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Tag Archive: Keith Carradine


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s not that often actors that make it to the level of movie stardom get to have that curtain call.  Robert Redford announced after the filming of The Old Man & the Gun that this would be his last film in front of the camera.  A tribute to Redford and a wind-up of a great and unusual career of smartly made choices by the actor, it’s an enjoyable film and final take on the persona Redford played so well in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Sneakers.  Earlier this year Netflix released a new film called The Highwaymen, a story written by John Fusco about the Texas Rangers that finally took down Bonnie and Clyde.  Years ago Redford was taking the script to Paul Newman intending it to round out their two crime films together (Butch & Sundance and The Sting), but Newman passed away.  That story would have been a great final film for both, but somehow The Old Man & the Gun is truer to the legacy of Redford as that hard-to-resist bad guy.  Redford hangs up the acting part of his life just the way we like him, as the good bad guy.

Writer/director David Lowery could have made The Old Man & the Gun something over the top, something like Space Cowboys, but we know Redford wouldn’t have signed up for something like that.  This is more subtle, sweet, and sentimental, doing something similar for Redford to what Clint Eastwood has been doing with his elder years roles like Gran Torino and The Mule.  The Old Man & the Gun is in the same genre as the Eastwood and Kevin Costner film A Perfect World, another take on Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Catch Me if You Can, and without the intensity of Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine’s Hell or High Water, introducing us to another criminal and his pursuer, this one 82-year-old Redford playing the 62-year-old real-life, early 1980s bank robber Forrest Tucker.  Redford looks more 82 than 62, but it doesn’t matter, older is better here, and the casting director who teamed him with Sissy Spacek as love interest deserves some kudos.  Redford’s thief is a likable enough guy who leads a small-scale Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid gang consisting of a quirky Danny Glover and Tom Waits.  Ultimately the film is worthy of all these actors, enough reason alone to check it out.

Rounding out a quartet of Academy Award-winners with Redford and Spacek and a blink-and-you’ll miss him Keith Carradine, is Casey Affleck, playing the young, local police pursuer a bit differently than the typical cop trying to get his guy that we’ve seen in countless police stories.  Through interviews we watch him learn that every person who has been robbed by Tucker sees Tucker as a nice, sympathetic, grandfatherly old gentleman.  Taking cues from his kids and wife played by Tika Sumpter, Affleck’s cop takes a step back, and his performance is subtly played.  And quite good.

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Martin Freeman in Fargo

Did you hear the one about the British actor who played a guy from Minnesooootah?

Following in the footsteps of the dark 1970 Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould comedy flick M*A*S*H, the Coen Brothers are taking their Oscar-winning script from their movie Fargo to the small screen, turning the setting into a new series on the FX Network.  An all-star cast will make TV viewers who might not have liked the Coen Brothers humor in the film give the idea another chance.

With an all-new “true crime” story with a new case and new characters, and that far-North Central U.S. accent that drifts from Wisconsin to Minnesota, The Hobbit and Sherlock star Martin Freeman will play a put-upon local who encounters a troublemaking outsider played by Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade).  Orange County star Colin Hanks plays a Duluth police deputy.  Other cast includes Allison Tolman, Oliver Platt (A Time to Kill, Beethoven), Keith Carradine (The Long Riders), Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Nebraska), Brian Markinson (Arrow, Continuum), Kate Walsh (The Drew Carey Show), and Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused, Zodiac).

Here’s the first seven minutes of the new series, Fargo:

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Despite an interesting premise and a good cast, Cowboys & Aliens never quite comes together.  How could a team-up like Jon Favreau, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and Steven Spielberg not get this right?  Unfortunately, the movie is “just okay.”  It’s an example of what happens when you buy an idea without a great story to back it up.  And it’s what happens when it takes six A- list writers to craft a screenplay, based on a work that itself isn’t very interesting.

Cowboys & Aliens lacks most of the elements of good science fiction and qualifies as a western only because of the bundle of cliched characters, a beautiful desert hills setting, and all the horses.  That said, it may find an audience with those who have never seen a good western or appreciate a good science fiction story.  It could be dismissed as “another summer blockbuster romp, sure to please general audiences.”  With the fun premise, the stellar cast, producer Spielberg and director Favreau, it may get favorable initial box office returns, but it fails to live up to its potential to rival all the summer movies released this year.  It should be better than all the sequels released this summer.  But it’s not.  In comparison, it doesn’t quite match up to past summer hits like Independence Day or Men in Black.

It’s not as fun as a movie with the title Cowboys & Aliens should be.  I wasn’t looking for humorous by any means, but there was not one point in the packed movie house where the crowd had any reason to laugh, cheer, or gasp.  The story lacked tension and energy.  From scene to scene the characters didn’t convincingly indicate the gravity of their would-be, desperate situations.  And we were never quite pulled into the world in any gripping way–you keep waiting for something to happen, then the movie is over.

Fortunately the film has no relation to the graphic novel created by Scott Rosenberg and written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley.  The graphic novel is a simple analog of alien imperialism over humans as a reflection of European imperialism over the native Americans, and that’s about it.  Not enough to turn into a good comic book, let alone a good movie.  Add to that the six screenplay contributers (including Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman who wrote the iffy 2009 Star Trek script) who couldn’t pull a complete story out of a good idea, and proved yet again that a story written by committee rarely works.  It is frustrating that an idea as fun as mixing aliens into the 1800s Old West is so hard to make awesome.  Even kids mixing toy soldiers and science fiction figures could come up with a fun story. 

The best of the film is the cast. As for the lead cast, Olivia Wilde’s character Ella was the stand-out.  She seemed to do the best she could with her role and, as with her with roles in Tron: Legacy and House, M.D. , she is fun to watch.  And Daniel Craig delivered an excellent performance as the western movie drifter with the secret past, Jake Lonergan.  But his character was put into too many strange circumstances, and we never got to see how a man in the 1880s would react to aliens vs someone in the 2010s.  Daniel Craig’s past roles have been so good, this one probably falls toward the bottom of the list.  Audiences are starving to see the next Han Solo or Indiana Jones role for Harrison Ford.  Billed as Ford’s “Rooster Cogburn” performance, Ford’s, Colonel Dolarhyde (a really bad name, by the way) is a one-note character.  The audience wants to like this performance, but we don’t know how we’re supposed to feel about this character.  At one point we’re told he’s tough and we feel he’s meant to be the traditional man in the black hat, but everything else indicates otherwise, and we don’t have enough back story to know what to think.

As for the supporting cast, Clancy Brown (Starship Troopers, Medium, Leverage, Law and Order, Lost, Enterprise) shows how great a supporting actor he is as the town’s preacher.  Keith Carradine also delivers a believable performance as the sheriff.  But as with Favreau’s Iron Man 2, another annoying Sam Rockwell performance almost reduces his scenes to cringe-worthy.

One more positive thing–I loved the “arm gun”.  It’s not in the graphic novel, so it’s a great addition and helps make Daniel Craig’s every move as cool as he is as James Bond.

The movie might have been more exciting if they hardly showed us the aliens at all (like the shark in Jaws).  When they appear, it is too much too often, and the aliens were a mix of creatures we had seen before, lifeless like the bugs from Starship Troopers, grotesque like Kuato from Total Recall, and the scenes are shot just like the aliens in the Alien movies.  The creatures should be terrifying, to the point that the humans should be running for their lives screaming–especially for people who have no concept of space travel or extraterrestrials.  They just aren’t.

The soundtrack starts with a good clip but ultimately relies too much on what sounded like a modern electric guitar ballad instead of a full orchestral sound–an epic, grandiose score you’d expect from a western, which might have helped save the film.

Not that my standards for a video rental should be any different than for a movie in the theater, but this may play better on video or late-night cable.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a few of the western scenes again, just not enough to buy another movie ticket.  The opening, for example, gets off to the right start, with Craig’s character executing a fight scene dive straight from Rio Bravo.

Unfortunately, this one left me wishing for a real good western or good sci-fi movie.

Cowboys & Aliens is in theaters.  2.5 of 5 stars.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

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