I'll stick these all in one post ... our cable was out for a couple of days, so we ended up watching discs that were lying around. I'd seen all of them before ... there is one Request, one Make My Wife Watch, and one Revisit.
Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992). As with so many requests, it's been a long time and I don't remember when this actually made the list. Tomás was the one who asked for it. I last watched it in 2008, and I don't see much reason to change my opinion now. As I noted then, the ear-slicing scene is unnecessary, but it's fun to see how many things we now recognize as Quentin-esque are there from the beginning. Actors must love to work with his dialogue, which remains the best thing about his art. The cultural riffs are excessive, but in this case, I'd argue the sheer number of references to the cinematic past makes his movies oddly unique. You can see the influences, but he throws them together with such joy that the result is Tarantino and no one else. (Others have tried to copy him, but it doesn't usually work, partly because they don't have him to write dialogue.) Reservoir Dogs is also a good example of working within a budget ... there are only a few sets, and not too many characters, and he brought the picture in at a reported $1.2 million. #316 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. I've seen seven of his movies, and never given a rating lower than 8. If you want to watch my idea of a 9/10, try Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown.
The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014). I'd seen this only six months ago, but during our no-cable weekend, I trotted it out for Robin to watch. I wrote about it when I first saw it, and don't have much to add. The first 2/3 of the movie are still too concerned with plot and character for my liking, and the last 45 minutes or so are still filled with lots of "WHOA!" moments. As the guy from Comcast was fixing things up, he saw the box for The Raid 2 and exclaimed, "I love that movie!" 8/10. Watch The Raid first, then this one, for a double-bill.
Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968). This is a bit of a request, as well ... back when we did our Top 50 lists, this was one of my last cuts, and a couple of people since then said they'd like to see what I had to say about those near-misses. I think if I made that list today, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly would rank above this one. OUATITW is more "arty", and you could say that here, Leone went for broke and did everything he could to define his vision. And there are some truly wonderful scenes. But it's a bit long and a bit boring. I don't mind the endless scenes that are 98% buildup and 2% resolution. But not all of the scenes are interesting, and since Leone seems largely uninterested in the "plot", you could cut scenes and the movie wouldn't be any less understandable than it already is. #61 on the TSPDT list. 7/10. It would be a butt-numbing exercise, but the best double-bill matchup would be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It's just as long, but it's more fun. And if Henry Fonda is an interesting bad guy in Once Upon a Time, it's mostly because of the stunt casting ... Lee Van Cleef is just as good in The Good ..., but we expect him to be an effective bad guy. Meanwhile, Leone gets more out of Clint Eastwood than most people ... Leone helped make Eastwood a star ... Clint certainly has more screen presence than Charles Bronson, who plays a similar role in the later movie.