Friday, November 23, 2018

Movies Since Last Time

Following up on clearing out the backlog of movies I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

The Constant Gardener (2005) I forget why this was on the Netflix queue but I’m glad it was. Ralph Fiennes was outstanding (as always) in this adaptation of a John leCarré novel on the effects of Big Pharma in the developing world. A seamless blending of love story and political statement, director Fernando Meirelles weaves the flashbacks in Jeffrey Caine’s script in such a manner that interest is heightened with no added confusion. Fiennes and Rachel Weisz have an odd chemistry that suits the two main characters perfectly. A film that deserves more attention than it receives.

Seven Days in May (1964) A good old-fashioned John Frankenheimer political thriller based on the blockbuster novel by Charles W. Bailey and Fletcher Knebel III as adapted by Rod Serling. An A-List cast including Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Frederic March, Edmund O’Brien, Ava Gardner, and Martin Balsam give this oldie but goodie impact 54 years after its premier and is still a timely reminder of how fragile democracy can be.

Silent Movie (1976) Mel Brooks is a national treasure. Here he revisits every sight gag from the golden age of silent comedies and invents a few of his own. Brooks plays director Mel Funn, who drank his way out of the movie business. With his two goofy “associates” (Dom DeLuise and Marty Feldman), Funn proposes an idea to save the studio to magnate Sid Caesar: a silent movie with the world’s biggest stars. In 1976 there were no bigger gets than Burt Reynolds, James Caan, Liza Minelli, Anne Bancroft, or Paul Newman, and that’s who Brooks got. (Bancroft was easy. She and Brooks were married.) Famed mime Marcel Marceau makes a cameo and has a nifty surprise. If you haven’t seen this one you should, even if you’re too young to remember what a big deal all these actors were.

The Nice Guys (2016) I don’t care if it died at the box office; I like this movie. A lot. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have a chemistry that’s right for their roles even if most critics didn’t think so. They’re supposed to have rough edges that bump up against each other. A Shane Black film worthy of the name, and keep an eye open for young Australian actor Angourie Rice.

Ocean’s 8 (2017) So long as one doesn’t try to make too much of them, the Ocean movies are fun and this is no exception. The all-woman crew led by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchette has a ball and the gags all work, so long as one isn’t dissecting them. (Which one can never do in any caper movie.) And it’s only fair after women got to see George and Brad that we men get to spend some quality time with Sandra and Cate.

The Hunt for Red October (1990) There’s something about submarine movies and this is a good one. Alec Baldwin plays Jack Ryan the way Tom Clancy wrote him, as a young man in over his head making do with smarts and balls. Sean Connery conveys all the gravitas the Russian commander needs, and the supporting cast of Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Stellan Skaarsgard, Jeffrey Jones, Fred Dalton Thompson, and others plays off each other with aplomb. It’s a shame John McTiernan is such a shitgibbon because no one made better action movies (Die Hard and Predator come to mind right away).

Becket (1964) Edward Anhalt’s adaptation of Jean Anouilh and Lucienne Hill’s play of the political and personal drama between English King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) and his best friend turned antagonist Thomas Becket (Richard Burton.) Two magnificent actors given a worthy script that resulted in Oscar nominations for both actors (plus a supporting nod for John Gielgud as the king of France) and an Oscar win for screenwriter Anhalt. Factually flawed, the film still captures the gist of the history and well within the confines of having only 2:28 in which to tell the story. Two hours 28 minutes may seem like a long movie when all that happens is talking, but Becket shows how propulsive “just talking” can be when done at this level. Highest marks.


Scott D. Parker said...

I, too, really, really loved THE NICE GUYS. I think the moment when Gosling punches through the window and then is sickened by his own blood was the moment I knew I'd love this film. The rest of the movie just reinforced it. Their chemistry is dripping from the screen. Would love a sequel, but also adore this one-and-done movie. Wife and her sister wasn't sure what I had taken them to when we first saw it...but loved it by the movie's end. We own the DVD and have seen it...2-4 times.

J.D. Rhoades said...

Hunt For Red October is my go-to "comfort" movie. Silent Movie is Mel's most underrated picture. And Becket...Peter O'Toole AND Richard Burton? Yes, please.

Elgin Bleecker said...

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY is a great film. I’ve seen it several times and it always holds up, always grabs me. I have an old paperback of it, but never read it because the movie is so overpowering. BTW, I always liked Edmond O’Brien’s performance as the boozy senator. You know what – I need to see this one again. Hope TCM shows it soon.