Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Casper:" When we say every movie with Clint Eastwood, we mean every movie

Title: Casper
Released: 1995
Genre: Semi-animated fantasy with alleged comedy
Notable for: A cameo appearance by Clint
Coolest thing Clint does: Vows to kill bridge players.

Setting out to watch every Clint Eastwood movie is strange enough, but only someone deranged would include “Casper” on the list.

Guilty, your honor!

Here's our deranged logic: We insisted on seeing Clint’s earliest movies, so we should see "Casper," too. Clint was a glorified extra in some of those early films, so he has bigger on-screen presence with a cameo appearance in "Casper."

We won’t bother to describe what happens in “Casper” except to say it's about the friendly ghost of cartoon fame. Click here if you itch to see the trailer.

Clint shows up briefly as a reflection in a bathroom mirror.

“I'm going to kill you, your momma and all her bridge-playing friends,” the reflection of Clint says. Believe it or not, that was a highlight of nearly two hours of viewing time.

We're not sure why Clint agreed to appear in a movie like this, even for a few seconds. But perhaps it is worth noting that two years earlier the little boy in Clint's "A Perfect World" was dressed in a Casper costume for much of the film. Maybe Clint likes friendly ghosts.

Next up: "Absolute Power." Back to real Clint movies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"The Bridges of Madison County:" For God's sake Clint, shoot something

Title: The Bridges of Madison County
Released: 1995
Genre: Romance
Notable for: Being a chick flick
Coolest thing Clint does: Umm ... Huh, nothing pops to mind.

Jeering began before the first line of dialog. "Grow a pair, Clint!" we yelled. "Make something explode!"

This was the day dreaded most since early formative stages of The Clint Eastwood Project. It was the day to watch "The Bridges of Madison County."

As almost everyone knows, "The Bridges of Madison County" is Clint's only movie aimed at a female audience.

Nothing is blown up. No one is shot with a harpoon gun. No one chases anyone on foot or in a car, a helicopter, a motorcycle, or a jet fighter plane. There is no suspense in the story and no stunt work in the film.

It is a movie about relationships. Specifically, Clint's four-day, deeply loving romantic relationship with Meryl Streep, who unleashes yet another accent.

The story is easy to summarize because almost nothing happens. Clint plays a roving photographer in 1965 who falls in love with an Iowa housewife played by Streep. Inevitably, they must part after four magical days of slow dances, sensitive smiles and bathtub sex. The story is told as a flashback from decades later, when Streep's adult children discover the affair after her death.

The excitement builds as we watch Clint appreciate good light, peel carrots, be polite, and pick flowers.

"I think I need everyone," Clint says. "I love people. I'd like to meet them all."

Good God, Clint.

Andrew has reached a milestone in The Clint Eastwood Project because "The Bridges of Madison County" was the first Clint Eastwood movie released after his birth.

He gives the film a low score on the Clint-O-Meter, but contends it is not bad for what it tried to be. Brad says it did not try to be a movie he wants to watch. To him, the best parts came when the stars, Clint and Meryl, were off screen.

We're not sure why Clint decided to do this, but we thank him for doing it only once. We need male icons to be iconic.

Next up: "Casper." That's right, "Casper." This shows how absurd we've become about seeing this job through completely.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"A Perfect World:" Clint guzzles Geritol in the background

Title: A Perfect World
Released: 1993
Genre: Escaped convict buddy movie
Notable for: Creating the illusion Clint is paired with Kevin Costner
Coolest thing Clint does: Sucker punches a fellow cop for being trigger happy

The most fundamental thing expected from any movie starring Clint Eastwood is this: It should star Clint Eastwood. "A Perfect World" fails that test.

Clint has second billing behind Kevin Costner, which is false advertising. He plays a relatively small supporting part and never appears in a scene with Costner until more than two hours into the movie. If Hollywood was fair, Clint would have third billing behind a little kid and probably fourth behind Laura Dern.

"A Perfect World" is not a Clint Eastwood movie. It is a Kevin Costner movie directed by Clint.

On the up side, it's a very good story and Costner was never better in any role. Sez us, that's who.

Costner is a hardened criminal who busts out of a Texas prison with a psychotic creep sometime in the mid 1960s. One man is killed during the escape, and the convicts take a shy 8-year-old boy hostage.

Violent, yes, but Costner is not exactly evil. He saves the boy's mother from rape and kills his psycho partner for attacking the kid.

The hostage and Costner bond in a father-figure way.

"Are you going to shoot me?" the kids asks. Costner answers, "No, hell no. You and me are friends."

The boy chooses to stay with Costner when he could be released, and he breaks out of his introverted shell a little. In one odd touch probably dripping with symbolism or overtones of duality or something else equally beyond us, the kid steals a Halloween costume and is dressed for most of the movie as Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Clint is a Texas Ranger in charge of the manhunt. Dirty Harry he is not. He pursues Costner while swigging Geritol and riding in an Airstream trailer taken from the governor's campaign organization.

When he is on camera, Clint says things like, "We'll check every road and every farm between San Angelo and Sweetwater." He decides to eat the governor's T-bone steaks and Tater Tots, declaring, "I do like Tater Tots."

The co-star in Clint's scenes is Laura Dern, who plays a hot-shot criminologist assigned to the manhunt. That's highly unrealistic for a young female in Texas circa 1965, but we're willing to roll with it. Dern first dismisses Clint as "a hillbilly Sherlock Holmes" but eventually warms to him in a professional way.

Dern provides detailed background on Costner's difficult childhood and early run-ins with the law. This leads to the revelation that as a young lawman Clint encountered Costner and took a hard line that perhaps sent him deeper into life of crime.

The inevitable confrontation comes when Costner is already injured after being gut-shot by the boy in a very intense scene we did not see coming. Clint talks Costner into giving himself up, but then a cop sniper shoots Costner dead in violation of Clint's order to hold his fire.

Two hours and 19 minutes into the film, Clint finally gets furious. He punches the sniper cop square in the nose, then Dern kicks him in the nuts.

Fresh off his best-director Oscar for "Unforgiven," the movie probably reflects the start of Clint's preference to concentrate on directing more than acting. In that way, it's the dawn of a new era in Clinthood.

Well, it had to happen sometime. We cannot expect a man old enough to drink Geritol to do all the heaving lifting.

Next up: "Bridges of Madison County."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"In the Line of Fire:" A man is never too old to track a psycho and bag a hot girlfriend

Title: In the Line of Fire
Released: 1993
Genre: Presidential assassin suspense
Notable for: John Malkovich is one great villain
Coolest thing Clint does: Takes a bullet for the president

Full disclosure: We always thought "In the Line of Fire" was one of the most under-rated Eastwood movies, and not solely because of Clint.

John Malkovich deserves half the credit for playing an outstanding twisted-genius, psycho-bastard villain engaged in a psychological battle with Clint.

Malkovich is either the best villain ever to tangle with Clint, or he's in second place behind that crazy sumbich Scorpio in the first "Dirty Harry." Tough call, but either way he's damn good.

Of course, Clint pulls his weight, too.

Rather unrealistically for 1993, Clint plays a Secret Service agent who was on duty for the Kennedy assassination. For 30 years he has questioned himself for failing to take the fatal bullet.

Much was made of Clint's "vulnerability" in this film. Mostly this means he played an old guy who runs out of breath jogging alongside the presidential limo. Hell, Clint was 63 when he made the movie. It does not strike us as a bold move to play a guy who was growing old at age 63.

More surprising, Clint is a fairly normal, mostly nice guy. He smiles, plays piano for fun and seduces a much younger woman (Rene Russo). He doesn't hate his job and his superiors don't hate him, although he has friction with a presidential chief of staff played by a future presidential candidate in real life.

Older and nicer, sure, but Clint is still hell on bad guys.

Malkovich is one sick but deeply laid-back dude. He is a former CIA assassin who has, as they say, gone rogue. He breaks the necks of women and shoots dumb rednecks who cross his path.

His plot to kill the president is ingenious in every way except its stupid lack of secrecy. Malkovich frequently calls Clint on the phone to tease him along in a cat-and-mouse game.

Their banter generally involves Malkovich describing a psychological kinship with Clint (which is not correct at all) and pointing out ironies of their situation. Clint usually responds in a less sophisticated way.

"You've got a rendezvous with my ass, motherfucker," Clint says. Well, it played better as an onscreen comeback than it reads in print.

One of their scenes ranks among the most memorable in the annals of Clintdom.

After a rooftop foot chase, Clint finds himself dangling for dear life from the top of a tall building. Malkovich reaches down from the roof to save Clint. Clint pulls his pistol and sticks it in Malkovich's face.

If Clint pulls the trigger, both will die. If he lets Malkovich go, they both live. As this dilemma plays out, that freak Malkovich takes Clint's gun-barrel into his mouth and deep throats it. Weird, intense and weirdly intense.

Malkovich has all the advantages, including superior intelligence, but Clint is tenacious. He unravels the plot and, of course, saves the president and takes down the would-be assassin.

Right at the end, Clint goes to his dumpy house with his new squeeze Russo. There they discover another phone message left by Malkovich before his death. As he yammers away on tape, Clint and his girl walk out, no longer interested in the psycho.

Game over, Clint wins. Tenacity and a charming smile make up for a lot of disadvantages.

Next up: "A Perfect World."