I saw three movies this week. Unfortunately The Sunshine Boys is one of the worst movies I've seen this year. The only joke for the first 40 minutes is that Walter Matthau's character is senile (and George Burns isn't in the best of shape mentally either). This really doesn't work well 41 years later, and Matthau's character isn't particularly sympathetic either. The original Babes in Toyland has problems as a fantasy. Simply having the characters play Mother Goose characters themselves isn't fantastic in and of itself. And I'm afraid I'm not really a Laurel and Hardy fan. Only at the end does the movie show a childlike wonder in what a country like Toyland should actualy have. The Curse of the Golden Flower is certainly the most elaborately decorated of Zhang Yimou's martial arts movies. And Gong Li gives a good performance as the empress both treacherous and betrayed. But the consensus is that it doesn't have the imagination of Hero or The House of Flying Daggers is generally correct.
LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...
Posted 18 December 2016 - 11:28 AM
I saw ten movies for the first time last week:
"Mysterious Island" (1961)--Based on the Jules Verne novel, the cast is better than usual (Joan Greenwood, Gary Merrill, Michael Craig), but the best parts of the film are Bernard Herrman's score and Ray Harryhausen's special effects, which vary from OK to spectacularly impressive. A fun watch. Recommended.
"It Came From Beneath The Sea" (1955)--Fine special effects by Harryhausen elevate film from a routine romantic triangle with confused scientists and the Navy ( will Faith Domergue choose Kenneth Tobey or Donald Curtis?) to a good sci-fi movie. San Francisco is laid waste this time. Very worth a watch.
"Robinson Crusoe On Mars" (1964)--Good sci-fi movie I had never heard of has two astronauts and a pet monkey in a spaceship crash on Mars. One astronaut and a pet monkey survives. They have to adapt to their strange new planet in order to survive. Lawrence W. Butler did the special effects. Winton C. Hoch did the interesting cinematography. Nathan Van Cleave contributed an good score. Little known film (to me) deserves a watch.
"It Came From Outer Space" (1953)--Jack Arnold directed this minor classic of Cold War paranoia. Film is based on a Ray Bradbury story. A thing crashes into the Arizona desert, and Richard Carlson is convinced it was a spaceship. Girlfriend Barbara Rush just wants to get away from the crash site. Obssessed by being Right, Carlson spouts off to a reporter, and is dismissed as a nut--until people start disappearing. David S. Horsley did the special visual effects. The eerie cinematography was done by Clifford Stine. The creepy musical score is creepy, as are the POV shots from the alien. Recommended.
"Conquest of Space" (1955)--Good special effects, a nice score by Van Cleave, and a production number from "Bring On The Girls" (1953) doesn't save this film from it's muddled script. Film insists it's mankinds' duty to explore outer space, then turns on a dime and says it is sacrilege to explore outer space. Film is just about cabin fever, and who will crack up first. A boring disappointment.
"The Snow Creature" (1954)--I watched this loser to answer a trivia question. Would-be thriller about the Yeti is notable for the title thing that looks like it has a case of the mange, wears a furry hat with earflaps, and oversized fur gloves. Is also notable for the camera shots it copies from 1941's "The Wolf Man", and for victim #1 screaming without opening her mouth. Films' saving grace is it's barely 70 minutes long.
"Sudden Fear" (1952)--Good Joan Crawford noir/thriller, with Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame as excellent support. Crawford and Palance were nominated for Oscars, as were Charles B. Langs' shadowy cinematography and Sheila O'Brien's costumes. Film requires major suspension of disbelief, especially when Joan tosses an apartment and gets away with it, but is overall a fun watch. The Dictaphone scene probably got Joan her Oscar nomination.
"The Swimmer" (1968)--Allegorical Burt Lancaster film, directed by Frank Perry, based on the John Cheever story. Lancaster swims home through a series of neighbors' pools. At each stop, the viewer learns something about him, bad or good. Film was dismissed when first released, now is an acting showcase for Lancaster, who was maybe the most naturalistic leading man in movies. The movie is very good. Recommended.
"Parnell" (1937)--Biography of the Irish political leader is drained of life by John Stahls' overly reverent direction and an uncertain performance by Clark Gable. Myrna Loy does well as Katie O'Shea, Parnell's love at first sight. Edna May Oliver's and Billie Burke's battles with each other provide sorely needed laughs and are the best things in the film.
"The Assassination of Trotsky" (1972)--I Hated this Joseph Losey film, which seeks to make what facts are known about Trotsky a question mark, and succeeded in confusing me and making its' subject motiveless. I Hated the musical score, part of which sounds like a Siamese cat when its' tail has been stepped on, the pointless, enigmatic script, the unimpressive performance by Richard Burton, the inexpressive one by Alain Delon, and the bloody bullfighting sequence. The murals by Diego Rivera are good. This was one of the Medved bros. "50 Worst Films of All Time". Does it qualify for that? No. The 1000 worst films of all time--TAoT is in there somewhere.
Most Favorite--'Sudden Fear" (1952) and "Mysterious Island" (1961).
Least Favorite--"The Assassination of Trotsky" (1972).
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Posted 18 December 2016 - 07:36 AM
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Posted 18 December 2016 - 03:11 AM
I saw six movies for the first time last week. Porco Russo may be the least of the Miyazaki movies I've seen, but that's only by a very high standard. It's certainly amusing, inventive and thoughtful enough on its own terms. American Honey is a surprisingly epic account of a young adult as she enters the not so wonderful world of the precariat (in the case selling magazines under questionable purposes). It actually works very well, and one should remember the star Sasha Lane, since the critics don't appear to be. Possessed and The Story of Bernadette were watched as part of my slow working through oscar nominees. Possessed is interesting, with Van Heflin good as Crawford's no account object of lust. Crawford herself isn't quite as good: there's the element of hysteria that come close to camp. For that year I prefer her performance in Daisy Kenyon. The Song isn't quite the piece of religious kitsch that it appears in retrospect, though even viewing Jennifer Jones indulgently isn't going to make one think she deserved an oscar nomination for that year. And it's hard to avoid the thought that one wouldn't be as impressed with Bernadette's visions if she looked more like Agnes Moorhead. Manoel on the Island of Marvels is actually a three episode Franco/Portuguese television production. But its director Raoul Ruiz edited it into a slightly shorter feature film called Manoel's Destinies. It's great, and shows that you can make a fantasy film better than The Dark Knight on a hundreth of the budget. Finally Knight and Day was a not particularly well reviewed or successful blockbuster starring Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. I suppose I should be more annoyed of the almost cartoonish way Cruise disposes of the many people fighting him. But actually I find the charm of the two leads acceptable and some of the action scenes reasonably interesting
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Posted 11 December 2016 - 03:43 PM
I saw seven films for the first time last week.
"A Study in Terror" (1965)--This British film pits John Neville's Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper. Donald Houston's Dr. Watson is just a fool, but Robert Morley's Mycroft Holmes is a delight, whether he's arguing with brother Sherlock, smarting off to a police Inspector, or just blundering into a room. The women are most decorative, and Desmond Dickinson's cinematography captures Victorian London. Recommended.
"The Corpse Vanishes" (1942)--Monogram cheapie has Bela Lugosi and wife Elizabeth Russell in a scheme to keep her forever immortal. Lugosi chews the scenery most entertainingly, Russell irritatingly. Luana Walters screams (six times) and faints (five times) on cue. Photographer Art Reed manages some interesting effects (car headlights that resemble eyes, etc).
"The Mummy" (1959)--Plush Hammer retelling of the 1932 classic. Christopher Lee does well as Kharis/The Mummy, giving the monster human qualities. Peter Cushing is good as one of the archaeologists who opens Princess Ananka's tomb. Film takes its' time going through the plots' paces, then a lengthy flashback takes up the middle of the film, then film hurries to reach conclusion. An enjoyable watch.
"The Night Caller" (1965)--British zero-budget sci-fi film starts badly, then recovers. Don't let Bad love theme that begins film scare you off. Film's beginning is overly talky, but once the remains of a space meteorite are stored in the army base, events start to happen and film becomes interesting.
"Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" (1956)--Ray Harryhausen's special effects are the star of the film; they are more lifelike than human stars Hugh Marlowe (the military husband and scientist) and Joan Taylor (the Perfect Wife; all hell can be breaking loose around her, but her outfits are never wrinkled, they always match, and not a hair is ever out of place. And the script praises her secretarial skills at least four times). A fun watch.
"Message From Space" (1978)--Japanese ripoff of "Star Wars" (1977), "Battlestar Galactica" (1978), and a host of other movies tries to copy everything in Star Wars, down to James Earl Jones' voice (copy is a terrible flop). Film's special effects vary from inept to interesting to impressive. Script copies elements from everywhere. Two lines.
"I'll get you, my pretty!"
"Let's have a chicken run!"
MFS is mostly terrible, but never boring.
"King Kong vs. Godzilla" (1962)--Godzilla is awakened from the iceberg he's been asleep in. King Kong is brought to Tokyo by a ratings mad television executive. Before their final battle that includes their version of the Jitterbug, they stomp, terrorize, and destroy toy army bases, nuclear submarines, cities. This Kong climbs one of Tokyo's tallest buildings while bellowing at a Japanese maiden who attempts to join Fay Wray as one of the immortal scream queens of the screen. Film is fun, interrupted for irritating newscasts that debate if Godzilla is a dinosaur.
Most Favorite--"A Study in Terror" (1965).
Least Favorite--"The Night Caller" (1965),
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Posted 11 December 2016 - 03:11 AM
I saw three movies last week. Did you ever think that the way to make Tokyo Story a better movie was to make Setsuko Hara's character an unconscionable witch? Me neither. But that is the idea behind The Trip to Bountiful which is a basically unimaginative version of something that's been done much better earlier. Geraldine Page's performance is not very impressive, even in what was not a very impressive year for actresses. The most impressive thing about Lassie Come Home was that Lassie was actually a girl. All this time I had confused her character with the Lad stories I was read to in grade school. Aside from that, I suppose you have to be a dog person to really enjoy the movie. Many critics found Tomorrowland disappointing, but I found it consistently imaginative and clever, even if the ending was a bit formulaic and didactic.
Posted 04 December 2016 - 02:50 AM
I saw six movies this week. The Handmaiden was the best one. Beautifully shot and set, this story of a scheme by Korean criminals against a Japanese heiress is, if not as visceral as the same director's Oldboy, arguably as clever. It's sort of what Crimson Peak would be like if Guillermo del Toro had something intelligent to say. Kubo and the two strings is an interesting animated movie in medieval Japan. It's well shot, and it's amusing. But the contrast between the setting and the contemporary sense of humor is distracting. Nana is a silent movie by Renoir based on the Zola novel. As far as it goes, it's a competent adaptation, but frankly it shows few signs of Renoir's genius. Mammame is an interesting film by ultra-prolific Chilean director Raul Ruiz, about an interesting and strange dance. The Truth About Youth is a pre-code film and there's an interesting concept here. Loretta Young decides she prefers not the callow youth who had been groomed for her, but his distinctly older patron. Unfortunately, the story, in which this epiphany is complicated by aforementioned callow youth's rash marriage to a golddigging Myrna Loy, is dreadfully dull and with little spark and life. Loy isn't really used, and the vices that made the same director's Room Service the most boring Marx Brothers comedy I've seen are even more apparent. Finally, Stinking Heaven is an independent movie that meant little to me. It starts off with a wedding between a woman and a much older man at this sort of drug rehabilitation commune set in the early nineties. The wedding vows are devoid of real feeling, setting the stage for the nastiness that follows.
Posted 03 December 2016 - 04:12 PM
I saw eight films for the first time last week.
"Hidden Hollywood II" (1999)--Narrated by Joan Collins. Film attempts to be a "That's Entertainment" for 20th-Century Fox, excepting the emphasis is on numbers that were deleted from released films and preservation of them. Highlights include The Nicholas Bros., Alice Faye, and Betty Grable in "The Sheik of Araby" from "Tin Pan Alley" (1940). The Code demanded the number be cut by half because too much flesh was seen. Also the W.C. Fields segment with Margaret Dumont from "Tales of Manhattan" (1942) was included (this was the funniest thing in the film). Recommended.
"Where Do We Go From Here?" (1945)--Delightful musical comedy/fantasy romp through American history. Fred MacMurray is Bill, the 4F who wants to join the Army, but is assigned to running the official Scrap Parts yard. There, he breaks a Lamp, and frees a genie. He tells the genie he wishes to join the Army--but doesn't mention which century's Army. Joan Leslie and June Haver join MacMurray on his travels through history. Score is by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Highlight is Columbus' voyage to America, done as grand opera; MacMurray lightens the mood with a Gilbert and Sullivan style patter song. Recommended.
"Fitzcarraldo" (1982)--Starring Klaus Kinski and Claudia Cardinale, directed by Werner Herzog. Long, beautiful looking film about an opera obsessed man who plans to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle. The obsessions of the main character and the director melded as I watched the film. The cinematography of Thomas Mauch captures some surreal images; a boat being hauled over a mountain is maybe the most memorable.
"The Pleasure Garden" (1925)--Alfred Hitchcock's first film is more memorable for the themes it establishes (Viewer as Voyeur, a lifelong filmic fascination with blondes, etc) than its' hackneyed plot. On YouTube and archivedot.org.
"Aguirre, The Wrath of God" (1972)--Starring Klaus Kinski, produced, written, and directed by Werner Herzog. Set in South America after the conquest of the Inca Empire, film is about Pizarro's search for El Dorado, The City of Gold. Pizarro splits his expedition, and the smaller part has Aguirre (Kinski) as second-in-command. Thomas Mauch's camera records the inevitable dwindling of the expedition, caused by greed within and forces without (Cannibals, poison arrows) and makes the disintegration beautiful. Popol Vuh's music recalls a funeral march. Unforgettable. Are multiple copies on YT.
"Five" (1951)--Directed by Arch Oboler. The first film I'm aware of to deal with the possible aftermath of WW III. Five random survivors gather together, and tensions among them eventually explode. Oboler does wonders with a good script and a low budget. Special effects are used sparingly, and only to further the plot. Good, little known film. Saw on archivedotorg.
"Atlantis, the Lost Continent" (1960)--George Pal directed film is good for a few laughs (the Ordeal of Fire and Water). John Dall is an acceptable hero for the sword and sandal genre, some of the crowd scene footage is taken from "Quo Vadis" (1951)--I Think. The special effects otherwise are acceptable, not great, but not Pal's worst. An enjoyable time passer.
"The Vengeance of She" (1968)--Hammer Films enjoyably dimwitted sequel to "She" (1965). The money that was spent on the 1965 film has been slashed in half, and film reflects that. The movie is recommended for lovers of the silly.
Most Favorite--"Where Do We Go From Here?" (1945).
Least Favorite--"The Vengeance of She" (1968).
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Posted 28 November 2016 - 01:24 PM
A binge day of nothing but Fred and Ginger with sprinklings of Frank and Eric...what a good way to work off the tryptophan effects of Turkey.
Posted 27 November 2016 - 09:52 AM
I saw seven films for the first time last week.
"The Bed Sitting Room" (1969)--Richard Lester comedy of London after WW III is intermittently amusing, occasionally "laugh out loud" funny. But too often the film is just unfunny; the atmosphere, the situation, and the dogged insistence of the characters refusing to admit anything wrong about their attitudes becomes infuriating. It kills the impulse to laugh. Points are scored off organized Religion and Mao. The best line has to do with Charlton Heston wrestling the Pope on BBC television. Marty Feldman, Dudley Moore, and Peter Cook are the most consistently funny performers in the film. Found on YouTube.
"War Gods of the Deep" (1965)--Jacques Tourneur's final film stars Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, and David Tomlinson in an AIP adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "City Under the Sea". Price does the narration and the mountains of exposition the script gives him. Hunter and Tomlinson are acceptable horror film good guys. Film is an odd mix of horror and absurdist humor (Tomlinson worries about a pet rooster all film long). Good cinematography, good to so-so acting, and source material a muddled script can't destroy makes for a film worth seeing. Saw on YT.
"The Big Store" (1941)--Lesser Marx Bros. MGM film doesn't have the stranglehold of Plot that destroyed The Bros. spontaneity in"Go West" (1940) , and so one liners are scattered through the script. Virginia O'Brien has a good number, a Swing version of "Rockabye Baby", and she and Groucho do a fast Jitterbug. The silent comedy influenced finale is memorable, as a store is demolished by The Bros. on roller skates. Film is better than its' reputation.
"The Rains of Ranchipur" (1955)--Starring Lana Turner, Richard Burton, and Oscar nominated Special Effects. Talky remake of "The Rains Came" (1939) has Turner as the predatory Lady Esketh, who uses and then discards men like Kleenex, and Burton as the saintly Dr. Safti, who is torn between his love for Turner and India. All this is merely an excuse for Turner to model her Helen Rose wardrobe, throw off occasional waspish remarks, and watch Burton's impression of a robot. Finally, the earthquake/flood hits--and it's worth waiting for. Impressively well done, with state of the art Special Effects, sequence conclusively proves Twentieth-Century Foxs' need for waterproof makeup (watch Burton's makeup disappear, never to return--except for copious amounts of mascara). Entertaining watch, if only to see the predecessor of some of the set-pieces from "Earthquake" (1974). Found on archivedotorg.
"Dragonwyck" (1946)--Mankiewicz Gothic starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price in 1840's New York. Film is overlong but literate, and the secret had to be less detailed than in Anya Seton's novel, but film is entertaining nonetheless. Tierney and Price do justice to their roles; Spring Byington adds a memorable cameo as Magda. An ok watch. Saw on YT.
"Blood From The Mummy's Tomb" (1971)--Hammer Gothic about the desecration of a Cursed Egyptian princess's tomb. Each member of the archaeological expedition takes an object from the tomb. The daughter of the leader is subsequently possessed by the spirit of the princess, and tries to get the objects back for eternal life. Film is very good. Saw on YT.
"Son of Paleface" (1952)--Frank Tashlin directed sequel to "The Paleface" (1948), reteaming Bob Hope and Jane Russell, and adding Roy Rogers and Trigger to the mix. Hope is the even more obnoxious son, who's gone West to collect his fathers' fortune--which he finds is nonexistent. Russell is the lady bandit, Torch, and Rogers is the Federal man. Trigger gets some of the best gags; the scene with Trigger and Hope in bed together is a classic of sorts. Watch Hope's pipe when Russell caresses him during her song "What a Night For a Wingding". Film repeatedly takes accurate aim at The Code, with verbal and sight gags. Tashlin's tendency to use women as cartoon figures is shown in this early film, and Russell goes along with his parody of her image as a sex kitten. Watch for cameo appearances. Very enjoyable film.
Favorite--Son of Paleface (1952).
Least consistent--The Big Store (1941).
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Posted 27 November 2016 - 03:16 AM
I saw four movies this week. Miss Hokusai is an anime film about the daughter of the most famous of all Japanese painters. (Hokusai is best known for a painting of a giant wave, the most famous of all Japanese paintings.) It's interesting, and parts of it are very attractive. But ultimately this intelligent woman doesn't become a great painter in her own right, nor does she have a love affair or any other intense emotional relationship. Moonlight is certainly worth watching, though I must confess that I didn't realize that the protagonist's friend was in all three parts of the movie, or quite realize what happened at the very end. The Courtship of Eddie's Father asks the question, would it be worth watching five episodes of a sitcom if they were done by one of the great Hollywood directors. And my answer is "Meh." Digging for Fire is the first movie by Joe Swanberg that I've seen. Count me unimpressed. The couple are uninteresting, leave a bland self-satisfied life, face no major challenges, and have and feel nothing particularly profound.
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Posted 21 November 2016 - 04:33 PM
lafitte--The lady who sang "Just For An Hour" was Irene Bordoni.
Thanks. She really put her heart into it, didn't she? Thank you, Irene.
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Posted 21 November 2016 - 04:12 PM
lafitte--The lady who sang "Just For An Hour" was Irene Bordoni.
Posted 21 November 2016 - 02:53 AM
I remember those segments you mention in Show of Shows but had never seen the movie all the way through. Until just recently on TCM. The opening numbers were so bad that had I been in the theater way back then I might have walked out (not really, perhaps; all this was so new back then). Or maybe smuggled in a quart of coffee :-) . I also enjoyed the song "...just for an hour," by a woman whose name I know not, and I also felt that the sisters routine had a bit o' charm to it.
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Posted 20 November 2016 - 01:08 PM
I watched seven films for the first time last week:
"The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent" (1958). Roger Corman directed cheapie would-be epic is a Bad mix of 50's slang ("Cool!") and Norse mythology. The Viking Women and their adversaries and allies all have access to curling irons, permanents, and hair dye--even the slaves in the mine. Except for one character, hair color determines their fate. There are enough laughs so that film isn't painful to watch. On a "So Bad It's Good" scale, 2.3/4.
"Creature From the Haunted Sea" (1961)--Unfunny, Godawful spoof of horror movies and spy movies. Roger Corman's worst movie. Consider yourself warned.
"The Day the World Ended" (1956)--Starring Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, and Adele Jergens. Roger Corman directed version of how WW III caused the end of the world--with a few unexplained survivors. The monsters are not bad, the script is bare bones, the acting is fair to poor. The matter-of-fact narration is by Chet Huntley. Interesting, if implausible, fast moving watch.
"H.E.A.L.T.H." (1979)--Starring Carol Burnett, James Garner, Lauren Bacall, and Vanessa Redgrave. Robert Altman film was barely released, is hard to find. Satire on politics set in a health convention has as many misses as hits. Carol Burnett is the best overall player--her Presidential representative/spokesperson is on target with her cliched platitudes and droning doubletalk. Her scene where she finds a dead body in the hotel pool after fighting with her ex (Garner) is the funniest thing in the film. Redgrave as the Nixon figure is amusing, as is Bacall as the Ford figure. Very worth a watch--I saw a very dark copy on YT.
"Doctor Rhythm" (1938)--Bing Crosby and Bea Lillie team up in this one. Lillie and Crosby do a on-target parody of Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy style operetta, "Only a Gypsy Knows". Lillie has MacDonald's physical and vocal mannerisms Down (the Costume Department contributed an overly starched and ruffled horror that looks like a reject from "Naughty Marietta" (1935)), and Crosby does a good job of Eddy at his most clueless. Lillie and Franklin Pangborn have a classic wordplay routine "12 Dozen Double Damask Dimity Napkins". Recommended.
"On Approval" (1944)--Classic British comedy is all verbal. Lillie takes her potential husband for a month long tryout in Victorian England; major complications ensue. Lillie gets the best line, Googie Withers and Roland Culver have the best exchange:
Lillie, to potential husband, who's facing away from her: "What color are my eyes?"
At night, an upset Withers, to husband Culver: "I'm having such Terrible dreams!"
Culver, growling: "So'm I; it's the Haggis."
"The Show of Shows" (1929)--Long, early Warner Bros. musical revue, very uneven. Highlights include Winnie Lightner's two songs "Pingo Pongo" and "Singin' in the Bathtub", the two color Technicolor Chinese fantasy "Li-Po-Li" with male singer and Myrna Loy, John Barrymore's monologue from "Richard III, and a Floradora Girl and Boy number featuring Myrna Loy and Lupino Lanes' music hall comedy. Frank Fay as Host is irritating. More misses than hits, but the hits make it worth a watch--just have caffeine handy.
Most Favorite--"On Approval" (1944)--Lillie to extra: "We're sneering acquaintances".
Least Favorite--"Creature From the Haunted Sea" (1961).
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Posted 20 November 2016 - 11:29 AM
Interesting write-up, skimpole. I especially liked hearing about the Renoir silent. And it's Margot Robbie, not Margaret.
Posted 20 November 2016 - 03:00 AM
I managed to see seven movies last week. Hell or High Water was distinctly hurt by my having rewatched The Last Picture Show about six hours earlier. Where the later movie shows what it would actually be like to live in Texas, the former present Texas pastiche (does everyone have to wear ten gallon hats?). Since Jeff Bridges stars in both, the performance in the latter doesn't rebound to his credit either. And the result is morally convenient, to say the least. Grass is a mildly interesting silent documentary about Central Asian nomads. Suicide Squad deserves all the contempt it has received. The disaster the squad is fighting is actually caused by its existence, the movie exhibits a brutal and callous attitude, and only Margot Robbie's character actually has a personality (and that isn't full developed), Landscape Suicide is an odd experimental movie which deals with several reflections on murderers living in the Mid-West. Whirlpool of Fate is an interesting silent movie about the adventures of a young woman which shows more spirit and less sentiment than its American counterparts. The first time director is a promising young man named Jean Renoir. Love with the Proper Stranger asks the question whether it is a good idea to marry a stranger who got you pregnant if he looks like Steve McQueen. Not surprisingly, the answer is as sentimental and dishonest as this suggests. Wood is very pretty, but her family is a stage caricature. Horse Money is a very demanding film about the story of an immigrant from Cape Verde and his life in Portugal. It's not an easy film to watch.
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Posted 13 November 2016 - 02:49 PM
Over the past two weeks, I saw six movies for the first or second time.
"Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster" (1965)--costarring Mothra, Godzilla, and Rodan. A quadruple threat, this gem has dreadful dialogue ("There's no such thing as brainwaves" "The saucermen will tell us what to do!"), dimwitted subplots (island fairies who are carried around in a makeup case and who translate the monsters various roars, howls, etc. into English), a total disregard for logic ( a woman opens an airplane door and jumps out, without a parachute, falls several thousand feet, and survives with only a case of amnesia as a souvenir) and howlingly funny special effects (Mothra shoots a rope-like substance out of its' nose; at one point, Godzilla and Rodan appear to be playing tennis with fake boulders). So bad it's good. Recommended.
"Varan The Unbelievable" (1961)--Japanese monster movie runs just over one hour, and wastes forty minutes setting up the situation with Boring pseudo scientific talk. When Varan finally shows, it looks a cross between The Creature from the Black Lagoon and a flying squirrel. Varan only gets to destroy a village before being ended. Film desperately needs a restoration.
"Two Rode Together" (1961)--John Ford film starring James Stewart and Richard Widmark. Starts off as a cynical comedy, turns into a journey where Stewarts' and Widmarks' characters go off on an Army mission to redeem captives from the Comanche Indians--by whatever means necessary. Film is ultimately downbeat, despite the vaguely hopeful ending. Linda Cristal is very good in support, as is Shirley Jones.
"Kings of the Sun" (1963)--Starring Yul Brynner, George Chakiris, and Shirley Anne Field. Directed by Lee J. Thompson. Period spectacle about the ancient Mayan civilization has enough acting talent and energy to overcome its' main flaw, which is a flowery and long-winded script that bogs down the action. Chakiris plays the King who has to flee Chichen Itza because of invaders, Field is his love interest, and Brynner is the leader of the tribe Chakiris runs into after he's fled from his kingdom. An enjoyable watch.
"Monty Python's Life of Brian" (1979)--Scattershot parody of Biblical films has more hits than misses. The animated opening credits, and the multiple takeoffs on "Ben-Hur" (1959) and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965) are especially effective. Twenty people play seventy-odd roles. Look for George Harrison. Enjoyable film.
"Salem's Lot" (1979)--I know this was originally a television movie, but this story of vampires in a Maine small town is one of the best film adaptations of Stephen King. James Mason is very effective as the courtly but condescending Straker, and Reggie Nalder is a terrifying Barlow. The cast is uniformly excellent. Recommended.
Favorite--Salem's Lot (1979)
Least Favorite--Varan the Unbelievable (1961).
- LawrenceA likes this
Posted 13 November 2016 - 03:23 AM
I saw six movies last week. The Limits of Control is certainly one of Jim Jarmusch's more underrated movies. I found it effortlessly cool, consistently well sustained and quite enjoyable. Denial is about the Lipstadt/Irving trial. I didn't like David Hare's script for The Hours or for The Reader, and I didn't like the script that he wrote for this movie. Part of the problem is that the story isn't really about Lipstadt. The real story is a how an apologist for Hitler managed to get a reputation as a serious expert about Nazi Germany for more than three decades. That Rachel Weisz is understandably upset is understandable from an audience identification viewpoint, but the reason Irving chose to sue her for libel was because he thought she was weak, and not as well-versed in the minutia of the second world war. The Pumpkin Eater is an Academy award nominee from 1964, which leads to the cinephile's least favorite question, what's wrong with this example of kitchen sink realism/British "new wave." (Incidentally, and not helpfully, one of Hare's favorite underrated movies.) The subject matter is supposed to be more mature, but Bancroft is just mostly miserable. There is a horribly crude scene when Mason confronts Bancroft about Finch's adulteries. But one problem with the movie is that it doesn't explain the central character. Finch is a selfish womanizer, despite the pain it causes Bancroft. But he is also a wonderful father. That in itself need nor be surprising. One can be a bad husband and a good father. The problem is that he is the children's stepfather. Why would he love his wife's children more than his wife? I suspect the movie was too satisfied to be dealing with such "mature" material as adultery, abortion, "excessive" childbearing to really think through the question. The Marseillaise is a fine movie, and one wonders why this Renoir movie from 1938 is not better known. It shows all his strengths, fluid camera work and fine character study, along with humorous anecdotes. In this case the movie deals with the second French Revolution, in this case of 1792, that overthrew the monarchy. Rather fittingly this is seen from the picture of the people: political leaders are not seen except for a haughty Marie Antoinette and a muddled Louis XVI, who thinks toothbrushing and potatoes may be good ideas. I have now seen four David Lean/Noel Coward collaborations, and Blithe Spirit does nothing to change my view that Brief Encounter is the keeper. Amusing, but not particularly so. The Avengers: the Age of Ultron is hardly a necessary movie, but it's an enjoyable one. Joss Wheedon does show genuine skill and construction, even if Tony Stark and Captain America do much of the character heavy lifting. (A Hulk/Black Widow romance seems perfunctory.)
Posted 06 November 2016 - 09:23 AM
By far, the best movie I watched during the last week was THE GUNFIGHTER, which I reviewed in the Essentials forum. Excellent from start to finish.
I also watched a decent documentary about Peck's life-- which was made while he was still alive, so there are some very good reminiscences from him about his Hollywood career.
- claudia22 likes this
"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).
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