October 18th, 2008

THE LAST DETAIL (1973) ***

Bad Ass (Jack Nicholson) and Mule (Otis Young) are two career Navy men assigned to the “chicken shit detail” of escorting a prisoner named Meadows (Randy Quaid) cross country to prison.  In their travels they learn that the eighteen year old kid isn’t a hardened criminal, just a klepto with a case of bad luck facing trumped up charges.  Bad Ass and Mule feel sorry for him so they take him out drinking and get him laid in an effort to let the kid live a little before he’s put away for eight years in the brig.


The Last Detail is one of those movies that were considered shocking for the time because of its rampant use of four letter words.  Think about it though.  You’ve heard the expression “cussing like a sailor”?  Well, they ARE sailors and they’re just living up to the moniker that’s all.  Swearing in movies is an old hat nowadays, so a lot of The Last Detail’s initial impact when it was first released has been kinda dampened over the years. 


The film also suffers from some sluggish pacing and a lackluster ending but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie.  It’s got Jack Nicholson doing what we does best, which is namely act like a goddamned lunatic.  If you are a Jack fan (like me) it’s totally worth it just to see his awesome performance.  The flick would probably make a great double feature with The Bucket List as both films feature Jack trying to squeeze in a lot of living in a short amount of time. 


Quaid is quite good as the sheepish Meadows and I had fun spotting such up and coming faces as Carol Kane, Michael Moriarty, Nancy Allen, and Gilda Radner in small roles.  Screenwriter Robert Towne teamed up with Jack once again the next year for Chinatown.

W. (2008) ***

I think whatever your political convictions are, you are going to enjoy Oliver Stone’s W.  The movie paints its main character, George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) as a man of many flaws, but in the end, he's just a regular guy who is trying to live up to his father’s legacy.  In his early Hell raising youth, his father George Sr. (James Cromwell) time and again bailed him out of one predicament or another until he finally gave up on his son.  George W. sets out to rectify that by running for Congress (and winning), running for Governor (and winning) and eventually running for President (and winning).  Not much changes with his dad though.  Since his pops ended the Gulf War without killing Saddam Hussein, Bush Jr. tries to outdo his daddy and kills the sumbitch, all the while looking for the ever elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. 


The surprising thing about this movie is that you just might walk out of it actually LIKING George W. Bush.  Brolin makes you sympathize with him on his quest to find his father’s approval by one-upping him, with drastic results.  You also get a sense that the whole war thing wasn’t entirely W.’s fault as he suffered from bad intel from the CIA and shitty advice from his cabinet. 


Brolin is simply excellent in this.  After about fifteen minutes I forgot I was watching him and thought I was watching the real thing.  That’s really the best compliment you can give an actor playing a historical figure.  I also enjoyed Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney and Elizabeth Banks as W.’s wife Laura.  The only performance that I didn’t like was Cromwell’s George Sr.  While Brolin went through great pains to look, act, and sound like W., James Cromwell looked, acted and sounded like… James Cromwell.  They shoulda gotten Dana Carvey and it would’ve been a lot more convincing. 


W. is entertaining and consistently involving but it also left me wanting more.  I was simultaneously grateful and annoyed that Oliver Stone merely presented the material, giving an even-handed depiction of W.  I was grateful because Stone’s non-intrusiveness allowed me to decide for myself what kind of person W. was.  The problem with that is that he lets W. off the hook a little too easily.  I mean you go to see an Oliver Stone movie to be provoked, to be challenged, whether you agree with him or not.  I would’ve welcomed a little bit more piss and vinegar in the mix instead of all of the fluff. 


That’s okay though because in the end, W. is still a wholly worthwhile look at a man who may or may not be the worst president in history.  He was just doing the best he could with what he had.  Admittedly, it wasn’t much but you can’t really blame him for trying.

BORN INNOCENT (1974) ***

The year after Linda Blair turned heads (no pun intended) in The Exorcist she starred in this infamous TV Movie of the Week.  It’s infamous for a reason.  In one scene, Linda takes a shower and gets jumped by several lesbians and gets a broomstick shoved up her You Know What.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.


Linda plays this teenage runaway who gets sent to a girl’s home.  One teacher tries to get through to her and make a Difference while the other house mother just tries to keep everybody in line.  Of course the place is crawling with teenage lesbian rapists who like to hold Linda down and give her the old Broomstick to the Bush routine.  After that, Linda just isn’t the same.  She becomes withdrawn, tries to escape, gets put into Solitary, and in the end she stages an all out riot when the dumb ass house mother doesn’t give her some shampoo.  After all the delinquent debutantes trash the place, the girls take Linda as her new leader and well… that’s about it. 


What I dug about this flick is that it wasn’t preachy.  The movie didn’t have a “message” and the ending was definitely downbeat.  It didn’t sugarcoat anything and I appreciated the film’s honesty.  The bottom line was that Linda was a product of the system and there was no escape for her no matter how hard she tried.  Not only did she get the short end of the stick but she also got the long end of the broomstick as well. 


As previously stated, Born Innocent was a made for TV flick and I’m sure it was really something when it first aired.  The rape scene although not explicit still packs quite a wallop nearly 35 years later.  While the film definitely pales in comparison next to other Linda sleaze fests like Chained Heat and Savage Streets, this one actually has “drama” and “character development”; if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for in a Linda Blair movie. 


Me, well I enjoy a little drama WITH my sleaze, so it was all good.  The big problem I had with the movie was that the pacing drug on, especially during the middle act when Linda gets sent home temporarily to her uncaring folks.  I know that the filmmakers probably had to pad things out in order for the flick to fit a two hour timeslot, but c’mon.  They could have at least spiced things up with another broomstick scene or two. 


And why didn’t Linda get revenge on the scummy lesbos who violated her?  Seriously, if I was the one that got a broomstick shoved up my hoo-ha, I’d be kicking ass and taking names Chuck Bronson style.  Then again, it probably won’t matter to any die hard exploitation fan how many flaws Born Innocent has.  As long as a devoted fan of sleaze cinema hears the words “Linda Blair”, “raped”, and “broomstick”, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a must see.