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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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I saw eight films for the first or second time this week.

"A*P*E*"--(1976)--Horrid ripoff of the 1976 version of "King Kong"--which was a lousy film.  One of the 50 worst films I've watched to the end.  This is the one where the ape "flips off" the audience (around the 53 minute mark). Saw on YouTube.

 

 

That's the second time someone's tried to warn the board of the dangers of "A*P*E*", and like the title, think a lot of the "goofier" scenes were added by the American distributors to try and sell it as low goof-camp.  (Asians don't really understand the flipoff, that's a western gesture.) 

There were a lot of Hong Kong DeLaurentiis-ripoffs, like when Tarantino rediscovered "Mighty Peking Man", but APE's big sell was 3-D, which was getting a bit of revival in cheap HK's at the time.

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Lawrence said: The western festival is a special thing happening just this month, and will be over soon enough.

 

You know, that's what I LIKE about TCM. 

 

I dislike westerns as well, but when TCM does a focus on an actor or genre it can:

 

A. Show examples (new to me) that are an exception to the rule and help soften my rigid opinion.

 

B. If I've seen them all before, give me a break from the frantically-trying-to-see-every-title of when I like the actor/genre programming.

 

All those who complain on these message boards about TCM's programming should look at it as an opportunity. I like that we all have different tastes and TCM can't be everything to all people at once.

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That's the second time someone's tried to warn the board of the dangers of "A*P*E*", and like the title, think a lot of the "goofier" scenes were added by the American distributors to try and sell it as low goof-camp.  (Asians don't really understand the flipoff, that's a western gesture.) 

There were a lot of Hong Kong DeLaurentiis-ripoffs, like when Tarantino rediscovered "Mighty Peking Man", but APE's big sell was 3-D, which was getting a bit of revival in cheap HK's at the time.

 

"Tarantino" ?  Quentin Tarantino ? !

 

Shirley in your book he's in the same category as the smart alecks Fred Astaire and the Coen Brothers. In fact, I would expect you to regard Mr. Tarantino as the ultimate "smart aleck".  I mean, even I think he's a bit of a smart  azz (variation of "smart aleck"), and I like him. Partly because he's a smart azz.

 

Please tell me you think he's in the same smart azz or aleck boat as the Coens, or I will be very confused.

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"Tarantino" ?  Quentin Tarantino ? !

 

Shirley in your book he's in the same category as the smart alecks Fred Astaire and the Coen Brothers. In fact, I would expect you to regard Mr. Tarantino as the ultimate "smart aleck".  I mean, even I think he's a bit of a smart  azz (variation of "smart aleck"), and I like him. Partly because he's a smart azz.

 

Please tell me you think he's in the same smart azz or aleck boat as the Coens, or I will be very confused.

 

 

A) Please look up "Smartaleck" in the dictionary.  It's for the same Moderated reason as "Smart azz", but at least it's there, albeit more recent than "Wisenheimer".  It's since I was a kid, let's just put it that way.

 

B ) What I think of Tarantino isn't "Smartaleck" ("Fanboy" is more in the ballpark of what I'm looking for, but not quite it, either), but to the point of the post, Tarantino did have his own vanity film label when "Rolling Thunder Pictures" tried inflicting all his favorite video-clerk grindhouse cult titles onto arthouse re-release, and Peking's crazy variations on the HK-DeLaurentiis theme was one of them:

http://cityonfire.com/quentin-tarantinos-rolling-thunder-presents-mighty-peking-man-detroit-9000-switchblade-sisters-dvd-lionsgate/

 

However much I've wounded your Coen-fan pride that I must be pursued past the Hesperides and back, this isn't in the same category.

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A) Please look up "Smartaleck" in the dictionary.  It's for the same Moderated reason as "Smart azz", but at least it's there, albeit more recent than "Wisenheimer".  It's since I was a kid, let's just put it that way.

 

B ) What I think of Tarantino isn't "Smartaleck" ("Fanboy" is more in the ballpark of what I'm looking for, but not quite it, either)......

 

However much I've wounded your Coen-fan pride that I must be pursued past the Hesperides and back, this isn't in the same category......

 

You have not wounded my pride, Coen-based or any other kind. It's your loss that you don't appreciate the Coen brothers.

 

Of course I know the term "smart aleck" ( and "smart azz".)  I don't need to look it up. My question to you was obviously ( or so I thought) what is meant in your own personal idea of what constitutes such a person.

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You have not wounded my pride, Coen-based or any other kind. It's your loss that you don't appreciate the Coen brothers.

 

Of course I know the term "smart aleck" ( and "smart azz".)  I don't need to look it up. My question to you was obviously ( or so I thought) what is meant in your own personal idea of what constitutes such a person.

My favorite "smart-aleck" has always been Eddie Haskell!

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Four movies this week:  Six Degrees of Separation is interesting, though I suppose it's ultimately not very profound.  Sutherland, Channing and Smith are all good enough in their own way.  It's interesting that in only a few years the basic scam would be impossible, since people could check the internet about Sidney Poitier.  (I was using it by 1996 and the movie came out in 1992).  The Shooting may have been more interesting had I paid more attention to it.  I was somewhat tense Wednesday evening.  Experimenter:  the Stanley Milgram Story has interesting touches.  Peter Sarsgaard literally talks to camera as Milgram.  When emphasizing the importance of understanding Nazi atrocity he is followed by a literal elephant in the room.  We get to watch a recreation of a TV movie based on his experiements, where William Shatner plays him and Ossie Davis plays Shatner's black best friend.  Girlfriends was praised by Stanley Kubrick.  It's not bad, though it's also not particularly good.

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I saw eight movies this week, seven for the first time: 

 

"The Floradora Girl" (1930)--Charming period piece set in the 1890's starring Marion Davies and Lawrence Gray.  Fifteen songs of the era are used in the film, whether sung or integrated into the films' score;  "Pass the Beer and Pretzels" and "After The Ball" are just two of them.  TFGs' finale, "Tell Me, Pretty Maiden" was shot in two tone Technicolor; I believe that was the only time Davies appeared in Technicolor.  Recommended.

 

"Rogue of the Rio Grande" (1930)--Cheapie western from Atlantic Films is notable only for Myrna Loys' dancing and singing turn as a saloon girl.  Loy makes the film worth watching.  For her dance numbers, she was coached by Eduardo Cansino (Rita Hayworth's father).

 

"Painted Faces" (1929)--Forerunner of "12 Angry Men" (1957) stars Joe E. Brown.  Film starts off promisingly, then bogs down in a predictable screenplay.  Touches of humor (the bridge game in the jury room, the circus act scenes) keep this watchable.  If you like Browns' humor, you will enjoy this more than I did.

 

"The Fighting Kentuckian" (1949)--Rambling film is about the settling of Alabama, multi-continental politics, and John Wayne romancing Vera Ralston.  Oliver Hardy as Wayne's buddy, Marie Windsor as a duplicitous woman, and a good score make this an enjoyable watch.

 

"Manpower" (1941)--Bad melodrama has Marlene Dietrich being fought over by electric linemen Edward G. Robinson and George Raft.  Dietrich at least looks great, even when she's wet as a drowned rat.  Eve Arden's one liners are a blessing.  There's a very funny scene in a diner using 1940's slang that is the comedic highlight of the film.

 

"Against All Flags" (1952)--Enjoyable pirate actioner with Errol Flynn and Maureen O'Hara.  Flynn and O'Hara could play their roles in their sleep, but they give a standard script enough wit and class that AAF transcends its' genre.  Mildred Natwick is hysterical as a  outraged chaperone whom the pirates dismiss.

 

"The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935)--Starring Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, and Ernest Thesiger.  Perfect blend of horror and comedy, directed by James Whale.  Highest recommendation.

 

"Klondike Annie" (1936)--Mae West, handicapped by The Production Code.  They make her a missionary, to this viewers disbelief (and the films' detriment).  Still, there's more good than bad.  Highlight is song "I'm An Occidental Woman in an Oriental Mood For Love".

 

Favorite--"The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935).

 

Hardest to Find--"The Floradora Girl" (1930).

 

Least Favorite--"Manpower" (1941).

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Twenty Years After was a milestone of sorts.  After more than 10 years I can now say that I have seen all 1000 movies on theyshootpictures.com top 1000 movies of all time.  It has an interesting premise, it's a documentary about a Brazilian labor leader which was interrupted by the military coup of 1964.  The documentary began again once democracy returned to Brazil in the eighties.  Unfortunately, none of the versions on youtube have subtitles and I don't know Portuguese.  The Country Girl is a classic example of Oscarbait, and by 'classic" I mean it shares all the tropes without in anyway being a particularly good movie.  Grace Kelly takes a deliberately dowdy role who reveals her real beauty later on in the movie.  Which of course she does, because she's Grace Kelly.  And there's the melodramatic alcoholism plot.  Thunderbolt is the movie in between von Sternberg's imaginative silent films and his provocative romances with Marlene Dietrich.  And I'm afraid my first reaction was that it was stiff and awkward.  It's certainly not surprising that Fay Wray and George Bancroft wouldn't be his actors of choice in the future.  Finally there's The Diary of a Teenage Girl.  It starts with the 15 year old protagonist telling about her first sexual experience, with her mother's boyfriend.  Well, this isn't go to end well, I thought.  To be fair, we are dealing with someone too young to have sex as opposed to a rape victim brainwashed into enjoying her trauma.  But spending 95 minutes waiting for her to realize what is evident to the audience at the beginning isn't a particularly profound experience.

 

Update:  It occurs to me that I also saw The Blood of Jesus last week as well.  Clearly it didn't make much of an impression on me, though I suppose I should see it a second time to make sure.

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I saw ten films plus one short film this week.

 

"Stormy Weather" (1943)--Forget Maltin's so-so rating.  Thin excuse for plot has barely twenty minutes of talk in a 78 minute film.  The Real attraction is the music.  Whether it's Fats Waller and Ada Brown doing "Ain't Misbehaving", Katharine Dunham and Co. doing a ballet to "Stormy Weather, Lena Horne singing the title song, or The Nicholas Bros. doing a knockout tap routine at film's end, this is one of my favorite 1940's musicals.  Highest recommendation.

 

"Studio Visit" (1946)--Short film notable for using the deleted song "Ain't It The Truth" (the number Horne sang in a bubble bath) from "Cabin In The Sky" (1943) ; the clip uses verses and camera angles "That's Entertainment ! Part III" (1994)  didn't use.  As the verses promote booze and show a bit too much of Lena, it was cut.  ******* prudes at The Code.  Horne was in crystal clear voice, BTW.

 

"The Dark Corner" (1946)-- Noir starring Lucille Ball and Clifton Webb.  Ball takes over the film as a secretary in love with her boss who helps him fight a trumped up charge of murder.  Mark Stevens, as the employer, seems unusually glum and dispirited.  Clifton Webb's character seems to have gotten the leftover quips from "Laura" (1944); "Stop flicking your ashes on my rug!  It's a genuine Kashan.  The good, shadowy cinematography is by Joseph MacDonald.  The ok direction is by Henry Hathaway.  Worth watching, if only for Ball and Webb.  

 

"The Road to Hong Kong" (1962)--Last of the "Road" films. with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, with Joan Collins as their sidekick.  Songs and the cameo by Dorothy Lamour (who doesn't show up until film's last half hour) are the best parts of the film; she gets the best song and the biggest laughs.  Look for bits by David Niven, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin.

 

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" (1967)--I saw the Roadshow print; with the extra music, film is just short of 146 minutes long.  George Roy Hill directed this Julie Andrews musical set in the 1920's, which  attempts riffs on famous silent films, the one on "Safety Last" (1923) being the most obvious.  Elmer Bernsteins' Oscar winning score carries the film through its' highs and lows.  If you don't recognize that the characters are all silent movie "types", some actors may be too annoying to appreciate (I thought Mary Tyler Moore was Way too Helpless and Cutesy when I first saw the film in the 1970's).  Film is not perfect, but very worth a watch.

 

"The Anniversary" (1968)--Hammer horror/social comedy starring a priceless Bette Davis.  Film is completely Davis' show; she wipes the cast off the screen.  Her first line ("Bloody Hell !") sets the tone for the film.  Her eyepatches are color-coordinated with some odd looking 1960's outfits.  Davis delivers her lines like each one is a blast of verbal dynamite.  Very funny, whether it was meant to be or not.

 

"Black Moon" (1934)--Not well enough known voodoo horror film, with excellent work by Fay Wray.  Very effective musical score (uncredited?) and cinematography make this a must see for horror lovers.

 

"The Wedding March" (1928)--Film directed by Erich von Stroheim had Fay Wray's breakthrough role.  One of the silent Greats.  According to gagman66, was only the third showing on television in 38 years. Wray manages to flirt with just the flicker of an eyelash.  Very good, very subtle.

 

"Cat O' Nine Tails" (1971)--Dario Argento "Giallo" film I didn't appreciate, mostly because it ran against the rules of logic.  There is a good unsettling score by Ennio Morricone, and the last fifteen minutes is good and taut.  Others may enjoy this more than I did.

 

"Suddenly Last Summer" (1959)--Tennessee Williams Grand Guignol, with Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Katharine Hepburn.  Cathy (Taylor) saw something last summer, and Violet (Hepburn) wants the memory removed. Permanently.  Clift is the doctor who wants to help.  Clift, Hepburn and Taylor make the wordy, symbolic script work.  Mercedes McCambridge has a memorable role as Cathys' mother.  Recommended.

 

"The Misfits" (1961)--Grim film was hard for me to watch.  Plot is about catching mustangs and selling them for dog food.Gable, Monroe, and Clift are all good; this may be Monroes' best non-comic performance.  Thelma Ritter provides needed comic relief.

 

Favorite--"Stormy Weather" (1943).

 

Waste of Time--"The Road to Hong Kong" (1962).

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I watched my stack of movies from 1991 over the last week or so. Here's my ranking from best to worst.

 

Naked Lunch - David Cronenberg's film is a phantasmagorical take on what may have been going through Beat author William S. Burroughs' mind as he wrote his seminal drug novel Naked Lunch. Peter Weller is excellent as the deadpan Burroughs, with Judy Davis, Ian Holm, and Roy Scheider co-starring. Weird imagery and situations abound, and this isn't a film for everyone, or even many. I myself wasn't crazy about it the first time around, but this was my 4th viewing, and I like it more each time. Highly recommended, but only for the adventurous and open-minded. 8/10

 

Delicatessen - Unique French black comedy, about the denizens of a dingy apartment building over a butcher shop. There's been some sort of apocalyptic event that has left most food sources scarce, so the butcher shop supplies the meat by "harvesting" the new occupants of the building upstairs. Things get complicated when the new tenant, a clown, falls in love with the butcher's daughter. Visually inventive, with excellent direction from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Highly recommended. 8/10

 

Proof - Australian psychodrama about a blind man (Hugo Weaving) and the complex love triangle he becomes entangled in with his obsessive housekeeper (Genevieve Picot) and a local dishwasher (Russell Crowe). Very good performances make this worth checking out. 7/10

 

Godzilla Vs King Ghidorah - Fun Godzilla sci-fi movie from Japan, featuring time travel, robots, WW2 battles, evil Americans, and, of course, giant monsters stomping model cities. You either love this stuff or hate it. 7/10

 

Night On Earth - Jim Jarmusch's episodic look at cab drivers and their fares from 5 different cities (LA, NYC, Paris, Rome, Helsinki) during one night. Deadpan humor and character are key here, and while I liked this less than most of Jarmusch's films, it was still enjoyable. 7/10

 

Operation Condor: Armour of God 2 - Jackie Chan sequel, a mix of James Bond and Indiana Jones, features the usual plethora of incredible stunts. 7/10

 

Convicts - Horton Foote's play, starring Lukas Haas as a young boy living on a Texas sugarcane plantation worked by convicts in 1902. Robert Duvall co-stars, and is very good, as the elderly plantation owner battling dementia. Terrific performances make this worth a look. 7/10

 

1991: The Year Punk Broke - Concert documentary following the European tour of an assemblage of alternative rock bands, just as the genre was breaking into the mainstream back in the US. Sonic Youth are the focal points, but other groups include Dinosaur Jr., Babes In Toyland, the Ramones, and Nirvana. 7/10

 

The Doctor - William Hurt stars as a heart surgeon that gets diagnosed with cancer. The doctor has to learn to be a patient, and in the process grow as a human being. What sounds preachy and touchy-feely, is, a little bit, but manages to be moving in places, and ends up being worthwhile, especially to fans of Hurt. 7/10

 

The Rocketeer - Late-1930's set costumed superhero adventure from Disney. Billy Campbell makes a good, square-jawed hero, and Jennifer Connelly makes a fetching damsel-in-distress. The ingredients are all here: good score, excellent costuming and sets, a great cast. But things don't quite click, and I felt this was lacking something indefinable. It's still not half-bad. 6/10

 

Subspecies - Romanian locations highlight this vampire horror film. 6/10

 

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear - Leslie Nielsen returns as Lt. Frank Drebin of Police Squad for more rapid-fire gags. They don't work as well this time around , but enough laughs are here to recommend a viewing. 6/10

 

Women & Men 2: In Love There Are No Rules - HBO anthology movie, with a good cast, about various romantic entanglements. Juliette Binoche is a stand-out as a Parisian prostitute in an adaptation of a Henry Miller story. 6/10

 

Oscar - Sylvester Stallone tried to stretch his range with this comedy play adaptation, set over one day in the mansion of a reformed mobster in 1931. A large, game cast, and a decent script lend this an old-fashioned 1930's comedy patina, but the film can't quite manage to match those earlier movies. 6/10

 

Murder 101 - Cable TV movie starring Pierce Brosnan as a true crime writer who is teaching a course on crime writing. Murders start occurring, and Brosnan is the chief suspect, so he races to clear his name and discover the true culprit. Decent if predictable TV fare. 6/10

 

Rolling Stones: Live at the Max - IMAX concert film. The band's sound is off for several numbers, and while Mick tries mightily, things seem routine, despite giant inflatable dogs on stage. 6/10

 

True Colors - Political drama starring John Cusack and James Spader is blandly forgettable for the most part, although competently made. Richard Widmark's last film. 6/10

 

Flight of the Intruder - John Milius directed this male-bonding military recruitment film about Navy bomber pilots during the Vietnam war. Brad Johnson, Willem Dafoe, and Danny Glover star, and a lot of other familiar faces show up along the way. The film is creaky and cliched, and the setting could have been changed to WW2 with very few script changes. Aircraft aficionados may find more enjoyment. 5/10 

 

Mrs. Lambert Remembers Love - TV movie starring Ellen Burstyn as an elderly woman, caring for her grandson, who has Alzheimer's disease. She struggles to find a place for the small boy before she can longer take care of either of them. Co-starring Walter Matthau as a concerned neighbor. Routine TV movie fare, with good performances. 5/10

 

Lethal Justice - Independent, regional (Oklahoma City) action/crime drama, about a small town where the cops keep things safe and orderly, but they do so by using questionable techniques. Better written and acted than a lot of films with much bigger budgets and bigger names. 5/10

 

Strictly Business - Romantic comedy about a stuffed-shirt business executive trying to attract a hip club promoter, so he hires his mailroom flunky to teach him to be "cool". Corny and bland. 5/10

 

Other People's Money - Danny DeVito stars as a financial shark who is trying to takeover a small, bucolic factory run by Gregory Peck (in his last feature film). I found this tedious, unfunny when it was trying to be otherwise, and unmoving when it was going for drama. 5/10

 

The Hitman - Chuck Norris crime drama/action film, where he plays an undercover cop, working to bring down a mob empire. Michael Parks steals his scenes as the villain. More gunplay and less kicking than previous Norris films, this one also has a mentoring-a-kid subplot that elicits yawns. 4/10

 

Teenage Exorcist - Dumb horror comedy about a young woman possessed by a demon in her basement. 4/10

 

Black Demons - Italian voodoo zombie film set in Brazil features some really atrocious acting. 3/10

 

Critters 3 - Another sequel about furry little alien monsters, this time menacing a rundown slum apartment building in L.A. This features a young Leonardo DiCaprio in his movie debut. This fails on most every level, from script, direction, effects, to acting. 3/10

 

Battle Girl: The Living Dead in Tokyo Bay - Japanese direct-to-video horror/sci-fi goofiness about a young woman in special mechanized soldier outfit battling zombies in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Cheap and dumb. 3/10

 

Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go to Collge - Dumb sequel in the comedy/horror series. Kevin McCarthy uses a magic comic book to summon the Ghoulies, three stupid puppet monsters, to do his nefarious bidding on the college campus where he works. Yikes. 3/10

 

Molly and the Ghost - What starts out a low-budget, late night cable, erotic noir film, with a young woman trying to killer her older sister and seduce her husband, takes a turn to the supernatural in the second half. The film is mainly undone by bad acting and a weak script. 3/10

 

Detective Malone - Really poor Italian action film "starring" Fred Williamson, although he disappears for large swaths of the movie. Terrible stuff. 3/10

 

Voodoo Dolls - Canadian horror film about a girls school, past crimes, and voodoo ritual. Try and stay awake. 3/10

 

Door Into Silence - Final directing effort from Lucio Fulci. John Savage stars as a guy stumbling around rural Louisiana, trying to track down a hearse so he can find out who is in the coffin in the back of the car. Who could it be? Stupid, dull, a 20-minute idea stretched to feature length, with a really bad performance from Savage. 2/10

 

Glitter Goddess of the Sunset Strip - Incredibly terrible and painful to sit through, this documentary follows the life of the title woman, a rock groupie from the 1970's, who apparently spent most of the 1980's appearing on talk shows (clips are shown) to discuss her abusive upbringing, specifically her lesbian mother. Filled with terrible re-enactments, where many characters are played by the same few people in multiple roles, none of whom have a drop of acting talent, and moving at a snail's pace, this is one you put on to clear out a room. 2/10 

 

and finally Troll 2 - This cult favorite bad movie is about a family that moves to a town overrun by goblins that eat people. The acting is among the worst ever committed to film, and there are many jaw-dropping moments of incompetence. Highly recommended to bad movie fans; others should run for the hills. 1/10 or 9/10

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I watched my stack of movies from 1991 over the last week or so. Here's my ranking from best to worst.

 

The Rocketeer - Late-1930's set costumed superhero adventure from Disney. Billy Campbell makes a good, square-jawed hero, and Jennifer Connelly makes a fetching damsel-in-distress. The ingredients are all here: good score, excellent costuming and sets, a great cast. But things don't quite click, and I felt this was lacking something indefinable. It's still not half-bad. 6/10

 

At the time, was promoting itself on the new superhero craze of Batman, but when the kids came in, all they found was the deliberately sentimental fantasy-40's period nostalgia of the original print comic.

That might have lost their interest back then, but nowadays, if you go in knowing it's the same director as Marvel's first 40's-period nostalgic Captain America movie (and arguably got him the job for it)...

 

The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear - Leslie Nielsen returns as Lt. Frank Drebin of Police Squad for more rapid-fire gags. They don't work as well this time around , but enough laughs are here to recommend a viewing. 6/10

The only funny joke compared to the first movie:

Nielsen (in bar):  "Gimme the strongest thing you've got."

(Waiter brings out muscled bodybuilder)

"That's a little too strong, just bring me a tall Black Russian."

(Waiter walks off, stops)

(Looks to audience)

(Shakes head "....Nnnnno."

 

There, I've saved everyone else an hour and a half.   :lol:

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Three movies this week:  Tortilla Flat was clearly the worst, offensive in its sentimental and shallow treatment of the California poor.  It shows no real insight into its Mexican characters, and it's kind of insulting.  Eden is about a French DJ playing electronic movie who spends years making little progress, going from woman to woman, having a cocaine problem, and slowly running out of money.  The previous movie I saw by the director, Goodbye, First Love did not leave much of an impression on me, and this didn't either.  It's like a very responsible and very dull version of Boogie Nights.  By contrast, Street Angel was actually a rather touching and moving film.  It's certainly one of the better movies to win a Best Actress oscar.

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I saw four movies for the first time this past week.

 

"Four Frightened People" (1934) is one of Cecil B. DeMille's least known Pre-Code sound films.  Claudette Colbert, Mary Boland, and Herbert Marshall star as escapees from a steamship, who land on an island and have to traverse a jungle to get to civilization.  Colbert does the "Plain Jane" bit (she loses her glasses, has to make clothes out of leaves (don't ask), and Marshall falls passionately in love with her.  Boland, as a socialite whose mission is to bring birth control to the natives, is consistently hilarious, whether she's carrying her Pekinese around, discussing birth control, or showing off her jewelry.  A very funny film--whether it was intended that way or not.

 

"Experiment Perilous" (1944)--Hedy Lamarr film directed by Jacques Tourneur reeks of "Gaslight" (1944), and is a talkathon to boot.  Atmospheric photography by Tony Gaudio is a big help, as is Lamarr's supporting cast, but information is provided in hints--all verbal.  Expensive, well-mounted and directed production is done in by the wordy script, which tells the viewer information rather than showing it.  The finale might have been planned to blast audiences awake.

 

"Tap Roots" (1948)--Film is based on the 1942 novel, which was loosely based on an event in Mississippi history (Search  "Newton Knight" on Wiki.)  Film stars Susan Hayward, Van Heflin, and Boris Karloff.  The convoluted plot starts in 1860, and is basically about one county's fight for freedom of thought.  Hayward is fine in the Scarlett role, and Heflin is quietly sarcastic in the Rhettish role.  The film is good, except when it emphasizes its' numerous similarities to "Gone With the Wind."  I wanted to see and read GWTW after I saw TR.

 

"Let's Dance" (1950)--Fred Astaire & Betty Hutton star in this musical with a Frank Loesser score.  The music and the stars are the reason to see LD, not the plot, which just gets in their way.  Recommended--just don't expect a wonderful film.  Again the songs and their performances are the best reason to see the film.

 

Favorite--"Four Frightened People" (1934)

 

Talkathon of the Week--"Experiment Perilous" (1944)

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I saw four movies for the first time this past week.

 

"Four Frightened People" (1934) is one of Cecil B. DeMille's least known Pre-Code sound films.  Claudette Colbert, Mary Boland, and Herbert Marshall star as escapees from a steamship, who land on an island and have to traverse a jungle to get to civilization.  Colbert does the "Plain Jane" bit (she loses her glasses, has to make clothes out of leaves (don't ask), and Marshall falls passionately in love with her.  Boland, as a socialite whose mission is to bring birth control to the natives, is consistently hilarious, whether she's carrying her Pekinese around, discussing birth control, or showing off her jewelry.  A very funny film--whether it was intended that way or not.

 

"Experiment Perilous" (1944)--Hedy Lamarr film directed by Jacques Tourneur reeks of "Gaslight" (1944), and is a talkathon to boot.  Atmospheric photography by Tony Gaudio is a big help, as is Lamarr's supporting cast, but information is provided in hints--all verbal.  Expensive, well-mounted and directed production is done in by the wordy script, which tells the viewer information rather than showing it.  The finale might have been planned to blast audiences awake.

 

"Tap Roots" (1948)--Film is based on the 1942 novel, which was loosely based on an event in Mississippi history (Search  "Newton Knight" on Wiki.)  Film stars Susan Hayward, Van Heflin, and Boris Karloff.  The convoluted plot starts in 1860, and is basically about one county's fight for freedom of thought.  Hayward is fine in the Scarlett role, and Heflin is quietly sarcastic in the Rhettish role.  The film is good, except when it emphasizes its' numerous similarities to "Gone With the Wind."  I wanted to see and read GWTW after I saw TR.

 

"Let's Dance" (1950)--Fred Astaire & Betty Hutton star in this musical with a Frank Loesser score.  The music and the stars are the reason to see LD, not the plot, which just gets in their way.  Recommended--just don't expect a wonderful film.  Again the songs and their performances are the best reason to see the film.

 

Favorite--"Four Frightened People" (1934)

 

Talkathon of the Week--"Experiment Perilous" (1944)

 

Good summaries. Yes, the Lamarr film should have been better, given its director and cast. I still haven't seen LET'S DANCE and need to make a point of watching it. TAP ROOTS is based on the historical novel of the same name, and it is one in a series of books about that particular southern family. I sincerely doubt the books were written to echo Mitchell's more famous novel, but somehow Walter Wanger felt the need to turn it into his version of GWTW. But TAP ROOTS is still very entertaining and a good film. The DeMille picture with Colbert and Boland is a real charmer and should be better known.

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Lawrence said: I watched my stack of movies from 1991 over the last week or so. Here's my ranking from best to worst.

 

Looking over that list....I gather you must be a shut-in.

 

It's amazing you even bother slogging through some of those stinkers entirely. When a movie fails to completely capture my attention, I fall asleep!

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I saw five movies last week.  The remake of 3:10 to Yuma is a the remake of a movie that I never particularly cared about in the first place.  But whatever qualities the updated version has with its two strong leads has is ultimately ruined by its idiotic and pointless ending.  Taken marks the unlikely creation of Liam Neeson as an action hero, which has vastly improved his bank balance while shredding his credibility as an actor.  The movie doesn't start badly, but its violence becomes increasingly ludicrous (and probably counter-productive at more than one point).  This mastery of violence may be flattering to a certain American mindset, but it isn't the absence of overwhelming force that has hampered American objectives since 2001.  Swamp Water was the first of Renoir's American films, though apparently Darryl Zanuck had such a vice on it that Renoir didn't really feel much pride of ownership in it.  Like all his American movies, with the partial exception of The Southerner, it doesn't fully work.  The scriptwriters hardly do the subject of a small unique rural community the justice it deserves.  And this isn't the subject Hollywood ever really did very well.  So there are some interesting camera movements, and some nice touches (such as when Walter Huston and his wife talk for the first time).  I didn't like the novel The Razor's Edge is based on, so the fact that the movie was slightly better than that is a point in its favor.  Of course, the religious theme is just middlebrow hogwash.  Clifton Webb, George Marshall and Gene Tierney arguably acquit themselves well:  they're certainly better than Tyrone Power as the hero.  Unfortunately Anne Baxter's role is classic oscarbait:  she loses her husband and child, then suffers from alcoholism and the shame of being a fallen woman.  So I suppose Five Graves to Cairo is the movie of the week.  Franchot Tone is competent, Anne Baxter is an improvement over her two previous movies of the evening, and Wilder shows signs of promise that would be quickly vindicated the next  year with Double Indemnity.  Erich von Stroheim gives a reasonable, measured performance as Rommel, and the solution is actually both simple and clever.

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I saw five movies for the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd time last week:

 

"Ruby Gentry" (1952)--Starring Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston.  This King Vidor directed, Southern Fried melodrama is one of the nuttiest films of 1952.  Jones is a wildcat from the Wrong side of the tracks. who flirts with Heston's Rich, Socially Approved Cad and then tries to scratch his eyes out.  Jones is presented like the winner of a wet T-shirt contest; when Heston's eyes bug out after seeing Jones in a two sizes too small blouse, Karl Malden, as a beau, yells "What are you looking at?  It's just anatomy".  Speaking of which, watch Malden's use of a prop in the scene where he proposes marriage to Jones.  Same meaning as in "The Fountainhead" (1949).  RG is marvelous fun when viewed  in the right mood.

 

"Zulu" (1964)--Starring Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, and Michael Caine. Cy Endfield directed film of  the siege of Rorke's Drift, a missionary station in what is now South Africa. One Hundred and some British soldiers held off 4000 Zulu warriors.  The film is spectacularly photographed, well written and acted, with an effective musical score.  A fine adventure film. Recommended.

 

"The Trouble With Harry" (1955)--Is he's dead, and at least three characters have reason to think they've killed him.  Black comedy from Alfred Hitchcock was one of his few financial failures.  Hilarious at times, never less than amusing, TTWH is dreadfully underrated.  Mildred Natwick, Shirley MacLaine, and Edmund Gwenn are close to perfect, and Royal Dano is memorable as another in Hitchcock's gallery of dimwitted policemen.  Recommended.

 

"At Long Last Love" (1975)--Starring Madeline Kahn, Burt Reynolds, and Cybill Shepherd.  Legendary critical and financial disaster I first saw on The Late Show in the 1970's, when the song (You're The Top) where Shepherd danced herself behind a curtain and had to beat her way out back to the camera's view and Duilio del Prete's unintelligible first number hadn't been edited out and replaced with alternate takes.  The re-edited film depends on the skill of the cast, especially trained singer Madeline Kahn, to put over the eighteen Cole Porter songs in this tribute to early 1930's musicals.  Cybill Shepherd is a plus, despite a decided tendency to stray off-key.  Burt Reynolds gets by on charm.  Fine, Art Deco sets and art direction are by Jerry Wunderlich and John Robert LLoyd, respectively.  Cinematography is by Laszlo Kovacs. Eileen Brennan is funny, especially where she parodies Theda Bara and Pola Negri.  The re-edited ALLL deserves another look.

 

"The North Star" (1943)--Starring Anne Baxter and Walter Huston.  TNS has a good script, fine performances by Huston and Baxter, and a very good score by Aaron Copland.  Unfortunately, the script is heavy-handed and most of the performers announce their fate in their first ten minutes onscreen; for example, one character says to another "We don't have to worry about him, he's not the kind of person who kills":  we know the character who spoke will die at the hand of the one "who does not kill", and so on.

 

Favorite film--The Trouble With Harry (1955).

 

Least favorite--The North Star (1943).

 

 Surprise of the Week--At Long Last Love (1975).

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I saw five movies this week.  Old Acquaintance benefits from a good Bette Davis performance.  Miriam Hopkins plays the obnoxious witch, but considering that the men in the movie are such drips, I'm inclined to view the women with more sympathy.  The Neon Demon is another example where Nicholas Windling Refn shows he had more style than brains.  And since much of the style is borrowed from Fellini and Lynch, it's ultimately negligible.  At least Drive has a couple of well played out scenes.  Belladona of Sadness is both an innovative seventies animated film and flawed pornography.  Coming at a time when making animated feature films was incredibly time consuming and expensive, it shows some ingenuity (panning shots of an illustrated shot) and later considerable creativity and originality.  On the other hand, the way the heroine is objectified is ultimately objectionable.  The Curse of Fu Manchu is very silly, but also objectionable.  It's silly that the Chinese villains are played by Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy.  It's silly that at one point a hero threatens to arrest the bad doctor in the name of the British Empire, even though they're in Mongolia.  It's silly that it's not clear how getting the sword of Genghis Khan is going to help Karloff's plans.  But it's also clearly racist,and in a paranoid, contemptible way.  Mountains May Depart is an interesting, but not entirely successful drama about a love triangle in contemporary China that moves from 1999 to 2025, that deals with Jia Zhangke's overarching theme of a rapidly changing and increasingly commercial China.  Part of the problem was that my DVD had problem playing fifteen minutes of it.  More seriously, there was a lack of focus, both on the characters in the triangle, and in the larger point.

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I saw seven films for the first time last week:

 

"British Intelligence" (1940)--Above average programmer that Karloff starred in.  He is a spy in 1917  London, as is Margaret Lindsay.  Who is/are the double agent/s?  Film is barely an hour long, is well written and acted.  Worth a watch.  Can be found on YouTube and archivedotorg.

 

"The Guns of Fort Petticoat" (1957)--This western abruptly shifts tones from animated credits to more serious themes.  Audie Murphy deserts from a Colorado fort rather than participate in the 1864 massacre at Sand Creek, where Indian women and children are killed.  He takes it upon himself to warn the countryside of impending Indian attacks to avenge Sand Creek.  The men are gone, fighting the Civil War.  The women are turned into a fighting force with the help of Hope Emerson, who's the best performer in the film.  Movie is definitely worth a watch.

 

"Tight Spot" (1955)--Good noir has Ginger Rogers as a Mafia kingpin's ex-girlfriend.  She's released from prison by District Attorney Edward G. Robinson, who needs her testimony against the Mafia member.  Brian Keith is her guard.  Little known noir (to me) should be better known.  Rogers is sweet and sarcastic at the same time.  Recommended.

 

"Mr. Bug Goes to Town" (1941)--Hard to find cartoon is overly sweet and saccharine, but has some excellent animation and a Frank Loesser score to recommend it.  This was released two days before Pearl Harbor, and was a financial disaster.  I found this on archivedotorg, under an alternate name "Bugville".

 

"The Duchess of Idaho" (1950)--Van Johnson is a good comic foil for Esther Williams in this one.  Williams has only two numbers, but Lena Horne and Eleanor Powell (in her last film) help the movie, as does Connie Haines' two songs.  Film is an ok watch.

 

"DuBarry Was A Lady" (1943)--MGM bought this Cole Porter stage musical, dropped thirteen of its' songs, and had five of their house composers write the rest of the score.  Result:  a watchable musical that Gene Kelly steals, with his song and dance to "Do I Love You?".  Virginia O'Brien has the best number the other composers wrote, "Salome".  Red Skelton derails the film with his playing stupid, and Lucille Ball saves it.  Watchable fluff that should have been Much better.

 

"Fiesta" (1947)--Lasts one hour, forty two minutes. Has eight minutes of dances by Cyd Charisse and Ricardo Montalban, which are the best parts of the film.  Has ONE two minute swim routine by Esther Williams that doesn't deserve the title of "Routine".  Has five minutes of an Aaron Copland song.  That leaves 87 minutes of pleasantly scored talkathon about bullfighting to sit through.  Film did nab an Oscar nomination for Best Score.  Still, it's a waste of celluloid.

 

Favorite--"Tight Spot" (1955).

 

Cheat of the Week--"Fiesta" (1947).

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I caught TIGHT SPOT on TCM a while back and it is surprisingly good...although Ginger Rogers's had by this time adopted a HARDCORE INDUSTRIAL GLAMOUR veneer and rather severe bleached diesel hairdo similar to when Madonna went through her BEETLEJUICE phase ca. 1992 that does distract a touch from the proceedings.

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Ginger is indeed very, very butch. But nothing that a nice, polka-dot sundress can't correct.

 

Spoiler Alert for Tight Rope:

 

The polka-dot sundress is a major flaw of the story;  the DA would have to be a real dummy not to know the cop was on the take after paying for that dress (the price is mentioned in the film and was very high).     When I first saw this I felt for sure the DA would react but he just gives an odd look and than does nothing.

 

As for Ginger;  She isn't believable as a beauty that gangsters would pay just to have around.

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I've realized how difficult it is to list my least and most favorite films each week. This is because I see too many classics that can be regarded as "favorites"...and even the ones I like the least still have something in them to recommend.

 

But here are ten recent favorites (in alphabetical order)--

 

ANGELS ONE FIVE, a British war film with Jack Hawkins

THE CAPTIVE HEART, a British war film/romance starring Michael Redgrave

COME NEXT SPRING, a charming slice of Depression era Americana

JENNIFER, an excellent ghost story featuring Ida Lupino

LET'S DANCE, a Technicolor musical headlined by Betty Hutton & Fred Astaire

LUCY GALLANT, a Technicolor melodrama with action, starring Jane Wyman & Charlton Heston

THE MADONNA'S SECRET, a mystery thriller with Francis Lederer and Ann Rutherford

NOW AND FOREVER, a coming-of-age romance drama with Janette Scott

RUN FOR COVER, a Paramount western with James Cagney

THE SAVAGE HORDE, a Republic "A" western with William Elliott & Adrian Booth Brian

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I saw three movies this week.  The Constant Nymph is the second movie I saw in a month by Edmund Goulding.  It has an interesting visual style and the drama involved is interesting.  I was actually pleased that Alexis Smith as the wife between the two lovers is actually a reasonable person.  Of course, it's disconcerting that Joan Fontaine is supposed to be a teenager, when she patently isn't one.  The result is a not entirely successful movie.  The Men Who Stare at Goats has one good joke, which I posted in the one-line thread.  But George Clooney and his colleagues are patently idiots and Ewan McGregor is too pathetic to realize the truth.  So Girlhood is the movie of the week, This looks at a black teenager in Paris and how she tries to get through her depressed and depressing social circumstances by joining a group of other young women like herself and engaging in life affirming juvenile delinquency.  It's well acted and well shot.

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