★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = 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
Dogfight (1991) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: River Phoenix, Lili Taylor
director: Nancy Savoca
The night before they ship off to fight in Vietnam, a group of soldiers play another round of Dogfight, in which they each try to find the ugliest girl for a cash prize.
Lili Taylor is amazing and a perfect counter to River Phoenix's intensity. It’s a shame he’s dead. And it’s a shame she’s not in more things these days. [checking Lili Taylor’s filmography] Whoa. She’s worked a lot lately. Consistently, really, since she started. OK, it’s a shame I don’t watch the things she makes these days.
double feature pairing: Tigerland
Ricki and the Flash (2015) ★ ★.5
stars: Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline
director: Jonathan Demme
writer: Diablo Cody
At first scene I thought this movie was going to correctly illustrate how few people will see an unknown, touring band. Ricki and the Flash play a show to virtually nobody. A few disinterested people at tables. A small handful are paying attention to the band, who belt out “American Girl.” It’s a cover, sure, but what band doesn’t pepper a few into their set.
As the movie went on it’s clear RATF is a cover band, with a residency. It’s the level she’s come to rest after an unsuccessful original music career, a broken marriage and a reluctance to keep in contact with her kids. I can sympathize a bit with Ricki, but her kids are right to be pissed.
Also, a cover band regularly playing the same venue pulls a bigger crowd than what's portrayed above. That? That's what Wichita looks like for a Columbus band.
The movie is fine yet frustrating. She plays a song of her own for her ex-husband and daughter. However, when it comes time to give the gift of song to her son at his wedding reception (because it’s all she has!), she opts to play a Bruce Springsteen cover.
Spoiler alert: she wins over all the stuffed shirts at the event. Everyone is happy and all is forgiven. [to the tune of a foghorn] Buuuuulll-shiiiiiit.
watch Crazy Heart instead
Stagecoach (1939) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Claire Trevor, John Wayne, Andy Devine
director: John Ford
A group of strangers take the stagecoach for various reasons. All secrets will be revealed as they try to stay one step ahead of the attacking Apache.
Yep, it’s a worthy classic. The ambush of the stagecoach is still thrilling. There’s suspense in the slow reveal of everyone’s motivations. No wonder its influence on the westerns and action movies that followed.
double feature pairing: Hombre
Seven Samurai (1954) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima
director: Akira Kurosawa
Farmers of 15th century Japan hire samurai to protect their village from bandits.
Like Stagecoach, this movie inspired imitations. Unlike Stagecoach, I don’t think this original has been bettered. Great action and humor. Some incredibly heart-wringing moments.
Despite my appreciation for it, I got a little antsy. Three and a half hours is a long time to sit through something. I think any movie over three hours should be seen in the theater. There are too many distraction watching something that long at home.
double feature pairing: 13 Assassins
The Wave (2015) ★ ★ ★
stars: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Thomas Bo Larsen
director: Roar Uthaug
A rockslide in a Norwegian fjord causes and tsunami, turning the inhabitants’ lives into a world of hurt.
It’s a disaster movie that hits all the standard beats. There’s the geologist who sees the problem, even though everyone else thinks he’s overreacting. There’s the sullen teen who causes more trouble because he’s doing what he wants. And you’ve got people acting randomly because people, other than the leads, have to die.
It’s a disaster movie that doesn’t have to pile on a bunch of nonsense, either. Rockslide causes tsunami, people deal with it. That’s it. It doesn’t set off a chain of rockslide tsunamis or cause all the moose to attack. It’s simple tension within a well-known template and a thousand times better than anything I saw in the first hour of San Andreas, which is all I watched of that garbage.
And now, some Norwegian insight:
In the opening scene, our hero flips all through the dial trying to find some music not for these damned kids today. “I’m 40,” he screams as he finds “Splitter Pine” from DumDum Boys, the best Norwegian rock band. He and I both cheer.
Dagbladet was misplaced in the VG section of a newspaper rack in the hotel lobby. The production designer dropped the ball, I thought. Not so fast, says a VG representative. "We actually do find examples now and then that this happens in real life, and do constantly have to educate the retailers.” The production designer is a genius! Someone give Lina Nordqvist an award.
double feature pairing: Earthquake
The Naked Face (1984) ★
stars: Roger Moore, Rod Steiger, Elliott Gould
screenwriter/director: Bryan Forbes
A psychiatrist is on someone hit list. The cops are no help so he looks into the who and why himself.
Harold and Maude (1971) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort
director: Hal Ashby
Death-obsessed Harold meets free-spirit Maude. A May-December romance for the ages.
It’s as great as they say. Very funny and dark. Some great juxtapositions that should be in a museum.
double feature pairing: The Fisher King
Bridge of Spies (2015) ★ ★ ★ ★
stars: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda
director: Steven Spielberg
writers: Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
An insurance lawyer is tapped to defend a captured Soviet spy and later to negotiate a swap for a fallen U.S. pilot.
It’s a lot better than the trailer made me think it would be. I’d heard people crying about its runtime. Sure, it’s long, but I couldn’t see anything substantial that could have been cut. It’s well written and acted. The first ten minutes is some delicious spy meat and potatoes.
double feature pairing: The Falcon and the Snowman
74/366 movies (14 movies off pace)*
12/52 movies directed by women
THE TOP THREE
*Just because I didn't do my job watching movies doesn't mean you should be shorted on your entertainment. So here is a video sampling of DumDum Boys: