Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Movies (page 1 of 6)

Captain America and Company in Korea

avengers

I know it’s only a movie, but I hope Kim Jong-un shits a major brick when he finds out that Captain America and company are in Korea.

 

The Flim Flam Man (1967) — A Classic Gem

Flim Flam Image

The Flim Flam Man (1967)
Starring George C. Scott, Sue Lyon, and Harry Morgan
Written by William Rose
Directed by Irvin Kershner

It’s hard to believe that a film of this pedigree has yet to receive a proper DVD (let alone Blu-Ray) remastering and re-release. Written by William Rose (It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), directed by Irvin Kershner (Never Say Never Again, The Empire Strikes Back) and featuring a tour de force performance from George C. Scott, this film is on its way to being a great lost classic. I first saw it when it was broadcast on television in the early seventies;  This film never gets old, no matter how times I have seen it.

Mordecai Jones (George C. Scott) is a rural con artist who takes on young army deserter Curley (Michael Sarrazin) as his protégé and teaches him the tricks of the trade. Sheriff Slade (Harry Morgan, of M*A*S*H fame) is in hot pursuit of the pair, and rich girl Bonnie Lee Packard (the stunning Sue Lyon) becomes romantically involved with Curley and helps the fleeing duo stay one step ahead of the sheriff. Playing a con artist allows Scott the opportunity to trot out just about every accent under the sun, and he does so with zest. People primarily familiar with Scott as General George S. Patton, or perhaps Ebeneezer Scrooge, will be amazed at his gift for comedy.

Six-String Samurai

Six-String“In this alternate universe, in 1957 the Russians took the United States by nuclear force. Only one piece of the American frontier remained free, a patch of land known as Lost Vegas. Through this desert wasteland wanders the “six string samurai,” a latter-day Buddy Holly who handles a guitar or a sword with equal skill. He’s a man on a collision course with destiny: It seems that King Elvis, who ruled over the land of Vegas for forty years, has finally taken his last curtain call and the throne now stands empty. But it’s a rough road to the big city and the body count is likely to be high, as demonstrated in this post-apocalyptic future with a beat we can dance to.”

I love these kinds of movies, like A Boy and His Dog, Mad Max, and Road Warrior, but this movie rocked. I’m surprised this movie hasn’t caught on as much as it should have.

They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

they-died-with-their-boots-on-1941General George Armstrong Custer was one of the most colorful if not one of the most controversial Union officers and cavalrymen who will forever be remembered for his last stand at the Little Big Horn in 1876. Though his story has been told and retold in film and television, one of the more endearing fictionalized depictions of his life (despite a trove of historical inaccuracies) was the 1941 Warner Brothers production, They Died With Their Boots On.

Historical inaccuracies aside, this is a rollicking drama/western featuring two of Warner Brothers more popular stars, Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland. Without question, this remains one of my favorite Flynn movies.

In one of the film’s more touching scenes is right before Custer leaves his wife to go to the Little Big Horn. It’s touching because it would be the last time that Flynn and DeHavilland would ever be in a film together.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

robin-hood-posterIt’s injustice I hate, not the Normans.

There’s a reason why some films are classics, especially those films which stand up with the passage of time because of the actors/actresses, direction, music, and story. With Warner Brothers’ 1938 production of The Adventures of Robin Hood, you get all of those.

It’s been a few years since I last watched this classic Warner Brothers film, but it is the kind of film that you can watch over and over. There’s still something magical about this film–especially the on-screen chemistry between Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland (they would make eight films together)–that has survived the test of time. How many actors and actresses today can say the same?

 

The Seven-Ups (1973)

Seven-Ups.1973.002I love the cop drama movies from the early 1970s; especially those set in New York like The French Connection or The Seven-Ups. There’s just something that the way these movies were filmed: the cold, gray-steel skies, steam rising up from sewers, not to mention that it always seemed cold.

There’s more to this cinematic appeal of this films and others, such as Three Days of the Condor, Taxi Driver, and Rocky filmed in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia and why I have come to grow fonder of them over the years. I think a lot has to do with going to Chicago for the first time in 1972 on a school trip to see musicals such as Godspell and Grease. Not only was it the first times for me to go to the city, but also the first time to do something without parental supervision.

Before we went to the musical, we would have some time to explore the city. It all seemed so foreign and overwhelming to me. I suppose that is why when I have watched these films I am reminded of those early journeys to the city and wandering around The Loop.

On the other hand, there’s also something to be said about the American cinema of the early 70s when many of the films seemed to have gotten grittier, honest and less Hollywood (sanitized). And in many ways, it was still a time when Hollywood was more concerned about the product than the box office–something which would change in the summer of 1975 with Jaws and two years later when Star Wars changed everything.

I’m watching the Seven-Ups today and the film still holds up well. The acting is good, the story is fine, but what still impresses me is how gritty, realistic, and honest the film is.

Christmas Movies: Die Hard 2

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What’s that? Die Hard 2 a Christmas movie?

Well, it does take place around Christmas, so why not?

It’s one of my perennial favorites come December. It’s also one of the best snow movies. Pop some popcorn, grab your favorite beverage and get some ready for some Christmas action, Bruce Willis style.

Though I prefer Die Hard, which is still one of the best action movies of all time, Die Hard 2 has its moments and a lot of snow.

“Ho, Ho, Ho.”

“Yippee Ki Yay…”

Welcome to the New World

The-Hunt-for-Red-October

It’s become an annual ritual for me to watch The Hunt For Red October on December 7th, the day I arrived in Korea in 1990.

Why The Hunt For Red October?

It was the last movie shown on the Northwest flight from Seattle to Seoul. However, after the first movie, Days of Thunder, I fell asleep. When I woke up, The Hunt For Red October was just ending. I woke up just in time to hear this exchange between Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin:

Captain Ramius: … and the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home, Christopher Columbus.

Jack Ryan: Welcome to the New World, Sir.

It was like coming to a new world, twenty-three years ago.

François Truffaut’s 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups)

Quatre_coups2Took me long enough.

I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t seen this film until now.

François Truffaut’s first feature, The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups), is also his most personal. Told through the eyes of Truffaut’s life-long cinematic counterpart, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud), The 400 Blows sensitively re-creates the trials of Truffaut’s own difficult childhood, unsentimentally portraying aloof parents, oppressive teachers, petty crime, and a friendship that would last a lifetime. The film marks Truffaut’s passage from leading critic of the French New Wave to his emergence as one of Europe’s most brilliant auteurs.

What a brilliant movie. What impressed me the most about the film was Truffaut’s use of the camera, the way the camera moved (the tracking shot at the end is unbelievable) and intimate the scenes were for the viewer. In addition the friendship between Antoine and René is one of the cinema’s most tender and heartwarming friendships.

Better late than never to see this classic film.

Fifty “must see” summer movies

White-Line-Fever-movieSummer is just around the corner and Hollywood over over the years has released some memorable movies.

Perhaps you have seen some of these films before; perhaps you haven’t. Many there are some on this list that you don’t agree with you; others that you think should be on this list. (Although Star Wars opened on Memorial Day Weekend in 1977, it is still technically a “summer movie”). There are some classics here and there are some that might you have scratching your head wondering why I would include them on this list. Regardless of whether they are classic or not, there are a lot of cinematic gems here.

I started going to a lot of movies in 1975, probably because I had a car and a job at the time. Living in the Illinois Valley, we had a lot of movie theaters to choose from: in LaSalle there were the Majestic, the LaSalle, the Illinois Valley Twin Cinema (originally the Jerry Lewis Cinema) which showed adult films on one of its screens, and the Drive-in east of town. Peru, Mendota, Princeton, and Ottawa had movie theaters as well as the drive-in theatre in Earlville (which is still open today).

I went to a lot of movies in the summer of ’75. Jaws was the big movie of the summer, but other movies like Aloha Bobby and Rose and White Line Fever (both of which I saw at the LaSalle Drive-in) were summer favorites.

It was also the summer I started making plans to go into the Air Force after I graduated.

I have seen most of the movies on the list; many I have seen several times. How about you? How many of these films have you seen?

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Fifty "Must See" Classic Summer Movies

Here are some "must see" classic summer movies of the 1970s. Some where blockbusters; some were not. How many of these have you seen?

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 72
Jaws (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg. With Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary. When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 57
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Directed by Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones. With Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam. King Arthur and his knights embark on a low-budget search for the Grail, encountering many very silly obstacles.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 74
American Graffiti (1973)

Directed by George Lucas. With Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith. A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 66
Star Wars (1977)

Directed by George Lucas. With Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness. Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire's planet-destroying Death Star.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 69
A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Directed by Richard Attenborough. With Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier. A historic telling of the failed attempt to capture several bridges to Germany in World War II in a campaign called Operation Market-Garden.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 75
Animal House (1978)

Directed by John Landis. With Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, John Belushi, Karen Allen. At a 1962 College, Dean Vernon Wormer is determined to expel the entire Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, but those troublemakers have other plans for him.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 68
Chinatown (1974)

Directed by Roman Polanski. With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez. A private detective investigating an adultery case stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 60
Rollerball (1975)

Directed by Norman Jewison. With James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, John Beck. In a corporate-controlled future, an ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball represents the world, and one of its powerful athletes is out to defy those who want him out of the game.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 68
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Directed by Clint Eastwood. With Clint Eastwood, Chief Dan George, Sondra Locke, Bill McKinney. A Missouri farmer joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and winds up on the run from the Union soldiers who murdered his family.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 65
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Directed by Hal Needham. With Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, Mike Henry. The Bandit is hired on to run a tractor trailer full of beer over county lines in hot pursuit by a pesky sheriff.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 60
The Godfather (1972)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. With Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton. The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 76
White Line Fever (1975)

Directed by Jonathan Kaplan. With Jan-Michael Vincent, Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, L.Q. Jones.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 69
Murder by Death (1976)

Directed by Robert Moore. With Eileen Brennan, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers. Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve an even stranger mystery.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 67
The Omen (1976)

Directed by Richard Donner. With Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Stephens. An American ambassador learns to his horror that his son is actually the literal Antichrist.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 61
Sorcerer (1977)

Directed by William Friedkin. With Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou. A group of outcasts from different backgrounds/nationalities are forced by misfortune to work in a remote oil drilling operation in South America.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 68
Hooper (1978)

Directed by Hal Needham. With Burt Reynolds, Jan-Michael Vincent, Sally Field, Brian Keith. Aging stuntman Sonney Hooper is still on top as one of the best stuntmen in the business. But up and coming Ski is starting to do bigger and better stunts.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 75
Enter the Dragon (1973)

Directed by Robert Clouse. With Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Ahna Capri. A martial artist agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord using his invitation to a tournament there as cover.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 70
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

Directed by Ted Post. With James Franciscus, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, Linda Harrison. The sole survivor of an interplanetary rescue mission searches for the only survivor of the previous expedition. He discovers a planet ruled by apes and an underground city run by telekinetic humans.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 66
Love and Death (1975)

Directed by Woody Allen. With Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Georges Adet, Frank Adu. In czarist Russia, a neurotic soldier and his distant cousin formulate a plot to assassinate Napoleon.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 59
The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)

Directed by John Badham. With Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor, Rico Dawson. Tired of the slave-like treatment of his team's owner, charismatic star Negro League pitcher Bingo Long takes to the road with his band of barnstormers through the small towns of the Midwest in the 1930's.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 68
St. Ives (1976)

Abner Procane, top L.A. burglar, finds that somebody stole his plans for next ambitious heist. He hires Raymond St. Ives, crime books writer, to negotiate the return of those documents. Written by Dragan Antulov Taglines: He's clean. He's mean. He's the go-between. Release Date: 31 July 1976 (Japan) Also Known As: St.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 72
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert. With Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel. James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads with the help of a KGB agent whose lover he killed.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 68
The Buddy Holly Story (1978)

Directed by Steve Rash. With Gary Busey, Don Stroud, Charles Martin Smith, Conrad Janis. A film about the life and career of the early rock and roll star.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 63
Heaven Can Wait (1978)

Directed by Warren Beatty, Buck Henry. With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Jack Warden. A Los Angeles Rams quarterback, accidentally taken away from his body by an over-anxious angel before he was supposed to die, comes back to life in the body of a recently-murdered millionaire.

May 16, 2013 - imdb.com - 79
Foul Play (1978)

Directed by Colin Higgins. With Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase, Burgess Meredith, Rachel Roberts. A shy San Francisco librarian and a bumbling cop fall in love as they solve a crime involving albinos, dwarves, and the Catholic Church.

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