Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Movies Since Last Time

This is the summer of Western research for me, so my movie choices lean heavily in that direction. It’s also got me watching a lot more movies than usual, so I’ll add to this list next time.

3:10 to Yuma (2007) Quite a bit different from Elmore Leonard’s original story but, like Get
Shorty, the director (James Mangold) and the screenwriters (Halsted Welles, Derek Haas, and Michael Brandt) knew how much to keep along with what and how much to change to stay true to the spirit of the story. A first-rate cast is led by Russell Crowe and Christian Bale with excellent supporting work by Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, a frightening Ben Foster, and young Logan Lerman as Bale’s son. The easy Hollywood ending is eschewed and The Beloved Spouse™ and I debated Crowe’s final motivations afterward, but it was the kind of debate that reflected a feeling we were discussing what it was that made an actual person do something, not dismissing a character’s facile change to make a plot point. Not quite a transcendent Western in the mold of Unforgiven or The Wild Bunch, but damned good.

Wonder Woman (2017) As anyone who knows me on Facebook can attest, I don’t do comic book movies. I’ve also been recently burned by the action genre with Fate of the Furious.
Still, Wonder Woman received such buzz on multiple levels I couldn’t refuse the pleas of The Beloved Spouse™ to check it out. Yes, it’s a comic book movie, but the universe building doesn’t clank too badly and the performances are all outstanding. Gal Gadot nails Wonder Woman and Chris Pine is outstanding as Steve Trevor. (I’m still trying to decide who some of his deliveries remind me of. It’s someone I like, so it’s a compliment.) Particularly gratifying is the filmmakers’ willingness to make Trevor a valuable assistant, but only for things Wonder Woman couldn’t do herself. (Negotiating her way to and through England, getting to the front, and various bits of information she needed and could not otherwise have gotten.) None of it was remotely like, “he’s a man and she’s a woman so he has to handle this bad guy.” (Or open this jar or be smarter or whatever.)  All told, an enjoyable couple of hours with my baby. The sequel is negotiable.

The Hero (2017) Any woman past the age of 50 who claims Sam Elliott isn’t on her List™ can’t be trusted to tell the truth about anything. One of the coolest people alive, playing what
was billed as the role of a lifetime, how could we not go? Well, this’ll teach me not to be so hasty in the future. Elliott gets a few good lines, and his speech at the award ceremony made things worthwhile, but that’s about it. The move—sorry; I’m sure its auteur would want it described as a “film”—hints at several plot developments that would have been more interesting than what he chose, then follows none of them. The actors do their best, but the end result plays like someone in his 30s or early 40s who wanted to make a movie about facing one’s mortality without even having known anyone well who faced it. By the end it just didn’t pass the “So what?” test.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) Not quite sure what to make of this noir Western. There’s
nothing wrong with it, though the ending is a bit flat. That may be because I expected a little different movie. Not that I’m sure what I expected, but the film takes a while to settle into its mood and never does seem all that comfortable with it. The performances are excellent, and it’s definitely worth watching for what I expect is as close to an authentic look at the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the 20th Century as you’re likely to find. I’ve also come to appreciate it a lot more since the next movie I saw was

Nevada Smith (1966) which is exactly the kind of Western I was hoping to stay away from, a bit of formulaic tripe that is not helped by 35-year-old Steve McQueen playing what is supposed to be a 16-year-old kid with revenge on his mind. Full of holes and dubious
A 16-year-old boy?
propositions throughout, and the ending stinks. (Spoiler alert.) McQueen seriously wounds Karl Malden, the man he’s been chasing the whole movie. When Malden taunts him to “finish me off,” McQueen’s character finally takes the words of a priest to heart and spares him, with the parting words, “You’re not worth killing.” So he leaves the seriously wounded man to die in a cold stream alone in the mountains. Not that Malden’s character didn’t deserve it, but that’s what passed for compassion in the 60s. (It also didn’t help that the movie I was looking for was Tom Horn but couldn’t remember the title.)


pattinase (abbott) said...

My husband thanks you for saving him from THE HERO.

Dana King said...

He's more than welcome.

Don Donovan said...

Looking for TOM HORN but wound up with NEVADA SMITH instead? That'll learn ya to drink that memory juice every day.