Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review Of Ride the Pink Horse

Glib reviews of DVDs and Blu Rays.

Ride The Pink Horse
- Directed by Robert Montgomery

It might be a mistake to watch a movie adaptation only one day after finishing a novel that you love. Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel called Ride The Pink Horse is a wonderful small town noir of the sort associated with Jim Thompson, and at the same time a sweaty tension filled fish out of water story akin to the best of Patricia Highsmith.

The fact that the film makers let the more literary name stand instead of giving it some generic but more cinematic title is a testament to the strength of the story. Many of the details of the film are changed for those kinds of what works in a book might be too subtle for a movie kind of ways, like some of the names of characters, most obviously, the protagonist (who is no ‘hero’ in ether the book or the film) goes from the no last named ‘Sailor’ in the book to the much more noirishly named Lucky Gagin, who is never once called ‘Lucky,’ with good reason.

It’s no spoiler to give the very bare bones plot that is taken from the book and attached to the film story: Gagin comes to the small New Mexico town of Sao Pueblo to confront, maybe kill, but most likely blackmail a gangster who had his friend, also a black mailer killed. In the book ‘Sailor’ knows the ‘gangster,’ who is also a senator. All the great Chicago corruption angles are gone, as everyone in the film version is from DC.

The other big character changes are the cop who is onto Gagin, following him invisibly, everywhere he goes, and the gangster, who also have different names and motivations. What makes these changes work and sing really are twofold, wonderful dialogue from writers Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer, legends on their own, and a great cast of scenery chewers like the ubiquitous Fred Clark, who plays ‘Frank Hugo’ the big bad gangster. Clark gives a great turn as a slicker than slick talker, who is constantly almost talking Gagin into thinking he won’t just have him killed when he gets the blackmail dealt with.

Also wonderful are the very familiar Art Smith who you might recall from another great Hughes adaptation “In A Lonely Place,” where he played the agent, Mel Lippman. His performance drips with butter as the savvy old cop who is about three steps ahead of everyone. 

The other great character actors in the film are the lesser known Thomas Gomez (who reprised the role of “Pancho” in Montgomery’s tv episode remake of the film in 1960 on his dramatic Tv show- Robert Montgomery Presents); and  a nice turn from Wanda Hendrix, as Pila, the young girl follows Gagin around, helping him, and not quite being the love interest, because she is so young, the character is 14. this is an aspect I like from the book, that they didn’t change too much, there is an inferred sexual tension, but nothing really. Gagin/Sailor is more like an uncle, or father figure in both the book and the movie. Pila doesn’t pick up men like her friends, she helps them stay alive as they blackmail gangsters.

The film is solidly directed and has great pacing and dialogue, well worth a watch, but don’t watch it too close to reading the book, some few small bits will nag at you, like the protagonists initial racism and the Spanish speaking and native population, that he grows to regret, as by the end, these are his people. The sweaty paranoia of Sailor cannot be matched by quirky Robert Montgomery’s Gagin who is far more moral, and upright. In my imagination, Sailor is more of a pre-war Elisha Cook Jr, hustling, sweating, unshaven, than an almost suave, shaved and tidy war hero - Montgomery.

Quibbles though. Ride The Pink Horse is a great adaptation, that doesn’t need to stick to the literary details to serve up a fun crime story with a heart of gold.

The Criterion edition looks gorgeous as usual, and is worth renting, or buying if you are thus moneyed. Lovely to look at the black and white is saturated, and the greys stand out. beautiful job on making what could be a grainy washed out old movie look new and spanky!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mad Max Fury Road review.

Glib reviews Of movies still in The Theatre.

- Directed By George Miller

Maybe it was all the hype, maybe not, but I probably didn’t think this film was as good as I had been told. Don’t get me wrong, it was very entertaining, and I will rate it fairly high on my dorky ‘outta 10’ scale, but simply for sheer entertainment value. Obviously the film passes the ‘Bechdel test’. But it is by no means some sort of Feminist masterpiece, nor is it some kind of misandry masterpiece as the mra nutters would have you believe.

What I watched was an exciting, silly, high budget chase movie with lots of car crashes, ‘Road Warrior-esque’ bad guys, and suitably post-apocalyptic backdrop. The look was pretty consistent with the second two Mad Max Movies; Road Warrior (I do not acknowledge the whole mad max 2 nonsense anymore than I do, ‘a new hope nonsense’ [/grumpyoldperson]) and Beyond Thunderdome, which yes, counts. It’s quirky and fun, and also has a couple of badass female characters. 

As far as Furiosa goes, she’s top notch, the rest of the women characters though are mostly one note, supermodel-y, and almost all the old ladies (not to spoil it) are just cannon fodder, aside from one or two nice crone/maiden scenes, which to be fair are nice to see. 

I also don’t get the whole Max is just a sidekick angle of criticism, I have heard: he’s in as much of the picture as he should be. Max has never been much of a talker in his earlier incarnations, why should he be so here? I thought Hardy gave Max as much gravitas as Theron did Furiosa: two great pretty equal people in terms of kick-ass heroes. I think though the movie’s super simple plot lacked the gravitas of the actors. I dug the Warboy subplot, and for me as cheesy as it was, as I think about the movie, that is the my favourite part of the plot, and it has the most tender bug eating scene in cinema history perhaps? I also didn’t care much for ‘Immorten Joe’, maybe that’s it. One note, if well set dressed villain. One note.

I may have to watch it again to come to a final judgement, but the film just lacked something for me to put it in the same league as either Road Warrior, or Mad Max, or even Beyond Thunderdome if I am honest. I have so much nostalgia for those movies, maybe nothing can live up to them. Seems reasonable to me.  Nostalgia is a high wall to climb.

I definitely recommend this as an exciting see it in the theatre post apocalyptic adventure, but if you are looking for a feminist masterpiece, wait for whatever Lucia Martel is doing next.

7.999999 Villains so Metal, they bring their own band on the car chase outta 10

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Panels of the week returns!

Panels of the Week 
(spoilers, don't look if you don't want vague spoilers)

"The Tomorrows" first issue from Dark Horse. Good dialogue lifts familiar super title above in a heavy 'Team week' in Comics. Will check out second issue. Fresh stuff!

The Fox continues to be trippy and funny in ways Deadpool can never be for me. Loving this run by Haspiel and Waid. (from Archie comics super imprint Dark circle comics)

From Strange Fruit, which is a fun and gorgeously artistic series right from this first issue, well hyped, so far worthy with it's nice pacing and setup. (So many great comics from Boom! Comics lately)

The Sundowners goes for the Full on Alan Moore freakout and somehow pulls it off. Digging this quirky dark and dorky psycho candy. 

Part of wants to hate the new 'Robot Batman' and marginally powered stupid brush cut Superman, but i don't because titles like Superman/Batman or Batman/Superman, whatever are upping their game with these new takes. Darn it i wanna hate read these, but they are fun takes on mythic characters. see panel below...

Batman 42 has Godron Bats making with lots of banter and non cigarette fuelled brooding. It's weird, and there is a return of a character, that is likely not what it seems.. maybe. Good story telling trumps gimmicky reboots every time.

The New Constantine: Hellblazer has me believing after two issues. It's the real deal. Nice Chaz appearance. and a nice take on old Johnny.

speaking of well done gimmicks - Secret wars Mini 1872 started this week. fun and very easy to take these marvel heroes as wild west heroes, archetypes.

The other Secret wars Mini that i really dug this week was the ASM Renew Your Vows. I like the direction of this mini, and am wondering if this is going to be the new MU Parker family? fits with the miles taking over after SW thing. I approve.

Lando ! as in Lando Calrissian gets his own comic and he shares it one of my favourite minor characters Lobot! Fun stuff Marvel is killing it on the Star wars titles so far.

Saga is just barrelling along since issue 25. The only complaint I have about Saga is that I always want more. not much of a complaint.

Speaking of Fiona Staples, and Mark Waid... the new Archie looks and feels exactly like what we hoped it would be, an updated modern Archie comic. All the players get a few seconds, beautifully paced love letter to characters as archetypal for some of us as Batman or Wonder Woman.