★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = I can’t see giving anything that I’ve seen once five stars
★ ★ ★ ★ = get to the theater / move it up in your queue
★ ★ ★ = “three stars is a recommendation” - The Empire [magazine] Podcast
★ ★ = if the remote is too far away, you could do worse
★ = if the remote is too far away, get someone to move it closer then throw it at the TV
Race (2016) ★ ★
stars: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons
director: Stephen Hopkins
The biopic of Jesse Owens and his participation in the 1936 Olympics.
If you didn’t know this was a true story, the bland, by-the-book presentation would be your first clue. A welcome subplot involving Leni Riefenstahl, the German director who filmed the games, received more screen time that I would have guessed.
watch Jesse Owens win the gold medal for the 100M dash instead
The Pawnbroker (1964) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters
director: Sidney Lumet
A Jewish pawnbroker in New York City, has repressed the horrors of the Nazi concentration camp and walled away everyone around him. Sooner or later, the pressure will be too much to ignore.
An amazing use of editing shows how everyday images trigger horrific memories. Steiger is great.
double feature pairing: Marathon Man
The Salvation (2014) ★ ★ ★
stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffery Dean Morgan
director: Kristian Levring
A Dutchman is reunited after many years with his wife and kid in the old west. The wife and kid are almost immediately killed. Revenge! Then the bad guy’s kin wants revenge!
The movie looks great. A little heavy handed with the “It’s about oil!” subtext. Good performances. And it looks great. ★ ★ if it didn’t.
double feature pairing: High Plains Drifter
Silent Running (1972) ★ ★
stars: Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin
director: Douglas Trumbull
Earth can’t sustain plant life anymore, so there are greenhouses flying around space. One of the botanists ignores the order to destroy everything and return to Earth.
Rated G, eh? So, a sweet, bio-friendly, space adventure with cute helper robots, then? There won’t be anything too... OH MY GOD! He just strangled that guy to death and blew up those other two guys!
I understood this to be one of the all-time classic sci-fi movies. It should be taken off the list. The lead character is more psychopath than ecological hero. He parades through his paradise, also filled with small animals, as a terrible song plays, invoking a live action Disney scene. He takes the time to catch an eagle on his arm.
watch Moon instead
Meru (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk
directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Climbing Mt. Everest is nothing compared to The Shark’s Fin of Mt. Meru. Three guys show you why.
Beautifully shot. I was surprised to learn that climbers have a following and work within mentor/mentee relationships. I thought they just gathered in groups of crazy. I’d like a climbing documentary to explain how these people make a living. Chin directs. What do the others do? And what’s wrong with a little more detail of climb strategies and technique?
double feature pairing: Cliffhanger
042 The Witch (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
writer/director: Robert Eggers
The best acting by an animal since the dog in John Carpenter’s The Thing.
double feature pairing: Black Death
Futureworld (1976) ★.5
stars: Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner, John P. Ryan
director: Richard T. Heffron
Westworld was a hit. Here’s its sequel.
This movie is a bore that doesn’t know what it wants to be until it is almost over. Two reporters investigate a colleague's murder at Futureworld. What they learn is a great story that isn’t resolved. The ending is the equivalent of the Duke boys crossing the county line and the Hazzard police department slamming the brakes, shaking their fists and screaming, “We’ll get you next time!”
watch Westworld instead
Tell No One (2006) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, André Dussollier
director: Guillaume Canet
Eight years after Alexandre’s wife was murdered, she sends him a note.
It’s a decent thriller. The kind of thriller where the main character, and the audience, are completely in the dark, so there’s a long scene at the end explaining it all. Early on we meet an acquaintance of Alexandre’s. We know he’s street because he has The Godfather logo tattooed on his shoulder. I can’t decide if it’s a worse if it’s real or if someone from the production decided that’s what the tattoo would be.
double feature pairing: The Vanishing
Charley Varrick (1973) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Felicia Farr
director: Don Siegel
A gang of small-time bank robbers accidentally steal from the mob.
A good low stakes crime movie. A small strike against it for a tone deaf scene in which Varrick becomes a sex pot out of the blue, clearly thrown in because someone thought the genre demands it.
double feature pairing: Disorganized Crime
The Hitch-Hiker (1953) ★ ★ ★
stars: Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman
director: Ida Lupino
Escaped prisoner Emmett Myers hitchhikes and murders his way from capture.
The movie warns at the onset that this is a true story and could happen to me, and if not me then the nice couple sitting across the aisle. But there wasn’t an aisle nor a couple, so that means it’s going to happen to me? Old movies can be very confusing.
A montage of Myers killing the passengers of his two previous rides before finding the ride that will take him into Mexico is artful. There are a few scenes spoken in Spanish without subtitles. Nothing is lost; the content is easily discernible. It’s a little surprising that a movie of that time would trust the audience in that way.
The You Must Remember This podcast profiled Ida Lupino. It’s a worthy listen.
double feature pairing: A Perfect World
Greased Lightning (1977) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Richard Pryor, Cleavon Little, Pam Grier
director: Michael Schultz
Based on the life of Wendell Scott, the first African-American to win a race in NASCAR’s Grand National Series.
All the clunky dialogue of a biopic is here. But there is also the talent of Pryor and Little rising above it. I wish those two had made more movies together. A buddy comedy would have been great. The final race is thrilling.
double feature pairing: Stroker Ace
Vanishing Point (1971) ★ ★ ★
stars: Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, 1970 Dodge Challenger
director: Richard C. Sarafian
A guy just wants to perform his job of transporting cars from Colorado to California as fast as he can. Why won’t The Man let him?
Amazing driving and photography. Like The Pawnbroker, flashbacks are triggered by reminders. Even though they aren’t as powerful, they still make the driver a character rather than Guy Driving Fast.
double feature pairing: The Hitcher
Seven Days in May (1964) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March
director: John Frankenheimer
screenwriter: Rod Serling
The nuclear disarmament treaty between the United States and Soviet Russia provokes a U.S. general to organize a coup.
A solid political thriller full of meaty speeches that are performed to perfection.
double feature pairing: The Conversation
Steve Jobs (2015) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
director: Danny Boyle
screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin
What makes this biopic unique is how many of the events are talked about in the aftermath rather than a literal presentation of them, allowing more personality and character to come through.
double feature pairing: Love & Mercy
Don’t Look Now (1973) ★ ★ ★.5
stars: Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie
director: Nicolas Roeg
The accidental death of their daughter leads John and Laura to send their son to boarding school while they, well, John takes a job in Venice. Not sure what she’s doing there, really. I guess it’s to meet the psychic.
Much of the story is expressed though a visual grammar. It’s uneasy tone and connection of images builds as patience is tested, looking for meaning and wondering if time would be better served doing something else.
There is a lot to chew on. There’s no way to fully appreciate it in one viewing. It’s a movie worth studying. ...I won’t, but there is a lot to think about.
Maybe those people who classify this as a horror movie, a stretch of the conventional meaning, could also tell me why it shouldn’t be recalled to the title factory. Don't Step There would make as much sense.
double feature pairing: Valhalla Rising
51/366 movies (nine movies off pace)
9/52 movies directed by women
THE TOP THREE