Richard Donner (1930-2021): My Top Five Films from the Director

Richard Donner was one of the great action directors, a man who could tackle almost any movie and add his own distinct flavor to it. Although mostly a film titan in the eighties, Donner continued a long and illustrious career directing genre films well in to his eighties and left behind a humongous legacy of iconic films, hit films, and films that will live on for many, many years in the hearts of movie buffs everywhere.

In remembrance of the cinematic titan, I thought I’d list my five favorite films from his humongous oeuvre.

What are your favorite Richard Donner films? Let us know in the comments!

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Dynamite Warrior (2006)

The clear indicator that this is simply the lamest of the exports so far is the first twenty minutes where director Chalerm Wongpim asks us to enjoy the realism of the epic battle scenes, while also forcing us to swallow a scene of our hero Siang riding a large rocket in the air. He then takes part in one of the most boring fight sequences I’ve ever seen. Most notable is the choreography which is slow and clunky, while most of the scenes are so poorly edited that they look like rehearsals for actual scenes we’ll never get to watch. It’s the first time I’ve seen a flying knee kick and not gasp in amazement.

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The Kid Brother (1927): Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

I confess I’ve never seen much from Harold Lloyd, even though I’d heard a lot about him over the years. Even during my days when I was looking to explore silent film, Lloyd seems to stand in a league of his own. “The Kid Brother” is one of his arguable best, it’s not a raucous comedy, but it manages to be a well paced, and charming underdog tale nevertheless. Lloyd embodies a lot of the underdog hero traits that we like, right down to the humble trademark glasses, something that becomes a unique trait in his quest to fight for the girl of his dreams and his family.

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The Bootleg Files: McLintock!

BOOTLEG FILES 674: “McLintock!” (1963 Western starring John Wayne).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On both public domain labels and in official commercial release.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It’s complicated.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There was an official commercial release, but the film is still being bootlegged.

Earlier this week, John Wayne was the subject of news headlines and social media buzz – which is no mean feat, considering that the star passed away 40 years ago. The new focus on Wayne was due to politically incorrect comments on race and sexual orientation that he made in a 1971 interview with Playboy Magazine. Back in the day, nobody thought twice about the interview – contrary to popular insistence, people did not read Playboy for the articles. But today, of course, it seems that the mainstream media has a racism outrage quota to fill. And when the demand for racist behavior to condemn outpaces the supply of current incidents, clickbait scoundrels scour the archives – or, in a certain Chicago case, hire a pair of oversized Nigerian brothers – in order to stir new waves of frenzy.
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Forty Guns (1957): Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Samuel Fuller’s “Forty Guns” is very much a B western but one filled with such eccentricities and ahead of its time role reversals that it’s hard not to be a little charmed by it. The idea of Barbara Stanwyck as a villain in the old west is appealing enough, but “Forty Guns” packs such a unique and fun premise. Along with it, there are so many weird twists and turns including two musical numbers, a wedding scene, and a premise that feels to have slightly influenced 1993’s “Tombstone” (?).

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The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982): Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

I’m very disappointed that it’s taken me so long to watch “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez,” a Robert M. Young Western drama that has gone shockingly under mentioned for years. A mix of “The Ox-Bow Incident” and “Rashomon,” in many ways it’s a very history accurate and groundbreaking example of the genre. Young’s drama pictures a hideous crime and paints it in the shades of people’s prejudices and how we can perceive certain events when emotions and biases play a big hand.

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Heaven’s Gate: Classic or Clunker?

For many people, Michael Cimino’s 1980 epic “Heaven’s Gate” represents the worst of cinema. For others, however, the film is an original and audacious work that did not deserve the harsh reviews and box office failure in its initial release. On this episode, film critic Jerry Roberts joins Phil Hall to discuss the merits and mishaps of this still-polarizing work.

The episode can be heard here.

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