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The Border (1982)
My favorite Jack Nicholson Film -- A hidden gem
20 July 2011
Jack Nicholson gives a wonderfully controlled performance in this film. His restraint and control is contrasted to Harvey Keitel's fallen character and to his out-of-control, childish wife (Valerie Perrine). He works in dishonest circumstances in which he enforces the law selectively in a tacit arrangement with crooked businessmen. In so doing he is a part of the exploitation of Mexican workers. When he transfers from L.A. to Texas, his conscience is awakened by his dishonest co-worker and a beautiful, victimized Latina (Elpidia Carillo) and her child.

There is plenty of action and the story moves in response to the characters.

Freddy Fender and Ry Cooder provide memorable and haunting music that just makes the whole film so much more powerful.
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Open Range (2003)
10/10
Gets the characters right
11 June 2008
The plot of this movie is not original, but the execution of the characters is so clear and convincing that it transcends the story. Annette Benning is so appealing in her role as spinster sister with standards a little too high for the locals. Surprisingly, the two characters I found only good were Robert Duvall, who reprised his cowboy role from "Lonesome Dove", and Michael Gambon, who played a stereotypical town bad guy. The character who really stood out was Kevin Costner. He captured the dual nature of the western gunslinger hero as well or better than Clint Eastwood did in "The Unforgiven". In each case, we get to see the efficient, ruthless killer that resides in the same body as the really nice guy you meet early on. They were always good at killing. Zane Grey wrote about this in his classic westerns and very few westerns have captured this. Even movies like "Shane" and "High Noon" left us with a nice guy for a hero.

Kevin Costner gets the gets the main characters right and makes this a really wonderful western that I enjoy watching again and again. It has what it takes to be one of the great westerns.
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The Hidden (1987)
10/10
Captures the real feel of sci-fi
21 May 2006
Having been a fan of sci-fi since the 1940s, I have watched a lot of films and read a lot of short stories and novels. This film captures the spirit of sci-fi as well as "Forbidden Planet" and "Star Wars". It plays out just the way the stories about alien criminals and lawmen always did. There is scarcely a false step in the whole film and the cast is nearly perfect. Kyle McLachlin has that quirkiness that makes him so believable as the nice alien and Claudia Christian....

The pacing, which I thought was too slow the first time I saw it, is really right. The music was a little jarring the first time around, but that too fit in much better the second time around. The film lays out the classic plot of the alien bad per.. uh, thing, coming to earth and hiding amongst us and being pursued by another alien.

Everyone knows the story but it is so well told in this version, sort of like hearing the same old joke again and laughing because it was told so well.

This film never got the exposure it deserved, but if you get a chance, get a copy of it, sit back and enjoy. It is about as good as sci-fi gets and one of the only DVDs I own.
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De-Lovely (2004)
9/10
A musical that even I can love
1 January 2005
I generally hate biographical films and musicals, but this biographical musical is one I really liked. From the beginning with Gabriel (I always love Johnathan Pryce - I never got over "Brazil") and the old Cole Porter together in the empty theatre, I was sold on the film. Sometimes flashbacks annoy me. In this case, the interaction (one-sided, but still there) between the old Cole Porter and his past made the transition to his life magical and fun. It didn't feel like a biographical view of his life.

From the opening scene in the theatre, it just got better as it went along. Kevin Kline's portrayal of Cole Porter was rich and nuanced. He seemed to be truly in love with Linda, yet he still had his other side. Ashley Judd as Linda seemed perfect. When the old Cole Porter sees her again, he says, "My god, she was lovely!" and she was. I identified enough with her and with Kevin Kline that I was saddened by her death in the movie. They sold me on their characters. I ended up feeling empathy for Linda; the lovely, lovable and steadfast; and respect and admiration for the Cole Porter figure.

But, what made the movie fly for me was the music (go figure!). It was Cole Porter, release 1.1. A bunch of his great songs were re-arranged and presented by modern singers - all the way from jazz (Diane Krall) to varieties of pop (Elvis Costello). Each of the singers brought a new feel to the Cole Porter songs and really made the movie a pleasure.

When my wife and I finished the movie on the DVD we spent another hour watching all the special features. We both hated to see the movie end. We just wanted it to go on and on. Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom-tom.........
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Gargoyle (2004 Video)
Much worse than you would have expected.
1 January 2005
As a die-hard fan of "B" sci-fi flicks, I have seen lots of pretty bad ones. This one somehow really disappointed me. It had a ring of implausibility about it that transcended the weak creature effects that looked like they were from the '50s. From the opening CIA "ambush" with everyone sitting out in the open and using Kalshnikoffs as sniper weapons and having the blonde agent (who did the only credible job of acting in the movie) whip out a pistol and shoot it out with the kidnappers through the obligatory attacks on random people in the dark (all the better to hide my bad effects, my dear!) to the trite and relatively simple dispatching of all of the hordes with a single, amazingly powerful hand grenade the movie never had a plausible scene. The female "scientist" had no personality and played a brainless bimbo. Even the villainous priest was more tiresome than he was threatening. And since when does the CIA investigate missing persons reports anywhere, let alone Romania?

You are not going to connect with the characters here, nor with the story line. Perhaps you will become fond of the cartoonish gargoyles.
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Goyôkin (1969)
9/10
Absolutely gorgeous images that stay with you forever!
30 December 2004
I saw this film in the late 1970s. It was called "Goyekin - The Emperor's Gold". As I watched our guilt-ridden hero return to fulfill his promise, really a threat, to punish his family if they repeated their crime. I still see the image of him striding along the beach with a conical hat pulled low. The shadow on his face made his eyes glow under the hat and the shot was taken with a telephoto through wispy beach grass. Completely memorable. Then the scene in the forest with the horsemen riding through. It looked like an ancient Japanese painting with hazy colors and an other-worldliness that was amazing. Then the concluding duel in the snow. Two brilliantly attired samurai dueling in a pure white, glistening environment. So many great images from one film!

The film itself is a pretty typical revenge film with some twists. When Tom Laughlin tried to redo it as a Mexican western,"The Master Gunfighter", it just fell flat. But the samurai movie has an entertaining plot and good action characters with beautiful settings. I think this film is a special case of cinematographic excellence. See it and enjoy the beauty.
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8/10
2009 gives an entirely different context for a familiar story and makes it memorable.
28 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I picked a copy of the DVD up at the local blockbuster thinking I was in for another "B" sci-fi flick. After watching the film I read other reviews and agree with several points. It wasn't about Japan being on the winning side in WW-II. It was about a pivotal assassination in 1909. Yes, it is hard to see how this lead to Japan being on the wrong side in WW-II, but I suspended my disbelief for this point. The action scenes were well paced and had impact, although they did become a little repetitive. The agonizing the hero went through over the theatric death of the child and his girl friend (who mysteriously came back) were a little over the top. And it was flagrantly nationalistic.

However, I did find the film to be well-paced overall, with good action scenes and interesting characters. I liked the method they used to unveil the time-travel scheme. It was good enough that I accepted it as inevitable. It had enough little twists to make it a memorable film and one that I find myself mentally revisiting it. I liked it.
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10/10
My all-time favorite western
19 September 2004
This is almost a perfect western, flawed only by uninspired acting by Robert Forster. The strength comes from the inevitable nature of the collision with the force, Salvaje. It is the ONLY time in a movie that an Apache warrior has been shown as what he was - a resourceful, effective and incredibly dangerous adversary. Sure, lots of movies say it. This movie shows it. From the beginning, you are warned that Salvaje is one-man army and you know he will come after Greg Peck. Greg knows it too, but he is trapped by his basic goodness and has to do what he can to help Eva Marie Saint. Watch the main characters and try to ignore the Forster character. All-in-all, I like the movie better than High Noon, Stage Coach and many other highly rated Westerns. This one is the sleeper and in my view, could well be the all-time best.
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