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Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Entertaining as Hell
Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston, star along with a giant ape in this action packed film with a sense of humor. Goodman plays his usual wise cracking guy with a mission to take the military to Skull Island on a supposed scientific mission. Sam Jackson is the leader of the army guys fresh out of Vietnam in 1973. Real news footage of FDR, JKF, Ike, and Tricky Dicky are well used to start the adventure. A soundtrack with Creedence, Bowie, Black Sabbath and more great 70s music make this a fun ride. The story is secondary to the action scenes with the big gorilla battling giant lizards and other esoteric creatures. The CGI effects are excellent and the cast is superb, although Ms. Larson's hair is never out of shape as she slogs through the jungle with an apparent hairdresser equipped with a blow dryer to maintain her perfect quaff. Brie's hair is a minor complaint as I was totally entertained for the entire two hour running time.
Wind River (2017)
Taylor Sheridan is an actor turned writer-director who last year put out the vastly overlooked Hell or High Water. It was my favorite film of 2016. The script deserved best picture and best screenplay at the Oscars. Wind River is not quite as good, but it is still an excellent movie. Jeremy Renner plays a wildlife agent whose main job is to keep coyotes from decimating herds of sheep. While on the prowl in search of a marauding mountain lion, he comes upon a dead eighteen year-old girl from the town. She is face down in the snow with blood coming out of her mouth. The FBI is summoned to the Wind River Indian Reservation to help the understaffed local police solve the crime. Elizabeth Olsen is the agent and she joins Renner in the search for the killer. Along the way, they encounter drug addicts and other colorful but depressing people. Renner's ex-wife is Indian and they have a boy together. It turns out that their high school aged daughter had a bad experience with a criminal element and this pretty much rounds out the story. The scenery of Wyoming and Utah are spectacular and the script is precise with some good, witty moments. So far for 2017, Get Out and Wind River are two best films.
A Ghost Story (2017)
I watched this ponderous mess based on the 7.7 rating on IMDb. RT also has an 80% rating. I must have seen a different movie. Casey Affleck spends most of the film wandering around wearing a bed sheet with holes cut out for eyes; trick or treat. His wife, Rooney Mara and he mumble a few incoherent lines at each other and the camera lingers for long stretches for no apparent reason. The non linear story line is maddening. At one point, Affleck comes upon a family in a covered wagon. It quickly flashes back to his modern house. He sometimes waves at a ghost next door. Rooney's big moment comes as she sits on the kitchen floor consuming an entire pie. Stay away from this snooze fest, unless you are suffering from insomnia.
El Dorado (1967)
Mitchum and the Duke
I am fifty years behind in finally seeing this great western, starring Robert Mitchum and John Wayne. Who would have expected the free wheeling, pot smoking Mitchum to work so well with the seemingly anal retentive,uptight conservative Wayne. They are absolutely great together as two aging gunfighters who reunite to battle another gun for hire. A young James Caan, a few years before his role as Sonny in the Godfather, rounds out the team. Mitchum has finally settled down as the sheriff of a sleepy town as Wayne shows up to right some wrong. They both are wounded along the way, leading to some extremely funny exchanges, as the pair show perfect comedic timing. Caan is a gambler who is completely inept with guns and gets the best lines in the movie. El Dorado is a must see film.
The Yakuza (1974)
Mitchum in Japan
The Yakuza are members of the Japanese Mafia. They make our American version seem like school girls by comparison. Robert Mitchum is a sort of every man who drifts from job to job, just getting along. An old friend appears asking for a favor. He is a wheeler dealer named George (Brian Keith) whose daughter has been kidnapped by the Yakuza for reneging on an arms deal with them. Harry (Mitchum) travels to Japan to rescue George's kid. In the process, he set off a mob war. He also reunites with an old flame and her daughter. The violence is what one would expect from this kind of film, with guns, knives and swords used frequently. Mitchum is his usual cool self, taking over every scene. The supporting cast are all good and The Yakuza is a fun ride for two hours.
The Sundowners (1960)
Mitchum and Kerr
I recently watched Heaven Knows Mr Allison and Kerr and Mitchum made a great team. They were reunited three years later for this Australian family adventure. My taste in movies is usually of the more vicious type of film, such as Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, and so The Sundowners is strange departure for me. I normally despise Pollyanna styled story lines but I am such an admirer of Robert Mitchum that I gave this one a shot. I was not disappointed in the least as the usually bad tempered actor plays a man prone to wandering with his wife and son throughout Australia's outback and working transient jobs, including one as a sheep shearer. He shows perfect comedic timing and Kerr is excellent as his long suffering wife. Peter Ustinov and Glynis Johns add even more substance to an awesome cast. I have added this film to my favorite of Mitchum,s, along with Cape Fear and Night of the Hunter.
Robert Mitchum is Jeb Rand and it all begins with the star and Thor Callum (Teresa Wright) at an abandoned house in a desolate part of New Mexico. A flashback to Jeb as a small boy hiding in a basement as he witnesses his father's death at a shootout. He is taken in by Thor's mother and the two grow close. A mysterious man shows up and he seeks revenge on Jeb for some wrong he has suffered at Jeb's father's hands. The plot unfolds slowly and it is a good one. Jeb and Thor fall in love but face obstacles in the form of skeletons from the past. It becomes a sort of Hatfield and McCoy type situation and Mitchum is his usual laid back self and Wright is pretty and self assured as his love interest. Although the film is from 1947, it holds up well. Raoul Walsh's direction is filled with shadows and silhouettes, much like Welle's Citizen Kane. Pursued is definitely one of Mitchum's best.
Thunder Road (1958)
Mitchum and Son
Robert Mitchum plays a bootlegging driver and his real life son Jim is cast as his younger brother. Jim is the spitting image of his father. Federal alcohol agents are constantly chasing Mitchum as he transports the illegal booze across state lines. He lives with his ma and pa, who are also in what seems to be the family business. At one point, at a meeting of the minds, the family heads discuss the logistical aspects of the operation. As the stills are smashed up by the law, they laugh and say this stuff has been going on for over two hundred years in the backwoods, and will continue, no matter what the law does. Cars are wrecked, a few people killed along the way, but Thunder Road is basically just an old fashioned good guys vs. bad guys movie with the audience mostly cheering on the bad guys, especially the elder Mitchum.
River of No Return (1954)
Mitchum and Monroe
Robert Mitchum was teamed with Marilyn Monroe for this star driven vehicle. Bob is fine, but Ms. Monroe plays to the camera with a breathy, pouting demeanor which is annoying to the point of distraction. She sings a few tunes at a saloon while the patrons swoon over her. Her fiancé is the 40's b actor Rory Calhoun. The only thing I ever saw him in was a horror-comedy from 1980, Motel Hell. He steals Mitchum's horse and rifle on his journey to claim a gold find. The two stars spend most of the movie on a river with dangerous rapids. Mitchum has a nine year-old son with him to add to the intrigue and bring out Monroe's maternal instincts. It does not work on any level. Avoid MM's horrible affectations and look instead for several of Mitchum's better work, such as Cape Fear, Night of the Hunter, and Out of The Past.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)
Mitchum and Kerr
John Huston actually wanted Marlon Brando for the role of the marine in this film. He turned it down and Robert Mitchum was given the lead. He is a WWII soldier stranded on a Pacific island with a Catholic nun, Angela (Deborah Kerr). He is a rugged, somewhat dim witted lug with a pronounced New York City accent. She is refined and awaiting her final vows to enter into the Church of Rome. This leads to some very funny exchanges between the two stars. He explains that they may possibly be stuck alone together for years. She shows him her ring and explains that she is to married to Jesus in the future and he responds with, I guess it's an engagement ring. He wants to know why such a pretty young woman would want to be a nun. Meanwhile, they hide in a cave during an attack by the Japanese navy. They form a strong emotional bond; but not to worry for all you Catholic viewers out there. The pair never cross the line into any kind of hanky panky at all. A representative of the RC Church was present during filming to make sure everything remained "kosher." Mitchum and Kerr are excellent and I can highly recommend this old fashioned movie.