April is shaping up to be a pretty solid month. Here’s the first 10 movies I saw in early April. More to come…
They Live By Night (1948) Nicholas Ray (3x)
Warner Brothers DVD (1:35)
Previously discussed here
Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008) Jean-François Richet
Music Box Films DVD, library (1:53)
Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (2008) Jean-François Richet
Music Box Films DVD, library (2:14)
Both films previously discussed here
Midnight Special (2016) Jeff Nichols
AFI Silver, Silver Spring, Maryland (1:51)
Previously discussed here
The Red House (1947) Delmer Daves
Amazon streaming (1:40)
My notes from 1985 (Yes, I do have movie notes from 1985; I am that big a nerd.) tell me that I watched The Red House on September 1, 1985, but I do not remember one frame of that film. Since that is the case, I’m calling this my first viewing of the film. The story is fairly compelling, due mainly to the mysterious atmosphere and Edward G. Robinson’s “something’s-not-quite-right-here” performance. Pete Morgan (Robinson) and his sister Ellen (Judith Anderson) live on a remote farm with their adopted daughter Meg (Allene Roberts), but the girl is really their niece. Meg encourages her high school classmate Nath (Lon McCallister) to work on Pete’s farm. All goes well, but Pete warns Nath to never go near the Red House. Hmmm…. There’s strange goings-on for sure, and the eerie mood is heightened by a great Miklós Rózsa score, Bert Glennon’s cinematography, Delmer Daves’s direction, and a nice performance by Robinson. The film also features a young Rory Calhoun and an even younger Julie London in only her third credited film. This one’s a public domain film, so you can see it just about anywhere. A mostly effective thriller.
Harold and Maude (1971) Hal Ashby
The Great Movies, Severna Park Library (1:31)
My co-worker Julia picked this one for our Great Movies library series and I think it was a perfect fit. Ashby’s film is a dark comedy that has just the right tone – never an out-and-out conventional comedy, but never a conventional love story, either. Bud Cort plays Harold, a young rich man obsessed with death who becomes involved with a carefree 79-year-old woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon). Considering the year it came out will probably bring much of the film into focus, but you can certainly enjoy it without the complete Late 60s/Early 70s context.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) John Carpenter
Amazon streaming (1:39)
For some reason, I stopped watching John Carpenter films after Starman (1984). Big Trouble in Little China was his next film, but I guess it just wasn’t on my radar. It should’ve been. It’s a big, wacky, mystery/adventure/martial arts/comedy that you can’t help but like. Forgive me if I don’t talk about the film that much, but rather let the images speak for themselves. This is one fun movie.
Fat City (1972) John Huston
Twilight Time Blu-ray (1:40)
Fat City is one of those little films that you watch in utter fascination, little realizing until hours, days, or weeks later that you’re watching what’s quite possibly a work of genius. These characters are so well-drawn and the actors playing them so natural you’d almost think you’re watching a documentary. Stacy Keach plays a 30-year-old boxer trying to make a comeback, Jeff Bridges a young boxer on his way up, and a whole supporting cast of characters only John Huston could come up with. Fat City is, quite honestly, a story of losers, but it may just be the best film about losers you’ve ever seen.
Mississippi Grind (2015) Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Amazon streaming (1:48)
Interesting road/gambling picture about a gambling addict named Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) who meets a young devil-may-care gambler named Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) in a Dubuque, Iowa casino. The two strike up a friendship and decide to head down to New Orleans, gambling all along the way. Even early on, we wonder what’s really driving each of these guys… Mississippi Grind contains some good performances and some really intense scenes, but much of the film – at least on an initial viewing – may be too subtle and concealed for audiences expecting a conventional gambling film. I’ll definitely want to revisit this one in the future.
Death Wish (1974) Michael Winner
Amazon streaming (1:34)
On the one hand, Death Wish is not a very good movie. It requires enormous suspensions of disbelief (Just how many muggers can one man encounter in New York City in the course of just a few days?), contains some awful writing and acting, and is incredibly heavy-handed. On the other hand, it does work as an action film and was responsible for rocketing Charles Bronson’s career into high gear. The film is also one of the first to get people talking about vigilante justice in the 70s and is often referred to today. Death Wish sparked several sequels which I have no plans to see.