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What Are You Watching? Here's What I Saw Last Week

I had hernia surgery last week, so I had lots of time to watch movies and read books. I read so much that my books-to-movies ratio was almost equal. You’ll see several movies in a row starting with the letter B. That’s because I’m slowly (and alphabetically) going through the unwatched DVDs and Blu-rays in my collection.

So here’s what I watched, and at the end, I’ll let you in on a little secret.


The Outsider (TV 2020) Library DVD

Maybe it was due to the fact that I’d recently finished reading the Stephen King source material, but this HBO series simply didn’t hold up. While the acting was good, the screenplay’s pacing never felt right. Part of what makes the novel so compelling is the slow realization (by the characters, not the reader) that something supernatural is at work in a seemingly ordinary town among seemingly ordinary people. If that’s what we’re after, is it really necessary to make every scene (indoor and outdoor) so visually dark? (“Evil has come to town,” I get it.) Also the character of Holly, although expertly played by Cynthia Erivo, is nowhere near as unique and compelling as in the novel. Still worth a look, but this miniseries was ultimately disappointing.

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) John D. Hancock - Ex-Library DVD

Robert De Niro plays Bruce, a catcher for a professional New York baseball team that looks like (but isn’t) the Yankees. Bruce, from Georgia (Yes, De Niro with a Southern accent), has a terminal illness that only his best buddy, the star pitcher Henry (Michael Moriatry), knows about. Erratic tone shifts and some pretty bad baseball scenes make me say no to keeping this DVD. But it was fun watching Vincent Gardenia as the team manager. Let’s just say that De Niro’s next project (Mean Streets) fared much better.

Because of You (1952) Joseph Pevney - Kino Lorber Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema V Blu-ray box set

This movie is so wrong in so many ways… Loretta Young plays Christine, a platinum blonde whose boyfriend (Alex Nicol) gets busted. They both go to prison, but Christine goes brunette and betters herself by studying to become nurse. While treating a wounded soldier (Jeff Chandler) who falls in love with her, things totally fall apart: their relationship, logical thinking, and the script.

Between Two Worlds (1944) Edward A. Blatt - Ex-Library DVD

Seeking rescue from a WWII London blitz attack, two lovers (Paul Heinreid and Eleanor Parker) attempt to board an ocean liner and don’t make it. Or do they? They appear to be safely on the ship with other passengers, but there’s no visible crew. A good cast (John Garfield, Sydney Greenstreet, Edmund Gwenn, George Tobias, Faye Emerson, George Coulouris, Sara Allgood) make the film interesting, but anyone who’s seen even one Twilight Zone episode (from any era) will know what’s going on. I liked it well enough until the last five minutes, which were unforgivable.

Big Jake (1971) George Sherman - Paramount Blu-ray (2x)

Rescue/revenge story with John Wayne playing an aging cattle man who kicks things into gear by attempting to rescue his kidnapped grandson. The year is 1909, and in case we need any reminders that the times are catching up with Big Jake, the producers provide the audience with ample shots of a motorcycle, a rifle with a scope, and more violence than audiences were used to from a John Wayne film. Too many logistical problems and clichés for me. At least the scenes with Richard Boone are good.

Broken Arrow (1950) Delmer Daves - Kino Lorber Blu-ray

I plan to write more about this Western in the coming days. For right now I’ll say that I admire what the film is trying to do, but the romance subplot is painful.

Force of Evil (1948) Abraham Polonsky (3x) Kino Lorber Blu-ray

Hey, two John Garfield movies this week! My third time around, and I like this film better each time. It's got it all: corruption, two brothers pitted against each other, and more. The Imogen Sara Smith audio commentary makes this one a must-own.

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) Maya Deren - Criterion Channel

After watching this mesmerizing short film, I am going to have to pick up The Maya Deren Collection Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, no doubt.

Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies (1927-1928) Undercrank Productions DVD

This two-disc DVD set of two-reel comedies is a pure delight. Highly recommended!

Killing Them Softly (2012) Andrew Dominik - used bookstore Blu-ray

This film is soooooo heavy-handed, which ruins the otherwise great look and feel of the film. If you listen to them, the conversations are (usually) far more important than the violence, and they should've been allowed to do most of the heavy lifting. The Pitt/Jenkins scenes provide a nice comedic element while at the same time reinforce the thematic elements of American business far more than blaring TV and radio reports on the economy. This should've been great.

Now first of all, I’d love to know what you watched last week.

Second, I noticed a definite increase in negativity in my responses to most of these films. What does this say about me? What does it say about all of us when we respond to movies in such a way? I’ll take a look at that next time. Thanks for reading!

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