Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tony Arzenta (1973)

Directed by Duccio Tessari. "Tony Arzenta" is the original title of this Italian mob flick about a professional hitman who wants to retire to spend more time with his son, presumably in order to teach him some manners because this kid's got a mouth on him, let me tell you. Anyway, if you're thinking that this is probably the one movie where the mob shakes a guy's hand, tells him that it's been nice working with him and sends him on his way with a parting gift, you're wrong. Instead their feelings seem kind of hurt and they express this by solving his problem with the mouthy kid in an unnecessarily extreme fashion. As you might expect from one or two similar films you may have seen of this sort, Tony is not just bummed out. And now we've got a movie.

The success of a movie like this depends on a few things. We have to feel Tony's rage, which despite him seeming possibly better off without the child, we do, thanks to a fine performance by Alain Delon (whom you probably enjoyed in Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 film, "Le Samourai," in which he played...a hitman).

Also, for a movie like this to work there have to be creative methods of enacting revenge. And there are. This is always simultaneously the best part and the least believable part of any movie like this. We never hear or see a protagonist plan out these crazy acts of revenge, we just watch each unfold, wondering what he'll do next with something he's making, or stealing, or by spending time with a person he's taking into his confidence.

Also released under the title "Big Guns" (useless) and "No Way Out" (more telling but really hacky), we know that what drives Tony into this rage is the loss of his son and thus the fact that he no longer had anything to live for. This makes his revenge possible, but the consequences inevitable. He is a martyr for your movie time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Real Steel (2011)

Directed by Shawn Levy. If you see only one boxing robot movie this year, you should pray on your hands and knees that somebody makes one, so that it won't be "Real Steel." The movie is rated PG-13 for disturbing scenes of Hugh Jackman acting manly. And because of it's graphically violent fight scenes of computer animated robots, one of which -- in a sad scene -- bleeds a puddle of transmission fluid or something.

"Real Steel" tells the heartwarming story of ex-boxer Charlie Kenton, who has no interest in his estranged son until the boy demonstrates his value in the underground gambling world of robot boxing. The movie takes place in the futuristic year of 2020, by when we will have apparently abandoned not only interest in the sport of boxing using human beings, everyone will have forgotten it ever happened. To be fair, this plot is more plausible than the one in Levy's last film, 2010's "Date Night." He also made those "Night at the Museum" movies, so this proves that those could be far worse.

But as disappointing as "Date Night" was, that was still more entertaining than this. Hey, robots have feelings too. Or they don't, and it's important to remember that technology can never take the place of your family. Or technology can bring a family together, if that's what initially tore it apart? Who the hell knows.

Too violent for kids, too stupid for grown-ups. It's all so action packed, you'll never guess that they win the big fight at the end. Whoops, spoiler.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Enforcer (1976)

Directed by James Fargo. Clint Eastwood IS...The Enforcer! No, wait...Clint Eastwood IS Dirty THE ENFORCER! No, wait...Clint Eastwood STARS as Dirty Harry THE ENFORCER! No, wait...Clint Eastwood is BACK as Dirty Harry THE ENFORCER! Yeah, that's it.

The second sequel to "Dirty Harry" could not help but succeed because the first two films keep him off the screen enough to leave you wanting more. Of course, smart cinema fans are like gourmets, they know when to push away from the table and say, enough. They know that less is more. Too much of a good thing is not good.

I'm not like that. For me, "The Enforcer" is delightful from start to finish, for example, when Captain McKay (Bradford Dillman) yells at Callahan for using excessive force and causing $14,000 in damage ("I've been on the phone with the mayor all morning!"). Hahahahahaha.

But underneath it all this film tells the story of Callahan's struggle with the burgeoning suffrage movement, which by 1976 has apparently reached San Francisco, as real live women are joining the police force...and Dirty Harry is assigned a new partner (Tyne Daly, in a female role).


Meanwhile, a group of scum-baggy terrorists kidnap the mayor, who suddenly has less time to spend on the phone hassling Captain McKay. The terrorists demand $2 million ransom and hold the mayor prisoner on Alcatraz Island, presumably because it makes for better aerial shots than old tenement buildings.

Anyway, a lot of bang-bang-bang, a little c'mon out, one or two ooh you got me's, and suddenly Dirty Harry is a little more enlightened than he was a mere 90 minutes ago. But at what price?! At what price I ask you?!

Recommended! Alongside all four other Dirty Harry masterpieces: "Dirty Harry" (1971), "Magnum Force" (1973), "Sudden Impact" (1983), "The Dead Pool" (1988). One or more of these may be reviewed elsewhere here.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Moneyball (2011)

Directed by Bennett Miller. Can everybody please shut up about how awesome this movie is? It's not. It's fine. There's really nothing wrong with it. But it's just another one of these goddamn movies where people act out something that really happened because most people are too lazy to read a book about it. When are we going to get over being so impressed by how much these kinds of films have improved that each time another comes out we think it's one of the best movies of the year? Yeah, it's interesting. So was how Facebook started. And how Sandra Bullock freed the slaves.

But these are just barely movies. They're like Little Golden Books on DVD. I don't give a shit how good the acting is, three-act structure, character arc, whatever. They still all have some dumb scene that takes place at a party or in a restaurant or in a meeting room where a lot of the characters have a big conversation and then it's interrupted by a phone call or a secretary or somebody who brings bad news, and boom -- we've compressed about a year of events into one 45-second scene. And it wouldn't even be awkward if it wasn't in every damn one of these kinds of movies.

By the way, allow me to spoil one small part of "Moneyball: The Motion Picture." Nobody mentions steroids through the whole thing.


"Directed" by Delmer Daves. One can only assume that a woman who checks her daughter's hymen to ensure her virginity is still intact is bound for a life of self-loathing and self-doubt and in the second half of "A Summer Place," Helen Jorgenson (Constance Ford) does not disappoint. We don't see her as much as we did in the first half, and thank goodness for that because she was driving us nuts with her one-dimensional bitching about everything. But when we do see her, she is dependably batshit crazy.

In place of the front-row seat that we had before to Helen's gradual descent into madness, in the second half of this movie we get scene after scene of Molly (Sandra Dee) and Johnny (Troy Donahue) struggling with their sexuality. This is kind of a riot considering Troy Donahue was 23 when he made this movie. "Let's be good," they say to each other, meaning not have sex. But then they do. Uh-oh.

I've read that when this film was released it received mixed reviews because of its extreme melodrama, which is confusing because it doesn't explain who gave it the good reviews necessary for them in total to be considered "mixed." I'll say this; somewhere buried deep in this 1959 film is a positive message about non-traditional families. It seems to say, even if your family is torn apart by divorce, alcoholism, adultery, bipolar disorder and teen pregnancy, as long as you're rich and white, you can pull through. Recommended.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Directed by Delmer Daves. I've considered blogging live while watching a movie but never really bothered to. I kind of did with "Mixed Company" but that was less about logging my thoughts as I watched the movie and more about getting the post done as quickly as possible before I fell asleep.

Anyway, if you know me (and why would you be reading this if you didn't) you may know that I often watch movies while I exercise in order to make the horrifying task of exercise less horrifying. As opposed to making the unproductive act of movie-watching feel productive.

Taking in the 130 minutes of "A Summer Place" in approximately four workouts on my aging NordicTrack Sequoia is proving to be the best ever example of synergy between both the need to make exercise bearable and make seeing bad movies seem not like a waste of time. Because while "A Summer Place" is not in a category completely of its own as abysmal movies go, I would have no excuse seeing it by myself. The only reason someone should see this without exercising at the same time is with a group of friends, and good luck convincing them to come by and see it with you.

In fact, here's a marketing idea: a DVD-reissue of this movie that comes packaged with an aerobics step or a yoga mat or something like that, and with the DVD encoded with a track that you can turn on so that in the corner of the screen a fitness instructor takes you through a workout using the piece of equipment that came with the DVD.

If you don't know this movie, here's the deal -- and I can't tell you everything, not because I don't want to spoil it, but because I'm not done seeing it yet (for crying out loud, I've only had two workouts with it and it's more than two hours long) -- but this completely dysfunctional couple (Richard Egan and Constance Ford) shows up at a resort and Egan immediately starts playing around with the woman who runs the place (Dorothy McGuire) while his wife schemes to get their daughter (Sandra Dee) married off to the owner's son (Troy Donahue) without them ever holding hands or kissing. The kids do have a date, but it doesn't go very well if you consider a shipwreck not going well. When the Coast Guard returns the kids the next day -- so they've been gone all night here, you understand -- Dorothy McGuire is freaked.

That's when I yelled out, "Check her hymen!" And do you know what?

She does.

So you can see how, for a horrible freaking movie, now I'm sort of interested to see how this works out.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa. In general, I don't trust movies co-directed by more than one person and this one is not an exception. I went in skeptically for a number of reasons, and my suspicion was rewarded. "Crazy, Stupid, Love." attempts to present a character-driven comic drama about the ironies of contemporary relationships. Unfortunately by the third act it has become so carried away with itself and has long forgotten the strengths of its characters or even its ensemble cast, which includes Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon and naturally, Ryan Gosling, though at this point it's probably easier to tell you which films he is not in.

So the first half of the film can be recommended on its strengths and the second half can be recommended depending on your curiosity to see a movie in which nobody at the high school graduation thinks it seems weird that the father of the salutatorian takes over his son's graduation speech and makes it all about him. Which by the way, is eventually received by a applause that begins with a single slow clap. Really. Crazy, stupid, ending.

Larry Crowne (2011)

Directed by Tom Hanks.
  • "Wait, that's not what would happen in that situ...."
  • "And that's not how college, even community college actually..."
  • "I don't think she'd really say..."
  • "Oh whatever."