The Chain Reaction Film Club: Wyatt Earp

Film 39: Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp 1

The Rules

My chum Tim and I watch a film almost every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor.

Previously On…

Last week was Apollo 13. It was never going to be less than fine with that cast and director, and indeed it was not less than fine. It wasn’t much more either… This time around it’s Tim’s choice.

The Shortlist

The Big Picture (1989)

Cast Away (2000)

Terminal (2004)

Absolute Power (1997)

Frailty (2001)

A League of Their Own (1992)

Tombstone (1993)

Wyatt Earp (1994)

The Choice

The Big Picture is a Christopher Guest film which stars Kevin Bacon and neither of us had heard of. I’m still puzzled as to why Tim didn’t pick it. Having confessed my youthful disdain for Tom Hanks last week it may not be that much of a surprise that I haven’t seen Cast Away or Terminal, the former of which has been on shortlists a couple of times before. Absolute Power is probably the film that we’ve shortlisted most without yet picking… we’ll get there! Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood facing off against each other has a certain appeal.

I read about Frailty in Bill Paxton’s obituary and it’s been on my radar ever since. Tim felt it would be a bit dark for such a warm sunny evening. And then there’s A League Of Their Own. Tim keeps shortlisting it and I’m scared he might actually choose it one day.

Tombstone we’d both seen before but fancy a rewatch. Wyatt Earp seems like it covers the same territory, but takes three hours over it. And so, our film-watching time being limited, Tim chose the three hour version.

Wyatt Earp 2

Val Kilmer, Sam Elliot, Kurt Russell and…  Oops, wrong film. This is actually Dennis Quaid, Linden Ashby, Kevin Costner and Michael Madsen

Wyatt Earp and Me

I don’t recall being particularly aware of this at the time. As far as three hour westerns starring Kevin Costner go, I saw Dances With Wolves once and have never felt the lack of more. So I haven’t specifically avoided this film, but, as you can probably tell, it’s not one I would have picked.

IMDb Says

Wyatt Earp is a movie about a man and his family. The movie shows us the good times and the bad times of one of the West’s most famous individuals. 6.6 stars.

I Says

Two weeks ago we watched Sunset, which starred James Garner as a twinkly-eyed older Wyatt Earp in 20s Hollywood. My verdict was that it didn’t overstay its welcome. The same can’t be said of Kevin Costner’s three hour plus biopic.

I don’t know much about Earp – I’ve seen Tombstone but only really remember Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday purring ‘I’m your huckleberry’. Given a bit of time I reckon all I’ll remember of this film is Dennis Quaid’s Doc Holliday. Even if he sounds like Hoggle from the Labyrinth in one scene. Doc Holliday is the Mercutio in this story, the one everyone really wants to be rather than the staid hero.

Doc Holliday

He’s your huckleberry… probably

And about that hero. I’ve not revisited a 90s Costner film since… I guess the 90s. How did he rise to such prominence? He’s so wooden – there must have been some kind of mass delusion. Something in the water.

The first hour and a half of the film features all the traditional story beats – starting with young Earp wanting to run off to the Civil War we get the inciting incident, the mid point shift, the dark moment, the resolution… and then… we do it all over again. There’s a scene 30 minutes in of a house burning down. 40 minutes in we get a flashback of the house burning down. How could they have trimmed that running time down, I wonder?

The supporting cast is pretty good and features the standard variety of face furniture you’d expect in this sort of thing. It’s all very nicely shot too. There’s more of an attempt at grittiness than I was expecting, but post Deadwood it has to be more than an attempt to really register. Suffice to say that all is not OK after the O.K. Corral shootout.

Also, Adam ‘Jayne Cobb’ Baldwin turns up. And him dressed in cowboy clothes just makes me want to watch Firefly gorram it…

The Verdict

Exactly as good as one would expect a three hour plus film about Wyatt Earp starring Kevin Costner to be.

Having now done a little research I was gratified to see Costner won a Razzie for his performance. Not only that, but he left Tombstone to work on this and tried to block distribution of Tombstone. Guess which fared better at the box office? I’ll give you a clue, it was the one without Kevin Costner in.

Coming attractions

Ok. Full disclosure.

For the first time we’re actively trying to get to a specific film. That’s not our usual modus operandi and it feels slightly shameful in a way. But screw it, we’re going to watch The Fifth Element on the 20th anniversary of its UK release. We’re both fans and neither of us saw it on the big screen (oh, I should point out that we watch CRFC films on a rather lovely HD projector, so we get a quasi- cinematic experience).

On that basis the next film, my choice, needs to link to The Fifth Element. Will narrowing down the options like this mean we’re stuck with a turkey? We shall see!

@BornToPootle

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The Chain Reaction Film Club: Apollo 13

Film 38: Apollo 13

Apollo poster

Eh? What’s the Chain Reaction Film Club?

Having been friends for too long, my chum Tim and I have run out of things to talk about. So instead we meet up pretty much every week and watch a film. The only catch is that we take it in turns to pick, and it must be linked to the previous film by a shared actor. We’re looking to catch up with films we haven’t seen for ages, find classics we’ve overlooked and uncover hidden gems. We started with the film Chain Reaction, hence the rather fortuitous name.

Previously on…

We tackled Sunset last week, the Bruce Willis/James Garner silent-era Hollywood romp the world didn’t really need.

The shortlist

The Cotton Club (1984)

Get Crazy (1983)

Apollo 13 (1995)

Breach (2009)

Nobody’s Fool (1994)

Twilight (not that one – this one’s from 1998)

The Choice

This was agonising, and I’m sure I’ll be coming back to all of these and more that I longlisted. Tim is determined to get me to watch Running Scared, so he pushed for The Cotton Club as both star Gregory Hines. Twilight (not that one) has an incredible cast – Sarandon, Newman, Hackman, The West Wing’s John Spencer – but neither of us had ever heard of it. Get Crazy is an early 80s film about a Jagger-like rock star played by Malcolm MacDowell – and it’s well regarded; how could I not pick that? And the pairing of Paul Newman (again) and Bruce Willis in Nobody’s Fool is Exciting. Fuck it, Paul Newman on his own is exciting. I’d never seen Apollo 13 though, and when Tim announced he’d  never seen it either, suddenly it seemed like a big omission… And so Apollo 13 was chosen.

Apollo 13 and me

apollo 13 film

This is exactly the kind of film I instigated the film club to get around to watching. It’s a big, popular, well-regarded film that somehow I’ve never actually sat down and watched. I used to have an aversion to Tom Hanks – something about his voice needled me – but I’ve been a convert for the best part of a decade now. I liked space as much as any teenage boy in 1995, but that wasn’t enough to sway me at the time – it’s not exactly lasers-and-aliens space is it? And ever since, well, I just don’t remember considering watching it at any point. I’ve thought of it like a korma on an Indian restaurant menu. Sure, I’ll like it, but what about that one with the strange name that I’ve never tried before… So here goes: Hanx, Bacon, Paxton, Sinise and an explodey spacecraft. Ignition!

IMDb says

NASA must devise a strategy to return Apollo 13 to Earth safely after the spacecraft undergoes massive internal damage putting the lives of the three astronauts on board in jeopardy. 7.6 stars.

I says

Having now seen and read about Apollo 13, it could have been a lot worse – Brad Pitt turned a role down to star in Se7en. John Travolta was approached to star but turned it down. John Travolta also turned down Forrest Gump. What an even more fucked-up world we could be living in.

Anyway. Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon are lost in space but Ed Harris and Gary Sinise are going to bring them back. With that cast it was always going to be fine, wasn’t it. And with Ron Howard directing it was always going to be fine, wasn’t it. And it is. It’s fine. There’s some over-egging of the pudding with overblown music and an ill-advised what-if fantasy. But there’s also lots of clearly well-researched detail and tense obstacle-overcoming.

It does suffer from the Titanic-effect – I knew the fate of the astronauts going in, so it’s all about the journey. And that journey is, well, fine. I’ve read through an interview with one of the astronauts now, and while he was positive about the film and its representation of events, it was also clear there was a lot of exaggeration going on – he made the point that every single thing that the astronauts on Apollo 13 did to get home was something that had been either simulated for or done before. Still tense and scary as hell for them, of course. There are signs of other added tensions – Kevin Bacon’s character seems weirdly ostracized by the others and almost set up to be the closest thing to a bad guy before redeeming himself. It felt like an unnecessary extra layer, though perhaps there’s some basis for it in the reality.

Apollo real

The verdict

It took flight, but didn’t quite stick the landing.

Coming attractions

It’s Tim’s choice next, and I’ve crippled him with options again. Kevin Bacon is famously unconnected film-wise. Reading all the Bill Paxton obituaries a few months ago (sigh), we both made a note of a few films to check out, perhaps now will be the time… And with Paxton and Xander Berkley present we could rewatch either Terminator or Terminator 2. OR BOTH. Or banish the bitter taste of Alien Covenant with Aliens. Add Hanks, Sinise, Ed Harris and a Mission Control full of notable character actors and the sky’s the limit.

Oh, and Tim ended up watching Mission To Mars after I left last week, which we had shortlisted (I gave him permission to go ahead as I wasn’t keen on getting back to it for CRFC). His feedback – there was significantly more shouting at the screen than while watching Sunset. We did indeed choose wisely.

The Chain Reaction Film Club: Sunset

Film 37: Sunset

Sunset

Eh? What’s the Chain Reaction Film Club?

Having been friends for too long, my chum Tim and I have run out of things to talk about. So instead we meet up pretty much every week and watch a film. The only catch is that we take it in turns to pick, and it must be linked to the previous film by a shared actor. We’re looking to catch up with films we haven’t seen for ages, find classics we’ve overlooked and uncover hidden gems. We started with the film Chain Reaction, hence the rather fortuitous name. The full list is here.

Previously On…

Last time we watched The Player, which starred all of Hollywood circa 1992. It was a justifiably well-regarded romp through the sleazy side of film production that, car-phones apart, had aged very well indeed.

The Shortlist

Mission to Mars (2000)
Fifth Element (1997)
Sunset (1998)
Silverado (1985)
Brooklyn’s Finest (2009)

The Choice

This week was Tim’s choice. The only shortlisted film we’d both seen was Fifth Element. It’s one of my favourites, though it’s been a few years since I last watched it. Given that we were due to watch the chosen film in the week of the 20th anniversary of Fifth Element’s release I lobbied hard for it. Tim was more keen on Mission To Mars, but I just about managed to dissuade him. I have a bad feeling about it… Sunset however features Bruce Willis and James Garner – and so the choice was made.

Sunset 02

Sunset and Me

Never heard of it before. Not a clue. Zip. Zilch. I was hoping for an overlooked gem…

IMDb says

Tom Mix and Wyatt Earp team up to solve a murder at the Academy Awards in 1929 Hollywood. 5.7 stars.

I says

Bruce plays an actor at the tail end of the silent era. He specialises in playing cowboys and wearing snazzy trousers. James Garner’s Wyatt Earp is brought on board a film production for no particular reason. Malcolm McDowell is the studio head with dark secrets. There are some hookers and hearts of gold. Blake ‘Pink Panther’ Edwards directs.

A shonky tone and mis-cast Willis hampered this one a bit. Some not particularly great physical comedy carried on into scenes that were seemingly supposed to be tense and serious. Willis’ actor was dressed like a dandy and remonstrated with Wyatt Earp for stealing his limelight, but otherwise was the standard Willis – a bit hangdog, a bit wise-cracky, equally handy in a fight or dancing the tango. In fairness, it did rollick along at a fair old pace and McDowell’s villain was good and villainy.

The Verdict

It didn’t outstay its welcome, but neither did it excite. I can see why Sunset rarely sees the light of day.

Coming Attractions

It’s my choice next, and there are a lot of options. McDowell is in a huge amount of (mostly terrible) stuff. There are some Bruce Willis actioners I’ve never bothered with (Armageddon, I’m looking at you). A detour into James Garner cowboy country would be fun – he even played Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun in 1967, so that might be fitting. The supporting cast have a lot of clout too, so it’s going to be a struggle.

Also, I could just get us back to Fifth Element…

The Chain Reaction Film Club: The Player

Film 36: The Player

The Player 01

Eh? What’s the Chain Reaction Film Club?

Having been friends for too long, my chum Tim and I have run out of things to talk about. So instead we meet up pretty much every week and watch a film. The only catch is that we take it in turns to pick, and it must be linked to the previous film by a shared actor. We’re looking to catch up with films we haven’t seen for ages, find classics we’ve overlooked and uncover hidden gems. We started with the film Chain Reaction, hence the rather fortuitous name.

So where are films 1 – 35?

Good question! You can find the full list of films here. I’ve been meaning to blog about it from the start but… haven’t been. If I have the time I’ll fill in the blanks.

Previously on…

There’s been a bit of a gap thanks to me being off on holiday. Last time we watched The Tall Guy, a Richard Curtis comedy that isn’t as fondly regarded as his more recent stuff. It was good fun, especially when Emma Thompson was on screen. And made me want to see Griff Rhys Jones’ ‘Whoops, Hamlet.’ Just a shame that doesn’t exist. This time around it’s my choice…

 

The shortlist

Jeff Goldlum

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Morning Glory

Jurassic Park

Chain of Fools

The Player

The Fly

Silverado

 

Emma Thompson

Last Chance Harvey

In the Name of the Father

Peter’s Friends

 

Geraldine James

Made in Dagenham

 

The Choice

From the shortlist I’d only previously seen Jurassic Park (a lot) and The Fly (once, a long time ago). Neither me nor Tim are fans of Wes Anderson, but do like a bit of Bill Murray, so Life Aquatic was a front runner for a while. Eventually though I narrowed it down to The Player and Silverado. Both have incredible casts for the next pick. Tim is already a fan of Silverado, but hadn’t seen The Player, and so the choice was made. Tim is also easily flummoxed by big casts full of options for the next film, so that may have influenced my choice a little.

The Player 02

The Player and me

Tim Robbins is a favourite thanks to an early appreciation for Bob Roberts, Shawshank (obviously) and The Hudsucker Proxy (which I’ve seen more times than any other Coen Brothers film now that I think about it). I like Robert Altman too – though he’s one of those directors who I always think I’ve seen more of than I actually have. So why haven’t I seen it?

It’s a film about Hollywood. I know Hollywood is fond of films about Hollywood, but I’m not really. Whether it’s a fear of self-indulgence, worry that I just won’t get the references (Hail Caesar suffered from this in particular) or just not being that interested in the realities of the film industry there’s not much that entices me. It’s either all backslapping or spleen-venting. So I imagine that’s a part of why I haven’t sought it out before, despite being aware of it. My understanding prior to watching was that it fell more into the spleen-venting camp than the backslapping one. Was I right?

IMDb says

A Hollywood studio executive is being sent death threats by a writer whose script he rejected – but which one?

I says

Yup, definitely more spleen-venting, but has a lot of fun while doing it. Tim Robbins is the Hollywood exec who  spends his days rejecting scripts and suggesting tooth-achingly cheesey amendments to what might otherwise have been interesting projects. He’s wary of his position at the studio, particularly as a new hire is brought in, and things take a dark turn when he starts receiving death threats with increasing regularity…

This is definitely in the top tier of films we’ve watched in the Chain Reaction Film Club. From the opening 7 minute tracking shot (during which characters discuss great opening tracking shots) to the Hollywood ending, The Player managed to make for an interesting character drama and an enjoyably vitriolic look at one side of the film business.  I’m sure there’s lots of exciting technical stuff going on (I spotted a lovely shot that begins on Burt Reynolds and chum chatting, zooms in to the table behind them where our main character sits down and has a conversation and ends by zooming back out to Burt still deep in conversation.

And that cast… It’s an absolute who’s who of Hollwood circa 1992. Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Jeff Goldblum, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, Rod Steiger, Harry Belafonte even!  The only oddity was seeing so many people playing themselves then Whoopi Goldberg turning up playing a character rather than herself. It took a while to work out who was a character and who wasn’t.

The plot was engaging and, if not ultimately that satisfying, sacrificing that for the point it was making about the industry seems fair enough. The other day I read a piece about studio execs rejecting pitches that were secretly famous French nouvelle vague classics (a marketing stunt, but hey ho) which chimes nicely with this film.

Tim Robbins is both naïve and conniving, a great choice of actor for an unlikeable role. This felt like a proto American Psycho – released at almost exactly the same time as the book – and they’d actually make for an interesting double bill. The studio machinations, and particularly the way they talk about scripts, still feel very relevant.

The verdict

Definitely an overlooked (by me) classic

Coming attractions

It’s Tim’s choice next, and he effectively has all of Hollywood to pick from. Brion James is a good shout for the next link (I’d kill for a Fifth Element rewatch), as is Bruce Willis (I’d kill for a Fifth Element rewatch). All being well the film club will take place on Wednesday and I’ll update as soon as possible afterwards.