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Tolkien (2019)

This movie did not come with a high recommendation. Although I understand why, I enjoyed the film and found some of it really effective and even beautiful. 

I think a problem, which surfaces early in the movie, is that we are given images of some familiarity, with are meant to evoke a response, based on our earlier encounters from other films: the squalor of Birmingham; the beauty of Oxford; the idyllic image of boys on playing fields; the glory of late Edwardian young male camaraderie, with all the usual attending scenery and costumes. These are beautiful to look at, but they don't really give us the depth of a story. The sort of framing device of the trenches of the Great War is a bit over the top. I don't know if Tolkien's inspiration for LOTR came at least in some degree, from his experiences at the Battle of the Somme, but I'm not sure those scenes, particularly early on, are well done. Young Edith, with whom Tolkien falls in love, is not particularly well drawn, although there is an effective scene early on, when, on their first date, the young couple can't get into the opera.

But then, after a crisis at Oxford, Tolkien accidentally meets Professor Joseph Wright (played by Derek Jacobi), the eminent philologist who becomes his mentor, and here is where the film begins to achieve coherence. (Professor Wright, btw, was hired for his position at Oxford by the great Professor Max Muller, who created the discipline that I studied). Tolkien had been fascinated by languages since his childhood; his seriousness is recognized by Wright, and here is where the character (pretty well played by Nicholas Hoult) achieves what E.M. Forster and E.B. White might call "roundness." 

As the movie progresses, those early scenes at Oxford with Tolkien and his three chums resonate, through flashbacks, in a way they didn't when we first see them, when they seemed to be merely the usual pretty scenes of privileged Edwardian England. The later war scenes are also better done.

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I did not feel the electricity between Tolkien and the woman he loved. The most moving scene with a woman takes place later in the film, when Tolkien, by then a don at Oxford, gives tea to the mother of his closest chum, Geoffrey Bache Smith, who perished during the war. That is a beautiful scene, almost heartbreaking.  In fact, there is a great deal of electricity in this film between Tolkien and Geoffrey Smith. 

Tolkien  was directed by Dome Karukoski, a prominent Finnish director. Although this makes some sense -- Tolkien was inspired by the Finnish language -- I wonder if the film really required the talents of a Sam Mendes, or of Bruce Beresford, one of the screenwriters. Evidently the Tolkien family was not pleased with the film, since liberties were taken with history; nevertheless there is much to admire, and be moved by, here, although there could have been more.

 

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The Dresden Files (2007)

This is a television series about a down-at-the-heels but full-of-personal-warmth private detective. It is based on a series of novels by Jim Butcher.

Some people who are generous in their definitions have called it "noir-ish" because of the dark nature of some character motivations and because the producers obviously thought to save money by not providing full lighting rigs for all episodes. It is also that the cinematography was by Alwyn Kumst who is not known for bright and breezy scenes. That Nicolas Cage was a producer speaks to its nature.

I liked the books very much. That I am not a great fan of Jim Butcher speaks highly of the amount of characterization and the ingenuity of the plots. 

Any translation from text to screen will have pros and cons. There is only one which I found significant: changing the police detective from a girl-next-door to a hard-bitten-but-neurotic-female-dog was probably a mistake. I believe that it was this which caused the program to be canceled so quickly as it removed any sense of balance or future for the characters.

The absolute gem of the series is: Terrence Mann. He is a stage-trained actor who makes snide haughtiness charming. He carries his elegance so very naturally that the viewer forgets that he is acting. The character of: Bob is slightly different from the novels but it is a very positive change. Bob is more than a side-kick. He is a mentor, friend, reference manual and co-conspirator as needs be. Terrence Mann displays well all the complexity the role requires and which any other actor might have portrayed so very flat and lifeless.

I strongly believe that this series deserved more than one season only. It is enjoyable on several levels and has engaging storylines. I know that its genre counts against it with many people but that is their loss as this is well worth watching. 

It is available for watching for free from several streaming services.

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Young in Heart (1938)

Sentimental comedy-drama about the Carletons, a family of con artists who meet a rich, lonely old lady and move into her lavish London home to keep her company while hoping to get written into her will.

Roland Young and Billie Burke play the parents, with Janet Gaynor and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as their charming offspring. A monocled Young passes himself off as a former member of the Bengal Lancers, a role he had actually played in a Toronto stage presentation. Richard Carlson, in his film debut, plays a young Scotsman in love with Gaynor, while Paulette Goddard plays Fairbanks' boss of an engineering firm at which he is hired who takes an interest in him (and vice versa). Stage veteran Minnie Dupree plays the old lady, ironically named Miss Fortune.

Handsomely mounted Selznick production remains a charming delight throughout, with engaging performances from the entire cast. Scenes of sentiment that could easily have turned mawkish are rescued from that fate by the sincere performance of Miss Dupree as a kind, trusting soul. Also the love interests (Carleton, Goddard) of the fortune hunting offspring are both in on their schemes fairly early so there's no later nastiness in the film. It may be predictable where sentimental material of this nature will be headed but the charm of the writing and cast helps to maintain our interest.

Roland, by the way, gets hired as a salesman for a sleek lined, futuristic car called The Flying Wombat, which had car enthusiasts excited. The car in the film, a Phantom Corsair, cost $12,000 to make and can be seen speeding down lane ways in the film. It was going to be produced in limited numbers but those plans ended when its inventor died suddenly. Still, the Phantom Corsair or "Flying Wombat" can, at least, be seen in the film today.

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This was Gaynor's last film before retirement in contrast to the lovely Goddard, whose film career would switch into high gear the following year with her appearances in The Women and The Cat and the Canary. Of note, this film was made at the same time that producer David O. Selznick was considering Goddard for the role of Scarlet O'Hara (Fairbanks was also being considered for Ashley Wilkes).

Young in Heart is not well remembered today (unjustifiably so) and is not to be confused with Young at Heart, the sentimental Doris Day-Frank Sinatra Four Daughters musical drama remake of 1954.

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3 out of 4

 

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4 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

...and his small bit part in Shanghai Gesture.

It wasn't a major role, but it was more that this ... wasn't it? I thought he (with that fez) was on screen for a time. At the gambling table, etc ... yes?

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42 minutes ago, laffite said:

It wasn't a major role, but it was more that this ... wasn't it? I thought he (with that fez) was on screen for a time. At the gambling table, etc ... yes?

Ok, 😉 small supporting role, yes.

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3 hours ago, Dargo said:

(...I mean, I'm sure it wasn't easy for Vic to keep a straight face and stay in character while Burton was chewin' up the scenery right in front of him here, ya know)

 

I've never been a big fan of Victor Mature. But I will admit I loved him in After the Fox with Peter Sellers. The fake movie Peter directs with Victor as the star is hilarious. 

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5 minutes ago, Rudy's Girl said:

I've never been a big fan of Victor Mature. But I will admit I loved him in After the Fox with Peter Sellers. The fake movie Peter directs with Victor as the star is hilarious. 

Sellers as the fake director: I want more sand in the desert!

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The Lost Patrol (1934)

Come on and watch this, you swines! It’s a shame Karloff is really only remembered for his horror roles. He’s good in this, Scarface, The Public Defender, etc. It started slow, but definitely picked up about halfway through. 

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10 hours ago, TomJH said:

Young in Heart (1938)

I have this on DVD & love it. Great cast showcased well.

9 hours ago, YourManGodfrey said:

It’s a shame Karloff is really only remembered for his horror roles.

Agree 100%. Also a shame for Vincent Price, who I think is as devilishly handsome as any romantic leading man. 

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11 hours ago, TomJH said:

Young in Heart (1938)

 

 

5 minutes ago, TikiSoo said:

I have this on DVD & love it. Great cast showcased well.

 

I'm pleasantly surprised that someone else on these boards is familiar with this light hearted charmer, TikiSoo. It really is a lovely little comedy, isn't it?

Early in the film Doug Fairbanks is seen romancing a young rich girl (for her money, obviously). She's an average looking girl, in my opinion, BUT she wears glasses, a sure sign in Hollywood productions of that era that she is to be regarded as "nerdy" and below average in appearance. In fact just seconds after the scene pictured below plays another cast member refers to her as "very ugly."

Films like this were about, among other things, glamour, but you know that there were a heck of a lot more female movie patrons viewing Young in Heart in 1938 who looked like this actress than they did like Paulette Goddard. Movies were all about escapism to a large extent in those days but I have to wonder how much the high glamour and beauty standards set by these same films created feelings of inadequacy in many of their film patrons.

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A variation of this is when an attractive actress is de-glamourized to look "mousey" in the movies (hair pulled back, wearing glasses) only to take those glasses off and comb out that hair to have all the boys in town finally notice her.

Here's Claudette Colbert in Four Frightened People when none of her male co-stars did anything more than merely glance at her:

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And here she is a few scenes later in the film when there was a major male rush on to be at her side:

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Long hair, docking the specs, leopard skin outfits and come hither looks sure do make a difference, don't they?

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One more thing about Young in Heart. There's a little pup in the film and, I don't care how cutesy manipulative her appearance may be, she's an adorable little creature guaranteed to produce an "Ahhhhh . . ." from most film viewers.

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Doomed to Die (1940) - Amazon Prime

w/ Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds and Grant Withers. Plus Henry Brandon. And still directed by William Nigh.

A shipping tycoon is shot to death soon after his ocean liner suffers a disaster that lead to the loss of 400 lives. And the disappearance of a million+ dollars in Chinese bonds being smuggled for the Tong. And just after changing his will. And immediately after refusing the allow the son of his competitor from marrying his daughter. And, of course, inept Police Captain (and comic relief no. 1) Bill Street jumps to the easiest solution to his death. And, of course, intrepid girl reporter Bobbie Logan (and comic relief no. 2) doesn't buy it. And, of course, our hero detective James Lee Wong investigates the various trails of love, money and revenge and (somehow!) identifies the true solution.

The fifth of six detective movies from Monogram Pictures featuring the aforementioned Mr. Wong. And the last with Boris Karloff in the main role. But "main role" feels like an overstatement as he doesn't even appear until almost 17 minutes into the movie which, for a movie which is only 68 minutes in length, is a significant chunk of time. And some of his scenes are poorly reused footage from earlier entries in this series. But he is still the main reason to see it.

And, this being the last of this series with Boris Karloff, my ranking of these five movies are as follows:

1.) The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939) - Second movie in series
2.) Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939) - Third movie in series
3.) Mr. Wong, Detective (1938) - First movie in series
4.) Fatal Hour (1940) - Fourth movie in series
5.) Doomed to Die - Fifth movie in series

Considering that bell curve, my expectations are low with respect to my eventual viewing of the sixth and final entry in this series, Phantom of Chinatown (1940), with Keye Luke in place of Boris Karloff.

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Disraeli (1929)

I have finally seen both of Arliss’ 1929/1930 Oscar-winning/nominated performances. I think I’ve now seen 4 of his films, and in my expert opinion, he was a step ahead of most of the actors of his era. He’s really enjoyable to watch. 

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The Lonely Guy Poster

The Lonely Guy (1984) HBO On Demand 6/10

A comedy about a greeting card writer (Steve Martin) who is dumped by his girl friend and experiences loneliness for the first time.

A hit and miss comedy which nonetheless has many laugh out loud moments. Steve Martin is a bit more subdued than in other films he made at the time. Charles Grodin nearly steals the film as a sad sack new pal who is resigned to a life of loneliness. There are some funny celebrity cameos as well. It is mercifully short at 90 minutes so it does not wear out it's welcome. 

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21 hours ago, LiamCasey said:

Doomed to Die (1940) - Amazon Prime

w/ Boris Karloff, Marjorie Reynolds and Grant Withers. Plus Henry Brandon. And still directed by William Nigh.

A shipping tycoon is shot to death soon after his ocean liner suffers a disaster that lead to the loss of 400 lives. And the disappearance of a million+ dollars in Chinese bonds being smuggled for the Tong. And just after changing his will. And immediately after refusing the allow the son of his competitor from marrying his daughter. And, of course, inept Police Captain (and comic relief no. 1) Bill Street jumps to the easiest solution to his death. And, of course, intrepid girl reporter Bobbie Logan (and comic relief no. 2) doesn't buy it. And, of course, our hero detective James Lee Wong investigates the various trails of love, money and revenge and (somehow!) identifies the true solution.

The fifth of six detective movies from Monogram Pictures featuring the aforementioned Mr. Wong. And the last with Boris Karloff in the main role. But "main role" feels like an overstatement as he doesn't even appear until almost 17 minutes into the movie which, for a movie which is only 68 minutes in length, is a significant chunk of time. And some of his scenes are poorly reused footage from earlier entries in this series. But he is still the main reason to see it.

And, this being the last of this series with Boris Karloff, my ranking of these five movies are as follows:

1.) The Mystery of Mr. Wong (1939) - Second movie in series
2.) Mr. Wong in Chinatown (1939) - Third movie in series
3.) Mr. Wong, Detective (1938) - First movie in series
4.) Fatal Hour (1940) - Fourth movie in series
5.) Doomed to Die - Fifth movie in series

Considering that bell curve, my expectations are low with respect to my eventual viewing of the sixth and final entry in this series, Phantom of Chinatown (1940), with Keye Luke in place of Boris Karloff.

I've never seen ANY of the Mr. Wong films. Has TCM ever shown them?

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The Barbarian (1932) Myrna Loy, as a high-born English lady (Diana Standing) traveling in Egypt. She spends a good deal of time staving of the cheeky advances of their dragoman named Jamil (Ramon Novarro), who plays an Arab. She remains aloof and strikes back like a hissing cat. The two of them get stranded in the desert at one point and he exacts some minor revenge in a vaguely erotic scene where she is relegated to minor status. Their are hints of  Swept Away here but, rest assured, only minutely.  Loy is on the whole rather feisty and self-assured in the role. Edward Arnold is faintly ridiculous as Pasha, a rich Arab landowner who is also after Loy. He gets nowhere. As far as any serious rapprochement between Miss Standing and Jamil might occur, the movie covers its tracks by making it clearly understood that Diana Standing's mother is Egyptian.  Some fine desert scenery.

///

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3 hours ago, Hibi said:

What were their secrets??? [in SECRETS OF THE FRENCH POLICE]

There's just one secret, and you find it out pretty early on:

 

The movie sucks.

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On 3/14/2020 at 11:42 PM, YourManGodfrey said:

The Lost Patrol (1934)

Come on and watch this, you swines! It’s a shame Karloff is really only remembered for his horror roles. He’s good in this, Scarface, The Public Defender, etc. It started slow, but definitely picked up about halfway through. 

THE LOST PATROL might just be one of my 15 favorite films of the 1930's; it's also one of my favorite films that runs less than 80 minutes. 

KARLOFF THE UNCANNY also has a great non-horror role in 1932's Best Picture nominee FIVE-STAR FINAL.

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10 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

There's just one secret, and you find it out pretty early on:

  Reveal hidden contents

The movie sucks.

LOL. OK! I won't peek.

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12 minutes ago, Hibi said:

LOL. OK! I won't peek.

I remember they showed it A LOOONG TIME AGO on AMC as part of their SATURDAY MORNING MONSTER FEST and I felt DOUBLY CHEATED.

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5 minutes ago, CinemaInternational said:

Double foray into popcorn films of 1986. Top Gun was mostly a cardboard drag (Meg Ryan has only two minutes in it yet she's livelier than anyone else in it), but Big Trouble in Little China was a lot of fun.

Big Trouble in Little China is awesome. I really want Kurt Russell's shirt that he wears in that movie.  I also love his boot knife.

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4 minutes ago, CinemaInternational said:

Double foray into popcorn films of 1986. Top Gun was mostly a cardboard drag (Meg Ryan has only two minutes in it yet she's livelier than anyone else in it), but Big Trouble in Little China was a lot of fun.

Big Trouble in Little China is a personal favorite. It's my first or second choice for favorite movie of 1986.

I was never a fan of Top Gun, but a lot of people were. It played at my local theater for over six straight months. :huh:

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