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Frank Serpico (2017)
More could've been done
I'm a huge fan of "Serpico" and so I was really looking forward to seeing this documentary. Frank Serpico is in his 80s now so it's beneficial that he's been given such a chance to make a final record. That said, I wish the show had more about Serpico talking about his career and not so much padding. Much time is spent with Serpico checking out old places from his life, the location of his father's shoe repair shop (now an eatery), his childhood home (which seemed to have occupants and at the same time looked like it had fallen apart). The most interesting place he re-visits is of course the building in Brooklyn where he was shot in the face.
One thing that becomes evident is that even in his 80s, Serpico suffers from some degree of PTSD, not just from his shooting, but from the ordeal he had to go through as a pariah in the NYPD. The man's a born storyteller but the documentary doesn't seem to take full advantage of that. He's also an extremely private man who went into a self-imposed exile to Switzerland and Holland for over a decade after he left the NYPD. Very little of the story touches on that.
If I could give zero stars, I would
First, the upside of this movie---the costuming, the sets, the look of 1969 Hollywood is excellent. The actors are obviously having fun with the movie and show that good actors can make even crap material look good.
The downside of this movie---it's boring. It's nearly 3 hours of meandering camera shots, extremely drawn out, irrelevant scenes. There isn't really any plot to the movie. It's not a spoiler to say that the premise of the story is that some actors' lives intersect with the Manson Family. That's in all the movie trailers. I mean, Sharon Tate is one of the main features of the movie so you know that the Manson gang is going to be in the story.
But, once again we go back to the fact that there really isn't any story here. It's just the director moving the camera around, watching people do uninteresting things, linking together scenes that really don't interrelate, almost none of them advancing anything that resembles a plot that would draw the viewer in. I actually fell asleep during the movie at one point and I'm certain that plenty of other people in the theater I was at were also catching up on their rest.
The end of the movie is clever but by then the viewer has blown nearly 3 hours of his lifespan that he'll never get back. It's not worth it.
Flash of Genius (2008)
If its a Hollywood movie, you never get the whole story
"Flash of Genius" tells the story of the travails of Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent window wiper and his battle against Ford Motor Co. which swiped his invention without compensating him.
The story's told in a workmanlike way and Greg Kinnear does a good job as Kearns although much of the time it's hard to root for Kearns. He comes across as obsessive, he's abrasive, thinks that reading some law books makes him a lawyer, etc. He is justifiably upset that Ford has taken his invention and used it without compensating him but the man lets his obsession with justice ruin his life.
As usual, a movie takes liberty with the real story. Kearns represents himself in the Ford lawsuit although in real life he had lawyers represent him. He represented himself in his later suit with Chrysler and in many other suits (many of which he lost because he wouldn't/couldn't comply with court procedures.
What does he win though at the end of this movie? He gets about $10 million, but you don't know that he was actually suing for nearly $400 million. The audience doesn't realize that the jury's verdict didn't say that Ford had deliberately stolen his patents but that they had more or less accidentally infringed on his patent. He still won, but not the apology that he always wanted from Ford. Also, before the final arguments and verdict, the Ford representative goes to him and offers him $30 million to drop the whole thing. Nope, Kearns and his children are going for broke---and instead of getting $30 million as a settlement he gets $10 million, no apology from Ford and even the jury doesn't say that Ford stole his ideas. In truth? Kearns comes across as an arrogant chump who gets in way, way, way over his head and thinks he's won something when in fact he really hasn't.
Operation Finale (2018)
Not enough Kingsley
When Ben Kingsley is on screen the movie is interesting. When he's not, it's a snoozer
Decoration Day (1990)
Mr. Hallmark Hall of Fame
James Garner made a bit of a cottage industry out of appearing in Hallmark Hall of Fame TV-movies. Hallmark productions were always noted for their high quality and portrayal of solid community values.
In "Decoration Day" Garner plays a retired Southern judge who is somewhat of a recluse. He is pulled back into the community when a young man gets into trouble, Garner finds a new chance to connect with an interesting woman, and he has to persuade a childhood friend to reconsider his refusal to accept a belated Medal of Honor.
Bill Cobbs plays Gee, Garner's childhood friend and a tenant farmer who has had to deal with racial injustice all of his life while his educated white friend Garner has had a much easier and successful path. Both men served in WWII, Gee in a segregated Negro unit. When the Army determines that Gee should receive the Medal of Honor the community is disrupted and people have to re-examine racial attitudes when Gee refuses to accept this most prestigious honor.
As you'd expect in a Hallmark production, the topics are dealt with in a quiet, responsible, non-histrionic way. Garner and the cast all deliver.
Thank You for Your Service (2017)
difficult movie to watch
This was a very difficult movie to watch. Rather than a war movie, it's an after-the-war movie with the returning soldiers all struggling to cope with different degrees of physical and mental disability. Betrayed by loved ones they left at home, struggling with brain injuries due to road-side bomb attacks, plagued with survivor guilt and all of them let down by the Army and Veterans Administration that's supposed to be helping them.
The movie it is most like is the outstanding "The Best Years of Our Lives" which was a multi-Oscar winner in its day, following how three war veterans try, with varying degrees of success, to reclaim their civilian lives. "Thank You for Your Service" is a much more brutal version of that story in terms of language and emotional angst of the survivors. Both are well worth watching.
House of Manson (2014)
tepid (spoilers alert)
I know a lot about the Manson case and also know one of his former associates so I'd been looking forward to seeing this movie. If you're not familiar with the Manson case then you might be okay with this movie. If you know anything about it though, you'll be disappointed.
I suppose the biggest complaint is with how the murders were depicted. Having Sadie brandishing the gun was a bit jarring since she never touched the gun in the real murders. There were other very distorted depictions and while I realize that some artistic license has to be allowed, too much and the movie is spoiled, especially with a story as well-known as this one is.
The acting in the movie was hit or miss. I didn't find the Manson character to be very convincing and other than the actress paying Susan Atkins, it was hard to tell which girl was which.
Certainly one of the worst movies I've seen in years. Hammy, over the top acting (Bryan Cranston being the worst offender), silly story with so many plot holes that you feel like you've fallen into an illogical abyss. Godzilla only on screen for about 10 minutes and most of the time the monster looked like it was some guy in a suit. Just total, absolute drivel and not even very interesting drivel--I kept falling asleep even with all the explosions and Godzilla occasionally roaring. At least four Oscar-nominated actors in this movie---Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn and Juliette Binoche. They must've really needed a paycheck to stoop to this. Bryan Cranston's performance I thought was so amateurish I had to wonder, is this the guy everyone's talked about for being such a great actor in "Breaking Bad"?
Solid science fiction
The fourth of the series, "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" is the 2nd best of the entire run, after the original entry. It is also the basis for the recent re-boot "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". I saw this movie in the theater when I was a kid and the ending scared the wits out of me.
The movie had a very small budget but more than made up for it with the very solid writing and some excellent acting by the principal cast, Roddy McDowell, Don Murray, Ricardo Montalban, Severn Darden and Hari Rhodes.
Montalban sets up the story very well as Armando, the kindly circus master who has hidden the intelligent ape, Caesar, for a couple of decades. But when Caesar blurts out his anger at the humans who are mistreating an ape, he has to go into hiding while Montalban tries to cover for him, at the cost of his life. The "speciest" gov't is now determined to find the intelligent ape that they feel certain now exists. Caesar goes "native" by becoming a mute simian servant of the humans but fomenting revolution all the while behind the scenes.
Hari Rhodes' character is particularly interesting. An aide to the bigoted governor played by Don Murray, as a black man and descendant of slaves his heart is more with the apes than it is with his own people. He provides Caesar some crucial support at key moments in the show and then has to make an appeal to the ape's "humanity" at the end when the apes are about to massacre their human prisoners. But as Caesar points out, he's not a human and simian ideas of justice may not jibe with human concepts.
The "Ape" movies were well-known for their downbeat endings. Now nearly every story you see, no matter how grim, has to have some sort of hopeful ending but not the "Ape" series. In episode 1 Taylor discovers that he's on Earth all along in one of the most stunning endings in movie history; in part 2 the world is utterly destroyed in a final war between the humans and apes; part 3 has Caesar's parents being murdered; part 4 the apes have overthrown the human race. Only in part 5 do we finally have a "happy" ending of centuries in the future when men and apes have finally learned to live in peace.
Secret Honor (1984)
movies don't get any better than this
An adaptation of a stage play, "Secret Honor" is the tour de force performance of actor Philip Baker Hall. At the time he made it he'd had a distinguished stage career in New York but was barely known in movies and television. While he doesn't look or sound very much like Nixon he totally inhabits the character and rages around the set swilling Scotch and experiencing nearly every emotion you can think of.
The story is of course totally fictional but in some respects Hall and the writers may have gotten closer to the core of who Nixon was than any other film ever did. Nixon is without a doubt the most enigmatic man ever to be President and "Secret Honor" is a fascinating study revealing what made the man tick.
Even if you don't care for Nixon or political movies, this movie is worth watching for Hall's performance alone. There's never a moment in the movie, in which he's on screen every second, where he doesn't completely rivet the viewer's attention. The movie didn't make Hall a star but it started getting his name out. A young P.T. Anderson was a huge fan of the movie and later struck up a relationship with Hall which led to Hall appearing in a lot of Anderson's movies such as "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights".
12 Years a Slave (2013)
2 hours of sadism
I was hoping to really enjoy "12 Years a Slave" but wasn't expecting a 2 hr long movie of very long, ponderous slow camera shots of nature and hardly any compelling dialog or character development. This was then broken up seemingly every 10 minutes by a savage flogging or a vicious rape or some other sadistic cruelty being inflicted on the movie's hero, the hapless Solomon a freeman sold into slavery, and the other slaves. Except for Brad Pitt's Canadian abolitionist and a gentleman from Solomon's home town, virtually every white character in this movie is portrayed as the very embodiment of evil. No nuance, nothing but unremitting sadism.
A lot of people seem to be comparing this movie to "Schindler's List" although I can't understand why. In "List" you had the compelling story of Schindler who, for reasons known only to himself, risks his life to save as many Jews as he can. The Jewish prisoners are depicted as full characters, people you know and care about. Even the Nazi played by Ralph Finnes is given some depth, a man whose cruelty has been unleashed and sanctioned by his Nazi bosses but, you suspect but for the war would be a man who might be interesting to be around---a lover of fine food, good wine and a roving eye for the women. But the slave masters in "12 Years a Slave" don't have the slightest hint of anything human about them, just treating people with cruelty for cruelty's sake.
If filmmakers really wanted to make a powerful movie about slavery, they might consider boldly making a new version of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and hew closely to the story that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote. It's a powerful book and it gets far deeper into the immorality of slavery than anything like "12 Years a Slave" does. The memoirs that "12" was based on came out soon after the huge success of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". The opening scene of the slave-traders benignly discussing their "wares" in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was so chilling to read that I couldn't even bear to read it through in one sitting. "12" had a similar scene with the excellent Paul Giamatti as a slave-trader, but the movie never got any deeper.
Falling Down (1993)
I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks this, but my favorite character in the movie is "Not Economically Viable Man." He's another version of the Michael Douglas character and they even dress the same---short-sleeve white shirt & tie. Both of them have been tossed aside by the system and at the end of the movie, D-Fens even adopts the title, calling himself "not economically viable." It's an example though of clever writing and proof that there's no such thing as a small part in a play or movie. The actor who is "Not Economically Viable Man" is unforgettable in this role and he plays a crucial part in advancing and explaining the story. You could have an entire movie just about his character and it would probably be just as interesting as the D-Fens character.
Don Jon (2013)
If you want to go to a movie where you are assaulted with 90 minutes of almost non-stop vulgarity, the characters (with the exception apparently of the Catholic priest who's never on camera) saying "f'ck" seemingly every alternate word, if you want to see a movie about a man unrepentantly absorbed with pornography and the relentless objectification of women, then you might want to see "Don Jon." The movie is no doubt a hit on the coasts but in fly-over country where I live (albeit, 250 mi from the coast) there was a grand total of four people who attended the viewing I went to. I was going to walk out after the first 30 minutes but managed to doze off for a bit.
The movie is probably going to be compared to "Auto Focus", the bio-pic about Bob Crane and his sex addiction and murder. "Auto Focus" is far superior and it shows how a man's life falls apart due to his obsession. "Don Jon" takes the attitude that sex addiction is just no big deal. By the end of the movie Jon seems to have found a woman he can connect with but you also know he has absolutely no inclination whatsoever to quit his porn obsession.
The Butler (2013)
Watching White House Paint Dry
Lee Daniels' The Butler" doesn't live up to the hype. First off, there's the ridiculous title, which, I know, wasn't the director's choice, but I doubt anyone else would confuse this movie with some other movie called "The Butler." The intriguing thing about the movie is supposed to be the portrayal of the Presidents and the odd casting. Actually Robin Williams did quite well as Eisenhower and he's the only Republican in the movie who is portrayed with any sympathy. I found the actor playing JFK unconvincing and looking 20 years younger than JFK really was. Liev Schrieber was interesting as LBJ but none of his blatantly bigoted talk was done on camera. When he makes a speech talking about "Negros" one of the butlers is amazed that he used that word since LBJ used the N-word more than he did. John Cusak plays Nixon like some weirdo, Alan Rickman as Reagan wasn't bad but the movie by then morphed dropped any pretense of being objective and portrayed Reagan as perhaps the most racist man ever to be in the office while the sun practically rises with a chorus of angels to greet Obama's election as President.
Knowing that most people won't fact-check, the movie misrepresents Reagan's stance on South African sanctions and then has the butler's radical son just baldly assert that Reagan has undone every program that has ever helped black people. Complete lie of course but by then the show had become propaganda.
Another unnecessary melodramatic touch was to have KKK members in full pointy-head regalia attacking the Freedom Riders' bus. Yes, the bus was in fact attacked but it was at a bus station, not in some highway ambush. Yes whites attacked the bus, set fire to it and pummeled the white and black Riders when they fled the bus. But none of the racists were in KKK garb and they didn't burn crosses. Frankly, they were so bold and so sure they'd get away scot-free that there was never any reason to hide behind the Halloween get-up. Just watch the excellent PBS documentary "The Freedom Riders." The Freedom Riders story would make an outstanding movie in and of itself. Lastly, I did feel that the lunch-counter sit-ins and training for the sit-ins was very well done and the most riveting moments of the movie. Oh, and the death of Cecil's younger son is laid at the feet of the Republican Nixon, not the Democrat LBJ when you see his tombstone saying he died in late 1973, in the last weeks of the Vietnam War and of course on Nixon's watch, not LBJ's.
The acting, generally, was solid. Oprah Winfrey will probably get an Oscar nomination and probably deserves it. I was pleased to see Cuba Gooding, Jr. do so well in a much better project than most of the dreck he's been stuck in since he won an Oscar for "Jerry Maguire". But Forest Whitaker is just a cipher as the butler Cecil. He is required to mask his feelings all the time at his work and is pledged to confidentiality outside of his work. The only time Cecil is allowed to show much emotion at all is in his conflicts with his radical son, who, Forrest Gump-like, is of course at every major Civil Rights Era event---the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, Selma, the MLK assassination, etc.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
ponderous, pretentious and sleep-inducing
"Cloud Atlas" was the longest three hours I've spent in a movie theater in a long, long time. Twice I had to hold myself back from walking out. The theme, if you can finally figure it out, is that love and relationships endure throughout time and the heroes or the spirits of the heroes keep showing up in different times in history. But rather show things in some sort of sequence, the movie cuts back and forth from time and place without any warning. You have to keep track of about a half dozen different stories, multiple characters played by the same actors and finally you just throw up your hands and give up. Even if you could figure out the storyline, there's nothing original about it. Oh, and bring a translation book since about 25% of the dialog is in some sort of pidgin-English invented for the movie.
I don't mind movies occasionally trying to shake up the traditional narrative; "Memento" was an outstandingly original twist on the conventional storytelling. But "Cloud Atlas" is not only confusing, it's ponderous, grindingly slow, gratuitously violent, self-important and dull. It cost $100 million to make and it'll no doubt enter the ranks of one of the most expensive flops in movie history. It's not even forgettable---the story is so unintelligible that you really don't have anything to forget when you leave the theater.
I'd heard of this movie but had never seen it before yesterday. Given it was the movie that Andy Griffith made right after his hilarious "No Time for Sergeants" I expected it to be a comedy but after watching it I'm not sure if it was a comedy, a drama or what.
Griffith plays Al Woods, a lower-class guy from Oklahoma who is working his way through college as a waiter at a high-toned sorority at the college---and getting hot and heavy with one of the sorority girls. She ends up rejecting him because of his low-born status. Infuriated, he quits school and since this is early 1941, he decides to join the service and get as far away as he can. A literal coin flip has him ending up in the Coast Guard.
Though he had entered the Coast Guard to forget women, Woods is still a rake and the first chance he has to hook up with a girl he does, going for the luscious Stella played by Felicia Farr. Assigned to a buoy tender as a cook, even though he doesn't know the first thing about being a cook, you think the movie is going to be a comedy like "No Time for Sergeants" but it never gets there. Woods, despite his lack of cooking skills, becomes a pretty good cook in short order and wins over the respect of the top cook played by Walter Matthau. As it turns out, he and Matthau are vying for the same woman. Matthau marries her but when he ships out for sea, Woods learns that Stella is very much on the make.
The movie is uneven. It never makes up its mind about being a comedy, a drama or something else. The "onionhead" reference isn't explained until well into the movie when Woods is convinced by another Coastie to shave his head. The test of wills between Woods and the supercilious executive officer comes and goes. Woods isn't really all that likable a character but Griffith does a pretty good job with the role. Matthau does his usual fine performance. Felicia Farr went on to be married to Jack Lemmon for awhile. The rest of the cast includes Joey Bishop, Tige Andrews and James Gregory. You can probably count all the movies about the Coast Guard on two fingers---"Onionhead" and the very good Kevin Costner movie, "The Guardian".
The Three Stooges (2012)
Fortunately I didn't take my girlfriend to see this mess because I got up and left an hour into it and had she gone with me it would've been twice as much a waste of money. The movie is just a lame reenactment of some of the original Stooges' shtick but adding in a bunch of insults towards Catholicism and "updating" the routines with more scatological references than could've been done by the original Stooges. And Jennifer Hudson, an Oscar winner, consented to be in this mess?
Most of the anti-Catholic bashing is done by Larry David who is Sister Mary-Mengele (ha ha! Let's name a nun after a Nazi war criminal!). The Farrelly Brothers have had a lot of success with past movies like "Shallow Hal" and "Me, Myself & Irene" but they might've run themselves out of the business with this dreck.
The Hunger Games (2012)
derivative and boring
I've never read the books but went to an afternoon screening to see what the fuss was about. "The Hunger Games" I felt was a complete bore. The story unwinds in an excruciatingly slow manner and you really have no emotional connection with the characters. The plot-line itself---people of a dystopian future being made to fight to the death on TV has been done to death (no pun) and done with more wit an imagination in "The Running Man" for instance. The gladiator story is told much better in real gladiator movies like "Gladiator" and "Spartacus" which are both hugely better than "The Hunger Games".
For an action movie it feels like days go by before there is any real action. The "name" actors like Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley and Donald Sutherland seem to be as bored as the viewer is with this material. The unknown actors playing the competitors are wooden. When there is action it is usually with such herky-jerky camera work that you can barely follow what is happening. And there are some gaping plot holes. SPOILER ALERT the heroine is treed by the others who will just wait her out to get hungry and come down. And of course they snooze instead. The "simulated" monster animals that can actually devour people? Most of the competitors are killed off camera? Come on. . .
The movie is handsomely filmed and has all sorts of clever special effects but the story line was totally incoherent to me. RDJ's Holmes looks like he has not only shaved in days but he hasn't bathed in days, either. Jude Law's Dr. Watson looks equally scruffy. Didn't anyone shave in the 1890s? There's a lot of bantering between Holmes and Watson which is entertaining but very little of the deductive reasoning that was the core of every Holmes story. And yes, in the books Holmes did know some sort of Asian martial arts but these new movies make him into a martial arts expert an a par with Bruce Lee. It's so incongruous to the rest of the story and the setting as to be very distracting.
Boys Town (1938)
"Boys Town" is pure formula by today's standards but is still entertaining to watch. The movie's weakness is that it portrays just about everyone as a bit too saintly, even the criminals in the story. Mickey Rooney's acting is almost continually over the top and is in jarring contrast to the other boys. Meanwhile, Spencer Tracy's portrayal of Father Flanagan is that he's a man seemingly without flaw. You like Flanagan but it's sometimes hard to identify with a man who seems to be impossibly saintly. Still, Flanagan in this movie just doesn't talk the talk, he walks the walk. There are virtually no movies today about Christians living out their values and changing the world around them.
A side note about Tracy's Oscar for this movie. After he won it, a flack for the Academy announced that Tracy was donating it to Boys Town. Except no one had asked Tracy if he was doing so. Tracy would've looked terrible for refusing to do so after it had been announced so a compromise was struck---Boys Town got the Oscar to display and Tracy was given a duplicate for his mantle. Some other actors have donated their Oscars---Shelly Winters gave her Oscar for "The Diary of Anne Frank" to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Bing Crosby donated his Oscar to his alma mater, Gonzaga University.
you're not likely to find a better movie
"Deliverance" is just about the best outdoor adventure movie ever made, period. The movie is very faithful to the book, not surprising since James Dickey wrote both and also played the part of the Sheriff in this movie.
The movie was filmed on location and because it was considered so risky, the production couldn't get insurance for the project. The actors, all excellent, had to do nearly all of their own stunt work. I've done a lot of whitewater rafting and have had to swim through some very dangerous rapids after falling out of the raft once or twice---believe me, it is not something you do for fun.
John Boorman's movies usually have the theme of man versus man and man versus Nature and "Deliverance" is no exception. The four city businessmen are out to canoe down one of Georgia's last wild rivers before it is dammed up and flooded. They find themselves in a totally alien world of backwoods hillbillies such that you can scarcely believe that the city men and the country folk are from the same country.
The story of course is familiar to everyone. The city men enjoy their trip down the river until the second day when, separated on the water and stopping to wait for the trailing canoe, two of the men, Ed and Bobby, are confronted by two hillbillies who are intent on brutally raping them. The rape scene is still harrowing and I would suspect was the first male/male rape scene in movie history. Given it was Ned Beatty's first movie role, the man should've merited some Oscar consideration for taking that risk with his career. The actors playing the hillbillies are amongst the most frightening characters in movie history.
The second canoe arrives just after the assault on Bobby ends and the mountain men turn their attention to Ed. Lewis, one of the other canoeists, kills one of the rapists with his bow and the other rapist flees into the hills. The four city men then debate what to do next, take the body with them downriver and report it to the authorities, or just bury the body and get out of there, knowing that the river is going to be flooded in a few weeks. This scene is also powerful because they have to decide where does the law abide? Is it imposed on us and therefore can be discarded as circumstances demand, or is is within ourselves and must be followed regardless of the repercussions? Drew, who is conscience-stricken, is outvoted by the other three.
The rest of the trip involves more death, possible murder or killing in self-defense, more lies, more evasions until the survivors are finally able to make their getaway, but are haunted by their consciences.
And what would you do in that situation? Everyone who watches this movie will ask himself what he would do if it happened to him. . .Oh, and by the way, the movie of course lent itself to a standard joke amongst whitewater rafters---we're not stopping for any hillbillies we find on the riverbank!
In Cold Blood (1996)
This two-part TV mini-series isn't as good as the original from 1966 but it's solid. The original benefited from a huge number of things---it was all in black and white, it had a great jazz score and it was filmed at the real locations, including the home of the doomed Clutter family. That was important because in the book and in the original movie the home is very much a character itself.
This remake was filmed in Canada which I guess doubles okay for Kansas. The story tries to be as sympathetic to Perry as it dares to and Eric Roberts plays him as a somewhat fey person, his homosexuality barely hidden. The gentler take by Roberts doesn't quite work in the end though because it's hard to believe that his version of Perry Smith would just finally explode in a spasm of murder. Whereas Robert Blake's take on Smith left you no doubt that his Perry Smith was an extremely dangerous character.
Anthony Edwards was excellent as the bombastic, big-mouthed and ultimately cowardly Dick Hickcock, the brains of the outfit. His performance compares very well to Scott Wilson's role in the original movie.
Since this is a longer movie it allows more time to develop the Clutter family and in this regard I think the 1996 movie has an advantage. The Clutters are just an outstanding, decent family. They've never harmed another soul and it is just inexplicable that such a decent family is ultimately massacred in such a horrifying way. It still boggles my mind that, after the Clutters were locked in the bathroom, that Herb Clutter didn't force out the window so at least his children would have a chance to escape. This movie has the thought occur to him, but too late. From what I read about the real home, which is still standing, the way the bathroom is configured they could've opened the counter drawers and effectively barricaded the door which would've forced the killers to blast their way in. But it might've bought time for some of the Clutters to escape. Why the Clutters didn't try this, I have no idea.
Fans of the book will recognize that this movie takes a lot of liberties with how the crime is committed but not too serious. Still, it's distracting to viewers like me who have read tons about the case. The actors playing the cops, led by Sam Neill and Leo Rossi, are uniformly excellent, much better, I think, as a group, than the actors in the original movie. They know that to secure the noose around the necks of both of them they have to get them to confess. And the officers come to the interview impeccably prepared. They had already discovered the likely alibi the phony story of going to Fort Scott, and had debunked every jot of it. The officers then let Smith & Hickcock just walk into their trap. Hickcock is a b.s. artist who figures he can convince anyone of anything and the officers respectfully let him tell his cover story. But when they lower the boom on him, he shatters very quickly. It's very well filmed and acted and very gratifying to watch because the viewer naturally should loath Hickcock in particular by this point, a cowardly con-man who needs the easily manipulated Smith to do his killing for him. Supposedly Hickcock later stated that the real reason for the crime wasn't to steal money from the Clutters but to rape Nancy Clutter. At least she was spared that degradation.
The actors playing the Clutters are very good, Kevin Tighe as Herb Clutter in particular. The story sensitively deals with Mrs. Clutter's emotional problems, most likely clinical depression, and Mrs. Clutter displays remarkable inner strength when she firmly and strongly demands that the killers leave her daughter alone. From what I've read the Clutters' surviving family was particularly bothered by how Bonnie Clutter was portrayed in the book, claiming it was entirely untrue. But as an aside, both of the killers related to the police how Mr. Clutter asked them to not bother his wife because of her long illness. Capote might make up that fiction to make the character of Bonnie more interesting but certainly the killers had no reason to falsely portray Mrs. Clutter and no doubt much of the conversation in the book (duplicated in the movies) is right off the taped confessions of the killers. So it would've been nonsensical for Herb to have said that and not have it be true.
Latter Days (2003)
"Latter Days" is a pretty decent movie although the rather graphic gay sex scenes will cause some discomfort. I've known several LDS missionaries and I think the movie honestly portrays them. The gap between the gay world and the LDS world is probably unbridgeable but not nearly as hostile as in other parts in the world. Had this movie been about two gay Muslims in Afghanistan, the movie would've ended with their being beheaded.
The acting in the movie is pretty good but Jacqueline Bisset easily outshines everyone. She is elegant, cultured, classy and approachable. The movie has decent production values even though it is obviously not an expensively made movie. Worth watching if you want to see a movie about people and lifestyles you may know very little about.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
I really like Daniel Craig as James Bond; I think he has the look, the ruthlessness and the charisma for the role. But "Quantum of Solace" is a total mess. If you haven't seen "Casino Royale" you'll have a hard time following "Quantum" and even if you have seen it, you'll have a hard time following "Quantum". The story I thought was totally incoherent. Mostly it seemed to just be an exercise in putting together some chase and fight scenes. And they did nearly all of them---a car chase, a foot chase, a boat chase, an airplane chase (just about everything except chases on bicycles and spacecraft). Fight scenes? Gunfights, fist fights, martial arts, knife fights. . .
I know the filmmakers are trying to go on an entirely new take with Bond but "Quantum" is indistinguishable from the Bourne series. Bourne is fine and I like them, but I expect something different from Bond and I didn't get it in this movie.
Also, did I miss this or am I mistaken? At one point Bond is helped by "Ms. Fields" a British Embassy staffer in Bolivia. She is asked several times by Bond what her first name is and she refuses to tell him. She eventually is bedded by Bond and then killed in a way that is a total rip-off of the killing of Jill Masters in "Goldfinger." That's okay, I suppose, but why the coyness about her first name which is never stated in the movie (if it was, I didn't hear it). The mystery was unraveled in the credits when her name is given as "Strawberry Fields". A rather lame joke I suppose using a Beatles song but it would've been okay HAD HER NAME ACTUALLY BEEN SAID IN THE MOVIE!!! There's no question Bond would've had at least one quip about her name being a Beatles title but as far as I could tell, there were none. So why call her "Strawberry Fields" in the credits? Why not "Mildred Fields" or "Harriet Fields"? It's just an example of how this movie falls short.
The Misfits (1961)
sad send off for Gable and Monroe
"The Misfits" is worth watching because it is the last movie performance for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. However, that's the only reason to watch it. A very grim story about a group of broken people who will never find happiness. Probably the best scene in the movie is when Montgomery Clift is speaking to his mother on a payphone and you get a sense of how strange his character is. Clift is just a weird looking person; he looked as weird in "Judgment at Nuremberg".
It was sad to see Marilyn starting to look her age. She was in her early 30s then and her chaotic lifestyle was starting to show on her face. I didn't find her relationship with Gable to be believable in any way. Gable was nearly 60, Marilyn was about 35 and she hooks up with him? None of the men in this movie are appealing and Marilyn's sad character has only those three to choose from?