Spy Game (2001)

DailyView: Day 87, Movie 149

Decided that this morning would be a great time for the DailyView to dive into a little espionage. Spy Game is a thriller starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, directed by Tony Scott.

According to IMDB, “CIA operative Nathan Muir (Redford) is on the brink of retirement when he finds out that his protégé Tom Bishop (Pitt) has been arrested in China for espionage. No stranger to the machinations of the CIA’s top echelon, Muir hones all his skills and irreverent manner in order to find a way to free Bishop. As he embarks on his mission to free Bishop, Muir recalls how he recruited and trained the young rookie, at that time a sergeant in Vietnam, their turbulent times together as operatives and the woman who threatened their friendship

This was a lot of fun. While it was fun, there are the typical spy movie clichés here. All of the CIA agents seemed to be nowhere nearly as competent as you would expect they should be. Robert Redford just kind of ran rings around them. There was a countdown clock until Bishop was going to be executed that popped up on the screen every once in awhile (the first time the four hour time variance seemed to be really quick). These are thriller tropes we have seen before.

However, Redford is so charming and Brad Pitt is excellent that they overcome any minor plot contrivances that might be in place. You do enjoy watching the supposedly retiring Redford work his magic on the others in the CIA and get away with it. I would have liked a little more of a conclusion to the story as I wondered what Redford was going to do next.

Catherine McCormack made a short, but significant appearance here as a connection for Brad Pitt that made him question what he was doing. She was very good too and she did have some good chemistry with Pitt.

Overall, Spy Game is a flawed movie, but one that is an enjoyable watch if you do not allow yourself to be bogged down with some of the issues the film has. Redford and Pitt are tremendous together as a sort of Hollywood generational pairing.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

DailyView: Day 86, Movie 148

Boy, do we have a wild one for the DailyView today.

The Comedy of Terrors is a horror/comedy featuring the iconic Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. Vincent Price plays Waldo Trumbull who is an undertaker whose business has been failing. Trumbull was blackmailing former thief Felix Gillie, played by Peter Lorre, to be his assistant. Since the funeral business has ben slow, Trumbull and Gillie go out at night and kill old men to increase business.

Trumbull is a mean-spirited, drunken, cruel man, unhappily married to a wannabe opera singer who lacked any ability to sing Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson). Her father (Boris Karloff) lives there too, barely competent and nearly senile. Trumbull is always unsuccessfully trying to give the old man his “medicine” which is actually poison.

Major problems occur for Trumbull and Gillie when they go to try to kill their landlord John F. Black (Basil Rathbone). Chaos then ensued.

I don’t think I would have ever believed that Vincent Price and Peter Lorre would turn out to be a perfect slapstick comedic pairing, but that is exactly what has happened here. They both exhibit a tremendous amount of comedic timing and there were a few times where they reminded me of a dark Abbott and Costello. Price and Lorre were really great here.

Basil Rathbone is as over-the-top as I think I have seen in a long time. His performance has to be seen to be believed.

I loved the ending of the movie too. It is such an ironic twist to the end of the film that is really satisfying and works extremely well.

Joyce Jameson’s “singing” is unbelievably funny and about as hard to listen to as possible.

This is a dark movie with some sarcastic and evil people that is really funny.

Munster, Go Home (1966)

DailyView: Day 85, Movie 147

1966 must have been an odd year. This is the year where we got the Batman movie from the TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward. Now, I have found another TV show adapted into a movie from 1966 for the DailyView. It is based on the TV show the Munsters. It is called Munster, Go Home.

Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) and his family head to England to claim an estate willed to him by a relative, an inheritance that would make him Lord Munster. However, the English Munsters, Freddie (Terry-Thomas) and Grace (Jeanne Arnold) and Lady Effigie Munster (Hermione Gingold), were not happy about it.

This was very much like the TV show, extended to the length of a movie. It had the same type of humor from the show and was very easy to watch.

Nearly the whole cast from the TV show returned for the film including Yvonne De Carlo as Lily, Al Lewis as Grandpa and Butch Patrick as Eddie. However, the role of Marilyn Munster was played by Debbie Watson instead of Pat Priest. Apparently Universal wanted to go with the younger Watson to build up her career. According to IMDB, this recast angered a lot of the show’s fans.

There were few other familiar faces found in Munster, Go Home. Richard Dawson was here playing Joey, a man who would pick up “boxes” from Munster Hall every month. Bernard Fox, who appeared in several sitcoms such as Bewitched, Hogan’s Heroes and Mash, was Squire Lester Moresby, who had a running rivalry with the English Munsters. John Carradine played Munster Hall’s butler Cruikshank.

This is not great, but if you liked the Munsters, then this would be a fun movie to watch. It plays like a longer version of the TV show. The story is simple and the laughs are cute.

The Big Chill (1983)

DailyView: Day 85, Movie 146

Next up on DailyView is the ultimate 1980s film, The Big Chill, directed by Lawrence Kasdan.

A group of 8 tight college friends reunited for a weekend after another one of their friends of their group had committed suicide. The friends spent the weekend reconnecting, talking with each other, and discovering what the group dynamic was now.

There is not much of a plot here, but the film depends on the strength of the cast. The cast is filled with a bunch of the actors of the 80s such as Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum, JoBeth Williams, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly and Don Galloway. The ensemble works well together and carries the movie. The interplay between characters was a fascinating aspect of the film.

The dialogue was well constructed and helped us learn more about the characters. It also had a definite feel of improv here as well. The group dynamic is delivered through the words they said and it felt natural.

The soundtrack to the film was outstanding with a variety of great songs such as “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Wouldn’t it Be Nice.” One of my favorite scenes was when the whole ensemble was dancing in the kitchen to “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”

Splash (1984)

DailyView: Day 85, Movie 145

Splash has been on the DailyView list from the beginning, but I was not sure if I had seen it before. I mean, I was aware of the movie and the general plot, but I was not sure if I had ever actually seen it. So I decided to give it a chance on Disney + this morning. I did not recognize much of anything in the movie so I feel comfortable that this meets the criteria for the DailyView.

Directed by Ron Howard, Splash starred Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah in one of the most oddball love stories in the Disney canon. Allen Bauer (Tom Hanks) was reunited with a mermaid (Darryl Hannah) who had saved him from drowning as a child. However, he did not know that she was a mermaid. The mermaid, who took the name Madison, could, for a short period, come on land and walk around with legs. Unaware of the surface culture, Madison learned about it by watching TV.

Allen and Madison fell in love during these few days, but Madison worried about telling him the truth. As this romance is blossoming, scientist Walter Kornbluth (Eugene Levy) is desperately trying to prove that mermaids exist and he pursued Madison.

Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah had good chemistry and it was great to see John Candy here too. Candy played Allen Bauer’s older brother who was full of troublesome behavior. It was just the same role that John Candy always played and he was really good at it.

I did not like the way the film concluded, though. The chase scene which proceeded it was average at best.

Tom Hanks showed here that he was on his way to stardom. He threw himself into the bizarreness of the plot and filled up the screen.

Harvey (1950)

DailyView: Day 84, Movies 144

During the DailyView, I have been watching several of the films in the filmography of Jimmy Stewart and the latest is the off-beat comedy, Harvey.

Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart) was an affable and charming gentleman, friendly and kind-hearted, who seemed to have one problem, he talked to a 6’3″ white invisible rabbit named Harvey. Elwood’s sister, Veta (Josephine Hull) was becoming tired of the impropriety of the situation and wanted to have him committed to the mental institution.

All manner of chaos and shenanigans ensued after this with Elwood unaffected by any of it. He just went about the day engaging with every person he met and passing out his card.

Harvey is a funny, light-hearted movie that shows how likeable Jimmy Stewart can be. Even with everything going crazy around him, Elwood just continued to see the goodness and the sweetness of everyone.

There would be a question if this movie is making light of the serious business of mental illness, but there are also parts where you, as the audience, believe that Harvey is real. They refer to him as a Pooka, a spirit, which could be considered the way around any actual illness. Of course, it can also be referring to how you can take control of your own life by letting go of the worries or the stress and just basking in the warmth of life.

Jimmy Stewart is wonderful in Harvey, showing the warmth and the whimsical side of his personality. The performance of Josephine Hull was so great that she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. There are lots of solid comedic performances, including Jesse White as the sanatorium’s orderly. Cecil Kellaway takes his character, Dr. Chumley in many different paths as the film moved along.

Based on a play by Mary Chase, Harvey is a wondrous romp through the world of acceptance and finding the light in the dark. Harvey could have been a much darker film dealing with themes of alcoholism and mental illness, but instead, it chooses to find the joy life gives. We should all have a Harvey in our lives.

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

DailyView: Day 83, Movie 144

I looked at the schedule for TCM tonight, and they were showing Rebel Without a Cause, which has been on the DailyView watchlist for awhile now. It was one that I had on the HBO Max queue for awhile too, but I had not gotten around to it so when it was there on TCM, it would work out perfectly.

James Dean was only in three movies, and his tragic death came just before the release of Rebel Without a Cause. You can tell how charismatic he was in this movie. You could see just how big of a star he was on his way to becoming with his performance here.

Having said that, I had to laugh when he did the “You’re tearing me apart” line because I immediately pictured Tommy Wiseau in The Room with his line for Lisa. Wiseau was inspired in that line delivery from Dean in this movie.

According to Rotten Tomatoes: “After moving to a new town, troublemaking teen Jim Stark (James Dean) is supposed to have a clean slate, although being the new kid in town brings its own problems. While searching for some stability, Stark forms a bond with a disturbed classmate, Plato (Sal Mineo), and falls for local girl Judy (Natalie Wood). However, Judy is the girlfriend of neighborhood tough, Buzz (Corey Allen). When Buzz violently confronts Jim and challenges him to a drag race, the new kid’s real troubles begin.”

I enjoyed a lot of this movie, in particular the ending with Plato. This was a very enjoyable watch and I would recommend it to anybody. However, I am going to focus on a few of my problems with it. I just want to stress that I liked this movie a lot, but these were my thoughts.

I was distracted by Thurston Howell the Third being James Dean’s father in this movie. That is not the movie’s problem, it is mine issue. I know that, but every time I saw Jim Backus, all I could do was think “Where is Lovey?” To be fair, by the third act, I was more accepting of him as the father. Backus gave a good performance and was able to shake me out of the Gilligan’s Isle thoughts I was having. Again, that is not a fault of the film.

One of the things that was the fault of the film was that I did not believe the relationship between Jim and Judy. SPOILER Buzz, who was Judy’s boyfriend, just died earlier that night and suddenly Jim and Judy were professing their love. They dumped that story really quickly and I had a problem with that. END OF SPOILERS

The last thing I will bring up is how much of a dick Buzz is at the beginning and how his gang of jerks were just following him no matter what. Pull out a knife? Fine. Be an a-hole for no reason? No problem. Then, at the end, the others are out to take it to another level. I just did not understand why these kids were acting the way they were. Plus, Judy was there and seemingly happy to be part of the insanity.

Beside those issues with Rebel Without a Cause, I did like this very much.

Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back (1967)

DailyView: Day 83, Movie 143

In 1965, Bob Dylan went on a tour of England and, during the tour, Dylan allowed a documentarian and director D.A. Pennebaker to come along. Dylan gave Pennebaker an unrestricted access to the singer as they went from concert to concert, and hotel room to hotel room. This documentary would become Don’t Look Back and it gives an amazing look at the iconic singer as he was transitioning from acoustic to electric, from folk to rock and roll.

The legendary Bob Dylan was 23 years old during the tour and the cameras caught plenty of fascinating moments, from Dylan trying to find out who threw a glass out the window at a party in his room to his debate about an article in Time Magazine. It gives a deep picture of the crotchety musician.

The documentary kicks off with the video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” an iconic video with Dylan showing cards of the song’s lyrics. There are some great songs used throughout the doc, Dylan performing them on stage during the tour.

Some of the conversations that Dylan engages in with the people in his orbit are fascinating, and, I can only say, a little confusing.

I will admit to not knowing a lot of Bob Dylan’s music outside of his “hits” but this was a highly engaging and entertaining documentary with a man who was an enigma of his times.

Trog (1970)

DailyView: Day 83, Movie 142

Ever since the TV mini series Feud, I have been interested in the career of Joan Crawford. As it showed in the series, Crawford was desperate in those last years of her career to find movies that would hire her. The ageism in Hollywood was terrible at the time and, despite being one of the most famous and powerful actresses around. Because of her struggles to find suitable roles to match her status, Crawford wound up taking a lot of movies that were not up to her past standards.

Her final movie performance is a perfect example of this, as Crawford appeared in a film called Trog. A primitive being was discovered in an underground cave and is taken by the scientist Dr. Brockton (Joan Crawford). Believing that the creature could be the missing link between human and troglodyte, Brockton began teaching, studying and working with the creature, naming him Trog.

However, there is a resistance to Trog and a vocal opposition claiming that he should be destroyed is led by Sam Murdock (Michael Gough, Batman’s Alfred, himself!).

Joan Crawford plays this role 100% straight. There is no silliness or parody in her performance, which makes it all the funnier. The movie is so ridiculous that you can’t help but wonder why Crawford took the role. I guess paychecks are important.

Trog looks like a man with a monkey head on. Trog’s reign of terror at the end is laugh out loud funny.

I think that, despite how terrible the movie is, Trog is something that should be experienced. It is hard to explain.

The Conversation (1974)

DailyView: Day 83, Movie 141

One of Frances Ford Coppola’s finest films according to critics and cinephiles is next up on the DailyView, The Conversation starring the ever awesome Gene Hackman. Speculation has been that the character played by Gene Hackman in The Conversation is the same character he plays in the movie Enemy of the State years later with Will Smith. Now having seen The Conversation, I can see why the connections have been made.

Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) was an expert in surveillance who was hired to record a conversation between a young couple, Mark (Frederic Forrest) and Ann (Cindy Williams). Paranoid and regretful from a previous job that turned out tragically, Harry stated to believe that the couple might be in danger from the man who had hired him and this worry began to weigh on Harry’s mind.

Written and directed by Coppola, The Conversation has an interesting cast of actors. Along with the excellent Gene Hackman, there was Shirley from Laverne & Shirley, Cindy Williams, a young Harrison Ford, Teri Garr, Allen Garfield, an uncredited role for Robert Duvall, and John Cazale.

The movie is excellent, in particular, the third act that takes what we thought was happening and flipped it around to show us what was really going on. It was a twist ending before twist endings became so predominant in the industry. I honestly never saw it coming.

I love how the film slowly develops the character of Harry Caul and how we see him struggle with himself over what he has done in the past and how this new case could potentially echo that problem.

The underlying theme of surveillance is as important today as it was back in the 1970s. At that time, this movie had come out just around the same time as the Watergate conspiracy and so the nation was surely looking at films like this in more ways than just entertainment.

I’ve said this before, but I miss Gene Hackman. He is truly one of the most underrated actors we have ever had. He has a filmography unlike most Hollywood stars and he is exceptional every time.

The Conversation is one of those movies that I have seen on the different streaming services, but I never watched before. I am glad that I changed that today.

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

DailyView: Day 82, Movie 140

A political thriller day for DailyView which kicked off with the Robert Redford movie Three Days of the Condor, directed by Sydney Pollack. Based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady, this movie was tense and satisfying.

Turner (Robert Redford) worked as a reader for the CIA. He would read everything, looking for clues or ideas or hints of what someone may be planning and then he would send it to the main office. His most recent report brought an unexpected result. A hit squad came to his office and assassinated everyone there. Turner was lucky because he was out getting the office’s lunch.

When he returned, he took off, trying to figure out what he was going to do. He found a gun and kidnapped a random woman Kathy (Faye Dunaway) off the street who had her own car. He forced her to take him to her apartment so he could hide out and try to determine what happened and what to do next.

Max von Sydow was here too as the main assassin hired by the CIA to take out Turner. He was great as he always was. We did not get a deep dive into his character, but you still could see what he was like and how Max took it and created something original.

Redford and Dunaway were great together and their chemistry burned through some scenes that were uncomfortable to watch.

The story is slowly unfurled and reveals the truths in a satisfying manner. You are never sure what Redford was going to do next and that made for an edge of the seat thriller. The paranoid filled film worked really well for the time, coming out just after the whole Watergate fiasco. Much like All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor works not only as a period piece but also as an thriller.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

DailyView: Day 81, Movie 139

Unfortunately, a second sci-fi movie that I watched today, after viewing Dune this morning, did not connect with me. The next DailyView was set up to be the David Bowie movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and it is a bizarre path of striking imagery, convoluted story and a ton of naked bodies.

David Bowie played Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien being who came to earth because his own planet was suffering with a terrible drought (though honestly, that plot is not really much of the story). He wanted to find a way back to his wife and children on his home planet, but the excesses of earth and the human race’s greed sabotaged his efforts.

I’m not sure how to talk about this film. It is a science fiction story without any real science fiction. I have seen comments that this is the story of David Bowie and how his life was during the 1970s and the whole alien thing here was an analogy for his real life. That makes as much sense as anything else.

Nicholas Roeg directed the film and, you can not argue that he went for it. It feels like an art house film dealing with the excesses of the human condition. It is a creative task, but I needed something more to grsasp and maintain my attention outside all the sex scenes and the genitals.

Candy Clark played Mary-Lou, a hotel attendant that helped Thomas when he was having an attack, and who fell in love with him. I was not a fan of her performance. In particular, I had issues with her voice. I know that is nitpicking, but it was distracting throughout. I do not know if that was an accent she was doing or if that was her real voice, but it pulled me out of the film.

The Man Who Fell to Earth never interested me and I was just waiting for the film to end. It was a disappointment for sure.

Dune (1984)

DailyView: Day 81, Movie 138

I am not sure I understood any of this.

Worse yet, I got bored quickly and I am not sure I cared to pay attention enough to understand what was going on.

A new version of Dune is scheduled to come out later this year with Timothée Chalamet starring so I wanted to make sure I had the chance to watch this 1984 version, directed by David Lynch. Like all Lynch projects, this demands your full attention. Unfortunately, I found that to be a more difficult task than even I thought.

I love Kyle MacLachlan. He would go on from here to his iconic role of Agent Cooper on Twin Peaks. You can see the charisma from him here, but the tightness of the script was just not there to really embrace him as Paul Atreides. Kenneth McMillan is utterly disgusting as the villainous Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Watching bits of goo fly from his mouth/face as he spoke was gross. I was also shocked to see Patrick Stewart here.

I knew Sting was in the film, but he does not do much. He has an imposing presence in Dune and it would have been great if he were more involved.

Special effects were fine for 1984, but I would be lying to say that the obvious green screens were not distracting for me. I know that is not fair to the movie since it was a product of the time, but it did play into my viewing of the film. The upcoming version will certainly have CGI at a considerably higher level.

There was a lot of exposition in the movie, which, again, I understand. You have a lot of set up for the world to be understood at all. However, David Lynch has never been one to use exposition and you can tell by how clunky the exposition is here. There are better ways to deliver exposition and Dune could have benefitted from these techniques.

I thought that watching the 1984 version was a necessary step before the new film coming out in December, but I feel as confused as ever. Hopefully, Denis Villeneuve will have more success at engaging me in the story than this Dune did.

Real Steel (2011)

DailyView: Day 80, Movie 137

Back in 2011, I chose to not go to Real Steel because it just seemed like a rip off of the old Rock’em Sock’em Robots toys of my youth. I was not interested. There were enough bad toy-related movies available, and more to come (Battleship, anyone?). So I skipped it.

I had added it to the DailyView watch list mainly after a Fatman Beyond podcast where Kevin Smith had said that he loved the movie. He also commented on the Rock’em Sock’em Robots link, but he said that there was a really strong connection in the story with Hugh Jackman and his son. He was right on both counts.

In Real Steel, Hugh Jackman played Charlie Kenton, a struggling ex-boxer who has taken up the robot fights to try and earn money. Charlie was not having any success and he owed money to many people, including his old mentor’s daughter Bailey (Evangeline Lilly).

As his luck continued to spiral out of control, he was given news that his ex-wife had died and that her sister Debra (Hope Davis) was looking to win custody of Charlie’s son Max (Dakota Goyo). Making a deal with Debra’s wealthy husband, Charlie would be paid off and would keep Max for the summer, while Debra was in Europe.

Max, unhappy at being dumped with the father that deserted him, started to pick up the robot fighting and helped out his father. On a raid of a junkyard, Max found a smaller robot, mostly in tact, that was an old sparring bot. Max made a connection with the robot, named Atom, and wanted Charlie to get Atom a fight.

Sure the movie is pretty predictable and follows those old boxing movie tropes consistently, but there is a charm and a heart-warming feel of Real Steel. Max is cute as can be and his training of Atom to dance is a highlight of the film, even winning over Charlie.

Despite the robots everywhere, this movie works because of the relationship between Charlie and Max. They had a terrible start, but Charlie’s path from trying to sell off Max to being a real father to him is very real and feels natural.

The robots are cool, and the CGI with them are awesome. You find yourself really rooting for Atom as he battles each fight, as they get more and more difficult. And yes, the fight fight with the overpowered Zeus is cliché, but it is surprisingly emotional too.

Anthony Mackie is in Real Steel as well, as a fast talking promoter, showing off Mackie’s skill at talking. He was a minor part of the movie, but he stole the scene every time he was on screen.

This is way more enjoyable than any Rock’em Sock’em Robots game might be.

The Bay (2012)

DailyView: Day 80, Movie 136

Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!

The DailyView movie today is one of the creepiest, frightening films that I have seen in years because it is so real and possible. The Bay is a found footage film that deals with a breakout of some parasitic disease that happened during the July 4th Crab Festival in the town of Claridge, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay.

The film is constructed like a documentary reorganized by a reporter Donna Thompson (Kether Donohue), the creepiest thing about the film is how this feels like something that could happen. I am really glad that I was not watching this at night.

The panic shown in the people on the clips was just frightening. Adding to the tone of the film was the imagery of this terrible sickness that seemingly came from the water and the parasites that are found within it.

Written and directed by Barry Levinson (screenplay by Michael Wallach), The Bay builds an unbelievable amount of tension and anxiety through what seemed like a harmless, fun summer celebration only to show the tragedy of the events and the desperation of the people in charge. The doctor (Stephen Kunken) and his determination to stay and do what he could do to help people while his staff retreated was inspiring, yet, in the end, a waste of time. Some of the scenes from the hospital shook me.

It is legitimately a movie that will stick with you, especially with what we just lived through the last year and a half with Covid-19. The water should be safe, but this film shows how easily something that is supposed to sustain life and make people’s lives better can be warped and mutated into something dangerous and deadly. The film never goes into exactly what happened, but it does imply several causations. These are completely scary.