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Joe Kidd (1972)
Endlessly mediocre yet watchable flick
I have the theory that every hospital, airline, hotel, or other "institution" that offers free cable/movies has this one on a perpetually showing schedule. I can't begin to think how many times I've seen it. But I must admit it has its merits of sorts.
Probably this mixed reaction that I (and many other reviewers) have for the movie is due to feeling that it **does** have merits but they just never amount to all that much. I suspect the strengths are due to two main things: The basic story by Elmore Leonard where some of his tough-guy language and character interactions managed to filter through into the final product and the cast, especially Eastwood and Duvall who act like the Pros they are in consistently professional performances. The supporting cast is also very good.
But the whole flow of the movie leaves much to be desired. It is more a series of vignettes designed to showcase the cast than really to advance a credible or intriguing plot. There are a number of snappy interactions among the principles and various supporting cast members that are quite good. Trouble is, they leave you feeling you just were set-up to see a whole scene unfold just to spring the "zinger" and then what? Move on to the next scenario I suppose.
Some other reviewer likened the flick to a TV movie and I'd agree. And no doubt, I'll be watching it again soon be it in this hotel room or that hospital bed or airline seat. It's that kind of a movie.
Ride the High Country (1962)
What it *IS* & What it is *NOT*
It is: A fine Peckinpah movie that showed he could handle important, subtle themes against a background of an often violent, indifferent world. In this case, two aging guys who are well past their prime and know it in a world that is passing them by ever more quickly.
It is *NOT*: Better than "Wild Bunch" - or even "The Getaway" for that matter.
Peckinpah was credited as Director of 15 films in his career. Despite the Horde of Peckinpah Worshippers who would tell you your life is without value unless you can appreciate them all, in reality only about half hold Autuer-level value of some sort. The fact that ANYBODY in 60's/70's Pre-Coppola Hollywood could've achieved this for even a single film is remarkable and is at the core of Peckinpah's Reputation. That being said, if you give him his due for the best films you must hold him accountable for all the others as well or else your critical standards come down to just personal preference rather than any critical standard.
The REAL one-two-three of Peckinpah's films are, "The Wild Bunch", "The Getaway", and "Ride the high Country". Feel free to substitute "High Country" with either "Straw Dogs"(great film but less a film to associate Peckinpah with) or "Cross of Iron"(if you feel it is under-rated, which it is).
The real reason for this review is to caution viewers who may be seeing "Ride the High Country" that although the reviews of it on IMDb.com are legion and loud in their praises of it the film will leave you a little less than awed if you've already seen "Wild Bunch". There is just something about these Late 50's/Early 60's Westerns that so often disappoints. At times they are feel-good Star Fests like "Rio Lobo" that may be classic but lack the edginess of more modern Westerns. Other times they try (and fail) to portray realistic violence, sexuality, or general grittiness that the censorship (or perhaps public consciousness?) just could not allow. For example, the "Rape" scenes are really just Mariette Hartly squealing and wriggling around. Only her stunned response to the "Honeymoon Nite" at a Whore House with her staggering numbly down the hall with one torn wedding gown sleeve plays convincingly. The gunfight at the end has been called arguably the greatest ever in reviews posted here. But believe me, there is plenty of room for argument - and from Peckinpah's own films too. "Wild Bunch" & "Getaway" being the obvious contenders.
Bottom line: If you like Peckinpah or just Westerns than you *should* see this movie. Just don't be lead by the Chorus of voices here that would have you believe it is Peckinpah's Greatest - it is not. But it is a fine film nevertheless and worthy of his canon and your time.
Lady from Chungking (1942)
Solid intro to the Realities of Anna May Wong's Films
"Lady from Chungking" was a Wartime propaganda-style Flag-Waver made on a shoestring budget that really shows. The only real reason for watching this film today is for its' star, Anna May Wong.
Ms. Wong's career was a study in contrast and conflict. The conflict was her battle for professional recognition and against prejudice. The contrast was that so often her genuine talent and truly great beauty and poise was put on display alongside actors who couldn't hold a candle to her and in films made as cheaply as possible.
"Lady from Chungking", although made relatively late in her career, is a typical example of all the above. Ms. Wong OWNS every scene she appears in - as was true of most her work. Her co-stars appear dull and forced beside her. The "Chinese" sets are nothing but trinkets and wall-hangings and cheap furniture - usually dimly lit in hopes we won't notice. The Japanese general's uniform looks like it came from leftovers of "The Emperor Jones". As is typical of these films, only REAL Asian actors sound legit(because they talk like the ordinary Americans they were), while all the Whites playing Asian roles sound incredibly Racist and Fake precisely because they are trying to sound Asian!!
Then just when you're ready to chuck the whole thing - along comes another scene with Anna May Wong. She was an excellent talent, a True Star, and a Fashion Icon in her day and it is obvious every time she is on camera. There are certainly better Anna May Wong films out there but if this one is available take the chance to see it. Ms. Wong is the "Pearl" in this oyster of a film and you will be rewarded if you take the time to find her in it.
Six Stars only as even Anna can't work miracles here.
Stop Crying HPL Fans, It's just a Spooy fun film -Six Stars
I split a gut several times laughing at this B-Movie style piece. Forget the Lovecraft Afficionados who would condemn this to the ash-heap of film history. It has several very funny scenes and lots of gag that spoof the very people who are writing those bad reviews.
Two geeky slackers who don't even know when a pretty girl(Sanjuta Day) is propositioning them are stuck in an endless number of work-days performing meaningless tasks in their cubicle-bounded world. All of a sudden one of them - a Last Lovecraft Descendant - gets called upon to somehow keep the nefarious Cult of Cthulu from reuniting the two halves of a lost relic that will allow Great Cthulu to rise again from his sunken city and take over the world.
The rest of the movie details their floundering attempts to do same whilst surviving all kinds of one-liners, spoofed characters, silly situations - and a fair amount of gore. Special FX are minimal and the movie pretty much goes downhill slowly in plot and sensibility as the movie proceeds.
Nonetheless, I repeatedly found myself laughing out loud at the silly gags and very funny characters they run in to. It has little to do with Lovecraft other than hijacking his name and some of his monsters but it is still worth a watch fer sure. There is some gore and there's a lot of language such as f-bombs too. There's also a lot of sly satire at the expense of the various characters - For example, a pitiful half-man/half-fish is kept alive by one of the Good Guys by sprinkling tropical fish food into his drooling mouth. You get the idea. Six stars for the laughs only but worth a watch.