The Greatest Show on Earth * * * * *
Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille / 1952
"Just so the show keeps rolling." These are words said by circus manager Brad in 1952's epic Best Picture that takes you inside and outside the big top. Charlton Heston tackles the character of Brad with what I feel is the best role I've seen from him. Naturally, a talent like Heston's comes backed with a slice or two of ham and that extra spice that tends to tighten with a major actor's own personal on and off screen big top. But, Brad's veins work hard for their dreams, packed to the brim with "Saw dust and star dust." Heston's performance is big, bold and as solid as the circus tent's center pole. Brad is the pumping guts to the hearts of the show and at times looks and feels the part of an early borrowed blue print to Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones or a Bruce Springsteen song character. Brad is tough as nails, but is like a kid who dreams big and works hard to get a better slice of spirited soul for him and his comrades.
Heston is great, but it's the whole wonder of a movie and cast that somehow all comes together and works magically, the way that all great movies should. Complete with outstanding costumes, scenery, solid sub-plots, stunts, thrills, drama, love, fun, and Jimmy Stewart in constant clown makeup as Buttons, a man on the run from the law (it's a plot I wish was fleshed out into an entire separate movie). Oh, and for the ladies out there, Cornel Wilde as Sebastian, the cocky and like-able high-flying trapeze artist...and many others. Cecil B. DeMille plays head ring master in bringing the circus to the big screen. Fully equipped with drippy ice cream cones, stuffed hot dog mouths and spilt popcorn, DeMille's direction captures the authentic wonder and childlike joy in the eyes and faces of all ages. He also shows the blood, sweat and tears of those who put the rings together, full-circle. I loved just watching everything and everyone going and doing in the background and seeing all the extras and at times actual footage of how the circus works. I imagine the production of making a circus work is somewhat similar to bringing a movie to life and DeMille was the right choice as he is the king of epic pictures. Great pacing and excellent narration helps the viewer pack up the circus and move it down the train tracks to the next town. The viewer follows lip-smackingly-so like a child, even when the show limps into town after an awesomely-insane train wreck.
Though there is some controversy surrounding it's Oscar win in the McCarthy era, and just in general among film snobs, I feel that "The Greatest Show on Earth" certainly lives up to its name...and some. This is a mesmerizing feast on a film level and a true document to a special place in American history that has inspired many, including master director Steve Spielberg to start making movies at a young age. In this day of constant envelope pushing 'n' shoving to wow and cure the people's know-it-all boredom and cynicism, it's so sweet to see a movie like this. It was a time before reality television and CGI made a mockery of actual skill, talent and spectacle. And it was a time when people seemed a little more optimistic to lend their time to a good-old fashioned time. It was a time when the national climate was troubled, like now, but there seemed to be more of a national hope and togetherness found inside of a good time at the circus or at a movie about the circus. There is something pure and innocent inside the eyes that DeMille captures in his circus. I would love the opportunity to search time's canvas for a tear just to sneak a peak into this timeless time capsule. A moment in time that my Grandparent's lived in and my parents got to see for a bit as well. The circus is still alive today, but I just don't feel that it's the same as it once was...and if it is, maybe WE as a people aren't. But for now, I'll just keep the show rolling at the cinema to get my little corner of saw dust and star dust.
Rambo III * * * ½
Directed by: Peter MacDonald / 1988
John Rambo is back in action and this time he's blowing up Afghanistan to rescue his old friend the colonel from a terrorist compound. Before pulling triggers and knifing stuff, Rambo spent some time between his final Vietnam tour and the Middle-East, in a monastery searching for some inner piece. Now, he must search for new ways to make rebel Afhans and Russians rest in PIECES.
This is another stellar blowin' up blood fest in the RAMBO franchise, though it's not as great as "First Blood" or "First Blood Part II". Still, it's fantastic. Personally, It's a bit strange to me that I hadn't seen all the Rambo movies before now, being that John Rambo was my everyday play of choice in the ditch and woods of the Gibson estate (well, Rambo mixed with some Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker…and whatever the "thing" of the week was back then). Though, I must add that I watched "Commando" enough times to make up for this blunder in my pop-culture background. Oh, and of course I had the Rambo action figures and the Rambo Playset, complete with authentic machine gun, grenades and knife. Yep, THE knife.
The Great Outdoors * * * *
Directed by: Howard Deutch / 1988
File under Bass Pro Shop: The Movie. “The Great Outdoors is a fantastic '80s comedy-family-fun-feast that I hadn't seen since I was 8 or 9 years old…and extra special to watch after a weekend of camping! It still packs the one-two-punch of John Candy and Dan Akroyd and I've become out of taste with Anette Bening of late, so I was relieved to find her performance more in the background on this one. Anyway, the film makes me wish for better wholesomely-stupid comedies today…and not the numb-nutzed and near-exhausted brand of Will Ferrell comedies that tend to lose their steam in ten minutes. I also wish that John Candy was still alive and that Dan Akroyd would do more GREAT work like “The Great Outdoors”.