I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Posts Tagged ‘Clint Eastwood’

The Beguiled (Clint’s version)

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

I’m excited for the impending release of Sofia Coppola’s new version of THE BEGUILED, but I had never actually seen the 1971 version starring Clint Eastwood, and what am I, an asshole? So I made sure to finally see it.

Right before DIRTY HARRY, Clint and Don Siegel made this one which is less action packed than DIRTY HARRY because Clint is bedridden or hobbling on crutches for the entire movie. Also he’s confined to a girl’s finishing school, and it’s not a DIE HARD type picking-off-terrorists-one-by-one situation either. It’s mostly just flirting.

Clint plays Corporal John McBurney, a.k.a. Johnny, McBee or Mr. Yank, a Union soldier badly wounded on Confederate territory and rescued by 12 year old girl’s school resident Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS). Initially headmistress Martha (Geraldine Page, THE RESCUERS, THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE) intends to hand him over to the Confederate soldiers who stop by periodically on patrols, but she decides he’ll die in their prison if she doesn’t help him heal first. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Sully

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

When I heard they made a movie about “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who heroically landed a downed commercial jetliner in the Hudson River, saving everyone onboard, I wondered how you would make a whole movie about that. Well, it turns out the story of Sully is a little more complicated than what I knew.

And I really mean a little more complicated. Not that much more complicated. He landed the plane, and then they said you know what, you might’ve done the wrong thing according some tests we did, and he said well this is why those tests are wrong, and after a while they said yeah you’re right, sorry about that Sully. The end.

So it’s weirdly uneventful for a movie about a famous airline disaster. But as a gentle character drama it’s not bad, the kind of thing that Clint Eastwood can make much more interesting than most directors could. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Something about this gloomy post-election mood has got me digging out my jazz CDs and records. Actually, it started with the handful of blues albums I own, which makes perfect sense, you can see how Orange Dawn (as I’ve decided to call our new age) would make me feel like listening to “Hell Hound On My Trail.” After that I went to Nuclear War by Sun Ra. Obvious through line there as well. But eventually I moved on to one of the Thelonious Monk albums I’ve latched onto over the years, Underground.

Check out the cover, with Monk hunkered down in a… barn? Bunker? Basement? with a rifle, some grenades, and a tied-up Nazi, makes it seem rebellious. He’s supposed to be part of the French Resistance, it seems. He looks like a jazz guerrilla committing musical sedition.

In general, though, the jazz I like feels more spiritual. It’s a mix of repetitive rhythms and unpredictable melody, spinning around, building momentum, plowing along until it explodes or stops and quietly steps away. Usually there are no words, no subjects. Just moods. Colors. So it’s like a meditation, a prayer in tongues.

All this meditating and praying and then the act of trying to put my love of piano into words to write about LA LA LAND inspired me to pull out the ol’ THELONIOUS MONK: STRAIGHT NO CHASER dvd. This is a beautiful, sad documentary about my favorite pianist. It’s produced by Clint Eastwood and Malpaso, who put up the money to finish the movie when nobody else would. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Pink Cadillac

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

In PINK CADILLAC, Clint Eastwood plays Tommy Nowak, a skip tracer who has to bring in a woman who jumped bail after getting blamed for her stupid husband’s stupid prison buddies’ counterfeiting scheme. Of course he catches her, but ends up protecting her and falling for her and what not. Do not get this confused with the one where he’s a cop who has to escort a mob trial witness from Vegas to Phoenix and falls for her. That’s THE GAUNTLET. That one has a bus, not a Cadillac.

I’d say this qualifies as an action comedy. It takes itself seriously, it’s not broad like the EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE movies, but Clint goes further than his usual wry one-liners, because Nowak loves to wear disguises and play characters. In the opening he catches a guy by making him think he won a date with Dolly Parton from a country radio station. Just for this he does a “Crazy Carl Cummings” DJ persona and a briefly-British-accented limo driver. Since he later quibbles with his boss over gas mileage I really wonder how he paid for the limo and costume. I guess he just thinks it’s worth the expense to fuck with people. During the drive back to Sacramento he asks the guy what kind of music he wants to listen to, and when he doesn’t make a choice, Tommy puts on some Dolly Parton. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Kelly’s Heroes

Monday, January 4th, 2016

tn_kellysheroesFor four years now it’s been my tradition to kick off a new year with Clint Eastwood. This year I’m starting it with Clint and a rowdy gang of G.I. goofballs including roughneck Telly Savalas, new agey Donald Sutherland, bitter wiseass Don Rickles and young, harmonica-playing, exactly-the-same-looking Harry Dean Stanton (credited as Dean Stanton). It kinda feels like one of those fun ensemble war pictures like THE DIRTY DOZEN or THE GREAT ESCAPE, except the idea behind it is much more cynical.

Clint plays Kelly, a once great soldier, demoted and disillusioned after an incorrect order caused him to blow up some of his own men. When he finds out about a stash of gold bars in a German bank he finally has a mission he can believe in again: get together a crew to penetrate the enemy lines early and get the loot. Everyone thinks/knows it’s crazy, but the lure of the bling is enough. In fact, they have trouble with more and more people joining the group and expecting a share.

At times it can be kind of a broad comedy, and with that old timey type of military humor where they complain about their job but they just talk about hating to have to lug heavy things around, or get bossed around, they don’t talk about the psychological trauma of having to kill people, or almost being killed, or seeing their friends killed. But in a way this is a very subversive movie, because here’s The Great War, the one we can all get behind, the one that made them The Greatest Generation, and our titleistical heroes never even mention ideals or what they’re fighting for. What they end up getting behind is a big payday. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Casper

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

tn_casper

RELEASE DATE: May 26
RELEASE DATE: May 26

I got a feeling a couple of you probly grew up liking 1995’s CASPER, the big Universal movie adaptation of the famous friendly ghost of comics and cartoons, and you’re gonna tell me it’s pretty good. But if so I will disagree. In my opinion it’s not cuttin it.

Why would I expect otherwise? Well, #1, as a positive individual I believe in the possibility of great art coming from anywhere. #2, as a striver for excellence I expect all artists to take a shot at said greatness. #3, This was produced by Steve Spielberg, with what at the time were groundbreaking effects by Industrial Light and/or Magic. Remember, this was only two years into the modern age of digital effects started by JURASSIC PARK. Computer generated imageries were still novel and scarce. This was the first movie to have an all c.g. main character. Of course, he’s deliberately cartoony, and transparent to boot, so it wasn’t gonna blow people away with its realism. But this was about half a year before TOY STORY came out, so I’m pretty sure it was the most computer animation that had been seen in one movie up to that point. So it was new.

An older generation than you CASPERheads now talks with deep nostalgia about “Amblin movies” as this beautiful type of family-friendly movies from the ’80s. They’re specifically talking about E.T., GREMLINS, GOONIES and BACK TO THE FUTURE, I believe. And then you can pad it out with HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS and *batteries not included I guess. I doubt they mean the serious Amblin productions like THE COLOR PURPLE, CAPE FEAR, SCHINDLER’S LIST or THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

American Sniper

Monday, January 26th, 2015

tn_americansniperAMERICAN SNIPER is a pretty good movie. I wouldn’t rank it too high in the pantheon of Clint Eastwood directorial works, and it’s definitely not one of the all time great war movies, or even the best movie about the Iraq war. It has some overlap with THE HURT LOCKER without being as effective, in my opinion, either as a thriller or as a character study. And obviously we gotta deduct points for it not being a story about a very old sniper played by Clint. But it’s a very good performance by Bradley Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN), it looks into an interesting world (that of the Navy SEAL sniper), it has several tense battle sequences, and it speaks about the experiences of soldiers with some of the quiet simplicity and understatedness I appreciate in an Eastwood picture. That last part is causing a problem.

In many ways it feels different from the rest of Clint’s filmography, but it returns him to one of his favorite themes: the man who has lived a life of violence having a hard time doing something else. Instead of an old outlaw it’s “most lethal sniper in U.S. military history” Chris Kyle (played by Cooper with some extra muscle, facial scruff and Texan drawl), who goes through four tours of duty in Iraq, more than his share, but every time he tries to live a peaceful life with his family he starts itching to be back in combat. It also reminds me a little bit of Clint’s movie J. EDGAR, another biopic of an extreme character that refuses to condemn him. It just presents him, tries to give him a fair shake, shows him as a human, for better or worse.

With most of Clint’s directing-not-acting movies these days (JERSEY BOYS, HEREAFTER, CHANGELING, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, etc.) it’s the same routine: a bunch of people say they suck, I see them and like them, but don’t really know many people who bothered to see them, and the world moves on. Even when he does what seems like a crowd-pleasing awards-bait type movie, like INVICTUS, the academies and what not don’t give much of a shit, and Clint doesn’t care that they don’t. Why would he? Who needs another trophy when you wake up every morning and you’re still Clint fucking Eastwood?

But AMERICAN SNIPER is different. It was nominated for 6 Oscars including best picture, and when it went into wide release last weekend it immediately became a smash hit, the biggest opening of Clint’s career. Also, it’s one of those movies that not only sells tickets, but that people apparently like. It has an A+ Cinemascore and an 89% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (His previous three movies as director rated 65%, 45% and 38%). (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Monday, January 5th, 2015

tn_outlawjoseywalesBack in 2013 I started a new old wives tale that it is good luck for a critic’s first review of a new year to be a Clint Eastwood movie. I continued the tradition for 2014 and I ended up having a really intense year that was not fuckin around when it came to either highs or lows. It was a year that included a funeral, way too much time spent hanging out in hospitals and job-related fears like losing my health insurance. But on the other hand I finally published that damn novel and I had a great trip to Tennessee and of course my TED talk or whatever at Cinefamily was a great blessing and the highlight of my career so far. It was also just an evolutionary step for ol’ Vern because I learned I could actually make a public appearance without ruining everything, as far as I could tell. So in honor of my miraculously retained Outlaw status let’s start off 2015 with THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. I haven’t seen this one in forever and a day and a half.

What we have here is a badass western revenge story. Clint directs and plays the titlational Josey Wales, who at first is just a regular non-outlaw family man. Then “redleg” raiders come through raping and pillaging, kill his boy and his wife, burn down his house, scar his face. Who knows how many days later he’s still just sitting there brooding on his patch of land when a squad of Confederate guerillas come by, tell him they’re at war with the bastards who did this. “I’ll be comin with you,” Josey says. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Jersey Boys

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

tn_jerseyboys“Frankie’s okay. He’s no Neil Sedaka.”

Here it is again, the ol’ New Movie Directed By Clint Eastwood But Without Him Acting In It rigmarole. It goes like this: New Clint movie comes out. It doesn’t seem like my kind of thing. It gets bad reviews (at least if it came out in recent years). I genuinely intend to see it in theaters, but I keep putting it off. There’s always something I’m more excited for that’s playing. Like, uh, I believe I might’ve seen some robot/dinosaur related picture around the time JERSEY BOYS came out. So I end up missing the movie in theaters. Months later it comes out on video. I’m not excited. I feel like I’m doing my homework. I watch it.

And then the Hey, this is pretty good!

I wouldn’t say this surprised me as much as J. EDGAR (which I still believe is totally underrated, and got 10% worse reviews even than JERSEY BOYS, according to Rotten Tomatoes) but I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. It’s a solid, entertaining biopic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons based on a Broadway show of some kind. Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire plays guitarist Tommy DeVito and then the guys from the stage version play the other three: John Lloyd Young as lead singer Frankie Valli, Erich Bergen as songwriter/keyboardist Bob Gaudio and Michael Lomenda as bassist Nick Massi.

I thought it was gonna be a musical, but thankfully it’s not. It’s just a story about musical performers doing musical performances, recorded by the actors. I don’t know about the show, but the movie version only has one actual musical number and it’s during the end credits. In my opinion it is more of a blooper reel than an official part of the movie, because why would they be dancing around on a soundstage street singing songs, I mean it just doesn’t make sense.

The rest of the time it’s them singing “Sherry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and stuff, and these are good songs. So it’s not a problem. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

A Perfect World

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

tn_aperfectworldI started 2013 with a review of the broad but likable baseball movie TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE, where I wrote, “I don’t know if this is true but I heard it’s good luck for movie critics to start a year with a Clint Eastwood review.” I made the whole thing up, and the results were inconclusive anyway. I wouldn’t say last year was exactly a day at the races for me, but at least I wasn’t one of the horses. There were a few scares but they coulda been worse. I’m still going.

It doesn’t really matter if the superstition holds water, though, ’cause a Clint movie is a good way to start a year anyway. I might make it a tradition. I decided to go with A PERFECT WORLD this time because I’d been meaning to see it for a long time and I was reminded of that recently when the screenwriter, John Lee Hancock, directed SAVING MR. BANKS. Between that and THE BLIND SIDE (and maybe THE ROOKIE, I haven’t seen that one) Hancock’s John Hancock has become sort of better-than-expected middlebrow feel good type movies. In comparison his script for A PERFECT WORLD, directed by Clint and starring Kevin Costner, is pretty bleak. I mean it’s about a sweet relationship between a fugitive and a little boy. And it means it. But it doesn’t try to make you forget that this is a murderer taking a little boy hostage, putting him in danger and exposing him to terrible, traumatic events, even making him point a gun at people. He tries to be nice to the kid and encourages him to do harmless fun things his mom doesn’t let him do, but that doesn’t make him Mary Poppins or Sandra Bullock. More like a deadbeat uncle who tries to be your bro. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.