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Tag Archive: Robert Redford


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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Review by C.J. Bunce

Eighty-five years ago today, April 1, 1934, two Texas highway patrolmen, 26-year-old Edward Wheeler and 22-year-old Holloway Murphy were on motorcycle patrol, checking on a car they thought may need assistance.  Instead, they were gunned down by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.  It was Easter Sunday.  The two notorious criminals had repeatedly evaded the law, in part because they were sheltered in an era where the stupidity of the masses outweighed sense and a large segment of the populace viewed them as some kind of folk heroes.  Despite being captured by two former Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, that legendary hero status stuck somehow, thanks in part to Hollywood, and specifically the rather popular and also critically acclaimed movie Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.  That film portrayed a rollicking, at times humorous, ride, which in fact, shared little of substance about the criminals and their victims.  Hollywood is now doing an about-face with a new, edgy, thoughtful drama, which includes the murders of Wheeler and Murphy and others, in director John Lee Hancock‘s The Highwaymen, now on Netflix.

Hancock, who wrote screenplays for the Kevin Costner/Clint Eastwood film A Perfect World, the screenplay for Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and wrote and directed the 2004 version of The Alamo, offers up a reserved, measured tale not of the infamous criminals this time, but the two aging men, Hamer and Gault, who knew how to track and kill criminals.  That’s thanks to a script by John Fusco, who has experience writing historical accounts for the screen, as found in his Billy the Kid story Young Guns, the Babe Ruth biopic Babe, the 1890s horse rider tale Hidalgo, and his heavily researched series Marco Polo.  Despite the sometimes dry “historical drama” label, The Highwaymen is by no means devoid of compelling storytelling.  Plus, headlined by Kevin Costner, playing the elder more experienced former Ranger Frank Hamer, and Woody Harrelson as the slightly less experienced B.M. “Maney” Gault, the film showcases the chemistry between the duo.  In one key dramatic sequence the two lawmen come upon a temporary residence for the criminals, looking for clues among the closeted clothing in what could be the bedroom of any small town couple of the day.  But Harrelson may get the most satisfying scene, as he responds to being cornered by a group of Barrow supporters while in a public restroom.

The film is fueled by a compelling musical score by Thomas Newman (Spectre, Skyfall, Road to Perdition, The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Man With One Red Shoe), the kind of a soundtrack that will no doubt stand well as its own creative work.  His score sets the tempo of the picture while not overtaking it, as happened with Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-nominated score for Costner’s The Untouchables, a similar era film that will no doubt be compared to The HighwaymenNewman’s music is entirely different, a balance of post-Civil War, Western, and Depression-era motifs with guitar that echoes the former Rangers’ cowboy, horse-riding past.  Cinematographer John Schwartzman delivers the kind of bleak, spacious, 1930s America perhaps last scene in László Kovács’ film work on Peter Bogdanovich’s depression-era film Paper Moon.

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Saturday night I was working on my list of the best comedy movies.  As always when I try to think through my list, the first movie that comes to mind is Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.  It’s not only that the movie teams up two of the best actors Hollywood ever met, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, nearly every line of dialogue has a rhythm, perfect comedy timing that squeezes the pulp out of the English language.  Simon passed away today at the age of 91.  No writer accomplished what he did to entertain audiences with both his plays and films.  Simon put forward only the right words to optimize each moment of his stories.  Often the very best laughs were throwaway lines, humor that’s dropped along the stream of dialogue that must continue in furtherance of the story.  So that means frequently you don’t have time to laugh before the net joke is set.  I don’t laugh out loud at the movies very much–it takes something really funny to get me rolling, and no comedy writer has provided me with more laugh-out-loud moments of movie watching than Neil Simon.

My first introduction to Simon was in Barefoot in the Park.  He wrote the play and screenplay for the 1967 film.  If you love Robert Redford or Jane Fonda it could be in part due to Simon’s dialogue for their characters in this film, which showcases the actors’ talents and makes them incredibly likeable.  The film was an instant hit.  His characters are frequently frustrated, with others, with their own current circumstances, so the audience readily empathizes with them.  We’re right there with them.  For Barefoot in the Park, it’s a newly married couple trying to get their footing in their new apartment, with their new daily routine.  The humor doesn’t just flow through the lead parts.  The mother of the new bride gets her own laughs, as does the mystery man who lives upstairs.

Only a year later The Odd Couple arrived in theaters, another Simon play adapted to film.  Many are familiar with the television series adaptation later, but nobody gave the rhythm, drama, and glorious comedic tones to Simon’s sports writer Felix Ungar and his suicidal friend Oscar Madison like Matthau and Lemmon.  Ask me the funniest line ever written and I won’t skip a beat.  I’d swear I almost died laughing when I first watched this film late at night on cable by myself, lying on the carpet, holding my stomach, tears filling my eyes, trying to breathe.  It was one line that hooked me, a dropped laugh that scoots along with another Oscar Madison rant about Felix, this one about Felix leaving notes on his pillow.  I’d include the video but you need the context to maximize the punch.  Just put The Odd Couple on your list at the top of your comedy must-watch list.  I wasn’t around yet in 1967 and 1968, but I’m sure all I need to know I can find in these two films.  Simon’s works are far-reaching.  The most obscure reference I can think of is a recent homage comic book cover from Buffy the Vampire Slayer that was an homage to The Odd Couple.

Simon achieved critical acclaim on Broadway and for his films, four Oscar nominations, 17 Tony nominations, and his dialogue resulted in 50 Tony nominations for the actors that said it.  One of his only actual wins was the Golden Globe Award for his screenplay to The Goodbye Girl, a 1977 film he wrote directly for the screen, with his then wife Marsha Mason in the lead role opposite Richard Dreyfuss fresh off his success in Jaws and released in the same year as Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It’s easy to feel for the single mother actor auditioning for roles that keep getting taken by younger women. The juxtaposition of drama and humor in Simon’s work can hardly be found as electric as in the rants between Mason and Dreyfuss’s characters here.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Summer means baseball, and so it’s time again to delve back into the mythology of the game.  Like every other American sport, baseball is very different than it was when Bernard Malamud wrote his first novel, The Natural, in 1952.  At that point countless fictional stories had been written about the game, yet it’s his story that grabbed the attention of readers and it has since been referred to as both the first great baseball novel and the best ever written.  The novel was made into a major film that was nominated for four Oscars and starred Robert Redford as hero/antihero Roy Hobbs–the film, too, is on many rankings of the best sports movies ever made.  For those who have only seen the film, they’ll find most of the novel familiar, but several differences will make the movie more enjoyable for most.  Roy of the book is an oddity but in different ways than the Roy of the movie.  Malamud’s story is a dressing down of baseball more than an inspiring showcase of the great American pastime.  The movie on the other hand is another film about a fractured sports hero who comes out on top in the end.

For its day, and without the benefit of all the great baseball stories, real or imaginary, that have been passed around since, Malamud’s novel is a fine piece of American literature.  It’s about a young man who creates a baseball bat that he names Wonderboy.  It either possesses some kind of magic, or it’s all in Roy’s head.  Either way, Roy experiences the same bad luck (being at the wrong place at the wrong time results in Roy getting shot), misfortunes (he misses his opportunity to be a professional player because of the gunshot, and so he doesn’t get a chance again until everyone else says he is too old), trials (he’s constantly after the woman who doesn’t care about him when the one we all know he belongs with is right there in front of him), and successes (he eventually albeit briefly gets his fifteen minutes of fame).  Yet Roy’s ego and the general lack of develop of the other characters result in a story with truly no one to care about.  The baseball as backdrop is thin, nothing so deeply researched and vivid, for example, as Harry Turtledove’s The House of Daniel (reviewed here at borg.com last year).  Malamud writes his baseball scenes with the feel of a radio announcer shouting out the stats during gameplay.  His hero/antihero could be a driven character who fails and falls in any story (any sport or any vocation), and it feels like baseball is more of an excuse to tell Roy’s story.

   

Yet there is something about the aura of baseball that Malamud gets right.  His novel does illustrate well the level of superstition among baseball players, which continues today.  His cast of characters may have determined the similar stereotypical cast of characters in every baseball movie since.  Yet Malamud couldn’t find a place for real women in a baseball story, so he populates his story with three odd characters: the first shoots Roy (and incredibly enough was based on a real incident, the shooting of Eddie Waitkus, derived from the dark recesses of baseball lore), the second only has value for Roy because she is attractive, and plays the siren luring him to the dark side (aka rigged gambling), and the third is like some kind of sign from God, a muse for Roy appearing from nowhere to make Roy win at baseball again after a long slump.  So ultimately readers will need to dig deep to find the Americana in the book–hidden between the action you can find it as he revisits his dreams and memories of the past, as he looks out the train windows, and as he tries and fails to figure out what makes him tick.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When the worst of us does its best to silence the rest of us, you get a story like 1971’s Pentagon Papers bombshell.  When a voluminous, decades-in-the-making, confidential government report that demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents from Truman through Johnson is leaked to the press, The New York Times first reported on it, and the Nixon administration sought and was granted an injunction preventing the Times from publishing further articles on the subject.  Director Steven Spielberg focuses his new expertly crafted biopic The Post on The Washington Post as it decided whether to publish excerpts of the Pentagon Papers in the face of the Times injunction, primarily through the eyes of newspaper owner Katherine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, and managing editor Ben Bradlee, played by Tom Hanks. For the average moviegoer, Spielberg takes a rather mundane footnote in American history and makes it completely engaging and entertaining.  Carefully re-creating the early 1970s more than 45 years later with everything from the annoying mishandling of coins as you tried to make a payphone call, to the rotary phones we all used, to the weekly ritual of the family newspaper strewn across the living room, to costume designer Ann Roth’s hand-sewn vintage wardrobe re-creations, eyeglasses, jewelry, and hairdos of the era, to old technology and random items on shelves (that might prompt you to think it’s time to get a new iced tea pitcher), to the thankfully bygone days of women sitting in one room at a party and the men in another, to board rooms completely devoid of women (although today there is still rarely more than one or two), Spielberg makes the best use of the film medium, sharing a timely and important story for a new generation of moviegoers.

Filmed in the same 1970s noir style as Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men (and using a newsroom set that is almost as accurate as that film’s 1975 California movie set version of the real thing), The Post might as well be a prequel.  It’s almost as good, lacking some of the more heart-pounding, real-life thrills of Watergate, like the mysterious informant Deep Throat, the uncertainty of whether someone in the government was going to think The Washington Post’s press coverage was worth killing over, and the perceived nature of the stakes (the executive branch vs. the Fourth Estate).  To his credit Spielberg had the more difficult task of re-creating an era and a newsroom in 2017, when Redford was filming his movie only three years after the events took place (and Spielberg is also certain to illustrate the stakes to both the players and the nation of this earlier event).  From the opening scene Spielberg traverses familiar territory, opening with an embedded government wonk in a warzone in Vietnam, as believable as his earliest team-up with Hanks, in Saving Private Ryan.  Seamlessly composer John Williams rejoins his long partnership with Spielberg in this scene, offering one of his best scores in years, alternating within the film an intensity that rivals his Raider of the Lost Ark compositions with the contemplative import of the moment realized in his Schindler’s List soundtrack.

Yesterday is today, as scene after scene attests to the same corporate deal making, the same roadshow investors, the same IPO efforts, the same boardroom antics, the same misogyny, the same shuffling of blame, and the same indifference to the public good permeates the nation and the news.   Convincingly selling us on the gravity of the story is the best ensemble cast put together in the past year.  Streep plays a surprisingly layered Katherine Graham, a socialite who would become the first woman Fortune 500 CEO and first woman to helm a major newspaper, best known for her role in the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.  Streep never ceases to amaze as she creates yet another character as believable and authentic as any of her past award-winning performances.  The Tom Hanks that won best actor Oscars for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump is also back, playing the strident editor Bradlee for all it’s worth, complete with the editor’s accent, brusque language and bravado, equal to Jason Robards’ Oscar-winning take on the same man in All the President’s Men.  The rest of the cast is a virtual Who’s Who of the current top genre actor scene.

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chris-pratt-moneyball

It’s that time of year again.  The 2016 World Series is now in full swing with the first game a sweep by the Cleveland Indians.  How will the Chicago Cubs fare in Game 2 tonight?  If you’re not in the baseball frame of mind yet, we have five of the all-time best baseball movies you can stream right now for free or for less than four dollars on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.  Most of these can also be rented on Netflix.  And let’s face it–everyone should own our fifth movie on the list.

Have you seen them already?  Then you know these great films can be watched over and over again.

Let’s start with a classic:  Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees from 1942.  The movie recounts the then-recent personal triumph and tragedy of what baseball as an American pastime has created over and over for more than a century: baseball players as American icons.  Pride of the Yankees shows the personal side of being a famous baseball player, and features real-life legends Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Bill Dickey, all playing themselves on-screen.  Academy Award winners Teresa Wright and Walter Brennan co-star.  If you want to see classic baseball from a contemporary view, this is your movie.  Although the story is certainly bittersweet and a tear-jerker, it reflects baseball as more than just a game.

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The most recent movie on our list is Moneyball, from 2011, a modern classic we’ve already watched over and over.  Moneyball reveals the game as a modern business.  The conflict between playing the game as classically envisioned and the game as seen from an analytical angle is wrestled with from the real life mostly true story of the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane as he turned the team around in its 2002 season.
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Petes Dragon big dog

The world needs more “nice” movies, doesn’t it?  All the dark and twisted every time you go to the theater gets old fast.  So why not a reboot of a Disney classic adapted for live action?  The original Pete’s Dragon featured an animated dragon and this year’s Pete’s Dragon remake will feature an updated CGI dragon, furry, green, and huggable, now fully revealed in this week’s latest trailer.

Disney obviously isn’t after another Star Wars win, but with a young boy lead and some familiar stars like Robert Redford, Karl Urban, and Bryce Dallas Howard, it’s aiming for the next Harry and the Hendersons, Jurassic Park, or the Jason Scott Lee live-action version of The Jungle Book.  From the trailer, we see more and more that Pete’s Dragon is the third part of a forest-based version of the Mowgli-inspired stories all coming back to the big screen: The Jungle Book, The Legend of Tarzan being the others.

Pets Dragon clip

Check out this new trailer for Pete’s Dragon this time featuring the actual dragon, Elliot:

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Petes Dragon

The original Pete’s Dragon featured an animated dragon accompanying the young lead actor of the movie’s title.  This year’s Pete’s Dragon remake will feature an updated CGI dragon, as revealed in this week’s latest full-length trailer.  The film also stars Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard.

This Pete’s Dragon does not appear to be the stuff of the Disney blockbuster, but perhaps it will fit into the pocket of endearing, memorable films like Harry and the Hendersons or the Jason Scott Lee live-action version of The Jungle Book.  Or, from what we learn from Howard’s character about the little boy raised in the woods without humans in the trailer, this could also go in the direction of Jodie Foster’s Nell.  Then again, it’s a Disney flick, so probably not.

Petes Dragon 2016 poster x

It is a bit strange that Disney is dipping back into its past so much coming off of a year of record sales from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Yet another remake of another children’s favorite, The Jungle Book, is due out from Disney this April.

Check out this trailer for Pete’s Dragon:

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Butch and Sundance

TCM Big Screen Classics and the Fathom Event series are bringing one of the top ten Westerns of all time back to theaters for a limited engagement.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is returning to theaters across the country Sunday, January 17, 2016, and Wednesday, January 20, 2016.  Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross star in one of the most famous stories of the west.  Bank robbers and the best ever buddy movie?  You can’t miss it.

The trio play off each other so naturally you really wish there could have been a sequel.  Great fun, with the most popular music of 1969.  “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” playing behind Newman and Ross’s bicycle ride reflects a carefree spirit that must have accompanied the actual risk-averse band of gunslingers.  The film stands strong today and on multiple viewings Newman and Redford only seem to get better.  You may even find you want to book a plane to Bolivia.

The film won Academy Awards for screenplay, cinematography, score, and for “Raindrops”–a double win night for Burt Bacharach.

Butch and Sundance vintage poster

Here is the original trailer for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

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Rogue One clip

Our annual “All the Movies You’ll Want to See…” series has been one of the most viewed of all of our entries at borg.com each year.  So this year we again scoured Hollywood and its publicity machine for as many genre films coming out in 2016 as have been disclosed.  Usually we select the 24 that look like the biggest hits, but we’re going all out for 2016.  The result is a whopping 48 movies, many you’ll probably want to see in the theater or catch on video.  We bet you’ll find a bunch below you’ve never heard of.  Bookmark this now for your 2016 calendar!

Most coming out in the second half of 2016 don’t even have posters released yet, but many do.  We’ve included descriptions and key cast so you can start planning accordingly.

Star Trek Beyond clip

What do we think will be the biggest hits of the year?  How about Star Wars: Rogue One?  Or Star Trek Beyond?  You’ve heard endlessly about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but 2016 will also see Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War, and X-Men: Apocalypse.  There’s even a handful of Westerns, with The Hateful 8, Jane Got a Gun, and another remake of The Magnificent Seven heading our way.

01 Hateful Eight poster

The Hateful Eight – January 1

Tarentino’s Western!  Ennio Morricone score!  Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Channing Tatum!

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The 5th Wave – January 8

Chloe Grace Moretz and Liev Schreiber in an alien invasion.

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400 Days – January 12

The CW’s Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, and Tom Cavanaugh in a movie about astronauts that seems to be a play on Ender’s Game.

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