The French Connection, The Freshman, Friday Foster, and a few more films

Freewheelin' (1976)
Streaming free at Tubi

I wonder sometimes what I missed, beyond sprained ankles, from never learning to skateboard.

This is a mellow mostly-documentary about skateboarding, with several 'name' shredders from the pre-Tony Hawk era, and maybe from before they were 'names'. Stacy Peralta is the main focus, and he's apparently somebody

It's very laid back for what's basically a sports flick, gnarly but wholesome, and narrated by a young woman who might be Peralta's friend, girlfriend, or sister.

#278  [archive]
APR. 17, 2024

There's sort of a story, as Stacy's fine skateboarding earns him an invitation to tour, but the acting scenes are clumsy. It's only the boarding that's real.

The terminology is so foreign to me it needs subtitles, but it's still fun to watch the action.

It kinda reminds me of the nature documentaries Disney cranked out in the '60s, only with long-hair teenagers instead of forests and animals. There are no hints of marijuana, sex, or anything but life on skateboards, with side trips to related sports like snow skiing, and water and wind surfing.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The French Connection (1971)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Prohibition is stupid, drugs should legalized, and police should respect people's rights, and be fired and prosecuted when they don't. The cops in this movie — Jimmy Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) — are repeatedly caught on camera breaking the law, and should've been out of work before the inevitable sequel. 

"All right, Popeye's here! Get your hands on your heads, get off the bar, and get on the wall!"

And yet, if you yearn for an action drama about out-of-control narcotics cops futilely trying to shut down the heroin supply, well by golly, this is the best of that genre. It's a near-perfect mix of quieter set-up scenes, then tense or violent payoffs, with excellent camerawork and script, and excellent everything, really. When people talk about how good The French Connection is, nobody mentions the music (Don Ellis), but it's terrific, too.

Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco. Directed by William Friedkin. 

It's all only sad if you stop and think about it, so try not to.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

French Roast (2008)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Man drinks coffee in a Parisian cafe, and discovers he's forgotten or lost his wallet. From this comes a brief morality tale that's supposed to be heartwarming, and probably is, but my soul is frozen solid.

This is an 8-minute animated short, done with big-budget CGI, but I dislike the look of it, and of most CGI. It reeks of money over imagination.

Sweet story, though.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Frequency (2000)

Dennis Quaid plays Frank Sullivan, a ham radio buff and New York fireman killed in a big fire in 1969. Thirty years later, his now-grown son pulls the radio gear out of a box, plugs it in, and finds his dead dad on the radio. It's the kind of thing that only happens in the movies.

Quaid is an old shoe — he's been a familiar and friendly presence in movies since I was young, so he's like slipping into your favorite, most comfortable sneakers. I'd watch him in almost anything, even something sorta sucky, like this.

It's too faux nostalgic, has showy camerawork that's distracting, and after the whole Dad's-on-the-radio thing, the story gets even more far-fetched — there's a serial killer on the loose both now and in 1969, and butterfly effects up the yin-yang. 

Jesus Himself (Jim Caviezel) plays Sullivan's adult son. Does that make Quaid his heavenly father?

Verdict: NO, but it reaches right to the cusp of MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Fresh Hare (1942)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Porky Pig is a mountie, on the snow-covered and carrot-baited twail of that wascally wabbit, Bugs Bunny, who's wanted by the law for "conduct unbecoming a wabbit."

It's 6½ minutes of funny, then mildly racist at the end, but you've seen worse racism in old movies.

Directed by Friz Freleng.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Freshman (1925)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

By the best of my recollection, this is the first Harold Lloyd movie I've seen. It's feature-length, not a short, and it's not bad at all, but sometimes it's a while between chuckles.

More than just about anything, Harold wants to go to college, not for an education but to be part of the college social scene, make the football team, and be voted 'most popular'. Instead, absurdities follow other absurdities, and most of the students soon see him as "the college boob." When he tries out for the football squad, he's relegated to being the tackling dummy. Ouch!

There's a big party in formal wear, and lacking a tux Lloyd hires a cheap tailor. The suit isn't ready by the night of the dance, so the tailor follows him around on the dance floor with a needle and thread, making repairs as the fabric rips and buttons pop. Like a lot of this movie, it's amusing, but stretched too long for my 21st-century attention span.

The film's famous final act, some football shenanigans filmed at the Rose Bowl, is a rousing spectacle with laughs, and by the finish it all seems a winner.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Friday Foster (1975)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Based on a newspaper comic strip I'd never heard of, Friday Foster (Pam Grier) is a photographer, which would put her on the wrong side of the camera, in my opinion.

Sent to the airport to cover the arrival of a black billionaire, she witnesses a murder and extended gunfight, and of course snaps pictures, so an assassin is after her.

Playing Foster, Ms Greer is smart and stubborn and headstrong, mostly in the traditional female movie star way — barbed remarks, more than gunfights and fisticuffs. She does, however, steal a hearse and a milk truck. When she goes into an LGBTQ bar, she talks to a trans woman and treats her with respect — fifty years ago! 

Two excellent and imaginative deaths, ample action, plus a stellar blaxploitation cast — Godfrey Cambridge, Scatman Crothers, Eartha Kitt, Yaphet Kotto, Ted Lange, Thalmus Rasulala, Carl Weathers, and of course, Jim Backus. Directed by Arthur Marks (Linda Lovelace for President), with a fine funky score by Luchi De Jesus (Black Belt Jones, Detroit 9000).

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Frightening (2002)
The Fringe Dwellers
Fritz the Cat
Frogs for Snakes
From the Earth to the Moon
From Time to Time
The Front

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting recommendations for movies,
starting with the letter 'G'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. 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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