The Straight Story -1999-

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Directed by David Lynch. 112 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

Wow, what a difference 15 years and a big screen can make.

I was ten years old when I first watched a VHS of Richard Farnsworth’s swan song in my parents’ living room. At the time, I thought that it was run-of-the-mill “based on a true story” Disney fare. This evaluation ranks among one of young Patrick’s many dumb opinions because upon seeing a 35mm screening, The Straight Story is a bizarre, beautiful tale that’s near the top of Lynch’s filmography (Lost Highway is still my personal favorite) and one of the best American films of the 90s.

Alvin Straight is the most interesting, fleshed-out character that Lynch ever tackled – as much as I love Frank Booth, Bobby Peru, Dick Laurent, and company, none of them were engaging on a sentimental level. While the film only shows Alvin’s famous lawn tractor ride across the Midwest to see his estranged brother, it tells far more of his story. Learning about both the joy and pain that Straight harbors is every bit as gripping as Lynch’s noirish, fractured realities in his other films. I can’t imagine anyone but Farnsworth in the role – he’s damn close to perfect.

While the substance of The Straight Story isn’t obvious Lynch territory, it’s very much a tale of the darkness that lives beneath the surface of its “All American” locales (very much like Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks). The style, however, is clearly Lynchian. All of the wide-angle shots, unsettling ambient noise, superfluous fire, awkward conversations, quirky characters, and original music by Angelo Badalamenti are all here. Sissy Spacek is particularly wonderful as Rose, Alvin’s mildly autistic daughter.

If you’re a Lynch fan and haven’t yet seen The Straight Story, I haven’t the faintest idea why you’re stalling. Now that you’ve read this piece, ignorance is no excuse. Lawn tractor, don’t walk, to your nearest video store (or Web site, let’s be honest) and check it out!

(Seen on 2014-03-09, written on 2014-03-13)

The Lone Ranger -2013-

Big ballin' is their hobby.

Big ballin’ is their hobby.

Directed by Gore Verbinski. 149 mins.

Worth my time? No, but I expected it to be worse. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

Gore Verbinksi has made a clever, exciting Western that includes all the elements that people love about the genre.

Its title is Rango, and you should watch it.

God, The Lone Ranger is a really fuckin’ long movie.

While the viewing experience isn’t as painful as many critics have claimed, the movie is a mess. Its tone shifts wildly from purely sadistic — main villain William Fichtner, one of my favorite character actors, cuts out a dude’s heart and eats it — to gleefully violent — Helena Bonham Carter’s completely unnecessary character has a prosthetic gun-leg made of ivory — to Saturday morning cartoon hijinks — poop jokes and stereotypical Injun antics from John Depp.

God, The Lone Ranger is a really fuckin’ long movie.

The material feels like it would have fared far better in the hands of Tarantino, or even Rob Zombie. The dudes love their old-timey pop culture, and I bet they would have better luck squeezing some fun out of the bloated script. Instead, there are lotsa pretty things onscreen that you’ll forget about the moment the shot ends. Even the lame Princess Brideish frame story did nothing to make me give a shit.

Armie Hammer is this year’s Sam Worthington. People in high places are clearly grooming him to be an action hero, but it just ain’t working. Scarlett Johansson has more onscreen charisma than this dude. That’s kind of a big problem when he’s a main character.

Depp’s Tonto comes off as a baffling mix between Kato from The Pink Panther movies and Jar Jar Binks. His performance is such garbage that I bet that Native American from the PSA would shed a tear if he saw it.

Fichtner delivers the only interesting performance, but it feels out of place for a popcorn movie. Maybe some creative geek can splice his character into a Peckinpah Western – he’d be right at home.

Aside: If you think about it, The Lone Ranger is like a high-budget reboot of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man.

(Seen and originally written on 2013-07-03)

Something Wicked This Way Comes -1983-

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Directed by Jack Clayton. 95 mins.

Worth my time? No. (Watched on DVD)

Definitely one of the stranger entries in the childrens’ dark special effects extravaganzas of the 1980s. Ray Bradbury’s premise of children being stalked by regret incarnate (a tip of the hat to Jonathan Pryce) is certainly intriguing, but the plot is jumbled in execution (what the hell is up with Pam Grier? I mean, it’s great to see her and all, I just don’t know what she’s doing in the film). Plus, the actors who play the two lead kids are pretty excruciating to watch. Still a couple of snazzy effects shots throughout.

(Watched and originally written during Summer 2010 when I was on a real movie bender)