Friday, March 17, 2017

The Great Wall (2017)

I saw this movie a few weekends ago. The minute my brother-in-law told me all the critics hated it, I knew I had to go.  I had already thought the trailer looked cool, and nothing will drive me to the movies faster than knowing the critics don't like it, because whatever they're looking for in a movie usually isn't what I'm looking for.  And this movie seemed right up my alley.

A sci fi/fantasy tale set in Medieval China?  Bring it on!



And sure enough, I enjoyed it immensely.  Is it a good movie?  Probably not, but "good" is a relative term.  The movie is loads of fun for someone like me who loves the combination of a buddy movie, action, and beauty. 

The basic plot concerns some European mercenaries heading east to try to obtain black powder (gunpowder) to take home and sell for a fortune.  But their timing couldn't be worse, and they end up prisoners of the Chinese right at the time when hordes of legendary alien creatures are about to attack.  The Great Wall has been built to keep them out.  The mercenaries prove their worth in battle against the monsters, but the monsters are smarter than everyone thinks and find a way to circumvent the wall.  Then it's basically a fight to implement a crazy plan to defeat them.

Hordes of nasty things are one of my sweet spot map items.  I have written at least three short stories (two of them published) that feature immense vast quantities of nasty creatures.  It's something I come back to again and again.  So, regardless of anything else in this movie, I would have loved that.  I like these creatures too.  Kinda creepy, kinda cool... will tear you apart in a heartbeat and are pretty unstoppable.  They communicate with sound, and I really liked the sound effects on them.


The cast was fun.  I'm not particularly a Matt Damon fan, but he's always so nice that it's impossible not to like him.  Pedro Pascal, however, I do love, and he was delightful.  The two of the together made this into a rather delightful buddy film, and their dialogue made me laugh a lot.  They banter, defend each other, argue, and save each other with great enthusiasm. The end of the movie was just perfect and made me very happy.

I enjoyed the rest of the cast as well. Willem Dafoe skulks about being shifty. Tian Jing is beautiful and resourceful as Commander Lin Mae.  Hanyu Zhang as General Shao was rapidly heading towards being my second favorite character, but he didn't last long enough.  Sigh.  Everyone else was well-suited to the movie and I enjoyed their performances.


And beauty... something I really have learned I require in a movie.  And this movie was unexpectedly beautiful.  The scene early on where the various ranks of the army pour out onto the wall to take their positions, each group in their own vivdly colored armor made me ooooooh with delight and just wish I could pause the movie to soak in all the color.  The Chinese army in this movie might be the most beautifully armored army of all time.  Those colors are exquisite.  This movie was filmed on location as well, which always helps.  The scenery was beautiful, and in some cases, breathtaking.

There was little or no bad language (that I recall), no romance, and the violence was not particularly graphic, which I appreciated.  My favorite action sequence might be the one with the fog and screaming arrows, because that was just too cool.  I really wanted to see it a second time in the theater, but unfortunately, it's already gone, so I'll need to wait for the DVD at this point.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bill Paxton (1955-2017)

Damn it all, my sister let me know that the news broke that Bill Paxton has died.  He was only 61.  I have no words, only tears right now.  Bill Paxton is in the top five on my list of favorite actors who are not only extremely important to me, but whose characters and movies matter at a deeply emotionally level as well.

Aliens, Titanic, Agents of SHIELD, U-571, Vertical Limit, Twister, Navy Seals, Terminator... I own all those on DVD.  I may be one of the only people who watches Titantic for Bill Paxton's bookends more than for the rest of the movie.  And he's the only reason to sit through "we got cows" Twister.

I've adored him since the first time I saw Aliens and Hudson opened his smart-ass mouth.  He's an actor I would watch in anything, just because it's Bill Paxton, and he has never disappointed me.

I'm so sad and crushed by this news.  My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and co-workers, and to the fans like me whose world was always brightened by his movies.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Simple Question Tag

I'm taking this tag from Hamlette, as it looked fun.  If anyone would like to play along, please do!


1. How does your morning start?
Somewhere between 5 and 6 Silver wakes me up to go outside, though nowadays, I'm usually awake before he is because of Thinking.  Then I fall back asleep until he paws on the glass to come back in at 6:30-ish. Then I feed the cats, feed Silver, get dressed, and take Silver for a walk. Then I make tea, eat a Kind bar, put on music, check email and blogs, etc., and start work at 7:30. 

2. What's your favorite color?
It depends.  Maroon.  Purple.  Black.  Blue.  Probably blue.  Pale blue eyes I can get lost in and deep soothing velvety blue to run my hands over, and mountain sky blue that tells me I'm home.


3. What book are you reading right now?
Re-reading "The Sleeper Wakes" by HG Wells for the umpteenth time.  It's my favorite book by him.

4. What is your opinion about having a mobile phone?
I only carry it when I have to, which annoys my family no end, because that means I do not take it walking or hiking.  However, I love being able to text my sister, and the various movie dialogue I use for notifications never ceases to amuse me.

5. Your favorite actresses? (Pick at least two)
Jessica Chastain has rapidly shot to the top of the list, cuz she's amazing and can do anything.  I also quite love Naomie Harris, Rooney Mara, and Daisy Ridley.  Barbara Stanwyck is still my favorite classic era actress.


6. What's your favorite movie right now?
Rogue One, as I just talked about yesterday.

7. Snow or rain?
Both!  There's nothing like being out in the snow, I even love shoveling snow.  But I don't live in the snow anymore, and I'm more than delighted with rain.  Silver loves rain, so we go walking no matter the weather, even in a downpour.

(pic my dad just sent me of where he lives - I just want to take Silver and GO down that road! Also, just look at that blue Sierra sky.  Nothing like it.)

8. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Homemade vanilla.

9. To which countries have you been?
Canada, Mexico, Australia

10. What are you doing mostly in the evening?
After another walk with Silver, it's usually cooking dinner for family and hanging out with them, or writing, or watching movies, or IMing with my best friend.

11. How old are you?
I am neatly bracketed by my birthday buddies, Hugh Jackman and Will Smith.

12. Which countries do you really want to visit?
Australia again.  Great Britain.  Italy.

13. What's your dream career?
Nowadays?  I don't want a career.  I want to be a wife and writer. (Flying helicopters for fun on the weekends.)

14. If you were cast in a movie, which character would you love to play?
The protagonist's wife, who's a spy (he's not). She's killed in the first ten minutes by the bad guys, who are trying to get back something she stole that they desperately need.  She doesn't tell them where it is, and her death and that macguffin kick off the protagonist's journey through the rest of the movie.  Or I'd love to play a stormtrooper in any future Star Wars movie.  Or I would really really love to play a Bond girl, when Ben Mendelsohn gets to play the antagonist.  I'd be his girlfriend, the one who betrays him to help Bond, and gets killed for it in some uniquely colorful way that only Bond films can do.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rogue One Revisited

Rogue One is coming to the end of its theatrical run, and this makes me sad.  I’m enjoying it too much on the big screen.  Every viewing I’ve been to on this movie, and almost especially those in the last two weeks has been nearly sold out.  We actually got turned away from one viewing a couple weeks ago because it was sold out, and we ended up having to go to completely different theater.  I don’t think I’ve ever attended a movie this many times with full audiences every single time.  (How many times have I seen it, you ask?  Only eleven... which is not nearly enough.)


This movie has indeed become my favorite of the Star Wars universe films, for so many reasons.  It’s given me my undisputed favorite character from any of the movies:  Director Krennic.  Followed immediately by my second favorite:  Cassian Andor.  It’s the film to finally give me my nearly perfect SW universe character match (Cassian).  It’s got my favorite droid (K2SO).  I love every single character in this movie, except one (sorry, Lyra).  It’s rare that I want to be friends with movie characters.  That’s not my thing.  But I want to be friends and hang out with all of these people.  Even the tertiary and bit characters, like Blue Leader and Pao and Melshi and a couple other one-line pilots and Imperial officers and Admiral Raddus and and and...  I have ridiculous quantities of love for all of these characters.


I love the planets and the scenery.  I love the vast quantity of Stormtroopers on screen at any given time.  I love the ships.  I love the dialogue, the music, the costumes, the props, and every blooming thing about this movie.


And watching Rogue One remains the most amazing and unique experience.  I honestly am not sure I’ve ever sat through a movie quite like it.  What I mean by that is that the second half of the movie, from when the Rogue One team assembles and head off to Scarif, is one giant unstoppable emotional crescendo.  It never lets up and it never plateaus, it keeps building.  And building.  Just when you can’t think it can go any higher, it does, and then it does it again.  All movies build to their climax scenes, of course, but not sustained for this long.  There are little ups and downs.  Not in Rogue One.  There are no downs.  It goes up and up and up until you think it can’t go any higher, and then there’s the Death Star coming out of hyperspace, and then it leaps even higher with Vader igniting his light saber, and then it goes even higher when the Tantive IV escapes and we’re back in those bright while corridors where it all began in 1977, and then it impossibly goes even higher when Leia appears (and that's just the last fifteen minutes, it does that throughout that last hour).  My sister and I have run through every single movie we’ve ever loved, all the ones we've watched over and over in the theater before this, and we can’t find a single one that builds so steadily quite the way this one does, or one that matters emotionally to us as much while it’s doing it.  That is the key.  Movies are merely enjoyable popcorn fun unless they matter emotionally.  And this one matters emotionally on a hardcore level.

The sheer joy, satisfaction, and revved up energy I experience when coming out of the theater after a viewing of Rogue One feels like I've been launched to the moon.

Part of the joy of this one is also that it’s brought back an unexpected wave of nostalgia for the sheer wonder that was 1977.  I didn’t believe that could be possible.  All those childhood feelings, what it felt like to sit in the theater back then, the excitement that wasn’t just excitement for a cool new movie, but for a game changer.  Rogue One brought all that back, for both me and my sister.  It reminds me of everything I fell in love with Star Wars for in the first place.

And it has made me love the original Star Wars and Empire films with a renewed passion that I haven’t had in a while.  (Yes, I’m aware that I’m dating myself.  But I cringe every time anyone calls the first film “A New Hope.”  It was Star Wars when it came out and changed my life, and that’s what I will always call it, except under extreme protest.  It’s Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi.  End of story.  And Han shot first.)


This nostalgia is probably no surprise, as most of the people making this movie are around my age and went through exactly that same thing.  Star Wars means the same thing to them as it did to us.  My sister picked up the Visual Guide (which is wonderful), and the foreword by John Knoll could have been written by me or my sister.  We read his words and went Yep.  What he said.


I have my action figures, I have my t-shirts and sweatshirts.  I have books and magazines to pour over.  I have my wristbands with my favorite quotes. I even have my Rogue One Klennex box, which just might be the oddest movie merchandise ever but I love it.  It all lets me hang onto the movie high that Rogue One induced for a little while longer.


I have no idea what Star Wars VIII, or even next year's Han Solo movie will bring, but bring it on.  I prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around.  If only someone had told me back in the day, relax!  Star Wars will not only still be going strong thirty years from now, but if anything, it will be going stronger.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The future of movie theaters?

I've spent countless hours in movie theaters.  I love movie theaters.  Sitting in a darkened theater for two hours is one of my happy places.  Or... it used to be.  But old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, apparently.

First is this new trend of forcing you to select your seat at the box office window.  I. Hates. It.  Precious.  It's nearly impossible to tell from their charts how close your proposed seats are to the screen.  I like to sit fairly close, but not too close.  But I like the screen to dominate my view.  I've already had to sit way farther back than I remotely like on a couple viewings because I can't tell!  I feel like I'm going to need to carry some sort of giant cheat sheet with me, listing every single auditorium in every single theater we go to, and which rows represent the distance I like.  Now, if it's a viewing that's nearly empty, as does happen, then switching seats isn't a problem.  But really.  This whole trend has added a level of stress and unhappiness I've never had before when going to the theater.  Even when a screening was nearly full, I could still find seating that pleased me just walking in.  Now... not so much.

Second is this new trend of changing the stadium seats to be these wide, long recliner seats.  Oddly, in an age of cramming more people in, this is doing the opposite.  The theater I was just in, that would have had a good 30 rows or so, now only has 8 rows.  And because the seats recline, apparently they felt the close rows no longer need to be stadium-style, so we're regressing back to my childhood days of staring up up up at a screen, rather than looking straight ahead or slightly down via stadium seating.  AND, the way they rebuilt the theater to accommodate these recliners... they put a very wide *&^$&* aisle where the best seating would have been previously.  Seriously, people.  WTF???  And of course, you have to choose seats ahead of time, so I had no idea the theater even had this new configuration.  So, it's either sit too close and below the screen.  Or sit too far away and be up higher.  STRESS!  UNHAPPINESS!  Why do they think this is a good idea, exactly?

Third, our AMC has not only done one and two, but their theaters are now dine-in theaters.  I just experienced this madness this week.  When you hand them your ticket to get in, they tell you, "Don't go to the concession stand, your waiter will come to your seat to get you whatever you need."  As you walk back to your auditorium, you pass kitchens.  Full-on restaurant kitchens.  With chefs.  Waiters are walking the theater balancing trays.  You don't walk into the theater anymore, a waiter escorts you to your seat.  The seats have trays (which prevent you from crossing your legs), and there are menus, real silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin waiting for you.  There is a call button between seats to call your waiter to you anytime you want.

I'm not kidding.

I was appalled.  I go to the movies to sit in the darkness, be undisturbed, and get lost in a fictional world for two hours.  It appears that joy is going to be taken away.  Now there are people walking about carrying food, being distracting.  Now there is the clatter of silverware on plates, glasses being set down on trays, and the smell of meals, being distracting.  Even their fricking call button is illuminated and glowing right beside your head.  I had to take the napkin and cover it up it was so irritating.  All these things pull me out of the movie.  All these things make me want to cry. 

I just want to watch a movie on the big screen in peace and quiet.

I don't want to pick the wrong seats ahead of time.
I don't want to recline.
I don't want to eat a meal.
I don't want a waiter coming to check on me.
I just want to watch a *%@%$^ movie IN PEACE AND QUIET.

*deep breath*

I guess we really are heading towards the world depicted in Wall-E.  Everyone on their personal recliner, not having to get up or move, everything coming to you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 2017

Silver's one year birthday is coming up in just a week.  Wow!  How time flies.  He's doing well, about 55 lbs. now.  He makes me laugh all the time, he's such a big silly dork.  He has started howling occasionally if all the neighborhood dogs are set off by sirens or something and he's outside, except my boy sounds like it's the first time he's ever used his voice or he's got laryngitis!  He has the hoarsest, most unused-sounding voice ever.  It is the funniest thing you've ever heard.  He's starting to blow his coat, so there is white fur going everywhere right now.  Just normal life with a Husky!


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Rogue One (2016)

On New Year's Day, my sister and I celebrated the arrival of the new year with our traditional double feature at the theater. This year, it wasn't hard to choose which movies we wanted to see:  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One.  It was my fourth viewing of each of them, so that kind of tells you how much I love these two movies.  They are my favorite movies released in 2016, and it's hard to choose between them (though Rogue One slightly edges Fantastic Beasts out for my number one spot).  And I haven't reviewed either of them here, yet.  Shame on me.  So, here goes with Rogue One.

Wow, I loved this movie.  I can't say that strongly enough.  Didn't expect to, because once again, I liked only parts of the trailer (ie: AT-ATs on the beach, holy smoke amazing).  But, turned out I was worried for nothing because the parts I didn't like in the trailer weren't actually in the movie.  Yay!


But yeah, I loved this movie.  It will probably end up being my favorite of all the Star Wars films, but we'll see where it settles.

*Spoilers follow!!*

What do I love?  In particular?  Besides all of it?  LOL!

The characters.  I love these people so much!  All of them.  My family made the mistake of re-watching Force Awakens last week.  Now don't get me wrong.  I still love Force Awakens, but we found it unexpectedly awkward to view after Rogue One.  The characters in Force Awakens are all on learning curves, and Rey and Finn are so young, still growing, still figuring out who they are.  Whereas the characters in Rogue One know who they are, they're all mature.  It's a very different type of movie, and as much as I still love the Force Awakens characters, I couldn't help but gravitate to the new ones more.

Bodhi, the defecting Imperial pilot is great.  I love all his scenes, love his energy.  My favorite moment of his is when he explains to Jyn what Galen told him about being brave and how he could make things right.

Galen Erso - Mads Mikkelsen is perfect in this role, love him so much as Galen.  And Jyn - just love her too.  Great lead for this movie, and she beautifully binds everything and everyone together.  I admire her immensely.


Chirrut and Baze... 2016 had some great best friend pairings, something I always appreciate in a movie.  I don't know if I like these two or Goodnight Robicheaux and Billy Rocks (from Magnificent Seven) better.  They're very similar friendships, with similar ends.  I love their dynamic, love their dialogue, how Baze always looks out for his friend. "I don't need luck.  I have you!"


K-2SO - the scene stealer!   Best droid ever.  Funniest dialogue and actions.  "Did you know that wasn't me??"  (My nephew does a perfect imitation of him doing the "whole system goes down" part that just cracks us up, and we have these silly faux-arguments about who gets to have K-2 as their partner, cuz everyone wants him around.)  His death is one of the saddest in the movie.

Which brings me to the two most important characters to me.... Cassian Andor and Director Krennic.

Cassian - A movie always works best for me when there's a "me" character, and holy smoke.  Cassian is the most "me" character in all of the Star Wars movies.  As much as I loved the original trilogy, as influential as it was on me growing up... I never actually related to anyone.  I loved Han the most... but I wasn't anything like him.  He's far too reckless and doesn't think before he acts half the time.  (This is part of why Raiders of the Lost Ark was so important to me when it came out, and why I still go by Indy as a nickname, cuz it gave me "my" Harrison Ford character that Star Wars hadn't provided.)  When the prequels came out, young Obi-Wan came closer.  And then Poe Dameron came closer still... but he's far too trusting and enthusiastic for me to fully relate to him.

Cassian, on the other hand, in his very first scene in this movie, I leaned over to my sister on our first viewing of the film and said, "oh man, he's me!"  So, I finally have my Star Wars character match.  I love Cassian, and I feel him so much.  I love all the things Diego Luna does to bring the role to life, how much he conveys about what his character is feeling/thinking with just a look. I love Chirrut's comment about how he carries his prison around with him.  I love his practicality, and his bitterness, and his hope, determination, and faith despite those things.  I love how he's always thinking.


And then there's Krennic - I have a new favorite bad guy!  Oh man, do I love Krennic.  He's got everything going on that I love in my bad guys.  My favorite bad guys are always the hands-on sort, the ones not afraid to get their hands dirty.  That's Krennic.  He's always doing things himself that he could just send someone else to do.  He fetches Galen back in person in the beginning, when he really doesn't have to.  Could have just sent his death troopers.  (And how cool is it that the guy has his own personal private squad of the baddest storm troopers ever, all loyal and taking orders just from him???)  He goes to confront Galen personally again after he finds out Galen betrayed him.  When he finds out someone's accessing the archives on Scarif during the attack, he goes himself, and takes out Cassian.  He has no problems holding his own in a physical confrontation. He's also the only Imperial Officer I've ever seen who goes armed.  No one else (that I recall) ever sported a blaster at his side at all times, and I love it!  He's also confident and stands up for what is his, even when he's being railroaded by Tarkin.  He even has the nerve to tell Vader he's got more pressing things to do than respond to the Dark Lord's summons.  Hah.  Vader may intimidate him, but he's still not afraid to mouth off a bit.  Nearly pays for it too, LOL.  And we can't forget that this guy actually got the Death Star built.  No one else.  Krennic did that.  Dude, hats off to you cuz that's a huge accomplishment.  (And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great uniform and snazzy cape that he totally owns as he strides around.)

(I just might now have a huge crush on Ben Mendelsohn.)

The first time I saw this, the movie really came together for me when Rogue One departed Yavin on their mission.  The energy level from that point forward absolutely soared.  That last half was unbelievably awesome.  From the beauty of Scarif, to sneaking in, to the Rebels creating diversions, to the fight on the beaches, to Admiral Raddus showing up and everyone else following, to Blue Leader (love him too!) and his squadron going down to defend the ground troops, to everyone having their moments, to how they're successful but at what cost, to watching that star destroyer sheering downwards towards the shield gate, to the Death Star and the Imperial fleet showing up, and that amazing moment with Jyn and Cassian on the beach, to Vader igniting his light saber in the darkness.  WOW!!!!  I can't say any other Star Wars film affected me as much as the last half of Rogue One.


On my subsequent viewings, the first half became just as important as the second, as I noticed all the details I missed the first time.  I'm particularly fond of all of Krennic/Galen's scenes (naturally), and their whole backstory of which we only get glimpses.  I'd watch this movie just for Krennic and Galen.

This fourth viewing was perfection.  Fourth viewings have that tendency.  You're over your initial expectations and reactions, you've seen it again and processed everything.  The fourth viewing ends up being the most relaxed of the viewings, and at the same time, the most exciting.  It flew by.  Felt barely an hour long and ended long before I was ready to leave the theater or that world or those characters, while at the same time being just perfect because I wanted more.  One should always want more.

So, that was rather a messy and rather personal review, but there you have it.  Rogue One rocked my world.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

And now Debbie Reynolds

My heart grieves so much for their family.  Crying all over again.  She was also an important figure in my early life, in a different way from her daughter but right now, I just don't even know what to say or how to express that.  Rest in peace, Debbie Reynolds.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Crying as I write this.  I knew it was coming after the news of her heart attack before Christmas, but knowing that, anticipating that finality, somehow didn't lessen the blow of truly losing her.  I've talked before about how important and life-impacting Star Wars was to me (and my family) in 1977, and how the universe and films continued to shape and fill my life after that.  Princess Leia has been a huge part of that.  If anything, I loved her more in Force Awakens than I had in the original trilogy.  I'd follow Princess Leia into any battle for the Rebellion, anywhere, anytime.  As Max Von Sydow's character said in Force Awakens, "To me, she's royalty."

This is a very sad day.

Rest in Peace.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

A very Merry Christmas to all.  May you stay warm and safe today, and celebrate the holiday with your loved ones.




Saturday, December 10, 2016

Rio Lobo (1970)

 

While I grew up with John Wayne Westerns, we only had a handful that we watched all the time:  The Comancheros, The Sons of Katie Elder, Big Jake, The Alamo, The Horse Soldiers, and Rio Lobo were the main six.  There were others, of course, but they were watched infrequently compared to these. 

Since I was young and non-discerning, I loved Rio Lobo pretty much unreservedly back then.  (Okay, let's be honest.  Mostly, I had a huge crush on Jorge Rivero, I was heartily amused by Jack Elam, and I loved the Jerry Goldsmith score. Nothing else mattered past those three things.)  Then I grew up.  Sigh.  Then I discovered Rio Lobo is really a mixed bag.  When it's good, it's good, when it's bad, it's really bad.


Let's get the bad out of the way:  Jennifer O'Neill as Shasta.  Egads.  She single-handedly drags every scene she's in down to sheer fingers-on-chalkboard awfulness.  Shasta ranks as one of the worst movie characters ever, and I just cringe every time she opens her mouth.  She's supposed to be an I-can-take-care-of-myself character, but she just sounds horribly whiny throughout.  Now, O'Neill sure was pretty, but she can't act worth a bean at this very early stage in her career (I haven't really seen anything of hers when she's older, so I'm optimistically assuming that she improved with experience).  Sherry Lansing as Amelita is not really any better.  Susana Dosamantes as Maria is the only one of the ladies in this movie I don't mind. She fits into the movie as Tuscarora's girlfriend, and she never stands out as blatantly out of place.


If Shasta and Amelita were actually important to the plot, I might feel differently.  But if they vanished from the movie, the plot would be the same.  No, it would be way better.  One hates to say that about female characters, but these pretty much have no bearing on anything except to look pretty.

What is the plot?  The first half hour of the movie takes place during the end of the Civil War.  A band of Confederates has been stealing gold payroll shipments from the Yankees.  They clearly have inside information telling them when and where, and John Wayne, as Colonel Cord McNally, is trying to find out who on his side is selling the information to the South.  As the war is still going, the Confederates won't tell him anything, but once the war ends, Capt. Pierre Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Tuscarora (Chris Mitchum) freely tell McNally what he wants to know, although they don't actually know the identity of the traitor.


The movie then shifts from the war to Texas and becomes a straight Western.  Cordona and McNally head to Rio Lobo to help Tuscarora and his father (a scene-stealing Jack Elam) from some nasty fellows who have taken over the town and are buying up all the land thereabouts for a quarter of what any of its worth.  The head bad guy is revealed to be the traitor McNally's been seeking, which ties the segments together.  There's a showdown, prisoner exchange, bad guys are killed, everything is set right, the end.

The plot is nothing new, and this movie is actually Howard Hawks' second remake of Rio Bravo!  (El Dorado is the other one.)  Perhaps this is why the best part of Rio Lobo is the first thirty five minutes, because it's nothing like the other two movies.

That beginning has always been the best part of the movie.  The spectacular, clever train robbery, McNally chasing after the thieves, getting captured, leading them into a trap...  None of the stuff that drags this movie down (*cough* Shasta *cough*) have shown up yet.  We're introduced to Capt. Cordona and Tuscarora, and I always loved how respectfully both sides treat each other.  Their friendship in the rest of the movie begins here, with that respect for each other as soldiers.  McNally's even willing to let Cordona and Tuscarora go if they give him the name of the traitor, but he also understands when they won't.  I love how he immediately comes to see them after the war ends, buys them a drink, and gives Tuscarora money enough to get home.


What else is good?  Any time Jack Elam is around.  He is flat-out hilarious and gets all the great dialogue.  He and John Wayne play off each other like the pros they are, and with a great deal of enthusiasm and fun. Whenever they're together, it is both delightful, and, unfortunately, you also realize how bad everyone else is.  This was the first thing I saw Mr. Elam in, so I still always think of him as a good guy, even though he's really played some very nasty characters in his time.


And I love the Jerry Goldsmith score, of course.  As usual with him, the quality of the music far exceeds the movie.  This was a score I loved so much I taped the music cues I liked off television so I could listen to them in my walkman.  Music for me is so critical to whether I like a movie and want to revisit it, that this score alone elevates this movie far above many other technically better movies.



I'm also quite fond of Chris Mitchum, mostly because I love him in Big Jake.  He always seems such a good-natured young fellow in these two movies.  Victor French as traitor Ketchum/Sgt. Major Gorman cracks me up.  He's so panicky and worried after he gets captured.  And Mike Henry as Hendricks (the real bad guy of the movie) is average but suitably nasty for the role.



And then there's Jorge Rivero.  My adult self realizes he's not great in this either, but neither is he a train wreck like O'Neill.  I remember reading ages ago that he spoke little English when he made this, so his weak dialogue delivery might just be due to not understanding the language well enough.  My younger self didn't care at all that he wasn't great.  She just really liked the handsome, broad-shouldered, athletic, half Mexican/half French character of Captain Pierre Cordona.  ("Yeah, well which half was kneeling and which half was kissing her hand?")  My favorite scene in the movie is still when he gets captured on the road.


Re-watching this film as an adult, though, I find I mostly appreciate John Wayne.  He's got the sheer power, charisma, and professionalism to carry a movie filled with not-so-great actors.  He's the true highlight of this movie because he doesn't act like he's in a lesser movie that's beneath him.  He doesn't phone it in.  You can't tell he's not in the best health.  He just gives it his all, as he's always done.  He plays McNally honestly and with strength and humor and dignity, even when he has to share scenes with Jennifer O'Neill.  And I love John Wayne for that.  And watching a lesser movie like this one with John Wayne is still far more enjoyable to me than watching many other better films that don't have him in it.


In conclusion, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this movie.  However, if you asked me on any random night if I wanted to watch Rio Bravo, El Dorado, or Rio Lobo, I'm afraid I'd still have to pick Rio Lobo over its two superior predecessors.  I've seen Rio Lobo so many times, it's become a bit of a comfort movie for me.  This movie was such an influential part of my youth, and so I will always have a fond place for it in my heart (besides, nowadays we have fast-forward buttons and I can skip through the worst of Jennifer O'Neill).  Plus, I'm afraid Goldsmith trumps Dimitri Tiomkin and Nelson Riddle, and I'll pick the movie with my favorite music every single time.


This post is an entry in Hamlette and Quiggy's John Wayne Blogathon.  Head on over to either page for a list of participating blogs and what topic/movies are being covered.  Hamlette is also hosting a giveaway!  Thanks to them both for hosting and letting me join in the fun!