By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
"THE LAST DUEL"
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who collaborated
on the critically acclaimed "Good Will Hunting" screenplay in 1997,
work together again, along with Nicole Holofcener ("Lovely &
Amazing") in this story of France's final trial by combat in the
late 1300s. It is competently directed by Ridley Scott.
Damon stars as Sir Jean de Carrouges, a
knighted warrior totally loyal to King Charles VI, and whose
friendship with his squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Drive) dissolves
after Jacques is recruited by Pierre d'Alencon (Affleck), cousin to
the king and serving as the kingdom's financial administrator, to
collect taxes, in sometimes brutal ways. Jacques is rewarded for his
work, including being given property and invited as an honored
guest to Pierre's orgies -- by the way, Pierre is married and has
fathered eight children.
Jean, who lost a wife and son and
desperately needs an heir, marries Marguerite (Jodie Comer) although
he is embittered that some of the land in his bride's dowry has been
seized for taxes, some of it gifted to Jacques. Jean sues both
Jacques and Pierre, a bad move because it gets him nowhere and now
he is additionally deprived of inheriting a commandership of a fort
his father has led. Jacques of course gets the position.
As if that isn't bad enough, while Jean is
on a trip to Paris to collect pay for his latest war activities
(direct deposit still was centuries away), his wife Marguerite is
visited by Jacques, who declares his love for the woman and then
sexually assaults her. After this despicable act he suggests to
Marguerite she not tell Jean about this incident because Jean might
just kill her.
But Marguerite does tell Jean about the
rape, which leads to the trial and the order by the king to have a
duel to the death.
The movie is broken up into three chapters,
each one as recalled by the three main characters -- Jean, Jacques
and Marguerite. This is a bit puzzling because each recollection
differs very little from the others, and most important, all three
confirm the rape took place. However, Jacques, when informed by
Pierre in private of the charge against him, admits he did it but it
was consensual. Publicly, Jacques never confesses to the crime.
This is an interesting study of the mindset
of the French people back then. Everything was ceremonial and there
were distinct classes of people. The belief behind the duel was that
God would ultimately intervene in the outcome of the fight, thus the
truth and justice would prevail. It was horrifying that if Jean lost
the duel, Jacques would be exonerated, even though he was guilty,
and worse yet, Marguerite would be convicted more or less of
bringing false charges and subsequently stripped, shackled and
burned at the stake.
Marguerite is the most noble character here,
devoted to her husband and courageously facing what could be dire
consequences for her. Jean, while a brave warrior, has a big ego but
appears to love and respect his wife, and is foolish in butting
heads with powerful and corrupt people like Pierre. And Jacques is
simply an opportunist, and it is Marguerite who declares wisely, "I
don't trust him."
Something that has always bothered me about
these European Medieval era movies: Why was the weather so crappy
all the time in those days?
Last Duel" Official Trailer:
Never have I seen so much traffic in social
media about "Halloween Kills" and the "Halloween" slashfests that
preceded it. There are streams all over the place: "Halloween Kills
ending explained," "Michael Myers' best kills," Retrospectives on
Laurie Strode (the original virginal Final Girl) wherein she had a
daughter, no wait, she had a son, no wait, yes it was a daughter;
she died, no wait, she faked her death; she beheaded Michael, no
wait, that was someone else; she has become an alcoholic alienated
from her family and obsessed with killing Michael Myers; as well as
the convoluted attempt to somehow string all the "Halloween" movies
together into a cohesive plot line.
"Halloween Kills" is the second of director
David Gordon Green's reboot trilogy. This one feel like an athletic
contest in which the second-stringers come into the game while the
starters rest a bit. In this case, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) spends
the entire movie in the hospital having been injured in her battle
with Michael at her compound in the first rebooted "Halloween" in
2018. Once it is revealed that Michael survived the blaze at the
compound, emerging so pissed off he kills a bunch of firefighters,
the second team is called in, led by an alcohol-fueled Tommy Doyle
(Anthony Michael Hall), who was the kid Laurie was babysitting when
Michael struck Haddonfield in 1978. Joining him are Lindsey Wallace
(Kyle Richards, now an adult, reprising her role as the other child
Laurie had to protect that night in 1978); Leigh Brackett (Charles
Cyphers), the former police chief of Haddonfield and now a hospital
security guard whose daughter Annie was a victim of Michael; Marion
(Nancy Stephens reprising her role), the nurse who accompanied Dr.
Loomis to the mental hospital the night Michael escaped); Lonny
(Robert Longstreet), the kid who bullied Tommy in 1978 and was dared
to go inside the Myers house in 1978; and Laurie's daughter Karen
(Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak).
The results are disastrous. Chanting "Evil
dies tonight" to the point it becomes annoying, Tommy incites a mob,
and somewhat like the shark-hunt armada in "Jaws" in which the wrong
shark is caught, the mob screws up.
A good point was having some flashback
scenes of Halloween 1978 that differ from what was portrayed in the
original "Halloween." In the 1978 version, Laurie and Dr. Loomis
(Donald Pleasance) are the only non-kids who encounter Michael and
survive, and Brackett as police chief is not convinced Michael is
even around until "Halloween II" when he sees the body of his dead
daughter. In this new flashback, police officers are seen chasing
Michael and even one officer dies. These scenes also shows why
Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), also injured and recuperating at the
hospital with Laurie, has been harboring guilt for 40 years.
Another tweak in "Halloween Kills" is when
Lonny, mapping put Michael's route through Haddonfield, theorizes
that Michael is not after Laurie at all. He just wants to go home.
He must have such fond memories of that place. Well, hell, now that
the current residents in the Myers house, Big John and Little John,
are out of the picture, let Michael HAVE his home back. He certainly
would be a kick to all the trick-or-treaters each Halloween.
The final film in this series, "Halloween
Ends" (but will it?) is scheduled for release in 2022. The hope is
Laurie will get off the disabled list and get back in the game.
" Official Trailer:
"NO TIME TO DIE"
Not much to say here except that "No Time to
Die" delivers as an action-packed James Bond thriller, enhanced by
some awesome heroic moves by the ladies Nomi (Lashana Lynch) as a
Double-O agent and Paloma (Ana De Armas) as a crack-shot
But I thought Daniel Craig deserved a better
send-off as he wraps up his five-movie term as James Bond.
With all the speculation about who the next
James Bond will be, I am curious as to how the Bond franchise will
reconcile the conclusion of "No Time to Die." If it somehow uses the
tired device of "it was all a dream," I am going to break some
TIME TO DIE" Official Trailer:
LOOKING BACK: "RAIDERS OF THE LOST
AND OTHER MOVIES TURN 40 THIS YEAR
The year of 1981, when the world was
introduced to archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones in "Raiders
of the Lost Ark," was also one of the final years when theaters were
the only source of movie entertainment. Cable and satellite dish
reception were not widely available yet, and video cassette
recorders were bulky and expensive, as well as VHS and Beta
formats. But a bridge to all that was provided by ON and Select TV,
the first subscription television services. They broadcast over the
air in UHF but the signal was scrambled and there was no audio.
Subscribers were issued a special antenna and a decoder box.
For me, 1981 was another vintage year,
following 1980, in which I was attending at least one movie, and
sometimes more, per week.
I was aware of the "Raiders" 40th
anniversary earlier this year and picked up the special collectors'
edition of The Ultimate Guide to Indiana Jones. Then, via social
media posts by my friend Rutanya Alda, I was reminded that "Mommie
Dearest," in which Rutanya was a co-star, also came out in 1981.
This much- maligned film in which Faye Dunaway set new standards in
overacting, chronicled the story of actress Joan Crawford's abuse of
her adopted daughter Christina. Dunaway's acting as Crawford was
cringe-inducing. Years later Rutanya had published "The Mommie
Dearest Diary," her observations on the filming of that movie.
Made aware of these two anniversaries I went
into research mode and discovered several other notable movies were
released in 1981. Here is a look at some of them, and this also
serves as an In Memoriam, as many of the actors and actresses and
others involved with these films have since passed. These will be
designated with an asterisk (*).
Bill Murray was at his comedic best here as John Winger, a misfit
and underachiever who after losing his job and girlfriend decides to
join the Army and drags his friend Russell (*Harold Ramis) along.
During training he butts heads with Sgt. Hulka (*Warren Oates) and
pretty much becomes a leader of the platoon. "Stripes" was pivotal
in making "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" a cadence song for marching now. This
also was the first real exposure of the talent of *John Candy, who
played Ox. Interesting fact: Bill Murray is an artist at
improvising, which irritated Sean Young during shooting. She, along
with PJ Soles, played MP officers who get into relationships with
Fun quote: Cruiser:
"I can't believe we're going after John and Russell. I can't believe
they're Russian spies." Psycho: "All I know is I finally
get to kill somebody."
If there is anyone who knew his way around Hollywood, it was *Blake
Edwards. The man behind the TV series "Peter Gunn" as well as the
person who brought us Inspector Clouseau (*Peter Sellers) in the
"Pink Panther" movies, he took a shot at moviemaking with this
satirical movie. SOB simply stands for Standard Operational
Bullshit. This movie has a loaded cast: *William Holden, *Shelly
Winters, *Robert Preston, *Robert Webber, *Robert Vaughn, Loretta
Switt, *Robert Loggia, *Larry Hagman and a young Rosanna Arquette.
*Richard Mulligan plays Felix Farmer, a successful producer whose
latest film is a flop. Despondent and suicidal he eventually has an
epiphany and decides to reshoot some scenes to create some
eroticism, including a scene in which his wife, Sally Miles
(Edwards' wife Julie Andrews) bares her breasts.
Edwards lampoons the movie industry,
smirkingly showing its back-stabbing and ruthlessness and the adage:
You're only as good (or bad) as your last movie. Preston nearly
steals the movie as the self-admitted quack, Dr. Finegarten, who at
a party is asked what he does for a living. I breed armadillos, he
replies. Is that satisfying? he is queried. No, but the armadillos
sure get a kick out of it. Edwards' final shot is the funeral
service for Felix, wherein all the people who betrayed him attend
the service, unaware the body in the coffin has been switched by
Felix's loyal friends -- Culley (Holden), Dr. Finegarten and Coogan
(Webber) -- who take the departed Felix away and give him a Viking
Fun fact: Director
Edwards was nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst
Director and Worst Screenplay for this movie but won
Fun quote: Felix:
"Can she work?" Dr. Finegarten: "Is Batman a transvestite? Who
knows? I was specifically requested to alleviate her anxiety. Work
was never mentioned."
Remember *Dudley Moore? Even though he was a child prodigy and for
awhile had a comedic partnership with *Peter Cook, he was a stranger
to American audiences until his role in "10," the 1979 romantic
comedy featuring Bo Derek. Two years later he was nominated for an
Academy Award for playing the title role in this movie. His Arthur
is an alcoholic billionaire playboy set to marry the grounded Susan
(Jill Eikenberry) whom he doesn't love , and things get complicated
when he falls for the financially struggling Linda (Liza Minnelli).
*John Gielgud, known more for his dramatic and classic roles in
movies like "Hamlet," won the Best Supporting Actor for his role of
Hobson, Arthur's loyal but sarcastic servant, a part Gielgud turned
down initially until he got a payment offer he could not refuse.
This movie also showcased the hit song by Christopher Cross
(remember HIM?), titled "Arthur's Theme."
Fun quote: Arthur:
"I'm going to take a bath." Hobson: "I'll alert the media."
A silly little movie directed and co-written (with Rudy De Luca) by
Carl "Jaws" Gottlieb, if nothing else led to the endearing and
enduring marriage of Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach, who met on the
"Caveman" set and celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this
last April. To appreciate this movie it is best to be familiar with
the 1966 movie "One Million Years B.C.," starring Raquel Welch and
spawning one of the first popular wall posters of her in her
cavewoman attire. "Caveman" lampoons the prehistoric era genre, with
Starr playing Atouk, something of a screw-up among his tribe of
Neanderthals. He has the hots for Lana (Bach) who unfortunately is
the girlfriend of Tonda (*John Matuszak), pretty much the big,
intimidating leader of the group. Meanwhile, Tala (Shelly Long,
pre-"Cheers") suffers unrequited devotion to Atouk. The movie
features goofy dinosaurs and the questionable history of the
discovery of fire, music and how delicious fried eggs can be. In the
end, of course, Atouk turns out to be the hero and upon realizing
Lana's shallowness, literally drops her. Matuszak, by the way, was a
defensive lineman in the NFL, mostly with the Raiders, and proved
his acting chops in the football movie "North Dallas
Fun quote: Nook
(Evan Kim, the only Asian actor in the cast, who utters the only
non-Neanderthal word in the script): "Shit."
"CANNONBALL RUN": *Burt Reynolds in the midst of his
"fast-cars" era. Director *Hal Needham brought together a delightful
cast to join Reynolds, including *Dom Deluise, *Roger Moore, *Dean
Martin, *Sammy Davis Jr., *Farrah Fawcett, Terry Bradshaw, *Jack
Elam, *Peter Fonda, Jackie Chan and Adrienne Barbeau. A decent
enough comedy with lots of stunt driving, but what has endured over
the decades are the outtakes at the end of the movie while the
credits role, clips still readily available on social media. Fun
quote: Race organizer: "You are certainly the most distinguished
group of highway scofflaws and degenerates ever gathered together in
SCIENCE FICTION AND HORROR
"SCANNERS": Among horror fans, David Cronenberg is
considered to be in the upper tier of directors in this genre, along
with *Wes Craven, *George Romero, John Carpenter, Dario Argento,
Guillermo del Toro and others. His "Rabid," "The Brood," "The Fly"
and "Shivers" are among the movies he has filmed. "Scanners" had a
lot of word of mouth, regarding, of course, the now iconic head
exploding scene, which garnered a lot of talk 40 years ago for its
explicit gore. Of course, horror fans had for years been accustomed
to this kind of stomach-retching stuff, but this was quite a shock
to the mainstream audience. In this movie, Michael Ironside, blessed
(or cursed) with a stern and sinister look that can make him a
natural as a villain or a much respected leader ("Starship
Troopers") plays Darryl Revok, a powerful and evil "scanner," a
person with psychic powers that can control minds and even do fun
little destructive things like blowing up heads. In order to stop
him, a scanner who is down and out (Stephen Lack) is recruited to
oppose Revok. All this leads to the psychic duel at the end where
heads burst into flames and eyeballs pop out. Loads of gruesome fun.
Cronenberg recalled this movie was very frustrating, rushed through
production. Stephen Lack, now a prolific painter, has made the
horror convention rounds and offers humorous insights into the
making of this movie.
THE WEREWOLVES MOVIES
Well, there was "The Howling" a darkly
humorous film featuring Dee Wallace as a television reporter who
needs to chill out after covering a disturbing story and finds
herself involved in a colony of, well, werewolves. She then captures
the TV ratings title by turning into a werewolf on a live newscast.
This movie has led to about a thousand sequels.
Then we have John Landis' "An American
Werewolf in London" that propelled makeup artist Rick Baker into the
stratosphere and made him the first makeup category Oscar winner.
Conceived by Landis while he was a low-on-the-totem-pole production
staff member on the set of "Kelly's Heroes" a decade earlier, this
movie stars David Naughton as David, who with his friend Jack
(Griffin Dunne) meets a grisly fate while on a walking tour of
Britain. They are attacked by a werewolf, a little fact that the
locals would like to keep a secret. David is injured but survives
while Jack is killed -- more or less. But while David is recovering
he has vivid and violent dreams and soon Jack drops in to visit from
time to time, in an increasing state of decomposition. Jack has a
message for David: You are a werewolf and thus you need to kill
yourself to break the blood line. Otherwise those victims of your
attacks are pretty much in limbo, walking dead. David's initial
agonizing transition into a werewolf broke new ground in special
effects. There is dark humor here and yet a sad development in that
David, a really nice guy falling in love with one of the nurses at
the hospital (Jenny Agutter), has to kill himself to free the people
FINAL CONFLICT": This was the third and final film
of "The Omen" series about Damien Thorne, the Anti-Christ. The first
two covered Thorne's birth and his teen years when he learns who he
is. Now an adult, Thorne (Sam Neill) is a handsome and charismatic
man, head of a massive corporation that has its hands dirty in
manipulating devastating world events. Now Damien is ready to enter
politics and kind of goes into "scanner" mode to control the United
States' ambassador to England to blow his own brains out, opening
the opportunity for Thorne to step into that diplomatic position.
But there is a problem. The prophesies as written in The Revelation
about the Second Coming of Christ are coming to fruition and Thorne
needs to thwart that. Meanwhile, a group of pesky monks, led by
DeCarlo (*Rosanno Brazzi), have gained possession of the seven
daggers of Meggido, said to be the only weapons that can kill
Thorne. Well, he can handle them, but the birth of the Christ child
is another matter. So Thorne calls a meeting of his Disciples of the
Watch and issues an order: Kill every boy baby born in Britain
during the time window that the Christ was born. This is a truly
chilling scene as Thorne presides over thousands of people from all
walks of life -- even religious leaders -- willing to do what is
commanded. Thorne even demands that his loyal assistant Harvey Dean
(*Don Gordon) slay his own newborn son.
Considered an outer space version of "High Noon," the classic
Western that featured an Oscar-winning performance by *Gary Cooper,
"Outland" stars *Sean Connery in the Cooper role. Connery is Marshal
William O'Niel, assigned to a mining colony on the Jupiter moon of
Io. When workers start dying from the use of an illegal amphetamine,
O'Niel's investigation uncovers a drug ring within the colony. But
not only does he not get any support -- except from Dr. Lazarus (a
scene-stealing Frances Sternhagen) -- but a shuttle of assassins is
en route to the colony and as the arrival time ticks down on a
digital clock, O'Niel and the good doctor need to set in motion a
survival plan. Peter Hyams directed "Outland," which in turn landed
him the job of directing "2010: The Year We Make Contact," the
follow-up to "2001: A Space Odyssey."
Fun fact: Connery
was set to do an extended cameo in the Oscar-winning "Chariots of
Fire," but had to cancel out because "Outland" shooting went over
FROM NEW YORK:" This futuristic action movie,
co-written (with Nick Castle) and directed by John Carpenter gave us
Snake Plissken, one of my favorite Kurt Russell roles (also HIS
favorite role). It's a dark thriller in which New York City is now
a massive prison colony where all the convicts pretty much set up
their own government. When a plane carrying the President of the
United States is shot down in New York, Plissken, an eye-patched
rogue doing his own time behind bars, is given a chance at
redemption if he can rescue the captured president (*Donald
Pleasance). The Snake deals with a lot of peril and has to kick a
lot of butt along the way and has an unlikely alliance with Cabbie
(*Ernest Borgnine) while facing the powerful Duke (*Isaac Hayes). In
the end everyone seems a littleinsane except for Plissken, who sort
of gives everyone the finger at the
Fun quote: Bob Hauk
(*Lee Van Cleef): "It's the survival of the human race, Plissken.
Something you don't give a shit about."
Several high-adrenalin capers hit the
theaters in 1981:
James Caan plays Frank, a highly specialized safecracker who targets
gems. But he also hankers for a normal life and owns a bar and a
used-car lot. His dealings in thievery get him mixed up with corrupt
cops and a crime lord (*Robert Prosky) who is intent on exploiting
Frank's skills until Frank is burned out, in prison or dead. This
was an early Michael Mann directorial effort that showcased his
ability for uncompromising violence, especially in the final
shootout. Excellent soundtrack by Tangerine Dream.
"NIGHTHAWKS:" Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee
Williams team up as elite New York City undercover cops who have to
stop an infamous international terrorist named Wulfgar (*Rutger
Hauer) now roaming the streets of New York. Wulfgar is ruthless and
cold. In one early scene he compliments a young clerk in a
department store (Catherine Mary Stewart) while sliding a bomb under
the counter below her, which a moment later blows her to pieces.
Stallone's DaSilva cleverly beats Wulfgar at the terrorist's own
game. This movie also featured an excellent score by *Keith Emerson
from Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
2:" Some regard this movie to be better than the
original. *Christopher Reeve's second outing as Superman / Clark
Kent was filmed mostly at the same time as the original 1978 film.
Superman has to go up against three of his father's former planet
Krypton enemies -- General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa, (Sarah
Douglas), and Non (Jack O'Halloran), who are released from the
Phantom Zone by a nuclear explosion in space and come to Earth,
which they mistakenly call Planet Houston, set to conquer it.
Inconveniently, Superman has fallen in love with Lois Lane (*Margot
Kidder) to the point he is willing to give up his Superman powers
and live a normal life. Gene Hackman has way too much fun as the
conniving Lex Luthor, switching alliances from Superman to General
Zod based on who has the advantage at the time. There are some now
laughable special effects during the downtown battle between
Superman and the Krypton baddies, with obvious cutouts of people on
Fun quote: Clark
Kent, after gaining revenge on the diner bully Rocky (Pepper
Martin), who beat him up shortly after Clark surrendered his
superpowers, and upon regaining his strength trounces Rocky, then
hands money to the diner owner: "Sorry about the damage...
Oh, I've been working out."
COMFORT:" Sandwiched between "The Long Riders" and
"48 Hrs.," Walter Hill directed this movie about a squad of National
Guard soldiers on a weekend exercise who find themselves in real
danger when they borrow without permission a canoe from local Cajuns
in the Louisiana Bayou and further complicate matters when one of
the soldiers commits a stupid prank. When the squad leader, Poole
(Peter Coyote), is killed, the Guard soldiers are barely equipped
physically or emotionally to survive a deadly cat-and-mouse battle
with Cajuns who are on their home turf. Superb cast also includes
*Powers Booth, Keith Carradine, T.K. Carter, Fred Ward, Les Lannom
,*Franklyn Seales, Alan Autry (who went by the name of Carlos
Brown), Lewis Smith, and *Sonny Landham and *Brion James as Cajuns,
the latter who directs the only two surviving soldiers to a path to
escape despite being abused earlier by the squad. A violent film
that also was a good character study of weak leadership and lack of
trust where it is most needed. Superb musical score by Ry Cooder.
"SHARKEY'S MACHINE": Burt Reynolds, in serious mode,
directed and starred in this crime thriller. Reynolds plays Sharkey,
an Atlanta narcotics cop demoted down to vice after a botched
operation who soon finds himself and his colleagues investigating a
high-society prostitution ring with international implications.
Another top-line cast with *Charles Durning, *Vittorio Gassman,
*Brian Keith, *Bernie Casey, Rachel Ward, Henry Silva, *Richard
Libertini and Earl Holliman. A gritty and engrossing cop
Fun quote: Sharkey:
"Are you all right, partner?" Arch (Casey): "Of course not, you
asshole. I'm shot."
Three dramas came out that centered around
crime and corruption.
CONFESSIONS": Although they were in the cast of "The
Godfather Part Two," Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall never shared
any screen time in the movie. In "True Confessions" they are cast as
brothers. DeNiro is Des Spellacy, an ambitious Catholic monsignor in
1940s Los Angeles who rationalizes that his dealings with powerful
but corrupt people in L.A. at least yield the results in a lot of
charity funds the church is able to use for community goodwill.
Duvall is a cynical LAPD detective, Sgt. Tom Spellacy, who is not
too happy with his brother hobnobbing with what he considers the
worst of criminals -- high-profile people who operate illegally but
above the law and are seen as respectable citizens. Tom is
investigating the brutal Black Dahlia-like murder of a young
prostitute and discovers the woman has ties to the elite people with
whom is brother is linked, especially Jack Amsterdam (Charles
Durning), a wealthy construction mogul seen as a pillar and
philanthropist in the city. The movie is a flashback, beginning and
ending with an aged Tom visiting Des, now terminally ill and exiled
to a remote church. Tom has been harboring guilt that his
determination to solve the murder and bring down Amsterdam also had
the collateral damage of ruining the standing of Des. But Des
convinces Tom that Tom's actions did provide redemption for the
CITY": *Burt Lancaster received his fourth and final
Academy Award nomination for his role as Lou, a longtime numbers
runner and low-level person among the organized criminals that
thrived when Atlantic City was a mecca for entertainment and
gambling. Lou now mostly embellishes his recollections of those good
old days but currently barely makes a living as a kept man for the
widow Grace Pinza (*Kate Reid). Susan Sarandon received her first of
five Academy Award nominations as Sally, a native of Moose Javian
(Saskatchewan). She has come to Atlantic City to train as a Black
Jack croupier and hopefully become a cultured woman. The arrival of
Sally's estranged husband Dave (Robert Joy) with a cache of stolen
cocaine disrupts Sally's life while offering renewal for Lou. Dave
recruits Lou to help him sell the cocaine but when Dave is killed,
Lou enjoys an opportunity to deal the cocaine, earn some money, get
a chance to be a fake mentor that leads to a brief fling with Sally
and finally come back to Earth to resume his mundane life with
Grace, really his comfort zone. Written by John Guare and directed
by Louis Malle, "Atlantic City" picked up five Oscar nominations
that included Best Picture and nods for Guare and Malle. It was a
superb character study of dreams never realized as well as a warning
about how fleeting those dreams can be when achieved.
OF MALICE:" This movie was especially interesting
for me because it came out when I was early in my career in the
newspaper business. I was working at the Pasadena Star-News at the
time and the bosses there incentivized us to view this movie, a
cautionary story, by offering to reimburse us the admission price if
we submitted the ticket stub to human resources. *Paul Newman
received his fifth of nine Academy Award nominations as Michael
Gallagher, a Miami-based liquor wholesaler and law-abiding citizen
who unfortunately is the son of a deceased mob boss. When an
FBI-local district attorney office investigation into a murder with
mob ties is stalled, Rosen (Bob Balaban), an unscrupulous DA
official, tries to break things loose. He uses Megan Carter (Sally
Field), a young, ambitious but naive and sloppy newspaper reporter,
to leak a story that Michael is under investigation, and possibly a
suspect, in the murder. This is done in hopes of pressuring Michael
to get some inside information that might help solve the case.
When the story is published, Michael goes
to the paper but is essentially told, tough luck -- absence of
malice and all that. Aside from his business life going into chaos,
his personal life suffers a tragedy. His best friend Teresa (Melinda
Dillon, also an Oscar nominee) can provide the solid alibi proving
Michael could not have committed the crime. But coming forth with
the alibi could have devastating effects on Teresa's life, and she
already is emotionally fragile. She foolishly meets with Megan in
hopes she can get Michael off the hook with an off- the-record
testimony. But Megan, more driven to get the story, reveals Teresa's
story, leading the distraught woman to commit suicide.
This prompts Michael to play along with the
investigation, only he sets it up to compromise everybody involved.
This leads to the feds dispatching Assistant U.S. Attorney General
James A. Wells (*Wilford Brimley, who deserved a nomination
here), to Miami to sort out the mess. Armed with subpoenas and with
the power to jail Megan if she doesn't divulge the sources she used
for the stories, Wells pretty much unravels the plot, which ends up
costing Rosen and his boss Quinn (*Don Hood) their jobs, and leaving
Megan, at least free of jail time, and the newspaper, very
red-faced. Michael's actions, which seem illegal, really are not and
he walks away, having avenged Teresa's death. After it is all over,
Megan says to Michael, "You really got us." He shakes his head. "You
got yourselves," he
Kurt Luedtke, who wrote the Oscar-nominated
screenplay, said that his inspiration for the story was from a court
case that concluded that American libel laws, due to this case
precedent, indicate that truth is not always necessary to journalism
in situations involving public figures. Thus, a newspaper can make
a bad mistake and hurt a public figure who cannot always collect
damages for it.
Great quote: Wells:
"Now, we'll talk all day if you want to. But, come sundown, there's
gonna be two things true that ain't true now. One is that the United
States Department of Justice is going to know what in the good
Christ is going on around here. And the other is I'm gonna have
somebody's ass in my briefcase."
Although William Hurt is no longer a matinee
idol -- his most high-profile role in recent years being as
Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross in a couple of the Marvel
"Avengers" movies -- he was quite a hot commodity in the 1980s,
nominated for Best Actor Oscars three straight years, 1985-87. He
won the statuette for "Kiss of the Spider Woman" in 1985 and was
nominated for "Children of a Lesser God" in 1986 and "Broadcast
News" in 1987. Since then he has been nominated once, a Supporting
Actor nod for "A History of Violence" in 2005.
The year of 1981 was when he zoomed into
prominence with three memorable starring roles:
STATES": Written for the screen by *Paddy Chayefsky
(who died in 1981) and directed by *Ken Russell ("Women in Love,"
"The Devils" and "Tommy" among many others), this was Hurt's first
major starring role, as Eddie Jessup, a brilliant but unconventional
scientist, more passionate about his work than his love and family
life. Having done some experiments in isolation chambers as a
student, he revisits this research later when he is a full professor
at Harvard Medical School, this time enhancing the sensory
deprivation experience by ingesting hallucinogens, specifically
untested ones used in mystical Mexican rituals. He discovers that he
can enter an alternate mental state that taps into a primitive
genetic code. But then the mental aspect evolves into a physical
state wherein after receiving X-rays following one of his sessions
in the tank, a technician looks at the X-rays and declares, "This
guy's a fucking gorilla." Of course, in this altered state he has no
conscience, just a sense of survival, and acts accordingly to the
peril of all creatures near him. Blair Brown, who also had a good
run of movies in the 1980s, plays Jessup's brilliant wife Emily,
also a scientist and ultra patient with Jessup's inability to
Fun quote: Mason
Parrish (Charles Haid), a colleague of Jessup and another scientist
played by Bob Balaban: "You're supposed to be reputable scientists!
Not two dorm kids freaking on Mexican mushrooms!"
"EYEWITNESS:" Hurt co-stars with Sigourney Weaver,
still riding high from her role as Ellen Ripley in "Alien." Written
by *Steve Tesich ("Breaking Away") and directed by *Peter Yates
("Bullitt"), "Eyewitness" features Hurt as Daryl Dever, a janitor so
infatuated with TV reporter Tony Sokolow (Weaver) that he suggests
to her he has vital information about a body discovered in the
building where he works, a story she is assigned to cover. He
doesn't reveal much more but Tony's interest in him grows and as the
investigation intensifies, Daryl and Tony soon find themselves in
Fun quote: Aldo
Mercer (James Woods), a friend of Daryl's: "She's just using you.
You're a janitor, you asshole!"
HEAT:" Writer Lawrence Kasdan was just breaking in
during the early 1980s and was off to a spectacular start, having
penned the screenplays to "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders of
the Los Ark." His directorial debut was this 1980s film noire that
propelled Kathleen Turner to stardom as the femme fatale Matty
Walker. Hurt stars as Ned Racine, an inept lawyer in a small Florida
town near Miami. On a hot summer night he encounters Walker, bored
wife of a wealthy and somewhat crooked businessman, Edmund (*Richard
Crenna). A torrid affair ensues and Ned is so obsessed he starts
taking literally Matty's wistful comments about how their
relationship would go places if Edmund were dead. Soon Ned is
planning and carrying out the demise of Edmund. Seemingly well
executed, Ned sees his alibi gradually dissolving with implicating
evidence mysteriously getting into law enforcement hands .
Meanwhile, Matty is manipulating Ned into making some seemingly
minor changes in Edmund's will, which because of some procedural
errors end up nullifying the document, thus insuring Matty getting
the whole estate rather than sharing it with Edmund's family.
Eventually Ned is convicted of murder and while in prison he does
some digging and realizes Matty has been using him from the start, a
key element being she was aware of similar legal errors Ned made
earlier with another client that played into the Edmund will being
nullified. Hurt and Turner sizzled with erotic chemistry in this
movie, and there were a couple of memorable secondary characters
that stood out. Ted Danson is Peter Lowenstein, a local assistant
district attorney who likes to tap dance and finds himself in the
uncomfortable position of warning Ned, who is his friend, that he is
likely to be arrested in Edmund's death. And Mickey Rourke, in only
his fourth appearance in a major movie, steals a couple of scenes as
Teddy Lewis, a client of Ned's and convicted arsonist from whom Ned
seeks advice on building an explosive device.
And speaking of Rourke's Teddy, here is a
fun quote he delivers to Ned: ”Hey now, I want to ask you something.
Are you listening to me, asshole? Because, I like you. I got a
serious question for you: What the fuck are you doing? This is not
shit for you to be messin' with. Are you ready to hear something? I
want you to see if this sounds familiar: any time you try a decent
crime, you got fifty ways you're gonna fuck up. If you think of
twenty-five of them, then you're a genius -- and you ain't no
genius. You remember who told me that?"
Hurt would work with Kasdan again in a
couple years in "The Big Chill" playing Nick, an underacheiving,
drug -using guy among a group of University of Michigan friends, now
in middle age, who reunite to attend the funeral of another college
friend who committed
Hurt amassed a good body of work, which was
why we all shuddered when we saw he agreed to star in "Lost in
Space" in 1998. Alas ...