The Long Goodbye
Another burnt-out detective, Elliott Gould's Philip Marlowe came from the pages of Raymond Chandler's last completed novel, but drastically updated for the 1970s. The mumbling, shambling Marlowe seems lost in a garish world of hippie chicks and potheads and can't even manage to locate cat food for his demanding cat. In The Long Goodbye (1973), he becomes entangled with a murder mystery and a case of a missing husband, two cases that seem increasingly connected. Ultimately, it's less about the solution of the mystery than about the crumbling of ideals. Sterling Hayden plays the Hemingway-like husband, and Nina Van Pallandt—who in real life was dating the fake Howard Hughes biographer Clifford Irving—plays his wife. Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in a very early role as a thug. The great Leigh Brackett is credited with the screenplay, and composer John Williams provides a weird score: a collection of alternate versions of the same song. Robert Altman directs all of it with his usual brilliant, rambling, observant style.
Timeline (coming 10/1)
Here's yet another underappreciated movie, though this time it's a slick popcorn movie rather than a demanding work of artistic genius. Adapted from a novel by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), Timeline (2003) tells the fairly simple story of a group of archeologists traveling back to the 14th century to rescue a professor; unfortunately, they end up in the middle of a major battle between the French and English. Director Richard Donner's simple, entertaining style has worked since the days of The Omen, Superman, The Goonies, and Lethal Weapon, and it works again here. The cast, including Paul Walker and Gerard Butler, isn't exactly memorable, but Donner allows them moments to breathe among the fantasy, focusing more on characters and excitement than on effects. Comedian Billy Connolly and cutie-pie Frances O'Connor also star.
The Italian Job (coming 10/1)
Released early in the summer of 2003, The Italian Job (2003)'a remake of a 1969 UK film'was a solid hit, even though it eventually made less money than the year's more bloated, less intelligent hits. Directed by F. Gary Gray, it's an old-fashioned heist-revenge movie, wherein something is stolen from the good guys in the first half of the movie, and the good guys spend the second half trying to steal it back. Gray spends a delicious amount of time on the planning stage, giving us just enough details to make the actual robbery all the more exciting. The crew consists of Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Seth Green, Jason Statham, and Mos Def. Edward Norton is the double-crosser, and Donald Sutherland is the old veteran.
Return to Me (coming 10/1)
With all the horrible romantic comedies in the world, it's a shame that this good one, Return to Me (2000), isn't better remembered. Written and directed by actress/comedienne Bonnie Hunt, the movie takes a very shaky premise and turns it into something genuinely sweet and lovable. David Duchovny plays a widower, Bob, whose late wife worked with gorillas at the zoo and donated her heart. A year later, Bob's friends set him up on a date with Grace (Minnie Driver), who is the recipient of Bob's wife's heart! The movie employs the dreaded "lie" plot, wherein Grace doesn't tell Bob about her surgery for whatever reason, but it all balances out. The amazing supporting cast includes Carroll O'Connor, Robert Loggia, David Alan Grier, Joely Richardson, James Belushi, and Hunt herself. The Chicago and Rome locations add tremendous flavor.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.