The Quest (1996)
This a very good movie with Jean Claude Van Damme as the hero triumphing against all odds. Van Damme also directed, and did a very fine job. It's like a synthesis of Indiana Jones with Bloodsport. The story is set in the 1930s and the tournament is not the Kumite, but an equivalent called the Ghang-gheng. The script is actually based upon an amended version of the Bloodsport story which never got produced. The pageantry here is greater. Really exotic settings with a more spectacular tournament venue. More diverse ethnicity via costume. I don't know enough about any of this to comment upon authenticity. For some reason I enjoyed this movie more the second time I saw it.
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Very surrealistic western with really memorable scenes, such as Ellen "The Lady" (Sharron Stone) saving Cort (Russel Crowe) from hanging by shooting the rope.
There is one snazzy scene with "The Kid" (Leonardo DiCaprio)demonstrating pistols to Cort. Impressive close hand shots with lots of fancy gun twirling and cylinder spinning.
There's another scene with the fight between John Herod and Sgt. Clay Campbell. The first time I saw the movie, a big hole appears in Campbell's back with sunlight coming through. Unrealistic, but very cool. Last time I saw the movie, there was no hole. Delayed action reality editing I call it.
Then there was the fight between John Herod and Ace Hanlon. Beautiful photography of the sheriff (Gene Hackman) lighting a cigar in between shots, as he shoots guns out of both of Ace's hands. And Ace himself is no slouch with pistols.
Near the end, we see Cort shooting two guys off rooftops at the same time with a pistol in each hand and his arms crossed.
Many very memorable images. If you love westerns, especially the suspense of gunfights, don't miss this one.
Raging Bull (1980)
When I was told that we were going to see "Raging Bull" I had no knowledge of the film, and said in all seriousness "I really don't see Robert Deniro as an Indian Chief, but if anybody can do it, he can".
The fight scenes are done meticulously. The brutality is really intense. There are lots of short takes, fast clusters of hard combination punches. The sense of realism and visceral identification with the fighters is very great. The viewer feels like he is in the ring being hit. All this courtesy of Thelma Schoonmaker, editing genius.
Outside of the ring Martin Scorcese uses a much more relaxed pace with longer takes, so we can see subtle facial expressions and absorb dramatic complexities. One good example is when Joey introduces Jake to Vickie with a chain link fence between them. Jake is very shy and awkward, because Vickie is so young and beautiful. But Jake is also courageous, knows what he wants, and asks her for a date anyway.
After Jake and Vickie get married, the picture becomes a close study of Jake's unreasonable worry about Vickie's fidelity. Scorcese uses slow motion to grab the viewer's attention and heighten the dramatic effect of Jake's glaring anger and jealousy.
There are good tracking shots such as the long one of Jake going from the training room to the ring. There is also a very impressive shorter one of Jake strutting victoriously, looking proudly sideways towards the camera. Very good wiesenhiemer smirk by Deniro.
The Razor's Edge (1984)
This is such a fine story there should be a movie sequel, even though there is no second novel. How could Sophie MacDonald die? We cannot permit this. It was someone else's body found in the Seine. She really just went home to visit her mother for a few weeks. Yes, Larry Darrell has seen a great deal of the world, but there's so much more to see. Berlin in the 1930s. Lotte Lenya. Larry, don't spoil this marvelous adventure by settling down too soon. I had never seen Bill Murray in a dramatic role before. I was very impressed and identified completely with Larry. Very excellent movie.
The Reader (2008)
Interesting study of how someone can be drawn into participation in the false agendas of government because of fear. The story also takes a good look at the viability of long term romantic relationships where there is an age and maturity difference. Beautifully acted. Good period feel.
Red Rock West (1993)
This is an exciting suspenseful story with lots of unexpected plot twists. Nicolas Cage as Michael Williams is a quick and ready man of action. Dennis Hopper, as Lyle from Dallas, restores my faith in the idea that the Old Wild West is still with us. In this case a fancy horse and saddle are replaced by a Cadillac with horns on the hood, but that's the main difference. Very good acting here too.
This is simply a masterpiece in every way. Warren Beatty wrote, directed, and stared in it. The ultimate satisfaction that any creative artist can have. It's a true story, and has short interview responses at intervals from old people who actually knew the real characters back in 1912-1917. There are good educational insights about economics and politics starting with Jack Reed's reply to a question about why the USA is entering WWI. He stands up and simply says one word "Profits". Everybody in the room gets all atwitter and reporters chase him for further comment. Later in the film, there is much greater specificity, but it's given in small doses which is the best way to educate in movies about unpleasant realities.
Peterson Comments on the Russian Revolution
I've always despised Socialism, but when the Communist Party in Russia finally dissolved I developed a new perspective. Many had always said that Russia should have gone directly from Agricultural Feudalism to Capitalism in 1917. With no capital base, however, this would have required massive foreign ownership which is a terrible evil in itself. Seventy years of Industrial Socialism ultimately paved the way for Capitalism, which is having the "state wither away" as Marx said it would. With true Capitalism, plus Libertarian refinements, first in the USA, then Russia, and ultimately China and the Arab countries, we will have prosperity followed by peace everywhere on Earth. How long will this take?
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
This is a very grim and unhappy movie about the hard realities of drug addiction, both prescription and illegal. A forceful and visceral identification with what's going on in the story is accomplished via the masterful use of short takes, fast match-on-action cuts, and time elapse photography. A person would have to be insane to go anywhere near any drugs after seeing this movie.
The viewer is struck by how incredibly out-of-control events become once drug use is started. Values change drastically to accommodate the compromising situations incurred by usage. The capacity to rationalize what is happening increases to a level of total unreality. We see a boy whose arm is turning black with necrosis, shoot cocaine into the rottenest spot as though the mere relief of pain will fix everything. Later when the arm is more dead than alive, we see spattering blood as it's amputated with a high speed saw.
A very educational and well done movie. The way things are today, a short edited version of this with simple voice-over explanation should be shown to little kids in third grade at school.
Rich Man, Poor Man (1976)
What can be said? Falconetti, you no good bastard, leave my friends the Jordache family alone or I'll kill you myself. This, because Rudy Jordache (Peter Strauss) keeps finding excuses not to do it. Never have I seen a more scary and persistent villain than Falconetti, superbly played by William Smith. There is lots more to the story than just this particular conflict, but all this time later it's the main thing I remember about one of the first of the excellent TV miniseries that marked the high point in American filmmaking.
Rio Bravo (1959)
Most movies prior to the 1970s pander stylistically to the time period in they were made. This movie is no exception, but
is still a very enjoyable great Western classic. Two later John Wayne movies El Dorado and Rio Lobo are pretty much remakes
of this film, but there's nothing wrong with this one, especially if you're a fan of Ricky Nelson, the king of smooth crooner
coolness in the 1950s.
Rise: Blood Hunter (2007)Lucy Liu is very impressive in this strange suspenseful tale of a girl who is made a vampire and decides to take revenge on the bloodsuckers who recruited her. There is a good deal of story truth here, in that the biting and drinking of the vampires is not the neat antiseptic process we have become used to, but a disgraceful, disgusting mess with blood all over the face and clothing of both drinker and drinkee, just as it would be (or somewhere is) in real life.
The River Rat (1984)
This movie reminded me a little bit of Tom Sawyer, because of the long trip taken by Billy (Tommy Lee Jones) and Jonsy (Martha Plimpton) down the Mississippi River to New Orleans in a small boat. They are dogged at every step by a scary villain, Doc Cole (Brian Dennehy). Well acted suspenseful story.
Excellent suspenseful action drama with Patrick Swayze as Dalton, a western legend hired as a cooler to reclaim a local roadhouse, and ultimately the whole town, from crooks. Sam Eliot is very cool as Dalton's buddy, Wade Garrett, another legend who arrives on a chopper just in time. I wish more of my friends growing up had been like these two guys. Fine acting. Good music and fights.
Rob Roy (1995)
Liam Neeson is awesome in this movie. Rob Roy is a brave man of utmost integrity, but there is a more complex character, Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth). Archie is everything a man should be, and everything a man should not be. He is well educated, but also a moral moron. A brave and skillful soldier, but also a back-stabbing murderer. A charming and successful ladies man, "Love is a dunghill, Betty, and I am but a cock that climbs upon it to crow", but also a sadistic rapist.
Archie is the perfect profile of the man who has everything and just throws it away with both hands. Easy come, easy go. Archie needs badly to be killed, and Rob Roy does this for him in a very memorable scene which I will not further spoil for the viewer. This is a fine, inspiring historical piece and should be seen by all of British heritage.
Robin Hood (2010)Russel Crowe is always excellent as a stalwart hero. The story unfolds in a way I didn't expect at all. We see archer Robin Longstride during the days before he becomes the outlaw of Sherwood forest. Cate Blanchett is amazing as Marion. Her entire look and demeanor transported me back in time. Good mythological period piece.
The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone (1961)
In this movie Warren Beatty is an excellent role model for what a charming lady's man should be. He helped set the tone and style for myself and many friends during the period. We all became more fastidious about our clothing. I started carrying a silver cigarette case, and doing the sensuous-looking French inhale a bit more often than previously. Lottie Lenya is splendid as the countess smoking her Sobranie Black and Gold cigarettes. A decadent story, and yet it's nice to know that horny older women can get what they need even if by means other than their own attributes. It should never be too late to enjoy life.
Run Lola Run (1998)
This is a plot deadline movie based on quantum physics. Yes! Little things that happen in different versions of Lola's desperate time-sensitive errand radically change the final outcome, even though the particulars along the way are the same. We see just three parallel realities of the greater number that quantum physicists say are not only possible, but which actually run concurrently for all of us. Pretty far out, but thought provoking, especially if the principles are applied to one's own life history. What if...?
St Elmo's Fire (1985)
I call this the Brat Pack masterpiece. I like the story, and all the actors and actresses in it. It shares a certain chic
1980s tone and texture with many of the Brat Pack flicks, but is somehow richer and more potent than the others. It's something
about the look and characters. Whenever I think of this movie I especially think of Demi Moore as the eccentric and problematical
(but lovable) girl, Jules.
'Salem's Lot (2004)
Fine remake of Steven King's story about vampires in a small New England town. Good pastoral atmosphere. Almost made me
want to live in such a place again. There's a scene where Rob Lowe, as a returning writer, addresses a high school class.
The wording is poetic as he explains to discouraged teenagers how they should never underestimate the importance and uniqueness
of their individual human needs and feelings.
Salt (2010)If you like hard continuous action, this movie is one of the finest I've ever seen. Anjelina Jolie is an action hero in the same room with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis. So tough, and so beautiful. What a girl! I would sure feel safe with her around.
Schindler's List (1993)
True story about Oscar Schindler, who saved the lives of 1000 Polish Jews during WWII. Life is in color and feature period pieces should be too, but interesting scenes, close up shots, superb acting and directing make up for it here.
Two main stories in this very engrossing TV miniseries. The one I focus on is that of world class cocksman Spider Elliott (Barry Bostwick) who, while sewing wild oats with the beautiful fashion models he photographs, manages to postpone an inevitable love affair with a dear little sweetheart and very talented fashion designer, Valentine O'Neill (Marie-France Pisier). I say inevitable, because I too fell in love with her as I watched the story. I also read the book which is based on real life experience. The world of fashion seems to be a really heavy-duty place and is recommended for mature serious players only.
Season of the Witch (2011)
This is a very engrossing movie. It opens with a scene of huge armies facing each other. Nicholas Cage and Ron Pearlman are great, and there is a ongoing buddy story between them, watching out for each other in battles to see who buys the ale that night. There are awesome special effects, especially the demon.
Peterson Political Commentary
There is a little phony stuff about wolves being a threat to people. Animal defamation has long been a problem in movies. Bad propaganda in general has led to the wolf being hunted nearly to extinction everywhere. The summer I turned nineteen, I raised a timber wolf. I would say to her "I know that you're a cub, but you look like a puppy to me." Wolves are very much like dogs, but burdened with a great deal of rigid instinctual behavior related to hierarchy and hunting.
The Servant (1963)
This is a very sophisticated story about how the role of servant and master become reversed. I saw it in 1969. The script and acting are superb.
There's a scene when Tony (James Fox) visits a pub. There's a guitar player-singer (Davy Graham) doing background with an interesting rendition of "Rock Me Mama". He was not credited for this. Forty years later I finally followed up on Davy. It led me to some very fine music. Wish I had done it sooner.
The end of this movie is probably just the beginning in terms of story possibility, but the next chapter would be much too arcane and "last tabu" for commercial success.
The Shadow (1994)
The story and acting are excellent, but what I like best about this movie is the general look of it. Lamont Cranston's chauffeur driven limousine, a souped up Cord disguised as a taxi cab with driver. Dr. Lane's laboratory. The lighting of it. I wanted it for my own, and the imagined life that would go with it. The cigarette sign outside with a chap blowing smoke rings into the still night air. I've never seen any sign like it (closest is giant tea kettle in Boston that blows steam during Winter).
But most especially, I like the Cobalt Club. Magnificent cobalt blue and silver art deco supper club with soaring high ceiling. Dramatic open feeling, but somehow lighting makes the individual tables seem private and cozy. In the 1980s in Boston I knew a tall beautiful champagne redhead named Wilhelmina. She looked and dressed like Penelope Ann Miller in this film. Where else would I want to take her for dinner than the Cobalt Club? But I can't! Oh, no! It's only a movie! A very good movie.
Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)
I've seen three excellent versions of this story done in 1943, in 1958 called "Step Down to Terror", and in 1991 for television. All are engrossing and suspenseful because of converging plots illuminated through omniscient narration, allowing the viewer to know what the characters do not know individually. In 1991, the 1943 Alfred Hitchcock version was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
"Shane! Come back, Shane! Mother loves you, Shane!" This is one of the greatest of all westerns. Excellent story. Opulent scenery. Superb acting. Jack Palance is especially memorable as the gunfighter Wilson. He shows an almost eccentric itchiness and overly cautious demeanor around Shane, because he can instinctively sense the gunfighter in other men. "Wilson was fast, fast on the draw". But not fast enough.
Excellent exotic Marco Polo type story of shipwrecked Englishman in Seventeenth Century Japan. Offers many insights into Japanese culture, folkways, and mores. There is one surprisingly vivid scene, resulting from the Japanese literal interpretation of an English remark intended figuratively. You'll recognize it when you see it. Very well scripted and acted.
The Shootist (1976)
Without a doubt, John Wayne's best movie. Excellent story about the changing West. Carson City in 1902. Queen Victoria has just died. They are beginning to electrify the street cars. The first automobiles are putting around town. Out of the 1880s rides the renowned gunfighter J. B. Books. Tight script. Memorable dialog. Excellent acting all around.
Shutter Island (2010)This is a strange suspenseful thriller set on an island in Boston Harbor in the 1950s. Leonardo DiCaprio is great. The police officers are period classics. The scenery and weather are spectacular. Without supernaturalism this film takes you completely out of your daily routine into a completely different environment for awhile. A strange vacation for the viewer.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
I love this movie. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins set a new standard here for excellence, but I question the psychology part. In this engrossing bizarre tale, the murderous activity of a brilliant psychiatrist, Hannibal Lector, is based upon the true case history of an individual who is not, in his background, education, or any other way, the least bit like Hannibal Lector. Real psychiatrists must go through psychoanalysis themselves just to qualify for the job. Would a man who could make it as a successful shrink, end up like Hannibal Lector?
Silver Bullet (1985)
Wonderful juxtaposition of the small pastoral southern town with the frightening events which soon invade it. One morning a local railroad employee / drunkard is found mangled on the train tracks. What else would have done this, but the nightly train? With his habit of passing out all the time, this accident was really long overdue.
But it wasn't the train. It was a werewolf. A really big, unusually angry werewolf. In size he is more like a were-bear.
In the first scene where we see him, he appears at a girl's bedroom window, then disappears, then suddenly reappears, smashes
through the window casing, and comes right in after her. Then, with long claws like a bear, he just rips that girl to shreds.
Very good adaptation of the werewolf legend to America. The story is engrossing with surprising plot twists, and the acting
Please be warned that I was in this one. Only as a rock fan with no lines, but the reader is cautioned that I'm very prejudiced, because I saw so much of the good work that went into making this film.
I got a special invitation to the premiere in Las Vegas. It's fun to experience the finished product of something when you have, thus far, seen only segments. A great deal of good music got edited out. I felt bad about this, but later one of the producers cheered me up when he said that he missed the music too, but that editing has to unrelated to production in order to be sufficiently severe, or movies will end up being too long.
It's my opinion that Michele Fiore-Kaime is a very smart resourceful woman. She wrote, produced, and stared in this film. She tool it up to Park City, rented a location, and screened it during the Sundance Film Festival. Eventually she got distribution via Galactic Pictures.
The story is the best treatment I've seen of the theme about the need within marriage to give your spouse enough slack
when it comes to the most important things they need for self actualization.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)Johnny Depp is superb as usual in this strange story. I dispute, however, the wisdom of rewriting a great American classic, so that Ichabod Crane can be the police investigator needed for this tale. It would have been better to make him Ichabod's younger brother returning to Sleepy Hollow in a continuation of the original story. He wouldn't even need to be aware of the prior events involving Ichabod. We need an ethic in Hollywood, taught in the film schools, to never rewrite history or well entrenched legend, but to fictionally interact with them by augmenting and embellishing.
The Spirit of St Louis (1957)
Charles Lindbergh (Jimmy Stewart) is one of America's greatest peacetime heroes. This movies shows why. It covers the entire struggle to cross the Atlantic from New York to Paris, including the flight itself.
I'm always amazed by some of the little unrelated thins that I find charming or cool in a movie. Here it's a brief scene where Lindbergh and another man fry some fish for lunch atop a very hot industrial apparatus not intended to be a stove. I don't know why I like stuff like this, but I always do. Maybe we could call it "casual innovations punctuating lives of greatness".
Stand by Me (1986)
Excellent well acted story. Stephen King is quite accurate here about American junior high-school boys in the early 1960s. At twelve my friends and I were very much like these guys. Like a personal flashback, I too walked down the railroad tracks (in Massachusetts) with friends singing "Have Gun Will Travel". We hitchhiked everywhere, carried switchblades, smoked, had tree houses, and were beginning to experiment with booze and girls. The difference was that we didn't do the true confessions and crying episodes, but these kids had bigger problems than we did. Richard Dreyfuss does a wonderful follow-up narrative at the end
The Sting (1973)
Simply one of the best movies I've ever seen. I may be a little prejudiced because I'm in love with the 1920s and 30s, but good period feel is just one thing that makes this film so excellent. The story, dialog, and acting are superb. I always feel bad when a movie like this is over, because I become so much a part of it that I just don't want it to end.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1968)
Time and space are irrelevant in the subconscious realm. In the ninety minutes we dream at night, we can subjectively experience several years duration. Many things come into play here, including the tapping of hereditary memory encoded in DNA. We can become aware that we are dreaming, can consciously control events in the dream to some extent, and can learn to remember whatever is accomplished upon awakening. Dream creativity often greatly exceeds in quality that of the waking state. This is a tremendous resource, since dreaming constitutes a total of six years of the average person's life.
Robert Louis Stevenson was a genius. He harnessed the power of dreams to write stories. One of his best is "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde". Because of the many movie versions, we are all familiar with the territory covered by the story. I happen to like the energetic portrayal by Jack Palance best, but every version of this superior story is good, and well worth seeing.
Perhaps the biggest private personal struggle that life gives us is between what we want to do and what we think society will condemn us for doing: Nature vs Society. Desire vs Inhibition. Id vs Superego. Hyde vs Jekyll. Reptilian Complex vs Cerebral Cortex.
It is often asserted, but wrongly, that man must first learn to overcome his animal nature before he can develop his spiritual nature. The animal in man is a foundation and energy source upon which to build. One cannot be a good human without being a good animal first. Animals do not live immorally, and the task is to fully realize the glory and perfection of the animal nature while at the same time developing the intellectual and spiritual natures.
People use tobacco, alcohol, and drugs to disable the cerebral cortex so that the reptilian complex can be unimpeded. So they can let Mr. Hyde out for awhile and blame it on the drug later. When Jekyll and Hyde become friends you don't need drugs or excuses. When the two natures are finally on the same page most of life's problems disappear. Simple animal pleasure and evil are not the same thing. One of the greatest keys to being well adjusted and happy is to eliminate this false conflict. The fact that popular institutions have fed on perpetuating repression need not deter the individual in this regard.
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
Eva (Eszter Balint) is a cutie from Hungary. Very likable in the same way as Felix the Cat. She rarely speaks. You just watch her behavior and get to like her. Jim Jarmusch's minimalist approach probably softens the normal obnoxiousness of characters in general. People usually screw up the most when they speak. When they don't say anything, we try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Willie (John Lurie, a musician from the Lounge Lizards), is a likable sleazo who earns a meager living playing poker and betting on horse races. He has a friend Eddie (Richard Edson) who shares this lifestyle. These are sporting men, perhaps at the low end of the totem pole of success, but true sporting men nonetheless. A good comment one of them makes about a man, who they ask for directions on the way out of town, shows how sorry they feel for him because "it must be tough working in a factory like that".
Overcast weather prevails throughout, from the shore of Lake Eerie in Cleveland to the Atlantic Ocean in "Florida". It gives the film a soft coziness that helps to offset the grimness of poverty level surroundings. It's also easier to shoot because of even lighting.
At the end, all I can think about is further adventure. Where will these guys go next? Will Eva and Eddie have a romance? Will the guys hit it big in Atlantic City and then head for Las Vegas to consolidate their gains? Will they buy Lamborghinis?
Swing Kids (1993)
I've found over the years that the music which older people say they love best is the music they loved when they were eighteen or nineteen years old. This age offers the best balance between fierce youthful emotion and worldly adult sophistication.
When I was eighteen, my friends and I were just like the guys in this fine movie. We were well heeled and very hip to music, but not so hip that we couldn't get up and dance to it. We wore nice clothes, drove sporty cars, and pursued beautiful girls at dance halls all around Boston. Alas, it only lasted one year. As we became more deeply hip to music the dancing began to seem self-oriented and exhibitionistic. Of course at this point, we were having weekly parties with the girls we met at the dance halls, and now spent our time with them far more productively. Swing heil!
Taking Lives (2004)
Superb study of a rough-and-ready homicidal psychopath. His brilliant career of opportunistic murder spans a period of twenty years. The FBI finally stops him, but not easily.
Taxi Driver (1976)
Anachronistic masterpiece about an alienated loner who has a strange spark of heroism towards making a better world. Life is not easy for Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro). He attains a status that some might question, but which I personally feel comfortable with. You really need to see this one so you can decide for yourself. As always with De Niro and Scorsese excellent acting and directing.
There Will Be Blood (2003)
Daniel Day Lewis is more brilliant than usual in this strange story about an enigmatic oil man's rise to wealth and ultimate self-destruction. Thought provoking with very good period feel.
This Boy's Life (1993)
Authentic 1950s feel in this suspenseful well acted story about a bullying stepfather. Robert De Niro is a classic as Dwight Hansen. He has a perfect 1950s look and demeanor with crew cut, tweed jacket, and Zippo. Toby Wolff (Leonardo DiCaprio) stands up to this dry-gulching bully and the movie ends well.
This Earth is Mine (1959)
Interesting Falcon Crest type family story about the wine country during Prohibition. Lots of good California vineyard eye candy. Rock Hudson plays John Rambeau who has a son John named after him. Much later in another movie, the John Rambo played by Sylvester Stallone, mentions that he comes from the wine country. I imagine there is no connection at all here, but who knows?.
The Thorn Birds (1983)
Excellent TV miniseries spanning sixty years of problems caused by clerical celibacy for an ambitious priest, Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain). The story is set mostly in Australia, although filmed in Simi Valley California. Barbara Stanwyck is memorable as Mary Carson, a vivacious older woman attracted to the young priest. There's a scary scene hunting gigantic wild boars.
Peterson Comments on Wild Boars:
Even the small ones will always attack ferociously when provoked. Any hunter will tell you that they are the most persistent (pig-headed) of all animals in their effort to get even with you. You will die from the infection even if they don't kill you on the spot, and you better have lots of bullets because they need a lot of killing.
3:10 to YumaIn this remake we have a standard suspenseful western plot of good guys trying to get a bad guy, Ben Wade, onto a train heading to prison, and how the bad guy has a good many capable gang members who work very hard to keep this from happening. This is where the standard part ends. This film is also an excellent, fairly deep character study of how an intelligent bad guy has his good side and his own complex reasons for doing bad things. Perfect for the profound acting talents of Russell Crowe. I hated to see what happened to the main good guy, Dan Evans (Christian Bale), but despite this there is good story set-up for a sequel. Sure hope they make one. I’ll watch it.
A Time to Kill (1996)
Engrossing drama about problems in the rural south. Deals with very basic issues about the sometimes big difference between due process of law and true justice. Good script and locations with a large cast of fine actors who do their job very well.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
In 1932, Attorney Atticus Finch, defends a sharecropper against false rape charges in rural Alabama. The film is narrated through the eyes of Scout, daughter of Atticus Finch, now grown and remembering back to childhood.
Book and script develop the small pastoral southern town theme so that the audience is charmed, delighted, or even envious of the magical quality of Scout's childhood. Via juxtaposition, every event after this seems very large. For example, the rabid dog coming down the street seems like Godzilla coming out of the sea.
I haven't seen this film for twenty five years, but I remember how the facial expressions of the children are used to develop the story. I especially remember the curious expressions of Cousin Dill, who seems at first like a frail indoor type kid, but turns out to be a really cool and likable little guy who I would want on my team in any venture. At the climax there are very effective shots of trees swaying in the night wind with long street light shadows cast by the branches. This gives a eerie and suspenseful backdrop to the action.
Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)
This is a really engrossing and very strange movie. In many ways it's like David Lynch's masterpiece "Blue Velvet". I don't say this just because Isabella Rossellini is in both, but this may have first triggered me to notice the other similarities. The two movies almost comprise a sub-genre unto themselves. I'll leave further refinement of this premise to the individual viewer.
The strangeness here is almost funny at times. There's a scene where Tim Madden (Ryan O'Neil) finds a woman's head in his
hidden marijuana bag. Later another scene where two guys haul the headless woman's naked body up out of a pickle barrel at
the end of a rope just to show it off like a Halloween porch ornament. There are many other complexities and a happy ending.
I was scheduled for the production callback on a small role in this film. The first weekend of shooting my agent lost the gig to another agency because too many of her background people canceled. I therefore watched this movie with a broken heart, but must say they did a fine job, even without me. The story has good plot twists, the acting is excellent, and I always enjoy seeing all the Vegas action I miss by not being a gambler.
Twilight (2008)I like these movies, from the story content to the dark brooding weather of Washington State. The story is a bold revisionist treatment of the vampire genre. We find the vampire gift / affliction as more of a physical condition to be managed than something determining the state of the individual's soul. Edward Cullen is a good guy who cares about the long term well being of his girlfriend, Bella Swan. The werewolf, Jacob Black, is another good guy in love with Bella. Usually I disapprove of tampering with legend, but America is a long way from Europe. Maybe here vampires and werewolves can be good guys and adversaries.
2012 (2009)This is a magnificently produced modern day Noah's Ark story. John Cusack is great, and his character, Jackson Curtis, is very lucky to survive at all, as he moves through the terrible dangers of this exciting story. The special effects are a tribute to the industry. The ending is not very encouraging though. Other than complete annihilation, it's the worst possible thing that could happen. A Swiss mathematician friend of mine tells me that scientists estimate that the survival of only the African Continent would set back human evolution two hundred and thirty thousand years. I won't dispute of defend his figures, but I still think it was a lousy ending pandering to phony limp wristed Socialist viewpoints about race.