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Posts Tagged ‘Steve McQueen’

The Getaway” (1972)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the fourth film in my “Steve McQueen Collection“.  The movie is “The Getaway” with McQueen starring as Carter “Doc” McCoy, Ali MacGraw as his wife Carol McCoy.  The bad guys are Ben Johnson (as corrupt Texas business man, Jack Beynon) and Al Lettieri (as criminal / gunman, Rudy Butler).  The movie is “supposed” to be an action thriller / chase movie, but really it’s a love story with the poorly done action scenes thrown in to speed up the pace (I guess).
Pretty simple plot: criminal genius (Doc) is in prison pining away for his wife.  She visits and he tells her to contact the big shot baddie to get him (Doc) out.  She does.  He does.  Doc gets picked up by his wife at the gate and immediately begins asking if she’s been unfaithful during his four years in the joint.
Doc meets with baddie (Beynon / Johnson) to repay the favor by doing a job (robbing a bank).  The job goes bad and Doc and wife are on the run.  Blah, blah, blah…  mostly unbelievable stuff happens.  Beynon tells Doc his wife slept with him (Beynon) to get him (Doc) out of prison.  More mostly unbelievable stuff happens.  The two baddies die.  The couple decide they love each other and escape to Mexico with the cash.  Who says crime doesn’t pay?
So, is this movie any good?  As a “action” movie?  As a love story?  Ehh, so-so.  Not really.  And, no.  I didn’t think much of this film and, while I realize it’s dated, the effects seem cheezy even for that time.  Even worse, the action wasn’t very action-ie.  It’s hard to believe this movie was the second highest grossing movie of the year!
What about the “love story”?  Sorry, I just didn’t feel it.  There were very few scenes where there was any chemistry between McQueen and MacGraw – all the more surprising because McQueen was getting divorced and he married MacGraw in real life the next year (1973).  I don’t know, maybe it’s just that I’ve never particularly liked MacGraw.  The ending scene is the only one were I believed I liked her acting.  So, it wasn’t all bad, but as I said above, I just didn’t feel it between the two leads.
Final recommendation: moderate (at best).  There are probably a half-dozen other movies with McQueen which I would have preferred in the four-pack, but three out of four was pretty good for the discount price I paid for the set.
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On This Day In:
2019 Voices Of The Past
2018 Sunrises, Rainbows And Newborn Babies
2017 Untold Agony
2016 Just Borrowed
2015 Warning
2014 Always More Productive
2013 Is Not
2012 Loosely Translated
2011 Your Opinions Are Not My Facts

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The Cincinnati Kid”  —   movie review
Today’s movie review is for the 1930’s / Depression era, stud poker drama “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965) starring Steve McQueen as Eric “The Kid” Stoner, Edward G. Robinson as Lancey “The Man” Howard, Karl Malden as Shooter (the main card dealer), Ann-Margret as Melba (Shooter’s wife), Tuesday Weld as Christian Rudd (the “Kid’s” girlfriend), Joan Blondell as Lady Fingers (the secondary card dealer, and Rip Torn as Slade (a wealthy rich southerner).
Set in Depression era New Orleans, the movie revolves around “The Kid’s” attempt to become “The Man” (the champion) in stud poker.  This is the position / title currently held by Robinson’s character Howard.  Basically, Shooter deals a game between Howard and Slade where Slade looses badly.   (Famous quote:  “Son, all you paid was the looking price.  Lessons are extra.“)  While dealing the game, Shooter engages Howard to play the Kid.  Howard agrees.  Slade, who wants to get even with Howard, extorts Shooter to fix the game.  The game is played and Howard ultimately wins with a devastating hand (inside straight-flush) over a full house.  (Wikipedia says the odds of this happening are in the hundreds of billions to one.)
There are side story lines about the personal relationships between Shooter and his wife Melba, the Kid and his girlfriend, and the Kid and Melba.  Howard cautions the Kid during a break in the game to avoid relationships because they distract from this career they have chosen.  He recommends just having flings on the side / in-between games which will naturally peter out when the gambler moves on to the next venue.
This movie is widely considered as among the best of all the poker playing genre, but not necessarily the best of all the gambling genre.  It is widely compared (unfavorably) to “The Hustler” as a distant second / reminiscent / poor remake.  I have seen “The Hustler” (1961), but not in fifty odd years, so I can’t honestly say this is true, but I generally prefer Paul Newman to McQueen, so it probably is accurate.  They are both gambling movies with the young handsome up-and-comer trying to upset the old-lion, so I can see the comparison.
Is this any good?  Was it entertaining?  The answer to the first is that I found it more “interesting” than good.  Too much drama and not enough action for my tastes.  But, yes, it is an entertaining drama – in the classic old Hollywood sense (acting, character and plot development).
I enjoyed seeing the setting of New Orleans in the 1930’s.  I enjoyed the funeral band and the jazz club scene.  Right up until the very end, McQueen is consummate “cool”.  But throughout the movie – and particularly at the end – Eddie G. just smokes him in every scene!!  Robinson is the epitome of the alpha-male.  This movie is worth seeing just to gain an appreciation of him and his acting ability – without the hammy gangster-ism of some of his earlier / younger roles.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  I am not a poker player, so the game scenes did not have much appeal to me.  I have personally only played (for money) once in my entire life – although I have watched it on TV a few times.  I “really” didn’t find that interesting either.  Anyway, as an old-style drama with character acting / development and two stars bringing their “A”-game, this is a movie worth viewing.
Two other points worth mentioning…  The first point is there is a cock-fight scene in the movie which doesn’t show “much”, but would simply not be allowed in today’s cinema.  While not showing the death blows, it shows enough to make the movie problematic for young viewers.  The second point is the five main supporting characters (in no particular order).  I am not a fan of Karl Malden, but I must admit to being surprised by his acting in this role.  He is very good.  I am even less a fan of Rip Torn, but he made a surprisingly effective “bad southern guy”.  I was very disappointed by Ann-Margret in this role.  Considering she was not yet 25 years old during the filming, she looked too old to play the young tramp wife married to the older unsuccessful gambler (Malden).  Obviously, she’s attractive, but she just didn’t have “it” in this role (for me).  Weld made for an appealing (but extremely forgettable) ingénue in this movie.  Although a very familiar name who has appeared in a number of films and TV series, I struggle to remember her in any role (and most of the films / series).  And, finally, Joan Blondell!!  She hits it out of the park!  Considering she is in her mid-50’s during this film, she is FAR more sassy / attractive / interesting than Ann-Margret or Weld who are both 30 years her junior.  She steals EVERY scene she appears in – including when matched up head-to-head with Robinson.  She was nominated for a Golden Globe for this role and she is worth the price of admission herself.
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On This Day In:
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2012 I’m Still Not Certain
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Papillon” (1973)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the prison / escape historical drama “Papillon“, starring Steve McQueen in the title role as Henri Charrière (aka: Papillon) and Dustin Hoffman as his friend and fellow prisoner Louis Dega.  Papillon is french for “butterfly”, which is the medium size tattoo character he has on his chest.  He has been sentenced to life without parole for murdering a pimp.  He insists he is only a safe-cracker and that he was framed for the murder.  The Dega character has been sentenced for forgery and embezzlement.
Before I forget to mention it, there is an outstanding supporting role of a prison warden (for solitary confinement) played by William Smithers.  In this movie, the system is the villain, but he makes an exceptional focal point for the “system”.
They get on a ship from France to French Guiana / Devil’s Island.  Papillon saves Dega’s life and contracts to protect Dega in exchange for Dega funding Papillon’s escape.  After several acts of bravery, Dega trusts that Papillon is a true friend and probably innocent of his conviction for murder.
Blah, blah, blah…  Brutality, betrayal, torture, escape attempt, solitary, torture, betrayal, solitary…  you get the point.  There are three things to take from this film: man’s inhumanity towards our fellow man; friendship; and, the indomitability of some men’s spirit.  In the end, Papillon escapes and “outlives” his prison.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining?  Is it worth seeing?  If you are a fan of either McQueen or Hoffman, I believe this movie is a MUST see.  McQueen plays a different role /character than normal – he doesn’t settle for “cool”.  He acts.  Hoffman really “just” plays Hoffman, but he does it very well and it’s kind of a mini-display of many of his doddering roles in other films.  That sounds like a put-down, but it’s not meant in that spirit.
Is it an entertaining movie?  No.  Try as I might to find joy in the progress and eventual success, I did not.  The movie is just too long and there is only so much punishment you can watch before you start to feel victimized too, and I don’t watch movies to feel victimized (too).  I won’t say it was boring.  It just felt plodding.
Is it worth seeing?  Again, it depends…  It is supposed to based on a real life experience, it does have two good actors in two above average performances, and finally, it is a story about perseverance and the triumph of the human spirit.  So, yeah, I guess it is “worth” viewing.
Final recommendation: moderate.  The acting is good.  The end result of the movie is satisfying (spoiler: he gets away).  But the movie really just felt almost as suffocating as the prison, so it would be hard to give it a higher rating.
Two final notes:  First, there has been a remake, in 2017, but the reviews were pretty bland, so I’m not sure I’d spend another two hours on this story.  And, second, I don’t remember this “movie”, but I feel as if I definitely must have seen it before because I distinctly remembered the last ten minutes (the satisfying bit of the movie).   Coconuts, anyone?
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On This Day In:
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2012 Creating Interlocking Fragility
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Bullitt” (1968)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the 1968 cop movie “Bullitt“, starring Steve McQueen in the title role as homicide Lieutenant Frank Bullitt.  The film also stars Jacqueline Bisset as Cathy (the girlfriend), Don Gordon as the partner (homicide Detective Delgetti), Robert Vaughn as US Senator Walter Chalmers, Simon Oakland as the gruff voiced boss (Captain Sam Bennett) and (in an early role) Robert Duvall as Weissberg (a cab driver).  There’s also a bunch of bad guys (who cares).
The basic plot is a some guy is running from the mob in Chicago.  He flees to San Francisco.  He is “made” by a doorman at a hotel and the mob sends a couple of professional contract hitmen to kill the runner.  We are introduced to the star and his partner.  Bullitt meets a big money / sleazy politician (Vaugh / Chalmers) and is assigned to protect a witness over the weekend until a Senate hearing on Monday.  The witness is (of course) the runner.
The protection goes south and the witness and the cop protecting him are shot.  The witness (ultimately) fatally.  Bullitt smells a rat and bends the rules to keep the case open.  Blah, blah, blah…  BIG car chase – for which the movie is FAMOUS.  The two killers are dead, but Bullitt feels the case still stinks and continues to work it (this time, with permission).
Blah, blah, blah…  Bullitt chases and kills the runner at the airport.  The END.
OK.  There are really only three reasons to see this film:  1) you are interested in seeing police movies from 50+ years ago.  2) you really are interested in checking out “Mr. Cool” aka Steve McQueen.  And,  3) the CHASE.  Did I mention the “chase” is over ten(10) minutes long and “visually” covers most of San Francisco?  No, in reality the areas filmed are not really contiguous, but what the heck…  IT is a GREAT chase scene!!
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  This is considered a classic movie JUST because of the lead (McQueen) and the car chase, so normally I’d give it a “highly to must see” recommendation, but it’s really not that good a movie.  To me, the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense (even if it goes out of the way to hit you with plot checkpoints) and it is particularly unsatisfying.  The “real” bad guy in the movie is Senator Chalmers and nothing happens to him.  So, loose threads and no resolution.
Why “strong” then?  I like Steve McQueen as a big star in a number of films from when I was growing up, not the least of which are: “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Great Escape“.  And then, of course, there is “The Chase“.  Just as a bit of personal trivia / nostalgia, shortly after the movie, one of our local TV news stations shut down the block I was living on (a big hill in SF) and recreated the chase with one of their reporter cars jumping the intersections to “follow the news”.  It was cool to see our house on TV for months as this commercial was rebroadcast.  And, finally, if you watch this film, it’s easy to see where “Dirty Harry” (1971) comes from.
So, come for the “cool” and stay for the CHASE!
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On This Day In:
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