Category Archives: Movies that take place in Texas

Executive Action (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Who really killed JFK?

A group of former intelligence officials along with right-wing corporate capitalists conspire to assassinate President John F. Kennedy whose agenda they feel has gone too far to the left. Two teams of assassins are hired and they work in the desert to hone their shooting skills so as to be able to hit a moving target at 15 mph. Once this is accomplished they set-up a fall guy by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald to take the wrap while hiring another man, Jack Ruby, to kill him outright should he begin to squeal.

It may be a shock to some that in this age where conspiracy theories of the JFK assassination have now almost become the norm the cultural climate at the time of this film’s release was not for it. All the major Hollywood studios declined to offer financing and it was up to the film’s star Burt Lancaster and his good friend Kirk Douglas to put up the necessary funds just to get it made. Many television stations refused to run ads for it and due to the negative press it was pulled from theaters after only two weeks and resided in virtual obscurity before finally getting released onto VHS in the early ‘90s.

While I commend their attempt at getting the conversation going the results are less than compelling and the film fails to be riveting at any level. The reasons for planning the assassination are too broad and the characters are all uniformly colorless. The shooters themselves have no stake in the ultimate agenda other than they were paid to do it and in real-life there would’ve been a high chance that one of them would crack at some point or get nervous and make a mistake. The money that they were paid to do the job was not as much as you might think making me believe that once they ran out of it at least one of them would’ve gone to the press or authorities and divulged what really happened. The Jack Ruby link is weak. It is inferred that he does get hired to kill Oswald, but it never explains how they were ever able to get him to agree to do something that would most assuredly have him sitting in jail for the rest of his life.

There is also too much stock footage of actual news events of Kennedy and even Martin Luther King Jr. that gets shown. It doesn’t help propel the plot in any way and almost seems like it was put in simply to pad the running time. The recreation of the Dallas parade and Kennedy’s limo ride down the streets of the city is badly botched. While it’s nice that they filmed it on the actual site where it occurred it becomes painfully clear that there is no parade or crowds there. Instead they splice in old news reel footage of the actual parade, which they intercut with scenes of the actors playing the shooters, which they hoped would give the viewer the impression that they were all in tandem, but it doesn’t.

It was fun seeing veteran Hollywood stars playing bad guys for a change particularly Lancaster although he comes off as comatose and his hair looks disheveled in every shot. The film though doesn’t succeed at putting to rest anything. The plot is not believable and does nothing but create more questions than answers.

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My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 7, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: David Miller

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He rules the town.

Roy Bean (Paul Newman) rides into a lonely western town that is being ruled by a group of violent vagrants that attack and rob him as he enters their saloon and then they tie him to an end of a wagon and drag his body through the dusty desert landscape. Fortunately for him he manages to survive the ordeal and gets his revenge by returning to the saloon and killing off the others. After which he appoints himself as the judge who oversees all issues of law and order in the vicinity, which quietly begins to prosper under his leadership.

Although based on an actual historical figure the script by John Milius goes wildly off-the-mark that has no bearing to anything that actually occurred and ends up becoming highly fanciful in the process. There are certainly some amusing bits here and there, but the tone is too whimsical and loses any semblance of grittiness until it doesn’t seem like a western at all. The story also lacks a plot and the overall theme that is way too similar to The Ballad of Cable Hogue, which was directed by Sam Peckinpah and came out just two years before this one.

During my trip this summer I traveled to Langtry, Texas where the real Judge Roy Bean lived and where most of this movie was filmed.  I was surprised to find how interesting the true events of his life were and how the movie would’ve been much more fascinating had it just stuck to what really happened instead of making it all up. In real-life Bean entered the town in the spring of 1882 where he opened up a saloon and soon was appointed the Justice of the Peace by the state since the next nearest court was 200 miles away. The jurors for the cases that he heard were made up of his own bar patrons who were required to buy drinks in between court hearings. No one was sent to jail since he did not own a cell and all those accused were simply fined in the amount of cash that they had on them at the time.

I also found it was amusing at how different the performers looked in comparison to their real-life counterparts. Newman shows some resemblance to the actual man, but Victoria Principal, who plays Bean’s Mexican bride Maria Elena, clearly looks far sexier than the real one did.

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Overall, the film is passable for those wanting nothing more than an evening of light entertainment. The scene where Bean travels to San Antonio so as to meet Lily Langtry (Ava Gardner) a stage actress who he adores his quite good as it takes the character, who had by then achieved almost a mythical quality, and turned him back into being quite mortal when he fights through the city crowds and becomes nothing more than just another-face-in-the-crowd to the people there.

I also enjoyed seeing the town grow into a big oil boom city although in reality this never happened and the place as of today only has a population of 18 people. Stacy Keach’s cameo where he wears heavy make-up to resemble an albino renegade who rides into town and challenges Bean to a gunfight is quite amusing, but it’s probably Principal’s performance in her film debut that ends up becoming the film’s most enduring quality.

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(The actual saloon where Judge Bean tried heard his cases, which still stands today.)

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released:  December 18, 1972

Runtime: 2Hours 2Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John Huston

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Blood Simple. (1984)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Love triangle turns deadly.

Julian (Dan Hedaya) is a jealous and controlling husband who suspects that his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is cheating on him. He hires a sleazy private detective named Loren (M. Emmet Walsh) to follow her around only for Julian to ultimately learn, to his shock, that not only is she fooling around, but it is with Ray (John Getz) who is one of his employees. Filled with rage Julian then asks the detective if he’d be willing to kill both of them for a price. Loren says he will, but then fakes the murder simply so he can collect the cash, which then leads to a myriad of twists.

This marks the Coen brother’s feature film debut and I was surprised to learn that every major studio passed on it and it wasn’t released to theaters until it got a favorable response after being screened at the Toronto Film Festival. The film is filled with the directorial flair that we’ve become accustomed to in their movies. I particularly enjoyed the inventive camerawork with my favorite shot being a tracking one done down a bar top in which the camera somehow leaps over a drunk’s head. The opening shots showing the desolate, dry and heat soaked Texas landscape helps give the film a gritty flair and the brief, clip-like dialogue that seems more like sound bites is quite interesting and helps reveal more by what the characters don’t say than by what they do.

McDormand is terrific in her film debut and her angelic-looking blue eyes help make her character more appealing to the viewer while the rest of them come off as being pretty vile. I was also impressed with how her Texas accent here sounds just as effective as the Minnesota one that she did in Fargo.

Hedaya does well playing the type of part he’s become best known for and I’ll give him credit for allowing himself to be put into a hole and having dirt thrown on him, but when he gets shot it is clear that his eye lids are fluttering and chest moving up and down, which should’ve been equally obvious to his shooter as well.

The story is slick, but the character’s actions not so much. Both Julian and the detective sneak into Ray’s house, but park their cars, which have very distinctive features, right in front of the home in which any neighbor looking out their window could report seeing it later when speaking to the police. Ray’s actions are even dumber as he gets fingerprints all over the murder weapon and then foolishly carries a dead body into his car where it doesn’t take a genius to know that the victim’s blood will most likely seep all over his backseat cushions.

The story appears to take place in the summer as the daytime scenes show the characters sweating, but then at nighttime we see the character’s breath, which makes it seem more like a winter time setting. I also thought the viewer should’ve been shown how the detective was able to doctor the photos to make it look like Abby and Ray had been shot as this was well before the age of personal computers or photo cropping.

There is another scene near the end where Abby, in an effort to escape from her killer, climbs out of her bedroom window and into a neighboring room. However, there was no ledge for her to climb onto making it almost impossible for her to do what she did, which is why I think they didn’t even attempt to show it and was simply something that we are expected to ‘forgive’ in order to enjoy the rest of the movie.

Despite these minor flaws I still found it to be an inventive film and one of the better attempts at creating a modern-day film noir that should be considered the standard for all others that followed.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 12, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joel Coen

Studio: Circle Films

Available: DVD, Blu-ray

The Last Picture Show (1971)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: A Texas sized drama.

Based on the Larry McMurtry novel, who also co-wrote the screenplay, the story deals with the inter-workings and relationships of a people living in a small Texas town known as Anarene during the years of 1951 and 1952.  There’s Duane (Jeff Bridges) and Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) two high school seniors who are also best friends. Duane dates the highly attractive Jacey (Cybill Shepherd) who seems more geared to playing the field with every guy in town and even makes a play for Sonny, which seriously affects his relationship with Duane. There’s also Ruth (Cloris Leachman) the lonely coach’s wife who begins a brief affair with Sonny until he decides to bail-out for the more attractive Jacey. Sam (Ben Johnson) makes up part of the older generation still stuck in the dusty town and trying to make ends meet by running the local movie theater and pool hall both of which come to a halt when he dies suddenly.

I saw this film just recently outside on the big screen as part of the Texas Film Heritage and Preservation Society here in Austin. Although I had seen it before I was hit with how much more impressive and visually sumptuous it is on the big screen. Robert Surtees’ black and white cinematography is top-notch and the main ingredient to what makes it so spellbinding, so much meticulous attention is taken into each and every shot that one could almost watch this with the sound down and still find it thoroughly compelling.

Director Peter Bogdanovich takes great care to make sure that all of the elements are there and spins them together like a well-crafted machine so the viewer learns bit and pieces about these characters and their attitudes through each shot and camera angle that comes along. Filming it on-location in Archer City where McMurtry grew up helps accentuate the authenticity as does playing the country music from the period although I could’ve done with a little less of that and more of the sound of the wind and dust crackling across the barren region instead.

What surprised me most was how interesting and varied the love making scenes where and how instrumental they became to the film as a whole. One of the most memorable ones is when Sonny first tries to make love to Ruth, but is quite awkward about it. We see the pained expressions on both of their faces, hear the rusty springs of the mattress, and then finally witness Ruth’s attempts to shield her crying and frustration from Sonny. Duane’s futile attempt at sex with Jacey later on is also good particularly the fiery look of anger spewing from Jacey’s eyes when he is unable to perform. The scene involving a mentally challenged young man pushed into attempting sex with an obese and caustic prostitute inside the backseat of a cramped car is both darkly funny and sad, but the most provocative love making moment comes near the end when Jacey has sex with her mother’s boyfriend (Clu Gulager) on top of a pool table inside a dark and lonely pool hall while bracing the table’s side pockets with her hands for leverage.

The performances are all-around outstanding and both Leachman and Johnson won the Academy Award for their work here, but I still came away feeling, just like I did twenty years ago when I first saw this film, that Shepherd does the best job and leaves the most lasting impression. I love how her character slips between being insecure and indecisive to cunning and conniving and Shepherd’s facial expressions are completely on-target all the way. Her striptease done on top of a diving board is still pretty hot and my only complaint about the character is the way she elopes with Sonny and then completely bails on him the next day. I realize she didn’t love the guy and she’s just used him like she did others, but I didn’t understand what her motivation was in this instance as she seemed to get little if anything out of it.

I was also a bit disappointed that the Coach Popper character played by Bill Thurman didn’t have a bigger role in the story. The way he berates his players during practice is amusing and would most likely get coaches in today’s more sensitive world in hot water. I also found his constant spitting of tobacco juice into a cup that he carries around with him to be grotesquely amusing, but my biggest beef is the fact that we have a main character screwing his wife and the whole town knows about it, but never any reaction from the man himself. Maybe he was aware and didn’t care, but the movie should’ve made an attempt to show this, or at least some interaction between Sonny and the Coach since Sonny was at one time one of his players, which would have to make things quite awkward whenever they would bump into each other and in a small town that would most likely happen on more than a few occasions.

Overall though this is a great movie and I was surprised at how frank and explicit it was despite its 1950’s setting. Some may argue that it was done with too much of a revisionist mindset and things weren’t quite this wild, but others, like myself, will insist that it probably was, but just not talked about as much.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: October 22, 1971

Runtime: 2Hours 6Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Rated R

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

My Best Friend is a Vampire (1988)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen turns into vampire.

Jeremy (Robert Sean Leonard) is just your average teen attending high school in Houston while also working as a grocery delivery boy part-time. On one of his deliveries he meets a mysterious, but beautiful woman named Nora (Cecillia Peck) who bites him on his neck, which slowly turns him into a vampire over the course of several days. It also causes a vampire instructor named Modoc (Rene Auberjonois) to appear who helps mentor him on what life as a vampire is like while also giving him a vampire instruction manual to read. Once the initial shock is over Jeremy begins to enjoy the change, but still must avoid a couple of overzealous vampire hunters (David Warner, Paul Willson) who are out to pierce his heart with a wooden stake.

The film starts out amusingly enough and has a nice balance between being funny and still maintaining an interesting plot. It even manages to throw in a few original spins to the genre, so it doesn’t come off as just another mindless vampire movie retread, at least initially. Leonard is engaging in the lead and the dialogue between the teenagers is more realistic than in most other high school flicks from the ‘80’s.

Unfortunately the film starts to go south when, after faced with all these changes, Jeremy still decides to ask a geeky looking girl named Darla (Cheryl Pollak) out on a date, but I would’ve thought with all the stresses he was going through that starting a relationship would be the last thing on his mind. The romantic angle is boring and adds nothing to the mix. Pollak is a weak actress and her character’s presence could’ve easily been cut out altogether.

The finale is a real letdown and comes off like a typically uninspired farce where the writers have run out of creative ideas and thus try to wrap things up with a benign car chase and frantic running around by the characters. The story is full of logic loopholes and the promising elements at the start ultimately devolve into inane silliness by the end.

I’ll give director Jimmy Huston credit for managing to raise himself up from his humble beginnings, which was as a director to an Earl Owensby produced movie, which is about as low as one can go, but this film becomes just another tired casualty in a long line of films hoping to be the next vampire cult classic, but not making the cut.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 6, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jimmy Huston

Studio: Kings Road Entertainment

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen becomes media sensation.

Billie Jean (Helen Slater) is a teen living in a small Texas town who one day decides to take a ride with her brother Binx (Christina Slater) on his motor scooter to a lake for a swim. Along the way they come into contact with some red neck boys who harass the two and damage the scooter. The police do nothing about it, so Billie Jean decides to approach Pyatt (Richard Bradford) who runs a convenience store and is the father to one of the boys. When she asks him for the money that it will cost to repair it he attempts to sexually assault her and Binx ends up shooting the man in the shoulder. This causes the two to go on the run and creates a statewide car chase, which makes Billie Jean a media hero to thousands of teens nationwide.

The movie is a real mixed bag with strong shifts in tone and no clear point-of-view. It starts out as a rather boring, run-of-the-mill teen bullying flick only to turn into a whimsical tale as the teens go out on the road and have one quirky adventure after another. It’s similar to Steven Spielberg’s The Sugarland Express as both lead characters are females and go on the run from the law in Texas while become inadvertent media darlings in the process. Spielberg’s movie is the better film, but this one delves more into the media angle and could’ve made some strong statements, but unfortunately pulls back and keeps things on too much of a lighthearted, innocuous level instead.

Slater is fantastic in the lead and it’s great seeing the boyish Slater in his film debut. I felt though that Martha Gehman and Yeardley Smith as two teen gals who tag along with the other two on their adventure added nothing and should’ve been cut out completely.

Bradford makes for a pretty good heavy, but I had major issues with Peter Coyote as the sheriff. For one thing when Billie Jean reports that her brother’s bike has been stolen he does not immediately pursue the case, but instead decides to ‘wait on it for a few days’, which seemed like he was not doing the job that the tax payers put him into position to do. Then when the chase expands across the rest of the state he somehow gets in charge of tracking her down, which is ridiculous. Once she crosses over the county line, or gets outside of his jurisdiction then it is up to the authorities from that region to handle it, or the state highway patrol and certainly not some two-bit sheriff from a no-name, hick town.

The scene where Billie Jean saves a boy from his abusive father while hundreds of teens look on is great, but everything else is so-so. The film would’ve worked better had it taken a consistent satirical tone from the beginning and not have been so compelled to conform itself to the more simplistic sensibilities of its targeted teen audience.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 19, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Matthew Robbins

Studio: TriStar Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for his bike.

Due to the release this weekend of Pee Wee’s Big Holiday I thought it would be appropriate to go back and take a look at the ‘80s classic that started it all. Here we have Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) living with his small pet dog Speck inside a home full of colorful contraptions. His prized possession is his bicycle, which he takes great care of and carefully chains up every time he leaves it alone. However, a hateful bully named Francis (Mark Holton), who is from an affluent household and used to getting whatever he wants, decides that he wants Pee Wee’s bike for himself. When his monetary offer gets rejected he then hires a professional thief to steal it for him, which sends Pee Wee on a mad frenzy across the country to try and retrieve it.

The movie is an exercise in high camp that could’ve easily failed, but instead it succeeds mainly because it doesn’t put the eccentric main character into the real world, but instead pulls the viewer into the quirky 10-year-old mindset of the protagonist. Here we don’t deal with people who reject or mock him, but instead much like with all children he becomes the ‘king of his own domain’ where he is liked and accepted by most everyone he meets and in control of all situations while the harsher realities get ignored or overlooked completely.

The film also manages to accentuate Pee Wee’s odd personality with garishly colorful set-pieces and odd contraptions that almost become the film’s main attraction. Reubens plays the role in an engaging manner, but the character’s persona is one-dimensional and could border on getting annoying had it been the film’s sole avenue of humor, but fortunately director Tim Burton manages to give the film a complete vision by instilling a storyline and visual design that match the weirdness of its protagonist and makes the proceedings come off as fresh and inventive.

I also liked that it wasn’t geared completely towards children, but instead made to attract those of all ages with a taste for the offbeat and absurd. Going the kiddie flick route would’ve made it come off as formulaic and infantile, but instead by emphasizing the surreal it becomes intriguing and impossible to predict.

The loosely structured script, which was co-written by Reubens and actor Phil Hartman, manages to go a long way on what amounts to being pretty much just a one-joke premise, but it does eventually start to lose steam by the 60-minute mark only to recover in grand style at the end with a delightful chase through the backlot of the Warner Brothers studio. It is similar to the ending used in Blazing Saddles where the film breaks the fourth wall and becomes a movie-in-a-movie although I felt this one was funnier than the Mel Brooks version.

The film is sprinkled with a lot of cameo appearances as well with my favorite ones being Milton Berle as well as James Brolin playing Pee Wee in the Hollywood movie version and Morgan Fairchild as the Hollywoodized version of his girlfriend. I also got a kick out of Jason Hervey who is best known for playing Fred Savage’s older brother in ‘The Wonder Years’ and who does a very funny caricature of a spoiled child film star here.

The film is also known for making the ‘50s instrumental ‘Tequila’ by the Champs a very recognizable melody. In fact it is almost impossible to think of the Pee Wee character and not have that melody start to play in your head, or if you do hear the melody playing somewhere you can’t help but have the image of Pee Wee pop-up when you do. However, in the actual film the song ends up being played only briefly.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 26, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Tim Burton

Studio: Warner Brothers

Independence Day (1983)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Getting out of Texas.

Mary Ann Taylor (Kathleen Quinlan) works as a waitress at her father’s café, but dreams of leaving her sleepy Texas town and going to school in California to study photography. Her mother (Frances Sternhagen) though is in declining health and her current boyfriend Jack (David Keith) wants her to stay which makes her decision to leave all the more difficult.

Shot on-location in Anson, Texas the film is a pleasant time-filler that fortunately doesn’t go overboard with Texas stereotypes, but it’s also rather bland and predictable. Feeling trapped in a small town is by no means a unique feeling and the film doesn’t go far enough with that theme and for the most part just touches the surface. Adding in a second storyline dealing with Jack’s sister (Dianne Weist) being abused by her husband (Cliff De Young) is a bit jarring and doesn’t really fit as there are long periods where Mary Ann is not seen at all and it would’ve made more sense had it been her sister that was being abused and not Jack’s and thus giving her more screen time.

The dramatic arcs are a bit too obvious as well and at times even bordering on being corny. For one thing the abuse issue gets introduced by having Jack visit his sister and asking her husband to borrow some money and then for no reason the husband begins throwing lit matches at his wife while right in front of Jack. Abusive people can certainly be cruel, but they’re not stupid and hurting a woman while her well-built brother sits right there is most assuredly going to get the husband into trouble, so why do it? Having Jack find out about the abuse by coming to the home one day unannounced and hearing shouting and maybe looking into a window and seeing the husband hit her would’ve made far more sense.

Having Mary Ann’s mother, who otherwise looks and acts quite healthy, suddenly fall over with fainting spells and suffering from some disease that never gets explained seemed too manufactured. Mary Ann’s arguments with Jack over whether she should go to school or stay in Texas is equally transparent especially since the two really didn’t have all that much in common and could’ve easily found other dating partners quite quickly.

Having one of the official’s from the photography school drive out to her rural home and personally offer her a full scholarship while telling her she was one of the greatest photographers he had even seen was pretty loopy too. All she did was take pictures of the town’s buildings and people’s faces, so what this guy managed to see that was so ‘brilliant’ and ‘special’ from that is hard to figure.

Quinlan and Wiest give great performances, but the movie is nothing more than lightweight drama that fails to distinguish itself from all the other B-dramas out there.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: January 21, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Mandel

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD (Warner Archive)

The Hitcher (1986)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chased by homicidal hitchhiker.

Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) who is driving from Chicago to California finds himself falling asleep at the wheel as he travels late at night down a lonely desert highway. To keep himself awake he decides to pick-up a hitchhiker named John Ryder (Rutger Hauer) who immediately begins to behave strangely. Jim manages physically kick John out of the car when his life gets threatened, but then notices that he is continually coming upon him as his drive progresses. Soon the police are after him thinking that he is the one committing the murders that are really being done by John.

This film manages to be a nice blend between Spielberg’s TV-movie Duel and the classic episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ in which Inger Stevens constantly sees the same hitchhiker as she drives her way through the desert. There are some really good suspenseful moments and a great performance by Hauer that almost makes up for its many transgressions, which unfortunately become more and more numerous.

Now, I did like this movie and tried to overlook a few of the logic loopholes, but eventually they become just too overblown. The biggest one is that John somehow manages to steel Jim’s wallet while also planting a knife on him that has blood from the victims that he has killed, but the only time they are together is when they are traveling in the car and I think Jim would’ve noticed John fishing through his pockets if that were the case. There’s also a lot of timing issues. For instance passengers stop and get off a bus to go inside a roadside café presumably for lunch, but then go right back into the bus just a couple of minutes later, which isn’t enough time for them to eat, go to the bathroom, or even stretch their legs. Another scene has Jim’s girlfriend Nash (Jennifer Jason Leigh) getting kidnapped from her hotel room by John who somehow is able to enter the room without explanation and then takes her out to the parking lot and ties her up between two trucks before the police get called in and try to intervene, but this all occurs in seemingly only a couple of minutes as Jim is in the bathroom when he hears Nash being taken out and he quickly runs out into the parking lot only to see Nash already tied up and the police there.

There is also the issue of how is John able to escape out of a police van after he is caught and handcuffed, which the movie doesn’t even bother to explain or show. Another question some viewers have brought up is why is Jim driving through Texas anyways, which is where this all occurs, since it seems too far to the south from where he needs to go. Some have speculated that maybe he was going to the southern portion of California and therefore would need to pass through the Panhandle of Texas to get there, which is plausible, but the landscape is all wrong. I live in Texas and know that the panhandle region, which I’ve been to, is flat and green and has farmland while the place Jim goes through is barren, sandy and very much a desert.

The film wasn’t even shot in Texas, but instead done in the Mojave Desert in California, which made me wonder why the setting couldn’t have been there since that was supposed to be Jim’s ultimate destination anyways. Then I realized that the police are portrayed as being quite hick and redneck and since Texas unfairly still has that stereotype I’m sure that was the reason for why it was chosen.

The script could’ve certainly been better thought out, which wouldn’t have required the viewer to take such massive leaps in logic in order to enjoy it, but overall I still liked it. I think this was mainly because of Hauer who is terrifically creepy as well as for an extremely exciting car chase that features incredible stunt work and without relying on any of computerized crap either.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 21, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Harmon

Studio: TriStar Pictures

Available: DVD

 

Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, 1982, (c) Cinecom Pictures

COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN, Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, 1982, (c) Cinecom Pictures

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Disciples of James Dean.

Twenty years after his untimely death five women (Cher, Sandy Dennis, Karen Black, Kathy Bates, Marta Heflin), who were big fans of James Dean and called themselves his disciples, decide to hold a reunion at a thrift shop in a small town not far from Marfa, Texas where the film Giant was made. However, the reunion is not a happy one as old wounds and secrets come to light that forces the women to analyze themselves and their lives in uncomfortable and unpleasant ways.

One of the things that really annoyed me about this movie and at times just downright confused me is that the characters show no signs of aging at all as it shifts between 1955 and the present day of 1975. Twenty years is a significant period of time and most everyone will show some signs of age, or at least changes to their hairstyle and outfits and yet with the exception of the Joe character there is no distinguishable differences between the others from one period to the next. The Cher character was particularly perplexing as her hair remains jet black for two decades and even the same exact style. One could argue that maybe she dyed it, okay, but she also manages to somehow retain her same girlish figure, which is even less likely.

I also found it hard to believe that she could afford to make a living by working at little thrift store for 20 years, or that she would even be needed as the place was small enough for one person to run and through the course of the entire movie never once does a single customer even enter the place. Her character was attractive enough to find a man, get married and run off to another town or place that had more potential. We learn through the course of the movie that she was married at one point, but then dumped, however I would think she would’ve been able to find someone else in a 20 year time span especially since she was still quite good looking.

Keeping all of the action inside the thrift store makes the film seem almost claustrophobic. I realize this was based on a stage play, but most plays that get transferred to film will have certain scenes, or cutaways added in to avoid this feeling. Even having some outdoor shots done over the opening credits would’ve given it a little more of a visual variety.

The performances are the best thing about the movie and probably the only reason to see it. All three leads recreate their parts from the stage version. Cher is sensational and in my opinion gives the best performance. Dennis is solid doing her patented fragile caricature and who displays some interesting emotional eruptions at completely unexpected times. Black is excellent as well. Usually she plays flaky types, but here is more reserved and steely. Bates is good as a loud and abrasive woman and Sudie Bond lends fine support as the shop’s overtly religious owner.

The script is passable, but the revelations that come out are stuff you’d find on a second-rate soap opera. I also found it hard to believe that these women would get together after 20 years and not have other things to talk about. Usually when people meet after not seeing each other for an extended period of time there’s always a lot of ‘catching up’ to do where they talk about all the things that have happened to them since, but here there’s none of that. Instead they come off like people frozen in time clinging to bygone issues that just about anyone else would’ve moved on from long ago.

The film ends with several shots of the store shown in an abandoned and rundown state, but with no explanation of what time period it was taken in. At first I thought this meant that maybe the reunion had never occurred. That maybe it had just been imagined, which is a concept that I liked and would also have filled in some of the gaping plot holes that I’ve described above, but then I saw the reunion banner still hanging in a tattered state from the ceiling. Others on IMDb have debated that it may represent the reunion that they had planned for 1995 that never came about, which is a good guess, but with business being as slow as it  was at that place I think it would’ve been abandoned long before 1975 let alone 1995.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: November 12, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Robert Altman

Studio: Cinecom Pictures

Available: DVD