I saw six movies this week. The first four fall into the category of better than expected. The New Land is, of course, a sequel to The Emigrants, and I wondered when it started do we really need to spend three and a half hours on Von Sydow and Ullmann slogging it in Minnesota? Certainly some of it doesn't go well, such as the endless subplot involving the brother who goes out West. But if not as insightful as The Tree of Wooden Clogs, it does have a certain power as it proceeds. A Pocketful of Miracles was Frank Capra's last movie. I'm not the biggest Capra fan, and the story is arguably a trifle. But it does work on its own terms. It's nice to see Edward Everett Horton again, and also Thomas Mitchell (if only for the last time). Bette Davis doesn't have the big role she could have, but Glenn Ford and Hope Lange don't make a bad couple. Hidden Figures is better than its audience pleasing plot might suggest. Henson is very good, and we get to see a The Life of Louis Pasteur/Dr. Erlich's Magic Bullet plot only involving women, angular geometry, and segregation. Is it as good as The Right Stuff? No, not remotely. But it's better than Apollo 13. The Sea Wolf is a good yarn with Edward G. Robinson lording it over his ship. Elle starts out well. Isabelle Huppert gives a remarkable performance, arguably the best actress of 2016 I've seen so far. (Playing a woman more than a decade younger than her is the least of her abilities.) But it could be trimmed for ten to twenty minutes. Moreover, once we realize why Huppert is acting the way she is, the explanation appears a bit facile. Finally, Manchester by the Sea is the best movie of the week, and the best of the seven best picture nominees I've seen. It's intelligent, thoughtful, funny, nuanced and at times genuinely touching. Casey Affleck is very good indeed, and one wishes there was more of Michelle Williams that her second billing would suggest. It's more morally complex than Moonlight and more profound than La La Land.
LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...
Posted 19 February 2017 - 03:32 AM
I didn't like the way Doris Day pronounced Broadway. Broad'waaaaay.
Posted 19 February 2017 - 03:04 AM
I saw five movies this week. The Hasty Heart is one of three Ronald Reagan movies that were nominated for a major Oscar. It's based on a British play, which is why it uses a common British trope--the stage Scotsman--which plays oddly in America, where Scottish people have been part of the ruling class since the beginning of the country. Reagan, who I didn't immediately recognize because his voice was distinctly different from his politician years, is nothing special, and the drama is basically a war weepie, which includes a silly bit about soldiers wondering what's under a kilt. Love Me or Leave Me basically consists of James Cagney and Doris Day being miserable for two hours. That's close to the real life people the movie is based on, and Days sings well and is very attractive. On the other hand whoever thought it was a good idea to have her sing "Shaking the Blues Away" after Ann Miller did the same number so memorably in Easter Parade was not doing her any favors. And the unhappy relationship does contribute to Day's aura of sexlessness, which has always made her a tough sell for me as a romantic actress. Madame Curie is the fourth biopic I've seen of a major scientist over a ten year period. Garson does a better job being beautiful and dignified than being a great scientist. But that doesn't mean she doesn't try. Likewise Walter Pidgeon is nobody's idea of a great romantic lead, but the absent minded professor role does suit his abilities, such as they are, fairly well. There are probably more profound things one could say about the Curies (Garson's last award winning speech is just empty Hollywood rhetoric), but this isn't a bad job. The Salesman is the best movie from 2016 I've seen so far. It takes some time for the plot about an artistic couple (they're performing a version of 'Death of a Salesman') whose lives are cursed by an intruder. But it does move its way to a powerful climax. There are other performances I should check out, but so far Shahab Hosseini is my choice for Best Actor of the year. Hail Mary comes from Godard's second run of narrative movies (the first run ended with Weekend, and the second began with Every Man for Himself). It's certainly not a conventional narrative as the movie adapts the Birth narrative with Mary and Joseph. There is plentiful use of Bach and Dvorak, a host of literary allusions, plus a lot of nudity, which seeming to support Christian orthodoxy right up to the very end, where Mary puts on red lipstick. I found it quite enjoyable, the most so far of his post Weekend work.
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Posted 13 February 2017 - 06:40 PM
There is a very bad last line which Jeremy Renner is forced to speak near the end of the movie.
Simply brilliant. I can feel you cringing in his stead.
"Half asleep I hear a voice
Is it only in my mind?
Or is it someone calling me...
...someone I failed, and left behind?"
Posted 12 February 2017 - 02:00 AM
I saw six movies this week. Coquette may not be the worst best Actress winner of all time. But the best one can say about this movie is that it's not very interesting. Fanny makes one wonder what the French original was like. While not inoffensive when listening to it in the background, one thinks that a director better than Joshua Logan could have made better use of Boyer and Chevalier. And Horst Buchholz as the eventual winner needs to be more sympathetic. The Great Waltz suggests that biopics of musicians from the thirties and forties are less successful than biopics of scientists. The latter have better actors (Tracy, Robinson, while Paul Muni is certainly better in the role he won an oscar for than in A Song to Remember). The scientist's struggles are easier to dramatize, and the often frustrating trial and effort is more true to life than imagining how musicians get their ideas. Compared to the Chopin biopic, The Great Waltz is a visually more interesting movie, but not a very thoughtful one. The three movies from last year have their virtues. Neruda deals with the poet's experience of a McCarthyist like experience in Chile in the late forties, as opposed to the dictatorship that arose in the last days of his life. The movie contrasts the proletarian poet with the lover of the high life, and has the amusing conceit of the policeman tracking Neruda as the latter flees into exile finding out he's actually a figment of Neruda's imagination two thirds of the way through the movie. A Bigger Splash offers the sight of Ralph Fiennes grooving to 'Emotional Rescue,' and the slightly stranger sight of him trying to win his former flame rock star Tilda Swinton, who can barely talk while she's recovering form vocal cord surgery. Certainly interesting, but it needs to be a bit more engaging. Moana is clearly the movie of the week, with an engaging and pretty teenage heroine, less didactic reminders than usual in this sort of Disney movie, and with considerable invention, given that most of the movie takes place on a raft in a boundless ocean.
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Posted 11 February 2017 - 02:44 PM
I saw six movies for the first time, and revisited one old favorite I'd not seen for a few years the last two weeks; the ones I saw for the first time:
"Sweethearts" (1938)--Sugary Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy operetta has OK music by Sigmund Romberg, and fine color cinematography by Oliver Marsh and Allen Davey that won them special Oscars. The TCM plot summary is incorrect; MacDonald and Eddy play two Broadway stars who are cloyingly in Love with each other; only in the film's last half hour do they start bickering and break up. Except for the photography, and maybe the music, tremendously disappointing film.
"The King and Four Queens" (1956)--Amiable, lightweight con game Western, with Clark Gable and Eleanor Parker providing the spark and most of the one liners. Jo Van Fleet as the suspicious, possessive matriarch and Barbara Nichols as a dumb blonde are notable in support.
"Ride Lonesome" (1959)--One of the best Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher westerns (they made seven). Scott is a bounty hunter who captures an outlaw wanted for killing a man by shooting him in the back. The outlaw's brother swears to get Scott. Indians on the warpath enter into the picture to make things more complicated. Taut, fast moving "B" western is an excellent watch. Recommended.
"Westbound" (1959)--Another Scott/Boetticher collaboration, this one tries to squeeze too much plot into too little running time. Virginia Mayo is decorative, the storyline predictable; its' main virtue is it races instead of plods along from cliche to cliche. OK time passer.
"The Little Prince" (1974)--Lerner and Loewe musicalization of the Antoine De Saint-Exupery novel. Maybe the film would have made more sense if I'd read the book first. Steven Warner in the title role does acceptably well, Richard Kiley as The Pilot has a fine voice. Bob Fosse's cameo as The Snake and Gene Wilder as The Fox are the highlights of the film. A real curiosity.
"Comanche Station" (1960)--Scott and Boetticher's last film together. Excellent western about Jefferson Cody (Scott) trading $5 dollars in trinkets for a captive woman (Nancy Gates). After they escape, they head for the nearest stagecoach station. It's deserted. Beautifully photographed, fast moving film. Recommended.
"Two Mules For Sister Sara" (1970)--Quirky, occasionally hilarious western comedy with Shirley MacLaine and Clint Eastwood. MacLaine is traveling as a nun in 1860's Mexico, Eastwood is her rescuer. The two carry the film. MacLaine gets the best lines, although Eastwood shows an unsuspected (by me) talent for double and triple takes, along with some suitably sarcastic remarks. Recommended.
Favorites--"Comanche Station" (1960) & "Two Mules For Sister Sara" (1970).
Least Favorite--"Sweethearts" (1938).
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Posted 05 February 2017 - 03:18 AM
I saw seven movies last week. Hacksaw Ridge is like Gandhi in that what power it achieves arises from the nature of the protagonist, and not from Gibson's nor Attenborough's skill as a director. That does not mean that HR is remotely as good a movie as Gandhi. Quite the contrary. There is a good 40 minute movie about the conscientious objector medic who rescued dozens of soldiers in Okinawa under apparently hopeless circumstances. Unfortunately to get there we have to get through sentimental cliches about romance, unimaginative diluted training camp shenanigans, and movie violence that while genuinely visceral in its impact, is aesthetically and morally questionable in the extreme. Arrival is like Villeneuve's previous film Sicario in which portentousness serves as a substitute for thought. This works a bit better in this movie when the scientists are confronting apparently inconceivably opaque aliens. It help hides the good scientist/trigger-happy military for longer than it should. But the core of the movie is an emotional subplot that relies on a trick Lost used, and which Villeneuve does not have the insight to pull off. There is a very bad last line which Jeremy Renner is forced to speak near the end of the movie. The Racket was one of the first films nominated for best picture (it was nominated in the category Wings won, not the one Sunrise won.) Looking at it, one can't imagine why. There's something to be said about the criminal in charge, but not a lot. The Prisoner of Shark Island benefits from Ford's professionalism, and from the compelling prison drama Samuel Mudd found himself in. It also has some awkward, cringe-worthy scenes with African-Americans. The same problem arises in The Adventures of Mark Twain. On the other hand, I suppose I have a soft spot for old biopics. It doesn't show Twain at his most biting and indignant, and it guts his misanthropy into a stand-up routine. And Frederic March is certainly not my first choice to play Twain. But there's enough of interest to keep watching it. Fort Tilden is an independent movie of two awful privileged millennial twits who decide to have a day at the beach. They act selfishly and irresponsibly, have a horrible time and learn apparently nothing. There's genuine skill and realism here, but the movie seems more of a symptom of the narcissism and solipsism it's attacking. So the movie of the week is the final one. Marcello Mastroianni was indeed a great actor, and it's important to remember this even if you don't particularly care for 8 1/2. Three lives and only one death shows this to be so in Raul Ruiz's elegant and strange fantasy, where Mastroiani's own daughter plays a supporting role.
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Posted 29 January 2017 - 10:35 AM
I saw six films for the first time last week:
"Riders To The Stars" (1954)--Ivan Tors produced unexciting, talky sci-fi- movie that's about catching meteors to make stronger space exploration materials. Not as interesting as it sounds.
"Frankenstein Conquers The World" (1966)--Starring Nick Adams.--Enjoyably inept sci-fi entry from AIP. Frankenstein's Monster's immortal heart is moved from Nazi Germany in WW II to Hiroshima, Japan. The heart survives the bombings, and a survivor chows down on it. Flash forward 15 years. The heart and the radiation have combined to make a human grow six stories tall. Horrible miniature work, inconsistencies in size (the Monster goes down a human sized staircase in one shot, then in the next is several stories tall, etc.), obvious toy trains and villages get stomped, and there are the obligatory shots of screaming villagers fleeing while a loudspeaker orders them not to panic, and leave in an orderly fashion. Oh, and a second monster is released by an earthquake. A fun watch.
"When Knighthood Was In Flower" (1922)--I saw the first hour and forty minutes, then the print ended. From what I saw, film comes alive when Marion Davies takes the screen, especially in her comedic moments (the scene where she chooses a wedding dress, etc.). Film is/was on YouTube, and is worth the watch, even in incomplete form. William Powell can be spotted as one of the bad guys.
"Doomwatch" (1972)--English sci-fi about illegal dumping off an isolated British island and its consequences. Film resembles "The Wicker Man". George Sanders cameos in one of his last appearances. Movie has two unresolved plot loose ends that give it a nasty kick. Recommended.
"Lucy Gallant" (1955)--Jane Wyman sudser about her starting her own business in an oil boomtown in 1940 Texas. Charlton Heston is the lout Lucy falls in love with. Thelma Ritter is the voice of the scriptwriter(s), urging Lucy to get married before it's Too Late. Claire Trevor is the best thing in the film, and she has the majority of wisecracks. Ignore the unsubtle messages about marriage, and film is surprisingly enjoyable. Wyman shows flashes of waspish sarcasm, which helps cut through the soap.
"Scanners" (1981)--David Cronenberg sci-fi about how a drug helped produce a race of mutants, and the Governments' attempts to wipe them out. Plot isn't terribly clear or coherent. Those allergic to gore might want to skip this one. Still, an interesting and fun watch.
Favorite--"When Knighthood Was In Flower" (1922).
Least Favorite--"Riders to the Stars" (1954).
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Posted 29 January 2017 - 03:24 AM
I saw five movies last week. The Love Witch is an interesting bird. It's an elaborate pastiche of a certain sort of cheesy early seventies horror film, usually involving the occult. In the case the hairstyle, fashions, chatter about the occult is so close to the seventies, that only a couple of shots of a computer and then the use of a cell phone near the end notes that its decades later. On the one hand the pastiche has been arranged with considerable care and precision. On the other hand the story it tells is of a fatuous sociopath. Silence is certainly an elaborate, beautifully filmed and morally serious production about the Japanese extirpation of Christianity in the 1600s. Andrew Garfield does a good job portraying the crisis of conscience his character faces. It's certainly a watchable and compelling film. And yet I feel slightly dissatisfied. Compared to The Passion of Joan of Arc, Diary of a Country Priest, Winter Light, Nostalghia and The Sacrifice the movie does not quite succeed. Why not? I must admit I don't fully remember the original novel, but I recall it being much more depressing. The movie emphasizes, in the final analysis, that Garfield is not broken. As I remember the novel, it emphasizes that Christianity was destroyed in Japan for two centuries, which one might think was much more important. Entre Nous is a competent drama about two French women and their unhappy marriages who meet in the fifties. The actresses are good, but I suppose I expected a bit more, since I had very good memories a quarter century earlier of C'est La Vie. Rollover is both a curiosity and interesting in its own right. In retrospect the financial crises we've seen since make the basic scheme at its heart, the Arabs cause a new Great Depression by taking all their money out of banks, causing the currency to collapse, simple minded. But that doesn't mean Jane Fonda, Kris Kristofferson and Hume Cronyn don't do a good job. Nor is Pakula that bad, though an early, very static opening credit sequence is admittedly very unpromising. Finally Paris Belongs to Us is the first film of Jacques Rivette. As such it shares a lot with other Rivette films. It's a very leisurely film, with lots of beautiful shots of Paris, and the characters are participating in putting on a play (in this case Pericles), Meanwhile the movie slowly concerns itself about a sinister, quasi-fascist conspiracy. It's not clear why the conspiracy deals with a handful of generally unsuccessful theatre people, but it's worth watching regardless.,
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Posted 22 January 2017 - 04:49 PM
I saw seven movies for the first or second time last week:
"Carry On Cowboy" (1966)--Elaborate spoof goes after the western genre. There are scenes lifted from "High Noon", "Johnny Guitar", "The Harvey Girls", and many others. The Indian attack is one of the highlights of the movie. Scattershot satire hits the target more often than it misses. Read the signs. The running gags with the undertaker and "firewater" are notable. I could list the movies parodied, which made the movie even funnier. Enjoyable watch.
"Dracula Has Risen From The Grave" (1968)--Despite a good beginning and a spectacular ending, film seems stuck in a rut. The music score sounds a rehash of the scores from previous Hammer Dracula films, the plot is predictable, the special effects range from just ok to excellent, the screenplay is a paint-by-numbers job. Only Christopher Lee as Dracula and Barbara Ewing as a tavern maid excel acting wise. Film isn't Bad, just disappointing.
"Two-Way Stretch" (1960)--Peter Sellers and company plan and execute a heist; the fact that they're incarcerated is the perfect alibi. Obstacles put in their way are entertainingly disposed of. Very funny movie.
"Pardon Us" (1931)--Laurel & Hardy feature gets off to a promising start, then fizzles after the first thirty minutes. The collision of jail and L & H's whimsical universe don't mesh well. Hardy gets to sing, and shows off a fine tenor voice. OK time passer, but not worth staying up for.
"Autumn Leaves" (1956)--Joan Crawford stars in this uneasy mix of soap opera and thriller about a spinster who Finally finds Love in the form of Cliff Robertson--or is she just a "neurotic need"? Dialogue is sprinkled with howlers: "Isn't it strange how that wonderful song reminds you of chicken salad?" "Are you sure you're seeing live girls?". Movies' theme song is sung by Nat King Cole, and is very listenable. Film is worth one watch.
"The Howling II: Stirba, Werewolf ****" (1985)--Sequel to "The Howling" (1981) stars Christopher Lee and Sybil Danning as the only professionals in the cast. The transformation scenes are fairly well done; the rest of the special effects are cheap to laughable. Lee and Danning somehow keep from laughing. The soundtrack is ok. In case any viewer missed it, the most memorable shot in the film is repeated in the credits--17 times.
"While The City Sleeps" (1956)--Good Fritz Lang thriller has Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Vincent Price, etc on the trail of a serial killer (John Barrymore Jr.). The interaction between the newspaper staff is more interesting than the manhunt. Film is very worth a watch.
Most Favorite--"Two Way Stretch" (1960).
Least Favorite--"Autumn Leaves" (1956).
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Posted 22 January 2017 - 03:14 AM
This week I saw five movies. A Patch of Blue never struck me as a promising idea for a movie, with its blind girl falling for Sidney Poitier (because no white woman would if she actually saw him?). The element of liberal self-congratulation is all too evident. In retrospect the contrast between sober Poitier and white trash Shelly Winters is counter-productive. It wasn't poor white women of questionable morals that were holding African-Americans back in 1965. It also emphasizes racism as a vice of the stupid, instead of an ideology encouraged by the powerful. Poitier is creditable, Hartmann less so. Princess Tam-Tam is a more interesting movie: Josephine Baker does a nice job, before the white couple get back together. Destination Tokyo continues my so far strictly limited search for great 1943 movies. Some of the submarine action scenes are good. On the other hand the army bonding, morale and human interest elements are generally banal. And although it doesn't go full racist (at one point the crew agree they are fighting for Japanese children), saying Japan doesn't have a word for married love will insult anyone who has seen movies by Ozu, Mizoguchi and Naruse. Fallen Angel is a good Preminger movie, with its thoroughly competent direction, and its ending, so different from the moralism one might expect from noirs. Pacific Rim has the virtues and vices of a Guilermo del Toro film. It has an interesting misc en scene. The concept is interesting, though having Godzilla like monsters destroying major cities is not, post 9/11, in the best of taste. The main characters do a lot of unimaginative war movie guff about lost loved ones, potential rivalries, growing love affairs, and self sacrificing rhetoric. Also there's a lot of CGI slow motion special effects that left me indifferent. More interesting are two quarreling scientists and their disturbing speculations, as well as a good final shot.
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Posted 15 January 2017 - 10:53 AM
I saw six movies for the first time last week:
"Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?" (1972)--Good take on "Hansel and Gretel" is set in 1920's England, with Shelley Winters as the mentally ill widow who tries to contact her dead daughter during nightly seances. Her life intersects with a pair of orphans--the girl looks just like her daughter did. Winters and Ralph Richardson (he's the spiritualist) are excellent. A good watch.
"Horror Castle", aka "The Virgin of Nuremberg" (1965)--Horror film has a routine screenplay, until last thirty minutes of film, when plot twist after plot twist hits. Christopher Lee, as a seemingly sinister servant, and Rossana Podesta, as the damsel in distress who thinks for herself and fights back instead of screaming, rolling her eyes, and fainting are standouts. Well worth the watch.
"The Crusades" (1935)--Cecil B. DeMille's comic book version focuses on Richard the LionHearted, (Henry Wilcoxon, who plays him as a dimwitted thug), his eventual wife Berengaria (Loretta Young, who gives the best performance in the film) and Saladin (Ian Keith, who is also fine in his small role). Film is all talk the first hour, finally gets moving the second hour with some fine spectacle (the siege of Acre). Film is overlaid with self-righteous piety, presumably to please The Code. It got on my nerves.
"She" (1925)--British silent version of the H. Rider Haggard tale. Silent is more faithful to Haggard's story (he wrote the titles), but just as funny. Film is notable for the uneven to nonexistent application of makeup to the cannibals who guard She, and a near nude scene where She wears something filmy. For being 2000 years old, She is very well preserved. See the 94 minute British restoration on YouTube-- the version on archive.org is only 56 minutes long, and is in much worse shape.
"Carry On Cleo" (1965)--Takeoff on the 1963 "Cleopatra" hits the mark more often than it misses--best seen right after the Taylor-Burton Cleopatra, to see what scenes/aspects specifically are being satirized. Film scores direct hits on the carpet-unrolling scene, and many others.
"Carry On...Up The Khyber (1968)--Spoof on 'Zulu" (1964) and other films about English Colonialism is hysterically funny at it's best, and is never less than amusing. The parade of one liners, puns, film references (Bungdit Din) and parodies (Indian princess betrays her people for the British officer she loves, etc.) never stops for breath. Last thirty minutes is a classic of crazy comedy. Film absolutely glories in the stupidity of its characters. I loved it.
Most Favorite--"Carry On...Up The Khyber" (1968).
Least Favorite--"The Crusades" (1935).
Posted 15 January 2017 - 03:20 AM
I saw four movies this week. City of Pirates is certainly a strange movie, since it doesn't really have either pirates or a city. It's more a strange, fantasy surrealistic movie. It's kind of hard to describe, so I'll have the Lincoln Centre do it in its recent description for its Ruiz retrospective: "Propelled by a ferocious creative energy and blending folk legends, surrealist poetry, children’s adventure stories, and Hollywood horror movies, City of Pirates follows a decidedly nonlinear narrative about a sleepwalking virgin (Anne Alvaro), a ten-year-old boy (Melvil Poupaud) who claims to have raped and murdered his entire family, and the lone inhabitant of an island castle (Hughes Quester) who shares his body with an imaginary sister. Funny, frightening, and enigmatic, City of Pirates is like a cross between Peter Pan and Friday the 13th told with a wildly baroque visual style that suggests both Georges Méliès and Sergio Leone." Clearly not for everyone, I found it worth watching. Escape from Alcatraz is a good, skillful prison escape movie Siegel and Eastwood are highly competent, though the movie is not in the class of A Man Escaped or Le Trou. Johnny Belinda doesn't say anything particularly profound about Nova Scotia, where it takes place. As it happens I watched it because Jane Wyman won the oscar for it. I honestly didn't think I would be very impressed by it, and I wasn't. Wyman basically looks pretty and do sign language competently. Lew Ayres gives a more interesting performance, though I wouldn't consider it oscar worthy. After Pulp Fiction came out, several unimaginative filmmakers made gory copies with black humour for a few years until critics got tried of it. What distinguishes Romeo is Bleeding is that it was made before Pulp Fiction came out. As Jonathan Rosenbaum points out, this isn't a movie where style replaces content. It's one where stylishness replaces style. There's some unusual camera work and misc-en-scene. But the dialogue, characters and situations are indifferent. It's perhaps not surprising that Oldman's crooked cop isn't too bright. But the villains he's fighting aren't much smarter. The failure to really build the relationship between Oldman and Annabella Sciorra is particularly damaging.
Posted 08 January 2017 - 11:55 AM
I saw seven movies for the first time last week:
"Harriet Craig" (1950)--Joan Crawford is terrifying as the title character who is married to her house, its' perfection, the furnishings, and her husband, in that order. Wendell Corey is the husband, Lucile Watson is the boss' wife, who is the only one to see through Harriets' schemes. Ellen Corby is a stuttering maid. Crawford wears one of the most severe hairstyles I've ever seen. Unflattering is a wild understatement. Good remake of the 1936 film "Craig's Wife".
"Untamed Frontier" (1952)--Routine western is elevated by Joseph Cotten, Shelley Winters, and an above average supporting cast. Good thing, because the script is an unmotivated mishmash. Suzan Ball is noteworthy as Lottie, a blackmailing saloon singer. Film is still a chore to sit through.
"Attack of the Crab Monsters" (1957)--Script has interesting ideas that director Roger Corman carries out poorly, especially the appearance of the title creatures, and the thought that nuclear bombs cause genetic mutations. Saw a very good British print on archive. org--was better than anything on YT.
"S.O.S. Iceberg" (1933)--Semi-documentary oddity shot in Greenland and Iceland has spectacular footage of icebergs being formed and is visually majestic. The visuals are more interesting than the routine love story between Rod La Rocque and Leni Reifenstahl (in her only appearance in an American film). Tay Garnett directed.
"Modesty Blaise" (1966)--Joseph Losey directed spy spoof based on the British comic strip never really gets off the ground, thanks to a script that misses opportunity after opportunity for satire. Dirk Bogarde, as the archvillain, is the funniest person in the film. Monica Vitti and Terence Stamp do their best. Film is worth seeing for the visuals, some of which define psychedelic.
"Journey to Italy" (1954)--Roberto Rossellini film starring Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. A look at the destruction of a marriage, plus a hefty side of Italian history (the wife's a museum nut). Interesting film sounds like the script was more than partially improvised. I saw the restored, English language version on YouTube.
"Gymkata" (1985)--Forget the plot, which has holes the Titanic could easily get through, and watch Kurt Thomas and company in this martial arts/gymnastics film; they are the show. One of the silliest films of the 80's at least delivers on the martial arts/gymnastics elements.
Most Favorite--"Harriet Craig" (1950).
Least Favorite--"Untamed Frontier" (1952).
Posted 08 January 2017 - 03:39 AM
I saw five movies in the first week of the year. Train to Busan is a perfectly competent Korean thriller about a train attacked by the equivalent of zombies. Supposedly it demonstrates the value of altruism over selfishness. One might cynically suggest that more of the passengers would have survived, had the characters not put so much effort trying to rescue the two most sympathetic characters (an adorable little girl and a very pregnant woman). I would also point out that is a movie whose "pleasure" consists of watching large numbers of people die, including a whole carriage full of people in a way that is both contrived and manipulative. Green Room in which the sympathetic characters are menaced by neo-Nazis has similar problems. Patrick Stewart takes an understated role as the villain. But one can't help point out that there are several egregious problems with his strategy. And seeing whether any of the five, later six, sympathetic characters survive is a dubious enterprise. The oddest thing about Heaven Can Wait is that is received so much acclaim. While certainly a nice little comedy, that's largely because it was based on a nice little comedy made 37 years earlier. The cast does a creditable job. James Mason, playing the Claude Rains role, does the best. One suspects it got so many nominations was because Beatty was a big star. Which makes me think that The Alamo, notwithstanding its Best Picture nomination, must be a much more irritating movie. In Jackson Heights is a fine documentary about the diverse Queens neighborhood. The main problem is that the subtitles (much of the talk is in Spanish) are often against a white background. One wonders why both TCM didn't play Wiseman in their month of documentaries Finally Captain America: the Winter Soldier is actually an effective action movie, with Chris Evans doing a good job as the patriot while Robert Redford is an effective villain. The sequences are very fluid and it's also witty as well.
Posted 01 January 2017 - 02:56 PM
now that they've finally aired SUDDEN FEAR on TCM, all that remains of Joan's ouvre to be shown are DAISY KENYON and- the Holy Grail- LETTY LYNTON.
the DAISY KENYON DVD has a lot of great bonuses (rare for a Fox film) and Robert Osborne even shows up and gushes that the film is one of his favorites and is rather a touch more candid in the interview than he is on TCM.
DAISY was the film where I finally realized what a good actor DANA ANDREWS is.
Posted 01 January 2017 - 01:29 PM
I saw three movies. La La Land has many virtues. Emma Stone is very good, the first movie numbers are very good, and the ending is keeping with the inspiration of Jacques Demy. I suppose I'm supposing that the movie could have been a bit better, there could have been one more dance number, and the relationship between Stone and Gosling could have been a little deeper. The Whales of August probably didn't deserve its oscar nomination for Anne Sothern. It's not a bad movie, but it's also not a very deep one. But it is nice to see Bette Davis, Lilian Gish and Vincent Price for one last time. Travels with my Aunt is also not a particularly deep film, and it involves Maggie Smith playing the mother to an actor nine years older than himself. It makes more sense when one learns that role was originally for Katharine Hepburn. But the movie does have some of the Cukor charm.
Skimpole, based on your comments, I suggest you see this film:
Posted 01 January 2017 - 01:08 PM
I saw five movies for the first time this past week:
"The Royal Family of Broadway" (1930)--An amusing farce with Ina Claire and Fredric March, that was based on the Barrymore family. Fredric March admitted that he based his performance on John Barrymore. March is hilarious, whether he's giving his opinion of movie directors, or sucking in his stomach because his tights are too tight. Claire is the semi-sane member of the family. The camera never moves--the humor is almost all verbal.
"Daisy Kenyon" (1947)--Otto Preminger version of a Joan Crawford "woman's picture". Noirish melodrama with Crawford, Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda as three desperately unhappy people. Themes of child abuse, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, racial prejudice are introduced, and none are resolved. Very dark, fascinating film implies much more than it shows.
"Marianne" (1929)--Marion Davies musical comedy where Lawrence Gray handles most of the music, Davies the comedy. Film is set in 1919 France. Davies is most memorable doing impressions; she successfully transitioned to sound with this movie. Her versions of Maurice Chevalier and Sarah Bernhardt are the films' highlights, along with a duet she and Gray share, "Just You, Just Me". A fun watch.
"The Pleasure of His Company" (1961)--Expert cast (Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Lilli Palmer) makes this wordy Samuel Taylor farce work. An air of melancholy hangs over the film and stifles the laughter. Tab Hunter shows a flair for comedy. Film should have been much better; as it is, it's worth a watch.
"Two Girls and a Sailor" (1944)--WW II musical that concentrates on the quality and quantity of music instead of a plot. Time capsule of 1940's music is very worth watching. Harry James, Lena Horne, Gracie Allen, Gloria DeHaven, and many more are spotlighted in this MGM musical. A fun watch.
Least Favorite--The Pleasure of His Company (1961). But all are worth a watch.
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Posted 01 January 2017 - 02:46 AM
I saw three movies. La La Land has many virtues. Emma Stone is very good, the first movie numbers are very good, and the ending is keeping with the inspiration of Jacques Demy. I suppose I'm supposing that the movie could have been a bit better, there could have been one more dance number, and the relationship between Stone and Gosling could have been a little deeper. The Whales of August probably didn't deserve its oscar nomination for Anne Sothern. It's not a bad movie, but it's also not a very deep one. But it is nice to see Bette Davis, Lilian Gish and Vincent Price for one last time. Travels with my Aunt is also not a particularly profound film, and it involves Maggie Smith playing the mother to an actor nine years older than himself. It makes more sense when one learns that role was originally for Katharine Hepburn. But the movie does have some of the Cukor charm.
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Posted 25 December 2016 - 11:24 AM
I saw five films this last week.
"Hatchet For The Honeymoon" (1970)--A Mario Bava film that is oddly almost bloodless after a splatter filled beginning. Film is about a serial killer who picks brides, and is narrated by the killer. Film takes a supernatural twist about halfway through. Film is well acted, with Bava's setpieces; a room filled with waltzing mannequins is especially creepy (it may have been the inspiration for one of the 20 some episodes of "Kolchak; The Night Stalker (1974)). Color I saw was badly deteriorated--still, film is worth a watch, even with deteriorated color (It was shot in EastmanColor).
"The Great Ziegfeld" (1936)--Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Luise Rainer. Mammoth musical biography of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. is carried by Powell's wit and charm in the title role, and the elaborate musical numbers. Loy doesn't appear until more than two hours have passed, and then has next to nothing to do. Rainer is charming when singing or being calculatingly coy when negotiating her contract, irritating when throwing temper tantrums. Her telephone scene must have won her the Oscar--it's manipulative but effective. Virginia Bruce, Fanny Brice, and Ray Bolger are all notable in support.
"Song of the Thin Man" (1947)--Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Asta. The last of the "Thin Man" films doesn't have the punch of its' predecessors, but is still an enjoyable watch. Film takes place on a gambling boat, there is a murder, and complications ensue. Dean Stockwell is only somewhat irritating, Gloria Grahame makes a tempting jazz singer, Marie Windsor is amusing in a minor role, and jazz slang permeates the film. A fun, if predictable, watch.
"Circus World" (1964)--Starring John Wayne, Claudia Cardinale, and Rita Hayworth. Samuel Bronston spectacular is slow moving, but does deliver on spectacle, with lots of circus acts, a ship capsizing, and a fire. Mixed between the spectacle are two love stories. Wayne is naturalistic and enjoyable, Cardinale is fiery tempered, and Hayworth is touching, in a supporting role; she seems unsure of everything, and not quite "there". The Pinewood restoration I saw on YT was taken down less than 24 hours after I'd seen it; there are still two copies on YT, but I don't know what shape they're in.
"The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" (1958)--Forget Maltin's rating. This Czech film is easily one of the best films I've seen this past year. Based on Verne's "The Deadly Invention", this film by Karel Zeman is a lively romp through the works of Jules Verne, with live action and animation based on Victorian Era lithographs seamlessly integrated. The underwater scenes and takeoffs of 1890's movies are priceless. Watch for the roller-skating camels. A charming film. I loved it. I saw it on archive.org.
Most Favorite--"The Fabulous World of Jules Verne" (1958).
Least Favorite--"Hatchet For The Honeymoon" (1970).
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