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COMING SOON...

CINDERELLA LIBERTY, WIDOWS, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, THE FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION, BAD REPUTATION, and DISTANT VOICES STILL LIVES

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN: A FOND FAREWELL



How times have changed. Growing up in the 70s young people had an appreciation for the things that came before us, especially in movies. There wasn’t anyone who didn’t know who Jimmy Cagney was in spite of the fact he stopped making movies. Humphrey Bogarts may have died in 1957 but we knew him and his movies. Ask a young person today about a star from even the near past and they have no clue. I know, I asked someone if they’d heard of Robert Redford and they didn’t know the name or the face. So perhaps he’s chosen the right time to retire. I know he’s picked the perfect swan song with THE OLD MAN & THE GUN.

Redford plays Forrest Tucker, an elderly bank robber who is in the midst of a string of robberies as the film opens. Having escaped from San Quentin at age 70 he’s working with two partners, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). The method they use is surprisingly effective, especially in how they pull the jobs off. Tucker walks in like an ordinary customer, informs the teller what he wants and acts pleasant the entire time he’s robbing the bank. A gentleman bandit.

On his way from the first robbery we witness he sees a woman stranded beside the road, her truck broken down. He stops to help her, in part to avoid the screaming police vehicles looking for him and also to honestly lend a hand. The woman is named Jewel (Sissy Spacek) and the two talk as he drives her home. They stop for a bite to eat and converse hitting it off, well enough that he asks if he can call on her some time. To her he’s a salesman on the road. To him she’s security he’s never known.

As the story progresses there is one person doggedly in pursuit of Tucker. John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is a detective assigned to one of his robberies. Determined to catch the robbers it is Hunt who find the evidence to connect the robbery in his town to the string of robberies the group is doing. On TV he provides a name to the group, the over the hill gang. At their next robbery Tucker leaves behind a $100 bill, written on it Hunt’s name in care of the over the hill gang.

Through it all Tucker never presents a threatening character at the robberies he commits. He always assures the bank tellers that he is armed but then consoles them, trying to talk them down and calm them with his gentlemanly ways. In so doing they calmly follow his instructions and he never has to resort to violence.

But the movie isn’t just a cops and robbers bank robbery story. It’s the tale of a man who has a compulsion to rob banks and to escape prison. No wait, it’s a pursuit story about a career police detective determined to get the collar even if the FBI wants to do so. Hang on a second, now it’s a love story about an aging con and a retired widow who’s a horse rancher. That’s the best thing about this movie. It doesn’t narrowly fit into one category, it’s all of these movies rolled into one, a compilation of stories about one person that paint a complex picture. It works perfectly.

Not only that but we are presented with a movie about bank robbers that isn’t like any other. There are no 20 car chases on hand here and those that take place last no longer than a minute or two tops. There is not random act of violence, no gore filled scenes of anyone being shot. It’s a well-paced film that shows what happens without resorting to the standard things we’ve seen before.

Redford, now 82, announced that this was to be his last film. He hasn’t had a hit since 1998’s THE HORSE WHISPERER so I’m glad he’s going out on a high note here. This is perhaps one of the best performances he’s given in years. The sign of a gifted actor is to make you believe he isn’t acting and Redford has that ability. His style is easy going and the words come from his mouth as if he’s speaking them himself rather than reading dialogue provided for him. That younger people aren’t aware of him is sad because he displays a great ability here many could learn from.

The rest of the supporting cast does and amazing job as well. Spacek in particular plays her role like Redford does, appearing not to be acting at all. She’s been underused in the past and that’s sad too. Glover and Waits are nice in supporting roles but they truly are supporting and not seen often. Affleck does a great job as Hunt here, presenting a family man and an officer who wants to accomplish what he set out to do.

The movie didn’t fare well at the box office but with the release on disc my hope is that more people will give this one a watch. I found it to be one of the better movies I’ve watched from the past years and a fitting tribute to a great actor.

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WATERWORLD: IT NEVER LOOKED BETTER



I was one of those rare people it seems in 1995 when WATERWORLD was released to theaters. I saw the trailer and looked forward to it. The internet hadn’t taken over yet so bashing the film was limited to the press and shows like ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT. All they could seem to focus on was the expense of making the film. They were calling it a train wreck before anyone had even seen it. I ignored it and went to the theater to see the film and loved every minute of it. But before I get into all that what is the movie about?

In the future the ice caps have melted and the world is now covered in water. A lone mariner (Kevin Costner) sails the seas in his trimaran looking for items to trade at various atolls that exists, bonded together ships and such where groups of people live and continue to try and survive. Sailing the seas as well are “smokers”, pirates who raid and kill to take what they want. He escapes one of these groups and heads out to trade.

The atoll he comes across seems safe enough. The people there exist, use their dead to renew their fertilizer pit and dream of a world called Dryland. He trades the most precious commodity there is for chits, dry soil. Taking his chits he goes to the nearby store and meets Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and her little girl Enola (Tina Majorino). A group of townspeople question him and angry at his responses notice that he has gills; the Mariner is a mutant, able to swim underwater. They capture and cage him, deciding he must die.

But before that can happen smokers attack the atoll. They’re searching for a girl one of their spies learned about. That girl is Enola and she has a special tattoo on her back, one that is supposed to be the map to Dryland. A battle follows and Helen’s friend Gregor (Michael Jeter) escapes in a balloon he made but is unable to rescue Helen and Enola. Seeing him as her only way out, she releases the Mariner and boards his trimaran and the three escape.

The leader of the smokers is Deacon (Dennis Hopper) who is wounded during the escape losing an eye. He now not only wants the girl with the map but revenge for his loss. And he will do anything in his power to find the Mariner and his passengers.

Nice set up, eh? So much more happens including the interactions between the Mariner and his passengers, the search by Deacon and the smokers and the fight sequences that take place not just with them but other ships that come upon the trio. Through it all the Mariner begins to change. He learns to become more human and the non-mutant humans with him learn that he isn’t any different than they are. And all along the quest for Dryland rumbles beneath everything.

So here is the deal. When the movie came out in 1995 Kevin Costner was at the top of his game. He’d just come off of a huge string of hits and was box office gold. Starting in 85 and through 94 he made SILVERADO, THE UNTOUCHABLE, NO WAY OUT, BULL DURHAM, FIELD OF DREAMS, DANCES WITH WOLVES, ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, JFK, THE BODYGUARD and WYATT EARP. What I’ve noticed about Hollywood, and especially the press, is that when a star reaches a point like this they begin to try and tear them down. It’s as if they are jealous of their success and suddenly none of the movies they make gets good press. It doesn’t matter if the movie is good or not, they slam it and find fault with it. This movie was Costner’s take down flick. After this film he continued to make great movies but you’d never know that based on critic’s reviews. He still does but don’t expect them to say so.

This movie has some amazing elements to it and that should have been the focus. The concept was original and the work that the team behind the cameras did to make it plausible was fantastic. The methods of filtering body water to continue to drink it, the various ways the trimaran is able to be controlled by one man (not really but it is in the film) and the locations where survivors gather are so realistic and believable. That alone should have made people marvel at the film.

But it offers more than that. There is a great story being told here as well. Not just about those trying to survive but the humanizing of a character far too long on his own. It also provides a new twist on an old story at the same time, pirates searching for treasure and seeking a map to find it. That’s as old as TREASURE ISLAND. But for me the best thing was that the film harkened back to the swashbuckling films of Errol Flynn. As a die-hard Flynn fan who still loves watching CAPTAIN BLOOD and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD this film presented that same sort of adventure. And Costner was up to it. He fit the mold perfectly and yet go no credit for doing so.

The special effects here are mind boggling. The vehicles are real enough to survive the sea and be shot on film. And speaking of the cinematography is wonderful as well. Dean Semler shows why he is one of the top directors of photography in the business. Kevin Reynolds also does a great job here too, bringing all the elements together in the most marvelous ways.

If that weren’t enough there isn’t a cast member in here who falters. Costner I’ve said enough about. Tripplehorn was still in the early stage of her career having just been in THE FIRM with Tom Cruise. Hopper was at his wildest and brings Deacon to life as no one else could have. And Majorino, at the time only 10 years old, showed that she could keep up with the stars. That she’s gone on to have a successful career is good news having had roles in both VERONICA MARS and SCORPION on TV as well as the cult favorite NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. Yes, that really is her!

So the movie’s been out on disc in the past and even on blu-ray. So why would anyone want to pick up a new version of this film. Two words should make that an easy answer: Arrow Video.

Yes Arrow Video has gone all out on this one. It’s not enough that they treat it like they do all their releases making them the best version possible. Oh no, they had to make this one special. How special? Let’s begin with the fact that this is a 4k scan from the original camera negative making it the most amazing looking version of the film since it was released. But wait there’s more. There is not one, not two but THREE versions of the film to be seen here. There is the original version at 2 hours and 15 minutes long. Then there is the TV cut with an additional 40 minutes that includes alternative footage. But then they went and made an extended European cut that restored previously censored shots and dialogue to that TV cut making the film run 2 hours and 57 minutes long! Take a breath!

Wow, pretty good. That should satisfy most people. Oh no, there is more. More? Yes, more! There are 6 collector’s postcards, a double-sided fold-out poster, a limited edition 60 page perfect bound book with new writing by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith with archival articles and original reviews, a reversible sleeve with original and new artwork done by Paul Shipper, MAELSTORM: THE ODYSSEY OF WATERWORLD a feature length making of documentary on the film, an original archival featurette on the making of the film, GLOBAL WARMING a featurette with film critic Glenn Kenny exploring the subgenre of ecologically aware Hollywood films, production stills, visual effects stills gallery and the original trailers and TV spots. Arrow, you’re making everyone else look bad, keep it up!

I can’t begin to recommend this movie enough or this version of it. As a fan it is a dream come true, a movie that deserved better than it got. It’s easy when you’re not making the movie to criticize everything about it and to ridicule it for going over budget. But the money spent at least ended up on the screen. While I was only able to watch the first version of the film so far I know I’ll be watching the other two in the next day or so. I finished that first and can’t wait to get started on the next version. But it’s coming out now and I need to let readers know. This is a great movie that you can now re-discover or find for the first time. I suggest that you take the voyage to Waterworld today.

LOVE, GILDA: BEHIND THE SCENES



In 1975 something appeared on TV that changed the way we looked at comedy for some time. The show was called SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. It featured a cast called The Not Ready For Prime Time Players, many who came from the comedy improv club Second City and some who had gone on to National Lampoon’s radio program. They became stars overnight and most went on to hugely successful film roles as well as meeting tragic ends. But among them was someone who always seemed happy, a sweetheart who could weave her magic around the audience and who captured the hearts of viewers even if she wasn’t aware of it. That woman was Gilda Radner.

LOVE, GILDA is a compilation of home movies, recordings, TV and film clips, reminiscences of old friends and reflections of current comedians that are molded together to present a picture of the life and times of Radner. Director Lisa Dapolito brings these elements together in chronological order to present the viewer with the woman behind the comedian. We get to see what was going on in her mind, what formed her in childhood and the struggles she faced.

Beginning with photos and home movies of her childhood we see that she was drawn to the stage and to perform first for her father and then as a way of combatting children who would taunt her about her weight. She dealt with depression and tragedy and came to find a friend in her grandmother who came to live with them.

As a working stage performer she found that she was a natural talent and others did as well. Along the way she made friends and acquaintances that helped her later in her career. When she finally did make it to SNL she found that it was still a man’s world and that her ideas were not taken as readily as those of her male co-stars. She had to fight to get her skits approved and did so not by being forceful but by working them in.

Through it all as depicted here was her need for love. She dated regularly and had numerous boyfriends. Many were among those she worked with. Cast mates from SNL and Second City were there for her and even when they parted ways they remained friends. She married G.E. Smith who led the band on SNL. But it wasn’t until she met and later married actor Gene Wilder that she met her soulmate.

They were different types of people and yet molded together perfectly. They were deeply in love. And that made the fact that Radner developed cancer that much more tragic. The two remained together until her passing in 1989. It seems amazing that it’s been 30 years now since she passed away.

We may have known much of this in the years that have gone by since her passing but this film provides her a chance to know her better, in her own voice and in those of others who knew her and who idolized her as a role model. Sadly so many of the original SNL cast members have been forgotten with at least one if not two generations who didn’t grow up with them. They never experienced the comedic genius that was on hand in that original cast and for that matter in Gilda. That’s sad.

Perhaps this documentary will make those generations look back and discover how great she was. Maybe it will inspire some to seek her out and learn for her, to be inspired like so many who have followed in her footsteps. One can hope. And for those that loved Gilda, who laughed at her performances and characters, who thought of her as a bright spot on SNL we now have a way to enjoy and know her like never before. Thank you Gilda.