Captain America Blogathon Part I – Jack Deth’s List

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Andy over at Fandango Groovers’ Blog was inspired by the latest Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer in which we see Steve Rogers make a note in a pocket note book. It’s a list of things he missed out on in the time he was frozen that people have recommended he should catch up on. So the idea is to list ten movies we’d recommend to a person who had been frozen between 1943 and 2011.

Greetings all and sundry! When one receives an invitation from Ruth to aid in a Blog-A-Thon. Due diligence, patience and thought is required in the assembly of, layout and dissertations of probable, then solid selections.

Being a fan of the late, great Jack Kirby. And his handling of the recently thawed out Captain America/Steve Rogers. And his association with the eye patched, Jack Kirby and Steve Streranko. Robert Culp like Colonel (formerly Sgt.) Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law Enforcement Division) of 1965..

I opened up vast volumes and tomes of cinematic history. For both entertainment and acclimatization’s sake. Since I’m sticking with the cinematic premise of finding Cap frozen outside the Arctic Circle by a new and improved, contemporary S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) of the Samuel L. Jackson.

To that end. Allow me to align my selections in chronological order and introduce:

Ten Films for Captain America: (1943-2011)

#10: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

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Very possibly the best film focusing around returning veterans of World War II. And their adjusting to a world they had left only years before.The film focuses on a decorated bombardier (Dana Andrews), an Army Infantry Squad Leader (Frederic March) and an enlisted sailor (Harold Russell) who lost both of his hands when his ship was shot out from under him.

The tale is not just restricted to the men returning to their Ohio home towns. The director (William Wyler) goes out of his way to see the points of view of their wives (Who give and get as good as their men!) and families are examined as well.

A near perfect film for either Rogers or Cap to enjoy. While understanding that he is not so unique or alone after all.

#9: The Graduate (1967)

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Few films describe the given everything, lazy and spoiled “Baby Boom” generation and the changing mores, culture and morals of the 1960s than this touch stone, Buck Henry comedy.

A well fleshed out and executed thumbnail of the next generation Cap fought for. And what many believe is the decade that changed the world.

#8: The Night of The Living Dead (1968)

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The crème de la crème of low budgeted, back yard horror films! That introduced the mystique of slow moving, cannibalistic, brain eating zombies just under a half century ago While creating a fairly decent analogy for Cap’s arch nemesis, Hydra in regards to ever increasing opposing numbers in a never ending war of attrition.

No frills? You bet! Claustrophobic? Absolutely! In a film that slowly builds, fear, suspense, tension and “Bang for the Buck!” into a finale no one sees coming!

#7: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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The richly opulent and wondrously detailed look at what might have been. Had not “The Great Society” and its first steps of income redistribution been given precedence.

More science fact of the day, than science fiction. Director Stanley Kubrick and author/scientists, Arthur C. Clark go to great lengths in authenticity in this cinematic landmark. A distinctly possible double bill with director, Ron Howards’ Apollo 13, from 1995.

#6: The French Connection (1971)

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This gritty little gem provides one of the most unflattering look at the five boroughs in film. Becoming an uncredited player in a Cat and Mouse game of veteran narcotics cops trying to get ahead of and nail down a then record breaking amount of high grade, near pure heroin as it comes into New York City. In one of the first and best “partner films”to grace the big screen.

Both Steve Rogers and Cap should appreciate and empathize with detectives Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Russo (Roy Scheider) working against the bureaucracy, feds and a god awful winter in their pursuit of the elusive, elegant Frenchman, Charnier (Fernando Rey).

#5: Vanishing Point (1972)

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This would be a pleasantly intriguing pallet cleansing road trip with a mission film. Wrapped around a fully blown 440 big blocked 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T piloted by the stoic, near silent Kowalski (Barry Newman in his first film role). Former Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, uniformed cop and recent Benzedrine aficionado delivering a black Chrysler Imperial to a garage in Denver, Colorado. Then wagering that he can deliver the Challenger to San Francisco in 18 hours.

While offering some superb on location racing between the Charger, Jaguar and other road trekking competitors. The film also reveals an interesting loo at the American Midwest, post Woodstock. As Kowalski and his Dodge elude motorcycle cops and speed traps with the aid of blind African American disc jockey, “Super Soul” (Cleavon Little).

In an impeccable tale of the classic anti-hero going against the system as more and more people hear of Kowalski and his trek through “Super Soul”. And the local police set up a large and unique roadblock outside Cisco, California.

#4: Pat Garrett And Billy the Kid (1973)

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A Western is called for. Though not your John Wayne, John Ford or Howard Hawks kind of Western. One has its roots in history and lore. And told in a slower, more sedate than most.

With the master of the “South of The Border” tales, Sam Peckinpah spinning his sweeping book balancing, payback and redemption yarn in a near Antonioni pace. Amongst a “Who’s Who” of veteran supporting actors sharing action with lush and splendid backdrops. As James Coburn delivers his best underplayed role. Opposite a younger, equally talented Kris Kristofferson.

#3: Young Frankenstein (1974)

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What “kid from Brooklyn” wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to see a cleverly comedic take of a the film that starred Colin Clive as the doctor with a “God Complex” and Boris Karloff as his creation. No doubt seen in countless matinees.

Mel Brooks sticks with the original B&W and used several laboratory sets from the 1935 classic. While pulling out the stops for Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr and Cloris Leachman as “Frau Blucher”. And Peter Boyle as the intelligent, opinionated monster. Where no classic scene is beyond lampooning and the patter between Wilder and the cast is inspired.

#2: The Usual Suspects (1995)

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Cap may need a refresher in the ancient saw: “Nothing is as it seems!”. In a subtly executed crime film. Told mostly in flashback during an impromptu, recorded interrogation between sole survivor, Verbal Kint (Calmly confident Kevin Spacey) and U.S. Customs Agent David Kujan (Chazz Palmenteri in peak form!). As the “Who?”, “What?” and “Where?” of criminal mastermind, Kayser Soze.

In a film that demands attention as proven and just starting out actord and their characters are introduced and do what they do best. At possibly the behest of the enigmatic, invisible Mr. Soze.

Leaving the Number One spot open for a different and somewhat more historic take on a possible contender to add to Cap’s list of Rocky and Rocky II.

#1: Cinderella Man (2005)

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With Russell Crowe as New Jersey lightweight champion turning heavyweight, James J. Braddock during the Depression of 1929. Suffering from a broken hand and finding work in unions and heavy machinery. Doing what his can to make ends meet for his wife, Mae (Renee Zellweger) and his sons and daughter.

Salvation takes place when Braddock’s old manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) sets up a bout that Braddock wins in a third round knockout. Which blazes a trail to fight heavyweight contender, Max Baer (Craig Bierko).

In a deftly executed period piece that will have the audience cheering in the final reels!


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


What do you think of Jack’s recommendations?

Musings on Quentin Tarantino’s 12 Favorite Films

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Earlier this month, Sight and Sound magazine asked many of the well-known filmmakers today to list their favorite films, you can see the list here.

QT_cameraFor this article, I would like to just focus on Quentin Tarantino‘s favorite films. If you read most of my articles on this site (i.e. ranking favorite Tarantino’s films) then you know that I’m a big fan of QT. Sure I thought Django Unchained was quite disappointing but it’s still better than most films I saw in 2012. If not for Tarantino, I may not have seen some of the classics from the 60s and 70s. Because of his recommendation, I discovered the films of the great late director Sam Peckinpah and some of the lesser known spaghetti western and action films from said decades.

If I remember correctly, Tarantino tends to put out his best of list yearly but I think this list is his top favorite films of all time. I was surprised to see a couple of films on his favorite list, but before we get on that, here are twelve of his picks:

  1. Apocalypse Now (1976) – Francis Ford Coppola
  2. The Bad News Bears (1976) – Michael Ritchie
  3. Carrie (1976) – Brian De Palma
  4. Dazed and Confused (1993) – Richard Linklater
  5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) – Sergio Leone
  6. The Great Escape (1963) – John Sturges
  7. His Girl Friday (1939) – Howard Hawks
  8. Jaws (1975) – Steven Spielberg
  9. Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971) – Roger Vadium
  10. Rolling Thunder (1977) – John Flynn
  11. Sorcerer (1977) – William Friedkin
  12. Taxi Driver (1976) – Martin Scorsese

Out of the 12 films on the list there, the one I’ve never seen or heard of before is His Girl Friday. Otherwise I’ve seen all of them and four are on my all favorite list films: Apocalypse Now, Rolling Thunder, Sorcerer and Taxi Driver.

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A couple of films that surprised me to see on his list are The Bad News Bears and Dazed and Confused; for the kind of films that he tends to make, I wouldn’t think he’d include a comedies on his list. Over all it’s a good mix of genre and it’s great seeing what kind of films he truly enjoy.

As mentioned earlier, the four films on his list that are also on my list, two of them are well known and highly regarded as some of greatest films ever made, Apocalypse Now and Taxi Driver. No doubt those two were excellent films and deserves all the praises from critics and fans alike. Now other two films were not as well known, Rolling Thunder and Sorcerer, both also came out in the late 70s but they didn’t garner any critical or box office success. I think these two films deserve to be seen by more people and if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend you seek them out. Particularly Sorcerer which was a remake of a French film from 1953, Wages of Fear. To be honest with you, I prefer Sorcerer over Wages of Fear. It was well directed by the then hot director William Friedkin, who’d just made two very successful films, The Exorcist and The French Connection. I think the film failed because I believe audiences were expecting to see some sort of supernatural thriller not an action thriller about men versus nature.

Rolling Thunder on the other hand, was a gritty shoot’em up revenge action thriller, a genre that was quite popular at the time. For anyone who’ve never seen either of these films, the good news is that both are coming out on Blu-ray real soon. Friedkin has tweeted that he has raised enough money to do a digital restoration on Sorcerer so it can be release on Bluray.

I can’t wait to see it on HD and in widescreen!
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– Post by Ted S.
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So what’s your opinion on Tarantino’s favorite films? Have you seen some or all of them? If so, share your opinion on the comments section.

The Flix List: First Impression from Second Stringers

Greetings all and sundry. Allow me a few moments of your time to delve into an area first experienced as a child. That has reliably borne fruit for more than a few decades. The excitement of seeing a fresh face for the first time plying his or her craft and watching them swing for the fences. Or not. But leaving something worthwhile and memorable in that first meeting. To plant a seed and look for and sometimes anticipate a second or third meeting and follow their careers in cinematic story telling.

To that end, I’ve assembled ten then novitiates. Their initial roles that sparked my interest and where their talents and career have taken them since then.

First Impressions from Second Stringers.


10. Lee Marvin

First caught my attention in a brief, sometimes scary role as a sweaty greasy spoon fry cook with a secret life in a no budget, 1955 Red Scare film titled ‘Shack Out on 101’. Not surprising, Mr. Marvin’s character was named ‘Slob’ and he lived up to that name with disgustingly carefree glee. Going out of his way to provoke fights, when not trying to force himself on his boss’s wife as she sunbathes in a cove around Big Sur.

There was something shocking, vile and oddly intriguing and admirable in watching an actor be so free and comfortable in his own lean, leathery, sinewed skin while playing someone so intimidating and revolting. Traits that would rise again in ‘The Wild One’,  ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’, ‘The Big Heat’,’The Caine Mutiny’ and ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’. Later toned it down for  ‘Point Blank’, ‘Hell in the Pacific’, ‘Emperor of the North’ and ‘The Professionals’. Then turned it inside out for his split roles as Kid Sheleen and Strawn in ‘Cat Ballou’.

9. Patricia Neal

First crossed my path as a roving radio show interviewer in ‘A Face in the Crowd’ from 1957. Where she crosses the path of drunken, itinerant hobo, Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes (Andy Griffith) and is quite taken by his talents, down home humor and prowess at spinning yarns (Story Telling). Soon sees him as her ticket out of the backwater sticks of Arkansas while slowly falling under his Svengali charms. Ms. Neal’s Marcia Jeffries shows vulnerability while trying to keep Rhodes in check from being an aspiring, corrupt Senator’s front man. Then steels herself to sabotage Rhodes after his appearance on a local television show. With an open microphone as Rhodes displays his contempt for others. In Elia Kazan’s scathing opus to the marketing of  modern politics.

With such a powerful introduction, it’s always been fun when Ms. Neal shows up in a film. Sometimes as a leading lady and holding her own opposite Paul Newman in ‘Hud’.  Or John Wayne in ‘Operation Pacific’ and ‘In Harm’s Way’. Though more often in a secondary player. As in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’.

8. James Coburn

I have low budget master of Randolph Scott westerns, Budd Boetticher to thank for having Mr. Coburn show up on Saturday afternoons after chores were done. Tall, lean with ropy arms and a watchful, quiet demeanor as Whit. The second or third Right Hand Man of black hatted and attired, Pernell Roberts’ bad guy, Sam Boone in ‘Ride Lonesome’ from 1959.

There was something about Mr. Coburn. Taller than Lee Marvin, though possessing the same cat~like fluidity of movement with just a bit of Steve McQueen cool and swagger. Easily holding the camera through countless television episodes and small, then larger roles in films. Before finding his niche as knife throwing Britt in ‘The Magnificent Seven’. A film that launched many careers. With Mr. Coburn backing up Mr. McQueen in ‘Hell Is for Heroes’ and ‘The Great Escape’. Then carrying along opposite James Garner in ‘The Americanization of Emily’ in 1964 and Charlton Heston in ‘Major Dundee’ a year later.

Deftly switching to comedy and expanding his coolness factor as Derek Flint in two films. When not playing high end thieves in ‘Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round’, ‘Duffy’ and ‘Waterhole #3’ and finally as ‘The President’s Analyst’. Before delivering what is quite possibly his best performance in Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’. Then becoming the Actor Emeritus in far too many television show, made for TV and big screens movies to count.

7. Ellen Page

An actress who came completely out of left field as a red hooded 14 year old gamine with an agenda in 2005’s Hard Candy’. A small budgeted independent revenge film from 2005 that deals with Pedophilia and the death of Ms. Page’s Haley Stark’s best friend,  Donna Maurer. Who had come to a grisly end after meeting an older (32 years old) man at a local coffee shop.

What struck me about Ms. Page’s performance is the sophistication and maturity of thought brought to the fore from the film’s opening scene. Where Haley is chatting on the same site last used by Donna. Setting up the mark, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), who is a lot less clever and more vulnerable, due possibly to repetition  than he thinks he is. They meet. Seduction occurs with the aide of some doctored Screwdrivers. Jeff comes to and finds himself tied to a wheeled computer chair and the games begin!

Psychological for the most part. Humiliating and demeaning as Haley stays three moves ahead. Holds all the trump cards. And twists Jeff into all sorts of contortions before the inevitable happens and Haley walks away. Perhaps satisfied. Perhaps towardsher next victim.

A performance like that immediately put Ms. Page on my radar. Though she made a quite serviceable Kitty Pride and ‘Shadowcat’ in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’. It was her later performance in ‘Juno’ a year later that reinforced my belief that I was watching an exceptional talent. Holding her own in the world of Austin, Texas Roller Derby in ‘Whip It’ before finally coming to play with Chris Nolan and the big boys. As maze mistress, and architect, Ariadne in ‘Inception‘.

6. Joe Mantegna

If there ever was a guy made to add gravitas to the words of David Mamet. It’s this guy, right here! My first impasse with Mr. Mantegna was in 1987 in the film, ‘House of Games’. Mamet’s directorial debut into the sometimes seamy, sometimes glitzy world of mid range grifters and con men. Amongst the smoke hazed, grimy dives and pool halls and elegant hotels around Seattle. Where Mr. Mantegna’s ‘Mike’ is the smooth, suave, undisputed King of his crew. Who happens across an icy, though slowly thawing psychiatrist, Margaret Ford. Flawlessly played by Lindsay Crouse. Who seeks out Mike to intervene in a $25,000 gambling debt owed by one of her patients.

Knowing a mark when he sees one, Mike takes Margaret through a tentative tour and taste of his world. Which she seems to like. Aiding Mike in a relatively high stakes poker game by flirting and spotting the ‘tells’ of the other players. Then deflating the bravado of one player who tries to steal the huge pot with the aid of a leaking Luger squirt gun. The hook is sunken deep as Margaret forgets her patients and proves to be just as obsessive and compulsive as the people she writes about in her best selling books. Helping out in another larger con that doesn’t go to the script. The wheels come off and Mike and Margaret have a final fatal tête-à-tête in an airport luggage dock before Mike tries to flee.

Mr. Mantegna’s Mike put the actor high up on my ‘To Watch List’. Where his versatility shone through as a sympathetic Mafia gofer, Jerry. Opposite Don Ameche in another Mamet gem, Things Change’ a year later. Hitting a solid double as Joey Zasa in the less than great ‘Godfather: Part III’ in 1990. Then knocking it out of the park as Baltimore Homicide Detective Bobby Gold in the Mamet written and directed ‘Homicide’. Who has a moment of clarity and faith regarding his religion while taking down on the run street thug, drug dealer and cop killer, Randolph; wondrously played by Ving Rhames.

Then rising again like a Phoenix in ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ in 1993. As every day dad and sports writer, Fred Waitzkin. Whose very young son, Josh is an undiscovered Chess prodigy. Regularly winning against all comers. Either in Central Park or musty inner sanctum clubs. Dividing his time between hustler, Laurence Fishburne and Chess Master, Bruce Pandolfini. Played humorlessly by Ben Kingsley. Fred recognizes Josh’s talents as Quality Time is made during trips and tournaments in a surprisingly humane, family friendly film. Where the grown up behave as grown ups and Max Pomeranc’s Josh behaves exactly as a kid would. Showing great potential while nonchalantly stealing every scene he’s in!

Mr. Mantegna’s later work in television, mini series, made for TV movies and voice acting speaks for itself. Though he seems to have revisited and expounded upon his every dad, Fred. As Detective Will Girardi in CBS’s ‘Joan of Arcadia’ from 2003 to 2005.

5. Ellen Barkin

First caught my eye and attention as the hard as nails, cold as ice leader of a smash and grab diamond crew, Sunny Boyd, in Walter Hill’s 1989 Neo~Noir ‘Johnny Handsome’. Sashaying into a local merchant’s shop, distractingly resplendent in low cut, tight black leather. Before pistol whipping the owner and smashing display cases as Lance Henricksen, Scott Wilson and a grossly disfigured Mickey Rourke (Johnny) fleece the place clean. Before an alarm sounds, and Johnny is shot and left for dead.

Thus begins a very well and frugally executed tale of revenge. As Johnny is convicted and sent to a Louisiana penal farm. Where he is shanked and sent to the hospital to be patched up and eventually given a new face, courtesy of Forrest Whittaker. A liberal facial surgeon with a large grant in need of a Guinea Pig. Johnny is released with a new name and face and a job on the docks that allow him to split his time from nice girl, Donna McCarty (Elizabeth McGovern) and trying to connect with Sunny and Rafe (Henricksen).

Sunny is at first intrigued by Johnny. Even more so as Johnny slips and has trouble keeping his stories straight. Setting the stage for a moonlit and street lamp slashed showdown as Morgan Freeman’s Lt. A. Z. Drones knowingly looks on.

One heck of an introduction to an actress who would dominate the Bad Girl/Femme Fatale arena for five years with ‘Sea of Love’ and ‘Bad Company’. Then turning on a dime and delivering a klutzi-ly believable turn as lecherous Perry King stuck inside a stiletto heeled, gorgeous blonde’s body in Blake Edwards’ ‘Switch’ from 1991. Watching Ms. Barkin struggle in spikes and short or pencil skirts is well seeking out or worth the price of admission.

Which caused a search for Ms. Barkin’s earlier works. Where she established herself as the damaged relation in ‘Tender Mercies’ and Lumet’s take on the surviving son of the Rosenberg Trial in ‘Daniel’ from 1983. Where Ms. Barkin played Timothy Hutton’s radical wife, Phyllis. Then keeping busy as the smart woman reporter in ‘Eddie and the Crusiers’ and damsel in distress in ‘The Adventures of Buckaroo Across the 8th Dimension’ the following year. Before switching up to be the determined District Attorney wanting to lock up possibly corrupt New Orleans  Detective, Dennis Quaid in ‘The Big Easy’ in 1986.

Creating a body of work that began with Barry Levinson’s ‘Diner’ in 1982 and has branched out into television and a return to the Bad Girl in ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ in 2007. And ‘Operation: Endgame’ in 2010.
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4. Michael Ironside

Arrived without preamble in the role of troubled psychic, Darryl Revock in David Cronenberg’s ‘Scanners’ way back in 1981. Looking about as anonymous and harmless as a career postman. Sitting in a small audience while listening to a lecturer. Until veins begin sticking out on Revock’s neck and forehead and one lecturer’s head explode!

That, friends and neighbors, is an Entrance! The opening act of an intriguing little gem by a budding master of the odd, weird and often creepy. That pits good people with extrasensory powers against Revock and his band of equally gifted evil doers. All quite possibly the victims of Thalidomide like mutations before birth. At the hands of chemical corporate head, Patrick McGoohan. With Mr.Ironside shining throughout as his megalomania begins controlling his actions. For a final showdown with his half brother and good Scanner, Stephen Lack.

More than enough to look for Mr. Ironside in a few low budget films and a guest spot on ‘Hill Street Blues’ before coming under the attention of US audiences as recurring bad guy, Ham Tyler in NBC’s sci-fi lizard series, ‘V’ in 1984. Which set the stage for his roles as humorless Aggressor Pilot, Jester in ‘Top Gun’ in 1986. And corrupt and sweaty Colonel Paul Hackett in Walter Hill’s modern western Guy Flick, ‘Extreme Prejudice’ the next year. Staying in medium budgeted film-dom before achieving near cult status as Lt. Jean Rasczak in Paul Verhoeven’s take on Robert Heinlein’s ‘Starship Troopers’ in 1987. And corporate henchman, Richter in ‘Total Recall’ in 1990. Keeping his hand in both film and television before finding a lucrative niche as a voice actor for Warner Brothers animation.

3. Frances McDormand

Allow me to posit a question to the ladies. If you were part owner in a kind of sleazy Texas road house, married to and sharing your bed with an even sleazier Dan Hadaya. Would you not want to find a lover, who’s clever, yet easily tempted and manipulated into murdering Dan?

That’s where Frances McDorman finds herself in this debut role as Abby in the Coen brothers’ first film ‘Blood Simple’. A gritty, sometimes sweaty Neo~Noir from 1984, where everyone is out to kill everyone. Abby wants to off Dan’s character, Julian Marty. Who has already hired the rarely slimier M. Emmett Walsh to get incriminating photos of Abby and her lover, Ray (John Getz). Who works as a bartender at the road house.

It soon becomes a question of which is cheaper for Marty, murder or divorce? Quickly answered when Ray quits and Marty calls Walsh’s Loren Visser to seal the deal while Marty is away fishing in Corpus Christi. Half of the payment is given. With the promise to pay the other half when Marty returns.

Visser breaks in while Abby and Ray are busy. Then waits until after the festivities to steal Abby’s shiny .32 revolver. Meets Marty the following night and shoots him twice. Setting up a double or triple cross while taking his payment, but leaving his lighter at the scene of the crime. Comes the morning and Ray finds Marty slumped in a chair and prepares to bury the slowest dying man in Texas and possibly, cinema history in a remote field. Ray returns to Abby to tell her that he’s ‘cleaned up her mess’ and the fireworks begin. Interrupted by a call from Visser that sets the groundwork for a great, shadowy game of extortion and cat and mouse.

What raised my eyebrow about Ms. McDormand was her unremarkable normality as Abby. Not stunningly beautiful or crafty or even beguiling at first sight. Abby’s just a wife in a possibly abusive, violent marriage who has had enough and has found a way out. Though the sly and crafty come out once Visser starts cleaning up loose ends.

Bits of Abby showed through in her six episode role as Officer Connie Chapman in the fifth season of ‘Hill Street Blues’. Where a lot of big named, contemporary talent got started and noticed. Before taking on the quirky, comedic role of Dot opposite an even quirkier, hard luck Nicholas Cage in ‘Raising Arizona’. Honing her talents in ‘Mississippi Burning’, ‘Chattahoochee’, Darkman’ and a cameo as the Mayor’s secretary in ‘Miller’s Crossing‘. Keeping busy on stage and television before given the plum role of pregnant local cop, Marge Gunderson in ‘Fargo’ and OCD, compulsive game stat freak, Bunny in John Sayle’s ‘Lone Star’ in 1996. Holding her own in other films and embracing her inner, no nonsense uber Mom, Elaine Miller in ‘Almost Famous’ in 2000. Then returning as Billy Bob Thornton’s wife, Doris in The Man Who Wasn’t There’. And Christian Bale’s super hot, record producing mom in ‘Laurel Canyon’ the following year.

Ms. McDormand seems to be blessed with talents and beauty that have become more pronounced and elegant with time, like fine wine. Whether in dramatic or comedic roles. Her subtlety and ease makes for great entertainment!

2. Gene Hackman

Crossed my path when I was in my early teens. On an episode of NBC’s ‘I Spy’. Where this kind of dumpy, thinning haired nobody wanted to blow up a mid tiered US diplomat in Mexico by planting a Nitroglycerine bomb in a Pinata for the diplomat’s son’s birthday party. There was something about this nobody’s voice, attitude and the confident, easy way he carried himself. That had me rooting for him. Even as he was being chased down by Robert Culp and Bill Cosby through some aged ruins before the final shoot out and explosion at the story’s end. Something to make me look for his name in the final credits and remember it for future reference.

Which didn’t take long. A double feature of ‘Bonnie and Clyde‘ and ‘Bullitt’ sealed the deal. Mr. Hackman’s older brother, Buck was a slob in the classic Eli Wallach mode. The kind of guy you could dress up in an expensive suit and tie and still come up far short. Yet easily comfortable in his own and character’s skin. A trait that would show up repeatedly in smaller ensemble films that made money, though many have forgotten. ‘Riot’, ‘The Gypsy Moths’, ‘Downhill Racer’ and ‘Marooned’ in 1969. With a side trip to period pieces, ‘I Never Sang for My Father’ and The Hunting Party’ filled time before the role of NY Detective Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle planted Mr. Hackman on the map with William Friedkin’s procedural masterpiece, ‘The French Connection‘ in 1971.

Though the plump, fat roles didn’t arrive right way, his quality of cast improved with ‘Cisco Pike’ (Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black). ‘Prime Cut’ (Lee Marvin). ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ (Everyone), ‘Scarecrow’ (Al Pacino). Which led to his most understated role as surveillance demi-God, Harry Caul in Coppola’s ‘The Conversation’ in 1974 (The film was robbed at that year’s Oscars!). Which sent Mr. Hackman back to ensemble gems, ‘Young Frankenstein’, a much more personal. ‘French Connection II’. Plus a standout performance as a Chandler~esque private eye in Arthur Penn’s ‘Night Moves’ and ‘Bite the Bullet’ in 1975. Then taking a crack at recruited convict turned assassin, Roy Tucker in Stanley Kramer’s ‘The Domino Principle’ in 1977.

Comedy seems to have come late to Mr. Hackman as Suerman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor before turning up opposite Nick Nolte in Robert Spottiswoode’s Nicaraguan uprising, ‘Under Fire’ and as the bank roller of the Vietnam POW rescue film, ‘Uncommon Valor’ throughout 1983.

The roles continued to arrive at a pace where Mr. Hackman would seem to fade from the spotlight. Then find a role to put him back squarely in the spotlight. In either the lead or a supporting role. Very much like Sean Connery before him. Making films much more memorable with his presence. Specifically, ‘Hoosiers’, ‘Mississippi Burning’, ‘Unforgiven’, ‘Crimson Tide’, David Mamet’s ‘Heist’ and a fine comedic turn in ‘The Royal Tennebaums’.

A consummate character actor who worked his way through the system to achieve his rightful place high in the firmament!
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1. Helen Mirren

The woman who near silently beguiled me as Bob Hoskins’ love interest, Victoria. In the east End, London docks thriller. ‘The Long Good Friday’ from 1980. Mixing poise, polish. yet subtle and unadulterated sex appeal. Ms. Mirren held the camera’s attention no matter where she was placed in a scene. Rarely showing vulnerability and creating the perfect foil for Hoskins’ Harold Shand. Lifelong thug and survivor with grand dreams of criminal enterprise along the Thames.

That performance helped me understand why and how the Brits do some genres of films so much better than we in the states. Less is often more. And that was writ large in my next encounter. In a small, little known gem titled ‘Cal’ four years later. Where Ms. Mirren taps into vast wells of vulnerability as Marcella. A recent widow whose husband, a Protestant policeman was killed by the IRA. And who slowly falls in love with her husband’s killer. Young and on the run first timer, Cal. Then turning in a better than serviceable role as Russian Science Officer and Pilot Tanya Kirbuk opposite Roy Scheider and John Lithgow in Peter Hyams’ decent ‘2001’ sequel, ‘2010’ the same year.

From there it was as Georgina Spica, in Peter Greenway’s ‘The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover’ from 1989. And onto a role that would make her and her character, DCI Jane Tennyson in Grenada Televison’s series of ‘Prime Suspect’ films. When not busy playing Queen Charlotte in ‘The Madness of King George’ in 1994. And Mrs. Wilson in Robert Altman’s ‘Gosford Park’ in 2001. Soaring into the stratosphere of title and talent by becoming Dame Helen Mirren, while taking on the role of Chris in Nigel Cole’s ‘Calendar Girls’ in 2003. Then playing Elizabeth II in Stephen Frear’s epitome of sublime pomp and formality, ‘The Queen’ in 2005. Then turn in strong performances in ‘The Debt‘ and as Prospera in ‘The Tempest’ in 2010. Before taking on a dry, prim comedic tone as retired assassin, Victoria. The most alluring woman ever behind a Browning M-2 Heavy Barreled Machine Gun, Sniper’s Rifle, or an elegantly compact Uzi sub machine gun, in ‘Red‘.


Check out Jack’s profile page and links to his other reviews



Well, what do you think of  these actors? Feel free to share which film(s) you first saw them in.

Weekend Viewing Roundup – a mixed bag of 3 genres & 1 addictive TV series

Happy Monday everyone!

Did you have a great weekend? It was a good one for me as well as bittersweet as one of my good friends is going back to our home country for a year for personal reasons, so we had a farewell dinner on Saturday night. I skipped the cinema again and opted for home-cinema viewing and also working on my Avengers assignment for my pal Terrence of The Focused Filmographer as part of the countdown for the movie. The posts will be revealed next week, though I’m so jealous that folks in Europe will see this first as it opens about a week before we get to see it here in the US!

My blog friend Jaina was fortunate enough to be at the London premiere last Thursday when ALL of the cast members were there, right around the corner of her office!! She took a bunch of photos of the event which you can check out on her blog. She was kind enough to let me use one of them as you can see above. Oh man, I’m so jealous yet happy that she got to be a part of such a fun event!

Well, as part of the Avengers countdown, I re-watched the first Iron Man movie and it’s still as entertaining as ever. Can’t believe that it’s been four years ago since that one came out and now we’ve got Tony Stark as part of the assembly of superheroes on a mission. It’s amazing how the Stark Industries is so key in the whole Avengers universe which of course began with Tony’s dad Howard with Steve Rogers’ transformation into Captain America in the 40s.


Now, part of my goal this year is to catch up on some classic movies that’ve long eluded me for whatever reason. One of those movies are The French Connection, prompted by a review that my good friend Jack Deth gave me last week. I’ll publish that review at a later date, but let me just say that it’s one heck of an excellent thriller. It’s gritty, chock-full of suspense cop thriller by William Friedkin. Two of the major reasons I’m curious to see this movie is Gene Hackman’s performance, and that famous car chase that wasn’t really a car chase as the driver was chasing an elevated subway train above him. This film did NOT disappoint on both counts! People always remember the car chase and rightly so, but I think the foot chase scenes of Hackman & Fernando Rey through NYC streets and subways are just as thrilling!

I’m glad I finally got to see the film, it’s definitely a great thriller with great performances by Hackman and Roy Schneider, a sharp script, and great editing. That iconic car chase scene is really icing on the cake, I could see how it has inspired a bunch of other urban car chases in movies. Fogs is right in selecting it as one of those Movies Everyone Should See.


Another film I saw this weekend is a 1994 CBS miniseries Scarlett, which is a follow-up to the epic civil war saga Gone with the Wind where Scarlett is determined to win back Rhett. So did Rhett really mean it when he said “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn?”

Well, when Rhett is played by none other than Timothy Dalton, I certainly have to find that out. Interesting that both Scarlett and Rhett are played by Brits this time, Joanne Whalley is from Manchester and Dalton of course is Welsh, but I think both did a decent job with their Southern accent, though Dalton’s inimitable Welsh brogue did slip out every once in a while 🙂 I have only finished Disc 1 but I enjoyed it so far, especially with Sean Bean appearing later on. I’m loving the Bond connection here, one Bond actor and Bond villain together in a movie, the 007-fangirl in me is loving this!


Oh and I finally finished the first season of BBC’s Sherlock… and it ended with a titillating cliffhanger!! Darn, I wish season 2 is available on Netflix already. The wait until May is going to be torture!


Well, that’s my summary of my weekend roundup. What did YOU see this weekend?