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 Unforgiven (1992)

A retired gunslinger, Bill Munny, is called back into action on a heroic quest to avenge young whores slashed by drunken cowboys. Bill is joined by a young amateur, "The Schofield Kid", and his old partner, Ned. There's a Jekyll-Hyde mechanism here with alcohol, because Bill did most of his earlier killing when very drunk and doesn't remember much about it.

There was a good makeup man on this one. Bill Munny with deep shoe cuts on his face, swigging on a bottle of whiskey, watching the town from a distance, is an image I will not soon forget. A sadistic sheriff, Little Bill Daggett, gave him this kicking at gunpoint and badly needs killing. There's a spectacular gunfight at the end. Bill Munny guns down Daggett and several other men like metal ducks in a shooting gallery. The ability to read people is an important characteristic for survival in any fighter, especially a gunfighter, and works like precognition. A penny dreadful reporter, W. W. Beauchamp, wonders about this, and asks Bill how he knows what order to shoot people in when there are so many. Bill says that he doesn't really know, but that he's just always been lucky about sequence.

Bill retires to San Francisco with his two children and prospers in dry goods. I was hoping he would marry up with the nice blond girl, Delilah, but I reckon he didn't. This is an excellent movie and adds yet another volume to the fine collection of Clint Eastwood's splendid westerns.



The Untouchables

The Untouchables (1987)

This is a totally excellent movie, but completely disemboweled by a bogus rewrite of history. Would we tolerate a story which tried to tell us that George Washington was really a renegade Hindu Swami living incognito in America to avoid the Thugee Faction in India? Of course not, so why should we tolerate rewrites about 20th Century American gangsters. This is our history too.

The real spoiler for me here is that, the part I know is false, makes me doubt all the rest of the details. Billy Drago plays a cool and more stylish version of Frank Nitti. That part is fine. We want characters to look good. But this movie has Eliot Ness push Nitti off a roof to his death while Al Capone is still on trial. As we all know, the real history of these events is the following:

In 1931 Frank Nitti and Al Capone were both convicted of federal income tax evasion. Nitti got eighteen months, Capone eleven years. Nitti was released in 1932. Everyone called him boss under Capone, but he was really a front man. Paul Ricca seemed outwadly to be Nitti's lieutenant, but both Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky would deal only with him as the real boss of the Capone Organization.


The Usual Suspects (1995)

A complex plot difficult to fathom because Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) is not a reliable narrator for the viewer. He's a career criminal in the process of outwitting Dave Kujan of U.S. Customs (Chazz Palminteri) with a complex mixture of lies and truth.

In the beginning is a "director's view" of a ship blowing up. All of our flashback views of what allegedly happened to cause this are just Kint's version on screen as he relates the story. Most of the narration is tied only to Kint's viewpoint, even when he is not in the scene. At intervals we get important information, that Kint does not have, from a burned man in a hospital. This adds the suspense of converging plots.

At the end we get Kujan's viewpoint briefly in a very good scene where he suddenly figures it all out (The "Aha Effect") and then goes running out after Kint (aka Keyser Söze) who he has just released. Then back to Kint escaping, the camera tied to his action, as we also see Kujan just miss him get away in the inconspicuous little blue sedan. The story is a masterful mixture of the restricted narration from Kint with omniscient narration from the others mentioned.



Van Helsing

Van Helsing (2004)

This movie is not at all what I expected, and would call it a bewilderingly complicated linking of many subplots. I found the story very hard to follow, but this doesn't matter too much since it's mostly action anyway, a continuous exhibition of special effects. I enjoyed watching this film, but that's all. For some reason I expected to gain insight, to be deeply impressed, but neither happened for me. There just didn’t seem to be very much to get my teeth into intellectually or spiritually.

First we find out that the Catholic Church has been putting hits on evil creatures for a long time. Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) works in their assassination division like a Victorian Era James Bond. In this episode they have a contract out on Count Vladislaus Dracula (Richard Roxburg). I assume that there is some connection of kinship between this current hero and the Abraham Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's Dracula, but I don't know what it is. I may have missed it.

Carl (David Wenham), a Friar, reminds me of the ordinance man at headquarters with James Bond. He walks Van Helsing around explaining all the high tech gadgetry available to him in the field. There is some really neat stuff which reminds me of the Victorian high tech gadgetry on the old TV show "The Wild Wild West". The functional difference here is that some of the items work supernaturally as though gifts from God. For example, a powerful crossbow that can keep firing arrows with no limit. Van Helsing takes this item. I could certainly make good use of a slightly smaller version that would fit easily into my briefcase.

The Frankenstein monster (Shuler Hensley) is fairly standard. He reminds me a little of the Peter Boyle version in "Young Frankenstein". Mr Hyde (Robbie Coltrane) is like an ogre on steroids. He's way too big and ugly and has a very deep voice which I’ve heard somewhere before. Starting with Hyde, I couldn't see most of the action because it was shot primarily in the dark. Real life, even with supernatural creatures, has far better lighting than most of this film. Why so dark? Maybe to make the subject matter seem all the more so. The special effects I did see are interesting, but the creatures move much too fast. Says me, but they are after all, supernatural creatures, so I suppose super-fast is appropriate as well.

In Transylvania, Van Helsing is joined by another vampire slayer, Princess Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale). Her interest in the quest is to lift a curse of the undead from her family, one of whom must kill Dracula. Dracula's brides are pale and ghastly with fangs always apparent. They have big white wings like angels, fly really well, and remind me more of Valkyries than vampires. At times they seem slightly transparent like ghosts. Count Dracula himself is young and healthy looking. Pink cheeks and no pallor.

The Wolfman (Will Kemp) is my favorite. He's charcoal gray, huge, ferocious, and totally awesome to behold. You don't mess with this guy. Besides the claws, his teeth alone are six inches long. Get out of line with this fellow and he will take your head off like a cherry off a cupcake.

Things happen at the end with Anna Valerious, but I'm not telling. Good ending, but see for yourself.



Wall Street

Wall Street (1987)

This is a very exciting and interesting movie. We see lifestyles and sexy women, but ethics are dealt with here as well. As a Libertarian and Capitalist, the address of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) to the Teldar Paper stockholders marks one of the great moments in motion picture history.

From the script:

...greed is good. Greed works,
greed is right. Greed clarifies,
cuts through, and captures the
essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed in all its forms, greed for life,
money, love, knowledge, has marked
the upward surge of mankind, and
greed, mark my words, will save
not only Teldar Paper but that
other malfunctioning corporation
called the USA... Thank you.

Whether in real life, a man who would say these wonderful things, would also make the bad moves that Gekko made with Blue Star Airlines is beyond my specific ability to report. I would like to think that he would not. I do know, however, that a very good friend of the USA, Margaret Thatcher, proudly displays the character Gordon Gekko among her top MySpace Friends.



Money Never Sleeps

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

I love it when good closure, to a really good story, is given as a sequel a long time later. It gives a nice feeling of continuity to life in general. It’s great to see Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) finally get out of prison and get on with his inspiring Capitalist activity. We see Bud Fox again, but only briefly at a party. This is a completely different story and has a very happy ending for everybody who deserves it.



War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds (2005)

Tom Cruise is excellent in this updated adaptation the Orsen Welles story about the invasion of Earth by aliens. The plot is engrossing, the special effects realistic, and a scientifically plausible ending.



Warlock

Warlock (1989)

To me the Warlock (Julian Sands) comes across as a stylish hero in a world full of weaklings and fools. It's difficult to see why one so superior should want to undue creation. For such a person there is endless opportunity afforded by being a wolf among sheep. Why hate them just for being sheep? All that is necessary for worldwide perfection is to set creation back on an evolutionary path, not to start over from scratch.

Of course, the Warlock is supposed to be evil, and therefore wants to spoil everything. Trouble is that most of the idiots he would obliterate are nearly as evil as he makes himself by killing the few good people on the planet along with them. ...too much analysis from Peterson here. This is a very engrossing and well acted movie. Probably better to just react emotionally as you watch, and enjoy it your own way.


 

The Werewolf (1913)

The first werewolf movie. The only film based on the American Indian werewolf legend. A real wolf was used in the transformation sequences which are done with simple camera dissolves.

A Navajo woman, thinking she was abandoned by her husband who was actually killed, becomes a witch. She teaches the craft to her daughter Watuma who transforms herself into a wolf and takes vengeance against invading white settlers. One hundred years after Watuma dies she returns from the dead to kill again.



White Mischief

White Mischief (1987)

This movie showcases the comfortable elegance of British decadence in pre WWII Kenya. To me the murder story here seems ancillary to the atmosphere of the setting and the lifestyle of the inhabitants. I wanted to be part of it because the women were fetching and adventurous, even the middle aged ones. It excited my imagination. From what I've read about the beautiful land and splendid climate in this part of Kenya, it's easy to understand why there would be a British colony there.

This movie strikes home somewhat because I was once captivated by a very beautiful wealthy woman who lived for a long while among the elite of Kenya during the 1970s. She looked like Greta Garbo, her hair was styled just like one of the ladies in the movie, and during the time she was in Kenya she had a pet Cheetah. I'd like to think that life there for her was probably not very different than in the early 40s, as portrayed by this excellent movie.

White Oleander (2002)

Ingrid Magnussen (Michele Pfeiffer) is everything a tough minded and loving man would want in a woman. She's beautiful, self supporting, healthy, liberated, intelligent, talented, and very developed spiritually. The perfect woman in every way except for one fatal flaw - murderous jealousy. This is a total contradiction to the rest of her character. Such a woman should not be more than lightly affected by infidelity in a lover. She's worth too much for any kind of self doubt or deprecation, but love is not rational. Alison Lohman is charming as Ingrid's daughter Astrid, and is really the main character of the story. 

 

The Wicker Man (2006)

I usually enjoy Nicholas Cage movies. This is a suspenseful and engrossing one. It gives Pagan and Heathen religion something of a black eye, but not in any malicious or nagging way. I enjoyed the story in spite of this. The eye candy of British Columbia is a big plus and the ending is very strange and visually memorable.



The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

We identify with movies for many reasons. For this one, here's mine: October 30, 1977, preceded by a month of mandatory celibacy, I was privileged to enjoy a thirty six hour interlude with three beautiful Witches from Salem MA. In the same variety: blond, brunette, redhead. Years later when I saw this movie, I jokingly wrote in my personal journal "Perhaps there is some ancient precedent here which I am merely fulfilling."

I was in a hotel in the theater district of Boston across from the Music Hall when they were doing the interior mansion shots. I saw the vehicles and asked the cop what was going on. He said "Jack Nicholson is inside shooting The Witches of Eastwick." This piqued my desire to see the film. A friend of mine had a similar experience in Ipswich at the Crane Estate where they were doing the exterior mansion shots. The rest was done at Tanglewood in Lenox.

My favorite scene is where Jack plays violin for Susan Sarandon and then she gets horny playing cello. I found it very intense and excellent, but only one of many wonderful scenes. This is a really superb movie. Comedic, but heavy enough to be very cool. P.S. I have since read the book. Accurately conveyed in it's basic environment, but I liked the movie ending better.



Wolf

Wolf (1994)

What's interesting here is the way that becoming a werewolf helps floundering businessman Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) become more energetic and competitive with greatly heightened senses. All this leads to a romantic relationship with his boss's beautiful sexy young daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer). Very interesting and appealing story. Truly the stuff of normal wish fulfillment for human males.


The Wolf Man (1941)

A really likable Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns to his ancestral home in Wales after living for a long time in America - script accommodates accent. Right away Larry gets bitten by a werewolf and many social difficulties soon follow.

The scene I like best is one pertaining to folklore. The mother of the werewolf who bit Larry, an old gypsy woman named Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), mysteriously tells Larry what will happen as the moon approaches fullness, how he will see in his palm the sign of the pentagram, how he will go upon all fours and become as a wolf. Very good scripting.



Working Girl

Working Girl (1988)

This is the movie that made me fall in love with Melanie Griffith. A real American sweetheart is this very special girl, Tess McGill. Sexy, but also loving and good. I'm usually more attracted to evil women, not because they are evil, but because evil women are usually just sexier. Probably something to do with emotional inaccessibility, for example, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), in this same movie. Nice story. Well acted. An interesting look at business in New York City, reminding me in this regard, of "Valley of the Dolls". Good use of theme song "New Jerusalem".

Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992)

This is a splendid TV series showing all the boyhood situations that made Indy into the man of steel he grew up to be. It's a wonderful look at much of what was best in the early Twentieth Century. Unfortunately I didn't see all the episodes, but interesting ones that stand out in mind are about Ernest Hemingway, about the Theosophists Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, and about Freud, Jung, and Adler arguing the fine points of psychoanalysis at the dinner table. Indy leads a very enviable life in his formative years and later too.



The Young Philadelphians

The Young Philadelphians (1959)

This is a fine melodrama about the moral dilemmas faced by an ambitious young attorney, Anthony Judson Lawrence (Paul Newman), in Main Line Philadelphia during the late 1950s. The acting througout is impressive. Well conceived dialog produces many memorable exchanges, such as the courtroom cross examination of butler George Archibald (Richard Deacon) about "Royal Tartan Scotch". This movie, Newman's "From the Terrace", Troy Donahue's "Parrish", and George Peppard's "The Carpetbaggers" provided inspiring role models for young men in the early 1960s just before all the phony drug nonsense got started. I wish there had been more movies like them.



Young Sherlock Holmes

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

This one is simply a masterpiece. Everything about it. Story. Dialog. Acting. Costumes. Settings. For example: Horse drawn carriages everywhere. A busy street in Victorian London at dusk when it's snowing. Windows illuminated by gas light. A portly gentleman goes into a fine restaurant and orders a nice game bird. The sumptuous bird with gravy is brought to his table, the waiter serves it up and leaves. The delighted man begins to cut with knife and fork. Suddenly the bird comes alive and attacks, growing larger, monstrous, and very angry, pecking mercilessly at the screaming man's bleeding face. Totally realistic, and only one of many astounding scenes in this really fine atmospheric film.

More at story, we learn the roots of Holmes's lifelong relationships with Professor Moriarty and John Watson. There is also his tragic romance with a beautiful young girl, Elizabeth Hardy. Nobody with European roots should miss seeing this splendid classic.