Jason Robards

Jason Robards

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Johnny Got His Gun Review


Good
The last few years have seen a ton of anti-war, anti-government films come our way. I'm all for a director making a statement, but one wonders what the shelf life is for most of these movies. When your kids come of age, are they really going to appreciate half of what's happening in War, Inc.? Chicago 10 was a solid movie, but it served as a kick in the rear to the unsatisfied masses of 2008. The political climate may not be rosy in 20 years, but it will look different. Hell, it's changed immeasurably since January.

Dalton Trumbo's novel Johnny Got His Gun was first published in 1939. 32 years later it was made into a movie, which he wrote and directed. In 2009, it's finally available on DVD. Any questions about the movie's contemporary relevance are moot. Trumbo's motive is to capture the sheer monstrosity and hopelessness of war and the damage it does to a person's soul. Those themes aren't vanishing anytime soon.

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Johhny Got His Gun Review


Good
The last few years have seen a ton of anti-war, anti-government films come our way. I'm all for a director making a statement, but one wonders what the shelf life is for most of these movies. When your kids come of age, are they really going to appreciate half of what's happening in War, Inc.? Chicago 10 was a solid movie, but it served as a kick in the rear to the unsatisfied masses of 2008. The political climate may not be rosy in 20 years, but it will look different. Hell, it's changed immeasurably since January.

Dalton Trumbo's novel Johnny Got His Gun was first published in 1939. 32 years later it was made into a movie, which he wrote and directed. In 2009, it's finally available on DVD. Any questions about the movie's contemporary relevance are moot. Trumbo's motive is to capture the sheer monstrosity and hopelessness of war and the damage it does to a person's soul. Those themes aren't vanishing anytime soon.

Continue reading: Johhny Got His Gun Review

Something Wicked This Way Comes Review


OK
Try as I might to get into this movie, based on the classic Ray Bradbury tale, I've found myself blocked by its off-putting ways. The guts of the piece are there: Evil carnival comes to town and wreaks havoc on everyone who lives there. But something comes up short that I can't quite place. My best guess: The focus of the film is on two Hardy Boys-like kids who play detective. They aren't very bright nor very likeable, and they detract from some otherwise fun set pieces. In fact, the film is by far at its best when they're nowhere to be seen.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Review


Terrible
Sam Peckinpah's virtually unseen Western turns out to be unseen for a reason. Interminably boring and filled with red paint-for-blood splattering, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid ought to turn you off, but if that doesn't do the job, I've got one phrase that will: "Also starring Bob Dylan." Nuff said, I hope.

Long Day's Journey Into Night Review


Extraordinary
Thanks to her natural trembling, Katharine Hepburn makes for a truly amazing drug addict, in this harrowing and devastation Sidney Lumet film, adapted from Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical story of his turbulent (to put it mildly) home life. In a nutshell: It's one horrific night when all sorts of dirt is dished: From mom's morphine addiction and resentment of son Edmund (Dean Stockwell) over the death of her third-born, to dad's (Ralph Richardson) alcoholism and distaste for mom, to more sibling rivalry from firstborn Jamie (Jason Robards).

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Melvin and Howard Review


OK
Much less fun than I'd remembered: Melvin and Howard is the true-ish about Melvin Dummar (Paul Le Mat), a guy who claims to have picked up a desert wanderer... who in turns claimed to have been Howard Hughes (Jason Robards). Dummar later claimed to receive a letter from Hughes, willing his fortune to him. The courts disagreed. This movie, however, isn't much about that. The bulk concerns Melvin's life in the time between the pickup and the will, namely his quest to be Milkman of the Month, and his wife's white-trash ways. More time with Hughes would have been highly preferable.

A Boy And His Dog Review


Good
In the future, your dog will tell you how to survive. Or at least, Don Johnson's dog will, in this camp, cult, sci-fi classic (which takes place after World War IV). While it's still a bit racy, it's tame enough now for the whole family!

Tora! Tora! Tora! Review


Good
Very interesting but rambling WWII drama about the invasion of Pearl Harbor. What makes Tora!! so interesting is that it is a joint U.S.-Japanese production, and the story is told from both sides of the fence. The Japanese obsession with fighting an honorable fight is made plain, as is the comedy of errors that led up to the U.S. inability to detect the attack until the bombs were dropping. The film is a very damning portrayal of the U.S. Navy and government altogether, and really gives you a respect for the Japanese, showing just how much worse Pearl Harbor could have been. A must-see for any war buff. Based on the book The Broken Seal.

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All The President's Men Review


Extraordinary
Classic collaboration of Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Richard Nixon, in the most scandalous political tale of our time -- Nixon's destruction after Watergate. (Sorry, Michael Moore!) The leads put human faces on the cold visages of Woodward and Bernstein, and more than any other movie about journalism, All the President's Men tells it like it is. (Well, was anyway -- check out Shattered Glass for a more up-to-date scenario.)

Burden Of Dreams Review


Good
Burden of Dreams is an odd choice for the Criterion Collection: It's a documentary about the making of a film (Fitzcarraldo) which itself has not even been released on the Criterion label. It's also the only making-of doc that Criterion has ever released (at least to my knowledge).

That said, Fitzcarraldo is strikingly unique in the history of film, and the story behind it is one worth hearing a little more about. It all started haltingly -- with Jason Robards and Mick Jagger, believe it or not, starring in the movie about a crazed rubber baron who wants to build an opera house deep in the Amazon rain forest. But after Robards gets sick and Jagger drops out, the film starts over, with Klaus Kinski in the famous lead role as Fitzcarraldo. Fitzcarraldo isn't just regular-crazy, he's totally nuts: Part of his plan involves dragging an enormous barge over a mile of land in order to reach an otherwise shut-off river, and director Werner Herzog staged this -- for real -- during the making of Fitzcarraldo.

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A Thousand Acres Review


Terrible
This adaptation (read: poor imitation) of Shakespeare's King Lear sports Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the three twisted sisters of ailing king Jason Robards -- only this time the kind is a farmer with a whopping 1000 acres. Parcelling the property becomes a headache thanks to Leigh's ungrateful bitch of a daughter, and soon enough a legal battle ensues... not to mention accusations of abuse, alcoholism, and every other hot-button sin you could name. No one is good in this movie. Everyone plays a variation on the annoying sad sack -- Pfeiffer probably being the worst of all. I don't know anything to redeem the movie except for an understated performance from Leigh -- unless you're into masochism. Avoid.

Once Upon a Time in the West Review


Good
Long on looks and short on sense, Sergio Leone's celebrated spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West is a remarkable achievement of cinematography but comes across today as a more muddled story than ever.

Conceived and roughed together by Italian directors Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Leone, the guts of West are some of the least likely of his films. The story concerns a woman (Claudia Cardinale, who spends the entire movie clenching her teeth) whose husband and family are murdered, leaving her with a valuable plot of land. This land has the eye of one Frank (Henry Fonda in his biggest villain role ever), and he's determined to be rid of the woman in order to get it. A half-Mexican named Cheyenne (Jason Robards) ends up accused of the murders, and a nameless bounty hunter (sound familiar?) who's known due to his harmonica playing by the name Harmonica (Charles Bronson) inserts himself into the mix. The film culminates with Harmonica turning in Cheyenne for the reward money, then using that money to outbid Frank at the public auction of the land... and then of course there's a showdown to be had.

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Magnolia Review


Extraordinary
Sooner or later, every director makes his Short Cuts.

Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) only waited until his third film to make his, an over-three-hour epic with at least 10 major characters in almost as many separate story lines. And thanks to those characters, every one a rich mystery burning with secrets, Magnolia is a smashing success.

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Jason Robards

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