Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Movies Since Last Time

It’s been a while since I recapped the movies seen here at Castle Schadenfreude, long enough that I’m going to break this up into two bite-sized chunks. (Editor’s Note: It is not incidental that this also means two separate blog post slots filled.) (Author’s Note: Sue me, you persnickety prick.)

Black Mass (2015) I read the book so I knew the Whitey Bulger story and it’s a good thing, as this would have been hard to follow otherwise. Johnny Depp does his usual submersion into a character, this time as cold a gangster as has ever drawn breath, a man whose soul has no bottom. Part of the problem is that Joel Edgerton, tasked with playing corrupt FBI agent John Connolly, doesn’t measure up against Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey’s brother Billy, president of the Massachusetts State Senate and later president of the University of Massachusetts. It’s not all Edgerton’s fault. The writing is clunky in parts and the dialog doesn’t exactly sing. Even Kevin Bacon looks uncomfortable. Black Mass is a reasonably accurate depiction of Whitey Bulger’s story, but it’s not a particularly good movie.

Tombstone (1993) I need to watch this every couple of years or so. Not a great movie, and my Western research shows the depiction of Wyatt Earp and Josie Marcus isn’t quite kosher, but the portrayal of the relationships between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday is spot on, as are all the performances by Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, and Bill Paxton. Val Kilmer has had a fine career, if a little slow lately, but he’ll always be known as Doc Holliday, and he should be proud of that. It’s a career-making performance.

All the President’s Men (1976) Still compelling, even though we all know how it comes out. There are always little things I notice in this film that I missed before, often because of the different historical context. Among the things that struck me this time is how Bob Woodward is able to get people to talk to him the way they do, holding Mark Felt’s name private for over thirty years. His word is golden, as is this movie.

Legend (2015) We were going to watch Trumbo but saw this on the previews and shifted gears mid-stream. (Tonight’s entrée: Metaphor Gumbo.) Tom Hardy plays both of London’s infamous Kray brothers, 60s gangsters so nasty I’d even heard of them. A good rise and fall movie, with Hardy’s outstanding performances carrying the day.

Spotlight (2015) A film everyone should have to watch every few years, lest we forget, especially in light of recent news that the Catholic Church hasn’t cleaned up its act as much as they would have you believe. First rate cast led by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel MacAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci, and nary a frame wasted. If you’re not mesmerized while watching and freshly outraged for several days afterward, there’s something wrong with you.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) I hope I never get too old to want to watch this, and to laugh at it. If I do, may I encounter the most foul-tempered rodent you ever laid eyes on, with big pointy teeth.

L.A. Confidential (1997) Yes, again. And immediately after Monty Python. This is the kind of thing that happens when you live in an anarcho-syndicalist commune where we take it in turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs (Editor’s Note: Get on with it!) Right, then.

Absence of Malice (1981) A different perspective on investigative journalism, especially when it’s not done well, as reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field) is duped into reporting a bogus federal investigation that ruins the life of Michael Gallagher (Paul Newman) and leads to the suicide of Teresa Perrone (Melinda Dillon). The newspaper is careful to stay on the safe side of libel—hence the title—and Newman takes matters into his own hands. A fine film top to bottom,
capped off by Wilford Brimley’s Hall of Fame-caliber scene as the Deputy Attorney General sent down to find out “what in the good Christ…is goin' on around here.”

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