Saturday, December 5, 2020

What I've Caught Up With, November 2020

There were a few movies that came off the giant list of suggestions that I watched in November that I did full reviews on--His House, for instance, was one that I figure will eventually show up on one list or another, and even if it doesn’t, it was worth the space and effort. I also put up full reviews of Her Smell and Vampires vs. the Bronx. Otherwise, there a scant five that I managed to watch. A busy work month combined with holiday planning, Thanksgiving, and more meant that I wasn’t really able to see a lot of these movies this month.

What I’ve Caught Up With, November 2020:
Film: Tension

A classic film noir from the late 1940s, Tension gives us Richard Basehart playing a meek pharmacist married to a woman who strays, played by Audrey Totter. When he decides to kill the man she’s run off with, he creates a new identity for himself and plots the deed, but can’t go through with it. When the man turns up dead anyway and the cop on the case has a thing for his wife, well, the tension mounts. Features Cyd Charisse in a non-dancing role and William Conrad as a tubby cop. It’s good, but not quite great. Still, it’s worth tracking down if you like the style.

Film: Sicario

Solid thriller about Mexican drug cartels and the people that are involved in tracking them down and stopping them, sort of. What we learn is that a couple of FBI agents (Emily Blunt and Daniel Kaluuya) find out that the world of the cartels is a lot more dangerous than they could have imagined when thye end up on a task force that includes CIA, Army, and U.S. Marshals. There’s a lot of killing here, and a lot of innocent blood spilled in an effort to get a corner on the drug market or to stop drugs from coming through the border. Except, that stopping the drugs turns out to not really be the issue here—it’s more about controlling who is shipping them.

Film: The Misfits

This was the last film of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. It also features Eli Wallach, Monty Clift, Thelma Ritter, Kevin McCarthy, and Estelle Winwood. Hell of a nice cast. This is the story of a group of people come together almost out of necessity to catch wild horses and make a living for themselves. Each of them is broken in various ways by past events, but together, they almost make a couple of functioning people. It’s a fine enough film, but still features that May/December romance issue between Monroe and Gable, when she was clearly better suited to Wallach or Clift. Ah, well.

Film: Point of No Return

This remake of La Femme Nikita, made in the best American tradition, a couple of years after the original version, features Bridget Fonda in the role of drug-addled violence addict turned spy. Truth be told, I love me some Bridget Fonda, and her retirement from films was a sad day for me, but she’s better than this. Point of No Return is the answer to the question, “What do you get when you take Pygamalion and mix it with The Long Kiss Goodnight and then have it filmed by Quentin Tarantino?” Sounds great on paper, but the actual results, despite the presence of Gabriel Byrne, Lorraine Toussaint, and Miguel Ferrer, are less than stellar.

Film: The Flight of the Phoenix

Another one of those mid-1960s movies with a cast that you could kill for, The Flight of the Phoenix includes performances from James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Dan Duryea, George Kennedy, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine, and more. The high concept is pretty simple—a plane filled with oilmen and military personnel goes down in the Sahara. Now they need to rebuild the plane and get out before heat and dehydration kill them. This is the definition of a Boys’ Own adventure. It’s not bad, but it’s overlong, and doesn’t give a great deal to do for a large portion of the cast. Ian Bannen was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in this film, and I’m not sure why.


  1. The only one of these I didn't like at all was Sicario. I suppose it had a point but I hated every minute of it.

    I agree that Tension is minor noir but its ace in the hole is Audrey Totter. Basehart was a fine and interesting actor, Barry Sullivan's appeal has always escaped me, but Audrey is by far the most compelling person onscreen. She was a consistently powerful presence, it's so strange that she never broke through to major stardom. Her persona is a bit chilly perhaps that had something to do with it.

    I really liked Flight of the Phoenix, the Dennis Quaid redo is beyond terrible, but it could have used another trip or two through the editing room.

    Point of No Return is mindless and not very special, and no match for La Femme Nikita, but if you're in the mood for something that moves at a fast clip and you don't have to think about this fills the bill. Loved Anne Bancroft's outwardly cool operative who in one small gesture shows she means business underneath. I too am sorry Bridget Fonda retired.

    The Misfits is about despair. If you're ready for that it is a fascinating watch full of legends. The age difference between Gable and Marilyn in this instance didn't bother me. He's much older than the others but all three of those guys are old men inside so Roslyn's pairing with any of them was about the same. Fantastic work from the entire cast but I think this was Gable's career best performance. It's tragic he died so soon afterward but at least he was able to go out on the highest note.

    1. Tension is fun. It's never going to replace films like Out of the Past or Double Indemnity, but it is fun. That chilliness, of course, is a boon in a film like this one.

      I like that Bridget Fonda didn't take herself too seriously. She did garbage like Lake Placid and fun cameos in films like Army of Darkness, but she could still pull off something like A Simple Plan and upstage everyone else in it.

  2. Point of No Return I thought was OK but it's not La Femme Nikita as I too miss Bridget Fonda and sad that she retired though I can't blame her since Hollywood can be so cruel. The Misfits is a film I want to see just for the cast alone. I do love Sicario as that is a great film. I haven't seen the original Flight of the Phoenix but I have seen that lame remake as I'd know like to kick Dennis Quaid right in his ass for being a moron.

    1. I found Sicario interesting. I'll probably get to the sequel eventually.

      As for Bridget Fonda, I would love her to still have a career because I've always enjoyed her on camera, but I fully respect the ability and the will to walk away on her own terms.

  3. I actually watched the last half of Flight of the Phoenix the other day (having seen it long ago as a child). It's interesting, with some good character interactions, and even a decent twist. It's not terribly exciting, but I think it's a good movie.