This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hannie Caulder (1971)

"Like the man said, there aren't any hard women, only soft men."
-Hannie Caulder.

This may sound ironic, but, in some ways, the western, a genre indigenous to the U.S., has become the most problematic for American filmmakers over the decades.

As someone whose father grew up with westerns on TV and the big screen, I certainly have an idea of how they thrived during the 1930s-1960s.

Today, though, while we have successes such as the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys, westerns themselves seem few and far between.

We've certainly had homages, such as many of Quentin Tarantino's movies, including his upcoming one Django Unchained. While we have yet to see how good that film is, for every bonafide success like Unforgiven (1992), we get crap like Bad Girls (1994), which leads to another drought of the genre again.

I've heard some say that the western began dying out by the start of the 1970s. Hannie Caulder is one which arrived during that time, although it did not make the same impression as the Clint Eastwood films High Plains Drifter (1973) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) or John Wayne's swan song The Shootist (1976).

The title character (Raquel Welch) is a simple woman whose life is turned upside down after she is raped, her house burned to the ground, and her husband murdered by three brothers (Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, and Jack Elam).

Hannie is left for dead, but encounters bounty hunter Thomas Price (Robert Culp), who reluctantly agrees to help her seek revenge by training her in gun use.

After obtaining weapons from gunsmith Bailey (Christopher Lee, a great actor whom I seem to end up writing about a lot on this site), they confront the murderous trio.

While the rape scene is not as jolting as the ones in Deliverance (1972) and Boys Don't Cry (1999), Borgnine, Martin, and Elam still manage to give us villains we love to hate and are clearly having fun.

Not surprisingly, the posters for this film emphasized Welch's sex appeal. Fortunately, this film is still entertaining because, unlike the four actresses in the aforementioned Bad Girls (Madeline Stowe, Drew Barrymore, Andie MacDowell, and Mary Stuart Masterson), Welch is given an actual character to play and has a great supporting cast to back her up.

Indeed, one could say this film is everything Girls should have been because that movie basically tries to become a revisionist western without bothering to show any grittiness (let alone realism) of that time period. This was quite a shame since the four leading actresses are all charismatic and deserved a better film to share the screen with. For all the crimes Girls commits (check out this review for a list of those crimes) I'd say the four leads deserve the least amount of blame for its failure.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Underrated movie lines

For this entry, I'm actually going to focus on five films which most everyone knows about, even if they haven't seen them. Specifically, I'm going to look at lines from those films which I haven't heard many people quote as often as, say, "I am your father," but which I still loved.

1. Dr. No (1962):
This film, of course, began the James Bond film series and, naturally, introduced the world to the line "Bond...James Bond."
One line that I've always loved from this film, though, is the one spoken by Bond (Sean Connery) when he dines with the villainous title character (Joseph Wiseman).
"Tell me, does the toppling of American missiles really compensate for having no hands?"
The doctor, whose hands were lost in a lab accident and replaced with metallic appendages that can crush steel, actually pauses before simply telling Bond that his plans to sabotage the U.S. space program is just one step in bringing the world to its knees.

2. Superman (1978):
This film became the yardstick by which all superhero movies have since been measured for many reasons. One major reason is, of course, Christopher Reeve's wonderful portrayal of the title character. In lesser hands, the Man of Steel/Clark Kent would have been reduced to a second-rate Dudley Do-Right in this film, but, thanks to the foresight of director Richard Donner, Reeve was able to bring actual acting to the table (unlike Michael Keaton when he played Batman) and, thus, was able to act morally righteous without coming off as sappy.
That was probably best illustrated when the Man of Steel and Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) meet on her balcony before taking their romantic flight. When Lois asks him why he's on Earth, he replies with:
"I'm here to fight for truth, justice, and the American way!"
To which Lois, without missing a beat, replies:
"You're gonna end up fighting every elected official in this country."
This film, which was released the year the superhero turned 40, came out years after Watergate shook our faith in our elected officials, so this exchange is great because it reminds us of what Superman is about and how the character can adapt to changing times.

3. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979):
This movie is what I call a 'rainy day' film, meaning that if I'm flipping through channels and come across this, I'd be willing to sit through it if nothing better is on. Yes, with the exception of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), all the following movies with the original Trek crew are better than this one. But this is not to say that TMP does not have its good points (my wife liked this film a lot more than I thought she would). Production value-wise, it remains, to this day, the best looking of all the Trek films. I must also mention the great Jerry Goldsmith score, which is probably my favorite aspect of the film.
Although TMP was criticized for not giving Trek fans the character interplay that the series possessed, there is one nice moment which briefly captures that aspect of the beloved series.
Once Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has come back on the Enterprise, he meets with Kirk (William Shatner) and McCoy (DeForest Kelley). The good doctor begins by saying:
"Spock, you haven't changed a bit. You're just as warm and as sociable as ever!"
To which Spock replies with:
"Nor have you, Doctor, as your continued predilection toward irrelevancy demonstrates."
This harkens back to the classic Spock/McCoy exchanges of the series. Nimoy wrote in his autobiography I am Spock that he offered a line for Spock in the film's final scene when Scotty (James Doohan) tells him that he can be back on Vulcan in four days. Nimoy said that he suggested Spock say that his continued presence on the ship would be essential if McCoy was to remain on board.
However, what could have been a great line was cut from the final film, which is a shame as more witty dialogue such as that would certainly have given TMP a better reputation.

4. The Princess Bride (1987):
Now here is one film which has many classic lines. I have seen "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" on more bumper stickers than I can count.
One nice line which I haven't heard quoted from this great film often, though, is what Humperdink (Chris Sarandon) tells Westley (Cary Elwes) before he unleashes the Machine's full strength on him.
"You truly love each other, and so you might have been truly happy. Not one couple in a century has that chance, no matter what the storybooks say."
While the Shrek films ended up beating us over the head with the fact that they were spoofs of fairy tales, Bride was a fairy tale played out in a straightforward manner, which makes this one line a great wink at the audience.

5. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997):
This film obviously has a following, but, while Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow made a nice team, I didn't find it very funny.
However, there is one line that cracked me up. When Romy (Sorvino) suggests that she and Michele (Kudrow) invented post-its, Michele becomes irritable because it sounds like Romy is taking all the credit for their 'invention.' This leads to a verbal fight in which they argue about, among other things, which of them is better looking. Michele then asks:
"Who lost their virginity first?"
To which Romy answers:
"Oh, big whoop with your cousin Barry. I wouldn't brag about it."
I wish the rest of the film had lines that made me chuckle as much as that one did.