the subtitles for the copy of this I was watching, really flubbed them up horribly. Obviously this person's first language wasn't English, as they struggled to get a grasp on just what forms of words to use. Anyway, I digress. I didn't like this one very much at all, as is usually the case with these rare films that I have to dig up somewhere on the internet. I try to give them a fair shake going in and this one started out decent I suppose, but ultimately just lost me altogether. When the movie started, it seemed like we were heading down the same path that Contempt did. A woman is lured away from her husband's side by Handsome, a local pimp, despite her objections, when her husband urges her to go and get a hotel room so that she can rest after the "7 league" journey. She seems angry that her husband would allow a handsome stranger to just take her away without much protest and goes with the man, almost out of defiance and of course, so she can soak her tired feet in hot water. Anyway, the film turns into a whole big statement on the endurance of faith and the greed of man.

I never really expected to like this, so it wasn't any shock that I didn't. I will say that the commentaries are kept to a minimum in favor of a somewhat pieced together plot about Ze trying to gain access into the church. I'll also say that there was something like three REALLY good shots toward the end of the film: the one with Ze lying next to his dropped cross on the steps, a group of onlookers surrounding him. Another of a few of the onlookers placing Ze on the cross and carrying him inside the church and the final shot, of Rosa ascending the church steps. All fantastic shots, almost too good for this movie. While I will not admit to liking this one, I will say that it's probably my own fault. As I've stated dozens of times, give me a good plot and good acting and I'll be fine. When you start to muddle everything up with sermons about faith and greed, it gets a little too heavy handed for my tastes. NEXT!

RATING: 3/10  That's probably a little harsh, but it seemed to fit, so...I'm not sure what I'll watch later, but I'll do my best to find something that sounds more appealing than this one.


October 7, 2014  4:12pm

Monday, October 6, 2014

295. The Man from Laramie (1955)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Anthony Mann
Written By: Philip Yordan, Frank Burt, from story by Thomas T. Flynn
Main Cast: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O'Donnell, Alex Nicol
Click here to view the trailer


I should preface this whole thing with a short story. I sat down Saturday night to watch Beat the Devil. At about the six minute mark, I decided that I just wasn't in the mood for Bogey and decided to save that one for another night. Ultimately I decided that I wasn't in a movie mood at all and threw in the towel. The next night (Sunday) I decided to try another movie while my wife was working the late shift at work. This time a Jimmy Stewart western called The Man from Laramie. It certainly proved that I'm a Stewart man as opposed to a Bogart man....

Will Lockhart (Stewart) along with his traveling companion Charley are delivering supplies to the town of Coronado. Lockhart is coming from Laramie and as a secondary mission is tracking a group of Apache who gunned down a Calvary unit, killing Lockhart's brother in the process. Upon getting the supplies to Coronado, Lockhart first meets  Barbara Waggoman (O'Donnell), whom he has eyes for and a cranky Indian who run Waggoman's General Store. The store and the town are all owned and overseen by Alec Waggoman (Crisp) - Barbara's uncle. Not wanting to return to Laramie with empty wagons, he inquires to Barbara about picking up some sort of cargo. She directs him to the salt flats where she tells him the salt is free for the taking. While shoveling salt into his wagons, he is approached by Dave Waggoman (Nicol) - Alec's son - who berates him for stealing salt, burns his wagons, shoots his mules and roughs up Lockhart. After Lockhart pays off his men, including Charley, he goes back to Coronado to try and recoup his losses. He approaches Alec who agrees to reimburse him for his lost property and send him packing out of town. It turns out that Alec has been dreaming of a stranger who comes to Coronado to kill his son and he's pretty sure that Lockhart is the stranger. Of course, the only man Lockhart is looking to put down is the Apache that killed his brother. Meanwhile, the Waggoman clan deal with a power struggle between the old guard (Alec) and the new blood, Vic (Kennedy) and Dave and Alec deals with his recent diagnosis that he's going blind.


Despite the fact that this film was able to get me out of a Bogey movie (temporarily) and make me appreciate Jimmy Stewart even more, it can still be filed under the heading of "nothing special" and another western that just didn't do it for me. Honestly, when I think of all the westerns from THE BOOK that I watched (and not counting the Leone westerns, which feel like something more special than your typical westerns), the only ones that really stick out are Silver Lode and maybe Stagecoach (which is probably due a rewatch by now). I've seen so many westerns that I've just had to endure and while this was better than that and I'd call the time spent an easy two hours, it was still pretty typical stuff from out on the dusty trail.

Was anyone else REALLY disappointed by the ending? I mean, Vic turns out to be the big villain? That just seemed to obvious. Of course Vic was crooked and in fact, it didn't even seem right when he made friends with Stewart's Lockhart just five minutes after Vic's cohort beat him up. I would have much rather seen Charley turn out to be the bad guy or even that cranky Indian from the general store. Come to think of it, that's a loose end that's never tied up, as we're shown this sneaky, disgruntled Indian a few times throughout the picture, yet we're never really told what his deal is. I guess we're just supposed to buy that he's suspicious of Lockhart because Lockhart is looking for Apache. It wouldn't have taken much more creativity from the mind's of the writers to really spruce this script up and provide something a little more cutting edge and unique for this 1955 western. As it is, it's pretty basic and sure, the whole thing where they shoot Lockhart's hand at point blank range is BRUTAL, but not shocking enough to make this stick out.

They definitely "had me" throughout and never lost me and the acting was top notch. Did anyone else think that Arthur Kennedy looked a lot like Kiefer Sutherland? All the more reason he should've been a heel from the get go! Stewart is can't miss as far as my tastes are concerned and Donald Crisp and Alex Nicol turned in fine performances too. The lead actress could've been stronger, sure, but she wasn't really a central character so it's forgivable. The actress that deserves the praise here is Aline MacMahon for her portrayal of the sassy, yet caring Kate Canady.

RATING: 6/10  Nothing to see, but nothing to hate on either. I have one Stewart/Mann collaboration left and I'm hoping it's a little more special than the two I've seen, although Winchester '73 was quite good in retrospect.


October 6. 2014  8:01pm

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

608. The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Running Time: 135 minutes
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Sonia Chernus, Philip Kaufman, from the novel Gone To Texas by Forrest Carter
Main Cast: Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney, John Vernon
Click here to view the trailer


So the whole "let's do our own things on Tuesdays" agreement between my wife and I seems to have been a success, as I managed to watch more movies in one day (yesterday) as I've been averaging in one week lately. As my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates fight for their life on the screen behind me, I bring you the second of a two part salute to Clint Eastwood - The Outlaw Josey Wales.

The film begins with Josey Wales' (Eastwood) family being murdered by a band of Union soldiers, as they set fire to his home. He buries his son and wife and weeps by their grave sides as a band of Confederates ride along and he winds up traveling with them. Through the opening credits we see victories by Josey Wales and his new friends the Confederacy, however, as the movie gets underway, their Captain Fletcher (Vernon) tells them that it's time to surrender, just as all other bands of Confederates have. With the exception of Josey Wales, the rest of his brothers in arms head to a Union base where they plan to wave the proverbial white flag and call it a defeat. However, it turns out that Fletcher has betrayed his brothers and has pledged his allegiance to the Union, as they open fire on the newly surrendered Confederate band, killing many. Josey Wales, still up in the hills, hears the commotion and manages to come to their aid - except he's too late and really only manages to save one kid. However, in the process he takes out a slew of Union men and becomes a fugitive from justice - an outlaw, if you will. Now, he's on the run from Captain Fletcher and other powerful men including Captain Terrill Redlegs (McKinney). As he runs, Wales gains infamy by the day, becoming notorious as a fast handed gunfighter and his legend follows him, growing all the way.

Oy vey, where to begin? I mean, it's pretty much the same movie as High Plains Drifter isn't it? I mean, you have the exact same Eastwood: a gruff, no nonsense, badass, man of few words who gains reputation as a cooler than cool gunfighter who kills many. I mean sure, here we're talking Civil War and there we were just talking random old west, but it's TOmato/TAmato. Let's just suffice it to say that I didn't like this one either. In fact, while I didn't have much problem putting up with High Plains Drifter, this one was actually a little more difficult to endure and now that it's done, I'm glad to have it behind me. It all started out quite harmless: a good ol' fugitive story - who can't get behind that? You had Eastwood and this kid running from Fletcher and Terrill and it was a fine film, as Eastwood obviously knew how to play the part and John Vernon was pretty good too (that voice that commands attention). However, once we started adding in the Indian characters and the others, including Sondra Locke's Laura Lee, it became too muddled and ultimately lost me. By the time we hit the ninety minute mark I was tapping out and ready to call it a night at the movies.

I can't decide whether I hate Eastwood the director or Eastwood the westerner with no name. I'm pretty sure it's the latter, as it seems like Eastwood really phoned these roles in, plus I'm no western fanatic to begin with. I mean, would it have killed him to differentiate these characters a little bit? It was the same old song & dance. You could argue that just like audiences forty years earlier had paid to see Fred & Ginger sing & dance, they also paid to see Eastwood don a five o'clock shadow & a duster and be gunfighter. But it just isn't working for this reviewer. Sure, I loved it when Leone was behind the director's chair and coaching Eastwood to a career making performance in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but here (and with High Plains Drifter) it just seemed like Eastwood was just going through the motions. How either of these pictures that I've reviewed in the past two days got the acclaim that they did is beyond me and honestly, I'm glad to be done with them.

RATING: 4/10  I'll go '4' just because, but honestly, that'll probably lower with more reflection. I was hoping that this little Eastwood double shot was going to be something that added a bit more value to my upcoming TOP 20, but it was a total bust.


October 1, 2014  8:28pm