Film Diary, Jan. 1- 14, 2017

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What I watched in the past few weeks.

Looked at Mystic River again because it was handy and from there spent the first weeks of 2017 in a Clint Eastwood binge, not that I’m complaining. Mostly movies he directed, which if I’m summing up in a few words: genuine, unembellished, heartfelt looks at flawed and stubborn characters.

The Clint-fest:

  • Mystic River, forgot how good this was. Noir about tragically intertwined lives and yet another great Dennis Lehane adaptation (The Drop might be an overlooked one of those, see it please). Showy roles and deserved attention for the men but just as good are Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden, and all these Clint-directed ones have juicy women’s roles, no matter how short.
  • Million Dollar Baby was new to me– super, devastating pulp-noir tearjerker, Hillary Swank was so good. “This is my fighter.”
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales, is out for vengeance but constantly gathers admirers and builds new communities wherever he goes. Wonderful exchange between Josey and the Comanche chief Ten Bears as they negotiate a truce and become blood brothers.
  • Pale Rider, is a nice Shane-type story. I loved the scenes with John Russell and his deputies all lined up, terrorizing a poor miner and earning themselves a showdown with Clint’s “Preacher.”
  • American Sniper, the high cost of machismo and a special talent for killing.
  • Honkytonk Man, another new to me, loved Clint’s natural, funny performance. A real tearjerker with nice work by Clint’s son Kyle and John McIntire.
  • White Hunter, Black Heart is fascinating whether or not you know the backstory and the ways it’s “about” John Huston, but it’s just as compelling a look at any ego, obsession and independent spirit.
  • Dirty Harry is timeless, always great. Now I need to ask myself one question and see if I feel lucky going through the Callahan sequels or digging into unseen Don Siegel movies in my collection. Every time I watch DH I see the influence Andrew Robinson’s standout unhinged villain had on the flashy psycho-killers that came after, including The Jokers and Lecter.

Other movies:

  • The Public Defender stars Richard Dix as a rich playboy with a secret vigilante identity and resourceful sidekicks (brains Boris Karloff and brawn Paul Hurst). “The Reckoner,” as Dix’s character is known, is on a mission to clear the name of his love interest’s father in a corporate swindle and frameup.
  • Punisher: War Zone was brutally, cartoonishly violent, totally fit that comic, and was a lot more fun than I expected, mainly thanks to perfectly cast Ray Stevenson.
  • Creatures the World Forgot, I assumed there were actually creatures in this and maybe Hammer forgot them. Slow-ish and no dialogue, but an interesting caveman family rivalry saga.
  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), another perfect thriller that never gets old, from the cast to David Shore’s music to that last scene and expression on Matthau’s face. Saw the 2009 version back in October, no comparison.
  • Gold Diggers of 1933 was my pre-Code TCM pick for January.
  •  The Neon Demon pace was like watching a gorgeous surrealist painting dry. Hypnotic foreboding visuals and music, liked the premise and Keanu Reeves’ work. Not for the faint of heart with its macabre look at hypocrisy and artificiality in modelling (and life, and art), exposed when the rapid rise of wholesome and genuine new It girl (Elle Fanning) upsets her cutthroat competition.
  • High-Rise, anarchy and stylish chaos as the hierarchy breaks down and different classes raid each other’s floors in “The Architect’s” (Jeremy Irons) towering social experiment. I thought it dragged a bit once things fell apart but overall I liked it, especially the sick humour and great cast. Haven’t read the Ballard novel it’s based on.
  • The Shallows. I’m a fan of Jaume Collet-Serra’s high-tension minimalist action thrillers (Non-Stop, The Orphan, Run All Night, and yes I even like House of Wax); here he wrings great suspense out of the basic concept of monster shark vs. woman. Chomped on, and trapped on a rock in the ocean, luckily medical student Blake Lively’s got the resourcefulness of the best final girls, plus moral support from feathered friend Steven Seagull. If you complain about overlong movies, this one is 86 minutes.
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27 thoughts on “Film Diary, Jan. 1- 14, 2017”

  1. The Shallows didn’t work for me. Too many conveniences. Enjoyed Neon Demon, especially the style, but it wasn’t … palatable. In my opinion, the best Eastman movies are Iwo Jima and Gran Torino.

    1. Shallows was just the popcorn I needed after more taxing High-Rise and Neon, and palatable was a very good word choice :). Haven’t seen Iwo Jima yet, thanks!

  2. Love that Punisher: War Zone Inclusion. One of the most bafflingly ridiculous ultraviolent movies I’ve ever seen. Also on that list are Wayne Kramer’s Running Scared (starring Paul Walker) and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II.

    1. Yeah, it took me a bit to adjust to what PunisherWZ was doing, with Dominic West and Doug Hutchinson playing it Dick Tracy-style. Haven’t seen Running Scared but recently enjoyed The Cooler, by the same director.

  3. Wow, always good stuff to check out from your lists! Have not seen White Hunter, Black Heart, but like all the other Eastwood films you mentioned *except* Million Dollar Baby – I know I’m swimming upstream on that one…
    Love Taking of Pelham – a true classic! Neon Demon and Shallows are to-be-watched soon.

      1. Well, I saw it… Didn’t care for it, but I’m also not a Refn fan. (I think I’m one of the few people on the planet that didn’t think DRIVE was all that good.) I doubt I’ll write up a separate review, probably a brief “Movies Watched in January Part II” post. Some interesting visuals and I gained more interest toward the last 30 minutes, but had issues with the rest of the film. Glad I saw it, wouldn’t see it again.

        1. yeah, I’m not likely to ever watch again either, thought the same about it picking up near that macabre end, sort of self-indulgent filmmaking. Though it can be said that the all-style, no substance approach fits this subject especially well.

  4. I’m always on an on-going Don Siegel-Clint Eastwood binge-
    and that’s no bad thing.
    Love all the films you mention and wish Warners would
    hurry up with the Blu Ray edition of
    WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART-Clint’s most underrated film.

    Some Clint trivia:
    MYSTIC RIVER screenwriter Brian Helgeland (LA CONFIDENTIAL)
    and Eastwood are reportedly teaming up again for the hostage
    drama based on Jessica Buchanan’s book.

    A pal who used to work for the British Film Institute on a visit
    to The States wound up in a late night drinking session with John
    Russell.
    Russell stated that he had a sizable role in HONKYTONK MAN which
    ended up with him and Eastwood having a punch up.
    Warners insisted the scene be deleted because (Russell’s words:)
    “we cannot have Clint Eastwood beating up an old man”
    In HONKYTONK MAN Russell can be seen scowling at the bar
    but that’s about it. Russell who also appeared in THE OUTLAW
    JOSEY WALES said Eastwood was a total professional.

    Loved reading this Eastwood binge Kristina and totally agree
    with all of your comments.
    I like many others feel Clint has one final Western in him-
    that would really make my day!

    1. WH,BH is an educational movie since the first time I saw it in the 90s I read up on the story behind it and learned about Peter Viertel and all that which of course made it better. But still fascinating if you have no clue, and Clint does a fantastic job in that part. Would have liked to see that “old man” Russell scene included, enjoy him in anything. Like how he shows these characters warts and all, little-to-no glamorizing, which worked very well for SNIPER.

  5. Yep! Russell told my pal that he had a considerable
    role in HONKYTONK MAN that lead up to their brawl-
    but the suits at Warners insisted that scene and therefore
    Russell’s role had to go.
    Russell,I might add was less than happy with Warner’s decision,
    which I might add was the wrong one,especially as Eastwood was
    playing an unsavory character.
    Perhaps,we might get a Blu Ray “directors cut” of HONKYTONK
    MAN with Russell’s role reinstated!

    1. That’s such a shame, not just for losing a juicy Russell role but as you say, it would have fit “Red” and his character too. Would be great footage to see.

  6. Hi Kristina! You grabbed my attention with your Clint Eastwood festival…love ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’, and of course ‘Dirty Harry’. I just watched ‘Joe Kidd’, and he’s got some neat moments in that one. BUT…that’s cool that you’re a fan of the original ‘Pelham One Two Three’…what a great, fun movie! (And that last shot is priceless!)

    1. Good to hear, saw a lot of great movies in this lot– now Joe Kidd is one I haven’t watched yet so I thank you for the reminder! I do have it and with John Sturges and Elmore Leonard, sounds interesting already. Pelham is so good, natural, memorable little things alongside the big moments. Waiting for Balsam’s cough 🙂 never gets old.

  7. Glad you liked Honkytonk Man. You know my love of real country music so that film always has a special spot in my heart. Also because Marty Robbins died just a couple weeks after filming his role.

    1. Yes loved seeing Marty, Ray Price, Porter Wagoner AND reference to Bob Wills– all those Easter Eggs for music lovers. From reading reviews that seems to be an often overlooked Clint movie and shouldn’t be, very good one!

  8. I’m loving the response to your Clint fest!
    Great to see some love for HONKYTONK MAN a
    film that sadly failed to find an audience.
    The film has many merits including as fine later
    role for the great John McIntire.
    You are going to love JOE KIDD-classic Clint and great
    bad guy support from Robert Duvall and Don Stroud.
    Sturges’ wonderful feel for landscape a major plus factor.
    Eastwood regular Greg Walcott has a good role as well-
    as always on the receiving end of Clint’s fist.

    1. Good to hear another vote for JOE KIDD, I will get to that for sure, along with another Duvall movie I plan on watching. Back a month or so I had a great time watching Sturges movies all in a row: HOUR OF THE GUN, LAW & JAKE WADE, SATAN BUG, ESCAPE FROM FT BRAVO, BACKLASH…

  9. Any time is a good time for a Clint Eastwood Film Fest, if you ask me. I really like his directing style, and one film of his that I thought I would hate but ended up loving (and buying) is Gran Torino.

    I just watched the trailer for “Creatures the World Forgot”. How was the music in this one?

    1. Well put and I agree, I have Joe Kidd up next so the Clint-fest will continue in between the other viewing 🙂 I liked Gran Torino a lot too, that crusty character with a soft center was perfect for him.
      The music in Creatures was not memorable for me, and this was easily the “least” of the 3 Hammer stone-age movies I’ve seen. No stop-motion dinos, no talking, but still kind of interesting, more adult and more realistic without the dinosaurs :). Also includes some super-creepy tribal masks.

      1. Joe Kidd looks good – one I’ve never seen – and Robert Duvall in it, too!

        Man, you really know how to experience movies. You’re the Ferris Bueller of the classic movie set!

  10. Still some mileage in your Clint fest,so
    that’s great.
    For the next one may I recommend
    THE EIGER SANCTION which is incredibly
    underrated.
    Jaw dropping scenery,lots of action and a standout
    performance from the great Greg Walcott.
    Some great laughs as well among all the mayhem.

    1. Just watched another Clint for my next post, got one lined up for tonight, and I remember really liking EIGER, but that was so long ago I sure could use a re-watch.. once I get in these moods, the completist in me wants to just go through them all!

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