(On DVD, January 2018) The culmination of the Man-with-no-name trilogy is spectacular, grandiose and … a bit too much. While the original film clocked in at 90 minutes, The Good the Bad and the Ugly takes thirty minutes before even introducing its three main characters. Painting with a far more ambitious brush, this instalment tackles war drama and a much grander scale, but somewhat confusingly goes back in time for a prequel. But who cares when Clint Eastwood is still iconic as the nameless “Good” protagonist, while Lee van Cleef still steals the show as the outright “Bad” protagonist, with Eli Wallach’s “Ugly” wildcard bouncing between the two. It’s the apotheosis of the Spaghetti Western genre, especially when Errico Morrcone’s iconic wah-wah-waaa theme kicks in. At the same time, it does feel like a lot. It’s fun to watch, but a certain ennui sets in when it becomes obvious that the film will not hurry from one set piece to another. Writer/director Sergio Leone’s style is a Leone-ish as it gets here, with careful editing and close-ups doing much of the work in creating suspense. An expansive cap to a remarkable trilogy, The Good the Bad and the Ugly doesn’t leave viewers hungering for more.
(On TV, July 2015) Routine romantic comedies are usually best appreciated for their details rather than their familiar plot structure, and so it is that while you can read a synopsis of The Holiday (“two lovelorn women exchange houses for the holidays, finding love in the most unexpected places”) and have a pretty good idea of where the film is headed, but you may not suspect to which extent the film is filled with references to the world of movies. Cameron Diaz play a movie-trailer editor (the fake for fake movie Deception, with Lindsay Lohan and James Franco, gets the film’s biggest laughs.) and thinks about her life via voice-over narration; Kate Winslet plays a British book editor on holidays in Hollywood, befriending an Oscar-winning screenwriter and getting movies at the video store (a sequence that actually reminded me that I do, on some level, miss video stores) Some romantic comedy terms are explained, played with and sometimes even adopted wholesale. Still, there’s a little bit more to The Holiday than movie stuff: The performances are pretty good (with Eli Wallach getting one last great role), the sentiments are heartfelt, the expected scenes happen roughly in the expected order. In short (or rather; in long, since the film does run a bit too long), it’s a perfectly serviceable romantic comedy, fit to make the holidays feel even more like the holidays.