Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! This batch includes a couple of mega-blockbusters from 2021, a couple of decent others, and one so-so that is still worth a watch. Let’s start with the so-so one.
Cry Macho (2021)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eduardo Minett, Natalia Traven, Dwight Yoakam, Fernanda Urrejola
Director: Clint Eastwood
Synopsis: The story opens as Mike (Eastwood,) a washed-up horse trainer, is fired by Howard (Yoakam,) his wealthy U.S. rancher boss. A year or so later Howard comes to Mike to ask a favor, for him to travel to Mexico to pick up Rafo (Minett,) his teenager son and bring him back to the ranch. He is told that Rafo is out of control and is not being raised properly by Leta, (Urrejola) his mother. When Mike gets to Mexico he finds out what is really going on with the situation. Mike and Rafo have a series of distractions and diversions along their way back to the U.S.
Impressions: Eastwood still has screen presence. I like how most of the cast are Mexican, much of the movie has English subtitles, and it shows Mexican community and home life in a positive light. Minett was great as the rebellious teenager. There is a notable lack of swearing and violence in it. It’s not the best movie out there but it does have its subtle charms.
Etc.: filmed in New Mexico; from imdb:
There had been multiple attempts to get this project made prior to Clint Eastwood’s adaptation, as the project remained on a shelf for about 30 years. In 1991, production on an adaptation began in Mexico with actor Roy Scheider in the lead role, but the project was eventually scrapped soon after. Another attempt was made in 2011 with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. It would have marked his return to acting after his term as California Governor. But like the Scheider version, the project was canceled before production could get very far.
Awards: 1 win
Lucky Day (2019)
Starring: Luke Bracey, Nina Dobrev, Crispin Glover, Ella Ryan Quinn, Cle Bennett, Clifton Collins, Jr.
Director: Roger Avary
Genres: action, crime, comedy
Synopsis: Red (Bracey) is just out of prison and gets on parole with a chops-busting Parole Agent Sanchez (Collins.) He’s resolute in trying to get back into a normal home routine with his wife, Chloe (Dobrev) and daughter, Beatrice (Quinn) as well as back to work at his locksmith business with his partner, Leroy/LeRoi (Bennett.) Things are falling into place nicely until Luc (Glover,) a maniac ghost from Red’s past, comes to call seeking revenge.
Impressions: I borrowed this one after seeing the jacket and reading the plot. Let me be honest and say Bracey looks pretty hot, a compelling combination of Charlie Hunnam and Tom Hardy. Also I am an easy mark for a maniac like Crispin Glover seeking revenge. I wasn’t disappointed and I was also pleasantly surprised at the development of the parole agent role. It’s fairly good for mindless entertainment while watching beautiful bodies move.
Etc.: from imdb:
filmed in Ontario, Canada; Although there are plenty of modern technologies on display in this film, such as 2019 model cars, flat screen televisions and Mrs. Kok’s assistant’s tablet device, oddly there is not a smart phone visible or iPhone ringtone to be heard. Instead, the hipster in the parking garage is shown with a slider phone similar to the one Neo used in the Matrix, Chloe has not only an old style rotary phone at home (with the number clearly shown in a pre-internet age style as JAckson-9232) but she carries an older flip phone in her purse.
Awards: 1 win and 4 nominations
Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgard, and many many more
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Genres: sci-fi, action, adventure
Synopsis: Based on the Frank Herbert Dune novels, it tells the story of Atreides Family and their feud with the Harkonnen Family over Planet Arrakis, which holds the valuable energy source called spice. Spice is linked to the giant worms that traverse the endless desert and is part of the religious practices of the indigenous peoples. Where the Harkonnens, led by the Baron (a repulsively made-up Skarsgard,) have installed themselves as brutal exploiters that are trying to commit genocide on the people, the Emperor of the Galaxy (?) suddenly orders them to leave and asks the Atreides to leave their lush world to replace the Harkonnens on Arrakis. The Atreides agree; they hope to negotiate a peace between themselves and the people. Of course this sets up a mighty antagonism between the two Houses – just what the Emperor wants to see, as Duke Leto Atreides (Isaac) has become too powerful and is a growing threat to the Emperor’s rule. The plot mostly revolves around Duke Leto’s son, Paul (Chalamet) and his Witch mother, Lady Jessica (Ferguson.)
Impressions: This is a BIG movie, best seen on a big screen. Villeneuve earned his chops for me on Blade Runner 2049, and he’s up to the task of galaxy building in Dune. This is designed as just part one of a string of movies, so don’t expect any conclusions at the end of this one. There is a Star Wars -like feel to it, with all of the flying machines, the creatures, the mysticism, the good vs. evil battle, the fate of existence riding on the shoulders of one person. It’s an epic film that is ambitious and realizes good success with it. I’m not sure I’m as invested in Paul Atreides as I was in Luke Skywalker at this point, but I’m invested enough to watch the next movie. The casting couldn’t be better in my opinion.
Awards: 99 wins and 301 nominations
one of 102 bits of trivia from imdb:
Although not mentioned in the movie, the Great Houses originally come from Earth, explaining the use of Latin terms (such as ‘Bene Gesserit’, meaning ‘well done’, and the name Gaius), the Scandinavian word ‘Landsraad’, and the Dutch name ‘De Vries’. Although they live on planet Caladan, the Atreides family has their roots in Earth’s Greece, where the Minoan civilization was strongly associated with the bull-creature Minotaurus. This may explain the Atreides’ use of bull imagery and the implication that Paul’s grandfather died in a bullfight. In the extended universe, an ancient Atreides ancestor had traced his lineage back to the Greek King Atreus, a character mentioned in the Greek Iliad. He adopted the surname ‘Atreides’, which literally means ‘son of Atreus’.
Everything is Illuminated (2005 )
Starring: Eugene Hutz, Elijah Wood, Boris Lyoskin, Laryssa Lauret
Director: Liev Schreiber
Synopsis: I couldn’t write a better synopsis than this excellent one at imdb by Huggo :
Jewish-American writer Jonathan Safran Foer is a collector of his family’s memorabilia, although most of the items, some which he takes without asking, would not be considered keepsakes by the average person. He places most of those items in individual Ziploc bags, and hangs them on his keepsake wall under the photograph of the person to who it is most associated. He has this compulsion in an effort to remember. He is able to tie a photograph that he receives from his grandmother, Sabine Foer, on her deathbed – it of his grandfather, Safran Foer, during the war in the Ukraine, and a young woman he will learn is named Augustine – back to a pendant he stole from his grandfather on his deathbed in 1989, the pendant of a glass encased grasshopper. Learning that Augustine somehow saved his grandfather’s life leads to Jonathan going on a quest to find out the story at its source where the photograph was taken, in a now non-existent and probably largely forgotten town called Trachimbrod that was razed by the Nazis during the war, he armed only with his limited knowledge, the pendant, his grandfather’s Star of David necklace, the photograph, tip “money”, and an old and largely outdated map. Prior to arriving in the Ukraine, Jonathan prearranges the guide services of Odessa-based Heritage Tours, which specializes in helping Jewish expats discover their past. The company is owned and operated by three generations of the Alexander Perchov family, who generally think Jewish people are stupid for wanting to revisit their past, and spend large sums of money for their services in doing so. The three from Heritage assigned to Jonathan’s file are: the company founder Alexander I (“Grandpa”), the retired, non-blind blind man who will be the driver; his “seeing eye” dog, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., a deranged bitch of a dog; and Alexander III (“Alex”), a western pop cultural loving young man, whose broken English will need to suffice for translation. Jonathan will learn that his guides are a loving but dysfunctional lot who have little interest in helping him beyond taking his money. But during their time together, this quest will affect Jonathan, Grandpa and Alex in different ways, all tied to the value of remembering.
Impressions: I found this by chance when doing a library database search for Liev Schreiber, who directs, after jonesing for him post-Ray Donovan. I love Schreiber and was curious to see his work as a director. Also, my admiration for Wood as an actor has grown over the years. The plot sounded intriguing. At the time I watched this Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hadn’t happened. It makes the film all the more special now that it has.
First and foremost this film is about heart connections. Love transcends all temporal constraints. There is a sly humor to it that I very much enjoyed. The three main characters, Alex (Hutz) the young rapper wannabe guide; Jonathan (Wood) the quiet, awkward, and oddball young tourist; and Grandpa (Lyoskin,) the crusty old “blind” driver have a special chemistry between them. They are trapped together on this long, seemingly wild goose chase in the cab and it just feels right. I truly adored Hutz in this. Although this is ostensibly about the American’s journey, it is just as much his journey.
Etc.: based on a novel of the same name written by Jonathan Safran Foer; filmed in Ukraine and in the Czech Republic
Awards: 7 wins and 6 nominations
No Time to Die (2021)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Genres: action adventure
Synopsis: Again, I defer to imdb for this sweet synopsis by vsuperkuns :
Living peacefully with Madeleine [Seydoux,] an attempt by Spectre on his life forces James Bond [Craig] into exile. 5 years later, Felix Leiter [Wright] finds Bond and asks for help to find [Blofeld (Waltz),] a rogue scientist. Bond delves back into the life he left behind and after learning secrets from his past, he must cooperate with MI6 to hunt down [Lyutsifer Safin (Malek),] a fanatic, who plans to release of an incurable biological weapon, capable of eradicating the human race.
Impressions: It’s the usual. Fantastic, exotic locations, thrilling stunts and special effects, glamorous and extremely attractive people being physically fit and brave. Craig has never looked better. I don’t think he should retire from the role. Malek makes a particularly repulsive and despicable villain in this.
Etc.: filmed in an amazing 124 locations; budget was an estimated $250,000,000 with cumulative worldwide gross of over $613,000,000.
Awards: 23 wins and 67 nominations
One of 353 bits of trivia on imdb on this movie:
For the Italy set vehicle chases, the production utilized about 8,400 gallons or 31,797 litres of Coca-Cola poured on ancient streets in Matera, Italy at a cost to the production of about EUR 60,000 euros (equal to USD $77,000, Australian $100,000 and UK sterling £50,000). The reason: Coke acts as a liquid adhesive. For example, it was used for the motorbike jump scene in order to make the ramp surface sticky so as to deter the bike from sliding. Reportedly, the production spilt the soft drink all over the streets of Matera for the bike and car chases requiring a big clean up job afterwards. Stunt Coordinator Lee Morrison said: “I’ve been spraying Coca-Cola on slippery surfaces for a very long time” with the drink able to “make things look very clean after it washes off“.