Tag Archives: Jeff Bridges

Halls of Anger (1970)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: High school student integration.

Quincy Davis (Calvin Lockhart) is a respected educator who’s asked to transfer to a predominantly black school where it will be his duty to welcome in white students into the mix. Things do not go smoothly and Davis finds himself at the center of many heated confrontations as the black students resent the new white kids and try to make life miserable for them hoping that they will eventually give up and leave.

The film starts out interestingly enough and I found myself caught up in the plight of these students, both black and white, and wondering how they were eventually going to learn to get along. So many films from that period dealt with the opposite angle by examining the difficulties of black kids integrating into a white school making this reverse perspective a refreshing change of pace by showing how racism and hate can come from both ends.

Unfortunately not a lot happens. The film’s poster conveys the idea of rioting in the halls and physical altercations, but those things prove to be quite mild. There is one brief segment where a group of black girls gang up on a white woman (Patricia Stich) inside a locker room and strip off her clothes in an effort to see if she is ‘blonde all over’, but that is about it.

In fact the only interesting aspect to the film was the behind-the-scenes discord and how the filmmakers didn’t really practice what they preached onscreen. According to an August 1970 Life magazine article the black extras where paid only $13.20 a day while the whites got $29.15. The dressing rooms were segregated and director Paul Bogart proved indifferent towards the black performer’s concerns by refusing to hear out any of their complaints with regards to the script.

The only point to watching the movie is to see young stars-to-be in some early roles. I especially got a kick out of Rob Reiner with a full head of hair and no mustache and seeing Ed Asner as a Phy Ed. teacher who tries very ineffectually to break up a fight. Jeff Bridges is also on tap as one of the white students and he should’ve been made the star as his performance is quite effective and it would’ve been a stronger film had he been given the most screen time.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 29, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 36 Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Paul Bogart

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD-R (MGM Limited Edition Collection), Amazon Video

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

 

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: The one room schoolhouse.

Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood) is a former bank robber hiding out as a Montana preacher while trying to avoid Red (George Kennedy) and Eddie (Geoffrey Lewis) who are his former crime partners that mistakenly believe he double-crossed them. One day they manage to catch up with him and try gunning him down during one of his church services. Thunderbolt escapes by hopping into a car driven by Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges). Despite their contrasting temperaments and ages of the two end up hitting-it-off and even manage to bring Red and Eddie into the fold once it’s explained to them that Thunderbolt hadn’t sold them out. Now the four plan to rob the same bank again using a 20 millimeter cannon to break into the safe.

This was the Michael Cimino’s first foray behind the camera after having success co-writing the screenplays to Silent Running and Magnum Force.  For the most part it’s a success and I particularly enjoyed the way he captures Montana’s majestic landscape, which helps add a strong flavor to the story. Some of the comical bits and throwaway lines are hilarious and gives the film an edge over the usual bank robbery storyline.

The drawback is that like with Cimino’s other films it takes too long for the story to get going. The Thunderbolt’s backstory doesn’t get explained until almost 50 minutes in and we never learn much of anything about Lightfoot or why he would simply appear almost out of nowhere in this tiny, isolated town for literally no reason. There are certain scenarios that get introduced, but offer no payoff and the robbery itself gets pulled off a little too easily while not taking enough advantage of its unique premise.

The acting though is uniformly excellent including Bridges who is at his most engaging and even looks weirdly sexy when disguised as a woman and I loved the part when he talks to himself in the mirror. Kennedy gets one of his better post Cool Hand Luke roles as the cantankerous Red and Lewis is funny as his dim-witted partner.

The film also has some great bits for its supporting cast. Cliff Emmich is amusing as an overweight security guard with a porn fetish and Jack Dodson has a memorable moment when he finds to his shock that his teenage daughter isn’t quite as ‘innocent’ as he thought she was.

Bill McKinney is goofy as a crazy man driving around in a car with a trunk full of rabbits, but like with a lot of other things in the film it introduces something that doesn’t get fully explained including the fact that the character seems to be acting erratically because he is overcome by toxic gas fumes from his own car, but when Thunderbolt and Lightfoot take over the car and drive it for themselves they don’t for some reason end up having the same issue.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: May 22, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Director: Michael Cimino

Rated R

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video

Hearts of the West (1975)

hearts of the west

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Budding writer travels west.

Lewis (Jeff Bridges) is a young man who dreams of becoming a famous western writer. He applies for and is accepted into a college that will supposedly teach him all he needs to know about the western-style novel. Unfortunately when he travels to where the college supposedly is he finds that it doesn’t really exist and is nothing more than a big scam run by two con-men (Richard B. Shull, Anthony James) who fleece thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people just like Lewis. They even try to rob Lewis further when he temporarily stays at a boarding house and is asleep, but he manages to escape from them by jumping into their running car, which has all of the money that they’ve stolen inside of it, and drives off into the desert. There he comes upon a western movie set and soon lands a job as a stunt man before quickly moving up the ladder into a western star while the bad guys continue to tail him and are determined to get back their money.

The film’s charm comes from its ability to mix the harsh realities of the movie business with a terrific sense of quirky comedy. Even better is that it avoids the condescending attitude that some period pieces have. The characters are not portrayed as being overtly naïve, sheltered or uneducated and instead come off as real people who just so happen to have lived in a different time period and although the recreation of the period isn’t exactly authentic it still gives one a good, general sense of the way things most likely were.

Bridges gives one of his best performances in a role perfectly suited to his persona as a naïve, wide-eyed young man full of ideals, but lacking in real-world sensibilities. The part where he is in a bathtub when the bad guys burst in on him reminded me of his similar scene in The Big Lebowski.

Blythe Danner makes for a solid love interest and I was amazed at how in certain shots she does very much look like her more famous daughter Gwyneth. Andy Griffith is great as well and becomes one of the more memorable parts of the film as Lewis’ duplicitous friend Howard.

The supporting cast is filled with recognizable faces that are on top of their game and make the most of their small roles including the always engaging Dub Taylor as a postal employee. There is even Woodrow Parfrey as a film producer, who for some reason appears unbilled.

The comedy is consistently amusing and directed by a man who had a flair for this type of material. The script, by Rob Thompson, remains fresh by introducing different twists along the way in a period piece that wipes away the nostalgic charm just enough to keep it real, but still remains cute.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 8, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Howard Zieff

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Against All Odds (1984)

against all odds

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Searching for missing girlfriend.

Terry Brogan (Jeff Bridges) is an aging football player who gets cut from the team and in desperate need of cash. He reluctantly accepts a paying assignment from his friend Jake Wise (James Woods) which has him traveling to Mexico in search of Jake’s girlfriend Jessie (Rachel Ward) who just so happens to also be the daughter of the team’s owner (Jane Greer) that cut Terry from the squad. Terry manages to find Jessie rather quickly and the two promptly fall in love, which propels a string of odd events that soon has Terry embroiled in a complex criminal scheme that threatens both his life and others.

This film is a remake from the 1947 film noir classic Out of the Past, but it does not fare as well as the original. The main problem is that it requires the viewer to make some major leaps in logic and only proceeds to get more implausible as it goes along. The fact that both Jake and the team’s owner want to hire Terry to find Jessie is the biggest issue. Why would these two want to throw gobs of money at someone who has no experience in finding people or know the first thing about the process. They wouldn’t hire him to fix their car if he had no experience in that area, so why expect him to have any ability in finding a missing person. Professional private eyes have spent years tracking down people and have attained skills that a novice wouldn’t, so why not just leaf through the Yellow Pages of their local phone book and hire a private investigator with good credentials to do the job instead?

Terry also locates Jessie much too quickly. Mexico has a population of 125 million people and yet in only a couple days he miraculously spots her buying food from across the street from where he is having a drink. In equally miraculous fashion she is somehow able to, after only speaking to him briefly, figure out which hotel he is staying at and bursts into his room unannounced the next day, which is also dumb because who leaves their hotel room door unlocked especially when staying in a foreign country? Later the Alex Karras character is somehow able to find the two as they make love inside an ancient Mayan temple deep inside the remote jungles of the Yucatan, which again is highly questionable and probably even more implausible than the other two examples mentioned above.

The motivations of the characters are another issue. There’s a scene where the Swoosie Kurtz character, as a favor to Terry, goes into a dead man’s office to retrieve some important files from a safe while having a Doberman growling at her and a corrupt security guard ready to harm her at any second, but why someone would put their life on the line for somebody that they really don’t know that well is nebulous and in reality wouldn’t occur.

There is also a scene involving Jake and Terry drag racing down the busy streets of L.A. in broad daylight. Some fans of the film consider this to be quite exciting, but I found it to be unrealistic as it is hard to believe that they could get away with it without catching the eye of a traffic cop as they were doing it. Having two middle-aged men be so utterly reckless not only with their own lives but those of the other drivers is also hard to imagine and puts their most prized possessions, which is their snazzy sports cars in jeopardy of getting totaled. Going to some other less traveled place to do their off-road racing would’ve made more sense.

On the plus side Larry Carlton’s moody soundtrack is great and helps create just the right tone. I also thought Ward was a perfect choice for her role as she is quite sensual and seductive without ever overdoing it. The film also scores with its breathtaking Mexican scenery.

I liked that Greer, who starred in the original version, gets cast as Ward’s mother and although I felt Richard Widmark does quite well as the heavy I was disappointed that the role wasn’t offered to either Robert Mitchum or Kirk Douglas as they had appeared in the original as well.

The plot features many twists, which keeps it mildly interesting, but it also borders on getting convoluted and is never emotionally compelling. The ongoing love affair between the two leads ends up being annoying as well. For one thing she two-times him while also bailing on him the moment things got tough. If a person does that to someone once they will do it to them again if given the chance, so ‘losing’ her wasn’t much of a loss and makes the image of her crying for him, which gets shown over the closing credits, all the more melodramatic and over-the-top.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: March 2, 1984

Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute

Rated R

Director: Taylor Hackford

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD

Jagged Edge (1985)

jagged edge

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: An old Corona typewriter.

Rich socialite Paige Forrester (Maria Mayenzet) is brutally murdered in her own home the victim of wounds done by the jagged edge of an unusually curved hunting knife. Her husband Jack (Jeff Bridges) claims he was knocked unconscious and didn’t come to until after she was killed and the assailant gone, but when evidence points to his head wound being self-inflicted he gets arrested for the crime. Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close) becomes his reluctant public defender. She is initially not convinced of his innocence, but the more she gets to know him the more she believes it while also allowing herself to become romantically involved with him. As the court case progresses there are many twists and turns including mysterious, anonymous notes typed with the use of an old typewriter and sent to Teddy, which reveal intriguing clues about her client.

The film, written by Joe Eszterhas, has all the trappings of a great court drama. Lots of clues that go either way making the viewer unsure if the defendant is really guilty or not and working very much like real trials do. I felt for the most part the trial procedures were well research and believable including all the meticulous investigating that Barnes does on her own before the trial even begins. The only thing in this area that could’ve been done better was trying to string out the suspense a bit more by prolonging the length of the jury deliberation. In real-life this can go on for several days, even weeks, but this film made it seem like it was only a few short hours.

Close gives an outstanding performance in a part that was originally intended for Jane Fonda. I love the way she can show such a wide range of emotions and the simple, but effective way that her character’s eyes well up with tears as she listens to the testimony of a rape victim is one the ingredients that makes all of her performances impactful and endearing. Veteran actors Robert Loggia, as a gruff, foul-mouthed detective, and John Dehner as a stern, hard-lined judge are also terrific. I also liked the way Teddy’s children are portrayed as being much more savvy to the world and not just there to say cute and precocious things.

Spoiler Alert!!!

The film’s biggest downfall tough is with its twist ending as Teddy ends up finding the typewriter that had written all those mysterious notes inside Jack’s closet and convincing her that he had actually been guilty all along despite getting off as innocent. She then takes the typewriter with her back to her house and then a few hours later Jack breaks into her place and in an effort to ‘silence her’ tries to kill her, which is all quite ridiculous.

For one thing I didn’t understand why Jack would hide the typewriter in a closet that is only a few feet from where he and Teddy slept. The guy lives in a gigantic mansion, so why not place it where it would be hard-to-find and not where she could easily come upon it. Also, he doesn’t need to kill her at all, he simply needs to retrieve the typewriter, which she leaves sitting on the staircase and he walks right past it. Without the typewriter there is no evidence. He takes it back and destroys it and she has nothing on him. Trying to kill her like the character here proceeds to do is the dumbest thing possible because he would be killing her in the exact same manner that he did in his wife, which would immediately make him the prime suspect and quickly arrested. The Jack character had been so smart otherwise that I’m sure he would’ve thought of this, which makes the wrap-up quite weak and unfortunately hurts what is otherwise a slick and entertaining production.

End of Spoiler Alert!!!

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 4, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated R

Director: Richard Marquand

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Morning After (1986)

the morning after

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: She can’t remember anything.

Alex (Jane Fonda) is an out of work actress and alcoholic who is prone to black outs. One morning she wakes up to the find that the man lying beside her has been murdered. She isn’t sure if she did it or not as she can’t remember anything. She cleans up the place and then by chance meets Turner (Jeff Bridges) a former cop who tries to help her prove her innocence.

Starting out right away with her waking up to find the dead body doesn’t work. Some background to the character would have been better as without it the viewer doesn’t particularly care about the character’s predicament. It took me a long while before I could get into it and even then it was only at a lukewarm level. The laid-back and melodic jazz soundtrack doesn’t help. For a thriller it is completely out-of-place and as good as a director as Sidney Lumet is he seems to have problem in that area as the musical score selected for Family Business another film that he did was also a terrible choice.

The film has one interesting twist near the middle, but the pacing is so slow that whatever intrigue it gave me quickly subsided, which is the film’s biggest problem. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a thriller, mystery, drama, or love story. Too much time is spent dealing with Alex’s budding relationship with Turner, which isn’t interesting. By the time they do get back to the mystery you really don’t care anymore. There are also not enough suspects and I had figured out who the culprit was long before the revelation comes about.

Fonda is competent particularly in a teary-eyed emotional sequence where she tries to somehow justify her pathetic self-destructive existence. The character though is unappealing and it may take a while for the viewer to warm up to her if at all. I did like her in the blonde, puffy 80’s hairstyle, but at the half way mark she changes back to her more natural brunette look, which I felt made her look older.

Bridges character helps stabilize Fonda’s and in that regards his presence is helpful, but having them meet by complete chance and then having him get so involved in her quandary seemed implausible. It would have been better and made more sense had he been a longtime friend who she turned to in her time of crisis. Although Raul Julia has a less screen time he still adds a lot more energy than Bridges.

Kathy Bates, Bruce Vilanch, and Frances Bergen (Candice’s Mom) can all be seen in brief bits. I also want to mention Richard Foronjy who nails the caricature of a streetwise big city cop perfectly.

Although the film is now 27 years old it really isn’t too dated. Only two issues in this area come to mind. One is when Alex can’t get any money out of the bank because it is closed due to a holiday and there doesn’t seem to be any such thing as ATM machines. Another occurs when a police investigator asks the Raul Julia character if he is gay by using a derogatory term, which wouldn’t go over today. However, Julia’s comeback line “How bad do you want to know?” is a good one.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 25, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sidney Lumet

Studio: Lorimar Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video