Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My 2008 Movie Odyssey - Part XIX

The Leopard Man (1943)
One common characteristic of all the Val Lewton films I have seen so far is an examination of science versus the supernatural. Weird things are happening and some characters say there are supernatural elements at work while the rest reject the idea as superstition and try to find a natural explanation. While most of the films end on an ambiguous note (often leaning towards the supernatural explanation) The Leopard Man goes with the natural explanation. So while there are a couple deliciously atmospheric scenes, the end result was not nearly as satisfying as my previous ventures into the world of Val Lewton.

Rio Bravo (1959)
This western is the story of three men: John Wayne's sheriff who refuses almost all offers of help to bring down the town outlaw (in a direct contrast to the Gary Cooper role in High Noon), Dean Martin's deputy who is a recovering alcoholic, and Ricky Nelson's hotshot new gunman who worms his way into John Wayne's graces. What results is a highly entertaining western that focuses more on the interactions between characters than the shootouts. Also worth noting is Walter Brennan as the lame deputy who is assigned to guard the jail. His cranky old man performance adds some wonderful humor to the mix, keeping the film from getting too serious. The inevitable final shootout lacks dramatic gravity, but that is a minor complaint compared with the rest of this highly entertaining film.

Bring It On (2000)
Morbid curiosity made me check out this movie. It wasn't great, but wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been (which is disappointing because I was prepared to write a scathing review of the movie).

Bull Durham (1988)
This is a somewhat funny movie with some fun scenes (especially the baseball games) that kind of peters out at the end.

Marathon Man (1976)
International intrigue and fugitive Nazi war criminals are always good fodder for entertaining movies. This time around the Nazi fugitive is played by Laurence Olivier in a gleefully evil performance. The most memorable scene in the film features Olivier almost lovingly torturing Dustin Hoffman in a way that will make those already afraid of dentists intentionally skip their next checkups.

Coming up next: four newer movies and a Cary Grant outing.

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