Saturday, December 4, 2021

What I've Caught Up With, November 2021

It’s been since before Thanksgiving that I’ve posted; I think this is the longest I’ve gone between posts since I started, but I might be wrong about that. I think, like a lot of people, I’m struggling still with the idea of COVID; my days sometimes seem over before they’ve begun. I’d love to tell you I’m going to rededicate myself to this blog in the coming months, but who knows? I’m going to try to post more; that’s all I can say. That said, I did get through four “bonus” movies in November. Not all of them were new to me, but they were all movies that I’d never put up a review on.

What I’ve Caught Up With, November 2021:
Film: The Hunt for Red October (1990)

A classic of Cold War intrigue and skullduggery, The Hunt for Red October concerns a Russian nuclear submarine with new “shift in world power” technology is under the command of a man who decides, with his officers, to defect. I’d love to tell you the name of the ship’s commander, but he’s played by Sean Connery, who couldn’t be bothered to even pretend a Russian accent. A star-studded cast includes Sam Neill, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, and the always-entertaining Tim Curry along with a brief cameo from James Earl Jones and a great role for Courtney B. Vance. It’s fun, but in today’s world, it seems hopelessly dated. Those who can’t get enough of military minutiae will enjoy their 2-hour-and-change erection.

Film: The Day of the Jackal (1973)

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with The Day of the Jackal. I knew the basics of the story, but not the full story. It plays out almost like a documentary, but it’s much closer to a Cold War spy drama, which I suppose it sort of is. An assassin (Edward Fox) code named Jackal, is hired by a group of French rebels to assassinate Charles de Gaulle, who they feel gave away Algeria unnecessarily. The film follows the Jackal’s movements, attempts to get papers and into France and more as well as the team working for de Gaulle discovering the plot and searching for the assassin. The Jackal comes across as mildly sympathetic, at least for a while, but the entire film is oddly sterile. It’s good, but I can’t imagine sitting through it again.

Film: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

There are plenty of classic Halloween movies and a metric ton of classic Christmas movies, but classic Thanksgiving movies are few and far between. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is one of those rare films. This is an odd couple movie, where marketing dude Neal (Steve Martin) finds himself plagued by loveable goofy salesman Gil (John Candy) as the two attempt to get from New York to Chicago through flights rerouted to Wichita, trains and buses to Saint Louis, and eventually a terrible rental car. It’s heartwarming and sweet and completely ridiculous and impossible not to fall for. Martin and Candy are equally brilliant, and while the events go to extremes, it really is the intent that matters with this one.

Film: Come to Daddy (2019)

I don’t know that I really liked Come to Daddy, but I really like what Elijah Wood has done with his postLotR career. Rather than doing big blockbusters, he’s doing indie horror movies and weird low-budget movies because he doesn’t have to do anything else if he doesn’t want to. Here, as Norval, he gets a letter from his estranged father and goes to pay him a visit. Things go badly and become violent. There’s a very nice performance here from Stephen McHattie, who I tend to like as an actor. For all of the really horrifying violence in this, the most egregious part of it might well be Elijah Wood’s mustache and bizarre bowl haircut.


  1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the third movie I can name with a PERFECT final shot. The other two are, as you know, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Monsters, Inc. Interestingly, all three shots are almost identical, involving a likable lunk smiling into the camera. And now I've got a tear in my eye thinking about them.

    1. John Candy is one of those actors who makes me laugh just being on screen.

  2. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is a classic as is The Hunt for Red October. I love those 2 films.

    1. Red October is a fine film, but I want to like it more than I do. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is ridiculous and splendid in exactly the right ways.

  3. I hated Come To Daddy because I was expecting it to be a lot more fun than it was, but I also love what Elijah has done with his career. I still really like the Maniac remake he did.

    1. I didn't love Maniac, but I didn't like the original that much, either. I agree with you on Wood's career, though. He's doing whatever he wants, and good on him for doing it.

  4. I liked Red October but I can't say it blew me out of my socks. It reminded me of The Enemy Below, Run Silent, Run Deep and so many other sub movies. That's not a bad thing but there wasn't much to distinguish it from any of those other flicks.

    I loved Day of the Jackal. It is chilly and distant but then so is the lead character so it makes sense that it would be that way. The fact that I wasn't overly familiar with most of the cast helped feed into that documentary feel. I did know Edward Fox, he's usually stuck playing veddy British gentleman but that very reserve that got him typecast in that zone is exactly right for the detached Jackal. The remake with Richard Gere and Bruce Willis fumbled so many of those elements and it became just another actioner.

    Planes, goofy fun elevated by the two leads who have the sort of chemistry that can't be manufactured but when it happens makes a bad movie watchable and a decent one like this excel.

    I'm unfamiliar with Come to Daddy and with the less than glowing terms you used to review it I don't think I'll make it a priority to track down. I like Elijah Wood as an actor most of the time but not always the films he's in.

    I'm still going with my birthday project (just one month left and I'll have made it!) and November was no different than most. A lot of not bad, not great films but few really terrible and only two to recommend.

    The first isn't even a film but a Playhouse 90 that looks at the backstage turmoil of another of their productions. Called "The Man in the Funny Suit" it's a dramatization of the lead up to the live broadcast of the original "Requiem for a Heavyweight". The producer of the show reached out to Ed Wynn, whose career at that time was in eclipse though he refused to believe it, to play his first dramatic role opposite his son Keenan. He accepted but during rehearsals had massive trouble adjusting to more serious work causing much concern among the crew that he would bomb during the broadcast and a lot of anguish for Keenan who feared the same thing but on a more personal level. Both men play themselves and at times it was painful to watch but always compelling.

    The other was an allegorical film of good vs. evil set in a small boarding house named "The Passing of the Third Floor Back" with Conrad Veidt representing the first and Frank Cellier the latter. It had a good cast and was co-written by Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville.

    1. I agree exactly with what you mean about Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It's a fine movie with a good, if over-the-top script. It is really the twin performances of Martin and Candy that sell it and make it work. They are dynamite on screen together and that elevates everything else.

      You're safe to avoid Come to Daddy. I can't imagine you'd enjoy it.