Blu-Ray Review: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Director: Sam Peckinpah
Screenplay: Sam Peckinpah, Gordon T. Dawson
Based on a Story by: Sam Peckinpah, Frank Kowalski
Starring: Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Robert Webber, Gig Young, Helmut Dantine, Emilio Fernández, Kris Kristofferson
Country: USA, Mexico
Running Time: 112 min
Year: 1974
BBFC Certificate: 18

I‘ve long been a huge fan of The Wild Bunch, but I’ve not seen much of the director Sam Peckinpah’s other work. I can remember watching Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid when I was a youngster, but I didn’t get into it and the mixed reviews some of his other work received put me off a bit. I’ve matured since then though, so I feel I might appreciate Pat Garrett more these days and I’m keen to venture further into Peckinpah’s filmography after a recent rewatch of The Wild Bunch reminded how fantastic it is. Arrow Video have helped me along by releasing his follow up to Pat Garrett, the unambiguously titled Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

The film opens powerfully with a pregnant Mexican teenager, initially relaxing by a river, being taken in shackles to see her crime lord father (El Jefe – played by Emilio Fernández), who demands to find out who the father of her baby is. She refuses to say, until she has her arm or finger broken by some thugs and she cries out “Alfredo Garcia”. This leads to El Jefe making the titular order to his gang of hired heavies and crooks. Two cold-hearted, business-like men on the hunt for Garcia end up in a small bar where Bennie (Warren Oates) plays the piano. He’s heard of the man and is willing to find him for the right price. His girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega) had been sleeping around with Garcia and claims that he recently died in a car accident. Undeterred, Bennie takes Elita on a road trip to find Garcia’s body, chop off the head and deliver it to El Jeffe’s goons. This poor decision begins a domino effect though and Bennie sinks lower than it seems one man is able to descend.

It’s a grim and grimy film. Most of the characters are pretty reprehensible, even Elita has her flaws. There’s plenty of nudity, violence and general degradation as Bennie makes his bloody road trip. It certainly shares the grit and nihilism of The Wild Bunch as well as the strange sense of melancholy. The film supposedly plays like a metaphor for Peckinpah’s life and work. Like his endless problems with studio heads interfering with his films and never getting final cut on them (this was the first and possibly only time he got it), Bring Me the Head sees its hero get constantly shat on, particularly by those in positions of authority. Bennie also tries to drown his sorrows in drink with little success and loves his girlfriend but treats her poorly. You get the sense this is a surprisingly personal film then, despite the seemingly outlandish premise, so it is quite a bleak and angry affair.

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Blu-Ray Review: El Sur

Director: Víctor Erice
Screenplay: Víctor Erice
Based on a Short Story by: Adelaida García Morales
Starring: Omero Antonutti, Sonsoles Aranguren, Icíar Bollaín
Country: Spain, France
Running Time: 95 min
Year: 1983
BBFC Certificate: PG

I can remember seeing Víctor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive crop up in a couple of ‘greatest films of all time’ lists back when I was first getting into films, so it was something I’ve long wanted to see. It never appeared on TV though and although it was released on DVD it was always very expensive so I never got around to buying it. The disc has since gone out of print so has become even more expensive and difficult to find. My desire to see the film hasn’t diminished and it’s remained high on my wish list, but no one seems to want to pick it up. Some sort of consolation has appeared though now as the BFI have decided to re-release Erice’s follow up, El Sur, on dual format Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK and offered me a screener to review. I must admit I hadn’t heard of it before receiving the press release, but I felt it was as close to watching Beehive as I could get without forking out a small fortune, so figured I’d give it a shot.

El Sur has the voice of Estrella (María Massip) tell us the story of her childhood, in particular her relationship with her father Agustín (Omero Antonutti) who disappeared from her life when she was 15. We spend most of the film in the late 1950’s when Estrella is 8 though (and played by Sonsoles Aranguren). At this time she adores her father. He’s an unusual man who practises divination, but, having grown up with this strange behaviour all her life, Estrella sees him as completely normal. As the flashbacks move forward we see Agustín grow more distant and haunted by the love of a former partner, but Estrella doesn’t understand what’s happening to him or how much he needs help. Only when she becomes a teenager (and played by Icíar Bollaín) does she seem to guess what went wrong and realise that even though he showed great love to her, he was never open or honest, so she never got to actually know him as a person or help him with his problems, to create a true bond between them.

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Friday One Sheet: Personal Shopper

A beautifully restrained poster for Olivier Assayas’ latest film, Personal Shopper, still offers the hint of the ‘supernatural’ with the gauzy curtain obscuring half of Kristin Stewart. Perhaps the most subtle allusion seen in key art in some time, but I think that is the core concept of the design. As a bonus, this white element offers a high contrast for the credit block, pull quotes, festival laurels, and other textual elements. And yet the film retains the key marketing element of the film, high end consumer fashion items and actress Kristen Stewart. I also appreciate the quiet/tranquil aspects, a rarity in this sort of marketing.

Miguel Ferrer: 1955 – 2017

Character actor extraordinaire, from cocky Bob Morden in Robocop to assholish-sweetheart Agent Rosenfield in Twin Peaks to batshit crazy Snyder in Deep Star Six, Miguel Ferrer was an unpredictable ball of energy in whatever scene he happened to steal in whatever film or TV show he popped up in. In fact, he does this quite literally in Hot Shots: Part Deux.

The 61 year old actor was struck down by the Big C today.

Son of legendary actor Jose Ferrer (who also worked for David Lynch as the Padishah Emperor in 1984s Dune), and famous singer Rosemary Clooney (which makes him cousin to George Clooney), Miguel Ferrer’s legacy of dozens upon dozens of memorable roles will remain to be discovered for folks who happen to catch him in, say, an episode of Magnum P.I., or an officer in Star Trek III, or hear his distinctive voice in dozens of animated shows and feature films.

Miguel Ferrer will reprise his role as Albert Rosenfield in the 2017 season of Twin Peaks.

The Hollywood Reporter has more.

Girls on Pop – Episode 10: 2016 Counted Down

2016 has come and gone and though by the year’s half-way mark it looked like it might be one of the poorest movie years in some time, the latter part turned out to be an abundance of riches, offering up more than enough great movies to make up for the mostly dreadful first half.

So what did we think of last year’s movie crop? What turned out to be our favorites and not so faves? On this momentous episode of Girls on Pop – not only is this our first episode of 2017 but also our first in the double digits – I’m joined by newly minted Row Three contributor and all-around awesome movie maven Melissa McDowell (@MelsyTweets) to count down our favourite movies of 2016.

Along the way we also talk about the poor state of women in Hollywood, some of the close calls that didn’t quite make the list and one or two underrated gems just waiting for discovery.

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Review: The Founder

The evolving nature of the film biopic has recently become quite interesting to me. Insofar as Pablo Larraín’s Jackie is as much about Theodore H. White’s Life magazine article as it is about the iconic First Lady, so John Lee Hancock’s The Founder is as much about the process of business franchising across the United States in the 1950s as it is about the man who made McDonald’s the corporate empire it is today.

That is not to say that Michael Keaton’s performance as Ray Kroc, nor the delightful duo of John Caroll Lynch and Nick Offerman, who portray the McDonald brothers Mac and Dick (respectively), are not important or excellent. Of course they are. Kroc innovated the franchise model and was the driving force behind nationalizing fast food; for a while he was the richest man in America. The McDonald brothers innovated the process whereby cooking and serving burgers and fries was approached more like an industrial assembly-line than a kitchen; efficiency and repeatabilty are king.

By focusing on the minutiae of moving from a single, fresh-thinking restaurant to a nationwide, and eventually international, chain, Robert D. Seigel’s script elevates The Founder to a story about America as an idea and how that idea is expressed at a certain point in the nation’s history, akin to the way Easy Rider or Ace In The Hole or American Honey are fascinating inquiries into what, exactly is America in the late 1960s, the late 1940s or in the mid 2010s.

Sure, it is simple enough just to lob out a few ‘great cinema’ titles and call it a day, but it also becomes obvious that (particularly because I am Canadian) the very titles I choose from thousands of excellent movies about America, is more a reflection of what I think of the complex toffee-swirl of regions, ideals and flavours that is the United States.

The Founder is told from the perspective of Ray Kroc, the travelling salesman who took the idea of fast food, and brought essentially one restaurant in America to one (or more) restaurant in every town in America. At the outset of the film, in the early 1950s, Kroc is pitching high efficiency milk-shake machines to owners of drive-in restaurants, you know, the kind where the waitresses on roller-skates serve fries, ribs and shakes through the car windows of teenagers.

His smooth sales pitch, road-warrior attitude and collection of disturbingly garish neckties set the stage for the age-old rags to riches story, the one where elbow grease, gumption and a wee bit of luck realize the untapped potential of the individual. The rosy rural cinematography by John Schwartzman, who shot Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, and will soon be shooting Star Wars Episode IX, and the generic yet oddly satisfying soundtrack, courtesy Carter Burwell, both underscore the familiar nature of this story. Surprisingly, the execution is 180 degrees from any semblance of the direction of the movie.

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Cinecast Episode 468 – Most Anticipated Films of 2017 or: How We Learned to Stop Whining and Love the Arthouse

For those of you claiming that 2016 was a bummer of a year – a notion we don’t subscribe to on this show – looking at the 12 months in front of us, from a cinematic point of view, looks to be rather promising. A hodge-podge of lists assembled here and spoken out of order (or with no order at all) in the messy fashion that we’ve become accustomed to, get us actually pretty amped up for the next ~365 days. Boyle and Polanski and horror and genre and westerns and robots and Koreans and Scandinavians… oh and Star Wars. There’s a lot to be hopeful about!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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Trailer: Wilson

High on my list of 2017 films is the sad-sack comedy, Wilson is based on Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel of the same name, directed by Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins) and starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern. The trailer is pretty heavy on the slap-stick kind of humour, where you can either see Harrelson’s character be beat up, or beat people up, but there are a few zingers in there too. The trailer makes the film look a bit more uneven than (hopefully) the finished film will be. Much like Clowes’ Ghost World, it is the longer development of character and ideas about society that make that one a winner.

A lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first time.

Wilson opens in the US on March 24th.