Host of Now Playing, the movie review podcast
Host of But, I Digress..., the tangential conversational podcast www.butidigresspodcast.com
Contributor to Star Wars Action News, The Star Wars Action News Book Club (I am the liaison!), and Books & Nachos.
(Also the founder and producer of But, I Digress...., a producer on Now Playing, Associate Producer of Star Wars Action News, the announcer on all of these and others not listed - as well as many other duties on all those podcasts - I won't bore you will all the details.)
If you know your Olympics history, you know how this one ends. But don't come to this movie looking for a definitive historical tale of how the U.S. Olympic hockey team impossibly beat the U.S.S.R. in the most politically charged Olympic Games in recent memory. Come to this movie to be entertained.
MIRACLE tells the story straight but not with a lot of new insight or depth. The plot beats that all sports movies about putting the team together share are omnipresent, and in the first hour the dialogue is fairly rote even for this genre. But darn it, once practices stop and they start playing the hockey games, the movie takes off like a shot and just works. It does not dawdle with burdonsome character development or too many individual character moments. It just tells the story of their journey beating the best hockey team in the world on the national stage.
The hockey game sequences are so thrilling that full props have to go to the filmmakers. Because again, we know they win but there I am, sitting on the edge of my seat smilng when they score a goal, liking when the kids check the opposition into the boards, rooting for the clock to run down. It is well edited, well paced, music swelling - the best hockey game sequences I can remember seeing in a movie.
Kurt Russell once again does an admirable job. He continues to surpass my expectations with every film I see him in. He adds meaning and likability to the typical scenes where they put the team together, provide his backstory, and put across his philosophy of how to fashion the team. Not an easy role for any actor as we have seen these movies before, and Russell does his job so well that when the games do begin we are invested in the outcome just like his team is.
Even though it manages to alternate from being a tad heavy handed and too lightweight at times, MIRACLE miraculously works to provide an entertaining movie about one of the greatest sports moments ever. Strap on your skates and see for yourself.
Enjoyable, if a tad dated, modern take on the film noir about a private investigator hired to find a missing husband by her not-too-concerned wife.
The movie is terrifically filmed, highlighting the environments amazingly well (DP is the remarkable Conrad Hall) and the picture moves at a wonderful pace. The screenplay by William Goldman is another great one by him, full of his great humor and turn of phrase. Given the type of movie this is, the characters are all pretty much types, but the screenplay gives the actors much to work with. And work with it they do.
What makes HARPER remarkable is the veteran cast. This thing is packed with dependable actors giving pitch-perfect performances. Particularly impressive was Robert Wagner, Strother Martin, Julie Harris and Arthur Hill. Shelley Winters is chewing up the screen, such a great job here. Am I forgetting someone.... mmm... let me think. Oh, yeah. ;) Paul Newman gives yet another notable performance in the title role. Admittedly I'd watch him read a coloring book, but he just commands your attention in this movie. He is so present in every scene it is a delight to watch him work. From the opening shot when we see him wake up he had me, and from there with that opening scene as the credits appear he tells us everything we need to know about this guy without saying a word. And it is funny to boot. I have to keep watching more Paul Newman.
HARPER is a satisfying watch. Sure, some of the music and dancing is of its time, but it doesn't detract from the performances, the mystery plot or the fun. Check it out when you get the chance.