Friday, April 12, 2013
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 21
48 Hrs. (1982; dir. Walter Hill) I'm going to go out on a limb here. In the category of buddy cop movies, I would say 48 Hrs. is better than the first Lethal Weapon. I like Lethal Weapon. I love 48 Hrs. I could go into the obvious reasons why this movie's great, which are all true (Eddie Murphy, Nick Nolte, Walter Hill), so instead I'm going to give a shout out to the great villains in the movie, the really un-PC and surprising dialogue and the awesome music in the third act by The Busboys (you could tell pre-Streets of Fire that Walter Hill was a pro at shooting music performances). I love 48 Hrs. so much that I wish they made another 48 Hrs. As long as it's not Another 48 Hrs.
This Must Be the Place (2011 dir. Paolo Sorrentino) Sean Penn creates one of the most fascinating movie characters in recent memory in this beautifully shot drama about an aging goth rock star who honors the memory of his estranged father by finishing his quest for revenge. Penn isn't the only great actor here — Frances McDormand is just as good, playing his driven, loving wife — but he anchors the film through its wild swings in pacing and place. He plays the rock star as soft-voiced and damaged, an empathetic soul who shuffles through life in eye liner and lipstick that overemphasize the passage of time. I can't tell if the ending works as well as it should, but the cross-country journey is worth it.
Rango (2011; dir. Gore Verbinski) Rango is the best project that the once great and interesting Johnny Depp has worked on in years. On the surface, it's an animated movie for kids, but Gore Verbinski's film is actually a loving tribute to Spaghetti Westerns, Hunter S. Thompson, and the style of the '60s. In fact, it's the closest thing to an Italian western that's been made in years (pre-Django Unchained), from the music to the characters to the way the story is told at a slowly unfolding pace. It's a movie that earns and uses it's near two hour running time. And it's Johnny Depp's best "straight" performance (straight if you consider that he's not wearing ridiculous makeup or affecting a cockney accent but is still playing a lizard) since Blow. It's weird for me to say this, but if Johnny Depp made more movies with a grounded plot and interesting characters like Rango and fewer movies like Alice In Wonderland, Dark Shadows and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he'd be one of the most interesting actors in Hollywood once again.
Charley Varrick (1973; dir. Don Siegel) A few months ago I had to schlep myself over to the venerable Portage Theater to see this on the big screen. You, fair readers, do not know how lucky you are that you can stream it anytime of the day or night with just a subscription to Netflix Instant. Where’s the purchase price of a ticket? Where’s parking? Where are the tolls? Lucky you!
Walter Matthau stars in this classic tale of a bank robbery gone bad, one of my favorite sub-genres. I was eleven years old when this was released, and this film is an accurate snapshot of how I remember the early seventies. It is also a really great caper film.
Charley Varrick also features a rogue’s gallery of great character actors: Joe Don Baker (the original Walking Tall and GoldenEye), Sheree North (The Shootist and Seinfeld), Andrew Robinson (Dirty Harry and Cobra), Norman Fell (the original Ocean’s Eleven and The Graduate), William Shallert (The Incredible Shrinking Man and Matinee), and John Vernon (National Lampoon’s Animal House and Killer Klowns from Outer Space).
Don Siegel directs. Watch how much tension old-hand Siegel can ratchet up in just the first ten minutes. Siegel was also the director of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dirty Harry.
What are you waiting for? Watch this now.
Bully (2011; dir. Lee Hirsch) The film doesn't pretend to have all of the answers about bullying in public school settings, but it does a decent job of painting a rough sketch of a problem that's been garnering more media attention lately.
The Imposters (1998; dir. Stanley Tucci) Stanley Tucci's solo follow-up to Big Night reunites a lot of that movie's cast for one of the most underrated comedies of the last 20 years. You know those character actors who automatically improve a movie by being in them? People like Tucci, or Oliver Platt, or Richard Jenkins or Steve Buscemi or Lili Taylor or Allison Janney or Tony Shaloub or Campbell Scott or Alfred Molina? Well, this movie has ALL OF THEM. Part Laurel and Hardy, part Marx Brothers, The Imposters is the a worthy tribute to the classic era of movie comedy. Plus, it has some of the best end credits of all time.