Clock Lizzie (This Week’s Movies)


Jack Black, Owen Vaccaro, Cate Blanchett: The House with a Clock in Its Walls (courtesy Quantrell Colbert/Associated Press)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls. “The story carries less urgency as it ticks along, frittering away its energy amid all the special effects and sight gags.” (Herald link here.)

Lizzie. “Let’s just say the portrait of this particular ax murderer gets a sympathetic slant in the #MeToo era.”

For the Scarecrow blog, I anticipate the release of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 (haven’t seen it yet) with a revival of my 2004 review of Fahrenheit 9/11, which includes my customary struggle with Moore’s hectoring style. Read it here.



Movie Diary 9/19/2018

Showdown (R.G. Springsteen, 1963). An Audie Murphy vehicle that acquits itself better than you might expect for one of his mid-career low-budget Westerns. Murphy and Charles Drake are saddle pals caught in the wake of a notorious criminal (Harold J. Stone). In its straightforward way, the film touches on reassuringly familiar themes of comradely loyalty and code-of-honor bargains among thieves, plus there’s a dance-hall girl who can’t sing (Kathleen Crowley) and refreshingly admits as much. At the center of the story is an incredibly baroque town “jail,” built outside in the main square: a pike connected to a dozen neck cuffs on long chains. I don’t know what basis this has in reality, but it’s a heckuva central image. The dandy supporting cast includes Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, and Skip Homeier.

Ramrod (Andre de Toth, 1947). An offbeat Western from de Toth, directing his then-wife Veronica Lake in a scorching role. The movie needs more of her, in fact, as its rather lackadaisical pace allows it to wander away from Lake’s would-be sheep rancher. The film’s got a curious cold start, in the midst of a confrontation, as though the opening sequences had been left out; when everything shakes down, it’s Joel McCrea’s hired hand protecting Lake’s interests against the town cattle baron (Preston Foster) and his flunkies, who include her own father (Charlie Ruggles). There’s almost too much going on in the film, but the ranginess allows for felicities such as Don DeFore’s roguish good-time guy, who flagrantly cheats on his ladylove (Arleen Whelan); he’s so charming the movie doesn’t bother to disapprove.

Movie Diary 9/18/2018

Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (Laurence Huntington, 1948). Much of it plays as one of those English school sagas, this one about a young teacher (David Farrar) arriving at a hidebound estalishment where Marius Goring is the fussiest of the instructors. Greta Gynt is the woman they both love, Raymond Huntley is the monstrous dean. Everything fairly normal, with some handsome Erwin Hillier photography along the way, and then the movie reaches a climax that really takes a strange Hitchcockian leap. Peculiar stuff.

Movie Diary 9/16/2018

The Predator (Shane Black, 2018). Not exactly awful, but awfully outdated, this addition to the Predator universe is a real comedown from Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys. Among other things, this is a movie badly in need of some movie-star zip, an element that can’t be faked. I did enjoy the sign on the high-school greeting board: “Welcome Parents & Stds.”

Lizzie (Craig William Macneill, 2018). The Lizzie Borden case, given a speculative solution and a modern twist. Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart are devoted to the effort, and Jamey Sheridan and Denis O’Hare admirably fill the roles of male creep. (full review 9/21)

Predator Mandy (This Week’s Movies)


Nicolas Cage: Mandy

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

The Predator. “Mixes together humdrum action scenes with tepid comedy and a collection of strikingly dull performances. Suddenly Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leaden quips from the original movie don’t sound so bad after all.”

Mandy. “Walks a fine line between the cool and the ridiculous, and then finally erases the line.” (Herald link here.)

For the Scarecrow Video blog, I offer a Seasoned Ticket post with a few thoughts and links on the Predator franchise and the death of Burt Reynolds. Read it here.

I have two pieces in the new (Sep./Oct.) issue of Film Comment magazine, one an appreciation of Bonar Colleano, the U.S.-born actor who appeared as brash Yanks in many UK productions of the postwar years, with special attention to his touching role in Anthony Asquith’s A Way to the Stars. Colleano died, age 34, exactly 60 years ago, in a car accident outside Liverpool. I also have a short piece on Oleksandr Techynskyi’s Delta, which won the FIPRESCI award at the Odesa Film Festival, a jury on which I served. No links, alas: those pieces are not online, and you have to find the issue to read ’em.

Preview Fall (This Week’s Movies)

oldmangunLinks to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly and etc.

Fall Movie Preview. What it says; Herald version here.

Parallax View continues its recap of 1998 reviews; my vintage pieces on Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer and Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco are posted. More to come.

Movie Diary 9/4/2018

BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018). Lee is at his best when he’s not trying to make movies, but joints. And this is some kinda joint – rattling around from lectures to suspense to, in its final moments, a leap to the present day. (Entirely justified, that.) So it’s uneven, but certainly alive, and full of opportunities for gallows humor. Someday maybe Lee will go full Godard and forget about the impulse to provide crowd-pleasing resolutions; there are a couple of implausible comic sequences toward the end that go on too long and feel clearly designed to elicit easy cheers. Still: This movie’s fury is much appreciated, and let’s face it, the times require a joint like this. Music footnote: Lee again uses Terence Blanchard’s “Photo Ops,” a track from Inside Man, which has done stirring service in his documentaries lately. It kills in this movie, too: