Monday, January 11, 2016

Movies Since Last Time

Hmmm, and it’s been a while since I listed the movies I watched. Let’s get right to it because several of these are really good. True, one blew, but what are you gonna do?

Life of Crime (2014). Based on Elmore Leonard’s The Switch, this is one of the more successful
Leonard adaptations. Not as good as the Big Three (Jackie Brown, Get Shorty, Out of Sight), but well done and true to the tone of Leonard’s book. The cast of Jenifer Aniston, Yasmin Bey (a/k/a Mos Def), John Hawkes, and Tim Robbins (all well supported by Isla Fisher, Will Forte, and Sons of Anarchy’s Mark Boone, Junior) play just the right mixtures of avarice and dim-wittedness. Screenwriter/director Daniel Schecter knew enough to leave Leonard’s dialog as intact as possible, doesn’t try to make too much of anything, and pulls it off well. Not a classic, but 98 minutes well spent.

Escape From New York (1981). I had my way with this one here.

The Magnificent Seven (1960). It’s a classic, and it still holds up. As I’m sure most of you know, this is a remake of The Seven Samurai, and a product of the bridge era between horse operas
and the more realistic Westerns that started to pick up speed in the 60s. (Not that there were none before that, but realism was not the primary quality associated with Westerns until the revisionist filmmakers—notably San Peckinpaugh and Sergio Leone, followed by others including Clint Eastwood, picked up the ball.) For years known as much for Elmer Bernstein’s soundtrack and remarkably prescient casting (Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, and a young Steve McQueen supported by then relatively unknowns such as James Coburn, Charles Bronson, and Robert Vaughn), the story holds up as an exploration of differing concepts of honor. Loaded with archetypes that (almost) always manage to stay away from cliché, one doesn’t have to be a fan of Westerns to appreciate The Magnificent Seven. (Stay away from the sequels, though. They suck.)

L.A. Confidential (1997). Among the small handful of best crime fiction films. Not a missed beat:
direction, screenplay (Brian Helgeland’s finest moment, and he did Mystic River), casting, acting. Damn near a perfect movie.

Romancing the Stone (1984). Not as good as I remembered it from its original release, but not a waste of time, either. Fluff, a semi-parody of romance novels that could have been held together better, but the audience it was intended for wasn’t about to notice too much of that.

The Big Lebowski (1998). First half of the New Year’s Eve double feature with The Beloved Spouse. One of my comfort movies. We watch it at least once a year and laugh just as hard every time.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). The second half of the New Year’s Eve twin bill. It’s been a while since last time, but it won’t be again. It is a silly film, but our anarcho-syndicalist commune need not waste time at its semi-weekly meetings to ratify another watching of this one.

Spy Game (2001). Robert Redford is the retiring spymaster and Brad Pitt is his protégé who may have gone rogue. There’s internal CIA intrigue and plenty of twists but, by the end, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Enjoyable throughout, it ends and one is left with a “So what?” feeling.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). A plot Donald Westlake would have been proud
of as four over-their-heads buddies try to raise half a million pounds they were cheated out of at cards. You can see most of what's going to shake out fifteen minutes before the end and have no idea how it’s going to happen. Writer/director Guy Ritchie does a masterful job of keeping things moving through dry wit and intersecting plot lines. Great fun.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I've seen all of these but Life of Crime. I remember liking most of them too, though I've never been a fan of Monty Python and it took two Lebowski watchings to decide I like it. Your review of Escape From New York borders on blasphemy, though. I'll need to re-watch to confirm, which I've been meaning to after seeing Russell lately in both The Hateful Eight and Bone Tomahawk.