(On TV, June 2018) There is, at first, not a lot to distinguish High Noon from countless other westerns—there’s the hero (getting married), there are villains waiting for their boss. A confrontation is coming to a small Western town, and that seems to be the extent of it. But High Noon does go farther than that—first, by taking place in near-real time, it does create more tension than a less time-compressed film, especially as our retiring hero fails to find allies in confronting the coming threat. It culminates in a classic shootout in which help comes from an unlikely place, and concludes with a highly skeptical look at some of the Western’s most cherished clichés. It helps that rock-solid Gary Cooper (looking a bit older than his prime) stars as a good man forced to take one last stand. Grace Kelly is merely fine as the newlywed bride, but Katy Jurado is more eye-catching as a source of wisdom. Keep your eyes open for smaller performances from Lloyd Bridges and Lee van Cleef. Director Fred Zinnemann keeps things stirring until the climactic shootout, and High Noon has survived admirably well even today.
(Second viewing, On DVD, November 2017) I remember seeing Hot Shots! Part Deux in theatres, first week of release, with a bunch of friends and then driving back home while upholding the time-honoured tradition of quoting the best parts of the film to each other. Nearly twenty-five years later, the film holds up pretty well, although it’s somewhat funnier if you have recently viewed its primary sources of inspiration such as Rambo III and Basic Instinct. (“I loved you in Wall Street!”) Unlike latter, less successful spoof movies, however, Hot Shots 2 works on its own as a comedy even if you ignore the parody: there’s wittiness to the script, physical comedy, much absurdity and wry references. The influence of early-nineties pop culture is strong and getting more esoteric by the year (“War … it’s fan-tastic” requires explanations today), but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Charlie Sheen is very good in the title role, while Lloyd Bridges’ unhinged performance as a gaffe-prone president is endearing in the ways the current gaffe-prone president isn’t. It was a great decision for the film to abandon the flying satire of the first film and take on a slightly different military parody. Unusually enough for sequels that usually move on to a new love interest, the beautiful and hilarious Valeria Golino is back and the film does deals with her return in surprising narrative ways. Even today, the film remains very funny, and the presence of a few known actors in smaller roles (Miguel Ferrer, Rowan Atkinson, Richard Crenna) is a great bonus. At a tight 86 minutes, Hot Shots! Part Deux doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is probably best watched soon after its predecessor for even more spoofy fun.