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LEAST & MOST FAVORITE of the week...


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

 

"The Lair of the White Worm" (1988)--Based on Bram Stoker's last novel, movie stars Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, and Catherine Oxenberg, was directed by Ken Russell.  Lord James D'Ampton (Grant)  and his village celebrate the slaying of the monstrous dragon/snake that occurred centuries ago.  Eve Trent's (Oxenberg) parents disappeared in its' lair a year ago.  The mysterious Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) lives in the moldy mansion down the lane.  Movie tips it's hand about the mystery in the first shot of her.  Donohoe Easily steals the film as the snake worshipper who has a tendency to quote old movies ("Rosebud") and has most of the best lines; Oxenberg and Grant are eye candy.  It wouldn't be a Russell film without a few shocks, the first of which happens without warning.  Ottocensor would just star out  further descriptions.  Recommended.

 

"Pete Kelly's Blues" (1955)--Starring Jack Webb, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and Janet Leigh.  Uneven film directed by Jack Webb; strengths are the instrumentals, vocals by Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and Janet Leigh, good cinematography, attention to detail (down to what is passed off as champagne in 1927 Chicago).  Minuses are overstated performances (except Lee and Leigh), a cardboard script, and a wooden performance by Webb.  Recommended  

 

"Guys and Dolls" (1955)--Starring Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Marlon Brando.    Simmons is the happy surprise; her voice is strong, sweet, and on key, and she dances creditably,  Vivian Blaine was in the Broadway show, and her performances of "Adelaide's Lament" and "Take Back Your Mink" are highlights.  Stubby Kaye's rendition of "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat" is GaD's highight.  Brando's tenor is barely on key, and he has obvious breath-control problems; while attempting "Luck Be a Lady", he looks like he's strangling while holding a prolonged note.  Not dubbing him was a Mistake.  Sinatra may be miscast, but at least he can Sing.  GaD is overlong but ok Runyonesque fluff that should have been better.

 

"Young Bess" (1953) is an good costume drama, distinguished by Simmons' and Laughton's fine performances.  Deborah Kerr  and Stewart Granger are ok in support.

 

"When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" (1970)--There is no language (after a windy prologue), and no performances to speak of.  The stars are the stop-motion animated dinosaurs of Jim Danforth, and each one has its' own theme by composer Mario Nascimbene.  Film is worth a watch if you find a good copy.

 

"The Night Monster" (1942)--Film is a fast paced parody of monster movies; there are bits from "Rebecca", "Angel Street", "Dracula"--just in the first seven minutes.  A fun watch.

 

Favorites--Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) and "The Lair of the White Worm" (1988).

 

Least Favorite Film--"When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth" (1970) .

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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.

 

As was mentioned in a previous well-disputed argument, I took "Goats" to be the director's fan-fiction attempt at faithfully and slavishly imitating the Coen Bros. (complete with George Clooney), and...reminding us of pretty much everything the real Coens can do wrong when they try to be socially/politically "quirky".  Nothing can spoil things like a fanboy.

 

film lover 293

"The Night Monster" (1942)--Film is a fast paced parody of monster movies; there are bits from "Rebecca", "Angel Street", "Dracula"--just in the first seven minutes.  A fun watch.

 

I was going to address this in the other thread, but Night Monster is not an "intentional parody" of Wolf Man or Rebecca or Angel Street(??) just because they B-movie-borrow better tropes, any more than a corny 70's Fantasy Island episode was a "parody" of the tropes it would borrow.

Not everything that came out of a studio was a classic, and the reason we call them "B-movies" was that they were made in bulk to be shown in pairs at most theaters.  As long as they had a good story concept (which they thought they had with the swami and the wheelchair), it was good enough for the week it would play theaters.

 

It was a simpler time, but that's what we all like about it. :)

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I watched seven movies last week.  Zardoz certainly shows that John Boorman had talent, even if the conceit, a world of sexless immortality which must embrace death to truly live, isn't particularly profound.  It's a pity that such imagination and money were used to make such an ultimately trivial point.  Choose Me is an interesting romantic movie, with Keith Carradine, Genevieve Bujold and Lesley Anne Warren playing a somewhat unstable romantic triangle.  It has more bite than The Enchanted College which doesn't quite work.  Part of the problem is that Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young aren't the most attractive couple.  Another problem is that McGuire's character isn't really as ugly as the other characters rudely point out.  Only by idiotic Hollywood standards is she "homely."  And then there's the Pollyanish (literally the glad game) nature of the conceit.  Zootopia on the hand shows a trend of slowly improving Disney animated movies.  One particularly good scene has the rabbit heroine, who up to then has suffered from being the smallest in the police academy, chasing a villain and finding herself a King Kong figure in a city of shrews.  Unfortunately Disney animated movies still have some way to go:  the basic metaphor involves former prey fearing former predators, and this is supposedly like racism.  Except predators do inherently feed on prey, which means the fear is entirely rational in a way racist ones are not.  (Nor is it clear what the predators feed on, which means that the claim that they have transcended their predator past looks more like political correctness than sincere principle.)  Also, you'll guess who the villain is once there's a false reveal.  The Corn is Green is blessed with a striking performance by Bette Davis, which holds it together.  I wouldn't have nominated it for Best Actress in 1945, but her performance is patently superior than those by John Dall and Joan Lorring, who were nominated.  Captain America:  Civil War is actually fairly effective as a super-hero movie, with the conflict between the heroes not being unreasonable and the actual fights shown with some energy and brio.  It's also amusing in places.  Heaven Knows What is a grueling addiction picture, with a former addict as the protagonist.  I must say that the addiction movie is a genre with fairly limited appeal to me.  Either the protagonist realizes he or she has a problem and eventually realizes it after an hour or two, or he or she doesn't.  There's Trainspotting which offers style, some classic songs and decides to turn into a heist movie for the last third.  In this case, the protagonist clearly needs help, clearly is not going to get it, and is involved in masochistic relationships where she also needs help.  The movie is certainly genuinely unpleasant.

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I saw three movies this week.  April and the Twisted World is a French animated film.  It imagines a world that changed as a result of scientific meddling in 1870, and when the narrative proper begins in 1931, scientific development has been delayed because someone has been kidnapping the world's scientists.  The solution to this mystery isn't that innovative or clever, and because a side effect of this alternate world is that the world is ravaged by pollution, this is a steampunk movie in which everything is covered in unpleasant shades of grey and brown.  Finding Dory is a genuinely good movie, even though there was no pressing need to make a sequel to the original.  Much of the underwater scenes are genuinely beautiful and the plot shows considerable ingenuity trying to get the fish protagonists getting from one place to another in the aquarium where most of the action takes place.  But the movie of the week is My Golden Days, a sort of amplification of an earlier, much admired Desplechin film not availabe on DVD.  It takes some time for the movie to get started, with an anecdote about the protagonist's exciting adventure in Soviet era Minsk while on a school trip.  But once the main plot of his teenage affair with the striking, nervous, not entirely confident Esther starts, the value of the movie becomes more apparent.

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I saw six movies the last two weeks, all on archivedotorg (ado); ado got rid of some films this past week, so the first two films I have listed may not be on there.  With that said:

 

"Arrowhead" (1953)--Ok Western elevated by a good cast (Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Charlton Heston, and Brian Keith) and an ok script, hurt by historical inaccuracies, (Apaches didn't wear war-bonnets, etc.--nothing as obvious as wristwatches on the Indians).  Listen to the dialogue between Heston and Jurado (playing Heston's "laundress").  Entertaining western.

 

"Dr. Cyclops" (1940)--Universal programmer given the deluxe Technicolor treatment with excellent Special Effects that were nominated for an Oscar.  Albert Dekker is performing strange experiments in the Amazon jungle, and summons help because of his failing eyesight.  The scientists arrive to help, and then are ordered to leave.  They refuse.  A fun watch.

 

"Corvette Summer" (1978)--A charm piece that depends on the chemistry and skill of Mark Hamill and Annie Potts.  Hamill plays a high school senior who falls in love with a car he's restored.  The car is stolen, and he hears it's in Las Vegas.  He hitchhikes to Vegas, and along the way  meets Annie Potts.   Her character is determined to make a career--whatever it may be--in Vegas.  Hamill is funny as someone who's a know-it- all about cars, but naive about everything else.  Potts is very funny as a girl who hides her brains and feelings behind an ever-changing mask and a series of one-liners.  Recommended.

 

"Nightwing" (1979)--Handsomely filmed, indifferently acted (except by David Warner) horror film set in Texas.  Something is killing livestock and draining the bodies of blood; eventually, it/they start going after people.  Warner plays a modern day Van Helsing, who is determined to eradicate the species.  Horror film with American Indian mythology over/undertones is worth a watch.

 

"Wolfen" (1981)--Something is committing a series of murders in New York, from the realms of the obscenely rich, to the ruins of the South Bronx.  Film has Excellent photography, Special Effects, good script--but falls short in the acting department.  Albert Finney is ok, Gregory Hines is good, but Diane Venora is not believable as a terrorism expert--but she's very believable as a dim 'damsel in distress".  Recommended.

 

"Here Come The Girls" (1953)--Bob Hope is the worlds' oldest chorus boy and insanely overconfident.  Pleasure in the film (for me) was watching Hope destroy every production number he was a part of, listening to Rosemary Clooney and Tony Martin sing the heck out of an undistinguished score, laughing at the occasional aside to the audience, and watching Arlene Dahl act the temperamental Diva.  To find, search "Arlene Dahl" on archivedotorg.

 

Favorite--"Corvette Summer" (1978).

 

Least Favorite--"Arrowhead" (1953).

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I saw four movies this week.  Love and Friendship starts with a rush of information that might confuse viewers.  I'm not really an Austen fan:  often I think it's gentry-porn.  On the one hand there is the view, which I suspect the conservative Stillman supports, that love is a reward one gets for obedience to conventional norms.  But on the other hand Tom Bennett is a hoot as a nitwit suitor.  I'll have to remember him when consider Best Supporting Actors for the year.  And Kate Beckinsale is very good as the ingenious and unscrupulous protagonist.  It's encouraging that she isn't ruined at the end of the movie.  Abraham Lincoln is D.W. Griffith's take on the 16th president.  Its flaws become more evident as the movie proceeds.  For a start, you can't cover his entire life in 95 minutes.  Nor does it do a good job of explaining the politics of the period, as if discussing politics would detract from preventing a patently political event like a civil war.  So instead we get a few sound bites of Lincoln's most famous lines.  The Ann Rutledge myth is played out too long:  one of the advantages of Young Mr. Lincoln was the economy it spent on the subject.  But it's worth a look.  The Wailing is a Korean horror movie, which asks what if Clancy Wiggum found himself in a real horror movie?  The result become progressively more interesting and watchable hampered only by a weak ending.  Like the show Lost the forces of good are critically hampered because the person who knows everything is unnecessarily and unhelpfully vague.  I'll see you in my Dreams is the kind of competent movie one would think Hollywood would better know how to make.  Its fairly low profile is due to its subject matter:  it's about a retired widow who decides to take a more active life after she has to put her dog down.  She then has two friendships with people of the opposite sex, which are handled intelligently if not profoundly.  (A scene where she and her trio of female friends take some marijuana proceeds exactly as every other scene of the subject does).  It benefits from a good lead performance by Blythe Danner.

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Abraham Lincoln is D.W. Griffith's take on the 16th president.  Its flaws become more evident as the movie proceeds.  For a start, you can't cover his entire life in 95 minutes.  Nor does it do a good job of explaining the politics of the period, as if discussing politics would detract from preventing a patently political event like a civil war.  So instead we get a few sound bites of Lincoln's most famous lines.  

 

I remember TCM's filler showing the rare sound intro of Birth of a Nation's 1930 reissue, where Walter Huston talks with DW Griffith about how big and important Birth was, and a Trump-backpedaling Griffith doesn't particularly sound apologetic about its Confederate/Klan image ("Of course, in those days, they were needed...") fifteen years later.  

 

The Walter Huston plug and the Birth reissue both look like the studio was trying to build Griffith's comeback for the big Lincoln movie.

 

Even the original Medved Bros. Fifty Worst Films pointed out how Walter Huston wasn't exactly Daniel Day Lewis, but it looks more like studios wanted Griffith to get his reputation back in the sound era with one big overcompensating apology.  No wonder it looks like his heart wasn't particularly in it.

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I saw five films for the first time last week:

 

"The Undying Monster" (1942)--Programmer that runs just over an hour paces itself at a sprint to fit all the plot in the running time.  Good photography by Lucien Ballard and effective scoring by David Raksin help out.  Script borrows liberally from "Rebecca" (1940), "Angel Street" (1940), and other sources.  Film's a fun watch: it comes off as a hybrid of horror film/parody, whether it was meant that way or not.  

 

"The Story of Mankind" (1957)--Ronald Colman as The Spirit of Man and Vincent Price as Mr. Scratch present their case before an Outer Space Judge and Jury whether mankind should be eliminated or not.  They cite cases from history to illustrate their argument(s).  Thirty odd stars make cameo appearances.  Vincent Price, Groucho Marx (as Peter Minuit) and Harpo Marx (as Isaac Newton, complete with harp) are the most entertaining players in this "so bad, it's good" comic book history lesson.

 

"Die, Monster, Die! (1965)--Horror film starring Boris Karloff and Nick Adams, based on H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Colour Out of Space" is ok, but could have been better.  Karloff, the musical score, and a Mostly intelligent script are the strengths.  Weaknesses are Adams and a dimwitted heroine who faithfully follows the old horror movie cliche "If you have an obvious, intelligent course of action(s) to take, do the exact Opposite".  Karloff's performance, the visuals, and a Nasty loose end of plot that's not tied up make film worth watching.

 

"9 To 5" (1980)--Occasionally funny film about three working women and their male chauvinist boss that was a box office hit, thanks to Dolly Partons' rendition of the theme song and the comic skills of Lily Tomlin and director Colin Higgins.  Script does have some one liners to remember, and a golden fantasy sequence, with Snow White and animated accomplices.  A fun watch.

 

"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957)--Excellent John Huston film, with Deborah Kerr as a stranded nun and Robert Mitchum as a shipwrecked marine on a South Pacific island in WW II.  Mitchum and Kerr have chemistry together, and make this a believable love story/drama/comedy.  Mitchum's encounter with a sea turtle and Kerr's introduction to sushi are memorable.

 

Favorite--"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957).

 

Least Favorite--"The Undying Monster" (1942).

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I saw five movies last week.  Caged! is the sort of movie that has been destroyed by decades of parodies and soft-core porn.  I can't say it started well with the focus on how unfairly pretty Eleanor Parker was treated, as if it would be all right to treat someone less pretty that way.  One can see a more serious movie whenever Agnes Moorhead makes an appearance, but in the end it's not enough.  The Gumball Rally and Strange Brew are two mediocre comedies which barely held my attention as I watching them.  I didn't like the "Bob and Doug" sketches when I was a teenager watching them on SCTV, so a full length movie held no charms for me. James White is about a loser who faces his mother dying of cancer.  Having seen close relatives of my own die, I can't say I really warm to this as an ultimately maturing experience.  Finally Day of the Dead does mitigate the genocidal frisson of much zombie movies.  The acting isn't much to speak of, although the events have some power.  One can imagine people cracking under the strain.  But surely by now trained soldiers would know only head shots work against zombies.

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I saw six movies this week.  When Salman Rushdie commented on Gandhi back in the eighties he sarcastically commented that it was a great idea to have Jinnah played by Count Dracula.  So actually making a movie called Jinnah and have the title character played by Christopher Lee, the Dracula of his generation is not the most promising way to start.  Unfortunately the movie is much worse than that.  It starts with the odd idea of having Jinnah in the afterlife and the question raised of whether Pakistan was a good idea in the first place.  But the debate doesn't get beyond the cant of nationalist piety.  It doesn't even mention East Pakistan.  One would think that having a country separated on two opposite sides of the sub-continent was not a good idea.  And the fact that Pakistan split in a bloody and cruel civil war less than a quarter-century after independence only emphasizes the problem.  Jinnah makes some speeches but there's no explanation of exploration of whether he or Pakistan kept those high ideals.  Spite Marriage was Buster Keaton's last silent comedy.  It's not as held in high regard as the three he made before this, and that judgement isn't unfair.  (Much of the last third is similar in plot to The Navigator).  But it is amusing in its own right.  Thoroughly Modern Millie has two major problems for a musical.  None of the songs are particularly memorable, and the male leads are such drips, so much less interesting than the women.  Also there's the racist white slavery plot.  But on the other hand Julie Andrews does have energy and presence and Mary Tyler Moore is cute and sweet.  Mix-Up is an OK french documentary about two families who found their daughters were switched at birth.  It''s interesting.  The Maze Runner is better than I thought it would be, about teenagers caught in a strange maze.  It's reasonable effective, though the CGI mechanical spider is not much to speak of, and there's an increasingly unstable authority figure who makes you wonder how he got the position in the first place.  Finally, Mistress America is the most likeable of the five Noah Baumbach movies I've seen.  Greta Gerwig is so engaging as the slightly daft potential stepsister of the young college protagonist, that most of the movie is an enjoyable experience, except for a climax that shows Baumbach's general sourness towards his character that almost, but not quite, upsets the whole movie.

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I saw four movies for the first time the last two weeks.

 

"Hurry Sundown" (1967) was one of the films in the book "The 50 Worst Films of All Time" (1978).  Film is overlong. sprawling, badly edited, with too many plot threads set up and then forgotten, and characters that just disappear from the film.  Still, there are fine performances from Jane Fonda, Madeleine Sherwood, Michael Caine (although his accent is a hilarious flop in the films' beginning, and never gets past generic Southern) and Diahann Carroll in this portrait of 1946 Georgia, just before the Civil Rights movement.  Very worth the watch.

 

"The Brides of Dracula" (1960)--Fun Hammer horror entry in their vampire series.  Peter Cushing is a fine Van Helsing, Yvonne Molniaur is a good damsel in distress, Martita Hunt is very good at suggesting past depravities with her vampire son and expressing remorse.  A fun watch.

 

"She" (1982)--Plotless, incoherent movie is like H. Rider Haggard for early 80's MTV.  There are no performances to speak of, and no direction;  film just puts in as many references to old movies as possible.  My favorite scene recreates scenes from "Gone With the Wind" and werewolves.

 

"No Orchids For Miss Blandish" (1948)--Overacted, overemphatic British noir that makes the Horrible mistake of having British actors try to sound like New Yorkers.  It doesn't work.  Nice musical score, and two songs whose lyrics have suggestions of "odd" behavior.  The horrid reviews this received must have been partially for the novel.  Robert Aldrich remade this as "The Grissom Gang" (1971).

 

Most favorite--"The Brides of Dracula" (1960).

 

Least favorite--"No Orchids For Miss Blandish" (1948).

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I saw five movies last week.  Caged! is the sort of movie that has been destroyed by decades of parodies and soft-core porn. 

 

Though it wouldn't be "destroyed" for those who've never seen the parodies. I think most people can look at the film on its own merits.

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I saw five movies over the last two weeks.  Honeysuckle Rose is a movie I saw because I remembered it coming out in 1980, and was curious that it had been forgotten so much in the meantime.  It was directed by Jerry Schatzberg, best know for winning the Palme D'or, or its equivalent, for Scarecrow.  I can't say I care much for the music of Willie Nelson, but Schatzberg takes some care to portray the country music scene, and Dyan Cannon gives a good performance.  Sunset Song is the best movie of the past two weeks.  This version of a woman growing up in the Scottish countryside during the first world war slowly grows on one, as the detail and nuance slowly accumulates.  One can compare it to favorably to Brooklyn, in its sense of having a superior sense of time and place, as well as a better visual and auditory scope.  Goku:  body snatcher from Hell is certainly unusual, and I suppose that's the best one can say about it.  Piccadilly is a portrait of an interracial love triangle where the white sides are not particularly interesting or sympathetic.  That they end up together is what one might expect from the time, but I kept drifting out of the movie whenever Anna May Wong wasn't on screen.  Finally Queen of Earth is an example of Alex Ross Perry's deeply misanthorpic cinema.  I didn't much care for his previous movie, and I can't say this story of a woman having a nervous breakdown following the death of her father and a breakup with her boyfriend was very engaging.  One can enjoy a bitter breakdown between friends, but it's hard to imagine these the two women even knowing what actually being friends is like. 

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I watched five movies for the first time the past two weeks:

 

"Hombre" (1967)--Is a cold, uninvolving, cynical western.  Paul Newman is the title character, and plays him as stone faced, with no emotion except anger.  Fredric March as the crooked Indian agent and Barbara Rush as his wife are both good.  Diane Cilento is the only funny character; she provides a welcome touch of humanity to the film.  A disappointment.

 

"City of the Dead" aka "Horror Hotel (1960)--Comcast showed a crystal clear print that had the alternate title City of the Dead.  Film starred Christopher Lee.  College coed is doing a paper on Colonial Witchcraft, is referred by her professor (Lee) to a small town and inn, where a witch had been burned to death 300 years ago.  You can guess the plot from there.  Although the heroine is naive to the point of being dimwitted (her brother's no smarter), film is enjoyable horror.  This was the first time I'd seen it offline, and the print was beautiful--Thanks TCM.  

 

"The House That Dripped Blood" (1970)--British anthology horror film that starred Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, and others.  Five stories are in the film.  Framework story is about a Scotland Yard Inspector who doesn't believe in the supernatural.  The other four stories star: Denholm Elliott as a novelist who gets too involved with his new character; Peter Cushing as a widower who becomes obsessed with a statue of Salome:  Lee as a father who won't let his daughter have dolls: and Pitt as an actress who wears a certain cape, with unexpected results.  Uneven film, but a  fun watch.

 

"Planet of the Vampires" (1965)--The stars of the show aren't the actors, or the murky plot, they're Antonio Rinaldi's cinematography, and director Mario Bava's psychedelic color scheme for the film.  Wild, multi-color swirling mists of red, blue, green, and white are mixed with a dark orange spaceship.  The spaceship crashes, and Something possesses the crew and tries to kill them.

 

"Voyage of the Rock Aliens" (1984)--Watchably silly spoof of sci-fi, horror, beach party and motorcycle films must be seen to be believed.  The film stars Pia Zadora, Jermaine Jackson, Ruth Gordon, and Craig Sheffer.  Sharp eyed viewers will spot an MTV video of the films' hit song "When the Rain Begins to Fall" ( the song peaked at #54 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the U.S., and went platinum overseas) shoehorned into the first ten minutes of the film.  Jackson is a fine singer, and Zadora  holds her own in their duet; she's a better singer than actress.  Unpretentious movie is good silly fun, with listenable music and more laughs than groans.  A fun watch.

 

Favorite--Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984).

 

Least Favorite--Hombre (1967).

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I saw six movies last week.  Lady Snowblood is a Japanese vengeance movie from the seventies, with extra violence over its predecessors.  As it stands, I can't say I'm all that sympathetic to the genre.  And to make things worse, the spurting blood reminds me nothing so much as of Sam Peckinpah's "Salad Days."  Wild Canaries is an odd independent movie.  You would not think there would be much call for a remake of Manhattan Murder Mystery with younger, hotter and arguably less interesting actors.  But if you stay with it, you can find parts of it amusing.  Blue Valentine is a movie about a collapsing marriage and one suspects that the inarticulacy of its working class couple is a convenient excuse for the director's lack of anything particularly profound to say.  That's not to say that Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling don't do a good job.  They do, and one wishes the story had done them a little more depth.  Confessions of a Nazi Spy is known today for two things.  It was the first major anti-Nazi movie made by a major Hollywood studio.  And it was the National Board of Review's choice of best movie of 1939, Hollywood's golden year.  History has done little to vindicate that judgement.  It's not particularly profound of exciting.  In retrospect it looks more like a pro-FBI movie than an anti-Nazi one.  Star Trek:  Beyond does nothing to make the existence of its franchise any more necessary.  The quasi-magical super bomb or whatever might as well has been called a McGuffin for all the interest we're to have in it.  Despite a certain competence, there isn't any real need to make the old series with new actors.  Shaun the Sheep is certainly an amusing movie.  One wonders why I don't admire Aardman movies more.  It's inventive and clever, it just lacks a certain emotional connection.  Slightly daft middle age men and their pets perhaps just aren't that compelling to me.

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I saw four movies for the first time the last two weeks.

 

"Hurry Sundown" (1967) was one of the films in the book "The 50 Worst Films of All Time" (1978).  Film is overlong. sprawling, badly edited, with too many plot threads set up and then forgotten, and characters that just disappear from the film.  Still, there are fine performances from Jane Fonda, Madeleine Sherwood, Michael Caine (although his accent is a hilarious flop in the films' beginning, and never gets past generic Southern) and Diahann Carroll in this portrait of 1946 Georgia, just before the Civil Rights movement.  Very worth the watch.

 

"The Brides of Dracula" (1960)--Fun Hammer horror entry in their vampire series.  Peter Cushing is a fine Van Helsing, Yvonne Molniaur is a good damsel in distress, Martita Hunt is very good at suggesting past depravities with her vampire son and expressing remorse.  A fun watch.

 

"She" (1982)--Plotless, incoherent movie is like H. Rider Haggard for early 80's MTV.  There are no performances to speak of, and no direction;  film just puts in as many references to old movies as possible.  My favorite scene recreates scenes from "Gone With the Wind" and werewolves.

 

"No Orchids For Miss Blandish" (1948)--Overacted, overemphatic British noir that makes the Horrible mistake of having British actors try to sound like New Yorkers.  It doesn't work.  Nice musical score, and two songs whose lyrics have suggestions of "odd" behavior.  The horrid reviews this received must have been partially for the novel.  Robert Aldrich remade this as "The Grissom Gang" (1971).

 

Most favorite--"The Brides of Dracula" (1960).

 

Least favorite--"No Orchids For Miss Blandish" (1948).

i couldn't stand She, with U. Andress however, the She from 1935 with Randolph Scott, Nigel Bruce and Helen Mack is IMHO very good and has a feel of Lost Horizon to it. Produced by Merian C. Cooper, give this one a try. It took forever to get it out on dvd but it's one that we'll hopefully see on TCM instead of the Ursala Andress (sp) fiasco that TCM shows now.

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I saw five films for the first time last week:

 

"The Undying Monster" (1942)--Programmer that runs just over an hour paces itself at a sprint to fit all the plot in the running time.  Good photography by Lucien Ballard and effective scoring by David Raksin help out.  Script borrows liberally from "Rebecca" (1940), "Angel Street" (1940), and other sources.  Film's a fun watch: it comes off as a hybrid of horror film/parody, whether it was meant that way or not.  

 

"The Story of Mankind" (1957)--Ronald Colman as The Spirit of Man and Vincent Price as Mr. Scratch present their case before an Outer Space Judge and Jury whether mankind should be eliminated or not.  They cite cases from history to illustrate their argument(s).  Thirty odd stars make cameo appearances.  Vincent Price, Groucho Marx (as Peter Minuit) and Harpo Marx (as Isaac Newton, complete with harp) are the most entertaining players in this "so bad, it's good" comic book history lesson.

 

"Die, Monster, Die! (1965)--Horror film starring Boris Karloff and Nick Adams, based on H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Colour Out of Space" is ok, but could have been better.  Karloff, the musical score, and a Mostly intelligent script are the strengths.  Weaknesses are Adams and a dimwitted heroine who faithfully follows the old horror movie cliche "If you have an obvious, intelligent course of action(s) to take, do the exact Opposite".  Karloff's performance, the visuals, and a Nasty loose end of plot that's not tied up make film worth watching.

 

"9 To 5" (1980)--Occasionally funny film about three working women and their male chauvinist boss that was a box office hit, thanks to Dolly Partons' rendition of the theme song and the comic skills of Lily Tomlin and director Colin Higgins.  Script does have some one liners to remember, and a golden fantasy sequence, with Snow White and animated accomplices.  A fun watch.

 

"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957)--Excellent John Huston film, with Deborah Kerr as a stranded nun and Robert Mitchum as a shipwrecked marine on a South Pacific island in WW II.  Mitchum and Kerr have chemistry together, and make this a believable love story/drama/comedy.  Mitchum's encounter with a sea turtle and Kerr's introduction to sushi are memorable.

 

Favorite--"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957).

 

Least Favorite--"The Undying Monster" (1942).

You haven't seen H.K.M.A. till now? I'm sure glad you did as it's one of the best Mitchum movies in which he doesn't play a bad (ngegative) guy but a real bad (positive) guy. The back and forth between he and Ms Kerr as a nun is extremely witty at times and very solemn at others. The other movie which people seldom watch is "the story of mankind" and was pleased that you watched that one too. I try to get my sons (late 20's) to watch some of the classics with me but as soon as they find out a movie is in black and white it's like a light switch go off. Happy viewing!

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

 

"The Lair of the White Worm" (1988)--Based on Bram Stoker's last novel, movie stars Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, and Catherine Oxenberg, was directed by Ken Russell.  Lord James D'Ampton (Grant)  and his village celebrate the slaying of the monstrous dragon/snake that occurred centuries ago.  Eve Trent's (Oxenberg) parents disappeared in its' lair a year ago.  The mysterious Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) lives in the moldy mansion down the lane.  Movie tips it's hand about the mystery in the first shot of her.  Donohoe Easily steals the film as the snake worshipper who has a tendency to quote old movies ("Rosebud") and has most of the best lines; Oxenberg and Grant are eye candy.  It wouldn't be a Russell film without a few shocks, the first of which happens without warning.  Ottocensor would just star out  further descriptions.  Recommended.

 

"Pete Kelly's Blues" (1955)--Starring Jack Webb, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and Janet Leigh.  Uneven film directed by Jack Webb; strengths are the instrumentals, vocals by Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and Janet Leigh, good cinematography, attention to detail (down to what is passed off as champagne in 1927 Chicago).  Minuses are overstated performances (except Lee and Leigh), a cardboard script, and a wooden performance by Webb.  Recommended  

 

"Guys and Dolls" (1955)--Starring Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Marlon Brando.    Simmons is the happy surprise; her voice is strong, sweet, and on key, and she dances creditably,  Vivian Blaine was in the Broadway show, and her performances of "Adelaide's Lament" and "Take Back Your Mink" are highlights.  Stubby Kaye's rendition of "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat" is GaD's highight.  Brando's tenor is barely on key, and he has obvious breath-control problems; while attempting "Luck Be a Lady", he looks like he's strangling while holding a prolonged note.  Not dubbing him was a Mistake.  Sinatra may be miscast, but at least he can Sing.  GaD is overlong but ok Runyonesque fluff that should have been better.

 

"Young Bess" (1953) is an good costume drama, distinguished by Simmons' and Laughton's fine performances.  Deborah Kerr  and Stewart Granger are ok in support.

 

"When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth" (1970)--There is no language (after a windy prologue), and no performances to speak of.  The stars are the stop-motion animated dinosaurs of Jim Danforth, and each one has its' own theme by composer Mario Nascimbene.  Film is worth a watch if you find a good copy.

 

"The Night Monster" (1942)--Film is a fast paced parody of monster movies; there are bits from "Rebecca", "Angel Street", "Dracula"--just in the first seven minutes.  A fun watch.

 

Favorites--Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) and "The Lair of the White Worm" (1988).

 

Least Favorite Film--"When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth" (1970) .

I'm trying to be as polite as possible, are you a younger person or have you just found "classic movies" recently as some of your first time viewings seem like old some very old faves of mine. Do you like specific actors, genres, etc or just all around good movies? If you would like some reccomendations we're here to help and I have hundreds! Happy viewing!

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I saw six movies and one short for the first time last week.

 

"Rasputin, The Mad Monk" (1966)--Hammer melodrama starring Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley.  Film takes a turn toward horror in its' last thirty minutes.  Lee plays Rasputin as an amoral man who will use whoever he needs to, however he needs to, so he can become rich.  Film wisely never answers the question of whether Rasputin could really heal people.  The viewer is left to decide that for themselves.  A fun watch.

 

"Taste the Blood of Dracula" (1970)--Count Dracula's back, this time in Victorian London, and nobody is what they seem.  The ones who bray loudest about morality are the biggest fools.  Christopher Lee turns in another polished performance as the Count, and Veronica Carlson is a creditable damsel in distress.  Recommended.

 

"Kiss of the Vampire" (1963)-- Hammer horror entry that has Clifford Evans' character subbing for Van Helsing; Noel Willmans' stands in for the Count.  The struggle between good and evil is the main focus of the film.  Special Effects are fair.  An ok watch.

 

"The Skull" (1965)--An Amicus horror film starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and Jill Bennett.  Film is about the title object, which belonged to the Marquis De Sade, which is bought by an occult researcher (Cushing).  Turns out the Skull is possessed.  Cushing, Lee, and Bennett's acting ability make the film work, as special effects are only ok.

 

"Ghost Cat of Ouma Crossing" (1954)--Japanese horror film is subtitled, but takes too long to set the situation up, people talk and talk and Talk about what they're going to do to someone before they do it, and the victim(s) just stand around and cry, instead of defending themselves, or Leaving. The fragile flower of a heroine is seriously annoying.  

 

That being said, the last thirty minutes of the film are fun as the viewer sees the villains get their just desserts.  It was hard to find information about the film; TCM says nothing about this film or director, and IMDB had exactly One review of it.  Found on archivedotorg.

 

"Blood and Black Lace" (1964)-- A Mario Bava film set in a fashion salon where all the models are being murdered over an incriminating diary one of the models has/had. All the characters are skunks, which helps, but I got sick of seeing people killed in this forerunner of the 'Slasher" film.  Film had knockout photography and a wild color scheme, like most of Bava's 1960's color films.  

 

"The Tell-Tale Heart" (1941)--MGM short of the Edgar Allan Poe short story, directed by Jules Dassin.  Joseph Schildkraut and Roman Bohnen are very good.  Makes me wish Dassin had done more horror films.  Saw on YT.

 

Favorite--Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970).

 

Least Favorite--None.  All are worth one viewing, at least.

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I saw five movies last week.  In Time has an interesting conceit:  in the future everyone is 25.  People are paid in time to live at this age.  If not, they die.  The conceit is not well developed:  one might think a business would not be in its interest to have much of its population on the verge of death because of its usurious practices.  And the hero-kidnapping-the-daughter-of-a

rich-tycoon-and-she falls-in-love-with-him-anyway doesn't really work.  The Blind Owl is an interesting adaptation of a famous Turkish novel which I haven't read.  Perhaps if I had it would be easier to understand this merger of cinephilia and Orientalist attraction.  Jamaica Inn does deserve its reputation as one of Hitchcock's least interesting films.  Nor is it one of the better of Charles Laughton's performances.  Executive Action is sort of a low budget JFK, without its style or its narrative punch.  We know who the villains are from the beginning.  Nor is it clear why they would think replacing Kennedy with Johnson would be an improvement, or that they would care enough about Vietnam to kill Kennedy for withdrawing (something he probably wasn't planning to do in November 1963).  I should point out that I did see the original The Man Who Knew Too Much two decades ago.  On rewatching it this week the Albert Hall scene is good, the rest of the film is less successful.  (You would think the ruthless assassins would play the child hostage card earlier than they do.)  Trainwreck is certainly more interesting and thoughtful than most romantic comedies.  One is pleasantly surprised by the kind of detail that is provided.  But the parts played by Schumer and Hader (as well as a very biting Tilda Swinton) add up more than the whole.  The film lacks a certain energy in the last third, as the inevitable break-up and the inevitable reunion seems a little too convenient. 

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By far, the best movie I watched during the last week was THE GUNFIGHTER, which I reviewed in the Essentials forum. Excellent from start to finish.

 

I also watched a decent documentary about Peck's life-- which was made while he was still alive, so there are some very good reminiscences from him about his Hollywood career.

 

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I saw six movies last week.  The Limits of Control is certainly one of Jim Jarmusch's more  underrated movies.  I found it effortlessly cool, consistently well sustained and quite enjoyable.  Denial is about the Lipstadt/Irving trial.  I didn't like David Hare's script for The Hours or for The Reader, and I didn't like the script that he wrote for this movie.  Part of the problem is that the story isn't really about Lipstadt.  The real story is a how an apologist for Hitler managed to get a reputation as a serious expert about Nazi Germany for more than three decades.  That Rachel Weisz is understandably upset is understandable from an audience identification viewpoint, but the reason Irving chose to sue her for libel was because he thought she was weak, and not as well-versed in the minutia of the second world war.  The Pumpkin Eater is an Academy award nominee from 1964, which leads to the cinephile's least favorite question, what's wrong with this example of kitchen sink realism/British "new wave."  (Incidentally, and not helpfully, one of Hare's favorite underrated movies.)  The subject matter is supposed to be more mature, but Bancroft is just mostly miserable.  There is a horribly crude scene when Mason confronts Bancroft about Finch's adulteries.  But one problem with the movie is that it doesn't explain the central character.  Finch is a selfish womanizer, despite the pain it causes Bancroft.  But he is also a wonderful father.  That in itself need nor be surprising.  One can be a bad husband and a good father.  The problem is that he is the children's stepfather.  Why would he love his wife's children more than his wife?  I suspect the movie was too satisfied to be dealing with such "mature" material as adultery, abortion, "excessive" childbearing to really think through the question.  The Marseillaise is a fine movie, and one wonders why this Renoir movie from 1938 is not better known.  It shows all his strengths, fluid camera work and fine character study, along with humorous anecdotes.  In this case the movie deals with the second French Revolution, in this case of 1792, that overthrew the monarchy.  Rather fittingly this is seen from the picture of the people:  political leaders are not seen except for a haughty Marie Antoinette and a muddled Louis XVI, who thinks toothbrushing and potatoes may be good ideas.  I have now seen four David Lean/Noel Coward collaborations, and Blithe Spirit does nothing to change my view that Brief Encounter is the keeper.  Amusing, but not particularly so.  The Avengers:  the Age of Ultron is hardly a necessary movie, but it's an enjoyable one.  Joss Wheedon does show genuine skill and construction, even if Tony Stark and Captain America do much of the character heavy lifting.  (A Hulk/Black Widow romance seems perfunctory.)

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Over the past two weeks, I saw six movies for the first or second time.

 

"Ghidrah The Three Headed Monster" (1965)--costarring Mothra, Godzilla, and Rodan.  A quadruple threat, this gem has dreadful dialogue ("There's no such thing as brainwaves" "The saucermen will tell us what to do!"), dimwitted subplots (island fairies who are carried around in a makeup case and who translate the monsters various roars, howls, etc. into English), a total disregard for logic ( a woman opens an airplane door and jumps out, without a parachute, falls several thousand feet, and survives with only a case of amnesia as a souvenir) and howlingly funny special effects (Mothra shoots a rope-like substance out of its' nose; at one point, Godzilla and Rodan appear to be playing tennis with fake boulders).  So bad it's good.  Recommended.

 

"Varan The Unbelievable" (1961)--Japanese monster movie runs just over one hour, and wastes forty minutes setting up the situation with Boring pseudo scientific talk.  When Varan finally shows, it looks a cross between The Creature from the Black Lagoon and a flying squirrel.  Varan only gets to destroy a village before being ended.  Film desperately needs a restoration.

 

"Two Rode Together" (1961)--John Ford film starring James Stewart and Richard Widmark.  Starts off as a cynical comedy, turns into a journey where Stewarts' and Widmarks' characters go off on an Army mission to redeem captives from the Comanche Indians--by whatever means necessary.  Film is ultimately downbeat, despite the vaguely hopeful ending.  Linda Cristal is very good in support, as is Shirley Jones.

 

"Kings of the Sun" (1963)--Starring Yul Brynner, George Chakiris, and Shirley Anne Field.  Directed by Lee J. Thompson.  Period spectacle about the ancient Mayan civilization has enough acting talent and energy to overcome its' main flaw, which is a flowery and long-winded script that bogs down the action.  Chakiris plays the King who has to flee Chichen Itza because of invaders, Field is his love interest, and Brynner is the leader of the tribe Chakiris runs into after he's fled from his kingdom.   An enjoyable watch.  

 

"Monty Python's Life of Brian" (1979)--Scattershot parody of Biblical films has more hits than misses.  The animated opening credits, and the multiple takeoffs on "Ben-Hur" (1959) and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965) are especially effective.  Twenty people play seventy-odd roles.  Look for George Harrison.  Enjoyable film.

 

"Salem's Lot" (1979)--I know this was originally a television movie, but this story of vampires in a Maine small town is one of the best film adaptations of Stephen King.  James Mason is very effective as the courtly but condescending Straker, and Reggie Nalder is a terrifying Barlow.  The cast is uniformly excellent.  Recommended.

 

Favorite--Salem's Lot (1979)

 

Least Favorite--Varan the Unbelievable (1961).

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I managed to see seven movies last week.  Hell or High Water was distinctly hurt by my having rewatched The Last Picture Show about six hours earlier.  Where the later movie shows what it would actually be like to live in Texas, the former present Texas pastiche (does everyone have to wear ten gallon hats?).  Since Jeff Bridges stars in both, the performance in the latter doesn't rebound to his credit either.  And the result is morally convenient, to say the least.  Grass is a mildly interesting silent documentary about Central Asian nomads.  Suicide Squad deserves all the contempt it has received.  The disaster the squad is fighting is actually caused by its existence, the movie exhibits a brutal and callous attitude, and only Margot Robbie's character actually has a personality (and that isn't full developed), Landscape Suicide is an odd experimental movie which deals with several reflections on murderers living in the Mid-West.  Whirlpool of Fate is an interesting silent movie about the adventures of a young woman which shows more spirit and less sentiment than its American counterparts.  The first time director is a promising young man named Jean Renoir.  Love with the Proper Stranger asks the question whether it is a good idea to marry a stranger who got you pregnant if he looks like Steve McQueen.  Not surprisingly, the answer is as sentimental and dishonest as this suggests.  Wood is very pretty, but her family is a stage caricature.  Horse Money is a very demanding film about the story of an immigrant from Cape Verde and his life in Portugal.  It's not an easy film to watch.

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