What We’re Watching – 5/26/2011

Gun Crazy (1950)

Now, unlike others, when someone tells me that I should check a movie out, I’ll check the movie out! Gun Crazy is a film Brandi mentioned during our Top 5 Film Noirs video, and I finally got around to watching it. Let me tell you, I now see why she listed it, because this is one fun movie! The story involves ex-soldier Barton Tare (John Dall) and his relationship with Annie Starr (Peggy Cummins). Tare always had a keen interest in all things gun related, and when he first sees Annie displaying her skill at sharp shooting during a local carnival, he almost falls in love with her at first shot. They quickly run away and get married, but meager living conditions and Annie’s growing need for excitement and thrill lead the two to decide to grab their revolvers and become career criminals. They turn into a kind of Bonnie and Clyde team, going cross-country robbing others at gunpoint. However, as the two step over the line of violence, authorities tighten their search for them, ending with a bloody and emotional climax. While there are certain elements of the movie that are definitely “of the time” (I don’t think schools nowadays would easily allow their students to bring guns to class), it doesn’t detract from the movie being fun, exciting, and full of action. If you’re at all interested in film noirs, let this be on your must-watch list!

13 Assassins (2011)

This is a great movie. Just when I thought that 2011 was going to made up of nothing but mediocre to bad movies, this film rejuvenated my enthusiasm with a bang. Chad recently reviewed this, giving it an “A.” The only disagreement I would have is that the grade should have been an “A+.” The story reminds me a lot of the immortal Kurosawa film Seven Samurai (1954), as it deals with a ragtag group of individual samurai coming together to battle an almost overwhelming number of soldiers. While the movie doesn’t live up to the standard of that classic, it stands on its own as an impressive work of blood and gore, mixed with themes of brotherhood, loyalty, and honor. The thirteen assassins here are hired, secretly, to kill the cruel and sadistic Lord Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki), who viciously kills innocent people many times for his own personal pleasure. The first hour of the movie deals with the strategy to make this happen—how to corner the evil overlord and separate him from his bodyguards. The second hour is a non-stop action fest, as the thirteen men battle over two hundred soldiers within the confines of an abandoned town. But what makes this movie special, what sets it apart from other action movies, is that during the second half, director Takashi Miike continues to focus on character development, and how each of the assassins relates to the others, all while this deadly battle is happening. There is no “wire-fu” here; the action is realistic, grimy, and aggressive. I couldn’t recommend this movie more; it will most likely be one of my top films of the year.

Blow Out (1981)

I was kind of taken aback by how much I ended up enjoying this movie. Brian DePalma, the director who loves to showcase his visual abilities, has made a film that seems to have implanted itself in my head; the more I think about it, the more I want to watch it again. It contains what I feel is one of John Travolta’s best performances, as he plays Jack Terry, a sound man for a low-grade, B-film production company. Travolta’s performance is subtle yet affecting, as he investigates what he believes to be a murder he caught on his sound recorder, and we see his frustration with how authorities dismiss his allegations of conspiracy. Nancy Allen plays Sally, the prostitute who was involved in the so-called murder attempt, and who will become Jack’s love interest. John Lithgow is the slimy and dangerous Burke, an evil character who may or may not know the whole story, and who wields an unfulfilled thirst for blood. As all three characters make their inevitable way toward one another, small details of the accident are revealed to us in clever and interesting ways. If you’re interested in the technical aspects filmmaking, you’ll like this, as Jack uses traditional filmmaking skills to help him solve the riddle. The recent Criterion release is one of the best I’ve seen, as the picture is clear and crisp, with the crucial sound elements coming across sharp and undistorted. There’s also a great special feature with film director Noah Baumbach and his hour-long interview with DePalma, as they discuss DePalma’s methods and influences. This is a great addition to the movie, a kind of film school from one of the more established directors in the business.

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Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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