True Romance,
and a few more films

#223  [archive]
NOV. 24, 2023

True Romance (1993)

I pop this movie on every few years, and it's always delightful. Tarantino wrote it, but he was still only on the cusp of success, so Warner Bros wouldn't let him direct.

It's by Tony Scott instead (The Hunger, Enemy of the State), but the heart of a good movie is a good script, and it feels like Tarantino to me. Quentin might disagree, I suppose.

Christian Slater works at a comic book shop and likes Sonny Chiba movies. Patricia Arquette is the call girl who's his birthday present. Dennis Hopper is Slater's estranged papa, Gary Oldman is a pimp, Christopher Walken is Sicilian, Michael Rapaport is Dick, James Gandolfini is a mobster, Val Kilmer is Elvis, and Brad Pitt is stoned.

For several of these, including Mr Scott, this is their best movie work.

It's a preposterous fantasy of guns and a purple Cadillac, stolen cocaine and a hooker with a heart of gold, all written and performed with balls-out sincerity and laughs and heart.

Abandon common sense, all ye who enter here, and you'll love it, and want to discuss it over a piece of pie afterwards.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Time Barbarians (1990)

Primitive men and woman battle primitively, speaking King James English in very short sentences, usually monosyllabic words. The fights are poorly choreographed and look fake, the bad guys enjoy beating women, the women are frequently topless.

The only vaguely interesting character (and coincidentally, the prettiest woman) is killed about halfway through, leaving no reason at all to watch the rest.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Room Upstairs (1987)

Stockard Channing has converted her family home into a boarding house, stuffed with colorful characters and amusing interactions. 

The household stuff is low-key amusing, and could be the basis for an enjoyable sitcom or dramedy. It's outweighed, though, by Channing's work as teacher/therapist for wildly dysfunctional kids, including one screaming and dangerous pre-adolescent who clearly needs to be institutionalized.

I'd love to live in an America where a dedicated educator like Channing was working to help troubled kids and had a workload of only three of them, but that place has never existed in America, not in the '80s and certainly not today.

The movie has a chipper, folksy, too-loud score of upbeat ain't-this-grand music, which chewed into my patience. It is not, however, a bad movie. It's just not for me. 

It's a Hallmark Hall of Fame effort, from back when Hallmark put some actual care into their movies, and features Sam Waterston, Linda Hunt, Joan Allen, Clancy Brown, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Jerry O'Connell.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Runaway (1984) 

Spare no pity for Tom Selleck, but he came a mustache-whisker away from playing Indiana Jones, and ended up on TV and in B-movies instead. This is one of his better B's, in which he's playing a future cop whose beat involves apprehending robots that balk at their programming and kill people, in clear violation of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.

Michael Crichton, one of my favorite novelists (Coma, The Great Train Robbery, Jurassic Park) before he went out of his mind and became a right-wingnut, wrote and directed it.

The film's robot technology is not as impressive as it was 40 years ago, and Selleck is kinda bland and wooden, but not nearly as cheesy as the bad guy. The story builds some suspense, the script has a sense of humor, and Runaway has one of my favorite character actors, Stan Shaw. Even Kirstie Alley is pretty good.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Wilcox (2019)

A guy lives in the woods, and this is a documentary about him, but it has no narration, very little sound. It just follows a guy who lives in the woods. He looks about 30, he's white of course, has a perfectly trimmed beard, expensive backpack, does yoga or something.

It might be interesting to hear what he has to say about living in the woods, but it's a silent movie so he's denied the ability to speak. 

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Room Service (1938)
Who Farted? (2019)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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