Time period movies are some of the best movies to watch. They transport you to a time that has already past and make you feel like you are there. There have been several that have evoked the emotion and transported people from that era back to their childhood, teenage years, or young adult life. For this Monster’s Movie 6-pack I am going to cover 5 period piece movies, and one that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Shot in 1953, but set sometime after 1862 in Wyoming, Shane is the story of an ex-gunslinger that shows up on the Starrett Homestead, looking for work. He quickly learns that there is a power struggle with the cattle barons trying to take their land. Shane quickly takes up with the family’s son, Joey, and has an underlying tension with the mother, Marian. Tension between the settlers and the barons spills over into conflict on several occasions. And in the end, Shane displays his gunslinger skills and rides off into the sunset.
It is #45 on the AFI 100 list, and the #3 western film. Having such critical acclaim it was inevitable I would watch it. I have never been a fan of westerns, but the last few years I have been pulled into several. I love the setting with their beautiful rolling hills and the flat stretch of the plain. The acting is solid, I find the interaction Shane has with each character very natural, and the surprise performance goes to Brandon DeWilde as Joey Starrett. For a kid to have such an emotional performance it was a big achievement.
Shot in late 2013 and early 2014, but set in Germany in early 1945 during the last stages of WWII, Fury is about a tank crew of five individuals. Four of the individuals have been together for most of the war, and they are joined by a new crew member straight out of basic training. They move from confrontation to confrontation chasing the Germans, women, and hopeful an end to the war. Being stuck in a small space inside of a tank, there is a lot of tension between the crew and the action going on around.
Each member of the tank has a different personality and can connect with a different member of the audience. At the beginning of the movie you are taken aback by the way they treat the new member, but as time passes you become to feel for each one.
Over the past two years, I have stated [I like] digging into WWII. I love the uniqueness of the film. Being inside the tank is not done often or even at all, and creates a small space to shoot in. There are also some very unique death scenes, but nothing is done over the top or out of context. Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, and Jon Bernthal are incredible. Not having a firsthand experience of WWII, I don’t know what it was like, but these characters portray a very gritty side to the average soldier. Sometimes you hate them, sometimes you love them, but in the end you will be rooting for them.
Shot in 1973, but set in Modesto, California in 1962 on the night before two high school friends, Curt and Steve, are set to go off to college, they spend the night soul searching looking for their next move. Steve and his girlfriend have to decided whether or not to stay together while he is away. While cruising, Curt sees his perfect woman in a white Thunderbird, and spends all night chasing her. Along the way other stories of cruising, racing, the sock hop, and the drive-in intertwine with their friends. At the end of the film you get to see the positives and negatives of their decisions.
When George Lucas wrote American Graffiti, he captured the the hearts and memories of a generation. He and Francis Ford Coppola believed in the film so much, when the studio wanted to re-edit the cut, they offered to buy it back and take it elsewhere. After spending $777,000 the film grossed $140 million. It was nominated and won numerous Academy Awards and Golden Globes. It is ranked number 77 of the AFI 100 Greatest. It also has inspired other directors like David Fincher, and Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. The film also renewed interest in the 50’s, 60’s, custom cars, and hot rods.
Lucas made excellent choices of both up and coming and established actors. Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, and Charlie Martin Smith carry the film and give incredible performances. Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips and Harrison Ford play supporting roles, and all give memorable performances early in their careers.
Dazed and Confused
Shot in 1993, but set on the last day of school in Austin, Texas 1973. The story is divided among several different groups. There are the jock seniors, the stoners and outcasts, the senior girls, and the graduating eighth graders going to be freshmen. Freshman initiation drives the story, but the main focus always goes back to Mitch Kramer, Randall “Pink” Floyd, Sabrina Davis, and Jodi Kramer. Beer, pot, cruising, partying, a story about nothing, and the beginning of life’s decisions all wrapped into one.
Richard Linkleter wanted to make a movie that would do for the 70’s like George Lucas and American Graffiti did for the 60’s. The movie was not a box office success, but has gained a huge cult following. It has inspired many filmmakers, and is considered one of the best films of all-time by many. Quentin Tarantino considers it one the 10 best films ever.
Linkleter was able to use lesser known actors, and get superb performances. Ben Affleck, makes you hate O’Bannion, Matthew McConaughey embraces the stoner role of Wooderson and many of his lines are the most quotable of the film. Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, and Marissa Ribisi steal many scenes as the awkward tweeners stuck between the stoners and the jocks, as they fit in with both, but not really fitting in with either, and trying to find their way. Jason London and Wiley Wiggins turn in possibly the best performances of their careers. It also kicked off the career for several other cast members. The more I watch this movie, the further it moves up my list of favorite movies.
Shot in late 2012 and early 2013, but set in the period between 1986 to 1996. Foxcatcher is about Mark and Dave Shultz, 1984 Olympic gold medalists in wrestling, and the eccentric John Eleuthère du Pont. The movie follows du Pont, who is obsessed with winning and wants to bring an Olympic medal to his trophy room. And with that obsession Team Foxcatcher is created. He turns to Mark Shultz and it follows his training after winning the Olympics, through the 1987 World Championships, Olympic team trials, 1988 Olympics, and ends with UFC 9 in 1996. Eventually Dave joins Mark and helps train the team. The hardships and determination of the early Olympic athletes is on display.
This movie is dark, depressing, awkward, and gritty. Channing Tatum, and Steve Carell give performances of a lifetime. Tatum has many ups and downs as he struggles with his success and it eventually leads to excess. It comes to a point where you feel sorrow for him. Carell comes off as an eccentric, arrogant, and self absorbed psychopath trying to move out of his mother’s shadow (which is prize winning horses) and become successful at his passion.
The cinematography for the movie is outstanding. Much of the movie has a dark feel, and the dark way it was shot matches this. There are two big issues with the movie: First, is the slow pace. The beginning of the movie moves at almost a crawl, and really does not pick up the pace till around 30 to 45 minutes in. Second is the lack of communicating the amount of time that had went by to the audience. To most, the events must seem like a year or two has went by, but in all actuality 10 years go by from the first scenes to the last.
Interesting fact: Kurt Angle trained as part of the Dave Shultz Wrestling Club before winning the 1996 Olympics.
Denzel Washington stars as Robert McCall, an ex Black Ops Operative trying to live a normal life. Working at a hardware store, he is a motivation to his co-workers and trains one to pass his security trainee test. Every evening he goes to the local diner and befriends a victim of underage sex trafficking. After seeing her being abused he tries to free her, and then the adrenalin kick in. Along the way he starts uncovering dirty cops and sees how deep it runs. With each step he digs himself a little deeper with the Russian Mafia, and it finally explodes in an all-out war.
Denzel Washington brings everything you want in an action movie. The action scenes are very creative, and it is not just a typical shoot out as he uses everything he can get his hands on. He also brings some compassion to the role. The relationship he builds with this child prostitute is admirable as he tries to free her. In all honesty, all that had to be said to get me interested was Denzel Washington, as he rarely has a bad movie.
Just in case the 6-pack wasn’t enough, I am going to throw one more at you for free.
Aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neiman gets invited to play with a prestigious studio band at his school. Terence Fletcher conducts the band, and right away it is obvious that he is abusive to the musicians. He expects perfection. Fletcher continually abuses Andrew, and each night Andrew pushes himself to become better, often playing till his hands bleed. The pursuit of perfection can be their undoing and their redemption.
Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman puts his passion on the screen. He gives a passionate performance that leads you to questioning how much is too much when pushing yourself. J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher makes you hate him. He is snarky and angry. There are times when he will make you chuckle, and times when you despise him. The two play off each other, trying to out do the other and in the end realizing they are the same.
If you have the free time, I recommend any and all of these movies for weekend of binge watching, or just a casual viewing.