Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! There’s a fairly good batch in a varied mix of genres. Something for everyone.
The Ballad of Lefty Brown (2017)
Starring: Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Tommy Flanagan, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Stephen Alan Seder, Joseph Lee Anderson, Tyson Gerhardt, Lewis Pullman, Joe Anderson, Diego Josef, Adam O’Byrne, Dillinger Steele, Michael Speers, Seth Carlin, Tony Hernandez, Emily Rasmuss, Nathan McTague, and many more.
Director: Jared Moshe
Genres: action, drama, western
Synopsis: Set in the 1800’s, four cowboys rode together when they were young; now that they are in their 60’s, one is governor (played by Caviezel,) one is a gunslinger-turned-US Marshal (played by Flanagan,) one is a rancher who was recently elected Senator (played by Fonda,) and then there is Lefty (played by Bill Pullman,) who has been the rancher’s often regarded as inept ranch hand/sidekick for over 40 years. Tragedy strikes early when one of the four is killed. The rest of the movie is about Lefty hunting down the killer of one of his best friends.
Impressions: I really liked this movie and a lot of my like is due to Bill Pullman. Lefty’s character is one that draws you in, as he is the reluctant hero and also a scapegoat, which makes it that much more challenging to accomplish his goal of finding and then bringing to justice whoever killed his friend. Like any hero’s journey, it’s danged difficult and dangerous; yet in the process the hero is transformed. Pullman does a wonderful job of inhabiting the role and showing the metamorphosis, and this in a man in his 60’s! I like the message it sends, that you’re never too old to go on a hero’s journey! Caviezel, Flanagan, Fonda, and Baker are also committed to their roles. I have a tender spot for Flanagan and it is so good to see him given a meaty role. The landscape shots are ongoing and magnificent.
Etc.: imdb says: Lewis Pullman is Bill Pullman’s son; filmed in 6 locations in Montana, USA; “Lefty” does everything right-handed in the film; his character is based on Lefty BJ Wheeler.
Awards: 1 win and 1 nomination
other imdb trivia:
The town scenes late in the film were shot in the ghost town of Bannack, now a Montana State Park. Bannack was the first capital of the Montana Territory and did have a brief history of vigilante hangings, and while the governor was not hanged, one of the sheriffs was, the infamous Henry Plummer. Many buildings from the 1800s remain in Bannack, including the brick Hotel Meade.
Life After Beth (2014)
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, Matthew Grey Gubler, Anna Kendrick, Eva La Dare, and many more.
Director: Jeff Baena
Genres: comedy, horror
Synopsis: Beth (played by Plaza) and Zach (played by DeHaan) are a high school couple that are on the rocks – when Beth dies in a freak accident. Zach is doubly hit and is lost in grief. The only thing that seems to bring him comfort is to spend time with Beth’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Slocum (played by Reilly and Shannon.) He is astounded to learn the Beth isn’t really dead. Or is she?
Impressions: There is so much to like about this movie. Look at the cast! Plaza and DeHaan are the stars but Reilly and Shannon as Beth’s parents and Reiser and Hines as Zach’s parents do a decent job, yet are left more in the periphery than the main action. Zach’s older brother, Kyle (played by Gubler,) is probably the most interesting character in the movie. There is some graphic gore as Beth decomposes but not a huge amount. This film is more comedy than horror. Think “Shaun of the Dead,” but not as many zombies. One weakness of the film is that you never learn what has randomly started turning the small town’s dead, mostly their family members, into zombies. I think there is a metaphor in there somewhere but I didn’t look too hard to find it. It’s good for what it is, light-hearted comedy, with a nuclear-powered cast that was alternately over-utilized and underutilized.
Etc.: This is Dane DeHaan’s first comedy role.
Awards: 6 nominations
The Time Machine (1960)
Starring: Rod Taylor, Alan Young (in two roles,) Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot, Tom Helmore, Whit Bissell, Doris Lloyd, and many more.
Director: George Pal
Genres: adventure, sci-fi, romance
Synopsis: H.G.Wells (played by Taylor) has built a time machine and tries to convince his mostly stodgy friends through a simple demonstration with a toy-like model of the real one, which doesn’t go over well. It doesn’t stop H.G. from going forward way forward in time to a place that at first looks suspiciously like prehistoric times. The people are simple-minded and ruled by an “evolved” underground dwellers group that herd the above-grounders like modern humans herd cattle. Of course H.G. has fallen in love with the beautiful and naive Weena (played by Mimieux) and does everything in his power to keep her and the other humans safe from the clutches of those who would do them harm.
Impressions: Taylor plays a believable time traveler who is a good one to have in your corner in a pinch. The sets are fairly simple and the beasts who dwell underground are horrible. There are some neat special effects, especially with the department store window across the street from his house.
Etc.: from imdb: Alan Young (David Filby/James Filby) is the only actor to appear in both this film and the remake, The Time Machine (2002).
Awards: 1 win (an Oscar) and 1 nomination
Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Tabu, Radhika Apte, Anil Dhawan, Manav Vij, Ashwini Kalsekar, Chhaya Kadam, Zakir Hussain, Rashmi Agdekar, Abhishek Shukla, Mohini Kewalramani, Nikitasha Kapoor, Saumin Patel, Hera Sajid, and many more.
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Genres: drama, crime
Synopsis: Akash (played by Khurrana) is a blind concert pianist preparing for a competition in London who suddenly finds himself with a romantic interest (played by Apte,) a job playing piano at Franco’s, a cafe/club, and being piano teacher to Daani (played by Agdekar) the daughter of Pramad Sinha (played by Dhawan) an aging movie star. Pramad married Simi (played with great relish by Tabu) 3 years previous and everyone knows it wasn’t for love but money and ambition. Enter also a corrupt police officer (played by Vij,) his long-suffering wife (played by Kalsecar,) an opportunistic doctor (played by Hussain,) and other assorted characters and you’ve got yourself the makings of a madcap though intricately orchestrated series of events where you never know what’s going to happen next; yet everything ties together neatly in the end.
Impressions: I found this movie in my search at imdb in a list of “top foreign movies” for Hans Movie Draft. The rating was so high and the plot so intriguing I wanted to see it. There are several harrowing moments where you don’t know whether to laugh or scream, but you are always being entertained. There is a plethora of criminal activity going on and some graphic suggestions of heinous acts, but there is very little blood or gore in it. The acting is really good by all involved. There are some nice touches in here that make it quality movie-making.
Etc.: Indian film, filmed in multiple locations in Pune, Maharashtra, India and Kraków, Malopolskie, Poland. English subtitles, but the language often mixes English into it.
Awards: 27 wins and 35 nominations
The Phenom (2016)
Starring: Johnny Simmons, Ethan Hawke, Paul Giamatti, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Allison Elliot, Yul Vazquez, Paul Adelstein, Marin Ireland, Louisa Krause, Frank Wood, Meg Gibson, Elizabeth Marvel, Emily Fleischer, and many more.
Director: Noah Buschel
Genres: drama, baseball
Synopsis: The imdb plot summary says:
A Major League rookie pitcher loses control over his pitching and is sent down to the minor leagues, where he begins sessions with an unorthodox sports psychologist. In the process, hidden conflicts with his overbearing father are brought to light.
Hopper (played by Simmons) plays the rookie. Giamatti plays Dr. Mobley, the psychologist. As the sessions continue, Hopper Senior (played by Hawke) keeps coming up as a source of so much angst for the younger Hopper. Senior was also a phenom in high school but for one reason or another he sabotaged himself and ended up on a long criminal career path leading to a series of prison terms due to anti-social personality disorder. The film focuses on how the young phenom tries to keep it together on the mound while processing a lifetime of being pushed to the limits, often abusively so, by his father. A substantial part of the movie also takes place when Hopper is still in high school.
Impressions: For those who love baseball (Hi Hans, Max, and Dave!) I think this movie would be one you’d want to see. The whole thing takes place in the world of baseball. The performances in it are powerful. It’s fairly low-key and low-paced but intense at the same time.
Etc.: imdb trivia: Paul Giamatti’s dad, Angelo Bartlett Giamatti, was a very important figure in baseball. He was Commissioner of Major League Baseball.;
Awards: none known