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A Rumor of War (1980)
as real as it gets plus 200%
I served my time in Korea. Five years after I came back old time school mates of mine were being drafted for Vietnam. I later heard their stories over quarts of beer and doobies. This movie IS their story. I was sitting on my couch watching the big ambush scene and it scared the hell out of me in my own living room. The scene where Brian Dennehy tells Lt. Catuto that 19 year old kids in Korea checked their rifle sights by shooting down Korean farmers came home to me. My brother, who fought from the first of the Korean war through the Chosen battle, told me the same thing. This movie has it all. The boredom, the terror, the frustration, the slaughter, the sadness, the futility. And it is real. It starts out slow but when it kicks in it gives no quarter, cuts no slack and takes no prisoners. If you ever carried a rifle in a combat zone at night alone you can relate to it. But even if you have no recollection of the Vietnam war era you can still sense the reality.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
there will be pointless, asinine movies. this is one of them.
The English language has its limitations. A sorcerer could not conjure up enough negative adjectives to properly describe this two hour and 38 minutes of film wasted on an absurd and insane movie about an absurd and insane man and the seemingly hapless people he intimidates and berates with his insanity. After the first thirty minutes you began to wonder if the movie will be interminable. Then you realize the answer is yes. And during the endless boredom of its interminability it is fragmented, senseless, pointless, dull, ridiculous and insultingly banal. If you have not seen this movie I envy you. I wish I had not. While watching it you may keep thinking soon, soon it will make sense. A plot, a point, a focus will emerge and there will be an actual story instead of a piecemeal collage of scenes of insane raving and insane acts. The producer and director could have saved time and money by going to an inane asylum and following the most violent and deranged inmate around with a camera. And it would have made more sense.
Invisible Stripes (1939)
Almost made it but not quite
Starts out interesting. Prison scenes are real enough. George Raft carries the "nice guy who just made a mistake" to the point that he appears soft. Then William Holden chews up too much scenery with his angry young man act. Then Raft gets a martyr complex and throws himself in front of the gang's guns to save his kid brother. Marc Lawrence, stereo-typed as a meanie and low life hood, turns in his usual good role. He had to go to Europe in the 50s to be taken seriously as an actor. Paul Kelly's talent is wasted but he does his usual solid performance. The director, Lloyd Bacon, wasted a good cast. Just before he died William Holden told this story about George Raft during an appearance on the Tonight Show shortly after Raft died. Holden was brand new to Hollywood and a little nervous and insecure. Lloyd Bacon was an egomanic and a bully. One day on the set Bacon went berserk and began berating Holden, shouting in his face in front of the cast. Raft ran over and got him by the lapels and said, "That's a man you are talking to, not a dog. If you ever talk to that young man like that again you'll answer to me. You got that?" Bacon became a little more polite. But not a better director.
Un fiume di dollari (1966)
The Japanese could have made it cheaper, but not dumber.
This is not the worst spaghetti western ever made. That honor belongs to Death Rides a Horse (1968) with Lee Van Cleef and John Phillip Law. If you have not seen that one you are blessed. This one is, however, far and away the hokiest spaghetti western ever made. The talents of two fine actors, Henry Silva and Dan Duryea, are wasted. Silva makes no attempt whatsoever to act. Duryea does and to his credit he does not break up laughing once. Viewers, on the other hand will. An Army fort has an up and down swinging traffic barrier pole, painted with STRIPES. People are shot to pieces and there is never any blood or holes in their clothes. The dialog was taken right off the pages of See Spot Run. At the end of the movie Duryea pins a marshal's star on the bandit turned hero that looks like it came off of a 1940s Christmas tree at St. Vincent de Paul. The pistols whistle softly instead of banging and the good guys throw dynamite at the bad guys.
The Texican (1966)
One of two enjoyable westerns Murphy ever made.
This is a good Audie Murphy western for one reason only; it is a spaghetti western. The writers didn't know Audie Murphy and did not write a western script FOR him. They wrote a western script. Unlike anything Hollywood ever did for Murphy,this script has a plot, a story, some depth and real characters. The only distractions, and they are not small, are the ridiculous whistleing sounds made by 45 Long Colt revolvers and the nagging, irritating background music. Where the Italians came up with the ridiculous idea that a 45 Long Colt revolver makes a whistling sound beats me. I know the sound of a 45 Long Colt. I own several. It is triple the sound of a Dodge 440 Magnum backfiring. They do not whistle. And the asinine, continuous, nagging, dragging music that is supposed to be dramatic but is just a pain in the butt. Whoever dreamed that up should have been sentenced to listening to railroad cars coupling and uncoupling continuously for twenty years and then forced to listen to their own "music" for another twenty. The only Audie Murphy western I think comes as close to being enjoyable as The Texican is Ride a Crooked Trail. And only because of the outstanding work done by Walter Matthau.
Flight of Fury (2007)
bad vs good . good wins. nobody cares.
As Steven Segal movies go this one is bottom of the barrel. His best was just fodder for bored teenagers. This one tips the scales, then falls off. The characters are all cardboard. The story is double lame. I can't spoil it by telling you the ending. You already know how all Steven Segal movies end if you have seen one. Here goes. He is a super-dooper government agent who know too much to turn loose so they decide, instead of killing him, to dope his brain until he don't remember squat. He escapes, of course, gets arrested and is located by his old general who needs his one man in a million experience to get back a stealth plane that has been handed over to a terrorist gang in Afghanastan by a rogue Air Force pilot who, surprise, surprise, Segal trained. All the heroes, except Segal's character and his dusky girlfriend, die heroically and Steve-Baby save the whole world in one swell foop, or fell swoop. Whatever. Made with some surplus Air Force and Navy flying film. And a lot of boom-booms. Get some Popeye cartoons instead.
Texas Rangers (2001)
Oliver Stone could not have deviated further from the truth.
From the opening shots through every scene acted out afterward NOTHING that is depicted in this movie EVER happened. It is a worse distortion than "Tombstone." I don't know where to start. For openers, the actor portraying McNelly admonishes a Ranger who is about to leave the service that he is "riding a Ranger horse and saddle, wearing Ranger clothes and carrying a Ranger gun," and if he leaves he will be arrested for theft. Anyone who knows squat about the Rangers of that day knows they had to bring their own horse, tack, weapons and clothes and then they would be considered for the service. Using Ranger badges for target practice is absurd beyond words. At that time the Rangers HAD NO badges. Just a letter stating they were Rangers. The makers of this movie either did not know or care. All a Ranger had to do to quit is ride away with what he brought. Also, John "King" Fisher was not a Mexican. He never shot down a crowd at a cattle auction. Leander McNelly's assignment in the Nueces Strip was to stop Mexican raiders from stealing cattle in Texas. His run in with John "King" Fisher was incidental and no shots were fired. McNelly and his men rode out to Fisher's ranch, arrested him and turned him over to a local sheriff. Days later they met Fisher and some of his men on the trail. Turns out Fisher had a friend who was a local judge and the judge let him bond out. McNelly had no authority to override that and Fisher went free for a time. The Black man McNelly took into his band was a former slave named Ben Kinchlow. He was hired as a tracker at no pay,just meals and equipment. When the shooting started between McNelly and the Mexican raiders, Kinchlow held the horses. The Mexican General was an officer in the Ruales, not the Mexican army, and he had no connection with Fisher. He was killed in the first shoot out with McNelly's men. The pistols McNelly's men used were black powder five shot revolvers. The pistols used in the movie had not been invented at the time. The rifles they used were single shot, black powder muzzle loaders. It wasn't until around three years after McNelly raided Mexico that the Rangers were given 1873 Winchesters. Over all the movie is an almost amusing "western" shoot-'em-up. The kind kids paid 15 cents to see back in the 1950s. It has nothing to do with the Texas Rangers. I don't know where the movie was filmed, but I know the land from Corpus Christi to Brownsville to the Rio Grande and is is an ancient sea bed, flat as a football field as far as you can see. This movie could have been titled "Leo Gorcey and the Dead End Kids" and the title would have been no more non-related than calling it "Texas Rangers."
No Country for Old Men (2007)
For GOD's sake, don't waste your time.
This movie is a waste of time, a waste of film and a waste of talent. The story as acted out is beyond sophomoric, it is dumber than a box of rocks. Beyond improbable, it is implausible. Tommy Lee Jones couldn't even save it. Man comes upon a mass murder scene wherein dope sellers and buyers have shot each other to pieces. Finds one still alive sitting in a truck, bleeding from the chest and asking for water. Finds the one in possession of a million in cash, dead as a hammer, takes the money and goes home. Now, this dirt poor redneck is lying in bed with a million dollars cash at his disposal but is worried about the man who asked him for water. He gets up, gets a jug of water and goes back to the shootout scene in the middle of the night. The backers of the buyer want their money and they are waiting. He outruns a truck, swims a river, chased by a mean dog, shoots the dog, the body of which is the same phony looking fake dog he saw at the murder scene the day before, and goes back home. From there is gets dumber and dumber. There are many things more productive and entertaining you could do than watch this movie. Trying to stack greased BBs would one.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
Dumb as a box of rocks
And that means the writers and producers and the director. The supporting cast was great. And their talents were wasted. All through the movie the LAWMEN are running FROM the bad guys. Trying every way they can to avoid a confrontation. The whole story falls apart near the end when the local sheriff and his boys have the perfect opportunity to ambush Ben Wade's gang from upstairs hotel windows (the gang is in the middle of the street below on their horses) but instead throw down their guns and throw themselves on the "mercy" of cold blooded, sadistic killers. Guess what happens. I could tell you WHY the ending is such a syrupy, sappy, sophomoric crock of dung beetle bait but that would require a "spoiler." Let's just say that all through the movie Russell Crowe's character is proud of the fact that he has no socially redeeming qualities whatsoever and then suddenly, almost instantly becomes a saint. Well, that's Hollywood. They made William Bonney, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp and Buford Pusser heroes.
A washed up man finds a friend in an unexpected place
TV was never better than this and never got any better later. As soon as the credits were shown Rod Serling's phone never stopped ringing. But what amazed me was I discovered Jack Palance was one hell of an actor. It's a great story but without him it would just have floated instead of soared. After SHANE I figured he'd make good, ugly background for gritty movies, not much else. Great supporting cast. Palance is a prize fighter who almost makes it, then is tossed away like all fighters who don't measure up. His handlers, Ed Wynn and his son Keenan, dump the washed up fighter and he hits the streets, untrained, uneducated and seemingly unemployable. In a final act of desperation he goes to the state employment office. A feel good ending ensues. If you haven't seen it, do so. Feel good movies are hard to come by anymore.