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I Just Watched...

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Wonder Wheel (2017)..Pure Woody Allen in some style respects (narrator, set in the past, music from the past, NY area settings) but it lacks a certain sincerity..many scenes come across as filmed acts from a play, the street scenes are bare, almost a back-lot feel instead of the real thing we expect from Allen.  Without revealing too much, the story revolves around a Coney Island couple barely scraping by in life...Jim Belushi and Kate Winslet.  He runs the merry-go-round,  she's a waitress, and her son from a previous marriage is  an odd troubled kid who sets fires (I'm sure pyromania has some sort of deep meaning here, but it and the boy get lost in the shuffle). Enter Belushi's daughter (Juno Temple) who has divorced her mobster husband and ratted him out to the feds..hence, the mob is still looking for her.  The opening narration is from a lifeguard, Justin Timberlake (trying to sound like local boy/pseudo intellectual college student) but that angle fizzles out..yes, he's part of the story, but he just stops telling it.  Timberlake begins an affair with Winslet but,  of course, is more charmed by young Temple.  It becomes the familiar 'naive young woman who needs a man to teach her everything versus middle age grasping shrew' scenario..uh huh.  I have no problem with Allen deserting comedy (even though he's better at it..), but I wish he'd come up with fresher stuff. Good things about the film: the performances of Winslet (no surprise) and Belushi (I was a little surprised..).  Timberlake is pretty awful trying to sound like Allen and act in a normal fashion. In the long list of Allen's films, I'd rank this in the bottom half...not awful, but certainly not worth a second viewing. source: terrarium

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"Pather Panchali" (1955) a wonderful black-and-white film by director Satyajit Ray. I was so moved by this movie and by the tragic history of Ray's films. Apparently, back in 1993 they were all gathered in London in order to be restored, when the entire collection, including this movie which is part of the Apu Trilogy, was destroyed by fire. Thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press and L'immagine Ritrovata (an Italian film restoration organization based in Bologna) they were somehow still restored.

The use of non-actors by Ray is something that is familiar to Italian neo-realist lovers and in the case of this Bengali movie it was a real plus. The acting was so naturalistic, the words few, the images deep and loving, and the message one of hope amidst unbearable poverty and tragedy. 

I highly recommend this film. Honestly, I thought it was a "Bollywood" film when I saw the title, then noticed the date and thought: I know nothing about Indian cinema why don't I record this? I am very glad I did.

Thanks TCM for showing this film. It was original, unique and very special.

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On the occasion of its 40th anniversary I watched "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" again, for like the 10th time. It's a movie that always makes me happy somebody else sees extraterrestrial life as a boon rather than a threat to humankind.

Just a quick note. When this movie came out in 77 my best college friend was attending her junior year at Northwestern near her Chicago hometown. She told me about J. Allen Hynek, the once-debunker of UFOs for the Air Force, who worked on Project Grudge and Project Bluebook, who became a believer and actually devised the three-step classification system for alien encounters: the first, second and third kind: the final one, that Spielberg uses is direct alien contact. She took a class with Hynek and never stopped talking about how fascinating and thrilling it was to be taught by the man himself.

He worked as technical consultant on the film and actually appears in it near the end. Just a bit of trivia for all us believers out there: believers in UFOs or just in good movies about UFOs.

Here's a still of Hynek from his brief appearance in the film:

 

Image result for photo of j. allen hynek from close encounters of third kind movie

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On ‎1‎/‎3‎/‎2018 at 1:44 AM, shutoo said:

This Is Not a Test--yes, it's bargain basement budgeted with a cast I didn't recognize, so imagine my surprise when...I couldn't stop watching it.  This is strictly B, but oddly entertaining.  The premise is that the US is under attack, and a by-the-book cop forms a blockade to prevent motorists from going to the city...where there will soon be chaos.  The acting isn't bad at all, with the exception of the lead (the cop) who over acts his stiff character.  It really is an interesting take on the unquestioned power of the authority figure in the early 60's, as well as the impact of the cold war, the 'red scare' .  Each character has there own background to contend with..from the crusty old man who understands the situation to the wanted criminal on the run. A claustrophobic young girl, a fun-loving alcoholic couple, a good-citizen trucker...  How long will each tolerate the sometimes brutal treatment by the cop?  When will they give up hope of surviving?  It's not great filmmaking, but the performances were better, and the dialogue wasn't as hokey as I expected.  

This so reminds me of Stephen Kings Desperation novel. As a matter of fact, I think that Mr. King has gotten many of his story ideas from the movies and TV shows.

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37 minutes ago, Janet0312 said:

This so reminds me of Stephen Kings Desperation novel. As a matter of fact, I think that Mr. King has gotten many of his story ideas from the movies and TV shows.

Funny you should say that..when I saw Needful Things, I was reminded of the Twilight Zone episode "What You Need" (took the basic premise and built on it)

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On 1/3/2018 at 1:44 AM, shutoo said:

This Is Not a Test--yes, it's bargain basement budgeted with a cast I didn't recognize, so imagine my surprise when...I couldn't stop watching it.

I'm guessing Amazon Prime, as that's where I now first look when someone mentions buried Public-Domain treasures.  The ol' cheapskates haven't let me down yet, and I've updated my queue accordingly.

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"Liliom" (1934) was a TCM premiere that starred Charles Boyer as I've never seen him, brutish, crude, wife-beater, gambler, all-around no-goodnik, also physically he reminded me of Anthony Quinn as Zampano in "La Strada" all muscles and striped shirts. It was directed by Fritz Lang, who had just fled to Paris after being asked by Goebbels to head up the Third Reich film production company.

It was a strange movie that sort of made me think of a dark "It's a Wonderful Life". Liliom Zadowski is king of the carousel in a run-down carnival who leaves behind his womanizing ways (we think) in order to be with one woman, played by Madeleine Ozeray. He won't work, she waits on him hand and foot, and they sponge off his old aunt. He resumes his old carousing ways until he learns his love is pregnant. He decides to commit a robbery and ends up committing suicide instead when it's clear the police are going to capture or kill him.

It's the second half of the movie that gets really interesting, God's police (two goons with kohl-rimmed eyes, ghoulish faces and MIB suits) take him from his deathbed up in the sky. We see stars and planets, a cherubic scene of heaven, rainbows and bright lights, but he doesn't go there. Instead he is taken to a police station on a star where the cops wear wings and they decide the balance of your sentence in Purgatory. After 16 years of burning, Liliom is allowed to return to earth for one day to visit his now 16-year-old daughter (also played by Ozeray). He is supposed to do "one beautiful thing" for her. Instead, he tells her what a terrible husband and man he was, and shatters her vision of her father as a kind and loving man that her mother professed.

Ben M. says viewers may recognize the story as "Carousel" a movie I always hated and could never sit through. This film is a ****-eyed look at man and God, redemption and temptation, lyrical and fantastic (in the fantasy sense). It's not a perfect film but it is fascinating (the special effects are surprisingly good for '34) and it's worth watching. I've never been able to stand Boyer (except in "Gaslight") and his smooth continental persona. This was a very different part for him, I wish he had made more movies like this.

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I liked Darkest Hour, but it has one scene so ridiculous and ultra-PC that it nearly sinks the whole film. You see, Winston Churchill was a white male, so therefore (according to the script, if not to history) he needed to go down to the subway and let women and a black male tell him how he ought to run the country.

There are some nice supporting performances. As Churchill's wife, Kristin Scott Thomas reminded me of Sian Phillips, and this is definitely a good thing. Ronald Pickup, an actor with a long and distinguished stage career, makes a superb Neville Chamberlain. Ben Mendelsohn as King George looks astonishingly like Prince Charles, which  makes a certain amount of sense.  I also enjoyed the scenes which re-created the underground Churchill War Rooms, which tourists can now visit.

One note about set design: some of the rooms in Churchill's home have bookcases full of books, some of which appear to be American law books, Federal Reporters in particular. Also, like the current remake of Murder on the Orient Express, Darkest Hour would have us believe that pre-WWII Britons had no problem accepting interracial relationships.

 

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The Big Sick (2017) Pakistani stand up comic falls in love with American woman, with complications, with Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano, funny 8/10

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Ace Drummond (1936) - 13-chapter adventure serial from Universal Pictures and directors Ford Beebe and Clifford Smith, based on the comic strip created by Eddie Rickenbacker. John King stars in the title role, the "G-Man of the Air", who is sent to far Mongolia to try and stop a mysterious criminal mastermind known as the "Dragon" from destroying a new American air transport company that is setting up shop there. Drummond is aided by the lovely Peggy (Jean Rogers), folksy mechanic Jerry (Noah Beery Jr.), and young Billy (Jackie Morrow). Also featuring Guy Bates Post, Lon Chaney Jr., Robert Warwick, James B. Leong, Chester Gan, Arthur Loft, C. Montague Shaw, and Dick Wessel.

King, a successful singer who would go on to b-movie stardom in cowboy pictures, gets to sing a song repeatedly here. The kid (Morrow) gets to drive motorcycles and cars. Rogers is wasted, as is Chaney as one of the bad guy's many henchmen. This was Lon's first movie for Universal, though, so it holds that distinction. This is good as far as serials go, with lots of car chases, weird death rays and mechanical devices, an unusual setting, and a good dose of aerial acrobatics. The latter drew the attention of Amelia Earhart, who visited the set in a promotional coup.  (7/10)

Source: Alpha Video DVD.

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Banjo on My Knee (1936) - Musical romantic comedy from 20th Century Fox and director John Cromwell. Set among the poor Mississippi River folk, local boy Ernie (Joel McCrea) is going to marry out-of-town housemaid Pearl (Barbara Stanwyck). Happiness turns to tragedy when Ernie thinks that he kills a man on their wedding night, so he flees, leaving Pearl to live among his people. She eventually tries to follow him to New Orleans, where she gets a job and meets nice guy singer Chick (Tony Martin). When Ernie shows back up, things turn violent. Also featuring Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, Katherine De Mille, Helen Westley, Walter Catlett, Victor Kilian, Minna Gombell, Spencer Charters, and Theresa Harris.

This has an inconsistent tone, lurching from broad farce to somber drama to rambunctious musical numbers. Ebsen gets to sing the title tune a couple of times, while Brennan plays a one-man-band contraption. Martin sings a few numbers, and Stanwyck struggles through one or two as well. De Mille makes for a good rival for McCrea's affections, but Brennan and Ebsen steal the show.  (6/10)

Source: YouTube. There are a couple of copies up and they all seem to have embedded Spanish subtitles. 

banjo-on-my-knee-movie-poster-1936-10202

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Big Brown Eyes (1936) - Incongruous title for this enjoyable crime drama/romantic comedy from Paramount Pictures and director Raoul Walsh. Eve Fallon (Joan Bennett) is a manicurist who wants more out of life, so she becomes a newspaper reporter. Her boyfriend Danny (Cary Grant) is a police detective on the case of a string of jewel robberies, and soon Eve is working on it, too. All clues point toward suave P.I. Richard Morey (Walter Pidgeon) who always seems to find the missing jewels and collects the reward from the grateful victims. Also featuring Lloyd Nolan, Alan Baxter, Henry Brandon, Joe Sawyer, Marjorie Gateson, Isabel Jewell, Douglas Fowley, Doris Canfield, and Edwin Maxwell.

I liked this unusual flick, although the tone is all over the place, with lighthearted romantic repartee in one scene and a dead baby in the next. The bad guys are really good here, led by Pidgeon, who shows that he could have been an off beat crime boss if given the right script. Nolan is a mix of street hood and prissy horticulturalist, while the very young looking Baxter and Brandon are great dead-eyed thugs.  (7/10)

Source: Universal DVD, part of the Cary Grant: Screen Legend Collection.

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Charlie Chan's Secret (1936) - 10th outing for star Warner Oland as the title sleuth, from 20th Century-Fox and director Gordon Wiles. Chan (Oland) heads to the mainland from his home turf in Hawaii to help solve the mystery of a missing heir, and he gets wrapped up in the backstabbing of an eccentric, wealthy family involved in seances and other trappings of the paranormal. Also featuring Rosina Lawrence, Charles Quigley, Henrietta Crosman, Edward Trevor, Astrid Allwyn, Herbert Mundin, Jonathan Hale, Egon Brecher, Gloria Roy, Ivan Miller, Arthur Edmund Carewe.

Seances, ouija boards, voices from the beyond...it seems if a series goes on long enough, they have to do a spooky/horror entry, and Charlie Chan is no exception. He's dropped into a standard "old dark house" style mystery, with a big spooky house riddled with hidden passages, and a murderer on the loose. The supporting cast is capable if unmemorable. The mystery has enough twists to keep viewers guessing.  (7/10)

Source: Fox DVD. Bonus features include a commentary track, a featurette on fictional detectives and Chan's place among them, and another featurette about real-life detective Henry Lee.

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JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (2017) 

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. After seeing it, I personally regard this movie as more of a sequel than a remake. If you end up seeing the movie, there are 2 very important points that back this up, in my opinion (there might be more, but there are definitely 2 that I can think of off the top of my head).

Essentially, 4 high school students end up getting detention on the same day (plot convenience, heck yeah) for different things. This group of kids, though only 4 of them and not 5, remind me of the "Breakfast Club." You have the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, and the Social Outcast. A familiar formula, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

You can probably guess what ensues next in the film. There are definitely a few more adult-oriented jokes in the movie involving "little friends" (that may or may not be certain appendages of the male body), as well as minor stronger language. So just keep that in mind if you or anyone you know is planning on taking kids to go see it. 

Related image

Score: 3/5 

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Doll Face (1945).

Vivian Blaine plays a character based on Gypsy Rose Lee (who gets a story credit under her real name Louise Hovick), who wants to perform on Broadway but isn't considered cultured enough.  So her boyfriend (Dennis O'Keefe) gets the idea to have an author (Stephen Dunne credited as Michael Dunne) ghost-write Blaine's autobiography.  Said boyfriend then gets the mistaken impression that she's falling in love with the author.  Carmen Miranda plays Chita Chula in an Eve Arden role as the wisecracking female sidekick who actually has a lot of common sense; Miranda gets just one musical number at the end.

Competent, but nothing special.  It's amazing that they only gave Miranda one song, and gave a substantial role to the ultra-bland Perry Como.  Miranda, however, gets the movie's best scene when O'Keefe tells Chita that she'd be a hit on Broadway and become the next Carmen Miranda.  Chita gets rather offended by the idea.  :D

6/10

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Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936) - 11th Warner Oland turn as the master sleuth, from 20th Century-Fox and director Harry Lachman. While Chan and his family are attending a traveling circus, the co-owner is found murdered. Chan is enlisted to follow the troupe and help investigators suss out the culprit(s). Meanwhile, No.1 Son Lee Chan (Keye Luke) makes time with a beautiful contortionist (Shia Jung). Also starring dwarf couple George & Olive Brasno, Francis Ford, J. Carrol Naish, Maxine Reiner, John McGuire, Shirley Deane, Paul Stanton, Boothe Howard, Drue Leyton, Franklyn Farnum, and Wade Boteler.

The unusual setting and a surplus of characters make this an entertaining outing for the sly detective. Luke gets quite a bit to do, with some fight scenes and some funny romance moments with Jung. This is also one of the larger roles that I've seen Francis Ford in, the older brother of director John Ford and a one-time silent film star and director himself who spent the last 2 decades of his life in dozens of bit parts. Camp alert: there's a bad gorilla suit prominently featured.   (7/10)

Source: Fox DVD, with a bonus featurette on the Chan film series.

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Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936) - 12th Warner Oland outing as Chan, from 20th Century-Fox and director H. Bruce Humberstone. Chan and Number 1 Son Lee (Keye Luke) get embroiled in a murder mystery at the title locale in Hawaii, and when the horses and their owners take a ship to Los Angeles, they follow along to solve the crime. Also featuring Helen Wood, Thomas Beck, Alan Dinehart, Gavin Muir, Gloria Roy, Jonathan Hale, G.P. Huntley, George Irving, Frank Coghlan Jr., John Henry Allen, Paul Fix, Holmes Herbert, Jack Mulhall, Robert Warwick, and Frankie Darro.

This is an exciting, unpredictable installment in the series, with surprising plot twists and some odd imagery, like a Capuchin monkey riding a horse. Luke gets to stretch his comic talents, and Darro is good as a disgruntled jockey. (7/10)

Source: Fox DVD, with a bonus featurette on the life of Keye Luke.

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Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936) - 13th Charlie Chan mystery starring Warner Oland, from 20th Century-Fox and director H. Bruce Humberstone. Chan and Number 1 Son Lee (Keye Luke) are in L.A. when an escaped mental patient (Boris Karloff) begins terrorizing an opera company. When someone is murdered, they race to find the lunatic before the body count rises. Also featuring William Demarest, Charlotte Henry, Thomas Beck, Margaret Irving, Gregory Gaye, Nedda Harrigan, Frank Conroy, Guy Usher, Joan Woodbury, and Tom McGuire.

The credits lead off with "Warner Oland vs Boris Karloff", but the two screen greats only share a short scene together, and then not until 15 minutes before the end. Still, this is another enjoyable entry in the series, with an interesting cast of characters, and a mystery that isn't a foregone conclusion. Oscar Levant wrote an opera for the soundtrack.  (7/10)

Source: Fox DVD, with a bonus featurette on frequent series director Humberstone.

Charliechanopera.jpg

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I just saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the best movie of 2017. (And with the best soundtrack. Any film that opens with Renee Fleming singing "The Last Rose of Summer" is off to a good start.)

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three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri

 

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Lawrence-if you're watching all the Charlie Chans pay attention to the dialogue-often you'll catch cleverly funny double entendres....I think my favorite is in CC At The Wax Museum '40.

(It's the only thing that makes watching these tolerable for me)

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I assume those billboards were put up by Burma Shave?

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1 hour ago, Fedya said:

I assume those billboards were put up by Burma Shave?

Yes -- Aung San Suu Kyi supervised the construction.

 

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Desire (1936) - Continental romance from Paramount Pictures, producer Ernst Lubitsch, and director Frank Borzage. Con artist and thief Madeleine de Beaupre (Marlene Dietrich) has just left Paris and is headed for Spain, having stolen a pearl necklace worth millions of francs. She bumps into vacationing American auto engineer Tom Bradley (Gary Cooper), and through a series of mishaps, he ends up unknowingly in possession of the necklace. Madeleine and her partner-in-crime Carlos (John Halliday) set out to get it back, while Madeleine falls for Tom. Also featuring Zeffie Tilbury, Alan Mowbray, Ernest Coassart, Akim Tamiroff, Marc Lawrence, and William Frawley.

This is an excellent romantic comedy with the classy "Lubitsch touch" and winning performances from both leads. Unfortunately, the movie's quality is often overshadowed by its backstage tales of woe, namely the end of John Gilbert. He and Dietrich were dating, and she secured him the role of Carlos, the fellow con artist, as a potential comeback film, only for him to suffer a heart attack before filming began. Not only was he unceremoniously replaced by Halliday, but Paramount also announced Cooper, an ex-lover of Dietrich, had been cast in the lead. Shortly after hearing the news, Gilbert had another heart attack and died. This sad end to one of the silent screens great stars shouldn't distract from the quality of the finished film, though. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and Dietrich herself is quoted as saying that it was the only one of her films that she was not ashamed of.  (7/10)

Source: Universal DVD, part of the Marlene Dietrich: Hollywood Icons Collection.

a695107d73dbf8498844cabc45191f3f--marlen

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8 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Desire (1936)

a695107d73dbf8498844cabc45191f3f--marlen

John Gilbert tragedy aside, Desire really is a delight, with Dietrich's continental style and sophistication and Cooper's American abroad innocent a wonderful screen pairing, more satisfactory to me than in their more famous effort, Morocco. I think Desire contains one of Coop's most charming screen performances.

Years ago my mother told me of having once seen a film in which Cooper sang, "I'm driving a Bronson 8" but she didn't know in what film it was. That evening (that evening!) I watch Desire for the first time and was shocked to see Cooper singing that song as he drive the car.

 

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On 1/5/2018 at 1:58 PM, shutoo said:

Funny you should say that..when I saw Needful Things, I was reminded of the Twilight Zone episode "What You Need" (took the basic premise and built on it)

Under the Dome has a similar ending to a Zone episode.

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