Brandon, I'm so happy you liked Vera Cruz- I haven't seen a lot of westerns, so I don't know if my taste is any good. That said, I watched it because it was mentioned in the liner notes to Seven Samurai (Criterion Collection), so I reckon that should be recommendation enough. Sadly, since it was one of the first westerns I saw, I hold all of the others I've seen up to it, and nothing quite compares. Have you seen Cat Ballou or The Professionals? The former is a Jane Fonda pic, but don't let that prejudice you against it- Lee Marvin won an Oscar for his performance. It's supposed to be a comedy, but there's a lot in there that's not funny. Look for the old man in the outlaw hideout who forgets his name. There's something poignant being said behind the comedy, I'm sure, but I'd have to watch it again to tell you what it is. The Professional's ending was kind of disappointing to me, but the segment where the handful of them are planning and executing the attack on the Mexican outlaw gang's hq is really exciting.
You asked, Brandon, about middling reviews being off-putting... I'd say I'm with Adrienne in that I tend to decide whether or not I want to see films based on how I like the trailers. I'll read the occasional review, and if I want to see something in the theater that I'm not sure of, I'll check the tomatometer without reading the reviews to get a basic sense of how it was received-- being sure, of course, to check the common folks' percentage as well as the critics'. The difference between the two can tell you a lot, I think. But I tend to like to go into films blind. I don't have the attention span to read about a film I haven't seen and have no frame of reference for. Afterwards, though, I will often check out reviews to see how my opinion compares with others', professional or otherwise.
John, check out my comment on your Ashes, Ashes post. I'll only add that I envy your find at Hollywood-- I'd say that of all your purchases this month, that was probably the most justifiable, despite it being the most costly. I got some great stuff at a Media Play going-out-of-business sale a few years back, and still don't regret the couple hundred I spent on movies, music, and magazines. One of my prize finds was a Sundance 10-film 25th Anniversary retrospective:
"This collection celebrates the Sundance Institute's 25th anniversary with 10 essential indies. From Steven Soderbergh's breakout hit, SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, to the innovative biopic AMERICAN SPLENDOR, the best of the fest is found here. This boxed set of Sundance favorites also includes CLERKS, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, SMOKE SIGNALS, AMERICAN MOVIE, BOYS DON'T CRY, IN THE BEDROOM, REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES, and CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS. Please see individual titles for synopsis information. " (description stolen from some online store's site)
It retailed for about a hundred bucks and I got it for about twenty. It's deals like that that keep us collecting, you know. "There are more deals like that out there, so if I stop looking, I'll miss them!" I understand all to well, John. I wholeheartedly support your efforts at reform, but know that I'm in the trenches with you, brother.
In other news, I'm going to see the animated A Town Called Panic at the Dryden tonight. I'll likely write about it later. I just wanted mention it, John, to make you jealous.