Thursday, April 4, 2019
There are some movies that once you hear the title of you know you have to take a look. Most tend to be in the low budget category and still have a certain charm. I mean haven’t we all had a chance to see THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN? But now we have a new movie and Hitler makes an appearance once again. That movie is THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT. I mean come on, Hitler, Nazis AND Bigfoot? How can it lose? The fact is it’s actually a pretty good movie.
Sam Elliott stars as Calvin Barr, the main character from the title. Older and living alone he does little but read and hit the local bar. After leaving their one night three goons attack him attempting to steal his car and money. Big mistake on their part as even while slightly inebriated he takes them all out.
The film fluctuates between past and present as we learn about Calvin leaving for war during WWII and that causing him to lose the love of his life. In the past he trains and is given the assignment discussed in the title. We learn that there were several impersonators posing as Hitler but the job Calvin was given was the real leader. And in spite of the good this did when it came to saving the world it still troubles him after all these years.
The only person Calvin talks to these days is his now grown little brother Ed (Larry Miller). The two aren’t as close as they would like but Ed did leave a lasting impression on Calvin. Before heading off to war Ed gave him his most treasured possession to take with him, a tiny toy dinosaur. Now the two talk infrequently, more often than not when Ed, a barber, is cutting Calvin’s hair.
Calvin’s life changes when two government agents show up at his door. The government is in need of his tracking capabilities once again. It seems the legendary Bigfoot is roaming the mountains in Canada and is real. Worse yet the creature is carrying a disease that could wipe out most of the world. Only a few people have a natural resistance to this disease and Calvin is one of those. For God and country they want him to take up a weapon and take out the Bigfoot.
All of this sounds like your typical grade Z movie plot but it’s more than that. The film isn’t just about the hunts and kills that Calvin does but the effects they have on him. Having looked into the eyes of Hitler before killing him he’s always been troubled by the moral question of what he did. It’s sort of the question posed many times now by people, if you could go back in time and kill Hitler and prevent the world from experiencing what it did, would you be able to do so? Calvin did and it’s weighed heavy on his shoulders ever since.
The same holds true for his hunt for Bigfoot which actually takes up less time in the film than the rest. Who gets to determine if this creature gets to live or not? Is it nature’s way of balancing the scales with this disease? What right does Calvin have to remove this creature from the Earth?
Director/writer Robert Kryzkowski molds the story into one of reflection and introspection rather than what could have become a simple drive-in style film. This is his first feature film and yet it’s a quality production all the way. Be it inner city locations like the bar during the opening sequence or the panoramic views in the mountains the film looks great.
But it’s not just the director that makes this film. Elliott turns in another great performance as well. Sure he was nominated for an Oscar for A STAR IS BORN this year and turned in an amazing performance the previous year in THE HERO but he shows just how capable he is by turning this movie into something more than one would expect. In lesser hands this film could have become yet another Golden Turkey Award winner. Elliott takes the role and makes it more than you would expect from the title. That’s true talent.
In the end the movie may not have been nominated for any awards and probably only played in a few theaters across the country. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any good. It’s an entertaining film with depth of character that moves along slowly at times but tells a complete story before the end credits role. It’s one of those movies that can be rediscovered by checking it out on disc. I know it’s one I’ll watch again in the future.
I’ve said for some time now that I’m a big fan of westerns. Perhaps not so much that I love just anything tossed out there but I adore the classic western films that I grew up with. So when a new one comes out I’m ready to give it a chance and hope for the best. With BIG KILL expectations fell short, were met and in the end balanced out to make one enjoyable film I know I’ll watch again.
The film involves the paths crossing of two sets of characters in the old west. One is a pair of low level crooks named Jake Logan (Scott Martin who also wrote and directed the film) and Travis Parker (Clint Hummel). Having just barely escaped from a Mexican General whose daughter caught a bit more than just the eye of Travis, the pair head north. Along the way they meet traveler Jim Andrews (Christoph Sanders), a widowed accountant heading to the town of Big Kill which his brother has written him is a boom town. Jim is the typical tenderfoot with no clue how to handle a gun and no sense of how the world around him here is different. Of course the pair will help him along the way.
Along the way they encounter the usual problems that crooks out west tend to but with the help of Jim the duo find themselves on their way with him to see what Big Kill holds in store. When they arrive they discover that things aren’t what they once were with the mine closing and most of the town moving on. No one seems to know Jim’s brother, the mayor is out of town and the man left in charge of keeping the peace is known only as the Preacher (Jason Patric).
Helping the Preacher is a gunslinger and dapper dresser named Johnny Kane (Lou Diamond Phillips). Kane is prone to talking about his notoriety and disappointed when both Jake and Travis say they’ve never heard of him. It isn’t long before someone ends up on the wrong end of the guns of Preacher and Kane. They suggest the trio move on but Jim insists on staying until he can talk to the mayor about his brother and his companions decide to stick around and keep an eye on him.
While they await the mayor’s return Travis catches the eye of a local wild woman who tends to toss men around most of the time. Jake plays cards and not well. And Jim meets and falls for Josie Strong (Elizabeth McLaughlin) the daughter of the general store owner.
The mayor eventually returns and Jim discovers that low and behold it’s his brother! But he’s not the same honorable man he once was. Between plans he’s made to get the railroad to detour through Big Kill and hiring the Preacher and his goons to protect the town he disappoints Jim. In spite of this and in an attempt to set things straight, the mayor tries to fire the Preacher. For his actions the Preacher hangs him where the entire town will find him.
Now with no one to stand up for the rest of the town Jim must make a decision. Does he stay and try to complete the saving of the town set in place by his late brother, knowing he will be forced to take on the Preacher or does he leave town tail between his legs? I think you know the answer.
Many of the themes and plot devices used here have been done before but honestly that holds true with many westerns. It’s not the story so much as the method it is told that makes various westerns good or bad. This film holds true to that. The bad moments are small insignificant items that will catch the eye of western fans but not everyone. But the good moments more than make up for that.
In particular my favorite moments are those that involve the trio of friends riding across the western landscape with a great score being played that reminds you of the best westerns ever made. It’s the smaller moments that tend to bog things down a tad.
All involved turn in great performances but the one worth mentioning the most is that of Sanders. Prior to this film my only exposure to his work was on LAST MAN STANDING as the loveable yet simple minded Kyle. Here he again plays an innocent but at the same time offers more depth than we usually get from him on TV. I hope he continues to work on the side like this. Also of note is Patric whose career has had plenty of ups and downs. He does a great job personifying evil here.
It’s sad that westerns are limited more often than not to direct to DVD release or find themselves hitting theaters only once every 5 years or so. There is a rich treasure still to be mined there and film makers would do well to realize this. Until then we can enjoy films like this one, well worth taking the time to watch and adding to your collection.
Director James Wan and actor Jason Mamoa have done what many considered impossible. They’ve taken the comic book character of Aquaman, long considered to be the lamest of comic book heroes, and turned him into one of the coolest action stars on film. Not an easy task and yet together they make it appear easy.
The film opens in the past when a wounded Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) washes ashore near a lighthouse in Maine in 1985. Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison), the lighthouse keeper, finds her and takes her to his home, nursing her back to health. The pair fall in love and soon have a child together they name Arthur. But the forces of Atlantis, searching for Atlanna, have found her and come to take her back failing to do so when she battles them off. Realizing the only way to keep Arthur safe is to return she does so.
Years later a group of tech pirates led by Jesse Kane (Michael Beach) along with his son David (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) attempt to steal a Russian sub killing those on board they encounter. But their plans are foiled when the now grown Arthur (Mamoa) lifts the sub to the surface, boards it and takes out the pirates. When a hand to hand battle finds David fall Arthur is shot by Jesse only to rise again. As he attempts to leave, Jesse shoots at him dislodging a missile that pins him. Unable to lift the missile David pleads for help and Arthur refuses leaving them behind. David is forced to leave his father behind to die and swears revenge.
Once more time passes and now we move on to the undersea world of Atlantis where King Orm (Patrick Wilson) is trying to unite the undersea kingdoms to attack the surface world in retaliation for the constant damage they do to the seas. By his side is advisor Nuidis Vulko (Willem Defoe) who has secretly been training Arthur at the request of the now dead queen. Before Orm can unite the various underwater tribes Mera (Amber Heard), the daughter of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) king of one of these tribes, seeks Arthur for his help in stopping Orm.
Arthur refuses saying he wants nothing to do with the undersea kingdom. Mera warns him that this won’t stop Orm from attacking the surface world. As Arthur drives his father home a tidal wave hits the shore and only the assistance of Mera can help him save him. This is the first launch of Orm’s attack and causes Arthur to reconsider.
Traveling to Atlantis he learns about a long lost trident that only someone worthy is supposed to be able to wield. He just needs to find it. Before he and Mera can set about their quest they are found by Orm’s men and a face-off between the two step-brothers must take place. All of this and we’re not even half way through the movie! But it sets in motion the search for the trident, Arthur’s change from super-powered mortal to potential ruler of the sea and the possible salvation of Atlantis and the world. Not bad for a first solo outing for the character.
So what makes it exceptional? I’m slowly becoming a movie goer who is tired of the overuse of special effects in films. But at the same time I’m aware that movies about superheroes lend themselves to special effects just to present them properly. And this film does exactly that, using them to surround the action and not take over. The undersea world of Atlantis is a view to behold, a combination of light and texture fueled by color that delights the eyes. Wan’s experience with effects in previous films lends itself well on that count. The entire team behind the film has done an amazing job.
But if the character comes off too corny or too serious the film would fall flat as well. Mamoa does a fantastic job here combining the right amount of humor with the muscle bound super heroics needed to bring the character to life. He does so with ease making the character not only believable but actually cool in the process. He even makes the much mocked orange and green outfit associated with Aquaman look great.
DC films haven’t fared as well as the Marvel films in the past and the main reason I’ve always felt was their compulsion to portray their comic universe as dark and gritty. Even the bright colored costume of Superman somehow turned dark. With WONDER WOMAN and now this film they’re taking a new direction and the box office has shown it’s working. Hopefully they’ll continue down this path. AQUAMAN is an adventure, a love story, a comic book hero tale and a movie that doesn’t overdo the message about pollution so much that it damages the rest of the film. Kids will love the character, moms will drool over Mamoa and dads will enjoy the action. It’s a movie that the entire family can and should enjoy more than once. I know it will take a place on my shelf.