A good year for women on film, as exemplified in new releases The Eyes of My Mother, Miss Sloane, and more
Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
This is Instant Legend about the apotheosis of a Johnny Reb on the vengeance trail of the Attila-the-Hun union officer who massacred his wife and child. Along the way, the avenger picks up an odd assortment of travelling companions (the most amiable among them is the droll Chief Dan George as a "civilized" Indian in an Abe Lincoln frock coat and stovepipe hat), and everywhere he goes he leaves his mark -- tobacco juice spat out with casual, contemptuous, bull's-eye marksmanship. The hero's superhuman prowess with pistols is always good for eliciting Rebel yells from Clint Eastwood's legions in the audience; but this prowess is the exclusive subject of almost every incident, and over the long haul it becomes a bit tiresome. This movie has the scope of an epic and the redundancy of a mere refrain. Eastwood's enthusiasm for the directing job (he takes a special delight in worm's-eye-view shots that monumentalize the characters from below) offsets the repetitions and clichés, however. He does some attentive work with the soundtrack -- a rumble of hoof beats that is at first mistaken for an overhead roll of thunder, the despondent shuffle of men and horses in the act of surrender, the dull splatter of rain on a tarp and a hatbrim. And he shows a keen eye for terrain, and for the different types of combat that fit into different types of terrain -- forest, river, prairie, desert, etc. 1976.