Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.
The new Predator movie opens this weekend, and it’s called The Predator, and it isn’t really very good. But we may as well remind you that Scarecrow has the other pieces of the Predator universe on its shelves, should you need to see those. We might also note that director Shane Black’s previous two films, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys, are well worth checking out, violent and funny movies that play tricks with the conventions of their genres. If only you could say the same about The Predator. Here’s my review of The Nice Guys.
Meanwhile, Burt Reynolds died on Sep. 6th. The reception of Reynolds’ death felt a little understated compared to recent celebrity passings, and maybe is a measurement of how outliving your heyday will take its toll on your memorialization. But in case it needed saying, it should be remembered that Reynolds was not just a huge movie star in his moment, but a big cultural figure, the kind of household name that seems to be a constant part of the conversation, somehow. He helped that by being such a self-kidding presence on talk shows, a new kind of celebrity for the 1970s. Tongue in cheek. A walking joke on his own image. Maybe so much that the routine didn’t wear well, and audiences drifted away when he went back to being serious.
In any case, Reynolds was a frequently engaging screen personality, and a fair director, too, as Gator and The End suggested. (On the other hand, muffing a great Elmore Leonard novel, Stick, was an indication of his limitations behind the camera.) He had a long run at the top, and just about as long a run no longer at the top.
I looked online for reviews I’d written about Reynolds, and thus far I can find only a 1986 review of Heat, a movie that felt like a misfired attempt at a comeback at the time. And yet it was only four years after Best Friends, a solid hit. Reynolds had a rough patch there in the mid-80s, for reasons I mention in the piece.
There is a poignant “Burt Reynolds movie” that isn’t really one of his films—and yet he haunts the picture, in a memorable and revealing way. That’s Sherman’s March, Ross McElwee’s epic documentary, and a film well worth remembering, not least for its reminder of how omnipresent Burt Reynolds once was.
Robert Horton, the longtime reviewer for the Daily Herald and Seattle Weekly, is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.