Question of the Week: Which conspiracy movies would you recommend?

My hubby and I opted for home cinema this weekend. Specifically we’re catching up on 70s conspiracy thrillers in anticipation for The Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Huh? Well, if you’ve been reading articles about the sequel to the First Avenger, you might’ve read that the filmmakers have said that The Winter Soldier is essentially a conspiracy thriller. I’ve read here and other sites that directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo were influenced by the likes of Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View (check out our contributor’s Jack Deth’s in-depth review here) and Marathon Man. This article suggested 5 things to watch before watching The Winter Soldier and The Parallax View (1974) made an appearance again, as well as All The President’s Men (1976).

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Well, so we ended up watching both of those movies. All The President’s Men is on my Blind Spot list anyway, so it’s like catching two birds with one stone. I’ll have my review of that in the last Tuesday of this month. Both of these are directed by Alan J. Pakula within two years of each other. While both are excellent & thought-provoking conspiracy thrillers, I enjoyed All The President’s Men more as the pacing is a bit better. I’m just not as impressed with Warren Beaty (and his distractingly big hair) than w/ Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman, but both films are certainly worth seeing.

Now, I’ve always been a big fan of conspiracy thriller movies. On the top of my head, apart from the ones I’ve mentioned above, these are some of the best ones I’ve seen so far: The Conversation, State of Play (the 2009 movie), The Insider, The International, Michael Clayton, The Constant Gardener, No Way Out. I got some nice recommendations from this blog, and that’s just from the 70s!

Surely there are a bazillion out there I’ve missed out on, so in the spirit of recommendations between us movie fans, I ask you this:

What conspiracy movies have you seen that you’d highly recommend?

Classic Flix Review: Bonnie & Clyde

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Greetings all and sundry! I am pleased to have the opportunity to approach and dissect in my own unique fashion one of  those films that arrives with not a lot of noise and hoopla. Takes the movie going audience by storm and creates a solid touchstone for actors and actresses no one has ever heard of before and plants them solidly in the cinematic firmament.
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Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Directed masterfully with gusto and elan by Arthur Penn, wrapped tightly around the comely Faye Dunaway and roguishly handsome Warren Beatty. The film is an admirable blend of Depression era period piece. Clever doses of French New Wave Cinema. Grainy, washed out backdrops. Sweaty, humid bedroom scenes and good old fashioned Shoot ’em Ups.
The film begins with Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie Parker waking from an afternoon nap due to noises outside her upstairs bedroom window. Only to spy a very nattily dressed Clyde Barrow trying to hot wire the car belonging to Bonnie mother. Bonnie confronts Clyde, who is a sly smooth talker of the highest order. And cajoles Bonnie into the idea that spending time with him beats the heck out of showing up for her shift as a waitress at a local restaurant.
The two head off for a future unknown as Clyde hints at his past and reveals a the butt of a pistol above his belt line. A scheme is hatched as the two roll into a close by town and Clyde enters the bank. Bonnie waits behind the wheel. Clyde returns in much more of a hurry than when he sauntered into the bank. Bonnie drives and the two are richer by just under one hundred dollars.
Bonnie teases and taunts Clyde, The two wind up in bed littered with bills of small denomination and Bonnie decides that she wants to get in on the fun too! A wheel man and mechanic is happened upon. C.W. Moss, by name.Well and dullardly played by Michael J. Pollard, of the perpetual baby face. C.W. may not know how to make or count change, but he does know engines and becomes the third member of the ‘Barrow Gang’. Quickly augmented by Clyde’s older brother, Buck and his wife, Blanche. Well and memorably played by Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons.
Clyde, Buck and Bonnie get along well enough. Though Blanche grates on the nerves. Not wanting to get in on the fun of being modern Robin Hoods. Then taking out her aggression on Bonnie and C.W. Buck has his work cut out for himself trying to keep Blanche in line as bigger banks are robbed. One ending with a pursuing bank manager jumping on the running board of the escaping getaway car and being shot in the face for his efforts.
The game has been changed and the ire of the law. Local, state and fledgling federal, has been stirred as the gang moves from Oklahoma to Texas between robberies and getaways to banjo picking Bluegrass. One step ahead of the law that relies upon telephone and telegraph lines to maintain pursuit. Bigger and better weapons are sought and acquired after a tete a tete with a Texas Ranger they’d gotten the drop on. Humiliated and photographed. And an impromptu, humorous taking of a car owned by Gene Wilder as a mortician.
Enter a dark, humid and quiet night. When every local lawman in the vicinity and beyond unloads on Bonnie, Clyde, Buck, Blanche and C.W. in their wooded cabin west of nowhere. Windows shatter and holes appear in walls. Fire is returned by Thompson Sub Machine Guns, shotguns, pistols and Browning Automatic Rifles. Bonnie reloads and Blanche panics and screams like a Banshee as she is shot. Buck is shot badly and dies shortly thereafter. Clyde is wounded, Blanche is blinded and captured as Bonnie, Clyde and C.W. get away.
Bonnie tends to Clyde’s through-and-through wound with a willow branch wrapped in gauze. C.W. steals a car and the three make off to the Oklahoma dust bowl. While the Texas Ranger who had been humiliated. Well played by Denver Pyle for his brief time on screen; is brought in to interrogate Blanche. Things head south as Clyde recuperates in a shanty town and the three head off to C.W.’s distant uncle somewhere in Louisiana. C.W is taken into custody without incident by local lawmen, who at first mistake C.W. for Pretty Boy Floyd. With the covert help of his uncle Ivan in a cameo by Dub Taylor.
Bonnie feels the walls starting to close in and pens a prophetic poem while laying low. The two decide to see what the town has to offer and roll up on a car with a flat tire being tended to. Clyde slows and stops. Gets out and notices a preponderance of rifle and shotgun muzzles peeking through a line of vines and shrubbery. Then becomes the recipient of many, many bullets and pieces of buck shot while Bonnie is trapped in the car doing an odd variation of the Funky Chicken in a prolonged, slow motion dance of death.

What Makes This Film Good?

Arthur Penn at the helm. Telling a decent, though highly romanticized story that did not fare well as B Movie with Dorothy Provine a decade earlier. Penn reaches deep into his bag of tricks and amps up the chemistry between Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Who, one moment is a coquette and the next displays a sensual assertiveness that would come to fruition later in The Thomas Crown Affair, Chinatown and Network.
Many early interior scenes are back lit with diffused shadows. Several exterior scenes range from lush to stark and barren with shadows supplied by clouds. In ways reminiscent of John Ford and French New Wave as Clyde chases Bonnie through a fallow corn field.
Set direction and cinematography are far above average. Adding washed out blues, grays and greens to heighten the effects of a well researched and executed period piece. The banjo heavy Bluegrass tracts during assorted chase scenes works very well and started a minor resurgence for a few months afterward. Making the soundtrack something of an anomaly during the second term of LBJ. Which may have created the impetus to double bill Bonnie and Clyde with Bullitt during the summers of 1968 and 69.

What Makes This Film Great?

Watching a young and confident Warren Beatty transition from his television role as spoiled rich kid, Milton Armitage in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis to play a sly and conniving leading ladies’ man. Opposite another rising talent graduating from doing yeoman work in small television roles and Hurry Sundown and The Happening earlier that year. Backed up by a soon-to-be-noticed Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons, and veteran character actors Denver Pyle and Dub Taylor. In a film that jump started several careers, ala The Magnificent Seven.
Offered a plum opportunity for Beatty to produce and Penn to direct a character driven film very much of its time. That probably could not be made today without many more chase scenes and explosions!


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


Thoughts on this film? Do share ’em in the comments.

Everyone’s a Critic: Sports Edition

In honor of Superbowl Sunday, I thought I’d enlist my friends for some of their picks of sports-related flicks, whether current or old favorites. In addition, I also receive some DVD picks of football movies that I decided to post separately due to its length. Special thanks to Corinne and Becky for their kind generosity!

The Wrestler (2008)
by Corinne Olson

I was never a big sports fan and up until this year I could have cared less about watching football. However, Brett Favre was so fun to watch I found myself watching every Viking game this year. But when I was a wee 16 or 17 years old, my dad used to take my brother and I to the All Star Wrestling matches every once and a while. I got to see people like Jessie The Body Ventura (He was actually more obnoxious then) and Adorable Adrian Adonis, Andre the Giant, Ken Patera, Wahoo McDaniel, Verne Gagne (boring), and of course Hulk Hogan when he was young. Those were the days, hey. Boy, have things changed. So I was pretty geeked when I heard about The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke. Mickey Rourke plays this character named Randy “The Ram”.

It’s a very good inside look at the highs and very lows of Randy’s life as he is now past his prime. He was once a very popular celebrity in the wrestling world where he could sell out huge arenas such as Madison Square Garden. Now, with his health declining, and living in a trailer park, he tries to survive on his past celebrity by signing autographs and working part-time at a grocery store. There are some real brutal scenes of how some real hardcore matches are done and a really interesting scene on how easy it is to get steroid’s. There’s also the behind-the-scenes rituals that include hair-bleaching, tanning, wound mending. I always thought it was fake and they really never got hurt. That’s not true. The hyped fights between the two wrestlers is faked. But the blood is real and people get hurt. Mickey Rourke does such a brilliant job playing Randy that I truly felt like a fly on the wall watching this poor guys life struggle. It seemed very personal, Like, I shouldn’t be watching this. But of course I couldn’t stop.

Heaven Can Wait (1978)
by Becky ‘Prairiegirl’ Kurk
….
Overview from Netflix: Quarterback Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) is nearly killed in an accident when an overanxious angel takes his soul before its time. Reincarnated as a millionaire whose wife (Dyan Cannon) and secretary (Charles Grodin) have plotted his murder, Joe falls in love with environmentalist Betty Logan (Julie Christie) while leading his old football team back to the Super Bowl. This Oscar-nominated romantic fantasy marks Beatty’s directorial debut.

That being said, this is not a very deep movie–it is a pure fantasy comedy–but the film has great comedic energy, and also manages to touch the heart with its message. It is s a beautiful story wonderfully told. It keeps you smiling throughout, and laughing out loud in a good number of places. Warren Beatty’s subtle portrayal of the uncomplicated and naive Joe Pendleton is spot on. Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin as the plotting wife and personal secretary are hysterically funny.

The plot sounds strange–and it is–but the script is well-written, the characters are believable and Warren Beatty, as the star of the movie, is in his prime. Football is the big underlying theme, but is not the main focus of the movie. From beginning to end, this was a fun film. The guys will like the football metaphor and the gals will like the romance. Amazingly, it had nine Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) and one win (Best Art Direction). A football fairy tale, and a classic, it stands up well to the test of time. The perfect movie to celebrate the Super Bowl with–see it!