Showing posts with label heist movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label heist movies. Show all posts

Friday, September 23, 2016

Parker Watch: The Split (1968)

I'd been wanting to see The Split (1968) for a while.  Based upon one of my favorite Parker novels, The Seventh, it also starred Jim Brown, pro-football superstar turned movie star (and a generally much better presence on the big screen than you generally get out of other former athletes*).  I wasn't aware of the pedigree of the cast for this movie which is all but forgotten.  But when you have a movie with Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Julie Harris, Jack Klugman, Warren Oates, Gene Hackman, Diahann Carroll... and people don't remember it?

Well, it's not a great sign.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Noir Watch: Criss Cross (1949)

I just remembered that I'd failed to write up a movie I watched last week, 1949's Criss Cross, starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarlo and the always hiss-able Dan Duryea.

The movie seemed to be trying to recapture a bit of the magic of 1946's The Killers, also starring Lancaster, with Ava Gardner as the twisty (and, let's be honest, dangerously sexy) femme fatale.  That picture is surely one of the purest examples of what we think of when we think about noir.  In Criss Cross, once again Lancaster plays a fellow who can be led astray by a good looking brunette - not stumbling across a mobsters' girl this time, but coming home to Los Angeles, trying to tell himself it's not so he'll see his ex, Anna (the terrific Yvonne DeCarlo), but to settle in and lead a domestic life with his parents and brother.  Get his old job back.  But before he's even made it in the front door of the family house, he's back at his old haunt, seeing how things have changed.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

To Sterling Hayden on his 100th Birthday

Short of Harrison Ford, there aren't too many actors I look at and think "that guy is so cool.  I wish I were that guy."  But, yes, Sterling Hayden is absolutely one of those guys.  Maybe throw in Alan Ladd.

Today marks the 100th birthday of Sterling Hayden, the tall, tough-guy actor in two of my favorite noir movies of all time, The Killing and The Asphalt Jungle.  Of course, he was also the whacked out General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove and Capt. McCluskey in The Godfather.  And, for extra credit, he was in Johnny Guitar (as Johnny Guitar), mooning over a pancake-make-upped Joan Crawford.

Here's an article in The Boston Globe celebrating Hayden.  He sounds like maybe he was a difficult man, but I respect anyone who ran away to sea at 17 to sail the world and was in the 20th century up to his elbows as much as he was.  He was a goddamn commando in the OSS!  He flirted with being a Red!  He hated acting and just wanted to be on boats!

No one quite did world-weary-but-seemingly-invulnerable like Hayden.

If you've not seen The Asphalt Jungle, do so now.  It's got Monroe in an early role, it's directed by John Huston, and has Jean Hagen in a heartbreaking role as Doll.  And, of course, Hayden as Dix, the heist man who just wants to get back what his family lost in Kentucky.  Failing that, watch The Killing.  Which is early Kubrick, features a platinum Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook, Jr. and a host of other perfectly noir faces.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Caine Watch: The Italian Job (1969)

Sunday evening, our own SimonUK - who moonlights as a server at The Alamo Drafthouse near my house - was given the opportunity to take it up a notch with their "Staff Presents" program, wherein a member of the staff not usually in programming selects a movie and the Alamo shows it.

You like movies.  I like movies.  We all like movies.  Simon LOVES movies.  He lives amongst piles of them and may well have underwear made of celluloid taped into a rough briefs shape.  I don't know.  And, no matter how many movies you think you've seen, Simon has seen more.  During the Alamo pre-shows when they're showing clips of deep-cut obscure 1970's horror flicks, Simon has seen them all.

Simon is from some far-flung part of England I can never remember, so he had access to movies we really didn't in the U.S., and he's seen a goodly chunk of American movies we all watched growing up, too.  Every once in a while I'm surprised he hasn't seen something from a typical American kid of the 1980's heyday, but not all that often.  He's been responsible for me seeing a lot of flat out great stuff the past several years, gotten me out of the house for Planet of the Apes marathons, etc...  and for all that and more, and making me eat a Full English Breakfast only once, I am forever in his debt.

So, while I had previously seen The Italian Job (1969), when I heard he was showing and introducing the movie, I couldn't not go.  Plus, I really like the movie.  It's good, cheery fun and a great heist pic.  Plus: Michael Caine.

Parker Watch: The Outfit (1973)

I've seen a few adaptations of the Richard Stark-penned series of crime novels starring heist-man, Parker.  Point Blank (great), Payback (not so great), Parker (really not so great).   Maybe another one or two.  But The Outfit (1973) was maybe the closest to an actual Parker book in spirit and execution.  I won't dwell on the differences, because they're many, but the movie does use scenes from the book in whole and in part (it's been a while since I read the early Parker books, and I think they pulled a scene or two from other Parker books, but I may be wrong).

The movie captures a lot about the world of Parker.  It's a lot of backroads, hiding or waiting in cheap motel rooms, the people you try to work with are unreliable and dangerous, and the people who are the closest thing to something you'd call "friend" tend to wind up dead, in prison or both.

I really didn't know much about the movie before SimonUK brought it over Sunday morning for a view, other than that it starred Robert Duvall in the Parker role - here named "Macklin" (author Richard Stark wouldn't let films use the name "Parker" - I suppose until they made a straight adaptation).  The film co-stars Karen Black and Joe Don F'ing Baker.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

McQueen Watch: The Getaway (1972)

Full confession time.

I haven't seen that much in the way of Sam Peckinpah.  It's not usually something I think Jamie will like, and as we watch movies together, I haven't seen The Wild Bunch since college.  And, prior to this evening, I'd never seen this movie, but I didn't know it was Peckinpah until the credits rolled.  I just didn't say anything to Jamie because, well, I really wanted to watch this movie.

I also haven't watched all that many Walter Hill movies, and only saw The Warriors sometime in the last 12-24 months.  And I loved it for what it was.

And, of Jim Thompson's work, I've also only read The Killer Inside Me.  And, at that, a long time ago, and I barely remember it.

Still, I'm familiar with all of their work by reputation.  You can't watch and read what I do and not have that stuff enter your sphere a little.

I wanted to watch this because it's one of the three or four "must watch" Steve McQueen movies, and I'd never gotten around to it, and, I'll be honest, I'm totally kicking myself for not having had watched this 20 years ago so I could have re-watched it a bunch by now.  It's a @#$%ing good movie.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah.  Written for the screen by Walter Hill, based on a novel by Jim Thompson.  Shot in Huntsville, San Marcos, San Antonio and other parts of Texas.  Starring Steve McQueen and with a small role by Slim Pickens.

What's not to like?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Adapting "Parker" for the big screen and changing the rules

"Civilized people need to follow rules.  These are mine:
I don't steal from people who can't afford it and I don't hurt people who don't deserve it.  Most importantly, you say you'll do something and you don't, I'll make sure you regret it."

I'm not an expert on Richard Stark's character Parker, but I have read several of the books in the Parker crime-novel series.  They're short, easy to read, good airplane stuff.  I'm not even sure there's an arc to Parker's character development until around the seventh book.  That's, as we say, a feature, not a bug.

I really like Parker novels in part not because I relate to Parker as a master-thief, but because I think in some ways I relate to Parker as someone who spends a lot of time planning things out, enough so to improvise if things go poorly, but I also become fairly irritated when people's quirks and personalities get in the way of the plan when - darn it - we all knew the plan.

However, I am just slightly less inclined than Parker to actually straight up blow up my co-workers if I feel they messed up a project.

There's a movie coming out based on one of the later books in the Parker series. Hollywood being the clever folks they are have named the movie Parker, and are not starting at the beginning of the series. You've likely seen ads with Jason Statham and (yes, people are still hiring her) Jennifer Lopez.

I find it fascinating that J-Lo actually has fans in 2013

The quote above is from the Parker trailer.  If the trailer looks like a standard, inexpensive Jason Statham action movie, I am guessing you are not far off.  The critics at Rottentomatoes certainly seem to feel that way.

The quote of Parker's rules - the thing that gets you to know the character and makes you interested in the character - is not from the books and, really, if casting Jason Statham wasn't a weird enough choice, this little good-guy-thief code has nothing to do with Parker's rules or the purpose of those rules in the series of books.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Noir City Special! Noir Watch: "The Killers" and "Point Blank"

On Saturday night, the Noir City festival scheduled two films from the 1960's, both starring Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin.  Angie Dickinson appeared as a special guest and we all got to enjoy Eddie Muller's interview conducted on stage.  I am happy to say that Ms. Dickinson lived up to the hype.

This year's Noir City programming strayed into (gasp) some color-era films, which immediately raises eyebrows and draws some suspicion regarding whether its true noir, at least partly because the societal forces that drove the era most thought of as noir were now passing into the rearview mirror.  By the 1960's, we'd had World War II and Korea, and were headed for Vietnam, but the US was firing on all cylinders economically.  But the underlying questions of the corruption caused by wealth (or opportunity for wealth), and the irrational things a guy will do for the wrong girl seemed as universal as ever.

The Killers (1964) is, ostensibly, based upon the Ernest Hemingway short story of the same name, but is really based upon the 1946 film starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.  Only the barest hints of the original short story remain, and the template of two intimidating thugs shaking down unprepared chumps wasn't exactly fresh by 1964.

Still, the movie works in all the ways it should as a competent heist movie.  As mentioned, the film stars Marvin as one of the pair of contract killers and Dickinson as the love interest of John Cassevetes as the film's protagonist.  In the world of seeing things you thought you'd never see, the first shot of Ronald Reagan* as Jack Browning (Reagan's final film role) paired with a pre-Mr. Roper Norman Fell as his thuggish companion drew an audible reaction from the audience at The Castro.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sting and Five Against the House

Last night we watched The Sting (which I'd never seen) and then, after Jamie had drifted off to Sleepytime Junction, I watched a an ostensibly noir flick called Five Against the House

There's not a whole lot to be said about The Sting.  It's already a popular movie and I'm late to the game on the discussion.  I always like Paul Newman, and Robert Redford was most definitely, as always, Robert Redford.  I guess I was a little surprised to find the impetus for the characters setting up "the sting" was pretty much the "young handsome male" has his "aging black mentor" killed off by the movie's villain, ie: The Simpson's Mendoza.

The first meeting of The Handsome Men's Club

George Roy Hill was a talented director, and I think all of that's on display here.  But aside from Robert Shaw as the movie's villain, it sometimes - especially in the first act - it feels a bit like "hey, we're modern actors having fun playing as if we're in an old timey movie!" rather than just playing it straight as a period movie. 

I don't want to say I didn't like The Sting, but its not going to find its way to the top of my list.

For Christmas, I received two different collections of film noir from Jason.  Its pretty neat, as I really don't know many of the movies, so every time I put one in, I don't know what to expect.  Last night, because it featured Kim Novak, I pulled Five Against the House from the selections.

It's a heist flick, and more along the lines of a B-Noir than something like Out of the Past.  The set-up is that, basically, four college buddies get bored and decide to see if they can rob a casino they visited once.  Now, two of those buddies are law students who've served in Korea, so they're a bit older.  And Kim Novak is a nightclub chanteuse girlfriend of the one who isn't suffering from PTSD.

While the movie is enjoyable enough, and the actors and plot more or less engaging enough, somebody knew the movie had one big selling point:

well, it got ME to watch the movie
It is a bit unusual in that its not a movie about guys pushed to an extreme, seeking revenge, etc...  quite literally, it starts off as a movie about four fun-living college buddies who decide to rob a casino because they're bored and they'd like to try to do something they think can't be done.

The movie is fun enough, but I'd mention it for two reasons.

1)  There's a shot very, very similar the one used in The Graduate; the famous "Dustin Hoffman framed by Anne Bancroft's leg" shot. Its almost hard to believe someone didn't remember that one.  Kim Novak, ya'll.

I'm not crazy, right?
The movie is oddly frank about sex for a 1955-era flick.  It seems Novak has been with a few dudes prior to meeting our hero (to his credit, he's pretty open minded on that score), and Brian Keith flat out announces "hey, I had sex" in an early scene after meeting a casino patron. 

2)  Soderbergh is a really smart guy, and I have to believe that when he was prepping for a big budget remake of the goofy-fun Ocean's 11, he also checked out a huge number of other casino heist movies to get inspiration.  I can't help but think that part of his inspiration for Yen's part of the plan was inspired not by what actually happens in Five Against the House, but by what they tell other people they're doing, which is smuggling an ex-jockey into the casino in a box (which they've rigged up with a tape recorder and speaker).

While its not what Soderbergh did, its not too hard to make the leap.  Then again, how many ways can you really get an inside man into a casino, I guess.

I am in favor of a good heist movie (see:  The Killing), but this one is set up a bit oddly in that it all seems to lack real motivation, and that the stakes are non-existent for our leads.  The most dramatic tension occurs between the romantic leads, and whether Kim Novak will flake on our baritone-voiced hero.  The heist feels a little gimmicky, and there's not a lot of the usual fun in understanding the set-up, which... after watching The Sting, which is all set up, it just felt wrong.

5 Against the House is not going to go down on anyone's list as better than The Big Sleep, and were it not for the slow roll out of the PTSD storyline and its conclusion, I'd have a hard time labeling the movie as noir at all (not all heist movies are noir movies.  See:  Ocean's 11 and its remake,  Ocean's 11).  But it was okay, I suppose.