Jack Lemmon stars (in his fifth of seven movies with Wilder) as the uptight Wendell Armbruster, Jr., who, after his father dies in an auto accident, travels to Italy to claim the body. There, he discovers that his father had been having an affair, and that his lover also died in the same accident. What’s more, he meets his father’s lover’s daughter, Pamela Piggott (Juliet Mills). There’s some arguing and some complications, but eventually, a carefree attitude takes over—it was also Wilder’s first use of sex and nudity—stretching over an open-aired 144 minutes.
Cutter’s Way (TubiTV)
Based on the novel Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg, Cutter’s Way (1981) quickly became a cult classic after its mishandled, original release and a smattering of enthusiastic reviews. It’s still not as well known as it should be, but it remains an exemplary crime film of the 1980s, uncommonly mature, downbeat, atmospheric, and character-driven. (It’s really more like a 1970s film that got away.) Jeff Bridges stars in one of his all-time best roles as Bone, a yacht salesman who witnesses a man dumping something in a trash can. It turns out that the something was a body, and Bone later recognizes the man as a wealthy oil tycoon.
Bone’s friend, crippled Vietnam War veteran and loose cannon Alex Cutter (John Heard) decides to look further into the matter, though the crime story is complicated by the dead girl’s sister (Ann Dusenberry) as well as Cutter’s alcoholic wife (Lisa Eichhorn). Director Ivan Passer had been one of the luminaries of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s, along with fellow countrymen Jiri Menzel and Milos Forman; Passer wrote the screenplays for two early Forman classics, The Firemen’s Ball and Loves of a Blonde. His work in America on Cutter’s Way is rangy and shadowy, obsessed with loss, but exactly right.
The Who’s first concept album, Tommy, was made into an abysmal feature film, but their second concept album fared much better in its cinematic form. Directed by Franc Roddam (in his directorial debut), Quadrophenia (1979) takes place in 1964 England, when the Mods and the Rockers went at each other like cowboys and Indians. Their fights take place in otherwise charming beachside towns, with rhythmic chanting (“We are the mods! We are the mods, mods, mods!”). Meanwhile, the smallest of the Mods, Jimmy (Phil Daniels), deals with personal troubles.
His old friend comes back from prison, now a Rocker. His parents find his stash of “blues,” his girlfriend leaves him for another guy, and a truck runs over his beloved motorbike. Perhaps worse, he sees a Mod named Ace (played by a pre-stardom Sting) working at a hotel and kowtowing to snooty tourists. Roddam films in a grainy, devil-may-care, street-level style, as if it were a home movie transported here from the 1960s, but whenever the Who’s music soars on the soundtrack (including the songs “The Real Me,” “Love Reign O’er Me,” and “5:15”), the movie becomes transcendent. Look for Ray Winstone and Timothy Spall among the cast.
Captain America: Civil War (Vudu)
Considering the three other superhero extravaganzas this year that were dull misfires (Batman v Superman, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Suicide Squad), it’s all the more remarkable that Captain America: Civil War (2016) worked at all, let alone that it was really good. In the best tradition of Marvel Comics, the movie tended to focus on the worries, fears, and general humanity of its two main characters, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, his fifth time in the role) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., his sixth), so that when they fight, it’s for an emotional reason, not just a trumped-up scheme to sell things.
Director brothers Anthony and Joe Russo juggle 12 superheroes in all. Aside from Captain America and Iron Man, we get an appealing new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), both scheduled for their own future movies. The always-amazing Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is here, a cool Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and the entertaining Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) provides a few laughs. Everything flows effortlessly, it’s fun, and it feels like something is actually at stake. This is the 13th movie in a series that began in 2008 with Iron Man, and even if the sheer number of titles can leave viewers overwhelmed and burned out, it’s rather impressive that the quality has remained so high.