Tag Archives: Movie Reviews

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs And Shaw (2019), A (Almost on Time!) Review

The Fast and Furious franchise has been a huge box office success for years now to the point where investors decided to make a spinoff featuring Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

If you’re a fan of the franchise, this looks like a fun time, no?

Well…

Here’s the thing about these films: They’re pretty ludicrous. But, as ludicrous as they were, I will give the F&F franchise this much: they kept things “serious” enough so that you feel some actual suspense. As stupid as they could get, you sometimes worried for the fate of the characters.

Not so with Hobbs and Shaw.

This film, from the opening minutes to the closing act, is presented as a goof. There are plenty of stunts and quips, delived by Hobbs at Shaw and vice-versa. Some of them are genuinely funny. There are two cameos that are for the most part delightful (I won’t spoil the surprise), and Vanessa Kirby and Idris Elba do fine as Hattie (Shaw’s sister) and Brixton (the movie’s big bad guy).

But…

There is absolutely no sense of danger in this movie, despite all the stuntwork and sweat. There is no feeling, at any moment, that either Hobbs or Shaw or Hattie are in any genuine danger. As fearsome as Brixton could have been -he is presented as something of a bionic/android super powered man- he never lays much of a finger on our heroes nor could I, as an audience of at least one, ever felt he actually would.

So what we’re left with is a very slick and very loud film filled with explosions and crashes, shattered glass and crumbling concrete, and a decent enough story that the director/producer never allowed to get serious.

Which begs the question: How are we to feel any suspense, any thrills, in a film that so clearly doesn’t seem to want you to feel them?

There’s also this romance thing that is almost pathetically inserted into the film between Hobbs and Hattie that, it would seem, the movie’s makers belatedly realized was going nowhere and decided to tamp down on and essentially ignore by movie’s end. Perhaps I didn’t stay in long enough but the closing credit scenes (at least two or three of them, I lost track), didn’t bother to show whether Hobbs and Hattie finally had a date (OOPS! EXTREME SPOILER: They both survive at the end of the film!).

I have to say, despite some good laughs and some well executed action sequences, Hobbs and Shaw left me curiously unimpressed and, as we move further and further from the date I saw it (that was earlier last week), the less impressed I am with the whole thing.

Next time and despite the ludicrous things presented on screen, perhaps they should at least try to take these things a little more seriously.

Guardians of the GAlaxy Vol. 2 (2017) a (mildly) belated review

Back in 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy was released to theaters and was a box office mega-hit. The film was generally loved by critics and especially audiences and helped cement Marvel’s movie Empire by expanding its reach into space.

Back then, I wanted very badly to catch the film in theaters but was unable to, finally picking up the BluRay when it was released and finding… I didn’t like the film. (You can read my full review of Guardians of the Galaxy here).

In fact, re-reading the review of the original Guardians of the Galaxy I posted, if anything I was being a little too nice in describing my feelings about it. I hated the film. I hated having wasted my (and my wife’s) time watching this juvenile, silly, and incredibly un-original work.

So little did I think of the film, Dr. Strange, and Captain America: Civil War (three Marvel films which I saw in close temporal proximity) that my feelings about Marvel films took a serious nose-dive. Where once I looked forward to catching the latest Marvel films, I found myself avoiding them. To the point where I have yet to see most of the Marvel films released since this period of time such as Ant-Man and the Wasp, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and the last two Avenger films (I have digital copies of both and intend to catch them, though!).

The other day Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, yet another of the Marvel films I was avoiding, aired on TV and I caught the first few minutes of it.

Mind you, I’m still smarting from how little I liked the original film and had no intention of seeing the sequel. Especially when I recalled upon its release GOTG Vol. 2 found more than a few of the fans of the original feeling it wasn’t as good as the first one.

If I hated the first one and fans of that film didn’t like the second quite as much, what were the odds I’d like it?!

…well…

Funny thing happened on the way to my ignoring GOTG Vol. 2. I caught the first few minutes, as I said, on TV and… I kinda liked what I saw. It was silly but pleasantly so.

Alas, I didn’t have the time to watch the whole thing in one sitting so I set the DVR and let it record the movie. I finally caught the whole thing a couple of days ago aaaaaannnnnndddddd….

Whatdoyouknow?!

I liked it!

Understand: The film isn’t “perfect” and there are some rather clunky elements in it, but overall GOTG Vol. 2 carries a more original plot than the Star Wars retread of the first film (which was a large part of the reason I didn’t like that film) with more emotional payoffs. The silly humor is still there but toned down from the overbearing nature I felt was in the first film, and the characters feel like they’re more of a part of a team and care for each other.

The plot -for those one or two people not me who haven’t seen the film- goes like this: The Guardians are contracted to protect power cells from an incoming monster. They complete their mission but Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) betrays their employers by stealing a handful of the power cells.

The Guardians are pursued and their ship crippled as they escape the wrath of their employers and crash land on a planet. It is there Peter Quill/Star Lord’s (Chris Pratt) long lost father Ego (Kurt Russell) appears and reveals he has been looking for his son for years.

With their ship nearly destroyed, Rocket is left with the young Groot and their prisoner Nebula (Karen Gillian) alone to fix the ship while Quill, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) fly off with Ego and his companion Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to his planet while those pursuing the Guardians approach…

Shakespeare it ain’t, but then again, other than Shakespeare, what is?

The film moves along at a brisk pace and while at times very silly, plot-wise, I found the characters this time around more intriguing and the story better presented than the Star Wars retread of the first film.

So, yeah, I liked the damn thing even as I hated the first and, you know what?

That’s the way it goes.

Recommended!

What’s Up Doc? (1972) a (incredibly) belated review

A while back TCM played the 1972 Peter Bogdanovich directed screwball comedy homage What’s Up Doc? Here’s the movie’s trailer/behind the scenes:

I had warm memories of the film but, frankly, hadn’t seen it in at least twenty plus years. I wondered if it was as good as I recalled. The DVR was set, the film recorded, and then a couple of months later and with my wife and daughter sat down to see it.

It wasn’t easy getting those two to sit in!

After some twenty minutes, my daughter bailed. She doesn’t have a lot of patience for “old” films and, frankly, I can’t totally blame her. Nowadays films have a quicker pace to them, and this film certainly started “slow” compared to more recent works.

My wife found at least some of what she saw humorous enough and held on, but I think during those early minutes she too was “touch and go”.

But then, once the movie’s finished with the preliminaries and into the story proper, as well as the slapstick that’s to come, What’s Up Doc? becomes a truly wonderful comedy and very worthy of my pleasant memories.

The plot is complex but never complicated: There are four identical traveling bags held by four different characters.

Two of the suitcases carry totally innocuous items: Judy Maxwell (Barbara Streisand, equally sexy and off the wall as a walking hurricane of a character) has a suitcase of clothing. Howard Bannister (Ryan O’Neal doing his best to emulate a stuttering, stuffy Cary Grant who, along with his fiancé –Madeline Kahn in her film debut- is headed to a music convention in the hopes of getting a grant to study… Neanderthal music?) carries igneous rocks.

The two other cases contain something far more interesting: Mr. Smith (Michael Murphy) carries a suitcase full of top secret documents. He’s being pursed by a U.S. agent. The last suitcase, owned by Mrs. Van Hoskins (Mabel Albertson), contains a treasure in jewels.

The jewels catch the eye of the shady Hotel Clerk and equally shady Hotel Detective who plan to steal it. The U.S. Government agent, who Mr. Smith quickly gets wise to, wants to retrieve the top secret documents. And all four suitcases wind up, with their owners, in four separate rooms on the 17th floor of the Hotel they are staying at. This results in mass confusion and considerable hilarity.

The movie plays out, for the most part, like a slapstick stage play, with characters talking in and around each other while the identical suitcases move from room to room and character to character while Judy Maxwell takes a liking to her opposite, character-wise, in Howard Bannister.

The set pieces wind up working terrifically, each bigger and better than the other, followed by a breather before getting into the next comedic set piece. I feel the final big set piece, involving Liam Dunn (I won’t give away too much here, for fear of SPOILING a …gulp… 47 year old film) is a perfect climax and the proverbial cherry on top of the pie. Mr. Dunn, best known for appearances on Mel Brooks films, is but one of the people who would go on from this film to work in two of Mel Brooks’ most famous films. He, along with Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, and John Hillerman would go on to appear in Blazing Saddles. All but Mr. Hillerman would also show up in Young Frankenstein.

In conclusion, if you don’t mind seeing “old” films and/or can put up with a few slow minutes in this movie’s opening act (assuming you’re spoiled on the more speedy pace of modern films), What’s Up Doc? is a no-brainer. A hilarious, albeit strangely forgotten, film that stands up quite well with some of the better comedies out there.

Upgrade (2018) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Sometimes, a movie takes you by surprise and rocks your world. Especially when the movie (and, one has to assume, the movie’s makers) are treading into creative areas similar to the one’s I’ve been mining.

Please, please, PLEASE don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the delightful Upgrade is somehow “ripping off” ideas I’ve used in my novels.

Hell no!

What I’m saying is that there are elements in the movie that I recognize in some of my novels… but that’s all they are, similar elements.

The creative playground out there is quite big and it wouldn’t surprise me if writer/director Leigh Whannell’s been reading/watching/admiring some of the same material I have over his life. In other words: If you’ve read and like my books, I suspect you’ll like this movie and, no, it doesn’t “rip off” my books -at all!- but does play in similar territory.

But enough preamble. Here’s the trailer for Upgrade:

As you can see by the above, Upgrade involves one Gray Trace (Logan Marshall-Green, quite good) who is a mechanic and something of a technophobe living in the near future where computers are everywhere and a creeping dystopia is coming to life. When we meet him, he’s doing the finishing touches on a Trans-Am Firebird, the type many would be familiar as being in the movie Smokey and the Bandit, when his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) arrives from work.

They have some light banter before Gray insists his wife accompany him to deliver the Trans-Am to the man who hired him to refurbish it. Turns out the man is a computer genius who heads a large tech company and whose work his wife is familiar with. The man is sullen and awkward, but offers to show them his latest project, a new computer chip which he states will revolutionize the world.

Upon leaving the reclusive man’s home, Gray and Asha’s self-driving car is hacked and crashed. A group of toughs come to rob them and Asha is shot and killed while Gray is rendered a quadraplegic.

Understandably morose following a painful recovery that has this once independent man a widower and tied to a wheelchair, he is visited by his previous employer, who states the chip he showed him might just be able to get him on his feet again.

And that’s about all the spoiling I’m going to do for this film.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know some of what’s to come, but this very low budget (supposedly around $5 million) film is quite amazing. It’s lean, mean, and doesn’t waste a second of your time while delivering a clever story that is at times familiar (boo!) only to surprise you with some well thought out twists and turns (yay!).

The ending, too, proved a fascinating, well thought out piece of cinema, giving you the proverbial cherry on top of the cake.

While Upgrade doesn’t necessarily revolutionize B movies, it offers plenty of thrills and clever storytelling. Further, despite its ending it also allows for -if the writer/director is interested- sequels which could examine… well… that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

If you haven’t seen it, give Upgrade a whirl. It’s well worth your time.

Post-script: I noted on director/writer Leigh Whannell’s IMDB listing that he’s attached to the Escape From New York remake. A very, very interesting choice. Given how much I liked Upgrade and how that film was set in a pseudo near-future not unlike the original Escape From New York, I can certainly see the reason he was chosen.

Could be good.

A Simple Favor (2018) a (mildly) belated review

When A Simple Favor was released last year, I knew absolutely nothing about it. It was one of those films that, quite simply, weren’t on my radar. But I recall reading plenty of good reviews and became intrigued.

I wanted to see the film with my wife but a couple of weeks passed and the film, by that time, left theaters and, therefore, we had to wait until it was available on home video to see it. A couple of days ago, we did just that.

A Simple Favor, directed by Paul Fieg (The Heat, Spy, Bridesmaids), stars Anna Kendrick as Stephanie Smothers, a geeky single mom whose entire life seems to revolve around her son and her video blogs. She meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively in an absolutely terrific turn) one day and things change for her in all kinds of bizarre ways.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

As I mentioned above and need to repeat, Blake Lively is incredible in this movie as the enigmatic Emily, a woman married to a one-time best-selling author who works for a high flying talent agency. She is as beautiful as she is enigmatic, a classic noir blonde that you just know is all kinds of trouble.

Anna Kendrick’s Stephanie, on the other hand, is the meek and impressionable type, though she too has her secrets and skills, and when she’s asked to do a “simple favor”, pick up Emily’s son from school, and Emily subsequently disappears, an eerie mystery develops and the police become involved. What follows is a serpentine story that throws plenty of curves at you… along with a healthy dose of laughs.

Yes, laughs.

For Paul Fieg, known mostly for comedy, isn’t about to let the film become too dark and gloomy. The tone is generally light and, if I have any particular criticism, its that perhaps there should have been a point where it did get a little darker, especially during the film’s final act.

But I won’t get into details. To say much more would be a crime!

A Simple Favor is a very easy recommendation, a film that uses certain well worn tropes to create a noir-like mystery film but which is also a pretty damn funny and, therefore, quite creative.

And Blake Lively… jeeze. I never had strong feelings for her as an actress one way or another, but she’s so damn good in this role.

If nothing else, see the film for her!

Overlord (2018) a (mildly) belated review

As I’ve made it plain many times before, it is difficult for me to find the free time nowadays to sit down and watch a film, much less go to theaters and catch the latest big or not-quite-so big release.

Instead, I make a note of what’s come out and, if I have the time, sneak films in whenever I possibly can.

One of last year’s releases, the World War 2/Horror hybrid Overlord, caught my attention but it wasn’t until now, weeks after its digital video release, that I’ve had a chance to sit down and watch it. Here’s the movie’s trailer:

The film sure looks like a live action version of the video game Wolfenstein, complete with similar font used in its title…

Related image

(A quick aside: I have very fond memories of the game that served as inspiration to this one, Castle Wolfenstein, originally released back in the early 1980’s. A friend at our High School had an Apple II computer and this game and we spent many a fun hour playing it, along with Ultima II! Here’s what that game looked like:

Image result for Castle Wolfenstein
Image result for Castle Wolfenstein
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Yeah, we’ve come a very long way, graphic’s wise!)

Getting back to Overlord, the film begins promisingly enough. We are quite literally plopped right in the thick of things, with a group of paratroopers, among them our heroes, about to deploy behind enemy lines shortly –very shortly- before D-Day.

Things, as they are wont to do, go frightfully sideways as Nazi air flak rips through the plane. Our heroes jump into the fire, quite literally, and we follow Boyce (Jovan Adepo), a Haitian/African American paratrooper (yeah, the film plays more than a little fast and loose with Army integration circa 1944) as he barely makes it out of the plane and onto the ground.

Boyce and a group of three other survivors of the doomed flight get together and make their way to their target: A very small French village which has a church up the road from it in which the Nazis have taken over. The Nazis have a communications station in the church and it is this groups’ primary mission to wipe it out before daybreak and D-Day, when the communications array could harm the incoming troops.

So there we have it, the tense mission and tight deadline.

But wait, there’s more!

When the soldiers are within the village planning their moves, an added complication: There’s something else going on in that Nazi-held church, something that looks like a science experiment gone extremely wrong…

Overlord, as already mentioned, starts well enough and had me interested in where it was going despite some of the politically correct elements thrust upon the story in an effort to give us a more “diverse” cast of characters.

Unfortunately, as the movie progressed and our heroes were in the village, it felt like the movie’s creator’s had used up their deck of creative cards. Frankly, as the movie progressed it settled into a neither terribly bad nor terribly good “groove” and never got out of it.

Worse, the film’s actions became predictable. When the big bad Nazi showed up, you knew the heroes would do something about him. But when he got away, you just knew he’d become… well… I don’t want to get too spoilery but, suffice it to say, along with a general deflation, the film’s story beats became only too obvious.

In the end, Overlord was an “ok” film in my eyes. Visually, they nailed the look nicely and some of the gore effects were very well done.

But having said that, the film couldn’t build upon its opening act and, instead, coasted to an all too obvious -and never as exciting as it should have been- ending.

A shame.

Hotel Artemis (2018) a (mildly) belated Review

When I first heard about this movie, I was excited. Written and directed by Drew Pearce (screenwriter for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Iron Man 3), the film sounded like something right up my alley: A noir near-future crime/action drama featuring a most curious cast and a claustrophobic setting.

The movie, to my eyes, felt like something a young John Carpenter might come up with.

And, in many ways, it is.

Set in the near future of (if memory serves) 2028 Los Angeles, Hotel Artemis concerns a highly fortified building which secretly houses a medical clinic which heals criminals. The Artemis is run by two people, “The Nurse” (Jodie Foster, made up to look very old and fuddy-duddy) and Everest (Dave Bautista, quite good as the muscle with a heart).

The movie begins with a robbery that goes bad. Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) and his gang rob a bank during a riot. There is a shootout afterwards and one of the gang members is killed while Waikiki’s brother is injured. The two head to the Hotel Artemis to get healed and meet up with The Nurse and a couple of other clients in house, including the mysterious Nice (Sofia Boutella) and the loudmouth Acapulco (Charlie Day).

As the riots outside continue, electricity is on and off and our cast of characters interact. The pressure rises when Morgan, a police officer (Jenny Slate) appears at the door of the hotel injured and, almost simultaneously, Crosby Franklin (Zachary Quinto), son of powerful mobster Niagra (Jeff Goldblum… if you’ve seen the trailer of the film, which I’ll present below, you’ve seen roughly 1/4th of his total screen time within the film!) calls in that he’s on his way for treatment.

Morgan, it turns out, is known to The Nurse. More specifically, Morgan knew The Nurse’s son, who perished mysteriously (though we’ll soon find out everything about that) and though the Artemis does not take in police, The Nurse goes against her rules and takes her in.

Anyway, Niagra soon arrives and things go sideways in many ways (I’ll not spoil the story) and eventually we reach a conclusion.

Unfortunately, the film is never terribly action filled (except for the opening and closing acts) and the story presented, while interesting, isn’t that interesting. Worse, by the end we’re supposed to find a nobility in a few characters who sacrifice themselves for others but the film hasn’t presented viewers a strong enough reason for us to feel this is anything more than plot contrivance.

In the end, Hotel Artemis is a misfire, IMHO, an intriguing enough concept which could have used a stronger -much stronger- script.

Too bad.

Predator 2 (1990) a (very!) belated review

Way back in 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in what was arguably his second biggest/best role -after The Terminator, of course- as Dutch in the classic horror/action hybrid Predator

The movie, directed by John McTiernan (whose next film following this was the criminally forgotten Die Hard… 😉 ), managed to mix horror and action in equal doses and, further, presented a villain in the form of the alien Predator which was truly fearsome and made one wonder how someone as seemingly invincible as Mr. Schwarzenegger would survive.

Three years later a sequel to that film appeared. Cleverly (I kid, I kid) titled Predator 2, the 1990 sequel was directed by Stephen Hopkins (Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, numerous TV credits including 24) and starred Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, and Bill Paxton…

Unlike Aliens, the sequel to the terrific Alien, the movie wasn’t a huge box-office hit or held in as high esteem. Despite this, the Predator creature proved popular enough to appear in several subsequent films, up to and including last year’s The Predator.

I was curious to re-watch Predator 2 (don’t ask why), and a couple of nights ago I put it on, sat back, and watched it. I found it a most curious experience.

The movie takes the original Predator’s setting from the jungles into the then near future L.A. (the movie, as mentioned, was released in 1990 but the film’s opening states the action takes place in 1997). This near future L.A. was heavily influenced by the original Robocop. It is a hellscape of disorder, gangs, and heavy guns; of cops overwhelmed and dealing with sleazy TV reporters (including a cameo by the late right wing mouth-breather Morton Downey Jr.) eager to report on the latest street-level outrage.

The movie is certainly ambitious in presenting a very full cast of characters. It begins by introducing us to Danny Glover’s Lt. Harrigan (the movie’s protagonist) and his crew. The crew consists of his right hand man Archuleta (Ruben Blades) and right hand woman Cantrell (Maria Conchita Alonso). When introduced they are involved in a street level gang gunfight that’s gone out of control. Thanks to the actions of Harrigan, the bad guys retreat into a building. As Harrigan is about to order a raid on that building, he gets an order from above that he’s to stand down, that someone else will take care of the hoods.

Renegade as he is, Harrigan ignores orders and his crew raid the building. Within the crew find a grisly and bloody massacre. One gang banger is left alive and Harrigan pursues him to the roof and wipes him out. Afterwards, Harrigan spots something… strange (though fans of the original Predator know what it is): A weird figure who isn’t quite visible.

Back on the street, Harrigan is reamed out by Captain Heinemann (Robert Davi, pretty much wasted in what amounts to a cameo role as the cliched “stern Captain”). Another, strange group of people arrive at the scene and take over. They are led by an equally strange Peter Keyes (Gary Busey, also in what amounts to a cameo role), who seem to know more about what’s going on than they’re willing to say.

Once back at the station Harrigan and company meet newbie -and loudmouth- Lambert (Bill Paxton, playing a mild variation of his smart-ass Aliens character) and, with the cast in place, we get to the mystery of what’s killing the violent gangs of L.A., and whether the creature behind these massacres has targeted Harrigan and his people as well.

The problem with Predator 2 versus the first movie is that there are too many moving parts. As I mentioned, Robert Davi’s “stern Captain” is a cliche of a character and, frankly, could have been done away with to give the story proper more time to breath. Further, I got the feeling the theatrical cut of the film left plenty of scenes on the cutting room floor.

Perhaps the biggest example of this is when Harrigan presents to the crusty (another cliche) lab lady the Predator spear-head for examination. Only thing is: We never see Harrigan get the spear head. A certain character gets it before they… get it, but we never see Harrigan pick the piece of evidence up. It’s left to a clumsy voice over to have Harrigan states he got it from a dead person’s hand but never see that actual scene.

Eventually Harrigan goes mano-a-mano with the Predator, and it is in this prolonged bit that the movie’s logic takes its hardest fall. It’s simply impossible to believe after seeing the fierce Predator of the first movie to believe Harrigan could go after this Predator like he does… and actually have him on the run.

Finally, the climactic way Harrigan takes out this Predator requires the fearsome and clever alien become incredibly stupid and allow him(it?)self to get within stabbing distance of our hero.

So, yeah, as a sequel to the wonderful original, Predator 2 falls short.

However, and after saying all this, Predator 2 is far from the worst sequel to a terrific original film I’ve seen. There are serious problems with the film but I admired the film’s makers ambitions even if they ultimately fell short of the mark.

Chato’s Land (1972) a (ridiculously) belated review

Back when I was very young and growing up in the early 1970’s, there were certain posters which presented what would become iconic images and were found almost everywhere.  One of them was Rachel Welch in the film One Million Years B.C.

Boys like me loved that image, but I recall another poster that was found in/around that time, this one (I suppose!) being more eye candy for the ladies in the form of a very well toned Charles Bronson from the 1972 film Chato’s Land

This image served as the inspiration to the famous poster…

Chato’s Land was on one of the Starz! channels the other day and I happened to catch it from the very near beginning.  I recalled seeing the film a number of years ago but remembered not all that much about it.  I did recall liking it well enough, even if I didn’t feel it was one of Mr. Bronson’s best works.

So I sat back and watched it and was fascinated by what I saw.

The film starts with Bronson’s Chato going to a small town’s bar and being confronted by the racist ramblings/provocations of the town sheriff.  Chato, you see, is half-Apache and in this era and time the “white folks” don’t much like seeing Apache Indians in their establishments.

The sheriff eggs on Chato, insulting him and trying to make him act.  Eventually, and despite Chato warning him not to, the sheriff draws his gun but Chato is a faster draw and guns the man down.

Chato leaves town as word spreads that an Apache gunned down not only a “white man”, but the town’s sheriff!

We are then introduced to Jack Palance’s Captain Whitmore, a veteran of the Civil War originally on the side of the Confederacy.  He is a well respected and seemingly noble veteran and, with the Sheriff gone, it is up to him to get together a posse and hunt down Chato.  He pulls out his old war costume and builds up his posse.  Right from the get-go, however, the viewer realizes that the crew is a motley one.  There are some who are decent individuals while others are clearly hot-heads or worse.

The group heads out of town in search of Chato and things eventually go sideways as Chato proves a far more elusive, and deadly, prey.

Watching Chato’s Land today, I found myself fascinated by the story it presented.  It’s a simple one, essentially a long chase by horseback of the character of Chato and the simultaneous degradation of a group of what were friends.

Chato himself is presented as almost more myth than a “real” person and Charles Bronson is given very little dialogue throughout.  He is always a step ahead of the posse, except in one sequence involving his wife where the posse comes upon his home and the more vulgar members of the group violently rape her.

This sequence, which to some degree makes little sense (why did Chato decide to lose track of the posse?  Did he not fear they might track him to his home?), is nonetheless important in the film’s story as it exposes the ugliness of a mob and shows that Jack Palance’s noble character has one HUGE flaw: He is a coward.  He, and a friend of his in the posse, knows what’s going on is not right yet he does not act.  He is unwilling to stand up for what is right and force his by now mostly out of control mob to stop.

What Chato’s Land presents, essentially, is the tale of how a few rotten apples in a group -and the lack of courage on the part of those who should know better to speak up- damns an entire group to failure and, in the case of this film, death.

And in some ways, it made me think of current political events.

I’ll say no more about that, though given the movie’s original release date of 1972, whatever symbolism was originally presented likely had more to do with the events in Vietnam.

In the end, Chato’s Land delivers a deeper story than one would think and manages to rise a  bit above its more “typical” western/pulp/revenge roots.  While it may not be a lost “classic”, I found it worth revisiting.

Recommended.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018) a (right on time!) review

One can’t help but admire the length and breath of influence Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s most famous creation, Sherlock Holmes, has had over the years.

There are so may works featuring oddball/quirky detectives solving bizarre crimes while accompanied by their more “normal” sidekicks/partners and almost every one of them owes gratitude to Mr. Doyle’s Holmes.

So too it is with the late Stieg Larsson’s original Milennium Trilogy of novels, the most famous of which was the first titled The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and which has already been filmed twice featuring both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara in what is the most provocative role of the books, that of punk hacker -and oddball- extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander.  Salander’s Watson is journalist Mikael Blomkvist and their setting is the cold environs of Sweden.

The Girl in the Spider Web, based on a “new” Dragon Tattoo novel by David Lagercrantz, features Claire Foy as Salander and Sverrir Gudnasson as Blomkvist.

The movie takes place a few years after the original trilogy of stories and we find Salander hired by a skittish American techno genius who created a program capable of linking up and taking over every nuclear missile in the world.

He fears he made a very big mistake in both creating and giving the program to the U.S. government and wants it back so he can get rid of it.  He asks Salander to get the one and only copy of it from a Pentagon computer and she agrees (plot hole #1: Do you really think such a powerful program would somehow be limited to one copy only?).

Anyway, what Salander doesn’t realize is that there are already eyes on her employer and, after she manages to get the program, the evil schenannigans start and, soon enough, Salander is on the run for her life.   After her apartment is torched with her in it (plot hole #2: Do the villains want to kill Salander or frame her?  Truly this is the most irritating bit in the film and reminds me of the same problem with the last James Bond film Spectre.  The villain seems to want the protagonist to live so that they can personally take them out, yet their henchmen sure do seem intent on killing the protagonist anyway!), Salander enlists the aid of journalist Mikael Blumpkist and the game of cat and mouse formally begins.

Despite those two very irritating plot points that I mentioned above, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a decent enough film which, sadly, winds up being its main problem.

Apart from those two irritations, there is nothing in the film that will make you howl or shake your head or scream at the screen.  Alas, neither is there anything in this film that will blow your proverbial socks off.  You’ve seen most of this stuff before, and at times far better, in other works.

While the film is handsomely constructed, well directed, well acted, and the scenery is pretty, the plot and story provide little punch and, ultimately, are rather weak tea.

I suspect over time this is one of those films that will drift out of my mind and soon be forgotten.

Neither terribly good nor genuinely bad, The Girl in the Spider’s Web just is.