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Easy Rider (1969)
Less Than Meets The Eye
This is not a movie about a couple of mavericks searching for the 'real' America in the late 1960s. Jack Nicholson's character really doesn't say anything profound.
These are 2 drug smugglers who've scored a lot of money and do nothing with it except getting wasted and doing hookers.
I was a theater usher when this movie came out and must have seen it 60 times. It does not represent America in 1969 nor does it represent the South of that time. It gives the worst stereotype of the South which is surprising, since the counterculture is supposed to be free of stereotypes.
During his monologue about America, Nicholson's character says "This used to be a hell of a good country". Oh really? When was the USA better prior to 1969? Was it better in the segregation 1950's? Was it better in the 1930's when lynching was commonplace? Was it better during the Spanish Influenza of 1918 which killed more people than WWI? Was it better in 1900 when much of the country had no electricity, there were no child labor laws? This movie has some good photography, great music, but don't look for any insights here.
The Fountainhead (1949)
Inspirational, Worth seeing, Some Miscasting
I saw this movie on TV back in the 1970s and even then I had tuned in half-way through. It inspired me to read the novel. I then saw the movie in it's entirety.
Gary Cooper and Raymond Massey are good in their parts but each is at least 10 years too old. Cooper may not have fully understood his part either. Gregory Peck should have been cast as Roark and Robert Ryan as Wynand.
Patricia Neal is perfect, dead-on as Dominique. She projects intelligence (as she always has in her career) as well as stunning good looks.
There's much in the novel that was left out, but the photography is lovely and the pacing is good.
The biggest flaw is the casting if Robert Douglas as Toohey. He plays Toohey like a blatantly repellent villain in an Errol Flynn swashbuckler. I kept expecting him to whip out a sword and run Gary Cooper through. In the novel, Toohey is outwardly charismatic and people are drawn to him. I'd love to have seen Orson Welles or Claude Rains in the part.
To those people who say that this movie glorifies selfishness; it does. So what? Aren't we all motivated by selfishness? You think the guy that works 2 jobs 80 hours a week does it so he'll have more money to give to charity or to pay in taxes? Read "The Fountainhead" and Rand's follow-up novel "Atlas Shrugged" before you make up your mind about Rand's philosophy.
This movie and the novel are not about architecture any more than Moby Dick is about whaling.
A previous poster says that unfettered capitalism is like the Russian Mafia. Actually, it's not. The Russian Mafia doesn't build anything, create anything, invent anything. That post however, is a good example of Socialist - Leftist thinking.
Best Episode of Series
Hitchcock always manages to tap into our nightmares. Here, Hitch plays out the well known tragedy where a child gets his hands on a gun.
A young boy's Uncle is visiting and tells the boy he's brought a special gift for him from Africa.
You see the boy go up to his Uncle's room, open his suitcase and take out the gun, which of course looks cooler than the toy gun he's always playing with. He also finds the bullets and loads 2 or 3 into the revolver, then puts the revolver into the toy western holster he's always wearing. Since everyone's used to seeing the boy playing with his toy gun and holster, no one notices that it's a real gun when the boy goes out to play.
Because the boy didn't fully load the revolver, Hitchcock creates more tension of the Russian Roulette kind. The boy actually pantomimes pointing the gun at someone and pulls the trigger on a empty chamber a couple of times.
While the boy is out wandering around, play acting like a cowboy, the parents and Uncle figure out what's happened and frantically call around town to locate the boy. There's a very effective scene in the supermarket where the boy's name is called out through the public address system at the very moment he's standing next to the coffee grinder and a customer grinds coffee.
No one in town is aware of how dangerous the boy is.
This excellent episode is unlike the others in the series since there is no ironic black comedy twist at the end. It's a miniature Hitchock movie where the viewer knows something awful is going to happen unless the characters can stop it in time.
The Kentuckian (1955)
Superb Depiction Of A Forgotten Era
I really liked this movie. Hollywood usually doesn't cover this period because the firearms are rather cumbersome flintlocks. It's hard to have exciting gunplay, though Lancaster makes the best of it.
The movie shows early America with all it's provincial warts. The townspeople seem rather cruel to the outsider (Lancaster) and his son because he's a rube, although they're not much better educated themselves. You can easily see these people rushing out to California to look for gold in a few years, trampling everything in their path. The backwoodsmen who seek to kill Lancaster are taciturn and single-minded. Exactly the type to carry on a feud for generations.
There's no law enforcement in this town so the town bully (Mathau) does what he likes.
An underlying theme is the importance of education and planning ahead. Lancaster turns the tables on the townspeople and gains their respect by using his education and smarts rather than by physical force.
Lancaster does manage several fine action scenes, and as an actor is quite convincing as an ignorant rube (at first) and as a pretend rube (on the riverboat).
I thought the movie paid close attention to period details and speech patterns. It really captured the young USA during it's early expansion period.
I liked the inclusion of a musical sing-along by the piano, especially the lovely tune "My Darling".
Spoiler: If there's a flaw in this movie is the failure of Lancaster to have more of a romance with Diane Foster. It's implied that they'll be together by the end of the movie, but they never even kiss.
The Rabbit Trap (1959)
Well Acted, But With Underlying Anti-Business Premise
Ernest Borginine superb acting is on display here, playing an average joe far removed from his usual sadistic heavies or his broad comic McHale's Navy character.
The story completely misses the point that in forgetting the rabbit trap, it is Eddie who has the problem and wants to make it his bosses problem.
Private companies are not like governments. They are not in business to provide jobs for people and they are not run by bosses who enjoy making life miserable for their employees. Unlike government departments, they have competitors and if they don't do it better and or cheaper, they lose market share and eventually go out of business. Despite popular belief going back to Charles Dickens, a company boss/owner only cares about the bottom line not out of evil, but because the bottom line dictates whether or not the entire company survives.
Lets see it from a different angle. What if it was the boss who'd forgotten the rabbit trap and decided to take time off his job to go back for it. What if as a result a crucial decision was not made and the company went out of business? Should the entire company suffer for the bosses personal problems? What if Eddie was your brain surgeon. Would it be OK with you if he got someone else to fill in for him or delayed your surgery to go back for a rabbit trap that he forgot?
Suble Humor In Shane
Another poster remarked on this film's lack of humor compared to the westerns of John Ford. There are no clownish Victor McLaglen characters in Shane; still, the humor is there, but it's subtle.
When Shane first goes into town with the Starrets, Joey asks Shane why isn't he taking his gun. Shane replies: " I didn't know there was any wild game in town." Shane selects some shirts and pants at Grafton's general store. Grafton: "Young man, you owe me two dollars and two bits." Shane: (with a look of shock) "It's been a while since I bought storebought clothes." Lewis: (who's been watching the whole thing) "Dollar don't go very far these days." After the big fight, Marian is tending the bruises of Shane and big Joe. Joey: "I thought you were a goner when he hit you with that chair!" Shane: "It was an easy chair, Joey!" Shane is repairing the barbed wire fence that Riker's men have torn down. Joey: "Shane, what would you do if you caught them going through the fence?" Shane: "I'd ask them to please come around by the gate." Joey: "Aw, Shane!" At the farmer's meeting, whenever Torrey speaks, the harmonica guy plays 'Dixie'.
I love the way the dog slinks out of the barroom when the satanic-looking Wilson walks in.
Riker: "I like Starret too, but I'll kill him if I have to." Wilson: "You mean I'll kill him if you have to."
Rio Bravo (1959)
Fine Ensemble Acting
Some posters who dislike this movie are unable to separate John Wayne the actor from John Wayne's right wing politics, as if that had anything to do with his performances.
Ironically, Wayne himself sought out Kirk Douglas for several of his movies despite Douglas's well known liberal sensibilities.
Anyone who doesn't think Wayne was a fine actor should view some of his early westerns of the 1930's to see how carefully he developed his craft. You think John Wayne was always John Wayne? He invented his screen persona. He must have practiced that measured cadence of speech until he couldn't do it any other way because it just isn't there till the 1940's. His deliberate body language was also something he created. The 1930's John Wayne didn't seem to know what to do with his hands. Good acting is not just the ability to disappear chameleon-like into a part; good acting is playing your part so interesting or compelling enough that people will part with 2 hours of their lives to watch you. You think Wayne wasn't a good actor? How many actors could walk into a scene and command authority with their mere presence? Brando? Pacino? Deniro? Pitt? Rio Bravo is not a great John Wayne movie like "Red River" or "The Searchers". In those movies, Wayne is the whole show despite being surrounded by fine actors. Wayne isn't digging deep here. He playing a sheriff who's comfortable in his skin and his job and only seems unsure of himself when Angie Dickinson's around. The part requires authority, and Wayne displays it effortlessly. Rio Bravo is a great, enjoyable movie because Wayne, though still an important part of the movie, allows everyone else to upstage him in their scenes with him. Just look at one of the best scenes, the singing interlude in the jail-house. Wayne is the only one who doesn't sing; just lets his co-stars do what they do best and enjoys the moment.
Dean Martin does the real acting here. He and Ricky Nelson also get to display their musical talent. Walter Brennan does the best Walter Brennan impression ever caught on film. Angie Dickinson; was this her first major role? She really sank her teeth into this one. She was brave, funny and sexy. Of the major actors, Ricky Nelson seemed a bit miscast. He's not bad; he just doesn't radiate the menace that you'd expect from a gunfighter. Steve McQueen or Burt Reynolds would have been better choices. Both were young, up and coming TV actors in 1959.
Rio Bravo is not strictly a western; it's a character study that just happens to take place in a western setting. It resembles the old TV show Gunsmoke. You kind of wish there'd been a sequel.
Other posters have mentioned that Howard Hawks and John Wayne made this in reaction to "High Noon". The big knock against "High Noon" is that in the old west, there is no case where a town showed cowardice in the face of gunmen. Quite the contrary. The Jesse James Gang and the Dalton Gang both came to an abrupt end when armed citizenry shot them to pieces. Settling in the old west was act of courage in itself and everyone was as familiar with a gun as with a shovel. In "Rio Bravo", every member of that town is brave and rallies behind the Sheriff. In that sense, "Rio Bravo" is more realistic than "High Noon".
I'm not rating Rio Bravo a 10 because it's doesn't transcend the genre the way "Shane" or "The Searchers" did. It's just good entertainment and I watch it whenever it shows up.
Casino Royale (2006)
Finally, A Tough Guy Bond
Those reviewers who didn't like Daniel Craig as James Bond should read some of the novels. The James Bond of the novels is more like a British Mike Hammer. You get the feeling that Bond had a rough, working class background and the sophisticated taste came later. The Bond of the novels had worked behind the lines in WWII sabotaging and killing Nazis.
Indeed, when Sean Connery first auditioned for the role, it was this roughness that got him the part. Connery had to be taught the sophisticated veneer. Till Craig came along, the young Connery was the only Bond that looked like he could walk into a bar and break your arm off.
The Bond character got sidetracked with the likes of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan who look and acted like overage gigolos. I never could see Moore, Dalton or Brosnan kicking anybody's ass. I never wanted to be Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton or Peirce Brosnan. I wanted to BE the young Sean Connery. I hope to be like Connery is now when I get to his age.
I like the fact that Craig didn't have those ridiculous gadgets. Bond didn't have them in Dr. No or From Russia With Love. One of the best fights in all the Bond movies was the claustrophobic Orient Express fight with Robert Shaw. Gadgets? some tear gas, a knife and a garroting wire.
I like Daniel Craig as Bond. He's ruthless, primitive, and tough; the educated sophistication doesn't quite mask it. A good man to have on your side.
The Oklahoma Kid (1939)
Good Movie Despite Cagney's Mushroom Hat
I don't agree with a previous poster that Bogart and Cagney looked too urban to be in a western. Not all westerners spoke with a drawl. Many came to the west to escape ore reinvent themselves. You might easily run into a New Yorker or an Englishman in a western barroom. Theodore Roosevelt went west following the simultaneous deaths of his wife and mother. The writer Robert Louis Stevenson also went west.
I'd would have played up Cagney's New Yorkisms by having him wear a derby rather than that over-sized hat he wore. Let him be from New York. Not all westerners wore what was thought as typical western garb. Bat Masterson was quite the dandy.
Poor Bogart. In the 1930's he was desperately trying out a wide range of parts and acting styles. He was good as the villain, but wasn't yet the Bogie that became iconic. I've never seen the movie, but I understand he played a vampire in one movie. Wow! Poor Bogart.
That said, 'Oklahoma Kid' an entertaining movie. I love Cagney's anarchist-populist rhetoric. How often did you hear that in a western? It's a wonder he didn't organize a labor union!
The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
Nostalgic, Bittersweet Fun
Cagney departs from his tough, street smart persona to play the gullible, not so tough Biff Grimes. Notice how he loses fight after fight; in one scene he's a barroom bouncer tossing his drunken father out asking his father not to put up too much of a fight "I'm supposed to be a tough guy".
He gets suckered time after time by Hugo and Virginia. That wouldn't have happened to other Cagney characters! His best scenes are with Olivia DeHavilland. What chemistry. Sometimes no dialog, just glances.
The main characters play off each other phenomenally. Even the minor characters are superb. Who was that fat German who blew beer foam into Cagney's face? He was great! The period music is so woven into the story that the movie almost becomes a musical. The lovely theme that's played whenever Olivia DeHavilland come into the scene is "When You Were Sweet Sixteen". Unlike the title song "Strawberry Blonde", it's never sung in the movie but it was popular at the turn of the century. Perry Como made it one of his hits in the early 1940's.
The movie is such a nostalgic, funny, (sad at times) look back at the turn of the century that you wish you could go back there with them.
It's amazing that director Raoul Walsh also made the brilliant, violent, cynical "White Heat" with nary a sentimental, lovable character.