Wednesday, August 26, 2015

North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent (from 1973)

If you like, you can surf the net a bit and learn more about Gent's days as a player for the Dallas Cowboys.  It is kind of neat to know who the various characters in his novel North Dallas Forty are based on and Gent himself is certainly unique.  Yet that's not where I'm going to direct the focus of this review, for I think it sells the novel itself a bit short.  You see, the real fun doesn't stem from the knowledge that the profane and crafty quarterback of the novel, Seth Maxwell, is based on good old boy Don Meredith.  No, the real fun is enjoying Gent's somewhat autobiographical take on the game that so many of us treasure.  Unfolding during a single week in the life of a player who is reluctant to sell his soul to the league even if he has already given them his health, North Dallas Forty is a comedy blessed with many laughs and a drama sporting a likable lead who is tested beyond his limits.  It is incredibly vulgar and equally insightful, and it is a riveting page-turner of the highest order.  To be frank, North Dallas Forty is one of my favorite books, and while Gent may not have proven capable of delivering a truly worthy follow-up, he absolutely nailed it with this irreverent masterpiece.  In addition to being absurdly funny and wildly compelling, the novel allows the author to ponder friendship, competition, conformity, sex, love, and purpose, among other things.  It's heavy on the drugs, ripe with profanity, downright pornographic at times, and shockingly effective.  In spite of all the crazy things that happen during the book, it never loses focus and the characters and their various relationships (to include coach/player, quarterback/receiver, employer/employee, and most importantly, man/woman) are always at the forefront.  Gent never loses his momentum and the book doesn't bog down at any point despite being overburdened with stupendous accounts of debauchery and a near total lack of characters who aren't disconnected from the consequences of their actions or recklessly adrift in a tumultuous sea of fear and violence.  While it shines an unwelcome light on many practices that were once prevalent in the game (and many that are still presenting problems for the professional athletes who sacrifice themselves to the league in exchange for fame and fortune), North Dallas Forty is a book that fans of the sport should enjoy as much as those who are simply looking for something moving and unruly to read. 

Final Grade: A+
Football player turned author Peter Gent looks like a proud papa as he poses with copies
of North Dallas Forty, one of the best books I have ever been fortunate enough to enjoy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: High Plains Drifter (1973)

High Plains Drifter may be a difficult picture to describe, but it isn't hard to enjoy.  Eastwood stars in and directs this twisted vision of vengeance from beyond the grave.  Laced with supernatural overtones and an ominous vibe, this unholy tale is a revisionist take on the western genre.  It is surreal enough to make the viewer uneasy, ambiguous enough to present more than a few bizarre questions as the tale unfolds, yet grounded enough and tight enough to keep the audience hooked from the very start.  The score is strange, the color palette is striking, and the main character is a gunslinger whose cold gaze and colder demeanor barely conceal his burning desire for death and destruction.  Yet while his motivations and in fact the very nature of his character may be unclear, his actions are seldom subtle and his lethal skills and his reckless abandon quickly pave the way for the demise of the town of Lago.  High Plains Drifter is grim, crude, sexist, and quite violent, and in many ways it is the polar opposite of what we expect from such a film, particularly in terms of morality.  Eastwood's presence and the fact that this is a tale of justice at its core (albeit a far less sanitized view of the "eye for an eye" mentality that permeates the genre) are likely the only factors that keep the many fans of the picture from finding it as incendiary as beloved western icon John Wayne reportedly did.  Eastwood is perfectly at ease in the title role and the entire cast does a nice job with the material.  Eastwood also did a fine job as director, and the tombstones in the Lago cemetery bearing the names of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel aren't the only nods to his former directors in the mix.  High Plains Drifter is a curious western that works well but may seem overly vulgar or quixotic to some.  Personally, I think it's one of Clint's most striking features--even if it didn't crack my Top 5 Clint Eastwood Movies.

Final Grade: B+
This eerie revenge yarn with supernatural overtones stars Eastwood as a
nameless stranger who slowly but surely turns the town of Lago into a living hell.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Top 5 Clint Eastwood Movies

I recently put together a list of my Top 5 Clint Eastwood Movies.  This was a daunting task as I've been watching this stellar performer's films for about as long as I can remember.  Additionally, his filmography is jam-packed with quality pictures and narrowing all those worthy candidates down to a Top 5 meant that several wonderful movies (many of which are personal favorites of mine) wouldn't make the cut.  I tried to present some variety along the way as this list could have easily boasted nothing but the rugged westerns that this cinema titan is perhaps best known for, and in doing so I wound up making some unconventional choices.  Regardless, I think this a worthy list brimming with wonderfully entertaining films, and I'm happy to share my Top 5 Clint Eastwood Movies with you.

Feel free to chime in and let me know how you would rank Clint's cinema exploits and share your thoughts on my choices.

. . .

#5 - Any Which Way You Can (1980)

I absolutely love both Every Which Way But Loose from 1978 and Any Which Way You Can, the 1980 sequel to that smash hit.  Critics loathed these country-western ventures with a heaping side of slapstick humor, but what do they know?  Both films fared well at the box office and I'm not alone in my enjoyment of them, though there are many Eastwood fans who didn't enjoy these goofy comedies any more than the critics did.  Eastwood mostly plays it cool as Philo Beddoe, a bare-knuckle brawler with a unique family unit, while those around him generate most of the laughs.  Some consider Clyde, Philo's beloved orangutan, to be the real star of these movies, and that furry trickster does possess an abundance of charisma.  Geoffrey Lewis was terrific as always as Orville, Philo's closest non-simian ally, and Ruth Gordon is a profane and cantankerous delight as Ma.  Any Which You Can also benefits from the presence of B-movie icon William Smith, who is perhaps best known as "the dude who played Conan's dad" to my peers.  Here, he is cast as a rival bare-knuckle fighter, though he actually helps Clint out for much of the picture and is the first to congratulate him after their epic throwdown brings the picture to a close.  Any Which Way You Can is a silly affair that lampoons Clint's tough guy persona, country folk, the police, bikers, and the motel industry, among other things, and it boasts more laughs than uppercuts.  It is certainly a departure from Eastwood's typical fare, but the dude was so versatile that he was clearly just as comfortable in the role of Philo Beddoe as he was playing Dirty Harry or The Man With No Name (who had a name in each Leone masterpiece that Clint starred in, but that's a story for another day).  I am aware that there are numerous Eastwood vessels that are actually better movies, so I understand why some may not understand why I put Any Which Way You Can on my list.  However, if we're looking at Eastwood's filmography in terms of entertainment value, I think the #5 spot on my list is a fitting prize for this lighthearted yarn that is brimming with country music, unique characters, and chuckles.  

There are a lot of things I love about this movie, but the thing that puts it over
the top for me is the presence of the woefully underrated William Smith and the
cool relationship that his Jack Wilson and Eastwood's Philo Beddoe enjoy.

. . .

#4) Magnum Force (1973)

Once again, I'm picking a sequel, and this may come as a surprise given the quality of Dirty Harry, Eastwood's first outing as the prickly but lovable Harry Callahan.  Hey, I love Dirty Harry.  It's a fantastic movie and it introduced us to a legendary tough guy, but Magnum Force is even better.  I give a lot of the credit for this noteworthy achievement to John Milius, who came up with a really neat idea for the sequel.  What if our maverick lawman, a hero who does things his way, went toe to toe with some hotshot vigilante cops who had taken this approach too far?  Michael Cimino helped the mighty Milius turn that curious notion into a riveting screenplay that bolstered this stellar follow-up to one of Eastwood's biggest hits.  Hell, throw Hal Holbrook's smarmy Lt. Briggs into the mix, insert some humor and a few nifty setpieces, and the end result is one of Eastwood's best movies, as well as one of those exceptionally rare sequels that somehow manage to outshine the original.  Obviously, Clint was a perfect fit for the part of Dirty Harry, and few big screen policeman have been so charismatic or entertaining.  Yes, I'm a huge fan of this series.  True, things started well with Dirty Harry, reached new heights with Magnum Force, and then gradually began to descend before bottoming out with The Dead Pool in 1988.  In the end, it doesn't matter--Dirty Harry is an iconic character in the cinema landscape and he enjoyed two stellar adventures and two solid pictures before that lackluster final entry reared its ugly head.  People don't think about The Dead Pool when they think about Dirty Harry; they think about Clint saying "Make my day" or asking some poor punk if he feels lucky.  I know there are many of you who prefer Dirty Harry and I understand that picking Magnum Force here will give some of you pause, but it's an easy decision for me.  Magnum Force is my favorite Eastwood venture that didn't require him to wear a six-shooter on his hip or dress up in combat fatigues.

Dirty Harry may be the first time Eastwood portrayed maverick lawman
Harry Callahan, but this 1973 sequel is a superior motion picture.
In other words, a man has to know his limitations, but a sequel doesn't.
. . .

#3) Kelly's Heroes (1970)

Like most everyone reading this, I dig Clint's westerns and his gritty thrillers.  However, when I put Any Which Way You Can at #5 to start this list, that clearly signified that some of Eastwood's lighter films also rank among my favorites.  One such movie that seldom gets its due is Kelly's Heroes, an irreverent gem.  Hey, the very notion of a comedic and borderline absurd take on WWII might sound downright blasphemous to some.  It should be noted that in addition to poking fun at the establishment and lampooning the military, this one does have a bit of heart, and there are some serious themes buried beneath all the bluster.  Eastwood's cool lead (his Kelly may be totally fearless--or maybe he just has a serious hard-on for gold bars) and the fantastic supporting cast never fail to entertain.  Telly Savalas is fabulous as Kelly's hard-nosed commander and Don Rickles is equally captivating as Crapgrame.  Of course, the true star of the show is Donald Sutherland as Oddball.  Yes, the character belongs to another era, but Kelly's Heroes is far more interested in entertainment than plausibility--though it never grows so outlandish that it becomes an outright farce.  Purists probably don't favor Kelly's Heroes as much as I do, and modern audiences who are more familiar with films like Saving Private Ryan or Fury (read my scathing review of that one here) may not appreciate this quirky romp either.  I like gritty and realistic war movies too, but I may enjoy a quality satire even more.  I have no qualms about putting Kelly's Heroes at #3 as I break down my Top 5 Clint Eastwood Movies.

Bonus Points: I find the opening reel to be among the best title sequences of all time.  The way the images and the music clash set the stage for something totally unique.  It's damn near Tarantino-esque, and the entire score (c/o jazz maestro Lalo Schifrin) is nothing short of wonderful.  Additionally, the big tank showdown that closes out the picture is extremely impressive and even takes the satire to another level at one point when the picture playfully pays homage to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Sutherland is out of this world as Oddball, and Eastwood nails the part
of Kelly, a somewhat dubious and incredibly determined leader of men.

. . .

#2) Unforgiven (1992)

When Eastwood rose to fame, he did so by virtue of the western, though he would later prove himself equally adept at other genres.  Regardless, when he returned to the western in 1992 with Unforgiven, it's rather fitting that he gave us one of the finest American movies of them all.  Poignant, gripping, violent, heartfelt, and exceptionally well-made, Unforgiven is an epic film.  The cast is sensational, the plot is riveting, and the cinematography is a joy to behold, though the material and the mood give the picture serious weight.  It may not be an easy watch, and it may not be nearly as warm or as hopeful as many of the classic westerns that fans of the genre know and love, but it is a wonderful movie that boasts considerable riches.  Eastwood is sheer perfection as William Munny, a retired gunslinger who thought that he had left his wicked ways behind.  Morgan Freeman is equally sublime as his pal Ned, while Gene Hackman chews scenery as a sadistic lawman named Little Bill.  Richard Harris shines as English Bob and the entire cast does a terrific job of telling this story.   The movie is a meditation on many things, to include the thin line between heroism and villainy.  It also ponders society's difficult relationship with the truth as opposed to the more palatable myths that we tend to promote.  This is surely even more impressive when you take into account that Unforgiven somehow manages to succeed at paying homage to the western while it is also keenly dissecting the genre and shedding new light on many of the most familiar aspects of this beloved portion of the cinema landscape.  David Webb Peoples obviously did a tremendous job with the script, and it would have been a crime for anyone other than Eastwood to direct and star in this landmark picture.  I don't think it's Eastwood's best film, nor I do think that it is his best western--those honors belong to the movie sitting at #1 on this list.  However, if you're one of the many who feel that this is Clint's finest offering, I certainly understand where you're coming from.  It really is a stellar movie that boasts one of our most gifted performers at his very best, and few films are as thoughtful or as rewarding as Unforgiven.

Unforgiven isn't just one of Eastwood's best films, it's a legitimate American classic.

. . .

#1) The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

There are good movies, there are bad movies, and there are ugly movies.  Then there are great movies.  I'm talking about epic creations that not only stand the test of time, but often shape the cinema landscape for years to come.  One such film is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, which many see as master director Sergio Leone's most inspiring accomplishment.  Everything works to perfection in this mesmerizing treasure, to include the cast, the iconic score, the wonderful camera work, and the presence of a director with tremendous flair and vision.  No one made movies quite like Leone, and with Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef in tow, he provided us with an operatic descent into greed and war that should be experienced by anyone who enjoys movies.  The scope and the grandeur of this colorful epic makes it a worthy treat for those willing to trade a few hours of their time for a surreal journey that is blessed with an embarrassment of riches.  Chief among those riches is Clint's performance, a case of perfect casting if ever there was one.  With The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Eastwood emerged as a star, and while he continues to provide us with quality motion pictures, this feast for the senses remains his greatest achievement.  This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, for few films aim to be as robust or as magnificent as this one.  Of those that strive for such significance, many collapse under their own weight, many arrive as bloated affairs that miss the mark, and only a precious few actually come close to delivering the goods.  It is certainly a rare occasion when such a production somehow manages to meet the expectations of those daring souls who saw fit to launch such a venture.  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one case where a massive undertaking of this sort actually yielded a glorious success.  This was Clint's third film in which he starred for Leone, and for many he will forever remain The Man With No Name.  Of course, those who are paying attention will notice that Clint is playing a different character in each of these films and all of these characters have names--so long as we're willing to count "Blondie" as a name in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  So perfect is he for these roles that it almost seems as though Eastwood doesn't even have to try to deliver a rousing performance.  Yet portraying a character who squints more than he talks surely requires a degree of subtlety and a knack for nuance that is difficult (if not impossible) for many to summon.  Eastwood's icy cool demeanor and Leone's vibrant imagination were quite a potent combination, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the best movies ever made.  I treasure Clint, and narrowing down his fabulous filmography to 5 movies was daunting, but putting this dazzling masterpiece at #1 was an easy call.

All three of the westerns that Clint starred in for legendary director Sergio Leone
are terrific pictures, but it's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that still towers
over the genre nearly 50 years after it was originally released.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

I didn't remember this one too fondly before revisiting it this weekend.  In fairness, I only watched it once, and that was a very long time ago.  I was really hoping for The Road Warrior Part II when I slapped that VHS tape in the old VCR many moons ago.  And while there is a bit of that film's reckless abandon (and a gnarly chase sequence in the third act) in the mix and the big showdown inside Thunderdome is a spectacular piece of action filmmaking, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is also wildly different.  This is Mad Max for the family to some extent, placing our apocalyptic antihero to the forefront of a tale that you could almost put alongside something like The Goonies the next time you're feeling nostalgic and want to watch a couple of movies with the kids.  So there was no way I was going to enjoy this when I originally viewed it, but this weekend I was able to appreciate it a lot more.  Even if this look at the softer side of Max bit is a bit jarring in comparison to that which came before, it's executed to perfection and the story is nothing if not entertaining.  Tina Turner brings a lot of charm and energy to her role as the big bad and Mel is Max in so many ways.  It's perfect casting, to be sure, but I don't want to take anything away from Gibson, who was clearly invested in the part and did a splendid job of bringing this unique hero to life once again.  There's a different vibe to the proceedings and it may be that this particular Mad Max adventure is more whimsical than bleak.  We're definitely dealing with a different Max, a much warmer version of the character--though it's important to note that a warmer version of Max is still pretty damn rugged.  That's okay, it's a different landscape, deftly realized by virtuoso director George Miller and George Ogilvie.  It's a different sort of Mad Max film, but it works, and it is a lot of fun.  It may not be in the same league as The Road Warrior, which is an absolute classic, but the third pairing of Mel Gibson and George Miller makes for a quality motion picture.  Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome brought a great actor and a great director together again for yet another wild ride, one that's surely worth taking.

Final Grade: B

Related Blogs:
Mad Max: Fury Road vs. The Road Warrior

Short Attention Span Review - Mad Max: Fury Road
The showdown in Thunderdome is a battle for the ages that showcases
George Miller's amazing imagination and his equally impressive technical prowess.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Marvel's Secret Wars (2015) - Issue #5

Sweet Jesus.  Marvel just shit the bed in a big way.  I take back all that good stuff I said about this series after reading the last issue.  It's true, peeps--just when I thought the tide had turned, Marvel dumps this crap on us.  I've been pretty hard on this event, but I did give Issue #4 an A+ and I thought things were really looking up.  Then we had to wait a while for the this most recent issue, heightening the anticipation.  Yesterday, I snagged my copy and I was actually eager to tear into it, but my enthusiasm waned with every page that I turned.  It's entirely possible that the editorial team had a meeting and decided that the primary goal for Issue #5 would be to bore the hell out of all the readers who paid for a copy.  The best way to sum up the difference between the original (vastly superior) Secret Wars and this woeful 2015 version would be to wonder how a story with access to all of Marvel's best heroes and villains could be anything but a blast.  It doesn't seem possible and the 1984 version was jam-packed with fun.  Hell, maybe Jonathan Hickman took this as a challenge, because this series is turning out to be as dull as anything that Marvel has ever produced.  Perhaps the biggest problem is the lack of star power in a crossover with access to all of the stars in the Marvel Universe.  Everyone is a bit player, with even the greatest heroes who have hit the scene in this Secret Wars largely reduced to cameo appearances.  This tale has been 85% Dr. Doom and 15% everyone else.  Making matters worse, I love me some Doom, but I'm not overly enthused about this take on the legendary villain.  He's surely a far cry from the Doom that we saw in the original Secret Wars.  It's obvious that the focus here is on reshaping the Marvel universe, and it's equally apparent that there is little or no interest in telling a good story in the process.  There has been so little action in the first five issues that it probably accounts for little more than a few pages and there has been so much exposition that calling the 2015 Secret Wars clunky is like calling the ocean wet.  It's boring, it's convoluted, the vast majority of the heroes and villains we know and love aren't even present, and the fact that this lukewarm attempt at storytelling bears the name of the best crossover of them all only heightens the disappointment. 

Final Grade: F

Issue #1 - Final Grade: D- - read the review  here.
Issue #2 - Final Grade: B - read the review here.
Issue #3 - Final Grade: C - read the review here. 
Issue #4 - Final Grade: A+ - read the review here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road vs. The Road Warrior

I just posted a review of Mad Max: Fury Road.  I gave it a well-deserved A and I can't recommend it highly enough.  However, I do want to address two things.  I've heard a lot of people claiming that Fury Road is the best picture in George Miller's merrily insane post-apocalyptic series of movies and I've also heard people say that Tom Hardy makes for a better Max than Mel Gibson did. 

First off, the latest venture is surely the most energetic and the most violent film of the bunch, and it is truly a top-notch action flick.  However, in my humble opinion it isn't as good of a movie as The Road Warrior.  That 1981 gem is in my Top 10 and could actually be in my Top 5, and it has a bit more drama in the mix to go along with all the carnage.  It may not be nearly as spectacular, but I think it's a bit more fulfilling. 

Secondly, Tom Hardy is awesome and he did a great job as Max--but he isn't Mel.  Mel owned that part in a way that few performers own any role, and while I do think that Hardy was fantastic, he didn't quite match Mel's greatness.  In fairness, I think he did the best job that he could have possibly done, but the part wasn't as rich or as complex in Fury Road.  This new take on Max was also a bit more sympathetic.  For some reason, I've always felt that one of the most intriguing aspects of Mel's legendary work as the character in The Road Warrior was the fact that he is compelling in spite of the fact that he's a bit of a dick.  If you don't believe me, just ask the Gyro Captain.  Seriously, right up until the closing reel, there isn't a lot to like about Max, but we know his history and we understand that he's a product of his environment, so we root for him in spite of his icy demeanor. 

In short, I had a blast with Mad Max: Fury Road and I thought Tom Hardy rocked as Max.  It was a terrific action movie and if you haven't seen it yet, you need to remedy that.  Yet it wasn't as potent as The Road Warrior, which is not merely a great action movie, but a great movie in general.  And while Hardy rocked it, Mel was better.

Tom Hardy played the part well, but . . .
Mel Gibson is Mad Max.

Short Attention Span Review - Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Believe the hype.  The latest film from the incredibly talented George Miller is an action movie unlike any other.  I was expecting big things from the newest Mad Max adventure, and I wasn't at all disappointed by this grand and chaotic film.  The picture is essentially one big chase and the delirious action that it delivers from start to finish is unlike anything you've ever seen before.  Moving at a breakneck pace and populated with wild characters and their twisted vehicles, the experience is a bit exhausting, but it is also 100% entertaining.  The score is ripe, the carnage is downright intoxicating, and I don't know what more we could possibly expect from a movie called Fury Road.  I was really keen on all the girl power that Miller inserted into the mix and the cinema goddess known as Charlize Theron totally killed it as Furiosa.  This movie belonged to her as much as it belonged to Tom Hardy as Max, and if she didn't outshine him, . . . well, we'll have to call it a draw.  Both were incredible and badass and as much as Miller's robust imagination is to thank for this maniacal blockbuster, it may well have faltered without the benefit of such an impeccable cast.  Nicholas Hoult was astounding, totally losing himself in the part of Nux, and it was great to see Hugh Keays-Byrne (he played the villainous Toecutter in the original Mad Max way back in 1979) as the heavy, a colorful and imposing lunatic called Immortan Joe.  While it may be a bit simplistic in terms of plot, Mad Max: Fury Road is as invigorating and bold as any movie that we've ever been blessed with.  If you're looking for a killer movie to blow your mind as the summer draws to a close, you need to take to take a spin with Mad Max and Furiosa.  Oh, and be sure to buckle up--it's going to be one hell of a ride.

Final Grade: A

Let's put it like this: if one were to refer to Mad Max: Fury Road as gleefully
over-the-top and excessively violent, that would definitely be an understatement. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Faith No More w/ Refused (7/31 - Raleigh, North Carolina)

 On Friday, 7/31, I had the privilege of catching Faith No More live at the Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh, North Carolina.  FNM is my favorite band and I had never seen them perform before, so this was a big show for me.  Bonus points: Refused was the opening band, and despite anything you may have heard about Refused being fucking dead, Refused is alive and well--and awesome.

Refused played a blistering set and then gave way for the band that has given my life an eclectic soundtrack since I reached the age of reason.  FNM has a reputation for killing it live, and on Friday, the 31st of July, they showed the good people of Raleigh, North Carolina that this reputation is well-deserved.  They seemed to be having a blast and they were positively amazing--this was definitely the best show I have ever been to.  Enjoy my pics and then scope out the epic--sorry, I couldn't resist--set list.

Set List
Be Aggressive
Sunny Side Up
Everything's Ruined
Midlife Crisis
A Small Victory
The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
Separation Anxiety
King For a Day
Ashes to Ashes

Cone of Shame
We Care a Lot
Just a Man

Short Attention Span Review: Silverado (1985)

 For my money, it's hard to beat a great western, and Silverado is one of the best westerns that you're apt to see.  Everything about this one is grand, to include the magnificent cast, the epic locations, the fabulous script, and the stellar direction.  A big picture that deftly intertwines several gripping stories on the road to a corrupt town where all these stories come to a rousing conclusion, Silverado is a love letter to all the wonderful westerns that came before it.  It's also a reminder that genres may rise and fall, but so long as a top-notch script and the right talent join forces, no genre is ever truly forgotten.  The western may never be as important to the film industry as it once was, but it will always present the right people with an opportunity to tell a powerful story.  That's precisely what director Lawrence Kasdan did with this vibrant gem that he penned alongside his brother, Mark.  A good western can make adults feel all warm and fuzzy inside while encouraging their children to run around pretending that they're cowboys making a stand for all that is right.  Silverado is precisely that kind of film, and as such it is just as adept at presenting us with sound characters facing difficult decisions as it is at offering up thrilling shootouts.  There's also a lot of warmth and humor riding shotgun with the heroic antics that are the backbone of the western genre.  Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, and Danny Glover shine as the heroes, while Brian Dennehy makes for an excellent villain.  Linda Hunt, Rosanna Arquette, Jeff Goldblum, and John Cleese are among the supporting cast, and Jeff Fahey makes an impression as a grimy henchman in one of his earliest roles.  The movie is certainly not lacking for star power, but then I don't see where Silverado is lacking anything.  A stunning example of what could be my favorite genre of film, this is a fantastic movie that I would heartily recommend to anyone.

Final Grade: A+ 
There are numerous established stars playing robust parts in Silverado, and then
there's my man Jeff Fahey hitting the scene and striking a chord as a sleazy deputy.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Short Attention Span Review - Tron (1982)

Fun, colorful, and thoroughly unique, Tron remains an exciting motion picture experience that is equal parts cool and curious.  Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, and David Warner are among the gifted performers appearing in this Disney classic, but the real star of the picture has to be the stellar effects.  The computer world that is the setting for most of the movie is realized due to an inventive process that yields an amazing product that will never be duplicated.  Despite arriving at the very infancy of modern computer effects (the Academy supposedly refused to consider nominating Tron for its special effects work because the use of computers was considered "cheating"), the jazzy blend of kooky sets, computer graphics, and black and white photography that was subsequently animated is still a joy to behold.  The plot is a cool medley of corporate intrigue and video game glory, the score is bold, and the action sequences are riveting.  Tron is a great example of imagination and technical wizardry joining forces to tell a dynamic story.  There's little to complain about when it comes to this beloved film that was widely viewed as a flop upon its release.  Maybe the characterizations are fairly routine and suspense is often generated at the expense of drama.  Honestly, it doesn't really matter.  The characters are likable enough and this is a picture that is more interested in blowing minds than enriching them.  In somewhat of a surprise, time has been rather kind to Tron and those who enjoy science fiction and family time may have a hard time finding a better movie to share with their loved ones.  

Final Grade: A
Jeff Bridges may have been the budding star in 1982
and Bruce Boxleitner may have played the titular character,
but David Warner nearly stole the show as the icy villain in Tron.