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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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Matewan is the best of this lot.

 

Glad someone else has seen & liked this. After seeing it, I visited Matewan to see the actual place it happened. The bullet holes were still visible in the brick walls of the businesses. Amazing little town set up directly parallel to the railroad tracks. Beautiful part of the US. (near Hatfield & McCoy's area)

I was raised In WV not far from Matewan but haven't been there.  I love the movie! It was so authentic and Chris Cooper is one of my very favorite actors.

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I saw twelve movies for the first time last week, and watched two Marie Dressler films again.

 

"The Patsy" (1928)--Marie Dressler is hilarious in this, Marion Davies gives maybe her best performance, and director King Vidor helms one of the best silent comedies made.

 

"Tillie's Punctured Romance" (1914)--I appreciated the way the Restorers had tried to make TPR as it was when first released, divided into six acts, like a play.  There were so many re-releases of TPR.  Dressler and Chaplin in the same film are very good.

 

The films I saw for the first time:

 

"The Colossus of New York" (1958)--Another retread of "Donovan's Brain".  Inferior in every way, except for Van Cleaves' eerie piano score and an effective credits sequence, which led me to believe I was about to see a Much more interesting film.  No such luck.

 

"The Day The Fish Came Out" (1967)--Michael Cacoyannis box-office and critical disaster.  Anti-nuke comedy has a attention getting opening, then all coherence flies out the window.  Films' plot involves unexploded bombs, pilots running around in their jockey shorts for most of the film, an Army unit in disguise trying to recover the bombs, and a dentist who doesn't use anesthetic.  Candice Bergen got star billing, but she only appears in films' last 45 minutes, so she doesn't deserve blame.  Oh, and a "beach party" theme appears in last half hour.  Is on YT.

 

"The Black Scorpion" (1957)--Stars Willis O'Brien's stop-motion animation title creatures.  Film opens with a volcano erupting, and doesn't slow down or let  the viewer get bored with idle chit-chat between the characters.  High body count, Stupid behavior by characters, Great  Special Effects mixed with obviously fake ones (a toy train is derailed), no time to get bored,  A Fun watch.

 

"Not As a Stranger" (1955)--Overlong, overwrought, overemphatic, supremely Silly Stanley Kramer film.  The stallion/mare, Mitchum/Grahame scene and numerous script howlers make film worth sitting through.

 

Nurse on the phone to Mrs. Robert Mitchum:"I'm sorry, he's out right now.  He's giving his last shot to the Widow Lang."

 

"So Long at the Fair" (1950)--Jean Simmons, Dirk Bogarde historical thriller set at the 1889 Paris Exposition.  One of the best historical thrillers I've seen.  Simmons and Bogarde are Excellent, especially Simmons.  On a level with Hitchcock's works.

 

"The Snoop Sisters" (1972)--Delightful television movie with Mildred Natwick (who won an Emmy) and Helen Hayes playing two old ladies who solve a mystery before the police.  Paulette Goddard came out of retirement for this film.

 

"The Murderer Is At Number 21" (1942)--Henri-Georges Clouzot's first film is a screwball mystery where odd behavior is taken as the norm.  Has numerous anti-authority jabs.  In French with English subtitles.

 

"Diabolique" (1955)--Another Clouzot film, darker in tone.  Two women, a wife and mistress, plot to murder a authoritarian ******* of a husband.  One of the women has a weak heart.  Version I saw had an extra six minutes added--is Very worth searching out.

 

"Atlantis" (1913)--Danish film based on a 1912 German novel about an ocean liners sinking.  Highlight of  film is the sinking;  very good special effects for 1913.  On YT.

 

"The Red Mill" (1926)--Marion Davies film, not her best, but is intermittently charming and funny.  TCM showed a Good print.

 

"The Great Gabbo" (1929)--Lunatic musical which mixes a  ventriloquists' mental breakdown with Huge musical numbers.  Directed by James Cruze, starring Erich von Stroheim and Betty Compson.  "Caught in the Web of Love" is Maybe the craziest number in the film.  Whole film and clips of the numbers alone are on YT.

 

"The Vagabond Lover" (1929)--Marie Dressler gives the film artificial respiration and keeps it watchable.  Dressler was good in almost anything she was cast in.  Lead Rudy Vallee gets all the songs.

 

Favorites--"The Patsy" (1928), "So Long at the Fair" (1950)

 

Least favorite--"The Colossus of New York" (1958)

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I watched 22 movies this past week, all from 1988. Above the Law, Braddock: Missing in Action III, Bulletproof, Catacombs, Critters 2, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, Grotesque, and The Incredible Hulk Returns were all re-watches. The best and worst of this group were:

 

Best: The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years - Penelope Spheeris' follow-up to her earlier punk rock documentary was this look at the L.A. hard rock and heavy metal scene, circa 1987-88. Consisting mainly of interviews with the fans, up and coming bands, and music veterans such as Ozzy Osbourne, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Lemmy from Motorhead, etc, the film also features a handful of performances by the newer bands, none of whom were particularly good. Much of the film is hilarious, in a real-life Spinal Tap kind of way, although there is some real sadness, too, as in the interview with one band member who is obviously in a deadly spiral of alcohol abuse, and with several of the wannabe rock stars who are clearly delusional. Recommended, even to those who may hate the music itself.

 

Worst: Braddock: Missing in Action III has very few, if any, redeeming qualities. Too cheap and lazy to be taken seriously, but not bad enough to be amusing, either.

 

 

Alone in the Neon Jungle, Ariel, Beach Balls, Big Top Pee-Wee, Bird, Cinema Paradiso, Death Collector, Demons III: The Ogre, Dominick & Eugene, Evil Dead Trap, For Queen & Country, Hero and the Terror, Inherit the Wind, and Into the Fire were all first time watches, with a few really good ones.

 

Best: Cinema Paradiso - Giuseppe Tornatore's affectionate, nostalgic look at the childhood of an Italian director, and the pivotal role the local movie house, as well as its projectionist (Philippe Noiret), played in his upbringing. We see the director in various stages of his life, first as a young child (a terrific Salvatore Cascio), then as a late teen (Marco Leonardi) and finally as a middle aged man (Jacques Perrin). For me, the film loses something once the film skips to his teenage years. The remainder of the film is good, but not up to the earlier section. I understand that there are much longer versions of the film than the one I saw from TCM, so perhaps the latter parts of the film are better fleshed out in those versions. Regardless, the film remains very enjoyable, and should delight most classic movie fans who don't have an aversion to subtitles.

 

I also recommend Ariel, a very dry black comedy from Finland about a luckless out-of-work miner who keeps getting tangled up in terrible situations. Its unique style and extremely low-key presentation may be off-putting to some, but I liked it, and it reminded me a bit of Jim Jarmusch's films. Bird, the biopic of jazz musician Charlie Parker directed by Clint Eastwood, has a terrific lead performance by Forest Whitaker.

 

Worst: Beach Balls - Awful teen comedy from executive producer Roger Corman. 

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I saw ten movies last week:

 

"Hillbillies in a Haunted House (1967)--Sad late film with Basil Rathbone; film was Merle Haggard's film debut.  Are two semi-listenable songs; the rest is filler.  Skip this one.

 

"Let Us Be Gay" (1930)--"Daring" Pre-Code film is worth watching for an amazing makeup job on Norma Shearer, and for Marie Dressler stealing every scene she's in as "Boucci"; her battles with her butler are particularly funny.

 

"Nanook of the North" (1922)--Pioneering semi-documentary by Robert Flaherty.  Good film, but are upsetting scenes of animals being killed.  I can laugh through a Technicolored Hammer gore-fest, but animals being killed in black and white bothered me.  A Disney-ized view of the North is effectively shattered by this film.

 

"Love Me Tonight" (1932)--Delightful musical with a Rodgers and Hart score, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, starring Pre-Code Jeanette MacDonald, Maurice Chevalier, and Myrna Loy, who smiles sweetly and then fires off one-liners/double entendres in her scenes.

 

"The Royal Hunt of the Sun" (1969)--Starring Christopher Plummer as Atahualpa and Robert Shaw as Pizarro.  Stay with this story of the Inca Empires' downfall for the first 33 minutes, till Plummer appears as Atahualpa, the Inca king.  Plummer then steals the movie (and had this viewer's undivided attention) as he hisses, prances, sniffs, yowls, swoops, and shrieks.  Leonard Whiting, who tagged along with Pizarro, battles to keep a straight face in his scenes with Plummer, adding to the amusement.  A fun watch, if you can stay awake the first 35 minutes.  Film is on YouTube.

 

"London After Midnight ("an approximation") (1927)--An approximation is what the collection of film stills and titles I saw on YouTube was called.  A fascinating glimpse of a Lost Film.

 

"West of Zanzibar" (1928)--Effective Revenge melodrama directed by Tod Browning.  Lon Chaney Sr. , Warner Baxter, and Mary Nolan are very good.  Saw on Archivedotorg.

 

"The Taming of the Shrew" (1929)--The one with the credit "Dialogue by William Shakespeare; additional dialogue by Sam Taylor".  Starring Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.  Disastrous miscasting sinks the film; Pickford is a spitting kitten, Fairbanks a roaring Tiger.  Pickford is no physical match for Fairbanks (In the 1967 Taylor/Burton version, Taylor gave as good as she got).  Fairbanks comes off as a lout and a bully.  I saw the 1966 Restoration on archivedotorg.

 

"The Son-Daughter" (1932)--Directed by Clarence Brown, starring Ramon Novarro and Helen Hayes.  Novarro is very effective in his role as a Chinese commoner with a Secret.  Hayes gives a wildly erratic performance, going from inept to charming to competent in the same scene.  Film set against background of warring factions in 1911 Chinatown is better than Maltin's rating, no masterpiece but worth watching.

 

"The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" (1975) Directed by Gene Wilder, starring Gene Wilder and Madeline Kahn.  Erratic comedy is ok satire of Victorian England's most famous detective.  Some jokes work, some don't.  Madeline Kahn's and Dom Deluise's parody of an opera is a highlight.  Enjoyable watch.

 

Favorite--"Love Me Tonight" (1932)

 

To Be Avoided--"Hillbillies in a Haunted House" (1967)

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I saw five movies last week.  Simon is about a university professor who is brainwashed by scientists into thinking he's an alien.  It starts well, and it was probably a good idea that Marshall Brickman, who had worked with Woody Allen in the past, decided that someone other than Allen should be the lead.  But the film lacks energy in the second half, and I suspect that it needs someone other than Alan Arkin to put it through.  (And one thinks the outside world would be more skeptical about claims people had discovered an alien).  Francofonia was clearly the movie of the week:  an intelligent meditation on the Louvre especially in the world.  It's elliptical, and carefully shot, with subtle camera movements and an intelligent use of archival footage and the recreation of archival footage.  I love Melvin is an Ok musical, if not a particularly brilliant one.  Harvey has a nice performance by James Stewart, and I remember seeing the play as a child.  And I think the problem with the movie is the problem I had with the play.  It lacks concentration, and it meanders.  Stewart gives a nice performance, but the movie is too bland and too long for its anodyne point.  I'm not a big Austen fan, and Persuasion didn't attract my full attention as I was watching it.  Perhaps a second watch will make its virtues clearer.

 

Oh yes, I also saw Ulzana's Raid last week.  I suppose it doesn't say much about it that I omitted the first time around.  It's more violent not only in the obvious way that seventies westerns would be over those made a decade or two or three earlier.  It's also violent in that the cruelty of the Indians, in this case Apaches, is more emphasized than one would think.  Westerns are not my favorite genre, so the ones that I'm likely to see have a higher critical reputation and they tend to have a bad conscience about how the United States has treated its aboriginal population.  I've heard the movie compared to Vietnam, though it doesn't strike me as a good analogy.  Vietnam is not almost empty, and it is overwhelmingly populated by Vietnamese, while the West in this movie is not dominated by Apaches.  On its own terms, the movie is interesting.

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I've watched 25 movies since my last review, the remainder of the movies I had from 1988. Messenger of Death, Twice Dead, The Unholy, U2: Rattle and Hum, and Waxwork were all rewatches. The best and worst of these were:

 

Best: U2: Rattle and Hum was enjoyable for the music, but if you aren't a fan going in, I don't know if the film would change your mind. There is some nice black and white cinematography, too.

 

Worst: Twice Dead was a substandard horror film about a vengeful ghost helping a family fight back against a gang of punks. Stupid and cheap.

 

Mannigan's Force, Mercenary Fighters, The Milagro Beanfield War, Mr. North, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, Nightmare at Bittercreek, Once Upon a Texas Train, Police Academy 5 : Assignment Miami Beach, Police Story 2, The Presidio, Raiders of the Magic Ivory, Scarecrows, Split Decisions, Sweet Hearts Dance, The Tenth Man, A Time of Destiny, Tusks, Warlords, We Think the World of You, and Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown were all first time watches. The best and worst of these were:

 

Best: I watched several that are highly regarded in some circles, but most of them disappointed me at least a little. It's a tough call, but my favorite was probably the last watched, Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It features director Pedro Almodovar's patented mix of feminist themes, camp fashions, bright primary colors, and good if not always restrained performances. Alan Bates was also terrific in the largely forgotten British film We Think the World of You.

 

Worst: A lot of garbage to choose from, but the worst was probably Police Academy 5, a particularly stupid chapter in a stupid film series. Tusks was also really bad, an amateurish exercise in bad acting, slow pacing, and awful scripting featuring Andrew Stevens and John Rhys Davies as bitter rivals in African big game country. 

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I saw ten films last week:

 

"That Forsyte Woman" (1949)--An underrated MGM Greer Garson/Errol Flynn period piece, based on the first book of Galsworthy's "The Forsyte Saga".  Well acted, especially by Flynn and Garson, this easily could have been a Boring Talkathon but isn't.  Flynn in particular shows unused acting skills.  Robert Young alone Disappoints, sounding hopelessly American in a sea of British accents.

 

"Cry of the City" (1947)--Excellent film noir with Victor Mature, Richard Conte, and Shelley Winters, directed by Robert Siodmak.  Mature is good guy afraid his brother will turn out like heartless gangster Conte.  Winters as one of Contes' mistresses is amusing as a ditz trying to do the right thing.  She and her leopard coat steal every scene they're in.

 

"Summer Storm" (1944)--Directed by Douglas Sirk, starring George Sanders and Linda Darnell.  Based on Chekhov, film is about a girl who brings disaster to every man she meets. Both stars are extremely good in 'out of character" roles.  Recommended.

 

"One Romantic Night" (1930)--Marie Dressler is the only reason for sitting through this.  As usual, she's the best part of the film. A Creaky script doesn't help Lillian Gish in her portrayal of a Princess.  Gish comes off as Camille, with all her "Sighs", dithering and twittering about who she doesn't love, does love, loves her, turning down her True Love until I was reminded of the old movie house yell: "Say  YES,*********, so we can all go Home!!!"

 

"Min and Bill" (1930)--"Stella Dallas" on steroids.  Marie Dressler is magnificent in this, pulling off slapstick comedy, dealing with a soapy script and not sinking in the suds and acting with scene stealer Wallace Beery. Very enjoyable.

 

"Stagecoach" (1966)--Unnecessary remake of the 1939 classic has Ann-Margret in over her head as a dance hall girl who's thrown out of town.  She's far too modern a presence to look like she belongs in the Old West.  Bing Crosby as an amiable drunk doctor does the best work.  Slim Pickens is his annoying self.  Watch for the plentiful continuity goofs and anachronisms.

 

"Romance on the High Seas" (1948)--Doris Days' debut film--she sings the song "It's Magic" and a score by Jule Stein and Sammy Cahn, and in real life, became a star.  Oscar Levant gets the best lines in the film, Day gets the songs.  A fun throwback to musical screwball comedy.

 

"Follow Thru" (1930)--Two-tone Technicolor film Starring Nancy Carroll and Zelma O'Neal.  Wildly uneven film, the highs being the the music (especially O'Neal's song "I Want to Be Bad", which has maybe the Intentionally(?) funniest moments of 1930 film, aside from The Marx Brothers.)  Lows are Jack Haley's cringe-worthy comedy.  Film introduced the standard "Button Up Your Overcoat".  Are more good moments than bad.  Carroll in two-tone Technicolor is beautiful, with red hair and green eyes.  Copy I saw was on YouTube.

 

"Spring is Here" (1930)--An example of what helped kill off musicals in the early 1930's.  Nothing to offer except a partial Rodgers & Hart score, beautifully sung by Alexander Gray, Bernice Claire, and Lawrence Gray.  Songs include the standards "Spring Is Here" and "With a Song in My Heart".

 

"Cobra Woman" (1944)--Camp classic with Maria Montez as twins, Jon Hall, and Sabu.  Good Montez (Tollea) is kidnapped on her wedding day, to dethrone Bad Montez (Naja) who rules Cobra Island with a gold fist--the islanders don't give her enough gold in offerings, she has them thrown into a handy volcano.  Deliriously silly film is Great fun.  Recommended.

 

Favorites: "Cobra Woman" (1944) and "Summer Storm" (1944).

 

Least Favorite--All scenes without Marie Dressler in "One Romantic Night" (1930).

 

 

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Three movies this week:  Min and Bill was a rather slapdash movie, tolerable I suppose, but hardly interesting or profound.  He was Her Man was better, since it had Cagney in it, and the ending was a bit surprising.  On the other hand, it was not the best of his movies.  Bridge of Spies was the last 2015 Best Picture nominee I saw.  As it stands, it was OK.  I'm not really a fan of Spielberg/Capra and the movie was overlong.  On the other hand Mark Rylance was quite good.

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While finishing up season 2 of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, I watched a few movies.

 

THE JUNGLE GODDESS was part of the MST3K Turkey Day Box Set I just picked up. I don't recall seeing it on TV, but it was so forgettable, I just may have. Weird interpretations of Africans with a blonde bombshell dropped in the middle of their village. No Wizard Of Oz, this was a true stinker. A few comments from the crew were amusing, but I generally don't care for Joel episodes writing as much as later years.

 

THE ADVENTURES OF ERROL FLYNN, a TCM documentary I've seen before. I loved the the photos & film clips and narration of Flynn's life. I liked the Flynn quotes for each chapter title too. It was mostly weakened by the movie star interviews with Burt Reynolds and Richard Dreyfuss. Maybe both were popular at the time, but the insights chosen did not propel the story further. No one wants to hear inaccuracies or opinions.

 

TWO GUYS FROM MILWAUKEE

This was a crazy fluff of a movie-my favorite kind, pairing Dennis Morgan & my favorite lug Jack Carson. According to Ben Mankiewicz's intro, they made 8 of these formula movies together. I'm sure they're probably pretty even. While the plot of these movies is thin, the often clever quips & personality of the talent makes them worth the 90 minute investment.

 

HER TWELVE MEN

This is the only movie I recorded for Robert Ryan month. I love Greer Garson and this movie could turn out good or a real stinker. It was a very typical boys "boarding school" story-very predictable- along the same sappy lines of BOYS TOWN. But both Ryan & Garson's performances elevate the staid story, as well as the good supporting cast. I swear, one schoolboy was dubbed by June Foray! I find Ryan believable as a crusty charactor with a soft heart, he just looks like a normal guy. In fact, it's harder for me to believe he was a big Hollywood actor!

Greer was a bit older in this, but her gorgeous wonderful self (I often confuse her with Deborah Kerr) and gladly center of the story. A great movie for the theme "teachers"

 

So "TWELVE" was my favorite while JUNGLE GODESS was the weakest, obviously.

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I saw eleven movies for the first or second time last week:

 

"The Sting" (1973)--Paul Newman and Robert Redford go for the Big con, ably supported by Eileen Brennan and Scott Joplin's rags, adapted by Marvin Hamlisch.  Film was directed by George Roy Hill. "The Sting" was a fine nostalgia piece, with one of the 1970's best soundtracks.  Film won Best Picture, Director, Score, and other Oscars.

 

"Atlantis, the Lost Continent" aka "Siren of Atlantis" (1948)--Print I saw on another website was titled AtLC.  By either title, film is an unworthy showcase for Maria Montez.  Film is watchable when she's on screen; when she's off-screen, the minutes fly like hours.  It took three directors to put this United Artists cheapie together.

 

"We're Not Dressing" (1934)--Lunatic Pre-Code musical comedy, with Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard,  Ethel Merman, and a rollerskating bear.  Film is loosely based on "The Admirable Crichton".   The plot--Film starts on a yacht, then is shipwrecked where George Burns and Gracie Allen are doing research.  Marvelous Pre-Code film.  Recommended.

 

"Fire Maidens of Outer Space" (1956)--I tried viewing this on its' own, and it put me to sleep.  So I tried the MST3K version; they kept me awake. and provoked smiles and one Good laugh (Crow sang "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No" to the 500th replay of "Strangers In Paradise").  Borodin, or "Kismet", the films' score is listenable.   The "Maidens" Interpretive dances look like high school cheerleaders trying out a disastrously (un?)choreographed halftime routine; otherwise, this is a Titanic BORE.  MST3K fans only, or those wanting a sleeping pill.

 

"Emma" (1932)--Marie Dressler is paired with director Clarence Brown, and makes a watchable melodrama/comedy/weepie.  The comedy makes it watchable, the melodrama is predictable, the "attack on the viewers' tear ducts" is restrained and effective.  Dressler deserved her nomination for Best Actress.

 

"The Prodigal" (1955)--High Camp, Biblical variety.  Lana Turner wears the best of "less-is-more" fashions in 70 B.C. Damascus as High Priestess of Astarte, and when the Future High Priestess gets bored with lessons, she is taught makeup tricks by Lana.  MGM spent $5 million on this box-office bomb.

 

"The World, The Flesh, And The Devil" (1959)--Excellent end of the world film noir.  Like Stephen King's "The Stand", without the gore and supernatural elements.  Harry Belafonte is buried in a cave-in for six days; when he escapes, he finds WW III has occurred while he was underground--and he is seemingly the only survivor.  Recommended.

 

"The Fall of The House of Usher" (1982)--Thanks to SansFin mentioning director Jan Svankmajer in the "Controversial Films" thread.  I found this short, subtitled film on YouTube while looking for "The Castle of Otranto" (1977).  "Usher" is a no cast, narrator only film that depends on stop-motion animation for its' best effects.  Camerawork is excellent.  I watched twice--once to get the subtitles, again for the images.

 

"The Night Strangler" (1973)--A television movie, but one that is better than most.  An intriguing plot (a killer strikes every 21 years, and kills an increasing number of victims each time) is hurt by some bad acting, too much talk, and overly dark photography.  Film still has some good scares and is worth watching.

 

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (1982)--Filmed stage version of the road show of ST.  Is sung almost all the way through, with recitative and spoken word mixed in occasionally.  Score is arguably Sondheim's best.  George Hearn is an authoritative, convincingly crazy ST; Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett is pure music hall, taken to extremes.  Sondheim spoofs the cliched young lovers.  They are a pleasure to watch and listen to.  When TCM shows this again, Hopefully it will be shown before midnight.  Essential viewing.

 

"Chandler" (1971)--Interfered with film shows what Could have been, but is execrably edited, badly scored, and underscripted.  Leslie Caron and Warren Oates do their best, but can't save this plotless noir.

 

Favorite--"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (1982).

 

Sleeping pill of the week--"Fire Maidens of Outer Space" (1956).

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I watched 24 movies this week. The Church, Cyborg, Godzilla vs Biollante, Harlem Nights, and Howling V: The Rebirth were all rewatches. The best and worst were:

 

The best: Godzilla vs Biollante, the second entry in the Heisei series of Japanese Godzilla movies, this boasts the best effects of the series up to that point, with a truly unique giant carnivorous plant monster as the antagonist. The plot is all over the place, as is the acting, but fans of the genre will enjoy it.

 

The worst:  Cyborg has not aged well. It wasn't that great back in 1989, but this post-apocalyptic action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme looks even cheaper and dumber now. Bad studio-mandated cuts also hamper any enjoyment.

 

 

The Scorch Trials from 2015, Arena, Billy the Kid, Blood Red, BloodFight, Bloodfist, Bloodhounds of Broadway, Blue Steel, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, Crack House, Dad, Disorganized Crime, Flesh Eating Mothers, I, Madman, Indio, Intruder, The January Man, Kill Me Again, and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects from 1989 were all first time watches. The best and worst were:

 

The best:  3 of these were worth recommending to fans of their genres. I, Madman is a unique horror thriller about a book store clerk and would-be actress (Jenny Wright) who is stalked by the strange, mutilated character in the book she is reading. Inventive make-up effects and effective atmosphere make this a stand-out, with a few genuinely creepy moments, although the ending may be a little too far out for some viewers.

 

Intruder is another low-budget horror/suspense thriller, with it's tongue very much in cheek. This one is set in a large supermarket at night, after closing, but while employees are still working, restocking shelves and other duties. The unbalanced ex-boyfriend of a cashier shows up and starts menacing everyone, and soon gruesome murders begin. This has a better-than-average script, some really impressive camera tricks (one shot is from a telephone's perspective, another has the camera slowly rotating as it mimics the turning of a doorknob, etc) The cast is made up of mostly unknowns, although Renee Estevez, daughter of Martin Sheen, has a small role, and director Sam Raimi and his brother Ted Raimi show up, as does B-movie hero Bruce Campbell. The make-up effects are grisly and very well done. Horror fans without a prejudice against low budgets should love it.

 

Kill Me Again is the first "neo-noir" from writer-director John Dahl, who would go on to do Red Rock West and The Last Seduction. Val Kilmer stars as a down on his luck Reno P.I. who gets hired by femme fatale Joanne Whalley-Kilmer to fake her death so that she can escape her psychotic boyfriend (Michael Madsen). There's a bag of money, and a lot of twists and double-crosses along the way, so fans of the genre will find much to like. 

 

The worst: Tough call, as there was a lot of junk this week. BloodFight, a poorly executed retread of the previous year's Bloodsport, about a martial arts tournament, is really shoddy, with silly fight scenes, and terrible acting from the international cast, most of whom struggle futilely with their limited grasp of spoken English. But no one really expected this movie to be any good. Blood Red, on the other hand, had a big cast, including Eric Roberts, Giancarlo Giannini, Dennis Hopper, Julia Roberts, Burt Young and more, as well as excellent period (1890's) costuming and set design. The story, concerning Italian immigrant families in California wine-country battling the encroaching railroad that wants to lay down tracks right through their land, is a badly edited mess, and the last half of the film, featuring one poorly filmed gunfight after another, is a near total loss. Dennis Hopper's Irish accent is cringe-worthy as well.

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I saw three movies this week.  I watched The Shoes of the Fisherman because the National Board of Review declared it to be the best movie of 1968.  Sadly, illegal drugs were not responsible for this judgement.  Middlebrow taste in 1968 was just that bad.  It's a "serious" movie about Catholicism that shows not the slightest insight or genuine interest in its subject.  (Such is why is Quinn's character Catholic when most Christians in the Soviet Union were Orthodox?)  It's striking that there was a major famine in China several years before the fictional one in the film took place, and China did not respond by launching world war three.  And within a decade a pope did come from the Eastern bloc and while undoubtedly charismatic, wasn't remotely like the fantasy pope Quinn played.  Dheepan is a much better movie, and Kalieaswari Srinivasan's performance is particularly noteworthy.  IT's certainly a much more intelligent movie about a serious social problem, with a much more clever conceit.  (The Tamil refugee family living in Paris are not actually a family.)  The movie may have, in Stuart Klawans' words, "the phoniest epilogue since Taxi Driver" but it also has one of the best erotic moments of the year.  About Elly is the first film of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.  Is it of the same quality of A Separation>  Not quite:  the early scenes showing middle class Iranians maybe, but once the title character goes missing, the arguments and the conflicts are just a bit contrived.  But otherwise, it is of a very high standard.

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I saw three movies this week.  I watched The Shoes of the Fisherman because the National Board of Review declared it to be the best movie of 1968.  Sadly, illegal drugs were not responsible for this judgement.  Middlebrow taste in 1968 was just that bad.  It's a "serious" movie about Catholicism that shows not the slightest insight or genuine interest in its subject.  (Such is why is Quinn's character Catholic when most Christians in the Soviet Union were Orthodox?)  It's striking that there was a major famine in China several years before the fictional one in the film took place, and China did not respond by launching world war three.  And within a decade a pope did come from the Eastern bloc and while undoubtedly charismatic, wasn't remotely like the fantasy pope Quinn played.  Dheepan is a much better movie, and Kalieaswari Srinivasan's performance is particularly noteworthy.  IT's certainly a much more intelligent movie about a serious social problem, with a much more clever conceit.  (The Tamil refugee family living in Paris are not actually a family.)  The movie may have, in Stuart Klawans' words, "the phoniest epilogue since Taxi Driver" but it also has one of the best erotic moments of the year.  About Elly is the first film of Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.  Is it of the same quality of A Separation>  Not quite:  the early scenes showing middle class Iranians maybe, but once the title character goes missing, the arguments and the conflicts are just a bit contrived.  But otherwise, it is of a very high standard.

 

 

Not a criticism, but I, for one, enjoy your reviews much more when you elaborate a little more than usual as you did here with Shoes.

 

Thanks.

 

laffite.

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The Shoes of the Fisherman is far from being the best film of 1968, and few today would rank it one of the top 10 or 20. However, some will definitely enjoy the pageantry, the cinematography, and the famous actors.

 

It does reflect some of the concerns of Catholics at the time, especially the question of whether Teilhard de Chardin's philosophy is heretical. (Oskar Werner's character is obviously based on Teilhard.) It also reflects both the optimism created by the ecumenical spirit of Pope John XXIII, and the reaction against it. Morris West, who wrote the novel, obviously hoped that this broadening ecumenical spirit would continue.

 

Contemporary fears about China and its possible use of nuclear power are also shown in the film. Another cinematic representation of this fear is the Max von Sydow character in Winter Light. Nixon's visit to China changed some of this perception. (Incidentally, Chinese villains are generally verboten now in American action movies, because China is such a huge market for action films.)

 

Having fairly low expectations when I saw The Shoes of the Fisherman a couple of years ago, I liked it better than I'd imagined. It's a finer film than, say, Preminger's The Cardinal, also very nice to look at, but despite its glancing asides at serious issues like Nazism, the K K K, and abortion, pretty much a campy romp.

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The Shoes of the Fisherman is far from being the best film of 1968, and few today would rank it one of the top 10 or 20. However, some will definitely enjoy the pageantry, the cinematography, and the famous actors.

 

It does reflect some of the concerns of Catholics at the time, especially the question of whether Teilhard de Chardin's philosophy is heretical. (Oskar Werner's character is obviously based on Teilhard.) It also reflects both the optimism created by the ecumenical spirit of Pope John XXIII, and the reaction against it. Morris West, who wrote the novel, obviously hoped that this broadening ecumenical spirit would continue.

 

Contemporary fears about China and its possible use of nuclear power are also shown in the film. Another cinematic representation of this fear is the Max von Sydow character in Winter Light. Nixon's visit to China changed some of this perception. (Incidentally, Chinese villains are generally verboten now in American action movies, because China is such a huge market for action films.)

 

Having fairly low expectations when I saw The Shoes of the Fisherman a couple of years ago, I liked it better than I'd imagined. It's a finer film than, say, Preminger's The Cardinal, also very nice to look at, but despite its glancing asides at serious issues like Nazism, the K K K, and abortion, pretty much a campy romp.

 

 

I will agree that some of the pagentry and cinematography are good.  Anderson is an underrated director.  I actually adore Around the World in 80 days, and Operation Crossbow has a certain toughness.  But there's only so much you can say about him.  Yes, I recognized Werner's character is based on Teilhard.  But in retrospect that dates it fairly badly.  While not the biggest fan of Preminger or The Cardinal, that movie does benefit from the fact that we don't have to accept the protagonist uncritically, whereas Quinn is clearly a fantasy figure.  And clearly Preminger is a better director than Anderson, who has his own soap opera elements (the journalist and his wife being an obvious problem.)

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Yes, the journalist and his wife are definitely the weakest element of The Shoes of the Fisherman. I believe Martin Scorsese is rather a fan of Michael Anderson. Shake Hands with the Devil is quite good, and Chase a Crooked Shadow is a solid film noir, too. (I'm not sure how much of the noir styling is due to the cinematographer, Erwin Hillier.) The Wreck of the Mary Deare is recommendable, too.

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I watched 18 more movies this week to finish out my stack of 1989 films. Mystery Train, The Return of Swamp Thing, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk,  and UHF were all rewatches. The best and worst were:

 

The best: UHF is still as funny as ever, to me anyway. Joke and parody song artist "Weird Al" Yankovic stars as a schmoe who gets put in charge of a failing TV station. He proceeds to create outlandish programs, which brings him to the attention of eeeeevil rival station owner Kevin McCarthy. Michael Richards steals the movie as janitor/children's show host Stanley Spadowski, a man who really likes mops.

 

The worst: A toss up between Swamp Thing and Hulk, but since ole Swampy was a theatrical release, I'll give him the dubious honor. Both films are not without their meager charms, though, if the mood is right.

 

Lonesome Dove, Miami Cops, Night Shadow, Night Visitor, Old Gringo, Perfect Witness, Physical Evidence, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, Posed for Murder, Rednekk [sic] Zombies, Soda Cracker, Stripped to Kill 2, The Tall Guy, and Valmont were all first time watches. The best and worst of these were:

 

The best: Lonesome Dove wins by a mile. I had of course heard about this Western TV mini-series starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones for many years, but never sat down and watched it. At first I wasn't getting into it, as it seemed a little too sentimental and slow. But around the third hour (of 6) I was hooked, and really cared about the characters. It ended up being a terrific farewell nod to the Old West of myth and fact, a difficult balancing act that I think it pulled off, thanks to the script, and the wonderful performances by all involved.

 

If one wants to be a stickler and disqualify that choice as a TV movie, then I would have to pick The Tall Guy as the best film of the batch. A sweet, fast-paced romantic comedy from the UK, written by Richard Curtis of Love Actually fame, and directed by Mel Smith. Jeff Goldblum stars as a frustrated American actor living and working in London. His fortunes start to change when he falls in love with a no-nonsense nurse (Emma Thompson, great in her film debut), and he finally confronts his obnoxious boss (Rowan Atkinson). What other rom-com features a pair of tighty-whiteys singing a Madness song, or has a musical based on The Elephant Man?

 

The worst: Miami Cops was an awful Lethal Weapon knock-off from Italy, starring Richard Roundtree and some other guy I've never heard of. They check off every bad cop-movie cliche as they wander through the film, never actually going to Miami.

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I watched 18 more movies this week to finish out my stack of 1989 films. Mystery Train, The Return of Swamp Thing, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk,  and UHF were all rewatches. The best and worst were:

 

The best: UHF is still as funny as ever, to me anyway. Joke and parody song artist "Weird Al" Yankovic stars as a schmoe who gets put in charge of a failing TV station. He proceeds to create outlandish programs, which brings him to the attention of eeeeevil rival station owner Kevin McCarthy. Michael Richards steals the movie as janitor/children's show host Stanley Spadowski, a man who really likes mops.

 

The worst: A toss up between Swamp Thing and Hulk, but since ole Swampy was a theatrical release, I'll give him the dubious honor. Both films are not without their meager charms, though, if the mood is right.

 

Lonesome Dove, Miami Cops, Night Shadow, Night Visitor, Old Gringo, Perfect Witness, Physical Evidence, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, Posed for Murder, Rednekk [sic] Zombies, Soda Cracker, Stripped to Kill 2, The Tall Guy, and Valmont were all first time watches. The best and worst of these were:

 

The best: Lonesome Dove wins by a mile. I had of course heard about this Western TV mini-series starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones for many years, but never sat down and watched it. At first I wasn't getting into it, as it seemed a little too sentimental and slow. But around the third hour (of 6) I was hooked, and really cared about the characters. It ended up being a terrific farewell nod to the Old West of myth and fact, a difficult balancing act that I think it pulled off, thanks to the script, and the wonderful performances by all involved.

 

If one wants to be a stickler and disqualify that choice as a TV movie, then I would have to pick The Tall Guy as the best film of the batch. A sweet, fast-paced romantic comedy from the UK, written by Richard Curtis of Love Actually fame, and directed by Mel Smith. Jeff Goldblum stars as a frustrated American actor living and working in London. His fortunes start to change when he falls in love with a no-nonsense nurse (Emma Thompson, great in her film debut), and he finally confronts his obnoxious boss (Rowan Atkinson). What other rom-com features a pair of tighty-whiteys singing a Madness song, or has a musical based on The Elephant Man?

 

The worst: Miami Cops was an awful Lethal Weapon knock-off from Italy, starring Richard Roundtree and some other guy I've never heard of. They check off every bad cop-movie cliche as they wander through the film, never actually going to Miami.

 

Seriously, not to importune or request jumping through hoops but what was your take (25 words or less if fine) on Valmont. I recall viewing ages ago. I think it's the Dangerous Liaisons story, n'est-ce pas. That actress (Annette something?) was rather hot as i recall. Just curious, thanks.

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Seriously, not to importune or request jumping through hoops but what was your take (25 words or less if fine) on Valmont. I recall viewing ages ago. I think it's the Dangerous Liaisons story, n'est-ce pas. That actress (Annette something?) was rather hot as i recall. Just curious, thanks.

 

I liked it, but I think I prefer the 1988 version with Glenn Close and John Malkovich. Michelle Pfeiffer definitely made more of an impression than Meg Tilly, although I think Meg Tilly fit more closely to the character as it was presented in Valmont

 

The costumes and sets were top notch, as one would expect from Milos Forman's crew. Annette Bening, who I usually like, was much better in the role than I expected, and she was a stunner to look at. Colin Firth was adequate, and while I'm sure the ladies swooned over Firth more, I thought Malkovich was much more interesting in the role. 

 

I recall when Dangerous Liaisons was released in '88 that it came under some criticism for the accents, or the lack thereof, with all of the actors using their own American voices. The filmmaker defended it by saying that it was no more ridiculous than showing Ancient Romans all using clipped British accents in films. Valmont was all over the place accent-wise. Some British, some American, some Americans trying to sound slightly British. Not a single one trying to sound French, though!

 

In the end, I gave the film a 7/10, or a B. It made no secret of the emotional stakes underlying the central wager in the story, whereas the '88 version slowly revealed it as the story progressed. Valmont made them seem more human and relatable, but I'm not sure that the story works as well that way, at least cinematically. I prefer the amoral devils from the previous version.

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I liked it, but I think I prefer the 1988 version with Glenn Close and John Malkovich. Michelle Pfeiffer definitely made more of an impression than Meg Tilly, although I think Meg Tilly fit more closely to the character as it was presented in Valmont

 

The costumes and sets were top notch, as one would expect from Milos Forman's crew. Annette Bening, who I usually like, was much better in the role than I expected, and she was a stunner to look at. Colin Firth was adequate, and while I'm sure the ladies swooned over Firth more, I thought Malkovich was much more interesting in the role. 

 

I recall when Dangerous Liaisons was released in '88 that it came under some criticism for the accents, or the lack thereof, with all of the actors using their own American voices. The filmmaker defended it by saying that it was no more ridiculous than showing Ancient Romans all using clipped British accents in films. Valmont was all over the place accent-wise. Some British, some American, some Americans trying to sound slightly British. Not a single one trying to sound French, though!

 

In the end, I gave the film a 7/10, or a B. It made no secret of the emotional stakes underlying the central wager in the story, whereas the '88 version slowly revealed it as the story progressed. Valmont made them seem more human and relatable, but I'm not sure that the story works as well that way, at least cinematically. I prefer the amoral devils from the previous version.

 

I like the '88 version and have a copy of my own, so I'm having a look. There are moments in that movie that are so memorable that I'm actually remembering them now. My memory banks are rather worn, so much so that I have trouble remembering Michelle. I thought you had mistook her for Uma, who I also liked. There is a quality to that sword fight at the end that I was so taken with in a positive way, yet I only partly remember it now. I remember being enthralled with Glenn Close in that one. Thanks, Lawrence.

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