My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
Two Double Features: James Woods and Kurt Russell
The General’s Daughter (1999)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
My suggestion is to skip the first ten to fifteen almost embarrassing minutes of this film. After a ridiculous opening with an unnecessary action sequence and cringe-worthy phony accent from Travolta (if we’re supposed to believe he’s faking this to pass as a Southerner then the film is setting him up for failure…), the movie actually settles into a smart, procedural, highlighted by its performances.
It’s worth the watch just for the scenes between Travolta and James Woods, both electric and at the top of their game. Travolta thankfully avoids more over-the-top Broken Arrow moments and instead settles into that sharp, sarcastic wit that characterized some of this best roles. Woods pulls back and refrains from any overly intense moments, choosing instead to play a mental chess game with his opponent. The few moments between these two steal the entire picture.
But the rest of it isn’t bad, even if the climax is a little preposterous. It is mostly rescued by a thoughtful ending that reminds me of Clear and Present Danger. I may like this movie a little more than it deserves because I’m nostalgic for that era. These kinds of movies, the stories and the way they were put together, are now an extinct species.
Watched on Paramount Plus
The Best of Times (1986)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I rewatched this the other night with my family, curious if it lived up to my recollection. And yes, it’s still an underrated sports comedy.
When I mention this movie to most folks, their reaction is, “Kurt Russell and Robin Williams made a movie together?” The pairing may be unusual but it works so well. Williams is in top form, perhaps more restrained than some of his iconic performances but still delivering physical and verbal comic brilliance. Kurt is in his shaggy dog mode and the perfect counterweight for Williams to play off of.
The film isn’t just funny. It’s a touching story of a town getting their act together. I love the cameo parts from Western character actors like Dub Taylor and R.G. Armstrong. If you haven’t seen this and you like Kurt & Robin, I highly recommend a viewing.
Watched on Tubi.
True Believer (1989)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
The only reason to watch this film is James Woods. He delivers another electric performance and even if he might be a little over-the-top in some moments, we only have so many of his roles to cherish now that the actor seems to sadly be mostly retired.
The finale of the film, which I won’t spoil, is quite good but it’s road to get there is a rocky one. The script is uneven and spends time where it shouldn’t while ignoring key character development, such as really exploring Woods’ character’s disillusion and decision to take the case. I also never liked Robert Downey Jr. He’s never been anything more than mediocre and here he comes off as a cartoon character. I don’t get what people see in the guy but then again most audience members gravitate towards surface-level performances.
Again, it’s worth it only for Jimmy.
Watched on Tubi.
Tango & Cash (1989)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
Reading about the production troubles of this film, it’s a wonder that the finished product is even watchable. Though it’s an amusing ride at times, those issues do contribute to a disjointed film.
What works are some impressive action set pieces (the complex prison system), a couple unforgettable moments (the electro shock torture comes to mind), and the charisma of the two leads (neither of whom are in top form). But the tone is all over the place. Apparently Konchalovsky, an odd choice for this material to begin with, wanted the film to be more serious and hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters pushed it in a silly direction. It sounds like Stallone was in trigger happy mode at the time, not only on screen but off as well, firing the original DP (none other than Barry Sonnenfeld) and approving Peters’ decision to can Konchalovsky. Sounds like it was a pattern for Sly in this era, getting rid of a slew of collaborators in his late 80s and early 90s pictures before his own career took a dive.
Back to the film, the uneven tone makes it a mixed bag. Some scenes are fun/funny and others just fall flat. I would have given it three starts but the last fifteen minutes, reportedly reshot after Konchalovsky left, are just plain stupid. Stallone, who like the Hollywood machine can’t stop capitalizing on his past instead of creating original IP, is now talking about a sequel to this. It’s the only sequel I wouldn’t mind seeing since it wouldn’t be hard to improve on the original.
Watched on Tubi