Libris Runner (This Week’s Movies)

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Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford: Blade Runner 2049 (courtesy Warner Bros.)

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

Blade Runner 2049. “Has some significant problems – but is also crammed with dazzling moments.”

Ex Libris: New York Public Library. “Like an old card catalog organized according to the Dewey Decimal System: calm, useful, elegant.”

And if you’re watching TCM next week, I’ve written something on Byron Haskin’s The Power (1968), an odd horror sci-fi murder mystery, for Film Comment’s series on TCM screenings. You can read that here.

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Movie Diary 10/5/2017

Blade Runner: 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017). Big images, ambitious ideas, poky storytelling, cornball ideas – this one’s a lot like the first one. For all its problems, it has a very moving ending sequence, and a batch of effective supporting players, one of whom is named Harrison Ford. (full review 10/6)

Movie Diary 10/4/2017

Escape from Fort Bravo (John Sturges, 1953). Bill Holden as a nasty-tempered Union soldier in Arizona, Eleanor Parker as the Southern sympathizer who romances him in order to get Reb lover John Forsythe out of the brig. Some great locations, and the thing gets bleaker as it goes along, especially when the main party gets pinned down by Indians. Not a fast-moving film, but then it’s Sturges.

Rocky Mountain (William Keighley, 1950). Did somebody want to slip an existential thread in this B&W Warners Errol Flynn vehicle? Because the opening scene is straight out of Samuel Beckett, and the static story is truly doomy. Toward the end leading lady Patrice Wymore (soon to be Mrs. Flynn in real life) apologizes to Flynn’s Southern soldier for leading his crew into certain death by saying, “I never thought it would end this way,” to which Flynn replies, “There never was any other way. We just put it off for a while.” Thank you, Albert Camus. Strange movie, pretty nicely done. First credited role for Slim Pickens, who rides a horse superbly.

Movie Diary 10/02/2017

Ex Libris: New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman, 2017). Not only a good and typically Wisemanesque survey of the workings of a library system, but a complete act of self-reflection on the filmmaker’s part: Almost everything shown or said here seems to be about the value of an unadorned, factual approach to understanding the world. (full review 10/4)

Victoria Made (This Week’s Movies)

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Tom Cruise: American Made (courtesy Universal Pictures)

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

American Made. “This is a black comedy, and irony isn’t Cruise’s most natural mode, yet by playing Seal as a slightly dimwitted cheeseball on the make, he gets into the movie’s you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff spirit.”

Victoria & Abdul. “It’s content to allow the queen to be cute and cranky, and Abdul to be charming. We receive the film’s timely lesson about how a Muslim person of color might teach something to the lily-white British elites, and it’s all very tidy and self-satisfied.”

Movie Diary 9/27/2017

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The Command (David Butler, 1954). The first ‘Scope western, apparently, about an inexperienced cavalry sawbones (Guy Madison) tapped for command when a wagon train needs an escort through Indian territory. A solid outing with all the conventions in place, some exciting stuntwork, and even a few stabs at mentioning the toll of the white move west (in the form of regretting that Native Americans are going to get exposed to smallpox). Samuel Fuller is credited with the “adaptation” of a story by James Warner Bellah, author of the tales that became John Ford’s cavalry trilogy. The laid-back Madison – who looks like he drifts off in the middle of a line reading – is good casting, because he indeed looks outmatched and out of place, especially standing next to an actor with energy like James Whitmore. Joan Weldon, from Them!, is the leading lady.

The Invaders (prob. Francis Ford, 1912). Dandy early western, produced on an impressive scale by Thomas Ince, in which the natives are clearly being screwed over by the white railroad surveyors. Many fabulous shots contained here, including a moment when a surveyor wants to flirt with an Indian girl and stands astride a small stream, as though embodying Manifest Destiny in his blank confidence.

Custer’s Last Fight (Francis Ford, 1912). On a much cruder level, a docu-drama re-creation of the Little Big Horn, with G.A. Custer (played by director Ford, John’s older brother) treated in unqualified heroic terms; Sitting Bull is depicted as a coward. The “You Are There” approach is interesting, despite the propaganda. (This triple bill was the first salvo in a 12-week series of cavalry films, which is how I’ll be spending my Wednesday afternoons here in Edinburgh in the near future.)

Golden Status Request (This Week’s Movies)

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Channing Tatum, Halle Berry; Kingsman: The Golden Circle (courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

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

Brad’s Status. “This is a signature role for an actor we tend to take for granted.”

Kingsman: The Golden Circle. “I was finally won over by this movie’s endless parade of zany ideas and ridiculous gadgets.”

Friend Request. “If the story is standard teen-horror material, Verhoeven plays honestly by it, laying out the scares in crisp fashion and building a few genuinely WTF moments, if not much LOL.”