The Judge (2014), Kill the Messenger (2014), The Equalizer (2014), The Hundred Foot Journey (2014)


Twenty-one days during which the daughter and son-in-law and the granddaughters and his mother and father are in Maui and Eleanor and I are not. She and I read the papers when we awaken in the mornings, large cups of coffee sipped, followed by a drive to The Crow’s Nest on the coast for two of some wonderful cook’s Benedicts, followed by a return home and, knowing that in the evening it’s to be dinner with the Giants who are seeing whether everything’s up to date in Kansas City, we run a Google check of movies in the Bay Area.

Not having done a string of daily matinees for some years, here are some impressions: theaters must be dying–you sit among at most five or ten other moviegoers scattered about in dark, plush theaters no matter where you are–Campbell, Scotts Valley, Cupertino, Saratoga, uptown/downtown San Jose; as to the latter, the afternoon sidewalks of San Jose are nearly empty–just a few souls wondering around and those VTA trains coming and going. And in San Jose and environs, we take in some current movies: The Judge is a contrived sentimentality in which Duvall mails in his part and Robert Downey Jr. does his usual wisecracking role but with an aw shucks great big heart and you think he wondered onto the wrong set while they were shooting and they let him stay. Nothing fits, the plot is forced, my advice is don’t./ Kill the Messenger is about Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury reporter who wrote a series of articles about shady Central American cocaine dealings in the time of Iran Contra and the connection of that dealing to the plague of crack cocaine in American cities, together with an alleged connection of some kind to the CIA (though this seemed to me confused and perhaps contrived in the script of Kill the Messenger) and the movie is not very engrossing and, though my memory is weakening, seems somewhat off the mark of Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series at the Merc for which he ended up fired, a Pulitzer winner, and, sadly, eventually a suicide; I do recall the smarmy essay in the Merc disowning Webb after some large papers (e.g., The Washington Post) went after him and written by an editor whose name I don’t recall and whom I didn’t like. I wouldn’t bother with Kill the Messenger. /Denzil Washington’s The Equalizer is essentially yet another version of his earlier Man on Fire and hence one of many, many such plotlines: a retired tough guy (typically a former CIA operative) re-enters the fray to avenge and/or rescue a young damsel in distress, the distress at the hands of the Russian mafia or drug dealers in Central America or the like. Bam! Boom! Thud! and so on. I caught on Turner Classics this week John Ford’s classic and ever-great The Searchers and saw that in The Equalizer (as well as Man on Fire) its influence continues to be strong (though if John Wayne comes back, it’s going to be in deadly search of a lot of actors who have done corrupt versions of his role in The Searchers). Recalling another great Western, Shane, you can imagine The Equalizer as something like a movie with the gunfight between Shane and Wilson in that bar in that little town looking onto the Grand Tetons just repeated a dozen times, no effort to create much of a plot, just give those teen gamers what they want over and over again, except that in The Equalizer  the little bar in the Tetons is now Home Depot at night when the customers are gone and the assailants are by themselves in the huge space filled with everything from rakes and shovels to appliances A to Z. I found it hilarious that the Denzil character has not only retired from the Agency but when the movie opens is happily driving forklifts at the Home Depot loading dock and is an avid reader of classic novels in his off hours–well, all I can say is that these days there are a gaggle of screenwriters who should be thankful there is no Federal Court of Aesthetics. As to The Equalizer, ixnay. /Then there is Helen Mirren and The Hundred-Foot Journey, a charming small movie about superb cuisine, young love, assimilation, the South of France and the commonality among human hearts. Don’t expect anything deep or moving; but, if you’d like a pleasant little movie in which things work out and you’ll come out into the afternoon light talking Happy Talk, you might try it.

There have been scores of movies, most of them bad. Showbusiness. It’s alive and somewhat well.