Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released 42 years. (That’s going to make some of you feel old.) It may not be a great movie, but it’s a fun and playful western that’s well-directed, well-acted and looks great. Robert Redford and Paul Newman are a couple of wise-cracking train & bank robbers who end up spending half the movie running from a posse, trying not to get killed or arrested. It’s not fast-paced, the soundtrack is dated and the story is pointless, but there’s lots of swashbuckling fist fights, gun fights, explosions and chase scenes on horseback — what the old folks call a delightful entertainment.
The dialogue and chemistry between Newman and Redford is what keeps it all afloat. It’s the kind of movie that’s pleasant to revisit every few years. (And it’s kind of nice to see what Robert Redford looked like before he botched up his face with plastic surgery. What the hell was he thinking?)
Bob Marley’s Legend introduced me to reggae music. The next stop on that train was The Wailers. They released only two albums, Catch a Fire and Burnin’. Everything after that is “Bob Marley and The Waiers,” which is a good vibe but a different vibe. The original Wailers with the core members of Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Bob Marley made reggae music that’s unmatched. It’s impossible to choose a single representative song, but “Duppy Conqueror” is a fun one. Listen carefully around 1:25 mark and hold on to that for the next 30 seconds.
I listened to “Duppy Conqueror” many times over a two or three year period before a room mate of mine in Toronto, who was deep into The Wailers, pointed out the silly lip sounds that kick in at exactly the 1:35 mark. The sounds fit the song so perfectly, I was never conscious of them. I began listening with greater attention after that and discovered all kinds of crazy rhythms and sounds in The Wailers’ music I’d never noticed before. Bob Marley’s Survival album is like that too. I got a lot of mileage out of those records.
Paul is a foolish and fun movie about two British sci-fi geeks who meet up with a little green alien named Paul while on a Winnebago road trip across the US. Paul is on the run from some men in black and needs to hurry up so he can meet with his mother ship that’s scheduled to pick him up in a few days. The movie is plastered with science fiction references (many which I didn’t get), and it’s entertaining trying to spot them even if they don’t all make for hilarious jokes. If you’re a sci-fi geek who doesn’t take any of it too seriously, it’s a good time. The movie isn’t wall-to-wall jokes, and most of the laughs aren’t the laugh out loud kind. But it doesn’t matter because characters are likeable, and every scene is a different adventure and it’s fun.
Hmph. That trailer makes it seem dumber than it is.
I had high hopes for Source Code because it was directed by Duncan Jones whose first movie, Moon, holds up as the most intelligent and engaging science fiction movie I’ve seen so far this century. “Source Code” has a science fiction premise: a guy is repeatedly transported into the last eight minutes of another guy’s life who was on a train that blew up, and the guy getting transported has to figure out who blew up the train. But it’s more like science-fantasy than science fiction once you begin to think about it. For me, it was intriguing up to a point and then I didn’t care because I knew none of it was real. And that’s when I began to step out of the movie and notice all the plots holes, and they’re huge. The movie wants us to think about the nature of existence, but there’s really not much to think about. Then just when the movie should end, it goes on for another five or ten minutes and does something that made me think, “They’re not really doing this, are they? Oh, come on.” But it didn’t really matter by that point because I’d already lost interest. Nevertheless, I didn’t dislike the movie. It’s well directed and well acted and it’s not boring, and it might work for anyone willing to buy into its premise without picking it apart like I did (but I couldn’t help myself). It’s just not in the same league as “Moon,” which is emotionally engaging, thoughtful, hard science fiction. “Source Code” is more science fiction light.
In honour of Tolstoy’s birthday today, I’m going to recomend The Last Station.The movie stars Christopher Plummer playing an eccentric Leo Tolstoy during the last months of his life. It’s not a flawless movie, but strong performances and a potent final scene make it worth the ride. Makes you want to read some Tolstoy too.