Films featuring
Charles Durning

The Final Countdown

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For what it tries to be, about the only thing I can find wrong with The Final Countdown is the title. There really is no countdown involved and, even if there were, there would be nothing particularly final about it. We shouldn’t let that hamper our enjoyment about what has to be the best movie ever made about a time-traveling aircraft carrier.

This is one of those movies that would be nothing without its cast, as it depends upon actors with a certain level of gravitas that you need to sell a profoundly silly premise and this film has scored a jackpot in that department.

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To Be or Not to Be

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To Be or Not to Be is sort of an odd duck among Mel Brooks films. Aside from voice-over work and TV guest shots, it’s about his only major role in a film he didn’t write or direct. While long on slapstick, it’s the closest thing to serious that Brooks has been at any point of his career, dealing with the Nazi occupation of Poland and the Holocaust, however obliquely. It also has the most cohesive storyline of any Brooks film since Young Frankenstein.

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Dog Day Afternoon

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In Sidney Lumet‘s gritty heist drama, Al Pacino hadn’t yet become a parody of himself. He’s still a great actor but in some of his recent films, like Heat and The Devil’s Advocate, his acting has taken on a broad, over-the-top quality not found in his earlier work. In Dog Day Afternoon, even standing on the sidewalk, chanting “Attica! Attica!” Pacino never oversells the performance, making Sonny a nuanced and sympathetic character.

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The Muppet Movie

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In a lot of ways, the Muppets were the Looney Tunes of their generation, seemingly directed at small children but operating at a gleefully subversive level of sophistication that goes right over the kids’ heads and straight for the hearts of their parents. Their first feature length film plays like an extended big-screen version of their late-seventies television show. This is a good thing.

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The Hindenburg

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Day eight of my own little Robert Wise Film Festival

Think of The Hindenburg as kind of like Titanic, except without the romance or an interesting story. Both films deal with fictional portrayals of real life disasters involving famous vessels, one at sea, one in the air, but for Titanic to be as bad as The Hindenburg, Captain Smith would have been shown deliberately steering the ship into the iceberg for reasons that would not be adequately explored.

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