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Archive for the ‘J.D.’s film reviews’ Category

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By J.D. Lafrance

Burnt out from the debacle that was Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club (1984) and the commercial failure of Streets of Fire (1984), Diane Lane had gone from promising A-list actress to box office poison. Stinging from these two high profile flops and eager to escape the media spotlight, she took some time off to regroup and figure out what she wanted to do next. In 1987, she came roaring back with a vengeance with two films, one of which was Lady Beware, a modest B-movie thriller that was a labor of love for its director, Karen Arthur, but ran afoul of studio interference. While hardly a masterpiece, it is an intriguing cinematic detour in Lane’s filmography.
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by J.D. Lafrance

When I was a child my grandfather and I bonded over several things: Clint Eastwood films, James Bond and The Rockford Files. Some of my fondest memories I have of him are watching an episode of the latter whenever I would stay at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather loved the show. Even though he never verbalized it to me, I think he admired private investigator James Rockford (James Garner) as a stand-up kind of guy with the ability to talk his way out of almost any situation, often with a good sense of humor and played fair even when those that conspired against him did not. He was an honest man in a profession not known for it.
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by J.D. Lafrance

Hell and High Water (1954) was one of 20th Century Fox’s earliest experiments with CinemaScope, widescreen movies that was Hollywood’s attempt in the 1950s to lure people away from their television sets and back into the theaters by giving them something they couldn’t get staying home. Samuel Fuller did such a good job with this format that he used it again on Forty Guns (1957), a hard-hitting western as only he could make.
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On the Road

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By J.D. Lafrance

For years, Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road had been considered unfilmable. That hasn’t stopped people from trying ever since it was published in 1957 with Kerouac himself sending a letter to Marlon Brando asking the actor to star opposite him in a film version. It isn’t the style or the structure that makes the novel difficult to adapt but rather its iconic status as one of the signature books of the 1950s. Even more daunting is its status as a book that millions of people grew up reading, like The Catcher in the Rye. As a result, it has become a much beloved and cherished book for generations of readers. Anyone attempting to adapt Kerouac’s novel into a film faces the intimidating task of living up to the impossible expectations of legions of fans, not to mention somehow making people forget the equally iconic people the characters are based on – Kerouac and his famous friends, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs.
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Mulholland Falls

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By J.D. Lafrance

They say timing is everything and this certainly applies to the release and reception of movies. Case in point: Mulholland Falls (1996). Released a year before the very similar L.A. Confidential (1997), it was also a retro-neo-noir set in 1950s Los Angeles and featured a murder mystery leading to a vast conspiracy. However, Falls was promptly blasted by the critics and quickly disappeared from theaters while Confidential became the toast of critics and received awards from all over the world. So, what went wrong? Falls featured an impressive cast of solid character actors (it had more name actors than Confidential) and a critically acclaimed director with Once Were Warriors’ (1994) Lee Tamahori. Confidential had one name lead actor (Kevin Spacey) and two unknown Australian thespians with director Curtis Hanson who had only done adequate B-movies like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) and The River Wild (1994). Now that a few years have passed, Mulholland Falls has aged surprisingly well.
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The Nickel Ride

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By J.D. Lafrance

I sometimes wonder while watching a heist film, what happens to the loot from a big score? Where is it stored? The Nickel Ride (1974) answers these questions by focusing on a man in charge of a set of Los Angeles warehouses that store the loot. It is a crime film you might not have heard of as it doesn’t have the pedigree of something like The Getaway (1972), which was directed by Sam Peckinpah and starred Steve McQueen. Instead, this film was directed by veteran journeyman Robert Mulligan (To Kill A Mockingbird) and starred Jason Miller, fresh from the critical and commercial success of The Exorcist (1973). Despite being nominated for the Palme d’Or, The Nickel Ride wasn’t well-received and quickly disappeared into obscurity, which is a shame because it deserves to be as highly regarded as other films of its ilk.
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Martin Ritt’s Hud

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By J.D. Lafrance

It has been said that Paul Newman was a character actor trapped in the body of a movie star. He had matinee idol good looks but was unafraid to tackle challenging roles in films like The Hustler (1961), Slap Shot (1977), and Road to Perdition (2002), but perhaps his riskiest role was that of the titular character in Hud (1963). Based on Larry McMurtry’s 1961 novel Horseman, Pass By, it depicts the conflict between an aging cattle rancher and his arrogant son with the nephew torn between his admiration for the former and his fascination with the latter. The film is a revisionist western, depicting a way of life that was becoming increasingly marginalized. Hud was a critical and commercial success while also being nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning three of them. It is also one of Newman’s signature roles and is a powerful example of his fearlessness as an actor.
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