Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fistful of Dollars (1964)

 Fistful of Dollars, the first spaghetti-western movie to be internationally distributed, was filmed in Italy in 1964. This entertaining film began a long and successful career for Clint Eastwood, the Man with No Name, as an actor and director. The film is about a clever sharpshooter known as Joe who deceives two rival families, the Baxters and the Rojos. "Baxter's over there, Rojo's there, me right smack in the middle."

My favorite part out of all the three Dollar movies is at the beginning of Fistful of Dollars, when he approaches the cowboys and says, "Adios amigos."
"Look stranger, we don't like bad boys like you around town. Why don't you go get your mule? Did you let him get away from you?"
"You see, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. He's feeling really bad."
"My mule, you see he got all riled up when you men were firing those shots at his feet. Of course, if you were all to apologize..." (laughter)
Joe, his hat concealing his face, flips his poncho over his shoulder to reveal his holster. He glares back at them, squinting.
"I don't think its nice, you laughing. My mule don't like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you're laughing at him. Now if you'd apologize, like I know you would, I might be able to convince him that you really didn't mean it."
Their hands hover over their holsters as they tensely stand in silence for a long suspenseful moment until one man reaches for his weapon and Joe fires five subsequent bullets, swift and accurate, as they drop to the ground, defeated.

Clint's superb acting, the intriguing plot, exceptional directing by Sergio Leone, and the soundtracks by Ennio Morricone are factors that make this a classic!

In the sequel, A Few Dollars More, the Man with No Name, now known as Monco, meets Colonel Douglas Mortimer, played by Lee Van Cleef who tracks down criminals. These two bounty hunters collaborate to track down a western outlaw. In my opinion, Fistful of Dollars is better than A Few Dollars More because scenes in which the characters draw drag on and on to the point that you loose interest and become bored with anticipation. Furthermore, they repeat the same process several times throughout the film. In spite of that, the movie is action-packed and still enjoyable.

However, it is the third movie that outshines the first two. Blondie (Clint) and Tuco team up at first then become enemies until rumor spreads of the location of gold being buried in a certain cemetery. As they make their way to the cemetery, they run into Colonel Douglas Mortimer who is heading towards the same destination. They soon embark on a tight race to the gold. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has an engrossing plot that keeps the audience glued to their seats until the conclusion. It may be 20 minutes too long but for some people, time flies by.

Rocky (1976)

Rocky Balboa is a boxer who has not developed all of his techniques. Apollo Creed, the current boxing champion, is trying to make himself look good by giving an unknown boxer a once in a lifetime opportunity to fame and wealth by challenging him in the ring. Many doubt that he'll defeat the champ but he goes for it anyway. During the fight, Rocky would have won if there was just a few more seconds but Apollo still won. At the conclusion of the movie, Rocky didn't care if he lost because he decided boxing is not for him and he just wanted to be with his girlfriend, Adrian.

One of my most favorite part of this movie besides the final fight, is when Adrian comes into his place, asking if she could use the phone to call her brother just in case he might be worried. Since Rocky didn't have a phone, he just opened the window and yelled out across the neighborhood instead.

I enjoyed all of the Rocky movies and I love the inspirational theme song. Rocky was an instant success when it first came out in theaters despite its low budget. It had a brilliant script, excellent acting, and the fights were directed well and made you feel like you were in the ring with the two actors. Sylvester Stallone did a fantastic job portraying Rocky's character and is the talented screenplay writer who started the Rocky franchise. Not only did he write the script, but he began directing the Rocky movies after he starred in the first movie.

The second movie is as good as the first. Apollo may have won the fight in the first movie but a few seconds more and it would have been over for him. He intends to ask for a rematch but Rocky decided to retire and spend time with his his wife, Adrian. However, he can't find a decent job because of poor education and a past criminal record, and ends up working in a meat packing company. It wasn't long until he was fired and decides to return to boxing, accepting the rematch with Apollo. Apollo thought that Rocky was just lucky that he survived the 15 rounds the last time. Apollo was also surprised by how tough and enduring Rocky is and now he knows to train harder the next time. However, so does Rocky. Apollo fails miserably and looses his championship just before he retires. Now, Rocky is the champion!

Rocky 3 is also very entertaining but probably just can't beat the first or second. Now Rocky appears undefeated after many victories and is enjoying his fame and glory with Adrian and his son. Rocky decides to announce that he is retiring when Mr. T. as Clubber Lang challenges him. Adrian is against it and Mickey informs Rocky that Clubber Lang is a killer compared to his recent fights but he disregards the warning. Before the match, Mickey suffers from a severe heart attack and Rocky couldn't get his mind off of Mickey and is defeated by Clubber. After the funeral, Rocky is back in the old gym when Apollo approaches him, offering him help in training for the rematch with Clubber. According to Apollo, Rocky has lost the "Eye of the Tiger" and he must work hard to regain it. After training and Rocky is about to fight at the rematch, Apollo lets Rocky borrow the shorts he wore on their first fight together.

I love the song "Eye of the Tiger." Sylvester asked the rock band, Survivor, to write this song just for this movie. It also became very popular and was also known as one of the best movie soundtracks. I also love how Apollo comes back into the story after his embarrassing defeat in the second movie and helps Rocky defeats Clubber. As always, Sly did great as Rocky and Mr. T. did an excellent job at portraying the ferocious Clubber and had that intense expression on his face throughout the whole movie.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a sophisticated spy film directed by Tomas Alfredson and is based on a novel by John Le Carre. 

British Intelligence is comprised of Control (John Hurt), George Smiley (Gary Oldman), Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), and Roy Bland (Ciaran Hinds). With the help of Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Smiley must identify a Russian agent, referred to as a mole, among the senior figures in the British Intelligence service upon hearing a story from rogue agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy).

The way the plot unfolds seems more complex than Inception since it's nearly impossible to follow the layers of twists if you are not familiar with the names of each character. That includes first names, last names, nicknames, and aliases. 

Anyone who steps into the theater expecting car chases, explosions, and gunfights will be disappointed. This is a slow paced film that requires the audience to be constantly engaged and to speculate what will happen next. Although I have not completed the book or watched the television series, most people who have are more likely to enjoy this film since they have a greater understanding of the plot.

The cinematography is spectacular, incorporating a grainy look to match the Cold War setting. This is a very intriguing film with a strong performance by Gary Oldman.