Possibly the biggest headache for movie fans is whether to watch a new movie or revisit an older one. If you have fond memories of a movie you saw 10, 20, 30 or more years ago, you run the very real risk of shattering those fond memories forever, lacing them with poisonous regret. Yet sometimes you feel compelled to take the risk.
Some of the following rewatches were rather low-risk, while others were risks of the highest order. Here are some of the more memorable rewatches from 2015:
The Driver (1978) Walter Hill (3x)
This was the third time I’d seen Walter Hill’s intriguing neo-noir since its release in 1978. I bought a UK Blu-ray and hope to watch this again soon. Thoughts here.
The Terminator (1984) James Cameron (3x)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) James Cameron (2x)
For reasons I can’t explain, I had the itch to see the first two Terminator films (but only the first two) again, so I watched them back-to-back while battling bronchitis. (There are worse things to watch when battling bronchitis, trust me.)
Although the special effects are far more impressive in T2, I enjoyed the pure storytelling aspects of the original movie more. The sequel – impressive as it is – seemed to dwell on subplots a bit too much, some of which felt forced and artificial (even for a sf movie). The film is also about 20 minutes too long, most of those 20 minutes coming from too much time spent on the aforementioned subplots. Still, the twist of having Arnold as the “good” Terminator in the second film was a stroke of genius.
Don’t Look Now (1973) Nicholas Roeg (2x)
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play John and Laura Baxter, a married couple tying to live normal lives after losing their daughter in a drowning accident. In Venice to restore a cathedral, John thinks he may be seeing a vision of his dead daughter while a blind psychic tells Laura that she and John are in danger. Adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s short story, Don’t Look Now is one of the most effective, unusual British thriller/horror films of all time, made even more famous for it’s spicy bedroom scene with Sutherland and Christie. The new Criterion Collection Blu-ray looks spectacular and the ending still creeps me out.
Runaway Train (1985) Andrei Konchalovsky (2x)
I saw this film during its initial release and will never forget the feeling of exhaustion I felt after it was over. I didn’t get that same feeling this time, 30 years later, but the film remains powerful, thanks mainly to an excellent (and Oscar-nominated) performance by Jon Voight and a criminally underrated performance by Eric Roberts as two escaped convicts who inadvertently hop on an out-of-control train. The film also contains an excellent score by Trevor Jones, which – although it’s a very 80s score – is still effective.
Blue Velvet (1986) David Lynch (3x)
I have a very long and strange history with Blue Velvet. I write about it at length here, in case you have lots of time on your hands.
No Direction Home (2005) Martin Scorsese (3x)
I had forgotten how good this documentary is, definitely one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. Scorsese starts the film with Dylan touring London in 1966, having now “gone electric” to the dismay of many of his fans. They’re clearly upset with the change from acoustic to electric, but they still come out in droves.
Cut to a very young Dylan from 1961, an unknown who traveled from Minnesota to New York, playing in coffee houses and absorbing everything he saw and heard. How did a young “folk” singer go from obscurity to rock stardom in only a few short years?
The documentary contains many great clips, concert footage, and interviews with the people who were there in all this, including Dylan himself. Even if you have little to no interest in Bob Dylan, you’ll want to see this for the cultural, social and artistic influences that still affect us.
The Thin Blue Line (doc. 1998) Errol Morris (2x)
I remember Siskel & Ebert singing the praises of Errol Morris documentary back in the day and renting it (on VHS, of course), finding that they were absolutely right. This film revisited the case of a man convicted of murder in Texas and helped successfully overturn the court’s decision. We see these types of films all the time now, but back in the 80s, they weren’t as common. Even with all the reality TV, documentaries and podcasts like Serial within easy reach, The Thin Blue Line stick packs a punch close to 30 years later.
Run Silent Run Deep (1958) Robert Wise (2x)
One of my favorite submarine movies ever. You can read more of my thoughts on it here.
The Warriors (1979) Walter Hill (2x)
Often you rewatch a film years after your first viewing (36 years in this case) and discover the movie you once cherished has turned into rotten fruit. On rare occasions a film holds up, but what really rocks your world is having a film speak to you in a different, surprising, and perhaps even better way than it did at that first viewing.
I first saw The Warriors late one night on HBO when I was 17. I thought the film and its violence was raw, edgy, and blazing with intensity. I’d never even seen a gang member (I’m from a small Mississippi town, remember), but I probably thought the portrayal of gangs taking over New York City was not only likely, but maybe even inevitable. (Hey, I was a kid…) What can I say? I got caught up in the excitement and really enjoyed the movie.
Now in my 50s, I enjoyed the film as an over-the-top fantasy that I didn’t believe for a minute, but accepted it on its own terms. Of course the film is ridiculous, but it believes in itself. Sure, everything in it is overplayed and overdone, but it still stands as an effective action-adventure film from a time when you could try just about anything. Walter Hill made a string of interesting, entertaining films in the 70s and 80s and The Warriors is just one of them. I still like it and the gang in the New York Yankees uniforms with the face paint still creeps me out…
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987) Sam Raimi (2x)
With a larger budget the second time around, Raimi delivers a wackier, gorier film that’s just plain crazy fun. Bruce Campbell gets into his role with much more reckless abandon than he displays in the first film. My favorite of the trilogy, all of which I rewatched this year.
12 Monkeys (1995) Terry Gilliam (3x)
Through his entire insane career, my favorite Terry Gilliam film remains the sf/dystopian thriller 12 Monkeys. With a film this good, I’m not even sure why we need a TV show based on it, but it’s out there if you want to see it. This viewing – selected by my friend Patrick – was my third time to see the film and I haven’t tired of it yet.
Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a “volunteer” from a disease-ridden future sent back to the past to prevent the outbreak of a virus that wiped out most of the world’s population in 1996. But Cole arrives too early in 1990 Baltimore, where he’s immediately forced into a mental institution after telling everyone he’s here to stop the virus and find out about the twelve monkeys. (I think that’s still standard operating procedure in Baltimore…) Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeline Stowe), on of the institution’s doctors, thinks there’s more to Cole than his mad ravings suggest.
The film – based on the 1963 short French film La Jetée – also includes a great performance by Brad Pitt as one of the institution’s inmates. (His performance also follows the *Brad Pitt Hair Formula Rule: short hair = good movie; long hair = bad movie.) 12 Monkeys is a wild dystopian sf noir thriller that requires you to think, and while it may not be his most popular film, it might just be his best.
Murder by Decree (1979) (6x)
One of my favorite non-Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes films… with Jack the Ripper! More thoughts here.
Fish Tank (2009) Andrew Arnold (2x)
Mildred Pierce (1945) Michael Curtiz (2x)
I would love to hear about some of your rewatches from this year: good, bad or indifferent. Please share.
(Photos: Roger Ebert, The Exported Film, The Dissolve, The Sheila Variations, Mubi, Static Mass, Back Talk, The Movie Scene, Esquire, Geeks of Doom, Giant Freakin Robot, Alex on Film, The Wire, Derek Winnert)