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.
- 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.
- 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.